Thursday, July 31, 2008

Odell & Vivian

During our vacation, we went to visit Luray Caverns. Jon and I had memories of visiting as kids and we thought that it would be fun to take Cooper. He's at a great age for "amazing discoveries" and he was in awe of the visit- almost like he couldn't believe what he was seeing. Really, we all felt that way. It's truly incredible to see these stalactite and stalagmite formations and to realize how they were created over millions of years. The visit was perfect.




Because our visit to Luray went so well, and Cooper was so into the whole cavern deal, we decided to tour another cavern on the following day. Our friend Jess (owner of the cabin) had mentioned a lesser known (therefore, less crowded) nearby cavern. I checked their website and it seemed ok, though not as "professionally done" as the Luray site. They boasted having an elevator to go down into the cavern and I figured- what can go wrong.?

We drove up and were greeted by gnomes and a giant Cootie. Jon glanced at me as we continued toward the main building. A single tour bus was in the parking lot. Another sideways glance from Jon. We get out of the car, and there is an announcement- in 2 languages- saying that the bus will be leaving in 15 minutes and to please complete your purchases and return to the bus. The next stop would be the City of Baltimore. At this point, a flurry of passengers fly out of the front doors of the cavern. Yet another glance from Jon- this time with a raised eyebrow. We continue our journey and Jon makes a stop in the restroom. I'm doing lots of self talk at this point and Cooper pulls on my arm- about 6 people were gathered around a cat, feeding it cheetos and taking pictures like there is no tomorrow. Deep breathing begins- and more self talk. I cannot leave this place- we are going to tour the caverns.

We are called to report to the elevator for our tour- Jon, Cooper, myself, the tour guide and an elderly couple walk into the elevator to begin the tour. These caverns may have an elevator, but the paths seem to be a little more rugged than Luray. Our tour guide is a little less polished than our guide at Luray, the lighting is more harsh than Luray- almost garish in some places and the formations seem a bit more primitive. No matter- Cooper is happily skipping along the path, looking at stalactites and loving it. I relax a bit- but I can't make eye contact with Jon for fear of laughing hysterically. How do I get myself into these situations?

This cavern was discovered by 2 little boys- and Cooper is fantasizing about making a similar discovery of his own. Our guide receives a call on her cell phone (she said that she got coverage to a certain point in the cave- but not the whole way) and there is a woman who will be joining our tour. We wait for her, and it takes a while for her to arrive. During this time, we talk to each other, and to the guide- we don't talk to the couple. They are quiet and haven't asked any questions- I don't recall even hearing them talk to one another. The woman joins us, and we discover that she speaks very little English. We continue our tour, with this strange little group of misfits.


We walk to a large "room" that has a ton of amazing formations- things that look like bacon, and the capital building with snow all over it.

We are surrounded by beauty and wonder, and so we stare and take in all there is to see. And then, from the corner of my eye, I see the woman turn to her husband and I know instantly that something is wrong. I tap Jon and he starts to move towards the woman because it's clear that she is in trouble. And then, she collapses and as she falls to the ground, hits her head on a stalagmite

Have you ever had a moment where it seems that time almost freezes, because something so terrible is happening right in front of your eyes? It's only for an instant and then everything begins to move again at light speed.

We all run to her and I get there first, Jon holds the man because he's crying hysterically and our guide is running down the path yelling that she'll get help. She is unconscious, and I'm panicked and thinking the worst. She's completely white and limp. I've got her basically in my arms and am talking to the man to tell him the we're going to help her and she's going to be ok. Jon was ready to begin cpr but realized that she was breathing- which made all of us breathe a sigh of relief- she's still unconscious. Our guide comes back and tells us that help is on the way.

A few key points that help illustrate the situation-
1) the temperature in a cavern is a constant 54 degrees
2) water is dripping from random places in the "ceiling"- they call them cave kisses.
3) this is the 2nd time in less then 2 months that Cooper has witnessed someone passing out cold right in front of him
4) neither Jon, nor I have any medical training
5) it is against the rules (and maybe the law) to touch stalactites or stalagmites.
6) the woman who joined our tour late has no idea that we are not "with" the couple.
7) there isn't anywhere to sit in a cavern- except the floor.



