A Wonderful Gift

I am so blessed today after reading and watching such a wonderful message online.  I invite you to spend six minutes of your precious and valuable time to simply be still and watch this … (please) … “The Gift of Today” via Michael Hyatt’s sitewith inspirational words of his own to add as well.

I just had to share.

D
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Free Christmas E-Book

What a nice little surprise!  I just noticed this well-rated e-book this morning and thought I would share it here while it is still free.

Remembering Christmas by Dan Walsh (for Nook)
Remembering Christmas by Dan Walsh (for Kindle)
Remembering Christmas by Dan Walsh (for iBook)

And thanks once again to the great folks at http://www.the-cheap.net for yet another great freebie find!  I check their site almost daily.  Enjoy!

D
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Thanksgiving Weekend Recap

We had a great Thanksgiving holiday this year.  Once again, we enjoyed a good Thanksgiving meal with family followed by a camping trip for three nights on our own.  I must admit that the buffet lunch at the hotel was quite the hit with our group, as it was really good with all kinds of food, not just the traditional turkey and dressing.  In fact, it was so good and worked out so well for us that I suspect we may look at going there again in future years, especially when we have such a small family group to feed.  This year, I will just cook for Christmas, and that seems to be a good plan for us at this time.

We also visited Copper Breaks State Park, a new camping destination for us over Thanksgiving, and it was actually a nice, little known state park within a reasonable drive for us.  We learned the hard way this year that getting a campsite at the more popular state parks during the Thanksgiving holiday is pretty much impossible unless you reserve a spot early on, so we just opted for a lesser known park.  The main campground was only about half full, and we had a really nice time there with a few other families who were all from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.  The weather mostly cooperated, and Saturday and Sunday were actually great weather days to be out and about in that area with nice warm temps during the day.

As you enter the park, some members of the official state longhorn herd reside in an area on the left side of the road.  On our second ride back up to see if we could spot one, we finally got to see this one.  Those horns are… well… long!

Texas State Longhorn

We especially enjoyed hiking and biking on one of the trails and found it to be one of the nicest hiking trails of any state park that we have visited so far.  This was a good thing, since I had to walk off lots of calories from the Thanksgiving buffet.

Copper Breaks Hiking Trail

There are two pretty lakes in the park, with the main one being accessible by the park road.  While the lake is still a bit low at this time, it is still suitable for fishing, which is supposedly pretty good.  We will keep hoping and praying for more rain in this whole area to end this nasty drought, for sure.

Copper Breaks Lake

I am a sucker for pretty sunsets, and we saw some beautiful sunsets here, even while just sitting at our campsite in the evenings.  The picnic tables also had nice “teepee” covers over them in the Comanche camping area, which was appropriate since this area is known for its Comanche and Kiowa Indian history and is very near the spot where Cynthia Ann Parker was finally recaptured from the Comanches.  In fact, there is a nice little free museum inside the park headquarters to catch up on the pertinent history of the area, too.

Campground Sunset

Quanah, a small town about 12 miles north of the park, has a nice grocery and hardware store, along with a few restaurants, too.  I’m sure this park is visited more often during the warmer weather months, but for us, it was great to just get away to a uncrowded park, enjoy some hiking and cycling, visit with some nice couples and families, cook out, and sit under the stars by a warm campfire at night.  A couple of times, I thought about all of the Black Friday madness going on back at home and just had to smile that we were having such a great time away from all the crowds and stress.  I found myself counting my blessings throughout the entire holiday weekend and enjoying the sights and sounds of nature, including listening to many coyotes howling at night just after sunset, something we have not heard quite like that in any previous camping trips.  It was just amazing to hear them, too.

One particular advantage that we have found in camping over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is the fact that there are no large groups camping at that time, such as boy scout/girl scout groups.  On our last trip to another state park, we actually camped with a very large group of scouts and another big group of people on a reunion trip together.  That particular group of about 25 men met in the site next to ours in the evenings on two consecutive nights for their dinner and even set up a full sound system for their nightly program, too.  The entire camp could hear their program, but it was especially loud for us, since we were right next to them.  It was a good group on a memorial trip to honor a deceased friend, but they definitely overstepped camp etiquette and ruined the evenings for everyone else.  So after such a fiasco on our previous trip, it was very nice to have a nice, quiet experience this time out.

Now it’s time to get in the Christmas spirit and get moving on holiday festivities and preparations once again.  Fortunately, I have a couple of slow weeks to get some decorating and shopping done before things start gearing up a bit more just prior to Christmas.

D
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Thanksgiving Thoughts

I am in uncharted territory right now.  I am *not* cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Actually, this is not totally uncharted territory, I guess, as we opted to go out to eat one other time about five years ago when a lot of other things were happening in our family.  But, it just feels quite different this time, since we are doing this more by our choice and not by necessity.  Plus, I think I should admit that I’m feeling a little unappreciated right now as well.  It has just been a tough year as far as some local family relationships are concerned in a couple of respects.  I actually miss the cooking that I normally would be doing this week, but at least for this year, I am also enjoying some other preparations right now, as we have decided to head out-of-town to go camping on Thanksgiving afternoon for a few days once again.  We did this last year after I cooked our big feast for lunch, and it was a real treat for us.

