Thursday, August 31, 2006

Celebrating the end of summer

I don’t know about you, but I feel like celebrating the last official day of summer. I sit here at my computer and can’t help but smile. As a matter of fact, I feel almost giddy. Why, you ask?? Well, there are several reasons.

One is that we’ve had one of the hottest summers on record this year, with more than 40 days of temperatures over 100 degrees...all the way up to 108 some days. Finally, this week, we’ve had a break from that heat with highs in the 90s and a wee bit of rain to boot. It’s actually pleasant to sit outside again after lunch to soak up the fresh air. Hmmmm......what office???

Another reason is that Fall is my all-time, very most favorite time of year. I am soooooo ready for that. The country girl in me can’t wait to put on those jeans and flannel shirts and sweaters that are so comfy and cozy to run around in when it’s chilly outside...must be a throwback to my childhood days in the countryside of Greenwood, Louisiana (find that on a in my jeans and flannel shirt, with my long hair in braids, wearing a cowboy hat, riding a stick horse and wearing a six-shooter ‘n holster and...really, there are pictures of me dressed like I love crunching in the leaves that fall off the trees...ask my dad and sister. Every time I walk up or down their driveway, I have to do that...they can hear me Ican’t wait till the first real cool snap comes so we can light up our fireplace. There’s just something so soothing and comforting about watching those glowing embers.

But the most important thing, and what makes me feel giddy, is the fact that we now have three seasons behind us in Seth’s deployment and only one more to go. He will be home at the end of Fall. That’s right...he’ll be home before the Winter season begins...well, if you can call what we get in Texas Winter...hahaha. Needless to say, it has been a really long nine months...I don’t remember my pregnancy with him being this long. But we’re finally down to double digit days till his return...yeehaw!!!

Anyway, so there you have it. I have a huge grin on my face and I feel like dancing a jig, drinking a toast, and partying. Would anyone care to join me??? :)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

That's just Rick

Okay, where do I begin to tell you about Rick, my oldest boy? He is truly one of a kind.

From the time Rick was born, he was an easy-going kind of guy...very laid back...and that hasn't changed much through the years. You can see it in the picture below where he and Kevin are "lazy canoeing" on a lake in Alaska.
Being the first grandchild on both sides of the family, he garnered alot of attention...but he never demanded it. As his brothers came along, he graciously stepped aside as the center of attention and adored both of them...but that's just Rick... :)

He's a quiet, shy guy...which, once again, doesn't make him the center of attention with people...but that gentle, quiet nature makes him a natural with animals. When most people run out of patience, his is just beginning. I've watched him sit quietly for hours waiting for some wild animal to approach him...and it usually will. Somehow, the animal can sense that he's not a threat and will respond to that. However, his slow-moving nature usually has us waiting for him quite a bit, too. This sometimes drives his Dad crazy, but I don't mind it...much...that's just Rick... :)

He's a peacemaker. He's calm, cool, and collected and can see both sides of anything. He thinks things out in a logical, level-headed manner. If there's a disagreement, he can step in and calm everyone down without making anyone mad. The first time this happened, I missed it...but I heard about it from so many others that I just had to smile. There are times that I bounce things off him to see what he thinks, because I know that he'll give me an honest and well-thought-out opinion. He really should be a negotiator...he has a real gift...but that's just Rick... :)

He's also sensitive, soft-hearted, and caring. He'll do anything for anybody, anytime. I remember a time when the boys were young...maybe 12, 9, and 7...when I was trying to clean the house and they kept dirtying it up right behind me and getting in the way. Well, I finally had enough and told them to go outside to play and not come back in until I told them they could. (Don't get the wrong idea, it was nice weather and not a school Anyway, I fussed at them and shut the door behind them. In just a couple of minutes, there was a small knock at the was Rick. He asked if he could come in and help me clean. Oh my gosh, that really melted my heart and still does when I think about it...but that's just Rick... :)

Rick's not much of a huggy-bear, though. For years, since he was about 12, I've had to chase him down to give him a hug. At one time, it was probably the usual "I'm too old to be hugging my Mom." But then, during his highschool days, it became more of a game...he'd grin and sidestep me. Now that he's older, he just kind of smiles, rolls his eyes, and stands still until the hug is over. I actually got to dance with him at Seth's wedding last year. But notice the smile, the rolling eyes, and the look of "is it over yet"...but that's just Rick... :)

