Lessons from the Pride Lands

I loved loved loved seeing The Lion King in New York last week. I don’t have a vocabulary adequate to describe the music. It was that powerful. I especially enjoyed “The Circle of Life” and the number in which Rafiki is mourning the death of Mufasa. The dancing was extraordinary, and the animals…well, they were all awesome, both in how they looked and in how they performed. I almost cried with pure pleasure and awe when they first walked up on stage, especially the elephant.  Mufasa and Scar both had such deep kingly voices, and Mufasa’s roar was mighty…as was Simba’s at the end.

I could go on and on about the performance itself, but instead I’m going to share a few lessons I was reminded of during the two hour and 45 minute production (didn’t seem that long!).   

  • There’s a lot more to see than will ever be seen and a lot more to do than will ever be done. I had forgotten that these words came from “The Circle of Life.”  The statement is so true!
  • Our ancestors live in us. I love the scene in which young Simba sees his reflection in the water and thinks that it’s Mufasa. But no, it’s his own kingly image staring back at him, and someone (Rafiki I think) tells Simba that his father lives in him. I first saw The Lion King (movie) shortly after the death of my father, and the concept of our parents living in us aided in the grief process (still does). My parents live in me, my siblings, our children, and our grandchildren.
  • Like Simba, we can do two things when it comes to our past:  run from it or learn from it. Actually, there’s another thing we can do, something I see every single day of my life…stay stuck in it. Rafiki reminds Simba to to learn from it and move on.
  • There’s a lot more to being king that lording it over everyone. Leadership involves influence, the ability to see the big picture, the recognition of the interdependence of all life, and lots of other positive attributes, none of which Scar had.
  • Good conquers evil in the end. It might not be in this lifetime, but ultimately it happens.
  • Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously. I’ve been humming “Hakuna Matata” a lot lately. No worries, right?
  • We’re all in this together. The people, the animals, the water, the vegetation, and the celestial bodies all have a part to play. In fact, I learned last week that some of the elements in the stars reside in us and that they’re vital to life on earth.

I think I might rent The Lion King from Netflix today, and maybe you should do it too. So much truth, so much beauty.

Reba’s Reminder


While I was out walking earlier this evening, I was listening to my iPod and thinking of how much truth there is in country music. Reba reminded me of that as she confidently belted out “Consider Me Gone.”

I don’t remember all of the words and am too lazy/disinclined to look them up right now, so you’ll have to be content with this paraphrase:

“If I’m not the one thing you can’t stand to lose,
If I’m not that arrow to the heart of you,
If you don’t get drunk on my kiss,
If you think you can do better than this,
Then I guess we’re done,
Consider me gone.”

Go Reba! Tell it like it is. This song reminded me that everybody deserves the very best that life and love have to offer.  I repeat EVERYBODY deserves the BEST. No exceptions. So why don’t more people realize that? You don’t have to settle. You don’t have to take leftovers or crumbs. You deserve the best. Truly, you do. And if you’re in a “relationship” with someone who thinks he or she can do better or who doesn’t get drunk on your kiss, bid them adieu.

Yes, it will be painful. Yes, you might be alone for a while. Is that any worse than being with someone who’s lukewarm about you???  Someone who neither appreciates nor respects you? Again, you deserve the best, something that Etta James calls “A Sunday Kind of Love.”

Hendersonville Travelogue

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It’s official. This year I’m really a hunting widow.  DH frequently says, “When I retire, I’ll go anywhere you want to go because then I’ll be able to hunt during the week and have the weekend free for whatever you want to do.” Yeah right.

Never a person to sulk (at least not for long), I decided that I could either wait on him or begin going and doing NOW. Actually, I’ve always been somewhat of a solo act in some ways because I realized early in my life that I’d never get to go anywhere or see anything if I waited for someone else. Hence, yesterday  my sister-in-law Lisa and I went to Hendersonville for a day of shopping, dining, and apple buying. Although the leaves were still mostly green, the weather was bone chilling (I kid you not), and it was a perfect day for mountain travel.

