The Armstrong Clan’s 500th Anniversary Gathering

Have you ever noticed there is more to do in life than will ever be done? No amount of prayerful planning and meticulous organization can align all the opportunities in such a way that we can be hither and yon at the proper moment to squeeze every last drop out of our lives’ orangey goodness!

I cannot watch over my grandson’s surgery across the state and still provide for my grand children here in GR while my daughter-in-law cares for her father’s medical needs.

Armstrongs in the Poppy Fields of Belgium

I couldn’t host my son’s family, coming home from Belgium to America, and still fly to Scotland to attend the 500th reunion of the Armstrong Clan, now, could I?

Marius’s First Birthday Party

Indeed, I could not. However, we had a splendid reunion of our “Armstrong Clan” right here in GR while the world-wide Armstrong Clan’s 500th Celebration was occurring!

Brother Terry at Milnholm Cross, Scotland

And, although Alan and I had to miss it, Alan’s brother and his wife were able to attend. So—I wanted to share just a little bit about the event.

Perhaps the world’s most famous Armstrong is Neil, First Man on the moon, so the events of the clan centered around the Armstrongs’ 500th anniversary generally, but also the 50th anniversary of the lunar takeoff, which was July 16, 2019.

The Common Riding in Langholm, Scotland

For over 900 years, there has been a tradition of “common riding” (groups of riders [raiders, really]) on horses riding along the border between Scotland and England during the summer months. Happily, this has turned into a non-raiding riding event for fun and has become one of Europe’s biggest equestrian spectacles!

Gilnockie Tower in Hollows, near Canonbie, Scotland,
built by John Armstrong 500 years ago

What I didn’t really understand when I married Alan was that I’d married into a wild band of “reivers” (“from the old Scottish word “to steal”)! Back in their hay day, it was said that to survive to thirty was an accomplishment and that no one walked along the border . . . they ran for their lives!

Sign explaining the Milnholm Cross

(However, lest I think poorly of our esteemed Armstrong heritage, my grandmother was a Kerr, who is also on the list of wild border clans, along with Nixon, Elliot, Scott, and a host of others!)

John Armstrong Memorial

Terry and Eileen explored the area and shared much of what they learned with us. The last famous reiver of the Armstrong Clan was John Armstrong, who owned Gilnockie Tower and was a fearsome raider, although in July of 1530 he was executed by the forces of King James V in an attempt to bring peace to the borderlands between Scotland and England.

Fifty years ago, Ted and Judy Armstrong revived the Armstrong Clan Association, and since that time, Gilnockie Tower has been restored and become the focal point for Armstrongs from around the world who are interested in DNA and genealogical research into their past.

Gilnockie Tower Common Room

I don’t know if you’re an Armstrong or have any Armstrong blood, but it has been fascinating and fun to learn a little bit more about our family heritage, and I’m guessing you might enjoy exploring yours too, if you ever get any spare time!

Terry at John Armstrong’s Grave Site

Terry and Eileen (and their faithful dog, Maggie) are retired and are able to enjoy some leisure time traveling through Europe and exploring their history. Talk about keeping fit and being a lifelong learner!

They’ve spent several years adventuring, and I have to say, I lick my chops when I read of their travels and see the gorgeous places they’ve visited!

The Neil Armstrong Tea

Still, I am content, even if we didn’t make it to the moon and back for tea in July! God is good. Life is good. As my father used to say (quoting Aldous Huxley from Brave New World): “You pays your money and you takes your choice.” Are you happy with the choices you’re making? I hope so! If not, you are the only one who can change your choices!!

Only One Life
(—Avis B. Christiansen and Merrill Dunlop)

“Only one life to offer
Jesus my Lord and King.
Only one tongue to praise Thee
And of Thy mercy sing (forever).
Only one heart’s devotion
Savior, O may it be
consecrated alone to Thy matchless glory,
Yielded fully to Thee.

“Only one life to offer
Take it dear Lord I pray.
Nothing from Thee withholding
Thy will I now obey.
Thou who hast freely given
Thine all in all for me
Claim this life for Thine own to be used My Savior
Ev’ry moment for Thee.”

