I was asked a question the other day that I wasn’t quite sure how to answer. The person asked how I dealt with my daughter’s needs. “How do you do it?” They asked.
The short answer is quite simple.
I love her.
I love her through the pain. I love her through the bad days. Love. It’s all I have.
When the depression strikes and she doesn’t want to move off the sofa I sit with her. I hold her when she needs me to and I sit quietly when she doesn’t. When the nightmares come and she won’t sleep for fear of them – I sit in her room so that she feels safe enough to try to sleep. When she has a panic attack I try to help her focus on her breathing. When she has flashbacks, I rub her back. When the anxiety is too much for her I try to help her find a distraction. When she harms, I smile and tell her it’s all right. I tell her how much I love her. I tell her how brave and beautiful she is.
When my heart is breaking for her I go into my room, close the door, and shed the tears that need to be shed. I emerge dry eyed to help her through. I help her find the good and the beauty in every day. I direct her as best I can to find coping strategies to move her into adulthood.
I wrap her in warm blankets and let her cry. I watch television with her when I have “better” things to do because she needs me to. I color with her and let the dishes sit in the sink. I take her for drives to calm her down no matter the gas prices or the miles on the car.
It’s as simple as love. That’s all it is. I have no special abilities. I don’t have all the answers. I listen. I encourage. I do it again. It’s all I can do. Do I wish I could do more? Of course I do. All parents have that same wish. I rely on her counselor. I rely on her doctor. I do the easiest thing of all – love her.
Depression. Anxiety. Self Harm. PTSD. ADHD. Panic Disorder. Those are terms we are very familiar with at our house. We are also very familiar with laughter, gratefulness, respect, kindness, and love.
I want to teach her to be proud of who she is. I want to teach her to accept herself for who and what she is. I want to teach her that her mental illness does not define her. I want to teach her to shine her light brightly. I want to teach her to embrace the good days, feel the joy that is inside of her, and accept the magic that is found in the world and in her own humanity.
She is a survivor. And the only thing I have done – is love her.
Do you ever just feel like you are stuck? You’re going through the motions of day to day life, but you are only taking care of the minimum to get by?
Things are sliding, and you find yourself exhausted for no good reason and instead of doing the things you should be doing (in my case, working on my book revisions, second draft of another manuscript, freelance articles, my blog, or cleaning out the garage, getting the yard mowed…yeah, you get the picture) you find yourself instead watching mindless television or even playing some dumb game on your phone.
It’s hard to move forward and you just feel claustrophobic and disinterested.
I’ve been feeling like that for a while, and I’m trying to force myself to sit with these feelings and figure them out. I have a strong suspicion that my disinterest and general feelings of blah-ness (can we pretend that’s a word?) are probably more closely related to being overwhelmed than anything else.
What is this ADHD girl good at? Shutting down when I get overwhelmed, that’s what.
Is it good for me? Of course not. Does it happen before I realize it? You bet. Is it hard to then break out of the vicious cycle? Absolutely.
So here I sit. At least I’m blogging about it, right? That’s something. A step in the right direction maybe?
What I hate the most are the feelings of guilt that come along with it. My manuscript has been sitting on my coffee table for two weeks. I moved it there from the study because I was going to work on it. Sitting on top of that manuscript is a box of photos I just got back of our summer vacation, a paper with a list of Spanish speaking soap operas because my daughter was supposed to watch them for Spanish class, and an order form for sheet music. Next to that is four notebooks, all open, stacked on top of one another. Each for a different purpose, such as note taking for my freelance articles.
The point is that it is all just sitting there. Doing nothing. Collecting dust. Because I haven’t had the energy to look at any of it.
I have some major changes coming my way and I have to figure out some extremely important stuff. And yet here I just sit.
My daughter is in tenth grade, just turned fifteen, and suddenly there is extra car insurance to think about, the fact that I need a new car altogether to think about, college application and funding to think about, and yet here I just sit.
In the back of my mind I am thinking about the steps I need to take to expand my freelance writing. Yet I’m not doing any of those things. I’m thinking about the novel I’m working on, my desire to find an agent, but again, it’s like I’m just blocking it all out and riding some wave to my doom.
I recognize the overwhelm. Things are changing, I have huge decisions to make about my own future as well as oversee my daughter’s future – and I just don’t know where to start.
I know what it is. I just need to figure out a way to crawl out of it now that I’ve gotten myself down into it.
I tried to blame it on the chaos that always comes with going back to school and getting back into routine, but school has been in session for a month. I’m so far behind now I’m not sure if I will ever catch up.
My writing has just come to a standstill. I don’t work on anything at all. How can that be? I have too many plans to let each day slip through my fingers without writing.
It’s the disinterest. Which I don’t think is disinterest at all.
ADHD can have its good points, but it can also have it’s difficulties. Like my brain tuning out when I need it the most.
I just want to feel like me again. I just want to feel some excitement at the thought of a blank page or the next round of re-writes.
I want to care that there is a cat hair tumbleweed floating across my living room floor.
I want to know that when the times comes, I’m going to have a plan for my future.
I want to open a new book and be excited to read it, instead of mindlessly binge watching NCIS on Netflix.
I wish I had some lighthearted, funny remarks to make about all of this, but I just don’t.
A’s battling the depression right now and I know part of it is also being worried about her. Cold little bugger, depression is. No big triggers – comes along and slaps her in the face when outwardly things are going pretty well. Lots of friends. Youth group activities. School going well. Enjoying school clubs.
Overwhelmed. That’s what I am. But I’m taking care of my girl and that’s all that matters right now. I’ll figure the rest out later. I always do.
I sit here outside the bookstore watching the sunset and I realize that at this very moment you are sitting on a bench somewhere by the water watching the same colors roll down the sky.
But it isn’t the same for you.
You are at the cusp of a new relationship. He probably has his arm around you right now. Maybe you are talking and laughing quietly, but maybe you are silent, watching the sky, your heart beating just a bit faster as you wonder what will happen next.
