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! 😀

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 put a star on my forehead – six stars actually!

6-grandkids

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

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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 in 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. 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. 👽

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. 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! 😀

 

 

OBX – The Outer Banks, NC – Part 3

On the previous post I wrote about our little day trip south of Kill Devil Hills, along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, all the way down to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. This post is about our day trip on the following day, this time north all the way to Corolla and the Currituck Sound. On our way we passed the beautiful little town of Duck, NC. Duck is arguably the fanciest and prettiest residential part of all the Outer Banks.

A very special part of this day was a planned meet-up with a fellow blogger I have known for several years. We had known each other only through our mutual online community of bloggers, and this real life meeting proved to be a memorable treat! Katherine, writer of the Shoot Me Now blog, and her beautiful daughter Elizabeth, were our guides for this part of our explorations, as Corolla, NC is their long-time, beloved home away from home.

First they proudly showed us around the beautiful Whalehead Club and told us of its interesting history.

Whalehead Club in Currituck

This spectacular property includes the Currituck Beach Lighthouse and the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education. It is also home to a great birding site on the NC Birding Trail, Currituck Heritage Park. Just up the road is yet another great birding site on the NC birding trail, the Currituck Banks National Estuarine Research Reserve. It would take years to really know these sites and all they have to offer, in the different seasons of the year. I feel like we just scratched the surface in our few short hours. I hope to someday return and spend much more time here. I can so see why Katherine and Elizabeth love this area!

Here is a brief glimpse of the estuary habitat.

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We saw this Belted Kingfisher eating a fish.

Kingfisher with fish

Belted Kingfisher

We walked and talked along this boardwalk in the maritime forest,

Maritime Forest Boardwalk Trail

and on a primitive trail which lead us to another spot on the Currituck Sound.

Live Oak on primitive Forest Trail

Elizabeth, who is a remarkable and impressive young naturalist, spotted this Cottonmouth Snake! I’m glad we were at a safe distance and that it was moving away from us!

Cottonmouth Snake

All in all, we spent a glorious morning together, and I am so happy to have taken the “e” out of our eFriendship! Thank you very much, Katherine and Elizabeth, for this memorable day! 😀

with Katherine and Elizabeth

 

Fun at the CAPE MAYgration Shorebird and Horseshoe Crab Festival

Gail and Ferd in Cape May 2013

Gail and I just got back from a really fun trip to Cape May, NJ. It is a birding paradise!

Cape Maygration poster

We went specifically for this event, to see the spectacle of horseshoe crabs as they come out to spawn, which coincides with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of shorebirds during their northern spring migration. The birds will travel thousands of miles. They stop here to refuel before continuing their trip north, some into Canada. More info here.

We became aware of Cape May through our friend and naturalist extraordinaire, Mark Garland. We had run into him several times at birding trips in the New River Gorge area of West Virginia. He suggested we visit him in his natural habitat some day, and we took him up on it!

Here is a short little video with Mark explaining a bit about the phenomenon:

And here are a few random pics.

Horseshoe crabs:

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A variety of shorebirds, eating the horseshoe crab eggs:

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Some horseshoe crabs end up on their backs:

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Mark shows us a tiny little horseshoe crab egg stuck to a bit of seaweed:

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Ferd flips a crab back onto its feet, while a crab friend gives the evil eye!

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A male crab attaches itself to the back of a female, doing it crabby-style!

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This was fun, friendly, educational, spectacular, and all on a beautiful day! Memorable! Thanks, Mark!

I’ll post pictures of some of our other sightings in the next few posts. 🙂

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! 😀

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! 😀

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

Kevin’s Sylvania Triathlon 2011

I made a little trip to Toledo these past few days to watch my son participate in a triathlon. He did the bike leg on a three man team. Each of the guys are particularly good at their respective part.

Kevin has been on bikes since forever. I recently posted these pictures from about 23 years ago:

A few years after that, Kevin competed in his first triathlon. He was pretty young, and he did great! That’s his sister, Kelly, to his right. They did a solid kid’s event swim/bike/run.

And now he’s back to the same place, in Sylvania, Ohio, to compete in his first triathlon as an adult. Here we are before the race.

His teammate Ryan McHugh swam the 1.5 km (0.9 mile) open water swim in 18 minutes, which is an awesome time! Then Kevin biked 40 km (25 miles) in the pouring rain in 1:12, which was also remarkable! And finally, Alex Schoen ran the 10 km (6.2 miles) in 43 minutes, another super performance. They came in 2nd place by just a few minutes.

Here they are, all exhausted looking after the race. 😉

Can you tell I’m pretty damn proud!? Alex recently lost his dad; I know he would have been very proud of Alex as well. These are three really great young guys!!!

Stone Mountain State Park

Not Stone Mountain in Georgia. This is the less famous but more beautiful Stone Mountain State Park in North Carolina. We took our first strenuous hike of the year with our good friends, Brent and April. The temperature was an unusually warm 66 degrees, 20 above the average. It was sunny and no wind. Perfect! The hike up to the top of the mountain was a doozy! But the views were worth it!

Though, really, Princess Gail is all the view I need!

After the hike up, we hiked around the top and down the back side of the mountain, following a stream and waterfall back to where we started from.

And now that Princess Gail is carrying a camera, I get to be in an occasional picture!

She even got a picture of my halo! 😉

Sandee and Zane

It’s funny how life works. A few short weeks ago, I had no idea I would be meeting one of my favorite blog friends live and in person!

I need a number of CME hours every year to keep my medical license current. It’s a common routine among doctors to realize that the year is almost over and that we need CME hours pronto! Of course, by then the holidays are upon us, and the year end schedules are pretty much set in stone. So I looked at my calendar and realized I had a span of four short days in December that I could use for some of my needed educational hours. Of course I asked myself, “What are the chances I’ll find a good conference on those exact days?! Slim to none.” But I did a search anyway, and was surprised to find an excellent Cardiology conference put on by UCSF, on the exact days! I figured that was a sign from heaven and signed up on the spot.

I thought of Sandee immediately. As everyone knows, Sandee is the giver of “Big Hugs” who runs the Comedy Plus blog. She brings smiles, chuckles, and LOL’s to the whole wide world! I get her daily posts in my morning emails, and always look forward to the cheerful pick-me-up. I knew that Sandee lived close by. I had seen her many pictures of boating on the bay. So I dropped her an email informing her of my trip plans and inquiring if she and Zane would like to meet Gail and me for dinner. Her reply? “You bet!”

The rest is history, as well recorded on her blog earlier today. Each of us had a bit of an adventure getting to the yacht club for dinner, but we got there! The Encinal Yacht Club was gorgeous, the evening was pleasantly cool, and the slight fog gave the city lights a beautiful, soft glow. At this, our first meeting, I felt an instant bond with both Sandee and her husband, Zane. They had a Big Hug, open armed welcome for us, and the rest of the evening was spent in fun and friendly conversation and enjoying a splendid dinner! It was a wonderful feeling to meet Sandee and Zane live and in person, and to get a couple of her famous “Big Hugs” IRL!

For me, blogging is about making human connections with people of like minds. I have gravitated to a few such people, geographically scattered all over the place, usually far enough away that an actual meeting is unlikely. But I value those relationships in a very real way. And now, having actually met, I will treasure our friendship in a really real way!

Thank you Sandee and Zane! I am happy and proud to call you friends!! 🙂