Archives for posts with tag: Georgia

I do love Atlanta because of its Southernness and history; my history there; varied trees,  plants and flowers; backroads; special places to visit; and Ava memories. I had a blast giving one of Ava’s dearest friends and mentor Phase 1 of Donna’s Atlanta Driving/Some-Walking Tour.

As always, I start in my home area of Sandy Springs which is in Northwest Atlanta which used to be a sleepy little area of farms (including ours) and quiet country living. Now, it’s all that and more. It’s THE place to live! Do those rich people know that a tenement farmer raised pigs on that property and that’s probably why their grass is so green? Or that the multi-million dollar house sits in our cow pasture of yesteryear? It’s definitely hard to recognize and my brain gets all tangled up in reality and my memories of horseback riding over to the Chattahoochee River and riding the old timber roads or milking the cow or playing in the creeks or happily padding along barefooted chasing after someone or something. Awww. The Good Ole Days!

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Me “driving” our tractor I called “The Green Dragon!” Looks like I got stuck!

Anyway, here’s some of which I included in the Phase 1 Driving/SomeWalking Tour for Ava’s friend and one of my Chirrens yesterday. Yeehaw!

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Swan House is in an area we call Buckhead because it was there was a General Store at its old crossroads with a Deer Buck Head over the door. The Swan House is a part of the Atlanta History Center. One Ticket at the History Center gives you access to Center’s fabulous Exhibits, the Swan House, and, in October, to the relocated Cyclorama which used to be at the Atlanta Zoo!

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Fox Theater’s outstanding acoustics have been recognized all over the world!

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When we used to go to the movies here, each side of this area was where the latest, finest lady’s fashions were exhibited. It was saved from demolition in 1976 by locals. YAY!

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I’ve been wondering where they moved the famous CocaCola sign to and there it was in all its glory right over the building at Five Points in the heart of Downtown Atlanta on top of the old Wormser Hats Building!

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Brand new Mercedes-Benz Atlanta Stadium! Quite impressive!

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On to my favorite restaurant – No Mas – in the Castleberry Arts district across the street from the old GE Supply Building where I used to work a hundred years ago!

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Whoever created this place, needs a gold star for doing it right! Plus, the food is amazing!

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Got a hankering for outdoor seating?

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So many interesting things going on inside with the old and new structure being married with Mexican artifacts and art!

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Ohm yeah! I want one of these for my front porch!

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Before you leave, go into their Artisans Market store just to the left of the restaurant patio for more stimulation of the purchasable kind! LOVE this place!

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Our State Capital Building is crowned with none other than Gold from our very own Dahlonega! I remember when they brought the gold to the Capital in wagon trails from there to refurbish it.

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And, last but not least, Ava’s love – Little Five Points. She loved living here and felt safer here than anywhere. Junkman’s Daughter was her favorite place to shop; The Vortex was her favorite restaurant; and the Brew House was where she’d go for libations.

I modify each tour according to the wishes of my passenger, their age, the heat/humidity index and my energy. Most of this was a driving tour but we’ll hit the streets next time she’s in town and do it right! This was just the tip of the iceberg tour!

HAPPY TRAILS…until we meet again!

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Mom’s favorite place for me to take her for any occasion was our very own Lake Rabun Hotel & Restaurant (www.lakerabunhotel.com)  but especially for Sunday Brunch! So, whenever a newbie comes to the my mountain home (Southern Comfort Cabin) to visit, I  take them for their great Sunday Brunch.

I’m  truly blessed to have many wonderful Chirrens and Grand Chirrens, especially after  my daughter, Ava, passed (avascorner.org). My Chirrens keep in touch with me and visit when possible from all over the country and beyond. I had two of my Chirrens meet for the first time! It’s been so exciting! They really are twins! Mirjana (from Canada) has been with me learning Southern beginning in Jacksonville, Jekyll Island, Savannah, my mountain cabin with Little Five Points being her last stop, of course. Stacey, who I adopted upon meeting fifteen years ago, came up to meet Mirjana (her “sister-by-another-mother”). We’ve easily recognized we’re all of the same Gypsy, Bellydancing Singing blood! How could we not be when Ava brought us all together?

As my Chirrens come up for a visit, the tradition has become for me to take them to Lake Rabun Hotel’s Sunday Brunch. Today was the day! Yum!

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Path entrance Lake Rabun Hotel

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Front View Lake Rabun Hotel

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Lake Rabun Porch Dining

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Lake Rabun Hotel Witham Room

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Local “farm to table” foods

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Always good eats!

For more information, please visit http://www.lakerabunhotel.com or email Josh Addis, their General Manager, at joshaddis@lakerabunhotel.com to make your reservations to stay in one of their newly renovated suites, have dinner or to have one of their signature drinks!

