Home Away From Homeless (part 2)

After volumes of document requests supplied to our mortgage broker, we told him we would be out of the country on a cruise for seven days beginning March 5th, so if there could possibly be ANYTHING else he might need let us know prior to that date.  A closing date was set for the week after our return, so we and left for a much needed cruise with close friends. 

Cruise: We joined three other couples for a seven day cruise on The Norwegian Dawn to Mexico, Roatan, Belize and Mexico (again). This was R&R for all eight of us; long awaited and much needed.  While on the cruise we celebrated two important events:

(1) Three of us couples renewed our wedding vows on March 6th. The fourth couple officiated and took pictures.

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And (2) we surprised sweet husband with a belated, 70th birthday celebration.  Our friend, Kay, made tiaras with black netting for the women and the men got pointed, dunce caps (except sweet husband who wore the cake).

Sweet husband’s favorite shore excursion was to crew the 1987 America’s Cup sail boat race winner with good friend, Curt.  They raced a Canadian ship and won by mere feet.

Naturally, in spite of our telling our broker we would be out of the country, we got several urgent texts and calls while at sea ($50.00 worth) requesting yet more documents for underwriting, more signatures, etc. By the time we returned back to the wonderful shores of the USA, our closing date was delayed, the contract on our house expired and the seller’s wouldn’t extend it.  We became officially homeless.

In spite of this lovely news, we continued our pre-planned visits by spending another few days in Baton Rouge.  Then on to the metro-Jackson, Mississippi area to meet the newest grandson, visit my eldest son, my brother, several friends and Sweet husband’s other grandson who had just turned four.

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Above my only granddaughter dressed for Jr./Sr. prom night in Baton Rouge. 

From there we drove to Meridian to participate in the induction of two of my grandsons into a nation honor society. 

Liam and Mariner

The plan was to drive back to Tennessee to rest and pick up our “stuff” out of storage and move into our new (to us) home in Long Beach, MS…NOT!

Instead we drove to the Mississippi Gulf coast to find a home.  We gave ourselves three days.  We were successful on the second day and had a day of rest planned before heading to Tennessee to “wait” on the mortgage process (again) with a new mortgage company.

Our last evening there, I stepped off a curb in the dark and fell hard on a concrete surface.  I thought I broke my wrist, but I sprained, skinned and bruised just about everything else:  a rib, both wrists, my knee and my ankle.    At this point one might think, “Perhaps God doesn’t want us to move back to Mississippi”, but not me.  This has only made me more determined.

Speaking of God, the next day while in the ER, our friend in Alabama called to check on us.  Sweet husband told her about my fall and she insisted we come and recover at her house, which was only a two hour drive as opposed to the two to ten hour drive back to Tennessee.  We happily agreed.  Thank God for sweet Marie.

Home Away From Homeless (part 1)

condo

So we had this great, yet small, condo (1,000 sq. ft. +/-) situated at the front door of The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, our long desired retirement location. 

After much prayer and angst we decided to sell it to find something with a bit more room and a lot more autonomy (a unhappy association with our many investor neighbors was also a huge consideration).  In this decision, we failed to take into account the recent fire in Gatlinburg, which resulted in the shortage of available homes to purchase at our price point…DUH!

SIDE NOTE OF ADVICE:  If you buy a condo in a resort area, make sure that there are a large number of owner-residents onsite. We had a poor experience living in a condo community owned mostly by investors. Investors and homeowners are two different creatures…one treats it like home the other treats it like monthly income.

Pictured below are two examples of the devastating fire that swept through our beautiful park and the upper neighborhoods of Gatlinburg.

We had made plans, prior to selling, for a visit family and friends, out of state, and to go on a cruise out of New Orleans with close friends. Therefore, not being successful in finding a home to buy, in a timely manner, we packed everything and put it all into storage in time to head to Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

First stop, Orange Beach for Mardi Gras with friends. Sweet husband’s 70th birthday fell on Mardi Gras this year and his youngest daughter gave birth to her first child that very day.

Did you know that south Alabama has a replica of the Stonehenge, called “Bama-Henge”?

Above Bama-Henge

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Second stop, Biloxi, MS for a Yellowstone Employee Reunion. Wonderful friends we had made in 2015 who lived and worked with us at Grant Village.  Two fun-filled days of catching up.

