You claim that you’re transparent

So tell me what you see.

I’m pretty sure I see something else

Staring back at me.

You claim that you are open,

But the truth won’t seem to take.

If you’re moving and on and learning

Then why the same mistake?

I think it’s time, my friend gone by

To call a spade a spade.

We can’t continue to cry about

The constant bed we’ve made.

It is said we live and learn in life

I hope, my friend, it’s true.

The lesson which is yet unlearned

Lies at the heart of you.


The Bahamas Suck- Part 2

We did finally make it off the boat and onto dry land.  Let the adventure begin.  We catch a cab to our hotel.  (I’m going to interject here that I’m struggling finding the exact words to give you the full mental picture. I want you to have a true appreciation of what I’m trying to tell you.)  Imagine for a moment the most gorgeous, luxurious hotel you’ve ever seen….and then imagine the TOTAL opposite.  I’m not even kidding.  Wish I were.  Within moments of pulling up to the front we knew we were in for it.  I’m not sure what gave it away first…. the hoards of screaming teens checking in at the lobby (Spring Break, remember?) or the large construction equipment parked all over the property outside.

We checked in and walked to our room, passing bulldozers and noisy kids all the way.  We decided it was time to walk around and check out the sights.  We head out, on foot, and try to avoid being killed by the crazy drivers in this place.  It is a virtual game of “Frogger” as we’re trying to dart across the street, a.k.a. highway, which is outside our hotel.  Bahamian drivers are much like the cab drivers I remember from visiting Chicago.  In Chicago I can remember ducking down in the back seat of the cab and literally praying to God just to let me out of that steel deathtrap alive.  Very quick stops and starts and lots of horn blowing.  The difference now was that we were the ones having to avoid being plowed over by the speeding deathtraps.  Stressful.

We venture around the town for a while and start noticing that while it is an okay area, it isn’t the beautiful, plush area we had imagined after looking through brochures.  There are shops.  There is a casino.  Some restaurants.  We strike up a conversation with a local shop owner.  He explains to us that most people who come to visit the Bahamas on a honeymoon travel to Nassau and not Freeport, as we had.  Okay, seriously.  So we’ve discovered we are basically in the wrong part of the country in a bad hotel and we’ve gotten there by voyaging on the S.S. Gonna-Sink-Any-Minute.  Have I mentioned that at the end of our trip we will be returning to the same ship to travel back to Florida?…. can’t WAIT!!!

At this point there isn’t much you can do but laugh.  We have four days remaining in this place and that was that.  We did schedule a snorkeling trip which was the highlight of the trip.  If you’ve not been snorkeling I would strongly encourage you to do it.  It’s as if you’ve entered into a quiet, private underwater world.  The array of colors- oranges, reds, turquoise…. just lovely.  We saw fish I’ve never seen and a gorgeous coral reef.  You had to be careful, though because the coral was protected and we were not allowed to touch it.  I guess people have tried to break some off and take it home in the past.  I can’t even imagine trying though because that stuff will cut you if you accidentally so much as brush a foot over it.  This was, without a doubt, the highlight of my experience in Freeport, Bahamas.

We finished our snorkeling trip and were relishing the fact that we’ve had a pleasant moment.  He suggests we visit a local ice cream parlor and I’m thrilled!  Ice cream is my FAVORITE snack in the world and the thought of having two consecutive good things happen to us was almost unthinkable!  🙂  We went in, ordered our ice cream cones and left.  I got two scoops- one chocolate and one cookies and cream….yummy!  It was stacked high on a sugar cone.  We were just a few blocks from the “hotel” so we decided to walk back and watch a movie on the television.  We’ve seen everything we needed to see in town by this time.

He and I walk to our room through the jackhammering and the cannonballs into the swimming pool and I sit on the bed.  The husband is in a chair about 6 feet from me and he turns on the television.  We find a movie we both like and continue eating our ice cream.  It was delicious!  You can’t really mess ice cream up, can you?  Just fabulous.  He and I are chatting throughout the movie.  About 20 minutes in, as I’m on the very last licks of my ice cream, I am talking to him from the bed and looking at him over in the chair.  As I’m talking I notice in my peripheral vision a slight movement….. huh?  That shouldn’t be happening…… I glance down at my now-gone ice cream and see that in the bottom of my sugar cone is a cockroach- NO LIE- about 3 inches long….. black and disgusting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  He’s just walking around in there!  In one fail swoop I throw my ice cream cone across the room, begin screaming like a murder victim, and leap off the bed about 10 feet.  THAT IS IT!!!!!!!!  GET ME OUTTA THIS GOD-FORSAKEN PLACE AND LET’S GO HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was over the ship, over the vomit, over the hotel and the 6 a.m. bulldozing/jackhammering wake up calls, sick of the kids, and definitely was NOT gonna be having roaches in my ice cream.  I realize that I am blowing any shot I ever had at working for the Bahamian Chamber of Commerce or Tourism Department, but that was my experience.  Truly.  The Bahamas suck.

