Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fridays are for Fish, Family and Fun...

I know I’ve been slacking on the blog… sorry about that.  It’s been a crazy busy week.  I’m waiting on some pics from the family float trip Saturday so I can tell you all about it, but in the meantime, I’ll tell you about Friday night. 
After work I headed to Grandpa and Grandma’s house to meet the family.  Once a month there is a big dinner at Moore’s Fish Farm in Inola, and my family never misses it.  So we headed that way just after 5:30… my grandparents, mom, sister, brother-in-law and their kids, my mom’s best friend Kelly and her boyfriend, my Aunt Kathy and my cousin, Austin, and his girlfriend Samantha.  It’s a family affair.  And usually we also have my other aunt, uncle and set of cousins too.  But my cousin, Derek, got busted in the face playing basketball and had to go get stitches.  Party foul.  Anyway, we loaded up into three cars and hit the road.  We enjoyed lots of fried catfish, barbeque, and all the fixings, topped off with ice cream and cobbler before heading home.  Good stuff. 
I took a very quick power nap before getting in the shower, making myself presentable and putting on my dancing shoes for a Woods girls night out.
My beautiful sisters.
My little sister, Lauren, is spending her summer in California doing her internship with the US Department of Defense.  She’s a smarty pants rocket scientist.  Yes, a real one.  Anyway, she has been in this little town in the middle of nowhere in California (the hot, boring desert part… not the pretty mountain or fun beach part).  So when she came to Oklahoma for a 40-hour long visit this weekend, it was seriously like a vacation for her.  She flew in Friday for her friend Jesse’s bachelorette party.  They were going to eat and then to Friction for some dancing.  Since she had flown 1500 miles already, my older sister Sarah and I decided that we could meet her at Friction for a little sister time.  It was, after all, Sarah’s birthday as well and I, after all, love to dance.  And with Lauren living in Fayetteville, Sarah busy with her two amazing kiddos and my stupid busy schedule, it’s rare that the three of us get to do anything together unless it’s group family stuff (like the fish fry).  We don’t often have a sisters night out.  So Sarah and I were bachelorette party crashers.  J
I taught them this trick. :)
My brother-in-law Robbie came with us as well… I’m sure he loved being the only guy at a bachelorette party.  J 
Robbie & Sarah
But Brett met up with us a little later.  We had a fun time and danced the night away. 
You can't tell, but this was actually taken mid dance.  :)
I almost forgot how much I love dancing.  I’ve never been a big fan of the club life.  And I hate smoky bars.  But I LOVE to dance.  And sometimes, my heart just needs it.  I once heard a quote that went something like, “There is a bit of insanity in dancing that does everybody a great deal of good.”  I’m not sure if I got that right word for word, but you get the idea.  I think it’s true.
Awww… family pic… aren’t we cute.  If only Walter Talkie could have been there. 
I love my family.  :)
The night was an interesting one.  We got there late.  There was some extreme discomfort related to something out of my control.  I got absorbed in a phone call that kept me away from the party for a bit.  When I came back, my best friend showed up to make me feel better.  Sarah tried to fight what she called an oompla loompa.  Robbie’s broken foot was not ideal for the dance floor so he and Sarah went home early.  The bachelorette party checked out shortly after.  Lauren stayed for a sing-a-long with the band before she left.  Brett and I stayed for a couple more dances before heading out.  Not quite the sisters night out we’d expected, but it just goes to support my theory… life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we're here we should dance.  J

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Let there be sheetrock...

