I’m Still Here, and Ready for My Re-Do

I’ve been gone so long from WordPress that I forgot my password. It’s actually just a hair off of my normal everyday password.  My brain just couldn’t get there. Thankfully, I try to keep important things like passwords in logical locations, and in the event I ever find them, I consider myself lucky as hell. As you can see, I’m lucky as hell.

I don’t know where to begin. We moved last Spring, and let me tell you, moving was a terrible and thrilling experience. Leaving the home we’ve known for 13 years, I thought it would kill me. Moving to a new neighborhood so far away, ahem, about 3 miles away, but damn far enough that we had to change our phone number, was scary. We had a fun, easy peasy phone number once upon a time, and now even after 5 months I can barely remember the new one. That was the rotten surprise of moving, along with the work. I’ve never been so tired in my life as I was the day the truck came!

I had so many memories in the old house, which was a drag on my conscience, but you know what? I brought the memories with me, so it’s ok. The new house feels like home, too, and the memories from the past didn’t vanish. That’s the thrilling part, along with the newness of living in a different place. I can still remember my children’s little carefree selves, picture them in the old house the way it was when we lived there.

Except now the new owners of my old dark red brick house have tried to tarnish my memories by painting all of the trim white. You know when you move 3 miles away, you occasionally have to drive by the old place and check it out, and when I say white, I do mean whiiiiiiiiiiiite. As white a white as you can imagine. A lack of color kind of white. They painted my old house a shiny bright lack of color. Not sure why I care, but I kinda do. I don’t want to know what colors are inside now either, nope, I don’t care, yet I kinda do…

Also during this time, my good friend, Carrie, decided to pick up her stakes and head for her dream state. Her dream state is South Carolina, or is it North Carolina? At any rate, it should not be confused with my dream state, which is, well, an ordinary dream state. More like a stupor, really. Yep, One o’ the Carolinas is the place she thought to be, so she packed up the truck and she moved her famileeeee… beach, that is…  fair temps… golden sand.  It’s not the same here without her. Your friends miss you dearly, Carrie, but we know how happy you are frolicking barefoot in the sand, and trying to make nice with the hurricanes.

Me, I feel like I’m just trying to keep in step with all the change. Kids grow up, dogs grow old, and we do, too, and it happens so damn fast. Wish it would just slow down and let me enjoy it at a leisurely pace, let me have some of that time back, a re-do, if you will. I feel like the hare, but I think I want to be the tortoise. Does the tortoise see more because he’s slow, or does he miss more for the same reason, can’t get there in time… and the hare, does the hare miss more because he’s always looking ahead, or does he see more because he gets there first? Interesting question, sort of. I think I want to be a turtle.

So Long República Dominicana, Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow (Part Seis)

We had one more full day in the D.R. before reality set in. Didn’t do much on this day except exactly what we wanted. What a drag, to do whatever you want. I guess that could get old. Think it might take a while, though.

I’ll leave you with a few random pictures.

Johnny actually had to work a few hours the last day we were there. The rest of us slept late and well, as I said before, did what we wanted, meaning not much. Here’s Johnny’s office for the day, under a little cabana in a quiet section of the resort. We strolled by to visit the poor working guy. Not a bad little office. I think I could work here.

Chess anyone?

Somehow I managed to walk around poolside for a number of days before I spotted this huge chess board. Nothing slow about me, no sirreee.

Sara and I were strolling the beach and whaddaya know, we ran into some celebrities! In full finery, balloons and all! Ladies and Gentlemen, below is a fuzzy picture of Sara and The Spice Girls…

Such a nice group of girls, and so shy, too!

I haven’t mentioned yet all the entertainment in the evenings. After dinner, we went to see the shows, rain or moon shine (not moonshine, remember this is the land of Mama Juana). Every show was entertaining. We saw The Spice Girls, a Jazz show, and a couple of others. The best one was a Michael Jackson revue. It was raining that night, and we were late and had to stand in the very back of the audience, our butts barely out of the rain. The guy was fantastic, but I did not get a picture of him, unfortunately.

Here we are having fun at one of the evening shows.

Sara and Alex loved the D.R. because it was “legal” for them to drink alcohol. Sara was just shy of 21 on this trip, and Alex is 18. So, poor sober Daniel had to put up with all of us all week. Actually, we behaved ourselves for the most part, and in reality, we pooped out most nights and shut down kind of early. Long days on the beach and running from the storms combined with a couple of afternoon toddies every day just made us want to check in early.

Check it out – Alex is stylin’!

Love Sara’s necklace – and such color coordination!

