Warriors by Day, Grandmas by Night!

For a few years, my sister, Melissa, has been running the Warrior Dash. I’ve always thought it looked so fun, you know, for people who actually run and wouldn’t die in the middle of it. It almost made me want to take up running, just so I could do this with my sister and participate in all those Survivor-like challenges. We love Survivor in this family.

Every year, Melissa would participate in the Warrior Dash and then ask me if I wanted to sign up to do it with her next time. My answer was always, “Maybe. We’ll see.” I never did sign up. Then came last winter. I decided to give up laziness for Lent. I decided to accomplish this by downloading the Couch to 5K app and working my way through it.

Surprisingly, I came to somewhat enjoy running and I continued running beyond Easter. One day, back in May, I ran 3.1 miles – the full distance of a 5K – for the first time. To celebrate, Melissa and I signed up for the Warrior Dash in St. Francisville scheduled for October 3rd. I had nearly five months to get it together, right? All I had to do was keep up my running routine. Then came summer in Louisiana. It was hot and sticky and not any fun for running. I slacked to the point of usually running once a week. Every so often I would run twice in a week. I’ve lost my endurance. One mile is standard for me on a regular running day. Two miles just isn’t going to happen. Two miles is too much to ask.

October 3rd came creeping up on me. As it got closer and closer, I got more and more nervous. What was I thinking? I had never even run a 5K race at all, much less one full of obstacles. I had barely run at all throughout the summer. What made me think I could handle 3.24 miles plus 12 obstacles. Really?! Oh, I was going to regret this.

I was having flashbacks to things that were supposed to be fun that I did not find fun. Several years ago, I let Melissa convince me to go snowboarding with her. Snowboarding is fun, right? Wrong. It is not fun. Snowboarding is awful. I did not snowboard. Sure, there was a snowboard strapped to my feet, but no snowboarding was accomplished. I fell down repeatedly. I tried and tried and tried. And I fell and fell and fell. Eventually, I watched a child who was approximately four years old remain upright and snowboard past me and I decided I’d had enough. I took that stupid board off my feet and started walking down the mountain. I didn’t care how long it took to reach the bottom. I could walk, but I could not snowboard, so walking was what I would do. Thankfully someone who worked at the resort told me I could catch a ride back down the mountain via ski-lift type thing and not have to walk, so I did that. But I hated it. HATED it. It was awful and I was incredibly disappointed and frustrated that I couldn’t do it.

I also thought about the day in second grade when my mom took Melissa and me out to LSU-Shreveport for a “Jump Rope For Heart” event. A lot of my friends and classmates were there and we jumped rope all day to raise money for some organization, which I can only assume was the American Heart Association. I was roughly seven or eight years old. I kept messing up while trying to do something (double-dutch, maybe) and I started giggling about it. One of the adults leading the event fussed at me for laughing. So, of course, I went from laughing to crying. I was so sad and embarrassed. Jumping rope was supposed to be fun. It was no longer fun. Looking back I find it pretty sad that an adult would berate a child over something like jumping rope, but it happened, and it hurt my little seven year old heart. I still remember sitting up against the cinderblock wall, crying and wishing Mama would show up soon to take us home.

I was so nervous the Warrior Dash would be a similar experience. I thought I wouldn’t be able to accomplish these challenges. I would fail. History has shown that I’m not a big fan of failure when I fail at things that are supposed to be fun. It just makes me mad and I don’t even want to be around myself at that point. I literally was praying to God that I would keep a good attitude – that even if there was a challenge I couldn’t complete, I would keep a good attitude and not allow this to become a miserable experience. I know myself. I know how I respond to that. I wanted to have fun with this. I really really did.

Saturday came along. My sister and I packed our bags, loaded up my car, and headed to St. Francisville. On the drive down, we stopped in Natchez for a bathroom break and it was freezing outside. The sun was completely hidden behind the clouds and I was shivering on the walk to and from the car. Also, the first challenge on this Warrior Dash route was called Alcatraz, where you had to swim out to a floating structure, climb over it, and swim back to shore. (In my nervousness, I had studied the course map. I wanted to be prepared for what I was going to encounter.) Shivering while completely dry had me a little worried about how cold I would be after swimming. This was not a good sign. But it’s better than heat, right?! I’d much rather run in the cold weather than the stifling heat. Give me snow any running day over 95 degrees with 100% humidity.

We got to the site of the race an hour later than we were supposed to, which put us an hour behind on running the race. No big deal. We just would run the next heat. As we were checking in, I was feeling pretty excited about it – more excitement than dread. (God was answering my prayer to have a good attitude.) We headed to the starting chute and watched the clock, counting down until 12:15 when we would officially start the race.

We took a few pre-race photos before it started:

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In this next one, Melissa suggested that we try to look fierce, but then she just kept laughing.

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The route was so much fun – it was very hilly and wound through the woods on a (mostly) dirt path. It was mostly shaded since it was in the woods. We had to run a while before we reached the first challenge – Alcatraz. I’m not the strongest swimmer and I saw a sign that the water was 6 to 9 feet deep. I just went for it. It wasn’t a far distance to swim and I can swim well enough to handle what was ahead of me. The water weighed my shoes down a good bit – I’m not used to swimming in Brooks running shoes – so I swam to the side and held on to a rope until the crowd thinned enough that I could climb on the structure and cross to the other side. It felt great to have the first of twelve challenges in the books!

