Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 in review

When 2009 started, little did I know what was coming down the road for me. Just like everyone else. We don't expect the deaths, the losses, the surgeries, the pain. We don't expect the wonderful things either. So many want things to stay the same, and you know that never happens.

I have had a year of WOW! How else am I supposed to put it???? I really have no other way to put it. God has been mightly moving in our lives and home. My God is able and He cares for you and for us!

Chuck had enough of the stress with RGM at Pizza Hut. Demanding time that would be more away from home, and then when he was home, walking on egg shells. He would be tired and not want to have anything to do with the family. He realized that is not the way to live and had just about enough to say goodbye to Pizza Hut. And enough to say, "Let's start a business" OK, not gonna complain about that.

So, the end of January came a goodbye to corporate work force and a step of faith. Little did we know that this was going to be a true step of faith. And so Clear View Cleaning was created. Business license and insured too. We started out cleaning windows, grabbed a few jobs, but knew that wasn't enough to make it through.

Lawns quickly picked up the side business. Let me tell you right now, I don't like mowing yards. It isn't the work, the heat or the sweat. It is the fact that pushing a mower is not what I want to do! I did get a very nice tan though.

February brought us Eric's 14th birthday, so yes, in a few months I will have one driving with a permit. I have grey hair now, just wait! February also having us tell goodbye to our sports cars. UGH! We traded the hot little MB and Jetta for a white Ford F150. I, to this day, still can't get in the truck gracefully. It also gave us a new trailer for the mowers. See, I didn't see this business with me on a mower..... LOL

March came forth with 2 birthdays. PJ hit the milestone of 10, no more single digits, those days are gone. And mine, well, 42 isn't so bad. I have had a great life so far, and age is just a mind over matter... And it doesn't matter to me!

May provided a scare for me. The Pizza Hut that I worked for at the time was robbed at gun point. I wasn't there, typical me, I was taking my time on a pretty Friday morning making my runs. I was in no rush. Stopped to talk to a friend, talked to a customer, got back to the store about 3 minutes after it all happened. I failed as a mother, I didn't call the school to let Eric know that I was ok. They locked down school and announced that Pizza Hut was robbed at gun point. Eric wondered all through the day if I was ok. To be in that position had to be very difficult. It was then that I decided to quit Pizza Hut and work with Chuck over the summer.

Chuck and I also celebrated our 19th anniversary. I cleaned windows that day, he pressure washed my dad's house. And then a dinner for just the 2 of us topped off the evening.

May also brought us an honor award for Eric. Yes, an honor award for the boy that struggled everyday in elementary school. The boy that was failing 6th grade received an honor award. I so wanted to cry, but I fought back the tears.

June we stayed pretty much very busy. Lawns, pressure washing, windows. Eric helped all summer mow lawns, thank goodness! But we looked at weeks that we were covered up, didn't think there was an end in sight. But we survived the month and came out on top.

It was July and August that it died off. More than we expected. But we took the time to be a family. Fishing on July 4th, I caught a fish! Camping, yes that was an experience for all of us. I lost the boys down the river, what mother does something that stupid? I roasted my first marshmallow over an open campfire, sleeping under the stars, looking at the stars at 3AM, wondering what time do the bugs finally go to sleep, waking to a fire that keeps us warm on cool summer mornings. Exploring the area that we didn't know was around us. Being close enough to home to spend another night and get supplies for another day camping.

August started another school year and time for me to find a part time job. I started working at Duracell, or as I preferred to call it Durahell. I hated that place, but I stayed 6 weeks longer than I thought I would!

The boys started a new school year. Eric in 8th, PJ in 5th. Yes, next August I am putting one in High School and the other in Middle School. Check in on me that day, I don't know how well I will handle all of this.

September was a turning point in all of our lives. Chuck rededicated his life to Christ. 20 years running the other way, he was hit between the eyes with that Christ is the only way. And when he turned around, he turned around big time. On fire for Christ, willing to give up everything to spread the Word to the lost and the hurting. Mission work has been put on his heart. God will move him and use him in the way that He sees fit for all of us.

I got a new Bible, Chuck wanted so badly to buy one for me, but money was tight and he couldn't get the one that I wanted. So, he called my dad and they went out and on the 42nd anniversary of the death of my mother, I received something for my new life in Christ. A beautiful Thompson Chain Reference Bible, with my name on it.

Chuck's life turning around has affected the entire house. Getting up early to read and to pray. Prayer at the table, the boys reading their Bibles, the music in the house. We are living fo Christ and it shows in all that we do in our lives.

October brought more changes to our home. I started to work as a server for Pizza Hut, the one that Chuck ran for 2 years, the one that he left at the end of January. I did that for a reason, so that way I could help with the business and that I can still be home if needed.

October also brought a surprise to all of us. PJ's salvation! My first Wednesday night working, PJ got saved!

November left me wanting more. I went to an amazing Ladies Retreat. The church paid my way, I didn't want them to, but they did. I loved it. I think the blessing that I received most was that the church gave so much for me to go.

