Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tunica for two

Last week, Mom and I made our way to Tunica, MS for what's becoming an annual girls' trip. After our journey last year, we figured we knew what to expect this year. Thankfully, Tunica still had some surprises up its sleeve.

Last year, Tunica seemed nearly devoid of people. Almost creepily so. We were the only ones (besides the owners) staying at our hotel. We were the only customers at The Hollywood. We were the only ones on the road. Weird. Quaint and rural, but weird.

This time, we actually got to interact with some real humans. Yay! We both very much enjoyed our trip and were happy that Mom's doctor's appointment went so well.

{the lobby of our hotel...attached to the Horseshoe casino...way fancier than we anticipated! We had such a great stay there.}

(sunset over the Mississippi River...ain't my mama purty?} 


{Mama gave me the idea for this shot. A gorgeous sunset and a beautiful setting can make even weeds look pretty.} 

{We saw these little birds' nests made out of mud under the roof of the casino by the river. At first we thought they were enormous dirt dauber nests, but then we saw a bird fly out of one. See him there, in the bottom left corner? We just marveled at the thought of those birds managing to get that mud all the way up there and build those nests. Birds are clever little critters.} 

 {the entrance to our hotel at night...quite a welcome}

 {We decided against the side trip to Memphis/Arkansas this year. Instead, we explored downtown Tunica on our way home. It was the perfect, quintessential downtown you'd expect from a tiny Southern town. So cute.}

 {loved this shot...and the shade :)}

{We stopped for a few pictures on the way out of town. It's such a pretty, rural drive...fields as far as you can see.}

{love all that green}

A fun little getaway is good for the soul.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A hero's welcome

I mentioned yesterday that I was fortunate enough to be able to welcome a group of veterans as they returned home from Birmingham's very last Honor Flight. I was excited to be a part of this, but I had no idea what an incredible experience it would be. Holy moly. Goosebumps ahead...ready yourself.

I arrived at the airport way earlier than proved to be necessary. Oh well. What better place to people-watch than at the airport? I began to feel self-conscious about the utter lack of Americana in my attire.

{sent a text explaining my dilemma}
{Just realized that the other text makes me sound like a hardcore gambler. I am not. More about our stay at the casino later.}

Thankfully, I was able to dig some red earrings out of the depths of my enormous purse (saddlebag, as Daddy calls it). That made me feel like a better American. I also found a wrapped plastic spoon and a little baggie of paper clips. In case you get stranded somewhere, you're gonna want my purse with you.

Two ladies approached my table and asked if they could sit with me. We ended up chit-chatting for nearly an hour and they pretty much adopted me into their family. They were a mother/daughter team there to greet their husband/dad. He is a Korean War veteran (and a Purple Heart recipient, to boot) and was a POW for 27 months. The wife said that she didn't see him for over 3 years while he was deployed, and that, for those 27 months, she didn't know whether he was alive or dead.

Chew on that for a minute. Can you imagine??? I can't, and I'm thankful that I can't. Bless both of their hearts. She said they've been married for 58 years and rarely spend time apart. She said that she was missing him like crazy (after being separated for 12 hours) and couldn't wait to see him. Sweetness.

I didn't know that Korea and Vietnam veterans were also on the flight. I thanked my new friends for educating me.

I expected a crowd, since this was the last Honor Flight and all, but I wasn't expecting hundreds of people. Seriously, hundreds.

My two new friends were very upset that they'd left their cameras at home. Thankfully, I was totin' mine so I volunteered to be their photographer. When it came time for the families to move up front, they told the organizer that I was waiting to see my grandfather. See what I mean? They pretty much adopted me. All that was missing was the paperwork.

I can't even describe how exciting it was to see those men (and women! woohoo!) walk out of the terminal. Many of them mentioned that they weren't expecting a big crowd and there were lots of ear-to-ear grins and some tears. One man said, "Is all this for us??" Bless him. Those brave souls deserved every bit of this warm welcome.

