Christmas Letter 2010

This is a test of this new blog site.  I’m posting our Christmas letter b/c we own “The Printer That Stole Christmas”.  After a painful babysitting job of feeding it, and continually assuring it that the paper was fine and the right size and not photo paper, well, it quit all together.  Bah, humbug to it too.  So, to those of you who  did not receive a paper copy I am sorry.  If you feel so inclined to tell me you’d like to be at the top of the queue next year then please do.  I love feedback.

Here it is:
 Just this morning I awoke early to work out with my friend, Alison. (That makes it sound easy and natural.  Let me be clear, it was neither).  Only my commitment to her motivates me.  That and judgment and vanity and good parking.  As the afternoon wanes, and I with it, I’m left wondering why, truly, I did such a silly, short-sighted thing.  Are there not hours after the sun is up and the children are busy at school to use?  Or at least other friends?  Yes, however, since I’ve immersed myself in volunteer work then I need to get my aging body’s maintenance out of the way early.  Alison knows this.  She is a good friend to come along side me, overlook my puffy eyes, crazy hair, and occasional bad attitude.  It’s the time of year to count blessings, right?
  Now that I’ve spent myself, though, who’s going to finish the laundry? Make dinner?  Listen to Grace read?  Remind Thomas that the World of Warcraft doesn’t need him as much as his homework does?  That’s right, as part of my volunteer duties that person is me.  I’m also going to coordinate clean up and quality time right before I begin shrieking for them to clean their rooms,  stop that!, get ready for bed, focus, and ask for the 347th time this year, “Did you brush your teeth yet?” followed by the necessary, “All of them?”.  At this stable point in the evening we will hug, say “good night” and I will indulge in a bed time snack (hence needing to work out).  Another successful day brought to a close. 
  Tomorrow brings a new bag of potential.  My volunteer work starts me in the kitchen making lunches, toasting waffles, puts me in the van pool, and then I’m wide open until the children need me to nanny again in the afternoon.  I try to temper my vigor for house work with facebook and “appointments” with friends.  Sometimes these friends need me to just visit or to give a discerning eye to their shopping choices.  If I’m lucky we’ll be out and about near lunch time.  I find it very fulfilling to share my time this way—giving back and all.  I don’t mind to do phone consultations either.   I try to be flexible.  Different people, different needs, you know.
  Depending on the time year you’ll find me in different fields gaining experience.  For instance, in the fall it’s a football field and in the spring lacrosse (had our first season just this last year with Thomas).  In addition, all year long I’ve been in and out of the school gym where Grace has been dabbling with fencing.   These opportunities have allowed Nevin and I to learn new terms, buy new gear, and meet new people.  I’m pretty sure the kids have enjoyed themselves as well.
  Speaking of Nevin, one reason my opportunity to volunteer has been so abundant is because of his work as the Combat Systems Officer on the U.S.S. Michigan.  Most people call him the Weps, short for weapons.  He’s in charge of missiles, other exploding things, and karaoke night.  His rendition of Reba’s “Fancy” is a crowd favorite.   Personally, I prefer “Any Man of Mine”.

 

  Reality is, we’ve had a slower year.  We didn’t move, no one graduated, no awkward day of school as the “new kid”, no searching for a church, a radio station, good donut shop, or hair stylists (a sure sign that God loves me).  We’ve been given an opportunity to be quiet, to “tend our sheep”.  Not that I figured that out right away.  It seemed wrong at first to not be busier.  Busy masks important and has the insidious nature of being justifiable.  Life needs, it demands, it judges, and it keeps going whether we’re ready or not.  Don’t want to be left behind or out of the loop, certainly.  What did God have to say to me?  The One who showed me love by sending His only son to redeem me?  The One who knows my thoughts from afar and my needs before I do?  He quite plainly said, “Be still”.  In fact, in Ps 46:10 He commands that I be still and know that He is God.  Why?  For my own good, for peace, for growth, and perspective it is necessary.  If He is God than what isn’t or who isn’t?  I, for starters, am not, neither are governments, situations, cultures, rulers, other people, opinions, sickness, death, the unknown, fear, the future, the sword, or any other power.  He tells us to choose to be still, to let our reality meet His.  Taking our thoughts captive, remembering that emotions have no I.Q. and really allowing the “knowing” to sink in has a powerful effect:  It is peace.  He’s in charge all the time.  He is not surprised by anything.  It is our vision that is dark.  So we trust the Light of the World to be who He is and to do what He knows is right.  He is good, He is love, He is just, and He is victorious.  If He is for us, if He will never leave us, if He is in charge, and if nothing can separate us from His love then who can be against us?  What is there to fear? 