We left Blythewood a little after 7:00 a.m., and with no men along, we agreed that we were going to concentrate on the journey and not the destination. You ladies out there know exactly what I’m talking about, right? On the outskirts of Spartanburg, Lisa mentioned that she and my brother had memorized where all of the Starbucks locations were along the road. She said it so longingly that I knew she wanted to stop, so naturally I encouraged her to. We got to Barnes and Noble outside of Spartanburg a few minutes after it opened, and while she got her Starbucks drink, I searched for this month’s book club selection (Moloka’l by Alan Brennert) and bought a couple of gifts. Then we noticed a nearby TJ Maxx and decided to take a quick walk-through. How could we not with it being right there and all?  Do I need to tell you how my husband and brother would have reacted to this side trip???

Back in the car and on the interstate, we saw the first glimpse of the mountains almost right away. It’s always a kick. It wasn’t long before we arrived in Hendersonville, and the Curb Market was our first stop. People from nearby communities bring jams, jellies, baked goods, plants, jewelry, pictures, and other merchandise to sell there, and Lisa and I bought some damson plum jam and pumpkin brownies. I also bought the beautiful wreath above. From there we visited a huge antique mall, a consignment shop called Two Chicks, and the Mast General Store. We LOVE that place, and yesterday we browsed through the crowded store sipping hot apple cider with dozens and dozens of other shoppers. After devouring burgers and chips at  Mike’s on Main  (lots of ambience) and a brief visit to McFarlan’s Bakery, we headed to the Sky Top Apple Orchard.

Lisa and Mike’s Camry wound its way to the top of the mountain in Zirconia where we were fortunate to find a parking place. As we walked towards the huge open-air  facility, we saw a long, long line of people waiting for hot donuts. I found that somewhat amusing: the crisp healthy apples juxtaposed to the not so healthy hot donuts. We bought some Winesap, Gala, Fuji, and Cameo apples after checking the place out. There was hot caramel for apple dipping, a dozen or more varieties of apples, apple slice samples, hot cider, hundreds of jars of jams and jellies, and a variety of cake and muffin mixes.

Shivering, we finally made our purchases and headed down the mountain. Somehow we missed our exit and ended up in a little hamlet called Tuxedo. The men would have had a stroke, but we loved our little side trip around the lake. I can’t help but think of how it must feel to wake up every day with the lake on one side of your house and the mountains on the other.

We arrived at Lisa and Mike’s house at 7:35, allowing me just enough time to change and freshen up before meeting DH at the Voice Male concert. It was awesome, the perfect ending to a perfect day. I’m still awed at their talents. “The Shadow of Your Smile” was probably my favorite, but then the chipmunk thing was good too. And so was the “choreography,” if you can call it that. Amazing!

So what’s the point of the above rambling? It’s to remind you (and me too!) that the world’s a great, big beautiful place, and we can either sit around and talk about how we’re going to do this and that SOMEDAY, or we can just do it. Also, when on a trip, we need to enjoy every moment of it, even the side excursions. And finally, even when you’re really tired and just want to go home, add the icing on the cake, that last little event that tops off.

A Different Sunday

Elizabeth and I had a neat experience yesterday, one that we’d have surely missed had we not been open to the universe and all that it offers. Or maybe we were just more in tune to the Spirit. After all, it was Sunday, and our hearts and minds were ready to soak up some spirituality. Our physical selves were ready too. Dressed up in our Sunday garb, including pearls and high heels, we headed out to church.

Elizabeth has to drive 20-something miles to church, and as pulled off the four lane road onto the secondary one, we were stopped in our tracks. Literally. The road was closed, and as we looked past the sign and down the road, we saw another roadblock. Since this is an unknown area for both of us, we didn’t know another way to get to the church so we decided to drive into Marion, park, and then confer about what to do next. She jumped out of the car and laughingly said, “Is this a sign?”

After considering this query for about half a second, I said, “Yes, I think it must be. Of  what, I’m not sure. But yes.”

She got in the car with me, and I drove into historic downtown Marion, a lovely little Southern town with lots of charm. Driving down Main Street, I spied the local Baptist church and felt drawn there. I’d been thinking about my mother a good bit lately, and somehow I felt like worshipping there would have pleased her.  “Are you game for a unique experience?” I asked Elizabeth. She was. I parked across the street beneath some of the prettiest green trees I’ve seen in a long time. Or maybe it just seemed that way because of the way the breeze was  gently moving the leaves.

