Weekend Visit

My in-laws spent last week in Naples, Florida with Karl’s sister, Joanne. So on the way home, they stopped in Jacksonville to spend the weekend with us. It just so happened that Friday night was our regularly scheduled Card Night with friends from church (we get together once a month and play a different game each time, rotating houses) so Sue and Karl were able to join in on the fun.

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We played our new favorite card game, called 4 Up-4 Down, that Pat and Don taught us previously and we just so happened to have already taught Sue and Karl during our family cruise over Christmas.

Pat also made an amazing dessert and since we have a running joke about how much whipped cream the guys always use, she presented each one with their own can.

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On Saturday night, Carl and I had a pre-cruise planning session with Dee and Eddy (in April, there will be 20 of us from church going to celebrate Dee and Eddy’s 50th wedding anniversary…what fun!). So Sue and Karl took Zack out for dinner.

Other than that, there was lots of hanging out of the lanai enjoying the beautiful weather, watching the new tv out there* and playing games.

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It was a short and sweet visit but we are always grateful to spend time together when we can. Thanks for stopping by, Sue and Karl!

*Since I haven’t shown a photo on my blog, here’s out new addition to the lanai, which I initially resisted but am now in love with! Thanks, Carl!

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If I am going to lay around watching tv, I can’t think of a better place to do it!

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Safety Harbor Weekend Away

Last year around this time, Carl and I were invited to St. Petersburg, FL for the weekend for the Ted Williams Museum and (Baseball) Hitters Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. This year, we were again invited, although the event was moved to Safety Harbor, FL and the organization put us up in the historic Safety Harbor Resort and Spa.

ESPIRITU SANTO SPRINGS
Where Healing Waters Flow
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On May 18, 1539, Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto reached the shores of what is now Tampa Bay, landing near these mineral springs used by the native population for nearly 10,000 years.  Believing he had found the legendary Fountain of Youth somehow missed by Ponce de Leon, de Soto established a camp here, naming its crystal-clear waters Espiritu Santo Springs–“Springs of the Holy Spirit.”  Each of the five springs on this site was identified and said to cure certain ailments, a claim drawing thousands of visitors yearly to the “Health Giving City” of Safety Harbor.  In the twentieth century, Espiritu Santo water was bottled and sold commercially, and later a health spa and hotel were built over the springs. The Safety Harbor Sanitorium opened its doors here in 1926, offering porcelain bath tubs and a large swimming pool for “taking the waters.” The Safety Harbor Resort and Spa, as it is now known, continues to be a prominent visitor attraction in Pinellas County.

I couldn’t help but wonder as we wandered the halls of this historic hotel noted for it’s healing powers and health retreats if my grandma Donna had been a visitor here. It seems like just the type of place she might have come to.

We decided to make a whole weekend of it (as opposed to just one night like last year) and went down on Friday.

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On Friday, we took a long walk around the cute harbor city with small shops, plentiful restaurants and quaint houses.

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The town boasts this massive 300-500 year old Live Oak tree.

It was fun to walk to dinner just a few blocks from the hotel and enjoy the beautiful night.

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We laughed a lot at this sign. Why is this even necessary??

On Saturday, we enjoyed an even longer walk, going a full 5-1/2 miles down the waterfront and around the city. After going back to the Spa and hanging out at the pool for a while, we refreshed ourselves with a well-deserved nap. Then it was time to get ourselves ready and head to Spectrum Field (the Phillies training facility in Clearwater) for the big event.

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The main attraction is the autograph signing session where fans wait in really long lines to spend about 30-seconds with many baseball greats. Carl and I were just there for the food, sampling all the items at the different food stations.

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Then the main program took place, with several baseball legends, including Richie “Dick” Allen and Tony Perez being inducted into the Hitters Hall of Fame.

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Tony Perez, Dick Allen, Ron Guidry, JR Richard

The evening ended with a fireworks display over the field.

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It couldn’t have been a more perfect night, weather-wise. Not too hot and not too cool….it was just right!

