Hearts in Two Places

In our first blog entry way back in June – we began this journey with the statement: “And then we drove away.”  Thinking about that moment Lisa and I remember how excited and nervous we felt as our adventure in Pennsylvania and her first travel assignment was about to begin.  This past Saturday we drove away again only this time to finally return home and see our family and friends for the first time in four and a half months.

But as excited as we were to get home – we were equally sad to leave a place that we had come to love so much – especially leaving the good people who helped us and befriended us along the way.  For Lisa (especially) it was difficult to leave her co-workers at Hanover Hospital.  They embraced Lisa and loved her and valued her and asked her to stay and made her welcome.  For that – words cannot adequately express our gratitude.  I remember that first day dropping her off at the front door feeling like it was my child’s first day at school.  We said a quick prayer asking God to bless her work and the people she was about to meet and boy did He ever.  How great it felt after that long first day picking her up from work and seeing her smile and say how much she was going to love it here.  The next eighteen weeks went by like a blur but the memories of Hanover and Gettysburg will be with us forever.

As for me – Gettysburg and its history filled much of my time.  I marveled daily at what happened in this small little town nearly 150 years ago and how those infamous three days – arguably – changed the course of history.  What would we have become as a country if the Confederates had taken control of a hill called “Little Round Top”? – What if Pickett, Trimble and Pettigrew charges had been able to overtake the Union line during their famous march across that field? – What would we remember of this place if not for a 200 word speech?

This place is special for its place in history but more than that for us it is special because here we made new friends we will remember for our lifetime.

But let us also say there is nothing like coming home.  We found our hearts when we finally pulled into our hometown but realize now our hearts are in two places.  We will be spending the next week or more (depending on Lisa’s next placement) catching up with our family and friends. It was so good to drive down Frederica Street again, see the new Smothers Park and riverfront development, and eat a “Rolling Pin” long john. Lisa and I felt a little like Peter Bailey running through Bedford Falls on Christmas Eve – “Hello you wonderful building and loan!”  Owensboro has never looked so good.

It is good to be home but as we reconnect with our family and friends we think about those we left in Pennsylvania fighting through the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.  Our prayers are with them as they try to recover – but we know they will.

We will continue to blog throughout our stay at home and will share with everyone as soon as we know where Lisa will be sent for her next assignment.  It could be Hawaii, Montana, Oregon or Arkansas – we do not know.  But if they ever need someone in Hanover, Pennsylvania again – we know the way.

Blessings!

Steve and Lisa

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Saying Good Bye

It has been said by some of the locals here that people seem “drawn” to Gettysburg.  In this area all the roads converge into this little town but more than that – there seems to be a natural tendency to dwell in this place.  From the time two armies met here 149 years ago – people come to Gettysburg to look, think, mourn and celebrate.

For Lisa and I – our lingering here has nearly come to an end and we are excited to get home after four and half months away.  But we will certainly miss this place and the people of Gettysburg, Hanover, New Oxford, Littlestown, McSherrystown, Abbottstown, and all the other places people we have met call their home here in central Pennsylvania. We now understand what it means to be “drawn” to this place and it has been one of the greatest experiences of our lives to have dwelt here for the past 18 weeks.  Lisa and I will be writing in more detail to thank specific people for their kindness and friendship later.  But for now – here are some of the things we will miss:

The antique store in Emmittsburg, Maryland.

The “Altland House” restaurant in Abbottstown, Pa.

Daily walking the battlefield in Gettysburg

“Whoopie Pies”

The fruit and vegetable stand right up the road from our campground that has the best peaches and “Honey Crisp” apples we have ever eaten.

“Sweeney’s Tavern” in Gettysburg and Lisa’s favorite dish of sauerkraut and pork

Being less than two hours from New York City and one hour from Washington DC and Baltimore MD.

