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I woke up yesterday morning in my own bed at home filled to the brim with gratitude after spending an incredible week in Utah with my sweet Aunt Carolyn and my awesome cousins. Their hospitality was AMAZING, the mountains were beautiful, and the memories will last for a lifetime. My Aunt Carolyn is one of my favorite people on the planet. We always have lots to talk about, and we pick up where we left off, like no time has passed since the last time we saw each other or talked to one another on the phone.

The only two people missing from this visit were my cousin Max, who now lives in San Antonio, and my charming Uncle Charles, who passed away three years ago. Uncle Charles was one of my Daddy’s older brothers and Aunt Carolyn’s sweetheart. Thankfully, I was able to visit his place of rest to tell him how much he is missed. He loved to tell stories and jokes. I always enjoyed spending time with him.

The last time I was physically in Utah was back in June of 2000 when my Daddy, my hubby, and me flew to the beehive state. With my Aunt Carolyn turning 80 years old in November 2020, and it being seven years (yikes!) since I had last seen my family from Utah at my cousin Max’s wedding in San Antonio, I knew it was time for a visit. I sent a message to my cousin Karen, who Aunt Carolyn lives with these days (in her beautiful basement apartment), and we set a date for me to come stay with them.

Back Row: (Daddy, Karen, Kat) and Front Row: (Aunt Carolyn, Uncle Charles, Barry, Sr.)

The week started off with my friend Kathryn and I traveling together. We flew out of the NOLA airport early Monday morning (12 July), changed planes in Houston, and landed in Salt Lake City before noon. While I was visiting my family in Tooele (about 30 minutes outside of Salt Lake City), she was visiting her daughter and son-in-law in Salt Lake City.

Karen and Aunt Carolyn retrieved me from the airport, and my vacay in Utah was underway. This trip to Utah was all about spending time with family. Karen is married to John, and they have three terrific children (Samantha aka Sam or Sami, Zach, and Taylor). The last time I was in Utah, they were all young children.

Zachary, Taylor, and Samantha

On Monday and Tuesday while Karen and John were at work, my Aunt Carolyn and I hung out at the house or ran errands in Salt Lake City or Tooele. We ate lunch at Applebee’s on Monday and Chili’s on Tuesday. On Monday evening, Karen picked up pizzas on her way home for dinner. She bought them from Papa Murphy’s Pizza where they make fresh from scratch pizza that can be baked, grilled, or smoked at home. I had a couple of slices of pepperoni pizza along with salad and a breadstick. The meal was delicious! Sam along with her adorable three-year-old twins, Carsen and Cory, joined us for dinner.

On Tuesday evening, Karen and Sam cooked dinner for all of us which was yummy (pork chops, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, green beans). I got to spend some more time with the twins. They are so much fun! Zach, his wife Teshia, and their adorable baby Maverick joined us for dinner. Zach has a lovely family. Later that evening, Taylor and I took the family dogs, Hobbs and Murphy, for a walk around the neighborhood. Even on vacation, I need to keep up my walking streak, and Taylor was the perfect walking buddy.

On Wednesday morning, Karen went with the twins to swim lessons because Sam, who is pregnant with her third baby, had a doctor’s appointment. Afterwards, Karen, Aunt Carolyn, and I had lunch at American Burgers which is one of Aunt Carolyn’s favorite places to eat. I ordered a BLT (my favorite sandwich) which was tasty. Later, Karen took us for a scenic drive. I love the mountains! We passed through Pine Canyon, and when returning to the house, we stopped above Deer Hollow; then, we rode through some neighborhoods where we spotted lots of deer. Deer are beautiful creatures. Utah is unfortunately experiencing a drought, so they’ll come down from the mountains searching for water. In fact, recently, Karen filled up a baby pool for a deer that wandered in her backyard. Her kind gesture was greatly appreciated.

