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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And I Was Running …

Four months ago, my philosophy on running was that I would run if something was chasing me. Otherwise, I wasn’t interested.

But always in the back of my mind was how fun I thought it would be to run the Warrior Dash and actually be able to endure it. Also the thought of being more active was appealing. Living like a couch potato can get boring. Also there was the fact that my parents live in the most perfect neighborhood for walking, running, or biking and I am living at their house at the moment. But still, nothing was chasing me, so sleeping later won out.

Then came Lent. I’m not Catholic, but I understand the concept of sacrificing something and I’ve given up things for Lent the past several years. This year I decided to give up laziness and downloaded the Couch To 5K app. My goal was to be able to run a mile by Easter. A friend of mine who runs felt confident I’d be able to do it, so I gave it a shot. Those first 60 or 90 second running increments were rough, but I stuck it out and built up endurance. And it happened – I ran over a mile straight before Easter.

So now here it is two months after Easter and I’m still running. It’s a strange thing to admit, but I actually enjoy it. I actually look forward to it. I look forward to getting up an hour earlier than non-running days and running. I’ve found it to be a great way to start the day.

I get to see the moon before it goes into hiding for the day. I see rabbits and turtles and squirrels and ducks and geese. (I’m cautious of the geese. I’ve heard they can be aggressive.) I talk to God. I clear my head. Ideas come to mind. Things seem to make a little more sense early in the morning when I’m outside in the fresh air. Most of the neighborhood is still asleep or getting ready for work, so there’s very little traffic. It’s peaceful. Usually I’ll turn my music on after a few minutes and it keeps me motivated. Then the day carries on, I get to work, and thoughts/ideas can get a little fuzzy again, but the morning starts out wonderfully. I love it. I’m thankful for it.

For the longest time, I was running around 2.5 miles, but hadn’t made it to 3.1. That was my next goal. First was run a mile by Easter (check!) and next was to make it to 3.1 miles, which is the distance of a 5K. I’ve done it my last three times to go running. I’ve run at least 3.1 miles. (The most so far was 3.42.) Wonders never cease.

On the day I first accomplished 3.1 miles, Melissa and I signed up to run the Warrior Dash to celebrate. Now I have no choice but to keep going. I’m thankful for the motivation though. I want to keep at it and nothing is even chasing me.

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Sayid likes to give me a post-run bath when I get home. He likes the salt. Then I head to the shower and wash off the sweat and dog slobber. I’ve gotta say though, I’d be a fool to refuse some sweet Sayid kisses.

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Louisiana Sneaux Days

We’ve had three straight snow days in north Louisiana. Well, we’ve had two ice days, one snow day, and one more snow day in store for tomorrow. For Louisiana, that’s a lot. I mean, really a lot. I’ve come to the following conclusions.

#1 – The best part of a snow day is sleeping late. After that, they can get pretty boring. Just ask Sayid. He has spent many moments just staring at me out of sheer boredom, willing me to get him out for some type of exercise in this slushy, nasty weather. We’ve gotten a bit of exercise, but we’ll both be happy for warmer, sunnier weather.

#2 – I’m so thankful to have a job. I’m thankful to have a job where the safety and wellbeing of the staff is a concern and they’ll close the office and allow us to stay off the roads when they’re slick and hazardous, but I’ll be happy to go back to work. This sitting at home all day does not suit me.

#3 – I eat too much when I’m more or less under house arrest. There’s really no need to turn this week into an All You Can Eat Buffet, but I kind of have. Bless.

#4 – This time of year is the perfect time to have picked up a new running hobby. (This running hobby is only guaranteed to last through Lent, but much to my surprise, I am enjoying it. So who knows, maybe it’ll continue.) Yesterday evening – once the ice was melting away and the snow hadn’t made its way to the area yet – was the most lovely day to run. I also must confess – I use the term “run” loosely. During these “runs”, I’ve run a total of eight minutes each time and none of them consecutive, so I’m still very much a walker with short bursts of running. You’ve got to start somewhere, I suppose. But anyway, this was the most picturesque part of my run yesterday. Beautiful!

