Love


He is alive and we have reason to hope because we are saved! You ever think of that cliché, hope springs eternal? Spring is a time of rebirth. And when you put your faith in Jesus, you are born again (spiritually). It feels much better for everyone this time around. No pain, no messy stuff, no cutting cords. It’s a time of freedom, of hope, and love.

Every year I go up to my brother’s house and celebrate Easter with his family. Their church puts on great skits and then their senior pastor delivers a wonderful sermon that reminds us how incredible Jesus’ gift to us is. He is the Truth. He is the Way. And He is the Life. If you’re looking for proof first before you believe, it’s not going to happen. But I promise you this. Once you have faith, once you let him in, you’ll see everything you need to. You’ll understand everything you need to. And you’ll feel freedom like you’ve never felt before.

Being part of “the Way” does not guarantee a stress-free life or a cessation of sin. But it makes it all bearable. At least that’s how I see it. It’s up to you to make the decision for yourself. No one can do it for you. No one can make you. If you have questions, ask them. I encourage all of you to walk into to a church near you and check it out.

Now since we are human and specifically Americans, we of course must mix pagan customs and traditions into all of our holidays—especially the ones that pertain to Christianity. The traditional Crowe family egg hunt was a success. We dropped one member this year. I guess Zenia isn’t interested in free candy enough to go looking for it. But the rest of them participated to the delight of the adults. And after I teased Tyler by giving him clothes as his birthday present (he was so sweet and appreciative but definitely not thrilled—as was my plan), he smiled as he unwrapped his Easter gift—the Lego set he suggested I buy him.

The family took a stroll around a lake in Columbia on this gorgeous day and enjoyed the beauty that God created for us—in the flowers, gardens, creeks, lakes, grasses, and the people we love. Thank you God—your gifts are endless.

Happy Easter!

Ahhhh, Christmas. I love it. Celebrating the birth of Jesus, singing worship songs in church to candlelight, being with my family—it’s such a wonderful time—hard to really express in words. I also love all the neat secular things that surround the holiday—decorations, snow, giving gifts, fires, wrapping, candles, cards, etc.

So let me share the highlights of the Crowe family Christmas. I hope yours was just as joyous.

Thursday, December 24

8:30 a.m.

Got up early and began preparations for dinner that night.

10 a.m.

Assisted my dad as he fixed an outlet and my jet tub. (I can’t tell you how happy I am that the tub works now. Did I mention it was the primary reason I bought my house?)

1:30 p.m.

More preparations for dinner.

2:15 p.m.

Went to church and met my brother and his family. I got a little choked up during the service, which I have done every year for the past several years. You see, my dear friend Jeff passed away from a battle with cancer on a Christmas Eve a few years ago and it’s hard not to think about him on this day. He was a beautiful person and I miss him a lot. But he would want us to celebrate and be joyful—and I am thankful for the time we had with him.

4:30 p.m.

We arrive back at my house and I begin delegating tasks. It never fails that in the mad rush to get dinner cooked and ready, the kids need me to set up the Wii, put in a movie, or show them something or answer some question about my house.

5:30 p.m.

Family sits down for a dinner of meat and cheese fondue. I get up a dozen times and am always the last one to finish eating. It’s okay though, I love to host this special night.

6:30 p.m.

I hang out downstairs and have some bonding time with my nephews while we watch Star Wars. My nephew, Harmon, who as a little tyke was famous for talking loudly in movie theaters says all natural like, “Ya know what I don’t like? I don’t like when people talk during the movie.” Really Harmon? That’s new. I send Tyler up for cookies and we snuggle in while Harmon explains the significance of each scene.

8:30 p.m.

As I settle down with my parents, and Greg and his family head back to MD, I notice that the present I have for Harmon that was under my tree was suspiciously moved to a central location.

Friday, December 25

9 a.m.

I come downstairs and notice an empty bottle of vegetable oil on the carpet. Last night it was full of oil that was used in the meat fondue pot. I call the doctor and ask if Grendel will die or not and am relieved to hear that my only worries are of the gross stuff that comes out both ends. I am thankful it will not be another Advil overdose situation. That is a story for another day.

11 a.m.

Arrive at Greg’s house. I make the traditional Christmas morning monkey bread and then meet Zenia’s new puppy, Scooby. What a cutie pie—until he started chewing my hair and then I had flashbacks of Grendel’s youth.

11:30 a.m.

Kids start tearing through the presents. I have to admit, I love seeing them smile when they open something they like. Their faces light up with such joy. Harmon admitted he saw his present at my house and after opening it exclaimed, “This is my favorite present of all time. I’ve wanted this my whole life.” It was a Legos Star Wars Wii game. He didn’t let it out of his clutches for several hours.

