Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I'm Baaaack! Well, Sort Of...

It seems that Blogger and Picasa didn't want to play nicely together and that left me high and dry in the middle. That's why you've not had the pleasure of my company of late. However, Mr. Right twinkled his fingers over the computer, pressed a few buttons and voila! I'm back in business. I just love that man.

To answer Anoymous' questions about the pictures: The camera is a 6 year old digital camera that was passed on to us by Mr. Right's parents. (Thank you in-awes!) And whoever was holding the camera at the time took the pictures... Wait, that didn't sound quite right. I mean to say that there wasn't just a single picture-taker. We split that duty, but I'd have to wager that Mr. Right took a few more than I did.

To answer Kelli and Barb: Yes, we had a blast, but I can't wait to put my arms around my kids. One thing that has helped tremendously is that fact that the girl calls often. And if she forgets a day, she apologizes for neglecting us... I think she's just rich! The boy on the other hand... he just doesn't want to be "disturbed". I'll disturb him when I see him this weekend...

Well, we did make it home safe and sound. As we were pulling up to our house on Sunday, Mr. Right commented that this vacation could not have been any more perfect than it was. God truly blessed our socks off with this one! AND... we brought BBQ home from Memphis; there it sits in our freezer until we need our next taste of southern goodness. I can't wait to go back home already.

Oh! And Mr. Right and I saw Hairspray. Loved it! I wouldn't mind taking the girl to see it, but really, let me be honest and say that she'll have to wait until it comes out on DVD. There are about four curse words in the entire movie and there are some sexual inuendos, but nothing is seen and I'm hoping most of them will just fly over her head. If not, we'll have another good gab session.

And I read Quaker Summer. I enjoyed it, although the pessimistic side of me says, "Yeah, right." A lot of the conversations between the mom and son seemed awfully contrive and unrealistic, but I love the idea behind the entire story: That God wants to use us for his glory, but often we have to let go of our love for this world to be truly useful for him. It was very much written as a vacation read though, so that was nice.

I'm desperately trying to climb my way out of the tasks at work. I'm fearing that there is no way I can catch up on everyone, so I'm going to ask a HUGE favor. Would you please leave me a comment so that I can hear a little something that is going on with you? That way, I won't feel so guilty that I can't read the 600+ entries in bloglines. (Good night, you would pick last week to have a posting marathon!) So help a girl out and tell me something that you want me to know about you and your life. Thanks so much!

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Bloggity Night Of FUN!

Southern Girl, me and Karla

Where, oh where do I even begin? It was such a fantastic time, I'm having a hard time organizing my thoughts... Last night Mr. Right and I had the pleasure of spending time with some blogging friends: Karla and her family and Southern Girl and her mom. And to top it off, Karla invited a (not so old) friend from my childhood - William and his family.

When we arrived and Karla opened her door, I knew immediately that I had met her before when we where at college. (The really neat part of talking with Karla is that we have found that we went to the same college, we've actually met in real life way back then, her preacher came to our church recently, we have several friends in common, really this list can continue on and on...) We hugged and talked as if we weren't meeting for the first time. I love that kind of relationship! (And when her husband Dan came home, it was the same all over. I knew I had met him, even if he couldn't remember me... What can I say? I've grown into my making a lasting impression, I guess.)

When I entered into their new house (which was absolutely gorgeous, by the way!), introductions to Southern Girl were quickly underway. Let me just tell you all now: Southern Girl is just as sweet and lovable in real life as she is on her blog. I wanted to just wrap her up, stick her in my pocket and take her home. (But her mom wouldn't let me.) Again it was like old home week in our discussions. I didn't feel as if I was meeting a stranger for the first time; I felt as if I was talking with a long-time friend.

And look at this beautiful piece of artwork that Southern Girl so graciously made for me.

Is this not one of the most beautifully crafted crosses you've ever seen? Southern Girl, I know JUST where it is going at home. Thank you for your sweet thoughtfulness.

After talking a bit with the everyone, Ainsley so sweetly requested, "Come on! Let's go play!" and so I was off for a time of shopping, piano playing, spying all the rooms and hide and seek. That girl is so sweet I could eat her with a spoon! All manners and smiles, she didn't even baulk when I said that I wanted to go spend time with the adults. She just led me into the living room and sat beside me. And when she did, she so politely and kindly said, "She has prickly legs just like you, Mama!" We all laughed well on that one, and then I watched Southern Mama adjust her pant legs so that Ainsley couldn't get near her skin...

