Uncharted territory

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Life is like an expedition of uncharted territory.

We start out wide eyed, confident and seeking adventure, anxious to see the spectacular sights along the way. We want to see, smell, taste, touch and hear it all to our hearts content. We don our traveling apparel and forge ahead.  We are explorers, making our way across the great unknown. We are blessed to have direction and signs along the way but we don’t always pay attention. Sometimes we choose to go our own way and end up in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

At times the terrain is flat and easy going, filled with fragrant green grass and flowers. At other times it can be cavernous, cold or treacherous. There may be perils ahead, hiding in the darkness. The mountains loom, the seas rage and the valleys can be daunting. We often travel on with scars, hungry and afraid. At times it doesn’t seem as if we will ever make it, but when we think all hope is gone, mercy shows up and alas, we continue.

Our companions come and go and we meet new friends along the way. Even in this, we must use discernment as everything isn’t what it appears to be. Some are sent by the one who would kill, steal and destroy to make us lose our way.

As the seasons change, we learn new lessons if we are wise and teachable. We are given the tools for a successful journey if we but utilize them properly.
The scenery is beautiful and changes frequently, but time begins to become more precious as it seems to pass by ever so quickly. We live and laugh and love and experience so many new things along the way. We also hurt, cry and mourn the loss of hopes, dreams, and others.

We alone can choose how we will participate in this expedition and where our journey will ultimately take us. The trip will be much more pleasant if we choose love, hope and joy; if we choose a positive outlook and have faith. If we on the flip side, approach it with negativity, dreariness and dread, we will certainly find more of that ahead.

When our final destination is looming, we become more thoughtful and realize more than ever what was really important. If we are granted more time on this earth, we attempt to impart that to others.

Time withers away like grapes on a vine and finally, our journey must come to an end. After all, we were only pilgrims passing through! Let us pray we have left someone better than we found them and shared the way to heaven with many.

Hello October!

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My granddaughter last fall as we explored along Natchez Trace Parkway

Today is October 1, 2016 and I actually woke up a little excited about that.   Anyone who has read my past blogs or who knows me very well will recall that we have entered my favorite month.  The only thing casting a shadow on this otherwise lovely day is the horrible storm churning about in the Caribbean Sea, its sight seemingly set on Jamaica.  I pray earnestly for those in the path of this hurricane.

Somewhat selfishly, I am also vexed with the thought that the storm will interfere with my carefully laid plans to spend next weekend in North Carolina with my daughter and granddaughter.  I have been looking forward to spending a few days alone with them, taking in some Blue Ridge sights as we enjoy some of the changes of the season together.

I long to don a sweater, have my nose tickled by a blustery breeze and watch my granddaughter gracefully navigate a pumpkin patch somewhere along the way.  I am dreaming of slurping warm seasonal soups and sharing a slice of apple pie with my daughter as we catch up.  I envision us dancing along trails as we forage for adventure.

I know the trees will have already begun their dress in more vibrant hues of gold and scarlet.  They remind me of debutantes aspiring to be the belle of the ball as they slip into their fanciful attire.

The ground may not be carpeted with the crunchy relics of summer yet, but in a few short weeks, the riot of color will cover the mountains.   If I could stay for the entire month of October, I would.  Better yet, I would stay until the last leaf floated down from the place of its origin and the skeletal trees shivered in the bitter winter wind, heralding winter.

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My granddaughter last fall as we explored along Natchez Trace Parkway

Daily Post: Graceful

Nana’s travel buddy

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Ayda enjoying the fall leaves

Recently, my daughter, who lives in New Orleans, bought a round trip ticket for me, so that I could come and babysit for a long weekend.  My first thought was, YES!!!  Any time I can see my kids or my granddaughter, I am thrilled.

A little later though, I wondered how I was going to fit in my annual fall pilgrimage northward from FL to find some fall weather and leaves.  I couldn’t do both…or could I?  After some internet research I discovered that Natchez Trace Parkway was a mere three hours from their home.  My road trip plans began to formulate and in no time at all, I had reservations near Natchez, MS, where we would get on the parkway.  I arrived in New Orleans on a Wednesday and we left on Friday after school (that was a mom requirement).

