Sunday, December 30, 2012

Congregational Musings

This week I learned an old friend of mine was recently called as pastor to a nearby church  It had been a while since I had seen her, much less heard her preach so this morning I decided to visit her church.  As I was going to and from the church I passed several other places of worship, some seemed filled to the rafters, others not so much.

So, it made me wonder, what makes a church successful?  I don't mean what theology makes it successful because regardless of the denomination there are churches which flourish and those that are dying a slow death.  Outside of the religious doctrine, what is it about a particular congregation that draws new members and keeps existing members coming back?  What is it about another congregation that causes it to fail?

Several years ago a small church opened it's doors around the corner from us. Over the years I've watch the church grow from a few cars on Sunday to a full parking lot and eventually to a bigger venue.  During the same time period I witnessed another church struggle, make some advances but after a few years despite the dedication of some members, a talented musician and singing group finally give up the ghost.

One obvious difference between these two congregations was the presence of children and young people.  The church that flourished always had children outside before and after services.  The other rarely had children present.  Now surely, children are not the only reason why some churches succeed while other do not because there are successful churches in retirement and/or predominantly adult communities.

Some churches discourage socialization with people outside their denomination. One of my friends lives in a neighborhood where about 50% of the families belong to one particular church. All the kids go to the local elementary school where they play together and everyone gets along.  Yet after school and in the summer, parents of the children who belong to this church do not allow their children to play with the children whose families are not members of the church.  Is it the pressure to conform, the cliques,  or the desire to be part of a community that draws people together?  In a society there more and more often we don't know who our neighbors are, where violence is more common, is there a misguided belief that churches are "safe"?

Some congregations grow from habit.  Parents, even grandparents, having been raised in a particular congregation have grown up and raised their own children in the same congregation even if it means bypassing a congregation of the same denomination closer to home.

I definitely don't have the answer.  Perhaps a sociologist will one day figure it out.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Southwest Motor Maids Great Basin Run - Part 2

Sunday, 9/23
Everyone was up early for breakfast, lots of laughs and discussions of what to do that day.  The day was cool for those of us accustom to the desert heat with a few clouds, in other words, darn near perfect. A couple of people headed to Ely, NV, a scenic 60 miles or so away from Baker.  Others headed into the Great Basin National Park in a couple groups depending upon what areas of the park they wanted to explore.  But first, Pigpen had to pull out right in front of the only police officer for 50 miles. Funny how careless we can be when driving a cage, Pigpen said “I didn't even see him”.   Fortunately, the officer let him go without a ticket and only a very stern warning.

We visited Lehman Caves inside the park.  Discovery of the caves is attributed to Absalom Lehman in 1885 although there are tales that indicate Ben, Absalom’s brother was the discoverer.  Several tales, some of which are quite sensational, tell the story of the caves, so we may never know the actual truth.  However, it is well documented that both brothers were among the initial party to enter the caves.  Lehman Caves was declared a national monument in January 1922 by President Warren Harding.   

Tours of the caves are available and definitely worth the time.  Be sure to take a jacket as it is a bit chilly.  The rangers do a fabulous job of conducting the tour and sharing some of the stories surrounding the caves.  The rock formations inside the caves are breathtaking. Following our tour of the caves, we had lunch at the visitor center where we were joined by the riders that made the trip to Ely.  

After finishing lunch and agreeing to meet later at the archaeological dig outside of Baker, some people headed back to the Silver Jack while some of us headed to Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive.  The winding two lane road follows the South Snake Range as it takes you up 10,000 feet to Wheeler Peak.  The scenery on the ride up the mountain to the peak is spectacular, when arriving at the top of the peak you feel as if you are standing at the top of the world.  When coming down the mountain, keep an eye out to the sides of the road for the art displayed by the local residents.

