Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: A Great Uncle, Two Generations and Counting

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Guest Blog: An Act of Kindness in a Dark Time

 Right before I moved, one of my friends approached me with this guest blog for Just Jules. I love sharing stories that are important to my friends especially stories of difficulties overcome. This friend wishes to remain anonymous but wanted to share a story about a difficult time in their life. It is a story that I think most of us can relate to in some way. I can relate to losing beloved grandparents close together and experiencing an "annus horribilis'' This friend needed to get it out and let it go, I think we all can understand that. Here is their story:

 The year 2011 was the worst of year of my life and that’s saying something because I’ve had some pretty bad years. There was lots of death (three of my pets and both of my remaining Grandparents), some people who I thought were good friends turned out to be not such good friends, the renter (also a friend who I trusted completely) of my house in a different state moved out after trashing the house and stealing everything he could from it, everybody’s hours were cut at work (that’s significant when you’re single and have one of those careers that does little more than allow you to pay the basic bills every month).

  I had to have my house exterminated for termites, police were called (on me), lawyers were consulted,  and it seems that just about everything that could break, did breakàmy furnace, my tv, my bike, my lawn mower, my weed wacker, my car (multiple times), my kitchen sink……so pretty much everything INCLUDING the kitchen sink.

The repercussions, ripple effects, and stress of all that happened in 2011 (the above and more) lasted long into 2012, and the anniversaries of the major events (most of which happened towards the end of 2011) hit me a lot harder than expected. As a result, I begin 2013 struggling to move forward and to find some meaning and/or good in anything. There was so much badness that I tend to forget there were some positive things that also happened in 2011, and I’ve recently begun wondering (not for the first time) why the negative always seems to outweigh the positive?   why do we put more emphasis on the negative rather than the positive?

  Some of the positives were small, like how my mom and step-father bought a new tv and gave me their old one during the time my hours were cut and it was out of the question for me to buy one myself (first world problem, I know—I don’t have cable/satellite, but do use the tv to watch movies while riding my bike on my indoor trainer, one of the few things that allows me to keep my sanity during the frigid winter months), but there were two big positives that occurred in the midst of all the negatives. Both of these were a surprise, and both have allowed me to not totally give up on people in general. One involved my sister-in-law, who I did not know well before 2011 but who I would now take a bullet for, and the other involved my Grandparents’ funeral director, Mr. Kulik, who I had never met before my Grandmother died in October 2011.

 It’s Mr. Kulik’s act of kindness towards me, a stranger that I’d like to share:

A little background: My paternal Grandparents were 87 years old, married for 65 years, died within 6 weeks of each other, and had pre-arranged a joint funeral. My Grandfather had two passions in life: his family and the Navy (he was an extremely proud WWII and Korean War veteran). He and my Grandmother had one child, I will call him T, who is my father by biology only. My parents divorced when I was two, and, along with always being behind in child support payments, T showed little interest in both his children, especially me, from the divorce on. I attempted throughout my teenage years and early twenties to establish a father/daughter relationship with him until I realized how futile it was, as he was interested only in himself.

  He popped up again in my mid-thirties when my brother lived with him and his third wife for a few years. I had come to realize that T fit the description of a narcissist to near perfection, but I really liked his third wife and thought that maybe he would change a bit with her guidance. If anything, he got worse and also became an alcoholic, and his third wife divorced him after becoming afraid of him.

 At that point I wrote him out of my life completely as he would never admit he had any faults whatsoever, he honestly believes the world and everyone in it owes him everything. This is someone who has rarely ever held a job, preferring instead to live off whatever woman he had fooled until that woman was fooled no more, someone who spent years at a time not speaking to his parents because they “wronged him” in some way, and someone who thinks that his only responsibility in life is to sit back and reap the benefits of what others sow.

At the end of 2009 I moved home, after living out of state for 5 years, to take care of my aging Grandparents. T hadn’t been speaking to them for a few years and my brother could only do so much. When my Grandmother was diagnosed with COPD after spending a few weeks in the hospital on a ventilator, T came back into the picture, not out of concern and willingness to help, but as a shark circling in bloody waters, knowing that his inheritance now wasn’t far away. He appeared at their house occasionally and would berate them if they asked him to do anything for them. More often than not he would not show up when my Grandparents called him for help.