Later that evening, I went out to dinner with Aunt Carolyn and her girlfriends from church. Her friend Cindy provided transportion for us as well as for Joyce, Janine and Janine’s daughter Barbara. Joanne met us at the restaurant, Los Primos (formerly Stockton Miners Cafe), which is located in a nearby town called Stockton. Karen had driven us to Stockton earlier in the day on our sightseeing adventure. I decided to order breakfast for dinner (French toast with two sausage links, an egg, and coffee). I was so excited about the French toast that I forgot to take a picture when I first got my food. HA! The food was awesome and the company was wonderful. Aunt Carolyn’s friends are cool, and I was thankful to be included in their outing. Back at Aunt Carolyn’s place, I walked around the neighborhood (definitely needed a walk after all those carbs). I spotted some quail in a neighbor’s driveway before heading inside. Sam and the twins had come over, so I was able to see them for a little bit. After they left, I hung out with Karen and John. Karen and I stayed up pretty late talking that night. What a delightful day!

On Thursday after noon, we drove to Salt Lake City and spent time at This Is The Place Heritage Park. I am writing a separate post about this excursion later this week. This is the day that I finally got to meet Sam’s husband Michael. Stay tuned!

On Friday morning, I walked around the neighborhood before breakfast since we were having a big family gathering in the evening. Karen had to work, so Aunt Carolyn and I ran a bunch of errands and ate lunch at Jim’s Family Restaurant. I ordered breakfast for lunch (avocado, mushroom, and cheese omelette with hashbrowns and coffee). Scrumptious! On the way back to Karen’s house, we stopped at the cemetary to visit Uncle Charles’s grave. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend his funeral because I was out of town for a professional development conference for work. Back at the house, I spent the afternoon getting organized for my departure on Saturday morning. I also spent some quality time with Murphy. Both of Karen’s dogs are super loveable.

Friday evening was FANTASTIC! My cousin Scott and his wife Kim came to the house for dinner with their three children. Zach, his family, Michael and Carsen were all there. Sadly, we were missing Sam and Cory. Cory was feeling unwell, so Sam and Michael decided that he should stay home for the evening. It was an enjoyable evening spent eating fabulous food (everything was sooooo yummy), engaging in carefree conversations, and taking family photos. Karen’s savory macaroni salad and mouthwatering key lime pie were a hit with my taste buds. Scott’s daughter Tylee made a delicious chocolate cake that I thoroughly enjoyed with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (and chocolate sauce). I definitely splurged this week. Carsen came inside to find me, so I could see the rainbow she spotted in the sky. What a perfect way to end such an amazing week!

Well, dear reader, Saturday morning arrived too quickly. Michael drove Aunt Carolyn and me to the airport where we said our final good-byes. It was time for me to meet Kathryn for our returning flight to Louisiana. What an incredible visit with Aunt Carolyn and my Utah cousins! This trip was assuredly well-spent with some of my favorite people. I felt so welcomed and enjoyed everything that was done for me to make this visit special. The hospitality, generosity, and thoughtfulness of my extended family will never be forgotten. Happiness!

Kat and Kathryn at the Utah Airport (heading back to Louisiana)

“The memories we make with our family is everything.” ~ Candace Cameron Bure

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The passing of time has always fascinated me. At times it drags on like a boring lecture while most of the time it seems to fly by like a shooting star; yet, the amount of time is the same. As a child, time feels unlimited. Since I’ve turned 50, time now feels limited and has become more valuable to me. It feels like yesterday that my Daddy and I were enjoying a cup of coffee with my Uncle Manuel in his kitchen in Kentucky although it was a month ago to this day. And, so much has happened to all of us in a month that our time together feels like a distant memory.

Aunt SueMy Daddy had been wanting to visit his older brother for quite awhile. He is one of five siblings (three brothers and a sister) and the baby of his family. In the last three years, two of his brothers have passed away, and it began weighing on his mind that he might not see his remaining brother before either one of them departed from this Earth. Sadly, it took the passing of my Aunt Sue to make the trip to Kentucky a reality. My Uncle Manuel’s beautiful bride died at the end of July, and my Daddy was unable to attend the funeral services. So, he and I talked; and with the help of my cousin Mark, we hatched a plan that I would drive him to Nicholasville, Kentucky.

