Category Archives: On the Road



Do you remember that show from the 1960s called Gomer Pyle? It was about the mis-adventures of a young man in the Army, and his favorite exclamation for anything that was surprising, or shocking, or just out of the ordinary and unexpected was “Shazaam!” But he pronounced it sha-zayum because he was from North Carolina, where people are even more hick than they are here in Northwest Arkansas. That might be an sweeping generalization.

Today is the day that my baby daughter goes off to basic training for her career (at least for the next six  years or so) in the U.S. Army. She hasn’t decided if she’ll go regular or reserve or National Guard, and won’t have to make that choice until she’s about to graduate from college. And I have been assured by several people in uniform that she WILL get to graduate from college before she is sent off anywhere with a loaded weapon. I won’t say I was hard to convince, but I will share that her recruiter told her that the meeting with me “Wasn’t as bad as [he’d} expected.” Yeah, I’m that mom.

But I’m that mom because she’s this baby…

ImageYes, it’s true, I make adorable babies. She inherited that giant dome from me… bless it.

But those adorable babies grow up to have their own babies while still in high school… or they join the Army. I’m still waiting to see what level of Dante’s hell the Boychild will put me through as a teen. Lord help me.

Today we are driving the sweet baby daughter to Little Rock for her intake requirements at the MEPS center. Now, I joined the Army Reserves when I was younger too… but I was 24. I was already way past cute. My mother isn’t here to argue, so I’ll just state that as fact. One day I will have to go back and read her journals around that time and find out what she thought about all that… I made the decision and signed up without discussing it with her first. Yeah, I was that kid.

Side note: Given all that I and my siblings put mom through here on earth (not to mention 11 months of cancer treatment) I’m sure she’s somewhere unbelievably posh in the afterlife. 🙂

At least the Army is putting the baby girl up in a nice hotel (The Peabody!), before they ship her off to North Carolina for six months of 4 a.m. roll calls and 10 minute meals and snot fests at the gas chambers and communal showers. Good times.

So, here are the images I’ll be keeping in my head today. I know they won’t be there for long, and I’ll have to accept that the baby girl has grown up. But today – TODAY, this is what I see.


Baby Girl in Crocheted Dress

The Bug at 1-year-old. Her dress was worn by her sister, me and my mother in our 1-year-old pictures as well.

Baby Girl on the Fayetteville Square

At the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market in 1996 or 1997. When her hair finally started growing, it was a sight to behold!


Cheaper Than a New Car


Maybe it’s a natural result of having kids. Maybe we’re just a lazy family. It doesn’t really matter what behavior leads to the smell… it turns out that on any given day my car and my husband’s truck may just have a funky odor. I’ve frantically thrown everything out of my car before looking for THAT SMELL, and rejoiced upon finding a half-full container of orange juice. If you don’t know what spoiled orange juice smells like, believe me when I say it’s not something you want in the 8×6 box that is the interior of your car. Nasty.

So the other day when I climbed into my husband’s truck for an afternoon drive and immediately thought “what’s that smell??” I knew it was time to do something about this apparently chronic issue. We just paid our last car payment, so a new one was out of the question. I was going to have to settle for a #FresherCar. I ran by my local Walmart supercenter at lunch the next day to peruse the air fresheners, and came across air filters. Did you know that the interior of your car is called a “cabin”… just like a boat or a plane?? Yeah, neither did I! More importantly, I found out that there are air filters in our cars that are made to be changed regularly to keep the air inside the cabin clean. I have owned lots of cars, and this is a fact that somehow eluded me. I hope I’m not alone here… feeling like a girl. 🙂

So I found these FRAM Fresh Breeze cabin filters, and they claim to clean the air 6 times better than standard cabin air filters because they use Arm & Hammer baking soda. Just like grandma used to put in the fridge. If grandma used it, it’s gotta be good.

FRAM Fresh Breeze air filter

There was a little catalog hanging off the shelf to help analog users look up the make and model of their vehicle… but do you see the little QR code there on the box? Yeah, I whipped out my iPhone and pulled up my ScanLife app… I feel all hip and tech-savvy when I have a chance to use it. It’s the little things, people.

And what do you know – that little code took me to the FRAM app and let me look for the correct filter number right there. And even better – it included an installation video! We were in business – and that filter was in my cart. (For a complete ride-along of my shopping trip to Walmart, check out my Google+ album here.)

FRAM Fresh Breeze app

The box promised a 15 minute installation, and of course I’m assuming that’s an optimistic prediction. But seriously, it only took me 12 minutes to pop that thing in. I had to un-hinge the glove box (easy), and pull out the old filter… gross… it might be hard to tell, but the one behind is the original (which had probably been in there since we bought the truck) and it was full of grit and bits and nastiness. Can you see the sparkly shine on the new one on top? Maybe it was late and I was hallucinating a little…

FRAM filter vs. old filterJust slide it in and close her up, and we’re done!