We stayed in a hotel on the Mississippi River and the next morning we had breakfast, spilled milk and then walked/ran/hopped/skipped the boardwalk and took lots of photos.  We crossed the river and made our way through Natchez and on to the parkway.

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The day was a little cloudy to begin with but ended up being sunny and beautiful.  We took in many of the sites along the parkway, her favorite being Mount Locust .  One of the bedrooms on display there showed some toys like corn husk dolls and she thought it was sad that perhaps that was all they had to play with.  I explained all the fun children used to have playing outside until dark.  She was a little skeptical.

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Ayda in the front yard at Mount Locust

For a five year old, she sincerely enjoyed learning some of the history.  She was certainly a trooper and lasted a lot longer than I expected.  We got off the parkway for lunch and I enjoyed Mr “D”s ‘Heavenly Fried Chicken’ at the Old Country Store Restaurant in Lorman, MS.  Ayda enjoyed the biscuits.

That evening we found a hotel and she wanted to order room service, so of course I told her that’s exactly what we would do.  We were both tired from all of the walking and sight-seeing.  We were waiting at the elevators; me with 100 lbs of luggage and her with her new doll, when she said, “Nana, there is only an up button for the elevator because we are on the very first floor and we don’t need to go underground.”  I snapped the picture below right before she said that; it shows the thoughtful expression before her announcement.

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Waiting for the elevator

The next morning, I had planned to just take the quickest route home, even though deep in my heart, I wanted to get back on the parkway and go back the way we came.  It was rainy though, and surely she wouldn’t want to do that again.  While we were at breakfast, we discussed it and she said, “Oh Nana, please can we go back the way we came?”.  I said, “Honey, it’s rainy today and we may not be able to get out and explore as much”.  She insisted that she did not care.

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It was rainy, but we enjoyed ourselves anyway.  We couldn’t get out much but the beauty around us was enough.  She sang most of the way and I taught her to spell Mississippi, the way I was first taught.  MI crooked letter, crooked letter, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, humpback, humpback I.  She got a kick out of making a video to send to her parents.

We stopped for lunch in Natchez and while enroute to the restaurant the GPS took us along the Mississippi River.  She said, “Is that the Mississippi River?” and I said, yes, honey it is.  She declared, “Well, then our hotel is right on the other side”.  Yes, it was.  As a matter of fact, we could see it after we drove a little further.  I know that I am a typical Nana, but this kid never ceases to amaze me.

The rain picked up and we had to run through it because I parked a little too far away from the restaurant.  We got wet and giggled at how silly our hair looked.

We were almost back to New Orleans and she was telling me that if I was looking for a road sign to tell me how far we had to go, to always look on the right.  I wondered how a five year old would realize that, and asked her what I would do without her on these crazy road trips.  She said, “Nana, I guess if Papa wouldn’t go, you’d just be alone.  It’s a good thing you have me.”   Yes, it is, baby girl, yes it is.

Adventures with Ayda

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I needed desperately to squeeze those chunky legs, to hear that melodic laugh and to hold that tiny hand in mine.  It was time.  Nana had to see Ayda.  I made the arrangements with my eldest and drove through rain most of the day to arrive at the pre-determined meeting place.

After a late lunch, we transferred her belongings to my car and headed north.  She is only four so I was a tiny bit nervous that she would get upset when we pulled out of the parking lot, but she just said, “I’ll miss mommy and daddy” and that was that.  We chatted about pre-school and recent birthday parties and Christmas.  “Ayda, do you see the leaves?  Do you know about the fall season?” I asked.  She answered in what I thought was somewhat condescending tone and said, “Nana, are you talking about autumn, when the leaves turn beautiful colors like yellow and orange and brown and fall from the trees?”   Yes, my dear.  Yes, I was.

