Friday, December 3, 2010

Chapter 4 (My Trip to the Alamo)

Every year our staff attends our sectional meeting, which is a networking meeting among 6 different State Associations. Each year a different association hosts, and this year it was Texas. They brought us to San Antonio and we had such a great time! Just a quick overview...we stayed in the Emily Morgan hotel. Emily Morgan was the Yellow Rose of Texas. My very limited knowledge of the history is that she was the prostitute who distracted the general so that we could win the battle of San Jacinto. Here's a brief version of the story posted on the hotel's website...

The Battle of the Alamo (February 23-March 6, 1836) is considered by many historians to be the turning point in Texas’s fight for independence from Mexico. Six weeks after the battle at the Alamo in April of 1836, the Texan and Mexican armies moved their confrontation to a small prairie called San Jacinto. During siesta time on April 21, 1836, the Texas army led a charge against the Mexican camp. General Santa Anna, leader of the Mexican forces, had posted no guards, and the Texans won the decisive battle in less than an hour.

Folklore states that the Mexicans’ slow response to the Texans’ charge was due to General Santa Anna being otherwise occupied and entertained during his siesta by Emily D. West, a twenty-year old black indentured servant who had been captured along with other members of her household by the Mexican forces on April 16, 1836. Emily was indentured to Colonel James Morgan, and custom at the time dictated that indentured servants take the surname of their master, hence the reason she is more widely known as “Emily Morgan.” Though there is no official account of a woman in Santa Anna’s tent at the time, a journal entry written in 1842 by British traveler William Bollaert planted the seeds of Emily’s legend: “The Battle of San Jacinto was probably lost to the Mexicans, owing to the influence of a mulatto girl belonging to Colonel Morgan, who was closeted in the tent with General Santana (sic), at the time cry was made, ‘The enemy! They come! They Come!’ She delayed Santana so long that order could not be restored readily again.” While the loss of the battle is officially attributed to the overall carelessness of General Santa Anna, the folk legend of Emily Morgan’s role in the battle began to grow, with portrayals of Emily ranging from a sweet young girl who distracted the general with a simple dance to a cunning and clever vixen who drugged the Mexican army’s leader as he slept.

Not much is known about Emily Morgan’s life after the end of the Texas Revolution; after several disputes over her status as a “free black”—her papers confirming this were lost when she was captured by the Mexicans—it is believed she returned to her home state of New York. Her legend, however, continued to grow, and it is widely held that she was the inspiration for the much-loved song, “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” written shortly after the war.

A popular version of the song with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, from the 1944 film The Yellow Rose of Texas:

Found on the world wide web, December 3, 2010,

Well, the hotel was initially built as a Medical Arts building, and housed patients at times. Certain floors are said to be haunted.

This was the view from my hotel window...

Yep...that's the Alamo!

The weekend was a great time. I participated in my first 18 hole golf tournament and played on the same team as our National Association Director. Fun times! We actually got to have dinner in the Alamo, which is a VERY rare occasion, so something I will definitely treasure. And, no trip is complete without a little bit of drama. One my co-workers managed to break her foot stepping off of a step (no criticism here, that's how I injured my ankle every time!), but didn't think it was that bad. By the end of the weekend she could barely walk, and was too stubborn to accept any help. When we got back into town, her first stop was the ER where they told her she had broken her foot in 2 places and that she was lucky she hadn't harmed it while walking on it! She's all recovered now :)

It was a fun time, and I am continually thankful that I have the job that I do. Not only do I get great opportunities such as this, but I LOVE my job! I love what I do, I love the people I work with, and I get paid well. Last week it really hit me that, even with such a great job there are days that I get home, crash on the couch and wonder if I can do it anymore. How in the world do people get up every morning to go to do work that they don't like, surrounded with people they don't like, at a job that they don't get paid dirt to do? Let me repeat...I AM SO BLESSED!!!!

Chapter 3 (The Newbie)

As you all know (or most of you anyway...I love that I'm assuming there are enough people reading this that I can refer to you as "all") Sprite is getting old. He was my first pet that I got after leaving home and he was all my own. I got him my sophomore year of college and we've been through a lot together. Well...he'll be 13 in April. I decided that since he's getting up in age, and since I would DEFINITELY rather him be the mentor for a new addition as opposed to Caspian (LOVE him...but he can be a brat!), it was time to start looking for another dog.

