May is the Month of Our Mother, but for Catholics it is usually something more: a time for First Holy Communion, Confirmation, and graduations. My Facebook Memories remind me that last year around this time we celebrated one nephew’s First Holy Communion, another’s Baptism, and my daughter’s Confirmation and 8th grade graduation!
Well, things are a little different this year, aren’t they? When I watch my parish’s Sunday Mass via Facebook Live, the Prayers of the Faithful prompt me to pray for those who would have celebrated their First Holy Communions or Confirmations on spring Sundays, but who are now having to wait as patiently as possible for the grace of those Sacraments, as we all wait and long for our return to Mass and the Eucharist.
But we WILL celebrate again! And part of our holy anticipation lies in planning for these blessed events. Basic Invite is here to help with baptism announcements, First Holy Communion invitations, and more, and they want me to tell you why you should choose their products to make those occasions special when they arrive.
[Disclaimer: I was compensated for providing you with my honest opinion of Basic Invite.]
I’ll be honest: after just a few minutes of looking over Basic Invite’s website, I started wishing I needed a baptism announcement or a First Holy Communion invitation. The tools they provide make it look not just easy to design your announcements and invitations, but even fun!
The first exciting thing, and what really sets Basic Invite apart from the competition, is access to unlimited color combinations. There are over 180 colors available, and you can change the color of every element on every card. This is coupled with instant online previewing so you can get your design exactly right.
But online viewing doesn’t really compare with seeing the real thing, does it? Basic Invite allows customers to order a printed sample of their baptism announcement or First Holy Communion invitation. That way you can see and feel the quality of the paper, and know in advance how it will print before placing a final order.
To customize your design even further, you can choose from over 40 different envelope colors! And for those who don’t enjoy licking envelopes, all Basic Invite’s envelopes are peel and seal so you can get them ready for mailing quickly and easily.
And about that mailing: Basic Invite also provides a free address collection service. Here’s how it works: share a link with your guests via social media or email, collect their addresses, and Basic Invite will print your envelopes free of charge!
Of course you want to know prices, which start at .75 per card and increase depending on factors like shape and the addition of photos. The cost of each upgrade is clearly marked as you go through the process of designing your card. And everything is 15% off until the end of the month!
My first trip to San Francisco was also my first plane ride and my first time away from my family. It was 1981 and I had just graduated from St. Joseph Elementary School. My godfather had business in California and invited me along to keep his 12-year-old daughter–who was more like a cousin to me–company.
Almost 40 years have gone by but I still remember parts of that trip with clarity–eating shrimp cocktail at Fisherman’s Wharf, attending my first baseball game (that went to 14 innings!) at Candlestick Park, dinner in Chinatown (my first Chinese food!), the cold and the fog for which we were totally unprepared . . . I truly left a bit of my heart in San Francisco and longed for years to return.
Then in July 2017 a piece of my heart left for San Francisco, giving me a suitable motivation for traveling there. We visited Teddy in February 2018 and 2019 (on his birthday, which has conveniently fallen during the three-day President’s Day weekend) and will be returning next month. I love San Francisco even more now than I did then, and I’ve taken many pictures that I want to share.
Originally this was going to be one big post, but then I saw I had nearly 100 pictures from our 2018 visit. So let’s just start with that one, shall we?
One cannot fly direct from Knoxville to San Francisco, so it took us all day; we arrived after dark and took a cab straight to our hotel. After meeting Teddy for a late dinner (very nice Greek restaurant, his treat), we explored a little before bed, and took the pictures below.
Both of those are shots of the Ferry Building. Before bridges crossed the Bay, ferries were the only transportation and the Ferry Building was a busy place. Nowadays it’s mostly retail space after a period of desertion and disrepair.
The Embarcadero used to be a raised freeway. San Francisco redefined progress by removing it and reconnecting the Financial District to the waterfront.
Of course we had to walk down to the water and get a picture of the Bay Bridge.
I got up bright and early Friday morning to do a little exploring. We stayed in this hotel in the heart of the Financial District, because it was close to where Teddy worked at the time.