{The videographer...aka, a bit distracted at the end. My new friends' soldier had just come into view, and I was asking them which one he was so I could snap pictures for them. Taking pictures became priority #1, so the video suffered. Taking great pictures with one's right hand and great video with one's left hand...simultaneously...requires more skill than I was blessed with.}

{I got to meet this lady after it was over. She was a nurse during WWII. Awesome.}

{There he is!}

{My new friends were so excited.}

{Another incredible lady!}

{This sweet soldier was a delight. Once he saw how many people were cheering for him and his fellow flight participants, he got up out of his wheelchair and started cheering along with everyone, waving his flag very vigorously. He was so excited. Such a fun moment in time.}

{This dear girl shook the hand of every single soldier who came by. Precious.} 

{This pretty lady absolutely made my night. She told me she worked in a factory during WWII while her husband was overseas. I wish I'd gotten a picture of her reuniting with her soldier. She looked so proud of him.}

I think the Honor Flight program is incredible and I'm very sad to see it end, at least in our area. If you ever have the opportunity to participate in a homecoming, please do so. Every soldier deserves to feel like a hero, even if it's for just a few moments in time.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thankful Thursday

Today I am thankful for...

  • the grace the good Lord extends to me every second of every day...sometimes I think I take up more than my fair share :)
  • my family and friends
  • my health, and the health of my loved ones
  • a roof over my head, food in my fridge, clean running water available whenever I want it, clothes in my closet, shoes on my feet, a paid-off car that gets awesome gas mileage, a comfortable bed to crawl into at night, my shower, my dishwasher, my washer & dryer
  • my job and the fact that I get a summer break...a blessing indeed!
  • summer break
  • reminders that life is good...really good...even if it very often doesn't look the way I planned it
  • a safe trip to and from Tunica earlier this week, some great quality time with my mama, and a really great plan set in place by her hopeful
  • getting to spend this evening welcoming WWII, Korea, and Vietnam veterans returning from an Honor Flight...this will have a post of its own because it certainly deserves it!
  • a fun playdate this afternoon with sweet Sheila and her darling little man Luke...does it count as a playdate if you don't supply a child of your own? I'll ponder this. Anyway, thanks for inviting me, Sheila!
  • a good conversation with Sasha this afternoon
  • the opportunity to meet my new teaching partner tomorrow...exciting!
  • summer break
  • calamine lotion...I have all of a sudden become irresistible to the 'skeeters, and they're literally eating me alive when I go outside. Advice? Solutions? Commiseration? Please help before they chew my legs off.
  • sunscreen...seeing as how I'm the whitest white girl on the planet, this is a necessity 
  • really fun plans to look forward to over the next couple of weeks...summertime just got way busy!
  • pretty sunsets
  • the smell of rain right before and after it falls
  • funny emails from Kate...according to this one, if I quit tugging at my girdle so much, I'll find Prince Charming! Whew. Glad I got that all figured out!
  • peace and contentment
  • sweet blog friends who know just how to make me feel loved
  • Pinterest
  • summer break
  • getting measured for my bridesmaid's dress this is SO stinkin' cute and I can't wait for it to come in!
  • being included in Bubba & Olivia's wedding planning the way I have been
  • my precious little coming soon
  • summer break

HAPPY WEEKEND, yall! Get out there and do something with it!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Why my daddy is simply the best

I am blessed to have two tremendous men in my life. It just occurred to me that, while I've written a special post all about Grandad, I don't think I've done one for Daddy. My bad! Since it's Father's Day and all, this is how I know my dad is simply the best.

*He thinks I'm awesome. He takes an interest in my interests, even if he doesn't share them.

*He's a stellar cook. Seriously. He doesn't often use a recipe; he's one of those who can just see what's on hand and make a feast out of it. I want to be more like that.

*He's been my knight in shining armor more times than I can count. He has tracked me down on the interstate to change my flat tire on the side of the road. He has helped me move nearly a dozen times, even though moving is one of his least favorite things to do. He has talked me through more than one tearful conversation when I'm at a loss about what to do. He's helped me salvage many a meal when my cooking skills were no match for the recipe. He's drawn sewing patterns for me because he can draw proportionally and I can't manage a straight line. He's helped me set up 3 different classrooms over the span of 5 years. He has saved the day more times than he knows!

*He doesn't mind when I call him Paw, because he knows that makes me feel like Laura Ingalls. He knows that I like to feel like Laura Ingalls, so he just rolls with it :)

*He sends me funny text messages.

