Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I had the most wonderful surprise a couple of weeks ago! I received an email from my niece, Amanda, that she was in the area (all the way from New Mexico) with her husband and four kids to visit the husband's family here in Georgia, and wondered if I was anywhere near to where they were in Lafayette, Georgia. Well, uh, yeah...I was about fifteen minutes away from there! We made a plan for me to drive there to visit with her, and then possibly make plans for her to come to my home before they left on that Friday. I hadn't seen her since 2003 when Melody, Garrett and I drove to Panama City, Florida for a very brief visit with her and Kathy, so I was full of anticipation. But first, a little history...

This is my sister, Kathy, pregnant with Amanda. As most of you know, back in 1978, I found my birth family, which included an aunt and five half-siblings. A few months later, in May 1979, one of those siblings, Kathy, came to live with us in Colorado. She was a single mother of a small boy (Jacen) and was pregnant again...and needed a place to live for awhile. Being a new big sister, I was quick to say "sure, come on down!". They moved in, and in the beginning all was well as we got to know each other. Then we began to get on each other's nerves. She eventually found a little trailer to move into, and in Sept. 1979 gave birth to her little girl, Amanda, and I was in the delivery room to welcome her into the world.

Kathy moved into a little apartment, and we co-signed for her to get a phone. All was not well with us for one reason or another, and she got into a church situation that bordered on being a cult, which I disapproved of. We rarely saw each other, and for some reason there are no photos of Kathy and I together during that entire year even though we were new family, and there aren't even any photos of me and Amanda, which I find so strange! Anyway, almost a year after she came to Colorado, Kathy and the two kids vanished. Literally. She moved to Las Vegas and didn't even tell me she was leaving. And left us with a huge phone bill.

Flash forward to 1989, ten years later. Kathy, who I was still in touch with occasionally, called to say that she needed a big favor. She was now the single mother of three kids - Jacen, Amanda, and Brandon - and had been having a very difficult time. She had been in an abusive relationship with a guy named Jim, and he had molested Amanda. She was trying to get out of the situation, and wondered if she could send Brandon and Amanda to stay with me for the summer. I said yes.
Their faces show that they were happy to be with us, and I know I was delighted to have a chance to get to know the little girl I had welcomed into the world! We lived in the country, and had four dogs, three cats, a new litter of kittens and three horses (actually, they were more like big dogs, but that's a whole other story). It was a dramatic change from the life they were used to! Amanda especially loved the horses.

Look at the joy and excitement on her face! I think this must have been the very first time she had ever been on a horse.

As happy as they look in these photos, all was not well. Amanda was, not surprisingly, acting out in so many ways. We started butting heads big time. I remember one time her stomping out of the house and across the pasture, with me in hot pursuit, screaming at her that she damn well would listen to me and to come back to the house! Unfortunately, things went from bad to worse, and my hopes of being the favorite aunt who showed them the good life turned sour for all of us. After four weeks, I had to call Kathy and tell her that the kids needed to go home. I am not proud of that. And for years afterwards, to this very day, anytime I thought of Amanda, I remembered those four weeks and felt that I had let her down in so.many.ways.

As the years went by, Amanda's life did not get any better. She lived thru several of Kathy's dysfunctional boyfriends and religions, as well as a life at poverty level in the home of a single mother with three kids, and eventually got into drugs and went to rehab. She herself became the single mother of three children beginning at age 18. Other than that oh so brief visit with her in Florida in 2003 (literally maybe 30 minutes), we had not been in touch all those years.
So, here we were in June 2010, seven years since I had last seen her, and only the third time in her life that I'd spent time with her. As we sat next to each other on the couch in her in-laws home, everyone excused themselves so she and I could visit. After we exchanged details about each other's lives, I expressed to her, with a shakey voice and near tears, that I had never forgotten that summer that she and Brandon had visited us in Colorado, and how I had always felt that I had let her down and was so sorry. To my surprise, she said she had always remembered that period of time, even my chasing her across the pasture, and that it had a great deal to do with where she was today.

She said that the visit had shown her what a 'normal' and stable life could be like, and that that was something she wanted for herself someday, though it took her a while to get there. It also fueled her love of horses. For the last three years, she has been married to a real cowboy, and they live on a 'ranch' and home that was built by his grandfather, some 300+ acreas...with horses. She's a stay-at-home mom with three kids and a step-son, and credits her memories of those four weeks with us as an example that she lives by. I was astonished to hear this...and relieved.

