Sunday, July 31, 2011

Florida Fun

My cousin, Kim, and I trekked to Destin, Florida to visit another of my cousins, and Kim's sister, Michelle. Michelle has been in Florida since May completing an internship with Resort Quest, a resort management company, as a requirement for her degree. I have to say, Michelle is an incredibly strong individual. For the last several months, she has survived living in Florida away from her closest friends and family, the death of a member of her sorority, and having many of her most expensive possessions stolen from her home. After all she's been through, she's come out alive and confident in her career choice. I'm very proud of her.

We flew in to Pensacola Regional Airport on Wednesday. Since Michelle had to work that day, it didn't make sense to arrive super early, so we chose a flight that landed in Florida around 6 p.m. After a long drive (about an hour and a half), we arrived at Sterling Shores, the condo complex that would be our home for the next 3 nights. What a beautiful place! Resort Quest manages many properties, including hotels, condominiums, and townhomes. Each residence is owned by individuals who hire RQ to manage their property. Therefore, each property is unique. Here's what ours looked like:

Since we didn't have much time to play on Wednesday night, we chose to have a simple pizza dinner at Mellow Mushroom. The pizza was delicious! Michelle and I ordered a traditional pizza with mushrooms and green pepper slices. Yum-O. Most importantly, the restaurant features a gluten-free menu that accomodated Kim's allergy. She ordered a garlic and olive oil based pizza with sun dried tomatoes and bananna peppers. I didn't try it, but she thoroughly enjoyed it. After dinner, we visited the beach, which was just a minute's walk from our condo. By that time, it was very dark. We couldn't see a thing, and when Michelle informed me that the hermit crabs come out at night, I was all but done with the beach. We went home, watched a few shows on HGTV, and went to sleep!

The next morning, we woke up to gray skies. We enjoyed our leftover pizza for breakfast, and by the time we were finished, we were in the midst of a full-fleged deluge. In order to take full advantage of the time we had in Florida, we decided to go shopping instead of just sitting around. We went to an outlet mall that had some nice stores, but I wasn't ultra inspired by anything there. Kim bought a dress, Michelle and I bought nil. After several hours there, the rain had let up some, but not completely. Since our hair hair was already wrecked, and our bodies were damp, we figured might as well just head to the beach. We were hungry again (aren't you always when you're on vacation?), so we made a pit stop at Zoe's Kitchen. The restaurant offers fresh and healthy options. Michelle had chicken orzo soup (looked and sounded delicious, and she confirmed that) and a greek salad, Kim had chicken kabobs over rice, and I had steak rollups with a side of fresh fruit. Full and satisfied, we headed to the beach.

At the beach, the warning flags were RED! A red flag signifies huge waves. I've been in the ocean, but I've never swam in the ocean, so I was thrilled! Truthfully, this was the Gulf of Mexico, but it's all the same to me. We couldn't resist diving right into the waves. Wow, was it fun. We did a little body surfing, but for the most part, the waves ruled us. We spent a couple hours there, and headed back to the condo. I took a little siesta, and then we headed to the pool. For dinner that night, we chose Poppy's Crazy Lobster on Harbor Walk. I thoroughly enjoyed Caribbean Shrimp over rice and summer vegetables:

 This was the most delicious meal I've had in a long time. Here's a picture of Kim and Michelle at Poppy's:

Friday, we went back to the beach and laid by the pool almost all day. Michelle made us dinner that night. It included Tilapia, red skin potatoes, and asparagus. It was a wonderful dinner, and a great alternative to an expensive meal out. Thanks, Michelle!

All in all, the trip was a wonderful time. I was so happy to be able to connect with family members that I see a ton, but don't often get to let loose with. Thanks for the memories, girls! I love you!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Do Tell

This week, I went on a journey with three women, two black, one white, from Jackson, Mississippi. Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter are the main characters in The Help by Kathryn stockett. I hate to be a bandwagon reader (The Help is a New York Times #1 Bestseller), but sometimes, like this time, it's well worth it. I've been hearing about the book and its movie (due out August 12) for a while now, but when my mom suggested I read it, I figured I'd jump right in. At 522 pages, it's quite lengthy, and I'm usually not the type who can read an entire book in one sitting. I've been going to bed for the last few nights lamenting the fact that we humans have to sleep to feel good and have to work to make the dough.

The novel's backdrop is 1960's deep South. With allusions to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President John F. Kennedy, it's hard not to believe that the story is a fairly accurate depiction of the relationships between white and black people, but more specifically, white homeowners and black maids (or help or domestics) when "Separate but Equal" still meant that it was okay to ship almost spoiled milk from white grocery stores to sell it in black grocery stores.