Okay, so I know this is the blog you’ve all been waiting for… the update on the bachelorette pad…
The good news is… drum roll please… I have a sheetrock ceiling in my living room!  Yay!
It’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally up.  For those of you who may not be familiar with my home remodel project… I’ll give you a little background.  My house was built in 1950.  I bought it for really cheap in January and immediately started tearing stuff up.  The living room is the project of focus for the time being since I now have less than one month until my Netflix goal.
So this is how it started… when I bought the house it had a drop ceiling in it, kind of like what you’d see in a junior high cafeteria… 
In the beginning... there was a drop ceiling...
Brett helped me tear it down early on in the project, like the month after I bought the house… only to find an old tile ceiling underneath that.  After having a small piece of the tile sent off for asbestos testing (it came back negative – woohoo!), I pulled all the tiles down.  I don’t have a picture of the tile ceiling but this is what it looked like under the tiles.  They were all stapled to small boards like these, all the way across the ceiling…
Post-tile ceiling...
After pulling all the boards down, I was left with a cracked lath and plaster ceiling.  Yuck.  I quickly decided it also had to come down.  But first… I had to go up in the attic and remove tons of blown-in fiberglass insulation so that it wouldn’t fall in my eyes when I did.  After the first night of scooping that mess into a trash bag, I got smart… in many ways.  First, I recruited a helper.  Brett gave up two nights to help me clear out the rest of the area over my living room.  Second, I bought a large trash can to put the bags into.  It’s hard to dump insulation into a trash bag that you can hardly keep open.  Having the trashcan to put them in was a huge time saver.  And probably the biggest improvement of all (which wasn’t actually my idea… I have to give the credit to the doctor) was to haul the shop vac into the attic instead of scooping it all with a dustpan.  I’m so glad I bought that thing.  This goes to support my theory that everyone needs a shop vac at some point in their lives.  For all you friends who are getting married soon, consider this a must-have on the registry.  Much more important than all that china you’ll never use and will end up breaking when moving.  So… two days of shop vaccing and 17 bags of insulation later… we were ready to knock the plaster down. 
It looked like this when I started…
I hate plaster...
I took this project on myself, which was not smart.  Plaster is heavy.  I could have been seriously injured.  I still have two knots on my head where it hit me and tons of scratches and scrapes.  Because I was trying to be very careful not to hurt myself, I started like this, chipping away at the plaster and slowing prying the wood slats down.
I really hate plaster...
But after an hour had passed and the hole was still only about three feet wide, I decided to try another route.  So I climbed trough that whole in the ceiling and started beating it to death with my hammer from the top down. 
yes, I did this by myself...
The plaster started flying.  The wood slats were hanging.  I seriously thought I was going to break a window. 
the sky is falling...
It came down fast and hard… I apologize for the quality of these pictures as that was all the dust flying from the plaster.  Lesson learned… when tearing down 60-year-old plaster, hang plastic over all interior doorways so that you don’t have an inch of dust on EVERYTHING in your house.  Boo.
look out below...
And eventually… we had this… drop ceiling gone, tile ceiling gone, boards gone, insulation gone, plaster gone, lath gone… meet my attic.  J
hello attic...
I went to bed exhausted after a long night of making a mess and an even longer night of cleaning it up.  Thanks to my cousin Austin for loaning me his polycart to throw all the crap away in when the two that I have weren’t enough to hold it all. Even with the extra, it will take about three weeks of trash service to get rid of all the debris.
In case you wondered what a polycart was...
Aunt Kathy and my mom showed up around 9:00 am the next day.  They are fantastic and have been there to help me on my remodel projects more than anyone else.  I truly appreciate them.  They thought they were going to help me hang sheetrock.  Which they did, but not until after they finished helping pull the last of the lath and plaster down from around the edges (the corners were hard to get to), removed all the nails from the rafters, took down the ceiling fan and it’s interesting contraption holding it in place for where it was even with the original drop ceiling, fought with this chicken wire like stuff that was only on one side of the room where plaster had been attached to it so that we could get a straight enough edge to hang sheetrock to it and cleaning up even more of the plaster mess I still hadn’t got to.  Finally, after a lunch of delicious Subway sandwiches (it was the least I could do for all their hard labor) we were ready to hang our first piece of sheetrock at about 2:00 pm.  We had borrowed my brother-in-law's jack, though none of us really had a clue how to use it…
this thing tried to kill me...
We had two 12-foot pieces hung when my friend Caleb texted that he had a screw gun we could borrow.  I didn’t really know what that was, but he assured me that it was better than a drill, so when he volunteered (well, more like insisted really) to bring it over, I didn’t argue.  Caleb, who has a broken foot and therefore requires a driver, showed up with his brother Matt (who is also a good friend and coworker of mine) to deliver the screw gun.  They immediately saw that we didn’t know what we were doing and Matt took over.  He started hanging the third piece.  And then the fourth.  Into the fifth piece, Caleb got frustrated that he couldn’t help due to his crippled nature and he called his dad.  Dennis showed up shortly after and in about of an hour, it was all finished.  Dennis is like a master sheetrock cutter, I’ve never seen anyone work that fast, that accurately, without even using a straight edge.  It was amazing really.  A HUMONGOUS thank you to the Wilson family for their help.  I suck at asking for help and I never would have even called them.  But the reality is, we could never have done it without them.  My mom, aunt and I would have taken two full days to complete it.  After Dennis got the sheetrock hung, he, along with my mom and aunt went home.  Matt and Caleb stayed to help me clean up and put the remaining screws in the sheetrock. 
Now we are ready to tape, mud and texture.  I’m thinking next week.  I can’t wait until it’s ready to paint.  Can we say paint party?  J  I’ll keep you posted.  Thanks again to all my super helpers this weekend.  You guys were amazing. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

In memory, out of respect...

