Monday, October 31, 2011

Sparks in the dark

In 1987 I worked as a human resources manager, but for one day, exactly 24 years ago today, I left my professional persona at home and went to work in the clothing and attitude of a punk rocker. I believe that was the one and only costumed celebration of Halloween we ever had when I worked at that office. Most of us enjoyed it, but a few serious souls objected on religious grounds.

I studied the photo above for several minutes before posting it, trying to remember  anything interesting I could tell you about that day. The only thing that came to mind was that that was the day I learned that if you chew Wint-O-Green Life Savers in the dark, you can see sparks.

No doubt the subject came up because I always kept a stash of Wint-O-Green Life Savers handy in my desk drawer, so it took less than a minute for my punk-rock self and the bearer of the candy-fire news to shut ourselves in the ladies' room, turn off the lights, and watch the mirror as we chewed mints in the dark. People, it's true: they do make little flashes of light.

I spent a large part of that afternoon passing out mints and conducting guided tours of the dark restroom. No one in the office got much work done that day. Now that I think about it, perhaps it was the loss of productivity, rather than the religious objections, that put an end to our Halloween celebrations.

I guess the repressed pagan parts of our personalities run a little wild when they get turned loose.

Happy Halloween, y'all!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fluff 'n' stuff

When my Facebook account was "unavailable" for a couple of days this past week, I realized how much I've come to rely on that particular social network to keep up with what my friends and family members are doing. Big events usually rate a phone call, of course, but it's fun to know the little, moment-to-moment things, too.

Facebook and Blogger are both owned by Google, so my Google account password and login ID work for both FB and Blogger. Google was working properly, Blogger was working as it usually does, but Facebook was down. Late on the evening of the second frustrating day, I happened to check my third-party stat-counter for this blog. Whoa! There had been 730 hits that day, many multiples of the usual amount, and when I took a closer look, I discovered that all those visits were supposedly from me.

The stat-counter is set up so that it doesn't count visits from my IP address. The website showed that that feature was operating properly, and yet, there I was, 730 times. It's conceivable that I might have viewed Velvet Sacks a dozen times that day, and, out of frustration, I'm sure I may have visited Facebook twice an hour to see if it was working yet. I'm equally sure I've never visited any site 730 times in a day ever.

Seems fishy to me, but everything seems to be working right again.


It's turned cooler here in the last few days, cold enough to wear a jacket outside and cold enough to force me to give up my breakfasts outside. Fortunately, there's a patch of sunshine just my size on the patio at lunchtime. I'll miss those fresh-air meals when winter sets in.


My daughter called yesterday to see if I wanted to ride with her to Barnes & Noble, and I did, although I didn't intend to buy anything. Kim didn't find everything she was looking for at B&N, so we also went to Books-a-Million and Hobby Lobby before she decided she'd have to order what she needed online. I, on the other hand, bought a couple of things   at each of those places. You might think that indicates a lack of impulse control on my part, but you should have seen some of the wonderful things I admired and didn't buy.


As I write this, acorns are falling on the tin roof of my neighbor's garden shed. Each one   that hits sounds like a gunshot. Butch can't hear them, and Levi has heard them so many times he's no longer interested. Because I know the source of the sound, I actually kind of like it. It's an autumn kind of sound.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Wishing I was Mary

In the late summer of 1967 I was 24 years old, newly divorced, and the mother of two small daughters. I wasn't sorry that the marriage had ended, but I'd been sad for a long time that my dream of what a marriage could be had not materialized. I don't think I'd felt truly loved for a single day of the six years I was married.

That same summer Al Martino recorded "Mary in the Morning," a song that touched me deeply. I wanted to be loved the way the Mary of the song was loved, with tenderness and passion in equal proportions. Read these lyrics and see what I mean:


Mary in the Morning
(Written by Michael Rashkow and singer Johnny Cymbal)

Nothing's quite as pretty as Mary in the morning
When through a sleepy haze I see her lying there,
Soft as the rain that falls on summer flowers,
Warm as the sunlight shining on her golden hair, um-hum.

When I awake
And see her there so close beside me,
I want to take
Her in my arms,
The ache is there
So deep inside me.

