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Day 4 – Day Tour

We woke up a little slower today. I looked out at the water – it was so calm and no winds. I got my coffee and soon I was out on the dock chasing an egret and a pelican trying to take a picture. I finally got one of the egrets, he was small but I got to get so close, I was so excited.

We were scheduled to be in town by 10:00 am to sort out Quilts and get ready for tomorrow (Friday). The staff at the Renaissance have been fantastic. They kept our quilts safe until we arrived and were able to unload them. The crew got right in and double checked names and pulled the quilts for the recipients who were not able to attend. In the end, we had a total of 84 quilts and we had brought extra just in case. So, we will need to ship home about 20 quilts and some extra stuff. We were all discussing if we should try and drag them in duffels or ship and how can we ship, and where is FedEx. I decided to go to the desk and ask where the nearest FedEx was. I was talking to the desk clerk when this young man walks up, looks at me and my shirt, and says, “I’m a veteran and all you do I’ll take are of this.” I asked what service and he replied Army Iraq veteran. I told him to come with me and so he could see what we had. We headed for the room that they had set up for us. As I walked in I announced to the crew that I had an Iraq veteran and they knew I was going to give him a quilt. We quickly grabbed a quilt and presented. His name was Bryan and as we talked to him he told us he had deployed three times to Iraq. We all said wow. Bryan couldn’t believe what he saw with all the quilts. He said he would take care of shipping and boxing them up and we were all thrilled – that took a load off getting them shipped home.

While we were working, the Renaissance had coffee and beignets made fresh so the crew brought some for all of us to eat while we worked. They were the best we had. It took us a while but we were organized soon and headed to the French Market in the French Quarter.

Now that was an interesting place but very clean down there and some interesting arts and crafts. Then we were off to find pralines since they make them here and of course we had one of each. Then we went to lunch at Monty’s Southern New Orleans Food – we all enjoyed it. Definitely different food but everything is fried – bet you could get clogged arteries living around here. The group then split up – some went to Harrah’s and we got on our favorite trolley car and went to the Garden District to see the mansions. They have broken brick sidewalks from big oak trees. The trees are beautiful. We saw Sandra Bullock’s house and John Goodman’s house. We jumped back on our trolley to head back to see the Christmas tree lighting in Jackson Square. We were riding the trolley back when all of a sudden it stopped and they told us to get out of the car and go to the next car – that was a lot of fun – it could only happen to us. We finally figured out that the trolley system and we’re about to go home.

We got to see the Christmas tree lighting New Orleans style. It was nice with music playing – can’t believe Christmas is almost here.

While riding the trolley, we did see two of our quilt recipients on the trolley – we could tell from their lanyards. If only they knew we would be honoring them the next night.

We finally got home, late again, and now are having a Board meeting. Will try to blog some tomorrow but it may be short. We will tell a little of how it went.

God bless and stay tuned . . . . . . . .
Gail

 

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Day 3 – New Orleans

We started the day with breakfast made by Chef Carl as we all gathered around the table. We had a slow morning until my contact for our Event called and said he wanted to meet at 2:00 pm. So we loaded up our NCIS car and headed for town. We decided we had time to tour the Garden District so we parked the car and decided we would play real tourist and ride the streetcar. You buy a $3.00 ticket, ride all over, and get off where you need. We were lucky to arrive at the first stop where they were changing drivers so we made friends. His name is Terrance and he gave us the scoop but guess what, we didn’t get it. We rode down the line to the Garden District which took so long we only had like 15 minutes to walk around, got back on the car and rode back to make our meeting. We said, well that was nice – at least we were sitting down and not walking. Carl and Rita took a cemetery tour and met us back for the meeting.

We got to meet up with our contact and met the staff of the hotel. We went over our list so everyone was on the right page. We met the President and so far, there are only two people that we know of that know what we are doing. We did present one quilt today to the head of Military Planning Reunions. He was very surprised and really liked it. I will tell you to keep on quilting. We have been requested to do some awesome work.

We were at our meeting longer than expected and when we finished, we were all starving. We had dinner at Mulate’s, southern food – fish, yuk. Thank God they had hamburger steak which me and brother Lou had. It was a good place. Then we decide to go to Pat O’Brien’s so the gang could get the famous blue drink so back to the train we go but we couldn’t catch it. Everyone was almost running when Debbie gets to the car and the driver looks out and stops. Guess who it was – our Terrance. He opened the doors and said there are my peoples – boy was he happy. We ride down until our street came up, got off and heard some great music. The place we were going was just too far and I couldn’t walk it so Debbie, Flo and I got back on the train and headed back to the car. Boy we saw about 4 blocks of light, music and crazy people. It was something.

