Monday, April 23, 2018

The Rest of Our Stay

April 14, 2018: Sarah and Mary just hanging out at the hotel.

The David Archuleta concert was, of course, the centerpiece of our Valley visit last weekend, but there was more. For one, we were able to eat in places not available to us in our rural mountain community. For another, even better, we got to spend some more time visiting with family!

Sarah and Mark in front of our lunch place on Saturday, Boston Market.

Most people know that I strive to stay low-carb for health and weight-loss reasons. While I don't find the controlled-carb way of eating to be distasteful--in fact, I love the foods and variety of options--it can still be a challenge to stick with it for the long term. This is mainly because it takes a good deal of planning ahead to have the right foods in the house and the meals planned. When life is rushing at you, there aren't many easy options for grab-and-go meals.

This is especially true when traveling. I always start with great intentions, but by day two I've usually blown it and then just throw my diet to the wind. I'm very pleased to report that, this time, I was successful in remaining low-carb throughout our entire Valley trip.

My low-carb plate at Boston Market, on the left, included a rotisserie
chicken breast, creamed spinach, and green beans, for a total of 12 net carbs,
Mark got to eat my cornbread. (I so need their delicious creamed spinach recipe!)

It helps that there are more dining options in larger metropolitan areas, offering a wider selection of foods that include a variety of low-carb choices. Here at home, there aren't so many. Taco Bell? Nope. KFC? Nope, not since they got rid of their grilled chicken menu. Subway? Yes, I like that you can order any sandwich as a salad, but salads only get me so far. Burger joints? It's true you can ask for your burger without the bun, but let's face it, none of them get it as right as Carl's Jr, where you can get the amazing Super Star lettuce wrap for only 10 net carbs. Sadly, there is no Carl's Jr here in the White Mountains.

Denny's has a few good options, from steak-and-vegetables to salads. Other local restaurants do their best to accommodate me, although I always feel like such a pest after I spend five minutes outlining my dietary guidelines for the waitress, who is often confused about the difference between carbs and calories, and then finally settling on whatever few options they're able to suggest.

Sarah waits at our table in Boston Market.

Prior this trip, I made a firm commitment to stay true to myself, and then I chose three of my favorite fast food/casual dining restaurants: Boston market, El Pollo Loco, and Carl's Jr. And, this time, I stuck with it!

Our room at Econolodge in Mesa.

It was 9:20 when we drove away from Lakeside. We made our usual brief bathroom stop in Globe around 11:00 and then rolled into Mesa at 12:15. Since we hadn't eaten since breakfast at home around 8:30 (I had deviled eggs), we went straight to Boston Market for lunch. Once we'd eaten, we drove around town a bit and scoped out the Mesa Arts Center to see the parking situation.

We ended up at our hotel around 1:45 and got ourselves checked in. Then there was nothing to do but wait two hours until dinner time. It was an odd moment, to realize we had absolutely no plans and nowhere to go and nothing at all to do. I wished I'd brought my laptop along, as I usually do.

The view from our little balcony at Econolodge. Including my car.

I told Sarah, "Now you see why I plan our trips with so much detail." Usually, even our down time is planned when we travel, although it's always quite flexible. I'm not exactly a high-energy person, but I do like to keep busy in my own plodding, methodical way.

Eventually, Sarah and I resorted to laying on the bed and taking silly pre-concert selfies (see the top photo). Mark had already claimed the other bed and was snoozing. Even Sarah and I dozed a bit before it was time to leave.

We picked up an early dinner at El Pollo Loco.

Ordinarily, we wouldn't go to dinner so early, but the sign-in time for the VIP ticket holders before the concert was 5:30, and I wanted to leave the hotel by 5:00 so we could get decent parking. I was also pretty sure the concert wouldn't end until at least 10:00, so we needed to eat something before the whole thing began. 

Thus, at 4:15 we were inside El Pollo Loco. I had two basic choices: some flame-grilled chicken with two sides (broccoli, guacamole, side salad, or coleslaw) for 8-11 net carbs, or one of their chicken salads. Both Sarah and I opted for the Double Avocado Chicken Salad, which came in at 11 net carbs. The only part of the salad that wasn't strictly "low-carb" was a little pile of corn in the corner of the salad. Since it was maybe only two-tablespoons' worth, and corn is at least a natural carbohydrate source, not really an issue.

I liked this cool glass wall inside El Pollo Loco.