We continued on and reached the next challenge where we had to climb two walls that were probably about five feet high, crawl under a big tarp (boot camp style crawling), and then climb two more walls. It was at this challenge when Melissa saw that I really came to play. I wasn’t going to just walk up to the wall and see what would happen. I ran full speed and scaled them pretty quickly. I mentioned my family loves Survivor, so as we were crawling under the tarp, Melissa jokingly said to me, “For immunity!” I immediately picked up the pace and hustled as fast as I could. We were cracking ourselves up.

At another obstacle, I had climbed over and was making my way down. Melissa had already finished and was waiting on me. Again referencing Survivor, Melissa said, “For love letters from home!” At this, I full on sprinted toward her for a few seconds. I’m sure other people wondered what in the world we were talking about, but again, we cracked ourselves up.

Along the course, there were funny signs. At a wall climbing challenge, a sign said, “Danger – Butts Ahead!” Another sign along the way said, “We wish you had trained for this, too.” Another one, which was probably the first one where you’d really get muddy, read – “You came here to get muddy.” And boy did we get muddy. I felt like a toddler with a loaded diaper at one point. Coming right out of the mud, your feet would slip and slide everywhere until you got to more solid ground. It was fun. It was stinking fun. It really was stinking at some of the mud-centered challenges. And it was so much fun.

When it came time for our fire jump, we were ready. Some people were tired and would simply clear the flames by an inch or two and keep moving. Melissa and I wanted a fun fire picture. We’ve talked about having a fun fire picture ever since she first started trying to talk me into running the Warrior Dash with her. We wanted to be in the air at the same time. Since we planned it out, we allowed the people in front of us enough time to jump over the fire and get several feet ahead. Then on the count of three we ran and jumped. The photographer gave us a thumbs up once our feet were back on the ground so that was a good sign. We got a sequence of three photos and this is my favorite:

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After the fire came the most intimidating challenge of all – Goliath. You had to climb a wall, walk across an elevated balance beam, and then go down a 30 foot slide into a giant pool of muddy water. This one was the hardest for me. I climbed the wall pretty quickly, but the distance between the last foothold and the top of the wall was taller than me. I was having trouble trying to pull myself over. Plus, the lady literally lying on top of the wall in utter exhaustion was not helping, because I felt sure I would kick her in the head. I knew that if I didn’t pull myself over, I would have to go to the bottom and start over because I would need some momentum once I got to the top. I dug deep and pulled myself over. I even inched a little to my left in the process so I didn’t kick the lady in the head. (You’re welcome, lady!) That moment felt like the greatest accomplishment of the whole course to me. The balance beam was the most nerve wracking part and I did not allow myself to look down. My heart was pounding when I made it safely to the other side. Also, apparently there was a photographer around that I didn’t see, because I ended up with this photo:

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At the end of Goliath was the 30 foot slide.

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I’ve heard too many stories about brain eating amoebas in Louisiana waters this year, so I was ready to pinch my nose shut from 30 feet up. Not today, brain eating amoeba. Not today. From the force of the entry into the water at the bottom of the slide, Melissa and I both lost our St. Jude buffs in the process. We both came up with big eyes patting the tops of our heads. One of them floated up, so Melissa grabbed it and let me keep it. It wasn’t even mine to begin with. They were both hers. But she kindly let me keep it as a souvenir of my first Warrior Dash.

The last challenge was Muddy Mayhem, where you’re forced to get as muddy as possible unless you want to encounter some real barbed wire. I prefer mud to blood and scars, so I stayed down. My poor sister ended up with mud in her eye, so she was having problems seeing at the end. This was our photo at the finish line:

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Afterward, Melissa was able to take a shower because she raised a lot of money for St. Jude and it was one of her perks. I hosed off as well as I could. Once Melissa was truly clean and I was moderately clean, we took a photo with our fuzzy Warrior hats.

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Then we got in line for some food. Melissa also had some food vouchers as part of her St. Jude perks. We had our hearts set on turkey legs, but they were out, so we snacked on french fries & corn on the cob. A drunk guy came to our picnic table and chatted up my sister. He offered her a sip of his oversized beer and assured her he didn’t have any diseases. (That’s what they all say, Meat Head!) She declined. She and I texted back and forth a little bit about Meat Head as he talked about how he had gained thirty pounds by going to the gym so much. He looked down and admired his defined chest. I kept my eyes averted and didn’t look directly at my sister until he finally walked away because my face would have told it all. However, if my sister had taken a sip of Meat Head’s beer, I wouldn’t have been able to control my face. No worries. She’s too smart for that.

Once we left, we headed to the Airbnb we were staying for the night in St. Francisville. I took one of the most glorious showers of my life. I never obey bath product labels that instruct me to “lather, rinse, repeat”. I just lather and rinse. On this day, I obeyed. Lather, rinse, repeat. Repeat was necessary. Also, once we had finished the race, my clothes were wet and it was a cool day, so I stayed cold to the point of occasionally shivering. I was so happy to be taking a hot shower. I actually hung my head in sadness once I finally decided I’d used enough hot water and shut it off.