Hershey Chocolate World

The steaks at “Cafe St. Armand” in Gettysburg

Ritas “Gelato’s” (custard and flavored ice)

“Mr. G’s” ice cream parlor in Gettysburg

Shooting hoops at St. Marks Lutheran Church waiting for Lisa to leave work

Talking to my friend John who cares for his ailing wife and letting him know Lisa and I pray for him.  I had written about John in an earlier blog.  John cares for his wife who is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease and had been taking care of his ailing mother in law as well until she passed away in September.  I tried to encourage him and told him this week we were leaving but that we would continue praying for him. I said how much I admired the way he took care of his family.  He said it was only by the grace of God.  I’ll miss our talks.

Our little Nazarene Church in Hanover we went to by accident originally but became the best mistake we made while we were here.

The toy train store here in Gettysburg.

The chance to see “A Christmas Carol” at Ford’s Theater in Washington DC

The little Pomeranian dog at our campground that barks only when you walk away

“Good and Plenty” restaurant in Strasburg

McDuffers Miniature Golf on Baltimore Street.

The all-you-can-eat crab legs at “Aroogas” in Hanover.

The little Amish brother and sister selling us their “Whoopie Pies”

But there are some things we will not miss about central Pennsylvania – just as we are sure there are things they would not miss about Kentucky.  Here are some things we are glad to escape:

Rain – If the weather forecast calls for 10% chance of rain – it means there is a 70% chance it will.  When it rains here it rains for days.  It is raining right now as I am writing this and it was supposed to be a sunny day.  Where is Wayne Hart when you need him?

Wind – they don’t have tornadoes in this area – which is good.  But their high winds make up for that.  Our RV was rocking many nights and not for the reasons you may think (get your minds out of the gutter people).

Trying to merge onto the interstate (which we did multiple times each day) is to risk life and limb.  They do not teach drivers up here to move into the left lane when possible as people are merging into traffic.

Did I mention – rain?

“Circles” – Each town (no matter how big or small) has a center of town “circle” that requires drivers to navigate to get from one road to another.  There are no rules – just find a space, speed up to it, close your eyes and press on the gas.

People who talk funny.  They all seem to have an accent up here.  They don’t talk right like we do in Kentucky.

The sound of fifteen Harley Davidson motorcycles rumbling through your campground in the middle of the night.

People talking about Penn State and the Jerry Sandusky trial.

“Shoo-fly” pie

Baltimore Ravens flags, jerseys, signs, hats and commercials

There are more things we will miss and not miss about central Pennsylvania and we will be blogging at least one more article to thank the good people whom we have come to know and love.  We are sad to leave what has been the perfect first assignment for Lisa and I and (who knows?) maybe we will come back again someday.

At the same time we can’t wait to get home to see our family and friends after being gone so long.  As of now Lisa has not accepted another placement and we plan to be home on Saturday (10/27).

Homeward Bound!

Steve and Lisa

Three Little Words

 

Our newest grandson, Thomas Lea Morris, was born on March 16, 2016.  He came into the world six weeks early but, his arrival was a blessing to everyone.  Now we are trying to fatten up his little body and get him healthy and strong as he prepares to face the world.  In thinking about Thomas Lea, I was reminded of a blog I wrote back in 2012 during our time in Gettysburg, Pa.  During a weekend trip with Lisa’s parents to Strasburg, Pa., we encountered a most remarkable young Amish girl.  The story she shared with us and the words she used (as I told in the story to follow) still rings in our ears and is a declaration to the value of life and how precious little children are to the families and friends who love them and to the God who created them.  

Several weeks ago Lisa and I spent a day in Strasburg, Pennsylvania in Lancaster County.  The Lancaster area of Pennsylvania is considered the center of Amish country as well as home to the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum.  It is not unusual to see Amish buggies moving along the side of the road as well as Amish businesses such as restaurants, bakeries and furniture stores.  It has been difficult for Lisa and I to understand the Amish way of life and the idea of removing themselves from any ties to the world seems a bit extreme, to say the least.  This is not to debate their chosen lifestyle but to tell a story about an extraordinary Amish brother and sister whom we met in Strasburg.