12 noon–7 p.m.

Played with the kids and Scooby, ate lots of cookies and yummy food, boxed with the kids, watched them wrestle, and played Wii. Zenia messed with my iPod by putting country and rap stations on my favorite lists, recording weird messages and videos, and laughing at my lack of knowledge about how to program it. After I rested a bit and came down from my sugar cookie high, I went home. Grendel survived with no problems.

A day with my family at Christmas is precious indeed. I’m going to keep my tree up for awhile just so the mood lingers a bit longer. Happy Holidays.

Round one of the Crowe boxing tournament

The best present ever.

Reading the letter to Santa. “Here’s some milk at no cost.”

 

I have a topic today that’s really kind of an amalgam of several observations that come together in a theme. It’s what I like to do—see patterns and try to make sense of them. So the other day I saw the latest Gap commercial on TV and I thought back to my grad school days when I (and my group) wrote a paper and gave a presentation on the GAP commercials for our advertising class. I really do love seeing the new commercials GAP comes up with each year. They are so creative and fun and I think they do a fantastic job of creating positive awareness of the brand. And I’m sure they have helped increase revenue.

This year’s commercial is about cheer—and the commercial is kind of like a cheerleading song and dance. There have been a few favorites over the years. I loved the Gap Khaki Country and the one that initiated a revival of swing dancing. But I think my favorite is the one that uses the Love Train song. You can see the commercial below.

So the Love Train thing led me to think about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. My friend posted a challenge on Facebook which I then forwarded to my friends whom I am sure forwarded on to their friends. The challenge was to update your status every day with something you are thankful for. It’s a beautiful way to live, really. It’s easy to get caught up in misery or the stressful parts of our life, especially now. To make it a point to think about the wonderful gifts God gives us and to praise Him for it makes you think about how good our lives are.

This also got me thinking about how wonderful these social media sites are and how much good we can accomplish through them. We can spread positive messages, help people in need, educate people about important issues, and share our love for each other all through the social media love trains.

See, I told you I was going to pull a bunch of things out of the air and come up with a theme. Spreading love, gratitude, happiness, and goodwill. That’s a pretty good theme. Today I am thankful that all of you are reading this and that I can voice my opinion without the fear of oppression.

 

 

In one of my first posts I talked about how I really love kids—other people’s kids. I am fortunate that my brother and his wife decided to have four of them. I get four kids to love, spoil, play with, and then give back.

Last weekend the Crowe clan gathered at the Crowe’s Nest in Bethany Beach. It’s a bit of a shock to my system when we gather. I go from the quiet tranquility of my house to the chaotic tornado-like atmosphere of a house full of kids who are constantly teasing, wrestling, laughing, running, and singing. On one of the more cloudy days I thought it would be fun to interview the kids. That was before I spent an hour trying to wrangle them to sit down for a few minutes and actually give me answers that I could publish.

So consider this my back-to-school assignment and your introduction to my family.

Dawn: What was the most fun thing you did this summer?

  • Zenia, age 14: Went to New Life Bible camp in Buffalo Mills, PA. It was fun because my friends were there. I’m going to go back next year.
  • Julia, age 13: The camping trip. It was all mellow and everyone was happy.
  • Tyler, age 9: (Tyler was not cooperating for the interview so Zenia answered for him.) He got rejected by four girls and got slapped by two of them.
  • Harmon, age 7: Played Wii. (Okay, that wasn’t very exciting so I asked him what else he did this summer.) We went camping. I don’t know where though. Lake something. (What was the best thing about camping?) Eating and taking naps. And playing poker.

Dawn: Were you excited to go back to school?

  • Harmon: No. (Why not?) Because there’s so much more work than I would have to do in public school. But Mom wanted me to be home schooled.
  • Zenia: No. Well actually yes. ‘Cause after camp there was nothing really left to do.
  • Julia: Yes. Because going to school (for her) isn’t like going to school. I get up early and finish early. Then I go for a run, play soccer, listen to music and then go to soccer practice.
  • Tyler: No. Because that is a dungeon of non sophisticatedness.

 Dawn: What makes you special?

  • Harmon: My awesome whaaa, whaaa. (He did some karate moves around the house as he shouted whaaa, whaaaa).
  • Zenia: My butt. I speak my mind. I say what I mean and mean what I say. (Julia says she has to be right.)
  • Julia: I’m the best soccer player in the family.
  • Tyler: (Again he wasn’t cooperating so Zenia replied, wrestling.)

Dawn: What are your future goals? Or, what do you want to be when you grow up?

