Gratitude 2016

Thanksgiving is a great time to reminisce. I have been blessed with another great year. I am thankful!

This year, we welcomed grandchild #6 into this world, baby Olivia. Thank you Kelly and Jason, for this precious little treasure! ๐Ÿ˜€

ferd-and-olivia

We have six grandchildren now. That in itself seems incredible to me, surreal. It is the source of my deepest gratitude, an affirmation that I have accomplished my mission in life. I feel like I have passed some sort of test. Like my First Grade self when he did a good job, the Universe has putย a star on my forehead – six stars actually!

6-grandkids

Here is a picture of them at their group baptism a few months ago:

baptism

I am thankful for each one of them. It is so fun watching them grow. It is hard to believe Max is already four, and Kenzie two! Thank you, Megan and Mike, for always leading the way!

ferd-and-max

gail-and-kenzie

None of this would have been possible without my children. I am so very proud of the good people they are. Accomplished, hard-working, generous, kind, loving, intelligent, fun. A father could simply not ask for more! – All four are married now, as this year Kevin married Natalie in a spectacular wedding! Welcome to the fam, Natalie!

kevin-and-natalie

Before that, Kevin invited me to his bachelor party. I was honored to be included in a group of such outstanding young men. Of course, a great time was had by all, and… I made friends with a wolf!

ferd-with-wolf

We made several trips this year to our Ohio homeland to visit with family, and we were visited in Winston Salem by my daughter Ginny, husband James, and their Helena, Sylvie and Alexander. We enjoyed some fun, hot-summer days with dinosaurs, the SciWorks Children’s Museum, haircuts with grandma Gail, violin shopping, and what-not. Our doors are always open to visitors from afar!

helena-sylvie-haircuts

gail-and-alexander

Besides our trips to Ohio, Gail and I enjoyed several other trips, starting with our winter birding trip in January with our Forsyth Audubon group. This year we went to the South Carolina coast. Among the countless memorable moments, we logged another life bird, this lovely Roseate Spoonbill:

roseate-spoonbill

In February, we met up with my brother Ed and wife Genie at the Chicago Auto Show for their charity event. What a fun weekend with an incredibly fun couple!

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May was an outstanding month of Spring migration birding. This year we revisited two separate spectacular locations: the New River Birding and Nature Festival in West Virginia, and Magee Marsh in Ohio. Most memorable moments were Kevin and Natalie joining us for a day at Magee Marsh!

In October, we enjoyed a few days on horseback at our annual trip with Eric to Pisgah View Ranch. Great weather, delicious food, and of course beautiful horses. I enjoyed a night of star-gazing. Eric enjoyed the square dancing!

gail-and-eric

pisgah-view-ranch

Earlier this month, we geeked out at the Walker Stalker convention in Atlanta with friends Sally Reed and her daughter Marie. This is THE convention for fans of The Walking Dead. It was awesome to be in the same room with cast members, directors, producers, etc. We took a day to visit several filming locations. What fun! Here’s a pic with Carol! Carol!!fullsizerender

After that, we drove down to New Orleans, a city that had somehow escaped Gail and me. It was our first time in NOLA and we touristed the heck out of it! Some people are probably still reeling from our excessive Facebook pictures and checkins. Ha!

Oh yeah, another thing this year, I quit my job! For the past 8 years I have been working as an Internal Medicine hospitalist inย Winston Salem, for a company that has changed hands twice during those eight years. Too many things had changed, and not all for the better. So, 33 years into my career, I quit, again, to start something new, again! I am now working purely as a locum tenens, independent contractor, doing the same Internal Medicine hospitalist work, now in several locations throughout North Carolina. To organize it all, Gail and I started our own company, Broadwings, PLLC.

Oh, and yet another thing, this year I wrote my first novel! I had already self-published a few small books, but they were nothing compared to this project. I’m pretty proud of it, and I have met a world of creative people who have truly enriched my life.ย Mission 51 is a fun Science Fiction/Historical Fiction that is still in the works but soon-to-be-published. If you have not checked out the project, I invite you to visit the Mission 51 home page on Inkshares and follow! The book will be dedicated to my immigrant parents, with all my love.ย 👽

None of these things would be special if they weren’t enjoyed and shared with others. As always, I am so very grateful for the countless wonderful people who are present in my life. Thank you Gail, for sharing every moment. You are the perfect partner, and we make a great team! – Thank you, family. You are my very literal blood. I treasure every moment we are able to spend together. – Thank you friends and eFriends, here, there, and all over the world.ย I value every interaction I have with you. You make me feel like a true citizen of the world. I feel the love! – And thank you, Universe, for the gifts of loving parents, loving family, loving friends, good health, food on the table, roof over my head, education, opportunities, satisfying work, and for my energy and curiosity.