It’s all good and a fabulous way to spend your time up here in the Northeast Georgia Mountains…and make new friends!

HAPPY TRAILS…until we meet again!

 

Mountain Southern is so different from Savannah Southern in many ways! For starters, there are less gnats, mosquitos, heat, sand and humidity and abundant with rivers, creeks, waterfalls, mountains and cool breezes.

Taking Mirjana to the Southern Comfort Cabin was Phase Two in her learning Southern adventures. I learned two new words used by locals: “Ooshie” (means cold, “It’s ooshie.”) and “Backanow” (means back a while, “I did it backanow.”)

And as before, I’ll let the pictures do the talking!

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Tallulah Falls Overlook

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Tallulah Falls Close up!

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Treasures within the Tallulah Falls Overlook

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Last Rhododendron Bloom of the year! Glad I got to see at least this one!

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Crustacean of the Lobster family! Crawdad talk!

 

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Mountain roads!

 

HAPPY TRAILS…until we meet again!

Savannah, Georgia…deeply steeped in history beginning with its founding in 1733 and the women who were responsible for much of it remaining mostly intact…is a breathtakingly gorgeous city worthy of a much longer stay than Mirjana and I had. But, we gave it our all even to the very minute we left.

We finished our whirlwind tour with none other than the infamous Shannon Scott walking tour of the Bonaventure Cemetery mostly made famous by a book/movie a couple of decades back, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” We who have made that trek to Savannah for decades know, or thought we knew, a great deal about this Cemetery and it’s residents but Shannon Scott’s ability to entertainingly weave this base knowledge with his obvious hunger to find the secrets behind the curtains in his guided tour (www.shannonscott.com) is certainly a treat worth doing. In the two hour tour, Shannon not only gave his audience the insider view of how the Bonaventure Plantation became a cemetery but how Savannah lives changed by the persons who now reside within its hallowed grounds.

I wish I could have made notes during Shannon’s tour for this writing, but I was totally captured by his vibrant storytelling; of interjecting the secrets of its inhabitants; and how strangers’ lives were forever changed by these now gone but forever alive people in history. Shannon’s sixteen years of Bonaventure touring experience and love for its history and art is most evident and entertaining. Take the tour; absorb its ambiance and his knowledge as it’s so worth the investment.

As pictures speak volumes, I’ll just tell of my adventure with photos.

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Bonaventure’s Custodial House at the entrance.

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Bonaventure gardens

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Elegant chiseled white marble art forms.

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Walz was the most famous of the artists who took wooden mallet & chisel in hand to create these standing beauties of art history.

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Different symbols on these iron slave grave markings indicated the person’s standing at the time of death…slave or freedman.

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Angels among us.

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Gracie is the story of a young girl who won the hearts of many just by being herself, playing daily in her parent’s hotel and surrounding area. Walz was new to Savannah and hoped to get his monument sculpting business started when a grieving father walked into his shop, handed him a picture of a young girl and turned and walked out without a word. The rest is history.

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Ode to Gracie. 

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Johnny Mercer was born a musical savant and into a wealthy, established Savannah family. His early talents were reflected in his ability to pick up and play any musical instrument. He wrote volumes of songs loved by all: “Moon River,” “One For My Baby.” “Blues In The Night,” and “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” It was in the Mercer House in Savannah where the story of murder and mayhem took place in the 1980’s touted story written in the 1997 book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”

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Italian artists and historic influences evident here!

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Flowing fabrics of marble reminded me of Michelangelo’s hand.

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All roads in Savannah eventually lead to the River! Nice ending!

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Wow! The ultimate in intricate, elaborate gateways.

Words of wisdom for your summer visit to Savannah’s Bonaventure tour are: dress code is cool & comfortable, bring water, tennis shoes over sandals because of sand and ants, hat for shade (or find shade) and listen to every word Shannon imparts. He definitely gives his all in this mystical, magical tour the likes of which I’ve rarely seen in a cemetery!

HAPPY TRAILS…until we meet again!

There’s so much to do and see in the Historic Districts of Savannah especially if you walk it all like we have done. Knowing parking can be challenging here, I told Ava’s friend/mentor, Mirjana, we weren’t cranking it again until we were leaving! She’s such a great sport and travel buddy that we both jumped in on our first day and walked the whole River District meandering in and out of all the wonderful shops.

As we spent yesterday getting caught up on our Savannah history and planning our walking tours with the best driver/docent ever (Hey, Rubin at TrolleyTours.com), we tackled our wildest walking tour dreams today! Although it was predicted to be 91 degrees, walking in the morning was quite pleasant. We headed off right away for a place a friend of hers recommended called The Collins Quarter for a highly recommended Lavender Mocha. I got mine served cold and hers hot.