Soon William and his family arrived, and it was hugs all around again. He's the same as I remember him - funny, fun-loving and wacky guy that I remember from church. He really became my extended family by the way that our families spent so much time together - church, youth group, bus programs, potlucks, family game nights, Thanksgiving... our families were together all the time when I was growing up. So this night became a mini family reunion for me too.

A funny story: When Robin asked, "Who is this girl that we're going to meet?", William replied, "She's the girl that everyone said that she and I would get married when we were growing up." Then he laughed. And I have to admit that it made me laugh when I heard that because first of all, no one said it to me when we were younger; secondly, we would have driven each other crazy by the time we were walking down the aisle; and thirdly, that would be like marrying my brother - which really just gives me the willies! (In a good way, William... in a good way.)

A picture for his mama...
I love his wife, Robin! She is so beautiful from the inside out. She and William have just celebrated their first anniversary, and you can tell that they're so good for each other. Really, I just wanted to meet the girl who would "put up with" William. I think William has finally met his match.

And to top it off, William became an instant daddy. Courtney loves William which anyone can tell is a blessing in and of itself. She calls him Daddy, talks with him as if he deserves respect and love and plays with him as if she's done so all her life. It's really great to see them all so blessed with each other.

Dinner of fried chicken, beans, slaw, biscuits and strawberries was perfect! Karla, you were right: Gus' makes some mighty fine, finger-lickin' good chicken. And Southern Mama brought a fun-looking dessert that complimented the meal very nicely. I just love being back in the land of really great food!

We had to say goodbye to Southern Girl and her mom as they had to leave early. But I'm so happy that they made time to visit with us. It really was a treasure. (And as a great side note to all you Southern Girl readers: She may be back sooner than she said... She just has to go visit her boyfriend first...)

After dinner we talked, laughed and then we taught them the thrill of "Swap!", which only lead to more laughter and talking. Games were a perfect way to round out this fun-filled night!

(L to R: Robin, Courtney, me, William, Dan, Ainsley and Karla)
Thanks to everyone for making this last leg of the Bloggity Tour so much fun. I'm looking forward to a reunion next year too!

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Shalee's Last Stand

I think I need to do some clarifying again... Just for the record: I've mostly been blogging when Mr. Right's asleep. I'm not taking away from our great vacation.

And Kelli and Pezmama: I thought the true end of the evening was a given. I mean, it was like a wet outfit contest gone bad, but the prize for us was still just as memorable... ahem. All I can really say is that I'm glad I didn't buy the WHITE dress that I considered getting for the night. It was cotton and very form fitting. That rain would have shown a little more than I would have intended...

Our last full day in the Smoky Mountains was not wasted. We packed our backpack again and headed for the Roaring Fork auto tour, a beautiful pass through a different part of the Smokies. One of the things that Mr. Right pointed out was that every trail/drive we've taken so far has been completely different from the others. It's like we're traveling to different parts of the world in the same backyard. This time was no different.

We decided to take the Rainbow Falls trail as our last hurrah. We started our hike around 11 AM, aiming to reach the beautiful waterfall around lunch... and this time we remembered our camera.

Within the first few minutes of our hike, I felt as if we were in the Forest of Lothlorien (from LOTR). Tall, beautiful trees with the air of peace all around us. And because we were hiking next to the stream, everything was a vibriant, brilliant green with a coat of soft green moss covering much of it.

Some of the trees were so old and large...

During the ascent, we came across some rocks that reminded me of the trolls who had been caught in the morning light. Hello from the top of one of their heads!

Look at all this beauty...

Along the way, there were some mini-falls. (Thanks to other hikers in the park, we were able to get some great photos together!)

Finally, after a two-hour inclined hike and many little "you can do this" talks in my head, we made it to the top. Oh. My. Lands. Can I just tell you now that it was worth every moment of feeling that I would drop dead on that trail? What a gorgeous, tranquil setting.

