Monday, February 20, 2017

Mom's Eulogy

Saying goodbye is, for real, the hardest thing I've ever had to do. 

It started with scattering Mom's ashes on Saturday. We drove up into the Catalina mountains. The clouds were ready to burst and the wind was howling. I just hoped we could get her scattered without much rain. 

We found a vista point that overlooked Tucson. It was perfect for her. You could see almost all the way to Mexico...had the clouds not been in the way. Mom would have loved this view. It felt right to put her ashes here. 

The wind was blowing like crazy. And the sky was threatening rain at any moment. We hiked down a bit and stood in a circle. Mom had a poem she wanted read. I knew in my heart there was no way I could read it...so I gave it to cousin Bruce to read. After we all took a cup full of Mom and went our own way and had a moment with Mom.  I tried to say goodbye then, but no words would form in my mouth. She knew. I'm sure she knew. 

As I turned to walk back up the path, I got hit in the cheek with a rain drop. A big, wet, cold rain drop. Then another, and another. By the time we got to the top by the car, it was coming down hard. And it was cold. We posed for a quick photo and off we went. 

We stopped at a cafe to have a toast to mom...except we had nachos instead. Which she would have loved. 

Sunday we had her Celebration of Life at the Voyager. 150 of her friends showed up. It was almost standing room only...dozens of cookies were made and I didn't get a single one. 

The service was beautiful, it was long, but beautiful. No doubt Mom would have approved. We had a moment of open mic.  Never being sure if anyone would say anything, I was nervous about it. But person after person got up and expressed their love for mom. Each had a special little story. In fact, the Pastor told a story about when he knew he and mom would be life long friends. She had her gall bladder out and he went to visit with her. She SHOWED him her gall bladder. That became the joke of the day. Several people said they saw it...and a few were sad they had not. 

This Eulogy I wrote to be read at the service. The reader read it completely out of order and totally screwed up the flow...but the point got across all the same. 

Eulogy to Mom
Eulogy by her daughters, Jennifer Wraspir, Billie and Melanie
Our family would like to thank you all for being here today to celebrate the life of JoEllen, our mom. For those of you that knew JoEllen, she was not only the life of the party but often the reason for the party.  She used to always say to us kids "Don't be so serious, life is too short, just have fun".

We always knew what an amazing, generous and kind woman she was, and in these last several weeks since she passed, the outpouring of love and support has proven this to be true. Hundreds, (and that is not an exaggeration), of emails, texts, calls and messages have come to us kids. She redefined the phrase “social butterfly.” She’d be humbled at the outpouring of love, and yet secretly she’d be thrilled to know we were making such a fuss over her. Our one wish is that SHE knew she was so loved.

We probably don’t have to tell you our mother was a special woman. She embodied all of the attributes of a “perfect” mom. She was caring, thoughtful, hardworking, compassionate, loving, tough on us when we needed it and so much more.  It was so difficult to think of all of the words that described mom as a person and how much she meant to us. Our mom was our best friend, our idol and we looked up to her all of our lives. We swore as teenagers we would never turn out like mom. And now we’re proud to say we are our mother.

Mom was born on Nov 5, 1947 in Grant’s Pass, Oregon. She died on January 16th, 2017 surrounded by her family and friends. Her life, to put it mildly, was something else.

She was a career woman her entire life. She started working at the Boeing company in the late 70’s. She struggled in the “man’s world” of Boeing, but proved time and again a woman could do the job, and in some cases better than any man. She retired from the Boeing Company in upper management and was so proud of all her accomplishments during her time there. She would use her experiences there when giving advice to us as our own careers started taking off.

When mom and dad married in 1981, we added to our already large family, the even larger Wraspir family. We used to joke that we didn’t have a family tree, but a family hedge.

Mom cherished her family above all. And family to her was anyone from a real relative, to friends, to members of her community. Her house was always filled with friends and family. All of our friends called her “mom”, because she was like a mom to everyone. She would talk to anyone, and any dog, most likely she’d speak to the dog first…

She was the communicator for all of us. If you wanted to know anything about what was going on with someone in the family, you called mom. That’s not to say mom shared everyone’s secrets, but she was definitely in the know. And her family loved her back – tenfold. She was the one everyone called for advice because we knew she’d tell us how it was.  She was happy to dole it out and expected you to listen. And while we may not have followed all her advice over the years, we’ve discovered that she really did know what she was talking about.

Mom loved to cook. Together she and dad would try new recipes and taught us to be open to trying new things. Entertaining and having people to dinner was one of her favorite things. Any given weekend you could guarantee someone was coming to the house for dinner. And no one ever left hungry.

