Quietly Celebrating an Anniversary

There are many anniversary’s and birthdays that we all celebrate throughout our lifetime. The month of August – actually the 14th of August to be exact marks a wonderful day in my family’s history.  The 14th of August, 2014 is the 10th, 10th (!!) anniversary of our son Zachary’s last day of chemotherapy in the treatment of his leukemia.  It is simply incredibly to me that 10 years have gone by since our last ride home from the clinic with Zachary.  Wow!  Time really does fly.

This celebration is one of those that I have been thinking about for a while, just because of the significance of my son, The Survivor.  My son’s very humble about this subject.  He does not really like a lot of hoopla over this anniversary date, this is more of a mom “thing”. And recently I talked to Zach about this date, and he said, “wow that’s right! I do remember.” (or something to that effect). I asked him if it was ok if I write about it, and said, “sure Mom”.

I wrote about Zach’s journey with leukemia a couple of years ago.  You can read about it here if you’d like to.  He was in chemotherapy for three years, which ended August 14, 2004.  This is one of those subjects in our family history I simply felt compelled to write about.  I felt compelled to share our story.

Zach’s last day of chemo was a great celebration it seems like it was just yesterday.  Travel Man arranged for a limo ride for Zach’s drive home from the clinic that day.  The limo was supposed to be the standard “stretch” variety, but what showed up at the clinic doorstep was a Hummer Limo.  Travel Man had explained to the owner of the limo company what we were doing, and the owner surprised even us with this awesome limo ride.  Zach and his siblings, and cousins had a fantastic ride home, through the In-n-Out drive thru, and had a blast.  Just the memory we parents were looking to provide for this guy.    He had been through an awful lot in three years and the limo ride was a great memory to the end of that time.

Zach’s 10th birthday newly diagnosed with leukemia

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Zach’s 23rd birthday – 10 year’s chemo free, and what a handsome guy!

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Fast forward to 2014- Zach is newly married.  He and his wife Brookelynne got married last August.  They will be celebrating their first anniversary in a week or so. Zach works with developmentally disabled adults, and is an amazing caregiver.  He’s healthy, energetic, philosophic about life, and a survivor.  Cheers to you Zachary!!  We raise a glass to you today and celebrate the fine, young man who you are.

This post linked to the GRAND Social

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Can YOU fix a Thermostat? I did!

thermostatLast August my baby boy got married here at home in our back yard.  You can read all about the wedding here.  It was a lovely summer day and pretty hot too. I remember we were so glad when the sun went down.  It was such a fun night of partying and just having some fun. 
My house was not only hosting the wedding ceremony, we were also the “get ready” station for the wedding party, etc. This included my grandson, Evan, who was the ring bearer.  The household was a little tense to say the least. We spent the morning cleaning, decorating, and making sure all the details were in order for a wonderful wedding day.  
Then came the time for the boys,  including Evan, to get their best duds on to be ready for the ceremony.  This caused a bit of a stir for Evan because he was already hot, tired and sweaty and did not want to put on his shirt with a bow tie.  His Uncle Bryan ended up carrying him down the hallway kicking and screaming to the bedrooms to get dressed. That’s when a little fiasco happened.  In the midst of his little tantrum while being carried down the hallway he kicked the thermostat right off of the wall and the batteries went flying!!  We have one of those thermostats that can be popped off of the wall easily for programming.
I momentarily panicked, took a breath, and then calmness came over me.  I had a house full of people, it was hot outside and we need the air conditioner running for the day.  The thermostat was not going to fail us.  I found the batteries rolling around on the floor, picked up the thermostat and put everything back together and back on the wall mount.  I set the AC to come back on and nothing happened.  Gulp, another small moment of panic.  Then I did what I suppose any of us might do in this situation.  I took the thermostat off of the wall again,  and noticed that one of the batteries was a little loose.  I proceeded to the kitchen and got out our gigantic roll of foil (Travel Man uses this for his grilling).  Then I tore off a small piece of foil, folded it up, and stuck it in between the battery and the housing of the thermostat.  I was totally focused on fixing this situation.  The thermostat then went back on the wall and voila! the AC was up and running once again.  I’m not really certain if this was the safest thing to do, but I did it and it worked.
 
