Tag Archives: Asheville

Have I Changed?

4 Dec

My mom asked me a couple visits ago if I thought our move to Asheville had changed me.

It was hard for me to answer because I think I’m always changing all the time. I am nowhere near the person I was 10 years ago or probably even 10 minutes ago. Even though many times I feel like the same person I was at age six. These thoughts are both comforting to me and a source of anxiety at times.

But maybe what she was really asking was, “What do I feel Asheville has changed in me so far?” This is a question which I had no good answer to give her when she asked, but I’ve been thinking about it every day since then.

I think the best way to put it is, retreating to the mountains has made me retreat from the rest of the world as well. It’s amazing to me that after almost 33 years in one city, four months in another one makes me see Atlanta in a whole new light. While it is a pretty Southern town, it is also a busy, bustling city and part of the rat race. I think a country girl has always been inside me waiting to be let out. I am drawn to the Laura Ingalls Wilder/American Girl Doll (when they were about history)/Janette Oke types of stories, and now I’m trying to live a little bit more like that. I dream of heading more towards the ideas the Amish have, where mechanical technology is preferable to electrical. A deep rooting into the earth, a connectedness.

While my fondest memories of my childhood were running wild throughout our neighborhood with my friends, I didn’t have the stars. The city is so absorbing that even in the suburbs it is hard to see what’s going on in the universe. Here, I look up at the sky all the time and am falling in love with everything astronomy has to offer. Star myths of the past and space explorations of the future…

I’ve definitely been unhappy at times during this transition. I desperately miss my people in Atlanta. We had developed a really solid home base in Marietta the year that we were there in terms of homeschool and the YMCA and of course the friendships that we garnered throughout our years in ATL. Some of the things I’ve tried to replicate here so far have only disappointed me. But I’m not giving up. I gave myself a year to feel at home and I’m not even halfway there.

I worry about the boys not growing up in a neighborhood, especially since we homeschool, and if I can provide all that they need to have satisfying childhoods. But growing up in the country has its perks too, and I’m so excited for all the plans I have for our land. We planted some rose bushes yesterday, and it filled me with happiness to see our family work together to add beauty to the incredible nature that surrounds us here.

One step at a time!

IMG_20171203_181728_824A cute little bear we found in our front yard.

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The Move

7 Sep

The past three months I’ve been fixated on The Move. Our move last year was apparently just a mini-move taste to prepare us for this crazy move we call Asheville.

We came because of this (and a job with Blossman Services):

IMG_20170629_182549591 (1)The view from our property. The stargazing is amazing here on a clear night when the moon isn’t full.

And this:

IMG_20170904_221542_01The Craggy Garden Mountains are a 30 minute drive and a beautiful, short hike from our house. The winding mountain roads are pretty scary though! We were amazed at the bicyclists we saw going up the Blue Ridge Parkway.

 

But most of the time I’ve felt like this:

IMG_20170730_192732234_HDRDespite my wild eyes, these boys have been stellar through all this craziness — we’ve driven to and from Atlanta ~25 times over the last several months. This picture in particular was taken about an hour before I crashed after putting the boys to bed around 8pm.

This has not been the easiest few months of my life. Dave started his job about a month before I was able to move up with the boys and the animals. Once we were back together again our lives were consumed by unpacking and organizing our house. We also were going back to Atlanta every weekend for various goodbye parties and wrapping up loose ends. Now that we’re on the tail end of our move, I’m ramping up homeschool and other kiddo activities so we won’t be hermits (even though I just want to hibernate like a bear right now until I’m not so weary).

Relocating can be tough, but hey, the high is 70° today, and it’s only early September. Watch out Asheville weather, I may fall in love!

IMG_20170817_195651_960Serendipitous.

The Johnstons and Too Much #Vacay

16 Jun

IMG_20170603_094828_608We were all excited to head out to the sunny and hot beach for a week of relaxation.

However, our first beach trip in two years reminded me of the Berenstain Bears book I read to Walter recently, The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Vacation, a book I’ve had since I was a little girl, where Papa Bear envisions this glorious vacation for his family out in the woods, bought from a magazine ad. It doesn’t go very well, as you can imagine, but Mama Bear patiently takes pictures and remembers to bring along the canned food so they can at least eat. This was us in Florida a week ago, except I was Papa Bear. At least at the end of the story they always look back at the memories in the photographs and laugh.

I had blocked off time we really didn’t have to spend a few days in between jobs at the in-laws beach house in Longboat Key, FL. I wanted a break from our calendars and the planning and execution of my ever-increasing to-do list.

