Friday, November 27, 2015

Hike #3 - Sweetwater Creek

Susan and I opted out of Black Friday and went hiking.  We loved REI's idea to spend the day outside rather than shopping.  Apparently, MANY other people loved the idea as well.  I have NEVER seen such crowds at a state park.  I'll bet records were broken today.  We had to drive around a bit to find a parking spot and even then, we ended up in a spot that wasn't officially for parking.

We followed the red trail today.  According to the state park site, the red trail is one mile one way. 1 to 2 hours each way. Rated easy to difficult.   That rating seemed curious, but I certainly understand it now.

The red trail stays close to Sweetwater Creek the whole way.  

The early parts of the trail were crowded at times, but not so bad that it hindered hiking.  Ordinarily, I wouldn't care for hiking around so many people, but today it was fun and exciting.  I was happy so many were choosing to Opt Out.  Also, everyone was in a great mood.   Hikers are happy people!

The old mill was about 1/2 mile down the trail. I wasn't pleased with any of my photos of the mill.  Maybe the next time I try this trail, it won't be so crowded and I'll be able to get some photos from better angles.  

The trail had been fairly easy to that point.  Casual hikers generally turn around at the mill.  

Susan and I kept going.  There were great views all along the way, but the path became more challenging.

A few places had wonderful bridges and steps.

MANY other places were trickier.  We went over LOTS of rock piles like this.  This is why the trail is labeled difficult.  It was not for the faint of heart (or weak of knee).  Thank goodness we had each brought a hiking pole.  There were a few places where those poles came in very handy.

But how could we possibly stop with even more fabulous views beyond every obstacle?

Getting to the end of the red trail took 1-1/2 hours.  We stopped to take lots of photos. It only took an hour to get back.  We only stopped at a few places n the return trip.  We both felt compelled to conquer this big rock. It had been occupied when we passed it earlier.   We knew the view of the creek would be great from there.  It was!  In fact, I think it would be a grand place to stop and have lunch on a future visit.

By the time we finished, we were spent.  Once we sat down, everything started to get stiff.  There was talk of Advil or Tylenol.  I  haven't taken anything yet, but it's still a possibility.  I took a long hot shower first and that helped a little.  Not enough.  Many muscles are talking to me tonight and it's not happy talk.  That's OK.  Today was truly amazing.

First Thanksgiving as a Widow with an Attitude

I was determined to figure out a different approach to this day.  It would have been super easy to be depressed all day, but that's not how I plan to go about holidays.

It started with getting dressed.  I changed clothes way too many times.  It reminded me of my teenage years, only I wasn't out to impress anyone.  I was trying to capture the attitude I wanted.  What I ended up with was a look that couldn't be useful for sitting quietly on the sidelines.

I wore a lot of black, but I wasn't trying to dress in mourning.  I ended up in black mostly because I wanted to wear a favorite bracelet and it looked good with black.  The whole outfit reeked attitude.  It's not appropriate mourning attire.  I mean, good grief - those black boots???  I could almost hear Rudy encouraging me to be a bit outrageous and to not be the way some people might expect.  I don't know those people.  They aren't my friends.  They aren't my family. They don't KNOW me. They don't know how hard a person dealing with grief  has to work to focus on joy. What do I care what they think?   I intended to throw myself into the day and really connect with all the people I have to be thankful for.  I did not plan to sit quietly to the side.  It helped that I was leaving to be with people who have absolutely no problem with me exactly as I am. They know my heart and they support my crazy.  In the South, we don't hide crazy... we parade it on the front porch and give it sweet tea (or a cocktail).

It was a busy day.  I went to TWO Thanksgiving dinners in order to see both sides of my family.  One interesting thing occurred to me.  Both of the homes I went to are famous for their hospitality.  Both houses are places where people naturally get together.  Visitors pop in often and always feel comfortable and happy.  There's nothing stuffy or pretentious about either. Linda & Carl and Bernie and Rick have made their homes happy and welcoming.  I LOVE THAT.  I love that there's ALWAYS laughter and something crazy happening at both places.  Even in sad times, we can find humor.

First, stop - Bernie and Rick's.  There were so many people there that tables were set up in 4 different rooms.  I sat with some of my craziest cousins.  OMGee!  I love my cousins!!!  I laughed so much.  I also came away with a better knowledge of Watch Me Whip, Watch Me Nae Nae and the alternate version Watch Me Sip... Chardonay Nay.  Jake, my cousins hilarious son who I'm absolutely certain will have a career in comedy one day, can do the entire dance.   Sarah, my extra tall, extra-pretty niece, also gave us a lesson about The Dab, and how to use it appropriately. Terri shared a few photos with us including a senior couple in hilarious Halloween costumes - a hilariously shocking image I may never get out of my brain.  I feel so much more enlightened!  Here are some random photos from Thanksgiving #1.