Now a few things I need to mention here.  Travel Man (my wonderful hubby) was running around the backyard like a chicken with his head cut off  so I never told him all of this happened with the thermostat that day.  In fact I don’t think I told him the entire story until somewhere around Christmas time.  It was a stressful day for us, and I wasn’t going to add to his stress factor, especially since I was able to get the thing fixed.  The other mention is that my Mom was quite emotional that day.  We had just lost my Dad, her grandson was getting married, and it just really got the best of her.  But, my five minutes of  finessing (which seemed like 5 hours in the scheme of things) the thermostat completely entertained her and made her laugh and smile that day.  I’m glad I could do that for her.
 
This is one of those stories that will go down in the family history books in the “Remember When” chapter.  We had quite a few wonderful moments on that wonderful wedding day, but for me this one was the most stressful and most successful at the same time.  And you know as I’m writing this I’m thinking that all of my own family members might not have heard this story.   That’s ok though, I always want things to stay positive for everyone!
 
When is the last time you had a family “moment”that you considered one for the history books?   
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Connecting on the WiFi from 30,000 feet

Event-WiFi-My-Meeting-ProfessionalMy Travel Man has a crazy work schedule. He’s home, he’s gone, and then he’s home again.  Sometimes his trips turn around so fast it makes your head spin, and that’s no joke, for him and for me.  In the last few weeks I have realized that his travel communication has taken a new turn.   Whenever my Travel Guy is gone for a few days we always make sure we get in some video chatting time.   This is really important for him and for me too, to have the personal connection time.  Normally we chat on either Facetime or Google Hangouts.  Google Hangouts usually has a fairly decent connection either domestically or internationally.  We have used it in both instances, and had fairly good video success.  Just a little long distance relationship advice.

Now back to my original story – the airlines (in our family meaning Southwest Airlines) have recently updated their WiFi service and it is now available on most flights across the country.  What this means for my Road Warrior of a husband is that he can stay connected to home and chat with me while he is 30,000 feet above wherever he is flying to or from.  It’s a great techie tool for him to stay a little more connected with me at home, and keep up on all of the latest news with the kids and grand-kids.  For instance, we have recently had a rash of a certain cat in the house (who shall remain nameless) bringing in his latest catch for me to see. So I’m able to chat with my hubby and let him know we have yet another mouse or lizard in the house.  I’m sure on the other end he has a little chuckle as he knows how much I hate to have anything crawling around on the floor that does not belong there.

And you know it’s more than just a little mind-boggling to realize that we can chat with each other the whole time he is in the air.  I’m still completely amazed by this fact. You realize my mind-boggling won’t even register with our grand-kids.  They will be growing up thinking this is “par for the course”.  Nothing out of the ordinary for them.

Also there have been occasions recently where I will have the grand-kids here with me and I allow Evan to type a few chat messages to his Papa.  He always takes a “Selfie” to send along too with a sweet loving message.

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So here is the way my Travel Guy’s flights go these days with his new-found WiFi connection while he is in a big metal tube in the air.  He has a nice tablet computer that goes along with him wherever he goes.  He is normally able to watch a movie, or a TV show via the airline connection, chat with his wife, and check his email messages.  That’s a ton of multi-tasking while on a travel assignment.   I suppose it could be a blessing and a curse.  A blessing because we are able to stay more connected than before, and a curse because he doesn’t really get any time off from his work e-mail.  A fine line and a tightrope that a lot of people walk these days I’m sure. 

My Travel Man really likes to geek out since he’s on the road so much, and I’m truly glad he’s got all the techie do-dads he needs to make his travels just a little bit easier. The added bonus of the WiFi in so many places makes our connection with one another all the more convenient, and we definitely like it that way.  Being able to stay connected like we do is what makes the distance between us just a teenie bit more tolerable.  

