Having someone to love is FAMILY. Having somewhere to go is HOME. Having both is a BLESSING.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Spread My Wings And Fly!

Courage is a BIG thing to find when you are a little boy and any airplane looks ginormous! Well, sometime ago, when Zack visited me, we attempted to take Zack for a ride in this very plane. It was very intimidating and loud and he was sure he did NOT want to ride in the mechanical bird. Months have passed and Zack has stepped into the world of Kindergarten since that time. Wow! It is amazing how much change that particular transition makes in a little man. Let me share a phone conversation with you that I had with Zack when he learned they would visit for Thanksgiving.
Z: Um--uh-Aunt Laura? L: What? Z: Um--well, you know, um--um, when I was there last time, and-um--umm, you wanted to-um-take me for a ride in that airplane? L: Yes. Z: Well, um--do you, um, do you, um--well, do you suppose-um---do you suppose that-um........... L: Zack? Z: What? L: Are you trying to ask Aunt Laura for an airplane ride? Z: Yeah. L: Well, I'll have to ask the man who flies the airplane, but if he says that it's okay, then we sure can. Z: Umm-- uh--Aunt Laura? L: What? Z: Um-- do you-- um--d-d-do you, um--do you suppose that you could ummm--do you suppose that you could call me back and tell me what he says? L: I sure can.

Below is a picture of Zack with our friend, Randy Russell, the pilot of that red and white airplane. Thank you, Randy, for being so understanding of those difficult steps that a little boy takes in learning how to conquer big, bad fear! Your kindness was a gift to us and to Zack most of all. It was neat to see Zack "spread his wings and fly!"
Zack was very content and enjoyed his ride immensely. I think Zack's dad enjoyed the ride as well. Tom doesn't let you take his picture if he can help it, but he got caught in this shot. I love the expression on his face. Hey, Zack! You're sitting in the very same seat that Aunt Laura sat in when Aunt Laura and Uncle Mark flew over your house this past summer! I remember that you blinked the back porch light on and off so that I could find you in the dark while Uncle Mark talked to Mommy on his cell phone. You could see the blinking lights on the airplane. Do you remember what color they were?
Randy flew Tom, Zack, and Dad over our house so that they could see something they recognized from the air. Cooperstown is not very big and our church and home sit on the outskirts of the town. You can see that the setting is very rural. In the first picture, you can find our property by first finding the church on the left side of the photo just below half way. Our house sits to the right of the church, and you can see the driveway that splits and goes around the house on both sides to the parking lot in the rear of the church.
This is a rear view of our property. If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you may see Mom and my sister Sherri with Zack's little sister, Natalie. They are standing at the back side of the house at the end of our driveway. Mom is actually out the farthest and is standing in the circular drive. Natalie giggled and giggled and waved and waved and giggled and giggled some more. Zacky was in that airplane. I think that Natalie enjoyed Zack's airplane ride almost as much as he did!!
I talked to Sherri on the phone and she said that after they left Saturday evening, Zack "jaw-jacked" for about a solid hour about that great plane ride! He made her put the pictures from their digital camera on their computer so that he could show his cousin the pictures when she visited on Sunday.

Here Fishy, Fishy!

Our guys went fishing in Erie for steelheads during Thanksgiving vacation. This is one of the favorite pastimes of my brother-in-law, Thomas. Mark, Daryl, Dad and Tom went Friday and Saturday. Tom caught the first steelhead and Daryl caught the second on Friday and they all just drowned bait on Saturday. Y'know, the more I think about it, they probably only went fishing so they'd have an excuse to go somewhere to eat lunch out. They simply didn't want to eat anymore turkey leftovers! Uh huh! I figured you out, guys!
Daryl and his steelhead.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Littlest Turkey!

Thank You, Lord, for the littlest turkey in my life!

A way too cute turkey!

The Little Turkies!

Turkey Zack Thomas Bickert

Turkey Natalie Sharee Bickert

The Blessing of Family

Thank You, Lord, for your blessings on me!
And thank you, Babe for a wonderful Thanksgiving. Mark gave me the gift of simply enjoying the day with my family. He cooked dinner and even cleaned up the dishes! The day just kind of happened all around me. Mom & Dad came Wednesday evening, and my youngest sister and her family came Thursday morning. It was a true joy to be surrounded by those that I love.

Nevaeh transitioned well into the blur of added people in her home. She enjoyed learning to know Grammy & Pappy, Auntie Sheb, Uncle Tom, and Cousins Zack and Natalie much better.

Sherri jumped right in and helped Mark finish the last minute preparations to our incredible meal. Sheb's a doer and not a slacker. And after graciously agreeing to pick the meat off of the bones and then actually doing the job, she announced that she hates pickin' bones!! I love you, Sheb!

Mom & Dad

Mark even insisted on feeding Nevaeh her first Thanksgiving taties so that I could enjoy my dinner.
I love you, Babe!
You thought of the little things that became big things to me.