 

   Mary and Joseph give us a great picture of trust in the midst of personal darkness.  For them life was confusing, chaotic, disappointing, ostracizing, and yet peaceful.  They didn’t understand.  How could they?  God’s ways are not ours.  Yet they knew He was God.  They knew He could be trusted.  From a moment of darkness and pain came the Savior.

Much Love and Devotion,

            The McChesneys

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Thanks and Giving 2009

 

Featured program tonight:  Kitchen Surgery—What One Can Learn From The Internet.

 

  Scrubbing in tonight will be myself and Thomas.  Patient 1126  will be having excess  adipose tissue and skin removed.  A soothing , sub dermal salve of basil, garlic, and pepper will be applied.  A heat resistant, protective covering will be provided to the patient.  Into this bladder will be placed savory liquids and moisturizing oils. 

  An overnight stay is required in the cold room.  Next day’s treatment is simple enough.  The staff will be applying heat and time.  Our expected results from the procedure are succulence, a golden glow, and crowd pleasing popularity.  A few follow on appointments will be necessary before the full effect is realized. 

 

                                                    

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Counting The Cars On The New Jersey Turnpike

    The following is a bit delayed.  Started and then stopped by life & general laziness. Christi in Korea really wants an update, though.  So, I’ve shored it up and tried to keep out the truly boring bits.  BTW, did you know that the toll for the G. Washington Bridge is $8.00?  Took our time counting coins.  Thank God the movers won’t pack loose change.  Time to get in the “way back” machine now.

  An Update to the great trip, the Connecticut Trail.  After the fast visit with Kansas “family” we pushed on toward “home” in KY. Before leaving Missouri two things of significance happened.  First, we drove over a stretch of highway dedicated to submarine veterans.  Of course it was amusing.  Not much ocean or thought of subs in the mid-West, I thought.  Yet there I was, debating CD choices with a submarine vet.  Like celebrities we were, but no one cared.  Being so close to the “bread basket” perhaps by “subs” they meant sandwiches.   There must be people who’ve felt like they’d put themselves out there for an oddly combined “grinder” (as they are called in New England).  Some combinations of salted, pressed meats just were never a good idea. 

  Secondly, we visited our dear friends, the Lawsons.  They are in Fulton standing in as the temporary pastoral team for a congregation meeting in a sweet little church right across from the parsonage.  The conversations one can have with a couple that has been in ministry for fifty years, or so, are touching, rich, inspiring and a genuine treat.  They thanked us for stopping but why?  They gave us chicken noodle soup, a clean restroom, good company and stories that included false eyes and near dead hitch hikers.   Not too many pit stops can be labeled as inspiring or a place where Thomas asks for more soup—soup with vegetables in it. 

After Fulton was St. Louis and then a rainy night in Indiana.  The polish of family started to rust in that rain.  We stayed the night and woke up crabby.  Too bad for everyone on the next day’s docket.   A nearly drive by lunch with Nevin’s mom and dad came first.  We were a sad bit of grumpy company.  We owe them a much better visit, for sure.  Only in a slightly better humor were we when we stopped at the Unv. of Louisville to see Isaac, my brother, and his new world.  Lovely campus.  The rain then found us again.  It and a storm welcomed us.  It blew us on into Lexington.  Matching our moods.  We perked up, though, when we realized that the van was nearly the middle of a tractor-trailer sandwich.  Tires were burning and the rear truck was forced up onto the shoulder to avoid us.  Not our fault, by the way.  Red lights in Lexington have very diluted authority.  Nice reminder to be thankful and aware.

