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Doniphan Flood — April 30, 2017

I sit here on Thursday, day five of “The Flood” and listen to it rain yet again.  The Current River is slowly receding from the record 33.13 ft it crested at on Monday, May 1.  Needless to say it has been a crazy week.

Saturday we were told that the river would reach around 23 feet, we woke up Sunday morning with the levels jumping to 29, then 36, then 40 feet.  The record for the Current River in Doniphan was back in 1904 when it crested at 26.8.  I of course was not a live then, but I vaguely remember the flood of 1982 when it crested at 25.49 (which was the second highest to date).  Of course living on the river you know that it floods, that water rises when there is a lot of rain, and that there is always the possibility of the need of evacuation.  In 2007 I went to work for E&S Pharmacy and worked for them until 2013.  The initial location where I was hired to work was in the flood plan (if it was a moderate to major flood); the building flooded twice during my time with them.  The river flooded three times and we evacuated twice, the third time in 2011 was the charm that had the company moving to higher ground and we relocated the facility to a hill in the middle of town.

Sunday, what was to be my only day off this week (was supposed to work Mon-Sat this week, but due to flooding in Arkansas I did not work today in Paragould); I woke to the phone tree message that morning service would be cancelled due to flooding, but to stay tuned for further information concerning the 6:00 pm service.  As the day continued, the rain continued, and the river continued to rise.  All services ended up being cancelled due to flooding.  My dad and I spent the day driving around town watching the river rise (with all of Ripley county I think).  The ‘go to spot’ was Town & Country parking lot where you could watch the river rise at the bridge that was forecasted to be closed (which it was around 7:00 pm).

Doniphan lost phone and cell service, there were a lot of areas that lost power, West Doniphan lost access to town because the bridge was closed, and emergency personnel (who’s job is to help and save people) lost access to individuals that needed help due to no access to them becuse the bridge was closed or high water.  Needless to say the stress and frustration of trying to do a job you have dedicated yourself to with the limited resources and inability to do it to the fullest, was making life difficult.

Working Monday, May 1, at the hospital trying to perform transfers of patients and continue with daily tasks that require internet, fax, and phone services was interesting…when you had non of them.  We had one phone (the doctor’s phone, that happened to have Verizon wireless — which still worked), and later we bought burner phones that worked off the Verizon network and had those available around 5:00 pm.  It made for an interesting day trying to make people understand that I was unable to fax them information, but I needed them to please take my patient. :)

One bonus of the flood is that it accomplished something that has been tried several times throughout the years and never really made progress…getting people out and moving (exercising).  There has been the Get Moving campaign, the GO Walk campaign, and several other programs started to try and get residents to exercise.  The flood had the whole county out walking, taking pictures, enjoying nature and the outdoors.  It apparently takes a catastrophe to get people out and about.

On Monday evening the water started receding from the town, where approximately 35 businesses have been affected and lost everything, leaving behind a sludge of dirt, mud, and “stuff”.   We have pulled together as a community and several groups and individuals have started activities to help clean the area and assist the individuals that have lost everything.  The bonus of living in a small community is that we don’t have to wait for the Federal Government to step in and give assistance, we assist each other.  We have had the Convoy of Hope that brought relief items in, and individuals from our community has donated items to the relief project.  I love living in a place where people come first.

We’ve lost some of our main eating places and I will miss being able to stop at Casey’s for breakfast or at Sonic for dinner on my way in/out of town.  But I know that as a community we will rebuild and come back stronger and better than before.  It will be a process and may take awhile…but we will succeed.  As the logo that is being placed on shirts designed by Pam Davis states, we’re “Current River Strong”.  The river has a powerful current, and as it continues to flow and go so will the residents of Ripley County.


April 19, 2017

This day has a lot of history.  A lot of bad stuff seems to happen on this day…and there are some good things.  But as with any other day, it’s just a day to most.

History of April 19:

1775 – American Revolution begins with the shot that was heard around the world.

1934 – Shirley Temple in her first movie

1943 – Warsaw Ghetto Uprising against German rule

1971 – Soviet Union launches first manned space station

1977 – I was born

1987 – First Simpson’s TV show

1993 – Waco, Texas Camp Davidian Compound siege

1995 – Truck bomb in Oklahoma City

2011 – Fidel Castro resigns in Cuba

The good, the bad, and the ugly. Bleh.  As with anything in life, there is always bad…it’s life.  It’s not because we do things that we need to be punished for, that we are not loved, or that the world is out to get us.  Bad things happen because they just do.  Sometimes the bad brings good, we just have to remember that it will be better…eventually.  With the bad, there is is good.  We graduate from school, we get married, we have a family, we make a carrier, and we live life to the best of our ability.

