August 20, 2019

the footbridge...

We slowly and carefully plotted our every step down the Cool Hollow Trail, into the valley. It was steep, and the path was rocky and a little slippery. At times I grasped onto a small branch or tree to set my feet before moving on. And then... we were there. The footbridge I had been holding in my heart and dreams for all the months since our last visit. It was so much more beautiful than I had even imagined, nestled in the green of spring. I probably walked over the bridge five or six times, not able to get enough of it. I made it! And I could have taken a thousand pictures, not sure if even one could capture all it meant to me... the journey, the arrival, the flight of fancy. 

Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river
slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.

― A.A. Milne



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August 19, 2019

the violets...

I was so excited to see Palisades-Kepler State Park in the spring, after our winter visit - and I had unfinished business. As we were leaving, I had spotted a foot bridge way down in a valley, and though we had already hiked a good measure, I really wanted to walk over that bridge. Eric looked at me and said I think we've pushed your lungs far enough, maybe next time. I probably pouted, but held it close to my heart, holding on to next time. {I had hoped that would be the next day but that next day, and the next, was a dreary, rain-filled, blustery day.}

But on this chill-in-the-air spring day, under a sky so blue, I was excited to find that trail with the foot bridge. Nothing was going to stop me! And then I saw the violets...
“My breathe would catch at the sight of violets-so common in the
woods at home, 
so surprising in the mountains. The violet's message was
"Keep up your courage, 
stay true to what you believe in." 
― Jessica Stern

Picking violets are one of my most vivid childhood memories. My cousin Jenny & I would sit in her front yard, which seemed a field of violets, creating bouquets of the sweet flowers. I'd then race home, through the sparse stretch of woods between her home and mine, to find a little cup of water to keep my precious bundles bright. I remember my Mom showing me how to arrange the heart-shaped leaves just so around the blooms, to create a ring of green, the perfect frame for the spring-time treasure.
On this day, the violets stopped me in my tracks.
They were so beautiful, and the memories flooded in to bring me right back to my childhood days. We don't have violets in Florida, and it was pure joy to find them. Pure joy! I couldn't resist plucking some of the sweet flowers into a bouquet... my soul was soaring! And when my parents pulled up to join us on our hike, I thrust my little bouquet through the car window, greeting my Mom with the sweet purple flowers of yesterday.

: :

Did we find the footbridge? Yes!
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August 15, 2019

twenty-five {now 27} beautiful years

Today we will we celebrate twenty-seven years... quietly.
No gifts, no cards. Just a whole lot of living. I found two anniversary posts in my drafts...I suppose I didn't get around to ever posting either of them. But now? Updated and posted for posterity {and your reading pleasure!}

: :

Two years ago was our big to-do, a silver spectacular. Twenty-five.
We celebrated while we were up in Orlando for Eric's FASRO conference. A little get-away, casual nights out, and... a progressive dinner adventure around the most magical place on earth.

I'm not sure how I heard about this event, but ever since my first progressive dinner during my middle school youth group years, my ears perk up at the mention of one. And the thought of this dinner, around the loop of the monorail, just delighted me!

: :

There are moments in your marriage that seem almost surreal. Like when you realize you've been together longer than you haven't, and when you hit a milestone anniversary that seems as if it would belong to grown-ups.
Twenty-five years.
The years that seems like yesterday & forever, the years that have been a lifeline and a challenge. The years you wouldn't trade for anything on this earth. The years that speak: I am me, and he is he... but together we are more.

We celebrated extravagantly... a progressive dinner at Disney, around the monorail loop. It was so special... to do something just for us, and at the same time, share the celebration (tour!) with people we had just met. Four hours of dining adventure with all the special treatment you'd wish for.

Like a private monorail car just for the tour!
We met up with our tour at the Contemporary Hotel in a the very blue Wave Lounge! We were greeted with drinks and were encouraged to mingle with the other people on the tour. And then, I actually ate pea soup... and liked it! 

