September 11: 20 Years Later

It’s been 20 years.

Twenty years since I dropped my oldest daughter off for school and drove home with our other three little ones.

Kennesaw Mountain Field of Flags: one for each person killed on 9/11/2001 plus 13 extra at half mast for the Marines, Sailor & Soldier killed in Kabul two weeks ago.

Twenty years since I heard the breaking news of a plane flying into Tower one of the World Trade Center as we were just minutes from our house.

Twenty years since I rushed into the house and turned on the news only to watch in horror as a plane flew into Tower Two on live TV.

Twenty years since the stories of hijacked planes rang in my ears as I hugged my three little ones.

Twenty years since a plane crashed into the Pentagon.

Twenty years since brave men and women stopped a plane from crashing into another target, but lost their lives in a field in Pennsylvania.

Twenty years since I checked my oldest out of school.

Twenty years since I called my husband nonstop while he was working out of town on a construction project. He didn’t know and I begged him to come home.

Twenty years since my daddy opened the doors of the church building and brought the community together for hours of prayer for lives lost, our nation, our government.

Twenty years since we held hands and hugged necks of strangers in our community because we were all shocked, saddened and confused.

Twenty years and my heart breaks for these families and our nation now as much as it did then. It doesn’t seem that long, yet here we are.

A lot has happened in twenty years. My babies are grown. They remember. They’ll always remember, just as I do. That day impacted their lives forever and helped mold them into the young adults they are today. They grew up in a different world than I did. We talked a lot about how the world changed after 9/11. As I said, we have not forgotten.

Unfortunately many of our nation have forgotten and we are not very United. I do not feel very secure and do not trust our government. 9/11 was tragic, but I miss 9/12.

Do you remember?

The 25th Year

Last week we officially closed the door on the last 3 years of our life in Loganville as we dug up the hydrangea & locked the door.

Now as full empty-nesters Audley & I are finally under one roof (he’s been living in an apartment for 2 years instead of driving 150 miles round trip everyday for work) living on the west-side of Atlanta. This was the 15th move we’ve made in our 25 years of marriage, which we also celebrated last week.

This move was probably the most difficult and for sure the most stressful in the fact he & I did 90% of it alone between Audley’s work schedule, wedding planning for our youngest daughter, lots of uncertainty and a of course this pandemic.

2020 has been an interesting year to say the least.

While 2020 has been memorable in its own way, the beauty and nuttiness of the last 25 years mixed with the excitement of the next 25, definitely overshadow any craziness that this one year has thrown our way.

Audley and I have four amazing kids, & now three sons-in-law (so much has happened in the last 10 years while writing this blog) who are contributing so many beautiful and positive things to this world of ours. Police officers, medical personnel, minister, exercise specialist, preschool teacher, Marines (we have 2 now!); we have much to be proud of when looking at our kids.

Having an empty nest at the quarter century milestone is a whole new world for Audley and me.

We have never been “just the two of us”. I became a full-time mom the day we said “I do”. Being parents together for the entirety of our marriage has been a large part of our identity.

Now, with Madeline saying her “I do” last month the full-time parenting chapter of our story has closed! Now we get to write the next chapter as we discover new adventures together. I have no clue as to what the next 25+ years will look like for Audley and I, but can guarantee it will be filled with love, growth, discovery, new adventures and as always God-centered.

So cheers to the next 25 years and whatever adventures come our way!

Celebrating 20 at the Hilton Waikoloa

So it’s a milestone anniversary in your life and you want to celebrate it big?!  I have a great idea for you!

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you probably caught a glimpse of Audley and I recently celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary in Hawaii.  This was a dream trip for us and I want to share some of it with you, beginning with the fabulous Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island of Hawaii.

We spent five nights of our trip on the Big Island.  As I share my little review with you I must tell you that stays on both the Big Island and Oahu were covered with Hilton Honors points.  It pays to stay brand loyal when traveling (which Audley does a lot for work).  Hilton has one of the best loyalty programs on the market right now and we have enjoyed its benefits for nearly six years.

Hilton Waikoloa Village

Since our stay at the resort was a points stay it really could have gone two ways; poorly (because it was free and they weren’t making anything off of us), or exceptionally well (and our stay was definitely exceptional)!

I could write for days on the wonderful time we experienced at the Hilton, but I’m going to be reasonable and share some of the finer points, beginning with our arrival.

We arrived late in day for our stay on the Big Island.  We were tired after a day of sightseeing on Oahu and then flying Hawaiian Air over to the Island.  Walking into the open lobby was so lovely.  Fresh flower arrangements brimming with native flowers were a delight for the eyes.