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Just ordered our Lavender Mochas!

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Yum!

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Outside seating

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The Collins Quarter is a must!

On our list was walking the entire length of Bull Street to view all the beautiful parks which were craftily and cleverly created by Savannah’s founder, Oglethorpe in 1733 before he even left England! And so our adventure began! Enjoy!

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Statue of Savannah’s designer/founder, Oglethorpe.

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Many movies have been made here over the years and this restaurant was in one with Julia Roberts.

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Sorrel-Weed House known for its haunting experiences.

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Details of the Sorrel-Weed House.

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Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

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Wonderfully inventive walls, wrought iron and private gardens are found only in walking tours.

Our day was topped off with lunch with a local artist friend of mine, John Mitchell, at Belford’s restaurant in Savannah’s exciting City Market! So many wonderful shops to visit! I visit with John every time I get back to Savannah as I admire him and his works so much that I own many. My collection is a range of his mid-1990 multimedia works consisting of ceramics, wood, collage and paintings. He’s now exploring more mixed three-dimensional art a few of which can be found in the A. T. Hun Gallery in the City Market. Support local artists!

But, back to the food at Belford’s!

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Inside Belford’s

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BEST Friend Green Tomatoes ever!

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Lunch special – Seafood Frittata. Yum!

I’ve not enjoyed Savannah this much not only because I have a kindred spirit enjoying it with me but I’m in a better place to embrace and absorb more of it. It’s been outstanding having Mirjana to explore its art, history and the wonderfulness of all the various heritages still present in this magical area they call Historic Districts of Savannah!

Tomorrow, we’ll have the pleasure of meeting a local historian who will guide us through the Bonaventure Cemetery before we leave for the cabin! Can’t wait to hear all the history he’s going to share with us!

Happy Trials…til we meet again!

Awwww. It feels so good to be back in my home state and first love, Georgia. You know you’re back in the real South when a man waits for more than a few seconds to hold the door open for an approaching woman. So, when one of Ava’s best friends decided to come my way for a visit, my focus was to “learn” her some “Southern” was of major import, I determined there is no better place to start than Jekyll Island where the millionaires of yesteryear played (Rockefeller and Goodyear to name two), huge Live Oaks lined lazy pathways and roads and a quiet, white sand beach to explore.

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Millionaire Row…playground of Rockefellers and Goodyears of yesteryear.

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Awwww. The Live Oaks lining the streets. Never can get enough of this.

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As I had been trained by my father at an early age the language of birds, I heard a mother bird chirping loudly above where I was seated at one of her chicks. It was as if my dad was whispering to me that she was trying to teach her baby to fly. I looked up and that’s exactly what she was trying to do. My hands weren’t quick enough to catch the whole scenario but I remember it because it mimics what we all have to do with our own chicks…encourage them to fly. The interesting part was that each time the baby bird flew away…even if only inches…the mother bird called it back to here and did what appeared to be giving it a kiss. She was probably giving it an “atta girl” treat of some juicy bug but this continued until she chirped no more and the chick was not to be seen. It felt so good to experience not only the Jekyll Island of my childhood in this way but to have my father guide me through this incredible journey of letting go.

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Hidden white sand beaches next to marshlands.

 

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Pathways lined with Live Oaks. You don’t get better than this!

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Marshlands by the white sand beach!

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Then, it was time to get back on the road again headed for her next lesson in Southern. On the drive to Savannah, I explained to her that she must drop “g” from every word ending in “ing” and gave her some critical colloquialisms like “I’m fixin’ to,” “cattywampus,” “cattycornered,” and, of course, “buttah.”

The only place to learn my kinda Southern is in my all-time favorite area in Georgia – Savannah’s Historic District. If you stay in this area and park your car and not take it out until ready to go home, you won’t be disappointed. It’s so easy being here. Its friendly, customer oriented, down home “glad ta see ya'” kinda easy framed in a comfortable, slower paced, stimulation unique to it. Being a history buff, the only place to stay here is in the area claimed by King George II through Oglethorpe in 1733.

First on the must-dos is to visit the history center and then take a trolley tour of the Historic District. It’s the only way to steep yourself in the local color and atmosphere I so dearly love. Then walk along the Savannah River, which adds it’s own flavor to the the River Historic District of restaurants and shops which have been here for decades providing great places to explore and juicy stories of yesteryear complete with murder, ghosts, famous people and great food with lots of buttah,

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23 K Gold Dome Savannah Courthouse

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The Cotton Exchange for the World!

 

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Being a major port city means Savannah was also a major Railroad Hub for importing and exporting goods. After all, it was the heart of the Cotton Exchange for the World!