We hopped on the {private} monorail and were whisked off to the Polynesian Resort. I had a delicious margarita (because I was allergic to the pineapple in the Mai Tai!) and we had three appetizers - sushi (a first!), a golden beet, and some kind of pork belly. I loved being in this group of new people with my husband, and being an adventurous eater!
Next Stop? 

The Grand Floridian for a cheese course, with Happily Ever After Champagne, and our main course at Citricos. It was all really delicious, and paced perfectly! Even the beverages!

And our final stop was for fireworks at the end of the night with beautiful desserts... we loved every minute of our anniversary adventure!
Twenty-five years.
Of love and laughter, and faith that carries us through the tough times - when the love doesn't seem very lovely and the laughter turns to tears. He is my forever hero, the love of my life, the one who made all my dreams come true.
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August 14, 2019

life lately...

Happy Wednesday!
I love Wednesdays... I'm off from work, it's my play-day at the zoo, and I can regroup for the last two days of the week. The weekend doesn't seem too far off!
1. We were so thrilled to help out at a back to school event for foster kids!
It was really a well run, wonderful event. Each child received a new backpack filled
with school supplies, a school uniform, a new pair of shoes, and even a fresh haircut to
start the year off right! There was also a bus for health screening and if they needed glasses,
they got them. A great collaboration of nonprofits in our corner of the world.
There were also toys... Eric & I got to work the toy table!

2. Look at the proud {exhausted} Mama lion!
One of {her three} cubs snuggled right in and posed for this photo!

3. Just some Sam's Club roses...

4. We've had a couple of relaxing weekends, and they have been blissful...

5. Cousins! We love when Texas family is in town.
We all had a great visit, and it was fun capturing these four.
Yes, four! Laura was skype-ing in!

6. Summer birthdays... and have you met Nothing bundt Cakes?
They are delicious. And that little one?
It's gluten-free... so yes, Eric is happy.

7. Eric is started at his new school yesterday and he's now keeping the Bullfrogs safe.
His office is decorate appropriately... courtesy of his personal crafter. 

8. Paper cranes from Denver. Be still my heart. 

9. BINGO! After months and months of playing Bingo at the brewery, I won!
It was very exciting... and I probably scared some people with how excited I was!


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August 13, 2019

let the vineyards be fruitful...

We visited Cedar Ridge Winery when we visited Camden last November... twice. It was my first {and second} trip to a vineyard, and I was excited to see all it had to offer! The day was gray, the drizzle was heavy... and the vines were in hibernation for the winter. Good thing I'm not the kind of girl who would let that get in the way of enjoying the wine and our visit! We brought Camden back for lunch the next day... in the even heavier drizzle.
Coming back to Iowa in the {almost} spring was such a joy! It was still cold {some days very cold!} but the landscapes were green, the trees were beginning to bud, and the flowers were in bloom. And... the vineyard was green.

We brought our parents to the vineyard for lunch, for a casual and fun adventure. Half of me was enjoying the lunch and the wine... and the other half of me was itching to get outside and walk through the vineyard. I wasn't sure if Eric would go for it, because we had already done a little morning hike, but I knew I was going to try to get him to say yes anyway.
I can be very persuasive... or, he just loves me that much.
Our parents went on to figure out their own afternoon adventures and we walked. The air was crisp, and the skies were blue... my perfect kind of day. And just us, hand in hand, was what my soul needed to quiet itself in the frenzy of family and celebrations. While we walked the rows, my heart was singing...

Let the vineyards be fruitful, Lord, 

and fill to the brim our cup of blessing.

...it just seemed fitting.
And when we had walked up the last hill back towards the restaurant. I paused to take a picture... the brilliant pink blooms knew I couldn't resist. A woman spotted us, and struck up a conversation about the flowering trees, Iowa, and the beautiful day. It was a simple conversation, not much deeper than how's the weather? but I love moments like this because it's not really us to have these conversations with strangers.  It adds so much to our life, and makes me feel like we are growing! A few minutes later, her husband walked up and joined us, introductions were made all around, and the conversation continued. More about Iowa, a little about Florida, and then some graduation talk. And then...Richard told us that he & Kim have a small local ministry, and asked us if he could say a blessing for us. So there we stood, in the beauty of the day, with pink blooms floating around us, and he prayed. For us, for Camden, for his journey from graduation...
It was beautiful, and it made me cry... for a hundred reasons. God knows just what we need, and His timing is always perfect.

