Sunday, July 30, 2017

Blue skies. Clouds. No,, hold on, it's clouds....I mean sun...

I have not been on a proper vacation in five years (a proper vacation being one where I am away from work for an entire week instead of just a few days here and there). Until now. Excitement started building with random group text messages: "Guys, it's 53 days away." "Four weeks exactly!" "In two weeks we'll be sitting on the beach!" And finally "OMG, do you believe we leave tomorrow?" We did not journey to lands afar, but simply headed east to the shore of our childhood, LBI (Long Beach Island). It was my parents, their children and any spouses, and any of their children's children. And the dog. A nice tidy group--large enough for fun, not too big to coordinate things easily.

We went through the "chores" part of arrival quickly, slamming sheets on beds and putting clothes away, putting away groceries and deciding on dinner (easy: pizza). We made our way to the beach, only to be told pretty quickly we had to get off the beach due to an impending storm.

Complete with thunder and lightning, the storm sent us inside with mutterings of expletives, followed by "Can you believe this?"

And so the weather continued all week long. Clouds and rain, followed by sun and blue skies, and back and forth and back again. On the second night the rain and winds were so bad the island was partially flooded in certain spots, and I was shaken awake with "Wake up!! The rain is coming through the ceiling!" With that quickly sorted (and a visit from a roofer the next day) the week carried on.

We got in substantial beach time, either waiting until the clouds cleared in the morning, or leaving when they rolled in towards late afternoon. I slathered on sunscreen and dove into my book, while others dove into the ocean (with its varying wave sizes and roughness) or argued over proper sandcastle construction.

For dinner, we paired off and each group took a night to make dinner. We also went out to eat twice. We ate very well, lemme tell you. The second night we ate out the restaurant was right on the bay, so we came out to be greeted by a beautiful sunset (which looked different depending on where you were standing)--

We made it back to the house in time to capture this from the deck--

If you've been coming here any length of time them you know one of my favorite things is a good sunset silhouette (I imagine I'd love them at sunrise, too, but let's be real here).

We had a nice house right on the beach this year--there were multiple decks for hanging out or solitude, for launching water balloons or taking photos. Like of this seagull--I took this from the third floor deck all the way down to the water's edge--

In a completely non-creepy sort of way, I love looking at houses lit up at night. Not in a creeper peeper sort of way, but in that don't-the-lights-look-pretty-in-the-dark sort of way. The lit up house is the one we were staying in, by the way (the left side with the two decks). So many beautiful (and insanely expensive houses) and so many with nobody staying in them. If they were mine I'd be there all summer long, working from a room with a view (isn't this why they invented things like Skype?).

Both nephews were on this vacation and couldn't have been truer to age. Z-man was a typical fifteen year old--earbuds in, face in phone, emerging to swim, eat, and play mini golf. I think we said a dozen words to each other all week (actually, I said many more, but was met with the ubiquitous teenage eye roll at my silliness that was once met with equal vigor). A-train was very five years old. "Aunt Bee--get a picture of this beach butterfly!" 

This kid woke up early ready to play, spent much of his beach time in the water, spent the rest of the day barely sitting still, and crashed into the delicious sleep only those with the unencumbered mind of youth experience. I don't know that I've ever heard of a kid that loves his family as deeply as this kid does. On the last day, I asked him for a hug, and he told me to wait a sec (as he had his pre-determined order of who got a hug when). I said "You probably are excited to get away from me; I get it" (because I know I'm annoying, haha), and he turned to me and said so sincerely "I don't want to be away from you." My heart.

Then there's this--

I don't know why, but this face cracks me the hell up. See the guy seated behind him? Not long after this was taken, he turned to that man and his wife out of nowhere and said "Excuse me, do you know the 'n' word?" We all sat there thinking (because we do NOT use that word that you think of when someone says 'n word') "Where in hell did he hear that??????" The lady said to him "Nice? Is the 'n' word nice?" and he said "No, the 'n' word is no. N-O." And turned right back around as we all breathed a sigh of relief and laughed.

The week went by all too quickly, and soon we were saying to each other "Do you believe we go home tomorrow?" And then "Do you believe this morning we were down the shore?" One thing that made it a little easier was the fact that it was windy and drizzly again--

It figures that once you hit that vacation groove it's time to go back to reality. In dueling emotions on the matter, I could have used another week to truly relax, but at the same time I do love being in my bed, without sand in it, and not having to slather on goopy sunblock every day.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Back to the 'dale

More often than not lately, I turn the idea over and over in my brain of discontinuing keeping up with my little space here. I make a barely measurable fraction of what I used to, and Instagram makes it so easy to quickly share those life snippets that used to be saved up for paragraphs and paragraphs. But then I think "No...not just yet." And so here we are.

