Thursday, January 21, 2010

Out With the Cold, In With the Cold

My alarm went off at 2:45 a.m. as we were planning on leaving the house at 4:00 for our first Christmas away from home in years. The first time was at the birth of my first nephew in 1974, this was also my first time seeing snow....not a good one (read about it in my blog "Purpose For Everything Under The Sun"). With the vehicle loaded, we pulled away at 4:12 and Mama, Meister, and I set out on what looked to be an "interesting" trip. Mama always says a prayer first before we never know what is lurking down the road that those prayers will get you through, or help to avoid. Two days before Christmas and we weren't sure what the traveling was going to be like going up I-75. Our first stop is in Valdosta at the Cracker Barrel...cold and around 32 freezing degrees (anything below 60 is cold for this Florida girl). To make it easier on Mama, the wheelchair tote was put on the back of my vehicle so that she wouldn't have to worry about the dog jumping out when trying to get my wheelchair...the only problem for me was getting out into an ice cold chair (that had been covered), but I survived it and got warm once inside the restaurant....then I had to go back outside in it. We stopped a few hours later south of Macon for her to walk the dog & let him go to the bathroom and smell where every other canine had marked their spot, then back on the road again. After a stop in Ellijay at Chic-fila, we made it to the house at around 1:00-1:30, got unpacked, then headed to the grocery story for this week's groceries. It was just the 2 of us then, but my brother's family would be coming for the Christmas meal, then my baby sister's crew, and part of a niece's crew would arrive on addition of 9 people.

The grocery store in Hayesville is huge, so by the time we reached the dairy section (last aisle), my throat was hurting from the cold inside the store. We left the store temps of what seemed to be below zero, to warm up outside in 30+ degree temps, got the car loaded back down again (but with food), headed to the house to unload, then finished the journey off with a bowl of hot vegetable beef soup mama had put up in the freezer our last trip up in October. Man it hit the spot, and my throat was no longer hurting. I couldn't wait to get in the bed and pass out. I slept like a baby.

Mama took my vehicle back into town the next day and picked up a few more items we had forgotten, plus she stopped by Dollar General for some last minute Christmas decorations since we had invited the neighbors from "up the hill" for a spaghetti supper...we wanted more of a "Christmas look" around the house. Today was a day of lounging & prepping a few things before tomorrow's meal. Mama got the little Christmas tree from the top of my closet to add to the lighted garland I wrapped around the banister. Dollar General stuff worked just fine. Meister graced the photo with his presence.

The neighbors, Rose and Herb, came for supper and the two of them reminisced about how much they missed my daddy. Herb and Daddy would go play golf from time to time before Daddy started getting sick and was able to enjoy it. The last time they were over to eat, Rose bent down to pick Meister up and it hurt his leg that he had arthritis in. He bit her on the cheek. We were hoping she wouldn't try that again, and, she even brought the subject up at the table that evening, "Do you remember the time Meister bit me?" How in the world could someone forget that? They've got a BIG dog at their house, so being around a dog was not unusual to them. After supper and some small talk, they went back home and the Christmas Eve rain started up, now making it damp and extra cold outside.

On Christmas morning instead of opening our gifts (we did this before we left Florida), we started the cooking process. We knew we could take our time with cooking as Mama had told my brother's wife a few days before that we'd probably eat mid-afternoon or so since everyone would probably have a late breakfast. I even killed time doing a few other things. That soon changed when Mama gave them a call and was told they'd be leaving Ellijay in the next half hour, ride the hour and ten minutes to get here...putting them at our place around noon! Talk about high gear...we put it in it! I had just finished snapping the beans, the sweet potatoes had been pealed, the macaroni and cheese was put together but not baked, the turkey was out of the oven but not sliced, and everything else was either cooking/baking. It was looking very slim that mama would get the sweet potato dish started anytime soon, so I told her I'd start on it (even though I'd never made it before). I basically knew what spices & ingredients would go in it, so I just started adding till I got it to the taste I thought it should be, then started baking it. It turned out really good and I was so proud. By the time they arrived, everything was ready or fixing to come out of the oven. Took all morning to prepare, and about 15-20 minutes to consume it.

