Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Mother Ship

For some strange reason, I thought once the boys got out of school for the summer, I’d have all this time in the mornings to read, study, write, etc.  Mmmmm…..Not sure where I got that impression.  So, while I had big plans about summer projects and blogging.. it has now been a month since my last post.  Obviously, things haven’t gone according to plan.  It’s all good, though! A lot of life happens in such a short time and we’ve just been rolling with it.......

The Mother Land

The kids and I haven’t been home long from a 2 ½ week trip to the mother ship….. I mean…..Tennessee.  Don’t get me wrong, we SO enjoyed spending time with our family and friends and just being back in the country.  I have to admit, though, I said it was like the mother ship because after living and operating in the Los Angeles area for a year now…..going home this time was like entering another world.  Not that either is really good or bad…..but, “different” doesn’t adequately describe the two worlds.  I’ll just have to paint the picture for you….

The difference in the airport experiences alone are quite a contrast.  LAX could be considered a world of its own.  It was apparent the moment we stepped off the plane and left our gate in Nashville…..one can’t help but notice all the boots and cowboy hats! When not on the people, there’s plenty for sale in the airport stores. Hence, it is often affectionately referred to as NashVegas!  When we stepped outside to go from the terminal to the parking garage, I was almost taken aback.  You simply walk across the crosswalk and IF cars are coming, they are coming slowly and they politely stop and let you cross.  Not the case at LAX.  You only do that there if you happen to be suicidal.  No, at LAX….you wait on the traffic light to turn red and the little white “walk” man to light up before you cross.  Yes…..there are 6 lanes, complete with traffic lights…. and traffic jams for that matter, throughout the terminals at LAX.  Fortunately, Southwest is the first terminal when picking up and dropping off.  Consider this a public service announcement:
My brother, Johnny, made a surprise visit to see me off from the airport in NashVegas
If you’re flying Delta, American, etc…. allow plenty of time to get through the terminal traffic when catching your flight home.  If you don’t, you could very well be staying on with us a little longer!:) So, do yourself a favor and fly Southwest when visiting LA.  If you need another reason other than relatively affordable airfare and time saved at the airport….I, for one, enjoy their sarcastic sense of humor on the plane…..”You are scheduled to arrive in LA in approximately 4 hours.  Please do not ask, “Are we there yet?”  We will ignore you.  That said….enjoy your flight.”

Jude waiting on a taxi @ LAX
There were so many things I had simply not considered after living in town for a year.  See….showing my Tennessee roots already.  When someone moved from the country to say….Jackson, TN….population 55,000 or so….we’d say they “moved to town”.  Actually, there were so many things I had simply forgotten after moving to “the city”.  If I had to guess, I’d say there are 55,000 people through LAX on a given day.

Another Southwest shot:)

Anywho… I could go on and on about all the things that are a world different than city life here in the South Bay.  But, I’ll just list a few experiences that struck me, at times, as though I was in a whole other world and other times, as just getting back to my country roots:

Roads Less Traveled

We started off with my sister in law and niece coming to pick us up at the airport in Nashville and they had a good friend in tow as a surprise!  Home folks!! Needless to say, the ride home was a hoot in and of itself. We pretty much just picked up where we left off and made fun of one another most of the way of the 2+ hour drive home!:)  It was nice to be amongst close friends and family and well….grown-ups again. Though, I use the term “grown-ups” loosely! It was refreshing to see that some things were exactly as I remembered them.
Taking Interstate 40 home from the airport was almost shocking.  It was after 7pm. So, most of the traffic starts to die down by then……So much so that with the lack of cars and no lights along the road, you occasionally need to use your bright lights.  On the interstate.  I remember thinking, “I don’t remember the last time I needed my brights!”  A few other differences stuck out along the interstate trip like big thickets of trees lining the roads and the cashier at Wendy’s with the thick country accent.  The boys got such a kick out of that.  Good stuff!
Most everything was the way I remembered it in Tennessee.  I just didn’t remember everything. Winding down the dark highway and back road to my parent’s house was a blast from the past…..I was scared to death I was going to hit a deer in the borrowed Tundra that my sweet brotha-in-law let me use.  I always wanted a big truck that I had to climb up in.  The first few days I was home, I found myself rather unnecessarily trying to step up into my Mountaineer and feeling disappointed that I didn’t have to.  When we finally arrived  at my parents’ that night and I slid out of the truck into my parents’ drive, the sounds of the country……crickets and bullfrogs…..just bombarded me.  Always loved their “music”.  Now, on the flip side, I soon found out that coyotes hollering in the wee hours of the morning  STILL freak me out as much as they did when I was a kid. 
(I’ve posted the pitch black video so you can hear the sounds. Turns out the iphone does have limitations.  It does not video or photograph well in the dark. Go figure.)

The stars at night were a sight for sore eyes.  Not that I can’t see the stars here in the South Bay but, I definitely can’t see that many and certainly not that clearly.  One night I guess I went way back to my roots and piled up in the bed of my borrowed truck with a blanket and a pillow to lay up under what truly seemed like a blanket of stars.  Hey...don't knock it til you try it.  It was a nice night and there was a meteor shower going on for Pete's sake!  So, Daisy, our old sweet dog my folks inherited in the move, and I took in the sights.  I only saw one that night because I didn’t tarry long.  Besides being tired, there was a mosquito driving me absolutely nuts and totally detracting from my whole “blanket of stars” experience. Those blood sucking critters are one of the few things I didn't miss about Tennessee.  The thick humidity was the other.  However, the hot, humid air does make for some awesome storms.  I’ve always been a skywatcher.  So, I was so indescribably happy that it stormed while I was there.  I even got to wake up one morning to rolling thunder and doze back off to sleep listening to it because my parents were there to take care of Jude who is quite the early bird some days.  So many times along the trip, I thought, “Now that alone was worth the trip home.”  Dozing in a thunderstorm was definitely one of those times.  
Another time I thought, "That was worth the trip", was when I walked into a public bathroom and saw this sign:  

