How I Spent My Holidays

And, we're back. Welcome to a new year! I hope you all had a great holiday season. Truth be told, I'm still on my vacation and spending time with family in North Carolina. I guess it's really time to get back into the swing of things, and there's a lot to blog about after a two week hiatus. I'll keep it light, sharing a few photographed high points with y'all, babydolls. (I'm in North Carolina visiting Aunt Jenny and family, and loving how Aunt Jenny calls everybody babydoll.)The story starts back in the Holy Land, where we made a jaunt out to Bethlehem to soak up the atmosphere of Manger Square on Christmas Eve. (I drove and we got into two collisions, both of which may have been my fault, but I was saved by a refugee camp tribal elder who witnessed what happened and kept me and Charming from being word-lashed or chain-whipped by an angry cab driver. Later I accidentally pinched a child's finger in my window as I was rolling it up while he was trying to beg for money from us. Parentheses mean I'm keeping it light, right?)Once we finally made it to Manger Square, I enjoyed strolling around, smelling the corn and candy vendors and sipping hot chocolate with our young friends (the kids of one Charming's co-workers that we are friends with).

Manger Square, Christmas Eve 2012

Especially delightful were the row of large Nativity displays, all in unique styles. This one had a glowing, realistic-looking "fire-pit" lightbulb. It was quite large - the whole display was as tall as me.
6772491_orig And it wouldn't be the Middle East without a Santa playing soccer.
Back in the summer when I first visited Bethlehem, I was struck by the carved olive-wood Nativity scenes that included a modern piece in addition to the standard holy family, shepherds,  angels, and wise men: a security wall.
The wall is still being built around Bethlehem, slowing cutting them off from the tourist trade that keeps the economy alive.Charming's birthday was just a couple days later. We went to Tel Aviv, which is always a haven of sane driving, good food, and often, good weather compared to the West Bank. We drank beer at a bar that was practically on the beach.We found a cafe we went to lunch to, and then later for dessert. They sang Happy Birthday to Charming in English.This cafe served me one of the most beautiful Chai Lattes I've ever seen, and a tofu sandwich that was stunningly delicious and filling.

Later, I climbed a modern, artistic rope jungle gym that gave me a great view of the sea at sunset.
Then I got on an airplane, leaving Charming behind (he had work to do) and went to North Carolina for a  friends and family visit and to enjoy the ease of life in America.  I started off meeting my friend Julie's firstborn.  It's so crazy when a human being goes from being in someone's body...
1126613_orig outside and interacting with this crazy world. It was so fun to see their perfect baby look around and smile. It gives me such a great hope to know that his parents will love him with everything they've got as he grows up and experiences more of the world. Charming and I see a lot of kids who from a young age work between the tires, darting in and out of moving traffic as they hope to beg a few shekels from each car. Julie's baby will never have to do that, and that makes me so glad.
After a few days with the old college friends, it was down to Lumberton, where family members looked rather smashing in the Kafiyas I bought them at the factory in Hebron.
Lots of cuddly time with Binks the family dog, who my sister calls a "living teddy bear."
My wonderful cousin got engaged to his beautiful girlfriend back in November, so they let me take a quick engagement photo session. It was rainy and I didn't adjust the camera settings correctly, but a few of the shots turned out. This one's my favorite:
And that about brings us up to the present. Lots of good family time, and right now that means lots of time thinking about 3000 Miles to the Cure, which is my mom's main focus right now. Today we are in Charlotte visiting the Mulligans and were just brainstorming to help mom write a speech she'll be making in the near future about her bicycle race across the U.S.

My beautiful momma

In case you missed what my beautiful mom is doing, you can read this post, or just go straight to theFacebook page or the donate page if you've been meaning to donate five dollars for brain cancer research.Next stop, sunny Florida for a few days with Aunt Kelly and Uncle Mark and my grandparents, then back to Lumberton quickly and finally back to my Charming who I already miss too much.Happy 2013!