So Much Good Stuff

You guys! There is so much stuff going on! I had been feeling overwhelmed, but now I’m just feeling blessed. I’ve been going through the most recent online IF:Equip study on the Spiritual Disciplines and it’s been so magnificent. It has reminded me to slow down and lean into God instead of hyperventilating over my super long to-do list. Which I already knew, but sometimes you just need a different voice to remind you.  I even wrote this post for Renewing the Heart Ministries about what I’ve been discovering (or re-discovering and putting into practice.) I’m still struggling in certain areas – always will, no doubt – but they are called “practices” for a reason. So let me tell you all the good stuff!

First, Grace & Such has published our first in (hopefully) a very long line of devotionals. Ten of the writers (myself included) have contributed to 30 Days of Grace.   It is currently available through Amazon.com and will be available for Kindle sometime in the next month or so. I read through the book several times during the editing process and let me just tell you this. I was amazed at the wisdom and encouragement every single time I read each entry. I mean, I might be biased, but I really do think this is a lovely book. And it’s just in time for Mother’s Day! Both the title and the picture link to the Amazon store.

Next on the agenda, this Saturday, April 29th, is the Iron Sharpens Iron Conference for Women in the Reading area. (For those of you who grew up playing Monopoly but aren’t from around here, it’s pronounced “Redding”.) The ministry I’m involved with – Renewing the Heart Ministries (RTH) – is the sponsor so we’ve been planning and planning for months. We have two keynote speakers, a regular worship team, a mid-day concert and testimony by TAMMY TRENT, nine workshops in the morning and nine workshops in the afternoon, one of which I’ll be leading.

I am truly excited about this event, not to mention RTH in general. Because RTH doesn’t just put on a conference and then say, “See ya next year!” We provide resources and training and follow up and everything after the conference. We are, as our fearless leader, Diane Karchner, says, “boots on the ground” and we do much more than just host a conference once a year. Trust me when I say you’ll be hearing more about RTH. Much more.

So then, after the conference is four straight days of house cleaning because Todd’s parents will be here next Thursday. We haven’t seen them for what seems like forever and their timing is perfect because I am in desperate need of decorating help from his mom. She’s really good with colors and styles and such.

But they’re not coming to help me choose a paint color (though I’m planning on that being a bonus). They are coming because Katie graduates from college on the 6th of May. GRADUATES! FROM COLLEGE! Or camp.  Whichever way you want to look at it.

After graduation, Katie will come home for the week so she can hang out with her grandparents before they go back to California. Then she will go back down to Virginia to start her real, adult life. And I gotta tell ya. As much as I wish she would be closer to home, I can’t even be sad about it. I’m just happy for her.

On Sunday, May 14th, I am going to go to church and then come home and do nothing. I’m going to truly practice Sabbath. I will not have a to do list and will only do what I want to do. And while I’m looking forward to being able to breathe for a minute, I’m pretty sure I’ll be a little forlorn that all that good stuff is over. Until the next round of good stuff.

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KT, DC and ME – The Food Edition

Before I get to the culinary delights of our nation’s capitol, I wanted to tell you about our weather. I’m sure you saw it on the news. Or maybe you lived it with me. But last week we had snow. And sleet. And then snow.

It didn’t turn out to be quite the event they originally forecasted, but it was the most winter we’ve had this season. In March. Right after we’d had lovely, upper 60’s, leave the windows open, I’m ready for spring weather. Now I love me a good snow storm as much as the next fella who loves a good snow storm, but I feel kind of like winter missed its chance. I think Mother Nature should have just let us be disappointed for the year and move on. Maybe she could have made up for it next year. But to be teased by the glory that is spring like that and then smack us upside the head with what we got is kind of cruel. But maybe that’s just me.

Alright. Onto why you’re really here.

[Disclaimer – I’m afraid this post may be a letdown. There are really only two food experiences to share with you. So please, for the sake of our friendship, lower your expectations.]

One of Katie’s college friends is from the DC area and she recommended a couple of places. CAVA for a meal and Baked and Wired for cupcakes.

We ate lunch at the Holocaust Museum Cafe after our tour because we were starving and it was the closest place to find food. I had a decent Mac & Cheese, but it wasn’t anything to write home about. Our plan was to make our way from there to Baked & Wired, procure our cupcakes and then go back to the hotel for a bit, after which we would walk over to CAVA.

So this is how it went down. We ate at the Museum Cafe, walked the couple blocks to the Smithsonian Metro station, took it to Foggy Bottom Metro station, wherein we disembarked and followed the map on my phone towards the bakery. Except we turned left out of the station instead of right and finally figured that out after two blocks. Still, we were in the midst of Georgetown and it was an interesting locale.