Today a fallen soldier was laid to rest.  Sgt. Anthony Peterson was from Chelsea, which, for all you far away friends, is just north of where I live in Claremore.  He was killed in action in Afghanistan.  I didn’t know Sgt. Peterson, though many of my friends did.  But I respect him and I wish to dedicate today’s blog to thank him and his family for the ultimate sacrifice he made for my freedom.  The freedom that allows me to have a college education, a career and a family.  The freedom that allows me to go where I want when I want, spend money on things I don’t need, eat food that is bad for me and throw good stuff away.  The freedom to write whatever I feel like on this very blog.  And the freedom that allowed me to stand on the street and show my respect as the funeral procession went by… 
Our ladder truck waving Old Glory in memory of Sgt. Peterson
This morning at around 8:30, I and the rest of my coworkers here at City Hall closed the building up and walked out into the street with our flags.  The entire stretch of Will Rogers Boulevard from Highway 66 to the First Baptist Church where the funeral was to be held was lined with supporters… men, women, children… moms, dads, sons, daughters, friends… many of them, like myself, didn’t know Sgt. Peterson.  But they understood and respect the sacrifice made by that young man and they value what his life meant and his death will forever represent.  Those supporters stood with tears in their eyes as the funeral procession of a man they never met went down the street.  Their hearts were broken as if he was one of their own.  And that’s because he was. 

The start of the processional
It’s days like today that make me proud to be an American and proud to be from this wonderful small town where the people here love their soldiers and treat them with the respect they have so honorably earned.  A special thanks to all the military personnel who have stood in my place on the front lines.  And a special thanks to their husbands, wives, children, mothers and fathers who have lost precious time with their loved ones all in the name of my freedom.  And a very special thanks to Sgt. Anthony Peterson who made the ultimate sacrifice for me. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Who knew it was monsoon season...

Holy moly!
Don’t get me wrong.  I LOVE that it finally rained… but did it have to all come at once?  I took an early lunch today (which was clearly a mistake) to go and run some errands.  I seriously look like I just swam back to work.  No really… my hair is soaked, what little makeup I actually wore to work today is gone and my jeans are holding more water than if I had just pulled them out of the washing machine.  Thank goodness for the space heater under my desk.  I’m about to freeze to death. 
The good news is I stopped by Pixley’s (shop local, yay!) and bought the last of the sheetrock for my living room ceiling and the plywood to floor my attic.  That means I’m serious about the project.  Now that I have actually invested a fair amount of money into that new ceiling, it will happen… soon.  And I can’t wait. 
Now… if the monsoon would ever subside so that they could deliver my materials…
Oh well, in the meantime it’s back to work so I can try to get out of here and get started a little early on the bachelorette pad.  My mom and Aunt Kathy are coming over tomorrow to lend a helping hand.  I think I’m at the ready to take pictures stage, so I will give you guys an update after the weekend.  Send happy thoughts our way.  J

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Not a teacher...

Yes, I realize I am getting more and more behind on the blog each day.  I am very sorry for that.  Blogging really is something I enjoy and I will make a better effort of taking time each day to be more consistent with my postings.  Don’t worry, I promise to recover from my writer’s block this weekend.  But for now I’ll keep it short.
So, I’m really sad… I was supposed to be teaching a Basic Public Relations class at NSU’s Broken Arrow campus starting next Tuesday.  But apparently they printed the course number in the schedule wrong which resulted in people not being able to enroll in it and it wasn’t discovered until it was too late.  So since I only had three students, they decided to cancel the class.  Boo. 
I love teaching.  I have done it since graduate school.  I started teaching speech as a graduate student and then slowly added Mass Communications, Web Design, etc.  It is fun and rewarding.  I have actually finished every semester I’ve taught feeling like I learned a whole lot more then I actually taught my students.  So I was really looking forward to adding Public Relations to that list this semester.  Oh well, to borrow from my little sister… you win some, you lose some.  I’m on the schedule for next semester (hopefully right this time) to teach Writing for the Media.  It will be a really fun one. 
So for now, I’ll try to find something else to fill my Tuesday nights.  Maybe I’ll take up a new hobby…

Monday, August 8, 2011

Love is crazy... and often, stupid...

