All in the Family

It’s important to know your family and their stories

I posted several entries about Family Reunions and get-togethers on here before, but I’m reminded during the Summer about the importance of family as it means reunion and family get-togethers more than other seasons.

Family reunions were enjoyable to go to as a kid to be sure, because most of the other kids my age went to the same school as me, so it was interesting to think of them as not only classmates but as distant relatives. As I’ve gotten older, I learned to have further discussions with the adults.

The conversations with the adults take on a more special meaning in recent years. As the older generations have passed away, the adults ahead of me generationally keep their memories alive. This helps me to connect to the ones that I still have some of the same memories, but it also helps me flesh out the family tree a bit more.

When we traveled to Texas a few years ago, we were able to reconnect with cousins we seldom see, and at least for me and my first cousin once removed, we got to connect with cousins that we had never met. Those new connections are now fostered on social media and are more priceless than any connection to the state of Texas.

Many cousins have also made a point to reciprocate and visit at Grandma’s in the last few years and stories and memories are shared which I treasure because again it helps flesh out the family tree. I know Dad has discussed plans to try and visit those cousins near their hometowns and I’m looking forward to being able to firm up those plans.

As I mentioned about social media helping to deepen connections with cousins across the country, even the more local ones are deepened on there too. Luckily on the paternal side of the family, one cousin administrates a Facebook group page for the extended members of the family to share photos and memories of our family. So, this creates more of a virtual gathering to understand the family tree as well.

While I learn well from simply listening, a book containing wisdom, memories, and traditions of the family would be helpful for future generations. My memory and learning by auditory means is fading as I age, and those treasured memories could fade if not written down. The Facebook group does allow for many of the memories to be written down and preserved.

The fascination with family connections extends beyond my family too. I like watching Finding Your Roots on PBS. This show features Yale Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. revealing interesting relatives to celebrities. The episodes also conclude with a DNA analysis that explains the celebrities’ ethnic makeup as well. It’s always interesting when Black celebrities find out they have some sort of Asian heritage or the WASPiest celebrity has Ashkenazi or other ethnic heritage.

A Consanguinity Chart

I also like the idea of trying to navigate the family trees and the consanguinity charts that explain who is my 1st cousin once removed, or great uncle twice removed. I know many are confused with how they are related but looking at a consanguinity chart several times has helped me understand. E.g. your first cousin once removed is your first cousin’s child. Worth noting, their relation to you is first cousin once removed as well.

Do you try to learn the histories, traditions, and memories of your family?

Say Uncle

Happy Birthday to my oldest nephew who made me an uncle.


On this day 3 years ago, I became an uncle and that made me reflect on such a joyful moment. Lest I am accused of being self-centered, today is the birthday my oldest Nephew, Blaize Stroud. He’s such a fun little guy to be an uncle to. Plus, I have a little fun with my brother and sister-in-law because he bears resemblance to me in my early photographs. I’m ready to see him again on Sunday for his Birthday Party.

Note the Resemblance between me (Left) and my Mini-Me (Right)

Even more of a joy is that Blaize has two little brothers which means I’m an uncle to three nephews now. The middle nephew Storm is also that fun tike stage as well. The littlest nephew Skye is only a little over a month old so he’s still in that newborn stage that I’m always a little awkward around.

I will be honest, I had always hoped that my little brother Ross would have been an uncle before me but given that he has had more luck in dating in romance than I have, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I became an uncle first. He is at least an uncle by marriage thanks to his wife’s older siblings, but the jury is still out if he will be an uncle by blood. Of course, my father was an uncle long before becoming a parent as well. So, it happens. What’s also striking, is that my sister-in-law has two little sisters that are still minors that are aunts already.

During my childhood, I saw my uncles probably as much as my nephews see me. I’d like to see my nephews more just because they need as much positive family influence as possible. While it might be nice to be an uncle like Uncle Jesse or Uncle Joey, I’m always fearful that I am also more of an uncle like Uncle Fester. Although I think Wednesday and Pugsley did find entertainment and with and loved Uncle Fester, but it just looks different since it was the Addams family, and everything was meant to be different on purpose.

All this to say, my relationship as a son and brother has matured and developed over time, now I have a new role of uncle as well. I look forward to what that looks like as these nephews continue to grow up and how they will love their Uncle Ryno as he loves each and every one of them as well as their Mama and Dada.

