Always Time For Coffee in the Mountains

Not much time to post lately, but I CANNOT ignore such a great picture of coffee and the Smoky Mountains together.  Enjoy!

 

SMOKY MTS & COFFEE -- Emilie -- PX

 

 

 


photo courtesy of Emilie @ pixabay.com

 

 

 

Prompt Nights 28: Travel

To participate in this challenge, visit “A Dash of Sunny.”  

This week’s challenge has the theme of travel, and since Sanaa says we are welcome to offer previously published work, I’m going to re-post an article I originally wrote a couple years ago. It isn’t the least bit out of date, and I still thoroughly enjoy remembering the experiences I had during this particular journey.

TRAVEL IS EDUCATIONAL ???

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At last I have a chance to sit down and tell the story of my latest adventure. To begin with, it was a trip that my  sister Brenda and I have made many times before (in fact, she makes it at least three times a year, and I go whenever I can). So the route and the time frame are pretty well set in stone. Only this time, that stone fell apart and there was an avalanche of unexpected events. They were not big in themselves, but every time we rounded a corner, it seemed, we were being put on hold. There in the middle of one of the major interstate highways, traffic was creeping along, bumper to bumper and sometimes at virtually a standstill – across half a state. And not just for an hour or so, but for the whole last half of the trip.

Now, of course, truckers are one of the biggest groups of interstate users all over the nation, but I have to say that during these four hours of heavy traffic congestion, we found ourselves snuggling super close to these big 18-wheel babies – front, back and both sides. I tell you, after about four solid hours of that kind of snuggling, we just felt we’d developed a new kind of intimacy with these big guys. And what normally takes 8 hours, or 9 if we stop on the way, turned into a solid 12 hours of high-stress driving and arriving at the inn two hours late for supper.

Never fear. The innkeepers have a heart of gold and had put back a plate for each of us. Oh, my goodness. If we had sat at the table (the meals are always family style at this inn), we would never have loaded our plates with so much bounty. It was piled so high you could hardly figure out where to start. We had succulent beef roast, the best salmon cakes I have ever eaten in my life, mashed potatoes and gravy, mixed greens, corn pudding, carrots, green beans, black-eyed peas, Waldorf salad, and some kind of chocolate pudding creation for dessert. Of course, the food there is always terrific, but waiting so long to eat added a special satisfaction to that particular meal. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to clean our plates.

The following day, we began our normal routine of sightseeing, shopping, and just absorbing the gorgeous mountains. My love for the Smoky Mountains goes beyond the elemental use of words. There are no words. I’ve tried on a number of occasions to describe how I feel when I’m there, but I never do the feelings justice. Sometimes I wonder if I feel so drawn to the mountains and so at home there because of my Cherokee blood. I don’t know, but I’m beginning to believe that there’s something to that idea. And, of course, there are many happy memories of great family experiences connected with those mountains. My sister and I made our first trip across them when we were aged 3 and 6, and we never forgot the thrill of the journey.

Anyway, we had a very successful day of getting great photographs, food, local items that we can’t purchase anywhere else, and – of course – chocolate. This year we bought our first batch of chocolate from a candy chef who kept assuring us that his fudge would not melt in the car as we traveled and would freeze perfectly. I finally looked at him and said, “Are you actually assuming that there will be any of this fudge left long enough to melt or freeze either one?”

However, that visit wasn’t all about buying and eating. Since my niece by marriage has become a confectioner in St. Louis, my sister (her mother-in-law) knew a lot of the finer points of her work, so she and the owner of the store chatted and exchanged ideas on candy-making. Who knows, there may be some brand new recipes coming up as a result of that conversation. We finally made our selections. My sister started with a huge Rice-Krispies Bar that was loaded on top with chocolate, caramel, and nuts. And did I say it was big? Then she made choices from the smaller candies. I settled for a slab of peanut butter fudge and some chocolate truffles (some with blackberry filling and some with orange.) Oh, I also want to go on record as reporting that it was my sister who bought the chocolates with liquor in them, not I.

