Sunday, May 31, 2009

Wonder Woman

You turn the mundane into the heroic.

The first one up and the last one to bed.

You are the sustainer. The gatherer. The first to go last.

You are the holy vessel bringing forth God's new creations. The chosen person who feels the unborn baby inside, second in line only to God.

You are the comforter, some days flannel and ragged, but always warm and inviting.

You are beloved, even when pushed away by fierce independence.

You are the link to our pasts, the hope for our futures.

You are the diaper champ, the feeding diva, the bestower of kisses that make it all better. The one who works in tandem with the Spirit in gardening and pruning and nurturing of souls.

You, yes YOU, are heroic. The cape may be tattered, but you are a wonder. A sight to behold.

And you are loved.
esk 4/11/09

Friday, May 29, 2009

Long Lost Pen Pal

Have I mentioned how very much I love blogging? One of the coolest things about it is how it makes the world feel much smaller, and how I've "met" some amazing people like the daughter of Martin Buxbaum. I mean, how would that ever happen without my trusty blog?

And now, I have yet another "small world" story to share. It's just mind-blowing.

When I was in 9th grade, my parents took me on a trip to Holland and England. While we were in London, we met a group of German students who were the same age as me. They were on a school trip. (Imagine that kind of a field trip! In America, we splurge and go to the zoo. In Europe, they go to other countries.) I befriended one of the girls and two of the boys. We exchanged addresses and promised to write. I lost touch with the boys relatively quickly, but Christiane and I kept writing. We would write to each other and learn about our different cultures and dreams. We continued writing off and on even when I was in college and up until my marriage to Dan. She sent me a wedding present (a German cookbook) and I sent her photos of the wedding in 1995. I think that may have been one of our last contacts.

Fast forward 14 years later to March 15, 2009. I checked my email in box and, lo and behold, had a blog comment from Christiane! My mouth dropped open, and I immediately emailed her back. Apparently she Googled me and found my blog. We've emailed each other a few times, and she has sent me photos of herself and her son. Now I can't wait to pick up where we left off. My childhood pen pal. Wow!

We live in wonderful times, y'all. How amazing that we are able to communicate with people from our past and bring them into our present and futures. I love my blog!!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Privacy & Stolen Pictures

Y'all have to go read this post by my friend Danielle at ExtraordinaryMommy. I am so weirded out, but also so intrigued and amazed at the coincidence that a friend saw her family's photo on the outside of a grocery store. IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC. Just crazy!

Reading some of the comments on Danielle's post got me thinking. I've already gone to my Facebook account and changed all my photo security settings (now only friends can see my photos). And I'll be considering new options for posting photos on Six Golden Coins.

I just thought I'd let y'all know about this craziness! What do you think?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sick Day

Katie woke for a second day with this weird hacking cough. She didn't want breakfast and said her head was hurting. Her skin was warm, but no fever. She looked so miserable that I decided to keep her home with me, on the condition that she HAD to take a nap when Jackson took his.

About an hour after the school bus came and went, Katie seemed pretty much all better. She was a lagging a little, but nothing that would have kept her from school. Darn. I should have sent her. Oh, well. We snuck in some great cuddles, I got an extra long workout while she and Jackson watched Sesame Street, and we all had craft time so she could make one of her Father's Day gifts. The day was not wasted, although it was a LONG one because Dan stayed at work until 8:30.

Just when my guilt was dissipating (over keeping Katie at home), I read a story on Yahoo about a girl who is graduating and has NEVER missed a day of school since she started Kindergarten. Grrrr. I know we already blew that for Katie after having other sick days and two funeral days, but that story made my guilt flare up again. Not missing one day in 13 years? That has to mean at one point, that girl HAD to be sent to school at least a little sniffly and borderline sick. Don't y'all agree?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Two Great Blogs

I've just wasted a few hours of my life by getting lost in two great blogs. My friend Charity sent them to me, and they are great.

The first is Awkward Family Photos. Scroll through all the posts, and you will snort out loud at some of them. My favorite is called Mommy-the-Pooh. It is so horrendous!

