Sunday, July 15, 2012

How great is Your love

How great Father God- is Your love

for us, sinners that we are

how great, is Your love?

How is it Lord, that there are those

who do not see, nor understand

the love that You hold

while the false prophets call out

claiming Your name

in the words from their mouth

in the actions of their hands

shouting profanity in their words of hate

So many are fooled, taken in by the acts

thinking that what is said, is true

how wrong, so wrong

that they do not understand

there is wrong in every station of life

those who take truths and turn them around

twist and mangle peace into battles

love into hate, mercy and grace shredded

by how they are

How great is Your love Father God

for us the sinner

for us, Your creation

how great, how great

How are we, those broken and yet healed

stained and yet cleaned

lost and now saved

how Lord, do we reach out

in Your love

to a world that sees the wrongs readily

and takes it for true

how do we, show You

and how great

Father God how great

is Your love

Saturday, July 14, 2012

One if buy 10$ to if buy... insult should be our wake up call

Ralph Lauren responded to the outcry over the USA team's Chinese made Olympic uniforms. Only after members of congress threatened to burn the uniforms, only after American citizens made their feelings on this known. They have promised that the 2014 uniforms will be American -wait- "domestic" made. Can they not even say "American" made? Here are my thoughts on this topic.

Once upon a time, there was great pride in the land over American made products. They were the best made hands down. They still are- the ones that are. And yes, there is still American made products. There could be more. We need to use this latest incident to make us angry, to be the last straw, to make us finally fed up enough to act. And not just by writing blogs, or letters- but to physically put actions behind those words.

We do know how to hit them where it really hurts and that of course is in the bank account. Ralph Lauren feared that this would happen. That the backlash would cause fewer sells and it should.

I am not talking solely about American textiles here. Not simply about the clothing, but about all manufactured products. They are out there, it only takes a little more effort to find them. Once we do, buying American keeps American workers on the job and puts more of us there. You want jobs back? Buy American.

The only way to slow (we will never stop) cheap foreign imports is to stop buying cheap foreign imports. Cheap is not better. Cheap is killing our much loved pets and even worse sickening and putting our beloved children and families at risk. America has strict standards-yes it raises the cost but our families are safer. The chance of the many poisons that are being found regularly in imports being in domestic products are slim to none. If found all of the products are recalled and the producer called to task. I am not blind to the fact that greed is everywhere and can and does bring about those taking the chance of getting away with skirting the rules and laws. It is more difficult to do that here-and it is not the point of this writing.

If we set out to deliberately purchase American made products we will put Americans to work. We will cause companies to hire more workers, start up or start up more fully plants that have been idled. Lights will be back on and machinery humming once again.

Crafted with Pride in the USA could once again be our battle cry. Flying high and proudly on a banner across each American business. We could once again walk with head held high as we clocked in to a job created products that are made to last, made to clothe, to feed, to transport our family and neighbors. Products that will build and fill our homes. American products are still out there.

We can get the attention of the big chain stores that are only out for the profit made. Once you could walk into certain stores and see that made in the USA sign, once. If you want those products there again, shop elsewhere until they get the idea. Smaller, independent shops understand the importance of home grown, home made products and are happy to carry them. Spend your dollars- our greatest weapons in this battle- at home on home produced items. Put yourself, your spouse, your children, your neighbors back to work.

It was once said that the United States had moved from a manufacturing country to a service country. Really? Service to what? Unemployment? Hunger? Standing on the side of the roadways with signs begging for work, food, money?

We need to stand strong and stand together. We NEED to buy American made, "domestic" products. Shop at farmers markets, shop at family owned-independent businesses, shop where you know you will find American made. Check the label in that item. For every ONE American item purchased you put many back to work. It is a domino effect. One more business with work increased hires another worker to manufacture, another worker to do warehouse, another worker is hired to transport, another to stock in the store..One more person put to work puts more money in the economy which helps repair that economy. Which makes more people able to purchase more products or services. More are able to go to concerts, theme parks, restaurants- which means more employees will be needed there. Like that ripple in a pond it spreads. If we get riled up enough to act.

Buy American-return Crafted with Pride in the USA as our rallying cry. We have the power, we have the weaponry-we carry it in the form of our money. Use that weapon wisely and you can and will see a difference. If you sincerely want it.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Nice Slap in the Face Olympic Committee

photo taken in Pigeon Forge TN in July 2011

My home is in Gaston County North Carolina. At one time the textile industry was big here.  At one time we were called the Textile Capital.  "Mills" were abundant and bustling. Over-time, long hours, long days, were normal as we sought to fill the many orders. Shift change was hectic, traffic around the mills was maddening but the jobs were there and the work was honest. Some of the work was hot, some was physically difficult while others strained the nerves and concentration.

My first job was in a textile mill folding pantyhose and stuffing it into small pencil boxes. Eight hours a day, most of it spent sitting or standing in front of a long table using a plastic paddle to help get the hosiery into that box. I was young, I was fast and I worried the full time, permanent help who feared they would be expected to do that once I was back in school. Those paychecks taught me how to budget, how to save, how to have a really nice wardrobe and music collection. While I was being paid by the hour most of the employees were production- that meant the more they produced the better they were paid.

