Notes From The Road, Day 3

Our day began a little later than expected due to a serious need to sleep in. We rolled into Muscle Shoals Alabama last night and kept moving into Florence. There was a slight issue finding the hotel and what followed became a comedy of errors.

Where’s The Radisson?

What we didn’t realize is there are two streets with the same name and, well, they don’t connect. This was problem number one. Once we had gone both directions on the street we thought we were supposed to be on, we gave up and tried something different. This time I was at least finding some of the landmarks on the map, so there was hope. We didn’t see any signs or indications there was a hotel anywhere close to the Chuck E. Cheese. With nothing to loose we turned into the parking lot and hidden back off the road, behind some trees, there was a three story hotel. Still no signs. The one that should have told us the hotel was in the background had a covering over it and there was no sign on the building. The lights were on and people coming and going so we crossed our fingers and pulled in.

It seems this Radisson is becoming a Clarion, thus the anonymity. This was an exhausting end to the day.

Fresh Start – New State

Coffee in hand we headed east towards Tuscumbia, Alabama. Tuscumbia is where H.G.’s father was born and raised. I loved Laurel, but I REALLY love Tuscumbia. This is a town I want to come back to; a town that is filled with history and charm. Tuscumbia exudes southern charm and hospitality, and was also the birthplace of Helen Keller.

It started to rain while we were here, but we just drove, looked at houses, oohing and ahhing all along the way. We had two main goals while here – find the home where H.G.’s father was raised and also find the Rosenbaum house, a Frank Lloyd Wright designed home. We succeeded on both accounts.

Means family home in Tuscumbia.

The Rosenbaum house, designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright is in the Usonian design – a design that is based on a modular system and built so as to be affordable for average Americans. Wright wanted to be able to offer affordable yet beautiful and functional homes for those who are not among the wealthy class. Our tour guide said this is the only house that actually took advantage of the modular design’s ability to be added on to without disrupting the flow and feel of the home. I had seen another FLW home in Manchester, New Hampshire, but this one was different. Quite a bit smaller and more compact. It is always an amazing feeling to tour one of his homes.

A Hidden Gem, Lunch and A Big Mental Mistake

While just driving around aimlessly we stumbled upon Spring Park, a gorgeous park with a spring that runs throughout. On the park grounds there is also a small gauge train, a pint sized roller coaster and carousel for the kids.

The waterfall into the spring and the monument to The Trail of Tears is beautiful and poignant. I could have stayed for hours just watching and listening to the water and enjoying this natural wonder.

We wanted to grab a quick bite to eat before it got too late. Our eating schedule has been way off the past few days. I found a little place called Aunt Bea’s Bakery & Bistro in downtown Tuscumbia. We stopped in for a sandwich and cupcake. Everything was delicious. We finished and left as the rain was starting back up again.

We sat in the car in front of the restaurant while H.G. placed an order for a customer, and then proceeded on our merry way. Then about two hours down the road I reached for my purse to get my journal for a little sketching.

But my purse was no where to be found. It was now 4:52, Bea’s closes at 5:00 so I quickly called. Sure enough I had left it hanging on the back of my chair. We now have a huge dilemma. Turn around, spend the night in Tuscumbia and then have a very long drive to get to Sparta tomorrow afternoon. Or, we can keep going and get the purse on the way home. Somehow, I don’t feel a sense of panic. My purse is in the hands of good people in a small town in Alabama and I pray that they will keep it safe for me until Tuesday. Somehow…by the grace of God, I feel safe and secure with my purse right where it is.

Who knows, maybe we are supposed to travel back through Tuscumbia for a reason. I don’t know, but what I do know is that I’m not in control and H.G. is going to remind me of this every time we go somewhere, I just know he will. Oh well, when he does, I’ll just roll my eyes and keep on moving.

Tonight we are in Knoxville, Tennessee and tomorrow we head through the Smoky Mountains to Sparta. See you on the road!

Notes From The Road, Day 2

Today is the day we planned on spending the most time wandering and looking. Alarms set. We slept well.

Bright and early this morning, we packed our bags, checked out of the hotel and headed to a little cafe I had found online. How did we ever travel before the internet?