The second is called Childhood Memory Keeper. I have loved clicking on the videos and listening to old jingles and looking at prehistoric toys I used to play with. This Dancerella Doll really brought back some memories for me. I coveted this doll when I was about five years old. It was very popular and hard to find. But I was a lucky girl and my parents found one for me when my birthday rolled around. I knew about it and was so excited to open my present, but it turned out to be the black version of Dancerella. My sister tells me that my face was shocked when I opened the gift. Not that I have any problems with a black doll, y'all. It was just different than I was expecting! And as I know in person right now with my own five-year-old, little girls aren't so good at being diplomatic with their feelings. In any case, I remember playing with my Dancerella and being fascinated at how she spun on just one leg.

Go check out these sites, and leave me a comment telling me your favorite site too!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Box of Love

And when we got home from Jamaica/Virginia? I had a wonderful box of love waiting for me from Kate Buxbaum-Prado. Remember? She's the daughter of Martin Buxbaum, the author of "Six Golden Coins." She promised to send me a package, and she exceeded my wildest expectations. Do you see this?!

I opened her box before I even unpacked my suitcase.

I sat right there on the kitchen floor and cried tears of gratitude for such a generous soul. Kate sent me SEVEN books that were written by her father. Oh, man!

And do you know what this stranger did for me? (She is no longer a stranger, of course. She is now a friend!) She inscribed each and every one of those books with a special sentiment for me. What an amazing gift. I am unworthy! Kate also included his biography and photos of her father. I hadn't seen his picture before, so this was a great treat for me.

I have only read one of Martin Buxbaum's books so far (Rivers of Thought), but I'm now diving in to my new collection. I can't wait to read all the gems of poetry he wrote.

Thank you, Kate. Your gift is priceless to me. I can never repay you for it, except to help you keep your dad's memory alive. I pray that I honor him in the words I write on my blog. And I hope you and I get to know each other better through the coming years!

Virginia

The end of our Jamaica trip meant the beginning of an incredibly tense overnight drive to Virginia for Grandmother's funeral. We knew that time was against us, and that we needed to get on the road ASAP in order to make it to Virginia by 11am on Tuesday. It was an estimated 10.5 hour drive, and Virginia is an hour ahead of Missouri. So if our flight landed at 11:04pm and we didn't get on the road until 12am, we wouldn't make the funeral in time. Panic!

We landed in St. Louis on Monday night, May 11. Thank the Lord that our flight was 30 minutes early! Customs took a while, and a suitcase jammed the baggage carousel. I was trying not to implode from the anxiety I was having about getting our drive started, and did very well thankyouverymuch.

We got our bags and ran out of the airport and met Poppy and Katie. Poppy had driven our minivan, which Grandma had loaded it with everything we needed for our drive. We were on Interstate 70 at 11:36pm. Katie was buzzing about seeing us again, and we were happy to see her too. But I also had dread in my gut from the drive ahead of us. Finally we settled down and Katie fell asleep around midnight. I couldn't sleep at first, then finally crashed at 12:30am. Dan woke me at 1:30am and said he couldn't go any farther. We stopped for gas and a potty break, then I drove from 1:50am until about 6am. It. Was. DIFFICULT. I spent the first hour in silence, just praying and talking over my anxieties with God. I laid everything in His hands, and knew that we would make it to the funeral in time if He and I worked as a team.

After the first hour, I put one earbud in and listened to my iPod. I wiggled as quietly as I could to the music, and lip-synced the words. I hit a wall around 4am and told myself if I could just make it 30 more minutes, I'd be alright and Dan would have enough sleep to drive. Once I hit 4:30, the first wisps of sunlight were dawning, and the hope of seeing the sunrise kept me awake with no problem. I got my second wind after the sun rose and made it until we had to refuel after 6am (7am Eastern time now).

We grabbed fast food breakfast, switched drivers and I nestled in to sleep. Katie was awake by now, after only 5.5 hours of sleep. Ouch! As I was finally drifting off to sleep, she announced that she had to THROW UP. Luckily I am a person who takes barf bags from planes to keep in the car, and I had one for her to use. She did her business while I held the bag, then put it at my feet until we stopped again. No, I wasn't going to stop and waste our precious minutes on dumping barf!

