an adventure is afoot

“To fall in love with God is the greatest romance;
to seek him the greatest adventure; to find him,
the greatest human achievement.”

St. Augustine of Hippo


(a good book, a camera and a backpack…hummmm)

Remember me telling you that my husband retired as of July 1 after 50 years of running
his own business?

Well, my quandary was–what does a wife do to commemorate such a milestone??
…or rather…
what does a wife do to commemorate the removal of a millstone from around one’s neck??

I’ve been working behind the scenes now for a year.
Plotting.
Planning.
Calculating.
Arranging.

There was always one thing on the proverbial bucket list that he has always said he’d
like to really see in person.
A place he’s mentioned many times.
But not being one to want to leave the confines of our 50 united states would make such an
adventure rather impossible.

Now my bucket list, on the other hand, is pretty much endless….
as I tend to think more broadly while my husband ponders life with more of a
narrowed laser focus.

I want to see St Catherine’s Monastery in the south of the Sinai Penninsula.
I want to visit Krakow.
I want to visit Jerusalem.
I want to see Auschwitz and Dachau.
I want to be invited into the labyrinth of the Vatican’s library.
I want to go to Chartwell to visit my dear friend Winston…
I want to see Istanbul (aka Constantinople) and Hagia Sophia
I want to sit in Lambeau Feild, in the dead of winter, watching the Packers dominate
all the while wearing my cheese hat on my head,
freezing my a*$ off, as I cheer on Aaron Roger and company.

My husband, on the other hand, well, he could care less about any of that.

He does taunt me however with his wanting to moose hunt knowing that I
have emphatically stated that we will not ever bear nor moose hunt in this house.

Other than that, he’s pretty good.

Just find him a good fishing hole and he’s happy.

So I told him if he really wanted to see this one particular rather sacred and hallowed site,
I would make it happen.

He agreed.

And so today is the day we depart for this bottom of his bucket adventure…
the only adventure really in the bucket.

I have opted not to bring anything electronic with me but my phone.
No computer.
No Ipad.
Only a camera and a phone…

A phone in order to touch base with “the Mayor” of course!
…as in I hope she can get through this temporary separation from her chief aide
as she continues to resort to that continued foot in mouth miscue of hers…
Or rather…can this aide survive without the weekly fix of the Mayor…
for you see, this adventure was set in motion long before the Mayor came into our lives…


(the Mayor has a problem with always putting her foot in her mouth /
Julie Cook (aka cheif aide)/ 2018)

So how will you write your “blob” my husband asks…

“I won’t” I reply.

This is your adventure…

And so just know that I’ll be back in a couple of weeks–or three.

Yeah…
it’s that kind of adventure.

Prayers that his trepidation for this sort of travel will remain at bay
while I try to survive without the Mayor!

I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
I have kept the faith.

2 Timothy 4:7

woe to the nation that turns it back on God

But to dance in the streets because you had just given mothers the right to kill their
own unborn child is not civilized.
It is barbaric.
Rather than progressing into being a more tolerant,
open and respectful society,
Ireland has regressed over 1500 years into his pre-Christian pagan past,
where the weakest members of society are not tolerated and not respected.
They are destroyed.

David Robertson


(Lady’s view, Killarney National Park, Killarney, Co Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

It’s been almost four years since I went on my first and only trip to Ireland.

As it was my first trip to the Emerald Isle, I went with a deep sense of anticipation.
At the time, however, I wasn’t exactly certain as to what that anticipation actually was
or why I even felt it.

I am of Irish / Scotch descent and so trodding where my kith and kin once trod was of
course exciting.
My great-grandparents had long since departed this island nation and thus in turn set
in motion my own eventual homecoming…
a continuum of time linking generations of people who never had known one another,
and yet, who were forever bound one to another by a common piece of land.

And little did I know it at the time, but this would be the last trip that my aunt and I would ever take together.

So in hindsight, with both of us wandering about where other members of our family
had long since wandered, we had each received a special gift that was yet
to be fully appreciated.

