Lake Livin’

By June Greenlaw

Hello, everyone!  I know it’s been a long time since my last blog.  I apologize.  My husband and I have been on the hunt for a new house and just got moved in a few weeks ago to what we hope will be our forever home on Lake Wateree.  I have to mention that I’ve never lived in the country or on a lake, so there are lots of things that I have to learn out here such as – there is no city trash service!  We have to separate all our trash in preparation for the dump. Very new for this city girl!

IMG_3228I want to share with you a funny story about another lesson I’m learning about living by the lake.  First, let me say, I am truly blessed to be able to work from home and to live on the lake!  Second, glory day, I never would have guessed that THIS would be a new challenge in my life.  Keep reading.

So, during my lunch break today, I placed my leftover spaghetti in the microwave to warm up and put the leash on my baby dog to go out for a quick walk in the yard.  The yard has three levels because of our retaining walls, and we usually walk back and forth on each level.  The baby dog is slower than the big puppy, and she is on a leash (rethinking the big puppy not being on one as I type this).  We walk the first level. It’s a beautiful day, uneventful.  Bentley, our big golden retriever puppy that’s nine months old, trotting a short distance ahead of us on the second level.

Baby dog decides to do some “business” while we are on the second level, so I patiently wait for her to finish and look up to see where Bentley is headed.  He’s on the third level having a great time running in the grass.  He looks a bit intense though – like there might be a squirrel he’s chasing.  I look just ahead of him, and I see what he is after!!!  I promptly start yelling “NO BENTLEY! STOP BENTLEY! SIT BENTLEY!” and probably a few words that made me thankful I don’t have neighbors during the week!

In the distance is a large, dead fish with only the head left on its body.  Of course, I’m afraid he’s going to eat it because this is a dog that will eat anything!  But no, instead, while I’m screaming for him to “leave it,” a command learned from my friend Pam recently, he promptly goes up to the head of the fish, lowers his head down, and begins to rub his face against the face of this dead fish!  As if that wasn’t gross enough, while I’m running as fast as a girl can run downhill without falling on her face, he proceeds to snuggle up his entire body and roll back and forth over the bones and head of this fish.

So, for those of you that have me as a friend on FacebooIMG_3226.JPGk, you may have seen my comment yesterday on my friend Dawn’s post.  It has a picture of us riding in her boat on a beautiful, sunny day with my comment reading, “lake life doesn’t suck.”  I’ll amend that now to say, “until your dog rolls around on the dead fish that some disrespectful bird dropped in your yard!”.

Oh, and did I mention my husband is away on a hunting trip, so I now have to go pick up this dead fish AND wash the dog that reeks of dead fish.  I just need to take a deep breath and remember I still feel thankful and blessed for the opportunity to experience lake life.

 

Summer Road Trip Series: Part VII “You Have Arrived at Your Final Destination”

By Marianna Boyce

Our departure from Sedona took place on a beautiful, sunny day—quite a contrast from the turbulent weather we experienced the previous night. After driving 2,100 westward miles from the Palmetto State of South Carolina, it was time to turn south toward the U.S.- Mexico border. Phoenix and Tucson stood in the way of our anticipated destination.

The thriving metropolis of Phoenix covers about 519 square miles, making it physically one of the largest cities in the United States of America. The layout is incredible and easily navigated, but there’s no gentle transition when exiting this urban complex. One moment, the view is grandiose, architecturally interesting buildings. The next, it’s back to a vast, inhospitable desert. The abrupt contrast is startling. We were suddenly left with nothing to see but swirling dust devils in the distance as we continued our remaining three-hour sprint to the finish line.

Sierra Vista, our ultimate destination, lies seventy-five miles south of Tucson and about twenty miles north of Mexico. This little dot on the map was our prime location goal for one reason only: our precious family lived there.

Tiffany is my bonus daughter (I’m just not fond of the term, stepdaughter). She married Bill, an Army Major at the time, now a Lieutenant Colonel. In 2015, Bill received orders to report to Fort Huachuca (pronounced wah-CHOO-kah) for a two-year stint.

image 4Abby, Emma, and Avery are our precious granddaughters. We also have a beautiful Belgian Malinois (pronounced mal-un-WAH.) grand-puppy named Leo.

As we turned onto their street, the gorgeous mountain range behind their house majestically stood in the distance. Situated on the opposite side of the mountainous terrain lies Mexico.