By the way - at both stops, I was terrible about taking photos.  I had a couple of moments of photo taking at each place, but mostly just enjoyed the day.  I left out tons of people - especially all the guys who were outside getting into trouble or inside watching sports.

Click on photos to see them larger.

Stop two - Linda and Carl's.  Linda is Rudy's sister.  I won't say this is Rudy's family, because I feel strongly that they are my family, too.  Again, I laughed the whole time I was there.

The first hilarious moment was when Nancy was showing off the huge camping knife Carl had given Buck.  If I had been videoing, it could have been used as a cautionary tale of how not to handle a knife. When she pulled the knife out the case in a way that seemed too close for comfort to the hand holding the case, we were all wondering if a 911 call was about to be made. It didn't stop there.  You know how some people are naturally expressive with hand gestures while they are talking?  Nancy is one of those people.  She didn't let the fact that she was holding a weapon hold her back.  Carly was sitting beside Nancy and became so concerned for her own safety that she fled the area.  The most hilarious part was that while the rest of us were freaking out, Nancy seemed certain she had everything under complete control and didn't understand why the rest of us were overreacting.

One funny thing about this photo.  At some point while everyone was posing, someone mentioned how appropriate it was that the normal family sign was right over the group.   I am thankful that NO ONE in my family is normal.  Not a one.  And if you think they are, get with me and I'll give you the lowdown.

My social education was furthered at this gathering, too.  My curly hair was discussed for a bit.  I have decided that with curly hair, you have to go big. Flat curly hair just looks wrong.  I explained that the old Southern saying - the bigger the hair, the closer to God - fits when it comes to curly hair. My niece, Abby, gave us another saying.  When you are in the process of creating that big hair, you are jackin' it to Jesus.  It seems apparent that Southern ladies attending to their hair are doing the Lord's work.  I'm not quite sure if that's blasphemous or an example of incorporating God into all aspects of your daily life.

Jeff and his girls were there.  Jeff is such a great guy.  He brought me a hiking book that looks fabulous.  He told me about one hike in particular he thought I'd love.  I think a bunch of us are going to meet up there - hopefully soon!  By the way, aren't his daughters pretty?  It seems like yesterday that they were kneehigh to a grasshopper.

Also of note - My niece Kelly was not with us. I love Kelly so much - she's like a daughter!!!  She and her family live in South Carolina now.  Still, I felt like I was with her because we kept in touch throughout the day with photos.  Even though I joke about the overuse of technology, I have to say there are times when it's so nice!

It was a good day.  I didn't cry publicly at all and I'm very proud of that.  Rudy was mentioned and thought of, but it was with fun.  He would have liked that.

For any widows reading this post, I want to make it very clear that having fun at these holiday gatherings was not easy.  My day tested me, especially during the times when I was alone. I had dreaded and feared the day for months.  I thought about it lots and made up my mind to not just get through the day, but to actually make the most of it.  The person I'd most like to see (Rudy) is not with me, but there are still so many people around me to love.  Any one of those people could be gone tomorrow.   There is a quote from The Great Gatsby I think of often these days.  Gatsby tells Meyer Wolfsheim about a mutual friend who has died.  Meyer doesn't care about attending the funeral.  He says, “'Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead."  Rudy is always in my thoughts.  I know I'll see him again one day. When I'm alone, I can practically feel him with me.  But when I am with other people, I will take Meyer's friendship advice.  I am convinced that surviving grief and finding joy is all about making up your mind to do so.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Grocery Cart Ride

One thing leads to another.    Sharing a simple post on Facebook showing senior citizens riding on grocery carts can lead to unapologetically juvenile behavior in other supposedly mature adults.

This little post should have come with a warning.  Something like, "Do not try this at home." might have been good.  Or at least they should have pointed out that the little old lady in the photo had a spotter with her.

When I shared this picture, I noted that riding the cart was something I was always tempted to do.  Next thing I know, many others were commenting, some saying they did ride the cart and others saying I should go for it.  My mind swiftly went back to elementary school dares where your "friends" were urging you to do something they wouldn't do and your mother says afterwards, "If your friends all jumped off a cliff, would you  jump, too?"  But then, Glen Hatchell, who coincidentally, I knew in elementary school, posted a video of himself riding the grocery cart.   AND IT LOOKED LIKE  FUN!  There's no turning back now. I'm in.

The adult in me paused briefly to consider what could go wrong... worst case scenarios.  The bottom line, I'm too old to worry about being arrested and I don't think there are actual laws against riding grocery carts anyway.  If I ended up in the emergency room, I'd have one heck of a story to tell.  So my juvenile side and my adult side are both convinced.  I have to do it because life is short and good stories are priceless.