Melissa and I went into St. Francisville – wearing our Warrior Dash medals with pride, of course – and ate supper at the Magnolia Cafe. (Melissa even put on her Warrior hat to order her food but didn’t get a reaction at the moment. Tough crowd.) One of the restaurant managers went to Tech, so we talked Tech football with him and showed him highlight videos our dad was sending us during the game. When we left, we realized it was still pretty early – probably around 7:00 or 7:30 – and there’s really not much to do in St. Francisville once the sun goes down. Also, there was no TV in the Airbnb where we stayed. We had a conversation that went something like this:

Me – “I wish we had thought to bring some decks of cards or something.”
Melissa – “Yeah, me too. OH! I have an idea!”
Me – “What?!”
Melissa – “We can go back to our room and do crossword puzzles!!!!”
Me – “Crossword puzzles?! That doesn’t sound fun!”
Melissa – “No, it’s this fun app on my iPad!”
Me – “Crossword puzzles are boring.”
Melissa – “Oh wait! Not CROSSWORD puzzles. JIGSAW puzzles! With our own pictures!”
Me – “OOOH! That does sound fun! Let’s put on pajamas first!”
Melissa – “Okay! Pajamas and jigsaw puzzles!”

Me – “Yes!”
Melissa – “Wow, we sound like grandmas.”
Me – “What?! We are not grandmas! We ran the Warrior Dash!”

Well, let me just say we did at least two hours worth of Warrior Dash photo jigsaw puzzles as well as a precious Sayid jigsaw puzzle and now I officially want an iPad. Something has finally come along to make me want an iPad. Jigsaw puzzles.

The next morning we woke up – yes, I was sore especially across the arms and shoulders – and our Airbnb host served us breakfast on her patio before we headed home.

This was fun. It was just as fun as Melissa always made it out to be. No, it was even more fun. I absolutely loved it. I left St. Francisville with sore muscles, multiple bruises, and a few battle wounds on my arms and legs. It was totally worth it. These grandmas are getting ready to sign up for Warrior Dash 2016.

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Es and Is

Last month was our annual beach trip. Goodness, I love the beach, especially at night. One of my favorite things in life is to sit out on a balcony overlooking the Gulf of Mexico at night, listening to the waves and taking in the cool breeze. I don’t even mind when a gust of wind is so cold it makes me shiver, because it’s just perfect to me. I love it. I love a cool breeze in August. It doesn’t happen much in the south! I love late night beach balcony sessions so much that I had to convince myself to go inside the first night and go to bed. It was closing in on 2:00 AM, I had been awake for over 21 hours, and everyone else was asleep. I had to remind myself I had all week to do this and I needed to go to bed. (I have to say the last two nights of our trip there was hardly any breeze which really bummed me out, so next year I’ll stay out there until I can’t hold my eyes open if the weather is perfect. Lesson learned. It is truly one of the highlights of my vacation, so if I sleep super late while everyone else is out soaking up the sun, so be it. Night time is my time in Perdido, Florida.)

On the day we started our vacation, we traveled throughout the day and got to the beach with a couple of hours of daylight left. That night, a few of us went to Walmart to buy our groceries for the week, returned and put everything away at the condo, and got settled in. I retreated to the balcony. My sister, Ashley, and my friend, Joe, came out, too, so the three of us were getting in the first bit of relaxation for our trip.

Me – “You know what I want to do? One day, during the fall or the spring – not during peak summer – I want to just rent a one bedroom condo here for myself. I just want to come down here alone for a few days and just think and read and relax all by myself.”
Joe – “Oh, I would hate that!”
Me – “Really?! I think it sounds great! I would love it!”
Joe – “No way. I would hate it. I would be so bored! It wouldn’t be fun for me at all.”

Joe went on to say how he’s an extrovert, so he always wants to be around a group of people. Ashley and I are introverts. We like people, of course, but we feel energized and recharged after having some time alone. Joe is the opposite.

My nephews, Caleb and Jacob, also came on this trip. Caleb is a pretty quiet guy and Jacob is very chatty. Jacob, who is twelve, was sticking close to Joe to the extent that Ashley and I told Joe that it would be okay if he wanted to take a break from Jacob. Joe told us he loved having my chatty little nephew around and that he wasn’t bothered by him at all. He assured us that if he wanted some time alone, he knew how to get it. Jacob was so attached to Joe that Ashley and I began joking about it. Jacob would often send Joe on errands for him, so Ashley and I started referring to Joe as “Jeeves”.

“JEEVES, fetch me my boogie board!”
“Jeeves! Go ask them if they want to get in the hot tub with us.”
“Jeeves! Can you bring me my towel?”
“Jeeves, whip up some chicken salad!”

Joe told us it was fun to have Jacob around because he was a fellow “E”. (We began just saying “E” for extrovert and “I” for introvert.)

One late afternoon, I took my book and went down to the pool where Caleb, Jacob, and Joe were hanging out. Caleb headed back up to the condo shortly after I got down there.