Little Avery is three. When she spotted us entering their driveway, she rushed outside immediately. Her arms flailing with excitement, along with her pretty blonde hair bobbing up and down as she sprinted toward us, was a wonderful sight to see. Many amazing landmarks we’d seen on our road trip were extraordinary, but this little princess took the prize. This family reunion was sheer bliss.

After a tasty spaghetti supper, we enjoyed each other’s company as we caught up on everything going on in our lives. The girls were thrilled to have an extended bedtime that night.

The following day, we ate lunch in a small town about twenty miles northeast of Sierra Vista. You may have heard of it…

image 3Tombstone is pegged as “The Town Too Tough to Die.” About 450,000 tourists visit each year. Its dusty streets are lined with rustic buildings and landmarks from the 1880s. The infamous gunfight at the OK Corral is re-enacted daily. It’s quite a surreal experience wandering the streets where Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday roamed—two of Arizona’s most popular “ghosts of North America.”

We spent one more night in Sierra Vista before embarking on our journey back to South Carolina. The most exciting news was all our girls were traveling back to the Palmetto State for a two-week stay. Bill remained in Arizona with Leo.

Tiffany drove her garnet-colored Explorer packed with enough stuff for a three-month vacation. Cody was in his comfort zone driving my light sage-colored Lincoln MKZ, so we let him drive. He’d passed the test a few nights earlier after driving in the monsoon weather from Flagstaff to Sedona.

I traveled with Tiffany, Abby, and Avery. Gerry and Emma rode with Cody. It was the perfect setup separating Abby and Emma. They were nine and seven at the time, so sibling rivalry was intense.

A year had passed since Tiffany had been home, so she was anxious to get there as quickly as possible. There would be no cool stops along this route, but the fun was just getting started.

Our travels took us about 1,050 miles that day, a little more than halfway. The decision to stop for the night on the outskirts of Houston was a good call. We were all exhausted, but I was one proud GiGi. We heard no complaints from any of the girls.

We departed the western edge of Houston early the following morning with the potential of being home by midnight. We had 1,000 more miles to go, but our aggressive plan just wasn’t meant to be. After an extended traffic delay, our plan simply fell apart. The back of an overturned poultry truck was on fire blocking all lanes on I-10. The driver was fine, but I’m sorry to report that many of the chickens didn’t make it.

image 1We exited the great state of Texas at mile-marker 880 later than we’d expected, and only traveled 400 additional miles after our long delay. Our sibling drivers, Tiffany and Cody, were both exhausted. Tensions mounted, but they merely needed to rest, stretch, and relax. Abby and Emma weren’t the only rivals in the bunch.

We stopped to eat supper in Slidell, Louisiana. We should’ve found a great Cajun restaurant, but Southern homecookin’ at Cracker Barrel is what we chose.

There was no need to push the envelope, so I devised a new plan. As I ate my chicken fried steak, rice and gravy, and fried okra, I made what my bonus daughter calls, a “Mama Bear” move. There was a newly built Hampton Inn and Suites directly across the road, so I asked Tiffany to book two rooms for us, and she did.

image 5The heated, salt-water swimming pool was calling our name. We basically all stepped into a nice, long, Epsom salt bath. This place was perfect, and exactly what “Mama Bear” ordered. Everyone loved each other again.

The following morning, June 16, 2016, was a Thursday I’ll not soon forget. Eight more hours would officially end our remarkable road trip. Unknown to me, at the end of this time span, I would begin my next journey deep into a dark, unfamiliar place that I often refer to as my alternate universe.

We quickly left Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia in our dust. We crossed the South Carolina state line about 3:00 p.m. About thirty miles from home, Avery began crying uncontrollably. She told me her tummy was hurting, so I cautiously removed her from the car seat and held her tightly in my arms. I know I shouldn’t have, but I did it anyway. Any great GiGi would’ve done the same.

As I silently prayed for her, a tingling sensation started in my feet. I thought they were asleep, just as Avery now was. As we got closer to home, a perplexing coldness began to overwhelm them. Trying not to disturb her as she slept, I haphazardly tossed my sweater over my feet. An odd gesture, given South Carolina in mid-June, is usually a hot, humid, 100-degrees.

Tiffany drove to her Mom’s house where they’d be staying for the next several days. She hadn’t seen her in a year, so it was reasonable for them to spend time together before heading back to Arizona in two short weeks. I jumped in the car with Gerry and Cody anticipating the arrival at our final destination. Bill selflessly planned to fly to the Palmetto State and drive back with them so they wouldn’t have to travel cross-country alone. I know—he’s great, right?

