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Archive for the ‘Grandchildren’ Category

The meal, the conversations, the flag football game, more talking, more eating, renewing and strengthening family ties, becoming acquainted with new friends, and even a little football watching was done. I hope that your family had a relaxing and enjoyable time together. Holidays can be stressful. We so need to focus on what matters: our relationship with God and attention to His Word, His multiple provisions for us, our relationships with family and friends, and our and our nation’s life before God. Be thankful to God and diligent to please Him, friend. Check out our celebration of the day at “The Big Meal.”

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If you have followed this blog for any period of time, then you know that there will always be one or more post-Thanksgiving entries. There are rich traditions developed around this holiday in my family. I have been realizing how valuable that is to the next generations. The big meal and afternoon flag football game have been a staple for two generations now. Seriously, my nephews and niece and my children and their children have been doing this with us for nearly 40 years now. There has to be a time when the traditions are passed down to the next generation, and changes, deletions, and additions are inevitable. Thus far the changes have been almost exclusively additions. This year we added going to my son’s house for Thanksgiving Day. Enjoy the pictures here of two children and their spouses and eight grandchildren. Another day I’ll share pictures of the big Friday meal.

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Last Thursday, our 11th grandchild was born at 12:45 PM, weighing 7 lbs 8 oz and 20 1/4 inches long. He is said to be a voracious eater already. Dad took the 6 older children to church this last Sunday so that mother and child could rest. At I contemplate any child, especially my grandson, entering this world, I look with concern and faith. It is a terrible time in our nation, but God is sovereign over all of the whens, wheres, hows, whats, and whys of each of our lives and our nation. May He be glorified in this child and bless his life.

What in the world is going on here?
Vying for control by using fear
Deny God and all from truth derived
Into this brave new world you have arrived

Judson be like Adoniram please
Faithful, stalwart, always on your knees
Teach the Gospel in the darkest place
Overcome temptation, run the race

Honor present unto your Master
With pure life all white alabaster
A soul washed in the blood of God’s Son
By Christ’s power be victories won

May God richly bless this young Francis
Uphold, sustain in every crisis
Make him in Christ a most godly man
As befits one in the royal clan

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I went to a family reunion last weekend, but the majority of the people there were from an in-law’s family. They were nice people, but I didn’t have much to say to them since our connection is tenuous at best. Instead, I talked to the few closer relatives there and most spent time with my oldest son and his family. The day was absolutely beautiful and at that perfect temperature so that you could warm up in the sun and cool down in the shade. And it all took place by a lake with plenty of views, wildlife, playgrounds, walkways, easy places to lounge, and smiles. Click on Grandchildren Run to see what we enjoyed.

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My daughter decided to start hiking to build up her stamina. She said that she needs intermediate goals in order to make progress and keep interested. So, she decided to start hiking to the top of the 25 tallest peaks in the Eastern U.S. That had to morph into a different goal because it is either hard or silly to do, depending on which list of highest peaks you look at. The hard has to do with deciding which peaks are the 25 highest. Different lists credit different peaks with that status. You may think that is silly in the days of Global Positioning. In one sense it is silly. One site included any peak that rose from around the surroundings for 160 feet. That means that you could “bag” five or six peaks on two hikes along two different ridges. The site she settled upon was a Wikipedia page called “Southern Sixers“. It includes all of the mountains east of the Mississippi that are taller than 6000′ above sea level, except Mt. Washington (6288′), which is in New Hampshire and would rank 22 on the list. The list has 53 entries, so 54 with Mt. W. I don’t what my daughter is going to do, but she suggested some number like 32 on the list. She will bag some peaks lower on the list with the two ridge walks that I mentioned above. I hope that I might be included in a fair number of these excursions.

Click on A Good Beginning to see how the first two “sixers” went.

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While working and living in Johnson City recently (see Vacation Villa), our daughter and two grandchildren came to visit and spend several nights. The children enjoyed the swimming pool, of course. We spent one long morning at two different playgrounds. One had adult exercise machines. I was sore the next day.

The day before, Mamaw, Mother, grandchildren, and I went to the Hands On Museum and Gray Fossil Site. It was fun and informative. The Hands On part had many of the exhibits from years ago when we had visited it. They are good exhibits, but some need repairs, and all need educational explanations to make them, well, educational, as opposed to merely fun.

There were two new exhibits that were well done. One was the presentation of fossils found at the Gray site. It had been a sinkhole that had collapsed. I don’t accept the long time scales, and it very likely collapse in the Worldwide Flood of Noah’s day, but the variety of fossils and depictions of flora and fauna of that time were good. There were Mastodon and Tapir bones, the latter being in more profusion that any other fossil site. There was a new species of hickory tree found in the fossilized muds. Types of fossils were well explained along with small samples well exhibited with good convex lens for viewing.

