Friday, May 31, 2013

Day 34--May 31, 2013

     It's been a long week, but I'm glad I was able to be in my hometown (Morgantown, WV) to be with my sister and her family when they buried her daughter, Chrissy.  Nancy and Rick (sister and b-i-l) are doing as well as can be expected.
      Richard and I decided instead of going back to Minnesota to enter Canada, we would go straight north from Morgantown, through Niagara Falls into Ontario.  We will do that tomorrow and then we will head west along the top of the Great Lakes.  We have never seen that part of Canada.  I'm excited about seeing new places.  I'll let you know tomorrow night how the trip through customs goes.  Some of you have heard the stories we've faced at the border.  Fingers crossed it all goes smoothly this time.
     I've taken some pictures during this past week, which sorta sums up some of the things we did.  Hope you enjoy them.

Until next time,

Blackberry bushes blooming in my sister's yard.
Rhododendron (WV state flower) at its finest.
Knock out roses Richard planted in Nancy's
Flower bed.  He planted two, one from him and me
and one from our cousin Sandy.  They were both loaded
with blooms.
This is for Walker Norman.   That white thing in the
distance is the WVU Coliseum
Home of the Mountaineers
My sister near her daughter's grave site
Beautiful tree.
I am standing next to Chrissy's final resting place.
If I walked straight ahead, over the knoll for about
a half a mile, I would be in the backyard of the home
where Chrissy lived with her family for several years.
They will be able to ride there on the golf cart.  From the
point where I am standing there is a 360-degree panoramic view. 
So peaceful and beautiful.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Day 27--May 24, 2013

          This morning, Richard and I were awakened by an early morning call.   It was my sister telling me my neice, Crissy, (Christina Leigh Swangern Stone) had passed away. It was 41.  She leaves her husband, Joe, daughters Sarah Jo (16) Carlee (11) and son, Jesse (8). 
           I'm not sure how much blogging I will get to do over the next week, but we have turned back from our trip north.  We should be in Morgantown, West Virginia by Sunday evening. 
          The funeral will be on Tuesday, May 28.  That is the same day our mother passed away seven years ago.  We'll spend a couple of days after the funeral with my sister, and then head north again on Friday.
           Just wanted you to know in case I skip a few days of blogging.  Thank you for all the prayers sent to my sister and her family.  They are deeply appreciated and will still be needed for some time to come.

Until next time,

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Day 26--May 23, 2013

                                                        Minneapolis, Minnesota Skyline
 Taken from our car while we were in 5 o'clock traffic
The most fun I've had in a while.  NOT!!
          Today was my big day at the Mall of America.  It was very chilly when we first went outside.  I was glad the mall was under one roof and not like the two new malls we have in Jacksonville--individual stores.
          We parked in the west parking lot and entered through Nordstrom.  I had to warn Richard not to touch anything and to use his inside voice when he screeched at the $250 scarf I was looking at. 
          We started in one place and worked counter-clockwise around the first of four levels.  We had pep in our steps.  I made a quick stop at Teavana's and sampled some yummy tea.  About twenty minutes later, we found a giant LEGO store.  Ty loves Legos.  I called and asked him if there was a set he had been wanting.  He told me, and we asked a clerk.  While he rang up the sale, Richard took pictures of the giant Lego displays made into dragons and helicopters.   Shortly, we were on our way again lugging a Lego space shuttle and space center.
          Richard kept asking me what that was he had just taken out a loan on, and I kept trying to explain that they were those little plastic blocks that he was constantly stepping on when our kids were little.  Finally, he remembered what they were and reminded me he didn't know them by LEGOs because he had always called them something else, which I won't mention here.
          We rode the escalator to the second level.  With a little less pep in our step, we started the same tactics as level 1.  Soon we rethrought that strategy and started looking at the brochure listing the names of the stores.  We picked out stores we really wanted to see. 
          Any of you who have been to my house know that I have a bedroom converted to a Butler's Pantry where I store all the things I use when I'm entertaining.  I even have a brass plate on the door with Butler's Pantry inscribed on it.  But you also know that Richard calls it my As Seen On TV room.  In all fairness, that is a good description.  I love, love, love as seen on TV stuff.  If you ever want to know if something works before you lay out the money for it, just email me.  I can probably tell you for sure.
          So imagine how thrilled I was to discover, an As Seen On TV store.  It was a big store, filled with lots of stuff.  Most of which, I am already the proud (or not so proud) owner of.  I now own a pair of Tropical Shiatsu Acupressure insoles.  Who knew there was such a thing, or that I really needed some of them?  I bought two pairs of Miracle Socks.  I already have a pair of these little beauties, and I highly recommend them.  They keep the swelling down and help the circulation in my legs when I am traveling.  Richard insisted I get more, because he felt I should wash the ones I'd been wearing since I left home a little more often.  He is soooo funny.   His big buy in that store was an Electronic Bug Zapper.  We will need that in Alaska. 

            Me in my Happy Place
          We did about a third of level 3 and only one store on level 4.  That was a GNC store and I was trying to find something like Red Bull to help us find the strength to get back to the car. 
          In the middle of the mall is a massive amusement park.  Roller coaster.  Flume rides.  Flying swings.  You name it, it was there.  We passed on all of that. 