I was so excited that I just kept on walking until I found myself in Chinatown.
And while there I happened upon a parade celebrating the Chinese New Year! It was a complete surprise to me!
I was on a roll by now. I wanted to see if I could climb to the very top of the hill I was on, so I did.
Pictures don’t really do justice to the hills. That last one, with a view of Alcatraz, comes closest. I am not exaggerating when I say that I was scared to walk back down and was grateful that some of the sidewalks actually have steps cut into them.
I decided to walk back another way and here are a few of the sights I saw:
Later in the day John and I walked along the Embarcadero down to the Fisherman’s Wharf area, where we met Teddy for dinner at Scoma’s, an amazing seafood restaurant on the water. Here are the pictures I took that evening:
I headed out first thing in the morning (while John slept in) to the big outdoor Farmer’s Market at the aforementioned Ferry Building. In addition to food, many artisans ply their wares on the street leading to the market, so I purchased souvenirs to take home.
I snapped the above photo behind the Ferry Building during the Market. I cannot now recall why this statue stands there, but I like it nonetheless!
Below is my photo of a poem that brings tears to my eyes when I read it, describing the destruction of the elevated freeway that formerly divided the city from the waterfront.
I returned to the hotel and John and I took an Uber (this was the trip where we learned all about Uber!) to Teddy’s house, which he was sharing with four other young men. After he showed us around, we went out to explore the neighborhood(the Marina District). I took the following pictures at what Teddy called his favorite place, the Palace of Fine Arts. Note the random person in the picture below to understand the scale. It is an amazing sight.
After lunch at a neighborhood pizza place, we took another Uber to Golden Gate Park. We did not have any idea how big it is or what we would do there. It’s definitely somewhere I want to revisit, specifically to see the Japanese Tea House, which was closed when we were there.
We thought it would be fun to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, so we got an Uber across. After taking a few pictures, though, we realized that we had just missed–by seconds–the deadline to get onto the bridge before security locked it for the night.
After this disappointment we decided that since we were already across the bridge we would Uber to Sausalito for dinner. We found a nice little Tuscan restaurant, then headed back to the city for ice cream at Ghirardelli Square.
Sunday morning I thought it would be fun to drink my coffee on the roof of the hotel. Which it was until some guy came up there and started smoking weed. At like 9 a.m. Smoking marijuana is legal in SF, but not out in the open. But everyone does, and the smell is EVERYWHERE.
We went to Mass at the church I showed you above. Father Tom Tavella is the pastor. He was formerly at our parish, and in fact baptized Teddy, so that was a cool reunion, and his homily was just as good as I expected from past experience.
We wanted to have lunch in Chinatown, and Father Tavella suggested a place nearby.
After lunch we did a little sightseeing and shopping.
I then wanted to re-attempt to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. John wanted to go back to the hotel and have a rest. So we agreed to meet for dinner, and Teddy and I took another Uber to the far side of the bridge.
This is the only picture I snapped while on the bridge. It was so windy that I was frankly afraid to take my phone out. It was a little scary honestly but I am glad to have done it. I would like to do it again on the opposite side some time.
By this statue of Phineas Farnsworth. And around Fort Mason. And back to Teddy’s house in the Marina District. And to the gym so he could work out for a few minutes. In short (it was not short) we walked all the way back to the hotel. I was not going to be the one to stop! By the end of the day I had walked 12 miles. After we finished dinner (we ate at the very nice restaurant attached to our hotel), I had a difficult time getting out of the booth and up to the room! Teddy and John went to a movie but I was happy to rest.
We checked out of our hotel Monday morning (leaving our bags in storage) and hopped on a double-decker tour bus for one of those two-hour tourist trips around the city. That was when I snapped the above picture. Later we met back up with Teddy and went shopping for ingredients so I could bake him a red velvet cake for his birthday (a bit difficult as the kitchen was not fully equipped for baking, but it still turned out okay).