During our visit to Strasburg we came upon an Amish road side food stand and could not resist but to stop and check out their goods.  It was there that we discovered their “Whoopie Pies”.  Most of the Amish we have seen here seem thin and fit – certainly due to their grueling lifestyle that requires such intense physical labor.  That must be the reason they don’t all weigh three-hundred pounds because those “Whoopie Pies” would never be found in the health food section of the grocery store – if you get our drift.  These hockey puck sized cream filled cakes are deadly good and we loaded up.  It was an Amish brother and sister actually running the food stand that day and Lisa and I are certain we will not forget them.  The girl looked to be in her young teens and her little brother around ten years old.  Both were two of the cutest children we had ever seen and their dark complexion and big brown eyes were almost stunning.  But beyond their looks the kids were well spoken and their engaging personalities were unlike any I had ever encountered – even though I had spent twenty years working in a middle school.  These two were extraordinary.  Lisa and I talked about them many times in the weeks following that trip.

This past weekend we returned to Strasburg – only this time with Lisa’s mom and dad (Bobbie and Vernon Cunningham) who traveled north for a visit.  We had talked so much about “Whoopie Pies” that they both were determined to find some to take home to family and friends.  Fortunately we found the same two children at their little food stand and we loaded up on their homemade “Whoopie Pies”.  But the point of all this is really not about “Whoopie Pies” but something the little girl said to us while we were making our purchases.  The little boy was laying in his sister’s lap wrapped in a blanket and as we walked up they both jumped to attention.  Their bright smiles greeted us and the sister began to explain what was available for purchase.  Along with the “Whoopies” they had apple pies, cookies, jellies, relish, and more for sell and we bought several items.  Bobbie wanted to take some chocolate chip cookies home and we noticed the sister whisper for her brother to ride his scooter home to get more since they were almost sold out.  Amish scooters are a popular mode of transportation for children and adults in their community.  Amish believe pedals represent a dreaded threat to their lifestyle – namely, being in a hurry and so the scooters rely on leg power only.  While we waited for him to return, Bobbie asked the sister how many were in her family and she told us she was one of five girls and she had four brothers.  Also, she told us she had new-born twin brothers who were born premature and were in the Lancaster hospital.  She said they had been born just over one pound each but were doing better.  She said they were told that day that they had gained a few ounces which was encouraging news.  Then she said something that I may never forget – keep in mind this is a middle school aged child.

“Every ounce counts”. 

Without getting into any political argument about pro-life vs. pro-choice positions – it was one of the most poignant moments for me about the value of life – “Every ounce counts”.  We live in a world that has all but discounted life to the point of meaninglessness.  But this little girl, seen by some perhaps as being backward and out of touch with life due to her Amish upbringing – displayed wisdom like I had never seen before in anyone her age (or older) and she did it with three simple words – “Every ounce counts”.  It must not have entered her mind this would be two more mouths to feed along with the eleven others in her family.  For her – it would certainly mean more child care responsibilities.  But her joy in saying they were growing spoke volumes about where her heart was.  If only all of us could value life as much as this.

 

Steve and Lisa

Lisa and the Big Apple

“If I can make it there – I’ll make it anywhere.  It’s up to you New York – New York”

A big chunk was bitten out of the big apple this past weekend as Lisa and her friend from work, Vanessa, spent three days shopping in the city that doesn’t sleep.  I slept fine back in our little RV while I sent her off to enjoy the fruits of her labor the past three months.  She deserved to get away and when she first mentioned going to New York City – I was interested in going along – that is until she mentioned shopping.  Not my thing so I sent her with my blessings.

Lisa met Vanessa at the hospital where she works and learned that she spends a good deal of time in New York and so the trip had been planned around her schedule so that Lisa could have a guided tour to all the best places to shop.  When I say “shop” I’m not talking about Macy’s or other name brand places – Vanessa had the inside track on the “out of the way” places in “Chinatown” and “Little Italy” that made me think of smoke-filled back rooms in dark alleys.  That was not the case – but close.  There were some memorable locations that were a little sketchy.

I knew it was going to be serious shopping when Lisa took an empty suitcase and then called telling me she had to buy another one.  My main fear was that she would need me to meet her there with a U-Haul trailer to help bring home all of her “shi.. stuff” or come bail her out of jail – or both.  Fortunately neither was required of me.  So while I had a very quiet weekend in Gettysburg – Lisa was tearing it up in New York, New York.

