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Road Trip – Part 2

Friday began Day 2 of the little road trip we took to Atlanta.

I got up around 6am and headed straight to the hotel’s fitness room. It was actually a decent one with a few different pieces of equipment.

The only thing wrong with this room was the thermostat, which someone had set to 76. Oh my! It was locked up, behind glass, so it couldn’t be adjusted.

Despite the heat in the room, I wanted to put some miles in on the treadmill before embarking on the day’s adventures.

I’m not going to lie, y’all. My heart was hurting. I’d held in my tears fairly well the day before but once I was in a room by myself and had Christian music playing in my ears, my emotions cut loose. It wasn’t pretty, but it was necessary.

I was worn out, physically and emotionally, as I headed back to the room where the Mr. was sleeping off our late night.

He finally got up around 11, and we headed out to kill some time before meeting up with our kiddos.

We found ourselves at the Cumberland Mall, which was conveniently located only a couple of miles from where we were staying.

Now y’all, I was in heaven. Here we had a real mall with real stores.

Hurricane Michael, you might remember, was a Cat 5 storm that DESTROYED our local mall, so shopping has been tough. We were in our element, let me tell you!

First, we went to Macy’s. Honestly, I wasn’t looking for anything in particular but once I hit the shoe department, all bets were off. I wound up getting a cute (and inexpensive) pair of dress shoes/sandals.

Next, we wandered into a store called H & M, which I’d never seen before. The clothes were geared for the younger people, but man oh man, were there some cute outfits. The bonus? There were things in MY size!!! That is a rare thing, let me tell you.

Needless to say, I began trying things on.

The prices were fabulous too, so I didn’t feel bad when I left the store with a few outfits.

Just as I was changing into my last romper, I got a text from Rooster asking where we were and what we were doing for lunch. You see, they were stuck without a car since they’d ridden to Atlanta with us. After a flurry of text messages, we arranged to meet up at one of Rooster’s favorite restaurants: Cheesecake Factory, which was conveniently located at the mall we were currently shopping at.

We ran back to the hotel, picked up Rooster and N, and headed back where Chicky and B met us a few minutes later.

For the first time since Christmas Day 2016 (936 days), I had all of my children in one place.

Talk about a happy mama!!!

Lunch was amazing; vegan options were aplenty.

We had a lot of laughs as we shared stories and talked about the latest happenings. We learned a few things about each other as well, such as how much Rooster loves his cheesecake and how he doesn’t like to share. Ha!

When we finished lunch, we found ourselves facing a horrendous thunderstorm. Rooster had been closely monitoring the weather, and storms had been brewing and were forecast to hit hard around game time that evening. I’d told everyone to pray the rain away, and Chicky, who had lost the nose goes game (a race to see who’s the last to put a finger on his/her nose to say grace before the meal), had included a request to keep the rain away.

Since God works in His own time, and it was still raining, we decided to do more shopping.

Can I just tell you how much fun it is to shop with adult children who don’t need their hands held or to be told to put things down? I mean, it’s their money, so THEY get to buy it if they break it. Ha!

There were sales to be had, purses to be bought, shoes to be tried on and modeled, and team jerseys to decide between.

I bought all the things and felt nary a twinge of guilt – because Hurricane Michael, y’all.

This is a dust bag to protect a purse when it’s not being used. Rooster’s girl explained this to me. Am I the last to know this?
I bought a matching wallet too, which was also on sale.
The kids told me that these shoes were incredible (and made me look very cool). They should have gotten a commission!

At one point, Chicky called it quits and declared that it was time to leave. When we walked out of the mall, we were greeted by sunshine!!!! Y’all, God had heard our prayers and answered in the affirmative. I know that this isn’t always the case, so I was especially grateful!

We took a little ride to a local coffee shop where I tried a new-to-me drink.

I got the Lawn Boy. Even after adding a packet of regular sugar, I decided that matcha was an acquired taste.

I texted Super Sis and told her that the flavor of the weekend was inspired by nature. Ha!

I will say that once we all had our drinks and were sitting around a small, round table, things felt so very right. The small shop – my people – oh my heart!

At some point, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the game.

There were newly-purchased jerseys to don, caps to place just so, Facetimes to help set said caps (thanks, Super Sis), and other things to prepare.

Hat off?

Super Sis advised that if I was going to wear my hat, I needed to pull some hair forward and make sure the rest of the hair on the sides wasn’t poofy. Who knew that wearing a hat was so complicated?

Or hat on?

Then, we headed out.

Our hotel was located next to The Battery, so the walk didn’t take long. It was like playing Follow the Leader. Police officers kept traffic at bay at the intersections so we could cross safely, and we were at the stadium in no time.

Before we entered, though, I requested pictures.

I’d held myself back up this point knowing that this would be the perfect photo op. My children graciously accepted my request, and man oh man, I don’t think a professional photographer could have set things up better.

We are cute, are we not?

A huge shout out goes to the random guy who kindly said yes when I asked him to take the pictures (even after I asked him if he was good at it – oops!).

He was and even took multiple photos. Go Random Dude!

Then we headed in, and I was amazed at the sheer size of the stadium.