Dan hit rush hour traffic in West Virginia and some road closures, but I got another hour of sleep and then gave up. About 50 miles outside of Lexington, I climbed in the back and pulled out our funeral clothes. I got Katie dressed and then myself, and we stopped at a gas station in Lexington so Dan could change. I drove the last few miles to VMI, where Grandmother's funeral was being held at JM Hall.

We pulled up right in front of the church at 10:57am. (!!!) My sister saw us and threw her arms up in the air in joy, and we hopped out of the car and hugged everyone. Dan ran off with the other pallbearers, and we lined up to begin the procession into the church. Can you believe it?! And NOW you know why I say it was in God's hands. He saw us safely through, and we made it when - by all accounts - we shouldn't have.

The funeral was solemn and full of Grandmother's favorite Scripture and hymns. My voice cracked on "How Great Thou Art" because it was a favorite of Mom's too. We left the church and went to Stonewall Jackson Cemetery for the graveside service. I think I was still somewhat jacked up on adrenaline from our road trip, and hadn't fully comprehended everything yet. But it finally came crashing down on me when we sat at the graveside and the preacher spoke about grief and how God comforts us like a mother comforts her child. I choked on that because of the realization that I have no grandmother, mother, father or brother anymore.

Even in the midst of my grief over my immediate family, I always felt comforted by the fact that I wasn't "last in line" because my Grandmother was still alive. But sitting at the graveside and knowing that isn't true anymore hit me like a ton of bricks. When the preacher finished, my uncles pulled roses out of the casket spray and handed them to the ladies. They said Grandmother wanted that. My sister asked for two extra to put on Dad and Jackson's graves.

And my heart seized up. Oh my God. My dad and brother are here too, in the ground. In the midst of all the turmoil and focus on Grandmother at the graveside, it had slipped my mind that Dad and Jackson were buried there too. I asked Katie to come with me and we would put flowers on their graves, which were right above Grandmother's. That's when my tears overflowed and I couldn't see and I started into the "sup-sups." (That's what my aunt used to call the ugly cry.) I was trying to gain control when an uncle told me they were going to open the casket for me and my cousin to see Grandmother. (We had missed the visitation.) Oh, I wasn't prepared for that.

They opened the casket and I saw her. I cringed at first because it wasn't her. I turned away but my sister guided me back over. I started really crying and had to turn away again because I was embarrassed that people could see me. I realized Katie was watching it all too, and it was upsetting her. At this point, I couldn't do much to console her, so Dan held her and then came to me when my cousin comforted Katie. After a few moments, it was time to close the casket so I went to Grandmother one last time. I kissed my fingers and placed them on her cheek and told her I love her. Sometime around then the bagpipes started playing Amazing Grace and it choked me up again. "Too much, too much!" I kept thinking to myself. The casket was closed and it was over.

We left the cemetery and went back to VMI for the reception. After that, we checked in to our hotel and I showered while Dan took a nap. Katie and I rode with my sister to Grandmother's house, where the family gathered for the evening. I entered the house and had another big meltdown as I walked through the rooms, mourning the life that used to fill the house. It reminded me of saying goodbye to my childhood home, which brought up lots of deep emotions. And I could still see Dad dancing in the den, doing this silly Charlie Chaplin routine. I remembered that Frank, Grandmother's third husband (and the one I considered my grandfather), had died in their bedroom. And I saw mementos from my brother. It took me about 20 minutes to regain my composure before I could join the family upstairs. Yes, I know I was tired from the trip and physically exhausted. Those were contributing factors. But all the grief I avoided thinking about in Jamaica was catching up with me too. It was rough.

The silver lining is this: I was with my family (a motley but fun bunch) and got to catch up on their lives, toast to Grandmother, and listen to some hilarious stories and family lore. I told one or two too. I could almost feel Dad's presence in the room, and all those who are no longer with us. Grief is painful, but I've found comfort in my family in times like these.

The night ended and it took us a good 15 minutes to hug each other goodbye.

The next morning, we had breakfast with my sister and nieces and then went to visit the cemetery one last time. When I visit Dad, I always tuck a golden coin into the ground around his grave. I didn't have a chance to find my usual golden coin before the trip, so we had to use a Jamaican coin instead. It had gold banding around a silver center, so I figured it was sufficient. I showed it to Katie and she helped me bury it.