The woman is Vivian and she is 87 years old. She and her husband Odell were in the area to celebrate their 66th wedding anniversary. Vivian is a cancer survivor (multiple times) and Odell was in the Air Force and served our country in WWII. He was a B-26 Marauder Man and was a POW in Africa for 3 years. He is an American Hero. They are an incredible couple- with so much history together and so much love for each other.

Vivian came to and was frightened, understandably. She was also in pain and unable to move. She had a wound on her head from the stalagmite and was resting in my arms with her head in Jon's sweatshirt and was covered by the jackets of her husband and our guide. We were all together in a cavern for more than an hour until the rescue squad arrived and then afterwards for what seemed like another hour. The manager and assistant manager came down in the cavern to wait with us- when they arrived, they asked me for the details because they too thought that we were all together. They were shocked when we said that we didn't know them at all.

And that's when it hit me.

We were supposed to be here, gnomes and all. It was the plan and God was with all of us the entire time.

I am thankful that Jess told me about the cavern
I am thankful that we didn't turn the car around and leave without touring the cavern.
I am thankful that Jon and I had a moment when we knew, at the same instant, that something wasn't right and there was no hesitation on either of our parts
I am thankful that our son, although scared, was able to see how important it is to help one another- even strangers
I am thankful that the personnel at the caverns were quick to act during an emergency
I am thankful for the Rescue Squad- all volunteers- who climbed down into a cavern and carried an elderly woman gingerly out through the winding paths and stalactites. She was treated with dignity and kindness throughout the whole ordeal
I am thankful that Jon was able to comfort a man who was in agony with worry about his wife
I am thankful for the strength to remain calm and in control through the accident
I am thankful that the place that Vivian fell was seemingly on the roundest stalagmite in the cavern- and that her injuries, although serious, were not worse.

Once the rescue squad arrived, and ensured that Vivian was stable, they carried her, on a backboard back to the elevator- almost a mile away. We passed another tour- about 30 people were lined up single file in the cavern to give the rescue squad room to pass. We followed, I walked with my arm on Odell to steady him. I can only imagine what those people were thinking. When we got back to the lobby, Odell drank an apple juice to make sure his blood sugar was ok- I was worried sick that he'd pass out too. Before she lost consciousness, Vivian had turned to tell Odell that she had vertigo and wanted to sit down. We didn't want the same to happen to him.

Odell went to the hospital in the ambulance with Vivian. The cavern manager drove Odell's car to the hospital and the assistant manager drove his car to pick up the manager. Jon, Cooper and I thanked everyone for their kindness and they offered to buy our lunch.
We declined- and headed out, thankful that the day had a happy ending.

It almost seems like it didn't happen....it makes me wonder about the chain of events. It makes me sad that we didn't talk to them from the start, why didn't we? Jon says that he had a bad feeling from the start, which was why he was keeping an eye on them and knew what was happening. But still, what is wrong with me that I didn't say hi from the start? It makes me happy that we had a chance to make a difference in their lives. It makes me proud that Cooper saw that his parents are kind and caring and that he knows that there is goodness all around him even if he can't see it.

It makes me hope that someday, I'll be celebrating 66 years of marriage with a man that I love dearly- just as Vivian loves Odell.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Ok, Diana....

I started blogging sort of on the "down low" after asking a few friends for their opinions. I didn't get an overwhelming response from them (to say the least) but I really felt a pull- like I was being led to it- and so, I began. Fast forward almost 4 months and one of those friends has not only begun her own blog- but she's literally OBSESSED! I love her dearly, and she has "tagged" me to do what I believe to be called a MeMe.

Just for you, Diana!!

The game: Scattergories

The rules: Use the first letter of your first name to answer each of the following. They have to to be real places, names, things - nothing made up. You cannot use your own name for the boy/girl names.

1. What is your name? Carolyn

2. A four letter word: Coke (I prefer Diet!)

3. A vehicle: Camaro (no, I didn't have one!)

4. A city: Charleston (LOVE it there!)

5. A boy's name: Cooper (sweet child of mine)

6. A girl's name: Catherine

7. Alcoholic drink: Carolina Kamikaze (to be honest, I've never had one- however, I've got a terrific memory of me and one too many plain Kamikaze's many years ago!)