Nothing's quite as pretty as Mary in the morning,
Chasing the rainbow in her dreams so far away,
And when she turns to touch me, I kiss her face so softly,
And then my Mary wakes to love another day, um-hum.

And Mary's there
In summer days or stormy weather.
She doesn't care
`Cause right or wrong the love we share,
We share together.

Nothing's quite as pretty as Mary in the evening,
Kissed by the shades of night and starlight in her hair,
And as we walk, I hold her close beside me,
All our tomorrows for a lifetime we will share, um-hum.


Before another year had passed I found that kind of love. Okay, so it lasted twelve years instead of a lifetime, but by the time it ended, I was no longer desperate for it. I'd experienced it for a time, I'd remember it always, and, most important, I'd learned that I was worth loving. Maybe that was what I'd really needed all along.

The song has remained a favorite, although I've grown to prefer Elvis Presley's version, which is the one I'm bringing to you today. (This one's for you, 4th Sister; I know how much you love Elvis.)

(Thanks to utmom2008 for posting this video on YouTube.)

Friday, October 28, 2011

No butts about it

Ronni Bennett's post about fashion this morning reminded me of a story I'd almost forgotten to tell you. It happened on the first day of my recent vacation.

The plan was for my sister to call me when she left her home in Texas, which she did. I knew I'd have three hours from then to load all my ready-for-packing clothing into luggage, bathe, put on makeup, and get dressed. I wanted to dress at the last minute so my traveling clothes would be fresh.

The problem was that my sister made really good time and arrived half an hour early. I still wasn't dressed. My daughters were here to see us off, so they visited with their aunt while I hurried around in my bathrobe to finish up. I threw on my clothes as fast as I could, then we were ready to hit the road.

I had chosen to travel in a chocolate brown T-shirt, brown sandals, and a pair of light-khaki pants. I'd picked that outfit specifically because of the pants. They were lightweight, didn't wrinkle much, had an elastic waist, and were about one size too large for me--not so large that they were ugly-baggy, but plenty roomy.

As the day progressed, I was comfortable and pleased with my choice. We stopped a few times that first day, for gasoline, restrooms, and cold drinks. At one of those stops I attempted to put change in my pocket, only to realize there were no pockets. "Hm," I thought to myself, "I could have sworn these pants had pockets." No big deal, right? I didn't give it another thought.

We traveled through three states that first day: Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Just after dark we stopped for the night at a hotel in Montgomery, Alabama. It was late and we were hungry, so we dropped off our luggage in our hotel room, took turns in the bathroom, then picked up our purses to head out for dinner.

My hand was on the doorknob when my sister yelled, "Stop!" I turned around to see what was the matter and saw her laughing and pointing at me. "Your pants," she giggled. "The fly is in the back." Indeed it was. So were the pockets. I had displayed myself across three states with my pants on backwards.

I would have been embarrassed, but I knew I'd never see any of those people again in my lifetime, so I just turned the pants around and went about my business. In fact, the more I thought about it, the funnier it got. But then I thought about it some more and the humor began to wear off a little.

I wore my pants backwards--through three states--and couldn't tell the difference. What does that say about the shape of my recently slimmed-down butt?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Drive-by Autumn

Yes, Virginia, there is an autumn, but in Louisiana you have to look harder for it. You'll find one tree on this road, another on that one, and maybe, if you drive a few miles farther north, you'll even spot a whole cluster of trees with red-orange leaves.

I drive around this area in search of autumn leaves every year about this time, and the pickings are almost always  slim. After taking some disappointing shots yesterday, today I resorted to looking through old photo files for patches of boldly colored nature. By zooming in  on previous years' largely green photos, then cropping the hell out of them, I've put together a small collection entitled "Seeing Autumn in Your Shorts and Sandals." Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Too much TV?

I remember only fragments of my dreams last night, but I'd like to be able to repeat one of the things I do remember:

As I drifted off into a dream state, a screen popped up in my head, looking very much like the list of DVR recordings on my TV screen. It was a list of dream topics. I selected one (telepathically, I suppose, for I had no remote control), my choice was highlighted for a brief moment, and then I began dreaming about that very pleasant subject.

Do you suppose the head honcho in charge of the human psyche has hired a tech support team? And if this was just a trial offer, do you know where I can sign up for the upgrade?

