Summer trip, Part Two

DSCN0611I’ll start with the view from our campsite at Curry Hammock State Park which was interesting in a number of ways, including how close we were to the beach, although pursuing the wildlife was much more fun. The park is “green”, so the restroom/shower facilities were all specially designed to fit with the local ecosystem.

The wildlife that popped up all around our campsite included some fabulous green iguanas like this guy:

igianaThe area, though is known for its blue crabs, which had hideyholes in the ground all over the place, several around the campsite itself. My daughter had the chance for prolonged conversation with some in the mornings, since she is an early riser, but I didn’t get to see so many.

Out time in the Keys sadly came to an end, and we headed north, where M and kids rented a car to head home, while we stayed in Satellite Beach with a friend of mine from the old newspaper days. It was two days full of fun, great food and success!new adventures.

Linda’s friend Rob was so generous with his time–one afternoon, he took the girls to his neighbors’ dock. Here’s the result–they each caught one!

success strikes againAnd yes, Mr. Redfish was delicious.

While we were there, we also had the chance to visit Kennedy Space Center. Yurie was excited to go there because of the rocketships and the history. Little Miss just went for one reason:

DSCN0637Yes. Angry Birds in Space. A whole building devoted to it, with a maze, and games, and the opportunity to sling birds at pictures of pigs. What says space travel more than that?

She actually did pay attention to several of the other exhibits (though she was still pretty obsessed with the Birds), as she demonstrated in later conversation. We took a bus ride out to see some of the outbuildings (including the one where Rob works!) and then came back to sit through a mock-up of a moon landing, which was cool (especially for those of us old enough to have watched it on live tv) .


DSCN0632It was great reconnecting with Linda. We’ve both gone on to interesting lives, she as a counselor/teacher and me as an attorney/writer. But to take just a moment to relive those escapades as young writers–driving out onto the flight line at the air force base, checking out the drug hangouts in Florida City and nearly getting nabbed by the DEA–was awesome.

Then a sad day as we drove to Miami for Yurie to catch her plane home to Japan. We all survived the logistics of getting her to the airport during rush hour in Miami in a giant RV, AND of getting her multiple suitcases to the baggage carrier successfully (and the fact that the Miami Heat apparently won some sports event and we could have been marooned in city traffic for days, but we didn’t know it at the time). Goodbyes were tough. We’ll miss you, kid.  😦

The next leg of the trip was to Fort Pierce to visit another old friend of mine. We were both a little worse for wear for the years that had passed, and both dealing with chronic pain. But it didn’t stop my friend from being a delightful hostess, and we had a wonderful couple of days. Here she is with her friend going to a Mad Hatter party:

DSCN0642She looked great, and I’m so glad we stopped to see her. She lives in a beautiful condo overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and invited me to come stay with her on a more permanent basis. Have to admit, I’m keeping that in the back of my mind. There are worse choices.

Little Miss was more delighted with the two miniature dogs living there:

DSCN0644They were cute, but definitely fonder of her than of me or other visitors.

Finally, north to Asheville, to complete our travels, to visit with K and her lovely partner L. We always have a good time with them, and they work so hard at creating a life together with L’s son, even though the state of North Carolina is much less than helpful in its acceptance of gay rights. We took the chance to do nothing a lot of the time, preparing for the long drive home, and took advantage of the KOA’s nice facilities, pool, park, etc. to just let go.

DSCN0654poolAnd of course we visited L’s new job–Asheville’s Ultimate Ice Cream shop. With unique flavors like goat cheese and bing cherry, chocolate and ginger, and even caramel with blue cheese (to DIE for…), it was an amazing tastefest. That was before we got the maple and bacon ice cream.

Yes, I said bacon.

It was unbelievable. Please put it on your bucket list. Right now. I’ll wait while you get a pen.

Hard to believe all this fit into 16 days, but it had to come to an end eventually. What didn’t come to an end, of course, was the pile of work waiting for me when I got back. But then that’s what the real world is about. Time to start dreaming of next year’s vacation!



When the muse leads you to dance…

We live in the hometown of Allegheny College, which prides itself on being “a unique place where students embrace the College’s total educational experience.  Our students have the uncanny ability to create unusual combinations of interests and talents.  These “wonderfully weird” combinations enhance our students’ success here and ensure excellence in their future careers.”

This emphasis on well-rounded, Renaissance individuals brings us to last Friday night and the performance by Orchesis, the student-run dance company that put on an incredible show of dance, music and lights. While many of the students have dance training, a good cross-section are just learning to dance for the first time, for the opportunity and experience.

One of “our” international students, Xinyang Liu (affectionately known to her friends as Amber), was a participant, and we’ve been anxiously awaiting the chance to see her perform. One of her friends posted the video– complete with the enthusiastic Allegheny crowd of supporters. (Note: you might want to turn your volume down at the beginning of the video. The students are VERY enthusiastic. The dance starts about fifty seconds  in.) Our girl is about one-third of the way across from the left, with a thick ponytail. She was fantastic!

Here’s a picture of the family together afterward. Time to celebrate with muffins and pie at Perkins! (You know, that new place…)

A rainy spring day at Niagara Falls

One of “our” Chinese students will be returning home in a few weeks, and we wanted to make sure they got to see Niagara Falls before they went home. We’d cancelled one day earlier in the year for freezing temperatures and really hoped this weekend would be better. Although we had some rain, the sun was out most of the day, and we had a great visit (since most of what you do at the Falls is get wet anyway!)