Life has certainly been busy, though. Birthday parties, graduation parties, picnics, mountain trips, and the annual hop west on the 'pike to visit my dad's side of the family. For the first time ever, I did not emerge from the car needing a nap, a gallon of hot tea, and utter silence. The dog behaved, there was minimal traffic, and turnpike rest stops have upped their healthier food options.

I sat my rear down on Grandma's porch with some knitting (of which I have no pictures--the yarn started as a shawl, decided it might like to be a sweater, and then changed it's mind again to try life as a baby blanket) and my camera, and chatted away the hours. I switched it up with some reading--

I bought this book in a thrift shop in the mountains a few weeks ago. As though it's not nerdy enough reading this for fun, I'm also picking out all of the mistakes an editor should have picked up on. Some of the work is amazing, though--I feel like a rock star when I knit socks, and there is a shawl in this book that is six feet square and of a lace so fine the whole thing can pass through a wedding ring.

But then there's also nonsense like this:

*Ahem* "Approximately 2,650 stitches were cast on and worked in a gauge of twenty-two stitches per inch." Can you imagine? I'm over here like "Cast on 80? Are you kidding me??" I would love to watch these knitters from centuries ago--the speed at which they must have worked has to be mind-boggling.

Anyway, it was a beautiful day in the 'dale, and my grandma's yard is always pretty.

I have a thing for red and yellow. And sunshine.

This cardinal must have been  about 150 yards away. I got up to get a better angle (and a more stable shot) when the little jerk flew away. The cardinal in my yard does the same thing, so they must have some secret cardinal network to alert each other when I'm trying to photograph one.

There is some beautiful light green moss growing on this tree, that I couldn't quite capture. I'm looking at this photo now and wondering why I took it--and I'm pretty sure it's because it reminded me of something out of a fairy tale.

This kid. Oh, my heart. I remember when Z-man was this exact age, and I can't believe how quickly time goes. This is at my aunt and uncle's house on Saturday for our family picnic. It was kind of chilly when the wind blew, but the kid wanted to swim. There was a small crisis at the start of things--A-Train alerted my uncle that "We've got a real bad bee situation going on. A really bad situation..." Which was the discovery of this--

Yellowjackets are nasty things, but there didn't appear to be activity here after they were sprayed. My Uncle Rick and A-train decided a sign was needed, though--

I was then told "Hey, that sign could be about you when someone tries to hug you!" El. Oh. El.

It's always nice to learn that certain things are genetic and that you come by them honestly. One of those things being an appreciation for things like this:

That gnome is eating healthier than I did. I'm slightly afraid to get on the scale tomorrow...

My aunt set up the desserts in the garage so people wouldn't have to keep running upstairs for food. A-train decided immediately that it looked like some kind of dessert shop and sat there yelling like a street vendor--"We've got cupcakes here!!! I've got strawberries and pineapple and lots of fluff!! It's all free! Come on by!" When I went to get my dessert he came around the table saying "Let me get that for you ma'am! Just say when! These strawberries look great--how many would you like?" I had to go multiple times because how could I not when he was the cutest little salesman? "It's all free! Just take it and enjoy!" (I said cutest, not best). He even filled cups with ice so when people went to get drinks he'd have that ready for them, too. He's so adorable it makes my heart smile.

I think this is the first year ever Z-man didn't go with us. I get it--when you're fifteen and it's summer you want to hang with your friends. But still. He'd definitely have been placed in the 'tall' section of the grandkids photo (actually, I think we'd all be in that section--we are not short on height in my family. See what I did there? Hahaha!). But we've got one on leave from the Marines, but two others couldn't make it--one day we'll all make it in.

A-train and I both have slightly impish looks on our faces (because we were whispering schemes to each other before this photo snapped).

No good picnic winds down without a fire and s'mores--

There was a memory-sharing session about my uncle who passed away a few months ago. I left before that started and I'm glad I did. I loved him very much, and listening to things like that destroys me. I remember that same uncle showing some old family photos he had arranged and set to perfect music right after my grandpa died, and I blubbered like a fool the whole way through. When I went in the kitchen to get a tissue my mother said "Well why are you watching it if it's making you sad?" and I told her "Because it's beautiful!" Welcome to my brain, folks.


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