Today, I welcomed home a hero…

I grew up in a very small town in Illinois.  Our house was a block away from the American Legion, you could see the place from my front door.  Even now, I can see the neighborhood in my mind, and the flag flying at the legion hall.  As in many small towns, the legion hall was a center for a lot of activity.  I have memories of time spent there drinking pop out of a bottle with skinny little straws, playing the bowling machine and spending time there with my father.

Like all American Legions, there was a flag pole out front, and the American flag proudly flew.  I can remember helping my father take the flag down, and carefully folding the flag.  I wasn’t very old when I first learned to fold a flag, and treat the flag with respect.  I can remember many Memorial Days spent at the cemetery, the rattling of my senses at the 21 gun salute and the flags that covered the small town cemetery.  It was Americana at it’s best, it’s what my view of this country was based upon.  In a word, patriotism.

About a month ago, I saw that one of my Meetup groups was planning an outing to the DFW airport to welcome home the troops on Memorial Day.  It tugged at my heart, and felt like a great way to spend the holiday.  I’ve spent a lot of  Memorial Days at cemeteries, to me it seemed time to thank those who serve face-to-face when they can appreciate my smile, and yes, my tears.

The information on the Meetup site gave instructions on what we could bring to the event.  No homebaked goods, but we could bring pre-packaged items.  Being my overachieving self I went out and gathered some items, and packaged them together in red, white and blue gift bags, tied with matching ribbon.  I made little tags that said “Thank You!” and attached them to the bags.

I set my alarm for 6:00 a.m., it’s a good thing, the message for the flight time said the flight was now due at 7:30.  I showered and made my way to the airport not exactly sure what to expect.  I was one of the first people to arrive.  There were some seasoned plane greeters there, so I talked to them about their experiences.

The first lady I crossed paths with was dressed in red, white and blue and was clearly a regular.  She told me that she has been doing this for 6 years.  I told her it was my first time, she told me, “you’ll be back.”  She got up to help someone else and a gentleman sat down.  He told me he had spent 8 years in the Navy.  He has been coming for the last month every Saturday to welcome the troops.

People started filtering in, there were boy scout troops, church groups. veterans, Meetup groups, volunteers and family.  I found myself a spot on the front row ready for this adventure to begin.  As much as I would have loved to have hugged the stuffin’ out of each and every soldier coming off of the flight, we were instructed not to.  In fact we were asked to yell and cheer, but not to engage the soldiers unless they initiated first.  The flight was delayed 24 minutes due to storms in the area, I kept my spot, and stood there and waited.

There were all sorts of photographers and tv crews there.  There were all sorts of people waving flags and patiently waiting for the troops to arrive.  In the background someone had patriotic music playing, and I struggled to hold back the tears.  I felt so much pride in my country, and all of those people who got up early on a holiday to do this.  I could not help but reflect back on a different time.  The war of my childhood, Viet Nam.  I was not that old, but I’m still embarrassed at the way the returning soldiers were treated back then.

They directed the family members waiting to the front of the line.  Cheers went up for the families, whose faces showed all kinds of expressions.  The next group called to the front of the line were the veterans, who were easy to spot with their decorated vests.  The terminal area was now filled with people, ready for the soldiers to come through the door.

I was further down the line, so I heard the cheers long before I saw the first soldier.  It was quite a moment to see that first smiling face walk down the path way filled with people.  To all of us they were rock stars.  Around me I heard, “Thank you” “Welcome Home!” “Welcome to Texas!”.  There were soldiers from the Army, the Marines and I really think they were surprised at the rowdy crowd there to welcome them.

I shook a few hands of soldiers and looked into their smiling faces and said, “Welcome home!” I struggled with tears as I watched families arm in arm with their returning soldiers.  The father who waved his flag over head as he walked out with his son left me in a puddle of tears, he had tears in his eyes and he looked so proud.

I had given up my bag of *goodies* to a table with items people had brought for the troops.  The bag was gone, and it make me smile that for 30 soldiers, I had added a smile to their day–close enough to a hug for me.  I shared part of myself, I was part of something that was so much bigger than I could have ever imagined.

These troops come in to DFW every day of the week, not just on holidays.  The lady this morning is right, I will be back.  If you have ever had a doubt about the greatness of this country and the people that serve and protect our freedoms, I challenge you to experience this just once, and come away with anything other than pride in our country.

