Friday, September 7, 2018

Reality Check

After an extremely steamy week here in Houston I decided, after binge watching Jack Whitehall's Travels with my Father, to get off my a** and get some exercise.  Regardless of the heat and humidity (humidex for you Canadians) I needed to get outside.  As I listened to my excellent tunes (Imagine Dragons) and walked, my attitude started to change.  Instead of drudging through my walk for the purpose of getting my steps in for the day I decided to find the beauty around me.  There must be some...somewhere...somehow!

My thoughts went to my "after dinner" walks at the shore when the sun was setting and the sandbars were out.  I took so many pictures of the sky reflecting in the gullies and the sun setting in the distance.  I found myself enjoying the late evening sunlight.  Evening really is my favorite time of day.

Not a sandbar but it is as open as it gets around the burbs!
Sand, water and a reflection of the sky....
it will have to do!
I felt a little more pep in my step and decided to walk to the one place I just might be able to get a good view of the sunset. The sky was setting up nicely...just enough clouds and just enough sun.  I walked and listened to my music and kept my eyes open for the positive.  It has been a long, hot, steamy week back in H-town (didn't I already mention that?  It bears repeating!) and I needed a breath of fresh air, even if it was just a mental breath of fresh air.

A suburban gully
I made it to my viewing spot a bit early and had to kill some time before the finale.  Luckily there were fewer mosquitoes than there are at the farmhouse.  The view is still a bit imperfect with the water tank and the electrical wires but what can I say...it was within walking distance of my house and has the most visible horizon.  Beggars can't be choosers.  So I waited.  Yes, there wasn't much going on in my life on this Friday night so I had a bit of time to wait for the sun to set, sweating and swatting a few mosquitoes. 
Getting artsy while waiting

Fitness equipment silhouettes 
Finally the big moment came.  Was it worth it?  I guess.  It was the best sunset I've seen since the night we arrived back in town.  It was also better than sitting in the house watching Netflix for the fifth or sixth hour and I got my steps for the day done. 
But so much clutter!

Better from a distance.
The punchline to this story comes about an hour later.  I walked home and was considering sharing my suburban sunset experience.  I was feeling a bit proud of myself for getting out and making the most out of being back in the steamy south.  You should know that TJ headed back to the cooler air at the farmhouse this morning.  And then it happened.  The pin that burst my balloon.  TJ shared a few pictures from the shore.  They were like a dagger to my heart.  I had just tried so hard to embrace being back here...and then he sends me these. 
I am humbled
What...no power lines?!

No water tanks?  I think he is just rubbing it in!
As I deeply sighed and fought back my green envy monster I reminded myself why I am down here in the first place.  It is not about the weather or the sunset.  I am here because of one very special little girl and she is more beautiful and breath taking than any sunset... anywhere.  I'm here to welcome our newest grand child and our first granddaughter!  I'm here to help out with her big brother and to help her parents out a bit.  The sun sets every night, this only happens once!
Getting to see Logan meet his little sister....priceless!

Friday, August 24, 2018

Last Days

Summer at the shore is rapidly coming to an end.  I have said more "goodbyes" than "hellos" over the last couple of weeks.  Soon I will be saying my final goodbye and another summer will be in the books.  Well, I wish it were in a book...somewhere... but I never seemed to find/make the time to put it down in that book.  Maybe on the plane ride home I can recreate reality!  All I have to do is look through my photos of the summer and it will all come flooding back to me, only better, because who takes photos of the bad days?  There are no bad days here!

Not a bad day, right?!
I observed two of my favorite people go through their last days over the past week and it made it all too real for me.  Those last days are brutal.  The cottage closing and packing is mentally and physically draining.  Cleaning up the remnants of weeks or months of life at the shore may be the best way to make a person want to be home already.  By the time you have washed the red sand from the beach towels, put away the beach chairs, rafts, boats, kayaks, sand toys, and patio furniture you are ready for a break.  Not to mention emptying and cleaning the refrigerator...don't even get me started!  Nothing is simple around here.

The raft had another good summer...
but it must be put up for the season.

Raft removal team on the way!

It takes a village!

Even the younger members of the village helped!

And his mom makes this barrel look as light as a marshmallow!


Later that same day the children played like there was no tomorrow!  And if you think about it...there was no tomorrow, at least at the shore.  This day is a sad day for me.  Their last day always feels like it arrives too soon.  We were just getting into a routine, everyone was in their groove and it's time to leave?  The boys had another great summer full of playing outdoors, running on the beach, swimming, eating ice cream and chips, rekindling friendships (that hopefully will last a lifetime), reading Archie comic books and growing.   I think kids grow inches up here.  My theory is that all the fresh air, freedom and "fret free" living lets their bodies grow.

