Teddy’s first year at Notre Dame is almost over.  He will be home for the summer in less than a month, and back to eating us out of house and home once more. After we dropped him off, we didn’t hear much from him for a long time.  It was a far cry from the frequent tearful phone calls I remember making home the first few weeks of school, which settled to weekly–and tear free–eventually, or even the daily contact I had with Emily when she was in college via text, email, and instant message.  Teddy texted a few times–mostly when he had questions about something–and I didn’t call him either, giving him time to settle in and get used to being on his own. He came home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and dropped by to and from his Spring Break in Florida.  He’s always willing to spend his first hour or so back home talking to me and answering my questions, but after that he’s off doing his own thing. But I got a real treat last weekend!  St. Edward’s Hall (Steds is what the boys call it) hosted a Mothers’ Weekend and I drove up to spend the weekend with Teddy.  Yes, I did, all by myself–about an eight hour drive not counting stops.  Of course it poured down rain, the kind of rain you can’t see to drive through, for the first several hours (why did it have to do that while I was driving in my own hilly state and not where it was flat?) but after that it was smooth sailing, especially since I made sure both ways to time things so I would not be driving in the dark (because I’m not as young as I once was!). I made it to South Bend right around six and after I checked into my hotel I picked Teddy up and we went for pizza (it being Friday, and Lent, and South Bend not being exactly a place I’d expect to specialize in seafood) and then checked out the weekend’s first event–hors d’ouevres at the Eck Visitors Center.  This was my first chance to meet Teddy’s friends, including the three young men with whom he will be living next year.  They had just chosen their rooms the night before, and will be living in a quad on the fourth floor of St. Ed’s (most people stay in the same dorm all four years)–room 420 to be precise, and if you don’t know why they think that’s a hoot, your teenager can probably tell you.

Jake, Teddy, Kevin, and Phineas

Jake, Teddy, Kevin, and Phineas

Would y’all just LOOK at my son?  When he came home looking like that I thought maybe that was just the new thing, but then I saw all the other boys, who all look like the boys pictures above, and it became clear that Teddy is the only one doing this particular thing. Anyway, I was tired so I had Teddy drive me back to my hotel so I wouldn’t have to drive in the dark (oh how I love love love staying in a hotel all by myself!) and we arranged for him to pick me up the next morning, when we were all scheduled to attend brunch at South Dining Hall. After brunch, we had a free day.  I didn’t get to see nearly all the campus when we dropped Teddy off.  Y’all, the place is enormous.  And it was hot then, and the weekend was packed with required events. (Plus I have more energy now but more on that later.)  So we decided to spend the day exploring the campus. It was a glorious day for it–in the upper forties and sunny.  Also have I mentioned it’s flat up there?  I can walk for hours under those circumstances and I did.  We started around noon and kept going until after four.  Teddy calculated we walked around five miles and we both even got a little sunburned! Here are some of the sights we enjoyed.   nd 11 Starting with this, even though it isn’t where we started, because it’s what everyone wants to see, right? nd 26 Here’s a nice shot that gets the Basilica in there too. nd 47 We actually started out in the bookstore, where this was only one of many children’s books designed to indoctrinate them early!  Seriously, it is a really nice (and super expensive) bookstore. After that, Teddy pretty much walked me all the way around the campus, including quick trips inside the library and the student center. nd 49 I showed y’all Touchdown Jesus last time I wrote about Notre Dame.  This guy they call First Down Moses. Did y’all know that Notre Dame du Lac is the school’s official name?  And that two lakes sit right next to it?  Last time John and I walked around the smaller lake, and this time Teddy and I walked around the other one.

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Can’t go to Notre Dame without stopping to pray at the Grotto.  There was a wedding party there posing for pictures, and then a rival lacrosse team stopping to pray together after their game.

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The last thing we went to see, and my favorite thing since y’all already know I’m weird that way, was the enormous cemetery which is practically at the front door of the place.  But that’s going to get a post to itself. :-)

So moving right along, I barely had time to get back to the hotel and shower and change for the big evening event at the Jordan Hall of Science.  We had hors d’oeuvres and drinks, heard about the latest renovations to St. Ed’s, attempted (Teddy and I did not attempt this seriously) to learn how to two step and line dance, and ate dinner.  We sat with Teddy’s new roommates and their mothers, and it was a real treat to get to meet them and some of the mothers of Teddy’s other friends.  We went back to the dorm afterwards and “chilled” a little longer but I didn’t stay too long because I didn’t want to be tired the next day for the long drive home.

