Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Snowstorm

It's been many, many years since the Midwest has had a major snowstorm on Christmas Day. There are a couple of aspects of this one that are headed for the record books .... 18 inches and counting, and the duration of the storm: 3 days, if you count the 5 inches we received Thursday night. We had a little reprieve yesterday for a few hours and then it wound up again, dumped another foot of snow and brought a lot of wind with it. Plans were changed and, unless you got out of town Thursday night or early Friday, you ended up staying home. The girls and I slept late this morning (soooo nice .... had the radio on, listening to Christmas music in the background), and I spent the day finishing up my cards and blowing snow. My snowblower isn't very big so you have to stay ahead of the drifts. I'm usually at work, so don't have the opportunity to do that, but this time I did and I'm so proud of myself. I was dug out before any of my neighbors (for once!) and even was able to help with my neighbor's driveway, since he DID have to work ... a 12 hour shift, no less.
The girls think the snow is just great, and they had a lot of fun playing with Sadie, their pal next door. Running through deep, heavy snow with legs that are 5 inches long is a lot of work, and they are getting older .... so they came inside and went right to sleep. Merry Christmas girls!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Reluctant Reindeer Christmas Photo Shoot

It is nearly the middle of December, and I have never gotten such a late start on my Christmas cards. Sending and receiving Christmas letters from family and friends is one of the best parts of the holiday season for me. Since I grew up in five different states, and have lived several different places as an adult, I have quite a few friends who I hear from only at Christmas. Facebook has been a new point of connection with old friends, but I still enjoy reading the comprehesive Christmas letters .... and I'm dismayed that the trend is moving to shorter and shorter letters; sometimes only a paragraph! No! I protest!

This is the way they're supposed to be worn, aren't they?                                          

Usually my cards are made by the end of October, my letter is written the day after Thanksgiving and they are in the mail the first week of December. Not this year! I had company over Thanksgiving (great fun!) and December has been consumed with baking for three different cookie exchanges, hosting a graduation open house for a friend and a year end fundraiser at work. Suddenly I find it is mid-December, and I'm almost in a panic! The letter is yet unwritten, and I don't have a single card made! I don't even have my tree up yet. Last night I decided that 'this was it' .... do or die ... so we went over to my friend Sandy's to have our picture taken in front of their tree! And my usually very cooperative and photogenic girls decided to be stinkers. Maybe they were picking up on my sense of urgency .... who knows? Whatever the case, we could not get them to look at the camera ... let alone 'smile'. And, just as I knew she would, Dee Dee finally 'had enough' and started to snarl at Princess .... at which time Princess closed her eyes and arched her neck as faaarrrr away from Dee Dee as she could ... and the photo shoot was over! But, just like with kids, sometimes the funny, candid shots tell the best story - and I think that will be the case with us this year!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fright Night

Halloween isn't exactly the most favorite of days for Princess and Dee Dee. It ranks up there with the Fourth of July. Even the cute little toddlers who come dressed up as puppy dogs or clowns are scary looking to the girls. The other day I left them in the car while I ran into a grocery store. There was a display of ghosts and goblins just across the street, and when I came out of the store, the girls were looking out the back window, barking furiously. We can be walking in the neighborhood, and suddenly they will stop - dead in their tracks - suspiciously eyeing someones' lawn decorations. 

October isn't their favorite month for several reasons; Halloween just being one of them. It's also the month we go to the vet for their annual checkups. When Dee Dee recognizes the clinic, she refuses to get out of the car and wants me to hold her when we get inside. Princess puts on a much braver face, but her quivering back legs give her away. They were both pronounced 'in excellent health' for their ages. No cataracts (common in dogs of their age) and I was complimented on the condition of their teeth. Dee Dee's weight has been right at the 28.5-28.8 mark for years, but Princess - who has a much smaller build - has now dropped to 25.6 lbs - which makes her look and feel so much better. We love the staff of the Casselton Veterinary Clinic ... they are the best!!

October also took us to Michigan to see family, with a stop in Eastern Iowa to see friends. The weather in Michigan was the same as what I left behind in Minnesota - cold and wet!! Nonetheless, we did work in a trip to the beach one day, and the dogs had a great time. Dee Dee picks on her brother mercilessly, so she has to wear a muzzle when she's around him. She really doesn't mind it all that much. I think it makes her feel more secure, and it keeps Elvis safe - and my blood pressure from rising! The weather this month has been absolutely miserable, with several days of snow (thankfully, it has all melted), but the sun is out today and hopefully that bodes well for November. My leaves still have not been raked .... that is on the 'to do' list for tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Bad Joke or a New Breed?

