I’m a food blogger……!

My friend Nicole told me I needed to write a food blog. I was resistant at first, but I find myself posting a lot on FB and Instagram about what I’m cooking, so maybe blogging about it would be a good idea. Maybe it wouldn’t get me in trouble like writing about politics does. :/

Truth is I have not always liked cooking. I’ve really only started to enjoy it over the last couple of years. I’ve always loved food. Just not the planning, shopping, preparing, and cooking of the food.

When I was in high school I dated a guy whose father owned a restaurant. The specialty at the restaurant was steaks. The first time my boyfriend took me to his dad’s restaurant, I was about 15 years old. I remember ordering the prime rib. His dad laughed at me and said, “She can’t eat all that!” My boyfriend said, “Oh yeah she can.” And he was right. I demolished that prime rib and the potato and salad and everything else that came with it.

So, yes, I’ve always loved food.

My mom was a great cook, but she never really taught me to cook. She wasn’t great at “teaching” things. (If you ask her, she would agree with that!) I tried to fry a chicken once when I was a teenager, and the chicken turned out kind of rare. Mom laughed at me, and I didn’t do too much more cooking. She would just rather do it herself and do it right the first time, and I must admit I was kind of the same way with my own kids.

When my kids were young, I did not enjoy cooking at all. I’m not good at multitasking, and when I had them running around all over the place I did not enjoy trying to cook a meal with all that confusion. So we ate a lot of fast and easy stuff like tacos, steak and baked potato, and spaghetti.

I used to enjoy eating out a lot, but in recent years I’ve gotten to where I don’t care a thing about eating out that much. I’ve had too many mediocre meals and had to wait around too long for tables, and I just don’t have the patience for it anymore. I’ve gotten to where I would just rather stay home and cook it myself, especially now that I have the time to cook. And the stuff I cook at home a lot of times is better than what I can get at a restaurant.

I’m still a pretty novice cook. I don’t make up my own recipes, and I’m not the type to just “whip a meal together.” I usually follow a recipe to the letter. But I think I’ve made some pretty good stuff! So when I write about food in this blog, I’ll be sharing stuff I’ve made that anybody can make. If I can do it, anybody can.

A couple of years ago I started making Giada De Larentiis’s recipe for Italian Wedding Soup (click here for recipe). It is delicious and really pretty simple to make. It is a little time consuming to make all the meatballs, and I like to make them tiny, less than 1 inch in size, because I love tiny little meatballs in Wedding Soup. I haven’t made time this winter to make a pot of Wedding Soup, so with the cooler weather we’re having over the next few days I thought I would make some today.

This soup is really simple to put together if you’ve already made up all the meatballs, so something I’ve done in the past when I wanted to make the soup later and not have it take so long was to make up the meatballs ahead of time. You can put them on a baking sheet and freeze them on the sheet in the freezer. Once they are frozen, take them off the baking sheet and store in ziplock bags back in the freezer until you are ready to assemble the soup.

Here are some pics of the Italian Wedding Soup I made today. I hope you’ll try it and let me know what you think!

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A different kind of resolution…

I never make New Year’s resolutions. The kinds of things people usually choose for resolutions always seem to be kind of a drag. Things like I want to lose 5 pounds, I want to exercise more, I want to eat ___ and not eat ___, etc. It seems like resolutions are not usually things that people are just dying to get in there and do. They mostly seem to be things that people think they SHOULD be doing but aren’t. Kind of like things they want to make themselves do.

In general a New Year rolling around doesn’t motivate me to do much. If I want to make changes in my life, I just do them, no matter the time of year. And for me, what motivates me to make changes is when the heart and mind get on the same page. That is what sparks motivation. Not a number rolling around on the calendar.

That being said, last year I did make a “resolution.” I was sitting in a coffee shop reading a book on January 2, 2016, and enjoying it immensely. I posted on my FB page: “New Year Resolution: Spend more time reading and drinking coffee in coffee shops.”

For me, this is the kind of resolution I can keep and look forward to keeping. And I did do a lot of reading in coffee shops this year. I even made a Pinterest board to document the times I went to coffee shops to read. The board has 25 pins on it, and I even missed a few times. So I think I did a good job of keeping this resolution. And it enriched my life greatly!