Eric had the chance to go to the youth trip. Someone backed out after paying the full price, and Eric was available to go. Wow! We have been so blessed to be in a church that blesses others, no matter who you are.

We also became members of Clingan Ridge Baptist Church, and with that was the baptism of Chuck and the boys. An amazing night, unexpected night too. The words that Chuck had to share touched so many lives. Not his words, but HIS words!

December is here and nearly done. I barely got Christmas going, but I made it. A little bit less than what we usually have. But I have more than money can have given to me. I could care less if there was one package for me. I received more this year than I really deserved. A Christian home, a life that Christ has given me, the salvation of my baby, their baptism. So what if someone gets a new phone, an iPod, gift cards. I have life in Christ and I know that I will be in glory one day with all of them.

On December 12th, Chuck and I celebrated the date of our first date, 20 years ago. WOW! Thanks for forgetting the donut Sweetie!

That is it in a nutshell.

2010 brings us things that we know will be here. For me, Eric turns 15, PJ turns 11. Out 20th anniversary. Chuck's mission trip to Jamaica, the first of many we hope. Hopefully another full year with our parents. Time to draw closer to God, as He draws nigh to us. A time to read through the Bible and to share Christ with the lost.

I will be 43 next year, and for all those years behind me, I am grateful for where I have been. But I am not looking back any longer. Forward I will go.

May your 2010 be more than what you expect it to be. Remember to keep God right there in the center of your life.

Hugs from me to you!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Our business

Clearview Cleaning and Lawns has been in business for 6 months now and we have seen our share of things.

Like I mentioned earlier, we slowed down big time, but as soon as we both went back to work, the phone hasn't stopped ringing.

We have a nice customer base and we keep getting referrals from our customers. Word of mouth is the cheapest form of advertisement.

I think we have really seen all that we possibly can see. When we first got the magnets for the truck, a lady pulled beside us and asked for a card. We hadn't heard anything from her for months and then all of the sudden, I am there every Saturday helping her clean her house. Lovely lady, but she is a hoarder and there is a lot to clean. She pays well and is a blessing to be around. So, I can't complain.

We have picked up a few house keeping jobs too. I prefer the house cleaning jobs. And if we get 10 more cleaning jobs, I can quit Duracell! So, anyone locally, if you know of anyone at all, let them know about us. We start at $65 - $75 for cleaning houses, we do it all, wipe the top of the doors to the top of the showers, change sheets and make beds too. Clean windows and stoves if need be. Vacuum, mop and dust everything too.

There was one week that we were double booked several days. Chuck would be one place and I would have to be at another. Not bad, a little hard, but it pays off in the long run.

So, while I have been at work with Duracell, Chuck has been taking over the business part of it. He had to hire someone 2 days last week because it was work that he couldn't do alone. That is fine with me, he needed the help and I couldn't be there. However, when it came to Scott's Furniture store windows, he had to do that alone. And that is a huge job, 48 windows, 84x63, inside and out!

We are hoping that next year we grow more. We reached a goal this year that we didn't expect to reach.

Finding work

Finding a job has been very hard on me. Considering that I have applied to about 100 places, and no one wants me makes it even harder. I was getting very depressed for a period there, life was getting to me.

Our business slowed down considerably during the summer. We didn't take into consideration the vacation time. So, that is when we came to a halt! But it has picked up and picked up nicely. And, of course, when Chuck went back to Pizza Hut part time in Dalton, and I found a job, the phone hasn't stopped ringing.

I have found a job, I started at Duracell, through a Staffing Agency, last week. In a nutshell, I hate it. I hate factory work, I hate the work, I hate the job. What else can I say? I don't see the glamour in the job. People look at me and tell me how lucky I am that I got on at Duracell. I don't see it. I was hired through an agency and I don't get the starting pay that Duracell offers for the entry level position, not even close. But it is a job and it will help with the bills.

I have found that if I make a list of prayer requests and needs, I stand there in front of the conveyor belt and I pray. On my break, I go over my list, I see who I have already prayed for and who is left. It makes my day go by faster and it makes it a little more tolerable. Not much, but some.

I had an interview with Jones Mgmt last week. I will find something out Tuesday if I have this job or not. Pay is a bit better, but they bonus every month, that is nice. It is an internet lending job. Basically it is a pay day advance over the computer.

Chuck put it nicely today, Jones Mgmt job take advantage of people in bad circumstances, CFA staffing, the people that put me with Duracell, takes advantage of people in bad circumstances.

The Jones Mgmt job has crummy hours, 11-8 and every other Saturday 10-2. I don't like the hours, I would miss my family, but it gives me the chance to get into interviews in the morning and not after 4pm.

The Duracell hours are 7 -3:30, I can't complain, I am up anyways. But by the time I get home, my body hurts. I get up every morning thanking God for a job to go to, for something that He has provided for the time being. But it is something that I just am not cut out for.

School Starting

School started Aug 12th for the boys. WOW! Summer flew by and before I knew it, I was buying school clothes and supplies again.

