Snow in the Desert

Long before there was a movie by the same name, people everywhere questioned what elements make up ‘the perfect storm.’ Here in Arizona, I have a very simple answer.

Snow in the desert.

Following a glorious Saturday St. Patrick’s Day–by the way I finally stopped eating shepherd’s pie and corned beef and cabbage leftovers on Thursday–we were treated to a ‘perfect storm.’ The cold front that developed in the Northwest and California delivered precipitation and unusually cool temperatures to us on Saturday night.  Rain and intermittent snow continued through Sunday and Monday with crashing snow levels in Arizona’s mountainous terrain.

Eventually some of the snow, mixed in with a surprisingly generous sprinkling of tiny lumps of hail, came to outlying areas of the lower Sonoran Desert. Seeing the beautiful dusting of snow on the mountains that surround most of Anthem and New River, my neighbor and good buddy Ed and I grabbed our camera gear Monday morning and headed out for delightful photo-remedy.

Just outside of Black Canyon City, we encountered the developing white blanket of nature. The saguaros appeared to be raising their arms in a strange battle cry silently shouting, “You’ll never win.” Even the wildflowers seemingly sported a strange air of arrogance and wisdom, knowing they had a weapon (the sun) that would most assuredly smack down anything the north could throw at them.

They were right.

By Thursday, our temperatures were back into the 70s and rapidly heading to the 80s. This is glorious, familiar territory for me. I will, however, remain thankful that even in the desert mother nature has the ability to occasionally wrap her gifts in white.

It’s a great reminder for all of us. Nothing in life is guaranteed. And, the minute we think it is, new enemies and new battles will eventually surface. Let us never forget that we can also emerge victorious. After all, we have the Son!

– Greg

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St. Patrick’s Day Countdown – Get Your Green on Tomorrow

Today we wrap up our St. Patrick’s Day Countdown with a short exchange that Amanda and I had during her final day on the Emerald Isle. I’ve always had a hard time explaining why I’m so drawn to my Irish heritage. I make a stab at it for Amanda below.

Looking back now, I guess I would just have to say that I fell in love with the passion for Ireland that so many of my Mother’s immigrant relatives possessed. My mother’s relatives were all clearly thankful for, and proud of, the United States. Ireland, however, would forever hold a piece of their hearts. For them, it would always be home.

They fought valiantly to keep some of their sacred traditions alive in their/our new home. When my family and I celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in grand style, I feel like there’s a chance we are appropriately honoring their hearts’ desire.

May our Good and Gracious Lord be with you and yours on this St. Patrick’s Day. And may the luck of the Irish be with you all–no matter where you or yours call home–in the year ahead. God bless!

Amanda takes a "boat break" in Killarney National Park

Day 7 of Amanda’s Ireland Trip; August 26, 2007

Amanda wrote:
Okay, so we went to Knock on Saturday and it was pretty cool. Knock is very small—so it was quite different from the other cities we had seen in Ireland. The Shrine was beautiful, much like the town: simple and rather understated. I guess it just reflects the whole story of the apparition that occurred here. We actually had to sleep on the floor of a dining room in a B&B, as everything else was booked out because of a conference that was going on at the Shrine. On Sunday, we left Knock for Dublin. We missed our first bus to Dublin because we were at the wrong stop. We literally saw the bus drive right past us. It was horrible! We had to wait three hours for the next bus. Our flight to Austria went well. It took just a few hours…not too bad. The journey to our campus in Gaming (pronounced Gahm-ing) was amazing! The town, situated in rural Austria at the base of the Alps, is unbelievably beautiful!! Hope all is well there! I’ll write later!!

Dad’s reply to Amanda:

I’m going to miss hearing about your Irish escapades. I keep wondering if you saw a bit of us in the people you came across. My mother’s family was SO Irish and so emotionally connected to their (our) heritage. I remember when my mom and Aunt Julie visited. As I recall it, they were in a pub chatting with the locals when Julie got all teary-eyed and said, “I feel like we are at one of our family reunions.” That’s how familiar it felt to them. I’m thinking the joint must have been filled with pranksters whose hearts were exceeded in size only by the height of their beer mugs.