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My Phone Cover got a Little Ugly

Earlier this year I ordered two new phone covers for my iPhone from Vistaprint. I wanted to have one cover with a picture of my grand-kids on it.  The cool thing about these covers is you pick your layout design and then add your photos  into the template that you have selected.  

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The second cover that I ordered had a picture of my “Renee’s Revelings” logo. I think I must have gotten  a buy one get one at a discount or something to that effect.

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Of course the first cover I used on my phone was the one with the picture of the grand-kiddies.  Evan loved it, he thought it was cool that I could have pictures of him and Madison with me on the outside of my phone at all times.

Now for my dilemma, a few weeks ago the pictures on the cover with the grand-kiddies started to get rubbed off of the back.  It was a little frustrating and the cover looked a little creepy with the way the pictures had rubbed off.  I had a fleeting thought that I should email Vistaprint, and see how they would be willing to help a dissatisfied Customer.  But I did not email them right away.  I procrastinated and waited another week to send an email to Vistaprint’s customer service.

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So very late one night a week or so ago, I sent an email to the customer service department explaining how disappointed I was with the phone cover. Without hesitating the next morning I woke up to an email from Vistaprint letting me know that they were sending out a replacement cover that same day.  The new phone cover arrived for me in the mail the day before yesterday, and I’m a very happy camper.

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Now that’s what I call taking care of your Customers.  It so refreshing to deal with a company that puts their Customers needs first, and takes care of business with absolutely no questions asked.  I would highly recommend using Vistaprint for your home office needs, or if you just want to have a cool phone cover or some fun business cards.

Have you had a great Customer Service experience recently?

 

This is by no means a paid endorsement for Vistaprint.  I just wanted to pass along some positive information on a company that does things the right way.  All photos in this post taken by the author.

 

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The Youngest Reader in Our Family

This is our 17 month-old granddaughter, Madison.  As a matter of fact she just turned 17 months old this past week.  I think I usually stop counting the months once the grand-kids turn two, but before that two-year old marker each month seems to include some sort of wonderful milestone.  Most of Madison’s milestones these days involve words.  Words she hears that she immediately repeats.  Our little family myna bird.  These pictures speak for themselves, such sweetness and innocence.  The funny thing about Madison is sometimes she puts on such a serious face when she’s looking at the pages of a book you just have to sit back and smile.

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Madison is fast becoming a little book-worm.  She loves to look at her picture books, or have them read to her.  Sometimes she only listens to one or two pages, or I should say sentences and then wanders away.  But she always comes back a little bit later to have the book read to her in its entirety.

I cannot remember any of my kids being so attached to books at such a young age.  It was always more of a struggle to try to figure out what would keep the kids’ interests to keep them reading.  I did always tell my kids one of my famous Mom phrases (well famous to me), “Reading is knowledge, and knowledge is power.”  I’m not sure if it really stuck with any of them, but it sure felt good for having said something so inspiring to them.

Now that she’s a few months older, once in a while Maddy will pretend she is reading her book to you, and jibber-jabber along through the pictures while turning the pages.  Her Nana (my Mom) and I applaud her efforts each and every time, and hope that her interest in books and reading will continue to grow and blossom with her for a long, long time.

This post linked to the GRAND Social blogging event at Grandma’s Briefs.

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Birthday Raspberry Cheesecake

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We had THE best raspberry cheesecake last month. My daughter, Hilary requested a cheesecake for her birthday celebration. Yes, I still take special requests for cakes, etc. on the birthday persons special day. More importantly Hilary asked if the cheesecake could be swirled with a raspberry sauce.

So being the dutiful mother that I am I went on an internet quest to find a great recipe that included raspberry sauce. The recipe for the raspberry cheesecake that I chose is posted at Just a Pinch Recipes.

