Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Past Visits Christmas Present

Well, as usual, the holidays have sped up and before we know it, we'll be taking down our decorations and looking back at this Christmas instead of anticipating its arrival.   A few days ago we were driving around our neighborhood looking at Christmas lights and noticed a remarkable absence of trees in windows and houses festooned with multiple strings of blinking (or non-blinking if that is your preference) lights.    I am not sure if that is a reflection of a more somber mood about the season or just a change in what the decorating fad is for this year.    All I know is that in the not too distant past you could drive down any street (in neighborhoods rich and poor) and you could count on seeing a tree in the window, proudly lit up and showing off its finery to all who passed by.  I could scarcely believe my eyes as we passed house after house that was dark and no evidence of  Christmas or any other holiday for that matter.    There were a few but even those were restrained and Clark Griswold (you Christmas Vacation fans know who you are!) would win a neighborhood decorating contest, hands down.   And it was only four days until Christmas.  

So that had me thinking about the good old days when we would beg and plead with mama and daddy to hurry and put our tree up.  This always took place after we got out of school for the holidays.   That meant that no amount of begging, pleading or nagging would entice my parents to put up a tree before December 18th.   Daddy frequently reminded us that in "his day" Santa brought the tree.   In the 1950s, not too many people put lights outside but most of us had a wreath or candy cane (fake) on the front door.    One year mama made (with Daddy's help I am sure) a cut out of Santa and a chimney made of plywood that she hand painted and then placed in our flower bed by the front door.    Most of the decorations in our home were pretty simple and often handmade.    We made paper chains of red and green construction paper at school and brought those home to drape on the tree.  We had a collection of glass ornaments for our tree that were quite delicate and some got chipped or broken nearly every year.  The lights that we used back then were most frustrating and sure to make a father pull his hair out in rage when one single bulb burning out could make the whole darn string go dark.    Finding the offending bulb was a tedious and unpleasant chore.    We had some friends who had the "bubble lights" that were long, skinny tubes that had colored liquid in them that made sparkling bubbles.   I always coveted those lights but, alas, we never had that kind.


Memories of those days are pretty dim and distant but sometimes I see something these days that helps transport me back to those happy days of childhood.    Today I saw some something that stirred a memory long buried.    As I was driving out of my neighborhood, I saw that on a house not too far from ours, someone had gotten hold of a can of spray snow.    That was one of those things that we frequently hounded mother to buy during the holidays and more often than not, she did not buy it.    It was easy to put on and really hard to get off.    The house near us had sprayed every single window pane on the front of the house, top to bottom, with a thick layer of "snow".    It was as if a blizzard had come to Pensacola last night instead of the steady stream of thundershowers that passed through.    I couldn't help but laugh thinking how tempting it was when I was a kid to make it "snow" and put the fake stuff on the windows, write Christmasy sayings like, "Ho Ho Ho" or "Joy to the World" all over our front picture window.   

And then I remembered the decorating stuff I wanted most of all back then.    It was called Glass Wax and you bought it in cans along with a set of holiday stencils and a sponge.    It was really easy to use and even  pleasant to remove since it was designed to go on glass and essentially was a cleaning aid that not only dried to a whitish finish (perfect SNOW!) but left the windows clean and shiny when you polished the stuff off when the holidays were over.    Not so with the fake spray on snow.   You could rub that stuff for days and it stayed stubbornly on whatever it touched!     I think mama probably consented to buy the Glass Wax for us maybe a time or two and I am sure that our joy knew no bounds.     Such a simple time with simple pleasures and entertainment.   


34 designs for 59 cents! 
Whatever triggers those moments that transport you back in time to simpler ways and simpler wants, please be sure to take a few minutes this holiday season to remember them with fondness.    We live in a crazy world with lots of things to frustrate us and cause us much stress and unhappiness.    Just a few minutes down Memory Lane can bring a smile to your face and can ease your troubles for a while.     May all your Christmas wishes come true and your memories take you to special times and places.   OH, and if you have a happy memory of childhood (or even of recent holidays) please leave a comment.    
Ginny, Marcia and Rebecca 1959, Christmas in Jackson, Mississippi
Blessing our Tea Party----while one of us sneaks a peek at the camera!

Happy Trails to you,


Marcia

Friday, December 16, 2011

December at the Beach

Some of you may be having the kind of December we're having along the Gulf coast.    It is warm and definitely not the kind of weather to put one in the mood to sing holiday songs and deck the halls with bows of holly or any other form of greenery.    In fact, yesterday as I was leaving the house, I was struck by how "spring-like" the weather felt.    You know what I'm talking about.    You walk out and are met with warm air, blue skies and the feeling that it's going to be a lovely day.    You half expect to see flowers sprouting everywhere and robins scratching the ground for worms and other goodies.   Except it was mid-December and I was thinking about putting the Christmas wreath on our front door when I got home.

We have years like this pretty often where we are a week away from the jolly fat man coming down the chimney and you'd swear it's time to break out the shorts and tee shirts.   The very thought of wearing a sweater or other winter apparel makes you start to itch and sweat.    In fact, having really cold weather at Christmas is more often the exception to the rule.  Having weather cold enough for even a fake log in the fireplace is rare.  True winter weather is probably another two or three weeks away, in January.  The one time I remember snow at Christmas was in 1993 and it was big, gloppy flakes that melted upon contact with anything they touched but they sure put us all in the mood to sing, "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas".     Never mind that it never accumulated, not even enough for a decent snowball.   We did get very cold weather that Christmas, just not a winter wonderland to go with it.   

So with such a lovely day before us, Larry and  I took a drive to Gulf Breeze on a short shopping trip in search of a new recliner for me.    Since we were so close we decided to go on a few more miles to Pensacola Beach.    Truthfully, the beach is only about a half hour drive from our house.   We are so accustomed to having this wonder of nature so close by that we often forget about going down there.    We really take it for granted except when a hurricane wipes the beach clean and flattens all the dunes so we don't even recognize the place.     The beach has definitely recovered from the last big blow that re-arranged the landscape down there.   It has even recovered (on the surface anyhow) from the BP oil spill of 2010.    

Beach visitors and shore birds (who live there!)
On the drive along Scenic Highway as we headed toward Gulf Breeze, we couldn't help but notice the flatness of Escambia Bay.   It was slick and smooth and Larry commented that he could have gone out there even in his tiny Porta-bote.      As we entered Pensacola Beach, we saw the sign that warned beach goers about the "moderate" surf.     The Santa Rosa Island Authority gives tourists and locals the heads up on the surf conditions every day with wise instructions on when it is safe to go in the water and when it is mandatory to stay out.  (Here's a hint for any of you who come here:    Rip tide days---high surf days--- are good days to stay on the beach and out of the water.)    

