Sometimes you just have to be a tourist, even when you don’t quite feel like one. Over the years we have spent a lot of time in Pigeon Forge visiting Dollywood and Splash Country. We have gone zip-lining and horseback riding. We have eaten in some great restaurants and we have shopped in some great shops. We have visited Gatlinburg, TN, been to the aquarium several times, and we have even driven through The Smokies to Cherokee, NC, but we have never been to the Dixie Stampede Dinner Theater. Check this off our list!
Thursday, June 26, 2014
The girls have been jumping off this dock as long as we have been visiting Greg’s parents. It is what they look forward to and the one thing they miss when we visit in the cooler months.
My in-laws have amazing neighbors who truly care for and support one another. They extend their generosity to extended family as well. When we visit we are treated like their guests! The dock belongs to a neighbor and we are welcome to use it whenever we want.
Just as we were packing up and about to head back to Greg’s parents, their neighbor Don and his wife Donna came strolling down their hill with a tube wanting to know if we would like to take a boat ride and just in case we were thirst, they brought us some water. The memory of my last boat ride two years ago where I tore a muscle water skiing is still fresh in my mind and I was quite content to be a passenger on this trip, and watch my girls enjoy themselves and the beauty of their surroundings.
When my girls are older and look back on their Tennessee visits, I am sure they will remember the horseback riding, the cheese curds, the sock shop, and the other places we visit and things we do, but I know the first thing that will come to mind is this dock.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Sometimes things happen on road trips that change you just a little bit. You see the goodness in people and it makes you want to be better, kinder, more willing to open your heart and your home to others. When we were driving from AL to TN, we meandered through the back roads east of Huntsville to Grant, Alabama. Our search for a meal led us to MiMi’s Cafe (not the chain). We did not realize that on Tuesdays the restaurant is closed for packing the baked goods that are sold to local shops and restaurants.
Closed? Well, that is just a technicality. We were told to come on in and have a seat. Really? Greg and I looked at each other incredulously. Really? Who does that? When the owner said she will cook us what she has - pot roast, mashed potatoes, green beans, sliced tomato and a few samples of different desserts, we said yes please! The girls however were a bit leery. They are not used to this type of openness, warmth and welcome. Where we come from closed is closed, come again another time.
We sat down in a room to ourselves and I discovered that I adore sweet tea. Normally I am an unsweetened tea kind of gal, which I hope does not give some insight into who I am.....but I figured given this experience we were having, it was time to try real sweet tea. Then the food came. Plates piled with home cooked food. When it was done, we were asked if we would like more! Again, where we come from a second plate comes at a second cost and would never ever be offered gratis. I told the girls to savor this moment. It was special and one our family would talk about on trips to come. This was the moment that so many others will be measured against. Remember that little place in Alabama where we were welcomed in and treated like family? Remember that time we talked about our dreams to own a pie shop and a book store where music is played and the baked goods are fresh? Remember leaving there full and happy and completely at peace?
I am sure that the owners of this cafe had no idea the impact they had on this family from Connecticut. I am sure they have no idea that the meal they served my family will go down on record as one of the best meals we have ever had.
Sunday, June 22, 2014
There is an old saying, “Good friends are like stars, you don’t always see them but you know they are always there!”. This perfectly sums up my friendship with Karen. If I had the time, I would go back through the years and years of blog posts to find the the very first comment she left. One comment led to a dialogue which led to a friendship. We have had five years of weekly comments, which led to weekly phone calls, which led to random texts whenever something popped into our minds, which led to a visit.
I am so grateful that we were able to have this time together. We arrived Sunday evening to a home cooked meal. After a long day driving from Ohio, and two days of eating out, we were thankful for real food cooked with love. I think my favorite memory of the time we spent was sitting on Karen’s back porch with the fairy lights, watching the girls turn cartwheels, talk about crafting, and playing with Nomad and Augustus. Like Grace said, it was like we have known each other forever. Which we have.
When we were driving to Alabama we stopped in Kentucky. Something happened between Ohio and Kentucky. We crossed that invisible line between North and South, hot and cold. Ohio was pleasantly warm. Kentucky was H-O-T, a hot we simply are not used to. The girls visited one of Keilee’s favorite places, Point Mallard and wished we had something like this near us. If you asked my girls what their favorite thing to do is, it would be spend the day at a water park. Karen and I had time to sit in the shade and talk, Greg had time to take a siesta, and the girls had the freedom to explore the park alone.
We spent the evening sitting on the banks of the Tennessee River listening to a concert. It was lovely. We were able to visit all the places that Karen talks and blogs about. We saw where Keilee has performed plays, where she has filmed videos, and where she has taken pictures we see on Instagram. Exploring Decatur left us feeling like it is a place that we could easily call home, much like how we feel about Tennessee.