Then it was time for good-byes, a trip to the airport, and the red-eye flight back home. We managed to have fun until the end with this cool exhibit at the airport:
And that’s the end . . . but I will post the pictures of our 2019 trip in a few days.
It is time for the first post of 2020, and one of my favorite annual traditions, the past year in pictures! As always, it is difficult to decide whether to choose the most artistic picture of the the month or the one that is most representative of the month, so what you see below will be a mixture of both.
On January 12 my sister had a baby! This is a picture of William meeting his cousin for the first time.
John and I went to San Francisco again in February to visit Teddy. My next big picture post will be about our visits because I have taken so many beautiful pictures there. So I am sharing this picture that I took at the Chicago Airport on the way there because I think it is cool.
After the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Knoxville, Lorelei and her cousin Ella had fun posing and taking pictures in this art-covered alley.
I had fun experimenting with the Portrait option on my iPhone this year. I took this picture of dogwood blossoms during one of my rosary walks before morning Mass.
Our precious nephew and Godson, Leo, made his First Holy Communion at Sacred Heart Cathedral in May. I just love his sweet expression.
This was taken at one of the parties during my 30-year college Reunion–from the top of the Watergate Hotel, with the sun setting over my alma mater.
John and I went on a cruise–our -first–to celebrate our 30th anniversary. This photo was taken in Bermuda.
We went on an impromptu family vacation to Myrtle Beach over the Labor Day weekend. I love this colorful shot of the boardwalk.
I continue to enjoy sitting on my front porch, even with this nightly visitor, who was inches away from my foot when I took this picture. I have learned to make no sudden moves, and all has been well, although our cats have not always been so lucky.
My kids REALLY get into Halloween. Look closely and you will see that our porch visitor was undeterred by the spooky decor.
A rare early November snowfall decorates the first berries ever on this nandina bush, which I transplanted from my grandmother’s garden several years ago.
Christmas 2019. All the Sholly kids were home and enjoyed brunch at the Crowne Plaza downtown.
As the mother of two animal fanatics, I have visited manyremarkablezoos all over the country. I am especially fond of (and proud of) Zoo Knoxville, which I have watched transform over the past 40+ years since my first visit on a school field trip.
We have had season passes off and on over the years, and now William is an official zoo volunteer, so we go to the zoo often. I hope you enjoy the pictures of some of our favorite animals and the beautiful habitats created for their enjoyment and visitors’ education.
In my earliest memories, most of the animals were in cages or concrete bunkers. Now, the majority live in habitats that suit the needs of the animals and please visitors too. Something new is always under construction: right now it is a state-of-the-art herpetology facility. The current home of the reptiles is one of the few things left that has not changed much since my childhood.
Many, many years ago the circus came to town and left a gift–a bad-tempered African elephant named Old Diamond. He later became the father of the first African elephant born in captivity. Old Diamond lived in a concrete enclosure. Nowadays the elephants have much nicer digs, with inside and outside viewing areas.
William loves the petting zoo, especially the donkeys. He is going to have the opportunity to start volunteering there in the next few weeks.
Lorelei especially likes the river otters, who are native to East Tennessee. They can be elusive, though.
Besides the petting zoo, there are a lot of other “little kid” exhibits and activities in the Kids Cove area of the zoo–where all those concrete bunkers once were! Here are some of the animals you might see there:
Our zoo is known for raising red pandas, and we have a great indoor-outdoor exhibit of them. I wish I had a better picture, because in my opinion they are about the cutest animals in the zoo and I wish I could cuddle one.
Below are some more of the animals you will see at Zoo Knoxville, as well as some examples of the attractive exhibits and landscaping. I’m saving my very favorite pictures for the end of the post.
And now for my very favorite exhibit, the Asian Trek. I just think it is beautifully done, and I love how close you can get to its inhabitants, as you will see.
I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of Zoo Knoxville!
Knoxville (my hometown) is four hours away from Cincinnati. I’ve always heard people saying what a great place Cincinnati is. But I never did more than drive through (and that not often) until Labor Day weekend two years ago.