After seeing the calm waters in the bay, we were surprised to find a fairly vigorous surf when we got to the beach.     In fact, the noise from the waves crashing into one another made quite a smack and near booming sound while we stood at the water's edge admiring the water, the shore birds and the stunningly beautiful day we were privileged to be enjoying.     We watched one wave after another come rolling onto the beach and then retreat back only to be thrown back on the beach over and over again.   

Larry soaking up the sun.
Shells for the taking.
             
The beach was populated with a few locals and some tourists visiting here for the holidays.     Larry and I remarked what a great time it is to come to the beach since you could have your pick of choice spots to set up a chair or do a bit of surf fishing. And some folks were doing just that with some very long fishing poles, jammed tightly into the sand.   There were no drunken visitors making a nuisance of themselves.   No dogs running amok in the dunes.  The weather was so nice we did not even need a jacket or long sleeves.    In fact, if we had stayed much longer, we would have needed a wide brimmed hat and some sun screen.    

Marcia by the shore.

So I snapped some pictures, breathed in the salt air and just took in the free show that the Gulf of Mexico provides for us on a regular basis.    It struck me that even when I am back home in the quiet of my family room, when I am sleeping, when I am reading the newspaper, doing the most mundane, ordinary things, the waves and the tide go on.    The waves lap at the shore, sometimes in a great, crashing crescendo, other times gently kissing the sand.  Tide moves in--tide moves out.  It is eternal and doesn't need me to do what it does.   It just is.  
 

It never stops moving.
There are so many places like that in our world and we need to visit them from time to time to remind ourselves of the vastness of time and space.    We need to put ourselves into that scene to gain some perspective on our tiny part in all of it.     We have the power to protect this for ourselves and for those who will come after us.   If you have one of these great spaces near you, get out and enjoy it.    Take pictures and spend time breathing in the air and soaking up the beauty around you.     When you get the opportunity to do something to preserve that special place or donate money to those who are trying to save our mountains, meadows, forests, beaches, rivers and wetlands, think of what your world would be without them.   Then give what you can and do what you can to protect and save them.   And if you are so inclined, please comment and tell about your favorite spot to go when you need to renew your spirit and remind yourself of all the wonders and beauty of our world. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tackling a Black Hole

Perhaps you have one in your home.    I think there must be at least one in every dwelling.   You will know what I am talking about shortly.    I refer to ours as a Black Hole.   In most homes these days we have places where we euphemistically "store" things.     Sometimes these places are closets.   Other times they are the so-called junk drawer.     On larger scale they are our garages and out buildings.    For today's blog entry I am referring to that dark, dense place known as our pantry.     

When we moved in this house in 1994 our galley type kitchen had a pantry----basically a closet with shelves and a door to hide it all.     I was happy, at first, because it was a pantry separate from the other cabinets.     It seemed like an enormous amount of space to put cans of baby corn, sacks of dried beans, cereal and syrup.    We had lived in an apartment and had not lived in our Mobile, AL house for several years.      So having what was clearly planned as a storage space for all those staples we use to stock our kitchen seemed like the bee's knees.  (That is a good thing for all you readers who are many years younger than me.)   

For a while this pantry worked nicely and functioned as intended.     But you know it had to happen.   One day I realized that things had migrated to the back, never to be seen again.     Cans of chili beans, lone jars of mango-chili pepper jelly (given to us as a gift), half a box of raisins (long since petrified into a muy shriveled version of itself), nearly a whole bag of dark brown sugar (easily a substitute for a brick) and assorted remnants of half eaten boxes of cereal (clearly past their prime so that even the birds would not eat it if I tossed it out in the back yard).   Our pantry needed help and fast!  Food was being wasted and ruined.   In addition I would get aggravated when I would discover (by accident) that I had 6 cans of tomatoes but NO tomato sauce when it was the sauce that I really needed to buy. 
 
Nice pantry, but definitely a Black Hole!

                                                           Pantry pre-modification

So I would pull it all out, re-arrange the contents and vow to do better to use up things, never allowing it to mysteriously migrate to the far reaches of the shelves again.     But it is hopeless when the shelves are too deep for me to reach to the back.    Things get shoved back there, not rotated to the front.     The pantry is also dark inside, another factor that makes it extremely hard to see what is in the pantry, no matter where it is located on the shelf.     It would have taken a lot of discipline and determination to stop the inevitable and I had neither.   
After many complaints and hearing me bemoan the poor design of the pantry, Larry finally heard my pleas.     It also helped that my niece, Rebecca, recently got a makeover to her pantry, a storage place in her kitchen of very similar design to mine.     And what was the solution that turned the black hole (hers and mine) into better storage places for our family larder?     Pull out drawers that sit atop the shelves, thus making things at the back, easily accessible to even a shorty like me.     Yes, there are limitations to this solution, but all in all, we're pretty happy with the way this modification turned out.  

Larry started the process by measuring the shelves and door opening of the pantry.    Then he went to the local building supply company where he found the drawers at a very seasonable price, made out of real wood---Italian Oak!    Then we unloaded the food inside the pantry and discovered before he could do anything else, he would need to paint the walls and shelves.   (He actually asked me if I wanted him to do that!)  Who knew that cans and boxes could leave so many black marks on the walls and shelves?     A quick two coats of an off-white paint to the dingy walls and shelves and he was ready to install the drawers.    
Making measurements and marks for drawer guides

                                     Two coats of paint to cover the black scuff marks.

Next he had to put the runners on the drawers and then make the appropriate marks on the shelves to determine where he needed to screw the runners in place.      Then it was just a matter of installing the drawers in the guide-runners.
 
                                           One drawer installed----three more to go!

Once that was done, it became apparent that the small vinyl covered shelves that hold boxes and bottles of spices on the inside of the door would no longer fit inside the pantry without butting up against the newly installed drawers.     OK, so we didn't think of everything.     That meant moving them up or down slightly so they would fit correctly.    Problem solved at no extra expense.    

The pantry looked nice after I started putting things back inside.     I am still adjusting and figuring out the most logical way to have the food inside, but so far, I am very happy since I can pull out the drawers and actually SEE what is there.      There are spaces along side each drawer where I can put more food and will use those for things like cans of tomatoes that I usually keep in quantity.    I also have put some taller bottles of things like catsup and vinegar that are too tall for the drawers but fit nicely along the sides.

Checking out the contents of the pantry is much easier now.

                                           Drawers pull out so the contents are easily seen.

                                        For right now, things are pretty neat and tidy!