Reading is something I greatly enjoy and is a great stress reliever for me, and reading in coffee shops specifically is very relaxing for me. When I’m at home there are just too many things to do most of the time, laundry, cleaning, cooking, work on the computer, etc. Getting out and reading in a coffee shop allows me to do so without a lot of distractions.

I plan to continue with this “resolution” into 2017 because I enjoy it so much! Life is short, people, and I want to make time for the things that bring me joy.  I guess I never liked New Year’s Resolutions because they always seemed like such an exercise in self flagellation. But if I can make a New Year’s Resolution to make more time for things that are important to me and that bring me joy, then that seems like a good thing.

In case any of you locals are interested, Nova’s Bakery in Rock Hill is my favorite local coffee shop for reading!

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So I have a new idea for a resolution in 2017. I know many, many interesting people, but I am such an introvert that I really don’t know many people all that well. I have my small core group of friends with whom I can really talk about things, but I am kind of a loner and tend to do a lot of things by myself (by choice). And so much of life in general seems so “surfacey.” We get together in groups and talk about general things, the weather, our jobs, what we’re training for (runners), but so much of daily conversation is so superficial. I really yearn for a deeper connection with other people. But I’m an introvert, remember, so I can only really do this in small doses. 🙂

I want to make time to share with others with whom I feel a connection but perhaps don’t know all that well. I want to talk about things that are deeper than the typical surfacey things we all talk about. And I want to do this one-on-one because I get too distracted and unfocused when more people are involved. So I plan to invite some folks out for coffee (or tea, or a beer, or maybe a meal) to talk for about an hour and to dig a little deeper about life and interests and family and thoughts and opinions. I already have several people in mind, people with whom I don’t get to spend a lot of time but whom I find interesting and whom I want to know more about. I hope to do this at least once a month, so if I can keep this resolution that will be 12 people with whom I made a “connection” during the year. And that’s a resolution that makes me excited!

So if I reach out to you in this coming year and ask you to join me for coffee, I hope you will say YES! I look forward to making new connections and learning a lot in the process. Happy New Year, friends!

A faith evolution

To tell this story I have to go back a ways.

I became a Christian when I was a young mother in my 30s. At the time I was involved in an intensive Bible study that required me to study the Bible for about 30 to 60 minutes a day with Bible readings and homework questions with a weekly meeting for discussion groups and lectures. I spent 8 years in this Bible study, and I learned a ton and accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour during that time.

I had been baptized when I was 18 years old in my family’s Southern Baptist church, but I had no idea what being a Christian was really about at that time. I was an organized person and liked to check off the boxes, and I was about to go off to college and needed to check off that “baptism” box. So I succumbed to the pressure that Southern Baptists apply every Sunday, and I got baptized. It did not mean a thing as I had no clue.

When my children were young our family was heavily involved in our church, and because I was a stay-at-home mom I spent a lot of time volunteering in the church over the years. I loved and enjoyed all this work, and God gave me a lot of energy and enthusiasm to get these things done. I have found that when God wants you to do some work for Him, He provides the energy and the desire to do it, and that was certainly true in my case.

I look back on those years now and realize how really immature I was in my faith in a lot of ways. I cringe at some of the self-righteous things I said to people at times and how much I was up on my high horse.

When I was in the midst of doing all this church work, I started feeling led to perhaps seek a seminary degree. I never felt led to ordained ministry, but I thought teaching might be something I wanted to do. I started doing research into seminary degree programs and what might be a good fit for me. My pastor at the time heard about this from a friend, and he took the time to pull me aside and encourage me to go for the seminary degree. To this day I remember him encouraging me and the faith he showed in me by giving me those encouraging words.

As I researched this idea and prayed about it, I felt like God kept giving me a message. And the message was, “You don’t love people.”

I thought about this and prayed about it. And I realized, yes. God was right. I didn’t love people.

I was really good at organization and administration and starting new programs, but I didn’t have a lot of patience for people. I judged people. I criticized others who didn’t make the same choices I did. I didn’t try to empathize with someone who thought differently than me on certain issues. And I didn’t spend any time considering how someone who grew up in a different environment than me might have different views, different opinions, different fears.

