Yesterday was a strange day in Pensacola. When we got up, it was already a humid seventy three degrees, and the sky had threatening clouds of an odd color. We hit the pool, and when we came out, it felt cooler. The skies broke forth several times with pounding rains, and then . . . the clouds disappeared, and by five, we had clear skies, no clouds, falling temperatures and a chilly breeze.
It was a great night to go see the Pensacola Zoo Lights. This is probably something AdventureMan and I wouldn’t do if it were just the two of us, but our son had asked if we could pick up our grandson and take care of him for a couple hours and the Zoo Lights seemed like just the thing. I call them Pensacola Zoo Lights, but the Zoo is actually in Gulf Breeze, it is the Gulf Breeze Zoo Lights. As we picked up Q, we were glad we all had jackets and long pants – it was COLD!
Zoo lights is a lot of fun. The place was packed with families and children, but not so packed you couldn’t visit some of the paths without interruption. The main population of children and families was around the train station, where there was also, conveniently, a little play ground for people waiting for the train.
Lots and lots of lights:
Q’s favorite light, LOL!
Near the angel was a place where something like soap was coming out of a tube, it looked a little like snow. Every now and then a great gust of wind would blow and the soap would flurry everywhere, and then it truly did look a little like snow and the children would scream with joy and chase after the snow-soap flakes.
This is worth a trip at this time of the year, with children. Here are the directions from the Gulf Breeze Zoo website:
Enter the following address into your GPS navigation system:
Gulf Breeze Zoo
5701 Gulf Breeze Parkway
Gulf Breeze, FL 32563
From TALLAHASEE and points EAST:
I-10 West to Exit 31. Take Rt. 87 South to Hwy. 98 West, towards Gulf Breeze.
Go 5 miles. Zoo is on the left.
From PANAMA CITY and points EAST:
Hwy. 98 West to Gulf Breeze. Zoo is on the left.
From MOBILE, AL and points WEST:
I-10 East to I-110 South through Pensacola, FL. Take Hwy. 98 East to Gulf Breeze. Zoo is on the right.
From MONTGOMERY, AL and points NORTH:
I-65 South to Exit 93. Take US 84 East to Rt. 41 South. Turn onto Rt. 87 South to Hwy. 98 West, towards Gulf Breeze. Go 5 miles. Zoo is on the left.
Today, in our Lectionary readings, we have the powerful words of the prophet Isaiah, telling of the birth of the babe who will bring us endless peace, justice and righteousness . . .
9*But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
2 *The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.
3 You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
4 For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
5 For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
6 For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onwards and for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
We were all working hard, in our little areas, each with our job to do. The youngest broke the silence:
“You guys want to try some tea? I just got it. It’s pretty good.”
We really needed the break more than we needed the tea, but we made ourselves cups of this new tea – and then, WOW.
“What is this?” I demanded in delight.
“It’s called Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride!” the young one called back.
“It tastes like the frosting on Sugar Cookies!” the third one of us called out. This tea is seriously good, it tasted like cookies, but it is tea, and NO CALORIES!
No, no, not the CELEBRATION of Christmas . . . That’s just beginning. But the craziness of getting ready for Christmas, after which you can sit back and enjoy some time for reflection.
A lot of the pain is self-inflicted. Before I even went to Seattle, I got out the garland and threaded it up the stairs. Found some glittering stars, and worked it so they would twirl and send twinkles of light throughout the entry. I sighed and puffed up and down the stairs . . . putting on lights is hard work, especially if, like me, you like LOTS of lights, it is hard work . . . but so, so worth it in the end. We had a little Christmas lighting up the house!
Years and years ago, like thirty years ago, I took a lot of time embroidering this Christmas wreath, so up it goes, every year: DONE
Life was on the fast track when I got back from Seattle, so I did a little bit every day, like “on the first day of Christmas prep, I hung the reindeer . . . “
Then, it’s counter-intuitive, but I needed to get the outside lights up. Like how can it be Christmas if you don’t share? I’m annoyed that the icicle lights don’t match the tree lights; I’ll have to deal with that . . . next year
Now, to drag out all the boxes for the Christmas tree inside, and oh, what an adventure, always, to find forgotten treasures and to remember where we got the ornaments. I find all the pieces of the tree and set it up. I hate using an artificial tree, but the real trees get SO dry, especially when Pensacola experiences an unseasonal warm spell. It’s like you end up with large branches empty of needles, and you find needles strewn on our carpets for months to come.
We saved a few ornaments for Q to “help” and three was just the right number, four was one too many, LOL!
The camel my friend in Doha made me – a Wise Man’s camel, following the great star, laden with gifts for the new baby:
Brass Christmas ornaments from the Women’s Cooperative in Damascus, along with a manger scene from Germany, and a cross – another cross – from Kuwait. Yes, yes, if you knew where to look, there were Christmas ornaments all over Qatar and Kuwait:
An Italian Creche and a tiny French Santon Creche, jumbled with collected camels and wise men . . . who says there can be only three wise men? I like LOTS of wise men come to greet the new baby Jesus
A Nurnberg angel from our first year of marriage and a Damascus tablecloth from our last trip to Damascus:
Rosenthal angels; I think I might have had these even before I married AdventureMan:
Have to have a nutcracker – or two, or three . . .
Some antique German glass ornaments, too fragile to be hung on the tree:
A total mishmash of all the places we have been, so much fun. Hard work, yes, pulling it all out every year, but every year we grin when we see our old friends and think of all the good times we have had in so many different countries!
Welcome, Jesus! Welcome, all who celebrate the season of your birth!