Once again we brought wine, bread and cheese for a grand picnic. We even through in apples this time. Let me just say that there's something special about sitting 20 feet from a huge waterfall, watching it all head down hill, and enjoying a light fare with your man.

It was time to head down the trail. Our little blessing to everyone we met was to tell them about how long they had to go and that it was so worth the effort. We made it down relatively quickly, especially considering that we stopped to see things that we missed on the uphill climb. And more and more on the climb down, I thought the forest changed to the Forest of Fangorn. It was getting darker and more foreboding as we made our way to the end.

Oh and here's another blessing that God put in our path! We were able to follow her down the trail for a full 10 minutes - she kept meandering along the trail, crossing from one side to the other.

And not even one moment after we entered our car, God opened the heavens again and gave us the most spectacular drive through Roaring Fork. (And I have to admit, we totally laughed when we saw the hikers who had been caught in the deluge. That so us from the night before!!

We decided to just call it a short night by eating dinner and relaxing the rest of the night. For our choice of food, we headed to Pigeon Forge to eat at The Old Mill Restaurant. I'm so happy we decided to eat early because we had an hour wait to be seated. I kept thinking, "It had better be worth the wait, even if everyone said we should eat here."

We met an older couple who were waiting for their seating too and talked for about half an hour about anything and everything, especially our journeys with God. It was such a lovely way to pass the time!

Finally our name was called and we were able to enjoy a great meal. Let me just tell you that I had some of the best spareribs and saurkraut I've had in forever! Oh, the meat just fell off the bones, the saurkraut wasn't too tart and the sides were deeeeee-vine! And I'm going to figure out how to make their corn chowder, even if it's the last thing I ever do!

As we left the hotel for the last time, God gave us insight as to why they are called the Smoky Mountains. What a beautiful way to leave the mountains...

We've made it to Memphis where I grew up. I love coming back home!!!

Tonight I'm meeting up with Karla from Ainsley's Mom and Southern Girl from A Southern Girl's Guide to Almost Anything. I'm so excited about this meeting! Fried Chicken, friends and games... what more does a girl need? (And meeting with Boomama fell through as she's going to be with her friend Emma Kate. I think she's doing the right thing to be with her now. However Boomama, I'm going to keep trying. You can't get rid of me that quickly! Trust me, Shannon, Jeana, Chili and Antique Mommy have all tried, but they haven't succeeded thus far...)


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Anniversary Day

We filled our anniversary with so many things that we really wanted to do.

To start the great day, we feasted at the Pancake Pantry (a place that really needs to update their website, but their food is right on target. Their coffee is a different story. They really need to change their brand.) Starting the day with Pecan Pancakes and Swiss Chocolate Pancakes is an excellent way can't get much better.

Next we went to Cades Cove, an auto driving tour in the Smoky Mountains. Although it took an hour to reach it, we really enjoyed the two hour drive through that part of the Smoky Mountains. This path was different than Charlies Bunion because it was more open and grassy in the middle.

On the way into the Cove, we were able to see some of the wildlife. Here we have a wild turkey.

Next Mr. Right spotted a beautiful treat. He was able to get close enough to get a great shot.

Look at that open plain with the mountains as a backdrop. Beautiful!

The clouds started moving in fast. We had a bit of rain during the tour, but it was warm and lovely.

After the tour, we ate at a little tiny place called Ma's Kitchen. It had about six tables and we were so close to the kitchen, we could watch them make our food.

Finally we left for the white water rafting. Despite it being my suggestion and desire to do it, I really was dreading it. That water was going to be cold; I just knew it! I visualized sitting in the back, attempting to keep warm, but since God has a great sense of humor, we wound up in the front, while a very nice family from Baltimore manned the back.

I was right about it being cold! And some meany from another raft, seeing my apprehension when entering the water, splashed me good before we ever got on the boat... But it didn't take long to get used to the temperature and we really had a blast. Our guide kept running us into rocks (on purpose), which caused all sorts of laughter and splashing on our parts. We hit threes and fours on the river and never once did we tip. We even surfed the whites several times. And I got to ride the bull (sit on the very front of the boat) as we took some rapids. Boy was that fun, fun, fun! Halfway through the trip we all swam in the Little Pigeon River, coasting down a mellow part. I would definitely go again in a heartbeat!