The grand finale to the weekend was Mass on Sunday morning at 10 a.m. (super early for these boys who are used to Mass at 10 p.m.!)  held in the Chapel of Sts. Edward and John, which just happens to be at the end of the hallway where Teddy currently lives.  If y’all are picturing some folding chairs and a wooden altar with a cross sitting on it, you might want to think again.

ND Chapel Window St. Edward

ND Chapel Altar 2

Did I mention that about 100 mothers came for the weekend (and there are around 150 boys in the dorm)?  So all the seats were full and the boys sat on the floor.  I’ve heard people say that Notre Dame isn’t authentically Catholic and I can only assume that those people have never been there.  Father Ralph (who lives right there in the hall) started his homily with these beautiful words of St. Augustine: “You gleamed and shone, and chased away my blindness. You breathed fragrant odors and I drew in my breath; and now I pant for you. I tasted, and now I hunger and thirst. You  touched me, and I burned for your peace.”   And I wish I had taped those boys belting out “Wade in the Water” at the end of Mass!

Then it was time to go home, but not so hard to leave knowing how soon I will be seeing Teddy again.  And it was great to see how at home he is and how much fun he is having, and to be able to picture him there with his friends.


Oh, I’m so terrible.  It’s so nice of everyone not to mention that I claimed I was going to blog every day during Lent.  That didn’t last long.  I have GOT to figure out a way to carve out the time to blog every day.  Trust me, my silence does NOT indicate a lack of things to tell y’all about!

I’m still trying to make a graveyard visit every weekend, and except for one soggy Saturday, I have accomplished that.  Yesterday I checked out Edgewood Cemetery.

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It’s a newer graveyard, having been established in 1928, but it encompasses an earlier burial ground:  The Gallaher View Baptist Church Cemetery, which is still the property of the church it sits directly behind.

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I first became interested in this cemetery a few years ago when I happened to be driving up Kingston Pike and took my eyes off the road long enough to notice the graves up on the ridge.  This is a pretty large cemetery, and the long expanse of silent graves offers an interesting counterpoint to the unbridled commerce just below.

Gallaher View - get it?

Gallaher View – get it?

This is a cemetery that is currently being used (there was one grave only a week old), and it is beautifully kept–nice to see after some of my recent jaunts.  The grass is cut, the space is clear of broken branches and debris, and all the stones are in one piece!

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Given its location, the most memorable feature of this graveyard is the view, and it’s impressive in all directions.

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Y’all, I might have gone just a little bit crazy taking pictures of the view!

Another item of note:  the grave markers.  I have never ever seen such massive ones.  I didn’t have anything with me to show scale, so you’ll just have to trust me or go see for yourself.

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The Knoxville history buffs among you will appreciate the array of family names:   Walker, Gallaher, Lones, and others.  Visiting graveyards brings Knoxville history alive for me. When I was a child, Vanosdale was a road we took to drive to the Mall.  To old-time West Hills residents, I think it’s the name of a farm.  But when you are in the graveyard, it’s the name of a family, and I will think about them the next time I drive there.

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Those stones are from the original cemetery, and that’s where you’ll see more ornate and unusual markers.  The rest of the place is fairly standard as modern cemeteries go, with a lot of large markers with family names and then the in-ground plaques to commemorate individuals.  There were a few creative ones though, that let me “get to know” the people who lie there (or in the case of this one, who will eventually lie there):

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Entering a new graveyard is always a little adventure.  There are almost always surprises, stories, mysteries.

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You will see stones that make you sad.

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You’ll see stones that will make you want to know more.

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And you may even see some that make you wish you knew less.

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Obamacare Update

I promised several people to continue to share my family’s experiences with being insured at long last via the Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare.  We are coming up on two months of being insured and so far it is an unqualified success.

There was a little sticker shock for us regarding some of the medications we’ve had to purchase, as we have to pay full price until we reach the deductible, and while some of the negotiated prices were better than what we’d been getting with the various discount cards we’d been using, a couple have been quite a bit more.  However, thanks to that, John has now met his $300 deductible and I told him to start making appointments for every kind of doctor he’s ever wanted to see!

Emily, typically, has not used the plan yet, since she has literally not had to visit a doctor for illness since she was two years old.  But I’m encouraging her to get a check up at least.  Jake has visited two doctors and purchased prescriptions.  Here’s a perk:  even though his deductible has not been met, because we HAVE insurance, the doctors file it and then send a bill–they don’t expect us to pay up front.  Maybe that’s not news to the rest of you, but it was a happy surprise to us!  Another happy surprise was seeing our first Explanation of Benefits statement and discovering that because of negotiated rates we will pay less for doctor visits even before we meet our deductible!