Jacob – “Aunt Lindsay, are you gonna go back up soon?”
Me – “No, I’m going to read for a while, but you can go up whenever you want.”
Jacob – “I don’t want to go by myself. I want to go with someone.”
Me – “Well, if you hurry, you can probably catch up to Caleb pretty quickly.”
Jacob – “No, I want to go with an adult.”
Me – “Oh, okay, well I’m not going up for a while.”

Joe was watching a Big Brother episode on his phone a few chairs down from us. Jacob turned to Joe.

Jacob – “Hey Joe, are you going up soon?”
Joe – “Well, in a little while, but I want to finish this episode first.”
Jacob – “Okay.”
*** Jacob settles into the chair next to Joe. About five minutes lapse with Jacob occasionally asking, “Is your episode almost done?” or “Are you almost finished?” Joe finishes his episode and the two of them get up to leave. ***
Joe (to me) – “Welcome to the world of Es. We will wait thirty minutes just to have someone to walk down the hall with.”

Jacob is such an E. So is Joe. For sure. No doubt. Ashley and I are Is. So is Caleb. In fact, when we retold this story, Caleb said, “Welcome to the world of Is. We will wait thirty minutes just to walk down the hall alone.” Ha!

There was so much talk of Es vs. Is that we decided to take personality tests. Caleb, Ashley, and I are all ISFJs – also known as “The Defender – very dedicated and warm protectors, always ready to defend their loved ones.” Yep, I would say that is accurate! Jacob is indeed an extrovert – ENTP – also known as “The Debater – smart and curious thinkers who cannot resist an intellectual challenge.” Yep! His big brother says that is accurate for Jacob. (I found it funny that he is the complete opposite of Caleb.) Joe is ESFJ – also known as “The Consul – extraordinarily caring, social, and popular people, always eager to help.” We had Melissa to take the test after we got home and she strongly believes she’s an introvert, but we all know better. She got ENTJ – “The Commander – bold, imaginative, and strong-willed leaders, always finding a way – or making one.” As her trusty sidekick throughout life I can wholeheartedly agree that that description is accurate of my sister.

If anyone wants to take the test, go to http://www.16personalities.com. It’s a fun test to take and it tells you all about your personality type when you’re finished. Then tell me what you are! I want to know so I can read all about you and tell you if I agree.

I’ll wrap this up with a few photos of some of my favorite Es and Is.
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Best Supporting Actress Goes To …

I’m almost two years younger than my sister, Melissa. I’ve always been her trusty sidekick throughout life. We ordered our parents a personalized Jones Soda once with the caption “Partners in Crime & Making Our Parents Cry Since 1980” and the following photo:

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Melissa was always full of mischief. I wasn’t always in the middle of whatever trouble she was getting into, because I wasn’t always that brave, but I was never far away.

We shared a bedroom until Ashley got married when we were eleven and thirteen. I remember many times in elementary school when the lights had been turned out for the night, we would stay awake and talk. We would sometimes hear Mama or Daddy approaching and one of us would loudly whisper, “Act asleep!” and we’d do our best job pretending.

In our shared room as kids, we would play house with all of our Cabbage Patch Kids, but we called it “Parts”. When we played Parts, Melissa was always ultimately the boss because her part of the room had the bedroom door. I had to ask permission to come into her part, so we basically played Parts until Melissa was tired of playing Parts. I wasn’t leaving our room until she gave me permission. It was fun though; I was probably always happy to keep playing.

When we managed to get grounded for bad grades or for whatever other reason, we would wait until Mama was taking her afternoon nap. We would quietly go in her room and whisper, “Mama …. Mama … “ until she said, “Huh?” We’d ask, “Can we go to Alicia and Lauren’s house?” She’d reply, still asleep, “Uh-huh.” Great! Permission! We’d head over to our friends’ house to play and then later would come a phone call to Alicia and Lauren’s mom. She’d confirm that we were there and send us on our way. Mama would always get on to us for going over there when we knew we were grounded. We would always tell her, “We asked! You said we could go!” Sneaky sneaky. It worked like a charm. I’m certain it was Melissa’s idea, but, like I said, I was right behind her. I wasn’t about to stay home like a goody-two-shoes while she played with Alicia and Lauren.

As young kids, we did a lot of role playing games, but Melissa was always the boss. The big sister would tell the little sister what was going to happen, and little sister would fall in line.

I remember Melissa saying, “Let’s play Nadia. I’ll be Nadia.” You know Nadia Comaneci. She was a gymnast in the early 80s who was amazing and scored a perfect 10 in an Olympic event. Melissa was Nadia. I was the lesser talented gymnast teammate. (This really was fitting since I’ve never even been able to execute a proper cartwheel.)

Then there was Jessica McClure who fell down a well in west Texas in the 80’s. Yes, that’s right, we played Jessica McClure. “Let’s play Jessica McClure. I’ll be Jessica McClure.” I suppose I was a news reporter? I can’t remember, but I was never Jessica. Melissa was the starring role, so Melissa was the child who fell down the well.

Ashley told me we also would play Annie. Melissa and I don’t remember that, but I believe it was a role we would go with. Ashley told me it went like this: “Let’s play Annie. I’ll be Ms. Hannigan and you be Annie.” (I think I got to be Annie because Ms. Hannigan got to boss Annie around.)

