Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Delta Downs and Horse Racing

I've recently started sharing some of my adventures with the Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Bureau. When I share with them, I'll share with you here, also.

One of our latest adventures was to Delta Downs. It's a casino/resort, but we went there for the horse racing.


Click on this link to read the story.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Walk and a Wish to End Alzheimer's

I participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s last Saturday at Lake Charles' Prien Lake Park.


These particular types of fundraisers are ubiquitous on any given Saturday morning. Associations for most any disease you can think of have a Walk to raise money for research, a cure, and to help those afflicted with the disease. I've often contributed to various such organizations, but I never attended an event.

Until now.

Because now it is personal.


Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s around three years ago. I remember refusing to believe it. I was in denial. She’s too young, I thought. (She was 70 at the time.) Her memory isn't that bad. With me living in Louisiana and she in Pennsylvania, I didn't see her as often as my sisters and my stepdad Tom. So it was harder for me to recognize the subtle changes in her abilities and personality. This is me and Mom on her 70th birthday, July 2011.


By Christmas 2012, the effects of the disease were more obvious. But she was still “Mom.” I thank God for my sister Lisa, who courageously brought her to Lake Charles in May 2013 for my sons’ high school graduation. Her decline was undeniable at that point, and yet, as we sat in the bleachers of a gymnasium for Eric’s graduation ceremony, she was the first to spot him amidst that sea of blue caps and gowns. “There he is!” she exclaimed.


When I visited Mom and Tom that fall of 2013, nothing could have prepared me. My sisters and I had no idea how devastatingly bad things were getting at home. By the following January, 2014, she was in a nursing home.

How did all that happen so quickly?

I despise this disease. We all do. We have no idea in what ways this is hard for Mom. We can't imagine. It’s so hard for my sisters and Tom, who see her regularly. It’s hard for me, because I don’t. Not only do we grieve for our mother before she is even gone, but we fear for our own futures and those of our children.

Lisa wrote all our feelings so eloquently in an email today.

I miss so many things about Mom every single day.  I miss talking with her about everything, venting to her, weighing my options with her, talking through my concerns about the kids with her. I miss her every time we get together as a family because she should be there. And I get so angry; the thing that bothers me most I think, is that Alex and Emmett don’t get to grow up with her as the grandma she was before this disease, because she is the most loving grandma a child could ever have.  That’s the hardest thing for me to accept.

“This never ending grieving is so hard for our minds to process.  I get upset with myself when I refer to Mom in the past tense, because she’s not dead and I feel like I’m being disrespectful.  Yet, the way she was such an integral part of our lives is in the past.  And the grieving never ends because there’s really no closure.  We still see her routinely, but this is a reminder every time of what we’ve lost.  It’s like a wound that can’t heal.  It’s open, and raw and still very painful.

This is one of my favorite photos of Mom, taken in February 2010. Before any of us had any idea of what was coming.



Saturday, October 25, 2014

Kona Ice

I love this. Kona Ice is the "coolest" idea. Combination ice cream truck and snow cone stand (read my snow cone stand post here). 



Kids love the self serve/pick your own flavors feature. But they also have dozens of flavors to choose from inside the truck.



Kona Ice shows up at events and they motor through neighborhoods. They play a variety of island songs (key word variety, take note traditional ice cream trucks.)

What is really awesome is that when they go to fundraising events, such as the Walk to End Alzheimers this morning, they donate a percentage of their revenue to the cause. For the Alzheimers Walk, they donated 25%!

I have both loved and feared ice cream trucks my entire life. As a very small child living in Cleveland, Ohio, I heard the ice cream truck approaching on our street. I asked Mom to let me get something. It was my first time going to the truck, at least by myself. Mom gave me a dime and I rushed to the truck, where a crowd of kids had gathered. Ten cents may have been enough for a popsicle back then, but I must have requested a fudgesicle or something like that. I didn't have enough money. The man driving the truck was gruff and somewhat mean. I only recall being scared and humiliated. Funny how kids remember stuff like that. To this day, I can't see or hear an ice cream truck without thinking of that time.

In college (Wheeling Jesuit University), the gang I hung out with had a good friend named Brian, aka "Country" because he was from Bluefield, West Virginia. Country drove an ice cream truck, and would bring it on campus, much to our delight. Note the ice cream in one hand and a beer in the other. That's pretty much how it was.


Readers, do you have any ice cream truck stories? I know Kona Ice is a franchise. Where have you seen them, outside Lake Charles?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pacific Northwest Part 4 -- Seattle

Bob and I concluded our trip with a couple fun days in Seattle. Super city! Since it was our first time to this town, we did what most tourists do.

Pike Place Market, aka the fish market



Besides fish, they sell just about everything there. Loved these berries and wreaths made from peppers.



My favorite part of Pike Place was the incredible flower vendors. Huge beautiful bouquets for ten bucks.


As you can see, it's a colorful city. For example, the infamous "gum wall." How does something like this get started? And once it does, who decides it should be a tourist attraction?


We rode the giant ferris wheel. Awesome view from up there!




Of course, we went to the top of the Space Needle.



But by far, my favorite place in all of Seattle was the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum. Words cannot express the beauty of glass artist Dale Chihuly's work. Photos barely capture the awesomeness. No trip to Seattle would be complete without a visit to Chihuly Garden, at the feet of the Space Needle.




This is a ceiling.


And there's an outdoor garden.


Other favorite things in Seattle: The Inn at El Gaucho, where we stayed. Surely one of Seattle's best kept secrets. And the Tap House Grill. 160 beers on tap!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Pacific Northwest, Part 3 -- Victoria, British Columbia, Vancouver Island

From Port Angeles, we crossed the Strait of Juan de Fuca on the Blackball Ferry into Victoria, B.C., Canada, on Vancouver Island. Before we even got off the boat, we could see that it’s a beautiful city, impeccably clean, with flower gardens and blooming hanging baskets at every turn. It is a very colorful city!



The British influence is evident. We toured the exquisite Parliament building.



And enjoyed High Tea at Huntingdon Manor.



We strolled downtown and discovered Chinatown . . .


and Bastion Square, where, among other vendors and artists, we met this man who makes beautiful art from pressing seaweed. Fascinating!


We also enjoyed this musician. Loved the sound, somewhat like a steel drum, but different. Does anyone know what this instrument is called?




Daria Duprey makes fabulous hats and sells them at Bastion Sq. I don’t buy a lot of souvenirs when on vacation. But I did buy one of her hats.


At Fisherman's Wharf, we saw seals and the cutest neighborhood of float homes.




If there’s a cat within a five mile radius, Bob will find it. And pet it.

We lodged at a delightful B&B called Dashwood Manor, which overlooks the strait. I recommend it.


The next day, we toured the historic mansion, CraigdarrochCastle.


Then drove up the east side of Saanich Peninsula to Sidney.


On the way, we stopped at the incredibly beautiful ButchartGardens. I have only one word. Flowers!









Forgive me for posting so many pics from the garden; I tried to restrain myself.

Random observations from this part of the world:

The people here are so active; walkers and bicyclers everywhere. And there is considerably less obesity.

Blackberries grow wild throughout the Pacific Northwest, like weeds, and the people seem to pay them no mind. Even think of them as a nuisance, something that takes over and needs to be eradicated. Bob and I gobbled them up wherever we saw them.

Based on the cleanliness of the city, less litter, rampant flower gardens and the upkeep of homes, I get the sense people here take a great deal of pride in their community.