One of the places they shopped required them to make known to a man standing on the sidewalk they were interested in purses.  He then followed them down the street without making eye contact and without drawing attention to himself told them he had what they needed.  Lisa said they then were directed to a brick wall that suddenly opened and revealed a set of stairs leading up to (God knows where) and they eventually were shown a variety of purses and given a price.  For me – I would have, at that point, agreed to whatever price they were asking just to get out of there with both thumbs.  Not Lisa.  She said in Kentucky she would never pay that price.  Did you get that?  She said “in Kentucky”.  I’m not sure if the man was shocked by the fact that she was comparing this place to Kentucky or that Lisa’s accent made him think of the hillbillies in “Deliverance”  – but he agreed to half the price and my little “super-shopper” was on her way.

At one point during another peculiar shopping location – they were scurried out of the building and as Lisa is pulling her suitcase across the street they notice police cars stopping where they had just been and, apparently, shutting down the business.  Geez!  But that didn’t stop my wife – you kidding?  She was in New York City and “by dang-it” (as she would put it) she was not going home empty-handed or, I should say, empty suitcased.  So onward they marched from one place to another and what a time they had!

Lisa described the restaurants as the best she had ever experienced.  Vanessa was friends with several owners and managers and they really went out of their way to make Lisa’s visit special.  Specialty cheeses, wines, Italian dishes including veal and then throw in some “hard liquor” that was unlike anything she had ever tasted (place called “La Pateau”) – and…, you get the idea.  To top it all off she was even “hit on” by a seventy year old Polish man.  (Now that’s something you don’t have happen to you everyday and I did not ask her this but – if that “hard liquor” was that good – who was really hitting on who? LOL)  By the time the dust had settled she had two suitcases full of jewelry, clothes, coats, scarves, and hand bags. Our Christmas shopping is done.

Lisa can now can mark New York City off her “to do” list for places she wanted to visit.  I have a feeling we will be making a return trip for a day before we get home.  That will be fine with me – just so we don’t buy any more suitcases and I can keep my thumbs.

Enjoy today!

Steve and Lisa

The Grandfather I Want To Be

This is about grandfathers.  Seems random, I suppose.  Actually it is not.  I am going to be a grandfather.  Our daughter, Heather Morris, is going to make Lisa and I grandparents in early April.  We have been skyping to see her little belly get a little bigger each week and though we are not there with her – we are still very excited.  The thought of being a grandparent is both exciting and a little eye-opening in that it makes Lisa and I feel sort of – well – old.  Now that is not a bad thing – getting older brings with it many benefits.  Very soon I will be able to get the senior discount on coffee at McDonalds.  Which would be great except I don’t drink coffee.  There are plenty of other benefits about getting older – I’m sure of it – give me a minute, hmm, well I’ll think of some eventually.

But as I said this is about grandfathers.  I want to be a good one.  “Granddaddy”, as we called him, was my mom’s dad and he and our grandmother (who we called “Bop-Paw” – something we must have called her when we were learning to talk which is fine if you are five years old – but gets a little weird calling someone “Bop-Paw” when you are twenty-six)  lived in Sturgis Kentucky where we spent a great deal of time as kids growing up.  Unfortunately my dad’s parents died early in life and I was unable to know either.

But my grandfather taught me some things about being a grandparent.  He was a man of God, a proud deacon of the Baptist church for sixty plus years and when church was open – he was there.  I loved visiting my grandparents and though they never owned a home of their own (always rented) it sure felt like home and a welcome place to be.  He had a great sense of humor but he was a gentle man, content to sit on his front porch and listen to St. Louis Cardinal baseball games on his radio or sit on a lake bank and fish with a simple cane pole.  He loved music and his voice could be heard above every other voice in church.  I could always know he was approaching because he was always singing.   He loved his wife, he loved his little town of Sturgis and he loved me.