Then there was this one. I remember this one. I remember this photo. I had not seen it in years and had no idea where it was, but I knew this picture existed. I remember playing Santa Claus where Melissa was, of course, Santa Claus. She wore red and had a pillowcase full of toys slung over her shoulder. I was the reindeer. On a leash.

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Mama found this photo last night and I was so happy! Bless. Melissa is so cute. Her face is adorable. Her hat cracks me up. Also, I think she had on some of Mama’s brown cowboy looking boots. She thought this through – Santa wore a red suit and boots. I’m sure I was told to wear red as well, in the spirit of Christmas. I guess the rope/leash was tied to my belt loop on the back of my little Osh-Kosh overalls. My hair looks like a rat’s nest. Also, I can still sit like that, just not for very long. Melissa thinks we look annoyed because Mama made us stop playing to take a picture, but we’re so glad she did.

I’m glad I had Melissa around to give me supporting actress roles in our childhood games. We had fun.

Baskin Robbins and LSU-S

Last week, some coworkers and I stopped by Baskin Robbins for some ice cream after an out-of-town training we had to attend. This evening, my mom and I were in Shreveport and Mama mentioned LSUS. Those two places – Baskin Robbins and LSU-Shreveport – always bring back a childhood memory for me. It’s one of my earliest and most favorite memories of my sister, Ashley.

Ashley is ten years older than I am. There are only two years separating Melissa and me, so she and I were trusty sidekicks and partners in crime as kids. We were almost always together and spent the expected amount of time pestering our older sister. We came along after Ashley had been raised as an only child for years, so you couldn’t blame her if she ever wanted a break from us.

One day during the summer after fourth grade, I remember being so bored. Melissa was babysitting Brooke and Brandon across the street, and for some reason, I wasn’t allowed to go over there that morning. Playing with Jennifer and Johnathan must not have been an option. I was just bored. It was a sunny summer day and I had nobody to play with. I remember I was sprawled out across Daddy’s recliner feeling sorry for myself. I was ten. Ashley was twenty and could have easily and understandably not paid any attention to me, but she did. She passed through the living room where I was having my pity party and told me she had to go out to LSUS for something and asked if I wanted to go with her.

I absolutely wanted to go with her. It was something to do and I thought it was pretty cool that I was going to go out to the college with my big sister. We got in her red 2-door Ford Escort and listened to 80s hair bands like Guns n’ Roses and Def Leppard on our drive. She showed me around the LSUS campus a bit. Then on the way home, we stopped at Baskin Robbins and she bought me a scoop of peanut butter chocolate ice cream. I remember digging into my scoop of ice cream with my little pink spoon and feeling pretty special that my big sister had spent the day with me.

Ashley probably doesn’t even remember that day, but I remember it in more detail than most days when I was ten. I guess you never know what experiences might take root in a kid and stick around. My college student sister took notice of bored little ten year old me and rescued me from a lonely day. I can’t see a Baskin Robbins or hear someone say “LSUS” without remembering how lucky I felt that day.

Things That Take Me Back

My sister made brownies last night.  This morning I was cutting one to put in my lunchbox and the smell took me back to long road trips as a kid.  When we went on vacation – and I only remember a few big ones: Pigeon Forge,Tennessee, Orlando, Florida, and Atlanta, Georgia – my mom would always make brownies and chocolate chip cake mix cookies.  She’d put the cookies and brownies in a big square Tupperware container and when we’d get hungry on the road, we would open it up and the smell of brownies would fill the van.  We would also get to have brownies for breakfast when we were on vacation, so that was pretty special.  But the smell of brownies, to me, equals childhood vacations with my family in our big, ugly Ford Aerostar van.  Those were fun times.

My light blue Smurfs lunchbox – yes, I carry my lunch in a lunchbox; it’s convenient and I paid a whopping $1 for it at a garage sale – also always takes me back, especially when I have an orange packed in it.  An orange and a brownie!  I think it takes me back to the movie The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  I haven’t seen that movie in years, probably even in decades.  Is there a scene in that movie where a kid has a light blue lunchbox with a brownie and an orange inside?  Does anyone know?  Maybe it’s a different movie, but I know I’ve seen this before and the image of a light blue lunch box with an orange and a brownie is easily conjured up in my mind.

Store bought pound cake and 12 ounce cans of coke take me back to my Memaw’s house.  Memaw would always insist on giving everyone a cold can of coke with a straw.  If she had pound cake in the house, which she often did, she would insist on sharing that as well, whether you were hungry or not.  She usually had some kind of ice cream bar or popsicle in her freezer, too.  She wasn’t big on cooking.  In fact, I remember many of our childhood trips to visit Memaw ended with a stop at Wendy’s on the way home, but Memaw almost always had some kid friendly treats available.