As for me, I have now been to the doctor twice and haven’t had to shell out one dime as yet.  The first task was finding a practice, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with where I’ve ended up.  We have a Blue Cross plan, and of course it’s super easy to look for doctors online.  I’m used to looking for TennCare doctors and not finding any, so I was overwhelmed by the choices that were available!  I ended up with Trinity Medical Associates, which is a Christian practice, about five minutes from my house, that focuses on wellness.   I love my doctor, I love her nurse, in fact everybody there is super friendly and helpful.  John, Emily, and Jake are all going to start going there.

My plan covers one free check up and one free gynecological check up per year–no charge.  This practice can do both of those, so I will not pay anything for either of the two visits I’ve had so far.  I went two weeks ago, did the gyno thing, got my tetanus booster, and had blood drawn.  I went back today to go over the results of the bloodwork and to have an EKG.

I’m fat and I haven’t had a check up in six (I think) years.  I was really scared there might be something wrong with my heart, or that I might have to take medicines.  Besides the cost, I’ve avoided having these things checked out for fear of being saddled with a pre-existing condition that would have made me uninsurable too.  But I don’t have to worry about that anymore.  Nobody does.  Because that’s one of the things Obamacare has accomplished.

My doctor recommended a mild diuretic for the swelling in my leg (caused by an unfortunate encounter with my own car ten years ago).  She wants me to take a Vitamin D supplement and a Fish Oil capsule.  My sugar, triglycerides, and cholesterol need watching, but she prefers we try diet and exercise changes first.  To that end, I’ve got a nutritional counseling appointment (covered by insurance) and an exercise counseling appointment (not covered, but only $20).  I’m to go back to the doctor in three months to check my numbers again.

After so many years without insurance, I’m almost giddy about this, y’all.  I highly recommend that you take a look at healthcare.gov and see if Obamacare can help you too.  You’ve only got until the end of this month before open enrollment is.  It wouldn’t hurt you just to take a look, would it?



I had so much fun looking at graveyards last weekend, that I’ve decided to try to visit some every Saturday.  Jake likes graveyards too, so I asked him to come along.  Turns out he had one he wanted to show me!

It’s often referred to as Copper Ridge Cemetery online, and it’s supposed to be haunted (you’ll find lots of paranormal articles if you Google.).  Apparently there was an old church there (the original home of Beaver Ridge United Methodist Church) which supposedly manifested paranormal phenomena, but it’s been torn down–I don’t know when or why.  There are actually two cemeteries here, one on either side of Copper Ridge Road.  The small one is labeled Brimer Cemetery, and I’m guessing the Brimer homestead once stood on this land.  Old Beaver Ridge Cemetery is across the street.

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As always, there were baby stones on both sides of the road.

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Beaver Ridge is an old graveyard, where early settlers of the area are buried.    The oldest person buried there that we could find was born in 1800, and burials began in 1815.  We saw stones as late as the mid-2000s.

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There were many stones that were so old they were hand-lettered.

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Some of the names I saw a lot of were Fox, Cox, Trotter, Brown, and Calloway.  I stumbled upon this Facebook Album that shows a lot more gravestones if you are interested.

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Many of the stones were unreadable, but just Jake brushing them off with his hand helped.  This cemetery gets a regular going over once a year on Decoration Day, but it could use some help.  I feel sure that the stones could  be made readable easily, and there’s something so sad about a stone you can’t read.  We all want to be remembered.  Sometimes that stone is all that’s left to show that a person lived.  I told Jake yesterday that I don’t care about having flowers on my grave, or having people visit to talk to me there, but I do want my tombstone to be maintained so that it is always readable.

There were also headstones that had fallen over, many broken branches (large ones) that Jake carried away, and an area right next to the cemetery that people are using for a dump.

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Still, it’s in much better shape than the Ball Camp Baptist Cemetery where I went last week, and it’s just pretty there on Copper Ridge Road, which is somewhere I had never been before.

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Because we hadn’t been out that way before, and were in a curious mood, we decided to drive down Copper Ridge Road a little ways.  Well, have you ever thought to drive to the end of a road, only the road never ended?  That’s what happened to us.  Copper Ridge got another name somewhere along the way, but by the time we crossed Clinton Highway (the first major road we saw–in fact, the first thing we had recognized since we started driving) we were committed to the adventure.  We kept driving more or less North, passing in and out of Anderson County a few times, for maybe an hour, without encountering so much as a gas station.

