A daily record of gratitude; from quilting to photography to a mix of technology, books, movies and the musings of life!

Welcome to my Blog of my daily gratitude and photo of the day!

Since January 1, 2012, my goal is to write a daily sentence or two (or paragraph or two) about gratitude of the day and to include one photo (at least) that I took that day (but will add others from time to time). It has definitely been a challenge most days throughout the past eight years, and welcomed the challenge again this year - 2019. I hope you will continue the ride with me!

Monday, May 25, 2020

Memorial Day 2020

I guess no one would have thought that the "kick off" of summer would be met with "restrictions" due to "the C-virus" and all that encompasses with our present world. However, the sentiment of thanking our military service people, from all who died in battle to the men and women who returned home from battle, has to be a top priority in celebrating today. Our US Armed Forces are the best in the world, and I/we THANK YOU for your service and dedication in protecting our shores from sea to shining sea.

My below photo is a tablecloth that looks kind of like a flag in commemoration of today, and the game we are playing is Quiddler!



PS, "The Best Daughter" was the big winner today with Caroline Verrecchia (she's on the right checking the dictionary and playing in her very first game) a close second place. Thanks to Ryan's smokin' BBQ chicken and mac&cheese on the Traeger Grill! Everything was sew delicious...

Lizdot and The Best Daughter showing off their best corn hole skills

Sunday, May 24, 2020

2020 Graduation - COVID-19 Style for Brandon Stephenson!

I would like to take this moment to shout out and CONGRATULATE all 2020 high school and college graduates this season. It has not been an easy go for anyone, and certainly not for all the anticipating graduates this year. Parents and friends had to be nimble and creative, if not down right clever, to make their graduates feel special and recognized on a whole new level.

Today, we went to a graduation parade for Stevenson University graduate, Brandon Stephenson. His Mom, Leslie, the consummate party planner, and Dad, Reggie, who lovingly goes along with the consummate party planner, really did it up for Brandon in a big way! They had a parade of many cars honking and yelling out congratulations to Brandon while he stood in his front yard, with a mask, and cap and gown, of course, waving and thanking all those folks who came out to see him in all his finery. We were thrilled to be a part of a new kind of social distancing celebration; but everyone's sentiments remain the same - a hearty congratulations and a job well done by Brandon!

BSoleille! The bright side of a well-deserved "party" for college graduate Brandon Stephenson from Stevenson University!


Photo below; Leslie and Brandon!

The "swag" Mom Leslie gave to all the car horn honkers!

Friday, May 22, 2020

#CelebratingOthers with Morgantown, WVA HS Class of 1980 - Mark Neal!

Mark Neal, born and raised in Morgantown, West Virginia, is one of the nicest guys I know. He is married to my good friend, Laura Murphy, and my hubby and I met him in Chicago while he was dating Laura back in the late 80's. I am thrilled to shine the spotlight on this awesome guy, dad, friend, husband and baby brother of eight!

This talented runner, was born to Dorothy (Librarian/Homemaker) and Oliver "Peck" Neal (Professor of Agriculture/Horticulture at WVA), 15 days after I was born in November of 1961. He self proclaimed that he was just a "little spoiled" due to his birth order; each child named with a biblical name that is parents initially did not realize with the first few kids. They are: James, Andrew, Peter, John, Sarah, Rachel, Ruth, and Mark. They continued the tradition...

I loved the fact that Mark revealed that he had 5 "dads" growing up because of the birth order which included four boys first, then three girls, and then Mark. He rattled each of their names so fast (apparently a sibling competition on who can say all eight names the quickest), but then slowed down enough for me to write them all down, in order. Each of the "4 Sibling Dads" taught Mark something, which he holds dear to this day. Brother #1 taught Mark to play table tennis (Mark is a fierce competitor even today); Brother #2 taught Mark the value of the outdoors (fishing/horseback riding); Brother #3 taught Mark to help others because this bro was always in training to be a Dad; and Brother #4 taught Mark the finer points of Art and all that it encompasses. Unfortunately, Brother #3, Peter, passed away in 2014 from cancer, and both parents are also deceased. 

Mark admitted that he had a very nice childhood, and attended the Morgantown Public Schools graduating in 1980 from Morgantown High School. He was also a competitive runner in the state of West Virginia, and competed in track and cross-country with accolades in track (2nd in the mile at the 1980 state meet and 4th in the state cross country final the fall of 1983). 

He continued his education at West Virginia University, earning a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 1984. Again, Mark's diligence in running gained him a partial scholarship all four years to run on the CC and Track Teams, with a berth to the CC Division 1 Nationals in 1983 - a highlight of his college career, and rightfully so!

In the fall of 1984, Mark continued his love of engineering and physics by going to graduate school at Northwestern in Chicago, IL. He earned his Masters Degree in 1987 in TAM, on his way earning his PhD in TAM, or Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, possibly better known as computational mechanics, graduating in 1989. He mentioned he loved going to school in Chicago because, not only did he have a sister living there at the time, it was such a different environment than he was used to in West Virginia. 

Through all his graduate studies, he still found time to have fun (and run), especially in the fall of 1986 when he went to a party and met his future wife, Laura! They dated the rest of Mark's time in Chicago, and then moved to Rochester, Michigan, when Mark took his "first job" out of college in 1989 to work for General Motors, Inc., and stayed for the next 30 years, retiring in 2019 (where did those 30 years go, Mark...Laura?)