We ordered our food to go, then drove back to Econolodge to enjoy our salads in our room. That allowed us to put off dinner time a bit longer, until 4:45. Then we left for the concert a little after 5:00. As I'd expected, the concert lasted until after 10:00, and it was nearly 11:00 when Sarah and I returned to the hotel. We were both starving by then. Luckily, I'd brought along two bags of large strawberries, so we enjoyed them as a bedtime snack.

My double avocado chicken salad on the desk in our hotel room.

So, what did Mark do while Sarah and I were having a great time at Mesa Arts Center? Well, he walked across the street from the hotel to a thrift store and paid $2 for swimming trunks. Then he enjoyed a nice evening swim in the hotel pool. When we girls got back, he was reclining on his bed and watching TV.

The hotel advertised a free continental breakfast, but the next morning Mark reported that it was basically coffee and plastic-wrapped danishes and muffins. So, instead, we all had a breakfast of the deviled eggs I'd prepared and brought from home. Then we checked out of the hotel a bit early, before 10:00.

April 15, 2018: Celesta, Levi, and Riley (who had a terrible cold).
14-month-old Lincoln was napping.

Our next stop was the home of my niece Celesta and her husband Riley. Poor Riley had been fighting a nasty respiratory thing for weeks, and he looked like he felt miserable. But we had a great visit for almost three hours, until they had to leave for their 2:00 church meetings. I'm afraid we disrupted their schedule for the day!

Mariah and Dallin with their children, Hazel and Oliver.

Also there for our visit were my niece Mariah and her husband Dallin, whom we'd spent some time with the previous night at the concert. Getting to visit with two of my nieces and their husbands and children was double the blessing!

Sarah was in heaven with baby Hazel, Dallin and Mariah's youngest.

Sarah adores her cousins and loves visiting with them, but of course the highlight for her is always the joy of spending time cuddling babies and toddlers. Luckily, there was one of each for her during this visit. Celesta and Mariah each have two children. Two boys for Celesta: Levi and Lincoln. A boy and a girl for Mariah: Oliver and Hazel.

Sarah with Lincoln, Riley and Celesta's youngest.

They kindly fed us lunch before we got back on the road. Mark had a cheese crisp and potato salad, while Sarah and I stuck with the lower-carb option of chicken and turkey lunch meats with sliced tomato and mayo. Basically, a sub sandwich without the bread. When we said our farewells and headed toward home, it was 1:45.

At Carl's Jr in Globe.

Happily, a couple of years ago a Carl's Jr was built in the small town of Globe, which we pass through on our way home from the Valley after most trips (we rarely use the option of driving through Payson, which is west of our home whereas Globe is the more southern route). These days, we often stop for a Carl's Jr meal on our way home. 

That's exactly what we did on this trip, when we arrived there just after 3:00. Again, it was an early meal, but I couldn't pass up one final opportunity to savor my yummy Super Star lettuce wrap. My dearest wish is that they would build a Carl's Jr in Pinetop-Lakeside, or even in neighboring Show Low!

A shot of my Super Star lettuce wrap.

It was about 5:30 when we got home that Sunday evening, and there was still one meal left to go. Sarah stayed at our house until quite late to watch the season finale of The Walking Dead with me (a program we both love and like to bond over), so she joined us for a dinner of grilled steaks and salad later in the evening. About 8:00, I think. 

So...I did it. An entire weekend of travel and fun, and all in healthy low-carb mode!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

He Remembered Us!

David Archuleta performing at Mesa Arts Center on April 14, 2018.

Our long-awaited "second date" with David Archuleta finally arrived this past weekend, on Saturday evening. While it was actually our third David Archuleta concert, it was only the second opportunity for Sarah and me to interact personally with David. And it was another wonderful night.

As I've said before, we knew this time it wouldn't be nearly as magical as the hours we spent with him ten months ago, in June of last year. (For that memory, click HERE.) That small, rural venue with a guest list of only ten of us for "Dinner with David," along with the surprise backstage visit after the show, was an informal, intimate experience that couldn't be recreated in this larger venue. And it wasn't, not even close. Nonetheless, David himself made it quite special for us, because he actually remembered who we were!  

David Archuleta poster outside the Mesa Arts Center. We arrived at 5:20.

We booked a Mesa hotel for Saturday night, and then we drove down to the Valley on Saturday morning. Although Mark didn't attend the concert (he didn't want to pay $200 for a VIP ticket), he took the weekend off and went with us. The concert was held at Mesa Arts Center, about a mile from our hotel.

We were issued wrist-bands and this VIP pass when we got there.