Today was about honoring the troops, those who serve, those who have served and those who have sacrificed for the freedoms that we enjoy today. After the last soldier had passed through the line, the veterans began to filter their way out of the airport.  There were just as many hands reaching out to shake their hands.  I shook every hand and said, “thank you.” I’m not sure that it makes up for the welcome that they did not receive when they returned from Viet Nam.  Every one of them thanked me for coming out to do this today.

Reflecting on the drive home today, I realized that for me, this was about honoring the memory of a father and a mother and a stepfather who gave me a firm foundation of right and wrong.  I’ve sent packages to the troops, to friends that have served in the military, but today really put things into perspective for me.  I saw the faces, I saw the disbelief at the crowd of people and I saw their smiles–that my friend was a priceless moment that I plan to repeat-often. :)

“I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives.  I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him. ” ~Abraham Lincoln

….and from my friend Jeff Pulver….

Each day we have another chance to make a difference.

What will you do to make a difference?

I❤ America…every day, not just today.

Help someone achieve a dream…

That’s number one on my list of things to do. It’s not often that you get an opportunity to nudge someone along the path to their dreams.  When I see an opportunity to do that, I embrace it and find a way to help, or to at least try to help.

I’m a big believer in The Secret, the Law of Attraction and the power of the Universe to make things happen.  My friend Meachy is a big believer in God and in herself and finding a way to her destiny.  What’s not to love about that kind of confidence and determination?

Meachy has her own channel on YouTube, her videos are filled with all sorts of energy and encouragement.  Tonight when she posted this video asking for people to help her get to her dream, I decided to do my part to help.  Oprah has a contest for people to star in their own TV shows.  Meachy recorded a video and she has decided to go for her dream.

It won’t take long to cast your vote for Meachy…follow the link, watch her video and feel her passion for her dream…AND VOTE!

“Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.”  ~ Gail Devers

A very full weekend…

I seemed to be all over the Metroplex this weekend.  Not enough for a Where’s TexAnnie event, but enough to keep me hopping.   I spent Saturday up in the Parker/Allen area, shopping and had a great lunch at The Village Burger Bar in the Watters Creek area.  I had their blue burger with sweet potato fries.  I am pretty sure they snuck some green stuff in on me, I think there was avocado on top of that burger in addition to the blue cheese.  I also had one, ok two of their watermelon mojitos.  The bartender told me it would be the best mojito I have ever had–he was right.  Lunch was outside on the patio, and the sun seemed to move in and out making it a wonderful way to spend two hours on a Saturday afternoon.  Time spent with my friend Carol was priceless.

Sunday started with the alarm clock ringing at 6:00 a.m.  I had signed up to do the Hills & Heels event in Las Colinas.  I’m not a runner, but thought that walking the 5K was in my comfort zone.  It was cloudy and cool, which made for a great walk.  There were lots of men in skirts, really SHORT skirts that started my day with a chuckle.  You have to admire men that are that confident in themselves to run around in skirts.  There is an amazing bronze in the center of Las Colinas, and no visit to that area would be complete without seeing these horses up close and personal.  It was a fun, no pressure event.  I am pretty sure that I bested my time on a 5K walk.  I’ll wait for the official time but I was pretty proud of how I did today.  I think that the dancing I have been doing has increased my stamina.

I decided to reward myself with breakfast at my favorite breakfast spot in Texas,  Cafe Brazil.  When I first started coming to Texas to visit, a stop at Cafe Brazil either on the way in from the airport, or heading back to Ohio was part of the deal.  I can remember some sad breakfasts there, I really felt like I was leaving home when I had to leave Texas to head back to the cornfields of Ohio.  But now, I can go to Cafe Brazil whenever I like.  My favorite meal there is the half order of french toast with fruit.  This morning I decided to change things up a bit and I ordered the pan crepes with fruit.  Wow, I now have a new favorite at Cafe Brazil.  I also have a new goal.  I’ve decided to try breakfast at all of the Cafe Brazil Restaurants in the DFW area and try something new at each one of them.  This photo was taken pretty close in time for the Moment in Time photo project, so that was my entry.

One would think that would be enough.  I came home and had a long hot bubble bath, a nap and I was ready for my last adventure of the day.   I decided to head off to a painting class at Painting With a Twist in Grapevine.   The project for today was a tropical island scene.