On their way out of town to head back to New Mexico, the whole family stopped by our house for a few hours. And this time we took every combination of photo possible! (Don't worry, I won't show all of them!)

Here we are, thirty-one years after we first met!

I kept saying that I thought that Amanda and my daughter Melody look so much alike, but I may have been the only one to see it. I think they have the same cheekbones and smile.

This is her cowboy, Scott. Just the nicest guy! And they seem to be very happy.

I'm so glad to have a photo of my daughter and grandsons with my niece and her children, and hope that someday they will be digging out the photos and remembering back to when they all met on that incredibly hot and humid day in Georgia.

Thirty-one years ago I saw a little girl take her first breath, and was one of the first ones to hold her. I was so pleased to be able to tell that girl now a woman how proud I am of her, and how proud she should be of herself, to have gone thru so much in her early life and to come out the other end with this lovely family and life that she has made for herself.
New Mexico is a long way from Ringgold, Georgia! We've promised to keep in touch when we can and if we want, but no pressure or expectations. Even if I never see her again, I will always remember this visit...and this time have the photos to mark the occasion!

Monday, June 28, 2010


If you started reading the post about my niece, Amanda, you'll have to wait to see the rest of it! I left a draft here on the computer while I went to work in the yard, and one of the boys must have clicked publish when they were sitting here! So, I need to take back the other one and finish it!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Riverbend 2010: Darius Rucker and Charlie Daniels Band

This last week I went to two of the concerts at The Riverbend Festival in Chattanooga - Darius Rucker and Charlie Daniels Band. I don't do musical reviews, but will just say if you ever get a chance to see Darius, do it! I really enjoyed his voice and his choice of music, and it made for a very enjoyable family evening. On the last night, Friday, we went to see the Charlie Daniels Band, and it was just the nicest evening! He's not bad for a 70+year old man - especially because he didn't take some of his better known music and destroy it so that it was unrecognizable (ala Willie Nelson). 'Devil Went Down to Georgia' was a big hit that had the HUGE audience singing along, and smoke was coming off of that fiddle. Immediately after Charlie Daniels was the fireworks display, and it took place on the absolutely most beautiful evening where the horrendous heat of the day (90+) had been replaced by a cool and welcomed breeze.

Whether sitting in your chair and talking or watching people walk by, or walking around listening to other musical groups along the way and eating, or playing at the Children's Village, Riverbend is just fun. Rubbing shoulders with humanity of all sorts. Groups of giggling teenagers meeting up. Teenage girls showing off their boyfriends or their clothes (short shorts or skirts with cowboy boots was very popular this year), teenage guys on the prowl (thank goodness, no 'pants on the ground' like last year). Lots of tatoos! Oldsters sitting in their lawn chairs watching them all walk by or enjoying the antics of their kids or grandkids. Different ages, socio-econmic groups, religions, professions, rockers, country folks, jazzers(don't suppose that's a word), all there to just have a good time. And it appeared that they did.

Here are a few (ok, a lot) of photos from the two nights. I had my camera on the wrong setting, so a lot didn't turn out at all, which is always disappointing on a personal level. However, there were certainly enough to remember the week, and I'm sure Garrett and Conner will be having me pull them up many times over the next year.

Leave it to a four year old to want to put his fingers in the dog's nostrils.

I didn't take note of whether this was a wildlife display or taxidermy exhibit.
Notice Conner didn't get as close to the critter as Garrett did.

This is a view of the stage before the concert. I don't have details, but apparently it's a floating stage.

This area is called Ross's Landing; hence, the plaque.

This is one of my favorite parts of coming here...the river and the boats.

Garrett was actually grounded for the day in that he couldn't ride any of the carnival rides, and no kettle corn or ice cream, which were three things that he had waited for all week. And believe me, he deserved to be grounded! But all was not lost as the playground was cool, plus we did take pity on him and gave him a few bites of our ice cream (though not enough to null and void the punishment!).

No, this isn't the same photo as last week, just the same boy doing the same horns!

The evening wouldn't be complete without a nose bleed, and all we had on hand was a napkin left over from my waffle cone and a fem-wipe. They did the job and all was well.