It has been a super-great 2016. I am grateful! ๐Ÿ˜€

 

 

25th Season of “THE” FFL!

Our family is into our 25th season of Fantasy Football! It’s really my brother Al’s deal, and I truly believe there can be no better fantasy league than ours because of him. We started as a literal cut and paste league, with his unbelievable reports sent out by snail mail! Al would gather scores on the fly watching as many TV’s as he could at the same time. He would then get the rest of the scores from the newspaper on Mondays and Tuesdays (after the Sunday and Monday night games). We couldn’t live without a subscription to the USA Today! We upgraded technologies with the times, adding fax, email, and finally a web-based program. Over 25 years, many of our lives have changed. A few people have come and gone from our league, though we still boast 7 of the original 12 franchises. That says a lot! Some people have moved out of town, so our old draft-day get-togethers aren’t what they used to be. Likewise our end-of-season festivities. But we all remain tight. We have seen some of our players grow up, get married, have children, and very sadly a death of one of these children just a few months ago. I will play this season with thoughts of Devon Gray, and his parents John and Jane. I can’t conceive of a greater loss. I wish them happy memories, in the midst of the loss and pain. (My eyes well up as I write this.)ย We consider ourselves a Fantasy Football Family, and we all lost one of our own. I am grateful to have known Devon, even if just for little bits of time, a couple of times a year. I will always remember him as a really cool kid.

THE FFL 2013

Family Time and… The Savannah National Wildlife Refuge

Gail and I enjoyed a nice trip to Savannah. We went there primarily to be with two of my daughters, my son-in-law Mike, and my grandson Max. We had a really nice time! ๐Ÿ˜€

And of course, on our way home Gail and I stopped at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. It is a southern lowland marsh habitat. There was no way we could pass it up: the entrance was right on the road in and out of Savannah! Here are a few pix. How many birds can you name? I think the names will show if you hover the cursor on the picture.

Now let’s see if you were paying attention. What are these?

Good!

And finally, a non-bird pic.

We were just going to stop for a few minutes, but spent 2.5 hours there. The city of Savannah, GA is a very interesting place, of course. But this wildlife refuge would be worth a trip all by itself! Glad we stopped! ๐Ÿ˜€

Max, me, and a few birds

We are up in Toledo visiting Max. Well, okay, I’m also visiting his mother/my daughter and son-in-law, and my own parents, and I saw my son and another daughter in Dayton on our way up here, and Gail is seeing some of her family, but this trip (and this run-on sentence) is really all about Max!

Isn’t he CUTE!! ๐Ÿ™‚

And, of course, we made a little time to look for birds. Here are a few of our pix.

Your basic White-throated Sparrow:

A couple of friendly White-breasted Nuthatches who came down off the tree to walk around our feet. I thought one might actually crawl up my leg!

A beautiful Tufted Titmouse:

A manic, stealthy Blue-gray Gnatcatcher:

And a little band of Blue Jays. The picture is a bit blurry, but I like the fanned out tail in flight.

Max has now gone out backyard birding with me twice. Here is a panorama of his backyard.

And here he is in his birding stroller. Well, that’s what I call it, anyway. Great times! ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

Little Max Changes Everything!

Suddenly everything is different, in a most wonderful way! This tiny little package turned me into a grandfather, and my children into parents, aunts or uncle. It changed my parents into great-grandparents. This package of joy has been named Maxwell Thomas Mahon, or Max. He brings joy, hope and dreams. We welcome him with open arms into our loving family! ๐Ÿ™‚

Mint 50 year old Marlin 101 Bolt Action .22 Rifle

During our early March trip to Toledo to visit family, my father and I had a chance to talk about the new hobby that Gail and I have been enjoying. He was surprised we have been shooting guns. I think he enjoyed hearing about our experiences and what we have learned. And then it was his turn to surprise me! He told me that he had purchased a rifle and a shot gun many years ago. He had always kept them (successfully!) hidden from his three boys while we were growing up. I asked him whatever happened to the rifles, and he said he still had them! I was shocked! I remember him talking about guns on a very rare occasion, and mostly it was about removing bullets from people in the operating room. He was a general surgeon and attended to many Friday and Saturday night “specials.” Those seem to be the favorite days for people to shoot each other. But I never saw him involved in shooting sports in any way, shape or form.

