Travel Tuesdays – The Ringling

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Recently while I was visiting friends in Florida we spent the day at The Ringling ( in Sarasota. The Ringling includes Ca’ d’ Zan – the winter residence of John and Mable Ringling, the Circus Museum and the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art as well as beautiful grounds and a performing arts center. 

John and Mable Ringling had no children. Mable would predecease John and so when he died in 1936 he left the mansion and art collection to the people of Florida. It is worth a visit.
 Ca’d’Zan means House of John in a Venetian dialect. “The couple hired Dwight James Baum, an acclaimed New York architect, to create their mansion in the Venetian Gothic style. Begun in 1924 and completed in 1926, the house cost $1.5 million to construct, or approximately $20.9 million today.” You can only enter the house on a guided tour. The mansion is lovely. Mable’s attention to detail as mentioned numerous times by our docent is everywhere. Mable even had the back of the medicine cabinet doors painted with scenes of nature. The ceilings have beautiful sometimes whimsical murals and the chandeliers are exquisite. The chandelier in the main living space, The Court, hung in the original Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. John and Mable bought most of their furniture and fixtures from auction houses in New York. The mansion is decorated with the original furniture. Having taken quite a few tours, I can tell you a house still containing the original furniture is not the norm. Throughout the house there are stands with photos taken by Mable that give an additional insight into her daily life at Ca’d’Zan. 

After the tour, my friends said “it’s your choice – art museum or circus museum?” I responded “oh, that is tough. Should I go with my inner child or be a grown up?” My friends commented they were confident that they knew what I would pick and they were right – Circus Museum. As much as I enjoyed the beautiful gardens and learning about the mansion, the Circus Museum was my favorite. It brought back memories of attending the circus as a child. The smells, sounds and sights all came flooding back with wonder and awe. Things I hadn’t thought about in years. It was interesting because I had taken my children to the circus but the memories that bubbled up were from childhood. The fear that someone would get eaten by a lion or that the guy would fall off the tightrope. My delight when the little dogs jumped over each other or my amazement at how the performer could stay balanced on the galloping horse. The sight of elephants parading and the silliness of the clowns. The Circus Museum has a wonderful “train set” display that depicts the circus coming to town and explains the process. It was fascinating. There was a certain sadness that hung in the back of my mind has I explored the Circus Museum. The knowledge that the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus was no more.

Check out my photos below. And if you are in the area, plan a visit. It is a little pricey but worth it. Thank you to my friends who “treated me” to a great day.

In this nation

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This photo is of a sign that hangs in my daughter’s living room. I have read it numerous times and often thought won’t it be great if  it was true not just for her house, or even just my house but what if it was true for our nation. What if we could say:
In this nation

We work hard & help others

We tell the truth

We practice patience

We smile

We say I’m sorry

We keep promises

We laugh

We speak kindly

We show respect

We love one another

There are days we would miss the mark but couldn’t we at least try.

Remedial class


I have often commented to friends that I am pretty sure I am in the remedial class when it comes to learning life lessons. Seriously if there is such a class I am in it. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is just the way it is. For example, last year in Children’s Bible Quizzing we studied the book of Exodus. The story of Moses with the burning bush is one of my favorites. Moses out in the wilderness doing his job of tending sheep and God shows up. Take your sandals off. Holy ground. “I AM WHO I AM” All great stuff.

What stuck with me last year was Moses asking “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God responding “I will be with you…” I loved that response. God didn’t say “Moses, you were the Hebrew baby in the basket, you were the young man in Pharaoh’s court, you are a murder, the shepherd.” He says “I will be with you.” This was an aha moment for me. Really that is what it is all about God is with us. Immanuel means God with us. I mentioned it to friends. In conversation with my pastor, he commented that Moses actually asked the wrong question. Moses should have asked “who was God?”  Yeah, right. That is worth pondering, too. The main thing still goes back to God saying “I will go with you.” I was passionate about this. I pondered it  I excitedly  shared this new understanding when I spoke at Le Tourneau and College of the Ozarks. Good stuff.

Fast forward to two weeks ago. I have been invited to share my September 11 at a hearing on terrorism. Did I mention the hearing is in Brussels, Belgium at the European Parliament? An amazing opportunity but I am pretty sure they have the wrong person. No, a real invitation to speak arrives via email. Then a telephone call. All confirmed by September 11 Families Association. This is legit.  I am humbled by the opportunity but remember I am the ballet teacher. This is a “running with the big kids” event. I am a sit on the floor with kids person.

