Friday, December 22, 2017

'Twas Three Sleeps Before Christmas

Tomorrow morning, at dark thirty, we head to the north pole for Christmas!  Not quite the North Pole, but it will feel like it!  Our house is eerily quiet. The opposite of what life will be for the next week. This quiet anticipation is luxurious!  I sit with my hopes and expectations in my heart.  I look forward to the joy and energy of our three grandsons.  Christmas through a child's eyes is the best!  I look forward to spending time with three of my own children.  I don't remember the last time we had Christmas with our son, this will surely be a treat! 

I am mostly packed, have tidied the house, bought and sent (well technically it was Amazon) my gifts except for the ones crammed in my over-packed suitcase. I have my long underwear packed, a bit of fleece and my wool coat ready for our departure.  I feel like a kid on Christmas eve!  I am also very sure I have forgotten something big!  I guess I won't know...until I know.

This Christmas season has been very enjoyable.  We have been to just enough parties to make us feel festive and connected.  Had just enough cold weather to get us in the spirit.   Done just enough shopping to feel the spirit of giving but not so much that we feel the spirit of stress and pressure.  I think it is a lot easier this year because I am not the hostess, for which I am eternally appreciative!  I am looking forward to our visit in Madison!

I hope all of you are able to take some time this week and enjoy your family and the blessings of Christmas!  Enjoy those quiet moments and those crazy moments!  Enjoy the smiles of children!  Enjoy the family meals and the special treats we only have at this time of year.  Enjoy being the giver and being the receiver.  Make some good memories!  Merry Christmas everyone! 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Alexa, Write My Christmas Letter!

Wow!  It's been a month since I posted last.  Nothing happened!  We were thankful, we ate turkey, we shopped, and suddenly it's almost Christmas.  I am currently in deep procrastination mode.  While the rest of the world appears to have their halls decked, their Christmas cards in the mail, their gifts purchased, wrapped and mailed, I am waiting for my cards to arrive and finding every possible "time wasting" activity I can to avoid writing the Christmas letter.  I am even resorting to the blog, how ironic is that?  Writing to avoid writing. Maybe this will get my creative juices flowing....

This happened last week!
The same day the snow fell our heater quit working so that was fun.   I am considering those 36 hours to be our cold weather training for Christmas in Madison.  Our thin southern blood needed to thicken up for the holidays.  I did not really mind bundling up in the house and drinking hot tea, and carrying a down blanket with me everywhere.  The fireplace kept us only slightly warm, it is gas and does not match good old wood in the warming department.  The ambiance was nice though.
I got a little crafty
I saw a video on how to make this wreath so I purchased the balls and ribbon and came home expecting this project to be simple and rewarding.  Well it was easy and hilarious.  I bought the cheap non-shattering balls because they came in a huge box all together and coordinated, it is a good thing I did!  As I strung them on the wire hanger some of them just popped off their tops and went bouncing across the floor.  I was expecting a huge wreath and after all the bouncing balls the circle became smaller.  TJ helped by twisting the top of the hanger back together which resulted in more balls popping off.  I really should not try Pintrest ideas at home. 
I rescued some basil from the freezing weather!
I was on a domestic roll so I decided to make some pesto after I finished my wreath.  With the impending snow/freezing weather I needed to harvest my basil and put it to work.  The pesto was delicious!  I definitely cook better than I can craft!

Through my wreath making and my pesto making TJ was talking to his new girlfriend, Alexa.  I could hardly keep a straight face!  He was setting her up and using the trial and error method.  I think at one point he said, "this one is fried,  it is useless now." 
Once he established connectivity with his girl Alexa, the conversation went something like this....

TJ- "Alexa, play some music." 
Alexa- "Playing bridesmaids get ready playlist" and All The Single Ladies starts playing.
TJ- "Alexa, I don't like that song".  The next booty shaking bridesmaid song came on and he told her he did not like that song either.

I was cracking up at this point.  If only the next words out of Alexa would have been, "Playing old fart playlist." she would now be my best friend!  That chick just doesn't have a sense of humor!

The whole process reminded me of this Saturday Night Live skit!

I think I'll just tell Alexa to write my Christmas letter!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Sunny Days

There is no doubt about what I am thankful for this weekend.  I spent all day Friday and had a Saturday night sleepover with my grandson who currently happens to be he cutest thing on two feet, in my humble opinion.  Logan is my youngest grandson...and I think the ages from 2 1/2 to 5 may be some of my favorite.  Memories of my own kids and my other grandsons come back and remind me....these years are the sponge years.  These are the years they are taking it all in!  It seems like every day he is learning something new and I love being able to witness his developing personality.

