Thursday, September 25, 2014

Solitude

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...enjoying the white sands of Florida and watching my family play in warm clear waters and soft powdery sand...all day long.


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...taking midnight walks on the beach looking for creatures that come out only at night.


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...going to the movie by myself and realizing I'm the only one in the theater the whole time...

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A June Vacation Away

Around Christmas, I made my annual call to my Aunt (one of my mother's three sisters.) My mother's side of the family don't really do the 'family' thing so, as kids, we didn't really communicate with them much. The fact that they lived on the other side of the country didn't help either.

After my mother died, her mother, brother, a sister and aunt came to the funeral. I had just turned twenty-four and was pregnant with my second child. I didn't want to continue her history with her side of our family so I began my own relationship with them....one Christmas card at a time. About ten or eleven years later, my family and I drove up to NY to visit my BFF and visit some relatives while we were up there. I visited my uncle, grandmother and one of my aunts. It was the last time I saw my grandmother as she died in 2010 (Alzheimer's.)

Fast forward to this past Christmas, during my conversation with my aunt, it came up that they had bought an RV the past summer. Since we had also gotten a used popup, it seemed like the perfect way to see each other...to meet in the middle. I then worked on finding a place to meet. As it turned out, we'd both have to drive 13 hours to meet so I chose an RV park in North Carolina. We agreed on the dates and I made the reservations months ago.

It finally happened last week! We made the trek up north to meet her (and her hubby, adult son and granddaughter who were traveling with her.) But first, I called up a cousin who lived in an neighboring state and invited myself (and my family) to visit. I last saw her over thirty years ago and we had recently become FB friends. She was very nice and let us hang out and even spend the night. It was initially scary (I'm not usually that assertive) but it turned out awesome.

Me and my cousin.
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Then we drove to the place I picked out. It was not what I imagined...but there were really nice things about it. It was mostly shaded, a creek ran through it (making heavenly rushing water sounds all the time) and it was small enough so that my kiddos could run around independently (not too far, of course.) My older son learned the names of the staff within a couple days and waved and said 'Hi (their name)' as they drove by on little cart things. The staff were incredibly nice and accommodating. My visit with my aunt and her family was so nice. We just enjoy sitting in our chairs near the fire (yes, it was a little cool at night, to my delight) for the first two days!

Me and my aunt.
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Then we went white water rafting another day and then hiking another day. Then we parted ways. Hopefully, it won't be another decade before we meet again.

I love that part of the country. I love the mountains, the green trees, the scenic highways...I love riding down the smoothe roads of the Blue Ridge Parkway at 30 or 40 miles an hour enjoying the switchbacks and scenic overlooks. I observing so many picnic tables at gorgeous curves on the short area we traveled and wished I had more time to just sit and enjoy the moment.

I had a lovely week.

Stopping along a road in the Great Smoky National Park. The creeks looked inviting but the signs above them tell a different story.

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One cool thing about going somewhere on a trip is stopping at different places to eat. Here's breakfast in Gatlinburg.
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Enjoying the creek where we stayed.
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We went white water rafting down the Tuckaseegee River (the tame parts with Class I and II rapids since we had little kids.) We stopped for a break. The water was freezing but felt good since the sun on our backs seemed really hot. During our time, my hubby almost fell out of our raft but we found out later that my aunt's hubby actually did. Luckily, he got right back in afterwards.
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Me (and hubby)
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I just loved stopping at so many overlooks. My cousin (and his daughter) are in this one with my boys.
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My first grader standing on the wall near the sign. This was the highest elevation on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
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My fourth grader and first grader.
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This picture doesn't do this breathtaking scene justice. While you were up there standing on the edge of a mountain, you could feel the cool wind blowing on your face. Everything below looked pristine and beautiful!
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Here's a stranger we saw along our hike. He gave us info about where to hike and what we'd see in the next ten minutes or so while walking. He was quite knowledgeable and I asked if I could take his picture. He said sure. I'd love to be this mobile and healthy in twenty or thirty years or so...I'd love to plan and take jaunts to places I loved and escape for a few days or a week just doing stuff like this.
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Oh, here's something we'd never seen....wild strawberries. They were delicious!
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Our popup camper.
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Catching tadpoles...I used to do this too when I was little. He held it long enough to show me and then returned it to it's home. I love the look on his face...
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My littlest guy...loved going to the Titanic Museum (Pigeon Forge, TN.) He always checks out Titanic books at the library and looked forward to going there. You couldn't take any pictures inside the museum (copywriting policy) so we asked one of the staff to take a picture with him before we went in.
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It was nice to get away and take a break from everything. It had been a really stressful month leading up to this vacation and I'm glad I didn't cancel it. We all loved the change.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