I went back to that mill once I got out of school. My mother worked there as well. If I did something the others thought wrong they ran to my mother. She managed to politely put them in their place and I worked on. Eventually I moved on and got a better paying-production- job at a different type plant. I went from standing in front of a table to standing in front of a machine the likes of which I had never seen before. I would take skeins of yarn and place them on a creel where they were wound onto a cone. Here I worked the night shift, the pay was better and the people a little less nosey. Not much as it was still textiles where everybody knew everybody else's business. Once I learned the job it wasn't too bad. I had to learn where not to put my hands but it only took not paying attention a couple of times before I became more alert and careful. When the opportunity arose I moved to the afternoon shift running an autoconer. A type of winder that run yarn from bobbins onto cones. I was still young enough to be quick and hungry enough to be greedy.

Around then there was something called the Textile Olympics, complete with Olympic type games. A Made in the USA campaign was going strong. The logo was every where. There was pride in the jobs, there was pride in the country, and what we were capable of doing.

I changed jobs several times over the course of the years- remaining in textiles for the most part. Working with my hands, using my mind to make it better, easier. Working six and ever so often seven days a week. Tired, frustrated at the lack of time for much of anything but work, but not hurting for money. We worked ignorant of what was to come. Wishing for a little time off, time to spend with family, time for a vacation, time to simply sit and rest. Still we worked producing a quality product for our customers. Box after box was filled, strapped, stacked and stored waiting for time to be shipped. Companies were working hard to keep up with orders. Orders for an American product, crafted with pride by American workers.

Then someone decided there needed to be a trade agreement and it all flushed away.

Textile mills closed. Big hulking empty buildings stood silent. Machines that once hummed nonstop now sat still, rusting in the passing time. Machinery was sold off to the highest bidder as the lights were turned off for the final time. People- the American Textile Workers stood outside mourning what was. They stood in unemployment lines waiting for their turn to be signed up for that temporary assistance. Where you once saw made in the USA now was anywhere but on that label. Where we once were a strong working nation, we fell away, watching as the jobs went to the countries were workers were exploited and paid pennies. We watched as huge ships crossed the ocean packed with cheap goods made by cheap labor. While we began to long for what was.

Empty buildings that could not be sold have been torn down. Empty lots now the legacy left. The few textile plants still operating a mere shadow of what once was. The pride one once held within their very heart missing as they wonder, what will tomorrow bring?

We were proud, we worked hard, we created quality. We worked stead regularly, unafraid of hard work. We knew quality and how to make it. We knew what went into our product and that those who used, consumed it would not be harmed.

Gone--so much is gone. Not just textiles but manufacturing in general. We still work, we struggle, we stand at the ready, willing to work and work hard at our jobs. Ready to create, to craft, to produce. The American Worker remembers what once was, desiring the return. What do we get instead? The clothing- the uniforms for the USA Olympians......

made in China.

Nice slap in the face Olympic Committee... nice slap in the face.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Doing Battle with a Porcupine with a pair of wire cutters and will power

I look....and feel as if I have been in a fight with a porcupine.

I have mentioned several times about my dogs; Buddy is a mixture of probably every type hunting dog the Good Lord made. Rambo is a border collie, possibly Saint Bernard mix. He's big, he's sweet and he is terrified of the sounds of thunderstorms, fireworks and gunshots. The only thing that scares Buddy is fireworks. But Buddy loves to run, and this front yard a quarter of an acre, fenced is not enough room. He will run around the yard and then jump the four foot high fence better than any squirrel.

When ever a storm would come up or someone had visited South Carolina or neighbors decided to target practice Rambo would jump on the front door wanting in. If we were here to let him in he would lie down in the bathroom and no one would know he was in the house. Several times we actually forgot he was in here right up until someone would go to take a shower only to have problems opening the door because Rambo was stretched out in the way. If no one was here- a terrified Rambo would manage to escape.

I had to do something.

A while back we ran an electric wire around the yard hoping that if they hit it once the memory alone would stop worked for Rambo. Buddy watched us run the wire and hook it up to the charger. He watched as Rambo walked up and got shocked. Buddy was released from his chain. As we watched he started at the halfway point and ran across the yard. As he reached the fence he jumped and caught the top of the fence, pulled himself over while going under the electric wire. We watched as he disappeared into the woods. I won't repeat the words I heard coming from my husband. When Buddy was caught he went back on the chain. The squirrel have been tormenting and teasing him ever since.

Everything was fine until Rambo recently discovered the electric wire wasn't charged. That night there was a thunderstorm. I figured Rambo hit deep within the storage building. The next morning I was sitting here talking with my husband when I heard a noise that sounded like something was drinking out of a container of water in the backyard. Jumping from my chair I headed for the back door. There was Rambo looking up at me. Getting him in the house I wondered how he got out, and what was I going to do now that he knew he could escape.

We found where there was a hole in the fence so I repaired that as best I could. Rambo still got out. I had no choice. Over a year ago I had purchased two rolls of fence wire with the intention of cutting it in half and attaching it to the top of the existing fence, increasing its height. James had instantly voiced his opinion and I had abandoned the idea. Now I knew I was going to have to do that after all.