 He more than once stormed out of my Grandmother’s hospital room in a huff during the last few months of her life, once leaving his soon-to-be fourth wife stranded there. His last words to his father, who at the time was laying in a hospital bed in the ER, were “Don’t ever call me again!”, to which my Grandfather replied, “I didn’t call you this time!”. My Grandfather passed away eight hours later. And when he was called by the hospital when my Grandfather died because their computers were down and they couldn’t access my phone number (I was his power of attorney and contact person), Tim flat-out refused to give them my number and told them that no one would be in to view the body.

 I am being very polite when I say that I strongly, STRONGLY dislike him.

 My Grandfather died on a Sunday morning; the very next day he had an appointment set up with his attorney to change his will and make me the executor, instead of T. My brother and I spent the week going back and forth with Mr. Kulik, because even though the funeral was pre-arranged, there were still some details to be sorted out that we wanted and deserved to take part in. Mr. Kulik was also separately in touch with T throughout the week, since he was executor and had the final say in the arrangements.

I felt bad about the awkward situation, but figured we were just another of many messed up families to come through his doors.  I never spoke to him about it, but Mr. Kulik obviously knew something was amiss, as I was the one who identified my Grandfather’s body (because T refused to do it), I was the one who informed Mr. Kulik that my Grandparents already had a headstone (after T told him to just go ahead and order the free military headstone), and since T refused to allow my brother’s and my names to be put in the obituary (we were to be listed, per T, as “two grandchildren” under “survived by”). 

At some point before the funeral, my brother and I realized that T, as next-of-kin, was to be the one who received the military flag. This upset both of us deeply and I know it would have upset  my Grandfather, who was completely fed up with his only child by the end of his life. After many phone calls and some research, I determined that a second flag was allowed to be presented at the funeral as long as it was purchased by us. I bought a flag, spoke with Mr. Kulik, and arranged for the 2nd flag to be presented to me.

The day of the funeral arrived and shortly before the graveside service began, T noticed that Mr. Kulik’s assistant was holding two flags. After he inquired why, he instructed her in no uncertain terms that only one flag was to be presented, and it was to be presented to him. My sister-in-law, who had become my rock throughout everything, found out and wanted to correct this before the service started. It broke my heart, but I told her to just let it go because I didn’t want to put this poor assistant in the middle, and I didn’t want there to be a scene caused.

 Sadly, the most important thing was that after the service I would never have to see T again. A few minutes after the service began, a car pulled up and parked a little ways down from the graveside, and out came Mr. Kulik. I distinctly remember thinking “Wow, that’s really nice of him to attend even though he has an assistant here”, and didn’t think any more of it, focusing instead on trying to stop crying because I was already running low on tissues. Turns out Mr. Kulik’s assistant called him, probably in a panic over what she should do, and he came right over and made sure I got my flag presented to me by the military color guard. And not only did he do that, he stayed for the entire service and then afterwards dug through the grass himself to find and give to me 3 shell casings, which are also presented with the flag (which I didn’t get because I got an “extra” flag) and Mr. Kulik also made sure my brother and I were listed by name in the obituary.

It wasn’t until a week or so later, when the smoke cleared and things calmed down a bit, that I truly understood and appreciated what Mr. Kulik did that day (and with the obituary). I thought that, in his eyes, we were just another dysfunctional family to be dealt with. I was convinced that he rolled his eyes and breathed a sigh of relief every time we left his funeral home and he was able to shut the door behind us, but in reality he was processing everything that was said and done, not just by me and my brother but also by T, and he knew who the good guys and the bad guys were in this story.

