Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Atlanta, Georgia and Spartanburg, South Carolina

We just got back from a big ol' trip...I choose not to post until I got back...
I suppose for the safety of it...
This post is from that trip.

We ended up leaving Huntsville about mid-day to head toward Atlanta...and we arrived IN Atlanta around 5pm on the Friday before Labor Day.  But starting there, well, that's only part of the let me back up a little.  There are so many pictures from this time frame...I'm just going to throw them in here...

First of all, let me introduce my friend the Composer...(hey, look, another picture of me from this trip...)

The Composer and Me, at a football game...
gee, it's like we're 16 again...sorta. how do I know him?  Well, years and years and years ago, when I was between 11 - 13 years old, we lived near each other and were friends.  My best friend, Kehaar (who now lives in Wisconsin) and his best friend, Gator (who now lives in South Carolina) were neighbors in Stuart, Florida.  As their best friends, we often went to the same parties and hung out together.  When I was 16, I went back to Florida to see everybody and he and I went on a DATE...and then I went home to California and grew up, got married, had a family of my own, while he was doing the same thing in Florida and eventually Georgia. 

The very first night...see the video below...the composer decided to get all the kids in the band.

The beginning of a beautiful friendship between Monkey-Face and the composer.  She has a tendency to wrap grown men around her little finger...he had no hope, really.

Fast forward slightly less than 30 years...we reconnected, maybe 5 years ago, on facebook, and have been "friends" in the "oh look, kids" sort of way that distant friends are "friends" on facebook...until Mother's Day of this year when we started talking.  Obviously, we ACTUALLY became friends again along the way. 

It was was muggy...but OOOOOoh, I love the trees in South Carolina.

Bear and Drummer-boy got along pretty well over all...they are closest in age and have a similar humor that kept the rest of us laughing.

Now, we'd been talking about intersecting on this trip for awhile and there had been a couple of snags along the way, but by the time it was set...the Composer and his two boys and a couple of their friends were planning a "Sissy" camping trip for Labor Day.  See, they'd always roughed it...tents, etc.  For this trip, they were getting a camper.  Once we'd decided that we girls were going to be near the same place at the same became a much bigger deal.

The Composer said we had to have a less-fun personality said, "Um, it's like 900 degrees out here"...I was disregarded.  Turns out camping is NOT camping without a fire...period.
  's a roasted marshmallow on a peanut butter sandwich...not pretty...but yummy, nonetheless.

See, with us involved, it boosted the headcount from 4 or 5 BOYS to possibly 8 or 9 mixed gender all trying to CAMP.  We decided that consolidating us into one vehicle would be easier and more fun than driving the Composer arranged to get a 15 passenger van to PULL the camper. 

Our very "manly" 15 passenger van and the camper.  There was a day dream going around that we were FBI Surveillance...boys are weird.

Drummer-boy unhooking the camper from the van.  Incidentally, we had two hitch issues on the trip...but not one once Drummer-boy started handling it...Coincidence?  I think not.

Only one problem, the Composer was not SUPER familiar with the ins and outs of pulling THAT much real estate down the road.  Enter Grandpa Bob and Grandma. 

See, Grandpa Bob knows all about pulling all manner of vehicles down the road...and he was in Florida the week before we were going to take this trip.  Now, when I called Grandpa Bob about this potential dilemma I was hoping that he would CALL the Composer.  Y'know, talk him through the questions that he had.  In the end, Grandpa and Grandma DROVE to Atlanta to be with the Composer as he went to get the van and camper and then proceeded to teach him everything he could possibly need to know about pulling and setting up the camper.  Let me take just a moment to say how very VERY thankful I am to have Grandpa Bob.

Drummer-boy  and Bear

Perfect marshmallows, Baby! the trip, in a nutshell, we got there Friday night.  We packed and sorted and consolidated for much of Saturday.  Thankfully, we did get there almost 24 hours early, if we hadn't, the consolidating and packing would NOT have gone as well.  It takes a herculean effort anytime one camps, and if we really hadn't been there until midday Saturday, I'm not sure we'd have gotten it done.

Around 5 pm we were ready and took off with the Composer, his younger son, Drummer-boy, and a friend of Drummer-boy's (who shall remain nameless as he is someone else's child), and the four of us...the Composer's older son was unable to join us, so, in the end we were seven in Spartanburg, South Carolina.  We camped Saturday night, all day Sunday and Sunday night, and headed back to Atlanta on Monday.

There are SO many stories.  Seriously, I never knew you could pack that many little tiny things into, essentially, 3 days.  First of all, the kids got along great.  No worries there.