Until next time,

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Day 25--May 22, 2013

          Today was a travel day.  We went from Liberty, Missouri to Maple Grove, Minnesota.  We are just outside of Bloomington where the Mall of America is located.  It rained all the way.  We are set up in a campground where we will be until Sunday or Monday. 
          We just ate and it is 8:15.  I'm going to call it a night for two reasons:  1. I'm tired.  2. There is nothing on television.  Those are two of my best reasons. 
           I have one more small chore to do before I retire for the night.  I will be marking something off my Bucket List.  I am in Minnesota, the only state in the contiguous United States that I haven't been in.  As of today, Richard has now been in all of them because he was once stationed in Hawaii.  I've never been there, but it is on my list for one day.
          Tomorrow I will get to check off something else on my Bucket List.  We are going to spend the day at Mall of America.  I'm not even crazy about shopping, but I am so excited to go to this place.  I'll fill you in on the highlights of my day tomorrow night.

Hope everyone is doing well.
Until next time,

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Day 24--May 21, 2013

          We spent the day in the repair shop to have the water pump replaced and a seal put on the axle.  We left there about an hour ago.  (It's 9:00 pm)  Richard and I had a fairly peaceful day.  He stayed out of the mechanic's way, which is sometimes hard for him.  He napped most of the afternoon. 
          The weather was so nice, and we only had to put the rear of the bus into the bay.  So, we opened the windows and had a nice breeze going. I watched the television about the tornado most of the morning.  It just torn my heart out to see how quickly lives could be lost or changed forever.  I turned it off and worked on trying to figure out exactly what I should be writing at this point.
          Mostly I napped and exercised.  That's right.  I exercised.  I dozed off in the recliner several times.  Just as I would get into a deep sleep, the loud sound of an air wrench would violently yank me from my sleep.  Faster than you can say Boo, I would jump out of the recliner, (yes I said jumped and you would have, too).  I would assume my best karate stance only to realize no one meant me any harm. 
          I would then ease back into the recliner, and hope with all my heart the mechanic didn't see me through the open windows and didn't hear me growl my karate call--yaaahaa!!  I went through this about three times, then I decided it was time to give up the nap idea before I seriously hurt something.  I have a feeling I'm going to have sore muscles in the morning, because I know I used some that have long been forgotten.
          We should be stopping shortly at the Missouri/Iowa border in a rest area where we can assume our positions--Richard sleeping like a baby.  Me standing guard.
           My thoughts and heartfelt prayers go out to the victims and their families of Moore, Oklahoma.

Until next time,

Monday, May 20, 2013

Day 23--May 20, 2013

          Today, our trip was short.  We left Joplin and traveled all of 170 miles to Liberty, Missouri, home of  David Allen, former American Football Running Back for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
          We didn't  stop here because of the former Jag player.  Naw, it's a little more exciting than that.  We stopped because the water pump went out on our bus.
           Those of you who know my dear husband, Richard, know he is one of the luckiest in the world and maybe on the moon and Mars. Here is how my luck runs with situations like we ran into today. 
          I had two little boys and was pregnant with my daughter.  I was driving in a 1972 Ford F-150 pickup.  I was getting off of Interstate 95 onto Phillips Highway.  Busy, 4-lane road.  There was a down-hill slope to the road and the battery was not fastened right, so it slid forward and somehow blew up.  I'm sure RW had some technical term for what happened, but to me it was BOOM!!  SMOKE!!  Little kids SCREAMING, or maybe that was me. 
          We came to a complete stop in the middle of the road.  I jumped out and started pushing the big truck (did I mention I was about 8 months pregnant) into a nearby parking lot, uphill.  No one stopped to help me.  Since it was 1978, I had no cell phone.
           Although I can't remember how (I think I blocked that from my memory) I got it all worked out.  I do have a vague vision of dragging two small boys down the street several blocks before I found any signs of life.
          Now, let me tell you about the way the Earth rotates for Mr. Wilson.  He said to me that he thought we'd stop for a leg stretcher.  As he pulled off the interstate, he said "Oh, darn, we seem to have a coolant problem.  I'll just pull into this big K-Mart parking lot where there is lots of room to park and I can run into the store to get antifreeze."
          He took a quick look at the compartment that holds the engine.  He pulled out his cell phone, which I think is permanantly glued to his hand).  Richard called a friend who works at the Prevost place in Jacksonville, told John the situation.  John asked if we had just passed a place call World of Fun, which we had.  He said he knew right where we were and he had a good friend who works on big trucks, and he was sure he'd come to us as soon as he got off work.
          Well, since that was 2 hours away, Richard took a nap.  When the man got here, it didn't take him long to discover the water pump had gone out.  It couldn't be driven.  He called a Detroit Engine repair place and they sent a wrecker to have the bus towed to the repair place.

                                                   First they sent a big wrecker,

                            Then the driver called for back up, and they sent a bigger wrecker.