We saw beautiful horses, community churches of almost every denomination, ancient barns still in use, lambs, geese, trailers, shacks, and creeks.  We drove until we reached somewhere called Twinville and then we had to take a turn toward home so we wouldn’t be out driving in the middle of nowhere after dark.  We came back on Raccoon Valley Road,crossed the Clinch River, and came home by way of Oak Ridge.  It was an adventure.

We both felt so fortunate that almost anywhere in Knoxville is about ten minutes from actual country, and that we haven’t managed to destroy, pave, or develop all of it yet.

Before I started this blog, I had planned to write a very different one, which I was going to call Walking in Knoxville.  The main focus of it was going to be walks I liked to go on (hence the name!) but I was going to use that as a jumping off point to discuss other issues too.

Just because I decided to go with this much more eclectic blog instead doesn’t mean I have to give up the topic of walking entirely, though!  On the contrary, I can write about whatever I want!  And today I want to begin showcasing some of the many greenways those of us lucky enough to live in Knoxville or Knox County have access to.  Knoxville has over 65 miles of greenways, which I get the impression is kind of a lot.

Today Emily and I walked on the Pellissippi Greenway.  This is one’s a well-kept secret, particularly nice for walkers on these first fine spring days which typically find better-traveled routes like the Third Creek Greenway hazardous due to the volume of bike traffic.  We encountered one other party of walkers, just as we were finishing the return trip.

There’s plenty of parking, since the trailhead is at the Hardin Valley Campus of Pellissippi State Community College.  After crossing Hardin Valley Road, the paved trail follows the Pellissippi Parkway to the south.  The sight and sound of the nearby traffic is counteracted–at least at this time of year–by the daffodils.

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At the end of the paved trail comes a mystery:  a staircase to nowhere.

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If you climb to the top, you’ll find a narrow footpath that continues along a ridge for some time farther, but no signs whatsoever of anything these stairs might have been built to reach.  They are too old to have been built with greenway walkers in mind, and in fact I’m not sure that we are supposed to keep walking past this point although we always do.  We didn’t quite make it to the end, because there’s a steep descent that would have meant a steep ASCENT to return, but I think the footpath ends on the (private) grounds of Centerpoint Business Park (just as pretentious as it sounds and apparently still awaiting most of the businesses).

I’d guess the whole thing is about a mile long each way, and the stairs are the hardest part, so it’s a nice spring stroll for the not-so-fit.  I feel so lucky to live in Knoxville where although so much has been lost the “country” is still quickly and easily accessible from the “city.”

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Cuttin’ Footloose

When I was a teenager, the poster below (or one very like it) hung on the back of my bedroom door.

footloose kevin bacon

It wasn’t because I had a huge crush on Kevin Bacon, although I did think he was cute.   What I loved was the movie–Footloose.

As I checked my phone before bed last night, I learned that Kevin Bacon, who remains incredibly cool 30 years later and has aged better than most of us, appeared on the Tonight Show and was not too stuck up to engage in a little self-parodying here.

This was serendipitous because at the very moment he was doing this, I was watching Footloose with my big kids (well, two of them) who HAD NEVER SEEN IT.   John picked it up for me the last time he was at the video store, knowing how much I love it, and I’d been waiting for a good opportunity to share it with them.  This weekend, with John and the little people off on a quick visit to Baltimore, was the perfect time.

I was a little worried that they wouldn’t like it, that it wouldn’t stand the test of time or “translate” well across the 30 years that have passed since I saw first saw it.  I even wondered it I would still like it. (Yes, I did, for the record.  Just as much, with maybe even a little more depth as I now have a lot more understanding of Pastor Shaw’s point of view!)  Why should I care so much?  you ask.

I can’t even think of a way to describe the way I feel about this movie and the night I first saw it without resorting to the worst kind of cliches.  I was 17 in February 1984, just like Ren in the movie.  Like many teenagers then and now, my life was completely wrapped up in my group of friends.  I could not imagine a future in which I did not see or talk to them every day and I dreaded the thought of going away to college and leaving them.  We saw the movie at what was then the Cinema 6.  These days it’s an artsy place showing lots of foreign films, but back then it was our favorite theatre, perhaps because of its close proximity to the Downtown West location of Mr. Gatti’s (gone now), which for some reason was our high school’s acknowledged hangout even though the school itself was on the other side of town.

