Wednesday, December 18, 2013

“And then, in the midst of near despair, something has happened beneath the surface. A bright little flashing fish of hope has flicked silver fins and the water is bright and suddenly I am returned to a state of love again — till next time. I've learned that there will always be a next time, and that I will submerge in darkness and misery, but that I won't stay submerged. And each time something has been learned under the waters; something has been gained; and a new kind of love has grown. The best I can ask for is that this love, which has been built on countless failures, will continue to grow. I can say no more than that this is mystery, and gift, and that somehow or other, through grace, our failures can be redeemed and blessed.” ― Madeleine L'Engle


So much change this year! It’s definitely been a year of submerging under the water and then seeing those little flickers of hope.  Unexpectedly, we find ourselves in South Carolina, in a beautiful new home, starting over again with schools, church, relationships...transitions are always difficult.  I have a wonderful new job, Assistant Professor of Theatre at North Greenville University, and I really love teaching. This year I’m teaching Acting, Movement, Voice, Playwriting, Theatre Appreciation and directing a production of The Rivals. We dearly miss our friends and family in other parts of the country, but took this step in the faith that God has brought us here and has a purpose in it all.

David is a freshman in High School now, and is part of the Drama club and a weekly Bible study at the school.  He succeeded in achieving his Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do this summer, and we hope to find him a school here as soon as possible.  Timmy had found a Boy Scout troop here in SC and is hard at work earning his merit badges.  He’s also joined the Academic Competition team and the Lego Robotics Club at his middle school.  Emily is excelling in 5th grade and is part of the Math superstar club.  We’re still looking for a ballet studio for her in the takes awhile to get settled in!! Don has been a lifesaver in doing all that’s involved with moving into a new house, taking care of the kids, and searching hard for work of his own.  It was hard for him to leave the security of his position at the Naval Base, but again, that’s where trust comes in.

Earlier in the year, I choreographed and Timmy and Emily performed in Fiddler on the Roof at Regent. I had the opportunity to perform as Queen Elizabeth in Richard III in Williamsburg, VA. Over the summer, the kids got to attend St. Philip’s Kidz Kamp and Christ Church VBS in Pittsburgh, Theatre camp with Virginia Shakespeare Festival, and visit family at Uncle Steve’s lakehouse in PA for the 4th of July.  Timmy also attended Scout Camp and David a Student Ministry camp.  We met our new little cousin, Finn, while visiting up in Massachusetts, and squeezed in as many last visits to the beach as we could, before moving to the mountain foothills. Maybe we’ll be able to slow down a little in 2014? No, probably not.

Here’s wishing you many glimpses of the silvery fish of hope in the new year, and that you will see many examples of grace and redemption this Christmas season.

Much love, from The Dunlaps


Thursday, January 31, 2013


Windy last night!!
All night long the doors squeaked and the walls creaked and the windows rattled and spattered with rain.
Our grill blew over sometime during the storm - scary thought.  It seems to be all right...the propane tank is still attached, so that's good.  Stood it up this morning, lava rock flying everywhere. 

Then I went out to take David to the bus stop and saw this staring at me from across the street.  (I did not take this picture...but this is what he looked like!)

Wonder if he got blown out of his house too?

Monday, January 14, 2013


Timmy's home today - we've both been courting sore throats for a couple of days, and last night his turned into a barky cough.  Both strep and flu are going around his class, but there's no fever at all, and aside from the bark he doesn't really feel terrible.  So no Dr. visit, just a day at home.  Hopefully that won't turn out to be a mistake! I'm worried about work - I'm working from home today, but if all the kids get it and I have to miss more work, there's going to be trouble.  Plus the kids have no school Monday or Friday of next week, and I have to figure that out too.  Having a job is a pain in the butt. 

On the happy side of homesick, I got a package from Mom today with random left-behinds from Christmas.  Some undershirts of Don's, one glove, a toy horse that Santa forgot to leave under the tree, and some random food items.  Made me smile.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


He stole my socks!
This was today's battle cry.  Such righteousness! Such indignation!
Truth is, both boys wear the same size, same brand socks, and I buy a lot of them and distribute them randomly when sorting laundry. 
This morning, Timmy ran out and took a pair from David's drawer, which was apparently the first time David discovered that this is how the sock fairy works.  No, he declares, they are all MY socks.  All of them.
What makes some children swell with this type of entitlement? I will readily take whatever blame deserves to be laid at my feet, but I don't think he's been a materially spoiled child.  Somewhat coddled, yes.  I will own to that. 
But it's an issue (of which sock greediness is only the tip of the iceberg) that we are trying desperately to address.
It's yet another reason why I like summer much better than winter.
As Grandma-B always said, "No socks in the summer!"

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I sat to write these words, my annual Christmas letter, and I didn’t know where to begin.  Several days ago, in Newtown Connecticut, twenty innocent children were slaughtered.  Needlessly.  Collectively, our hearts grieve.  Our minds are numbed by our lack of understanding.  How to write about the Joy of the Christmas season in the face of this tragedy?

Traditionally, I begin these letters with words from my favorite writer, Madeleine L’Engle, and turning to her book The Irrational Season, I found this reflection of the Feast of the Holy Innocents.  Please forgive the length...