We had a particular reason for visiting that weekend–we wanted to see a very special exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center. We bought our tickets just about as soon as we heard about this exhibit and it was every bit as thrilling as we expected.
Since we were in the museum, we decided to take a peek at another exhibit, which turned out to be even more of a thrill for this English major.
After the Museum, we decided to do a little sightseeing.
All of the above photos were taken in Fountain Square. The fountain itself is a Cincinnati icon, and is well-known to anyone who ever watched the opening credits of WKRP in Cincinnati (which was why John wanted to go there). Anyway, it is a beautiful landmark.
Whenever we visit a new place, we try to go to the Cathedral if there is one. Cincinnati has a beautiful one, Saint Peter in Chains.
Just across the street from the Cathedral is this magnificent edifice, the Plum Street Temple, one of only two Jewish temples of this style in the country and reminiscent of those destroyed in the Holocaust.
As you can see, we had a really full day. As was the next one, when we visited the Cincinnati Zoo, the second-oldest zoo in the United States and one of the best in the country.
Like cathedrals, we make it a point to visit zoos wherever we go. And we take them seriously, trying to make sure we see every exhibit. We saw every animal in this enormous zoo, and it took us EIGHT HOURS. The photos below represent only a very small sample.
And that was the end of our short but very busy visit to Cincinnati. Have you ever been there?
I am pretty sure this was the second Christmas book I bought for Emily, so it has been part of our Christmas for over a quarter of a century! She loved it so much that she memorized most of it. A big plus is that nowadays you can get it as a board book!
Now, there are lots and lots of books that tell the story of the birth of Jesus from the point of view of the animals in the stable. But there were other creatures present that you may not have thought of. This book was–and is–a hit with our youngest two, who love all things creepy crawly; and it is a wonderful reminder that God made ALL creatures, not just the cuddly ones.
We are big Patricia Polacco fans and several of our Christmas books were written by her, but I think this recent acquisition is my favorite. Although it’s a Christmas miracle story, it’s also ecumenical and historical and heartwarming.
Maybe it is cheating a bit to include an Advent book but we got this last year and I cannot tell you how much we loved it. We read one story every evening as a part of our Advent celebration. I bought it for my son the animal lover but we were all enthralled and amazed by the beauty of God’s creation as revealed in these stories.
That’s all for this installment! Tell me about your favorites in the comments–I need some ideas for what to order this year!
Growing up in Tennessee, New York City was to me the epitome of everything frightening about Up North: crime, noise, crowds, and unfriendly people. Two stops in the Port Authority bus terminal while in college confirmed all my worse fears. I had very little desire to see more of the place.
John had several friends in college who were New York natives, plus he grew up in Baltimore, which is only five hours away, so he had been to the city several times and rightly thought I was silly. He thought taking the kids there for Fall Break last year would be a great idea–they very much wanted to go–and he was right.
Typically, I took about a million pictures, and that is what most of this post will consist of, with some travel tips and deep thoughts sprinkled throughout. 🙂
Travel tip #1: Have friends in New York who let you stay with them for free. 🙂
Mandi, Sameer, and their three kids live in this beautiful home in an historic Brooklyn neighborhood and they were the most welcoming and generous hosts ever. Mandi is John’s stepsister’s daughter which I guess makes her my step-niece by marriage, but she just says we are cousins which is a lot easier and more accurately reflects our actual relationship. We had fun spending time with them and we could not have been more comfortable.
We could have taken the subway, which was right around the corner, but we blew all the money we saved on lodging by Ubering everywhere instead because we are wimps. Our very first Uber driver spoke only Chinese and did not know how to get to the ferry for the Statue of Liberty, which we all agreed should be our first destination. We made it though!
Travel tip #2: Allow each traveler to pick a couple of must-visit attractions, since there is no way to see everything in one trip. The Statue was one we all agreed on.
Travel tip #3: City Pass. We bought these in advance and it guaranteed us tickets to all the things we most wanted to see and saved us money and time in lines.
