Road Trip to Colorado

We have been bummed that we haven’t been able to take a vacation this year with the virus interfering with lots of plans. After some discussion, we decided we would go to Boulder for a few days, just to get out of the Texas heat and to do something, anything! ūüôā We looked at airbnbs but they were super pricy with lots of added fees so we made a reservation at a Residence Inn that has a kitchenette and sitting area. We figure we will be safe enough in the car, will carry our own snacks and drinks, and we’re bringing our own sanitizing spray with us for the room. Honestly I am not that scared of germs on surfaces any more, mostly worried about getting in people’s faces or aerosols left hanging in our space. We don’t like long driving days any more so we are breaking it up into two days each way. We would usually go through Amarillo and stop to see the kids but we thought we’d go a different route through Oklahoma and Kansas.

It was a pleasant drive today, traffic wasn’t too bad even though it was Labor Day. We encountered some construction and had to loop around for awhile but it wasn’t a problem. Pulled into a rest stop to use the bathroom and there was a whole family ahead of us not wearing masks, plus some other people in the same non-attire, so we sat in the car and waited till everyone came out.

I love taking pix out the window as we roll along. Here are a few from Oklahoma.

And some from Kansas

Surprise Trip to NJ

My mother turned 89 on January 18. A few months ago my brother Joe texted my sister, brother and me to say he thought we should surprise Mom for her birthday. My brother Bill lives in NJ but Joe is in WY and my sister Kathi and I are both in Texas. ¬†To be honest, I hadn’t really thought about going for my Mom’s 89th, figuring we’d plan something major for her 90th next year. I felt a little conflicted about it because we have a lot going on this year but I also felt somewhat obligated to go. I mean, how bad is it if you say you don’t want to go see your mother for her birthday?? ¬†So Rich and I found some decent plane tickets and made plans to go. Meanwhile my sister couldn’t make it after all and my brother had to change his dates! Oh, good grief!

Joe and his wife Denise flew in on the 10th and spent a few nights in Philadelphia, then Bill and  his wife Patty told my mom they were taking her to dinner in Philly one night to celebrate her birthday early. She was totally surprised when she walked into the restaurant and Joe and Denise were there.  She loved it and was very happy to see them! They then moved over to her house for the duration of their visit.

Meanwhile, we flew in on the 15th and my sister in law Patty and niece Abby picked us up from the airport. Abby texted Mom and said they were “in the neighborhood” and wanted to stop by. Thankfully Mom was home and told them to come on. They walked in first and we waited a couple of minutes before walking through the back door, through the kitchen and into the living room where they were all sitting. Mom looked up and seemed very confused, like “what is happening here?!” ¬†We said “surprise!” and she was flabbergasted that we were there as well. It was all pretty cute and we were glad we did it.

We had a great time visiting as always, lots of talking, laughing, and game playing as is the usual at my mom’s. We celebrated Mom’s birthday all week long; had a lunch out with several family members and friends one day, then a nice dinner with Bill and three of his kids (Patty and Abby both got sick and couldn’t make it), Joe and Denise and us. It was also our 15th anniversary so happy anniversary to us!

I had lunch with my cousin Patty another day and we stopped by to see her mom, my Aunt Jeannette. ¬†Went grocery shopping and had to have a Philly pretzel while browsing the store. Had hoagies and cheese steaks, though my cheese steak was a major disappointment with loads of raw onions on top after I special ordered it with NO ONIONS. Our last night we went out for real Jersey pizza which tastes so much better than pizza anywhere else, don’t ask me why.

I went with Mom to her trainer’s where she works out several days a week. She’s been going to James’ gym since she was 82! I’ve heard lots about him but had never met him so I tagged along. I didn’t have any workout clothes with me so I told him I was just there to watch. He laughed and said “what do you think this is–a theater??!” His mom, Joyce, is a former ballerina and dance teacher and now helps him at his gym so he said “Mama Joyce, take her to the back and do some stretches!” So we went to the barre and she had me do some ballet positions and stretches. Reminded me of all those years my girls were in ballet! She said I was pretty good and I should look for a class. LOL James and Joyce were both so nice and are really great to my mom. I was glad to finally meet them.

We had snow one day and it was chilly the whole time we were there. In fact, Mom’s bday dinner was supposed to be at a nice restaurant about 45 minutes away but it started sleeting and we decided not to risk it. My cousin Patsy came by to visit at Mom’s and then offered to take us to the airport when we left, so that was super nice of her. Come to find out her daughter is in NYC so we might see her when we go up for our cruise in April.

