A Heck of a Day

Jim Valvano says there are three things everyone should do every day. “Number one is laugh. Number two is think — spend some time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think and cry, that’s a heck of a day.”

I liked the advice the first time I read it and resolved to do these three things each day—and more, like exercising and expressing gratitude and spending time with family and/or friends. Getting out of Dodge to laugh, think, see, exercise, and experience life with special folks can double the fun. That’s what happened on a recent weekend when my sister Ann, her daughter Katherine, and my daughter Elizabeth went to North Carolina for a Vintage Market Sale and spent a few hours in Chimney Rock.

Just being in the car together was a treat. We sang, told stories, ate snacks, philosophized on life, and shared family secrets. Around and around the curvy road from Hendersonville to Bat Cave we went, impressed with Katherine’s driving and the gorgeous sights. I mentioned that an aunt’s husband, a policeman, had been killed chasing a speeding car along a mountain road, and the atmosphere became hushed as we considered Aunt Doc’s loss.

Someone asked about going to NC with grandparents, and I said I remembered making the trip many times, a lone little traveler in the back of their light green Chevrolet, probably a ’53 or ’54. Ann began singing “See the USA in Your Chevrolet,” and I joined in. One of our daughters remarked, “I knew they’d start singing,” and her comment was all we needed to continue belting out Dinah Shore’s jingle.

Soon we were in Chimney Rock and under its spell—again. Having climbed to the top of the Chimney one steamy summer day, we looked up at it with awe and appreciation, knowing that we’d conquered it. Katherine parked the car, and we hustled across the street toward a bridge.

The bridge was barely wide enough for one vehicle at a time, but there was plenty of room for pedestrian traffic so we started walking across it, the sounds of rushing, gurgling, bubbling water all around and below us. Loved that experience—the four of us connected by blood and love and memories standing in such a sacred place. We took pics of the place and of each other.

After crossing to the other side, Katherine and Ann turned left and began walking up a hill into a quaint neighborhood I’d often spied from afar. Our morning stroll on that street nestled between mountains and situated by a creek was marvelous. “What would it be like to wake up and see such a sight each day?” Katherine wondered aloud.

The small houses were unique and charming. Elizabeth took a photograph of one of the picturesque homes and the for-sale sign in front. “No worries, I could never live this far from the coast,” she said. I understood. The mountains and the beach are both “thin places” where a person can feel the presence of the divine. And yet, living near the edge of a continent is awesome, grand, and humbling.

We were in high spirits. We laughed, exclaimed over the beauty around us and the sweet charm of the houses. Takeaway: that beauty has been there just waiting to be seen and felt, but we had to cross the bridge to do it, something none of us had done on previous visits. Cross over and enjoy the journey.

 

After coming back to the main drag, we visited a couple of shops, and the younger set purchased a few treats including a pearl ring and a geometrically designed shawl. When we went into a shop of gems overlooking the creek, I scarfed up some colorful glass rocks that were free. They’re now in an Easter dish reminding me of those moments.

Next stop: Riverwatch Bar and Grill. We sat on the second story porch, and although we couldn’t see the water, we heard its ever-present roar and glimpsed the Carolina blue sky with its white puffy clouds. A couple of times, I got up and sauntered over to the edge of the porch for a peek at the creek. A young boy around twelve years old tried to go from one slippery rock to another. Eventually he was successful, but it made me feel kind of encouraged to see that he, like us, had to struggle a little.

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Lunch behind us, we got into the creek itself…or stood on some huge boulders, that is, joining about a dozen other people taking advantage of the setting for photo ops. Seeing and hearing the “alive” water wasn’t enough for Katherine, and before we left the area, she dipped her toes in the freezing, rushing water.

I think I can speak for the other three “girls” when I say it was a heck of a day.

Mountain Getaway

It’s hard to believe that  it’s already been a week since my sister and our daughters pulled out of Camden and headed for the hills on a girls’ trip. Gatlnburg was our ultimate destination, but we enjoyed the some sights along the way too. This morning I’m remembering our daughters’ disappointment that the bears in downtown Hendersonville weren’t as”lively” as they imagined they would be. In raving about this delightful mountain community, my sister and I had both mentioned bears being up and down Main Street. Little did we know that our daughters thought they were real, so real in fact that they wondered how we’d possibly be able to dine outside.

