Saturday, October 27, 2007

Autumn Leaves . . . and a Fireplace Too!

Last Saturday I headed up to the mountains for my annual fall trip. The traffic jams caused by lane closings and a bad wreck on I-75 made it one of the longest trips ever, but it was worth it. You know, I-75 in south Georgia has been under perpetual construction since I was a kid in the 1970s. I wonder when they plan to finish . . . .

This December will mark four years since God gave me my log cabin in Blairsville, Georgia. I can't believe how time flies. I always enjoy the cabin in the winter, spring, and summer, but fall is my favorite time to go. The crisp air and fall foliage in a mountain setting can't be beat. The autumn leaves this year, though not the spectacular display of 2006, were amazing as usual. The first morning when I awoke the temperature had plummeted to 38 degrees. After the much-needed rain moved in, the lows hovered in the 60s.

On Sunday I mowed the chest-high (in places) grass on the back slope. It was a chore, but it looked so nice when I was done.

On Monday I drove down to Ellijay to enjoy a day of FAVORITES. My first stop was at the library in Blue Ridge to check my email. (When I get my second generation iPhone I won't have to do that anymore.) Upon arrival in Ellijay I ate lunch at Las Palmas, my FAVORITE Mexican buffet. Only $5.99, and it includes an unlimited supply of my FAVORITE white nacho cheese. I bought some shirts at Goodys, where there's always a sale, and then enjoyed taking my time roaming the aisles at my FAVORITE Wal-Mart Supercenter. I stopped by Starbucks on the way home for a hot Caramel Apple Spice, my new FAVORITE drink, and sipped it as I listened to A Light From Heaven, the final book in the Mitford series (another FAVORITE), on my drive back to the cabin. I stopped at the Mercier Orchards store in Blue Ridge and picked up some Rome apples for my friend Mary, so she can make her famous apple cake (yet another (FAVORITE). Yum! I learned at Mercier that only the early apple crops were damaged by the late spring freeze and that the late apples were fine. I also stopped at Ingles and picked up several pounds of Nantahala sausage (my FAVORITE) for Mary and Mama & Daddy. I'm hoping Mary will make her Velveeta, sausage, and salsa dip, one of my all-time FAVORITES.

Although it was raining when I got home, I went out to the wood stacks at the edge of the trees in the back yard to dig around for some dry firewood. This was the wood from the double-trunk pine tree that fell across my yard, narrowly missing the cabin when the hurricanes went through in 2004. My brother-in-law Todd chainsawed and split the wood while Carla, Sherry, Nathan, and I stacked the wood and gathered and burned the pine boughs. The following series of photos were taken by Sherry's husband, Josh Cole, during our 2004 fall vacation . . . well, not so sure Todd thought it was a vacation.

Thanks, Toddy!

At least Todd and I were working!

My redheaded 3-year old toolman.

As many of you know, I have never been able to use my fireplace at the cabin because the chimney was actually roofed over. The contractor who built the cabin never finished the job, and when I looked up the flue I could see the bottom of the metal roof. Last year I contacted the seller to see if he would have it repaired. He said he would, but after a year nothing had been done. I didn't want to go another fall and winter without a fireplace, so I decided to take care of it myself. A few weeks ago my handyman, Larry Bauer, took his helper and their wives up to the cabin to complete the job and construct the chimney. When the job was completed I sent the seller Larry's bill, not really expecting to hear back. But to my surprise his wife called and said she was putting a check in the mail. She added that they had both been ill and had never been able to find the right person to do the job, and they were glad that I had taken care of it. Later that week I received a check for the full amount. Praise God!

It was nice to build my first fire in the fireplace. It was a small fire and really only burned for a few minutes before I let it die out. It wasn't even cold outside, but I had waited long enough to use that fireplace. Even though my first fire was short-lived, the smoky fragrance lingered for days, making my cabin smell like a real log cabin should.

On Tuesday I drove down to eat lunch at the Amicalola Falls State Park Lodge. There was no meatloaf (my FAVORITE menu item) this time, and the view was thick with fog or clouds, whatever you want to call it. Oh well, it was still fun. I drove on down to the outlet mall in Dawsonville, then took the scenic route of 19/129 back to Blairsville. The winding mountain roads take you through beautiful country, but they can make you dizzy and give you a headache if you don't take your time.

A pumpkin farm near Amicalola Falls State Park.

Meeks Park in Blairsville.

Along Hwy 515 between Blairsville and my cabin. Doesn't this remind you of the opening credits of The Color Purple?

Love this blurry shot of Taylor!

Country roads take me home . . . .

I decided to end my trip early in order to save my personal days for another trip. Although this year's fall vacation was shorter than usual, it was still very sweet. I drove back to Plant City on Wednesday. It was rainy the whole day, but my only traffic delay was the morning rush hour north of Atlanta. I arrived safely, grateful for my mountain home away from home and for traveling mercies once again.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Fry Fotography

Fry Fotography is open for business! The woman behind the lens is my first cousin Kendra Fry AKA DeeDah. She took the amazing pictures of Nathan featured on a couple of my earlier posts, and now she has used one of the shots from that collection on her business card. Thanks DeeDah! You're sure to get lots of business with that sweet face.

