Thursday, December 15, 2011

Four Years and Counting

Four years ago today, our best friends and closest family gathered at the Peabody in downtown Memphis to watch me marry my best friend. I don't know how the last four years have flown by so quickly. In some ways, it seems like it was just last month. In other ways, though, it seems like we've been together my entire life. I still remember when we started dating in 2003, and how baffled I was that someone so beautiful could be so crazy about me.

I don't remember the person I was before I met Crystel. I've changed for the better in almost every way imaginable. She has taught me how to love, how to pursue my dreams, how to be myself and how to expand my horizons. She's taught me the importance of family and how to be more aware of how I treat people. Since she lived the first part of her life in London and much of her family is Italian and lives in Italy, she has been able to open my eyes to the world outside of America. She's made me happier and more confident than I ever thought I could be. She has taught me to value history, and I now have a greater appreciation of items with a history, of family history and of classic movies, among other things. She introduced me to Southern California, and it's quickly become one of my favorite places on earth. Our time spent in L.A. is special in ways no one will ever understand.

I've been welcomed into her family, and she's been welcomed into mine. She's quick to point out when I might not be appreciating my family enough, which is unfortunately something I haven't always been able to see for myself. She's also quick to grab the wheel when I start heading down the wrong path.

My journey to where I am today wouldn't have been possible without her by my side, and I know God had a plan when he placed us next door to each other that first semester at Ole Miss. I find it hard to believe that a boy from the outskirts of Booneville, MS and a girl growing up in London found their way to each other without a little help, and when I pray, I'm always thankful we did. She's with me in every major decision I make, and she understands my quirky nature and why I make the choices I do.

Together, we have something I couldn't explain if I had limitless pages and endless time. I can't describe the feeling I get when I see her smile, or the loneliness I feel when she's not around.

So, what can I say to the person who has given me so much? How do I show just how much I love her and how much she means to me? How can I make her understand how lost I'd be without her? The truth is that I can't. Words can't describe it. Why do you think people keep writing love songs? I suspect it's because no one has found the answer of how to perfectly describe this feeling. All I can do is keep searching for the right thing to say or do to show her what she means to me, I hope I can make every day better for her because I'm in her life.

That's really the essence of marriage, never stop trying. You won't always be able to say and do the perfect thing in every moment, but it's the journey that counts. I wouldn't trade my life with her for anything.

To my beautiful wife, on our fourth anniversary, I love you. Thank you for taking this journey with me, even when we had no idea where we were headed. Thanks for sticking with me since the fall of 2003. Thank you for having faith in me and giving me guidance though that tumultuous fall two years later when I finally began the process of growing up, and thank you for helping to make me the person I am today. Thank you for yesterday, today and all the tomorrows we have to look forward to.

I still feel like the luckiest man alive, and I don't see that changing as we pass our 5th, 15th, 20th and 50th anniversaries and beyond.

How could I not love this life? My days are better knowing I get to come home to this family every evening.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011 Part 3 - The Finale (Part 2)...Really, this is the end.

The finale part 2, the real finale.

On Saturday, we headed back to Water Valley for the second time. We had a little more time on this trip to the small Mississippi town. We started off the day with a trip to the B.T.C. Grocery for lunch. We had sandwiches, and I had an excellent chicken corn chowder soup (Crystel didn't get to enjoy the soup due to her affliction, veganism). We also stopped in the local hardware store for supplies (I needed some stuff anyway, and I'd much rather support local businesses than Home Depot) and had coffee and milkshakes at Turnage Drug Store.

Turnage Drug Store has a really cool old-fashioned soda fountain where old men gather to discuss the finer things in life. It fits in with the general old timey feel of Water Valley. I've mentioned Water Valley before, but I highly recommend checking it out sometime. While it has has a strong small town feel, there is also a small community of progressive minded residents running art galleries, grocery stores, restaurants and various other businesses.

