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Friday, December 9, 2011

Remembering Victims at Christmas

Remembering Victims at Christmas....

My husband, Ed, and I recently attended the Wellspring Living Gala. I have served on the Wellspring Living board for over ten years. Since 2001, Wellspring Living has partnered with other organizations to provide a safe place for hope and healing for victims of childhood sexual trauma, including sex trafficking.

Wellspring Teacher sharing stories. 
The purpose of this year's event was specifically to raise awareness and funds for the education portion of Wellspring Living's Victory Program for Girls. Education is a tool that builds self-confidence. Through a partnership with The Campus, the Wellspring Living Girls, earn credits that count toward graduation. Girls are motivated to learn by experiencing successes via a personalized curriculum which utilizes their strengths.  A good education ensures that the girls can become self supporting and have successful futures.

Table Centerpieces focus on education. 
Wellspring President, Mary Frances Bowley, far left,
in panel discussion with Wellspring Living Staff
Wellspring Living is also working to open a non-residential program, which will provide a safe learning environment for sex trafficking victims who do not require residential care. A day school will enable Wellspring Living to provide educational and therapeutic services, in a cost effective manner, for even more girls.  

Gala Guests were invited to "Take a Walk" through the story of how 12- year-old Angela, was lured into sex trafficking. Pimps are skilled at taking advantage of vulnerable children. The story was told via placards, representing the voices of Angela, a Narrator, and a Wellspring Living Teacher.
Introduction to the placards, color coded by speaker.
Angela is represented in each vignette by her purple backpack. 
Angela shares that her parents are uninvolved in her life,
and that she is being abused by her uncle.
Angela's room
Vulnerable, Angela is approached by a pimp while she is waiting for a bus.
The pimp flatters Angela, and seems to "understand her better than anyone ever has."
Angela falls for his charm and his promises. 
Angela discovers to her horror that the pimp's promises and gifts have strings attached.
Before long, Angela is being held captive, and raped for profit 8-10 times a day. 
Angela is rescued, and is thriving in the Wellspring Living Program. 
Wellspring Living's comprehensive program addresses the needs of body, soul, and spirit, to provide hope, healing, and a bright future for trafficking victims.
Individualized learning plans provide positive, successful educational experiences for the girls in Wellspring Living's Victory Program.
As you are enjoying the excitement of Christmas, please don't forget the less fortunate. Remember the one hundred plus children per day who are raped for profit in Georgia. Remember the hundreds of girls, and boys, already identified by law enforcement as victims, who are on the streets because there are no available beds in juvenile detention facilities, or safe places like Wellspring Living. During the Christmas Season, out of gratitude for your own family, will you consider a year end gift to Wellspring Living, to help victimized children? If we each give even a little bit, we can help a lot more kids! Thank you for your consideration.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Monday, November 21, 2011

V.V.B.C. 2012 Book Club Reading List (Jan-June)

UPDATE: I am in the process of launching a new website that will be a resource for finding and sharing family traditions. Please sign up to be notified when it launches!
Thank you!

For those of you who are new to the Vicarious Virtual Book Club, or V.V.B.C: This is an online "book club" that follows the reading selections of my "real" book club. This group allows the opportunity for anyone to have a book club experience without actually having to GO to book club! You can enjoy reading the books, hearing about the "real" book club's discussions, and commenting on books, if you desire.

You may enjoy the Vicarious Virtual Book Club wherever you are--no traveling to meetings! If you want to come to online book club meetings in your pajamas, feel free! No worries about what to wear! No membership requirements! No rules!

The V.V.B.C. is simply an opportunity to share your love of books with other like-minded individuals. This online book club blog gives you a place to interact, discuss, comment, and question. Anyone is welcome to join in.

My "real" Sister Chicks book club is also a very informal group. People come when they want, read the books they want, and participate in the discussions--or not! We have an average of about 15 at each meeting.  Some people come regularly, while others come only occasionally.

The Sister Chicks had a great list of proposed books from which to choose our next books! Each person who wants to make a suggestion, or two, has the opportunity twice a year. We present our book nominations briefly, then each of us votes for our 6 favorites. The top six vote-getters win.

