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Missing Christmas

Missing Dad Christmas

Christmas came. Christmas 2014 is over. Most of the day I spent by myself, remembering past holidays when my own children were little. And of course, that also got me recalling the wonderful and cherished family members that attended Christmases when my brothers and I were little kids. So I mostly had a day of reminiscing and MISSING CHRISTMAS. My own parents were much younger than I am now when I was a little child and we had large family gatherings at our home filled with lotsa favorite cousins and Aunts and Uncles, as well as my beloved Grandparents. (The Grandparents and all of the Uncles are gone now and I have 1 Aunty left) After devouring a most scrumptious meal lovingly prepared by the fabulous cooks in our family (everybody had their ‘specialties’ which we came to expect and look forward to), the bigger kids would help to clear away dishes and arrange kids in the living room, my Daddy would mysteriously disappear, and soon thereafter Santa would come and hand our gifts. We had joyous holidays at our home.

1st Christmas with Daddy-5 months old-1956

Now my precious Daddy, pictured with a 1-year-old ME in the photo, is celebrating Christmas in heaven, and has been for a few years. I am sad, and the tears still flow because I miss him sooooo much. But I have learned not to be selfish, for I know that this is his ‘reward‘ and it is surely glorious beyond anything that my mind can imagine. Besides, this is Daddy’s very first Christmas in heaven with ALL 5 of his big brothers and his sister and his folks so I’m certain that they’re having a GRAND TIME! I still am blessed to have my darling Mama, pictured with me in the photo of my 1st Christmas, even tho she’s spending Christmas at her Hoosier home in Indiana. She does always hope for that ‘White Christmas‘, whether or she gets it is another story! The only white that I wanna see in the winter is the sugary white sands of the beaches on the Gulf of Mexico!

Mama&Jeannie-1st Christmas

I’m also missing my baby boy this Christmas. That’s him pictured with me when he was a young’un. He lives in PA with his fiancee and wasn’t able to come home to FL for Christmas since he’d just been here in October. But I’ll be seeing him in April when we all gather in Indiana for Mama’s 80th Birthday Celebration!

Mama & Joey Easter 1988

So even tho I spent most of my daytime yesterday MISSING CHRISTMAS, in the evening I did get to have supper with my other 2 kids and my daughter-in-law! We had a yummy meal and then our gift exchange at my son’s apartment. I enjoy living in central Florida; the down-side is sharing my kiddies with the tourists since this is officially ‘The Tourism Capital of the World’! My daughter and my son and his wife DO WORK for a giant Mouse, after all! Even tho it’s not cold here….it is very festive!

Hometown Pride

RCHS Mascot

Thanksgiving has come and gone for this year. Many events occurred during the last 2 weeks, other than just that traditional turkey dinner. My small Hoosier hometown celebrated much more than Thanksgiving this time around. Yes….everyone was truly thankful but that big family dinner was definitely not the MAIN EVENT this holiday season. HOMETOWN PRIDE was #1 on everybody’s menu this year as nearly every household was fixated upon the day after Thanksgiving. That was the BIG DAY….for the very first time in the history of Rensselaer High School Football, our young athletes were vying for the Indiana State 2A Championship! This undefeated team from a small town of less than 6000 residents actually won! HOORAY for the home team!

I live in central Florida but you had better believe that I was cheering on the Rensselaer Bombers from my chair right in front of my computer! My brother was at the game, which was played at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts. I stayed with Facbook throughout the entirety of the game because I knew that at least 20 of my ‘friends’ were regularly posting every event plus plenty of short videos. So I was still able to view EVERY touchdown. How thrilling to see about 100 faces in the crowd that I knew. Also, how humorous to see them bundled up for the cool Hoosier weather while I was in my flip-flops here in Florida! I enjoyed the commentaries. It was fun watching the faces as they discovered themselves on the Jumbotron. Everybody was wearing their new ‘Bomber Nation‘ jerseys or their own former high school attire (if they still fit!) and it was wonderful to see the old school colors again: red and black!