So, a Thanksgiving holiday came to an end. We touched down in the land of the Delta Blues in the middle of the pourin' rain on Saturday night, tired, but happy for the time spent with family. We have a lot of activities planned in Memphis for the month of December, so this will be the last Mississippi post until our Christmas break.

Here are a few pics from Turnage Drug Store and and one of an awesome sign in Water Valley, again at the end of the post because of my blogger app's limitation trying to put pictures with the text.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011 Part 3: The Finale Part One

This is the 3rd and final post (well, part one of 2 anyway...more about that later) about our Thanksgiving 2011 holiday.

We left Booneville headed for Oxford on Wednesday evening. We arrived, got settled in and spent the rest of the evening hanging out with Crystel's family. Thursday was spent eating way too much excellent food, watching football, napping, reading and watching Crystel put out Christmas decorations with her mom and sister.

On Friday, Crystel and I decided to get out and spend a little time together in two of our favorite places, the Oxford Square and the Ole Miss campus. We had lunch at Two Stick, coffee at High Point Coffee, picked up some Christmas cards at Amelia (a great place to find unique Christmas gifts by the way), taking pictures, talking and wandering around campus where we spent 3 of the best years of our lives. We always preferred Oxford on holidays when the students had headed home to the hectic debacle of game-day weekends.

This was meant to be a longer post, but the blogging app I'm using will only let me put pictures at the end of my post, and not throughout the post. Since I've been given lemons, I'll make lemonade and write two posts instead, hence the 2 part finale.

Here's a few shots from the day.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Our Week of Thanksgiving 2011 Part 2: The Middle

This is Part 2 of my Thanksgiving holiday series.

We arrived in Booneville on Sunday night and made the standard visit to Wal-Mart for supplies. Afterwards, we headed to my family's house for dinner. It's probably a good thing I don't get to enjoy my mom's fantastic home cooking on a regular basis, because I might be as big as a house. It's not that it's unhealthy. It's just so good that I can't stop eating until I can't move.  

I woke up early on Monday morning to pick up a few parts for the Jeep and Volkswagen and headed to my dad's shop for a little mechanic work. I had to put a cooling fan relay on Crystel's Jeep (for the 4th time), but I'm a pro at it by now. If you have a Jeep Grand Cherokee and have problems with the cooling fan, it's probably the relay. For some reason, Jeep decided it was best to mount it on the frame behind the headlight mounting panel, so be prepared to remove the headlight, bumper and headlight panel. It's a pretty easy job though.  

After we finished with the Jeep, we we started working on the Beetle. Over the course of 3 days, we managed to get the brake system rebuilt, replacing the master cylinder, wheel cylinders, brake shoes and surfacing the drums. We also replaced all the fuel hoses, adjusted the valves and got it to run long enough to realize it needs the carbuerator rebuilt. Since this is a restoration, I cleaned and painted everything along the way. Here are a few pictures of the progress.

Brakes Before

Brakes After

See that shiny blue color? That's what it will look like when finished.

One thing is for certain, I didn't go hungry on this trip. For lunch on Monday, we went to one of my favorite places, Weeks' Cafe. It's a Booneville institution. I remember going there when I still lived at home and thinking Willie Weeks was one of the coolest cats on the planet. I pretty much still feel the same way.

My dad, not aware I was taking a picture.

Then on Tuesday, we grilled hamburgers for lunch. On Wednesday, we decided to have a spontaneous fish fry. Here's my dad and grandfather working hard to get the cooker started. It obviously requires intense concentration.

We got to go out to the local Mexican restaurant Mi Toro on Tuesday night, and we went over to my grandparents' house to hang out with them for a while afterwards. Being in their house takes me right back to the time I was 10 years old and spoiled rotten. I'm still pretty spoiled now, I'm just older.

All in all, the trip to Booneville was just what I needed. Here are a few more things I love about being home.

Seeing the two trucks my dad taught me how to drive...