Taking Eric to 8th grade orientation was just a shock to my old system. Where has the time gone to? What happened to my sweet little boy that would grab the step stool to help make brownies? Well, he is now taller than me, and it seems that I am the one that needs the step stool more than he does.

PJ walked to his last first day of elementary school with his best friend, Leo. So, I missed out on that too. Once again, time flew by. It seems like just yesterday that I was putting him in Kindergarten. But after 9 years of elementary school, we are ready for the next step. Check with me next year, when I am putting one in high school and the other in middle school.

So far, so good with school. Eric still remains on medicine to help with his ADD/ADHD. Thank goodness for a Dr that knew what to do and for a medicine to help him succeed in school.

Eric is very much interested in Forensics and is looking forward to the Crimnal Justice classes at the high school. He is leaning more and more towards UT in Knoxville to work at that Body Farm. You look it up!

PJ is doing better in school. Of course all of that comes after a very long and very nice talk with his teacher about PJ's talking and lack of effort. And then the teacher had to have his gall bladder removed and has been out for 2 1/2 weeks. School just started! HA HA HA !

Our day starts when Eric's alarm goes off at 5:45 and ends somewhere around 11. It makes for a very long day, but such is life.

I am so behind

Gosh, I don't even know where to start. I have to blog because I have left you all out of the loop on life itself. Plus, I have been without my computer for weeks and I forgot my password!

So, bit by bit I will catch you all up on life and how it has been going. So, hold on, I will blog today.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Day 4 - Our Trip Home

We slept later than the other mornings. It was a cold morning, but this time we had all the clothes to keep us all warm. Nearly everyone had cleared out Sunday, so we pretty much had most of the place to ourselves. So, I was in no rush to leave anytime soon.

Now, if you remember I mentioned that there were only 3 showers stalls. The past 2 mornings I got stuck with the one that had an opening for air, it was cold. The water was luckwarm at best. And in these places the water turns off by itself. This morning I was going to get the good shower and I was not leaving until I did. I got to the bathrooms and I got the good shower, little did I know that this shower actually had HOT water! Woo Hoo!

We ate breakfast and started loading up the truck. Taking everything down may be easier than setting everything up, but getting everything back into a box or bag, that doesn't work well. We swept up our mess, made sure the fire was completely out, loaded the rest up and headed out. Stopped for a quick cup of coffee and we were on the road home.

Eric wanted to stop at Benton Shooters Supply, we aren't out this way much, so why not take a pit stop and look around. I could care less about guns and hunting, but they are boys and they wanted to look. And of course, I had to show them that their old mom still knows how to handle a rifle. Shocked them, but I think it shocked me more!

There was one spot that I wanted to see before going home. Nancy Ward's grave (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nancy_Ward). I have been in Cleveland for the most of of 20 years, and I have never been there. Nothing special, but her story is interesting. It is a part of the Cherokee history, so stopping to see it and read about it is a good thing for the boys to learn.

This cemetery also hold her son, Cheif Five Killer and his uncle.

And finding that information out was a challenge when I got home.

I wasn't ready to go home just yet. I was really hoping that Chuck would take a right and not a left to go home. And he did just that. I love the Ocoee area and I wanted to check out the Parksville Camping area while we were out that way.

And we did just that. The river road is one of my most favorite spots to explore and to just go for a ride. And going to the dam where the boats take off from is cool. So today we got to see just that.

There were a bunch of rafts getting ready to take off to go down the rapids. They go through the steps that need to be followed, show them how to row and show them all they need to do while on the rapids

While we were waiting for the boats to walk down the ramp, we enjoyed the view of the rafters taking off from the dock

While we were waiting, I turned around in time to see a kayaker come down the falls. I didn't have time to get a picture, but it was cool to see what I saw. That must be one hell of a ride!

And there they go!

This first rapid is called Grumpy's Rapid. I guess I would want to tackle it first than at the end when I am too tired. It is the most dangerous rapid that the rafters face. But it is beautiful.

One day I am going down this river! We owe Eric a gift anyways. When he turned 12 he could have gone rafting, but that year was so dry that the rapids weren't worth taking. The following year, Chuck worked all the time, and this year, we are saving what we can with the new business.

We took a ride a little further down the river and then realized that what we were looking for was in the other direction. We went as far down to the welcome center for the Ocoee river and turned around. But we didn't exactly head home.

We turned to check out Parksville Campsite. We were not impressed with the upkeep of the site or the condition of the site, so that is one that we will not be frequenting. I am thinking more on the lines of Harrison Bay State Park. You can set up camp by the river, not have to worry about the river rising and camp there. That is more my speed. A state campground that has glass on the sites, I am not paying for that.

Instead of heading back down the river road to come home, we took Hwy 30 around the mountain. I knew where it was going to come out at, so I wasn't worried about getting lost. This area in Reliance, gives new meaning to "Paddle faster, I hear banjoes." Parts of Deliverance were filmed in this area. If I had to stop and ask for direction, they would look at me and say "You ain't from around here, are ya?" And even though I may be Jersey in some ways, I do not speak like a Yankee anymore. This neck of the woods is extremely backwards, but they are very happy too. This just goes to show that just 25 miles outside of Cleveland, you can find a totally different world.

