Sunday, April 25, 2010

Fixed the comment problem - hopefully.

Sorry to everyone who has tried to leave comments and had difficulty. I think I have fixed the issue so please, comment away.... miss y'all!

Dismals Canyon

Today's hike was superb! It left us feeling youthful and refreshed. Dismals Canyon is an historic oasis filled with waterfalls, winding paths up cliffs and through caves, with lush greenery abound. Add in plenty of fresh pine scented air and it was like a playground for all of our souls.
Bela & Torben jumped in the water at every opportunity. Bela swam blissfully down stream as we paralleled her on the path through the woods. Even old Rodeo felt rejeuvinated and romped like a puppy up and down the trails.
Needless to say there was a harmony of snores from the couch upon our return. There are few things things that make me happier than watching my family's delight. It was an excellent day!!
Yesterday had some ominous weather; luckily mother nature spared us and left this double rainbow as her parting gift.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Still in Red Bay...

So far I’ve learned some invaluable lessons which I feel compelled to share, mostly as reminders to myself. First, it is better to spend 4 hours cleaning the car after taking the dogs swimming and hiking in the mud. Second, with so many animals underfoot always, ALWAYS look where you step – messes of all shapes, colors and consistencies can appear in the blink of an eye…ice cream can cause such indigestible messes. Third, and perhaps most importantly, check for ticks…even if you can’t bend over and see THAT spot, they can still find it!

We’ve been keeping ourselves quite busy this last week, in addition to the above referenced incidents. We’re still in Red Bay and since they haven’t gotten to our repairs yet, we set out in a new direction everyday exploring with the kids. The Natchez Trace is an incredibly scenic road that used to be a Native American highway (footpath). There are several parks and historic markers all along its path. We walked along Bear Creek and let the kids go swimming and sniff every leaf and bush to their hearts content. We hiked up an ancient mound that was dated back to 4000 B.C.!! It was awe inspiring and as Torben & I took a moment of reflection, we noticed our dog Bela paying her own special respects by leaving a mound of her own – right on top of the original mound! I was mortified! Thank goodness for portable pooper bags.

We ventured up north the other day, just across the Mississippi/Tennessee border to the Shiloh National Battlefield and Cemetery. It was the sight of one of the bloodiest battles ever fought in the Civil War, and the sense of pain and suffering still echoes eerily among the shadows of the hills and the stillness of the trees. The land is beautifully preserved but there is no doubt about the heaviness in the air. We drove/walked the park and learned about the intense two-day battle. Several states have donated massive monuments to the memory of their soldiers. I am proud to say that my own home state of Indiana represented well, as did Ohio and Iowa. My husband was born and raised in old Florida and has a much different outlook on the Civil War than I do. Growing up I learned that the war was fought over slavery, the North won, end of story….or so I thought. My husband is a proud southern gentleman and believes that the South was fighting in opposition to unrepresented taxation and against the federal government mandating state laws. He feels very strongly that this was a war "of northern aggression" and that the North did it’s best to erase the historical significance of the Confederate soldiers. While we have had many discussions and a few disagreements over the issue I have basic concluded that he just needed to get over the issue (135 years later). Regardless of my personal opinion, there is a significant difference in how history has chosen to remember both sides of this war. There were signs placed at various places noting how Union soldiers from this battalion and that company were moved from their initial burial site and placed in the National Cemetery, thus the monuments were only place markers, but still immaculately maintained. This was in stark contrast to the Confederate burial trenches hidden in the woods. The overall size is about the length of my bus and it contains the remains of some 10,000+ Confederate soldiers. The mass graves were poorly maintained and almost forgotten. It saddened me that so many brave men, whatever their motivation, died so heroically and were given such a poor tribute for their efforts. I was able to understand some of Torben’s frustration as I saw how these brave souls are treated with such little respect by our National Park Service. Torben & I had another great discussion about how the victors of war get to determine how history will tell its story. Ok, we’re kind of history nerds, but that kind of stuff is interesting to us.

On a brighter note, tomorrow is our anniversary, five years!! Torben keeps telling everyone it’s the longest he has ever been married – people look at us quizzically until I deliver the punch line – that this is the only time he has ever been or will ever be married. I am sorry to all of our friends who have heard this joke every year, it will undoubtedly remain in his poor joke repertoire for many years to come. Regardless of his sense of humor, I am deeply proud to be his wife and have delighted in our marriage and I have full faith that our future will be equally as loving.

Last, we finally got our TV working (we even have color!) just in time to see the Denver Broncos pick up Tim Tebow in the NFL Draft. I absolutely love Timmy and just became a huge Broncos fans! And thanks to Tommy Swonger and Torben’s Mom for letting us know as well.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

In Celebration of Sarah's Birthday

Celebrating a birthday when you live in such a tight space and have no room for gifts can be challenging. We chose to go sightseeing as part of the gift. The trip took us to Tupelo, MS where we celebrated by going to the birthplace of Elvis. The outhouse in the picture is the real deal and was the outhouse beside Elvis' house and his family church. The best part of it was that there is actually a plexiglass wall that protects the royal pooper.