As soon as we got into the education building, I looked through a huge glass window into a Sunday school class composed of older ladies. My heart stopped. They appeared to be about the age my mother would be if she were still on Earth, 80. They had their heads bowed as one of the circle said the closing prayer. One of them was wearing a pretty pink hat. Loved it!  As we walked towards the front of the sanctuary, I heard the organ playing the National Anthem, and I KNEW Elizabeth and I had come to the right place.

The service lasted an hour and a  half, and during that time, we heard several prayers, watched presentations to 2009 high school graduates, sang some hymns from my youth (including “Holy, Holy, Holy”), and listened to a thought provoking sermon based on the fourth chapter of James. We were treated to a special hymn, patriotic in nature, by the choir, and I recalled countless Sunday mornings when my sweet mama sang in her church choir.  I can’t speak for Elizabeth, but I loved it because I felt my mother’s presence.

A couple of weeks ago on the way home from New York, my friend Nancy shared many of the events leading up to and following her mother’s death a year ago, and she told me that another friend had told her that now she (Nancy) was an orphan. “I don’t feel like one. Do you?” No, I don’t. My mother still lives, just in another place.

Coincidentally (?), I’ve been re-reading Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love, and one of the things she discusses is that death is not an end but a continuation. “Life goes on forever. It always was and always will be.” More on this later. For today, I just wanted to post something about yesterday’s experience at church with Elizabeth and Mama.

Tender Mercies

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I think it’s been about three weeks since I heard Laresa’s great lesson on the tender mercies of the Lord, and I’ve been thinking about it off and on ever since. Although I’ve faithfully kept a gratitude journal for the past dozen years or so, I’m wondering if I should start a tender mercies one too. Mercies and blessings are kind of the same thing…and kind of not. I’m grateful for the sun, the moon, the stars, my trusty car, Emma’s cute zaniness, and having been born of goodly parents (for starters). I’m grateful also for tender mercies like a hug when I need one, a song that touches my heart and soul, and sudden insight into a vexing problem.

Does it really matter if they’re (blessings and mercies) the same, different, or overlapping? No. What matters is that I (we) be ever mindful of the beneficence of a loving Heavenly Father and that we thank Him for it. Often we go about our daily lives failing to see the divine in the ordinary or the hand of God in a so-called coincidence. 

My most recent HUGE blessing is the birth of my grandson Colton. It was through the tender mercies of the Lord that his mother sailed through his birth without undue stress or complication. Before and since Colton’s arrival, I’ve experienced a multitude of other blessings and mercies including:

·         Dining with Mike and Lisa the moment Colton was born and being able to share the news with them

·         Cell phones

·         Cars, especially a certain trustworthy one that’s already taken me to Savannah twice since Colton’s birth

·         A great job that allows me the flexibility of leave days to visit the new baby

·         iPods. While driving, I’ve been listening to books and music, mainly the latter

·         A warm, comfortable home

·         Rich and Amanda

·         Green, turquoise, and hot pink

·         Teachings of the church that keep me on the straight and narrow…most of the time

·         Living in America. For all of its challenges, it’s still the best country on Earth to live .

·         Computers

·         Flowers, especially pansies. They remind me that even something pretty and seemingly delicate can be tough enough to survive even the coldest of winters.

·         Words. Learned a new one today: spume. Maybe I’ll see some the next time I go to the beach.

·         Books

·         Lib’s beauty and poise

·         Paul’s work ethic and blue eyes

·         Carrie’s strength

·         Friends

·         Spending Friday and most of Saturday with my sister on a road trip to Rincon

·         Memories of Braden, Brooke, and Emma dancing with wild, uninhibited abandon

I’m trying to see and appreciate my many blessings and tender mercies. I’ve even learned that sometimes when our hearts are broken and things are going entirely the wrong way, it can be a blessing in disguise. More on this later.

Sophie’s Dream

Just a couple of quick thoughts for this rainy, wet first Sunday of 2009.

In Relief Society this morning, someone asked why we feel that we have to wait until the beginning of a new year to start something new or to resolve to do better. Good question. Why indeed? Every single day is a fresh slate, one that gives us the opportunity to begin afresh, to change things, to start a long overdue project, or make that phone call. I think the reason Cookie’s comment resounded within me so much is because when reading last night I came across the thought that every breath you take is a second chance.