I should have told the younger set about Bearfootin’, a project created to raise money for local charities by displaying colorful artwork along the downtown sidewalks. The hand painted fiberglass bears are created and painted by local artists, and every spring there are new bears. I love them! Evidently, so do a lot of other folks because everywhere I turned, people were posing for pictures with their favorite bear.

Recalling their surprise and relief about the bears still brings a smile to my face. So does thinking about our delicious lunch at the Mountain Deli, a place where tourists and locals alike gather for good food and friendly service. Housed in what appears to be an old drug store, the atmosphere is charming, especially with that great view right overlooking Main Street.

Appetites satisfied, we sauntered down to Mast General Store, a favorite shopping site in mountain towns. After browsing at Mast, we strolled in and out of various shops including Kilwin’s Chocolates. Yum. What a sweet array of tempting candy! We stopped to take several pictures of bears, all attired in different types of clothing, and then jumped in the car to continue our trip to Tennessee.

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We came into Gatlinburg on the scenic route, complete with a tunnel and some fabulous overlooks. At first we were frustrated by the long and seemingly interminable winding road, but within a few minutes we all succumbed to its beauty. As my daughter Elizabeth said, “If we’d come another way, we wouldn’t have seen these beautiful sights.” And she was right. With several  gorgeous vistas,  this road afforded the first glimpses of breathtakingly beautiful mountain scenery. The above picture was taken by a friendly stranger at one of the overlooks.

 

We finally arrived at our destination, Oak Leaf at Gatlinburg Chateaus, and checked in. The check in process went smoothly, and the staff was helpful and accommodating. We were pleasantly surprised to see that our condo looked just like the photographs. With two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a small kitchen, and a living room, the set-up was perfect for the four of us. There was even a balcony for early morning reading, journal writing, and conversing. I found this fabulous deal on flipkey.com in case anyone is considering a mountain getaway.

We freshened up, and within 20 minutes we were heading towards downtown Gatlinburg (two blocks away). What a feast for our eyes. People of all shapes, sizes, colors, ages, appearance,  and dress were thronging the streets, and I could readily understand why. There were attractions and restaurants galore, and we gleefully made plans for the next two days. That evening, however, we sailed right through and headed to Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. Since some of our bucket list items were in these areas, we wanted to check out the lay of the land.

We soon spotted the Tanger Outlets and the Titanic Museum, and satisfied that we could find our way back the next day, the tired but happy foursome dined at the Texas Roadhouse in Sevierville. Eating at a locally owned and operated restaurant would have been nice, but at this point, we decided to settle for something familiar to all of us. The service and food were great, but the show going on outside of the window was even more enjoyable. We got the giggles watching a woman pick her nose, a little boy killing flies, and a man who kept putting his hands down the back of his britches. Word to the wise: People inside restaurants can see you!

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Stay tuned for more details!

Day in Hendersonville.

Has it already been a week since my sister and I spent the day in Hendersonville?

Overdue for a “sister day,” Ann and I headed north to Hendersonville Friday morning. The day was filled with sights and experiences that we’d have surely missed had we stayed home. Even before we arrived at our destination, we had one such memorable experience as we watched and listened to a woman give her little white poodle a sponge bath in a rest area bathroom. Apparently the woman’s husband had allowed the pretty pooch to get in the mud, and he (or she?) looked at us as if to ask, “See what I have to put up with?”

Back in the car, we started looking for the exit with a TJ Maxx that our sister-in-law Lisa had told us about. Although we got a little turned around and off track, we saw some areas of Spartanburg that we’d never seen before. We also met some nice folks ambling along sipping their Starbucks who gave us directions. Ah, the kindness of strangers. We found TJ a couple of miles down the road, and while Ann was the one who was looking for something specific, I’m the one who found some deals, particularly some  caramel colored shoes with pointy toes

Onward and upward, we soon came to that stretch of the road that I love, the one that lets you know you’re about to enter mountain territory. I always get a little thrill from that. We popped some Orbit gum in our mouths to ease that weird feeling in our ears as the air pressure changed, and then we commenced to oohing and ahing over the trees and hills and rocks and rills.