This was NOT a road...This was a barricaded Horse Path...This included asking children to remove the barricade so that we could drive on this path.  This lawbreaking was done without my knowledge or consent.  I only found out after we entered the "road".

This IS my favorite...funniest memory and too bad for you, I'm not sharing it here.

Hello, Deer!!  There were actually two of them.  So pretty.

The Composer is one of those, "Come do this with me" type of guys.  You know the ones, if there is a kid within earshot, that kid is holding the flash light or pulling the rope or carrying the firewood.  Honestly, I was kind of humbled by that.  My, "OH, I'll just do it myself" nature really took a hit watching him set things up while keeping every one of those kids busy and underfoot.

"We're hot...hurry up!" 

Best thing loading the van...the WHOLE van.  Maybe the Composer helped them with the heaviest cooler...but I don't think so.

One of the more memorable moments was my girls helping him set up the awning.  OH.MY.GOODNESS. I laughed so hard.  I wish I'd gotten it on video.  To say that it didn't go RIGHT, would be a major understatement...but they all laughed (well, I did, anyway) and managed to get it at the right height and shading as it should.

This is actually taking DOWN the awning.  It went pretty smoothly overall.  Not nearly as funny.

Please note the Composer.  He is doing his very manly, "Happy to have CONQUERED the awning" dance.  Sadly, another moment I failed to VIDEO.

He is also a musician (hence the nickname) which came in handy several times.  Whether it was teaching the girls a little guitar, bass, and drum that first night...playing guitar around the camp fire...or picking up the rhythm to the cup song IRRITATINGLY quickly, he fit right in with our bursting-into-song nature. 

I think the thing I noticed the most was how comfortable the trip was.  I'm pretty easy going.  I like camping.  But I've seen these things go JUST wrong.  Nothing bad happened.  Even the "stressful" parts, when the camper/hitch didn't work quite like we'd expected, were quickly resolved so we could go on with the fun.  We adults let the kids run all over the countryside with walkie-talkies (of course) and we got to talk...and laugh...and walk...and just relax.

The creek that we managed to get to without driving illegally on a barricaded horse trail after all....

I had to MAKE them be still...creeks are awesome.

Kids on a bridge.

Yeah...I have no idea.

It was a great sub-trip.  My kids have been talking about it ever since and we all hope to have another opportunity some day.  For now, it was great to see my friend again, and get to know him as a grown up and a father.  I really am so blessed that we could reconnect and do this together. 

What is a roadtrip without Cracker Barrel?

See ya around...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Vicksburg, Missippi to Huntsville, Alabama...

We just got back from a big ol' trip...I choose not to post until I got back...
I suppose for the safety of it...
This post is from that trip. the trip...the trip...try to keep up will you?  I mean I know that I reached the end of the stuff I'd already written about the trip...I know that I've sorta lost the momentum, but c'mon, it's Saturday...the kids are watching T.V. ... Let's see what we can do here.
So we drove from Mississippi to Huntsville, Alabama...listening to Harry Potter the whole way. 
Huntsville was one of our EVENTS with a capital E we had on our original plan.  There is a space center in Huntsville that we'd wanted to see since my Aunt and Uncle had been here and we'd eaten the space ice cream they'd brought us, back in July.
Huntsville was the reason that we'd studied the history of NASA right along with the history of the Civil War.  It was the reason that we'd watched "Apollo 13" and "When We Left Earth"...

The thing is...we were getting excited about the next part of the trip...the camping portion...the interacting with other people portion...the seeing Grandma and Grandpa portion...

Really excited.

We woke up the morning that we were supposed to GO to the Space Center and Beanie started the "Um, how far IS it to Atlanta"  "Um, couldn't we go today and not wait overnight?"  "Really, it would save us money to stay with the Composer tonight instead of in a hotel, AND we'd see Grandma and Grandpa."

I love this's going on my Happiness Wall.

Monkey Face laughs every time she sees this one.

For my part there were major issues with straying from the plan...first and foremost being the COST of the Space Center and then cutting the trip short.  I mean, most of the time it doesn't matter how long you stay at a place...5 minutes or 5 hours costs the exact same, and frankly, I was not willing to pay for it only to bail so that we could throw off everyone's set plan.

It turns out that the cost was not an issue.  Once again, my membership to a local museum came to the rescue.  As my local museum and The Huntsville Space Center have a relationship that allows members to either museum access to the other, we were able to go for 5 minutes or 5 hours for free.

Oy...those little faces...learning... 

