Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Day After Mother's Day

As the Monday morning rush kicked into high gear and routines resumed, I thought again about my Mommy. Never one for melodramatic holidays, she reminded me on the phone that every day is Mother's Day. I must say that perspective has made a huge difference on the way I raised my own two children. Avoiding those unrealistic ideals of the perfect mom of the 50's or the super mom of the 80's, my perspective has been shaped by a loving woman whose ideal resembles more the character of Jesus Christ.

After all the hoopla is over, my Mommy is still there and still the same loving woman I have known my whole life. Her love translates into action on a daily basis. I believe she has lived a life of service with a vulnerable heart, willing to risk being hurt or criticized. That takes alot of courage. At times of pain, instead of hiding and building walls, she has persevered and allowed those experiences to help her connect and understand other women better.

Although my mommy does not seek to be the center of attention and prefers us to "hang out" together, instead of having some big party, I also realize that deep down my mommy is like the rest of us. We all want to know that we are loved deeply. So, I want to shout across the globe to all who can hear "I love my Mommy!!". She is my dearest friend and the only person alive who knows where I've been and what I've done.

Thank you, Mommy! Eu te amo!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Peace of Heaven on Earth

Friday afternoon we arrived in Atlanta. It was fun to drive into the city, admiring the architecture and flowering trees everywhere.

Downtown was crowded and many streets were blocked off due to the recent tornado damage. We went to our hotel and decided to relax, since there were tornado watches and severe storms on the way.

The next morning we decided to head home to Kentucky - to the little Piece (Peace) of Heaven where my parents live. That's where these photos were taken.

So, we accomplished what we set out to do and had quite an adventure along the way. Thank you, Emily, for being my travel mate! I'm already looking forward to next time!

Ah Dahlonega!

As we headed back to our car, it was getting dark and the mist was still incredibly heavy. At the base of the 425 stairs (see next blog) - we were surprised to see a small group of deer grazing nearby - maybe 7 or more...
It was too dark to get a good shot as they blend into the browns and greys of the hillside. It was magical!
Driving back into Dahlonega, we made it to the Crimson Moon Cafe just in time to order food before it was too late.
While sipping on hot apple cider and hot chai tea, we enjoyed live music from two favorite local musicians. What a perfect ending to a memorable day!
The next morning, we browsed around Dahlonega - bought some fudge - had one last cup of java and then jumped back into the car to head south to Atlanta.

Down the Stairs

On the Trail

Amicalola State Park

It's 6 pm, we have less than 2 hours of daylight and 8 miles of hiking to go. I thought we would never get here...We booked up the first stretch of the trail in heavy mist...trying to pretend my lungs weren't killing me.

Top of The Mountain

What an incredible sight! Mountains in every direction. I kept thinking about how in the world the pioneers got through this! Truly amazing! This is somewhere around Great Smoky Mountains meets Nantahala National Forest meets Chattahoochee National Forest meets Appalachian Mountains. It's close to South Carolina meets North Carolina meets Tennessee meets Georgia. In other words, I have no idea. Thank goodness I have a road to guide me and a great tour guide/map reader - Emily!


After a lovely one-hour ride on horseback, we got back on the road and head through the Smokies. On the southern end we discovered the town of Cherokee. It was after 6 pm, so many of the shops and sites were closing down for the evening. I'm sure that once the season is in full swing, it is quite busy. Here is a link worth checking out: http://www.cherokeeoflawrencecountytn.org/
We drove on winding roads headed east and finally arrived in Asheville, NC after 8:30pm. Downtown is full of shops, local art, museums and restaurants. We headed to Zambra, a great Iberian restaurant - known for it's tapas. I had an amazing pumpkin soup and a spinach salad. The atmosphere was great! Highly recommend!
The next morning, we walked around downtown - enjoying the art and local talent. Stopped in to visit the Black Mountain College Museum. http://www.blackmountaincollege.org/
Then we stopped in the infamous Malaprop's Bookstore and Cafe, where we enjoyed wonderful coffee and browsed the shelves - of course. http://malaprops.booksense.com/NASApp/store/IndexJsp
Shortly after 1 pm we headed out of town towards the Chattahoochee National Forest.

Enter At Your Own Risk

Entering Tennessee, we broke out of the mountains(for awhile) and headed towards Pigeon Forge. I know, I know...why didn't someone warn me!!!
There's a great line from the movie "Brother, Where Art Thou" - where they are sitting in the movie theatre and Pete tries to warn his friend:"DO NOT SEEK THE TREASURE!"
Well, that's my two cents about Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg...DO NOT GO!
It was almost more than I could bare. We found ourselves thrown into the middle of some fantasy land that was becoming more like a nightmare each mile we drove. I started to hyperventilate...wanting desperately to get into the Smoky Mountains, do some horseback riding and get as far away from there as possible. My poor brain was not computing...
All I could think about were the visitors that had traveled from far and wide to see the beauty of the Smoky Mountains and have to drive thru this to get there. Not good.

Stripping the Land

An abandoned, burned out motel that may have once been a haven for weary travelers on their long road trips. A skeleton remains..as I walked towards the windows and looked down, there was a swimming pool - filled with years of decaying leaves and rainwater.
Signs of young life are seen on the spray painted walls. It makes you ponder...
As we continued through the foothills, we began to see mining operations...sucking life out of the mountains...if it is such a good source for the economy, then why is there such poverty?
Beauty of nature in high contrast to greed of humanity. At what cost?