We passed an amazing old house or church located right before Hiwassee Outfitters. I looked up just in time to see this

I had to make Chuck turn around so that way I could get pictures of it.

But before I could stop and get any pictures, we had to eat due to the fact that it was alreay 1 and we were hungry. So we pulled into Hiwassee Outfitters, a locally owned campground, got the stuff out of the back and take a bathroom break.

I don't usually describe a bathroom, but in this instance, it is a must. I threw the trash out, and opened the door only to see a large pot with a lid, no handle, so therefore no flushing. Basically don't drop anything down there because there is no retrieving it. So, no water, no flush, just a big hole in the ground where everything went to. Interesting experience! Our own campground bathrooms were way more sophisticated than that! No sink to wash hands either, so glad I carry sanitizer with me.

We stopped to get pictures of this amazing house.
I just love black and white of old houses.

Go up to the front door and so badly wanted to get closer, but I knew that with Chuck with me, that was out of the question. Oh well, I do things like that when he isn't with me.

I am thinking this was more of a church or something else, the top doesn't seem to fit in with a house.

We turned around at this Texaco station. So, on our way back, Eric asked for a picture of the old sign.

Now don't you know that the people looked at me and wonder where did I step out of to take a picture of a sign or they were wondering why was I taking pictures of a sign. But it is a part of our trips out, I take the pictures of the things that seem interesting to me. At the end of Hwy 30, we were right at the spot where we had started our day. Time to head home.

This was our vacation this year. This time was only 4 days, but we are looking forward to camping again this year, maybe more than one time.

I loved camping. I had some experiences I never want to have again, but had experiencs that I am so looking forward to having again.

I am 42, never roasted a marshmallow over a campfire, never ever went swimming in cold, clear mountain spring water, never laid on a bed and looked up at the stars at whatever time of the night.

In my papers that I picked up from the Ranger's Station, there was a map of things to do in this area. It may be a drive, but it will be a good thing to do one day. A drive of a few hours is nice to be able to have time with the family. The boys and I love to explore, so why not make the most of a History Exploration. Growing up and going to school in NJ you only learn about the things in the area, I never learned about anything down here until I moved here. It is about time that I take some time and learn about the area that I now call home.

Day 3 - We get to stay one more night

I was up bright and early! Quiet time is 10 - 6, gates close at 10 and reopen at 8. People are supposed to keep it down starting around 10, but with the group that was beside us, quietness was nearly impossible.

At 6:40, I was up and ready to face another wonderful day. I also wanted to hit the showers early due to the fact that there are only 3 showers stalls. Why rush though? No hot water!

I got done with the shower only to sit around the campfire to stay warm. Once again, I was the smart one, I knew what to pack. Everyone else was in shorts, closing in ever so close to the fire.

I find it funny that this late in July we are building campfires to stay warm. But it is so enjoyable, especially those mornings that you can see your breath.

This particular morning the campers next to us was frying bacon, that is A LOT of bacon! Along with pancakes! It smelled so good in comparison to the Cinnamon Toast Crunch that we were partaking in. And after eating, we did head out for the much needed cup of coffee, I can only do without so much at one time. So, coffee was not the thing I was going without any longer.

We got back from our trip to get coffee and Chuck and Eric take off to go home to get other things and to go to the store for more food. So, PJ and I were there to go to the river, early in the morning. I packed my chair, camera, coffee and took off to enjoy the stillness of this river, to enjoy the smell of the air that comes with the river and woods.

After about an hour, we headed back to camp. This time of day the water is ice cold, and PJ is swimming in it! I get this message when I get back to camp, "Get a fire going, leaving WalMart in a few with lunch." Now exactly who was that message for? I didn't think he was talking to me, because this old girl never started a campfire in her life! But I did the best I could, I had a general idea because I was watching Chuck over the past few days. I got a small one started, but it did not get hot enough for lunch. Hey I tried!

I noticed that Chuck brought back sweats and sweatshirts, sweats for PJ and sweatshirt for Eric. They must have been cold at night! Since they were gone and no one could protest, PJ and I put the canopy on the tent. Not that I haven't enjoyed the nights looking up at the stars when I couldn't sleep, or listening to the night bugs sing their lullabye, but my nose has been cold enough. Besides, I could open the windows if needed. We had been the only ones without a canopy on the tent and I really thought it needed to go on. If it had rained in the middle of the night, we would have been in trouble.

I decided to go back to the river with PJ. Took my chair, get my suit on, grab a towl and took off with PJ. This time we got to the river before it got too high. I did go in for a little while. But walking on rocks with flip flops is not easy. PJ walked around some, showed me how to skip rocks and had fun. We spotted people tubing down the river. That looked like fun and next time I am going to do that!!!

