Knee Deep...

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving surrounded by lots of good food, friends and family. We went to Atlanta, a little later than planned, due to a severe migraine that had me throwing up (too much info) and pretty much in bed all day Tuesday, but we got there and were able to spend a few days with family. Wednesday evening we went down to Atlantic Station and did some shopping and had dinner. Thursday we had Thanksgiving at Mom's and Friday we did a little shopping and then helped my sister decorate her Christmas tree. Saturday we helped Mom with her decorations and then headed home in time for Zack to get to work and me and Gary to duke it out over the Georgia/GA Tech game!!! Go DAWGS! Victory for the 7th year in a row!

Here are some pics...

This is me and my nephew, Draven (my younger brother's son) in the car on the way to Atlantic Station. So many people think that he and I look alike!
Here are Zack, my niece, Taylor (my older sister's daughter) and my nephew, Draven (my younger brother's son). Zack was in such a silly mood! He kept messing up the pictures and making everyone you'll see below...(check out Zack's shirt!)
This is my sister, Terri and her daughter, Madison Taylor (she goes by Madison, but I call her "Tay-Tay")
I like this's me, my sister and my mom (as you can see, I favored my Dad!)
Here's Zack being silly and messing up our picture again! I was laughing so hard! When my sister saw this picture, she said I reminded her of Paula Deen.
We finally got Zack to be serious...
Here's one of me, my sis and my mom at California Pizza Kitchen at Atlantic Station. Check out my sister's eyes!!! They are so doggone blue---I'm jealous cause I love 'em!
Just a few more of my precious baby!
I'm still knee-deep in decorating. Sometimes I feel like I'll never be done, but as I look around, I can see we're making some headway! Zack has been home sick for the past two days. I took him to the Doctor yesterday and he has a viral infection (sore throat, headache, fever). He's been laying in bed for two days watching Seasons 1 & 2 of The West Wing. I think I'm getting hooked on it too!

This weekend is the second "B" Club meeting and I can't wait! We're meeting in Birmingham and I'm really looking forward to it. I've met Kat already, I've known Dianne for forever, I've talked with Tonja on the phone, but this weekend, I'm hoping to meet Tonja, Rhoda, Sandi, Jill and whoever else shows up!!! I'm so excited!!! Don't forget your cameras, girls!!! I'm just sad Jean can't be with us! We'll be thinking about you and we'll take lots of pictures!

Okay, enough of a bloggy break...back to decorating!

Happy Thanksgiving

We're headed out of town today, so I thought I would take this time to wish you and yours a Thanksgiving surrounded by wonderful friends and family with much for which to be thankful. God is good...ALL the time!

Torn Between Two Holidays!

My house is a wreck! I'm torn between two holidays...feeling like a fool, lovin' both of you, is breakin' all the rules...oh, sorry! Got a little carried away there!

Seriously...I love the Thanksgiving holiday! I love everything about it--the food preparation, the family gathering, the turkey plates, the fall colors, football, shopping, etc.! But I don't feel like it get's its rightful due around here!

You see, Labor Day weekend, I put away my "beach theme" and bring out all my fall decorations. Then, October 1st, I bring out the halloween decorations and then the turkey plates and turkey and pilgrim decorations November 1st. But now, the dilema! It's not even Thanksgiving yet and I'm feeling the pressure already of having my house decorated for Christmas. If we wait until we get back from Atlanta, then I'm waaaaay behind and am stuck decorating all the way up until the week before Christmas---too much stress!

So, this weekend our plan was to get 4 of the 5 trees up, along with some other indoor decorations. That way, we would only have the outside to do and the big tree in the living room when we return from Atlanta.

What's that saying about 'the best laid plans'...

Ahhhh, yes. I pulled something in my back and we only got 1 and a half trees up and now my house is a DI-SAS-TER and we're supposed to leave tomorrow for Atlanta.

This too shall pass.

Part II - The Decision...

It is a wonderful thing when God gives peace about decisions. We all had so much anxiety regarding Zack's future college decision before leaving for our college preview trip. Like I mentioned in the first post, we anticipated Zack choosing Florida State after our visit there on Monday and our Tuesday visits were just going to be "formalities". I was trying to get accustomed to the idea that my baby was going to be 4 hours away. Even driving down to Orlando that evening, Gary made the comment that we would keep our Tuesday appointments at UCF and Full Sail, but he felt like we would just be going thru the motions, that the decision had already been made.