And I am not ready for this. I’m not ready to share you with this new boy in your life.
You have been through so much and we’ve managed it all together – we’ve barely begun to live a life free from the demons that haunted you for so long. I’m used to being the arm wrapped around you. I’m used to being your confidante and your place to run. I’m used to being the one that chases the bad dreams away, who kisses your tears and holds your hand. I’m not used to sharing your smile or your infectious laughter.
But I told you to go. I told you that you could go on this date. A date with a boy that packed you a picnic; a picnic at the beach to watch the sunset.
The orange sky is mocking me. It knows I lied. It knows I’m not ready. It knows that while you experience the first excitement of a budding relationship that I’m holding back the tears.
This means you are growing up. This means that soon you won’t depend on me as much, you won’t need me as much. You’ll need me. Sure. But things are changing. we will always be close but you are just one more step closer to womanhood. One more step away from me. It’s selfish, I’m aware, but I fear for you.
Will he understand your ADHD? Will he understand your Anxiety and Depression? Will he look beyond the self inflicted scars and see how amazing you are? Will he respect you and will he hold you when you are afraid? Will he chase away the ghosts that rear their ugly heads sometimes? Do you even want him to?
Will you remember all I have taught you? Will you remember that you are priceless and worthy of respect not just from others but from yourself?
I am no longer the first person you tell your secrets to. You have girlfriends now that you share things with. And there’s him. Oh, I know you are just starting to get to know one another, but he won’t be the last. This is just the beginning. For you. While I feel as if something precious is ending.
Is it because of all that we’ve been through that I feel this way, or do all mothers feel this same sadness and disquiet when their daughters reach a certain age? It’s been just the two of us for so very long. I’m not really sure what to do with myself, honestly.
I know we have much ahead of us and many memories left to make, but tonight I am forced to admit the reality that you are a sophomore. In less than three years you will be college bound. You have a life ahead of you that will not always include me. You will not always need me the way you have needed me up until now.
Do you guess how difficult this really is?
I don’t begrudge you this time or your friends or the life you are finally starting to live. I’ve pushed and pulled to get you to this point for this very thing. So that you may live. The rest is going to be up to you now.
No, you aren’t grown and you will still need my guidance, but let’s face it. As far as your values or the kind of person you are; it’s all set. My sphere of influence is waning – I’ve tried to teach you all I can. It’s going to be up to you to make wise choices.
I will no longer be with you every moment of every day and the hardest thing I will ever do is to entrust you to strangers – to smile and wave as you go off with friends, or dates, hoping that you will stay true to yourself and hoping they are worthy of you.
The sky is growing dark and you will be home soon. I will feel better then, but this is only the first of many nights where I will sit just waiting for you.
I love seeing you happy. I love seeing you enjoy friends. I love that you have confidence and want to do things when not too long ago you had to be forced to even leave the house. Not long ago you had no one to socialize with – no one to understand you or to dare to look past the face of mental illness and see who you really were. They had no idea what a truly amazing individual you were – but they do now. They know it because you no longer try to hide your light.
Friends abound and dates will too, I suppose. And I will be here through it all. I will always be here. I will do my best to smile when you come home. I will do my best to get used to the idea that this is a typical teenager’s life. A life you deserve.
Forgive me if I struggle. You’ve had too much pain already. You have had too much torment and grief. I never wish for you to return to the terrified, sad girl you have been. I will do my best to protect you from all I can. But I also have to let you go.
I always kind of dread back to school time, because I am selfishly having just so much darned fun with A- over the summer. Summers are GREAT – they really are. But they are awfully short too.
A loves high school, though, and after a couple weeks break she was pretty ready to go back to school. She said she honestly has started missing the routine that she used to balk against. I suppose as she gets older she sees the value in having a routine to help tame the ADHD symptoms. Personally, I think she was just missing seeing her friends every day. 🙂
Regardless of how ready (or not) we were, school was back in session today. If I am completely honest I’d have to say I understand what she meant about the routines. While I love having so much extra time to spend with my favorite girl, routines are good. I’ve gotten next to no work done this summer because I just get in the habit of, oh I’ll do it later. Sounds much better to veg out on the couch with A and watch a movie or play a game or draw when we don’t have to worry about homework and bedtimes.
But along with not getting much work done, not much else gets done either. Once the routines start slipping it trickles right down into everything. Clutter creeps in and rooms aren’t kept as neat as they were. Chores get pushed back “until tomorrow,” and everything starts to pile up.
So, maybe I’m happy to get back into the routine too. This morning I did some yard work after I dropped her off at school. Tonight while she worked on homework I tackled a writing project that has a deadline looming. Yeah, routines are good.
Getting back into the swing of things will feel pretty good. I need to get moving on the rewrite of my manuscript. I need to figure out what I want to do with Finding Home, the release of which I put off because I’m just ultimately not happy with the novel. I still have my freelance articles come due every month, and I really would like to finish up the short stories and put them together in a collection.
And then there’s all the other fun stuff that being an adult entails. The laundry. The cleaning. The driving your kid all over creation for this that or the other.
And I’m still launching that newsletter in October. Pretty cool!
We’ve been adventuring into the land of sustainability and greener living. Actually that is one reason why I haven’t gotten much work done. I’ve always been interested, always wanted to learn more, but in the past couple months it has been the source of my ADHD hyperfocus.
We’ve upped our recycling efforts, are working on our precycling and elimination of waste. I’ve begun making bottle bricks, which is actually oddly satisfying. Don’t ask me why.
I’ve made home made deodorant and household cleaner. I’ve begun composting. The amount of waste and needless consuming of even our household of two just really caught up with me. No more. I have a long way to go in my efforts, but I’m excited to be making lasting changes to our lifestyle and habits.
So bring on the school year and the routines. We’re ready!!
We’ve finally come to that point – the last day of our zig-zagging, wandering, hilarious, serious, fun, amazing, wonderful, jam-packed road trip.