What I'm Reading Today: The Walk West

I enjoyed Peter Jenkins' first book enough that I was eager to follow him along the rest of his journey. Here's the sequel:

(Click the image above
for more information about this book.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Trinkets and Treasures - No. 8

We're definitely in trinket territory today, but there's something about this particular napkin-holder that appeals to me every time I see it. I bought it at least thirty years ago, in Georgia, I think. Though it's no longer in use (my "napkins" come on a roll now), it's always on display somewhere in my kitchen.

Who would have thought that a handful of colorful grains, encapsulated in Lucite, would have the power to make me happy for so many years?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Carving with a sharp knife

It's funny how much a child can remember about people who passed through her life, then moved on, never to be seen again. I'm thinking now about a man named George. (I remember his last name, too, but won't say it here.) He was my divorced mother's boyfriend when I was about seven or eight years old.

Here's a photo of handsome George, an expression of concentration on his face as he carved a Halloween pumpkin for my little sister and me:

I don't know how long George was a part of our lives. It seemed like a very long time, but when I think back now about the vast span of time between the Christmases of my childhood, I realize his relationship with my mother--with all of us--may not have lasted as long as I thought it did.

George took us along sometimes when he went out with my mother, and he visited us at home (where we lived with my grandparents) often. I remember one of those visits more than others.

George was a policeman. One day he drove up in his patrol car, parked it near the end of the driveway, and left it with the motor running while he sat on the front porch longer than he should have and visited with Mother and my grandparents. When the radio in his car began chattering, George ran to his car, listened for a moment, waved a quick goodbye, then drove away.

He didn't go far. Seconds after he left, he pulled into our next-door neighbor's driveway. The neighbor lady had hosted a card party that night, and while George was sitting on our front porch, someone had climbed through the neighbor's window, stolen the contents of her guests' purses, stuffed the purses with leaves, and fled. This all happened on the other side of a tall hedge that bordered our driveway, but no more than twenty feet away from where we sat.

Considering that plenty of fallen leaves were available for purse-stuffing purposes, I'm thinking that this incident and the pumpkin-carving event must have taken place no more than a few weeks apart.

However long George was around, his role in our lives ended abruptly. I remember feeling disappointed that he wasn't coming over anymore and sad that he hadn't told my sister and me goodbye. I don't remember what Mother told us at the time, but I'm quite sure she didn't tell us the truth.

I mentioned George to my mother once, not many years before she passed away, and she told me then what had really happened. She'd discovered that George was married. He wasn't the first man who had lied to her and wouldn't be the last.

It's funny how much a child can remember about people who passed through her life, then moved on. It's funny how someone can cut a tiny hole in a child's spirit and never even know it.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

What I'm Reading Today: Under the Skin

I pre-ordered this book, having read five others by this author and hungering for another visit with the series' main character, Elizabeth Goodweather. The book finally arrived, and it feels great to be right there with Elizabeth (Lizabeth, Lizzie Beth), her family, and her neighbors as they untangle the threads of yet another mystery.

(Click the image
for more information about this book)

By the way, the author, Vicki Lane, is a fellow blogger. I enjoy reading her daily posts at "Vicki Lane Mysteries," where she mostly writes about the same kinds of everyday things and events you and I do, with a little book talk (it's her job, remember) thrown in.

Good reading, everyone.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

To a friend... deepest sympathy.

(This song is "Into the West" by Annie Lennox.  Thanks to 1xxxNoNamexxx1 for posting it on YouTube.)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Halt! Who goes there?

Levi (on the left above) knows everything that goes on in the neighborhood. When the neighbors on any side of us have company, Levi hears them and barks loudly to let them know he's paying attention. Butch, with his blindness and almost non-existent hearing, rarely has a clue anybody's moving around outside, unless he can hear Levi, and then he wants in on the action.

I didn't know the curly-haired pup I brought home at the end of last year would grow up to be a watchdog, but he's turned out to be a good one. I hope he'll figure out soon that folks in other people's yards don't need to be announced. And I hope that no malevolent stranger who approaches figures out that if he comes too close to the barking, growling, big curly dog, he's likely to have a wet tennis ball thrust into his hand.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What I'm Reading Today: Nightwoods

I love the way Charles Frazier uses the English language. I read his Cold Mountain when it first came out in paperback, then Thirteen Moons shortly after I got home from vacation recently. Sure was glad to find this new one:

(Click on the image 
for more information on this book.)

