My granddaughter is closing in on her second month birthday and, as a result, her verbal speech is limited, but, in this picture, her non-verbal speech says a clear Merry Christmas. In 15-minutes, we do a webcam visit with the whole family, all eight of us in three different parts of the world.
This is a pretty clear "Merry Christmas" without the words.
I love visiting with my family--our kids, their spouses and our two grandkids. And, today we had a great visit with our grandson Xavier and granddaughter Gretchen and their parents.
My face lit up and my heart thumped in a happy beat when Face Time opened on my computer and it said my daughter was calling from Bosnia and then I saw it. There was my granddaughter laying on her dad's stomach with her head bobbing up and down.
Then I saw my daughter with our grandson with a big smile and who was filled with lots of conversation.
My wife and I loved it. What a great present. We caught up about their family, their daily life and their friends that we met when we stayed our kids in Eastern Europe.
Just a note to baby-boomers with kids far away: Don't be afraid to try a video visit. It's pretty simple. And it's worth it. Here are a couple of photos:
This picture brings a big smile to my face. This is from our Face Time visit this morning.
This is our granddaughter, a beauty, just like her mom.
He's graduating from being a toddler to a little boy. I love the way he says, "Grandpa."
So I’ll try to fold in the past year plus some to catch you up. But I’m not going to do this in chronological order.
I asked Gladys what I should lead with and she pulled out her wallet and pointed to two pictures, one of our grandson Xavier who speaks to his pre-school buddies in Croatian and English when he’s at home and the other was of our new granddaughter Gretchen who was born in early November.
Story of our granddaughter
Gretchen Kate was born November 3 in a small hospital in Bosnia where our son-in-law
Adam and daughter Krista live. When our daughter went into labor my son-in-law called me on my cell phone while I was standing in line at our neighborhood Walgreens.
Waiting to pick-up some eye drops, everybody saw the really big smile on my face and they knew it was better than winning the lottery. Gretchen was making her way into the world.
On the way home, I couldn’t get the smile off my face. It got even bigger when Adam called back and said their daughter had been born and everybody was doing great.
Keep in mind this happened in a village where Adam had to call the doctor himself, bring a heater for Krista’s room, along with bringing her own toilet paper.
Xavier is a pre-schooler
This was taken in Budapest in an outside restaurant where we ate goulash soup.
What about our grandson Xavier? We went to see him and his parent, of course, in Bosnia, in late March and early April. After spending two weeks with him, I felt like I had an enlarged heart to carry all the love we felt for him and his parents. On the plane trip back, all we could say was “thank-you God for our kids and our grandkids.” We have been blessed big time.
Highlights of our Bosnia trip
If we had a video of the highlights of the trip, it would have to include:
A visit to the Stop Coffee Bar in Livno that Adam and I made on Psalm Sunday morning. It reminded me a lot of Bay City where I grew up because it was filled with real people facing life with hope for a better future for their kids.
A Turkish general in a small restaurant in Livno who looked like he was straight from a movie set and who took time to come over and talk to my grandson who hollered out “Ciao” to him in a way that only a two year old can do. It was a magical moment where walls went down and there was a bond that could not be broken.
Eating in a outside restaurant in the Old Town of Sarajevo with a plate of flat bread which folded over sausages and onions with my grandson on my lap. He hollered with glee every time a tram car passed us.
Passing through areas that had been hotspots in a genocide a little more than 20 years ago. We got a taste of what can happen when people don’t get along.
Driving through the mountains left an indelible impression on me. I just trusted my son-in-law’s driving skills which are considerable.
We spent our last day in Split, Croatia. It’s right on the Adriatic Sea just a ferry ride from Italy. When I saw the water, I told Gladys that I wanted to move there. Then there was the palace of the Roman emperor Diocletian that has been transformed into shops and apartments which backstop a waterfront with outdoor cafes where I could see myself reading the newspaper everyday.
Justin and Lauren celebrated one year
It's Lauren, Justin and Latte the pup, the ninth member of our family.
Didn’t Justin get married? Yes, he did. He and his wife Lauren tied the knot on Memorial Day last year. They live in Washington, D.C. in a condo on Pennsylvania Avenue with a pit bull named Latte who has the strength of a small tractor and the disposition of a little girl who likes to snuggle next to you.
Justin works for a start-up called HelloWallet.com and his wife started one called UmbaBox.com. They came to Michigan for my birthday and for Thanksgiving.
I’ve had lots of highlight moments in my life and one of those involved his wedding where I was Best Man. That ranked up there in the top tier of things in my life. I’m proud of him.
Are you still wondering about the tattoos that Gladys and I were talking about? Good. Back to those in a minute.