Oh and one other thing.    After Larry put the door back up and the drawers were loaded, shelves filled with the food necessary to keep our kitchen open, I shut the door.    Or at least I tried.   One last little glitch jumped into our faces----the door knob bumped into the drawer directly across from where it entered the pantry.    I was somewhat stumped with what to do about that problem.     Larry took one look, went to his tool box and retrieved a screw driver.  Before long he had the whole problem solved.     Since this is a pantry and no one will ever be on the inside, hoping to get out, he simply removed the inside knob.   Duh, now why didn't I think of that?  The door shuts, doesn't hit the drawer and all is well.     Yay for people like Larry who can see the problem and instantly know what to do to fix it!    And thanks, Larry, for fixing this black hole!

                                         No need for a knob on the inside of the pantry!
So this was one more step in finding the good life. It's amazing how much a little thing like improving storage can raise your mood and make your kitchen a happier place. This entire project took less than two days to complete. It could have been done in a day if we had not had to wait on the paint to dry for a second coat. If you have one of these black holes at your house, I urge you to consider installing some pull out drawers so that the contents can no longer go into hiding, never to be discovered until 3 years after their expiration date!   

                 A happy Marcia inspects the inside of the reformed and transformed pantry.


Happy Trails to you in your search for the good life!

Marcia

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

Slow down, you move too fast, you've got to make the morning last
Just kickin' down the cobble-stones, lookin' for fun and feelin' groovy

Feeling groovy

Hello lamp-post, what's cha knowing, I've come to watch your flowers growin'
Ain't cha got no rhymes for me, do-it-do-do, feelin' groovy

Feeling groovy

I've got no deeds to do, no promises to keep
I'm dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me

Life I love you, all is groovy


Simon and Garfunkel, Feeling Groovy (59th Street Bridge Song)

Last Sunday as I was showering, this little ditty (familiar to a few of you, I am sure) just sort of popped into my head.    It's a well known fact that I do some of my best mulling and thinking when I am in the shower.     I had been thinking about the previous "Black Friday" and the aftermath of that day when thousands, yeah, even millions of Americans descended upon the malls and Big Box Stores across the land in search of the perfect gift, the best bargains and to mix and mingle with the rest of the hordes of shoppers.   I have been among that herd of bargain hunters in the past but of late have given any notion of shopping on Black Friday a quick "shoo and be gone with ye! "  

So whilst contemplating that, it occurred to me that we barely had the chance to finish off the leftovers from Thanksgiving and some of us have a few Halloween decorations still dangling from the ceiling.    I won't name names, but you know who you are!     These past few months have been a rush of days that blended into weeks and morphed into months.  It seems to be a blur of activity and rushing from one holiday or event to the next.     We don't even get the chance to download pictures from the camera to the computer before it's time to clear the memory card for the next event.  

Somehow, I really don't think that is the way it's supposed to be.    And being the cynical soul that I can be sometimes, I began to wonder why this seems to be way we live our lives these days.   Why is it that we can't just for once, slow down, really savor the moment and let time kind of stand still for a little while?    Are we lead around like sheep by the corporations who are more interested in selling us the latest electronic gadget or must have toy of the season than in whether the quality of our lives has been pushed aside for the sake of the almighty dollar?   You have to know something is out of whack in our lives when you walk into the store to buy something for your kids' Halloween party and they have pushed all that stuff into one corner of the store so they could start putting out the Christmas decorations and the piped in "It's a holly, jolly Christmas".     So we nearly skipped over Thanksgiving this year and gave Halloween a quick glance and it was over, too.    

It kind of makes me sad in a way that we've come to this place where no one is allowed to linger in the moment, to dawdle a while in the sheer joy of what is in front of you right that second.    I think of time spent recently with my son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren for our first camping trip in the new camper.    There was not one thing that we did that was spectacular or earth shattering in any way.   Yet, all of us, each and every one of us who was there expressed sadness that our time together was coming to a close.    It was all simple stuff.    Cooking on a grill.   Playing cards until late at night.    Going to the beach to collect shells and see the sun sparkling on the water.    It was all the things that make life worth living.     Time doing everyday things together.    Time laughing and listening to one another.    And a chance to savor those moments, let them linger just a little while before we had to pack up and head for home.   

So as we enter this holiday season, the time of decking our halls,  carolers singing of the reason for the things we do, parties and holiday gatherings and yes, even shopping, do yourself a favor and refuse to rush through it.    Don't be like the bride who was so busy greeting her guests and putting on a good show that she forgot to have fun at her own wedding or even eat any of the wedding cake.    Make a promise to yourself that you're going to slow down and not move quite so fast.    You really do need to make the moment last.    Some day in the future you're going to want to relive these moments and bring back all the great times and even the ordinary times of your life.  When you pull up those memories, make sure you have some good things to remember----not just a blur and whir and it's over.    Like that song says, in a term that has long since gone out of fashion,  Life I love you.....all is groovy.   

Happy Trails,

Marcia

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Painting the World Pink!

In case you haven't noticed, the world got painted pink this month.     This is in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.    Over the past few years, the month of October has gotten pinker and pinker as more people, organizations and businesses signed on to be sponsors of all things "pink".   There are now so many activities and fund raising/awareness events that I really can't keep up any more.     Many of them support the Susan G. Koman Foundation while others donate their earnings to the American Cancer Society.    All that I know about are well intentioned and remind women (and men) to know the symptoms of breast cancer and the importance of early detection, with or without symptoms to send you scurrying to your doctor.   

In recent years the type of activities used to increase awareness have gone from somber, survivor centered events to some that are more "in your face" and on the edge of good taste, as well.     Today we have an event in our town called "Bras Across the Bridge" where participants will link new bras (you gotta know they are mostly PINK) across a three mile bridge that spans the Pensacola Bay.     Heavily promoted on radio, TV and newspapers, it is meant to bring a lighter note to the serious side of breast cancer as well as to collect bras for needy women in the community.   

A few weeks ago I was a guest speaker for an event honoring breast cancer survivors and promoting the local version of Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, a mall to mall walk raising funds for the American Cancer Society programs that assist breast cancer patients with much needed services.   It is a great program and the walk just gets more and more participants each year.    During this year's survivor event, a group of women sponsored a "fashion show" of bras, mostly very heavily decorated  with sequins, feathers and lots of bling.     They came out to loud music, strutting their stuff and it was mostly met with hilarious laughter since some of the models were men who were good sports about wearing the gaudy bras on the outside of their clothing.  I would say almost without exception that the fashion show was deemed a hit and the vast majority of the audience laughed their way through the two dozen or more entrants who danced and pranced their way across the stage.   

