Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Back in Texas doing the 'time out' required by Schengen Treaty limitations

DIL Lynn and newest granddaughter Rose Annette Rouse
Christmas Day at home.
On 3 December 2014 we flew from Rome to Frankfurt to Houston to begin our mandatory 90 days out of the EU Schengen area.  Looking backwards 180 days (the requirement on any given day for Americans and most other foreigners visiting most of Europe), we had been within Schengen territory for a total of 87 days on the date of our departure in early December.  It was a good thing we did that little week trip to St. Petersburg, Russia, in October for our friend's wedding or we would have been a couple of days over the 90 day Schengen limit.  I thought we were being very careful about keeping the total number of days below 90 but we must have miscounted somewhere along the line.  But all is good that ends good, and our final count was 87 days in Schengen countries during the previous 180 days; so we were legal. The officials at the Frankfurt airport where we were officially stamped out of the EU did check my passport for dates during which I had been in EU.  I do not know if Bill's passport was also checked or not as we were in different lines and did not clear out together.  Europeans honestly have no idea how stressful this nonsense is for people like us who strive to always obey laws, even the silly ones.  I am so tired of dealing with and worrying about this.  It will be wonderful to say goodbye to the Med later this year and be done with it.

Us at the Texas Navy Admirals Ball
So we are in Texas until sometime later in the spring.  Not sure at this time of our exact return date to Sicily.  We had originally planned to return as soon as our 90-days out was up and then do some land travel around Italy or other places in Europe.  But after our Rome trip both of us have kind of lost all interest in doing the previously anticipated land travel.  Rome was fabulous and we are thankful for having the opportunity to visit that famous city.  But flying to Venice or taking the train around to various cities has just lost the appeal that it once held for us.  Guess we are just getting tired.  After all, we have been doing this for almost 9 years.  We are both really looking forward to a year from now when we will once again be back in cruiser friendly Caribbean.  With things like pot lucks and Mexican Train games and friendly socializing.  Something that does not happen in the Med with so many people who are not actually cruisers but more like local sailors.  After all, a Brit or German sailor in Italy is like a Floridian or Texan sailing to Maine or Maryland. Not real cruisers in my opinion. It is a different attitude entirely.  Merely sailing in an area of their home country.  Since the EU is supposed to be a country these days and those 'countries' we previously knew as countries are now merely states of the EU.

A few of the dancers in front of band at Admirals Ball

Bill has had numerous medical appointments the past month.  Gratefully, he continues to remain 100% cancer free.  We were not worried about a recurrence but it is wonderful to have confirmation that he remains healthy.

Me, towering over 2 of the other guests.  The woman
on the right also is an Admiral in the Texas Navy.
I celebrated another birthday a few days after we arrived home.  Unlike some of the folks back in the marina where we left BeBe for the winter, I have no hang-ups about getting older.  As Bill's step-mother was fond of pointing out, there is only one alternative to aging and it is not desirable.  People who think getting old is a bad thing need attitude adjustments.  As part of my birthday celebration we decided to attend the Texas Navy Admiral's Ball.  As some of our readers and friends might or might not know, Bill was appointed by the Governor to the position of Admiral in the Texas Navy several years ago. Each December there is an annual black-tie ball which is held in Galveston.  This is the first opportunity that we have had to attend one of these balls.  As Bill said, we were celebrating my birthday, Christmas season and breathing -- and not necessarily in that order.  We stayed the weekend at Moody Gardens Hotel.  A lovely weekend vacation.

Bill on left chatting with fellow Admirals.
Did I hear someone say: "Texas has a navy?"

Well, yes.  Yes, we do.  Because when Texas was a sovereign country prior to joining the United States, the country of Texas had a navy.  When Texas joined the USA, that navy was never formally disbanded.  Therefore, it continues to exist today.  It has no ships anymore.  And is not supported by taxpayers.  Today it is a volunteer organization which strives to educate about the Texas Navy and its importance in Texas gaining independence from Mexico to form the Republic of Texas in 1836.
"The Texas Navy...It's no exaggeration to say that without it there would probably have been no Lone Star Republic and possibly the State of Texas would still be part of Mexico."
Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. 1936

More info here:

The first afternoon we just drove around Galveston revisiting memories and enjoyed good seafood.  Checked on the house we purchased last year and leased.  We did not bother the property manager or the tenant; just drove by to confirm it looked okay from the street.  We learned a few days ago that the tenant has decided to renew his lease for another year.  Yay!  One less thing to think about while we are off cruising.

The next day we toured the tall ship Elissa once again and visited the Seaport Museum.  Before we began cruising Bill volunteered and crewed about the Elissa.

If one volunteers a certain number of hours each year, then that volunteer crew member gets to sail on the Elissa when she goes out from dock into the Gulf of Mexico, usually once per year.  At least that was the program back when Bill crewed on that 1877 barque and climbed those old masts to bend square-rigged sails.  Again, fond memories.