There is a park where you wait for the ferry, and this sculpture of immigrants to to the United States is prominently displayed there, a visual reminder of the “tired and poor . . . huddled masses . . . and wretched refuse” welcomed for so long by Lady Liberty.
We were grateful for no rain as we approached the island, but sad that visibility was not that great.
Y’all, I may have gone a little crazy taking pictures of the Statue, but you know what? I don’t care. I could have stayed there with her all day. This was by far the most meaningful part of our whole vacation to me. We didn’t book early enough to get to go inside the Statue, but we listened to the audio tour, explored the gift shop, had lunch, and walked everywhere we could. I might have cried a little, thinking about what Lady Liberty stands for and how far our country seems to have strayed from those ideals. I did not want to leave.
Finally we said good-bye and boarded the ferry for our next stop, Ellis Island. If I had known there was so much to see there, I might have left the Statue sooner. There was room upon room of exhibits, full of information about the history of the Island and the people who were processed there on their journey to America.
We took one last trip on the ferry back to where we began, and got a good look at the monument below to American soldiers who died in the Atlantic during the Second World War.
It was getting late and we wanted to squeeze a few for sights in before heading back to Brooklyn, which leads to Travel Tip #4: Visit sites in the same general location on the same day. I know that sounds like a no-brainer, but it requires figuring out where things are in advance if you are in an unfamiliar place. The walking directions that Siri provided were helpful in getting us quickly to our last stops of the day, one specifically requested by William and one by Lorelei.
Here is what William wanted to see, and you can tell how happy it made him!
Lorelei wanted to visit the graveyard of Trinity Church to see the grave of Alexander Hamilton, since she was (and nearly a year later remains) obsessed with the musical Hamilton. Sadly, the churchyard was locked for the evening, but we still got a decent view.
And after that we headed back to Brooklyn to rest up for the next day’s adventures!
We spent the majority of our second day at NYC at Ground Zero. And yet I did not take nearly as many pictures as I did the other days. There is something about the 9/11 Museum that demands reverence and attention. It’s a place I wanted to fully immerse myself in rather than stand outside of and evaluate. Most of the images below were probably taken within the first hour we were there, then I stopped until we were at the outside portion of the memorial.
The flowers indicate a birthday. We were especially moved that unborn children were commemorated.
The new World Trade Center building, Freedom Tower, is impressive:
We didn’t go up to the observatory, though–we had different skyscraper plans, as you will see. We ended day two with dinner in a neighborhood Italian place in Brooklyn.
Bright and early the next morning we got up, ate, and went outside to wait for our Uber. We had a long day ahead of us.
The Natural History Museum was our first stop. We spent several hours there. It wore me out. I don’t know why but as much as I enjoy them I find museums exhausting.
I am just going to dump a lot of pictures below as I believe they will speak for themselves.
As you can see, we spent most of our time with the dinosaurs. I have just a few more pictures of some other things we saw:
We walked to our next stop, which was less than a mile away. We didn’t have time to walk through Central Park but at least we caught a glimpse:
Here’s another famous landmark we happened to pass and were excited to see, which I will admit we all recognized because of Moonstruck, my favorite movie of all time:
Our actual destination was the Church of Saint Paul the Apostle. This is the Mother Church for the Missionary Society of Saint Paul the Apostle, otherwise known as the Paulist Fathers, the priests who have staffed my parish church since I was a very little girl. Our former pastor, Father Joe Ciccone, who baptized Lorelei, was the pastor at Saint Paul at the time, although we had slight hopes of seeing him given that it was after five when we arrived.
We took some time to wander around and pray inside the church. Travel Tip #5, for Catholics anyway, if there’s a cathedral or other notable church where you are vacationing, spend some time there. It will be beautiful and it’s free!
While the kids and I were wandering around, John made a call and discovered that the office was still open so we decided to go around the corner and see if Father Joe was still around.
He was! We had a short visit with him–the reason he was still there was that he had a dinner engagement nearby–and then we proceeded to our next BIG event!
I won’t lie–the crowd was big and the lines were long, although our City Pass helped. But it was worth it!