After turning around and passing the metro station we’d just come from, we set out for confection perfection, our steps determined and our moods light. We walked and walked and walked some more. We walked for a mile after we’d already been walking most of the day. When we finally got to Baked & Wired the line was out the door. No, I’m not kidding. Out the ever-lovin’ door. But we waited, by golly. There was no way we were leaving without the goods.

The patrons were lined up along the glass display case and the cupcakistas (you know, like barista, except they were serving baked goods instead of coffee) were grabbing the orders as fast as they could. Which was great and made the line move pretty quickly. Except here’s the thing. It took me months of practicing “Venti white chocolate mocha, 2%, with whip” in the mirror before I was comfortable ordering at Starbuck’s. I had no time to practice, people! I didn’t even have time to look at all the splendor they had to offer and make up my mind! Oh, the pressure! It was almost too much and I blurted out, “One cherry blossom cupcake, please!” because it was the main cupcake on display  in honor of the Cherry Blossom Festival beginning the following week.

Do you see the gravity of this situation I’m describing? There was no chocolate in the cherry blossom cupcake. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Do you know me?

Katie, on the other hand, had the privilege of perusing the case while I kept our place in line and ordered a chocolate doom just as cool and confident as you please. Ingrate.

After the acquisition was completed, we decided to take an Uber back to the hotel. Best $4.73 I’ve ever spent.

Once in the room, we shucked our shoes and settled down for a little rest. At this point I was seriously considering room service for dinner because I didn’t think I would ever want to move again. I had walked more than 200% of my daily goal and my dogs were barking. But a nice, little nap and a growling tummy later, I was up for the next edible adventure. Thankfully we didn’t have to walk a mile for dinner, but rather about half that.

I really didn’t know what to expect, but Katie described it perfectly. Think of a Mediterranean Chipotle. Minus the salmonella, of course. You start with a base – greens, grains, pitas – you decide. Next you add your dips or spreads – these would be tzatziki and hummus and the like. Follow that with your protein. I chose falafel, but there are meats or roasted seasonal vegetables as well. Then you choose your favorite toppings. I had them add pickled onions, cucumber, cabbage slaw and crumbled feta. Finally, you pick a dressing. Yogurt dill was my choice.

And that, my friends, is a blueberry soda next to it. I’m not a big consumer of pop, but I saw Maine Root blueberry soda on tap and had to try it. It was everything I expected it to be.

There was very little conversation at dinner because we were too busy eating. It was very filling and I despaired of being able to finish. But I’m not a quitter so I stuffed myself silly. I wasn’t going to waste a drop!

We were more than pleased with our dinner experience as we walked back to the hotel. But we were too full to eat the cupcakes.

~ Can I just pause here and right a wrong? I have been referring to these as cupcakes. The correct term is cakecups because they were huge. ~

Finally we could wait no longer. We each fixed ourselves a cup of coffee and then settled in for our sugary prizes. I decided right then and there that I had chosen wisely, even if it had been under duress. It was a vanilla cake with big chunks of maraschino cherries and a smooth cherry butter cream on top. I was NOT disappointed.

 

And judging from the look of bliss on Katie’s face, she was not mad about her choice, either. We also decided we would be stopping there on our way out of the city the next morning.

Which we did. I dropped her off and then drove around the very large block. She jumped back in the car with four cakecups (because we had to get one for each of the boys – duh) and a vanilla latte for me. And then we were for home!

Except the GPS told me to turn down a street that was crazy backed up so I kept going, but the rerouting couldn’t keep up with me and we finally turned around and I pulled up a side street to readjust the GPS. There was no parking from the corner up to the next house, but we weren’t actually parking so I pulled over. And then saw the sign that said, “NO PARKING Unless Approved by the Mongolian Embassy”, which we were not. But I didn’t even care because I had chocolate cakecups, a vanilla latte and the remnants of joy from a delightful day in DC. And I also kept the car running and could have easily made my getaway had Katie spotted a Hun coming. Yes. That’s how I pictured it. Men dressed like this, chasing after us, waiving swords and yelling loudly.

Nobody chased us (I may have even been a little disappointed because just think  how much better my story would have been) and we got headed the right way. As we were cruising down the Beltway, we started reminiscing about our dinner the night before. There were smiles and sighs and everything. Then Katie looked it up and it turns out there was a CAVA only 4 miles out of our way! So we changed our plans, took the detour and enjoyed another visit to our new favorite restaurant. I loved it so much I even toyed with the idea of opening a franchise by us. Except I’ve never had any desire to be a franchise owner and I don’t know the first thing about it. So if any of you live in my area and are looking for a new, up and coming restaurant to own, let’s chat.

Once home and settled, we had our cakecups. And you know that part about buying four cakecups because of the boys? Well, it didn’t actually work out that way. The excuse I’m going with is that I’m bad at math and we’ll just leave it there.

