Monthly Archives: December 2016

Traditions – Why I Embrace Them

I intend to keep writing Christmas songs. There’s still a lot more about Christmas that can be captured and feel like old-time Christmas.  A lot of the traditions haven’t been explained in song.   Clint Black
If you read my last tTraditionswo posts, you are aware that December at our house is one long celebration.  On my side of the family it kicks off at Thanksgiving with extended family gathering leaving the rest of the holiday season for friends and immediate family celebrations.  David and I then transition to my birthday on December 10, followed by our wedding anniversary a week later, then on to Christmas and New Years.  Since David is an educator, there are seasonal and end of semester activities a at his school.  Of course, we have our church activities as well.
I endeavor to have our plans laid out by the first of November so that we can enjoy the season without too much last minute pressure.  This year is going well.  I made some adjustments in expectations early on given we are in the midst of home renovations (yes that is plural!), but the tree is up at the little house and the formal dining room at Maison Steinbuchel decorated.  This is our favorite place to have meals during the holidays.
When Christmas comes around, traditions seem to come with it.  For some, tradition is something to embrace, for others something to avoid.  Which response has a lot to do with the experience attached to said tradition.  Before going on, what is a tradition really?  An on-line dictionary definition says tradition is:
 A Noun
  1.  the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs,information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice: as in a story that has come down by popular tradition.
  1.  something that is handed down
  1.  a long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting
        4.   continuing pattern of culture beliefs or practices
  1.  a customary or characteristic method or manner – The winner took a victory lap in the usual track tradition.

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Letter to Family and Friends Only


img_0528“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.”
 –  Desmond Tutu
 

“I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new.” ―

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Every Year since 1978 we have composed an annual letter to send to family and friends.  We started this the year after we were married.  School and jobs had taken us to California away from our immediate family and close friends in Kansas and Colorado.  We wanted to stay in touch, and frankly, we had a lot going on in our lives we wanted to share.
Our mailing list was current from our wedding invites/announcement so the tradition began. We have rarely missed a year, although there were a few when the letter went out as late as Valentine’s Day.  It has been important to us to stay in touch with our extended family and ever-growing circle of friends from around the globe.  These are gifts we do not take lightly and one this girl from small town Kansas never expected.  Truly.

 There were a number of years I struggled to keep up with the address list and e-mails, to the point of despair.  I longed for an assistant just to keep up with my contact list.  These days with social media and friendlier software for managing such things, and a bit more time, I feel I am once again ahead of the game.  Sort of.  This year I will be sending cards to some while posting holiday greetings on my social media sites.  I may even print a few letters, but I decided to use this BLOG space to do my annual letter and let folks come check it out. Maybe even comment, send greetings…so here we go…
Dear Friends and Family,
It has been almost six years since I retired.  I continue to enjoy having the freedom to choose how I spend each minute of every day.  I enjoyed my career but with that choice was the reality that the job dictated a lot of how, when and even where I spent time. It was my choice,  and it was an honor to serve our nation in air traffic, but this is nice.  Reall y nice.
As to what I do, it looks like this:
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After flying, all is right with the world
  • Take care of David and running our household.  I have enjoyed taking over much of what David did to keep things going while I was tending to the airways in one fashion or
    another.  We have found a new rhythm that suits us and supports this season of life.
  • I continue to facilitate an on-line life group through a church in Texas.  We are now in our fifth year and have members from three continents.  Google Hangouts is our monthly meeting space.  Such an awesome group!
  • Work on visualizing  coordinating and pressing forward on our house renovations.
  • With renovations comes what I call “left-overs” which I re-purpose, up-cycle and sell.  I have two venues:  One in a shop – Kechi Korner and the other my Maison Steinbuchel ETSY shop.
  • Fly and hang out with other liked-minded aviators at our hangar home in Texas, the Women in Aviation Air Capital Chapter, EAA and Kansas 99s here in Wichita.
  • Write, which involves this weekly BLOG that I started last February, and books.  I am about to complete the draft of the story of my Dad’s Costa Rica involvement.  There are at least three more book projects on the horizon.
  • In the book category, I was asked to be a part of a book launch last spring for the best seller, Living Forward.  It was fun and educational to get a peek inside of what a major book launch looks like.  This lead to me teaching a class at our local church using the book as curriculum.
David’s life involves:
  • Teaching geometry at Northfield School of the Liberal Arts in the upper school.  He has also picked up a tutoring situation on European History, using the Great Courses curriculum.  Occasionally he fills the pulpit at our church and will be co-teaching a class in January that will deal with some of those pesky questions that come up when discussing the Bible.
  • He remains the primary laborer for our little house renovation, but we have been able to hire a fair amount of supplemental help to move things along.  This year the sub-floor in the attic was completed (almost).  We ran into a few surprises involving a little thing like structural integrity, but hey it’s all small stuff, right?
letter
Maggie – one of the herd.
  • He also continues to sell on eBay as Pencilwhipper with a great deal of gusto.  This keeps him trolling garage and estate sales for treasures for which to find new homes.
  • Daily cat wrangling.  Yes they are still here and continue to be a cheap, fun source of entertainment and amusement.  David is quite the cat whisperer