However, I must add that one lady came up to me during the fashion show to express her dismay and horror at the trivializing nature of the fashion show and the minimizing (in her eyes) of the seriousness of breast cancer.     You see, she was diagnosed with breast cancer not quite a year ago and is still in the midst of her treatment.    She has had about six different surgical procedures and numerous staph infections.      In an almost apologetic tone, she explained that what she was seeing (while well intentioned) was not funny to her.   Her exact words to me were, "Maybe I am just too close to it, but there is nothing funny about breast cancer."   

As a twenty-one year survivor of breast cancer myself, I had to agree with her.   There is NOTHING funny about it, no matter how you look at it.    Yes, you do have to have a sense of humor when you're going through treatment and being able to laugh again is an important part of healing;   however, when you are in the midst of a battle for your life and have had nothing but one set back after another, see no good news ahead of you and are not yet feeling hopeful about your future, the last think you need is for someone to try to tell you how "funny" this all is.     'Cause it's not.  

So with a note of thanks to the those who want to advocate for awareness of breast cancer (or any other kind for that matter), please keep in mind that many people are still in the midst of their treatment and may have a hard time seeing the humor in their situation.     And many thousands of people will succumb to their illness, in spite of advanced treatment available today.    It does not respect your gender, social status or sheer determination to overcome the odds against you.      It is a biological process gone awry, not a demon or a "boogey-man" out to get you.    And when you are fighting for your life it doesn't quite feel right to see people trivializing this disease, no matter how well intentioned they are. 

The next time you see a bumper sticker that says, "Save the Ta Tas" or a three mile line of bras linked together, just remember that breast cancer is a deadly serious matter to some people and when you try to make light of it or reduce it to silliness, you might give some people a good laugh.    However, you should also remember that there is the possibility you'll hurt feelings or make someone who is having a hard time with their disease feel worse or even guilty that they fail to see what's so funny about it.     No one is suggesting that October needs to be a month of gloom and doom when making people aware of breast cancer but we do need to make sure we balance the light hearted fun with a keen awareness of those who are in the midst of their battle and who need our compassion and understanding to get them through their ordeal.   Some time in the future when THEIR future is less murky and uncertain, they might be ready to join you in the laughter, but for now let's give them dignity and respect for the very real fear and threat they feel.   


Happy Trails,
Marcia

Monday, October 17, 2011

Live, Laugh and Love!

We had the opportunity this weekend to apply this simple prescription to help find the Good Life:  Live, Laugh and Love.   It almost sounds too simplistic to be of real value but there is much truth in its plain, unvarnished approach to finding happiness.   How often do we hold ourselves back from truly engaging in fun and games with our family and friends and then wonder why we don't have strong bonds with them?    This weekend we had a good old fashioned backyard bar-b-que and then played a silly but fun game that had all of us laughing and competing fiercely for bragging rights.

It has been quite some time since Larry and I have had the opportunity to spend an extended amount of time with his sisters.    So recently when his oldest sister indicated she wanted to come from Arkansas for a visit , we quickly hatched up a family get together that included his younger sister, Amy from Opp, AL, Larry's Mom and her husband, Jack, two  cousins from Helena, MS and a niece, Tori,  from Panama City, FL.  Unfortunately Larry's sister, Lisa, could not join us due to a new job but she was invited and was with us in spirit, if not physically!    Our intention was to spend some time with the sisters initially and have the bar-b-que on Saturday that included the other family members who drove over here for the day.   

So we spent the first part of the visit with Linda and her grand daughter, Carlie, just catching up on life and all the things we have missed talking about for the past few years.     It was good to relax with a cup of coffee and just talk about nothing in particular and everything in general to reconnect our lives again.  Then Amy and her daughter, Cayla, joined us on Thursday evening.     We ate supper together and just had a grand time being a family.    It felt good to catch up on all the things everyone has been doing lately and how their jobs were going and to take a trip down Memory Lane talking about the "good ole days".   It was not earth shattering, important news but significant, never-the-less, just to feel the connections and bonds that tie us together.    

When the other family members joined us on Saturday we pulled out the bar-b-que grill, seared some hamburgers and enjoyed the simple fare of a backyard bar-b-que.    Tommie and Rayner (the cousins) brought more cold drinks, chips and a huge four flavored cheese cake to add to the table.    So we all ate plenty of burgers and beans and sat in our backyard enjoying the wonderful October weather we typically have here in Northwest Florida.   The skies were blue, not a cloud in the sky and a gentle breeze held the 80 something degree day in check from being too hot.    It was as if we had ordered the day from the "perfect day" check list.    

Later that night we gathered around a table in the living room and played a highly competitive version of the game, Taboo.   If you've not played this one, you should give it a try.    The object is to get your partner to say a certain word or phrase without using any of the forbidden words on a short list below the word or phrase you're attempting to convey to your partner.  It is much harder than it sounds!    However, it IS a lot of fun and I assure you that, in spite of the competition going on, we all were laughing at least as much as we were plotting to win!   It also activates some brain cells that may have gone unused for a while.    And the endorphins released from all the laughter and good natured ribbing going on had us all in a very good mood!  

At some point during the evening as the night wore on, I got a whiff of something cooking, wondered what it was and almost said something but was involved in the game and didn't say anything.     Pretty soon, Larry came waltzing into the room with a paper plate covered up in Turtle Flavored Chocolate Chip cookies, hot from the oven and filling the whole room with the amazing smell so unique to hot cookies.     It was the first thing that had diverted our attention from the game all evening!    It didn't take us long to empty the platter and call for a refill which Larry happily did, much to our delight.    

Finally, when we literally were propping our eyes open to keep ourselves awake, we decided to declare the evening over and the cousins departed for Mississippi and the rest of us all collapsed in our beds.    We slept soundly until the next morning when I distinctly heard someone say, "Hi, Sam!" and then, amazingly enough, I heard Sam's voice answer back.    Turned out that Linda was Skyping with her son who is in the Air Force and finishing up his assignment to South Korea, hoping to depart for the US in mid-November.     We all took turns talking to him and were happy for the chance to see him and know he is doing well but eager to come home.     It was a great way to end our family together.

Even as the call with Sam was ending,   several of the family members who had spent the night with us were packing up their bags and loading their cars, ready to depart for home.    With hugs and kisses, and declarations that we must do this again, pretty soon our house was quiet as one by one, they pulled out of our driveway.    As I reflected over the time we had spent together for the four days, my eyes fell on a plaque that is hanging over my back door.   It reads:   Live Well, Love Much and Laugh Often.  I could not help but think we had done just that these past few days.   And I couldn't help noticing how good it felt to reconnect with family and realize that it is those connections that help us stay strong and able to make our way through the world.    

