Animal Kingdom

We were up and out the door at 6 am this morning, on the way to Disney’s Animal Kingdom with my daughter, son-in-law, and two of our grandsons. For the little guys, Elijah and Daniel, it was their first Disney experience, so we were all very excited.

The drive through Orlando wasn’t too harrowing, even through rush hour. It’s pretty much one big construction zone the whole way, though. The crowds pouring through the gates were formidable from the minute the park opened.

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First stop was the Festival of the Lion King, a wonderful music and dance performance by some extremely talented folks. Eli’s a big Lion King fan, so it was a hit. 

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Next stop was a fast pass appointment with Mickey and Minnie!

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Eli rode the Triceratops ride at least five times. 

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The weather wasn’t too hot, but still perfect for a nice, messy, sticky strawberry popsicle. 

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Pluto spent a lot of time dancing around the bone yard…

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…while Eli made a lot of trips down a big spiral slide. 

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A random nice person gave Eli a long stuffed purple snake won at an arcade game!

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Eli capped off his day by scoring a really cool bubble wand. 

We also enjoyed the “It’s Hard Being a Bug” show, the safari, and the “Finding Nemo” musical.

A few tips for those headed to Animal Kingdom in the future:

  • The app lets you know all the wait times. Great resource.
  • The park was most crowded in the morning, then thinned out in the afternoon. Going later is a good idea.
  • A 210 minute wait for the Avatar ride? Three-and-a-half hours? Better use your fast pass or forget it. It must be an amazing ride. (We didn’t even go to that part of the park.)
  • There’s a Starbucks on property! It’s worth going just to see how quickly they can crank out the lattes.
  • Dress your child in a red shirt if you are going to let them eat the red popsicle. And the frozen chocolate covered banana is plenty big to share.
  • It’s OK to bring your own water into the park.
  • You can eat paleo at the park. Grilled chicken salad for lunch.
  • The bars have a nice selection of beers. For $10 each! I didn’t drink today.
  • Even though it takes longer to load up the dinos than the ride itself, the Triceratops ride never gets old. Like the Dumbo ride at Magic Kingdom.
  • Animal Kingdom feels more relaxed than the other parks I’ve been to.

I hadn’t been to a Disney attraction in years. Taking the little ones made it worthwhile.

 

My Good Friday Bible

Today, I dusted off what I call my “Good Friday” bible and took it into the sanctuary in preparation for tonight’s Tenebrae (darkness) worship service. I call it my “Good Friday” bible because that is the one day a year when I use this massive volume. It measures about 12″x9″x3″ and weighs about 8 pounds, easily the largest book on my shelves. It has more than enough power for the end of the worship service when in complete darkness I slam it on the altar, reminding us of the closing up of Jesus’ tomb.

I received this bible from my mom and dad on my wedding day, nearly thirty-four years ago. They, too had a large bible like this at home that had been given to them. I don’t remember ever reading from it much. We had plenty of other bibles that we used for our personal and family devotions. The large bible contained a little bit of family tree names and dates, plus a couple of inspirational bookmarks.

I have slammed this bible on the altar thirty-two times, the number of years I have been a pastor and led worship on Good Friday. You can tell from the cracked binding that this book was only designed to be slammed about twenty-five times.

As I opened it up, I saw the dedication page written by my mom, with the reference to Psalm 18:30-36 and her blessing and prayer, “May your children give you as much joy as you have me.”

This psalm reference contains one of her favorite scriptural images, “He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places” (Psalm 18:33 KJV). One of my mom’s favorite books was Hannah Hurnard’s Hinds’ Feet on High Places, “a timeless allegory dramatizing the yearning of God’s children to be led to new heights of love, joy, and victory” (Amazon.com). She purchased and gave away dozens of those books. She knew well the difficult life in the trenches as a mom, wife and nurse. But she also knew joy. She knew the thrill of skipping sure-footedly across the mountains of God’s promises to see the past, present and future from a whole new perspective. I am thankful that she passed that thrill along to me.

By grace, God heard and answered her prayer many times over. My children and now my grandchildren continue to fill my life with so much joy! Thirty-four years later, I understand what mom was talking about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snoozin’

img-8295.jpgThis is probably one of my favorite pictures ever, from the early spring of 1986. We were still in our little rental house in Ft. Wayne, IN. I was getting ready to graduate from the seminary and was anticipating my first call to pastoral ministry.

The dark-haired guy is me, probably catching up on sleep after working the closing shift at Subway. The store closed at 2 am, but I didn’t get home till about 4. But I did get to bring home a foot long each shift, our meal the next day. The little guy sleeping next to me is my son Adam, just a few months old. I’m sure he was up the night before, too. The yellow lab is Gabriel, always up for a nap in the bed with us. He was a good source of warmth during the bitterly cold Ft. Wayne winters.