Wow, that was a long day. We got home late and exhausted, but we still pressed forward the next morning with more big adventures in store.
Our first stop on our last full day in New York was by William’s request. William has favorites of many things, and that includes a favorite building, the Chrysler Building. For many years he has talked about what a beautiful building it is, and we had promised we would make sure to include it in our trip. The evening before he had already seen it all lighted up from afar as we stood on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, but he wanted to see it up close.
Just see how happy he is!
Unfortunately you can no longer go upstairs in the building unless you have legitimate business there, so we had to content ourselves with spending time in the lobby.
We thought we were humoring William, but the truth is that we were grateful for his obsession because it truly is a beautiful building and we were all glad we got to see it.
You know a person could spend days in here, right? So we knew we would have to choose where to concentrate our efforts deliberately.
William wanted to see the Egyptian displays, and they were close at hand, so we started there.
Lorelei and I wanted to see paintings. William did not want to leave Egypt. So we left him there with John and headed upstairs.
Lorelei was especially interested in seeing the Van Gogh collection.
I cannot express what it is like to be absolutely surrounded by fabulous and famous works of art. In every direction were works that were very familiar to us.
We were especially excited to see the painting below, a replica of which hangs on our family room wall!
At one point, Lorelei and I sat down in a random room just to rest and when we got up to leave we realized we had been sitting in a room full of priceless Picasso paintings without even noticing!
Having accomplished our main goal, we headed back downstairs to reunite with John and William, get a snack in the museum restaurant, and view some of the medieval collection.
Most of this collection had religious significance of course and we were mesmerized both by that and by the age of some of the pieces which were over 1000 years old.
Then it was sadly time to go back to Brooklyn and pack up to leave the next morning.
John had one final surprise for me. We made a detour to Queens as we left the next morning and stopped to take a picture of this:
This is the Castorini home in the movie Moonstruck which as I have already mentioned is my favorite film of all time and which also holds special memories for us as we saw it on our first “dating anniversary” in February 1988.
We drove home by way of Baltimore. John and the kids spent time with his mother while I was fortunate enough to attend a Catholic blogging conference nearby. It was a magnificent trip and I cannot believe it was already a year ago!
John and I were married thirty years ago today, at 12:30 p.m. to be precise. To celebrate our anniversary and to reflect on what all those years have meant, I am sharing one picture from each year, with commentary.
Fall 1991. A lot happened in a year and a half! We learned we were expecting our first baby. We decided to move to Knoxville to establish residency so John could attend the University of Tennessee College of Law. We left good jobs in D.C. for no jobs in Knoxville and settled into a two-bedroom apartment, I found a job as Secretary of the Liberal Arts Advising Center. John worked in the UT Traffic Office by day and sold shoes at Proffitt’s (a local, now defunct department store) by night. Emily was born in February 1991, and John started law school later that year. We have never regretted this decision.
February 16, 1992, dressed to go out to celebrate our 5th dating anniversary. We still celebrate that day every year. At this point we were living on a combination of student loans and part-time jobs. John was making fundraising phone calls for Tennessee Right to Life and I was the Foster Care Promotional Coordinator for Sertoma Learning Center. Later that year John started working as a law clerk. Childcare for Emily was cobbled together: my little sister watched her all summer, my grandmother helped once my sister was back in school, I brought her with me when possible, and she spent one day a week in a Parents Day Out downtown. I hated having to leave her.
July 1993, New Orleans, where we were taking part in Katrice and Rico’s wedding. Katrice was one of my best friends in high school. She and Rico are godparents to our oldest son, and we celebrated their son’s college graduation with them earlier this month. What I remember about this day is that I was hot and miserable and suffering from morning sickness. John was getting ready to start his third year of law school and I was preparing to return to grad school and my Graduate Assistant position in the College of Liberal Arts.
May 1994, John’s graduation from law school! I love this picture. We were very popular in law school because students with babies were rare and ours were spoiled by all our friends. Jake was three months old when John graduated. And he was four months old when we found out we were expecting another baby, just days before John took the bar exam. Thankfully he passed and landed a job in Oak Ridge reviewing OSHA regulations shortly afterwards. I was able to quit my job and have never worked outside the home since.
