Good day, mate. While I'm not from the land down under, my property is under…under attack! The hordes of wild Texas (silver leaf ) sunflowers have taken over, yet again. A neighbor came by yesterday and commented on what a fine crop of weeds I have this year, yes I'm very proud. Actually, we've always loved them. They grow without any effort, house and feed a lot of cool critters, are breathtaking when in bloom (just starting), and make a great privacy fence. I have pictures of flowers past the peak of my roof, which is 20 feet high. Just walked outside to find wild ducks enjoying breakfast with my geese, just one of the perks of living in the country. Isn't God awesome?
Last week the family was just finishing up in Disney World, almost two weeks into our adventure and it's been awesome, a great start for our new family. We were all a little whipped after scrambling to see as much as possible, but relaxed and very content. Eloise and I got up early and went to enjoy our last morning coffee in Disney, sitting next to the pool and waterfall, thanking God for putting this family together. We were all created to be “Love Pillows”, even if some are too proud to admit it.
Our hotel was surrounded by towering pine trees and while packing up the van, we snapped a picture of Michael with one foot atop the largest pine cone I've ever seen. I always loved that picture. Feeling somewhat sad to leave, as we had so much fun, we were excited to be heading back to Panama City for more fun on the beach. As we were leaving I explained how, when I was 19, I had lived in Apopka, just outside Orlando. I had worked on a construction crew, installing water and sewer mains for retirement communities around the area. While there I visited Kelly Park in Rock Springs, where I swam in the clearest, coldest natural spring I'd ever been in, along with a few other fond memories. Another eight-hour drive back, laughing and talking about all we had been through, with plenty of junk food, of course. Florida is a beautiful state to drive through, something you miss when flying, so we just sat back and enjoyed the trip.
Once back in P.C. we checked into the same hotel and room we were in before going to Orlando. First morning back, you guessed it, coffee, donuts and time to feed the turtles. We just loved those guys, bet they missed us when we left. We had seen and done about everything, so the last leg of our journey we just relaxed and didn't rush anything. Eloise and I again enjoyed our morning coffee walks on the beach while watching the sun rise. Peaceful. We all took time to play in the waves and would often sit in the water with our goggles on, watching schools of small fish as they nibbled at our legs, never forgetting to take crackers so we could hand feed the seagulls, making memories by the minute and savoring every moment.
While there we visited Miracle Strip, a small amusement park across the street from the beach, established in 1963 and sadly closed in 2003, the main attraction being the Starliner, the first roller coaster built in Florida. Moving multiple times growing up, I had lived in Enterprise, Ala. (90 minutes north of P.C.) half of my third grade year, all of fifth and senior year. My father (Vernon Estes, CW4) was an Army helicopter instructor stationed at Fort Rucker during those times. He would occasionally hover over our yard and wave at us while we played, great memory. He just celebrated his 86th birthday this month, happy birthday dad, love you! Our family spent some time in P.C. and he took me for my first ride on the Starliner when I was nine, and now I've passed that on to my boys, how awesome is that?
Another fun memory is going to a go-cart track where we rode multiple times, Matthew and myself in one cart, Michael in another, while Eloise watched, smiling from ear to ear. Me and Matthew finished but Michael wanted to go again. He took off with a vengeance, flying around the track, waving with each pass. Guess he kept his eyes on us a little too long that last lap, then BLAM! straight into a stack of tires. Visibly shaken, he sat there until the attendant pushed him off the course. After making sure he was ok, I thought that this would make a great object lesson when I started teaching him how to drive, and it did. Many laughs over that one!
I especially remember our last night there, as it was kind of surreal. The boys stayed in the room while Eloise and I walked the beach for the last time. It was almost dusk, the sun going down but still plenty of light left. We were walking along in water almost knee deep, talking about how great God is and how appreciative we were for all that he was doing in this family when several small stingrays about a foot in diameter started swimming next to us. They followed us for about fifteen minutes, it was awe inspiring. As we walked back, excited to tell the boys about it, the moon started coming up. I told Eloise how fitting it was to be walking on the beach with my honey while the moon was lighting our way at the conclusion of our honeymoon! The memory of that trip is gratefully etched into my brain forever. Thank you Lord!
Proverbs 5:18 says, Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. Thank you my honey for the best marriage any man could possibly hope for. Missing you way too much. Thanks for keeping me in your prayers as this has been by far the hardest thing I've ever been through. One knee in front of the other, we'll make it Lord!
Until next time, enjoy every moment, love you guys.