The simple fact is that the world is not always kind to us.    Life can be really challenging and difficult at times.    With the love and laughter (and sometimes tears) shared with our family, we can get strength and courage to face almost anything that comes our way.   If you have lost those connections with your family and even some dear friends, I urge you to give the simple philosophy of Live, Love and Laugh a try.    It really can refresh you and make you realize that your Good Life is within your grasp.    But you do have to reach out to get it.    Make the effort.   It's worth it.    

Happy Trails,
Marcia      

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Welcome Fall!

Larry and I have spent the past week at a campground near home working on our camper and just hanging out. We have a camping excursion planned for later this month with Brian, April and the three grandkids in Gulf Shores, Alabama and we are getting our travel trailer ready for our first camping trip with the kids in the new camper. Gulf Shores is a little less than an hour's drive from home and we'll be camping in Gulf State Park. It has recently been rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina sort of re-arranged the pines and picnic tables in 2005. Unfortunately, that area catches a lot of bad weather and since it's near the Gulf of Mexico is a prime target for Mother Nature's wrath.

When we woke up this morning the first thing we noticed was how cool it was. My nose was really, really cold. In a dog, that's a good thing. For humans, not so good. So Larry got up while I pulled the wubie up around my nose and he found the small, ceramic heater we have for cold snaps. They are safe and, in fact, probably safer than turning on the propane heater in the camper. In pretty short order the little heater did what it was supposed to do and got the place heated up nicely. Shortly after that the familiar beep, beep, beep, beep, beep of the coffee pot let us know that our favorite morning brew was ready for us to drink! So life was good!

Having a true Fall/Autumn in the deep south is a "some time" thing. Some times we get it, some times we don't. We who have lived here for most of our lives can remember going trick or treating at Halloween with shorts and tee shirts on under our costumes. We would be lucky if our chocolate candy survived the heat back to the house where we dumped the plastic pumpkin to ooo and ahhh over our treasure. Daddy usually came in to "inspect" our loot and frequently offered to take some of the choicer pieces off of our hands.

Thanksgiving is another holiday that we have been known to celebrate with the windows flung wide open or even cranking the thermostat down to a lower notch so the masses huddled around the groaning table don't perish from the heat. I have spent more than one Christmas trying out a new bicycle or skates in summer clothes, all the while hoping and praying for just one teeny-tiny flake of snow. Never happened. Well, I guess I could concede that one Christmas in 1993 when we had a Family Gathering planned at Pensacola Beach, we did get a tiny smattering of big, fat, wet snow flakes on our trek down to the beach. And it did turn very, very cold on Christmas Eve. The snow was gone before we got to the beach, however, melting the instant it touched the ground.

So having a real cold snap, colorful leaves, the smell of a fireplace puffing an announcement all over the neighborhood that the Gaineys are having the first fire of the season and a hot, steaming cup of cider are cause for real celebration in these parts. When we get to experience REAL fall we send up a loud hosanna! The crisp air, the bluer than blue skies, the faint rustling of leaves are the first inkling we get that the seasons are getting ready to change. They are so rare and yet so welcome. It's enough to make you hug yourself with joy! In fact, I think I saw two squirrels doing a happy dance this morning as they were busily burying acorns in places they are sure to forget later this winter.

I don't know what the weather is like where you are, but as you read this, I hope you're having the signs of fall/autumn all around you. (I realize that for people in the Southern Hemisphere that your seasons are reversed from ours, so just go with me here!) Drink in the beauty that is there and let it refresh your soul. Our calendar year is winding down, but then some of our biggest celebrations are fast approaching. So while the life cycle is ending for many things, the time of joy will be here, too. It really is a bitter-sweet time of year. Take the time to appreciate the regularity of the seasons and all that they offer. I know that this year we're really going to have a fall and I am just so glad to be here to enjoy it! I hope you enjoy it, too.

Happy Trails,

Marcia

Friday, September 30, 2011

He Found the Good Life

He was a good looking  devil.   Tall, dark and handsome.  His dark eyes had a twinkle and looked merry when he was smiling.    He was one of the smartest men I have ever known.   It has been forty-four years since I've seen him.    Gone too soon, he died when he was only 51.     

Charles Benjamin Treadway


I am, of course, talking about my daddy.    He was the guy who could do almost anything he ever set out to do.    He was a self made man and learned nearly everything he knew by reading, reading some more and listening to others who had something interesting to say.    I saw him take a random book from the set of  World Book Encyclopedias to bed as reading material to pass the time until he fell asleep many nights.     His trips to the library meant bringing home whatever the limit was that the library imposed.  He could and often did clean out the shelf about the Civil War if allowed to check out that many books.   

He had numerous hobbies over the years, including photography, bowling, boat building and fishing.  I think his first boat was a small skiff he built in the 1940s which served as a warm up for his bigger project, The Claudia, that he built in our backyard in 1959.    She was a beauty, too.    It was a 20' cabin cruiser and truly was his pride and joy.    And it was a labor of love.   Love for the open water, love for the wind in his hair, love for life on the Gulf of Mexico.  

Sometimes I think about the tragedy of his death at 51 and feel great sadness that he never knew my husband, Larry, and his grandson, Brian.    He never knew the three grandchildren that are the light of my life.    He missed so much and we missed having him be a part of all that has happened since he died in 1967.     However, in thinking of him today, I am reminded of all that was good in his life, especially right before he died.   

Two years before he died, he had made a very courageous decision to leave his position with a large firm and move our family back to Mississippi.     He had moved us TO Texas to continue his work in a bigger office, larger territory and most importantly to save money for his dream.    He and mama together worked like crazy saving money the whole time we were in Texas.    Ginny, my younger sister,  and I knew little about all those plans, we just knew that we were fast becoming Texans and really loving living in a much larger city and all the things that living in a big, bad city means.   

Ginny & Marcia (back row)
Claudia & Charles Treadway
1964


We got a big shock when Daddy and Mama announced to us near the end of school in 1965 that we were moving back to Mississippi, but not to Jackson where we had lived before.   We were going to live on the Gulf Coast in the tiny town called Gautier, near Pascagoula.      Our family owned a small house on Mary Walker Bayou and we were going to live there while Daddy opened his own pest control business.    Mama was going to enroll in the local Junior College and complete courses that would enable her to become a registered nurse.     It was a big step that took a lot of guts to pull off.    Daddy had a very respectable, well paid job and a future that was secure.     Mama had already finished her schooling to become a Licensed Vocational Nurse, so she was gainfully employed, too.     Things were looking very good for all of us.     But something different was calling Daddy and he felt he had to take the chance while he could.   

Ginny and I were stunned to learn about all of this and cried more than once thinking about leaving the big city and moving back to what we thought was "Hicksville".     But move we did.    They loaded up a U-Haul van and put all of our worldly goods inside and trucked it back to Mississippi with two teen age girls sniffling and sobbing most of the way.    