I have also been focusing on my own “attitude of gratitude” even more this year, as I have mentioned here in earlier posts.  As I contemplate on how to really be thankful, the thought of sitting around with a few other family members and watching football and perusing Black Friday ads for hours on Thanksgiving afternoon just isn’t sitting well with me.  For me, Thanksgiving has almost eroded into a pre-Christmas shopping feast that has little resemblance to our celebrations decades ago where we got together for a big extended family celebration and spent time playing games together and really enjoyed each other’s company.  I’ve made a couple of attempts to turn the TV off, but it just has not worked.  Frankly, I’m just pretty tired of it all, to be honest.  I’m wondering if this also resonates with anyone else these days.

Last year, getting away to a remote state park really did the trick for me as far as enjoying Thanksgiving and having time to relax and really count my many blessings.  Just getting out in nature helps, for sure, but completely getting out of that old routine of football games and Black Friday ads really helped most of all.  It’s like we made a conscious choice to give that up to honor God and take some time to really be thankful, and it did so much for my soul.  It also helped me to get in a better frame of mind to keep the Christmas holiday in a proper perspective as well.  I don’t think we would have to get away to do this either if we could just turn the TV off and do some things together instead, but that just has not happened and likely will not happen, unfortunately.

I am so very blessed, and it seems appropriate to take some quality time to acknowledge these blessings at Thanksgiving.  I will also begin anew my daily gratitude list for the next year, since for me, Thanksgiving is also a wrap-up time to summarize my year of personal Thanksgiving that I’ve done in a smaller way each day, and for me, that is really something to celebrate.

Here are my Three Little Thankfuls for today.

— Freshness in the air after a wonderful and unexpected rain shower

— A perfect cup of hazelnut coffee this morning

— Black-eyed peas that I put up fresh in the summer that are now cooking on my stove

Feel free to chime in with your own Three Little Thankfuls, if you would like, too.

I am certainly looking forward to enjoying a good meal (cooked by someone else) with some family members at lunch on Thanksgiving, and we will certainly be thinking of and praying for those that are not as fortunate this year, especially those impacted by Hurricane Sandy in the northeast.  I will also continue in prayer for the restoration of family relationships that have suffered this past year, both for us and some other family members.

I wish for your, dear readers, a most blessed and happy Thanksgiving, and I invite you to begin a full-year of sincerely counting your own blessings each day, too.  If you would like a good book to help you get started, I highly recommend One Thousand Gifts from Ann Voskamp.

Evening update:  Once again, God has spoken to my heart, as I read the following passage tonight.

“We only enter into the full life if our faith gives thanks. Because how else do we accept His free gift of salvation if not with thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives. Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our Yes! to His grace.”
Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Ar

Tuesday morning update:  This article just came out this morning in the NY Post, by Archbishop Timothy Dolan, an excellent read.

D
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Sleeping In The RV

We have had our motor home for over a year now, and since we take it out on average about once a month year-round, we are much more comfortable sleeping in it now than we were at first.  But on our first few trips, I honestly did not sleep very well.  I think the excitement and newness of it all factored into those first trips for me to a large extent.  Those trips were also in colder weather months, and we were not able to run our rooftop air conditioners, which actually create a nice background noise when we are able to run them in warmer months.  At home, we typically use a ceiling fan to keep the silence away, even running it on low during most winter months to circulate warm air.  But on those first trips in our RV out in the state parks away from civilization and any kind of noise to speak of, it was just too quiet to go to sleep, if that makes any sense at all.  We definitely missed some background noise to help lull us to sleep, and I had to resort to using my iPod and ear buds with some soft music until I got sleepy, something I don’t like to do at night as a general rule.

As the weather warmed up for our spring and summer trips, we had the air conditioners “sing” us to sleep at night, and it was great.  In fact, I slept so well that I really looked forward to sleeping in our RV on those warm nights with the A/C running.  However, on our first trip this fall, which was in late September, it was too cool at night to run the A/C.  While we were on that trip, we discussed some options to create a background noise to help us go to sleep, and we came up with a great solution that I wanted to share.  It is actually a solution that could also work nicely at home, too.

We have a great sound system in our RV with speakers throughout, but it was originally wired to run off of the truck battery, not the two house batteries.  For that reason, we were hesitant to run the sound system for more than just a few minutes while parked at our campsite.  We wanted to find a better solution to power our sound system anyway, but to implement our solution for the nighttime hours, we finally had to change the power supply over to the two house batteries.  My husband was able to make the switch himself, and thankfully, it was not too terribly hard to do.

Next, I looked at some apps for both my Android phone and my iPod Touch, and I found a wonderful app called Ambiance.  It is just $2.99, and it has some really nice options as far as background noises to download and carry directly on the device.  So, I downloaded the app and several nice background sounds on my iPod Touch, and we gave it a try on our last camping trip a couple of weeks ago.  We plugged the iPod into our newly wired sound system, selected a nice, gentle rainfall sound, and we absolutely loved the sound coming through all of the speakers throughout our RV.  We were just amazed that it really sounded like a gentle rain was falling outside since it was coming though on all four speakers, and since it seldom rains where we live and travel, it was a real treat for us at night.  In reality, the sound is a short loop that runs over and over, but the break was done so well that we really could not distinguish it while trying to go to sleep at night on that trip.

It is so nice to look forward to going to sleep in the RV now, even in the cooler weather months.  It’s just amazing how little things can make such a big difference at times.  After rewiring the sound system, we can also use it to play our tunes during the day without worrying about running down our truck’s battery, too.  We love this solution and really cannot think of any other solution that would work better for us now.

D
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