Before we could leave we needed to get some minor yard work done (the house is on the market today and we’ve been terribly busy doing home fixits!). Of course after that it took me much longer to pack than I had anticipated, and the drive took us 10+ hours. It was a big day of travel, and not so different from the two Saturdays before that we spent driving to and from house-hunting and brewery-enjoying in Asheville with both boys, and one time with Dave’s parents too!

We finally arrived around midnight and unloaded the car. Put the boys to bed. Unpacked. Settled down with a craft beer of course. At this point I was sincerely looking forward to some time at the beach the next day.

We woke up in the morning to gray skies and light rain. Mimi had a cold, so we were told to stay away, but we played in the surf anyway with her around lunch. She and Pop had flown down in her plane on Friday, the day before we got there, because the weather was supposed to be bad all weekend. It was nice to get out to the beach, and Walter loved the ocean. Afterward he showed off his new swimming skills at their pool. It’s so great to watch him swim like a fish!

IMG_20170604_111015683Rex’s first time at the beach!

IMG_20170604_112636596In his clothes don’t care!

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One look at the ocean horizon is instantly soothing to the soul.

IMG_20170608_190049239Replicating a 1985 photo of David and his dad.

Later, after a delicious nap, I woke up to “hurry up it’s dinner time.” We were supposed to go to dinner with the builders of Mimi and Pop’s beach home renovation. I had been loathe to have any plans the whole week, as my stress tank was quite full, but we happily got ready and into the car. When we arrived we found that the others had chosen a table with two benches. For a nursing mom, it’s necessary to have back support when you’re feeding your child, which I am known to do at the dinner table. And the builder and his wife had a 2 month old too! The restaurant had a little couch area by the elevators, and Rex and I kept the wife and her baby company for a bit over there. I found out through chatting with her that her best friend lives in Asheville, with whom she often visits and loves it up there. It was a good chat, and I’ve found that many people I meet or know have friends living in Asheville. That’s a good sign I think!

IMG_20170604_185213406Walter ate half my fish; it was yum.

Mimi left the next day to take Granny (her mom) to Granny’s brother’s funeral in Texas. The weather forced them to cancel, since they were going to fly the small plane, and good thing too because Mimi came down with a high fever and had to go to the hospital. She was tested and diagnosed with double viral pneumonia.

My mom had arrived at this point with her sweet dog Tashi. We went out to the beach after the rain stopped that afternoon, and we were greeted and attacked by a cloud of bugs at the dunes. There were definitely mosquitoes (hello Zika!) and something else that had white wings and hurt when it bit, maybe a flying ant? Sand fleas? I almost poked my eye out swatting them off when we got to the beach, and Dave did a great job keeping them off of Rex.

We then proceeded to play in the surf and my mom and I took a long walk while Rex slept in my arms. This was a glorious memory from the trip.

On the way back, we ran through the dunes to try to avoid the bugs, and then ran all the way to the street, yet I still had to swat them off of my mom and Rex literally the entire 10 minute walk home. They were trying to get at my mom through her shirt!

I must have gotten at least 50 bites over my entire body, but mostly on my lower legs. I have a very bad reaction to bug bites; if I scratch them they become huge and swollen. Like soft-ball size at times. Once during the summer before my senior year in high school, I was similarly attacked on the beach at night in Naples, FL and ended up being taken to the hospital by the Jewish mom next door “three calls away from the President” because I was down there without my mom and this lady was worried about me after talking to me out on our balconies — top floor pool view; — a couple steroid pills later I was fine.

Oh lordy did my legs itch for several days, and I knew better now than to scratch them. I woke up at 3:30am one night with my whole body on fire, and the best way I have discovered over the years to stop the itching, at least for a few hours, is to turn the shower as hot as I can stand it, and scald my skin where the bites are. It makes me too hot and feel sick when I do that, but cortisone cream only works for a little itch every now and again.

The fun times kept on coming. I felt like I did a thousand loads of laundry — everything was either wet or had throw up or sand on it! — and we still ended up going home with a trash bag full of wet and dirty clothes to do. The dishwasher also ran every day. I happily emptied it except the one morning everyone was sleeping in, and Pop unloaded it for us!

IMG_20170607_074035_616Rexy turned 5 months old! I had forgotten his special sticker tie so we had to improvise. I also left my hair straightener at home, which clearly is the best indication of the condition of my frazzled mind when we left.

IMG_20170606_161625010Mommy/boy pile.

