Category Archives: Travel

Serenity Break

Hello Everyone!

I’ve done quite a few things since my last post about my mom-in-law, whom I still miss greatly.  I plan to share some of those things with you as we go through the summer.

First on the list is this this 39 second video I took Saturday while on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains.  Put everything out of your mind, and just breathe in and out while you watch this with the sound on for the next 39 seconds to feel refreshed and just a little more relaxed.




You’re welcome!

Have a great day!


A Trip to the Montgomery Zoo

Like all mothers and daughters, Kayla and I have things the two of us like to do together.  One of those is going to the zoo.  Fortunately for us, the nearby city of Montgomery, Alabama has an excellent zoo.

Kayla did roll her eyes at me when we walked up to the zoo one day early this summer and I started by taking this picture of the entrance.

The Montgomery Zoo entrance

Entrance to the Montgomery Zoo

She thought that taking a picture of the entrance, even for my blog, was overkill. I told her it was my blog, not hers. Since our next stop was the parakeet enclosure, and I sprang for several seed sticks to feed the parakeets, she forgave me.

Because we were at the Zoo entrance almost as soon as the gates opened, the parakeets were hungry, and we had no trouble coaxing them to come eat from the sticks. At one point, we had six to seven birds each trying to reach the seed sticks, keeping both of us too busy to take photographs.

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The peacocks wander freely throughout the zoo grounds.  This proud fellow obligingly provided us with a full display of his plumage.

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Another of the first areas you walk through at the zoo is an aviary which includes several species of birds, including this scarlet ibis, and

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this duck.

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The aviary even had a turtle in it laying her eggs.


Kayla’s favorites are the monkeys; the spider monkeys’ enclosure lies just beyond the aviary.


This monkey seemed to have a lot on his mind,


while this one was just hanging around.  (Yes, I know, it’s a bad pun but someone has to say it.)


There was a family of ducks enjoying the moat around the spider monkey enclosure.  The group of ducklings above were swimming, anxiously watched by the parents (pictured below) who were watching from the rail protecting the enclosure.  The “accidental” zoo residents sometimes are as fascinating as the official zoo residents.


Here is one of the Zoo’s pygmy hippos, Lola.  Although the pygmy hippo is from Africa, Lola and her calf, Monty, born in 2016, live in a special enclosure in the South American section to give them some additional space and attention.


Roosters and chickens roam freely through the zoo grounds, just like the peacocks.  I thought this rooster’s coloring was spectacular.   Kayla rolled her eyes at me again for taking his picture.


Here is one of the Zoo’s lemurs.


One of the Zoo’s rarer animals is this maned wolf from South America.  He obviously was not ready to wake up yet.


Here is a condor.


The jaguar was sleepy, too.


Here is a wallaby mama and her joey.


The North American section includes the bald eagles, the otters (which unfortunately were not out to play on this day) and various deer, elk and buffalo.)



The zoo also has an attraction which lets you feed the giraffes, so I bought Kayla and I each treats for the giraffes.  Only two of the four giraffes were interested this morning, the baby giraffe and his mother.


In a move mothers everywhere will understand and cheer, Mama got a bit impatient with Junior’s attempt to hoard all the special treats, and came around to the side to be sure she got her share.


This is where she first realized what Junior was up to.


The zoo has a kiddie train ride that travels all the way around it; even if it is just kid stuff, the two of us always ride it.  On a really hot day, the breeze the train generates while it makes it rounds feels cool.  I let Kayla hold the camera during the ride, but this was one of only two pictures she took.  I’m not sure if she was bored at this moment. DSCN0339

This lake is part of the zoo grounds, too.  It formed in the remnants of the old quarry that make up part of the zoo lands.  It gives the zoo plenty of room for expansion.


Then last, but not least, on this particular day, we were able to get this striking stork’s photograph in the Asia section on our way out.


This is just a sampling of the animals at the Montgomery Zoo; they also have bears, tigers, lions, elephants, chimpanzees, bonobos and reptiles to mention just some of the things we didn’t get to that day.  In addition to the parakeet enclosure, the train ride and the giraffe feeding station, the zoo also has a skyride over the zoo and a petting area.

The residents of Montgomery, a city with a population of just over 220,000 people, are lucky to have such a zoo and far-sighted enough to fund it.  And I’m lucky to have a daughter who, even at the age of 15, is willing to go to the zoo with me!

Have a great day everyone!



Good morning Everyone!

