Overstretched Spanx & A Visit From A Ghost

This past week, my husband and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary (Click HERE if you want to know more about our crazy story of how we met on Match.com) in beautiful Asheville, NC where we spent our honeymoon.

We were originally set to fly to Mexico for our honeymoon however that was the exact time of the bird flu outbreak.  Since it had originated in Mexico we realized that it probably wasn’t going to be the best idea to be stuck in a metal tube flying across the Gulf of Mexico with potential bird flu carriers.

Instead, we chose to drive up to the beautiful mountains of North Carolina and visit the Biltmore Estate, and since then we have been back several times in addition to our anniversaries simply because we love it so much.  More often than not, we choose to stay at the Grove Park Inn.

Grove Park Inn

If you haven’t stayed at the Grove Park Inn, I can not prepare you for how amazing this beautiful resort is…it would sort of be like saying the White House is “pretty”.  Pretty just does not do it justice.  In the 100 years since it opened, the guest list has included numerous presidents, athletes, actors & other entertainers, and now includes such unknowns as myself and my husband.  It also boasts the story of the “Pink Lady” who fell from the sixth floor (eerily, right outside our door) and is now apparently more of spiritual guest in nature than human.  (Apparently she’s harmless but likes to just be playful with people.)

It seems the entire lobby is made out of stacked stones – rather stacked boulders.  Both ends of the lobby boast a huge fireplace so big that you could fit a Mini-Cooper in.  It’s truly amazing – especially if you are sitting in one of the nearby rocking chairs sipping on a nice glass of wine.  The main building of the hotel is considered the “historic” part, as the two side additions were added years later.  Being the history nerd that I am, we always request staying in one of the rooms in the main building.  Yes, it’s a little creepy at times and after dark, the hallways have a tendency to look like something out of “The Shining” but the rooms are quaint with curved ceilings and the original fixtures, and it reminds me of something from “The Hobbit”.

One of my favorite parts of this hotel is the Sunset Terrace Restaurant, where you can have an absolutely amazing dinner with an equally amazing view of the mountains.  I was so stuffed after dinner that my Spanx turned in their resignation.  They were no longer going to be working for me and I must admit, I seriously gave them a run for their money.  It wasn’t their fault.  Blame it on dessert.

My second favorite part is the SPA, oh the glorious spa.   For this anniversary, my sweet husband treated me to a spa day, and after being covered in lavender and frankincense oils, massaged, warmed, heated in a sauna and then dipped in a whirlpool, I looked like a greasy homeless person and felt like an overcooked noodle.  Because I was so relaxed, I was lucky no one was asking me any serious questions.  I was able to answer “yes please” to an offering of water infused with lavender and lemon…anything more than that and people might have thought I had just undergone a lobotomy.

The following morning at breakfast we were talking and my husband asked if I had slept well.  I told him that it was odd he asked, because I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like someone had tickled my nose with a strand of my hair.  He got this funny look on his face and said that he woke up in the middle of the night because it felt like someone had pinched his nose!  Had we been visited by the infamous Pink Lady?

We reluctantly packed to leave, thus ending another wonderful experience at the Grove Park which only makes me already anxious for our next return trip.

And although I’m not a believer in ghost stories, I still gave a quick peek through the folded clothing in our luggage for any traces of pink that might be stowing a ride home with us.

Just to be sure, of course.

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Confessions of a Former Dating Loser

I met my husband three years ago on Match.com.  Many times when I tell people that they get this shocked look on their face as if to say “What were you thinking by dating on-line????”   Well to be honest, it wasn’t my idea.

I was a 10+ year Realtor who was suddenly faced with limited commissions when the housing bubble burst. I had a client who wanted me to list the house I had helped her purchase five years earlier because she had gotten engaged.  I met with  her and we talked about the house and our lives.  She said she had gotten tired of the single life and her teenage daughter talked her into going on Match.com.  I just giggled and thought to myself  “I may be a total dating loser, but I could never do that.”

I’m serious, I was a LOSER.  If there was another loser within a five mile vicinity, I was completely enamoured with him.

