Monday, December 25, 2017

The Sloan 2017 Recap

Let's try something new! Since I'm obviously so bad at keeping up with my blog and I'm even worse at sending out Christmas cards/letters, I'm going to kill two birds right here, right now! A blog with a family newsletter built in! Maybe I'll create a new tradition for myself here, but don't count on it!

2017 has been a very eventful year and has gone by MUCH TOO QUICKLY!!! Let's do a recap!

January began my year full of personal travel with a trip to finally visit Brooks in North Carolina. I hadn't visited them since Paige was born nearly two years earlier in Maryland. The visit was just in time as she and Josh left me with the kids while they went to look for a new home in TEXAS.
This is what happens when Grandma trusts
that the kids know how to use the air popper!
Josh was transferred to Ft. Hood in July/August so now two of my kids live less than three hours away!

The Gailey clan is busy learning Texan lingo including "bless her heart" and the difference between y'all and all y'all and adapting to 80 degree temps in December. It's great having another of my kids so close!

April took me on a trip to Kentucky for the first time in several years too. Besides it just being time for a visit, this trip gave me the opportunity to get to know Meg's fiance, Scott, and his son Zach, to get to see the beautiful new home they built, to help pick out clothes for the kids for the wedding and help plan some of the food and hotel lodging!
As an added bonus, it gave me an opportunity to watch the competitive swimmers in the family practice. The wedding took place on September 16th with the four kids as Meg's and Scott's attendants.

The whole family (including my extra daughter, Jana) made it to the wedding and everyone pitched in to tie up loose ends and make it a beautiful day for Meg and Scott.
Emily, Brooks and Diedre paint signs to direct guests
while Jana creates centerpieces in the  background!
My Aunt Grace, cousins Jeanine and Norm with Lanie, my bestest friend in the world (of 50 years this year!) were able to make it from Illinois. Stephen and Stephanie Schulthies (children of our dear friend Susan) came from Washington while Karen Blum attended, representing our old church family from Ohio! It was like one huge reunion to celebrate Meg's special day.

May took me to Utah to finally see Barton's new office for his pediatric dental practice!

While I was there, he decided to put me in his chair, sure he would find a mouthful of cavities since I admitted how long it had been since I'd visited a dentist. Surprise! No cavities! Although he was horrified to learn that I used one of my front teeth as a nail file when I bite my nails. (He put some filler on it and now it doesn't work anymore! Blasted kid!) They recently moved into their first new home near his dental practice, but it was just an empty lot when I saw it. I can't wait to see it now that it's a home! I made a second weekend trip to Utah over the summer to see Bart in his role as Sebastian in "The Little Mermaid." 

He hopes to do a play with Abigail one day. While she sings very well, I don't think she thrives on being in the spotlight like her daddy does and may choose to follow her talents for piano, dance or gymnastics instead.

After I left Bart's, it was on to Brandon's in Colorado for an extended stay while I took a leave of absence from work to get cataract surgery!

Definitely a blessing to have a son who doubles as my optometrist and was able to get me his cost for my surgery! It was great to spend time with Brandon and his family while recovering and for the first time in my life to have 20-20 vision and to just need one contact or some readers like most old folks! A follow-up trip in October was a few days too soon to be able to go see the newest Thor movie with my four super-hero buddies, cuz seeing Avenger/Justice League movies is what we do when Grandma comes to visit! Brandon's family had the most recent change of the year! Their 5th son was due December 31st, but Sawyer Frank (grandbaby #20) decided he didn't want to miss the Christmas celebration and made his appearance on December 23rd. I think they're happy to have him here!

In July, the whole family took a Disney cruise vacation. All but Meg's family arrived in Florida early, shared a couple of condos and went to Universal Studios/Harry Potter World. It was great, except for hard beds and shopping at Walmart at midnight for groceries! We boarded the ship on Emerson's second birthday and had the BEST time!!!
I highly recommend it! 29 strong we all had our matching shirts on. Each family chose a Disney movie/theme and had silhouetted characters from that movie to distinguish which family they were from.
29 Sloans on a Disney Cruise
Meg's Family: Alice in Wonderland
Sami's Family: Star Wars
Brooks Family: The Seven Dwarfs
Brandon's Family: The Avengers
Barton's Family: The Little Mermaid
Mom: Thumper
With 18 kids, pretty much everyone had a cousin-buddy to spend time with
Claire & Abigail on their balcony
and most of the time my kids could enjoy their time knowing their kids were safe doing activities on the ship.

