I have been in North Carolina all week, and it has been such an odd experience!  I have traveled 1100 miles, and yet, I feel so at home here, that it feels very much like I’ve not gone anywhere at all!  Abby and I are the only ones who came out here, and we’ve had a really great trip together. 🙂

I do love it here: I love the trees, the mountains, the cool air, and most of all, the wonderful people! I do miss my friends here, and have been fortunate enough to get to see many of them.  The official reason for my visit was to come out to Joey Armstrong’s graduation from Appalachian State University.  Joe is Kendall’s best friend, since I can’t remember when, and the two of them are almost like Siamese twins!  Joey spent probably as much time in my kitchen growing up as he did in his own mother’s kitchen, and Kendall certainly spent more than his fair share of time over at the Armstrongs. There was no way I could miss his graduation!

When we moved to Texas, since Kendall was a newlywed, it was Joey who drove one of the Penske trucks to Austin for us!  It was Joey’s mom, Kim, who came and collected all of Kendall’s sooty and moldy clothes after our house burned down.  She took them home, and washed them until they came clean.  I can never repay her. (Probably couldn’t afford the laundry soap alone!)  When Gaylon moved out to Texas, eighteen months before the rest of us joined him, it was Joey and his dad, Joe, who came to the house to see him off.  To say that this family has a special place in my heart would not even come close to doing it justice.

So, while it was Joey’s graduation that got me here, I have certainly used the time to visit my friends.  I stayed a night first of all at Kendall and Lishi’s townhome, and that was a lot of fun.  It is certainly a new experience to go out of town and stay at my son’s home!!  They were very gracious hosts, and even gave me their bed to sleep in, so my back wouldn’t hurt so much.

I spent the next couple of nights at Lisa’s.  And I have to say, when I walked in her door, it felt like I’d just gotten home.  For the last seventeen years of my life, her home has been my one ‘constant’ place of refuge.  While we moved all over the place, and our house burned down, and we were virtual vagabonds, Lisa’s house was always a place I could go and be totally myself, and know I was safe. Period.  I know there are a lot of people who never find a place like that, or a friend like Lisa, and I am sorry for them.  I cannot begin to imagine how miserable and empty my world would be without her!  (Or her family. . . I love them all so dearly, and miss them more than I could ever express!)

The last few nights I’ve been staying with my friend, Tiffany, who doesn’t ask any questions, and expects nothing from me.  She also got up early the first morning I was here and baked the most amazing banana muffins and made fresh coffee.  Spoiled doesn’t even begin to cover how well I’m being treated!!

I’ve had dinner with Joanne, lunch with Trish, and spent a delightful evening tonight at the Torres’ home, another place that I love walking into!  I just am overwhelmed with how blessed I am to have such amazing friends, who love and care for me so much.  I do not deserve them, but I sure am grateful they love me anyway!

I also went by to visit my precious friends at Van’s Chocolates.  I confess it was difficult for me to go there, because I am a coward and I am so selfish, but I am so grateful that I did.  Russ Vanderlois, the amazing “Candy Man” at Van’s, lost his battle with cancer last August, a week after we got to Texas. There have been precious few people in my life that mattered to me as much as Russ.  If I could have picked my own father, it would have been him.  He was far from perfect, and I’m afraid he’d come back to haunt me if I didn’t tell you that.  But he was so good to me and my family, and welcomed us as part of his own family.  I will always feel a void just because he is not on this planet with us any longer!

I am so glad I stopped by there to see the rest of the family!  They blessed me so much with their warmth and love, and as I sat there looking around the back of the candy store, with the big machines and the smell of chocolate permeating the air, I remembered exactly how much I love being there, and I swear, I could feel Russ there, too.  And it was so nice to sit down and catch up with Peg, Christy, Bryan, and Bertha.  I really didn’t want to ever leave.  (And considering that I locked my keys in my car there, I almost didn’t leave, LOL)

So now, my trip is winding down.  Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, and Kendall said he wants to grill out for me over here at Tiffany’s.  I think that sounds wonderful!  Monday afternoon, we fly home.  I am not looking forward to that flight at all, but I am trusting that God will take care of us.

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