Old school Nintendo takes me back to the summer after fourth grade when my parents bought one for us.  We didn’t have a lot of games, but I remember playing a lot of Super Mario Brothers – the original and Super Mario Brothers 3.  We would go to Jennifer & Johnathan’s house and play Contra or hook up their Power Pad and get some exercise.  I remember Daddy went on a business trip once and brought us home a new game called Marble Madness.  Then in college, a few friends and I somehow happened upon some old school Nintendo systems.  We played Super Mario Brothers 3 well into the night at Jennifer Crosbie’s apartment while David Crowder Band played in the background.  Janie somehow missed the Nintendo phase of the standard 80’s childhood, so it was fun watching her struggle through the original Super Mario Brothers while the rest of us could pass a level with our eyes closed.

Old country music from the early 90s takes me back to riding in the back of my dad’s truck on the back roads of Calhoun as he drove us to the ball park for our softball games.  These rides often included friends of ours – Lynnette and Emily, Kristy and Ashly, Raeni, or Craig and Greg – and sometimes we would sing country songs, loud and off key, often making up our own lyrics.  A lot of those trips in the back of Daddy’s truck were because Melissa, Craig, Greg, and I would ride our bikes to the ball park on a summer day, which I think was about five miles, and then we would stay until dark and would be too tired to ride home.  At that point, one of us would head to the pay phone and call Daddy.  Of course, Daddy didn’t want us riding bikes in the dark, so he would come pick the four of us and our bikes up and drive us back home.

Nostalgia is fun.  I’m thankful that the vast majority of the things that take me back also make me smile.  I know it’s not that way for everyone, so I am truly grateful.

Do y’all have any nostalgic items or foods that take you back and remind you of happy times?

The Vortex

One thing I love about my parents is how welcoming they are.  They’re the most hospitable people I know.  They are welcoming people and their home is welcoming.  I guess it’s easy for me to say their home is welcoming, because I’ve lived in their home.  But I think it’s just simply a welcoming place.  Their mean cat, Rascal, isn’t so welcoming, but everything else about that house just draws you in.  If you can overlook the growling, hissing cat, you just want to sit down and stay a while.

When I was growing up, we hosted two foreign exchange students whom we still keep in touch with.  Also some friends lived with us for short periods of time – Janis when she was taking a night class in Monroe, but lived in Shreveport, and Amanda when her mom moved to Arkansas, but she wanted to finish out the school year before joining them in a new state.  Another friend of mine briefly lived with my parents when she moved to West Monroe after finding a job here.  They are just welcoming folks.

They have been the hosts of many Super Bowl parties and family nights, several Disciple Now weekends for the church youth groups and birthday parties.  My friend, Johnathan, once said years ago that my parents’ house is a vortex.  You get sucked in there and you can’t leave.  It probably has something to do with how chatty we Leporatis can be, but like I said – I just think it’s a welcoming place.

The evening after Christmas, my sister, Ashley, and her family were still in town.  Melissa and I had both headed over to Mama’s & Daddy’s at some point during the day.  Melissa’s friend, Stacy, had come over.  Several of us were cooking – either deer pie outside in a dutch oven or shrimp soup, guacamole, and fresh salsa in the kitchen (we were going for a Mexican redneck theme) – and we had sent a text to our friend, Joe, to see if he wanted to drop by and eat supper at Mama’s & Daddy’s house.  Once Joe got off work, he called Melissa and told her he would come by, but he could only stay for thirty minutes, because he was currently working a lot of mandatory overtime and needed to get enough sleep.  Mama’s response was, “We’ll see about that!”  She owns that vortex!  Joe ended up staying a little over an hour and we were all happy he did.  He said he knew he would stay longer, but he felt like if he gave himself a time frame of thirty minutes, he hopefully wouldn’t stay too late.

Our area is under a winter weather warning for tonight.  I rolled our trashcan to the end of the driveway a couple of hours ago and had to pry the lid open due to a thin layer of ice.  I noticed my side view mirror on my car had ice on it as well.  The roads are predicted to be bad by the time tomorrow morning rolls around, so both my employer & Melissa’s employer have closed our offices for tomorrow.  Mama called to invite us over to eat supper at their house, but we had already eaten.  When she found out my sister and I are both off tomorrow and I told her I’m thinking the roads might be bad until late Wednesday morning (meaning we may end up with two days off work), she suggested we pack up our stuff and Sayid and come to her house “so we can have a party.”  We would rather stay here and sleep in our own beds, so we declined Mama’s invitation.  We suggested they pack up their stuff and come party at our house!  Mama then told me she had to grade papers anyway.  That doesn’t sound like a party I want to attend!  But what a kind offer.

That Bo & Ginger.  They’re good, hospitable people.  I’m glad I get to claim them.

Santa Paws

IMG_7418Our local mall allows people to bring their dogs on leashes to the mall for photos with Santa on a few Mondays leading up to Christmas.  Sayid has gone most years – I think this was his fourth year to go.  The first year he went, he met Santa and took the most adorable photo.  In fact, here it is.  He looks so small!

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That was the only year he stopped to meet Santa.  See, Sayid tends to act a fool when he sees other dogs.  He is usually pretty friendly once he actually meets the other dogs, but he has no idea how to express himself properly, so he comes across as aggressive and scary.  Plus, they stopped allowing people to take their own photos and I’m not looking to spend $20 (or more?!) on a photo.  Luckily, I snapped this one when Sayid was a young puppy, and Santa looked right at me with a twinkle in his eye.  No need for Sayid to visit Santa anymore.  Now he just visits the mall.

