Friday, August 30, 2013

Good News Friday

Honestly, as recently as Thursday at lunch, I thought I was not going to have any good news at all this week. Then 3 good things happened all at once and my outlook was lifted and I saw more good things that had trickled through my week.

Good News!:

The yard is mowed again, and in a twist of fate, the massive amounts of allergy meds I was taking so I could breathe really helped when that nest of fire ants got in my shoes and bit me about 30 different places.  I barely reacted!  I usually get horrid swollen puss-filled lumps that itch for days.

I am going to see one of my favorite people in the Universe sooooon.

South Cumberland State Park is featuring my photos-with full photo credit.  They are working on a mushroom guide using my photos, too.  I am super geeked.  I wanted some way to give back to the park, this is a great start.

A recent conflict has brought me a new sense of friendship.  I feel like I have strengthened a few bonds and that some of the cobwebs that had accumulated, that sense of 'everything will always be the way it is' with regards to friends have been brushed off.

Matt's job has recently REALLY clamped down on our IRA contributions and has started to match them at a higher level, making us have to contribute at a higher level.  At first, with the 0 hour warning that every check will be nearly another $100 shy, I was freaked.  I like to budget and have everything sorted through the end of the year.  Really-they put the notice ON the paycheck.  But now, I am actually glad it's happening, it's just going into savings and they are matching it 100%.  It will make a difference later on.

Ben seems to be better.  After 2+ weeks of coughing and coughing, he's breathing like a normal person again.

In the not-good-news arena, Chan is legitimately sick.  I knew last night when she 'nahed' a sleep over invite with her 2 besties that something was up.  Even if there was a boy-band movie involved.  She does not like movies and I have seen her react ONCE to ONE boy.

So, not a bad week after all, next week will be even better.  Send my girl some ~all better~ vibes, she's the worst at being sick.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Say What You Need To Say

Various recent events have made me realize something all over again.  And that is to put it simply: say what you need.  In a very minor example, last week one of the moms was holding a cabinet door while her little one tried yet again to get into it.  We found a rubber band and we looped it around the handles and that was it.  But for 2 days she had been guarding that cabinet door instead of saying, "Hey, I could use some help!"

Another friend told me about a falling out that would have been prevented totally if the other person had simply said what they needed at the start.  There have been other recent personal issues in which a simple, "I need" or "I want" at any point would have saved hassle or even grief.  If you need help or resolution, you have to let the other person know WHEN YOU NEED IT.  Getting mad after the fact is only hurtful to yourself and the relationship and if much time has passed, the facts are blurred, the wrong things are focused on, resolution becomes a chore.  I am seeing that so clearly right now.

I don't understand that aspect of social boundaries or human nature or whatever it is that makes people keep it to themselves until there's so much in there that a blow-up is inevitable.  Even the Bible, the most basic of guidebooks says, "Ask and you shall receive."  Or my instructions to the kids: "Open your pie hole and say what you want.  My psychic powers are in my other pants."  I spent so much time angry over things in my childhood only to realize as an adult that I just had never told anyone what I wanted, I must have expected my divorced parents who were working full time jobs and dating for the first time in 30 years to pause a while and read my mind.

While I was lost driving around the other night (seriously, Tracy City, Tennessee-road signs, the occasional street light.  They are not a new invention!  If not for recognizing a pack of roaming dogs, I might still be out there somewhere.)  While I was lost, I was flipping through the radio and caught a sermon and stopped because he had a glorious accent.  And it was a voice in the darkness.  What he was saying was very similar to my recent train of thought.  It was that when people pray they do so like shooting a shotgun, it scatters and they hope to hit something out there.  You need to pray like an arrow, have a target, ask for exactly what you want and then ask for more.  Instead of asking for blessings, ask for the job promotion.  Instead of asking for patience, ask for help with a particular task.  God wants you to tell him what you need and be specific.  So does the Universe.

This was such great advice, even for the non-religious, I was buzzing when I got back to the barnhouse.  So, for the rest of the year, instead of dwelling on things that have gone wrong because something was not voiced, I am going to focus on making sure I ask after people more often, say what I want more often and in general, try to work at opening my own pie hole.  This silly thing of not wanting to be a bother is for the birds.  Worst case, you hear a few no's.  Best case, you get exactly what you want.  I think it's worth the gamble!