Tuesday morning was a rainy, cold, dreary day. I prayed that morning that the Lord would somehow allow Zack NOT to like either of the two colleges we were about to visit, cause you know, mama can't handle being 8 1/2 hours away from her only child!

UCF (University of Central Florida) was our first appointment. We met with one of the Admissions Directors and then proceeded to tour the campus, followed by a housing tour. As we walked from building to building, I became more and more impressed with the campus, the staff and just the atmosphere in general. I could see Zack there and I had peace about it...but no way was mama going to influence his decision! We decided to have lunch at the University Rec Center. As we were eating, we asked Zack what he thought and also mentioned that it would be a good idea to write down pros and cons for each college. And he replied, "this is it! This is where I want to go!" I had to swallow hard and told him that I was having the same feelings and had peace about him attending UCF. Gary felt the same and it was just neat to see how God was working through each of us individually to accomplish the same end result...peace.

We decided to keep our appointment at Full Sail so as not to leave room for any doubt or questions. None of us were impressed. I think our minds were already made up about UCF and we were not considering anything else. Zack's comment was, "I'm not weird enough to go here!" It's a media arts college (film making, film producing, music production, video game production, etc.) and there were alot of "artsy" people and it seemed most of them were chain smokers!

We went back to UCF for the Marching Knights rehearsal Tuesday evening. We were sitting on the sidelines watching, when one of the Director's assistant came down from the observation tower and said the Director was inviting us to come up to the tower to view rehearsal from there. Wow! We were so impressed! He was so kind to Zack---said he had heard that he was there on a college visit and had heard all about him from his assistant (whom we had met earlier in the day). There were several times throughout the rehearsal that he would talk with Zack and tell him to watch for this, or this is why we do it this way, etc.

By the end of the evening, it felt like all of us. We have accepted the offer of admission from UCF and his spot is confirmed...get this........beginning Summer term. Yep! You read right! Zack will begin classes June 9th, just under 3 weeks from his high school graduation date. That's one mama's still trying to get used to! He's excited though! He's going to try to get Freshman English out of the way and he also says he'll be used to the campus and ahead of all the other freshman when they start in the fall. Plus, we think this will help him not be so stressed once band camp starts the end of July.

Here are more pictures of the campus...
These are some of the dorms...

This is a street with a bunch of little shops, etc. (If you've been to Atlantic Station in Atlanta, that's what it reminds me of...Florida style!)

Here's another picture of the shops with some dorms...

Zack in front of the reflecting pool

The Rec Center pool in the background...

The Welcome Center with the Pegasus UCF logo...

Zack watching the Marching Knights rehearsal...

This is a pic I found on the web of the Rec Center...this is only a small part of this very large facility! It has a two-story rock climbing wall in this area pictured, along with a huge cardio room with work-out equipment, basketball courts, indoor pool, outdoor pool, sand volleyball, etc. Hmmm...will he ever do any work?!
So that's the latest! Thank you for your prayers while we were on this trip and your kind words of encouragement. Please continue to keep Zack in your prayers as he begins this new chapter in his life.

Also, I've told Gary he needs to start looking for a job in Florida...somewhere within a reasonable driving distant to which he replied, "I could always do my dream job! Driving the Monorail at Disney World!" 'bout something that pays more than minimum wage?!

Zack's thoughts on the subject..."good grief mom! Are you going to follow me everywhere?"

Yep. That's the idea.

Happy 80th, Dad

Dear Dad,

Today would have been your 80th birthday. I've thought about you all day. We would have had the biggest party for you today, but I know you've been celebrating since you arrived in heaven.

I wouldn't wish you back. I know you are free from pain, free from cancer, and you are in the presence of our Lord. But I miss you--especially on days like today. I've been working today, and have been pretty busy, but you've been on my mind. I've had to swallow hard a few times today and kept pushing back down the sad feelings that were creeping up in my heart, but now I can't supress it any longer. I've been looking at pictures of you and the tears continue to puddle, even now as I type this.

It's so weird, Dad. In some ways it feels like you've been gone a long time...I can't believe it's only been a little over a year...but in other ways, it seems like it was just yesterday I heard you laugh and call me "sweety heart". I dream about you so much. Sometimes they're so real, that when I wake up, it's almost as if I've been talking with you and it takes me a moment to realize it was just a dream.

