Second generation Santa carries on the spirit of Christmas for Memphis families

The Great Experimenters

It is the morning of the 2011 Grand Opening of the Enchanted Forest to benefit the LeBonheur Children’s Hospital at the Pink Palace Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. Even with ear protection, the sound of the helicopter blades beat against Kennison Kyle’s chest like a timpani. He is more than 100 feet off the ground. He looks over the crowd below, his brown eyes scanning for three familiar faces. There are almost 1000 people looking up. All are waiting for the helicopter to land.

Even from that distance, he makes eye contact with his mother. He has the sensation that she is sitting right in front of him, looking right back at him. Then he sees his sister and aunt standing next to his mom. Tears well up in his eyes and threaten to spill out onto his beard and red coat. He knew his family was going to be there…

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A beautiful day for a picnic

AZ RESCUE, an organization I wrote about a couple of times recently, hosted their annual Adopter’s Picnic and Reunion yesterday. Hubby and I went because we are Adopter’s of the feisty and sweet King Lukas.

Thanks to Jennifer Berry and all the volunteers for hosting such a great day! It was a grand time reuniting with Lukas’s foster parents, and watching The Big L strut his stuff in his kingly robes.

Below are photos from the day:

This is what a face looks like surrounded by love.
Happiness is reuniting with people who loved you back to life.
A parade of dogs marched the land in their best costumes. The tiny “skeleton” in the foreground recently survived a major surgery and is doing great, thanks to the love and care of her foster-mom-cum-forever-mom.
Proud, strutting puppies!
King Lukas surveys the land in all his costumed glory.
King Lukas carries his ruby tipped scepter, which can also be used as a squeaky toy when he gets bored.
The king was proudest at seeing his fellow brothers and sisters in rescue–all happy, all with shiny coats and fully bellies, all at home and surrounded by love with people who care what happens to them.
When the costume parade was complete, we all sat together in the shade on a gorgeous day.
King Lukas was surrounded by his loving families — the family that brought him back to life and the family that has committed to be there for him for the rest of it. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Family photo! Is it me, or does Lukas appear to be giggling?

Dog Hymn

by Janice Bressler

God made Adam, then Eve
for obvious reasons

and hoped they would love, honor, comfort each other

Seeing it would likely not last forever,
given Adam’s appetite for conquest,
and Eve’s hunger to converse,
God made Dog.

God gave Dog
the ability to love without speech
and delight in chasing things
without the need to catch or accumulate.

God gave Dog too
a fiercely loyal heart,
a quiet respect for human tears,
and an inclination to sleep curled up
at the foot of the bed.

We all know,
of course,
that Adam and Eve
betrayed God,
deceived each other,
and so were banished from the Garden.

But remember, and give thanks:
because God is compassionate,
he sent Dog with them.

Published in the September/October issue of The Bark Magazine.

I’ve got spirit, yes I do!

I’ve got spirit, how ’bout you?

Today is Spirit Day, a day to take a stand against bullying and reach out your hand in support of those who have been bullied. Show your support by wearing purple today and turning your Facebook or Twitter accounts purple with images from GLAAD. As GLAAD says, “Words and images matter.”

Go Purple!

Jennifer Berry puts passion into animal rescue

With thanks to Jennifer Berry and all those at RESCUE for putting your passion to work for the sake of others. Your work saves the lives of thousands of animals and brings fullness to the people who adopt them. Without you, there would be far less joy in the world and far more sadness. I know, because my own life was less complete without the joy of knowing Lukas.

The Great Experimenters

Jennifer Berry arrives at the Maricopa County Animal Shelter filled with dread. It is August and, even at 8:30 in the morning, the temperatures are close to 100. She opens the door of her van and, as she steps out, is hit by the heat like the blast from an oven door. Her thoughts go immediately to the dogs and cats inside the shelter. If it’s hot outside, it means the animals are hot too. If it’s cold, so are they. And if there was a thunderstorm the night before, she knows the animals will have been terrified the entire night, with no one to comfort them.