 

 

A Voice From The Past

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Yesterday I had a bunch of errands I wanted to run. The weather was fairly mild and I knew today was supposed to be bitterly cold. Life, however, had other plans so I only managed one errand. I’m not complaining, though, because I did get to take lunch to my convalescing friend and then meet another friend for dinner.

Wait. I AM complaining. Because as we all know, it’s part of my charm. I mean, I’m not complaining about sharing meals with friends. Those were the highlights of my Wednesday to be sure! What I’m complaining about is that I had to get out today in the bitter cold to run those errands.

It was 20 degrees with a wind chill of 3 as I was getting ready to leave this morning. Some of you live in Southern California and have no idea what 20 degrees with a wind chill of 3 feels like so let me try to explain it. Put on a bathing suit or, if your more modest, shorts and a tank top and stand in a meat locker. Then have someone direct a leaf blower at you from about 3 feet away. If the wind from the leaf blower is cold then yes, that’s kind of what it’s like.

I started the car and then ran back in the house to do a few things. I threw on a scarf and gloves and my jacket and pocketed my cell phone. As I was getting into my car I heard, “Hello? Jen? Hello??” That’s when I realized I had butt dialed (or maybe side pocket dialed would be more accurate) my friend, Lynne and it was coming through the car’s blue tooth. So we chatted for a few as I drove away and it was lovely! I haven’t heard her actual voice in years and I hadn’t realized how much I missed it. (Our schedules didn’t work out to get together when Todd and I were in Arkansas last summer.) And get this – we talked politics AND religion and it was still lovely! We didn’t have to do too much family catching up because we do keep up with each other on Facebook.

Anyway, chatting with her for that 10 or 15 minutes made me a little nostalgic and I thought I’d share. Unfortunately, I haven’t scanned in most of my pictures. (You see, there was a time when pictures weren’t digital, but you took pictures with this thing called film. Then you had to take the film to a store and have it developed into pictures.) But here are a few at the bottom that are sure to be met with hilarity by some, humiliation by others.

Lynne and her family moved into a house up the street from us many, many moons ago. Her two youngest and my two stair-stepped and became fast friends. Lynne and I were the kind of moms who kicked our kids out of the house when A) it was really nice outside; and/or B) they were on our last nerve. Her kids were just part of the family as my kids were a part of hers. I got onto her kids and she got onto mine. I loved her kids and she loved mine. It was a thing of beauty. Now they’re all grown. The youngest of the lot (Katie) has one semester of college left. The others are real adults doing real adult things like grownups. But whether they like it or not, they will always be just like this in my heart.

Tea and Quilts

Today was a lovely day for me and The Girl. She goes back to school on Sunday and we decided to finally make our way to the Penn Museum in Philadelphia, a place she’s wanted to visit since we moved here nearly ten years ago. Turns out, however, the museum is closed on Mondays.

Undaunted, we still made our way into the city, managed to find a decent parking spot and met The Boy for a cheap, delicious and way too large lunch. Philadelphia is known for its murals and, in fact, there are more than 3,000 of the colorful works of art scattered throughout the city. I’m always awed by their vibrant beauty so I grabbed these pics with my phone. (I made the conscious decision to leave my camera at home. *sigh*)

Mural 2

After we ate lunch The Boy went back to work and The Girl and I walked four blocks to Miel Patisserie, a divine French pastry shop, so we could finally experience French macarons. They’re quite as colorful as the murals and look like the little cookies on the time wasting game, Cookie Jam, on my iPad.

Macarons 2 Tea and Macarons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They also had really good tea. My tea was caramel toffee flavored and Katie’s was called Noel and was flavored with cinnamon and cardamom.

We enjoyed our sweet refreshments and walked back the four blocks to the car with about 15 minutes to spare before the meter ran out.

On our way home we made a stop at IKEA because IKEA. It’s like Disneyland. It even has flags at the entrance to the parking lot. The Girl bought a plant and named her Mabel, while I bought a $5.00 cheese grater. I spare no expense for my cheese preparations.

When we got home Mr. Jenster was off bowling so we made more tea to go with the macarons we brought with us and watched a few episodes of “Call the Midwife”.

Even though our original plans were dashed, it was an absolutely delightful day.

And as for quilts, it’s my day over at Grace & Such.

Myrtle Beach Adventures

I made it to Myrtle Beach and back in one piece. It was a quick trip, but I loved every minute of it. I even enjoyed the drive there and back. Mostly, anyway.

There is, no doubt, much more to Myrtle Beach than I saw, but what I did see was very commercialized. It was like Branson by the beach. Which is a lot of fun for young families and golfers, but I don’t know that it’s my kind of vacation place. I like slow paced, farmers’ markets, toes in the sand, an antique store or two, relax and read types of vacations. Still, my Katie was in Myrtle so it was the only place I wanted to be.