Travel

In addition to my regular trips to Texas where I fly, write, shop, rest and hangout with family and friends, we made a few other treks this year.  In March David went to visit his Dad in Sacramento over spring break.  Upon his return, he learned that his baby sister was very ill, so he hopped back on a plane and headed to Portland, OR.  It turned out to be a farewell visit, as she passed on a few weeks later.  Her family and friends gathered in June in Moscow, ID to celebrate her life and all she had done as a teaching trauma nurse in the area.
We did our best to honor Maureen by making the trip an adventure.  We did a 26-hour drive -through to and from Idaho, but included David’s Aunt Judy in the mix.  It was a joy to have her along.  In spite of the heart-breaking reason for the trip, we made the most of it.  Maureen  would be pleased.  Along with the gathering of the Cullen clan and Maureen’s awesome “force of nature” colleagues and friends, we made a few side trips.
David was able to meet one of his fellow pencil aficionados whom he had only known from their on-line transactions.  I bowed out of that meeting as the evening involved discussions of the virtues of Eberhard-Fabeer vs. Ticonderoga pencils and the secret locations of the best Blackwing 602 writing sticks.  (yawn).  He also met up with a former teaching colleague from his Wichita Collegiate days.  They pretty much picked up where they left off 15 years ago, jokes and all!  I was able to meet in person one of the couples from my eGroup who live in Spokane, WA.  On our way out of Idaho we made time to visit Mission Aviation Headquarters in Nampa.  You can read about that visit here.
We also took some Kansas trips.  For David’s birthday we went to Abilene  KS, stayed in a wonderful bed and breakfast, toured the Eisenhower Library and rested.  In August we returned to my home town and county for my 45th High School reunion, staying at yet another B & B in the country, then headed up to Jewell County, my maternal homestead.
 Other Letter Worthy Events
letterWe began the year as a part of a special wedding in the flint hills of Kansas at sunrise early in January.  David co-officiated the union of a couple, the bride, the daughter of friends here in Wichita and the groom a Frenchman.  The wedding was in both French and English, so that the two sides of the family were represented in their native tongue.  David did the French version.  It was lovely (and yes, VERY cold).  The reception was at the Historic Beaumont Inn.
My sister graciously hosted my side of the family for a July 4th barbecue AND for Thanksgiving.  Way to go Cindy!  The day this is posted David and I will be celebrating 39 years of marriage and I will be a week into my 63rd year.  We both enjoy good health and energy.  I still work out several times a week and ride my bike when the weather is good.  David prefers to get his exercise cutting wood, mowing the lawn and hauling plywood – although he fusses about it!
We are enjoying our 60s.   I find each decade has its special joys and graces.  Our life in the Love of The Father, His Son Jesus Christ and presence of the Holy Spirit undergirds our every breath and we are grateful.  May you have a blessed Holiday Season and Joyous New Year.
Please feel free to leave a comment below.  We would love to hear from you.