*He taught me how to drive in the cemetery when I was 14, he took me to get my learner's permit, he taught me how to drive on the real roads, he never laughed at me when I drove well under the speed limit because I was so nervous, and he took me to get my license on my 16th birthday. When I passed the test and drove him back home, he stood on the porch and waved at me when I backed out of the driveway for the first time by myself.

*He loves my mama bunches. He's set a great example for me, and I'm not settling down until I find that for myself.

*He taught me everything I know about exterior illumination. {Name that movie.}

*He's wise and, I think, completely brilliant. Seriously...there's nothing he doesn't know. And if he doesn't know it, he'll make it up so fast you'll never know the difference :) I think he gets that from Grandad. The internet has made it very easy to check up on his facts and wouldn't you know it? He's always right. Sometimes to our frustration, he's always right :)

*He is the hardest worker I know. And he never complains about it.

*He gives great advice, and I value his opinion over most others.

*On my very first ever day as a teacher when I left the house at 5:30 AM, he woke up extra early just to tell me good luck and that I was going to do a great job.

*He calls me every night to check in and chat about my day. He tells me he loves me every time we talk.

*When he sends me mail, he usually puts a pet's name in the return address. I always laughed when I thought about the campus mail people at Auburn sorting through my mail from "Tiger Johnston".

*He would eat glass and walk through fire for Bubba and me. Granted, I'm sure he would prefer not to do either of these unhappy things, but if we needed him to, he absolutely would. He has always put us before himself and in case he thinks we don't notice, we do.

*He brought Prairie Home Companion, Cool Hand Luke, Mollie B., Car Talk, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and bluegrass music into my life.

*He has the world's best sense of humor. I rarely have a conversation with him where we don't laugh. He can get more laughs out of me than just about anybody else. I like to think that I inherited his weirdo sense of humor.
{This is my favorite picture from this past Christmas. Daddy was a huge fan of Meerkat Manor when it was on the air. Mom bought him this meerkat statue as kind of a joke, and Daddy LOVED it. That look right there is one of pure, unbridled joy. He's named his meerkat Flower and refuses to put her outside...where she belongs. She now sits right beside the computer so he can see her when he works. Seriously.}

I am certainly blessed to have this cool kid in my life. I'm excited to see him today...happy Father's Day to all you papas out there!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Thankful Thursday

Tonight I had the honor of attending a memorial service to celebrate the life of a former coworker. Maurice passed away this weekend, and after he made his final trip to his beloved Louisiana (his "motherland"), we gathered in our little town to remember him. It made me cackle...literally, see that the church was decked out for VBS. We're talking balloons on every pew, a giant sky scene, and various cuddly animals riding in airplanes. Hysterical. Maurice would have LOVED it! So perfect! I'm very sad that his sweet self is gone from here, but I'm so happy to think about the celebration he's having now. I imagine if he hasn't already cooked up a pot of gumbo for Jesus, he will soon.

Today I am thankful for...
  • the good Lord and the fact that He promises that we'll get to join Him one day
  • my family and friends
  • my health, and the health of my loved ones
  • summer break
  • the wonderful job that provides me with a summer break
  • very productive, very helpful math training this week
  • the fact that the aforementioned math training is done after tomorrow
  • getting to visit with my math teammates all week
  • a roof over my head, food in my fridge, clean running water, clothes in my closet, shoes on my feet, a paid-off car, strong arms and legs, a brain that remembers and does what it needs to do
  • energy
  • some rain earlier this plants were thrilled
  • a really, really great walk yesterday
  • the library
  • getting to chat with some sweet friends this week
  • a fun couple of weeks to look forward to!


Friday, June 8, 2012

Thankful Thursday

I wish I had a great story to explain why Thankful Thursday comes on Friday this week but...I don't. If you were unable to sleep last night due to the lack of a Thankful Thursday post, my apologies!

Today I am thankful for...

