Happy New Year!

Do not dwell in the past; do not dream of the future; concentrate the mind on the present moment  ~  Buddha

We have returned to sunny Mexico after spending a wonderful 5 weeks with family and friends.  Our trip included an approximate 2000 mile trek from Arizona, to Oklahoma, Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana.  For those of you up north watching the weather (and who hasn’t), except for warmer temps in Arizona and one day in the midwest, most days the temperature was frigid, but we were rewarded with a white Christmas and the warmth of spending the holidays with family.

Our first stop after leaving Arizona was to head to Oklahoma to visit children and grandchildren.  We also had the opportunity to visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, a very moving tribute to those whose lives were changed forever after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 15, 1995.  Looking across the expanse of the Field of Empty Chairs was a very humbling experience, one I will not soon forget.  Each chair represents an individual who lost their life in the bombing, with names engraved on the bases.  Smaller chairs chillingly depict the number of children lost in the daycare center that tragic day.

Field of Empty Chairs

The memorial created by this tragedy was one of the most symbolic I have ever seen, with a reflecting pool sitting in front of the Field of Empty Chairs and The Gates of Time flanking either end of the pool.  Engraved on the east gate is the time of 9:01, which reflects the innocence of the city prior to the bombing.  The west gate’s engraving of 9:03 represents the moment that the city was forever changed, as the bombing occurred at 9:02 am.

Reflecting Pool
East Gate ~ Innocence
West Gate ~ Forever Changed

One of many other noteworthy items on the grounds is that of the Survivor Tree, a 90-year-old American Elm that bore witness to the violence of that day, having been embedded with debris from the building.  It was lovingly cared for and still is to ensure its survival, as it represents the strength of the Oklahoma City people.  A message to visitors reads:  The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us.

The Survivor Tree

The memorial museum is an interactive chilling chronology of the days, weeks, and years that followed the bombing.  As one walks from room to room, chapters unfold outlining the chaos of that day.  The Gallery of Honor is the museum’s most beautiful room, honoring the lives of the 168 who were killed.  Families of the victims display personal photographs and memorabilia of their loved ones, while interactive computers provide personal stories.

I would encourage everyone to visit this memorial if possible.  It will forever change you.

From Oklahoma, we drove on to Ohio to spend Christmas with parents and on to Indianapolis to spend time with a sister and her family.  Giving the parents a break, we headed to Illinois to visit a brother and family, along with a good friend.  The first night there I came away with a bruised knuckle, thumb and knee, reminding me that I am not as young as I once was and that air hockey, rip riders and pogo sticks are probably best left for the young!

Another must-see when in Ohio is the National Museum of the United States Air Force, containing three large galleries covering aircraft from World War II through our current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  A short side tour can be taken onto the active air force base to view Air Force One planes throughout the years, as well as a Research and Development wing.  A Missile and Space Gallery rounds out the newer additions to the museum.

B-29 Superfortress
B-24 Liberator

After the first of the new year, we stole away for a couple of days to visit friends in Columbus, Terry’s very dear friend from high school (how many of us keep in touch with friends from that far back) and his lovely wife.

Terry & Doug
Donna & Lu

Oklahoma family photos:

The Whole Gang
A Day at the Science Museum

The Ohio and Indianapolis crowd:

The Illinois clan:

Some action shots of the nephews and niece and a wonderful reminder of special memories we all hold dear of Christmas – the smiles of children.

Paige on her Pogo Stick
Blake on his Rip Rider

My oldest nephew and godson, Seth, did not participate in the above festivities but challenged me to a game of Air Hockey (what was I thinking?!) and could take credit for me sporting a black-and-blue knuckle and thumb for several days.  Needless to say, I got trounced!

It was a bittersweet trip back to Mexico, given the time spent with family and friends, but we had to remind ourselves that they are just a phone call or plane flight away.  Here is hoping that all of you have some beautiful memories of the holidays, with family and friends at the center.

May 2011 bring us all peace and prosperity and an abundance of blessings!

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