Mr. Right and I ran back to the room for our anniversary dinner. I was all dolled up in a new dress and ready to hit the town. As we started walking to the restaurant, God - in his sense of humor mode again - opened the heavens and caused an immediate downpour. By the time we ran to cover, we were drenched! Although we were sopping wet, we were laughing about the hilarity of it all. We figured that we couldn't get any wetter, so we ran to the restaurant anyway. Arriving just minutes before they were going to close, we were welcomed into the restaurant with open arms. Then we feasted on lasagna and garlic rolls that were to die for... And the waitress gave us chocolate cake to top off the evening. Perfect way to end the night.

I just love my life.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Marriage Meme

In honor of our 15th anniversary, I give you our Marriage Meme. However, you can also get many more details in this post whereby I give you all the gory long lovely details...

  1. Where/How did you meet? Harding University in 1990. Mr. Right saw me across the student center and just had to know all about me.

  2. How long have you known each other? almost 17 years

  3. How long after you met did you start dating? Perhaps you should refer to this post... But I'll answer it by saying it took too long.

  4. How long did you date before you were engaged? A different post sure would explain a lot, but the official asking happened in roughly 10 months from our first date.

  5. How long was your engagement? 5 months (Would have been 4 if one of my bridesmaids had volunteered eariler that she couldn't make it. We set our date to include her in the first place. Hmph.)

  6. How long have you been married? 15 years

  7. What is your anniversary? Today, July 24

  8. How many people came to your wedding reception? 150

  9. What kind of cake did you serve? Chocolate cake with white chocolate icing

  10. Where was your wedding? Memphis, TN

  11. What did you serve for your meal? We had a homecooked food line: lumpia (a family favorite), fruit, cheeses and a bunch of other stuff that I really can't remember...

  12. How many people were in your wedding party? 4 bridesmaids, 4 groomsmen and 2 ushers

  13. Are you still friends with them all? Yes, even though I don't see most of them.

  14. Did your spouse cry during the ceremony? No, but I did. I couldn't make it though my vows as it hit me as to how momentous and special the day and words were.

  15. Most special moment of your wedding day? My most special moment was running out of the church after the reception while evading the rice pelting, knowing that I belonged to Mr. Right and that my life was truly just beginning.

  16. Any funny moments? Lots! The funniest that I remember was when I was walking down the aisle. For some really strange reason, I felt the need to verbally welcome people who were standing there as I was walking to the front. They caught me on tape saying, "Oh I'm so glad you could come." or waving and head-nodding to several of our friends. It wasn't until I was at the front that the thought occurred to me that my husband-to-be was waiting for me... I can't even imagine what Mr. Right was thinking of me as I'm not looking at the most important person to me that day. I'm such a dork.

  17. Any big disasters? The gentleman who filmed our wedding accidently turned the camera off just as we were saying our vows. We didn't get them for posterity, but they still ring true in my head.

  18. Where did you go on your honeymoon? Jamaica, which I highly recommend to everyone, especially if you go to a Sandals' resort.

  19. How long were you gone? One blessed (sex-filled) week. Woo hoo!

  20. If you were to do your wedding over, what would you change? I would have had a dance at my reception. I was too intimidated to rock the Church of Christ boat.

  21. What side of the bed do you sleep on? Whichever side is closer to the bathroom...

  22. What size is your bed? King, which is really funny considering the fact that Mr. Right and I are slim people. But I want my space when I sleep. I only really like to cuddle when I'm awake.

  23. Greatest strength as a couple? We're different in so many ways. We use those differences to round each other out.

  24. Greatest challenge as a couple? We're different in so many ways. The old saying of "Opposites attract." is never really finished... It's "Opposites attract... then attack." There are still times when we have to remind ourselves not to attack each other.

  25. Who literally pays the bills? Shalee

  26. What is your song? I don't know that we really have just one, but I'm going to say Masterpiece by Atlantic Starr. When Mr. Right proposed, being the Art Professor that he was, he made this statement: "I know real beauty. I've seen so many works of art that take my breath away. But Shalee, you're my masterpiece. God made you perfectly, and you're my perfect piece of art." A couple of months later is when Masterpiece debuted, and it was as if God took Mr. Right's words and set them to music.