  It was in Trail Boss’s “Ten Easy Steps To A Cross Country Trip” that we not linger for too long.  Chapter nine, I think.  That was contrary to my mother’s plan.  Actually, Nev and I were free to go.   But the children.   Not the children.  She waved her magic wand/credit card over the South West website and prest-o, change-o the kids were booked for a short vacation.  Again, Nevin and I were free to go.  So we did with that strong, unshakeable feeling that we had forgotten something.  Not to worry, by Pennsylvania we couldn’t remember why we were even driving a minivan.  People with kids and short, easy to manage hair drove those.  We should’ve been hugging the highway in something more carefree.  Nevin would say that that was a Mazda RX-8 but I would debate that that was maybe a chick car.  Then we’d laugh the laugh of those who don’t even wonder how the car seat laws are different from state to state.  No, we’d be drinking cold coffees carelessly considering which charming place we should stop at for dinner.  No smoking or children’s menus, please.

  That is how we met Connecticut—child free and hopped up on caffeine.  Loved it.  Loved Connecticut, it’s history, it’s random rocks (plenty and huge they are), old houses, Mystic Pizza, it’s potential for adventure and the way it looks like one could expect a Red Coat to jump out from behind said rocks.  Delicious.  Come see for yourself.  We’ll only be here until September.

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All Gone to Look for America

  The big trip is underway and going strong.  Our crew includes Nevin the trail boss, Thomas the map interpreter, Grace the conversationalist and me the trip coordinator.  I use the GPS, change CD’s, pray and look for places to stop,  What I do not do is mention how close we are to that other vehicle, recommend lane changes, tell him when the light is green or suggest a different arrangement of the family sing along to Wimoweh.  Some things we just learn to accept.  

  First stop on the route was La Mirada, CA.  This peaceful interlude lies between L.A. and Disney Land.  There we visited with Fred and Susan Sanders.  Mrs. Sanders, as I’m most comfortable referring to her, was a coach and teacher of mine in high school.  She clearly made a lasting impact on me.  I’m often glad that we’ve kept in contact.  This visit gave me more reason to highlight the relationship.  Her husband, Fred, brought out his party tricks.  Do keep in mind that Mr. Sanders is painfully well educated, has his PhD and is a published college professor.   Well, anyway, their children are raising chickens for an experiment in types of feed.  The little fryers are 5 weeks old and happy to be cared for by the Sanders family.  While we were outside, thoroughly enjoying the cozy, fragrant, blooming backyard, Fred offered up his special talents for our enjoyment.  For one, he could put the chickens to sleep, and if that failed to delight he also could hypnotize them.  Apparently if the super educator gig falls through there’s work for him in a Missouri carnival.  Maybe that’s where Susan found him.

  Later that same evening we moseyed on over to the “happiest place on Earth”—-Disney Land ,of course.  We were wide eyed and taken aback by the detail, the lights, the service, the food, and the merchandise options.  Who knew the “ears” came in so many designs?  Or that one might need a Tinker Bell back scratcher?  Even our Thomas, tough-11-and-a-half-year-old, went all gushy inside.   The magic was real and real expensive.  We had a great time, though and beautiful weather.  From breakfast with the princesses to introducing another generation to Space Mountain we had a ball. The first day we spent 14 hours in the parks and the second found us in line for the Matterhorn by 7:30 a.m.  This after I raced several other mothers for a spot in line for coffee and muffins when the first shop opened.  There’s no magic when blood sugars are low.  Anyway, that’s the level of surprise we experienced in regard to how much fun there was to have.  True that there were too many people for my comfort, but that was glossed over easily enough with kettle corn, hotdogs, and soft serve.  Additionally, we had been coached by veterans of Disney before we went.  Shawna laid out a plan of attack (she was right that doing the parks in one day was hard), gave hotel advise, forcefully recommended tennis shoes, and Cynthia gave “must ride” insight that proved most  helpful in how we used our time.  I think that the only miss we had was the parade.  And if you ask Nevin or Thomas that wa sn’t much of a miss anyway.