For some reason or other, within 10 minutes after consumption, everyone was ready for a nap....even sitting around the table talking had everyone yawning. My great niece, Ashlee, got a card game for Christmas, The Memory Game. I played a few hands with her and she won each much for my memory. Could it be because I just turned 50? Mid-afternoon, everyone was about ready to hit the road back down to Ellijay, but first it was important to get family pictures. Going out into the cold woke everyone up for sure.
Pretty soon it was just mama and I back in a quiet house. Christmas was different this year with the rest of the family not being there, but it was memorable.
Saturday morning and it's wonderful to sleep in a few extra minutes. Looking forward to Ginger's bunch and Danielle & her two kids to get here. Oh, and lets not forget Bella...Bella's making her first long trip since her birth a few months ago.
The cutest little Shorkie I've ever laid my eyes on (also the only one). When they got here mid-afternoon, it took about as long to get Bella's belongings out as it did the rest of their stuff. Just so you don't think I'm exaggerating, here's a shot of the little canine. We weren't really sure how Meister would react. Meister stood up straight when he saw her with his tail erect and his ears thrown back as she yapped and jumped up in his face. He was a good boy and did not get upset, just tired after about 5 minutes of her bothering him and he went and laid back down.

Sunday came and went and we ended up eating leftovers from Christmas. The temps were still dropping and by Monday morning its in the mid 20's. Mama and I decided to pick up a few items at the brand new Walmart in Blairsville, so we dress appropriately and headed out in the cold. The store sits atop a high hill catching all the high winds that were blowing. When I got out into my chair, I literally yelled rolling through the parking lot into the store as the wind blew hard. The wind chills were probably in the single digits, or lower. We went our separate ways once in the store and decided to meet back at the entrance in an hour. It didn't take long to make my rounds, and 20 of those minutes were spent getting a key the automotive department where the automatic sliding doors kept opening back and forth letting in a rush of the frigid air, once again reminding me of what I had waiting when we got back outside to the car. For supper that evening we ate fitting for the cold.
Tuesday came and everyone went their separate ways for shopping. I took Mama into town to pay a bill and on the way there, I saw a neat Christmas decoration someone had added to their barn. Note the Christmas tree in the hayloft, and Santa behind the wheel of the old truck.

For supper that evening we ate at my favorite place, The Ridges...a Kodak moment.

All week we heard that snow was headed our way...the day we were to leave to go back home to Florida, also New Year's day. As far as I was concerned, it was cold enough for it to rain down icicles. I can only take so much cold, but for some reason I was excited about the cold this year, especially if we did see some didn't have to be a lot, just a few.
Wednesday arrived and all I had heard about the last few days was the brand new little restaurant called Michaelee's. It was small and quaint, so we made reservations and met for lunch at 1:00. Although there was parking in the front and rear, the parking area for a handicapped was a disaster waiting to happen....especially when you're sticking out an additional 4 - 5 feet further from my wheelchair being on the back. I got it parked well, it was getting out of here that would be the place to turn around, looked like I would have to back out through the parking lot onto the street. Food-wise, I was talked into getting the Roman Club Panini by Logan...but I'm glad he talked me into it. They were huge, so I split mine with mama since everyone talked about the homemade desserts this place had. I sure didn't want to miss out on that... I got the Molten Lava Cake, a chocolate cake baked in a small tin that had chocolate sauce in the center of it...they heat it up, then place a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. The others got the Pina Colada Cake...coconut cake with pineapple filling (or just the opposite as I never tasted it, just saw it), and Logan had the Snicker Bar Pie....yum. We were stuffed by the time we left there, and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get into the vehicle...let alone back out of the parking lot. Keep in mind the temps were probably in the 30's outside, so it wasn't a summer day to take one's time. I needed to roll my own self for the exercise, but I let Logan push me to the car since the elevations out in the parking lot were so weird and so un-wheelchair friendly. I backed up and into a little space between a couple vehicles to get myself turned around so that I wouldn't have to back out onto the street....this made Mama a little nervous, but I'm a good backer-upper (I've had plenty of practice fitting into tight spaces in this chair). We sat around, read, slept, watched TV, and even played cards when we got back to the house. After a lite supper a little later, we played some more cards, then prepared for bed. The clouds were starting to move in for tomorrow's rain and we still prayed for some snow. Ginger, Erik, Peggy & Shelby were leaving tomorrow to go home, and we were wanting some before they had to leave, if possible...I didn't think that was too tall an order for God. From time to time we'd look outside, or have to let Meister out and would freeze in just that short time of opening the door to let him in and out. Still no snow. Everyone retired to their sleeping quarters, and within 10 minutes someone knocked on my bedroom door. Shelby, in a rather excited tone said, "Aunt Becky, I just wanted to let you know it's snowing outside!" I dressed as quick as I could and got back up into my chair, and by this time everyone had gone back downstairs. Mama came out of her room wondering why I was turning the lights on and unlocking the front door. Not only was it freezing, but it was pitch black. When the lights were turned on at the end of the house, I could see little snow flurries floating past the light. Sure enough--though it wasn't a whiteout--it was snow. I had to stop and thank the Lord for answering that little prayer. I was satisfied with what I saw, so I got back into my warm bed.