“This is a festival? This remembering of the slaughter of all those babies under two years of age whose only wrong was to have been born at a time when three Wise Men came out of the East to worship a great causes me to ask painful questions about the love of God.  That is love? How can we understand it? Do we even want it? I sometimes get very angry at God, and I do not feel guilty about it, because the anger is an affirmation of faith.  You cannot get angry at someone who is not there.  So the raging is for me a necessary step towards accepting that God’s way of loving is more real than man’s, that this irrational, seemingly unsuccessful love is what it’s all about, is what created the galaxies, is what keeps the stars in their courses, is what gives all life value and meaning...Through the darkness of my uncomprehending, through my pain and weakness, only thus may I try to become open to God’s love…”

We cannot always understand the whys and wherefores of this world.  We rage, and weep; and then we dry our eyes and look to tomorrow.  Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.  (To quote another favorite author…) We look for the helpers, as Mr. Rogers taught us, and we light a candle to spite the darkness.  The sun rises, the children grow.  We gather close to our loved ones and reach out to those who live far away…

We were very fortunate to be able to visit family and friends in Pittsburgh this summer, where the kids continued their tradition of attending St. Philips Kidz Kamp.  David went on a week-long trip with Youth Group, and the kids and I visited family in MA, and my brother (and Sue’s!) lake house in PA.  Don went to Cook’s Forest in PA last month to go camping with some of his buddies, and we all joined the scouts on a weekend camping trip here in VA. We also spent Thanksgiving in Bethesda, MD with my sister, where this picture was taken.  Family is so important, and we’re so glad to be able to see them as much as we do.

And speaking of children growing...David is halfway through his final year of middle school.  We’re researching academy programs for high school, and beginning the difficult process of trying to figure out where he should focus his interests.  He continues to study Latin and violin, but he seems to find the most pleasure in designing computer games and building websites.  He just achieved the rank of Jr. Black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and we are extremely proud of him.

Timmy began playing violin this year, and just today performed as Linus in the church Christmas play.  His first role on the stage was in the children’s chorus of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in April. He is completing his final couple of months as a Cub Scout, and will join the Boy Scouts in February.  He’s got his eye on Eagle Scout, and I have no doubt that with his determination and drive, he will accomplish it someday!

Emily is enjoying her second year of ballet classes.  She had her first recital in May, and danced beautifully—right through her nerves! She also played a non-speaking role in my final performance at Regent, as one of the school children in Doubt.  Her love of reading has grown immensely, and she has a quirky and delightful sense of humor.

I graduated from Regent in May with my MFA, and immediately went down to Naples, FL to perform in an International Arts Festival.  Upon returning, I started working at Studio Center as an On-Camera Talent Director.  It’s been incredibly challenging and I’ve learned SO much about the Camera side of the acting business.

I, and all three kids, had our first television acting experience when the new season of A Haunting was filmed in Hampton Roads this summer.  Although the boys’ roles were significantly shortened, and Emily’s was cut altogether, we all had a great time and learned a lot! Timmy, Emily and I also filmed a commercial for a local pizza company, and David and Emily have gotten work doing voiceovers for radio commercials.  Now we just have to get the acting bug to bite Don…

We’ve been blessed beyond measure.  Many of our friends and family have experienced loss and heartache and pain in 2012.  And we’ve certainly had our struggles as well.  But we are healthy.  We have each other. I still get to tuck my kids in at night and kiss them goodbye in the morning.  I’m going to have a new nephew to cuddle in a couple of months.  Despite it all, because of it all...Love is stronger.


Please, hold your loved ones close and celebrate the Light this Christmas.


Monday, December 17, 2012

New post coming soon...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

June recap

I thought it was time for a redesign.  Here are some pictures from the recent adventures we've had.

This is from the cubscout camping trip we did in May.  It was at North Landing State Park and was really a nice site.  I'd go there again - no jets, just roosters in the morning.  (They sound kind of freaky when you don't know what they are!) The sunsets were spectacular.

The kids made and flew kites.  I love this picture.

Sitting at the campfire.

Watching the sunset, which somehow didn't show in this picture. 

W had a really bad windstorm one night and this was the house across the street.  There were trees and branches down everwhere.  Amazingly, we only lost our one shutter that keeps falling off every time there's any wind at all. I was definately scoping out the safest place to hide in our house (the downstairs bathroom.  It would have been cozy!)

Cinderella was named citizen of the month for June, for the quality of "trustworthiness". 

The kids on Tarzan's team got tough guy facepaint for their last game.  Tarzan has struggled at bat, but this game he had two great hits.  The second one was his best of the season...unfortunately, it was also the one where the other team's second baseman scooped up the ball and tagged out the runner - ending the game 4-3.

Cinderella went to the zoo with her class.  This is an empty cage where the kids can pretend to be monkeys.  We had a fun time together, although it was very hot.

Scooby tested for his purple belt in TaeKwonDo - here he is doing some punches.  The ceremony is on Saturday.  After this he only has blue, high blue, red, high red, brown, high brown and jr. black to go!

Tarzan crossed over to Webelo scout.  After Webelo comes Webelo 2, then boy scout.

Tarzan turned 9! He had a video game themed party, with Angry Birds water balloon games, a Wii tournament and a PacMan cake.  The ghosts are frosted marshmallows, the maze is blue licorice and the dots are chopped up Reeses Pieces.

Blowing out the candles.  I can't believe he's 9! He got a couple new DS games which he loves, a big-kid sized Hippity Hop, new swim goggles, a skim board, a swimsuit, Diary of a Wimpy Kid Cheese-Touch game, a Lego set, and several gift cards.  He's a pretty happy kid this week.

Don and Monkey recovering from the festivities.  One more birthday party to go, then we'll be hitting the road.  Pittsburgh from June 19 - July 1, Norwood from July 2 - July 10, Westford from July 11 - July 21st or so.  Don will be with us for the second week in Pittsburgh and the first half of the Norwood trip.  Can't wait to see everybody!