8. An occupation: Cashier

9. Something you wear: Clothes

10. A celebrity: C. Thomas Howell (stay gold, Pony Boy)

11. A food: Crabs!!! Love them!

12. Something found in a bathroom: Comet (hopefully)

13. Reason for being late: Can't quite get out of bed!

14. Something you shout: Crap!

15. An animal: Cat

16. A body part: Calf

17. Word to describe yourself: Caring

Home from Vacation!

We had quite a few adventures last week while we were on vacation. Our plan was to visit some Virginia "landmarks" and relive some of the vacation memories that Jon and I had from our childhoods and then perhaps add a few new experiences for all of us. We have some wonderful friends that very graciously offered us the use of their cabin- we enjoyed all the comforts of home and couldn't have wanted for anything better!

We started off at Natural Bridge.

We had prepared Cooper for the trip and had shown him pictures and talked about what we'd be seeing. He was really excited about seeing the bridge, and the place that George Washington carved his initials. The absolute highlight for him though, was staying at the hotel. You'd have thought we were staying at the Beverly Hilton- the kid was beside himself with excitement. I reserved a room with a balcony- a balcony is actually on his wish list for Christmas this year (more on this I'm sure in later posts) and you would have thought that I gave him million dollars! Anywho....the trip to Natural Bridge and the stay at the hotel were a huge success. Jon and I enjoyed the visit as well- it's definitely an overnight only type place- and you can easily be sucked into the kitschy stuff surrounding it- but we did the bridge and the hike to the falls, ate in the dining room, and called it a day!

Cooper & Jon checking for wildlife

Cooper & Me on our balcony

We left Natural Bridge and headed to the Virginia Safari Zoo. I had heard some good things, and we did a bit of research...but nothing could have prepared me for the experience that we had. If you are ever in the area, you have GOT to stop by! The Zoo isn't the most impressive part-but the Safari.....wow! Truth be told, it got overwhelming pretty quickly. Once we got a feel for what could happen, the rest of the visit was smooth and enjoyable. Let me just say that the food that they give you to feed the animals must be amazing- because they LOVE it. Take a gander at the beginning of our drive through the park. You'll hear a shot-like sound at about 18 seconds into the clip. That, is the sound of an emu frantically pecking at the food in my bucket.
video

Once we recovered from our fits of laughter, we were able to re-group and only fed from one window at a time- and only when there were single (or at least more manageable) groups of animals. Cooper's belly laughs are enough to cheer me up on the worst of days. I've seen this about 50 times and it makes me laugh each time! Enjoy!








When we were leaving, Cooper said- "this is the best vacation in the whole entire world!". That is what makes being a parent the best job ever!

Next stop- Shenandoah, Virginia for some relaxation, fun on the river and to explore the caverns in the area. The cabin was perfect- tucked in a remote corner of the Shenandoah River and exactly what we love the most- simple comforts. We loved spending time exploring. Jon and Cooper braved the river to search for creatures and to tube. I took pictures and read a great book!





Big News!!! We had a visit from the Tooth Fairy- Cooper lost his very first tooth on our 1st night at the cabin. Thankfully, that Tooth Fairy has great finding skills and Cooper was thrilled! Evidently, 1st teeth are rewarded with $5 and a note that sets expectations- subsequent teeth will be worth much less. Congratulations, Buddy!!


Ok, my post is getting long....I will capture some other vacation tidbits on my Thankful Thursday post this week. For now, I am so glad that we're home safely and have memories that will surely last a lifetime. We had such fun, saw some incredible sights and learned some life lessons that are priceless.

I simply adore my boys!


Hugs!
Carolyn

Friday, July 18, 2008

LemonAid



What a great afternoon! My fun friend Diana (that's for you, Brian) is so philanthropic and inspired our Domino's group to sell lemonade to "squeeze out pediatric cancer". The program is sponsored by the Children's Miracle Network and I can't think of a better way to get kids involved in helping other kids. This weekend, there will be 700 LemonAid stands in Virginia. Each one dedicated to helping eradicate pediatric cancer.