So I finally told God, “You are right. I don’t love people.” So I went back to doing administrative work and other ministry. And I think all that was important work, and God used me in some wonderful ways and blessed me immensely through all those experiences. But there were certain things I couldn’t really do for Him because I didn’t love people.

A lot of time has passed since those days, and our family has been through some tough times and difficult situations. I’ve learned a lot and grown a lot and figured out that I’m not so perfect myself. Maybe I don’t know all the answers. Heck, the older I get the more I realize I don’t know much of anything at all. And probably most life changing of all, I’ve faced cancer, been through treatment, and gotten to the other side of that. And I still deal every day with the uncertainty that a cancer diagnosis brings. My life is forever changed.

When I was going through cancer, I saw people who floored me with their love and generosity as they reached out to care for me in so many ways. Some of them did not even know me. And then other people floored me with their comments that made me feel small or made me feel like they blamed me for my cancer, like it was my fault I got cancer, comments second guessing my decisions about the treatment I received.

When you think you might be facing death, you start to look at life a little differently, and you start to see people through a different light. You realize how short your life is, and you realize it might be even shorter than you think. You start seeing the good in those around you and the things that hurt them, and when they reach out and love you you feel it. And through all of that cancer adventure, I think God was teaching me more about this “how to love people” thing.

So today, at age 53, I can clearly see and hear God teaching me how to love people. I’m not there yet, and I figure I will never fully get there, but I’m changing and I’m open to what He is teaching me. He’s teaching me a whole lot about making sure I get the plank out of my own eye before I start picking apart somebody else’s sins. He’s teaching me to think before I make some defensive comment to someone with whom I disagree. He’s teaching me to try to see things through their perspective and think about why they may feel differently than I do.

I was never a Trump supporter, but when the comments he made bragging about sexual assault came out, it brought back a lot of old memories for me of my own experiences. (You can read my previous blog post about my thoughts on this). I started thinking about the women who have been affected by sexual assault and how these comments coming from a potential presidential candidate might make them feel. And when you add these comments to the many other inflammatory and offensive things Trump has said and done, I knew this was a man who would never deserve my vote for President.

So to all my friends, especially my Christian friends, who have been loud in their support for Trump and completely overlooked everything that he said or did. The rest of us wonder if you think it’s okay what he said about women? About Mexicans? About a well-respected war hero? About a mentally challenged reporter? Do you think it’s nothing that he bragged about sexually assaulting women? Is all that okay with you? Some of my Christian friends said they “held their nose” and voted for him because they felt like they had to. I can understand that viewpoint to a certain extent, although I could not do that myself. But many of my Christian friends proudly and loudly supported Trump. And today, in the aftermath, many of these people are gloating and accusing the rest of us of being crybabies. One young man who attends my church said on his Facebook page yesterday that we needed to “grow up.” That Trump just “says the things we are all thinking anyway.” And that exactly, my friends, is why many of us mourn today. Because if Trump is saying what many of you really think, then I think we have a right to be pretty sad about that. Because that tells me some things about the hearts of Americans, of Christians, that I do not want to know and that I find disturbing.

So you’ll have to forgive me if it takes me a few days or weeks to let it sink in that half of America does not care that our new President has said and done these things.

I think it all boils down to the fact that we have gotten to the point where political hate overrides everything else in this country. The people on both sides hate the other side, and that hate supersedes everything else. People are willing to sacrifice their principals and dance with the devil, all for the sake of political power. And supporters of both parties have certainly shown their willingness to do that.

I will continue to listen to what God is teaching me about love, even if it hurts. And, once again, you’ll just have to forgive me if it takes me a few days to let all this sink in. Perhaps me and others who mourn could be shown a little grace, as God has extended to all of us.

Speaking up about sexual harassment, 30 years too late…..

The debate going on about Donald Trump’s sexually offensive words has me thinking this week about my own experience with sexual harassment. I feel encouraged to share some of this experience, although it feels a little self indulgent to do so. But I feel the need to do so anyway.

