My daughter turned 25 this past Tuesday (26 August). I keep telling her she doesn't look her age but you know how some women are about stuff like that. Seriously, she's been a joy to me since I first laid eyes on her back in 1983. Happy Birthday Katie Jane Parker! You are so very loved. Here's to many many more.
When I got home on Tuesday, my Dad asked me who I received flowers from. I had no idea what he was talking about and figured he was just pulling my chain. Sure enough, there was a long rectangular box waiting for me and it had the unmistakable shape a container that might be harboring long stems. I love those boxes!
They were gorgeous and so welcome, so cheery! Now, I'm typically a daisy kind of girl, but I have to say that these roses were just stunning and they came in such festive colors. They were sent by a dear person who lives across the pond in Northern England. The guy who surprises me now and again with packages of sumptuous jasmine tea, weather stations, books and several Greer Garson movies. Thank you kind person. You truly made my evening. It was completely unexpected - I mean, I haven't chatted with him in MONTHS! I think he has this internal radar that seems to know when I need a boost or something.
Sunday evening, I joined a friend for some surf fishing and had a blast. I even found a very cool chunk of coral in the waves and it's now sitting in one of my aquariums. We stood on the jetty Sunday Night, right around low tide, and it was a stunning evening. The water was warm, the breeze was light and the ocean was just as it always is - glorious. I didn't catch a fish, but I did catch a funny crustacean (he put up a good fight, but I let him go.). My friend caught a small flounder - too small to keep - and after he detached the hook he handed the fish to me and I threw him back in and suggested he go out and grow a bit and stay away from hooks.
The weather has been so tropical this past week. We've had some of the hardest rainshowers mixed in with periods of intense sunshine and high humidity. The tropics are popping right now and just about everywhere you go in this town, you hear people discussing the systems making their way from Africa toward our shores. As I type this, Louisiana is on high alert and we're hoping they aren't facing a repeat of three years ago when Katrina made an unwelcome, devastating visit.
Thursday Afternoon, my best buddy Sharon called and said it was time for lunch with the girls. I immediately accepted and she told me that our friend Ann was up for a good time, too. Today, we lunched at Airlie Seafood Restaurant and we had the BEST time! I was a few minutes (several) late because my Mom and I were checking out the bargains at Vintage Values and I snagged some steals! Of course, I took my loot to lunch and my friends couldn't believe what I managed to find. I couldn't either. I'm not generally gifted at bargain hunting but this must have been my lucky day.
OK, yesterday was my lucky day, too. My sweet boss closed up shop and set me free at noon, and I headed for another store and made out like a bandit. I basically managed to capture about 12 outfits for under $40. Most of them still had the tags, designer names I could never have afforded at retail and fit as if they were made for me. Incredible!
My bargain hunting wasn't simply confined to frilly dresses and suits. I went on Craig's List last night looking for an iPod (I miss mine so much!) and while I didn't find a great deal on those, I did discover a Marine Elipse System 12 Aquarium which generally retails for around $160, that was going for the amazing low price of $25. I went over to pick it up first thing this morning and met the sweetest young couple who are preparing to move to Sweden. Not only was this aquarium in good as new shape, but they tossed in another smaller one, rocks, plants, filters, a net,, a heater a gravel vacuum much nicer than the one I have, food, water conditioner, an expensive pH testing kit and an algae scraper. I hit pay dirt!
This has truly been a lucky weekend for me in terms of purchases. I'm still keeping a keen eye out for the iPod, but I'm so pleased with my fish tanks and not a minute too soon - my African cichlids have went forth and multiplied so I was in serious need of a tank for them to grow without fear of being consumed by their relatives.
But back to lunch. Lunch was sooooo much fun. It went on for almost two hours and we laughed, ate great food, giggled, gossiped and ate some more. We all had shrimp and then Sharon declared we would have a large, chocolate dessert - three spoons please - and is anything better than good friends and a shared high calorie confection and great iced tea? I can't think of too many things that top it.