Easter 1995, a classic picture and one of my favorites of all time. Teddy arrived when Jake was 12.5 months old. He had only learned to walk about two weeks earlier. Two babies at once were a lot to handle and most of that first year is a blur.
Christmas 1996. We still had two babies in diapers (and two cribs!) but we also had our first house! A year in a dreadful two-and-a-half bedroom apartment after Teddy arrived spurred us onward to home ownership and we loved our sweet 1940s house in South Knoxville.
Halloween 1997. The kids were two, three, and six. They spent most of their time outside, and I spent a lot of time outside as well, having discovered a love of gardening. By now John had his own solo practice, and I did (and still do) very part-time grant writing and editing for my mother’s non-profit organizing work.
February 4, 1998, John’s 32nd and Emily’s 7th birthday celebration. Looking back now, those years of being overwhelmed by the needs of little kids seem like the golden years. It was hard, but it was simpler.
February 1999. The date is a guess, but this was taken at a restaurant at what was probably a birthday celebration and we have four of those at this time every year. I make a lot of cakes for awhile!
January 2000, dressed for church. Teddy’s hat came from a New Year’s Eve celebration John and I had attended at Club LeConte.
March 2001. And then there were four! The arrival of William was exciting but rough, as I had postpartum hypertension and had to remain in bed for about a month after he was born, with ten-year-old Emily taking care of her brothers when John was at work. We were beginning to be very cramped in our 1400 square foot house and our Mercury Sable. Both were replaced later in the year.
Christmas 2002. When the big kids were little, every December meant a trip to the portrait studio for Christmas pictures to insert in our Christmas cards. By this time I was taking a roll of film with my own camera and then sending triple prints. The closest family members got the worst pictures! Here the kids are standing in front of the house where we had lived for just over a year, a 3000 square foot Queen Anne Victorian built in 1889, in a non-gentrified but walkable neighborhood just a couple of miles from John’s office downtown.
August 2003, the big kids’ first day of school. It was the last year they would all attend St. Joseph School together. Jake was in third grade, Teddy in second, and Emily in sixth, but Jake and Teddy were both homeschooled for their fourth grade year.
November 2004, Lorelei’s first trip to church. We didn’t know it then, but she would be our last baby and the last family member to get to wear John’s heirloom baby dress.
Christmas 2005 marked the end of a hard year that included periods of unemployment, financial difficulties, and John’s hospitalization. Looking back now I can see that it was the only beginning of the most difficult period in our family’s life so far.
September 2006, celebrating my mother’s birthday. This photo includes Ella and Zachary, my sister Anne’s children. Ella is 17 months younger than William and Zachy is 17 months older, and they grew up playing together.
Spring 2007. William is wearing his St. Joseph School uniform. Kindergarten was his only year in Catholic school. He spent the next year at the public school down the street, then was homeschooled for several years while I struggled to figure out why he wasn’t as easy to teach as Jake and Teddy had been. We called the back stairs in our kitchen the “snack steps” because that’s where I would sit the little kids to eat something while I was cooking. You can see evidence in this picture that our old house was starting to crumble a bit.
May 2008, Jake’s graduation from 8th grade, taken next to Holy Ghost Church. We were all smiles, and very proud of Jake who graduated with straight A’s and won some academic awards, but I was putting on a brave face. The day before this I was in the hospital undergoing outpatient surgery after having miscarried our last baby.
November 2009. I’m not sure who snapped this picture of John and me the afternoon of our move into a new home. It wasn’t a happy move, springing from financial necessity of being upside-down on the mortgage of our disintegrating but much-loved Victorian home. But I love that the picture shows us supporting each other.
May 2010, Jake’s first prom. I love this picture for the personality it shows, but also because it was a bright spot in an otherwise difficult stretch where John and Jake (who have a great relationship now) did not get along well at all. Something else noteworthy about 2010 is that it is when I became John’s legal assistant, working from home to run his office.