December at Our Home – Celebrations and Milestones

CelebrationsA wedding anniversary is the celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity. The order varies for any given year.   Paul Sweeney
This month my husband and I will be married 39 years.  When he first asked me to marry him, we had planned a June wedding after his first year of ministry school at Melodyland School of Theology in Anaheim, CA (yes, I know the name is weird but there is a really neat reason for it that is a subject for another time).   I was in Denver and progressing in my air traffic training program.  A June wedding would have been at a more routine phase of my training and would include the option of taking some time off.
However, the first part of October, just as I was entering a critical phase of training (non-radar labs) and no option to take vacation time, David called.  He said “I think we should get married when I am home for Christmas break”.  We had not planned a big to-do, just a family and friends day church wedding with a cake and punch reception, but still 10 weeks?  Seriously?
There were some logical reasons for this request, which are beside the point right now, and in spite of all of the reasons to the contrary, I said OK.  It only meant:
  • getting a dress
  • assembling an invitation list
  • ordering invitations and a cake and flowers
  • Oh and bridesmaids dresses, tuxedos
  • and of course, continuing my studies in air traffic
Celebrations Need Help
Fortunately, God gave me a strong sense of organization and and an awesome friend, Beverly, to pull it together.  We also had a strong church family of talented musicians, cake makers and decorators, as well as family on both sides who rallied to make sandwiches, mints, punch and, of course dresses.  My sister. my matron of honor, became the seamstress for the wedding party.
I made a trip to California on a long weekend, to see David where we bought our rings on sale at J.C. Penny.  I also bought material (on sale) and, with the help of my great Aunt Eunice, with whom I was staying, we made my dress and veil.  David arrived back in Colorado a few days before the wedding and with medicals in hand we got our license.  On December 17, 1977 we were married over the weekend at The Happy Church with family and friends to witness.  We had 24 hours to celebrate at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs.  I was then back to work learning how to keep airplanes from colliding.
Celebrations and Obstacles
It sounds like all went off without a hitch, but there would be no story if that were the case.  The wedding was scheduled on a Saturday between my high altitude and low-altitude pass-fail non-radar problems at Denver Air Route Traffic Control Center.  (did I say pass/fail?) I had been through this process once before at the FAA academy, but that did not make this phase any less daunting.  As with each of the 13 stages of training, I had to pass this one or I would be out of a job.  That meant at least one of the two final graded problems for the low and high altitude sectors had to be flaw-less.  If I passed the first graded, which was on a Thursday, I would not need to take the second one on Friday and could take the day of to be a bride.  But….
…I failed.  Two of the 30+ aircraft got closer than required 10 minutes apart .  Ten minutes that changed everything,   I would have to go in ant take the last problem on Friday morning and pass or our wedding would take place under a cloud of uncertainty regarding my employment situation.
Celebrations in Spite of….
Needless to say, I unraveled down to my toes on the inside.  I walked out of the facility, drove from work to my apartment, where David was waiting to celebrate my achievement.  I am sure my face said it all when he saw me, but once I saw his, the tears came.  In between sobs (which does not happen often with me) I told David the status of things.  I will never forget his response:  He took me in his arms and said something to the effect, “You are an amazing person.  I do not know many women who could or would put themselves through this. I am so proud of you”.
Those words melted away all the fear, doubt and care about our future.  Any doubt about this man I had decided to marry or the leap of faith we were about to take disappeared.  No matter how things went, it would be Ok.  I knew God had things in hand.  The next morning I went to work, and with every once of focus I could muster, passed the last problem.  I then took the rest of the day off to be a bride.
Remembering to Celebrate
Each December, in the midst of this special season, David and I celebrate our lives together.  There would be many more moments, even seasons of uncertainty.  Doubt and fear would visit many more times, but our God has always made a way.  Through, over or around, a path has always opened up.  So we celebrate dreams that have some to pass, dreams in process and dreams yet to be dreamed.
More than that, we celebrate God’s plans and dreams.  Jesus, God come in the flesh, as Savior, Redeemer, Comforter, the Reason for Hope.  Love Demonstrated.  God the Father, Son and Spirit, the three in One dreams about you.    Really.  No matter what this season is doing to or for you, let that truth soak in.
We send our warmest and most sincere prayers for you and yours this season.  Let us hear from you in the comment section below, or email me at:  nhcullen@cfaith.com.

Books and a Reading Plan Framework

“Clearly one must read every good book at least once every ten years.” ― C.S. Lewis
 In my BLOG post Trust the Process, Lessons from Air Traffic Training, I outlined one aspect of my personal growth plan for this year:  reading books.  I talked about why I decided to be intentional about this, the benefits and the people who have been instrumental in this decision.  Although I provided the list of books I completed this year, I did not go into the specifics of why and how I picked the bookbookss I did.  If you have thought, “gee this might be a good thing to do, but what books should I pick?”  “How do I decide?”
 There are many ways you could go about this:
Look at the various best sellers lists – New York Times, USA Today, etc. etc.
  • Look at various sites such as Good-reads for ideas
  • Ask friends and family or, even teachers
  • Go to the library and/or bookstore browse….
There is no limitation to options and, of course, you get to choose!  This BLOG provides the resources and rationale I used this past year then how the books I read fit into a framework that emerged.
The resources I used to pick were:
  • Books mentioned in podcasts I listen to regularly.  The two from which many of the books came from are The Entreleadership Podcast and This is Your Life podcast.
  • My own Book Shelf.  I had a backlog of unread books that has been reduced to half this year.  Yeah!
  • Recommendations from a friend.  Lisa is an author and avid reader.   Our tastes are different but I value her input and took her up on several suggestions that I have enjoyed.

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