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This afternoon, once those big, sad puppy eyes were too much to bear any longer, I took Sayid for a walk. Here’s a photo of the same location today.

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As we were walking, with snow all around us and the church bells ringing out a song down the street, I felt like I had been transported to Chicago to the set of Home Alone. We passed a neighbor at her mailbox and I almost asked her if this whole scene and the church bells made her think of Home Alone, but I didn’t want to be the neighborhood weirdo, so I kept that thought to myself. It made me smile, though.

Sayid had a few opportunities to play in the snow today and he had fun. His favorite was catching snowballs we threw to him. He’d take them right in the face, spit them out, and then snack on them a little bit. He was adorable with snowflakes all over his face.

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The snow was beautiful and I’m glad we got to enjoy it. I’m hopeful now that God will bring on the sunshine and spring time. This girl needs to get back to work and slow down on the snacks.

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.

The Good Stuff

Several things have crossed my mind lately that I’m grateful for. They’re nothing major; they’re mostly just simple pleasures, but I find that if I take the time to write them down, I can refer back when I’m in a funk and it’ll serve as a good reminder of all the good I’ve got, because I really do have a big helping of the good stuff.

Yesterday I came home to find that a dear friend of mine had mailed me a surprise – a simple gift that made her think of me (and I love it) and a thoughtful card (thoughtful to the extent it made my eyes water). That’ll brighten a day. Thanks, friend. You know who you are.

On the days Sayid is with me, he sleeps on his chair in my bedroom at night. When I wake up in the morning and hear him snoring – really, that boy can saw some logs – it makes me smile. And if it’s really loud, it makes me laugh. That’s a good way to start a morning. One morning a couple of weeks ago, the first sound I heard upon waking up was Sayid passing gas. That one really made me laugh and shake my head. Kind of gross, I know, but if you know this dog, you understand. My sweet boy has brought so much joy in the past six years and God worked it out for us to get him at the perfect time. That silly, rotten pup was the perfect cure for mending a heart. Goodness, I love him.

I love blankets. I don’t think you can ever have too many blankets. When I moved back to my parents’ house, I reluctantly packed most of my blankets to put in storage, but I kept two with me – my Louisiana Tech sweatshirt blanket (old faithful!) and my quilt. I put a lot of time into making that quilt top a couple of years ago and then my sweet Mama surprised me by finishing the edges of it last Christmas. That project was stalled out, unfinished for so long. I have looked forward to having an entire fall/winter season where I could just curl up under my quilt. During our recent Netflix marathon of The Blacklist, I got to do just that. There’s just something extra special about that particular blanket, so I was well aware of the moment – watching a great show, comfy on the couch, under my quilt. My quilt.

My dad’s commentary on commercials makes me laugh. He almost always has his living room television tuned into Fox News, so he sees a lot of the same advertisements repeated. When a commercial really irritates him for some reason, he likes to call our attention to it when it comes on. “Watch this guy!”, he’ll say. He’ll quote the dialogue in a mocking tone before the actors ever get around to saying their lines. He’ll roll his eyes and sigh and say things like, “I can’t stand this guy!” or “Watch how goofy this man is!” or my personal favorite, “What a dork!” Daddy’s irritation equals our entertainment. It is so funny to me. Every time another commercial comes along that gets under his skin, we know we are about to get a good laugh. His mother – my Memaw – was the same way, so I guess he gets it honest! Although, I don’t think Daddy has actually called Sonic, PC Matic, or the Medicare folks to voice his opinion. Memaw took it a step further than Daddy.

Sunrises. I guess I notice them more at my parents’ house because their dining room window faces the east and there’s a section at the top of the window that is always uncovered. There are no curtains up there at the top. So every morning when I walk through the kitchen, I notice the sunrise. A lot of mornings, I have walked to the window and peeked out to get a better view and admire it a little longer. It’s beautiful. I’m thankful to be taking notice because for years, I’ve missed it most mornings. It makes me look forward to the time change, because then the sun will rise earlier and then I will be more motivated to get up and take up running. At this point, I’d be running in the dark. But soon, I’ll have the opportunity to spend some quality time with a sunrise every morning, and that might be too good an opportunity to pass up. Not too long ago, I was outside when the sun was setting and it struck me that all over the world, everyone is blessed with a view like that. There are some beautiful skies to be seen in Louisiana, but my Compassion kids in Uganda and India and elsewhere get to see the creativity of God every morning and every night as well. I like that. What a gift.