Upon arrival in Hendersonville, we parked in the Maple Parking Lot and headed to the Mountain Deli for lunch. One of the many things I enjoy about this deli is that they’ll make your sandwich just like you like it. If you don’t want mayo, just say so. If you don’t like tomatoes, that’s fine too. Our sandwiches, turkey and BLT, were delicious, and sitting outside while eating added to the dining pleasure.

The ambience of Main Street was marvelous, and the culture and feel of the area enhanced our already upbeat moods. A couple of women and small children sat next to us, and I enjoyed listening and watching the little boys play with each other, probably because they reminded Ann and me of  our sweet boys, now adult men. A policeman walked up, squatted down,  and began talking to the little fellows, and I could tell that they were a bit awed.

Hunger satisfied, we strolled up the street in the  September sunshine and soon arrived at the Mast General Store where we browsed for an hour or so. Upstairs we registered for a door prize and sipped some delicious hot apple cider. We also sampled some Burt’s Bees hand lotion, and I bought some BB’s hibiscus lip balm. Outside of the store, we watched someone taking pictures of dogs, five of them all lined up eying the photographer.  The way the dogs’ heads all turned in synchrony to  owner’s commands was pretty amusing.

Leaving Mast, we sauntered up one side of Main Street and down the other, loving the freedom of being outside and of having a day away from the regular routine. Everyone needs an occasional day out of Dodge.  Main Street has bears, artsy ones, and we had fun reading about their origins. My favorite was Juliette Bear Lowe who looked like a male bear and yet was the founder of Girl Scouts. We went in and out of too many eclectic shops to recount, ll unique and inviting. Before leaving the downtown area, we shopped in Kilwigs where Ann got some ice cream and I purchased two huge chocolate and caramel covered apples. How could I not? I was in Apple Country after all.

Back in the car, we eased out of town towards  Sky Top Mountain Orchard. Every time I visit this orchard , it’s an even better experience than the time before. There are now more kiddie diversions like pumpkin and apple playhouses, and children were climbing and scampering all over the place, their parents happily watching nearby. I was a little concerned that Ann and I might be among a handful of people there, but wowza, the mountaintop was covered with folks just like us, people eager to get out on a fine fall day and gather some apples.

While we spied many people gathering apples and loading them into wagons, Ann and I took the easy way out and bought some already picked. One of the neat things about this orchard is that there are always apple slices to sample for those who are confused about which ones to buy. This day, however, they were swarming with wasps, so we based our choices, Cameo and Gals, based on written descriptions. I also bought an apple pie and an Asian pear, and we both purchased some sugar-free apple butter.

Before leaving the area, we stopped at a The Wrinkled Egg, a unique  little shop with a wide variety of items. After the woman manning the store informed us that she’d be closing shop in five minutes, we quickly settled on some inexpensive bracelets as mementoes of the day. If you want to shop at the Wrinkled Egg, be sure to go early enough to avoid being shooed away promptly at 5. There’s also bakery with all manner of sweet delights on the premises; it stays open until 7, and the cookies and muffins are delicious!

We savored our bakery delights as we talked and talked and talked all the way home. Most of our chatter involved family events, memories, and issues. While it was just the two of us, our conversations throughout the day reminded us of the web of connections of which we’re a part. Ann and I are back in our separate worlds today, but for a few hours on Friday, past, present and future collided in a lovely mountain setting, and I’m looking at our getaway as a precursor to a fabulous fall.

Paths Crossing on Munich Strasse

This weekend my husband and I went on a little anniversary getaway to the mountains of North Georgia. While we did a lot of sightseeing there and back, most of our time was spent in Helen, GA, a unique replica of an Alpine village. We stayed at the Helendorf (more on this later) which is located on Munich Strauss, one reason being that the appearance of the hotel sounded more German than Day’s Inn on Main Street. The other reason is that my son Paul and his family were going to be staying there Saturday night, and I wanted to snag the chance to see them as often as possible.