I let A sleep in since we really only had one place we really wanted to go. The knowledge of this place is what first put A onto the idea of visiting some of Alabama’s most unusual spots.
Located in Seale, Al on the side of the road (Highway 169, specifically,) you will find the Museum of Wonder drive through museum.
This collection of oddities and artwork is surely something to see. Peeking inside — and let’s face it, you just can’t get a good look from the car, you have to get out — you will see a collection of things removed from children’s throats at the St. Francis hospital in Columbus, Georgia, the world’s largest gallstone removed from a woman in 1972, a two headed chick, and a great many other odd and assorted items, including the very unique artwork of Mr. Butch Anthony, the man behind the Museum of Wonder.
Now when I first read of this drive through museum I showed it to A and she immediately was fascinated by Mr. Anthony and not only his unconventional museum, but his artwork. His style is his own, and as far as we read, he is a self taught artist and carpenter. Seems he can make anything with any materials at all.
Okay, now this is where events get a little well, anxiety filled. We’d looked at the website for the Museum of Wonder and saw the drive through museum, but it also showed photos of an indoor museum, saying it held art, artifacts, and antiques. There was a map that came down from the top of the webpage, and also, when you scrolled over the area that said come visit the museum, a pop up said to just drive up and honk your horn. It gave a separate address than the one given for the drive through museum.
Hmmm. Now I had thought about using the contact page on the website to ask about visiting, but I wasn’t sure what day we would get to Seale, or if we even would. A reminded me that the website said to drive up and honk, so she figured no advance notice of arrival was necessary. And there is no phone number listed on the site.
There was a map of the compound to show you where to go, and believe me folks, this place is way, way off the beaten path. So that morning, I gathered my courage and figured after we saw the drive through museum I would see if I could actually get through my anxiety and do this. The thought of “just driving up” basically to someone’s home and workshop made me just a tad nauseous.
Still, I knew A wanted to see this unusual collection.
I was wishing though, that I had not trusted that “drive up and honk” pop up on the website and had emailed Mr. Anthony in advance. I started wondering if I’d misunderstood. What if I should have emailed and requested an appointment and THEN he meant for a person to just drive up. Besides, WHO in their right mind drives down some long driveway into the woods with nothing to go on but a name painted in white on an old mailbox?
I hastily pulled out my phone to see if I could call up the website – and I did – but it looked all different on my phone. There was no map. There was no “just drive up” message. There was nothing but a bit of information on the drive through museum. Did I dream the rest? Did I dream there were photos of different objects in a room somewhere? Now what if I really WAS intruding?
A is usually the more adventurous one, but turning in at said mailbox, while the gate was open, it was plastered with a huge No Trespassing sign. Furthermore, the sign warned that shotguns go bang and something about anyone stealing would meet said shotgun.
Well, I wasn’t out to steal anything, but…
We slowly drove in and got to a place where you could keep going straight or turn off to the right. The turn off to the right looked fairly overgrown, not overgrown exactly, but you just couldn’t see very far through the trees and brush. The drive before us kept going straight, but I didn’t see anything in that direction either.
I was having serious doubts and A looked at me and she said, “Why don’t we skip this part?” She said she’d seen the drive through museum, she was happy.
People, I turned my little rental car around and got out of there. Now I have read that Mr. Anthony is a super nice fellow, and I’m sure he is, but my anxiety about not finding the information I had previously seen on the website and my even worse anxiety about showing up on a stranger’s doorstep got the best of me.
What if it was a bad time? What if there was nothing to see? What if no one was home? What if I had misinterpreted the website altogether? What if what I had read several months back was no longer valid?
I would like to say that about an hour down the road I seriously regretted my chicken-ness, but I really didn’t. Maybe next time we get a wild hair we will try for another visit – this time emailing to ask questions beforehand.
We decided here that there was really only one way to end this road trip. We desperately needed ice cream and surely we could find ONE MORE odd thing in Alabama.
Oh yes. How about a monument built to honor a destructive little bug?
On to Enterprise, AL where you can see a statue dedicated to the Boll Weevil.
Yes, you heard me. Alabama grew a lot of cotton once upon a time and once upon a time an infestation of the malicious boll weevil destroyed crops. The area was devastated, but forced to diversify agriculturally. So what happened? Farmers planted peanuts. Peanuts were the byproduct of the nasty critters ruining all the cotton. Enterprise decided to honor the weevil for forcing diversity.
Smack in the center of an intersection right in downtown, there stands a statue of a lady (actually she stands in a fountain) and her two hands are raised above her head holding a boll weevil.
The boll weevil monument was a worthy (yet somehow strangely creepy) way to end this road trip. It just seemed fitting somehow.
But what else? Just a couple doors down from this little piece of Alabama history is a place called Milky Moos. Homemade ice cream, folks.
We rolled back to the car under the haze of an ice cream high – the result of a caramel sundae and a banana split — and no, we are not sorry one little bit — and declared ourselves exhausted and ready to get back home to our own beds and our sweet cats.
All I can say is — What a trip!!
A had a hard time deciding just what her favorite stops had been, but she finally settled on the Berman Museum and Old Cahaba. Me? I was just impressed that a girl her age appreciated the crazy trip we’d just taken, and felt proud that not only was one of her favorite places one of the more historical spots, but proud that she is happy to spend time with her mother. That gives me happiness. 🙂
This is a trip we won’t soon forget – or recover from, for that matter!!
Do you want to know one of the reasons I love talking about this road trip?
The last day, A and I are headed home and we’re listening to music, talking and laughing and she says, “I love how we can spend an entire week together, 24/7 and not be tired of each other. I love how we don’t argue or get on each other’s nerves.” And that is the best thing of all we did. The fact that we could get away, run all over the state almost, laughing and talking the whole way. No teen-aged eye rolls. No arguments. Enjoying one another’s company, having nonsensical conversations and serious conversations both. It’s an amazing feeling to be a mother to such a special human being. I’m blessed indeed.
So what did we do next, you ask? Day six of our trip found us at Moundville Archaeological Park. I found this spot very intriguing. I loved it.
