Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The View from the Rockers, Above the Waves

I like to think of myself as an equal opportunity employer. See, there are two types of trips I love - the all out on-the-go non-stop kind of trip....and the trip where you just relax and go slow. True R&R. We have to balance our trips to hold everyone's interest, so we do mix it up. If I had to pick only one, I couldn't. I think that is why I like to cruise so much - it's the perfect hybrid: relaxing at sea, and adventure in the ports. 

When it comes to picking just the R&R vacation destination, I'll go first pick every time with the beach. Not much else has a chance unless I win the lottery and come into my own. ;-) I can never get in enough beach. Two summers ago we were blessed to plan for a week in South Carolina, right smack dab on the beach. The house we rented had an amazing location - and a full back porch that faced the shoreline. The picture below of the rocking chairs in single file, full of people I love, is one of my favorite beach moments ever.

It was like Beach 2.0 - the beachy experience I love, combined with a beautiful porch to veg on. See, I have a thing for porches, too. I have a thing for a lot of things, granted, but beaches + porches = some real bliss. When we were searching, when I found this house with the porch and rockers, it was pretty much a done deal that we would rent that one. 

And it turned out to be really a sweet, sweet time there on that beachy porch. It was the perfect perch for sunrise coffee and devotion, mid-morning conversations, post-dinner revelry, and late night deep thinking. When not on the beach, or inside for meals, we sat and took in the scenery - shrimp boats trawling, dolphins following in their wake, early morning exercisers, families strolling at dusk, the lights of Savannah across the harbor, coming on and twinkling as the day begrudgingly surrendered fully to the night. The chairs were almost always full. One could see the sense of urgency to get on out there and claim one of those rockers. See, there were 9 of us, and only 7 chairs. A true case of the early bird getting the worm. 

Speaking of birds and worms, one of the stories that played out on that porch while we were there was the battle with a momma bird for her time to feed her babies. Just above the door to the porch sat an external stereo speaker. And between that speaker and the house exterior, a momma bird had built her nest. We could hear those babies crying out in the morning for their daily feeding, and we could sense the frenetic energy of the mom as she waited for a safe moment to dive in and deposit the food delivery. It was, as both families were about to put a boy into his high school senior year, a poignant message to us about tending our nests, nurturing them, and becoming ready on all fronts for them to fly. 

We ignored that momma bird's badgering, as much as we ignored the message she chirped to our hearts. We sat rocking, resolutely, firm in our belief we were entitled to this window of family fun. We have had varying trips with different pieces and parts of the Kelly family over the years. This trip, though, was tender and such a gift, as it was the first time we all ever just went somewhere to be together and to take in the serenity of the ocean. On the porch, up above the waves.

They are an amazing family. So many layers to each of their personalities. We have been blessed to know them for 17 years. We have been blessed to have them praying with us, laughing with us, reading with us, crying with us, playing games with us, growing with us,  for all these 17 years. We have never been blessed, yet, to live in the same city. But, our bond reaches across the miles. And every so often, it happens to afford us coveted time together on the same piece of real estate.

I know we talked about much that week, but we listened, too. We sat and took in creation and listened. As I think about our Kelly grove, and our time together beside the ocean, I can't help but contemplate Hillsong United's song, Ocean
You call me out upon the waters,
The great unknown, where feet may fail.
And there I find You in the mystery,
In oceans deep, my faith will stand.

And I will call upon Your name,
And keep my eyes above the waves.
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace,
For I am Yours, and You are mine.

Your grace abounds in deepest waters.
Your sovereign hand will be my guide.
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me,
You've never failed, and You won't start now.

So I will call upon Your name,
And keep my eyes above the waves.
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace,
For I am Yours, and You are mine.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.
Let me walk upon the waters,
Wherever You would call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander,
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior.
This week together on Harbor Island was a week that stands out so in my heart. A snapshot in time. A snippet of togetherness for our hearts. A serendipitous pause from life to gather, cherish, nurture, explore, rest. No matter where life's tides take us, our families are knit together and we thank God for the Kelly family, for time together in creation, for the calling to stand with them on this side and ponder and remember and tell. Above the waves.

