Monday, March 13, 2017

This is Me

I’m a wife, stepmom, NaNa, Pitbull lover, cousin, niece, sister and daughter in law,  best friend and neighbor… I’m also everyone’s favorite Aunt Janet!  I’m a Photographer!  I love to shoot families, pets, births and beautiful vistas(“shooting families”  just doesn’t sound right, but you know what I mean).  I will jump at any opportunity to travel, meet new people and make beautiful art. All of this and a little sunshine makes me happy.... this is me... in a nutshell!

I'm all about my relationships.  I know so well that through no fault of our own, relationships come and go.   I know the value of the relationships I have each and every day.   I've had and have many wonderful relationships that have changed  over the years due to this thing called life.  Today I focus on the relationships I have here and now.

I am a wife.  My first and most incredible relationship is with my husband, Jay (or as I like to call him, "Jay Cruz"... has a ring to it, don't cha think??).  Jay Cruz started hanging out at our house with my brother, Andrew.  As time went on, he was there more and more.  I thought he was there because of Andrew.  Tracy and Andrew were quick to point out it may have started that he came around because of Andrew, but it was clear to them he was there for me!  

Jay Cruz was one of my brother's greatest gifts to me.   He is my rock, my everything.  We met, let's just say when we were mature adults!  We got all of our experimenting, craziness, ups and downs out of the way, then Andrew introduced us.  We've been together now for 15 years. What a 15 years it has been.  Good, bad and ugly.   The ugly has come from the garbage life throws at you.  We've stood together through it all.  I love this man with every cell in my body.  He makes me smile, he makes me laugh, he always makes me feel alright! Jay Cruz makes me a better person.

I am a step mom.  My stepson, Josh is one of Jay's gifts to me!  While I have many young people whose lives I am a part of,  I have only one person in this world I get to call my "son".    I love him to pieces.  He is a kind, sweet, thoughtful young man with a heart of gold.   I love the relationship we have.  It is one of a kind and it is uniquely ours.  

I am "NaNa".  My niece and nephews have given me the joy of being "NaNa" to their  seven little ones (as time goes on, I'm sure that number will grow).    These little people are my sunshine.  There is nothing that makes my heart melt as it does when I hear them call me "NaNa"!  They bring pure joy into my life.  

Pitbull lover...yes, I'm a pit bull lover.   I don't even know how that happened.  Well I do and it's all my brother Andrew's fault.   I love blaming things on him.  It's not often I can do this given he passed away 8 years ago, but when I can, I do!  
The day I bought my house, I was so excited because I could finally get a dog.  I wanted a little Doxie so bad.  Andrew knew this.  One day he came home and announced that he found the "perfect dog" for me.   He even put a deposit on her.  He was sure she was the dog for me.    Andrew was a "dog man" so I trusted him.   A few  days later we went to get her.  She was a little black pit bull.  What didn't he understand about I wanted a "little Doxie"?  Well, let me tell you... I quickly fell in love with my Sadie girl.  He was right, she was perfect for me.  She was my soul dog.   Sadie was with me through some of the worst days of my adult life.  Then, at 13 years old, after getting me through those days,  she joined Andrew and his pack.  My Sadie girl was one of a kind.   When she was gone, I knew I could never replace her... a few days later I saw "My Little Red Rose",  Rosie.... she is no Sadie Girl, but she is a sweet, pretty, little lovable, licking pit bull.  She's one of a kind. So much for Doxie's!  Thanks to Andrew,  I love, I mean LOVE my pit bulls!  

I am a cousin and a niece.   My parents left this world as we know it at a very early age,  my brother and sister did the same, leaving me a sibling-less  orphan.  I am lucky to have grown up with a close extended family.   Birthdays, holidays, Sundays and fishing days, to name a few were all spent with aunts, uncles and cousins.  We have all moved to different corners of the country over the years, but thanks to Facebook, email, snap chat and so on, (as well as occasional cheap airfare) we have found ways to stay connected.  These are the people who have known me all of my life and still love me!  They are my roots.  I need roots.

I am a sister and daughter in law.  I have to say I have the best in laws anyone could ever want.   They were another gift from my Jay Cruz.   He brought me into the family and they welcomed me with open arms.  My sister and mother in law are two of the strongest, kindest, most loving women I know.  Knowing them, it's no wonder that Jay Cruz is Jay kind and loving.  I married into an amazing family!  Is that not the greatest thing?  

I am a best friend and neighbor.  I grew up in a place where you knew your neighbors.  Kids played out front,  we came home at night when the street lights went on.   We didn't have TV's with 5000 channels, video games or texting.   Life happened on the front stoop.    We knew our neighbors.  
When it came time to buy a house, I wanted a neighborhood like where I grew up.   I found my little place in the world and I think I hit the neighborhood lottery!  My neighbors are the best.  We all know each other, can count on each other and actually talk face to face now and again!  It's a great place to live and I call it home.  