We hiked, shopped, ate at some interesting restaurants, and in general, just did the “tourist thing.” We especially enjoyed watching the people tubing down the creek and vowed to do that the next time we go there. We also like watching the fishermen (didn’t see any fisherwomen) standing on the rocks of the creek casting their lines out again and again hoping for a big catch. We overheard a woman asking a shopkeeper if he knew where she could get some moonshine, and this naïve small town girl wondered WHY when alcohol seemed to be flowing so freely in the town.

On one of our walks we spotted some horses in a field, and they came over to socialize with us a few minutes. We stood there talking to them, and just as I began to wonder what in the heck one was supposed to say to a horse, a man from across the street came up and gave us a bag of carrots. “Here’s what they want,” he said. At first we were a little hesitant to take the carrots, but after he assured us that he kept several bags on hand for just that purpose, we took them. I loved our little walk that morning; it was breezy and cool and unrushed.

Time is a bit short this morning, so I need to get to the purpose of this post. A couple of decades ago I was at Girls’ Camp with some young people, including my two daughters, from our church. Not a “roughing it” kind of gal, I was only staying for one night, and maybe that’s why the ambience of the camp made such a lasting impression. Tucked away in the woods away from civilization, the area was peaceful and beautiful. That night we walked to a pond and placed candles on the water as reminders to let our lights shine. Seeing everyone’s candles gently floating together was a phenomenal sight and served to illustrate the power of unity and strength.

Of all of my memories of my time there, something else that has stayed with me through the years is a cross stitch sampler hanging in the dining room that read, “We may never pass this way together again.” I’m not sure why that impressed me so much but it did. I looked around at the faces of the people there and knew the truthfulness of that statement. Although I would see most of them again, it wouldn’t be in that setting, and it was then that I decided to  relish every moment that we were together. I also decided to do the same for other life experiences down the road.

So far, I’ve been pretty good at seizing the day and relishing the moment…and recalling them later. This past weekend was no exception. That’s one reason Amanda and I were determined to have family pictures made by the hotel mural before we left. While it’s true that you can hardly see baby Ethan, we can see enough of his face to let viewers know how beautiful he is. And then there’s precious Olivia with her brown bear. All dressed up to go to church in nearby Mt. Airy, she’d been nibbling on Cocoa Puffs just a few moments earlier.

As I look at the picture of all of us, I’m reminded of all of the moments we experienced together (and separately too). Some of mine include watching Paul throw Olivia up in the air in the heated pool the night before as she squealed with delight, the sounds of the babbling brook and laughter of the tubers as they floated by, the taste of the German potato salad that we sampled on Saturday night at the International Restaurant, the gurgling noises of the motorcycles, the sights and sounds of the hike to Anna Ruby Falls, and the ambience of the little village itself.

Will we meet there again? I hope so. I’d like to go tubing with them…or watch the babies so that Paul and Amanda can go. But even if we don’t meet on Munich Strauss again, at least our paths crossed there for a few brief hours.

Glassy Mountain Wedding

“Are you going to blog about this?” my brother asked.

“You bet I am,” I said.

What a whirlwind weekend. It was magnificent, mainly because I got to spend much of it with my siblings and their spouses in the upper part of the state. John, one of my young handsome nephews, was there too. It’s always a plus to have someone of the younger generation to keep us informed and up-to-date. Thanks to John, I now have a Dragon Dictation app on my iPhone that I’m thoroughly enjoying. Whodda thunk I could talk into my phone and that my speech could be immediately turned into text that I could send to anotherperson?

Back to the weekend, the primary purpose of getting together was to attend the wedding of Ben and Jessica Fowler. Ben is the son of my sister-in-law Lisa who’s married to my brother Mike. I could go on and on about the wonderful time we had and the memories we made, but that really isn’t the purpose of this blog post.