I have really liked the American Eskimo breed. Yes, Sprite has some behavioral issues that I could live without, but I'm convinced those developed due to his being abused before I got him and that they are not a characteristic of the breed. So I started looking for an American Eskimo to adopt. I found a few here and there, but none of them were going to be a good fit for my household. Then I found an advertisement for an American Eskimo/Cocker Spaniel mix on Craigslist. More due to curiosity than interest, I asked for a picture and a back ground story. Well, the story goes that this young couple inherited this dog from the woman's aunt and that he was great but full of energy. She was ready to have a baby (and I mean REALLY ready...I was afraid I was going to have a whole new kind of adventure during our meeting!) and she said the dog was eating their chickens. She and her husband had decided, begrudgingly, that once she had the baby she wouldn't be able to keep up with the dog as well. It sounded legit enough for me, so I decided to go check out the dog.

Myself, Erika (a co-workers daughter who I affectionately refer to as mini-me), Sprite and Caspian loaded into my car and drove out to Moriarty to meet the couple and the dog. They opened the door of their truck and the poor thing was cowering near the stick shift and would not move. The husband lifted him out onto the ground and he seemed to loosen up a bit. I would soon determine that that's because he was no longer in an enclosed area with the man. Initially, I was pretty convinced that he wasn't going to work for me. But something kept me coming back. Sprite and Caspian seemed amiable enough, so eventually I decided to take "Reeses" home with me.

The car-o-phobia continued all the way back to Albuquerque. And he was so dirty that Erika was completely covered in red dirt by the time we got home. We decided that the first move should be a bath. Yet another phobia. Thank goodness she was there, because there is no WAY I would have been able to man handle him enough to stay in the tub for a bath. It definitely took all four hands, and we probably could have used a few more. Because he was so dirty, it took us a good 30 minutes to wash him well. Once we did we let him roam the house. Poor thing was so afraid for the first few days, I was starting to wonder if he was going to loosen up at all. Turns out, he had good reason to not trust humans.

I have a feeling he was abused, but even more so, neglected. We think he's about 3 years old, he had no records, had NEVER been brushed, had dew claws grown in circles, hadn't been fixed and was about 8 pounds under weight. When you consider that he should be about 30 pounds full grown, that's a sizeable ratio. He was definitely hit, and more than likely by the man. He STILL takes a while to warm up to my dad when he comes by (and he's a big teddy bear who is one of the dog's biggest fans!).

Ultimately, my luck in finding animals who need a good home continues. One of our first tasks was to rename him. Try saying "reeses" in an authoritative manner! Lucy and Caspian are named after characters in The Chronicles of Narnia. And Sprite, although many people tease him about his relationship to Dr. Pepper, was actually named for his sprite-like movements when I first got him. (A sprite is basically a mythical creature similar to a fairy.) So, to keep things balanced, we aimed for another mythical creature. The result...Griffin. And it fits him perfectly! He is a total mama's boy (I'm sure I had something to do with that) and has become a fast member of the family. He and Caspian are becoming great pals, and his interactions with Lucy are something you would have to see to believe. A glimpse...they give each other eskimo kisses! Sprite is still grumpy and I do my best to make sure he's not feeling nudged out. But he is just turning into a grumpy old man.

So...back to the issue of the breed. The dog is DEFINITELY not an American/Eskimo mix. I had settled into him being a mutt, but then he helped me solve the mystery. The first leash walk I took him on was quite enlightening. As we walked he kept bumping into my leg. Then I realized it was his TEETH bumping into my leg, which is a nice way of saying he was nipping my leg. I actually thought it was pretty cute, and didn't think too much of it at the time. When I was telling the story, a few different people piped in saying that he was "herding" me. (As a side note...the funniest thing about telling this story in person is that everyone thinks I'm saying "hurting," so instead of getting looks of understanding, I get looks of the "what a woos" variety. I've started saying "He was herding me, H-E-R-D-ing me.") Moving on...I decided to look up herding dogs. Oh my...I did NOT expect to see pictures of my dog pop up, but that's pretty much what happened. See below for comparison pictures. Turns out, I had found myself an English Shepherd...a breed that is rare to the United States, and for which you almost definitely have to be on a waiting list to get one. unintentional breed snobbery continues! This means I now have a 1)Champion blood, AKC registered American Eskimo, 2)Pure bred Toy Poodle and 3)Rare, pure bred, highly desirable English Shepherd!