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Oglethorpe had drawn out his plans for the 24 sections of this city before he ever left England. Each section had a park in the center surrounded by a church, business, homes, etc. Some of these homes survived the numerous fires of the 1700’s…but some didn’t. As they were rebuilt, bricks and rock and other materials were used. And, the more iron work you had on your property, the wealthier you were purported to be.

 

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The Pirate House luncheon buffet is the BOMB! If you haven’t had REAL Mac N’ Cheese in decades, you have to come here! They got it, baby! Yeah! And Fried Chicken, Collards, Buttah Milk Biscuits…YUM! And, they have some intereesting history!

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Part of the house was built in 1734 and the restaurant was established in 1753! If they don’t know how to cook with buttah, nobody does!

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Walking back from our big lunch at the Pirate House along the Savannah River, we happened upon this huge cargo ship headed out to sea! So cool!

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River adventure is never complete without the help of a Tug Boat!

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Getting past the bridge looks tricky but they make it look easy!

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Tomorrow? Bonaventure Cemetary, Ghost stories, Riverboat Tour and more!

Happy Trails…until we meet again!

Wow! I had to go into hybernati0n to get back up to speed to even write about the last two days of my trip home! I didn’t feel like I was all that exhausted until I stopped! It’s like the old joke about the guy who keeps hitting his head against the wall and won’t stop. A fellow asks him why he doesn’t quit it and his reply is, “It doesn’t hurt until I stop!”

I knew I had a great deal to process once I got home and I understood I’d be tired but what caught me unawares was how mentally wiped out I’d become from all the hard work I’d done in pushing my way to a new level of grief healing. Don’t get me wrong! I loved every minute of my 2016 Great Adventure (except for the Lebanese LA restaurant thang and a couple of others) because I was focused, determined and motivated to my quest of how I wanted to live the rest of my life…or the third chapter. I’m still not sure of all the details as I’m still processing but going west annually is definitely in my future!

As this journey has been about contrasts…before and after Ava’s death; before and after my journey; west vs. east; desert mountains vs. Smokey Mountains; water vs. drought…I thought I’d post a couple of photos that struck me from my last day on the road that focus on the differences between the far west and the near east of US.

On the back roads in the west, I witnessed a great deal of drought; a great deal of wasted water irrigating to artificially stimulate growth with more moisture lost in evaporation than plants benefited in extreme arid climates; dry creek beds; river and lake levels atrociously low (Walker Lake in NV is 181 feet below normal per Wikipedia and Lake Mead is at a record low) yet Las Vegas continues to pump millions of gallons of water into artificial lakes, fountains and entertainment venues causing the drought to worsen; more strip mining than you’d ever think; outrageous heat (triple digits); very dry air; no green vegetation save cacti and succulents; 75 MPH speed limits and California’s aggressive drivers.

Walker Lake, NV

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Outside of Tonapah, NV

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On the back roads in the east, I found Tennessee to have the most aggressive drivers (mostly between Memphis and Nashville); not as much evidence of strip mining as I’d seen before; full rivers, creeks and lakes; moist air and normal temps (high 80’s) and lots of vegetation. I was even glad to see the Kudzu!

NC mountains close to home!

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My father raised us all to be very mindful of the earth and our need to protect it. I’m sad to say that my generation hasn’t appeared to do a very good job of that and it’s only going to get worse because society has moved into the instant gratification mindset and I’m afraid the new generation doesn’t care or understand  about the long term ramifications of such a lifestyle not only on them but on our precious earth.

As my children are gone and I have no grandchildren, it’s really up to those of you who do have them to teach the next generation to love Mother Earth and help resuscitate her back to a healthy normal!

HAPPY TAILS!

 

As far back as I can remember having a child, we, either Mom, Carl and I or Mom, Ava and I, traveled around north Georgia to the various Native American Festivals absorbing their heritage (multi-tribal events are coolest), cultures, customs and regalia.

As in most traditions, Mom initiated them and Dad happily participated if it involved taking Carl. Dad loved to see what that kid would say or do with new environments. One year when Carl was about seven, Dad and Mom took Carl and me to the Cherokee Reservation in Cherokee, North Carolina. My father’s mother, who lived in Palm Springs, California at that time, sent Carl a full Native American costume with headdress and all for his birthday. It only was fitting for Carl to insist on wearing it to see his relatives. My blue-eyed blonde son was sure even at an early age that he was a Native of this land. He was if only in spirit.

Carl on the war path!

Carl on the war path circa 1973!

He had also gotten that year this amazing horse with some of the finest springs made! He literally bounced on it all over Mom’s front yard! Notice his feet are not on the posts but down in bareback riding posture! All I had to do was tell him that’s how the real Indians rode their horses and that was that!