Soon it was time to head back home! Another great visit and I’m really glad we got to go. The Philly airport has been remodeled or at least the terminal we were in. Fancy lights in the boarding area and iPads at every charging station. Wowie! We heard an announcement that the flight was overbooked and they were looking for volunteers to wait about two hours for the next flight. Rich went up to ask what we would get for volunteering and they told him a $500 voucher each! So he said we would do it and we were super pumped, planning how we were going to use those vouchers! Alas, as the boarding commenced they announced “Mr and Ms Bye, we don’t need your seats after all. You are free to board!” Dang it! ¬†ūüôā

Winding Down our NJ trip

We had a nice dinner out with my brother and his family. I really do not like phone photos taken inside at night or maybe I am just not good at them, but wish I had taken a “real camera” with me. ¬†My brother, sister in law and I don’t see eye to eye on politics and religion but we have a lot of fun if we avoid those topics. ¬†And we always enjoy catching up with their kids.

On our last day, Mom and I went out for a pedicure treat, then off to the airport. It was a good visit and always a little hard to leave. I am thankful Mom is doing great and still very independent at 88. She’s an inspiration and I aspire to be just like her! ¬†Rich and I had a crazy flight home as the pilot was rerouted a couple of times to avoid bad weather across the US. ¬† We flew over Iowa and Nebraska and who knows were else before finally touching down in Dallas five hours later. ¬†But safe and sound so who can complain!

Down the Shore

Coincidentally, some friends of ours from California happened to be in Atlantic City at the same time we were at Mom’s, so we drove down one evening to visit. We had a great time catching up, enjoyed dinner and drinks and the ocean view, gambled a little and I left $3 ahead because I am loathe to lose any money! We might have also crashed a UAW private party and stolen a cupcake on our way out.

New Jersey

Mom and I took advantage of the rainy weather to go through our old coin collections so I could put away some of the coins for my kids and grandkids and leave the rest for my siblings and their families. ¬†As a kid, I was excited to find a penny or a nickel from a year that we didn’t already have, and add it to the proper slot in our book of coins. ¬†I don’t think we have any that are rare or worth a lot, but it was a fun pastime when we were growing up. Later, Mom started buying uncirculated sets of coins so she has a lot of those from various years. ¬†We found quite a few that lined up with grandkids’ birth years so maybe one day they will be happy to have a little memento to keep.

Pretty much any time I’m home, I drag out Mom’s old photo albums and the last few years we have started culling those down too. ¬†I think Mom is kinda “over it” and doesn’t want or need a bunch of family photos any more. She says she’d rather we go through them now than after she’s gone. ¬†I think we must have distributed a lot of our own childhood photos by now because I didn’t see very many. ¬†But I brought home many of my kids and grandkids that I’d sent to Mom over the years. I will keep them till my kids have to sort through them when I’m gone…I’m sure they’re gonna be excited about that prospect. haha (I keep reading these articles about how your kids and grandkids don’t want your old “crap” but I am still a bit sentimental myself).

Here are a few photos of me when I was growing up. Notice the Catholic school “beanie” headwear and the bow ties. ¬†And crooked bangs cut by one’s mother were certainly a thing.

We ate *real* pizza AND cheese steaks one day. ¬†Don’t judge me.

We played a rousing game of “Chickenfoot” one night, and the sun finally came out the next day.

New Jersey

Up at 6 AM and off to Love Field on Saturday. It was raining so I was not thrilled with the idea of flying. We were delayed slightly but not too bad. ¬†After some initial bumpiness climbing out, we had a nice flight to Philadelphia and were happy with a not-full cabin so we had an aisle and a window seat with no one between us. ¬†Sweet! Mom doesn’t like to drive in the city any more so we took a train from the airport to the Jefferson Station in Philly, then walked a few blocks to the High Speedline and took another train across the river to the Jersey side. I always love that feeling of “coming home.” ūüôā ¬†Mom picked us up at the station and it’s a short drive to her house. We happened upon ¬†“Laurel Springs Day” in her little town so Rich so I walked downtown from Mom’s to peruse the booths, but it wasn’t too exciting. ūüôā ¬†We had to buy hoagies, though, and brought them back home to eat. ¬†My favorite!

 

 

The Fun Continues

I got to take Luke to school one day while Bonnie went to “Muffins with Mom” at Emery’s school. ¬†She said she never gets to go to anything like that because of her kids going to different schools in different parts of town so I was happy to help. ¬†After school, Luke said he learned how to make a craft and wanted to teach us so we all made “pieces of pie” and pretended to eat them.

