The Energy of Spring

I’m sipping coffee from my City of Pawnee mug that my lovely husband gave me in celebration of my 34th year while occasionally glancing out the window at a landscape that still feels foreign. I can’t help but feel as if I don’t belong in this place that so many people love, which is an admittedly strange feeling to have.

“You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas.” – Davy Crockett

Today marks our 8-month anniversary of living in Texas, which may not sound that long to some but it when you only live in a place for 1-3 years, it becomes a more meaningful length of time. Seeing as how Texas is big and everything is bigger in Texas, it’d be an impossible feat to experience the essence of every region within the state boundaries during our brief stay. We’re determined to make the most of our time here and despite considering Texas not one of our favorite places we’ve ever lived, we want to be sure to appreciate the culture, landscape, and history of the Lone Star State. Over the past 34 weeks…

…we’ve been to the Alamo – the quintessential San Antonio attraction that illustrates the spirit of the Texas Revolution and since 1982 has unfortunately been synonymous with Ozzy Osborne. Fun fact – Ozzy Osborne didn’t actually urinate on the Alamo…he relieved himself on the Alamo Cenotaph, which is adjacent to the Alamo in the Alamo Plaza.

We also found ourselves on the San Antonio River quite a bit. Arguably the second most-popular attraction in San Antonio is the River Walk – a collection of walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River and manmade canals in downtown San Antonio.

And Historic Market Square, which is home to over 100 shops and stalls that many describe as the largest Mexican market outside of Mexico. It reminds me a lot of the markets in Puerto Penasco, Mexico, where my family vacationed when I was a kid.

Tower of the Americas is the second-largest observation tower (750 feet tall) in the United States and was constructed for the 1968 World’s Fair. It’s our son’s favorite thing in San Antonio so we find ourselves here quite a bit.

We’ve spent a long weekend up at Canyon Lake, which is about an hour outside of San Antonio.

And we’ve found ourselves driving down to the Gulf of Mexico to the Padre Island National Seashore on multiple weekends last fall.

We spent a weekend in Austin and took the kids to Sixth Street and South Congress Ave.

We went to Oktoberfest in Fredericksburg, which may be my favorite place yet in Texas, and then returned for the Christmas Market in December.

We experienced Wurstfest, a 10-day salute to sausage in New Braunfels, a German settlement organized by the Adelsverein in 1844.

On Saturday nights last fall, you could find us at the Tejas Rodeo. The rodeo season has recently commenced for the season and we’re excited to go back!

We’ve eaten our fair share of BBQ (pictured is The Salt Lick and Rudy’s) and tacos.

We’ve spent many hours at the Pearl, a downtown neighborhood defined by the river and the brewery since 1881.

We even put on our winter best and attended a minor league hockey game at the AT&T Center, in effort to escape the heat. We hope to attend a Spurs game soon and look forward to going to as many Missions (minor league baseball) games as we can this spring and summer.

And finally, we’ve hiked countless trails throughout Hill Country. It is during these hikes when I am at my happiest in Texas.

Prior to writing this post, if you would have asked me to define the previous fall and winter, I would have likely done so with a pensive and possibly even a melancholy tone. Despite exploring the area at every possible chance and trying hard to appreciate all things Texas, I haven’t bloomed here. At least I haven’t in terms of ‘bloom where you are planted‘, an oft-referenced phrase in military life. But you know what? Writing this post is helping.  Looking back at what we’ve experienced over the past 8 months has given me a newfound appreciation for this little corner of the country.

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Currently all around me in San Antonio, flowers are beginning to bloom and trees seem to be standing a bit taller. Perhaps I should channel the energy of spring and allow myself to do the same. I may not be the most vibrant I’ve ever been but maybe that just means I’m gearing up for something so amazing that it’s currently unfathomable. San Antonio will not be one of my great loves, but that doesn’t means she wasn’t put in my life for a greater purpose. So here’s to the next year or two…let’s see what we can do, San Antonio.

Our 2016 Spring Break Vacation.