The second good exhibit was one of the best combinations of hands on and technology I had ever seen. So many techy exhibits are glitzy and purely spectatorial. This one taught by doing and interacting with the both the very tactile sand and constantly adjusting video. The exhibit consisted of an approximately 4 1/2′ x 5′ sandbox with a detector/projector above that measured the distance to the sand and projected contour lines and elevation colors onto the sand. As you move the sand into a pile or scoop it out, the system adjusts the contour lines and colors almost immediately. Children and adults alike had trouble pulling their hands out of the sand. With hand above any spot, moving one’s fingers, the projector produced what looked like a lava flow that persisted for 10 seconds or so. I think they could up the game even a bit more by providing a map legend of contour lines and intervals and elevation colors for educational purposes.

We of course enjoyed time with our daughter and the grandchildren. While they were there, my granddaughter and I finished our reading of the Chronicles of Narnia which I had been reading to her over Duo (a video chat format for Android) for about six months. It was quite the enjoyable time. Check out a few pictures at Hands On and Gray Fossils.

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Well, part of it anyway. We met at the Smoky Mountain Highland Festival Games. We watched some of the cabers and bails being tossed. The Border Collies are always amazing, herding geese and sheep without wearing down their charges. I talked with several clansmen in tents, particularly asking about some history of Stewart. The older gentleman recognized that I had a Stewart nose with a crease in the tip of my nose. The history of outlawed tartans for men after the Jacobite Rebellion was interesting. The women had to carry the tartans in their skirt patterns. At the Burnett tent I was gazing at the motto drawing, thinking that I had seen something similar before. A clansman asked if I had a question. This precipitated a discussion about how their motto, “Virescit Vulnere Virtus”, is the same as the Stewart motto. Both clans have the same ancestry. The motto is said to have been adopted after Mary Stewart, Queen of Scots, embroidered it into one of several still surviving tapestries that her and her ladies in waiting made during her long years of confinement at the hand of her cousin, Elizabeth I. The motto translates to “Courage grows strong at a wound.” It is supposedly a political statement against her cousin. All of these tidbits, demonstrations, sport, dance, instruments, weapons, and clothing were interesting, but the main event was seeing our grandchildren and interacting with them. If you want to catch a little of the flavor of the day, click on Scottish Clad Grandchildren to see a few pictures.

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My wife and I had a long weekend with family, the first since Thanksgiving because of sickness, finances, and business. We interacted with 8 our of our 10 grandchildren, two of our children, three of my brothers, one of her sisters, nephews and nieces, grandnephews and grandnieces, and in-laws at meals, on hikes, sitting around, and in church. Click here are some pictures of a few of the activities.

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For various reasons it was decided that we could get together as a family for Thanksgiving again this year. We enjoy the time together and I hope you will enjoy my pictures at “2021 Thanksgiving and Hike.”

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My oldest brother and his wife decided to have a big family reunion of both sides of their family. They had planned to have it at their house where many years of Thanksgiving gatherings have occurred. Those gatherings had brought upwards of 30 people, but this one garnered replies of attendence from 70+, threatening to overwhelm their residential infrastructure. They had rented an event tent for the occasion, but that fell through. Their youngest son acquired permission for them to have it at their church. It was best that it happened that way. It was roomy and quite nice.

My wife and I headed out on Friday morning, going to a doctor’s appointment on the way to Knoxville. We met two of our sons and their families at Austin’s Steak and Homestyle Buffet in Knoxville for an early celebration of my wife’s birthday. What better gift than seeing six grandchildren, two sons, and two spouses. It was all you could eat and I was up to the task, filling 4 plates and concluding with two more partially filled.

The morning of the reunion, my wife got together with her four sisters. With me and two brother-in-laws, we had a mini-reunion. Seven of us went out for lunch at a Mexican restaurant, sitting outside under cover with pleasant breeze. It was so encouraging to hear my brother-in-law pray over the meal, not just for the food but for the physical and spiritual well-being of family members. After many years of atheism he came to Christ in his early 70’s. I was among many who prayed for him over the years. Keep praying for those loved ones. Importune God based on His grace to save those around you and be bold to share your life and the Gospel.

The big reunion started around 2 PM. People trickled in and children took up playing GaGa Ball. Including children, my count of attendees at the Francis-Whaley Family Reunion was 51. We met people, set-up, re-acquainted, caught up, played kickball, ate, ate some more, learned family history, reminisced, perused family histories and photos, talked some more, took down, and cleaned up. In one real sense, that’s all we did, but that doesn’t communicate the feelings and emotional connections that were made and strengthened which constitute family. It occurs to me that pictures, though better at conveying those connections, still fall short. I guess you just have to have been there. So, the next time it happens, come along. Concerning the pictures, you can see those at Francis-Whaley 2021.