  We hit the dusty trail that second Disney day after shaking down a Chick-fil-A and then headed toward the Grand Canyon.  The temperature rose to 90 in Mojave and then dropped back down to 48 in AZ.  That next morning remained breezy and cool as we bundled for our trip out to this year’s National Park.  Grace didn’t see why the canyon was such a big deal while Nevin and Thomas enjoyed using the binoculars to spot mule teams, hikers and the North rim.  Before leaving the visitors’ area we stopped for an irresponsible “lunch” at the historic El Tovar hotel.   (In our defense, our time was limited as we had a schedule to stick too.)  There we tried 5 desserts among us and drank delightful hot chocolate from individual silver pitchers.   All this happened under the more than 100 year old timbers of the lodge. Time came for the real family treat.  We were able to take a helicopter tour of the park and I must say that that added a lot to our appreciation of the canyon.  I was offended, at first, b/c of the price, but it was worth it.

  I-40 continued to beckon us Eastward.  We learned that we “got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away,and know when to run” as we passed tumble weeds and lonely rock formations.  Next we made camp in Albuquerque, NM, but not before a little dust storm closed down the highway.  Thankfully we only waited about 20 minutes of the over 2 hours it was closed.  Once the highway patrol woke up the snoozing truckers we had only one obstacle left—-getting traffic to flow again as Nevin thought it should.  He kindly offered a refresher of passing protocol to anyone who seemed in need.  Say it with me,” Keep right except to pass”.  Really, it kept his mind alert.  He dodged and maneuvered like the navigator he strives to be one day.  He piloted that minivan like a pro.

  Thursday we kept our focus, listened to a Lemony Snicket book on CD and were only mildly concerned about the high winds and apparent dust caused by said winds. We figured the grit in our teeth and smell of a wood fire were all part of the wild West experience.  The locals didn’t seem to hardly notice the wind that made it hard to open the van doors on the occasion that the trail boss stopped.  Later, in the hotel, we learned that OK was experiencing wild fires and gusts up to 80 mph.  Add to that the dust storm in AZ and a car fire in CA and we started to wonder if it was safe to look behind us.  No one wanted to turn to salt.  We hoped the bad luck wasn’t tailing us. 

  Tonight, I am bleary eyed from being up too late.  We’re here in Overland Park, KS crashing Tim & Shannon McCord’s weekend.  Michele and Jon Otten have started the fun by hosting a party with all of our available KS friends.  It was a lot of fun.  Like the Face Book pages came to life for a night.  Still to come is a birthday party and, of course, Easter.  Who needs sleep? 

   I do want to mention one last thing.  On our way to OP we stopped at one of Diners, Drive Ins, & Dives recommended eateries.  Not only was it charming and delicious, but we knew that we were not in CA anymore.  It was closing early for Good Friday and is never open on Sundays.  Ahhh, the Midwest.  It’s good to be back.

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Nevin: Master of Electrical Engineering

  On Friday morning at 10:00 Nevin’s graduation ceremony started.  After an excruciating hour or so we were finally able to clap.  We had listened to a lame chaplain who read from an “ancient middle-Eastern text” that you and I would call  the Old Testament or even  Ecclesiastes.  From there we suffered through a (mostly) boring speaker.  Finally came the reason for the season—-the graduates.  Once all 300 + names were read the audience clapped and clapped.  We cheered for the loved ones and what they had accomplished.  We kept clapping for the sheer fact that it was over.  There had been lots of babies crying, fidgeting, creaking chairs, coughing, and this man at the podium who kept talking even though we all were willing him to stop.  At last, it was time for cake! 

  After a light, delicious, lemon cake we thought lunch was in order.  So my mom, my grandma, aunt Yvonne, Lil’ Luke, Friend Shawna, some kids, Nevin and I headed over to Fisherman’s Wharf.  On recommendation we ate at Crabby Jim’s.  We had a great view, good food, good service, but mostly Nevin had that seafood dinner he’d been craving and certainly earned (Might I add that even with one’s master’s degree it doesn’t stop one from dipping his sleeve in butter).

