Coffee, Anyone?

coffee, cup, laptop, memeThe weather here in Kentucky has taken a definite turn toward winter. I’m warming my hands on a fresh cup of coffee as I work on the answers to some of last week’s questions. Most of those were easily addressed in the comments section (last week), but my friend, Jennifer Hallmark did her best to stump me with several more difficult ones. I’ll handle those, starting with today’s post–so pour another cup, and join me.

Oh, Kentucky! I love my beautiful home state. Yes, it can be steamy-hot in the summer, but most of the time, it shines like an emerald. Some years, the grass stays green all winter. Last year, the neighbors were still mowing their lawns in December.

They call it bluegrass, but it’s really green. And honestly, bluegrass is not all that hardy. Many Louisvillians replaced it in their lawns, after an especially dry summer killed their bluegrass.

I love this picture! ❤

When most people hear the name Kentucky, they think of “My Old Kentucky Home,” horse racing, and a few famous drinks. But Kentucky is a lot more. We have plenty of lakes and mountains (small mountains) and rivers, and in between, lay peaceful rolling pastures lined with black fences. Follow the narrow roads–the scenic byways–and you’ll catch sight of some gorgeous animals, along with their equally beautiful abodes. These thoroughbreds live quite well.

Over the mountains and through the woods, you’ll find one of nature’s more incredible phenomenons–the natural bridges, along with some awe-inspiring scenery, as you approach our border with West Virginia.

Ever seen a moonbow? Certain times of year, you can witness one over Cumberland Falls (picture from many moons ago, and not at night, when the moonbow appears).

And a really big ark park. Encounter a replica of Noah’s Ark, in Williamstown, Kentucky, near Lexington and within easy distance of Cincinnati, Ohio. I’ve never been, but we’re planning a trip soon. I’ll write an entire post, complete with pictures! 🙂

Photo by Karen Jurgens

We have a little cave–OK, a Mammoth Cave–situated near I-65, on the Green River. Hike through the underground caverns, then take a relaxing cruise on the river. No matter how warm it is outside, take a jacket or sweater, it’s cold underground.

Bardstown, Kentucky is a beautiful small town, one you won’t want to miss. My Old Kentucky Home is located there, along with some wonderful home-cooking restaurants. The countryside in all directions is scenic, sometimes breathtaking. Watch for deer, though. Especially early morning and early evening.

I’ve saved Louisville till last. Churchill Downs is open year round, though a lot more exciting in spring and summer. This resident has never attended a Derby, but I have been to the races on less hectic days. They also have a wonderful museum.

Visit the Louisville Slugger in downtown Louisville, if you’re into baseball, or just interested in seeing the big baseball bat (photo-op!). Located nearby, the beautiful Muhammad Ali Center, the Ohio River,  and its locks and riverboats.

Some of the top cuisine in America is located in Louisville. And we have a miles-long riverside park with a ped-bridge over the Ohio. Down River Road a ways, toward the beautiful new East End bridge, is a place called Captain’s Quarters, a restaurant best known for its scenic views and ambience. One of my favorite spots.

And there’s so much more.

I know, this sounds a bit like a travelogue. Can you tell I’m proud of my home state? (And I didn’t even mention basketball).  Yes, we’re land-locked. We don’t have ocean access, but if your vacation needs don’t require hot, sandy beaches, you might like it here. Especially if you love beautiful horses, lakes, and rivers.

By the way, this post is by no means an exhaustive list of the many places to visit in Kentucky. You’ll find that here: Kentucky Tourism.

Have you visited Kentucky? What’s your favorite attraction?

Click to Tweet: #Kentucky – a beautiful place to visit, and a nice place to live. #travel #ontheroad

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Adventures in Ecuador

We’ve heard a lot of negative words lately. And let’s face it, negative words make you feel bad.

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Left to right: Todd, April, Bob, and Betty Owens

So it was a relief to spend a few days outside the U.S., in a place where we saw very little television, and had limited access to the internet. When I did log on to Facebook, I found it easy to ignore the negative stuff. I skimmed through to find the important, like what the family was up to now. Their vacation pictures made me smile.

We’re smiling here, though it’s the predawn hours at Louisville International, waiting to board our flight to Miami. Some of us had not slept, or had at least gotten very little sleep.

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Left to right: Todd, Bob, Bill McDonald, Betty, and April

This next picture was taken about 19 hours later, on the other side – in Guayaquil, Ecuador. After facing long lines in customs, a friendly face was most welcome. Our host, Bill McDonald got us quickly to our hotel room and sleep, at last…

Cuenca had a calming effect on us. We were very busy, but it wasn’t frenzied busy. We were able to share on a personal level with some of the most important people in the world. Those right in front of us.