On Sunday, we met up with my cousin, Kim, and her daughter, Kassie, at her church since it was on the way home. We thought it was interesting how after the worship portion, the stage went dark and then the lights came back on and there was a large screen. As the pastor started talking, it took us a few seconds to realize that he was not actually there but it was an almost 3-D like video of him speaking! Freaky!

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Afterwards, we took Kim and Kassie for brunch to visit and catch up before heading home.

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It was great to spend some time with them and we are grateful it worked out it everyone’s schedule. It was a nice weekend away and when it’s mostly free, it’s even better! I love these fun opportunities that Carl and I have to spend time together.

Another Disappointing Season

Almost exactly 8 years ago on my other blog, I shared this story about Carl and his passion for the MN Vikings. At that time, the Vikings were headed to the Championship game against the New Orleans Saints. We were making plans for an all-expenses paid trip to Miami for the Super Bowl. Sadly it was not-to-be that year as the Saints won that game. I thought it was worth sharing this story again.

Thirty nine years. Forty-seven years. That’s how long my husband has been a fan of the Minnesota Vikings. Thirty nine Forty-seven long and often painful years. Thirty nine Forty-seven years of waiting and watching and hoping and praying.

It all started when he was 7 years old and his dad took him and his brother to a Chicago Bears versus Minnesota Viking game at Soldier Field. It was the Purple People Eater years…with 3 trips to the Superbowl in 4 years and domination across the gridiron. Offering to buy each boy a souvenir pin, his brother, Jim, picked a Bears pin and Carl picked a Viking pin. And thus begun a lifelong rivalry between brothers and loyalty to their chosen teams (although Jim has now switched his loyalties to the New England Patriots after his move to Boston).

When I first met Carl in college, his Tommy Kramer (the quarterback at the time) poster was my first glimpse into his obsession. I soon found out that Sundays during football season were off-limits. Watching games was an intense and emotional experience…one that I found too overwhelming and soon learned was better to just stay away from. When we married, I learned to just leave the house on Sundays to avoid the yelling and intensity. A loss on Sundays meant hours of bad mood and anger. And I learned to never, ever make plans on football Sundays. Boy, Kelly is lucky she wasn’t born in the fall on a Sunday. It would have been a toss-up for Carl to attend the birth or watch the Vikings. Actually, he would have demanded that the game be put on in the labor and delivery room :).

In college, when we would talk about the future, our future, we would jokingly imagine Carl working for the Vikings. That would be the ultimate accomplishment for him, we’d think. So, in college, Carl wrote to Mike Lynn, the general manager of the Vikings at the time, asking what an economics major needed to do to get a job with the Minnesota Vikings. Mr. Lynn’s advice was to get a Master’s degree in Sport Management, work hard and make connections in the sport’s field.

At that time, there were only 11 colleges/universities in the country with Sport Management programs, the only one in Illinois being at Western Illinois University. So while I completed my senior year of undergraduate work at the University of Illinois, Carl went off to WIU to complete graduate work in Sport Management, returning to the U of I to visit me every few weeks or so. After that long year of traveling back and forth, I graduated with my Bachelor Degree in Speech-Language Pathology and Carl graduated with a Master’s Degree in Sport Management and we were married a month later in our college town of Champaign, Illinois.

After graduation and our wedding/honeymoon, we headed off to spend the summer in Wichita, Kansas for Carl’s internship with the Wichita Wings Soccer Franchise. And thus began a 10-year career in various professional soccer positions…next with the Memphis Storm (Memphis, TN), University of Memphis Athletic Department, U.S. Soccer during the World Cup tournament in the U.S. in 2004 (Chicago, IL) and finally D.C. United (Northern Virginia). During that time, Carl also earned his C.P.A. certification and worked in public accounting for a number of years in between sports positions, solidifying a solid sport management and accounting expertise. All the while, Carl was making contacts and connections in the professional sports industry.