At the time of the trip, my life was fractious at best.
I was in the midst of caring for both my dad and stepmother, each of whom was suffering
from varying stages of dementia. The trip was just a few months before Dad was to be
diagnosed with cancer…a diagnosis that would eventually take me to a very dark place…

And so I went on this trip before I was at my total breaking point but I was certainly
living in the rising crescendo of such a moment.
And so now I know that this was why God was calling me to this particular place
at this particular time.

It was because of all of this, as well as what I could not yet see that was waiting for me…
that this particular trip, along with three powerful words that I was to hear at the end
of the trip that would, in turn, be a turning point in my own life’s journey…

I had planned the trip a full year in advance before I ever knew how bad things
would be with Dad.
I had no way of knowing that when the long-awaited day finally arrived for our departure
that I would be more than a bit reluctant to go due to my caregiving duties.

I was worried sick about leaving yet grateful at the same time to be getting away.

I was running away and I was glad.

In my lifetime, I had traveled a good bit but for whatever reason, never to Ireland…
Yet unbeknownst to me at the time, it was to Ireland where I was destined to be.

Some would say it was just the perfect aligning of the stars, I would say God
was leading me right where He wanted me to be…leading me to a place in which I could
actually, hear Him speak.

As a history nut, I was excited to visit Ireland because I knew of her rich historic past
and Christian heritage.
That ancient intertwining of a rich Celtic tradition woven into the fabric of the
Chrisitan faith.
I also knew of the wealth of gifts Ireland had given Western Civilization through
her music, written word, song, and dance…

This once pagan windswept land, full of the last vestiges of both Viking and druid alike,
remains a mysterious land steeped in both legend and lore.
It is also a land that is home to more sheep than there are people.

And so it was in this land of my heritage of both myth and mystery that God spoke to me in
such a powerful and palpable way that I knew without any doubt, that it was Him
who had brought me here.

The words were bold and audible and I knew that even though the words were uttered by
another (thank you Paul), they were being spoken by God…to me.

So naturally, once I was back home,
I wrote about a post about hearing those three simple words…
“Be at peace”

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2015/10/04/stop-theres-another-sheep/

And maybe it’s because I saw that glimpse of God around each bend of lonely road and had
actually heard His words riding on the winds, winds that come sweeping in from off
the ocean…that the recently passed vote in Ireland to legalize abortion is
breaking my heart.

Yet it’s just not the vote itself that is breaking my heart but its the way in which the
Irish themselves are celebrating the vote which is so heartbreaking.

Our Scottish friend the Wee Flea, Pastor David Robertson shares my dismay.

” Celebrating the right to kill children in the womb as though it were a football match…
we are the champions…’we are a better country’ and yelling at the pro-life people
‘choice, choice, choice’ (what choice does the baby have?).
This is the new regressive Ireland.

David offers a rich in-depth yet extreemly melancholy observational post regarding the
passing of the vote as well as to the reaction of the voters…
a reaction that seems almost far worse than the vote itself.

This once predominately Chrisitan and very Catholic Nation was rocked to her core by a
heinous betrayal from the very Chruch to which she, this nation, was so grounded and anchored…
And so I just can’t help but think that such a vote and ensuing celebration is in some sick way
how the people have sought out their own twisted sense of revenge.

Yet I know that God still breathes His life’s breath upon this land, her people and her unborn.
But I am also reminded that God will turn His favor from the nation that turns herself from Him…

And so all I can do is pray for Ireland.

In order to prevent this slide into barbarity Ireland needs a new St Columba.
Ireland needs a Christian revival.
Pray for those who are engaged in church renewal and church planting in that once great country.
Pray that the anti-abortion campaign will continue and that the Church of Jesus Christ
will continue to reach out and show compassion to those who are considering abortion
and those who have had abortions.
May Ireland flourish by the preaching of the Word.
How long, O Lord, how long?

Ireland Regresses; Sunday, Bloody Sunday

God does not take a vacation

“Stacking stones claims ordinary moments of life for God and invites those who pass by to
notice the holy ground on which they already stand.”

Jayne Hugo Davis


(a gull sits by a cairn or prayer stone stack found on the shore of Mackinac Island in
Lake Huron, Michigan / Julie Cook / 2017)

During these precious weeks of Summer…
as you make plans to scatter either here, there and yon…

Or if you’re merely daydreaming of doing such….