FRAM filter install

Have you used the FRAM Fresh Breeze filters? Go check out the FRAM Facebook page and let them know what you thought. And if you’re shopping for filters, be sure to take advantage of this rebate offer! They’ve got my DIY-friendly vote, for sure. And I am definitely looking forward to my next Sunday drive.

I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This content has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias® and FRAM #cbias #SocialFabric

Stuff that I love


There are a lot of things I love. Some things I don’t love so much, and interestingly – those are listed in BIG LETTERS in my tag cloud over there —->  Guess we don’t always write about what we love. Sometimes a blog gets populated by a whole lot of stuff that pisses us off.

But in the case of CANCER, the thing I love so little that I might actually use four-letter words when I refer to it in conversation, that thing has actually brought a wonderful thing along… a really strong relationship with my sister. Don’t worry, this isn’t going down the two-hankie-blog-post path. I’m just saying… I mean, get over it. Just briefly: our mom was diagnosed with brain cancer in September 2008 and passed away in August 2009. In those 11 months my sister and I developed a bond that can only be understood fully by other people who have shared in the work of caring for a dying loved-one and then spent another year and a half figuring out what to do with all their stuff including a house that was built by their grandfather and which ended up in foreclosure. And also including three beloved cats. Yeah… THAT kind of bond. I have a tattoo to prove it.

So, back to the stuff I love… one of those things would be Dave Matthews Band. Another, understandably, is my sister. Another is road trips. And finally, another (the actual list, which includes this photo of my brothers, would be ridiculously long…) is junking/thrifting/scrounging/treasure-hunting. This week the stars are aligning just as they do in super-cool documentaries about the Mayan Calendar and the future of the Universe and things like that, and my sister and I are taking a road trip to see Dave Matthews Band at one of their summer Caravan festivals – as well as a crapload of other awesome bands. On our way, we are certain to be lured to the roadside by junky buildings overflowing with stuff other people would throw in a dumpster or on a burn pile. And we




Okay, I’m not skilled on WordPress and can’t make that centered text look as intense as the waiting actually feels.

The aforementioned sister has been putting together a mix tape (shut up – if I want to call it a mix tape I will!!!) of a bunch of the bands we’ll see over the three day festival. We have been doing stupid little wiggly dances for at least the last two weeks every time we are together and one of us mentions the trip … we have saved our pennies and are making lists of the things we need to take and have a cheap ass hotel room in the ghetto reserved in our name. The countdown is on and this time tomorrow we’ll be lying in our beds unable to go to sleep.

We will be posting pics. We will be slapping on the sunscreen and using our refillable water bottles. We will also be eating cheap food in Chicago that quite possibly will taste better than anything we’ve ever eaten in our LIVES simply because we’re on a road trip.

And that, my friends, will be something to love.

I’m tired, so this is abbreviated…


Trip to Little rock to get mom to the MRI department in prep for brain surgery tomorrow morning. Left the house around 7am with some yummy sandwiches and snacks from a friend to keep us nourished.

At a bathroom break somewhere around Clarksville I was helping mom put her legs into the van and thought her left leg felt funny. I pulled up her pants leg, and sure enough – it was swollen, and discolored. I had noticed her left leg looking a bit discolored yesterday afternoon when she was getting situated for a nap on the couch, but the swelling was new.

We got back on the road and I had Erin call UAMS to let them know about the leg, and ask for advice considering we have surgery set for tomorrow morning – blood clots and surgery don’t go well together. The neurosurgeon on call (Igor De Castro – isn’t that the greatest name???) said to bring her to the ER as soon as we were done with the MRI.

The admitting nurse got her right back into the ER after looking at her leg and foot – they were pretty purple. It took about 7 hours, and we almost died of hunger, but she finally got an ultrasound done on her left leg and they found two clots – one near her groin and the other near her knee.

Since she is scheduled for surgery in the morning, they couldn’t give her blood thinner to dissolve the clots. Instead, they put a little filter in her artery just above her groin to catch any clot that might break off and head toward her lungs. The surgery is still on for tomorrow, thank goodness!! We were afraid they might postpone it, and since she has discontinued her radiation until after the surgery… well, we didn’t think we had time to wait. And thankfully, neither do these doctors.

So, she’s at the hospital tonight sleeping and Erin and I are at the Guest House Inn on University about to sleep. I am totally looking forward to a FULL NIGHT of rest. Since mom’s been living with me I have been up several times a night to help her to the bathroom. I am tired.

On the bright side – 473 residents have been by to see mom, introduce themselves to mom, ask her questions, ask if she/we have questions, explain procedures, and just be residents in a teaching hospital. After the crickets we heard during the stays at the hospitals in NWA, this is a welcome relief.

Big Decisions


Mom thought about the surgery option over the weekend, and came to the conclusion that it just makes sense to go through with it. The comment that Dr. Rowe made that she has “nothing to lose” made a big impression, I think. We’re scheduled for next Monday, the 27th, but we don’t have a time set yet. She has to be down there (Little Rock) Sunday for an MRI so they can map out the surgery area, but we don’t know yet if we have to go down the night before. Anyway, we’re feeling optimistic and think this is a positive move. She’s fearful, of course, as anyone about to have someone messing around in their brain would be, but I think she is sure, as we are, that it’s the right thing to do.