We decided to call our stand, Domino Kids. I volunteered for decorations and had fun with the signage. Our stand was in a genius location and at our shift this afternoon, we raised $40. Shifts begin again tomorrow and will end on Sunday afternoon. Such a fantastic learning experience for our kids- and a feel so proud of yourself moment for each of us as well. We are all so blessed to be healthy and to be able to help those who are in need.

Diana and I worked together tonight and the kids were troopers. Simon and Cooper got off to a slow start....


but were soon pouring lemonade, taking donations, making change, and handing out stickers to the fantastic folks who stopped to support this worthy cause. We had a great time (we even had some support from the KING himself- thank you very much)!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thankful Thursday & The Loose Tooth

I talked to my mom on the way home from work. Today was her 1st checkup after breaking her pelvic bone. She went yesterday to have an x-ray taken and the doctor gave her a great report this afternoon. Her bone has "knit itself" (is that grammatically correct?) back together and she's officially better! She can begin to get back to her normal routine- her body will tell her when she's pushed too hard. She is thrilled as is my dad- we all are! I am thankful that she received a clean bill of health and can begin to get back to her old self. She'll check in with the doctor again in 2 months, but she shouldn't have any long term trouble, in fact- her bone will be stronger than it was before the break.

Tomorrow is my last day of work before a week of VACATION! I am so ready for a week away and can't wait to get started. We're officially leaving on Monday morning after spending the weekend at the river. This will be the first vacation of its kind for us as a family. We're doing some touristy type stuff with some learning thrown in for good measure. Just like we did when I was little. My dad was brutal on a summer vacation- we all laugh about it now! I hope to have some great adventures to blog about when we return. I am thankful that we're able to take a vacation as a family and and have an opportunity to build memories like those that I have from my childhood.

Some little things to be thankful for- in no particular order:

-that Cooper is so happy with his summer camp situation. I have such a calm feeling each day knowing that he's being well cared for and is loving each second. I can hardly wait to hear how his days have been.

-the hornets nests (2 of them) that are no longer a threat in our yard, thanks to my brave hubby
-a belated birthday card from my friend Laura with a message that couldn't have been any more appropriate (or hilarious). I love that she knows me so well and can make me laugh so hard. I am incredibly appreciative of her friendship
-how good it feels to share the bounty of our garden with others. I took a bag of veggies to work and people that I don't really know were completely blown away.
I love how such a simple thing impacts people so greatly


Big News- Cooper has a loose tooth! He announced to Jon that his tooth sort of hurt because he "hit it on a rock in the river". HUH? Upon inspection we discovered that in fact it was loose (river trauma probably a farce). He's been wondering when he'd have a loose tooth and I kept saying, oh- you're only 5....wait until your 6. Now he's 6 and he's got one. I took a quick video of it and am not the whiz at this yet. I can't get it to turn correctly- oh well. As always, I am thankful for that sweet little kid!


video

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Weekend in Review (Watermelon....Fiasco!)

Couldn't get home fast enough on Friday....just threw a basket of clean clothes in the car and hoped that there would be something for everyone. Jon could literally wear the same thing all weekend, and sometimes does- but I'm not that laid back. Luckily, it all worked out.

Wade (Jon's nephew) met us at the river. He arrived first and it was so nice to pull into the driveway and be welcomed by lights AND a cool house. Usually we have to wait a bit for things to cool off and we feel around for the light switch after opening the door.

Everyone needs a Wade. He's the best, we love him dearly- Cooper idolizes him. They typically do to dinner twice a month (Cooper's choice- usually Chick Fil-a or McDonald's) and then either hit Target or Dick's Sports. In Jon's family, there is a phenomenon of sorts- each of his siblings has been adopted by an aunt, uncle or (in Jon's case, a neighbor- which could be an entire blog itself- I digress) during their childhood or "early on-your own stage". That person just sort of develops an extra special relationship with the child/young adult during that time and beyond. It's not a planned thing, it just happens. We are carrying the torch for the next generation and have adopted Wade, who moved to our town after graduating from college. He comes for dinner, family events or just to hang out and brings laughter, perspective and camaraderie for both Jon and Cooper. I reap the benefits in alone time with a good magazine, or in complements for the food I prepare and best of all, someone to witness the nuttiness that is sometimes our life! Complete Win/Win! Aren't they so great together!