Bonnie and David used to have two labs, Josie and Jake, but both passed on within the last several years and they were reluctant to get another pet with their busy schedules. Their kids LOVE animals of all kinds and have been begging for a dog so B&D gave in and found the cutest rescue pup that they’ve named Millie Claire. The kids absolutely adore her and she is pretty sweet, if a bit “in your face.” ¬†Bonnie said the cutest thing is that Millie loves to go with her to pick the kids up from school and is always so excited to see them. So we took Millie along with us to get Ada and Luke one day (Emery had a ride). Bonnie said Millie usually lays on the console nicely or gets in the passenger seat but I don’t know if it threw her off that I was in the car (and in “her” seat) because she was pretty antsy in the car and kept climbing back and forth. We got Ada from preschool and stopped at Texas Tea to get everyone a drink. We gave Ada her drink and somehow she managed to punch her straw through the cup in three different places so it was leaking all over the place. ¬†We cleaned that up and proceeded to Luke’s school next. ¬†Luke got in and we gave him his drink, while Emery’s drink was in the cup holder behind the front seats. As we drove off, Millie tried to climb up on the console but I put my arm up to prevent her from coming forward, causing her to slide backwards and put her paws on the drink, smashing it down and spilling it everywhere. I think Bonnie was annoyed with me that I blocked the dog but I was trying to keep her from hitting our drinks in the front. LOL That backfired, obviously. ¬†Bonnie had to pull over and clean up the mess and said something to the effect that she should have left Millie at home because she was being too wild. Not to mention Gigi, the not so much a dog person, interfering with her fun. ūüôā

Emery is playing volleyball for the first time and really loving it. She had her first game on Saturday while we were there so we were excited to get to go. ¬†Her birthday party at the roller rink was also supposed to be Saturday evening. Well, that morning we were getting ready for volleyball when Bonnie got a text from the owner of the rink saying that they were going to have to cancel. They’d had the floors resurfaced and something had gone wrong so they were having to shut down and re-do them. Oh, no! Thankfully Emery took it very well and Bonnie got to work contacting all of the parents of the kids who were invited. The owner called after awhile and told them he’d reschedule them for December and take off their $75 deposit for the next party. David told him no, he thought he should offer the whole party for free. The owner said, well, good idea, since the floor resurfacing company would be the one paying for it. ¬†So at least they are getting a free party a few weeks late.

Then off to volleyball, which was really fun and the girls did a good job. Emery returned a couple of hard volleys right over the net! ¬†She is still not quite strong enough to get her serve over but she was close and it will come soon, I’ll bet.

We were going to see my niece Bryana and her girls at the party but since the party was cancelled, we invited them over for dinner.  Bryana is pregnant with #3, another girl whom they are naming Violet to go along with their other flower named daughters Lilly and Daisy.  We enjoyed seeing them and catching up on news while the kids ran around and played together with their second cousins.

The next morning Bonnie, David and kids had to be at church early for their nephew’s baby dedication so we said our goodbyes when they left, stayed a little longer to get ourselves ready and headed back out for Dallas.

Road Trip to Arkansas

I was home from NYC for a week and then we were off to meet some friends in Hot Springs, AR. ¬†Adrienne and Bill live in Alabama and we have visited back and forth a couple of times over the years so we decided to meet somewhere “kinda half way” for a few days. ¬†We had a reservation at the historic Arlington Hotel which was very cool and right in the middle of downtown. ¬†We enjoyed exploring the streets, also visited the national park and went up into a tower that provided great views all around and contained a nice historical museum of the area. Did you know that baseball players ¬†used to come to Hot Springs to sweat out the toxins from all the drinking they did? And that the therapeutic baths were once used to treat syphilis? ¬†Just a few of the amazing facts one can learn at the museum. We then drove to Lake Catherine State Park and took a nice little hike to a waterfall. ¬†It’s a beautiful area and it was nice to have some time with our friends.

After two days in Hot Springs, we all drove to Little Rock for two more days. I think I’d driven through Little Rock in the past but had never stayed. First we went to the Bill Clinton Presidential Library, which was super interesting for a nerd like me. ¬†We also wandered around town and visited the Capitol.

The highlight of the trip was a tour of Little Rock Central High School, which was involved in a huge racial integration fight in 1957. ¬†I didn’t realize that the school is a part of the National Park system. ¬†We met at a visitor center which contained a very ¬†nice interactive museum where we could read newspaper articles, listen to interviews, and watch TV coverage. ¬†Then we were joined by a park ranger named Randy who was excellent. He grew up in the area and spoke very passionately about this story. He also shared that he was one of two African American youngsters who integrated an elementary school in the 1970s, remembering many of the hardships he faced even then.Of course many of us know the basic story of the Little Rock Nine but Randy gave us much more detail and stated he has become friends with two of the former students who live in Little Rock and have given him even more firsthand information.