I thought I’d share a clip with you of a small snippet of a Saturday morning at a local campground. This is one of the many reasons I like camping.

The gray, white and pink pajama fabric at the end is just a bonus!

Have a great day!


Random Thoughts from a Professional Woman On the Move

Good morning Everyone!

Yesterday I had a three hour drive round trip for a court appearance.  Since I was free associating, I thought I’d share with you some of the random thoughts flitting through my brain.

1)  I am the only woman in the entire state praying at this moment for God to grant me the grace to eat my breakfast in the car without getting it on my clothes.  (He did!)

2) Another one bites the dust! (Noticing a run in my hose on the way home.)

3)   That wasn’t a nice name to call the driver of the log truck that just cut me off, giving me the privilege of sitting through the third set of lights at this intersection.

4) He deserved it!

Golden Arches, McDonald's, Time Square

Photo Credit: Giorgio Martini from Wikimedia Commons

5)  When the manager of the McDonald’s in Tallassee sees me for the first time in two years and still remembers me, perhaps I went there a little too often for breakfast.

Beam me up Scotty!

Beam Me Up Scotty! Photo by Keven Law from Wikimedia Commons

6)  Where is Scotty and a good transporter when you need them?

On the way home, I could stop at:

7) The book store.

8) The craft store.

9) The fabric store.

10) The ice cream store.

11)  Will power is over rated.

Have a great day!



Tubing on the Little Pigeon River – ish

Good morning Everyone!

I hope each of you had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.  We spent the long weekend in Gatlinburg to attend the Gaither Family Fest, a three night series of concerts by some of the best artists in Southern Gospel music.

Even though our nights were booked up, we had time during the day for other activities, so we decided to take advantage of the pretty weather and try some sort of water activity one afternoon.  Our choices were inner tubing down the Little Pigeon River, going to the Water Park at Dollywood or white water rafting.  To be honest, Mark and I would have preferred to try white water rafting, but Kayla was pretty scared, and I had no wish to fight crowds at the Water Park when the main attraction for me there was the Lazy River, so the compromise agreement was that we would go inner tubing.  Somewhere in the back of my mind was the idea that inner tubing down a river would be much the same as going to a Lazy River attraction, just on a real river rather than a man-made one.

Of course, the two are nothing alike.  My first clue came when my neck started hurting because there as nothing on the inner tube to support it.  The best way to get relief was to stretch out in full nap position across the top of the inner tube, which would have been okay except for the shoals – there are two or three spots on this particular inner tubing path where the water gets very shallow and runs over a series of rocks.  We called them “the rapids” although I am sure they were quite tame when compared to the real thing.  They were not designed with naps in mind.

Because the rapids are so shallow, it is easy for your inner tube to get hung on some rocks.  You can get “unhung” in one of two ways – either you push yourself off of the offending rock and back into the mainstream of the river, or another inner tube does that for you.  However, when I got hung, another inner tube coming up behind me hit me at just the right spot to flip me out of the inner tube into the shoal.  The water was only mid-calf deep, so I wasn’t in any danger, but the current was very fierce, and the rocks very slippery so I couldn’t get my footing to stand and get back in my inner tube.  While I was still pondering my way out of the dilemma, another inner tube came along and bumped me in just the right way to separate me from the inner tube I was seeking to get back into.

So now it was just me sitting on the rocks in the rapids.  I saw that Mark had caught my inner tube down the river and was trying to get it back to me, but the current at my location was too strong.  Finally, I ended up scooting myself over the rapids rock by rock like an upside down inch worm – my posterior in the water – until I could get to the deeper, quieter water.  By the time I was reunited with my family and my inner tube, I was exhausted.

The other problem with inner tubing is that the river is completely in control of your progress and path.  While I don’t think of myself as a control freak (Kayla, stop giggling here), eventually the lack of control started driving me crazy.  The river liked to drive me towards the banks where there were more rocks and things for my inner tube to catch on, while I wanted to keep towards the center of the river.  Apparently inner tubes were not designed to allow you to use your arms to steer them, so my attempts to do so left me yet again exhausted.  It was a great upper body workout though!

There were some parts of the river where you could just float lazily along and relax – one part was so placid I think we almost stopped – and the people inner tubing along with us were incredibly friendly and nice, so I’m glad we did it.

I’m even gladder, though, that there are no photographs of me during my impromptu inchworm impersonation.

Have a great day!