Exif JPEGOf course, our candy shopping was not over, because we always go to the Mast General Store as well, and in their basement, they have almost one half of the store devoted to baskets and baskets of great individually wrapped candies. Many of them are the old-fashioned things that you can hardly find anywhere else: Cherry Mashes, Liquorice Bulls Eyes, Chocolate Ice Cubes, and on and on and on. They even stock the Fizzies drink mix. (Does anyone else out there remember Fizzies from the 50’s and 60’s?). Well, we each filled up a sack from all those bountiful baskets and that pretty well took care of the candy shopping.

Besides, we had to save room for fresh-baked apple turnovers and apple cakes and apple cider donuts. There’s an orchard in the area where my sister loves to visit, and they have their own bakery. We cannot pass up their turnovers, which are thick, thick , thick with apples. And the apple cakes are scrumptious. In fact, we made a second trip the morning we left just to make sure we got the cakes right out of the oven that morning.

But getting back to candy for a moment, it led to another “exciting” first-time experience for us. Now, most everyone who loves chocolate knows that you can’t have a good snack on chocolate unless you have a good cup of coffee to go with it, so we decided to hop into the local McDonald’s for a cup. We had to use the bathroom, of course, so we went to the Ladies’ room first. I did say Ladies’ room, didn’t I? Yes, I did. The door definitely said “Women” on it. I’d like to emphasize that fact. When we entered the room we saw that one of the two stalls was occupied, and my sister went ahead and went into the empty one. (She had to “go” worse than I did.) I stood patiently waiting for the other lady to finish, but when the stool flushed and the door opened, out came this big, burly man.

I’m sure my mouth hung open, but always one with good presence of mind, I spoke up immediately and said, “Oh, did we come into the wrong room?” Whereupon I opened the door to check the sign on the outside. It said “Women,” so I turned back toward the man and said, “No, this is right.” To which he said absolutely nothing. He just hurried past me and out the door. Not even an “excuse me” or anything. Sheesh! How embarrassing. But it just goes to show that you can never believe everything you read. Of course, in Europe, bathrooms that allow both sexes in at the same time are not all that unusual, so my sister takes that stuff with a grain of salt. But then, she wasn’t standing there when this great big guy walked out and almost right into me either.

Well, I’m all for education, and that was part of a good education, no doubt. Moreover, our education in that department was not over, because when we made the trip back to Illinois, we had another unusual experience concerning the bathroom. To begin with, driving home we did not meet much tie up in traffic, but we had to plow through one horrific rain storm. As we were just getting out of it, we decided to pull into a Pilot travel stop to use the bathroom. (I know I make it sound as though we “go” a lot, but this was an entirely different day from the previous episode.)

We walked in and started toward the ladies’ bathroom, only to meet the manager standing in the door with a big bunch of cleaning apparatus. He said he was cleaning the bathrooms right then so we couldn’t use them, but that he had prepared one of the truckers showers for use during that time. Since the showers are usually way out of the way, he had to direct us. We found the area just fine, and we were not sorry, because, after all, this too was an elucidating experience. Neither of us had ever been in a trucker’s shower before. And we both were delightfully surprised to find how clean and orderly everything was. My sister especially enjoyed the experience because she had always assumed they would be dirty, wet, and smelly. Of course, this one had probably been cleaned that day, but, even so, it was sparkling, and that was a nice surprise. Thought provoking, isn’t it — that we had become so intimate with the truckers on the way down to N.C., and now, here we were using their showers on the way back. Maybe we should think about changing careers.

I did forget to tell you, though, that a couple hours before that stop, we had pulled into a Cracker Barrel to have supper. It was pouring rain, and since Brenda was driving, she let me out at the porch and then found a parking place. She came running toward the porch with her umbrella in hand, when two dogs jumped from a parked car and started toward her in attack mode. She had the presence of mind to stop and face them instead of just running, and I hurried back over to where she was and started yelling at the dogs. They eventually backed off, but it wasn’t until they were already subdued that the owner even bothered to do anything at all. Even then, he just yelled at them. He didn’t bother to pick them up or corral them in any physical way. They should have been on leashes at the very least. This world is full of irresponsible people, but we have our guardian angels, thank the Lord.