One thing I did not realize is that Little Rock Central was built in 1927 for over a million dollars, which was a huge amount at that time. It was admired from far and wide as a beautiful campus with offerings of all kinds of courses like architecture and engineering and opera. ¬†Unfortunately, this school was only for white students. ¬†When integration was mandated by the federal government, the school district built a new school for African American students, but of course it was not anywhere near as fancy as Central. Eventually when their hand was forced and the school district reluctantly agreed to allow African American students to transfer to Central, they couched it in language designed to discourage the students from changing schools. “You have a nice new school. Why would you want to transfer to this old school that was built in 1927?” But the students and their parents knew how much better Central was, so 200 students originally applied for transfers. Then the school board went on the offensive to make it as difficult as possible for students to enter. First it was required that they have perfect attendance. Some had to drop off the list. Then that they had to have straight A’s, which eliminated some more. Then that they had to have their own transportation, which caused more to give up. ¬†Then that they had to promise that no matter what was done to them, they would not retaliate in any way. So with all of the requirements, plus the fact that they and their families were getting threats on a daily basis, only ten students remained out of the original 200. ¬†One last student was harassed so badly the first day that her parents removed her, so we were left with the Little Rock Nine who endured horrible abuse on a regular basis just to try to get an education.

Archival photo credit: http://www.history.com

Randy had us walk the street that the students walked, imagining how it would feel to hear grown adults shouting, cursing, threatening us just for wanting to go to school, being spat upon, pushed, shoved as we made our way to the steps. ¬†It brought me to tears just thinking about how horrible people can be. I remember living in Georgia as a youngster, ages 6-10. ¬†Although we lived on an integrated military base, I can still picture the “whites only” bathrooms and water fountains at the local drugstore we frequented. Even as a 6 year old, I knew that this was wrong and I couldn’t understand how anyone could think it was okay. And it worries me today that we have not moved very far past those times, in fact, it seems worse under the racist Trump administration.

Central is still an operating high school so we could not see much of the inside and could not take photos, but we were taken into the lobby, where photos hang of the Little Rock Nine, and then into the auditorium to hear more history and to ask questions. Ironically, the school is now majority minority.  It is still beautiful and looks like a college campus more than a high school. Hopefully lessons have been learned and it was encouraging to see students of all races laughing and talking together as they got off buses returning them from a field trip.

The Little Rock Nine then, and in more recent days.  They were courageous young people who made history and have had a lasting impact on our society. I am thankful for them! (Black and white photo credit WJLA.com, color photo credit Iliff School of Theology).

Their names are:
Gloria Ray, Jefferson Thomas, Terrence Roberts, Carlotta Walls Lanier, Melba Patillo Beals, Thelma Mothershed Wair, Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, and Minnijean Brown.

Family Time

It’s hard to make the rounds and see everyone when we are in NJ so we invited all of our relatives to come over for dinner. My brother Bill and his daughter Alex stopped by earlier in the day because Bill had to work that evening. He’s an RN on a medical helicopter so he always has lots of interesting and funny stories to tell us. ¬†We disagree on politics and many other things but we had a little moment when we took photos together and I said “Act like you love me,” to which he responded “I do love you.” SO I guess blood is thicker than politics in the end. ūüôā ¬†Alex is in her first year of college and doing great so it was good to catch up with her too. That night we had a great time with family and friends, always my favorite. ¬†Sarah got to hang out with some of her cousins and second cousins and they all seemed to have a big time talking and laughing the night away.

Before we knew it, it was time to fly back to Texas. ¬†Wish we’d had more days but hopefully we’ll be back soon!

Crossing over to the Jersey Side

Goodbye to our fun hotel, cab ride to Penn Station, and onto the Amtrak to Philly.  Then taxied to the High Speed Line to NJ, though our driver took us to the wrong side of the station which was basically a subway entrance with a long flight of stairs. Yes, we had our suitcases and carry-ons but thankfully a nice young man offered to haul them down the stairs for us! We boarded our train and I was telling Sarah stories of riding the Speed Line to grad school with her sleeping in a front pack.  Mom and my sister Kathi (who was visiting from San Antonio) picked us up at the Lindenwold Station, and voila, we were home!  First stop, as always, hoagies!

I am a Jersey girl at heart. ¬†I love my mom’s little town and the sound of people talking in NJ accents and the smell of a deli and the fact that I have aunts and uncles and cousins and nieces and nephews all around. ¬†The first day we just talked and laughed and caught up with each other. Sarah hadn’t been to NJ in a long time so it was good for her to be back for a little visit.

We’ve been into genealogy for a couple of years and had discovered that one of our ancestors, Mordecai Andrews, was from Tuckerton, NJ, where there’s still a family home place standing. We decided to drive down, which was a lot of fun in itself. Sarah had Mom telling funny stories from the past, which Sarah was recording and posting on Instagram. ¬†Her friends kept sending comments about how funny her Granny is and “keep them coming!” We arrived hungry so had a great lunch at a very cute little cafe near the historic area of town. Across the way was “The Captain’s House” which we were permitted to tour. ¬†Mordecai’s house stood directly opposite but is being refurbished with Hurricane Sandy funds so we couldn’t go inside. Still it was interesting to see this piece of our family history.

After a long day, Mom took us out for a delicious Italian dinner at Filomena’s, topped off with more laughs and conversation.