In a couple of hours, we were pulling into a hotel driveway, ready to stop for the night as our destination was Pigeon Forge, TN.  We were going to visit relatives and she was excited to get to spend time with some of her younger cousins.  She wasn’t sure about this whole idea of staying in a “cabin” though.  For some reason she thought all cabins were inferior dwellings.  As we passed barns and falling down sheds, she would ask, “Nana, is it a cabin like that?”  I assured her that it certainly was not and that she would be pleasantly surprised.

Nana forgot how time consuming it was to unfasten a car set, put shoes back on and wait for little slowpoke to crawl out of the back of my Mustang.  After we checked in, I realized that with my bag, her bag, her toy bag, her snack bag, her electronic game and dinner we had picked up, I was going to need a cart.  I grabbed one, loaded it and sat her on top of my bag before realizing I had to do something with my car.  After arranging the cart inside and loading her back into the car seat, I found a parking place and we were ready to go upstairs.

Pushing the cart was akin to maneuvering a side-ways driving Walmart shopping cart filled with groceries.  I finally managed to get it to the elevator without taking some drywall with me.  Ayda spotted the “fire sign” and wanted me to tell her what it said.  I read, “In case of fire do not use the elevator”.  Way to go, Nana.  Little did I know that every time we used an elevator for the rest of our journey she would ask quite anxiously if I was sure there wasn’t a fire and explain that maybe we shouldn’t ride the elevator.    Thankfully, a nice young man helped me get the cart onto the elevator and even got off at our floor and pulled it out for us.  I think he discerned that Nana was exhausted and I was sincerely grateful for his kindness.

Finally, it was bedtime and Ayda and I lay in the darkness, the only light emanating from her Nabi which is NOT a computer, Nana.  It’s an electronic game that also has episodes of some of her favorite shows.  I wasn’t going to argue with her about watching one on our first night together, far from home.  We talked about our plans and said prayers and she was out like a light.

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I decided the next morning to let her sleep in; partly because she needed it and partly because I love to watch her sleep, with her little brown tendrils floating across the pillow.  Before long her eyes opened wide and the first words out of her mouth were, “Why is that light on?”  You waked me in the dark and you are supposed to wake me in the light?”  I quickly rose from the chair I was perched on and opened the light blocking curtains.  She grinned when she saw that it really was daytime and then she snuggled in my lap while her little body finished waking up.

I dressed her and brushed her long curls carefully and reacquainted myself with pig tails and bows.  We went down to the continental breakfast in the hotel lobby where Ayda picked a muffin.  I looked up to see her with a horrible expression, somewhere between tears and disgust and discovered that said muffin had hidden berries.  I assured her she could spit them out and I got up to make a waffle for her instead.  The waffle was acceptable and I sat there and enjoyed my coffee, the grinning recipient of the “She is so precious” and like compliments, like grandma’s do.

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We arrived at the cabin later in the day and she was thoroughly impressed, as was I.  There were stuffed bears and toys and snacks and a bunk-bed and the promise of soon-to-arrive children.  We enjoyed the time with family and I enjoyed time with her out and about in Pigeon Forge and through the Great Smokey Mountains.  She loved being with family and was not happy on Saturday, when it was time to go.

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We travelled home towards South FL, because Papa had been unable to join us due to work and he was dying to see her, as were others in the family. We took a little longer route to go through the Smokies and stopped several times to pick up leaves and get pictures.  We stopped for ice cream in Cherokee and picked up taffy, pecan logs and a coloring book near the GA/FL line.  I have never seen a 4 year old travel so well.  She never complained; she sang, made me tell her stories about Jesus and played.  Every once in a while she would ask, “How much longer til Papa?”  Every once in a while, I would reach back to squeeze her leg and she would grab my hand and hold it for a few minutes.  Oh, the feeling of that little hand securely snug in my own!

After a week with Nana and Papa, assisted by Aunt Dee, since Nana had to work, we made the journey back to meet her mommy.  We stayed in another hotel and the next morning we found a pumpkin patch with a maze and then met mommy at a beautiful state park.

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As my daughter strapped her in the car seat, she said, “I’ll miss you Nana”.  I told her not to cry and that it wasn’t goodbye just see you later.  I got in my quiet car, tears welling up in my eyes and my heart aching with missing her already.  With a song of praise and a prayer I encouraged myself and headed south alone, thankful for the precious time with her.