She looks at the building in front of her. A sprawling, one-story cement structure painted surprisingly cheerful oranges and blues. Lining out the door are people with dogs panting on leashes or cats meowing in cages. She does not know whether the people…

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New reason to get outside for Worldwide Recess Day

My husband and I have a new reason for getting outside on September 14th, which is Worldwide Recess Day. We just adopted a new dog!

Meet our newest traveling companion!

AZ R.E.S.C.U.E is an organization that rescues cats and dogs from the euthanasia list at the local pound. Our little guy came to them in very bad shape, in need of lots of medical attention, besides needing to be neutered. Three months later, he is shiny, happy, and hopefully ready for a life of love and adventure with his new bi-peds.

On the couch together, just a paw’s touch away.

Thank you to Vicky and Phil, his foster parents, for taking such good care of “The Big Guy”, giving him the love and attention he needed, to be ready to meet a new family. Your strength, compassion, and blessing on the world are beyond measure. Without the commitment of organizations like AZ R.E.S.C.U.E and foster parents, we would not know the pleasure of feeling his particular warm paw pads press against our elbow as he sleeps next to us, or the belly laugh that bubbles out when he races to the couch and bounds into our laps. May you all experience the rich blessing that you give to others.

Thankful for the Versatile Blogger Award

The way of blogging on WordPress is a wonder to me. Each time I post a blog, I get to “meet” new people with amazing lives who also blog about their adventures. WordPress tells us about each other through links and suggestions. The number of people out there living really passionate lives is inspiring.

One such person is Esti, a woman who is not originally from Shanghai, but who lives there now with her husband and daughter. Her blog, coffeecameralove, shares lovely pictures and stories of her explorations around the area she now calls home. She brings her readers into her world, making us feel like we are sitting across the table from each other over coffee.

Esti did me the honor this week of passing along the Versatile Blogger Award and I would like to thank her for that. It has made me smile all week.

The Versatile Blogger Award comes with a few rules:

  1. Thank the blogger who has nominated you and link back to their blog in your post.
  2. Share 7 things about yourself.
  3. Pass the award onto 7 other bloggers whose blogs you enjoy reading.
  4. Write to the bloggers you have nominated to let them know about the award.

Thank the blogger who has nominated you and link back to their blog on your post.

Esti, thank you, again for giving me the Versatile Blogger Award. It has been so lovely getting to know you and your family through your own blog and now you have made me feel so great by sharing this award. May your blog, coffeecameralove, ever continue to grow in readership and fun.

Share 7 things about yourself.

1. I am an Experimenter with a capital E. That’s why writing and traveling suit me so well. I like trying all sorts of things to see how they fit. Then, once I feel I have mastered the experience or learned from it, I get bored and move on. In my bolder moments, I like to think of myself as walking in the shadows of Leonardo di Vinci. In my humbler moments, I think I might just be somebody with Attention Deficit Disorder. Either way, I like trying new things.

I made this Beaker costume after I got inspired one year around Halloween. That's really me in there! Experiment: Success. Lesson learned: I can make Muppets! And: Never wear a Beaker costume to your nephew's 1st birthday party. It scares them.
This is me setting up irrigation for my container garden a couple of years ago. Which I did for one season. Before it shriveled up in the desert sun and all died. Experiment: failed. Lesson learned: I am not a green thumb.

2. One of the things I’m proudest of is my Masters degree in Transforming Spirituality from Seattle University; not because having a Masters degree makes me “all that”, but because I worked hard for it and it continues to teach me a lot about living my life authentically. It taught me to ask questions so that I can be aware of my choices and experiences as my life story unfolds.

That's me only moments after walking across the stage, so happy.

3. When I am not writing blogs or working on my books, you will find me working on drawings for patent applications to illustrate how an invention works. Below is Ninja Kitty. While she is not a drawing from an application, she is in the style of the work I do as a Technical Draftsperson. Ninja Kitty and her meditative counterpart have inspired my store and a line of products I created at Zazzle.com.

Ninja Kitty.

