Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Caroling in the Caverns

I am a bit embarrassed to admit that it wasn't until I saw a program on the Travel Channel last December that I found out about the event called "Caroling in the Caverns". That is because the event has been going on for several years, and I live just about 90 minutes from there. But as soon as I learned about it, I phoned to get a ticket. The person who took my call said the tickets had been sold out for months, and that if I ever wanted to go, I had better get my tickets purchased earlier next time. So I put a note to myself in my calendar back in August, and proceeded to order my ticket (which cost $17) as soon as they went on sale in the early fall. As a coincidence, all of the lessons in my Faithful Friends small group at church this month have been on the topic the quarterly entitled "God's Christmas Songs". So a field trip to hear "God's Christmas Songs" in such a unique setting as an underground cave seemed very appropriate. Although photography or recording was not allowed during the actual program, I was able to get the photos above before it started. The lower photo shows that stringed instruments were included in the music presentation. An instrument that the nearby town of Mountain View is famous for---the mountain dulcimer---was expertly played by local native, and widely recognized dulcimer aficionado, Pam Kirby. Pam is also the leader of the various musicians that shared their voices on the afternoon of December 13 when I was there.

When one first arrives at the Banchard Springs Caverns Visitor's Center (pictured in collage above), there are a variety of activities to occupy your time until boarding the elevators to descend hundreds of feet underground. The theater has an audio-visual presentation telling about how the cave was created and discovered, and also includes beautiful Ozark nature scenes captured by area photographer Jerry Wilcoxen. There is also an excellent exhibit area to view, as well as a gift shop and book store. Plus, on days that a performance is being given, complementary refreshments are served consisting of cookies, hot cider, and candy canes.
As you can tell by the way the audience is dressed in the photo collage above, the temperature was very comfortable. Since I tend to get cold easily, I had an extra coat, scarf, ear muffs, and gloves---none of which I needed. In addition, plastic seat cushions are provided to each attendee as you enter the elevator, so that you will not be sitting directly on a damp bench. I was pleased to see that the area where the audience sits is wheel-chair accessible, so one does not have to be a hiker-type to participate. In keeping with the tradition of strolling carolers, the performers would move to various locations distant from the audience so that we could appreciate the remarkable acoustics in the space. If any of this appeals to you, you'll be thankful to hear that you will not have to wait until December of 2010 to experience it. Due to its popularity, special performances have been scheduled for February 13-14, to celebrate St. Valentine's Day; also, for March 13-14, to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Only 400 tickets are available for each weekend, so don't wait to reserve your spot. Contact the Mountain View Chamber of Commerce at 870-269-8068 or visit to order tickets online.
The video at the Visitor's Center Theater talked about creatures that live in the dark. Likewise, the story of Christmas is about creatures who were living in the dark. But the verses in Luke 1:78-79 shows us God's remedy for such an existence : "Because of our God's merciful compassion, the Dawn from on high will visit us to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." I pray that you will experience miles of "light filled" smiles this Christmas season and throughout the year! TriciaPosted by Picasa

Friday, December 11, 2009

Group Expedition to Branson

There are many good reasons for traveling in a group, and one of them is that, instead of there being 50 vehicles on the highway, all going to the same destination----there is just one vehicle that carries 50 people! This travel is made especially enjoyable if the vehicle is a luxury motorcoach, such as the one used by First Baptist Church of Mountain Home recently. The photo above also shows another reason for going by motorcoach---the fun and fellowship one can have while being part of a group, who all have the same goal in mind---an enjoyable time visiting with old friends and getting to know new ones!