Boys being boys in a land they made their own.
I love that the dog is standing guard waiting for one of them
to throw him a rock!
We said goodbye to my daughter's family and my sister and her son and now it seems too quiet.  It felt so quiet that the other night while eating dinner with friends we decided to throw one last shindig.  We may have had some liquid motivation that made having a dinner party for 25 people seem like a great idea.  We gave everyone about 10 hours notice to come pick their produce from the garden and prepare a dish for the Annual Garden Party.  This time we opened it up to include spouses, because why feed 12 people when you can feed 25?!  Sometimes being spontaneous works, this was one of them.
The man can grow some vegetables!

We all ate our veggies today!
As my last week turns into my last days I find myself trying to pack as much into them as possible.  I want to see another perfect sunset, go on one more evening walk on the sandbars, take that photo drive I've been thinking about taking all summer, eat mussels and lobster one more time,  play one last round of golf, and stop by to visit (fill in the blank) one last time.  There is never enough time up here, even when you stay for three months!

Alas, it is time to move on to the next step...packing, cleaning and throwing away half  used bottles of ketchup.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Scenes from my Lawnmower

I mowed the yard on Saturday for the first time in a while.  The weather was absolutely perfect for a two hour mower cruise.  TJ has been doing most of the mowing and I was actually looking forward to some time in the yard.  The grass was deep and bright green because it finally rained!  As I rode around on my chariot I kept noticing little pockets of beauty.  
A seldom seen part of the yard back by the "swamp"
So much had changed since the last time I mowed.  The apple trees are full of apples.  The raspberry bushes are full of raspberries.  So many different flowers are blooming than the last time I had ridden around.  This property is an ever changing cornucopia of trees, flowers and vegetables.  Add to this the speed at which things grow up here and if you miss a week, you miss a lot!

I decided rather than make a mental note of spots I wanted to come back and photograph I would just get my camera and stop when the urge struck me and do a photo journal of the yard.  I had a lot of time!  Plus, I was never going to remember all the spots.  So, in no particular order here is a little ride through the yard.  No deep thoughts.  No metaphors or similes.  No funny stories.  Just a great appreciation of the beautiful world we get to call home for a few short months each year.

My chariot awaits

The garden, the play set and the shed with its awesome mural!

I love seeing my neighbors out on a walk!

Just some berries...for the bears?

And berries for the humans!

Purple hedge!

Possibly the best part of the yard...the amazing
mural by my niece Alex!

She looks so nice in this light with the grass all mowed!

Can't complain when there is a water view over the lawnmower!

Coming up the road...one side

and the other side!
Where chores don't always feel like chores!  Have a great day!  

Monday, July 30, 2018

A Different Kind of Hangover

It is the Monday after "Games Weekend" at the shore.  The sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the stifling humidity of the past week has finally subsided and there is nowhere I "have" to be right now.  All along the shore you can almost hear a collective sigh of relief, secret snickers about memorable moments, and groans from over exertion or over indulgence of one kind or another this past weekend.  The "Games Weekend" is a one of a kind extravaganza!

Heading over to the bocce games on Saturday morning.
Dad flying the American flag to "represent".
The "Games Weekend" is a three day test of mental, athletic and social stamina.  This year was the 44th annual games.  I was a teenager when they began!  They begin on Friday morning bright and early with a golf game.  We had around 60 participants from the two extended families and it came down to 10 strokes.  We (the Browns) lost the event. From the golf game we head back to the shore, suit up for the beach and cool off in the water before we go home, eat dinner and head out for a night of cribbage, Hearts and Trivial Pursuit.  This night has been known to go on into the wee hours of the morning for some...  It is always a great time and involves many people!
It was an intense game of Trivial Pursuit!
After our late-ish night, the weekend is off and running.  The rest of the two days include bocce ball, Frisbee golf, volleyball, a water relay, softball, a sack race and finally Ultimate Frisbee.  Every one of these activities requires major coordination of teams and venues.  There are over 100 and maybe 150 (I've never really counted) participants and spectators in these "games".  Three days, 11 events, one winning family.  We take our weekend sports seriously!
Bocce is serious business!
I can't throw a Frisbee but I can use a camera so...
I set up a photo booth in front of our outdoor shower for the Frisbee golf game.
I counted at least 96 participants...most were wearing clothes!

I can remember participating in almost every one of the games...in my younger days.  This year I participated in three of them and coordinated one event.  Everyone is included in these games from the children to the over 60 crowd.  It really is one of the most loved and sometimes dreaded weekends of the summer.  Dreaded only because life gets put on hold for three days.  There are no regular meals, laundry goes neglected, privacy is impossible during the games and sleep is fleeting which may lead to an element of dread for some.  I am not one of them.  I love this weekend!