So much has happened in the past year---it seems like a lifetime of things and you weren't there with us for any of them. If I think on it too long, the sadness is overwhelming, so I shut it out. As hard as it has been for me, I think it's been harder on Terri. She and Taylor both miss you more than words can express. You know how she is, Dad. She beats herself up. She is so much like you---a "tough as nails" exterior, but a heart of gold. We all wish we would have spent more time with you and told you we loved you more often.

I remember as a teenager, in the mornings you would come downstairs to the kitchen, pat me on the head or brush your hand up and down on my cheek, and I would pull away. I'm so sorry Dad. I was a stupid teenager. What I wouldn't give to feel your soft hands again. I loved you so much but didn't show it, and I knew you loved me. I have never doubted your unconditional love for me. As much as I probably hurt you in my teenage years, you loved me through it and held on as tight as you could. Thank you Dad, for not letting go.

I hope you know how much I loved you and still love and miss you. We all miss you terribly. There's a void, the empty place at the holiday table and the emptiness in our hearts---we all feel it at each birthday celebration or holiday gathering. Things just aren't the same. You always provided the comic relief...whether you meant to or not!

I wonder if you are keeping up with what each of us are doing. Sometimes I wish I could ask you if I'm making the right decisions or what something in the Bible means, or where is that verse...etc. I know it may sound silly, but sometimes when I pray, I ask the Lord to tell you how much I love and miss you. I wonder if you know that.

I thought I would post some pictures of what we've been doing, as well as some of my favorites from when you were still with us.

Remember this? This was our first Thanksgiving together after Gary and I got married. Look how young we all look!

This is one of my most favorite pictures! I can't believe you agreed to pose for a Christmas picture with Zack and Draven in your boxers! You were a good sport, Dad!

This is another cherished photo. I think this was the last time our entire family was all together at the same time and able to pose for a family photo (summer 2005).

This was Zack's 16th birthday (July 1st), just a few months before you went to be with the Lord. It seems like you declined so quickly. I think July was the last time you were able to get up and come eat dinner and socialize.

I love how you are cracking up---and look at Zack...he was laughing so hard, his eyes were all teary---just like you used to do!

This was just two weeks before you passed away and the last time all four of us kids were together with you.

This was the worst day of my life. I haven't been back to Mom's church since your funeral. I'm not sure I could. Such overwhelming, indescribable grief.

Thanksgiving, just a few short weeks had passed, but it seemed like time was standing still. Everything was a blur that Thanksgiving. This is evidence that we had a turkey...but I don't remember much else. I know you would have given Gary a hard time about his shirt.

Christmas was even harder. We all were still numb. You know how mom takes a picture each Christmas of the kids and puts it in that big frame...look at their little eyes. All we did was cry--we missed you so much--no one sat in your chair.

This was downtown at Atlantic Station. Honestly, I can't remember if this was during the Thanksgiving holidays or Christmas...but look at Zack in your Yankees jacket! And look at Mom--her smile has not been the same since you've been gone. It's so different---there's even something missing in her eyes.

You missed Draven's first "double digit" birthday (January 6), he turned 10. You would have laughed and teased him about how they mispelled his name on his cookie cake. They put "Craven"!

We took Mom to "Fire of Brazil" for what would have been your 50th wedding anniversary. We all typed up memory cards and gave her a memory box full of our memories of you. It was rough---especially for mom.

Here's Taylor at one of her many volleyball tournaments. She's on a traveling team and she's quite the player, just like her mom! Thumper, Jr.! I know you would have been hollering "let's go tay-tay!"

Here is Zack's very last high school performance as Drum Major. He loved every minute of it and was so passionate about it---putting his whole heart and soul into each performance. You taught him that passion, drive and determination.

...not to mention...INTENSITY!

Mom and Taylor got to come see his last performance. Taylor actually took the pictures of Zack from the field. She has quite the eye for photography. Do you see how Mom's smile has changed?

This is the most recent photo of Zack. This was taken exactly one year after you passed away. I couldn't help but think of you all that day, remembering how much you kept asking mom to put in the video of "that boy" (Zack conducting)---and here he was, one year later, making one of the most important decisions of his life. The three of us had such peace and clarity that day. We know the Lord was looking out for us in a very special way, and I'd like to think you were too.

In closing, I just want you to know that we are doing our best to live happy, healthy, fulfilled lives. You taught each one of us, from your kids to your grandkids and your son and daughter in-laws. You trained us up, Dad...and even though we may stray a bit from the path, we will never depart from it.