The Mountain Home group had a delicious lunch in the balcony dining area of the Hughes Brothers Theater in Branson, and then were treated to a delightful Christmas show put on by the talented band of brothers, known simply as SIX. Their show is a "must see" on your next trip to Branson! Following the SIX show, the group headed over to the Hard Luck Cafe for an early supper, with just enough time left to stroll through the huge Christmas store at the Grand Village. As you can see, there was a representative of St. Nickolas strolling the area, despite the bitter cold (as evidenced by the frozen fountain shown in lower part of collage above).
Next the group drove to the somewhat-new-to-Branson theater called "Sight and Sound". The original Sight and Sound Theater has been operating for years in Pennsylvania, but many people in the Ozarks are just now visiting it for the first time. The photo above shows the FBC expeditioners eagerly awaiting the show to begin in their comfortable seats near the main stage of the enormous space. The vastness of the theater is needed considering what comes meandering down the aisles during the performance---beautiful, full size horses; gigantic camels; braying donkeys; and bah-bahing sheep!!
The photo above shows the Christmas tree in the main lobby, that is completely encircled by delicate angels, twinkling lights, and shiny ribbon. After the show was over, I realized those angels decorating the tree were just a preview to what we would experience during the presentation inside the theater, called "The Miracle of Christmas". In my lifetime, I have seen dozens of dramatizations of the Christmas story, as told in the Bible New Testament book of Luke. However, none of these past dramas have so vividly captured all my senses in illustrating Luke 2:13-14, as did the spectacular scene I saw above, beside, and before me that night. The verse says: Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared, with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." It was definitely one of those moments that gives you goosebumps! I hope you will take the time in the days ahead to not only see a Christmas program with little children acting out the parts, but also treat yourself to the experience of "The Miracle of Christmas" at Sight and Sound Theater in Branson ( Wishing you miles of angelic smiles this Christmas! TriciaPosted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The China Expedition!

When you saw the title of this post, I hope that the thought at least crossed your mind, that you were going to read about a recent trip I took to China. Although I do not want to rule out that possibility for a future blog post, this entry is actually about an expedition my China (aka "dinnerware" ) took. The expedition consisted of carefully packed China plates and glasses that made the trip into the big city of Mountain Home, where they were met by hundreds of other place settings, also on a "China Expedition". What could have caused this mass migration of such fragile cargo to the Christian Life Center of the First Baptist Church ? Why, it was none other than the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ ---born 2009 years ago! Dozens of FBC members hosted tables of eight people for the Sixth Annual Summit Ministry Christmas Banquet. Max Pyron leads the Summit Ministry, and although this Christmas event has been going on for several years (under the very capable direction of committee chairperson Wilma Jackson), this was my first time to attend or host a table. I arrived after most of the tables were set up, so that I could get an idea of how things were done. The first photo collage shows examples of just four of the tables, each with their own charming decorating theme.

Lest you think that only a woman could assume the responsibility of decorating a table, I included photos in the second collage of a beautiful table decorated by Warren Haley (lower right photo). It is worth noting, that it was a table decorated by a man, that was the ONLY table that also had the chairs decked out in festive attire! (top photo) Considering the banquet took place on the floor of the CLC basketball court, the area looked quite appealing (lower left photo)!
The top photo of the third collage shows the folks sitting at my table: Ken, Susan, Roy, Mary, Marcia, and Jerry. My dietitian/nurse friend, Susan, took the photo of me in the lower left; then she is shown in lower right photo, along with Mary and Marcia.
Just as each table at the banquet had a centerpiece that was the focal point of everything else on the table, so, too, the Bible is clear about what should be the centerpiece and focal point of our lives as Christians. In fact, one of the many verses that teach this principle is the "mission statement and name origin" for First Place 4 Health, for which I am a proponent. The verse is Matthew 6:33 "Seek FIRST his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." That is an especially good priority to remember as we scurry around with the numerous holiday activities of December. To find out how you can be a part of the true "reason for the season", check out Miles of smiles! TriciaPosted by Picasa