Me at the top wearing a cap in memory of #18, Baby Brandon
Meg's: #2 Cari, #5 Sarai, #8 Jonas and #19 Zach
Sami's: #1 Andi, #4 Dylan, #6 Peyton and #9 Soni
Brooks': #3 Ethan, #7 Sloan, #11 Mason, #15 Claire and #16 Paige
Brandon's: #10 Krew, #12 Barton, #14 Bennett, #17 Emerson and #20 Sawyer (with Diedre)
Barton's: #13 Abigail and #18 Baby Brandon Spencer

Some of the middle kids even opted out of dinner in the dining room with the families to eat in their play area, they were having so much fun! Since cabins only hold 5 max, we did some kid-swapping and I took the four oldest grandchildren with me!
Andi & Cari on our balcony
We got off the ship in Nassau (where I lost Andi and Cari for awhile) where Sami's family, Cari, Ethan and I went on a submarine boat ride to look at sea life.
The beach on Castaway Cay!
We also got off and spent a day at Castaway Cay, Disney's own island. So beautiful and so much fun! The family all agreed we need to do another cruise, but longer than 3 days! I can't wait!

Last, but definitely not least, this fall Sami is one step closer to achieving her lifelong dream!  Some of you reading this may not be aware, but Sami was born with several heart defects, which resulted in a brain abscess and multiple surgeries and hospitalizations. She always loved her nurses and decided by the time she was three that she would be a nurse when she grew up.

After years of waiting and preparation, she started nursing school this fall. Although it's hard work and definitely challenging, I haven't heard her complain about it once. Instead I get excited for her, listening to her enthusiasm and seeing her smiles when she talks about even her challenging patients.
Cam is being a trooper, taking on extra with the house and kids to help her achieve her dream, but she's setting a great example for her kids as they see her work so hard to meet her goal.

As for me... I'm still working with Walmart as a facilitator in Texas, but now I work in one of the new "Academy" stores where we not only do management training as we've done in the past, but also hourly supervisor training. It doesn't offer the same growth challenges as some of my previous positions, but it's still rewarding to be able to share my knowledge and experience to help train and inspire new leaders who will help make my retirement! 

I'm so proud of each of my children, their spouses and all of their accomplishments. And I'm most proud of the way they're all raising their children. From the (almost) 15-year-olds to the 2-year-olds, they're all good, kind, respectful kids. I've been so blessed in my life and even through the ups and downs, I wouldn't change a minute because it's all brought me to this point with extraordinary friends all over the country and family I love and adore! 

                             Have a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful 2018!!!

Bart, Meg, Me, Brooks, Sami & Brandon
(And,no, the boys did not plan to have matching outfits!)

The Sloans: Bart, Emily & Abigail
The Nelson-Aboagyes: Cari, Meg, Jonas, Scott, Zach & Sarai
The Gaileys: Ethan, Brooks, Claire, Paige, Sloan, Josh & Mason
The Carters: Cameron, Soni, Dylan, Andi, Sami & Peyton
The Sloans: Brandon, Bennett, Mickey Mouse,
Barton, Emerson, Krew & Diedre

Saturday, July 2, 2016


Summer is a time of sunshine, picnics, swimming vacations and REUNIONS!
Recently, I had the opportunity to return to my college campus, visit my old fraternity house (yes, it's a fraternity, even though most people think fraternities are for men and sororities are for women-- that's a myth, but that's a different story) and reconnect with some of the best women I have known in my life!

It began over a year ago when, thanks to Facebook and one younger sister who created a Tau Page for Zeta Tau Alpha, Tau alums began to find one another. Many of us who attended Millikin University between 1973 and 1980 connected and began "talking" about how great it would be to get together again. Then, about a year ago, we set the dates for June 24-26, 2016 and the plans began! While it didn't turn out to be as originally envisioned due to some late planning, it was still a WONDERFUL week. While each of us was skeptical about how the weekend might turn out, all of us who made it were SO happy we did and before the end of the first day, everyone was asking when we were going to do it again! So, let me share and give you an idea of what it was like for us.

