Another Trip to San Francisco

If I can say one thing with certainty about my third trip to San Francisco, it’s this: my photography skills have improved since last year’s trip. (If I do say so myself–we’ll see if y’all agree with me!)

THURSDAY

We took a second trip to San Francisco to visit Teddy in February 2019.  It was another all-day journey, this time with a connection through Chicago, pictured above.

As usual, I am not a big fan of flying.  I pray the rosary non-stop until we are safely in the air.

We reached the city with daylight to spare, and found ourselves on the 11th floor of the Hyatt in the Financial District, with this beautiful view. (Thank you, Priceline!)  Teddy came to meet us and we walked into the Little Italy area to have dinner with him and one of his Notre Dame buddies.

Afterwards, we relaxed in the hotel lobby for awhile.  Though we were tickled by the names above, I actually just ended up with coffee.

And then it was time to rest up for the busy day we had planned.

FRIDAY

It was a beautiful morning! After breakfast at the hotel, we started walking toward the starting point for our big adventure.

We were heading for Pier 33 to board a ferry for Alcatraz Island.  I had to buy these tickets before we left Knoxville, as they sell out well in advance.  We purchased a ticket for Teddy as well, but something came up at work so we were on our own.

The sky darkened as we approached the island.  And it did in fact rain heavily during our visit there, but happily we were inside when it happened.

One of the cool aspects of our Alcatraz tour is that it covered the entire history of the island, from its beginnings as a fort to the 1970s when Native Americans took over the island to draw attention to their unfair treatment at the hands of the U.S. Government.

Since the prison is what Alcatraz Island is most famous for, I was surprised and fascinated by all the history shared by the Park personnel and the movie we watched at the beginning of the tour.  It is also a surprisingly beautiful place, if a little dilapidated in spots.

The self-guided prison tour, accompanied by headphone narration, was masterful.  Voices of former prisoners and guards provided the commentary as we walked from site to site within the prison.

One of the hardest aspects of confinement at Alacatraz was the nearness of the city, always a visible reminder of the world outside.  Sometimes sounds of laughter and music would drift across the Bay.

Our visit to Alcatraz took most of the day.  I feel like this was the evening we went to see Teddy’s apartment–he had moved with a friend into a place closer to his office–but I can’t remember what we did for the rest of the evening.

SATURDAY

Saturday was a busy day for me and a mostly restful one for John.  I started by leaving the hotel (above) in search for some good coffee (below).

On our last visit, Teddy had made it a point to take us to several local coffee establishments, which were all excellent.  Philz was the closest to the Hyatt, and I enjoyed my first ever avocado toast along with the coffee.

After I took John some coffee and breakfast, I went back out and headed for the Ferry Building and the Saturday market I had enjoyed so much on my last trip to San Francisco.

I bought some souvenirs to take home and then went back to the room, where I discovered John had neglected to pack his preventive asthma medication, which necessitated many calls to find an open nearby Walgreens and to get an emergency prescription transferred there.  There were many within walking distance, but because we were in the Financial District, most were not open on weekends.  So my next task was to go on a walk and return with the medicine.

By the time I returned I had already walked about three miles.  And it was time for more walking, since the day’s plan involved my meeting Teddy at the Museum of Modern Art, some distance away.

We didn’t have enough time to see the entire museum, but we saw a lot.  Here are a few things that stood out:

After the museum, we walked to Chinatown to meet John and to eat and stroll about.

I convinced John we should walk back to the hotel afterwards.  It was downhill all the way, which was a good thing since I ended up having walked around 12 miles all told.  We had drinks in the lobby and stared, mesmerized, at the giant sculpture below, which changes colors frequently thanks to an array of lights that are trained on it.

SUNDAY

The next morning, we met Teddy behind the Ferry Building to catch the Sausalito Ferry.

We didn’t take the ferry for the view–although it was lovely.  We had a purpose for our trip.

We ate a quick lunch at a nearby cafe, and then hopped on a bus (tickets purchased in advance–this is not something you can do on the spur of the moment) for our trip to Muir Woods to see some giant redwoods.

It was, as you would expect, beautiful and peaceful, and very different from the forests on our side of the country.

After our bus ride back to Sausalito, we walked along the water in search of dinner.

We ended up at Scoma’s, which is funny since we ate at the one on the San Francisco side of the bay on our last trip to San Francisco and we did not know there was one on this side until we happened upon it.

Then it was back to the city to rest before our final day.

MONDAY

Before we left the eleventh floor for the last time, I wanted to record the terrifying drop to the lobby below.  We were grateful not to have any small children with us, particularly considering the small children we once had, who would almost certainly have tried to climb over the drop if they had an opportunity!

We checked out but left our luggage in storage, and took a nice walk along the waterfront, making our way to the Maritime Museum, where we had planned to meet up with Teddy.  Here are some sights along the way.

The museum itself was incredibly cool and I’m a little surprised I didn’t take any pictures of its art deco architecture and decor.  Pictured below is the tiny craft in which a young Japanese man once crossed the Pacific to reach San Francisco.  Please take the time to read his words in the second picture, which I found incredibly moving.