I was excited about the prospect of seeing family and finally visiting Kentucky since I had never been, but I was also a tad bit apprehensive because I would be driving which is not what I do on a road trip. Thankfully, my excitement outweighed my apprehension. So, on Wednesday, 02 September, Son #1 picked my Daddy up on his way home from work and dropped him off at my house. Then, we loaded up my car and pulled out of my driveway at 6:30 that evening. Our plan was to drive a few hours, spend the night at a hotel in Grenada, Mississippi, and get up early the next morning to drive the rest of the way to my Uncle Manuel’s home in Kentucky. After a few pit stops along the way, we made it safely, and our adventure in bluegrass country was underway.

Road Trip

Kentucky is a beautiful place. Parts of the state are mountainous while other areas are hilly with plenty of farms in between. Near my Uncle Manuel’s home there are many horse farms. What a joyous moment when we eventually arrived at his home! My Daddy and I were greeted by my Uncle Manuel, his new puppy Rocky, and my cousins, Mark and Junior. Even though the last time we had seen each other had been at a family reunion many years ago, it felt like hardly any time had passed at all while we were all hugging and smiling our big smiles. Conversations started up, and the comfort of family surrounded us like a warm blanket on a chilly morning. The next couple of days were wonderful. We stayed with my Uncle Manuel which is a few steps away from my cousin Mark’s house. The weather was gorgeous and provided much cooler temps than back home.

Uncle Manuel's Home

My Uncle Manuel and Aunt Sue had six children: Junior, Mark, Denise, Connie Wayne, Kimberly, and Lelia. Growing up, it was always a big deal when they would come visit. They would stay at my Nanny and Paw Paw’s house for about a week. As time passed and my grandparents were no longer alive, our paths would cross again at family reunions held in Monroe, Louisiana where both my Nanny and Paw Paw were originally from and many of our extended family members still live today.

Manuel Walters Family

Back row: Denise, Mark, Junior, Connie Wayne Front row: Aunt Sue, Uncle Manuel, Kimberly, Lelia

So, it was nice to have the opportunity to visit my cousins in Kentucky. Except for Denise, who was out of town, my Daddy and I were able to spend time with the rest of the bunch and their families. Even though we didn’t get to see Denise during this visit, we did meet Denise’s daughter Jessica and her family. The hospitality shown to us during our visit was amazing.

On Friday evening, Dempsey, my cousin Kimberly’s husband, drove my Daddy, Uncle Manuel, and me to Junior and Betsy’s house for dinner in an old-timey car that he and my Uncle Manuel rebuilt. I believe it took the two of them three years to rebuild it. Riding in that beautiful car was like stepping back in time. It was really cool! I had never ridden in a car like it before and will cherish that memory.

Yellow Car

On Saturday, Mark and Teresa provided their house for a huge family gathering. Mark barbequed and everyone else brought lots of food. Everything that was prepared was delicious. Before we ate dinner, Mark revealed a surprise to my Daddy and Uncle Manuel. He had purchased my Uncle Ronnie’s motorcycle from our cousin Cindy who had decided to sell it. Mark felt it should be kept in the family since it was a reminder of my Uncle Ronnie who had passed away about three years ago. Despite being a little teary-eyed, they were both happy and definitely surprised.

motorcycle

Uncle Manuel, Mark, and my Daddy

 

The time with my Uncle Manuel and Kentucky cousins was certainly not long enough. However, it was pleasant, memorable, and a much-needed boost of happiness for everyone. As my Daddy and I journeyed back to Louisiana on Sunday, we reminisced about our brief but lovely time spent with our family, appreciated the time traveling in the car together, and planned our future visits. Time will not stop, dear reader, and we should all take advantage of spending time with the ones we love. It will be time well-spent. Happiness!