My tall, thin shadow

Yesterday morning I stepped away from my computer desk and into the sunlight streaming through a nearby window. When I turned around and saw my shadow, I was struck by the symbolism of it and had to grab my camera to capture and preserve that image.

My flesh-and-bone legs are not that long and slender, so the shadow doesn't represent how I look. The shadow is a sun-painted portrait of how I feel.

In the summer of 2010 I was fat, tired all the time, in constant pain from arthritis, and convinced that those conditions would only get worse over time. Knee pain kept me from sleeping well and severely restricted where I could go and what I could do. If I sat in a car for more than half an hour, I was so stiff I could hardly move when I got out of it. Sitting still in a movie was excruciating, and climbing the stairs in a theater with stadium seating was even worse. A trip to the grocery store put me off my feet for hours, and one round at Walmart would cost me the next day, too.

"Eat healthy and live longer"? Pffft! I guess not. Who wants to add on extra years of pain and confinement?

I'd gained weight, lost it, and regained it so many times through the years that I couldn't imagine doing it again. For the past five years my (over)weight had remained constant, so I had apparently reached the point where the calories contained in the foods (and quantities of them) I wanted to eat amounted to exactly the number of calories required to maintain my weight.

Then my daughter made me mad. Spittin' mad. She had recently started a low-carb diet and was giving me the hard-sell to try it with her. For half an evening she pushed and pushed and pushed until I agreed to try it just to shut her up. I agreed to try it for a month. That was in August of 2010, and I started the diet a couple weeks later at the beginning of September.

A year later, the end of August and beginning of September 2011, I rode in my sister's car for day-long stretches from Louisiana to the Smoky Mountains. I walked through museums and hiked up hills. Was I tired afterward? Oh, yes. But I was able to do it, and if there was any achiness afterwards, it wasn't enough to keep me from sleeping soundly in a strange bed.

I can squat to refill the dogs' water dish, though I can't yet stay long in a squatting position. I still don't like to get down on the floor, but if I have to do it, I can get up more easily than I could before. I can walk through the Super Walmart much more quickly these days, and if I forget something and have to walk back across the store when I remember it, that's no longer a problem.

I still have arthritis. That doesn't go away, but the pain from it has diminished enough that I can control it with over-the-counter meds instead of expensive prescription NSAIDs. I still take medicine for hypertension--about a third of what I took before. My cholesterol count dropped enough that the doctor said we could see how I do without it, so I haven't had to take that for the last few months. I was taking two Prilosec tablets a day; now I take half of one. No need to tell you what this has done for my pocketbook.

I've lost just over 70 pounds, and I need to lose 20 or 30 more. It's coming off slowly now, and I won't know when I've lost enough until I see it. I can eat a piece of cake that's thrust into my hand at a baby shower, and if the restaurant dish I've ordered surprises me by containing rice, I can eat it, enjoy it, and not feel guilty about it. Most of the time, though, I don't eat those things. They don't tempt me anymore. I've learned through trial and error that a lot of the illness I was feeling a year ago was related to spikes and drops in blood sugar levels, and I simply don't want to feel like that again. I'm no longer on a diet; I've just changed the way I plan to eat for the rest of my life.

Now that it isn't so painful to move my limbs, I need to begin an exercise program. So, yes, I still have some work to do. It'll get done eventually, and "eventually" seems soon enough now that the idea of living longer has a renewed appeal.

I'll be 69 next month. And that tall, thin girl in the shadow? She's alive again.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Trinkets and Treasures - No. 7

This chess set was a gift from my daughters many, many years ago, and I've treasured it from the moment I saw it. I love the carved wood, the colorful tiles, and, especially, the feel of the soapstone pieces. The king lies heavy in my hand and stands slightly taller than the length of my palm.

It's been quite a while since I've had a chess partner, so this beautiful set has been folded up and stored on a shelf among other games and puzzles that don't have nearly as much  sentimental value. It really deserves its own place of honor.