This was the first time that I had made cheesecake with a homemade sauce to go along with it. The results were fantastic and there were raves and compliments all around the room. The cheesecake disappeared in a flash. If you want to try this cheesecake on your own here’s what you need to do.

Ingredients-

Crust:

1 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 1 package, finely ground in a food processor)

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

2 Tbsp. sugar

Raspberry Sauce:

2 Tbsp. sugar

6 oz. fresh raspberries

Filling:

32 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

1-1/2 cups sugar

pinch of salt

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

4 large eggs, room temperature

Topping:

6 oz. fresh raspberries, for topping (optional)

powdered sugar, for dusting (optional

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Wrap exterior of a 9-inch springform pan (including base) in a double layer of foil; set aside.

2. Stir together cracker crumbs, melted butter, and 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl. Press crumb mixture firmly onto bottom of pan.

3. Bake until set, about 10 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 325 F.

4. While the crust is baking you can get started on your raspberry sauce. Process raspberries in a food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds. Pass puree through a fine sieve into a small bowl; discard solids. Whisk in 2 tablespoons sugar, and set aside.

5. Put the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes.

6. With mixer on low-speed, add remaining 1-1/2 cups sugar in a slow, steady stream. Add salt and vanilla; mix until well combined.

7. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing each until just combined (do not over mix). Pour cream cheese filling over crust.

8. Drop raspberry sauce by the teaspoon on top. With a wooden skewer or toothpick, swirl sauce into filling. Keep swirling until you get a pattern/design that you are pleased with.

9. Bake the cake until it is set but still slightly wobbly in center, 60 to 65 minutes. (The recipe on Just a Pinch calls for the cake pan to be set in water for baking. I did not do this.)

10. Transfer cake pan to rack; let cake cool completely. Refrigerate, uncovered, 6 hours or overnight. Before unmolding, run a knife around edge of cake.

This recipe makes (1)  9-inch round cheesecake. You can garnish with fresh raspberries around the top of the cake if you like.

IMG_0023-002If you’ve never made a homemade cheesecake this recipe can seem a little daunting at first.  But just get busy and have fun making a delicious dessert.  My birthday girl was extremely happy with the results, and I’m sure this cheesecake will make an appearance at one of our family parties again very soon.

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Flying Solo

photo (2)Yesterday  was a fun day. Travel Man arranged for me to  fly up to meet him in Oakland, California so we can spend some much needed time together this week. He’s a great guy.
You see normally when we are traveling together we’re most often taking a mini-vacation (I define this as 4 days or less).  When we do travel together I really don’t think about much except packing my clothes and following him to the airport.  Yesterday was a bit  different though.

For this trip I will be with Travel Man for a few days while he is working in Northern California.  So here’s how my morning went to get the travel day started.  I drove myself to the airport, parked in long term parking, checked my bag curbside (always better to check a bag than carry on!), got through security fairly quickly without using the preferred frequent flyer lane (because I’m not with Travel Man), and got my iced tea and a magazine. Phew!! I know I can do this on my own, it’s just a good reminder for me when I do.  We  most often fly on Southwest Airlines for the great reward perks.  If you are at all familiar with Southwest’s seating you know that there is no assigned seating, just assigned boarding designations.  So, my Travel Man was not with me to get on the plane ahead of me and save us our seats together.  I would be picking my own seat.  This part of my trip is a new experience for me.  I got a window seat of course as it’s always my favorite thing to look out the window when travelling.  I was the kid on family vacations that never slept in the car.  Always watching out the window and taking in the sights, and I’m still that way.

Travel Man was flying into Oakland from Buffalo, NY via Chicago.  My  flight was a short “up/down” (defined by me as less than two hours of fly time), Ontario to Oakland.  I am pleased to report that there were no glitches in the travel matrix yesterday, and our meeting in Oakland was pulled off successfully.  We were able to take the short drive to San Francisco and see both the Golden Gate Bridge and the Oakland Bay Bridge.  It was a bit of a stressful drive through the city, but a beautiful day for taking in the sights.