It's that time of year when we are transitioning from summer to fall, meaning you can need air conditioning one day and heat the next! We've had a beautiful September though; in fact, I think it was warmer than June, July or August! It's a very busy time of year for me at work, and I feel guilty that my girls don't get to see a lot of me. I try to make it up to them when I get a chance. Last weekend I took them to a lake where they could swim. They LOVE that! Yesterday I took them for a walk around a little lake - but one that doesn't allow swimming. For Dee Dee, that is sheer torture. Every ten steps she would pull towards the lake with eyes pleading, "Can we go in here?"

I had a very funny experience with them a few days ago. I had taken them to a fairly large park near our home, quite early in the morning. I didn't expect to see anyone there, but there was a big truck in parking lot with a lot of cameras set up and a few men standing around. It turns out they were there to film a commercial. I parked, let the girls out and they bolted across the grass, barking all the way - just as they always do. The men had a bit of a puzzled look in their eyes and one of them walked over to me, asking if we were there for the commercial. I said, "No - we're just here for a walk." "Oh", he said, "We're waiting for some people to come for a commercial, and we ordered two Great Danes. When I saw your dogs, I thought it was somebody's idea of a bad joke." I burst out laughing. "Well, these dogs are the new Miniature Great Danes."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Three for Thee - ODB Designs - September challenge

I've done it again .... hijacked Princess' and Dee Dee's blog to take part in a rubber stamping blog hop. This time it is for Our Daily Bread Designs which has become a favorite company for purchasing wonderful scripture stamps and sentiments. The card I have posted here is a pocket card for their September challenge. It is a 4X6 inch card, using the Fruit of the Spirit set. It's one of my favorites. Cardstock is from Stampin' Up (elegant eggplant, always artichoke and sahara sand); jumbo brads are from Close to my Heart. Autumn Traditions DP, tab punch and ribbon are also Stampin' Up. I got these recipe cards from Current - but they are VERY old - and I don't know if they're still available. I thought they were perfect for this card though. Be sure and check out all of the other participants in this challenge.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Farewell to summer .... NOT!

Labor Day is generally viewed as the end of summer, but we're not about to let go of this one yet! We just haven't had enough summer yet ... in fact, the past week has been one of the warmer weeks of the season. We had a wonderful holiday weekend, visiting friends in Paul Bunyan land. My friend Laurie and I enjoyed a little kayaking, and the girls got to swim ... well, actually swim is a misnomer, as Pelican Lake is so shallow that they were able to sprint through the water to retrieve their stick.

This picture of Princess swimming beside me was actually taken a couple of years ago in Michigan. There's a funny story behind it too. My brother Tim and I took turns in the kayak while the other one had 'dog duty' (my two plus Elvis) on shore. Princess didn't like me going off without her though and kept swimming after me until Tim came out to get her. He finally tied her leash to a lawn chair so she couldn't get away (or so he thought). It worked for a while. I paddled upstream and around a bend so she couldn't see me. Eventually I turned around, came back into view and !
I saw Princess in the water, still tied to the lawn chair, swimming towards me with the chair flopping behind her. It was the funniest thing I ever saw! She wasn't making much progress, but her determination was impressive

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Family Fun

My brother Dan returns this week to China after a year in the US. It's been a fun year ... we got to see him several times and this week he came up for a quick day trip and chance to say goodbye. We took a long walk along the Red River and the time went way too fast. The girls have gotten to know him this year, and Princess even sleeps with him when he's here. (In fact, she snuggles up to him more than she does to me .... she has such a bossy personality that it's really hard for her to show anything that might appear to be 'submission' to me!)

My other brother, Tim, sent these pictures of Elvis this week. I just laugh when I look at this photo of him in a deep hole at Au Train Beach in the Michigan Upper Peninsula. He will chase a stick anywhere ... even into a hole and especially if Tim eggs him on as he did in this instance! Like Dee Dee, he loves to have his picture taken and willingly smiles for the camera.