Friday, November 27, 2009

Reflections Expedition

The occasion behind the "Reflections Expedition" was the annual luncheon of the North Arkansas College Foundation for scholarship donors and recipients, held in Harrison, Arkansas, at the college's downtown location, called "The Durand Center". I was attending to represent scholarships in the name of my late father, Joe F. Keeling, and my late husband, Dr. Fred C. Turner. As attendees gather in the banquet room, a large wall screen in the room is telling a brief synopsis of the life of the donor who is be remembered. "Remembering" is one definition of the word "reflection", and that is just what all of us did, as we looked back on the lives of those being honored. However, as I was taking some photographs of the Durand Center to put with this posting, I recalled, with a smile. another definition of the word "reflection". The lower part of the photo above, is the half-block section of the Durand Center that is directly adjacent to its location on Main Street (or "The Four Lane" as us local old-timers refer to it). Whenever my husband and I would ride our motorcycle through Harrison, I noticed we always went through downtown, instead of taking the bypass. Fred very logically explained to me the reason why---the downtown route took us by that long stretch of reflective windows, where he could look with pride at how well he had polished all the chrome on the Harley, as well as the profile of the couple on the motorcycle. After he told me that, we got to where we waved at the window when we went by, so we could practice the "secret sign" one motorcycle rider gives to another that they pass on the highway. Bikers "in the know" always wave with a hand below the waist, and NEVER above the waist! (This is just a little tidbit I will share with you, that the bike salesman won't tell you.)

In addition to getting to meet the recipient of the Dr. Fred C. Turner Scholarship, Mrs. Jamie Cheek, (pictured in lower left photo), I was delighted to be seated at the same table with long-time friends, Dr. Robert Langston, and his charming wife, Frankie (They are pictured in the lower right photo with the Langston Scholarship recipient, Ms. Kayla Frederick). Since I had not visited with them in years, we "reflected" on lots of things from the past. I recalled a time I introduced Dr. Langston to someone as the doctor who delivered my son. He very humbly responded that all he did was "catch" the 8 lb. 8 oz. bundle of joy, as the infant made his entrance into the world. As I reflected upon how I originally met Frankie Langston, it gave me the opportunity to thank her for making a personal visit to my home in the first weeks after Grover was born, to encourage our family to not delay in returning to regular church service attendance. She assured me that as a Registered Nurse, with years of experience in taking care of infants in the First Baptist Church nursery, our treasured little baby would be in good hands. And she was right! In fact, he was in much more capable hands under her care, than under mine!
Yet another "reflection" I had as I was taking photographs for the blog, was remembering some significant events that took place at the Seville Hotel, located directly across the street from the Durand Center. Not only did I attend numerous social events there in high school, but it was the location of my "debut" speaking in front of a group, outside of a classroom. A local civic organization asked me to come speak at their luncheon meeting in the hotel, to tell them about a trip to Italy, that my father and I took whenever I was a sophomore in high school. I had a slide projector with slides from our trip, and told with excitement about all the incredible sights we saw on our trip. (I credit that trip to Italy with my father as the source of my "Expedition Fever" that has been an ongoing "infection" throughout my life!) Finally, an extremely joyous occasion took place at the Seville Hotel, in August, 1992, when we celebrated the 60th Anniversary of my mother and dad, there---surrounded by friends and family who had come to wish them well. As I was taking the photographs, I noticed a young family posing for photographs in front of the historic building, just as others before them have done for generations. I am very thankful for the recent renovation of the Hotel Seville property, and would definitely recommend that you visit it soon, and often!
The last photo collage shows several different views of the Durand Center, whose architecture I have admired, since its original construction as The Security Bank. I am thankful that is has been "re purposed" for use by North Arkansas College. Because of my history with the college, it pleases me to see it do well. I was living in Harrison when the college first started, and was even a Nutrition Instructor there at one time. But my sister is the one with the most history at Northark. In fact, the 2003 College Graduation Program included her photograph, and a tribute that started with these words: "For the first time in the history of North Arkansas College, an employee will receive the Board of Trustees Award. Frankie Bellora, who is retiring this year as administrative assistant to the president, is being honored for her 29 years of service to Northark." I am very honored to be known as "Frankie's sister" at the college! All this flood of memories that the Foundation Luncheon brought up, reminded me of the verse that helped me deal with the sudden death of my husband. It is the verse that changed my attitude of sorrow and self-pity, to an attitude of gratitude. Philippians 1:3 says "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you." This is the time of year for giving thanks, so I hope you will reflect on whose memory you will thank God for. Wishing you "Miles of REFLECTIVE Smiles"!! Tricia Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Today was the Sixth Annual Mountain Home Marathon for Kenya ( ). This great community in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas continues to draw runners from all over the country, as they run (or walk) for the very worthwhile cause of helping the children of Katito and Kiserian in Kenya, Africa. The amount of money raised over the past six years is almost $100,000!!! The license plates of vehicles I saw in the parking lot this morning included California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Illinois, Kansas, Tennessee, Iowa, Georgia, and Ohio!