It was in 1998 while living in Northern Virginia and working for D.C. United as the Director of Finance that Carl got his big break. The Minnesota Vikings were sold to Red McCombs. Carl used his contacts to try to find someone who had a relationship with anybody in the new management. He did talk with a friend from soccer that had previously worked with the guy that was named the Vikings new general manager. Carl sent the general manager an email, dropping his friend’s name. When nothing came of it, we resigned ourselves to live happily ever after in my dream house in Virginia with Carl working in professional soccer for ever and ever. It was after the New Year in 1999 that Carl got the call from the general manager of the MN Vikings. The Vikings had a vacancy in the finance department. There was an opening for Assistant Controller. Was he interested? WAS HE INTERESTED?? Hello…this is what he waited his whole life for. The call that he always dreamed of. They flew him out to Minnesota for an informal interview but basically the job was his if he wanted it.

April 12, 1999, on Kelly’s 9th birthday, Carl began his life-long dream to work for the Minnesota Vikings! And was it a dream-come-true? Well, yes and no. Although Carl loved where he worked, he did not love what he did for them. Although he was promoted after a few years to Controller of the Minnesota Vikings, in charge of all things finance, including payroll, bookkeeping, audits, budgets and money-stuff like that, it was boring and repetitive work. He would have loved to be involved in other aspects of the team, like Salary Caps or Stadium Management. But truly, at that time, with the country in a recession and people losing their jobs all around us, he was grateful for a job with good benefits and fun perks (like an all-expense paid trip to the Super Bowl for him and his wife).

And in case you are wondering, what did working for the team do to his passion for the Vikings? It actually helped to soften him. Being involved with the team on a regular basis and having day-to-day frustrations with his job made him less emotionally attached. Given the choice, he would watch Anthony play hockey over watch an away game on television (nothing would keep him from a home game though…one of those great perks of working for the team was season tickets).

So for any young person with a far-reaching life-long dream, know that your dreams can come true. Your truly can do anything that you set your mind to. Carl is living proof!

(Written in 2010) Hopefully this post helps explain why this season is such a big one for our family. It’s been a long time coming. We’ve waited a long time for this. All the Viking fans have. We are hoping that this is the year they will go ALL THE WAY!

(Written in 2018) Well, that year wasn’t the year and this year wasn’t the year either. We really were hoping to FINALLY see the Vikings in a Super Bowl. And even better, at the new Vikings stadium in Minnesota. We even bought our airfare just in case. But no, another year of disappointment. And what’s even more amazing is that the Jaguars, Carl’s current employer, almost went to the Super Bowl this year as well.  In fact, they did better in their championship game than the Vikings did. Two out of the final four teams were our ticket to the Super Bowl and neither one panned out. Darn it. I hate football.

HG Christmas Party

On Saturday evening, Carl and I hosted the annual Christmas party for our home group that we are blessed to be a part of. It was a mild evening so the men gathered together outside.

David, Carl, Jeff, Ed and Lawrence (just missing John)

The women mingled in the kitchen and around the fire.

Me, Brenda, Claudia, Jeannine, Melissa (missing Michelle and Beth)

The children were all over but I gathered them together for a photo and somebody was apparently not happy about it.

Caroline, Emma, Maddy, Victoria, Jonathan and Andrew

We enjoyed a meal together before the highlight of the evening, a white elephant gift exchange.

In the version we played, each person rolled two dice to determine whether to open the gift you were holding, pass the gifts left or right, switch gifts with another person or have someone open their gift. This sweet couple ended up with these cute Santa hats.

I ended up with this cute scarf (that I wrote to church the next day) made by this sweet friend.

We ended the evening with some Christmas carols, led by our home group leader, Ed.

We are so grateful for these friends to share in life together. It was a great evening of fun, food and fellowship.

Time with Friends

In addition to our time with family, we also enjoyed some time with friends. On Friday, Carl’s best friend from high school, Bobby, invited us to his brother’s house for their annual gingerbread house making contest. This annual contest involves the mothers against the teenage children, while the men watch football in the other room.

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Each team comes prepared with their idea and supplies for a one-of-a-kind creation. Being from Florida, I was first put in charge of making palm trees, while Bobby’s wife, Jessica, created a rainbow.

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When I was done with my trees, then put me to work wrapping animal crackers with fondant.

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When all was said and done, here was our team with our amazing creation….

