Thursday, March 21, 2013

Photo Dump - Part I

A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum...Well not really the forum, just the road of life. Remember all the way back to the beginning of last summer when I explained my desire to take a blogging break? Well I did just what I had hoped to do. I spent my days filled visiting, playing and caring for my family. 

I filled you in on some of what we were doing last summer...when my old computer was still trudging along. I choose to not be redundant but you are welcome to peruse the few posts from last summer to your hearts content!

I'll do my best to 'dump' the pictures in some semblance of order but my brain doesn't always run in order these days. I am going to try to clump them together and very likely will break this up into several  or at least two posts. That last one was asking quite a bit of everyone to scroll through!

First up:
Trey had started back to school:
Lily had her birthday:
Princesses are a very big part of her three year old world...

Then it was time for Trey to celebrate his birthday...EIGHT YEARS OLD! Whoa, time flies when we are having fun!

Last summer we went to the beach the week after Labor Day. The beach was less crowded but the surf and sand still full of sunshine and warmth. We even found some turtle nests hatching! It was a great time...anytime our family can gather together at Holden Beach is golden! With the beginning of school already on the books for Trey, he and his family were only able to stay for the first part of the week.
Trey and Lily celebrated their birthdays with the entire family while we were at the beach! Kate and Grace seemed enthralled with each other!

Kate loved sitting outside on the deck feeling the summer breeze!

Pop and Tim were enjoying Kate's smile and the breeze out on the deck where Tim and his family were staying. 
Lily was excited to show everyone where she was staying...the Cinderella outfit was a birthday gift from Aunt Erin and Uncle Scott. I heard bribes were made to get her to change out of her princess gown!

Grace was quite the beauty on the beach...
Her Mom and Dad were post card ready...
Lots of sunbathing...

More visiting between the two houses...

More cousin photos...Kate and Grace sporting monogrammed outfits!
Lily...the ruler of the pack (of the girls)...
I had my toes in the water and yes, you know where the rest of me was...

Sun kissed dinners at the beach bar!

And it was time to pack up and head home. Tonight we are making plans for this summer's beach trip! What mischief can we come up with this year???


Friday, March 8, 2013

The Long And Winding Road

If you don't have a lot of time...don't even start this post. Your seat may be sore before this epistle ends. I have shortened this post believe it or not. I hope I haven't left anyone out I want to thank and include. If so, you are in my heart if not in blog land. I've left names out to protect the innocent...everyone is labeled by family position or title. Aunt 'B' is the only one I believe I have called by name and I don't think I've given away too much with that title. So  grab a beverage, put your feet up, sit back and enjoy the drive:

It all began with a phone call: "Hi honey, I've been terminated". What the H double hockey sticks does that even mean??? I guess it's a sign of the husband was...'terminated'. A term used by the company where he worked as to the downsizing that took place. Amen and praise be to God, before he left the site that day he was contacted by two other companies interested in hiring him.  After considering all offers (he had more as the news spread) he chose one that has great potential...and many projects on the books. 

When he called me that fateful morning with the news, I was sharing breakfast out with our daughter. I would be less than honest if I didn't admit it startled me. My daughter said my face turned white before her eyes. I should have known it would all be okay. Working in the construction industry all his adult life we have been familiar with the fickle winds of employment delivered by the economy.  He always finds the silver lining. Every. Single. Time. 

Fortunately for us, he was able to take some time off before starting his new position. After he got the all clear from the eye surgery, ideas and travel routes were discussed over the dinner table. We decided to travel first to Charleston, SC. Being relatively new to the 'footloose and fancy free' lifestyle, a trip 'just for us' is not something we often do. We travelled through rain and it continued to rain the entire time we were in Charleston. I'm happy to report the rain did not dampen our fun and enjoyment of that lovely charming Southern city. We arrived late...rain was still pouring so we opted to dine in the hotel restaurant. It was excellent!

We had researched online and read many reviews. The hotel we settled on was a lovely boutique hotel right smack dab in the heart of the market area. We had a view of the harbor from our window. I got a kick out of the turndown service and all the lovely decor.

Carriage rides were what we thought we would use as tour transportation.Rain and buggies don't mix. We changed from buggy to bus. It was my first time touring a city on a bus (small and cozy as it was) and I can say it really was a great way to view the city. The tour guide was really adept at mixing humor and history! We enjoyed hanging out in the swanky hotel lobby while waiting for the tour bus...
It was just all these OLD people taking the tour with me that was so disconcerting...and when I caught my reflection in the bus window it dawned on me I resembled them. Reality check! Another reality with my husband. Have you ever heard the term, 'Shopping With Your Husband Is Like Hunting With the Game Warden'? It is. One shop and he was ready to stop. Oh honey...!