Mom and Dad loved to travel. They got the travel bug when Dad was transferred to Saudi Arabia in the late 80’s. That afforded them the opportunity to see the world. And see the world they did. Together they visited England, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Greece, the Caribbean, Mexico, South America, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand – to just name a few. And they traveled to every single state in the United States by RV. While they loved exploring other countries, they especially loved exploring their country.

The list of things mom loved is extensive. She loved to read, to sew, to quilt, to cook, and to play games on her iPad. She loved her animals. And she loved her Seahawks. If the Seahawks were playing you knew not to bother calling because you could guarantee she would not answer the phone.


We feel like we could spend all day speaking about mom. She was an amazing woman who taught us a lot. The most important lessons were not verbal; they were in her actions. We know we are the people we are today because of her influence and guidance.  She always worked hard, complained when she needed to and was there when you needed her. She was our mother, but also our best friend. We will miss her every day for as long as we live. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Always on my mind

I miss her.

I miss my mom.

I'm trying very hard to not be sappy all the time on FB, but I find I want to talk about her daily. She was such a fantastic woman (and complicated, and difficult, etc) that I feel like the world has lost someone special.

This week was all about preparing for her Celebration of Life in Tucson. I had to finish her eulogy and man that was hard. Writing a eulogy to express how much you loved her, what her life was like, and just what the world would be missing now was one of the hardest things I've written. I'll post it here eventually.

I also put together a photo movie to show at the Celebration. Oh boy...that was hard. And yet somewhat cathartic. I was mostly ok until I put the song mom wanted to it. I Can Only Imagine by MercyMe.  And boy Mercy Me was really what I was saying...the tears that came out were intense.

On Saturday of this coming weekend, we'll be scattering mom's ashes in the Catalina mountains too. I've assigned a family member to figure out where to do this. I'll assume that too will be difficult.

I keep telling myself that once I get past this coming weekend, and the last trip to AZ, things will get better. I do know that's not going to happen, in fact it may be the absolute opposite.

Yesterday, I met with a representative from the Neptune Society and officially signed up. The Neptune Society is a company that takes care of all the details related to your cremation. Mom and Dad had purchased the same plan and it was sure nice to just make one call and let someone else who knows what they're doing to do it. The added benefit is if I were to pass outside the US or some place other than home, they take care of that too.

The idea that I didn't have to worry about that was a great gift from my parents. I can only imagine that when my time comes, that I can give the same gift to my loved one.

It wasn't an expense I should have taken on right now, but I figured no time is really going to be a good time.

Monday, February 06, 2017

24 New Things

One of my goals this year is to do 24 new things...meaning something I've NEVER done before. I did this back when I turned 40 and was hard pressed to get 40, In fact, the day of my birthday that year I was at number 39. I was stuck. My office mate at the time, tossed a trisket on the floor and said, "Have you ever eaten a trisket off a dirty office floor?" #40 was hatched.

This time, I'd prefer to not put my life in my hands by eating a food item off the floor of my office. So I figured I need to do two new things a month to get my 24. I'm already behind.  I've only charted two new things. One I'd rather not have at all, but life is dealing lemons this year.

First New Thing
Being an executor of a will and dealing with someone's estate.

Second New Thing:
Home food delivery.

It's this second one, I'd like to discuss.

I polled FB to determine which of my friends had tried any of the hundreds of companies out there offering food delivery. The responses were all over the place. I had a couple of requirements that I needed the company to have.

1. They had to offer a 2 person serving option. Most offer 4 or more servings.
2. They had to offer a low cal and/or low carb option
3. They had to offer enough options for each week

After some research I ended up with Home Chef. They had everything I was looking for.

I've had about a half dozen means from them. 2 are delivered each week. All of them, so far, have been fantastic and super easy to cook. I've added them all to my cooking blog, so go take a look.

The nay-sayers are asking why I would spend "so much money" on such a frivelous thing. Here's the thing, it's not frivilous. I'd be spending the $$ on groceries anyhow. In addition, I'm not wasting as much. They deliver EXACTLY the amount you need to make the meal. I don't have, what I call, useless leftovers hanging around. In the long run, I think I'm saving money by not tossing out so much food.

The other thing this is doing for me is it's getting my cooking again.

I've cancelled the service for the next couple of weeks as I'll be traveling to Tucson again. But as soon as I get back, I'm back at it.

Parisian Bistro Steak w/ dauphinoise potatoes and green beans



 Steak Wellington with roasted carrots and mushroom demi-glace


BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad

Friday, February 03, 2017

Really?

I'm a bit stunned that it's only been 3 weeks since Mom passed. It feels like it's been a lifetime.