Fetching the wire from the building I located an old pair of wirecutters. I cut a long section of wire from the roll, first by cutting it in half and then separating it from the roll. Carefully I attached it to the fence using the wires from the fence itself. One by one I bent them into place around the old wire. This was going to take a while. Once I had that first section up I did what I knew I had to do as soon as possible. I got James and brought him out to where I was working and showed him my handiwork. At first he was not happy, but I showed him how I was doing it so that there were no gaps anywhere. There was no way that either of the dogs could get between the two wires. Once he understood that he accepted my project. He didn't offer to help, but he didn't argue about it any longer.

Since I started so late that first day I only got the two sections up but I figured out what I was doing-I hoped.

When I got in from work the next afternoon I rested for a bit, drank a cup of coffee, answered a few phone calls and figured I'd put off working on the fence as long as I could. All day at work I tried to figure out what I had done that had rubbed a blister on my finger. Once I picked up that pair of wire cutters and began to work I knew. Needing to finish the fence in an attempt to keep the dogs in I ignored the pain and worked at cutting and attaching wire until it was too dark to see. Crossing the yard I was content with what I had accomplished. Fearing a thunderstorm I closed Rambo up in the storage building. I was glad that I did because it did come up a rather nasty storm that night. The power went out not once but twice. I wasn't worried, I knew Rambo was safe, he was probably afraid, but he was safe.

The next afternoon I was back at work. I slowly made my way around the yard attaching the new fence wire to the old. Fence wire that has been cut, has a sharp edge. Thankfully I wasn't having too much trouble as I worked. Once or twice I stuck myself but I shook it off and kept working.....right up until I ran out of wire.

After I got off from work the next afternoon I went by the local handy dandy home improvement store and garden center. I purchased a roll of wire and some small support rods. As I crossed the parking lot with my purchases I was planning on finishing the job quickly. In my distraction I managed to stick my finger with a wire protruding from the roll. Being that I take a low dose aspirin I bleed more easily. I looked like I had done serious damage to my finger as the blood ran down and dripped off. I carefully as possible pushed the cart with one hand to my car, there I loaded my purchases and then again with one hand pushed the cart to a buggy corral. Back in the car I managed to find a paper napkin. Wrapping it around my finger I held pressure on it for a moment. Once the bleeding was stopped I started the car and headed home.

Phone calls and other distractions kept me from finishing my project. There was always tomorrow, Lord willing. Closing Rambo up in the building for the night I headed for bed.

After work I went straight to work. I was so close to being finished I was determined to get it done. It got a bit more difficult here as I was working on the front section of the fence where everyone could watch my progress--or lack of. The wire took on a mind of its own, fighting me all the way. I got wrapped in the wire, it tangled in the old wire, it tangled up in itself and every sharp edge that could either stabbed, jabbed or cut me in some way. I carefully stepped around flowers, wires and a curious dog. With James's help I did finally get finished today. The wire is up all the way around the yard. I didn't want a fence that high around my front yard, but if it keeps the dogs in the yard so be it. I do plan on re-stretching the electric wire and getting another charger. Once the electric fence is again "live" along with the higher regular fencing hopefully my two escape artists will remain where they belong in the and sound.

So yes- it was worth it feeling as if I have done battle with a porcupine. These two are my pets, my friends, my responsibility and I will do my best to keep them safe. Even if it means going outside my comfort zone and once again entertaining my neighbors.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wrap me in Your peace Lord

I shudder Lord, in this storm

cold air of fear, darkness of worry

surround me

make me weak

I turn to You my Lord

reaching out to You

seeking Your light, needing Your strength

wrap me in Your peace Lord

wrap me in Your peace

that I may continue on

The winds of strife blow

the rains of tribulation fall

soaking me in knowledge of the wrongs I have done

watering my shame

in my weakness I turn to You

reach out to You Lord

from here at the foot of Your cross

needing You, seeking You

here in my time of need

wrap me in Your peace Lord

wrap me in Your peace

that I may continue

the road is long

rutted and covered in the stones of sin

making me stumble, causing me to fall

pain fills me, robs me of laughter

as the tears fill my eyes

briars of temptation grow along the roadside

snagging me as I pass

ripping at the flesh, bringing me down

I seek You Lord, I seek Your strength

I need the forgiveness that comes only from You

wrap me in Your peace Lord

wrap me in Your peace

that I may continue

that I may walk in Your light

know Your love

take my hand Lord, walk with me

cleanse this spirit stained

heal this broken heart

walk with me Lord, grant me Your grace

that You offer so freely, I only have but to reach out, accepting

reach out Lord, draw me to You

show me Your way, grant me Your mercy

forgive me Lord, for my wrongs

the sins I have done

wrap me in Your peace, Lord

wrap me in Your peace

that I may continue

in this walk to You

walk with You

showing You

to those I pass

showing this relationship of peace

of love

of hope

wrap me in Your peace Lord

heal this broken life

wrap me

in Your peace.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Some call it a vacation-back to Cades Cove and the falls