Meanwhile, back at the inn: I have digressed in order to tell you about our educational experiences, but there is one other thing that I am proud of personally, and it took place at the inn. My bathroom sink just would not put out hot water the way I needed it. I had to run it about 10 minutes before it got hot. So basically, the only faucet handle I used 90% of the visit was that “hot” handle. I guess it got tired, because one night it just fell off. I went on to bed and planned to tell someone in the morning, but by morning, I decided that I could fix it. So – even though I don’t belong to the plumber’s union, I dug right in and repaired the sink. And even though it sounds like bragging, I’m proud to say that that little handle does an even better job now of putting out “not hot” water than it did before.

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But enough about the places and things. Let’s talk about the people. (People other than the two irresponsible men I’ve already mentioned.) I’ve saved them for last because they were truly the highlight of the trip. We met several really nice folks. You always do when you spend time around a table for meals and have time to visit. However, one of the nicest couples I met wasn’t staying at the inn. They are potters in Dillsboro, NC . The man allowed me to watch him work for as long as I wanted, and he explained that the business had been in his family for several generations. His great grandfather had come into the mountains and set up his kiln and pottery shop, and the sons had carried on the work in each generation. This man’s son and daughter-in-law are also involved now as well.

We also met a pastry chef form Bolivia. She was so sweet and so excited and passionate about her work. She shared with us how she first came to the States and wanted to find a job in a bakery. No one would hire her because she had no previous experience. She said she loved that kind of work and knew from her personal experience that she was good at it, so she finally offered to work for free at one bakery so that they could see what she could do. They allowed her to work with them – for no pay – only on Mondays, but at the end of the second Monday, they were so impressed with her work that they hired her full time. In a few months, she was the director of the decorating department, and eventually went on to get involved in other departments – again working from the bottom up. Her story was just a great reminder that this nation still offers so many opportunities to people who are willing to work hard to develop their skill and who are passionate enough to do whatever it takes to get started.

She later moved back to Bolivia and opened her own business. But eventually, she returned to the States and married. She’s currently considering starting her own small business in their hometown in South Carolina, focusing on special event cakes. She described creating sugar magnolias for one of the cakes she has done recently, and it just made our mouth water. It’s always a joy to talk with creative people. They spark creativity in me, and I hope I do the same in them.

Now the last lady I will share about is probably the most precious of all. Meeting her was worth the whole trip if we had done nothing else. We sat beside her and her son at the breakfast table, and we understood that they were on their way to Knoxville to see her newest great-grandchild. As we talked I thought of her as being about 80 years old. You know how you generally get a feeling about people’s ages. When she told me that she was 100, I nearly fell out of my chair. She had just celebrated her 100th birthday this past May, and this lady (Lela Barnes) was perfectly sound of mind, eager to converse, and full of interesting things to share. At one point, when I was talking to her about how young she looked and acted, she said, “I just never thought about getting old.” I’ve included her picture with this story because I think anyone who sees it will agree that she does not look like the normal idea of a 100-year-old woman.

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I was most blessed about the things she told me concerning her personal life, living in Minnesota and marrying a minister, who eventually moved them to Virginia and then to South Carolina, where she’s currently from. Then she proceeded to share with me about his home-going three years ago. She said they were sitting in the living room, having their meal on a TV tray. Suddenly, her husband stopped eating and threw up both hands. She said when he did that, it spilled some of his milk, and she went into the kitchen for a towel. When she returned, there was another man standing beside her husband. That really surprised her, and she said something to her husband. But he did not answer, so she reached over and took hold of his wrist, checking his pulse. She told me, “I said to him, ‘Why, you don’t have a pulse. You’re dead.’” At that point the man beside him disappeared, and she realized that it had been her husband’s angel who had come to usher him into the presence of the Lord.”

She’s bravely gone on making a happy life for herself, but after being married to the same man for well over 60 years, you know it has to be hard. She looked at me and said, “I miss him.” And the words spoke volumes – more than most people will ever even begin to experience. I will never be the same after visiting with her, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to draw from her life and faith.

