Archive for May, 2008

The Ultimate Sacrifice

Monday, May 26th, 2008

Yesterday I attended a friend’s babies’ (triplets!) dedication ceremony at her church where the service and sermon afterwards really knocked me off my feet. When I first walked into the church, there was fairly loud, rockin’ music playing, lots of people hustling around and being extremely friendly – recognizing me as a newcomer right away – and just a general sense of happiness and light through out the place. Expecting a traditional, more staid-like church atmosphere hadn’t prepared me for this experience. I was pleasantly surprised. Not that there’s anything wrong with the more traditional church approach; I’m a fan of that style, too, but this really awakened my senses and whetted my appetite for more.

As I walked into the nave, the music grew louder and a full band on stage greeted me with sounds of contemporary Christian music. I loved seeing 2 guitar players, a bassist, a keyboardist, a drummer, and 4 singers up there really getting into their stuff. I couldn’t help smiling as I found my way to a seat among the dancing and swaying parishioners as I looked for my friend and her babies. The dedication ceremony itself was relatively brief, but very precious. How could it not be with three smiling babies facing the congregation? At the end, a soloist sang, “Yes, Jesus loves me” in the sweetest voice ever. Loved it.

But the thing I loved the most was the message the pastor preached to us that day. He started out with a mention of all the veterans who have served us and we applauded them all. This led into two very moving stories of servicemen in the past. One was an 18 year old in either World War 2 or Vietnam (I forget the specifics) who picked up a live grenade the enemy had just tossed into their camp and tucked it into his stomach so that he would die instead of his four buddies serving next to him. The other story was similar but more recent. An equally young man was driving a tanker when a grenade landed on it. He could have jumped out and the tank with the four soldiers inside would have exploded. Instead, he chose to take the grenade to his mid-section – killing himself, but saving the others.

As the pastor told these stories, I wondered if I would have made the same choice those two men did. I honestly don’t know that I would. Maybe it’s different in war time and you’re right there in the moment. Maybe I would in those circumstances. I hope my character is stronger than I think it is, anyway.

The pastor then went on to tie the message of the sacrifice the men and women who have served and lost their lives for our country to the small, every day sacrifices we can make in our relationships. He joked that most people would take a grenade to the stomach, but not give up doing their favorite activity for their loved ones. That got a laugh, but it really hit a nerve. He asked how much do we truly sacrifice our wants and needs in a loving, filled with humility way – in order to deepen and strengthen our relationships. I know I have a lot of work to do in that regard. So much work. The promise of self-sacrifice is deeply rewarding relationships beyond imagination, though, and I want that.

Of course, he ended the sermon with the parallel of the sacrifice Christ made for us – and I just loved how he tied it all together. It was a great way to start my day and a great reminder of the sacrifices the men and women of our great United States of America have made for our country. I’m grateful for every one of them and will take time today to reflect on those who have lost their lives so that we may live a better one.

New Mexico – The Rest of the Trip

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

The remaining five days in New Mexico were mostly spent attending the conference that made the whole trip possible, but there were some events in there I want to share with you.

First, on Thursday night, Courtney came down to my hotel to pick me up and take me out to dinner. It was easy to spot her car because she has the bike racks on top, which is no surprise if you know her even a little tiny bit. We went to the Elephant Bar Restaurant and had some of the best service I’ve encountered while dining out in a long time. The waiter was very accommodating and even put two and two together that since I asked for no sugar in my main course, that the dessert menu wouldn’t interest me. I’m often surprised at how many servers don’t even come close to picking up on that. Anyway, Courtney and I had a lovely dinner where we chatted about a little bit of everything, starting with PayPerPost/Izea and ending with a decision to take a stroll though the cool shopping plaza (Winrock) the restaurant was located in.

I found the best tool in Williams Sonoma – a stainless steel pineapple corer! This thing rocks. I eat a lot of pineapple and it’s always such a pain to cut the whole thing up. This corer turns all that work into child’s play. Of course the store was out of fresh pineapples on my last visit, so I’ve only used it once. I’m looking forward to getting much more use out of this thing. And now I’m wondering what kind of cool crafts I can make out of the pineapple shells.

Here’s Courtney and I in the Elephant Bar. Our lovely waiter took our picture. Aren’t we cute? I just adored her. She was very easy to talk to and cute as a damn button.