We selected 5 books outright. The sixth selection ended as a tie. We agreed that one of those two sixth place books will be on our list, and the other will be the first book for the Sister Chicks' reading list for the second half of next year.

I don't post any discussion about the books for the Virtual Book Club until after my "real" book club has discussed the book. Here's the schedule for for the first half of 2012!

January 16    Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

February 13  Nearing Home by Billy Graham

March 19      Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff

April 16        Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly

May 21         Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

June 18         Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs


I probably LISTEN to about half of my book club selections on my iPhone. I download them from Audible. If you would like to hear audio samples of any of these selections, or get more information about Audible books, please click on one of the Audible links in the right border. 

Our nominated books were widely diverse, and there were a number of them that sounded really good. I'm sure I'll be reading some of our "runners up!" I will list all of the nominated books, and all of our previously read books, on a separate blog entry soon, for those of you who might be interested! 

Hope you'll join us for some discussions! HAPPY READING! 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Welcoming Christmas in Hawkinsville

Welcoming Christmas in Hawkinsville

One of the things I like best about speaking for groups and retreats is meeting new friends! Last week I had the opportunity to share about my Nativity Collection in Hawkinsville, Georgia, at the Hawkinsville Garden Club's Nativity Luncheon. This fund-raiser helps the Garden Club fund various projects for the city. This Hawkinsville Garden Club has accomplished an impressive list of projects, and they have a number of projects in the works.

My friend and mountain neighbor, Ann Platz, (who was responsible for arranging this speaking engagement), and I, went to Hawkinsville a day early, to bask in gracious Southern hospitality at Opal Wilcox's lovely home on the Ocmulgee River. Opal and her son took us to dinner, at the local steak house, and by the end of the night, after lots of stories, it was hard to believe Opal and I hadn't been friends for years!

The next morning, while eating the sumptuous breakfast Opal prepared, the power went off! Fortunately, our food was cooked we were already dressed for the day! I showed Ann and Opal how to pull the emergency cords to disengage the garage doors from the electric openers, to raise the doors manually. We got the cars out, and headed for the fundraiser!

The lovely Clubhouse at Southern Hills was beautifully appointed with Nativities, and Christmas greenery. Each table's hostess featured Nativities as centerpieces. It was fun seeing the variety of decorations. There were some very lovely Nativity Figures and Sets. Although I have over 200 Nativities in my collection (many of which are small), I did not have any like those on display.

Signing two books that feature my stories, to benefit Wellspring Living,
an organization that confronts sexual abuse, and the forced prostitution of children.
Clubhouse at Southern Hills Golf Club, Hawkinsville, GA.
My hostess, Opal Wilcox's table, with several of her Nativity Sets.
Other tables and nativities are visible in the background.
Jim Shore's "The Journey That Changed the World" decorated one of the tables.
I'd never seen this set, in which Mary is depicted as an expectant mother!
Some of my small nativities. The tiny Guatemalan set, center front, started the collection.
Display with photo illustrations of two of my published stories.
Maasai Nativity from Kenya, Africa.
Photo of mother and child, dressed similarly, whom we met on our visit to Kenya. 
My largest Nativity Set, and one of my favorites!
I signed books after the luncheon, then did another book signing at Kimberly's Fine Antiques and Gifts, downtown. Kimberly's, owned by Jill Niblett is full of "treasures!" The shop with its beautifully restored, built-in fixtures, looks like it would be right at home in New York City! Jill and her father undertook the restoration in memory of her mother. If you're on I-75 near Perry, it's well worth the extra 20 minute drive to visit Jill's shop in Hawkinsville!

I enjoyed meeting many of the Hawkinsville Garden Club ladies, and their guests, and look forward to visiting Hawkinsville again, SOON! Thanks for having me!