Visiting my dad’s farm in Thrasher…






A Wal-Mart parking lot with nothing but pickups (my former co-workers in the U.K. would get a kick out of this)…


This guy in the building I built with my dad nearly 20 years ago…


Basically, I just enjoy getting to revisit my childhood. I have so many fond memories of my life growing up, and when I’m in Booneville they all come rushing back. I’m obviously able to relax more when I’m there, and I love getting to hang out with my family. Most of my family lives there, and it’s comforting knowing they’re all close by when I’m home.

What sort of memories do holiday visits home conjure up for you?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Our Week of Thanksgiving 2011 Part 1: Moving Trucks, Corndogs and Kitty Baths

Crystel and I took a much needed break from work by taking off work the entire week of Thanksgiving. We needed to help Julie move some things from Booneville to Oxford, work on our '72 Super Beetle and spend some quality time hanging out with our family.

We started out the week by heading to Booneville on Saturday morning to pick up a U-Haul truck, loading it up at Julie's house and heading to Oxford. Luckily, my brother Anthony came over to help. We had to pick up a few items from Julie's studio in downtown Booneville, and I was reminded how sad it is that they can't get more activity going on there. Booneville has an awesome downtown area that would make a great entertainment district, but sadly there isn't much entertaining going on there. It felt like a ghost town at 2:00 on a Saturday afternoon.

My parents have a book that The Banner Independent (Booneville's local newspaper) recently compiled containing several decades worth of old Booneville pictures into a book. Flipping through this book made it even sadder when you realize how busy America's Main Streets used to be. In these photos, I saw a Booneville where men and women crowded the streets on the weekends for shopping, dining and to catch a movie at the Princess Theatre. I don't mean to single Booneville out. Deserted Main Streets can be found all over the country, and I think it’s one of the saddest aspects of our changing world.

We left Booneville headed for Oxford. After we arrived in Oxford on Saturday afternoon, we decided to head out to the Square to meet up with a few friends at the Rib Cage. Unfortunately, we couldn't stay long because the place was way too crowded for our taste. We must be really getting old. Maybe I just didn't want to be around all those LSU fans. They really do smell like corndogs. Speaking of LSU fans and corndogs, this never gets old.

On Sunday we unloaded the U-Haul, dropped it off and headed to Booneville for a few days.

Here's a bad picture I took of the truck on the way out of town:

The Thursday night before our week off, Crystel decided to give our cat Oliver a bath. Here's a few pictures, because everyone loves a cat bath!

I'll follow up with Part 2: The Middle and Part 3: The Finale soon.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Our long weekend: Oxford, Water Valley, Ole Miss Football and Another Birthday Celebration

A couple of weekends ago, Crystel and I decided to start our weekend early. She was off Friday and I took a half-day off. We decided to head down to Oxford early Friday afternoon.

We got to Oxford early and decided to head over toward Water Valley to explore a little bit. Having never ventured to Water Valley, we didn't know what to expect, but we'd read several good articles lately praising the small Mississippi town so we decided to check it out. We parked on Main Street and walked around for the entire afternoon. We stopped into B.T.C. Old Fashioned Grocery for some snacks. It's a really cool locally owned grocery store that specializes in local and hard to find items (well, hard to find in small town Mississippi anyway). We've since made it back to the B.T.C for lunch and had a great conversation with the owner. I really hope the local community realizes how awesome this little store is and gives it the support it deserves.

We really enjoyed hanging out in Water Valley, and it's a great place to go if you want to get away from Oxford for a little while. Especially on hectic football game weekends.

The B.T.C
Later on that Friday night. we celebrated Julie's birthday. She made and awesome pot of chili and Crystel made a great vegan cake.
On Saturday, I got up and went for a run around the lake in Julie's neighborhood. It really is one of the most awesome places to run. See for yourself...
Saturday evening, we ventured out to homecoming game. This was the first Ole Miss game I'd been to in a couple of years, and though this season has been forgettable, we still had fun walking around our old stomping grounds and running into a few friends in the Grove.
All in all, it was a great weekend. I promise, I'll try to catch up on my blog at some point so everything won't be 3-4 weeks behind schedule. Hey, at least I posted the Thanksgiving blog on time!