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Christmas Tree Toppers – Does Yours Come With a Story? (Angel, Star, Bow – DO Tell!)



Posted by on Dec 18, 2015 | 11 comments

Madame Alexander Christmas Angel

I waited a long, long while to find her, but the moment I saw her, I knew she was the one.

There was never any question about what I wanted to top our Christmas tree; not a bow or a star or but an angel. That decision was forged by the time I was five, my mother’s DNA pressed into me from the outside in, a small but lasting impression of what you’re supposed to do when you’re grown up.

So much of who we become is seeded in early memory, the things we remember, of course, but also the things we don’t even realize we remember.


Mama topped our tree with an angel, so, of course, that’s what you were supposed to do.

But I was picky. I couldn’t find an angel I liked. For years I settled for a big, colorful bow. Then one day I walked into Belks and I saw her, and the heavens opened amid a chorus of glorious hallelujahs.

Or maybe something a little less dramatic. And more quiet.

She was pricey. You are not going to get a Tuesday Morning deal on a Madam Alexander doll at Belks. I thought twice…three times. Probably four. But…

her red hair…

those green eyes…

her crooked wings…

She was absolutely, positively imperfectly perfect. 


Madame Alexander Angel Tree Topper


I know I know, she’s as far removed from a Biblical description of an angel as possible, but she represents the one who brought good news 2000 years ago. She’s visual reminder of a spiritual reality.


One thing that makes her more special today than when I found her +/- 20 years ago is I cannot find any Madame Alexander angel toppers today. When I searched images (and Amazon), I couldn’t even find another version of her (though, admittedly, I didn’t scroll beyond the first few screens of images).


It’s been forever since I’ve hosted any kind of a link-up, and I know it’s a busy time of year where I hope you’re offline more than on, but I’d love to see what tops your tree, and if there’s a story behind it, I hope you’ll share (either by way of a blog comment or even write about it and link a post below. You can also link a Facebook, Instagram or Twitter image).

Christmas Tree Topper - Link-up

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CAPTION THIS! {a Notes From A Blue Bike GIVEAWAY!}



Posted by on Jan 29, 2014 | 21 comments

My friend LeAna dubbed this little jump of mine “The Robin” and I loved it when she’d send pictures of herself (or her son) duplicating the move while living in Europe.   Come to think of it, living abroad must bring that out; I only do TheRobin when I’m especially happy, which is what I was when we visited Paris and Heidelberg.

I’m also that kind of happy when we get a rare, Southern snow–

Snow Happy - Jumping in Snow

Back in the blogging dark ages, I had this fun circle of friends, some of whom aren’t blogging anymore (Susan), some who blog when they good and daggum well feel like it (Karmyn, Pamela and Kathy), one profane, sweet, curmudgeonly Australian (Peter), one who actually visited me

and Ree.  She blazed blogging trails like there was no tomorrow.  Then, again, she is a Pioneer Woman and that’s what they do.  Blaze trails.

Back then, PW hosted “Give That Photo a Name” contests, but eventually they grew so big, she had to move on.  Or maybe it was because she was having more fun cooking on television or writing lots of books or homeschooling or renovating a building in their hometown.  It’s hard to say which, exactly, but this we know:  girlfriend is busy.

I entered every GTPaN I saw but the closest I ever got to winning was an honorable mention–how could anyone compete with a sarcophagus?  I didn’t even know what that was until the contest.


My son captured the image above when we ventured outside to play in the snow, a rarity in these parts.  My husband doesn’t quite understand me, why I have such fizzy affection for snow, but I do…I’m the one who’s waking up every 15 minutes ALL NIGHT LONG to see if it’s here yet, the one who’s blue for days when the forecast is nothing but an empty tease.

On the surface, seemingly unrelated, I know my friend Tsh has a new book coming out next week:  Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World.  Except I don’t think my delight in snow – SO MUCH SO, THAT I’M LITERALLY JUMPING FOR JOY – is that far removed from “the art of living intentionally in a chaotic world”.  Why, in Robin World (the term affectionately assigned by my husband to the space inside my head) IT’S EXACTLY THE SAME THING.

I haven’t read Notes From a Blue Bike yet but every indication is it’s going to speak straight to who I am in some respects, and who I’d like to be in others.  It’s about slowing down, becoming better intentioned, not allowing our lives to be the boss of us.  Watch her trailer and you’ll see a glimpse of what I mean.

AND…in addition to sending a book to me, Tsh’s publisher, Thomas Nelson, is allowing me to give away a few books.  In the spirit of blogging days gone by, I decided my picture needs a FUN caption or comment.  I’ll reward three books to those who enter by way of in instagramFacebook or comments to this post.   

I’m convinced we need the message of Notes From a Blue Book, and if you’d like to win a copy, PLEASE leave a fun caption (or six) anywhere you please.  If you aren’t already subscribed to my blog, now is the perfect time to do so; and if you haven’t already, follow me on Instagram and Facebook.