My mom used the leftover vegetables from homemade pizza night (a tradition started in Longboat Key in 2012 with my good high school friend and her husband, who are finally having their first baby girl any day now!) and grabbed some chicken and sausage from Publix to make one of the most delicious pasta dishes I’ve ever had. We think it’s because she “burned” the onions during meal prep. A fortuitous mistake!

IMG_20170605_085456167We had some time to kill inside during all the rain. Walter created this awesome found object piece. We also watched WALL.E a lot!

IMG_20170606_132720_311Walter using his art to show what the storms were like at the beach. He got caught in the rain at least twice.

The storms got so bad at one point that I was literally walking around like a chicken with my head cut off, wondering where to go with the children to hide from the storm. Every wall seemed to be made of glass! It seemed like night outside although it was only late morning, and David was in the salle de bains and my mom was doing a sitting in her room. While hearing things whip around the house, wondering if a tree would come crashing through the wall of windows facing the canal, Dave came out to tell us where we should go and that a tree had fallen on the house. It turned out to be only one giant limb of this huge tree, and it crushed the edge of the roof, the solar panel pool heater pipes, a large portion of the fence, including part on the neighbor’s property, and also their new landscaping. The rest of the rotten tree was still standing, so Dave was worried about that falling too. Some other big trees came down in the neighborhood in the 50mph winds.

IMG_20170607_120957_179Our bedroom window.

IMG_20170607_131125024_HDRWatching the tree guys go to work.

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While Dave did his insurance claim/crisis handling, I put the baby down for a nap and my mom and I went to get our nails done. I thoroughly enjoyed the pedicure especially — I could get foot massages every day!

That night we took our folks out to dinner at The Beach House in Bradenton, a good 20 minute drive — oh, my guilt over how much time we spend in the car is heavy these days! Instead of having cocktails near the ocean, and sitting and staring at the view we tried so hard to get to to enjoy, since it was sunny for once, we sat inside in the AC with a minimal view, because it was too windy. Walter played in the surf both before and after dinner, totally soaking himself, and my mom bought him an awesome long-sleeve shirt. I really should carry around an extra set of clothes for all of us, not just Rex, these days.

IMG_20170607_200148_283Glorious boy in his element.

We stayed up late to make homemade peach ice cream, which my friend had done recently at our house on Memorial Day with the strawberries she and her kids had hand-picked. Because my mom insists on buying only organic food when she can, and we had stopped at Lane Southern Orchards for fresh peaches on the way down, the ice cream was heavenly. A redemption for my bad and sad mood.

IMG_20170607_214347228Some seriously good ice cream.

 

The rest of the short time we had down there was spent either getting tossed by the most violent waves I’ve ever seen in the Gulf, or “steaming” and “boiling” (per Walter) under the fierce Florida sun. The last day, before we drove back home, we went for a walk on the beach. Luckily Dave had left our second sunscreen bottle out on the beach the day before, because the sun had definitely decided to scorch away the storm clouds, and we needed to reapply (which later I think gave the baby a rash on his face from rubbing against me or his dad).

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Dave went back with the baby fairly quickly because he was worried about Rex overheating, and we needed to finish prepping for our departure. Walter had on a bathing suit, and I walked out in my clothes to bob in the waves with him. For a minute I thought Walter had a terrible sunburn, but it was only the reflection of his bright red life jacket, thank goodness. He did, however, have Mimi’s cold. I treated him to a ginger ale on the ride back, which he cuddled with while he took a nap. The ride home thankfully didn’t seem as long as the way down. When we got home, our pups and kitty were happy to see us after having been taken care of so faithfully by my BFF Jason.

IMG_20170608_191238683Looking rough on the last day, LOL.

In the midst of giant upheaval in our lives, moving away from everything we know and love, this really wasn’t quite the break I wanted. But it was still beautiful time with family, no matter what the difficulties!

Cheers to crazy memories!

Huuuuge News

26 May

This is one of my top five biggest announcements of all time:

We are moving to Asheville, NC in less than a month!

Woah. Just woah.

Some people move around a lot (or at least once!), but I have never lived anywhere but Atlanta, Georgia. Well, except when I was three — my first memories of life are out in the desert in Claremont, California. But everything else in my life has been right here in this metro area.

This is why my brain has been so frazzled lately. I am trying to live life to fullest, transition us up there in the next few weeks, and all while needing to keep the house clean and running after two tinys.