  • Zenia: I want to go to VA Tech. I want to go to the University of Maryland first and then transfer. I want to become involved in the government and work in embassies.
  • Julia: I want to become a pro soccer player and then maybe marry Donovan or Tim Howard.
  • Harmon: A spy. I want to be in the army but I haven’t decided if I want to be a spy or someone in the army. A spy has a better chance of not dying so I’m gonna say spy now. Once I’m in college I’ll pick. Because that’s when you get the choice to pick.
  • Tyler: An HP. (What’s that?) A hot person.

Dawn: What’s your favorite movie?

  • Harmon: Star Wars the Clone Wars. Because it has my favorite people and more violence.
  • Zenia: Get Smart. (She changes her mind after hearing Julia.) Oh okay, Blades of Glory.
  • Julia: Blades of Glory.
  • Tyler: Pride of Chucky. (Zenia says he hasn’t even seen it.)

Dawn: Who’s your favorite Aunt?

  • Harmon: You! (I love you, too H.)

Dawn: Who’s your favorite dog?

  • Harmon: Grendel. (Two days earlier he convinced himself that he was scared of Grendel and hid in the basement when we came over.)

Well, there you go. Four of the most fun munchkins I know.

 

 

 

 

When I was a kid, the last day of camp was filled with tears and smiles. My Mom would pick me up and I would not stop talking the entire way home. When I was in college, the tears and smiles were still there, but I drove myself home in a daze. I was exhausted, dirty, excited for another school year, depressed at having to leave my camp friends, and happy about the memories all at the same time.

Yesterday, while waiting outside the arts and crafts building at camp for the tie-dye t-shirts to dry, I was having a conversation with some friends about their kids and how it was so cute that the kids were in tears at the end of their summer camp session and how they had to be dragged away to go home. We then realized that we used to do the same thing. Even as adults, heading out the gates of Camp Tockwogh on the Chesapeake Bay was a difficult thing to do.

I’ve been home a few hours now after spending just a long weekend there and I can’t stop thinking about how much I miss my friends and how much fun it was. It really doesn’t matter how old you are, those feelings never go away. It’s family camp now at Tockwogh. The group I stayed with was quite eclectic. Some of us are single, others married, some have kids, and some don’t. It doesn’t matter though. Family is what you make of it. And we are a family. That cabin was full because we have such a strong bond that we have to see each other and spend time together whenever we can. (The sailing, tether ball, and archery may have something to do with it but I’m pretty sure we could get by with just conversation, Amy’s battery powered blender, and Jack’s light display.)

I keep wondering what is it about that place called Tockwogh. Is there some kind of weird drug that grows in the grass and trees that infects anyone who spends time there? It could be something in the grilled cheeses—a famous meal that we all make our plans around for some reason. Seriously, who else but Tockwogh folks would change dinner plans, a day off, or the time they come home to collect the dog (my bad), just because it’s the “grilled cheese” lunch?

I was there for four days and spent time with friends I’ve known for 20 years and with others I just met this weekend. In both cases, I can say I’ve strained several ligaments and muscles in my abdominal wall with all the laughing. (The Kiwi “ringleader” story was particularly funny and should you ever wish to become part of the Tockwogh Giggle Loop, we’ll tell it to you.) It really is hard to explain the bonds and the strength of the friendships that are made there. I know some people who have attended other camps get it and I hope that some of you reading this will visit Tockwogh and become part of our family.

Thanks to Amy, Jack, Wendy and kids, Liz and Regan, Abby, Andy, Steve, Mike and Mathew, the “urban sprawl crowd”, the “girls village crowd”, Jen and Bill, Michelle and Dan, Beth and Eric, Nadine, and the staff. I didn’t cry this time—but only because I know from experience that we’ll see each other again soon. Okay, maybe just a few tears of thanks for having such great friends. And I’d like to give a shout out to the next door neighbors in Hopi cabin who I did not meet but had to live with us crazy people and did so in tolerant silence.

I’m off to wash off the dirt that has permeated every pore, bandage the wounds, and sleep in a bed that can actually fit me, and enjoy the fact that I have a bathroom close by that does not threaten to host a snake in its rafters. But before I go I just want to say thanks to the staff. Especially those boys from down under who have those great accents. And the way they talked was nice, too. May you have great wind for sailing, smooth glass for water skiing, sun for warmth, and ice to keep the beer cold.

I spent the last couple of weeks strolling (with Grendel of course) along the roads and paths of Walloon Lake, Michigan. On Friday, Grendel knew it was the last walk—he kept going far ahead of me and had to meet all the dogs along the way. It’s a good thing the people are nice there and don’t mind so much when strangers walk around their yard screaming at their dog to “stop peeing on that tree and sniffing that dog’s behind and come now!”