So with no further adieu, here is Griffin!

This is the best full body picture of him that I have.

This is a picture of an English Shepherd from the internet.

This picture, although VERY dark (sorry), is the best to capture how beautiful his face is.

Here's a glimpse, albeit a dark one, into his and Lucy's relationship. Incase it's too dark to pick out with out a description...they are both sleeping, and his arm is on top of her. I woke up to this one morning!

One big happy family!

So with the new addition, I may have officially turned into a zoo keeper! The picture above was taken when watching some late night television...Lucy is stretched out on my legs, Sprite is on the Left, Griffin on the right (don't tell them they were laying that close to each other), and Caspian's at the foot of the bed. They all have such character, and I really have been blessed with wonderful animals!

Chapter 2 (The Cruise)

Shortly following graduation...ok, the next day...I set off on my graduation/30th birthday celebration cruise. Carrissa joined me, and although I had initially hoped for a large group of girlfriends, I think we had more fun being just the two of us! I have yet to find someone who I can travel with like I can with this girl. We always have a blast, we know when we're ready for some apart time, and neither of us takes it personally when it comes to that. I think it helped that her early to rise/early to bed ways combined with my sleeping in/night owl personality made for a built in alone time format! When we've traveled together before, we've had to initiate that apart time because we are waking together, spending the day together, and crashing together. This time, we had nowhere to go but elsewhere on the boat (for the most part) so there was no schedule that required set bed times and rising times. It was awesome! Here is us on our first night on the boat. Ready for some relaxation and entertainment!

Here is us on our formal night...we both had great tans and let's just say we were exploiting our assets!

Our first stop was Grand Turk, which was beautiful but more of a cruise island. We decided this would be a good time to do an excursion. Now, I have to give myself credit for truly conquering a fear with this one. We decided to to a Sting Ray/Snorkeling excursion. Quick side note...this would be a good time to know that I am terrified of water creatures. That's not entirely accurate, I am terrified of bodies of water through which I cannot see that happen to have creatures in them. So yes, this was different, but still a stretch. Let me see if I can paint you a picture...

We get on the little ship that's going to take us out to the island with all the sting rays. While we're going, the guides are going through the typical safety talk which I pretty much let go in one ear and out the other until I hear..."Don't worry, no one is going to get killed by a sting ray." Another pat on Kristin's back for not piping up with "Have you ever heard of Steve Irwin," the immediate thought the popped into my head. Well...seeing as this lessened my faith in our guide's ability to keep us safe, I decided it would be best to listen to the rest of the instructions so I could take responsibility for my own safety. He started talking about the Sting Ray Shuffle...assuming we weren't going to be coreographing a dance on our already time crunched trip, I listened even closer. The Sting Ray Shuffle refers to the concept of shuffling your feet through the sand when walking, rather than lifting up your foot to take a step. Why? Because sting rays really only attack when they are stepped on. Sounds easy enough, right? So we get on shore, we disrobe into our bathing suits, and about 20 of us enter the water en mass. Everything's going well, and I feel pretty darn confident in my shuffling abilities. We all get situated in a crude semi-circle around the guide while one of his minions fetches a sting ray. While they're doing this, another guide is telling us that there will be sting rays swimming in and out from around our feet and just to ignore them...wait, what???? Sure enough, about 2 minutes into the activities, a school of sting rays decided they would have a better chance at free food if they were doing acrobatics around the fleshy posts sticking out of the sand. At this point, I'm wondering why I decided to conquer this completely rational fear, and out of the water I go...

Briefly...then I decided that I would forever regret that move and that I needed to get myself back in the water, embrace the sting rays weaving in and out of my legs, and ready myself for whatever was next. So I shuffle myself back into the water, tolerate a few sting rays swimming around, and settle in to watch and listen to the guide. I hadn't thought about the tide, however, and was soon finding myself losing my footing as the waves were coming in. This may not sound like a big deal until you think of how you steady yourself when knocked off balance. Need help? You pick up your foot and place it down in a location more conducive to standing upright. Oh wait...I can't pick up my foot and put it back down because I am convinced that if I do so, I'll join Steve Irwin on the very small list of people who have been killed by a sting ray. So again, I ask you to imagine (and don't worry, I've come to grips with the fact that you'll be laughing) I am standing in the sand, the wave then comes in and knocks me off of my balance, I manage to keep one foot in the sand and I am flailing my arms around frantically in some sort of treading water attempt trying to stay upright while sliding my other foot down my leg and into the sand so that I don't step on a sting ray. Whew...just recounting it is exhausting!