Our girls with all three Falls in the background

 We dodged rain clouds for the most part, and hardly noticed as we took the Cave of the Winds tour and went up on the Hurricane Deck. That water hasn’t warmed up yet!!

Clue to the wise: those plastic ponchos do NOT provide heat.

I realized that the last time I went on this tour, I couldn’t go up on the top because K was a small girl and we thought she’d be blown off the deck.  Guess that was awhile ago, huh?

The silvery edge of the chill gave us other interesting vistas as well:

The observation tower through the mist

And even Canada seemed a little farther way, into a misty fairyland:

And here are the intrepid climbers (you notice the parents stayed down below where it wasn’t quite so wet and cold), climbing up to the very edge of the American Falls:

We’ve now been to the Falls in three seasons, spring, summer and winter–winter has some visually stunning ice formation, but it’s much too cold to be enjoyable. Summer is likely the best. All the same, the girls were happy to visit another one-of-a-kind site in America!

Never a dull moment

Amidst the angst and carrying-on about the children, the Captain’s travails, Dr. Doo-be-Doo getting ready for junior high, and Little Miss fighting off a nasty ear infection, we have also become “home away from home” for two young ladies from China’s Capital Normal College attending the local private college for a semester.

They don’t live with us–they live in a dorm. They’re very busy with their studies, because the school is a tough one. But we’re on call if they need something, and we’ve had dinner together–Chinese people cook very differently at their homes! We have also made a trip to Pittsburgh, to see some sights, like the Andy Warhol Museum and the Carnegie Science Center. I’m not sure any of us really “got” Warhol and his co-artists, but the Shepard Fairey exhibit with the picture of Obama, the word HOPE under him, was displayed, and that exhibit was interesting.

The Science Center has a new sports activities center that had foot racing, all sorts of bouncing, flying, VR opportunities. The Cabana Boy and the Doctor climbed the rock wall–Dad made it to the top, Boy, not so much. We do have some pictures showing Dad’s best side. 🙂

See us here on the Overlooks on Mount Washington, doing our touristy best to show off a jewel of a city:

The girls had a good time here, but what they REALLY wanted to do was stop and visit the Prime Outlets at Grove City.  I’ve promised to take them and some of their friends who traveled with them for a full day there, once the weather gets nice. I guess girls will always be girls. 🙂

Who moved my empty nest?!

I was reading this article on empty nests, and it seems experts find this less an issue these days. I suspect that has something to do with the fact that women are no longer relegated to housewife status, and many of us have outside interests to pursue full-time once the children move out.

Ah, there’s the rub. Getting that empty nest.

I had two children with my first husband; they’re both on their own. When I re-married (Paul of Mango Corral fame), I gained four stepchildren, one of whom still lives in town, very much a mother-daughter relationship. Paul and I also had a child together, K, eight years younger than her siblings. So that’s four.

We always kept multiple children through the years. Paul’s kids came and went, depending on which ex they were mad at at the moment. We had Ayako, an exchange student from Japan; Patrik, a student from Sweden, and plenty of kids who’d sleep over at any opportunity if they could get fresh waffles in the morning.

The greatest adult/child ratio we ever had was in 1997, when as a single mom again, I lived with seven teenagers and K, who was 9. At the time, I had my two children, M and B, as well as Paul’s daughter S. M and S were seniors that year (the wild graduation party is the subject of a story coming out in December in the book A Cup of Comfort for Divorced Women); S was living with us while her dad had some hard times. Paul’s daughter D (the one who still lives in town) lived with her boyfriend’s family until a house fire left them homeless. She and her boyfriend moved in with me, too, with all the belongings they could salvage.

Shortly thereafter, D’s sister in Florida got tired of living with her mother and asked D if she could come stay with her here. She was a couple years younger, but I thought we could manage, so I agreed. She came up with her stuff, too. Oy.

Just when everything seemed to be on track, the girls came to me with the sad tale of Kris, a friend of D’s boyfriend, a boy they all knew, who’d been kicked out of his house by a stepfather and had nowhere to go. He came to dinner, seemed polite, quiet. He had a nice sense of humor. We didn’t have any bedrooms left but I offered him the couch. He accepted.

That menagerie lasted a month or so, during which time everyone ate regularly, got where they needed to be, and looked out for each other. I remember in particular a water gun fight in the house, me right in the middle of it, feeling very young once again. I’d always wanted a large family, and it was fun.

The emergencies subsided as the school year moved on. Kris moved out; D and her boyfriend found their own place. Her sister went home to Florida. The seniors graduated with much pomp and circumstance. B would leave for college a year later, so there was K, who went freely between her father’s house and mine as she wished. It was a quiet few years.

K is now in culinary school, so I’d be ready to fly off except…I got married again. (I know, people just DON’T get it) I adopted my husband’s three very young ones– Little Miss was just a few months old. The oldest, Captain Oblivious, is eight years younger than K– so we added a new generation to our life and times.

I doubt I’ll ever see an empty nest, even though we hope and expect the autistic kids will be able to live on their own someday. It’s just something kid-magnetic about me. I attract them, they attract me. People say it keeps me young; I know it keeps me gray. 🙂 But that’s why there’s Preference–because I’m worth it.