So the big event this weekend was the garden. It's doing so great and I have tons of pictures and even more fresh veggies and we're all SO excited. The complete over the top crop for us this year is watermelon- anyone can grow a tomato (we've done it for years) but watermelon- that's HUGE. Please take a gander if you will of our journey.


Our friend Greg (an honest to goodness real life farmer), told us that his grandaddy always picked his watermelon when the leaf in the 1st "V" of the vine was dead. That was true today and so, we picked.

Here is a quick peek at Cooper giving "him" a new home.
video
Everything looks great....Jon gets a sharp knife and makes the first cut. We are each so proud that we can hardly stand it. The fruit cuts easily, and Jon turns to show us what we've so lovingly grown- none of us can say a word.
For a minute, I wonder whether we bought some crazy hybrid "white watermelon". And then it sinks in.....


Evidently, there is a magical step missing in Greg's grandaddy's practice for picking watermelon. Not one to give up without a fight, Cooper tries to love it.


At least we still have hope for the cantaloupe (and subsequent FULLY RIPE watermelons).

Hope you had a great weekend too!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thankful Thursday

First things first- I've decided on a new blog layout that isn't from pyzam.com (just couldn't get over the tag line at the top of the page). I think this one works-and should satisfy me for at least another few months. Perhaps by that time I'll be willing to fork over some cash to have someone make one specifically for me.

Today Cooper had a field trip at camp. Roller Skating! He told me, through teary eyes, that he didn't think that he wanted to do it. I told him that he didn't have to if he didn't want to, but that I thought he might have fun if he tried. I packed the necessary "tall socks" and a notebook & colored pencils just in case things didn't go well. At least he'd be occupied.

I came home from work and he was all excited to tell me how great roller skating was. He loved it! I am thankful that my sweet child is taking more risks and trying new things. It's so hard for him. We talked about God being with him to give him strength whenever he needed it. Today was one of those days.

As he was going through the events of the day, he said that he had a funny story to tell me. Ok, shoot- Apparently, when he was trying to use bathroom, he had a bit of trouble. Once he got his pants down, the skates sort of took over and he lost his balance. He said, "Momma, I just fell right down on the floor and I couldn't get up!". This was one of those times when I simply couldn't hide my laughter- poor kid. The visual on that was priceless!

Last night, I spent some quality time with an amazing group of women. We shared a meal, lots of laughter, a few tears, and a healthy dose of secrets and realization....it was such a special night and I loved every minute. I am so blessed to have been led to the group- and am thankful for the opportunity to get to know some new friends, and to deepen my relationship with some old ones.

I've decided that having big personal goals is something that just doesn't work for me. I get overwhelmed and frustrated and it leaves me feeling as if I've failed. Yup- I'm just realizing this. Maybe I've known it for a while, but haven't been willing to admit it. Whatever the case- I'm trying small goals that are totally do-able and when combined over time may/will make an impact. Currently they are-
1) Apply eye cream nightly
2) Apply moisturizing sun screen regularly
3) Switch 1 drink per day to water
4) Climb the stairs at work once per day (I work on the 4th floor and it may as well be the 74th floor by the time I'm at the top. I can't speak -I can barely breathe- for at least 10 minutes after I reach the top)
5) Be more loving/appreciative towards my hubby!
I am thankful for the way I feel after achieving these in any given day!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

In Search of New Blog Design...

This is a test...of free Blogger templates...and only a test.

Had a conversation today about blog templates, and since I'm a bit thrify, free seemed like a great deal. Thanks Dana!

Will try a few on for size and see what happens. My initial thought is that I don't love the pyzam.com logo at the top- of course, perhaps that's why it's free!!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Thankful Thursday & 4th of July Weekend

So much going on and time seems to be flying by so quickly! A short week last week to celebrate the 4th.....my Thankful Thursday post got lost in the mad dash for a long weekend so I'll combine them and call it a day.