This weekend, in addtion to buying a new pair of running shoes (tax free), I added another movie to the list of those I’ve seen in the theater... Crazy, Stupid, Love. 
Spoiler alert... I don’t usually give a lot of details about the plot when I talk about the movies I’ve seen, but in this blog I do.  Stop reading now if you plan to watch the movie.
The basic idea of the movie is to use three generations of romantic attraction to demonstrate that when it comes to love, experience counts for little.  It's a movie that understands love because it understands pain. It is, for the most part, an effective love story, but the two figures that captivate one another (and the audience) aren't the ones you think… It’s actually the magnetism between the movie's two lead male actors that really makes the movie work.
At 40-something, straight-laced Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) is living the dream... good job, nice house, great kids and marriage to his high school sweetheart. But when he learns that his wife, Emily (Julianne Moore), had an affiar and wants a divorce, his “perfect” life quickly falls apart. And what’s worse is that Cal, who hasn't been a part of the dating scene for 25+ years... or really ever... stands out as the epitome of unsmooth. He now spends his free evenings miserable and alone at a bar.  Enter Jacob (Ryan Gosling)... an extremely successful ladies’ man who sees Cal at the bar and takes him under his wing to teach him all the right moves… starting with an overhaul of his wardrobe.  In an effort to help Cal get over his wife and embrace the man inside him, Jacob opens Cal's eyes to the many options before him. Cal becomes an avid student in the rather depressing art of treating sexual banter as a manipulative science.  While most romantic comedies give guys insight (that they usually miss anyway) into the way women think, Crazy, Stupid, Love actually works the other way giving women a glimpse into the male mind.
At this point there are two separate plots in the movie… Cal’s and Jacob’s.  We’ll start with Cal’s.  Jacob’s instructions finally pay off when Cal scores with a lonely woman (who in a different plot with an ironic twist, turns out to be his son’s eighth grade English teacher) giving him a renewed confidence in himself and leading him through a series of one-night stands.  But despite Cal's makeover and his many new conquests, the one thing that can't be made over is his heart, which seems to keep leading him back to where he began.
And Jacob’s plot… his polished pick-up routines work on a dazzling array of women until it hits a wall.  He can’t get anything but laughter and sarcasm from Hannah (Emma Stone), a law student who sees through every one of his lines.  Until Hannah suffers a devastating disappointment in her relationship (with a guy not good enough for her anyway) that causes her to rebound into Jacob’s arms to instigate a genuine relationship that takes both parties by surprise. 
Cal and Jacob aren't the only ones looking for love in all the wrong places.  The movie is also about Cal and Emily's 13-year-old son, Robbie who is “in love” with the family’s 17-year-old babysitter, who ironically, is in love with Cal.  It's about Hannah who is trying to run her romantic life in as controlled a fashion as her career, and what happens when she meets Jacob.  It's about Emily's relationship with her dorky coworker that broke up her marriage, Cal's fling with the crazy teacher and the feelings Cal and Emily still have for each other.
And then… at just the right time… the script throws in three startling revelations about cunningly hidden relationships among the characters which leads to a climatic free-for-all that brings nearly everyone to an unplanned showdown in the Weaver backyard.  In most movies, I am able to pick out a favorite line… this was unfortunately not one of them due to the lack of meaningful dialogue.  However, this impact of this scene almost outweighs that of any one liner.  It was the moment where Cal was trying to win his wife back with the help of their two young children.  That’s interrupted when Cal realizes that the “game changer” Jacob’s been telling him about is his little Hannah Banana, at the same time the audience realizes that Hannah is Cal and Emily’s daughter.  Also thrown into the mix was the babysitter and her extremely angry father who discovered naked pictures of his daughter and her plans to send them to Cal.  That played into the plot of Cal’s young son experiencing his first broken heart when he realizes his father is his competition.  All while the adulterous coworker shows up to return the sweater Emily left in his car.  Every emotion imaginable was happening in this one scene simultaneously… frustration, distrust, anger, envy, jealousy, embarrassment, hurt, sadness, fear, doubt, regret, disappointment… but also happiness, love, surprise, sympathy, humor, hope, compassion and faith. This scene is the perfect representation of what life is like.  A big mess of confusing emotions that somehow all work out in the end. 
So what’s lacking?  It would have been nice to see Jacob’s advice to Cal actually have a positive impact on how he now treats the taken-for-grated Emily. And it would have been equally nice to see Cal’s adoration of his family have an impact on the determined-to-remain-single Jacob.  The movie suggests these things happen, but you don’t get to see it.  I guess that’s where I write my own happy ending. 
While I wouldn’t go so far as to say the movie was “the perfect combination of sexy and cute,” (borrowing from one of the few lines I actually remember)… Crazy, Stupid, Love was definitely worth seeing.