So much has transpired during these past 2 weeks. Tragedy as well as Triumph. We’ve had a death in the family. My best friend of 49 years got her very 1st granddaughter and is expecting grandson #3 in a couple of weeks. This same friend retired 2 days after that granddaughter was born so I’m certain that she and her hubby will enjoy babysitting duties now that their schedules aren’t as hectic. Two of my children were honored at their workplace with a fabulous banquet, as per Disney tradition, for being 10-year Castmembers at Walt DisneyWorld! I’m soooo proud of them! My youngest son’s fiancee got the amazing promotion that she’d been hoping for and so far is enjoying her training quite a bit. My daughter-in-law finishes college this week too. I’m tired just trying to think about it all, my mind cannot keep up!

The photo above is our high school mascot. I’ve always thought that this little Bomber is a cute fella. I still think of my home team whenever I see the colors red and black together too; always have and probably always will. I like those colors. Same as the Chicago Bulls, which is, of course our favorite NBA team (the Pacers probably run a close second tho!). Rensselaer is a sports town. St. Joseph’s College is in Rensselaer and the Chicago Bears held their annual training camps there every year in August for 30 years, from 1944-1974. I think most folks still root for ‘Da Bears‘, while some also cheer on the Indianapolis Colts (did I mention that Rensselaer is geographically situated halfway between Indianpolis and Chicago?). As for baseball, well that’s easy. We’re all die-hard Cubs fans! Folks from my hometown NEVER GIVE UP HOPE! High School Football has been played in the fall, talked about, and attended for approximately 115 or more years in our town. That’s about as far back as anyone IS SURE ABOUT….maybe more! So that means that portions of 3 different centuries of HOMETOWN PRIDE has finally brought home the ultimate victory, plus bumped our school up into the next division too! Hmmmm, that makes me think of something: if’n it can happen for small-town guys like Rensselaer Bombers, who have waited over 100 years….I’m thinking that there’s still hope for those Cubbies yet! Make it happen Chicago Cubs!

Morning Person

Daytona sunrise7

Mama always said that once I had kids, then I’d learn to become a MORNING PERSON….well, the oldest kid is 32 now so I reckon that if it’s not happened by now then IT AIN’T HAPPENING! Oh sure, I do enjoy the occasional sunrise but mostly I’m a person that’d rather sleep late and stay up late. Always have been and always will be.

I live precisely in the middle of the state of Florida. The tourism marketing folks claim that we’re 45 minutes to the Atlantic Ocean and approximately an hour to the Gulf-of-Mexico. That’s quite an exaggeration. My house is on the eastern end of Kissimmee, away from the theme parks, and it still takes me much more than an hour to get to the nearest Atlantic beach. If I wish to drive to the most beautiful beaches, which are the dazzling sugar-white sandy beaches west of the Tampa area….it’ll take from 90 minutes to 2 hours of drive-time because of the dreadful traffic and seemingly never-ending road construction which winds through Tampa. It’s worth doing it anyway because the beaches and sunsets over the Gulf rarely disappoint.

Once-in-awhile I will have an opportunity to spend a night someplace along the Atlantic Ocean. This is blissful for me and I always will leave my balcony door at least partially open so that I can smell the saltiness and can hear the sounds of the waves as they come-and-go, come-and-go. Other than music and the sounds of children’s laughter, this is surely my favorite sound. I sleep well whenever I’m near the ocean. Yes, I do have one of those ‘sound simulators‘ that imitates the sound of the waves upon the shore….this does assist in helping me to fall asleep during the rest of the year but it’s a sad substitute for the real thing. The photo above was taken the last time that my daughter and I had a weekend getaway in Daytona Beach, 90 minutes to the northeast, and sat on our hotel balcony viewing the sun as it greeted the new day. EVERY time it makes me long to live by the seashore again. We moved from Jax Beach 10&1/2 years ago to come to central Florida to become Disney Castmembers. All in all it was a good move, but I do very much miss our apartment that was directly across the street from the beach. I miss falling asleep to the sounds of the waves and our tinkling wind chimes as the ocean breezes would play with/through them nearly all the time. Walking our American Eskimo dog along the beach (after 5pm as per the law) every evening was a special pleasure for the children.