As a First Place 4 Health leader, I was delighted to see so many First Place 4 Health members and alums, either participating in the walk/run themselves, or serving as a volunteer in some capacity to make the event run smoothly. In fact, Race Director Laurie Kasinger is herself a First Place 4 Health alum. During one of the First Place classes, she shared with the group that one of the reasons she envisioned this event several years ago, was because she loved running, and she wanted to put her love for running into serving God somehow. Since the Bible tells us that when we are serving others, we are, in fact, serving God---then this event is definitely fulfilling the purpose for which she intended it. Hundreds of children in Africa have benefited from the resources generated through the Mountain Home Marathon for Kenya. The World Vision humanitarian service organization is the arm of outreach that turns money raised in Mountain Home, Arkansas, to tangible benefits in the distant land of Kenya.
You have probably heard stories about athletes who have certain rituals that they feel they must do in conjunction with their particular competition, and I am no exception. The ritual (perhaps "cherished tradition" would be a better term) is having my photo made with my pastor, Dr. David Johnson, and his lovely wife Roxanne. The photo collage shows our mug shots over the last several years (note also the various colors of our official event T-shirts). The 2009 photo is the one in the upper right hand corner of the collage below:

It takes LOTS of volunteers to put on an event of this magnitude, and some of them are shown in this collage: Registration workers, medical personnel, sound/music guys, volunteer food preparers/food servers, volunteer massage therapists, finish line time keepers, and, of course, the Race Director, Laurie Kasinger. She is shown in center photograph, along with Master of Ceremonies, Dr. David Johnson. There were also dozens of volunteers out along the many miles of Baxter County traversed by the full marathon participants, although they are not pictured here. Then there are the faithful sponsors who provide so much financial support: Regional Family Medical Center, Cardiovascular Group, North Arkansas Medical Associates, Mountain Home Real Estate, Baxter County Regional Hospital, First Baptist Church /MH, and Arkansas State University/MH. A big THANK YOU to all! All these people are illustrations of Hebrews 12:1 that says "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Marathon Miles of Smiles! Tricia
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Saturday, November 7, 2009

The "Rake or Ride" Expedition

After my plans fell through to go kayaking on the Buffalo River today due to logistical problems, I knew that since I had promised myself I would get outside and absorb some of that much needed Vitamin D-supplying sunshine, the only other alternative seemed to be raking the leaves screaming for attention throughout my yard. I got out the rakes, but found it to be more fun riding them around the yard like a stick horse, than actually raking up the leaves! AHA! I remembered! The website for the kayak outfitter also had a section on horseback riding. That was it----I could "ride" instead of "rake"!