The concert itself didn't begin until 8:00 that evening, but the VIP experience was supposed to start at 6:00. We were advised to arrive by 5:30 to check in. We walked into the lobby at about 5:20, not because we were in a hurry to be first in line, but because there isn't much parking available at the Center and I didn't want to end up walking two blocks!

Sarah and I were the fifth and sixth people at the start of the VIP line.

As it turned out, there were only four people in line ahead of us. We got to know a little about them while we waited. One of the girls was actually from our area, a junior at Show Low High School. Another girl was readying her paperwork to serve an LDS mission. Sarah showed them the video of herself with David from last year, when he was explaining to Dylan that it really was him he'd spoken to on the phone. The girls got a big kick out of seeing the video.

The very first person in line was a little lady who was clearly in her sixties and surely David Archuleta's Number One geriatric fan! She was more excited about him than most of his teen-aged fans, as she described following him all over the country to attend his concerts in various states. In fact, I'm 99% sure she's the "granny-bopper" who kept blocking my view during the first concert we attended, every time she'd leap to her feet and try to grab David's hand at the edge of the stage. For that memory, click HERE.

Over the next thirty minutes, the line grew longer and longer. 6:00 came and went, but the doors didn't open to allow us entry until about 6:15. Then, at last, we were all allowed to file in and find seats in the first three rows. Our concert tickets didn't apply here (Sarah and I had second-row tickets), so it was first come, first served. Being at the head of the line, Sarah and I took seats in the first row, with our knees only a foot or two from the edge of the stage.

David sings a few partial songs during the sound check.

David and his band were already on stage, fiddling with instruments while he sang snatches of songs and the crew adjusted the sound levels. Once we were all inside and seated, David turned toward the VIP group, saying, "Look, we have a big crowd here." His eyes roamed over the throng as he walked toward the edge of the stage. Then he looked down at the front row and saw us. His eyes widened and his smile got bigger as he pointed directly at Sarah and me with both hands and said, "Hey, I know you two!"

So Sarah and I totally geeked out, of course, bouncing up and down in our seats, calling "Hi!" and waving at him while grinning like fools.

Some older ladies (not as old as me, but probably in their forties and fifties), sitting to our left, protested, "You know us, too!" He answered, "Yes, you've been to a lot of my concerts, but I just met these girls once before!"

It's true that our previous meeting was quite memorable--even his manager Kara remembered us when we saw her at Nathan Pacheco's Christmas concert and again at this concert--but I also really felt back then that he and Sarah shared a connection over their love of music. 

Then he answers questions from the crowd of about sixty people.

When the sound-check was complete, David opened the floor for questions. The girl we'd met from Show Low told him her parents would be at the concert later, and asked if David would wish her dad a happy birthday during the show. He told her he would probably forget by then, but offered to do it now so she could film it. He proceeded to sing a unique version of the Happy Birthday song that began to the tune of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and finished up with a clever little ditty.

The funniest question was the girl who asked if he was dating anyone. He explained that he doesn't talk about his dating life, then turned the tables by asking why she wanted to know. She seemed to be at a loss for words for a moment before blurting out, "Because you're cute!"

After the Q&A, I took this selfie of us in front of the stage.

Eventually, his manager noted that it was time to end the question-and-answer session so there would be time for pictures. David left the stage to get ready, and our crowd began to file slowly out of the auditorium to meet him one-by-one in the hall. This time, Sarah hung back, telling me, "I'm okay being at the end of the line for this." Ultimately, we weren't at the very end, but there were only five or six people behind us.

Then Sarah took this selfie of us with the empty theater behind us.

While we waited, someone announced loudly, "Don't ask David to sign anything. We already have signed eight-by-tens for you. Have your cameras ready." They were really trying to push everyone through this quickly. Sarah was deeply disappointed that she wasn't going to be able to get his newest album, Postcards in the Sky, autographed. She'd brought it with her for that express purpose. I don't know why that was so important to her, but it truly bothered her. As for the pre-signed eight-by-tens, she wanted to give hers to her cousin Mariah, who attended the concert that night.

After the Q&A we got to meet briefly with David and get pictures.

For me, since I had nothing for David to sign anyway, our brief meeting for pictures was amazing. As soon as we came into sight, his face lit up again, as if he were truly glad that we were there. In fact, he kept saying, "It's so great to see you again!" and "I'm so happy you're here!"

Sarah Kinsky and David Archuleta, together again!