CourtneyAmy

The following night, I had a very interesting experience. I got to meet an aunt and a cousin that, until 3 years ago, no one in my family knew existed. You see, my paternal grandmother left her husband when my dad was just four years old. He was not a nice man – being a violent, active alcoholic and a raging gambler, so my Nanny (as we called her) was smart to get out when she did. My dad grew up without a father and without a desire to know his father or what happened to him once he was out of his life. Turns out, my grandfather kept up his sick ways, but still ended up marrying someone else and fathering two more children. Three years ago, my dad got a phone call from a woman claiming to be his half-sister who also informed him he had another half-sister besides herself. My dad knew he had an older half-sister from another of his father’s marriages prior to the one with his mom. He thought the woman on the phone was the half-sister he knew about (but lost track of), but she informed him otherwise. So my father has 3 half-sisters all told.

When I was making plans for my trip to Albuquerque, my mom reminded me about my dad’s sister. I told my dad to give her a call and I’d go meet her. And that’s exactly what we did. It was a great meeting. My aunt Pam is a very nice woman – so down to earth and sweet – and she brought along her daughter, Thea, who is just one of thirteen of my newfound cousins. Thea treated us both to dinner at the Texas Land & Cattle and we had some great conversations about the family history. Pam is really into genealogy and she’s done research on our family that goes all the way back to the Jamestown settlement! Very interesting stuff.

After dinner, they both came back with me to my hotel room so I could show them pictures of my family on my laptop. They loved seeing the rest of the family and it sounds like we’re all anxious to meet each other and have a family union, rather than a reunion, since the latter would really be a misnomer. The three of us spent about 4 hours that night just chatting and looking at pictures. Pam had a photo album with her filled with pictures of my grandfather. That was neat to see. My brother resembles him a bit. Pam definitely resembles my dad; I knew she was my aunt the second she walked into the hotel. Here’s the three of us inside my hotel:

PamAmyThea

Two days after we met, I was on a plane headed back to Philadelphia and life as I knew it. Spending 10 days in New Mexico, getting closer to my uncle, meeting new family, and experiencing many joys of recovery during my conference have slightly altered life as I knew it, though – in great, meaningful, and profound ways. I’m definitely the better for this trip and I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to take it.

Although I was sad to be leaving New Mexico and the wonderful experiences I had there, I was ready to come home, too. I missed my husband and kids… and my own bed, my own refrigerator and my own cooking tools! It’s always funny how much I enjoy a home-cooked meal after traveling for some time and eating out so many meals in a row. My body begins begging for some truly clean and familiar food.

So now I’m home – I’ve been back a week today which is hard to believe – and I get to process all of the events that happened there. I think it will definitely take some time, and hopefully I’ll have plenty of it!

New Mexico – Day Four: Sandia Peak

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

SandiaTramOn our last full day together, my uncle and I decided to head to the world’s longest tram ride at the Sandia Peak Tramway! I was excited and nervous for this trip – I’m a big lover of the mountains and a slight daredevil, but I wasn’t sure what to expect going up the side of the mountain in a tram car. Turns out, it was pretty scary. I held onto the handrails inside the car the whole way up, my hands completely sweaty the entire way, especially when we went through the wire change spots and we did a little dip and sway mid-way up the mountain. My hands are getting clammy just thinking about it now. I still managed to move to the left side of the car, though, when I asked where the wreckage of the flight that crashed in 1955 was. I justhad to see it. Very wild that the pieces of shrapnel are still visible in the canyon more than 50 years later.

AmySandia2All was well, obviously, as I lived to tell the tale and I have the pictures to prove it. Standing on that ledge getting my picture taken was just as nerve wrecking as going up in the car, by the way. We were high up there, man! And it was windy! Well, just a little windy. But, still.

SandiaOverlookI was surprised at how cold it was on top of the mountain, too – there was about a 20 degree temperature difference. Once we started walking around a bit, it warmed up. We had a really nice walk – it was absolutely gorgeous. The air was crisp but headed to the warm side and the earth was just coming alive for Spring. My uncle and I had some pretty deep, meaningful conversations up there, too. We got to talk about all sorts of stuff from the past that we’ve never touched on before. I felt such a sense of gratitude for the opportunity to get closer to my uncle during this trip as we hiked along the mountain trails. I really am a blessed woman, ya know? And being in New Mexico at 10,000 feet, looking out onto the Albuquerque valley while spending time getting close to my only uncle made that fact very clear to me.

