LIVING THE DREAM, Part 20b: View from ‘the Bell’

July 29, 2019

Hiawassee, GA.

So here I was, at 11:30 a.m., rummaging through last night’s dream  in search of  fodder for future books when Jeff woke me up.

“Hey, babe, Get up and get dressed! Dorothy and Phil want to drive up to Bell Mountain before they have to go home. Let’s get ready and go with them.”

About five minutes later, I wriggled into leggings, a comfy tee-shirt, and Skechers, splashed water on my face, brushed my teeth, and was ready to go. After we stoked up on roast beef sandwiches at Hardee’s, in town, we started out for the one-lane road straight up to the top.

Pictured above is the highest point of Bell Mountain County Park and Historical Site, an eighteen-acre summit located in Towns County.  Below, the Hal Herrin Overlook, which, according to a plaque placed there, exists to “preserve for all to enjoy its beauty “as described in 1883 by J.A. Gant, an Athens, Georgia newspaper editor who described the overlook of mountains encircling Lake Chatuge as the GRANDEST VIEW IN AMERICA.”

Campers Russ and his faithful Jack Russell terrier, ‘Corky’, joined us once we arrived.

As if the steep climb to the top weren’t dicey enough, the six-plus flights of steps to the very top and the breathing techniques that the climb required rewarded us with a breathtaking view of the three states — Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee — connected by the bottomless, emerald waters of Lake Chatuge capped it off.

So far, we have taken in some breathtaking sights in Georgia. There will be more to come, including a swing-by to Vogel State Park, a place we happened onto on the way to Blairsville. Until then, stay tuned!

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 27: Ashes from The ‘Camp’ Fire

4-24-19

Hiawassee, Georgia

On April 1, around midnight, I tossed a match onto the April Camp NaNoWriMo 2019‘ kindling with a new book idea, a mixed genre of horror and suspense titled SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING CURSED. On Monday night of this week, I typed those two, magical words, ‘THE END’, validated my project by copying and  pasting the entire draft into a space provided on my Camp NaNoWriMo page, and downloaded the Winner Certificate that Camp NaNoWriMo spat out. After typing in my name, book title, and the date, I emailed the certificate to myself to print at the library in town.

Speaking of book ideas, have you ever wondered what inspires some authors’ wack-a-doodle stories? Well, I don’t know how Stephen King or Willow Rose get theirs, but SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING CURSED hatched at a Dairy Queen in Canton, Texas, three years ago when, as we started inside for a bite of supper, I caught the words, ‘occult investigation’, on the car parked next to ours.

“Hey, babe, reckon this place is haunted?” I asked my husband on the way in.

Seeing one other couple in there, I assumed that the car I saw was theirs. Bashful soul that I am (NOT!), I struck up a conversation with them as I dispensed my iced tea and Jeff’s water and, in a not-so-subtle fashion, ferreted out the truth: that the car I saw beside ours did, indeed, belong to them.

“I couldn’t help being intrigued by the words on your car,” I began. “Are y’all ghostbusters?”

The couple exchanged wry smiles.

“In a manner of speaking,” ‘Rick’ admitted. “People who suspect that evil spirits may have invaded their homes call us in to get rid of them.”

“No kidding? As a matter of fact, you might be interested in something that recently happened to my husband. Sometime during the night, he sees writing on the door jamb in our bedroom. Of course, when he looks closer, it disappears. What could be causing that?”

Well, as the four of us plowed through our burger baskets, drinks, and Blizzards,  ‘Rick’ and ‘Kara’ explained how they went about banishing spirits from people’s homes.

“What people don’t realize is that the spirit world is real,” she stated. “And, of course, the ones who draw attention to themselves are usually evil.”

“What causes them to show up, in the first place?” I asked her, as chill-bumps prickled my arms.

She shrugged.

“Could be a lot of things.  Astrology books or New Age music, souvenirs from countries known for voodoo or blood sacrifices. Even ‘dream-catchers’ that people hang in their homes. Ouija boards, for sure.”

“Yeah,” ‘Rick’ added. “People bring home Shiva statues from India, beads or ‘worry’ dolls. They are potential ‘portals’, too.”

. “And,” Kara inserted,  “all too often, the people who give them as gifts are clueless of their potential.”

Jeff and I eyeballed each other. He gulped.