After she realized I was still painfully single since the last time we had talked (FIVE YEARS EARLIER) she said “I won’t give you my house listing unless you promise to go on Match.”  I got nervous.  What if someone I knew were to see me on a dating site?  Would my loser dating status just be confirmed?  Would it be embarrassing?  What kind of guy would sign up for online dating?  A serial killer?  Someone already married?

Then reality kicked in.   I started thinking of the fact that my mortgage and car payments were coming up and how desperately I needed the commission.  I reluctantly agreed.

I put my profile together and realized that it was sort of like writing about myself as if I were going into a catalog.  Interests?  I like camping, triathlons, anything outdoorsy but I’m still girly-girl enough to enjoy getting a mani/pedi on occasion.  Smokers?   Nope – not interested.   I did want someone who went to church but not someone who was going to make me feel horrible about a cuss-word slip up or a glass of wine.  I was also very serious about my political views (but won’t post them here!)  but I knew we definitely needed to agree on politics.

For about three weeks I received messages from some of the most interesting people I’ve ever come across.  (One guy actually sent me a picture of himself dressed as Abe Lincoln ….and another wearing a Superhero helmet.  One guy sent me pictures of his house.  One sent pictures of his pit-bulls.  One sent a picture of himself from what appeared to be 1985 leaning against a Trans Am, looking like Tom Selleck with the thick mustache.  But at least I didn’t receive a message like another friend of mine who I later found out was also on Match – her potential suitor immediately wanted to know her weight because he needed to ensure that she wouldn’t put them over the weight limit on his motorcycle if they were to get together.  Nice.  That one was definitely a keeper…said no one.)

Just when I thought I was destined to be forever single, the picture of the one that would steal my heart popped onto my computer screen…and the rest is history.  I sent him a “wink” which is sort of a computer cat-call.  He responded within a few hours with a long e-mail, to which I promptly replied.  We began e-mailing each other several times a day and then within a week moved up to phone calls before deciding to meet in person.

We decided  to meet up at a park where we could be out in public but we could talk and see if there was any chemistry.  If we didn’t like each other we wouldn’t be stuck sitting through a very uncomfortable dinner.  Meeting at the park was perfect because I had just gotten out of a cast after breaking my foot but was still scheduled to participate in a triathlon three weeks later. We could talk and exercise at the same time.  If there wasn’t any chemistry, one of us could just leave.

When I pulled into the park, I saw that there were two vehicles matching what he said he drove.  Both drivers got out at the same time:  one was in good shape, had a great smile and was dressed in black, and the other guy was wearing a dirty t-shirt and cutoff blue jeans, and looked like the only exercise he got was lifting twelve Budweisers a day.   I remember saying a little prayer that the fit one was my guy…and thankfully he was.

We thought we were going to only walk about 2 miles that afternoon since my foot was still healing but when I turned on my iPhone and checked out my pedometer, I realized we had walked 7 miles.  As I got in my car to go home I called my mom.  I told her I knew this one was “the one” and we would be married within six months.  Little did I know…

A mere four weeks later we were engaged, and eight more weeks later we were married.  We will celebrate our third anniversary this week.

Wedding day

Some people might think it was crazy of us to get married after knowing each other for only 12 weeks, but somehow we both knew we were a match made in heaven.

Finding the love of my life at an online dating website is something that I never could have imagined.  I used to think online dating was for the most desperate daters and although I easily fell into that category, I was completely in denial.  Why do online dating sites have such a bad reputation?  It’s really isn’t much different than being set up on a blind date through friends.  People realize you have something in common and you meet.  Sometimes it works out – my parents met on a blind date and just celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary.  Sometimes it doesn’t work out…but even then you at least  gave it a shot.

Who knows?   You may end up meeting your perfect match and living in your own love story.

And every love story is unique and amazing.  Ours is just my favorite.

Wedding day

Be Like A Boy Scout – Be Prepared!

This past weekend my husband, Dale and I decided to take a short getaway to help us relax and enjoy life so we decided to go camping. The North Georgia mountains are only an hour away from our home so it’s an easy drive to make to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

We got there early and started setting up camp. Soon the tent was up and we were sitting by a nice roaring campfire sipping on a long deserved glass of chilled chardonnay.

Although the campsites are wooded and far enough away from each other to allow for some privacy, we couldn’t help but notice a young couple at the campsite across from us attempt to make a fire. After a while my amusement turned to sympathy because it was starting to get dark as well as a little chilly.