There were plenty of places to get refreshments and a slew of eateries with menu options to fit every eating lifestyle. Who knew that you could drink wine while you attended a baseball game?

Rooster had put some thought into the purchase of our tickets and had made sure that we wouldn’t be sitting in the sun too long. Our seats were perfect!

It had been years since I’d been to a professional baseball game; technology had come a long way, y’all.

I asked for a few more photos before we settled into the game.

There were pictures taken between innings as well because, well, I was a mama who hadn’t had her babies together in 936 days.

And these two . . . bestill my heart . . .

I refuse to apologize the number of pictures I’m posting because seriously, how adorable are we?

The only people I didn’t get selfies with were N and B. Sorry y’all! We will make up for that next time, I promise!

I only left my seat once to find food. There was a place that sold vegan hot dogs. I couldn’t believe it! In fact, my hot dog looked like the real thing – so much so that I pinched off a piece, took a small bite, and returned to the stand to tell the guy that I believed he’d given me a real hot dog. He told me that he hadn’t, and when I asked how he could be sure, he told me that they grilled the real ones but didn’t grill the vegan ones.

I didn’t take a photo because it looked weird when I tried. Trust me on that. The taste was on point though.

So, back to the game. I’ll admit that I haven’t watched baseball in quite some time, so I didn’t know the players. I could tell the most popular ones though. Rooster and N had been following the Braves and cheered loudly for their players. I heard B explaining to Chicky some of the particulars of the game. Remember that she knows all of the soccer things being that soccer was her life for so many years.

One thing I had not been prepared for was the tomahawk chop. Oy vey!

Y’all, I am an Auburn fan. I do not like FSU. At all. The music for the chop was played every few minutes, and I felt as though I was at an FSU game. I texted my friend, Megan, who had been to a Braves game a couple of months ago and told her that she had not prepared me for this. She laughed.

Rooster assured me that the Braves had the chop before FSU, but I refused to participate. I just couldn’t.

The game wound up being super close, and it came down to the last hit. The Braves won, and the crowd went wild!

Because it was Friday night, there was a fireworks show.

I’ve never been much of a fireworks girl, but I have to say that this one was spectacular!

Once it was over, we left and ambled around The Battery. A drum line corp was putting on quite the show just outside the stadium. A deejay kept the crowd going. What fun!

There weren’t a lot of places open by that time. We went back to Punch Bowl Social and tried to get food, but it was so crowded from the game attendees that we wound up leaving.

After wandering a bit, we made our way to the hotel.

I’d been dreading this because the see-you-laters were about to commence. I didn’t want my time with the kids to end.

We shared quiet laughs brought on by the lateness of the evening, and long, tight hugs were exchanged.

Chicky and B left the hotel to return to the place they were staying, and we rode the elevator with Rooster and N.

When you don’t get to see your children but once every blue moon, you stretch out your time together even more. I felt as though my feet were dragging as we walked out of the elevator.

Final hugs were given, and I stepped on my tiptoes to kiss Rooster’s cheek. Then, I watched him and his girl walk down the hallway to their room.

Sigh.

I didn’t cry though. The memories from the past five days had filled my heart with a joy that crowded out the tears.

I have learned that it matters not the amount of time you have with your people; it’s the way you spend said time that really counts.

We had packed a LOT of things into the hours we’d been together and had created lifelong memories in the process.

Day 2 of our road trip was in the books. Day 3 was just around the corner.

Road Trip – Part 1

Six months ago, Rooster and his girl came home after attending a wedding up in Alabama. Before they left, we began talking about a summer get together, when they would be returning for the wedding of another friend.

For the record, can more of their friends get married please? Preferably every six months.

I picked them up from the airport, where they deposited the rental car they’d used to make the drive down, and home we went.

We spent a wonderful four days at the house together. Gambit was extremely happy to see his boy and his girl. He does love him some Mrs. Rooster.

On Tuesday, while they were still sleeping, I got my nails done. The gel French manicure I’d had done three days before had started peeling. Apparently, I have oily nails.

So pretty, but they didn’t last long at all!!

This time, I got the dip powder. I love the color, which has sparkles. So far, so good.

On Tuesday, I took the kids to lunch at Dave & Busters on Tuesday. I guess you could say that chicken and waffles were the theme of the week since N had them twice.

The food there is actually pretty good. I found a vegan burger that had not been on the menu when we’d been there last (maybe a year ago), so that was good.

We went to The Mr. grilled out one evening, and another night, we took them for trivia at one of our favorite restaurants.

Thursday morning happened, and, well, you know.

Around 9:30, we packed up the car and headed out for a road trip.

The Mr. and Rooster had been planning this trip for months so, although our hearts were still so heavy, we were excited.

Our destination: Atlanta!

We made many stops for potty breaks and the requisite car snacks.

I took a new skein of yarn and, in between rounds of tears, began a new project.

Rooster had made us reservations at a hotel near The Battery. We had agreed to allow the kids an evening to themselves, after all, this was their vacation too

The Mr. and I got ready for dinner and headed out.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been to The Battery, but not only is it home to the Braves, but there are a myriad of shops, eateries, and bars there too. Our first stop was Punch Bowl Social.

