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Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Missed Adventure

(Click any photo to enlarge)
I woke up pretty sick Friday morning. We had planned a hike to Duke Creek Falls after breakfast, and there was talk of cancelling the hike. I didn't want everyone to miss out on my account. I was too sick to go with them, but I wasn't incapacitated ... I could look after myself while they were gone. My doctor called in a prescription for me, and I persuaded them to go without me. Promising to take lots of pictures, they headed out on their adventure while I took my medicine and went back to bed.

I missed out on a beautiful drive and hike, but ... true to their word ... they took lots of pictures. There are numerous waterfalls at Duke Creek that converge into one before falling into (where else?) ... Duke Creek. As beautiful as their pictures were, I know firsthand that it's impossible to capture the beauty of a waterfall in a photograph.

We have to head home to the real world today, but we'll be back. The mountains and waterfalls aren't going anywhere. They'll be waiting for me the next time I'm here ... and I'll see this waterfall then.

A peek of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.
So picturesque.
My boyfriend and his son-in-law ...
Thing B's first love and her last love :)
A view of the mountains at one of the lookout points along the highway.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Jethro? Is that you?

How is he still single?!!
A camo Maza Miata. Check out all the customization!
While running to pick up a prescription for me yesterday morning, my boyfriend saw the epitome of a redneck playboy driving down the road in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Think Jethro Bodine. If you don't know who Jethro is, it would be worth the time to look up some Beverly Hillbillies clips of him trying to attract women on YouTube.

The gauge in my boyfriend's truck said the outside temperature was 29º, but traveling down the highway with the top down, the wind chill inside Jethro's "chick magnet" had to be well below zero. When Jethro pulled into a gas station, my boyfriend followed and discreetly took a couple of pictures. I guess my sweetie knew words alone would not do justice to this scenario. (In order to protect the innocent guilty, I've obscured the license plate number and Jethro's face).

As hard as it is to believe, Ladies ... this Twenty-First Century Jethro is single. See? It says so right on the bumper of his pimped-out, camouflaged sports car! I'm not sure that's something he needs to advertise, though ... I think it's safe to assume that when people see him in that car, they pretty much already know he's single. Bless his heart.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Just a Typical Thanksgiving Day Feast

I was looking through the channel guide on television a few days ago, and the above description came up for a cooking show, featuring "a traditional Thanksgiving", with turkey breast porchetta, bacon bourbon brussels sprouts skewers, and smashed root vegetables.

Um, yeah. Uh-huh. Thanksgiving ... just like grandma used to make.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Strange Thanksgiving!

I made two pumpkin cheesecakes the other night ... one for me to take to the mountains, and one for my kids to take to my sisters.

My boyfriend invited me and my kids to his cabin in the mountains for Thanksgiving. Initially they all said they could make it, but it turned out that none of them can get off work long enough. My oldest daughter and I were talking about Thanksgiving and she said something about cooking it this year. I told her I would cook (I always have!). She said she thought I was going to the cabin. I replied that I wasn't going since none of the kids could go. "Mom," she said, "I think you should go. I can cook something and have Thing 2 and 3 over."

I told her I didn't know ... it didn't feel right to go out of town on a holiday without my kids. She poo-pooed my reservations and told me to go and have fun ... then began filling her Pinterest board with "easy" Thanksgiving menu ideas. I told her I'd have to talk to the others before I made up my mind.

I broached the subject with Thing 2. She said "I've already talked to Thing 1 about this, and I think you should go. It's not like it's Christmas. All I eat is some mashed potatoes and the skin off the turkey." Then I approached Thing 3. I started to ask him about it, but he cut me off ... "I heard. I think you should go."

Golly ... they all sure seem anxious to get rid of me!!!

I made the decision to go to the mountains, but it felt wrong! To appease my conscious (somewhat), I called Thing 1 and asked if she wanted me to make my green beans and a pumpkin cheesecake for them so that there would be a little bit of "me" at Thanksgiving, and she immediately gushed "Yes! Thing 1A (her new husband) was wanting your pumpkin cheesecake, and it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without your green beans!"