“Family and friendships are two of the greatest facilitators of happiness.”             ~ John C. Maxwell

Brothers

Uncle Manuel and my Daddy

Me & Uncle Manuel

Me with my Uncle Manuel

 

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Greetings, dear reader! We have made it through the second week of social distancing and staying home in an attempt to keep everyone safe and stop the spread of the Coronavirus. And, while all seems to be going relatively well for my family and friends in our little bubble of the world, there are other parts of our world, country, state, and local community where our neighbors are not faring so well. It’s unfathomable at times that we are experiencing this horrible situation which, if I’m not careful, leaves me feeling raw emotions and vulnerable. I’ve gotten to where I only check the stats on the Louisiana Department of Health. I don’t listen to the news and read very few articles related to the virus. It’s not that I don’t care, because I care a great deal; I cannot mentally handle the negativity. Instead, I choose to pray, work, and maintain a routine of normalcy. I’m trying to rely on my faith instead of focusing on the invisible, silent monster that is lurking in our world ready to claim any one of us as its next victim. I feel as if we are living in an episode of the Twilight Zone where at any minute little Timmy will banish us into the cornfield.

 

What have I been doing to cope with living in the Twilight Zone?

Purple Flowers

Flowers spotted on one of my daily walks.

Walking with Levar Burton: I think I have begun a streak. I have walked at least one mile every day this past week. I pair my walk with listening to the podcast Levar Burton Reads. Most of the stories that Burton reads are fantasy, speculative fiction, or science fiction. This week I listened to episodes #33-#36 and three live performances (interviews with the author are included after the story). Good stuff! I enjoyed all seven stories; however, “Singing on a Star” and “Asymmetry” were my favorites.

  • #33 “The Cell Phones” by Karen E. Bender
  • #34 “Singing on a Star” by Ellen Klages
  • #35 “Yiwu” by Lavie Tidhar
  • #36 “Morning Child” by Gardner Dozois
  • LIVE! in Brooklyn: “Playing Nice with God’s Bowling Ball” by N.K. Jemisin
  • LIVE! in Austin: “Asymmetry” by Kendra Fortmeyer
  • LIVE! in Atlanta: “The Vishakanya’s Choice” by Roshani Chokski

Instagram Live: Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth Kraft have been hosting a live chat each afternoon (Monday-Friday) called “Coping with COVID-19 Conversation.” Enjoyable distraction.

Listening to Podcasts: I listen to podcasts every day. They are part of my daily routine, and I pair them with completing certain tasks. Some of my podcasts have daily episodes while others have weekly episodes.

  • Before Breakfast with Laura Vanderkam (time management)
  • Side Hustle School with Chris Guillebeau (side hustle stories and advice)
  • Happier With Gretchen Rubin (happiness/productivity tips)
  • Happier in Hollywood (happiness/productivity tips)
  • Office Ladies (companion to the hit television series The Office)
  • The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos (science of happiness)
  • Fueled: Wellness + Nutrition with Molly Kimball (wellness and nutrition)
  • Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations (spirituality and inspiration)
  • Talking Like Normal People (acting)
  • Twenty Thousand Hertz (stories about the world’s most recognizable and interesting sounds)

Connecting with Family and Friends: Every day, I am reaching out to family members or friends through phone calls, text messages, emails, and social media. It has been comforting to me to stay in contact with my peeps. Admittedly, I have been spending more than my usual amount of time on Facebook. I’m having fun cutting up with my friends and taking silly surveys, posting pictures of beaches and my fur babies, watching scrapbook layout videos and videos of animals at various zoos, and wishing friends and family happy birthday blessings.

Reading/Scrapbooking: I LOVE to read, as well as scrapbook. However, it has been kind of hard for me to focus for very long on either activity. Strange, I know. I did start reading a book of short stories by Joe Hill. The book is titled Full Throttle. I have read the introduction to the collection and a story called “Throttle” which he wrote with his famous dad Stephen King. As for scrapbooking, not too much going on there. I have trimmed some photos, ordered some specialty paper, and talked about it with my BFF Shelly.

Turtle

This little guy greeted me Saturday morning when I let the dogs out.

