Thursday, May 25, 2017

My Grandma

I mentioned in my last post that my Grandma had gone to the hospital a few days before Thanksgiving 2016.

She'd been in and out of the hospital a good bit over the last few years, and we honestly thought we were losing her several of those times. I wasn't quite sure what to think when she first went in this time, but I made a point to try to get by there as much as possible to see her.

We also tried to take Connor several times. Even though he had only know her a few years, he loved her and she really loved him and having a great grandson!

On the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, we had tickets to the TN vs. Vanderbilt game in Nashville, so we decided to go visit Grandma on the way. We had just gotten our Christmas cards, so we delivered hers in person. She was special because she was the very first person to get to see it this year!

Connor also demonstrated some of his karate moves for her. She loved it! I also told her about getting to see Dolly in concert, going to Dollywood, and how we had finished grad school - and she told me she was proud of me.

We went to the game that night, which ultimately was an awful experience. TN lost, which was unexpected. That really wouldn't have mattered because we're definitely "it's just a game" kind of people, but we had some Vanderbilt fans in front of us who were super unsportsmanlike and quite frankly just inappropriate, especially with children all around. I actually went to tell a police officer about them, and he didn't seem to care - super frustrating. It didn't help that by this point we knew Grandma was not doing well, and I think we were all just a bit on edge in general.

I stopped by several times that week to see Grandma, and I got to talk with her alone a few times. I'm really glad I had that time to say some things I wanted to tell her since I knew it was probably the end. I think she was glad because she had things she wanted to tell me, too.

A few days later on December 2, I woke up to a text from my mom that we needed to get to the hospital. I got there before they started Grandma on "comfort care." I was able to tell her I was there and that I loved her, and I think she was still there enough to know. We sat there all day, but she was on morphine and resting... Nonetheless, I like to think she still knew we were there.

She passed late that night, a little before midnight. This is a picture collage I posted that night after she was gone.

She was 86 and definitely lived a long, full life. But that didn't mean it wasn't hard. She was my last grandparent, and she was the one I was always closest to. It hit me a lot harder than I really expected, and it's still hard even now as I write about it.

Over the next few days, I helped my mom with the funeral arrangements and went through a ton of pictures to help make a video slideshow to play at her visitation.

Here's a photo of mom and Grandma when mom was little.

I really like this picture I found of Grandma and Grandpa together.

This one came from my very first trip to Disney World. I only have a few memories of the trip since I was so little, but this character breakfast is one that stands out to me. I like that I go to do Disney with my parents and grandparents at one point.

This last picture is one that has always been a favorite. I'm not sure why we went to Olan Mills and had a picture of us, but I'm glad we did. I suppose it has something to do with being the first grandchild, and ultimately my sister and I were their only grandchildren. I mentioned to mom this photo has always been one of my favorites. It must have been one of Grandma's favorites, too, because mom found a copy of it in the wallet she was carrying in her purse up until she passed.

It's been really strange over the last 6 months knowing she's gone. Christmas was really different and pretty bittersweet being our first without her. It was strange knowing that just the year before she was at our house for Christmas dinner.

My parents cleaned out her house and sold it recently. That was really sad, too. My grandparents had lived there for 60 years, ever since mom was a baby. I spent almost every Saturday growing up out at their house, and I have a ton of memories there.

The memories will of course be there with me forever, and I have a few things that belonged to my grandparents in my home now to help remember them by. I know death is part of life, but it's definitely something that never gets easy. I'm thankful for all the time I had with my grandparents for sure.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Thanksgiving 2016

Connor was with us for Thanksgiving 2016, and we had a pretty nice holiday!

I was able to take that Wednesday off from work to hang out with Connor, and I took him to a pottery painting place to make Christmas ornaments for family members.

On Thanksgiving, we had our family over to our house. Adam's brother was even able to join us from Arkansas, which meant we of course went on the back deck to shoot BB guns and air guns into the woods behind the house. (We live in the south. Don't be surprised. When we go to his brother's house, we shoot real guns in his back yard, ha!)

My dad's birthday is right around Thanksgiving, and this year it was about 2 days after the holiday. Connor was pretty excited to give him a birthday card!

Connor loves Aunt Meredith, and they spent time playing with the GeoSafari we got him. Anyone else remember those?

Connor also loves Uncle Tony. He is pretty awesome.

Here's the Riddick family with our Thanksgiving spread.

For dessert, we had birthday cake for Papa! We opted for his favorite carrot cake!