Sunday, August 25, 2013


Last Monday when everyone else was getting up to head off for their first day of school, we were up getting ready to head out for our Not Back To School party week.
We spent the full week in Tracy City doing ranger led programs and working on a trail project.  The kids are chomping at the bits to get back up and do more projects.  I was amazed by this, I had no idea they were all so into manual labor!

We stayed at a farm on Raven's Point, 20 of us in one house.  It was so much fun, everything just fell into place once we all got there, we worked through anything that came up and everyone kept a sense of humor.

In all, during the week we had 2 campfires, 2 hikes to the overlook, 2 canoe trips, we went rock climbing, swimming, hiked Fiery Gizzard, had a history hike, mushroom hike, saw snakes and fossils, looked at the stars, watched it rain, hung out and talked to all hours and spotted Bigfoot once.  I took 800 photos, 700 of those were of different mushrooms, I am sure of it.

Exploring the fields around the house.  The kids asked how far they were allowed to go on the property and Carl told them, 'as far as you can walk'.

Our first night campfire, Carl had worked all day and come in and set up the fire for us.  Park had driven to Memphis and back that day and still came by for an hour or two and met everyone.

The kids set up in the shop, which was the entire first level of the house but they called it the dungeon anyway.  They had 5 hammocks and a queen size blow-up bed down there.

Wednesday we went to the visitor center and watched a movie about the area, saw the snakes, had a safety talk and toured the museum

Then, after lunch, we went to Grundy Lakes and Park told us about the local history and particularly about the coke ovens.

Then it was time to canoe!

Evening hike to the overlook

Thursday, we met Park to work on a trail project with the older kids.
These guys did an amazing job working on the trail, I was so impressed!

Our ranger took time with each person and answered dozens of questions...mainly from me I feel like.
But he took particular care of our smaller and slower members.

Sycamore Falls

Thursday after our swim, the big kids all hiked back to the house from Sycamore Falls, a 4.5 mile hike with a pretty serious climb.  They did a great job!

This really happened!

Gearing up to climb

Foster Falls

Friday rock climbing fun

Friday night hike to the overlook

Our 6:30 a.m. canoe

Everyone else headed home by mid-day Saturday.
So, we headed out to explore some more.

We found a tiny swimming hole at an undisclosed location.  It was small but DEEP.

You can see some fall color tinging the trees along the Meadow Trail at the Visitor Center.

I call this one 'just throw it in there'
I am tired to the bone, I don't know how the rangers keep it up week after week.
South Cumberland State Park is fabulous, from the professionalism of the staff to the raw beauty of each location, it's well worth spending some time there.  I know we will be back!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Summer Day Fifty Nine: Movie Time! and how I Broke My Camper

We went to see Iron Man 3 today, finally.  I thought the ending was CRAP.  But the effects were good, even if it did make me feel carsick.

Yesterday, I was getting some things together and went out to get some bedding, chairs and extra towels out of the camper.  When I went to crank her up, I left a latch clipped and realized it, lowered it the 2 cranks and unclipped it. When I dug out my towels, I ended up having to throw them all away.  There's ANOTHER leak in the same spot we have already pulled out and replaced all of the wood before.  And it gets worse, as I was putting the top down and getting ready to store her again, the top would not close.  We cranked it BACK up and looked.  When I failed to undo the clip, the lift system ripped free of the now-rotten wood in the front corner.

So, I cleaned everything out and we closed her down after making a few adjustments and tarped her up.  I sobbed.  I can't believe I BROKE my camper.  And I can't believe it's leaking AGAIN.  I did not have it tarped the last month or so, we needed the tarp for something else.  I poked my head in once or twice, but did not even open the cabinet.  If I had...well, maybe I would be in a better mood.  She's on the list, though so far down it's not even funny.  As soon as I get her fixed, I am putting her up for sale, she deserves a better family.  And maybe the proceeds will pay for the repair.