I’ve also lived near the Gulf of Mexico, though not as close to the actual beach. When my oldest son was in 1st grade and we’d just returned from Hawaii, my husband got stationed at Hurlburt Field (USAF) by Ft. Walton Beach, which is in Florida’s Panhandle. That was an astonishing place to live and the beaches there were the most spectacular of all. Our favorite was the Officer’s Club Beach near Destin and we visited once or twice weekly, along with picnicking. After having having just lived more than a year in Hawaii, my children were already ‘beachbunnies’ and still were wanting to be at the beach more than anyplace else that I could take them to play. I’ve lived on the island of Oahu a couple of times, so that means I’ve also lived near the Pacific Ocean too, both with and without children. I have frequented all of the kid-friendly beaches dozens of times and also have patronized beaches where I’d not dare to take my kids!

So I’ve lived on an island, where I could see the sunrise on one side and go to another side for a sunset….and I did that often. Now I live in a state that’s mostly geographically just a great big peninsula. I reckon I could watch the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean in the morning and then cross the state and watch a Gulf sunset in the same day. But I don’t. I go to beaches on both sides but, alas, on different days. I still don’t like mornings so if I do go to the beaches at Cocoa or Daytona or Melbourne, which are MUCH quicker to get to, it’s gonna be late morning or noon-ish. But I do witness plenty of awe-inspiring sunsets, even though I have to fight traffic to get there, over at or near the more splendid beaches of Clearwater or St. Pete or Honeymoon Island. Come to think of it, if I ever bought a waterfront condo or home, I’d rather it be on the Gulf of Mexico because it’s just sooooo much more gorgeous. But real-estate prices and taxes also reflect that plus I’d get lots bigger condos (more square footage) for half the price on the Atlantic side….hmmmm, maybe that’ll be what it’ll ultimately take in order for me to become a MORNING PERSON after all! If I lived at the ocean again, I know that I’d not take it for granted because I like watching the sun come up. Maybe I’d better think about this!

Magnum Kiss

Smithsonian's Magnum P.I. shirt

Meeting and seeing celebrities has been a part of my life since the late 1970s when I attended college in Hawaii. A decade later when I returned to Oahu as an Air Force Officer’s wife with 3 very young kiddies in tow, I’d had many opportunities to teach them that celebrities have lives other than those that are portrayed on TV. We saw sooooo many celebrities that it seemed rather commonplace, especially since Hawaii is a popular vacation destination for them too. I’m thinking this is the reason that my children don’t particularly ‘go nutso‘ whenever they see somebody famous nowadays. This is a good thing because now they either are, or have been, Disney Castmembers and are once again seeing dozens of celebrities. I taught my kids not to pester famous folks for autographs (unless it’s a book signing, for example) or for photos because these people are only hoping to have an enjoyable vacation experience like everybody else! And to think that, for them it all started more than a quarter-of-a-century ago with my daughter and her ‘kiss‘….a MAGNUM KISS to be precise!

I took my children to the beaches of Oahu almost on a daily basis. There were numerous beaches to choose from so we liked to explore different areas and tried to find some of the quieter beaches. Of course we adored the ever-popular Waikiki Beach but my kiddies had a tendency to get away from me quickly there since the beaches were crowded and the children were ages 2, 3, & 5 and very quick. We also tried to go as early in the morning as possible so as not to get too overly pink; besides, the tourists were mostly still kinda hung-over from partying the night before and didn’t usually start arriving until 10:30 or later. By noon Waikiki & Kaneohe beaches are packed. So earlier was better for us. A breakfast picnic on the beach was fun and lovely!

One perfect morning we were at a particular beach, which shall go nameless for the sake of celebrities that enjoy the privacy of this stretch of beaches. I knew of several celebrities that lived in the area because of a former college job that I’d had delivering floral bouquets. So I sometimes brought the kids to this beach because it was usually very quiet and we were often the only ones there! But that morning there was a couple strolling far down the beach and my 3-year-old daughter saw them and recognized HIM before I did. She jumped up and started running down the beach towards them, hollering “Magnum, Magnum, Magnum!”. (she was too young to understand that he wasn’t actually named that in real life) I was embarrassed but had no choice but to leave our things, grab a hand of each of my boys and start running after her! We 3 were so much slower than she was by herself. Of course, by the time we finally caught up, she’d already made her way to ‘the man from the TV‘ and his then-girlfriend Jillie. So there I stood, face-to-face with THE HEART-THROB of the decade, apologizing profusely to Tom Selleck and his girlfriend while he held my daughter and acted like he honestly didn’t mind! Tom and Jillie were the nicest, sweetest people and were extremely kind to my 3 children as we chatted for 20 minutes or so. My daughter didn’t wanna let go of him but he kissed her cheek and she giggled….probably his mustache tickled!