As you can see, dear reader, I am trying to participate in activities that are positive and uplifting. I leave the house only when necessary because it does cause me anxiety to go out. I feel like I need to take a decontamination shower before entering my home. This upcoming week I want to continue walking, meditate using Hope in Uncertain Times, and work on completing some of the items on my 20 for 2020 list. Even though we are facing uncertainty right now, we do still have much to be grateful for in our lives. How are you coping through this trying time, dear reader? Please connect with me if you want to share your tips for coping with COVID-19 or if you just want to chat. Happiness!

“Stay positive and happy. Work hard and don’t give up hope. Be open to criticism and keep learning. Surround yourself with happy, warm, and genuine people.”     ~ Tena Desae

 

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My hubby and I worked concessions with Andrew and some of his fellow troop (Boy Scouts) members last night at the SLU football game. It was fun, but busy. My duties consisted of filling nacho trays, wrapping hamburgers and hotdogs, pouring soft drinks, and waiting on customers. I even had to squeeze the cheese bag to get the last bit of cheese out of it. Come to think of it, I also had to squeeze the chili bag, too.

Today will be another fun and busy day with my family. My hubby is cutting the grass, I’m blogging, and Andrew is about to hurl my little dog out the door. Comet aka Tooty just wants to go outside and get in Barry’s way, so he is whining and whistling, and well…being a tad bit obnoxious. This is aggravating Andrew because he cannot hear whatever he is listening to on the computer. After lunch, we have tickets to attend the play “The Nerd” at the Playmakers Theater. One of my acting friends is part of the cast. It is suppose to be hilarious. Who doesn’t need a good laugh? I’m excited because my hubby agreed to go with us. He is not big on plays, so this is a big deal. 

My weight loss journey continues. I lost another three pounds this week bringing my total weight loss to 18 pounds. I now weigh 135 pounds. Just ten more pounds to go until I reach my goal weight. Then it is all about toning and maintenance. I’m repeating my run/walk schedule this week, which is to Walk 10 minutes, run 8 minutes. Walk 2 minutes, run 8 minutes (repeat twice). I feel like I can increase my run time; however, I don’t want to risk injury. I’m also riding my bike more during the week. My hubby bought me a light for my bike. I’ll get to test it out on Tuesday morning.

Now that my blogging is done, I must take care of the laundry and clean a toilet or two before eating lunch. Wishing all my readers a terrific day…do something to create some positive energy. Happiness!

Check out Leo Babauta’s blog zen habits. He wrote a wonderful post about 20 Simple Strategies for Getting Healthy.

“If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”  ~ Roald Dahl

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WOW!

What a Week!

And, it was mainly about my youngest son, Andrew. Last weekend, Andrew was in a musical theater performance of School House Rock. Most of you remember those catchy songs with an educational message. He performed three times to packed audiences. His grandparents even came to see him perform. Lots of energy, lots of smiles!

Andrew singing “Elbow Room” in a musical theater performance of School House Rock.

Lights, Camera, Action! Andrew and I went to the movies TWICE this week to see The Amazing Spiderman (Marvel Comic fans) and Ice Age: Continental Drift. We enjoyed both movies.

Happy Birthday! Andrew’s birthday was Wednesday. He is officially 11 years old. My hubby and I gave him an iPod Touch for his birthday. Needless to say, his entire day revolved around this electronic device. Thanks to mon frere, Moonius Maximus, for answering our numerous questions about the iPod Touch and iPod Touch cases,  as well as helping us through the steps of setting up an iTunes account. Hooray! I no longer feel so app deficient.  

Welcome! Last night, Andrew and I went to his school for Supplies and Hi’s. He dropped off his school supplies and met his new teacher, Mrs. Inman. Andrew is a 6th grader this year. Summer vacation is quickly coming to an end. School starts next week. Darn!

What about ME?

