Michele in the Smoky Mountains

The most bizarre thing occurred on Friday morning as Michele flew from the Texas Panhandle to East Tennessee. A dust storm from Oklahoma blew eastward smothering Tennessee and surrounding states with a thin layer of grit and dirt. I could hear the wind beating our house when I woke up that morning, and as soon as we pulled out of the garage to pick her up from the airport, we noticed that the usually very blue sky was a murky brown. Son of a gun, I thought. Michele’s bringing panhandle weather with her.

It was a bummer, too, because all of my blabbing about the beauty of East Tennessee is wasted breath if Michele couldn’t see past the first layer of the Foothills. What irony! Fortunately, it all blew away overnight and the rest of the weekend was picture perfect.

We spent a lot of time outside enjoying the breeze, the trees and the rainbow of vibrant colors. As if on cue, Michele arrived in East Tennessee when fall foliage hit its peak.

She and the boys enjoyed a chat in the grass at the park when I went to grab my camera:

I drove her along the Foothills Parkway, which offers some of the most pristine views of the Smoky Mountains:And then we stopped at our favorite watering hole where the boys often swim in the summer:

It was perfect:

Michele and I ate dinner at Cafe 4 on Saturday, and then Chuck and the boys joined us at Tupelo Honey Cafe on Sunday, which just opened in Knoxville a few days ago. I so enjoyed showing Michele all sides of East Tennessee. It’s a wonderful mixture of rural and urban, rich with history while always looking forward to what might be next.

I lived in her hometown for two years, so I was most happy to show her my town, if only for a few days.

Complete Peace

A little more than a year ago we were in the middle of trekking back across the country from Texas to Tennessee. We were coming home after a two-year stint of missing home. We made our life in Texas work as best we could, but family responsibilities cut our time there short, completely rearranging the five-to-seven year plan we’d mapped out.

Within a few weeks of moving back to Tennessee, I escaped to the mountains to find the peace I’d been lacking for several years. I even took the boys there for Easter. Now, one year later, driving to the Smoky Mountains is still my favorite thing to do here. I absolutely love every bit of it, from the bright green leaves to the sound of the river trickling to the clean smell of mountain air, and on and on and on.

This is where I live and find peace.

Corey and Alex

My friendship with Corey dates back to 1991. We were barely teenagers and completely ridiculous. My family had just moved from Germany to Atlanta, a city Corey has always called home, and she was instantly my best friend. And though I lived in Atlanta only three years, we kept our friendship going regardless of where I moved. Jeremy and her son, Alex, are just months apart and have played fabulously together since they met.

Such was the case this weekend. Alex and Jeremy haven’t seen each other in two years, but you really wouldn’t know it. It’s as if no time has passed. I guess they get that from their mothers.

Since the weather was beautiful, the boys played mostly outside. Corey and I ran around town on Saturday looking for living room furniture and we had great success. (Never in my life did I think I’d have an orange couch, but… Pictures to come.) For dinner we brought Corey and Alex along with us to our Welcome to Tennessee party with all of the aunts, uncles and cousins. It was a night of real southern food with the kind of hospitality that makes you feel like you’ve indeed come home. My list of babysitters is growing by the day.

Sunday was spent in the mountains and it couldn’t have been more beautiful. I wanted to pitch my tent and sleep next to the rushing water. I can see the mountains from my back deck and can be running around in them within a half hour. That is some good geography.

Sprinkled within the weekend were moments of wide awareness regarding Japan. Every few hours we’d check online to learn the country’s status. Yesterday I read the headline “Tidal Wave of Bodies…” and my stomach sank. I simply cannot imagine. Last night I laid awake thinking about how much I enjoyed the weekend and how my blessings need to be passed on to others. I’ve never felt comfortable with the “text your donation to such-and-such number,” and you never know about other quick-start charity organizations, but this article helped me a great deal in figuring out where to send money. It looks like the American Red Cross is the best place to start.