When I got settled into my room Monday night she came to see me for a couple of hours. Tuesday I did some of my own touristy stuff. Precious in hand, I set out to get some good photographs. What I got instead was some delicious sweet tea from McAlister’s (a foodie staple of the south) and a trip to Barnes and Noble. Not exactly what I had planned, but I wasn’t complaining.

I picked Katie up from her camp around 4-ish or so and we ran an errand or two before ending up at Joe’s Crab Shack at Barefoot Landing. This is where I found out she had never eaten crab before, other than in a crab cake or crab dip. Once I got over the shock of this parenting fail, we set about remedying the poor raising of her.  By the time we finished all those crab legs we were both a glorious mess of melted butter and crab juice. (It didn’t seem so horrible at the time, but reading crab juice kind of makes me shudder.)

After we got crabs (hehe – I said “got crabs”) we strolled around the landing, perusing the interesting shops and taking pictures of all the silly signs, t-shirts, etc. We made a couple small purchases and then landed at Kohr’s Family Ice Cream. It was the perfect ending to our outing.

We went back to the hotel, then, and got super comfy in our beds and watched Shark Week. Because we always seem to be at the beach when it’s Shark Week and what else should one watch? Especially when there has already been several shark attacks in the approximate vicinity. We also snacked a little. On Mega-Stuffed Oreos. They were on sale at the CVS we stopped at for bottled water and a few other things and this was our vacation and they looked so yummy and stop judging me.

Wednesday morning was super lazy and delightful. I got up and ensconced myself in the perfect reading chair while Katie slept on. I started a new book – The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty – for August book club. A book club I haven’t made it to yet, but August is a new month and I WILL FINALLY BE VICTORIOUS! By the time Katie got up and around it was too late for the free breakfast downstairs, which was perfectly fine with me. There was a coffee pot in the room and we still had Mega-Stuffed Oreos. What more could a girl with a caffeine addiction and a serious sweet tooth want? (I’ll talk about how I’m trying to get healthy again later. MUCH later. So don’t hold your breath for that post, m’kay?)

It was time for lunch by the time we got out of the hotel so we went to McAlister’s. I realize there were about a bajillion other places for us to go, but I really hadn’t satisfied my McAlister’s need and Katie was down with the choice, so there you have it. After lunch we headed to Broadway at the Beach. Our plan had been to spend the day there and then eat at the Hard Rock Cafe because eating at every single Hard Rock Cafe there ever was is a crazy and unspoken goal of mine. Well, now it’s spoken. Or written, which is even worse because you can deny the spoken word, but it’s hard to deny something that’s been written down. So now you know. But unless you’re independently wealthy it’s an impossible goal and one I think I’ve finally given up on. Unless I can someday write several NYT best sellers. Then I may revisit this goal.

Anyhoo, we walked and browsed and window shopped and took more pictures of ridiculous things that made us laugh and walked some more. Which makes me feel okay about my breakfast choice of that morning because it was pretty much walked and/or sweated off by the time we finished at Broadway. Oh. We also stopped in at Ben & Jerry’s for a kid sized cup of ice cream. Tonight Dough, how I love thee.

We had seen everything there was to see so we decided to forego the Hard Rock and head back to the hotel. More Shark Week to watch, more reading and a short nap for the girl. She wanted Mexican for dinner and we went to a gloriously authentic hole in the wall and it was delicious! And what trip would be complete without at least one run to Wal-Mart? We bought a few movie bundles in the discount bin and then ended our day back at the hotel.

Thursday morning Katie got up early and had to be back to camp by 7:45 or so. I got ready, went downstairs for a quick and free breakfast and then hit the road. I wanted to bypass DC because I knew I would head into the area right around rush hour so I took an alternative route. I didn’t think about the fact it would be a lot of highway with stop lights and such. OY! It took me forever to get home. But what a beautiful drive it was! I drove the Chesapeake Bay Tunnel – Bridge and it was fascinating. A little eerie, but very interesting.

On the way down I had listened to a book on tape – The Anatomist’s Apprentice by Tessa Harris. It was entertaining, but I don’t know that I would necessarily recommend it. On the way home, however, I listened to her second book in the series – The Dead Shall Not Rest – and found it to be much more interesting because it concerned real life people from 1780’s London. When I arrived home I had to do my own research on a couple of the characters and I liked how she wove the story around them. I’m sure I’ll eventually read the third in the series to see if she continues to get better or if book two was just a fluke.

It took me a little over 11 hours to get home so it was a lonnnnng day. My drive ended with a hellacious thunder storm with so much lightening it was blinding and so much rain it was hard to see more than about 10 feet ahead. But made it home I did. And I really enjoyed my own bed that night.