Do you have any nieces and nephews?

Still Wanna Get Away

I enjoy escaping to the moutain fun of the Smokies and the beachside of Florida, but Texas is on list as well.

If you read last week’s Poetry Wednesday was about the one that got away — Texas. Today’s entry is all about the Lone Star State and my affinity for the state. Yes, I know much of my original poems are about vacation and getting away, I admit that I have wanderlust. I love where I grew up in the Hoosier state and my family is all in close proximity, but wouldn’t be opposed to living elsewhere. Given that I’ve spent much of my time in the Kentuckiana region of the state, I identify more with Southern sensibilities than Midwestern ones.
I mentioned in my earlier travel post about vacations, and I mentioned taking a vacation with much of the paternal side of my family to Texas. It’s that vacation that serves as my basis for this post. While much of vacations I take are entirely for pleasure and escapism, this vacation was also tied to being a family reunion of sorts. My paternal grandfather’s brother moved from Indiana to Texas sometime in the fifties and half of his children still live there along with their families. Traveling to Texas allowed my father and aunt to visit with their cousins on this trip. For myself and my first cousin-once removed this afforded us the opportunity to meet these same cousins for the first time.
We took this trip at the end of May in 2015, which definitely provided us with the opportunity to encounter the Texas summer which I will attest is different from Indiana summers. Yes, the heat may be hotter, but the humidity is not as oppressive as Indiana.
Our vacation was spent mostly near the Dallas & Fort Worth area at Waxahachie, TX. First of all, that is an awesome name for a town in Texas. We chose to stay in a hotel in Waxahachie so that we would be close to our cousin’s in Grandview, which is south of Fort Worth. We spent the first night after arriving visiting our cousin and his wife and by great coincidence another cousin who was visiting from Colorado.


Yes, I am linking Dallas and Fort Worth which I know might not sit well with residents of both cities, since we spent one day in this super-metropolis I have joined them together. Full disclosure, both cities are distinctive and travelers could spend an entire vacation in either city and have fun.


The first stop on our tour of Dallas included Dealey Plaza. While an important area of downtown to visit, its importance is due to tragedy. This is the site of the assassination of Pres. John F. Kennedy I November of 1963. Several plaques mark the area around the highway the motorcade was traveling that fateful day. In addition, a mark on the street denotes the location of the vehicle which Pres. & Mrs. Kennedy were at when the bullet struck the President. The Texas school book depository was preserved as a museum for tourists to see the place where the alleged gunman Lee Harvey Oswald was said to have taken the shot. Enterprising folks have also produced souvenir newspapers commemorating the events and sell them to passersby.

After visiting Dealey Plaza, we trekked to the Dallas Museum of Art. I will admit I don’t make a habit of visiting art museums since much of what passes for art in modern times is barely art and hardly aesthetic. There is at least a separate floor that contains painting and sculptures from the classical eras that resembles my estimation of art.
After lunch, we traveled to Fort Worth to take in its particular sights. While Dallas is more cosmopolitan, Fort Worth is more historically Texan. Established early on as a stockyards for Texas ranchers, the town still includes displays of Longhorn cattle both live and in statue form.
We visited several shoppes in the historic stockyards that sell the typical trappings of Texas: beef jerky, boots, cowboy hats, hot sauce, etc.
After visiting the shopping district in the historic stockyard, we visited the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame. This museum features décor and artifacts from the time of the Texas Revolution to the modern day. The artifacts are categorized by connections to transportation, the rodeo, music and film, and other famous Texans. The sidewalk along the museum contains several commemorative plaques memorializing significant Texans.
We opted to spend the next day in Waco. For what it’s worth we did not see Chip and Joanna and we didn’t visit their Magnolia buildings. Maybe next time, that can be included.
We did visit Baylor University and the Truett Seminary in Waco. Many friends from undergraduate who went on to ministry in the Southern Baptist Convention spent time at Baylor for their theological education and I wanted to see the college they attended.
A Dr. Pepper Float at the cafe attached to the Dr. Pepper Museum. 
During a visit to Waco, it is impossible not to visit the Dr. Pepper Museum. This soft drink that is distinctive from other sodas is important to the history of central Texas and the bottling plant is still in Waco. The museum features historical marketing items of the soft drink as well as history of the soda’s creator and the process of preparing and bottling soda.
[Austin Weird]
After our day to Waco the day before, we traveled to the capital of Texas—Austin. The motto of Keep Austin Weird didn’t need to be encouraged as our family is probably weird enough anyways. 😉
We visited the home of the Longhorns at the University of Texas. I tried to encourage my younger cousin-once removed that upon her graduation she should attend UT since her school colors were similar to the Burnt Orange of the University.
After spending time looking over the campus and having lunch, we met with one of our Texas cousins and her family. Her husband works for the Dept. of Parks and Wildlife in Austin commuting from San Antonio. We were treated to dinner by them and we were able to reminisce with these cousins who we rarely see in person but thanks to Facebook can maintain relationship with.
And now for something completely different—food. Most serious Texans enjoy eating Whataburger for breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner. We were able to enjoy this for lunch shortly after crossing into Texas and it didn’t disappoint.
We were able to also eat Tex-Mex during our visit and enjoyed their offerings which are different than the ‘authentic’ Mexican that we find here in Kentuckiana.
I regret that we didn’t get to experience Texas barbecue, but we did try Memphis on our way home and even barbecue Dad and I had discovered on a previous vacation that is connected to a very distant cousin since it bears the same surname as ours. Again, Texas is a large country masquerading as a state and finding reason to return will give opportunity to try their barbecue.
I mentioned Dr. Pepper as well, and it is one of the official drinks of Texas. Big Red is also a popular quaff enjoyed in these parts as well as back home in Kentuckiana.