(NOTE: I will be doing book signings to benefit Wellspring Living in December 2011. Currently, I am scheduled for Thursday, December 15th, from 4-7 at the Wellspring Treasures Store's Kennesaw location. I will post other dates as I get them. Please let me know if you'd like to order either the hardcover Chicken Soup for the Soul Gift of Christmas--$20, or Chicken Soup for the Soul Answered Prayers--$15. I will be glad to personalize the books.The full amount goes to Wellspring Living, when purchased from me, or from the Wellspring Treasures stores. Thank you!)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

San Antonio: The Venice of Texas

San Antonio: The Venice of Texas

Ed and I just returned from a wonderful weekend in San Antonio! I had been hearing, and reading, about San Antonio and the River Walk for years--and, of course, knew about the Alamo--but had never been to that part of Texas. The purpose of our trip was to see Blake's football team, the Georgia State Panthers, play the University of Texas San Antonio's Roadrunners. It was the perfect opportunity for a mini-vacation!

Ed had a last minute conflict, so I ended up flying to San Antonio a day before him, since we had a room for Thursday. I arrived mid-morning at The Riverwalk Vista, a 17-room hotel in an historic warehouse building. I was able to check into my room early, so I shed my luggage, picked up brochures and maps, and headed out to explore the city.
View from Riverwalk restaurant. The bridges reminded me of Venice, Italy.
Since our hotel was on the River Walk, I started there. I was thrilled to find a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory directly across the river! I immediately purchased several decadent-looking chocolates to save for later. I wandered through the shops and restaurants on the river, for several blocks in each direction, then hopped a city bus to the Historic Market Square. I enjoyed "people watching" as I perused arts and crafts from local artists, as well as from Mexico, and Central and South America. I bought a Mexican tin Nativity Set in a small tin box.
Mi Tierra Cafe and Bakery, adjacent to the Market Square, had been recommended to me by a Georgia State fan at the Quarterback Club Luncheon. I enjoyed a late lunch there. I chose the Chilaquiles Famosos from the breakfast menu, which I am going to attempt to duplicate at home! Everything was delicious! (Crisp corn tortilla strips scrambled with eggs, topped with ranchero sauce and aged melted cheddar cheese, served with refried beans, tortillas, and Carne de Puerco en Chile Cascabel--pork tips in red sauce.) I had excellent service from the wait staff, was serenaded by roving musicians, and enjoyed amiable conversation with diners at adjacent tables.

Mi Tierra Musicians
Mi Tierra also has a bakery. The display cases were filled with a wonderful assortment of Mexican pastries and candies. Again, I chose several of their sugary treats to take with me!

I arrived back at The Riverwalk Vista just in time for their freshly baked afternoon cookies. After a brief rest, I walked to tour the restored buildings in San Antonio's first neighborhood, and visit The Shops at La Villita Historic Art Village. I also saw the Arneson River Theater.
Mustang Grey's My favorite shop in La Villita
I ate Mi Tierra leftovers for supper in my hotel room, then pulled out my chocolates and pralines, and indulged in my own private "Sugar Coma Tour of San Antonio!" (I've been trying to attend a Broke Socialite Sugar Coma event in Atlanta for two years, but keep missing them due to conflicts!) This stash of candy lasted for four days! I rationed it, and did not eat it all in one sitting--just so you know! LOL!
My goodies from Mi Tierra and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Shop!
Clockwise from top left: Coconut praline, caramel type fudge,three-layered liqueur truffle,
champagne truffle, pecan praline, and a square of chocolate covered toffee
Early Friday morning, as I was dressing, I realized I had left all of my pants, except for some leggings, hanging in my closet at home! OOPS! That meant I wore black leggings with everything the entire weekend (which worked well with my black cowgirl boots!)

When Ed arrived, we set out on foot for The Alamo. We took a self-guided audio tour of The Alamo, then walked to the River Walk and had some appetizers while sitting by the River, to tide us over till our evening reception.
Ed and Jamie at the Alamo!
Supper was a reception hosted by the Georgia State Alumni Association at the Rio Rio Cantina on the River Walk.