I’ll just start by saying that I have never considered myself a “feminist.” No, my daughter is the feminist in the family. She and I have had some debates on the subject, thankfully always in a good spirit, but we tend to be on opposing sides of the issue of feminism a lot of the time. But as I get older and older, as I think more deeply on the subject, as I read the words of others on the topic, I find I am seeing her viewpoint more and more.

I graduated from college in the 80s and worked in a corporate environment for about 10 years. In my experience sexual harassment in the workplace was pretty much an everyday occurrence in that time period. It was during that period that women started speaking up and bringing these things to light, and things began to change in the workplace.

I’m not going to mention any names. Most of the men in these incidents are dead today anyway. I have no desire to malign anyone’s “good” name. And quite frankly, I haven’t overly dwelt on these incidents. I didn’t let them traumatize me or really even bother me that much. Back in that time period most of us women just tolerated this behavior, laughed it off, and tried to make the best of it. I certainly did not have the guts to speak up against it.

That doesn’t make it okay. It’s not. I sure am thankful to all the women who did speak up, who endangered their jobs and positions, and who played a part in making the workplace better for women today, for my daughter today. I certainly didn’t do my part. I tolerated it and swept it under the rug and kept it going.

When I was fresh out of college, I worked at the same place my dad worked. He and I would ride together to work. My dad had worked at this place for many years and knew practically everybody out there in the area where I worked. One day Daddy and I got to work early and walked through my office building, and I said goodbye to him and turned into my office. He kept going out the back door to his office in another building. There was a man who was older than my father who had an office next to mine. He was a man my father respected and sort of catered to a little bit. This man had a prominent management position and was in a position of power. As soon as my dad walked out the back door, this man called me into his office. When I walked in he was waiting for me, and he shut the door behind me and proceeded to bend me backward over his desktop, kissing me. I kind of pushed him away, got up, laughed and tried to make fun of the incident, and opened the door and walked out. I kept it light so this man would not get angry at me. Thankfully he let me go and didn’t try to push the episode any further.

I was 22 or 23 years old. This man was 50 something.

No, I didn’t speak up about the incident. And I stayed on friendly terms with this man. Back in that time period many of us women just played the game and went along. I was wrong to do that. Some of you will blame me for this. I should have spoken up. None of this makes the whole thing okay.

I worked in a medical facility, and our facility performed physical examinations on the employees of the place I worked. I was getting my physical examination one time, and I went to get a chest x-ray. One of the doctors in my department came in while I was disrobed from the waist up, and the technician who was with me left the room. While the technician was out, this man proceeded to lay me down on the gurney and perform a breast examination. He never asked me if he could do this, and breast examination was certainly not part of the occupational physical examination. And even if it was I shouldn’t have been getting an examination in the x-ray room like this. He just did it and acted like it was his right as the doctor to do so.

Again, I was in my early 20s and this man was in his 50s.

No, I didn’t speak up. I let this man get away with that. I was successful in this workplace, and I wanted to stay that way. So I brushed it under the rug. Men will be men, I guess.

Other things happened to me through the years, but those 2 incidents blatantly stand out to me. I still remember the details of those 2 episodes pretty clearly, even though it’s been almost 30 years ago. I didn’t let these things traumatize me. I swept them away and didn’t think about them too much. Like I said, back in that time period this was par for the course in the workplace.

I don’t think Trump has been accused of sexually abusing women in the workplace*, but the whole harassment of women sexually starts with the kind of attitude toward women that he portrayed in that video clip. I’m tired of tolerating this behavior. I’m tired of saying “men will be men” and just excusing it away. I don’t want my sons to grow up talking about women that way and thinking it’s okay to do so. I don’t want my daughter tolerating this kind of behavior, ever.

So 30 years too late, I’m going to speak up and say enough is enough.

ADDENDUM 10/13/16: I was wrong. Trump has been accused of sexually abusing women in the workplace. See the New York Times article here.

This world is a mess…..but we have to start somewhere.

I’m really saddened by all the stuff going on in our world and country right now.

I don’t know what to do about this big mess other than try to do my small part to be better and do better.

I’m trying to do a better job of listening to others and hearing them and their viewpoint. I’m trying not to get defensive but really listen and try to see their side.