All in all, it was a great mini-trip and I loved hanging out with the girl. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat!

A Change of Scenery

As you can see, I’ve changed the look of my blog. I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’m not in love with the new appearance, but the old look was, you know. Old. Time for a change of scenery.

Speaking of a change of scenery, I’m headed down to Myrtle Beach on Monday. Just me and the open road. I use the term “open road” loosely as said road will be I-95. Katie is working there for the summer and Todd wasn’t able to get away,so it’s a girls’ couple of days in Myrtle Beach! I’m excited to see her and the ocean and to just get away for a few. I have an audio book and good music so I think I’m set for the long drive.

And finally, I would love to be somewhere, anywhere near this particular scenery. This is the flag that flies over the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor.

Arizona Flag

Have a safe and happy 4th of July!!

 

Celebration Surprise

Todd is going to be 50 next Tuesday and we have a whole week of celebrating planned. We started the birthday week last night with a surprise visit from Katie.

Let me give you a little back story for this surprise. Over the summer she was our ice cream gopher. She would even tell you she was bullied a couple of evenings to run out for ice cream for the rest of us. I don’t think that’s technically true as she was never threatened or verbally assaulted, but whatever. I’ll let her have it.

She has also always been the one to change our whiteboard calendar. Said calendar still says August. So the other day I posted a picture on Facebook, tagged Katie and said, “You need to come home and change the calendar.”

So this is how it went down yesterday. She left after her last class and made the 7 hour drive home. But before she came to the house she stopped at the store and called me, saying she was bored so she thought she would call. (We had to keep to the script in case Todd could hear our conversation.) It went something like this:

KT:     Hi! I’m bored so I thought I would call.

Me:    No plans with the friends tonight?

KT:     No. They all went home for the weekend.

Me:    Oh. I know! You can come home and change the calendar!

KT:     Haha.

Me:    Or you could bring me ice cream!

KT:     Yeah. I’ll get right on that.

Me:    Okay!

KT:     I gotta go! Emily just came in.

Me:    Alright. Have fun!

About 10 minutes later she came walking in the front door, carrying a bag with a gallon of ice cream and a package of Oreos. Todd had no idea and he was so happy to see her!

Note to self: Don’t let Katie leave tomorrow without fixing the calendar.

A Little Gray With A Bunch of Good Junk

GOING GRAY

There’s not much going on with my hair right now. It’s only been a week and a half since my coloring job. There is the faintest amount of color sliding at my temples, but it didn’t show up in the pictures I tried to take so they’re not even worth posting.

And speaking of pictures, I know I said I would get one at the wedding while I was all gussied up, but that was a falsehood. Not an intentional one, mind you, but it just didn’t happen. I DO, however, have these photos I took the day after the coloring.

8-6-14 Hair 2 8-6-14 Hair 1

I love my color. I really do. It has a nice vibrancy to it that I’m afraid I’ll lose as it’s growing out. But I guess we’ll find out together. Because you’re a part of this now and I’ve tossed my pride aside. Today, at least.

ADVENTURE

Thursday night was Todd’s bowling league night and Katie had gone out with some friends. So after dinner Taylor told me we were going on an adventure, but he wouldn’t tell me what. I love me a good adventure and now that I’m all “grown up” and everything, I don’t get many of them.

He loaded up something in his truck and then we left. Our first stop was Sonic for milkshakes and then we were off again. We ended up at the river, where he backed his truck up to the shore and we climbed onto the bed of his truck and sat in lawn chairs. Then we commenced to converse and enjoy our milkshakes.

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It was such a beautiful evening and, in fact, became downright chilly as the sun went down. Which, as you can see, made for a gorgeous picture.

After our most enjoyable endeavor we came home to watch Sharknado 2. Please don’t judge. It’s less an “I really want to see that spectacular cinematic brilliance”, and more of an “I have to watch it to say I watched it and then we can delete it from the DVR and never have to see it again.” Todd made it home just in time to watch with us and I have to say, it wasn’t without its entertainment. There is some value in B movies after all.

THE COFFEE COUNTER

A few years ago I was off visiting my parents in New Mexico and when I returned home, Todd had bought me a Keurig as an early birthday present. I was ever so happy with it and really do like it. Sometimes. But here’s the thing about a Keurig – the coffee doesn’t taste the same. Oh, it’s super convenient as long as you have a supply of K-cups. That can get pretty pricey, though, so we have special K-filters we can use regular ground coffee with. That’s great, too, except it’s kind of a pain to put together every morning and again, the taste isn’t the same.