At the end of the games we come together, both the Browns and the Christies and use up all the rest of our energy at the barn party.  What better way to make sure you leave it all on the field than dancing and partying all night long?

This year as I watched the crowd on the dance floor looking younger than ever...or was I just older than ever...I was reminded of previous barn parties.  There were years I danced every dance and drank way more than I should have only to continue the festivities into the wee hours of the morning.  The next day was usually met with a huge headache and many body aches brought on by playing sports I play once a year and dancing for four or five straight hours.  The hangover may have been epic.  Then came the years my children were those teenagers making questionable decisions and TJ and I stayed at the barn party "dancing and partying" just to keep a watchful eye.  Then there were the last few years with our adult children when dancing all night together made my heart swell.  I guess I really do love to dance and I love my family.
My cup runneth over at the 40th Games in 2014 !
I sure did miss them last night!

Today I woke up with a different kind of hangover.  I drank very responsibly last night so that was not the problem.  But....why do my knees, hips and feet hurt so much?  I have come to the harsh reality that I just can't dance for hours on a concrete floor.  Well...I can, but I feel it more than I used to.  Nothing a lot of water and a couple ibuprofen can't fix....so worth it!  Bring on the Mull River Shuffle!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Look for the Red Doors

We celebrated Canada Day this week three weeks ago with another fun day in Pugwash at the annual Gathering of the Clans.  There was the usual parade with plenty of  area emergency vehicles blaring their sirens, decorated floats, horses....one cow, and four marching bagpipe bands.  After the parade we perused the main street, ate some awesome food truck tacos, watched the highland dancing competition and listened to the piping competition.  All in all it was a lovely way to celebrate Canada!

He just wasn't sure he wanted to wave back!
Getting ready for their performances.
On our walk back to the car we stopped in a local photography gallery.  I enjoy his photos and admit to copying a few of his ideas.  What is it they say, "Imitation is the greatest form of flattery"?  He can consider himself flattered.  One of my favorite photos in his gallery is of an old weather beaten red door.  It is simple and to the point.  I had gone to the same house years ago and taken my own red door photos to have for all of posterity.  Unfortunately....I can't find them!  So much for posterity.  I mentioned to the photographer that they had torn down the red door house.  He said he knew and the owners had actually given him the red door.  He said it was in his gallery.  The framed photo of the red door was hanging on the red door.  My daughter and I both looked at the photo when we walked into the gallery but never noticed the door!  He said it had been there for four days before his wife, who lives there, even noticed.

That night I was reading my book and skipped to the back and read the teaser for the author's next book when the first paragraph leaped off the page.  "There are so many things we don't see...things that are right in front of us." I actually got out of bed, got paper and pen and wrote down the ideas that started flooding into my head at that prompt.  The characters were talking about not seeing things that are right in front of them.  The problem is that one of them was talking about the physical surroundings while the other was talking about feelings.  A classic miscommunication. When a theme slaps you in the face like that you just have to go with it!

I recently witnessed one of those situations where what wasn't seen to some was obvious to others.  This happens all of the time in much communication.  We only see what we want to see or what we can consciously absorb.

What do you see here?
Pretty purple flowers or red potatoes?
It never fails to amaze me when my siblings all have different recollections of the same events.  We all had the same experiences but saw them so differently!  We are limited by our own perspectives and none of us is omnipotent.

So...that's the ten minute blog for the....month?  I have been busy since the red door experience trying to fully see things around me.  It is harder than I thought! 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Give a Little...Get a Lot

Rome, Italy
So much water has gone under the bridge of life that I can't decide what to write about!  The good news is I am writing this from my computer!  I cannot tell you how much I missed it over the last month.  Our reunion was eye opening for me.  I had not realized what an intimate relationship I have with my computer, sad but true.  The large screen, the familiar keyboard, the easy access to my favorite sites, she knows me and I know her.  One interesting observation I have made is that I may have broken a habit because I have not spent nearly as much time on the computer since our reunion.  Using my stone tablet was a chore and may have cured me of my screen obsession....or not...don't touch my phone!

I spent much of one rainy day, while I was back in Houston, organizing the photos from our anniversary trip.  It may be the most documented trip I've ever taken.  Culling through over a thousand photos and trying to choose "favorites" is like choosing your favorite child...it can't be done! Looking through them is like taking the trip over and over again and it gets better every time.  Every once in a while I have an ache to just go back to Croatia.  But I guess you can't go back...or can you?
Puntalina bar and restaurant, Rovinj, Croatia,
 cold and closed for the season
March 2015

Puntalina bar and restaurant
sunny, hot...and fully booked for the night.
May 2018
I vowed to come back and I did!
Since this was an anniversary trip maybe I'll give you a couple of glimpses into what makes this thing called "our 40 year marriage" work.  TJ shared some very sweet sentiments with me on our way home and I was touched.  He referred to them as, "reasons I am still in love with you".  Always nice to hear and they give me reasons to still be in love with him!  They were two situations where we accompanied the other doing something they love.