Thursday morning I rose early. There was a room full of things that had to be collected, packed and then packed into the Explorer. I knew already that my packing was going to be nothing more than wadding, twisting and shoving. It was either going into one of the two suitcases, the bag that was designed for something else but had been drafted and if those were full- Wal-Mart bags would work. I sent James to get some ice- just enough to keep the sandwich meat cool until we get a bag of ice. Once I had everything packed(?) I went down on the elevator to fetch a cart to haul everything on. Back up at the room James helped me get the cart loaded and then we moved everything to the car. Things packed so much easier --and better--as we were preparing to go on vacation, this looked like something that had been poured out of a blender. Looks aside, everything was in the Explorer..all that was left was making a last examination of the room to make sure we hadn't left anything-any where. Once I had checked every inch of space and made sure the room was half way decent as far as all of the trash was in or beside the trash can, the bed linens were at least on the bed not the floor while the dirty towels were on the floor beside the tub. The counter space was clean, the fridge was empty as was the microwave. It was time to turn in the keys.

My husband was waiting in the lobby for me and James, handing me a cup of coffee he waited as I turned in the keys and acknowledged we were checking out. It had been a nice and interesting adventure but now it was ending and we were turning our thoughts toward home. Right after breakfast.

On Wednesday we had eaten breakfast at Shoneys, the breakfast bar was good, but it was too much for us on this morning so we turned in at a fall back favorite and made our way into the Cracker Barrel. While were ate we discussed what we were going to do. James said he was going to hang around a while then head for home. My husband looked at me and told me "If you still want to go to the waterfall we'll go." I wasn't giving up that opportunity. With a big smile and nod I was happy..and ready to go before he changed his mind.

I was worried about making it there without problems since I didn't have my navigator this trip, but I made it. It really wasn't difficult, if you didn't turn, you drove into a field, since I didn't want to run off into any fields- I turned.

We drove past all of the points of interest, we had already seen them. I wanted to see the falls. Following the slow line of cars traveling around the scenic loop we finally arrived at the road leading to where I was wanting to go. Parking the car we got the cameras and a bottle of water for each of us. Crossing the parking area we were met by a park ranger who asked if we had enough water. She told us that we really needed more than what we had. I shrugged and went back for more. I rearranged my camera bag and put the water bottles in it being I didn't have anything else. Returning to where my husband waited he took the bag and we smiled at the Ranger and started off. I was excited, my husband not so much.

I'll give him credit for trying. He did, he really did try. But his lack of exercise, his job sitting behind the wheel of that big rig and his excess weight did him in. A half mile into that five mile hike he gave up. He told me he was going back but I could go ahead if I wanted. I asked if he was sure and when he told me he was I took one bottle of water and headed off at a fast pace. I didn't want to leave him waiting on me too long. We did have to go home after all and that was going to take a while in itself. The sign said a three to four hour hike. I wondered if I could do it in less?

It didn't take me long to wonder about my intelligence - or lack of, my sanity and my ability to do this crazy thing. The one thing that held strong was my determination. Each step was one closer to my goal. Unfortunately for me some of those steps were uphill, steeply uphill. Roots and rocks littered the trail and I won't admit -loudly- how many times I nearly tripped because I wasn't watching where I was going or I wasn't lifting my feet high enough.

I talked to some very interesting and friendly people along the way. It was quite the variety of people taking this hike, from elderly to the very young carried in backpacks. Single people and families all were making this hike. Each were friendly in their own ways. I was enjoying this---right up until I reached that first "bridge" A half long placed across the creek with a handrail. Thankfully neither this bridge or any of the ones to follow were very high, it was just the thought of trying to cross and not slip. The bridges didn't slow me down very much, I was still determined.

Finally reaching the falls, tired, hot and way out of breath I was disappointed in how many people were gathered there. It was going to be difficult to get a good photo. There was a gentleman and his daughters over near the falls taking pictures, lots of pictures. I waited as patiently as I could in my tired condition. Finally they finished with their photo shoot and moved away. It had only been at most ten minutes but it seemed like hours. I fired off around ten shots then turned and headed back the way I had came.

Along the route back I stopped every once in a while to take a photo. I captured the trail, the creeks and even places in the river when I could get down to it without problems. I passed people who would in turn a few minutes later pass me. We passed people going in the opposite direction. I did not do to them what had been done to me "You're about ten minutes away". The first time I heard that I had to have been forty minutes from the falls..that was mean.

As I recognized points I could guess approximately how much further I had to go. I was overjoyed when I turned the bend in the trail and saw that bridge. I glanced down at my watch, that three to four hour hike had taken me just over two hours. The ranger smiled at my return and told me she bet I was glad I had more water. I told her that actually since my husband had turned back all I had with me was the one bottle. Trust me, I had nursed that bottle, carefully rationing it along the way up and back. But yes- I was more than ready for more water and as soon as I reached the car I found another bottle. Another thing I did was dig a pair of shorts out of the suitcase. I had been wearing jeans and I was melting. Taking advantage of the restroom I quickly changed.