 In a world in which athletes, actors, and reality stars are the heroes to many, in my view Mr. Kulik may as well have ridden up to the graveside that day on a powerful, white steed. He didn’t risk life and limb, but he certainly risked the wrath of T and a potential lawsuit in order to right an impending wrong. He didn’t need to do that; the funeral was prepaid and I was not the executor, so he owed me nothing. I am humbled to this day that he thought that that one detail was important enough to correct, and to oversee it personally, when there could have been negative consequences involved for him and his business.

  Aside from the day my Grandmother died, I only ever saw my Grandfather speechless and with tears in his eyes once, and that was when I presented him with a certificate stating that I had made a donation to the WWII Memorial fund in honor of him for his birthday. I have no doubt that he would have had the same reaction to me receiving a flag at his funeral, and even though Mr. Kulik knew no specifics, he somehow did know how important that flag was to me.

Occasionally I wonder what makes a person want to become a funeral director and deal with dead bodies and crying people all the time. Maybe not all funeral directors are the same, but Mr. Kulik made me realize it’s not just about the deceased, and maybe even not primarily about the deceased, but it’s about those who are left behind; making sure that those who loved the deceased are able to honor them and say goodbye in the best way possible. Despite the best efforts of a very bad person, Mr. Kulik allowed me to do that, and for that he will always be a hero to me. I choose to focus on the amazing act of kindness he showed to me, a stranger, rather than the negativity that my own father chooses to perpetuate. And I hope with all my heart that Mr. Kulik feels as good about what he did that day as I do.   

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Happy Birthday Cousin Series: Happy Birthday "C.. C... C.. Caiti"

The last of the February birthdays in our family is "CccCaiti, Beautiful Caiti" as the song goes. Caiti is number nine in line right behind Jamie. I remember the day Caiti was born, my grandpa drove all the way to our house in Buena Park to tell us she had been born. Yet another girl to add to the mix!

We often sang this song to her as a young girl. So it is only fitting she hear it on her birthday  

Caiti was always one of the quiet, good ones among us. She was truly one of the cutest little girls you've ever seen in your life. Round cheribic face with curly brown hair, the definition of adorable. Caiti was always good, well behaved and quiet.

Even crying she was cute. I love how Andy is pointing to her !

 My earliest memory is of getting to hold her and give her a bottle. I remember she loved to watch "Sharon, Lois and Brahm's The Elephant Show" and sing 'Skidamarinkadink' with her younger sister Jillie.

Andy and Caiti really started the second generation of cousins. Caiti was nine years younger than myself, so I always have thought of her as a little girl until recent years. Caiti, Andy and Jillie really were the three Amigos, they did everything together. I always remember them saving money for pool toys in the summer, hanging out together and having fun just like us older girls.

The Three Amigos

I got married when Caiti was 11 years old and moved away not to long after. It wasn't until the invention of Myspace did I really get to start knowing Caiti. She has grown into a spunky, strong, outspoken young woman. She like myself is of short stature enduring much ribbing from our family about being short. Everyone has to be measured to us. We've had to stand back to back many times to see who is taller. Caiti is actually taller than I am, lucky girl.

She had a friend who lived in my area and actually her and her sister Jill were the first of the cousins to come visit me in my new hometown of Visalia. We all had lunch together and it is something I will never forget.

Recently Caiti made a huge leap and moved out of California away from our family to start her own adventures in Washington State. It was a brave choice that was very inspiring to me, she may not know this but it gave me the courage to do the same myself. I am so proud of her for making a huge leap of faith and it was been so inspiring to watch her soar.

Thank you Caiti for being an inspiration to me. You've grown into a wonderful young woman that I am proud to call my cousin. So grateful to have been able to get to know you as adults, I look forward to knowing you better as the years go by.

Have a wonderful birthday filled with love and happiness. Love, Julie

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Jules on Finding Purpose in the Pain: Surrendering to the Sovereign

Here is my monthly post on : Finding Purpose in the Pain: Surrendering to the Sovereign:  Surrendering to the Sovereign: The last few months, I have heard God gently whispering for me to surrender. Nev...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Happy Birthday Cousin Series: Happy Birthday Potato!