Life may have its borders, its challenges, its upheavals, its questions. So thankful for together time and for the community we have that helps us remember our faith is without borders. No matter life's tides. 

Family Fun ~ Harbor Island, South Carolina ~ August, 2012

Paper: October Afternoon
Font: American Crafts Kinzie

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Have Suitcase, Will Travel

I'll be the first to admit it's been a bit of a different summer around here. A sign of the times to come, no doubt. Our oldest has been off working at summer camps, home only for about 20 days between Mother's Day and August 16. We supported his choice, completely. We would support it again, and I'm sure between the two sons, we will be called upon to own those words. 

Our July 2014 Europe cruise that we booked in 2012 had to be cancelled, as the church youth group changed their historical summer camp week - and - yes, you guessed it - moved it right smack into the week we were to be cruising from Spain to Venice. We also supported our youngest son's desire to go on his Senior Beach Camp trip, and knew in our hearts we could not go on the trip without him. Wouldn't want to.

Our youngest did not really want a different family vacation, unless we could go to Alaska. Again. While we loved our trip there, and truthfully do dream of going again, we knew this year was not the year to plan accordingly. I don't know - something or other about two kids in private universities. We asked him to defer that plan, since we are not deferring tuition. He didn't want to go anywhere, and our oldest could not go anywhere.

So, the summer panned out with a grand case against a family vacation. Three strikes. We were out. I'll have to say it's the first summer in over a decade that we haven't had a trip. I'll have to say, too, that it's been harder on me than I imagined. I know, I know. Vacations are hard to plan. They are expensive. You come home more often than not exhausted - and wanting a vacation to recover from your vacation. 

It does seem silly to me when we travel and pay a lot of money each night to stay all squished together in a room that is a mere meager fraction of the size of our house. It's almost a ruse. "Let's get people everywhere to pay exhorbitant amounts of money to stay in (usually) lackluster rooms, share one small bathroom, trip over suitcases littering the floor, battle thermostats that struggle ineffectively, grapple with sheets that itch, and more often than not, tune out noisy crews on the other side of an all too thin wall."

All financial silliness aside, all cramped inconveniences shelved, all tedious master planning ignored, I will confess I love the family vacation. Love. It. Love it. We recently went to a hotel for a weekend, and we did it mainly so that we could be crammed into one room with our boys, just hanging out and being together. There is just something special about picking up little pieces of your every day life, shoving them into a suitcase, traversing this country, and exploring something new - together as a family unit.

Steve and I grew up as polar opposites in this family vacation paradigm. I can remember so very many vacations as a child. My husband took only one in his entire childhood, and it was to his oldest sister's wedding. Every time I ponder the juxtaposition of our pre-marriage travelogues, I cringe for him. I know we can't undo the past, and I know his parents provided for him and his siblings in many other ways, but I just hate that they didn't get to experience the annual family vacation. 

The gift for us as a family that erupted out of his childhood paradigm, though, is a near insatiable wander lust embedded deeply in him, and his commitment to plan and provide for his own family some wonderful trips. He and I started early on, with weekend road trips around Texas. So many fun memories. We started annual vacations early on, too. First for two, then four.

When the boys came, we altered our travel itineraries to mirror their capabilities and interest levels. I have enjoyed, thoroughly, watching my boys age and turn into such good, fun-loving, witty young men. They are just so enjoyable to be around.  In fact, in 2006, they were at such a fun age that we took two trips that year - the Grand Canyon and Sedona in May, and then Colonial Williamsburg in October. We have long been determined to gobble up as much of this short lived goodness while we could. We waited for them to be old enough to remember, and we knew we only had so many summers before the window began closing.

We have had some grand adventures together. I've photographed them all. 1,282 photos of our Alaska trip. 1,131 photos of our New York City trip. I won't dare divulge every trip and its jpegs. I will tell you that I pull those jpegs out and relive the trip - the stories and the discoveries and the laughter and the meals and the obstacles and the memory of everything the pictures tell me, and the details they cajole out of the deeper corners of my mind.