Anyway, it's been a pretty bum few days.  Chan did get to stay over at Brit's for her 15th birthday.  They are growing up SO fast.  Ben has been sick and more sick, still just allergies, but his cough is actually worse.  He sounds like a seal.  We have a hard week coming up, I am worried about him feeling so puny.  I had wanted to take him to Florida for a while in September, hoping it would help him breathe to be at the beach.  But with the camper non-functional, that's not going to happen.  Just a stinky run of it, I guess.

Calling the "County"

When you live in 'the county' and not 'town' there are all kinds of differences.  One is that we don't have to keep our dogs in our own yards at all, another is that fireworks are a-okay.  There are no calls to make when you want to build something in your yard, if you want a cow you go get one.  There's no noise ordinance, which means your neighbor can play basketball until 3 a.m. and then go in and blast their radio, but that's okay because the first toe that crosses your property line, you can blow off with your favorite gun.  If you have enough property out in the county, you can bury that neighbor and feign ignorance when the police come around asking questions.  Just get a hog and that covers the smell and the disposal!  Living in the county is great!

But there are some confusing things, like I was advised to 'call the county' when I wanted to know about what kind of bug was eating my rosebush.  I only have the one, but it's bigger than my van.  I have gotten fond of it over the years.  In that instance, they mean the county extension agent.

A couple days ago, a tree fell from the field across from us (owned by someone else) and blocked our road, the end of it barely poked over into the field access to our pasture.  After the dogs had their thrill of sniffing and digging and peeing around it, the boys tried to move it, Matt and I looked at all the mushrooms growing on it and we just sort of left it alone.  To be honest, I would LOVE to have left it there forever.  No more idiots flying by the house at all hours.  Sure, we'd have to get mail out on The Main Road and push the trashcan a whole tenth of a mile and back every week, but it would be worth it!

However, we have a county maintained road, which, in order for the trash and mail to service our residence and the meter reader to pop in every month, they send out a semi with a flatbed that hauls a scraper and a backhoe and they drive up and down the road for 3 hours every 6-8 weeks and widen it a foot every time.  If not for the trees, you could totally land a 747 out there.  Which brings me to my most recent problem, the tree over the road.  I asked around.  "Call the county."  Well, hell.  That hardly helps at ALL.

After a good bit of research, one of Matt's friends who works for 911 gave us the ACTUAL NUMBER and it turns out, you call your district shop.  I NEVER would have figured that out on my own.



Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Weekend Away

I have lost count of what day of summer it is, I guess I will do the math and get back at it...later.

This past weekend was Matt's 3-day weekend and we needed to go to Tennessee and meet some people and check out a rental house I am hoping to make good use of in the future.  We arranged to stay there over the weekend and do some exploring of the property and enjoy the area.

We spent Friday and Saturday night there, we did not get in until Friday afternoon and left out early Sunday morning, it rained every day.  But we had plenty of time to cover the business portion of the trip and there were enough breaks in the rain to explore a good bit, though not as much as we had hoped heading up there.  I guess that's what we can do on future visits!

 The creek and falls on the property.

These stairs were nearly the death of me, I am no good with climbing!

It rained Saturday, so we went to a reptile show at the state park
 It cleared off that afternoon, so we headed out to explore around the farmhouse:

Not much of a sunset, but watching the mist rise was breath-taking!
 On Sunday, we decided to go home through Chattanooga and were able to spend some time at the zoo.
It rained off and on all afternoon, but in quick showers, so we ran in and out of buildings and stayed dry!

Nearly home!  Crossing Guntersville Lake
It was a wonderful weekend, we went with no 'devices' and there's no computer or cable at the house, it was a nice unplugged weekend.  It took Ben a little while to find his footing and start entertaining himself, I think mostly because he felt SO rotten.  He's had a raspy cough for days now.  I think it's allergies, I have been treating it as such.  He says his throat does not hurt from all the coughing, but that his abs are really sore.  :(

This week is an easy one, thankfully.  I am hoping I will find the correct meds to start battling that drainage and allow him to get some good rest.  He has been eating lots of ice cream and drinking juice and soup and keeping hydrated.  The worst thing about allergy meds is how they dry your whole body out.  My poor baby, I really hope he's over this soon.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Summer Day 48: Update

Well, this summer has not been the plethora of camping, hiking and swimming that I envisioned, in fact, it has barely stopped raining in the past month.  We have been home more and seen friends less than any other time of the year.  I am actually looking forward to fall when everyone gets back to their regular schedules because maybe we can SEE some friends for a change.