Boys being boys, these boys found some long weed stems to have a sword fight with when we were out walking.

Conner had a fever all day that ibuprofen was keeping under control. However, toward the end of the evening, the fever was back and he had earned the right to be carried again.

The End.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Riverbend : Sheryl Crow and Allison Krauss

Every June, Chattanooga holds the Riverbend Festival, nine days of fun and music. For $30, you get a pin that gets one person (kids free) into all nine nights. It's probably not a lot different than dozens of summer musical festivals across the country, except that it's located on the Tennessee River, and has five simultaneous stages of music. There will have been 96 different groups taking the stage by the end of the week.

Each evening, beginning at 5pm, there are musical groups set up on the different stages all along the riverwalk area next to the Tennessee River, with each night's headlining group on the Coco-Cola Stage at 9pm. They try to represent all genres of music - rock and roll, country, blues, zydaco, jazz, folk, even a Faith and Family Night. One year we had Vince Gill as a headliner, and another Trisha Yearwood. Last year (2009)the headliners were Willie Nelson (who sorely disappointed), Little Richard (David said he also didn't deliver), Montgomery Gentry (really rocked), Train, Three Dog Night, B-52s, Steve Curtis Chapman, and the Commodores. And dozens of other groups on the various other stages. I told you this year's lineup in the last post.

Regardless of who we see, and whether we go every night or only a few, it's worth every penny. You make your way thru the throngs of people to the stages or the grassy areas, set up your chair or blanket for the evening, and either sit and visit with friends, walk around catching a glimpse of other performers or events, and, my personal favorite, people watch. There's a sand play area for the kids, a Children's Village, a Kid's Talent Show, an exhibitor area, and a vendor area that has every food imaginable (chicken on a stick is very popular). The stars come out, a cool breeze comes off the river (or it's hotter than hell with no breeze whatsoever), the boats that have come to watch from the water are floating near shore. The whole package is wonderful. Most of us only see the headliners on the big screen, but that's ok, because the real headliner is the river itself, the bridges and horizon...and, of course, sharing the evening with friends and family.

This last Friday night we went to see Sheryl Crow, and Saturday night Allison Krauss and Union Station. They did not disappoint as some have done in the past! Sheryl Crow has a really nice personality onstage, very personable and enthusiastic. Allison Krauss has the voice of an angel, and is very softspoken, and Union Station had toes tapping. Both evenings followed outrageously hot and humid days, more typical of August than early June, but, thankfully, once the sun set it cooled down a smidgeon, with that light breeze off the river.

The only downside to the whole event is that you have to walk quite a distance from your parking to get there, and going back is uphill! It's for that reason that I have chosen to attend only a few nights, as I need the time for my hips to recover from the strain. I plan to see Darius Rucker on Wednesday night and the Charlie Daniels Band on the last night. Anyway, here are some photos of the two nights this weekend: (there are many others of the festival area on last year's post)

That's the museum at the top of the hill (see last year's post with photos). There's a bandstand to the left and in front of here, the first of five, just inside the entrance with an audience area plus people just sitting here and there on the hillside.

That's the stage on the left - the V.I.P. or "Star" guests sit in chairs in a fenced area in front of it, while the rest of us sit on the lawn area and see the performers on the big screens. (You'll have to enlarge this to see better - I took it from the sidewalk.) You can' tell by looking at this photo, but by the time the concert starts there are hundreds of people, not including the hundreds more at the other stages and activities.

I rarely get my photo taken at these events, so this year we made sure I did so that the kids will have proof someday that I do occasionally got out of the house! The boys only went to the Allison Krauss night, and will go again on the last night because of the fireworks. (I don't know what has Conner so wide eyed!)

That's my daughter Melody and son-in-law Brent on the left, my husband David on the right, and, of course, you know the lights of my life, Garrett and Conner. (if you don't, you're new here!)

I don't drink beer, but this is a very popular spot! You can see that David and Brent are up front there waiting their turn. Everything is paid for with tokens that you buy at special booths.
Garrett wanted to show us how strong and responsible he is now by carrying two chairs. That lasted for about two minutes and he handed one of them off to me.

The boys come for one reason and one reason only...Dippin' Dots! Would you believe $5 a bowl? A small bowl! I don't think they cost that much last year, but I'm pretty sure they won't be getting any at the next concert unless they rob their piggy banks!