After I posed with him and Sarah, I stepped out so they could do a picture with just the two of them. Despite the rush to get everyone through the process, David took a little extra time to chat with Sarah. He even asked her, "Do you still perform with the symphony orchestra?" He remembered that little detail about her!

One of our tickets. We were in seats 19 and 20, second row from the stage.

After the thrill of our VIP experience, we returned to the guise of typical concert goers, and the world slowed down. The concert was still almost an hour away, so we found a place to sit outside and wait. It was a beautiful day, relatively cool with a breeze. Less than a week prior, the Valley's temperature had already hit 100 degrees for the first time in 2018, but on Saturday it topped out around 78 degrees. Thank goodness. (The following day it reached 90.)

My niece Mariah and her husband Dallin also attended the concert.

We were sitting on a low wall, sipping from water bottles that cost $3 apiece at concessions, when we started wondering out loud if we'd be able to find Mariah and Dallin in the crush. At that exact moment--no lie--Sarah looked up and said, "Is that them?" By golly, it was! 

We could see them through the glass, inside the building, walking right toward us! Sarah hurried to the nearest door to grab them, and then they came out to visit with us awhile. It was a small miracle, considering that their assigned door of entry was opposite ours. Mariah said Dallin was lost, but I said he was "directed" so we could meet them. That was the story he stuck with! As for Mariah, she was extremely jazzed because this was the first concert she'd ever attended in her young life! 

Dallin took this picture before the show began.
You can see the backs of Sarah's and my heads in the second row!

One of my pirated still shots of David during his performance.

When we'd arrived earlier, there were signs in the foyer stating that no flash photography or filming was allowed. That's pretty typical and understandable. I was happy with getting some still pictures since my camera does pretty well even without a flash. However, they later switched out those signs for one that said no photography at all! That's crazy. How in the world did they think that was even enforceable, with hundreds of cell phones?

Another of my purloined pictures of David onstage. A little fuzzy.

Sure enough, dozens (probably hundreds) of phones were used throughout the concert, many of them filming entire songs. One girl in our row was told to stop filming, but eventually she was back at it. Mariah said that a girl near them filmed pretty much the entire concert and was never told to stop. We've also seen YouTube videos of the concert posted already.

I'm not much of a rule-breaker, especially if the rules make sense, so I didn't film any of the concert even though I usually like to do that (and most concerts these days do allow it). On the other hand, I'm not above a little civil disobedience for rules that are stupid. I can't see any harm that comes to an artist's brand if people take some still pictures. So, I confess, I did sneak in a few shots toward the end of the concert, when the staff seemed less alert.

The cell phone lights come out, as always, when David sings "Glorious."

As for Sarah, she was quietly doing her own plotting. She was still obsessing over having David sign her CD, so she spent the end of the concert getting up the courage to make her move. As always, David announced his last couple of rousing songs, performed them, and left the stage, followed by a standing ovation and nonstop cheers and applause. Then, also as always, he came back out to perform his two signature numbers: "Glorious" and "Crush." Then the concert is officially over and he starts shaking hands along the edge of the stage.

Sarah was determined to get this CD signed, and she did!

He started on our side and soon was reaching his hand toward me. Meanwhile, Sarah was still by her seat, fidgeting with something, and I was afraid she was going to miss her opportunity to say goodbye. In the moment David reached toward me, Sarah also finally turned toward the stage, so I gave her a little shove toward him. So he smiled at her and held his hand out to her but, instead of her hand, she put his CD into his hand. His expression was precious, both a little surprised and puzzled. I think he might have thought she was giving him a gift or something. I heard him ask her, "What's this?" Then she asked if he'd sign the cover and she quickly pulled a pen out of her pocket. Graciously, as he always does, he gave her the signature that had been so important to her.

Two days later, Sarah found a video posted, in which you can see her getting David's signature at the twelve-minute mark HERE. If I'd known what she was planning to do, I'd have filmed it, too!

David posted this photo on his Instagram after the show. Of course
he's standing in the exact spot to block our faces from the camera! Haha!

It was another amazing concert with great experiences to remember forever. There was more to our Valley weekend, of course, but I'll wait to share that in my next post!

Friday, April 6, 2018

Family Ties

Sunday, March 18, 2018: My brother LeRoy with our dad, Myron.

I've gotten so behind on my blogging that everything has become old news! This is for the best of reasons, so I can't really complain. My overall health has finally returned to the point where I have energy to tackle items on the list of things I want to accomplish. This list is extremely long, and sometimes I start on too many projects at a time. Often something ends up getting lost in the my blog.

