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The (near) Perfect Vacation

Posted by Elizabeth

Today’s prompt is 500 words on my perfect vacation. I’ve had a few near perfect ones. I think for a vacation to qualify as “perfect” for me, it would need to involve me not having to worry about anything. No one else’s agenda or schedule. Nothing. And perhaps free, though I’m not opposed to paying for it ahead of time so there’s no financial stress to come back to.

In college, Brian was active with the UAH choir and, in 1997, they went to Europe. He called me from Europe and I thought that was the most awesome thing ever. I’ll admit it: I cried. He called me… from Europe. And he promised he was going to take me there one day. That day came in 2001. Sometime in 2000, the choir director announced plans for another European tour and created an “Alumnae and Friends Choir” to supplement her current choir. The thought of getting that much money together was daunting. I wasn’t sure about it because there were just so many more practical places that money could be used. I turned to my mother, surely hers would be a voice of reason. Nope. “Go! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity! GO!” It may not have been a voice of reason, but it was a voice of wisdom.

We sang in Germany, Italy, France, and Switzerland. In Germany, we saw the Throne of Charlemagne (I may have touched it despite being told not to). Brian was part of a small group that sang on top of Jungfraujoch. Altitude sickness / thin air was the biggest obstacle there. We sang in Notre Dame Cathedral. I walked on the labyrinth in Chartres Cathederal. We sang at Mass at the San Marco Basilica in Venice. If a cathedral had stairs to the top, Brian took them. We enjoyed German food and sampled gelati from different parts of Italy (flavors and recipes are regional, we had to taste the difference. Had to). I saw a performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons while in Venice. It was awesome. In Paris, our room was on the top floor. Three windows, three spectacular views – The Eiffel Tower (Brian got me to the top. Considering my fear of heights, that was a feat, but I had to – PARIS! EIFFEL TOWER!), Sacre Coeur, and just an awesome view (2 out of 3 ain’t bad!) We celebrated our 2nd anniversary while in Switzerland (I’m still waiting for him to top that one… Hm. I wonder if he’s waiting for me to top it…)

The next near perfect vacation was a cruise we took in December 2008. We started planning it, with his parents, in 2007. We did it much like we did the Europe trip, setting back a certain part of our paycheck and paying on it little by little. Taylor was in Kindergarten and we had to get permission from the school to have her out for a whole week. Part of the cruise entertainment included a group from Second City. If you’ve ever seen Whose Line Is It, Anyway – THAT. I got the pleasure of getting on stage with them too. Taylor absolutely loved the kids’ area. Funny aside: I managed to leave my room key in the room a couple of times. In order to get back in, I’d run to the kids’ area to borrow Taylor’s. She’d see me and get upset because she thought I was coming to get her. “No no no! I just need to borrow your key!” A fun trip, but I have two regrets from it. First, I didn’t go to the Mayan ruins. I really wish I had and hope to get the chance again. Second, in Belize, we had to take a smaller boat to shore. I have a pretty major fear of water, especially water that has things in it that could eat me. I had held it together on the boat ride, but then while getting off this little boat and onto the pier, I lost it – one little crack between the boat and the pier. Brian said, “You’re not going to fall through that.” I said, “There is nothing rational about fear!” A thick Belizean accented voice said, “C’mon baby, I got you” and this dark, strong hand reached out to help me. I never looked up to see who belonged to the voice.

Oddly enough, our excursion for that stop was cave tubing. Floating on an intertube through caves. Remember that fear of water? Yeah, that was fun. I focused on the surroundings and how beautiful it was and got the tour guides tickled at me at one point. Taylor was crying for me and I finally said, “Taylor. In the water… trust me. You want your DADDY!” The smaller rivers were low and the phrase we walked away with was, “Butts up!” – in order to get through the more shallow water, we had to raise up on the intertube as much as possible. This raised us up in the water and kept us from scraping the bottom (and from scraping our bottoms).

5 Minutes on Color

Posted by Elizabeth

Brian used to LOVE purple. That was his favorite color when I first met him. I’m not sure exactly when he lost his obsession with it (He had a purple backpack throughout college and I believe we still have it. Somewhere). When I see purple, I think of him and remember the day we met in person. 1994. It was the end of spring semester and just before the beginning of summer semester and we had been talking online for about 3 months. I drove up to Huntsville, AL from Milledgeville, GA. We had decided to meet in a public place and, appropriately enough, we chose the Toys R Us parking lot. At that time, it was on University Blvd. I’m not sure if it’s still there or not. I was in a red Mazda pick up. He was in a brown Toyota corolla (Baby). He had a scruffy beard and long curly hair. I don’t remember my hair, but I think I was in my short hair phase at that point. I was parked, he drove up, we saw each other, he pointed at me and raised his eyebrows as if to ask, “Is it you?” I did the same and we smiled. We probably got out of our respective cars, hugged, and talked for a bit before heading to the mall to meet up with some of his friends. Driving separately, of course.

