Snowmageddon 2018

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There is a funny thing that happens when snow is on the ground for more than 2 hours in Alabama and it only gets weirder as the hours, and days wear on. It snowed Tuesday, this is Friday morning and there is still snow on the ground, on the sidewalks, and on the roads. There are still patches of ice here and there. How utterly strange! Time sort of slows down here. Offices, stores, schools, restaurants, and even UNA closes. People quite literally cannot travel by car so even I got out and walked if I wanted to go somewhere.

I’ve never had a snow week quite like the one we just experienced. It feels much like the breaks we got in college. A week or two with little obligation and responsibility; no professors asking us to do anything, lectures to go to, or anything else really. I worked from home on the things I needed to keep up with. Carl got to play in his first real snow. I played a little too even though snow is not really my thing. I think I won’t be able to think about snow or snow days the same way ever again. In college I would break out the trashy novels, a puzzle, and some Netflix something or other I wanted to catch up with. This last week I did some of that but I also got to spend it with the people in my little family and it was kind of amazing. I learned how to play cribbage. I sat on the floor and watched The Little Mermaid with Carl just because he asked me to. I cleaned out the plastic container mess under my cabinets. Faith rearranged our messy guest room to something that looks almost entirely presentable. Carl has gotten to play all the games his little heart can stand including some very competitive rounds of Hungry, Hungry Hippos. He trash talks when he plays that game. A two year old. Trash Talks! It is the weirdest thing.

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Life goes by so very quickly. The best gift from our benevolent maker is a week like this. A week out of time where we are forced to slow down, to self examine, to make do with the groceries in our pantry, to rediscover the people we live and interact with. There will always be work. There will always be this or that social obligation. The gym will still be there when you can actually get out on the roads again (I know because I made it all the way back to the Y again yesterday and I guess I will get my butt up and go today as well.). Target was still standing as well when I checked yesterday. The knowledge I’ve gained this week, the precious experiences I will carry with me, the mental picture of snowflakes falling on people I truly care about will be something I can look back on when life is busier and crazier and just not as much fun.

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Adventures in Mississippi

Life is easy to get caught up in. This last Sunday my brother and I, from separate locations and both after a day of work had to drive to Jackson, MS to speak to the Parole Board. That isn’t something I ever envisioned myself doing but I did it. Jackson, MS is kind of the worst as far as I could tell from my less than 24 hours there. It was really just a sad, ugly sort of place and it smelled like urine much the way Decatur smells like cat food. I’ll not be back there if I can help it. I’ve never had to appear before such a panel before and I really didn’t know exactly what to expect. In case you missed this bit of my family drama, my father was murdered right before Carl was born and now I periodically get sucked into the never ending legal saga that has since ensued. This particular board was comprised of five older people. The youngest was probably no less than 45, the oldest may have been 70. I had prepared a statement which I didn’t end up needing, as well as all the paperwork I have on the man who murdered two people, my father and another woman almost three years ago. I printed pictures out in case I thought they weren’t understanding the loss of life. I printed articles from the paper at the time of the initial arrests because no one I talked to previously was familiar with the crime. None of that was needed. My brother and I had barely opened our mouths before we were reassured that Mr. Meeks won’t be getting out of prison until he goes to trial for murder. When that will happen is anyone’s guess but he has at least two more years to serve on his previous sentence.

It is a special sort of terrifying to me that this man, who murdered two people, stole upwards of $2000 and some property has yet to be tried for any of those crimes. The only reason he isn’t out on the streets to harass and harm others is a violation of parole. During this ill fated trip my debit card was hacked at a gas station. That pretty much sums it up.

This is the statement I prepared.

 

In January of 2015 my brother, an aspiring preacher at the time, and my sister who was trying to get on with a local manufacturing plant and I all got together and drove from our then home of Florence, AL to Corinth, MS. Our purpose that day was to pick up our father and take him for a nice lunch for his 50th birthday. Archie Wayne Williams, our dad, had lived a hard life and you could see it in the lines on his face, the teeth he was missing and even in the smile that he would frequently show you. He was tired, but not yet defeated by life in the way that some people get if life keeps knocking them down. Dad’s birthday was January 3 and in Corinth when he was born there was a lot of hope that he would be a New Years baby. He wasn’t a New Years baby but my Nana loved him just the same. It was on this day that we would meet Mr. Meeks for the first time. My father was living in a home that had been passed down in our family at this time and had generously offered to let Mr. Meeks stay with him there. It was my understanding that Mr. Meeks had just been in some trouble with the law and my dad was trying to give him a break. My father was no stranger to breaking laws. He spent most of his 20s and 30s doing just that so I believe he just wanted this young man to have a chance to learn from his mistakes and do better than he had himself.