I’ll choose my favorite captions and post the winners’ names here on next Wednesday; feel free to enter as often as a creative whim hits you.  FYI, I’m partial to poetry; even a simple haiku might land you a book if it strikes my fancy.

Help spread the word?  Share this post with your friends with the easy share buttons below.


Robin Heart Signature - Green




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Winter’s lament



Posted by on Jan 6, 2014 | 6 comments

On Winter and Motherhood

Winter’s Lament

Four snowflakes sailed passed my window

a horizontal glide

a finger to gravity

wind’s revelation.

tiny misguided flurry

losing its way

leaving their pack

choosing a less-traveled path.

so easy to count

too easy to count

a tease

a taunt

a disappointment

for the mother who bought two grocery store sleds

who cradled memory

and held hope high

and suspended reality

to recapture the scattered

“fool me once, shame on you,

fool me twice, shame on me.”

she saved the receipt

and silently cursed time.

Robin Heart Signature - Green




(Click for collective inspiration hosted by my friend Angie Ryg.)

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A visit to the Austrian Alps (and no wonder Julie Andrews burst into song!)



Posted by on Mar 23, 2012 | 8 comments

Angry splotches of purple with irregular, banana-esque edge, my three week-old bruises confirm what I hate to admit:  snow skiing ain't my thing

But it's how my husband wanted to celebrate his birthday, so off to the Austrian Alps we went.  Just ninety minutes from our Bavarian home, we entered a land of enchantment.

And I forgot my camera.

Thankfully, my cell phone was attached to me, so I drained the battery a few times over.

 Church in Austrian AlpsThis doesn't even look real, does it?  On Sunday, Walter took us on a tour of the surrounding area, and when we rounded a corner near St. Johann (but in the middle of nowhere), this popped into view and stole my breath. 

I literally applauded this spectacular show.  It was either that, or sing, and I was a little concerned I might start an avalanche if I chose the latter.


Austrian Alps Austria ~ the Alps Austria ~ the Sound of Music





I needed a monster camera to capture the Alps' expanse…

6807547750_3b1675f3b6_cI think this was right before we rounded the corner to see the chapel on the hill….


Striped poles on the sides of the rode are necessary to help find the roads when snow falls by the buckets.


Tad being fitted for skis machining skis










I didn't realize how technical it had become to machine skis; then again, the last time I put any one was before I gave birth.  Decades ago.

The only time you will see me smiling with skis on is at the bottom of a hill on flat terrain.  On a lift, you will see utter terror; at the top of the mountain, you will see me catatonic.  There are reasons there are no pictures of either.

My horror aside, we had an absolutely beautiful day for skiing!  It was downright hot ~ mid-40s ~ and we shed as many layers as we could.



Oh, my…looking at the lifts makes me a little green all over again….


Obertauern's bunny slope was the steepest beginner slope I've seen; it's more like an intermediate slope back home.

 photo 5

I thought about trying the slalom course, but then I thought again.  Actually, by "thinking about trying" I mean considering "is today a good day to break my neck?" 


Thankfully, the boys got hungry, so we crossed the street to the Tauernkönig Hotel and had a lovely lunch at their restaurant. 

 Tad and I had a delicious grilled chicken salad and Walter had a traditional skillet dish ~ seared potatoes with pork, topped with a fried egg. 


Even the bier is pretty in the Alps.

 There are so many slopes, no matter where you are, it never feels crowded.

There was plenty of entertainment simply driving through the village after the slopes closed…


I'm pretty sure this place was just cranking up; everyone seemed happy…


And, heck, even I'm a much happier camper once the skis come off, just probably for a different reason.



I might not like sking, but spending time in the Austrian Alps is one of my favorite things to do.  The beauty, splendor…majesty of the mountain range compels my soul to sing, my heart to worship! I can't wait to see the area in a different season, when the snow is memory and the hills are painted green.

Wandering around by myself inspired me to write a little, too…

Because I wish I could bring you with me to Germany, I'm thankful to share a glimpse into our travels here. 

And to tell you stories…

…like the time we went to the naked sauna…

Stay tuned…!


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Just when I thought I knew everything about him…



Posted by on Feb 15, 2012 | 8 comments

In November, my husband and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, which makes a recent revelation about him all the more surprising:

He's very German and must've been switched at birth unbeknownst to his mother, father or an entire hospital staff in small town Nevada, circa 1963.

We learned this about him while attending cultural training prior to our temporary move to Germany, and I must say, this explains a lot.

Christian Höferle (Höferle Consulting, highly recommended for inter-cultural training in the tri-state area) conducted the content-rich sessions, and early on we made the remarkable discovery based on Herr Höferle's characterization of German values:

  • efficiency
  • punctuality
  • organization
  • thoroughness
  • method
  • logic
  • consistency

Hello???  Is this not Tad Dance to a "T"???