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, the first half of March was crazy-busy, mostly with good things--especially the time we got to spend visiting with family. It began with a trip to the Valley for my family's annual Renaissance Festival fun-day, and included an evening visit with my sister, Karla, and most of her children and grandchildren. I posted that story on March 22nd.

The family togetherness continued a week later, with the start of Spring Break, and eventually included all of my siblings except the youngest, our baby brother Darryl, who lives in Missouri. I'm grateful that I got to spend time with him a year ago, when he came to visit twice last spring.

My sister Karla and her oldest, Jeremy, with our dad, Myron.
Monday, March 12, 2018

This time, Karla actually came to the mountain to see us, along with four of her ten children: Jeremy, Elyssa, Gabrielle, and Addison. Jeremy came with his wife Cami and their five children. Elyssa came with her husband Ross and their children. Gabby and Addison are still youngsters who live at home with their mom, and Karla had to come solo since her husband, Steve, had to work.

They arrived on Monday, March 12, and made their first stop at the home of our dad and step-mom, Myron and Kathy. I arrived just ahead of them and we all enjoyed a pleasant visit. Eventually, Karla's crew headed to a large, beautiful house they were renting for their four-day stay. At the same time, I headed to Denny's to pick up Mark from work.

At the adult table: Elyssa, Jeremy, Ross, Karla, and Cami,
plus a special guest...Jeremy and Cami's younger son, Braxton.

I saw them all again a couple of hours later when I met them at Red Devil for dinner that evening. With a party of eighteen, we filled four tables and had an entire room to ourselves. We had a great time talking and laughing while enjoying Italian favorites like pizza and pastas. I had the Grilled Chicken Alfredo, which is always a good choice at Red Devil. 

Karla's youngest child, Addison, with Jeremy and Cami's
two oldest children, Analyce and Jaren.

One of the more memorable moments for me was when my niece, Addison, told me about a dream she'd had. In it, she went to school and was surprised when her teacher told the class they were going to read a new book written by Addison's aunt, Mary Butler! I love it! Definitely a motivator!

Karla's second-youngest, Gabrielle, with three of her nieces:
Makayla and Lexi (Jeremy's girls) and Melanie (Elyssa's daughter).

And the rest of the little gang in Ross and Elyssa's household.

The next day, Tuesday, Karla and crew headed up toward Sunrise Ski Resort, looking for some snow deep enough to play in, since most of the snow in our area had melted away. They found a hill with just enough snow coverage left to allow for some good times sledding. They had fun and got some good photos before returning to town. Unfortunately, they also had an injury. Elyssa badly twisted her knee when she stepped into a mud-hole, and spent the rest of their stay sitting with her knee elevated or hopping around on one foot.

Elyssa, Jeremy, and Karla prepare tacos while Mark scopes out the place.

After they returned from their snow trip, I met Karla and a few others from their group at Walmart to do some shopping for the evening meal, and then we all went back to the big house they were renting. The house was beautiful, with enough beds for eighteen people and plenty of room to spread out. We immediately set about preparing tacos for dinner. I contributed my mad vegetable-chopping skills to the task.

The kids had plenty to do in their rental house while waiting for dinner.

I'd been surprised that Mark had turned down the opportunity to join us for dinner at Red Devil on Monday night, given his great love for pizza, but he'd been exhausted after a long day on his feet at work. However, on Tuesday he was more than happy to join us for homemade tacos. We were also joined by our dad/grandpa and step-mom/step-grandma, Myron and Kathy, for the evening.

The younger kids get their dinners served up first.

As luck would have it, our brother Jeff and his wife Dana were on their way to the Valley with some of their grandchildren at almost the exact same time that Karla and company were driving up the mountain to see us on Monday, so they weren't able to join us until Wednesday night. But eventually we were able to get together with them, too.

Loading up our plates: Jeremy, Analyce, Addison, Kathy, Karla, Elyssa, Myron.

Thanks to more bad luck, my daughter Sarah was scheduled to work 1-10 pm every day during Karla's stay, and she was sad to miss out on all the family togetherness. Luckily, she was able to join us on Wednesday morning for a breakfast of scrambled eggs, pancakes, and bacon with the family. Then she had to leave for work at 12:30, which also happened to be the time Karla, Gabby, and Addison had to head home to Mesa. Although it was Spring Break, Gabby had a job scheduled that night and a Pioneer Trek to start hiking the following day, so they had to leave their mini-vacation a day earlier than the others. 

More visits: Burke, Elyssa, Ross, Makayla, Jeremy, Jeff, and Dana.