Aibileen and Minny are two very smart, very bitter, black maids for two very ignorant, very naive women. Having worked since they were teenagers, and having almost no other choice, they've half-raised at least 10 kids a piece. Over the years, Aibileen and Minny have learned the golden rule of working as a maid: White people are not your friends. These women avoid talking to or even looking at their employers. Skeeter (Miss Skeeter to Aibileen and Minny) is the young daughter of wealthy parents who own and run a cotton farm. The family employs a maid with whom Skeeter grows close to and respects very much. Her friends are Hilly and Elizabeth, two women who have been taught the golden rule of employing a maid: Black people are not your friends. These women have made a career out of barking orders at their help, playing bridge on Wednesday afternoons, and making babies who will be raised by others. Skeeter knows that her friends, and most of the country's population, are wrong about black people. They aren't dirty, and they don't have diseases that you can catch by sharing a bathroom with them. However, she finds it hard to escape the expectations of a young, wealthy, southern woman: find a boyfriend, get engaged, get married, hire a maid, have children. She wants to break the mold, though. She wants to become a writer. She also deeply believes in Civil Rights. Fate, and a little finesse, brings Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter together to document the stories of black people working for white families in Mississippi.

The Help is heart-warming and heart-breaking. It's uplifting and upsetting. At times it's hillarious. Most of all, it's eye-opening. Not having lived through the 1960's, I've never known what it's like to be emersed in a culture so deeply racist that black and white people can't share the same drinking fountains. I didn't participate in The March on Washington, and I've never witnessed a race riot. Having read The Help, though, has helped me to understand a little bit better what life was like during such transitional times. As Charles Dickens so aptly put it, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Many people escaped at the other end of such a challenging era enlightened.

Having finished such a poignant novel just days after President Obama certified the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," I realized how easy it is to compare the original DADT legislation to "Seperate but Equal." The original DADT policy "prohibits military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual or bisexual service members or applicants, while barring openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons from military service." Isn't asking these people to "not tell" discriminating against and harassing them? Likewise, the original SBE doctrine certified that "services, facilities and public accommodations were allowed to be separated by race, on the condition that the quality of each group's public facilities was to remain equal." We've all heard the old saying: "Separate is inherently not equal." It's really easy to get sucked into old cliches: "History repeats itself," and "The more things change, the more they stay the same;" but I suppose it's appropriate to remain optomists, reassuring ourselves that our country, our world, is forever changing and learning from its mistakes.

Its unfortunate that we haven't already made all of these essential changes; but learning is growth, and growth can only mean good things for everyone.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Christmas in July

Instead of just scrapbooking individual escapades, like vacations, birthdays, and concerts, I decided I needed to chronicle more every day antics as well. Before, I'd go on creative binges after week long summer vacations. These binges were always fun, albeit exhausting, but they weren't very efficient. I'd end up with a supercalafragalisticexpialadoshus album of . . . one week of my life. Now, I try to have my camera with me at all times, ready for any photo op that sashays my way. This way, I'll have custom made albums to enjoy in the future.

A couple weeks ago, I visited Natalie in Columbus and we scrapbooked our stinkin' hearts out. Because I want to get entirely caught up on everything pre-wedding before I start my wedding album(s), I was very focused on churning out the pages as fast as I possibly could. Unfortunately, I didn't get entirely caught up, but I did get a big chunk out of the way. For some reason, I had a ton of Christmas and Winter pages to complete.

Here's a Christmas layout documenting the great times we have at the Pruner household on Christmas Eve. These particular pictures are from Christmas Eve 2010. We do a gift exchange and chant (loudly) the name of the receiver while clapping on beat.

This layout also features pictures from Christmas 2010. The pictures are hard to see, but the 3 across the top right side are Lewis, Durocher, and Michel family pictures. A typical family photo session during the holidays takes at least 20 minutes to complete. The Michels are pretty easy, but with two crazy boys in the Durocher family, and two ornery siblings in the Lewis family who shall remain nameless, it takes a lot of finesse to get the perfect set of photos.

As a yearly tradition, the girls on my mom's side of the family spend a day cooking sweets and hors' dourves that we split between the families and enjoy during the holidays. For years we've been making some of the same things: "Little Pizzas," cocktail reubens, and chex mix (we add Cheez-Its), but we've attempted some new things in recent years.

The cousins on the same side of my family have made it a monthly priority to get together for a "girls' day." Last December, we went to Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor to participate in a "White Christmas" sing-a-long.

If I tried, I don't think I could successfully calculate the number of hours I spend crafting these pages, and I will forever keep my distance from calculating the number of dollars I spend crafting them. I suppose it's all worth it, though, isn't it?