30 December 2008

Beloved Cayman

We are back in NC. On the 17th when we left Charlotte for Cayman we left thick fog, unfortunately we landed in the same thing when we returned on Saturday evening. You better believe I was sad to leave Cayman behind! However, thankfully today the sun has returned here with some warmer temps to boot.

Just thought I couldn't leave you without seeing a few more pics of our trip to beloved Cayman. They are sort of in random order, but all parts of our trip I wanted to share. (Just an FYI, this is going to be kinda long!)

I think the present I was most excited to give this year was to Mark's mom, Darlene. Mark and I agreed with his siblings before Christmas that we'd take family photos (by yours truly!) for Darlene's present. She loves family photos, so we decided on a big collage. It was fun taking the photos and more fun seeing her open the gift and enjoy it. (In case you wonder why there are a few spots without pics it's because there was some family off the island, so they can be filled in later.)
Since I bragged on our youngest nephew, thought I'd also show you the second youngest, Dominic who is seven. He recently lost his two front teeth and I just adored this photo we took at the beach. Here's one more of him on Christmas day playing his brother's new toy guitar. He was quite the rock star :)
There are many unique and beautiful Caymanian traditions. One of the traditions is weaving palm leaves to make baskets, purses, etc. Mark's mom is very skilled in this old tradition and was working on a new basket while we were there. I was enthralled by her patience, skill and the beauty of the weave. It wasn't actually finished before we left so I don't have a finished project to show you.
On Friday, our last full day in Cayman, Mark offered to take me to East End, about a 40 minute drive from his mom's house (in West Bay). There is less commercialization and fewer tourists on that part of the island (well, really fewer people in general). It had been a couple years since we'd been there so it was refreshing to see the beauty again. One of the highlights of the trip was stalking this heron who was very kind to let me take his portrait for probably a good 15 minutes.
Below is one of my favorite spots on the island. It's the area of the sea overlooked by a restaurant we've eaten at several times. I just love the water!
We also stopped at a beach area so I could snap some shots. I still don't think the pictures do this place justice!Mark spotted a pelican (?) in the water. I had just enough time to find it in my view finder before the bird started to fly, which then allowed me to capture his glorious flight.
Another spot we stopped was the "Blow Holes" where the iron-ore shore line has holes in it. When the waves hit the holes, the water blows up through the holes and causes a great spray, almost like a geyser.One night early in our trip Mark took me to see the sunset. Boy was it fun to photograph!
I've always enjoyed photographing flowers. And I've also always loved color. Maybe that's why I love flowers. While I'd love for you to see them all in a larger format, I took too many too do that! I think I photographed every flower in my mother-in-laws yard. Didn't God make some amazing and such diverse flowers?!

26 December 2008

Merry Christmas!

We've tried to include our Christmas letter here for those of you to read who aren't part of our email list, but unfortunately are having technical difficulties. We hope you'll just enjoy these two photos sans any yearly update!

Blessings to you and yours this holiday season :)


22 December 2008

Thoughts on Being Counter-Cultural

I just read a friend's blog post: Santa or no Santa? That is the Question!. The title alone will clue you into its touchy contents. Not that we have children yet, but if the Lord blesses, it's never too early to start thinking about how we would handle this cultural issue. Just thought some of you with little ones at home might be encouraged to read what one family is doing with Santa, or rather not doing. Myself having also grown up in a family where Santa wasn't a part of our Christmas traditions, I can echo her thoughts on the children not feeling left out, or scarred, etc. I'm grateful for how my parents made Christmas about Christ. Blessings to you all as you traverse this cultural road.

20 December 2008

The Joys of Uncle and Aunt-hood

Living far from family doesn't afford many opportunities to enjoy Mark's nephews as they grow up. So when we heard that our youngest nephew, Chad, was having his pre-school Christmas program the morning after we arrive here in Cayman, we agreed it would be fun to go. Armed with a new camera and zoom lens we set off to ooh-ahh and chuckle at all the wee ones performing. So forgive me as I brag on our nephew via photos.
The program was held outside in the school's amphitheater where the parents/family members packed in to view the program. Since it was only 8:30am it wasn't too hot and there was a nice breeze to keep us all cool.
Before Chad's class performed, the 2 year olds took the stage. Mark and I spotted this Scot among the talented crew. Since the school is an International School, we really weren't too surprised to find him there.Here's some of Chad's group lined up on the "stage."How precious is this?After the 3 classes sang and motioned to the music, we were invited back to their classrooms to see the Christmas decorations. We stayed just long enough to see the start of snack time too (thus the yogurt face!). Chad must have liked his reindeer hat from singing "Rudolph" because he just kept wearing it. What a sweetheart!