Yesterday I emailed some friends to ask them to pray for me as I embark on this amazing adventure and as I sat in my study I thought “who am I that I should speak at the European Parliament.” And then it clicked! I asked the wrong question but answer was still the same – “I will go with you.”






getting back in the groove

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Sometimes with writing (blogging) as with other things in life you just seem to fall out of step. A new commitment to babysit my grandson two days a week, add to that a couple of speaking engagements and interviews, increased travel to visit my mom and blogging fell to the bottom of the pile. I missed blogging (and I have some other writing I need to work on) so here is my public announcement that I am picking up my pen (well not really because I type) and putting my random ramblings on paper (screen) on a more regular basis. 🙂 I am getting back in the groove.

First up is a few quick recommendations for visiting the September 11 Memorial. Recently people from all parts (former high school classmates, pastors, etc.)  of my life have been asking “can you explain the difference between the Memorial, Tribute Center, One World Observatory and Museum to me?”

So here goes:

  1.  9/11 Tribute Center, 120 Liberty Street is 5 small galleries and walking tours of the September 11 Memorial Plaza. The daily walking tours are the crown jewel of the Tribute Center. Survivors, downtown residents, family members, first responders and volunteers during the rescue/recovery give 75 minute walking tours that include the history of the original World Trade Center, timeline of the attacks, rebuilding, symbolism of the Memorial and most importantly their personal story 9/11 Tribute Center tours started in 2005 and the galleries opened in 2006. This is who I volunteer with.
  2.  The National September 11 Memorial is open daily from 7:30am – 9:00pm. It is an open plaza. You don’t need tickets to visit. Take the time to walk around at least one of the pools so you can experience the size of the buildings. Pools are within the original foot[print of the building. The row of trees behind you when you are at the pool marks the walls of the original buildings – you are standing in the original buildings. The Memorial opened on September 11, 2011.
  3. The National September 11 Memorial Museum is open Sunday – Thursdays from 9:00am – 8:00pm and Fridays – Saturdays from 9:00am – 9:00pm but last entry is 6:00pm/7:00pm respectively. You need to purchase tickets online. Allow at least 2 hours to visit and be kind to yourself. The museum has a lot of amazing artifacts. It is arranged with a in memoriam section and a historical section. Don’t miss the video from NASA. The Museum opened in May of 2014.
  4. One World Observatory is open daily from 9:00am – 8:00pm with last entry at 7:15pm. One World Observatory is the observation deck of the new 1WTC. You will need to purchase tickets. It opened in May of 2015.


My thoughts:

You will get more out of visiting The National September 11Memorial if you do a 9/11 Tribute Center walking tour.

If you are not from “around these parts”, do a 9/11 Tribute Center walking tour of The National September 11 Memorial and go to One World Observatory.

If you have children do a walking tour and then decide if The National September 11 Museum is appropriate for your family. Remember to your children September 11 is history, to you it is current event.

All four places are worth your time and money but you need to pace yourself so do a walking tour (& galleries) your first visit, the museum another visit and the observatory another time.

The Museum is artifacts and information.

The walking tours are stories and inspiration.

The Observatory is cool views.






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last column bearing Squad 41 where they found Bruce's body.

This is a reprint from a blog this time last year. I felt it is worth saying again. This anniversary is fifteen years so the “activities/hype/coverage” will be even greater than a normal year – 3rd, 7th, 13th… I did watch a good documentary on CBNC called “Ground Zero Rising: Freedom or Fear”  Lee Ielpi, founder of the 9/11 Tribute Center, was featured as well as a fellow docent, Matt Crawford. Another documentary being shown on PBS on Sunday September 11 is “The Trees” by Scott Elliott. I was interviewed for that film. I will say the thing that makes the countdown even more difficult for people I know is when the days line up and September 11 is a Tuesday. Thankfully this year it isn’t. Side note: September 11 and Christmas always fall on the same day of the week. I know that is a weird thing to know but I do and I would not be surprised to learn that other members of the September 11 community know that as well. Be kind to yourself and be kind to each other. 🙂


For many, September 1 means the countdown to September 11 has begun. The countdown actually starts much early for members of the September 11 community. Maybe it is in July when the letter to participate in reading the names from the National September 11 Memorial Museum arrives in the mail. Or when the emails from various September 11 organizations announcing their September 11 ceremonies start showing up in my inbox. Or when the actual invitation/credentials to attend the ceremony arrive. There is no escaping it.