To see some of Kendra's work, click the links below:

My Nephew, the Model

The Rest of the Shoot

(Click Below to Enlarge)

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Hinson Family Reunion

The Hinson Siblings

Standing L: Evelyn (My mama)
Back Row L to R: Aunt Doris, Aunt Dorothy, Aunt Peggy
Standing R: Uncle Alton
Front Row L to R: Aunt Mary Lou, Uncle Talmadge, Aunt Sharon (April's mama)

Today we had a small Hinson family reunion at Medard Park on Turkey Creek Road. All of the living Hinson siblings were there as well as several of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The other sibling, Uncle Earl, is in Heaven. The reunion was originally scheduled for 2:00, but they decided to move it up to 11:30 because of the rain forecast.

It was great to see everyone again. I thought I was having a vision when I saw a green minivan pulling into the picnic area. I thought, that looks just like Todd and Carla's van, you know the one I always ran to in the past so I could see Nathan. And as it turned out, it WAS Todd and Carla's van, except now it belongs to my cousins Heather and Timothy Rodriguez, who by the way have three of the cutest babies around.

The food was amazing as always, my Mama's chicken and dumplings most of all. Unfortunately, the rain did come and brought the reunion to an end about the time we finished eating. It was a brief gathering, but we spent a nice time together. A special thank-you to the organizers, especially my first cousin Judy Burkett who publishes and updates the family directory and has kept the Hinson family together through the years.

April & Me

April & Aunt Sharon

The Rodriguez Kids
JerriLynn, Joslyn, Javin

Thursday, October 4, 2007

A Happy Birthday Indeed!

I remember as a kid when it used to be all about the presents. Maybe it still is. But now my gifts come wrapped in emails, phone calls, dinner plates, envelopes, and of course T-shirts and dirty sneakers.

I was moved to tears several times over the past twenty-four hours by all the love that was sent my way. I guess the love started when Susan Stephens, one of my teaching colleagues, brought me a vase with two dozen roses during my sixth period class on Tuesday. Then Mama fixed spaghetti (mmm-mmm-mmm) for my birthday dinner. She invited Uncle Olan and Aunt Mary Lou because it was their anniversary that day. Sorry, April and John, wish you could have been there! I got a beautiful card and cash from Mama and Daddy, too!

Yesterday morning Nathan called me from Jamaica to wish me a happy birthday and asked me if my card had arrived. Sadly, it hadn't, even though they mailed it last week.

I got a couple of electronic birthday cards from Carla and my Oklahoma colleague Pam Blevins when I checked my morning email.

When I got to school, there were birthday greetings everywhere. Codie, one of my students from last year, caught me just as I was headed for the bathroom and gave me a homemade card and a hug. He wrote how he had some great teachers this year, but that I was the best, and how I had helped him so much last year. The tears started then, as they are now. Knowing that you have made a difference in the life of a child is better than a paycheck!

Former students were in and out of my classroom all day writing messages on my boards and bringing me cards and hugs. I walked up to the office later in the day while my class was having guidance. It happened to be during seventh and eighth grade lunch. As I was headed back to my room, a herd of former students came charging down the hallway and attacked me on all sides. The teacher on hall duty almost panicked.

I stopped by Mary Roberts' class for something and her class sang Happy Birthday hillbilly style. Later, during lunch I enjoyed Mary's traditional mojo pulled pork. My partner, Vickie Gunn, made me a homemade carrot cake that was divine. The girls on my team know how to put on a party!

Dianne Pippin called me in the middle of class to wish me happy birthday and told me that I was the single most influential person in her life. She brought me to tears in front of all the kids, but they were happy tears.

When I got home I had a phone message from Jimearl, now Bishop Jim Swilley, who was my college roommate. Our birthdays are exactly six months apart to the day, and we always touch base at least twice a year.

Mama also left me a sweet message about the day 49 years ago when they placed me in her arms after 24-hours of labor.

I checked the mail, and there was my annual card from Lesa Yates. Our birthdays are close together. She always sends me a card, and I never send her one. Well, I did one time to thank her . . .

But the best part is that Nathan's card arrived, too! Can you believe my amazing nephew who just started first grade is already writing in cursive. Carla's note attached said , "He wanted to do your card in cursive 'with letters that connect.' And he decorated it with a rainbow and 'colorful sticks.'" Thank you, sweet boy! You know Uncle Howie loves you the MOST!

Finally, my thanks to DeeDah, April, Carla, Sherry, and Rhoda, my regular readers, for all of your sweet comments left online. I love you girls!

Today I counted my blessings once again. I remain a blessed man indeed!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

He's Been Faithful for 49 Years!

Forty-nine years ago today I made my debut on Planet Earth. Like everyone, I've had my share of dangers, toils and snares, but I am a grateful man. Although I often complain, I count my blessings. God's been good to me, and Jesus has never failed.

He's Been Faithful

Words and Music by Carol Cymbala
©1989 Word Music

In my moments of fear
Through every pain, every tear
There's a God who's been faithful to me
When my strength was all gone
When my heart had no song
Still in love He's proved faithful to me
Every word He's promised is true
What I thought was impossible
I see my God do.

When my heart looked away
The many times I could not pray
Still my God, He was faithful to me
The days I spent so selfishly
Reaching out for what pleased me
Even then God was faithful to me
Every time I come back to Him
He's waiting with open arms and I see once again

He's been faithful, faithful to me
Looking back, His love and mercy I see
Though in my heart, I have questioned
Even failed to believe
Yet He's been faithful, faithful to me.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Sherry & April

Okay, Sherry, since you mentioned in your comment that you remember when you first met April, I thought I would provide a picture from my archives to document the memory. This is Sherry Bethune and April Noble at the Pleasant Grove 4th of July Picnic, 1980. April, you'll have to provide the story of your injury that day . . . .