Monday, January 10, 2011

Must...come back...from hiatus.

To anyone who follows my blog (is there anyone, really?), my apologies for not posting regularly these past few months. To put it mildly, my world has been turned on its head and back again in the past year and a half. I'm hoping to get back to it sometime this month.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Gateway to the West

Over the holiday weekend, we took a road trip with friends to see the Reds take on the Cards in St. Louis. We made a weekend of it, and since Neil and I had never been there, we had to go up in the arch.

We have a National Parks Passport and quickly discovered that the proper name isn't the St. Louis Arch, but rather the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (if you're talking about the whole park) or the Gateway Arch.

I was surprised to learn that it opened in 1967--I had thought it much older than that. But that doesn't make it any less inpressive in my book. It is currently the tallest monument in the United States and the view from the top is incredible.

I was shocked by the amount of security, but that's just this post-9/11 world, I suppose. We went through the same security you'd go through in an airport, minus removing shoes. This program just started this year and was required by Congress.  I was also shocked by how tiny the capsules you ride to the top are--I was glad it was only a 4 minute ride to the top!

I love the symbolism of the arch. Not only is it the most recognizable landmark in St. Louis, it marks an important time and point in the history of the city--it commemorates the place from which Lewis and Clark began their famous expedition. The memorial also recognizes the first government west of the Misssissippi, the Louisiana Purchase and the Dred Scott Decision. When you see such famous landmarks, it is sometimes easy to get so caught up in the physical aspects--how tall a monument is, how many people are around, how much tickets cost--but moments like these call for a pause to reflect on just why you're standing in that spot.

Thanks to our friend Stacia for taking the photo. It was a perfect day for walking around!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Book Details

I have been fielding a lot of questions about my book thought I would do a quick post to update anyone who might be interested.

My contract was signed in October 2008. I was given a deadline of July 2009 to write the entire book. Around September 2009, I got a request to provide maps for each chapter, as well as some more photos.

By the time I started working on all of that, my husband was diagnosed with obviously my priorities changed! That took me to the spring deadline, which would have had my book out right about now. However, he was still in treatment so I requestion to be given more time and now the book will be printed in early 2011.

That's the gist of the reason for the delay.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The fog

Yesterday morning, Cincinnati was covered with a thick blanket of gorgeous fog. I immediately thought of this Carl Sandburg poem:

THE fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.
Back in May, we traveled to Asheville, NC to celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary. While there, I insisted we visit Carl Sandburg's house, Connemara. We were both glad we made the stop.

Inside, things were delightfully left just the way Sandburg had abandoned them when he passed away in one of the high-ceilinged bedrooms in 1967.

I have not read nearly as much Sandburg as I should (I hold a B.A. in English) but I do know he is one of the great American voices. This view of him is evidenced by the fact that to peer into the nooks and crannies of Connemara is to see they've left his bookmarks (thousands of them), his trinkets and yes, even his messes. His life was so dynamic and influential that to look upon the vignettes in each room is to touch the surface of his genius.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Light the Night

Back in September 2009 (wow, it's almost been a year!!!) my husband, Neil (26) had a cold and thought he would go to the doctor for an antibiotic, but kept putting it off.  He ended up at the urgent care clinic after I insisted he go, and while he was at it, we discussed--why not have them check out the lump he had on his neck?

It was almost a quick in-and-out visit. The doctor had her hand on the doorknob when Neil gathered the courage to ask her about the lump he'd been a little nervous about that we had dismissed as nothing.

She felt it and advised him to have it biopsied. I heard the fear in his voice when he called, and it caught me off guard. We had both dismissed it as a swollen gland. It hit me in the pit of my stomach.
Suddenly, life was in fast-forward. In the following weeks, Neil would given a variety of scans and tests and they had scheduled a biopsy. We were told it wasn't looking good, but still held out hope it would be something benign. A text message I sent from my phone from October 6, the day of the lymph node removal and biopsy, reveals how much our lives were about to change:

8:55 a.m.
Just took him back. We should get preliminary results in about an hour.

9:59 a.m.
It is Hodgkin's. We see an oncologist next.

A few more tests and scans and then an appointment with an oncologist followed. Neil started chemo on October 23rd, our niece's second birthday and the day before my 27th.

Since then, it's been a roller we would not have been able to ride without the help of our families and friends. Neil has been strong and worked throughout the ordeal and our insurance has covered a lot of our bills. Today, we count our blessings--Neil is in remission. But we realized that some people weren't as lucky.

That's why we are walking in this year's Light the Night Walk. Will you support us?