I love you. I miss you, and I look forward with great anticipation our reunion in heaven one day.

Your brown-eyed girl,


Happy Birthday Jill!

I want to personally wish you a happy 40th birthday! It's a wonderful time and let me tell you from experience, since I'm all of 41 years...these can be the best times of your life! I've been so blessed to have met you in this bloggy world and have appreciated your humor, honesty, transparency and encouragement in your posts and comments. I'm thankful for our friendship and I hope you have a wonderful day surrounded by the ones you love! Happy Birthday!

Your sweet, covert hubby has been working behind the scenes, emailing all of us and asking permission to take over blogville! Each blog you visit today, he wants you to be reminded of how much he loves you! Here's what he had to say...

Birthday’s can be difficult. Milestone birthday’s can be devastating. To some more so than others, but to most people…they really seem to matter, to an extent, anyway. (How’s that for covering both sides of the fence?)

That is most people, except my wife Jill @ Who Could Ask for Anything More. Today is her 40th birthday and my co-conspirators I call BFOJ’s (Blogging Friends of Jill’s) have allowed me the distinct honor of being a guest columnist.

My hope is that wherever my wife goes within her circle of BFOJ’s today, she will see this message and know how much she means to me, not to mention how much the BFOJ’s think of her for letting a grizzled hack like me hijack their fantastic and very personal blogs.

Rather than do the traditional acronym exercise (J = Jazzy!) or the "40 Things I Love About My Wife" entry, I thought I would share the four most wonderful things about Jill -- the things that make me love her more every day.

She loves my older kids – Not everyone who marries into a new family will connect with the entire crew, but Jill never missed a beat. With my older kids, she accepted them and loved them – at first simply because they were my kids – and now because of who they are. She treats them with kindness, respect, gives them guidance on chores and other responsibilities, but is very respectful of their mom and never tries to "mother" them. She educated herself about Bay’s food allergies and is very cognizant of his limitations when planning and preparing meals. Rarely a day goes by that she doesn’t make a special version of our family meal just for him. Many times Jill has invited Kendra to come along to the salon to get their nails done. At 11 years of age, Kendra has always gravitating to older girls and more mature activities and this is a special way for them to spend time together.

She loves my parents - I can’t say I was ever really "close" to my folks in the sense that I sought them out for advice about life. So I wasn’t sure how that dynamic would play into my relationship with Jill. She has such a kind heart for that generation and quickly threw her arms around my folks and loved them unconditionally. Since we first met, my Mom has passed away and my Dad has endured a mountain of health issues. Through it all, Jill has been a steady, loving partner. In fact, on the occasions when my Dad visits, we have to make some alterations to the house to accommodate him, his wheelchair, his walker and his personal needs. Jill not only goes with the flow of the décor disruption, but lovingly plans meals that my soon-to-be 82-year-old father doesn’t get as often as he would like. It’s amazing how a simple plate of fried eggs and bacon can light up a proud man. My favorite time of our visits is in the evenings. Jill typically beats me home from work and when Dad is in town, they have usually already cracked open a new bottle of wine. Dad isn’t afraid to ask for service and Jill takes great pleasure in keeping his glass full. It is a precious time.

Her patience – Full disclosure: patience is not my strong suit. In fact, it is probably my greatest weakness and barrier to volumes of peace and happiness. That said, I find myself much more patient in the last four years in so many areas of my life (hmm…coincidence?). If you look up the word PATIENCE in the dictionary, you see a picture of Jill. Despite the chaotic nature of our house, I have rarely seen her react with desperation. In fact, I just see her continuing to raise the bar. As my patience has improved, she get even MORE patience. Her thoughtfulness and patience with Adam is uncanny…not that all mothers’ don’t have that nurturing gene…but even after a solid 10 minutes of whining about something that I find unintelligible…Jill merely says (for the umpteenth time)…"Adam, use words to tell Mom what you want." She is amazing.