After phoning them to make a reservation, and using Mapquest to tell me how long my drive to get there would be, I kissed the rakes good bye, saluted the piles of leaves in my yard, and headed for Wild Bill's Outfitters (, just a few miles south of Yellville, at the intersection of Highway 14 South and Highway 268 East. The place is a modern-day version of the old-fashioned general store, with everything from gas to groceries, a cafe, clean restrooms, Ozark-made souvenirs, and you can even take the deer you just killed there, to not only show it off to your buddies, but Wild Bill's is an official wildlife check station. Upon arrival, the courteous gentleman behind the counter ("Bo"), handed me the mandatory liability release form, which reminds you that you might never return from this adventure, and then asks for the name of your next of kin. And of course, those horseback riding release forms always ask how much experience you have had at riding horses. I pondered: "Should I put down that I got my Girl Scout badge in horsemanship when I was in elementary school?" No, I decided, that was not as impressive as my real crowning achievement in horsemanship---surviving the two day trail ride to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and then back up again! Now THAT was notable. But then I remembered when I told my Grand Canyon tale to the wrangler of a horseback ride I took along the beaches of Honduras, the guy said"Yeah, dozens of my customers say they have ridden in the Grand Canyon." So much for bragging about that! But then there was that trail ride in Yosemite National Park---that was the only ride I have been on that required helmets---and rightly so! After it was over, I described it as rock climbing on the back of a horse, rather than a trail ride. It was incredibly challenging for me as a rider---not to mention what it must have been like for the horse! I have learned it is best to understate your experience, rather than overstate it, so I ended up not mentioning any of my previous escapades on the back of a horse. When I got outside to the corral, the trail boss for the day (her name was Kathy, or "Kat" as her friends call her) already had the horses saddled up and ready to go. She has several years of experience leading trail rides at Wild Bill's, and had the congenial, easy-going personality such a job requires. She introduced me to my horse for the afternoon, a lovely trooper named "Major".
The top photo above shows the typical terrain we rode through---dense hardwood forests on seldom traveled back roads. The great thing about riding in the Ozarks this time of year is that the leaves are off the trees, so you can better see the actual lay of the land. Also, since we had had a couple of hard freezes, the activity of pesky ticks and chiggers is down. The lower left photo shows Kat, and the other rider of our trio--a young lady named Julia. The lower right photo shows Kat and Julia on their horses at the edge of a tall bluff overlooking a deep canyon with a tributary of the Buffalo at the bottom. Notice the horse ears in the foreground of the photo. That is my horse and we stayed back several yards from the edge of the bluff. The reason being, I had seen the drop-off of the bluff as we approached it, and all I could think of was my First Place 4 Health memory verse that says: "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God" (Psalm 20:7) Since I had only met my horse named Major thirty minutes ago, I definitely did not trust him to stay away from the edge of the bluff! So, I opted out of that photo opportunity. We will just have to imagine how beautiful it was!
Besides, before starting my trail ride, I had made the short drive from Wild Bill's to Buffalo Point, and taken the photo of the gorgeous Buffalo River, that you can see above in the top of the collage. Kat took the photo of me that is shown below, when we reached the very scenic spot called Water Creek, that was at the midpoint of our ride. Seeing these pretty flowing bodies of water, makes me not feel so resentful toward the all those gloomy days of rain we had last month. The sunshine of today, and the opportunity to get out and enjoy God's great outdoors, has more than made up for it. HAPPY TRAILS! Tricia Posted by Picasa

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hershey Wall Builders

October 31, Halloween, is a time of an abundance of Hershey's Chocolate products in the stores, homes, and stomachs of many Americans. It is a reminder to me of my visit to Hershey, Pennsylvania (written about in a previous blog), and the eye-opening (not to mention "mouth-opening") experience it was for me. That is because it was not until that visit that I realized what a truly remarkable human being it was who founded Hershey Chocolates---Milton S. Hershey. He was a man of the Christian faith (a Mennonite) and he demonstrated his Christian love by the way he cared for the employees that worked for him, and his incredible philanthropy. He founded and FUNDED a school for orphaned children that is still in existence. Its mission now has been expanded to cover not only orphaned children, but other at-risk youngsters. In Hershey, you can tour the school, where the students live, study, eat and work, with all of their expenses covered, including their medical care. If they choose to go to college after high school graduation, that cost is also covered. You might wonder how all this is paid for. The answer is that 100 percent of the profits from the sale of Hershey's Products goes to the non-profit Milton Hershey School Trust and the M.S. Hershey Foundation. So when I titled this blog post as "Hershey Wall Builders", I was referring in part to the walls of buildings throughout Hershey, Pennsylvania, that have been built because of the generosity of Milton Hershey. But another reason I called it "Hershey Wall Builders" is because many of us use those Hershey candies (as well as any other candies that come across our paths) to build a wall of fat around our bodies, subconsciously thinking this will insulate us from life's troubles. We may use the temporary high we get from sweets to numb us to what is really going on in our lives that we would rather not face. I first learned of this type of wall when doing a First Place 4 Health Bible study called "Healthy Boundaries" that was based on the book of Nehemiah. Of all the Bible Studies I have ever done, the "Healthy Boundaries" one has been the most insightful to help me understand my own behavior, as well as the behavior of others.