From the coolness and sprinkling rain of the mountain we went to the desert floor of the basin, where we stopped at the Baker Fremont Indian Archaeological Site.  A couple other Motor Maids met us there to tour the ruins of this ancient Native American village.  As we walked the path which was trod so many thousands of years ago by our ancestors it was truly awe inspiring.  To think, they survived, thrived even, out on that desert, I just can’t imagine.

After leaving the archaeological site we headed back to the Silver Jack Inn to meet with all the other Motor Maids and a spouse for dinner at the Lectrolux Café.  Hanging out on the front porch, visiting with the other guests at the inn, sharing tales of the day all filled the air with laughter.  By the time we had all finished dinner and desert for some, eyelids were hanging heavy as we all drifted off to bed.

Monday, 9/24
Our last morning at the Silver Jack Inn, the temperature is a bit chilly and damp.  We gathered around for coffee and breakfast to decide our plans for the day.  Theresa and Dave decide to head toward Utah and take an extra day or two to return to Tucson.  The rest of us, five Motor Maids and one husband (in a truck and trailer) decide that we will head towards Ely,  then take Hwy 318 to Hwy 375 (aka Extraterrestrial Highway) make a quick run out to Area 51 for lunch, back to Alamo for gas then back to Vegas.

With full bellies we bid farewell to the Silver Jack Inn and our Tucson bound friends and headed to Ely at around 7:30 AM.  It was cool and damp as we saddled up, silly us, we thought as the sun rose higher in the sky the temperature would rise and the dampness burn off.  Instead, as we climbed the highway into Ely we had to stop to put on warmer clothes and rain gear.  After gassing up in Ely we rode the next ~125 miles mostly wet and cold, one of the joys of motorcycling, right?

Before heading off to Area 51 and lunch we went to Alamo for gas and a quick break to shed rain gear and some layers.  At this point, Pigpen decided to head straight to Vegas since he still needed to get Clara’s bike to California for repairs.  Heading back towards Extraterrestrial Highway and Area 51, it’s now five Motor Maids on the road.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy having the husbands, boyfriends and sons around but I also really enjoy it when it’s just us gals.

Rachel, NV is about 40 miles off Hwy 318 and there is NOTHING between the two, so if you are going that way, make sure you have enough gas to get there and back.  It is a well maintained two lane highway, mostly straight but there were a couple areas with some small hills and nice sweeping curves and we had very little traffic.  Once we arrived in Rachel, we stopped at the Little A’Le’Inn for lunch and some really great photo ops. Unfortunately we didn't see any UFO’s or extraterrestrials but now I can say “I’ve been to Area 51.”

On our way back down the Extraterrestrial Hwy we ran into a little more rain, or I guess I should say SOME of us ran into a little more rain, other folk just rode between them. Gas up again in Alamo and head back just a head of rush hour.  Although we did have to rush Clara back to Eagle Riders to return the bike she rented.  Since her bike was broke down & out of town and she didn’t want to miss all the fun, she went above and beyond by renting a bike.  Showers to get rid of the road grime, yummy Chinese food, a comfy bed and that’s all she wrote……..zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Tuesday, 9/25
After a good night’s sleep, being a little lazy in the morning we hit the road home to Glendale.  Total door to door - 1347 miles, thousands of laughs and smiles.   Can’t wait until next time!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Southwest Motor Maids Great Basin Run - Part 1

The Plan:  Leave Glendale, AZ early Friday morning & arrive in Las Vegas that afternoon.  Leave Vegas early Saturday morning and arrive in Baker, NV late that afternoon.  Sunday explore the Great Basin parks, caves and whatever else we can get into.  Monday morning head back to Vegas.  Tuesday morning ride home to Glendale.

Reality: SO much better! 

Friday, 9/21
Deb & I left Glendale a little ahead of schedule around 7:45 AM.  The weather was perfect, sunny but cool. The extra time was handy as we stopped to re-position my tour pack which had decided it was tired of standing up and wanted to lie down. Another unexpected stop along Carefree Highway to check on a biker, who had a blow out, put us just a tad late meeting our other riding companion, Jo, in Wickenburg.  After a hearty breakfast we were on the way to Vegas, Baby!