I'd love to say things are "better" and in some ways they are, but truthfully it's like I have a second job. Dealing with closing an estate is a lot of work.

I've been uncovering interesting things with Mom's world. Most have made me slightly disappointed in her not feeling like she could talk to us kids about what was what. But whatever. It is what it is.

I've booked my flight to Tucson for the last trip and Celebration of Life. Her friends there are doing all the arranging and I really don't have to do too much. I was momentarily bothered by decisions they were making without checking with me, but then I realized this Celebration is FOR them, not so much for me or our family.

I'm working through the list of things to do. Learning a lot and feeling stressed over getting it completed.

As for me, I'm doing ok. I have my moments and find I really am not liking nights. When I lay my pillow on the bed is when my brain starts to miss mom more than ever. I start to think of things like, "I can't call her to tell her what goofy thing Linus did today." Or "I can't call her to bitch about work." Or I can't call her...at all.

It dawned on me the other night that death is, in fact, final. I knew this logically. And when I say it out loud it sounds ridiculous, but the realization of it is just heartbreaking.



Sunday, January 29, 2017

Counting...

I remember when Dad died, Mom counted the days, then months, then years. It seemed odd, to me, at the time for her to be so aware of how long it had been.

And now?

Now I get it. I find myself thinking, "Mom's been gone for two weeks."

And then I think, "Two weeks?" It just doesn't seem possible. It feels like she is still just a phone call away.

I'm doing OK, I guess. I received a book about Grief in the mail (from who I don't know) and I've been reading it with my eyes wide open. You never really understand grief until your knee deep in it.

I feel bad because I didn't understand Mom's grief with regards to dad. Sure, I missed dad. But he wasn't my every day conversation. He was the man I loved who raised me. I miss him. But not the same way Mom would have.

Now, with Mom gone, I get it. I totally get it. I feel like my right hand has been removed. To say there's a hole in my heart that will never be filled, seems like a cliche...and yet so very accurate.

Most my meltdowns happen at night. They happen when I settle into bed and my mind starts to slow down a bit. I start to think about everything I've been doing to settle Mom's estate and then it hits me like a ton of books.

Her phone rang the other night. It was The Niece. When I texted her and asked why she was calling Grandma, she said, "I forgot. I used to call her on my way home all the time." That broke my heart. I told her I'd be that call now if she needs it, but to understand, and be reminded, that other people are grieving her loss is just as difficult as grieving myself.

Mom and The Niece

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Longest Week Ever

Mom has been gone just over a week now. I'm still coming to grips with what happened. I held it together for the week we had to clean out the house. I got home on Sunday night, unpacked, went to bed and completely lost it.

I cried for 30 minutes straight. I miss her so much.


I know that the next year will be hard and I'll want to rage, and scream, and cry on a regular basis. I've already had some moments of realizing I can't call Mom for answers on things. I can't call her and tell her what goofy thing Linus did. I can't call and argue with her about politics. I can't call her on Thanksgiving and tell her the Bird is in and the Clam dip is done. I can't do any of that and that breaks my heart.

Much like when BigBro died I spent a good chunk of time being in denial - the first stage of grieving.

The say it helps us survive the loss, we become numb, we wonder how we can go on with out the person we lost. In this phase you take one day at a time and learn to cope with the hole in your heart. "Denial helps us to pace our feelings of grief." They say it's "nature's way of letting in only as much as we can handle." At some point you will start asking questions, then is when you start the healing process. And it's at THIS point that all the feelings you were denying begin to surface.

Oh great!

I think I am very much still in the denial phase. I really felt denial in the hospital and think I went through all 5 phases of grieving that week in the hospital. Denial - Anger - Bargaining - Depression - Acceptance. The week in the hospital was hard and all those emotions did surface in that short time frame. I knew she wasn't coming back to us. When the reality set in, and she passed, there was relief. Then there was work that needed to be done.

The next week was cleaning out the house. I compartmentalized my feelings for that week to "get it done." The sadness of throwing or giving away someone's life was overwhelming. All I could do was tuck those emotions neatly inside to be dealt with another day.

Now I'm home. Alone. Two cats who missed me horribly and no mom to call to tell how much the cats missed me.

The Final Hours

Its 3:26 am on January the 14th 2017. I'm sitting in a hospital waiting room waiting, not so patiently, for the MomUnit to pass. We took her off life support at 8:00 tonight. She's being her typical stubborn self. We've all told her she can go, but something is still keeping her here. The doctors say it won't be long. UPDATE: 5:19am: Just went back to see mom. She's still holding on.