What an amazing gift these friends of mine are. Sharon is one of the first friends I made when I moved to Wilmington and she's been so steadfast, loyal, lovely and God must have used his finest "friend" template in creating her. I loved her the first time I met her almost seven years ago. I adore her even more now. She also brought me the gift of Ann - as she introduced me to this wonderful woman over a year ago and my goodness - the three of us are like three peas in a bucket. My spirit soars after time spent with these ladies. We're all three blond and so we speak the very same language. We can even finish each others sentences.
Next Saturday, Sharon has decreed, (because Gerald has a golf tournament), that we shall lunch again and THEN, the three of us will go have pedicures because Sharon said so. No discussion. No excuses. That's the deal and that's that. Sharon is slightly more mature than Ann or myself so she made it clear that no cancellations would be honored. Hey, who would want to get out of that? We all thought it was a fantastic idea. No arguments from Ann or me. We're blond, yes, but not completely stupid.
The three of us had our cameras on the table. We took pictures. And of course, every pose had to be snapped by three different cameras. And then, our very kind and patient waitress took over when it was time to snap a group photo. Three times. We definitely gave her a great tip because she did a great deal of photography work. Plus, tomorrow is her birthday. She didn't even charge us for dessert because she said we were "fun". All I know is that I left with a huge smile on my face, chocolate in my tummy and an iced tea to go. Thank you Sharon, Ann and God for arranging my life that I have these angels in them.
I did make time this past week to get a much-needed haircut! Actually, very little hair was trimmed, but it definitely needed some reshaping and so I visited Joseph Zell & Company and had a wonderful reunion with two young ladies I used to work with when I managed the spa downtown. It was so cool to see Chelsea and Brandy and we had a lot of catching up to do! Joseph Zell is kind of pricey, but they provide a spa-like service - they SPOIL you from the moment you walk into the salon. The shampoo includes a massage and you never want it to stop. The ambiance is elegant and everyone in there is at the top of their game. I've received a lot of compliments on the trim and my hair is so smooth, so lush. I'm not certain what they put in the shampoo or maybe it's the conditioner, but my gosh, I think my hair is addicted to it. It was a glorious way to spend my lunch hour on Thursday. I highly recommend it.
I am so thrilled to have a three and one half day weekend (and get paid for it!). Sharon was laughing at lunch and asked Ann to guess what I loved most about my new job...Ann tried to come up with stuff but never quite hit it. Then I showed it to her - MY INSURANCE CARD!!!! Man, that is priceless to me. I "heart" my insurance card. Having gone without any for a few months, it is even more precious to me. It's unnerving, mentally, to deal with not having health insurance. You imagine the worst possible scenarios any one of which could lead you to financial destitution if you survived whatever it was that was sending you to fiscal ruin.
Let me tell you - it's one less thing to worry about. I'm grateful. I am extremely, overwhelmingly grateful. Now of course, I hope I never truly have to use it, but I have to tell you it is a huge comfort to know it's in place.
Tomorrow I'm having brunch at The Oceanic, heading over to the 11:00 AM Wrightsville Beach Meeting and then walking on the beach and looking at it, wondering how much it's mood is likely to change in the next few days should T.S. Hanna decide to make a visit on our coast. I will think of Justin - how much I miss him but how pleased I am that he's working with his Dad. I will think of Katie and hope she's having a wonderful first week of being 25. I will smile as I replay today's lunch. I will feel grateful that I had the opportunity to go shopping with my Mom. I will smile as I remember the crazy things my Daddy says to me on any given day. I will then conclude that I am absolutely one extremely blessed woman and though I'm never eager to bid summer so long, it's been a good one - filled with gifts, great company, unexpected presents and lots of smiles and opportunities to say thanks. And then, I'll probably come home, dive in the pool to get the sand off of me, turn a few flips in the pool, look up at the stars and the odds are great that I will be smiling.