I have many friends, and some are better and closer than others.  I treasure all my friendships particularly my friendships with Chris, Cindy, Joyce, Maurya & Cristine. They have been by my side through the good and bad.  They know the best and the worst of me.  They are always there for me.    They are incredible women and I am proud they call me friend.  

Let's talk about Tracy.  What can I say?  He is the best!  I can't explain it, he just is.  He's a gift from my brother.  Some 20 years ago Andrew brought him home.  I met him early one morning in my basement and he's been a part of my life ever since.   As time has gone on Tracy has become family.  He has stepped in where Andrew could not be. I know he will always be there for me.  To top it all off, he and Jay Cruz are also the best of friends!  

Not to be outdone by Andrew and his gifts to me, Tracy gave me Kosti.  Konstantin to most, (to formal) Kosti to me!  He is my best girlfriend, partner in crime and confidant.  Life is good.

Okay, then there is life as "Aunt Janet".  I'm not sure if I am really everyone's "favorite Aunt Janet" but it sounds good if I do say so myself!  

My Mom and Dad were my everything.  While I only had them but a very short time it was the best time.  They gave me the gift of  life, love,  family,  friendship and of respect for life.  I learned so much from them during my short time with them and in the legacy they left.  My personal mission in life it to be someone who justifies their short time on earth.
My parents gave me my sister Carol and in a round about way, Andrew.  After my parents died, Carol and her husband David gave us a home and a family.  They didn't have to do that, but they did and never complained or looked back and wish they hadn't.    
While we were still living with them they began to have children of their own.  First Jason, then Kristen, Mark and Michael.  I was their Aunt Janet!!!  Wow!!!     While I was, am their Aunt Janet, they have never called me that (I really never wanted them too!).  They all always  do introduced me however as their "Aunt Janet".   While they don't call me aunt Janet, all their friends do.  It is hilarious!   I love when I'm in a store and I hear, "Hi Aunt Janet"!   To this day, I'm known as Aunt Janet to many.  So why not be everyone's favorite Aunt Janet?   It's a good thing to be.  Aunts can be best friends, confidants, like a mom without the day to day responsibility.  Aunts are loving and nurturing.  Aunts are the best! I try to be the best Aunt Janet there is!
...Me and the roles I play...

Stay happy, remember that life is good, people are good.  Love each other.
Bad things don't need us to do a thing to happen, they just happen.  We need to compensate for the bad  that happens by loving one another and being kind.   

                                                                     Hugs from,

                                                                             Your Favorite Aunt Janet


Friday, February 3, 2017

Plumbing, Pokemon Go and Tacos....

Where does the time go?   I don't know but it sure seems to be moving faster and faster each day.   We have all been together this season for a little over a month now and there are oh so many stories.  How do I choose?    ~ I'll take a stab at starting.....

We got here in enough time to ring in 2017 and celebrate Tracy's Birthday.   Each decade, Tracy does something memorable to celebrate.   In the past it has been a tattoo.   This year to ring in half a century, with  Kosti, his Mom and her husband,  his Sister,  his Daughter,  her fiancĂ© and his grand-babies, he decided to celebrate in St. Croix!  Jay and I sat out this trip.....

Two weeks apart... seemed like an eternity.... but it ended and the boys made it back home safe and sound after a glorious and fun vacation.   

Wednesdays are for walking.... and Pokemon Go!  

Actually, I've been walking at least 5 miles each day. I am determined to leave a bunch of all this extra weight I have been hanging on to in Florida this year.  It's been over a month and you would think I would have lost a ton, but NOOOooooo......  Yesterday I realized that the more I walk the hungrier I am.   The hungrier I am, the more I eat.   At first I thought it was okay to eat lots of lean protein, yogurt, fruit etc. It has now dawned on me that calories are calories and I'm eating to many!  I'm obviously not eating right as not a pound has disappeared yet.   Time to do some research and see what I can fix to get this right.   There has to be a way!   I  do feel good about the fact that 21 days of doing something makes a habit.   I've been walking at least 5 miles each day for more than 21 days! I got a Fitbit to use and it has made a monster out of me!  If you have a Fitbit and are up to some challenges message me here and I'll add you as a friend!