As Mom, Dad, Carl outfitted as above and I walked up the pathway to the village, there was an elderly tribesman sitting on a blanket. His face firm as if carved from wood. His eyes staring ahead as if he were blind. Without hesitation, Carl slowly folded up mimicking the position of the elder, leaned toward the man and whispered, “I’m an Indian, too!”

We adults held our breath knowing protocol normally wouldn’t allow such a spacial invasion but Carl was different. He was charismatic, magical and sent his energy ahead of him to the elder. We waited as the two enjoyed their visit and Carl was ready for the next part of his adventure.

It was fifteen years after Carl was missing before he came to me in a dream and guided me to find him. A few months later, Ava insisted on us going to a medium, Candice. When she channeled Carl, it was pretty remarkable. So much so that she told Carl she wanted to work with him from now on because he was such a great energy. He revealed that after he died, he wandered around his body for a few days near Indian Springs, Ga. and it was the Indians who came to him and guided him on his journey on the other side.

Carl had already told us years ago through the medium Candice that he had ascended to the fifth and had to get permission to go back down to the fourth to communicate with us. That he was now known as the “Great Warrior” and that the three of us (me, Carl and Ava) would write a book of that name telling the world the great truth and how there is no shame in it. Carl said that I was known there as “Woman with Great Knowledge” and that I had access to the Akashic Records. I’ve often wondered what that great truth might be. I’m thinking I might just have a clue now!

There’s so much more but this blog is about yesterday’s journey.

The minute Ava was old enough to go, we attended many Native American Festivals up until she moved to Vegas in late 2008. She and I both preferred the Rolling Thunder Mother’s Day event that has been in Canton, Ga for the past decade or so. The last Festival she and I attended was the year she left for Vegas (2008) for our Mother’s Day celebration. It was our thing. There, I bought her a feather hair thingie.

It was all those memories that bubbled like soda as I pondered how I was going to spend this Mother’s Day. I was reminded of how much fun we’d had at the one in Canton and determined that was just exactly what I was going to do. I announced to friends and family that I needed drum healing. I could hear them calling to me…healing my soul.

As I drove alone to Canton yesterday, I wished I’d brought something of Ava’s with me appropriate for the event. I looked in my rear view mirror and there it was…those feathers, bundled together with leather strips…tendrils of her hair still tangled in the design of the ornament as if they were meant to be there from its creation.

I then remembered that I keep Carl’s red, white and blue marble and Ava’s hair clip in my truck. I couldn’t wait for the next red light! I attached her feather ornament to the clip, put it in my hair and tucked Carl’s marble into my pocket. Suddenly, I felt better about my solo journey of release, healing and connecting…not really celebrating.

As I walked alone from the car to the facility, I spoke to Ava asking if she was with me. I really wanted to be holding her hand or have our arms locked around each other walking in unison as we always did. I felt a pressure in my right hand…a weight as if she had put her hand there. As soon as I acknowledged it, she affirmed it to be her. She held my hand for about ten steps or so until my mind wandered off considering the terrain and at least ten other things.

Shored by the mornings affirmations and confident Montana was safe at home, I made my rounds inside the circle of venders inhaling the fresh, clean, cool air and making note of which vender was a regular and taking an overall account of their offerings. Unfortunately for me, there were no surprises in the first half but I was sure not to be disappointed as I walked toward the area you can normally find the educational section in the rear. This is where you can learn most about that person’s tribal customs and see daily chores performed in yesteryear ways.

 

Teepee where these historians reside during the Festival

Teepee where these historians reside during the Festival

Outdoor primitive cooking for sure!

Outdoor primitive cooking for sure!

The first area was how to skin and cure hides. Interesting as it was, I was hungry therefore drawn toward the man cooking.

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The MC announced the calling for the celebration to begin. The rhythm of the drums prepared me for the wonderful events to unfold as I came back around full circle. where I found a dear friend, Fred, who owns Prairie Trails in Helen, GA. Look closely at Fred’s famous hat! Go check out his store online at http://helenga.org/business/prairie-trails and support local enterprises including http://www.avascorner.org as he has several pieces of my Native American jewelry for sale to help support Ava’s Corner, Inc.!

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I always enjoy catching up with Fred and seeing his crazy hat! He told me that many of his longtime local suppliers had all closed and that he was struggling to keep going as well. We know that story to be repeated in the Historic Clayton, Georgia area near where I live as well.  that he introduced me to Karen. I was about to leave when he became insistent for me to wait for him to introduce me to this young woman he’d just met. Her name is Kaaren Renee Robb, Founder, Host & Sound Clinician…”Growing a community of people dedicated to advocating for, participating in and spreading the good news about sound & music healing.”