We really missed having you here this past weekend. We finally had a blessing and
dedication for the first worship space at our new church. The turnout was amazing
and the ceremony was so nice. Just between us, I had to choke back the tears when
Matt and the gang sang Holy Ground. Of course, I acted like it was the damn sun,
but they were happy tears. I wish you could have been here—everybody is always
asking about you and sending good thoughts and prayers your way. Jeff even has a
picture of you and Andrew in his new Youth Minister’s office.

Holy Ground Medley
This is Holy Ground, we’re standing on holy ground
For the Lord is here, and where He is is Holy.
This is Holy Ground, we’re standing on holy ground
For the Lord is here, and where He is is Holy.
These are Holy hands, we’re lifting up holy hands
He works though these hands, and so these hands are holy.
These are Holy hands, we’re lifting up holy hands
He works though these hands, and so these hands are holy.
– Words and music by Geron Davis; ©1983 Meadowgreen Music/Songchannel Music Words and music by Christopher Beatty; ©1982 Birdwing Music/BMG songs, Inc.

Amanda’s reply to Dad:
I am really sad I didn’t get to go to the dedication, but I bet it was beautiful! And Matt’s voice is amazing! I will just keep praying for even more buildings to get started. Being in beautiful churches over here really makes me miss having a real church to call my own—not some elementary school gym. However, I guess I should be thankful for what God has given us.

Note: For an entertaining look at the story behind the making of Being Amanda in Europe, visit http://www.beingagilstrap.com.

St. Patrick’s Day Countdown – Part 3

Today we continue our countdown to St. Patrick’s Day with details of Amanda’s 2007 Ireland travels. On the fifth and sixth days of her journey with several fellow Franciscan University of Steubenville students, their adventures (and mis-adventures) led them to a nearly heavenly nap on the fabled Cliffs of Moher.

Day 5 of Amanda’s Ireland Trip; August 24, 2007

Amanda wrote:

So, first of all, let me tell you why my grammar and spelling is so bad. It is because the keyboards here are extremely messed up—I am not used to them and their unusual key placement. And, I am usually writing during the few “breaks” I have during the day. I am almost always rushing to complete my notes. So, yes, I have a defense. It will get better when I am at school in Austria and am back on my own American laptop. 🙂

Amanda (in the middle) with friends in Ireland

Today, nothing has really happened. We woke up in Killarney and went to Mass.
Then, we realized that we were going to miss our bus to Galway and literally had
to run with our 50-pound backpacks to the bus station, and we made it there with
like only five minutes to spare. It was great, LOL, not! I was especially sore this
morning. So, basically we have been on the bus the whole day. I slept pretty much
the whole time because I was exhausted. So, there is nothing too exciting to tell
today. We are at our hostel right now—which is super nice. Soon, we will be off
to dinner. I hope everyone is doing well and Andrew is getting to work and school on time. 🙂 You can tell him I said that. Mom—I know you miss having a girl around. I hope that the boys are not too hard on you! I am there in spirit! Thanks for the writing compliments, Dad. I really appreciate it. I am just trying to get you in the moment too. 🙂 I’ll post pictures on the Internet once I get to Austria. Then you will be able to compare the writing to the photos. Let me know if I do these beautiful places any justice. Ok, I am off. I love you all and miss you!

Amanda

Thank you for the blessings—I love them, and everyone else does too!

Dad’s reply to Amanda:
I didn’t stop to think about the laptops being different over there—I just thought you were writing “instant messaging” style. I’m sure there are a lot of things that are different that we assume might be the same. We are really looking forward to seeing your pictures.

As you could tell from our trip this summer to the beautiful Plaza in Kansas City, capturing the spirit of a special place in a picture is one of my favorite things to do. Sometimes I think to myself, “There would be so many more people who appreciated this place if only they could see it the way I see it through the viewfinder.” I think God is like that too, with places AND people. Looking though his viewfinder, or through his eyes, we are all special.