When I started the series, I can tell you this is the blog I have been waiting to write and planning for months. Today is my cousin Andrew's birthday, he is lucky number seven and I do mean lucky number seven. There were six of us before Andy and we were all girls. Andy is the much longed for first grandson and was the only boy in the family for many years to follow. Andy was the king in a sea of princesses, we all adored him and he couldn't do much wrong!

Andy and I on his first birthday. YES, my head is bandaged. Long story.

Just French Fry and Potato

Andy was born with a personality and a half, from the very minute that kid could talk he had our family in stitches. Very few people are born with a wit like Andy and he has used it to his advantage over the years. He memorized movies and comedy bits from a very young age.  His sharp wit and humor are bar none, if I ever need a laugh, I call on Andy.

Such a cute boy!

Our close bond formed when he was very young. He like his sister Rissa was my little shadow and never very far when I was around. We loved to watch movies and tv shows together, quoting them back and forth.  Our most favorite pastime was playing something we called '' The Flying Circus''; I would lay on my back while flying Andy on my feet in the air. We would do this for hours well into our teen years, perfecting our act and making up our own tricks. We would make everyone in the family room at Grandma's watch our act over and over.

My little shadow and I

These were the days. Hanging out in the family room, watching tv and chatting together

When I was in high school, I took French as a language and was obsessed with all things french. It was during this time that Andy started calling me his ''French fry''. Not wanting him to be left out, I started calling him Potato. The names have stuck and we still call each other by these names over twenty years later.

this picture cracks me up. Andy will get why.

I was eight when Andy was born yet this age difference has never made much of a difference to us. Throughout the years Andy has become one of my closest friends and allies. Of all the men in my life, he is in the top four behind Marty,Conner and my Dad. He was the first cousin to meet and hang out with Marty, a story he likes to tell often about our famous Taco Bell trip.

  If you are a reader of this blog, you can thank Andy for being my very first reader and urging me to write more. He has read this blog from its inception and been my strongest supporter from day one. He has continued to encourage me to take it farther and farther, cheering me on along the way.

In the last five years or so, Andy has taken to calling me frequently. I always get a bit giddy when I see his name on my caller i.d., I think it is the sweetest thing in the world that he calls me to chat. It is through these chats that our bond is strengthened. I love our tete a tete's and look forward to them immensely. We share our dreams, encourage each other and BS along the way. He like his sister Brianne is often amused by my odd outlook on life, I know he loves to laugh at me too.

He is so thoughtful, he wrote me a birthday blog this year which was one of the best birthday presents I've ever received.

My very last goodbye in California was Andy. He drove all the way from Irvine to Montebello to come say goodbye to me. We stood in the parking lot of Penske truck having one of our famous heart to hearts.  It will probably go down as one of my all time favorites. It was truly special and even Marty could witness our bond in person. At one point in the conversation Andy started talking about something he was hesitant about. He really couldn't put into words his issue, I just looked at him and said, " I know you, I know exactly what your issue is.'' Our relationship is such that there isn't much we can hide from each other because we know each other that well.

Andy, Words could never really capture how much you mean to me. You truly were lucky number seven and I am so thankful to have you in my life. You inspire me to dream big while being myself. You are always there for me in the good and bad. You have one of the best hearts and are a wise young soul. I love you to the moon and back kid. Thank you for being one of my best friends, I truly don't know what I would do without you.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Great Adventure 2013: The Final Leg of the Trip

Lovely readers, I hope you forgive me for going silent the last week, It has been completely overwhelming since Saturday. Hope this post isn't too long and fills you in on the adventure so far.

Saturday morning, we woke up in Memphis,TN and headed out to sight see before hitting the road. Conner begged to go to Sun Studios. Many of you may not know but Conner has been a Johnny Cash fan since he was five years old. He has longed to see the Sun studios for all of those years. We found it quite easily and decided to take the tour. Definitely well worth the twelve dollars,it is one of the places you walk into and feel the history around you. They take you into the actual studio and let you walk around, it is in original  condition. Truly amazing to stand where Elvis sang for Sam Phillips, where Johnny Cash got his start and where Jerry Lee played the piano. Conner was giddy and grinning ear to ear.

