Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Shenandoah Caverns

Although housework and laundry loudly beckoned, we treated ourselves to a wonderful family trip to Shenandoah Caverns to see all of the four attractions that it offered for one price.
These Caverns were found by two boys who used a rope to scale down over two hundred feet through a dark hole they found on their father's farm! Many improvements have been made since then. The elevator that we took down to the cavern has been in continuous use for over eighty years!
We all had a great time on the guided tour and became fast friends with another family on the tour with us. We traversed a great distance, over a mile, and saw many interesting sights. The temperature is a steady 55 degrees inside. At one point our guide turned off all the lights and we were able to experience "Cave Darkness" where one cannot see one's hand placed directly in front of one's face!
This formation is a stalagmite and a stalactite growing toward each other. They are just one water drop apart from each other.
The next exhibit, Main Street of Yesteryear, was comprised of old storefront window displays of whimsical animated figures that still move!
This is a fantasy land of fairy tales like Cinderella having the shoe put on her foot above.

Hansel and Gretel at the Gingerbread House.

Next we enjoyed the farm animals outside. This fancy chicken is the occupant of a very beautiful coop!
The Yellow Barn is the third exhibition at this family attraction. This gorgeous space is part museum and part country store. Many different types of old wheeled carriages having been lovingly restored are on display here. They are well painted and outfitted with props from the time period. The Ideal Bread cart delivered bakery goods to homes and was pulled through the streets by a pony when it was originally in use.
This giant woodland creature decoration was at least two stories high. This finished and gorgeously decorated warehouse-sized space is rented out for concerts and wedding receptions.

The most exciting part of our trip, was having Sam get STUCK in a children's hippopotamus. He crawled in backwards and wound up getting his hips and knees held tight because of the angles. He was in pain briefly because of the pinching and became claustrophobic and justifiably concerned! He was beginning to freak out as we all tried to figure out how to get him out of there! I was praying aloud while Larry wondered if we were going to have to buy the Hippo! Jon decided to get the cameras rolling because this problem took some time to solve! Sam was able to calm himself and realized that his phone in his pocket was hanging things up.
We were all trying not to laugh because it was so funny but also sooo scary! After he threw his phone out in front of him (which Patience grabbed in a heartbeat!), he changed some angles and was finally able to wiggle free! Whew, that was a close one!!! I really thought that we would need to cut the hippo up to get him out. Thank you, Lord!

We continued to laugh about this part of our adventure for hours!

The wooden beams over top in the building supported working trains that traveled around. You can see the train on the second beam back.
This old fashioned Barber Shop display caught my eye.
The fourth exhibit that came with our admission was "America on Parade". In this additional fully finished warehouse, massive parade floats previously used in The Rose Bowl and Inaugural Parades are on display.

I was overwhelmed with admiration for the father and son team, Earl Hargrove Jr and Sr, who are responsible for collecting and restoring all of these fascinating pieces of Americana. I am amazed at their talent and the generosity, passion and commitment to excellence evident in assembling and maintaining this spectacular display. What a hobby!!! The entire Shenandoah Caverns is their own work and it is filled with their exquisitely restored collections which they share with the public. What a great use of time, talent and treasure!
This display was of definite interest to me because of the great honor our extended family member has received in being invited to be present when the 68th anniversary of Iowa Jima is celebrated next month in Japan. Imagine my astonishment when I got home from seeing this that evening to read in the paper that it was on this exact day that the flag was raised by five Marines and a Navy corpsman on the island of Iowa Jima. This image is an icon of World War Two. In 1945, it took  more than a month to secure the island in a brutal fight to the death. The United States did win through the valiant efforts of our heroic forces, 27 of whom received the Medal of Honor for their bravery there.
This was a most wonderful day filled with interesting, beautiful and inspirational sights. I would recommend this destination to any family or couple looking to spend the day together. It was worth every penny paid!

We were able to top our day off with a fabulous meal of homemade bacon cheeseburgers and terrific fries at a family owned Diner located 5 miles down the road.
Thank you, Lord ,for a safe trip and a lovely day to remember!

