Thursday, March 31, 2016

'Tis the Season for Bluebonnets

This morning, after breakfast, I told Dan I was going to go get a few photos of the wildflowers. The bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush are in full bloom all over town, and I knew a great place to get pictures. So off I went, camera in tow.

I happened to have this entire field of flowers to myself this morning. That's not common. Usually there are parents posing children in the flowers, or lovers getting their engagement portraits done. Bluebonnet season is spectacular, but doesn't last too long, so everyone in central TX comes out to enjoy God's handiwork in the spring.

Indian Paintbrush


There were lots of little butterflies enjoying the morning with me. I caught this one before it flittered off.

"WHAT," you may ask, "is that picture of a tow truck doing here?"

That's the not-so-perfect ending to my morning photo shoot. I went back to the car and found . . . a dead battery! Totally dead! So I called AAA, who arrived promptly to rescue me, by jump-starting the car. Then it was off to our local VW dealership to get a new battery.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter 2016

We spent Easter with Chris, Kelsey and the grandkids. Sadly, Kelsey was suffering with a toothache. She was such a trooper, though! She pushed through the pain (with the help of some meds), and made it through the entire weekend, including an Easter egg hunt in the front yard and church on Sunday. Today she got in to see the dentist and heard the unwelcome news that she'll be having to have a root canal. I feel so bad for her. There's nothing like a toothache to ruin the day.

Anyway . . . the kids didn't miss out on a thing. Here are a few photos from the weekend.

I tried to snap pictures of the wildflowers along the roadside as we were driving home. They were EVERYWHERE, but most of my photos just came out a blur of color. This is about the clearest one I got.  Maybe this week I'll get out and take some pictures around town. The bluebonnets and other wildflowers are really pretty this year.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

What's Happening?

On Saturday morning I drove to Waco to attend an all-day workshop on how DNA testing can benefit genealogy research. I learned a lot, but came away feeling like I had only dipped my toe into the deep ocean of this subject matter. It was almost like learning a new language, with vocabulary like: mitochondrial DNA, autosomal DNA, Y-DNA, haplogroups, STRs (short tandem repeats), and SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms). I found it interesting, although I came away with a mere inkling of how this all works. I'm not ready, yet, to have my DNA tested. I want to make sure that I have enough knowledge to use the results before I invest in the testing.

Mom moved out of her house, which was located in a senior community in Carlsbad, NM, in July of 2014, when she moved to Texas to be near us. That means her house has been on the market, now, for 19 months. And FINALLY it has sold! It was becoming a burden, since a rather large maintenance fee had to be paid every month. It was a great relief to bring closure to this, the last major piece of Mom's estate.

For people, there are several rights of passage . . . learning to drive, graduating from school, getting a first job, etc. Well, our little sapling of a red oak tree, which we got from the City of Temple last fall, survived the winter and its buds have swollen and are beginning to pop open with tiny little leaflets. And today our baby tree experienced a true right of passage -- having a bird rest in its branches! Don't you think it looks proud?! :-)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Martin Creek Lake State Park

It's Spring Break for the grands, so Chris, Kelsey and the kids took off for a camping trip - their first one in their NEW camper. Their old camper was a pop-up model, and they had many, many, wonderful camping trips in it. It was time to upgrade.

Dan and I joined in some of the fun. We drove up to the camp site, at Martin Creek Lake State Park, on Sunday afternoon. We ate dinner with them that evening, and spent a few hours there before heading to our hotel room, about 20 minutes away (in Kilgore), for a good night's sleep. Then, on Monday morning, we rejoined the family, and stayed until 2:30 or so in the afternoon. It's about a 4 hour trip back to Temple, so we were back in time to have dinner at home.

This state park is in what is known as the East Texas Piney Woods region, and it is really beautiful. Whenever we travel through that part of the state, Dan marvels at how he grew up in west Texas, thinking that all of Texas looked like that dry, flat area.

On Monday morning some of us walked down a short trail behind their camp site, looking for animal tracks. Robert and Clara had brochures telling how to identify the different tracks. Robert was determined to make them all look like wild pig tracks, though I think most of what we found were deer tracks. Driving home, though, later that day, I did see two wild pigs in the ditch beside the road!

The best part about the trip was the time spent playing with the kids. We played Wiffle baseball and badminton, until Grandma got too tired and hot. (Did I mention it hovered around 90 degrees most of the time?)

Before lunch, on Monday, it was time for some water fun. Chris has the coolest kayak ever! It has pontoons with trampoline decks to each side, is rigged for sailing, and has pedals for paddling. Grandpa and I stayed ashore while the kids launched the boat and sailed to the other side of the nearby little island and back. There was a nice breeze, and Chris said he got close to 8 m.p.h. - a nice clip!


While the kids were on the water, Dan and I walked out to the island and relaxed under the trees. The birds were singing, and it was a perfect day to be outside. 