Stopped up Sinks and French Italian

Good morning Everyone!

dysfunctional kitchen

The Dysfunctional Kitchen

A few months ago, we had quite a time with stopped up drains.  First, the kitchen drain stopped up.  It finally took a plumber coming out and doing something to the pipes in the back of the house to get the kitchen drain at the front of the house fixed.  Then right afterwards the drain for the air conditioner in the garage clogged up.  (We think maybe it was the result of fixing the kitchen sink – something got loose and moved forward to the AC drain.)  We went through that sequence about twice, but for the last few months everything has been fine.

Until yesterday.  I was trying to scrub out a pan where someone (not me for a change!) had accidentally burnt meat and onion badly onto the bottom of a pan.  Suddenly I  realized that the water I was running over the pan in the sink just kept rising and rising rather than draining.  I was NOT a happy camper – until after five minutes of flailing around with different things, I realized that the (black) drain stopper was over the (black) drain.  Instant fix!

Italy Map

On a different note, yesterday evening I was telling Kayla and Mark about someone I know that is about to leave on a trip overseas to Italy. After I told Kayla she wasn’t allowed to invite herself to go along with them,  Kayla was still very impressed at the idea of traveling overseas to Italy.  I was curious, so I asked her what was the thing she would most want to see if she went to Italy.

Her answer?


And at that moment, a review of geography over the summer became a priority!

Have a great day!


Kayla’s Turn: Photo Essay, Charlotte, North Carolina

Good morning Everyone!

When Mark and I first married, we lived in North Carolina for three years.  While most of that time was spent in a small town called Rockingham, North Carolina, we did have the opportunity to live for at least a few months in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Even back then, in the late 80’s, Charlotte was a beautiful city.  It ended up being one of the places we enjoyed living in most out of everywhere we’ve been.  We had a chance a few weeks ago to go back to Charlotte for the first time, and we took Kayla with us.  While we were driving through downtown Charlotte, Kayla took the following pictures, which I think (proud mama alert!) are quite extraordinary for a 12-year-old armed with only an iPod.

Charlotte, North Carolina

This one is probably my very favorite of all of the pictures that she took.  One of the unique features of Charlotte is the quantity of trees the city, even the downtown, still has.  Early on in its urban development, Charlotte’s city fathers passed ordinances requiring trees to be kept intact whenever possible.

Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte got its start as a town in the first gold rush that ever occurred in the United States – gold was found in Charlotte in the early 1800’s. Now the city is a financial services mecca, headquarters to many different banks and other financial institutions.

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We were riding through on a misty morning, and the tops of the skyscrapers were hidden in the clouds, a fact that fascinated Kayla.

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I, of course, hardly recognized anything downtown from when we lived here over twenty years ago, and yet I still recognized the spirit of the city.  The city that can maintain the balance between old and new and still retain its original identity is a rare city indeed.  But then, that’s Charlotte!

photo 3


Have a great day!



Good morning Everyone!

It’s good to be back!  For any of those kind enough to notice that I haven’t posted for about five days, we are back from a family trip to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Since I worked the whole time (ain’t modern communications grand?) I can’t really call it a family vacation, but we still had fun and Kayla and Mark got some well deserved “Daddy-daughter” time.  I even learned something about myself – I may be overly concerned with being considerate to others.


Raking Words
Photo Credit:

I have a program on my work computer called WordRake.  It highlights words and phrases it thinks can be deleted from whatever draft I turn it loose on.  It is a great tool for my work in legal writing and entertaining, too.

I am particularly amused when the parts of my work briefs that WordRake lights up like New York on a dark winter’s night are quotes from appellate cases.  (Hey, we all get our kicks somewhere!)  I also enjoy arguing with it about its editing selections.

Using a GPS

Using a GPS
Photo Credit:

Our relationship reminds of the first trip I ever used a GPS – it was in a rental car on a trip to Boston.  My mom (who grew up there) was visiting as well.  She loved to ride with me and to program the GPS so she could tell me that it was wrong and direct me to go a different way, thereby giving the GPS a heart attack.  At one trip, it got so frustrated it stopped giving directions and simply churned through “recalculating” for about five minutes!

Last night, I was using WordRake on a work draft, and I caught myself agreeing to some edits that I wouldn’t have done on my own because I didn’t want to hurt its feelings by ignoring it too much.

That’s probably taking consideration a little too seriously, don’t you think?

Have a great day!


The First Trip to the Beach, 2014

Good morning, Everyone!