You have to understand, contrary to popular opinion, these signs aren’t up everywhere in the South.  Nor are they even remotely needed.  I was at the racetracks with, oddly enough, the two crazy women who picked me up at the airport....and their families (See pic of Felicia and Angie at the side).  A dirt race track.  I had never been before, but just so happened that my friend Angie, who’s husband is a sawmill owner by trade but a race car owner at heart, (And somehow a distant cousin) had a relatively local race that we could go to and see what it was all about.   We had a ball.  But, I'll just say that as the night wore on, I came to understand the need for the sign.  Now, Angie had informed us to wear a cap or something because it was a dirt track and gets dusty out there. Boy did it.  When the cars came flying around the corner, dirt went everywhere...... And I do mean everywhere! I don’t remember ever being that dirty.  Not even when I was a little country bumpkin kid and played  with dirt clods and made rock soup.  The next morning I had to wear something other than what I had planned to wear to church because I had worn the white bra I needed to wear up under it the night before to the race......and it was full of dirt! All kidding aside, Felicia and I thoroughly enjoyed the racetrack.  Felicia got the FULL racing experience when my brotha-in-law won her 6 private laps around the track with one of the drivers during the charity auction.  6 nearly full speed laps might I add! "Weee-doggie!" She got to check one thing off of her bucket list and I got the pics to prove it!  The sign, the dirt, the noise, the friends.....that was bucket list enough for me:)

I guess you could say we ALL broadened our cultural experience on this trip.  The boys kicked off their vacation the 2nd day there with a trip to Shiloh National Military Park, a civil war battlefield and cemetery, courtesy of another brotha-in-law, who then carried them on to a Slugburger eating contest in Corinth, Mississippi.  See, competitive eating champ and world record setter, Joey Chestnut was in town.  In case you're like me and don't follow competitive eating.....Joey Chestnut ate a record 69 hotdogs in Nathan's Famous Fourth of July contest. Buns and all.  Can I just pause a moment and say.....bluuuuggghhh!!? Well, Joey was competing against an arch rival, Matt Stonie who held the record for Slugburgers at 30 in ten minutes.  Long story short, Stonie defended his title and beat his own record by eating 31 slugburgers in 10 minutes.  Now, there's some culture for ya right there. Thanks, Uncle Greg!!:)

Sorry Joey, maybe next time!

For so many reasons, we were all thoroughly blessed on this trip to the mother ship.  I enjoyed the simple things like spending some relaxed time just chatting with my parents every day in the house where I grew up, catching up with my mother in law, hugging on my sweet great nephew, meals with family, dinner and shopping with sisters and good friends.....just to name a few.  The kids got a LOOOOT of doting from their grandparents.  I lost count of the number of ice cream cones my mom fixed Jude after about the 2nd day.  None of us went without for that matter!  The boys were able to catch up with their old buddies and all of their cousins.  Lots of people cleared schedules, opened up their homes (and pools), hauled us around, fed us and just totally went out of their way to welcome us back and we were blessed beyond words. 
Well, that's probably not entirely accurate....you know me.....I'm super wordy.  I really don't know how to explain it, though, so I will just say this is what I took from our trip:
A lot of life happens in the span of 2 1/2 weeks. It dawned on me during this trip that, all too often, like the pesky mosquito that sent me inside on a beautiful starry night, I let little things suck the life out of me and deter me from the good stuff.  That realization just makes me wonder how many shooting stars I missed that night......and how many blessings I've missed along the way. Granted, sometimes it's no small thing.....it's not always something we can swat away or ignore that's eating at us. But, often, it is just that....a daily annoyance.  Can I just say....it is such a gift in and of itself simply to be aware of your blessings....aware of God's presence in and upon your life.  Like the stars, there are too many indicators to count.  I know not everyone has a big family or a faithful circle of friends, but everyone has a sky.....and a God.... above.  When we feel the life being sucked out of us, for whatever reason, if we could just recall that there are so many things that He wants to use to refresh us.....to breath life back into us, and if we could just make time for those things and for HIM, our enemy would have a hard time deterring us in our purpose in this life. Sunsets, starry skies, friends to discuss life with, and sweet family reunions.....quite the mosquito repellant.  I'm so thankful He opened my eyes to enjoy what was true and real.  I left Tennessee not just feeling blessed......but favored. 
Back in California, I've found that, though we don't have that sea of family and friends around us, I brought that awareness and feeling with me. In Tennessee, He used a great many people to bless me and show me His favor. Here, it may only be a handful of people He uses. But He has reaffirmed one thing for me, He is with me wherever I go .....from the mothership to another world and everywhere in between. (Plus, there are no mosquitos here.  Bonus points for Southern Cal!)  Now...if I could just round up the money and then figure out a way to justify purchasing a big ole truck....Talk about two worlds colliding!

 More Pictures to Add to the Picture:)

Jude and Lily totally dug the truck, too! Jude asked if we could drive it back to California.  Lily was dying to go for a ride in the back.  Don't worry....though I rode in my share of them growing up, we didn't let her. 
Jude and Daisy

Hudson's 1st birthday.....I wanted to bring him home with me!

Volley ball with cousins in the country.  Use to love that myself! 
Uncle Matt (another brother in law....we have a huge family) bush hogging his pasture.  Or playing on the big orange tractor......Not sure.


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