          They towed us (are you ready for this?) 3 miles to the repair facility.  Who breaks down three miles from a SPECIALITY repair facility which is recommended by a mechanic who was sent to us by a friend in Jacksonville, Florida.  They can't fix it until morning, so we are parked in the parking lot of the shop. 
          My job in these situations is to play night watchman, peeking out the window at every noise. Richard??  He's sleeping like a baby. And if his luck holds out, we will be back on the road before the sun is very high in the sky.  My luck may not be that good, but I am pretty lucky to benefit from his being that good.

Until next time,

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Day 21-22--May 18 and 19, 2013

 May 13, 2008, Richard and I were in Joplin, Missouri, where our friends, Jack and Jeannie Dickson live.  They had just arrived at our bus so we could go out to dinner.  I may be from Florida where we are known for hurricanes, but I am no stranger to tornados.  The sky turned putrid green.  I said a tornado was coming.  We closed all the window shades, got down on the floor as hail loudly pelted against the metal sides of the bus and the wind vibrated the floor.
We later learned it was the edge of an EF4 tornado that took seven lives in a nearby Oklahoma town about 2 miles away.  We went on to Alaska with $20,000 worth of hail damage to our bus.  Scary!!
On the morning of May 23, 2011, my son Ryan called me early on that Monday morning and asked if I’d heard from Aunt Jeannie.  I said no.  He told me to turn on the news.  I think I may have been in a little bit of a state of shock when I saw the devastation that had been done the evening before to a six mile strip of Joplin, Missouri.  I immediately started calling Jeannie, but got no answer.
I stayed glued to the television for hours, my heart in my throat.  I finally got in touch with her and found they were okay.  They’d been on their way back to Joplin from Springfield.  They had been out of the storm’s actual path, but not of the severe downpour and debris falling all around them.  Jeannie was in the floorboard praying.  Once they got back to town, they couldn’t get to their home for 24 hours.  They spent the night with Jeannie’s sister who lives in an undamaged part of Joplin.  A lot of the destruction was very near to them.  They had minor damage compared to the war-like scene they had to drive through to get to their home.  Their motor home was stored a couple of miles away, which they couldn’t get to for several days.
Here are some of the statistics about the EF5 that shredded 30% of Joplin, Missouri.
“The trees will grow back, the houses will be built back, but the lives lost here, we’ll remember forever.”  --Governor Jay Nixon
May 22, 2011, at 5:41 pm, for twenty minutes, wind exceeding 200 mph left a path of destruction through a city of 50,000 people.  That path was three-fourths of a mile wide and six miles long.
161 people died
8,000 buildings destroyed
Half of the city’s schools were destroyed
7th deadliest tornado in US history
My daughter-in-law, Heather works at the Jacksonville Humane Society.  She was part of a team sent to Joplin to work with the rescued animals.  She was here about a week.
Of course, I can’t show you pictures of the aftermath, but here is a link that will give you an idea of what Joplin looked like.  Before and After aerial view of Joplin
Each one of the 161 people who lost their lives (some died several weeks later) had their own story.  I’ve read about each one.  I’d like to tell you about a couple that (as a mother and grandmother) touched me deeply.
William Richard "Will" Norton, (18).  Will and his father were on their way home from Will’s graduation from Joplin High School.  The storm hit and pulled Will through the sunroof of the car.  His father had held onto Will’s body until the storm sucked him from the car.  The young man was found in a pond a few days later.
Skyular Logston (16 months old)  Skyular was sucked from his mother's arms as she, Skyular’s father and grandparents hunkered down in their home.  His injured parents and grandparents survived.
Christopher D. Lucas (27)   Pizza Hut manager lauded a hero for getting customers and employees into a walk-in freezer.  He tried to hold the door shut, but couldn’t.  Christopher was Navy veteran with 2 children and a third on the way. 

Kayleigh Savannah Teal (16)   A sophomore at Seneca High School was working at the Pizza Hut when the storm hit.
There were many, many more sad stories.  Many people died in the hospital which is now in the process of being rebuilt.
Today a tornado hit Wichita, Kansas and that weather cell is now headed to Joplin.  I’m getting ready to go to bed, cover up my head, and pray like crazy that it isn’t my time to go.  I’ll check back in tomorrow to let you know how Richard and I made out.  One thing we have decided is that we won’t be back to Joplin between the dates of May 13-May 22.


 New Construction of Joplin High School
which is approximately 5-6 blocks from
Jack and Jeannie's home.
Until next time,

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Day 20--May 17, 2013

          Every time I come to visit with Jeannie, we try to work in a visit to the Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage, Missouri.  Today that was our destination.  Jeannie warned me that they had cut back on the part of the gardens and museum possibly because of the recession.  There were parts that weren't open, but it still had a lot to offer and I enjoyed the visit.