I am fairly certain that my granddaddy did not learn how to be a good grandfather in school.  He did not even graduate high school and I’m almost certain the subject never came up during his grade school days.  My bet is he learned about being a grandfather from his grandfather.  Likewise my education had nothing to say about the subject of grandparenting.  So Lisa and I are on our own.  All we know is what our parents and grandparents taught us – not in their words – but in their actions.  From my perspective grandparenting is an action verb (“Boy, we ‘grandparented’ today”).  The memories of my grandparents were about what they did – not so much what they said.  My grandfather took me fishing, sang in the church choir, took me to baseball games, did things.  My hope is that I can “do” grandparenting” as good as my grandparents did.

The other example of being a grandfather in my life comes from Lisa’s dad, Vernon.  Like myself growing up, our children have only known one grandfather.  My dad passed away right after Heather was born and Justin was too young to really remember him.  Vernon has been a tremendous example of a grandfather “doing” things with their grandkids.  Bobbie and Vernon have both done grandparent things with our kids all their lives and for that we are forever grateful.  It has been comforting to know they had them in Owensboro while Lisa and I have been away. My kids have learned that they can call on “Pap-Paw” if they need something and in my lifetime – I can never remember him being out of patience or time.  Both these men displayed wisdom to me in ways I never found in any text-book or college class.  If anything I find myself envious of them.  What I would not give for Vernon’s patience and people skills and my grandfather’s sense of contentment.  I think of them and how they live their lives and want to ask for a refund on some of that college tuition.  There is not a text-book in the world that can teach that.

So now we are in a period of waiting – our own little ‘advent’ of our first grandchild.  It is really exciting and God has been good to allow Heather and James this blessed opportunity to raise a child and for Lisa and I to be its grandparents.

We have much to learn about being grandparents.  Like parenting – most will be learned as we go.  But at least we have our parents and grandparents blueprint to follow.

Hope to see you soon!

Steve and Lisa

A Taste of Hershey

One of the blessings about being assigned here in central Pennsylvania is the easy access to many famous places – most of which are less than sixty miles away.  Lisa and I spend most weekends traveling around the area to not only the larger cities (DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York) but to the smaller towns and venues as well.  This past weekend we returned to Hershey Pa and visited “Chocolate World”, an interactive museum of sorts showcasing the making of the famous Hershey candies.  We were in Hershey a couple of weekends ago for the annual RV show.  Located just thirty-five miles north of Gettysburg, Hershey is home to not only the candy factory but to the Hershey Amusement Park, Hershey Bears ABA hockey team and the arena (still standing) where Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a single NBA game.

We found several things very interesting.

Along with making our own chocolate bars (only cost $14 each and all I wanted to do was eat the thing) Lisa and I took a trolley through the area including visiting the Hershey School.  Mr. Hershey founded the school in honor of his late wife and because they had no children – dedicated his fortune to education.  Today all graduates in good standing are awarded an $88,000 college fund paid for by the Hershey Trust.  It is an amazing story.

Mr. Hershey had a man who worked for him who worked to invent new products and one day approached Mr. Hershey about a new candy he had developed hoping he would buy his recipe.  Hershey refused but encouraged him to continue developing it on his own – which the man did.  Years later Hershey purchased the rights to the candy for sixty million dollars.  Today it is the biggest seller in the Hershey candy line.  Hint: The man’s last name was Reese.

The Hershey Hotel is a magnificent venue that features a “Chocolate Spa” where (I suppose) you are dipped in chocolate for some type of health benefit.  Lisa and I felt we had gained weight just walking through the candy store – I can’t imagine taking a bath in it.  Nearby there is also the Hershey Gardens and a zoo.

“Chocolate World”  features a “Disney-like” slow ride that rolls through an explanation of the process in making milk chocolate.  Not bad – but the best part is it’s free and you get candy at the end.

If you are ever in the central Pennsylvania area (and especially if you have children) we highly recommend a stop in Hershey.  Just be sure and eat before you get there.

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Update:

We still do not know where Lisa will be assigned next.  Thanks again for your prayers for us as we hope to know more in the next couple of weeks.  We will finish up here and move out October 26.  We have loved it here but are ready for a change.  God Bless!

Steve and Lisa