So, what’s going on with me this week? Booyah! I lost another two pounds. That is a total of 5 pounds lost since my weight loss journey began. I also started walking/running this week. My schedule for this weekWalk 8 minutes. Run 2 minutes. Walk 1 minute (repeat 3-minute session 5 times). Walk 8 minutes. This schedule comes from the book Running and Walking for Women Over 40: The Road to Sanity and Vanity by Kathrine Switzer. This is a schedule for anyone wanting to become a 30-minute runner in 10 weeks. I will tweak the schedule a little bit to meet my needs. The goal is to run without getting injuries.

Yesterday, I received the Jackie Warner DVDs. I will be viewing them over the weekend, so I can incorporate them in my exercise schedule. These DVDs will replace the Power Circuit workouts from her book.

I discovered two bread/grain items in the grocery store that have made eating clean more enjoyable: Oroweat Pocket Thins 8 Grain Flatbread (1/2 flatbread contains 1.5g fat; 100 calories; 2g sugar) and Kashi’s Heart to Heart Roasted Garlic Whole Grain Crackers (7 crackers contains 3.5g fat; 120 calories; 0g sugar). I’ve been eating egg salad (2 eggs, 1 Tbsp Hellmann’s Light Mayonnaise, salt, pepper, paprika) inside the flatbread. I ate the crackers with sardines. Yum! 

Finally, I spent some time this week looking for a job. Sadly, my days as a freelancer are coming to an end. I just know there is an opportunity out there waiting for me with flexibility, fun people, and pay higher than minimum wage. I just have to find it. Eek!

Detour! My favorite School House Rock song was “Unpack Your Adjectives”

Question: What was your favorite School House Rock song? I’d love to know.  Please leave me a comment.

“It is not often that a man can make opportunities for himself. But he can put himself in such shape that when or if the opportunities come he is ready.”             ~ Theodore Roosevelt

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     Hola, my friends! Yesterday, I decided to learn how to make “easy” chicken enchiladas for my family’s dinner. Since I do NOT cook very often, this was going to be a feat of magnificent proportions. Clarification is necessary before I continue with my tale. I am NOT a terrible cook, I just choose NOT to cook. As a child, I spent little time in the kitchen with my mother. I never had a strong desire to learn how to cook. Before marrying Barry, I did forewarn him I would not be cooking on a regular basis. He enjoys cooking, so it has worked out quite nicely. Besides, when I do cook, Barry tends to offer some tidbit of criticism instead of just saying “thanks.” I admit, I take it personally. It irks me. Therefore, he is in charge of the spatula.

     Currently,  I am reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. As part of my happiness project, I want to learn new things. Learning new things helps you to grow. And, growth makes you happy.  Tuesday evening I read her section on marriage. One of her resolutions was “give proofs of love.” My inner lightbulb began glowing with what I thought was a brilliant idea. I could increase my happiness in two ways by completing ONE task. Efficient, right! By making enchiladas, I learn something new, and I give proof of love toward Barry. He had the evening off from kitchen duty.

     The recipe was easy, and did not require many ingredients. The chicken was boiled earlier in the day and shredded. The meal was put together in about 15 minutes, and baked for another 20 minutes. Barry arrived home a few minutes after the chicken enchiladas were removed from the oven. He didn’t say it; however, I think he was impressed. He enjoyed it. He did say he would have added more cheese on top…only because he likes lots of cheese. I smirked knowing he had to add a tidbit, but amazingly, I did not take it personally (trying to practice my Four Agreements). I was happy. I accomplished my task with satisfaction. Now, I confess my meal was not enjoyed by all in the family. Andrew ( aka picky eater) told me the enchiladas were not horrible, but they weren’t great either. He ate half of one, which surpassed my expectations.

     For those of you out there interested in recipes, I’ve included the link below. My tale is done, and I’m going to eat some leftover chicken enchiladas for lunch. Adiós!

http://www.kraftrecipes.com/recipes/easy-chicken-enchiladas-121713.aspx

 

“Get over the idea that only children should spend their time in study.  Be a student so long as you still have something to learn, and this will mean all your life.”  ~Henry L. Doherty

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