Sun Studios, Memphis,TN

Conner and Marty sitting in the recording studio at Sun Records

the front office of Sun Studios

After Sun Records we headed off to Graceland. I missed the ducks at the Peabody because we took the tour and so we decided to just see those another time. Graceland is quite the tourist trap and in my opinion over priced. We just went to the gift shop to find the tackiest souvenir we could find and found a place to eat  bbq while we were there. The food was great and we found our tacky souvenir easily. We walked across the street to take a picture in front of the wall before hopping in the car to get on the rode.

We hit the rode to Nashville. Along the way one of my blog readers and friend Rebecca stopped us and gave us the most wonderful gift bag of ''welcome to Tennessee" goodies. It was so thoughtful and kind of her, it was amazing to my family. 

Thanks Rebecca for the lovely welcome!

We hopped in the car and headed to the Grand Old Opry to meet up with my cousins and their families. They drove down from their home in TN to see us and welcome us to the state. My kids loved seeing their cousins Anthony, Geoff, Peyton and Parker once again. It was our first time meeting baby Parker who is adorable. We visited for a little bit before getting in the truck to head to our final destination of Knoxville. 

Conner and his cousin Anthony

We plowed along through middle TN in the dark, trying to make it to our new home to park the moving truck. Thankfully it wasn't a long drive and we made it by 11:30 pm. We didn't know our new home is well off the beaten path on a tiny gravel road. The moving truck didn't fit so well on said road especially with low hanging power lines and trees. Needless to say,the pitch black,tiny road, trees and power lines made for a disaster and 26 feet of moving truck and 10 feet of car trailer ended up stuck in the mud in the farmer's field across from the house. We had to leave it there overnight and headed to a hotel to sleep.

We woke up the next morning,called Penske to come rescue our family once again, met up with our friend Lee and toured our new home. We got the moving truck into the driveway with the help of Lee's dad ( our new landlord) and Lee. Liviu Sr, the crazy Romanian helped us unpack the moving truck in less than one hour! It was a whirlwind of activity but well worth it. We were ready to be rid of the moving truck and the hassles of moving. 

Good news, our little goldfish survived the long car ride in an ice cream container and earned themselves a new 5 gallon tank out of the ordeal. I must thank Shannon and Margaret for helping me move the fish across the country with their information.

the fishes moving container

Happy fish in their new home

It was so nice to sleep in our new home on Sunday night and start settling in on Monday morning. We went out to dinner on Sunday night with our friend Lee and met his wife Flavia for the first time along with his daughter Nora. So nice to finally meet them in person.

Monday afternoon, my dear tweep Anita stopped by with BBQ from her mother in law Jane.  I loved meeting Anita for the first time. It was so wonderful to not have to cook dinner and eat amazing TN BBQ! I am so grateful to them for the lovely welcome to TN! Jane is an amazing cook and I cannot wait to meet her.  This is truly an amazing family who have all been helpful in our move especially Anita's Dad Jeff. He kept us updated with weather and instructions along the way.

My mom was here to help me unpack and get organized until Wednesday afternoon. She helped me unpack boxes and find homes for everything. We didn't get completely unpacked but have made huge headway in a short time.

On Thursday morning, I started my new job at Fig and Company . Lee and I met when we were twelve years old, going to Jr high, high school and college together. It is truly surreal seeing him everyday once again, he hasn't changed that much over the years. I am truly enjoying getting to know his lovely wife Flavia as she trains me in store. We found out on the first day we are kindred spirits and very much alike in many ways. I am enjoying working with them and learning the ropes while giving them fresh perspective. They have built an amazing business in a short time.

We are starting to get settled. We are all loving the area, the dogs are happy in their new home, the kids are looking for ways to get involved and Marty is helping hold down the fort while I am working. We all are so glad we made the jump and took a leap of faith. We've been greatly blessed so far!

