Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Streets

I burned out today before I could get to another post. Ah, summer - it is here. :)
These streets don't need many words anyway, so take a peek at the old city of San Juan. Charming!

Historically this building was a convent. Now, it is a hotel and aptly named Hotel El Convento.

This made me laugh - Puerto Rico Drugs sits across from Walgreens.

Genuine straw hats from Ecuador, as seen on these folks, were abundant and costly. They started at 70 dollars and ranged to 150!

It is places like this that had me desperate for google. Abraham Lincoln? Wha? There was a large replica of his statue also.
Most of these shots are of residential or empty buildings. Many buildings were run-down and/or under renovation. The streets with shops are plenty, but I guess I was too busy going inside the shops to take pictures! Imagine! But it is here that San Juan's status as a long-time port city is seen. The merchandise comes from around the world, and the restaurants serve authentic food from Europe, Asia and of course the ever-present US (Pizza Hut! Chilis! BK! Starbucks! Seriously!). There are tacky-knack souvenir shops snug against top-of-the-line jewelry shops, and leather boot shops sit alongside Peruvian souvenir galleries. It was a treat to wander along the narrow sidewalks and cobblestone streets... and it is of a small enough size to become familiar with quickly. We walked across the city in 15 to 20 minutes, then turned and criss-crossed through another few streets.
Of course we stopped to sample the cerveza, on such blistering hot days, so -
Next up? Food and drink, hotels and.... the beach!

Monday, May 30, 2011

On the loose!

We were on the loose last weekend.
Footloose and fancy-free, is that it? I don't know that feeling well, but it sure sat comfortably, for something new! Worries were really put aside, as apparently my Noonie (Phoenix) & Crew were Just Fine Without Me. Wot?! Whew. Wow.

And so Rick & I proceeded to enjoy the freedom and the quiet in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We marveled over the past 15 years of marriage, and 10 years of babies, and felt really justified in a little {first} time off. What took us so long, to get away for a moment? Just life. Life in its busy ways, and "later" mentality.

I don't know how many posts I will make of this, but I can tell you now, the crown jewels of San Juan are El Morro and San Cristobal - the forts on the sea. As a veteran of forts all over the eastern seaboard, I can say these were spectacular. Beautiful! My Dad, as a history and war buff, dragged us to every fort and battlefield he could. I have seen many. My gracious, many. But these? A marvel! The Spaniards did not build for utility alone. They built for function, efficiency, and by god, beauty. Why else would the arched doorways and windows draw you in, and make you gasp at the waves crashing on the rocks below? It may have been a lonely post, peering out to sea for ships coming in, but it was not without its perks. The two forts flank the ancient (over 500 years is ancient, right? In U.S. terms? :)) city of San Juan. As the park guide directed, envision all of these walls as white (from limestone), as they were when they were built.

Castillo San Cristobal, a watch tower

The view from a rectangular window in the watch tower

I was all along the watchtower...;)
Looking from a watch tower of San Cristobal to Castillo El Morro... this is my favorite shot.

Rick, who had anticipated the forts being a little ho-hum, was amazed. The 17-foot-thick walls? The architecture on the rocks above the sea? Built 500 years ago, by conquerors from thousands of miles away? Pretty incredible. We walked and talked and mulled over this and sweated. Yes, sweated. Which brings me to my next shot. These little beauties brought the most wonderful breezes, in that humid 90 degree heat - we would walk to each arch and sigh in pleasure.

Ah, the breeze... it brings a smile...

And thank the good architect there were many arches, along the seaside. Wise man, that Irish fellow. ( In an the enemy of my enemy is my friend kind of way, the Irish sided with the Spanish to foil the British, back in the day. Hence the Irish architect of these Spanish forts.)
And though San Cristobal is beautiful and well worth the stop, Castillo San Felipe del Morro is simply beautiful. It sits at the tip of the city of San Juan, guarding the riches of the Americas and the entrance to the Caribbean.

That view, that breeze...

The view from one of El Morro's watch towers, to the crashing sea below

The view from the edge of old San Juan, to El Morro.

It is good to be home. And good to share our beautiful time away. I'll be back tomorrow with more! Much snuggling to catch up on...

