Category: Faith, Family, & Country

Blondie’s Birthday – Part III and Final

This post will be somewhat less polished than I had originally planned. There are two reasons why. First, my time today is limited. Second, I’m having trouble accessing my regular editor and I’m not familiar with the one I’m using now. – Please have patience with my attempt to master this new format.

While Parts I & II of Blondie’s Birthday were open and lively events, Part III was far more private and personal. Perhaps that was the one advantage to not having a single, coordinated birthday bash. This year, Blondie could spend more one-on-one time with each person involved

Daughter #2: Visiting Daughter #2 and Granddaughter #4, not to mention two of Mr. Monte’s cat cousins, was a very enjoyable treat. It’s so difficult these days to be able to share with family members without a distracting phone or computer in between. Just sitting in the living room together with cats jumping about and a granddaughter playing peekaboo, talking about what really matters, that is the way life is supposed to be. I could tell Blondie was happy. – Daughter #2, as always, had the most beautiful bouquet of roses for her Mom.

Dear Friend: Dearest Friend Nancy drove many miles and made the trek to Serendipity Farmhouse to spend some time with Blondie. I did my best to let them have some time alone, drinking their tea and tasting selected sweets and treats. Dear friends are such a great blessing. – Nancy, of course, had a most beautiful addition for Blondie’s garden – a multi-colored, dwarf Crepe Myrtle.

Thoughtful Neighbors: As you might guess by now, there has been a minor theme to Part III of Blondie’s Birthday – Flowers, many, many beautiful flowers. Our most thoughtful next door neighbors added to the array of blossoming beauties with this gorgeous, colorful chrysanthemum.

The Cleanup: All good things, even birthday bashes, must come to an end. The presents, the sweets, the smiles, the hugs, and the many signs of sincere love and caring, must take their place in residence along with other fond memories. And for Blondie, the signal that this wonderful birthday week had come to an end was her statement to one and all that she was going to clean our RV El Camino Del Monte all by herself.

Before Blondie takes over the keyboard to write this part of the story, Mr. Monte invoked his privilege as SFH Chief Enforcer of Truth to add the following notice and warning.

At SFH, everything must be clean. Not just slightly clean, but entirely clean. Although my Hubby does a fair job cleaning El Camino Del Monte, he sometimes cuts corners or avoids hard things like cleaning up the roof on our RV.

This cleaning had to be different. If Hubby wasn’t up to doing the job properly, then I was going to do it – no matter how much work it took or how dangerous it might be.

So, here is the pictorial proof that I cleaned that RV, I cleaned it right. There I was on top cleaning the air conditioner and plastic covers. Every bit, every piece, every inch, with my trusty brushes and sponges I cleaned that rascal and I cleaned it right.

Today, it stands in the yard shining in the sun. A monument to cleanliness and good order, immaculate in a way that only this woman’s hands can make it.

 

And with this great feat accomplished, I can stand back and admire my work. That’s because, I’m happy. After all, I had a most memorable Serendipity Farmhouse birthday bash. The people who mean the most to me were there to help me celebrate a most important birthday.

At SFH, there are high standards – High standards of cleanliness and good order. And there are even higher standards of Faith and Family. No matter what is going on in this crazy world, we will be there for each other.

And if I got a little carried away with this cleaning job, it’s only because I had such a good birthday week. Even my RV wished me a Happy Birthday! – – Thank you Family and thank you Friends!

Blondie’s Birthday – Part II

Mr. Monte is taking the day off. He had an exceedingly distressing experience last evening and is only now beginning to recover. Even though the events of yesterday will become part of Serendipity Farmhouse legend and lore, the details of the experience are best left unrecorded in this blog.

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As you may remember in Mr. Monte’s post Blondie’s Birthday – Part I, he and I had decided that we could celebrate Blondie’s birthday in small, but meaningful parts – with a daughter and family here, with a son and family there, with a dear friend on another day, and our second daughter on a different day. This post will provide highlights from the second part of our grand plan for “a magnificent SFH 2020-style birthday bash.”