The family and friends have come and gone. Each saying their personal goodbyes to a woman we all loved so dearly. She truly knew no stranger.

As a family, we've spent the last 3 days sitting vigil by mom's side. We literally "took over" this waiting room and had, at one time, 20 people standing around talking to each other. People from differnt arms of mom's life. All here with one very sad purpose, to say goodbye.

Mom was never alone in the back until we all left for the night - usually around midnight. During the day, someone would be back there just sitting with her. Just showing her the love we all felt for her.

And now? Now it's silent. Just me and the tapping of the keys. It's too quite and now my brain has started to think. And I find myself starting to do what I do every time I'm about to begin something I know nothing about.

Truthfully, I'm a procrastinator when it comes to doing a task that I 1) don't know how to begin and 2) really don't want to do. And the task in front of me, closing Mom's estate - fits both those criteria.

So I start researching. Typing into the Googles "checklist to follow when a loved one dies". I'm not sure why I think there's a "manual" for this, but sure enough...there are tons and tons of sites.

And as  I sit here with my clouded brain just glancing at the pages, and nothing really sticking I find that my thoughts travel through my life with the MomUnit.

I thought, "What's my first real memory of Mom?" Do you have one of your mom? I have a few jumbled memories which I'm not sure are "real memories" or memories given to me by photos or stories. I can't really pin point the first. Instead, many more come flooding in.

March 1985
We're leaving Quartz Hill to drive to Seattle Washington. We're moving...again. I'm 16 years old, leaving all my friends and the boy I was sure I was going to marry. We danced, ONCE, to Careless Whispers and I made it "our song". He, of course, had no idea.

Pulling out of the drive way I asked mom if I could put in a song. She said yes. As the opening chords of Careless Whispers begins I burst into tears. I cried for the friends I was leaving and my "one true love." I cried and I cried.

I rewound the song and played it another 150 times crying each time on our trip to Chowchilla (stopping to see the grandparents).

EVERY time either mom or I would hear that song we'd call each other and say, "Listen!"

April 1986
Mom met me in Geneva. Dad was already in Saudi and she was going to meet him there. I had already been at TASIS for 4 months and we were all flying to Saudi. Mom and I were in a hotel. It was about 2 am in the morning. Mom got up to pee and couldn't turn on the bathroom light. She woke me telling me this...and said, "Mom, they're sleeping."

Why she and I giggled like school girls over that I'll never know.


Sunday, January 01, 2017

Hello 2017

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

I didn't stay up and wait for 2017. Me and the demons snuggled into the bed and didn't look back. I vaguely remember hearing some fireworks, but that didn't wake me enough.

The new year to me seems like a clean slate. All the things I didn't complete last year, or any previous year, filters to the top and ends up on a list...again. Here's the thing, my goals are really just ideas of what I'd like to do. I never hold myself too closely to them - some I do, but if I don't reach any of them I don't beat myself up. That's not to say I don't try, I just don't lose sleep if I don't hit them.

Last year I had none. I had "some" in the back of my head, but really didn't write any down...and I'm ok with that. Last year was such a crazy, chaotic mess that there was no way I could even focus on goals. THIS year I think, (read: hope) things have settled a bit. I still expect the crazy, but am hoping it's a lot less.

So ... here's the list.

24 New things
When I turned 40 I decided to do 40 new things. That took a LOT to do. This year I turned 48 and know that 48 won't happen. But half of it might..so 24 new things. I've a list started and we'll see. Maybe I could secretly attempt 48 new things...well, now it's not a secret.

52 Weeks of Saving
I've done this for three years now and figured why not? It's kinda nice to have $1348 at the end of the year to do with what you want. THIS year I'd like it to go to something other than paying off a credit card. The change this year is that I won't be getting cash out, but transferring into savings instead. We'll see if that lasts. I'll also be starting backwards this year like I did last. Starting with week 52 and counting down.

Photography
I gave up on photography last year for sure. Even with the trips I took I didn't "feel" it. It wasn't until the end of the Georgia trip that I started to want to take photos again. My problem now is I'm tired of carrying that big DLSR camera with me ... so I bought a smaller camera and am going to see if it will suffice.  My photos aren't ever for big printing or selling, so hopefully the smaller will be better.

Health
When isn't health on the list? I'm still riding the wave of the blood clot scare and am feeling motivated. I have NO plan to jump into this 100% right away. I know myself. It has to be small things...like shopping and prepping again. Planning is key for me.  I also need to get back to the gym. I told the doc on Friday that the gym will be part of my life this next week so it may affect my INR numbers. We shall see.