And that’s just about all I have to tell — Oh, there is one more thing. I shouldn’t forget something this important: While I was perusing a book on Indian medicine, in a store in Cherokee, NC, I discovered a remedy for rheumatoid arthritis. Here’s what you do: Have the person urinate, then take some of that urine and rub it on the afflicted area. (Now it has to be his own urine – not someone else’s). After that, make a poultice with the urine and wrap it around the afflicted part. And there you have the cure. Who wouldn’t want to try it? I have to admit that this has been one of the most educational trips I’ve ever taken.

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See more photos from the trip HERE. 

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Share Your World 2016 – Week 36

Come on, you know you’d like to share some things about yourself. Just hop over to Cee’s place and get the details about how to participate in this project.

Question  # 1: List 2 things you have to be happy about.

1. Knowing Jesus Christ personally
2. Having the opportunity to write things that encourage, entertain, and help other people.

Question # 2: If you could take a photograph, paint a picture, or write a story of any place in the world, where would it be?

PIC FOR SM.MT. SERIES COVER - FB - smallerMy first choice would be the Great Smoky Mountains, and my second choice would be the coast of Maine. But, in fact, I have taken loads of pictures of the Great Smoky Mountains, and I have written a whole series of novels set in those mountains. So part of my dream has come true. (The following is an advertisement: If you’d like to read some or all of the stories in my Smoky Mountain Series, just follow this link to my Amazon author’s page and you’ll find the first four books in digital available at the Kindle Store. There’s also a free Kindle app available for any device in case you don’t have your own Kindle.)

Question # 3: Should children be seen and not heard?

Absolutely not!  Children are so full of life and so fresh (until we adults pressure them into the corrupted, dogmatic, politically correct molds we’ve made for ourselves). The freshness and zest for life make children a source of energy and revelation that we all need to take advantage of from time to time. I’ve learned so much from kids, and as a teacher, I was constantly amazed at the depth and creativity I found in young people.

Now, of course, I saw discipline problems as well. But in general, the truth is that if parents begin early to develop good discipline in their very small children, that discipline will carry through into adulthood. (The biggest problem I see is that most parents have no self-discipline themselves, and because of that they cannot discipline their children. Hence, the kids pick up the parents’ undisciplined life-style, and we have the problem multiplied over and over.)

The best answer to this question is that children should be disciplined, but not muzzled.

Question # 4: List at least 5 of your favorite first names.

Well, now, I’m going to have to list 6 in order to be fair to the girls and boys both.

Girls:  Hannah, Kate, Joy

Boys: Simon, Sebastian, Jonah

Bonus Question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I’m very grateful that I’ve had my new car to drive for the past two weeks. It makes life sooooooooo much easier.

This coming week, I’m looking forward to preparing the materials for my next creative writing class, which begins September 8.

 

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My Love Affair with the Smokies Conceived an Inspiratonal Novel Series

Exif JPEGMy love affair with the Smoky Mountains began when I was still a very young child. Except for a two-year stint in Fort Wayne, IN, my years between infancy and third grade were spent in Southern Illinois. And most of our family travels took us into the northeastern sections of the country. But when I was six, my family traveled south for the first time. On our way to South Carolina, we passed through Tennessee, and I came face to face with the homeland of my Cherokee ancestors: the Appalachian Mountains – and specifically the area known by that time as The Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

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I remember two specific things about those mountains. In one sense they were a little frightening to a six-year old. Highways were not what they are now, and the less developed highways ran in among those mountains with a little more drama than they do today. The inclines were exceptionally steep in places, with warning signs everywhere about making sure autos were in lowest gear and with stories rampant about “runaway” semis barrelling down those inclines. I remember coming around curves more than once where the road looked as though it would literally lead straight into the mountain. It was a little overwhelming in one way, but it was tremendously exciting as well. The second thing that struck me was that within these mountains and their foothill regions dwelt people of a different culture and attitude toward life. It wasn’t just the Cherokee people who exhibited that difference. It was virtually all the people who called that place home.

That particular trip touched, not just me, but also my parents. They fell in love with Tennessee and decided that they wanted to live there. When an opportunity came along to do so – through a job opening in Nashville, TN – my parents jumped at it. Nashville wasn’t in the mountains, of course, but it was a lot closer. I can honestly say that I have never lived any place that was so special to me as Nashville, Tennessee. I fell in love again – with the city of Nashville and the whole state of Tennessee.