           Precious Moments are the little kids the teardrop eyes that was a big hit back in the 1970's.  My daughter Tiffany started a collection when she was young, and I always tried to pick her up one when I was here.
          Samuel John Butcher is the creator of the Precious Moments art, and the Chapel, museum and gardens were built by him.  Born in Jackson, Michigan on January 1, 1939, he was the third of five children who grew up in a very poor family. The family moved to Northern California when Sam was quite young, settling in rural Redding.
          Most of Sam's childhood days were spent drawing and sketching.  With his mother’s encouragement, he pursued formal art training following his high school graduation. He won a scholarship to the College of Arts & Crafts in Berkeley.
          Sam Butcher’s Precious Moments artwork was introduced to the public in 1975 on inspirational greeting cards and posters.  In 1978 the first Precious Moments figurines were unveiled. The success of the figurines was amazing, but Sam never lost touch with his original purpose to create art which combined his heartfelt emotions with his abiding faith.  In his heart was a desire to honor the Lord by building the Precious Moments Chapel. And, so the Chapel was built.  Since its initial completion in 1989, millions of visitors have come to admire his work and share his faith.
Inside the Chapel, you will find 9,000 square feet of inspired art.  Also, 84 Biblical hand painted murals.  The beautiful inner Chapel has a mural at the front with Precious Moments characters representing real children who have passed away.  There are stain-glass windows on each side.  One side represents stories from the Old Testament, and the other side from the New Testament.
          I have visited the Chapel and gardens several times, and I always feel overwhelmed with the serenity that surrounds the place.  There are Precious Moments statues throughout the gardens. 
                                                                                           Large display in entrance 

Jeannie at the Angel Fountain
          One of the most touching scenes is viewed from the end of a stone bridge.  You look back into a wooded area where an angel sits in front of an empty tomb.  It is called the Resurrection Cave.  The sign says something like “He isn’t here.”        
 Another bigger-than-life statue in the entrance
          If you'd like to read more, check out their web site.  Be sure to look on the left side for ABOUT US.   Precious Moment Park and Chapel

Until next time,

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Day 19--May 16, 2013

          This will be a short post.  I had a bittersweet day.  Jeannie and I shopped at an awesome place called Sandstone Gardens.  I asked if the palatial building, that housed room after room of home decor and garden accessories, had been built as a mansion.  The clerk said no, that it was built for the purpose they are using it.
         They also have a restaurant, which reminded me of a French bistro I've seen in many pictures.  We shopped until our table was ready.  I had lasagna, salad and strawberry shortcake.  First dessert I'd had in a couple of days.  Tasted good.  With the music softly playing and the tables set as it would be for a high tea, it was a relaxing atmostphere, perfect for visiting with Jeannie.
          Today, I took a few pictures of the rebuilding process of Joplin, devastated by the EF 5 tornado on May 22, 2011.  Tomorrow night, I'll tell you my Joplin/Tornados story and I'll post some of the pictures I am taking.
           On the bitter part of the bittersweet day, please send positive thoughts and prayers to my sister, Nancy Swanger and her family in Morgantown (Hilderbrand community), West Virginia.  Her oldest child and only daughter (mother of 3 school-aged children) Christina (Chrissy) Swanger Stone, has terminal cancer tumors in her intestines and pancreas. 
          They admitted her to the hospital today with several blood clots and was told the tumors were progressing faster than the doctors had predicted.  They suggested they give up on the treatments they had been doing.  (Chemo)  My sister is, of course, devastated, but she has to stay strong for the other members of the family who are being shattered by the fact they are losing their mother and wife.
          I've never been quite so lost as to what to do or say.  All I can do is ask my friends and family to pray for all of them to pass through each stage of the days ahead with a peaceful heart for what must be and an acceptance of what they can't change.

Until next time,

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Day 18--May 15, 2013

          Wow!  What a beautiful ride we had today.  We left Tunica and some of our money behind and headed north to  Memphis.  After crossing the remarkable Mississippi River, we went west passed Little Rock onto Fort Smith.   There we turned north and started the awesome ride through the Ozark Mountains.  They are breathtaking.  The sun was soooo beautiful.  Barely a cloud in the sky.
          In Fayetteville (where Bill and Hillary lived when they got married), we stopped in the parking lot of Wal-Mart, googled the Bed Bath and Beyond which was 184 feet from where we were in the parking lot.  I hurriedly fixed my hair and for the first time in a while thought, "Dang, I'm having a good hair day."
          We looked out the windshield.  Do you think for one second either of us could see the BBB store from where we stood?  Nay Nay.  Right across the street was Old Navy and Home Depot.  Richard went out and unhooked our tow vehicle so we could drive 184 feet in search of BBB. 
           Just as he stuck his head into the bus to let me know my chariot awaited, the bottom fell out of a mean, old cloud that had appeared out of no where.
          Richard ran to the car.  I closed the bus door, punched in the locking code, then I ran for the passenger door, which, of course, was still locked.  Richard, in his haste to get into the car himself, was busy in the dry interior of the car dusting away the few raindrops which had managed to land on him.  Miraculously, he didn't notice the drowned rat glaring at him through the passenger window.
           He motioned for me to get in.  I shot him a . . . well, let's just say he suddenly realized what was going on and hit the unlock button.  Once I was inside the car, and steam had quit coming from my ears, we went behind the Wal-Mart where other stores were located to see if we could find Bed, Bath and Beyond.  After several minutes of driving around (in the rain), we asked someone where it was.  (They were kind enough to answer our question, even though the rain was pouring down.)  They directed us to store which was recessed quite a ways back between (say it with me) Old Navy and Home Depot. 
          We did our shopping at BBB and then drove back to Wal-mart.  We finished our haul there, which included one of those plastic rain caps Grandma used to wear.  While we'd been driving around we saw a MacAllister's Deli.  We went back there and ate.  So, our recon mission wasn't a complete waste of time.
          Back at the bus, we unloaded the bags from the car.  While I put everything away, including my newly-acquired rain cap, Richard hooked up the Jeep.  He then took his seat behind the bus steering wheel, and I swear, as if it was on a timer, the rain STOPPED.  It never rained another second all the way to Joplin, Missouri.  Of course, my good-hair day was a thing of the past. 
          Our long-time friends, Jack and Jeannie Dickson met us at the campground, and we visited for several hours.  Talking, laughing, drinking several glasses of White Merlot, and my "bestest" friend in the whole, wide world.  It doesn't get any better than this.