SandiaTram5The time came when we decided we’d had enough of the mountain top and were ready to take the tram back down. I started getting nervous again thinking about the ride. I mean, enlarge that picture and see if your stomach doesn’t feel a little funny when you look at it. As it happened, the ride down was easier than the ride up for some reason. The entire ride takes less than 15 minutes – it’s just the right amount of time – not too short and not too long.

We bought some items in the gift shop at the foot of the mountain and were on our way to find a place for lunch. I was talking on the phone with Rob when a roadrunner ran right in front of our car! I was so excited! That sucker was indeed fast, though, and I didn’t get a picture of him. Still, a very cool experience.

Once we finished lunch, we headed into Old Town to visit some of the galleries there. My uncle wanted to buy a pot before he left New Mexico – and he found the perfect one for him. We also went into a gallery of a friend of his and talked for a little while. She invited us to dinner at her house and we gladly accepted. She told us she lived near Sandia Peak and we saw some glorious homes in that area, so we were super excited thinking we’d get to see one of the million dollar homes. Alas, she lived in a nice house, but not one of the mansions we we had seen earlier in the day. Still, though, we had an interesting evening. Her husband is a geologist and her best friend is a hydrologist and all three are extremely educated and well-versed in modern events. The conversation at dinner was quite stimulating. And I felt completely out of my league, but that’s okay – it was great to be exposed to more culture than I’m used to in my sheltered life.

I was sad to go to bed that night because I was moving to a new hotel the next morning and my uncle was headed back to Virginia. The vacation part of my trip was coming to an abrupt end. I still had a great time the rest of my days there, though, and I’ll tell you all about that in my forthcoming posts.

Here’s the rest of my Sanda Peak pictures.

Kathy Beekman – Artist

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

I remembered the artist’s name I mentioned in my post about Santa Fe: Kathy Beekman. Not only that, but I also discovered her website! Wee!

You can check out her work here: KathyBeekman.com

Isn’t her stuff just gorgeous? I want at least 10 of her pieces in my house right this very instant.

Edit: Her work in the gallery in Santa Fe looked much nicer than what’s on her website. Hmmm.

New Mexico – Day Three: Acoma Pueblo

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

Sunday morning came early again – my uncle and I were both up around 6:30 AM, even though we knew we were going to take our time heading out to the Acoma Pueblo. It was another gorgeous day in New Mexico – I tell you, I could get really used to the weather there! Like the day before, we took our time drinking coffee and eating breakfast before eventually getting showered, dressed, and ready for our next destination.

As we headed out on I-40, we realized our gas was getting a little low, so we had to stop to fill up – the highlight of which was riding along historic Route 66. I was so excited to actually be on the road. I thought I took a picture of a sign proving my presence there, but I guess I didn’t since there wasn’t one on my camera. You’ll just have to take my word for it, I guess. :-)

Another highlight of the trip out to the pueblo was seeing the freight trains in the distance. We could see the entire length of the train from engine to caboose – all laid out in one straight line. Out here on the east coast, we’re lucky if we see 5 cars without being broken by the landscape. I wasn’t able to capture it on film because we were driving and I don’t have a wide-angle lens, so again, you’ll have to take my word for it. Seeing entire trains like that was amazing. The big open skies of the west really get to me and make me wish we lived there in the worst way.

EnchantedMesa4Getting to the pueblo was like unwrapping a gift inside a group of beautiful boxes, each one more beautiful than the last. The landscape kept getting prettier the farther we drove – the mountains and mesas appeared seemingly out of nowhere as we happened upon them. Just when the vistas really started taking my breath away, I reached for my camera – but then we happened upon a sign that stated a camera permit was needed to take any photos. What the heck? There was a guy in a security car right where the sign was posted, too, so I adhered to the rules.

AcomaValley8All was not lost, though, we purchased a camera permit once we got to the visitor center and I was able to get a lot of great shots. We arrived just in time for the next tour bus up to the pueblo – the village sits atop a high mesa where the only allowed access is via their tour buses. While we waited for the bus to depart, we visited some of the Native’s stands where they were displaying their pottery – very nice stuff.