No – that isn’t a typo in the post title. It’s no secret that I haven’t been writing lately and I am determined to chase the negative trains of logic circling around my brain by grasping whatever strands of confidence I can. And since in less than two weeks, we will be embarking on our 2017 Spring Break adventure, I can think of no better story to tell than of our 2016 Spring Break trip, which will be permanently engraved in our consciousnesses and forever referenced when planning future trips. Because of my self-inposed writing sabbatical, I never put into words the 2400 mile journey we made over the course of 10 days in effort to escape middle America last March…a journey that involved a gastro-intestinal virus so intense that clothes were incinerated, hotel parking lots eternally scarred, and a shared car-puke-bucket that became the sixth member of our road-trip family.

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The trip began innocently enough. As a family, we decided to go to Philadelphia and New York City for Spring Break and because Clay and I planned to vacation in Scotland later that year, we knew that driving to the East Coast was the only way we could afford to do both trips without forgoing IRA and 529 contributions. So whenever one of the children complained about being stuck in the car during the 1150 mile journey to the Philadelphia suburbs, we would just remind them that we were saving them from the frustration of having to begin their adult lives with student loan debt. And because they were six and two at the time, they seemed befuddled by our response and would then just ask for the iPad. Lucy (our elderly chocolate lab) also joined us on the journey, because you know what makes a multi-state road trip even more fun? A dog.

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By the time we reached Ohio, the children were slightly delirious and happily proclaimed this particular rest area “the best ever!” because we let them run up a hill and buy a candy bar from the vending machine. The bar was set low for this trip from the beginning, apparently.

img_1198We were sure to eat at Skyline Chili before stopping for the night in West Virginia. Had we known that 3/4 of us would be channeling our inner-Regan McNeil’s later on, we would have settled on a more neutral dinner choice.

The following day, we arrived at my sister’s house in suburban Philadelphia and hung out, being sure to head to bed at a decent time because the four of us were going to leave for New York City in the morning while Lucy stayed behind at my sister’s.

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Despite Violet getting sick overnight a couple of times (we chalked it up to her stomach not agreeing with something she ate…spoiler alert….we were horrifically wrong), she woke up her normal rambunctious self so we continued on with our place to drive up I-95 toward New York City – Staten Island, to be exact. Because why stay in chic Manhattan when bargains can be found on Staten Island at The Navy Lodge (e.g. see comment above about IRAs and 529s)? After checking-in early, we drove down to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal and parked the car in a municipal garage a couple of blocks away.

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Now the ferry is nothing glamorous but it is free, fast, and great for spotting people who may have been extras on Law & Order SVU. Since this was our kid’s first trip to New York City, we wanted to make sure that we didn’t just expose them to the swanky parts of the city. And because we don’t have access to a time machine in order to show them 1970s-era Times Square, the Staten Island Ferry is a nice alternative. In case you were wondering – the Staten Island Ferry and the stomach flu make horrible bedmates but luckily, we wouldn’t discover that little factoid until the following day.

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Despite whatever feelings you may have toward the Staten Island Ferry, it does offer a nice view of the Statue of Liberty along the journey.

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And the financial district upon the approach to Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan.

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We spent our first afternoon and evening walking around Lower Manhattan.

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We spent a lot of time at World Trade Center. The little guy was (and still currently) obsessed with architecture and world records for building height, so he was in awe to be in the presence of One World Trade Center. Weston has basic understanding of the events surrounding September 11th so while sitting near the memorial, he asked Clay some difficult questions about his deployments to Afghanistan and about the attacks themselves.

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We then took the kids to Wall Street – where Violet proceeded to puke right near the Stock Exchange, much to the horror of important people in expensive suits. It’s like they could sense we came over on the Staten Island Ferry.

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We used this as our cue that we should probably head back to the hotel. Once back on Staten Island, we ordered food to-go from a nearby Italian restaurant and went to bed, deciding that if Violet (or anyone else) woke up sick, we’d cut our losses and head back to Pennsylvania.

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Thankfully, we all woke up feeling okay so back to the ferry we went! We decided to take the subway uptown and then use the rest of the day to work our way back to Whitehall Terminal.

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Clay now admits that it was on this subway ride that he realized that the sickness had crept it’s way into his body but being the trooper (ha!) he is, he put on a brave face and didn’t let on that he wasn’t feeling 100%. It is also why this post is lacking my typical food/drink pictures because we really didn’t eat or drink anything of value during our time in the city.