I decided to skip the wine for this Sunday afternoon painting adventure.  I had bought a coupon a few months back from a local radio station promotion.  My first visit to Painting with a Twist was with a Groupon Coupon.

On my first visit, the picture we were painting was traced on the canvas.  This time, there was a blank canvas waiting for me.  A BLANK CANVAS?  How in the heck was I ever going to paint this scene with no lines to follow? Then we began…

The instructor stands up on a small stage and paints.  She has a great deal of patience, and if things get frustrating, it’s amazing what a difference a little sip of wine can make.  But remember, I was just drinking water?

I’m not sure if mine is looking exactly like hers, or even close.  But I keep following along, convinced that by the time I am done, the painting will sort of resemble what she’s trying to teach us.  There’s lots of laughter in the room during the class.  It’s really a low pressure environment, and it’s all about having fun, and not being perfect.  I walked away to wash out a paint brush and decided that my painting looked pretty good from across the room.

The finished product…It looks great in the photo, and not too bad from across the room.  I headed for home with a smile on my face, not too bad.

Joy is the feeling of grinning on the inside.
Dr. Melba Colgrove

A weekend filled with adventure…

My *firsts* in Dallas continued this weekend.  On Friday night I ventured to Arlington and attended my very first Texas Rangers game.  The weather had been threatening showers and storms all week, but magically there was a beautiful window of weather that opened up for the game.  It was a company sponsored event, and my ticket included all you can eat nachos, hot dogs, peanuts, popcorn and soft drinks.  I’ve been to a major league baseball game, but this was my first time to do it in Texas.  Detroit tied up the game in the final inning, and there was an exciting finish to the game and the Rangers won.  I got a kick out of the fireworks afterward, and filed another memory in my Texas book of firsts.

Saturday was Sandwiches for Soupmobile day.  While making a trip to the store to pick up my donation of bread, meat, cheese and sandwich bags I received a text message from Julie.  Julie is new to Texas as well, and she’s been joining me for the sandwich group.  She asked if I was up for dollar days at the racetrack.  Sure, I didn’t have any plans, why not?

I’ve been to the dog track a time or two, but have never been to the racetrack to see horses race.  Everything was a dollar, admission, hot dogs, beer and popcorn.  The place was packed and there were long lines to make bets.  We finally started using the electronic betting machines.  The lines moved much faster.  Our race picks seemed to win the races we did not bet on, and for the day I only had one winner.  I loved the name of the horse *Shesacougar*.  I took the wussy bet, and picked her to show, and of course she won.  My winnings $4.80.  I won’t be quitting my day job anytime soon to bet on the ponies.  The weather was perfect, the company was fun, it was a great afternoon, and probably cheaper than movies and popcorn for fun.  I heard people complaining about the lines, saying that dollar days was a terrible day to go to the races.  I just enjoyed the moment, and the people watching was priceless.

After the races we decided to have dinner at an Argentinian restaurant.  The restaurant, La Carreta, was brand new and reminded me of a house with a patio on the front for dining. We were greeted at the door by a young girl of about 10, she was delightful, and kept our drink glasses filled.  Julie & Blake shared a pizza, I opted for the Caprese salad, a very refreshing warm weather type dish.  All three of us ordered empanadas.  I decided that the blue cheese and ham was just too hard to pass by.  I’ve never had an empanada before, but this one was pure heaven.  The crust was light and flaky, the balance of cheese and ham inside was wonderful.  It was a the perfect end to a great day.

Sunday, was another beautiful day in Texas.  I had made plans in my head the night before to do a little spring cleaning, to open up the windows and rearrange furniture.  Oh, my plans were grandiose to be sure.  Then my friend Critt asked me how the azaleas were this year in Texas?  I took that as my nudge from the Universe to head to the Dallas Arboretum to enjoy the weather, and the flowers–especially the azaleas.  I made a trip to the arboretum last year on Halloween.  The place was packed, and I thought it was because of the Halloween event.  Today the parking lot was just as full, and the arboretum was filled with families, couples hand in hand, and people like me with camera in hand taking photos.

It’s funny how out of the blue emotions can sneak up on you.  One minute I was walking through the garden taking photos, and in another moment I had a wave of emotion that was so strong I started to cry.  It may have been a combination of the amazing flowers, the scent of all of those blooms, I’m not sure, but I was reminded of my mom.  She loved flowers, and no matter where she lived, always surrounded herself with a variety of blooming plants and bird feeders.  She would have loved the gardens at the arboretum.  More than once I buried my face in a bunch of flowers and just took a deep breath today, trying to take it all in, to press the scent into my memories.