If you’re eagerly anticipating escaping your hectic pace and grind of an
often monotonous and even overwhelming life…

Simply longing to seek cooler climates, grander vistas, idyllic sandy shores…

Remember one thing as you eagerly unplug, unwind, let go and forget all the
burdens you wish to leave behind…

God never takes a vacation.

He’s always there…wherever you may roam….
always near…
and always reminding you that you’re still His number one priority….

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear or be in dread of them:
for it is the Lord your God who goes with you;
he will not fail you or forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 31:6

Retreat, Sabbatical, Escape

“In order to understand the world,
one has to turn away from it on occasion.”

Albert Camus,

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Aristotle

“By God, I shall spend the rest of my life getting my heart back, healing and forgetting every scar you put upon me when I was a child. The first move I ever made, after the cradle, was to crawl for the door, and every move I have made since has been an effort to escape.”
― Thomas Wolfe

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(bags ready to go / Julie Cook / 2015)

It was this time last year when a plan was hatched.
It was the birth of a thought.
A “what if” sort of conversation.
Curious as to what may be found, three willing travelers were more than ready to journey to the land of great grandparents. . .
A grand adventure was set in motion. . .

Then the world fell apart.

Well not the big World, but rather the little world of family and self.

Practicalities began screaming “NO”
Mr Mole and Mrs Loon became impossible.
Caregivers continued threatening to leave as anger, resentment and failing bodies and minds wrecked havoc on the one versed with the overall wellbeing of everyone involved.

Backing out was too late.
It was a “go” whether or not the surrounding circumstances were in compliance.

So after a year of planning, then frustratingly dreading, the day of departure has arrived.

I’m heading out of pocket for about two weeks.
I leave behind Dad and Gloria who are not in good places right now.
Caregivers who have told me they may not be in place upon my return.
A husband who can’t leave his business.
A son and daughter-n-law who are now scarily “in charge”
A cat who appears to have broken a leg. . .
You name it, there are 100 reasons as to why I need to stay. . .
Yet I’m too far in to back out now, and my two traveling companions would be up the proverbial creek if I did. . .
You never know what will happen during the course of a year as you wait for a “big” event.

What started out as an exciting trip, has now morphed into, more or less, a cross between a sabbatical and a retreat.
Certainly no one is paying for me to go, no one but myself, yet I think my heart and mind both desperately need for me to go.
Things have been really bad on the Atlanta front as of late.
Actually almost impossible.
Enough to make me sick of both heart and health.

Getting away, far away, may be best for a while.
Unplugging, unwinding and simply allowing God to direct my path.
This is a pilgrimage of sorts to the Celtic roots of my life.

I’m not taking my computer.
Of course I’ve got both phone and iPad
Emailing and texting as time allows.
I doubt I’ll blog.
I just want to empty my thoughts for a while, allowing room for God to move in closer.
Dad and Gloria have almost pushed me over the edge.
I’m hoping with me not there 24 / 7, it’ll actually calm them down for a while.
We’ll see. . .

So until we are together again, in about 2 weeks. . .

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!

Bushwhackers, bare feet and a needed cure all

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(my son and his wife toast a first anniversary with a “bushwhacker” / FloraBama / Julie Cook / 2015

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(the infamous FloraBama sign / the state line / Julie Cook /2015

This is a tale of a little bit of bad leading to a whole lot of good.
And no, I’m not talking about anything scandalous, risqué, illegal, unlawful or even sinful—just barely on the negative side of the whole moral radar.

I visited the Rivera this past weekend.
And no, it wasn’t that Rivera.

It’s a long story which started out several months ago when my husband, the one who doesn’t seem to check calendars, schedules or much of anything else when he blindly accepts an invitation for an outdoorsman’s dream adventure. In this instance, it was a deep sea fishing adventure that was actually an invitation extended to both my husband and son.

Now such an invitation would naturally be quickly chomped at and swallowed by both these two outdoor loving enthusiasts. . .
Trouble was that the weekend scheduled for the trip out to sea was the same weekend that marked a huge milestone in our family—-it was to be my son and daughter-n-law’s first year wedding anniversary.