One of my sisters called. She knows I'm going out of town and asked if the kids would want to come to her house. I wasn't sure if Thing 1 had her heart set on cooking this year or if she had already bought food for the feast, so told my sister to call them. She did, and they all accepted, so I feel a little less guilty at abandoning my children. With the exception of last year, we always celebrate Thanksgiving with my sister and her family (read about the first celebration here).

I took a day of vacation on Wednesday and rode to the mountains with my boyfriend's sweet daughter and her new husband. Today, she and I will prepare the feast together (the turkey is already started). I expect to have a wonderful time while I'm there, and I know my kids will have fun at my sister's house ... they all love her, her husband, and their little cousin ... but I'm still struggling a little with the guilt.

I was pregnant with Thing 3 when I separated from their father, so it's just been me and my three little bears all these years. They were my world. They've been the deciding factor in every decision I've ever made. Raising kids, especially alone, is hard work. When I dreamed of having children, I honestly had no idea how much work it would be. It was draining, difficult, and lonely ... but I did it. There were a few bumps and detours, but they all turned out pretty good. They're smart, witty, cute, and fun to be around ... and I'm very proud of all of them.

Because it was "us against the world", I'm closer to my kids than most. I'm thankful that they all have their own lives and friends and jobs. I spent many years overwhelmed, struggling, and sleep-deprived, and dreaming of the day I'd have my life back. And now I do. It is nice not to have to worry about keeping three tiny humans alive, chasing them around all day, and collapsing into bed exhausted every night. It was a wild ride, but we made some great memories and had a lot of fun. 

I know I'll have a good day and so will my kiddo's ... but I sure do miss them.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

An Old-Fashioned Budweiser Beer Delivery

(Photo courtesy of Tricia Weir)
The Budweiser Clydesdale's delivered beer to all the bars along and near Franklin Street last Friday night. I had already made plans, so I didn't get to see them. Franklin is such an old-fashioned, picturesque street, and those horses and the wagon are so charming. Luckily, some friends went and sent me a few pictures. I wish I could have seen them in person ... I love these horses!
(Photo courtesy of Jeanne White)
(Photo courtesy of Tricia Weir)
(Photo courtesy of Tricia Weir)
And here's my favorite Budweiser commercial ...

I heard that there were some people offended by this commercial (shown during the Super Bowl after 9/11). They claimed Budweiser was exploiting the terrorist attack for profit. I didn't see it that way at all ... I see it as Budweiser showing reverence and honoring the victims, their families, and our nation. I, for one, found the commercial both respectful and moving.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Armpit Hair Leads to Car Crash

(Photo courtesy of AP/Ada County Sheriff's Office)
Yes, you read that right ... armpit hair caused a car crash! More precisely ... an armpit hair fire was the root cause!

I didn't have to read the article to know this accident involved teenage boys.

For those of you who have lived through, or are currently living with teenage boys, this bit of news comes as no surprise. For those of you with future teenage boys ... this is your head's-up!

Click here to read the full article.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

How to Avoid Hotel Ghosts in Asia

I read an article from an "expert" that claims his/her advice will help you avoid ghosts in your hotel room in Asia. I assume this advice holds true for Bed & Breakfasts and hostels, but that's an assumption on my part, as the article did not specifically say these tips work anywhere except hotels. The article also specifically said "ghosts in hotels in Asia", not a generic "ghosts in hotels", so these helpful tidbits may or may not work in other places around the world. If you find yourself in ... oh, let's say Europe ... and suspect your hotel room could be haunted, you could try these, but I can't guarantee their effectiveness. They might work ... but then again, they might really p*** off a French ghost! So, outside of Asia, try them at your own peril! I've paraphrased the "experts" advice, and included my thoughts (in red), as a bonus!

You're welcome!

Knock Three Times
Before you open the hotel room door, firmly knock three times ... as opposed to knocking three times on the ceiling which, according to the song, means you want Tony Orlando!

Announce Yourself
But only if you speak the local language. Like we had to be told this! Duh!

Declare the Length of Your Stay
Upon entering your hotel room, declare the length of your stay. This is a sign of respect ... because it's disrespectful to disrespect a ghost!