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Prior to this trip and because housing prices were on the rise daily in Pigeon Forge, we decided to move to the Mississippi Gulf Coast (for many reasons, much too long and an unnecessary rabbit trail for this post).  WE placed an offer on a house and started the painful mortgage process…UGH! So while on the coast, we went to tour the house in Long Beach, MS we were purchasing…yep, made the offer sight unseen.  (This purchase has another chapter to it to follow in Part 3).

From there we drove to my youngest daughter’s home south of Baton Rouge for a long needed visit with a cruise sandwiched in the middle of our visit there.

Cruise blog and pictures to follow in Part 2

TREES

Trees

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mount is prest

Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

–Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)

 We have, over the past two or three years, had the privilege of visiting many of our National Parks and some other worthy sites in our vast and beautiful country. I’m not a loco-tree-hugger, but I have become a huge fan and I appreciate the necessity of keeping as many as proves to be healthy for them.

 This is my holiday blog. It is not about Christmas trees, as beautiful as they are, but a note to honor the creator of these magnificent living partners in His world.

 I begin with my most recent trip to visit Pearl Fryar. Topiary Artist. In Bishopville, SC Mr. Fryar has spent his life creating this garden from a corn field. It was featured once on CBS Sunday Morning and I was spellbound. I never dreamed I would see it, let alone meet the sculptor. He is ageing, but still the strongest and most agile person I have met older than me. He has started to hire help and has started a foundation to carry on his work. www.gardenconservancy.org

 

ODD TREES:  A few odd ones we move to next:  a work of art called a singing tree, a tree with wonderfully shaped root system, a frozen tree archway and a shoe tree we saw in Montana.  I have no idea what the purpose of the shoes in the tree were.  I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a picture of a tree with such unusual fruit.

 

 

SEQUOIA:  These majestic giants are native to our west coast.  A few have been moved to other continents during the Victorian era, before the environmental protection laws were written.  These laws are meant to save other trees from un-native insect pests.  A good Idea.  Sweet Husband is standing in front of one exported to Scotland over a hundred years ago.  It is still quite young.  These trees live to over 2,000 years making them the oldest organism on our planet.  Pictures cannot capture their grandeur.

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Banyan Tree:  These trees are characterized by their aerial prop roots that grow into thick woody trunks, which can become indistinguishable from the main trunk with age. Old trees can spread out laterally, using these prop roots to cover a wide area. In some species, the effect is for the props to develop into a sort of forest covering a considerable area, every trunk connected directly or indirectly to the central trunk. The topology of this structure of interconnection inspired the name of the hierarchical computer network operating system Banyan Vines.

This photo was taken at Edison’s summer home in Florida.  It covers an acre of ground.

When near the Edison & Ford Winter Estates' west entrance, see t

REDWOOD:  Superlatives abound when a person tries to describe old-growth redwoods: immense, ancient, stately, mysterious, powerful. Yet the trees were not designed for easy assimilation into language. Their existence speaks for themselves, not in words, but rather in a soft-toned voice of patience and endurance.  I can only express my reaction in tears of gratitude to my wonderful creator.

Exactly why the redwoods grow so tall is a mystery. Theories continue to develop but proof remains elusive. The trees can reach ages of 2,000 years and regularly reach 600 years.

Resistance to natural enemies such as insects and fire are built-in features of a coast redwood. Diseases are virtually unknown and insect damage insignificant thanks to the high tannin content of the wood. Thick bark and foliage that rests high above the ground provides protection from all but the hottest fires

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Monterey Cedar: These are medium-sized coniferous evergreen tree, which often becomes irregular and flat-topped as a result of the strong winds that are typical of its native area along the pacific coast of California. It grows to heights of up to 40 meters (133 feet) in perfect growing conditions, and its trunk diameter can reach 2.5 meters (over 8 feet). The foliage grows in dense sprays which are bright green in color and release a deep lemony aroma when crushed.  I fell in love with their wind-shaped beauty

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Live Oaks:  As a resident of the deep south, all of my life, these magnificent trees never fail to make my heart stop each time I see one.  They do not become lovely until they are at least 100 years old.  The trees below are 300 to 500 years old.  They lose their leaves in the spring when the new leaves push out last years leaves.  Therefore they are evergreen and probably why they gained the name LIVE.

Lodgepole pine cone, Pinus contorta, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

This is the cone of the Lodge Pole Pine.  The seeds are naturally glued in and can only be dislodged by fire.  The forest are dense and as far as the eye can see in most areas of Montana and Wyoming.

FEBRUARY BIRTHDAY EXCURSION

We have several family birthdays in February and since all are located in Mississippi and Louisiana we decided to take a trip down south to celebrate with them and get away from yet another snow event here in East Tennessee.  Sweet husband has a birthday tomorrow, but we will celebrate alone together.