Friday, August 5, 2011

My Warrior Team...

Geez, today was a stressful day. 
I think I checked the Warrior Dash website 37 times to make sure there were enough spots for all my friends in the 1:00 wave.  When I started the morning there were seven spots… now there are none. 
I’m finally coming down from my panicked rush.  Whew.  I signed up a few weeks ago when there were like 200 spots left.  But I knew some of my friends were dragging their feet so when I saw only seven spots left in the wave I registered for this morning, I frantically texted, emailed and facebooked them to sign up to insure that they filled those last few spots and we could all do it together.  And I’m pleased to say that I have come one step closer to accomplishing the goal on my bucket list of getting a group together for this event.  Still waiting to hear from a couple people as to whether or not they made the cut… but so far Leanne, Jason, Katie, Andy, Brett, Evan, Ashleigh, Courtney, Justin and I are in for the craziest frickin’ day of our lives… or at least that’s what the website says.  J
Thanks to all of you for helping me achieve this goal on my list.  I am super excited for September 24th to get here. 
I'm looking forward to the giant slip-n-slide...
... wall climbing...
... fire jumping...
... mud crawling...
... and all the other challenges along the course (all pictures stolen from Google).  Training starts on Monday.  Get excited.  J
While there are no more open spots in the 1:00 wave, there are other waves.  Check out the Warrior Dash website for more information.  We can all still pregame before the race and party with our warrior helmets after.  J

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Milwaukee or bust...

Yesterday I had my second knee boarding adventure.  The sunset on the lake was absolutely beautiful, I’m not injured and I completed two consecutive 360s on the board.  Needless to say… good times were had by all.  J
Today, I’ve been planning my upcoming mini-vacation to Milwaukee.  As we have discussed… I am a planner.  Most vacations require a detailed itinerary, and while I am building some down time into that itinerary for Brett’s sake (since he has so graciously agreed to accompany me to Wisconsin), this one is really no different.  It didn’t take much research to find there is so much to do there it’s going to be hard to narrow down the list.  Milwaukee is packed with history, and being the history nerd that I am, I hope to see it all.  But at the same time, I hope to balance some of the things Brett will enjoy as well.
So far, here are some of the things on the agenda…
... A Night in Old Milwaukee… this sounds like is a really cool, classy party event with hors d’oeuvres, drinks and entertainment at the Milwaukee Public MuseumWhile this is right up my alley and Brett isn’t a huge fan of museums, I think he will actually enjoy this event. 
... Shrimp boil and Fish Fry at Discovery World followed by dessert at the Harley-Davidson Museum.  The fish fry was definitely added to the itinerary for Brett, though I am excited about Discovery World.  And I saw online where there is a special display at the Harley-Davidson Museum of the bikes and memorabilia used in the movie Captain America, which could also be cool to see.  
... a 5K run along the Lake Michigan shoreline.  I’m the runner of the two of us, though Brett also agreed to do this with me.  I think it will be a beautiful and relaxing run and I’m pretty excited about it. 
... brewery Tour.  Of course… how can one visit Milwaukee and not visit “Milwaukee’s Best.”  This is another one thrown in there for Brett.  We will tour both the Miller Brewery and the Lakefront Brewery. 
... a boat tour.  Unless we find a better way to get out on the lake, I am tentatively scheduling us “A Morning on the Water” which is a 2.5 hour guided boat tour of the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan.   
... I was hoping to find a good concert while we were out there… but no such luck.  All I found was Rodney Carrington (still debating on if this is worth adding to the itinerary) and Rock the Green which is a music festival.  The talent lineup includes The Fray, Ben Folds, Michelle Branch and Christina Perri, among others.  Not the best lineup... but not the worst either.  It might be cool to check out for a bit though I don’t think we’ll stay the entire time.
... I found a couple of really cool local places I also want to check out.  One of which is a sassy  and sophisticated bar and lounge called Blu.  It’s located on the 23rd floor of the Pfister Hotel.  The view alone will make stopping by there worth it to me.  I also want to check out the downtown area and the Greendale shopping district. 
Who knows what else we might find when we get there.  If any of you know of any can't-miss attractions in Milwaukee, send them my way.  Oh and did I mention this is a work trip.  That seems to be the only way I can get a vacation these days… if I’m working through it.  I will be in educational sessions all day… that’s when Brett gets his down time.  J  I hadn’t even filled him in on that part yet.  J  No actually, there are a few of the events in the actual conference I think he might really be interested in and then one of the days I plan to send him off on a chartered fishing trip on Lake Michigan while I’m growing as a city administrator.  Maybe he can bring home some salmon.  J
The good news however is that I was awarded a conference scholarship from ICMA that paid for my (and Brett’s) conference registration as well as our hotel room during the conference and my flight to and from Milwaukee.  So the only cost I am out is the extra two days in the hotel, Brett’s flight and all the fun stuff we plan to do.  Makes it a pretty economical vacation.  J  Despite the having to work thing, it will be a lot of fun.  I’m really looking forward to it.
We leave on this trip the day after my Netflix deadline… so I better get to work.  Tonight I’m running into Tulsa with Brett to get a birthday gift for his mom.  Then I hope to get caught up on the three weeks of True Blood I’m behind.  This not having cable thing stinks.  L  I’m hoping to make a dent in that living room ceiling next week.  I’ll keep you posted on the progress…