Being the sentimental one that I am, I just didn’t see any good coming from a One Year Anniversary being spent apart—especially when it was by choice for a pleasure fishing trip verses say, deployment overseas, work, or catastrophic illness.
The long and short of all of that is that my husband relented in the fact that the two woman of the clan “would have” to now tag along.
Not to fish mind you, but to tag along to say, the beach.

My life as of late, as you all well know, has not exactly been my own.
Stress and worry simply do not do justice when describing life with Dad these days.
Getting away did not seem prudent, practical nor wise.
Guilt and anxiety actually dug deep.
Yet something buried way down in my psyche screamed GO! For Heaven’s sake, by all means GO, and don’t look back!!!!

Now this fishing trip was to set sail from an area known as the “RR” or in the immortal words of Kenny Chesney, “the Redneck Rivera”
Not being a fan of country music nor of things denoted “redneck,” this would not exactly be a place I’d jump to visit as I am one who prefers the subdued, the quiet, the classic and the serene.
When I think of Rivera, I think of sophistication, charm, elegance and “haute” this or that . . .
Throw the word “redneck” out front and suddenly the sound of dueling banjos streams through my brain.

Upon arrival, to our home away from home for the weekend–which by the way was a very nice and stylish condo perched on the beach with little to nothing having to do with “redneck”- the sound of some rather loud music, emanating obviously from a live band jamming out somewhere nearby, filled the air.

I had heard strange tales of a local establishment and of its most infamous concoction, a Bushwhacker, in the general vicinity of our stay.
A den of iniquity of sorts linked to all things college and debauchery is what I had imagined and as it turned out, my imagination wasn’t far off course. . .

IMG_1419
(a wooden clad honky tonk situated on the Alabama / Florida line–perched in-between high-rise condos and parking decks)

The FloraBama, circa 1975, is a mecca for that whole “party on the beach” mindset of the young and often dumb—With the clientele of this particular establishment being not all so young, yet all equally lacking in better judgement.

Never one to miss a famous local attraction, I was game for a little look see. . .as well as a sampling of the oh so famous beverage!
There is a reassuring picture of President Obama sipping a Bushwhacker when he once visited this “business” no doubt on some sort of campaign adventure—so my rationale being, what’s good for the President, must be good for me as well, right???”
What’s the harm in a little chocolate, coconut, frozen medley with a few other added ingredients, served up like soft serve in a disposable cup topped with a cherry? Harmless enough right??

Well I won’t bore you with the details.

I won’t belabor the exploits of the young men and middle to upper aged woman, I watched from afar, stumbling along the beach as I simply shook my head.
Nor shall I understand the site of the older woman dressed as purple and gold Mardi Gras bags of beads, hung over their shoulders by suspenders with feathery boas cascading from their heads, as they paraded along the beach–participating in some sort of odd contest. . .
I won’t bask in reliving the happy thoughts of spending countless hours simply bobbing up and down on my blue noodle just like a lost little cork adrift in the placid Gulf
(note—noodles are for kids and I’m not proud)
I mustn’t speak of my now extra crispy red skin despite having sprayed—yes it hurts.
I shan’t rattle on about all the lovely fish that were caught–very tasty.
I won’t relive the image of my jaw dropping and mouth hanging agape as I entered into this haven of indulgence as my two younger protégées were left wondering if I hadn’t just fallen off the proverbial turnip truck. My college days having long since passed.
I shan’t confess to going barefoot for two solid days, traipsing in and out of the ocean, the beach, the “entertainment establishment” for a few Royal Reds (aka the best shrimp on the Gulf) over and over.
I shan’t expound on how good a trip, albeit it quick, sans shoes, worries, cares, agendas. . .can be for the spirit and soul of the weary. . .

But I will gladly extol the tastiness of a bushwhacker. . .

And may we all remember that obviously what happens on the Redneck Rivera, stays on the Redneck Rivera. . .or so say the Mardi Gras ladies. . .