Worth visiting while interstate bound from point A to point B in Texas is Buc-Ees. This convenience store or grocery I’m not quite sure what exactly to call it has almost anything you could want at their deli, gift shop, candy section, snack shelves, and also plenty of gas pumps to fuel your vehicles as they need their own energy.

Travelers will also notice the ubiquitous presence of Texas-shaped foods almost everywhere. While most hotels offering free continental breakfasts have added waffle irons to make your own waffle, Texas is not to be outdone by offering a waffle iron bearing the shape of their state.
We have been fortunate that most of our Texas cousins are on Facebook so we can see what is going on in their lives and in their fair state. We also were happy to have a few of those cousins come visit last summer here in Indiana. I also enjoy following prominent politicos on social media who live in Texas to maintain a vicarious connection to the Lone Star State. Besides these opportunities, I enjoy talking to another pastor in our continuing education program who travels from Texas for his schooling about his homeland. As the saying goes, “Everything is bigger in Texas” and so are the ways I can stay in contact with the state. 
Have you ever been to Texas or thought about visiting?

Poetry Wednesday #17

The latest entry for Poetry Wednesday is “Ballad 8.28 (Ballad of Red Fox and White Tail)”

This poem is dedicated to the memory of my late grandfather Wayne Stroud and in honor of my brother Ross Stroud. Both of their birthdays were yesterday, August 28. This is meant to celebrate their special relationship.

“Ballad 8.28 (Ballad of Red Fox and White Tail)”

Gather round for all to hear the tale of Red Fox,

Let’s not forget his young cadet White Tail.

Their friendship somehow became their folktale.

All the story was provided by the grandfather’s vox,

Now the grandson reforms it just like Knox.

No, the story is not contained in any book.

The foxy grandpa was strong and imposing like The Duke.

This tall tale of these warriors traveled on the swift wings of hawks.

The young buck of a grandson was just as strong as a Clydesdale.

Now their family tells the yarn in their home in the Boondocks.

Grandpa Fox was a raconteur that none could top,

People for miles around still know him by his name.

Grandson Buck didn’t know when their story would stop.

Of course, their kinship was bound to be storied since their birthday was the same.

Grandpa Fox meant the story to tease, but it was affection, like when White Tail’s ears he’d box.

© Ryan Stroud 2018

It’s the Time of the Season

Now that it’s August, my family is getting ready for one of their favorite seasons.

The calendar has turned to another month, and that means a new season is approaching. If you said school season, you’d be correct since many schools are starting soon or have already started, but that’s not the season I’m thinking of. It’s also close to football season, but that’s not quite on my radar yet. It’s too early for deer season. But for many in my family, especially the paternal side of my family tree it’s birthday season.