Beverly Hogan and Jamie Wyatt with Carolyn Curry at Alumni Reception

(Note my leggings and cowgirl boots! LOL!) Photo by Amanda Scott

After the reception, we took a barge tour of the river, then got a bird's eye view of San Antonio from the top of the Tower of the Americas.
Alamo Dome from the Tower of the Americas
Saturday Morning, we attended the Georgia State Alumni Association Brunch at the Hyatt Regency, then we boarded a bus for the game at the Alamo Dome. Unfortunately, the Panthers lost in overtime.

Ed and I waited to see Blake after the game, then went back to the River Walk to eat supper, Ed paid a Mexican quartet to serenade us with a love song. After supper, we watched the Coffin Parade on River Barges, in honor of Halloween, and Mexico's Dio de los Muertos (or Day of the Dead.) Then, after walking around the city for a bit, it was back to our hotel to pack for our 6 a.m. flight home.

Video of Coffin Parade on Barges, River Walk, San Antonio, TX 

We had a wonderful weekend eating Tex-Mex across San Antonio. Our hotel location on the River Walk was perfect--a block from the Alamo, and a half a block from the team's hotel, where we ate and caught the bus to the game. Ed especially enjoyed learning more about the history of San Antonio and the Alamo.

San Antonio was clean, safe, and a lot of fun! Prices were reasonable. Dinner at Casa Rio, the oldest restaurant on the River Walk, was less than $20 total--for more food than the two of us could eat! We'd love to visit San Antonio again! In the meantime, I'm ordering more candy online!

Video of our view While Eating Supper on the River Walk at Casa Rio

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

More Rabun Ramblings!

More Rabun Ramblings!*

A group of 36 adults from First Baptist Peachtree City had a fabulous 3 day fall retreat at McAfee Mountain (located at Andy's Trout Farm), near Dillard, Georgia. Sonya, Paula, and Diane tailored our event to meet our needs, and made sure we all felt like "family!"
Visiting in front of the fireplace in the Lobby area
We left Peachtree City Sunday after lunch at church and arrived at McAfee Mountain about 4 p.m. After quickly shedding our possessions in our rooms, a decent contingent of folks undertook the task of fishing for our supper! The Andy's Trout Farm staff cleaned our catch, and an hour later, we were enjoying freshly fried Georgia mountain trout, with coleslaw and hushpuppies!
Fishing at Andy's Trout Farm's beautiful mountain setting!
After supper, our speaking tag-team was Laurie Altieri and Barbara Woodall, long-time friends, who worked together on the world-renowned Foxfire books. Foxfire revolutionized learning by sharing the methods honed through publishing a student initiated magazine

Laurie and Barbara were among the first Foxfire students. They worked for Foxfire briefly after high school, and now Laurie is back working with Foxfire at their museum. 

Laurie passionately shared background on the Foxfire program, and how the Foxfire class impacted both Barbara and herself. Laurie shared lots of information and fun facts about the Foxfire Museum & Heritage Center, where Foxfire students used book royalty funds to purchase property, then moved and restored over 20 historic buildings, representative of Appalachian life in the late 1700's through the 1800's. This session was designed to give everyone background information for our Foxfire Museum tour on Tuesday. 

Barbara spoke with enthusiasm about growing up in Rabun County, her relationships, and the simple pleasures she enjoyed. Barbara has recently published the regional bestseller It's Not My Mountain Anymore, which she signed and personalized for purchasers.

Barbara's talk was seasoned with colorful colloquialisms. She kept telling us, "I ain't no preacher," but her strong faith and her interpretations of Scripture, left no doubt that she is a FINE preacher! Watch the video, and decide for yourself! 

Barbara Woodall, author of It's Not My Mountain Anymore

We did an evening devotion about the Jewish concept of Kehillah Kedoshah--a sacred, intimate community of faith. We purposed to get to know each other better during this trip, and take the concept home with us. Everyone took a treasure from the pirate treasure chest as a reminder of the many "treasures," including relationships, with which we are already blessed, and the need to continue to store up "treasures in heaven."