Exif JPEGIn the years following, my family and I made many trips into the Smoky Mountains. We saw the Park and the surrounding towns change considerably during that time, but the area never lost its unique culture. And having a strong Cherokee heritage in my own life, the older I got, the more I wanted to know and be known by the people who had given me my great grandmother. My immediate family eventually moved back to Illinois, but we have never stopped visiting the Smoky Mountains.

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Photo courtesy of my step-mother Pam Pavloff

I’ve wondered sometimes if there’s something in my own blood that calls me home to the Smokies. I don’t recall ever visiting any other place – or even living in any other place – that kept pulling me to come back to it the way the Smokies do — or where I felt so much as if I were “home” each time I visited. Over more recent decades, I’ve tried to maneuver some things in my life and work out a way to have my work and my everyday life in the midst of that area of the country. But the Lord has kept opening doors to the ministry He wants me to do in other areas instead. So those other areas remain my world of everyday life. And, alas, I am still relegated to making visits to my mountains.

But those visits, over the years, have gleaned me an entire family of wonderful characters who do get to live and love and work and play right in the midst of the Smokies. So I’ll have to settle for that. When writing the books in The Smoky Mountain Series, I live there with them and enjoy being “home” for all those months. And I’m grateful that, through these books, I can truly live in two worlds at the same time.

SET FREE COVER - GREEN BKRD # 1 - tiny for blogThe Smoky Mountain Series began with the novel Set Free To Love, which was actually the first novel I had ever written — although it was not the first of my novels to be published. The second book nudged its way into my heart and mind just as I was writing the conclusion of Set Free, and by that time, I couldn’t shut off the flow. Two more novels later, I had a four-book series, but book number 5 is in progress even as I write this post.

Most of you, my readers, know that I have finally been catapulted into the digital age, and I can now offer Set Free To Love in digital format for all those lovely technologically advanced gadgets that make reading while on the go so easy.

You can find Set Free To Love — and a synopsis of the story, along with a rerun of this article — at the Kindle store by clicking on the book cover above, and you’ll find book number 2 (Cameron’s Rib) in the same store shortly. So many readers have shared with me about how they have been blessed by Set Free To Love. I hope all the new readers will be equally blessed as well.

Oh, and one more thing: Last fall, on my most recent trip to the Smokies, I picked up a little magnet for my refrigerator door that says, “Heaven’s a little closer in the mountains.” Ahhh, yes it is, my friends. YES IT IS!

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Travel Is Educational ???

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At last I have a chance to sit down and tell the story of our adventure. To begin with, it was a trip that we have made many times before (in fact, my sister makes it at least three times a year, and I go whenever I can). So the route and the time frame are pretty well set in stone. Only this time, that stone fell apart and there was an avalanche of unexpected events. They were not big in themselves, but every time we rounded a corner, it seemed, we were being put on hold. There in the middle of one of the major interstate highways, traffic was creeping along, bumper to bumper and sometimes at virtually a standstill – across half a state. And not just for an hour or so, but for the whole last half of the trip.

Now, of course, truckers are one of the biggest groups of interstate users all over the nation, but I have to say that during these four hours of heavy traffic congestion, we found ourselves snuggling super close to these big 18-wheel babies – front, back and both sides. I tell you, after about four solid hours of that kind of snuggling, we just felt we’d developed a new kind of intimacy with these big guys. And what normally takes 8 hours, or 9 if we stop on the way, turned into a solid 12 hours of high-stress driving and arriving at the inn two hours late for supper.

Never fear. The innkeepers have a heart of gold and had put back a plate for each of us. Oh, my goodness. If we had sat at the table (the meals are always family style at this inn), we would never have loaded our plates with so much bounty. It was piled so high you could hardly figure out where to start. We had succulent beef roast, the best salmon cakes I have ever eaten in my life, mashed potatoes and gravy, mixed greens, corn pudding, carrots, green beans, black-eyed peas, Waldorf salad, and some kind of chocolate pudding creation for dessert. Of course, the food there is always terrific, but waiting so long to eat added a special satisfaction to that particular meal. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to clean our plates.