Returning to the car I settled in for the long drive ahead of us. We had filled the gas tank up the night before so I was not going to have to stop. We crept around the scenic loop watching out the windows for wildlife. I was still hoping to see a bear but it simply wasn't to be. Not this trip. Once we were out of the loop we turned the car in the direction of Pigeon Forge. I called James to see where he was, if he was still in Pigeon Forge then maybe we could head back together. He was already at home and wondering where we were. Oh, um, well- its going to be a while before we get there. Then... a rare thing happened. As I drove I was able to remember landmarks just as I had on the trail. I knew approximately where we were and how long to the next turn. Reaching the light at Pigeon Forge we turned and were finally on the way home. Adjusting the air conditioning, my sunglasses and the radio, water bottle within easy reach..I was ready.

I drove, and I drove and I drove. I was beginning to wonder if I would ever arrive at 40. I was remembering things from past visits so I knew I was on the right track. I just didn't remember it being so far. I did finally find it after getting my husband annoyed at my lack of confidence in my own sense of direction. The one thing that my husband should be glad of, is that I was wanting to get home as badly as he was, otherwise I'd have stopped several times along the way for pictures. We did stop once for coffee. I was more than ready to stop. Once parked I opened the door and stood slowly. Every muscle ached. It took longer than it should for me to fully straighten. That first step had me looking like a toddler first learning to walk. It was embarrassing but the pain and stiffness eased quickly. The thoughts of coffee helped.

Back on the road everything was going well right up until the wind picked up. Remember, I'm driving a Ford Explorer, down a mountain..with winds that were determined to give me a difficult time. I was holding onto that steering wheel with all I had and we were still being blown about. I watched the road ahead of me praying the winds would die down. I began to ache from the shoulders all the way down to the tips of my fingers. Only once did it manage to frighten me, that was the time that the vehicle was actually pushed almost into the lane beside of us. There was a nice big truck coming up quickly. I didn't want to be where it did.

Gaston County was a very welcome sight. My husband asking if I wanted to stop and pick something up for supper was a welcome suggestion. Even though I wanted to go home, the thoughts of not cooking had me quickly agreeing to what ever he wanted to stop for. Fried chicken secured in the back seat we headed for the house.

The Dirt Road was a beautiful sight to see. The remnants of the puddle at the end of our driveway a welcome sight. Parking the car I watched the dogs in their excitement of seeing us. James came out to help bring things in. I watched as they piled everything but the food in the living room floor. Yep, we're home. And it feels so good.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Some call it vacation-Gatlinburg, Patriot Park and fire in the sky

Gatlinburg reportedly has the first Independence Day parade in the nation as it is held at midnight. The adventurer in me wanted to be there, the not as young as I once was person said the grammatically incorrect "ain't happening". And it didn't. We did however go to Gatlinburg on the fourth.

After a quick breakfast James drove as I and my husband sat and enjoyed the drive. James even drove a bit less aggressively, which was much easier to take. We had talked about taking the trolley from Pigeon Forge - but didn't. We saw the sign for a visitor's center/ trolley stop and discussed parking there- but didn't. So much for a free parking, no hassle trip. Driving into Gatlinburg we parked in the same place that we always have and handed over the ten dollars for the privilege. Leaving the car windows down slightly we headed out for the next part of our adventure. The heat we had been dealing with from the beginning was unrelenting. I wanted to shop...not to buy, but for an excuse to escape the heat. We went into a mall that was interesting. Making the circle we headed back out to the street. Back in the crowds we made our way down the street to the corner that lead us to the aquarium. Ordinarily I love the aquarium but it was so crowded that it was impossible to see and photograph all that I wanted to. The people were nice enough even- as some seemed determined to camp out in spots. I was fighting to remain patient even as I watched my husband walk on ahead leaving me to my challenges. I was doing okay until the young girl stepped backward right onto my foot. It was an accident, I know it was an accident..she didn't mean to just as I didn't mean to let out that yelp of pain. Her mother herded her away, telling her she had to be careful.. I tried to apologize and tell her I knew she didn't mean to. I didn't want the girl being lectured over an accident....but it DID hurt.

We made our way through, seeing the various forms of aquatic life, watching the demonstrations and visiting with the penguins. Leaving there we decided that it was once again time to eat. Shoneys sounded good and brought back a lot of memories. Once fed we separated, James heading out to do what ever it was he had on his mind as my husband and I wandered among the shops. The heat had grown even more intense so I left my husband in a fast food place as I searched more of the shops for a souvenir for my parents. Finding what I wanted I headed back, reaching the restaurant at the same time that James did. Leaving there we made our way to the car and back to the hotel. It was there that I found out about Patriot Park and the celebration going on...

James looked up the location for the park and we decided that we would walk there. It was still hot at six in the afternoon but we set out anyway. Before we even reached the sidewalk James spotted a distant rainbow. As he watched it he decided that it was going to rain and headed back for the car. My husband and I continued on. When there was a break in traffic we quickly crossed the roadway to the center medium, then waited for a chance to cross the rest of the way. Once that came we hurried across and then joined the throng of people and made our way to the park. Cars and people were every where and more were coming. My husband and I made our way around the field seeing what all was set up. Once we reached the far side we called James to find out that he had arrived and was waiting near the river. Crossing the field we found James and found a place to sit on the rocks.

