The Filipinos know how to kick off the weekend

Every Friday evening at 7pm (7am ET in the US – the start of my workday), they shoot off fireworks over the water by the Mall of Asia to commence the beginning of the weekend.  They only last about 4 minutes and I try and step away to get some pictures off our balcony.  Last week I walked to the corner and watched them with a different perspective.  Lots of people out on a Friday night!  Brian said they refer to the weekend as “SatSun” at his work.  Needless to say, I’m always happy to see the fireworks when they appear.

I’m nearing the end of my third trip here to Manila and am more familiar with our apartment and the local surroundings.  For those of you that know I love to do dishes, it has taken a bit getting used to doing dishes in lukewarm water (only hot water is in the shower…for which I’m thankful.)  We also have this washer/dryer combo….sounds like a great idea – other than a “normal” cycle is 3 ½ hours and the clothes come out pretty wrinkled!  That being said we started taking Brian’s dress shirts to the “Suds Laundry & Dry Cleaning”  in our building (very affordable) and only doing a quick wash for 30 minutes for the other items (and hanging them all over the house to let them dry.)  Security called immediately when I tried hanging clothes on the balcony to let me know that was not permitted.  Oh there’s no oven – guess they figured it’s too hot there (which it is) to heat up a big appliance.  Now one thing that is great where we live is the air conditioning – they have room only units that do cool the place nicely.  With temps in the 90’s and 100’s with humidity almost as high it is a must-have.

We are in a great location (Shell Residences) – Mall of Asia is a quick walk and they have just about everything (food store, department stores, restaurants, currency exchange, etc.)  Traffic in general in Manila is pretty insane…I am thankful we have access to a driver and that Brian’s office is within walking distance (he walks home on occasion in the morning.)  The airport is only 15-20 minutes away now that they’ve built a new “skyway” that lifts the airport traffic above the normally congested roads.

Life is very quiet for us here – truly no responsibilities outside of work.  I am learning to appreciate the down time…reading, working out, watching Netflix and HGTV, even playing solitaire with a deck of cards Erica gave me.  I don’t mind traveling back and forth to the U.S. – typically a 24 hour commute – but Brian is not quite as fond and has been here since the beginning of March.   He works long days Monday thru Friday, and weekends are spent catching up on sleep and sitting by the pool.

While Brian has had some interesting challenges at work, God is definitely at work.  The office has small clubs of all kinds for the employees…sports, travel , drama, Christian life, among other groups.  Brian has had the opportunity to preach on several Saturday mornings at the Life Group.  They have a large gathering the beginning of every month and July 1 there was over a hundred people there!   We are confident that God has a much bigger plan for our scheduled time here.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my trips back to the U.S. to see friends & family in California, Ohio, and Mississippi.   Jonae and Jus were able to get away a few times which left me as grandma on call – Juliet and I had lots of fun.  She’s a true joy and is a pleasure to be with.  I learned all her favorite movies and foods, her daily routine and fun ways to keep us both entertained.  Naomi the pup was happy to see me, but she clearly has settled into a nice routine with Juliet.

The area where we live is near the water, but it meets the land by way of a sea wall and docks.  I felt the ocean calling and when I arrived back here in June we took a flight to Cebu here in the Philippines.  It was so nice to put our feet in the sand for the weekend.  We were up early Sunday and caught a beautiful sunrise while my son Mitch caught the sunset on the other side of the world.  Stunning!

Now that U.S.to Tokyo to Manila is my new commute, I’m finding that this is all pretty surreal.   My eyes are open and my breath prayer remains “Almighty God, show me.”  I want to be found faithful and not miss an opportunity to share God’s love with those I know and those I’ve yet to meet.   Thanks for reading ~ have a blessed summer!

On the Move

The last six weeks have been nothing short of amazing!  As we prepared to move, I spent as much waking time as possible with my sister and my friend Michelle.  We ate out, made it to the movies a few times and took lots of long walks (before it got too warm!)  My parents were out for a visit and I was able to see my brother & sister-in-law.   Brian enjoyed time in our swimming pool and was sad to leave it.  We even put the dog in once and found out that Naomi can dog paddle!

The last two weeks of May were extremely busy for my sister as she wrapped up her school year and attended the boys programs.   In addition to graduating two years early, my nephew Kennen was valedictorian of his class.  His speech at the ceremony lifted the spirits of everyone and he is enjoying the summer before heading off to college in September.  My nephew Zander completed sixth grade on the superintendent’s honor roll as well.  So proud of both of them!

After graduation festivities wrapped up, Michelle and I went to Laughlin where we met some friends from Ohio (including Erica!!)  We had such a great visit!  My parents delivered Pam for a night – just long enough for her to hit two progressives on nickel poker.  Woohoo!  We also had the opportunity to recreate some photos from the first time us four girls went to Laughlin twenty years ago – what a blast!