Sunday, May 22, 2011


These birds of spring speak words that uplift and encourage...
Courage...promise...fire...heart and succeed.
Succeed, well this one is still in the cage, while the others have been set free. A fitting metaphor for me, for now.
One that inspires and goads and drives, because the other words - those feelings?
They are surely out and on the loose.

This project was a mixed media experiment. Chipboard birds, scrapbook papers, rub-on letters and cut-out phrases from a dog-eared college Shakespeare paperback are the basics. The stuff that inspiration is made of for me, this week.

Gearing up

After a whirlwind early May, it ain't over yet.
Here we come, vacation! I feel like I will crash the moment we are away from home, having already accomplished a long-distance wedding trip, baseball playoffs, two boys birthday parties, pre-planning two class parties, Room Mom duties, eight teacher gifts and thank you notes (specials teachers included!), a kindergarten field trip, school Spring Fling, and Field Day - all without quitting my day job. ;-) Which, this month, has been to prepare for a first parental trip away from the brood. {Must.Think.Of.Everything.They.Could.Possibly.Need.While.I.Am.Gone!}
Rick and I leave for our anniversary trip to Puerto Rico on Wednesday (taken a month early out of grace for my mom - as it is a bit easier to watch the brood when 3 are still in school), and I am anxious and thrilled. It is hard to leave and give up care of my turkeys... They are a handful but they are MY handful...
I am giddy because this is our first trip outside of the country together, and our first trip alone in ten years. YaHOO! Eek!
And so that's what's going on....
In the meantime I have been working on a little project for myself, because why not squeeze some creativity into the mix - and it has turned out just right. Along the lines of the last post, it is a bit of inspirational decor to hang in my office. Stay tuned for that post, which should happen tomorrow, barring any complications on the home front. Ha. Ha.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Flint and Spark

Our dreams are not the same
We thirst for different water
Our hands can clasp only for a moment
Then I must step toward my light
Drink deeply
Inhale courage
and step forward.

Our lives are not a match
Our ways diverge sharply
and yet we can spark -
flicking small lights of inspiration
that can only in times come from
and an uneven meld.
Spark and step away
Light up and retreat:
This can be such
good thing.
BL 5/15/11

I am not the first to find inspiration in conflict or strong emotion. To find my stance only in opposition to another. Some of my clearest writing comes in defense or in personal salvation; in pouring out the rub on paper. I think there is power in recognizing this. Power in knowing that if everything was {roses} there would nothing to light the fires of creativity.
Nothing to flint the sulphur of the soul.
I am learning. Honing my chosen tool and learning what brings it out in force. What causes a smile, a pounding heart, a twisted mouth and the errant tear. I am a diligent student. I am not, however so aware of when the student has completed the course. My husband knows I would be a professional student if it could be allowed... and so he quietly edges me toward the lip of the nest. He provides me with the necessary tools and the proverbial backbone. I am a noodle-like bird - at once al dente, next moment overcooked and sliding to the floor.
I use a lot of words when one good cliche would do the trick.
Pardon my southern french, as I tell my own self:
Sh!t or get off the pot.

Maybe that will be the next segment I will take on this summer, in addition to The Sunday Creative. :) Thank you for listening, as I talk myself through the next turn in this path.
Your comments and emails are always a treat.
Happy Sunday...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

End of an Era

Phoenix, at big bro Cole's birthday, last week

This is it, friends.
This is the last day of a two year old in the house.
And with the way he is acting? I don't know whether to celebrate
his oh-so-over-the-top-two-ness, or quake in my boots at the thought of what three will bring.
His every sentence begins with a negative: I don't want...
-to go potty
-to nap
-to be in my bed
-to brush my teeth
-to be buckled in
-to eat

While I hold him, as he forcibly insists, he tells me go away Mom, 'er not bein' nice.
I respond that he can get down anytime he wants. He answers I NOT gettin' down.
We have to laugh.
He is so conflicted and so TWO.
He is all wild boy and baby for one last day, and then the baby word is retired. Glaring eyes tell me so: I not a baby, Mom. Giggly boy tells me so: I 'er baby, Mom!
He teases me with promises of a smooch, and runs away hooting.
He stands by Daddy's desk and rules like a tyrant: Get on the floor. Get on the floor. Get on the floor! His Daddy tells him he has to wait a bit. Waiting is not in his lexicon: Get on the floor now, Dad!
Daddy always gets on the floor. He remembers all too well how quickly the sweet days fly, how short the baby times really are. He soaks it in and tells me to ease up.