I won't believe yet that we are done. I simply can't. I am taking the summer of 2014 and cataloging it as an aberration. In fact, we have our 2015 trip planned out already. On the books. Deposit paid. I can't believe we are done because I can't believe we will ever get tired of one another. I can't believe we will ever fully quench our desire for adventure. I can't believe we can ever see everything. I know the next few summers will be challenging, with the boys' activities sandwiched in between college semesters.

We are content to let them have their own adventures during this season. We are even planning on having some of our own adventures. But, in my heart, I believe back when I taught them how to pack, when they learned to read, when I printed out a customized packing list for each child, for each trip, that I did more than create travelers. I like to believe that I planted in their hearts the wanderlust for travel, the desire to be an adventurer, the joy in being together. I think they, like their dad, like their mom, will always be ready. Have suitcase, will travel.

Oh, Alaska! I'll be back someday. Your beauty lives in my heart. The memories remain fresh. And I'd like to believe I'll once again be asking for a table for four. Get ready to serve up that incredible rustic beauty you offer, and save me some salmon. Adventure is out there! Have suitcase, will travel.

Oh, Alaska! ~ Ketchikan, Skagway, Juneau, and Tracy Arm, Alaska, and Victoria, Canada ~ July 2012

Paper: Echo Park, Little Yellow Bicycle
Font: Pacifico

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Beaches and Peach Cobbler

Squeaky flip flops. Crisp, cotton baby doll pajamas. A worn Monopoly board. A banana seat on a bicycle. Cereal for breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner. Lazy afternoons spent under the shade of the massive oak tree. Dusty evenings spent in my shed with my Barbies. Summers in the '70's.

Summer workshops. Trips on school buses. Long lists of reading books. Weeks with granny. Odd jobs. Extra babysitting. Cut off jeans. Reruns of Gilligan's Island. Walks to the Lucky 7. Late night games of Hide 'n Seek. Summers in the '80's.

Hot panty hose. Hotter car. Quiet Saturday mornings on the deck. Long-planned vacations with suns that set far too fast. Late night walks. Early morning bike rides. Peach cobbler. Friday evenings on shaded patios. Summers in the '90's.

Paper plates. Pop-tarts. Blackberries. Icicle pops. Pool floats. Happy Meals. Park picnics. Blanket forts. Beach trips. Dirty floors. Kool-aid smiles. Shade tree swinging. Watermelon bellies. Summers in the '00's.

Beach camp. Sonic Happy Hour. Chacos. Ben & Jerry's. Summer Blockbuster Premiers. Destination vacations. Open Door. Patio dinners. Weekend coffee on the porch. Firework extravaganzas. Saturday pancakes. Media room marathons. Summers in the '10's.

Aside from college, I have lived in five cities. All in Texas. Some would call that isolated. I call it lucky. I love a hot summer. Every part of it - from the breezy early morning through the heat of the day to the still dark heat of a starlit night. I love that school is out. I love that vacations transpire. I love that life slows down. I love that company comes by. I love that crazy schedules dissolve. I love hot cars. I love cold drinks. I love relaxation. 

There was a song on the radio when I grew up. The opening lyrics captured so much of how summer's definition in my heart came to be, as I played outside with my brother and my neighbor:

Goodbye to you, my trusted friend.
We've known each other since we were nine or ten.
Together we've climbed hills and trees,
Learned of love and ABC's,
Skinned our hearts and skinned our knees.
We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun
But the hills that we climbed were just seasons out of time...

I think as I grew older, and we raised the boys, I tried to hold on to and then share with them the joy and the fun of a simple summer afternoon spent playing Clue or swimming with dad after work. Summer can be the best part of life.

As my life marches on and I age, I am more aware of the season in my own life. As much as my heart wants to stay planted in summer, it does always give way to fall. Seasons out of time are words for a song. No matter my age, though, I think in my heart I will always live for summer. Kind of gives new meaning to the phrase "I Heart Summer."