But when I got out of the water, I watched it slowly rise, I had to move my chair 3 times due to the rising water. It is such a gradual rise, if you don't pay attention, you won't notice it. One little girl put it nicely, "Look Daddy, there are the bubbles." That means that it is on the way.

I watched PJ closely and I saw a little boy get swept away, but caught right before he got too far. There were a lot of adults around, so I took my eye off of PJ occasionally. The current was so strong that even on the boat dock you would get knocked over quickly. But this time I didn't have to watch the kids that didn't have parents with them, I did that once and won't do it again. But there are some that don't ever go down to the river with their kids, maybe that explains why there were some trying to ride their bikes across the river.

Chuck mentioned that the Ranger's Station had the snakes from the night before on display. And that they had molds of animals footprints, pelts and other things that are in the woods in that area. So, I decided that I was going to go. Eric had already been and you never know the mood that PJ would be in. But when I mentioned it, they wanted to go and check it out too. I had been up there earlier and the doors were locked. Eric caught one of the Rangers and asked about it, he told us to knock next time. So, we headed back up there and the same Ranger was there, so he opened the doors for us. If I had known they were closed I would have gone back on Monday morning.

We looked around at the things they had there. The Ranger showed PJ the snakes and told them about them. We also saw the pelts of deer, rabbits, skunks, beaver, fox, coyote and raccoon. The foot molds were neat! Eric held up the black bear mold to PJ's face, it covered his face.

While I was there I grabbed a bunch of information. I figure since we have all this stuff, we can explore our area. Maps, brochures, and even coloring books.

Dinner, like lunch was cooked over the campfire. It was wonderful! The place pretty much cleared out during Sunday. It was nice to have one night that was quiet. We built a huge fire, roasted marshmallows, talked and just sat around.

It was another peaceful evening. Now this time I was looking up at the tent canopy and not the stars. The bugs weren't as loud as what they had been. BUT we were warmer! Our last night camping for a few weeks, oh well, I had a great time!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Day 2 - A day of exploring

Sleeping outdoors wasn't so bad, looking at the stars through the tent roof, listening to the bugs chirp and trying to figure out when did the one chirping bug goes to sleep, listening to the owls in the distance and wishing for a bathroom that was close by at 3AM.

But waking up and sitting outside to eat, when everyone else is asleep, is rather peaceful. And considering I am usually the first one up, I enjoy the time alone, and I knew that it would be a while until the others woke up.

Our day started out like any other day. Cold showers, no coffee, cereal for breakfast and smelling the bacon cook in the camp next to us for those 40 people or so. That was a lot of bacon and it smelled really, really good!

But Chuck and I took off for some coffee and headed to a corner store to look for some more firewood. A small bag of cheap wood cost about $4, and it wouldn't burn very long, that would be a lot of money for a lot of wood. So, on our way back we took the road straight to explore the area some. Along the way, looking for wood for a fire. You can harvest wood as long as it is dead and on the ground. I understand that, they don't want you cutting down the trees that are green, this preserves the woods. We found quite a bit, what I thought would make it through a few days was only enough for 1 good fire. We drove for a while, picked up what we could fine and headed back to camp to make our morning fire. It still was very chilly in the mornings.

Now I know we are in the middle of July, but the weather has been fantastic. Low humidity, cooler temps, some rain on Friday. A fire is definately needed for the nights and the early mornings, that is how cool it was getting.

We found out about Gee Creek Falls when the Ranger came and got some more information about the search and rescue. So, we decided to head out there for a nice walk. Over the river, no lie, drove right through it, and through the woods, we are at the dead end and the beginning of a long walk. What the Ranger failed to tell us was how rocky the trail was and how steep the trail got in some places.

The walk was rough and on any hotter day, this would not be a trip that I would want to be taking. But considering the weather was like it was, why not go for a hike, uphill.

We walked and walked, as to what we were told a mile, turned out to be a lot longer than that. We looked at all kinds of things, plants, bugs, wilderness and water.

We came to a bridge, that crossed over a flowing stream, stopped to take in the view and to take some pictures too.

We got to a point and noticed that the trail went straight up. Now with Chuck's left knee and my right ankle, there was only so much more we could have done. So, we decided it would be best to turn around and head downhill. We know that uphill is hard, but going downhill on those rocks, that was difficult, but it was a great walk and we saw some beautiful water and rocks.

As we headed back to camp, over the river and through the woods back, we searched for more firewood, hey, if it is free, and if you are willing to pick it up, and break it, then it is worthy of being thrown into the fire.

We get back to camp, try to enjoy lunch with all the flies, no mosquitos, but flies galore. Sit back and see what else we wanted to do that day. That is the nice thing about camping, sitting around reading, listening to music, meeting new people, that is all part of it.

And this is when PJ finds a new friend and wants to go to his birthday party. This little boy is as redneck as they come, lives in the backwoods of Polk County and is extremely backwards. Let me fill you in on how redneck this little boy is, they forgot the birthday candles, and his aunt insisted that they use lit cigarettes as candles. Nice, huh?