We got in the car and began our 11 hour trip back to Missouri. It was another long drive, but so wonderful to see Jackson again. I could tell he missed us. He kept coming up to us and saying, "Guess what? I missed you."

Home sweet home.

P.S. By the way, I'm not trying to bore the heck out of the 3 blog readers I have. I know I've posted two very long descriptions of my life lately and it might be tedious reading. However, this blog is a way for me to chronicle everything in our family's life. Thanks for sticking with me through all the details!

Sunset Saxophone

I took a nap on the beach on our first full day in Jamaica. I woke to a gorgeous sunset, and a saxophonist playing some beautiful music. I want to share it here, in hopes that it makes you feel some peace today! And also because it helps me keep the memories alive a little longer in my mind.
video

Wordful Wednesday

I never can quite get the hang of Wordless Wednesday. I'm not very good at being wordless. So today I'm trying my first ever WordFUL Wednesday. I found out about it through Scrappy Sue, and went to check it out at 7 Clown Circus. Here we go!

I've been wanting to post these photos. The first shows our bed as it was turned down each night at the Couples Sans Souci resort. Turn-down service is such a silly thing, isn't it? But, oh! It's so luxurious and centering too.

And then we returned home and came crashing back into reality. So sad. But have I told you about my incredibly romantic, wonderful, amazing husband? I'm sure I have, but let me tell you again. He picked flowers from our yard and arranged them on my pillows, like so:

Even better? He did it for our little Princess Katie too. What a sweet man!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Jamaica

Here's the short version:
We stayed up late every night. We slept in every morning. We ate three meals a day, and sometimes four. We swam in the pool and the beach. We kayaked and sailed and glass-bottom-boated. We sat a lot. We climbed steps A LOT. We had massages and intimate candlelight dinners. We danced. We sang every night. We exercised. (Yes! Even on vacation! Some more than me.) We napped. We made new friends from all over the world. We got sunburned. We rekindled our passions. We had the time of our lives. And we never stopped smiling. Want the long version? Here you go!
We had no idea where were were going in Jamaica until we arrived at the St. Louis airport. We had signed up for the Couples Resort's "Secret Rendezvous." Couples has four all-inclusive resorts in Jamaica, and we knew we would end up at one of them but didn't know which one. We found out we were going to Couples Sans Souci, which is about a two hour drive (eastwards) from the Montego Bay Airport. I was excited, but kind of a little ho-hum because out of all four resorts, this was ranked last on my list. Our travel agent had told us it was a quiet resort, so I thought maybe it wouldn't be much fun. Then again, I knew that I needed quiet and rest away from the kids. And, besides, I couldn't complain because it IS Jamaica after all!

When we landed in Jamaica, the first time my heart skipped a beat was when a Couples employee found out we had been to Jamaica before. He greeted us with, "Welcome home!" And I finally exhaled.

The sun had already set that Monday night, so we were driven to the resort in the dark. We arrived and were given champagne as we checked in at the front desk. We couldn't see much in the dark, but our rooms seemed pretty nice. We dropped our bags off there and wandered to the beach to try and get some dinner. It was around 9pm and we were hungry! Turns out the late night restaurants weren't open yet, and the other ones had already closed. So we went back to Beth and Sean's room and ordered room service. The guys watched TV in the room while Beth and I sat on the balcony. Our dinner arrived, then we ventured up to the Balloon Bar and found what would become Dan's favorite feature of the entire resort: a piano man! We sang along with him for a little bit, then explored the grounds some more and headed to bed.

Tuesday morning, Dan and I woke and he decided to work out on the treadmill. I did some reading and ordered breakfast to our room for him to share with me when he got back. We ate on our balcony and finally got to see the view from our room. It was lush and green and you could see the ocean down below, peeking through the trees.