My siblings and I spoke with Mr. Meeks that day and while none of us were happy with the arrangement there seemed to be little we could do to end it. We did discourage our father to end his ties with this man because we were worried about what might happen to an older man left to the whims of a young, strong, and possibility volatile housemate and eventually either through our persuasion or time Mr. Meeks seemed to fade from our conversations with dad. Barely three months later Mr. Meeks reentered our world in the worst possible way. April 4, 2015 is burned into my brain. I was nine months pregnant and excited about all the things going on in my life then. My husband had taken me to see a movie and I’d only had to get up once for a bathroom break which was a big deal at that stage. As we were leaving the movie theater I got a phone call from my brother. Fortunately, I was sitting down in the car when he had to relay to me that our father had been murdered.

My relationship with my father had never been easy, but we had moved past so many previous hurts that I couldn’t imagine my brother was serious. He had to be wrong. It felt like a nightmare. How could this happen? You never imagine that this will happen to someone you know. My dad had just started a relationship with a woman, the first serious relationship since my mom years earlier and they had barely been living together for two weeks. Once I recovered from my initial shock I had to relay the news to my sister. I pray that if anything ever happens to my mom it is peaceful and she gets to leave this life with dignity. My father was not afforded either of those things. His death was violent. His death was horrifying. He was shot in the head and left to rot for days before a friend found him and his girlfriend.

In the days that would follow we were introduced to so many new and fresh horrors that I couldn’t begin to relay them to you. Searching through the house where my father was murdered for any of his possessions. Finding his wallet with a dollar, an ID card, and some pictures from our childhood was so incredibly hard. Sitting down at a funeral home while my baby kicked inside me and discussing what options we could afford in terms of funerals. Knowing that we couldn’t afford all that dad might have wanted, even what we could afford was taken out of our meager savings and the rest we would spend months paying off. My siblings and I planned a memorial service which my brother preached the sermon for. Mr. Meeks was caught in Littleville, AL with a stolen vehicle and a gun that most likely was used to murder two people. We watched in horror as this story was plastered on every news outlet around, and when that faded into obscurity we have watched and waited for the day when Mr. Meeks will have to answer for the crimes he committed. My father gave Mr. Meeks a chance to do better, to be better and it cost him not only his life, but the life a woman he cared about. I ask that the state of Mississippi not give Mr. Meeks another chance to cause such irreparable harm.  

Some thoughts on school choice

When I was four years old I went to preschool. We called it headstart but basically it was the same thing. In fact I did two years of preschool, I think because of where my birthday fell on the kindergarten cut off, but that was over 20 years ago so my memories are fuzzy. I did not fail preschool if that’s what you are thinking. I remember it was fun for the most part. There were the normal amount of issues arising from the beginnings of realizing how awkward forced groups can be. However, I loved the big foam blocks and a few friends I accumulated. There was even a pageant and a fluffy white dress. I won something from it but I don’t think I won first place. I’m pretty sure that went to the girl with the bigger budget for a nicer dress. Anyway, it was all pretty normal except that my mom would teach me at home how to count and how to read.

I went on to Kindergarten which was an ok experience but I already knew how to read, phonetically, not with sight words. I could count well past 100 and color in the lines so there was little for me to learn there. I was well behaved unless there was a prospect of going to the dentist. I meandered through. I had a kindergarten boyfriend who’s cousin alternately said mean things about me and planned our pretend wedding. I think it was probably a normal experience. I remember the DARE speaker and school lunches.

I was in the gifted program in 1st grade which meant that I got pulled out of class periodically for gifted classes. That was probably the only thing that saved my first grade experience. The first grade teacher made no secret that she hated me for pretty much everything I did. She continually asked me questions in hopes I wouldn’t be able to spell the word or solve the math question. The only time I ever got in trouble for anything in school that I can remember aside from the time I punched a bully in the balls for telling my friend Barney had died, was when I finished a spelling test faster than she thought I should have, which is absurd because basically she meant that I was writing each answer too quickly as she said the words. She kept admonishing me to take more time to spell each word and I just kept spelling them on my paper as she would announce them. This was 20 years ago but I can still remember the moment she made me go pull a stick for spelling too fast. I was humiliated. My whole world revolved around learning and knowing things and being a good girl who did what was expected the best that I could.