The following day, we began our normal routine of sightseeing, shopping, and just absorbing the gorgeous mountains. My love for the Smoky Mountains goes beyond the elemental use of words. There are no words. I’ve tried on a number of occasions to describe how I feel when I’m there, but I never do the feelings justice. Sometimes I wonder if I feel so drawn to the mountains and so at home there because of my Cherokee blood. I don’t know, but I’m beginning to believe that there’s something to that idea. And, of course, there are many happy memories of great family experiences connected with those mountains. My sister and I made our first trip across them when we were aged 3 and 6, and we never forgot the thrill of the journey.

Anyway, we had a very successful day of getting great photographs, food, local items that we can’t purchase anywhere else, and – of course – chocolate. This year we bought our first batch of chocolate from a candy chef who kept assuring us that his fudge would not melt in the car as we traveled and would freeze perfectly. I finally looked at him and said, “Are you actually assuming that there will be any of this fudge left long enough to melt or freeze either one?”

However, that visit wasn’t all about buying and eating. Since my niece by marriage has become a confectioner in St. Louis, my sister (her mother-in-law) knew a lot of the finer points of her work, so she and the owner of the store chatted and exchanged ideas on candy-making. Who knows, there may be some brand new recipes coming up as a result of that conversation. We finally made our selections. My sister started with a huge Rice-Krispies Bar that was loaded on top with chocolate, caramel, and nuts. And did I say it was big? Then she made choices from the smaller candies. I settled for a slab of peanut butter fudge and some chocolate truffles (some with blackberry filling and some with orange.) Oh, I also want to go on record as reporting that it was my sister who bought the chocolates with liquor in them, not I.

Exif JPEGOf course, our candy shopping was not over, because we always go to the Mast General Store as well, and in their basement, they have almost one half of the store devoted to baskets and baskets of great individually wrapped candies. Many of them are the old-fashioned things that you can hardly find anywhere else: Cherry Mashes, Liquorice Bulls Eyes, Chocolate Ice Cubes, and on and on and on. They even stock the Fizzies drink mix. (Does anyone else out there remember Fizzies from the 50’s and 60’s?). Well, we each filled up a sack from all those bountiful baskets and that pretty well took care of the candy shopping.

Besides, we had to save room for fresh-baked apple turnovers and apple cakes and apple cider donuts. There’s an orchard in the area where my sister loves to visit, and they have their own bakery. We cannot pass up their turnovers, which are thick, thick , thick with apples. And the apple cakes are scrumptious. In fact, we made a second trip the morning we left just to make sure we got the cakes right out of the oven that morning.

But getting back to candy for a moment, it led to another “exciting” first-time experience for us. Now, most everyone who loves chocolate knows that you can’t have a good snack on chocolate unless you have a good cup of coffee to go with it, so we decided to hop into the local McDonald’s for a cup. We had to use the bathroom, of course, so we went to the Ladies’ room first. I did say Ladies’ room, didn’t I? Yes, I did. The door definitely said “Women” on it. I’d like to emphasize that fact. When we entered the room we saw that one of the two stalls was occupied, and my sister went ahead and went into the empty one. (She had to “go” worse than I did.) I stood patiently waiting for the other lady to finish, but when the stool flushed and the door opened, out came this big, burly man.

I’m sure my mouth hung open, but always one with good presence of mind, I spoke up immediately and said, “Oh, did we come into the wrong room?” Whereupon I opened the door to check the sign on the outside. It said “Women,” so I turned back toward the man and said, “No, this is right.” To which he said absolutely nothing. He just hurried past me and out the door. Not even an “excuse me” or anything. Sheesh! How embarrassing. But it just goes to show that you can never believe everything you read. Of course, in Europe, bathrooms that allow both sexes in at the same time are not all that unusual, so my sister takes that stuff with a grain of salt. But then, she wasn’t standing there when this great big guy walked out and almost right into me either.

Well, I’m all for education, and that was part of a good education, no doubt. Moreover, our education in that department was not over, because when we made the trip back to Illinois, we had another unusual experience concerning the bathroom. To begin with, driving home we did not meet much tie up in traffic, but we had to plow through one horrific rain storm. As we were just getting out of it, we decided to pull into a Pilot travel stop to use the bathroom. (I know I make it sound as though we “go” a lot, but this was an entirely different day from the previous episode.)