I am writing this sitting in the NCIS car waiting for the last of the crew to get their butts in the car. We have an appointment tomorrow with the group and hopefully we will see New Orleans. So here is the injury report – Lou has blisters on his feet and Debbie has spurs on hers – the walking is taking a toll on us old folks.

We started home and we had 8 motorcycles fly by us at 80 miles an hour – scared the heck out of us and not two seconds later we stop dead – red light and sirens everywhere then smoke. We drove through it after a 10 minute wait. The smoke was so bad we had to cover our mouths.

Now it’s 9:40pm and they are in Wally World again – hope we get home tonight safe and sound.

But, our night wasn’t over. We left Wally World to come home, got in the house and we headed to the kitchen to have ice cream. As I went to the sink to wash my hands, out comes the biggest moving bug. I screamed and Rita and Debbie came over to see why I’m screaming and then they screamed. Then, around the corner comes Toni screaming. Now you have 4 screaming women and one big bug. Rita had to take a picture and Debbie just stayed in place, not even a flinch. To the rescue comes Brother Lou – he kills the bug, puts it down the disposal and it splashes in his face. Oh boy, what a night.

We are excited to finally get close to our event so stay tuned . . . . . .

God bless and prayers to all at home,
Gail

Today I decided to go off course. When I found out my Army Band Director was one and a half hours away, I asked the crew what they all wanted to do. Carl, Debbie, Flo and Rita all said they wanted to go with me so we jumped in the car and off we went.

Our house has a beautiful view and we had looked at the bridge but we had never crossed it. Well, today our drive took us left across the bridge towards Gulfport, Mississippi. We got to see houses on these huge columns and water everywhere. As we were driving we saw a sign that said Swamp Tours. We all said we would stop there on our way back. The drive was beautiful but one thing about Louisiana – the signs for streets just aren’t anywhere. Thank God for GPS and no U-turns again today.

We got to Gulfport and the first thing we see is the beach and white sand. We were all happy. We pulled into the Armed Forces Retirement Center, got our badges and headed to meet Diana, a Navy veteran sister who is friends with Bernice Goldstein known to us band members as Goldie. I was excited to see her as I knew I was coming for all our sisters who couldn’t go and visit. Our Women’s Army Band has a very strong bond and when one is sick we all care. She told me she was trying to get strong because she wants to come and direct the band even if it’s a little. She raised her arms to show me she could direct.

We talked about Quilts of Honor and she was so happy to meet the QOH crew. She kept thanking us for what we do. When it was time to go, we took many pictures. She is so frail and it did make me cry when we walked away which I never do but Goldie is a fighter – she has that Army spirit just like her band. The whole crew walked up to her, took her hand and said what an honor it was to meet her. Goldie replied, “I’m honored to meet you.” We all said what a gift we got to be able to do this.

The Armed Forces Retirement Center was beautiful. I can’t say enough how big and clean it was. They have a park, beach, walking trail and a chapel and their own exchange. It was amazing. The sad thing is that there are 501 veterans who live there, both men and women. They don’t have any organizations making them lap quilts, wheelchair bags or anything homemade. Many don’t even get visitors. One veteran was on a walker with a seat and he had a stash of candy. He handed it out to all the ladies as we walked by but wouldn’t give one to Carl.

We drove out of there right across the road to the beach. The girls had to put their feet in the water and walk in the sand. Carl and I were the smart ones – we left our shoes on. Carl found the shell of a stingray and was scaring Flo with it. Rita had to be the first one in the water. Sometimes it’s like I have 6 kids but it’s always fun and never a dull moment. The sand was so white, the water wasn’t very clear and the girls said it was cold. There wasn’t anyone on the beach – if it was California, it would be packed.

We left there and decided to go do the Swamp Tour. It was so great! We saw wild boar, alligators, egrets, gray heron, turtles and raccoons. The bayou was beautiful and seeing homes on the water was really cool. The swamp was spooky but fun and our guide, Jules, was cool and let us take many pictures. Rita had to have a picture with an alligator and she went the extra mile and got down to the alligator’s level. Now if I would have done that, I couldn’t have gotten back up. It was a great funny photo.

We ended our day at Wally World for toilet paper – pretty critical when you run out with 8 people and 5 bathrooms. We had dinner and as I write this, they are all around the table talking and laughing and telling about their day.