19 December 2008

In Which a Jet-lagging Rooster Almost Got His Neck Wrung

(I just finished the book "Around the World in 80 Days" by Jules Vernes, and many of the chapter titles in the book begin with "In Which...." and then explain a little of the chapter, thus inspiring this post's title.)We arrived safely in beautiful Grand Cayman on Wednesday afternoon to a balmy 82 degrees and sun. I couldn't have been happier :) Our busyness and travels over the previous week, combined with perhaps some lingering jet-lag made me long for bedtime at 7pm Wednesday evening. Somehow, though I managed to stay awake until nearly 10pm.Being as tired as I was I thought I would sleep great. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Various things kept waking me up -- not the least of which was a rooster crowing not far from the house -- at 2:30am!! Seeing as how I was lying there awake for awhile (bored and frustrated) my thoughts drifted to how it was shortly after 7:30am in Aberdeen. That led me to think that the sun would be rising there shortly. Which then led me to think, "that stupid rooster must have just flown over from the UK and is jet-lagging and confused. Why else would he be crowing at 2:30am?!"
He struck up his tune again at 4:30am, but it went on for longer. Let's just say, he nearly had his neck wrung by me since I was desperate to sleep. Last night it was refreshing that none of the many roosters roaming the island decided to crow before it was actually daylight -- or if they did, I was so tired I slept right through.

16 December 2008

I Confer to you....

...the degree of Master of Science.

It was a joy to be able to be present for Kim's (Mark's sister) graduation this past Friday at the University of Reading, in Reading, England.Mark and I met Kim and his mom in Reading Friday morning after we flew down from Aberdeen. We were greeted by London fog (what else?!) for my first official time in London (and I never did see the sun the 2.5 days we were there!). We enjoyed catching up with both Kim and Darlene as we don't see them often enough. A little before 3pm we headed to the old campus of the University of Reading where the graduation was to take place.
While Kim donned her robe, the rest of us secured an extra ticket for me to sit in the actual ceremony instead of the video feed room. Then, we wandered out to a courtyard to snap a few photos before it started sprinkling again (see the raindrops on not-so-great photo-of-me below).Because it was rather chilly outside (I had taken off my big coat for the above photo, so don't be deceived), and because we couldn't just take our seats (there was another graduation going on the hour before Kim's), we looked for somewhere to warm up. We were glad the University provided such a place in this large tent hosting tables/chairs and a couple places where you could buy coffee/snacks.Eventually Kim found us in the tent and we snapped a few shots of her before she had to head away to line up for the ceremony.
Here are some of Kim's classmates from her Speech and Language Therapy degree.
Can't forget the program cover.
The inside of the beautiful chapel with massive pipe organ snapped during the processional of the professors and all the important university dignitaries.
This is the Chancellor, who said to the graduands (as they were called) "I confer to you the degree of...." and then later shook the hands of each graduate. In front of him is the massive mace. I was completely enthralled with the over-sized ornamental piece. (See video below for how large it looks when someone carries it.)
This is the gentleman who called out each person's name.
We were fortunate to have very good seats. Only about 10 rows back and right next to the aisle where the graduates walked down/stood while waiting for their name to be called. This graduation was unlike any other I had attended! The graduates were immediately brought in and the names called, without hardly any preceding talking/speeches.
Here's a short video of Kim as she is called to "walk across the platform" (though it was more like up some stairs and back down without much walking across anything). (Sorry for the blur/bounciness of the video -- I was handing it to Mark who had a better view.)

video
You might wonder why Kim didn't receive any actual diploma on this video. I'm not sure their reasoning in not giving it out on stage, but once she went out of the chapel doors and into a foyer area, she received the coveted piece of paper.

video
I also have to apologize for this video. I thought I had figured out how to turn it before I posted it, but it must not have worked :(

10 December 2008

Fixin' To Go

(Just as an aside...I'm a fan of the word "fixin." Very Southern sounding.) 