We walked in and started toward the ladies’ bathroom, only to meet the manager standing in the door with a big bunch of cleaning apparatus. He said he was cleaning the bathrooms right then so we couldn’t use them, but that he had prepared one of the truckers showers for use during that time. Since the showers are usually way out of the way, he had to direct us. We found the area just fine, and we were not sorry, because, after all, this too was an elucidating experience. Neither of us had ever been in a trucker’s shower before. And we both were delightfully surprised to find how clean and orderly everything was. My sister especially enjoyed the experience because she had always assumed they would be dirty, wet, and smelly. Of course, this one had probably been cleaned that day, but, even so, it was sparkling, and that was a nice surprise. Thought provoking, isn’t it — that we had become so intimate with the truckers on the way down to N.C., and now, here we were using their showers on the way back. Maybe we should think about changing careers.

I did forget to tell you, though, that a couple hours before that stop, we had pulled into a Cracker Barrel to have supper. It was pouring rain, and since Brenda was driving, she let me out at the porch and then found a parking place. She came running toward the porch with her umbrella in hand, when two dogs jumped from a parked car and started toward her in attack mode. She had the presence of mind to stop and face them instead of just running, and I hurried back over to where she was and started yelling at the dogs. They eventually backed off, but it wasn’t until they were already subdued that the owner even bothered to do anything at all. Even then, he just yelled at them. He didn’t bother to pick them up or corral them in any physical way. They should have been on leashes at the very least. This world is full of irresponsible people, but we have our guardian angels, thank the Lord.

Meanwhile, back at the inn: I have digressed in order to tell you about our educational experiences, but there is one other thing that I am proud of personally, and it took place at the inn. My bathroom sink just would not put out hot water the way I needed it. I had to run it about 10 minutes before it got hot. So basically, the only faucet handle I used 90% of the visit was that “hot” handle. I guess it got tired, because one night it just fell off. I went on to bed and planned to tell someone in the morning, but by morning, I decided that I could fix it. So – even though I don’t belong to the plumber’s union, I dug right in and repaired the sink. And even though it sounds like bragging, I’m proud to say that that little handle does an even better job now of putting out “not hot” water than it did before.

POTTER 1 - croppedBut enough about the places and things. Let’s talk about the people. (People other than the two irresponsible men I’ve already mentioned.) I’ve saved them for last because they were truly the highlight of the trip. We met several really nice folks. You always do when you spend time around a table for meals and have time to visit. However, one of the nicest couples I met wasn’t staying at the inn. They are potters in Dillsboro, NC . The man allowed me to watch him work for as long as I wanted, and he explained that the business had been in his family for several generations. His great grandfather had come into the mountains and set up his kiln and pottery shop, and the sons had carried on the work in each generation. This man’s son and daughter-in-law are also involved now as well.

We also met a pastry chef form Bolivia. She was so sweet and so excited and passionate about her work. She shared with us how she first came to the States and wanted to find a job in a bakery. No one would hire her because she had no previous experience. She said she loved that kind of work and knew from her personal experience that she was good at it, so she finally offered to work for free at one bakery so that they could see what she could do. They allowed her to work with them – for no pay – only on Mondays, but at the end of the second Monday, they were so impressed with her work that they hired her full time. In a few months, she was the director of the decorating department, and eventually went on to get involved in other departments – again working from the bottom up. Her story was just a great reminder that this nation still offers so many opportunities to people who are willing to work hard to develop their skill and who are passionate enough to do whatever it takes to get started.

She later moved back to Bolivia and opened her own business. But eventually, she returned to the States and married. She’s currently considering starting her own small business in their hometown in South Carolina, focusing on special event cakes. She described creating sugar magnolias for one of the cakes she has done recently, and it just made our mouth water. It’s always a joy to talk with creative people. They spark creativity in me, and I hope I do the same in them.