It wasn't long before the heat had us thirsting for liquid refreshment. James had grown bored so he volunteered to go off in search of water. When he returned he told us that he hadn't been able to find water but had canned sodas for him and his dad. I-being the all knowing one- decided that I could find water and set off on my quest. Circling the field I was not having any luck. I passed a table that had a sign for iced sweet tea, by this time I was growing desperate and got in line. Just as I arrived at the front of the line the lady behind the table reached across and pulled the sign from the table. When I inquired she told me they had just ran out. Turning away I started off again. Stopping at another table I asked about water to be told that a truck for a soda company had water. Crossing the field to the near halfway point I patiently waited to be waited on. When I asked for water I was told they had ran out thirty minutes before. Why is it when you can't get something, that is when you want it even more. I went back to where my husband and son sat. I stood there looking back in the direction I had been wondering where I was going to get water. Then the light went off, we had walked through a small store when we first arrived, maybe they had water. Leaving my family where they sat I headed for the store. Entering I made a quick circle, no water. Back out on the porch I looked back toward where my family waited, then straight ahead. I wondered if I was going to have to go back to town in search of water. Then I saw it---straight ahead on the front porch of another establishment was a soda machine. Hurrying across the parking area I pulled money from my pocket and fed it into the slot. Pushing the button I prayed and got a bottle of ice cold water. I twisted off the top and took a swallow and it was so incredibly good going down. A lady and her daughter came up- behind me and bought a bottle of water and walked away. Thinking to carry a bottle back to my husband I fed more money to the machine only to have it show sold out. Well, he had drank that soda- it wasn't like he had gone without. Walking back I knew I was going to be a bit selfish, but he was not getting my water...and he didn't.

We listened to live music while we waited on the fireworks display. My husband kept trying to guess when it was going to start. We knew eventually he would have to get it right but until then it was slightly annoying. When the fireworks did begin we found that a tree was part way blocking our view. Still all in all it was a decent show and we did enjoy it. I did wish later that I had placed the camera on a tripod but then I wouldn't have gotten some of the interesting effects that I did holding the camera.

Once the fireworks were over we began the walk back. Crossing the roadway at the light and with the help of the local police was much easier and quicker. Once we were across we took our time walking back. The night air slightly cooler and a full moon rising made the evening nice. Arriving back at the hotel we snuggled in..the next day we were going home.

Some call it a vacation--Cades Cove

Tuesday morning a minor miracle happened. We not only awoke early, we left the room early---for us. A reasonably quick breakfast and we were on our way. James had chosen to ride with us and he was my navigator. We had stopped on our way in and talked with a gentleman at the Welcome Center and he had given us a map and told us how to get where we were going. He also tried to sell us tickets to some supposedly new attraction but we didn't bite on that one.

Taking a left turn at light three we headed away from Pigeon Forge. We knew that this was going to be a drive but I became very glad we had stopped at the Welcome Center, otherwise we would have probably turned around long before we arrived. Traffic alternated between cruising right along to almost stopped. I was glad I was driving as my husband was impatient with the drivers around us. Eventually we saw the first sign pointing us in the direction to the Cove. A few miles more and we were entering the national forest. If I was accustomed to long walks in the woods I would have sworn we had entered a new world...then again, maybe we did. Branches from the trees hung heavy over the road, shading our way and we drove on. Small rivers flowed along the side of the road inviting us to stop and play for a while. Entering the Scenic Loop we stopped and for a dollar walked away with a map to the loop we were about to drive.

The cars ahead of me were in no hurry and I was glad. I wanted time to look at everything. We stopped at the first field so I could take photos of several wild turkey that were content to wander in search of food and ignore the humans that were standing with cameras seemingly permanently attached to their face. Pulling back onto the roadway we continued on.

At the first site noted on the map we parked and began to make our way across a field. My husband wasn't happy about the hike but he had been forewarned. We were told we had just missed several deer which disappointed me but I kept hoping to see wildlife at some point. We wandered around the cabin for a few moments and then headed back for the car.

At each point we would stop, get out and wander about examining the buildings and trying to imagine how life was at that time. The beauty of the fields and forest both took my breath. I tried to imagine the land before we came along and made the changes and did the damage we have done. To be able to cross and field, a river even a mountain and not see trash or graffiti left by those before us was a wistful thought. There were churches and homesteads and trails. James and I visited one homestead and then began to follow a trail that had a sign saying it was to a waterfall.

The trail was incredible. Going deeper into the woods it followed a creek that became a small, shallow river. The temptation was great to stop and wade but I knew that our time was limited. Two people ahead of us stopped and were pointing up on the hillside. There to my delight were three deer enjoying a meal of leaves from low-growing brush. They looked in our direction but stayed right where they were. They knew no harm would come to them there. I managed to take photo after photo of the deer as they moved about on the mountainside. Finally deciding to leave them in peace James and I walked on. After what seemed like forever we reached a point where the path widened. A bridge crossed the river and a wide trail lead to a parking area. We were going to continue on until I noticed the sign saying that it was still two and a half miles to the falls, a three to four hour hike. We had left my husband in the car for too long as it was, he would definitely not be happy if we left him another three hours. And with no cell phone service there was no way to tell him where we were or what we were doing. So, we headed back, only James decided to go a different route. I told him that we should stay on an official trail to which he pointed at a sign and informed me that the way he was going WAS an official trail. So- I followed.