 Then there’s young Sophie’s song, “I Have a Dream,” from Mamma Mia. It’s a great song, and one that I’ve listened to several times since hearing her beautiful voice on Broadway. Sophie has grown up on this remote island and has never really been away to see any of this great big beautiful world. On the threshold of marriage, she’s pondering her life and states, “When I know the time is right for me, I’ll cross the stream. I have a dream.”

What’s your dream? Are you ready to cross the proverbial stream? Will you know when the time is right for you? Is it now? If not now, then when? Kudos to Hayden and all others with the chutzpah enough to turn dreams into reality.

 

Mamma Mia Afternoon

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Nice picture, huh? Yes, I know it’s a bit fuzzy and that Joan Ella is partially cut off, but I like it because it symbolizes the fruition of several months of planning to go to the Big Apple. We were standing under the marquee of Mamma Mia where we had just picked up our tickets for the evening’s performance,  tickets that Joan Ella had ordered weeks in advance. Wanting to capture the moment, I snagged a passerby and asked her to take our picture. An elderly lady who looked ultra trustworthy, she began to slowly back up more and more as she tried to bring us into focus, and Judy had just commented that it looked like the sweet looking photographer was about to disappear with my camera. That’s why we were all sort of half-smiling.

All of us turned the big 60 this past year, and as we reflected on the rapidity of how of lives were speeding along, we decided to DO IT, to go to New York City during the Christmas season sans our husbands. That way we could do what “girls” like to do:  shop and sightsee and go to plays that the men folk in our lives might not enjoy.  I should mention that all of us went to high school together and had managed to keep in touch throughout the decades, some of us more so than others. What made the trip and our time together even more meaningful and fun is that we all knew each other’s “back stories,” a term I read about in Southern Living that refers to a person’s history.  And what a shared history we have! But then, that’s a story for another day.

This morning, I just wanted to comment on the fact that we didn’t just TALK about “one of these days;” we DID IT. Joan Ella, planner and organizer extraordinaire, put the trip together for us…even getting our airline and theatre tickets. She also arranged for a limo to pick us up and take us to the hotel once we had landed at LaGuardia. All we had to do was show up at Judy’s house at 7:30 a.m. to pack the car and head out for Charlotte.

But I digress. After settling into our tiny rooms, we headed out to the Winter Garden Theatre to pick up our tickets, and along the way we were surely the epitome of tourists who were agog at the sights and sounds of this incredible city. Energy all around us, we fell right into the beat as the exuberance of the atmosphere infected us. So many people…such diversity…such BIGNESS of everything. 

Although this might seem incredulous, before dressing for our evening at the theatre we ate at the Olive Garden. Yep, we did. We came all the way from SC to dine at one of the most ubiquitous restaurants in the United States. But hey, we like pasta and soup and salad, so why not? Besides, this particular Olive Garden is different from any other that I’ve ever visited in that it overlooks Broadway. As we munched on our breadsticks, we saw life teeming in the streets and enjoyed watching the lit-up numbers from the stock exchange circle around the building across the street. Oh, and I LOVE the M & M billboard, and I was able to watch it reflected in the window. We enjoyed our pre-theatre experience so much that we came back for a post-theatre dessert, a decadent black tie mousse.

The production of Mamma Mia was one that I’ll never forget. The immense talent of all of the performers was/is astounding. Just to make sure that I don’t forget any of it, I quickly downloaded the soundtrack onto my iPod and now I get to listen to “Voulez-Vous” and all of the other numbers any time I want to. Seeing the diversity of people in the theatre was a treat too. It was so cool (?) to think of how so many different types of people had all come together at this special season of the year to enjoy a night on Broadway.

There’s plenty more I can and will write about. For now, what I’d like for any readers out there to realize that this is no dress rehearsal. This is life, real life, and it’s very brief. If there’s something you want to do or say or be, what you are waiting for? If not now, then when???? Yesterday, Judy, Jeanita, Patty, Joan Ella, and Jayne were little girls learning to read with Dick and Jane books. Today we’re grandmothers.