It is a two-story establishment with games (bowling even) and a bar upstairs. That’s where we headed. It was crowded since the Braves were playing that evening.

Sad eyes – hard day

The drinks were pretty expensive, but the food was delicious and definitely worth the price. I even found a vegan dish!

The BEST falafel sandwich I’ve ever eaten, and the rosemary fries (the few I ate) were perfect!

The place had cleared out by the time we finished, so we left to explore the area a little more.

As we walked, I saw this slide and, feeling adventurous (and not tipsy – I’d only had one margarita), I told the Mr. that I wanted to go down.

Despite being told to pull my elbows and legs in, I was slow on the draw and paid the price.

Let’s just say that my middle name isn’t Grace.

The Battery is a family-friendly place with a lot of open space. I was impressed.

We checked out the menus of several places before deciding to settle at the Garden & Gun Club.

We really liked this place. The inside was small with low lighting. It was also very quiet, which was refreshing after the loud place we’d been to just minutes before.

We were also impressed by the drink menu. This page caught my eye:

I ordered the Lightnin’ Hopkins after googling a couple of the liqueurs from the ingredient list.

Excuse the misspelled name.

Before I had taken three sips of my drink, Chicky and her boyfriend, B, arrived. What sweet joy. ❤ They had driven to Atlanta in their own car.

We couldn’t leave the guys out of the picture taking.

The bar had to quit taking orders a little early because they were having computer issues, so we left in search of other entertainment.

We were channeling our inner 20’something year old selves.

We landed at a country bar – the name of which escapes me.

Now y’all, we went from one extreme to another.

This place was a mecca for beer-pong-playing college kids.

The view across The Battery, since the country place was two story, was good. We even spied some Chick fil A cows headed out to, um, party maybe?

When you live in the South, you learn not to question anything you see.

Of course I had to potty a couple of times, and my naive self got an education when first off, someone spilled her drink on my foot – in the stall. Washing my foot off in the sink was an interesting experience.

Later, when I pottied for the second time, I tried a different stall. The same thing happened before I could even close the door, so I switched stalls.

Oh, the sad goings on in a bar bathroom. I was minding my own business when the girl in the stall beside me went down – hard.

And yes, if you’re going to get drunk and fall into my stall, I’m going to take a picture.

At least I turned OFF the sound on my phone so she wouldn’t know. I do have some manners, y’all.

I did go into teacher mode and quietly asked if she was okay. She assured me that she was.

I continued with my business and then this happened . . .

Yep. She fell again . . . on that nasty floor. I asked if she was alright, and a different voice answered. I guess she had a friend with her.

Sheesh.

Chicky, B, the Mr., and I had a good laugh about this when I showed them the pictures later.

Bless it.

By then, it was pretty late, so we walked back to the hotel so we could grab a few zzzz’s.

The next day promised to be busy.

And Then There Was One

Once upon a time, there were four fur babies.

They made AuburnChick and her Mr. a little crazy but a lot happy.

Fast forward twelve and a half years, and the four have become one.

This has made AuburnChick and her Mr. very sad people.

The day they lost Pele, they left for a little getaway that had been six months in the planning.

They set aside their grief the best they could and made memories with their loved ones.

Oh, y’all, how I wish this was a story from a book. The reality, however, is very sorrowful and oh too real.

This story is one that is currently being written – slowly and painfully.

The Mr. and I returned from our trip Saturday evening. I started crying as we made the last few turns; the knowledge of what was ahead weighed heavily on my heart.

We knew that coming home would be tough.

Instead of two fur babies greeting us at the door, there was only one.

Granted, he was a cutie and beside himself with joy and relief.

While we had been able to delay our grief, he had been at home with a stranger (a sweet young lady but still new to him) and confused about where his big brother was. Our sitter texted me a picture of him and told me that he’d been keeping an eye on the front door.

Poor guy.

His audible greeting – something rare for him – let us know just how happy he was to see us.

I think we spent that first evening in a daze. The house was too quiet.

We were all in mourning; the weight of it so very, very heavy.

Gambit was unsure of the new dynamics.

Normally, his big brother would be vying for space on the bed. Instead, it was just Gambit. We both felt like a piece of ourselves was missing.

We slept twelve hours, and I’ll just go ahead and say that I felt no guilt about missing church. My body and mind desperately needed the rest. Besides that, I would have been a blubbering mess.

I can’t remember much of what we did on Sunday. I believe we went to Sam’s Club. I ran into a former student I hadn’t seen in a couple of years. I’m sure I seemed aloof, but the truth was that I was extremely emotional and barely able to focus. The priority was getting a few needed items and returning home to Gambit.

I don’t remember anything else about the day.

The week, in fact, ran pretty much the same way.

It might seem silly to people who aren’t animal lovers, but losing a beloved pet is hard on the heart.

Pele’s absence has left a huge void in our lives.

Everything in the house reminds me of him.

One of the first things I did was move one of his dog beds to the den. We had five of them in the house. Yes, for two dogs. I threw away one dog bed because Pele had either gotten sick on it or had a bit of an accident. That still left four.