How to Enter the Room
Enter the room with your body pivoted so that any ghosts who would like to leave have the space to do so. Wait a minute ... can't ghosts just go through you ... or the wall??

Set Up the Space
You need to show signs of the living. Open the curtains, turn on all the lights, and turn on the television. I'd avoid turning on The Walking Dead. I have a feeling that particular show might spook even the ghosts ... and selecting one of the 'Casper' movies might be construed as mocking!

Flush the Toilet
This purges the bathroom of any negative energy. It also lets the ghosts know you are there and that you are alive. Can't ghosts already tell you are there ... and alive? If not, how do they know who to haunt? Do they ever inadvertently haunt another ghost??

Want to Avoid Waking to Find a Ghost Watching You?
Simply make sure your shoes (or slippers) are facing opposite directions on the floor. This (apparently) confuses ghosts as to where you are. They can't see me if my shoes are facing the same direction?? My kids will be happy to know their sloppiness has made them invisible to ghosts!

If There is a Second Bedroom in Your Suite
Put your suitcase or some clothes on the bed so there isn't room for an unwanted spirit. They get in my bed when I'm not there or otherwise laying claim to it? Maybe my kids weren't lying ... maybe they really didn't mess up their beds after I made them!

Leave the Bible Out
In Asia, leaving a Bible out is considered good luck, so leave it on the desk as warning to the ghosts. A warning for what? If, however, you come back and find the Bible opened, the room is haunted and you should check out. So does that mean none of the steps above will work if the ghost opens the Bible???? If that's the case, I may skip this last bit of advice!

I hope these helpful tips make your hotel stay in Asia much less stressful and ghost-free!!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Wild Turkeys

(Click on the image to enlarge)
While on our trip a few weeks ago, we spied a rafter of wild turkeys as we descended the mountain to go on another adventure. I didn't get my camera out quickly enough to capture the whole gang, but this one waited patiently by the side of the road for me take her picture before slipping into the woods with her camera-shy companions ... or maybe she's just vain and fancies herself as the photogenic one. I guess she could be famous in these parts and wanted to give her fans a photo-op! (haha!) I wish I would have gotten a picture of all of them. It was quite a sight ... there were a couple dozen of them!

Hunting wild turkey is only permissible for a short window in March and April, so I guess if you want to serve a wild turkey you caught yourself for Thanksgiving, you're going to have to prepare well in advance!

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Treat From Thing 2

When I came downstairs this morning, there was a note from Thing 2 for me. She made some kind of treat for me!

I don't know the official name of this treat, but it's kind of a Chex Mix/Puppy Chow kind of concoction. It looks like it's got Chex cereal, popcorn, white chocolate and sprinkles. It's pretty good! Per the note, I took it to work to share with everyone there ... and I expect the bowl to be empty when I leave today.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Growing Up ... A Nostalgic Walk Down Memory lane

Thing 2 is finally at an age that world news matters to her. She's heard me tell Thing 1 that she will raise her children (when she has them) in a different America than the one she was raised in. Thing 2 was concerned and asked if that was true. I told her it was, but reminded her that she was raised in a different America that I was.

Things were different when I was a child. The world safer back then. There was evil then, too, but it wasn't as rampant as it is today. Boundaries were crystal clear, not ambiguous. Children respected authority. No one expected to be given anything ... if you wanted something, you had to work for it. We didn't get new toys and clothes all the time. We got new clothes for school and summer, or when we needed new ones, not because we simply wanted new ones. We got toys on our birthday and Christmas. We got candy on Easter and Halloween. Cakes and cupcakes were a treat, rarely seen outside of birthdays. Homemade cookies, however, were almost always in a jar on the kitchen counter, and my mother must have bought apples by the truckload.

When I was a child, my parents had no idea where I was all day. They had set the limits as to where we were allowed to roam, and we stayed within those boundaries. Us kids would leave right after breakfast and be gone until we were hungry for lunch. After lunch, we'd be off playing until we were called home for dinner. After dinner, we'd take off again, coming home only when we were called home for bedtime. When my kids were little, I'd have a panic attack if I couldn't find them. It's not that I was an overbearing, helicopter parent ... kids simply aren't as safe these days.