After Monday morning's continental breakfast at McAfee Mountain, about half our group joined me in stretching and exercising to praise music. Our morning devotion time explored the JOY of the Lord, and everyone took another treasure from the treasure chest as they left.

Part of the group departed for the shops of Dillard, the rest enjoyed a leisurely morning. We all met up for a veritable Southern feast, served family style, at the Dillard House for lunch. 
One of four tables at the Dillard House
We all received Dillard House buttons and discount coupons.
(The "gold coins" necklace was part of the treasure from our weekend's "PirateTheme.") 
Because I saw an ad in last month's Georgia Mountain Laurel for The Whistle Stop Mall in Franklin, after lunch, part of our group went shopping there! The rest of the group enjoyed relaxing at McAfee mountain, and hiking to a waterfall. 
The Rock House Waterfall, where Cherokee Indians hid out during the Trail of Tears.
After a "souper" supper at McAfee Mountain, we  enjoyed learning some of the basics of square dancing from veteran caller, Jerry Cope. 
Circling Left
After square dancing, we did sparklers, roasted marshmallows, and made s'mores, then fell into bed, happily exhausted! 
Tuesday morning we had breakfast, did early morning exercise and stretching, then had our morning devotion about personal renewal. We took our last "daily treasure" from the pirates' chest, then packed up to leave. Several of us would have loved to stay on at McAfee Mountain! 

We struck out, during a steady drizzle, for O'sage Market for produce, then on to the Foxfire Museum. We were able to enjoy picnicking on Subway, and delicious desserts from Linda's Sweet Treats and Antiques, while seeking shelter from the rain under the porches of some of the Foxfire buildings. (Linda's Caramel Cake is my favorite, along with her chocolate peanut butter no bake cookies--just like Mama used to make!) 

This porch offered shelter for our picnic!

Roy Kilgore tries out the coffin in the church. 
After a stop for apples, jellies, and jams at Hillside Orchard, and a brief looking and shopping stop at the Tallulah Point Overlook, the group headed South toward home. I was able to stay and enjoy one more day of fall color in the mountains of Rabun County!

Hillside Orchard's fruit breads make THE WORLD'S BEST French Toast!

Click Here for an Album with More Photos.

*First Baptist's Pre-school Pastor, Charleen Smith's help was invaluable, as was Roy Kilgore's, and bus driver Bracken Stubbs! Thanks, y'all! 

Charleen's Photo Album

*Special thanks to Teka, from the Rabun County Convention and Visitor's Bureau, for all your help planning our trip, and for the "goody bags." (FYI--In addition to all the aforementioned places, we bought gasoline, visited drug and grocery stores, and shopped at assorted other businesses. Rabun County is a GREAT place to visit and live, and, personally, Rabun County is my favorite place in the world!) 

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Friday, October 7, 2011

Growing Up In A Magical Place: Fernandina Beach

Growing Up In A Magical Place:
Fernandina Beach 

ONCE UPON A TIME, longer ago than I like to admit, (actually, over sixty years ago), and not so very far away, there existed a magical place in which to live and grow up, called Fernandina Beach. Fernandina to the locals.

Fernandina is on Amelia Island, which is Florida's northernmost, east coast barrier island. The sun rises over the Atlantic Ocean and sets over the St. Mary's River. You can look across the river, from the docks downtown, and see GEORGIA! (This was amazing to me as a child, since Georgia was a different state and seemed far away!)
View looking down Centre Street in Fernandina
Photo by
Sixty plus years ago, Fernandina was a sleepy, small town. Doctors made house calls. Dry cleaning was delivered to your home. The Fuller Brush Man visited regularly with free samples. Doors were left unlocked. 

With drug stores, barber shops, clothing stores, a shoe store, office supplies, bakeries, hardware stores, a movie theater, jewelers, a bowling alley, grocery stores, gas stations, and a hospital, we had pretty much everything we needed without ever having to leave the island! 

Lots of children knew each other almost from birth, since many of our parents also grew up together. Some families had lots of relatives in the area. New girls and boys moved to town. Over time they became "old friends," as well, through interactions in our neighborhoods, churches, scout troops, clubs, sports, and schools. 