It was while I was touring Hershey Park (an amusement park originally built by Milton Hershey for his employees and their families), that I stumbled into a big event being held there in Hershey Arena (yet another example of some GOOD walls Mr Hershey is responsible for). It was a rally of thousands of people that was being sponsored by an organization called "Wall Builders". Since I had just completed the Healthy Boundaries Bible study, I had a suspicion that this might be a Christian organization, and this was confirmed by a visit to their website ( There they explain that their name is based on the Old Testament book of Nehemiah that recounts the story of how the nation of Israel rallied together in a grassroots movement to help rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. WallBuilders uses this history lesson to represent allegorically, the call for citizen involvement in rebuilding our nation's foundations. Their number one goal is to educate the nation regarding the Godly foundation of the United States of America. They state their mission as presenting America's forgotten history and heroes with an emphasis on our moral, religious, and constitution heritage.
The guest speaker that day was Rick Green. Rick Green has his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law, and has served as a Texas State Representative. His bio states that much of the uniqueness of WallBuilders message stems from its massive collection of original documents from early American history, affirming George Washington's declaration that "Of all the habits and dispositions which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports." Studying these historical documents, as well as the First Amendment of the Constitution (which says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THERE OF, ....) has given me a greater appreciation for the Christian founding fathers, and a renewed commitment to protect those freedoms spelled out for us in our Constitution.
So this day of "Hershey saturation" is a time for each of us to examine the kind of walls we are building. It is a time to ponder the words of Psalm 11:3 that says "When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?" Will the walls we build be a legacy that benefits future generations, or will we only build the kind of wall that isolates and insulates us from the surrounding world? Wishing you miles of BENEFICIAL wall building! TriciaPosted by Picasa

Thursday, October 22, 2009


The recent publicity about Chicago's bid for the site of an upcoming Olympics, increased my excitement and anticipation of the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada. That is because I have made arrangements to attend the games which run from February 12 - 28, in various sites located in this beautiful area of British Columbia. I am using a travel company for these games that I have never used before, Cartan Travel ( ) because they were recommended to me by a friend who used them for her travel to the recent summer Olympics in China. ( I will keep you posted on how things go with Cartan as the time grows closer for my departure and throughout the games. ) The photo shows my first souvenir for the 2010 games---a collector's pin with the official logo for the Vancouver Olympics, topped by a Canadian-logo ice skate. It is appropriate that my first souvenir have an ice skate on it because the events I have tickets for (ice hockey and curling) both call for the athletes to wear ice skates. Although I requested tickets for speed skating and figure skating events, the official lottery system used to meet ticket requests ( came up with a different itinerary for me. Since I am not an aficionado of any particular winter sport, I was not "devastated" by the lottery results. Based on my experiences attending the Olympic games in Calgary, Canada, in 1988, and those in Atlanta in 1996, ANY Olympic competition one goes to is very worthwhile and enjoyable.

My son and I are pictured at some of the venues for the Olympic games in Canada in 1988. I was a complete novice in Olympic arrangements at the time, and made choices that called for us to attend a downhill skiing event, located several hours travel time outside Calgary, on the SAME day we had tickets to a night time figure skating event. It would have been a logistical impossibility, short of our own personal helicopter, but we got very lucky---the downhill skiing event had to be cancelled and rescheduled because there was not enough snow; so we got a complete refund on those tickets! I say I was a novice because it was not until a friend who lived in Harrison, Arkansas, told me about visiting Olympic venues in New York ( he was wearing a winter scarf with the logo from the games) that I realized mere mortals could actually attend Olympic activities. Up until then, I didn't know that attending such a famous event was an attainable goal! So thanks----JAH !