IRISH BLESSING OF THE DAY:
May God give you…
For every storm, a rainbow,
For every tear, a smile,
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life sends,
A faithful friend to share,
For every sigh, a sweet song,
And an answer for each prayer.

Love ya,

D@D

Day 6 of Amanda’s Ireland Trip; August 25, 2007

Amanda wrote:
Hey Parents! Today was interesting, to say the least…Ha Ha Ha! We left for the Cliffs of Moher early this morning. After about a two-hour bus ride, we got there at like 10-ish. It was crazy. It was really foggy, but the cliffs were still so beautiful. There were moments when the fog cleared and you could see the grandness of the cliffs. It was crazy! Granted, I was expecting cliffs like the Grand Canyon, but they actually were not as tall as I was expecting. Nevertheless, they were still really unique and beautiful!

We went off on this side-trail that was definitely marked “Private Property—Do Not Enter.” But, we thought, “What the heck?” A ton of other people were doing it, so we followed suit. 🙂 We hiked a good ways—and all the hiking was like literally right on the cliff’s edge. I was so scared, but it was really cool. Then, we found this one spot that had a large area to sit, but it was still very close to the cliffs. We hung out and impulsively decided to take a nap. All of us fell asleep for like 45 minutes! It was the best nap I have had on this vacation. Falling asleep to the sound of the waves crashing and the birds flying around while calling out to each other was so cool! Then, I woke up and just prayed a peace prayer (which is
this thing my friend Greg gave us). It was just cool to be in the midst of God’s grandeur—praising him for the special moment and this whole trip. After that, we went back to the main area and, no joke, we had to hitchhike back to the closest city to the Cliffs of Moher (which was like nine km away). When we got back there, we had lunch and then we hitchhiked back to Galway. It was really not as easy as it sounds with seven people! We had to travel in groups of three and four. Jagla, Becca, and I finally got a ride after about an hour to a city that was a 30-minute bus ride from Galway. We just caught another bus from there! It was really hard trying to get someone to stop—I think most people would have, but they just didn’t have the room. Darn those tiny cars! But, it was a lot of fun. Both of the people who gave us rides were really nice and we had great conversations with them. While I enjoyed hitchhiking here in Ireland, it definitely is not something I would recommend in the States. Last, we met back up with the rest of the group and went to dinner. Now, we are going to hang out! I hope all is well! I miss you guys! I hope you are printing this out so Mom and the boys can read this too, Dad!

Love you!

Amanda

Dad’s reply to Amanda:
Pumpkin: You may be overseas, but your mom and I still feel the need to be parents and say, “What the heck are you doing hitchhiking?” We would obviously sleep easier if
you didn’t do that. Moving on…today you learned an important lesson of travel and, perhaps, life. And that is: everything is relative and based on our own experiences. If you had never left Kansas, where you were born, and the deceptively beautiful landscape had never been more severe than rolling hills, I bet those cliffs would have seemed much more imposing and monumental. Spending a decade and a half or so in Arizona obviously sets a high standard for other places. It is harder for the landscape to appear completely grandiose when your frame of reference is, in fact, the Grand Canyon. Of course, it can work in reverse as well. A cool breeze and the breaking of the ocean waves on the rocks is something we don’t see every day here. Keep taking it all in—enjoy the moment!

IRISH BLESSING OF THE DAY:
The love and affection of the angels be to you,
The love and affection of the saints be to you,
The love and affection of heaven be to you,
To guard and to cherish you.
May God shield you on every step,
May He aid you on every path,
And may He hold you safe on every slope,
On every hill and on every plain,
On earth and on sea until you are home again.

Love,

D@D

Note: Photo-remedy is published as a labor of love. Please feel free to share the site, or any of our posts, with others. Our Home Page always features an option for our readers to sign up to immediately receive new material as an email. We hope you will become a part of our photo-remedy network. For those interested in a complete copy of our travel book “Being Amanda in Europe,” please visit beingagilstrap.com or Amazon.com.