Bag left behind

 

Yes, travelling is wonderful and it is a privilege, even when it is accompanied by work such as this one.  My day began with the requirement to be up and at least moderately alert at 3:45am.  Next there was the drive to the airport in the dark and fog, with less than perfect windshield wipers.

Once I get to the airport, park the car, take the shuttle, check the bag, go through security (where I was the lucky recipient of a shoe pass, i.e., I got to leave my flip flops on), I find myself at the gate.  This is when I tend to relax a little from my travel anxiety.

This particular work-approved, cost effective itinerary had me going through Chicago, changing airlines and then on to Denver.  It crossed my mind that changing airlines mid route might not fare well for my luggage, but I quickly dismissed the thought.

The first flight was uneventful.   I even managed to doze off, which is rare for me because I am always mortified when I wake up to find that my mouth is hanging open.  All I can think of is some teenager snapping a photo of the middle aged woman looking ridiculous, only to share on some social media site.  Am I paranoid?

Of course I arrive in Chicago at the gate farthest from where I need to be, thus another shuttle and lots of walking and finally, we load up for my second flight.  Embarrassingly, I sat in the window seat, when my ticket clearly indicated aisle, only to be chided by some man who was way too old for skinny jeans.  Fine with me, I prefer the aisle.

Finally, we land in Denver and I go directly to the bathroom and then straight on to baggage claim.  I watch all of the mostly black suitcases go around and around until there are only a few stragglers left.  When it’s apparent that there is no more luggage to be found, I make my way to the baggage office to consult with the young man in uniform about the fate of my bag. He takes my information and with a few clicks on his keyboard tells me my bag is still in Chicago.  Great.  He promises he has located it and it will arrive on the next flight and be to my hotel as soon as possible.  Knowing how this type of thing can go, I am skeptical and begin to worry if I will be wearing the same clothes tomorrow, riddled with airport germs.

Later, I unpack the bag of toiletry items, nicely provided by the front desk and logon to my computer to check status on my bag, which wasn’t good at the time.  By the time I went to bed though, my last check showed that my bag would arrive at 9:30pm and be picked up by delivery truck and brought to my hotel.

I woke up with a start around 4:00am, after a nightmare about a hideous hairy, grey suitcase that uniformed airline employees kept insisting was mine.  I screamed, “Nooooooo!!” over and over again to no avail.

When I woke up again around 5, a quick call to the front desk, relieved all of my fears.  My bag had been delivered and they would be happy to run it right up.  The world was right again.  I had clean clothes, makeup and all the other necessities a girl wants.

 

Flashbacks of watermelon and nausea

REBLOGGED from last year

My brother, Ronnie and I in 79' at picnic area in Iowa.

My brother, Ronnie and I in 79′ at picnic area in Iowa.

It was the summer of 1979 at a roadside stop in Iowa.  The day my hatred for all things watermelon began.  I ate WAY too much of it; haven’t been able to stand it since.  Something about the gluttony and the heat mixed together and let’s just say I had to empty my stomach of all of it before we could resume our trip.

The rest of that trip was a good one though; it was my mom, dad, brother, sister and I.  I don’t remember what our vehicle was at the time, but I’m sure the three of us kids were sliding around in the back seat without the restraint of seat belts.  One of us would make a loud slap noise on our own leg and then yell, “Mom, so and so hit me!”.  “So and so” was whoever we felt like getting into trouble.

I remember that quite often I got to ride in the front because I got carsick.  This wasn’t one of my sneaky little games either although my brother and sister always thought it was.  Mom and Dad would usually attempt to make me sit in the backseat, but after enough pleas to, “pull over, I think I’m going to puke!” I would soon find myself comfortably lodged right between them up front nearer the air conditioner.  Okay, I admit, I wasn’t always really sick, but most of the time I was.

This was especially necessary in the summer when it was hot or if we traveled mountainous or curvy terrain.  I went on a trip once with my grandparents and aunt and uncle and threw up in the Catskills.  I told people about that for months.  To this day, when someone mentions the Catskill Mountains, it’s always the first thing I think of.