I thought we were done moving for a long time. We finally just got settled in the new house and were enjoying our suburban life as a family of four, when this opportunity came to us. It was literally only a couple weeks after I said to Dave and my mom, “I want to live somewhere besides Atlanta,” but I was thinking of something like Alaska or Canada. Thank goodness we’re only going to be three hours away by car, not six hours by plane. The Universe knew I didn’t really mean that far away.

I’m nervous, but also really excited.

IMG_20170520_221652_716Life will be like this all the time. #SierraNevadaBrewing

It now feels like moving to East Cobb was a baby step for this move. I was very happy to get where we are now, but it had its challenges. I was pregnant, feeling terrible, and spent a lot of time being lonely. Moving 30 minutes away at times felt like an entire state away. But I navigated (and cried) until I got to a place where the boys and I are happy and busy — almost too busy!

Besides uprooting the great life we have here and leaving our beautiful home and yard and all our friends and family, one of the things that makes me the most sad about leaving is the diversity of East Cobb. I have been very happy to be a part of a really diverse (and not just black and white too!) community over the last year. We are sometimes the only white people at an event, like story time at our local library. Asheville, unfortunately, is pretty white-washed. I know the mentality is open-minded there, but still. I like being in a melting pot of culture.

However, I feel in my soul that this is the right move for us right now. Dave is very excited about his new career path. We met our realtor — and so far our only friend in Asheville — through our current next door neighbor, who has been super great to us ever since we moved to Marietta. I’m a hippie at heart who cares more and more about the earth, and I love the artsy, green, sustainable, local culture up there. I’m looking forward to this next challenge and all the opportunities we’ll have. I’ll really miss where we are, but sometimes you just gotta take a leap!

 

A Little Mommycation!

3 May

A month ago I got to go on a little trip to Asheville, NC.

IMG_20170408_223427_508Yay don’t we look happy! I was actually a bit disgruntled until this picture because we hadn’t come up with a good plan of what we wanted to do and had pretty much aimlessly wandered around downtown Asheville to no avail. Thank god for the beautiful scenery.

This trip was a little present for surviving two whole weekends home alone with the kids while my husband traveled — once for work, and once for fun. I felt like SuperWife saying, “Yeah, no problem, go hiking with your friends out of cell phone range while I take care of the 4 year old and 2 month old!”

When W was three months old, I was barely able to make it outside to the front porch. It amazes me the difference in my ability to cope with a baby now versus then (though Rex’s personality is way more chill than W was as a baby). For example, we didn’t take Walter to a restaurant for dinner until he was six months old (and we were exhausted and overwhelmed by the experience). Rex, however, by three months old, had been in six different states.

Both weekends alone with the kids presented different challenges. The first weekend Dave was available by text and phone, but all grandparents were out of town, and I was also dog-sitting my mom’s sweet pups Tashi. Just to make life more fun, the dogs were throwing up around the house, the cat got a bladder infection, Tashi got a couple hot spots that needed frequent attention, and Rex had one of his worst night’s sleep ever. There might have been some crying around 3am one night, and it wasn’t the 2 month old.

The second weekend all grandparents were in town, and we hung out with them, but Dave couldn’t be reached 98% of the time. This is very unusual for us as we have seen each other almost every single day since we met (literally), and we also talk a lot anyway. I had an upsetting dinner Friday night, so I spent almost the entire weekend getting depressed and unable to talk it out with my husband. And then Sunday morning I started reading a really psychologically crazy book The Hike for our book club, making me further nosedive. It took me until Wednesday to get out of my funk.

Hence, a little trip for mommy.

IMG_20170409_113322_732 - CopyHoly crap the chicken and waffles are good at King Daddy’s. We both got the sweet potato habanero sauce on our chicken. Perfecto!

IMG_20170409_100446269Walter loved the crayon bucket.

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We returned to a “favorite” — Juicy Lucy’s — for dinner Saturday night. It was yum but the boys were tired (although cute as always).

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We really are mountain-loving people.

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Soothes the soul to see all this land.

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I wanted to go hiking before we came home. The views were fantastic, but I probably won’t be back to Chimney Rock again. I love climbing mountains, but this was a staircase bolted onto the side of a mountain. And you drive halfway up the mountain on harrowing roads just to get to the bottom of the staircase (which you pay a ton to “climb”). My fear of heights did not enjoy this very much. My legs and brain were jelly so the baby and I didn’t climb the last two staircases to the very top. But my other boys did!

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A boy and his American flag. He’s the most patriotic kid I know.