As with Part I,  because of Mr. Monte’s meticulous planning, it will come as no great shock that Part II of our master plan was faultlessly executed during our visit with Son #1 and his family.

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While there is no need to describe how severely many families have been affected by the innumerable problems of the year 2020, there is a compelling need to state that some families, especially those families based in Faith and Love, are able to continue to find joy and humor in life.

Son #1 and his greatly loved wife are blessed to have such a family. Blondie and I are equally blessed in that their children, our grandchildren, are so loving, thoughtful, and unusually creative.

And that leads to an important part of the SFH 2020-style birthday bash. When children are given the chance, they can express their creativity in ways that you would never expect. For Blondie (also known as Granny), this was a highlight of the day. – Each child presented a handmade birthday greeting to Granny. Although there is not room in this post to show them all, please note that Granny has viewed each and every greeting several times. – There is no way my camera could ever capture the love and emotion that came to her face as she was presented these mini works of art.

Let’s take a look at a small sampling of what Granny found to be so very precious.Granny Birthday Card 2020

Example #1 – A tribute to Granny, the Master Chef of the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen: If examined carefully you will find several of the fine dishes created by Blondie and her able assistant Chef Monsieur Monte. (See if you can find him in the picture.)

 

Example #2 – What happens when a member of the SFH Security Staff, namely Bronto the Bear, requests the privilege of joining the family at dinner?

 

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Example #3: The family is intrigued by all the situations that can arise when our RV, El Camino Del Monte, heads out for another adventure. Based on the scenarios depicted below, I suspect that some in the family believe too much of what has been written by Mr. Monte.

And those were just three samples of what Blondie received from our dear grandchildren during Part II of the SFH 2020-style birthday bash. Mr. Monte and I think that the message in all those birthday greetings is quite clear –

There’s just nobody in the world like our Granny!

More to follow …..

 

 

 

 

Blondie’s Birthday – Part I

IMG_20200826_194012872_editedHi! Mr. Monte here!

Ol’ Fuzz Face and I continue our truce. Although we may glare at each other from time to time, we have to consider higher priorities – namely, Blondie’s Birthday.

Fuzzy was right when he said in his post An SFH Lament:

“Now, I can buy her presents. I can do special things for her. I plan on doing several things that might make her smile. But, the one thing I cannot do this year is provide a world-class SFH Birthday Bash; a party with all the family; a chance to see all the grandchildren together, frolicking on the vast Serendipity Farmhouse estate.”

So, Fuzzy and I had a long talk, and I offered some suggestions. Maybe, just maybe, if we could celebrate Blondie’s birthday in small, but meaningful parts – with a daughter and family here, with a son and family there, with a dear friend on another day – perhaps we could have a series of little world-class SFH birthday bashes that would add up to a magnificent SFH 2020-style birthday bash. – Fuzzy listened intently to me as I purred with anticipation on how it might go. I listened to Fuzz Face as he considered the logistics and timing. This all had to be coordinated and scheduled well in advance.

And so, we settled on a plan. We understood that this could not be and would not be a surprise birthday event. So, Fuzzy filled Blondie in on the details while I worked out the logistics and timing.

Needless to say, because of my meticulous planning, it will come as no great shock that Part I of our master plan was faultlessly executed during El Camino Del Monte RV Trip 2020-04 at the Shenandoah River State Park this last week.

Let’s take a look at how Fuzzy and I made it all work. First, there was camp setup and preparations for the arrival of Daughter #1 and her family.

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When the party guests arrived, there was more than an ample supply of tasty foods and cold beverages. Of course, we made provisions for site seeing and relaxation.

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Now, I have to say, RVing is not my favorite thing. My work as SFH Chief of Security is far more fulfilling than rumbling around in a huge, noisy white box with windows. I am a master predator and I need the constant challenge of the hunt. But, there is a soft spot in my heart for Blondie. If it means that I have to spend two nights away from my most beloved and important security duties, and there is a chance that I can see Blondie smile during her birthday week – so be it!

Fuzz Face and I are not above claiming credit for something that we didn’t do. Blondie probably knows that. But, that sweet and wonderful lady that we both love so dearly, was willing to say thank you when we told her that we had arranged this sunset to celebrate her birthday.

