In a few months, I’ll celebrate 6 years of working in Creative at Hallmark Cards. Not long after I started, there were boxes and boxes of some plastic-y sleeve thingies for free. I didn’t know what they were, I didn’t know what I’d do with them but I knew they were free, and that was enough for me. I am, above all else, a bargain hunter and pack rat.
In all fairness, I was also working part-time at the library and thought we might be able to use them for crafts. Yes, that was justification.
Anyway, I kept a handful of the plastic-y sleeve thingies (PSTs) for myself in the event I had a keen idea one day. I happened across them in a box last week; the planets aligned and BAM! my keen idea hit.
Most of my Star Wars toys came from garage sales and thrift stores when I was a kid. I did, however, get some straight off the pegs at the toy store—my mom had the forethought to save the cardbacks for those figures. Most are worn from handling or covered in clearance stickers, some suffered from an overly excited little girl ripping off the blister packaging to get to the toy and one apparently served as a notepad for said little girl (I scrawled my name across it). They’re in pretty rough shape, but I absolutely love them.
The PSTs looked like they might be a good fit as cardback protectors, so I gave it a shot. Alas, they weren’t a good fit… They were PERFECT!
As I worked my way through the stack of cardbacks, I grew increasingly concerned that I would run out of PSTs. The library recently purged a lot of stuff, so I was certain I wouldn’t be able to replenish my supply there. I pondered how I might post a request on the want-ads at work: “WANTED, plastic-y sleeve thingies that we had here 5 years ago.”
Worry occupied my mind as I slipped the cardbacks into the PSTs. Soon I realized there weren’t any cardbacks left. There weren’t any PSTs left either. I had kept the exact number that I needed—not one more, not one less. That number, in case you’re wondering, was 24 (which also happens to be one of my favorite Switchfoot songs).
Your world view might tell you this was a brilliant case of coincidence, kismet, a stroke of good fortune. For me, it was also a reminder that God provides for even the smallest of concerns.
I was in my early teens when the internet first became a household amenity, so I remember quite a bit about life pre-www. We listened to music using bulky stereo systems that played formats ranging from shiny compact discs to clunky cassette tapes and scratch-prone vinyl. We bought those cds/tapes/records at brick-and-mortar stores or through the mail via rip-off “clubs” like BMG, often purchasing an entire album for a single radio hit. Yes, I’m one of the kids who fell victim to BMG.
Though I had my own computer games, VHS tapes with programs recorded from the television and a few video-gaming platforms (Intellivision, Atari, NES and Sega GameGear) at my disposal, play time most often involved action figures, Barbie dolls, storybooks, stuffed animals, puzzles, crayons/coloring books, my bike and the swing set in the back yard. Tablet-toting tykes just didn’t exist.
My 110 camera used flash cubes, took film that you had to manually advance after each photo and probably cost the same as what you’d pay now for a family of 4 to eat at McDonald’s. What if your subject blinked when you took a picture? Well, that’s just too bad because you didn’t know for sure until after the film was developed, which took at least a couple of days. No instant uploading.
We sent actual cards and letters in the mail. We wrote checks and meticulously balanced our checkbook registers. We did everything then that we do now, just a little more slowly.
Try as I might, though, I simply can’t fathom how people planned vacations back then. My parents had a file drawer full of travel brochures—something of a mystery since we only ventured out of state to visit family—and I assume the telephone must’ve played an integral role. Were that the case today, I would be even more of a curmudgeonly homebody than I am now.
Thanks to modern technology, I am empowered to explore locales unknown with nary a voice call on my phone. Airfare, rental car and hotel rooms are all booked online, and I spend time equivalent to days on end harvesting ideas and reading others’ reviews to decide what we want to see.
My travel-planning “dream team” consists of Pinterest, Google Maps, TripAdvisor, a physical map, some Post-it flags and a Sharpie. See, I’m still a little old-fashioned…I just happen to buy the maps on Amazon or order them from state tourist websites—some states even offer them for free!
When we have an overarching idea of where we’d like to go (Oregon, for example), I fire up Pinterest; inevitably, I discover places that make my heart go pitter-patter. I open separate browser tabs for Google Maps and TripAdvisor. Google Maps helps me narrow down which part of the state I’m exploring, and TripAdvisor gives me an idea of if I want to stay in a particular city or look for a neighboring community instead. I also pull up candidate hotels’ websites and scour the web for coupon codes or special pricing. It’s a lot of legwork, but we rarely end up disappointed.