Okay, maybe I’ll say just a little about downtown Greenville. If you haven’t been in a while, you should. I went for a walk along the Reedy River Saturday morning and found myself caught up in a running event. Fun…as long as I kept to the side of the path. The scenery was beyond description, so I won’t even go there. We all loved the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning, the foray into the Mast General Store, and our lunch at a quaint little andwich shop. An added plus was seeing all the little children dressed up in their Halloween attire.

On Friday night, we attended the rehearsal dinner at Larkin’s, and the food, entertainment, and company were all just perfect. My sister-in-law and her friend Elaine had decorated each table in such creative ways that I can’t do them justice with my writing. I won’t even try. Suffice it to say that we all took our burlap  cutlery holders home and that I’m going to tryto duplicate their design for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. The holders, by the way, were just one of many extraordinary touches that made the evening delightful. The toasts, the laughter, and the overall ambience of the environment combined to make it memorable.

Later the next day, we went to the Cliffs at Glassy for the wedding. High on Glassy Mountain, there’s a chapel that overlooks the mountains and one of the most majestic views I’ve ever seen. That’s where the vows were exchanged, and I couldn’t help but think that if a person couldn’t feel the “spirit” there atop a mountain and on a level with the clouds, then he or she must have issues. After the beautiful ceremony, the bride and groom asked the entire wedding party to come outside for a group photo. With them at the front and the rest of the party behind them, the photographer stood atop a high hill and took the picture. Then we sipped hot apple cider and savored the chilly autumn afternoon while other photographs were made.

With reluctance, we left the mountain and rode around and around the winding road until we reached the bottom of the hill. At that point, we went towards Hendersonville while the rest of the party headed back to Greenville for the reception. From every account we’ve heard, it too was fabulous. The food, the band, and the beautiful setting were the stuff of memories.

Back to Mike’s question. Although I’ve written a little about the weekend itself, I have even more to say about marriage in general.Weddings always provide food for thought. When you see a couple preparing to love each other till death do they part and so on, it makes you think about what that’s all about. What does that stuff about “in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer” really mean?  Stay tuned for some answers that I picked up from wedding toasts and a little informal polling.

Top of the Rock

It’s amazing what a payoff can come from proper pacing and a little positive self-talk.

About Chimney Rock, it’s an awesome place. I’ve been there several times in my life, but it wasn’t until two years ago that I actually went to the top of the rock. That day we rode the elevator, and later we walked a trail at Hickory Nut Gorge. The waterfall was beautiful, just like everything else around us.

Last week when we visited Chimney Rock again, I was determined to walk the steps to the top.

 “You’re crazy,” my husband declared. 

“Yes, I already know that.  See you at the top,” I said.  “And don’t worry. If I feel like I can’t make it, I’ll turn around and get on the elevator.” He shook his head, probably wondering at my sanity (or lack thereof) and walked away.

Folks, it was quite a workout. I could feel AND hear my heart beating. Instead of being deterred by it, I tried to think of how magnificent an organ the heart is and how fortunate I was that mine seemed to be working so well. I met several people along the way up, among them a couple of young couples that I passed (loved that!). Okay, to be honest, one of the couples stopped to take pictures of each other posing along the trail, so naturally that slowed them down. I volunteered to take a shot of them together, and they were appreciative of that. Hope they like the way the picture turned out.

Heart working overtime, I paused to take some gorgeous pictures of the trees and birds and trail itself.  “A step at a time, Jayne. Just a step at a time. You can do it!” It’s amazing what proper pacing and a little positive self-talk can do. I also thought of something I learned from teaching Human Growth and Development: What most people in later adulthood say they regret are the things they did not do, not the things they did and failed at but the lost opportunities, the phone call never made, the hill never climbed, the trip never taken, the dance not danced, and the song unsung. When I’m in one of my children’s homes living out my last days (since none of them ever read my blog, it’s safe to say that), I won’t be saying, “If only….” It’ll be too late then to even get in the elevator at Chimney Rock, much less climb the stairway.

So I climbed to the top, and I was so happy to see the rest of my party and the beautiful American flag flying in the breeze. We hung around on the chimney taking pictures, relaxing, people watching, and exclaiming over the breathtaking views. Before descending the mountain, we visited the gift shop and the restroom, mainly so we could snap a couple of pictures of the murals there. Regardless of what direction we glanced, there was something majestic to see and remind us that “God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world.”