I watched them crumple up little pieces of paper and dried leaves to get a fire going. They would get it set up, lite it, blow on it to make it smolder, and then it would go out.

Finally I told Dale that we needed to help them out or else they were going to be miserable all night. Now, I love the simplicity of primitive camping (no electricity, no water, etc.) but I am not foolish enough to think that I can create a fire with a piece of flint and some sticks. I’m much smarter than that…I had fire-starter logs. We took some over to them and within minutes they had a fire competing with ours.

In the morning the girl, Katie came by our campsite and thanked us profusely for helping them out. She said that they hadn’t been camping in years so they didn’t have the slightest clue what to bring. She looked around our campsite said “Wow – you really are organized with your camp stuff!!”

I explained that after years of camping and forgetting this and that, I put together three containers which I keep things that we ONLY use for camping. After each trip we make a list of the things we used up and need more of, and other items are washed and put back in the containers until the next trip. That way we don’t ever end up camping without fire starter logs. I told her that I also keep a “camping list” on my phone, which she asked me to share…so here goes:

Camp supply bins & shelf with tents & sleeping bag

1) Tent. I am sure that even the most inexperienced camper can figure out why you would need this. The only exception would be if you have a camper. If you have one, don’t forget to bring that.
2) Tarp to go under the tent. This helps eliminate condensation on the floor of the tent, keeping your stuff from getting wet.
3) Air mattress. This isn’t a necessity, but it certainly makes camping more comfortable. The ground can get colder than you think.
4) Air pump for blowing up the air mattress. And don’t forget the batteries.
5) Sleeping bags. My husband is hotter than a meteor (I’m sure he’ll love that analogy, but his body temperature is really hot and keeps me warm when it’s cold outside) so we take sheets and blankets instead of individual sleeping bags so I can snuggle up and keep my feet warm.
6) Pillows.
7) Table canopy. I personally do not like things to fall in my food so we bring a tarp (or one of those pop-up canopy’s that you use when you’re tailgating) to go over the table.
8) Cooler. (I make a list of food we are going to eat and then pack accordingly.) Don’t forget the ice!
9) Camp stove. If you have ever had a full breakfast when you’re camping, then you know why you want to bring a camp stove. Scrambled eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, & toast have never tasted so good!

Yep, that’s a non-showered me eating my camp breakfast


10) Pots, pans & utensils.
11) Propane (or whatever fuel your stove calls for.)
12) Paper plates & bowls. (Don’t forget coffee cups if you expect to have coffee in the morning!) Just toss them in the fire when you’re done eating!
13) Charcoal and lighter fluid. Most camp sites have designated fire pits which double as a grill so you won’t need to bring your Weber, just bring the charcoal. (I also use foil over the grill because who knows what’s been cooked there.)
14) Folding chairs to sit by the fire. I have a deathly fear of spiders and granddaddy long-legs…and if you end up sitting on the ground to enjoy your fire, then be prepared because these bugs tend to enjoy the fire while sitting on YOU.
15) Lantern or flashlights. We also have head lamps which makes it nice when going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, or just reading a book in bed.
16) Towels. If your camp site has running water and shower facilities.
17) Your clothes. Check the weather beforehand and pack appropriately.
18) Gallon jugs of water. If your campsite doesn’t have water, you will want this to make food, clean cookware, and just to wash your hands. Camping can get dirty.
19) Firewood and fire starter logs. I am going camping to have fun – not to prove that I could be on “Survivor” therefore, I am going to go the easy route and bring along something that makes starting a fire as simple as the flick of a Bic. (On a side note, be aware that many Federal and State campgrounds have incredibly HIGH penalties for cutting down branches and trees for firewood. BRING YOUR OWN!!!)

Miscellaneous:
a) Trash bags
b) Matches
c) Hammer (to knock in the tent stakes)
d) Scrub brush & dish soap
e) Hand soap
f) Batteries
g) Rope
h) Table cloth
i) Knife
j) Grill utensils
k) Ziplock bags
l) Foil
m) Baby wipes. You can use these if you can’t shower but need to clean up a bit
n) Cards or small board games
o) Citronella candle
p) Pepper spray. (This one is important. Most Federal and State parks have rules about bringing in firearms…you can’t…so the thought of being in a fabric house with a zippered door always makes me a little nervous so we keep pepper spray within arms reach)
q) Toilet paper. When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go…Just watch where you squat. Those three leaved bandits are poison ivy and take it from me, you don’t want poison ivy on your butt.