Hilton Lobby

The young lady checking us in was a peach.  She was so friendly and immediately made us feel welcome.  We expected to pay the $25 a day resort fee as well as the parking fee, but were surprised when we were informed that our resort fee was waived (since we were on Hilton Honors points) and we were free to enjoy all of the resort perks on them.  To say we were stunned was an understatement!  We were also gifted with vouchers to apply to meals we enjoyed while at the resort as well as a gift certificate for special drinks on our anniversary.

After a fifteen minute walk to our room (we chose to stroll the hotel instead of taking the tram), Audley and I excitedly unpacked for our Hawaiian adventure!

I will be honest with you, we didn’t spend all of our time at the resort, although it is very possible to do so.  In fact if you are traveling with younger children, they can have a wonderful Hawaiian experience without having to drive all over the island and exhausting them in order to have one.  Audley and I drove over to Volcanos National Park to hike, visited the Volcanos Winery, checked out Greenwell Farms coffee plantation, hiked some more at Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park, toured the Painted Church, and did a little antique shopping……

Big Island Highlights

BUT, the resort has so many neat activities, from hula lessons to a dolphin experience and some fabulous restaurants that you don’t even have to leave the Waikoloa Village to enjoy a Hawaiian experience.

Here are some of the highlights of our experience at the Hilton:

The art.  From the moment you walk into the Hilton Waikoloa you are surrounded by artwork of the many cultures that have influenced the Hawaiian Islands over the last couple of centuries.  Audley and I thoroughly enjoyed walking the flag-stone paved walkways taking in the many statues, paintings and treasures.  The artwork is original and plenty of antiques to satisfy the historian inside.

Hilton Hallway

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This was by far one of my favorite pieces; it reminded me of my girls.

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Audley had a little too much fun; apparently being in Hawaii and away from work brought out the kid in him.

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I Love my hubby's sense of humor.

I Love my hubby’s sense of humor.

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We appreciated the transportation through the resort, although we only utilized it a couple of times.  There is a air-conditioned tram that runs 24 hours a day around the resort dropping off guests at various locations.  The Hilton Waikoloa also boasts a canal with a sweet boat ride.  We enjoyed just puttering around in the boat at the end of the day.  We only used the train once and that was the evening we were dressed up for our Anniversary dinner.  Otherwise we preferred to walk everywhere.  It’s healthier and you could see and enjoy so much more!

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The dolphins were beautiful to watch.  We didn’t pay for the experience, but you still have access to watching these majestic creatures play.

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We ate a several local places away from the resort, but we also checked out a couple of  restaurants located inside.

Sitting down to our anniversary sunset supper at KPC

Sitting down to our anniversary sunset supper at KPC

Kamuela Provision Company was by far the best dining experience we had on the trip.  With a sunset anniversary dinner on the lanai we could not have ordered a more perfect evening.

Lanai Sunset

The food was fabulous and our waiter was outstanding!  He offered to take pictures for us (no dinner selfies; a very exciting prospect) and completely exceeded our expectations for service.

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I also appreciated the fact the Kamuela uses local ingredients from seafood to vegetables whenever possible.  It makes a huge difference in the quality of the food!

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Imari Japanese and Sushi restaurant was another wonderful supper choice for us.  My sushi was so delicious and I’m ashamed to say that I might have eaten myself into a wee bit of a sushi coma.

Audley's sashimi platter

Audley’s sashimi platter

Imari Sushi

We enjoyed the Big Island breakfast buffet one morning, but I didn’t feel like I ate $40 of breakfast (an omelet and fresh fruit) since I’m trying to stay healthy, so we didn’t make that a daily option.  I carried protein bars which served their purpose for morning fuel.  Iced coffee from Waikoloa Coffee Company was an everyday treat.  I only hated they closed in the afternoons and at night as an evening coffee would have been divine.

We did not enjoy dining at the Boat Landing Cantina (which may have been due to the people seated near us; please make your kids behave public parents and if you’ve had too much to drink, don’t be so loud…. we don’t care!) nor did we particularly care for the Chinese restaurant (we found the food to be rather unflavorful). Although, I did hear other’s saying they thought their Chinese meal was delicious.  But then again, is not my favorite cuisine.

Having photographers throughout the resort was nice.  They aren’t professionals by any means, but it was nice to have a few pictures of us that weren’t selfies since we were traveling without the kiddos.

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Anniversary date

Shopping in the Hilton Waikoloa was lovely as well.  We had access to traditional souvenirs, but also the ability to shop for something a wee bit more of a keepsake…

Nalani Infinity Pendant purchased at Na Hoku & gifted to me from Audley.

Nalani Infinity Pendant purchased at Na Hoku & gifted to me from Audley.