We went to the pool, where Beth and Sean had already started their days with a trivia game - led by the Social Director Miguel.
After a few hours of relaxing, we had lunch on the beach and then swam in the ocean. Dan decided to take me on a kayak, with the strict rule that I was not allowed to paddle. My job was just to sit and relax. After our kayak, we went to the lobby to make reservations for the week. The guys took the upper hand and made all our plans for the week, so Beth and I didn't have to bother with a thing. What a treat! Afterwards, we went to the beach and I took a nap while Dan got to know the bartender. I woke at 6:00 when I heard a saxophone starting. I grabbed my camera and captured the saxophonist playing in the sunset. It. Took. My. Breath. Away.

That night was the resort's weekly Beach Party. The food was more local, like jerk pork and roasted sweet potatoes (which were white, not the orange I'm used to) and slaw and fire-roasted peanuts. The entertainment was a fashion show by the social directors and a steel drum band.

We woke Wednesday and BOTH decided to work out. Dan did the treadmill while I took a kickboxing class. I hadn't eaten breakfast (bad idea) and it was very hot and humid already (another bad thing), and the instructor kicked my butt. Halfway through the class, I turned to see Beth and Sean watching me from the comfort of their balcony. Grrrr! The one nice part was the view of the ocean in the exercise mirrors. Who can get angry while seeing that?!

Once class was over and I had regained feeling in my limbs, I went to watch the staff feed Charlie. He's the sea turtle that lives in a grotto at the resort. He's more than 100 years old and he is HUGE. He swam out and ate conch and seaweed and I snapped lots of photos.

Dan and I had breakfast at a restaurant this time, the Palazzina. My favorite was the crispy bacon, French toast, and the omelet bar. Yummy! After stuffing ourselves, we went to the mineral pool to watch Beth and Sean get their butts kicked by the exercise instructor for water aerobics.
The poolside bar served only fruit smoothies (non-alcoholic), and also some canned beer. (Guinness for Dan!) Dan and I found a shady spot under a gazebo with four adirondack chairs, and Beth and Sean joined us when their workout was over. We sat in that gazebo for at least two hours, just watching the ocean and feeling the breeze blow over us. It was heavenly.

Lunch was a late one at the Palazzina again (with a have-it-custom-made-for-you Caesar salad bar!) and then lounging at the pool. We met a great couple from Wales, who are both veterinarians. We played water volleyball, and then Dan and Sean joined in beach volleyball until it was time for us to shower and then watch the sunset at the other beach.

Dan and I had reservations for the “fancy” restaurant called Ristorante Casanova. It was an amazing meal with lobster bisque, a seafood kebab for me and oxtail ravioli for Dan. Between courses, the pianist came to play in the dining room. Dan stood up, extended his hand to me, and, even though there wasn't a dance floor, he waltzed me around the room. You know when someone says they are "drunk on love?" Sounds cheesy, right? Well, it isn't. That man had me head over heels in love with him. All over again. And the icing on the cake? DESSERT! They served my very favorite, creme brulee. Did I mention "heavenly" yet?

We met up with Beth and Sean after dinner and listened to a live reggae band. There was dancing and singing, finished up with karaoke. Dan even sang with me!

Around this time, I was having serious glute and hamstring pain from my kickboxing class, but the bartender's special ("Leighton's Rainbow") helped with that.

Thursday morning, Beth and I had breakfast (bacon and French toast!) while the boys played tennis. We spent the rest of the morning laying under a palm tree on this upper "beach," then swam in the mineral pool again. We had a late lunch at the beach grill, then left for a two-hour shopping trip in Ocho Rios that was planned by the boys. It was just enough time to see the touristy souvenir shops, buy some Cuban cigars and t-shirts, and check out the Burger King advertisements.

When we returned, we went straight to the Balloon Bar to wet our whistles before showering and having another romantic dinner. This one didn't involve dancing and had a much slower waitstaff, but it was still very tasty. We headed back to the Balloon Bar and listened to another live band before our favorite piano man Trevor started performing. Our new Welsh friends joined us for the singalong, and we were up until 1am.

Friday's breakfast was more bacon and French toast (surprise!), then a ride in the resort's glass bottom boat. Dan opted out, so I tagged along with Beth and Sean. We saw lots of coral, fish, and even a sunken ship. And we got to float by Bryan Adams' beach house. Not too shabby!