August has been birthday season for my dad’s family as long as I’ve been alive and was apparently a thing even when Mom married into the family a few years before I was born. When she was welcomed into the family, she was lucky enough to be included in birthday season by having an August birthday like so many others in the family. Both of my aunts celebrate birthdays in August, my oldest cousin was also born in August, his stepdaughter is also an August baby, and my grandfather and my brother shared the same birthday on August 28. Additionally, my sister-in-law is an August baby as well and has been added to the celebration. The most recent addition, or the youngest August Birthday is my first cousin-once removed who just barely slid in under the tag much to her mother’s chagrin.

Given that more than a half dozen people were born in August, it made sense for my Dad’s side of the family to celebrate all of the birthdays as one big shindig. Growing up, there was always an August Birthdays party for everyone in the family born in this month. Additionally, worth celebrating are the two anniversaries celebrated in August thanks to my parents’ and my brother and sister-in-law’s nuptials being part of the festivities.

What’s strange is a similar acknowledgement of multiple family members being born in the same month doesn’t occur on my mom’s side. Much of the members of her family share the month of February as their birth month. This includes my grandfather, my cousin, his youngest son, another cousin’s twins, and of course my own birthday. This may be more since my cousins’ children were born after my grandfather’s death. While my grandfather was alive, three birthdays in the same month would neat but not as remarkable as the number on dad’s side. Now that it would be five people celebrating birthdays it might make more sense, but the family is so spread out that it might present some challenges.

I think Dad’s family celebrates the August Birthdays because so much of the family is within an hour’s drive of each other and we also will find any reason to celebrate and get together. In fact, we floated the August Birthdays party to September a few years back, so we could accommodate everyone’s schedule and celebrate. Thankfully, this year we’ll celebrate the August Birthdays in August, so my mind doesn’t try to comprehend a one-month belated celebration.

Do you have several family members with birthdays in the same month? Do you do anything special to acknowledge them?

Judy Not in Disguise

Judy Garland is not the top ‘Judy’ in my life. Read more about who is.

I’m going to get a little personal today, an approach that’s worked well for my blog numbers in the past. So, to that end, I want to talk about my Mamaw. I’ve previously written about my Mamaw Doris, my paternal grandmother, but I’m talking about my maternal grandmother — Mamaw Judy.


It’s fitting to talk about Mamaw today as it’s her 87th birthday today. Mom and my uncles will honor Mamaw today for her birthday. I’m grateful that both of my grandmothers are still alive even into their middle 80’s. Sadly, both of my grandfathers have already passed.

I grew up spending time often with both of my Mamaws. I’d spend the night at each of their houses at various times during summer break and especially on the weekends. Mamaw Judy was usually good for being the typical grandmother to spoil her grandkids and that was no exception for me. Much of my childhood spent with Mamaw Judy was spending that time with her alone because her husband, the man I knew as Grandad died when I was only 5 years old. So, I grew up going to visit Mamaw Judy when I went to see my maternal grandmother and I’d visit both Mamaw Doris and Papaw when visiting my dad’s parents.

The house I live in (at least for the next few weeks) is the house I visited in Corydon growing up when I would come visit my Mamaw Judy. It’s interesting to live in the house instead of visiting it. After spending six years here, it’s now more my house as the interior design is matched to my style instead of Mamaw’s. Even though the interior design has changed drastically, it’s still Mamaw’s house somewhere in the recesses of my memory. I can remember when my neighbors wouldn’t have been my neighbors. I have witnessed the newest addition to my neighborhood get built within the last 20 years.

Mamaw Judy’s house and visits were always exciting for the toys she kept her for the youngest grandkids—me and my brother. Much of those toys were Legos® that she bought for us to play with. I was always careful retrieving the bucket of Legos® from the attic though, one out of fear of being stung by wasps or encountering Joe the ghost who lived upstairs, or so claimed my Grandad. There’s debate if Joe moved out when Grandad passed, but I think he lived here at least for a few years to watch over Mamaw and probably also be a connection for me to Grandad when I visited.

I always enjoyed visiting Mamaw in my childhood because it meant there was more to do in town than Paoli. Corydon had more restaurants and entertainment options than Paoli and visiting Mamaw meant going to those restaurant and entertainment options. For what it’s worth, Mamaw Doris’s had different entertainment options on the farm, but the dining options were the same I already had if I was at my house.