One of the inescapable aspects of the Olympics is SOUVENIRS---what to buy to help you remember your experience. The collector's lapel pins are always a crowd favorite, and I got one of those (upper left photo) when I toured the Coca Cola pavilion at the 1996 Games in Atlanta. I have always been a fan of purchasing embroidered patches as souvenirs, as they can be sewn onto a variety of items when one gets home, which is what I did with the Calgary patch (lower left) that I sewed onto a neck scarf. Although I did not actually attend the games in Utah or Sydney, Australia, I WAS able to visit some of the venues used during those games, and had the opportunity to buy souvenirs there. Based on my experience trying to buy souvenirs at the Olympic games in Atlanta, I will probably purchase any large or especially meaningful Vancouver 2010 souvenirs at the official website for those games ( ) That is because the lines to the cashiers at all of the souvenir stores in Atlanta were so incredibly long, one spent more time in line to pay for your itmes, than you spent shopping for your souvenirs!

The other contributing factor to my current diagnosis of Olympic fever, is the memory verse for our First Place 4 Health class this week. It is from I Corinthians 9:24 and says "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize." One thing this verse shows is that, although it was written over two thousand years ago, sports analogies were just as useful then as they are now to encourage us in our life's journey. So let's get out there and get MILES OF SMILES!! Tricia
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Monday, October 12, 2009

Grouper Groupie

You have heard the term "groupie" used for someone who follows around famous entertainers, so I guess you could call me a "grouper groupie" in this photo, because I was definitely following this entertaining fish! Fred took the photo of me back in the nineties, when we were diving the azure waters off the coast of Cozumel. It was during a time when divemasters carried special "fish treats" in their BCD's that were particularly delicious to the gigantic grouper fish that could be seen back in those days. The grouper I am pictured behind was quite a bit larger than I was, but it was so gentle and slow-moving, I never felt threatened by it. If you are only used to seeing the smaller size groupers, you may think this is trick photography---but it's not. The fish was every bit as big as it looks in the photo. We only saw those "big uns" the first year we dove Cozumel. In subsequent years, divemasters were no longer allowed to try to attract fish by luring them with treats, so I don't know if those larger groupers were captured by fishermen, or they no longer felt it was worth their time to see what the divemaster was doing, since they learned the divemasters no longer had goodies for them. I am just thankful I had the opportunity to swim with what I would call a leviathan! That word "leviathan" is used several times in the Bible, but the verse that best fits this photo is in Job 41:1 "Can you pull in the leviathan with a fishhook, or tie down his tongue with a rope?" The answer is "NO!", and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to swim along side this beautiful creation of God. Miles of smiles! Tricia
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Wednesday, October 7, 2009


The first-ever "Women's Outdoor Weekend" held at Bull Shoals/White River State Park occurred October 2-4, and was, in this writer's opinion, an outstanding experience, in becoming familiar with many of the possible activities one can do when they are outside enjoying God's amazing creation here in the Ozarks. Ladies started arriving from the north, south, east and west on Friday afternoon, eagerly anticipating the opportunity to try their hand at some new outdoor experiences, with the help of those who were more adept at such things, and who were ready to share their knowledge with a group of willing students. The top photo shows the entire group, while the two lower photos highlight the two sets of sisters that made up our group. On the lower left are Trieneke and Della from nearby Lakeview, and the lower right photo shows the Hodges sisters from Little Rock. Park Interpreter Julie Lovett, along with her well-trained helpers, had the tents already set up for us when we arrived. All we had to do was unroll our sleeping bags, and make ourselves comfortable in the spacious Eureka Tents placed strategically throughout the group camp section of the park. (if you want to see what it is like to sleep on a bedroll on the ground, BEFORE next year's outdoor weekend, simply go to the "Step Into Africa" experience at Baxter County Fairgrounds, October 18 - 25)