He asked if I wanted to see the rifles and I said, “Sure!”. He went up into the attic and came down with a rusty old shotgun, and with a .22 caliber, single shot, bolt action rifle that looked like it was brand new. And that’s because it was as good as new. He told me the rifle had never been shot! He even showed me a little box of bullets that he bought at the same time as the rifle, with all of the bullets still inside. He bought these things in 1962, fifty years ago!

The best part? My dad offered me the rifles, and I eagerly accepted his generosity! ๐Ÿ˜€

The .22 rifle has the words “J.C. Higgins Model 41” on the barrel. I have since found out that this was a rifle made by Marlin Firearms, a North Carolina company. Marlin rebranded the rifles as “J.C. Higgins” exclusively for Sears. The little box of .22 Long ammunition also was in a Sears box.

I wrote Marlin and was able to get a users manual for the rifle. Though he can’t remember, I was able to find out that my father probably paid about $19 for the rifle in 1962. It is now worth about $125 – $150. I learned from various gun blogs and sites that this was a rifle many kids got from their fathers as their first rifle, to learn about shooting. It is reportedly easy to shoot and remarkably accurate.

So I brought it home and dropped it off at ProShots Range for a cleaning and inspection. The guys at the range had a good little time with it. They said it was in perfect operating condition. I think they were a little jealous. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I have had a chance to shoot the little rifle, and it is indeed very accurate. More than that, it is really fun to shoot! Since it is a .22, there is essentially no kick. It is very quiet. The single shot bolt action is actually fun to work/play with. And the very best part, I know the rifle will always remind me of my father. What a treasure! ๐Ÿ˜€

The Kelly Crotte and Jason Armstrong Wedding!

March 23rd will be a permanent occasion on my calendar. My daughter Kelly was married three days ago in a beautiful wedding and reception, the stuff of dreams. Really, the whole thing could not have been any nicer!

Kelly wanted a very sunny place for her college studies and chose Arizona State University. That was ten years ago. She loved the Arizona desert so much that she has made it her home. She has long since graduated, has been working full time as a Clinical Research Coordinator, is back in school for an advanced degree, just started a business called Armstrong Adaptations, and while planning for her wedding also completed a half marathon run! She is a busy girl! And somehow she finds time for one of her passions which is salsa dancing. Actually, she was a competitive ballroom dancer in college, and her first job out of college was as a dance instructor. She finds much more joy, though, salsa dancing with her friends at the salsa clubs. And through all that she found the joy of her life, Jason Armstrong, who is now her husband!

So family and friends gathered in Scottsdale, AZ for her wedding last Friday. Here is a picture of Kelly and me in the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall, which is where the outdoor wedding and the reception took place. The building in the background is The Clayton on the Park, which is where the reception was held.

The Spring temperature was a lovely, dry 85 degrees during the day, and a very comfortable 70 degrees by 10 PM. Here is a shot of the park between the wedding site and the reception site.

And here is Kelly at a spot on the park known as The Marshall Garden, on the day before her wedding on that exact spot.

And here are some shots of the wedding itself. First, of course, because it’s MY blog, the bride and her father:

The wedding party (photo by Craig Amrine):

The wedding music: (Doesn’t everyone have mariachi love songs at their wedding?)

Walking down the aisle, Karen my ex, Kelly the beautiful bride, and me:

Part of the ceremony:

Dig the red shoes! ๐Ÿ˜€

The vows (photo by Craig Amrine):

The newly marrieds, Kelly and Jason Armstrong:

…and by photographer Craig Amrine:

All my children and me!

From left to right are my son-in-law Mike, his wife/my pregnant daughter Megan, me, Kelly, Jason, my daughter Ginny, and my son Kevin.

My parents:

And I’ll finish with three more pictures of the beautiful/handsome couple, Kelly and Jason Armstrong! (The first two photos by Craig Amrine.)

Kelly and Jason are two beautiful and outstanding young people! I am proud to welcome Jason into our loving family, just as I know they have welcomed Kelly into theirs. May they live long and prosper, and may the odds be ever in their favor! (The Hunger Games opened on the same day as their wedding.)

I am very happy! ๐Ÿ˜€

I’ll try to gather reception pictures/movies to share on another post.