During the kickball game, I was running to second base and trying to slide so I wouldn’t be put out. My oldest nephew scooped up the ball and smashed it into my face and close range. Impulse and heat of the moment he called it, but in a bit of rebound I’m reminding him that it was just a friendly family game of kickball. My niece reminded me that it couldn’t be a Francis family gathering without me getting hurt. Over those many years of Thanksgiving gatherings we would play touch football, and given my personality, I don’t really play half-heartedly, so her comment was justified. I guess my nephew is of the same tribe.

The Whaley family tree stretches back quite a ways, verifiable back to Charlemagne. So does the my mother’s family Shelton, though we are missing a few generations of making that connection to my family. Oh well, we are all connected to Noah and Adam. And more importantly my wife and I and our five children are part of the family of God. We will just keep praying for those grandchildren.

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My daughter’s youngest child turned 3 years old on August 2nd. We were not able to get to their house until the 3rd because of a doctor’s appointment, but any excuse to see the grandchildren will do. We arrived 1/2 hour before dark after 5 hours at the doctor’s office and a total of 4 1/2 hours of driving. We so want to build relationships with the grandchildren, but distance, health, responsibilities, and flexibility conspire against us. I decided to use the smartphone app for this purpose and am reading the Chronicles of Narnia 2 or 3 evenings a week to my grand-daughter. Even then other activities cause rescheduling, but here flexibility is my friend. We are on the third book, “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”.

We picked blackberries at the neighbor’s house across the road, because they asked my daughter to since they were away. As we picked my daughter reflected on why she did not want to move from their present house. “We have the best neighbors. And no one else can build here because the soil percolates so poorly that septic drain fields are expensive and difficult” with the new regulations. It is a very beautiful spot and the neighbors are helpful and friendly. The neighbor behind them allows my daughter’s family to walk on the trails in their woods on about 40 acres. The next night the grandchildren, their father, and I walked to this neighbor’s house down their long driveway. The man who lives there was glad for someone to talk to and allowed the children to watch the Koi while he told how much old Koi can cost and his plans to add a deeper pond for overwintering.

The morning of the next day, the grandchildren and I were dropped off at a playground park while my wife and daughter went shopping. We tried out the various slides and swings and crawled up onto the old caboose. I think that the little ones liked the trail that I found across the creek best. They had to take their mother and mamaw to see it when they returned from gathering sale items. Every once in a while you get a good picture of several people together. What most usually prevents it is the movement and moods of the subjects. I got two good shots in a few minutes. Check here to see the pictures.

I am so thankful to God that my wife was feeling strong enough to make this trip and that we had time with this part of the family. It seems to get harder to have family time as time and distance increase.

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Our daughter and her family visited this weekend. I thought that we should plan at least one activity of interest. I remember meeting the CEO of the Hart Square Museum at my local climbing wall. She invited me to come see the Museum that her grandfather and grandmother put together over many decades. Since it was between my family members and myself, it would break up their trip a little and get us outside. I was concerned about our tour schedule time being at noon, because of the heat of June, but I was pleasantly surprised that 90% of the tour was in the woods under shade. The CEO met us in their brand new event facility that has been in the works for 5 years from fund raising to near completion. Already events are being scheduled there. I think that this new facility will be a big drawing card and help to fund the museum for many years into the future.

It pretty well dazzles the moment you enter the hall, and there is a kitchen, bathrooms, and dressing rooms in one wing and offices and conference rooms in the other wing. Here you see a birthday party being set up.

The young and energetic CEO passed us off to the young, talkative, and knowledgeable tour guide. He has lived on the premises as son to the caretaker for ten years and has been involved in deconstructing, moving, and reassembling several of the historic structures as well as repairing and upgrading others constantly. Here he is (on the right) in an upstairs bedroom of one of the larger log cabins describing the set-up to my son-in-law. Very few of the pieces of furniture were original with the cabins they are in, but they are all very much period pieces.

Our tour guide (from here on XS) said that there are now 103 and historic log structures on site, approximately 80 of which were log cabin homes. The structures range in construction date from 1792 to the 1870’s (the latter number being an observation of mine and not definite). Most were bought by the late Dr. Hart. XS said the property was originally intended to be a personal preserve for the good doctor but shifted purpose when a friend suggested a log cabin be purchased and moved to the edge of the pond and then a barn. Two of the most fascinating and used structures are the log churches. You might well imagine that some couples would want to be married in these rustic and romantic houses of worship.

The old 19 century pump organ is functional and used in weddings and gatherings.