Moundville is a large settlement of Mississippian culture on the Black Warrior River. It was occupied from around A.D. 1000 to A.D. 1450. At the height of the settlement, the community was a three hundred acre village built on a bluff overlooking the river. The town was roughly square, and protected on three sides by a bastioned wooden palisade. There was a central plaza, with twenty six earthen mounds surrounding it. The tallest mound mound rises 58 feet. Steps lead you to the top where you have an amazing view of the surrounding area.
Also located here is the Jones Archaeological Museum. This University of Alabama Museum is simply beautiful. Inside you will find artifacts that have been found at the site, as well as life size figures displaying clothes and jewelry of Mississippian culture, hand sewn and made by Native American artists. They also have a lovely gift shop.
This was well worth the stop. It was hot, yes, but we enjoyed the time we spent here very much.
We left there and went to nearby Greensboro AL for two things. Magnolia Grove and pie.
Magnolia Grove is a wonderful example of Greek Revival architecture that was so popular in the South. The house dates to 1840 and still has one of the two slave cabins as well as the cook house and cook’s quarters.
We were allowed to just roam the rooms by ourselves – the ladies were lovely and informative if we had questions, and readily gave the history of the home and its occupants.
Heavy rains had very recently done quite a bit of damage which was sad to see.
At one point we went to the outer buildings where we were shown the kitchen and cook’s quarters. Some of the furniture from inside the home had been moved into the space because of the rain and leaking roofs, but you could still get a good idea. Also the slave cabin, a one room tiny space that would have housed up to seven people, was also serving as a temporary spot for some of the furnishings.
Interestingly, in the cabin there was a copy of the census of the house. A record of the births as well as purchases of slaves. While the woman was telling us about this, the air around us came to life with a man’s voice yelling, calling, vocalizing in a strange rhythm. We all startled – myself, the woman showing us the cabin, as well as two young ladies who were present. Wide eyed we turned to one another quizzically while my daughter, standing there, looking quite confused, and yet somehow guilty was red faced and looking like she wanted to sink through the floor.
There was a white box beside her with several black buttons. Apparently she had leaned and pressed one of said buttons with her elbow. The ensuing sound was an example of a foreman calling slaves to the field. (or from) The woman tried to talk over the call, but it went on and on and on. Forever it seemed. Rising, falling, changing…on and on. The two young ladies started to giggle quietly. A looked more and more panicked. The lady finally waved a dismissive hand and said, “Oh, it’ll stop in a minute.” Seeing A’s face she had to laugh and tell her she didn’t do anything “wrong.” A whispered, “I didn’t mean to, I promise.” Thankfully the call finally died out and we slunk away from the house before we could do any more damage.
Upon leaving we were each given a copy of a little cookbook, the collected recipes of the lady of the house – who, ironically, had probably never cooked anything in her life.
And yes, you heard me correctly – the other wonderful thing you will find in the town of Greensboro is pie. If you are ever in the area run, don’t walk to a place called Pie Lab. You won’t be sorry.
We were late in the day and they close at four so our choices were limited, but we considered ourselves lucky that they had anything left! A got a piece of lemon ice box and I got the very last piece of key lime coconut chess.
Oh my. The pie was worth the trip. Absolutely. The space is fabulous too with original ceilings and plaster removed from the walls to reveal the the original brick. Very nice. The vibe here is a wonderful community oriented institution where people just seemed happy to be there and glowing when they left. But who isn’t happy after eating pie??!!
Our adventure continued on day seven with Old Cahaba Archaeological Park.
This was the original capital of Alabama and once you got past the swarms of man eating mosquitos it was a purely magical place. Some ruins are left, and while nature has reclaimed much of the old streets, you can see how it all was laid out and the park is being preserved and the sites are made easily accessible.
What really strikes you here is the the utter quiet and tranquility of the place.
The Cahaba River provides a beautiful backdrop and with the draping Spanish moss you can almost hear the old walls and columns speak.
We spent the better part of the morning there, wandering the ruins and the old cemeteries.
We left Old Cahaba (Or Cahawba originally) and ended up in Wetumpka where we stopped at Jasmine Hill Gardens.
This place is magnificent, people.
The family loved Greek architecture and set out, in the 1930’s, to reproduce a feeling of Greece at their hillside home. They made around twenty trips to Greece to study and plan and the resulting gardens and sculpture shows their meticulous attention to detail.
I’d been there before many years ago, and today we made it most of the way through before the humidity of the day finally caught up with A and her asthma.
We had to call it a day pretty quickly and find a place to stay for the night where she could get cooled off and rest. The next day we would have one last hurrah before heading back home and to the kitties we’d been missing like crazy!!
We did get quite a few great photos before A’s asthma attack, but one little gem stood out above all the rest. A loves taking photos. She usually does all the honors, allowing me the privilege of taking a stray photo here and there. When we got home and I was scrolling through the hundreds she (we) had taken, I found the one that I knew she had snuck in, imagining my face when I saw it.
Now that we have that out of the way, here are a few of the more (less??) um, scenic shots from the day.
I think I’m going to save the last day for one last post to wrap up or ADHD vacation.
Guess you thought I’d abandoned my post and was going to leave you in the dark about the REST of our trip! No such luck!
After a day of rest, some car trouble, and time spent working on articles with looming deadlines, I’m back! (Bet you missed me. You can admit it.)
Now where were we? Ahhh… I remember. The sketchy motel. (let me clarify… motel really was okay, it was just some sketchy PEOPLE who happened to be staying there. Not even together in the same party, just ewwww, several people with questionable characters.)
Okay, this day DID start out in a rather hilarious kind of way.