Four-thousand, six-hundred, and fourteen miles after our journey began, Gerry, Cody, and I pulled into our driveway and opened the garage door—home sweet home!

As soon as my feet touched the ground, the intense cold sensation in them immediately changed to insanely hot. It was as though a high fever spiked, but only in my feet. I stopped dead in my tracks not knowing exactly how to react. I’d never felt that type of pain.

My new journey had officially begun.

image 2I told my husband I couldn’t walk on my own, so he assisted as I hobbled along beside him. I literally watched my feet and ankles swell beyond recognition. Gerry instructed me to sit, relax, and prop up my throbbing, fiery-hot feet. I was horrified at the time, but we actually had a good chuckle about it later in the evening. In our infinite wisdom, we thought riding in the car for an extended period contributed to this unfortunate event. Were we ever wrong!

I am; however, thankful my symptoms stayed at bay until our arrival home. Leaving my driveway eight days earlier, I didn’t realize a life-altering illness was lurking inside my body. Stepping out of my car ignited a chain of events that maniacally unfolded and completely unraveled life as I knew it. Not only was coping with extraordinary pain physically debilitating, but it was also mentally grueling. I didn’t recognize myself after two short weeks.

My 2016 summer road trip served as the catalyst that ushered me from my normal life into an alternate universe. I straddled two worlds on a mission to control them both. Horrible symptoms relating to rheumatoid arthritis ruled my life for an extended period, but I was determined not to go down without a fight. I had a great life. I wasn’t willing to give it up to this vicious disease.

All our circumstances differ, but one thing is constant for everyone: change. Life adjustments are constantly transforming our lives. Many changes are subtle and can easily be absorbed with our fighting human spirit, but as in my case, significant negative transitions create utter chaos.

As I conclude my lengthy road trip series, I want to express my gratitude for those who chose to ride along with me. Enjoy your ride in life. What you don’t enjoy—endure. Remember who’s in control of it all. Come what may, God is good, all the time.

A Knack For Unique Gifts…A Valentine’s Day Story

By:  Marianna Boyce  

“Who’s the Best in All the Land?”

Does Someone Hear a Marching Band?

image3For me, Valentine’s Day is like most other holidays.  We shouldn’t wait for a specific date on the calendar to be thankful, patriotic, giving, or loving.  We would all better benefit to celebrate these wonderful qualities on a daily basis.

Holiday or not, my husband Gerry has a knack for giving very unique gifts.  The gift he gave me in 2004 is by far, the most unique gift ever!  Stay with me a minute.  There’s a backstory.

It was my son’s sophomore year in high school.  Cody was also a marching band member.  As band parents, we chaperoned most of their trips and events.  It was no surprise when we were asked to help with their Disney trip that year.  I would be responsible for twelve students and Gerry would have thirteen.

Days before our departure, I was busy packing for our trip.  I didn’t even think about being in the Magic Kingdom for Valentine’s Day, but someone else certainly did.

Once we arrived at Disney’s All-Star Music Resort, we met our group for breakfast.  It image1was February 14, and I was still oblivious to the fact it was Valentine’s Day.  We distributed their breakfast vouchers and told them to meet us back at a popular place near the castle at noon.  This was when we would give them their lunch vouchers and verify our that group was all still alive and accounted for.

The funny thing is, instead of venturing away from us, they all stuck with us like glue.  You should’ve seen the expression on the ride attendant’s face when he asked how many, and our response was twenty-seven!  He actually accommodated us so we could all ride together.

When we exited the ride, we saw two students from another group.

They ran toward me shouting, “Mrs. Boyce, Mrs. Boyce!”  My heart was pounding because I thought someone was hurt.

When they got to me, a young lady handed me a small envelope and said “This is for you.  Happy Valentine’s Day.”  They both ran off giggling.

Our large group of clingy high school students knew exactly what it was.  It was one of those small childish Valentine cards you would buy for your second grader.  I flipped the card over and read the sweetest note on the back from my dear husband.  I also read it aloud for the kids.  They loved it as much as I did.  Of course, I saved them and thought I’d share a few with you.  If you zoom in, you can read one or two as well.

image2What I didn’t know at the time was that Gerry had purchased several boxes of these childish “Will you be my Valentine” cards.  He wrote on each one, sealed them, and secretly handed them out to about 50 of the band members at breakfast that morning.  He instructed them to hand deliver these personal handwritten cards from him, if and when they saw me throughout the day.