I took time to walk through the gardens, and to be in the moment.  I stopped on a bench and just took in all that was happening around me.  I know that sooner rather than later, the Texas heat will arrive, but days like today, they are meant to be savored, not spent inside of an apartment cleaning and organizing.

I’ve always believed that I have two guardian angels, my mom, and my friend Maria.  Both of them loved flowers and I am sure that they were with me enjoying the day today.

I made a stop at the Farmers Market on the way home and bought new potatoes, fresh green beans, garlic and some apples for the week.  I decided to bake some chicken breasts and I diced up some onions, used some of the garlic and added the chicken stock and some white wine.  Paired with the new potatoes for dinner it was yummy.

The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.  ~Hanna Rion

If you’ve never been thrilled to the very edges of your soul by a flower in spring bloom, maybe your soul has never been in bloom.  ~Terri Guillemets

What’s cookin?

I took a cooking class today…What a great time!

Vegetables are a must on a diet.  I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.  ~Jim Davis

My try something new adventure for April was a cooking class. Cooking for one is much different than cooking for a family of 4 in the cornfields.  I am terrible about eating junk because cooking for myself just seems to be more of a bother than anything.  The idea was that we would learn to cook and have enough to take home for two meals.  So far so good.

It was an overcast day in Texas, the perfect day to be inside.  The cooking class was held in the kitchen of a local recreation center.   I got there about 15 minutes early and the kitchen was set up and organized with a myriad of utensils and cutting boards.

….and there it all was on the table staring back at me….


Anyone that has remotely crossed my path knows that I don’t eat green stuff.  Some green beans, some salad, but not much beyond that.  I kinda figured there would be green stuff to cook.  I made up my mind that I was going to try anything that I cooked today.  Today I didn’t cook a single thing that I had ever cooked before.  It was a jump way outside of my culinary comfort zone. On the menu today:

  • Lemon Dijon Salmon
  • Quick Lentil Salad
  • Sauteed Broccoli and Spinach
  • Lemon Lovers Asparagus

Note here, everything but the salmon was or had green stuff.

First up, preparing the dijon sauce for the salmon.  It was made with fresh lemons, olive oil and dijon mustard.  Really quite simple to whip together.  We then covered the salmon with the sauce and stuck it in the oven to bake for 10 minutes.  The kitchen was starting to smell quite yummy.

Next up, the asparagus.  Honestly how does one live this long in life and not have a clue how to prepare asparagus?  The cooking instructor really gave me an asparagus lesson and once again a very simple recipe.  We roasted the asparagus in the oven.

Next up broccoli 101.  The only way I have ever had broccoli was steamed…blech not a fan.  But today I learned how to cut up broccoli, and we sauteed it in a pan with some garlic and olive oil and tossed in some fresh spinach and cooked it down a bit.  The scent of garlic was filling the kitchen and most of the rec center by that point.  People were stopping by, poking their heads in to see what we were up to.

The last dish of the day was the lentil salad.  I’ve had lentils before, I’m not a big fan.  I’m still not a big fan, but I at least tried them, and will try them again.  The salmon did add some flavor, it’s supposed to be a cold salad, I’ll try them tomorrow just one more time.

All in all it was a good day of cooking.  We were there for about 90 minutes, and I came home with a GREEN folder with the recipes, a shopping list and some other great cooking tips.  I felt that it was $40 well spent, and I have a few new recipes that I am sure I will make again.  I’ll probably try the sauce on another type of fish, and add some red onions to the broccoli and spinach dish.

Cooking is like love.  It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.  ~Harriet van Horne

Donna was great today…she converted a non-green stuff lover like me to healthy cooking.

Yesterday was a drop dead beautiful Texas day.  It was a day filled with blue skies, sunshine and things that made me feel good inside and out.  It was sandwich for Soupmobile day, so I headed to the Deep Ellum area of Dallas to make sandwiches with friends.  There are a core group of us that seem to be there for the event twice a month.  It’s fun when new people come, and you can see in their eyes that they are enjoying themselves and will be back the next week.  I like the fact that I can sleep in on a Saturday morning, drive to downtown and be done making sandwiches in just a little over an hour.  Yesterday we made 1,030 sandwiches, that’s enough for two days worth of sandwiches for the homeless of Dallas.  It was a small group, so I was impressed by what we were able to accomplish.