In my gifted classes that behavior was praised and rewarded but back in my first grade classroom anything out of the standard of my teachers idea of normal was looked down on, verbally abused or punished in whatever creative way she could come up with without involving anyone outside the classroom, like my mother who would have blown a gasket had she known how awful that woman was. My mother did know to a degree and she did have many a confrontation with that teacher. To add in more issues I was sick. I missed 64 days of Kindergarten due to respiratory illnesses. I was in and out of the hospital most of Kindergarten. I don’t remember if it was as bad in first grade but I never got behind. I would do the work at home and work in the Abeka workbooks my mom provided. By the end of my first grade year I hated going to school. I loved to learn. Thankfully the teachers assistant and my gifted teacher had nurtured my love of learning where my first grade teacher attempted to quash it but I hated school. Two or three weeks into my second grade year my mom pulled me out along with my brother who had just started kindergarten.

We joined a co-op, used Abeka for the first few years and set out to learn all there was to learn. I was reading well above my grade level and steadily developing math sense I wish my cousins had now. I realize homeschooling isn’t for everyone. In fact I would venture to say it isn’t for the majority, but I am ever thankful my mom decided it was for us. I love to learn even now. I like to think I’m not particularly socially awkward. I’ve been successful in my chosen profession. What people fail to realize about homeschooling is that it doesn’t have to be an isolated or isolating experience. You can homeschool anywhere including on an impromptu trip to the zoo or the grand canyon. There are so many curriculum choices now and co-op options and support systems that my mom didn’t have. Something I can still appreciate about this country, when I am pretty ashamed of it otherwise, is the right to choose what sort of education our children receive. Thanks mom.

Christmas newsletter plans

Christmas gifts are almost always fun to pick out, wrap and give for me. I love it. The only time its even a little bit not fun is when I am trying to find something for that person that seemingly has everything. For me those people are my mom and step dad. I can, and do buy them random stuff that I think they might like but for the most part its really hard to find a good gift. This year I decided to do something way different. I’m putting together a Christmas newsletter as a gift to them (and to share with everyone else). I think more than anything this will be something they can enjoy without cluttering up their house with crap they don’t need. Who doesn’t love cute family pictures?? And cute family anecdotes? I feel like Clark Griswald.

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My idea is to include a map with all the places we’ve been as a group, my sister, step-sister, mother, step dad, brother and brothers wife, and Carl. I also want to include anecdotes from the year, updates on everyone, hopes for next year, quotes and verses that were significant to everyone,  and any significant moments. I plan to do this in Microsoft publisher because its the program we use for our church newsletter and I know how to manipulate it better than anything else. Plus I can use the ready made template of that newsletter for this one just add some holiday flair. I think I might try to divide it by season but that plan is very tentative. Either way I am pretty flipping excited about seeing how this goes (and pretty nervous about the amount of work involved to make it awesome) .

To the West

It was my effort, in depicting the West, to depict it as it was. – Buffalo Bill

My last day in Montana was pretty special. I got up earlier than I had previously. They are an hour behind Central Standard time so 5am felt like 6am etc. I wanted to get some better pictures from an off the road viewing site I had found the day before. I never want to forget seeing the sun coming up in Montana. It was beautiful.

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The picture doesn’t express the breathtaking view very well but it will have to do.

There is something about that view that makes you feel like a pioneer, like the only person braving the wilderness, like an cowboy or an Indian will be riding over the hill at any moment. You can’t see a house, the fences look much as they did a hundred years ago, and there were no people to be found other than me. Even though I was stepping out of a brand new rental car on a paved road it felt like a moment out of time. We need places like this, at the base of the Beartooth Hwy, at the foot of the mountains to remind us that we are both significant and insignificant and that’s ok. We can make a difference in the lives of those around us but sometimes we get caught up in every little crisis. Its good to remember that those mountains and that sunrise were here before us and will be here long after us.

I didn’t manage to take a decent picture of myself this last day but I did take a neat artistic-y one with my glasses reflecting the mountains.

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It is actually one of my favorite pictures of myself. Definitely the best one I’ve ever taken.

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I do want to take a minute to say an ode to this little coffee shop called Honeys Cafe. It was hip and amazing and awesome. They had neat custom drinks with names like the Oregan Trail (white chocolate and blackberry with espresso) and all sorts of feminist literature and neat progressive and funny items. I came to Montana expecting all conservatives and while I saw a ton of Pro-life propaganda, Red Lodge at least, was full of neat people, both young and old who were clearly not stuck in the 1950s. I really cannot wait to take Faith and Carl back to Montana with me one day.

The call of the Trail

I could never resist the call of the trail.