As children, we could ramble and explore for hours, because our parents knew everyone we were with, and their parents. My mother knew exactly where I'd been before I even got home to tell her!

We played in the park across from the junior high. We played tennis on the public courts. We walked or rode our bikes to buy penny candy from E-Z Pic, GW's, and Hall's Store. We rode our bikes to swimming lessons and "public swims" at the pool at the Recreation Center. When we got tired of swimming, we put peanuts in a bottle of Coke for a snack. We also had ceramics classes and "Sub-Teen" Club at the Rec Center.

We spent Saturdays, and lazy summer days, walking downtown for comic books and 5¢ Cokes, or 6¢ Cherry or Vanilla Cokes, from Gene's, or 10¢ ice cream cones from Waas' Drug Store. (Ice Cream cones were free from Waas' if you had a prescription for an ice cream cone from Dr. Stewart, our dentist, for having a good dental check up.)

We went to Becker's after school for Cokes with half-orders of french fries, or, when they had a promotion, we popped a balloon to try to get a banana split for a penny! (Prices ranged from 1-39 cents.)

We played outside till after dark, and our two favorite outdoor events were: (1) the Ice Cream Man and (2) the Mosquito Control truck's spraying, so we could get lost in the fog.

Fernandina Beach
Photo by
We walked to the beach with friends, where we jumped waves, rode rented rafts, balanced on skim boards, and surfed on longboards. When we were thoroughly parched, we sought hydration from public water fountains, where the water was HOT, or at the Golden Sands, Moore's, or the Blue Seas which had a walk-up service window on the beach!

We gathered sand dollars, conchs, whelks, angel wings, fingernails, and other shells by the hundreds. We ran through the head high foam on the beach. We tumbled head over heels, not knowing up from down when rogue waves surprised us, knocked us down, and washed us to shore. We got up sputtering and coughing and ran right back into the ocean!

We harvested sea oats for dried flower arrangements. We trudged up and raced down the multiple layers of sand dunes that lined North and South Fletcher, and the Fort Clinch Road, before Hurricanes Donna and Dora took most of them out.

We played Putt-Putt, jumped on the trampolines, ate snow cones, went skating, and played pinball at Main Beach. When we got our driver's licenses, we endlessly circled town and the beach.

Starting in junior high, we had beach parties with bonfires. (Of course, that was before there were turtle patrols, condos, The Amelia Island Plantation, The Ritz Carlton, the park at Peter's Point, or the multiple public beach accesses.)

The PTA had Halloween Carnivals under the bleachers at the city football field and there were Friday night high school football games at the same location. On the 4th of July, the Kiwanis Club hosted their annual fireworks and charity auction at the football field. (My Daddy served as auctioneer!)

After the Quonset hut movie theater by the water tower downtown closed, our only movie options were the Reef drive-in theater at Five Points or occasional movies at church youth group events. We also had hayrides, Shrine parades, and Shrimp Boat races for additional entertainment.

When our Girl Scout troop camped at Fort Clinch, we chopped trees for firewood, with hatchets, and used our Girl Scout knives to cut palmetto fronds for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. No tree-hugging rules to worry about back then! We had great and scary adventures searching for alligators at Willow Pond.

"Gator Shining" on Egan's Creek--i.e. searching for the red reflection of alligators' eyes as we shined flashlights back and forth across the creek--was always a "must do" with out of town friends. I remember shrieks of fear and laughter as we fed the gators marshmallows from the dock, or from a boat when we were able to sidle up alongside them! Fiddlers scurrying around our feet and a myriad of waterbirds swooping out from under the boathouse unexpectedly kept our adrenaline pumping!

We went "sand surfing" and "dune buggy" riding on the huge dunes at the Fort. We could still get down into the entrance of a tunnel, and into the ovens, when we played "hide and seek" and "Sardines" at Fort Clinch! We also played Sardines at First Baptist Church, and enjoyed breathtaking views of town and the river from the third story roof!