Some make their life good by living it as it is, and others make their life not so good by being pessimistic and only seeing the bad (or negative) in life.  It’s easy to be negative, especially working in the public and watching people abuse the system.  But we must embrace the good.  See the positive, be a cup half full type of person.  Do I have my moments of failure and get in the doldrums?  Yes, who doesn’t.

Today for instance…I have been not looking forward to it.  I’ve had my bouts of doldrums.  Forty years ago today I was born.  My dad and my aunt Diana went out for pizza and left my mom to welcome me into the world alone.  They left at the insistence of the doctor that it would be “hours” before I was born, but I decided to show them that I would do things my own way and come when I wanted.  Unfortunately, yet fortunately, I’ve continued to do that.

When being potty trained I thought I knew best then too.  I went so far as to pee in the floor while stubbornly staring at my mom.  Needless to say, she and I had a “come to Jesus” meeting and I was from there on out trained to use the restroom when and were it is required.

I have been stubborn, independent, and walked to my own drum throughout my life. This caused me to have several “come to Jesus” meetings with my mom throughout the years, and only one with my dad.  The situation with my dad he said “either apologize to your brother, or get a whipping”…I of course looked him in the eye and said “whip me”.  Whatever my brother did (or didn’t do) I did not feel that he was worth the apology. LOL.

To some I may be considered to have nothing.  I am forty years old, not married, I do not have children.  In the area that I live, where most are married by 17 and have three or more kids by 25…I’ve not succeeded.  Instead I have two cats.  We live peacefully in my house.

Though I have dreaded this day, and the big “FORTY” since ringing in the New Year.  I woke up this morning after having a crazy work weekend, feeling blessed.  I have a job that I love, I have had the opportunity to travel to seven countries and extensively through the United States, I have my health (for the most part) and am still able to be mobile, and I have a family that loves and supports me.  They have supported me through my stubborn phase….who am I kidding, I still have moments of stubbornness; and through every decision and life change I have made.  From changing from a full paid ride at St. Louis Christian College to attending Gateway, to being fired from my job, and then deciding at the age of 32 to go back to school and becoming a nurse.

So though to some this is just a day, to me it is a day to be celebrated.  Celebrated for all the good, the bad, and the ugly that has transpired throughout history.  Not only that that has happened on this day, but what has happened due to what occurred on April 19 throughout history, from the dawning of time.  Will I still have moments of “bleh” because I am old, fat, and more often than naught tired.  You bet!!  I’m human.  But I will also celebrate life and where my stubborn self has traveled throughout it.

Life is good.  I will remember that as I face the bad, or remember the negative that life had dealt me…in the end it’s good.



Grief…it’s a process.

People grieve, over many aspects of life.  It doesn’t always have to deal with the actual loss (death) of a person.  It can be to the loss of  friendship, divorce, loss of trust, or the loss of life as we know it through a medical diagnosis or accident.  Anything that alters our life can cause us to grieve.
On that note, grieving is not the same for everyone.  Yes, we all learn that there are steps to the process and it’s ok to go from one step to the other, then back again, but eventually you’re to get to the acceptance stage and then “BOOM” everything is good.  Hate to tell the people who created the process that it isn’t always so, and grief doesn’t ever get tied up with a pretty bow and stuck on a shelf.  It is always a part of the person, and it can unexpectedly come crashing in on that person without warning.
Does it get easier, yes.  There comes a point that the situation can be talked about without the sharp fresh stab of pain through your heart, or the choking fear doesn’t grip your throat and take your breath away.  But there is always the memory, and the pain that can come unexpectedly when you see a person that makes you take a second look because the build reminds you.  Or when something happens that you want to share with your best friend that isn’t your best friend anymore because you’ve been torn apart by situations in life that made you lose trust in the person and therefore you’re no longer sharing life experiences.  Or you happen to run into the one who left you and their new “person”.  When you go home to an empty house.  When your body doesn’t function like it used to, you have difficulty walking or you can’t go about life as you knew it even a month ago because you’re body isn’t functioning right.
It may get easier…but it is never easy.  The steps to the point where it can be talked about without crying, to the point where the pain isn’t so fresh, are painful in themselves.  The questions of “why”.  The anger toward God or the people involved in the situation is real.  The thoughts of just wanting it all to be over.  We must work through it, and sometimes it is a smooth process, but more often than not it’s an ugly process.  It hurts.  Not only are we having to accept this new life that we have been dealt, we have to also accept the fact that it will never be the same.  We have to forgive people that don’t ask for forgiveness.  We have to forgive ourselves for things that we had no control over, but that we may blame ourselves for.
I’ve had my share of loss.  In the fourth grade I lost an aunt unexpectedly to a car crash.  My parents took in her three kids who had lost their mom for awhile until their new life was stable enough.  When I was a senior in college (1999) I lost an uncle unexpectedly when he was on his way to a fishing trip in a car crash.  I graduated and moved in with his wife and daughter for a summer, until life was stable.   In September 2012 I lost both my grandfathers a day apart, one death was expected the other was not.  When I graduated in 2013 with my RN my mom bought a “grow animal” that caused tears to flow because my Grandpa Mac wasn’t there to celebrate, though he had supported me through all four years.  In January, 2017, I lost an aunt unexpectedly to cancer/infection that we thought was going to be “fine”.  I’m still waiting for life to stabilize.
I’ve had other loses of loved ones, but they were expected, it’s the unexpected ones that shake a person to their core.  That make going back to nursing school and clinicals and walking by the room that the loved one was in; or going on a Wal-Mart run and seeing items that you had just purchased that cause the burning sensation in your throat and eyes…and tears to seep quietly down your cheeks.  There are the other loses of friendships and significant others that make you not trust anyone fully and warp you just enough to make future friendships and relationships suffer.  But you work through it and learn how to self preserve.  It’s all part of life…part of grieving…part of a process.
The grieving takes time, yet it will always be there.  In the corner of your heart that remembers the person or life as it “was before”.  Eventually the memories bring joy instead of sharp pain.  You’re able to go outside  (physically/metaphorically) and your feet keep going one step in front of the other.  Life continues.  We accept it.  We learn to compensate.  We process it.
Through it all, without God as a rock to stand on/lean on…the process would be that much harder.
Learning to process…ERM