This young woman held up her drum and started singing. If my eyes were closed, I would insist it was Ava singing. Ava had actually tried various creative vocalizations one of which happened to be chanting into a drum ten years ago! WOW! Of course, I started sobbing and told Karen about Ava. She asked if she could do a drum/music healing on my heart. That would be a YES PLEASE in loud internal screams! After all, I’d announced I was coming for drum healing, right? Really? How much more on point can you get than that?

I stood still, eyes closed, hands down as she sang and tapped the drum starting in my heart region. I felt the vibrations as she moved around me. It was so very familiar…a deja vous experience so much like the hundreds I had throughout 2012 after Ava’s passing.

Karen Robb, Founder, Music City Alliance for Sound & Music Healing

Karen Robb, Founder, Music City Alliance for Sound & Music Healing performing healing on our new friend who channels from the other side!

 

Me after my sound/music healing with new friends.

Me after my sound/music healing with new friends.

The other woman is a channel for the other side who proceeded to tell me that Ava had been tired of the struggling on this side and wanted to accelerate her process to ascend to the fourth dimension. She said we would meet again on the fifth and that Ava had a surprise for me for Mother’s Day.

As I turned toward the inner circle where the dancers performed, I found I walked with greater peace. The drumming was renewed and the dancers (my favorite part) were in full regalia!

I had my favorites. The young woman in red teaching her daughter how to shawl dance was magical!

I had my favorites. The young woman in red teaching her daughter how to shawl dance was magical!

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Happy Mother’s Day to those mamas out there who follow this Warrior Eagle Donna Mama as one of my chirren has named me on this site. There’s so much more to come!

Happy Trails (or, if trials, remember to surf the tsunami)!

 

Today is Carl’s birthday.

I had figured it all out by Carl's first birthday!

Me me and Carl on his first birthday!

When he was little, we celebrated it with the Birthday Frog bringing him presents. He wondered why there was an Easter Bunny, Sandra Claus for Christmas, etc. and nothing for birthdays. So, we created one.

Carl’s laugh was infectious and like music to my ears and his sense of humor wonderful. He loved to fish better than anything other than science and taught himself how to make his own fly lures at eight for fly fishing. At first, he caught more limbs than fish but he didn’t stop trying.

My blue eyed baby...Carl around age 8.

My blue eyed baby…Carl around age 8.

When he was sent to military school by Ava’s father, it changed him forever. He became a hurt and angry young man who had succumbed to hazing and learned how to drink and smoke pot at the age of thirteen. He took his life down a tragic path regardless of the time, money and help I could get and, by the age of eighteen years, two months he had disappeared.

Carl about the time his step-father decided he needed military school.

Carl about the time his step-father decided he needed military school.

For the fifteen years he was a “missing person,” I spent this day praying and fasting as I cut trees and bushes at Mom’s just to get through the day wondering if I’d ever know what had happened to him.

The last picture taken of the three of us in March, 1984. Twenty-eight years later, Ava was gone too in that same month.

The last picture taken of the three of us.

After I found he had been murdered, I spent the first six years fantasizing about killing his murderer who was already dead! Irrational, emotional and illogical however it was what happened.

These last few years, I’ve been trying to do something to celebrate who he was before he got sidetracked from a creative, happy, talented, bright child into a tortured soul. One year I spent time with the Native Americans at their mounds near Macon, GA. Other more spiritual adventures included traveling to his favorite fishing holes or visiting places out of town that he loved.

While I was pulling weeds out of my little patch of flowers I stole from Mother Nature this past week in meditation of this day, I knew I wanted to do something totally different.

I remembered that I’d found one of his old fishing lures as I cleaned out his tackle box…one he’d missed when he was selling his precious treasures for drugs. I’d carefully placed the hook still attached to a piece of line next to some of Ava’s treasures. Somehow, I knew I wanted to take these relics of their respective childhood to them.

Having just ordered Ava’s marker, it seemed fitting that I go to the cemetery where they now are side-by-side. They absolutely adored each other from the day Ava was born.

I thought I was going to go alone because so many things like this are uncomfortable for others to deal with and I’ve had to do so much of my hardest work alone. I was surprised to have the comfort and company of my good friend and neighbor, Jackie Miles, volunteer to go with me. This time, I thought, I’m going to have someone who understands what this day is all about.

I took these treasures which represented their innocence and hope.

At Ava’s request, Carl’s marker had a circle cut into the granite when we finally put in his marker ten years ago. As I looked at Carl’s lure, I knew it represented his innocence; his name tag from military school represented what stole both his innocence and hope away. I placed the fishing hook down into the circle and buried his name plate above his remains.