This is my youngest sister Sherri, her husband Tom, and their almost 2 year old daughter, Natalie.
I had another picture of Zack, Robert and Daryl, but I accidentally erased it. Rats! Oh, well. I will have more pictures of them later from the visit. You must know that Zack is another love of my life. I adore my nephew. He is 5 years old and in Kindergarten now. He is one of the ray beams in my sunshine. During our special Thanksgiving holiday, we were able to do some really neat things together. Y'see, Zack ended up getting pink eye earlier in the week and missed some special festivities at school, so we wanted to be sure he had something to imprint a good memory for him.

Most of all my blessings, I thank you, Lord, for my family.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Stoner Family Bear Camp 2008

My dad took this picture of the woods on the second day of bear season. Tuesday, November 25th. What a spectacular place to be! God is an awesome artist!!

You need to know that bear camp for the Stoner family (Laura's family) is tradition. It's something that we all look forward to. When it is possible, even the women and children go and enjoy the peace and serenity found in a winter mountain. The women cook supper and have a warm meal ready for the guys as soon as they get back to the cabin so that tired bodies can be dragged to bed ASAP for much needed rest. This year, Mark was able to recruit several buddies to share one of our hallowed spots. From our area here, two van loads headed towards central PA on Sunday evening. Mark's friend Byron Gurnee, his son Kenton, and a friend from the church he pastors, Wayne Drury, traveled in Wayne's van. Mark, Daryl, Josh Covert and Lee Shorts traveled in our van. Just outside State College, the guys decided to take a short cut into the camp and turned off 322 just past Skimont. The road would take them up over Tussey Mountain and drop them down the other side closer to the camp. This would give them the opportunity to arrive, unpack and get a little more sleep than going the whole way around the mountain through Reedsville. The conditions of the road appeared to be okay for travel but before they had driven very far, our guys took off on an unforgettable adventure. Mark turned the wheel to round a curve, but the van did not cooperate according to instruction. Our Caravan took on a mind of its own and decided that "he" was tired of being a van and wanted to try being an airplane. I can't imagine exactly what Caravan was really thinking because "he" made this decision impulsively without consulting the driver, and in an instant, Mark, Daryl, Josh and Lee were airborne! Hey! We all know that a fish is a fish and a bird is a bird, and while some "birds" can swim, fish certainly can't fly. So as you can see in the pictures that follow, our Caravan landed somewhere it did not belong. To make the adventure even more ridiculous, Wayne's van made the very same impulsive decision, and flew off of the roadway and down over the bank right after Caravan! Talk about bad influences!!! Mark said that when he consulted his rearview mirror in mid flight, he observed Byron bouncing in Wayne's van looking quite a bit like a big beach ball!! Hee, Haw!!! I wasn't even there but the picture that creates in my mind's eye has me laughing right now. You know how those beach balls kind of "float" in slow motion? Roaring out loud!!!! Well, we don't know how Wayne managed to keep from hitting Mark, but we are thanking God that no one was seriously hurt. Byron hit his head on the inside roof of the van but I would think that you can't really scramble already scrambled eggs!! Just kidding, Byron! Breathe, buddy! After discovering that everyone was okay, the guys laughed like idiots. When Mark called me to tell me what happened, the guys were making more noise than a that of a henhouse! Mark called triple AAA, but the guys used the adrenaline build up to get the vehicles out. Wayne's van was fairly easy to get back on the roadway, but old Caravan was a tad highsided and the load in the back that Josh and Lee brought along offered no mercy to the poor vehicle. Of course, we should be gracious with Josh and Lee and remember that this is their first time hunting bear in our neck of the woods and so they were simply trying to be prepared for --what?---they didn't know! Let's just say that the guys did not get that coveted extra sleep and in fact got less than if they had just gone the long way around and been done with it. Mark said that he would have to initiate the guys going to camp for the first time. It's tradition, y'know. I told him that he didn't have to do it all in the first night though!

Lee's digging in his luggage to make sure the picture of his beautiful wife didn't get broken. (Just kidding!) Josh and Daryl are the other two guys here.

Mark called for AAA. Kenton made sure he gave the right directions!

This is Kenton Gurnee, Lee Shorts, and Josh Covert early Monday morning following a restful night of enduring a lumberjack in the cabin. That's another whole story in and of itself. You'll have to go along next year to experience what that involves. Poor Josh looks like he could use a boost! I think there's a pop machine around the next tree and they just installed a new cappuccino bar up at the halfway point. Hang in there buddy!

This is the gang for the year 2008 with the exception of Wayne Drury, who graciously preserved this memory for these crazy guys. You gotta' love 'em! Left to right: Josh Covert, Daryl Fultz, Mark Fultz, Lee Shorts, Aaron Witmer, Byron Gurnee, Kenton Gurnee, Ron Stoner, Lew Stoner, and Ben Snyder. Mark, Ron and Lew Stoner are original members of our family gang. Lew Stoner is my (Laura's) dad. The guys have dubbed him the Patriarch!