We got ready to go and went down to check out, and A figured we should have some breakfast first. This little girl, just turned five, hopped up on the stool beside A to start a conversation. She was wearing blue unicorn pants and what she called a “flowy shirt” which she appeared to hold in much disdain. She told A that she needed her black shirts because black was best. Went even further to say that what she really needed was her ACDC shirt with her unicorn pants. She asked A if she thought the shirt would go with the unicorn pants, to which A replied that she was absolutely certain she could pull off that look, no problem. The child grinned and said, and I quote, “Good! Because metal music is my LIFE!!” This was punctuated with some silent head banging, blonde hair flying, hands curled in a rock and roll sign. After a couple of minutes, the girl’s grandmother called her over. The girl did not want to leave her current post but her grandmother told her she needed to take her medicine. The child hopped down, flashed A a look and said, “Don’t worry. My medicine just helps me to sloooowwww dowwwnnnn.” She bent her little knees and made a wave motion with her arms before trotting away.
I just love how our tribe always manages to find each other without even trying.
Of course, A went straight back to the room before we could check out, took off her own “flowy” shirt that she had chosen for the day, replacing it with an Iron Maiden T-shirt. (black of course.) She grinned all the while, saying that encounter had just set the mood for a great day. 🙂
Our first stop on Friday morning was not an odd place, or a hidden place or a little known place. It was a tourist place, an unplanned stop, but when A asked if we could go I figured that’s what road trips were all about – changing your mind and having a good time. So off to Birmingham Zoo we went. (I’m on the fence about zoos, but that’s another story and not the point of this post.)
So we did the zoo in a couple hours. It was hot. It was sweaty. Okay, most everything we did was hot and sweaty on this trip, but maybe I just wasn’t in the zoo mood. Nothing really exciting happened while we were there anyway. Oh – but this was kind of funny. Upon entering, we headed to the African area – elephants, lions, tigers, ect. So we are walking along and this zoo employee smiles and wishes us good morning. He tells us that they are about to start giraffe feedings if we want to see that. We thanked him and then he says, “Oh, but they should be feeding the lions and hyenas soon too. If you are in this area and start hearing the hyenas go wild, they’re being fed, so if you’re close by, go watch.” Okay, thanks. So we are strolling along looking and A actually is a fan of hyenas but we made the circle and never saw any. We never heard a ruckus. So she asks someone where the hyenas were located. The lady looks at her very strangely for a minute and says, “Honey, we don’t have hyenas in this zoo.”
Not real sure what that man is hearing every morning, but maybe he’s imagining things. 🙂
Zoo out of her system, it was time to see the Vulcan.
A had never seen it, and hey, if you’ve never seen an iron man’s tush it’s a must. I realize you may not be familiar with the Vulcan in Birmingham Alabama. So, here’s a bit of history for you.
As you may know, Vulcan is the Roman God of fire and forge. Birmingham wanted to advertise it’s industrial abilities for the St. Louis World’s fair in 1904. City leaders commissioned the giant iron statue. He stands 56 feet tall, and now sits on a 124 foot pedestal and weighs 101,200 pounds. He sits at Red Mountain and is the largest cast iron statue in the world and the largest metal statue ever made in the United States.
Vulcan has a pretty interesting history from his debut at the World’s Fair, to the the thirty years he spent at the Alabama State Fairgrounds, put back together wrong, where he did time advertising products such as pickles, ice cream, and at one point he even wore a gigantic pair of overalls. But he eventually was brought to Red Mountain where he sat regally on his hilltop overlooking the city, only coming down in 1999 when he needed repairs. Repairs completed, he was brought back to his original glory, put atop his brand new pedestal with a new observation deck, and there was the addition of a rather nice museum and lovely grounds
Now – there was a rainstorm coming and it was thundering when we arrived at Vulcan park. I bought our tickets and the man in the gift shop said to just keep watch. They weren’t letting anyone up just then, but depending on the weather it shouldn’t be long. A saw some people going up, so we went over to take our turn going to the observation deck. Okay, this place has changed entirely since I was there as a kid. Used to, you could climb the stairs located inside his pedestal and then there was an enclosed observation area at the top. Now, you can still climb the stairs if you want, or there is a handy elevator and the observation deck? No longer enclosed.
I am okay with admitting this, but as we gave the lady our tickets, and she looked at the sky and said, “Just watch the weather and if there is any thunder or you see lightning come down,” I looked up at the tower, looked at that deck, and I chickened out. The NEW observation deck goes all the way around the tower, just below the Vulcan’s naked derriere. But this deck is steel grate. Grate? As in see through??!! And wide open??!! This girl wasn’t having it, so I smiled sweetly, waved, and pushed A to the elevator.
I watched from way below as she haltingly made her way out of the elevator. Clinging for dear life at the handrails. She gingerly worked her way around and I don’t think she stopped to even see the view, much less enjoy it – before rushing back inside that elevator and getting to the ground.
“It creaks and groans when you walk on it!” She yelled when she got close to me. “It moves! There were like five people standing in one spot and I swear that grate bent!”
Nah, didn’t bend, I told her. “Well you go up there and find out!” No thanks, I’ll stay on the ground and enjoy the museum. Little museum there was nice and informational. She told the man in the gift shop that she just didn’t think that thing was safe. He laughed and told her that the week before the entire Alabama football team was up there at one time. She insisted it wasn’t safe. 🙂
We watched the rain come, and planned our next move.
When I was a kid whenever my mom and I went anywhere, I begged to go to caverns if we could. I loved them. Since we’d visited Rickwood the other day, and since A enjoys the caverns too, we went to DeSoto. I haven’t been there in years, but I remembered how pretty it was. It was vastly different than when I was a kid.
Now, DeSoto Caverns has this one big cave room that is absolutely breathtaking with all the formations. It’s worth seeing for sure – BUT – they charge $25 per person for about an hour tour that only consists of this one room. We went in, and they sat us down, and there was a laser light show. Okay, that’s cool, but really? Then we pretty much wandered to several areas of this one space where they used props to tell the history of the cave. I remembered getting to actually tour the caverns and see more than this one space. Yes, the space is the most impressive area for sure, but I definitely felt cheated here. It was NOT worth the $50 we spent. Honestly, when she gave me the current price I started to say never mind, but I was the one who had driven out there without first checking prices. (We’d paid $17 each for Rickwood and spent an hour walking through the cavern and enjoying it much more.) Anyway…
So, this concludes this segment – good news – there should only be one more installment left in our adventure!