Well, just when I got this down and was feeling quite comfortable, the guide calls me up. It's my turn to hold, kiss and be massaged by the sting ray. I almost ran out of the water again, but instead I mustered up the courage to shuffle my way to the front and come face to face with one of the cutest, yet ugliest creatures I have ever seen. Here are some pictures of the experience...

Holding the sting ray.

Sting Ray Massage

And Carrissa's turn. She's so tiny, she couldn't get her arms wide enough to hold him right.

Sufficiently convinced that I had conquered my fear to a satisfactory level, I decided it was time to get out. I waited on shore until the rest of the crew joined me (I would like to point out that there were a handful of people who NEVER got in the water) and it was time for snorkeling. Turns out, the snorkeling was really just an excuse to charge more for the trip...there wasn't really anything to see at that particular location, except for more sting ray. So instead I went back on shore and meandered around the beach. I walked onto some lava rock and suddenly see no less that 8 conch shells sitting out for the taking. (I did take one, endured the odor for the rest of the trip, made it all the way back home with it, only to realize that I had no way of polishing it.) I also found a beautiful piece of coral which I quickly claimed as my own.

At this point the guide calls us all to get back on the boat so we can head back. As I was getting onto the boat, a wave came in, and the coral was knocked out of my hand and back into the sea. I was bummed, but only temporarily cause I knew it was gone for good and there was nothing I could do about that. So I climb aboard and get myself settled for the short trip back to Grand Turk. Then one of the guides taps me on my shoulder and hands me my coral!!!! Our guide, Lucky, had seen me drop it, seen my frown and dove into the ocean to retrieve it for me! You would have thought I had been reunited with a long lost relative. I thought that definitely merited a picture with Lucky and the piece of coral, so here you go.

We returned to Grand Turk, relaxed on the beach for a bit, and then trekked back to the ship (not really much of a trek, but it sounded good). On our way out, I saw these beautiful flowers and wanted a picture in front of them. Wish I would have taken a close up of the flowers, but here's a picture of me and Riss as we were leaving Grand Turk Island.

That was the most exciting story from the trip, so the rest of the recap will be pretty brief! Our next stop was Half Moon Cay, by FAR the most beautiful beach I have ever been to. Due to the aforementioned fear of murky water, beaches and I don't typically mesh too well. But I was almost completely comfortable hanging out in this water. It was clear as clear can be, and so shallow. In the picture below, I am guessing we are about 30 feet into the water. The groups of people in the distance behind us are standing up! It was amazing, and I can now relate to the draw people feel to tropical locations.

Our last stop was Nassau which was really just a shopping stop. There wasn't too much to do without purchasing another excursion. We did some shopping through an outdoor market which may have been the craziest shopping experience I have ever had. Then we enjoyed some conch for lunch and made our way back to the ship. Not an overly exciting day, but fun nonetheless. Here's a picture of us as we are leaving Nassau...and yes, the water really was that blue.

So we got back to Miami, spent a day at South Beach (where I proceeded to get one of the worst sunburns in my entire life) and made our way to the airport to go home. It was an awesome time and a perfect way to celebrate!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Catching up...

I really do enjoy writing on my blog, but for some reason I continuously forget about it. I am convinced that there are people out there who are upset by that and I ask that you let me continue to think that :-)

In all seriousness, I just wanted to put out one mass update on what has gone on in my life since I last wrote. First off, if you read my very last post, thank you for any thoughts and prayers that you sent out on my behalf. I continue to be humbled by God's faithfulness, and I rejoice in the fact that He will continue to mold me into the woman He wants me to be.

In May I graduated with my Masters in Educational Psychology. It felt like a long time coming, but when I think about it, it really didn't take me that long. I am just so glad to have it under my belt! I have made myself a promise to stay out of school (that sounds so vagrant!) until at least the age of 35. There are so many other things that I look forward to that require being part of the outside world. Remaining cooped up in 1) work, 2) a classroom, and finally 3) my home (doing school work) was counterproductive to accomplishing said goals! So, here is a picture of me walking the stage and receiving my diploma...and the last of it's kind for at least 5 years :-)

I was initially going to make this one large update, but after typing the next portion I realized it would make more sense, and be more reader friendly, to break it into chapters. So...end chapter one...