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There’s just nobody in the world like our Blondie!

 

SFH Journal: 2020-08-17 through 08-23 – An SFH Lament

It is harvest time and canning season continues here at SFH. We have planted and cultivated, watered and nourished, and now the fruits of our labors have been made manifest. As it has been with our gardens, so it has been with our family. Our young ones have come into their season and they are watching their young ones mature. – It brings parents and grandparents great joy and peace to the spirit.

Yet, this year, there is something lacking – it is a feeling that can’t be put aside or hidden from thought. And with that feeling comes an SFH lament. – To understand the nature of this lament, reach back with me to read a post written two years ago – The Great SFH Birthday Bash of 2018.

Frolicking fun, intense sporting rivalries, plenty of good food, family sharing, and a host of wonderful experiences highlighted the great, stupendous, magnificent, unforgettable Serendipity Farmhouse Birthday Bash of 2018.

There will be no such post this year. There can be no Great Birthday Bash of 2020. Oh, there will be little gatherings. Presents and greetings will be exchanged, but it will not be the family assembled as a whole. The four “birthday banditos” have to celebrate separately.

The most lamentable aspect, the part that brings the greatest sense of sorrow is DSC_1018-2this. For my dear and most loving Wife, 2020 was to be the year for a very, very special birthday, a once-in-a-lifetime birthday. It was to be as grand and as memorable as the SFH Godzilla Birthday Bash that she had planned and superbly executed for me last year.

Now, I can buy her presents. I can do special things for her. I plan on doing several things that might make her smile. But, the one thing I cannot do this year is provide a world-class SFH Birthday Bash; a party with all the family; a chance to see all the grandchildren together, frolicking on the vast Serendipity Farmhouse estate. – Dear readers, that inability to provide something that is truly meaningful to the love of my life is what I most lament.

As a family we remain united in spirit and in love. These times will pass and our family will reunite physically and there will be magnificent SFH birthday bashes. In good times and in those that are not so good we will adhere most firmly to the SFH motto “Pray, Prepare, Preserve.” And it is important to celebrate birthdays. They are meant to be shared by families and preserved in family tradition.

So, for each of those whose birthday was to be celebrated at the SFH 2020 Birthday Bash, especially the most important person in my life –

Happy Birthday!!! May God continue to bless you greatly!

SFH by the Numbers

Canning season continues. The following links will catch you up with what’s come out of our gardens and what has gone into mason jars since our last Journal post.:

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly:  SFH WX 2020-08-10 through 08-23

 

 

SFH Journal: 2020-06-30 through 07-05 – Happy 4th of July!!

Nothing but high 80’s and mid-90’s in sight. July is here. Our featured picture clearly portrays what life is like here at Serendipity Farmhouse when July arrives. In the foreground of the picture you will note the pleasant and eye appealing arrangement of  Tiger Lilies and ferns made by beautiful Spouse. In the background, however, something quite different is taking place on this hot July 4th afternoon.

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Friendly Fan & Feverous Feline

There is no end to the list of merits to be found in the wondrous vegetable* known as garlic. Here at SFH it is a highly prized commodity. Garlic and butter are featured prominently in many of our favorite dishes. This is the second year we have grown our own. We increased the size of our harvest by over a third to 30 heads. At minimum of six and up to 10 cloves per head, we are coming close to being self sufficient in this precious vegetable. – – Two weeks of drying in the woodshed and this year’s crop will be ready for use.

– – The soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen rejoices!! – –

*Botanically, garlic (Allium sativum) is considered a vegetable. It shows characteristics of a vegetable as it has a bulb, tall stem, and long leaves.

In Congress, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. …

To celebrate this wonderful day in our history, the entire week was spent in the enjoyment of the Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness that was won for us on the field of battle and secured in our Constitution. We made use of our RV El Camino Del Monte (a post is forthcoming) and our new six-burner gas grill. Baby back ribs, corn on the cob, and Blondie’s spectacular transformation of our home grown green beans into a dish of culinary perfection – it was an Independence Day to remember.