I love you so much. . .I gave you my cookies

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
― Lao Tzu

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh?” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

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(a nibbled box of Sprüngli Amaretti cookies / Julie Cook / 2014)

About two years ago I took a little trek along with my two traveling companions, my aunt Martha and long time friend Melissa—a journey that became known as the Grand Retirement Trip–whereas they had each been retired for several years, the trip was to mark my rite of passage of catching up with them– prompting the adventure.

We kicked off the trip by spending two days in Zurich, Switzerland. While in the picturesque Swiss city, we wandered into the most delectable shop known as Confiserie Sprüngli—a part pastry / part snack shop complete with its very own confectionary store right next door. You and I may not be familiar with the name Sprüngli, but we are familiar with Lindt Chocolates—of which are actually, one in the same. The Sprüngli side maintains the pastry confection part of the business while Lindt is strictly the chocolates. Sprüngli remains in Switzerland while Lindt is in the US.

And of course I had to buy some goodies to take along for sustenance during the extensive trip. One item in particular caught my fancy. It was a small package of about 3 little cookie stacked on top of one another packaged in a cellophane wrapper with a pretty light blue bow and burnt orange tag. They were called Amaretti, an almond like macaroon, and of what I now know to be similar to the Italian treats by the name Amaretti di Saronno. The Sprüngli version however has a creamy cherry kirsch center covered in a delectable bottom layer of decadent rich dark chocolate

I stuffed them in my travel bag, wanting to save them for when I finally made it back home.

After almost three weeks on the road, we finally arrived home. Upon unpacking I sadly realized my once beautiful cookies had gotten sandwiched at the bottom of my backpack leaving me with a sufficiently crushed bag of crumbs.
No matter. . .I tore into the bag, savoring each delectable morsel.
Ooooo, I had to have more.
I went online to the Sprüngli website. Yes, I could order a box or two and they would indeed ship to the US, but. . .I figured it all up, the cost to ship the cookies would far exceed the cost of the cookies themselves. How was I going to rationalize this little spending spree?

Needless to say, I wasn’t. I decided that the only way I’d get any more of these lucious little treats would be if I ever found my way back across the ocean, landing in Switzerland. And that wasn’t happening anytime too soon.

Fast forward to last weekend.
My husband has a really good friend who was born and raised in Switzerland who now make his home in Florida.
It just so happens that this friend travels back home at least once a year to visit family and I just happened to know of his latest trip’s plans. . . I asked that if he happened to wander by Sprüngli’s while in Zurich, would he be so kind as to pick me up a box of the cookies. . .

Long story short, our friend came to visit us last weekend with my box of cookies in tow!!!
Wooowhoooo!!

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Delicious and delectable!
To be savored with deliberate patience, one by one—spreading out the consumption over time, slowly so as not to hurriedly eat them all up. . .as who knows when, if ever, I’ll ever have such a treat again.

I hesitantly offered one to my husband, pretty certain, praying, he wouldn’t like them.
His palate is a more Oreo and Chips Ahoy sort of palate and not the delectable cream cherry kirsch filled almond macaroon leaning of a more patient and delectable palate.
Thankfully, he made a face after his first little tentative bite, putting the remainder of the cookie back in the box.
Whew!
I and my cookies were safe. . .or so I thought. . .

Later that evening, as we were sitting, well after supper, watching Monday Night Football, he gets up from his chair heading for the kitchen.
“Where are you going?” I nonchalantly ask.
“No where” comes the response.
No where?. . . my mind muses, hummm, odd. . .
When it hits me like a ton of bricks. . .
“Tell me you’re not getting my cookies!!!!” I shout toward the kitchen.
He re-enters the room holding something clutched in his hand, the hand he’s trying oh so hard to just hold by his side as if nothing is there.
“YOU DO HAVE A COOKIE, DON’T YOU???!!! I practically scream.

Now mind you it’s not that I don’t want to share my cookies with him, but you must understand, this is a man whose idea of a cookie is a handful of about 5 or more and not the single little special savoring variety cookie that only happens into one’s lifetime once, maybe twice if one is so lucky.
“AGGGHHHHHHH” I scream jumping up as he pops the whole thing in his mouth as he closes with a huge grin.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOO—YOU DON’T EAT THEM LIKE THAT!!!
He’s poised to pop another in his mouth when thankfully sanity regains its hold on him.