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In addition to his architecture obsession, Weston also boasts a healthy infatuation with US Presidents. We had just watched Night at The Museum a couple weeks prior, so of course we had to check out the American Museum of National History.

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We also spent time in Central Park.

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And then went to Rockefeller Center.

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The LEGO store.

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And the Empire State Building (one of my favorite pictures of Weston).

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 And Times Square.

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Radio City Music Hall.

It was after Radio City Music Hall that things went south. Fast. I won’t go into detail what happened at the restaurant during dinner to protect all parties involved but I was only one with dinner left in my stomach as we rode the subway during rush-hour back down to the Financial District, boarded a ferry (Weston spent the entire ride puking into a trash can…not one other passenger even batted an eye), and crawled our way back to the hotel.

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I remained the only healthy one during the night, so I cared for my family (and cleaned up after them) in the Staten Island hotel room. In the morning, we waved the white flag and forwent the rest of our time in New York City. I drove back down to the Philadelphia area while the rest of my family shared a puke bucket…my sister’s house never looked better as we pulled into the driveway.

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After getting my infected family members settled into their quarantined quarters, I high-tailed it to the nearest Wawa (only .2 miles away) and treated myself to all of the delicious Pennsylvania treats I have been depriving myself since moving away from the area 12+ years ago. There weren’t enough Herr’s Salt & Vinegar chips in the world to alleviate the sights and smells I was privy to in that Staten Island hotel room but they helped.

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After a day of recuperation, my crew felt good enough able to spend the day in Philadelphia. My sister and her family joined us and we took the train into the city.

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We just had to take our kids to Reading Terminal Market.

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And other famous sights.

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Our 2016 Spring Break was a not-so-gentle reminder of the G.K. Chesterton quote on the header of this blog – “An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” While getting sick wasn’t in our plans, it certainly added to our family-lore and honestly, how boring would have the trip been if there wasn’t the added fear that one of us could throw up at any given time? Additionally, the trip only confirmed what I’ve known since I was 18-years-old…Clay is the peanut butter to my jelly. There is absolutely no one else I’d rather drive over 2400 miles, board ferries, ride subways and trains with over the span of 7 days than this guy – all with two kids in tow. Which is probably a good thing because our planned 2017 Spring Break trip is arguably even more insane than last years. 🙂

Two Thousand and Seventeen

We’re now twelve days into 2017, which doesn’t even seem possible. But then again, most people would scoff at the idea of Clemson winning the CFP Championship but yet here we are…GO TIGERS!!!

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Like most Clemson alumni, Clay and I bleed orange. And while love for our alma mater is certainly much deeper than just it’s football program, we’ve never missed an opportunity to cheer for the Tigers – win or lose. We didn’t get much sleep after whooping it up in our living room after Hunter Renfrow caught the game winning pass in the end zone, leaving only one second left on the clock. Jim Harbaugh may have fallen asleep before the fourth quarter but we wore our best orange and purple and relished in the opportunity to watch one of the best endings to a college football game. Okay – that’s enough about football. #ALLIN

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The date 2017 feels too futuristic…weren’t we suppose to have at least real hover boards by now? 2017 marks the halfway point between centuries for me – 17 years in the 20th and 17 years in the 21st. From this point on, the majority of my life will be firmly planted in the 21st century. In a few short months, I will turn 34. As time marches on this year, the angry 11 forming between my eyes will only grow deeper (I think it’s time for Botox), my husband’s hair will become peppered with even more gray, and our children will transform from tiny mystical creatures into tiny humans racing toward adolescence. And our rapidly aging dog will likely pass in the next year or two, which depresses anyone who has had the honor of knowing sweet Lucy.

It’s also a tumultuous time for our young country. Even though this is not the outcome I wanted, I’m not giving up. I will work hard to better my community, my family, and myself. When interviewed on the field immediately after Clemson’s win, Dabo Swinney (sorry – apparently I’m going to talk about football just a little bit more) said, “I told them to let the light they have inside of them be brighter than the light shining on them. If they focused on that, they’d be okay.” So if I had to choose a mantra for 2017, it’d be to focus on my light shine brighter than any light shining on me. I like that message.