Here’s a quote from The Music Man that President Monson recently used in a conference address: “You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you’ve collected a lot of empty yesterdays.”  President Monson continued, “There is no tomorrow to remember if we don’t do something today.” I feel assured that the grandmothers in the picture will have a lot of yesterdays to remember. What about you?

Sunday Thoughts

I can’t recall a Sunday in my adult life when I’ve left church without feeling edified and uplifted. Today was no exception. For starters, there was the Primary program, and I, like all of the other women in the chapel, had to dab the tears from my face a couple of times. The sweet voices of the children as they sang the hymns they’ve so diligently practiced with their leaders tenderly touched the hearts of all present. “A Child’s Prayer,” can penetrate even the toughest of veneers.

 

I didn’t take notes on the words spoken by the children, but I recall one line in particular that I need to remember: “Teach the gospel by the life you live.” A double blessing for me was knowing that my three adult children will be treated to (or already have been) the same spiritual program and be reminded of the same basic principles. Seems like yesterday when they were participants; now my grandchildren are. I wish I could be there to hear Braden’s little talk and watch him sing with his Primary buds.

 

On to Sunday School. I’m currently teaching the teaching development course, a sequence of 12 lessons on topics essential to effective gospel teaching. Although I’m a teacher by profession, I always feel a little anxious about my Sunday morning lessons. Despite praying, pondering, and studying, I always feel some apprehension until we actually get going. I love my class, though, and we’re all learning together. Today we discussed the principle of “diligent learning,” and each of them shared something he or she had learned since last week because of going the extra mile in study and prayer. Queen Esther, King David, Mary (the mother of Christ), Zoram, and Alma were a few of our scriptural characters that came more to life this morning.

 

Relief Society topped off the morning, and one of the many things that Sister Osteen mentioned was the importance of “holy places.” That caught my attention, especially since I realize that my home and even my heart and mind can be holy places depending on what I allow into them. Then there’s the fact that Relief Society is such a great organization for good and that I get to participate in it every Sunday. As I sat there among my “elect” friends this morning, I wondered how my daughters and daughter-in-law were enjoying their meetings. My thoughts then wandered to Torreon, Flagstaff, Madrid, and London as I visualized women there learning and singing and worshipping just as I was. Regardless of age, race, ethnicity, location, or social status, we’re truly all “sisters in the gospel.”

 

 One of the things we discussed in Sunday school was how Alma was distressed over how the Zoramites left their synagogues after their day of worship and never picked up their “religion” again until the following week. We vowed to try our best not to have a Sunday kind of religion but instead one that followed us to our homes, places of employment, and even Wal-Mart. I hope I can follow through.

Wedding Weekend

My daughter Elizabeth and I went on a road trip to historic Cartersville, GA this past weekend so that she could be in her college roommate’s wedding. Beth and Jason got married on the grounds of the Sullivan House outside of Marietta on Friday, July 11, and honestly, it was one of the best (beautiful and fun) weddings and rehearsals I’ve ever attended. Yes, I loved my children’s weddings, but I was probably too emotional  to enjoy them as fully and completely as I did this one.

 

What made it so special? It’s hard to pinpoint just one thing because the music, the ambience, the special mix of people, and the scrumptious food all combined to make this a spectacular event. Everything from the tiny glittering lights to the potato puffs was perfect. And I stole an idea about making palm tree decorations from a potato, a carrot, a green pepper, and toothpicks. Very clever and so cool. And the people? At the moment I’m remembering the couple from PA and the American flag on the man’s lapel. “I always try to find a way to honor the troops,” he said.

 

As the wedding guests waited for the wedding to begin, we sat beside a huge magnolia tree listening to a gifted harpist. Although she had plenty of competition from the cicadas, birds, and road noise, the harpist managed to create a calm, peaceful ambience. It was hot, sultry even, so we sat and fanned ourselves with some fans that Beth had created for her guests.

 

As the attendants began the processional, all went according to plan except that one of the four little flower girls seemed reluctant to come down with her sisters. Beth was gorgeous in her exquisite white gown, and I’m still thinking about how pretty the pearls in her blond curly hair looked. Elizabeth was beautiful in her latte colored dress, but then I suppose I’m a bit biased. After the vows were spoken, the young couple poured sand from two separate vases into one, a change from the customary candle lighting.