That was a memory-of-a-lifetime for her! Me too! Oh, and by the way….my daughter’s name is Jillian. She’s always liked her name. Sometimes we call her Jillian, and often she goes by Jill. But you’d better believe that after meeting ‘Magnum’s girlfriend‘ that my 3-year-old preferred us to call her Jillie for about a year after that encounter. She was as much enthralled with Jillie Mack as she was with Tom Selleck! For MANY years afterwards, we’d ask her: “Where did MAGNUM KISS you?” and she would always coyly point to her cheek and smile. Such a precious memory to have her very first non-family-member KISS be from such a handsome man! Aaahhh….could I possibly have been jealous of a 3-year-old?

Favorite Lighthouse

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My daughter took me on a mini-vacation. She was supposed to be going westward for a couple of weeks with my brother and niece (her uncle and youngest cousin) but those plans fell through almost at the last minute. So instead of Disneyland & Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Death Valley, New Mexico, Arizona and the Grand Canyon….my daughter ended up staying home. She was able to ‘give back’ some of her vacation days but most had already been scheduled so she’s been having what she calls a ‘staycation’! We’ve been wandering around central Florida, doing too much shopping and not enough housework! But last night we got home from a little trip that culminated in what is ALWAYS a treat for me: a quick visit to my all-time very FAVORITE LIGHTHOUSE: in St. Augustine Beach!

We decided to get away from the theme parks for awhile and go to the beach. This is not uncommon for those folks whose jobs are at the local amusement parks! So we went to the Daytona Flea Market, which is only open on the 3 weekend days. We had our shopping goals in mind and did find exactly what we intended to buy. Then we stayed at a cutesy hotel in Daytona Beach Shores. We swam in their pool which, surprisingly, was identical to our own pool in our backyard except that ours is deeper & hasn’t quite the fancy filtering system (we wish it did!). We ate at some off-the-beaten-path & quaint and/or quirky restaurants because that’s what I like to do, especially while on vacation. I’m thinking that vacation means that my palate also oughta have a vacation from the normal restaurants, too. That usually means no fast-food and no restaurant chains. Mom-and-Pop diners, seafood places, waterfront pubs….these are what I am seeking!

When we left Daytona and headed north, driving along highway A1A, we didn’t get very far before my daughter wanted to stop alongside the road and walk along the beach again! So we stopped for an hour in Ormond Beach (we usually do!) for a walk. I had fun watching 8 seabirds skimming the surface, fishing. The synchronicity of their aerial acrobatics was awesome. My daughter totally missed it because she was engrossed in watching the bean-clams scurrying into the sand between each succession of waves coming ashore. She has been doing this for as long as I can remember (she’ll be 30 next month) and this makes me wish that my sons were with us too and that I could turn back the calendar approximately 2 decades! Soooo many of our best memories as a family with 3 young children are/were upon the Hawaiian and Floridian beaches!!!

We took a tour of the Whetstone chocolate factory in St. Augustine. That was a first for me, I’ve been on many tours (I am a Travel Agent, after all) but that was my first chocolate factory! It was interesting and they certainly DID give out free samples! (and I most certainly DIDN’T take my blood sugar reading last night!) We drove around the old part of town, like we always do. It’s fun to imagine how folks lived there when things were originally built and there weren’t any cars. The architecture is just so amazing that it’s difficult to look at everything at once while in a car; that’s why the walking tours really are the best idea if it’s your first time to visit. We used to live nearby, in Jacksonville Beach, so we’ve visited St. Augustine numerous times but every time we visit there’s something else that we choose for ‘next time’! Yesterday, my daughter exclaimed that her ‘next time’ visit will include the Pirate Museum. She doesn’t remember visiting when she was very young.