Uh-oh, I thought, remembering the ceramic mask and Aztec calendar from Mexico that hung on our walls at home, a handmade doll I received from a Mexican ESL student, and some beads languishing among Jeff’s souvenirs.

“If we have any of that stuff, what should we do with it?” he asked.

“Move it as far away from your home as you can.  Burn it, if possible, or leave it out on the curb. And, while we’re at it, keeping it out in your garage is not enough as it is too close to your home.”

“What if we have never had problems with it, in the first place? Should we toss it out, anyway?”  I asked, as my teeth began to chatter and my heart whammed like a jackhammer on crack.

“If you’re in doubt, text us pictures of it. After all, it’s far better to be safe than sorry,” ‘Rick’ cautioned.

Before we parted company with them, ‘Kara’ and I hugged.  Jeff and ‘Rick’ shook hands. We all promised to keep in touch.

“Hey,” I said, breaking the quiet that had settled over us between Canton and Terrell.  “Meeting them has given me a book idea. Something Borrowed, Something Cursed will be about a bride-to-be who receives an antique ring from her future sister-in-law to wear as her ‘something borrowed’.

The next day, I snapped a picture of the doll that my student had given me. The one I had displayed among my other keepsakes on the top of our computer cabinet.

“Hmm…looks like a ‘worry doll’ to me,” ‘Kara’ advised. “I’d ditch it.”

So I chunked it into the pile.

In Something Borrowed, Something Cursed, a horror story, a bride-to-be receives an antique ring from her future sister-in-law as a loaner to wear as her ‘something borrowed’. She stresses that she wants it back before the couple leave the church. But when the  bride tries to return the ring, her sister-in-law is nowhere to be found. After their honeymoon, the newlyweds soon suspect that the ring serves as a portal to the paranormal, when her husband’s personality turns scary, and her sister-in-law and his brother suffer bizarre deaths within hours of each other.

As with my debut novel, FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS, its sequel, BY HER DAUGHTER’S HANDS: Secret Sister, Deadly Daughter, I have learned to allow my characters to struggle and suffer at the hands of their antagonists. Although their hearts break, they always rise to the top. and the stories end happily.

Really, they do. I promise.

Two nights ago, around 9:30 p.m., this wild-and-crazy ‘ride’ slid to a stop, one week ahead of schedule. Now, as soon as I edit and revise this post, I plan to shift gears and resume self-publishing BY HER DAUGHTER’S HANDS: Secret Sister, Deadly Daughter, the sequel to my debut novel, FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS. 

Have any of you ever experienced ‘phenomena’ that you cannot easily explain? If so, I’d be interested to read about it.

Stay tuned for more of my LIVING THE DREAM posts, as well as posts with other themes.

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TIME IN ‘THE TUBE’: Upright At Last!

2-9-19

Greenville, TX

On October 1, 2018, I underwent an MRI at Chatuge Regional Hospital in Hiawassee, Georgia. One week later, I received the results from my doctor. The MRI showed three compression fractures in the lumbar area of my back. The diagnosis was not surprising. In fact, it validated the mounting pain I had started feeling.  The one measly time I had not had myself checked out at Care Now was the one time I tripped sideways over the handle of a “killer” rolling duffel bag and landed on my lower back. At the time it happened, Jeff and I were too busy moving out of our house and into a totally new lifestyle: full-time RV living. After he helped me up, I thanked God for the carpeting on our bedroom floor.

Since May 2018, soon after we moved to Georgia, my pain increased. Still, we continued to take in trade shows, arts festivals, and other activities that involved strolling along on uneven ground or concrete surfaces and standing around and talking to people. Surprisingly enough, walking at a clip was far easier for me than slogging along like a snail on gravel. Finally, I got fed up with hurting and arranged for an MRI.

Although I was relieved to find out that the pain I was feeling wasn’t only my imagination, I hurt even worse and parked my injured carcass on the nearest bench or chair every time we ventured out. The doctor in Georgia recommended a “kyphoplasty”, a procedure in which the surgeon inserts a balloon into the fractured part of the spine. When we checked with our health insurance, we decided that it would be cheaper to do it in Texas, once the campground where we worked closed for the winter. While the procedure was a minimally-invasive one, it would require day surgery or, at the worst, an overnight stay in the hospital.