"I got this Gigi!"
I am thankful for the hours of playground time I've had recently.  Grandparenting is so much easier than parenting!  I am able to enjoy the time together playing without having to worry about a "to do" list waiting for me at home.  It can wait. Another thing to be thankful for is the relative leisure pace of my current life that affords me the time to spend with this guy.  Logan is thankful for a good playground.

Waiting for me to spot him on his slide down the fireman pole.
I found a children's museum/discovery center nearby and Logan and I checked it out on Friday.  It was an excellent morning activity for both of us.  I love it when you find the perfect age appropriate activity.  Each station had just enough fun and learning to keep him interested for over an hour.  I enjoyed just watching that little brain figure things out.  I have learned to be patient enough to let him go through the trial and error process until he finds the correct solution.  Like I said...sponge brain!

Figuring it all out!

Thankful for perspective.  Thankful for opportunity.  Thankful for time spent together playing.

Happiness is a ball pit!
I had a little deja vu on Friday when I turned on Sesame Street for a bit of a break.  I remember my kids and older grandsons were always captivated by that show.   There is something about a cute red puppet named Elmo that grabs their attention.  I remembered this photo I took of Daniel when he was 2 and noticed the same rapt attention on Logan.
Cousin Daniel watching Sesame Street at about the same age as Logan.
Logan watching Sesame Street....guess he needs a giant Elmo!
That show sure does have a mesmerizing affect on them!

Thankful for sunny days and smiles!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Thankful Month

In the spirit of Thanksgiving I have decided to focus on things I am thankful for this month.  Join me in this focus and let me know what you are thankful for.

Last week, I was thankful I lived in Houston!  In spite of the still-summer-like weather it was a good week to be a Houstonian.  We, and I mean the Astros with my diligent help in the "watching, stressing, cheering, orange shirt wearing" department, finally won a World Series!  The city was the happiest place on earth for the week.  Everywhere you went there were people wearing Astros shirts and smiles.  I watched every inning of every game beginning with the ALCS against the Yankees and then the World Series against the Dodgers.  It was high adventure!  A sports junkie's nirvana!  Both series went the full 7 games, which was exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time.  We were a city full of Halloween Astros Zombies!
Feel the joy!
Thanks Astros!
When the series was over many of us wondered what we were going to do at night, once we caught up on our sleep.  There were many late nights involved in pulling our team to victory.  Anything on television now pales in comparison to the weeks of nail biting baseball.  I am thankful our city has something to celebrate together!

I am also thankful for good friends.  Our anniversary friends came to visit us for a few days last weekend.  We did what we usually do and caught up on life, ate good food, drank some good wine (or good bourbon), explored a new part of Houston and planned our next anniversary trip.  Next year we will both be officially married for...ever!  This anniversary deserves a great trip.  Stay tuned for the destination of choice.  Part of the fun is in the planning.
Waiting to see what is down below....

The Houston Cistern is a very cool place!
Which made me thankful for my photography class that
opened my eyes to this hidden gem.

In closing, now you can all be thankful this is my last post about baseball for a while!  OK, one more time....Go Astros!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

A Night To Remember

From the title you might think this is some romantic date night post....but you would be wrong.  This is about one of the best nights in my life as a sports fan.  I am admittedly a sports junkie.  College football is my favorite sport to watch but post season baseball (college and pro) are a close second.  I love the playoffs, even when "my" team is not playing.  I can waste spend entire Saturdays flipping between two or three college football games from noon until well into the night.  These game days are only made better with the back doors wide open, a  nice pleasant breeze blowing through the house and maybe some good old junk food to top it all off.

Last Saturday was a banner day in my sports world!  The Astros were playing game 7 in the ALCS  here in Houston, LSU was playing Auburn and Notre Dame was playing USC.  These were all big games.  The Astros game was a HUGE game!  The night before when the Astros won game 6, TJ said...on his way to bed, "You should find some tickets to tomorrow's game!".  I promptly scoured the internet and bought two tickets behind home plate.
WAY behind home plate!
I wondered.... for a moment, how I was going to go to the baseball game and watch both of my favorite college football teams.  The ESPN app is a wonderful thing!  I managed to keep up with both of my football teams (who also won that night) and remain engaged in cheering the Astros to victory.  As a fan...being in the sold out stadium for game 7 was a bucket list event.  The adrenaline and collective energy generated by the crowd when the last fly ball was caught for the win was a sports fan's dream come true!  Instead of jumping and screaming in front of my television at home I had thousands of other fans to jump up and down and scream with me! 
The Astros are in the World Series and that just doesn't happen every year!  Here is hoping that thousands of other lucky (Astros!) fans get to experience the joy of seeing their team win the big game.  As for me, I will have to watch this one on the television.  Go Astros! 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Up, Up and Away