Until next time,

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Day 17--May 14, 2013

          I had a really pleasant and relaxing day.  Spent last night in a welcome center on the border of Alabama and Mississippi.  This morning we drove to Tunica, Mississippi. Tunica has an interesting history.  It is located about 20 miles south of Memphis, along the Mississippi River.  In the 1990’s, journalists and politicians used to stop here when they were looking for a story about black poverty.  In 1985, Jesse Jackson visited the town of Tunica, the county seat, and called it America’s Ethiopia.   60 Minutes did reports in Sugar Ditch Alley, a neighborhood of crumbling shacks named for its open sewer.
Things have really changed here in Tunica.  The community has grown to be the third-largest gaming region in the United States, after Las Vegas and Atlantic City.  Unlike other casinos along the Mississippi River, Tunica was not in the path of Hurricane Katrina.  As a result, some of the Gulf Coast casino traffic drifted northward to Tunica County.
Although the casinos lie outside the town limits, the effects of tax revenue generated are felt inside the town.  Public school system and the downtown district are currently among the most visible aspects.  Projects in the works are improvements on U.S. Route 61and expansion of Tunica Municipal Airport.  For the casinos and related business, thousands of jobs have been opened to Tunica residents as well as from neighboring towns and even other states.
Gambling has helped pave the way for new industries.  In 1991, Tunica County had only one traffic light.  Now it has miles of four-lane highways traveling around 9 casinos and 19 intersections with traffic lights.
Tunica County claims to be the site of Hernando DeSoto’s discovery of the Mississippi, but that is disputed by Coahoma County to the south and Memphis to the north.
            Farming still dominates most of the land in the county.  In 2002, Tunica County ranked eighth statewide in cotton production and fourth in rice production.  County farmers were also among the early pioneers of the farm-raised catfish industry.  Mississippi is the undisputed world leader in that business.
            Yes, the casinos brought a lot of revenue to Tunica, Mississippi.  Unfortunately, they didn’t see fit to allow Richard and me to take some of that to Alaska with us.  My dear husband said that the next time we will just send them a check and save the fuel bill to drive over here.  We ate at a buffet at Bally’s.  I have to agree, the catfish was terrific. 
Until next time,

Monday, May 13, 2013

Day 16--May 13,2013

          Shortly after my first book, Big Hair and Flying Cows, was released, I received a call from Program Coordinator, Pat Johnson from the Warren P. Sewell Memorial Library in Bremen, Georgia.  She said that she thought I had sneaked into town and stole my characters from the citizens of Bremen.  She asked me to do a booksigning.
          At that time, I had done a few signings, and although I've never been really comfortable promoting my books in the public eye, I agreed.  I have to tell you it is still one of my favorite signings of all times.  The ladies of the library had a reception for me, which consisted of refreshments and decorations of very creative ideas.  They had made pictures of cows and laminated them, then cut them out and attached a clip to the back of them.  All the ladies wore them in their hair.  There were all kinds of pictures and signs dealing with cows. 
          I met a lot of people from Bremen.  One was a lady named Tina who owns a towing company.  Pat swears Tina is Bertie.  I had so much fun and felt so special there.  The took a picture of me and all the ladies around me.  After they printed it out, they put it into a frame surrounded by resin cows, and, since that day,  I've had that framed picture on my table in my office.  It's very special to me.
          I returned to the library after the next two sequels of Big Hair and Flying Cows.  Each time was done with the same precision and fun as the first one.  For Barking Goats and the Redneck Mafia, I have a collection of goat pictures, Beware of Goat signs, a very neat bookmark with a goat on it.
          For Jail Bertie and the Peanut Ladies, they had T-shirts with wanted signs on them.  The food they served for the reception revolved around peanuts, like a peanut butter dip and apples.
          Since that time, Pat Johnson and I have become close friends.  A couple of years ago, she came to Jacksonville and spent several days with me.  We had a ball running all over town, seeing the sights, shopping and eating.
          Early this morning, we left Lincolnton, Georgia and headed west to Bremen.  I was treated to a tour of the new addition to the library.  It was so beautiful, bright, and had several areas inviting people to comfortable reading areas.  They still have my books.  I gave the library a copy of the new release of Little Big Heart by Salt Run Publishing.  Salt Run Publishing Check out their web site.  The CEO's, the Sharpe's are great people to work with, and dear friends, too.