I’ve been stressed and not sleeping a lot lately mostly due to being unemployed—but during my stay in Michigan I slept like a rock. There is a kind of peace and calm there that works like Prozac. I got to thinking during those walks about the senses, and beauty, and art, and found myself saying over and over again, “thank You God.”

As a marketing professional, I often work with designers to combine function and art. No one does this better than God. Think about it as you look at the natural world around you. Do you notice how everything has a specific function and purpose? And not only that, how its construction is perfect and beautiful? God is the ultimate engineer, architect, conductor, singer, mathematician, scientist, historian, storyteller, and artist. And the following is what my mind lingered on during those long walks under the canopy of trees with Grendel (when I wasn’t yelling at him to come back).

My eyes took in the vibrant, lush colors—the greens of the trees and grass, the blues of the sky and lake, the reds, yellows, purples, whites, pinks, and oranges of the flowers—and I thought how no canvas or paint could match the beauty that God creates.

My ears took in the caressing melodies around me—the birds singing, the waves lapping, the rustle of the trees, and even the soft cry of Gus the cat—and I thought how no symphony or chorus could match the sounds that God creates.

My nose took in the sweet smells of the country—the fresh, clean air and the aromas from the wild flowers (Grendel smelled everything else)—and I thought how wonderful God is to me and how nothing can match the bouquets that He creates.

My skin took in the comfort of nature—the warm embrace of the sun, the cool breeze off the lake, the softness of the grass under bare feet, and even the refreshing rain washing and cleansing the land—and I thought how God touches me in wonderful ways that are unmatched by anything else.

My tongue tasted the myriad flavors of the earth—fresh corn and vegetables from the local farms, fruit picked right from the tree, and the whitefish that came from the local lakes—and I thought how God provides for me, all the energy my body needs to sustain itself all wrapped up in yummy recipes.

The trip was really refreshing to my soul. So if anyone has a job for me where I could work from home on my computer, I will be forever grateful as I move into a small cabin in the woods and breathe the fresh air every day.

Fade back in to reality—Grendel is on a leash, the traffic is creating toxins around the beltway, and I’m putting on a suit for another interview in the city. Even so, thank You God for the break! Below are a few paintings by God.

First—congratulations to my friends Steve and Sandy who took the plunge, tied the knot, exchanged vows, got hitched, gave up their freedom, etc., etc., in other words, got married this last weekend.

The wedding took place in the town where I grew up so it was nice going back home and seeing old friends again. On Friday I drove to Pennsylvania, dropped the dog off at the rent’s house and headed on over to the rehearsal dinner. After some yummy food and drinks and lots of laughs over fun toasts, we headed on out to Buckley’s Tavern. In this area of the country, bars are called Taverns and there are only about two within a half hour of my folk’s house. My friends made me laugh so hard I actually hurt myself.

On my way home I dodged a couple of deer and a fox and managed not to drive my SUV into a tree. I’ll talk about the back roads of Chester County in another post but let’s just say when you’re not used to the one-lane bridges you’ve got to be on your toes.

So that brings us to Saturday. I slept in, ran some errands, had a lovely lunch with old friends who weren’t going to the wedding, then ran over to the Mendenhall Inn to check in. This place brought back memories. As a kid I went to church across the road and as a teenager was in a serious car wreck in front of the Inn. Okay, time for new memories.

The service was lovely and we all drove back to the Inn (not a Tavern this time) for the reception where we got to eat freshly cooked, very yummy crab cakes. More fun toasts, laughing, dancing, stories, and catching up takes us to the “after party.”

Let me begin by saying that the bartender was really up-tight and went a bit too far when he called for security because of the duck thing. The patron was in fact a trouble-maker but the decapitation of the wooden duck was an accident and it could have happened to any of us. (Not me of course, I just take the photos of all the incriminating stuff.) So party-pooper barkeep closed down early and forced us to go hang out with the security guard on the porch. Thankfully the bride and groom gave us goody bags with little bottles of wine and snacks to get us to that two a.m. hour when we finally called it quits.

That brings us to the wedding breakfast. This is where the parents of the newly married couple are still all smiles and the rest of us dutifully and sincerely thank them for the free booze—I mean the lovely dinner and dancing—through bleary and bloodshot eyes. I got to see baby Bubba for the first time which was really nice. But when my friend Amy made him cry I knew it was time to make a hasty retreat.

The drive back to the parent’s house to pick up the dog involved a skirmish with some pugs and another deer. (I kid you not. See photo below.) On my way back to Virginia, I was tempted to stop at the Herr’s factory for a tour but decided to skip it on this trip.

Finally, I must say, the best part of the whole wedding was the time spent with some of the kindest, funniest, loyal, awesome friends a gal could ever have. Blessings to Sandy and Steve and may you live long, loving, pug-free lives together.

Pug punks

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