If our road trip route makes little or no sense, remember, after all, we ARE ADHD. I think zig zagging around is just in our nature! I tried for weeks to plan the best course of action before I threw the map in the air and figured, whatever!
Metal music once again blaring, interrupted briefly by some Journey, maybe some Phil Collins here and there, a stray show tune or two and of course, you have to throw The Coasters in the mix (A is partial to the songs Little Egypt and Soul Pad. haha) we were once again on the road. Today’s first stop was Cullman, Alabama and a place called the Ave Maria grotto.
I was at the grotto in 1977. Yikes, that was a long time ago!
It seemed strange to see this place listed among “odd” sights. I guess I never thought of it that way. When I stop to think about it though, it IS pretty odd. I remembered bits and pieces about it, and how, as a kid, it was the most magical thing I’d ever seen. It’s still pretty magical, it’s just aged a bit since then.
What is this place you ask?
The Ave Maria Grotto is the life work of Brother Joseph Zoettl, a Benedictine monk of St. Bernard Abbey. Throughout the world, the grotto is known as “Jerusalem in miniature.” Brother Joseph spent fifty years making miniature reproductions of some of the most historic buildings of all time. There are also a few whimsical touches, such as a scene depicting Hansel and Gretel, complete with fire breathing dragon, and a tower (not sure what else to call it) that he called the Statue of Liberty that he created when he became a U.S. citizen. I don’t think that he foresaw what his “hobby” would turn into when he first started creating his miniatures to break the tedium of his long workdays.
Ave Maria Grotto is a landscaped, four acre park located at St. Bernard Abbey showcasing the amazing works Brother Joseph created. The main thing that makes these works so unique is that Brother Joseph had to use whatever materials he could get his hands on, or that was donated to him to build them. He used cement, of course, but the rest is created with marbles, rocks, bits of glass, bottle caps, seashells, cold cream jars, tile – anything and everything. And the result is truly remarkable.
The effect is both whimsical, chaotic, and awe inspiring. A kept saying she would have loved to have been able to meet and talk to Brother Joe because he would have been such an interesting person. I think she was probably right.
You could easily see the Grotto in forty five minutes, but we spent two hours in the quiet hillside solitude enjoying the handiwork of one very imaginative and creative monk.
And what is even better than that? Two loaves of the delicious raisin bread baked by the monks at St. Bernard. Yes, one loaf was opened as soon as we got to the car where it was unceremoniously torn into hunks. No knife. No shame. Quite unladylike, but there you have it.
On a side note, it was a bit sad to me to see so much debris in and around the pieces. I know repair work is underway (pieces date back to the 1930’s) but although the grounds are immaculate many of the pieces just look sad with dead, decaying leaves and twigs in and around them as well as cobwebs. Just cleaning out in and around them and maybe some light scrubbing would do wonders – or would have done wonders all along if done periodically. It didn’t really take away from it all, I just kept wondering why they weren’t kept up more. Lack of volunteers I suppose.
Other than that, to see how much my artistic teen admired the whimsy and creativity of it all was fun to see. And monk bread. Monk bread is good.
Next we stopped at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception located in Hanceville. Before a few months ago, I was unaware that this shrine existed, – or at least existed as it is. I knew there was an order of Poor Clare nuns in northern Alabama somewhere near Cullman. I just didn’t know what they had built.
I knew about Mother Angelica (the founder) but only as the founder of a religious television network, but this place is truly a beautiful place to reflect and pray. And if my memory serves me correctly (and it may not – this is just what I think I remember reading somewhere,) when Mother Angelica first felt she was given the task to create a shrine to the Blessed Sacrament – a place for people from all over to come and find a place of prayer and worship – she was tasked with figuring out how, of course, to pay for the massive church she wanted to build. I believe I read, but can’t find it right now, that one family came forward and funded her dream. I think that is rather remarkable. The church was built faster than she ever imagined, and as far as I can tell, her wish has come true as people from all over, and from all faiths, visit.
Oh, one more thing I learned today? According to A- chipmunks must be Catholic because she has seen them at every monastery she’s visited. Now I know. 😉
I was going to snap a few photos of the outside of the church, or at least the gift shop/cafeteria (that was built to resemble a Spanish fortress) but I had left my camera in the car when we went in and I left without getting it.
Leaving the Shrine we were driving down a winding country road when on the side of the road was a collection of portable toilets. A snaps a photo saying well, yesterday she’d seen the world’s largest chair, today it was a port-o-potty graveyard. She quickly sent the picture to her aunt, saying excitedly, LOOK! Yesterday I saw a chair! Today I saw Port-o-potties!! I think my sister was seriously wondering what kind of vacation we were on.
We changed our plan slightly here and ended up at Rickwood Caverns in time for the last cave tour of the day. A and I were the only two people on the tour so we really had a great time as we were able to go slowly and look at everything that interested her and ask questions.
I’ve always loved visiting caverns and A really enjoys it, so I’m glad we got to incorporate a visit. It was also an excellent way to get out of the sweltering Alabama heat for a few minutes since caverns typically stay nice and cool.
I was exhausted, but in a good way, as we sat in our motel room, but I was glad to get out of there the following morning. Things didn’t look so bad from the exit where we decided to stop, but the place ended up seeming a bit sketchy. A figured they were hosting a perv convention as several different men made inappropriate comments to her when she went to get something out of the car.
Yesterday I believe I promised you the scoop on Hitler’s tea service.
Our first stop in Anniston, after driving from Mt. Cheaha with air conditioning and metal music blaring, was the Berman Museum of Natural History. This little gem is located in Lagarde Park in Anniston Alabama next to the Anniston Museum of Natural History. As I said, we put this place on our must visit list because of Hitler’s tea service, yes, but also because it promised a collection of cool spy gadgets, such as a flute that had been modified to shoot a .22 caliber bullet when a certain note was played. What can I say, A thinks anything that shoots is cool. No, we do not own any guns. 😉
I live in Alabama and I never would have heard of this museum had I not seen it on the Roadtrip America website when we were looking for unusual sites to see.