The Coney Island Cafe has been operating in this same location since 1923. Started by Greek immigrants, the cafe has a set menu posted on the wall.

A pay phone and a picture of Merle on the wall.

I think there have been many a folk to set on this stool, eating a meal, sipping coffee, and swapping stories.

We were greeted with a smile and “Hello” from Sabrina, who also cooked a fine breakfast. Her smile lit up the room.

After breakfast we gassed up and headed north to Laurel. This was only about a forty-five minute drive so we arrived before most of the businesses were open. We also beat the heat of the day so we parked the car and walked around the downtown area.

We saw many of the places and streets seen on the promos and introductions to the show “Hometown.” This town is special to us because it is the town where my Hunter-Gatherer was born.

His mother was born and raised in this house in Laurel, and this is where she came to give birth to her first born. His dad was in graduate school at the University of Texas in Austin and it just made sense for her to be home with her parents instead of living in married student housing in Austin.

In the late 1950’s H.G. and his brother, and later sister, would spend time with their grandparents. He has very fond memories of listening to baseball on the radio, and eating all the good food his grandmother cooked. While I’m sure there was difficulty and strife in the world, to these kids, life was simple and full of potential.

Annie, Mrs. Foley to her students and most folks in Laurel, would warn H.G. and his brother to be careful crossing over these little bridges because Billy Goat’s Gruff lives in the creek, under the bridge and he would get them. The vivid imaginations of two young boys went wild with this information. While they never went in the creek, they always looked very carefully before playing near the bridge.

The Busy Bee was another favorite place for the brothers to visit. Grandmother would give them fifty cents, with which they could occupy themselves for hours. Ten cents would get them into a movie and then they would stop at the Busy Bee for some candy and a glimpse at the “men’s” magazines. Fortunately those magazines then were not what they are today! His saintly “Methodist Grandmother” would have had a fit if she knew that’s what they were spending their time doing!

I enjoyed seeing all this through his eyes once again and making memories along the way. I’ll leave you with a few more pictures of our day in Laurel.

Tomorrow we’ll be in Alabama and Tennessee. See you on the road.

Notes From The Road Day 1

Vacationing with a salesman is never just a vacation. As Hunter-Gatherer says, “A salesman is never off the clock.” This is a fact that I have come to accept. In fact I plan for it. Yes never leave Home without plenty of things to keep me busy in the car.

As we leave for a six day road trip, he has already answered three phone calls and is now in a customer’s store helping them with a problem. That is just the kind of guy he is and one of the reasons I love him.

Living in the Houston area, just getting out of town is one of the biggest hurdles. At least we are now on the east side of town and the worst is behind us.

Today is mostly about getting from Houston through Louisiana, and into Mississippi.

I want to record this vacation in a way I have never done before. We love road trips and generally just wander wherever the road leads. This trip is very structured for us. The first place I asked to get off the freeway to look is Orange, Texas. In addition to being the birthplace and stomping grounds for Michael Berry, local radio host extraordinaire. I’m a devoted fan and have never been to Orange. I learned that Orange has also produced a large number of well known professional football players and a couple of coaches. Orange looks like many small Texas towns; probably a nice place to live. Probably won’t be going back, but at least I can say I visited the birthplace of the Czar of Talk Radio, Mr. Michael Berry.

We made it to Hattiesburg, Mississippi at 9:00 tonight, about 2 hours later than planned. Hubby kept apologizing, but it’s really ok. I sketched, wrote, knitted, and took pictures. Not a bad day at all.

I will leave you with some images from our drive through Louisiana, it is time for bed.

Ice cream in Lafayette

Road Trip

We are leaving tomorrow for a seven day road trip to Sparta, North Carolina. I said yes to an opportunity to teach at a fiber festival in Sparta so that we would make this trip which has been on our radar for about five years. Thus the life of two procrastinators living together for thirty years.

Other than teaching, the purpose of the trip is to go through some of the towns where my in-laws grew up and to gather a bit of family history for my husband. One of those towns is Laurel, Mississippi which is also home to the HGTV show “Home Town” which I believe will have begun filming again. We will be there in the middle of the week so hopefully we might catch a glimpse of some of the action.