My Brother Died.......And Another gets a Medal...

I got the call a couple few weeks ago that my middle brother had been found dead.

There was a long week of grieving, crying, numbness, and sadness until the wake and funeral.

My oldest brother and I seemed lost. We made those kind of decisions you don't ever want to make together along with my husband. Strengthening our bond and sharing our sorrow...

My youngest brother had a family crisis that meant he couldn't attend the funeral and he wasn't there to process any of these emotions or hear any stories...the things that help you move forward.

Soon afterward, I flew out to be with him and his kids during this tough time.

Since this is so fresh, anything can trigger a memory. Suddenly, I can be crying.

I will have to clear out my brother's home (the one who passed away.) When I see a toothbrush, I think about his toothbrush being in his shower...waiting. I will have to return his mail to the sender and write Deceased on the front. I will have to throw away his trash and remember the pizza boxes from the pizza I sent to him a day before he died. Every time I see someone like him on the road, I do a double take. This is my middle brother...I took this picture from his Facebook page. He loved to garden.

My SIL (from the farm) and I wrote the obituary. Here is an excerpt: "(Brother) will be most remembered for his love of his family and he especially enjoyed spending time with his nephews and nieces. He was a kind man with a generous soul. (Brother) wanted those around him to be happy and he would give the shirt off his back to help someone in heed. He dearly loved animals, but horses, were, by far, his favorite. (Brother) loved riding, being around them, taking care of them, and working with them. (Brother) also had a passion for working with his hands and for gardening."
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I miss him. A lot.

A week later, I continue this draft on this post...

While I am helping out my youngest brother, I learn that he was getting a medal in a ceremony at an aircraft hanger at the military base where he lives and works. I was incredibly proud. It was the third highest award bestowed upon members in the US military. They asked me to pin it on his uniform. Of course, absolutely, I didn't hesitate and was honored to pin it. He's worked hard in his career in the military and has been in it for almost two decades. While the reasons I am here were bittersweet, it turned out to be a blessing. It was good to hang out, grieve and share memories with him. I will leave here in a few days and go back home...

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I need to remember to always be grateful for all the blessings in my life and those people who are alive and still here to share it with me.

Moving on...

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Rattlesnake Near Miss

Just this weekend, at my SILs farm, I was playing baseball with my kiddo. I was throwing the ball and he was hitting it with the bat. He was doing pretty good too. The last time he hit the ball, it went way out. I just looked at it as if to say, I'm not running all that way to get it, you go. He might have seen my 'look' or maybe not, but he ran off to get the ball. I was watching him run toward it and then, in slow motion, I hear and see it. I'm hearing a rattle. Far away, it sounds just like a.... Wait, I can't even hear it because I'm hearing screaming as I watch my kid start to run so fast away from it that he falls flat on his arm and then pops up, running away. I still hear the rattling as I run to my kiddo. He's crying so hard that I can't understand what happened as he holds his arm. When I finally determine that he wasn't bit, I start to process what just happened.

Apparently, the ball probably rolled near the snake and frightened it. Then as my kiddo ran toward the ball, it got into striking position and sounded the alarm. Luckily, my kiddo was quick. Just a near miss. My SIL said there hadn't been a snake that close to the house in the 7 years they've lived there. We're just kinda lucky that way, lol! I mean, he got stung by a scorpion, then we were attacked by Africanized bees, and now, a close encounter with a rattlesnake. I'm thinking...next is the chubacabra!