Thanks for all of the encouragement, messages, gifts and support. I am deeply touched by the support our family has received from everyone during this move. It was as if you carried us along the way on a wave of goodwill. We hope to be able to share that support and give it back someday.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Happy Birthday Cousin Series: Happy Birthday Randon

The next in the series is my baby cousin Randon, the baby cousin of the bunch. He is the youngest and last first cousin in the cousin bunch. When I was two months pregnant with Conner, my aunt Maggie found out she was pregnant also. I remember saying to her that I wanted a boy and she said, "What will you do with a boy?" meaning that I come from a family of almost all girls and we had only two boys in the family. Then she found out she was pregnant with a boy herself!

Randon and Conner have grown up together. It has been fun having kids close in age even though we live far apart. Randon is truly one of the smartest people I know, a whiz in math with a funny personality. My Dad says Conner,Randon and my cousin Andy are all so much alike. He would know, he spends more time with the three of them than anybody else.

If you cannot tell by the pictures above, Conner loves his cousin Randon. He gets so excited when we go to Southern California because he gets to spend time with Randon. That is his cousin so much that I often forget Randon is my cousin too. I realized a couple of years ago, that I never had gotten a picture of Randon and I together because we always get pictures with him and Conner!

My first picture with Randon and his sister Alex

We are alike in some ways. He has a penchant for the offbeat like myself, he was talking about his love for all things Korean the other day. I keep telling him to watch my favorite Korean soap opera!

Randon is a wonderful boy with a bright future ahead of him. I look forward to watching him grow and go places in life. He is a kind, smart, talented boy with a great sense of humor. 

Happy birthday Randon, I hope you had a wonderful day today. I was waiting for my internet to get up and running so I could write this blog for you. So glad I got to hug you just a few days ago. Hope 15 is a great year for you.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Great Adventure 2013: We are in Tennessee!

We are at the border of Tennessee staying the night outside of Memphis. We started out this morning in Fort Smith,Arkansas having breakfast with our friend Randy. They moved from California to Arkansas 6 months ago, he and Marty were co-workers in California. It was great to catch up and visit with him and his little girl Emmy.

We packed up at noon and headed toward Memphis. We enjoyed the drive through Arkansas, none of us had ever been to Arkansas before and really loved the scenery. It has been amazing to drive through route 66 with the kids for the first time. They've never been on a long road trip before and they've loved seeing the country.

 We wanted to sight see in Memphis before heading east to our final destination. We took our time on the road today and didn't reach Memphis until almost six pm, so we decided to check in to a hotel, get much needed rest and sight see in the morning.

So many have been messaging us, offering help along the way with weather, road closures, directions, AAA service, goodies along the road. We have had countless messages with thoughts, prayers and good wishes. It has been overwhelming and amazing. Prayers have been answered, smooth road, great weather and an easy trip have gone our way. Thank you all for the support, it has meant so much to us that so many are behind us cheering us along.

 I truly am beginning to think there is a book in this move, so many stories of things falling right into place at the right time. So many I truly cannot write it all down quickly, the story begins over twenty years ago.

Tomorrow we will enjoy our drive east to west. Last year we drove TN north to south during our family vacation and now we will drive it east to west. We are going to see all the Memphis sights, then drive to Nashville for a break before heading east. Tomorrow night, we hopefully will arrive in Knoxville, pull our trailer into our new driveway and then stay in a hotel one more night. Move in day is scheduled for Sunday and we couldn't be more excited.

As I was driving all day, my mom took some pictures and I will share them later. I didn't get a single picture because I drove today.Tomorrow we are sight seeing and I promise to take lots of pictures to share. Now I am headed to bed to get a good nights sleep after a long day.

The Great Adventure 2013: Oklahoma!

Recently I spent an evening watching Oklahoma! one of my all time favorite musicals, so as I drove into Oklahoma from Texas the theme song was playing in my head. We have made it halfway to our destination as of today and by tonight will be in Tennessee.

We started our day yesterday in the great state of Texas! It was fun seeing the sites though most of it reminded us of our central California roots. We all noticed that cow flatulence smells different in Texas! That's when you know we're agricultural experts!

We stopped in this cute little cow town where the main store is the post office. It was a cute slice of Americana for sure.