We went to Panama City Beach for the weekend using a Groupon for the Edgewater Beach Condominiums.  While we were hoping for good beach weather, and were led on by the various forecasts we observed until we passed the cancellation date, we ended up with cloudy skies, a brisk wind and a high of 69.

However, it was the beach, so we managed to have fun anyhow.  We had invited a friend of Kayla’s to go with us, so Kayla was happy from the beginning.  She loves having a buddy with her!

We got a late start on Saturday.  For some strange reason, the two girls, ages 11 and 12, weren’t exactly eager to get up in the morning – I think it had something to do with the talking and giggling that occurred once we finally made it to the condo Friday night and after Mark and I went to bed.  Once the two girls had showered and done their hair (here you can add another hour!), we went to Another Broken Egg Cafe which has fabulous brunch dishes.  After that, we decided to go shopping at Pier Park.  I gave each of the girls a little spending money, and had the best time watching them shop.  They would enter a store and just start wandering through the racks.  They would then find something they liked, check the price and then decide whether they could afford it, and, the more difficult decision, whether the item was something they wanted enough to spend their money on.  Kayla’s comments on the prices of things were pretty funny, as were her comments on the multitude of T-shirts whose messages she found offensive in a few stores.  Miss Priss announced that there was no point in buying a T-shirt that you couldn’t wear to school!  I agree with her, but would get embarrassed when she would point to a T-shirt and talk at the top of her voice about how inappropriate it was.

Kayla was also afraid to buy anything because there might be something else farther down the line that she would want more.  She agonized over the Vera Bradley purses (until she found out what they cost!), over these hair twister plastic thingies that would have cost her $30 for 4 (essentially all of her money), and several other items.  She finally decided on a souvenir cup from the retail shop at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Restaurant, and it took all of the sales person’s helpful comments about the lifetime warranty on the cup to for her to keep her resolve.

On the way into the shopping center, we had gone by a kiosk where a man was selling children the opportunity to jump up and down on a trampoline-like thing with harnesses and bungee cords that would let them reach much higher heights than normal.  With the unerring eyes that children have for such things, Kayla saw it on our way in and kept commenting on how much she wanted to “bungee jump.”  Mark hadn’t seen the trampoline outfit, and thought that Kayla was talking about bungee jumping for real, so he was getting very aggravated because he knew that there was no way that she would climb up a high tower and then jump so she could be bounced up and down on an elastic cord.  The situation was not improved by Kayla’s mentioning bungee jumping every 5 minutes or so.  However, as her friend observed, at least it had taken her mind off going to the beach, which had been mentioned every five minutes or so until Kayla saw the trampoline.

Once Mark and Kayla  finally got the resulting word tangle smoothed out, Kayla and her friend got to jump on the trampoline – $10 a child for four minutes of jumping.  I think the kiosk person should have given us a discount – he had no-one waiting to do the jumping until my two girls started, after which he had a line about three families deep.

We returned to the hotel room, where both girls insisted on at least going to the pool.  The pool immediately behind our unit was large, beautifully landscaped and not heated.  They both said that was the one they wanted to try first.  I told them to go on to the pool and try dabbling their feet or their arms in the water until I got back with the towels from the car and let me know when I got back if they still wanted to stay in that pool, or instead find a heated one.

It took much less time than I expected.  They greeted me at the door leading to the unheated lagoon pool expressing a decided preference for the heated pool.  It was only behind the next tower, so it wasn’t far.

The heated pool was a big success with them! I sat pool-side and read while they played.  Late, late in the afternoon, the sun burst through the clouds for just a little while, and they both begged to go to the beach.  We only had about a half hour left anyhow before we had to return to the room, so I took them on down.  My child’s friend tried the water at various depths, announced it was too cold, and returned to play on the beach but not in the water.  Kayla kept insisting the water wasn’t that cold and spent about 20 minutes in it, after which she too finally came out.  She said you got used to the water after a while; I’m convinced that her legs just went numb from the cold.

We finished our night with a wonderful dinner at Captain Anderson’s, a fabulous restaurant, and mini-golf, which was a  lot of fun.

We had to get up early the next morning in order to return home, so we sent the girls to bed about nine.  I’m fairly certain they didn’t sleep until a long time after that, but at least we tried.  They spent a fair amount of time sacked out in the car as we drove home.

The forecast for Sunday, when we had to leave by 7,was, of course, sunny and 75.  It looked like Panama City Beach was going to reach that and more when we left.

I hope all of you had a Happy Easter!  Have a great day!