My Grandma had gone to the hospital a few days before Thanksgiving, so my parents left soon after dinner to go see her and take her a plate of some Thanksgiving dinner.

Connor and Gram stayed at the house while Adam, me, Tony, and Meredith went out downtown! I've honestly never been out on a holiday, and it was super fun. Not everywhere was open, but it was so nice going to some of the hot spots around town and it not being all that crowded. It was pretty fun being two brothers and two sisters out on the town.

The next day, we took Gram and Tony to Waffle House before breakfast, and then they each had to hit the road back to their homes.

We really don't get to see Tony all that often, so it was fun getting the Riddick men together!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Dolly in Concert

Just a few days after our weekend in Gatlinburg and our visit to Dollywood last fall, I saw that a friend had tickets for sale to see Dolly Parton in concert in Huntsville, AL.

I immediately showed it to Adam, and we made a quick decision to buy them and make the drive down for the show later two nights later. We both love her, and I had never seen her live (and Adam had only seen her at a show with multiple artists where she only did a few songs).

The show was on a Wednesday night, and Huntsville is about a 2 hour drive from Nashville. We had work and all, but I love that we're crazy enough to leave work, drive to another state to see a show, and drive back that same night to be at work in the morning. It reminds me a lot of when we did the same exact thing in 2009 to see a DMB show in Atlanta.

We left work, made the drive down, and found a pub in Huntsville to grab some dinner before heading to the show.

I was so excited! Dolly Parton holds a special place in my heart. I had several cassettes of her albums when I was like Connor's age, and I've just grown up knowing and loving her. I also loved watching her Christmas special that she did in the 80s that I had taped to a VHS and would pull out each year, In fact, I went on to make Adam watch it with me this year on Christmas Eve when we were at my parents (since they still have a VCR).

Anywho, the concert was amazing. I literally cried during a few songs. They just reminded me so much of my childhood, and some of them reminded me of my grandparents.

She did so many great classics and some of her newer stuff as well. I loved every minute!!

The show ended pretty late, and then we made the drive home. I'm pretty sure we got all of like 5 hours of sleep before getting up for work the next day. It was a struggle to get through the next day, but it was totally worth it! I'm so glad we got the chance to see her perform live!!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Dollywood Weekend

Adam and I finished grad school in October 2016, and he decided we needed a little weekend getaway to celebrate. I knew we were going away, but he didn't tell me where or what we'd be doing. (This makes it challenging to pack, but fortunately he did give me some insight into the types of things I might need.)

We took off work on a Friday and got up early to hit the road. I knew we were heading east, but that meant quite a few possibilities of where we could be heading.

However, as we got off at a certain exit in East TN, I was pretty sure I knew where we might be going. I guessed right, as we went to Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg. Adam had rented us a cute little cabin in the woods. It was the first weekend in November, so the fall drive was beautiful! (Side note: This was about 3 weeks before the fires that hit the Smoky Mountains/Gatlinburg.)

We got checked in and explored our cabin before heading out to walk around the strip in Gatlinburg. I know some folks reading this might not have any idea what I'm talking about, but this part of the Smoky Mountains is very special to most of us born and bred Tennesseans. It's just sort of a kitschy tourist town, but there's something beloved about it. I've been there more times than I can count. It's just sort of a fun little weekend getaway kind of place. It's also where a lot of the parents of people my age, including my own, honeymooned in the 70s when it first sort of became a thing. Much of the town still looks like it's in the 70s, which is part of its charm.

We went to the Old Mill in Pigeon Forge for dinner. It was your typical down home country cooking, and it was delicious! I also loved seeing all the Christmas decorations around town. After dinner, we went back to the cabin to enjoy the hot tub before heading to bed.

On Saturday morning, Adam surprised me with Dollywood tickets! Despite living so close by all my life, I had never been! Adam had never been either, being from West TN and all. It was so exciting to get to go do this together for the first time.

We spent all day exploring the entire park and riding every single ride, some of them multiple times. We were actually really impressed with the roller coasters and with how neat we found everything in the park to be. We also found some neat things in some of the shops for our home.

As it got dark, all of the Christmas lights came on. It was really cool seeing all the lights and decorations as well as riding a lot of the rides at night.

We were there from open to close and had an amazing day! Once we left, we went to the cabin and enjoyed the hot tub for a bit before crashing.

On Sunday morning, we packed everything up to check out of the cabin. We then went to Paula Deen's for an amazing breakfast.