Here are the old farts…

We all had our new bling on except Johnny. He didn’t want bling, but we’re glad he comes along to buy us bling! Daniel decided to heck with us that night and went back to the room for peace and quiet, and a couple of apple pie à la modes from room service. We actually let the kids order room service on a few nights. We have NEVER done that, but figured WHY THE HECK NOT?

Here are a few pictures of the resort…

Inside one of our rooms… the one with the bed still made.

In the lobby area. The huge lobby area.

Thought this was a neat shot…

I loved this carving. Think he needs some coffee,though.

The World Cup score board…

Unfortunately, vacations have to come to an end. Such a beautiful place, and in spite of the rain, what a lovely vacation we had. All five of us together is a rare treat these days in any location, but so fabulous to spend seven days together in paradise!

Here we are at the airport again.

Passing underneath a Big Ass Fan. That is its name, if you can see in the picture above. Although it looks like you can’t read it without enlarging it, Dumb Ass Camera. There were an abundance of Big Ass Fans in the Punta Cana Airport, and I’m convinced there’s not a more deserving place in the universe for them to be.

A little serenade before boarding the plane. I don’t know what they were singing, but they sure seemed happy to see us go…

Bye-bye, República Dominicana! I hope to come back some day!

That’s It. That’s All She Wrote. That’s The End of This Story. Finally.

And the Rains Came Down (R&R Part Four)

Oh, the rains came down and the floods came up.  They really did.  All day long the day after our trip to Saona Island, Tropical Storm Alex let loose on the Dominican Republic.  If you’ve ever wondered what rain looks like coming off of a thatched roof, well, here you go. 

  

I loved the thatched roofs.  What’s even better, they don’t leak!  We sat under them all day and watched the weather.  A couple of us even enjoyed the weather!  If you’ll notice in the background, the workers are sweeping the rain water into drains to keep it from coming into the dining area.  By the way, Daniel was NOT looking at the camera, but rather at something incredibly interesting over there

and again, Daniel was NOT looking at the camera, but this time at something fascinating up there… and Alex was NOT enjoying the rain, and was likely bummed at the prospect of little or no beach time in his immediate future.

Daniel is wearing his official USA World Cup jersey.  If I didn’t mention it before, our vacation began shortly after the World Cup started this year.  We saw World Cup jerseys from many countries, and we heard plenty of World Cup banter in various languages.  Interesting week to be in the D.R.!  

Here’s a little crab who was unfortunate enough to cross our path that morning.  He was kinda pissed at us, a bit crabby, in fact, but we didn’t have so much to do so we had to play with him.

Poor Sara was a little under the weather on this rainy day… get it, she was under the weather?  Weren’t we all?  She more so than the rest of us, though.  In fact, she stayed in the room most of the day.  We checked on her from time to time when the monsoon eased, and brought her medicine.  She finally emerged in the late afternoon, still feeling a little iffy.

Meanwhile, the rest of us had already drank our weight in alcohol for the day (well, not Daniel).  He’s only 14.  I’m not that bad of a mother.  My personal favorite was called a Banana Mama.  Not to be confused with the Mama Juana, which I’ll talk about next time.  The Banana Mama is practically fruit in a glass, with rum, of course.  See below for a possible recipe I snatched from this website:  http://www.gasblender.com/recipes.htm#BananaMama

Banana Mama

1-1/2oz. light rum
1/2oz. dark rum
1 oz. banana liqueur
1 oz. cream of coconut
1 oz. fresh or frozen strawberries
2 oz. pineapple juice

1.  In blender, combine light rum, dark rum, banana liqueur, cream of coconut, strawberries and pineapple juice with 3 oz. crushed ice.

2.  Blend until smooth

3.  Pour into goblet, and well, you know what to do next.

That’s one of the many recipes I found, but it sounds about right.  A wedge of pineapple on the side was the only visible fruit, maybe a cherry.  Should have taken a picture of one, darn!

So… we had a decent buzz going.  When it rains, you gotta do something.  Drink and play cards, I say! 

We purchased this card deck from the little store at the resort since our cards were in our room and we were not.  This deck was labeled Naipes playing cards.  Numbered 1 through 12, the cards had some funny pictures, and no face cards.  I just thought it was a Spanish deck, but I now see several descriptions of Naipes playing cards on the net (including tarot cards) so who knows what we were playing with.  I’m not sure if I’m going to hell for playing poker, playing with tarot cards, or drinking excessively.  I’m pretty sure neither of those things are acceptable tenets of Methodist doctrine…

In between games and watching the rain, we took pictures and walked around when it wasn’t pouring.  Here are a couple of more pictures of a flamingo.

and a turtle…

Here’s a picture of Sara, feeling much better!  Or could be she was under some kind of spell after that card game…

Until next time…  Stay tuned for our snorkeling excursion!