Monday, August 1, 2011

A weekend in the Show Me State...

As I have mentioned before… I don’t sit down much.  This weekend was no exception.  I took a little trip up to Missouri to visit my friends Kelly and Nathan.  Kelly and I have been friends since our freshman year of high school.  We have been through a lot together in the 15 years we’ve been friends and we have always been very close.  She is one of the few people who has been able to stand me that long.  J  I don’t get to see her as much as I would like.  So since last week was her birthday I decided to make the trek up the turnpike to pay her a little visit and spend a day at Silver Dollar City. 
After spending my lunch break Friday at the Dodge dealership getting Kit’s oil changed, I came back to work, quickly wrapped up the last few things I had to do in the office and then headed to Pryor.  Brett was going to Missouri with me and I was just slightly overdue for my yearly eye exam so I had him fit me into the afternoon schedule on our way out of town.  It helps when you’re best friend is the doctor.  After a few minutes of “One or two?  Three or four?” we discovered that I have 20/15 vision… the LASIK is still working!  Yay!  Brett did set the machine to what he said is better than my vision… it looked the exact same to me, but I humored him and said, “Oh yeah, it’s so much sharper…”  J  He said, “If you know you have perfect vision, then why are you here?”  Duh… to make sure my eyes are healthy… do I really need to explain to the doctor the importance of checking the eye for health issues?  J  So he took a look at it… and thankfully I passed inspection.  He did tell me I need to make sure to always wear sunglasses when I’m outside due to an increased chance of developing a cataract in my left eye.  I pretty much always do wear sunglasses… except for when I drop them in the lake… so we are good there.  But I did tease him all weekend that I was eating carrots to keep my baby cataract under control.  J
We finally left his office and headed up to Joplin.  We stopped there and had dinner at the Outback before Kelly and Nathan met up with us.  We got in their car and they drove us around showing us all the destruction left by the tornado.  Most of it has been cleaned up, but there are still some areas of debris and damaged property.  We drove by the hospital there that was destroyed.  The top two stories were completely gone and then entire rest of the building was windowless and damaged beyond repair.  We saw houses, stores and schools that were leveled.  My heart really goes out to the people affected by that storm.  Especially those who lost loved ones.  It takes a strong person and a lot of support to recover from something that traumatic.  The residents of Joplin and people from surrounding areas have really pulled together to clean up and many things are already in the rebuilding process.  It is an encouragement to see people helping people.  It made me wish I would have taken the time to do some volunteering up there after the storm. 
After we finished surveying the damage, we went to the yogurt bar for a little dessert.  We all sat outside enjoying our frozen treats in the heat and catching up.  With three kids, I know it’s rare that Nathan and Kelly get to have much adult time… which makes it kind of ironic that we chose a frozen yogurt bar.  J  But we had a nice chat and enjoyed each others’ company.  After the yogurt, Nathan took us back to my car and we followed them to their home in Oronogo.  We just kind of sat around and hung out talking for the rest of the night.  It was nice and relaxing.  Right at dark, Kelly and decided to go for a little jog.  I was still sore from the knee boarding adventure and since I knew I’d be getting shaken up by the roller coasters the next day, I thought a jog around the block might loosen me up a little.  Kelly said she’d go with me, which was nice.  I always enjoy a running partner.  We just ran for a little bit, but it was just what I needed.  After the run I showered and went right to sleep. 
The next morning we got an early start to Branson.  We had to run a couple errands first… bank, gas station, etc… but soon got on the road to pick the kiddos up from Kelly’s parents’ house.  Somewhere along the way Brett discovered that he had lost his debit card.  It was too early to call the Outback, which was the last place he’d used it, so he just called the bank and canceled the card.  Later in the day, he was able to reach someone at the Outback, and they did have it… too bad he’d already canceled it.  We planned to pick it up on the way home Sunday. 