I Heart Summer ~ Summertime Faves ~ July 2013

Sketch Credit: Simple Stories blog post by Gail Lindner
Paper: Simple Stories
ABC Stickers: Simple Stories

Monday, July 7, 2014

These Smiling Faces

I am a hopeless patriot. I'll never apologize for it. I can cry every time I watch Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger battle in The Patriot. I get goosebumps on the high note of America, The Beautiful. I loved singing, "This land is my land, this land is your land....this land was made for you and me," along with Mrs. Collins and her ukelele in elementary school. When I watch Les Miserables, I can lay the solemnity of that redemptive revolution over the grid of American history, and weep on both behalf's. 

I love America the Beautiful. Old Glory waves from my porch column more days out of the year than not. I can see her flapping in the north Texas breeze from the chair in which I sit and type. I have a tiny bound copy of the Declaration of Independence - in love with it's little book form as much as the words it proffers. I sing along with the national anthem any chance I can, and probably often when I'm not supposed to. I can watch the National Treasure movies over and over, enthralled by the history thrust into the plot.

It was chance that landed us with an anniversary on the birthday of our country. A chain of events involving more than ourselves led us to that day. And I'll tell you - it does not offer much in the way of romantic interludes and recollections of courtship. We have been teased relentlessly about giving UP our independence ON independence day. No matter. We did what we could, and picked the date in the summer of 1987 that worked for so many of our family, and we married on an incredibly hot, humid, summer Saturday afternoon in July. And it happened to be the fourth.

The upsides: we are off together every year on our anniversary, and if we are lucky, there are fireworks. We usually conspire some getaway, or even an extended vacation, during our anniversary. It is special in that we are always together as a family, and we are usually doing something fun together, and we also get to embrace the celebration of the land that I love.

When we contemplated celebrating our 25th, cruising with the boys, and our lifelong friend, Mark, that introduced Steve and I way back in January 1984,  aboard the Disney Magic seemed so appropriate. After all, anyone knows that hitting the 25 year mark of a marriage comes with plenty of fireworks, requires a fair bit of magic, needs the ability to stay afloat in any kind of weather, and has the goal of sailing in smooth waters. ;-) 

Steve and I have been extremely blessed. I always say that every marriage that stays together is one that consciously decides to stay together. Exit doors will pop up all along the way. We have seen those doors. We have pushed past them. We have reached the phase in our life together where we are deep friends and gentle companions. We miss each other when not together - not in the earnest sorrow of an eighteen year old, but in the sincere affection of wanting to share a moment, a memory, a word, a thought, with your most prolific friend, with one whom has seen all of your life events spanning, as of this writing, three decades.

I loved celebrating our 25th anniversary on July 4 in the waters off Alaska. I loved seeing the boys get excited over the dinner that night in Animators' Palate. I loved that Mark was with us to experience his first Disney cruise. I loved that all five of us embraced adventure and were equally mesmerized by the wildly extravagant beauty of Alaska. I loved that we ran into Americana Mickey. I loved that those silly shipboard photographers captured some of all of it for me. 

I can sit here and remember each moment in these photographs below - and I can remember a lifetime of moments spent together across our country. We have pieced together a story that is as rich as the colors in our flag. We have been blessed with a bountiful tale - a tale I love - our life, our liberty, and the pursuit of our happiness. You have only to look at the faces below. You can see it plain as day. I love all these smiles, and the stories that go with them.

It's always my joy to hear Happy Anniversary...and say Happy Birthday America. "This land is my land, this land is your land...this land was made for you and me." Chasing life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness freely in the land that I love is a rich gift, one for which I am forever grateful. Just as much as I am grateful for the life I have with these smiling faces.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness - Disney AK Cruise, Fourth of July - July 2012

Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation This is actually a Generations Kit by Debbie Sanders. She is an amazing talent and I only add a few trinkets here and there to complement her incredible layout.
Paper: We R Memory Keepers