Needless to say, I don’t remember this moment. But I do remember that time in my life, when changes came quickly and often. I got Gabe as a pup in 1980, when I lived in NJ. In the next six years, I moved to Texas, then to Ft. Wayne to begin my seminary studies. I met my wife, got married, moved to Baltimore for vicarage, moved back to Ft. Wayne, had a son, and would move to Connecticut in just a few months. All in the space of six years. No wonder we were tired!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Distillery day

Today I went on a field trip with my son Adam to the St. Augustine Distillery. Awesome trip, tour, tasting and lunch.

We arrived just before the beginning of the 11:30 am tour. (Tours begin every half-hour.) About two dozen people had arrived before us, and our tour guide, Michael, quickly herded us all into the staging area of the 100+ year old building originally built as an ice plant. IMG-8223

Michael gave us an entertaining history of the distillery, plus a description of what to expect inside. This location is classified as a micro-distillery. They have won many awards for their bourbon, rum, vodka and gin in that category.

The tour wasn’t long. The first stop was the room where the mash was prepared and the two-stage distilling took place. The second stop was the barrels. The third stop was a tasing room, where Michael donned his bartender hat and prepared Florida Mules and a rum punch for us to sample. Both were excellent. IMG-8227

The final stop was the gift shop, where two more bartenders prepared an Old Fashioned and a gin concoction for us. Again, both were delicious. After that, we had the chance to sample the double casked bourbon and a port casked bourbon. Sales of all their bottled products, glassware, mixers and other cool stuff funded the free tours and samples, so of course, we took some home with us.

After supper tonight, I poured a little of the double casked bourbon for my son-in-law and father-in-law, and we all agreed that it was tasty, complex, and for my money, an excellent whiskey!

We could have had lunch at the Ice Plant Restaurant upstairs, but elected to enjoy some pork and brisket sandwiches at Mojo old city barbecue instead (one of my favorite places.)

 

Christmases two and three

img_8086.jpgToday was crazy fun as we had Christmases two and three. I picked up my son, daughter-in-law and grandkids at the airport last night and got home about 10 pm. We planned to open Christmas gifts with the children this morning and our secret Santas and white elephants tonight. It was way more fun than I anticipated.

Take a pile of gifts and stir in a one, two and three year old and you have a recipe for an energy-filled Christmas “two” morning. We had so much fun with the current Paw Patrol and PJ Masks characters, and doctor kits that we didn’t want to break away for our traditional breakfast of cinnamon rolls, quiche and fruit.

We spent a good portion of a beautiful Florida December afternoon outside, playing hide and seek, swinging and following lizards and frogs. In the evening, we had a rare gathering of my whole family four generations including my wife’s parents, our three children and their spouses, plus the three grandkids. As Elijah began grace by saying, “Our Father, thank you for this food…” I felt incredibly thankful for this rare moment of togetherness.

After a supper of filet mignon, salad and curly fries, we had Christmas “three” and opened the hand-made secret Santa presents we made for each other and chose our white elephant gifts. Our evening was blessed with laughter, personally crafted gifts and the best gift: togetherness. There’s a gift I wouldn’t exchange for anything else in the world.

With family spread out around the country and work commitments that limit travel, time together is a rare moment and precious gift. img_8083.jpg

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What do the holidays do to you?

denise-johnson-426641As I was browsing through some stories and articles on Medium, I ran across this curious statement: “The holidays do things to some people.” So I began to wonder, “What kinds of things?” Not necessarily bad things. Hopefully good things, too.

The holidays make some people very generous. They give a lot to those whom they love as well as to strangers and causes of every size and shape. That’s a good thing, right?

The holidays make some some very family conscious. There is an underlying expectation that family will gather to celebrate, making it necessary to get time off, plan travel, pack and head out with zillions of other people to make the journey “home.” That’s good, right? Pretty much, unless you’ve neglected that dimension of your life for the past year, making it feel like you’re in an awkward roomful of strangers who don’t know each other very well.

The holidays are a whole bucket full of stress for some. That’s probably not a good thing. Folks become more and more snippy as the season unfolds. Too much to do, not enough time, and unrealistic expectations sap tidings of comfort and joy from their lives.

The holidays drive some to excess. It’s so easy to spend too much, drink too much, schedule too much, and eat too much. Probably not good.

The holidays sometimes prompts you to reflect on your life, the year past, your relationships, and the stuff you have. Such reflection can generate gratitude, make you dream, help you set goals, and maybe try something new. That one sounds good to me.

What do the holidays do to you?

No gifts for you!

david-everett-strickler-60328.jpgMy wife and I stopped buying Christmas gifts for each other a long time ago.

Why? Read on.

It wasn’t always that way. Early on in our marriage we did buy gifts for each other. What kind of gifts? Beats me. I don’t remember any of them. Actually, that’s not true. I remember one, but only because we video-recorded opening gifts one year in Connecticut. She got me a beard trimmer. I got her some kind of personal grooming thing. That may have been the moment when we both realized, “This is stupid.” We were spending money, often in short supply, on gifts for each other for no other reason than the culture demanded that we buy gifts for each other. It was a lot more fun buying toys for the kids. It was a lot more fun going somewhere and doing something. That may have been the year we decided to not worry about buying Christmas gifts for each other. And we’ve never looked back.