St. Patrick’s Day Countdown – Part 2

Our countdown to St. Patrick’s Day 2012 continues today with additional excerpts from Being Amanda In Europe. Highlights of days three and four of Amanda’s Ireland trip include exploring the beautiful Killarney National Park and biking the Gap of Dunloe.

Day 3 of Amanda’s Ireland Trip; August 22, 2007

Amanda wrote:
I am sorry the house is so quiet now! William will probably not like all that attention, but I am chuckling to think that would upset him! Yesterday was pretty relaxed. Our bus trip from Dublin to Killarney was six hours! It was pretty
tiring and boring ’cause I forgot my Ipod! It ended up being a great conversation time with everyone. The directions to our hostel stunk, but we eventually found
it. We then went to a grocery store, bought dinner, walked in this amazing park, and had a picnic. We then walked through the park to a castle. Yeah, that’s right, I said castle in a park! It was amazing. It was right on a lake and we were fortunate enough to be there at sunset. It was just so beautiful! I took a bunch of pictures that I can’t wait to show you! Then, we came back out of the park and decided to
try and find a local bar with traditional Irish music. We got the first bar wrong.It was like 90s music; good, but not Irish. Then we found the traditional bar. It was sweet; it was really laid-back and we just chilled out. It was exactly what I had imagined.

Franciscan University Men in Ireland

I had a Bulmer’s Cider—it was way good. Then I tried a Jameson whiskey on the
rocks—really good (both are made in Ireland)! Today might be the day I have
been looking forward to the most! We are off to church. We then plan on making
breakfast in our hostel and going on our own biking trip around the park. We
might go fishing and boating! I cannot wait. I wish you could see it here; it truly
is out of a story book. I will keep taking lots of photos!

Thanks for the Irish blessings; I love them!

Amanda

Dad’s reply to Amanda:

With the three of you kids gone during the day, the cats have seemed to come out of hiding. Little Stella is hanging out a lot in my office now. She stops by two to three times a day and gives me this sweet little “Meow.” I think it means, “Hey, fat man, pick me up!” So I do. She snuggles and purrs for a couple of minutes then she is on her way. It reminds me a lot of when you were young (two to three years old). You’d get in trouble for this or that, and when I (finally) got done explaining why you shouldn’t do that, you would stomp your feet and yell, “Hold me!” I think you meant, “Hold me, damn it,” but you didn’t actually say “damn it” until a few years later.

IRISH BLESSING OF THE DAY:
A Wish for a Friend
Wishing you a rainbow
For sunlight after showers—
Miles and miles of Irish smiles
For golden happy hours—
Shamrocks at your doorway
For luck and laughter too,
And a host of friends that never ends
Each day your whole life through!

Love,

D@D

Day 4 of Amanda’s Ireland Trip; August 23, 2007

Amanda wrote:
Oh jeez, Dad! I am pretty sure I was not thinking “Damn it.” I probably just
thought I deserved it and that I’m your only girl! Today was amazing, Mom and Dad. I don’t think I will be coming back to the States. I am just going to move to Ireland in December and live in Killarney!

The Torc Waterfall

We went to Mass today at a Franciscan Friary. After the service, the priest came up
and offered to give us a tour of the Friary and the gardens! It was great, and such a
blessing! Then, the boys made us breakfast. Later, we went and rented our bikes.
Dad, oh my gosh, the Killarney National Park is amazing! I can’t even put into
words how beautiful it is. We went to Muckross House. It was huge, and the
gardens there were fantastic. I think Ireland only produces magnificent gardens! Then,
we went to Torc Waterfall and climbed the waterfall. I totally fell in, big time. I mean I was
purposefully getting my shoes wet, but I then accidentally fell in up to my chest. It was typical me!