Mammajuana Go to Saona Island (R&R Part Three)

Life keeps getting in the way of my blog, yet I will eventually finish this tale, if you will just hang in there with me. 

Our first “excursion” on this vacation was a trip to Saona Island.  It took a few hours to get there from our resort.  More than an hour by land, and then the rest by sea, as you would expect because it is, well, an island. 

 

Our bus picked us up a little bleary and unfed (the dining rooms weren’t open yet) early, early in the morning and, lucky us, we were the first stop.  Meaning we spent probably 45 minutes just picking up other people at other resorts.  Nap time for Alex…

Once everyone was aboard, our driver took us through the beautiful Dominican Republic countryside and educated us a bit on the history and the lives of the people in this country. 

The native people are descendants of Spaniards and Africans.  The Africans were brought to the D.R. as slaves in the early 1500’s, as the world seemed wont to do during that period.  Most people today are poor and live in villages.  Their houses are what we in  the U.S. might refer to as shacks.  The nicer houses are made of concrete, and painted in various colors. 

Farming is the main industry in the D.R., the chief crops are sugar cane and tobacco, but also fruits such as papayas, mangos and bananas.  Cattle farming is another big industry here.  While in the U.S. meat processing takes place beyond consumers’ eyes, not so here.  They skin the bodies right on the street, which we witnessed outside some of the shops that we passed by.

Not many cars in the D.R.  Most people travel by scooter, if they have a vehicle at all.  They carry multiple people on these little scooters and transport EVERYTHING.  Our driver told us that he once saw someone toting a washing machine on the back of a scooter, and we did see several people carrying propane tanks on their scooters.  I tried to get a picture, but moving targets, you know.

We drove through the main city in the region, Higüey, past the shops and daily commerce.  As you can tell by the clouds and the wet roads, it was raining off and on.

Here is a park in Higüey.  Note the murals of the Disney characters!

…and the most famous and significant landmark, La Basilica de Higüey, the religious destination of locals and foreignors alike.  Except for us.  We were on our way to an island, but the driver slowed down so we could snap pictures.  Apparently, the interior is also a marvel to behold.

During our ride, we were cruising down the road and heard a loud snap, of sorts.  Not such a good noise.  We stopped, and the driver got out and examined the bus, then came back to tell us we had ourselves a situation.  While it was not a mechanical emergency, we had a choice to make.  We could limp to a little store and wait for a new bus, or we could suffer to our destination and a new bus would be there at the end of our trip.  We chose to suffer, and suffer we did.  No air conditioning.  As I mentioned earlier, the humidity in the D.R. is incredible.  We put on our big girl panties and endured.  We were not so sweet smelling when we finally arrived at our drop off point, but we finally arrived, sweat and all.  I don’t remember what this place was called, but it looked a little like a bombed-out war zone.

 

This was a resort under construction, but the developer was stopped for non-payment of taxes.  Not an uncommon sight in the region.

We walked down the path you see in the picture above to the pier to catch our speedy ride to the island.

Back to the deep blue sea.  You can see our ride at the end of the pier in the picture above, but here’s what we looked like while we were riding…

This was actually another boat on the same excursion, but as you can’t get a picture quite like this of yourself riding in a speed boat, we’ll just have to assume that we looked way cooler than they did.

See what I mean?

A little scenery as we’re passing by.  Look at this blue-green water!

 

We stopped in the middle of the boat ride to cool off, and search for starfish and such on a little sand bar.

Notice (several pictures above) the bow of the boat.  At high speeds like this, the bow is so high you wonder how the captain can even see to drive.  Well, turns out he can’t.  We were speeding along, and suddenly our captain swerved mightily, we heard a sickening metal kabam, and felt a jolt.  We stopped, and here’s why…

We seriously hit this boat.  Apparently unattended, maybe a runaway from a not so far away dock, I still hope.  We circled the boat a few times, didn’t see any sign of life… gulp… and forged ahead.  No damage, or not much to our boat.  Yep, we just left this little boat in the middle of the ocean for someone else to find.  I’m hoping they at least radioed to someone, anyone, to come fetch this little runaway, but it was out of our hands.

Close call, but here we are, finally, on the island. Yes, I am taking a long time to get to the point, aren’t I? But, you know what they say, it’s all about the journey…

The beautiful Island of Saona.  We had a lunch of questionable worth here (not complaining, but hey, it just wasn’t so good), but considering all the excitement so far, and the fact that we had not eaten yet, we had no problem chowing down.  The beach here was not any more beautiful than the beach at our resort, and there were more shells and so it was tough on your feet entering the water.  Still a beautiful place, though. 