I met Dan on the beach afterwards and we sat quietly together and read, then swam in the pool. All four of us had couples' massages scheduled for Friday afternoon. Dan and I enjoyed ours immensely. Isn't the inside of the massage hut gorgeous? Imagine laying there, getting a rubdown and hearing the waves crashing below. Heaven!

We had another late lunch at the beach grill, followed by beach volleyball and another visit to sunset beach.

That night was the resort's weekly Starlight Gala. Buffet stations are set up under twinkling lights on the resort lawn by the beach, and we stuffed ourselves with food and danced a bit.

The party continued on the sunset beach that night, where the boys enjoyed their Cubans. We ended up at the Balloon Bar again that night, before bed at 2am.

Saturday morning was our usual breakfast (Bacon! French toast!), then we went in search of Dan's missing sunglasses. We couldn't find them, so we gave up and joined Beth and Sean at the pool. Then I remembered a backup pair I had in the room, so I went to get them. The maid was in our room, and she told me I just missed a call from my sister. My heart dropped into my stomach as it took forever for me to dial the long distance code to call her back. I already knew what the call was about, so Mary answered with tears and "Are you okay?" I made her tell me for sure that Grandmother had died. Mary told me that she was there when it happened, less than 30 minutes earlier. I cried and the maid couldn't quite figure out how to handle me. Mary told me the tentative funeral plans, then we hung up (it cost $2 a minute, so I couldn't cry much to her) and I found the sunglasses, thanked the maid and left the room. I stepped outside to my view of paradise, which was obscured by tears in my eyes. I stumbled down the stairs and got to the pool. Beth knew what had happened the moment she saw me, and I confirmed it. I tried to yell for Dan across the pool, but couldn't. Beth called him for me and he and Sean came over and heard the news.

We spent the next three hours trying to contact the travel agent in the States to change our return flight. It was extremely frustrating, because we found out that toll free numbers don't work on resort phones nor on Beth's cell phone. Finally we got on the Internet and couldn't find any flights that were less than $1,000 per person. We decided to check Mapquest and found that the drive from St. Louis to Lexington, Virginia was 10.5 hours. If we took our original flight that would land in St. Louis at 11:04pm on Monday night, we could drive to Lexington and arrive by the 11am funeral on Tuesday morning. Even though there was a one hour time difference, we figured it was our best bet to get there.

My heart was heavy and it was hard to enjoy the rest of Saturday. At one point, I sat by the pool and the realization hit that Grandmother was finally reunited with her parents, beloved brothers, four husbands, daughter, son, and grandson. I cried while Dan held my hand, and I watched life move on and the palm trees sway in the ocean breeze.

After a while, Dan and Sean decided to go sailing and so I got my camera out as a distraction. I took photos of them and some of the great scenery.

Katie had given us her stuffed bear (Apple Bear) to take on our trip with us. I promised her some photos of him on his wild adventure, so I got him out and took photos for her too.

The boys enjoyed beach volleyball again, then everyone cleaned up and I got to play photographer for a little while. Here are some of my favorites:

We had dinner at Bella Vista on the beach, then singing at the Balloon Bar again. (Have you noticed a pattern yet?) After a late night swim, we were in bed at 2am.

Sunday was our last "real" day in Jamaica, since Monday would be busy with our departure. It was also Mother's Day. After checking email for any funeral updates, we spent the day in our usual way: Bacon! French toast! Pool! Late lunch! Beach volleyball! Sunset! And Dan took me sailing (with the Watersports guide Clayton) too. The boys planned special dinners for us that night. After watching the sun set, Dan walked me to the spa gazebo where a private candlelight dinner was set up for us.

The gazebo is set on a cliff above the ocean, so we could hear the waves crash and the breeze cooled us somewhat. I was still blazing hot, so I stole ice from the champagne bucket and put it on my toes. That helped! Our own personal waiter (with the cool name of Blackstock) brought us water, wine and champagne, then a shrimp appetizer, lobster bisque, salad, and surf and turf entrees. Dessert was a chocolate number that was, of course, heavenly. Dan danced with me under the gazebo, and gave me a Mother's Day card. My heart was peaceful and happy.