I tell you all of this as a way of introducing the idea of making courageous, although perhaps unpopular decisions when the opportunity comes your way.     Daddy had a goal for himself and for his family.   He wanted a different way of life that included lots of time for fishing and just communing with nature.     He had figured out a way to spend half of his month working and the other half fishing and doing what he called, "going down to see the bacon slicer".      That meant just hanging out with good friends down at Tucei's Fish Camp, chewing the fat and solving the world's problems.    

And he did just that.   He opened his own business and mama went back to school.    Ginny and I enrolled in the local Junior and Senior High Schools and somehow managed to make friends and adjust to our new life.     I think it usually works out that way, but try telling that to two crestfallen teen age girls.     Daddy's business grew quickly and pretty soon he was able to do exactly as he planned it.    He worked for two weeks and then it was his time for two weeks.     He had found his good life.   

The good life for him meant lots of time to take out the boat, to fish or just to take a good book and bob and float on the water, catching the fresh breeze and the sun's golden rays.    He could take a bologna sandwich, a bag of chips and some Jax beer and he was in heaven.    And that is exactly how he spent his last two years of his life.     Working, taking care of his family and then pursuing his heart's desire.     It was a great two years and it makes me happy to know that the last two years of his life were to his liking and were of his design.  

He had no way to know when he fell ill that Saturday in November 1967, while hunting for drift wood with his brother and sister-in-law that it would be his last outing.    He had no way to know his life was coming to an end in eight short days.    And I could make the focus of this story the tragedy that befell him --- but I won't.    I will ever so slightly shift the focus back to the important message this story will convey, I hope.     

When life gives you opportunity to do things that matter to you; when you are given the chance to make profound changes in your life; when you can take a leap of faith to a newer path, sometimes you just need to go for it.    Daddy saw his chances and worked for two years to put the pieces in place to make the move and then was rewarded with two great years to enjoy the things that were most pleasing to him.    

Daddy was the smartest man I ever knew.    He had laughing eyes that crinkled when he laughed and he laughed frequently.    He took chances that I didn't understand at the time, but am beginning to comprehend now that I am all grown up myself.    A saying I often heard him repeat was to never "wish your life away".     Don't pine for the things that you hope happen some day.    Make them happen and find your peace living out your dreams.     The good life was his and all because he found the nerve, the courage to do what some would have called foolish.      I am so glad it was his to find and live.    Thanks for that lesson, Daddy.    Oh, and if you're wondering, I do still miss him and his laughing eyes.   

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Learning to Adapt and Make It Work

Larry and I are spending a few days in our camper doing some updates and modifications to it in anticipation of a camping trip next month with our son, Brian, and his family.   We have not taken the kids out in this camper so we are working on making things as comfortable and cozy as you can make a 32' RV with 4 bunk beds in the back and a bedroom up front.    The kids are going to love it and we're working on things that will make it fun for the grown ups! 

Life in a camper for those of you who have never experienced living in one  is, shall we say, interesting and challenging.     For one thing, it's pretty small and there is not much space to store things.   That will be one of the things we work on during this week--storage.  The small part is pretty much a done deal.  ;-)    A second characteristic of  most campers is that they are not equipped like a brick and stick home.   A primary reason for that can be answered by reviewing the first thing I mentioned.    You just can't have all the gadgets and household items that you have back at your residence.  There simply is not enough space for such luxuries like a full set of pots and pans or all the kitchen paraphernalia most of us have acquired.     The stoves in campers also tend to be on the miniature side and many only have three burners, so cooking a full meal takes planning and patience.   

See?  I wasn't kidding about the kitchen being small!


Tonight when I was preparing our evening meal I faced the usual challenges that are part and parcel of the camper experience.    I had to figure out what items to cook first, on which burner and in the proper order to get it all done at approximately the same time.    I was handling it all nicely and had not hit a snag until I realized that I had a boiler of bow tie pasta going full blast on the stove and it dawned on me that I didn't have a colander.    Without missing a beat, I remembered the pot with tiny holes in the bottom---a steamer pot---that was in the lower cabinet.    It would work perfectly to let the boiling water go down the drain while the pasta was securely held in the little pot.   Problem solved!   

How many times in our lives are we faced with this kind of problem?     Sometimes we are quick on our feet and come to a solution without too much angst.   Other times we struggle to figure it out and waste precious time fretting over the WHY OH WHY of it all.    We get so wedded to the idea that there is one way---and one way only---to get something done that we can't even imagine that there may be another solution.   

There is a story/joke that goes something like this:   A young bride is attempting to cook her first ham.    She gets out the ham, a sharp knife and proceeds to cut off the end of the ham and then puts it in the roasting pan.    She goes to her mother and says, "Mom, why do we cut the end off of the ham before we cook it."    Her mother says, "I don't know, but it's the way we've always done it.   Go ask your grandmother."    Grandmother tells her the same thing.  "It's the way we've always done it. Go ask your great grandmother.   Maybe she knows."    Great grandmother patiently tells the bride, "My child, the reason I started cutting the end off of the ham is because it was too big for the pan I had, so I cut it to make it fit."     

So for years and years all the brides in that family had dutifully cut the end off of the ham without realizing that the only reason it was done the first time was to make it fit the pan.   Nothing else.   So what are you doing in your life because it's the way you've always done it?     And what do you do when you can't do it the way you've always done it?   Do you panic, get angry or upset?     Or do you set about trying to figure out another way?   

Life is pretty good about throwing us some curves.    We all need to get into the habit of adapting to change and challenge in our life because you can be sure that changes and challenges are inevitable.    Once you know that----really know it and accept it---figuring out what to do next will be pretty easy.     You can adapt and you can make it work.   Try it some time and see how good it makes you feel to find the answer for yourself.     

Happy Trails,

Marcia
Just another farm hand---figuring it out as I go!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Stretching Out of Your Comfort Zone

I have a small card that I kept by my desk when I was working that said simply: " Do one thing every day that scares you."   Now I truly do not believe that that is meant to encourage one to go walk the high wire like the Flying Wallendas, unless that is your secret heart's desire.  Nor do I think it is exhorting you to do something stupid, like ride down the highway on a motorcycle, sans helmet and other safety equipment.   Granted both of those things would scare the daylights out of me; however, I think there is something a lot more fundamental in that short, direct statement.    And that is to push yourself out of your comfort zone.   