Our classes began Friday evening with a lesson/demonstration/"hands-on" session on Dutch oven cooking (upper left photo shows Marty from Yellville and me, as we wait patiently for our broccoli/cheese casserole to get cooked in the Dutch oven). Other meals during the weekend gave us the opportunity to make omelets (each individually cooked in a plastic baggie, placed in a pot of boiling water set on the coals, as shown in upper right photo). Julie and her helpers also did a great job of grilling hamburgers and hot dogs for everyone (upper right photo). Nothing says "picnic' quite like a red-checked tablecloth, and that is exactly what the two ladies from Hot Springs were enjoying in lower left photo.
Other classes included fly fishing and bird watching (top two photos), kayaking (middle photo), and proper gear selection for backpacking and hiking (lower photo). All of our instructors were outstanding, and would be consistent with the "wonder woman" described in Proverbs 31:26 that says "She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue."

Posted by PicasaNo outdoor weekend is complete without time spent sitting around the campfire, and that is exactly what all the lower photos show. I don't know what an all-men group talks about around the campfire, but this night the conversation of our diverse "hen party", covered just about every topic from A to Z! Sometimes when I comment about some fun activity I have participated in at one of Arkansas' wonderful state parks, people ask me, "How did you know about it?" The answer is easy---one can sign up for the free e-newsletter at the website for the state parks ; also, when you first see an activity you're interested in, make arrangements as soon as possible to participate, as most activities have a limit on the number of folks who can be on the outing or in the class. These are YOUR parks, so get out there and enjoy them! Miles of smiles! Tricia

"Step Into Africa" Expedition

Have you ever been curious about that far-away continent of Africa, but had neither the money or time, to actually travel to the other side of the planet to see it? Well, here is your opportunity to "Step Into Africa" for an authentic experience of the common population. It is not the "touristy" version of going on a high-priced luxury wildlife safari. No, this experience will show you the "other" side of Africa, seldom seen on the Travel Channel, or in the tourism brochures.

Mountain Home, Arkansas, is one of only forty locations in the United States, where World Vision is setting up their highly acclaimed project known as "Step Into Africa". It is designed to raise the consciousness of participants, about the seriousness of the AIDS crisis in Africa. You will be able to see if YOU could survive the journey of a child in that country, who has been orphaned by AIDS. You can actually lay down on a bedroll on the floor, similar to what this African child would do each night. You can lift the heavy container of water the child often has to carry a long distance, just to have water to drink or cook with. You can see why there is no need for "closet organizers" or "storage units" for these folks---a nail in the wall can hold all their earthly possessions.
It was five years ago, when I was first given the opportunity to broaden my horizons regarding what was going on in Africa. I was able to sign up to help one of these unfortunate children through a program run by World Vision. The photos outlined in blue show "my" little Stacy in Kenya. The first photo I received of Stacy was when she was three years old (lower middle photo) in 2004, and gave no clue if Stacy was a boy or a girl. I found out later that one reason for this was that a common myth in her village said that a man who was infected with AIDS could be cured if he would have sex with a young girl. So in an effort to protect the little girls, their hair was kept cropped and they did not wear dresses. As AIDS education and World Vision assistance has continued in her village, I can see an improvement in Stacy's appearance. The lower left photo shows her at age four with a lantern provided by World Vision. The dress she has on at age five (top right photo) is the same one she is wearing for the photo taken when she was six years old (lower right photo). But notice the difference in her countenance in the two photos. After she was able to start school (thanks to help from World Vision), she has a big smile on her face---the first one I had seen in all my photos of her. The most recent photo (upper left) also shows her smiling, as she is drawing water from a well/pump system made possible through the assistance of World Vision to her village.
Don't miss this FREE exhibit October 18-25, at the Baxter County Fairgrounds! Go to to find out exhibit hours and choose the time you want to visit. It is good to remember these words in James 1:27 "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress..."
So take that first step that will open your eyes to a far-away place, and make you see how truly blessed we are, here in the USA---visit "Step Into Africa"!! See you there! TriciaPosted by Picasa