I really need to back up a bit. I had a 6 hour lay over in New York on my way to Italy. Jo Lombardi drove to JFK airport and spent three hours with me. I've "known" Jo for years but we had never met. We'd planned to meet on several occasions and it just never worked out. I was thrilled that she came out. We spent the time over lunch and Guinness just chatting away. Silly us - didn't take one picture. Thank you for coming out and keeping me company Jo. LOVED finally meeting you in person.
My fabulous friends at Delta Air Lines made it possible for me to snag and international business class seat. After a wonderful dinner I reclined my seat to almost horizontal and zonked out. When I woke up we were over the Swiss Alps.
Descending into Venice
Angela and Michael were having coffee just outside the arrivals door. It was wonderful to see them. They are such a special couple. I didn't get to spend any time at all with them after the OEF VIII deployment and was very excited for the opportunity on this visit. Plus their youngest daughter, Raegan, had been my "battle buddy" through this deployment and I couldn't wait to see her, her big sister Kirsten and that little stinker of a brother, Noah.
On the way to their house Raegan called to ask if she and Kirsten should cook lunch. We said, "no, we're going out for lunch." YAY! After we got there and after many hugs everyone got ready to go. Noah didn't think mom was getting his shoes on fast enough.
Raegan and Kirsten selected the restaurant. I don't remember the name but had been there before. It was PERFECT. I set the "rules". NO RULES! Order whatever you like and save room for dessert! We ordered a few appetizers. One was a caprese salad platter. Raegan designed her own salad. Pretty darn cool, huh?
Noah LOVES lemons. Yes, he actually eats them. Despite his facial expressions and his reaction after each one he continued to ask and reach for more slices. He's something else.
Three beautiful children - and one not happy about being out of lemons.
The original plan had been for me to meet Ranger Iles girlfriend, Carlisa, to get the keys to his house for the week. But once I saw the Nestells I couldn't resist asking if I could hang out with them for a night - which turned into two nights and WONDERFUL memories. We (the kiddos and I) broke lots of rules and had TONS of fun doing so. Thank you to mom and dad for allowing that. Getting to rock Noah one night as he was falling asleep was more precious than words can explain.
Faster than a speeding, well, rocket!
Michael grilled out one night and it was beyond delicious. He, Angela and I braved the cold to sit outside and enjoy fabulous Italian wine and wonderful adult conversation. A definite highlight of the trip.
Another great moment was when I got to go to Raegan's basketball practice. She's faster than greased lightning up and down the court. Later in the week I was able to attend one of her games and her team WON! Raegan played an excellent game. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed spending time with my battle buddy.
Raegan's basketball practice
Someone LOVES gummy bears
The studious one.
Kirsten, thank you a million times over for giving up your room for me. I love your decor and felt instantly at home. I appreciate you and Raegan for bunking up together in Raegan's room. Meant the world to me.
These are some BIG boots to fill!
But I've got it dad
Paratrooper in Training!
My time with these very special friends was the perfect beginning to a PERFECT Italian holiday. I miss you terribly! Thank you for all of your hospitality and for all of the trouble you went to to pick me up, get me signed on to post, deliver me to this person and that. I owe you!