Today, I'm proud to say, I met my goal.  I rode the grocery cart!  I was not with anyone, so I had no friends to laugh with me or make me look a tiny bit more sane.  Have you ever noticed when you act silly in a group, it's a little less crazy than doing it all by yourself?  There were plenty of people in the parking lot, so I wasn't even able to be discreet.  Still, I went for it and clearly should get extra points for bravery!

Now, it's been a really long time since I've ridden a grocery cart, but I figured it would be like riding a bicycle.  It would all come back to me.  Turns out, I may have needed just a tiny bit of practice before making my screen debut.

Did You Know -   

A small amount of groceries 
pulling back on the cart handle while both feet are off the ground
a little extra "junk in the trunk" weight

I learned today that it does.

I'm sorry this video didn't capture the episode very well. It was hard to film while maintaining a death grip on the cart.  My ride must have been pretty entertaining because the truck full of landscapers parked next to me never stopped laughing.  They were still laughing as I drove off.  What's even better, I was, too.  I continued to laugh most of the way home.  


Is anyone else up for the challenge? Obviously age doesn't matter.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Hike #2 - Line Creek

Susan and I went on another wonderful hike.  This time it was local since we were limited on time.  Line Creek Nature Area in Peachtree City has two trails.  The Bridge Trail is an easy .8 mile loop.  The Creek Trail is 1.2 miles each way and requires more sure footing.  It has slippery rocks and granite outcroppings.  Since the weather was so damp and we had limited time, we decided to just explore the easy trail.  The trail has several attached trails, which we explored, so our hike was definitely longer than .8 mile.  It took us an hour and 45 minutes, but that included lots of stops to ooh and ahh and take photos.

The entrance is marked with a wood sign with Line Creek Nature Park.
At the beginning of the trail is a nice duck pond.  There's a gazebo and picnic tables, which I'd definitely like to use in the future.  The ducks are so cute and friendly, but we really disappointed them by not coming with any snacks.  I promised them next time I wouldn't be such a thoughtless guest.  What's the healthiest snack to fee a duck.  I know bread crumbs are the traditional food, but is there something healthier?

It drizzled off and on during when we first started out.  We opened and closed our umbrellas over and over, but after a bit, it just didn't matter.  It was very humid the whole time, but it wasn't that big of a deal.  The temperature was nice.  I was a bit overdressed and in the future, I'd rather get wet than carry an umbrella around on a hike.

At this point, I wasn't even bothering to close up my umbrella.
The Creek was fabulous.  There were parts that were gentle and others that rushed over rocks.  The sound was so relaxing.  I could feel stress melting away. There were many spots along the way where we had to stop and admire.

This path was said to be easy.  It wasn't strenuous, but it definitely required us to keep our eye on the path.  The were rocks and roots and logs and a few slick spots.  Each time I wanted to gaze at scenery I would come to a full stop first!  I didn't mind the challenge.  It's rather zen-like to get lost in keeping your footing.

The path was fairly well marked.  There were signs in plenty of spots and there was really only one spot where we weren't quite sure what to do.  There's a path map online (see link at the bottom of this post) and that was very helpful!

The shoals were great.  Susan had a great idea.  She said this would be a wonderful spot to sit and read.  I agree.  Note to self - Next time, bring duck food and a book.  

The trail looped around back to the duck pond.  We had a treat.  Steve and Robin (our new friends) were on the gazebo singing - practicing for an upcoming performance.  They told us where they gather with other music lovers and Susan and I will definitely be going to see them again. We hope to take some friends along!  I'll post about it when we go. We listened to them sing several songs and the last one really got me.   It was a sad song and they sang it beautifully.  I could barely speak afterwards. If you know me, you know I don't like to get emotional in public, but this music got to me.   Susan knew I was struggling so she avoided eye contact with me til the end.  When she did look my way, she fell apart, too.  Good friends will cry with you.

Here's a little snippet of one of their songs -


Update: Thank you Glenn for letting me know this is "If I Needed You" by Townes Van Zandt"

Susan and I highly recommend hiking this trail!  If you do decide to check it out, this aerial view will help you see where to pull in.  The road to parking for Line Creek is off Hwy 54 - just down the road (west) from Wal-Mart and Home Dept.  The entrance is catty-corner to MacDuff Parkway.  You pull in after the entrance to the shopping center with the Flying Biscuit restaurant.  The road is right before the entrance to Meineke.  The Line Creek road goes back half a mile or so to a decent sized parking area.
Click for larger view.

Click Here for More Info on Line Creek - includes trail map and more


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