Life sure is full of good stuff, isn’t it?

Beach Vacation 2014

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This year’s beach vacation was lovely. Perdido Key, Florida is such a charming little town. Due to going during “peak summer” season and the fact that my friends and I live on budgets, we stayed at a more affordable condo than we usually do when we go during “late summer” and can afford a place right on the beach. We didn’t have an unobstructed view of the Gulf and our swimming pool was the temperature of a bath tub most of the time, but I would stay there again without hesitation. It was great. Next time I might mosey on down to my favorite condo’s pool that feels refreshing and not like a bath tub!

The weather was beautiful. It rained for about five to ten minutes after we got our luggage carried inside the first night and we never saw another rain drop until we were somewhere in Mississippi on the way back home. The Gulf was beautiful. I never encountered any seaweed, but only the occasional fish that would kiss my leg (and make me squirm!) and a school of jellyfish that sent us scrambling back to the shore on the last day. (They didn’t sting us!) If anything, the water was cold some days. It never got over 90 degrees the entire time we were there. We all got a little sunkissed and only Amber ended up with a sunburn bad enough to be uncomfortable.

We started with a three car caravan and managed to turn a seven hour trip into thirteen. Yes, I said thirteen. Partially, that is because we had to make frequent “clot stops”. Mama had a blood clot in her leg a month earlier so we wanted to make sure to stretch our legs. At the Mississippi Welcome Center in Vicksburg – clot stop #1 – I realized this was going to be an ordeal. I had to tell Mama and Mrs. Barnes that we weren’t taking clot stops to make new friends. We were simply there to stretch our legs and get back on the road. We were probably at that clot stop for half an hour. Mama had been carrying on her own long conversation with a staff member, but finally made her way outside. Once we finally sent Joe inside to find Mrs. Barnes, she was discussing a sewing table with a staff member, and then Joe himself got sucked into a conversation about civil war history. Then Mama had to go inside and get them both. This was when we realized it was going to be a long trip.

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The other major time block was due to a long wait at Lambert’s in Foley. Throwed rolls are a necessary experience for someone who has never been. On this trip, that was Stacy. Okra man was chatting (ie: flirting) with Mrs. Barnes so much that Amber and I were ready to serve okra to ourselves right out of his bowl. We were starving and he was just standing there with that giant bowl of delicious okra just outside our grasp. It was torturous. Black eyed pea girl walked around looking sad, hanging her head, because nobody wanted any of her peas. Sad black eyed pea girl actually became a running joke on this trip. The boy throwing the rolls seemed to be taking out his frustrations. He would fire hot rolls at diners as if he were trying out for the New York Yankees and then stare in disappointment if a roll was dropped. I got the look one time. You’d think he’d be happier what with having such a fun job! Amber started giving him dialogue as he fired his rolls at people – “This is for all you who made fun of me on the playground!” and “This is for not making the team in high school!”, etc.

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We finally got to Perdido around 9:00 Monday night. This is the first time I can remember actually arriving at our condo after the sun went down. I have to admit, it kind of bummed me out. I love being able to catch glimpses of the Gulf as we’re driving that stretch of road through Orange Beach and Perdido. We unloaded our stuff and then made our shopping list and headed to Walmart for some late night grocery shopping. We came in under budget (Dave would be proud!) and finally got everything back to the condo and put away around midnight. I think we went to sleep around 1:00 AM or later that first night.

