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 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 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...