Speaking of Dee Dee .... she has a subtle way of letting me know when it's suppertime. Well maybe not so subtle ....

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Swim Party and other Summer Delights

We have had a busy week. I had an open house on Tuesday for my stamping business, and decided to make cheesecake. Knowing that my oven tends to run hot, I set the temperature about 10 degrees lower than the recipe called for, and the time about 15 minutes less than what was called for. Even with that, the cake was WAY overdone .... so I ended up making a second one .... then got a few last minute RSVPS so thought I'd better make a third one! The girls thought that was just great, as they love cheesecake almost as much as I do! They both had turns licking the bowl.

Then on Thursday night we went to a swim party at a local pool. Several years ago the park district started something that is kind of fun. After the last day that the pool is open for the season, they host a dog swiiming party that evening. In the past we have gone to a park with a large wading pool .... plenty deep for corgis to swim, given their short legs! But this week, the they had both the big pool and the wading pool open for dogs and their 'people' to swim. My girls are used to a lake, where they can swim to shore and get their feet back on solid ground, so they weren't very excited about the big pool. But it was hilarious to watch some of the large dogs charge down the diving board and make a flying leap into the pool!!! For our part, we stayed over in the wading pool section and all was well until somebody decided they needed to bring their pit bull over there to 'socialize' (off leash of course) with the smaller dogs. I was not happy about that. I have an opinion about people who own pit bulls .... ... Anyway, at that point, we decided to leave. But it was a fun evening. The pictures here were taken a couple years ago in a neighbor's backyard pool. My girls are very strong swimmers, and love the water. It's been so cool this summer that we haven't done a lot of swimming, but it's supposed to warm up this week and we're going camping next weekend so hopefully they'll get a few more chances to swim yet this summer.

One issue with having two dogs is that toys tend not to last very long! Everything (ropes, sticks, Frisbees, pillows) is viewed as fair game for tug-of-war. They can tear a normal Frisbee to pieces within minutes, but I finally got a Frisbee golf disc which is harder, and we've had it for over 5 years. It's not in great shape with punctures and teeth marks everywhere, but they still love to play with it and it's held together - so far!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Happy Anni - VERVE - sary!

I have hi-jacked my own blog (well, actually it's my girls' blog) today to take part in the first ever official Anni-VERVE-sary Blog Hop. Verve is my very favorite photo polymer stamp company. I love their images, and especially their 'plain jane' scripture stamps. Verve turns two today and we’re celebrating with a hop, hop, hop! When I saw some of the other blogs in the Hop, I have to admit, I was a little intimidated, because there are some seriously talented ladies taking part in this. Fortunately, it's not a competition ... it's a party. It kicked off over on the Verve blog, so be sure to hop on over there to start from the beginning! And to make this party a real shindig, there’s a mystery jackpot hidden at one of the stops along the hop. One lucky commenter on that blog will win Verve’s entire August release! But of course, it wouldn’t be a mystery if you knew which blog, would it?   So give a little shout out to the bloggers in the hop and you just might have a reason to jump for joy! Thanks for stopping by and be sure to hop on over to Jeanne's blog '', for a little more Verve-y goodness. (If the Verve post on that blog isn't up, then the next one you want to go to is Kerri's )

Stamps: Kindred Spirits (Verve)

Paper: Soft Suede, Very Vanilla, Thoroughly Modern DP (all Stampin' Up)

Accessories: Eyelet punch, Hodgepodge Hardware, 5/8 Vanilla Grosgrain (all SU)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Strong Willed Corgis

I've mentioned before that my corgis have very different personalities. In fact, when I talk to other corgi owners, I sometimes think that mine must be on opposite ends of the personality continuum. Princess is 'off the charts' independent, bossy, opinionated and strong willed.