So..... I wrote a great blog post yesterday, "saved" it and now it is nowhere to be found.  It was well written, slightly witty, full of beautiful photos and all it needed was a few finishing know, just like all of my posts.  Where did it go?  How will I ever repeat those words?  Ugh!  As luck would have it, I played in a golf tournament later that day and apparently my golf game ran away with my blog post.  I hope they are having a great time together.  For some reason all I could think of was a line in the song MacArthur's Park, "I don't think that I can take it, 'cause it took so long to bake it and I'll never have that recipe again....".  Here is the closest thing to the original recipe.

My sisters and I continued celebrating my significant birthday a couple of weeks ago and took a trip to Santa Fe and Albuquerque.  Planning a trip for/with other people always makes me second guess my choices. There are so many places to visit in this country, how can I choose just one!  I figured Santa Fe had enough to please all of us with it's culture, art, low humidity, fall like temperatures, good restaurants and beautiful scenery. Opening weekend of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta was the icing on the cake. 
The Cathedral Balilica of St. Francis of Assisi 
Sculptures of the wild southwest!
I did not let my sisters know all of the details of attending the fiesta until the last minute. Telling people they have to wake up at 4 a.m. is not usually met with excitement.  We dressed warmly and hit the road at 4:30 along with 60,000 other bleary eyed balloon revelers.  After sitting for 30 minutes and going only 2 miles I was very worried about jockeying for position on the field and hoping my sisters would not mutiny.  While sitting in the traffic I had that internal conversation where my sisters say, "You made us wake up at 4, drove us an hour away through all of this traffic only to stand elbow to elbow with thousands of other people in 40 degree temperatures for this?".   The fiesta needed to be spectacular for all the pressure I was putting on myself.

The balloons were just waking up when we finally got to the field!
It turns out that the location swallows up thousands of people and hundreds of balloons quite easily!  We roamed around the field armed and ready with our phones and cameras.  The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is one of the most photographed events in the country and I can personally attest to doing my part to keep it that way.  I must say it is awesome and beautiful when over 500 hot air balloons spread out over a massive field, inflate row by row and progressively launch for almost two hours.  So many colors against a perfectly clear blue sky!  It is a photographer's nirvana.

Balloons everywhere!
Penguins!  Lions! 

Cops and robbers!
We could not get enough!  The balloons are so much fun and definitely worth waking up before dawn.  I must admit that later the same day after we made it back to our apartment there was not much moving going on!  I had a private laugh and noted the irony when I crawled into bed for a nap and left my younger sisters covered with blankets watching football that Saturday.  After all, we had already put in over 8 hours by noon!  We did rally for sunset and dinner.

Fort Marcy view of Santa Fe down below
This view was only a short walk from our apartment.  

We enjoyed the morning launch so much that we decided to go back the next day for the evening "glow".  This time we breezed right in and enjoyed the smaller crowd of the night session.  There was a moment of panic when the yellow flag was flying and no balloons were inflating because of high winds but once the sun began to set the winds died down and we were treated to another colorful event.  The "glow" is followed by a laser show and fireworks extravaganza to close out the night.   Best part was that we did not have to wake up early and were home at a decent hour.  Slightly different than the sister trips when our night activities included going out and partying the night away.  We have fun no matter what we do!

5-4-3-2-1 Glow!
All in all, our trip to New Mexico was great!  We did forget that Santa Fe was at 7000 ft. altitude.... so we may or may not have experienced shortness of breath and our headaches were not due to late night drinking and partying....unlike other sister trips. 

Thanks for the all the birthday balloons!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

I'd Like to Give the World a Coke

One of the writing prompts I have been given in classes is to write about something that inspired, surprised or touched me.  On my flight back to Houston...after 4 months at the shore, I had an encounter that inspired, surprised and touched me and I could not wait to get home and write it all down with fresh emotions.  The rough draft was very rough and after several revisions I'm still not sure I am conveying the genuine emotion this individual stirred in me.  Suffice it to say, "he made my day".