My childhood days were spent doing cartwheels, back bends, round-off's, and Arabian flips. We'd spend hours drawing houses in chalk, then having chalk-stained back sides from sitting on chalk couches and "sleeping" in our chalk beds. We'd pull a picnic table under a tree, then use clothespins to drape a sheet to the branches to make our covered wagon. We'd line up our bikes in front, tether our "horses" together with a rope, then drive our wagon train out west ... and spend the entire day traversing the perils of the untamed frontier on the Oregon trail.

Sometimes we'd clip a playing card to the frame of our bikes with a clothespin and turn them into motorcycles. We'd take long, lazy, meandering bike rides. Our baskets were often filled with a sack lunch and a baby doll. If we were lucky enough, our moms would let us take a coke with us (and by "coke", I mean Ski or Double Cola) ... and we'd bring a bottle opener, because canned cokes had yet to be invented. We'd ride our bikes to the Tot Lot, eat at the picnic table or on the grass, then spend the afternoon making clover necklaces, rings, bracelets ... and for the more creative ... earrings. When we ran out of places to adorn with jewelry, we'd just string clovers together in one long row. Sometimes we'd connect all our our clover garlands together and marvel at how long they were.

After that, we'd climb on the metal monkey bars or go down the slicky-slide ... scorching our hands and butts. Sometimes we'd get "creative" and go down backwards or on our bellies and fly off the end into the dirt, which had been ground into powder from years of pounding. We'd push each other on the merry-go-round until we were too dizzy to walk straight. We'd swing as high as we could, then jump out. We'd sit opposite of each other on the see-saw and lazily push each other up and down ... or push off the ground as hard as we could and try to fling the other one off.

On hot, humid days, my mom would let us get the sprinkler out. The whole neighborhood would be in our front yard, running through the water, screeching and giggling with delight. We'd drink gallons and gallons of Kool-Aid from the never-ending supply in the fridge. We'd fill a cup with Kool-Aid, put a spoon in it and stick it in the freezer and make our own popsicles. We invented culinary delicacies like bologna and potato chip sandwiches, impressed by how clever we were. We'd drink the nectar of honeysuckle and eat wild onions without ever stopping to consider that a dog had probably pee'd on them.

In the evening, my dad would walk into the front yard and whistle ... the same whistle every time ... and everyone knew that meant my sisters and I had to go home. His whistle could probably be heard into the next county. My dad had a stroke when I was around twelve. After that, he couldn't whistle anymore. Until then, when we heard the whistle, we'd obediently go home for dinner, leaving our bikes laying on the ground in the front yard ... and they were always there in the morning.

Back then, kids rarely went inside another kids house. We played outside all day. I'm sure it rained when I was a child, but I don't have any memories of being stuck inside waiting for a storm to pass. I remember waking up, eating a bowl of cereal, then heading outside to start the day. By supper time, our long hair would be tangled and our skin would be coated in dust ... but with a little soap and water, we'd be good as new.

A lot of wonderful advances have been made in medicine and technology since I was a child. These things make our lives easier and allow us to live longer, but some of these conveniences have come at a price. When I was a child, I imagine it was hard for pedophiles to get their hands on child pornography. The internet now makes it easy for them to download all the trash they can choke on, until watching someone else rape a child doesn't do it for them anymore. Social media has taken bullying and stalking to a whole new level, allowing terrorists to recruit anonymously from afar. About the only good thing to come out of the last generation were the civil rights for blacks.

It wasn't that long ago that infidelity in marriage by a politician or celebrity killed their careers. Having a child out of wedlock was something to be ashamed of. Now, affairs are shrugged off and illegitimate children are more common than those born within marriage. Society is decaying ... and no one seems to care. How can we teach our daughter's to dress modestly when celebrities are handsomely rewarded for and have built extremely lucrative careers on sex tapes and naked selfies? How can we teach our son's to respect women when celebrities and sports role models beat their wives and girlfriends and walk away with a lucrative contract and a slap on the wrist?