Claudetta I. (March) Littrell 8/30/1950 – 1/21/2017

What a crazy, crazy, crazy life we journey through.  The small “dash” from birth to death holds memories of a life time spent, and regardless of how much time or how many memories were made…it is never enough.

I sit here at 5:30 in the morning with two cats piled on my lap, who are trying to figure out why I moved from bed to the couch at this hour on my day off.  But I feel they can sense that the universe has altered and they sit peacefully providing pet therapy by purring more loudly than normal (and not fighting) while their fur catches my tears and I contemplate the “dash” while finding comfort in putting my feelings/thoughts into words.  My form of therapy.

This contemplation is going to be full of memories and recounts of situations that has built my life and experience with my Aunt Claudetta.  She was the first of six children, five of which were born to Christine and Samuel March, and the sixth came with the union of Christine and Kenny Foster.

My Aunt C. loved photography, or I should say pictures, and she had photo albums stacked everywhere with pictures and newspaper clippings.  Many times you would not even realize an article or picture had been taken until you picked up one of her albums and found history/the memory that had been captured and forever kept and marked.  I recently found out she has a section in her album of my journey through nursing school.  I was at her house a few months ago and she was like “did you ever see my picture” and pulls out the photo album and I had a whole section dedicated to me.  She loved her family and this is how she kept us close and created bonds of memories.

At Christmas time one of the doctors at the hospital brought in rock candy.  The mason jar full of cinnamon candy flashed me back to years gone by and brought memories flooding in of my Aunt C. and her shelves of rock candy.  It was tradition at her house to have divinity (she was the only one that could get it to turn out right) and rock candy.  The rock candy was in every flavor imaginable, placed in mason jars, and displayed on the shelves that make up the window between her kitchen and frontroom.  It was a colorful display and readily available to the little urchins that were running around the house.  We would often climb up on the cream colored couch that had the rust floral design and pilfer our treasures.

Aunt C.’s was where we would gather for games.  We played outside games of horseshoes, badminton, washers, and later hillbilly golf and bean bag toss.  Inside we held boxing matches between all the cousins in the “add on” while our dads looked on giving pointers from the side lines, and piled into the laundry room around the Saga game console, the pre Nintendo game that Elmer Gene had.  We didn’t question the fact that we were sent to the furthest room from everyone trying to talk, sat on linoleum flooring, and played for hours…always in sight from the kitchen or livingroom area and easily within “hearing” distance to be yelled at if we squabbled.  The adults would play spoons, dominions, or just sit around and talk for hours.  The house was full of love and laughter.

On January 5, 2017, our lives were altered.  We finally received answers that had been being searched for since September 2016.  In September we had been given a green light by Dr Peter’s office saying everything was good, yet things were not good.  So in October surgery was done to remove her gallbladder, and things still did not improve.  After many doctors and a visit to the ER, and weeks of waiting, we were finally told that she was diagnosed with Large B cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.  She met with a new cancer doctor on a Monday, January 9, and had her first chemo treatment was given on Wednesday, January 11.  We tried to prepare ourselves, we knew that day ten would be the “worst” and we were preparing for weakness and vomiting and overall malaise.  We were not prepared for what day ten held.