The trail was fine, for a while. It followed the river, crossed over tree roots, around fallen tress and through fields of fern. It was beautiful and I fired of several shots with the camera. Everything was fine....until we ran out of path. At some point it had to have crossed the river, only we missed that spot. James in his wisdom said that as long as we kept the river on our left and the road on our right we would be fine. We could hear the slow moving traffic not too far away from where we stood. I knew that we weren't lost, I just wish that we were closer to the car as it was hot, I was thirsty and growing tired. James moved on and I again followed. Where did the time go that I was once the leader, dragging my brothers and whoever else would follow into one adventure or another?

We followed the edge of the woods and crossed a field. I kept stopping to take photos of wildflowers and insects which put James way ahead of me. When I was about twenty feet from the roadway a pick up truck with several people rising in the back passed. One rider attempting to be cute and draw a laugh from his buddies rising with him shouted out "Hot mama" I didn't even look up. I just kept wading through the knee high grass in the direction that James had gone.

Reaching the road I could see James up ahead. Calling for him to wait did no good, I realized later he was simply trying to get to the Explorer so he could come back and pick me up saving me the full walk. Once I was in the car I listened to the lecture that James had obviously already been subjected. It was somewhat deserved so I said nothing. I had wanted to stop at the point leading to the falls but said nothing as we passed it.

Following the slow moving traffic we made our way around the loop. We didn't stop again until we reached the ranger station. We hadn't brought any water with us so the fountain there was a gift. We spent some time wandering around the site, my husband checking out the buildings, me still taking photos. I was falling more and more in love with this place.

When we left there we came up on several vehicles stopped in the road. Others had pulled into one of the areas for that purpose. One lady had even climbed up on the top of her vehicle. When asked she told us there was a bear out in the field. By the time my husband had his fill of the place so James drove on. I was not happy, but not complaining. James did try to spot a bear for me as he drove, but it simply wasn't to be.

Leaving the loop we passed people enjoying the river doing their best to cool off in the summer heat. There were many places along the route we took that I would have loved to stop for pictures but didn't ask.

Once back in Pigeon Forge we made a quick run to Wal-Mart for sandwich fixin's and drinks. Back at the hotel we were all ready for a rest. I however dreamed of returning to Cades Cove and making my way to the waterfall...I really need to be careful what I wish for.

some call it a vacation-we arrive

Once we really got started the drive up was relatively uneventful. Get on the interstate and drive. Follow traffic, keep up with the flow and stay out of the way of the big rigs. We only stopped once on the way up and that was to fill my husband's thermos with coffee--being that I had drank not only my cup of coffee but finished off his as well. He had told me days before he got home that he wasn't driving at all. He does enough of that for a living and someone else (meaning me) could and would drive. I have no problem with that as long as he doesn't try and tell me how to go about it. That being the case I needed coffee- no matter whose it was. Some stranger driving down the road leaving his cup unattended may have been at risk of losing said cup when mine ran dry. So we stopped and filled the thermos and were back on the highway headed west.

The one thing I do not like about traveling (anywhere) is my total lack of any sense of direction. My son- he has no need for a map and I would swear he has some form of  internal compass that has him traveling in the right direction at all times even when he has never been where he is going before. I on the other hand could not find my way out of a paper bag turned over on its side with neon arrows pointing the way. This annoys my husband to no end as he had planned on sleeping all the way up. Needless to say that didn't happen.

By the time we neared Pigeon Forge I was feeling every mile. I was very relieved to see the familiar signs advertising this dinner and show venue or that odd looking upside down house, the Titanic and even the bumper to bumper traffic. That never ending line of tail lights leading the way to our destination was a beautiful sight to see.

Pulling into the roadway leading up to the hotel I breathed a sigh of relief. Parking the Explorer we got out and made our way to the front desk. There we met two of just a few of the nicest people we were going to meet on this adventure. We informed them that James was coming and were told that all he had to do was stop by the front desk when he arrived. Getting our keys we made our way up to our room. There I learned just how important it is to make sure of exactly what you are reserving. It had a king-sized bed, there was the Jacuzzi, but what I thought should have been a couch, was a bench. There was no where for James to sleep. It was also a smoking room. The smell of cigarettes was over powering. The room was clean- it was nice-it was the last one on the floor right near the stairs--but it absolutely reeked of cigarettes. Turning around we headed back down to the front desk. I knew there would be no double rooms, I actually knew there would be no other rooms period but my husband insisted on trying. There Heather and Tabby explained how everything was booked and they were having to turn people away. They could, however provide us with a rollaway bed. They also provided us with some airfreshner for the room which helped greatly. We did have problems with allergies during our stay but there was nothing that could be done. We did not warn James about where he was going to sleep- we saved that for his arrival and us getting to see his expression.