I wish my kids could have grown up in the freedom I knew as a child. I wish my grandchildren would know that freedom, too. But they won't. America has changed ... and not all the changes are for the better.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I Say the Squirrels Did It

My boyfriend insists the damage to his outdoor bistro table was done by a human. I, however, insist the squirrels had something to do with it. He thinks I've lost my mind. If I have lost my mind, you can bet your bottom dollars it's got something to do with squirrels or raccoons!

BUT ... he also thought I had lost my mind when I insisted the squirrels had something to do with my patio cushion being ripped open ... (you can read about it here). I was vindicated when I witnessed one of those glorified rats sneak out of the tree, grab a handful of chair stuffing, put it in its mouth, then run across the yard! I secretly hoped it would stuff too much in it's house and suffocate.  And that it stinks to high-heavens in there in the summer.  And that it's allergic to polyester ... or whatever that stuffing consisted of.

P.S. We got 5" of snow overnight Sunday, not 4" ... which explains the widespread panic in this area.

P.P.S. It was only 11º (wind chill of -2º) when I got up, and the high is only supposed to be 24º. If this is a harbinger of things to come, I'm not sure I will survive this winter.

Monday, November 17, 2014


We got 4" of snow last night, which means local news stations are pre-empting regular broadcasting to cover the severe weather, accidents are shutting down roads and intersections, there is no bread or milk in the stores, all the schools and a surprising number of businesses. Even though it means a day off work, I don't like snow. Or cold. Or winter. Heck, I don't even like autumn ... which is just pre-winter.

We don't usually see any measurable snow until closer to Christmas at the earliest. Typically, January is our snowy month, and even then it's generally mild by anyone's standards (but everything still closes and there is no bread or milk left in the stores). Last year was a bit of an anomaly, with a lot more snow and much colder temperatures, but then, everyone had a bad time of it last winter. Still, we had it better than "the North" did.

Technically, I live in "the North", although I bristle at being included in that category. I live a stones throw from "the South" ... I can practically see it from my back window! In these parts, we don't get the snow and cold associated with "the North". A typical winter is cold (30's-40's during the day), but it's not bitter cold more than a few days at a time, and dipping into single digits or below zero is rare. Snow, even record snows like the Christmas of 2005, don't last that long because the temperature doesn't stay below freezing more than a few days. We'll get snow, and within a couple of days, it's gone without a trace. 

Most of "the North" can't say that ... especially my poor sister and brother-in-law in Minnesota. They've toyed with the idea of moving south, to perhaps North Carolina. They're both genius-smart, and have the skills to get a job anywhere, but I'm guessing they won't move, if they ever do, until they retire ... and that's years in the future. I wish they would move to North Carolina, though ... I'd visit them a lot more if they did! They're empty-nester's now, so there's no reason they can't move now ... except I think my brother-in-law (raised in Michigan) is part penguin ... or allergic to pretty weather. Poor guy.

When they come down to see us in the summer, their children are miserable in the stifling humidity we have here. I only say "stifling" because I'm told it is. Personally, I like our summers! I don't care if my heat is dry or wet ... as long as my heat is warm, I'm happy. 

My kids and I went to see them one summer. 

It was June. 

They were having what they described as a "heat wave". 

We about froze to death. 

The kids and I would be in a pile, like puppies, trying to stay warm, while all the natives were walking around in shorts and tank tops! We had a wonderful time, and there is so much to do there ... but Minnesota is just too cold. If God wanted me to visit Minnesota, even in the summer, He'd have made me a lot fatter!

One of my co-workers lost about 65 pounds this past year. He was always ribbing me for being so cold (and shivering like a scared chihuahua) ... even in the summer (they keep it way too cold in our offices). Now he's miserable (and shivering like a scared chihuahua) ... and wondering if he should gain some of that weight back! 

Welcome to my world, honey.

All of the experts say we're going to have another cold, snowy winter again this year. I know they're probably right, but I'm desperately hoping their wrong. The scariest part is ... it's not even winter yet!!! I may have to rent out rooms to pay my heating bills.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Stupid Tax

I admit it ... I shop at Walmart. And, as a rule, I make a great many Walmart-brand purchases. I've found no difference between most Walmart-brand and name-brand items, and in some instances, I actually prefer the Great Value brand.