Dee Dee is usually very compliant and easy going .... but now and then she exerts her will, and when she does, it's usually pretty funny. When getting ready for a trip, I can count on Princess to attach herself to my heel as soon as she sees the suitcase come upstairs, the camping equipment go in the trunk or the cooler in the kitchen. She is going to make darn sure that she doesn't get left behind. Dee Dee is more complex, because, while she doesn't want me to go off and leave her, she really would rather that we all stay home.
We had decent weather on our vacation overall, but the first few days were cold and stormy. The first night in the tent went well, as we had just a light rain that is actually a very soothing sound on the tent. The second night out, we weren't so lucky. Thunder, lightning and eventually hail pounded the tent. The hail was just pea-size (if that) but it sounded like baseballs on the tent. Dee Dee could not get out of the tent fast enough. I waited until there was a bit of a lull in the storm, and then I took her to the car and sat there with her until the worst of the storm subsided. (Princess was in the tent alone ... sleeping soundly.) After that, Dee Dee steadfastly refused to go back in the tent. In some ways this was nice. She slept in the car, and Princess enjoyed having me all to herself in the tent. But I felt bad for her, all alone in the car. Still, if she felt safe there ... then that was a good thing. So all was well until the second to the last night of our trip, which was a few days before July 4. Some kids in the campground decided to get a jump start on the holiday and were shooting off fireworks.
There is nothing that freaks Dee Dee out more than fireworks. I tried to cover the noise by putting the radio on in the car, but it didn't help her much. After that, she just couldn't find anywhere that she felt totally safe, and she became downright ornery. Both of the girls (and me, too, for that matter!) were getting pretty tired by that time and were ready to go home, but Dee Dee's logic played a trick on her. She wanted to go home; that was very clear. But she was tired of the car ... of riding in it, and of sleeping in it. With limited understanding of how a car 'works', she knew enough to realize that if she sat ON the driver's side floor, we weren't able to go anywhere.

And so each time I left them in the car to go into a store, bathroom or to snap a picture, I came back to find Dee Dee sitting right on top of the gas pedal. I told her to 'come'. She looked at me like I was crazy. I tried to grab her collar, and she dug down and arched her back. Dee Dee is strong when she needs to be. (Just ask the groomer who cuts her nails.) It was funny and frustrating at the same time. The first few times it happened, I was able to coax her out of the car with a piece of turkey, then pick her up and put her in the back seat. But she got wise to that, too, after a while. She really can be a character! By the time we crossed the Red River into Minnesota, we were all worn out, and happy to be home.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Big Sky Country

We had a wonderful trip last month to Glacier National Park in Montana. Camping with two dogs is fun but also takes some planning. We generally try to go early in the season before it gets too hot, because there are obviously times when I have to leave the girls alone in the car. If it is too warm, that really gets to be a problem.
I remember one time a few years ago where I stopped at a rest area and made a mad dash in and out because it was in the 90's and even with the windows open, it was just too hot to leave the girls alone for more than a minute. I've also been known to take them with me into public restrooms ... not very often, but I've done it. Anyway, we were very fortunate with this trip because, although it started out cold, windy and very rainy, by the time we got to our destination, the weather improved greatly and was perfect for the rest of the week. The US National Parks don't allow dogs on the
hiking trails due to the crowds, and, in places such as Glacier, because of the threat of bears. Bears see dogs (especially small dogs) as prey, and I cannot even imagine what I would do if one ever threatened one of my dogs. (It's one of those things I can't even think about.) It was cool enough to leave the girls in the car while I did some morning hikes, and the scenery that exists in the national park, also exists in areas surrounding it (national forests, state parks, etc.) where I can hike with the dogs.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was the drive home along Hwy 200 which goes through a very sparsely populated area (i.e. no towns!!) I wouldn't want to have car trouble in that area, but fortunately that wasn't an issue and I just loved watching the sun go down over the vast, open ranch land with the mountains off in the distance. Our last stop was Medora, and the ND Badlands.

We took a day trip outside the park and around Flathead Lake one day, and it was beautiful! We even found a designated dog swimming beach at Yellow Bay State Park on the east side of the lake. That was fun!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

Happy 4th of July. We are spending a quiet day at home, as we just returned from a wonderful camping vacation to Glacier National Park in Montana. Truthfully, this is the girls' least favorite day of the whole year ... especially Dee Dee's. To say she hates fireworks would be an understatement. She spends a lot of time in her kennel and I leave the basement door open so she can retreat down there if she hears too much action and needs a safer place. MN is a state where fireworks are illegal, except professional displays, but we seem to hear plenty of them anyway.