“Today is forecast to be much cooler than yesterday”
This morning I woke up to discover I had slept eight hours. This is something wonderful for me; a week ago I had to give up taking Benedryl. I am a light sleeper, and I have allergies, so taking one Benedryl every night helped me with both. My doctor said it was time to give it up, that components of Benedryl are thought to contribute to formation of those plaques that speed Alzheimer’s and dementia. Yikes!
For a week I have struggled. I could go to sleep normally, but would awake around three and spend a couple hours wishing I were asleep. Sometimes I could fall back asleep, sometimes not. Part of the problem is the unseasonal warmness of the temperatures, I toss and turn, looking for a cool place.
Then, if I had not managed to get back to sleep, I would find myself getting cross during the following day, a sure sign, just like a toddler, that I need a nap. My naps would be deep and restoring, but probably not that great if I wanted to sleep well the next night. It was a self-perpetuating and destructive cycle. I wondered if I would ever be able to sleep normally again.
Last night I slept normally, and deeply. I woke at six, rested, happy. It helped that the Qatari Cat found elsewhere to curl up last night; many a night I wake up and he is tangled up in my legs and bedding, snoring with contentment. Most important – last night it was cooler. When the temperatures hit in the seventies outside, it can be around 80°F inside when we go to bed, and it makes me restless. I like colder temperatures, and – last night was colder. I slept great! It gives me hope!
Temperatures are lower today, too, and it gives me energy. The heat saps my drive; the cooler temperatures help me be more productive, a good thing in a season where there is much to do!
A perfect evening. Got there minutes before the one mile runners came by, parking at our church and walking to our favorite spot, meeting up with our son, his wife, and the adorable little boy who truly gets everything that is happening. This is his third parade; he always loved the lights and loud noises, but this year, he GETS it, gets the floats and the bands and the BEADS!
“I love this tradition,” my daughter-in-law says, leaning over to kiss me as we meet up to watch the parade and do a little-boy-transfer. He is coming to spend the night with us. He has his own room in our house.
ZOOOOOMMMMM! the motorcycle police accompany the runners, EEERRRRRRRROOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWW the fire engine, all lights and noise comes by at the beginning of the parade, and then a high school band from New Orleans with a killer beat leads the parade. Wooooo HOOOOOOOO, shouts Intlxpatr, totally into another cultural experience.
One of the optical shops had running eyeballs, totally hilarious!
This float was giving out Chobani yoghurt
“Beads! Beads! More beads!” People taller than I were catching beads – and then passing them on to the little children. So kind, so generous.
My favorite, of course, a pirate ship:
This parade is great fun. Here is a thing I love about Pensacola. About 50,000 people attend. Many walk from nearby neighborhoods, others drive down and park – there is still plenty of parking in Pensacola. People gather peacefully. There is no fighting over great spots; there are a lot of great spots from which you can watch the parade. At the end of the parade, everyone disperses peacefully – no fighting. In fifteen – twenty minutes the crowd is GONE, 50,000 people gone home, peacefully. It is a great community, all walks of life, all having a great time watching this home town Christmas parade.
Early this morning, the morning after, we started a new tradition – we got a long stick with a hook, and went after some of the beads stuck up in the trees. AdventureMan and Q got started while I went to church, meeting up with some experts who gave them tips – and beads. Such is the kindness of strangers, and the brotherhood of bead chasers.
The weather in Pensacola is crazy right now, after a couple months of cooling temperatures, we are up in the 70′s during the days and down in the 60′s at night, maybe the 50′s – it is so warm that our aloe is blossoming, she thinks it is spring.
The good news is that the Pensacola Christmas Parade is tomorrow night, and it looks like it will be a balmy evening with NO RAIN! We are looking forward to taking our grandson – this will be his third Christmas Parade, but this is the first time he is really walking and talking, and we think the sound and lights (it always starts with the motorcycle police and the fire engines blasting and all their emergency lights spinning) are going to blow him away. This year he will be able to shout “beads! beads!” and scramble with the other kids for beads and candies; the parade is a wild mix of Christmas and Mardi Gras. It is a hilarious experience, and we are eager to see it through his eyes.
It’s that wonderful time in the church year, the new year starting in Advent, and we begin back at the beginning of the psalms and read the forecasts of Isaiah. My very favorite time of the year, so full of expectation of the coming of the tiny baby who changes everything . . .
1 Why do the nations conspire,
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and his anointed, saying,
3 ‘Let us burst their bonds asunder,
and cast their cords from us.’
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord has them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 ‘I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.’
7 I will tell of the decree of the Lord:
He said to me, ‘You are my son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron,
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’
10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
with trembling 12kiss his feet,*
or he will be angry, and you will perish in the way;
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Happy are all who take refuge in him.
10 Hear the word of the Lord,
you rulers of Sodom!
Listen to the teaching of our God,
you people of Gomorrah!
11 What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt-offerings of rams
and the fat of fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
or of lambs, or of goats.
12 When you come to appear before me,*
who asked this from your hand?
Trample my courts no more;
13 bringing offerings is futile;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation—
I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.
14 Your new moons and your appointed festivals
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me,
I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you stretch out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings
from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
17 learn to do good;
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow.
18 Come now, let us argue it out,
says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be like snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
you shall eat the good of the land;
20 but if you refuse and rebel,
you shall be devoured by the sword;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Thank you, Hayfa, this is glorious!
Thanksgiving and Christmas are some of the hardest times of the year for American expats to be away from home and family – so we gather together, create our overseas family, and celebrate. Some of our very best celebrations have been overseas, pot-lucking with friends from many nations.