Christmas in a Hotel


My family is my daughter Jessica, the only one of my 4 children who wants me in their lives.  She is having a baby soon, the only grandchild I will see–unless things change.  Jessica spent Christmas with me in a nice (but inexpensive) hotel in Ontario, California. We stayed there before–during the Miss California competition and Thanksgiving.  The hotel has a cheerful, red-hued lobby; a pool; and walkways with a gazebo and rose gardens.  It reminds me of hotels I stayed in throughout China.  We gave away some of my books to curious staff members and enjoyed green tea, butter cookies, and a few wrapped gifts.  I am thankful that, though I do not own my own home, this year I was not homeless.  I have a good job and can afford a hotel near to where Jessica lives.

Jessica read the story of the first Christmas as written in the Bible’s Gospel of Luke.  As a Messianic Jew and a Christian, I could be criticized for celebrating Christmas, a holiday not well steeped in valid history.  However, I love Christmas for the songs whose words I memorized when I was a child, the tiny blinking lights, angels, and evergreens.  Jesus came as the “light of the world.”  He died on a tree, our sacrifice to wash away our crimson sins, and rose again to bring new life.  Somehow these ideas do not erase older traditions of Hanukah, but fulfill.

How was your Christmas?


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My Brighton Heart Box


I wrote some texts from my smartphone to my youngest daughter’s smartphone.  That’s how writing works these days.  I sent her photos, too, and tried to share my heart by showing her what hides in my old Brighton tin heart box.  I hope my 3 other children, from whom I never hear, read this too–and mothers everywhere, who save things for children in hopes of giving them bits of treasure gathered over a lifetime (and sometimes a world of travel).  Please enjoy this and feel free to share:


Jessica, are you OK? Do you still have your phone? You know, I lost a lot of our treasures in my travels across the globe, but I managed to keep a few. The 1st photo is sterling silver and crystal, my ring from Turkey, official Arwen pendant and fern pin with matching earrings from New Zealand, Brighton crystal earrings I bought from a Lake Arrowhead Village store in the California mountains when you were little and we all lived together there. I am saving these for you. You are precious to me–and even more to Jesus, who made us and loves us and came down from Heaven to heal us–painfully–and rise again. He patiently polishes the tarnish, smooths out the tangles, and connects broken links of our lives–like this sterling silver necklace from Italy that I hold in my hand.


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Autumn in China

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESGinkoa Biloba leaves blanketed the courtyard outside the high school classes where I teach English near Shanghai, China.  This colorful display cheered my students and me.  Later we went to Starbucks to celebrate a strange kind of Thanksgiving with a student’s birthday cake and flavored coffee.  Half of the students paid attention to my speech about Thanksgiving, and the other half played with their mobile phones.  Such is life in China.  If you like my blogs, please check out my books.


Walk with Me to Turkey’s Kar Tepe Mountain

I was teaching basic English to private language school students on weekends when I decided it was time for a field trip. Since I had often stood in Izmit, Kocaeli by the banks of the Marmara Sea and looked up at the distant mountains, I thought of traveling to Kar Tepe, the tallest peak in Kocaeli and home to a five-star hotel and challenging ski resort.

The only way to get up the mountain is by car, since the buses only go to the village of Kar Tepe at the base of the mountain. The paved road is well cared for, thanks in part to business from wealthy Istanbul residents who want to ski at the closest location. One of my students offered to drive our small group, and we left early on a Saturday morning in September. Continue reading

Travel Theme: Hot


Here it is, December second, and I am sitting in a Starbuck’s in Alanya, Turkey.  I listen to Christmas music piped over loudspeakers in a Muslim country where Christmas is rarely celebrated.  I miss my children in California, wondering if I will return to them this Christmas, or if this will be my third Christmas overseas.

Last summer I was here when it was really hot, and I snapped a photo of a boy swimming in the Mediterranean Sea.  Now my children are in the California mountains where snow may fill the forests at any time.

Life is full of contrasts, irony like the bitter taste of coffee mixed with dark chocolate.


In Antalya, to the west of me, I had a job at Akdeniz University where this palm tree, under a white-hot sky, reflected in a fountain.  I fought hard for that job, but it ended sooner than I expected, thanks to slow Turkish paperwork which would not get my contract in time.

Perhaps the hottest of anything I have seen in Turkey is the love two people can share, like this couple I randomly saw at Kaleiçi in Antalya, posing together on their summer wedding day.


I like to write about life’s extremes like summer and winter, New Zealand and Russia.  If you like travel adventures and enjoy my photos, please have a look at my book “Fire and Ice”:

Special Photo Challenge: Inspiration


My uncle Vic was a professional photographer in New York City.  My cousin Larry traveled the world, taking sportsmen photos.  Since I was a child, I held a camera in my hands, looked through a lens at the most amazing places, and snapped pictures in color and light.


I love the colors green and blue, found in natural, earthly scenes.  My inspiration comes from trees and leaves; sunlight slanting through a mountain forest; poetry; God’s great, redemptive love.


My inspiration comes from my children, my hands on their shoulders, sun on our faces, ice in dark coffee, transcient eternity like the Word made flesh to live among us–Christmas, reunion in the touch of fingertips.

You can read about what inspires me:

New Zealand and the Color Green

Inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge topic of the color green, I browsed through some of my old photos of New Zealand, the most beautifully green place in the world.  I edited the photos a little, brightening colors or sharpening edges, and here are some for you to enjoy.


My son Jonathan as a little Hobbit in Dart Forest


The sheep-farming hills of Fairlie


Fairlie with snow-covered mountains in the background


The blue-green water of Lake Pukake, which melts from Mount Cook’s glacier


An evergreen forest behind the autumny colors of Lake Tekapo and its church


The rocks at Banks Peninsula near Christchurch


More colors to explore on the open road


If you enjoyed my photos, read the adventures that go with them in my book “Fire and Ice”

Travel Theme: Foliage

Some of the strangest foliage I saw was in New Zealand.  Here is a lancewood tree in the mist of the South Island:


Here is a pine tree in the steamy mist of Craters of the Moon Park on the North Island:


A silver fern’s fiddlehead (new growth) stretches out for spring (it’s now spring in New Zealand):


I shared New Zealand adventures with my children.  Now they live in California, and I teach English in Turkey.  I’m trying to write my way back to them.  If you liked this blog, please check out “Weekly Photo Challenge:  Mine.”


Weekly Photo Challenge: Solitary (Far)

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Solitary (Far)

A lone egret stands in Milford Sound in New Zealand. The white bird is surrounded by water, trees, sky, and the distant, misty mountains. I stood at this spot with my children Jessica and Jonathan, a few years ago. We could feel the peace of the place, solitary in a vast landscape–yet connected to each other. Now they are in California, and I am in Turkey, writing to get back to them.

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