In January, two months after we arrived in Greenville to oversee a horse-boarding ranch-in-the-making, we visited Hunt Regional Hospital where I got hooked up with a neurosurgeon who sent for the MRI done in Georgia. After studying it, he arranged for his office to schedule an epidural steroid injection in my lumbar spine.

On February 5,  four days ago, I underwent the procedure.  After one nurse inserted an IV,  the doctor bustled in and drew a circle where he would inject the steroid. Before long, the OR nurse met me in the hall as I was emerging from one last trip to the bathroom. I hopped on and away we went to the OR.  My last pre-op memory was of that  nurse inserting a cannula into my nostrils.

Those must have been some heavy-duty  ‘I don’t care’-drops, as the next minute, it seemed, I woke up in another room where Jeff  awaited my return.

The whole procedure must have taken only about fifteen to twenty minutes.  Thanks to the anesthesia, I slept through the whole process. When I awoke, another nurse brought me two containers of apple juice.

“Ready to go home?” she asked.

“Well, yeah,” I slurred, “as soon as I get out of there.”

She and my husband exchanged winks.

“It’s over, girl,” she said. “You’re good to go!”

Clutching my discharge instructions and taking to heart her advice to be “a little lazy” for a couple of days, I left the hospital with Jeff where he dashed into Wal-Mart for a few items before we stopped at CB’s Sandwich Shop for a couple of juicy, home-style cheeseburgers before heading home. As another friend said I would do,  I went “tim-berrrrrr!” onto the bed and enjoyed a heavenly nap until I woke up at supper time.

Later, that day, I braced for post-op pain of some kind. After all, hadn’t the doctor prescribed a high-octane muscle relaxant? I was pleasantly surprised that I had no pain — none whatsoever — on that day or on the days that followed. The only effect of the procedure was the best one I could have asked for:  the ability to walk  upright and pain-free, again.

This afternoon, when Jeff suggested a trip to Wal-Mart just to get out for a while, I jumped at the chance. After all, I have a brand-new back. The best place to remove the “shrink wrap” and give ‘er a spin was Wal-Mart, a place that always made me ache by the time I returned to the car. The only times I felt pain had nothing at all to do with my back and everything to do with aisles congested with confused people and rowdy children and slow-moving checkout lanes on a rainy Saturday.

Anyone who has spent any time on Facebook knows that it is full of ‘lore’. Everyone has an opinion. And everyone who has been through the same procedures is eager to share his or her own experience. Some have had to have three or more injections.

“You may need another one in six months,”  said a friend, “or one shot might get it the first time.”

I believe I’m one of the blessed. Now if only I can steer clear of those dastardly duffels!

 

 

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Same ‘Man’, Different Plan, Part 26b: “Surviving The Nightmare’

September 7, 2018

In “Same ‘Man’, Different Plan”: Part 26a, “Creating the Nightmare”, I introduced a need to re-focus my work-in-progress, Man After Midnight on the global pandemic of Human Sex-Trafficking, included a working premise and a blurb, and inserted active links for bulleted points about today’s ‘trafficker’.

Following up with Part 26b, “Surviving the Nightmare” is my fellow “tribe” member, Jody Paar, author of B.O.S.S.: Break Out Silent Soldier to recount her terrifying experience and courageous escape from the trafficker who showed up at her workplace.

Please put your hands together for my fellow author, Jody Paar, author of B.O.S.S.: Break Out Silent Soldier as she recounts her terrifying experience and astounding escape from her trafficker.

I was at work, bored out of my mind, when he walked in, looking so fine. He wanted my number. I thought he had to be model as he smiled at me I melted. He was dressed to the nines and clean-cut. He smelled so good and looked even better. As he walked up to my desk, I wondered whom he was there to see.

Hey, beautiful…,.”

I sat there, stunned.

Are you talking to me?

 He remained at my desk and talked to me for what seemed like hours.

Hi, I am Trek.

Hi, I am Jody.

As he smiled, his deep dimples made me blush. Then he said those magic words:

“I would love to get your number, so we can talk.”

Just like a wolf circles its prey, those diamond-blue eyes drew me in. My heart raced. I was so excited! I smiled and pulled out a pen and Post-It note. My hand shook as I gave him my number with no hesitation.

I can’t believe he wants to talk to me!