I arrived before anyone else did to make sure everything was arranged. I connected first with Vickie (O'Reilly) Buckingham and went to dinner on Thursday evening with her, her husband and her parents: one of my sets of surrogate parents through college since I had already lost both of my parents. It was a great evening and "Mom &  Dad" O'Reilly were as cheerful, fun and loving as I remembered them. After dinner, Vickie came back to the hotel with me to talk for awhile. While she were there, we tried to contact Linda Arends (aka Mrs. A.) who had been our house alum advisor and my "twin" Donna ("Libby") Higgins. We were successful in reaching Libby and told her about all of the events we had going on so that she could join us for the weekend.

Libby & I
Next in was one of my little sisters, Tammie (Albritton)! Coming in from California, she would have won the award for traveling the farthest---if we were giving out awards! After flight delays and challenges starting those new-fangled rental cars that don't use a key, Tammie actually arrived at our hotel (The Country Inn & Suites) about 1:00 am on Friday. We got together in time to go to lunch.
Tammie & I
(Color-coordinating was purely accidental!)
About the time I was meeting up with Tammie, Laura "Mutt" (Mullen) Connelly was being picked up at the bus stop by her little sister, Francie (Hayes) Brown. Mutt would have won the award for the most "challenging" trip coming in from Indiana via St. Louis and Springfield by Greyhound! 

Mutt and Francie
We contacted Vickie and made arrangements to meet her for lunch when she could get away from work.
Vickie & Mutt
(Vickie was like-minded in her color choice for the day!)
We opted to meet somewhere close to campus for lunch and wishing Mr. Ed's was still in business, chose to go to "University Dogs." The food was good, but a Mr. Ed's polish sausage, it was not....

Vickie needed to go back to work, so the rest of us headed back to the hotel to hang out until it was time to head to our dinner meeting place. While we were hanging out, we were joined by Laura "Phlip" (Phillips) Leupold who was my first little sister, Denise (Wasson) Freyenburger, Melissa (Reichart) Ferguson and Robyn (Wise) Bathon!
Laura & Robyn

Denise, Robyn, Mutt, Tammie & Melissa
Shortly before 7:00 pm, we all got ready and walked next door to a new Bar & Grill called The Draft to meet the rest of our sisters who had traveled in for the weekend!
Mutt & Peggy (O'Neill) Burton

Vickie, Laura, Tammie & Robyn

Sandra (Fendley) Theriault, Me, Libby
Melissa, Denise & Francie
Time seemed to melt away. Even though most of us had not seen one another in 35 years or more, it was amazing how all of these lovely ladies had weathered life, survived challenges, created careers, raised families and yet were the same fun, goofy, loving women they were when we shared our life at the Zeta house.
Lucky 13 Zeta sisters reunited!

Libby, Melissa, Denise & Francie

My favorite picture of the evening!
Indicative of the laughter and Zeta love shared!
Mutt, Peggy, Susan, Sandra & me
(Susan Price '91 (center) joined the group a little after we got started.)

Vickie, Laura, Tammie & Robyn
After saying good-night to the "locals" who needed to head home, the rest of us met in Tammie's room until after midnight... unwilling to give up our rekindled friendships! Some of us shared hotel rooms with old house roommates and were foolish enough to continue talking and laughing until 2:30 in the morning! Robyn and I actually recognized that we had sore throats from all the talking and laughter!

With a consensus of deciding to take our time getting ready in the morning, the six of us who had stayed at the hotel decided to go to a favorite college hangout for lunch. 

Lock, Stock & Barrel (a brand new bar when we were in college) was still there and very much the same... although to Mutt's disappointment, the wallpaper in the ladies' room had changed!

After lunch, it was time to head to the Zeta House where the alumnae organization had arranged for a student guide to lead a walking tour of the campus to all who wanted to participate. While Sandra, Francie & Susan were unable to join us on Saturday, we added Tawnie (Moma) Johnson (Libby's little sister) to the group!
Libby, Tawnie, Mutt, Tammie, Peggy, Laura & Denise
On the Zeta House front porch!
(No more porch swing...)
While on the walking tour, our "twinks" had some special memories involving recitals and the rearranging of some furniture....

Twinks: Denise, Melissa, Mutt & Tawnie
In the recital hall
When they returned from the walking tour of campus, the Millikin alumnae organization had prepared a small reception for us in the dining room of our former home.