Watching a video on black holes which was the theme of the month at "Ye Olde Space Center"

My second issue was that I was getting tired, every day on the road adds to my overall feeling of fatigue. This is not a new thing, I've experienced it with every single trip I've ever taken.  While I love to drive, no kidding around, even on my best days, I'm much more comfortable driving earlier in the about 2 pm I'm getting sleepy and I like to stop often and slow down.  I've even been known to pull over and nap for 20 minutes, so I knew that any afternoon driving WAS going to take longer than if we left in the morning.  If we went to the Space Center at all, I was going to have to drive the 3 1/2 hours to Atlanta in the afternoon or early evening...not MY prime driving time.

Turns out, adrenaline took care of that.

A mock up of the Rocket Pack...I think.

Coolest scale tells you how heavy you are on earth and on the moon...and one other place (sadly, I didn't get a closer picture and I can't remember...I was focusing on the moon weight...I seriously loved the moon weight)

The last and probably biggest issue was...well...See, I wasn't all that sure that I wanted to go on this camping trip.  I mean I WANTED to go...but then...well, I hadn't laid eyes on my friend in about 27 years.  It's kind of like deciding if you want to go to your high school reunion...only worse, because there were kids thrown in.  What if the kids didn't like each other?

I decided to just quit thinking about it...and carry on.

This was a simulator for landing the space shuttle...Bear managed to do it right-ish once.

This is the screen you got when you failed.  I wish that I had taken video because the audio for each failure was SO surprising and funny.  A sarcastic man would tell you just where you'd gone wrong.

I'm glad I did.  The museum was fun.  We were there about 3 hours and got to see a little bit of everything.  Owing to the timing, it being the Thursday before Labor Day, all the local schools were in session so the place was nearly deserted.  Every staff person that we found was ALL ours to ask any question we wanted and a couple of them offered up various demos almost immediately because there really wasn't anyone else around.

One of the staff...she set off a baking soda rocket for us and one other little boy in the vicinity.  She and Beanie hit it off because Bean stomped right up and said something like, "So, what have you got to show me?"

One of the smaller Command Module mock-ups.  Anything to lay on your back with your cool shoes up in the air.

It was kind of great actually and somehow magically played into the plan that we didn't know was in place when I started out by saying, "Let's see what happens" as we started out on the road.


I didn't get a picture of it...but we actually rode a couple of rides.  One that made me SI-ICK, well, nauseous anyway.  It was just a mini-flight simulator deal, like a scaled down version of Star Tours at Disney.  But it was very small and had no air flow...and it was a little warm.  BARF.

"HEY MAAAH!  LOOOKIE!  We're playing under the Rocket!!"  It was kind of cool because the engines were steaming and dripping, so from far away it looked like they were about to ignite...although, a little terrifying if you really think about it.

This was the full sized mock up of the command module that they used to simulate all sorts of things that the astronauts would go through...The girls are laying on their backs in this picture. 

I was pretty sure after the simulator that I was a goner, because the next one that they wanted me to ride was G-Force.  You know, the one where you stand against the wall and they spin you and in a minute the thing you are leaning against lifts off the ground and because of centrifugal force you are hanging on the wall.  Yeah...that one. wasn't too bad at all.  Maybe because there wasn't any horizon to tell me that I was spinning.  Whatever the reason, I was glad not to be sick.

In the end, we were there exactly the right amount of time.  And because we left early and ended up in Atlanta, Georgia a night early, we got more time to spend with Grandma and Grandpa and the people that would soon be our WHOLE family's friends...

But that's another post...

See ya around...

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Embrace your limitations...

The Inspiration for this post...

Embrace the limitations.  Embrace the limitations.

Ha!  That's not something you hear every day.  Most inspirational speeches start with some "you are bigger than you think" premise.

I was that girl.  Still am, in certain circumstances.  I'm still the one that will tell you, "This thing you are dealing with, whatever it is, is forming you and you CAN overcome it."  Those of you, who know me well, have heard me say some form of this at some point in our relationship.  The ever-outward optimist...that's me.  Freaking Pollyanna.

Those of you who know me REALLY well, know other things.  You know that I doubt much more than the casual observer would ever suspect.  You know that I doubt my own intellect, my own body, my own intentions...ultimately my own worth...over and over and over again.  You know that I fall on my knees weekly with tears of hopelessness for every single limitation real or perceived that I do not know how to overcome.  You know what my 3 am holds.

Do you know, I don't think I've ever heard anyone say..."Embrace those limitations?" 

Now to be fair, it's not like other people AREN'T saying the same thing if you look for it.  Nick Vujicic is a prime is a guy with no arms and no legs but who was gifted with a charisma that pulls everyone to him.  So much so that you begin to not notice that he is merely a torso and a pretty face.  Honestly, though, I've never thought of Mr. Vujicic as saying "Embrace your limitations"...more, "those limitations don't MATTER, you are more than your limitations."  And he certainly is.