I will say an extra prayer tonight for those close to my heart that they know I am thinking of you. We will be in New Orleans tomorrow and am sure we will have more adventures so stay tuned. . . . . . . .

God bless,
Gail

New Orleans – Day One

Today we all decided to go to the WWII Museum. We wanted to know more about the history of our WWII veterans. We started down our long road to town – we are on Venetian Island in a Big house with 5 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms. There are 8 of us staying here and boy do we have the stories. Last night we were all trying to get to bed as we had been up since 3:00am when I hear commotion in the kitchen. Tony is screaming and Carl is beating on something. I walk over and look and there is the biggest cockroach I ever saw. Of course I said something and here comes Rita and she screams. Finally Carl puts the bug down the garbage disposal which made Debbie scream, “Why did you kill it in the kitchen – we eat there.” Poor Carl, he couldn’t win and here he was the savior. Then, this morning everyone is coming out of their rooms and one says my shower was cold so I took a spit bath and another one says she only had a stream of water. I’m thinking it’s going to be a long week.

When you travel with me I’ve always said, when it’s time to go you had better be in the car or I’m leaving and I always give them the time we’re leaving. This morning the time was 8:00 am. We get to our NCIS car and there are 8 of us so we are full up but I’m missing one – Cyndy. She said she was upstairs, came out and everyone was gone – you don’t fool around when you give a time and everyone laughed – that’s how it is with Gail.

We finally got into New Orleans through the French Quarter, which really wasn’t the route, but we finally got to the WWII Museum with no u-turns. Everyone enjoyed the Museum. You can’t see it all in one day – there are 4 huge buildings – we only saw 1 ½.

We walked for miles around the French Quarter and only saw a little of it. First stop was for beignets and coffee where Rita picked up on a waiter and they got engaged – that was quite interesting. The picture shows we all enjoyed them – Rita had powder everywhere and Debbie had it all over her face and shirt. You can’t take us anywhere.

We sat down on a bench to rest when a gorilla came up to us and decided to play, take pictures and swing his butt at us. They have some crazy people around here. We even saw a poodle painted three colors with pompoms. Then we went for a carriage ride all through the French Quarter. It was fun except when the horse gave us whiplash on the stop and go. We saw the most beautiful Catholic Church, the oldest in the United States. We decided we would stay until dinner and walk the riverfront but lord it was a long way. We are old and our feet, knees, and backs were dead tired by the time we got to the riverfront. Our laugh for the evening was Rita with the butt bin in the park. We made it back home in time to start our Board meeting working on Quilts of Honor Business which we all enjoy.

It has been nice to have Cyndy along. She has gotten some great photos of us and doesn’t miss much. You never know what kind of picture you might see so we better look out. We have laughed until we cried at the stupidest things but we all love each other and enjoy what QOH does.

Enjoy – until tomorrow – God bless

Gail

Veterans Day – Continued

What a day! Our last event began at 5:30pm in Livermore where we met Jeannette and Warren and give out 9 quilts. We had been to the Ahmed Temple two years ago so we were expecting hot dogs and hamburgers for dinner. We picked Rita up in Stockton and we were all hungry – the traffic made it too hard to stop for food. First, they served us cream of chicken rice soup and it was delicious. They said we could have seconds. Dad Belmont – you would have really enjoyed it. Rita said she was starving and was going to have more and she did. Then they brought dinner – prime rib, mashed potatoes and peas and it wasn’t a small pile of peas and they were touching my meat! Flo saved me and took my peas and even Rita wanted some. There is something wrong with those two, both liking peas. The prime rib was unbelievably good, and a good size piece – was really a special Veterans Day dinner.

The speaker talked about Iwo Jima. In the audience was a 94 year old veteran who was actually on the island. He stood up and told everyone what he did and that after the war he had spent 26 years as a Highway Patrolman and a Marine, too. You could not tell he was 94 years old. He walked like a twenty year old. We all said we wished we could be that spry. What an honor to meet this veteran. They had every veteran stand and tell where and when they served. There were at least 50 veterans, and for the first time at least 5 were females – we surely didn’t have that many quilts.

The room was one of the most patriotic rooms with a beautiful red carpet walkway and large flags aligned along the way. When it was time for our ceremony, we had the veterans walk down the aisle and by the time they got to me they were nervous. Of course the cameras were out everywhere. The last three stand out the most to me. There was the Vietnam veteran, short little guy, walked up the aisle and saluted. Then came the 94 year old Marine and when I took his hand I told everyone there my Dad’s story about being a Marine and being in Japan and that my Dad was also retired law enforcement. They all thought that was cool and I made sure I took my picture with Howard for my Dad. Then, last but not least, was a female veteran. She kept saying that she was so honored, maybe 6 times.