Throughout the past two weeks as I would visit and assist my aunt she stayed positive and would always have the attitude of the Shunammite woman of “it is well”.  This past Wednesday I stopped on my way home from my shift in Arkansas to visit and check in, and she shared with me the scripture in Isaiah 54:17 “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper”.  She stated “this is good stuff”.  Then of course we talked, or I should say I talked, about how this situation “doesn’t happen to us”, it’s something that you hear about and deal with for friends, not something that we should have.  She calmly looked at me and said “sickness is no respecter of persons”.  I left Wednesday night with the “I love you’s” spoken and reassurances of calling me if she needed anything given.  I had two more days of work (of my five day stretch) and I headed out the door to get some sleep.  I was not prepared for the next call of assistance I would get.

Saturday morning, January 21, started for me at 0637 when I received a call from Diane to come to Aunt Claudetta’s.  It was DAY 10.  She was weak and sick.  Blood was drawn and we found out her white count was zero; her doctor said to get her to the hospital.  The ambulance was called and the process was started.  She wasn’t herself, but it was DAY 10, so we thought this was her day 10 self…though each time I would go to her to give ice chips or give assistance I could tell she was declining.  But who knew what to expect?  They don’t give out instruction manuals or books for “what to expect when you’re chemo-ing” as they have available for expectant mothers; and when you asked people that had been in the situation with family or themselves you’re told of the weakness, hair loss, and vomiting.

Working in the medical field as a nurse, and in my own community where I was born and raised, I have always had the “what if” scenarios that play through my head of how it will be when I get into a situation of caring for someone I know personally in an emergency situation.  I have had a few scares of some close acquaintances that have visited the ER on my watch for chest pain.  We either ruled out heart attack, or got them out the door to the proper care with no harm.  I have never had to have a close friend or family member in trauma one….until Day 10.  It didn’t play out as my scenarios in my head, it happened on the side of the road in my church parking lot in the back of an ambulance as I had to put my nursing cap on and abide by my state license and oath as a nurse of giving assistance where needed….regardless of the situation.  When the door closed everything left except that I am a nurse, I help people in emergency situations, and I am trained for this.  I did my job.  I assisted where needed, and we succeeded.  I stepped back out of the ambulance and got into my car and drove the two minutes to my house so I could at least brush my teeth and change out of my night shirt…and the enormity of what had just transpired hit me full force in the middle of my chest.  This part was as I had envisioned it, though I was not pressed against the fence behind the hospital, I was standing on my car port bent at the waist hyperventilating crying…trying to make it into my house so I could complete my plan of brushing my teeth and changing clothes so I could go to the hospital and see what else Day 10 held.  I walk away knowing that training takes precedence, a person does what one has to do in that moment of time, and then when the moment is over self comes back.

We made it to the hospital, actually I think half of Ripley County made it to the hospital, and the wait started.  Decisions had to to be made.  We prayed, had faith and hope, and was holding onto the promises that are given throughout the Bible.  We knew and believed that God can and would heal…it’s just not always how we envision or want the healing to take place.  God chose to give complete healing, body and soul.  He gave it on Day 10.

I had came home to put some feed away for my dad, take care of my cats, and take my medicine that had been forgotten earlier in the day.  I was on my way back to the hospital when the call came at 11:24 that she had passed away.  We were not prepared for this on Day 10.

I walk away from Day 10 knowing that you are never prepared, that I have the ability to compartmentalize and can function as a nurse when it is required regardless of the situation, that we have a massive family and network of friends that will bind together at a moments notice and help anyway they can, and most importantly that God is God regardless and that He loves us.  We may not understand His plan, or comprehend the ‘why’ of the situation…we must continue to trust and believe.  Is this the answer we wanted, definitely not.  Is this what we envisioned for Day 10, definitely not.  Will we continue to move forward, live life, make memories, and succeed at it?  Most definitely.

Our lives were altered on this day 10.  We will have bouts of grief, anger, and confusion throughout the next few months or even years…because life sometimes just does not make sense.  But we will walk through it all knowing and trusting as the Shunammite woman that “It is well”…and it will be well not because of who we are, or the strength we possess but because of who God is and His strength.

Aunt Claudetta…It is well, the weapons formed against us shall not prosper.  We mourn your passing but rejoice in your freedom from pain.  We miss you and love you more than we ever let you know…but we celebrate this journey of a lifetime.




My life pretty much revolves around my family…blood, church, or work.  Regardless of which aspect I’m in, each one provides a foundation for that part of my life.  Then it builds a stronger me, because the foundations intertwine making me who I am today.  This post though I am going to be reminiscing and sharing my “blood” family. <love them more than they know>

My family is pretty large…growing up when we would get together with my Dad’s family there was easily fifty plus people there, and that was just immediate (brothers, sisters, their spouses and their kids).  It has gotten to the point where we have separate family gatherings now because the respective family’s have gotten to large to all fit under one roof.  My mom’s family is a more intimate affair, we had a total of maybe 15 tops if everyone was there and accounted for.  Regardless it was all about getting together, eating, and playing with our cousins.