Amber and I picked the right room to sleep in. It was in the very back of the condo and we had a ceiling fan and a small personal fan we brought from home. We never heard anyone else in the mornings until we wanted to. I think we consistently slept the latest every day and our sleep friendly room gets the credit. Plus, we got the room with an attached bathroom! Hooray! We just made sure to share it with Melissa and it all worked out well. (I’ve decided that since I’m the one who always has to do the research to find and secure a condo for our trips, I deserve the master bedroom! Sounds fair!)

Throughout the week, we ate a lot; it never ceases to amaze me how quickly we can devour multiple pans of brownies and an entire double recipe of taco layer dip.

We shivered in the Gulf waters until we became acclimated.

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That also blows my mind – we shivered in the Gulf at the end of July. We stuck pretty close to the shore on account of all the sharks who were in the area earlier this summer.

We had some Sonic happy hour drinks.

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We ate at Tacky Jack’s Tavern and Amber found what I’ve been searching for – children’s aviator sunglasses. They claimed to be polarized, but are not. I still love them anyway.

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We laughed more than I’ve laughed in a while. We revisited a memory Melissa, Joe, and I had from our 2007 beach trip where we wore funny hats in a gift shop as our elderly alter egos – Francis, Hagatha, & Eudell. Only this time, we had Stacy and Amber along. Joe’s serious facial expression in every photo just made it even better. We were that loud, obnoxious, laughing group you sometimes come across in public places. Our apologies, fellow tourists.

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We told funny stories: “Karl/you can close that box”, “Yeeeeeeah!”, and “yard dogs” come to mind.

A few of us saw dolphins and Joe even saw them from our balcony on the last day, even though we weren’t right on the beach. (He has freakishly good vision.)

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It was fun. It was great. We all were wishing we had another day or two before we had to come home.

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The return trip took 12 hours. How can we turn 14 hours on the road into 25? How?! It’s a good thing I like Amber and Joe, because we sure were stuck with each other a long time in the car! We ended up splitting up our caravan, so that probably got us home a little sooner than if we had stuck together. My car managed to stop at Dairy Queen, Zaxby’s, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Jimmy John’s, and Starbucks on the way home. Weight gain mystery solved!

Fun times, y’all. Fun times.

Blueberry Heaven

IMG_8942Just when I start thinking West Monroe doesn’t have much to offer, something comes along and surprises me.  This time my happy little surprise was a blueberry farm!  I’ve lived in this area most of my life, but had no idea this place even existed.

A few weeks ago my friend, Amber, who lives in Oklahoma posted a photo of herself at a blueberry farm.  Days later, my friends, Johnathan and Anna, in Ruston posted very similar photos of their family picking blueberries.  I became curious and started asking about this blueberry picking phenomenon because I had no idea such places even existed and I love blueberries.  So then Amber from Oklahoma told me places like this aren’t too hard to find.  Then Amber from Oklahoma directed me to a website, and before I could even find the listing myself, Amber from Oklahoma told me that there’s one in West Monroe!  My West Monroe.  And not just in West Monroe, but less than five miles from my house in West Monroe.  Amber from Oklahoma enlightened me about a place that I have driven past countless times.  Thank you, Amber!  Those Oklahoma folks are good people.

I told my sister, Melissa, about this place – Butler Blueberries – and she & Stacy visited it the following weekend.  She loved it so much that she wanted to go again.  Yesterday morning, I went with Melissa and Stacy.  We went early in the morning around 7:00 since Louisiana likes to turn hot and humid pretty quickly.  Our plan was to each pick a $10 gallon bucket.  I went off by myself, plugged into my iPod and listened to a great playlist.  I lost track of Melissa and Stacy, but I knew they were just a few rows over and would be easy to find.  There were blueberries galore.  Amazingly, I never even broke a sweat while I was filling my bucket.  I just listened to my music and smiled and picked.  I am the type who is usually constantly on the lookout for bugs, spiders, wasps, etc.  I didn’t even care.  In fact, I reached right past a spider web, because I saw a cluster of berries I wanted in my bucket.  Blueberries make me brave, apparently.  As early as it was, I’m not going to lie – my alarm went off and I momentarily toyed with the idea of sleeping in, but as I was picking, I thought I’m so glad I got up early for this.  About an hour after we arrived, my bucket was full and it kind of bummed me out.  I was having so much fun, I wanted to keep picking.