The Bahamas Suck- part 1

One aspect I enjoy so much about my relationship with my gal pal Kelli is that when either of us tells the other a story that we find especially poignant or funny we will say, “You HAVE to blog that!”  This story comes from such a discussion this evening…

The only experience to date that I’ve ever had with a “cruise ship” (and I am using quotation marks very intendedly here) was in the spring of 2000.  I was so excited to take a luxury cruise ship to the Bahamas for what was supposed to be the vacation of a lifetime- my honeymoon.  Now when I got married (first time) we didn’t really research the destination.  We wanted some place warm and lovely and tropical.  I imagined hearing steel drums playing off in the distance and feeling the trade winds blowing a mixture of ocean water and sand ever so slightly onto our skin as we walked along the beach.  THIS was the Bahamas I had imagined.

The morning we arrived in Cape Canaveral I was amazed when I saw our ship from a distance.  It was massive.  I’d never seen anything like it.  One doesn’t have much of an opportunity to see such a sight in East Tennessee cruising down the Cherokee River.  We got out of the rental car and began walking closer and closer to the ship.  Then something rather curious started to happen.  The closer we got to the ship the more I began to notice that this ship didn’t look so,….. uh, well……. “new”.  I could see wear and tear on the exterior of the ship and I’m thinking, “This isn’t really what cruise ships look like on the commercials I’ve seen.”  We walk ahead hopeful that conditions will improve.  As we entered the ship and showed our proper i.d.  the realization began to set in.  Have any of you seen the movie “Titanic” which starred Leonardo DiCaprio?  You know the scene when the old lady begins to tell her story of her experience on Titanic and you see the cameras underwater panning over the sunken wreckage of the ship on the ocean floor, but as the cameras continue to press forward the hallways and the walls miraculously return to their splendor and majesty from their glory days?  Well, this is exactly what was happening to us only in reverse.  Each step taking us to a place looking more worn and ragged than the one before.  Disheartening to say the least.  But we were troopers and tried to look on the bright side- we are on a HUGE boat and we are heading to a lovely place.  We decided to put smiles on our faces and make the most of our voyage to paradise.

The husband and I quickly found lounge chairs by a pool deck.  There were about 15 million college kids on Spring Break aboard with us and the festivities got loud fairly quickly.  It’s not that we were too old to have a good time, but our idea of a good time was lounging in peace by a lovely pool and not having to participate in a keg party with Otter and the other frat boys.  We kept smiling and tried to focus on getting some sun.  Surely we’ll be there soon.

After an hour or so on the ship each of us decided we were getting hungry.  I’ve always heard that cruise ships have the best food and LARGE AMOUNTS of it.  Literally, I have yet to meet a person who has gotten back from a cruise who has NOT told me how fabulous the food was.  I was excited.  I was hungry and hoping that this might take my mind off of the slight rocking of the boat for a while.  We found one of about 8 dining halls and promptly went to the buffet.  We loaded up our plates with piles of wonderful looking food and made our way to the table.  I still feel the boat rocking, but I am so hungry by this point that I am able to ignore it long enough to get the first bite into my mouth.  What’s this?  Blah…. so bland.  I try something else.  Same deal.  The food looked wonderful, but it all tasted like cardboard… gross!  So here we are on a huge, rotting, floating fraternity party and the food tastes like the hind end of a dead possum LARGE AMOUNTS of it…. yay.  Okay, so much for cruise food.  Just get me to the Bahamas.

We only had another hour and a half until we reached our destination and I was fussy and hungry.  Still trying to look on the positive side of things we decided to go to one of the onboard shows to kill time.  I don’t have much of a memory of the entertainment that day.  I think it had something to do with a big-haired woman in a shiny dress belting out “I Will Survive” and a medley of women’s empowerment tunes, but this was quickly overshadowed by what I saw in the corner of the room.  To our immediate right and probably 20 feet away is a woman, sitting alone, and vomiting onto the floor beneath her seat.  I guess she was feeling the rocking of the ship too.  I immediately looked at my new husband and said, “We’ve got to help her.”  I looked around for a ship employee and found a non-English speaking employee.  NO ONE employed by this cruise ship spoke English.  It was a virtual melting pot on the high seas.  I go up to Hosea or Rico or whoever it was and began to point to the woman and make “vomit” hand gestures from my mouth and tell him I need help.  Rico turns and quickly walks away.  I go to the poor woman and tell her help is on the way.  I’m patting her back, but turning my head to keep from seeing too closely what was on the floor.  The smell…. now that was another matter.  A few minutes later Rico returns and hands me something.  He has brought me a plastic cup and one napkin.  HUH?!!!!  Are you kidding me????  What exactly am I supposed to do with this?  What Macgyver kinda move did this guy think I was gonna make with this?  I am now literally just accepting that I am on the 9th level of hell.  This must be punishment for me over some choice I made in college, right?!  I take the napkin and wipe the poor woman’s face and with the cup I begin to scoop… well, you get the picture.  I did as much as I could.  Once Rico (a.k.a. Einstein) figures out what I’m doing he returns with a mop and takes care of the rest of the mess.  It’s a good thing too since I had used up all of my resources and was already mentally plotting what I could do with some shoe laces and a wad of chewing gum.  This was the last straw.  I simply wanted off that devil’s cruise ship.  Just get me to the Bahamas…. (rest to come)