'Er my best friend ever Mom and Dad... 'Er my best friend ever Cole...'Er my best friend ever Jadey...'Er my best friend ever Belly... He thrives on being the center, the hinge on which we swing.

Even now, the fresh bath smell lasts mere minutes. It is quickly replaced by the I Am Boy fragrance of sweaty playful child, and whatever the last meal happened to be.
The Days of Two - we love 'em and long to leave 'em. Just for a minute.
That about sums it up.

Summer 2008

I love these shots: Hi Mom... oh! Is that my fist? Right there? Oh, it is so enthralling... oh fist, my fist, how I love thee. How I love the way you move all around, teasing me...

'Er my best friend too, my best little bud...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Flyin' Solo in Atlanta

Here's the recap!
I started my Solo Adventure in The City by heading to Nadeau. I had been hearing about this shop from my friend Shah, and knew that would be a fun place to start. It was! It was relaxing to meander around and look at cool furniture and accessories. I decided I wanted this weekend to be all about getting away from the norm. Here's the little treat I chose, and I'm so excited to find a home for it. I thought it could sit on the ottoman, but it turns out (in the first day) that too many little drinks and crumbly snacks and scratchy toys were being stored there. Who knew they would like it as much as I do? I picked the black one, and the hand-painted detail is so pretty.

After a wrong turn into a {fancy} linen store that featured $268 hand towels, I made my way back to Lenox. The Lenox area is a great mix of stores, offices, a mall and restaurants. Way back in another life, (oh, 13 years ago) I worked for two years in the Lenox Building at Swiss Reinsurance. It was fun to be back in an area I rarely go to anymore - and to feel comfortable that I knew my way around.

In the spirit of adventure and fun, I checked into the Intercontinental, popped a champagne cork and watched Oprah. I know. Decadent, right?? :) Well, it was Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks, so who could resist. And really, thank goodness Rick's Holiday Inn promo was good for the Intercontinental - because kicking back in a Holiday Inn would not have been quite so fab!

Feeling refreshed at 5:30, I did not head down to find dinner. No. That would have been far too normal, to eat at that hour of the day. Much more fun to shop at Macy's, Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters until dark! That's the way a mom rebels - by not eating at her kids' dinner hour. :) After a quick bite at the bar, where I happened to sit beside two Buckhead cougars on the prowl, I headed back to the 17th floor. Time for an abnormal evening that included a long, uninterrupted soak in the garden tub, and reading in bed. If you haven't read any of Rick Bragg's memoirs about his family in Alabama, you should. All Over But The Shoutin' and Ava's Manare my favorites, and this weekend I had the final installment along - The Prince of Frogtown.

After a good sleep and a lazy morning (coffee and a book in bed - see the theme?) I was ready to slowly make my way north again. Crazy how 20 little miles can be a world away. Next I headed up to Roswell, for the annual favorite art show. It's held outside in Roswell Square, and is so picturesque with all the white tents pitched in the historic area. There are always beautiful handmade things here, from pottery to jewelry to paintings to photography. And many other crafty things in between - carved wooden dog bowls, sculptural yard art, recycled glass art...
We go to this festival each year, and since it is always on Mother's Day weekend, I usually choose a pair of earrings for my treat. This year I loved a necklace...

I wound up my Solo Tour at the library book sale. Perfect! And cheap, which was crucial by this point. :)
When I got home and gushed about how much fun it all was, Rick was a little surprised. He knew the alone time would be nice, but he didn't realize I would have so much fun. I made it very clear that this was The Best Gift, and please sir, could I have some more...

Friday, May 6, 2011

Waving goodbye!