We grew up doing a lot of things that are no longer considered safe, politically or socially correct, or environmentally sound. All those things were a LOT of fun, though! Fernandina was truly magical in "the olden days." It still is magical; just different now.

For the last 17 years**, a core group of nine "girls" have gotten together at a rented beach house to enjoy the beach and reminisce about "the good old days." Other friends join us periodically at the beach and about town.

In addition to this being our tenth year at the beach, it was also our 40th Fernandina Beach High School Class Reunion weekend, and I wanted to memorialize our beach weekend with some professional photos.

My new friend, Libby Wilkes, of Elizabeth Wilkes Photography, came out to the beach to capture some memories for us. The photo below is my favorite. I was already a fan of Libby's work, after receiving one of her photo books as a gift, and seeing her studio's beautiful video of the island.

Beach Chicks--Ten Years at the Beach & 40th High School Reunion
Photo by
If you have even one good, "old friend," you are rich, indeed! My Fernandina friends and I are fortunate to have so many long-term friendships. We're finding, as time goes on, it takes a group effort to remember the details of our joint history! It takes a long time to grow "old friends!" I am blessed!

Love to all my friends, OLD and NEW! (As we used to sing in Girl Scouts:
"Make new friends, but keep the old; One is silver and the other gold!)

**UPDATED 2018: 2014 was our 13th "Beach Chicks Reunion." Sadly, we lost "Little Lucy" Mierzejewski, far right in the photo, in 2014. A number of us still gather for our annual Beach Chick's weekend every year!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Life in the Fast Lane! A Visit to Atlanta Motor Speedway

Life in the Fast Lane!
A Visit to Atlanta Motor Speedway

Pleasant temperatures and overcast skies set the stage for the JOY Group's monthly excursion for September. We took a tour of the Atlanta Motor Speedway, which I highly recommend. It is a bargain at only $5.00, with organizer and bus driver getting in free!
AMS Entrance
Our tour guide, David, gave us a very informative "behind the scenes" tour that included visits to Pit Row, the Finish Line, Victory Lane, the garages, and one of the deluxe suites that overlooks the finish line, and two (fast) laps around the track. Actually, we drove around more, because David let us take pictures several places. 

David, who also served as our driver, assured us that he never drives over 65 m.p.h. on the track, and we certainly don't want him to get into trouble for breaking any rules! I'm sure it was probably just the angle from which we passengers were viewing the gauge, but I thought I saw 85 on the speedometer, before I started watching the wall rushing toward me from the front passenger seat. Jim, First Baptist Peachtree City's Discipleship Pastor, thought he saw 95! 

Whatever the speed, it was plenty fast, and more than exciting enough for me! The banking feels pretty drastic when you're going slowly, but as you pick up speed, it's less obvious. Riding around the track was fun, and David kept us entertained! He told stories, and patiently answered all our questions.  

Going around the track at Atlanta Motor Speedway at almost a hundred miles per hour wasn't on my "Bucket List," but maybe it should have been! As we started picking up speed, my adrenaline kicked in, and the trip started to seem a little risky, even though I felt fairly safe. 
My finger was in the way as I turned around to take the photo. Note passengers leaning!
Picking up speed, and headed up the slope on the curve! 
I don't have any desire to take that same trip at speeds of well over 170 m.p.h., like the NASCAR drivers, which puts them around the track in less than a minute! If I ever change my mind, though, there are options to pay for the experience of taking a ride with a race car driver, or of taking driving lessons with the Richard Petty Driving Experience

We found out there is going to be a Christmas Light Display at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It is 1.7 miles of lights, and the charge is only $15.00 per vehicle. I think that's going to be our JOY outing for December! Stay tuned! 

Mural and Photo Display in Elevator Lobby.
There were clouds painted on the ceiling, and a #3 in the clouds....

Finish Line! 

Under the stands, which seat over 120,000!

View from Suites
Link to more Photos from the JOY Trip.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Things—(and People)--We Overlook

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Things—(and People)--We Overlook

(Warning: this blog entry starts out lightly but ends on a somber note.) 