Back row: (left to right) Betty, Bob, Mishel Gomez, Front: Todd, Melissa (Mishel's little sis), April
Back row: (left to right) Betty, Bob, Mishel Gomez, Front: Todd, Mishel’s little sister Melissa, and April.

 

We met a lot of people–missionaries, interns, ex-pats, and native Ecuadorians. We worked with them, talked to them, played football (actual American-style football!), went on adventures, and shared wonderful meals with them.

We bonded with a few of them and they became family.

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Todd & Mario at the Incan ruins

Bob (middle photo) was very serious about his encounter with one of the ancients.

Back outside, the weather was unusually warm and sunny for a winter’s day at 10,000 feet. Regarding the end photo – I am not trying to connect to Facebook. I was trying to find pictures I’d taken. Honest.

13782268_10207533011903287_1198769075288032728_nWe spent Sunday with some very special people, first at an inner city church, where I shared a message of forgiveness. I look like a giantess here, but I’m only 5’7″ and wearing flat shoes. The girl who’s interpreting for me is quite a bit shorter than that, but she was an excellent interpreter and so cute.

moments_ff0ce947-dd84-4973-8164-0430611f7ec5_hi_resShe and a number of others joined us for dinner after the service. I loved that table. I could use one just like it for our holiday dinners at home. I’m afraid we’d have to open the front and back door to make room for the thing, though.

Besides Pastor Miquel and his family, we were joined by short-term missionaries, summer interns from the television station, missionary Leah Diaz, fellow Kentuckians, Jeremy and Tiffany Riggs and their family, and Thom and Becky Davis of Unsion Television. Most of these accompanied us on a trip into the Andes to El Chorro de Giron, a beautiful cascade down a mountainside.

We climbed, though I had to stop a couple of times just to breathe. We were at a high altitude, after all. Everyone was relieved when I stopped, since they didn’t want to be the one. 13782199_10207533036983914_6770409064301955671_nNow that I’ve caught my breath…

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Thom & Becky Davis
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Todd Owens & April Teeter

Of course these two never ran out of breath. We later joined them at the midpoint where we all got wet from the spray. But we loved it!

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Todd, me, Leah Diaz, and April Teeter

Thus ends another week in Cuenca. The following day, we headed back to Guayaquil to spend our last night in Ecuador. It went so fast!

Later this week, I’ll be posting about some of the interesting buildings we discovered in Cuenca. For further adventures and lots more pictures, you can check out our group page on Facebook at Owens to Ecuador.

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A Morning at Mas Cafe

Mas Cafe OutlookI’m writing this post from the coffee shop at Unsion Television in Cuenca, Ecuador. It’s quiet at this hour, but will soon fill to capacity. We’ve had a wonderful week so far in Cuenca. I’ve been busy talking about Annabelle’s Ruth, speaking at various locations and teaching a workshop on creative writing. It’s been a great experience. I’m so thankful to our dear friend, missionary Bill McDonald, for the opportunity.

Meanwhile, my team members have been busy working. The guys are helping Mario renovate the television studio upstairs. They love Mario, whom they dubbed “Super Mario.” April is working here in the coffee shop, alongside our beloved Rocio Romo Ortiz. Rocio is gracious and funny and tends to “adopt” her helpers as family. I loved her smiles and hugs and wonderful cappuccinos.

13775830_10207510951351787_196415123665694259_nLater today, we’re headed to the marketplace to find gifts for our family and friends. The picture to the left is of a vendor we met. My son, Todd, tried on a pair of too-small gauchos, just for fun. They may fit the vendor, but not my big ole gringo son.

And of course, I have to show you the world-famous flower market. Their prices are low and the flowers are amazing. You can smell the place a block away. 13692488_10207480944801642_5443356270469841507_n

 

I’ve been impressed with Cuenca. The people are kind and generous and hard-working. Most of what they do is done by hand, the old-fashioned way. We’re staying in the old downtown area with its cobblestone streets and amazing mountain views. CasaDelAquilaThe hotel was once the home of a well-to-do Spaniard. It has the inner courtyards and patio, though a glass roof has been added to protect from the elements. It does tend to rain more often this time of year. And though it gets quite chilly at night, they don’t have heat. They don’t have air conditioning, either. I don’t think they really need it, since it never gets really hot here.

If you go to Cuenca during their winter, take your flannel PJ’s and socks. You’ll be glad you did. They are in the mountains, after all.

AndesDayOneSpeaking of mountains,  the trip over the Andes from Guayaquil (locally pronounced “why-a-keel”) to Cuenca was … an experience. We piped around hairpin turns to find anything from gigantic boulders in the road, llamas, or small herds of cattle. At one point, Bill jumped out to help recapture a runaway cow.

The bathrooms were an adventure as well. A little on the primitive side, and you can’t flush paper.

13775877_10207479488165227_1482985366801095928_nBefore climbing into the mountains, we passed banana groves, cacao groves and rice paddies. Yes, rice is a staple here, along with the bananas, plantains, potatoes called “papas” and yucca root, which they fry like french fries, or boil.