Fall 2012, Senior Night. John and I are not athletic, and our kids showed no interest in sports until Teddy wanted to play football in 8th grade. It was all new and exciting to us and we thoroughly enjoyed those few years as football parents.
March 24, 2018, our first wedding. Jake and Jessica were married at Frozen Head State Park. Six months later, they moved to Nashville.
July 2019, our first cruise. We sailed on Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas to Bermuda, in honor of our upcoming anniversary. I haven’t blogged about the cruise but I plan to. It was wonderful and we deserved it.
“[Love] is the unity that binds us all together, that makes this earth a family, and all men brothers and the sons of God.” ~ Thomas Wolfe
A quick look at the summer fun the Shollys had in June . . .
The first week of the month, Emily and Lorelei were in Nashville, which made for a very quiet house. Things got lively mid-week, when Jake and Jessica dropped in for a day to leave their dog, Homer, with us while they went to Bonnaroo. We had Homer, an energetic young German shepherd, for over a week.
So as soon as Emily and Lorelei returned we started taking the dogs to the park daily. We made it more fun by trying a second dog park nearby, this one with a pond.
The weekend after Homer left was Father’s Day. We all went to Mass, of course, and stopped at McKay’s Used Books on the way home. We let John choose the agenda, and ended up going to Texas Roadhouse later in the evening.
The following Wednesday was our much anticipated visit to the Chattanooga Zoo, which I highly recommend. It’s compact–you can see the whole thing in two hours, but packed full of interesting animals, including some–jaguars, an anteater, coyotes, and more–that we had never seen in a zoo before. And then we treated ourselves to Waffle House on the way home.
Honestly, since then our summer has pretty much looked like this:
And as far as all my ambitious home improvement projects, aside from getting some more pictures hung up (which is actually a pretty big deal) I’ve spent whatever energy I have on the yard, using my new battery-operated weedeater to try to carve some order out of the backyard, some portions of which are almost as tall as I am.
John and I started June with a trip and we are starting July with one as well–our very first cruise, in honor of our upcoming 30th anniversary. Watch my instagram for pictures! Once again Emily will be in charge of providing summer fun for the kids, but I still have a few things planned for when we return.
I sure do, both because it was fun and because it seems like it happened a few weeks ago instead of a year ago. But if you think I am getting ready to tell you how I am getting ready to do it all again you’d be wrong.
We are going to have some fun this summer, but not quite as often. And this summer the kids are going to help me more with what I find fun, which is getting the house in shape.
So there won’t be enough going on to justify a weekly blog post, but I’ll pop in from time to time to share this summer’s adventures, starting today.
Summer break started with a bang, with our traditional last-day-of-school ice cream cones:
Which was followed by super-Catholic way to start vacation, venerating the heart of Saint Jean Vianney:
On Sunday after Mass we had a graduation party to attend which happened to be near the zoo so we dropped the kids there for their first solo trip! We had a family cookout for Memorial Day, complemented by strawberries Emily grew and Lorelei (mostly) harvested:
The next day we had a fun cousin adventure, including introducing Leo and Ella to the lake:
And being introduced ourselves to Hoskins Drug Store, which has a lunch counter that hasn’t changed since the 1930s:
Emily was responsible for summer fun over the next few days, since John and I were in Washington, DC for my college reunion (about which more later, most likely). She managed another trip to the zoo, daily visits to the dog park, and the new Godzilla movie. Right after we returned she and Lorelei left for a week in Nashville and things have been pretty boring around here without them. John and I are pretending William is an only child. We took him to the Korean restaurant one night and this evening we are going back to the Godzilla movie!
And under the category of getting the house organized, we have spent an hour cleaning William’s room (more must be done), cleaned and organized one half of the front porch (the dirtier half!), installed two garden hoses and mounts for them, and accomplished a couple of long-overdue projects in the basement.
And I’ve got more planned on both the fun and the organization fronts. If you find any of this remotely interesting, watch this space for semi-regular updates.