Johnny and I took a walk, and it started to pour.  It started to pour every time we took a walk on the beach during our trip .  Yeah, thank you Alex!  Tropical Storm and soon to be Hurricane Alex!

The rain didn’t persist the whole time, so we still had fun.

 

We were told, rather warned, ahead of time of the commerce on the beach.  We were approached right in our lounge chairs by people selling hats, jewelry, cigars. 

Cigars, anyone?

 

Palm frond hats?

Time to leave.  The trip back was on a sailboat instead of a speedboat.  Slower paced, probably safer, unless the weather picked up again…

 

Great picture of Dan the Man…

The day was now etched into our memories, and onto the bottle of mamajuana herbs below.     

Mamajuana, sweet nectar of the Dominican Republic!  It’ll put hair on your chest!  Hmmm, think I’ll have some.

More to come…

Let the Commencement Commence!

Milestone at my house last weekend.  Alex graduated from high school on June 12th.  Very likely the last school district on the planet to hold commencement exercises, but that’s ok.  It let me hold on to thoughts of my baby just a couple of weeks longer.  Oh, okay.  I’ll hold on to them forever, but those twelve years went by in a flash. 

Graduation is held at the University of North Texas Mean Green (only they’re just not that mean) stadium because it’s the only place around here that can accommodate the gigantic schools in the district.  The FMHS Class of 2010 had about 635 735 kids (update, Alex corrected me on this).  Add all their brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and some friends, and that’s a house full.  Here the graduates are lining up.  Alex is the guy in the dark gray shirt, black tie. 

We were late getting there, so we made him walk from the service road to the stadium.  All students had to leave their contraband behind.  Alex was looking for us when we finally got there because he couldn’t take in anything except one car key.  Nothing else.  Except underpants.  No extras, though, but I can see where an extra pair of underpants might come in handy on graduation day or any other ceremony where you have to walk in a long dress without tripping in front of thousands of people!  He had taken his wallet also, and so it was a good thing we happened by when we did, ’cause he didn’t have his phone to call us either (phones were definitely on the no-no list).  

We were glad Alex had highlights so we could find him in the dark blue sea of 635 735 graduating seniors.  

Finally, the “N’s”!

…looking happy and a little bit proud of himself!

Receiving his diploma… 

 and hugging a favorite counselor on the way back to his chair…

 

Alex after the ceremony with Sara and Daniel

with Anna Pam and Uncle Don

with Nanny and Grandaddy

and with us.

…and then the five of us.  The Neal grandparents and Aunt Kelly were also in attendance, but unfortunately we only got pictures of them before the ceremony, on their camera.  They were out in the parking lot bravely fighting traffic as we took these pictures.  I’ll have to post an update at a later date.

Getting back to the basics, playing with bubbles back at home (bubbles, the perfect graduation gift!).  Actually, we did get Alex something else to mark this momentous occasion, but bubbles seemed a nice little extra. 

The next day we held a brunch to honor Alex and his friends and bandmates, Tyler & Jacob.  I took a few pictures just before the party, and didn’t take any more after it actually started (again, unfortunately!), but here’s the cake before it got mutilated.  We talked about carving Nick’s head out since he hasn’t graduated yet, but that seemed a bit harsh.  However, Daniel managed to carve Alex’s head out of the middle of the cake and showed everyone whose head he was about to devour.  Then the other guys mutilated each other’s faces on the cake, so you see, just because a kid turns 18 and graduates, doesn’t mean he’s grown up.  No, not so much. 

A collage poster that Alex and I put together the night before…

Some band memorabilia and the band – Tyler, Alex & Nick (unfortunately, Jacob is missing from this picture).

So, happy graduation guys!  The future is bright!  As of this writing, Alex has already been to his college orientation and registered for his fall classes.  Being the last to graduate also makes for a short summer!  Before you know it, he’ll be moving into the dorm.  Nope, don’t want to think about that just yet…

Update… after reading my friend Char’s blog about her son graduating also, I realized I didn’t even say how  uber proud we are of Alex.  Sorry, Alex!  I know you told me never to use the word “uber” again, so I’ll rephrase… we are ultra proud to be your parents, as proud as we can be, and are absolutely bursting at the seams with pride and love for you!  I’ll stop there because I’m out of kleenex.

There, that’s better!