I had an “aha moment” last week as I was leaving my hair appointment.
Approaching my car, I observed a lovely budding/flowering tree that was shading my parking space.  As I was unlocking my car door, I wondered what kind of tree it was. Suddenly, a gust of wind brought me face to face with a cluster of leaves/buds that were hiding a bug! I realized if I had not been forced to look closely at the leaves, as the branch hit me in the head, I would have missed the bug! I took pictures to keep as a reminder.
I think this is a stink bug. Am I right?
The cluster that "slapped me in the face!" See the bug?
Any idea what kind of tree this is? I've gotten conflicting opinions!
I was literally “smacked in the face” by the realization that there must be an amazing number of things I miss, simply because I don’t always pay attention to details. It’s certainly easy to miss little things if you’re distracted. My "bug moment" was a reminder to stay focused, stay observant, and stay “in the moment.” 

That lesson was brought home to me again as my friend, Sally Belveal, and I were in Rabun County, hoping Sally would be able to see some bears. We patiently sat by the windows. We even flipped the floodlights on several times, to see if we could catch a glimpse of any bears. No bears the first night. We did see a fox, prowling around a tree! It was the first time I’ve seen a fox in the mountains. If we had not been intentionally looking, by occasionally turning on the lights, we would never have known it was there.

See the fox standing up on the left side of the tree. 
We arose the next morning before 6 a.m. to continue our bear vigil. We kept watch continuously for several hours. No bears. We watched on and off during the day, knowing if we didn’t keep watch, we would miss them. I saw a mama deer with her spotted fawn, but no bruins.

At 5 p.m., we began another dedicated vigil, not moving from the windows for 2 hours. I finally got up and fixed eggplant Parmesan with eggplants from O’Sage, and tomatoes and peppers from our friend, Bobby Suggs, while Sally continued our vigil. We had just helped our plates, and seated ourselves back by the windows to eat, when I caught a glimpse of something in my peripheral vision moving almost behind me.

I turned, and loudly whispered to Sally, “BEAR!” It took her a moment to realize what I meant and look in the right direction. As we watched, a mama bear with two cubs proceeded to explore the area and forage for food. We were able to watch them for twenty minutes! Yet again, if I had not looked down from the second story window, during the twenty minutes the bears were there, we would have missed them!

The next morning, we did another early two hour vigil with no bear sightings.  Afterward, we proceeded to clean and pack up for our return home. Periodically, as we passed through the living area, Sally and I would glance hopefully out the windows. At about a quarter till 8 a.m., I looked out and saw the bears! We were able to observe them for two minutes, until a noise startled the babies and they quickly ran up two trees! As you can see below, they climbed really HIGH, in less than three seconds. When they came down, they quickly disappeared into the National Forest. What a blessing to observe God's creatures in the wild--and we could so easily have missed that two minute opportunity! 

To share a heavier twist on my musings about overlooking "things," I thought of the people whom I've also been guilty of overlooking (the homeless, the mentally ill, prostitutes, etc.) I remembered how stunned I was when I first realized that the prostitutes who were eating supper at my table were "normal girls"--just like my daughter and nieces! I realized with conviction that if my own circumstances had been different, I could easily have been in the same situations as the girls whom I have befriended through Wellspring Living. (It is a myth that most prostitutes "choose" to stay in that lifestyle!) 

Recently, after hearing the statistic that '100 young girls are sold for sex each night in Atlanta,' a friend emphatically told me that she doesn't want to know any more details about child sex-trafficking in Atlanta. She said if she knows about it, she'll have to do something about it. 

I responded, "That's the idea." But, I didn't push it. I understand that it IS easier to ignore the things that make us uncomfortable. Child sex trafficking is ugly. Abused children, adult prostitutes, the homeless, the addicted, the mentally ill, the poor, and others in need are waiting--helplessly and hopelessly--for us to stop overlooking them. We need to help them. It's What Jesus Would Do....

(Contact Wellspring Living, on whose board I serve, for more information on Child Sex Trafficking. Or contact me: Jamie Wyatt