We then biked down the highway, or what I like to call the “Death Highway.” It was this two-lane major highway that seemed like it was only built for one car and there was no room
for another car (let alone several bikes). We were so crammed on the side! I didn’t want to do it, but everyone else insisted. The reason we went on it was because we were on our way to bike the Gap of Dunloe—which was probably the toughest bike ride I have ever done! We biked up these huge mountains all the way up to the top of the gap. Dad, it was horrible—even you would have walked your bike (Editor’s note: This is where Amanda is just plain wrong. Before my back surgeries and having to terminate my beloved bike riding, I would have made it up the mountain). It was so tiring…but the scenery was beautiful! Then, biking down was great! I felt so victorious! The view was even more spectacular on the way down!

The whole time, I kept wishing you all were here! I feel so unworthy of being here
without you guys. I really wish you could see everything, I did take videos—I
hope that helps. In the end, we biked over 30 miles uphill. Go look at a map of Killarney National Park and you can see our route. Start with Killarney and then trace to Muckross
and then over to the Gap. Yeah, we biked all of that!

Ok, I gotta go. We are off to Galway tommorow!

Love you!
Amanda

Dad’s reply to Amanda:

Don’t feel guilty being there without your (mostly) Irish Pop and before I get to see the homeland of our relatives. Your notes are so fun to read. We can live vicariously through you. Mom and I will get there someday and you are giving us some great tips to think about. I may be the trained journalist and have worked in the tourism industry for nearly 20 years, but I’m not sure I’m the best travel writer in the family. Despite your technology-age grammar and spelling, you really have a nice ability to bring a place to life. I’ll bet your brother, the English major, would be awesome at it as well. Keep it up—we are really enjoying your colorful descriptions. We can’t wait to hear about Galway.

IRISH BLESSING OF THE DAY:
May the Irish hills caress you.
May Her lakes and rivers bless you.
May the luck of the Irish enfold you.
May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.

Note: The mission of Photo-remedy is to help those fighting chronic pain and other ailments to use photography as a powerful tool to move their focus away from whatever ails them. In the process, we strive to enhance readers’ ability to see beauty and experience elevated joy in their lives. There are many gifts that can accompany health challenges; one of the greatest offerings is it frequently forces sufferers to set better priorities for their lives and assists them in seeing the world in new and more impactful ways. 

St. Patrick’s Day Countdown

St. Patrick’s Day is always a big deal at our house. Corned beef and cabbage simmer on the stove, Irish soda bread is in the oven just waiting to be covered in Irish butter and scoops of honey, and Irish music blares from most every speaker I can commandeer in the house. Before the day is over, a tear or two will be shared and you can always count on me attempting to teach those who gather on our front porch how to pour a Black and Tan.

I was going to go into a not-so-short description of why we celebrate and savor the day when ‘we are all Irish.’ Then it hit me. Why not just share the first chapter of the little travel book–Being Amanda In Europe–that I helped craft with Amanda and Andrew (our two oldest children)?

We have always got a great response to the shared letters featured in Amanda’s Ireland travels chapter; and the Irish blessings cannot help but warm the heart. Over the next four days, we will share the Irish story as we prepare for the arrival of another glorious St. Paddy’s Day!

– Greg


Day 1 of Amanda’s Ireland Trip; August 20, 2007

Amanda wrote:
We arrived here without any major problems; everyone got their bags fine! We
stored our luggage and just checked into Abraham house! We are off to the
historical jail for tonight and then Mass! I am well. I’ll e-mail you tomorrow with
another update before we go to Killarney!
Love ya!
Amanda
It’s beautiful here!

Dad’s reply to Amanda:
Thanks for the update. Sounds like you’ve got off to a nice start to the trip. I’m
jealous, Mass in Ireland and visiting Killarney during the first few hours abroad—
that should be awesome! Have fun, be careful, and God bless!
IRISH BLESSING OF THE DAY:
May there always be work for your hands to do,
May your purse always hold a coin or two.
May the sun always shine warm on your windowpane,
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain.
May the hand of a friend always be near you,
And may God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you!
May the blessings of each day
Be the blessings you need most.
Love,
D@D

Day 2 of Amanda’s Ireland Trip; August 21, 2007

Amanda wrote:
It’s Tuesday here! We just went to Mass. We were maybe five minutes late, and it
was half over! LOL (laugh out loud)! It was pretty funny; the priest sped through
daily Mass!