And speaking of the south, we are headed there Friday! First to the south of the UK (near London), then the south of the US - North Carolina (on Sunday)! And lastly, further south, to Grand Cayman (on Wednesday). Yes, the days we've awaited for several months now are finally upon us! 

So, Lord willing, the next time you hear from us won't be from Aberdeen. We ask for your prayers as we travel. We are both almost 100% (finally!) health-wise and would like to stay that way throughout the duration of our trip.

See y'all down south!

03 December 2008

Sniff, Sniff, Cough, Sniff, Sniff....

These are the sounds echoing through our household at the moment...and, come to think of it, for what seems like most of November. Mark still cannot shake what he got while at his conference. Every time last week/early this week he was going to go to the doctor, he'd feel better...but only for a day or two, then would relapse. Upon waking with a congested head again this morning he decided that was it and headed off to the doc. Thankfully they agreed to give him some antibiotics (something they don't hand out too liberally here) so here's praying they will start working soon! We aren't sure if he's had one month-long illness or several back-to-back. And the past couple days I've ended up with a minor cold as well. I think we are both longing for the days when the kleenex box can stay in its proper "home" on the bookshelf and not at one/both of our sides.

We leave in 8 days (!) to make a trip to see Mark's sister graduate near London, then head to the US for 2.5 days, then to Cayman for 10 days, then to NC for another 10 before returning back here. There's a lot to do between now and then, so will you pray with us for healthy bodies to do those things? And patience with each other in the midst of what seems like never-ending sickness?

26 November 2008

Full of Gratitude

To share a few things I (and we) are thankful for, I thought I'd express it in not just words, but also photos (since I am such a fan of photos). They are in no particular order, and are of course not complete....just a few things that have been important to us while being here. I will say our families aren't listed, but we are incredibly thankful for them. They have been and continue to be supportive of our time here, and we couldn't do it without them. May you have very thankful Thanksgivings!

We/I am thankful for....



And lastly....

...who has arrived safely back from the US!

22 November 2008

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas...

The snow we've gotten yesterday and today have made it seem like Christmas is near! I was surprised to find 3-4 inches of snow on my car this afternoon when I cleaned it off. Too bad our street is one huge sheet of ice! Thankfully, the busy streets were well cleaned, but the granite sidewalks I walked on (where the sun hadn't melted the snow) were also quite icy.
I'm also happy to report that in one small way it is also beginning to look like Christmas in our flat! I was able to cross "put up Christmas tree" off my to-do list! I have never put up a tree before Thanksgiving and usually have pretty strict (internal) rules about such matters. But given that Thanksgiving is late this year and we leave for London/America only 2 weeks after Thanksgiving, I figured an extra week to enjoy it was a good thing! (Not to mention one less thing to do during those busy two weeks.)
I knew we had a Christmas tree stashed on the top shelf of our hall closet (that is apparently part of the flat's furnishings!), but I was delighted to also find a wide array of "baubles" (as they are called here) and garland. Coupled with a few items we already owned we have some basic decorations. Being unsure what to top the poor tree with, I happily discovered this wee angel that I think we must have been given for Christmas last year as a gift from my Grandma (and I had forgotten about). So while it doesn't exactly make the best tree-topper, it'll do for 3 weeks.I was delighted to find several of these cute snowmen in the bauble spread. (And if you look closely you can see me dressed in my layers taking the photo!)Perhaps the most fascinating part of the Christmas decorations is the base of the tree. I have known since we moved in there was a tree, but never checked to see about a base. So I lugged all the Christmas stuff out (well, that was one tree, two bags, and one shoebox...not so much, really!) and said "huh, where's the base?" Yeah, no base to be found. It was upon closer inspection I discovered our tree must be the top part of a larger artificial tree, meaning, no base. I was determined to get this item off my to-do list and was not to be deterred by no base. Quick ingenuity including two shoe boxes, a pair of scissors and a carton of apple juice (for weight), along with two silver garlands for a "skirt" and my tree was upright and decent looking! Couldn't have been more pleased with the quick and cheap outcome!
And lastly, a shot of King's quad sporting the snow