Google Maps also helps me plan out how much travel time we’ll need between destinations. This is particularly helpful as we tend to cover a lot of ground on our trips.
Utilizing a tangible map adds an extra step to planning a trip, but I find it worth the effort. After I’ve located sights and sites online, I lay out the map and start flagging destinations; this gives me a much better feel for the terrain and helps me analyze which routes we should take to maximize our experience.
The map also helps when we find ourselves in areas devoid of cell and satellite signals, which happens more often than I would’ve thought. Let me tell you from experience, it can be more than a little unsettling when you’re driving through the middle of a deep, dark forest without any sign of civilization and no technological assistance. I’m considering investing in more comprehensive state atlases at some point for this very reason.
While it all sounds very structured, the reality is that the planning just gives me an overall “ballpark” idea of how things will go—our vacations tend to be rather free-flowing and include a lot of naps. We generally know where we want to go and how to get there, so we fill in the rest along the way.
What are your favorite travel resources?
A long time ago in a galaxy far, fa… you get the idea… there was a forest moon full of towering evergreen trees, massive ferns, furry little bipedal bear-like creatures and a garrison of Imperial troops guarding the shield generator for the second Death Star.
Northern California is home to the Redwood National and State Parks, the region employed as principal filming location of Endor for Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. The search for this forest moon is what drove the last leg of our February vacation.
As a child, I lived and breathed Return of the Jedi. There is literally nothing about the Endor scenes I dislike (apart from Special Edition updates); the lush green setting, the costumes, speeder bike chases and ewoks, I love it all!
Our first visit to the Pacific Northwest was in February 2012, and the Olympic National Park temperate rain forest knocked my socks off (figuratively, of course). It made my heart feel close to “home”—never before had I seen a landscape so like that of Endor. When this year found us close enough to visit the redwoods near Crescent City and Smith River, CA, we couldn’t resist.
Alas, we failed to stumble upon any ewok booby-traps or Imperial strongholds, and the only signs of the Rebel Alliance were on my shirt. The rest, however, was magnificent. To say the trees are ‘big’ is an understatement; some of them are downright massive. Many moments I stood in complete awe, feeling utterly insignificant in my mere humanity. I haven’t the words for due justice of the splendor, and even my photographs are wanting. I’ll leave you with a sampling below, the rest are linked on my share site. CLICK HERE
If you’re a frequent visitor to this establishment, you know that I’m smitten with snark. Today, though, I’m trading that for sentimentality. Savor it, friends.
Each week our company intranet highlights articles that call attention to the business. One such post in June came from the Edmond Sun by way of a weekly column called “As I See It” (the actual post was titled ‘Some Birthdays Outdo Others’). I enjoyed the writing so much that I decided to search
the website for other pieces by the author, one Marjorie Anderson. The more I read, the more I was convinced this delightful woman needed to have a published anthology of her wit and wisdom…
and so, I emailed the Sun‘s editor to offer my suggestion and express praises for a job well done.
The kind editor put me in touch directly with Mrs. Anderson, thus sparking a fast e-pen-pal friendship.
MA has several decades of life experience on me but I feel like we’re very much cut from the same cloth; it all goes back to my being an old soul, I suppose. She regales me with stories of her current adventures with dog Su and of days past, offers insights on a host of matters and obliges my never-ending questioning. We also share a love of cute animal videos. As an aside, you can find her books (This End Up and A Patchwork Sampler) on Amazon, and I highly suggest that you do!
This week, MA gave me a sneak peek of her Christmas column. Her lovely memories made me think about my own “glittering” Christmas recollections. I shared the following with her, so I’ll share them with you too!
I have a hard time pinpointing my favorite Christmases past. My dad was always snapping photos, so I sometimes wonder how many of my memories are actually memories and how many are just things that I think I remember from having seen the photographs all these years.