 Lisa Walton-Cagle, Me, Pat Johnson
         Thanks for lunch, ladies.  It was short, but I enjoyed it very much.  Pat, I'll be in touch about that situation we talked about.  :-)  Keep in touch.
Until next time,


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Day 14 and 15--May 11 and 12, 2013

          The last night of the concerts went well.  A terrible thunderstorm headed our way, went around us.  So no rain for the concert.  The banana pudding went over well. 
          Today is Mother's Day.  There are four special ladies in my life that I believe are wonderful Mamas.  April, mother of my three step-grandkids, Taylor, Cheyanna, and Gregory.  Heather, mother of grandson Brody.  Samantha, mother of my two step-grandsons Chase and Travis.  And last, but definitely not least, my own baby girl, Tiffany, mother of Ty and Drew and step-daughter McKinley.  You all make me very proud of the women and mothers you've become.  I love you all very much.
          My own mother (Gloria Aurora Moro Morton) left us on May 28, 2006.  She suffered from a disease called Huntington's Chorea.  Huntington's disease is a neurodegenerative genetic disorder that affects muscle coordination and leads  to cognitive decline and psychiatric problems.  It typically becomes noticeable in mid-adult life.  HD is the most common genetic cause of abnormal involuntary writhing movements called chorea.  It's hereditary, but if it skips a generation, it stops there. 
          My mom's mother, my great-grandma, Mom's sister, my brother and several of mom's aunts and uncles on the Guthrie side of the family all had Huntington's.  There is no cure, but in the late 1980's a test to determine if the gene is present was discovered.  My sister was tested, but she didn't have it.  I've never been tested.  I didn't want to know if I had it.  I just wanted to live my life the best I could and hopefully have no regrets if and when the disease struck.  I've been told by my doctors that I'm too old now.  I would have had the onset in my early 50's.  Actually, I'm too old for a lot of things, but being too old for this one makes me very happy.
          I tell you all that to tell you about the day my mom passed away.  On Friday night my mentally disabled brother, Robin, was admitted to the hospital with kidney failure.  Saturday morning, I told Richard I really needed to go to Tampa to see about him.  My mom had been in a nursing home for five years and my 79 year old father (at the time, he's 86 now) was Robin's caretaker.
          I had a critique meeting to attend that day.  Richard picked me up in the bus and we towed my Jeep behind us.  It was evening by the time we got to the hospital, but my brother was awake and seemed to be doing fine.  I went back to see him on Sunday morning and then went by to see my dad at his house.  Richard stayed at the bus to do some maintenance.  I went to the nursing home to check in on Mom before I headed back to Jacksonville.
          When I got to Mom's room, there were several nurses around her bed.  One of them said, "Gloria, your daughter is here."  Then she said, "Well, that perked her up."  I stepped to the foot of her bed, touched her toes, and she took her last breath.  Something had called me to make that unplanned trip to Tampa that day.  I thought it was my brother, but it turned out to be my mother.
          I know everyone says the deceased is in a better place.  For my Mom, I KNOW that is true.

On a happier note:
          Today we went to Billy and Merle Hurst in Elberton, and Jennie and Terry Schofield from Simpsonville, SC joined us there.  We ate lunch and visited for several hours talking about the good old days.  Over a period of many years, we did have some good times. Merle has two daughters, Michell and Billie Jo.  Jennie has two boys, Jason and Jeff.  It was really good to see both couples.  Since I couldn't be home with my kids, I really appreciated being able to spend this special day with special Mama's.  Love you both.  Be sure to stay in touch.
Jennie, Merle, Me
Terry, Jennie, Richard, Merle, Billy  
Until next time,


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Day 13--May 10, 2013

    Second night of the Homecoming concert.  Tonight, one of the performing groups was The Lewis Tradition, which is an offshoot of the Lewis Family, the legendary bluegrass gospel music group that retired in September 2009 after six decades of performing more than 200 days each year on bluegrass festivals and gospel music programs. 
     The Lewis Tradition is made up of Janis Lewis Phillips (Little Roy's sister), her son Lewis Phillips.  For many years, Travis Lewis played bass for the Lewis Family.  I've heard people say over the years that Travis is one of the best bass players in the business.  He now joins his Aunt Janis and cousin Lewis in the Lewis Tradition.  The fourth member of the group is  Travis' son, Jameson who plays keyboard.
     Several of us listen to Janis tell funny stories about traveling on the bus with her family for most of her life.  Everyone kept saying those were stories that you couldn't write in a book.  After a couple of the tales, I reminded them I'm a published author and I felt sure I could write that stuff in a book.  It was a fun time. 
Janis and Lewis Phillips
     Jeff and Sheri performed more of their beautiful southern gospel songs.  The lineup also included Karen Peck and New River.  They are a trio of gospel singers from Gainesville, Georgia.  They've been nominated for many of the gospel industry awards like the Dove Award and also nominations for the Grammy.  Karen has been Female Vocalist of the Year for several years.
Karen Peck and Sheri Easter
     Tomorrow night will be Jason Crabb.  My contribution to the meal after the concert will be banana pudding and bacon crisps.  Calm down, Marge.  Calm down.  I'll make you some if I every get back to Jacksonville.  LOL.
Until next time,