Through the years the number of both families has diminished due to death or family members moving away and not being available for family gatherings.  I personally moved away for awhile, but the draw of “home” always brings you back to where the hub of the family is.  My Grandpa March knew this, or maybe he couldn’t find his “hub” hence the reason he moved frequently throughout my dads childhood and then through mine.  He did stay grounded for the majority of mine, living in a white house down the road from us.  We would go there to play, experience chickens being beheaded, and watch as new chickens were born in the incubator.  My Grandma Foster (my dads mom) lived just a few hills down in the opposite direction, there we would play in the old oak tree out back, or run amuck through their field and into Granny’s field that was connected.  Or we would play dominoes or spoons.  Between the two of them sat three of the kids and their kids.  We would often end up at one or the others houses, riding bikes or playing in the woods.

The life at my mom’s parents, the McClintock’s, was totally different.  They lived in a log cabin, ran a store from their home, made home crafted items, and my grandpa lived in buckskins and linen shirts.  We would always explore Elephant Rocks, Johnson Shut-ins, or spend our time at a  Fort that had a reenactment going on — getting to dress up in our period style clothing (from the Civil War Days) and run around learning history first hand.  We would pile into a white box van, and be on our way.  My grandpa looked like Abraham Lincoln, and I often ended up looking like Laura Ingels Wilder off the TV show Little House on the Prairie.  Grandpa and Grandma created a t-pee for us, provided us with toys and other items that were made personally by them.  Though when grandma would make my stuff, I would always have to see how my name was spelled…through my whole life she maybe got it right once.

Family is the foundation that we are built on.  Sometimes there are squabbles and misunderstandings.  Sometimes there are rifts or situations that happen that cannot be undone, but you still go forward.  And you know that regardless they will be there.

The other day I was texting my uncle concerning a trucking job opportunity and the final text that came through was “10 4”.  I smiled and warmth spread through my chest.  That simple response brought back a flood of memories of my life growing up.  We were in the lower middle class, my dad was a self employed contractor (still is for that matter) we didn’t have big flashy things and we sometimes had chicken and dumplings without the “chicken”.  We knew when things were tight, BUT we never went without.  My parents made it a point to take us on vacations out side of the Missouri.  We drove everywhere, but we went.  Our ride was our 69 Dodge Charger, with a CB installed.  We would listen to truckers while we traveled, and often would get or share information with them along the ride…especially about Bears in the median. :)  We have gotten away from having CB’s installed in our vehicles, but that is part of my foundation.

Recently we have been faced with the dreaded “C” word coming to our family.  Didn’t even polity knock and ask for permission to join the gathering.  Invaded our foundation and is shaking it to see what we are made of.  It’s been here before, in small situations that were easily taken care of by a minor surgery.  This time it has decided to come in a way that will make us take notice.  Not that our family hasn’t dealt with crazy diseases before; two of us have MS, one lived their life with epilepsy, others have arthritis and heart disease.  All diseases in their own right…but non have the ambiguity of cancer.  It’s ugly and unknown.

I know that if we stand strong, keep our feet planted in the memories and continue to make more memories that strengthen and bind us together…then we will make it.  We will have life and that more abundantly.  We will be strong…we will be family…regardless of what happens or what we have to face.


Annual Christmas/New Year Letter – 2016

Where do I begin?  This year has been interesting…with some small and large changes, some travel, and some new beginnings.  Sorry to those of you that like to have cards that can sit on your mantel, or hang on the fridge.  Since my years in nursing school, I have given up the traditional card mailing and succumbed to using technology as an “out” for easier access and less time. Here’s to a quick recap of my year and future plans for 2017…

The biggest change actually happened last October (2015) when I purchased a house and moved into a more permanent living arrangement that would ground me to the area and keep me from following my gypsy blood and being a nomad.  This year was spent trying to make it my home and getting comfortable, though  I still have boxes stacked in my living room and a “storage” room that I haven’t unpacked and went through .  Two-thousand-seventeen will hopefully see the remodel of my house, and making it a more permanent decorated living arrangement — with unpacked boxes and decorated/painted walls.  A girl can dream, right?

The other major change in my life was branching out of my comfort zone and taking a PRN job at Arkansas Methodist Medical Center, a level three trauma center, in their emergency department.  It’s a little bigger than the small county hospital that I have worked at since my graduation from nursing school, but I LOVE IT!!  I am learning a lot of different options for care given, and getting trained on new technology that will be good for future job options and training.