 

As I waited with the other guests for the wedding party to cross the lawn to the reception, I assumed this reception would be like countless others I’ve attended: dancing, food, laughter, and words of congratulations. I was right…but I was wrong too because this was a stellar reception. Everyone there danced. Everyone. And yet very few people appeared to be drunk. Beth and Jason had carefully selected just the right music designed to get everyone on the dance floor at least once. The parents danced to John Denver’s “Annie’s Song,” and that was sweet. The father/daughter and mother/son songs were perfect as well. The DJ played “Fly me to the Moon” for me, and the four little flower girls danced with what I’d have to describe as wild abandon to that tune.  

 

Jason’s family made an indelible impression on Elizabeth and me, enough so that I could write about each of them. However, I’m going to stick to Ryan, a recent college grad who’s currently working for a cruise line in Alaska. He came home especially for his brother’s wedding, and as we talked during the weekend events, it became increasingly apparent that this was no ordinary young man. Energetic, fun-loving, and respectful, he was also a good dancer and made everyone feel a little more upbeat.

 

As we parted company with the Yohe’s, I told Carol, the mother, what a wonderful family she had and that I was glad our paths had crossed. Ryan spoke up and shared his philosophy that as long as he had to be somewhere, he was going to make the best of it and have a good time. Simple idea but a profound one too. Elizabeth and I talked about it off and on the rest of the weekend. As long as you have to go to work, try to make the best of it and have a good time. When you’re in a social setting, do the same. In fact, while here on Earth, make the most of your time here, and LIVE. And while you’re at it, try to make it more enjoyable for others too. Laugh a lot and dance too.

 

Thanks for the lesson, Ryan…and for the dance lessons too. Move up, move back, right?

 

 

 

Minnie Pearl and Friends

Spring Break 2008 has been great so far. Although our plans to travel to the Big Apple were nipped in the bud (cash flow problem), we decided to get in the trusty Toyota and head up the road to Nashville. Neither of us had ever been, but we researched it before leaving town Monday morning and felt pretty comfortable about our visit.

It was dark when we arrived, and since we were tired after seven hours in the car, we decided to grab a bite to eat and check into the hotel. The next morning we were up early, ready to go and do the tourist thing. First on the agenda was securing tickets for the Grand Ole Opry. After all, how can a person go to Nashville without visiting that legendary site?

Tickets secured, we signed up for a Grayline tour of the city, and thanks to our driver, it was both fun and informative. Among other things, we learned that Minnie Pearl earned two college degrees, Alan Jackson used to deliver mail to Opry performers, Porter Wagoner was a chronic insomniac who often slept only two hours per night, and printing and publishing is the #1 business in Nashville. We did other typical day-tripper things like shopping and eating out (even at 11:00 at night…a big deal for us small town residents). We did a little shopping. DH found a Bass Pro Shop, and I found a marvelous mall. Someone recommended that we tour the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, and thinking that’d we be in and out in fifteen minutes, we decided to sandwich it in. We emerged 55 minutes later, agog at the foliage, waterfalls, restaurants, atriums, conservatory, and ballrooms that we’d seen.

Because it was a Tuesday night, the Opry singers and musicians weren’t big names like Loretta Lynn or Lorrie Morgan; they had been there the previous weekend. In fact, there were no female performers at all on Tuesday, but the men who were there were all talented and well worth the admission price. My personal favorites were Little Jimmy Dickens (quite amusing) and Chuck Wicks (eye candy as my friend Dorothy would have said). Until this week, I didn’t know that the Grand Ole Opry was actually a radio show that’s broadcast three nights a week from Nashville on an AM radio station known as WSM (650 on the dial, I think). Since it’s actually a radio show, the performances from the Opry house are interspersed with commercials from sponsors such as the Cracker Barrel and Humana.

The most important thing I brought home from the trip was the sure knowledge that these singers, song writers, musicians, and other performers are using their God-given gifts and that they work hard, very hard, to hone their craft(s) and entertain their fans. Before our visit to Nashville, I never thought that much about Vince Gill, Roy Acuff, or Tammy Wynette. Thanks to our trip up the road, now I have an increased appreciation of these country greats. I can’t get Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” or her untimely death out of my mind. And just so you’ll know, we listened to 650 AM all the way back to SC