When I went to the grocery last weekend, I picked up some Great Value toilet paper ... the BIG pack ... five packages of 4 rolls each, for a total of 20 rolls. I'd never purchased their brand of toilet paper before, but I like their other store-brand items, so I figured I'd give it a go. "If we don't like it," I told myself, "I won't buy it again. Besides, we go through multiple rolls a week ... it won't last long."

I opened a roll when I got home and discovered it was very, very, very thin.  I wondered if, perhaps, there was a problem at the paper plant, and they had accidentally packaged tissue paper as toilet paper ... except it was about half the thickness of tissue paper ... and not as soft.

Thing 2 commented on it, and not in a favorable way. I can't blame her. I comment on it to myself, and not in a favorable way, every time I use it, too. Worse still, is that it seems to be lasting a lot longer than the soft stuff I usually buy. When I bought this package, I figured I'd have to buy another jumbo pack of toilet paper before Thanksgiving, but at the snails-pace we're going through it, I fear we'll be using this stuff not only at Christmas this year, but next year as well!

I could donate the unopened rolls to a shelter or something, but I bought it, and so I'll continue to use it until it's gone. Besides, people in shelters have enough problems, and it would be like adding insult to injurty to force this upon them as well. I'll just consider this be what I like to refer to as "stupid tax" ...

When you do stupid things, there is a price to pay. 

This isn't my first brush with stupid tax, and (sadly) it likely won't be my last, but it will be the last time I pay it regarding toilet paper! This doesn't discourage me from shopping at Walmart or purchasing their store-brand items, but I will never, ever, EVER, EVER purchase Great Value toilet paper again.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Uh-Oh ... This Can't Be Good

I've seen this before (Where's Waldo?) ...
and it's never a good sign when a cat is that interested in the corner!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Thursday, November 13, 2014

My Hibiscus Don't Know It's Winter

The frigid air pushing in from the arctic hit the area I live in sometime overnight. It was only 27º when I woke up this morning, and the high is only supposed to be 34º ... but the three hibiscus trees that I'm over-wintering inside don't seem to care. They have been blooming profusely since I brought them in, and with the number new buds on each of them, they seem prepared to blossom for a while yet.  These gigantic beauties will make the this freak November cold spell just a little more palatable. I don't know how long they will continue to bloom, but I will delight in them as long as they do!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My Apple Dumpling Recipe

1 Large Apple
4 Large "Grand-Style" Flaky Biscuits
1 Lemon
1/2 C. Butter (1 stick)
1/4 t. Vanilla
4 t. Cinnamon
1 C. Water

  1. Heat oven to 375º.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring the water, 3/4 C. of the sugar, the butter, and vanilla to a boil, then remove from heat
  3. Mix the remaining 1/4 C. of sugar and the cinnamon in a small bowl, and set aside.
  4. Peel, core, and slice the apple into eight wedges. (I used an apple corer, then I cut each wedge into thirds.)
  5. Squeeze the lemon over the apple slices to keep them from turning brown, then sprinkle a tablespoon or so of the cinnamon/sugar mixture over them and toss to coat.
  6. Carefully separate four biscuits in half, wrapping one apple wedge (or three slices ... if you sliced each wedge like I did) inside each biscuit half, pinching the edges to seal.
  7. Place the dumplings in a casserole dish and pour the hot butter/sugar mixture over them, then sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon/sugar.
  8. Bake (uncovered) for 35 minutes.
Makes 8 mouth-watering dumplings.

Apple Dumplings

When my boyfriend and I went to his cabin in Georgia, I went armed with some new recipes to try. Some were for "real" food, and some were for desserts. I made apple dumplings one evening, and they had both of us swooning! This photograph doesn't make it look nearly as good as it tasted! The brown on top is not chocolate (as my boyfriend first thought), but rather a cinnamon-sugar crust.