Make an effort to go out more
I became a home-body last week. I wanted nothing more than to be home. That's all good and fine, but I feel like I am not making memories much anymore. I want my life to be more than inside my house. I also have this problem with "saying" I'll go somewhere, then wanting like nothing else to cancel right before. That has to end.

3 Road Trips
I took one last year. Sparky does not approve! I have two places that are on my list that I HAVE to check off. They've been on the list far too long. So buckle up.

Knowledge / Classes
Not sure what this is just yet, but I do know there's some classes I'd like to take. I'd like to take a Cake decorating class and perhaps a Management class. Something. I need more knowledge.

Project365
Along with wanting to get back into photography, Project365 may do the trick. I haven't done this in several years...so why not?

Photo 1 of 365

24 Books
Dah. I hit 24 books this year on Dec 30th. Just in the nick of time. At least 12 will be from book club. I did print off this cool reading Bingo game that helps you read books not in your normal rotation. Should be interesting and fun to do.

Maintain current friends, make new ones
Relationships are big...and I think we all take certain relationships for granted. Need to still cultivate those relationships AND need to always be seeking new ones.

Work goal: Become a manager
It's been said outloud at work. I've heard them say things like, "Jenn's team..." Well, make it real. Make it MY team.

I think I have a couple of more that I may or may not add. They're not a big deal and really just something fun for me to do and are related to scrapbooking and tracking stuff in a year.

So happy new year everyone. What are your goals? Do you make them? Do you keep them? Do you care?

Friday, December 30, 2016

Farewell 2016....please...go

What a freakin year this has been? With a brand-new year getting ready to greet us I find myself in a very familiar place of self-reflection. A new year feels like a clean slate to me. And most years I find myself facing goals that I didn't quite complete the previous year and what new goals I may want to accomplish. For a couple of years now I've given up on specific goals because - well - I just don't care enough.

Blood Clot updates...
I'm still trying to get the INR (blood coagulation level) settled. It's been a bit all over the place and part of these several weeks after starting is all about getting it settled. Going about every other day to get the blood checked. It's a small price to pay to live.

Birthday Shenanigans
The birthday week is almost over. I did have a few gatherings planned. I usually do a party, but this year I just didn't feel it. I'm going to chalk it up to this year just kinda sucking all the way around.

Still, Wednesday my co-workers and I spent several hours at a local pub having some drinks, some viddles and some conversations. All that showed up are really some of my favorite work people. Despite the crazy that is work, the people make it worth it.

Thursday, the actual day of birth, I met the fam at the Keg, like always. Free steak dinner for your birthday is not a bad deal. The Braspir's, Seattle SIL, The Niece and Blueberry all joined me in ringing in a new year.

So...2017! What's next?

I can't wait to see what 2017 has to offer us. Should be an interesting year...Happy New Year everyone.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Blood Clots...the gift that keeps on giving

Back in 2002 I had a bout, pretty serious bout, with blood clots. I was in the hospital for 5 days while they figured out why I got them. They ultimately decided it was because of birth control pills and a LONG plane ride. A deadly combination.

I was on Coumadin for 6 months after and that was the last time I put much thought into them.

The Saturday before Thanksgiving I started having shortness of breath and exhausted all the time. Symptoms of blood clots for sure. But I also had a few other things that pointed to a 24 hour bug going around. So I assumed it was the bug.

On Monday this last week the symptoms were back. I finally got talked into going to the clinic. Funny when you walk into an Urgent Care and you say you have a shortness of breath...you skip to the front of the line.

They whirled me to ER and within seconds I was de-robed and had wires and IVs coming off of me. I barely blinked, I swear. Those ER nurses mean business (on a side note...ER nurses are truly amazing. They kept their calm and kept me calm.)

The doctor came in and asked questions and then determined I should have a CAT scan. Off I went to a cold room with a big machine that looks like a doughnut. I was all set to go when the doctor put a stop to it to do a pregnancy test. Haha...That ship had sailed. By passing that test, off we went.

If you've not had a CAT scan, they're a trip. They put this contrast stuff in you through an IV and you feel instantly warm and like you've pee'd your pants. Followed by this wonderful metallic taste in your mouth.

15 minutes later the doctor came in with the bad news. Blood Clots in both my lungs. The clots were in the lower lobes and not in the "danger zone" which is between the two lungs. He had called a transport and I would be heading into the hospital for further tests and to be watched.

The EMTs showed up. Handsome young men who were so friendly and really amusing the whole time.

I was admitted to Evergreen hospital and it would be determined later how long I would stay. They started me on blood thinners. Coumadin in the evening - for life. And they have me on Lenovox twice a day for a short period until my Pro-time levels standardized.