This year, Mama and Daddy met Melissa, Sayid, & me.  It’s so fun for us to walk Sayid through the mall and see all the reactions.  More often than not, he gets a smile out of people.  (A big happy dog in a Santa suit will have that effect.)  Some people ask to pet him, and he’s happy to oblige.  Some people get wide eyed.  Some people spout profanities.  One older man was full of questions about Sayid and said he had never petted a dog before who looked scary, so we assured him Sayid was friendly and would only lick him.  He bravely reached down to pet him & smiled.  One little boy who looked to be about two walked up and Sayid gave him a big lick on the face. A girl working at a small booth of Christmas decorations took pictures of Sayid and showed us photos of her own puppy while a lady working at an adjacent booth quickly ran over to love on Sayid and then hurried back to her work station.  Then Sayid just wagged his tail, stared at her, danced in place, and whined.  I think he wanted a little more attention from his new friend and couldn’t understand that she was at work!

Adding to our fun night, we went to the food court and Daddy was insistent on treating all of us to Chick-fil-a.  Melissa stood off to the side with Sayid and Mama had already ordered, but I was with Daddy as he was getting ready to pay.  The employee visited with us while fixing our drinks and getting Sayid a little bowl of water, and then he said, “Your total will be zero point zero zero.”  Daddy and I laughed as Daddy tried to hand over his $20 bill.  The employee said, “Y’all have a nice night!”  Daddy and I were just looking at each other in confusion.  The guy was just not going to take any money.  So Daddy said, “Really?!  Are you sure?!”  The employee said, “Yep, I’m sure.  It’s free!”  Daddy said, “Why?!”  The employee said, “It’s just something we do; we randomly choose people during the day and give them their orders for free.  You were chosen.  So enjoy!”  Daddy and I were just shocked.  And grateful!  What a kindness.

Sometimes at the end of a work day, I just really don’t feel like doing anything but going home.  But sometimes you get to walk your dog through the mall in a Santa suit with your family and receive the gift of delicious free nuggets & waffle fries.  And that just makes for a great evening.

Christmas Traditions

I love Christmas traditions.  I love that every family or every person has different things they do consistently each year.

Every year, for as long as I can remember, just before my family opens presents on Christmas Eve (another tradition of ours), we read the passage in Luke about the birth of Jesus.  We’ll all sit in the living room and someone will read from Luke 2 every year before we pass out all the gifts.  It’s a small thing and doesn’t take long, but it reminds us of why we celebrate.

For the last six or eight years, I’d guess, those of us who are able will go to the Christmas Eve service at First United Methodist in Monroe.  My Memaw was the church secretary there for 31 years.  They have the most beautiful Christmas Eve service with a choir accompanied by a small orchestra, a message from the pastor, and then the night ends with everyone in the church singing Silent Night by candlelight.  At the end, you can look around, and the entire church is full of candles.  It’s beautiful.  My Memaw, who died almost four years ago, gave two angel figurines to the church in memory of my Papaw after he died in 1995, and they put them up in the sanctuary.  Instead of just bringing them out for Christmas, they are up year round, mounted in the pipe organs.  When I look at the angels, I think of my sweet grandparents who are a part of many of my happy childhood memories.

For the past few years, my sister and I have ordered Sayid a new collar for Christmas from a particular shop on Etsy.  Her collars are amazing and of excellent quality, so he doesn’t necessarily need a new collar, but they’re so fun to pick out.  And he’s like a happy little kid who is excited to open his package – with a little help from those of us with opposable thumbs – and see his new collar every Christmas.  Last year, he got a Little Red Riding Hood themed collar.  The year before that was a park scene with blue skies, lots of trees, and birds.  This year’s theme, in honor of his newly discovered love of going on bike rides with Melissa, is bicycles.  He’s gonna love it.  And my goodness, it’s gonna be cute on him!  I can’t wait for it to arrive in the mail.

My old supervisor, Mrs. Donna, had a delicious recipe for shrimp & grits, and she gave the recipe out to everyone.  My nephews are helpful in the kitchen and liked the idea of helping me cook breakfast a few years ago.  It was so tasty and we had such a good time that it stuck and we did it again a second year.  Thankfully, I got approval to be off work the day after Christmas this year, so I’ll head to a grocery store or two on Christmas Eve and pick up our ingredients.  Then I’ll wake up early(ish) on the 26th, load up all my ingredients, and head to Mama’s & Daddy’s house to cook with Caleb and Jacob for the third year in a row.

For years, I had the habit of watching my favorite movie – While You Were Sleeping – at some point on Christmas Eve.  There have been a handful of years lately that it hasn’t happened.  But maybe I can squeeze it in this year.  I’ll sure try!

What are your Christmas traditions with your family?

Family Beach Trip 2013

Our beach trip this summer was a little different than usual.  Instead of a big trip full of friends, we did a big trip with mostly family.  Mrs. Barnes took the trip with us, but other than that it was truly a family trip for my nephews, Caleb & Jacob.  This was their first trip to the beach and they had their mom (my sister, Ashley), both grandmothers (my mom and Ashley’s mother-in-law, Mrs. Ginny), three aunts (Melissa, me, and Aunt Susie, which is Mrs. Ginny’s sister), and again, sweet Mrs. Barnes whom we all love.