I have wanted an apple dumpling ever since I was a child and I read a book where a young girl made apple dumplings, The Middle Sister. I wasn't exactly sure what an apple dumpling was ... but I wanted one! I have tried to imagine what they might taste like ... but my imagination could never conger up anything that tasted this good! I tweaked the recipe I found online, ... and my, oh my, oh my ... YUM!!! Sometimes you build something up in your mind and the reality is never as good, so I was almost afraid to make them ... but these apple dumplings surpassed my expectations.

I will definitely be making these again!!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Veterans Day Thank You ...

Photo courtesy of US Dept. of Veterans Affairs
Growing up, Veterans Day was a day off school ... a day I could sleep late and lay around the house or play with friends. I was born and raised (mostly) in a time of peace for our country. As a very young child, the conflict in Vietnam was raging, but I had no concept of what "Vietnam" was. I didn't know it was the name of a country. All I knew was that Vietnam was a bad place, and people who went there never came home. I was too young to have any desire to watch the news and too innocent to understand it if I had.

Although I come from a long line of veterans, I didn't understand war or the sacrifices of the soldiers, their families, and the public at large. I lived in a world of Barbies and baby dolls, of picnics and bike rides, of cartoons every Saturday morning and big family dinners every night. My world was safe and happy and carefree ... and it never once occurred to me that the freedom and peace I enjoyed came at a price.

As an adult, and particularly as a mother, I now understand the cost of war ... the financial, physical, and emotional costs. And when I think of the cost of war on a soldier who survives, I think of the movie 'Saving Private Ryan'. It's a fictional movie about a family that sends four sons to battle in World War II. After three are killed, eight men are sent to find Private Ryan and bring him home so that his mother does not lose all her children to the war. They are successful in finding Private Ryan, but all eight of them end up losing their lives. One of the most poignant scenes in the movie is when Captain Miller, played by Tom Hanks, is dying. Captain Miller simply tells Private Ryan ... "Earn it."

The movie ends with Private Ryan, now an old man, standing at Captain Miller's grave, crying as he tells Miller that he's tried to live up to his last request, and that he hopes he proved worthy of the price Miller and his men paid to save him.

I think that is something every American should think about today. Have I earned the right to live in the freedoms paid for by the blood of others? Am I the best person I can be, worthy of their sacrifice?
Still shot from 'Saving Private Ryan'
When our troops came home from the first Gulf War, people lined the highway, cheering and waving as the military vehicles drove by, piled high with returning soldiers. I was honored to be part of the crowd that welcomed our heroes home. People stood shoulder to shoulder for miles, waving flags and banners, clapping, whistling and shouting words of thanks. I looked up and down the road, and wondered how many Vietnam veterans were in the crowd, and how different their homecoming was ... and it sickened me. Regardless of your feelings for our involvement in Vietnam, most of the men and women who served didn't have a choice. They were drafted. Our nation called them to duty and they served ... only to return home to scorn and cruelty. Soldiers returning from Vietnam would change out of their uniforms to avoid being spat upon and attacked, both physically and verbally. According to one website, 58,300 Americans died in Vietnam ... and 150,000 committed suicide after returning home. That tells me we failed these men and women miserably. The American soldiers who served in Vietnam are haunted by the atrocities they witnessed, and with no support from the American public, a staggering number of them have taken their own lives.

Another movie, 'Lone Survivor', is the true story of four Navy Seals sent into verify the location of a Taliban leader. After verifying the target, they are unable to get a satellite signal back to base. They are laying down and waiting for nightfall, when an old man and two teenagers happen upon them. They have three options: do nothing and let them go (which likely means those three would alert the Taliban to their location), tie them up and leave them to certain death, or kill them outright. The three Afghan's are unarmed, but one has a radio ... something poor shepherds do not own. The soldiers know he's affiliated with the Taliban, and that letting them go will be dangerous to them and others ... but killing three unarmed civilians is against the rules of engagement. Ignoring their gut instinct, they allow them to leave. Three of the four die, as well as a helicopter full of soldiers coming to rescue them. Only one of the Seals survives ... barely.