While I reminisce about these wonderful memories of Mamaw Judy it’s heartbreaking because I’m not sure she can remember them that well. She has been suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia for at least the last 3 years. The disease finally worsened to the point that Mom determined that Mamaw Judy needs to be in a long-term care facility. Somewhat paradoxically, Mamaw isn’t aware that she is suffering and in a nursing home and is agreeable with most of what anybody suggests. This unawareness means she won’t know today is her birthday or her age, but Mom will visit with her and celebrate for Mamaw.

As I try to refocus through the sadness of this disease and transition, I’m reminded that the memories of Mamaw when I was growing up are the ones to remember and not her current condition. That’s the overall healthiest approach. So, I’ll celebrate Mamaw Judy’s birthday for the Mamaw she was when I was growing up.


So, Happy Birthday Mamaw Judy and my gift is that I didn’t publish this with your given name like I did growing up.

Current Event Friday #18

The latest installment of #CurrentEventFriday

Friday has rolled around again, and that means it’s time for #CurrentEventFriday. I’m discussing a current event that’s more personally connected — Family Reunions.

I chose to discuss this, because our Annual Family Reunion is coming up tomorrow. This reunion celebrates and memorializes my dad’s maternal grandparents and their descendants. The official name is the Gilbert Free Reunion, but when advertised on the banner at the shelter house it could easily be mistaken by passersby as an invitation to a free reunion.

“Every year you say,’Come to the family re-u-ion. ‘Always pick-pick-picking on me.”

I’m reminded of a portion of comedian Ralph Harris’s standup bit about his inebriated uncle and the uncle’s complaints directed at the family and their “re-u’ion” and their nitpicking ways. Fortunately for our family reunion none of these outbursts happen (Although, I’m guessing a few cousins enjoy at least a few cold ones).

It’s always interesting to get together with the family and enjoy the fellowship, which seems somewhat strange since 85% of the family lives within 15 miles of the old family homestead. Of course, there’s a few outliers which now includes me. It now also includes Ross and his family too. It’s also somewhat startling to watch the younger cousins and those in my generation grow up and be parents and now even grandparents. Sadly, too it’s jarring that my grandmother is the lone surviving sibling in her generation. Thankfully she’s still going strong, and at least two of her sisters-in-law will occasionally make appearances at the reunion.

State Parks.png

I’m always amazed at the reunion following the same routine almost every year, but nobody ever complains that, “But, we did this last year.” We usually gather at one of the local state parks to celebrate the reunion rotating between Spring Mill — site of Astronaut Gus Grissom’s memorial or Patoka Lake — a man-made lake created through efforts of the Army Corps of Engineers to dam a local river. In recent years, we’ve also included another local campsite funded by a private family trust.


The routine always starts with a pitch-in meal beginning around 1 p.m. Of course, anything connected to fellowship should always be connected to food, and the wealth of food ensures good fellowship. There’s the usual picnic fare: fried chicken, potato salad, slaw, and watermelon. Besides that, because we’re in Indiana there’s usually corn. There are also a dozen or so casseroles with meat or other vegetables, and to round out the meal there are at least a baker’s dozen or more desserts including flavors of chocolate, strawberry, peach, and sundry fruits. This is always a good idea given the fact that every single sibling in grandma’s generation was diabetic, and more than a few of dad’s generation suffer from the same disease. None of this stops anyone from overindulging in the food and fellowship.

Thankfully the routine usually includes an exercise component as the meal finishes. About 1/3 of the family plays horseshoes, cornhole, or other games just a few feet from the shelter house, and another third takes turns in groups of 5-10 walking the trails in the park. For those at Patoka Lake, this includes a trip often down to the beach to enjoy the cool muddy water as a respite from the unbearable June heat. Much more fun can be had at Spring Mill, the hiking component here includes a trip to the recreationist Pioneer Village. As mentioned, even though the routine at each routine is the same and by my count I’ve hiked to the village around 20 times, it’s always an opportunity to observe what life might have been like in the late 19th Century. Part of the trip through the village also includes demonstrations at the still operating grist mill used to grind cornmeal for sale. There’s also the usual attempts by the men in the group to add levity to the tour through some well-timed remark about needing to stop by the tavern or needing to stop at the schoolhouse since according to fictitious claims they barely grajiated the 8th grade.