Egg Salad

My grandson surprised us by offering to manage the making of egg salad on a recent Friday in Lent. We boiled at least a dozen eggs which he helped to peel.
I was impressed that he could slice the egg with this wonderful Kitchen Aid slicer.  What amazed me was the way he was able to pick up the sliced egg in one hand and turn it around at a 90 degree angle on the tool. Then he could reslice it in a different direction making the pieces smaller.
One by one, he dropped the sectioned eggs into the bowl to which we added mayo, salt, pepper and mustard which made it great!
They say that kids will eat better if they help to prepare the meal.
That was certainly the case here and the egg salad was outstanding!
Our Bishop has asked that all Catholics refrain from eating meat on every Friday during this Year of Faith. That will be no sacrifice with fresh delicious egg salad available, prepared by this capable four year old, delighted to help!

Vocations Talk

Our Youth group hosted Fr. Joel  Jaffe, the director of vocations for our Diocese recently. He gave a great talk on what it means to have a vocation and he told us about his journey to the priesthood. Sam and I attended as well as many others and really enjoyed learning about his interesting experiences. I took notes and would like to hit the highlights of the information he shared.

What is a Vocation? It is whatever God is calling you to do to "witness to His presence in the world". Our vocation is placed into us at the moment of our Baptism, (wow, what a concept!) and our job is to LISTEN for it. Every single person has a vocation. We need to ask ourselves, "To what is God calling me?"

Jesus Christ is a real person who loves us both individually and collectively. In order to find our vocation, we should cultivate the habit of chatting with Him. Fr. Jaffe said that Jesus will always bring clarity, but not necessarily by way of us watching movies and surfing the Internet! We should pray, go to Mass and Confession, and spend time in Adoration for clarity. The more we talk with Him, the more He will make things clear to us in regard to our vocation.

Fr. Jaffe said that he went to William and Mary which he still loves, in hopes of becoming a Biologist. He said that the on first few week-ends there, he had to choose whether he would take himself to Mass or not. Up until that point, his Mom had drug him by the ear on a weekly basis but now the choice was his to make. He decided to go to Mass and wound up making friends with some of the students he saw there. By the time he was in his second and third year of college, he began going to Mass during the week because he found that the kids doing that were trying to lead decent lives. They happened to be good people and he enjoyed them and started to hang out with them. He said that he learned to balance and manage his own time while he was in college which he found to be a very valuable life skill!

As a student, he had every opportunity given to him to study with great professors and to have prestigious internships with excellent researchers. He knew that he wanted to help people. He loved Biology and was good at it. But one day, he realized that God wanted him to be a priest. He emphasized that the Lord does not want to be our "Second Best" nor a "Last Resort". He wants to be our First Choice. Just like no one would accept a marriage proposal that began " I actually wanted to marry that person, but they are not interested, so instead I'll pick you". He felt that the Lord had been very generous with excellent opportunities to do something else but that the priesthood was his actual calling. By that means, he could be the happiest he could possibly be while serving people.

Jesus wants us to be filled with joy! Joy is the realization of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. We understand that any challenge is worth it. Happiness is like a state of being aware of  how Blessed we are. It is more like pleasure which can be fleeting, like eating a delicious chocolate chip cookie. In five years, most of us won't remember eating that cookie. In fact, it is so fleeting, that we want to eat another cookie just to experience that pleasure again. But when we really help someone else and experience that resulting deep joy, we can remember that and recall it for years afterward.

Fr. Jaffe said that once a person receives "a call" they should investigate it, much like healthy Dating. Most of us don't marry the first person we date ( although some of us do!) You talk to people and look at the different ways to be a priest, or a Brother or Monk, a Sister or Nun. By the way, Sisters have jobs in the outside world although they live in community but Nuns are cloistered and rarely leave the convent. I think it is the same for brothers and Monks who rarely leave the monastery.The process toward a religious vocation is Long with many chances to stop and change one's mind along the way. They don't take prisoners- it is all about Choosing this as a free act of the Will.