I was thinking about Vietnam when I watched that movie. Our soldiers couldn't tell the difference between the South Vietnamese (our allies), and the North Vietnamese (the enemy). A lot of the South Vietnamese resented the Americans presence and aided the North. Stories emerged of wholesale slaughter of entire villages at the hand of American soldiers, leaving people outraged and indignant that these men could have been so cruel and heartless. 

It was years after the Vietnam conflict ended before I was old enough to understand, or had any desire to learn about it. I now devour books and documentaries about history and war. I remember hearing stories that made me sick to my stomach, and I wondered how those men were able to reconcile what they did to innocent civilians. But when I watched 'Lone Survivor', it occurred to me that maybe the soldiers in Vietnam faced similar decisions ... either kill or be killed. I'm sure we probably killed many that posed no threat to us. I'm sure some were killed out of vengeance, frustration, and anger. but I also can't help but wonder what these soldiers saw or sensed that caused them to kill supposedly innocent, unarmed civilians. Regardless of whether they were right or wrong, I have to believe that they sensed a danger they can't explain. In the heat of battle, in the middle of war, I have a hard time believing they killed indiscriminately for the thrill of it. I know there are soldiers who snap, but I also believe that ... with few exceptions ... American soldiers are some of the bravest, most honorable individuals in the world.

On this Veterans Day, I'd like to thank every veteran and their families for the sacrifices they made. I'd like to offer my sympathies to those who lost loved ones in battle. But most of all, I'd like to tell every Vietnam veteran how much I appreciate their bravery and courage ... and apologize that they were made to feel ashamed for their service to our country. They were heroes, and they were cheated out of the heroes welcome that they deserved. It may not mean much coming from me, but I'm sorry ... and I thank you.
Photo courtesy of US Dept. of Veterans Affairs

Monday, November 10, 2014

My Heart is Happy :)

We could both feel our cares melting away as we drove up the steep, winding path to his cabin. It was late when we got there, but we made time to sit on the back deck and enjoy the cool mountain air. He grabbed his guitar as we made our way outside, where his sweet music echoed through the hills and hollows. Watching his fingers strum the guitar and listening to him play fills my soul with happiness. We stayed up late most nights, but time was irrelevant. It was so peaceful. So tranquil. So quiet. We had long conversations by the light of the moon or cuddled in silence in front of the fire ... simply enjoying our time together. A week alone with this man is never enough.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

So Pretty!

Sorry, but I can't resist showing a few more photo's of my daughter's wedding last month. Everything looked so pretty!
The head table.
The appetizer and beverage buffet.
The wedding party and the dinner buffet.
The dinner buffet.
Guests at the appetizer buffet.
Nothing says "I love you" like matching sneakers!
Their first dance as husband and wife ...
and his first dance ever.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

An Early Birthday Present

Normally I am pretty good about buying presents well in advance and saving them for the specific occasion for which they were purchased. For instance, when my boyfriend and I spent a few days in West Virginia last spring, I bought a small Grumpy Cat stuffed animal for Thing 2 (she loves Grumpy Cat), and resisted the urge to give it to her until her birthday just a few weeks ago.

My boyfriend's birthday is a still a few months off, but since we had a trip to his cabin planned, I went ahead and gave him one of his presents early ... a book called Waterfall Hikes of North Georgia. He poured over the pages like a kid who'd found his dad's stash of girlie magazines! We didn't go to any new waterfalls this time, but we did go to some of the places we'd heard about and have always wanted to see, and he took me to some places he'd been to before that he wanted me to share with me (which I thought was pretty sweet, so he got extra points for that!). We have several waterfalls and hikes marked in the book, but there's no rush ... we've got the rest of our lives to see them. Besides, the whole point of the trip wasn't just to see new things, it was also to enjoy the peace and solitude of the mountains together ... and that we did in spades.

When we went to the cabin last autumn, we were trying to hit the mountains during the peak color. We were treated to some pretty spectacular scenery, but it wasn't quite peaking then. We went a little later this year, and hit it just about right. Below are some photo's from the back deck. They were taken with my phone and don't do justice to the bold colors bursting forth across the mountains. One of these days I'll invest in a really good camera. The Blue Ridge Mountains are full of incredible beauty ... just begging to be photographed.
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Friday, November 7, 2014