I’m trying to realize that people are more than just one opinion or one political viewpoint. People are complex individuals with a lot of things coming together to form the person they are. I’m trying to respect the fact that people are more than just one thing I may disagree with them on.

I’m trying to get better at expressing my viewpoint in a manner that respects the opinions of others. This means keeping the discussion civil, realizing the other person is entitled to their opinion and may have arrived to that opinion in a very complex manner that I can’t see on the surface.

I’m trying not to be scared and stay quiet because I’m afraid what I say will upset somebody else. We need to have discussions and hear each other in a calm civil way. It’s not good for me to just stay shut up in my house hearing only people who think like me. It’s not good for me to stay quiet because I’m afraid of upsetting someone.

If and when I do speak up and disagree with someone in a calm civil manner, I can expect they won’t like it. People today don’t seem to like to hear anything that isn’t right in line with their own thinking. I’ve been guilty of this myself in the past, but I’m making an effort to listen and not let the defensiveness set in. As long as I speak in a respectful manner, I should still speak up. I shouldn’t let fear of others’ reactions silence me. As long as I keep it respectful, they can be responsible for their own reaction and I can accept whatever their reaction is.

I can still love people who don’t agree with me on everything. It’s ok.

I can expect that I won’t be able to do all of the above perfectly. I am human and flawed. When I make a mistake, I can forgive myself, make an apology if necessary, and move on. No need to dwell on it and beat myself up for days.

These are just some things I’m going to try to live by for a while. We’ve got to somehow learn to have respectful dialogue about the things that divide us. This seems to be a lost art in our country today. I’m going to start here in order to take a step and do my part.

We have to start somewhere.

Roan Mountain Adventure 09/30/16

Roan Mountain Adventure 09/30/16

On Friday, September 30th, Hope and I drove up to Roan Mountain, TN, to run/hike the Roan Highlands section of the Appalachian Trail. I had been on that section once before, and it is probably the most breathtaking stretch of trail I’ve been on. I hadn’t been up there in 2 years, and I was itching to get on the trail there before it got too chilly up on the mountain. This stretch of trail is a series of “balds,” meaning mountain peaks without trees. This makes it possible to see 360-degree views in some areas, but it can also be very windy up on top since there are no trees to shelter you from the wind. So this is a great stretch of trail to run/hike in the warmer months.

The last time I ran this stretch of trail it was June, and the rhododendrons and flame azaleas were in full bloom. I can’t tell you how breathtaking that was, but June is also a time when the trail is the most crowded. The last time I was up there Craig and I camped at Roan Mountain State Park for the weekend and had a wonderful relaxing stay there. I kind of didn’t feel like camping this time, and I knew about Mountain Harbour Bed and Breakfast from my prior visit and also from my friend, Tim Moe’s, blog. Tim has been section hiking the AT for several years and writes an excellent blog about his experiences on the trail. (See Tim’s blog here: http://tbmmoe.blogspot.com/). Mountain Harbour has a hiker hostel in addition to their B&B rooms. I had never stayed in a hiker hostel, but I was willing to try it out and see how it went.

When I started planning this little trip, I knew I had a select few friends who would be willing and able to enjoy an overnight trip like this. My friend, Hope, and I have enjoyed many trail adventures together, but we haven’t been able to do so in recent years. I was busy with all my medical issues, and Hope has been joyfully raising 2 precious little boys. I was missing our time together, and so she was the first person I reached out to. I had a few backups I planned to call if she couldn’t make it, but thankfully she said YES immediately when I asked her! I think she was craving being out on the trail in the mountains, and we were only gone for 1 night, so she didn’t have to be gone from her sweet family for too long.

We drove up on Friday afternoon after Hope got out of school, stopped in Morganton, and picked up a bag dinner we could eat at the hostel later. We then drove up the mountain on Hwy 181 and stopped at the Brown Mountain Overlook for just a few minutes to take pictures.

We arrived at Mountain Harbour B&B before 7 P.M. and checked in with Shannon and Dave, the owners/innkeepers. I had scheduled a shuttle for us on Saturday morning to Carvers Gap, where we were going to begin our run/hike. Total cost for each of us for hostel bed and shuttle was $35 each. Bargain!