Oklahoma is Cherokee nation. My mom and I spent a lot of time talking about our Cherokee roots. She has done quite a bit of research on our ancestry. She told me our family actually has roots in TN until the government forced the family to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears. I grew up knowing we were Cherokee but never knew our roots.

We had dinner at Cracker Barrell. Usually I eat there and like nothing but enjoyed having their ''fancy fixins'' pot roast dinner. I also found that I like fried okra. 

Many are wondering about Max and Oscar on the journey. So far so good, Max has only tried to run away twice and didn't get  very far. He had the walk of shame being carried back down the street by Elizabeth in Whittier at the start of our trip. He is very angry we have taken him for a long ride, he hates the car period.

''I am not speaking to you''

Oscar on the other hand LOVES the car and has been so happy to go for the ride. He loves riding in the cab  of the moving truck with Marty and Conner. He lays down and just watches the world pass him by.

We also have two fish in the car. My cousin Brianne *gives her the stink eye* gave the kids fish a few months ago and the kids wanted to bring them. So they are riding in a five gallon ice cream container and doing quite well. Two of my tweeps Shannon and Margaret helped me figure out the ins and outs of traveling with fish. So far the advice has worked quite well...meaning the fish are still alive.

Today we head into Memphis for some BBQ, the ducks at the Peabody and Sun Records. We will see how today goes to decide our final TN destination for the night.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Great Adventure 2013: The Long and Winding Road Meets the Long, Long Trailer

A long drive deserves a long blog title at least I think so. Yesterday morning we awoke in Kingman,AZ ate a nice breakfast and hit the road east. We drove through Flagstaff which was gorgeous with snow covering the ground on the side of the road. Truly my favorite part of the drive yesterday.

Conner and E were thrilled to be on Route 66

I was driving and let my mom take this pic. She doesn't know how to work a smartphone

We stopped in Williams for a rest break and then headed on to Holbrook,AZ. I haven't mentioned but my mom came along for the ride to help drive and get us settled. She will fly back from TN next Tuesday, she wanted to share in the adventure. As a child she traveled this road many times to her family's hometown in Kansas. She really wanted to stop at the Wigwam motel where she had a picture of her,her sister and Dad standing outside a wigwam. So we stopped and she was thrilled to reminisce and see the place through adult eyes.

We had made reservations in Amarillo at a nice hotel to give ourselves incentive to make it that far. As we drove through New Mexico in the afternoon, the beauty of the painted desert captured our attention and made the drive fly by.

My mom offered to give me a driving break for the afternoon so that I could ride a bit with Marty. We had a nice time chatting while I snapped and messaged pictures.

We crested over the hill to Albuquerque at dusk, I had been hearing a lot about this city from my school friend Kelli and my friend Olga. As we came over the hill, the city lights glittered like flecks of gold reflecting the sun. It was gorgeous but the traffic with a long truck and trailer wasn't fun at all and we decided to press on toward Amarillo.

Driving the truck and trailer has been stressful for Marty. That is a lot of truck for an everyday person to drive even though he used to do that for a living many years ago. So we've had some interesting (code for frustrating) moments along the way needless to say.

Then darkness fell upon the desert and the drive just droned on and on. We all were super tired and ready for it to be over. We wanted to make up for lost time and get to our originally planned stop for the night despite the hold ups on Monday and Tuesday.

We finally pulled into Amarillo around midnight. I think it was the tweets of encouragement that kept me going and awake. We got the dogs settled, changed and went to sleep. Now we are up and ready to head on out for the day.

We are hoping we can make it to the Arkansas border before dark tonight. We have found out, we don't want to drive at night. I think we can make it to Knoxville by Saturday or Sunday at the latest.

Thanks for reading, commenting on Facebook and tweeting. It feels like all of you are on the ride with us and cheering us on along the way. I thought about so many friends yesterday, prayed for so many as the road flew by. Thought a lot about life, the future and the craziness that is my life. I think knowing that everyone is going along makes this move a lot easier in many ways.