But PJ wanted to go, they were on the other side, behind us, so I knew where he was at. Kids run all over the place here, ride bikes, go for walks and learn how to hang out with other kids and their families. In the end, they come back to camp, go home and remember a friend they had for a few days. This keeps them busy and most of the time makes them appreciate the family that they do have. Another trip to the river with the partiers and back to camp for a little while.

As I mentioned before, the camp next to us had about 40 people with more coming in just for a few hours. But it got a little irritating when people started to park in our site. The pickup truck is hard enough for me to drive as it is, but manuevering around and SLK MB, yeah, I don't think so! They weren't loud or obnoxious, it was just the fact that there were so many of them. Behind us was about 4 people, relatively quiet, cute little dog, radio playing from the truck. OK, with me, as long as it doesn't go into the night, I don't care. PJ's little friend, Preston, made a comment, "Y'all are lucky, you get some kind of music." I told him that we each have an MP3 player and we have our own music that we like to listen to. He was surprised to hear that we each had one and then he spotted Chuck's iPhone, shook his head. The boys have a cell, I have a BlackJack, the kid thought we were rich.

Preston has 5 sisters and 1 little brother. And PJ was over there a lot and noticed that the dad was there, but no mother. So, PJ asked, "where is your mother?" Preston hesitated some and then came out with this, "Well, I might as well tell ya, she is in Bradley County Jail." Nice, I felt bad for the kid. The tent was a tarp and they were eating out of the side of a utility truck. Puts things in perspective.

I really liked Gee Creek Campsite because of the things to do. A playground, a badminton set, volleyball and place for the kids to ride bikes. The boys took off to play some badminton. Somehow or another I got sucked into playing too, with a camera around my neck. It was Eric against PJ and me, Eric won.

This time dinner was cooked over a campfire. Hotdogs over a campfire, how much better can life get! And after dinner was some exploring that I wanted to do.

Earlier in the day we took the gravel road up to a point and then turned around. I decided that I wanted to go up a bit more. A new area, I want to see all that is around me. This was a very narrow road and I didn't know where I was heading, so I had to pay attention, and not look around like I prefer to do. Miles up from civilization, a few campsites later, I turned around. It was getting late and there was something I wanted to do with PJ, plus I had to go to the bathroom. I took the time to take a few pictures on the way back down.

This was from the bridge that I went over and then turned around to come back down the mountain.
I plan on going up higher next time we go out there, the temperature was about 9 degrees cooler. I passed several people that was parked on the side of the road, either fishing or camping, passed a shooting range too. But I want to see more, and early in the day is so much better, I don't like being someplace in the dark and not know where to go.

I cross over the train tracks, and get stuck behind this . He was stopping everyone coming into this part of the Cherokee National Forest. I guess because it was getting late and didn't want people that didn't know their way around to get up there and get lost. I understand this, but I really had to go to the bathroom and I had to boogie.

While I was waiting, so very patiently, I took this picture.

These flowers were everywhere and I had a chance to take one without the boys asking why I was taking pictures of flowers.

I got back just in time for us to go to the Park's presentation of snakes. Three times a day the park does some kind of activity. Saturday's presentation was Outdoor Survival, Snakes, and some kind of hiking trip. Considering I had done my fair share of hiking, I opted out of that one. But I wanted to see the snakes. So, Chuck, PJ and I headed off to the show. Eric, being your typical teen decided he would rather swing or play on the ladybug than go see a snake show.

The Ranger showed some snakes and talked about them. Found out that in East TN there aren't any poisonous water snakes and only 2 venomous snakes. Copperheads do go in the water, but they don't live there. And the East TN Rattlesnakes. We also learned that snakes are protected and it is illegal to kill a snake. Why? you may ask. Well, I will tell you why. People for the most part are afraid of snakes and when they see them, they tend to kill them. But we need snakes, like the Black Rat snake , to control the rodents. And the corn snake , also to control the rodents. Ok, I understand this, but I don't want to come face to face with any snake.

The Ranger let everyone pet them, Chuck and PJ did , I decided not to. But I did learn how to pet one though. Pet from head to tail. If you pet the other way, it is like someone bending your fingernails backwards, and it opens them up to disease and infection. Interesting, huh?

The night got cool quickly, I was smart enough to pack my flannel pink cloud pjs. Everyone else had shorts and Tshirts and here I am all nice and cozy! But Chuck had a nice fire going and it was great to enjoy it.

Chuck had gone out earlier to find more firewood, this time he came back with a root! Looking for firewood is so much better than paying for it, more exploration for me!

Roasted marshmallows, , finished a good book, trying to talk Chuck into another night. No one was ready to go home just yet.

Bedtime this time was later. Closed the windows this time, but left the canopy off. I wasn't nearly as cold as what I was the night before, still got to star gaze in the middle of the night and listened to the bugs before falling asleep.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Gee Creek Camping, here we come!

We left after my interview on Friday morning. I think I was so excited that I really didn't want to wait any longer.