For the other third that don’t play horseshoes and the other games or take the hiking tour, there’s times of sitting around and shooting the breeze and reconnecting about what’s going on in each other’s lives, and maybe sneaking another slice of Mamaw’s raisin pie.

What also strikes me about the family reunion is that it seems to be more of a phenomenon for Dad’s family. We celebrate every year the Gilbert Free Reunion and Mamaw’s family, but I can remember Papaw (my paternal grandfather) having family reunions with his family growing up as well. Some of these reunions were officially organized to celebrate the Agan family, and others included more casual affairs when Papaw’s distant relatives were in town from Minnesota, Colorado, Texas, or Iowa respectively. I’ve remarked to Mom that her family doesn’t seem to have reunions and she recognizes that, and she’s gotten used to family reunions as she’s been involved with dad and began attending when they began dating. There have been a small handful of reunions with Mom’s family that I can remember but they weren’t greatly attended, so apparently not everyone has family reunions. I was reminded of this fact last summer as it was my turn to bring an outsider into the fold as I brought my ex and she was subjected to the usual initiation rituals.

Photo from the 2012 Reunion Top: The 2nd Generation Bottom: 3rd Generation

It’s surely a credit to Dad’s family and their efforts to insure continued connection between the family and incorporating new generations into that connection along with the various in-laws and outlaws into that connection as well. I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older that it’s important to celebrate the annual tradition of the reunion. Because if we can’t celebrate the connection of those we are connected to as family, what hope is there to celebrate connection of friends and other acquaintances?

What about you, does your family have reunions and are they looked forward to every year?

Play That Funky Music

“Music and rhythm find their way Into the secret places of the Soul”
– Plato

I realized that lately my blog posts have been less personally reflective and more commentary or amusement. While there are certainly reasons for commentary and entertainment, I know that I began this venture for catharsis and introspection as much as anything else.

So, dispensing with that lead-in, I’d like to talk about one of my interests and I’m sure an interest for almost everyone — music. While the unanimity of music appreciation is not a new observation, the degree to which we appreciate music is obviously varied as much as the various types of music.

It’s not unusual that I’m reminded I am my father’s son, and Tuesday night was no exception. I went to the monthly county HymnSing over my whiny inner voice’s protestations. Yes, the church was on the other end of the county through winding county roads, and it was every bit of 9 p.m. when I got home, but that shouldn’t be my takeaway.

Anyways, back to the HymnSing, I went and enjoyed all the different church choirs and individuals singing, but that’s not any different than anyone else that ventured out. More to the quality of being my father, I sang along with every singer while at my pew, and loudly enough for others to hear me. I’ll never be accused of singing over the entire congregation like Dad, but there are times when I come close. I come by it honestly, Dad sings along to almost every song he’s familiar with, secular or sanctified or not. He learned that from his family. So much of his family is connected intricately with singing and/or playing music. Now, neither he nor I will ever be accused of being an instructor of music, but we are usually the most involved and animated to be sure. The lady in the pew in front of me Tuesday night was sure to point out that when a song that I was 40% confident of the composition I had become noticeably quiet.

Music for me plays a significant role in my life. It is a connection to my late Grandfather as I always remember his role as lead musician at his church. Particularly, when churches sing songs that I associate with his leading at church, I am transported by memory back to when he was still alive to lead those songs. Music is also therapy for me, what I can’t always put to words music accomplishes. Often, my mind is aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening thru a cosmic vapor of invention. Yet, often like a provincial putz all I can articulate is some hackneyed expression of emotion. Given, I can craft a wordy and lofty post, but emotions and deep conversation scare and paralyze me. Music overcomes that inner mental struggle. Whether I’m trying to distance myself from negative emotions or trying to put my pain into words music is more than able to achieve that purpose.

I think we all need music in our lives as a way of augmenting our verbal expressions. It is art, yes but it is that means where we add to speech or as is often my case, put into words what we can’t articulate. I’ll even concede that the currently popular music that only someone eating Tide® Pods could appreciate is useful for this younger generation in some way I struggle to grasp. Yes, I’m the old guy criticizing the young’uns and their awful music. As they say, don’t @ me. I listen to many other genres, so I don’t feel the need to listen to that music. I listen to Contemporary Christian, Southern Gospel, Country Western, Modern Country, Classic Rock, and Easy Listening. Heaven help the Pandora Radio algorithm try to assemble my musical profile.