Then, there was the crate, which was beside the TV. Pele loved his crate. It was his safe place – his spot when he wanted alone time away from Gambit, who was known to sneak snuggle.

I folded it up and put it away, not sure if we will need it in the future. I couldn’t deal with the dog bed. It had so much of Pele’s hair and smelled like him. Smell is such a powerful sense and brings back so many memories.

For two years, we’d had double of everything: water bowls, dog food dishes, and leashes. When I took Gambit to get his nails clipped this week, I teared up as I reached for his leash. I still can’t bring myself to do anything with the extra one. Maybe one day, but not yet.

Gambit was so excited to go for a car ride, and my heart broke a little. Pele loved to ride too. I was used to seeing two puppy faces in the rear view mirror. I only saw one that day.

I wound up taking Gambit to PetSmart for his nails even though the vet’s office was a little closer. I just can’t go there yet; the pain is so raw.

The Mr. and I still find ourselves talking about the “dogs” this and the “dogs” that. I’m not sure how we will move from using plural nouns to a singular one when referring to the one who’s left.

I’ve spent the week cleaning; it’s what I do when I’m in the middle of flux. As I walked from one room to another, I saw this . . .

The Roomba had already run more than once, so finding a tuft of Pele’s tail hair poured salt in the wound. I broke down and told the Mr. that the day my vacuum stops picking up Pele’s hair is the day I’m going to cry bucketloads. I’m afraid of losing all evidence that Pele was a member of our family for so long. I remember feeling this way with Molly too. The Mr. reminded me that we have a lot of pictures to remember him by.

And so I’m plodding through this muck that is life at the moment.

It’s slow going, and if I’m completely honest, I’m not too happy at the moment.

Watching my sweet Gambit struggle is hard. He’s too little for the two beds we have left.

I’m just glad that we have a buffer between losing Pele and school starting back up to get our bearings again.

I’ve been fond of saying that I’m finding joy in the journey, whatever that may be.

Well, I’m not joyful in the moment. To say otherwise would be a lie.

I do know, though, that God’s got me – that He’s ministering to me through family and friends – that He will continue to comfort me when I suddenly feel weepy.

No, I will not allow myself to wallow too long in the sad, but for now, I will embrace it for just a little while until the wound of my broken heart has healed a bit.

Just as Gambit, the last one left, likes to lift his nose in the wind, so I’ll trust that God will lift my spirits in His perfect time.

The Third Musketeer

Once upon a time (February 2007), there was a girl who wanted to get a second dog.

Knowing her father was anti-multiple-fur-babies, she approached Mama about how to convince Daddy that she should get one. Mama, being the tech wizard, suggested a PowerPoint.

Said girl made the PowerPoint, and Daddy’s heart was swayed. The family went to the local animal shelter and picked out the most adorable baby there was.

Leaving the animal shelter – in Rooster’s lap

Being the soccer extraordinaire that she was, Chicky named her puppy Pele. He came home to meet what he would believe was his mama and began his adventurous life.

First trip to PetSmart to get a collar and name tag.

Pele immediately latched on to Aubie. We had wondered how she would do with a baby fur pup since she’d been an only child up to this point.

They bonded immediately. She was patient with him as he followed her everywhere and slept wherever she slept.

It took a little while for Pele’s personality to come out. He had been returned to the animal shelter twice before we’d taken him home, so he was leery. We gave him lots of love, though, to build his trust.

And then the cuteness came out . . . along with his mischievous side.

Boy did he love that gorilla. I repeatedly sewed up holes that Pele lovingly inflicted upon it.

Six months later, the human mama (Your’s Truly) decided to add to the brood, and Molly joined the crew.

Pele wasn’t too sure about Molly the night she arrived. She flew into the house and went straight for him.

There were now the Three Musketeers, and boy were they a tight bunch.

Pele had softened the hearts of his human parents – so much so that dogs were now allowed on the couch and other places formerly forbidden.

Molly’s addition to the family ruined us completely; mischief was constantly afoot.

Much love and laughter was shared over the years. The Three Musketeers morphed into something akin to human progeny.

Aubie was the eldest and in charge of everyone. Pele was the easy-going middle child who preferred to slide through life without too much extra attention. He knew when to stand back when the others (Molly – ahem) were getting in trouble for what were probably his misdeeds.

Molly was the instigator – the one who came up with the insidious plans. Pele was her muscle. Aubie told on both of them.

Time marched on, and just like humans, the Three Musketeers got older.

At the tender age of 12 and a half, and after a suspected case of bone cancer, we bid farewell to Aubie.

Pele was absolutely heartbroken and mourned her loss for a long time. He’d refused to lay on her bed for weeks; her smell so confusing since she wasn’t there physically.

Four years later, Molly breathed her last after a fairly sudden downturn in her health. We never quite knew what befell her. I suspect she suffered a stroke that ebbed the life from her.

By then, Gambit had been a member of the family for five years. He and Pele tender footed around the house for days sensing my distress and utter devastation.

Fur babies are sensitive things, you know.