We talked for months but never saw each other because he traveled out-of-town for business.

We talked every morning, noon, and night. He always called me; I never called him.

I will never forget the conversation we had that late summer night:

I can’t help it, Jody. I am falling in love with you.

My heart leaped!

I love you, too, I answered. I held the phone so close to my face and spun around until the cord was tangled around me. I kissed the receiver, making smacking noises into the phone.

I have even better news.

“You do?”

My heart was beating fast.

Yes! I am coming back into town for a very important dinner party.

My heart raced even faster.

Jody, I want you to be my date.

I couldn’t believe it. I was really going on a date with the man of my dreams.

As I was leaving the house to meet Trek, my phone rang.

“Hey, baby. Sorry, but I’m running late, but my friend and bodyguard is going to pick you up  bring you to me.”

I was too love-struck and naïve to realize the trouble I was about to wind up in.

As I pulled up to the dark parking lot, I saw only one other vehicle besides mine. A muscle-bound man got out and sauntered over to greet me. I could definitely see how he was a bodyguard because he was powerfully built. What happened next terrorized me, head to toe. The gun he used to force me into his vehicle before he placed a blindfold over my eyes. I still thought that, maybe, this was the way that Trek would propose to me. I was so naïve that I thought this man was still going to sweep me off my feet. Once he stopped the vehicle and removed the blindfold, I found myself in front of a dirty motel on the side of the Interstate. My stomach lurched and I struggled against the urge to vomit.as this monster shoved me, an eighteen-year-old virgin, into the room and raped me over and over.

Two weeks later, after I was kidnapped, I escaped, but not for long. When Trek caught up to me and accused me of lying, I went back to him, out of fear on that same night.

In my book, Break Out Silent Soldier, you can read how that happened. This was in the days before technology. Today, traffickers lure their victims more easily. Maybe someone has approached you about modeling. Or, maybe it’s a cute guy on the Internet who wants to meet you somewhere. These predators are all around us.  The human sextrafficking world is a 150billion dollar industry.

I thank God that I am not dead. I thank God that I have a voice, and that is why I will use it for all those who have no voice. Protect the ones you love and please spread the awareness.

As Jody related her story, she reinforced one point I brought out in  Part 26a: that the trafficker does not always come across as what he really is — a cunning predator who has figured out which buttons to push to force her to do what he wants and when and how often he wants it. Let this be a lesson for our daughters and granddaughters,  our mothers, our female friends everywhere.

Coming up in the next post: safety tips for staying out of a trafficker’s crosshairs.

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SAME ‘MAN’, DIFFERENT PLAN, Part 26a:”Creating A Nightmare”

September 2, 2018

Four years ago, during 2014 NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I dashed off a 50,000-word draft of MAN AFTER MIDNIGHT, a thriller bearing no resemblance to Abba’s classic. The ‘man’ in my story lurks behind profiles of unsuspecting users on the  ‘Man After Midnight’ dating site. Once he arranges a date with a woman, he meets her for drinks which he spikes. At 12:01 a.m., he leaves her body gutted of all female parts before dropping his calling ‘card’ a crude drawing of a clock with its short hand on twelve and the long hand, to one minute after. But, something occurred to me once I read what I had written: that true death involves so much more than just the body.

Now, I am making human trafficking the subject of my story. Already a global pandemic, trafficking degrades women and girls in body,  mind and soul. In fact, actual death might come as a relief.

Despite our expectations, traffickers aren’t always easy to identify, especially if they begin by telling a vulnerable female what she is desperate to hear: that she is beautiful and desirable. Once he reels her in with his honeyed words, he convinces her that he is her very best friend, her only confidante. Only he and he alone truly cares more about her than even her boyfriend, friends, or even parents. He rushes her to the next step: to move in with him or even marry him. He tunes in to her deepest desire and, then, promises to deliver it….or so she believes.

Want to attend college? Send money to family? Dream of modeling, singing, dancing, or acting? Well, you certainly have the figure, voice, legs, or talent for it. Whatever your heart desires, it’s yours.

But his smoldering eyes and gleaming smile mask a deadly secret about. ‘Mr. Wonderful’: that he is a trafficker. When she least expects, that charm, passion, and effortless wit disappear. He spikes her beer, wine, or high-dollar coffee with Rohypnol and tosses her into a van with other terrified women.