He felt that a Diocesan priest is the coolest job of all and that they are like General Practitioners if you were to compare them to Doctors. I found this to be a great analogy as priests need to have a fantastic and rigorous education like any doctor would. Priests are on the Front Line and every day is different. A priest is called to love unconditionally but not exclusively like a married couple is in how they bring that love to serve the world. A priest works with families at every stage in life.

To the young people present, Fr. Jaffe said that we should ask ourselves "What sort of person should I be? What does true manhood look like, and true womanhood?"  Manhood and Womanhood are about the depth of one's character inside oneself. He recommended that they reject the World's standards for behavior which takes shortcuts and tries to find the quickest way to reach an end but not the best way. They (and we) should Trust what the Church teaches about Honesty, Modesty, and Chastity. We should trust Virtue over Popularity. Don't necessarily trust the world! The Lord wants us to grow in Holiness which brings sure Joy,
 (which is much deeper than happiness).

He said that Relationships are important!!! How good a son or daughter am I being right now? How good a sibling am I right now? Relationships tell a lot about a person. How do we live our friendships? We should live for a transcendent cause (definition: going beyond ordinary limits, surpassing, exceeding). No one is a better "you" than you!  God wants to bring His presence to the World through each one of us. Our job is to let Him if we are to find true Happiness and Joy!

Paraphrased from a talk given by Fr. Joel Jaffe, Vocations Promoter for The Arlington Catholic Diocese, February, 2013.

River Walk

On a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon, the place to be was outside! We headed down the valley to a park that winds along the Shenandoah River.
Signal Knob provides a great backdrop for this meandering trail that seems to be well used by walkers and joggers alike.
It was peaceful and pleasant to walk along the pathway enjoying the warmth of the sun on this mid February weekend!
The Shenandoah reminded me of the Nile in that it was obvious that it had recently overflowed its banks, which it often does. Also like the Nile, it is one of the few rivers that flows from south to north. Both of those rivers can be said to flow "uphill" because the point of origin of the water source is lower than the end point ( but lots of water joins it along the way from higher sources).
Frisbee, football, soccer juggling and even bike riding were some of the activities the kids got into at this park.
Although Jon was busy serving our country, Meg invited us back for homemade pizza with mac and cheese which really hit the spot!
The kids had fun playing while it cooked.
After a good meal, and an afternoon filled with fresh air and exercise, we made it back on time for the evening Mass!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Book Fair

In anticipation of the annual Parish Book Fair, I took a few hours to go through my ten sets of shelves to discover how many books I could donate to the sale. Determined to purge and de-clutter, I was able to  get rid of some of the important books I have read that really helped to shape my thinking while I was a young mother.
138 books were loaded into the back of the van, but I didn't get to all my shelves in the time period allotted.
In addition, 65 videotapes were donated as we no longer have a functional VCR. Most of these movies are available on NetFlix if we ever wanted to watch them again so we don't have any need to store them.
We put it on the calendar and arrived at the sale with a little bit of cash, ready to pick out some reading material for the year!
The church ladies received donations on Friday and worked all day to sort through and classify the books by type.
It was pleasant to slowly peruse the thousands of titles looking for something that I have heard of and wanted to read or to check out something new on a topic that I am interested in.
I saw many people that I knew there and we had fun discussing different books on the tables that we had read.
At these prices, we didn't hesitate to pick up and set aside anything that might be good. Before we paid, we went through everything and eliminated many that we didn't really need.
The children's section is notoriously weak. It seems to be the older adults that donate books. One woman pointed out that most folks donate back the books they bought the previous year. That was certainly true in our case. What a great money maker for the church ladies' group in this book recirculation!
We were not the only folks getting rid of videotapes. It was obvious to see that this technology is becoming obsolete by the table full of donations.
We bought a boxful which cost us 23 dollars. Those books will be stored on the shelves which now have room for them after the purge. It will be fun to select a book to read from the queue throughout the year and then donate it back when finished.