We ate lunch at a nearby restaurant before heading to the San Francisco Maritime National Park, just a couple of blocks away.  This included a museum showcasing displays on the history of the city, and admission to the Hyde Street Pier, with its fleet of historic vessels.

The Eureka, pictured above, was my favorite–a ferry that carried people (and cars!) across the Bay every day until the bridges were built.  Below are a few more pictures of her.

Below is Hercules the tugboat:

And there were older ships as well:

I got some nice shots as we left the pier:

From there, the three of us headed to the Buena Vista Cafe, famous for Irish Coffee.  Teddy had treated me to one during our epic walk on our last trip to San Francisco, and I wanted another one.  That was the last thing we did together before Teddy left us to go back to work.  We made our way back to the hotel to get our luggage and head to the airport, where we ate dinner before taking another redeye flight home.

And tomorrow we will be heading out for our third trip to San Francisco.  The most important item on the agenda this time is meeting Teddy’s girlfriend. 🙂

You can follow along on Instagram or wait till I post about it here!

Trip to San Francisco

A Trip to San Francisco

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?

THURSDAY

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.

FRIDAY

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!

There is a Catholic church in Chinatown.  It’s staffed by the Paulist Fathers, just like my own parish church.  Now called Old Saint Mary’s, it used to be the San Francisco Cathedral.  I took lots of pictures:

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:

Above are two views of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church.  Below is St. Francis of Assisi, the first parish church in San Francisco.

Below is a cool view of the Transamerica Pyramid (which was how I found my way back to the hotel–you can see it from everywhere) juxtaposed with Columbus Tower aka the Sentinel Building, owned by Francis Ford Coppola.

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:

SATURDAY

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

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.

After the bridge we just kept walking.

Past the National Cemetery.

All around the Presidio.

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.

MONDAY

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.

Visiting Zoo Knoxville

As the mother of two animal fanatics, I have visited many remarkable zoos 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.

The Chinese Alligator above is one of William’s favorite creatures at our zoo.

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.

A pile of painted dog pups
These are NOT pigs; they are peccaries, a close relative
No one is really sure how old Big Al is, but he is well over 100

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!

Saturday 9 November and Sunday 10 November are $5 days at the zoo, and parking is free, but you must purchase tickets ONLINE.

A Labor Day Weekend Visit to Cincinnati

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.

The Museum Center, which was undergoing extensive renovations at the time

This is a detail of the prior photo, which had a container of the Emperor’s disgusting fingernails.

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.

A FIRST FOLIO
Me with an actual First Folio of Shakespeare’s play. I assure you I was way more thrilled than I appeared. I would not have posed for a picture with just anything!
There were interactive aspects to this exhibit, as you can see!

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.

This and the one below is a condor, which we only saw from far away–but just look at that wingspan!

This sign is the introduction to the nocturnal animal exhibit–considerate for the animals, but difficult for observers!

The tribute to passenger pigeons made us all sad.

At the insect exhibit

And that was the end of our short but very busy visit to Cincinnati.  Have you ever been there?

Fall Break in New York City

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.

This is the room where the initial processing of new arrivals took place

Lorelei and William rest on an original bench where immigrants sat waiting to be called

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.

VERY 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.

After a final good-bye to the Chrysler Building, we headed for the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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!

Thirty Years: A Marriage in Pictures

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.

August 12, 1989, as we emerged from Immaculate Conception Church in downtown Knoxville, immediately after the ceremony.  Like any newly married couple, we were starting a journey that we couldn’t have imagined or predicted.  We were 23 and 22 when this picture was taken.

April 1990, at the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.  John and I met at Georgetown University, and lived in Alexandria, Virginia just outside D.C. for most of our first year of marriage.  John, who graduated in 1988, was already working as a Federal Investigator and I found a job as Secretary of Georgetown’s Department of History.

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.

September 6, 2011.  Our rental house had just burned down and we lost almost every material possession.  Thanks to the overwhelming kindness of our family and community, we were able to move into the home in which we still live three weeks later.

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.

May 2013, Emily’s college graduation.  Emily attended Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, graduating with a degree in Creative Writing.  We thoroughly enjoyed our many visits to Mobile, where my mother’s family has roots, especially the seafood!  Just a couple of months later, we sent another kid off to college as Teddy began his freshman year at the University of Notre Dame.

August 12, 2014, a 25th anniversary selfie.  This was taken at Club LeConte, a fancy restaurant on the 27th floor of Knoxville’s tallest building.

July 2015, in a Chicago skyscraper more deserving of the name.  We were in town to attend a wedding and to visit Teddy, who was doing a summer internship there.

March 2016, a Spring Break trip to Chattanooga.  Traveling was starting to get easier.  On our last family trip with all five kids, we had to take two cars and book three motel rooms.

May 2017, Teddy’s graduation from Notre Dame.

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

June Summer Fun

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.

Summer Fun Revisited

Remember last summer, when I treated my kids to near-daily adventures from the first day of break to the last?

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.