DavesAcomaPotI learned so much about pottery while I was there. I can spot the difference between traditional and modern methods of pottery making. The traditional method of making a pot is to form it all by hand, but some potters are now using pre-made forms to speed up the time to make their pots. The traditional pots are much more interesting in appearance and they’re also worth more. There is also importance placed on the potter and their family line. The matriarchs of the family pass on their knowledge and methods to their daughters (traditionally) and there are books available that outline the family line of potters. This piece is one my uncle bought on his last day – it’s from the Acoma tribe and is 50 years old – it’s a traditional.

AcomaPueblo6 Seeing how the Acoma Indians live high atop their mesa with no running water was simply awe-inspiring. Acoma is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the United States with its inception dating back to around 1150 AD. Here’s a great site that gives more information about the city, its history, and its inhabitants. Through the majority of the tour, most people were silent; there really were no words that could have been spoken.

AcomaMission2Walking through the outsets of their cemetery into the San Esteban del Rey Mission (their church) was a moment I’ll never forget. I felt so close to God and to everything spiritual. The feeling that we’re all connected – those who were standing in the ancient church with me on that day, those who stood there and everywhere in the past, and those who have yet to come – was overwhelming. It was very cool inside the mission and our tour guide told us that it’s always that temperature, even in the midst of their extremely hot summers. We weren’t allowed to take pictures of the cemetery or inside the mission, so I made sure to really stand there in peace and take it all in. I vowed to commit it all to memory since I knew I wouldn’t have physical evidence of how it looked or felt once I left. There were brightly painted parrots on both sides of the altar that really spoke to me. The parrot has significant meaning to the Acomas – as it symbolizes rain and rainbows. I spent several quiet moments in meditation inside the mission and felt a peace descend upon me that remained through out my entire stay in New Mexico.

AcomaPueblo10As we walked around the city for the rest of our tour, the people who live there – and God bless them all, they have no running water and have to bring the water up via trucks – set up little tables outside their homes to sell their wares. I loved being able to meet and connect with the various artists and potters and even see where it was all made. We were shown their outdoor kiln where all the pottery is fired. Directly across from the kiln is their water reservoir – a large, shallow ditch they carved out of the clay to capture rain water. The reservoir was bone dry – and this is their rainy season – so I could understand why our tour guide said they pray for rain every single day. I ended up buying a beautiful double-sided cross from one of the residents. I still need to take pictures of it to show you all. On one side it’s got turquoise stones and on the other it has 5 different colored stones – it’s just gorgeous and is very meaningful because it was made by an Acoma Indian right in Acoma. I’ll treasure it forever. I also bought two pottery quails that I need to take pictures of as well.

AcomaLadder We had the option of walking back down to the visitor’s center or taking the tour bus back down. Initially we planned to walk, but by the time we were done the walking tour, it was awfully close to lunch and I was hungry. We took the bus and ate our packed lunch in the car. Afterwards we went through the museum. It was small, but very interesting. I’m in complete love with the Acomas now and can’t get enough of their stories.

EnchantedMesaBackOur drive back to Albuquerque was just as beautiful as our drive in – only this time we were able to take photos. This picture is of a monolith they call the Enchanted Mesa. What’s funny is that the formation is actually a butte and not a mesa, but I guess the Acomas don’t care about being all that technical – and there probably wasn’t a distinction between the two when it was named hundreds of years ago. It’s definitely enchanting, though – as you can see – it’s reminiscent of Devils Tower in Wyoming, which is neat because there’s been reports of UFOs over top the Enchanted Mesa over the years. ::Cue Closed Encounters of the Third Kind music::

I was sad to say goodbye to Acoma, but all good things must come to an end (and all bad things, too, thankfully!). The entire Acoma valley is truly a special, sacred place and I’ll hold it dear to my heart always. Once we got back to our hotel room, we crashed for a bit and then made dinner in, if I remember correctly. That evening we drove around some – going to see more of Route 66 and the Route 66 Diner. On our way back to the room, we stopped to take photos of an amazing sunset.

AbqSunset2

Here are the rest of my Acoma Pueblo pictures.