4. I cannot dance. I thought I could when I was a kid. My sister and I would listen to Neil Diamond and Barry Manilow while dancing all over the living room. Outside of that, though, I cannot loosen up enough to get into it and, when I dance with my husband, I always try to lead. The older I get the less self-conscious I become so, perhaps by the time I’m 80, I’ll be able to shake it all over the dance floor, just in time to break a hip. Look out nursing homes!

I will dress up like a flapper, but I cannot do the Charleston. It is very sad.

5. I. Love. Coffee. You probably figured that out just from the name of my blog. From the time I was a little girl, I was drinking coffee with my grandmother. To this day when I sit and have a cup of joe, I feel like she is with me, guiding me with her earthy wisdom. So, coffee has an appeal to me, both as something wonderful to enjoy, and as a connection to someone I love who has passed on.

Espresso art in a cup from Royal Coffee in Phoenix. The art comes from the little splatters made when the espresso is made and how the crema rings down the cup as I drink it.

6. One of my favorite parts about travel, my favorite parts about life really, is people watching and people listening. The stories of others fascinate me and nothing impresses me more than when I see someone living out their life with courage, passion and, often, tenacity. People inspire me. I guess that’s why reading other people’s blogs is so inspiring.

You may recall having seen this man in my Seattle article. To this day I think about him when I think of opportunities missed for getting to know an interesting person. Even so, his passion continues to inspire me!

7. I am an introvert. I can be very outgoing. I love meeting new people. But I must, must, must have significant time in my week to be quiet and still, to listen to the birds, or watch the wind tickle the leaves in the trees, and to write. I must have this time to allow the jumble of sights, sounds, and experiences to settle quietly in my mind so that I can truly savor and appreciate them. Then, I can go back out into the world and be extroverted again without being fake about it.

Nature helps me relax and refocus. This is a cactus that bloomed in a container in our backyard.

Pass the award onto 7 other bloggers whose blogs you enjoy reading.

MyTown366: Set in the metro area of Phoenix, Arizona, this blogger never ceases to amaze me how she can capture some of the same places I go to on a regular basis and make them new just by the way they appear in her pictures. Her photos come from several different parts of the metro area and are inspired by daily life lived there.

Going Dutch and Loving It: Malou is a versatile blogger in that she shares several facets of her life–from travel, to cooking, to life as a woman who was born and raised in the Philippines now married to a Dutchman and raising her own daughter in the Netherlands. Her blog has gorgeous photos of tulips in Holland, sunsets in the Philippines, and sunny avenues in France.

Ms Elena Levon Traveling: What’s not to love about Ms Elena? She is a 28-year-old marvel. Her stories and photos take her readers on a fantastic journey to the hills outside of Los Angeles, the crags and crevices of Marrakech, the sand dunes of the Sahara–and they almost always overlap with the incredible people she meets. Reading her blog gets my travel itch started all over again.

Spiritual World Traveler: I am just getting to know this blogger’s adventures through the bright enthusiasm of her posts around the world. Like Ms Elena, she inspires my own travel dreams.

Traveling ChichaThis blogger says on her site that she is “resolved to do anything that sparks enthusiasm in my heart” and, from the looks of it, she is living this resolution fully. Aside from enjoying her adventures, I actually learned some things from the layout of her articles, which I hope improves my own writing and flow of information.

Bringing You BeirutBeirut is just one marvelous setting from which this “English girl” writes. She tells of life, in all its ups and downs and curiosities, living with her young love, and traveling with him around the world.

World in My Eyes-China & the USThe spirit of this blog is one near and dear to my heart. The husband and wife team, who make up the adventures found in this blog, share stunning photographs of their travels in China and the US. What they do with it, though, is what sets it apart and touches my heart most: they illustrate through their photography how very similar we all really are. It brings us closer and, for any who might fear “the other”, their blog shows how we’re really not “other”. We are unique, of course, but we’re far more alike than different. I love it.