And life continued.

We had two blissful years. With the loss of two fur babies behind us, we took special care with the ones who remained and spent extra time doting on them.

We spoiled them rotten.

Life hadn’t been easy – especially after Hurricane Michael – but we pushed through, thankful for the distractions that our fur boys provided.

And then last week happened.

One week ago today, to be exact.

Pele’s health had been declining ever since Hurricane Michael last October. He and Gambit had evacuated with me; the long, middle-of-the-night ride to Auburn had done a number to Pele’s body. He was never quite the same, and it broke my heart to watch his strong, sleek body slowly whittle down. During the past three months, he began eating sporadically, even after I started preparing homemade, pet-friendly dishes.

When I took him to the vet in June, she assured me that this was normal for older dogs during summer months, but I knew something was amiss. My boy NEVER missed meals. He LIVED for food. The muscles in his back legs degenerated quickly over the past month, and his eating continued to be hit and miss.

And then the 18th . . . when Pele didn’t want to get up and potty. When I finally got him to go, things didn’t look right, and he returned to his bed.

I knew something was gravely wrong, and I told the Mr., with tears in my eyes, that it was time.

We spent the next hour and a half loving on our sweet boy, waiting for the vet’s office to open. We had a trip planned, and although I had a trusted dog sitter coming to the house, we were afraid that Pele wouldn’t make it until we returned. We didn’t want him to suffer, which was clearly already happening. Also, the thought of us not being here for him in his last moments would have wrecked us.

We took pictures with him. He was so tired that he didn’t really want to look at the camera.

The tears were flowing, let me tell you.

He had been a loyal companion for too long. We wanted to be there for him when it mattered most.

Rooster and his girl, who were visiting, said their goodbyes, and we headed out.

Dear, sweet Pele. He was so brave. He had always been a nervous wreck in the vet’s office, but he walked into the room and laid right down on the blanket they’d set out for him.

The vet examined him and told us that he was going into liver failure; his eyes were yellow – a clear sign of it. We’d also found a hard knot under his chin a couple of months back, and the vet had suspected cancer – the kind that she couldn’t remove. She hypothesized that it might have spread. She noted that his legs had lost even more muscle as well.

She told us we were doing the right thing.

Oh y’all, I don’t think a person who loves a fur baby as much as we loved Pele can ever prepare for this day.

During the next hour or so, we loved on that boy so much. We talked to him as the sedatives worked their way through his body.

We told him what a good boy he was, and that we loved him so much.

There was a moment, at the very end, when I saw a tear fall from his eye. Call it what you want, but it was a tear, and it still breaks my heart when I remember it. I don’t believe that he wanted to leave us, but he was tired. So tired.

And so we kissed on him and hugged him tight, and we cried and cried. I probably shed a thousand tears to his one.

As the Mr. and I knelt over his body, I put my hands on my sweet boy, bowed my head, and prayed for all of us. I thanked the Lord for blessing us with this precious baby, and I asked for comfort as we began the grieving process. I know that God surrounded us with angels during those moments of deep anguish.

Leaving him when it was over was the absolute hardest things I’ve done as a dog mom, and I sobbed the entire way home.

Loving is the easy part; letting go is the hardest.

We had raised him for twelve and a half years.

Think about that for a minute. That’s almost half as long as the Mr. and I have been married; half of Rooster’s life.

As a Christian, I can’t know for sure if God has a place in heaven for our fur babies. I pray that He does.

I picture the OG (original gang) – my Three Musketeers – back together again, happily reunited, in perfect health, and full of sweet joy.

My sweet, gentle giant lived a full life. When I remember him, I will always see his big smile.

To my Pele,

You were the absolute BEST dog there was. You were laid back from the start – the most calm of all of our babies. I will miss so many things about you:

  • Your dinner time reminders that usually began around 3:30.
  • Your grunt as you settled yourself onto your bed.
  • How you loved to roll around on your back in the yard and on your bed after an especially satisfying meal and the funny noises you made while you were rolling.
  • The sound of you rolling onto your back as you butted yourself up against the wall – your nails scraping along the way.
  • Your floppy ears – the softest and, probably, one of my favorite parts of you.
  • Your beautiful, exotic eyes that looked like you were wearing permanent eye liner.
  • Your woof-howl when someone dared to walk past the house – on YOUR sidewalk. Awoooooo, wooof, wooof
  • Your scratch at the door when you wanted to be let out and back in again.
  • Your stare at Daddy while he ate dinner – your wish for a bite too.
  • Your big snout at the edge of my table, looking for something to eat
  • The way you eased off of the dog bed after Gambit tried to sneakily snuggle with you.
  • Your nightly reminders that it was bedtime and the look you gave me asking when was I coming.
  • Your big body that was perfect for snuggling against. You were my real life teddy bear; you never minded when I hugged you close.
  • Your presence, which filled the house and has left a void since you departed.
  • Everything. Just everything.

Pele, we have no regrets. We loved you BIG. I know that you knew you were loved and appreciated, and I trust that you were comforted by that even to the very end.

I am thankful for every single second God allowed us to have with you. We knew, going into this, that our time would be limited, given that you were a large dog. God blessed us beyond compare.