She makes our house a home – Imagine buying your first home together…and it’s already 27 years old. Granted it was in good structural shape, but the majority of the décor was stuck in the 70’s. Over the past two years, Jill has developed a beautiful vision of how our house should look…how it should become a home. We started with dark wood throughout and some of the most exciting beige paint you could imagine. We’ve progressed to vibrant colors, amazing window treatments and bright open spaces. The original kitchen was hideous, but is now a show place. The powder room was engulfed in mind-altering striped wallpaper but now looks like a museum exhibit. She goes bits and pieces forward as time and budget allows and every step of the way she is filling the gaps of her master plan. We’ve both said that this home is the first, last and only one we will ever buy and we joke that our next stop is either the Retirement Home or the Funeral Home. We want a home in which we can build family traditions and memories and one that the kids will want to bring THEIR kids to. We want to grow old right here. Together.

There are obviously many more things that make Jill the woman to whom I have given my heart and want to give my life. She is the woman I dreamed of marrying. She is sweet, but tough, Honest and direct. Kind and loving. She gives without request or expectation. She nurtures with care and patience. She loves unconditionally.

Truly…I am blessed. Happy Birthday, Sweetheart.

We're back...

Sorry it's taken me so long to get online to post anything! I've been playing "catch up" since we got back and I'm still not caught I may have to do this update in several posts over the next few days--so bear with me!

On Sunday, October 28th we were in Destin for my friend's daughter's wedding. It was absolutely gorgeous! A beautiful couple, a beautiful setting and just a perfect day all the way around--from the bright blue skies to the vibrant colors of the sunset, The Master Artist displayed His handywork!

The deck at Sandestin overlooking the beach...
Check out this handsome fella!
Don't they say the camera adds 30 pounds??? Gee whiz!

a beautiful sunset...

I had to include this picture! The colors in the sky were MORE vibrant every time I turned around! It was absolutely breathtaking having dinner on the deck, ocean in the background with this glorious sunset---it couldn't have been a more perfect setting!

My sweet baby...isn't he handsome?!

The parents of the bride...our dear friends...we love ya!
It was a wonderful day and a perfect beginning for a couple who has placed Christ at the head of their marriage! Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your special day!
{Unfortunately, I was unable to hook up with Kat. She had company that evening and we were leaving early the next day, so we were early to bed and early to rise. Sorry Kat! I'm sure there will be a next time!}

Getting ready to leave for FSU the next morning. We love the beach and hated to leave! Isn't the water gorgeous?!

Monday was spent touring the campus of FSU (Florida State). It was a nice day, sunny, but getting a bit cooler. We did the van tour and then did alot of walking around the entire campus. We grabbed lunch on campus, stopped by the Music Office and to our disappointment, found out the Marching Chiefs rehearsal had been cancelled that afternoon. BUT we made arrangements to stop back by on our way home Wednesday. (Photos below)
Zack in front of the FSU Film School...

The FSU Football Stadium and the bronze statue of the Unconquered Seminole

Walking thru the campus...he was so bold, independent, and sure of himself. I had to take this picture, because I couldn't have been more proud, but also teary at how fast he has grown up!

A closer view...I thought this was a cool photo

FSU Marching Chiefs Rehearsal (this was actually Wednesday afternoon). That's Zack and Gary sitting on the bleachers...

Monday evening we drove down to Orlando. After arriving at our hotel around 9:00 p.m., we were all exhausted and ready for a good night's sleep in preparation for our 10:00 a.m. appointment Tuesday morning at UCF (University of Central Florida). We met with Zack's Admissions Advisor, did a 2-hour walking tour, followed by a Housing Tour, grabbed some lunch on campus, met with the Assistant to the Band Director, then ran over to Full Sail University for our 3:00 p.m. appointment.
UCF Welcome Center and Admissions Office

The fountain at UCF in the center of the campus

The balcony outside the Rec Center and pool in the background

Zack watching the UCF Marching Knights rehearsal from the tower

Another hour long walking tour (with a golf cart ride here and there to view the back lots) at Full Sail. We were exhausted, but doing our best to remain focused and interested. All the while, watching the clock since we were due back at UCF for a Marching Knights rehearsal from 5:00 - 7:00.
Entrance to Campus at Full Sail University

Back Lot Tour

Another photo taken from the back lot...

Another long day and into the evening, but we were able to have a nice late dinner and get to bed at a reasonable hour. Wednesday we slept in, took our time checking out of the hotel, grabbed a late breakfast and then headed back to FSU for the Marching Chiefs rehearsal at 4:00 p.m. before heading home.

We were back home, safe and sound, and exhausted and ready for our OWN beds by 9:00 p.m. Wednesday night!

We had a great trip and the Lord really answered prayer. Tune in next post for Zack's decision!

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