Heritage Days

For those who live in these parts Heritage Days is an annual fall festival which takes place every second weekend in October.  It is a celebration of all things culturally important to us.  You can walk down Main Street and literally have to swim through the hundreds of people who come from miles away to see lost arts such as basket weaving and hand carving.  The smells wafting from vendor to vendor float to your nose and you smile at the undeniable scent of kettle corn.  You can generally hear soft bluegrass being picked out on strings and the local dance troupes perform their latest routines to a variety of songs- everything from Justin Bieber to good ole’ Rocky Top.  During a perfect Heritage Days weekend the leaves would be changing and the homes up and down Main Street and even the courthouse lawn would have been decorated with magnificent mums.  Each popping with crisp fall colors in orange, yellow, purple, and deep red.  This is what Heritage Days means to East Tennessee.

To me, this afternoon, it took on a whole new meaning.  While cleaning my house in preparation for children’s birthday parties this fall weekend I came across a basket of all sorts of things which needed to be sorted through.  In it were papers- some wadded into balls and some not.  I found toys my children are unaware have been placed promptly into trash bags and even a pair of hand weights.  I sat down beside the basket and began pulling out items one by one making sure that nothing of importance would be tossed.  As I made my way through the layers of what appeared to be nothing more than clutter, I accidentally stumbled into a virtual treasure trove of memories.  I had just thrown out about 5 months worth of unneeded homework from the previous year when I pulled out a picture that took me by surprise.  It was my high school best friend, Dawn Cole Horning.  She and I were standing in front of the mantle in her home in Denison, TX.  The picture was taken many years before this same, sweet friend succumbed to breast cancer.  She was only 38.  It was a bittersweet moment.  So good to see her face and those always-beaming beautiful eyes.  How sad to remember in that instant she is no longer here.  I kept digging…

An old matchbox car (trash), several markers with no lids on them (trash), and then I came upon a stack of papers.  Legal documents stamped and sealed to make them official.  Tough reminders of a tough time my husband and I went through last year.  Custody agreements, hand written notes reminding him to return Ava and Eli’s soccer clothes to me when he brought them back to me after the weekend, and letters of heated exchanges from one lawyer to another.  I could literally feel a knot in my stomach as I remember how large that knot grew last year at this very time.  He and I had been separated for just a few months, but the level of tension was stifling.  It took your breath.  I remember praying to God daily for peace….even just a few hours of it.  I had to have relief or I didn’t think I would be able to make it.  It was excruciatingly painful watching my children being pulled from this place to that and knowing that they didn’t know why mommy and daddy were fighting.  Just that they were.  What a difference a year has made and what a faithful God I serve.  It is only through His grace and His might that our family is restored.  I kept digging…

Fallen down into one of the corners of the basket I found a tiny white envelope with “Ms. Amanda Elder” written in very small, precise strokes.  I know who this is from.  I pull out the letter, the HANDWRITTEN letter.  This was before the age of email and texting and Facebook.  People used to actually have to buy stamps and mail letters for those who may be too young to remember.  A part of me wishes for a return to that more personal time.  I read the letter front and back.  It is dated June 22, 1995, over15 years ago.  It ended with this one sentence (and I’m quoting), “… I simply want to tell you how the faint echo of your name resounds in my mind, how your faint image hovers in perfect clarity before my eyes.”  Wow.  This was a boy I knew long ago from my college days in Arkansas.  A friend.  We were never anything more.  I never even gave him the time of day.  We were only friends.  Wow.  I kept digging…

As I came to the bottom of the basket I found a Ziploc bag with a handful of pictures down in it.  I sorted through them one at a time and smiled at each funny or sweet memory.  Then I stopped.  In my hand I was holding a picture of me and my father.  We are standing in downtown Rogersville and it is Heritage Day’s weekend.  If I were guessing I would say the picture was taken in about 1995 or 96.  You can see the mums in the background and my dad is sporting that year’s Heritage Days shirt.  He and I are both smiling and obviously having a good time.  This is the father I remember.  This is the father who could communicate with us and laugh and joke with us.  It is easy to forget this version of my father since the current version is so far different.  This is my father before he was sick and many years before we had ever heard the words “corticobasal degeneration”.  What a wonderful time in life.  This is how I will always remember my dad.

I learned a valuable lesson today.  I know that “heritage” generally means something we’ve inherited from our ancestors, but I like to think of it in more basic terms.  I think a simpler definition is “where ya’ came from”.  We all have a heritage.  We all come from somewhere.  I’ve come from a long line of wonderful friends.  I’ve come from moments of adversity and situations which I felt were practically impossible to overcome.  I’ve come from relationships realized and those not.  Most importantly, I’ve come from a happy, peaceful time in life with parents who were always present and nurturing, and are still to this day even though in the case of my dad “present” takes on a different, more serious meaning.  We should all take a moment to reflect on our heritage.  We should remember to live as fully as we know how in those tiny moments because we simply do not know for how long we will have them.  This is my lesson learned today.

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