I kind of expected that I'd go home at that point and not see everyone else for the rest of their stay, but it didn't work out like that, happily. While I was driving Sarah back to her car so she could drive on to work, Karla called to remind me that I hadn't gotten a slice of cheesecake I'd been promised. She said they wanted me to come back for cheesecake and to watch Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle with them. So, of course, I returned and did just that. The cheesecake was deliciously tangy and we had a great time watching the film together on the rental's big-screen TV.

Jeremy, Jeff, Dana, Lexi, and Cami share an evening.

And then my sister-in-law Dana called to say they were back in town and wanted to come by that evening to visit. I couldn't miss that!  It's too bad that Karla was already gone, but it was still good to get as many of us together as possible. They brought along three of their thirteen children: Burke, Brinley, and Callie. We all enjoyed having another dinner together, this time taco salads from the previous taco-night's leftovers.

When I left that night, I thought once again that I was saying my final goodbyes, but fate intervened once more. Sarah called me late Thursday morning, saying she had taken her car in for some engine work and it was going to take a while. So Mark and I picked her up and suggested we go to Dairy Queen for sugar-free Dilly Bars. The night before, Jeff and Dana had suggested that Jeremy and Elyssa's families stop by Dairy Queen for lunch on their way out of town, since five of Jeff's kids work at Dairy Queen. In case anyone was actually there, I thought it would be worth stopping by.

I really didn't expect it, but Jeremy's family was there with Dana and some of her kids, filling up three tables at DQ. Mark, Sarah, and I joined in and had one last, great visit with everyone for an hour or more. Ross and Elyssa had chosen not to stop, deciding instead to drive straight home. I'm sure they were anxious to return to the comforts of home after having more than their share of injuries, including Elyssa's damaged knee and a split in daughter Melanie's scalp when she cracked her head on a wall while jumping on a bed with her cousins.

Dinner at Los Corrales: Marcus, Emma, Jeff, Dana, Lori, LeRoy, and Mark.

Friday was a quiet day, in which I could catch up on dishes and laundry and other chores I had let slide in favor of spending time with family. Then, on Saturday, the oldest of my four younger siblings came to town. This was especially great because I hadn't seen my brother LeRoy and his wife Lori since July 2011, when we were in the Valley shopping for supplies for Sarah and Chris's wedding. That means I hadn't seen my brother for almost seven years! It's crazy that life gets so hectic that we allow massive time to go between seeing each other, especially when we live in the same state, a three-hour drive away from each other. Yet somehow we never stop to think about the passing of time while it's happening. It's also unfortunate that our timing was off by just three days, causing LeRoy and Karla to barely miss seeing each other. We'll have to work harder on that in the future.

Lori and LeRoy with Kathy and Dad (Myron, age 83).

LeRoy gave me a call when he and Lori arrived at their hotel at 6:00 on Saturday evening, so I made some quick calls and reserved a couple of tables at a local Mexican restaurant, Los Corrales. Dad and Kathy had already eaten dinner, so they said they'd just stay home and wait for us to come by after we ate. Meanwhile, Jeff and Dana and two of their kids, Marcus and Emma, met us at the restaurant for our 6:45 reservation, where we had a great visit and great food. It was about 8:30 when we got over to Dad's house, but we stayed up quite late, talking and laughing and reminiscing.

The two oldest of we five siblings: LeRoy and Mary with Dad. [All of us kids:
Mary (63), LeRoy (59), Karla (almost 58), Jeff (56), and Darryl (almost 55).] 

We got together one more time on Sunday, meeting at Dad's house around 11:30. For more than three hours, until LeRoy and Lori headed back to their home in the Valley, we talked some politics and some family memories, and we talked about making sure we never again let this much time go by without getting together. I think we're all finally reaching that age where we realize how Time marches on, taking us with him. Our dad is 83 now, the youngest of his parents' eleven children. All ten of his older siblings are gone. Our mom passed away at age 64; in fact, tomorrow (April 7) will be the 16th anniversary of her death. She'd be 80 now, if she were still with us. Only one of her four older siblings remains, our Uncle Leroy in Fresno. 

The lesson is, family is precious and should never be taken for granted. We're blessed to have minimal drama in our family, but if we should ever find that family ties have been broken at some point, it's worth the effort to mend the breach. Take the time to reach out, swallow the pride, forgive the hurt, extend the apology, rebuild the relationship, and share the love. Family matters! 

Lori and LeRoy with Chris and Sarah (holding either Little Bit or Rowdy).