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To add to the holiday festivities, my charming Sweetheart and I roasted marshmallows over an open fire. That was soon followed by the traditional SFH Annual Fireworks Display. Expense was no object in this magnificent show of patriotic emotion.

To one and all, Happy 4th of July and may God Bless these United States!!

SFH by the Numbers

The following links will catch you up with what’s gone into the gardens and what has come out since our last Journal post. They will also update you on the hazy, hot, and humid days of Summer:

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly:  SFH WX 2020-06-30 through 07-05

SFH Journal: 2020-06-08 through 06-21 – Father’s Day

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Hi! Mr. Monte here.

It’s Father’s Day and for some strange reason I felt compelled to give Ol’ Fuzz Face the day off. He’s been getting calls from his kids and grandkids. I guess it’s important to him. – More on that later,

As you might have guessed from the feature picture, Fuzzie and Blondie took me out for another adventure in El Camino Del Monte (ECDM). For record purposes this was RV Trip 2020-02.

The trip itself was a technical success – no breakdowns, no water leaks, no bad meals. Fuzz Face is finally getting the hang of things and as usual, Blondie again confirmed her status as the Master Chef of ECDM. Fuzzie was so impressed with the two main meals, he intends to put out special posts with recipes, pictures, and instructions.

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So much for the introductory notes, let’s get on with most recent “Fuzzie Fiasco.” Although RV Trip 2020-02 was a technical success, Fuzzie proved that the Three Stooges were mere amateurs compared to him. Here’s the scenario: One of the last steps in RV departure procedures is unhooking shore power (30 Amp, 120V AC). Blondie had confirmed that the breaker was in the “off” position. Fuzzie approached the shore power box with due care and caution. I watched him closely from the porch. The old guy reached for the power box and ever so carefully lifted the cover.  – –  And then it happened. – –  There was a loud, blood curdling shriek. Fuzzie’s right hand lifted high into the air and he began to hop and jump and bounce away from the power box, shaking his right hand violently. – – Slowly, ever so slowly, the old man began to recover his composure. He checked his hand. There was no sign of damage, no blood, no burns. He had not been electrocuted as he had first thought. No, it was something else that caused his most humorous dance around the power box.

The gray tree frog is native to this part of Virginia. It is by nature a reclusive creature, seeking no contact with humans. The shore power box offered this particular tree frog aIMG_20200616_145519104_HDR_edited most comfortable dwelling place. At least it did until Fuzz Face disturbed its day by rudely opening the power box cover. In his attempt to retreat from the scene, the frog had jumped onto Fuzzie’s unsuspecting hand. Though not electrical, it was a most shocking experience to the old guy. For me, it was the highlight of my day.

IMG_20200616_174001340_HDR_editedThis RV trip was blessed with unusually cool weather for this time in June. For all involved, that meant that the noisy air conditioner would not be needed. It took us just a short time to set up and assume our duties as assigned by the “Watch, Quarter, and Station Bill.” (If you don’t know what that is, either you’ve never been on a Navy ship, or you never lived with Ol’ Fuzz Face.)

As ECDM Chief of Security, I quickly reported to that area of the RV where I could IMG_20200616_201158574_editedmonitor areas of primary security concern. Since the main door was opened, I knew that position was most vulnerable to intruders. Our RV was now in my safekeeping. I reported to the Skipper – “All secure!”

IMG_20200617_072613514_editedThe second day of our trip was even cooler than when we arrived. But, for me, this is when things began to go down hill. If my primary job is to provide security, what threats are there on a rainy day? And that’s what it was, it was a very rainy day. No lizard, no squirrel, no bear, there wasn’t a sign of anything threatening anywhere.

Blondie and Fuzz Face watched movies, read books and magazines, planned dinners, and quite often came back to talk about the coming Father’s Day. Fuzzie, speculated about what interesting presents he might receive. Meanwhile, all I had was a view of a rainy world and the unrequested opportunity to ponder what is the meaning of Father’s Day.