After my move to the front seat, Dad would cajole me into singing along with whatever country song was on the radio or 8 track tape.  One of his favorites for me to sing was Jessie Colter’s, “I’m not Lisa”, or Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t it make my brown eyes blue”.  With my eyes being brown and my name being Lisa, this was always funny to me.

I loved traveling as a child and I still do.  Some things about it haven’t changed at all.  There is something about heading out in the morning with coffee in hand, watching the sunrise as you countdown the miles to your destination.  Then there is the quality family time spent in the car together, arguing over the radio and temperature.  What about trying to get dad/hubby to stop for potty breaks and having to wait so long and pass so many possibilities that finally the only choice you have left is a nasty truck stop with no toilet paper or the other even less favorite option, the side of the road.

All in all, traveling with my family throughout the years holds more pleasant memories than bad ones.  Besides, looking back now, even the bad ones don’t seem so bad anymore.  After all, we were together.

An empty suitcase

Empty Suitcase (I) (Lomo)

Empty Suitcase (I) (Lomo) (Photo credit: roeyahram)

As I try to think of anything I can possibly do to avoid packing, I find myself here; sitting cross-legged in my comfortable chair with my notebook and pen poised and ready.  I might as well jot down my thoughts.

I get loopy in the 24 hours before I travel.  Call it travel anxiety I guess, although I’m not afraid to fly.  My mind just will not focus and I flit around from task to task getting very little accomplished.  I know that I will go to bed tonight with nothing done except perhaps some jeans thrown in the suitcase, or that book I must have on the plane stuffed into my purse.

In the morning, I will calculate and re-calculate how many more hours until I have to leave for the airport and when the count is down to around two, I will go into beast mode and get everything done with time to spare.  I have always done this.  The length of the trip, where I am going or who I am going with doesn’t seem to matter.

Since I am not a procrastinator normally, this odd behavior on my part puzzles me.   The only explanation I can come up with is that somewhere deep down inside, maybe I wonder if I will really end up going so I wait until the last minute.  That doesn’t feel like the answer, but what else could it be?

My family doesn’t understand me and I have one aunt in particular who starts preparing for a trip sometimes weeks in advance.

If you have any ideas, please feel free to share.  Why would a normally focused, planner-type individual put themselves through this?

Excuse me, while I go do anything but prepare for my journey.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Infinite (2)

Leaving New Orleans

Leaving New Orleans

Too blessed

City Park, New Orleans

City Park, New Orleans

We are finally home from vacation and although I had a wonderful time and wouldn’t take back the beautiful visit and fun times and laughter, I am looking forward to sleeping in my own bed tonight.

I was browsing facebook earlier and saw that a very wise, young lady posted a status that said, in essence, ‘lighten up, everyone has depressing statuses today”.

Her status reminded me once again how very fortunate most of us are.  I had to stop and reflect on this trip and how many times I made silly negative comments about a late cab or a long drive or even (as ridiculous as it may seem) about eating too much.

As soon as these utterances leave my mouth, I regret them.   I think of the family living in a car because they have lost their home, or people who can’t afford to go on vacation this year because they have too many medical expenses.  What about the starving children?  What if they could be a bug on a wall as we rubbed our bellies, filled with all manner of delicacies while exclaiming, “Wow, I did it again; ate way too much”.  I would be embarrassed.

So what can I do?  I can start by making sure that I voice good things, that I focus on the positive, and that I remember at all times how very much I am blessed.  For me, it’s about remembering from Whom I get my strength, hope and peace.

I truly believe that what we say can influence for good or bad.  If I grumble and complain, that propagates more of the same.  And seriously, isn’t life arduous enough at times without me broadcasting the bad like the ratings-hungry news media does?

So, once again I vow to try to remember those less fortunate than me when I find myself in a far from horrid situation that beckons a complaint or murmur.  I will silence the fuss with praise or a blessing!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lost in the details

I took this in Texas and every time I look at it, I find myself looking at all the different elements and loving the way they all fit together.

something special along the way...Texas trip

something special along the way…Texas trip

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