Knowing it would be late before James would arrive we carried everything up to the room and then went to the Cracker Barrel for supper. There again we met some really nice people who immediately led us to a small table. The meal arrived quickly and was very good. After eating we headed out into the Pigeon Forge traffic and returned to the room to rest and to await James. The room had free wi-fi so I had brought along my netbook. I have a love -hate mostly hate for that thing. Its too small to see well, incredibly slow and seems to have the humanistic desire to fully annoy me.On the other hand at least I could get online to wish everyone a good morning or good night.

It was going on eleven when James arrived. Mildly tired but ready for a vacation. He had brought along his video game system and proceeded to set everything up. He had- or maybe I should say hadn't- really packed. He had tossed what he planned to wear in the truck of his car. He brought up only what he needed for the night, tried to get his system online and when that failed settled for watching a bit of television as he unwound. As for the bed, his maturity shown when he simply shrugged and said that it was better than sleeping on the floor.

I realized just how tired I was from the drive when I was able to fall asleep even with the television on and the volume loud enough (I thought) to be heard back in Charlotte. My last thought was of the next day- we were going to Cades Cove..I was hoping to see bear--- little did I know, exactly what awaited us...

Some call it a vacation-and we're on our way----finally

Some call it a vacation, we call it a mystery-adventure, because one never knows what sort of adventure awaits around the next bend. An example of this is the adventure we returned from yesterday.

We had planned this for months. My husband - the long-haul truck driver, even stayed out on the road for just short of six weeks so that the timing would fall into place that he could have the same week off that I did. While he was out there,I was here making preparations. I made the reservation online managing to get a room in the hotel my husband loves. Why, I'm was not fully sure, as a room is a room. All we needed was somewhere out of the weather to sleep and a place to stash our stuff as we wandered about. Originally it was going to be me and him, something that hasn't happened in a long time. I had booked a room that had a king size bed and a Jacuzzi. According to the description of the room it would sleep four-just in case James was able to come up for a night. We weren't sure if he would be able to or not since he had to work.

As time passed I purchased things along the way that we would need. Clothing, memory cards for the cameras, shoes, batteries for the cameras, a hat, lens cloths for the cameras..

The week that my husband was to come home he picked up a load somewhere in Virginia, or Maryland, or Pennsylvania..(after a while it all runs together for me). He took one look at the bill and had a meltdown. The load they had given him went to California. There was no way he could get to California and back in three days. If they made him take this run our adventure was over before it began. As luck, planning, the Good Lord and savvy dispatcher would have it, my husband delivered the load to the company yard and picked one up there to deliver here in NC. (What a waste of a good meltdown)

I was having a wonderful time trying to get our washing machine repaired while all this was going on. We were finally able to get everything set up and in motion for Thursday afternoon. All the while my washer had been down the dirty laundry pile had grown. It was a monster waiting to consume my time and energies.

Friday afternoon he pulled into the place that my brother had built for him to park that big rig and dropped the trailer. He then pulled the tractor around so that he could empty it of items that he was tired of hauling around. Too much clothing, some empty water bottles, bread bags, DVDs that were damaged beyond repair..and enough dirty laundry that I'm going to be busy for a while. Once he had everything he wanted out piled up on the ground and at various areas of the house he headed for Charlotte and the place that was waiting on his truck to do servicing and search for a coolant leak that so far no one has been able to accurately track down. James was in from work and got the good fortune of following him over there. It was somewhere in the midst of all this that I found out that James had managed to get time off from work and was going to get to come up Monday afternoon. He would get to be there the entire time. One set of plans changes, another emerges. I was glad he was going to be there. At his age I don't know how many more 'family' vacations there will be.

Over the course of the weekend we finalized plans, synchronized watches and began to pack. Well- we planned to pack. Actually.....we didn't touch anything anywhere near packing. We did go shopping for a few items needed, socks and stuff.

The plan was to leave out Monday morning at seven. Sunday night at eleven I was finishing up the laundry I was going to do and trying to ignore the Mount Everest of clothing still waiting. I was exhausted and the early morning wake-up that alarm was going to give me was a frightening thought.

Monday at seven I was up. James had never had any problem getting up and getting ready for work but the mom concerns ingrained within me always feared that first time. So there was I, waiting to hear that alarm as I put a pot of coffee on. My husband was up and he began packing what he was going to take. Once he finished I would gather my closet. After James had left we began to pack my Explorer. Suitcase, cameras, cooler, hats and more were stacked within. Was this an adventure of a few days--or weeks? I am always an over-achiever when it comes to packing. My mother on the other hand can pack enough clothing for a week in a carry on bag. By the time we were finished loading the vehicle I'd swear the poor thing was audibly groaning.

Finally making sure everything was locked up-it was now somewhere around ten-thirty- we left the house and headed out. That Revels' timing thing was falling right into the routine it always does. We were leaving out at least three hours later than we had planned.  First stop, to fill up the Explorer with gasoline. Once that was accomplished we stopped at Wal-Mart. A few last moment odds and ends along with a box of contacts for James. Since it was so late, we stopped to get a sandwich. Finally, we pulled out and headed for the interstate. We were on our way. We had no idea of the adventure that awaited us.

                                     to be continued...............................