We all have a place where we are most comfortable whether we're talking about where we live, what we eat or what we do with our time.    Opportunities present themselves from time to time for us to move just a wee bit out of that zone and sometimes we opt in---other times we opt out of that opportunity to do something new and exciting.   Recently on a cruise with our son and his family, we were eating in the ship's dining room.   April (my DIL) had specifically requested that all the children (ages 7 -13) only be given the regular menu and not the children's menu.   Her rationale was that they would have healthier selections and it would give them the experience of eating from a more sophisticated menu. 

So the kids were studying the menu and Ben (age 10) announced that he would like to start his meal with some smoked duck, one of the appetizers.  I took advantage of this offering, too.  When the plates were brought to the table, the presentation was lovely and the food was very appealing.    Ben immediately began eating it and after eating every morsel on the plate proudly announced, "That was the best duck I have ever eaten!"    We all got a good laugh since we figured it most likely was the only duck he had ever eaten. 
  
Smoked Duck Appetizer


The important thing to take away from that little story is that Ben was willing to try something new and found out he liked it.   During the same cruise he also found out he didn't like Frog Legs, but his older brother, Gavin, discovered that he enjoyed them.     Larry took an adventure in eating by trying the Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian Indian Cuisine they offered and Brian selected Escargot one night.    Every meal had something to tempt our taste buds.    And yes, some things were enjoyed and others not so much.    It really isn't about whether you like it or not, but more importantly, are you willing to try something new?  

In moving out of your comfort zone, you may be required to try something way out of that zone.   Opportunities sometimes present themselves in the most unexpected ways.     Maybe you will have the chance to lead a group or do some public speaking.    It so happens that public speaking is very high on the list of things that literally scare some people half to death.     Or maybe it's performing that is on your list of things you'd like to do but are holding back because of that old demon, Self Doubt and his twin brother, Fraidy Cat.   You just have to remember that even the Super Stars all had to start somewhere and they probably were not great when they started, but they all had potential to be great.   Now, no one is promising you that you'll be the next mega star known to one and all across the planet but how will you ever know what you have in you until you give it a go?  

And finally, one last word about moving from your comfort zone.    Is there something in your life that you KNOW you should be doing but are procrastinating about doing?    Some of these "really must dos" are secrets, known only to you and perhaps your maker.   It is that little nagging voice in your head that is pushing you to take care of something but you are resisting it and struggling to contain it in a corner of your mind.     Or maybe it is a dream, a wish and hope that you'll do something that matters---leave your mark upon the world, but you are waiting for the right time, the right place, for the mood to strike you.    

Whatever it is that you think you're meant to be doing or longing to do, keep in mind that time is a fleeting thing.     Once it trickles down through that hourglass, it won't be going back the other way.     When opportunity presents itself to do something different, make another choice, try a new path, think about that hour glass and how stealthily and quickly those sands slip on through the glass.   If you're waiting for the perfect time, the best moment, chances are pretty good it is right now.      Stretch yourself and reach for the stars:  they really are waiting for you and want you to succeed.      

Ben cruising to Mexico



Happy Trails,

Marcia 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Rain!! Beautiful Rain!

Who knew that rain could be such a wonderful thing??   Well, I guess the folks in Texas surely know that but for some of the rest of us, rain is pretty much taken for granted.   That is until this summer.     We have had a long summer with practically no rain.   In fact, I think the rain started diminishing in the spring.    What we normally expect is lots of rain and thundershowers in the spring and on into the summer.   Not so this year.    We have had an usually long period without regular rain and we have been in the exceptional drought classification for months.   The yard, garden and flowering plants suffered even though we watered with a hose.    The grass practically crunched under our feet
---that is until it curled up and turned brown.   :-(   

Now I know a thing or two about hot and dry weather.   I lived two summers when I was a teenager in Ft. Worth, Texas.    We moved there early in June and the first morning we stuck our heads out of our hotel room, it was 103 degrees and it was not even noon!   Quite a shock to this Mississippi girl who had never seen such hot and dry weather.  We made it through that hot, arrid weather and two years later moved back to Mississippi.   Since then I have lived  along the Gulf Coast for all of my adult life and  I don't remember having such a long spell without substantial amounts of rain in this part of the world.   

So imagine my surprise and delight to hear the distant roll of thunder and then that most soothing of sounds---rain falling softly outside the window.     It rained vigorously and continuously for 30 or 45 minutes and then switched to that muffled sound known to have soporific qualities that can lull you into the deepest and sweetest sleep known to mankind.   Resistance is futile as the saying goes, so a nap in my recliner near the back door began in earnest shortly after it was obviously going to last a while.  Ah, sweet sleep....it's not just for babies any more!   



After my naperall, I took a quick stroll outside once the rain had subsided and I found heavy drops clinging to the patio chairs and along the table.     Then I noticed it was still hanging precariously on every leaf and twig in the yard.    It had actually rained long enough that it was not immediately absorbed into the ground like a dry sponge.    I know the birdies are going to be really thrilled when they discover that their bird bath is full of nice, cool water with just the right amount of algae to make them happy.     

While I was snooping around looking for evidence that the rain had really happened, I happened to notice a tiny butterfly---black and white.   It even had black and white stripped antennae.  How cool is that for creativity of design?  He was almost invisible but he happened to fly off when I was looking his way and got a glimpse at this tiny little creature.    We have so much life all around us and often overlook it in our haste to go on our way.     I urge you to take a closer look in your yard and see what kinds of things you see living right under your nose.....so to speak. 

One last thing---while I was checking things out I happened to notice that the fence didn't have a lot of Virginia Creeper vines on it.   Larry had cleared many of them off several weeks ago in a yard work frenzy of activity.     Somehow he had missed a whole bunch of tiny  berries of some kind that are on the vine.    They were there today, wet and somewhat dried looking---like miniature prunes.   On closer inspection I found that they are beginning to wither on the vine and are a leathery blue color. That made me realize that September is nearly gone.  Where did it go??   So those little berries are telling us that autumn will soon be upon us.    Another season completed and a new one about to unfold before us.

Promise yourself starting today that you'll notice and acknowledge the good things in your life.    You are probably far more fortunate than you know and a simple thing like having some rain can be the best thing that happens all day.    Remember, if you're looking for the good life (like we are) sometimes  you don't have to look far---it is happening right in your own back yard.   

Happy Trails,

Marcia

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Sprig of Basil Magically Turns into a Plant!