I could also drive around with the top of my Jeep off or the windows down on a sunny day and I’d be happy with that too.


What about you, do you have a healthy appreciation for music?

Is It in the Cards?

I’m such a card.

We use this idiom often to indicate what might be in the future. The origins of the phrase come from the usage of Tarot or other fortune-telling cards like Ms. Cleo hocked on her infomercials. As for me, I don’t know what’s exactly in the cards for my future but I’m into cards.

I’ve always had a fascination like many in playing cards. Even at an early age, I can remember Mamaw Doris had a plethora of card decks at her house when we’d come to visit. Sure, we’d do puzzles or play Monopoly at her house, but there was always time to play cards, whether it was WAR, Knock, Slapjack, 21, Euchre, or 52-Card Pickup. Most of my childhood I can also remember Mamaw Doris and Papaw playing cards with other family members or various friends that would come over for game night.

Game night or card night is a phenomenon that has fallen away in recent years. There are game nights every once in a while organized by church youth groups, and maybe a holiday game night at someone’s house, but back in the day it wasn’t uncommon for a couple to invite another couple over to play cards once a week to play cards.

I was reminded last week about the fun that can be had at card nights and why I think it might be time to return to it. I didn’t have plans last Friday for dinner, and my parents had other plans, so I wanted to find something to do. I called Mamaw Doris to see what she and the rest of the family might be doing. She told me they were heading to a hole in the wall restaurant about an hour or so away, and I’d be welcome to come. So, I met up with a good number of dad’s family for dinner and socializing which I looked forward to since I hadn’t seen or talked to them in person since my birthday a month ago.

After we got done with dinner, Mamaw asked me if I wanted to stop by her house and I agreed. I got to play cards with Mamaw, both of my aunts, and one of Mamaw’s neighbors. They were playing a card game new to me, but still fun. Card night is never just about playing cards, it’s a chance to blow off steam and gab about whatever’s going on. So, there’s all kinds of side conversations happening in addition to challenging the other players’ gameplay.

I’ve thought it’d be neat to host a card/game night at my house. Yet with my schedule it’s not been in the cards. Maybe when my school schedule calms down that’s something to try and coordinate. I’m hoping by then the redecorating efforts at my house should be done by then.

Cards are part of my family culture. Mamaw and Papaw played cards all during my growing up, and especially during holidays. It’s a tradition that continues to this day. There’s usually one or two games of Euchre happening at Thanksgiving or Christmas. I also grew up with stories that mom and dad were set up on a date by playing cards with mutual friends. So again, cards are in the family. Even Mamaw pointed out my cousin is usually over most Saturdays to play cards as an end of the week release. While I don’t necessarily have anyone close by to play cards with, I’m not opposed to playing any of the various forms of solitaire either on the computer or with live playing cards. Regardless, I’m going to try and include more card night with family and friends. So to my family, be looking for the event invite on Facebook.


What about you, do you enjoy playing cards? Should we get back to game/card night more often?

Wanna Get Away?

The last few days have made me ready to experience more of the sun and pleasant weather.

If you read my blog yesterday, you saw two truths and a lie. The lie was that I’ve visited 31 US States. I’ve only visited 29 so far.

Thinking about travel and all these spring temperatures in the middle of winter the last few days have made me ready to experience more of the sun and pleasant weather. So, in answer to Southwest Airlines motto, yes, I wanna get away.


Obviously, there’s all kinds of travel blogs out there, and that’s not necessarily my niche, but it is a topic that interests me. Fun fact, I’ve considered becoming a travel agent since I like looking for attractions and restaurants around the place I’m going for vacation.

So, I want to talk about a recent vacation I took with my family. It’s important to note that it was a big family vacation and we haven’t had one of those since Ross was in high school. I’ve taken more than a few with Dad to Cubs games and down south and a few with mom and dad to Florida. I also took a trip with dad, my grandma, my aunt, and cousin to Texas. But taking a family trip with my parents, Ross, and me has been probably over 10 years.


So last May, we went as the nuclear family once again, plus Ross’s wife and oldest boy Blaize to Siesta Key, Florida. I can’t recommend enough spending time on the Southern Gulf Coast of Florida. The water is much milder, and the sand is so much better than Daytona and the Atlantic coast. I’ll admit I have not spent any time in the panhandle region on the Gulf, so maybe I’m biased.