Seriously. Look at all of this delicious food.

We did a little shopping around town and visited a few of the local wineries before hitting the road back to Nashville.

It was such a nice getaway, and it was really special to get to do Dollywood for the first time with my love!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Halloween 2016

We love Halloween around here, and Halloween 2016 was pretty great!

Connor decided that he wanted to be Black Panther from the newest Avengers movie for this year.

We like finding fun Halloween activities around town to take him to each year, and this year we decided to do Hauntings at the Hermitage. We live pretty close to the Hermitage, the home of Andrew Jackson, but I'd never been before (and neither had Connor). When we first got there, we got to go inside and tour the home. That was super neat!

We also got to check out all of the grounds before it got dark. It was actually cheaper to go to the Halloween event than the normal tour, so we considered this endeavor a win.

Connor really enjoyed getting to make his own little potion at one of the booths.

The rest of my pictures weren't great since it got dark, but he got to do some trick or treating and visit some other really neat booths with little activities. This kid loves Halloween, so he enjoyed every minute! We ended our time there with a haunted hayride, and it was actually really well done.

Later in the month, Connor was with us on Halloween this year. It was a Monday, which is never as fun as when it falls on a weekend, but we still had a ton of fun.

We live in an awesome neighborhood that is well known for trick or treating awesomeness. We have really great neighbors on our street, and we all got together and had chili and hung out before heading out with the kids. One of the neighbors got a trailer and some hay, and we drove all over the neighborhood to take the kids around.

We had a ton of fun, and Connor got quite the haul!

This is also Tucker's favorite holiday, because obviously...

Such a fun Halloween!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Graduation and Dave Matthews Weekend

This past Saturday, Adam and I had our graduation ceremony for our Master degrees!

We started celebrating Friday evening with some tacos and margaritas since it was Cinco de Mayo, followed by a few bakery treats.

Saturday morning, we were up early to get to campus in our caps and gowns for the ceremony. Even though we finished in the fall and received our diplomas in December, it still felt exciting to have a little pomp and circumstance to mark the end of this chapter in our life.

The ceremony was a pretty typical graduation. It was long and boring, and then we each had our 15 seconds or less of walking across the stage, haha.

My mom managed to get this fun photo once we had both walked.

After we were done, we snapped a few family photos on campus. Rain was moving in quickly, so we wanted to get some pictures and get back home.

We got a good one of the two of us. I love that we got to do this together!

We got one with my folks. They were so proud, and I'm thankful they both got to see this!

We of course got one with Connor. I know the ceremony was boring for him, but it was a big deal to us for him to see us graduate.

We got a bunch of other ones, and that of course included this one.

We went home and took a few more before it started raining, and we headed to lunch with our family. After that, we were exhausted so we took a nap!

That evening, Adam and I had tickets to see Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds. It was the perfect way to celebrate. The venue is so neat with the Nashville skyline behind it!

It was a bit cool that night, so Dave had on a scarf. We bundled up a bit, but it didn't keep us from having a great time enjoying the show!

We also managed to get a copy of the show's poster. It was so awesome with the Nashville skyline.

On Sunday, we slept in to recover from a busy day. Adam and Connor went to see Guardians of the Galaxy II that afternoon, and then we surprised Connor with a ticket to go with us that night to see the second show of Dave and Tim. It was his first Dave show, and he was so excited!

We got there in plenty of time to get a copy of that night's poster and get a great front row seat in the lawn section.

We hung out and were thankful that it was warmer than the night before, especially since Connor was with us. He was excited when Dave and Tim took the stage.

It was a beautiful night, and the show was even better than the night before. We loved the scenery, too!

A very sweet couple behind us all evening snapped these next two photos. They tapped us on the shoulder at one point to tell us they hoped it wasn't creepy, but that they had taken them because they're parents and knew this was a sweet moment. They wanted to text them to us. I thought it was so sweet. It was during a song where Adam and I had reached over to hold hands, and Connor reached up from where he was sitting on the ground to hold on, too.

It was a great night, and Connor told us the next morning that the concert was his favorite part of the weekend! We want to take him to a full band show sometime, but we felt like this was a good warm up for him.

He was also excited to get his very own Dave t-shirt for the first time!

The weekend was rounded out by some beautiful flowers my boys gave me as an early Mother's Day gift! I don't get to see Connor on Mother's Day, so it was fun to get these early and to be able to enjoy them all weekend (and all week!)

It was such an awesome weekend!!