In the last games that really stand out in my mind, my worthy partner was my then eight-year-old grandson (who recently turned 22). At the end of one game, as we were setting up the board for the next, he paused, holding a chess piece in his hand, a seriously thoughtful  expression on his face. "Grammy," he asked, "when you die, can I have this chess set?"

I loved that moment. There was no sense of urgency in his request, and I was delighted to know that he was enjoying himself enough to ask such a question.

I'm going on record here that when that time comes, the chess set goes to Koby.

Monday, October 17, 2011

What I'm Reading Today: A Walk Across America

I used to have a book review blog but ended it when I figured out that writing reviews ate a big chunk out of my reading time. Then I added a book list to the sidebar. That came down when I got hopelessly behind on adding to the list. Still, I love reading, and I like sharing what I'm reading with you, so I'm now going to try a third way of doing that.

I'll just post an image of the book I'm reading and link the image to a site where you can read other people's reviews. Easy-peasy, right?

So, here's what I'm reading today:

I like it a lot.

Finding "pretty" where you least expect it

The weather was gorgeous yesterday, sunny and breezy and perfect for finding a beautiful place to take photos. Unfortunately, October always kicks my allergies into high gear, so I couldn't even sit outside on my own patio.

Instead, I ran errands, but I took the camera with me, just in case.

I liked the shadows and the pronounced woodgrain on this fence behind the Shell station where I stopped for gas:

And a couple miles down the road I noticed for the first time that there are pretty little trees in the Walmart parking lot:

That's all I got in the way of photographs, but by adding gasoline and groceries to the mix,  I was satisfied.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Autumn Leaves - Haiku

Autumn blows a kiss
to South Louisiana,
leaves us wanting more.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sometimes it's just a good song

Some of the songs I've chosen as "Saturday song selections" have special meaning to me, usually because they evoke memories of persons, places, events or time periods in my life. I knew that I was already living in Louisiana when today's selection came out, and I knew it was sometime in the '80s, though I couldn't have told you what year. I looked it up on Wikipedia just now and learned that the year was 1988.

These are the things I remember about 1988:
1) A long-term relationship fizzled;
2) In the spring I moved to an apartment complex where I'd lived once before;
3) I was working at a job I'd started in 1980 and would keep until 1997;
4) Women's clothes had big shoulder pads;
5) Big hair was popular among women and rock stars;
6) George H.W. Bush was elected president that November;
7) My grandmother passed away at the age of 92 that December.

Not a single thing on that list has anything to do with why today's song is one I never tire of hearing. I just really, really like the song.

"Baby Can I Hold You" by Tracy Chapman:

Also, just for the record? If I'd been born a black person, I would definitely wear my hair in dreadlocks. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Bring your own lunch

A few months ago I wrote that I've developed a habit of eating breakfast outside every morning. Sometime during the summer that habit expanded to include lunch. Most days I'm out there for about twenty minutes with my lunch, a book, and Levi, with his dreaded tennis ball. (Butch usually naps indoors at lunchtime.)

Yesterday an unexpected guest joined me at the table. Since I hadn't planned to share, I was glad to see she had brought her own lunch.

I hope she enjoyed her meal as much as I enjoyed my whole wheat crackers and pepper jack cheese.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wrong again

When six large birds flew into view from an easterly direction and began circling and dive-bombing a tree in my neighbor's yard, I assumed they were buzzards. That made sense to me, because after the two "hawks" I watched a few months ago turned out to be buzzards, I realized that I've never actually seen more than one hawk at a time.

I was wondering what could be dead or dying in that tree when, all of a sudden, the marauding bird-gang flushed a flock of smaller birds out of the branches and gave chase like fighter jets. Nope, those weren't buzzards.

First I grabbed my camera to catch the action:

Then I went to Google, where I discovered it isn't at all uncommon for juvenile hawks to hunt in packs. This old city girl still has a lot to learn.

Monday, October 10, 2011


I've explained here before that my home is actually one of two houses built on the same lot, one in front of the other. There's a carport between the two homes, and they're connected by a common roof. When my daughter and I bought this property years ago, she and her kids lived in the front house. I've always lived in the back one.

