Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving, Y'all

I hope your day is filled with joy, love, friends, family, abundant thanks and turkey.I know mine will be...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Seasons of Change

I have a boy. I have two, actually, but there's this one...he's the one we're going to talk about today. It doesn't matter which one he is - if you know us well at all, you'll figure out which one he is. This one... a trailblazer, in his quiet, understated, passive-aggressive way.

He listens to math lectures, and then tries to find another way to do his problems. That would be great, except that his way tends to take twice as long and result in half the accuracy. And then he has to go back and do it the boring correct way and gets all the answers right in half the time and will still try his way tomorrow.

He learns all the correct foundational strokes in his tennis class and then watches a professional player do it differently, and without asking for any input from the professional tennis teachers that we pay rather handsomely, completely changes how he does those foundational strokes. That would be great, except that then he has to start all over, learning how to do it correctly the new way, and that results in much frustration and despair because he can't quite get the serve in like he used to, but by golly he looks cool.

Don't get me wrong - I'm glad he wants to blaze trails...I am all for the big ideas and the bold moves. But here's the order to blaze new trails, it's helpful to have traveled a little longer. It's a good idea to become completely familiar with the known maps of the area - with the survival techniques you need in order to make it through the process. I KNOW he wants to be his own man and do things his way, and I don't want to squash that in him, but it's just not time yet, little man.

I promise, son, you'll know when it's time, and when it is...I promise to buy you a brand new machete for hacking your way through the underbrush. Until then, though, save up your energy and just cruise along on the path others have paved for you-I'm exhausted with pulling you out of the briars.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Azalea in Waiting

This was taken at the top of Andrew's Bald, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I'd love to go back in the spring, when the azaleas are blooming - it must be an amazing sight!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

This is a test...

Just testing out my new toy...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thank You...

Korean_War_Memorial all those who have given so much to keep our country free.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

They Bearly Made It

Queen Anne's Leftovers

So, when we last left our intrepid family, they had narrowly escaped a black bear's attention while it munched on red berries in a tree right next to the trail on which they were hiking. Even so, they decided it would be wise to continue to hike single file, with the kids in between the parents, just in case they ran across another wild animal. They passed a couple of groups of hikers and warned them of the bear in the tree, feeling confident they would make it back to the car in good shape.

About a half mile past where they spotted the bear in the tree, the mom heard a loud, crunching, movement-type sound on the uphill side of the trail. She stopped abruptly, told everyone to be quiet and looked toward the sound. They all heard the sound that time, and through the gaps in the trees, where the sunlight filtered to the ground, she saw the shape of a head and a very large, fuzzy ear.

Her husband eased up to her and asked if she thought it was a deer. She pointed at the very large, fuzzy ear about 20 yards away and said, "No. Definitely not a deer. That there's a big ole bear. Big. Like, BIG." The head turned toward the family, as if determining whether or not they were worth pursuing. The husband pushed everyone behind him (because that's just the kind of guy he is) and they watched, not breathing, tensed and ready to use every ounce of their junior ranger training to prevent an attack.

The bear turned uphill and slowly began to walk in the opposite direction the family was hiking. The husband herded his family up the trail, distancing them from the bear, watching behind to see if she turned. The wife had her hands on her boys' shoulders, urging them to walk quickly, but not run - reassuring them that they were fine.

And they were. The last half mile of the hike was uneventful, although the adrenaline made it feel somehow dangerous. The children were understandably frightened, but not panicked, and by the time they reached the car, everyone was laughing (albeit nervously) about their brush with wildlife.

After a short rest and refuel at the car, they all decided to head up another (well traveled and heavily populated) trail to see the rest of the views they had come to see.

Derek, Joshua and Mt LeConte

They also got a story to tell their children...

Monday, November 07, 2011

Bear With Me.

Smoky Mountain High_2

Once upon a time, a nice wonderful delightful family of four decided to spend their Saturday hiking in the Smoky Mountains instead of participating in any tennis tournaments. They were so glad when they woke up and saw that the day was going to be spectacularly good - clear and cool - just perfect for some hiking.

They packed some snacks and a picnic blanket in backpacks, loaded up the car and drove for about two hours, through foggy valleys, until they reached their destination. They could have gone somewhere closer, but on particularly clear days, the best view to be had are at Clingman's Dome, on the Appalachian Trail - the highest point in Tennessee and in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

When they arrived, they marveled at the view from the parking lot, and that they had gotten there early enough to avoid the ample crowds that would arrive after lunch. They set out for Andrew's Bald, a two mile trek through the forest. The trail was damp and muddy in places, but that didn't matter, because the temperature was perfect, the birds were singing and the cutest little red squirrels on the entire planet were chasing each other all over the place, chattering and calling to each other across the trail.

