She’s Here!

Daughter Lise arrived to spend Thanksgiving with us and will be here almost two weeks. Let the giggles begin!

I took the obligatory photo at the creek the first day. Blue/gray seemed to be the cast of the morning. Those colors suggest sadness, but we were anything but sad!

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By this time Lise had told us about the company move a few weeks ago. Maersk Oil moved from the big white building near The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen’s harbor to a brand new place only a few blocks from her flat. She walks about fifteen minutes to get there. One of her friends teased her, saying, “I knew you were the planner for this move, and now I know why!”

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I thought all the autumnal colors had faded, but those near Walmart’s parking lot were still vibrant. That was as good an excuse as any to make Lise pose for me.

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By napping several times, Lise seemed to rise above jet lag. I had no excuse for my tongue. When mentioning neighbors Jeff and Dawn late at night, I said Deff and Jawn. That set off uncontrollable laughter. Time for bed on day one!

Come Back, Girls!

Niece Julie’s childhood friends returned to their homes and jobs, and I was left with a ton of unanswered questions. The weekend was much too short. On Saturday we had breakfast at our house, and they explored Waynesville for the rest of the day. They joined us for the church service on Sunday, treating us to dinner afterward. We explored the farmer’s market in Asheville before they headed home. One of the girls begged a vendor to take our picture together, so that is the photo I wanted to share with you.

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I’ll give you a quick rundown of my questions. Barbara loves to travel and recently went on a cruise to Alaska. Her next dream is taking a Viking River cruise. What else is on your bucket list? What exotic places do you long to visit?

The group went on my deck to look at stars on a cold evening. Krissie and I were left alone when the others melted back into the house. We waited until we both saw a brilliant meteor before we went inside. Her dad bartered work for a good telescope which she wants to use in the future. She knows there is a place to look at the heavens south of here, maybe an hour away. It’s an outfit that is so intent on avoiding light pollution that you are not allowed to drive up to it. What will you see when you look through that telescope? Won’t there be so many stars that you won’t know what you are looking at?

I want to ask Kim about all the jobs she has had. What came before you worked at a hospital? Are there more stories about homeless people like Willie and Crazy Mary? She currently decorates cakes at Walmart. A customer chooses a cake design from a book. Kim can tweak it a tiny bit, but no logos are allowed. Could I see photos of the cakes you were most pleased with?

Andrea currently runs a bed and breakfast on the coast. I grilled her about menus and loved hearing what she serves. She does not have a strict rotation of breakfast items. She looks at the bookings and plans menus so that a person staying a week will not have repeats. She never once talked about a single guest. Would you tell me one story about the worst guest you ever had, as well as many accounts of the very best ones?

Girls, we have unfinished business. Please come back soon.

Girls’ Weekend

Niece Julie mentioned that her group of childhood friends were planning a girls’ weekend in the mountains, so we offered our house as the venue. I was sure that a laughter-filled house would benefit us more than the savings would help them. They agreed to pose for a group picture before setting off to explore Waynesville.

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These young women grew up together in a small community near Charlotte. Their group jokes go back to Kindergarten, so they have a rich heritage. It slowly dawned on me that they were in and out of my brother’s house all the time. They saw him much more often than I did.

The horses that board in the pasture behind us were pleased to see us coming out with left-over apples. A chomp and a swallow took care of each offering.

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There were no takers for sharing our morning walk. It was understandable. These ladies work hard all week and needed a morning without a schedule. We found that neighbors Connie and Dave, at the end of the street, provided a red carpet for our viewing pleasure. We would share that instead of exercise.

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Cataloochee Elk

Our excursion for the day with Maria and Franz was to look for elk in the Smoky Mountain National Park. The entrance to the park is just a short distance from our house, and the road is the most dramatically mountainous road in the area. It’s a lane and a half wide, twisting and turning over the mountain. On the way to Cataloochee Valley, we stopped at a turn in the road where there is a short climb to a viewing area. My best autumnal photo was taken as we were leaving that view.

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A front shot is included to show the faces.

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I would have been satisfied with spotting the elk at a distance. We were there in the middle of the day, not at prime time of dawn or dusk. We took some photos of part of the herd by zooming in.