One of the reasons this makes a lot of sense is that I just don’t have much that I want. My Amazon.com wish list is pathetic. If you ask me, what do you want for Christmas, I won’t have much to offer. Frustrating? You bet. I have forgotten about, thrown away, and given away most of the gifts we’ve received over the years. Bottom line: why bother?

If you have read this far, you have probably categorized us as scrooges, which is pretty judgmental and harsh. Come one, give us a break. We have replaced the ceremonial, obligatorial (how do you like that word?) gift-giving mechanism with something that means much more to us. I always create a Christmas card with a poem for Lisa. Then, we invest our Christmas gift dollars into either going to be with our kids, or bringing them here to spend Christmas with us. Believe me, that is a precious, valuable, and memorable gift! Nothing else (not even a nice bottle of scotch or bourbon) will touch that in the gift category!

Our Christmas memory book is filled with photos of our times together, not the merchandise exchanged. Our mental memory books are filled with images of family, places, laughter, births, marriages, baptisms, confirmations, weddings, funerals, and parties together. It’s not the stuff, folks, but the relationships and experiences that I want.

This is our year to have everyone at our home for Christmas. In a perfect world, we get every other year. I told my wife today that I have saved up seven months of patience to spend with our grandchildren (ages 3, 2 and 1), so bring it! I will push the swing, play with dinosaurs, line up the miniature cars, eat pretend food, color pictures, make worms with the Playdoh, roll in the grass, pull the bike trailer, push the swing, and read stories until I drop from exhaustion! There is nothing you can give me that can compare to hugging my tall, handsome son and my beautiful, diminutive daughters! (Take a breath girls, and focus on “beautiful”…)

This year, our family exchanged names, so that we only buy one gift for one other person. Grandchildren are exempt. We can buy as many toys for them as we want. But for the exchange, our gifts must be homemade or experiential. It wasn’t mine, but it is a very cool idea. I have received homemade journals in the past, definitely a winner, because I go through three or four a year. I wouldn’t complain if my gift were a few shots or beers at a local establishment. I promise to write about my gift, both given and received, right after our Christmas/New Year celebration.

Do you want to get off the hamster wheel of Christmas gift giving and receiving? Stop giving stuff. Give to a charity. Then, take your significant other out and do something fun. Trust me, it will be worth it!

 

 

Grandpa Douthwaite

Me with pop and grannyOne of my favorite (but not too difficult) trivia questions to ask those who know me as William Douthwaite III is, “What is my grandfather’s name?” Without too much thought you should be able to come up with “William” as the correct answer.

My only memory of William Douthwaite, Sr. (whom my dad called “Pop,” and who died in 1959), is seeing him in bed at his Ridley Park apartment, with a glass straw in his drink. I’ve never seen a glass straw since, although I know they are available. If this is a reliable memory, it is my earliest, since I was at best two years old.

William, Sr. was a carpenter. My dad kept some of his tools in a homemade toolbox for years. My grandfather had seven children, of whom my father, William, Jr., was the youngest. And that is about all the information I have about him.

I believe this picture is my baptism day, September 29, 1957, one of the few when all my grandparents were together at the same time. He would have been 80 years old in this picture. I have not found any other pictures of me with William, Sr.

My friend Richard, who did a little ancestry work for me has been able to trace the Douthwaite name to Richard Douthwaite who was born in 1580 in Warcop, Lancanshire, England. Before that, the records are spotty and uncertain.

 

Grandpa Golcher

three guysThis is one of the few pictures I have of my dad, grandfather (my mom’s dad) and myself.  I think I am about three years old here. How many pictures will my grandchildren have with their grandfathers? Hundreds and hundreds.

Grandpa Julius Golcher is somewhat of an enigma. When a friend who knew his way around genealogy attempted to do a family tree on my mom’s side, he could go no further back than Julius’ parents in Costa Rica. Which is interesting, because we were always told he was from Argentina.

As you can see from the picture, he wore one of those old wired hearing aids. He worked as a machinist in Philadelphia, but was placed in the Philadelphia State Hospital at Byberry at some point, suffering from a form of Parkinson’s disease attributed to the Spanish influenza epidemic of the early 20th century.

I do remember that he primarily spoke Spanish, which means that there must be a compelling story of how he met his wife Mary Fox, my mom’s mom. She immigrated from England and worked as a nanny in Philadelphia, which is interesting because we were always told she was a governess, but census records tell a different story. Ancestry on her side only goes back as far as a lighthouse somewhere along the North Sea. (There are too many “Mary Foxes” from that time frame to know which branch of the tree to follow.) She came to America with two sisters, Peg and Elsie. I knew her much better, and will write about her in a future post.

Somehow that unlikely couple got together and had three daughters, but I’m not sure there is anyone left who knows that story. They raised their family in a row home on Rosalie Street in the Olney section of northeast Philadelphia.

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Here we are in NE Phila when I was 15 months old.

That’s all I’ve got on Grandpa Golcher. But I am pretty sure that my brother and sister and I all got our thick heads of hair from him.