I promised a photo of the sprig of basil we stuck in a jar of water so you could see the roots it can and does put on in a very short time.     Just before we left on the cruise (Sept. 10th) I put a tiny sprig of basil from our drought weakened basil plant in the yard into a small jar of water.  Note that I did not put anything in the water.  It was just plain tap water.  I sat the jar on the shelf over the kitchen sink.   When we returned in less than a week, the sprig had put on lots of tiny, threadlike roots along the stem.     I snapped a picture of it this morning----just a bit over one week later----and will be placing this into a flower pot in the next day or two.    Looks to me like if I am diligent about making these cuttings into new plants, I might not ever have to buy a basil plant or seeds again!    The plant I bought earlier this summer was about $3.00 or so and the packages of basil at the grocery store are $2.68 - 3.00 for one or two small sprigs...barely enough to make pesto or eat with mozzarella and tomatoes.   Doesn't take much thinking to figure out which is more economical.    Buy the plant and keep making cuttings to keep the whole basil production going??   Or buy basil at the store??   Hmmm, I think I can figure this out.   LOL
                                                              Basil Sprig with Roots

Happy Trails,
Marcia

Getting Back to a Normal Life---Whatever that is!

After many months of planning and talking about it, we just got back from a cruise vacation with our son and his family.    So there were seven of us on board the Carnival Ship Elation, leaving out of Mobile, AL with stops in Progreso, Mexico and Cozumel.    We had been planning the trip since Christmas time last year, so we had built up plenty of anticipation about the trip.   The grandkids were super excited since they had never been on a cruise ship before.    I have to admit all of us were looking forward to a few days of being pampered and treated like royalty by the crew and staff of our ship and we were not disappointed!

We boarded the ship on a Saturday and right away got to experience the famously touted Buffet in Tiffany's on the ship.   We had some time to kill while our rooms were prepared and the luggage distributed to our staterooms.    So we ate lunch and then explored the ship from front to back---er'a---Bow to Stern.    Starboard and Port, as well.  Having grown up with a boat in our family, all those nautical terms for parts of the ship were pretty familiar to me, although I confess it has been a long time since I used them so much!   So we got to know our our ship and then before we knew it, we were under way.    They never blew the horn in Mobile so when we slipped away from the dock, it was without a lot of fanfare or hoopla.   The decks, however, were lined with passengers peering out at the water, the familiar landmarks of Mobile fading into the distance.     It wasn't quite like the QE2 leaving NYC harbor but pretty darn close!  
                                                               Embarkation Photo
So off we went,  headed south toward the Yucatan.  We had been watching the weather for days--maybe even weeks---while Nate churned down in the Bay of Campeche.   Mercifully, he meandered into Mexico as a Tropical Storm and caused us no delay or distress.     Our first night in the dining room with our wonderful wait staff (Vernon, Ronny and A Ngurah) was a real treat because we were seated at a window table with a magnificent view of the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.   Later in the meal we all indulged in the first of many servings of their famous Warm Chocolate Melting Cake.  By the end of our trip when it was time to order dessert, Little Miss Luci said confidently to the server, "You don't have to bring me a menu.   I KNOW what I want!"   

And so our trip went day by day enjoying the great service and friendly atmosphere aboard the Elation.   We stopped in Progreso where we saw the Mayan Ruins of Xcampo and the little town that reminded me of the Mexico I saw as a youngster.    There is much poverty there but the people seemed cheerful and were industriously selling their wares of friendship bracelets and assorted "silver looking" jewelry.   It was a reminder to all of us how fortunate and blessed we all are and that we should help those less fortunate than us as a small token of our gratitude.   We took a double decker bus tour around the town that took only 20 minutes or so to complete.    Then we sat for a while by the beach and drank Cokes and Diet Cokes from glass bottles using straws.    That brought back some memories for sure.   When was the last time we saw Coke in a bottle?? 

After a quick trip through the market where I quickly purchased a colorful straw fan (only a $1.00 US), we waited for our tour to begin out to the ruins.   It was hot, hot and hotter, even in the shade and made me doubly aware of what the tropics are like.   The mosquitoes there were quite large and only so happy to have lunch on Luci's back and our legs.   A quick spray of Off! and that seemed to disperse the natives eager for fresh meat.   After our tour at the ruins was completed our guide took us back to our ship where we happily retreated to our staterooms for some well earned rest and the most welcome hiss of the air conditioner going full blast!  

Every night after dinner we took advantage of the entertainment on board provided by young, energetic singers and dancers.     Never seeming to notice the slight rock and roll of the ship as we plowed on through the Gulf of Mexico, they danced with wild abandon and much enthusiasm, as only the young can do!   The two youngest grandkids kids went to Camp Carnvial and Gavin took advantage of the Circle C program for those between childhood and older teens.    They had a blast playing games and going on Scavenger Hunts all over the ship.   One night there was a Night Owl Party for the young ones and they got to stay up until the wee hours of the morning.    Our second night on board,  we all put on our finery for Elegant Night and had that time immortalized in a portrait made on one of the winding staircases.  

  
     Elegant Night on the Elation 
Our stop in Cozumel was preceded by the most gorgeous Caribbean Blue water we've ever seen.    It was hard to remember that it is NOT artificially colored it was so vivid.  It was also uncharacteristically calm in the geographic center of the Gulf.  Larry commented that he could have been out there in a row boat!   Once in port the color seemed even more eye popping blue.    Our excursion there was a Dolphin Encounter.    Luci had her heart set on doing that once she heard about it so all seven us rode to the place where we were to get in the salty water with the dolphins.    I must admit it was a bit intimidating at first to be right in the water with the gentle creatures since they are somewhat large and very strong.    But we were put at ease by the trainer right away and before we knew it we were sticking out our cheeks for a kiss and giving one back in return.    We got to pet them and found out they are soft almost like velvet.    It was a fun activity and one we'll all long remember!

And then before we knew it, like the Jimmy Buffet song says, "it was time to cruise on back home."    Our vacation was quickly winding down.    One more day at sea and overnight sailing along through the Gulf of Mexico and the port of Mobile was what we saw out our window when we woke up on Thursday.    The huge ropes (lines) tethering our ship to the dock were tied off and the gangway put in place.   After a quick breakfast in the dining room, we all gathered near the Drama Bar to wait our turn to disembark.   That's "get off the ship" to all you landlubbers.    And just as quickly as it began, it was all over and we were headed back to Pensacola.   

We were all worn to a frazzle and had suitcases full of dirty laundry.  Having a lot of fun, too many buffets, late night parties, dancing under the moon, tanning on deck and enjoying fine dining experiences in a short span of time will do that to you.    The time we spent on the ship was so much fun, many memories were made, lots of photos taken and the scenery will long be remembered.  After we got back to the house, we all wished more than once that we could have taken our dining room staff with us when we left.     They were the best at what they do and tried to give us a top notch experience every time we dined with them.    And we all agreed that we gotta find the recipe for that Warm Chocolate Melting Cake.     One more family get together goes into the memory books created with colorful strands of love and affection that adds another section to our evergrowing tapestry of life.    
                                                      Vernon, Ronny and A Ngurah
                                                    Our Waiters on board the Elation