With a triumphant smile on his face, he offers me the now melting remaining cookie.
Ugh, I hang my head.
“Go ahead, you can have it” I sheepishly mutter.
Again, popping the whole thing in his mouth, he grins
Oooo the agony of it all. . .

Now that he has sufficiently tormented me, he proceeds to munch on the handful of Fig Newtons he had originally gathered. Who can follow delectable wonderment with a fig newton??!!
See what I mean??

Hours later, as I crawl into bed, with my husband fast asleep and snoring like nobody’s business, I wonder, as well as marvel, how in the world he can be in the bed no more than 5 minutes and he’s already sound asleep, I turn out the light.

Situating myself under the covers, through the darkness I utter a soft “I love you” as I’m certain he’s sound asleep.
Suddenly I hear a very groggy muffled, as if far away, “. . .love you too. . .”
I counter with my familiar “love you more”
again a groggy “no you don’t”
“oh but I do”. . .I whisper, “I love you more because I gave you my cookies”
And with that the heavy snoring resumes as I contently smile in the darkness.

As I lie there in the dark staring up at the ceiling, pondering the thought of what it means to love someone so much so that you’d give away special cookies, I am suddenly struck by the enormity of what has been done and given to me in the name of that same Love I casually wrap myself in like a warm blanket.
Giving and Sacrifice, each on a massive scale.
My thoughts race across time to an ancient form of torture and capital punishment, a cross with a lone figure hanging by 3 piercing iron nails—first in agony, then limp in the utter and total betrayal of loneliness and isolation, cut off from any and all.

With a sudden rush of tremendous clarity, I am overwhelmingly struck by what “loving someone more than” is really all about. . .

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
1 John 3:16

Loving and being loved even more than a box of cookies. . .

Cookie’s on the move

“Make it a rule of life never to regret and never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can’t build on it; it’s only good for wallowing in.”
― Katherine Mansfield

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Not a permeant move mind you, just a few days sabbatical.
Wait.
If it’s a working trip for one of us, can it still be a sabbatical for the other one of us?
The one whose already retired, the one who is tagging along looking for a little bit of inspiration from new sights and new sounds?

I feel as if Cookie was born to move.
As in, I have bags, I will travel, sort of move.
Not the whole pack up your world and move.
Nothing so drastic.
Little movement verses big movement.
Of course I blame it all on the adoption.

A baby born, knowing it is pre-destined for the “home”– certainly came pre-destined with a packed bag.
(and speaking of Philomena—not necessarily the movie, as I purposely chose not to see it but I am currently reading the book—It is proving to be the sort of book I must put down on an almost chapter by chapter basis as it is hard to imagine such took place in the country of my family’s roots, Ireland—plus as an adopted individual, it certainly makes one think. . .but we love Dame Judi Dench–of course we do. We’ll have a post on such at a later date. . .but today it is on to bigger and better things—things like moving on. . . and things like Texas—BIG)

My take on being adopted is that one is to make the most of a hard wired tendency.
No regrets.
If folks say I gotta move, than move I shall!
What was that song. . .”all my bag are packed, I’m ready to go, I’m standing here outside your door, I hate to wake you up to say good-bye. . . yada yada yada, I’m leaving on a jet plane. . . yada, yada, yada”—you get it, right?. . .

You say trip, adventure, business— I say I’m gain and I’m there!
Bags packed, camera ready. . .passport finally with the correct name—what a fiasco—you must read one of my very first posts—-“Goose chases, passports and the times in which we live” from Feb. 28, 2013. . .that is the story of my life encased in a nutshell–a nutshell of a comedy of divine errors.
So yep, I’m good to go!
This coming from a Miss Homebody. . .

This world is indeed wide and wonderful, and yes, wherever I may roam, my thoughts do return to precious things such a family, friends and home—but I am always up for a road trip. . .just let me know when you’re ready. . .and I’ll start packing!!
Oh and you should know, that I keep my passport on the ready.
I keep a $100 and 100 euros tucked inside on the ready because one just never knows when one needs to make a quick getaway. . .

Next stop—the Lone Star State
Stay tuned . . .

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