For Ava, I had a tiny pink bow she wore in her hair as a baby. She was born with more hair than most adults have and I needed to keep it pulled away from her face! This tiny pink bow represented her innocence. I buried it over her remains. I’d found the key to Ava’s treasured Vegas home which had a happy young woman’s face on it. It reminded me how happy she was to have that hope of her marriage working but knowing it’s where she tragically ended it because she had no hope. I placed it beside Carl’s fishing lure already in the circle on his marker and poured sealant over them.

I spoke to each one, apologizing to Carl for being so absorbed in Ava’s death to pay much tribute to him these last two years and reminded him of my unconditional love for him. I told Ava that I would love her unconditionally forever as well but that I was still upset over her permanent decision to a temporary problem and that she darn well better help us help others with Avascorner.org because we need her.

I walked around and visited my other relatives resting there and drove off to visit Mom at the facility where she’s, hopefully, getting better. Mom looked better than I ever hoped for. I even got to see the doctor and we all had a nice chat as Jackie perked up the room with rearranging Mom’s flowers and clearing the old ones out.

It was on our drive back toward home that we knew we were surrounded by Guardian Angels.

We were approaching I-85 on I-285 East at Malfunction Junction (aka Spaghetti Junction) when I noticed the cars in front of the truck directly ahead of me were stopped. The white Expedition with blacked out windows immediately in front of me never put on their brakes and ka-pow slammed into the stopped vehicles. I knew there hadn’t been a car to my right a second ago and I only had about that much notice. I pulled over in total faith preferring to be sideswiped over than becoming involved in that fray.

As I continued past the occurring wreck, we drove into what felt like time-lapse photography…a spray and also a barrage of black glass and car parts for me to dodge.

Well, I gotta say that’s the worst wreck I was never in and saw firsthand. Jackie and I both started saying our “Thank you GODs” over and over hardly believing we’d missed being horribly injured just by a second or two. WOW!

We kept hearing the replay of the horrific sounds coming from the impact for miles and continued to say our “Thanks.”

So, Happy Birthday, Carl. We still need you and will love you forever. But, hey, Ava, can we make your birthday a little less exciting?

At this time in my life, coming up with a topic concerning my best decision is quite the challenge because most of my “best” decisions are followed by strange, and, sometimes, tragic outcomes. This topic has catapulted me into a plethora of reflections this last month or so especially with the hallmark birthday which includes the number six at the beginning and the end of it.

First, I was sure it was when I was ten and my sister introduced to me of the Classics Section of the local library (specifically, Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy) which spurned me onward to bigger-than-life European history such as that of Catherine the Great and, eventually, to biographies of other famous and infamous women in history. It was their stories that made my  ancestors’  journeys burst forth with life…resuscitating them to breathe again through me. Their struggles for religious freedom or desire to invent a better bicycle brake or to be the best American Impressionist artist was the cause and effect of my destiny to fall in love with writing and, eventually, travel the back roads of the US and Canada writing this blog, fromafriend7491.com!

Our first major road trip in 2009 together

Our first major road trip in 2009 together.

But, then I remember being twenty-eight when I was sure my best decision was marrying the man I was deaf-dumb-and-blind in love with which was only followed by horrific tragedy and unbelievable loss that I surely couldn’t include that as my best anything except what I shouldn’t have done.

With her beloved big brother, Carl. They loved each other so much!

Ava with her beloved big brother, Carl. They loved each other so much!

Now I’m down to the one decision for which I’m truly proud; however, to be totally truthful, it wasn’t even my decision. It was a directive from my reliable third party directly related to a tragedy…the suicide of my beautiful gypsy opera singing daughter who lived/worked in Las Vegas, Nevada with her estranged husband.

Belly dancing magic in 2002. She looks like she has wings. Maybe, now she does.

Belly dancing magic in 2002. She looks like she has wings. Maybe, now she does.

As I drove west from my home in Georgia to handle Ava’s final affairs in early April, 2012, my reliable third party (call it God, Higher Power or whatever you wish) spoke to me in clear directives as he always does. Yes, my reliable third party always speaks to me in a very authoritative male voice. “Create an internet site to help others,” was all that was said.

As I love to drive the open road and have been doing for several years writing blogs about camping my way west alone with my dog, I have a tendency to drive anywhere from twenty-four to thirty-six hours with only pit stops and short naps. My anxiety of seeing the steel-hearted devil who was married to my daughter kept me pushing forward so as to get to my daughter’s house, git ‘er done (“Git ‘er Done Donna” is what they call me) and hit the open road again to parts unknown.