After my daughter remarried and moved with her husband to a new home large enough to accommodate their blended family, the house in front of mine was rented out. Since we had plenty of backyard, we decided to add some fencing near my patio to carve out a small backyard area for the family in the rent house. The deepest part of that little yard lies adjacent to my patio, which you can see in this old photo:

This arrangement worked fine for more than eleven years. Then, a couple months ago, Levi invented a new game. It's a cross between soccer and golf. You see that space under the white privacy fence? That's his goal. Every time I'd try to sit out there to read a book and sip a cool drink, Levi would start up his game. He'd pass his tennis ball from one front paw to the other to get it close to the fence, then use his mouth to place it exactly where he wanted it. He'd line it up like a golf shot, then kick it under the fence. Again and again. Many times on many days.

There's a padlock on the chain-link fence that ties into the privacy fence. The lock isn't there to keep people from coming into my yard but to prevent them from accidentally leaving the gate open and letting my dogs out. So, every time Levi kicked his ball under there, I had to go inside to get the key. I'd open the gate, retrieve the ball, close and lock the gate again, and sit back down with my book. By the time I'd turned the pages twice, the ball was back under the fence.

Levi was having a great time, but I wasn't. We needed a solution. This was it:

So far, so good. Levi still makes his soccer moves, but the goal line is history.

Score one for the human team.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

"Borrowed" hummers

Some of you have posted beautiful photos of hummingbirds in the past few months. I've  admired the photos and envied you. I adore hummingbirds, but there are none around my house. I don't have a hummingbird feeder. Nor do I have any flowers except for the gardenia bush. Until I change that situation, I guess I can't let my expectations get too high, can I?

Well, one day recently, when I planned to spend the afternoon at my daughter's house, her husband called ahead of time and said, "Bring your camera. I think you'll be glad you did."

Was I ever? There must have been 15 or 20 birds hovering around their one feeder, all moving too fast for me to count. I'd never seen anything like that, although I do admit that my hummingbird experience is limited.

When I walked closer to the feeder, camera in hand, most of the birds flew what they must have considered a safe distance away. I could still see them, but they were too spread out to photograph. The bravest of them stayed, however, and I was rewarded with a few nice hummingbird shots that I can now share happily with you .

Saturday, October 08, 2011

"Ramblin' boy, why don't you settle down?"

The year was 1974, and we were living in a split-level house on Long Island, in the state of New York. We'd moved there a year earlier, the fifth long-distance relocation my family had made in the first five years of my marriage to my second (and last and best) husband. I was happy there that year.

I liked our house. The public school there was the best my daughters had ever attended. And, because we expected to stay there for a while, I'd gone back to work in a job I enjoyed. Life was good, and because it was so good, I was anxious. My husband was a rambling man, and I knew it was just a matter of time until he'd crave a change of scenery.

I'd never complained about the frequent moves because I trusted my husband to do the best he could for our family. But I am now, and was back then, a nester at heart. I wanted us to stay put but felt that asking for that might come across as a criticism of the way my husband  chose to provide for us. And he provided well.

Then, one day in 1974, a song played on the radio that I loved instantly. I bought the 45 rpm  record and played it over and over, hoping that somehow he would identify with the lyrics as much as I did. In the end, I guess he did.

Six years later, after two more moves, each of us was still clinging to the "he said" or "she said" point of view expressed in the song, clinging until he went to California alone and I stayed home.

That song is this Saturday's song selection: "Please Come to Boston" by Dave Loggins.*

*Thanks to guitar2heroes for posting this video on YouTube.

Friday, October 07, 2011

From Texas to Tennessee

Earlier this week I had a call from my friend Annette, who lives in Texas. She told me she and her hubby would be passing through town on their way to...wait for it...yes, Tennessee! She said she'd been inspired to go there by the photos she'd seen on my blog.

Last night I had dinner with them, along with their old friend and my new one, Leah. Good friends, good conversation, and good food. It was a delightful evening.

I was delighted again today when I got a call from this girl, who also lives in Texas:

We first met in 1957 (the year this photo was taken), shortly after my mother married her dad, and she was part of our household throughout my high school years. A few years after I got married at 18 and moved out of town in one direction, she got married and soon  moved away in another. We saw each other only occasionally after that, and as years and miles came between us, we lost touch. The last time our paths crossed was in 1996, at Daddy's funeral.