With a tour guide along and care taken, this is largely a hands on museum. My son-in-law and two grandchildren confirmed that the organ worked. I ran up the scale, impressed with good sound. I only found one white note that had a reduced, though in tune, sound, I suspect because of a dirty or jammed stop.

The people that I met at the museum are not shy about their faith, so it made the whole presentation seem all the more real. Amazingly this structure was an apartment with siding on it when Dr. Hart found it. It cleaned up quite nicely, as we say.

The other church is smaller and has a circuit rider’s portable pump organ that could be folded and strapped behind the saddle of the traveling preacher. My grand-daughter pretends to be the organist on this day. I found an old hymnbook on the podium and began leafing though it. I think myself somewhat knowledgeable in Christian hymnody, but I had gone 50 hymns before I found one I knew. I sang the first verse. It seems an apt response to being in a structure constructed and dedicated to the worship of God.

XS says this is perhaps the best view on the site and a drawing point for small weddings.

I didn’t think to ask at the time, but I wonder if this glass above the window was original. It doesn’t seem likely to me since a “St. Mark” glass should be grouped with the other three Gospel glasses.

The cabins, many and varied, are furnished in even more varied ways. Some, to be sure, are furnished as the homes they originally were and similarly to their actual use according to interviews with former occupants. But others were furnished as workshops and businesses which they were not. This increases the interest in their contents and plays into the one day reenacting festival every Fall.

Most, the following one not included, had original rock chimneys along with the mostly original logs and timber.

This one was decorated as if Christmas was soon to arrive.

The cookstove was impressive.

Except for the cobwebs, which XS says they are constantly clearing, the cabins are furnished to appear occupied in the present.

Given the number of bedrooms, however, I can assure you that this pantry should be better stocked. Check out the blue Mason jars with the zinc lids.

If you included the four poster at right, this bedroom alone could have housed seven youngin’s. It was adjacent to another room with two double beds.

There are also several modern, old design structures on site like this covered bridge…

…and cotton press for making bales. The cotton gin in the barn like structure is one of only two period gins in the country that is still functioning.

There is also a functioning grist mill fed by one of the ponds.

My family members loved combing every inch of what we had time for and asking many questions. Sometimes I think XS was talking as much to himself as to us. He had plenty to say and good, interesting information, too.

I observed that a modern leather belt replacement might be quite expensive and XS added, less durable.

My grandson is positioned just right to be grabbed up by the millstone hoist.

The passage between living quarters and the kitchen is called a dogtrot. The design helped with heat management by avoiding the heat of the kitchen in summer and providing a shady, breezy passage. I think a quick way to get out of the rain without tracking mud into the house would be nice, too.

There are clay and brick ovens and kilns here and there for the festival reenactors to make anything from bread to pottery, pewter, and more.

Can you guess what we saw inside of this cabin?

Bear on the wall, buffalo on the bed, and deer on the foot board, I’m told.

The large, iron rich, mica schist blocks on this chimney were fascinating.

The Holstein hide bed coverlet drew my attention as well.

There were museum pieces at every turn. You should see what was inside the shed.

There is a centrally located picnic pavilion where my grandchildren were attempting to call up anyone with ears to hear.

My son-in-law caught a little wildlife for his daughter to play with.

There is not enough time to go into all 103 structures on a given tour, but you may request that anyone be opened to inspect. I was interested in the pottery cabin. It was full of labeled historic pots. Some were from a well known local potter and his business from the 19th century. This was definitely a no touch zone.

My daughter observed that the Indian glazes had a more smooth appearance and I would add a more matte finish as well.

The last cabin that we went into was furnished as a doctor’s abode. It had matching horn “silverware” and a grand Lazy Susan at table.

I had a few more pictures, but I seem to have arrived at the limit of the blog entry. That is fine, because you need to go see for yourself. Even with every picture I took, you would not have seen the half of it. Go check it out. They seem quite flexible in scheduling tours and there is some real history hear. Or plan an event there. Yes, I’m advertising, but not because I get anything out of it other than the satisfaction of knowing that I pointed some people to a profitable tour for mind and body and helped out a worthy museum. Check out their tours at Hart Square | A Common Past, Uncommonly Preserved. It is located just south of Hickory, NC, near Vale, NC. I was going to add a map, but I have maxed out the storage, evidently. You’re smart, so check it out and go see it this summer.

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Last weekend my wife and I went to Knoxville for a one our daughter-in-law’s surprise birthday party, my wife’s family reunion, and other visits. What makes this so amazing is that my wife had had health problems that prevented her from significant travel or visiting- she was in much pain and it simply wore her out. About 3 weeks ago the symptoms suddenly began to go away after almost two years of intensifying. She has been to many doctors, but mostly they could not pinpoint the problems, which are not all solved but she feels like she has a life again. She decided that the birthday party with many people would be too much for her, so I dropped her off at her sister’s house to have a quiet visit while I was at the party.