We will NEVER forget you.

Sunshower Shawl

Y’all, despite the craziness of my life of late, I have managed to complete another knitting project!

I present to you my Sunshower Shawl (also known as the City Tweed Dropped-Stitch Shawl).

I saw this pattern while shopping for new needles on the Knit Picks website and fell in love immediately. The link for the pattern is here.

Knit Picks CotLin Color #27872

First of all, can we take a moment to appreciate the color, which reminded me of my favorite Cornflower Blue from my childhood crayon box? So pretty!!

I also loved the dropped stitches that were clearly evident in the picture on Knit Picks’s website. Swoon!

Oh, and that fringe got me too, although I was not looking forward to making it. Fringe is a pain in the rear end to make.

The yarn, CotLin Reflections, was an absolute dream to work with. I’m not usually a fan of knitting with cotton, and I was concerned that my finished project wouldn’t look as nicely as the one on the website.

My worries were for naught; I could see the drape early on, pre-blocking. The blocking made it even better though.

I wound up using only 1.25 skeins – roughly 310 yards. The shawl can be made as large or as small as needed. I used size 8 needles, a perfect choice that kept the stitches loose.

Now, I’ve got to tell you something about the pattern. I always research the heck out of a pattern before I start it. I want to see if people encountered any problems, how much yarn it took, and the needle sizes people used. When I was confident about this particular shawl pattern, I printed it and ran with it.

Things went well until I was almost finished. I noticed something strange. You see, for the first half, you’re increasing stitches. The second half requires you to decrease. This is how you create the shaping. Well, since I’ve been knitting since 2006, I’ve learned a thing or two, and things just didn’t look right. Something in the pattern had bothered me – just didn’t seem right – but I had plodded on despite checking online. Well, after the shape looked so strange near the end, I dug deeper into my research.

That’s when I found a BIG mistake. I guess somehow, I had downloaded an OLD copy of the pattern. I found a link for a pattern download and compared notes. The second copy had corrected the mistake, which would fix, once I took out HALF of the shawl and reknit it, the mistake.

Sigh.

By then, I had the pattern memorized, so I flew through it.

I had to do more research about how to make the fringe, which involved unraveling part of the project. I chronicled my progress on Instagram – hence the comments on the photos.

What fun! I couldn’t believe how easy it was, and the fringe involved NO cutting or measuring to keep things even.

When I blocked the shawl, I pulled each string in the fringe to straighten it. The result was worth the effort.

This is going to be the perfect summer shawl – not too heavy but just right for a breezy evening.

Sibling Time

A few weeks ago, the Mr. had an idea.

He’d recently subscribed to a year of ESPN+’s UFC fighting packages, and he thought that our siblings (aka his brother and my sister, who are married to each other) would like to come over for the weekend to watch. They only live a couple of hours away, so the drive would be short for them.

They agreed, and THIS was the weekend!

Y’all, surprisingly enough, adulting sucks most of your free time, so the only time we get to see them is usually around the holidays.

I eagerly washed sheets, cleaned the bathroom, and prepared treats because, well, why not.

Peanut Butter Cake for the Mr.

They arrived around 3pm, and we hit the ground running – literally.

I mean, this was the first REAL time they’d come over, without it being Thanksgiving, and without children in tow. They’re almost empty nesters; their oldest is on his own, and their youngest will be a junior in college but is away playing baseball this summer.

We were getting to be grownups for REALZ.

Super Sis and I went to Lucky’s for some much-needed food stuffs; however, the store was kind of closed because the power had gone out numerous times due to horrendous weather we’d been having, so they couldn’t run the cash registers. We ran to Publix next.

In true sister form, we ditzed our way through. We are silly, y’all, and chatty. We have the absolute MOST fun when we are together. As we left, I asked if she didn’t want to try Lucky’s again just in case the power had come on. Since Lynn Haven is a small town and nothing is far apart, she was game.

Good thing, because it was OPEN! We were able to get the ingredients I needed for vegan jalapeno poppers.

Absolutely delicious! It definitely is smoky but also has a delightfully smooth texture.

The Mr. called about that time and told me that I was sorely low on margarita ingredients – a true travesty – so we ran to Walmart, where more mischief ensued (and an interesting conversation with an “interesting” fellow – ahem).

After all of that running, we were ready to get down to some food prep, but then the Mr. informed me that I’d have to go BACK down the road to pick up a chicken nugget platter he’d ordered from Chick fil A.

Say what?

Ahem.

So sister dear and I got BACK into the car and had another fun adventure where there was no record of the Mr.’s order (the second time this has happened recently). Sigh. Fortunately, Chick fil A employees are the sweetest, so they knocked 20% off and fixed it on the spot.

Seester and I finally got back home for good, so I prepped our drinks first because, well, cooking is way more fun that way, is it not?

Isn’t she pretty?

We also had to take a National Donut Day selfie – one day late.

I’d actually made these from scratch after seeing a recipe here. They’re vegan, of course, but you would never know it. The icing tastes even better than Krispy Kreme’s.

So delicious!!!