So why does this phrase strike me so much?  Well, I've had another week of being discontent in my circumstances.  Another week of feeling that certain aspects of my life will NEVER be overcome. 

Another week of realizing what a complete failure I am in this certain area of my life...AGAIN...and STILL...after all the times I've tried to overcome this...STILL...this limitation.

The fact is, there are places in my life, limitations in my life that I am NOT overcoming.  I AM NOT ABLE to overcome for whatever reason.  They are my secrets.  They are my 3 am.  They are my silence.

It's never occurred to me, to embrace them as they are, love them for the person that they make me, think about staying INSIDE this box and not apologizing for it.  Maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe I did think about it a little.  But not in those words.

You know, on this journey of my life, I've discovered that until I'm ready to hear something, I don't...Not even if you tell me.  My focus is where my intellect lies...and if a given topic is not within the realm of my current focus there is not a thing that I can do to force myself to learn and retain the information in a useful way.  But, just like when a friend buys a car that you've never heard of and now all of a sudden you see them all over on the road...An idea that strikes me when I'm ready produces a flood of images, some new and some hidden away in memory banks that didn't even remember that they were there, that shapes me.

Embrace my limitations unapologetically, huh?  I'm going to have to think on that...

See ya around...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

When You Give a Kid a Camera...

We just got back from a big ol' trip...I choose not to post until I got back...
I suppose for the safety of it...
This post is from that trip.
If you've followed my blog for very long, you will know that I LOVE my camera.  And that I LOVED the camera before this one before it started growling at me and subsequently died.  It's not a super expensive camera, as camera's go, but it's not a super INexpensive camera either. 
Some of my favorite qualities...the ability to point and shoot.  I looked into the SLRs and they were pretty great...but a little too much car for me, if you know what I mean.  I think those might be more for REAL you know, those people who ACTUALLY plan their shots and stuff.  Not someone like me who runs around sneaking up on people and snapping as fast as they can.
I really like its zoom.  Again, not the best ever, but still pretty awesome, especially when you are sneaking up on a kid from far away, or the KID is far away and wants to show you something.  I have a not-so-secret desire to find a super-duper-zoomy lens that fits my camera, but having looked at them, I'm comfortable with the dreaming and not so much the buying.
But my favorite's really favorite thing is the shoulder strap.  I know, I know, I can hear you saying, "Stack, EVERY camera has been able to have a shoulder strap since the dawn of cameras...that's like saying you like the wheel or fire."  Yes, dear reader, you are exactly correct.  It is a dumb thing to give me such joy...but lemme tell you why...
See, I've got these three kids. 
And they make me so very happy that I want to give them the opportunity to try stuff I do and maybe become really good at those sewing...or photography.  See, the thing about letting someone else TRY one of YOUR you have to LET GO of the thing.  I'm afraid that without the shoulder strap on my beloved camera there are at least TWO of those kids that would never get their grubby fingers NEAR my camera.  Why?  Because I'm a cranky, selfish thing, that puts the camera in a child's hand and doesn't see the joy of the art they are learning, but only the CRASH and SMASHED lens and broken pieces that I'm sure will come about when they run with the camera to their eye and trip over something.
But with the shoulder strap, I figure there's at least a little insurance.  Alright, maybe writing it down is weakening my case...they still run with it up to their eye...and they still could trip...but weirdly enough, they don't usually fall down, so the camera SHOULD only "fall" the length of the shoulder strap.  I'll just have to keep praying for their billy-goat-like reflexes.  But I digress.
So all of my kids had my camera at various points in this trip.  In Mississippi, we played in this terrific park overlooking the mighty river.  Bear got bored and I was chatting on the phone, so I handed her the camera.  So glad I did.

And the coup de grace?  The one that I looked at and was so happy that I'd buried my selfishness and felt safe to hand my 10 year old my camera with the quick, "don't forget the shoulder strap" she took off down the park along the Mississippi?

Sunset on the river?  Getouttahere!!  I love it.
I also dig that we got pictures through THEIR eyes.  I'm always the one behind the lens, and that's great for seeing MY point of view...the things I notice that I find beautiful, but I think we may be entering a new phase here, where we (you and I, dear reader) get to see a little more into their heads.  I've gotta tell you, I can't wait.
Also, it will be nice to be able to prove that I actually go places with's hopin.
Until then, here is a picture of the native rocks from somewhere along our journey for your viewing pleasure...
See ya around...