I enjoy lighthouses and try to visit every lighthouse I’m close to on any of my travels. However, the St. Augustine Light is the one that I’ve been to so many times that I’ve lost track! It’s very pretty. Lotsa folks confuse it with the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in North Carolina because of the striping design but the base and lightkeeper’s homes are not the same. There’s a small marina here also, and dozens of gnarly, crooked trees that my children always enjoyed. We used to bring our lunches and eat at the picnic area. I have good memories there. Even if we were passing through the area at night, we’d stop by (even tho it’s closed, of course) just to look. It’s great to see the light from that lighthouse sending out it’s beam from miles away, just as it’s supposed to. I know it’s ‘job’ is to warn the boats to stay away so that they won’t get too close….but it’s light also draws me to it, but then again I’m ON land! One night when we stopped at the lighthouse for a few minutes….we’d been at the theme parks in Orlando and were heading home to Jax Beach….I walked up to the fence as close to the lighthouse as I could get and looked up and I saw a girl in a white dress standing in the window. I was shocked! Who should I call? Somebody got locked in the lighthouse after closing! Oh my gosh! When I looked again, she wasn’t there. I kept looking and looking and didn’t see her anymore so we finally left, with me not knowing if I was seeing things or if the moon was somehow reflecting on something or what. A few years ago, I saw an episode of a TV show called ‘Ghosthunters’ and supposedly that lighthouse is the most haunted lighthouse that there is. It even scared those dudes on the TV show and I got a kick outa that! So the little girl in the white dress was a ghost, huh? Mystery solved! St. Augustine is the oldest town so there’s surely ghosts wandering around! Oh well, the St. Augustine Light is still my very very very FAVORITE LIGHTHOUSE and it was a great ending to our little vacation, thanks to my sweetie daughter!

Silly Hats

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Hats! Hats! Hats! It seems that my family certainly enjoys hats. Myself, as I’m getting older, I find that I’m having fun with SILLY HATS. Some of them are downright corny! I have so many hats that my walk-in closet has a wall entirely of hooks and that still isn’t enough for my ballcaps. I also have cowboy hats, straw hats, sun hats, fedoras, berets, Mickey Mouse ears, etc., etc.

I’m not quite sure when I began wearing hats but I’d guess that the reason ‘why’ is because I was always fair-skinned and my folks were possibly attempting to protect as much of my face and neck from sunburn as the hat could. Being an outdoor kid in farm-country, my reason was probably fairly similiar to that of my parents: I didn’t want any more freckles! My brothers and I didn’t really have a large collection of hats long ago, we just grabbed whatever cap was hanging by the back door on our way out to do our chores or to play or whatever.

Times have indeed changed now! One of my brothers rarely wears hats but the older one is almost always seen with a ballcap. He was the sports jock of the family. Nowadays, his photos usually show him sporting a cap with either Chicago Bears or Cubs or Bulls or Indiana Pacers or Indianapolis Colts logos. My youngest son doesn’t like to wear hats unless it’s absolutely necessary but my daughter and my oldest son almost always are wearing a cap, just like their Mama….and their Uncle….and their Grandpa before!

As a college student in Honolulu, ballcaps once again made sense, especially to keep the sun out of my eyes while surfing and my thigh-length braid fit perfectly through the hole in the back while also helping to hold the cap onto my head. Besides, my family in Indiana had fun sending me ‘care packages from home’, and these often included caps proclaiming that I was a ‘Hoosier’ or from ‘Indiana’, as if I’d forget! A decade later when my three children were small and the U.S. Air Force moved us to Oahu, my fair-skinned kiddies wore lotsa hats plus sunscreen and sunglasses. I didn’t even realize the vast assortment of hats that we’d accumulated until it was time to move on to our next assignment (in Ft. Walton Beach, FL) and I started packing ALL THOSE HATS!

Ten years ago, my children and I moved to central Florida ‘just for the summer’ to become Castmembers at DisneyWorld; we’re still here! I don’t know if it has something to do with the quirkiness of the Guests that visit here from around the world, or if it’s the genuine cheerfulness of everyday life here in this area….but I’ve found that this area truly is a very HAPPY place and I really do like living around tourists and all of these asorted cultures! The older I get, the bolder and more eccentric I’m getting too. So now I have some hats that I would not have ever dreamed of wearing when I was younger! Such fun it is to put on these SILLY HATS and see what kind of reactions I can get outa my adult kids now!