Friday, May 10, 2013

Day 12-May 9, 2013

         Richard and I had the interior of our bus redone before we left Jacksonville,  Don Wilson did it for us.  I'd seen enough of his work to know that I trusted him enough to pick out the fabrics  and material.  I was recovering (or dying) from walking pneumonia and we were running out of time.  So I told them to keep it to earth tones and I would be happy.
         Don and Richard spent the day traveling from one fabric shop to another.  I'm sure Calico Corners will never be the same after Richard was there fabric shopping.  Anyway, I was very pleased with what Don picked out and co-ordinated.

          A couple of days ago, we were parked at Little Roy's sister's home.  Richard was working on a door of Little Roy's bus.  He backed the bus out of the stall and stopped it the rear end right at the door of our bus.  They left the bus idling for about ten minutes.
          Suddenly, I realized that there was BLACK oily dust on my white keyboard and all over my hands.  I called to Richard and asked him if he had been using my computer with grease on his hands.  After investigating a few minutes, he found the whole front of the inside of the bus filled with diesel soot.  It took Richard about three hours to literally wash every inch of washable surface and vacuum all our next upholstery.
           After I got back from the grocery store, I recleaned all the kitchen surface.  It was quite a mess.
          Tonight was the first night of Jeff and Sheri Easter's Lewis Family Homecoming.  Gospel singer Lynda Randle.  What a voice!!  Lynda has been on many of the Bill Gaither shows.  She is very beautiful and gracious, and I enjoyed meeting her.  If you get a chance, check out the link I've included.

          Artists, workers, and friends always go back to Jeff and Sheri's home where another gracious lady serves food to die for.  Peggy Fauscett, Pulaski County Clerk of Superior Court, in Hawkinsville, Georgia.  Her son is a drummer and plays for gospel bands.
Peggy G. Fauscett
Ms. Peggy Faucett, County Clerk and all-round special lady
           I usually go with Peggy to the house to get the food heated and ready for the hungery people to arrive after the concerts end (usually 10:30 PM).  Once in a while she let's me make a dish or two, but she really doesn't need my help.  I just like catching up with life since the last time I saw her.  She does a a fabulous job of feeding the crowd terrific home-cooked food.  I also enjoy this because I get to meet the performers like Lynda Randle.
           I've told you the story of the diesel soot and introduced you to Lynda Randle.  Now, I'm going to tie those to stories together and throw Richard into the mix.  All of you who know Richard really well just emitted a collective gasp.  Rightfully so.
           Just before they came into the house to eat, Richard and Little Roy had handled a hose from the bus, which evidently had been covered by the soot.  Their hands were black.  They washed up, but it didn't come off.  Several of us were hanging out in the kitchen talking to Lynda.  When she was introduced to Richard, after they shook hands, my dear, wonderful, husband held out his open palms to Lynda and when she asked "What is that?" he put his hand next to her arm (an exact match by the way) he said "I guess it is rubbing off."
           I was dying of embarrassment and Lynda was dying laughing and so was everyone else.  From there everyone started telling stories along that same line. 
           Question:  Is there a specific number of times a person can die of embarrassment before you actually die?  If so, after thirty-nine years with Richard Wilson, I certainly must be getting close to that number.