God has truly blessed every bit of our relocation from Victorville to Hollywood.  We secured a nice two bedroom apartment that exceeded our wish list:  reserved covered parking, air-conditioning, pet-friendly and rooftop pool!  We are located in a (busy) residential area between Hollywood & Sunset Boulevards just east of the 101 freeway.   From the roof you can see the Hollywood sign, the Griffith Observatory, Capitol Records, downtown Los Angeles and beautiful sunsets.  Our new home is within walking distance of the metro, bus lines, yummy restaurants, our bank, food store and many other amenities.  I’m expecting lots of visitors – please send me your dates so I can add you to the calendar!

Our granddaughter Juliet is nearing 11 months old….on the move physically (walking!) and her daddy has accepted a promotion that is moving them just outside of Memphis.  Stay tuned for more details as the entire Cleland/Powers clan changes addresses this year (with the exception of Adam at school!)  Until next time – enjoy the warm summer breezes, colorful sunrises and sunsets, balmy evenings and lots of time with loved ones.  May God Bless You abundantly.

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Thank you 2015!

This is it:  the last day of 2015!  This has truly been an amazing year filled with so many blessings.  Thank you for joining me on this adventure – you are a blessing to me and keep me motivated to write.  I’m optimistic for what God has planned for all of us in 2016!

December couldn’t have been any better.  I spent 5 nights in Atlanta with Jonae and her family and had lots of baby snuggles!  Juliet is such a good baby!  (I’ve already warned her to watch out with her next one!)  Lots of babysitting time, Breakfast with Santa, Buckhead Church and yummy food.  Very nice pre-Christmas celebration!

Returning to California, I volunteered a few evenings with my all-time favorite ministry, Operation Christmas Child.  I helped inspect and sort gift shoeboxes that will be sent to children in Peru and Malaysia.  The Southern California processing center (there are 9 across the US) was on target to sort through 925,000 boxes that had been donated!  It was a wonderful experience and I’m blessed to have taken part.  (http://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child)

I was able to take Brian to one of my Happiest Places on Earth – Disneyland of course (his first time to see their Christmas decorations!) We had a wonderful day and he really did enjoy all the lights!

After a few days at home, Brian and I drove to Las Vegas to spend a few days with Whitney and her fiancee Elliott.  We were there at midnight to ring in his 30th birthday!   My sister Pam and her husband Dave surprised them for the 2nd night…more fun, food and laughs!  Adam arrived from Ohio and we all returned to California to spend an evening with my nieces, nephews & parents.

Christmas Eve we went to an afternoon church service.  Pam’s family & my parents joined us for a late dinner and we had fun exchanging gifts.  I awoke early on Christmas Day to watch Pam’s family open their gifts (at my house I had to wake my boys up at 11!)  We enjoyed unwrapping presents and returned to Pam’s for mom’s famous lasagna.  A very “happy” Christmas as Mitch told me later that evening.

We ventured to the movies on Saturday and I drove Whitney & Elliott back to Vegas on Sunday for their flight home to Ohio.  Brian and I worked this week and are looking forward to a nice long New Year’s Eve weekend.  Heading to Pam’s shortly to ring in 2016 with her family and friends.   Beyond blessed.

I am mindful that my life is not necessarily “normal” and that many of my friends have experienced pain and sorrow in 2015 that they do not want to repeat.  My prayer for all is that Jesus will reveal Himself to you in a new and passionate way in 2016.  Draw close and allow Him to love & bless you as only He can.  Smell the flowers.  Stop and gaze at the clouds and sunsets.  Smile at a stranger.  Breathe deep and don’t take any moment for granted.  Choose joy.  Life is precious.  God loves you and so do I.  Happy New Year!  Welcome 2016!

Baby snuggles in Atlanta

Hello!   Just a quick update to let you know that things are going better than I ever could have imagined.  I’ve been in Atlanta a little over three weeks already!  The place we are renting is working out great (only 6 minutes door-to-door to my daughter’s) and I’ve had lots of snuggle time with my new granddaughter.  She is such a good baby!  Every morning, God reminds me that this is exactly where He wants me to be.  I am beyond blessed!

Because of my virtual job, I’ve had several days that I’ve been able to work from Jonae’s house and help her on my breaks and lunch.  Brian and I even had a chance to babysit for five hours a few Saturday’s ago – such joy!  This past weekend, we ventured down to Savannah to spend some down time with our friends Renee & Brock.  It is a beautiful city and we enjoyed wonderful food, drink and an abundance of laughter (even got to see Brian’s niece Katie and my friend Andrea!)

Our daughter Whitney will be down for Labor Day weekend and my folks here the end of September.  Likely to plan a quick getaway back to Ohio to hug my friends and perhaps a long weekend at the beach…then next stop California.  The house-hunt has started and we’re watching for the perfect match.  Excited to see what God has planned as my sister, mom and I begin to discuss the holiday & 2016 calendar.  Make sure your vacation plans include a visit!