  • the good Lord and the fact that He never, ever gives up on me
  • my family and friends
  • my health, and the health of my loved ones
  • Uncle Robert being released from the hospital...that man is tough as nails
  • having a great job to return to in August
  • a job that provides me with a summer break
  • a roof over my head, food in my fridge, clean running water, shoes on my feet, clothes in my closet, money in the bank, a car that gets great gas mileage, a brain that functions well, strong arms and legs that do everything they need to, the ability to read
  • a return trip to Tunica with excited!
  • the library
  • a great orientation yesterday...I've decided to become an adult literacy tutor, and I'm looking forward to it more than ever after going to the orientation
  • getting to make a trip to Troy on Tuesday to visit with Kira, Oliver, and Elizabeth, and to meet little Charlie...caring for a two year old and a newborn is no joke, folks!...Kira and Oliver are doing a wonderful job
  • green smoothies
  • chirpy birds and crickets
  • a fabulous new job opportunity for Sasha...we've been working together for half a decade so it will be very weird to not have her right across the hall, but I'm thrilled for her!
  • a lovely walk this morning
  • some really, really unseasonably nice weather lately...I don't remember the last time it was this breezy and nice in June, but I sure am enjoying every moment of it
  • a chance to see my fifth grade coworkers at our training next week
  • the news that Neeley is moving back to Alabama!!
  • farmers markets
  • the Chilton County peaches purchased at said farmers markets...they are so drippy and juicy that they require a moment of silence while eating just to enjoy their deliciousness
  • the pickled okra Daddy helped me make last weekend...yum
  • Friends reruns on TV...I can't believe I'd forgotten how awesome that show is
  • nicknames...I just love a good nickname...JJ is my personal favorite :)
  • sunscreen
  • my silly little blog and the sweet friends who read/comment regularly...yall make me smile!


Monday, June 4, 2012

Must read: Sarah's Key

My friend Nicole let me borrow this book a few weeks ago, and I'm so glad I finally had a chance to read it.  What an incredible story. There are two different stories intertwined here, which always makes for an interesting read.

Sarah is a 10 year old Jewish Parisian girl in 1942 when her family is rounded up by French police and taken to a "feeder camp" while waiting to be sent to Auschwitz. We follow Sarah's journey to the camp and the horrific twists and turns her life takes afterwards.

Julia is a 40-something American living in Paris in 2002. She starts researching the 1942 roundup and suddenly finds her life entangled with Sarah's.

This book is so fascinating! Nicole had warned me that it was sad, but I didn't know that a few details would be downright horrifying. As hard as parts of it are to read, I think this is a time in history that we shouldn't turn a blind eye to.

Let me know if you read this! It really is a wonderful, thought-provoking book. And I promise not every book I read this summer will be a "must read"...I just happened to read two in a row that were!

Happy new week, friends!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Must read: The Kitchen Boy

I just got done reading an unexpectedly incredible book and literally couldn't wait to share about it. Like, I meant to go to bed hours ago but finished the book instead and am now click-clacking at my computer instead of...going to bed. Which I planned to do hours ago. Just sayin'.

I finished a book yesterday (more on that one later) and was looking for something else to read. Something about summer break brings out my inner reader and I literally can't get enough! Anyway, I found this one on my bookshelf and remembered buying it, putting it on my bookshelf...and then never reading it. Bummer. I picked it up, reread the summary, and quite honestly wondered why I bought it in the first place. 

The subject matter is the Romanov royals of Russia, Nicholas (the last tsar) and Alexandra. My knowledge was limited: they were Russians, they were royal, they were killed. Legend has it that two of their children escaped, but no one knows for sure. Disney made a cutesy movie about Anastasia. Try not to be impressed with my background knowledge!

Anyway, I decided to give it a try. I'll be completely honest...the first half is a bit slow. Interesting, but nothing too spectacular. Then the tension starts building. And building. And building, until finally, it's the middle of the night and you abandon the hope of getting enough sleep because you just. have. to know.

This story is fantastic. What happens to the Romanovs is fascinating and completely horrific (especially for someone who knew practically nothing of them before), but the (fictional) story of the old man recounting the tale is the best part. There's a huge twist at the end, and then a twist on top of the twist. I couldn't flip the pages fast enough.

Track it down. Read it. Let me know what you think. Don't ya love it when your low expectations are blown out of the water? Me too.

Oh, and this just hit me. Back in the day, I was up in the wee hours on Friday nights rockin' and rollin' on the town with my friends. Now, I'm up in the wee hours of a Friday night to finish a killer book. And ya know what? I'm okay with that.