Her husband is very patient to talk to my wife at the slower pace of someone with aphasia.

I missed the surprise moment of the daughter-in-law’s arrival, but there was plenty of visiting all around.

Visiting with my six grandchildren by my oldest son and his wife was enjoyable.

My oldest son is listening to a story by his pastor. We went to church with them the next morning. You can see my sister-in-law in the pink pants getting to know one of my grandchildren.

The pastor is also a near neighbor, so the grandchildren feel comfortable with him and his wife.

I said that there were six grandchildren. The one in the green cap holding his mother’s hand in an earlier picture didn’t stand still long enough for me to get a picture. My oldest brother is a retired pastor and quite the UT fan.

My sister-in-law is quite the story teller. You can about see her spinning a yarn here to my youngest son: “Ye…eeep! It was a real humdinger.” The daughter-in-law’s brother is listening to another story with pleasure.

My third son has that “are you taking my picture” look, but his wife just smiles.

The family gathered for the reunion at Cumberland Mountain State Park on Sunday afternoon after church. Eating and talking is what you do at a reunion. Most of the participants are past playing games.

Mother and son.

Who looks more mischievous, uncle or nephew?

Brothers.

Their spouses.

The eight siblings of my wife’s family and all but one of their spouses are still alive even though the siblings range from 63 to 86 years old. They didn’t get to have a reunion last year and everyone feels like this can’t keep happening from now on, but they are blessed to still be alive and still enjoy getting together to catch up on what has happened in the last year or two. Could you point them out in order by age?

My two oldest grandsons and their father rode with us to the reunion. The others stayed back for a much needed nap. We had gone on a hike together previously, so they wanted to go again. We went down the road a short distance to the dam where we found a trail down by the creek.

The bridge over the dam is the most picturesque feature in the park.

Besides painted dots to mark trails, the park has these special trail markers, this one on Black Oak bark.

I am trying to keep up on the march in the woods.

This is fun, grandpa, but the creek water is only cool and not cold as we expected.

It floats but will it support any weight?

I had the boys in their cowboy hats and boots stand by a healthy Eastern White Pine.

After returning to my son’s home we visited for awhile before departing to my oldest brother’s house for the evening. I was focusing in on my grand-daughter, who is the first second daughter in four generations among the male progenitors. Speaking of whom, the party, reunion, hike, and visit after a week of laboring has rendered him tired. We were all ready for some rest, but content with time we had to visit.

Indeed the years are passing, and we become more desirous of renewing family ties as time goes along. God has been good to our families according to His mercy. We should love those around us and build relationships while we can, because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, though we can guess what many tomorrows will. Life is short so we best be about knowing God and knowing people while we have the opportunity, because eternity is coming. I am so thankful for the young ones coming along, and I pray regularly for their salvation, health, relationships, and knowledge base. May they know Him and give Him glory. Life is good, because God is good.

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Our eighth grandchild arrived on March 9th at just after 4 AM, weighing 8 lbs 2.5 oz and 19″ long. He and his mother are healthy. I write blessing poems for my grandchildren (“Blessing of ERB”, “Be Strong”, “The LORD Has Remembered His Love and Truth”, “Work With God”, “Favored Pearl”, “Joined to God”, “Little Miss Bountiful”). This one, due to my physical and mental fatigue I suspect, took longer to come. May God bless this child for His purposes.

Joel praise the God who is
And was and ever will be
‘Yahweh is God’ this name His
Covenant Keeper is He

Trust early God’s saving grace
Pursue Him with all your might
Unencumbered run the race
By laying aside the trite

Valiant for eternal truth
Defending it by His Word
Brave to stand up from your youth
With discernment early gird

This world is no friend of yours
Trust always in God’s great strength
Its siren songs bring no cures
His rewards will come at length

Master Francis be alert
Act like a man and be strong
Stand strong in faith, sin avert
His coming will not be long

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Our daughter came to cook and freeze food for us so that I could get some reprieve from a combination of outdoor and house work. While and because she worked and because the weather and other responsibilities that didn’t allow too much outdoor work, I spent some time with the grandchildren.

Besides cooking, there was also homeschool, because in homeschool, “school is never out”. Of course, the saying alludes to the fact that all situations are opportunities, like the more traditional one pictured and all others, to learn and grow.

One day we took a walk at the local greenway, except we got off the beaten path to see something different. I guess we will call it a fieldtrip.

We actually walked about 2 miles after an hour or so of playing on the Beanstalk Playfort*.