Before we even arrived, we knew that two days would not be enough and we were right. This was one of those times that you count your blessings and make each moment matter. Tuesday morning we visited Huntsville’s US Space and Rocket Center before it was time to say goodbye.
Want to know one of the coolest things about this trip? Karen and I became friends through social media. Blogging connected Connecticut and Alabama. It connected two homeschooling mothers who happened to have daughters the same age. Through this connection, a relationship and then a friendship grew. Karen is not my blog friend, my Internet friend, my Instagram friend or my online friend. She is my friend. We Instagrammed this visit and our other friends from all over the world, chimed in and commented on our meeting. It was like a giant group hug. It made giving Karen a real hug goodbye a little easier. We will see each other. We would see what we are up to and what our girls are up to. The texts will still be sent. The phone calls will still take place. Greg’s parents will still be in Tennessee and the next visit we make, a side trip can take place!
Saturday, June 21, 2014
You can’t judge a town by spending an hour walking its streets. An hour is not long enough for form a true opinion. Instead you are left either confirming or refuting the Trip Advisor review on the restaurant you just ate ate. However, an hour is better than no time at all and an hour was just about all the time we had to discover Nashville, Tennessee.
There was no way I could drive the car past this city and not detour to stretch our legs and listen to some music, not with two music loving girls in my back seat. My first impression was that Nashville is a city of contrast. Amazing music. That is pretty much a given. Nashville is to country music what New York City is to theater. Music billowed out of open windows and bar room doors. Musicians slung their guitars over their back as they walked through the street on their way to wherever it was they were going. Shop owners were friendly and the BBQ we grabbed to eat was delicious.
I suppose you cannot have a street lined with bar after bar and not expect the streets to contain the remnants of the bar goers carelessness. A bottle here, a cigarette butt there... it all adds up. In our short time there we stepped over litter, were yelled at by a disturbed person, and gave money to a homeless person playing on the street corner.
Nashville is a place I would like to return to with Greg to hang out, have a few beers, and enjoy the music and the history of this city. An hour just is not enough time to hear a band play their full set, get a feel for the different bars, and find that perfectly awesome pair of cowboy boots.
Friday, June 20, 2014
I have a girl who loves Instagram. It gives her an outlet to share her creativity, find inspiration, and connect with people (mostly teens) who share her same interests. She cultivates her account with care and intention. She is considerate when replying to comments and she frequently checks in with me seeking advice and guidance. Her account is now close to 2,000 followers.
She sought out permission to post that she was attending the Duct Tape Festival. She understands that her public crafting account is for her crafts, not for sharing any personal information or posting pictures of herself. Since this was craft related, and she was with her parents, we felt it was okay to share that she was attending this event and share pictures of herself at the event.
She was not the only one sharing photos of this festival and #ducktapefestival. Some of her favorite crafters were also milling about buying, selling or seeking inspiration. How cool is it that a kid from Connecticut can be in Avon, Ohio and have the opportunity to meet someone she has conversed with and admired online?
Social media has shrunk our world while at the same time expanding it to almost unimaginable proportions. Just like I would not dream of giving my kids the keys to a car without teaching them how to drive it, I did not hand over the key to the Internet without teaching them how to use it and just like a car, the Internet is a vehicle capable of taking this generation of children to the destination of their choice.
This moment when crafter met crafter and smiled and said hi and exchanged compliments gave me chills. It was a moment when my youngest child grew up a bit right before me eyes. It made me realize the power of the Internet and the power of having a passion. Crafting is her air. It fills her and gives her life. It sustains her. It fuels not only her mind but also her soul.
It almost does not make sense to ask Lilah what she wants to be when she grows up because she already is. She is a business owner. She is an experienced crafter. She is an Instagrammer. She is a visionary. She is a girl with a plan, a plan that does not begin when she is 18, 19, 20 or 21, but now. Right this minute.
Thursday, June 19, 2014
Driving to Veteran’s Memorial Park we were struck by how lovely the town of Avon, Ohio is. To view the Duck Tape parade, people lined the main street with the beds of pickup trucks filled with blankets, coolers and lawn chairs. There was a sense of calm and peacefulness amidst a busy traffic scene. People who lived along the route were selling parking spaces in their front yards for $5 and the money paid was for charity. People used their front lawns to raise money for Ronald McDonald House and The Susan B. Komen Foundation. This touched me deeply. I am not from the Midwest like Greg’s family is. I was born and raised in Massachusetts and the culture of the North East is so very different. Even Lilah noticed the difference.
Parade participants created amazing floats displaying their duck tape creativity. As the parade passed by, I was struck again by subtle differences. Popsicles and cold water bottles were handed out to the parade goers! Free. Shocking and again deeply touching. Churches participated. There was no outcry about the separation of church and state. No anti-Christian sentiment here. At one point I almost teared up because this is a place I would like to raise my children. When I get away from the North East I realize how much I am bothered by things that I really have no control over.
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