I’ve been thinking for a while now that I wanted a regular coffee maker. But how wasteful! The Keurig works perfectly fine. The taste thing finally got the better of me and I had Katie pick up a discounted coffee maker at Target the other day. So now this is what our counter looks like:

Coffee Counter

We’re keeping both on the counter because the Keurig is great for brewing iced tea and chai lattes and hot chocolate and hot tea and hot apple cider and all manner of alternative beverages. You can see from the K-Cup holder, however, that we are low on our favorite K-Cups.

Two mornings in a row Taylor and I have had coffee from the new coffee maker and it was divine. Oh, how I’ve missed that flavor.

EXTREME SPORTS

We ended this fabulous streak with a kayaking adventure. It was such a gorgeous day yesterday so we drove through the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside to Green Lane where we rented four kayaks and took to the open water. So.much.fun. And it was just an awesome way to spend a day. No phones. No computers. No TVs. Just the four of us. We probably would have stayed out a bit longer, but some dark clouds started rolling in, the wind whipped up a bit and it was cold. In August. It was cold. No matter. We still had over an hour of relaxing fun and I’m looking forward to doing it again.

I’m Still Around

Holiest of molies! Today marks the end of August and my last post was at the beginning of July. I promised myself I would never again go a whole calendar month without posting because, well, I don’t know why. But since I promised myself and I don’t like to go back on my promises, unless it was to promise my peanut allergic daughter that I would never eat peanut butter again until she was no longer allergic, I have to post something. Anything.

Let me tell you people, I have a lot to say. A ton. A whole slew of stories. A plethora of tales. Heaps and oodles and scads of riveting adventures to regale you with.

But here’s the deal. Preschool starts on Tuesday, the day after Labor day. Do you know what that means? That means I’ve got stuff to do. Stuff that does not involve me recounting the past several months. So I will leave you with this tasty little morsel and pledge (because I don’t put as much stock in a pledge as I do in a promise, even though they’re the same thing) to tell you about my beeswax much sooner rather than later. Do we have an accord? Okay. Then here’s a snippet of a thing.

Todd and I are interim empty nesters. Katie is now a freshman and Taylor is a senior in college – both in Virginia. I don’t know what the deal with Virginia is and why it stole my children. Virginia is for lovers, not children.

Taylor is about 7 hours away and Katie’s about 8 hours away. I would like it if they were a bit closer, but they’re not. Any time I feel sad about that I think of my friend, Stephanie, who lives in Hawaii and whose daughter went to Rutgers in New Jersey. Now that’s a far piece. But then again, she lives in Hawaii so… yeah.

Anyway – back to the empty nest thing. It’s only been a week, but I think it’s going well. In fact, I think this next phase is going to be good. I might even like it. It’s peaceful, to be sure. I like peaceful.

And that’s that until the next time. 

A Happy June

June has been quite a month. A great month, really. From really close to the very beginning. I think I’ll tell you about it.

The first week of the month it became much too apparent that we needed a new washer and dryer. I was running the spin cycle a couple times, sometimes up to 5 times for bedding, just so things wouldn’t be dripping when I put them into the dryer, which nearly always took at least two runs to get mostly dry clothes. The set had been purchased when the original owners built the house 14 years ago so they’d had a good run. But it was time to say our goodbyes and move on.

While the thought of bigger, better, shiner and maybe even colorful was thrilling, the thought of paying for it was not. This year is already shaping up to be the year of needing money faster than we can pull it off the tree. Adding yet another large expense made me cringe. Until I started doing research and looking at the alluring beauties and learning what friends’ had and what they liked and what they didn’t. So one night while Todd was out of town Katie and I headed up to Home Depot to “look”. Looking turned into talking to an employee which turned into ordering it right there on the spot with Todd on the phone so he could answer all the manly questions that I didn’t possess knowledge of.

I ended up buying the white ones (cheaper), but aren't they lovely?

I ended up buying the white ones (cheaper), but aren’t they lovely?

The worst part about the whole thing — well, besides the money that is now forever gone — is that they delivered and hooked up the set the following Monday. I was not home that day, nor the next two days after that (which is part of my great month story I’ll be getting to in a minute). Todd had to wash all manner of bedding (which is another part of my great month story) and I promise you I was jealous. Never in my whole entire life have I ever been jealous of someone else doing laundry. Seriously never. Ever.

So that Monday, which was the 10th, was the beginning of my really great month. Katie was in the last week of high school but her finals were done. Thursday night was graduation and Wednesday was mandatory walk through, but she had gotten permission to miss it so she could attend her college orientation.

You read that right. College my-baby’s-going-away-in-the-fall orientation. More on that later. Much later. I’m not quite ready to go there.

Back to the 10th. Katie and I packed up Raven (the name she has given my new car – one of our please-take-my-money-because-obviously-I-don’t-want-it expenses) and hit the road, bound for Radford University.

Radford

Yes, THAT Radford. The Radford that’s been all over the news this past week for misspellings on their diplomas. At least it took the focus off their party school status.