I should explain the genesis of our planned vacation was to visit my husband's elderly Aunt. She recently had to have a pace maker implanted and we wanted to visit her while we had the time and opportunity. I had the 'brilliant' idea of visiting as many of our siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and nephews, nieces and great nephew/nieces and loved ones as we could along our way. For those of you who have been my reading companions you are aware how much I've missed my family and yearned to visit with them all. 

Carpe Diem, y'all!

With a lot of family and territory to cover we knew we were going to be having short but sweet stops along the way! My Mom always told us 'guests are like fish and start to smell after three days...never over stay your welcome'. We were able to abide by that rule! We departed from Charleston and headed towards Hattiesburg, MS. We tried not to drive too long any one day. Always in the past when we drove somewhere we had a car full of kids and were hell bent on getting to our destination as quickly as possible. Anyone that has ever driven in a car full of children for more than 15 minutes knows from whence I speak.

We spent a lovely afternoon and overnight visit with my sister, brother in law and niece. These are the two members of my family that love love love Mardi Gras. They parade, actually ride on floats and throw beads and in the case of one of the! Mardi Gras was just over and they were really bravehearts to have guests the day after.

Hattiesburg had recently been struck by a tornado. Blessedly my sister's home was not in the path of the destruction, but my brother-in-law is head of his department at the university and just one block down the road from his department's building the campus was hit by that horrible storm. It is really chilling to see what can happen by the forces of nature. 

My sister and her husband are in the middle of remodeling their home so it was fun to see all they are doing and have done! Pictures just don't convey how lovely things actually are! Pasta and Pesto on Ash Wednesday was a delicious repast. Time flies whenever I'm with my sisters...I wish it could have gone on forever!

We woke up and headed towards home. New Orleans. We spent two lovely days in our home town. A very special part of that visit was an hour or two spent driving by places and spaces in New Orleans that had childhood memories and hold our heart. 

The next two photographs are for our kids. Our sons were born in the house that used to stand on that lot. The actual house was torn was quite a surprise to see a new house in its place!
 The next two photos are, in order of appearance, my Grandmother's home, remodeled somewhat since she lived there and my childhood home, remodeled after Katrina.

Sorry for the glare, I was doing my best shooting into the afternoon sun and using the iPhone and riding in a moving car!

The first day in New Orleans was spent visiting my sister that still lives there and a dear family friend, the lovely lady that helped raise me and my siblings. We picked them up, one from her home, my sister from her work and headed out for lunch. I had a yearning for some Drago's charbroiled oysters and was not disappointed.

My younger sister...the Thing Two to my Thing One!
Alberta and I...can you tell I was trying to do the one armed iPhone camera photo shot?

After saying goodbye to our dear luncheon companions we spent the afternoon visiting the first of three great aunts on my husband's side. This aunt was married to his Dad's brother. It was great to see her, she was feeling much better than the last time we had  been together. As that day was drawing to an end we travelled across the New Orleans Causeway and stayed in Covington, La. My husband's sister lives in Covington. She purchased the home and land in Covington where his family spent summers and weekends when he was a child. We had a fun filled night with her and her beau!

The next morning a drive back across the causeway to New Orleans. We spent some time visiting my husband's relatives. We picked up my husband's aunt and met another  aunt and  uncle for lunch. One of his cousins was able to join us. Life in New Orleans most often revolves around its delicious food!

After lunch we brought  our Aunt B back to the Assisted Living facility where she resides. It could have been a very tearful goodbye but bingo was getting ready to start. We rolled her in her wheelchair right up to a table, purchased her bingo cards and gave her the extra fifty cents for the blackout game. Yes, we sure are high rollers! We were able to hold back the tears from saying goodbye until we headed out the door.

My husband's oldest brother invited all the metropolitan (and beyond) N'awlins family over for a dinner of boiled crabs, crawfish and fried oysters! We saw sisters, brothers, and  nephews and nieces...and met great nieces and great nephews, some never seen before. To say it was wonderful doesn't begin to describe our visit! Chaotic at times a houseful of relatives of all ages and stages is never quiet! It was fun and crazy and just what we wanted! 
Our N'awlins visit was lovely from start to finish.
 The calm before the arrival of all the relatives! Just Yertle the Turtle for company!
The Chef at the stove...frying up some delicious Louisiana oysters!
And my two sisters-in-law...
Steve and his siblings
If you look close at the pictures below you might detect a skillfully home made 'crawfish table'. It has a hole in the center and sits over a trash can. When you are finished peeling crawfish, crabs, etc...push all the debris in the lined trash can and viola! All gone!

 It was hard saying good bye to this fun filled bunch but we had a lot of road left to cover!