There was a rope swing, tied to a tree branch, near the picnic table where we were sitting. It was made to swing out over the water. Most of the folks who walked by were about our age. They all commented on how fun it would be to swing out over the water . . . if they were younger. Finally, along came a young family with two children. The boy, whose name was Silas, wanted to try the swing. His parents encouraged him, but each time he grabbed onto the stick, he got cold feet and couldn't bring himself to swing out. FINALLY, after his dad and Dan managed to shorten the rope a bit, and after tons of prompting by all of the rest of us, Silas did it! And he had so much fun that he made four or five more swings after that, without a moment's hesitation. I took lots of pictures and promised to send them to his mom.

After the water fun, we went back to the camp site, ate lunch, and Dan and I said our good-byes. When we got home, about 6:00, we were tired, but couldn't stop talking about how much fun we had and how much we enjoyed our time outdoors with the family.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Miss You Mom!

One year ago today. Can one year already have passed? Yes, that’s what the calendar says . . . one year ago today Mom passed on to her heavenly home. 

My initial shock and grief are past. I can talk about Mom now and smile. I sometimes even laugh at things I remember about her. But I still miss her, usually at the most unexpected times.

For instance, when we went to eat at a new restaurant and saw that they had “frozen custard" on the menu, my initial thought was how much Mom would have enjoyed ordering her favorite -- a caramel sundae.

Yesterday I noticed the first bluebonnets poking out of the ground, and thought about how Mom marveled over them when she visited us in the spring of 2014 (before she moved here), and had me take her picture beside a patch of them.

And, last week, when we got to spend the day with Bea, I kept wishing that Mom could have been there to share in the reunion. She and Bea would have had a non-stop "remember when" festival!

Lots of memories -- all of them sweet. And I love how they just take me by surprise in the middle of an otherwise ordinary day.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Overnight Trip to Kingsbury

When we learned that our dear Alaskan friend, Bea, was visiting her daughter, Terri, and son-in-law, Gene, down in Kingsbury, we decided to go see all three of them. Kingsbury is a small town not far from San Antonio. Terri and Gene recently retired there. For all of their married life, until now, they lived in Portland, Texas, a suburb of Corpus Christi, on the Gulf coast.

When they retired, they were ready for a change and began looking for some acreage around San Antonio. They fell in love with the 17-acre ranch land and house that they found in Kingsbury. We thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent there, in such a beautiful setting and with such good friends.

Thursday morning we stopped at Shipley's Donuts for a quick bite to eat before heading south.

There was a pretty stiff wind, from out of the North. But that was okay, since it provided a bit of a tail wind on the way down.

The wind was blowing!
We made good time traveling, not only because of the tail wind, but also because the majority of our traveling was done on Texas State Highway 130, which has speed limits of 80 and 85 m.p.h.!

We got to Gene and Terri's before lunch time, and we enjoyed a whole afternoon of visiting. Bea is in her late 80s, but hasn't changed that much -- she still loves to tell a good story, and loves to be with people. Although I've known Terri since we were both children, I had never met her husband, Gene, before, so it was a joy to get to know him, as well.

We were glad they offered to give us a tour of their beautiful 17-acre ranch. They've slipped into ranch life comfortably and completely. If I hadn't known better I'd have thought they had both lived on a Texas ranch all their lives! They have some chickens and a couple of guinea hens, and a cute miniature donkey, named Daisy. They have an arrangement with their neighbors letting the neighbors' cows graze on their property. And neighbors on the other side have three gorgeous horses that like to come to the fence for carrots that Terri brings with her when she's out. They also have a pond on the property, which they keep stocked with fish. It's too early for the bluebonnets, but there were some pretty red wildflowers starting to bloom.

Daisy is what is called a Jerusalem Donkey, so named because of the darker colored cross that extends across the shoulders and down the length of the back, which forms a cross shape. I found an article on-line about these donkeys and the  Christian lore associated with them.

Their house is a log house, and has a huge great room in the center, with tin ceiling tiles, and bedrooms on either end. It was a great place to spend the afternoon.

The real highlight of our visit, though, was being with Bea again. Every time we see her, it's a blessing. She and her late husband, Nello, were very special people in my life growing up, and in Dan's and my life when we lived in Juneau later on.

Bea and Terri

That evening we all went out to a Mexican restaurant for dinner, and Terri suggested we check out the little historic town of Gruene (pronounced like the color, "green"). So Friday morning we made the half-hour jaunt to Gruene. It is really a charming little place (actually a part of New Braunfels). We told ourselves we need to come back and spend a night or two there sometime. There are bed and breakfasts and inns and unique little shops and restaurants around every corner.

The Gruene River

We drove on home this afternoon, happy to have gotten out of town for a little bit, and happy to have reunited with special friends.