  Congratulations, Nevin.  We’re all proud of you.  You worked hard (this last quarter anyway) and wrote an impressive thesis.  Let’s cross our fingers, pay off professors, and hope for an invitation to come back for Ph.D work.

 

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Fish Fingers and Chicken Sticks

  When I came home from a retreat the other weekend Grace greeted me with these words.  Evidently it was what had been on the menu while I was gone.  What a treat, huh?  It did remind me once again of how I enjoy her perspective on life and the final fringes of her childhood.  She still says “breakthest” (instead of breakfast) and I cannot bear to correct her. 

  I think we all know that blogging is merely a vehicle to talk about one’s self and family.  You don’t have to read it.  Your time is valuable, I know that.  At any moment you can choose to navigate back to facebook or eBay, etc.  However,  I am trying to quell the voice of guilt that says I shouldn’t so blatantly take advantage of your attention.  Guess I’ll just ignore it.

  Below is a “song” that Grace wrote and I found.  Keep in mind that we as a family really liked the Disney cartoon Kim Possible.  A carryover term from that show is “coco moo’”.  That is another way to say hot chocolate.

Every cup of coco moo

Every cup of coco moo needs a rose

Or else all the warmth will go away

You see the cups of coco moo will go to waste

So please put a rose in your coco moo

It’s like pictures of your dog or grandkids.  People politely look but they don’t really care.  I accept that.  If you’ve come this far then, “thank you”.

  As for my moppy haired Thomas, he just today gave us a gem.  He’s a funny boy, but  quiet too.  He shows us his quick mind and understanding of bigger ideas in unexpected places or times.  Frustratingly I forget too many of them.  Today, though, he was getting ready to head out for a haircut.  He wanted a total change from his High School Musical-esque style.  I told him that we should practice what he needed to tell the stylist in order to get the results he wanted.  I asked if Nevin’s freshly done military cut was what he was after.  He hemmed and hawed a bit.  Then he said,”Yeah, I guess that’s what I want.  My hair is thicker and not as see-through.  It’ll look different on me.”  He didn’t intend to be funny but we still had to laugh.

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Feeling Fine in ‘09

  We’ve been sick at our house these last several days.  It rarely freezes where we are in CA.  I assume that that means bugs and germs that should die a natural death during winter don’t.  Instead they prey on those of us from “back East” who did not grow up here.  We were not given the opportunity to develop a thorough immunity.  And because CA attracts the victims and the entitled, I feel that we have a voice here.  Somewhere.  Special parking, maybe, if reparations are going to take awhile. 

  Thankfully it hasn’t been severe illnesses or even ones requiring antibiotics that have come a-calling.  It’s more like we all were able to spin the wheel of symptoms.  Something different for each of us.  Unwrapping gifts we unwittingly accepted from friends, shopping carts, door knobs, classmates, gym equipment, etc.  There was chest congestion for some, lower G.I. tract issues for others, fevers for all, headaches, vomiting, fatigue, coughing, and stuffy heads.   We mostly stayed out of each other’s way.  Most of us were quite content to stay in the cave.  Nevin, from the comfort of his at-home-con, went on a magical quest in World of Warcraft.  I can only assume that the cure for this multi-headed beast was to be found in Azeroth.  After many hours he did seem to have left the worst of his grumpiness elsewhere.  I’ll take what I can get. 

  Grace on the other hand was really getting antsy.  She needs people.  She assured me that she felt fine.  Fine except for the “liquid pooh” (her words).  I had to tell her that that was just the Advil talking.  No one wanted a visit from a girl yet still so afflicted.   My role as teacher has clearly been extended.  Just not with paid sick days.

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Speaking of Change

Grace is already trying out new styles.

  

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Seven or Seventeen?

    

Grace doesn’t mind change.  Took her in to see Patty, our hairdresser, and this is what we came out with.  Grace said she felt like a role model.  It only requires a blow dryer, round brush, flat iron and a willing adult.  Hope Patty makes house calls.

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