This is me, wide-eyed and ecstatic, waving goodbye for the night!
The perk of a traveling husband: free hotel nights earned.
The perk of a crazy-sweet husband: the gift of 24 hours ALONE.
Wot? Me? Alone? Practically the only nights I have spent away from all of my children, are the nights I was in the hospital having more children.
But today my early Mother's Day gift is to leave at noon, and come back tomorrow at noon.
So yours truly will be in Buckhead at Lenox (Atlanta) browsing and just generally lolly-gagging around. ALONE. Let's all say it together!

This is going to be a Real Treat...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A bit more wedding drama

So yesterday we left the weekend wedding recap with an arrest and bail-out, from the first day of our trip. The next morning dawned sunny and perfect for a lakeside wedding. We noshed on cheese biscuits, readied the brood, and went back to the lake for the ceremony.
We were seated in the front row, and I got to catch up with my paternal grandmother Mamaw before the procession. She was helped to her seat, with diabetic shoes on and an oxygen tank to boot. Poor Mamaw has been hit with so many ailments, she seems to always be struggling through a health crisis. Year after year she tells us this might be time, that she is on her way out. Year after year, the impending birth of a new great-grandchild (guilty!), a family wedding, or a visit keeps her hanging on. I kid you not when I say that my grandmother has been "about to die" for 25 years. And for the past two weeks she has declared that this is it. She is ready to go, it is her time, she is only waiting 'til after Jeremy's wedding.

With that said, I was happy to sit and catch up with her (one last time, right?), and listen to her chat to Phoenix. As the wedding started, and Jeremy walked up on the stage, Mamaw began to utter little exclamations of adoration: "Oh! Oh! He's so handsome... Oh! He looks just like his Daddy." Jeremy does look a lot like our Dad, Mamaw's eldest son. And the sight of him looking so handsome up there made us miss Dad so much, we both sat there a bit teary-eyed and sentimental. The ceremony continued, and I could hear Mamaw continue to make small noises and pray under her breath. It all seemed quite usual to me, as she has often told us her prayers are what have kept us all safe.
So the ceremony ended, my cousin came with the golf cart to move Mamaw, and I went to the reception tent. Not long after, another cousin came up to me at the reception and whispered that Mamaw had just been taken the local hospital and then life-flighted to a larger hospital. We stood there disbelieving. Could this be "it?" Could she have been right, and just barely kept her word about sticking around for the wedding? We giggled nervously, shifted in our seats and hoped for the best. We recounted the many times Mamaw had been hospitalized over the years, and the legendary tale of the time (25 years ago) that she actually did die, and was resuscitated. We were raised on her story of "seeing the light and feeling God's love" so this was a familiar recounting of family lore, as we waited for further word of her condition.

We didn't have long to wait. Early into the evening I got a call from my Uncle Ed. The grandmother of nine lives had rebounded! The doctors had put in a pacemaker (add undiagnosed heart troubles to her list!) and she had perked right up, regained her orientation, and lost the swelling in her feet. My Uncle chuckled that she had another 25 years in her now, so we could all rest easy. While I was relieved by this news, it did nothing to mollify the dawning horror. All those little "Oh! Oh!" wedding noises and the praying going on right beside me? Were the sounds of my poor dear grandmother in distress and on the cusp of expiring!

And I thought it was just my handsome brother making her ferklempt...

So there we have it. An arrest and a life-flight. Two little dramas to round out a wedding weekend. :)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The fine print: wedding drama