About every 15 minutes, I had a random band member running up with excitement they had found me.  It was like a wild goose chase for them (I was the wild goose)!

I received cards that entire day and well into the evening.  I felt like a Disney Princess!

Gerry’s goal involving the students in the fun was for an important teachable moment: material things are not needed to make someone feel special.  For me, this gift is the best and most unique in our 31 years of marriage…and it only cost him about $8.00.  The effect?  Priceless!

image4Thoughtful gifts for no particular reason are great; however, this unique gift wouldn’t have worked well on say… April 8th.  It had to be given on February 14… at Disney World… by 50 of our awesome 2004 band students.  “Who’s the best in all the land?  White Knoll High School Marching Band…” along with my very loving and thoughtful husband!

 

This year, my gift to Gerry is being able to share this true and very unique story with the world!

 Happy Valentine’s Day Sweetie! 

 I Love You!

 

 

Off the Hook

By: Lara Winburn

This past weekend I was the planner for a beautiful wedding. There was a stunning bride, a dapper groom, flowing wine, and so much happiness it made bright sun beam around the happy couple.  I started thinking about marriage and all of the many blessings  it has brought me. My husband is a patient, kind, helpful, and funny man. I am still moony-eyed over him.  In this married life, there are many “favors” I ask of him. “Can you do me a favor?” is a question asked by me so much it may have been the first full sentence our daughter said. (I think it is a nice way to ask when you have A LOT of requests, don’t you?) He will gladly tote my luggage, take out the trash, and Let Husbands Off the Hookdrive so I can nap on a road trip. I am so happy we share our lives, but reflecting on marriage also reminded me that maybe we don’t have to share everything.

Maybe sometimes I should be sharing with someone else. I have learned some things should be shared or requested of best friends, work-out buddies and handy men instead of husbands. Even in the happiest of marriages, I think sometimes husbands should be off the hook.

I recently bought a new dress. I am not a big shopper, so this is a feat and a blog for another day. Anyway, I love this new dress. It is nothing fancy but it fits and it has pockets. (Doesn’t everyone love a pocket?) I should mention it is a shift dress, no real shape.  I put it on and proudly asked, “How do you like my new dress?” His honest response was “Where is the belt?” BONG! As fashion consultant, husband is off the hook.  Ask a friend, ask a stylist, ask a stranger on the street but if you are wearing an item of clothing that you really love, just don’t ask him.

I have also decided that when it comes to diets, the newest gym, or exercise challenge it is better to let the husband off the hook. My husband is tall and thin and does not need any sort of diet plan. He does not need to know what I ate for every one of the small six meals I had today. He does not need to give any input on whether it looks like I have lost weight or inches. (If you have to ask, it may not be that noticeable.) I will leave my fat burning questions for a workout buddy, a trainer, or friend.

Opinions on hair, husband off the hook.  Last year, the hubs and I were watching a movie. It was a bit of a chic flick because it was my turn to choose. As we watched, I asked “Do you think I could do that to my hair?”

He looked at me and said “What hair?”

I said, “Katherine Heigl’s hair, don’t you think I could do that to my hair?”

With the blankest stare, he said “I have no idea who you are talking about.”

“The actress in the movie, the star of the movie, her hair right there on the screen – that braid sorta thing. Could I do that with my hair?”

More blank stares….and out of my mouth slipped, “Sometimes I wish I still lived with my best friend.” In my defense, my best friend and I did live together for 8 years before we got married so we had watched lots of movies together and she would have totally known that I could and should do that to my hair.

Hair stylist he is not – husband is off the hook. Same best friend, same hair dilemma…After I recently cut a good 6 inches from my hair, I took my second official selfie and sent it to my bestie and my husband. The response from bestie was “So cute!” while the response from hubs “wow.”

My response was, “Good wow, bad wow?”

Radio silence……me: “You better answer now.”

More radio silence… my husband responded with, “Good. Great. Awesome.” Reads with some real feeling , doesn’t it? Once the hair is laying on the salon floor, just let the husband off the hook and send the selfie to you best friend.

I could write an entire blog about my husband, my partner, and the love of my life. But I think he, too, would appreciate that I willingly admit there are some “favors” he should not be asked to do. In fact, he may be astonished to learn when he reads this, that sometimes I actually refrain from asking: “Hey, will you do me a favor?” My kindness as a wife is to let him off the hook…