The next day brought continuous rain, so while the my daughter worked and my wife and grandson napped, my granddaughter (E) and I went to the climbing wall.

With a little suggestion and growing confidence with exposure, she began using her toes more and getting to the top more. She met a girl her age with whom she climbed abit.

This was only E’s second time climbing but she enjoyed it thoroughly.

The old man couldn’t stay off of the wall either, even though he’s been declared a bit “off the wall” at times.

The unexpected part was that E had picked up my phone and was taking pictures.

We asked the employee behind the desk and new climbing friend of mine to take a few pictures. I would like to encourage you to check out Bigfoot Climbing Gym**.

I did a traverse around the children’s wall, which was quite challenging, especially these pink and orange holds. Actually, I couldn’t go up them at all and barely traversed across*** them.

We had a fun time and I read to her several chapters of “Tales of the Resistance”, second in a three book series, over the five days they were here. All were encouraged, but I think my daughter was just tired.

*Our local playground pictured here from the website, third picture down on the left.

**https://bigfootclimbinggym.com Check out the 1st anniversary events. It would be a good, inexpensive way to check out the gym.

***Is “tranversed across” a redundant phrase, or does it communicate, as I am trying to, that as I traversed I went across these to climbs?

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… and little people are nonetheless significant beyond their size.

My wife and I visited our daughter and her family this past weekend. It set me to notice little things more than I have recently. Flowers blooming at the end of November is novel, but this little guy was showing off his stuff right next to their driveway. I have told the problem with controlling the focus on my phone, but here it reminded me of a little thing. This is what the flower looks like when I don’t have my bifocals on or when not using the right part of them. Doing fine work above my head is a pain since I have difficulty seeing it. I have actually flipped my glasses upside down to see what I am doing. It’s those little things.

I took an early walk the next morning. The temperature was brisk and there was no one out yet. The woods on either side of the road give this straightaway a pleasantly lonely feeling. White oaks and red oaks and maples and Sourwood and the occasional pine reside in a woods infrequently grazed by cattle. It is a pleasant little scene.

Most of the leaves have turned and dropped off, but this little Red Maple tree by the road was not having it. There was still time to show off the colors.

I’m not a big dog fan, but their dog is an outside dog and likes to explore and circle back around to you. He seems to have come to understand that I’m OK with his occasional inquiries as long as he is not in my face all the time.

Little grandchildren are a big deal, posterity and all that. It is fun to watch them explore and learn. It was a little kindness, but the man in the picture who is unknown to us, gave the children feed to give to the goats. I hope that he enjoyed watching them interact with them as much as they and we did.

It was also curious to watch how adept the goats had become at retracting their heads and horns out of the fencing without getting hung up.

Little moments of quiet, particularly in nature, are so restful to the soul. I hope that my son-in-law found it so.

The rolling hills of the Virginia landscape are fertile soil for an orchard.

Pruned apple trees produce larger and more fruit. The orchard is picturesque because of the views in both directions.

The Little Man is riding on his mama.

His big sister is not so little anymore and in the 3rd grade this year.

Who knew that anything ate Cayenne peppers. Tobacco Hornworms do. (My daughter looked it up first.) The seven white V-shaped markings and red horn confirm the ID.

Yet another small flower exhibiting its beauty. It is some variety of Balloon Flower, because that is its appearance before the bloom opens. The flowers were confused. I have an azalea still in bloom this 6th day of November, the third time it has bloomed this season.

I guess the hood warms his head and the bear warms his heart. But what warms his feet?

While I am talking about little things that are big, I thought I’d add a few more thoughts. One of my pastors offered me some firewood that he had no need of. I cut and began loading. In a few minutes he came out with his son saying, “I brought reinforcements”, and helped me load the wood. Kindness can be a word of encouragement, but an act of encouragement is even better.

Today I did small repairs on a house. I sealed the leaking skylight on the roof. I re-nailed a soffit board that had warped and pulled loose. I caulked around windows that were leaking air and allowing Lady Bugs entrance. Such a little crack can allow so much to transverse a barrier. Do maintenance on the little cracks that can allow rain and cold and insects into your living space. And I don’t just mean your house.

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Partytime! The little man just turned two so we had a party. Grandparents don’t need much excuse to visit. Growing slowly but steadily, he is a wonder of modern medicine and a trophy of God’s grace given his heart challenges at birth. He takes a bit of time to warm up to you, and dons quite a serious expression, but he studies everything quite closely.

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Distracted attention

He is always up to go for a ride in the truck, especially since we went to see a front-end loader dump topsoil in the bed of the truck. 

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“I’m tied down at the moment.”

While daddy was in the store, we listened to hymns and pretended to be going somewhere.

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In the driver’s seat

Besides Mamaw and Grandpa, his uncle and wife came, along with a friend and her parents.