The key is to figure out what type of camping you want to do. If you’re primitive camping then you will need to bring more items than if you are camping where there is electricity and running water. If you’re hiking the Appalachian Trail then you don’t need this list or you will need to bring along some pack mules to carry it all for you.

Or if you are like many of my friends then you will just need to check into the local Ritz Carlton because that’s as close as you’re ever going to get to camping.

In any case, enjoy!

Do you enjoy camping? Share your story!


We made the fun photo above using StoryMark – download for free in the iPhone app store or Android market.

Another Year Older…Dang It.

My 44th birthday is coming up this month. When I was in my 20’s, being in my 40’s seemed to be SO FAR OFF. Holy cow. When the heck did this happen?

On my mother’s last birthday, my 93 year old grandmother asked how old she was. My mother, who we call “Ninny” replied, “Well how old do you THINK I am?” My grandmother thought for a few moments and said “42?” My mother told her she was CORRECT. (Ninny later told me that she doesn’t want my grandmother to really know how old my mother is because then my grandmother will realize that she is 93!)

Birthdays have always been so much fun for me. I’ve always loved them – no matter whose birthday it is. And now that I’m older, when I look back it seems like something crazy always happens on my birthday.

On the day I turned 18, I was a fun loving college student at Mississippi State University. I was so excited because back in 1986 if you were 18, you were of legal drinking age. Unfortunately for me the VERY NEXT DAY – October 1st, the drinking age changed to 21. And there was no grandfathering. So I was legal for 24 hours and then I couldn’t drink legally for another THREE years. Talk about a buzz kill.

On my 25th birthday I was married and six months pregnant. On my 30th birthday I was going through a very bitter, two-year divorce and custody battle.

I spent my 35th birthday at the hospital with Ninny while my father was having surgery for Melanoma. Halfway during the day, mom looked over at me and said “Oh! It’s your birthday!” Then she smirked and sing-said “Ha-ha-ha You’re 35 years old!!!” I just smiled at her and said “Well, at least I can say that I don’t have a 35 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER.” SCORE for the smart ass daughter.

On my 40th birthday I went to dinner with a nice fellow but found out a few days later that he was interested in pursuing someone else. Apparently my competition was not another girl.

My birthdays are starting to get better though. On my 41st birthday, I was on day 4 of my honeymoon. How awesome is that? Wedding cake + birthday cake = heaven.

Birthdays 42 & 43 were both spent with my sweet hubby at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. For my 44th? I’ve been told it’s a surprise, but it better involve cake!

I still have 49 more years to go until I make it to my grandmother’s age.

And as much craziness as I’ve had over my last 44 birthdays, I will be thrilled if the next 44 are just as fun…because at least that will mean I have lived until at least age 88.

Dang it. I just realized I’m already halfway there.

I just opened a birthday card & a dollar fell out. Oh how I love birthdays!

September 11 – Inspiration From Adversity

Each morning I get up around 6:45 and make sure my step-son is getting up and ready for school. I make breakfast for him and get his lunch box together. Then his carpool ride arrives and on most days, I head on back to sleep. I am usually still up until 1 or 2AM every night so 6:45 comes fast.

Tuesday morning of this week was no different than the usual except for one thing…Tuesday was September 11, and marked the 11th anniversary of the attacks on America.

My husband works from home also, but on Tuesday he got up early to do some work with his father. I highly contemplated going back to sleep but as my snuggley warm bed called out to me, I thought about all of the women who went back to sleep after their kids left for school. As their husbands were getting ready for work, they missed what turned out to be the last opportunity to eat breakfast and spend some time just being together. So I put my house-coat and fuzzy slippers back on and shuffled into the kitchen.

It made me really think – how often do we take for granted the time we spend with our loved ones? Who knows when the last breakfast will be? The last kiss good-bye? The opportunity to tell someone we love them? Or just waving at your spouse from the kitchen door as he drives away?