So, we loaded up the truck with everything. Who would have thought that everything would fill up the bed of a full size pickup truck. Even the backseat was full!

We finally leave and realize that we forgot the plates. Ok, stop in Benton at Fred's, get plates and bowls. Got overcharged and had to wait for that to be fixed. Realized we forgot the hotdogs, go across the street to the IGA. We tend to forget that just a 20 miles outside of Cleveland that the culture is just a bit different. Saying uncivilized isn't nice, but very close.

Chuck went into the IGA, 2 men in front of him was having problems with the credit card machine and the cashier had no clue how to work it either. So, he calls the manager to help him. This isn't the worst of what Chuck witnessed. The next man gets to the cashier, pays with a $20, the cashier looked at him and said (no lie) "I ain't got no change." Call the manager again. Chuck gets up there and they overcharged him .80 for the hotdogs. OK, no biggie, this would have caused all kinds of problems and he decided not to worry about it. If the cashier doesn't know how to work a credit card machine, doesn't know how to speak correctly, then he wasn't going to worry about the money. Finally we get going, this should have been a sign of the way the rest of the day was going to be.

We arrived around 12:15 at Gee Creek and find a spot that we all could agree on. Now, I wanted a spot that was secluded and closer to the river, away from everything. That is the reason we went camping. Chuck picks the one closer the the bathrooms and I am glad he did. I hit the showers first and I don't have to start the truck in the middle of the night to find the bathroom. The only problem with this site, the camp next to us filled up with about 40 people and 8 is the maximum.

We get the truck unloaded.

Chuck and I get the tent set up and then fill the air mattresses. Yes, I know I was supposed to be "roughing" it, but if I have to sleep outside, it will be in comfort!

This was the view that I was forced to look at while here.

So, we get the tent set up, filled the mattresses, get everything made up and eat lunch.
The very first thing that the boys want to do is head to the river. Change clothes and head out to the Hiwassee River for some swimming.

The water was amazingly clear and so very cold. This lovely babbling river was perfect. Flat rocks to skip across the river, minnows and baby trout swimming close to the dock. It was so shallow that we could walk across the river if we wanted to. The rocks hurt! So we set up the chairs to relax and enjoy it.

We headed back to camp and the boys played on the playground, yes, Eric rode the ladybug. After loading the truck, unloading the truck, setting up camp, we sat back and relaxed for a while before getting dinner going. The boys wanted to head back to the river, so we let them for a little while. Eric took off with his bike, PJ walked beside him as they went down for a swim.

We sat back listening to our MP3 players and just enjoyed the quietness of nature. I decided to take a nice little walk, you know, check on the boys. This is where the day turns upside down for me.

Now some of you know bits and pieces of the story, but I will give you now the full account, as best as I can remember.

I head to the river and notice that the water had risen to a degree that was much higher and way faster than what I seen before. The currents were rushing faster than what I expected. I see that Eric's bike is out there by the tree, but neither boy is to be found. I yell and yell for them, but get nothing in return.

I hop on Eric's bike and race back to camp. Trust me, by the time I got back to camp, I was sucking wind! I was going as fast as my legs would take me, they gave out once on me, but I had to get there as fast as I could. I get back to tell Chuck, and this is what I get, "Calm down dear, they are fine. Don't worry about it." He doesn't know what I saw, and he didn't realize that I didn't take Eric's bike. Hence, I am going for a walk. He wanted to head back to see if we could find them. We did and nothing, no sounds, no one that was our children. I headed up the one trail, praying all the way, Please God don't take them from me now, and I don't know where Chuck went to, but all I know is that I came out of the trail and there was Chuck, "get in the truck." By now I am a nervous wreck, trying not to cry, but sometimes that doesn't work well.

We head to the Ranger's Station and Chuck explains to them what happened. She came out asking for descriptions, I can't even describe how I felt giving descriptions of my boys to someone. We described them and the search began.

We check the site, no boys, and head out to the river, no one there either. Once all the rangers were filled in, we had people asking us if they could help locate the boys. Now, at this point, I wasn't going to be any help to anyone, so the people stayed with me, and the others went on the search. This one woman got on her bike and was calling their names. Chuck was right behind her and he heard PJ laughing. All I remember is hearing that they found them, not yet knowing if they were ok or not, I had to ask that. A sense of relief washed over me that I nearly passed out. The Ranger told us they had to get a boat to get them, the water wasn't deep at all.

They were close to land, but just couldn't find a place that they couldn't climb up and get out. When Chuck took me to the spot, we had some kids offer to go in and show them how to get out. But since we already had the Rangers out looking for them, we told them that we appreciated it, but no. The next thing I remember is the boys coming down the path, right to the boat ramp to me. I couldn't be more relieved!

As we found out from Eric, PJ wanted to go swimming. We know that Eric would not swim in that water, he would have gone hiking instead. But, PJ being head strong, insisted that they go swimming. He lost his boogie board, because he did not want to put it on his wrist, then his shoe came off because he didn't want to put his Crocs on the right way, floated under a log and it was then that Eric realized that he had to save his brother. Eric was more concerned about saving PJ and not himself. He knew we would come, but they kept walking until they got to a point that they could climb and find a way out.