I do want to point out, the Big Island was formed from Volcanos.  If you are looking for the white sandy beaches of Waikiki or the North Shore of Oahu you really won’t find that here.  There are some man-made areas available in the resort, and around the island, but the Big Island is more about history and the rugged beauty than beaches.

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Tropical Storm weather made for some beautiful waves

To me the Big Island is so much more laid back than Oahu and Maui which is perfect when you are wanting the perfect get-away to reconnect with your love.

From start to finish, our stay at the Hilton Waikoloa was a wonderful experience.  Honestly I cannot think of one negative event that made any impression on us.  We were even upgraded to a full ocean view 24 hours into our stay.

Ocean View

Ocean View

I know that if we make a return trip to Hawaii, this will be our destination without a doubt!  Check them out.  You won’t be sorry at all!

Our Last Sunset on the Big Island

Our Last Sunset on the Big Island

**ALL opinions are totally mine and I was not compensated in any way for this post.**

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Marriage Matters: It’s the Little Things

In just two short weeks Audley and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.  I never thought I could love this man of mine any more than I did on the day we said “I Do”, but truly, I DO!

We were so young!!

We were so young!!

I’ll be the first to admit we haven’t had the perfect marriage, nor have I been a perfect wife, but I wouldn’t change a thing we have been through the last twenty years for anything.

There was a time when marriages that lasted 20 years was quite the norm, but not any longer.  My heart hurts for the many friends of ours whose marriages have crumbled and broken up over the years.  On more than one occasion Audley or I have been asked how we have such a happy marriage and kept it together despite the odds that are stacked against all of us in this world.

The truth of it all is narrowed down to one scripture from the Song of Solomon….. “I am my beloveds and he is mine.”

Yes, we have a brick at the NASCAR Hall of Fame immortalizing our love for each other .... and the sport.

Yes, we have a brick at the NASCAR Hall of Fame immortalizing our love for each other …. and the sport.

It’s that simple.  Audley and I belong to each other; I submit to (completely respect) him as the head of our home, family & spiritual life and he in returns respects, honors and treats me like a queen and “loves me as Christ loves the Church and gave himself for her.”  I am not trampled on, taken advantage of or looked down upon, but we are partners in a life that is Christ centered.  We make mistakes, but at the end of the day we still love, honor and cherish each other which leads to a love that makes us truly happy.

Today I thought it would be fun to share just a few ways that we keep the love and romance alive.  After all, it’s the little things we do that will make or break any relationship we are in!

1.  Next to God, Always put your spouse first.  And I do mean always.  Yes moms, your kids/jobs/home/life in general have exhausted you, but remember, your spouse is tired as well.  Husbands must deal with deadlines, disgruntled employees, demanding clients, and in some cases OSHA, MSHA and the EPA which can make for a mentally exhausted man at night.  Don’t give your leftovers to your lover, give them your all, even if it’s putting the kids to bed an hour early (IN THEIR OWN BEDS…. I’m so against co-sleeping) so you can fall asleep on the couch together.  Your spouse deserves to feel wanted in their own home, not a guest who is in the way.

2. Pray or have devotion time together.  The world is constantly hitting us from all directions.  Its our jobs, family obligations, current events, music…. you name it, there is plenty to take us away from God and directly toward the world.  Take time to reconnect with God and your spouse.  I can assure you that those moments of prayer and devotion are the strongest you will feel in your love and marriage.  Audley and I have done the Love Dare together, as well as used a devotional Bible for couples over the years.  Read books to inspire or encourage your marriages.  Of late Tony & Lauren Dungy’s book “Uncommon Marriage” and Al & Lisa Robertson’s “A New Season” have been reads of ours.

3.  Date your spouse.  You dated to get to know each other before you married, so don’t let it stop!  Once kids and jobs come into in picture we change.  You need the time alone together.  Believe me, it does you a lot of good!  Keep dating each other and always having fun together!  When it comes to dating, you don’t have to make it expensive or extravagant.  Believe me, in our 20 years together we have been broke as can be and still found a way to have one-on-one time.  I know sitters aren’t always available or affordable, but you still need that time alone.  Our favorite dates ever have been the ones where we never left the house.  Those were nights when we put the kids to bed EARLY, ordered take-out and picnicked right in our living room.  A few candles, soft music and food someone else cooked and we are were all set!

Sushi carpet picnic anyone?

Sushi carpet picnic anyone?

Even with our kids perfectly capable of taking care of themselves, we still like our traditional carpet picnic.  Try it!