There’s lots of laughter around the tables, and good natured teasing.  I think that’s why I enjoy the sandwich making.  The people who have been there before, take the newbies under their wing, and it doesn’t take that long to become an expert.  It’s just a bologna sandwich after all, not rocket science.  :)  It’s bread, bologna, mustard, cheese, bread on top and into the ziplock bag.  You learn tricks the more often you go, like don’t buy bologna with a rind, we have to peel those off, and unwrapping single sliced cheese is a real challenge with plastic gloves.

After we finish making sandwiches, some of the sandwich makers will stay and have lunch at the restaurant that lets us use their dining area.  The food is always great, and Barbara the owner is very generous to let us use their facilities and provides us with free drinks.  The conversation around the table for lunch is just as engaging as it is during making sandwiches.  I love these Saturdays.

I had some time to kill afterward, so I decided to visit the Dallas Farmer’s Market.  It’s not far from the sandwich making venue.  It was a treat for the senses.  There were a variety of fresh produce, plants and flowers.  As you walk by each of the vendor stalls, they were passing out samples of all sorts of fresh fruits.  I nibbled on pineapple, strawberries and watermelon.  I found a vendor selling some frozen concoction labeled catnip for humans and had to have a sample.  It was a lemon variety and very tasty.  I don’t believe I experienced any cat like behavior afterward, but I did lazily sit on a bench doing some people watching while enjoying the treat.

There was a blind guy playing the harmonica and singing at the front of the Farmer’s Market.  I slipped some money into his container, and my favorite photo of the day is this one.  I had taken a photo earlier of the harmonica player, but this one with the artist is so much better.  It seemed to capture the essence of the moment for me.  I think the artist thought I was a little crazy when I asked to take her picture from behind.

I bought some pears and some golden delicious apples.  I ate an apple on the way home from the market it was sweet and wonderful.  I started my day off with one of the pears and it was the best pear I’ve had in awhile and for a few days I’ll have the fruit to enjoy and remind me of a bright sunny afternoon.

Another adventure in Dallas

In my quest to try at least one new thing every month–last night I ventured down the road to attend my first Contra dance.  Honestly, I had no idea what I was in for.  I had watched a few videos on YouTube before leaving home.  The closest thing I could compare it to were those gym class square dance lessons in elementary school.

The venue was great, a big dance floor and a big surprise for me.  There was a live band there.  The band consisted of two guitar players, a mandolin and a fiddle player.  They were tuning up as I arrived.  No smoke filled bar, no alcohol–the drinks were supplied by two large coolers one with lemonade, the other with ice water.  Admission was $8 at the door for non-contra members and I was handed a card for free admission to the next dance.  I found a seat in the balcony area and watched the band tuning up and did some people watching as the people began to filter in.

It as obvious I was a newbie in my jeans and short sleeved top.  Almost all of the women had on long flowing skirts.  I was beginning to question my bravery at this point, these dancers were hard core serious about their dancing.

About 15 minutes before the dance started there was a short beginner dance lesson.  One of the gentleman there for the night took my hand and asked me to dance. One thing I quickly learned about Contra dancing—they love to spin women around.  I thought I was struggling with the spinning in my country dance classes, but this was spinning on steroids.  I did my best to not do a wild twista spin across the room.  The key was looking at your partner and smiling up in there face to keep from getting dizzy.  It worked for me, and once I learned that trick the dizziness (at least on the dance floor) ended.

For each dance, they would go over the steps for the new people before we started.  During the dance the caller would of course call out instructions.  Men were encouraged to change dance partners every dance so you are able to dance with a variety of people.  Also during the dance, you change partners until you dance with every person in the dance line.  With that in mind, I danced with every man in the place.

…and boy the place was filled with men.  I rarely lacked for a partner, and everyone was nice, friendly and most of all patient.  The dance moves were easily learned and most of the people there had been doing this type of dancing for years.

I’ll go back.  It was a fun dance option and I feel as if I had a total workout at the gym following that class last night.  It’s fun to open up to new ideas, new kinds of dancing.  Looking in from the outside, this might look a bit hokey, but being there in the middle of the action, it was lots of fun.  I didn’t take any photos last night, I was too busy dancing!  This image is from the Wikipedia site.

Wikipedia – Contra Dancing