Normally I spend hours trying to figure out what project to take with me. Not this time. Simplicity and Focus are my guiding words which will be evident in my packing and my projects. Hubby is kind of nervous because he knows how I would get in the past if the project wasn’t right. I’m not that person anymore.

I want to be fully present on the trip and aware of everything around me. I want to really see the countryside, the people, the buildings, everything there is to see. My plan is to keep a travel journal. I will take pictures, sketch, write, and observe. I’m taking my iPad Pro because I am learning how to sketch and letter using it, but I really want to go old school: paper, pencils – sketching and color – as well as a mini watercolor set. I want to use my other creative abilities to record our adventure.

I will take fibery stuff for the class, and I am going to a fiber festival, so this trip is not going to be void of all woolly loveliness. It will just be in perspective with the excursion.

You see, when I work on knitting, crochet or especially spinning, I loose myself in the process. If we were traveling on a well known path and the destination alone was the focus, this would not even be up for discussion. But, we’re not traveling that way. Everything on this trip will be new to my eyes. I’ve been to parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee before, but not these parts; and I’ve never step foot in North Carolina. The Blue Ridge Mountains just create a certain visual for me, I don’t want to miss anything. The beauty of my fiber arts is that if I capture the trip using these other methods, then when I come home I can translate those memories into fiber art. It really is a win-win situation. Hubby will have to experience it to believe it. He’s a perpetual skeptic.

Blue Ridge Fiber Festival here I come.

It’s going to be a grand adventure!

The Middle

Just Make Me Laugh

For most of my life I have opted for a good sit com over most any other form of television programming. Unfortunately my husband does not share this opinion; the ability to record TV shows has probably saved our marriage. I silently endure evenings with various alien or big foot hunting, animals eating animals, or Andrew Zimmern eating anything bizarre and disgusting. But, as long as that little red button is glowing, I know my shows await me for the next day’s viewing pleasure.

For the past nine years I have watched every single episode of The Middle. Who can’t identify with this lovable, crazy, disorganized family? While everything that happened with them was over the top, there was always that nugget of familiarity that allowed us to laugh at ourselves. Didn’t we all feel just a little better about our lives after watching the Heck’s antics? I know I did.

Above all, I love the relationship between Axl and Sue. Brothers and sisters have a unique bond and the teasing and jokes seem to be universal. Axl was forever rolling his eyes and giving Sue grief over her unique point of view and ways of doing things. In high school she embarrassed him on a daily basis, but in college he quietly made sure she was always OK. Through it all, he loved her and showed it in the way that was natural for him. Like Sue I openly adore my brother and have a tendency to want to cling to him. He, like the Heck men, is not one for being overly demonstrative in the traditional sense, but there is no doubt he loves me and would do anything in his power for me.

I Don’t Do Finales

The older I get, I find I don’t like watching series finales. Maybe it is because I don’t want to say goodbye to folks who have become like family, or that I just don’t like the lump I get in my throat when I know I’m going to cry. I try to delude myself into thinking that if I don’t watch it, the show hasn’t really ended. OK, I know that last one is pitiful, but I can’t deny the reality.

I had to watch the series finale of The Middle. The story of Axl leaving home for a job in Denver, was absolute Heck family gold. It was the perfect balance of laughter and tears; a bittersweet celebration of family. It was the perfect good-bye.

Frankie had tried to be stoic and “cool” so Axl would want to come back to visit, or just pick up the phone when she called. She had stuffed all those feelings way down deep inside, and was a time bomb waiting to explode.

While discussing their family cell phone plan, Axl said “Just take me off the family plan.” To him, this was a common sense solution to the problem of data use overage. But to Frankie this was symbolic of Axl leaving the family and she could no longer be the cool mom. She made Mike stop the car, jumped out and began walking back the way they had come. All her pent up emotions come flowing out, her family standing there, not sure what to say or do. Things were changing and there was nothing she could do about it. Through tears Frankie said, “This is the end of an era. The five of us will never be together like this again.” With perfect timing, love, and gentleness, Mike tells her, “That’s the way it is supposed to be.”

The family plan had worked well for twenty something years and now it was time for the plan to change.