Meet Supervisor Gladys
Gladys is back in the classroom, lots of them. She’s a student teacher supervisor for
Gladys wears a badge.
Spring Arbor University. This past year I would drive her from school-to-school in mid-Michigan to the classrooms where she was observing. In the process, I found every McDonalds with free wi-fi access.
More missions trips
What about me and politics? It just didn’t happen this time around. I found myself more interested in what was happening in other spots in the world. This was partially because of a place in East Lansing called Friendship House MSU. When a friend of mine, Rich Bearup, became executive director about a year and a half ago, he asked for my help.
He wanted my help in establishing a social media presence for this ministry started by a forward-looking campus Lutheran church which saw the coming of globalization to the campus. They started with volunteer-led classes to help Internationals with learning English conversation and about daily life in the United States.
Super-wife and I have both been involved. Gladys has been teaching a group of Internationals who are getting ready for a tough English proficiency test and I continue in helping to build an world wide community to present, past and future students and their families. We have really enjoyed that. It’s like being on one big mission trip.
Inside right arm
Taking a break at Diocletian's summer palace.
Okay, what about the tattoos? We haven’t gotten them, but, if we did, they would be on the inside of our right arms and would say, “Remember Who You Are.”
This comes from a two-year-old sermon at our church where our pastor, Jeff Manion, taught about a handful of verses from Ephesians about being adopted as sons and daughters by God. We are his. He picked us up and took us in. That’s where we get our hope.
We are his loved children. That’s our primary identity. As we moved through our daily lives since that sermon, I have found myself dwelling on that truth more and more. We both nod our heads that we are who we are because of our great God.
And this all took on an earthly shape with the birth of Jesus. That’s what this season is about. He came to earth. He died. He was raised from the dead and went back into heaven.
And, I’m his son and Gladys is his daughter. That trumps everything else. It all trickles down from there.
We wish you a great Christmas. Please stay in touch.
I love having a phone with a decent camera. My iPhone 3 is always in my pocket, as it was this morning when I took the recyling to the curb and then took a shot from our kitchen of a blue-jay on our back deck. The sun's out here and the temperature is decent and the blue jays have lit up the neighborhood with sound.
This is how it looked this morning when I took recycling to the curb.
We love feeding the birds. There are times when the birds are so varied and so active that we are glued to looking out this window.
My very special granddaugther Gretchen Kate, one month old today
Let me introduce myself. I'm your Grandpa Thorp, your mother's father. Today's your first month birthday and I wanted to let you know that your Grandma Thorp and I are thinking of you.
When we first met you were pretty young, actually you were pre-born. Your mom was pregnant with you when we came to visit your family where you live in Bosnia.
While you were still inside your mom, we went through two countries, Croatia and Hungary. We even walked besides, across and rode on a famous river, the Danube.
I was standing in line at a Walgreens Drug Store in Lansing when I got a call on my cellphone from your dad that your mom was going to the hospital to have you. I was waiting to get some special eyedrops when your dad said it was close to the time for you to be born.
When everybody at the drugstore saw the big smile on my face and when they learned that it was because of you, they almost cheered. They certainly smiled.
Then we got another call from your dad that you were here and that your name was Gretchen Kate. Grandma and I could not stop talking about our special granddaughter born on a special day.
That was one month ago today. We are excited about seeing you next month and about seeing your brother Xavier.
You are a special person, a winner. Always remember who you are. You are a special daughter of God. You are one of a kind. I am anxious to hold you and look into your eyes and talk to you face to face. That will happen soon.
When you're old enough to read this, give your brother a hug for me.
It's Sunday morning and still dark outside. Super-wife and I are in our usual early morning spots where we thumb through pages of interest on the web. On Facebook, I found this link on the page for Verona Seventh Day Baptist Church in Verona, New York. Christian singer and song-writer Aaron Shust sings about where he gets his hope. It's same place as me.
It's garden fresh squash prepared in a pasta shell served on the first day of December. It worked. The wine complemented the squash taste and made a feast for two. Loved it. This is how it looked through the lens of my camera on my iPhone 3.
This great dish with a good wine, perfect for a Saturday night.
Getting ready to eat it on a lapdesk we bought at Ikea in Budapest.
I wish I remembered the sermon where our pastor said this. I found his suggested prayer for starting the day so simple, but, yet, so important, that I wrote it down. When I got home I printed it out and put it on the bulletin board in front of my desk in my study.
The prayer: "God give me the grace to trust you today."
Who knows what the day will bring? I just ask and plead with God to give me the grace to trust him. It's simple. Do I believe that he will anser that prayer? Yes. I am counting on it.