I will post a couple of photos from our trip today, and more in the coming days. The first part of the trip was tough ... four days of rain and cold ... and getting kicked out of a bluegrass festival at Cross Ranch State Park in ND because dogs weren't allowed. I had called specifically to ask about this when I made my reservation and was told that dogs were OK as long as we sat towards the back. When I got there, I was told the same thing at the gate ... and we went in and sat down .. only to be kicked out by the ranger 10 minutes later. The girls were snuggled up beside me and not bothering anyone, so it was very disappointing to have to leave.

The rest of the trip was great. The weather improved and Glacier was fabulous. We also had a wonderful campground with WiFi internet (yeah!!!!) and we were able to connect with my brother Dan as he traveled from Seattle to Denver. That was unplanned, and a wonderful bonus to the trip! The girls had a great time, but were getting pretty tired by the end of our time there. I could write a book about Dee Dee's antics
on this trip ... maybe I'll limit that to a post. She was one worn out dog by the time we got home!

Sunday, May 24, 2009


It is Memorial Day weekend and we're getting two out of three nice days, which isn't bad, although it is a little discouraging that I still have to run the furnace in the morning to warm the house up. We're supposed to get heavy rain tomorrow, which will probably cause the river to rise out of its banks again, but hopefully only for a short time. We've been below flood stage for about five days now! We drove to Sauk Centre yesterday to connect with some dear friends from North Carolina who are in Minnesota this weekend. It was a wonderful day and the girls got to go swimming, and even chase a few ducks. Princess, especially, thinks that is great fun. I still remember the first time I took her to Lake Michigan (where my family lives). There were flocks of herring guls all along the beach and she would charge towards them until they took off. I'm not sure if they enjoyed the game, but she sure did!

In my last post I showed Dee Dee trying to find rabbits behind the computer monitor. These pictures are of her looking for the 'real deal' under my deck. There is at least one nest there ... maybe a couple. I'm not sure. But she sure tries hard to get them. Last year she got at least four baby rabbits ... which was kind of hard to watch, but she shook and killed them in almost an instant, and all my neighbors cheered. Our neighborhood is over-run with rabbits. I don't even try to have a vegetable garden, but I do get pretty frustrated when they eat my tulips and hostas! Our black lab friend next door is envious of Dee Dee's ability to get under the step (it's so funny because she has to back out) . They are all learning that patience is a virtue!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Getting Back to Normal

Things are slowly getting back to normal around here, as the flood waters recede and we begin a massive cleanup campaign. And I do mean massive. Think 5.5 million sandbags, and something like 70 miles of temporary earthen dikes. There were times when I wondered if we'd gone dike crazy, but the determination to save our communities was pheonomenal! As the dikes are torn down, a layer of slippery mud is left behind. It's a mess. But the river continues to drop, and we are looking forward to the day when the bike trails are clear and we are able to enjoy our parks again.

My sandbags were picked up yesterday .... my grass is turning green ... and my tulips have pushed up through the soil. They should be quite pretty in a week or two if the rabbits don't get them. Speaking of rabbits: enter Princess and Dee Dee. Especially Dee Dee. She is obsessed with rabbits!!! There is often a nest beneath my deck and she is fixated on that whenever she goes outside. I mentioned that during the flood, I kept the girls with me - not wanting to get separated from them. I decided to tease Dee Dee one day. I went to YouTube and pulled up a picture of a rabbit ... and then a squirrel .... and then lifted Dee Dee up on my lap so she could see them. It drove her crazy!! She could see them, but she couldn't smell them. She jumped up on my desk, determined to find them!! Surely they must be behind that monitor!!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Red River Valley Flood of 2009

I’m not a mathematician, but after experiencing my second 500 year flood in 12 years, the formula of probabilities seems skewed to me. The past three weeks have been a blur, as we’ve experienced a blizzard, an epic flood, another major snowstorm and now await the second crest of the Red River. It’s not often that we pray for cool weather in April, but right now that is what we need, as it allows the river to drop before the next big run-off, which is currently forecast to begin next week.

Compared to other kinds of natural disasters, a couple of things stand out about a flood. One is the fact that floodwater is not covered on a regular homeowner’s insurance policy. Flood insurance is available through FEMA, but it is very expensive and it only covers the structure of your home; none of your furnishings or belongings. The other thing about a flood … at least about this kind of flood, is that you have time to prepare. That is both a blessing and a curse. It is nice to have the opportunity to move things to higher ground and build sandbag levees around your home, but the exhaustion that comes with that – especially when it drags on for weeks – is unimaginable. The fatigue and the stress, added together, really start to take a toll.