Any female, no matter her age, can become a victim before she suspects what is about to happen.

For example, in Man After Midnight, Destiny — my protagonist’s rebellious but virginal teen — goes missing on Halloween night in 2012.

The premise goes like this: When the mother of a teenager learns that her daughter is being auctioned to the highest bidder by 12:01 a.m. on the ‘Dark ‘Net’, she must find the auction and purchase her from ‘The Man’ no later than midnight or become his newest victim, herself.

Thank God, I have never been trafficked. Since I haven’t, I must rely on research. Books, documentaries, and personal experiences of those whose bodies, minds, and souls bear its scars. For the past month, I’ve binge-watched docudramas  and read survivors’ stories. Today’s post, Part 26a, is about my findings.

Meanwhile, as I watched and read true accounts from Theresa Flores, Aubrey Alles, and Jody Paar, I gleaned the following information about ‘the ‘trafficked’:

  • that they can be any age, even children 
  • that they can be of any ethnicity and come from any background
  • that even their families risk being killed

“Ah,” you say. “But that only happens in other countries,”

Whoa. Not so fast. Statistics from 2017 show that, in the United States, alone, human trafficking is a pandemic that now spans the globe.

Today’s traffickers don’t always look ‘sleazy’ . They can be co-workers or supervisors, professors or students, doctors, attorneys, or clergy. Some are  ‘gamers’ posing as teens while they look for latchkey children. Others  ‘friend’ or ‘follow’ their prey on the social media.

Coming up in Part 26b of my blog post, SAME MAN, DIFFERENT PLAN”, Jody Paar will recount her own nightmare in our ‘once-safe‘ United States of America.

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 25: “What’s Going On with ‘da ‘Zon?’

August 1, 2018

When FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS went live on Amazon in August 8. 2017, the reviews — mostly five-stars with a couple of respectful four-star ones thrown in — filtered through my ‘author IV’ almost daily.  With the wisdom of one checking a pot of water put on to boil, I checked the numbers once a day, celebrating each new reader I met and review I received.

About two months ago, I began to see a drop in the number of reviews by one or two at a time followed by another one or two. So I typed the Amazon Customer Review Team an email in the box they provided. So I referred to the general reasons that reviews are removed. In order to shorten the list, I have grouped them together, as follows:

  • obscene or abusive language
  • threats
  • off-topic reviews
  • self-promotional material

None of the reviews I read fit any of those categories. So, I wondered what was going on, and asked my fellow authors if they were having the same problem.

The other day when I was reporting this issue to someone else during a phone conversation, she and I agreed that Amazon should not be penalizing authors for reviewers’ errors. Not only is it not fair, it’s downright dirty. She told me that another author she knew actually calling a representative of the Amazon Customer Review team on the phone and addressing his concerns about the matter. All he was told was that someone would ‘check on it’. I, too, have voiced my concerns to Amazon. After a few days, a team member would send a list of general possible reasons.

We authors endure labor pains as do mothers-to-be, only our deliveries last months and years instead of seconds, minutes, and hours. My labor over FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS began as a larger work as I was on a plane over Port Aransas, Texas, in January 2009, on the way home to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and culminated in August 2017 — nine years later with a shipment of glossy, green copies of my book.

Our books, the fruit of our imaginations, are as precious, in their own way as the ‘fruits of our loins’, a.k.a our children, are in theirs. Only in the movies do authors become instantly ‘stinkin’ rich’ upon the publication of their books. For the most part, many — if not most — of us also feel that reviews trickle out like drops from a clogged hose.

Let’s face it. Life gets in our faces every day. People get busy with families, jobs, vacations, or hospital stays. Although, in ‘the heat of the moment’, as they are clutching our finished efforts that they promise to read and review, the truth of the matter is that they soon get on with their own lives. It happens to all of us.

Has it happened to you? Below is a link that should lead you to the page where you can type in a short customer review. Once you arrive at that page, scroll down until you see a yellow customer review button to click for leaving a review. It does not need to be long or of professional quality. After all, customer reviews are not book reports. Rather, they are a few words about what you liked about FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS.In order to leave a review, all Amazon asks is for you to become a verified customer. If you don’t have an account with them, you can set one up for no charge.,

I love meeting my new readers! Thanks, in advance, for your support. I look forward to hearing from you.