I am thankful for a long weekend- time for us to be together as a family for a bit of an extended break with no expectations at all. I picked Cooper up from camp a bit early, met Jon at home where we threw things into the car and hightailed it towards the river. Having an extra night there makes a ton of difference. We arrived and basked in the wonderful-ness of the peace and quiet.

July 4th was a lazy day....ran some errands and went to the pool. Cooper probably put 10 miles on the golf cart- he so loves riding around. I can hear him talking to himself and singing as he whizzes by.

We got together with our amazing river family for a picnic. For the past few years, our tradition has been to have a picnic supper and then take the boats out and enjoy the fireworks on the water. You can see about 4 "real" displays from where we float and countless rookie shows- it's always been lots of fun. This year, we got rained out. Oddly, it didn't matter a single bit. The kids were occupied and the rest of us were completely content to just sit around and chat. Some of that may have to do with this dessert. I can honestly say that I have never (EVER) been even slightly tempted to try banana pudding. It's simply not my thing- at all. However, when Lisa brought this in the door and announced that it was a Paula Deen recipe....I was intrigued. I tried it- -and was hooked. I don't think that I'll start to eat banana pudding as a rule- but should I need to take a non-chocolate dessert to an event, I would certainly turn to this and feel great about it.

Note: Diana- if you happen to be reading this, don't worry.....I'll be bringing a chocolate dessert on Wednesday!

Lately, Cooper has had the opportunity to see or come in contact with lots of neat animals. He and Jon spotted a bald eagle in a dead tree visible from our property at the river and a raccoon trotted by the pool while he and Wade were swimming last weekend. We talked about it at dinner that night and I got an idea for a book (have you seen those great Shutterfly photo books?). We're now working on a book called, "Animals I Saw the Summer I was Six" by Cooper. I'm all about it and it seems that he's bought in as well. The plan is that we'll take pictures of the animals that he sees this summer, preferably with him in them- but that may not be possible....so, we'll see how it goes. Here is a sneak peak (with a croaker).



I also like this shot.



I am thankful that he has the opportunity to explore nature and that he is so filled with wonder at each new discovery.



When Jon's mom died (3 years ago in May), our river neighbors gave us a maple tree to plant in her memory. We did- and hoped that the tree would flourish. Will flat out told us that he wasn't convinced that it would make it but we had hope. We call the tree Lolo (Jon's moms name) and talk to her and about her all the time. She's grown a lot and is really pretty sturdy. Today Cooper came running in the house and said that he thought that Lolo had a bird's nest in her. So I grabbed my camera and off we went. Sure enough, that little tree is home to a family of birds. My pictures aren't great because I didn't want to scare them and I don't have the rock star camera that I've recently been dreaming about.





When things like this happen, I can't help but smile at the way God works. I am thankful for messages that come from heaven.

Note: I was showing Jon the pictures tonight and we were talking about how great it was that Lolo had a bird. At the same time, we both stopped and I said, "Lolo didn't really like a bird, did she?", he laughed and shook his head "No, she didn't". That makes it all the more perfect- she didn't like a bird, but she sure did like to laugh! We love you Lolo!

Cooper and I took a golf cart drive to the state dock. He loves it there, although it does leave a little to be desired typically. We visited 2 times today and I took some pictures that I really like. I've been inspired to look at things differently lately (with a new lens/eye) and these were today's view. I am thankful for beauty in unexpected places and sharing special moments with my son.




A close friend of Jon's came to visit on Saturday. He and his family are in the midst of a move and are living in 2 different states for the next few weeks until their home is ready to be occupied. We adopted him for part of the weekend so he wouldn't be by himself. I love seeing Jon truly enjoy himself with his peers. The stories that they tell and the great times that they've shared over the years (they went to college together) are priceless! They took Cooper spade fishing and Cooper was the only one who caught a spade fish- can you imagine the ribbing on that one!

This post is getting long....but I can't help it! Ok, last one....

This afternoon we were getting ready to come home and as we were packing, a rain shower interrupted us. The sky was bright and I thought it seemed like rainbow weather. I went outside to look- and sure enough- there was a rainbow! I yelled for Cooper and Jon and the three of us huddled together on the porch stoop and watched until it faded away. It was beautiful and an incredible end to an amazing weekend. I am thankful for my family- I love them so much.