Pause for safety talk: In 1994, the internet was still fairly new. No Windows. No AOL. Just a bunch of geeks and very few freaks of the scary variety. Still, since there were some, it was best to meet in public, travel separately, and hang out in a group. So that’s what we did.

Back to reminiscing: From there, we spent the day hanging out with his friends. With the way we hung on each other, you would have thought we had been together for months. In a way, we had been.

I don’t recall at what point we went to his parents, but it was a group of us who went. They fed us and I remember sitting around the picnic table – a handful of college kids and his parents – carrying on a conversation in puns. Yet more confirmation he was a keeper: a witty sense of humor. Later, it came up that I played piano at my church and, since we were both Episcopalian, his mom (also a musician) had a hymnal. I played piano, she played guitar and I have no idea how long we played.

It was near the end of his semester and I helped them move him out of the dorm. On a more awkward note, we also helped move his ex-girlfriend move out of her dorm. That’s part of reason I missed my deadline on when I’d planned on heading home to South Georgia. The other part was that, frankly, I wasn’t very good at planning how long things would take or how long it would really take for me to drive from Huntsville, AL to Albany, GA (A good 6-8 hours, depending on how frequently you stop. And I stop a lot.). Okay, and maybe yet another part was that I really didn’t want to leave.

50 Word Tuesday – The First Job I Ever Got Paid For

Posted by Elizabeth

I’m not sure what my very first paying job was. I watched the neighbor’s kids after school, but I don’t recall if they paid me or not. If they didn’t, then that was pretty stupid of me. And cheap of them.

The first paying job I can really think of was during Christmas at a JC Penney. I was the one who stood at the dressing room making sure people didn’t take in too many items and then putting away the stuff they were too lazy to put away decided not to purchase. I don’t miss retail.

Subjective Post – College Experience

Posted by Elizabeth

I’ve been listening to a podcast that does daily writing prompts. Today’s was “Subjective” and to be about my college experience. He’d said 50-100 words, but I ramble…

Overall, I think my college experience was a good one. It started off well enough, involving a music scholarship to my local junior college. But then I got freaked out over how I was going to make a living as a musician and switched to Accounting, thus losing my music scholarship. In my second semester of accounting, I knew I’d made a mistake. At that point, I just wanted out so changed to Liberal Arts (it was the only degree that would use both my music classes AND accounting classes). As far as life goes, I don’t really recall doing much while at Darton. I was working as a runner for a law firm at first, but was at Lowe’s by the time I graduated. It wasn’t until I went off to Georgia College (1992) that things got truly interesting. I turned 21 the day I moved in. My dorm was upper class only and you had to maintain a 3.0 GPA to stay there. In other words, I was around people who knew how to juggle having a life and keeping up with studies.

Sometime during that first year, it was announced that the dorm was going to become co-ed. I decided NOT to tell my parents this until it was too late to make any other plans. The guys were on the first floor, women on the 2nd and 3rd floors (I was on the 3rd). Staying out until 2am was normal. One of the top ten reasons to live in Terrell Hall was “Get drunk, arrested, and go to jail – all in one block!” Thankfully, I never got arrested or went to jail. I didn’t really do frat parties (or sorority parties either for that matter). I mostly hung out at a place called The Brick. They had awesome calzones and some beverages I liked. They also occasionally had live music. While there, I went to my first Van Halen concert and my first (and only) Pink Floyd concert. I had the opportunity to go to a Grateful Dead concert but had to back out. Then Jerry Garcia died.

Early 1994, someone introduced me to this thing called the “internet” and that’s where I eventually met Brian. I initially met him on SkyNet BBS (based in Holland with a windmill ascii art opening screen). My handle was Freak of Nature because, over the previous summer, I had worked at Lowe’s and one of the guys in the garden center would always say, “Liz, you’re a freak of nature…” Coming from him, that was a term of endearment. Side note that should not be too surprising coming from a guy who considered “freak of nature” a term of endearment: he also introduced me to pot. I didn’t use it long, but it was long enough that it was a bitch to quit. I recalled reading in one of my classes that it was a psychological addiction. That sounded pretty innocuous. Yeah, no. Music that we listened to while smoking… I couldn’t listen to it for a good year or more without it triggering cravings. Sometimes I’d imagine I smelled it and the cravings would hit. Twas not an easy thing to overcome, but I had good motivation. Brian had a zero tolerance policy and since I had decided he was a keeper, I did what I knew I needed to do.

How did I know he was a keeper? We talked on three different BBS’s: ISCA, SkyNet, and Shadow. When I had first gotten online, I was a typical newbie and put all my contact information in my profile. I eventually wised up and removed it. One night, while we were having a particularly good conversation, my connection died (2400 baud modem. It happened. A lot). A few hours later, my phone rang and it was him. He had hunted through all the BBS’s he knew I was on and had been on until he found the one on which I’d forgotten to remove my phone number (Even then he had some mad stalking skillz. Which he only uses for good). When we had decided to meet in person, he said, “By the way, I’m going to church Sunday morning.” I said, “That’s fine. What church and can I join you?” When he said, “St. Stephen’s EPISCOPAL” I about screamed. See, I was born and raised in the Episcopal church. I loved it and had no desire to leave it. In fact, I was a little worried about what I would do if my significant other wasn’t Episcopalian or even a denomination closely related to it. Considering I was in South Georgia, that was a legitimate concern. This was huge.