On our second night in Rome the four of us were riding back to our apartment after a full day of sightseeing and walking many miles (over 20,000 steps to be exact).  We enjoyed a delicious dinner and decided to give our aching feet a break so we took a cab back to our apartment.  While crossing one of the many bridges in Rome I suddenly said to the driver, "Can you stop the cab?  I want to get out."  I was not ill, I had just looked out and knew I wanted to walk the rest of the way.  The night lights were reflecting on the river and the buildings were all lit up against a deep blue sky.  It was a picture, or 100, in the making.  TJ asked the driver to "pull over now" and we got out.  I don't even think he had to ask why I wanted to get out... he just knew!  It was a memorable evening stroll.

St. Peter's Basilica in the distance.
So worth walking the rest of the way home.


"O" baby!
We walked in the twilight and marveled at the lights on the river.  When we crossed one of the bridges we noticed a bridal photo shoot.  What an awesome location for bridal portraits! 


We also met this guy....
Come on...we had to say hello! 
He has on a UT hat and is doing his best to keep Austin weird
with his skateboard and bottle of wine.
Note the color coordinated hat and shoes.
Turns out he studied for a semester in Austin and was just visiting (don't remember where he was from) Rome, just like us.  Small world indeed.  Plenty happening on the bridges of Rome!  We went on our way over the bridges and through St. Peter's square oohing and aahing at the lovely evening.  It was one of those times I wished time would just stop.  Perfect place, perfect person, perfect weather ...what more can a girl ask for?

The next situation came on the island of Korcula in Croatia.  I had done my homework and suggested we rent bikes on the island and explore the towns and vineyards via bike.  As many of you know, TJ is a very serious bike rider.  I....know how to ride a bike.  He was very excited at the suggestion of biking!  The one day we had to bike was overcast and rainy in the morning.  We delayed the ride hoping for nicer weather.  The forecast gave us hope that the rain would end by lunch.  With the promise of sunnier skies, we went and rented our bikes from the local shop.  I did protect my camera in plastic and we both brought rain gear.  The blue skies were in the distance....

In spite of the lovely blue sky ahead of us....we were getting drenched!
I will preface this by sharing that we had already done one bike tour in Rome.  The bikes were e-bikes which meant any time we got to a steep hill all we had to do was activate the "e" feature, pedal and it was easy to get up the hill.  The bikes we rented this day were NOT e-bikes, they were good old fashioned road bikes.  I was not ready for this!  TJ however was in his element.  I did my best to put on a smile and pedaled my legs off.  The farther we got, the heavier it rained.  I needed windshield wipers on my sunglasses!  All I could see were raindrops and TJ in front of me.  We were riding to the town of Korcula, a mere 5 miles away.  It only seemed like 10!  There were moments I wanted to cry because the perfect leisurely day spent biking through the scenic countryside along azure waters on one side and majestic mountains on the other was looking a lot like pea soup.  As they say...the best laid plans of mice and men...
Blue skies are coming...I just know it!
We persevered up the hills and through the rain to Old town Korcula.  We just kept chasing the blue skies!  We were soaked when we arrived!  We quickly locked up our bikes and found a dry place to have lunch and wait for the sun to come out.  I just knew it was going to come out...hope springs eternal!

Why are we still smiling?  We made it!
We coincidentally went in to a restaurant that was full of spandex clad bikers!  They had all dried off, had lunch and were heading back out.  Good for them.  We had lunch, dried off and were thrilled when the clouds parted and the sun came out!  We explored the old town and then just because I had to get the iconic view of the town, rode up many switchbacks out of town for "the photo".  At least it wasn't raining this time!

We were rewarded for our efforts!
The day turned out just as nice as we had hoped it would....before the rain.  We were so glad we decided, in spite of the rain, to go on with our plan and make the best of it.  I would have hated to miss this lovely town and the perfectly clear blue waters and the views...!  Sometimes you just have to get soaked.


I could share those thousands of photos to show you just how beautiful Croatia is but then why would you need to visit?  I've said it before and I'll say it again...visit Croatia!  It is a charming and lovely country.

As for us two married folks...I love that he is more than happy to get out of the cab and walk along enthusiastically with while I take hundreds of photos of city lights and bridges.  He says he loves that I am willing to get soaked on a bike for the sake of a good ride and some spectacular views.  We both give a little and we both get a lot...that's how you make it 40 years in this thing called marriage.
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