The board of directors held the annual meeting for the Texas Navy at the Seaport Museum.  It was our first time to attend one of these meetings.  It afforded us a better understanding of the organization and how it is operated.  During that board meeting we also learned of a museum in Austin with which we were not familiar.  It is a museum honoring Texans of various military forces.  We hope to make a trip to Austin to visit this museum soon.

The ball was fun, good band for dancing, delicious meal, enjoyable conversation.  I got a kick out of some of the 'admirals uniforms' worn by a few of the men.  Each admiral can design a uniform to his/her liking and some of them were eye-catchers!  There also were a number of men in Naval or Marine formal uniforms.  Bill wore his regular tuxedo, like most of the other guys present.  It was a nice evening chatting, eating, drinking and dancing. 

The man seated to my left at the dinner table was a Marine officer.  I am terrible about not remembering military ranks and remember neither his name nor his rank.!....did he get hot under the collar when the flags were presented by the local branch of the Coast Guard cadets.  One of the event organizers told the 4 flag bearers to change positions for some unknown reason.  The flags were presented with the Texas Navy flag to the right, with the Texas flag to its left; with some other flag to the left of that; and then the US flag on the far left.  Oh boy!  That is wrong!!!  No flag is EVER supposed to be presented positioned to the right of the American flag.  Never.  Under no circumstances.  Anywhere.  Period.

And, oh, did those seated at our table hear the venting from this Marine officer about this breach of protocol.  He was very upset.  Later, he sought out the cadets who presented the flags and dressed them down harshly.  Then he sought out the organizers for the event and vented further.  I would not be surprised if he did not follow up the next week and contact the commanding officers of the 4 cadets who presented the flags.  He made it his mission to make sure that everyone involved in this faux paus never does something like that again.

Admiral Nick Ricco performed the formalities for the 'Table for One' ceremony.  This is touching ceremony.  It is also called the Missing Man Table Ceremony.  Here is a link which provides an example of this ceremony.

Sunday morning after the ball there was a brunch for the members of the Texas Navy which was held at The Artillery Club in Galveston.  Oh my!  Of course we had to go to that function too!  The Artillery Club is the oldest private club in Texas.  It is oh-so-exclusive!  Only 100 members are allowed.  I do not know if one also must be a BOI but would not be surprised if that is a requirement for membership.  For those unfamiliar with eccentricities of Galveston, a BOI means 'Born On Island' --- one is inconsequential if one is not a BOI.   At least in the eyes of all the other BOIs.  Obviously, we are not members of The Artillery Club.  That is another world from our lives.  Scroll down in this link and read the marker text for an explanation of this exclusive club.

Brunch was good; not at all what we expected.  They served cheese grits (delicious!!!) and a type of steak and gravy dish, accompanied by various types tiny biscuits and fruits and a few other things.  I do not remember ever being served cheese grits and steak with gravy for a brunch.  We were seated next to a nice couple from Houston who had lots of funny stories to tell.  The brunch surprisingly turned out to be more fun than the ball the previous evening.

Duane, Lauren, Trey, Theo's back, John, Boyd, David.
With Zachary barely visible on other side of Theo.
And Bill seated in chair on far right.

Christmas came and went.  

Once again we had 26 people gathered for a too-loud, too-crowded, and too-quickly-over holiday dinner celebration.  There are still children in the family so Christmas still is a magical time.  This was first Christmas for our 7-month-old granddaughter, Rose Annette Rouse.  

Duane, Lauren and her mom Teresa

It was over too fast and I did not get to visit with everyone as much as I would have liked.  Maybe we can get together with a few of the people on a quieter, less crowded, level before we return to Sicily in the spring and enjoy visiting and catching up on each other's lives.

Bill's brother John.  My brother Boyd and his wife Cheryl

Last weekend we once again went to Galveston, just for a night to get away by ourselves. Yesterday we attended a memorial service for one of Bill's lifelong friends.  He was a high school classmate who will be missed.  One of those people who everyone loved.  A special guy who died far too young.

DIL Kristina on right.
 Her sister Krystal on left.
With their mom Keena in center.

Abigail on left.  Her mom Krystal in center.
And granddaughter BeBe (Elisabeth) on right.

Our elder son Trey
carving beef roast

Grandson Sebastian.  All grown up and almost finished
with that college degree!

Grandson Zachary as
They are all fascinated by something on that TV or computer.
Younger son Aaron, grandson Zachary, grandson Damien.
With Daniel, Zachary's maternal cousin, standing behind them.

This weekend our brother and sister-in-law are hosting several of us at the Houston Symphony for a Mozart operetta.  Bill detests opera but he is going to placate me.  And the early teen-aged grandkids have never attended an opera, although they both enjoy symphonies.  I'm looking forward to this event.  

And that sums up the first 6 weeks of this visit to Texas.

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