So, it makes perfect sense that he would quickly experience a breakthough, and acclimate to a new job, culture and country with relative ease. 

What I didn't anticipate (but in retrospect, should have given his newly-discovered German descent) was how committed he would be to The German Way.  Since we arrived two weeks ago, the temperature has languished in single digits like it forgot how to count past ten!  Since his first day at work, Tad has ridden a bike about 5K to his office. 

Below-freezing temperatures aside, it also snowed last Tuesday; that snow was still on the ground when it began snowing yesterday, and though there have been brief respites, it has continued through today. 

Only today we have freezing temps, a wet, sometimes heavy snowfall…and 30 mph 50 kph wind gusts!

A year from now I might just be married to a hard body….


Can you hear the howl of the wind?

Blustery snow




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Scents and sensibilities (& travel advice for moms of babies & a surprise giveaway!!)



Posted by on Dec 29, 2011 | 25 comments

Christmas picA thousand years ago ~ or so it seems ~ I was anticipating The Best Christmas Ever, the first one with our first-born daughter.  Though she was only four months old, Christmas was magical again, something that was missing without children around.  

I re-imagined Jesus as a swaddled, manger babe, angelic choruses and Bethlehem star, men wise and bearing gifts or shepherds humbled and astonished.  

Intertwined with such romantic notions were Santa pics and miles of traveling, first to my in-laws for a night and then to my father's house for the same.  I couldn't wait!

Days before we were set to travel, Rachel got a cold.  I didn't think much of it–December is the Season for cold and flu, afterall–so we packed up our car and went over the river and through the woods to Noni's house.  

Just like every other new parent, we quickly learned that a baby worsens as night unfolds, the darker the hour, the meaner the symptoms. 

At bedtime, family scattered throughout my in-laws' home; Rachel's pack-&-play was set up in the dining room…where both of us would eventually spend the longest Christmas Eve of All Time.  Me, trying to console (and keep quiet) a pitiful child, her, in obvious pain and distress, unable to breathe, sleep or settle down. 

It was miserable.

The next day included a wonderful Christmas feast, presents to the overflow…and a three-hour drive to my father's house.  I was the Grinch before his heart grew three sizes.

After another sleepless night, we realized we couldn't wait until we got home to see our pediatrician, so we set about to find one in my hometown.  My childhood physician had long since retired, but we were able to locate a doctor willing to see us the day after Christmas.  We would've paid anything to find relief for our baby girl (and we likely did).

Long story short, ear + upper respiratory infection = prescription + baby Tylenol.  Bet most of y'all saw that coming.

Through all the inconvenience, frustration, and empathy for my sick baby girl, I learned something of value that first Christmas; something that would serve me throughout my children's infant-elementary years:

Always travel with my medicine cabinet in a Zip-loc bag.

What did I include?

  • Age-appropriate Tylenol.  Acetaminophen can be used for children as young as six months (maybe younger under a doctor's care) so that's why I chose it over Ibuprofen.
  • Nasal aspirator (aka snot sucker).  I always felt like I was sucking out their brains when we used it, but it was the lesser evil of a child who obviously needed help.  This is probably when I discovered the truth of "This hurts me as much or more than it hurts you!"
  • Medicine dropper.  For littles, it's necessary (and the grandparents didn't keep one on hand).
  • Age-appropriate decongestant.  Funny, but I never stuck with one thing; whatever a doctor or friend referred.

and when they got a little older (two-ish),

  • Vicks VapoRub.  I was likely conditioned from childhood that Vicks VapoRub was a NECESSARY remedy for cold symptom relief; there is no other scent on the planet that better reminds me of TLC. 

And I'm not alone in that; if you look at the Vicks VapoRub Facebook page (and I hope you'll LIKE it while you're there!!), fans frequently reference its feel-good scent and nostalgic appeal.

Which, in turn, makes me think about the scents of this season.  My favorites?  Freshly cut Christmas trees, soup simmering on stovetop, cookies fresh out of the oven and savory turkey and dressing.  Mmmmmm, all

VicksVaporRubYour turn:  What are your favorite scents of the Season?  The aroma that spells comfort, home, peace, holidays?  DO chime in with what and why!  For fun, I'll choose ONE commentor to receive their favorite DaySpring product, $50 or under. 

UPDATED:  Congratulations to Tiffany and Christina who will BOTH receive their DaySpring wishes!!

(From me, not sponsored by DaySpring.  Click the DS Christmas logo in my right sidebar and let me know what you'd like if you win.  Entry deadline for giveaway is 11:59 EST 12/30).

 (Thanks to Vicks VapoRub for inviting me to share my thoughts through the Cough and Cold Season!  I'm actually having a LOT of fun telling stories and sharing memories through their Winter blogging campaign!!)

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