Sunday, July 26, 2009

Our wonderful week in Florida

Tony and I just returned from the best week ever in Jacksonville, Florida, where my extended family lives: mother, 2 sisters, 1 brother, their families, and now my 87-year-old Aunt Olga, who just moved from NY State to assisted living in Jax. It was a wonderful time of visiting, catching up, and seeing the changes (many) in the wonderful city we where lived from 1972 through 1980. It was a relaxing, refreshing, recharging week, and I wish we had been able to stay another week. Here are a bunch of photos--just a small representation of the hundreds I took all week--documenting some of the highlights of the trip. Oh, sorry about the layout problems. I moved stuff around a lot, and it seems the more I tried to fix the spacing problems, the worse they got. Josh, help!!!

This is my sister Lisa, with whom we stayed. She's extremely energetic, organized, and BUSY! Now I've finally learned her secret.

We finally had the chance to experience "Margarita Wednesday" at La Nopalera, which we had heard about and longed for. It was totally worth the hype. The Tex-Mex was as good as ours in Texas, and the margaritas were excellent. Left to right around the table: me, Tony, nephew Kyle Deason, sister Alix Hice, bro-in-law Larry Hice, bro-in-law Dr. Bob Deason, sister Lisa Deason.

Thursday we went out on Bob's boat. He is an able captain, as you can see. We launched at Mayport and cruised up and down the lovely St. Johns River all day long. It was a perfect sunny day. On board were Bob, Lisa, Kyle, Alix, Tony, and me.

It's hard to see, but that black thing in the water is a porpoise fin. As hard as I tried, I couldn't get a shot of the beautiful creatures leaping out of the water. Darn digital camera!
I thought this shot of a pelican hanging out on a buoy was so quintessentially Florida.
We stopped for lunch at Jackie's Seafood restaurant on the Trout River. My sisters and I posed for a picture on the dock--Lisa, me, Alix.
We enjoyed passing under the lovely Dame Point Bridge, which we had driven over many times. I still consider it "the new bridge" (there are several over the St. Johns in Jax), but it's already old enough to need repairs.
We passed a Navy destroyer in dry dock for repairs. That's a lot of boat!
On the way back to shore we passed a shrimp boat bringing in its haul. We laughed out loud at all the seagulls trailing behind, hoping for a snack.

One of the highlights of the trip was getting to spend a few days with my dear friend Jan Brown and her husband Bob. They drove down from the Wilmington, NC area just to see us. Jan and I have been best pals since 3rd grade, and we cherish every time we can be together. The last time we saw each other was nearly 2 years ago at Jan's and Bob's wedding. We met for dinner at The Rite Spot at the beach and of course had the fried shrimp. Delish!!
Later that evening we had drinks on the patio of Jan's and Bob's hotel as we watched a perfect Atlantic sunset. Life doesn't get much better. "Newlyweds" (2 years Aug. 18th) Jan and Bob relaxing at the beach. Jan recently had her left knee replaced, and although she still uses a cane for stability, she is doing amazingly well. I was so honored that she and Bob made the 7-hour drive just to be with Tony and me. Lisa and Bob had the entire family plus some friends over for a cookout Saturday night, minus poor Alix who spent most of our visit sick in bed with a miserable virus. She came down with it the day after our boat outing, but she and Larry still managed to provide not only Lupo's spiedies (shipped from Endicott, NY in dry ice with loaves of Roma's Italian bread) for the cookout, but also an absolutely delicious and complex Mediterranean orzo salad and a delectible stone fruit salad. I hated that she missed it. As you might expect, Mother Nature had other plans for the cookout and send a deluge. Larry, Tony, and Bob (not pictured) did the hero thing and grilled the spiedies and beef tenderloins in the pouring rain. Everything was delicious, and a good time was had by all. Here is my brother Mark (and Richard Gere lookalike; Mark is Alix's twin) and his son Brendan in Lisa's kitchen. We hadn't seen them since Erika's and Josb's wedding nearly 6 years ago, so it was a treat to hang out with them.
In the breakfast bay, my mother and Aunt Olga (sisters) visited with Jan.

The next day was Sunday, and Tony and I borrowed Lisa's car to drive to Good News Church (PCA) in St. Augustine. Smiley Sturgis, the pastor who led Tony and me to the Lord in Boca Raton in 1980, along with his precious wife Karen, started this church in a small community recreation room about 18 years ago. Since that time, the church has grown to have its own large complex of buildings and ministries, providing 3 back-to-back worship services every Sunday morning. We made arrangements to be at the same service that Karen and 2 of their 6 children attend, and we also had the additional pleasure of meeting up with Patty and Rick Pruss, who we had also known well in Boca (I taught their oldest, Rick, in kindergarten at SonShine School) and who drove an hour and a half from their home in Ocala. It was a wonderful, albeit short, reunion. Left to right in the first photo are me, Karen, and Patty.
In the second photo are: Rick, Patty, Karen, Smiley, their youngest Mary (14), me, and Tony. It was well worth the drive to see everyone once again.
After we returned back from St. Augustine, Lisa, Bob, Tony, and I went to the beach to meet Jan and Bob, who were heading back to NC the next day. We spent a few lovely hours around their hotel pool and walking on the beach. That evening we said our goodbyes over drinks on the patio at One Ocean, a gorgeous upscale hotel right on the beach.