-Buffalo Bill

Most of my time in Montana was spent in a little town called Red Lodge. When asked about how I ended up there, which I was asked a lot, I told the truth. I’ve traveled everywhere close to Florence. Every state within a few hours I’ve driven to and every state along the east coast below New York I’ve visited, most several times. I’ve never been west (with the exception of Colorado) but I’ve always wanted to go. Once I realized that the cheapest ticket was likely going to be to Montana and the cheapest activities were also there to I settled on flying into Billings. Once I had settled on Billings there really aren’t a lot of towns nearby, especially not ones close to the mountains and the Wyoming border. One thing it was hard to get used to was the lack of towns, and people…and the abundance of cattle and casinos. I drove the hour south to Wyoming and only saw two people until I got to Cody…and they were in a wagon. Literally.

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After my trip to Cody, and a nap, because the elevation is exhausting for someone who doesn’t live on a mountain regularly I got out of my hotel to spend a little more time exploring the city since I knew I had to leave Tuesday. I managed to eat dinner and try an ale at the Pub at the Pollard Hotel. The Pollard was another place that Buffalo Bill touched during his travels around the west.

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I actually almost stayed at the Pollard but the Comfort Inn was a little bit cheaper and breakfast was included. I am glad I stopped in though. It wasn’t as interesting as the Irma, and its clearly been heavily updated, but it was still neat. The nice thing about the off season is that I was one of the only people in there.

After a salmon and cream cheese pizza I finally got around to trying out one of the bagillion “casinos” advertised with every bar. Honestly I’ve never gambled, never even purchased a lottery ticket and I probably wont do it again but it was interesting to see it. Basically its the saddest arcade you’ve ever seen, just for adults. I played slots and poker, bet in $0.10 increments until my four dollars was gone, had the bartender buy me a drink and crossed that whole experience off my bucket list. It was weird and sad and not a way I’d like to spend time ever again, but it did make me laugh a little at the absurdity. There were only a few other people in there, one older woman who reminded me of my Nana, and a young man who was determined that tonight would be his lucky night (egged on by the pretty bartender of course).

For the love of adventure

Ever since I booked my flight to Montana (less than a month ago) I’ve been thinking about driving to Wyoming, specifically to Cody, Wyoming. This morning, after I wondered around a mountain I decided to just do it. After I changed shoes, grabbed a snack and picked up some extra batteries I was on the road again. The drive to Cody was amazing.

But the love of adventure was in my father’s blood.

– Buffalo Bill

Adventure may have been in Buffalo Bill’s family, but my father only traveled out of Corinth, MS a handful of times that I know of in his 50 years and two of those occasions was on my insistence. Cody, Wyoming is unlike any place I had ventured thus far. It was far more tourist friendly than Red Lodge or Billings and actually quite pretty. The mountains rise up from the historic down town in such a way that I actually parked the car and was out walking down the street, camera in hand before I really thought much about what I was doing. I walked a ways on foot just taking it in. It was truly something special.

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Cody is another of those towns with a historic downtown area. Buffalo Bill had a hotel there named after his daughter Irma which is where I had lunch after meandering around town for a few hours.

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I had a Buffalo burger, and it was pretty good. What was better was the authenticity of the place in general

On the Montana side there was snow

And on the Wyoming side it was mostly sand and dead bushes and cows. Very little snow to no snow.

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Cody, Wyoming was everything I could have wanted. It was beautiful. And weird. And funky.

There were some neat building decorations.

A ton of John Wayne stuff at this one store. I ended up picking up some gifts there for the family.

Whilst eating lunch I had to take some touristy pictures of the Irma.

The dining room

At the booth where I was seated

A moose

At the bar

In the hotel area

Finally me outside

I want to go back during the busier season. They have fake gun fights in the street and tours through Yellowstone. Much of the road into Yellowstone is closed right now. I’ll definitely be back.

Godless

I’ve enjoyed westerns for as long as I can remember. I grew up with John Wayne and Clint Eastwood and even the Shakiest Gun in the West (my brothers all time childhood favorite).

Probably why I love Wyoming/Montana

It took a bit longer than I originally intended but I managed to finish Godless this week and I can’t really say enough good things. Its definitely a modern western. I say this because it is beautiful, and smooth in the was most older westerns are not but that just adds to the overall affect.

Imagine a town without men, except for the rare sheriff or shop keeper. This is where Godless spends most of its time, in the man-less territory town of LaBelle. The story takes place in the New Mexico area. There are a few different things going on. One plot line is the drama unfolding between Roy Goode, an outlaw with a conscience and Frank Griffin, a tortured father figure with Mormon roots and a clear lack of ability to deal with rejection. Another part of the story is Alice, the twice widowed woman who has been rejected by LaBelle and continues to stubbornly hang on to her little plot of land and unique way of life. There are a ton of other interesting stories to be had in the town itself between all the ladies that reside there now.