Two closets were added to the
far end of the dining room and the
sliding door replaced by windows.
After sitting in the "Dining Room" reminiscing about houseboys,  Vergie's cooking, eating dinner with "Mom" Hand and gazing out the bay window at the old Delta Sig house, we were given the opportunity to roam the house at our leisure... more reminiscing about the rooms we lived in, who we shared them with and of climbing out the windows of the Zeta or Tau rooms to sit on the roof on warm spring/summer days. The alumnae organization has added some Zeta memorabilia which made us feel a bit more at home; knowing that they recognize it as a piece of our history. They are looking for more of our memorabilia to exhibit, so if you have any you'd like to donate... let me know!

Plaque at the base of the front stairs
recognizes the use of the house by
Zeta Tau Alpha in the past.

Wall next to the 3rd floor door to the "dorm."
Photos were from two of the last years Zetas
lived in the house.

Zeta banner hanging above the
stairs leading to the 3rd floor.
Ending our self-guided tours, we all took time to gather in the "formal" living room to share stories and even try to sing a few songs... when we could remember the words... Amazingly, the one most remembered the best? The Greek Alphabet! Anyone remember "Cuddle Bunny" or the Zeta prayer for before dinner?

And then... before we could leave... we HAD TO take advantage of the photo opportunities!

"Laura Squared"

Some people never change!
Thank goodness!
For me, no reunion, no photo opp is complete without the "Family" photo shoots!
With two of my "little sisters"
Tammie & Laura
And, by special request for MY big sister, Donna ("Blaine") Neblett... her two little sisters (Libby & me) and her "granddaughter," Tawnie.

Libby, Tawnie & me
Unfortunately, Vickie had to leave us early due to a family emergency and "Mrs. A" was unable to join us due to a family obligation and all too soon it was time to say good-bye once again to the house we all knew and loved. A house that had truly become a home to each of us during our college years.  BUT.... our reunion was not yet over!

We had reservations for dinner at Paco's Sol Bistro in Decatur. More laughter, more reminiscing and more bonding with good food!

After a good dinner, it was just too early to say good-bye and, after all, what visit to MU, our old Big Blue, would be complete without a visit to ...

Posing outside the Winery...
Anybody need to "cash a check?"
In many ways, it was the same. An extra room had been added for the pool table. Some of the booths were rearranged, but overall, it was still the Winery. And just because it had to be done, Tammie asked the waitress if Pat O'Mara (aka "Pat the Catholic") still frequents the old hangout. Although she knew him, she told us she hasn't seen him in a loooong time and before we could leave, we HAD to take a picture of the group as documentation that we had been there...

Such a fun weekend sharing memories, or learning that perhaps we're missing a few... Did I REALLY get shot in the leg by a Delta Sig with a BB gun? Who stole a Christmas tree? We had a whistle? Who really spiked the punch that caused Denise to get drunk at a house dance and spill her guts about Pepe? What was that girl's name? Did she graduate? Anybody know what happened to... Flentje? Space? Trudy? Remembering those we know have passed away... Where is ....?She's in Chicago... because that's where she was from....

Before the weekend officially came to an end, with the final six saying goodbye at our hotel, everyone got up to share breakfast and, of course, get in a couple of final photos!

With joy combined with happy tears, we said goodbye... Denise was off to Iowa to marry off two children, Laura P to her hubby and horses in Missouri, Tammie going to visit some friends and her parents' graves before heading back to Paul in California, Mutt to begin another adventure on the bus back to Indiana, Robyn seeing Mutt safely on her way before heading to St. Joe and me to say goodbye to Pop Sloan before getting on my plane out of Decatur to St. Louis & Dallas. Back to our own realities after three days of remember when and wondering how our young minds ended up in these old bodies...

One thing was certain before our weekend ended... no one wanted to say good-bye and absolutely no one wants to wait another thirty years to get back together again. Originally, I thought five years... but as Laura P pointed out... we're not that young anymore... (Killjoy!) So, the fact that we spent a weekend trying to figure out how to find more of our sisters combined with a desire to see one another again SOON, the commitment has been made to re-do this again in 2018! 

The REAL exciting part is that if we have our reunion about the same time again (versus having it at Homecoming), we can actually book the House for our dinner, have it catered and eat in our old dining room and have the freedom to relax in the living room! So, if you were there, we expect to see you in two years. If you weren't there, we SINCERELY hope you'll make every effort to be there and share the memories with us all!

The perfect ending to our weekend was sent out by our dear Denise. A reminder to each of us, that every one of our sisters has touched our lives. To all of my sisters, Zeta love and mine!

"Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you, I have been changed
for good."
So very true... ZLAM