I don't know what to call these except maybe water spouts.

This is the kind of sunset we get to enjoy and appreciate over the stage and screen area, and it reflects in the river. (Again, you'll have to enlarge to actually appreciate this.)

I didn't realize until I saw the photo that Garrett was doing the horns! I don't know what Conner is doing! (I hate photos like this that show my enlarged thyroid. I know, you wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't pointed it out, I'm just sayin'...in case you do, it's my thyroid.)

The end of a very long, hot evening. Daddy had to carry him aaalll the way to the car, up aaalll those hills... good thing he's 6'4" and strong! But a good time was had by all, and, hopefully, we'll have a couple of more nights before the week is out (unless our 90+ temps and humidity turn into late day thunderstorms).

Friday, June 11, 2010

Riverbend Festival 2010

Last year at this time I wrote about our Chattanooga Riverbend Festival (it took five tries, but I finally got it to link!), but I don't know if anyone read it because there were no comments! It's that time again, nine nights of every genre of music, and tonight we're off to see Sheryl Crow. Yes, you read that right...SHERYL CROW! Here's the rest of the schedule for the week on the Main Stage (not including the many groups on the smaller stages throughout the evening):

Saturday: Alison Krauss and Union Station
Sunday: The Waybacks, Joan Osborne, John Cowan with CSO
Monday: Kenny Neal
Tuesday: Third Dad
Wednesday: Darius Rucker
Thursday: George Clinton
Friday: Billy Currington
Saturday: Charlie Daniels Band

If you don't like who's the headliner on any particular night, you can wander around until you find someone that does strike your fancy. A good time is guaranteed for every age! After all is said and done, I will do a review of it for you, hoping that this time someone will read it! Meanwhile, we're off....

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Damn Mockingbirds!

Don't be fooled by this innocent looking bird sitting on my porch railing. He is one of a pack of marauding juvenile mockingbirds that have been terrorizing all the other birds in my yard...and who took the week-old baby robins I told you about last week and threw them out of the nest. We only found one, which our boxer had, so we can only assume that the others were gotten hold of by the dogs as well.

What makes me so mad is that I saw them go in there, and repeatedly ran out and chased them off, even encouraged my dogs to try to get them, but they snuck back anyway. As the boys and I searched the surrounding area, mama robin sat atop the peach tree watching us and looking very forlorn. How sad is that! Make a nest, lay your eggs, sit on them until they hatch, bring them food over and over again for a week, only to have them tossed out for kicks by a bunch of bullies.

I wrote about my displeasure with the mockingbirds last summer, so I guess I need to accept that they will continue to be a part of my garden life. But I don't have to like it. Last year the snake got the baby bluebird, and the sparrows took over all the other bluebird houses, and now this. I think I'm about to give up on trying to attract nesting birds to my yard, and for sure need to not get so emotionally involved! Between the snakes, hawks, sparrows, starlings, and damn mockingbirds, I feel like I'm setting up all the other birds for heartache.

Oh well, it's all part of nature, and nature can be very cruel in the middle of all the loveliness.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Baby Birds, Blooms, and Birthday

Most of the last month has been taken up with working in the yard and taking care of the grandsons. Thankfully, that pesky hawk finally went away and some of the birds have come back, including these nesting robins. They're in a really dense spot in a bush, so I had a hard time getting this photo and then had to enlarge it. The boys were running thru the sprinkler and splashing their little faces (the birds, not the boys), so I had to make them move (the boys, not the birds). As far as I can tell, there are four babies. If you were here last summer, you might remember that we had one baby bluebird in a house right out the front door...that was eaten by a snake. Hopefully these little ones will have a longer lifespan, and my dogs won't get them when they fledge!

I'm sure you don't need a narrative of my flowers! My perennials have gone crazy with all the rain we've had, making clumps so big that I'll have to divide them soon, but my eye has been more drawn to the individual flower types and the wonder of how different and intricate they all are.

And, finally, a photo of my 62nd birthday (on May 15th). Melody brought pizza and she and Conner, the four year old, made the flower shaped cake (yellow with chocolate frosting, my favorite) . Of course the boys fought about who got to put the candles in (we could only find six, thank goodness!), and then fought again to see who got to lick how many candles when we took them out.

(Please pretend you don't see the weed killer and other clutter that we had to shove over to make room for the cake!)