Off for more adventures. I will send updates from the road along the way. You can follow the hashtag created by my tweep Dot; #JulesGreatAdventure for lots of fun reading.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Great Adventure 2013: Days 1 and 2

This weekend, our move to Tennessee began in earnest when we packed up our belongings into a 26 ft Penske truck. We said many heart wrenching goodbyes to many dear friends in Visalia, our home of the last 14 years. We didn't plan a goodbye party so we had to try to fit as many people in as we could in a few days. Marty and I both worked until Friday, so that made it challenging.

Saturday morning we packed and loaded. Sunday we said goodbye to church, cleaned and watched the Superbowl. Monday morning, we waited for the realtor to come get our keys, went to the bank and finally hit the road around noon.  We all decided our favorite memory in that house was when Marty got ''the call' and the many happy memories that followed.

Four people, two trucks, one car and two dogs

Driving down the 99 for the last time was a strange feeling. It hit me many times that we had made the drive thousands of times in 14 years but this time we weren't headed back that way.

We stopped at our favorite rest stop before hitting the grapevine. We ate our last supper of In and Out while walking our dogs. Marty went to get back on the road in the moving truck and it wouldn't start!! We called Penske customer care and they promised to send a mechanic out. Marty told me to go on ahead to Los Angeles to see family. He knew it would be hard for me if I missed out on that.

Elizabeth and I made our way to Whittier, got the dogs settled at mom's house and ran over to my Aunt Alison's to see our family. Marty and Conner sat at the Petro station for over four hours!! The mechanic came but the truck wasn't repairable.  So a huge wrecker came and towed the truck over the grapevine to a Penske service station.  I finally picked them up at around midnight after our break down at four p.m.

This morning, we headed over to the Penske yard where a crew came and unloaded the old truck onto a new truck.

Thank goodness that we went with Penske. They have excellent customer care and have been extremely accommodating and helpful. I highly recommend using them if you're moving across country. Our truck was re-loaded and my cousin Andy stopped by to say goodbye and have a heart to heart. Then we hit the road to my mom's house to pick up her,the kids and the dogs. Marty's mom called at the last minute wanting us to come say goodbye also. So we drove to her house before hitting the road finally around 1 pm. A much later start than we intended. The silver lining was we missed all of the bad traffic.

Taken by Conner on the I-40 east

We drove through the desert, the first time for the kids going through this part of California. We stopped at the Barstow station and pushed our way through to Kingman,Az. We are staying on Route 66 tonight and heading to Amarillo,TX tomorrow.

As we crossed the border to AZ tonight; E said that she felt a weight lift off her chest and that she is really excited for the new adventures ahead. I must say, I felt the same exact way. We finally after 18 years of talk are following our dreams and making them happen.

We are hoping for a smooth trip the rest of the way. We have some long days ahead of us trying to keep our  scheduled arrival date a reality. Please keep us in your prayers and thoughts as we make our way across the US. The journey has only begun.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Happy Birthday Cousin Series: Friday's with Drew

Today is my second cousin Drew's first birthday. Her mom Rissa is my cousin, for the last year every Friday her momma has been sending me pictures. I live far away and don't get to see baby Drew often and Rissa has done a great job of making sure I know her. I look forward to my Friday's with Drew even though sometimes it has been a few days later I get the picture. Sometimes I harrass Drew's momma when she doesn't send them on time. It has been a fun way to get to know Drew while living far away.

I have some favorite pictures that I have loved! She is such a cutie and very photogenic. I saved every picture so that I could make a collage and share them with you on her first birthday. A year has flown by and I cannot believe she is one already.
My cousin's Rissa and Drew. Just for Jules with the leg lamp!

Happy first birthday baby Drew!!

My favorite is when she wore a Cure shirt!

When she played under Grandma's table like we used to do

The Cutest Friday ever!

I love the one with the yellow bow!

The very first Friday pics!

Thanks Rissa for helping me see Drew every week even though I am far away. It has made for such a fun year and I truly look forward to seeing these texts every week. I cannot wait to see the next year of Friday's with Drew!