Arriving in Vegas mid-afternoon, we checked into Chez Pen, our affectionate name for the home of friends, Clara & Terry (aka Pig Pen).  The Pens (names changed to protect the not so innocent) are host & hostess extraordinaire.  If you love motorcycles, their garage is to die for.  We spent the rest of the afternoon visiting with Clara before hooking up with a Motor Maid from Tucson, Theresa, and her husband.
Everyone converged on the home of Vegas Motor Maid, Trish, for dinner.  All I can say is when she says “it’s only burgers and dogs” trust me, it ain’t just burgers and dogs.  We were treated to an amazing spread of  homemade burgers with more trimmings than you could possibly imagine, yummy sausages, chips, gourmet cookies, salad by Clara, wine for those who wished all topped off by homemade cheesecake and coffee.  When we had had our fill, we rolled ourselves back to our respective beds for the night.

Saturday, 9/22
Kickstands up at 8:00.  Ten riders in two groups of 5 comprised of six Motor Maids, two husbands, one boyfriend and one son.  Can you believe the 19 year-old son wants to hang out with this group of older folks?  Well, I can say that we all enjoy having Bobby around; he’s a good kid and a good rider.

At the first gas stop we lost one husband who had to return home due to bike problems and Jo (Motor Maid, AZ), who had another commitment later in the day.  We regrouped and continued our trek along Hwy 93/Great Basin Hwy towards Alamo, NV.

In Alamo, we stopped at the local general store/gas station to fill up and pick up sandwiches for our picnic lunches for later down the road.  The store reminded me of the grocery stores in the town where I grew up.  Seriously, when was the last time you stepped on the mat for the store to open?  The sandwiches were made to order and the coffee was hot. 

Back on the road for another hour until we reached Kershaw-Ryan State Park, NV, our planned lunch stop.  Wow, what a jewel this turned out to be, the place was beautiful with a wading pool, a ramada, lovely landscaping and best of all, EMPTY!  We were amazed that on this perfect weather Saturday, there were no other people in the park.  What a treat!  The ranger at the gate even brought up horse shoes and a volley ball for us. 

One Motor Maid decided that her boot bound tootsies could use a dip in the wading pool. Unfortunately, she didn’t anticipate the slippery bottom of the pool.  Oops!  Her face has been blurred to avoid embarrassment, be WE know who you are. When we finished our lunch and recharged ourselves with the beautiful park we were back on the road to Miller Point near Cathedral Gorge.

Cathedral Gorge State Park surrounds Cathedral Gorge (duh!) a narrow valley that has been worn into incredible scenes by the centuries of erosion. The name was taken from the cathedral like spires.  Miller Point is just north of the park entrance and offers an excellent view of the gorge.

After a quick gas stop in Pioche involving a little offroading for one husband and a gravelly U-turn for some of us, our group bid farewell to the son and the boyfriend who needed to return home.  The remainder of our group continued on to Baker, NV and the Silver Jack Inn.

We arrived at the Silver Jack late in the afternoon and were greeted by Pig Pen, who met us there having just picked up Clara’s bike which broke down on their way back from Sturgis.  Teri, (Motor Maid, NV) was also waiting there for us on her way from a balloon festival.  Lots of laughs, coffee, wine and dinner at the LectroLux Café.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

New App

Since I just recieved my replacement phone for the one that went swimming with me over the weekend, I thought I would try a new blogger app. It would be really cool if I could easily blog away from home.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Planting Seeds of Love

This is a story about a not so random act of kindness, people reaching out across the miles to enlist the help of others to make one person's time on this earth more beautiful. This is a story about planting seeds of love in the hearts of strangers. This is a story about Jan Bills of Two Women and a Hoe, David Walrod and his team at Urban Dirt, and my friend Chewy (many of you also know her as Trudy, I'll try to call her that but she will always be Chewy to me). Trudy is an amazing gardener, landscaper and an avid motorcyclist.  In fact, Trudy is just plain amazing. I think it would be really difficult to determine which she likes more, her garden or her bike.