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There is a great divide between humans and Main Coons when it comes to fathers. I never really met my Dad. Mom told me his name was Rocky Top and that he was brave, fearsome, and proud. She said I was a lot like him. But, I never got to see him or play with him.

I know that Fuzzie taught me how to play, how to stalk, how to attack. He sometimes gives me snacks and almost every day he grooms me. Sometimes, when Blondie goes to bed early, he and I watch TV together and occasionally he’ll give me a piece of my favorite cheese.

Yet, I know Fuzz Face can never be Rocky Top. I also know I’ll never know what it would have been like if I had grown up with my real Dad. – – So there it was on the second day of our RV trip. All I had was a view of a rainy world and the unrequested opportunity to ponder what is the meaning of Father’s Day.

I guess I will have to adopt the Serendipity Farmhouse philosophy, especially on rainy days: “I am not living the life of my dreams. I am living the life of my realities. And, because I have Fuzzie and Blondie, that will be good enough for me.”

Oh, and before I forget, Happy Father’s Day, Fuzz Face, and Happy Father’s Day, Rocky Top, wherever you are!

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SFH by the Numbers

The following links will catch you up with what’s gone into the gardens and what has come out since our last Journal post. They will also update you on the arrival of the hot, humid days of Summer:

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly:  SFH WX 2020-06-08 through 06-14

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly:  SFH WX 2020-06-15 through 06-21

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why St. Isadore?

HC-St._Isidore-Front_grandeToday is the feast of St. Isadore the Farmer. As you may or may not know, he is one of the patrons of Serendipity Farmhouse. We think of him when we are planting. We ask him to intercede for us so that we might have a good harvest. But, we don’t ask for miracles. Instead we ask him to inspire us to live as he did. That is because he was known for his love of the poor. There are many stories about Isidore providing for the poor in miraculous ways with food. – – That is why we share our harvest and our canned and pickled foods with family, friends, and those in need.

In a few days, I will write a post about how we lost several plants to a couple of hard freezes. That’s when we turned to St. Isadore to ask for a little help. – – The featured picture shows the first strawberry of the year. It was picked just this afternoon. It survived the freezes and there are many others that are ready to ripen. – – There’s reason for hope and there’s reason to be at peace.

Another reason why we consider the life of St. Isadore as being inspirational is because he had a great concern 0924191434b (2)for the proper treatment of animals. Mr. Monte ranks St. Isadore among his most highly favored saints.

SFH Journal: 2020-04-06 through 04-12 – Upson’s Life Revisited

My Friend Upson: Sometime during my junior year in high school I met a quite engaging individual. He lived in a somewhat peculiar manner. I thought at the time that his approach to life was odd and I would never, nor would I ever, want to live as he did. For, you see, he was quite prone to having mistakes, errors, and other minor hardships befall him with little or no advance notice. Yet, no matter what happened to him, Upson would always come out of it with a shrug of the shoulders and a simple smile. His life was no puzzle or oddity to him; he came to expect these things and he was quite content.

Now, Upson was not a one-of-a-kind individual. Since high school, I have met many a man like him. For example, I had an acquaintance whose name, when translated from its original language, was Mr. Unlucky. He too, took the misadventures of his life completely in stride.

Many years have passed since I met Upson and worked with Mr. Unlucky. More and more I realize I have become much like them. The day will bring what it brings. It is the best I can hope to get. And, in the end, the best is good enough for me.

By they way did I tell you Upson’s last name? Could it have been anything else? Yes, it was Downsof. So, when I wrote a short biography of my friend, I couldn’t help but call it The Upson Downsof Life.

And all of that written above, dear reader, leads me to a couple of topics for this week’s journal. Yes, for my dear Wife and me, this week has been a chapter from that never published biography The Upson Downsof Life.

Frost Warning: As I wrote last week, clever and industrious Spouse, has filled several garden boxes with early season plantings. A couple of the young plants were not quite as strong as the others. Then our usually unreliable weather prognosticators made their first correct call of the season – “There will be frost.” Of course, that call had to be correct because they were announcing impending doom to the plantings at SFH.  So, when the two weak, young plants were exposed to a chilly low temperature of 32.2° F, they sank low in their beds never to recover. – Upson would have seen this coming.