May God bless you on this beautiful day wherever you find yourself in this journey of life.  Thank you for keeping in touch and reading the highlights of my great adventure.  I really do love you.

Why I moved here
Why I moved here
She's so adorable!
She’s so adorable!
Breakfast in Savannah
Breakfast in Savannah
Beautiful trees!
Beautiful trees!

God’s perfect timing (welcome baby Juliet!)

We’ve had a slight change of events over the last few weeks, and we’re happy to report that God has graciously taken care of every detail and every family member.  We are beyond blessed.  Here’s how it all went down:

We found out about two weeks ago that we were not able to move Adam into his college apartment until August 8 (or thereabouts.)  We switched up the move plans a little bit – Brian and Mitch planned to drive to Atlanta on August 2 and Adam would drive me down after we got him settled in.  We received the call around 7:30 Saturday morning (August 1) that our expectant daughter Jonae and her hubby Justice were on the way to the hospital to “check things out.”  My mind immediately started processing what it would look like if I needed to get to Atlanta quickly.  Fortunately the weekend was not full of things to do other than to finish packing and sorting through boxes.

By 9:15am, we learned her water had broken and she was in fact in labor.  Woohoo!  Plan B into action!  Booked a 3pm flight, packed the kitchen, did some laundry, showered and headed to the airport.  Brian pointed out how pretty the white puffy clouds were in the sky – I snapped a few pictures to document the glorious day.  I sat between two really nice people on the plane and they both had pictures to show me of their grandchildren.   Jumped on the Marta train to head to Midtown and arrived at the hospital around 5:45pm.  Jonae was uncomfortable (as you can imagine), but in good spirits.  Some nice nurses and medication helped lighten the load a bit, but exhaustion was setting in.  We dimmed the lights and started taking catnaps (as much as the monitors and seating allowed.)  Everything was going well – just moving slowly.

Justice’s parents arrived at 1am (yeah more new grandparents!) and joined our slumber party.  As dawn approached, us grandparents convened in the waiting room and awaited word.  The ability to push started around 7:30 and the first text picture arrived around 9:50.  Praise God – Juliet Marie Powers had been born!  She arrived at 9:39am on Sunday, August 2, and a perfect size at 7lbs 10oz, 18.5 inches long.  Mommy, baby and dad were all doing very well.

Fast-forward several hours… Mommy and baby moved to a larger room and continued to thrive.   Brian and Mitch arrived safely and were able to see Juliet before she was 12 hours old.  That evening, we met our new landlords and unpacked the FULL car into our new (temporary) home.   An afternoon flight on Monday delivered me into Columbus just in time (literally) to see my absolute favorite Christian artist, Chris Tomlin, live at the Ohio State Fair.  ONLY God can do that.

Overall an amazing, surreal weekend.  Hard to put into words the deep overwhelming sense of love, joy, peace and humility that embraces the entire spirit.  No doubt a small glimpse of what God experiences every time someone calls him Father for the first time.

Now in power mode – packing, sorting, cleaning and moving Adam.  Watch for updates once I arrive into Atlanta.  God Bless You and thank you for sharing in our life.  Love you all.

Puffy CloudsAtlanta Bound  Joyful ParentsBeaming Grandparents

Peaceful JulietSo Cute

Chris Tomlin Live

Blogging 101: All in the Name

When it came time to name my blog, I pondered several different ideas.  What am I passionate about?  What makes me tick?  What would not be easily misconstrued?  (I quickly learned that using a phrase I sign cards with often “In His Love Always” would not be a good website title!)   Even the name of a paper I wrote in my adolescence, “Paper Dreams” was already taken.

For as long as I can remember, I have had a bit of an obsession with the sky.  Clouds and sunsets.  As a child, hours were spent looking up noticing designs and patterns.  There was that cloud science project that never quite came together.   Multiple rolls of sunset pictures were taken and developed (yes, remember film cameras?)  I found a photo album from high school and I was not surprised to find several pages of sunset pictures.  I am (still) one of those drivers you secretly curse when you see me taking pictures of the sky while driving.

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Needless to say, I was very excited to find that the name “cloudsandsunsets” was available.  Hurrah!  And as I was completing my profile, I studied the name carefully and found an interesting twist:

Clouds.and.sunsets

Cloud.sand.sunsets

I suddenly liked it that much more:  the name included a solid reference to my beloved beach.  Both options make sense and truly represent things I’m fond of.

How often do we view something and only see it one way?  Like those crazy drawings (do you see the old lady or the young lady in the hat?)  Sometimes we find the alternate view on our own, and other times it only becomes apparent once someone points it out to us.  Be open to different interpretations.  Ask God to allow you to see people, places and things through His eyes.  I suspect you won’t be disappointed.

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