This flood, also, has had the added dimension of being historic. No one has lived through a crest of the Red River above 40 feet before. We are at the bottom of a huge, giant bowl (the prehistoric Lake Aggasiz) and when you get this much water trying to drain at the same time, it does some quirky things.

I live 2 blocks from the river on relatively high ground (keeping in mind that no ground in the Red River Valley is very high!) During the Flood of 1997, I focused on helping friends and the community at large – something I have done again this year – but with the added concern of how it was going to affect me. In 1997 I was never in any real danger. This year I was. I worked several nights (10 p.m. to 2 a.m.) at the Flood Call Center (a centralized dispatch center for the community), helped build sandbag levees in my neighborhood and baked quite a few Papa Murphy’s pizzas for those whose bodies held out longer than mine did on the sandbag line! I placed sandbags around my basement window wells and back door. I moved as much of my basement up to the main floor as I could, and shook ice out of my sump pump hose every three hours around the clock. Travel in and between the cities of Fargo and Moorhead has been extremely challenging, to say the least! All but two of our bridges are out of commission, and the entrance ramp that I normally take to get on the Interstate has an earthen dike across it. My normal 12-15 minute commute has turned into a 45-70 minute trip, and there was one day that it took me 2 hours and 40 minutes to get home! We’re not used to that in this part of the world!

Some of the poignant memories that will never be forgotten include parking my car (facing forward) at the edge of the driveway in case I needed to make a quick escape, having my dogs leashed 24 hours a day so that I could quickly grab them if we needed to leave, getting a Reverse 911 call at 6:30 in the morning advising us to evacuate, the sound of Blackhawk helicopters dropping 1-ton sand baskets on a school campus that had a major breach, and the sound of emergency vehicles screaming as they raced to patch a leaky dike. (The coordination of emergency, military and law enforcement personnel - as well as disaster relief services – has been stellar!)
I have been very blessed. I never lost electricity, and other than some seepage caused by an ice jam in my downspout, did not take on any water. With basement drains plugged to prevent sewer backup, I never felt in any imminent danger. But with a river flood, it’s pretty much an ‘all or nothing’ deal, and I’m well aware that one major breach of the dike protecting my neighborhood, and we would all find our homes filling with water, as happened in Grand Forks/East Grand Forks in 1997. Because of that, the city has built a number of contingency dikes behind the primary structures. Unfortunately, one of those contingency dikes is being built right down my street, and I’m on the wrong side of it. It’s tough to think of your home as a possible sacrifice to save the rest of the city. Things are looking good right now, and I have confidence that we’re going to be just fine.

Another anomaly of the Red River is that the crazy thing runs north into Canada, eventually emptying into Lake Winnipeg. That creates another interesting set of problems in the spring when the southern valley typically thaws before the northern valley, resulting in ice jams along the river. It’s also why, when we had over a foot of heavy, wet snow a couple of days after the first crest, we were even more concerned about the fact that areas to our south had two feet!

Princess and Dee Dee are great stress relievers and they’re always happy for snow, no matter what the date! Since I live on one side of the river, and work on the other, I have not wanted to get separated from my girls. I have kept them with me throughout the flood and have been very grateful for a boss who not only has understood that need, but actually enjoys having them around. I’m sure that they have picked up on my stress at times, and they haven’t been getting as much exercise as they normally do. Frankly, there aren’t a lot of places to walk right now! The sidewalks and streets are an icy mess, and almost all of our parks are along the river. In addition to that, since my neighborhood was officially an evacuated area, security was pretty tight. Sunday, March 29 was the day the river crested, and I decided to celebrate by taking the girls for a long walk. We were not more than 2 blocks from home when I was stopped and asked to show identification. Fortunately, I had stuck my driver’s license in my pocket before we left the house, and there was no problem – but one does have the feeling, at times, of being in a war zone. There was such an eerie quiet that afternoon as we walked up the street …. no cars, no one out in their yard … just the sound of pumps running, helicopters overhead and emergency vehicles off in the distance.

With Easter weekend upon us, I am reminded of God’s many gifts. The gift of life and the gift of community are particularly meaningful to me right now. Many passages of scripture have encouraged me over the past few weeks, but this one – Isaiah 43:2 – stands out among them.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.