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Bobby’s sister-in-law, Lisa; me; Bobby’s sister, Wendy; Bobby’s sister, Janice; Bobby’s wife, Jessica

I thought that we deserved first place with our “Noah’s Ark.”

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However, the teenagers snagged the sentimental vote by creating a “Village” with houses for each family group.

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Oh well, it was a really fun evening and I’m glad that we were able to share in the fun.

For the drive home, instead of driving 12-hours straight through, we stopped in Atlanta for the night to visit Carl’s other friends from high school.

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Steve, Jeff and Carl

This gave us two 6-hour driving days with some fun in-between. Waaaay better!

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Steve’s wife, Anne, couldn’t make it but Jeff’s wife, Waverly is shown

We arrived at Jeff and Waverly’s house in the afternoon, visited for a few hours and then met up with Steve for dinner. We slept in Jeff and Waverly’s amazing guest cottage and after coffee and breakfast in the morning, hit the road back home. We will make this our tradition when going to Memphis from now on because it was so much easier with the two shorter driving days. Plus it’s always more fun visiting friends!

We are grateful for all that we packed into our week and for the time spent with family and friends. Now it’s time to gear up for the Christmas season!

Time with Family

In addition to celebrating Karl’s birthday and Thanksgiving, we enjoyed just hanging out with the family in Memphis last week.

Ever the dutiful son (or dootyful, in this case…ha!), Carl installed new toilets in his parent’s house, replacing the 40-year old commodes with new, higher, sleeker thrones.

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Carl also spent some time working at his sister, Leslie’s house, as well. He’s such a good brother!

We spent time playing cards, including Camp Cards and our new favorite card game taught to us by friend’s at church, 4 Up-4 Down.

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We went to an exhibit at the Dixon Art Gallery.

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The exhibit was a collection of dresses, entirely made out of paper!

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Can you believe this is all paper?

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It was pretty cool, especially for a paper crafting enthusiast like myself.

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We went to Sue’s friend, Marilyn’s house for authentic Memphis BBQ ribs and coleslaw. I first met Marilyn at my baby shower for Kelly…so that was over 27 years ago!

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Sue brought Brandy Ice for dessert…yum!

It was a fantastic time spent with family in Memphis and we are grateful! We look forward to seeing Sue and Karl again in just under a month for our annual Christmas visit. Leslie will be missed but will be with us in our hearts.

Dallas, TX

As soon as we returned from vacation, Carl had to empty his suitcase, reload his overnight bag and head to Dallas for a quick overnight visit for work.

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He went to the Dallas football game on Sunday to observe their procedures for the 50-50 raffle and to hopefully glean some new ideas.

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I’m not sure that he did but hey, free trip!

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This was interesting…he learned that Dallas sells 10,000 “standing room only” tickets for $29 each. People actually pile in and stand for the 3-4 hours during each game. Wow!

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But even more interesting, was a quick side trip during his down time. This is the infamous “grassy knoll” in Dealey Plaza where bystanders stood as John F Kennedy’s motorcade passed by during his assassination.

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Dealey Plaza is bordered by the Texas School Book Depository, where Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy from the sixth floor window (on far right).

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The location of the President’s vehicle at the time of the shooting is marked with a green X in the road.

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Carl then went and saw the theater where Oswald hid out and was eventually arrested in.

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Although the theater still “hosts a mix of repertory cinema and special events,” it shows the name of the movie playing at the time of Oswald’s arrest on one side.

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In light of the news that the country awoke to yesterday morning (as I wrote this) about the horrific and senseless tragedy of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, NV, it feels icky even writing this post about another horrific murder in our country’s past. But evil has existed in our country for all of history and evil will continue to reign until Jesus returns. I read a good article titled “How we should respond to the Las Vegas shooting.”

This is just a small exerpt from the article:

Mercifully, the Word of God can help in bringing theological precision to our thoughts by giving us a way to think about the problem of evil in our world.

Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:26-28

Though I don’t know the particulars, I do know He is making all things come together for His good purposes. Big tragedies need a big God to walk us through them. Without Him, there is no way to endure the works of evil satisfactorily.

I pray that God would help us all to make sense of such senseless tragedies and to lean into Him with the hope and peace that only He can provide.