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There were numerous signs warning people to stay at least 150 feet from the animals and not to enter the meadow if they were there. After turning around, we found elk wading into the stream right beside the road. We were the first car with a ring-side seat. What a view!

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One animal crossed the road, and I thought that was very special.

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In a minute or so it passed right by my window. I could have sworn she was talking wordlessly and boasting that she had the law on her side, and I wasn’t allowed to get out of the car. I had news for her. I didn’t want to get in her path!

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This was the documentation of our day, but the best part was unlimited talk from our morning walk to bed time. We never ran out of subjects to explore together. I admire Maria and Franz for not flagging, despite talking in English all day long.

Tales from the Vienna Woods

This is not about a waltz by Johann Strauss called Tales from the Vienna Woods. It’s about our lively friends who live in Vienna. We knew Maria in college when we were students, and she was the Fulbright scholar teaching German. In 1982 we visited her in Vienna. By then she had married Franz, and they had three sons. The photo shows all but me. Note that everyone else posed nicely, but baby John $ was camera shy even then.

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They are visiting us for a few days, and we are filling the gaps from the last 35 years. I was delighted with a story Maria told on herself, and if she gives her permission, I’ll relay it.  [Permission received.]

It seems there was some concern that she would not be able to understand Southern speech, since Europeans learned English with a British accent. It was decided that she should be thrown into the culture before going to our college. For eight weeks she lived with a farming family in Alabama, a family that raised chickens and grew cantaloupes and watermelons. Because the cantaloupes went to market, they were never allowed to eat any. Watermelons were sold, too, but the family ate some every day. The farmer used a huge knife to cut slices for them to eat outside, and the chickens were there underfoot to eat all the black seeds the people discarded.

Maria could not understand the thick accents of the parents and the children. One day they sat down at the table to eat, and the farmer repeated the same words he said every day at mealtime. She figured it had to be a prayer, considering the setting. He was saying, “Oh Lord, hep us to….”

Maria said, “After I got that, I could understand most of the things they said.”

This morning Franz and Maria walked with us to the creek, and I took the usual photo to prove they had gone with us.

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“On a cold, frosty morning…” are words in a Christmas carol that I like. I’m not rushing the season, but it was cold and frosty the other day. Several times a week we see neighbor Marla while we are walking and she is walking Albert before going to work. Frost decorated the road mirror in a whimsical design. I invited the others to join me in a selfie to record the moment.

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The mirror enables the owners of the house behind us to see what is coming on the road. When a few more leaves fall, we’ll be able to spot our house through the woods at that point. The road winds around, hugging the mountain, and our dead-end street slopes toward the valley.

I wanted to see what our garden was like in the cold. Little did I know that we had a private skating rink for the birds under the pergola. Woodstock, the bird in the Peanuts cartoon, is the only one I know who would enjoy it.

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Most of the rose petals had fallen, leaving behind lovely star designs. Some warmer afternoon, I’ll prune that bush and trim other plants for the winter.

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The oak leaves will have the final word.

Happy-ending Halloween

We knew neighbor Logan wouldn’t be getting candy for Halloween, so we asked Shawn to send him over for a non-edible treat. We chatted with him as we finished our meal on the porch. To his credit, he didn’t ask what we had for him, just waited patiently. I said I’d get two little things for him. John asked, “What do you think we have?”

In a very small voice, Logan said, “A costume?”

My heart sank, because I didn’t think a helium balloon would measure up to his hopes. As soon as I handed it to him, he pulled the ribbon, and the balloon escaped to the ceiling. As I looked at the photos later, I saw that retrieving it brought him great pleasure. That was the best thing that could have happened, wouldn’t you agree?

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I thought Halloween was over when he left our house. An hour or so later, John opened the front door and called to me, “Come see who is here!”

Logan was so excited about his costume that he couldn’t keep his feet still. I begged him to slow down so I could take a picture. I wouldn’t be surprised if you could see him twitching in the still photo.

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A minute later he lifted the mask, and we could see his cute face. His total satisfaction showed as he beamed from ear to ear. This might have been the best Halloween of his whole life!

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