Back when I had the hysterectomy I had to give myself the same shots. I'm no fan of needles or shots. But if my life depends on it, then I'll do it.



They did an echocardiogram and an ultrasound on my legs and found nothing that pointed to causing blood clots. Nor any evidence that they traveled through my legs. That ultrasound...whew...that was relatively painful.

So I'm day two into this new life and have had some time to reflect slightly on it. The doctors have no idea why I'm getting blood clots. They assume I'm just predisposition-ed to them. Lucky me!

But what amazed me the most was the love and support from friends and family.  You know you have loved ones. You know you have people who say they'll be there and you never really know until you put that to the test.  The out pouring of support, concern, and love was a bit overwhelming. My heart grew a little bit.  And I discovered I had a heart...the echocardiogram proved that.

A BIG thank you to The Niece, Seattle SIL, Blueberry and The Braspirs for coming to entertain me while I was in the hospital.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

I Give...

We all have them. Those days when you just want to say "F*ck it!" and walk away from your job, your life, your house, your everything.

Today was that day for me.

Truthfully, it started yesterday. The MomUnit ended up in the hospital with some pain and after many tests they determined it was the gallbladder and it would have to be removed.

Stresser number 1.

Queue today.

Everything seemed fine, but as the day progressed I found myself getting more and more frustrated with work related stuff.

Stresser number 2.

The MomUnit came through her surgery fine and for some reason felt it necessary to call me when she was in recovery (or close to it). I couldn't understand a darn thing she said. She sounded like she was talking with marbles in her mouth.

That conversation hit me hard. It reminded me of when the DadUnit was in the hospital a million years ago and the vicoden he was on was sending him on the trip of a lifetime. He was groggy, incoherent and mostly talking babble. Oh and accusing the MomUnit of leaving him in a garage while he's recovering from surgery. Say what now?

So work being a chaotic mess of monkey dong on top of the MomUnit being out of it and I'm just done!

The MomUnit called again tonight. I wasn't sure to laugh or cry. She wasn't quite coherent ...oh hell, who am I kidding? She wasn't coherent at all. In fact, she fell as sleep in the middle of a sentence.

I know tomorrow is another day. And I'm hoping blogging and getting this out of my head will help some.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Thanks...

Clearly I never finished my post about Savanna and Atlanta. Since it was over a month ago it seems not very important now.

So let's move on to Thanksgiving.

This week is always a difficult week since BigBro passed away three years ago. I still find there are days I'm in total denial. I miss him every day. The odd thing is, I may or may not have a melt down this week...instead I find I have little melt downs at the oddest times. In June, I was driving to work and thought about BigBro and had a melt down. June? weird.

At any rate, Thanksgiving will never be the same for us, but what will always be the same is family. Thanksgiving is about family and friends. That's exactly what I did this year.

This year's gang was some old faces and some "not seen in a while" faces.


This year the guests consisted of Seattle SIL, Niece 1, Niece 2, The Mom of Seattle SIL, The Landlords and The Landlord's sister and her wife. And of course the demons.


It was a nice gathering with people I really enjoy being around. Just looking at these photos make me smile.

And, of course, we ate. Oh boy did we eat. All my traditional food was out on display.

The evening started with clam dip. What Thanksgiving is a Thanksgiving without clam dip? I made two batches thinking I'd have some left over...and I didn't.

Dinner was turkey, dressing, broccoli casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy. Guests brought roasted veggies and desserts.


This year I didn't put much thought into what I was thankful for on the day of Thanksgiving. Today, however, I did some thinking. And the list is pretty long...in fact, I was a bit surprised how long the list was. And that...that's what I'm mostly thankful for. That I have so much to be thankful for.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Goodbye Charleston. Hello Savannah!

We spent our last day in Charleston today...well, last half of the day anyhow. We're headed to Savannah!

But first, Fort Somter.

Apparently, Fort Somter is where the first shots of the Civil War were shot. There's more history to it, but truthfully I was too hot to pay too close attention. I made myself a note to study up on it.

We took a ferry across the Charleston Harbor - I think that's what it was called - to the fort. It was a nice 25 minute ride that had great views of Charleston. One thing is for sure, South Carolina is FLAT!

We had an hour on the fort to wander around and learn about what happened there, but the most impressive thing, was the flag raising. We were the first group over on Tuesday morning, so they involve the tourists in putting the flag out each morning. The ranger (and I can't say ranger without saying, "Sorry folks, park's closed. Moose out front should have told ya.") told us some more history. He unfolded the flag with us tourist holding it and proceeded to tell more about the fort and the history. We had a brief moment of silence and then he asked the veterans of our group to lead us in the pledge of allegiance. That gave me goose bumps. Not only had I not said the pledge in I don't know how long, but to see a handful of veterans leading it just made me smile.