What’s coming up next? Who knows? I’m working on several ideas. Any one of them will be a pleasant surprise!

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 24: “Chigger-Bite Remedies: the Tried and the True”

July 12, 2018

Hiawassee

They lurk. They bite. They torment. They are ‘chiggers’, ‘red bugs’ or if you like to show off, Trombiculidae. Miriam Webster dictionary defines chiggers, also called ‘chigoes’,  as “six-legged red or orange mite larvae that feed by latching onto skin and leaving itchy, red welts”.

Itchy?  Try ‘fiendish and teeth-chattering’. These bugs from Hell especially like shins, ankles, and feet, but they will also munch on the skin between toes or fingers or even behind knees. Recently, I even found a bite between my third and ‘pinkie’ fingers.

Why is this post appearing in an author blog? Simply because authors cannot ‘auth’ when they’re too busy scratching.

Because of my succulent, fair skin, I have suffered from chigger bites since I was a child. When I grew up, I dared to hope that I had outgrown my susceptibility to them until we moved to northeastern Georgia, in the middle of May, where it rains more often than not.

I like rain. Rain is good because it freshens the air, replenishes the earth, and makes the grass grow so my husband, a camp host, can earn extra money by mowing it. Not too long after I wade through it, my arches and heels, shins, and ankles begin to itch.

Polka-dotted by bites, I have tried drugstore potions and home remedies, some of which I found out, later, are old wives’ tales. One such example, clear nail polish, was suggested by a camper.

“It works because it smothers them,” she said.

I was willing to believe her, so I applied polish everywhere I itched.

There, I thought, after screwing on the top. Take that, Mr. Chigger. When it worked instantly, I thought that I had found my ‘forever cure’.

Then, one day, we were visiting with a man and his wife camped beside us.

“Wow! Looks like chiggers have eaten you alive!” he said. “What are you putting on the bites?”

“Clear nail polish,” I said, with confidence. “I have heard that it smothers the chiggers.”

He waited until I finished talking.

“Ahhh, but if you will Google that, you will find out that it is an old wives’ tale. The chigger cannot be smothered because it has already fallen from your body right after it bit you. Besides, Absorbine Junior works so much better.”

To help him demonstrate his point, his wife rolled some of the icy liquid originally for soothing sore muscles and arthritis pain, all over my legs and ankles. That night, for the first time since we arrived here, I was able to close my eyes and sail off to sleep, itch-free for the rest of the night.

So off we went to the grocery store to buy some, only for a clerk to tell us that the store had stopped carrying it. Seeing a bottle of Caladryl Clear Lotion, recommended for insect bites, poison ivy, oak, and sumac rashes, and minor skin irritations, I bought a bottle of it, remembering how its pink predecessor once relieved my chigger bites.

Other remedies that have worked well are Vicks Vapor Rub, Tea Tree Oil, and Dermacort, an anti-itch cream put out by a company named Melaleuca.  During our two months at  primitive, peaceful, but chigger-infested Appalachian Campground, I have found that I  need different remedies at different times: a few dabs of Dermacort, an anti-itch cream with Melaleuca (or tea tree oil)  for daytime and at bedtime, Absorbine Plus for its instant, cooling, long-lasting relief.

Now, chiggers don’t bug me like they used to. Could it be that they know I’ve become a triple threat with my spray, cream, and lotion?

Back to you, gentle reader. What is your ‘go-to’ cure for ‘creepy, crawly critter bites’?

I can hardly wait to hear from you!

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“LIVING THE DREAM”, Part 23: “From Spill to Thrill!”

June 25, 2018

I stared, transfixed, at the purple puddle of Cabernet spreading like a malignant amoeba  underneath Jeff’s keyboard.

“Oh, shoot. Oh, SHOOT, OH, SHOOOOOT!” I hollered until he tossed me a rag.

“‘Shootin’ won’t help. We gotta mop it up,” he said, as we wiped the surface of our dinette table until the liquid was gone.

At that moment, “I’m sorry” didn’t seem an adequate apology until Jeff admitted to spilling milk all over his laptop, a few weeks ago.

“We’ll just go back to ‘Totally Computers‘ for another one,” he said, giving me a kiss of forgiveness.