I have no complaints about it but I must say that a lot of people seem to think there isn’t enough violence. That is rubbish. Firstly, why is violence a necessary plot mover in the minds of anyone? Secondly, there is a lot of implied violence/action it is just subtle which apparently baffles the mind of some people. I’ve also read where people thought it was slow to develop which I disagree with. There are simply more things going on than one confrontation with a bad guy. If you want a neat series to watch that wont take up too much time or you love a good western this is for you.

Chasing the dawn

“Women need real moments of solitude and self-reflection to balance out how much of ourselves we give away.” – Barbara De Angelis

Few things in life are quite so irritating as a toddler with a large vocabulary. The last thing any parent wants is for their two year to tell them he is just angry right now. Or that he is putting me in time out…Or any number of other perfectly fine phrases that are just expressions of his current feelings but that make me want to throw things…or laugh depending on the moment. This morning when I heard him demanding white milk of his dad it really seemed much funnier than when he does it to me. I am really grateful for that vocabulary though because I can send him off to Disney with his dad and know that when I talk to him he can actually tell me how he is and isn’t shy about doing it. He has told me all about the Tea Cup ride and Winnie the Pooh. As for my own little adventure, I’ve discovered that once you let batteries warm back up again you can get some charge off of them. I am about to head out into the great Montana dark and try a trail and some pictures of the dawn. One of my goals for this trip was to take some good pictures. I need to actually take one of myself today. Ha! This has been the longest period of time I’ve been away from Carl as of this morning. He took off with his dad at 3:00pm Friday and it is 7:00am Monday morning. I’m not going to do the math but I think it has been good for me, maybe for him as well. I want to see as much as I can on this trip but I’ve also been giving myself permission to do very little in between. Its been unspeakably nice to just be myself. Read if I feel like it, listen to my music, finish Longmire (finally), eat when I am ready and whatever I want. Drink if I want. These are things that we take for granted before kids but are never certain after them. If not one other good thing comes from this trip it will be that I remembered a little more about what I actually enjoy and what I want out of life. Most of what I want involves impetuous trips to places like this. I have a home now, a pretty good job that is fulfilling to me, a child that I couldn’t be prouder of and a reasonably good family. The only other thing I ask for is the world. And mom, if you are reading this, I also want a pony.

Travelling (wo)man

We have always been dreamers in Montana. – Brian Schweitzer

Red Lodge MOuntains

This Montana adventure is something else. I’ll probably always remember it as the weird quarter life crisis adventure I had a little bit late. I got up super duper early as per usual with a call from Carl who is having the time of his life at Disney world. On my way to pick up the car this morning I met a man who was in his 40s, divorced and new to Montana from Idaho of all places which he apparently hated. He talked about his video game playing and needing to get away from his ex wife while also telling me about the rimrocks in Billings. Then I wandered around Billings trying to get used to my rental car before I drove the hour south to Red Lodge. It was a pretty and quiet drive. I learned that the speed limit on a normal two lane in Montana is 70mph. This state is something else.

Road to Red Lodge

This picture may or may not have been captured while driving. Its hard to say 😉

Red Lodge is beautiful. It’s like a hippie, less tourist trap-ie Gatlinburg. It’s got coffee shops, casinos, bead shops, rock shops, and a really pretty downtown walking area. It’s also at the foothills of some amazing mountains. The Beartooth Highway is closed, but I drove as far as I could today. There were people everywhere getting Christmas trees and strapping them to the hoods of everything from compact cars to station wagons ala Christmas Vacation. There are also several trails I want to explore early in the morning. I think I’m going to do that and skip skiing. I just don’t think I have the balance or energy for all that.

Red Lodge Montana

I took this magazine worthy gem

Driving into the mountains today was like being hit with a familiar scent. It was comforting and beautiful and it made me happy. I felt the same elation in Alaska and Colorado over the years during my travels. I usually prefer the beach but I’ve missed the mountains.

After bee bopping around town today I discovered a Mexican restaurant themed after Humphrey Bogart called Bogart’s. It was really interesting. I mean Mexican would not have been what I would have paired with the hero of Casa Blanca but to each their own I guess. The food was pretty good and the coconut mango margarita was huge and delicious. I may have to get another one before I leave. This place is neat and I’m excited to explore more tomorrow.