Daddy-O’s Birthday

“It took a long time to get here,” he said, and I guess it did. My family celebrated my dad’s birthday last weekend, his 90th. And just for the record, I’ve never seen 90 look so good on anyone. If you want an example of what clean living, well relatively clean living, can do for you … here it is:

Sparkling eyes, wit, good looks, and charm, he’s got it all.

Daddy decided we could best celebrate at one of his favorite restaurants, Red Lobster. That motion was seconded by Daniel, since birthdays are good enough reasons to eat lobster in his book. Well, any reason is good enough for Daniel, but Grandaddy’s birthday seemed like an extra special reason.

My sister, Pam, and my brother-in-law, Don, met us at the restaurant where the festivities began. Here we are preparing to snip and snap and crack into lobster tails and crab legs. Good choice, Daddy-O!

We had another secret party prepared after our Red Lobster party, but our waiter asked me if we at least wanted the staff to sing the Happy Birthday song to Daddy, and so they sang it to him, landlubber style. Yo ho ho and a bottle of, uhm (and you thought I’d say rum!) … Happy Birthday to you …

Then we all crawled into our cars to go to my sister’s house. Crawled because we were too full to walk. Oh, not really! We just considered crawling. First we drove to my sister’s new home, still under construction. We were hoping to burn up excess energy and calories during this stop, so that we could comfortably proceed with the second half of the celebration. We didn’t burn so many calories, but the new home is going to be lovely!

Next stop, Pam’s & Don’s current house to party down some more. Pam made a most excellent German Chocolate Birthday Cake, complete with candles announcing the occasion. Good thing I read the message before they were lit, because those candles burned fast!

Here’s Daddy singing himself a little ditty for his birthday … hurry Daddy, the candles are disappearing! We all sang with him, of course.

Oh well, I always loved a little wax with my German Chocolate cake! By that time we could manage to eat cake & ice cream without bursting. Just had to go home and put on the expando-pants afterwards.

Below, the sweetest picture of all …

Daddy opening the card that Momma gave him.

Happy Birthday, Daddy. We love you! You are one cool Daddy-O!

23

Well, here we are … still.  Twenty-three years later.  I’m spelling out twenty-three here not because it’s proper, nor because I can (I can spell incredibly well, you know), but because spelling it out seems to help describe tweeennnnnnnnnty-threeeeeeeeeee years so much better than 23 does.  Two decades and three years.  Two hundred seventy-six months.  Eight thousand three hundred ninety-five days.  While I can spell incredibly well, I’m not much of a mathematician, so that’s as far as I will define it except to say it’s almost a quarter of a century.  That probably says it best.  At any rate, it’s a long-ass time.

It’s as comfortable as a well-worn glove, or a pair of pre-washed jeans and a t-shirt that have been laundered over and over so many times they feel like a second skin.  No, I take that back.  It’s more like sweat pants or pajamas, and no underwire bra or wedgie panties.  Johnny just hates wearing underwire bras and wedgie panties anyway.  It’s like slippers, or better yet, fuzzy socks.  It’s like being naked.  It’s THAT comfortable. 

I might point out that there are a few drawbacks to knowing someone else so well, but for the most part, it’s all good.  No more fretting about what the other person thinks … hell, we know what each other thinks before we even think it ourselves.  As I said, sometimes it’s a drawback as when, “Ooooohhh, he’s reeeeally  going to be pissed about this!” when some catastrophe awaits him at home.  At other times, we can look at each other and raise our eyebrows in subtle understanding (in my case, one eyebrow at a time which just drives him c-r-a-z-y ’cause he doesn’t have that particular talent). Or the occasional nod or slight smirk to indicate that, yep, we both agree that whatever excuse we just heard from one of our kids is, frankly, BS.

It doesn’t seem like twenty-three years has gone by, and then again, sometimes it does.  Especially when I look back at pictures of the two of us before we got married.  We looked something like this:

While we were still dating …

 On our wedding day … 

… and  now.

Perhaps the time passed is most apparent when looking at pictures of our kids when they were their little bitty selves: 

I have numerous variations of this picture, each one different and some better of one kid than another, but all glorious in portraying their personalities at this age.  After all, just getting them to look in the same direction was an accomplishment!

… and now.

 I’ve been thinking about what twenty-three years means.  I think it means we’re good now.  Through thick and thin, we’re going to make it.  If I could stop time and still manage to grow old with all of these people, I most certainly would.  Staying young just doesn’t give you the full story.

Happy Anniversary to my Sweetie!  I love our life, and onward we go.  The next few years will bring so much change, but we’ll be there for each other, as always.

For those of you who thought this was a prequel to 24 (love that violent and unbelievable show), boy did I have  you fooled!