She’s suspended radiation until after the surgery and recovery are complete, to “save” the remaining doses for when there is less cancer to deal with. Chemo will continue though, at least this week. I need to ask them if she’ll also take it while in the hospital.

In other news, we’re going to have a head-shaving party Wednesday night. The radiation has caught up with us, and her hair is everywhere. Rather than carry a lint roller around with us, she just decided to go ahead and take it off. Some of her friends have talked about the bonding experience they had with a friend or family member that made a party of their own Voluntary Balding, so what the hell? I have a new blender, and there’s tequila in the cupboard, so I believe we’ll also serve some adult beverages. Of course, my brother has asked for a photographic record of the whole thing. He’s goofy like that.

Come one, come all! And I’ll fix a SPECIAL margarita to anyone who wants to have their own head shaved in solidarity!

Home again… now, when do we move??


Yeah, hanging out in North Carolina for a week has given me the itch to move.  I haven’t had this itch in quite a while, but the time we spent piddling around in the lovely towns near Asheville have given it to me. 

We had a really nice time visiting local little grocery stores and meeting some local artists and such… and the homes and neighborhoods we drove through were beautiful and there were babbling creeks everywhere. (a babbling creek is a requirement on the property containing the “home of my dreams”) I mean, don’t you think this house needs some TLC?? I’m just the woman to bring it back to life, I just know it.

But, alas, we’re back in Northwest Arkansas – not a bad place to live, by a long shot, but I’m pining for the 84 degree days now that I’m waking up to 94 degrees here.  Ugh.  At least the fires in California have made the sunsets really pretty.

Tuesday follows Monday


We originally planned to visit Chimney Rock Park on our way to a gem mining operation near Marion today, but after spending several hours hiking and taking pictures of nature yesterday for no admission charge, paying $15 each seemed ludicrous.  How many pictures of blue ridges does one actually need, you know? 

Interestingly, though, we did drive by the place on our way (since we went the way the Hubby suggested, rather than the more direct route I had already decided on…).  So, we have pics of the Rock from beneath, where it is decidedly UN-chimney-like in appearance.  And that’s all I’ll say on that subject.  (That’s it on the left in the pic)

We stopped for a picnic lunch at a rest-stop/visitor’s center, saving our precious funds for the adventure ahead – discovering TREASURE!!!  We watched an episode of Cash and Treasures on the Travel Channel that featured a guy named Jerry Call.  He’s a lapidary with connections to the Rio Doce mine in Brazil, and he runs this little mining operation of the same name here in NC.  He is one of only a few qualified lapidaries in the country.  Lapidaries are the people who cut and polish the stones once they’re pulled out of the ground. 

The mine offers several varieties of experiences, starting at $15 for a smaller bucket, and going up to $120 for a big one that also includes two free stone cuttings and guarantees some nice material.  The stuff in the buckets is not fresh out of the ground, but is what rock hounds call “enriched” or “salted”.  At first I thought that would deminish the Fun Quotient, but I was wrong!

We weighed the options and decided to split the $120 bucket between Hubby and I and our girls.  We put the material in two buckets and all went to town.  I have to tell you, the quality of stuff we pulled out was really amazing.  We are definitely going home with rocks that are worth the money we paid, and more.  Not to mention, each of the girls chose a stone to have cut and polished, and we paid another $40 to do one for me.  We have some fine pieces of pink opal, green tourmaline, garnet, emeralds, smokey quartz, rose quartz, regular quartz, golden citrine, amazonitedalmation… and I can’t remember all the rest.  Some are worth cutting into facets, and many others will make great cabochons.

Funny story:  Griffin was being a VERY patient boy, and as I was going through our goodies I let him hold a rock.  It was a Canary Citrine, and was a nice big piece and very clear.  As I inspected the rest, I didn’t notice that he’d wandered off, and the next thing I knew he had tossed it into the sluice right by the drain and it was gone.  I hoped that when we went in to have the folks at the mine inspect our haul they would tell me that wasn’t a valuable piece, but to the contrary – when she saw the smaller one we had, our inspector was most appreciative and told us this was a very special stone.  Figures.

Luck was on our side, because when we told her what happened she laughed and said they could retrieve the stone for us and cut it if we want to use it as one of our free cuts.  Since she seemed to think it was one of the best things we found, we told her to go for it.  Delaney picked a garnet (her birthstone) and Kelsey chose a green opal that will be cut in a cabochon.  My mom (a rock fan from way back who threw a lot of “pretty” gravel in her keepers pile) found a lot of nice stuff as well in her $30 bucket, and chose a rutilated quartz to have cut.  All in all, a great visit, and definitely worth the money.

We stopped for some yummy mexican food in Tryon at a restaurant called El Chile Rojo, stuffed ourselves, and came back to the house to recover.  Tomorrow we’re doing the Biltmore tour… a little less strenuous, and not as much time on the road.  Yay!