After that excitement we went in to downtown Tupelo for some shopping when the most amazing thing happened, and I do mean amazing. As we came around a downtown corner a balloon blew right into me. I looked at the balloon and incredibly it said Happy Birthday/SURPRISE! and it has a picture of a dog delivering the message. That it landed with Sarah on her birthday was too much of a coincidence. We don't know who the angel is that is watching over her but we sure are grateful (the picture of Sarah above shows the balloon).

We then went to a National Fish Hatchery. We went right up to the front office where the sweetest park ranger, her name was Laura, jumped up and gave us a complete tour of the hatchery from the eggs to the baby fish and eventually to adults. I don't know if you can tell from the goofy picture of me with a stuffed Alligator Gar but wow is that one impressive fish! In the hatchery one of the rangers netted a 10 month old Alligator Gar that showed us its teeth which were pretty dadgum impressive. In addition it has armor like skin that will cut you like a razor. It is not an aggressive fish so they are reintroducing it into areas where dangerous Snakehead fish have been illegally released. We finished the day with a meal and birthday cake from Piggly- Wiggly back in Red Bay Alabama. All in all a glorious day of fun especially when we throw in a visit to a ready made dog park behind the Baptist Church where the babies got to play.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Red Bay

Hello from Red Bay Alabama! Ahhhhh, the sweet smell of lilac blooms, and eh... chicken farms. I've learned to inhale cautiously as you never know what to expect from one hill to the next. We successfully made it to the Tiffin manufacturing plant and they graciously agreed to fix some of the problems we've encountered with our new home. The other motor home owners assure us that a new bus is bound to have a few kinks to get worked out. I'm not sure if a punch list of 26 items qualifies as "a few", but anyway it was mildly reassuring. This place is so busy and because all of the motor homes are made by this same company it's hard to pick out ours among the 200 others. Not unusual to see people staring blankly at the front of a few motor homes before risking entry into someone else's home. Luckily this is a very understanding crowd. Looks like we may be here for a few weeks before the work is done. We went exploring yesterday, found a beautiful lake and dam. Got to let the kids run awhile off leash, they loved it. Bela must have ran and down this huge hill about a dozen times. Even old Rodeo bounded up the hill. Pretty cool to see them having fun. Torben & I decided to drive until we got lost, then stop and ask for directions. We stumbled across the best Hawaiian shaved ice store on an old country road. I've learned that my dogs like pina colada icees as much, if not more than I do. We visited a beautiful park in Tuscombia, which also happens to be the birth place of Helen Keller. Got us talking about how challenging it is to live with disabilities, not to mention in this small town, with very little support. Some people show exceptional strength and perseverance in the face of obstacles that would flatten most of us. My grandmother Curran is one of those people. An automobile collision left her partly paralyzed when my mom was a small child. The doctors predicted that she would never recover. Boy did she prove them wrong. Despite the pain and challenges she maintained the positive belief that she could. Not only did she walk again, she played golf for many years! She still continues to kick life in the face when someone tells her she "can't" do something. She's my hero. I come from a family tree with many branches of amazing women, all who have inspired me. Here's a few pics of our adventures so far. Oh, I almost forgot: Coon Dog actually exists. Believe it or not they are quite exclusive about what kind of dogs can be buried there. It's in the middle of nowhere and surprisingly well kept. Miss you all, sending love and hugs :)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Celebrating April Fools Day

So today I (Torben)post my first blog statement. Frankly it is the first chance that I have really had to sit down with a clear head in the last month. Wow has it been crazy! I thought that I was going to have time to relax and catch a few Spring Training games when I left the firm. Boy was I ever wrong. Between moving and selling off most everything that we own, by the way this was a real eye opener. You have no idea what the value of your personal items are until you have to sell them. Trust me when I say that it is no where near what you would expect. However we have received a much better value for our money...FREEDOM. I had no idea how bound I was to material things until I had to sell them to make room for our trip. Once we started to get rid of stuff we immediately felt a weight lifting off of us. Truly a cathartic moment in our lives. Now we are on the road and we are finally learning how not to be in a hurry. We decided to decompress near my hometown of Gainesville in a beautiful and unique RV resort called Williston Crossings. All of the sites are private and wooded and there is actually an old abandoned train on the property that adds to the fun. The babies have enjoyed our exploration as well but we are all really just enjoying our time together. I'll sign off by saying how grateful I am to all of our friends who have been so helpful in making this journey possible and in reminding us of what is really important in life. Bill and Leslie Johnson, Carson and Terri Robinson and most assuredly Dee Dee Price who all have given so very much to help us and to send us off with a feeling of such love and support. Thank you all.