He has a wicked sense of humor, but people who don't know him very well don't get to see that. He reserves his true self for those he's close to. When Katie first met Rick, she thought he didn't like her because he wouldn't say much to her. Now, they have become friends and she is amazed at how funny he is.
His sense of humor is so subtle at times, that you can miss it completely, but for those of us who know him best, it can be "in your face"...but that's just Rick... :)

Now, don't get me wrong...Rick may be shy, quiet, sensitive, and caring, but he is all guy. I got the rare opportunity to see him come out of his shell at church one time when the youth were in charge of the service. He and some of the more rowdy bunch very quietly walked back and forth across the balcony, one at a time, where no one but the youth in the pulpit area could see them. I realized something was going on when I noticed one of the youth looking that way. When I turned to see what it was, I saw Rick walk quietly across the balcony. You'd think that I would have been upset, but I couldn't help but was Rick coming out of his shell. I loved it and treasured the moment. And when he's with his brothers, oh my gosh, they can get rowdy and rank...even at their ages...but, God help me, I enjoy every minute of it. It's just so wonderful to see them all enjoy each other so much, and it's great to see Rick "be all that he can be."

You may be wondering why I chose today to talk about my first-born son. Well, today is Rick's birthday...and I have a very special message for him...

Happy Birthday, Rick. I'm so glad you came into my life and I got to spend so many years with you...watching you grow into the man you are today. You've brought me more happiness than you'll ever know. I'm so very proud of you and I love you very much.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Alaska - land of the midnight sun

That's right folks, summertime in only gets dusky at night. When we were there two years ago, we went camping on the Kenai Penninsula. You know those pesky middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom when you're camping?? Well, let's just say I didn't need a flashlight to find my way..... :)

Anyway, back to this trip. We flew up Friday evening after work. All of Kevin's furniture had been shipped already, so we crashed on air mattresses on his apartment floor. We spent half of Saturday with his truck up on a lift on the base changing the oil, replacing worn shocks, and getting it ready for the long trip. Yes, I got greasy too. What??? You think I'm a girlie girl or something??

We spent Sunday enjoying Alaska one last time. We drove South of Anchorage along Turnigan Arm, the long water inlet between the penninsula and the mainland, to Girdwood.
We hopped on the Alaska Railroad in Girdwood, which is really nothing but a whistle stop for the train, and chugged a few miles into the mountains.
Our destination was Spencer can see it in the background of the picture below. The size of the glacier is a bit deceiving, though. The mouth of the glacier that you see is actually a mile across from one mountain to the other.
At the glacial lake, we loaded on rafts and maneuvered our way through the huge icebergs floating in the lake to the Peace River and rafted down the river. It was absolutely gorgeous floating along between the mountains and bouncing over the made us wish we were staying longer in Alaska. But, alas, we had a long roadtrip ahead of us.

Monday morning, we were up and at it early to get everything out of his apartment and loaded onto his truck, then Kevin had to don his uniform one more time to do his final PCSing. Once that was done, we picked up his 4-wheeler and trailer, stopped at the grocery store to stock up on trip munchies, and finally hit the road about 1300. A couple hours later we stopped beside a beautiful glacial creek for a late picnic lunch. The water was that beautiful turquoise color and looked very inviting, but it was also icy cold.

We didn't make it to the Canadian border that day because of our late start. We ended up spending the night in Tok, a little town at one of the two main crossroads in Alaska, where we left Old Glenn Highway and hopped on the Alaska Highway for our trip through Canada. This picture was taken from the balcony of our room in Tok at about midnight. Like I said before, it only gets dusky at night in Alaska.

Day 2 started out great and we were making good time...until we got to the Canadian border. We were in a line of vehicles waiting to be processed, when out walked this Customs woman with a chip on her shoulder...honestly. She picked us out of the line and signaled us aside. Uh oh... She asked for IDs and we knew we were in trouble when she told Kevin that his military ID wasn't thinks she dislikes the American military. It went downhill from there and she ended up searching the whole truck. She pulled everything out of our suitcases, went through all his boxes, and made us pour out a bottle of Saki that Kevin had brought back from Japan as a souvenir and a small bottle of Captain Morgan rum that I had bought while in Alaska. I think she was pissed that she didn't find any weapons or drugs...and believe me she looked in every wheel well and under the hood and everything. Freaking crazy Canuck!!!