The family noticed a sign at the trail head that noted that campsite #68 was closed due to aggressive bear activity, but there was no notice about the bald, or the Forney Ridge Trail, so they pressed on. The mom led the way, the two boys next, and the father brought up the rear - an arrangement that allowed for the maximum protection of the youngsters...just in case...

(this is what you might call foreshadowing, folks...)

Along the trail, they noticed signs of bear activity - red berries scattered here and there - what looked like bear poop - and in one particular location, a smelly, musty, wild animal smell - but they didn't see any actual bears. I will tell you that the mom was paranoid as hell, mainly because the trail was so empty - they only passed one other set of hikers on the way to the bald - and her eyes were moving back and forth like a Cylon's. Sheesh.

At the bald, they set up their picnic blanket and had snacks of nuts and beef jerky and apples, drank some water, and soaked in the views. They wandered around the bald, looking at the azalea buds that will open next spring, and the moss covered brush. They climbed a few rocks and took some photos and lay in the grass and soaked up the sun. Other hikers came and went. Finally, they decided to head back up to the tower on the dome.

On the way back, they ran into many more hikers, and so the mom was feeling much more secure. There was a large group of German hikers, who politely asked if they were on the right trail for the bald, a group of about 4 older ladies who were having a fabulous time. Everyone was friendly and engaging. About a mile into the return trip, the family stopped to allow a couple, traveling the opposite direction, to pass on the narrow trail. They stepped off the path and drank some water, gearing up for the uphill section of the hike. After a few minutes, they noticed that the other couple wasn't coming down the hill, so they stepped back onto the path.

"There's a bear, " called the man. "How close?" asked the mom. The man pointed to a spot about 20 yards in front of us, just to the left of the trail. There, at the base of the tree, sat a small black bear - not much bigger than the family's German Shepherd dog, who was suddenly much missed by the mom. The family stopped, children pushed behind them and waited to see what the little bear would do.

It climbed the tree with the red berries. Up and up and up it went to the top, feasting all the way. None of the humans on the trail moved. "Should we wait?" the man uphill asked. "Probably. He went up that tree pretty fast. I'm sure he can come down it even faster," the father replied. So they waited. And waited - the family on the downhill side, the couple on the uphill side. Another couple walked up behind the family. They were young - mid 20s at best. They waited, too. A group of about 7 arrived with the couple on the uphill side. They were louder - more boisterous. The young couple on the downhill side decided to try going past the bear in the tree.

Everyone held their breath and watched as they passed under the limb where the bear was perched. The bear watched, too. But he didn't move. The large uphill group decided to go all at once, and the family knew that's when they'd have to make their move. They passed under the tree just as the larger group passed them. The mom looked up and saw the bear looking down at them. Her heart beat faster than it ever had, her eyes darting between the bear and the trail and her children and her husband. On the other side of the tree, with the children uphill from her, she turned and looked back. The bear had gone back to stuffing itself with red berries, unconcerned with the parade that had passed below him.

"Well, that was exciting!" said the mom, trying to keep her children from panicking. "My heart is beating out of my chest!" the older son replied. "Mine, too. I guess that was our adventure for the day," she said.

Or maybe not...

Friday, November 04, 2011

Preach It, Sister

Penguin Church

Here's what I know:

  1. My husband, the famous and oft-lauded Dr. SmartyPants, is the awesomest awesome there is.
    • He has recently proven that yet again, by giving me an unexpected surprise.
    • He completely went behind my back in order to do so.
    • He is giving it to me even though I didn't specifically ask for it, or whine too much about it or refuse to get out of bed or anything.
    • It requires him to work from home for a couple of days and deal with a tennis tournament by himself.
  2. My children, the tennis stars, are spectacular - not because they win, but because they are able to lose with grace and style.
    • They played a tournament last weekend.
    • Joshua had to play up in the 12s division because the 10s division only had him as a participant.
    • He lost his first match, yet walked off the court with his head held high because he won a couple of games.
    • He lost his second match, although he won the first set, and hugged his opponent at the net when the match was over.
    • His opponent was Derek. He had to come from behind to win the second set and a 10-point tiebreaker to get his first tournament match win.
  3. In 15 days, I board a plane for Shreveport (see point 1, above.)
    • My best friend lives in Shreveport.
    • She's like my twin sister, except we have different parents and she's just a smidge older than I am.
    • I haven't seen her since July, when she came to see me for a few days.
    • She has a new house I haven't seen yet, and I'm so looking forward to checking it out!
    • I'm staying FIVE days. FIVE DAYS, PEOPLE.
    • Her husband is mighty awesome, too.
  4. After my trip, I will head to Alabama to visit with our entire family for Thanksgiving.
    • I will eat turkey.
    • I will watch my kids laugh with their grandparents and cousins.
    • I will try and resist all manner of carbohydrates and wheat-laden products.
    • I will fail.
    • I won't care.
    • I will realize, once again, how profoundly blessed we are.