We met Beth and Sean in the mineral grotto afterwards, and dipped our feet in to cool off for a while. The evening ended at the Balloon Bar singalong with the piano man, and we squeezed every ounce of joy out of the last night in Jamaica.

I woke Monday morning with anxiety attacks as I started thinking of our arrival back in the US and our drive to Virginia. We had breakfast (last bacon and French toast), then packed our bags. That helped me feel a little better. We walked the beach, hung out in the resort game room and looked at photos, then had our last lunch at the beach grill before one last moment in the hammock.

Our taxi drove us to the airport, where we shopped (it's like an indoor mall!) and got some American fast food before our flight took off. This was our last view from the plane, and we were sad to see our Jamaican vacation end.

Sunsets

One of the best things about Jamaica is that life slows down to a relaxed speed. After our first few days there, I commented to Dan how cool it was that our life came to revolve around the sunset. Our goal was to make it to the au naturel "sunset" beach each night by 6:15. No, not to get naked! At the resort, it was the best place to see the sun set. And don't freak out - at that time of day, you were allowed to wear clothes.

I must have taken dozens of photos of the sunset. Here are a few I want to share with you!

Beyond Hectic

The past four weeks have been beyond hectic.

First there was Grandmother's failing health. I spent a few days in limbo after learning of her renal failure. Once I was told that she was declining rapidly, I flew to Richmond, Virginia to be with her. I fully expected her to die while I was there, and didn't even book a return flight. But I underestimated her completely! After being there almost a week, I decided to return home. It was a great week - a chance for me to reconnect with family and get to know them in ways I hadn't before. I'll never forget my cousin Holman's story about Junior. And I learned that my Aunt Lucy is a force to be reckoned with. Talk about a strong and graceful woman! I stayed with my stepmother and got to visit with her better than I have in the last four years, and saw all kinds of other relatives. And, of course, there was lots of bonding with Grandmother, which I already wrote about here. It was a good week, but exhausting too.

I got home and spent the next week catching up on being gone, and also preparing for our Jamaican vacation. I had to plan for Grandma to watch our kids at our house, which meant grocery shopping and laundry and cleaning the house and changing sheets. Not to mention packing and trying to find clothes that fit now that I have lost 27 pounds. (Oh, but don't get too excited! I put on 8 while I was gone the next two weeks!)

There was still a chance that we wouldn't go on vacation because Grandmother was still declining. I spoke to my extended family and they all encouraged us to go to Jamaica anyway. So... we did.

We left on Monday, May 4. I'll go into detail about the trip in my next post. Oooo, baby! You don't want to miss that!

While still in Jamaica on Saturday, May 9, I got a call from my sister that Grandmother had died just a few minutes earlier. The poor maid who was cleaning our room at the time didn't know what to do with me as I started blubbering into the phone. I found Dan, Beth and Sean at the pool and we went into planning mode. To skip ahead in the story (I'll detail it all later too), we ended up keeping our same return travel plans.

Our flight landed at 10:30pm on Monday, May 11. Poppy brought Katie to the airport, along with our minivan, and we were on the road by 11:30pm. We drove ALL NIGHT LONG to Virginia to make it to Grandmother's funeral by 11am Tuesday morning. Again, more details to follow.


Wednesday morning, we woke and got right back in the car and drove all the way back to Missouri. Finally, we were home and exhausted. I've spent the last four days trying to catch up on laundry, email, uploading the 700+ photos that I took, grieving, cuddling with my kids who I sorely missed, and trying desperately to hang on to the feelings of peace and joy that I felt in Jamaica. Today is the first day I feel somewhat level-headed. Doesn't mean I'm stable and balanced, but I feel like I have a small grasp on the whirlwind that has been my life.

Let's sum it up this way. Here is a photo of the sunset over Jamaica on Monday night:

And here is a photo of the sun rising over Kentucky near mile marker 151 on I-64 Tuesday morning:

And here's a photo as the sun waned Tuesday night over Illinois:

This was taken at dusk as we returned to St. Louis:

How many people get to experience a sunset in Jamaica, a sunrise in Kentucky, a sunset and then sunrise in Virginia, then a sunset in Missouri? Whew!!!

And, now... here come all the details I've been promising! I'll start working on some posts and photo slide shows. Stay tuned!

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