Monday brought one last visit to precious Aunt Olga, my 87-year-old godmother, in her sweet assisted living apartment not far from Lisa's. It was very hard to say goodbye, knowing that future visits may be few, but we left her knowing she was in Lisa's and Alix's very capable, loving hands. And The Atrium is really a very nice place with kind, caring staff.
Later the same day, another storm rumbled through the area, and Kyle happened to look out his upstairs bedroom window to find that a gigantic limb had broken off one of the Deasons' ancient oak trees, blocking the road and taking out a young maple tree in the median. Before Lisa could even call her arborist to remove the debris, neighbors with chainsaws had already started cutting and cleaning up. Not long afterward, tidy logs and small branches were neatly stacked in the median, waiting to be picked up for firewood. I was so impressed by the spirit of community in the Hidden Hills subdivision.
That evening, our last in Florida, Kyle, his friend Scooter, Tony, Bob, Lisa, me, and our niece Erin Deason (who had just returned from a mission trip to Costa Rica), enjoyed a delicious pizza dinner at Al's in Atlantic Beach.
Kyle and Scooter went their merry way, and the rest of us enjoyed another lovely sunset at the Lemon Bar on the beach.
Before our evening flight back to Dallas on Tuesday, Bob drove us all up to Amelia Island to see the beautiful resort communities (vacation and residential) north of Jacksonville. We enjoyed a lunch of fresh seafood at a great beachfront patio restaurant, then we took one last walk along the beach. Left to right: Lisa, Erin, Kyle, Bob, and Tony. I picked up a few more seashells for Zoey.
Following that lovely afternoon excursion, the Deasons dropped us off at the Jacksonville airport for our flight home. We had a few hours to kill (Tony and I always like to be very early for our flights), and while sitting at our gate we were startled to see first 2, then 3, little sparrows winging their merry way around the terminal. They had no way of getting out, but they didn't seem very worried about it. They were quite bold, bravely going after crumbs and such on the floor very near excited children and cautious adults. I'm sure you can tell that we had a most enjoyable, fun, and relaxing vacation, just the kind of time every vacation should be. I already miss my sisters so much, as we are very close, but we will be seeing each other again in just a few short weeks when we meet in Endicott to clean out Aunt Olga's house for the last time before the new owner takes possession. It will be a bittersweet time because it's the end of a wonderful era, but at least we'll be together, laughing and crying as we relive wonderful memories in our former hometown. Thanks for sharing this travelog with me today.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Love to Zoey and Ruby

Hi, Zoey and Ruby! As promised, here are a couple of little videos for you from Grammy and Papa. We love you and miss you so much. Zoey, I used my video time to sing a couple of our favorite songs for you. I'm sure you'll remember them. I had to sing them pretty fast to keep the videos short. When you come home, we'll do some of the longer ones together: Mr. Alligator, Ring-Around-The-Rosy, The Elephant, and many more. I know Ruby is too young to watch these videos, Zoey, but you can sing the songs to her and tell her that Grammy and Papa love her. You're such a wonderful big sister!

We'll see you soon, darlings. Have so much fun at Kamp, and remember that Papa and Grammy love you so much!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Cute videos of Leo

I was finally able to upload some videos of my adorable grandson. The key appears to be keeping them short, although it's so hard to stop the camera from recording when he is being so darn cute. I'm sure you'll agree.

The first video is Leo in the pool with Josh. These were all taken Saturday, June 27, at our house.

The next video shows Leo masterfully crawling toward his mommy, slapping away any obstacles that might impede his speedy motion. Notice the "fresh from the pool" mohawk! The last clip shows Leo pulling up on the gate separating him from a certain sliming from an enthusiastic Millie, then "dancing" with excitement. Millie not only thought Leo was really cool, she also expected treats. She got them. She knows any time the "little people" in the family come over, she gets treats AND any leftovers that are sure to remain on the floor under the booster seat after a meal.

Not to give short shrift to my granddaughters even though they're at Kanakuk for the summer, I now direct you to Jenni's blog to see their latest antics and endeavors. Just click on "The Cribbies" on the left side of my blog, and you'll be instantly transported to Zoey's and Ruby's world.