Next, I started working on the poppers. I’d randomly gotten a hankering for them a week ago and had found a recipe here. Y’all, I’d never made them before and was surprised at how easy they were to prepare. I immediately put them on my menu when I found out we were having company. Super Sis helped out a lot!

Air frying is my jam, y’all, and this recipe doesn’t disappoint.

The Vegan Zombie’s Air Fryer Jalapeno Poppers

We had quite the spread on the table when all was said and done.

It wasn’t the healthiest, but when you don’t do stuff like this very often, it’s acceptable.

We divided our TV time between my nephew’s baseball game, which we were watching through an app on the Firestick, and World Cup soccer. Then, the guys turned over to fighting, and we went into another room. I don’t like watching people beat each other up.

We wound up playing a fierce game of Battleship while the dogs slept near us. I got a stunning come-from-behind win!

Then, we started up a new Netflix movie, I am Mother.

Terrible movie, by the way, that has absolutely no point in the end. I don’t recommend it.

It was late by then, and the guys had one last fight to watch before we all headed to bed.

Super Sis and I got up first thing and did Day 21 of Beachbody’s 21 Day Fix Extreme. It was a yoga workout and a lot of fun to do with my sweet sister.

Then, they headed home. The Mr. had already left for a rare Sunday at work.

I’m so thankful that our siblings made the drive over despite the rain and all. It was such a wonderful way to spend my first weekend of summer vacation!

Year 9 of Teaching

Although this past Friday was the last day of school for students, it wasn’t until after I’d attended a final meeting Tuesday morning that I could officially close the book on my ninth year of teaching.

You wouldn’t have known, from looking at the picture above, that the following was my face just an hour before . . .

Y’all, that is the face of a teacher who had gone through one of the hardest years in her career.

Truth be told, the year had gotten off to a rocky start early on. I remember telling my friend, Megan, after less than a month in, that it was already a hard year.

Little did we know that, a month after that conversation, what we would be called to deal with would stretch us to our limits.

I have always started out each school year with a fresh perspective; summer vacations are restorative must-dos for teachers due to the taxing nature of our profession.

It had not taken long, though, before I and fellow teachers were completely up to our eyeballs in oversized classes and too many preps. I considered myself fortunate that I only had two; some teachers had three or four with 30-40 students in each of them. Personally, I had 180 students – the most I’ve ever had and way too many considering that most of my students were low level 1 kids with great deficiencies in reading comprehension skills. Some of the kids came to me twice because of the way the scheduling was done, and many were resentful of that.

I can’t say that I blamed them. One class period with Mrs. Auburnchick is enough for anyone.

Ha!

Another thing that was hard at the beginning of the year, and quite frankly continued throughout, was that I had to fight hard for everything. There were kids who did not belong in some of my classes, and it was a real struggle to get them placed appropriately. A few wound up staying, which was frustrating because I knew that this wasn’t in their best interest.

Despite all of the angst, I settled in the best I could – determined to help my students pass the stupid FSA or make a concordant score on the SAT or ACT.

Hurricane Michael’s landfall and utter destruction threw everything out of kilter. It hit the day we were supposed to take our first School Day SAT, and my students were devastated. All of their hard work, because they knew that their chances of passing the stupid FSA were slim, felt all for naught.

We did the best we could, returned to school over a month later, but found ourselves with a half-day schedule (which I loved) and housed at a small middle school.

Kids had a hard time adjusting to beginning their academic day at 7am, although most were thankful that we were getting out at noon. Many of our kids found jobs because a huge chunk of the adult workforce had to relocate due to businesses being closed and homes being too damaged to live in. Places like Walmart couldn’t hire enough people, so they closed early.

I actually felt more of a community love during those hectic months. Being housed in a tiny school put us in closer proximity. We shared more conversations and had to be especially flexible in all things. As an introvert, this was both difficult yet soothing. I don’t do well in chaos surrounded by a lot of people, but this brought me out of my shell.

I did return to school with the same expectations for my students. Some were grateful for the academic challenges; others expected to sit and do nothing, which did not work in my classroom at all.

We made do, though, and eventually returned to our own campus. We had yet another schedule to adjust to because the state was demanding that we make up some of the time, and classrooms were a half-mile apart because of the portables that 3/4 of our teachers had to move into since so many of our buildings were too damaged to use.

Y’all, a Cat 5 hurricane wreaks absolute havoc on everything it touches, and repairs do not happen quickly at all.

We adjusted, though, but it was about March or April when I started seeing more extreme signs of PTSD emerge from my students. They were emotional wrecks with so much STUPID testing ahead of them.

You want to know why I was so teary-eyed in my second photo? It was partially because of how extra hard the Florida Department of Education made things for us.

This office on high refused to even consider test waivers for our sweet kids who had endured so much.

We had seniors who were scrambling to pass because the state refused to look at them as actual human beings – traumatized beyond anything we’d seen.

Do you know how hard it is to have students tell you that they probably won’t be at school the next week because they are getting kicked out of their rental, can’t find a house, and will be moving two hours away?

This happened many times a week.