That summer, I told my parents I was going to roam around Georgia between the end of Spring semester and the beginning of Summer semester. I had lied. I actually drove to Huntsville, AL to meet this person I had been talking to online for the last 3-4 months. We met in the Toys R Us parking lot on University Blvd and from there I followed him to the mall where we met up with a group of his friends. I even met his parents on that trip and hit it off really well with his mom. His dad took a good year to warm up, though. I think he was concerned with what this older woman was wanting with his son (he had just turned 19 and I was 22 at the time). I also later learned that Brian had a female friend his dad really liked – he was hoping she and Brian would get together. (They’re still friends. I consider her a friend myself. She’s in Louisiana married to a DA. Oh, and she does roller derby!). When I realized that I wasn’t going to make it home when I’d told mom I would, I called her at work (my logic was that it was safer that way…).

Me: Are you where we can talk?
Her: Yes….
Me: I’m not in Georgia.
Her: I didn’t think you were. So, where are you?

I love my mother. I told her about Brian and his parents and gave her the information on when I’d actually be home. I did one other “wild and crazy” thing at that point. While home, I decided on a tattoo I wanted and found the place I wanted to do it. And I did it! It was a butterfly. My mom saw it when it was an hour old… and touched it (OUCH!). She liked it, though admitted she wouldn’t have done it. My dad saw it shortly after and was not happy in the least little bit. Come to find out, he was fussing about it to her and she finally said, “And we were never young and never did anything foolish…” I still have it. It didn’t get infected or any of the things dad had feared would happen. In fact, when I turned 40, I had it touched up and added to, but that’s a different post.

In 1996, when I finished at Georgia College, I moved home for a few months then moved up to Huntsville, AL to be near my boyfriend. We had dated long distance for 2 years. It was time (and it worked out – we’ve been married since 1999). I lined up a couple of odd jobs beforehand but had turned them both down by the time I actually moved. The reading that first Sunday was Jesus walking on water and Peter having faith to step out of the boat. My mom and I were both in tears. I worked for multiple temporary agencies and though I enjoyed it, I felt I needed to get back in school. At Georgia College, I’d gotten my bachelor degree in music therapy and minored in psychology. I hadn’t been able to find work in that field, so thought I’d broaden things out and get a graduate degree in Psychology. During a class on career counseling, I saw a chart that talked about “myths in career counseling.” One of them said, “When I get this next degree, everything will fall into place.” I thought, “Well shit…” and went and got some career counseling of my own. I decided I was where I needed to be. Clerical work may have started as a fall back position, but I really did like it and I was actually quite good at it. Almost 20 years later, I’m still doing it and my positions and responsibilities have grown over time.

I still use my music and I’m still a creative. I had always said that if I could find a place to work that would pay me to go to school, I’d be there. I found that employer but I wasn’t at a place in my life where I could take advantage of it. I’m finally there and am working on a second bachelor degree, this one in English (professional writing and public discourse). I’m planning on applying to the graduate school once that’s completed. What do I want to do with it? I am honestly not exactly sure. Right now, I’m learning and I love learning so that’s enough for me.

The Shoes

Posted by Elizabeth

The shoes are unremarkable – simple black pumps with a black ribbon at the toe. The reason these pumps have caught my attention, though, is not their appearance. It’s their placement. The shoes are neatly placed just outside the one and only set of elevators on the ground level of the parking deck. How did they come to be there? How would someone go about losing their shoes?

I wondered if the shoes were left there by the owner, her feet too sore to continue wearing them. But no. If that were the case, I don’t believe they would have been so neatly placed. If there were sore feet involved, surely those shoes would have been slung off as the owner cried, “Freedom!” Plus, this is downtown. You don’t go barefooted onto an elevator. Or into a parking deck. Or anywhere.

Perhaps the owner, discontent with the less than comfortable shoes, threw them off as she got in her car. A stranger sees them and, thinking they have been somehow lost, places them outside the elevator doors where anyone coming in or out of the parking deck the next morning would not be able to miss them.

Except they have been there for two days now. In this 8-to-5, Monday through Friday, downtown work scene, it’s hard to imagine that the owner hasn’t seen them yet. Perhaps she has seen them and, with feet comfortably in another pair of shoes, continued onto the elevator. Without them.

If she saw them – even with her feet comfortably in another pair of shoes – would she be able to pick up the discarded black pumps? If others were around her, would she be too embarrassed to pick them up? What would others think of her? Would they think she’s a cheapskate who just picked them up because, “Hey! Free shoes!” Or would she explain that she had “lost” them?

Except how would someone go about losing their shoes? And would that story even be appropriate to tell another living soul?

TheShoes