 

Mountain Bling

28 Oct

Walt and I went to music class last week after Dave and I got home from our retreat in North Carolina. I found out our music teacher, whom we love, was also in Black Mountain while we were there. She was at something called the Leaf Festival, where they play music, camp, join in on drum circles, and artists sell their wares. Sounds like a lot of fun, actually.

Adina brought back this very cool instrument that a man named Jonathan Rose had made out of used propane tanks. It makes a most beautiful sound. Who knew?

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I always love the small world feeling you get when you see all these coincidences in your life. My father is on the board of Blossman Gas, a fantastic family-owned propane business in the Southeast. I plan on at least attempting to connect these people together for retail purposes; it could be fun for them both!

And while Walter loves music class and has really blossomed there, Adina has played an even bigger role in our lives. I was struggling with Walter’s lack of talking and looking into speech therapy, but unsure if it was really necessary to spend the money when Walter seems so bright. I was on the fence of “every child develops differently” and “maybe he needs some help”. I mentioned this to Adina and she pushed me again to teach him sign language. My response was: I’ve tried a million times and he just smiles at me! But I’ll give it one more go I guess!

That week was the magic week. He picked up on signing a few words, and it must have flipped a switch in his brain. He went from 30 to 60+ words in the last couple weeks, copies sounds and words we make, speaks in phrases, and uses signs without prompting. He’s really getting it and it’s really fun to watch. I knew it was in there (I wasn’t worried about that part of it), but I wanted it to come out!

The best part has been when we went grocery shopping the other day, without any prompting ever on my part, he pointed to the wine section and said repeatedly, “Wine! Wine! Wine!” … That’s my boy!

“The opposite of spiritual is not material, but impersonal.” – Peter Hobbie

We left the baby and the Bible but brought the bourbon

27 Oct

Last weekend we had the pleasure of going on our church retreat in Black Mountain, North Carolina. I haven’t been on an overnight retreat since high school, and it was very fun to include alcohol in the mix. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect, and to be honest, I really enjoyed that it wasn’t too churchy. We had one session per day that lasted a couple hours, and it was more like Christian and life philosophy and discussion with 60 of my favorite people. I could have sat there chatting the whole weekend if the chairs had been more cushy.

Walt let us sleep in Friday morning, so we got a late start driving up there as we had chores to do before we could drop him off at my mom’s, and we also wanted to enjoy David’s day off work. The drive up to Asheville and beyond was gorgeous, though about halfway there David realized we hadn’t remembered to bring a Bible for the retreat. But we had made sure to have homemade snacks, wine, and bourbon! I have no doubt my priorities were clearly thought through. And of course we stopped for boiled peanuts as soon as we made it to the country.

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This guy’s Cajun-style peanuts were so good we stopped here on the way home too — in the front yard of the ACE Country Store up somewhere outside of the city.

We were going to arrive too late to make it to dinner at the lodge, so we stopped at Juicy Lucy’s in Asheville for a burger. They stuff their burgers with cheese (yum) and had great draft beer. It really felt like we were on vacation.

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We arrived at the lodge just as the first session was over, which was disappointing because it was about happiness, and I can always benefit from learning more about that. But we found our room, opened a bottle of wine, and sat out on rocking chairs on the front porch with good friends and a mountain breeze.

Our room, unfortunately, had two twin beds that were more similar to concrete slabs than to mattresses, and they were squeakier than a mouse being chased by a cat. This amused me since it was our first trip out of town without Walter (no sharing our room with a baby!), but we survived. Not all trips need to be super luxurious, just like they don’t have to be across the world to be interesting.

After lunch the next day we had lots of free time, which most people use to go hiking in the area. This was the main reason I didn’t want to bring a two-year-old (aka a slightly disobedient toddler), besides the fact that Dave and I seriously needed some adult-only time together. Our group walked a few miles from our lodge to the top of a cliff on Lookout Mountain, via a trail nearby. And we were greatly rewarded for our hiking efforts!

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The 360 views were spectacular.

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Saturday night they brought in a local storyteller. I thought half of her stories were really good. The last one really riled the kids up about a bear who liked to eat out of the nearby dumpster.

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On the way home Sunday we stopped again in Asheville for lunch at another yummy place, Wayside Village. Then of course back through the mountains and roadside art of North Georgia.  I thought this sign in particular showed a good sense of humor.

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I wanted to stop at every flea market, thrift store, and art stand on the way back, but we were in a hurry to get home to Walt. So we only stopped at one where this guy painted old window frames with rural scenes. I didn’t buy anything but I loved his art. I’ll have to get something next time.