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Party!

The friend’s dad has a job collecting stories from WWI and II veterans and their families. Here the little man’s dad is telling his great-grandfather’s story of being in the Med, the North Atlantic, the Caribbean, and the Pacific for over three years. The many stories friend shared were amazing. The one about General Patton’s personal pilot was fascinating. Escaping from a Swiss prison camp was amazing.

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War Stories

A storybook with moving parts is the best. I don’t know how much reading or literary learning goes on, but it is non-stop fun. Everyone wants to see the new gifts.

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Opening presents

Big Sis has a few stories of her own to tell. 

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Hanging out

The pictures don’t show it, but the little man actually laughed and ran around quite a bit. Others were focusing on their various forms of media.

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Always the serious one
It was good to be together. We moved dirt. We heard a sermon and sang. We ate a feast. We talked to family and new friends. We cleaned up dishes. We talked and talked and talked. We walked. We read and took pictures and googled. We came home tired. 

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My children threw me a retirement party this past Saturday. They cooked the food, set up, and thoroughly cleaned up. It was all such a blessing. Four of my children and their spouses, all seven grandchildren, my three brothers and their spouses, and even my newest daughter-in-law’s parents were there. Besides lots of eating and general catching up, I played with grandchildren, helped make ice cream, and told stories. My oldest son’s three oldest children sang songs and recited Scripture. Most of the stories came from a little activity my son came up with. He had fourteen questions printed on a paper for attendees to answer about me. Later I gave answers. One of my sister-in-laws is also a retired teacher, so we kept the flow of stories going for quite some time. Earlier in the week the weather forecast had called for 92 degrees in the afternoon on Saturday, but clouds and Saharan dust kept the temperature to the low 80’s. And there were periodic breezes that kept the mosquitoes at bay. The gathering went well past the three hours set apart for it. I so hope we can find excuses to have these get-togethers on a regular basis.

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Trying out some new swings

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Newest grandchild

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All seven

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A mother story?

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Productive waiting

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Technical story?

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Healthy skepticism

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Youngest son and spouse

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Next to impossible to have 100% happy campers

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Still standing by the grace of God

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Rare to get us all together in the same place at the same time

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“His banner over me is love.”

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I love to observe the beauties of nature. Some of the following pictures are from before the pandemic and many are part of my coping mechanism since it has started. The first picture shows algae with what I believe to be a brown spore case. If I am wrong, I wish some algae expert would set me straight.

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Algae under a microscope

Cameras can be deceptive. The pizza place was actually rather dim with little points of light. We enjoyed the cauliflower crust pizza with organic toppings of veggies and cheese.

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Upscale Pizza place with my Valentine

It is convenient that my son has several downed trees in his side yard that I have cut off of a few times. I had never been so low on wood, oh, except for the time many years ago when I had been sick for several months and nearly ran out. At that time a friend felt sorry for me and brought some wood. The present wood is dry and off the ground with very little rot. The day was pleasantly cool for work.

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A little more wood needed

I gave one of my 9 year old Sunday School students an adult coloring book. The next Sunday she showed me the following:

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Sunday School student’s art

A mobile lab comes to our school each semester to do a DNA Electrophoresis Lab with our Biology students. It is a very effective use of their time.

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DNA Electrophoresis Lab

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migrating DNA in a gel

A friend of ours from Bible School days came by to visit. She is retiring from many years of missionary work in the Philippians. It has been a privilege to be in contact with her all of these years, following what God has been doing with and through her.

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A friend and missionary

All of the previous pictures were pre-pandemic. The following ones are various fresh air excursions since warning to keep apart from others. The trillium are going wild in a little triangle of woods about 1/2 mile from my house where I frequently walk.

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Sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum)

I like the beauty of my own yard in Spring as well.

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Grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum)

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Just a week before the restrictive stay at home orders came, my daughter and two grandchildren came to visit.

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He can look so serious

Only 3/4 of a mile from the house is a small waterfall in a draw (small vale or notch for those of you from a different neck of the woods) surrounded by wooded suburbia.

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Neighborhood waterfall

We hiked one day to a much larger waterfall. It is a short but steep walk, which I would have thought nothing of had it not been for the little ones to help along. We have had so much rain lately that the ground keeps giving water.

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Upper Creek Falls

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Mama enjoys time outside, too

I can’t paint a still life, but I can appreciate one.

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Colors, Contrasts, and Tones

When my daughter went home, my granddaughter wanted to stay. We did several fun and relationship building things. When we went to the climbing gym I told her to watch me climb at first, knowing that she takes time to warm up to things. After about 45 minutes of following me around, she asked if she could have some climbing shoes. She was really quite good.