After being followed by a Missouri State Trooper for a little while on the freeway, I decided that it was time to put the new sticker on my tag.  I renewed the license plate back in February… but the 2012 sticker has been in my cup holder ever since.  When we got to Kelly’s parents’ house, I borrowed a screwdriver, took the license plate frame off, replaced the old sticker with the “new” one and put it back together.  It took all of a minute and a half… not sure why I put it off for five months… but it’s done now.  One more thing I can cross off the to-do list. 
Kelly and Nathan have three adorable kids that I love to death.  Sawyer is the oldest and the only boy.  Ava is the middle child (like her Aunt Cassie J) and Aggie is the baby.  She just turned three a little over a week ago.  They had been staying with Ron and Teresa (Kelly’s dad and mom) all week.  We stopped by their condo in Branson, which is right on Tablerock Lake, to pick them up.  They were shy at first, which made me quickly realize that I need to make a better effort to come visit more often.  I hate that I love them so much, and I’m a stranger to them.  So I’m putting that on the list of things to fix.  J
We got to Silver Dollar City just after 10:00 am.  I had never been before so I was really looking forward to it.  First stop… lunch.  Time to feed the Cassie.  We quickly found a place that had my favorite dish… a 12” corn dog with ketchup… and Brett’s favorite dish… fried chicken strips.  It was meant to be, so we all ate lunch there.  After lunch Brett and I went to ride the roller coasters while Kelly and her family headed to kid town.  The first ride we hit was the Wildfire.  It was a good one.
And immediately after the ride, Brett found water... of course... it is his favorite.  He got this nice shot of a waterfall inside the park. 
At Silver Dollar City
After that we met back up with my friends and Kelly went with me and Brett to ride the Barn Swing.  It was a pretty good one too.  Of the ones we actually rode, the Wildfire and the Barn Swing were my favorite.
Even though there was a little rain and many of the attractions had to be shut down until the lightning had cleared the area, we did a few more rides, walked around the shops and sampled a few more food items… bring on the funnel cake.  J  We also went on a tour of the Marvel Cave.  It was pretty neat.  It is a natural cave that goes down 50 stories.  They said it is big enough to fit the statue of liberty inside.  
Brett and I in Marvel Cave
We walked all the way down to the bottom to the waterfall room.  This picture does no justice.  It was really cool.
50 stories underground
Then we came back up the other side.  This is one of the still living formations inside the cave.  The tour guide said that it grows about an inch every 75 years. 
Marvel Cave
We finished the cave tour with a short train ride back up to earth.  Sawyer sat on the row with me and Brett so he didn’t make it into the family picture.  L
Aggie, Nathan, Kelly, Ava
After the cave tour, we hit the Wildfire one more time before heading for the street dance.  The boys were too good to join in on the fun, so me and my girls busted a move.  J
Silver Dollar City street dance
And just before leaving the park, we jumped on the water raft ride.  We were one of the last ones to go, and it was one of the few rides all the kids were big enough to ride.  Only six to a raft… we had seven… so we split into two groups.  Sawyer with me and Brett again and the girls with Kelly and Nathan.  Sawyer and I managed to escape without getting too wet.  Brett on the other had got soaked.  I told him I thought it had something to do with where the weight in the raft is.  J  But of course, that came back to bite me when they sent us around a second time because there was no one else in line behind us.  The second time, I must have been the fat kid in the raft, because I got drenched.  Thank goodness it was the last ride of the night and I didn’t have to walk around the park too long with saggy drawers. 
We shut the place down.  The park closed at 10:00 pm and I think we were still on the raft when they started closing everything.  We said our goodbyes to Kelly and her family and walked back to our car.  We left the park in search of a place to sleep.  I had a few options in mind because I had done a little searching online before we left Oklahoma, but I hadn’t actually booked anything yet.   