After checking in, we went back to the hostel, found our room, and parked our stuff there. The hostel was full for the night, and we met the other hikers who were staying there. Gas Can from Pennsylvania was in the middle of a 2-week section hike. There were also 4 ladies from Columbia, SC, who were staying the night before heading out on a 2-day hike from Hughes Gap back to 19E. We went out on the nice porch of the hostel to eat our bag dinner and enjoy a few beers. We were joined by the 2 hostel kitties, whose job was to keep the mice out the of the hostel, I presume. They did a pretty good job as I saw nary a mouse while I was there!

When it got too cool to stay on the porch, we came inside and sat on the sofa with Gas Can for a while. The hostel had a TV with only videos (no cable), and he was watching Meet the Parents. We talked for a while with him, and he was a really nice guy!

We went to bed and slept great in our cozy little room. It got a little chilly during the night, 46 degrees in the morning. We had declined the breakfast Shannon and Dave offered and opted to eat bagels and bananas we had brought with us in the hostel as we felt like something lighter before the day of running/hiking. (Later we heard how good the breakfast was, so on our next visit we are going to make time to enjoy the breakfast at Mountain Harbour!) At 9 a.m. we met Shannon for our shuttle to Carvers Gap, and we were joined by 2 other women from the Concord, NC, area who had driven up that morning and were going to do the same hike we were doing in 2 days instead of 1.

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Our room in the Hiker Hostel.

Shannon dropped us off at Carvers Gap, and we knew already it was going to be a beautiful day. We posed for pictures out by the big Carvers Gap sign, taking pics of each other. As we were doing so, this very nice young couple came off the trail and walked right over to us, offering to take our pic together. We talked with them for a few minutes, and they had been backpacking for a few nights on the trail together and were just coming off the trail to go home. It was obvious they were experienced backpackers, and they were so friendly to talk to. This set the tone for the rest of our day, as we spent a lot of time talking to people on the trail all day long.

When you start a run/hike at Carvers Gap, the payoff is pretty immediate there. Before you get to the 1-mile mark you reach Round Bald, and the views are already phenomenal. Keep going to Jane Bald, and the views are at least 180-degree if not more. We were blessed with a beautiful clear sunny day, and we could see for miles and miles. Around Jane Bald, we ran into a group of guys who had camped the night before in a beautiful spot. They were cooking on a campfire. I can’t remember who called out to who first, but I remember asking if they had coffee, and one of the guys said, “Sure! Come on and have some!” We went over and talked to all 4 of them and enjoyed visiting for a while. One of the guys offered me his coffee, and, yes, I drank right out of his camp cup! They introduced themselves: Jesus, Doc Holliday, Zeke, and Gadget. They were so friendly and invited us to join them at the Overmountain Shelter that night as there was a party going on there! We had to decline the party invitation, but they told us about how beautiful the area around the shelter was, so we decided then that we would take the spur trail in order to see the shelter on our way through.

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We ran on and then stopped to talk to Mike and Ashley, who were out doing an out-and-back run/hike together. They were from Greenville, SC, and were missing their little baby daughter but thankful to have some time together also. We took the spur trail over to Grassy Ridge and enjoyed the view there. Hope scouted out some potential camping sites for her and Jose in the future!

We headed back to the AT and then began a section of trail that came off the balds and went back into the woods. I had already noticed a lot of flowers and berries growing along the trail and had taken pics along the way, but when we went into the woods we saw so many things blooming. It’s always amazing to see the different wildflowers that bloom practically all year long. I’m glad that I can now slow down and enjoy them!

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We reached the trail intersection with the Overmountain Victory Trail and the spur trail to Overmountain Shelter. Since the guys had told us earlier about how nice the Overmountain Shelter was, we took the spur trail down there to check it out. It is nice, as far as shelters go, and there was a very nice grassy meadow next to it where hikers could set up their tents. There was a beautiful view off the front of the shelter. I can see why there is a hiker party there every Saturday night!

We headed back up to the trail and then headed on to Little Hump Mountain. Here we stopped and sat on a rock while we had a snack and enjoyed the view. We then had an even greater climb up to Hump Mountain, and, boy, my legs were on fire by this time! Hope was a trooper and stuck by me the whole way. By this time I wasn’t doing much running, mostly hiking with a little jog mixed in from time to time.