These are a couple pictures of the pipeline where the guys sit. To give you a better perspective of this mountain, click on this picture to enlarge it and then find the three guys pictured at the bottom right of the mountain. The guys here are Dad Stoner, Josh Covert and Lee Shorts.

No. There were no bear shot this year but the time was time well spent together and the memories carved in this sliver of time are priceless. We thank God for the gift of our "extended family" and for graciously granting health and safety another year.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


And Mary brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for him in the inn. (THE HOLY BIBLE)
This is Mark's favorite picture of the evening.

Our church family worked together to build and man a float that we entered in the Light Up Night Parade in Franklin, PA. The parade is held on the Saturday evening before Thanksgiving and is the introduction of the holiday season for our surrounding communities. Each float stopped at the half-way point while an announcer read a description of the host of each float. During this time, many judges are judging each float. We received a call from City Hall informing us that our float received 1st Place in our division!! This was very exciting for us though the main intent of entering the parade was to reach out to our community to remind them of the real meaning of Christmas, and let them know that we put on a live nativity which is yet to come. The float, which was a stable on wheels, carried Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, a king, a shepherdess, two shepherds and an angel. The float was followed by two Roman soldiers. One soldier rode a horse and the other soldier walked. We had angels and shepherds walk along side the float passing out candy canes with the legend of the candy cane imprinted on the wrapper as well as postcards announcing the dates, times and location of the Live Nativity. The float broadcasted beautiful music of the original carols helping to create the atmosphere for the picture we hoped to imprint on the minds of the parade attendees. Our float was well received by our community and the parade was attended by a couple thousand people. It was such a neat opportunity to share Jesus in this way!
CONGRATULATIONS Evangelistic Tabernacle church family! We love you!!

Here is Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus a.k.a. Mark, Laura and Nevaeh! Nevaeh did awesome and we were happy to have a wonderful memory for Nevaeh founded in our Faith! Oh! Mark's beard is real. It's kinda' nasty wearing a fake beard and wondering who slobbered into it last! Since we have the Live Nativity annually, Mark has decided he'd rather use his own God-given facial hair! I like it!

Below are various pictures preparing for the parade and the actual parade itself. Our Daryl was the Roman soldier on foot walking beside the horse, and Robbie was Angel Gabriel! I couldn't post all of the pictures or my post would be entirely too long, but these are some of my favorites. The live animals are owned and were shared with us for this event by Robert and Emily Sorrel. Robert rode his 2 year old horse and his sister Emily brought a sheep and goat. Thanks guys. It just would not have been the same without your contribution.

King Jerry Ritchey

Mama swaddling her Baby Love

Robert Sorrel astride Little Bit and a Roman Daryl on foot!

Oh my goodness! Robbie has a ---halo?!

"Grandma" Naomi with Nevaeh

One of my sweeties - Aaron Burkhardt

Friday, November 21, 2008


This is Daryl Muir. He is the acclaimed taxidermist responsible for mounting Mark's black squirrel and Daryl's woodcock. He did an awesome job! He mounted the squirrel as if it was climbing the tree and the woodcock as if it was flying past or through the limbs. He used a thin flexible "rod" to mount the woodcock to the tree. The "rod" was attached to the tree as part of a limb. Daryl Muir drilled down into the end of a limb and then fastened the "rod" down inside so that you don't notice it unless you look very close. Daryl Muir came up with this idea so that the mounts looked as natural as possible. Woodcocks are a ground bird and don't perch in trees. When our Daryl shot the woodcock, it was in flight and at the same level of height as the mount. It was flying through some saplings and so this is a pretty accurate remembrance of their hunting expedition. Mark shot the squirrel the day before Daryl got the woodcock. The guys are very pleased with the mounts. CHUCKLE, CHUCKLE. It looks like the woodcock is perched on Daryl Muir's head and he's got the squirrel by the tail!

We (Mark, Laura & Nevaeh) drove to the Lowe's in Hermitage and Daryl & Marilyn Muir met us there. Since Nevaeh's adoption is not final yet, we can't take her out of the state without permission and a lot of "hassle" so the Muirs graciously agreed to meet us and delivered the mounts instead of us picking them up at their home. It was a great "excuse" to go somewhere and eat lunch together.

This is Nevaeh contemplating just which scrumptious meal she would like to order from Bob Evans' yummy meal selection.

Nevaeh was not strange at all with Marilyn and jibbered a "line." She's a great storyteller!

"Marilyn is really cool," thinks Nevaeh, "because she let me mutilate her placemat! I love the sound of crinkling paper!"

Below are some pictures of the tree and mounts where they will sit in our den. The tree is not quite in the exact position it will be but Mark didn't have time to attach the steel plate to the bottom of the tree yet. I just leaned the tree against the wall so I could share these pictures with you.