For me, this was an ordeal that I don't ever want to go through and I hate that any mother ever had to go through a missing child. It felt as if a part of me was torn out. The most horrific experience ever in my life.

Thankfully our boys are fine and only a few bruises and scratches. Mostly on Eric, but still, that is all that happened to them.

We headed back to camp for some dinner and relaxing after the ordeal. Chuck and Eric headed out after dinner for some firewood. We didn't see the pits when we came out to check out the sites, if we did, we would have packed wood with us.

Now I mentioned marshmallows to Chuck, I love roasted marshmallows and never cooked them over an open campfire, so, I was excited about him picking them up. They were out!

We got a small fire going and really enjoyed the it while resting. And then Chuck comes out around the corner with marshmallows on a stick!! I was so excited!

Early bed time for all of us, it was that kind of day! Sometime during the night, I couldn't sleep. I already had to go to the bathroom, and was cold. So while trying to fall back to sleep I was looking at the stars through the tent roof. Chuck insisted on not putting the canopy on, this may explain why I froze that first night. Around 4 or so, I heard the boys talking to each other, I made sure they knew it was too early and to go back to sleep.

I finally woke up around 7, hit the showers and start on our Saturday.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Our July 4th Fishing Expedition

This is the first year that Chuck and I are not having to work on July 4th. So, we decided to make the most of the day.

We got up early and made breakfast. I got the boys up, PJ got up and dressed without a complaint about the early hour. Eric on the other hand, "It's only 6:21!" Yeah, well, if you want to go fishing, you get up early.

We got out of the house by 7 and on the road. The fog was heavy, but the air was night and light. No humidity that early, no one on the road at that time either.

We went to the same spot as we did the last time, the northwest end of the Hiwassee River. The water wasn't as clear as it was where we were the other day. This is a boat ramp and it gets a lot of junk in the water too.

We get there and all set up, we tried artificial bait first

and Chuck went to retrieve his misplaced hook, line and sinker.

He finally got it back

PJ took his usual place on the dock, Eric was at the other end. Somehow I end up in the middle.

For a while, Eric and I had one little bait stealer. Fast too. Before we knew it, something took off with all the bait on the hook. We finally did catch it, at the end of the day, Eric's last fish.

Now, I won't bait my hook. I don't care how much fun it looks, I won't do it. So, I recruit Eric to help me with it

I caught the most today, 6 total for me, 12 total for all of us. I caught a few Blue Gill and then this grabbed a hold of my hook and took off swimming.

Most of the day was pretty quiet. It was morning and there were lots of boats out on the water, and lots more heading out. So, the day wasn't as good as the last time we went.

At one point this is what we hear from PJ, "I caught something and I can't reel it in!" Ok, this is shallow water, we know there isn't a killer fish out there, and everything else we caught the last few times have been small Blue Gill or small Big Mouth Bass. But, noooo, he had to out do me, he caught a Big Mouth Bass

He used artificial bait with this, like he knew what he was doing. The hook got caught in the gill, and the fish nearly swallowed the bait. It impressed me how Chuck got the bait out before it got swallowed

Yep, that is a keeper!

We brought our basket with us to hang in the water, tied it up to the dock and hoped for a few more for dinner.

The rest of the day was rather dead, rather aggravating too. We tried worms and artificial bait, a few Blue Gill and that was about it.

But one boater came in and asked us if we were fishing for food. Chuck told him that we have one, but if we didn't get another it was going back. They offered us their 2 that they caught, it wasn't enough for them, but they were gonna throw them back. We took them. Two very nice size bass. The one took PJ for a boat ride around in front of us, he loved it, and then back to fishing.

I think I missed one bass because I wasn't paying attention to the bobber, I was cleaning up my tangled fishing line. Oh well, it happens.

Our day was coming to an end, it was noon and we were hungry. I started cleaning up when Chuck pulls this one up

The first time catching a catfish with worm and hook. It was a little too small, so it went back

But he did think about keeping it.

One last try to get rid of the bait and up comes our bait stealer. Fiesty little thing too.

It was time to go. Too many boats around us to really catch anything else. It was nearly 1 and lunch passed us by. Time to go home and clean fish.

I let Chuck do all that. He cleaned them, gutted them, washed them out and I put them in the freezer. We have 3 very nice size bass for dinner when we catch another one.

I love fishing and the time that we are spending with the boys. There are so many slef-absorbed parents, they only have time for themselves and they seem to forget about the kids.

I would much rather be like we are now, paying the bills, spending good quality time with the boys, then to be working to the point we were working, 70 hours a week for Chuck, who knows the hours that I was gonna work, have the money to buy whatever we want, but no time with the boys. We have to have our priorities straight, we had kids to be parents to, not just someone that comes in and they only see for a few hours a week, or someone they only talk to 7 minutes a week.

This is why we did what we did, started a business to be on our own, but to be parents to our children.