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More time together

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Only thing lacking was confidence

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roughed up a little

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Historic times

My wife is a wonderful cook. The only problem is her food doesn’t last long around our house with me there.

 

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Yet another fabulous dish from my favorite chef

On the way back from a doctor across the state line, I decided to stop for a leg stretcher. In warm weather it is one of the best and most crowded swimming holes.

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good flow

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Elk River Falls

Two more backyard blooms and a small neck of the woods trillium follow:

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Backyard Beauty

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Pontentilla sp.

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There is little for perspective, but this huge, perhaps 12″+ in diameter.

At 5 PM on this very day, they were closing down many outdoor venues, specifically including climbing areas. I went and got in a quick session since both gyms and crags are closed for the foreseeable future. So much time to go and so little availability.

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Mushroom Boulder

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View from just behind the boulder

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Galax

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Bloodroot and Wood Sorrel

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Wood Sorrel

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Bloodroot

Having not been outside much to climb lately, I was mostly shutdown by problems that I could previously do. I enjoy climbing for the mental and physical aspects. I needed some success before I went home and this is a good boulder for it.

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Warm-up Boulder

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Shelf Fungus

I bought this ground cover only last Spring and it is covering the ground!

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Verbana sp.

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Red Dogwood

I don’t know why it is named after a snake, but the vividness and pattern of the white lines on the leaves are fascinating:

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Rattlesnake Plantain

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Fiddleheads

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Mayapple

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Wisteria

Many trees can be identified to the species by how they are shaped. Even sometimes their reaction to heavy pruning still comes out identifiable. One bright blue day I took pictures of 8 or 10 treeforms. I won’t bore you with the lot of them but the general idea is there.

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Spruce treeform

If you know what fractals are, then you will see why I mention them before the white oak tree picture.

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Oak treeform

To end this random array of flower arrangements and outdoor excursions and such I give you one more flower that grows by my backyard shed. Enjoy what little joys and beauties you are afforded. They help you deal with the sad and ugly moments of life. They are gifts from a gracious Father who loves beauty and blessing.

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Star of Bethlehem

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My last post was about my third son’s wedding. You can see the pictures by clicking here or scroll down. This blog entry is a little commentary on stops along the way there and back.

On our way through Knoxville, we stopped to drop off some children’s clothes and baby equipment that Mamaw had gathered from the consignment sale. I got to meet and hold my seventh and newest grandchild. 

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Newest Grandbaby

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1st 2nd granddaughter

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Yawns mean mom will get a break

We had a few minutes with the other grandchildren. May God bless, protect, and know them.

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with Big Sister

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My son’s former roommate and friend came along, too. He is good with children. As you can see, there was a one-sided water balloon fight.

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Water Balloon prep

All things Scottish are greatly admired by my oldest son’s family.

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Scottish watch soldier

The masked man next to the little guy was said to be wearing a cape and carrying a dear over his shoulder. Robin Hood stands between him and Maid Marian.

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With the artists

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The missing, shy, sleepy brother arose from a nap just before we left.

The following pictures were taken on the trip home. I told my partner that I wanted to stop somewhere along the line in order to stretch our legs. We left at 5:22 AM, as he reminded me several times. The sun rose in central Louisiana. Below is the Visitor’s Center in Jackson, MS.

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I-20 at Jackson, MS crossing of the Big Muddy

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Remembrance of darker days

The leg stretcher was a quick jaunt up the ridge to Neversink Pit in Jackson County, NE Alabama. The sign informed us that we needed a permit to even hike on the property. It is amazing what you can do from a cell phone these days. We filled out the permission slips and had approval is less than 10 minutes. I should have taken a picture of the map. It showed the squares of land that individuals bought to set aside this natural wonder.

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Interesting Preservation and Access

The wildflowers were popping all over.

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Fire Pink

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Limestone has the weirdest looking forms

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Not too close!

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Neversink Pit, AL

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My expert sister-in-law (in identifying wildflowers at least (couldn’t pass up the left-handed compliment, Sis)) assures me that it is Violet Wood Sorrel.

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162 foot pit

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Would love to rap it someday

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flint sandwiched in limestone

 

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Younger brother and oldest son

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No expense withheld

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In extravagant training facilities

The topics of conversation widely varied, though we are both science geeks. For example, we spent perhaps two hours on the way down reading and discussing the history of the development of longitude all because I made the comment, “I wander why they called it Meridian, MS?” We later found out that it stemmed from an argument two developers of the town had, but the discussion about longitude from 1541 to 1767 was interesting. If you are willing to explore and ask questions and be flexible, then the world has many wonders small and large to keep your interest. And we stayed well away from everyone else in the process. Social distancing is not all that bad.

 

 

 

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