DSC_1472_editedBirdie and the Battery: As you can see in the feature picture at the top of the post, our bluebirds have returned to take up temporary shelter in the safe surroundings of Serendipity Farmhouse. Now, yours truly, has been waiting for quite a while to take a picture of our temporary lodgers that is something more than just a snapshot. To be sure, I couldn’t complain about the feature picture with Mr. Bluebird all puffed up trying to stay warm. Even this picture of Mr. & Mrs. Bluebird on the fence next to their home is in the category of “okay.” But I wanted something better. There I was perched on the deck, camera in hand, when the perfect shot arrived. I pressed the button and awaited the reassuring “click”. – – No, no, no! – No “Click”! – – The battery was dead. – Mr. Unlucky would have seen this coming.

As you can imagine, I thought of Upson and Mr. Unlucky. Such is life for such as we. I shrugged it all off and charged up my camera battery. – – Easter Sunday arrived and all things have been made new. (See our Easter post here.) Even my camera battery. And the following picture will explain why it is easy for me to say: “The day will bring what it brings. It is the best I can hope to get. And, in the end, the best is good enough for me.”

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Mr. Bluebird building a nest

Mr. Monte is taking the day off, but he reports that all here at Serendipity Farmhouse is safe and secure. Beautiful Wife and I will spend this Easter Sunday enjoying the life God has given us. – – Indeed, the best is good enough for me.

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SFH WX Station Report – Weekly:  SFH WX 2020-04-06 through 04-12

He is Truly Risen!

“The splendor of Christ risen from the dead has shone on the people redeemed by his blood, alleluia.”

And with that antiphon we here at Serendipity Farmhouse witness the rising of the Son. This is Easter Sunday. Yet it is an Easter unlike any other in our time. Even as it brings great joy and comfort, it also brings a longing. The first psalm of the day brings that thought to mind.

O God, you are my God, for you I long;
for you my soul is thirsting.
My body pines for you
like a dry, weary land without water.
So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
to see your strength and your glory.

To our family and friends, please know that you are in our prayers today. May we soon – very soon – be able to share with you the fullness of joy at Holy Mass.

 

 

Post Birthday Post

The featured picture at the head of this post leaves little doubt that there has been a birthday here at Serendipity Farmhouse. Unlike last year, however, family and friends could not come to join yours truly in the celebration this year. (Click here to see highlights from last year’s SFH Godzilla Birthday Bash.)

DSC_0928 (2)In times like these, certain sacrifices must be made, especially by those of us who are older than Godzilla. [Note: Yes, I am older than Godzilla because he first appeared in Ishirō Honda‘s film Godzilla  in 1954. Ergo, I preceded him by several years. Of course, one must remember that my long held belief is that “Godzilla is real and everything else is fake.” Based on that assumption, I must admit that Godzilla is probably older than I am.]

This year, my birthday party was a quiet affair. Beautiful Wife and Mr. Monte dedicated themselves to making it a grand and glorious day despite the fact that we must remain isolated on our vast 1.24 acre estate.

Our next door neighbors outdid themselves with creativity and humor. The large sign on the fence across from my office window was the very first thing I saw at sunrise. Lacking regular sign making materials they improvised with a huge length of sandpaper. The sign spoke for itself as did the bottle of wine. How can one ever forget a birthday when they receive a fine bottle of wine that says, “Happy social distancing!”?

Among my most highly prized gifts of the day was a piece of art that speaks directly and poignantly to the meaning of family and family traditions. Eight of my grandchildren, in simple drawings, illustrated their love for their grandfather and their strong desire to carry on the humor and sentiment of our family culture. These drawings also speak for themselves.

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There you have it, dear readers. Through the dark clouds of these uncertain times, so many rays of sunshine and good cheer continue to shine through. A very sincere thank you to all who sent me presents, cards, and other forms of birthday greetings. May God greatly bless each and every one of you!

 

 

Pray, Prepare, Preserve
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