Fun things this year, I finally got to travel some.  I did not get a stamp in my passport (something I am aching to do), I did get to see some pretty country.  In July, KJ and I went to Gatlinburg, TN, for four days.  We were bumming around and relaxing.  Were told about five different ways to say the food gyro…we didn’t care how they said it as long as they gave us what we wanted. :)  We were able to see the mountains prior to the fire in December that destroyed a lot of the surrounding area of Gatlinburg.

Another trip I had the opportunity to take was to New Orleans, LA, in November.  During the “Deercation” Holiday for the public school system (two weeks off in November for deer season and Thanksgiving), I took the kids (my two nieces, and nephew) to New Orleans for their Christmas trip.  It was a lot of fun, and I plan on going back to the beautiful old soul city someday (you can read about our trip in the November 2016 section of my blog).

I have had the opportunity to meet new friends, connect with old friends, and have relationships alter throughout the year.  The biggest surprise I think of the year was the outcome of the Presidential Election in November, I still have patients that comment on the election and the results.  A lot of the older ladies don’t care to voice their opinions loudly and emphatically on how they feel about the candidates and who won/lost.  It can make an interesting time of care when I try to stay neutral on the subject in the public setting of the hospital…but some of them are very persistent on my take on the situation.

All-in-all this has been a good year.  I’ve grown in some areas, lost ground in some areas, but continue on in the day-to-day and live my life to the best of my ability — still failing in some areas.  I try to trust and be open to new opportunities, but history and past experience clouds my vision.  To the coming year, that will have new milestones and changes than the last, I pray to conquer fears that are known and unknown and to be the best me that I can be.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!  May God bless you and keep you through the year.


New Orleans — The follow-up (Christmas Trip)

We survived!!  It was a great get-a-way (or at least I thought it was), and I came home without being in debt or having a high credit card bill to pay off.  I had saved money through the year and was able to pay cash for everything — a good feeling.

We traveled home on Sunday, we stopped in an outlying city to have beignets one last time at a Cafe du Monde.  We were in a small city called Kenner…and the beignets were just as tasty as eating them on the water front.  Tip about eating at the cafe on the water front, where there happened to be a nice breeze while were were enjoying our treats.  Don’t sit downwind, don’t wear black, and don’t be afraid of sitting down at a table with dirty dishes on it.  If you wait for a clean table, you will probably never sit down, and if you wear black and sit downwind you will likely walk away looking like a frosted doughnut yourself — just ask KJ. :)

Sunday coming across the 26 mile bride over the wetlands out of New Orleans, we ran into one of the “what if” scenarios and hit traffic due to construction on the bridge.  Made one question the solid structure, they had a crane on the bridge with a bucket over the edge…which allowed to unseen person to do “upkeep” on the structure.  At least they were doing some upkeep, for future safety measures.

Now a thought about the funding of the trip.  A lot of people say that going on vacation is to expensive, yet they eat out on a regular basis and spend money on non-essential stuff.  If you eat out one time a day, five days a week, you spend approximately $50 a week (and a lot of people eat out more than once, or also eat out on the weekends, which is more money).  That ends up being $2400 a year spent on food, on top of the money spent on groceries.  If you take your lunch, you can save that money for vacation, go home and put the money you would have spent in a “vacation jar”.  I took a family of four away for five days for less than $2000 dollars.  It is doable, it just depends on if you want to have an experience of a life time, or eat junk food.  Just a thought. :)

New Orleans is not a fancy clean city; it’s old with an old soul.  Katrina messed the roads up, and it is more like you are driving through a field on the back forty instead of through the streets of a city — a little bumpy and some pot holes.  To some people it may be considered dirty, but the history there more than makes up for the buildings that are not state of the art.  I would recommend it for anyone.  There are some places that do not allow anyone under the age of 21 to enter; there are some things that are seen when walking down the sidewalk that could be a great conversation starter and education moments, it would be up to the individual people on if you would consider taking children with you on the trip.

On that note…I would do it again in a heart beat.  The old soul of the city is a great experience.  The music, the food, the activity that was seen around Jackson Square…all good things.  You can shield the younger ones, because they are a little oblivious still to some things.  We were in our motel by 7:30-8:00 and did not mix or mingle into the night life of the city.  We did go out for coffee and beignets, but were in the Mid-city area and did not run into craziness.  To see the expressions as we sat and listened to music on the street and at Preservation Hall made it all worth it.  To listen to a street performer play/sing Amazing Grace and realize that everyone in the group had the same goosebumps because of the experience.  Nothing like standing on a street, in front of a Cathedral, listening to street performer sing Amazing Grace.