4.  Talk.  Something so simple, but something that so many stop doing.  Talk about work, home, kids, hopes, dreams, plans, ideas, feelings, highs and lows.  Don’t hide things from your spouse.  Share the happy moments, the irritating moments and the funny moments; let your spouse do the same.  You can laugh and be silly, but whatever you do, don’t be afraid to communicate!  This is how you continue to know who you are married to.  We all change as life circumstances change.  If you aren’t communicating then you  are losing the opportunity to know who you are married to!  Audley puts it this way:

“If you have an expensive car like a Mercedes, BMW or Lexus, you’ll do whatever you must in the way of maintenance to keep that car at peak performance. You know that vehicle, it’s quirks, what makes it run well and you know when it’s not at its best, and needing maintenance.

It’s the same way with your spouse. You learn when things are well with your mate, what they like and dislike, when they are struggling, and even every little quirk they have. They are precious and should be treated as such. You do whatever maintenance is needed to keep your marriage fresh, alive and always growing; always at it’s best.”

And one last point, communicating is NOT nagging, griping and beating down your spouse because they aren’t living up to YOUR expectations.

“Better to dwell in a corner of a housetop, than in a house shared with a contentious woman.” ( Proverbs 21:9) “Better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and angry woman.” ( Proverbs 21:19)

“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” (I Peter 3:7)

5.  Take care of yourself.  Oh how controversial this can be especially for stay-at-home-moms.  I have heard the excuse so many times that it is more important to take care of the kids instead of yourself and I’m totally going to say that is a crock!  Don’t neglect your children by any means, but take the time to pull yourself together for your own sanity and for your spouse.  Ladies, in most any industry in which your man works, he is around women who are dressed for success.  How do you think he feels to come home and see you still in your pajamas, hair unkempt and food from the kids on your shirt?  I’m not saying go all “Stepford” for him (well maybe occasionally surprise him there…. haha), but shower while the kids nap or watch a movie, brush your hair even if it’s to put in a ponytail or headband, add a little mascara & lipstick, and for heaven’s sake, put on some clean clothes!  Yoga pants with a matching tee-shirt is perfect.  Jeans and a button down top work well.

I have two favorite at-home “uniforms”: maxi dresses (they are light and flowy) and leggings with one of Audley’s button-down shirts. Add lip gloss, mascara and a pair of earrings and I feel beautiful!

And while I’m on the subject of taking care of things, don’t neglect your home either.  Take a few minutes each day to pick up before your spouse comes in.  The less chaos that greets a husband or wife when they arrive home, the more relaxing the evening can be!  (I’ll cover this in another post)

6.  Compliment one another.  It’s OK to tell your spouse that they look good/pretty/hot/sexy….. Really, it is!  Recognize when your wife has a new haircut or color and compliment them.  Wives, don’t forget to tell your hubby how great the yard looks after he has mowed.  And even after twenty years its OK to continually tell your spouse that your favorite pot roast and vegetables is still the bomb.

7.  Surprise one another.  Nothings says I am thinking of you more than a little surprise for your love.  Surprises don’t even have to be extravagant.  Here are a few ideas:

*Love notes in lunch box/suitcase/briefcase/diaper bag….

*Single rose (or favorite flower)

*Starbucks coffee at work

*Favorite chocolate bar (not good if your spouse is on a diet)

*Homecooked lunch at work

*Sleeve of golf balls before his next game

*A spa day for her

*Edible fruit arrangement

*a cake for two to eat after the kids go to bed (Publix has these in their bakery)

But a word of caution husbands…. appliances may surprise her, but not in a way you might like!

Power tools …. always a good surprise, especially for the DIY minded wife!

And lastly 8.  Even if the dog is barking, the kids are crying, you are a hot mess, or running behind, ALWAYS pause for a kiss and a hug!  As humans we crave touch and I don’t mean sexual touch.  We crave the comfort and love a hug can represent.  Touch can also be soothing to us; a way to ease the pain of things not going as you had planned for the day.  Men, your wife needs to know you are still attracted to her and want to touch her.  But more than anything showing affection to your spouse teaches your children that it’s ok to show love and affection to one another even after you say “I do”!  They may tell you how gross you are, but when you find a message they’ve shared saying their parents are #relationshipgoals, you’ll be glad you grossed them out.

Be great parents.... Gross your kids out!

Be great parents…. Gross your kids out!

I’ll be honest, I’m not ashamed of a little PDA.  I don’t care who knows that I am still madly and passionately and yes, even physically in love with my husband!  I’m more than happy to let the world have a peek at how wonderful life can be!  Besides, a little PDA during the day can lead to a little more intimacy once the lights go down.

And it’s OK.  After all you are married!

There are so many more ways to keep the flame alive in your marriages, but these are just a few that have been the most important in ours.  I hope you found a little inspiration for your own marriages today.  What do you do to keep the fires burning in your own marriages?

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