She and I (and my sister, of course) share a half-brother who has kept us somewhat posted on one another's whereabouts, although he's not the best communicator in the world either.  At some point in the past, though, he told her about this blog. Today she got around to looking it up. She saw photos of familiar faces and objects (such as my grandmother's knife), and she saw other photos, too, some that she felt were a sign that this was the right time to reach out and call me.

She was talking about the pictures from my recent trip to Tennessee. You see, she and her husband have plans to go on vacation in about a week. And, yes, they're going to Gatlinburg.

I love those times when the world seems to shrink up and draw all the people closer.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Trinkets and Treasures - No. 6 - A gift that keeps on giving

When my sister came from her home in Texas to pick me for our vacation, she brought me a gift I'll treasure forever:  a family Bible that dates back to the end of the 19th century.

I'd known of the Bible's existence since shortly after my grandmother passed away in 1988. At that time it was in the hands of her brother, my Great-Uncle Loren, who lived in Florida at the time. Loren died in 1991; his wife Hazel in 1997. I don't know if my mother came into possession of the Bible after their deaths or if one of them personally handed it over to her. At any rate, by the time I knew Mother had it, she couldn't find it. She had put it away, possibly in the attic, she thought, but she couldn't be sure.

In 1997 or 1998 Mother had a new house built. After she moved into it, both my niece and my sister, at different times, lived in her old house for a while. I think it was one of them who found the Bible. My sister kept it on display in her home for quite a few years. I was thrilled when she gave it to me.

This Bible is a beautiful book. It's also very large. I laid my hand beside it in this photo to help you see how big it is:

I've looked all through the Bible and can't find a publication date, but there's a table inside it that was compiled in 1892, and my theory is that this Bible was a gift to my great-grandmother, Dora Hetherington, from her parents when she married in 1895.

Dora was the daughter of Alvin Christmas Hetherington and Anna Lementine Goforth Hetherington. Alvin and Anna had two other children, Stella and Roscoe, both of whom were younger than Dora. Here's a picture of the whole family:

Front Row (L-R): Anna and Alvin Hetherington
Back Row (L-R): Stella, Roscoe, and Dora Hetherington

Now let me show you what was written in the Bible:

(Click the picture to enlarge it.)

Now let's play detective. The inscriptions at the top of both pages refer to "the family of Alvin Hetherington," Dora's father. The left-hand page lists the marriage of Alvin and Anna as well as Dora's, and the right-hand page names all three children of Alvin and Anna. So far, I'm thinking the handwriting belongs to either Anna or Alvin. Not Dora. 

Here's why: The last entry on the left-hand page reads, "Dora Belle Hetherington was married in Newton County, Missouri, July 18th, 1895." Don't you think that if Dora had written this herself, she might have been inclined to mention her husband by name? And don't you think she would have used these pages to keep records of her own family, as opposed to her birth family?

Also, Dora's sister, Stella, got married only thirteen months after Dora did, yet there's no mention of Stella's marriage on these pages. That makes me think the Bible passed into Dora's hands at some point between her wedding and Stella's, and that's why I'm guessing it was a wedding gift to Dora. Something of her old family to take with her to her new home.

So, fellow Sherlocks, does that theory make sense to you? If it does, then we can deduce that the book was published sometime between 1892 (the date on the table I found inside it) and 1895, making it at least 116 years old.

I've searched all over the Internet--with no luck--to try to figure out when this volume might have been published. If you have other ideas or theories, I hope you'll share them.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Gatlinburg and home again.

Gatlinburg was the original destination for the vacation my sister and I planned together. Even six weeks ahead of time, we couldn't find affordable hotel rates in Gatlinburg, so we booked reservations in the nearby Pigeon Forge/Sevierville area. As it turned out, we added a few days to the front end of our trip and went to Asheville first, but we did make it to the Gatlinburg area on schedule.