We were having a slumber party at one friend’s house and it was the birthday of another friend, and I don’t remember how we came to the decision to go to the movie, if it was spontaneous or part of the plan from the beginning.  But perhaps it’s worth noting that I remember anything about it at all.  I mean, I know some of the other movies I saw in high school, but no other evening at the movies maintains this much space in my memory, or evokes so much feeling.  I clearly remember watching the opening sequence–all those feet–and feeling excited about what was to come.  But what I remember even more is coming out of the theatre after the movie.

There were, if I remember right, six of us there that night, five girls and one boy.  I can remember coming out of the movie almost dancing–maybe actually dancing, there on the sidewalk to the south of the theatre.  I don’t remember what we talked about, other than how much we liked the movie.  Probably we were discussing what we were going next, which might have been back to the slumber party, or maybe to Gatti’s for pizza–that part I don’t remember.

What I do remember so clearly though is how I felt.  Maybe it wasn’t the movie itself.  Maybe it was just the joy of being young and with close friends, out alone at night under our own steam, having friends who were driving and a couple who even had their own cars.  But for me the way I felt that night is inextricably linked to the movie and always will be.   I felt . . . empowered.  Like I could do anything.  Like life was good and all of it was ahead of me (that part at least was true).

Spring Break!

My Facebook feed is filling up with pictures of beach views, because both Knox County public and Catholic schools are on break this week.  Were I to post a picture of my view, it would be the same one everyone has seen before:  my back yard.  I’m not complaining, though, because I do have some future travel plans to look forward to (more on that later!) and  a week at the beach would bore me to tears anyway.

The Spring Break that’s been on my mind took place last week, when both Jake and Teddy were frolicking at Panama City Beach.  Now that they are back safely (well, Jake is back safely; Teddy was here briefly and is driving back to Notre Dame today) I can let out that breath I was holding and get back to thoughts of my own “vacation”–a break, at least, from getting up before dark and spending hours driving kids around.

Teddy went to Panama City last year, and seemed surprised and irritated this year when I texted the boys occasionally to make sure they were okay (I did not hear from Teddy ONE SINGLE TIME last year). “Stop texting Jake,” he said.  “You are killing his vibe.  I didn’t die last year and I won’t die this year.”  Jake, on the other hand,  called of his own accord a couple of times to tell me how much fun they were having and ask how I was doing, and to assure me that they were being safe.

Now there was never any question of my going on a trip alone with my friends sans parents while I was still in high school.  I remember begging my mother to let me and a friend drive to Coalfield to watch a basketball tournament, returning the same evening, and she wouldn’t even allow that.   (My sister got to go on Spring Break with friends HER Senior year.  Go figure.)

My first year of college, I came home for break, bringing my roommate, who was from Seattle, eager to share Tennessee with her.  We spent one day in Gatlinburg (which back then was more or less shut down that early in the season) and one exploring the mountains.  I don’t remember what else we did.  Sophomore year we decided we wanted to go to Daytona Beach.  Even as a sophomore in college, I had to beg to be allowed to go, and promise to stop and call my mother every two hours while driving to let her know we were okay.

From what Jake told me when they got home last night, the scene at Panama City sounds something like what Daytona Beach was like back in the day.  Not that I would know firsthand or anything, because my roommate and I and our friend STAYED WITH THE FRIEND’S GRANDMOTHER.  We took a day trip to St. Augustine, and another to Disney World.  Oh, we were such good little Catholic girls (typed completely without irony).

The next year we went to Charleston, and John came along.  I was the only one who’d been there–it was the last vacation I ever took with my family, the summer before I left for college–and I was excited to go back and to show them the beautiful and historic sites.  Charleston remains a place I want to get back to.  Senior year I was busily planning an August wedding and I think I went home for Spring Break to conduct wedding-related business.  Since having kids, Spring Breaks have usually been Easter Breaks and occasionally included a few days in a hotel in Gatlinburg with an indoor pool.

Below are some pictures from a couple of those college trips.  Please excuse their condition, remembering they’ve been through fire and flood and that I have them at all is a minor miracle.

My roommate, Renee, in the Gatlinburg wedding chapel, March 1986

My roommate, Renee, in the Gatlinburg wedding chapel, March 1986

Me in the cantilever barn in Cades Cove, March 1986

Me in the cantilever barn in Cades Cove, March 1986

John in Charleston, not doing a very good job at simulated hopping, March 1988

John in Charleston, not doing a very good job at simulated hopping, March 1988


What about you?  Are you going somewhere special for Spring Break this year?  Do you have any memorable trips from your past you’d care to share?


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