This is my kiddo posing with the rattles from the snake after we killed it. He's still holding my arm and trying to smile while in pain.
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And....what it looked like.
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Just feeling very blessed that there wasn't the other possible outcome.

We were there to celebrate Mother's Day. All four of my kiddos were there along with my older daughter's boyfriend and their daughter. My SIL and BIL were awesome, as always. She had given my older daughter and me small bouquets of flowers and chocolate covered strawberries. She's always been incredibly thoughtful and always remembers birthdays, anniversaries, and other special dates. Such a wonderful weekend, even with the snake encounter.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Our Colorado Trip

My friend moved last year and we miss them. My kiddos played with her kiddos all the time and they got along really well. We found a great deal on Frontier Airlines from a nearby town to Denver for under $100 each roundtrip (just love great sales!) So the boys and I took a trip while hubby was at work and visited them.

It was so nice being able to hang out and enjoy my friend T.
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And her family were so very hospitable and cooked breakfast and kept us entertained the whole time. I loved seeing movies in their basement theatre room (we don't have basements in the area where I live.) While her youngest kiddo was at daycare, they took us tubing down the slope one day in Winter Park.
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My third grader (who looked Amish with his blue shirt and black suspender looking snowpants.) Luckily, I am a hoarder (on really small level) and saved it from my daughter when we went snow skiing 19 years ago.
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We also went bowling and we had a great time! There was a expert bowler next to us and my kiddo watched him intently.
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There were SO many parks around the area where they lived! This one was really cool!
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We loved that it actually snowed one day while we were there! The kiddos made snow angels, made a snowman (and a 'snow fort' which ended up only being the first block toward it...the snow froze your hands and my kids weren't used to playing in snow.)
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We also went to the Denver Zoo. It was an absolutely great day to go and the weather was awesome!
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Christmas trees growing everywhere! I loved seeing them!!
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Oh, and geese...everywhere! It was so interesting seeing them (we don't ever see them land near us since we live so far south.)
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There were some theatres that had bars (alcohol) and restaurants (order food.) This chair was SOOO comfortable! My friend and I watched Divergent. She and I are movie buffs!
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And finally, a picture my friend took of her oldest son and my youngest son. I love this picture. We had a very nice experience hanging out with them and good friends are great blessings. Made me realize how much I appreciate my bffs. I will need to check out a way to visit my friend J in the near future as well.

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Spring Break at the Farm

We couldn't decide what to do for Spring Break when we were discussing it several months ago. I just knew we wanted to 'go somewhere' and do 'something fun.' When we were at SILs in January, hubby and BIL were discussing when to plant seed and sunflowers (to grow to attract dove to hunt.) The best time to do that was in March and we decided to spent our time away from school there with them.

Hubby is always in heaven when he is there. It's just not the environment, driving the tractor/disc or working while there, it's the interaction with his sister and BIL that makes it all worthwhile. The fact that they now have a pool makes it even better as he can work hours doing something he loves and then swim or sit in their hot tub. It's always a wonderful place to visit and I so much enjoy talking with SIL about everything under the sun. She's the sister I never had and our relationship over the last 30 years has continued to thrive. We enjoy the same kind of books and movies. While there, we all started watching the first few seasons of Doc Martin, a British comedy television series that has been on for years. We've only finished the first three or four seasons but I can't wait to watch more of them. Even my kiddos loved the series and have started saying "Yeah, innit."

This is my SIL. She looks like this most of the time. When she gets dressed up to go somewhere and puts on her make-up and 'fixes' her hair, she believes she looks so much better but this is how I see her...enjoying the morning walk with her dogs on her farm with us...and I was so glad to be able to snap a picture to capture the moment of her as she usually is...beautiful.

