GratiTuesday: A Gathering of Friends

Last Saturday, I attended a mini-reunion for my high school class. Since it wasn’t one of the big ones (those that end with a “0”), the event was low-key and casual. I almost didn’t go because the high school friends I maintain regular contact with (real contact, not occasional Facebook posts) were either out of town or had other plans for the evening. Since I’m not one of those who can walk into a crowd and instantly feel at ease, I questioned whether I’d enjoy myself. Our graduating class was large – around 600 – so (I told myself) the chances were pretty good that I wouldn’t remember many of the people.

After spending some time trying to talk myself out of going, I decided – with my husband’s encouragement – that I’d at least make an appearance. If after a short amount of time I wasn’t enjoying myself, I could leave. That’s one of the nice things about being an adult that I sometimes forget… I’m the boss of me.

When I entered the venue, my first reaction was that there were a bunch of old people there. Lots of grey hair and a few extra pounds padding quite a few mid-sections. Yikes! where were my classmates? Had I walked into the wrong event? After a moment’s hesitation, I convinced myself to take one lap around the room. If I didn’t see anyone I knew, I would keep on walking out the door and back to my car.

Fortunately, before I made a complete loop, I saw a familiar face… then another … then another. Those old people I saw at first? The years started to melt away and I began to see my high school friends. Sometimes I needed to glance several times at their name tags to be sure, but they were there.

Unlike past reunions, where there were a lot of “what do you do?” questions, followed by “how many kids do you have?” most of the conversations the other night centered around hobbies, travel, and day-to-day interests. Many of us had retired or were close and, for the most part, kids had grown and flown. The people I talked to were in relatively good health, they were active and engaged, and they were focused on enjoying life.

Not a great picture but the only one I have of the evening.

I heard the word grateful spoken many times that evening. Grateful for friendships that have lasted over many years, grateful for our families, grateful for our health, grateful for the experiences we’ve enjoyed since high school, and grateful that we decided to attend this gathering of our friends.

As is often done at reunions, a list of names of classmates no longer with us was read. Each time, the list grows longer, and, in this case, two names had been added very recently. It was a sobering reminder of how precious life is and how important it is to hold our friends and our loved ones close. After the names were read, the mood shifted just a bit. I think many of us found ourselves listening a little closer to our friends’ stories, hugging them a little harder, and, most of all, hoping that we will see everyone again at our next reunion.

Thursday Doors: Chapel Doors

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about an amazing experience we had while visiting San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. In that post, I shared photos of the riotous colors and fantastic mosaics we found all over Casa de las Ranas and the Chapel of Jimmy Ray, the property owned by artist Anado McLauchlin and his husband Richard Schultz.

As anyone who read that post can imagine, Anado’s creativity didn’t end with his fantastical wall mosaics and fanciful art assemblages; the doors, gates, and portals on their property were just as enchanting, playful, and full of whimsy.

Although these may not look like doors normally found on chapels, they are rich with a joyful spirit and offer a salvation from boring.

The front gate leading to their courtyard and Casa de las Ranas.
The interior side of the gate.
Anado and Richard’s art studio door.
One of the colorful gates on the walls surrounding their property.
Gate assembled from reclaimed wood.
Whimsical collection of weathered wood and whatever.
This colorful archway led into a small meditation room.
There were a lot of symbols from eastern religions incorporated in Anado’s art.
Yikes… not sure what’s behind this door.
A happy skeleton wearing a skull necklace.
Anado was as colorful as his doors.

Don’t forget to head on over to Norm’s blog to view more of his beautiful collection of doors from Nova Scotia, then click on the blue frog at the end of his post to see what others have shared.

GratiTuesday: I’d Do It Again

After thirteen years of “dating” (which included buying and remodeling a house together), my husband and I officially tied the knot in 2003. In a few days, we will celebrate our fifteenth wedding anniversary.

When we made our wedding plans, we both agreed that we didn’t want anything too formal. Neither of us are religious so a church wedding wasn’t even considered. We wanted our wedding to be a joyful gathering of friends… kind of a party during which two people happen to get married. When a neighbor offered his big, flat backyard, we knew that it would be the perfect venue.

When I look at our wedding photos, I am reminded of how much our wedding reflected our personalities… then and now. Our guests were encouraged to wear “casual, tropical attire” and our flowers, linens, and decorations were bright and colorful. Dancing began with a conga line recessional and continued into the evening to the tunes of the rocking blues band we hired.

Conga line recessional.

Many of our guests remarked that, if they were ever to get married again, this was how they would want their wedding to be. They shared that their weddings were as much (or more) about what their parents wanted as what they desired.

Me and my best friend.

Looking back on our wedding day, I am filled with gratitude. Most of all, I am grateful for the man I married. Our invitations read, “This day I will marry my friend… the one I laugh with, dream with, live for, and love.” That is just as true today as it was then. I am grateful for my memories of that glorious September day, filled with love, laughter, and dear friends. I am also grateful that, when I look back at that day, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’d do it all again, just the same.