All in all it was a great trip.  I got to see and do a lot that I wanted too.  Will I go back, most definitely.  This trip was a little less structured than the one we took to Washington D.C., and it was just as good.  We had no deadlines to meet or places to be (except for the swamp tour), I came home feeling like I had been on a vacation instead of rushed through life for a week.

Until next time…ERM


New Orleans – Saturday 11/19/16

Last day to play, tomorrow is check-out and travel day.  BOO!!  It’s been a great time, getting to see the city and experience the culture that is New Orleans.

Last night after hanging out for a bit at the suite, we decided that we wanted to go check out Morning Call in the City Park.  The beignets did not compare to Cafe du Monde’s, but the frozen cafe au lait hit the spot.  We also tried their mini muffuletta’s, and fell in love with the sandwich.  The park was decorated for Christmas, had lights in all the trees and different lighted scenes throughout the park.  Very neat, from the dinosaurs to the pirate ships.  We were looking a little ragged, sporting our Southeast Missouri shirts and 4H, that had people taking double takes…or maybe that was the super hero leggings being sported by one party member.

We were preparing to leave, one party member wanted us to “bring the beignets back” as she lounged on the couch.  I decided that it was more than just a trip participation award and all parties that wanted something to eat would have to put forth the effort of obtaining the food.  No awards for nothing. :)

This morning the kids slept in and I lounged around the suite.  Checked in on my cats and my mom, all is well on the home front.  I then got the kids up and going for our day ahead.

We went back down to the French Market area and went to the Audubon Aquarium.  I enjoyed the aquarium in Gatlingburg this summer better than this one, but they had areas set aside for the Mississippi river area and swamp areas.  The ocean fish tank was a little less enthraling, though their sea turtle was more lively.  The kids enjoyed it, and that is what mattered.  It did have a lot more hands on stations for kids to learn.

We left the aquarium and walked down the water front to the French Market, looking for last minute trinkets for friends and just taking in the sights.  There was a bigger crowd than there was on Thursday, but there was also more to see…people wise.  There are random fights between homeless people, they yell at each other about who did what and said what, when.  I think they do it to see who will pay attention.  We did have one the other day that tried to guilt us into giving him money, he said “just ignore me why don’t you” then muttered something about God loving us.  It is sad to see them living under the bridges and sitting on the streets, I feel for the animals too that they claim and have as mates.  It has been an experience to see it so closely.

Jackson square provided more entertainment today, worth stopping by and checking out.  The different bands and a guy that was doing a contemporary dance routine with a large metal hula hoop.  All great performers.  There was a parade of Hare Krishna going on, a large float with a hindu priest ministering to the crowds along N. Peter’s street.  All the followers were handing out pamphlets and oranges to people along the streets, then a group of them were in the street dancing and chanting ‘krishna’.  The kids were unaware of what they were, and questioned what they were doing.  Other than doing outreach, with the police blocking the streets and causing a back-up of traffic, they had a colorful float.

After all the crowds and excitement of the Quarter, we headed out to the Garden District to look around and walk through Lafayette Cemetery #1. Several movies and TV shows feature this cemetery.  The houses in the Garden District are a step above the other areas of New Orleans.  The cemetery had sea shells all over the ground, I’m guessing from when Katrina blew in.  Speaking of cemeteries, they are EVERYWHERE down here.  Not normal ones like you see at home, they are all mausoleum style.  The lady at the cemetery today stated that there are people selling their family mausoleum’s on craigslist; they go cheaper if the body is left from the previous ‘occupant’.

We headed back to the suite to kick back and relax, and start preparing to head out in the morning.  Have had a great time, enjoyed the food, and getting to see all the different sights.  It is a place that I will probably re-visit at some point in time.  There is so much to see and do.


New Orleans: Swamp Tour – 11/18/16

Day three in NOLA and I think the kids are starting to feel it.  A long day of driving on Wednesday, a long day walking around the French Quarter yesterday, and then today we drove out of the city for the swamp tour.  Factor in the late nights…I have tired kids

One thing about traveling down through here is the fact that we are constantly crossing water, going over bridges, and around water.  Coming into the city the first night there was a sign that said “No Fuel for 26 miles”, I thought this odd until I realized that we went up onto a 26 mile bridge that was the “highway”.  To get into New Orleans we had to cross the swamp.  It was neat, but weird when you think of the “what if” scenarios.  But, it’s very pretty.

This morning I woke up at 0600, bleh.  I worked the five days prior to leaving this week and my body is set to “wake-up” at 5:30.  I try to be quiet and do things without disturbing the others, but it doesn’t always work.  The rest of the crew got up around 0900, and we headed out to grab breakfast before going on our swamp tour.  We went to Biscuits & Buns on Banks.  The food was great!!  I had waffles with roasted brie and blueberry compote.  KJ had french toast with carmelized bananas and bacon; Simeon had waffles and chicken; Peyton went with potatoes and cheese.  All the food was tasty, the atmosphere was homey and they staff were all very friendly.  It was a great way to kick start our day.