Now the last lady I will share about is probably the most precious of all. Meeting her was worth the whole trip if we had done nothing else. We sat beside her and her son at the breakfast table, and we understood that they were on their way to Knoxville to see her newest great-grandchild. As we talked I thought of her as being about 80 years old. You know how you generally get a feeling about people’s ages. When she told me that she was 100, I nearly fell out of my chair. She had just celebrated her 100th birthday this past May, and this lady (Lela Barnes) was perfectly sound of mind, eager to converse, and full of interesting things to share. At one point, when I was talking to her about how young she looked and acted, she said, “I just never thought about getting old.” I’ve included her picture with this story because I think anyone who sees it will agree that she does not look like the normal idea of a 100-year-old woman.

LELA BARNES 2 - CROPPEDI was most blessed about the things she told me concerning her personal life, living in Minnesota and marrying a minister, who eventually moved them to Virginia and then to South Carolina, where she’s currently from. Then she proceeded to share with me about his home-going three years ago. She said they were sitting in the living room, having their meal on a TV tray. Suddenly, her husband stopped eating and threw up both hands. She said when he did that, it spilled some of his milk, and she went into the kitchen for a towel. When she returned, there was another man standing beside her husband. That really surprised her, and she said something to her husband. But he did not answer, so she reached over and took hold of his wrist, checking his pulse. She told me, “I said to him, ‘Why, you don’t have a pulse. You’re dead.’” At that point the man beside him disappeared, and she realized that it had been her husband’s angel who had come to usher him into the presence of the Lord.”

She’s bravely gone on making a happy life for herself, but after being married to the same man for well over 60 years, you know it has to be hard. She looked at me and said, “I miss him.” And the words spoke volumes – more than most people will ever even begin to experience. I will never be the same after visiting with her, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to draw from her life and faith.

And that’s just about all I have to tell — Oh, there is one more thing. I shouldn’t forget something this important: While I was perusing a book on Indian medicine, in a store in Cherokee, NC, I discovered a remedy for rheumatoid arthritis. Here’s what you do: Have the person urinate, then take some of that urine and rub it on the afflicted area. (Now it has to be his own urine – not someone else’s). After that, make a poultice with the urine and wrap it around the afflicted part. And there you have the cure. Who wouldn’t want to try it? I have to admit that this has been one of the most educational trips I’ve ever taken.

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See more photos from the trip HERE. 

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Been There; Done That

Just a little note to say I’m not being snobbish. Just haven’t been home to be online and visit or comment this past several days. Took a trip to a couple of my favorite places, pictured below. Nashville is one of my old hometowns, and the Smoky Mountains are where I wish I could make my home. The Internet was so unreliable, I gave up on getting online while away. Had a tooth break on the trip, and that resulted in some emergency dental work today, so I’m just not feeling up to sitting at my computer any length of time yet. Tomorrow will definitely be better. I’ll share about my incongruously enjoyable trip — a perfect combination of inspiring conversations and exasperating (but sometimes funny) experiences, all stirred up together.

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Bob’s Frameable Keepers Challenge — Comin’ Round the Bend

Well, it’s “Lingering Visions'” fault.  I saw her photo for this challenge, and it was so beautiful that I had to stop and gaze at it.  That’s when I realized she was talking about Bob and his challenge. I hopped on over to Bob’s place, and the site itself is a work of art and inspiration. I decided to offer my own contribution this week.  I call it “Comin’ Round the Bend,” and it shows a most colorful rock formation on top of the Blue Ridge Parkway — in Southeast U. S. It was a very cloudy day, and you can see a rainstorm just starting to move in — which I think adds to the power of the picture. But within minutes, we were enveloped in the storm cloud itself. Hope you enjoy this.

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To enjoy Bob’s site and take part in the challenge, visit here:
http://pacificnorthwesttravelerdotcom.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/bobs-challenge-frameable-keepers-week-3/

 

The Great Smoky Mountains — A Little Bit of Heaven on Earth

I had to post this simply because it is my favorite place on the face of this earth.  I got to spend a very little time there again last week.  It is not only my favorite place to be, but it is also the place where my entire “Smoky Mountain Novel Series” was born several years ago.  I guess that fact alone would make it pretty special. I plan to post a slide show of quite a few pictures as soon as I have time.