It was listed as an odd place because of the tea service. I have to admit this was intriguing. Hitler’s tea service in Alabama? Really? What? But let me tell you, the place was much more than we imagined. And yes, although it did contain the advertised tea service, which, for some reason was highly amusing to see in Anniston, but the museum contained a collection of art and artifacts collected by Colonel Farely Berman and his wife, Germaine. And quite the collection it is!
Colonel Berman was stationed in North Africa during WWII, and it was there that he met his wife, Germaine. She was a French National and a member of French Intelligence. They were married and returned to Anniston to live for the remainder of their lives.
The Berman’s shared a passion for collecting things. They spent four decades traveling the world together. He stated that he collected rare weapons and she collected works of fine art. Although the Berman’s shared their collection with those that were interested, in 1992, they bequeathed their collection to their hometown. The Berman Museum opened in 1996 in Lagarde Park with a portion of the Berman’s collection, and in 1999, Colonel Berman passed away, leaving the remaining objects to the foundation.
All right, there’s the history lesson portion taken from various things I read about the Berman’s and their collection.
We arrived at the museum and bought the combo ticket for both the Berman and the museum of natural history next door – we believed we had plenty of time, as I’d read you could spend an hour at the Berman Museum. We ended up spending a little over two hours at the Berman, and then having to run through the museum of natural history just to see it before it closed. And I had to practically drag A away from it.
This collection is AMAZING to say the least.
Mostly weapons, yes, but the military history in this building is informative and interesting. Every type of gun imaginable, plus military artifacts. A particularly touching piece, to me, was the handwritten diary of a soldier, along with the Nazi banner that he had captured. There is spy gear too – a pen that shot vials of poisonous gas, the altered flute I mentioned earlier, and guns disguised in belt buckles, throat lozenge tins, and match boxes.
Aside from Hitler’s tea service, there is a vanity set that belonged to Napoleon. There are dinner napkins from Mussolini’s palace, along with photos of his parents. There is a jewel encrusted Royal Persian scimitar as well as the coronation set of Czech kings – the crown was made in 1346. And those aren’t the only jewel encrusted items in this museum! There is also quite a collection of Remington bronze sculptures.
Lucky for us the Berman’s chose to leave their collection to Anniston, rather than donate to one of the bigger museums that definitely wanted it.
Photos you ask? I happen to have some!
We just loved this museum. Hopefully we will get to visit again some day.
We had just enough time to tour the Museum of Natural History. It was actually a very nice museum. To me, though, when you’ve seen one small town natural history museum you’ve kind of seen them all – and if you’ve been fortunate enough to visit the Smithsonian, well, what’s left? Okay, I’ll admit it – as much as I love museums and history and learning new things, natural history museums aren’t my favorite. I said it. There.
They did have a lovely garden outside.
And if you are in Anniston Alabama there is just one more site you have to take in. Or at least there was for us. Looking for the odd and unusual? You don’t have to look any further than Noble Street where you will find the world’s largest chair, per the 1982 Guinness Book of World Records.
I’m just not sure how one can top a a gigantic chair, but onward we traveled to Cullman, Alabama where more sites awaited.
As you all know by now, A and I set off for adventure last week – looking for anything that struck our fancy.
Okay, we had a list of things we wanted to see and we set out to find out just how many of them we could cram into our week. I can honestly say I was glad to be leaving Atlanta on Wednesday morning and heading to greener pastures. Or greener mountains. Leaving Georgia we were excited to find the Talladega National Byway – and along this byway, Alabama’s highest point, Mount Cheaha (2,407 feet above sea level.)
Our first stop in Alabama, however, turned out to be a welcome center where we met a lovely woman named Shirley Jean. I tell ya, I would have packed that lady up in the car with us because I guarantee you, she would have been a hoot.
A and I pulled into the welcome center and went inside to grab a few travel brochures. The place had a nice little back porch with crepe myrtle trees blooming pink, so we walked outside. That’s when we met Shirley Jean. She approached me and asked if I wanted her to take our picture. She said folks just loved getting their pictures taken with the Sweet Home Alabama sign. A and I didn’t want to tell her we were FROM Alabama, and before we knew it, we were taking pictures in front of crepe myrtle trees, alongside a lovely rock wall, and of course, underneath the infamous Sweet Home Alabama sign.
She told us how sweet we were, and how precious A was. Turns out she had lost her own daughter to leukemia years ago when the girl was just thirteen. She said it never goes away, the loss, but she knew where her baby girl was and that made her happy. She talked about road trips, best friends, her husband that worried about her when she got too far away from home, and all the wonderful people she’d gotten to meet working at the welcome center. She talked especially fondly of a family of five generations that she got to talk to out on that back porch and she was quite proud of the fact that she’d taken their photo and gotten a hug from each and every one of them, from the oldest to the smallest.
Our road trip truly began that morning, there at the Alabama welcome center with Ms. Shirley Jean, who hated her name, but figured if her mama had cursed her with the most boring name ever given, that she would be bound and determined to make sure her personality at least was unique to make up for it. I think she did a fine job. She was one of the most genuine and delightful people I’ve ever met. As we were leaving, she was bent there at the sidewalk pulling stray weeds, but she gave us a wave and wished us a safe trip.
Soon we were on the Talladega scenic byway. This lovely stretch of road is 26 miles long along State Route 281 stretching from just west of Heflin, Alabama to the intersection of two unpaved roads in the Talladega National Forest. And of course, at the road’s highest point, you are on Cheaha Mountain.
I’m telling you, I don’t need the Rockies, although I know they are beautiful. I am just as content with the green of the Applachian mountains. Just getting near them gets me feeling all happy inside.