Thursday arrived and I had to tell some of the family goodbye as they were heading back to Florida, the warm sunshine state. After they left, we did most of our packing and then the others went and spent a little money and energy at Fun World. We left a little earlier than everyone else before supper so that I could fill up with gas for the trip home tomorrow, and made a run to the dump. The temps never really got much out of the 30's on the trip this year. It was down right cold whenever we went outside....then add the rain that had been falling all day, it made it all the more colder. We were capping off our trip with our last meal at Rib Country...mouth-watering meat that is fall-off-the-bone tender. We pulled up to the restaurant and waited on Danielle and them. As we waited, a car pulled up beside us and four occupants got out. Honest to goodness, the people looked so mismatched. From my perspective, it was the mother (who looked like someone you'd bump into in the grocery store), the father, and the son or daughter. Either the son had invited his girlfriend, or the daughter had invited the boyfriend. Regardless, the two males looked as though they had stepped off the Deliverance movie set and went into the restaurant. Being it was a little early for our reservation, we sat out in the vehicle and waited on the rest of our party. After about five minutes, the young man came out and sat on the porch to smoke a cigarette and saw mama and I getting out of the vehicle. He was very nice to open the door for us. I got a bit tickled because he looked as though any minute he would pick up a jug of moonshine and dance a jig in front of us...very mountain man-ish. In this place where we stay in NC, there are lots of people that are originally from Florida, but the rest are just good ole country folks, then there are some that are from the backwoods that look as though they don't come into town much. These were backwood-looking folks. (Which reminds me of the time when Mama & Daddy were up here in NC and an emergency had arisen with my Daddy, thinking her may be having a heart attack, he had to be taken to the hospital in the city next to Warne. They didn't know what to do with Meister while Daddy was in the hospital, so someone had suggested a pet boarding place just outside of town (in the boondocks) down a little road called...Hanging Dog Road. This story would also make a good blog one day.) The people at the restaurant looked as though they may have friends that live down this road. Needless to say, I tried not to stare at them as we ordered our food, ate it, then went back home to finish any last minute packing. A little cards before bedtime, then the lights went out a little earlier since the plans were to head back home by 6:00 in the morning. Ugh...I hate to get up early.

Well, Happy New's now 2010. We leave at approximately 6:07 and head for sunny, warm Florida. The first couple of hours driving we have the roads almost to our self. Mama and I decided to stop at Cracker Barrel for breakfast and then back on the road again, as Willie Nelson would say. Everywhere we were, it was down right cold. Mama had to get out once after our breakfast stop to take the dog for a walk and do his business...of smelling where all the other dogs had made deposits and make his own. This was not the type of weather one would exactly want to get out and walk or run a dog in, but I will have to admit, Meister is a good little traveler....he just sleeps the whole time.

We arrived safely back home the cold. Little did I know that for the next couple weeks (or close to it), the weather we had up in NC was just preparing me for the temps and extreme cold we again would feel in sunny, warm Florida for not just a couple days, but nearly 2 weeks. Yesterday was the first time in days that I could get by going outside without a jacket of some kind. It felt wonderful. The cold was unusual this year, but the seasons will just continue to come and go each year like clock work.

As long as the earth exists, planting and harvesting, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never stop. Genesis 8:22