Needless to say, our morning was shot by the time we left, an hour and a half later, but we put a few more miles between us and that border before we stopped for lunch at a beautiful mountain lake. In this picture, Kevin is scanning the surrounding mountains with his binoculars looking for signs of can see part of the lake in the background.
We did find time to celebrate Kevin's birthday later that day, despite the border fiasco, and it was nice to be with him on his birthday for a change, after missing so many while he was in Alaska. Too bad I couldn't bake him a cake..... :)

The rest of our trip through Canada was soured by our encounter at the we managed to come in contact with some of the rudest people wherever we stopped. One night, we fell into a town rather late and had to hunt everywhere for a motel room. It was almost 2100 before we went looking for a place to eat. The only place in town that was open was a bar and grill that looked like a nice place. We ordered our food and proceeded to wait. The waitress kind of forgot about us, as she was busy visiting with her friends. When our food finally arrived, she told Kevin that his burger had "accidentally" been given away but that they had put another burger on the grill and it would be ready in 5 minutes. Okay, what could we say. Ten minutes later, we were still waiting for his burger when our waitress served a burger exactly like what Kevin had ordered to a guy (one of her friends) at the table next to us who had just come in a few minutes earlier...hmmmm. In another 10 minutes, she finally brought Kevin his burger...and do you know what she said??? She didn't say I'm sorry for the wait or anything apologetic...she said, "Well, better late than never this time of night." Okay, fine...there went her tip.

The lady at the motel where we stayed was a totally different story, however, and restored my faith in people. She was friendly, accommodating, and even gave me a stamp for the postcard I was sending to Seth. Yeah, we sent a postcard to Seth every day. That way he kinda sorta made the trip with us..... :)

Canada is a truly beautiful place and is full of wildlife, not unlike Alaska. One evening, we were driving along, trying to make the next town before it got too late, when we saw a moose in a pond at the side of the road. We came to a screeching halt in the middle of the highway and laughed our asses off as Kevin attempted to back up his trailer. Don't get me wrong, Kevin can back up any trailer, usually, but for some reason, he was getting no cooperation from his trailer that day. I finally just got out of the truck and walked back to where the moose was and took some pictures. He looks further away in this picture than he actually was (he's the small dark spot in the middle of the picture at the back of the pond), but isn't the scenery idyllic??
What was really incredible was that we were stopped in the middle of the highway for at least 10 minutes, and we never saw another vehicle the whole time we were there. It was so quiet that I could hear the water dripping from the plants the moose pulled up out of the pond. Talk about relaxing...I could have stayed there all night.

After being in Canada for four days, however, we were ready to make a run for the border. We drove down through Jasper and Lake Louise, crossed the border, and spent the night in northwestern Montana Friday night. I've got to tell you, it felt really great to be back in the good ol' USA. We spent a very relaxing evening sitting in camp chairs outside our motel room (which was more like a house with a carport), having a few drinks after some tasty barbecue for dinner, and enjoying a cool breeze, green rolling hills, and some beautiful stars as the sun went down. Yeah, it actually got dark that We decided then and there that we would have to go back to Montana some day......but that's another story.

From Montana, we dropped straight south through Idaho and Utah (by the way, driving through Utah is like driving through hell, literally), then drove east through Colorado....that's some beautiful country.
We stopped there long enough for the guys to take a helicopter tour of the Royal Gorge. No, I didn't do it...even though I would have liked to. I tend to get motion sick, and we still had a long drive ahead of us that day, and I didn't want to spend it feeling like crap.
After the helitour, we dropped south into New Mexico to see where Kevin's new base was and spent the night there. Then, the next day, HOME. We made the 4,000-plus-mile drive from Anchorage to Dallas in about 8 and a half days. I think we left a contrail at times..... :)

The best part of the trip was getting to spend so much time with Kevin...hadn't done that in a long, long time...and probably won't get to do it again. Ahhhh, life is good!!!

Before I sign out, I have a message for two very important people who were married one year ago today... "Happy Anniversary, Katie and Seth. I know this has been a tough first year of marriage with the deployment, but you're almost there now and you'll get to celebrate big time in 3 1/2 months. I love you both very much!!!"

Monday, August 07, 2006


Sorry, the Alaska trip post will have to wait.....I learned from a friend that one of the guys he served with in Iraq just lost a son over really broke my heart. This has to be every parent's nightmare, but especially when you've been there/done that yourself. I do so wish there was something more I could do for this soldier's father and his family, other than just send my prayers and concern. If you would, please stop by my friend's blog at In Iraq for 365 and leave your condolences for the family. The least we can do is let them know we care.