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Hiking up Hump Mountain.

There is a nice memorial to Stan Murray at the top of Hump Mountain, and we tried to soak in the views all the way down the backside until we hit the forest. We then had about a 5-mile run/hike through woods to get back to 19E, which would take us back to the hostel. This was a very pleasant trail through the woods, and it was downhill the whole way, which proved to be a challenge for me with my sore legs and knees. We stopped at Doll Flats, sat on a log for a few minutes, and had a snack. I then “sucked it up, buttercup” and got my butt back to 19E! Hope was sweet and stuck with me the whole way. We ended up with 17 miles total, 14 miles on the AT plus an additional 3 miles on the spur trails and the hike up 19E back to the hostel.

Once we were back at my car at the hostel, we changed into some dry clothes, had something to eat and drink, got back in the car, and drove back down the mountain to Morganton! We stopped in Morganton at Jake’s Burgers and got a burger and fries, boy were they good. We took a little stroll through downtown Morganton looking for a bakery to get something sweet, no luck. By the way, I always think downtown Morganton is so cute, I would like to check out more of the restaurants and breweries there!

We were back home about 8 P.M. It’s amazing the wonderful things I can do in just an overnight trip from my house!

Hope and I are already planning a return trip, and we are thinking we want to invite some girlfriends and rent out the whole hostel for a weekend. We could do the same hike/run we did on Saturday, enjoy the breakfast at Mountain Harbour on Sunday morning, and then plan a shorter hike for Sunday on the way back home. I can’t wait!

I am very blessed in my life with wonderful friends, and Hope is one of those wonderful people. We haven’t been able to spend much time together recently since we’ve both had different things going on in our lives, but I was glad to reconnect with her. She is a kindred spirit, and I love the way she thinks. She very much marches to her own drum, and I like to think that I do the same, so it’s great to spend time and talk with her about staying true to ourselves, doing what we think is right for us and our families regardless of what people around us are doing, and disregarding the crap the world tries to tell us to do or be.

Looking forward to the next adventure!

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My view from the empty nest: Some thoughts on back-to-school

It’s once again back-to-school time. This is my second year of not having any kids in public school as my kids are all big now. I’m still getting used to not having to be tied down to the school calendar, but it’s a nice feeling! I must say I don’t miss the whole back-to-school excitement at all. It was fun all those years when my kids were in school, and that was 18 years for me. That was a plenty! That being said, I guess this time of year makes me feel a little nostalgic and reflective about those school years.

I spent 5 of those 18 years working in a public elementary school, so I also have some “inside” experience. I have seen life as a parent and as a teaching assistant, and I’ve experienced the challenges and frustrations on both sides.

I haven’t been the perfect parent, and by no means do I have all the answers, but I do think I gleaned a little bit of wisdom over the years that stands out now that I can look back and reflect on. So as I reflect on this back-to-school time, some of this comes to mind.

I learned early on not to pay too much attention to other parents’ opinions of certain teachers. Mamas tend to get all in a huff about what teacher their child is going to get, and we all want our child to get a teacher who is a good fit for that particular child. But I learned early on that mamas can get all in a tizzy about teachers and are quick to call certain ones “hard,” or “mean,” etc. We all know those teachers who have those reputations, and we all know some mamas who do the talking that get those teachers those reputations. I figured out early on that some of those “hard” or “mean” teachers were pretty good teachers, and sometimes my kid needed a teacher like that. A lot of times those teachers were the no-nonsense types. They didn’t do a lot of fawning over parents, but more often than not they knew their stuff and just had really good control of their classrooms, which is a trait I can appreciate. I remember a certain preschool teacher one of my children had, who would just come right out and tell parents at orientation not to deliver their child to the door of the classroom because she wanted to be able to greet each child herself, and she did not want to feel like she had to stop and talk to parents during that time first thing in the morning. She pretty much just came right out and said she didn’t want to talk to us in the morning! My child was 3 years old at the time, so at that age parents were still wanting to walk their child in. I appreciated her just being honest about this and blunt about the fact that she didn’t want us doing that and why she didn’t want us doing that. Some of the mamas got mad because they didn’t appreciate being told this so bluntly. I appreciated the teacher’s honesty. I can always deal with honest. This teacher had a reputation for being “mean,” but she was one of my favorite teachers. So I was glad to learn the lesson in preschool not to listen to the other moms’ opinions. I need to be open minded, form my own opinion, and not be influenced by the other parents.