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Larry Rivera and Elvis Presley: Choosing the Slow Life

aloha-begins-with-me-larry-rivera-and-alanWhile at the Mayo Clinic conference last week, we saved mega bucks
by eating at various hole-in-the wall restaurants in nearby Koloa alan-at-the-grand-hyatt-kauairather than venturing into the luxo locations on site at our resort. garden-island-grill-menu-kauaiAmong these, one of our favorites was the Garden Island Grill, ono-fresh-catch-of-the-day-at-garden-island-grille-kauaiwhere, between 6-8 pm on the weekends, Larry Rivera entertains his friends, larry-rivera-with-his-new-friend-alanfamily, and new friends (whoever happens to be passing through).

larry-riveraLarry is 86. The day we visited, he was celebrating his 60th anniversary with his lovely bride and says he’s still on his honeymoon! They have 6 kids, 17 grand kids, and 18 great grand kids. Furthermore, he can say all their names in 35 seconds (±). Want to hear his story?  larry-rivera-sings-at-the-garden-island-grilleLarry was born in 1931, the sixth generation in a long line of Hawaiians born in Kauai. He started working at the Coco Palms Resort at 20, was called to serve in the Korean War, and by 24 (1955), he was back to work at the Coco Palms singing with his group called “The Beach Boys.” He says the ones we know today “stole” his band’s name and ended up with all the money and glory, but who cares? “I’ve got all this love!” he beamed, his arms sweeping the audience where his wife sat smiling and then flying out and up to embrace his island and the sky, where His Father sat smiling. (Rivera is an ordained minister as well as a musician.) larry-rivera-singing-with-a-friend-and-his-wife Larry’s long musical career included such highlights as teaching Bing Crosby how to sing (Hawaiian style), watching Frank Sinatra nearly drown on Wailua Beach (surfers rescued him), having John Denver join in a hula with his daughters while Larry sang, and having Elvis Presley and Patti Page sing background vocals for him while they were visiting at Coco Palms. (Actually, Larry said Elvis was an unusually sweet person. He would bus tables just to be kind if things got to hectic at the restaurant, and he paid $500 for one of Larry’s songs!) In 1961, the wedding scene from Blue Hawaii, starring Elvis Presley, was filmed at Coco Palms. Larry was 30, and Elvis was 26. Very sadly, Elvis Presley died just 16 years later at age 42 from “cardiac arrhythmia” (caused by an overdose of a pain killer, Codeine, and a nonbarbituate sedative, Quaalude). He was divorced by then and only had one child, Lisa Marie. He has four grandchildren (whom he never met), and no great grandchildren at this time.  kathi-at-the-garden-island-grille-kauaiI don’t know about you, but I would personally choose Larry Rivera’s life over Elvis’s any day. Larry has lived more than twice as long, is still fit at a fiddle (balanced on one leg and did other tricks for fun), working hard, living well, and full of love and joy. Alan and I were both totally delighted and inspired. If we make it to 86, we’ll have been married 64 years. (That’s 20 more years; think we’ll make it??) Would I ever love to be able to work a few hours singing and sharing the love of God and man with those around me at his age, wouldn’t you?  hawaiian-time-signHow did he do it? Well, for one thing, he chose the slow life. He chose to stay in his homeland among his own people. He chose to stay with his wife. He chose to remain faithful to His God. To me, those are admirable choices! What do you think? Would you rather have fame and fortune, or love and happiness?dinner-at-the-island-grille-kauai“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).

(“Aloha” is used by Hawaiians as a greeting, both “hello” and “goodbye,” but ultimately it means “Love… affection, peace, compassion, and mercy!”)

 

 

What’s On Top Of Your Pole?

snowy-michigan-gardenI’d been thinking a lot about those baboons sitting on top of the fence posts when I took a walk down our lane after the last big snow storm, and it occurred to me that I don’t have monkeys perched on my fence posts, I have snow! Lots of snow!snowy-swampOf course, I didn’t really place the snow on top of the posts, God did! Still, it made me think about the fact that—symbolically—we each have posts in our life. super-snowy-morning-in-michigan As we begin 2017, what’s on your post? What’s on the top of your pole?  Snow? Something that comes and goes with every gust of wind and change of weather?totem-pole-in-alaskaI’ve been examining my life and thinking about priorities…what I value and what I want as my highest priority…at the top of my pole. I don’t want it to be pleasure, or wealth, or even happiness or being loved by others (although those are all good things). I want God—the living, personal God who created the universe and everything in it, and yet who loves us with everlasting love—I want that most wonderful of all gods to be at the top of my pole. How about you?  old-fence-around-a-garden-in-winterAnd if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

(In case you hadn’t guessed, that totem pole isn’t at our home; it was taken when we were in Alaska years ago.)