Letting Go

I was usually the one doing the leaving. But now I see the change in the family plan from a different perspective. I am not just the child. I am the child, the sister, the aunt, the wife, mom, mother-in-law, and Mimi. We spend our lives living according to the established plan; everyone has their place, their roles, and and we are quite comfortable. A new person comes in or someone moves on and the family plan has to accommodate. But the family plan is still intact; we are all still connected because we are family. This was the truth I was reminded of as The Middle drew to a close.

I believe that many of us consider the weirdness of our family to be different from what happens in other homes – but it’s not. We are all more alike than different. Some are just brave enough to put it out there for the world to see. I think we should embrace what makes us and our families unique because only then are we fully who we’re created to be and able to impact the world around us for good.

Things will be different now that I don’t have the Heck’s in my life every week, but that’s OK…no, that is how it should be. Change is inevitable; it is how we deal with the change that determines the quality of the next phase of life.

The Perils Of Being A Romantic

I avoided watching Call The Midwife because…well, I thought it was just about giving birth and who needs to watch ladies screaming in pain? At least this is what I told myself. I have a PhD (Piled Higher & Deeper, according to Hunter-Gatherer) in self delusion. I can convince myself of most anything and my arguments are top notch. So, I didn’t consider my “No Call The Midwife” position as anything but sound logic. And then I really watched an episode. Oh my. How I was wrong.

My First Time

I don’t remember what happened in the first episode I watched. I only remember how I felt. I do know that HG was not home, and for some reason it seems it was cold outside. That last part could be entirely wrong, but watching this amazing period piece set in chilly East End London in the 1950’s always makes me imagine it is cold here as well. The stories all center around a group of nurse midwives and the nuns with whom they work and live. I must admit that even after watching that first episode I did not become a regular viewer. Again, I convinced myself that it was because of the timing, Sunday evenings, or the fact that like most British television programs it only aired a few episodes a year then was gone for months at a time. More personal delusion.

The fact of the matter was that it touched me somewhere deep in my soul and I wasn’t sure I wanted those areas to see the light of day. Was it the never giving birth myself thus too painful of a reminder? Possibly. Was it just too emotional? Could be. Or was it something else? Could it be that there are many forms of giving birth? Birth to relationships, ideas, personal growth, or just open to the possibilities life has to offer?

Savor vs Binge

Thanks to technology humans can now sit in front of a television, computer or tablet and watch television programs nonstop for days at a time if they so choose. It is not the healthiest of habits to be sure, and one that folks like me need to be wary of. Fortunately, this program should not be viewed in such a manner. There is much to digest, allowing it to permeate one’s soul. I have decided to savor it. Watching, living, imagining, and dreaming. I watch the nurses in action and remember. I was a nurse. I always say I fell into nursing because it was not something I grew up wanting to do with my life. I never had the calling of a nurse, but I was a good caretaker. So why did I travel that path?

The Journey

I graduated high school with absolutely no idea what I was going to do with my life. A fairly scary experience. I came to Texas to spend the summer with my childhood best friend and her family, and something happened one morning around the breakfast table that sent me home with a plan. I knew I wanted to be a mom and yet I knew nothing about taking care of kids. So, I decided that I would go to school to learn to be a Medical Assistant and specialize in the care of children. At the end of the summer that is exactly what I did. I returned home to California and enrolled in the California College for Medical Careers. Nine months later a new medical professional was born. I became certified, got a job and life moved forward.

Not having a college degree or proper title was always a source of embarrassment. I felt less than, and was always trying to improve myself. I decided to take another step forward in my career and attended a hospital based Licenses Vocational Nurse program at Hermann Hospital in Houston. Hermann Hospital, at that time, was one of the oldest and most well regarded hospitals in the country. It was and is the teaching hospital for The University of Texas and home base of Life Flight founded by Dr. Red Duke. I felt as though I was among the elite of the elite and quite proud. I graduated with honors and received an award for compassionate care.

I went to work on the pediatric nephrology unit and lasted only six months. I did not have a strong mentor and my personal life was crashing down around me. I left hospital nursing to return to the pediatrician’s office where I had worked as a medical assistant. I loved my work there and should have never left. But, leave I did.