 Before we got on the elevator (I succumbed to the not so subtle pressure of my sweet husband), we walked outside once again, and an employee of the park asked us if we wanted him to take our picture.

“That’s part of my job,” he assured us.

“Taking pictures?” I asked.

“Making sure everyone has a good time,” he said.

We did. And you will too. Put Chimney Rock on your “to do” list this year. Even if you don’t make the trip to the top, the town itself is charming, especially now that the river walk has been added.  And don’t even get me started aabout the quaint gift shops, restaurants, and streetscape.

Joann’s View

If you’re open to life and all it has to offer, all sorts of invitations, views, and people will come into your life…even mountain top home tours.

When I woke up this morning, the room was still dark. Even so, I could quickly visualize the tree right outside the bedroom window and the sloping front yard with its dogwoods and crepe myrtles. When my new friend Joann (not her real name) who lives in the mountains surrounding Lake Lure wakes up in the morning, she opens her eyes to one of the most majestic views I’ve ever seen in my entire life. To say it’s awesome is doing her “yard” an injustice. Her house is built on stilts, and she has no yard as such outside of her bedroom, just mountains and a splendid view of Lake Lure.

Meeting Joann was just one of the many delightful events of the weekend, but I’m starting with her because our meeting seemed so serendipitous. Yet, was it really? My sister-in-law Karen and her husband had been staying at Rumbling Bald Resort in the Fairfield Mountains, and Karen had become part of a walking group that met at 7:30 each morning and walked for an hour. The walk had a tour guide who led them on a different walk each day, complete with tidbits of interesting information about the area. I joined them Friday morning, and it was both invigorating and educational.

While we were traipsing all over the Rumbling Bald property, I became better acquainted with the early morning crew.  They were all from other places in the United States whose paths had converged at Rumbling Bald, and I enjoyed hearing their life stories and the circumstances that led them to the mountains of NC.  As we talked, Joann pointed up one of the mountains and said that her house was up there somewhere and that she had the same view of the lake that we were currently seeing, only better. “Yeah, right,” I thought. She invited Karen and me to come  visit her and even said that if she happened to be out, she’d leave the door unlocked. We didn’t really take her invitation seriously until she proffered it once again at parting.

The menfolk were playing golf all afternoon, so Karen and I decided “what the heck” and went up the mountain, around and around and around, until we reached Joanne’s home. It was gorgeous. It looked like one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs and seemed to fit right into the surroundings, partly because of the design and partly because of the materials. I’ve seen my share of lovely homes, but few have had the structure and the surroundings so beautifully matched.  Even the façade of the structure was partially stone, and the pillars looked like slim tree trunks. The inside floors were slate and wood, and pathways around the house were of skillfully laid stones.

Joann invited us in and took us on a tour. She allowed, even encouraged, us to take pictures, and so we did. She even asked us to “sit a spell” on her back porch, and we obliged her in that as well. While there, we discussed God and how He had led her to this perfect place. It was like a gift and one that she well appreciated. We also talked about decorating, children, careers, gardening, and the importance of friends. When we bid Joann adieu, Karen and I both felt that our mini-vacation had definitely been enriched by meeting such a fun, warm, hospitable, ditzy (her self-description) person. When we parted, the three of us expressed the hope that perhaps our paths would cross again.

After leaving Joann’s mountain top home, Karen and I went to Bat Cave and Chimney Rock where we spent a couple of wonderful hours. After eating a creekside lunch, we went back to Lake Lure for a boat tour, and as we were waiting for the tour to begin, we watched a wedding take place on the grounds. Nice. The boat tour was fantastic, and I have tons of stuff to share about that later. I mean, really, why does someone need a 7 and ½ million dollar home????? Boat tour complete, we joined the guys for dinner and a street dance. Fun.

That’s just Friday…and only bits and pieces of it. Later I’ll write a little about Saturday and our trek up to Chimney Rock.  The entire area is beautiful, and I’m wondering if anyone else has some tales to tell about your experiences there.