The Fort Sumter facility where we caught the ferry.



Shell still in the wall.


Raising of the flag






After the fort we hopped in the car and headed to Savannah. This is where things get interesting.

See we've had this issue with restaurants we wanted to go to being closed and so have had to find something else. On our way out of Charleston we figured we'd find food along the way. I was already starving so this was to be a quick trip out and food fast. We drove past the first group of food stops and nothing sounded good. So we pressed on.

Next "town" - or gathering of houses - nothing.

About 15 miles out of Savannah we stopped at a General Store. The clerk there recommended this place called Jasper's Porch just up the road.

Great ... so off we went. We got off the highway, tried to find this stinkin place and couldn't. After a dozen or so (I exaggerate) turn arounds we finally said, fuck it and decided on Dairy Queen. As we pulled into DQ's parking lot, there was Jasper's Porch signs.  Following the signs, we turned the corner...and it was closed. GAH! Fine ... DQ it is.

We arrived in Savannah around 3, found our hotel and unpacked. A quick little walk outside and the MomUnit was tired so headed back to the hotel. SIL and I stayed out and walked around a bit. Got hot and tired and decided to drop into a bar that said Happy Hour!

Done with our libations, we headed back to pick up MomUnit and off to find food. Somehow we came up with Vic's on the River and saw that it looked like it was just on the water front in front of us. But having just been down there, SIL and I knew the cobbled streets would be too much for the MomUnit so we opted to drive.

Again the directions from the phone weren't the greatest and we found ourselves turning in circles trying to figure out how to get to the water front. Finally got down there, but didn't see the restaurant. So we back tracked and the phone directions kept telling us we were there, but we couldn't be because it was ON THE RIVER and we weren't.

One more time turning around and this time we pulled into a parking lot when the SIL looked up and said, "There it is!" It was quite literally across the street from our hotel. 300 feet...maybe. Ugh.

We had a great meal there though. Mom had the beef spare ribs that were to die for. I had fried shrimp and SIL ordered the meatloaf. It came as the entire loaf. There was enough food there for a full 4 person family.

Tomorrow we'll wander around the city and check out some of the squares. Savannah must have a thousand squares so that should keep us busy for a while.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Day 2 Charleston (Sept 26)

So today was plantation day. We had planned on visiting 3 plantations that were within miles of each other. We started at Drayton Hall.

This was owned by a wealthy family, surprising. And it looks beautiful...on the outside. On the inside, there have never updated it to include running water or electricity. Imagine, no breeze on a hot summer day in Charleston...sheesh...that'd suck. Suddenly fans that women carried made sense.

But here the kicker, not a stitch of furniture on the inside. Just empty rooms. The furniture was being restored and would eventually be put back...or replicas of it. A tour of an inside of a mansion without furniture is B-O-R-I-N-G. Really not very interesting at all. While the moldings and what not were pretty, it certainly wasn't work the $$ we paid for it.

So off to the next one, Magnolia Hall. That one turned out to be about the same price, and had a tram ride...but it was mostly gardens and to see the house you had to pay extra. We opted out.

The last one on our list, Middleton Place, was written up as the oldest and finest in the area. It sure as hell should have been for the price they were asking to get into it. Let's just say we opted out of that one too.

The most exciting part about any of them was driving into one of the long driveways and seeing a HOARD of Turkey Buzzards attacking road kill.  Turns out turkey buzzards are ugly birds.


Enough of the wildlife and boring, expensive houses, we headed in to Sommerville for lunch. We had been told from one of our waitresses that Sticky Fingers was a great place for BBQ. Its a chain, but we figured why not try it.

OH....MY....GOODNESS was it delicious. Some of the best BBQ I've had. And we did, in fact, have sticky fingers. The interesting thing here was the corn on the cob...every had deep fried corn on the cob? Yah me neither...and oh my was it good.



On our was back to Charleston, the skies opened up and it rained, hard, for a good 3 hours. We couldn't get out of the car to see anything because the rain was pounding. So we drove around, dropped the window quickly, and shot a photo as quickly as possible so we didn't get wet. I do like my torrential downpours, but this was really a lot of water.

After swearing we'd never eat again after lunch, we decided to go grab dinner. Our first stop was Jestine's and it was closed. Here's the thing, we've ran into I don't know how many issues with restaurants we want to eat at being closed.  It's like we're cursed.