Thursday Doors: Open Doors

We saw so many unique and beautiful doors in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and I often wondered what was on the other side. Was the interior as colorful, whimsical, weathered, or artistic as the door would suggest? Although we didn’t get to see inside of many private residences (darn!) the open doors we did see always encouraged us to glance inside.

Most of the doors in this group could have been included in one – or more – of my other Thursday Doors collections (carved, rounded, weathered, adorned), but that each of these were open gave them a unique character.

Don Taco Tequila… pretty sure this was named with tourists in mind.
The door’s weathered teal paint and aged lace curtain made a charming combination.
I loved the drape of this fabric.
This was one of several beautiful doors we saw in an artists’ colony.
A door within a door.
This door was weathered, rounded, and adorned… but it was open, offering a peek inside.

Don’t forget to head on over to Norm’s blog to view his beautiful collection of doors from Nova Scotia, then click on the blue frog at the end of his post to see what others have shared.

GratiTuesday: Post Labor Days

My husband and I went to a neighbor’s Labor Day party yesterday. There were about 25 people in attendance and, by my count, over half of us were no longer working at a regular, full-time job. Some of us are officially retired (as in no longer receiving a regular paycheck) and some are involved in a few part-time, money-making ventures out of want, not need (which still qualifies as “retired” in my book).

I remember when Labor Day felt like a final hurrah before summer bid adieu. Even though the weather might still say “summer,” school and work told us different. The Labor Day parties were always fun but bitter sweet. We enjoyed the company of our friends, but we also knew that it was probably the end of outdoor gatherings for a while.

Now that we are retired, Labor Day feels more like a beginning than an end. From now on, the roads will be a little less crowded, the beaches more accessible, and businesses less busy. Just like before, the weather will still say “summer” but there will be fewer people competing for space to enjoy it.

In addition to the joy of dwindling crowds where we live, we can also take advantage of fewer crowds when we travel. What are called “shoulder seasons” – typically spring and fall – are prime travel times for those of us who no longer live by someone else’s schedule. The weather is often still nice, but the crowds are lighter and the prices cheaper.

We still have a lot of summer left and the time to enjoy every moment.

Last night at the party, the conversations we had with our neighbors and fellow retirees were full of stories of how we spent our summer and how we were planning to embrace the months ahead. We talked excitedly about travel plans we’ve made and interests we wanted to pursue, about projects we planned to work on and events we hoped to attend. What there wasn’t was any talk about school schedules, work piling up, or the end of another summer… and I think we were all grateful for that.

Thursday Doors: Adorned Doors

When we returned from our trip to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and I started to look through all my pictures of the beautiful doors we encountered, I decided to separate them into bite-sized Thursday Door post chunks. This week’s group of doors stood out because of their unique hardware. Some of the hardware has a practical purpose (door knockers, hinges, etc.) and others are purely decorative. Some – like the traditional hand knockers – were found all over the city (including for sale in shops) whereas some looked custom designed and fabricated.

The faces on this door seemed part human, part demon, and part animal.
The knocker was traditional but the teal painted hardware gave the door an artist’s touch.
Look closely and you will see multi-legged lizards guarding the entrance.
A close-up of the lizard-shaped door lock with the sun peeking out underneath.
This hand on this traditional knocker is holding what appears to be a small apple.
The intricate design of the metal frame, stone surround, and terra cotta paint made this door a stunner.
The homeowner must be a dog-lover.
A knocker made out of bicycle parts. This picture was taken by my husband and hasn’t been edited… the door was really this gorgeous color.

Don’t forget to head on over to Norm’s blog to view his collection of doors, then click on the blue frog at the end of his post to see what others have shared.

Thursday Doors: Weathered Doors

Continuing the Tour of Doors through San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, this week I’m featuring a collection of weathered doors. I loved how the patina of age and the result of exposure to sun and rain has worked their magic over the years. Just like last week’s rounded doors, and the carved doors the week before, these doors exemplify the unique beauty to be found in colonial Mexico.

Even though we walked by these doors often, they never offered us a peek inside.
Teal blue and terra cotta seemed to be a favorite color combination.
So many of the doors we encountered made us want to see what was inside.
Often the door’s beauty was enhanced by its surroundings.
Teal and terra cotta again… embraced by the bright blossoms of the bougainvillea.
Interesting translations: the sign over the door reads something like Bar of the Female Dog (or “Bitch”, which has the same negative meaning as in English). The sign to the side indicates that no women, people in uniforms, or anyone underaged are allowed. This was not an establishment in operation… I think the painted signs were just for fun. 
It looked like there were several layers of colors on this door.

Don’t forget to head on over to Norm’s blog to view his collection of doors from his trip to Nova Scotia, then click on the blue frog at the end of his post to see what others have shared.