The first hotel we went to had no vacancy (I knew I should have booked online), but thankfully the one right next door had a spot for us.  We showered and then we crashed.  After spending 12 hours in the park, I think I was actually asleep BEFORE I laid down.  We slept in a little in the morning and then decided to see what we could find in Branson.  First stop… you guessed it… food.  We were a little too late for breakfast so we just did an early lunch.  We decided to eat quick at Wendy’s rather than waste an hour inside a restaurant so we could find more things to do.  After we ate, we spent a fair amount of time in stop-and-go traffic trying to get to the outlet mall.  It was 1.1 miles according to Kit, but it took 45 minutes.  Boo!  One more reason shopping is not my favorite…
When we got to the outlet mall, Brett quickly picked out just a couple stores he wanted to go into so we parked and headed that way.  When we got to the Banana Republic store, they were having quite a sale.  Even I bought a shirt and I never buy anything.  But it was cute, would be good for both work and play and was only $16.  What a deal.  Brett got even luckier.  He was able to get some good dress clothes for work at 40-60% off.  Not too bad.  He found a pair of dress pants that he really liked, but couldn’t find his size.  The lady in the fitting room said there was one pair in the store but she couldn’t find them.  Brett had almost given up looking when I saw them on a mannequin.  So… we stripped him.  When the guy who works there started putting him back together, I said, “I’ll leave you two alone.”  I thought it was much funnier than he did.  J
We headed back to Kit after that great find… decided we had spent enough money shopping.  And we headed to Ride the Ducks.  Brett isn’t really into the shows, so we thought we’d try something a little different.  It’s an old military vehicle that is made to be part bus, part boat.  You can drive it on the road and then right into the water.  It basically eliminates the need for a trailer.  Not to mention the handy duck call they give you when you get onboard.  J
They drove us right into Tablerock Lake and gave us a little tour.  The lake there is really beautiful.  I would love to sweet talk Brett into taking the boat up there sometime.  It’s supposed to be pretty good for diving.  Maybe I’ll add learn to scuba dive to the list… 
The Branson Belle on Tablerock Lake
After our duck got back on land, we went to look at Lake Taneycomo, which looks a lot like a river to me... the Dam between the two.
Lake Taneycomo
Tablerock Dam
Then the Duck drove us back.  Our next stop was the Titanic Museum.  I’m kind of a history nerd so this was right up my alley.  Not to mention that when the Titanic movie came out… like 12 years ago… I saw it in the theatre nine times.  Please don’t judge me.  But I loved it.  I haven’t seen it in years, but I really do love the story behind the Titanic.  So I thought the museum was really cool.  It told a lot of stories about actual people who were on the titanic.  Our boarding passes listed us as two actual passengers on the Titanic.  Brett was part of the crew and I was, of course, a first class passenger.  J  At the end of the museum was a wall that had all the passengers names on it.  If the name was underlined, it meant that passenger survived.  Both of the passengers Brett and I were pretending to be were survivors.  Yay!  I teased him that as the second richest woman on the ship, I thought he was cute so I saved him to be my cabana boy.  J
I was a little disappointed that there weren’t actually more photos of the ship… apparently they didn’t value photographs as much in 1912.  I also hoped they would have had more artifacts taken from the actual ship, but they only had a few.  I guess they are probably pretty spread out amongst all the Titanic museums across the US.  It was still cool though.  I enjoyed it.  They had a replica of the staircase in the ship that was pretty cool. 
at the Titanic Museum
After the Titanic, it was once again time to eat.  We had spotted a seafood place that looked pretty good on the way back from the Ducks, so we decided to check it out.  It was called Landry’s.  The food was pretty good and the atmosphere was nice.  It was a little pricey, but I enjoyed it.  It was getting late so we headed home after dinner, making a slight detour to hit Joplin again to pick up Brett’s debit card.  We got back to my house around 10:30 last night.  It was a long weekend, but I had a good time.  All in all, my first trip to Branson was pretty fun.  I hope to make it up to Joplin more often to visit my friends.