I went on a short little hunt and found Melissa and Stacy.  Melissa understood my sadness regarding my full bucket, because she was also having fun, so we decided to get one more bucket full.  There were a few extra buckets on the ground, so I gave her one and took one for myself with the goal of each of us fulling ours halfway.  We decided we’d each throw in an extra $5 and split that gallon.

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I loved it.  I want to go back.  I wish I had a need for more blueberries, but I have far more than I need.  In fact, I’ll be sharing with some folks.  I’ll also be making homemade blueberry muffins this afternoon to take to work in the morning and share.

With the gallon Melissa and I split, we shared a lot with Mama and we also went to her house where Stacy and Melissa cooked breakfast – complete with loaded blueberry pancakes – for all of us.  After sharing with Mama, Melissa and I each ended up with three pint size freezer bags full.

Of my own gallon, I ended up with four pint size freezer bags full, eight snack bags full, and a big bowl full of roughly three cups of blueberries to use for my muffins.  The recipe calls for two cups, but my cajun cooking teacher told us to use a recipe as a guide, but put in more of what you like.  In regards to this, I can just hear him saying, “If you like blueberries, put in mo’ blueberries, because the mo’ you put in, the mo’ betta it be!”  I concur.

 

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?

$1 Day Brightener

Is it just me or is it thrilling to get a letter or a card in the mail?  Receiving a good, long email from a friend is thrilling, too.  *cough*Janie*cough*Jody*cough*  But there’s just something extra special about opening your mailbox and finding a handwritten note.  It was a thrill when I was a child and it’s a thrill now.  In the days of text messaging and email and countless other forms of social media, it hardly ever happens anymore, but when it does – instant day brightener.

I sent a card to a friend a couple of weeks ago.  In it, I mentioned that Sayid was turning six and thanked her for all the wisdom she passed along to me when he was a puppy and was just being trained.  He is smart and well trained in large part to the things she taught me.  I had completely forgotten I had sent her a card.  Yesterday I received a card in the mail from her, wishing Sayid a happy birthday.  Instant day brightener!

I love to send cards to friends for no reason other than I just feel like it sometimes.  When I go in Target, I’m drawn to their card section.  Not really their individual card section, but the boxed cards.  I love finding a cute box of cards.  If they have a box of cards with a charming little bicycle on them, I might as well just hand over my wallet.  Cards are charming; bicycles are charming.  Sold!  Boxed cards really are a bargain, because $4.99 isn’t so bad if you get 10 cards and envelopes.  For $1 you cover the cost of the cute card and the stamp and you get to brighten a friend’s day.  I’d say that’s a dollar well spent.

Today in Target, I bought a box of bicycle cards that are blank on the inside.  Perfect!  The photo is of a sky blue bike leaned up against a yellow building with big windows and there are books strapped down to the rear rack.  Books!  Books are charming, too.  Good grief, I may have to frame one of these cards and just have it in my house.  They are that cute.  I want to be friends with the owner of this bike.  I want to ride bikes together to the library.

Before I found these adorable bicycle cards, I found a box of cards called Polaroid Notes.  I looked through all of the photos on the cards – 20 random pictures – and thought some were great but some were a little weird.  Then I saw the price tag on the back – $14.95.  That’s a little steep for a frugal gal such as myself.  They only had one box, but I put them down in favor of the aforementioned bicycle cards.  After I left Target, the more I thought about that box of cards, the more I wanted them.  I thought about a particular friend who I like to send cards to and an inside joke we’ve had for the past fifteen years.  Then I wanted these cards even more – even the weird ones.  Especially the weird ones.  So I paid a little visit to amazon.com.  Got ‘em.  Got ‘em for a little less than I would have spent at Target.  They’re on the way.  Weird cards coming soon to a mailbox near you, friend.

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Charming bicycle cards coming to other mailboxes whose owners I know in the coming weeks.

So hey, maybe you should go brighten someone’s day, friends.  It’s easy.