 Usually, I stick to myself on planes...I'm not one of those people who strikes up a conversation with the person next to me.  I plugged myself into a movie early in the flight and had that "don't bother me" body language happening.  I noticed the fellow next to me asked the flight attendant for water twice before we even took off, he shyly smiled at me and said he was very thirsty.  We acknowledged each other but did not talk.  I ordered a Diet Coke when the beverage service came.  We both dozed and of course had the elbow war over the armrest between us.  Eventually we finally decided to just share even if our elbows occasionally touched each other.  I'm okay with that, most men (in my experience) try to dominate the armrest so sharing is a step in the right direction.  At one point he was trying to watch a movie and could not get it to work on his screen and tapped me and pointed to his screen as if to ask, "what's up with this?  Can you get the movie to play?".   I gave it my best but had no success either.  He finally did get another movie to play on his screen, tapped me again and pointed to it, smiled and gave me the thumbs up. 

About halfway through the flight, he now had his own can of Diet Coke.  He filled his cup, tapped me on the arm and offered to fill my empty cup.  I can honestly say no one has ever offered to share their drink with me on a plane.  He proceeded to pour until my cup was full.  I was surprised....

We got closer to Houston and I was looking out of the window at my long lost home and took a couple of photos.  He started to look out the window too...with curiosity. I assumed he was from New York since we left from Newark.  I was not really sure what ethnicity he was, I thought maybe Indian and put him in his late 30's.  I figured he was not from Houston because he was wearing jeans, a long sleeved button down shirt and a v-neck sweater.  Anyone going back to Houston at this time of year would NOT be wearing a long sleeve v-neck sweater!  Yes... I was making assumptions about my seat mate.  I asked where he was from and he answered, "India".  I asked why he was going to Houston and found out he was on his way from Mumbai to Santiago, Chile, which explains the sweater and his thirst.  Poor guy was in the middle of a VERY long day or two of travel!  
Back to Houston!
The rest of our conversation was priceless.  He said he had a layover and asked what he could do in Houston.  I mentioned a few things and then found out the layover was only 2 hours. Basically, he had time to go from one gate to another, go to the bathroom and maybe grab a bite to eat.  He assumed he could just leave the airport and take the metro (of which there is none from the Houston airport) and be minutes away from something interesting to see or do.  Maybe in Mumbai but not in Houston.

He asked a lot of questions....
-Is Houston a city or a state?
- How far away is Dallas?
-Is Texas a state?
- How many states are in the US?
-How far away do you live?
-What is there to see in Houston?
 I showed him a map of the US on my phone and explained the states and cities.  He was so curious! This was a turning point for me...after 4 months in another country it took a foreigner to bring me back to America.  Through him asking me about my city and my country I suddenly realized I was back "home".  I have been on the other side of this equation many times and am always thankful for those locals who take the time to help a traveler.

Once we landed he was very polite and asked which bag in the overhead compartment was mine and retrieved it for me.  We walked off the plane together and inside the terminal he asked if he had to go through customs or pick up his bag and re-check it before his next flight.  I explained that he just needed to go to his gate and we checked the monitor to find the gate for his next flight.  It just so happened to be in the same direction as baggage claim so we continued walking and talking on our way.  We reached our parting spot and I said goodbye when he whipped out his cell phone and said he had to have a picture of us.  He flagged down a girl and asked her to take our picture.  I was surprised...again!  He proudly showed me the pictures and said thank you over and over and said he would not forget my kindness.  I admit, way back at the beginning with the Diet Coke, I was a little skeptical and distrusting but his kindness and sincerity were infectious.  I was a bit choked up when he wanted to take a photo.  He kept telling me how nice I was and thanking me for being so kind to him when all along all I kept thinking was how nice and kind he was!  I stood waiting for my bag to arrive with tears in my eyes, a warm heart and an overwhelming feeling God sent this person into my day for a reason!  I really wish I had asked for a picture too!  He touched me!

P.S.   I took Uber back to my house...a good 45 minute ride.  I was quiet for a while still thinking about my new friend.  The driver and I chatted a bit about Hurricane Harvey, we were both spared any flooding, and then I sat quietly for a bit.  I thought about sharing how a kindness can change someones day and was inspired to tell my driver about my experience.  He proceeded to share his hurricane experience and blew me away.  He and his son borrowed his brother's truck (with huge wheels) and went out and rescued people in the flood.  He said he cried when he found a man in a wheelchair alone in his house with water quickly approaching his home.  He said his son rescued a dog that was tied up in a yard.  He said they worked all day giving people rides out of flooded areas and the next day his son went and volunteered at the animal shelter because he loves animals.  He is just one of thousands of people who did the same thing.

There is good in this world!  We are barraged  every day with negative news and stories of horrors happening in our world and if we are not careful we can assume the worst about people, expect the worst to happen and only see the bad.  My eyes were opened twice in one day to the good around me.   I hope you have someone surprise, inspire or touch you today!
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