To tell the truth, had I slopped wine on my own technology, I’d have wanted to shoot my  klutzy self.

Anyway, when we rushed the wounded keyboard to the computer store, Jeff shelled out another fifty dollars for another keyboard like that one. But the black cloud of rotten luck didn’t go away. For what should have been a short jaunt into town lasted until six p.m. The day had turned into a classical example of  ‘one thang leadin’ to ‘nother,’

When we reached our car, Jeff smacked his head.

“Dang! I locked the keys in the car! I never do that!”

Enter Good Sam whose message played the same tune so many times that I was sure I could play it on the piano. After almost forty-five minutes, a real-live human being picked up the phone. While Jeff was telling her where to send the tow-truck, I went back inside to use the restroom when I saw a piano keyboard on a stand.

“Hey, cool keyboard!” I said, in passing. “I’ve missed my piano since we sold it to move into our RV.”

“Yeah, I practice on it,” Don said. “I’ll let you have it for $150 dollars.”

Bong! My eyes bugged out.

“Really? That’s a good price. I’ll tell my husband.”

“I’ll be here until six if you decide to get it.”

Meanwhile, I returned to Jeff.  Within minutes of finding out that a wrecker would be there within an hour, we saw one pulling into the parking lot.

Well, as we learned, our little Subaru is not only safe on the road; it’s also a booger-bear for a thief to vandalize. For the next fifteen minutes, we watched “Tow Truck Guy” wedge a sheet of plastic with a pump attached between our front and rear passenger windows. When that method didn’t work, he stuck a bar with a hook on the end down the back window.  From the driver’s side, we directed him toward door handle where he was able to pop the door open so Jeff could reach up front and grab the keys.

Having worked up an appetite, we pulled into Steve’s Place, down the street, for a beef-tips plate lunch for Jeff and a French dip sandwich for me. Our next stop:  Hiawassee Hardware for spare copies of car and motorhome keys, plus a few supplies and then to the grocery store before doubling back to purchase the keyboard. We planned to run in,  slap down our debit card, get the keyboard, and go.

It looked like the day would turn out okay, after all.

Imagine our shock when both of our cards were declined! When we asked our bank,  someone said that the PIN numbers were incorrect and gave us another number to call to reset them. Already frustrated, Jeff became more so when he got cut off for pushing the wrong numbers and taking too long to punch in the zip code, but he got it right on the second call.

Meanwhile, outside, another wild-and-crazy Georgia thunderstorm blew heavy slanting rain everywhere. Jeff pointed to his card.

“We’re not going anywhere, with this rain, right now. Go ahead and reset your PIN and I’ll pay with my card.”

Soon, the debit-card went through with nary a hiccup and we were wagging our new (to us) Casio keyboard out to the car.

That night, as I played a variety of tunes that turned the campground into a honky-tonk, a revival meeting, and even a “rave”.  I sampled rhythms and sounds. Much more high-tech than a computer, this keyboard also came with sound effects, such as helicopters, waves, birds, telephones, and even gunshots.

In spite of the spill, the delays, and the debit-card snafu, I was thrilled to be reunited with a piano keyboard equipped with 100 rhythms and 200 tones. This high-dollar gizmo can do just about everything but salute the flag.

So what’s up for the next post? It’s anybody’s guess, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something.

Meanwhile, if anybody needs me, I’ll be banging out a story on my Mac or creating a hullabaloo on my Casio.

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 22: “Helen. Georgia, An Alpine Melting-Pot”

June 20, 2018

Day 2 of “Playing Tourist”‘

Helen, Georgia

After all of us slept late, we piled into our Subaru around noon and headed south to  Helen, Georgia. Settled in 1969, according to a sign that greeted us as we entered the city limits, Helen is an Alpine village decorated Bavarian-style. Even the Dollar General Store followed suit by decorating the outside of its store in the Bavarian theme.

After parking in one of their lots which vary from $2 to $5 (depending on their distance to main activities), all five of us spilled out of the car to stroll the shops.

The first stop was Wildewood, conveniently located near our parking lot. This shop was one of my favorites as it offered a variety of merchandise that was a little out of the ordinary.  Besides for t-shirts galore, its shelves were stocked with one of my ‘addictions’:  purses of every size. Clutches, wallets, backpacks and shoulder bags were made of leather. Thankfully, since I had recently purchased a large, lightweight backpack at Wal-Mart, I was able to resist a backpack hurling itself into my quivering arms. At a counter across the aisle from the purses was another addiction: jewelry. Rings, earrings, and necklaces and even tiny glass boxes for rings were displayed in a rainbow of colors.