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My SIL is an animal lover. Years before she (and BIL) got their first dog, she wanted a female black lab named Molly. I love the way she defines a goal and waits for it to come to her. She also wanted a certain kind of place to live (farm) and had a vision of what it would look like. Now she has had both for years. Over the last number of years, her huge heart of helping dogs, in particular, has invited 9 dogs to live there, not including foster dogs. She farm has a fence that keeps them safe and they can run and roam as far as they'd like. She is very knowledgeable about what to feed them depending on their age; several are now getting old and have arthritis and she make sure she gives them whatever meds they need to make them feel better. If I were a dog on Earth, I'd want to live there. Her heart doesn't stop with her pets. She's always been there for any of us (and my extended family) and continues to provide for her mother (my MIL in the ALF.) Watching her throughout the years with her grandchildren was what I want to be able to do for mine. She has never once forgotten our birthday or anniversary or happy occasion and always sends us a card (or present.) Hubby says no one makes chocolate chip cookies like she can (they're REALLY good) and loves it when she makes them for him. She is the person to take care of my kiddos should something happen to us (and my bf friend Janet as plan b) but of course, nothing will happen until they're all grown up and old. Luckily, BIL likes us and is really good about us going there, messing the place up and 'eating them out of house and home.' He's a great guy and is quiet. SIL said that they used to say at his work that he didn't say much but when he did, everyone listened. That is true. He has excellent moral character and is a great thinker. They make a great team!

The farm doesn't get a lot of rain but when it does, in this time of year, wildflowers will sprout and grow. I forgot to charge my camera before I left to go there so I didn't take a lot of pictures but I took a few of the kiddos in the flowers. My kids are overdue for haircuts as their hair is not usually this long.

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And my favorite...
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We just spent 10 days there and it feels like just 4 or 5. The days passed quickly. The kids played, read lots of books (well, my kindergartener did) and played outside. I read at least 5 or 6 books and we didn't watch a lot of tv. Their internet barely works so I checked my email here and there but didn't spend the time I usually do surfing or watching tv. It was an awesome Spring Break with the people I love. My younger daughter was at home (she has job interview and couldn't come) but it was a nice relaxing vacation of sorts. I am totally blessed to have SIL in my life. I came back home and saw of FB lots of exciting trips that other families took out of town and their wonderful pictures but have to say, I couldn't have asked for a better Spring Break.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Ronald McDonald House

Last week, I stayed with my daughter and her family at the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) because we were all out of town for my granddaughter's surgery. I hadn't had any firsthand knowledge of the RMHs other than they helped families who had kids in hospitals. We all drove over 5 hours to get to this particular hospital where Olivia's surgeon practices and were very lucky that there was a room available for us to stay at the facility in Dallas, TX. My daughter/family got there a day before I got there (there was an early morning MRI scheduled) and I drove up there so that I could go attend the many appointments with them the following day.

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The many appointments beforehand and the long hours spent in the hospital afterwards made the whole experience stressful. Having the blessing of such a place like RMH was amazing! They had volunteers who provided meals during the day (which helped because we had no energy or time to go out) and we caught one or two a day due to our schedule. They had many wonderful benefits for those staying there like washers and dryers (along with the detergent,) places to store your food (cabinets or use of refrigerator/freezer,) playrooms for kids and separate ones for teens, exercise room, library, places for guests to sit and talk, and you could even borrow/rent dvds to watch. They didn't have any televisions but that was no problem as we were so busy going back and forth to the hospital or reading about procedures and/or filling out paperwork.

This is me and Olivia before we left for the many appointments the day before her surgery.

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Since everyone there were there for the same reason (did not live close to the hospital and had a young loved one there,) we were exchanging stories and supporting each other. Just when you think you heard a really sad story, someone else's experience was even worse (luckily, our Olivia's condition was a necessary planned surgery and not one needed for a life/death situation or accident.)

I was completely overwhelmed by the generosity of the staff and RMH for us and others like us. I am much more aware of what RMH does and will be forever grateful for their commitment to helping kids/families. And just this week as I left a restaurant, I noticed this gum machine. Now that I am more aware of where the money goes, I will be a lifelong supporter.

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