Goodbye Grey Skies

Wednesday morning I woke to a beautiful clear blue sky. As I drove from Indiana to Kentucky last night, I could almost feel winter peeling away and signs of spring breaking free. Brown grass began to be replaced by fresh green, daffodils waved their yellow petals and trees were budding.
We left Berea heading east and took Hwy 421 south. The road winds through the foothills of the Appalachia, passing through towns that time has forgotten. We drove through Jackson county and Clay county, into Leslie county. As we drove through the Daniel Boone National Forest, it felt as though the hills were closing in on us. Before leaving KY we drove through Harlan county. Just south of Harlan is Black Mountain, the highest peak in Kentucky, with an altitude of 4139ft. This is actually privately owned property and an incredible natural preserve.
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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Heading to the Mountains

After a fairly snowy winter in Indiana, I'm ready to hit the road in search of signs of Spring. After considering several different possibilities, Emily and I decided to head to the mountains.
We will start our road trip at Berea, KY and head south on SR 421 through some beautiful foothills of the Appalachian mountains. In the spring, the morning dew tends to hang in the hills waiting for the sun to get high enough in the sky to burn it away.
Continuing south, crossing into Tennessee, we will head to Sevierville/Pigeon Forge - entering into the Great Smoky Mountains. Before lunch, we hope to do some horseback riding through the woods. (http://www.smokymountainridingstables.com/)
Then we'll enjoy a lazy drive through the Smokies, stopping here and there to catch some great photos. We may stop at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, near Cherokee, before heading over to Asheville, NC.
The following morning we plan to visit Black Mountain College Museum. (http://www.blackmountaincollege.org/)
Emily is writing a contrast paper regarding Black Mountain College and Berea College, compared to the traditional colleges in the late 1800's - early 1900's. These two colleges had a radical vision and mission that departed from the traditional expectations of higher education.
After lunch we will leave the southern tip of the Blue Ridge Mountains and drive south into the Chattahoochee National Forest. We will spend the night in Helen, Georgia - known for it's pseudo-Germanic architecture. (http://www.helenga.org/)
In the evening we'll drive over to Dahlonega, Georgia to enjoy the local arts and music. Maybe even have time to hang out at the Crimson Moon Cafe - www.thecrimsonmoon.com
After a fun-filled evening, the next morning we will head over to Amicalola Falls (http://www.amicalolafalls.com/) for a vigorous hike. This is where the Appalachian Trail begins. During this time of year there are hundreds of hikers that begin their adventure at Amicalola and hike all the way to Maine, following the Appalachian trail from one end to the other! From what I've read on blogs and such, it takes 5-6 months to hike the entire trail - depending on how far you hike each day! Anyone want to give it a try?
In the afternoon we will head down to Atlanta and check out the Museum of High Art, as well as the Dogwood Festival at Lenox Square. More arts, music and food! Atlanta has so much to see - we had to keep it simple this time around.
Finally on our last day, we'll hike up Stone Mountain - http://www.stonemountainpark.org/ - which happens to be celebrating it's 50th anniversary! The forecast is for sunny skies, high of 71F. Hopefully we'll get a great view of the city and surrounding areas. Then it's time to start our drive back to Berea, KY. This time we'll be taking I-75 straight north.
So, check back after a few weeks - we should have some great photos to share!

Until then, happy trails to you...until we meet again...

Saturday, January 05, 2008

LBYM in 2008

LBYM - Living Below Your Means
I recently ran across a blog on Fools.com about this topic. It looks like people have been sharing their ideas and suggestions since 2000 - which is pretty cool. Definitely check it out http://boards.fool.com/Messages.asp?bid=100158&mid=26240484
So, I thought it would be worth sharing some of my own tips fwiw:
  1. Last year I learned about the "Locks of Love" - available in most areas - you receive a free haircut, if you donate your hair (at least 10") to the charity. It's a win-win.
  2. Michael "found" quite a loot in the dumpster behind his work. There were purses, Trader Joe spices, oils & mixes, several shampoos, body wash, etc. We sold some of the purses to friends, gave some to Friends of Paint Lick and have enjoyed the spices. It looked like someone had to dispose of things last minute.
  3. Living close to a college campus provides good opportunities at the end of the semester. As you walk/drive around campus, there are always tables, sofas, chairs, bookshelves, etc - sitting out - left behind as students leave for the summer.
  4. Over two years ago we went cellular - no more LAN lines. We have a family plan and have added phones as needed. It's great - no regrets.
  5. Most of our lunches are either brown-bagged or skipped. We may order pizza every few weeks and Chinese take-out once a month. I save eating out for special dates:).
I was incredibly impressed by Judi's cooking, when we saw her last Spring Break,and have tried some new recipes. Most of our meals involve ground beef or chicken. Nothing too complicated.

In terms of purchases here's my two-cents:
Is it for the right reason? In other words, will it add value to your life and fit your goals.
Is it the right time? Timing is everything. Are all your ducks in a row or should you wait a few more days, weeks, months. Don't start a project you can't finish in a timely manner - adding unnecessary stress and don't purchase a gadget you don't have time to learn or use for it's maximum value.
Is it the right purchase? Research, research, and more research. Make sure what you get is what you thought you were getting.

OK - that's my thought for the day. Feel free to add comments or share your LBYM stories.