STOP ONE: Wilmington, NC to see new friends, Mike and Karen. They live two blocks from the Atlantic, so even with the cold ocean winds, we had to walk down.

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Wilmington is home to Arlie Gardens. 67 acres of paths, lakes, formal gardens, live oaks (one is 500+ years old), 5,000 varieties of camellias, birding trails, thousands of azaleas along with historic, contemporary and primitive garden sculpture. Beautiful even in February.

STOP TWO & THREE: We visited Sweet Husband’s sister and brother-in-law, Martha & Del, in Orlando on our way to stop four and spent a couple of fun days catching up. We also met Del’s sister and husband (Eileen & Stu) in Lakeland for lunch. They are now official Snowbirds from Maine.

Also in Lakeland we toured Florida Southern College designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright. We count his architecture art work and tour each structure when possible.

STOP FOUR: We had met and developed close friendships with several people in Yellowstone with promises to visit; we keep our promises. Couple number one: Rose and Robert live in Cape Coral, Florida. They crammed in island visits, lunch on a fabulous pier and dinner with Robert’s sister and her husband.

STOP FIVE: Navarre Beach, FL to spend two nights with dear friends, Jim & Sharynn Singleton, from Mississippi, now in Florida.

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STOP SIX: Another Yellowstone couple Jerry and Mel. They live in Texas, but were visiting their son in Ocean Springs, MS. We stopped for a great lunch and sweet reunion.

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STOP SEVEN: Super Bowl Sunday in Baton Rouge with my daughter, Trish, and her family. We had two birthdays to celebrate: Nicholas #6 and Aubrey #16, sweet 16. Aubrey and I exchange flamingos from time to time and have since she was about three, so I had a special cake made for her. Our friend from The Rose Parade and co-conspirator, Teegie (who lives in Baton Rouge) joined us for dinner and the celebration the night after the super bowl.

Teegie

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STOP SEVEN: Jackson, MS. We visited several close friends, John, Curt & Sherry, Kay and her Mom, Gay, my Brother (Bubba) and my sweet son Tony.

Due to circumstances beyond our control we didn’t get to see Leonard’s daughters or precious Grand-Wonder, Liam, for his 3rd birthday, but we left gifts on the porch.

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STOP EIGHT: Didn’t happen. We hoped to spend time with my son, Joe and daughter Lorie and their precious families (no birthdays), but they were all fighting a virus and/or the crud.

FINAL STOP: An evening with Rogers and Hammerstein at the Knoxville Symphony Pops for our valentine gift to each other.

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All this in only two weeks. We are getting good at this.

 

WE HIT THE PAUSE BUTTON

In mid-January we drove from California to Louisiana in five days.  We then rested with sweet daughter and her sweet family for a week; catching up on many, much-needed hugs.

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From Louisiana we drove to Orlando (by way for Orange Beach, AL to visit long-time friends) to attend sister-in-law’s retirement event.

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From Orlando we drove to Tennessee by way of Atlanta where we spent the night and had dinner with our adopted daughter, Michelle.

Michelle

Between Atlanta and east Tennessee, we stopped to stretch our legs in Toccoa Falls, Georgia — a must see, for sure!

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In Tennessee we had snow/ice for three weeks holding up the moving, settling in portion of our life.  We spend most of that time on the rehab of the condo, since we couldn’t get our stuff out of storage.  We had to sleep on the couch for two weeks.

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We have been setting up a base in East Tennessee since early February.  We have moved into a small condo and completely refurbished it.  It would be totally finished by now had I not gotten vertigo in mid-March (I’m better, but not quite 100%).  Sweet husband has basically had the balance of the work on his shoulders since then.  We had friends from Virginia drive down for a week to help with the heavy moving and installing.  I have family an hour from here who have also stepped in to lend a much-needed hand.  We have taken a few days off to rest, recuperate and visit with our friends in this beautiful part of the country.  (pictures of our friend/family helpers and much-needed time off above).

It is our goal to be “Living in our minivan” again this summer, so getting organized and well is our only goal.  We are proud to report we have found a church and met a couple of nice locals.  Onward and upward.

Below are pictures of the almost finished/organized base of operations.

LR bedroom kitchen

As time allows, I will get back on this blog to show you this beautiful National Park.  Next weekend is the Dogwood Trail and Art Festival in Knoxville.  This is one of the oldest festivals in our nation.  We plan to go, if that happens, I will post pictures.