I introduced our crew and told their histories with Quilts of Honor. We were honored with all the raffle money and when we sat down, our little guy came over to thank our crew and said, “I don’t deserve this; it means so much as being a Vietnam veteran, we got nothing.” Both Rita and I said, “Welcome home.” I was sorry we didn’t have more quilts.

We left the event at 9:30pm and drove to San Francisco where we spent the night. It took forever to go to sleep. We were up at 3:15am to catch the shuttle to the airport.

There are now 7 of us – Lou and Toni, Cindy, Rita, Flo and Debbie and me. We have more suitcases than carter has pills – Toni wins the prize with 4. We will meet Carl in New Orleans and try to fit us all in one big car. I bet that will be a story.

I’m writing this on the plane hoping to post it soon — we sure have been busy!

God bless and stay tuned . . . . . . .
Gail

 

 

Veterans Day – On The Run

We began this morning at 8:00 am and haven’t looked back.

Dropped my Rue off so Stacey and Jay could baby sit. I know I will miss her like crazy but there was just too much going on.

We got to the Tuleburg Quilt Show in Stockton at 9:45am and before I knew it, I was carrying the California flag for the Karl Ross Honor Guard. It was okay but I haven’t stood at attention for that long in a while. These old knees knew it but I loved it. I turned around from Honor Guard duty and began the ceremony for Quilts of Honor.

We gave quilts to so many deserving veterans. We even took 4 quilts displayed in the Quilt Show off the wall to give to veterans on Veterans Day. I wasn’t going to leave a veteran without a quilt on this special day. I know I may not have made some ladies happy, but our mission is to honor our veterans with quilts. It was a good morning and we completed our mission.

As an added event, Karl Ross had their Flag that was from the Civil War. We were very honored to see it and have our pictures taken with it.

We left Stockton and headed for our next event in Livermore and of course got stuck in a traffic jam in Tracy. There were fire engines and police cars so I took the back roads, thank God. We stopped at the Livermore Outlets to get luggage straps – not a good idea. We got stuck in the parking lot, Flo got lost, and I did a wheelie in the traverse to get out of the parking lot as I was upturning for the first time. Needless to say, the girls weren’t too happy. So, we are off to a good start. We made it to the Livermore event and got ready to start again.

So far I have loved this Veterans Day. To my Dad Belmont – thank you for your service and to all my sisters and veteran brothers. Never forget our veterans.

God bless and stay tuned. This is only day one. . . . . . . . .
Gail

We always know November will be our busiest month and that never seems to change for us. This week we started our first event at the Berean Christian School in Walnut Creek.

A few years ago my brother approached me about talking to the economics teacher about making Quilts of Honor at their school. We took a trip to Walnut Creek to meet Lynn and the next thing we knew the High School students were cutting strips and sewing their first quilts. Then came the idea of let’s have a ceremony and awards the quilts the students made so they can experience what it means. Since then, each year it has grown and is now becoming a tradition at the school. I love going to it. They do everything truly patriotic, singing and standing for the National Anthem. They have a huge beautiful choir that sings like angels.

This year Queen B’s Quilts of Honor group stepped up to the plate, worked with the school, and prepared all of the quilts, even getting last minute calls for quilts. Quilts of Honor has true dedicated volunteers.

It was an honor to meet two WWII veterans. Both had great stories and spoke to the students and thanked Quilts of Honor for their quilts. Two of the quilts were made by the students and when we presented them we said these came from your school. The applause was nuts. We asked all of the veterans to stand in the Gym and the students stood and applauded them. So cool that they are learning what veterans mean.

Our last stop before we left the school was to Lynn’s class so we could give one quilt to a student who was to present to her uncle and yes, I gave her instructions on how to present. When we were walking down the hall, a young man yelled out to me ‘thank you’ and my brother Russ asked me if he just thanked me. I said yes and Russ said wow that’s so amazing. I said I guess they were listening this morning.

I will be blogging often in the next week and a half. We have two more events before New Orleans.

To all of our QOH groups, send us your pictures and stories to Jan so we can add them to the blog (janyb@att.net).

We are one big family working to honor our veterans.

God bless and stay tuned . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Gail