Anyhoo, it’s about a 7 1/2 hour drive so we were fully stocked with good tunes and, well, that’s about it. I had my coffee and we each had a bottle of water. We made our appropriate stops at the great rest areas they have between here and there for a Starbucks and water and snacks, etc., and then began our search for the obligatory Cracker Barrel stop. After driving through some pretty heavy rain and cursing the 18-wheelers for spraying up water so that I couldn’t see where I was going, the sun peaked out and shined it’s ever-loving rays on the glorious Cracker Barrel sign about an hour out of our final destination.

Cracker Barrel

“Ahhhhhhhhhh” (That would be the sound of angels singing.)

We ate our fill, emptied our bladders and bought chocolate. There was a very ominous black cloud ahead of us, but I wasn’t daunted. I had just driven through a rainstorm of epic proportions. I could handle this miniature dark cloud.

Except I couldn’t. Just as we were going over a bit of a mountain pass the cloud’s dam burst and we couldn’t see more than 10 yards ahead of us. It was horrifying. The only time I’ve ever driven through anything like that before was in the middle of Tennessee on I-40 and I had to pull off until it had passed. This time I put on my hazards, pulled onto the shoulder and crawled along with at least two other vehicles. Ten minutes and it was blessedly done.

We stayed in a hotel Monday night and Tuesday morning began the orientation. After the initial session parents and kids were sent in separate directions and we saw very little of each other after that. Kids and parents were actually supposed to meet up again for dinner, but Katie’s roommate was also there so they ditched me and left me alone to my own devices. I didn’t feel like eating alone in the cafeteria so I went to Wal-Mart, which has unconsciously become a routine stop on every one of my trips, no matter where I am. I don’t remember what exactly I got to eat, but in the spirit of being at college it was something overly processed, extremely flavorful and super unhealthy.

Oh. I forgot to mention that I stayed in a dorm room that night. It was a recently renovated room and had air conditioning and its own bathroom. But let me tell you this. It was no night at the Ritz. Or even Motel 6. When you stripped away those two conveniences it was still a dorm room. A kind of smelly dorm room with a very uncomfortable bed, no cable and no coffee maker.

dorm

Notice the coffee maker, mini-fridge and large flat-screen TV? Oh yeah. Me neither.

Wednesday morning Katie and I checked out of our dorm rooms, (Hers was worse than mine because it didn’t have air conditioning and she had to share her bathroom with three other girls. Only three.) threw our stuff in Raven and grabbed some coffee at the campus Starbucks. After that we split up again and then met up around 11 where we ate at the campus Chick-Fil-A and then headed for home.

Taylor stayed in Lynchburg after school this year because he’s taking two summer sessions and working. He had promised Katie that he would come home for her graduation, though, so after his class on Wednesday morning he and Shelby made for home. Both Lynchburg and Radford are in the same general vicinity of Virginia and I-81 is the way to go. I had joked with him that maybe we would see each other on the road.

Due to my less than comfortable bed the night before I was tired. Katie was blissfully snoozing in the passenger seat and somewhere along the line I started getting really sleepy so I decided it was time to pull off. As we approached a rest area there was a sign that said, “Next rest area, 33 miles”. I debated about waiting until the next stop, but at the last minute chose to stop at the first one. A stretch was really in order and waiting another half an hour did not seem a viable option. I pulled into a spot with no cars on either side, cracked the windows since Katie was still asleep and went into the restroom. As I was coming out she was walking in. She didn’t say much other than she woke up and thought she should probably go, too.

I got out to the car and there was a green truck parked next to me. This green truck looked suspiciously (and exactly) like Taylor’s green truck.

Truck

My reflection in the tailgate is an optical illusion. I’m actually rather tall and thin. (in my head)

Sure enough. He had pulled in after us and parked right next to Raven – the sporty little black car on the left. The funniest thing about all of this is that he had no idea it was my car he parked next to, no idea that we were even there until Katie came out of the bathroom and walked up to him while he was looking at his phone, waiting for Shelby, and said, “Hey, Bro.”

So we had a little mini-reunion at some random rest area in Virginia. This was a very fortuitous meeting for Taylor as I bought his gas and dinner for he and Shelby at our usual stop in Carlisle Pennsylvania right before getting on the turnpike for the last leg of the trip.

Todd and Sookie were extremely excited to see so many of their people getting home at the same time. But the fun wasn’t over quite yet. I went to bed rather early – I think before 9 – and Todd had to drive to the airport around 11 or so to pick up his parents who were coming in from California for Katie’s graduation.

Which is why we had all that bedding to wash. (See? I told you I would explain it.)