Trudy loves being outside, takes great pride in her yard and other landscaping work.  For years she has played an active roll in her local garden club, doing the club newsletter and helping everyone she can without being asked.  In her never ending  quest to find new and different ways to showcase her garden, Chewy, found a blog called Two Women and a Hoe by Jan Bills.  One thing led to another and eventually Trudy and Jan became friends.

Trudy has lots of cool things in her yard, dried grapevines, rocks of all shapes and sizes, that she has plans for using to enhance her plants.  She is always looking for new ideas.
One day not long ago, she found this picture on Jan's facebook page and knew it was the perfect idea for the block wall in her backyard.  Only, Trudy's been pretty sick lately and doesn't have the strength or energy she once had.  She can still talk a blue streak, if you know Trudy, you know what I mean.  Unfortunately these days her gardening is now puttering around her yard, doing what she can before she gets too tired.

Trudy shared with Jan her wish to create a pallet garden in her backyard, as well as her limitations due to illness.  The story touched Jan's heart and a plan began to form.  Jan began going through her contacts to find someone in the California area near Trudy's home and came up with Urban Dirt.  Jan gave David Warlrod a call, shared Trudy's story with him, then asked a huge favor - would he and his team go build a pallet garden for her friend Trudy?  David agreed even though he was 2 hours way.  After a few phone calls, details were finalized and a date was set.  The Urban Dirt team would come to Trudy's house and build a pallet garden for her.  They would also film the project as it was being built and post the finished project on their website.

On Saturday, March 4, Urban Dirt arrived ready to get to work. Not only did they build the lovely pallet garden above for Trudy but they also built gardens in the hearts of all of those who were honored to be there. It was a magical day of joy and tears.  Trudy, if you can believe it, was speechless, but only for a minute.

We shared some great food, courtesy of the ladies of the garden club. Thank you, ladies for taking the burden of feeding everyone off Chewy and Sylvia.  Many of us came together as strangers out of love for our mutual friend, we left having shared a special
bond that will be in our hearts forever.

Seeds of love have been planted in our hearts.  One day those seeds will produce flowers that will bloom and produce their own seeds to plant in new hearts.

Thank you all.

I love you Chewy.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 In Review

As the year comes to a close, I wanted to take time to stop and remember some of the significant events in my life during this last year.

The Pens' Most Awesome Garage
First off, it has definitely been a year of changes, changes in jobs, changes in family situations, change in general.  This year has also led to the building and deepening of new friendships. It has also been a year of riding, January it was to Vegas with friends for a long weekend of fun, food, friendship and of course, riding.

Vegas was followed by Tombstone in February, where Motor Maids and spouses visited the memories of the old west and saw the characters who play the famous and not so famous heroes of the OK Corral.

Tombstone, AZ February 2011
Lots of laughing and fun was had by all, topped off by an unexpected snow storm. One of the unexpected benefits of the snow storm was an extended weekend and more time with friends.

February wasn't all fun and games, in the end, it was a pretty traumatic month for me.  My daughter and grandson moved to St. George, 8 hours away and I was laid off from a job I really loved in the same week. For the first time I actually yelled at Debbie and I still feel like a heel.  Guess I just had more than I could handle that week.  Like I said, changes and more changes.  The bright side of the lay off was that if gave me an opportunity to spend some quality time with my grandson before his mom and dad came back to get him and spirit him away to Utah.

In March I started working part time for a small niche software company which was really cool.  I learned a lot and got to know some Microsoft MVPs.  Unfortunately, the economy was tough all over and within a few months I was also laid off from this position.  I can't complain, like I said, I learned a whole lot.

In the Spring we had to have our cat, Osama Bin Kitty, put down after he became very ill and was unable to eat.  Several weeks later we brought home two other kitties from Maddy's Place, Sterling and Skeeter who won our hearts.