Please donate here.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bardstown Ghosts

We recently made our second visit to Bardstown, KY, this time with four friends in tow. If you've never been there, it's a great little town known for bourbon, Civil War history and Stephen Foster. It's one of those places, like Gettysburg, that offers up both incredibly significant history and borderline cheese.

After a long day of sightseeing (Perryville Battlefield, Maker's Mark, Bernheim Forest) we decided to eat dinner at the Old Talbott Tavern. Not only is it known for its delicious food, it was also part of the ghost tour we planned to take after dinner.

We met across the street for the Bardstown Ghost Trek, led by a slight, but spunky woman who has been doing these tours for over 20 years. Like most ghost tour directors, she combined history with reported ghost sightings and local lore. When we arrived at the Old Talbott Tavern (our last stop on the tour) we were told about the Jesse James Room. We had seen it from the outside earlier in the evening and told that he once stayed there, that his ghost had been seen in the window, and that it was destroyed by a mysterious fire in 1998. Now, one of the legends is that bullet holes in the room were from a drunken Jesse James, who thought the room's famous murals had come to life. He apparantly shot at the birds and the holes were left as a tourist attraction. The fire of '98 destroyed these murals and the room is no longer open for viewing.

You might notice that sometimes what I find most fascinating is the unsaid or hidden away. In this case, the mere fact that Jesse James had stayed in this room once was enough to put a plaque on the door and parade tourists past.

Interestingly, even though it may seem far-fetched, James actually had quite the connection to the tavern. His mother's family was from the area and local politicians and law enforcement tolerated and even welcomed his presence in town, even when he was on the run. He often dined and met people here.

If you're ever up for a weekend trip to Bardstown, definitely dine at the tavern and take the $15 ghost tour which begins at 8:00 across the street at the Old Stable. While it's not the best ghost tour I've been on, it's a pretty good way to get your local lore bearings and perhaps do some more exploring on your own.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Happy Birthday

I haven't posted nearly as often as I should this summer...but it's for good reason. After a very important scan, my husband again tested negative for cancer activity. We've been busy living life with parties, weddings and outdoor trips. Here's a photo of him at his 27th birthday celebration...this was probably the most special birthday of all.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Devil's Courthouse

My husband and I just returned from a fantastic trip to Asheville, NC. We spent an entire day driving the Blue Ridge Parkway up to Craggy Gardens and beyond. We came across Devil's Courthouse late in the day.

Something that always strikes me when we visit large parks is the names given to natural features.I wasn't surprised to see the name of this peak because I would bet during a storm it looks an awful lot like judgment day. In fact, being in the mountains struck a bit of healthy fear into my soul. I can imagine living up there on a fair day. But I could actually see the mountains affecting and/or causing weather. Looking out over the entire range as far as the eye can see, it seemed so desolate and lonely. Beautiful, yes. But also very haunting. Storm clouds rolled in and disappeared just as quickly. 

The Blue Ridge Parkway site offers this explanation of the name:
Devil's Courthouse may have received its name because of the sinister aspect of the rock formation, or because, as legend holds, the devil held court in the cave that lies beneath the rock. In Cherokee lore, this cave is the private dancing chamber and dwelling place of the slant-eyed giant, Judaculla.
I could indeed imagine a monster of some sort living up here. Even in the sunshine, it's not a place to mess around.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cincy Chic

Here I am in Cincy Chic, talking about road trips, my new book and why I love Cincinnati. Enjoy!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Old Farm

It has become my family's Easter tradition to walk back to where my great-grandparents' farm used to be. It is located on East Fork State Park property in a somewhat unknown spot. We only occasionally see other people back there.

As a child, my mom would go to the farm every Sunday and she and her siblings and cousins would often spend the warm months exploring every inch of this land. There are a few traces of the old pig farm left. A few fenceposts, a manmade pond deep in the woods, and my favorite--these daffodils. It's so amazing to see that the daffodils still faithfully come up each spring.

There's a lot of beauty, but also a lot of sadness here too. You can still see remnants of a stone wall from the farm that used to be across the road and there are old driveways and more bulbs that mark where the fronts of houses used to be. Mom said there were a few holdouts when the state was buying out the land, and one farmer killed himself in his barn. Another woman's house mysteriously caught on fire. She was in the basement and didn't make it out. My great-grandfather, another holdout, awoke one morning to find that all of his pigs had been poisoned.

 I don't like to think about the loss that occurred here. I prefer to see this as something full-circle. The land was used and loved. Then it was reclaimed and overrun by the trees and kudzu. Now I visit it and respect the land as my great-grandfather always did.

We have hidden a geocache so that others may find there way here.