Let the vineyards be fruitful, Lord...

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August 09, 2019

our cast of characters...

Maybe one of the reasons I was so excited for this trip was that we would all {almost all... Tina, you were missed!} be together to celebrate: my family, his family... our family. There was one glitch though. Laura. She moved to Colorado in April, knowing she would need a week off in July... and she felt like it was irresponsible to ask for more. She talked to Camden first, and he understood. When she told us... what could we say? So we began to plan without her...

But... God placed a new opportunity in her path, and her new job gave her weekends off! Would she be willing to fly in Saturday morning and back out Sunday night? Laura contemplated, then finally decided yes, on ONE condition... she wanted to surprise Camden. Okay. Done.

The weather leading up to our weekend was crazy across the nation. While we drove in with no problems, my parents had planned on an extra day in Nashville, but skipped out on their planned zoo day to beat the weather! The four of us arrived Thursday afternoon, a day ahead of schedule!

Eric's parents flew into Iowa Thursday night...well, it was actually Friday by the time they arrived. Delays in Florida had them racing for their delayed connection in Atlanta. But they made it, and that was what was important.
Eric's brother and his wife {Uncle Fritz & Aunt Heather} were due to arrive Friday at noon, and... their flight was cancelled. They ended up finding another flight from Richmond to Dallas, which eventually made its way to Iowa. Five hours late? Better than never. We were able to keep our dinner reservation at the Sing-A-Long Piano Bar, which was delicious and fun.

And that brings us to Laura... our surprise guest.
She was due to arrive at noon, before Baccalaureate. But those storms kept on raging, and there were delays and changed flights... and I was almost to my breaking point. Too much stress. So we went to the ceremony without her, enjoyed the reception, and made our way on to dinner...
Aunt and Uncle to her rescue... they picked her up at the airport and met us at the restaurant {which had it's own set of issues: prom, graduation...} The foyer at the restaurant was packed - no room to budge, no room to pull off the surprise. So we waited outside in the cold until there was a little more breathing room.
I was expecting shock and utter surprise... and I might have felt robbed at his "Oh, hi! It's you!" response to seeing his sister... but they sat at dinner together and chatted and laughed and were silly together and it brought me to tears. Gasping-I-can-hardly-speak tears.  And the difficulties of the travel day disappeared...



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p.s. If Tina and her kiddos could have come we would have all ALL been together... but travel is expensive, and it was May, and there is so much school to do in May! They were definitely there in spirit and in our hearts!


August 08, 2019

the road trip...

I was itching to get on the road, so excited to begin this journey to graduation. Eric had somehow talked me into leaving after work, instead of in the wee hours of the next morning ... it took me some time to come around to it. The car was packed, we had one one more work day to get through. I was antsy. Our original goal was to leave by 5pm, but after a delay in Eric's Do The Right Thing Ceremony, we were thrilled to pull out of the driveway at 5:30, with our first destination 4 hours away. Here's the thing... waking up after a great night's sleep and already being halfway through Florida was a fantastic feeling! And not worrying about landing in Atlanta during rush hour was a huge bonus!
Have you ever eaten your Chick-fil-a with a knife & fork? Nothing like fancy fast food!

Tennessee was so pretty along the way! We did stop at a rest stop to get in some scenery & steps!

Kentucky!

Once we hit Illinois we had to stop for gas (which was a mistake $$$) and STUCKEYS!
And just for the memory, we did buy Eric a t-shirt!

Missouri! It was really neat to drive right through St. Louis and see the Arch!
Not long after this, we stopped to refuel... and it was COLD! Eric then realized he did not pack a jacket. Or a sweatshirt. 