Mostly I remember a blur of decorations and gifts. Far too many gifts, really. But there is one year that stands out: Christmas 1989 if I had to guess (since I think I was in 1st grade at the time). Among the whirlwind of gifts was a musical jewelry box. It wasn’t anything special in hindsight, just some laminated chipboard in the shape of a circus train car. Regardless, I remember focusing on it that evening as my mom tucked me in and we said our bedtime prayers. For whatever reason, looking at it made me sob. I thought of all the beautiful gifts I’d received and realized, probably for the first time, that there were other little children who had nothing. There are no pictures of that moment, so I am certain it’s a memory.
Another “glittering” moment for me is one that I get to re-live each year as I decorate my Christmas tree. In 1990 or ’91, I received a package in the mail from my great-grandmother in Texas. It contained the yearly check that she sent for my parents to buy me a pretty new Christmas dress (another came each Easter) and a little seashell angel ornament that she had picked up on a trip with my great-aunt and –uncle. Every year, it hangs prominently near the top of my tree though it’s probably one of the ugliest things I own. Its little mop of thinning white curls reminds me so much of my dear
Both of my grandmothers passed before I turned 8,
but Great-Mamaw was with us until my freshman year of high school. I was especially fortunate in that we saw her somewhat frequently despite the vast distance between Granbury, TX, and our home in Missouri. We visited Granbury once or twice a year, and she lived with us for weeks or months at a time while Uncle Dale and Aunt Martha (who passed away this year) traveled around the country.
My Christmas tree also boasts her handmade, crafted drum ornaments. Great-Mamaw’s arthritis kept her from doing much crafting in her later years, but I did get one last ornament that she made at the nursing home towards the end of her lifetime. The little felt mouse looked more like a preschool craft but it came to me with a stack of quarters from her bingo winnings. The mouse’s googly eyes have long since fallen off, but it still touches my heart. Each time I see it, I’m reminded that Great-Mamaw was thinking of me even as her pain was great in those last months.
That’s the point of Christmas, isn’t it?! At the risk of sounding preachy, I feel compelled to mention this: God was thinking of us even as He felt the pain of sending His Son from Heaven down to earth to live among us. Jesus, the namesake of Christmas, is the greatest gift God could have given us. Not only was He the greatest gift at the time of His birth, He is still the greatest gift. It was Jesus who sacrificed Himself for our sins and overcame the power of the grave to afford us the gift of life abundant. Now that is a reason to celebrate!
While I’m a big kid myself, I’ve never been a big ‘kid person.’ I can remember saying as a child that I never wanted to have children…these days I’m more open to the idea but we’re not taking any drastic measures to add to our little family. The dogs and cat keep us company without demanding much in the way of obligation, and we’re generally happy with life at the moment.
Not being a ‘kid person’ does not, however, mean that I wholly dislike being around kids. On the contrary, I think spending time with them can offer fresh perspective that’s good for the soul. I just happen to like my time spent in small doses.
The day before Thanksgiving, I had one such opportunity at work. A coworker had brought in her son, C, an adorable third grader; when she needed to run an errand, C got to hang out at my desk for a little while. We watched some videos on YouTube to pass the time—BMX bikers, domino tricks (“those have to be fake!”) and What Does the Fox Say?—which sparked some fantastic conversations. During the fox video, C declared that the costumed singers were dorky but the grandpa character was funny. I commented on his beard looking “like Santa Claus’s.”
“Santa has a really long beard. I wonder how long it’s been since he shaved?” C mused before answering his own question. “Probably not since he was a kid.”
I don’t remember my response, but it was something of the nod-along variety.
“But he’s a VERY generous man,” C stated most sincerely with a little sparkle in his eye. “Bringing toys to all of the little children…it’s amazing.”
“Yep, Santa’s an awfully good guy,” I agreed and made a mental note to choose my words carefully so as not to spoil any of the magic.
“Did you know some kids don’t believe in Santa Claus?” C looked at me with wide eyes full of astonishment.
Trying to appear dumbstruck, I replied, “Really? Well that’s just silly. He still visits me every year!”
“Yeah,” C dismissed my comment and continued, “They think it’s their moms and dads. But how would they even do that?? It’s SO late and they’re in bed asleep.”
I shook my head and shrugged.
“I mean, I know my dad, and I don’t think he’s the kind of person to do that. He likes to sleep.”
“Dads do like their sleep,” I offered just before C got distracted by one of the video suggestions on the screen.
Jedi Master Yoda famously declares in Attack of the Clones: Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is.
And I have to say after interactions like this one, I completely agree.