I’m a lucky, lucky girl that I am able to travel to where my husband will be working for the week.  His schedule’s a little crazy right now and any extra time we can glean together is a blessing.  I keep reminding myself that it’s definitely a bit of a different lifestyle.  My Travel Mans’ mode of commuting from city to city is an airplane (or as we jokingly say a “flying tube”).  It’s a different kind of life, but it’s our life.  It’s important for us to make the best of it, and our precious time together.  That’s my life lesson for the day.

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It’s a Baseball Kind of Thing

Happy, Happy Spring to one and all.  For all of our friends and family just chomping at the bit to see more green we’re sending you sunshine and warmth from sunny, Southern California.

Today is  the beginning of a great 10 day countdown.  It’s only 10 days until baseball’s opening day.  Yay!  I’m presently doing my happy dance.  I love the game of baseball.  Love to watch, love to cheer for our hometown team,(the Angels), love to gain some knowledge about the history of the game,  and love to go to a live game every now and then.

In my younger, growing up years, I did not really pay attention to baseball, or have the love for the sport that I have now.  I suppose that all changed when my kids started playing baseball and softball.  Every spring baseball or softball would start and we’d be at practices and games from February or March until July.  It’s one of those life thingy’s about a sport becoming part of your soul.  If you followed your kids through any sports, for any number of seasons you know what I’m talking about.

During our hectic spring schedules family members would join us as their schedules allowed to watch the kids play ball.  There were many, many years of supporting the love of baseball for my oldest son, Bryan.  Bryan started playing ball when he was 5 (the t-ball era) and played right through his senior year of high school.  He never stopped playing or learning about the game.  As a matter of fact that’s how we were able to get Bryan interested in reading.  Bryan learned how to read the team stats in the newspaper when he was 5 or 6. That lead to reading the articles about his favorite players or our beloved Angels.

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My collection of baseball buttons through the years.

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Bryan’s last time pitching senior year of high school

These days Bryan is the family’s baseball statistician.  He has a great knowledge of the game, and can recall stats and details of the history of baseball that never cease to amaze me.   Whenever we get a chance we watch a game together, and compare notes on our favorite players.  We (Bryan and I) have decided that on the 31st of March we’ll hang our Angels flag out on the front of the house to celebrate baseball’s opening day.

One last baseball thought for the day from the movie The Sandlot- The Babe said, “Remember kid, there’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered but legends never die, follow your heart kid, and you’ll never go wrong.”

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Remembering the Wintry Ways

photoA few weeks ago I had a chance to tag along with Travel Man to the icy cold weather in Indiana, while he was on assignment.  I grew up in northern Illinois and moved to California when I was 16.  Travel Man is a Southern California native, but has travelled all over the world.  Needless to say I had forgotten how much work it can be to live, and go and do and be in the harsh, cold winter weather.  It made me realize how lucky I am to be living in the Southwest.  And it also reminded me of a few things that I don’t have to worry about living in a warmer climate.  So, here’s my list of the top ten things that I recognize are so different for me not living in the winter sphere.

1) I must wear socks. Your feet can get blooming cold here in the snow and land of winter.  This is not a daily event for me at home in So Cal.  I love to go barefoot.

2) The cars are so salty and dirty from the snow.  It’s so strange to see all of the layers of dirt and salt on the cars.  Why get your car washed when you’ll just be left with icicles hanging off of the bumpers!!

3) And then there’s the hugeness of the icicles themselves.  They’re hanging off of the eaves on the houses everywhere.  And then we saw so many long, huge icicles on the sides of the buildings.  Aren’t those a safety hazard.  They look like huge daggers!

4) Finessing the scarf, hat and gloves.  Every time you go out in this subzero cold it’s hat gloves, scarf, hat,  gloves,  scarf.  I forgot how much static can build up in your hair from the hats constantly going on and off of your head!! Coats on, coats off; hats on, hats off; gloves on, gloves off; boots on, boots off.