Summer Fun: The End

School started yesterday.  Our summer is over even though there is a month and a half left in the season!

There wasn’t a whole lot of time for fun in our last week.  It was actually a pretty typical week from one of our other summers–I worked every day and the kids stared at screens.  But that was the ONLY week that was true this summer so I’m calling it a win.

There was a lot to do, as there always is when school is about to start, like haircuts:
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And although I bought supplies online, we still spent most of Saturday shopping because Lorelei needed new clothes.

I promised everyone a trip to the lake in the afternoon, though, and I delivered on that promise.
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On Monday, we had our last big adventure.  I have no pictures to commemorate it, but we wore ourselves out spending maybe three hours at an enormous antique mall.  The kids thoroughly enjoyed it and each got to bring home a few items.

On Tuesday, we went for ice cream just once more as a last day of vacation treat.

And then on Wednesday school began.  No way would William let me photograph him on such an occasion.  You can see how thrilled Lorelei is to have to go back to regular school.
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Thanks for following along on our summer adventures.  Knowing I was going to be blogging about them helped motivate me to continue, and continuing gave me something regular to write about, so it was a great idea all around and I will plan to repeat it next year.

Here are all the posts in order:
Why We Can’t Have a 70s Summer and What We Are Doing Instead
The Summer Fun Continues . . .
More Summer Fun
Summer Fun Update
Summer Fun:  Vacation
That 70s Summer
In Which I Grow Lazy
Exploring History
Adventuring
Home Stretch

Summer Fun: Adventuring

Last week I fell far short of my promised one-fun-thing-per-day promise.  I had a good excuse, though–I went to Nashville from Wednesday until Saturday to visit my sister.  Emily kindly provided some entertainment for her siblings in my stead, taking them blueberry picking.  And John took them to a “magnificent” (according to William) Asian restaurant to dine while I was gone.
But we did have one big adventure on Tuesday, one that did not turn out at all as I had planned!
We lived in South Knoxville when the big kids were little, and every Wednesday morning for years I used to take them to breakfast at Shoney’s.  Shoney’s was a big favorite for our family back then because we didn’t have a lot of money, we had a lot of mouths to feed, and kids ate free at the buffet!
So just about every summer since then we make a point to head south to that same Shoney’s to recreate some of that long ago summer fun.  Usually there’s a waitress or two there who still remembers us from back in the day (not this time, sadly).
That’s what the plan was on Tuesday, to be followed by a quick trip to the Fort Dickerson Overlook, perhaps a short walk on a trail, and visits to Scottish Pike Park and the new Suttree Landing Park that William and Lorelei have never seen.
Most of that will have to wait until another day, as you will see!
After a big breakfast, we drove up to Fort Dickerson Park and went to admire the view from the overlook.  I will never forget the first time I saw this view, about 25 years ago.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing–it was like I was in some enchanted faraway land instead of about a mile from downtown Knoxville.
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Now, I’ve been to Fort Dickerson many times, but this time I saw something new–a trail just to the left of the overlook.
And that’s when I had a bright idea.  Why don’t we explore it, I said.  Let’s just see where it goes, I said.  We can always turn around and come back.
So we braved the kudzu and started to walk.
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And we walked.  And we walked.  And we sort of committed.  Eventually it was clear that we were walking right around the lake.  I figured we’d end up at the bottom (I’ve taken a trail that goes there from a different parking lot) and then surely there would be a way back on the other side.
Sure enough, after a fairly easy walk we ended up exactly where I thought, and we started hunting for that other trail.  At first things seemed to go fairly well, and we made our way along the opposite side of the lake, heading in exactly the direction we were supposed to.
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Until, that is, we ended up at a very dead end, standing right on the bank of the lake with a sheer cliff several hundred feet tall in front of us.
So we doubled back to where we had taken what was clearly the wrong fork and kept walking, only to eventually realize the trail we were on did nothing but circle us back–after a long time, I might add–to an area close to where it began.
By now we had come to realize that there WAS no trail on the other side.  We had two choices for how to get back to the car–take the trail we’d come down to begin with, or leave the park and go by road.
Did I mention that it was about a million degrees by now? (Well, at least 90 anyway.)  And we didn’t bring water.  We were tired, exhausted, and dehydrated as we made our way to the parking lot and thence to Chapman Highway, which if you are not local I need to explain is NOT the kind of road you really want to walk on.
Fortunately, there is a sidewalk–on the wrong side, naturally–and we were able to find a safe way to cross the highway.  We trudged doggedly up the hill and then crossed back over to the park entrance and finally made it to the car.  Y’all, we had walked FOUR MILES.
We drove straight to Weigel’s and bought Icees and much water, which I actually poured right on my head.  I apologized A LOT for my poor leadership skills.  But it was an adventure!
Read more of our summer adventures below!
Why We Can’t Have a 70s Summer and What We Are Doing Instead
The Summer Fun Continues . . .
More Summer Fun
Summer Fun Update
Summer Fun:  Vacation
That 70s Summer
In Which I Grow Lazy
Exploring History