Our school district had an increase in student mental health issues and a ridiculously high number of kids who were Baker Acted. When kids don’t feel like they can make it one more day but are required to take ten to fifteen exams, you know something is wrong with the Powers that Be.

Disillusionment set in – for all of us. Students repeatedly told me that the state didn’t care about them, which I agreed with, and I myself felt that the state didn’t care about teachers either.

We were still expected to jump through performance evaluation hoops – some mandated by the state and others mandated locally. There were other things teachers were told to do that I did not agree with ethically.

Sigh.

Now, I know that I’m sounding all negative, so I need to change gears for a few minutes and talk about the good stuff.

First of all, I loved watching my students put up their phones when they walked into class each day. I’d decided, last summer, to get much more strict on this policy this year, and I’d started from the first day. Students grew to be less distracted by their phones, although there were times when they would look at them hanging in the pocket holder and wonder who was texting them. I think this freed them up to really keep up with what we were doing and participate more in class discussions.

Of course, there were the celebrations when students did make their concordant scores. One young lady was ready to give up this spring. She was burned out from all of the testing she’d done, so it was very satisfying to tell her that she’d passed the stupid FSA (every now and then, one of my struggling readers will pass it).

I loved hearing, near the end of our final week, kids thanking me for being a good teacher. That meant the world to me.

I loved watching my kids from last year and the few who did early graduation this year walk across the stage to get their diplomas.

I’m not Mr. Flint, but I can imitate him quite well, thank you very much.
Pre-graduation shenanigans in the gym
This young man headed out to Marine boot camp the morning after graduation.
You’d never know from this silly photo, but this young man took care of an elderly woman through the hurricane. They both stayed, and he bailed out water from her home in the middle of the storm. When I saw him after the storm, I asked, “Were you scared?” He said, “Yesssssss, girl. I was screaming my head off.” Ha! He’s one of my heroes.

Graduation has always been the highlight of my year. It represents all of the hard work put in over the years – all of the loving poured into these kids – making them believe in themselves.

In fact, one of my students told me one of the last days of school that I was her favorite teacher. She told me that she’d been afraid to come into my room because other kids had told her that I was super strict. She said that she understood why I was strict, and that while some teachers said, “Poor girl” if she didn’t understand something (she’s ELL), I would tell her, “You can do this.”

That’s what I love most about teaching. It’s moments like this one that the people who wear fancy suits and work in beautiful, window-lined buildings (wish I could see outside my classroom) do not understand and that no amount of tweeting will get them to take notice of.

This year, I taught two English 3 classes. Y’all, after I figured out that my kids couldn’t do subject-verb agreement, we went back to the very beginning of grammar – to the parts of speech.

That is ALL we did for an entire semester because when kids don’t understand something, I slow down and teach them until they do. Even if they don’t do well on my tests (because the state says that’s the only way to measure growth), I know that my kids have progressed when I see what they are doing in my room on a daily basis.

I watched as wheels started turning in my kids’ heads as they started piecing together the different components of the grammar puzzle – how those parts worked together in their writing.

I heard one guy say, “My mama will whoop me good for talking all proper at home, so I have to talk a different way and not act like I’m better than her.” That might seem sad to you, but it was an aha moment for my kiddo who recognized that there are certain situations when you speak in certain ways.

Progress – not perfection.

My class was a safe place to make mistakes in the journey as they progressed.

What a journey it was this year too.

I was able, in the last few days of school when we were on a whack testing schedule, to talk to Flint (the Flint of the sign above). We reflected on the year. He always tells me what a wonderful teacher I am. Compared to him, Megan, and a few others I can think of, I don’t feel so great. I am not the SGA extraordinaire that Megan is. I’m not the fly-easy kind of guy that Flint is. As he and I talked, I told him that I have to manage my energy levels carefully, so I’ve tried to be more balanced and, instead, put everything I have into my lesson planning. We reflected on how grateful we were that we are veteran teachers now who have prior years’ worth of plans to lean on, tweak, or create from. With all that we had going on this year, we didn’t have to add the heaviness of being new teachers in our first or second years on top of that.

Despite that, we were exhausted.

It’s no wonder that the last day of school found me dressed, well, not in my best stuff, although Auburn attire is always spot on.

Floor decor courtesy of Hurricane Michael

I had prepped my room all that last week, so by Friday, I was able to lock my door for the summer.

I ran to the school that Monday to make the obligatory visit and turn in my keys before heading home to hang up my bag and lunch box.

I did return that afternoon to celebrate the retirement of three of our teachers. I’ll miss them and will admit to being jealous that they are closing out this chapter of their lives. State and local mandates are making me long for the day when it’s my turn. I am physically and emotionally depleted.

For right now, I’m content to retreat to my home, lick my wounds, and let God restore my tender heart, which has been too busy taking care of my teenage charges to completely mend from a beyond-challenging year.

If you need me, I’ll be working out, sunning myself, napping, and knitting – whilst enjoying homemade margaritas and yummy vegan dishes prepared by yours truly.

Here’s to Year 9 – a year when I lapsed a bit on #findingjoyinthejourney but plan a more positive approach/return to Year 10.

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