So instead we drove to the market and decided to eat at the Crab House. And considering we had our crab hats, it just made sense. Only...I forgot my hat back at the room. So the MomUnit and SIL wore there's and boy did they get the looks. Funny enough, we didn't order crab. Not a single one of us.\\



Tomorrow we'll get up early and go to Fort Somter. Really hoping it doesn't rain like it did today. If I buy a poncho I can almost guarantee it won't rain.

Here are some other shots from today:

African American Burial ground on Drayton Hall land. "Leave em rest"

Entrance to the African American burial ground

Wrought iron is everywhere here.

We found a graveyard!!


Grand Staircase in Drayton Hall


The Privy at Drayton Hall. It has a fireplace!

Drayton Hall version of running water.

The driveway...

Monday, September 26, 2016

Charleston Day 1 ( Sept 25)

Well we made it. The trip here was long, as is anything when you head to the east coast.

Charleston....I'm in love. What a charming little town. But man it's humid. My hair is out of control. Voluminous is a word for it...

So let's see...What have we done?

We started our morning by having what we thought was a complimentary breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express here in the Historic district. 30 minutes later our bill of $52 came...we were, needless to say, floored and miffed. Every Holiday Inn Express I've ever stayed at has had the free continental breakfast. This one has it set up like one, but it isn't.  So today (which is Day 2) we'll be going to a bakery for breakfast.

After that shock, we headed off to our Carriage ride through the historic district.  Luke was our draft horse. 19 years old and ready to retire. The carriage driver told us a "story" that Luke  was about to retire and he was trying to buy him for his retirement. Before a carriage horse, Luke was owned by the Omish. They only keep them for 5 years and then sell them off. This org that rescues them has a huge farm they frolic in on their days off. The city, apparently, has very strict laws about how long a horse can work because of the heat and what not.



Anyhow, we sat, squished in a single row and off we went. We heard ghost stories, heard stories about individual houses and who they were owned by, we saw Rainbow Row, a couple of churches, the city market, the waterfront and a few other things. It was a lot of fun and one of the things I like to do in new towns I visit.

After that, we were hot and thirsty. We found a store called MoonPie and we had to go in. Inside I found a cooler that had Cheerwine in it. Since it was on my list to try, I went ahead and tried it. Um...YUM. Where has that been all my life? And why can't I get it in WA? It's a black cherry flavored cola and tastes very different than cherry coke. The MomUnit and SIL tried a Nehi (one was orange and one was peach) - also delicious.



We walked through the city market and like all markets a lot of vendors selling their hand crafted items. Once you've seen one row you've seen it all. Ended up buying some photos from a photographer there - plan to frame them. A stuffed crab with a stuffed baby crab...that'll become our mascot. (More on that later).

Ate in Lowcountry bistro: fried pickles, moonshine, chicken andwaffle, biscuits and gravy and she crab soup. Oh and sweet tea. Some delicious start to our food adventure. After this stop we figured we set the bar pretty high. We shall see.




After lunch, we drove over to Rainbow Row. A row of houses painted in bright pretty colors and worth a cool million or two. These homes have managed to survive the fires, hurricanes, and earthquake ravaged city and are said to date back to 1730 to 1750. They were hard to photograph because of all the damn trees.


We parked and walked along the waterfront for a bit to find, what else, but the Pineapple fountain. None of us could really find in any of the guide books why a pineapple fountain, but we took photos of it all the same. Mom was pooped so she sat and SIL and I went to get the car. On the way back she spotted an Italian Ice cart. Slamming on the brakes we got ourselves some Italian shaved ice that was out of this world.



Next on the list was to go see Angel Oak. Depending on which guide book, post card or website you read it's anywhere from 500 to 1500 years old. I figured it was somewhere in the middle. It's enormous though. 65 feet high and 167 feet wide.


After that SIL, wanted to go see Folly Beach - there was a lighthouse we wanted to see. Driving through the small beach town was fun and full of gorgeous beach houses. We finally got down to the end and found there was a walk to the lighthouse...we opted not to.



We did take a moment to dip our toe in the Atlantic ocean. Check another off my list.

Lastly, we were ready for dinner. Our waitress recommended a restaurant at Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant...so off we went. Drove over this amazing bridge called the Ravenel Bridge...named for some historic person...




Dinner was at Red's. Turned out to be quite a find. It was a dog friendly restaurant and we were surrounded by dogs. Everywhere you looked was another dog. We were in heaven. The food was outstanding too, so there was that.





Tomorrow we'll be doing a couple plantations. Not quite decided which ones yet...we shall see.

Some other photos of stuff...

Charleston, SC - St. Philip's Episcopal Church

Earthquake bolts...holding buildings together.

St. Philip's

St. Michael's

Really?

Sweetgrass basket weaving...an art for sure.