An American Love Story

Hi Everyone!

President Andrew Jackson
This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired and/or it is the work of public United States employees.

I have a confession to make:  the first time I “met” Andrew Jackson, I did not like him.  I was first “introduced” to this larger than life figure in a book about the “Trail of Tears,” the forced march of the Cherokees from their homes in Georgia and Alabama out West to the Mississippi I found his decision to relocate the Cherokees and other Indians unconscionable and unjust. 

Unfortunately, human beings are complex, and very few of us are entirely evil or entirely good, so later, as I learned a little bit about the Battle of New Orleans, and when I realized what Andrew Jackson accomplished in that major victory of the War of 1812, with the very limited men and supplies available to him, my attitude changed to include just a little bit of grudging admiration. 

That grudging admiration increased even more when I learned about his enduring and reciprocated love for his wife, Rachel, who was originally Rachel Donelson.  From all accounts, she was the only woman he ever loved. 

Rachel Jackson
This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired and/or it is the work of public United States employees.

He met her at the age of 21, when, just arriving in the frontier town of Nashville as Solicitor (ie., prosecutor) for the Western District of the North Carolina Territory, he was looking to make his own mark.  He first boarded in a boarding house run by Rachel’s mother, which is how the two met.

Prior to meeting Andrew Jackson, Rachel had a brief, but unhappy marriage to Captain Lewis Robards, and the two separated in 1790.  In 1791, believing, due to a false newspaper article Robards caused to have printed in the local paper, that Robards had obtained a divorce from Rachel, Rachel and Andrew Jackson got married. 

In 1794, however, for the first time, Rachel and Andrew Jackson learned that Captain Robards had not, in fact, filed for or obtained a divorce.  Immediately upon learning this, Rachel moved out of Andrew’s house, and filed for divorce herself.  The divorce, the first ever in Kentucky, was granted in 1794, and the couple remarried. 

For the next 35 years, Andrew Jackson and Rachel Jackson stayed happily married.  Since Jackson was always a controversial figure, Andrew Jackson’s political enemies claimed that Rachel was a bigamist as necessary to attempt to defeat him in various political races.  The presidential election in 1828 was particularly brutal.  When Rachel died after the election but before his inauguration in 1829 of a heart attack, Andrew Jackson forever after blamed her death on his political opponents.  FN.

It is in his response to her death that some of the most endearing traits of Andrew Jackson come to life.  When she first died, Andrew Jackson refused to believe that she was dead, and urged his family and servants to put more blankets on the bed in case she woke up and was cold.  Soon after her death, he commissioned an artist to paint two miniatures of Rachel from a portrait done late in her life so that he would always be able to carry her with him.  He said good night to her every night before he went to sleep, and her final portrait hung across from his bed so that she would be the first thing that he saw when he woke up.

In the tomb that he built for her at their beloved home in Tennessee is etched the epitaph that he wrote for her.  In these words you hear the love and grief echo back through centuries:

Here lie the remains of Mrs. Rachel Jackson, wife of President Jackson, who died December 22nd 1828, aged 61. Her face was fair, her person pleasing, her temper amiable, and her heart kind. She delighted in relieving the wants of her fellow-creatures,and cultivated that divine pleasure by the most liberal and unpretending methods. To the poor she was a benefactress; to the rich she was an example; to the wretched a comforter; to the prosperous an ornament. Her pity went hand in hand with her benevolence; and she thanked her Creator for being able to do good. A being so gentle and so virtuous, slander might wound but could not dishonor. Even death, when he tore her from the arms of her husband, could but transplant her to the bosom of her God.

Through one of those occasional miracles that occur in the preservation of history, the Hermitage, the Jackson home in Tennessee, has been remarkably preserved.  You can go see the Jackson tomb, now with both Andrew and Rachel Jackson buried there, surrounded by a garden that is much the same as it was when Rachel tended it.  The house itself is open for tours, and contains the furniture that Andrew and Rachel Jackson owned.  The entire presentation does not gloss over the less savory aspects of Andrew Jackson’s career; instead it presents, unapologetically, a full portrait of a complex, gifted man- and his tender relationship with the woman he loved until the day he died.

Photograph of Andrew Jackson just months before his death by Matthew Brady;  Jackson told Brady that Brady had made him “look like a monkey.” 
This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.

Have a great day everyone!


FN.  I am sure the tactics on the Jackson side of the election were equally brutal, but that is not the point of this post.