Next stop, Houston, Texas. We have sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews that live in Houston. It is a HUGE, Texas size city. I was amazed at the size and sprawl of the place! My baby sister that hates to be called a baby lives in Houston. Initially we were going to miss seeing each other by ONE day. God stepped in and said, "Not this time"; her plans had changed and we were able to spend way too little, but oh so precious time with my sweet and funny sister and my surfer dude brother-in-law. As excited as I was to see them I forgot to pull out my phone for pictures! So happy was I to visit that I was late in leaving. I'll use a previously taken picture of my sister floating in her pool so you get the idea. I'm planning on going back and using that empty float!

One of our nieces recently built a new home in Houston and she had all of my husband's side of the family over to her stunningly beautiful home for a get together. Her chef of a husband hosted us with a crawfish boil...HEAVEN!  
We were able to finally meet our niece's fiancee! We are making plans for the upcoming nuptials and another trip to Houston. 
And, we were able to visit great nieces, some we've never been able to see in person. It was so HARD not to be that old great Aunt that squishes cheeks and kisses them to pieces. Those girls are too adorable for words. 
As thrilling as it was to see all the new babies, I told my husband that what really made my heart sing along the entire trip was seeing 'our' babies. The nieces and nephews we knew as some of them grown with babies of their own; all of them growing into delightful adults with dreams they are making come true!

Sisters...they hold our hearts!

 My brother-in-law with his future son-in-law!

 And then we had a great laugh watching the round up that was required for a group picture!
Our niece that hosted the party is arranging the kidlets. Her older sister is waiting to corral them once they get close enough!

 My husband's baby brother...( had to tie all the baby siblings together) and his beautiful wife hosted us in Houston. After the crawfish boil and family bash we headed over to their home. It was freezing cold that night but nothing would have it but my husband and his brother sat in the hot tub and chatted about old times. My husband enjoyed that sooo much and I hope his brother didn't turn into an ice cube! I opted for a warm shower and bed.

We enjoyed a delicious breakfast made by our did she manage to get up so early and create a fantastic spread after partying at the crawfish boil? 

Then once again, we loaded up and headed on down the road, this time to Dallas, Texas. My only brother, the baby boy...heck the only boy of our family has lived there since he graduated from law school 25 years or so ago. I am sad to admit it was the first time I've ever seen his home in Dallas. My brother is the one that travels to family and to us. I was so excited to finally be able to put his life seen previously only in pictures into actuality. And now the Dallas skyline!
We spent the afternoon visiting with my niece and nephew and their parents. It was fun to see them in their own setting, listening to all they are doing as juniors in high school. They filled us in on plans for visiting colleges and universities over spring break. One parent going in one direction with one and the other parent going with the other in another direction to do the 'college tour'! 

Later that evening we went to my brother's corner office at the law firm where he works in downtown Dallas. We were entertained by the lights coming on as dusk turned to night and the city starting to come alive! I couldn't help but be reminded of my Dad as my brother told us the stories behind some of the buildings and the history of the city. My Dad loved to share the history and tales of New Orleans, and it made my heart happy to see my brother follow in his footsteps. We left his office and had a great Tex-Mex dinner...delicious and so much fun just to be with family!

Mid morning the next day  it was time for another goodbye. My brother and his wife had entertained us and given us a snapshot of their lives. We left for our last but definitely not least stop...Little Rock, AR. 

Wow, we are getting a little travel wearied...are you? We arrived at my sister and her husband's house just ahead of a big thunder storm! I was so relieved we were NOT driving as we listened to the boom and flash and crash going on outside. It was a relief to watch the rain falling outdoors on their patio while we shared yummy hors d'oeuvres and beverages indoors. The first born of the family, separated only by three years, she still likes to think she is 'THE BOSS'! Don't tell her, but we all think she is too! 
After resting a bit we loaded up in their car and ate a delicious dinner at a nearby Greek restaurant housed in an office building. The building also is where my sister works, and the staff was so very nice and attentive. The rest of the evening was spent looking through albums and sharing fun family history and memories. 

A lazy morning the next day before we were treated to a lovely lunch at the country club. As a past president, my brother-in-law was able to give us an insiders tour of the facility. It is a beautiful place, we last were there when our oldest son was three. My husband and brother-in-law played a memorable round of golf that visit, one Steve still likes to retell, often. And again. The last time I had been in Little Rock was when our baby girl was two...23 years ago??? Yikes! Anyhoo...we said tearful goodbyes and started the long and winding road back home.

We came away from our 'Grande Tour' with a happy heart. So glad we had made the effort and timed it when we did. We logged over 3,000 miles along our journey of ten days. The next week saw snow and rain and storms all along the route we had travelled. It was our vacation but I do believe one protected by The Lord. Thank you to all our family and friends. WE love you all, we miss you so so much but can now picture you in spaces and places we either haven't seen in years or never beheld before.