So many times parents expect teachers to be the loving, nurturing, hugging type of personality, and if they’re not this nurturing type they can get labeled “mean.” But it’s not really a teacher’s job to be the nurturer / hugger type. Some teachers have this nature, and that can be great, but it’s not their job to do that. That’s a parent’s job to do the hugging and the nurturing. And teachers who don’t have this type of personality can still be great teachers.

Teachers are just ordinary people. They have good and bad days. If my child or I was having difficulty with a certain teacher, I tried to give the teacher the benefit of the doubt. I tried to look at things from their perspective. Teachers are dealing with 20+ students and sets of parents. Parents are dealing with just a few teachers. I always tried to give the teacher the benefit of the doubt and cut them some slack even when I did not always agree with them. I remember one incident in particular where a certain teacher seemed to not like my kid. He wasn’t really the type that teachers did not like, but this particular teacher seemed to have a problem with him. One time she sent him to ISS for “looking at her wrong.” I thought that was kind of excessive, but hey, I figured it wouldn’t kill the kid to sit in ISS for a little while. I had him apologize to her, and I told him he had better to do whatever that teacher asked. He only had to put up with her for that school year, but for the rest of the year if she said “jump” he better jump. It was a bumpy road that year, but I figured he was learning a good lesson about dealing with people. One day he is going to have a boss or a coworker who is going to be difficult to work with. Sometimes you have to learn to “get along” and take some crap. In general, I learned not to take situations like this so seriously. I made sure he did his part to make it right with the teacher, and I did my job to support her at home. As it turned out, once she realized I was going to back her up like I did, she really got kind of sheepish about her overreaction, realizing maybe she overdid it? Anyway, I think it’s important not to take things so seriously all the time if your child has some isolated incidents. If it’s a regular thing, that’s different and probably needs more attention. But as a teaching assistant I saw so many parents overreact when their kid got into a little bit of trouble at school. If your kid is perfect all the time, believe me, you are going to have some problems when they finally do something that’s not perfect and freak out about it. It’s okay if they’re not perfect.

When I was a teaching assistant, I was always surprised when parents would act like we were out to get their kid. I mean, really? I really don’t think teachers are out to get my kid at school. Sometimes certain teachers and certain students may not click, as in the above story, but if my child got in trouble at school I figured he or she did something to get there. Blaming the teacher for my child’s behavior just really did not occur to me. But it sure seems to occur to a lot of other parents!

Kids are not perfect, even the ones who make straight As and take all AP classes. In fact, I have seen many of those “perfect” kids crack  because they put so much pressure on themselves to be so perfect all the time. Or perhaps their parents at home are applying the pressure to be perfect. Sadly, I think too many parents are comparing their kids to others down the street and get competitive. We saw this even when I worked in kindergarten when some parents would get anxious over the fact that their kid was not reading when some other little kid across the street was reading in kindergarten. Again, more competition going on between parents without regard to the fact that all kids are different and develop at different rates.

Don’t be afraid to let your kid fail and take the consequences. They learn a lot from these experiences, and if you always protect them it will take a lot longer for them to learn the lesson. I remember when my oldest child first went to public school in first grade. She would forget her library book, and I guess she would call me from the school office (can’t believe they let her do that, but that was a long time ago), and I would bring the library book to school. After doing this a couple of times, I had to tell her, no, I wasn’t bringing the library book. Well, with her being the first child and having that oldest child perfectionist thing going on, she about freaked out. But I had to let her freak out. She needed to learn that it’s not the end of the world to forget your library book. Nobody’s perfect. When you forget something or don’t do something right, you deal with the consequences and do what you can to fix it later and not repeat the situation. Important lesson learned that is not learned if I keep bringing the library book to school!

All this seems like common sense, but I still think these are some good basic things to think about and consider as we begin the new school year.