After a long drive last Saturday and a stop for lunch at Lambert’s in Foley, Alabama, we made it to Perdido.  We put our toes in the water and pretty much made a scene as we cheered for each wave that covered our feet.  It was really fun to see my nephews experience the beach for the first time.  Caleb, who is the strong, silent type, just stood there grinning ear to ear.  Jacob, the chatterbox, would yell, “Here comes another one!  Here comes another one!” as each wave approached.  Mrs. Barnes snapped this photo of us in our joyful, goofy moment.

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In the course of the week, we learned that Jacob was not a fan of the ocean because he didn’t like the waves splashing him in the face, but he loved the pool.  I also helped him build his first sandcastle one night.

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Melissa and Caleb were in the middle of another adventure, but stopped by to help us out for a few minutes.

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Caleb loved the waves and spent a lot of time in the water with Melissa and me.  We all refer to big waves as “netis”, because our friend, Joe, said the Gulf is like a giant Neti Pot.  Caleb said he didn’t think his sinuses had ever been clearer.  I’m sure some other people probably wondered why we would all yell, “NETI!” every time a big wave approached!  Toward the end of the week, Melissa asked the boys what their favorite part of the beach was.  I think they both said “netis”, but I’m not sure that’s true for Jacob!

The last night we were there, a few of us – Aunt Susie, Melissa, the boys, and I – went down to the beach for some photos.  We just had to set up Melissa’s automatic timer & do the best we could.  So the photos didn’t turn out the greatest, but we had fun taking them.  I also question my choice of a loose, flowing shirt with horizontal stripes.  I look large & in charge, but it’s kind of cracking me up.  Disclaimer: things in photos may be (somewhat) smaller than they appear!

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Sadly, after this photo was taken, we all just kind of dropped Jacob like a load of bricks because we were all ready to run and see the photo!  Fortunately, I realized what was happening at the last second and tried to soften his fall a little.  He’s a good sport; he kept laughing.

I need to attach this photo of the boys with Aunt Susie, too, because it’s just so darn cute and the sunset was so pretty behind them.

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We had a great trip.  We only had rain one morning.  Other than that, the weather was perfect.  The first full day had huge waves, which made for lots of fun in the water.  The last full day had calm water and was probably the most beautiful & clear I’ve ever seen it in all my years of vacationing in Perdido, which made for some great “shell shopping” conditions.  We searched for shells for a couple of hours in waist deep water in a special, uncrowded area Mrs. Barnes found & showed to us.  I had no idea I’d have so much fun doing that, but I could have stayed even longer. One of the most fun things for me was being an eyewitness to Melissa finding a gorgeous, large shell that looked like one you’d buy in a store.

I don’t get to see my nephews as much as I’d like – they live about five hours away by car – and I thoroughly enjoyed spending the week with them.  They’re good kids.  Caleb, an LSU fan, would declare “roll tide roll” every time he saw something in Alabama that didn’t make sense.  Jacob, a sweetheart with a big imagination, brought along his teddy bear, Leonard, and made up all kinds of adventures for his bear.

We ate ridiculously good food in large quantities.  We watched a solar flare one night and and attempted to watch the meteor shower, but it was too cloudy.  I took a few naps in my favorite place to nap in the world – poolside at the Perdido Sun.  We laughed a lot.  It was a fun, relaxing, enjoyable vacation, indeed.

Water Boy

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July 12th made exactly five years since we brought Sayid home.  My nephews were in town visiting from Texas that day and Mama had taken them to her friend’s house to swim.  Melissa and I were going to eat supper at our parents’ house that night and Mrs. Barnes’ house is on the way to Mama’s & Daddy’s, so we dropped by on our way over to visit with Mrs. Barnes, Mama, and the boys.  Mrs. Barnes kindly agreed to let Sayid swim in her pool.  Sayid had been in plenty of ponds and lakes, but never a swimming pool.

We took his leash and collars off and gave him permission to swim.  He was nervous and couldn’t figure out how to get in.  He ran laps around and around the pool, whining as he watched Caleb and Jacob swim in the water without him.  I went to the car, got his soccer ball, and threw it in.  Even that couldn’t convince him to actually jump in.  Finally Melissa rolled up her jeans, stood on the steps in the shallow end, and dragged Sayid into the pool.  I could hear his toenails scratching against the concrete as he tried to resist.  But once he got in, he was as happy as could be.  He swam around a while and then started looking like he wanted out but couldn’t figure out how.  So Melissa ended up getting her jeans completely wet in order to steer him to the steps.  He rested a few minutes and then was happy to swim again.  I think Sayid would agree that swimming in a pool was a great five year celebration.

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A couple of days later, we went to the lake where my parents had rented a cabin for the night.  Sayid loves wearing his life jacket & riding in Grandpappy’s boat.  He also loves the fact that at the lake he can run straight in the water from the shore instead of having to jump in.  My boy got plenty of time in the water that weekend.

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If only he could come to the beach with us in a few weeks!  One day I’m going to find a dog friendly place on one of the Florida beaches.