Getting back to Wednesdays are for Walking..... Tracy is a Pokemon Go player....   On Wednesdays he heads down to Centennial Park to do some walking, play some Pokemon, get some balls... (guess you have to play to understand).    I do try to help him out from time to time.  I carry his phone with me, quasi playing Pokemon while I walk each day.  I don't understand the game.  I do try to "play" since it's in my hand.  I know it helps if the game is on and I'm logging miles while carrying it, so I do.   Our Kosti man goes to school by day to learn to be a plumber.   After school he heads down to a really sweet second hand boutique to put in a few hours of work.   He does this Monday through Friday.   Around 6 on Wednesdays, we head down to Centennial Park and wait for Kosti to get out of work.   Tracy Pokemons and Jay and I wander.  Tracy racks up the miles and balls, and I rack up the steps!     We wander until Kosti is done with work.   Then we head to downtown Fort Myers for Wednesday Tacos!  You'd think we'd do this on Taco Tuesday, but noooo,   we do Taco Wednesdays!  Dare to be different, right....

So, our Kosti loves plumber school.   He's loving all the testosteroney.   He's learning tons.   He's having fun!!!  On walking Wednesday, it was so exciting for him as he was sent out into the field.  While he was excited, his skin wasn't quite prepared to be out in the blazing sun all day.   He got a little burnt to say the least.     Before we left for the night, we got a call to bring him some aloe leaves to soothe his burning head.  We did head out to Dick's Sporting goods first to pick  up some supplies for him.  We figured we'd get him a sun blocking shirt and hat.  That in and of itself was an adventure.  I am here to tell the people at Dick's that if someone comes in and asks for a sun-blocking shirt, it doesn't matter if it's for swimming or fishing.  It really doesn't! We found a brilliant sales person who showed us all the short sleeve sun blocking shirts in the swimming section.  Tracy asked if there were any long sleeve ones anywhere else to be told "Nope, that'a all we have".   Wandering through we found ourselves in the fishing department, with all kinds of sun-blocking clothing you could imagine..... Dick's please share this info with your sales folks ~ There's more to sunblocking  than swimming!  

We headed out to Centennial Park...Tracy took off on his Pokemon marathon and Jay and I hung out to wait for Kosti to get out of work.  We did have the aloe ready and waiting for him when he got there.   I decided that I need to put some time into adding steps to my daily total.  Jay stayed behind.   By the time I added another 1000 steps and headed back, Kosti was there... I wish I had a camera with me so I could have captured the sight in the park that night!     Use your imagination....Kosti sitting on a picnic table.   He and Jay rubbing an aloe directly from aloe leaves on his head.   His bright red, now shiny head....I guess you really had to be there to appreciate the sight.  Oh if I could only hear what others in the park that night were thinking!

I did break from the walk last week and headed out to an incredible Conference in Orlando.   One of the best I've ever been to!   The Southeast Photo Conference.   I just can't stop talking about it!   If you're a photographer,  you should check it out!   I'm already signed up for next year..... I can't wait!   I tried to keep up with my 18-20k steps each day and in the process, I did learn that if you don't do it right, you can hurt yourself.   The first two days I got all my steps in.  I did about 5k each day in my room, running or marching in place.   I did some damage.   I had to knock down my steps for a few days so my knees could recover..... lesson learned.

Well today is Friday.  Yesterday Tracy and Jay gave me a long list of 5 things I had to do.   Oh how they were over working me!   They didn't feel bad about it, even though I did remind them it is because of the two of them I get to enjoy this lifestyle they have provided me with!   Oh yeah, I am accustomed to it!   I'm getting older, I was only able to remember 3, got them done.....  Life is tough.   I do know how fortunate I am.   I am grateful to my boys/men for everything they have given me and do for me.   They did tell me that it was my day to cook dinner, oh yeah that was one of the "to do"s.   Pizza!  (and I didn't make it) .  

I am no cook, I will not pretend to be a cook.  I don't like cooking, I can't cook... that's all there is to it!    Well this was not such and exciting post.   

Hold tight..... Tracy and I are heading to Key West next week.   That is a "Bucket List" place for me.   I can't wait.... there are a few men I love and don't know..... Michelangelo, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel and Ernest Hemingway!   Ernest Hemingway ~ here I come!   Stay tuned!!!!



Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Hello 2017...

 I hope you are enjoying this great year we have been given.   We certainly are here.   Only a few glitches so far, but nothing we can't handle!

This the first time we are celebrating the New Year together since Tracy and Kosti moved to Florida 3 years ago.   In years past with the boys,  Jay and I would welcome the New Year  (midnight) with everyone and then head up to bed by 12:30am.   We decided that given our history,  we'd need a plan.  We would drop a car off downtown Fort Myers, once the New Year rang in,  we'd kiss, have some champagne,  and then Jay and I could head home sooner rather than later.  We all know how Tracy likes to ring in the New Year straight through to sunrise.  A good plan.... or so we thought.

The Beach was calling, that's were we decided to ring in 2017,   Fort Myers Beach with some friends!