Gatlinburg is quite hilly, as one would expect of a town that has the Great Smoky Mountains in its backyard. It was easy to see where the road into town had been carved into the mountains:

We were standing at a pretty high elevation when I took these photos outside the Gatlinburg Welcome Center:

If Asheville and Gatlinburg were side by side in a jewelry box, Gatlinburg would be the costume jewelry and Asheville would be the real thing. The heart of Gatlinburg was clean and very pretty, but in a gaudy sort of way.  Being there felt sort of like finding myself in a cartoon village, removed a step or two from reality. It was very bright and colorful. There were hanging baskets of flowers along the streets, and storefronts were painted in crayon hues. The citizens had succeeded in making most parts of the town attractive. Unfortunately, an abundance of overhead wires, construction cones, and automobiles messed up a lot of photo opportunities in other parts of town.

Though we weren't in Gatlinburg in peak season, there were still plenty of people there. A lot of them were seniors, like us. Unlike us, they didn't seem to mind walking those hilly streets under a blazing sun. We drove through Gatlinburg several times and planned to take a day trip there by trolley.

It never happened.

In our hotel room at night we watched Tropical Storm Lee bearing down on the Gulf Coast. We texted and telephoned loved ones at home to find out what the local weathermen were saying. TS Lee was projected to move north-northeast on the exact trajectory of our route home and to end up precisely where we sat in Tennessee.

We had three choices:
1) Staying in the Pigeon Forge-Gatlinburg area as planned, which might have meant being stuck in our hotel room--and paying for the privilege--because of heavy rains;
2) Waiting a day or two to see which way the storm moved, which might have had us driving home in tropical rain and wind; or
3) Abandoning the rest of our vacation and trying to get back to our homes before the storm got there.

By the time we settled on Option No. 3, we were more than ready. We dumped all our stuff into the back of my sister's SUV, checked out, and hit the road for home. My little  sister drove straight through for over 13 hours, stopping only twice for gas and fast food and once for promised souvenirs.

For most of that drive the weather was fine, but the rain began after the sun went down. The people of Mississippi and Louisiana apparently abided by televised storm warnings and stayed in their homes on that Saturday of Labor Day weekend, leaving the dark, wet roads eerily empty.

We were five miles from my house at one-thirty in the morning when the worst weather, blinding rain and gusty winds, welcomed us home. My sister said those last five miles were the longest she'd ever driven. She was so tired, and I was so proud of her. She had three more hours to drive back to Texas the next morning, but the storm had stalled in the Gulf by then. She made it home without any trouble.

So, even after weeks of researching Gatlinburg on the Internet, making lists of things to do and places to go, it had been unceremoniously lopped off our itinerary by a tropical storm. As glad as I was to get home, I'm sorry we didn't get to see more of the place that had been our original destination. I wish I could try it again sometime in cooler weather.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

A hotel in Pigeon Forge was our home base during the Tennessee portion of our vacation. It's a pretty little town, almost as touristy as neighboring Gatlinburg. Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville sit all in a row at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Tree-covered hills surround the entire area.

By counting the number of tourist attractions visible from the main road, it appears that Gatlinburg is the hot spot, followed closely by Pigeon Forge (home of Dollywood), with Sevierville catching the entertainment facilities that came into the area after Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge filled up. Trolleys run through all three towns and even cross the mountains into North Carolina, providing easy access to sightseeing for visitors.

Most of the hotels and restaurants had attractive landscapes in front of them:

Those that didn't still managed to catch the eye. Or maybe we just didn't notice the landscaping as we focused our attention on creatively designed places like the upside-down WonderWorks facility:

Our favorite place in Pigeon Forge was the Old Mill Square, named for a historic gristmill that dates back before the Civil War. The mill itself has been converted into this restaurant:

Now take a look at the wonderfully picturesque backside of it:

We passed on eating at that restaurant in favor of another one, also in the square, that had been recommended to us by a very nice lady at the Gatlinburg Welcome Center. This is it, the Old Mill Pottery House Cafe & Grill:

I'll paraphrase what I read on the menu while we sat at that beautiful table:
"If you go somewhere else to eat, ask them if they bake their own bread. If they say yes, ask them if they grind their own flour. If they say yes, ask them if they make their own plates."

We ate lunch there one day and dinner the next. Before that dinner, we visited some of the adjacent shops, including Pigeon River Pottery. There, we were treated to a demonstration:

There's no doubt in my mind that we'd have visited the Old Mill Square again if we'd stayed a little longer.