Now, everyone knows that a wedding must be accompanied by some drama, right? It's like, a law or something. And my brothers both run with a fun crowd. Oh, let's be honest, there are 6 of us little Washington Watson cousins that grew up together, and 4 (possibly 5 , I'll have to confirm) have had some run-ins with the law. My name was not on that list. Until this weekend.
I do count myself a little lucky that it took this long for me to have to bail a brother out, so, there's that.
And what else do we have in our favor - oh yes, it was not the Groom brother that was fetched from the drunk tank! {Yay, Jeremy.}
The tale goes something like this...
Upon returning from the rehearsal dinner, a carload of family members found themselves stopped at a road block not ONE mile from our family home. Said roadblock was so near by, in fact, that all those at the home saw the police car's lights and wondered who the lucky perp could be.
Shortly thereafter, I found myself being awakened to handle a Situation. Because, upon review of the adults present, (and there were m-a-n-y) I was deemed most presentable and sober to go down to the jail. And God forbid we wake up Mama, poor thing, because even if we had, she would probably have made him spend the night. Like a lost little lamb!
I walked bleary-eyed from my mother's over to my brother's next door. The after-party was still hopping, so I told them I was heading downtown on a rescue mission. The general consensus was that of course I knew exactly where the courthouse and basement jail were located. I piped up accordingly: "I have no reason to know where any law enforcement facilities are located, people!"
To which they were kind enough not to sneer "goody-goody" to me...
And so Elder Brother's partner John and I set off to brave the wilds of downtown LDubs in the night. (cue crickets chirping and stoplights blinking yellow)
After an incorrect stop at the municipal building's deserted basement, and a reconnoiter of the police station, we finally found the correct building, complete with the magistrate waiting outside to greet us.
"Ya'll here for Mr. Watson?"
Why yes, yes we are.
"Ya'll aren't drunk are ya? You can't sign for him if you're drunk."
Apparently it happens all too often, that the rescue mission is undertaken by fellow party-goers.
And at this point my guilt-o-meter goes into overdrive, reviewing all meanings of the word and its undertones, just as John points at me and says
"SHE isn't drunk sir, and she will be signing."
Raise your hand if you are of sound mind, smile encouragingly, and just go for it.
"I'm just tired sir, they got me out of bed."
Inane remarks, feel free to spill out of my mouth at will.
"Just have a seat, he'll be right out."
And then there he was, my brother - jester of the jail, accompanied by a grinning deputy. Seems he made some friends.
My favorite line:
Officer to brother, smilingly: So what'd you tell the arresting officer, same as everybody does, that you'd only had two beers?"
Brother, snidely: "Hell no, I don't drink beer."

Stay tuned for the next installment of Wedding Drama, which usually travels in sets of three, but fortunately stopped at two...

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Family Wedding

My fancy brood, ready for their wedding assignments: 2 flower girls, Cole as ring bearer, and Phoenix... wedding shrieker (I only wish it was Wedding Singer...)

My {cute} brother, the married man...
(yes, Isabella is ready to take. off. that. dress!)
The adorable couple, and my new sister Susan :)

The Wedding Weekend was a fantastic party! The rehearsal dinner was held at my Uncle Kim's place on the river, and it was great fun to reconnect with the family. The wedding festivities were held at my Mom's property, with the ceremony taking place at the family lake just down the lane. My grandparents Jehu & Joan are responsible for this beautiful place, and we are holding them accountable! :) It was an absolutely gorgeous day, and the mix of long-time friends and family was so special. (Waving hi and thanks to Susan, Emily and Allie for coming to hang out! There's never enough time to catch up...XO)

More to follow... as we dive back into the swing of things at home. Baseball playoffs, birthday parties for our two boys, and an anniversary trip to prepare for. Yeehaw!
:) Have a wonderful week...

Turning Ten

He arrived on his due date, a timely little fellow. He bucked all the trends of first children, barreling his way into the world after a few short hours. I didn't know much about birthing, but I knew enough to tell the nurse that she was wrong, and this baby was not waiting for the doctor's schedule. But (barely) wait he did, and hurry, the doctor did.

Beaufort County Hospital, NC - 2001
And just like that, we were parents. Our preparations were many, but in the end you can only sink or swim. The first child, the first grandchild, the first nephew - a sweet addition. He has gotten used to being First.

Rick & Cole, Mt. Dora, FL - 2002
A winsome boy, he went about making friends and fans in a happy way. He approached strangers with a smile, seeming to know when it would brighten their day.

Cole with Thing 1 and Thing 2, Spring 2005
He welcomed twin sisters with a thrill, taking to big-brotherhood like a natural. He snuggled and loved on them, and wished we could have ten more. Or at least one more, so that we three each could have one to hold, he advised.

We obliged.

Cole and Phoenix - Spring 2011

Happy, happy Birthday to our Ten Year Old. It has been an education, kid. You set the bar high for those coming along behind you...

*I'm late with this post, since we were out of town at my brother's wedding. We celebrated Cole's birthday May 1st, with my family in Washington, NC. Cole was born there, but we haven't been there for his birthday since he turned one. So it was a neat coincidence! Wedding post coming soon!!*