Flancer’s rocks tastebuds every night of the week

One of the restaurants at the top of our list in the Phoenix metro area is Flancer’s in Gilbert. Their motto is “rockin’ tastebuds since 2000” and they’ve been rockin’ our tastebuds on a near weekly basis since about 2007 when we first discovered them. This is the place we meet up with family and friends. This is the place we take out-of-town visitors when we want to provide a local experience with delicious food. We have also catered our Christmas and Thanksgiving meals several times from Flancer’s. The food is always delicious and it takes all the pressure off.

It’s not a fancy, hoity-toity kind of place, but that’s one of the reasons we like it. We can go there, knowing the food and service is going to be excellent and we don’t have to dress to the nines to experience that. All we have to do is come as we are, relax, and unwind with all the other folks who have discovered how great Flancer’s is.

If the sign is lighted, tastebuds are ignited!

Pictured below is Juliet, one of our all-time favorite servers who has become a great friend. She takes such good care of us. She always remembers our regular orders and makes us feel like VIPs. As you get to know the staff there, you learn that a lot of them, like Juliet, are vibrantly creative. Juliet is an artist who was featured at a gallery downtown. Jimmy, the general manager, is an accomplished musician and artist in his own right. It’s no wonder the atmosphere at Flancer’s is so alive when you have such creative, thoughtful people working there.

We love Juliet! Hugs!!

The fun starts as soon as you walk in the door at Flancer’s. Jimmy is there with great advice on the beer selections that he hand picks every week. Hubby always loves his choices of IPAs. And Kacie is a wisecracker who cracks us up even before seating us. Below, she gets in on the fun as I tried to capture a picture of Hubby on the Flancer’s patio.

Silly, Kacie!

Their patio is one of my favorite spots to eat in the Valley. Even though it sits alongside a busy street, the cafe lights and the great music piped through the speakers overhead–classics from the 60s, 70s, and 80s–make me feel as if I’m on an isolated island where everyone knows my name (Cheers!) and I know all the words to the song. It’s just a very easy place to be.

On this night, we had the patio almost completely to ourselves, but don’t let that fool you! That same night, we had to wait 20 minutes for a table because we got there when the restaurant was completely full.  When we first got seated, the tables on the patio were full. We just linger longer than others and, by the time I took this picture, the patio was almost empty. It is a hopping place and does not take reservations, so be prepared to hang out. It’s worth it!

The patio is dotted with pretty cafe lights and heaters for when it gets cold.

My favorites on the menu for dinner: the Veg Out pizza (pictured here) or the Vibes of Veggie sandwich. Their bread is homemade and slap-your-knee fantastic, so pretty much all their sandwiches are a hit. Hubby likes their buffalo tenders with HOT sauce.

Veg Out Pizza, minus the black olives.

Juliet always puts on a fresh pot of Lavazza coffee when we arrive. It’s fresh and a perfect accompaniment to the cobbler of the week. My favorite is the strawberry cobbler, but shown below is the apple-cinnamon. Yum!

I only eat half of it because I'm keeping track of calories, but it is good enough to inhale the whole thing.

There are two Flancer’s locations, one in Gilbert and one in Mesa.

The Gilbert location can be found at 610 N Gilbert Road, a quarter mile south of Guadalupe, near historic downtown Gilbert. Take out orders can be made by calling 480-926-9077.

The Mesa location is at 1902 N. Higley Road, on the southwest corner of McKellips. Take out orders can be made at this location by calling 480-396-0077.

Flancer’s is rockin’ it seven days a week 10:30am to 9pm. Happy hour is from 3pm to 7pm everyday!

For more info, visit their website, which provides access to their menu, along with information on upcoming events, such as the Charity Beer and Cigar tasting. If delicious food, fun atmosphere, and great people aren’t enough, Flancer’s is big into supporting the community, so many of their events benefit charities. Currently, they are organizing a raffle which will support the Wounded Warrior/Warfighter Sports. When we eat there, we feel great knowing we are supporting a local business that goes on to support others. It’s win-win all around.

Thanks, Flancer’s and all the staff there, for being such a great place we are happy and proud to call home!