5) The sound of the snow crunching under your shoes when your walking to and from the car or store.  Oh and watch out for patches of ice and black ice that is barely visible.

6) The enormous pothole population. Wow!  We were on Cicero Street near Midway Airport and the potholes looked like freckles on the roadway.  Quite a bumpy ride.  The potholes were not to be avoided.  This is not a sight we see in springtime here in California.

7) When you’re in the cold and snowy weather it’s a soulful comfort to wrap your chilly hands around a warm cup of coffee or tea.   And of course drinking it warms you right down to your toes.

8)  Isn’t is a wonder how much of a comfort soup can be in the cold weather?  Don’t get me wrong I love to make a good pot of homemade broccoli cheddar soup .  But nothing’s quite as satisfying as a warm bowl of soup on a cold winters night!

9) How do you see around the piles and piles of snow? Don’t you feel like a mouse in a maze?  The closest we come to this feeling in California might be looking for a parking spot at your favorite beach along the coast.

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10)  You forget how the snow is not always pristine and pretty and just white and sparkling.  Especially when explaining the sight of a new fallen snow to your California kids who have not experienced a Midwestern winter.  After the snow has been plowed and all of the cars have been driving by the snow gets a little gray and down right slushy and ugly.  This is the contrast that you forget about:

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Most of all after spending just a week in the throes of the cold and snow I am endlessly amazed at the hardiness of the Midwestners’ spirit.   Everyone we talked to while travelling said they are ready for winter to be over with.   In my opinion if you can make it through a tough cold, snowy winter and coming out smiling at the beginning of March you can live anywhere.  Hat’s off to all of you  surviving the long, harsh winter.  Sending you all some sunshine and warmth from Southern California.

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One of the Happiest Places on Earth

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As you may or may not know my husband is a Travel Man/Road Warrior/Lives out of his Suitcase kind of guy.  He travels frequently for his job, and his mode of commuting is usually an airplane and a rental car. My job is to make sure Travel Man gets to the airport on time, and I am usually the one picking him up when he returns home.

Some months we’re driving back and forth to the airport so often it feels like we can do it with our eyes closed.  I do have to admit that I have learned to time my drive to the airport to pick Travel Man up to perfection.  I’m always tracking his travel home on an app for the iPhone called FlightAware.  Once the flight tracker shows his flight at 23 minutes until arrival I head for the airport.  I have yet to get my pick up timed to the point where as I drive up the road to make that left turn into the airport, Travel Man’s plane is flying over my head to land.  That time will come soon enough.

Since Travel Man is on the road so much when he lands at the airport home from work, I want my face to be the first one he recognizes when he is riding down the escalator to baggage claim.  So, I always park the car and I always walk in to meet my hard-working husband.

Usually while I’m in waiting mode between the escalator and baggage claim there are many, many happy moments to be noticed. This is one of those places where the happiness is happening for a multitude of reasons.  The grandparents meeting their grand-baby for the first time.  The military dad coming home for the holidays greeted by his 4-year-old daughter. (This one was a tear-jerker.)  The crowd actually parted to make a path for this sweet little girl to run up and meet her Dad.  The missionaries greeted by their families and friends after two years away in Chili.  Two big groups of family and friends.  That was an amazing sight.  The dad and his kids greeting mom after a trip away for whatever the reason.  Smiles all around.  The college kids coming home for the holidays or for summer break.   Dad coming home from a business trip greeted by his young sons, and his wife.  The sons just leapt into his arms for a big hug.

Hugs are all around, and the happiness is infectious. You cannot help but smile, and feel just a little bit cheerier when there is all of this happiness going on around you.  I’m  getting a little carried away with my happy words, but it’s the best way to describe the situation to you.

1-IMG_0112Then the happiness turns to me, and it’s my turn. There’s my Travel Man riding down the escalator.   When we see each other for the first time we give a little wave, maybe I blow him a kiss, and then it’s our turn to hug.  The airport baggage claim.  One of the happiest places on earth, in my opinion of course.

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