  27. What did you dance your first dance to? Our first dance as man and wife was in Jamaica. All I know is that my shy, don't-look-at-me Mr. Right took my hand and led me to an empty dance floor and danced with me.

  28. Describe your wedding dress: I'll try to scan it in so that you can see it sometime... It was off the shoulder, lots of lace and sequins and it had a looooong train. I loved it.

  29. What kind of flowers did you have at your wedding? I carried white sweetheart roses in an open bouquet. The attendants had white roses tied with a ribbon.

  30. Are your wedding bands engraved? They weren't at the time, but since then, on our 10th anniversary, I stole Mr. Right's band, under the guise of getting it cleaned, and engraved "Love Forevermore".

  31. How old were you when you got married? He was 26 and I was 21.

Happy Anniversary, honey. I know that you are my gift from God, my masterpiece to enjoy each day. I love you more than I can possibly explain and would gladly, readily, willingly do it all over again.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Oh The Places We Went!

God has given us blessings galore on this trip. We're feeling the warmth of his glory all around us.

First, when we checked into our hotel, the room smelled like smoke, which is odd considering it is a smoke-free establishment. So I asked if there were any other rooms into which we could be moved. The manager looked things over and upgraded our room to a spa king - the one that has a two-person jacuzzi. Ahhh, life is good. Plus, look at this great view from our room!

We lost no time in exploring the Smokey Mountains. We visited the visitors' center, bought maps for trails and walked our first trail. Only 1.3 miles long, Laurel Falls has a paved trail, making it accessible to anyone. And at the end of the journey, there was a beautiful waterfall. (Of course we left our camera in the car. Doh!) You'll just have to trust me that it was a wonderful site to behold.

Since it was so close to dinner, we returned to the hotel to ask the front desk attendant where she would recommend our getting a great pizza. Again we struck gold in her suggestion - Best Italian Pizzeria, a little pizza place off the strip that had excellent fare. I highly recommend it if you're ever in Gatlinburg and want great food.

Morning found us hitting one of the trails we longed to hike. I really wanted to hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail since reading about it in A Walk In The Woods. Just 4 miles, Charlies Bunion was supposed to lead to some beautiful sights. Here is the beginning of the trail at Newfound Gap.

(I want you to notice all the clothing changes... We arrived at the Gap and realized that since it had an elevation of only 5000+ feet, it was much colder than we imagined. See the jeans and change of shirt? You'll see different things as the trail continues.)

Doesn't this just feel cold?!

Beginning of the trail... it looks so calm and inviting, doesn't it?

Here is Mr. Right on some small roots on the trail.

Here are some of the many rocks we had to climb over on the trail.

I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves for a while.

After 2 and a half hours, we finally made it to Charlies Bunion. Whew.

It was well worth the walk! Look at that gorgeous view... And in case you couldn't tell, we are sitting on some rocks that jut out over the mountains. There is nothing but sheer cliff below that area. (And I won't tell you how I hugged and inched my way up them to take that picture. Then you would know what a really big chicken I am...)

But it's where we made our reservation for lunch. And tell me this, have you ever seen an eating place with such a spectacular, breathtaking view?

Here we are dining on wine, bread and cheese. Such a grand meal for such a grand atmosphere...

And amazingly, it only took us 2 hours for the return trip on the trail. Going down hill helped some.

The beautiful creek that called Mr. Right's name. Not mine, though. The dry ground was calling mine.

Next we did an auto tour because to be quite honest, our legs were like spaghetti noodles. When we arrived at Clingman's Dome, it was really cold. A storm was moving into the area at a rapid pace.

So we booked it out of there. We're no dummies! On the way down, we were given the gift of seeing a young black bear. We were told not to expect to see any, but there he was just running around the road. By the time we whipped out the camera, however, he had taken off through the side brush and we couldn't grab a picture of him in time. But what a treasure it is in my mind.

We're beat and we have a fun drive/hike planned for tomorrow, not to mention a white water rafting deal. But to be honest, I'm kind of hoping that one gets cancelled due to weather. That water was WAY colder that I expected it to be. But if not, you'll find me in the jacuzzi tub. And that will be a great way to end an anniversary night.