Alright. Let’s see. We’re now on Thursday. Yeah.  So Thursday was supposed to be graduation, except the weather was unpredictable (much like it’s been for a while) and the graduation class is very large so moving it inside is a logistical nightmare and reduces the number of people who can attend. They finally postponed it until Friday. So it went like this:

Thursday:

I ran to the drugstore early in the morning for milk and cereal because there was no food in the cupboard. Seriously – nothing good to eat. And I knew grocery shopping was going to be an all day event but I couldn’t let all those people in my house starve whilst waiting for me to get back with the goods. A storm was rolling in and I wanted some sort of sustenance for my guests before the epic weather hit.

I forgot to mention that at this point I hadn’t had a shower since, um, Monday. No, Tuesday. I did take a shower at the hotel Tuesday morning.  I guess it wasn’t so horrible. I hadn’t started really smelling yet so we were good.

I made it home from this quick run right before a good storm rolled through. I then took a shower. A gloriously hot, steamy, long shower. I love guests and all, but at that point I didn’t care if I used up all the hot water. I figured I had risked the tumultuous elements so they wouldn’t starve, I had done my unselfish deed for the day. Besides, there was a lot of shaving that had to get done.

Katie and I then spent the day buying consumables. We started at Costco, brought that stuff home, and then went to the grocery store for all the rest. I know I’ve mentioned before that I hate grocery shopping. That day was no exception and boy was I glad to be done with it!

Friday:

We had sandwiches for dinner – but not lame and wimpy sandwiches. I had the good bread, the good lunch meat, all the toppings and condiments along with chips, dips, salads and all that good stuff.

Then we went to the football stadium for the graduation ceremony. It turned out to be a perfect evening for an outdoor event.

Graduation_2636

600+ kids takes a long time to get through, however, and those bleachers are not exactly barcaloungers, if you know what I’m sayin. Still, as far as high school graduations go, it was pretty decent.

After the graduation we went back to the house for desserts and our friends, Kris and Shelby (not to be confused with Taylor’s Shelby) came over and joined us. It was nice.

Saturday:

Todd’s parents took us all to dinner to celebrate the following:

Taylor’s 21st birthday (April)

Shelby’s graduation (May)

Mother’s Day (May)

Katie’s graduation (June)

Father’s Day (June)

Our Anniversary (June)

And I think that’s it. We went to a place called Parc Bistro and ordered rather exotic foods like lamb chops with merguez stuffing and mustard barbecue sauce; sauteed king salmon with whipped okinawa sweet potatoes, warm asparagus and stone fruit chutney; venison loin wrapped in applewood smoked bacon, served with cous cous, balsamic glazed brussels sprouts and port wine pear sauce. I would have taken pictures (because that’s what I do) but since it was a rather upscale place I resisted. Not only that, but I had already eaten half of my dish before I even thought about memorializing the meal in a photo.

Sunday was a sad, sad day because Taylor and Shelby left. But it had been a really great visit with them.

Though nice, the following week was much less exciting. Susan and Philip were still here, but Todd and I both had to work and Katie had several things she had to do as well. Philip went on a walkabout with Sookie every day. I’m talking miles and miles. They would be gone for an hour at the least, sometimes up to two. Someday I might do that, too. But I would want to take my camera with me and it would take me infinitely longer to walk the same distance because I’d be stopping to take pictures along the way. So maybe I won’t.

We didn’t get to do any real touristy stuff and I felt bad about that, but it was a nice and relaxed visit. Saturday morning Todd took them to the airport. On Sunday he went back to the airport to fly to Akron and Katie hopped on a bus with a ton of other teenagers for their annual teen conference – this year in Michigan.

I know you’re all intelligent people and I don’t have to spell it out for you, but I’m going to anyway. I was alone. A-L-O-N-E. From Sunday afternoon until Friday morning. I watched what I wanted or I watched nothing at all. I ate what I wanted. It was a delightful week.

Sidenote – When I took Sookie for a walk on Monday we went around the block. The big block – almost a half a mile. When we got back to the house she gave me this look like, “Are you kidding me? That’s it?” Yep. That’s it, dog.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my people a lot.  I love them a lot of a lot. And I missed them, too. But I relished the temporary aloneness. It was just nice. I was more than ready for Todd to come home, though. Probably by Wednesday. And I’m definitely ready for Katie to get home tonight as well.

Which leads me to revisit a comment I made earlier about her going to college in the fall. Right now she’s been gone for a week and I miss her and the realization that I will be going weeks, if not months sometimes, without seeing her makes me sad. Ask me again next Saturday after she’s been home for a week. I might have a completely different outlook. Typically it changes from day to day, sometimes hour to hour, or even minute to minute.

But all that is a post for another day and I have wasted enough of your time waxing poetically about the beauty of my June. That is assuming, of course, that you actually made it to here. And if you did, thanks for hanging around. I appreciate it.