At any rate, Chan stayed with Emily and Britney Friday night, so Saturday we picked them all 3 up and went to see Star Trek in 3D and on the big screen.  There are some movies that need to be seen with surround sound and in 3D if at all possible.

I enjoyed the movie, I think Zachary Quinto is AMAZING as Spock, that can't be an easy role to pull off.  I liked Benedict as Khan, but I am ready to see him in something where he's NOT a diabolical genius who is disgusted by anyone not as smart as himself.  He's cute as a bug, make him Dr. Who or something fun.

She plays this thing for HOURS a day, every day.  If I had her drive, I would be published and have photos hanging in galleries all over the world.  *sigh*

I can not get used to this haircut.  It's so short!!  People in town love it, I had no idea so many folks noticed us, but Jake has gotten comments in every store we have been to.

I love these girls, sooooo much.
To make up for the non-fun and thrilling summer, I have a week-long camping trip in the works up in Tennessee.  I am heading off soon to work out a few details with the folks on the other end, it should be right up my alley.  Rock climbing, canoes, caves, long hikes, waterfall swims, late nights around a campfire.  I hope to goodness the weather will cooperate, if all works out, I should be able to hike the entire Fiery Gizzard Trail finally!  That's been on my list for years now.

While things have been slow, there is the promise of them picking up soon.  We have a couple outings planned, a short camping trip to Nashville next month and our vacation later this fall is all set to go.  I have our school paperwork all done and we have our confirmation letter for the year, I will send in Jake's graduation packet next month *SOB* and that will be taken care of.  *SOB*  Every time he sits down to do work with me, I get a lump.  I know it will pass, but thousands of times over the past 13 years we have sat down together to work through some math or do some writing practice, discuss a book or piece of art, some historical event or something he watched on YouTube or lately, go over transcripts and look at college and job and grant applications.  It's so hard KNOWING this is the last round of 'playing school' with my baby boy.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Summer Day 43: Haircut Spree and Happy Birthday to Me

My birthday was Wednesday and Matt has been slammed at work, this week was nearly as bad as the week everyone got fired as far as stress and I got a whimpered, "WHY can't your birthday be another week?"  Suzette and Gina met us for lunch at Chick-Fil-A, we got to chat a little while, which was nice.  It poured rain all day.

We ended up bringing Brit home with us to keep from driving back to town the very next day to get her. That evening, we had flourless chocolate cake and they sang the birthday song.

Thursday we laid low and just hung out at home, I tried out some low light shooting, but failed to set the focus correctly and ended up with some rather blurry shots.  But, that's how you learn.  It can't all be perfect right out of the box.

I think some of the blur in this one is just how tired she is.  Poor kid napped the whole time she was here and today she made a big speech about being a zombie.  I told her she was being a drambie.

Am I the only one that thinks he looks a little like Johnny Depp?  

Today we were up early and went to pick up Emily and then drove to Birmingham to get haircuts.  Erin managed to get all 4 of them in at 12:15 and we were right on time, so they got back immediately.  At 2:20, they were done.  Yes, 2 HOURS for haircuts!  Ack!  Chan's took the longest by half an hour.  And when we got home, I untucked her hair from behind her ears and trimmed the tags they missed.  I don't see HOW they missed them, they combed and snipped and combed and snipped.  But that's where mine gets missed as well, I guess it's not something they think to look for.

We had lunch and then went to the thrift store and then headed back.  It was WAY too hot to do anything else, the sun seemed extra powerful today.  On the way back, my dang check engine light came back on!  I JUST replaced that hose that was always the culprit before-EVERY time it came on, that hose was leaking. I checked it over to see if there was damage or a loose clamp, but it's solid and looks fine.  I guess I will go in next week and have them read the code.  I probably ought to get new plugs and wires and I will get right on that once my money tree starts bearing fruit. Otherwise it's just got to get in line. (update: the light has not come back on since and the mechanic can't pull a code to see what it was)

I took these driving down the road.

Jake is plugging another meter that had run out.  Emily donated the quarter.

This is What's on 2nd, the sign was lost in the glare.