A took gobs of pictures as we wound our way toward Mt. Cheaha, and we pulled over at each and every scenic overlook, jumping out of the car and giggling like schoolgirls. At some point, I even think I was sporting a wildflower crown. 🙂
The drive was just gorgeous, and I’d only been to Cheaha once, long ago, so it was kind of fun to be there again. There had been an observation tower you could climb, and I was kind of surprised to see it still there.
My knees were a bit stiff afterward, (okay, it wasn’t THAT high up, but still, my bum knee was not impressed.) The stairwell itself was dark, musty, and just plain smelly. The observation deck was hot, but it’s a nice view.
The outside of the little building was pretty darned cute though.
After the tower we found our way to Bald Mountain. Here is where you can really look out and see the mountains. Hawks make slow, lazy circles in the air below you (yes, below) and you can just soak up all the scenic awesomeness. You can choose a trail through the forest to get there, or there is a wonderful accessible walkway that takes you to the lookout.
Going in, we met an elderly gentleman coming out. He stopped to say good morning and he was just a delightful fellow, with his jaunty little sun hat and smiling eyes. He told us that he lived fifty four miles away and came here twice a month. He said he appreciated the gifts nature had given us and was determined to enjoy them. But what he seemed to REALLY enjoy that morning was the fact that the lady at the gate recognized him from his many visits and only charged him $2 that morning instead of the customary $5 park entrance fee. I don’t think she will ever know just how much that made his day.
Now do you want to hear a story about these mountains? Of course you do. Who doesn’t love a little mountain lore?
The legend goes that many years before white man infiltrated the forests of Alabama, there was a tribe of Native Americans living in the central portion that is now the county of Talladega. The chief was named Choccolocco; a great and mighty chief. His only daughter, Princess Talladega, was the fairest maiden in all the realm, and Choccolocco treasured her above all his possessions. He began to search for a suitable partner for his beloved daughter. Chiefs old and young, powerful and rich, from far and near all set out to make offers to Choccolocco for his daughter’s hand. But Talladega asked her father for time. She wanted a love to come along that she could treasure.
Time passed and one morning, while fetching water, Talladega met a handsome young warrior. The two started meeting in secret, their love for one another growing stronger every day. One morning, Talladega approached her father’s cabin and heard voices. Her father was bargaining with Cheaha, an old chief from a neighboring tribe, for her hand. Talladega was dismayed when her father told her that Cheaha was his chosen suitor for her, and that soon she would be leaving to follow Cheaha to his home.
The next morning, Talladega snuck off to see her warrior, Coosa. He possessed no property and was helpless to win Talladega in the eyes of her father. Coosa was so overcome with sorrow at the thought of losing his love, that he plunged into the surrounding wilderness, wandering up and down the banks of the stream for days. His thoughts were solely on Talladega, and he could see her reflected in all that was around him.
He came out of the forest determined to win Talladega. He went to Choccolocco and stated his case. While he had no property or anything of value, he knew where valuable minerals were, and could direct Choccolocco to them, and Choccolocco would then be richer and more powerful than any other chief. Choccolocco agreed to give Coosa a chance to show him these riches. Unfortunately for Coosa, Cheaha overheard his plan, and knew he had to put a stop to it. Cheaha sent for two people. A warrior to follow Coosa, and his medicine man.
Cheaha’s medicine man had something very powerful. He had discovered an herb that could put anyone immediately to sleep; not to waken until the antidote was given, and he alone knew what the antidote was. That night, while Coosa slept, Cheaha and his medicine man crept upon him, the medicine man administering his herb. When Cheaha was certain that the desired effect had in fact been reached, he turned on his medicine man and killed him, so that no one would ever know how to wake Coosa.
Choccolocco, waiting for Coosa, became annoyed when the warrior did not appear, so he ordered preparations for the wedding of Talladegea to Cheaha to commence.
Talladega had discovered her sleeping warrior, and had made secret visits to him while he slept as the wedding preparations were being made. She became so unhappy as the wedding day approached, that Cheaha told her that Coosa could never be awakened.
When the day of the wedding came, Talladega was nowhere to be found. The area was searched, and finally she was found, lying dead on the breast of her sleeping love.
The drug, while powerful enough to keep Coosa always asleep, also had the power to make him grow. While lying there sleeping, he has grown through the centuries until he has become a great giant, a mountain many miles long. Mother Nature has blanketed him with earth, and given him trees, shrubs, and wildflowers to protect him. He lies there, dreaming of his beloved maiden.
It’s a great story – and forgive me if I did not get it exactly right. I’ve heard different versions, and this is what I remember.
Now you know I have to include some more photos from Cheaha, right? You’re welcome.
We ate lunch at the restaurant there, and the food, while mediocre, was made much better by the view. At lunch it’s a buffet, so A got a piece of cake. She sat there, trying to eat it, and I kid you not, this cake was so dry, when she put her fork to it it crumbled. She didn’t say anything, just kept playing with it, then finally said, “This cake tastes like forty year old Oompa Loompa poop.”
Now that, folks, if you don’t know, is some seriously bad cake! I told her to shift her chair facing the windows and see if the view improved it. She did so and said that yes, as a matter of fact it did, but she didn’t think it was safe to eat any more of it. Honestly, the food wasn’t THAT bad..although I steered clear of dessert. I had some grapes. They were delicious. The staff was friendly, like I said, the view was heavenly, and who knows? Maybe the food is better at night.
I would have stayed all day. Okay, all week, but it was soon time to move on. Leaving Cheaha I wound (and I do mean wound!) my way through the national forest on the way to our next stop in Anniston.
Funny thing about Anniston. We’d put it on our list because we read that there was a museum there that held Hitler’s silver tea service. Um, huh? I don’t know why, but this amused us to no end. Hitler’s dishes in Anniston Alabama? How? Why? It is listed on several websites as one of those odd places to visit, so we couldn’t wait to get there!
This post is getting longer than I intended, so guess what? You’ll have to wait until next installment for all the info on Hitler’s tea service. I know you’re sad.