Putting The Pieces Together

I spent a total of twenty two years in the medical profession. I cared for hundreds of children and touched lives in ways I will never know. I look back proudly at that service, and that is why I watch Call The Midwife. In the days when this show took place, nursing was a much more limited profession – no technology, fewer medications, thus more human contact. It was gritty, hard, painful but rewarding work. I chose to be an LVN because I wanted to touch lives and care for people. I was not interested in being in the OR, ICU, or any other high stress area. I just wanted to make a difference and I am confident that I accomplished that goal.

One of the children I cared for in the pediatrician’s office later became my step-daughter and now mother of my grandchildren. Our family’s circle of life is slightly different than most but it is intact. You see, what I considered a personal flaw – not staying in the hospital situation and furthering my career, moving backward so to speak – was actually me following a higher path.

Only God knew what lie ahead for HG, his wife and daughter and where my compassionate care would be needed the most. So, now I put on my rose colored glasses to enjoy Call The Midwife. I can recall the joys of caring for people in need, understand the hard work, and be grateful for the time I had in that role. Then I take the glasses off and re-enter the real world to care for the people God has placed in my life.

Life In The Rear View Mirror

It is so easy to romanticize the past or paths not taken. I am one of those dreamers who lives in her own head and sometimes forgets to live in the real world. I plan and scheme for things to be different to the point I can miss the good that is right in front of me. When I look back on the choices I have made and the turning points in my life I am amazed. I’m so grateful that God had a firm grip on me as I was completely clueless.

I’m turning sixty in less that a month, so I suppose it is normal to be doing a bit of reflecting as well as looking ahead to what I want the remainder of my life to look like. I am doing less looking backward or forward and more living in the here and now. I have taken the necessary steps to limit unhealthy daydreaming and am trusting more and thinking less. Seems a little counter intuitive for the world we live in, but I believe that is my recipe for a good and peace filled life.

Until Next Time,

In With The New

Happy 2018 to all!

I heard something funny on a television news segment about traditional good luck foods eaten on the first day of a new year. This chef said that pork is traditional because pigs can only move forward. They cannot walk backwards. I had no idea. I have not fact checked this, but I choose to believe it to be true and think it there is something to be learned from these amazing creatures.

We had something of a watershed end of the year in my family that I think is going to lead to healthier relationships amongst all of us. Sometimes it takes an outsider coming into a tight knit circle to help give clarity and perspective to the very small worlds we build for ourselves. The exact details are not important, but what is important to share is that, at the end of the day, we have very few people with whom we share our lives. It behooves all to make the best of those relationships…as is possible. And when it is not possible; when the damage is so severe that separation is the only thing possible, then I believe God brings a new “family” into our lives to help fill the hole in our hearts.

Now…Back To The Future

I believe that when we stay connected to God we become sensitive to His movement in the universe around us. For me this becomes evident in my attitude. When I am disconnected I look at the world through an ever darkening lens. It is as if I am going blind…and in my blindness I panic. And trust me, I can panic with the best of them! Those who know me intimately have seen Sheryl panic up close and personal it isn’t pretty. But how can panic ever be pretty? It can’t be. It shouldn’t be.

Sometimes a bee or a wasp sneaks in the back door when it is opened to let the dog in or out. Those poor things fly all around but always come back to the light shining through the window. They bump into the glass, buzz back and forth, then (I imagine they are exhausted but who knows) they rest for a while before the cycle begins again. I feel bad for them. I don’t want to kill them – nor do I want to be stung – so I open the back door, fan it back and forth trying to create a suction of air to pull them out. When it works and they fly out and off into the world, they are free. No more panic.

In Whom Do I Trust?

Misplaced trust can be devastating. But God assures me that trust in Him will set me free from panic…”The one who trusts will not panic.” Isaiah 28:16. The key is in whom that trust is placed. Isaiah refers to the “cornerstone.” That cornerstone is our Lord, Jesus Christ. “In God We Trust” is printed on the currency of the United States of America. I don’t think this was an accident on our founders’ part. Without God it is so easy for other things like money, material possessions, and the pursuit of both, to become our gods. We are to always remember and only trust the one true God.

So, let’s move forward together. Stay connected…stay free…pass it on.

Until tomorrow…