In June we were off to Grand Rapids, MI for the Motor Maid Conference via the scenic route which included a stop in New Mexico to visit Deb's cousins.  They have a lovely little house that was built by their father.  One of my favorite things about their ranch is the tiered garden made of rock that was also built by their father, I'm guessing in the early 1900's.

Hand Built Stone Garden
We spent a few days in Farmington where we enjoyed the hospitality and enjoyed the stories told by these two spinster sisters.  Their entire lives have revolved around taking care of their father before he passed away and running the family's cattle farm.  These two lovely ladies are some of the sweetest, humblest people I have  had the honor to meet.  Hopefully there will be more opportunities to spend time in their little hideaway.

Leaving New Mexico, we continued our journey to Grand Rapids, MI where we spent several days in a sea of Motor Maids.  Rekindling friendships and making new friends.  There was a bit of drama at the convention but I guess anytime you get a group of people together for any period of time, there is going to be drama of some sort.  Really, I just want to RIDE.

In July I took a few days to run up to St. George to visit my daughter and her family.  It had been nearly 6 months since I had seen the kids and I was really looking forward to seeing them.   I have to say that being away from both sets of parents has been good for both Amanda and Nick.  They are growing into fine young adults and good parents to their son, Ian.  What a joy to see them again.

Sugar Bear
In the Fall we suffered the loss of our much loved shepherd, Sugar Bear.  Deb rescued her as a pup, and turned the unruly, biting puppy into a well behaved watch dog. Earlier in the year she was diagnosed with cancer after developing a couple of rather large lumps on her chest and side.  At 12 years old Sugar had lived a long life, she served a companion for Deb's mom, Agnes when she lived with us.  She herded Ian as a toddler and patiently withstood his "petting" as a baby. She protected our home and won our hearts.  Sugar will be missed for a long time.

Around Labor Day the kids came to Phoenix for the long weekend.  Amanda surprised us with the news that she and Nick had gotten married in August.  Of course we knew they would get married eventually we just expected there would be a family wedding.  They had their reasons for just going to the courthouse and it was, after all, their day.  Regardless, we share their happiness.

Motor Maids in Vegas
Seems like we made a lot of trips to Vegas in 2011, must be the great hospitality of The Pens because we were back in September.  Thanks to the Vegas contingent for organizing a great weekend full of fun, riding and great food.

You just have to love these gals, they are the BEST.  Names omitted to protect the "innocent".  They ride and I don't mean around the block or even around town.  For most of these women 500 miles is a day trip.

Also in September, Debbie drank the black and orange Kool Aid and bought a beautiful 2010 Harley Davidson Street Glide CVO.  Bless her heart, she took a lot of ribbing on that Vegas trip because she bought MY bike.  Thanks Deb, for being so good natured about it.  That bike really looks good on you.

I think Deb's purchase induced a mob mentality among our Phoenix friends because within a few weeks, our friends Scuter, Skip and I also got new bikes.  Since then we've been riding almost every weekend.

Bigger news at the end of the year, my daughter is expecting another child in July 2012.  We're hoping for a girl this time but will be thrill either way.  I think last time she had a boy just so she wouldn't have to use the middle name Louise if she had a girl.

Speaking of my daughter, I am so very proud of her and her husband, Nick.  When they took off to Utah nearly a year ago, I admit, I thought they were making a huge mistake.  Congratulations kids, I have never been happier to have been proved wrong.  This move has been great for them individually and as a growing family.  They have grown like weeds and I am so very proud of you both.

Proud as I am, I don't miss my grandson any less and am sure the new grandchild will  be no different.  Amazing how those rug rats can steal your heart.

As the year draws to a close, I know there are so many things that I have left out but then, I'd be writing for days and anyone reading this would have given up long before I was done.  So as the clock struck midnight, Deb and I welcomed in another year together and I said a silent prayer of thanks for all the good people and things in my life followed by a prayer of hope for the new year and all those who I hold dear.

Happy New Year All!