Thinking it was probably going to be very busy there and  knowing that traffic on a regular day is bad, we figured we'd be spending hours getting there.   We left extra early ~ giving ourselves enough time to get there, settle in and ring in the New Year!

First,  drop off the car, pick up The BOYS!  We usually refer to Tracy and Kosti as 'the boys', but these two ~  Jon & Colin are "the boys".  Cute, young, fun, sweet!  Did I say young?  I could have given birth to them!  The Boys!  ( I think I love them!)

Jon & Colin

The process of dropping off the car was one for the books.  Jay's eyes are playing tricks on him so I had to drive.   Okay ~  not so bad you think however,  I was following "Tracy Andretti"!    Keep in mind, I had no idea where we were going,  actually I don't think Tracy did either.   After a couple of detours through Home Depot parking lot, almost running down some snowbirds, a U turn or two, we ended up at the correct plaza and Popeye's Chicken.  (we had to have something to snack on at the Beach)   Brainstorm!   Kosti, would drive our car and Jay would ride with Trace ~  I wouldn't have to keep up with Andretti. Better plan!

I had my Sippy cup filled with RumChata,                        
(my favorite).   Since I was driving,
I wouldn't sip (killing' me!).   With Kosti driving, I could sip... a lot!

Before we got to our destination I emptied my
cup.   U turn to the ABC store to replenish my
Rum Chatta!

Made it to Jon & Colin's house, safe and sound.   After packing and piling everyone into the jeep we were off!

Whew..... ready for traffic ... guess what... we breezed through.   No traffic.   A~mazing.  It's going to be a good year!   Our plan was for Tracy to drop us all off at The Lani Kai, and then he would go search for parking.   Amazing!   No need to drop us off,  we found a parking spot right out front!  It is really going to be a good year!

We had given ourselves a 2 hour window to get through traffic and find a parking spot.  Piled out of the car and found our spot on the beach, settled in and waited for the New Year!   We were early.   The Beach was kind of empty.   Hmmmm.... did we miss something?  Are there fireworks?

It was fun getting to know Jon and Colin.  Two little cuties!   Jon, I found out is a hug fan of Miss Darienne Lake.  Well of course, so am I! Could we can get her to come to Fort Myers?   I kind of selfishly want her to come to SWF!  She's the only one I let touch my hair and in a few weeks... let's just say she'll need to touch it!     We messaged her to check!

Miss Darianne Lake
Yay,  on her way on stage, she answered our plea!!!   She'd come if we can get a club to book her!    We have a mission!   Bring Darienne Lake to South West Florida!!!!

Oh so much excitement for the night and it wasn't even 2017 yet!

Around 11:15 ~ 11:30 the beach started to fill up around us.   The ice cream man showed up, people setting off fireworks, laughing, lighting Chinese  lanterns, getting married!  What fun!!!!

The Ice Cream Man!

Genna & Jim

Yay a festive night for sure.  So much fun!   There was a sweet young couple on the beach next to us who just happened to celebrate their wedding that night.  Lucky me!   Tracy asked if I could take some pictures.  I tried to explain to him, it was to dark to take anything worth wild,  he wouldn't hear it, he insisted I could take it!  I gave in, perhaps if he would shine his cell phone light on them, maybe, just maybe I could get something..... It worked!   Who knew? They were so cute!!

        ....then it happened!     People, kissing, fireworks!!!!   2017!!!   HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!

                                                   2017, what a great year!

.... a change in plans.... the beach was so crowded, we decided we'd let the crowd and traffic calm down before we left.   Okay, we could do that, so... Jay and I wouldn't get to bed at 12:30 ... we could stay up a little later.....

We packed our stuff in the car and headed to the club in the Lani Kai.   Some drinks, some dancing and then they spot it!   Henna Tattoos!   Tracy decided all the guys needed to get matching "Turtle Clan Tattoos!"  (hmmmm feeling a little left out!).   Seemed like a good idea at the time.   Have ya ever gotten a henna tattoo?   Me neither, with these it took about an hour for them to dry.   Ummmm, celebrating New Year, sitting still for an hour while your henna tattoo dries.... good idea?   Jay got his done then someone bumped into him, it smeared.   He washed it off (or so he thought) and went and had the other arm done....and on the ride home going over a bump, it smeared again......Tracy was the only sober one, so he says that's why his didn't't smear as much!  (okay, sure!)  The rest smear city!!!

The Turtle Clan Boys..... (fresh)
...and here they are a few days later!
Two to three weeks with these ink smears..... fun!    We made it home, Jay & I that is by 3:30am.     What a year....first time in a long time,  this mature couple stayed out that late!   Our boys, Tracy and Kosti saw the sunrise.   January 1, 2017 was a lazy day at our house!

Welcome to 2017!  Happy Happy New Year!