Iowa at last!!!  My goal was to make these Cheez-its last the whole trip...and THEY DID!
Sometimes getting there is half the fun... and because we felt ahead of schedule, we were relaxed along the way. My parents were a couple of hours behind us on the second travel day, and texting back and forth with my Mom added to the fun. She would send me something like: Wow - lots of deer on the the side of the road! And then I replied: Fox coming up on your right! And while she didn't understand it when she read it, two minutes later she did! And when she let me know they had crossed into Iowa, I asked her: Did you pass the weird holes in the ground? It kept us laughing!

Also I have felt the best I ever have on a road trip and I attribute it to something I have never ever done before: exercise on vacation. Yes. Every morning I got up and did my workout in the hotel, and it energized me for the day!

Maybe the best part of the road trip was this...

...seeing his face, being together.

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p.s. The jacket you see Eric wearing? That was our actual first stop in Iowa...

August 06, 2019

my son, the blogger...

Last fall, Camden shared with us that he had an opportunity to travel to South Africa for shark research, and we were excited, but wary. Does that still keep you on track to graduate in May? It seemed to be our repeated question, and I'm sure he grew weary of it! But the answer was always yes, and so we kept our hotel reservations and prayed for graduation success.

Occasionally we'd ask him for an update on how the funding for this research was going, and his answer was always let me check on that. It wasn't until we visited him after Thanksgiving that we realized that this was a big deal. He asked us to take a meeting for him {really?} because he had class... and we found ourselves sitting in the career center, not completely sure why we were there. Rebecca must have sensed our confusion, and then laid it all out for us. Camden had been named a Cornell Fellow and the research project, with funding, was a go. She continued on, sharing with us the rigorous process that he had navigated... and what would be expected during and after his travel. The minute she said Camden is required to write a weekly blog post I was all in and pretty darn excited.
Cam spent February and March at Oceans Research in Mossel Bay, South Africa... and it was more than a trip of a lifetime. He learned so much about the ocean, research, and...himself. I stalked social media and was thrilled every time I caught a glimpse of him. I stressed about the air travel (we were responsible for booking the tickets, and when you buy tickets in/for Africa you wonder... are they real?) and exhaled when he made it to where he was going. And when he sent a photo along with an exciting note about cage diving, I wrestled between excitement {for him} and worry... and I prayed.

He has many favorite moments from his trip... but my favorites were when I would click over to the Cornell Fellows website and see that he had another blog post up... {read them here!} I'm so thankful that he had this experience!
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August 05, 2019

the graduate...

The second week in May we took our third trip to Iowa.
(Fourth, I suppose, if you count that first college visit.)

Honestly, I thought we'd visit more than three times over his four years at Cornell...but we've apparently raised a pretty independent young man. After the first time he moved out of his dorm, then back in again, all on his own, I stopped worrying about it. He figured it out, just like he has figured out a thousand other things before, and since. I am very thankful.

I can hardly believe the experience that Cornell College provided Camden. On top of his amazing education, earned 18 days at a time, he made lifelong friends, and experienced many once-in-a-lifetime adventures: swimming with sea lions, swimming with whale sharks, researching flying fox in Mauritius, and spending two months in South Africa researching sharks {yes, that DID include a cage dive and great white sharks...but he survived, so I forgave him.} I did not know that college had all of this to offer.

Is there anyone more proud than a Mom whose son graduates college on Mother's Day? It was an amazing gift - he'll probably not be able to top it! I was so excited for the weekend and the ceremony. Seeing him in his element, so grown, almost did me in. The ceremony was very personal, especially knowing that a friend he made on day one was giving the graduation speech {along with his first adviser}and it was FUN! I'm not sure I expected that, but it really was! We are so very proud of him and all he has accomplished so far.



There are a few more stories to tell about this epic week in May... so I'll dub this Graduation week!
More to come!
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August 02, 2019

queen of hearts...

Could it be that hearts are my love language?
I am always on the lookout for heart-shaped beauty... and when I find it? I'm giddy.

The other night Eric called me out to the grill...

He loves me, he knows me.
Am I the only woman who would swoon over a heart-shaped burger?

When joy is a  habit, love is a reflex.
-Bob Goff

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