Until next time,

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Day 11--May 8, 2013

         Richard and I had a really special day with old, old friends.  I think I mentioned Billy and Merle Hurst in a previous blog.   Merle told me today that her oldest daughter, Michelle, recently celebrated her twentieth wedding anniversary.  I knew Michelle when she was in junior high school.  That's how long we've been friends.
          I remember Billy saying he'd like to retire and get a cabin in the mountains.  Well, he retired, so did Merle and they moved to the hills of northeast Georgia, but they didn't get their cabin.  They are the proud owners of one of the prettiest houses I've ever seen.  Beautiful porches built off of various rooms.  Merle has done a great job of decorating.  She has several vignettes that look like something out of Architectural Digest magazine.  Super job.  Actually, I saw at least two ideas I plan to steal when I get home.  :-)                    
Billy and Merle on their front porch
Rose bush in front of Billy and Merle's house
Little closer view of the Hursts
          They moved to Elberton, Georgia, where we happen to know a few people.  Al McCall is a young man who used to play banjo for Lizzy Long when she first started out with her own band.  Al's dad is Tom McCall, Georgia State House of Representatives.
          Located in Northeast Georgia, Elberton was incorporated on December 10, 1803. The city was first called "Elbertville" and named for General Samuel Elbert who fought in the Revolutionary War. Elberton sits near the center of Elbert County, 33 miles east of Athens and 110 miles east of Atlanta. Known as "The Granite Capital of the World", Elberton produces more granite monuments than any other city in the world. Elberton is also known for attractions including granite monuments, historic homes and architecture, beautiful lakes, historical theatre and downtown square, and the 20,000 seat Granite Bowl.
          This is the part of Georgia where my next book, that will be out in October, is set.  I love this area.
          Billy and Merle live on one of the lakes.  Richard Russell Lake.  Merle says it consists of 600 miles of waterway.  We are going back on Sunday and Jennie and Terry Schofield are coming down from Simpsonville (another set of old time friends who used to live in Jacksonville).  We may go for a ride on Billy and Merle's boat on the lake.
        We spent several hours with Billy and Merle and enjoyed a great lunch of grilled chicken, potato salad, green beans, fresh tomato slices, cream corm, rolls and Sock It To Me cake and ice cream.  The food was wonderful and so was the visit with Billy and Merle.
          We got back to Lincolnton in time for Richard to take a quick nap.  We gathered Lyle West and took him with us to have dinner with Carol and Walker Norman.  What a treat.  We had chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, white gravy, limas, biscuits, fresh onions, pickles and jalapeno peppers.  Carol also made a dessert type salad that was a new one for me and I loved it.  It was a great way to finish the day.  I'm glad we got to spend it with Lyle, too.  He leaves to go home to Alaska in the morning.
          I'm going to sign off now and roll myself to the bed.  I can't remember the last time I ate two big meals like that in one day.  I wouldn't have missed a bite of it, but Lordy, am I suffering now.

Until next time,


Day 10-May 7, 2013

        I made the greatest discovery today.  It's called taking time for yourself.  I didn't know I could sit still as long as I did today without hanging onto a keyboard.  I actually sat outside the bus in beautiful sunny weather, surrounded by green meadows and woods. 
         I also did something I never have enough time to do.  Let me see if I can remember what it is called.  Oh, yeah, I read a book.  Really!!  A book.  Not manuscript pages.  Not on a Kindle or computer.  How cool was that?!?!
          Bonnie and Little Roy had some friends over for dinner.  I made a Spanish-style shrimp and instead of rice which would be the tradition, I made creamy grits made with half and half and garlic herb butter and parmesan cheese.
          All that resting and slow moving has worn me out.  More tomorrow.

Until next time,

Monday, May 6, 2013

Day 9--May 6, 2013

          As I’ve mentioned several times, we stayed in Elijah Clarke State Park in Lincoln County, Georgia.  Besides being a beautiful 474-acre state park located on the J. Strom Thurmond Lake, it is also a memorial to Elijah Clarke.  He was born in 1742 in Anson County, North Carolina.
Elijah Clarke (1742-1799)
In 1773, this area belonged to the Creeks and Cherokee Indian nations.  After 1773, a treaty was signed with Europe.  Elijah Clarke and forty other families settled in the area.  He was a frontiersman, a Continental Army Officer and Revolutionary War hero.
After the war, Clarke was elected to the Georgia legislature.  In 1794, he organized the Trans-Oconee Republic, several settlements in counties of Georgia in the traditional Creek Territory.  From there he attacked several Creek villages, but was restrained by the Georgia government.
Houses built with dog-trot construction (a central open hallway divides the rooms of the house) were common during this time.  A newly renovated log cabin displays furniture and tools dating back to 1780.  The house had four rooms.  Two of the front rooms were paneled in maple, which was unusual for the time.  Windows were barred and also had shutters for even more protection.  Gun ports were in every room through the outside walls.  Because it was hostile territory, Clarke knew he had to protect his family.  He also used the central hallway to house cows and horses by stretching rope across each end to keep them safe.  The cabin was known as Clarke’s Fort. 
In the house, their beds had ropes under mattresses drawn tight in place of springs we have today.  The ropes were kept tight for comfortable sleep.  That is where the expression “sleep tight” came from.  If someone over-stayed their welcome, Hannah would loosen the ropes to make for uncomfortable sleeping so the company would leave. The mattresses were made from hay.  Expression “hit the hay” came from this.
The kitchen is in a separate house.  Hannah believed a real lady cooked inside and not over a campfire.  Breakfast would be corn meal mush, apple cider.  Lunch was usually a stew made from whatever meat the men killed.  Last meal of the day would be cold leftovers.
 Clarke’s wife, Hannah, was a Virginia lady, who followed her husband into the frontier.  She made all their clothes.  It was important to her that each of her eight children have two complete sets of clothing—one to wear, one to wash.  On a loom, she produced linen for two shirts for Elijah, which she was very proud of.  When the Tories started over running the settlements, she hid the linen shirts under the smoke house floor.  When they got to their home, the Tories asked the kids where all their treasures were hidden.  They led them to the shirts.
Hannah helped fight in several Indian attacks.  Once, when Elijah was gone, the Tories took over their home and burned it.  Hannah escaped with all eight kids.
Elijah Clarke died on December 15, 1799.   He and his actions served as one of the sources for the fictional character of Benjamin Martin in The Patriot (a 2000 Mel Gibson film).
The park is also the site of the graves of Elijah and Hannah Clarke.
Until next time,