So I will limit my TV watching until September 12. I won’t be surprised when my husband’s photo randomly shows up on my FB feed. I will listen to the radio expecting to switch channels at anytime. I will pray for those who saw things on September 11, 2001 that no one should see. I will pray for the families of those who were killed that day and have died since from illnesses caused by their efforts in the rescue and recovery. I will decide to participate in the things that help in my journey. I will put one foot in front of the other. Don’t get me wrong I am grateful that “we don’t forget” but for many people myself included there is no way we could forget. Oh and in case you were wondering the countdown for us begins on September 12

Trusted sources

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Recently I misplaced my “hands free” device that I use when I am driving. I assumed it had fallen out at church as I made a quick stop there to drop off VBS stuff before heading out of town for the weekend. I contacted a friend, who is also the church office manager,  to say “if a little silver Bluetooth device shows up, it is mine.”  

On Saturday I received a text saying “no sign of it.” I decided to see if my Bluetooth settings showed my device as connected. Voila! It was connected so I went out to my car with the confidence of finding my device. My phone was saying it was connected so it must be there. I looked in all the standard spots – the dashboard, cup holders, that extra little compartment for stuff, under the mats, between the seats.  I moved the driver seat all the way forwards, then all the way backwards. I raised the seat. I reclined the seat. I got a flashlight and looked under the seat. Still my phone was saying it was connected. By now, I was a little less confident that my phone knew what it was “talking about” so I went inside and checked my phone in an area I knew was out of range.  Bingo! It showed not connected but as I walked within range it was connected. It must be in the car. I headed back out to my car. I repeated all the driver seat maneuvers. No device. I moved the passenger seat in all the same directions. I found a lipstick but no device. Forget it! 

On Sunday my phone was still showing my device as connected. Really?!? Oh well, I will just have my daughter look when I get to her house. It must be in plain sight but I can’t see it.  I got in my car to head to my daughter’s house. I reached up into the glasses holder to switch to my sunglasses and what fell into my lap.  You guessed it my hands free device. I laughed. 

Since then I have been pondering what I trust as reliable sources of information.  My phone kept showing “connected” but the device was no where in sight.  I looked because I believed it was correct. When I doubted I tested whether it was correct. And in the end it was connected (and found). 😉

“Now Thomas (also known as Didymus ), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.””  

‭‭John‬ ‭20:24-29‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The first time we met


I know exactly the first time we met. It was Wednesday April 29, 2015 around 10:30 am. An early morning telephone call  jumped started my day. Thankfully I had filled the car with gas on Monday and visited the ATM machine on Tuesday so I was ready to go in short order.  A mental checklist helped me pack for a couple of days away, a quick shower, a group text requested prayer for your arrival and I was out the door in just about an hour. Coffee and oatmeal purchased at a drive through establishment, radio tuned to the news channel for traffic reports every ten minutes  and I was good to go. The journey to you was uneventful on my end. No real traffic, beautiful weather, smooth sailing, one pit spot for a restroom break. About 2.5 hours into the journey, the beeping sound on my Bluetooth  signaled a telephone call “ignore or accept”. The voice on the other end said “Mom” and the rest of the words I couldn’t really hear or understand – water break, drugs, how long, don’t know but I understood “would you pray?” So I prayed a prayer for wisdom for all  and then I  said “I am about 45 minutes away but feel free to start without me.”

After a little wandering around and studying of signs, I found the family maternity unit.  The receptionist asked “may I help you?” I mentioned your mom’s name, a quick phone call informed me to wait in the waiting room. After a few minutes your dad appeared in the doorway. I thought he was ready to jump out of his skin he was so excited. A big hug, a few words and he returned to you and after a little more waiting  my phone rang. “Mom, you can come back. We are in room D for dog”. I proceeded down the hallway, entered the room,  pushed back the curtain and there was  your mom sitting up in bed looking no worse for wear. She was smiling from ear to ear even though I could tell tears of joy and relief were ready to burst forth. We hugged and held each other. Your dad was sitting in the reclining chair staring at your face. Your dad’s look was one of amazement, wonder and love. Your dad stood and placed you in my arms. I looked at you. Awe, wonder, hope, thankfulness, love –  yes, all of the above!