As you can well understand, my focus was on my grief and was totally not interested in hearing any message from my reliable third party concerning a task so outside my realm of expertise or knowledge. I wanted to focus on my loss, grief and how to move through finalizing things in Las Vegas and spending time on the real open road healing.

I argued. I argued my best to a silent, unrelenting audience, “I don’t know anything about creating websites!” I might as well have never even made that argument as it went flat as a fritter. Nothing. No response, no guidance, nothing for over twenty-four hours!

Finally, somewhere west of Albuquerque, New Mexico, I screamed at the silence, “What  has my forty-six years of real estate law experience got to do with creating a website?”

Finally, a response, “It taught you how to do the impossible!”

Ya’ know, I couldn’t argue with that one so my only retort was, “Now what?”

“Ask,” was the response but I knew what the real message was. I was to ask Ava’s friends who live and work in the performance industry in Las Vegas. So, I did and they all were excited for me to jump into this turbulent, bottomless task.

I started beating the drums and doing my research. I discovered that Las Vegas has a suicide rate fifty percent (50%) higher than the national average and has over eighteen bipolar therapy clinics. I obviously needed to start right there in Las Vegas.

My daughter had over 150 professional performer friends show up for her Las Vegas memorial and more would have been there but couldn’t because they had to work. Ava  was so very loved there and not a single person knew of her pain or despair save me. That’s quite a daunting task for one person and I didn’t want another friend, family or loved one to feel like there wasn’t a better decision for them to make or website to go like those my daughter visited her last night.

From her Memorial service in Las Vegas

From her Memorial service in Las Vegas

After returning home, I sat down at the computer and outlined the design of the website in forty-five pages in thirty days. I turned it over to a friend of Ava’s who was a web designer in New York during the .com days and she said it was the most detailed design she had ever seen. I didn’t want there to be any confusion about what I was “told” it was going to look like! After all, I was just following orders…very specific ones at that. This website HAD to be personal because there is NOTHING about suicide that isn’t personal. It had to be called “Ava’s Corner,” it needed to be entertaining and it had to be launched on December 2, 2012.

With the love and support of her friends, we launched the Avascorner.org website in Las Vegas on December 2, 2012. We had performers and live feed for Ava’s friends all over the world to connect with us and Avascorner.org. It was the fledgling version of the vision I was given but it was a beginning. Later, my reliable third party reminded me the reason for that date (12/02/2012) because there are more suicides in December than any other month of the year…one very close to home.

We incorporated Ava’s Corner, Inc. right before the kickoff event in 2012 and we’ve just celebrated our first year and we are getting feedback from friends and strangers alike that we’re making a difference. We got our 501(c)3 IRS certification as a non-profit public charity, which I filed myself…a true miracle as  I hate dealing with any kind of government related paperwork; however, once again, I was told I could handle it. And, I did.

We have an all volunteer Board of Directors who have experience in finance, website building, law and professional performer…all the elements needed to make a team who loved Ava and who see the vision of saving lives and educating people in what I call brain malfunctions like Bipolar Disorders (BD), Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) as Ava had, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and others.

Ava singing

Ava singing

Our broader Mission Statement:  “Ava’s Corner is a website constructed to encourage healing through creative energy and shedding light into the dark corners of mental disorders.

All friends or family of those suffering from brain disorders are welcome to utilize our education and support tools as well as participate in Ava’s Corner forums.”

We’re actively raising money to catapult this site into the final phase wherein members can create their own cyber community of support, freely expressing their pain through art, writing, videos, singing or other artistic endeavors as my daughter did. We have posted all the ways she found to cope until she couldn’t overcome all the negative influences of being bullied at home and at work. We had her thirty-five years, six months and ten days and we are all blessed to have had this remarkable, loving woman in our lives.

Ava's last painting from late February, 2012. Fitting that it has stars and an exhausted blue being. She was all that...a star and an exhausted blue being.

Ava’s last painting from late February, 2012. Fitting that it has stars and an exhausted blue being. She was all that…a star and an exhausted blue being.

There are other remarkable, loving people in our lives who need help and we at Ava’s Corner, Inc. and avascorner.org hope we can be there for them worldwide before another year goes by.

Ava was not just my daughter but my best friend and confidant. I have struggled valiantly these past two years to regain functions prior to March 2, 2012 as rote. I suffered from stroke-like symptoms of loss of vocabulary, thought processing, coping and more. I have only recently felt “alive” again…actually on the wee hours of December 7, 2013. I guess I’ll find out some day why that day other than the day this article was due…or that Ava visited me that morning and gave me clarity. Yes, Ava comes to me but that’s being saved for a book.

So, as I said, pain and joy, joy and pain can’t be separated when you have lived, loved and listened when making a best decision. It’s something that comes directly from the soul.