Another shop Bonnie, her teens, and I prowled while Jeff took a phone call was Tim’s Wooden Toyshop. As we prowled around in there, I wished my grandchildren were still little when I saw a wooden baby rattle sanded down to a smooth, satiny finish.

Next, we crossed the street to Dreamcatcher’s, an import store specializing in Native American jewelry. As I had misplaced the toe ring I bought in Port Aransas, Texas, I succumbed to a selection of toe (or “pinky”) rings and picked out one with an opal and sterling silver band in the shape of a sideways cross. It was almost an exact match to a ring and earrings I found, four years ago, in Fredericksburg, Texas.

Saving the best for last, we hopped back into the car and drove around the corner to Betty’s Country Store, located on Yonah St. For souvenirs, gifts, wine, groceries, and a delicatessen where you can order fresh deli sandwiches, salads, potato chips seasoned with pink Himalayan salt and more basic flavors, and HUMONGOUS cookies big enough  to share. As far as drinks, we reached into an old-fashioned Coca-Cola cooler and pulled out iced-down, bottled soft drinks. Betty’s definitely caters to all tastes. After we feasted on custom-made submarine sandwiches, chicken-and-dumplings, potato chips, cookies, fruit salad, and drinks, we were instructed to tell the cashiers what we had and pay them later.

Having shopped in these three stores, and more, we were ready to go home and flop out on the closest couch or bed we could find.

The two days that Bonnie, Hannah, and Brayden spent at our campground have really been fun. Even Russet got in on some extra loving from Brayden who took a special shine to her. After they packed the rest of their bags into the Ford, we hugged before they pulled out around  5:00 a.m.

Now, it’s back to the camp-hosting business. After the adventures of the past two days, I came away with stories-in-the-making and characters waiting to be born. Little do those people we ran into suspect that one of them could wind up in one of my books.

For our next adventure, I’m thinking I’d like to explore the waterfalls in this area. Who knows? There are at least two beautiful falls: “High Shoals” and “Anna Ruby”.

Stay tuned for my next adventure in “LIVING THE DREAM”.

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 20a: Playing ‘Tourist’ at Brasstown Bald

June 19

Since Jeff and I became camp hosts at Appalachian Campground, we haven’t done a whole lot of sightseeing. It took his daughter and teenaged grandchildren driving down from Texas for a visit for us to get out and play “tourist” along with them.

Breakfast was the first order of the day, as we crowded into a booth at Huddle House in Hiawassee and feasted on omelets, eggs, grits, bacon, and sausage. For those not familiar with Huddle House, it is similar to Waffle House only it is larger and offers a more varied menu.

After stuffing our tummies, we hopped into our Subaru Legacy Outback wagon and jogged off the highway to Brasstown Bald Mountain in Georgia.  According to the Visitor Center, Brasstown Bald is the highest peak in Georgia. I’ll admit that as the shuttle chugged up the steep, winding road to the lookout, my ears popped.

Once we arrived at the top, the view was beyond amazing! Velvety-blue mountains were juxtaposed against lush, green vegetation. Rivers and lakes scattered like throw rugs in the basin. According to the above link, visitors looking through a telescope can also see both North and South Carolina and Tennessee on a clear day.

Having snapped pictures with our cell-phone cameras, we filed into  Mountain Top Theater for a short video about Brasstown Bald before heading down to the store where Jeff bought me a pair of bear earrings and, for himself, a tiny bear that is now perched on top of our coffeemaker, and a packet of “Mystical Fire” to make our campfire turn different colors.

After coming off the trail, we were exhausted. All we were good for was lolling in the cabin, cramming down Quarter-Pounders with cheese, French fries, tall Dr. Peppers, and, later, strawberry ice cream.

“We’ll do Helen, tomorrow,” we promised each other, as we turned in for the night.

Stay tuned for our next sojourn onto Bell Mountain, coming up in Part 20b of “LIVING THE DREAM” followed up by Part 21, about Georgia’s own Bavarian village, Alpine Helen.

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