I can’t imagine what the 9/11 women (or men for that matter) would give for a do-over of that horrible morning.

I need to do better so I decided Tuesday morning that l would include in my daily or weekly schedule as much as the following as possible:

Being thankful for my life and the lives of my friends and family… Saying “I love you” as often as possible without getting annoying… Hugging my kids and husband tightly every opportunity I have… Writing letters to my 93 year old grandmother since she can’t hear me when I call on the phone… Calling my parents even though they only live 20 minutes away… Writing my sister an e-mail to let her know what’s going on in my life instead of having her read it on Facebook… Getting together with my girlfriends… Reading more books no matter what the topic is… Creating new recipes for my step-son who has a gluten allergy… Watching sci-fi movies (that I can’t stand) with my husband just because he loves them… Playing cards with my step-daughter and not calling it quits after just one game… Driving three hours one way just to have lunch with my college student because I miss him… Standing up for my political beliefs and using my right as an American to vote… Running three miles every single day and actually looking forward to it… Going back to church each week and maybe getting up the nerve to sing in the choir…

Sounds like a New Year’s resolution list, but for me it’s something that I really need to do.

We have all heard how nice it would be if we all lived like there was no tomorrow. It is clearly easier said than done or else it would already be happening. But if it did happen, people might generally be nicer and people across the world could hold hands…yadda yadda yadda. More than likely that is not ever going to happen.

But at my house, it will.

And in it’s own tiny way, it’s a start.

Adventures In Backyard Camping

I have been an outdoorsy kind of girl my entire life. Growing up, we didn’t take fancy vacations to other countries or exotic locations. Instead, my dad, mom, sister and I would go camping up at DeSoto Falls in the north Georgia mountains. Catching salamanders, hiking up to the water falls, hearing the rain on the roof of the tent, and telling scary stories around the campfire are some of the memories that I cherish the most. After my divorce, I started taking my son camping regularly at DeSoto Falls. I wanted him to experience the same fun adventures I had growing up –WITHOUT his Xbox, cell phone or any other electronics. We were primitive camping, which means a tent, no electricity, and no running water.

My husband, Dale had not been camping in 20 years when we first met three years ago. During our first year of marriage we took a camping trip to DeSoto Falls where I had spent so many of my younger years. I still laugh about the look on his face as I set up the tent (by myself), along with the picnic tent (also set up by myself). I must say though that he was able to uncork the wine bottle with the efficiency of a pro.

Since Dale had not been camping in years, his children had never been exposed to what it is like sleeping outside under the stars. We really wanted to share the adventure with them so we started off slow and decided to do a trial camping adventure with the kids by having a camp out in the back yard. If all went well, we would advance to camping in the mountains.

I got the tent set up along with the air mattress, sheets & blankets. I set up camp chairs around the outdoor fireplace (and actually found firewood at the Home Depot even though it was August.) I filled up the outdoor lantern and got the little table set out so we could play cards. I brought marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate to make s’mores over the fire. Finally, it was dusk and we brought the kids outside.

Everyone was so excited about our newest adventure. We played what seemed like the longest running Uno game in the history of the earth. We roasted marshmallows for our s’mores, which was even more interesting since my step-son has a gluten allergy, and we attempted to make s’mores for him using gluten free animal cookies instead of graham crackers. (It works, but it’s very sticky!)

It started getting late and it was time to wind down and get to sleep. Everyone climbed in the tent and got settled in. The kids were fast asleep within minutes. The adults? Well, let’s just say that the sound of air-conditioning units going on and off do not equate to the sound of quiet and crickets you get in the mountains. Teenagers flying through the neighborhood with their music blasting, trying to get home before their curfew is not necessarily equal to the sound of a babbling brook that lulls you to sleep. And did I mention that it was still August? In Georgia? And still 87 degrees out after midnight?

After the initial giggling between me and Dale of “what could possibly happen next” the dog next door started barking…and we called it a night. We grabbed the kids and took them inside to their rooms, and then we sleepy-staggered into our bedroom.

And it was a good thing. Because the greatest thing about backyard camping is that an actual bathroom is only steps away and you don’t run the risk of getting poison ivy on your butt from peeing in the woods. (THAT is a true story.)

We made the fun photo above using StoryMark – download for free in the iPhone app store or Android market.