We drove out to Cajun Encounters for our swamp tour.  We were pre-paid, picked up our wrist bands and life jackets for the minors, and headed out on the boat with our tour guide, Ryan.  At first I was afraid that we would just be riding around on the water for an hour or so…but we ended up getting see alligators, pigs, raccoons, and snakes.  Our boat ride was fast and the breeze felt great.  Ryan, was very informative and was open to questions.

Given the state of tiredness of the crew, we just went back to the suite and vegged.  Ate at a local burger joint and a food truck for dinner, and watched TV.  It was a great day in NOLA for this group of excited but weary travelers.



New Orleans – Christmas Trip 2016

I love to travel.  Plain and simple.  I love to experience new cultures, foods, and see new sights.  To take things in that one has read about and been told…but to see it with ones own eyes and get the “experience” for oneself cannot have a price tag placed on it.

I not only enjoy traveling, but also sharing the experience with others.  I have started giving “travel” (either with myself or cash funds to supplement travel plans) to my nieces and nephew as their Christmas present instead of “things”.  So often we purchase stuff that ends up getting put in a closet and never worn, used, or seen again until a “purge” and then it is drug out and put in a yard sale or given away.  By giving travel, I get to go places and there is no clutter involved.

This all started three years ago when we went to Washington DC (you can check out the previous blogs from back in July-August 2014), then I took Kirsten to Utah in 2015, and then we hit Gatlinburg earlier this summer for her 2015 present.  We opted for New Orleans for the 2016 trip, for all of us.  I’ve wanted to visit, and this is one state that I was unable to “color” in when marking a map…now I can mark Louisiana off the map and New Orleans off my bucket list.

We headed out Wednesday morning early to make it to NOLA before rush hour traffic.  Let’s just say that Mississippi is the LONGEST state EVER.  The majority of the trip was driving through Mississippi.  The kids slept the majority of the way.  We made it and checked into our “motel”.

I reserved a suite in Mid-City area, it was the same price of a motel room, but it’s a two bedroom, two bath suite.  Has a kitchen and sitting area, and laundry available if I get to bored.  Enough space to kick back and relax, and be able to get ‘away’ from each other if need be. :)  We’re not trying to sleep, eat, and relax all in the same space.  It’s a great little house owned by Hosteeva (google it…they have a cool locations).

Thursday morning we slept in and then went and toured the French Quarter.  Started the day off at Cafe du Monde for beignet’s.  We were able to grab a table, and wait for it to be cleaned off, placed our order and enjoyed some of the french donuts.  Powder sugar galore!!!  Well worth the wait, and we can say that we ate at Cafe du Monde!!  Rumor was that it was a dirty cafe, but they either have cleaned up their act or working as a nurse has changed my idea of “dirty” to the point that I didn’t notice it being bad.  LOL.  It’s amazing what a nurse will do before going and grabbing lunch…or break from eating then come right back.

We spent the day wandering around the French Quarter, shopping, eating, enjoying the beautiful weather.  Every corner had different music going, and it is flowing through the streets.  We saw one group that played Amazing Grace, it sent chill bumps down my arms.  So much raw talent on the streets, and playing for a buck.

We had the opportunity to see a wedding procession stop traffic and walk down the street, just prior to the lighting of the Christmas Tree across from Jackson Square.  We thought there was some people that were really dressed up for the tree lighting ceremony, then a lady says “o.k., you can play now”.  A band struck up a song and then people started dancing down the sidewalk into the street waving white handkerchiefs.  It was pretty cool to see.

We hit up a small joint called Preservation Hall tonight to listen to “big band” music, and so Peyton could write a paper for her music appreciation class.  It was AWESOME!!!  It was old school band music, the leader stated “Now you can say you been to New Orleans”.  My minds eye envisioned 1920’s Flappers dancing around.  They performed and sang, at one point the leader had a Louie Armstrong voice that brought a smile to my face.  It was well worth the wait around town and standing in the old building feeling the atmosphere.  Recommend a stop by this place if you are ever in town.

We found a little food joint next door, Ali Baba, that was serving up fresh Gyros.  The guy cut the meet fresh from the slab that was kept in a “cooking barrel” (for lack of better term), and made the food to order.  Very small…but very tasty.  The obscure little places are sometimes the best.

When we made it back to the flat, I kept trying to put the key in the slot that did not have a key-hole.  Simeon kept stating “it’s this one” as he tapped the doorknob.  Maybe I was just a little tired.

Great start to our Christmas trip.