So here is a summary of what we did yesterday. We got into the airport, we found
all of our friends, and went to where we were storing our luggage. That took
forever and then we went and checked into our hostel. We asked Shamus, the
hostel manager, where we should go. He suggested we go visit the old jail and
take a tour. So, we walked a bit then hopped on a bus. It was pretty cool, but we
were all so stinking tired that we couldn’t fully enjoy it! Then, we decided to walk back to our hostel. Bad move, kinda. It was really far! But, we stumbled on a sweet art gallery that was in a mansion. It had the most beautiful garden you have ever seen!! It was awesome! It was just like out of a fairy tale! Then we went back towards our hostel and finally decided on a restaurant that was somewhat cheap and looked Irish-enough! It was called O’Shea’s. It was okay and I bought my first Guinness! Let me tell you, it was disgusting. I spent four euro on it and didn’t even finish it! I don’t think I will be getting another one.

Today, we are off to Killarney! I will talk to you later! Hope you are doing well! Miss you all!
Love ya!
Amanda


Dad’s reply to Amanda:
I love your travelogues. It was awfully quiet around the house yesterday. Mom
mentioned that it struck her during the day that you were not here and so far away.
I told her I had the same feeling all day. We are happy for you, but also know that
we will miss you. The e-mails help. Andrew started school today and then went to
work. We didn’t see him the rest of the day after he left in the morning. Poor Will
– he’s going to get way too much of our attention!

IRISH BLESSING OF THE DAY (it’s a familiar one):
May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

Note: Photo-remedy is published as a labor of love. Please feel free to share the site, or any of our posts, with others. Our Home Page always features an option for our readers to sign up to immediately receive new material as an email. We hope you will become a part of our photo-remedy network. 

New Flowers in Old Pots

This is the time of year when I generally give the impression that I am, at a minimum, half crazy. This will probably be the blog post that removes any doubt.

Apparently, I am not alone. The Los Angeles Times has reported that, “Spring fever, that reputed and seemingly infectious malady that strikes when the days lengthen and temperatures begin to climb, has been blamed for feverish bouts of house-cleaning, restless behavior in the classroom, distraction in meetings and love struck dazes…Some scientists think spring fever is more than just a colloquialism — they think it’s a constellation of symptoms brought about by hormonal changes in the body.”

This month, as my hormones and I reached the half-century mark, my kids and even some of the 40-plus crowd on the block have grown fond of telling me, “You are now a grandpa. Your are now 50 years of age. Face it, your are officially old.”

Nevertheless, springtime always bring new life to all of us here in Arizona. There is snow in the mountains, Major League Baseball’s Spring Training in the Valley, and glorious weather marked by a generous sprinkling of wildflowers nearly everywhere in between.

After our St. Patrick’s Day countdown series, I am planning on some much-needed photo-remedy. In fact, I have already started as the wildflowers are just beginning to join our beloved sagauro cacti in reaching for heaven. The ‘wild lily’ photo below was captured near our home in the (currently) dry bed of New River.

This Spring, I am committed to doing my best to recognize that there is frequently much more than I observe at first glance; the series of shots below are intended to suggest this all-important point.

Yes, there is often more than meets the eye in springtime. To commemorate my 50th birthday, and coinciding with a small ‘home improvement’ project, I recently developed a special spring garden on the sunset side of our house. It is my way of reminding my family and friends that in the springtime even new flowers can emerge from old pots!

– Greg

Quotations about Spring from Quote Garden

The year’s at the spring
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hillside’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven –
All’s right with the world!
~Robert Browning

Spring makes its own statement, so loud and clear that the gardener seems to be only one of the instruments, not the composer.  ~Geoffrey B. Charlesworth