Mark enjoyed many aspects of his job while at GM, and did mostly computer simulations of vehicle crashes to help keep us all safe when operating any motor vehicle. His full career also included; occupant and pedestrian safety; simulation of vehicle crashes and deformation of a vehicle (think: seat belts, airbags and how it affects crashes). The last seven or eight years at GM, Mark worked in the "human" model simulators and crashworthiness, which he stated was very interesting and no two days were alike. In addition to the advances of crash testing, Mark enjoyed collaborating with people all over the world working with simulation and all that it entails regarding any type of crash (as we can see, a lot!)

This ultimate family man married his sweetheart, Laura, on July 27, 1991, in Rochester, MI. Their two children (twins); Abbey and Casey were born in October of 1997. Life has certainly been busy for Mark, who leans towards his favorite color blue, but happened to initially state his favorite color changes every day. That's a new one for me...but I love all the colors too!

And when I asked Mark what his favorite gift he ever received, he told me a story that I will never forget, and I hope my readers won't either: It goes like this - While still in college, his mom gave him a little bookcase filled with paperback books for Christmas that year. At first Mark thought the gift was kind of "old-fashioned." He was convinced, initially, that he would never read any of them. But remember Mark's mom was a librarian? She also had her Masters in Library Science, so, of course, this woman was very well read. This "old-fashioned" bookcase, in fact, housed her favorite books from the 1940's and 1950's. Then one day, Mark picked up a book from the bookcase, opened the first page and indulged himself to read it and finish it and the lightbulb went off. She carefully selected each and every book that were her favorites, thinking, but then knowing, that her youngest son would obtain great value in reading them...if he ever cracked one open. Not only did he crack that first one open, he went on to read every volume in the bookcase, much to his delight. He said it was the greatest gift ever, and I agree! (He did eventually tell his mom too that it was the greatest gift!)

Now, if you are wondering on some of the titles, here are Mark's fav's: All the Kings Men, A Bell for Adona and Ferrel Sams. Mark's mom certainly knew her literature!

Mark, ever the sportsman, continues to run, swim (he's a certified lifeguard!) and bike when he can safely do so. He also plays a mean game of table tennis (rated 1800+), and parlays his superpower of being a course measurer; measuring running and triathlon courses all over the USA.  His best 10K is 29:40 (split from a longer race) and 30:40 in a road race. His best 1500M is 3:49.78, indoors his sophomore year.

I'd love to end Mark's post that sums up Mark to eloquently in his favorite quote: 
"An optimist believes he lives in the best of all possible worlds; and a pessimist fears this is true."

BSoleille! The bright side of #CelebratingOthers with Mark Neal! Cheers to you and your family!


Photos below from Mark: first one is Mark and family; Abbey, Laura's Mom, Casey and Laura

Laura and Mark course measuring in Hawaii!

Table Tennis is Mark's is one his passions!

Course measurers and companions

Mark is ready to run...

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Night Sky in May

May is a great month to take advantage of no mosquitoes while sitting outside, especially in mild temperatures, Hubby Bill and I are listening to a book on audible that will take some time to get through. Tonight we decided to sit outside, sans mosquito, and listen as the birds until they sang their last song of the day, and listen to our book Leonardo da Vinci, by Walter Issacson. It’s so appealing to watch the night sky takeover the daylight. A perfect evening for sure.



Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Tenacity of a Bulldog!

The accompanied photo of this post is "The Best Daughter" playing youth soccer at some of the highest levels available to her and her team back in the day: Freestate Phoenix (2002-2010). Her tenacity on the field was fierce, and she captivated the determination and doggedness in every game she played. It was a joy to watch from the sidelines, even those "nail biter" games that brought out the best in all the players, and therefore each team battled to the final whistle, and were some of the most memorable games of all.

While thinking further of her grimaced face and total focus, or the resolve to get to the ball first, and send a pass, reminds me of how we are all coping and strategizing our days amid the COVID-19. We all our enduring the long stint of shelter in place (perhaps some with a grimaced face too); the stamina needed while working from home (and those with young children in school-homeschooling); the purposefulness of eating at home...every meal for the most part; the firmness of wearing a mask to help protect ourselves, but more importantly, others orbiting near us; and the staying power of "we shall overcome,"  and get back to a "new normal" at some point down this murky road we are all traversing. Yep, that's all being tenacious as a bulldog all right.

BSoleille! The bright side of being determined that we will all get to the other side of all this; plus keeping ourselves and families safe and healthy as best we can each day. I hope we are trampling the curve - sooner than later.


Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Is a Little Birdie Trying to Tell Us Something?

This little birdie, a suspected blue jay, hung around on our outdoor chair for over 30 minutes looking in the house, and at times, closing its eyes for a short "cat" nap. Its sibling, I assume, was in the grass about 5ft. away and never moved either. Their mom, I'm also guessing, did several swoops around our yard, checking on both of her little ones with a super quick check, However, she was way too quick for me to take a photo on one of her fly-bys and the nano-second she perched next to her offspring on the chair. I wonder if they will be back tomorrow?

BSoleille! The bright side of the COVID-19 pandemic in not fazing the life of these amazing backyard birds one bit. They are doing their thing, as well as all the wildlife in all our backyards and across the land. Carry on little birdies...


This little one looking right at me... (yes, that is a screen)

Lookn' for mama

A quick flip of its wings, but still never moved from its perch

Went to the other set of doors to take this angle; "probably wondering " where I went...

Monday, May 18, 2020

Lady Bugs!

While passing by the front flower/shrubbery walkway, I noticed that our rounded Spirea plant is looking quite dapper. When I saw some "red" things on it, I took a closer look and realized those red things are my favorite bug: The Lady Bug! They are, you know, a sign of good luck, and are also good for the garden and plants. They help with eating damaging crop eaters like aphids and other destructive bugs and pests. A good thing for all our gardens and shrubbery!

BSoleille! The bright side of enjoying the Lady Bugs of our gardens!