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Arrow points to oritos.

Bill stopped to buy us a bunch of small bananas called “oritos.” Large bananas are oros, which means gold. The oritos were delicious and the potassium helped us make it through those hills and curves.

The city of Cuenca lies in a valley that resembles a bowl. The altitude ranges between 7,710 to 8,370 feet. That’s higher than Denver–it took us a couple of days to settle in. We walked slower. Even the process of getting into bed at night made me wheeze.

The long name for the city is “Santa Ana de los cuatro ríos de Cuenca” — since there are four rivers which are part of the Amazon watershed. This place has been around for a long, long time. It was originally founded in April, 1557 by the Spanish. I noticed a definite mix of Spanish and natives among the citizens of Cuenca.

Ecuadoran WomenAs you walk down the streets of the city, you’ll notice many who are dressed in traditional clothing. They’re not wearing costumes. This is their everyday wear. Many are Quichua (Kichwa), but may also be Huaorani, Shuar, or Chachi. They are polite and friendly and very patient, for the most part. They zip along the inner city sidewalks along the narrow cobblestone streets, headed to market or who knows where. Some of them have booths in the marketplace, where they sell handmade textiles, hats, and jewelry or other crafts.

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Todd with Mario!

Thus ends the first few days of our Cuenca mission trip.

Next post, I’ll have more to share, after we’ve visited the beautiful cathedrals and vistas. In the meantime, ¡hasta la vista! ¡Dios le bendiga!

 

A Legacy of Love

CloudsInFlightAt the time of this posting, I’ll be on my way home from Ecuador. I’m certain I’ll have lots to tell you about our trip. Just getting ready to go has been an amazing journey for me and also for the three others on our team.

I’ve learned a few things about human nature. I’ve learned there are a great many loving individuals out there who will give sacrificially to a cause they believe in. Sometimes, they gave because they love us and want to support us. So I shed a few tears as I unfolded wadded-up hundred-dollar bills that had been pressed into my hand after church on Sunday.

ants-1169349_1920And then there are those who have nothing to give except their thoughts and prayers. Those are most welcome, because faith moves mountains. And sometimes, prayer is a sacrifice too. Because people are busy and the world is a distracting place.

With all that’s happening in our great, big world, all the bad news can easily overwhelm us. But I choose to focus on the good. The ordinary people who seem to be able to cut through the deepest darkness with their bright smiles and loving wishes. Folks who not only know the two most important commandments (according to Jesus–Matthew 22:37-40), but practice them in everyday life.

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“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. ” — Galations 5:22-23

I wonder if they realize, they’re passing on a legacy? A wonderful, beautiful legacy of love.

Has someone surprised you lately with a sacrificial gift or an act of kindness? I’d love to hear about it. Leave it in the comment section or email me via the contact tab above.

If you’d like to know what I’ve been up to, you can find me and my current activities on my Facebook Author page, or on the Owens to Ecuador group page. See you next week!

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Daddy Was a Musical Instrument

No kid in my family, or the generation before mine, took music lessons. But we had the music in us. I know, because if Daddy was with us, there would be music wherever we went.

He didn’t need to haul around a guitar, a banjo, or even a pair of bongo drums. He was the musical instrument. Yes, you read that right.

Mom grew up on the West Coast. Dad was born and raised in West Tennessee, so we traveled back and forth across country many times. He always had the radio on. He’d listen to it all–hillbilly, cowboy country, rock-n-roll, or preachin’. But during those times when radio was not available, he made his own music.

He was not singing. There were no words to his music. Literally.

music-624421_1280Daddy played the nose trumpet, the mouth harp, the pec drums, the ab drums–you get the picture? He also played the harmonica, but not as often. And once, when I was ten, I saw him strum an electric guitar.

Oh, this man was talented. He had rhythm. He was right on key, and his nose trumpet was to be envied. His audience adored him. We laughed till we cried and sometimes had to beg for a potty break along the way.

Mom was a little less enthralled by his grand abilities. When she wouldn’t laugh at his concerts, he’d make his pecs dance. Guaranteed giggles, especially from the peanut gallery.

Tom was a navy boy
Tommy Thomason, US Navy

Where did he develop these wondrous talents? We’re not really sure, but he definitely honed them in the Navy. I guess they had a lot of down time on board ship and  had to learn to entertain themselves. And he was guaranteed a captive audience.

It’s not really something he passed on to the next generation. I don’t think either of my brothers inherited this talent. But in my mind and heart, I can still hear Daddy playing his music. The memory always makes me smile. And I really believe that was the purpose of his one-man concert.

“All the days of the afflicted are evil, but he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast.” Proverbs 15:15 NKJV

Scripture from <https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs+15%3A15&version=NKJV>