If you’re flying to Florida and spending any time in Southwest Florida, flying into the Punta Gorda airport is preferable. You’re 90 minutes from Sarasota and another 45 minutes to Tampa to the North. Heading South from PGD puts you in Ft. Myers in about a half hour and allows you to have access to Sanibel Island from there. The airport is small enough that it’s impossible to get lost, and it’s located near I-75 which allows you to get to all the big cities from Tampa down to Miami.


We chose in May to set our HQ at Siesta Key. We were lucky to find a 2-BR Condo thru VRBO that put us right on the beach. Mom has demands that anytime we vacation in Florida that the lodging has to have beach access to the Gulf, I can’t say that I blame her.


Before I begin talking about where to seek out for entertainment and obviously dining, let me talk about where to seek out food for meals that you’re likely preparing in your condo/resort. I think most of us in the Midwest are familiar with Walmart and Kroger, Florida and the South have Publix. Publix has a wonderful deli section that Walmart and Kroger are trying to catch up to but are still behind. Publix also has a selection of other foods in the dry goods section that are hard to find at Midwest grocery stores. One of my favorites is ChocoRite low-glycemic snacks. I’m always looking for snacks to eat as a diabetic in case I don’t get a full meal. I’ve only ever found them in the South and at Publix, yet they are manufactured here in Indiana in Evansville. I can’t even comprehend.


Just across the street from our condo was Captain Curt’s Crab & Oyster Bar. It’s a quaint little seafood restaurant much like Joe’s Crab Shack. It’s a local restaurant though that is renowned for their chowder that’s shipped to snowbirds when they return home after the winter. I had the conch fritters which I have to have when I’m in Florida. They’re like seafood filled hush puppies. Dad had a blackened whitefish, and everybody else had various fried fish. The breading was not too heavy or too loose. Plus, they give kids a frisbee and a temporary tattoo. So, they win points with Blaize for trying to entertain him.


Tucked into the strip mall behind Captain Curt’s is the Orange Octopus Ice Cream Company & Café. They offer about a dozen homemade ice creams. They make their own cones too. They include the usual suspects like chocolate and vanilla but add non-traditional flavors like coffee and key lime pie. I’ll admit we had ice cream 3 nights during our 6 day stay. It’s that good. I tried the Butterscotch Blast, the Key Lime Pie, and Coffee. The butterscotch blast is like a heath bar blizzard but better because of the addition of brownie. The Key Lime Pie is sweet and tart which is exactly what you need. The coffee was not overly sweet, which I like in homemade ice cream. One flavor I sampled from Ross’s recommendation was Kentucky Honey Bourbon. The flavor of actual bourbon in the mix is slight, but worth it. It’s a high-quality vanilla with the addition of Kentucky Whiskey.


Mom, Dad, and I gave Ross and Paige a free night and took Blaize with us to the Big Water Fish Market. It’s a small fish shop with limited seating. But almost every seat is always filled. Dad and I had the grilled Mahi Sandwich. I usually want fried fish, but this fish didn’t need it. It was a delicately cooked Mahi fillet with fresh lettuce, remoulade, and swiss cheese on a fresh baked bun. Mom had a fish sandwich that she assured me was cooked well too. Even little Blaize enjoyed their homemade fish fingers.


We spent our last night having dinner at Turtle Beach Grill. I had fried avocados, fish nuggets, and to celebrate the time I did enjoy a Siesta Sunrise Cocktail. The fried avocado is interesting with a crunchy coating and a creamy interior. The cocktail was a rum based cocktail with pineapple juice and grenadine, definitely a way to celebrate.


Clearwater Aquarium is home to Winter the dolphin. Winter is a celebrity dolphin who starred in A Dolphin’s Tale 1 & 2. Winter was fitted with a prosthetic tail to help her survive. The aquarium offers other marine attractions and demonstrations throughout the day and interactive educational exhibits.


I’ve spent time the last two times in Florida visiting Busch Gardens. While I can’t ride any of the roller coasters, the amusement park also includes rare animal exhibits. So, for those that want adventure, you have thrill rides, and for those with milder tolerances you have a zoo. This gives something for everyone of all ages and excitement levels.

So now that I’ve described our vacation, I’m ready to head back. How about you, do you wanna get away to Florida’s Southern Gulf Coast.