Name the Goat

goat's name

We need to name him.

As a child, I yearned for a pet reindeer. My tolerant parents explained that reindeer prefer living farther north. One day, I recall, a little boy arrived at the back door, yelling, “Lady, there’s a reindeer in your yard.” It was love at first sight for me. But, alas! The goat belonged to someone on another street. I always wanted a goat.

My pets loved their unusual names. I named the Rhode Island Red chickens Elsa and Russell Honey. Calling some of the dogs sounded strange in our neighborhood. My dog named 4th of July and another dog named High Water brought notoriety to my parents. Can you imagine calling the dogs to “come?”

Sinder almost lost his happy home for one of his acts. With his black, curly coat and soulful eyes, we trusted him. He managed to destroy my jean vest while he was caged near it. He wiggled the cage close enough to the jacket to pull it into the cage and shred it. Looked a little like fringe when he finished.

Fargo, my current dog, “goes far” with us. Fargo jumps into the car or truck whenever possible. He’s not from Fargo, nor are we.

Recently we visited Jefferson, Texas. The man who sold antiques next door to our Bed and Breakfast offers an array of unique tin animals. When I found the tin goat, excitement blossomed. I didn’t want the turkeys although their colorful tin feathers gleamed in the sunlight. The full size horses and carriage cost $15,000.

metal horses & stagecoach

Our HOA would NOT like this.

I arrived at his door while others still ate breakfast. A few minutes later I coaxed the goat into the back of my husband’s truck for the ride home.

My tin goat needs a name. Three names have been suggested. You, my readers, may find a better name than the suggested ones. I will go with the majority or MOST intriguing. If I can’t decide, I will ask poll my eight grandchildren for the choice.  I should say I’ll ask my seven grandchildren, as the baby is thirteen months old and might not understand this craziness.

The three suggested names are:

Jefferson or Jeff for short: I adopted him when we visited Jefferson, Texas.

Billy: because he is obviously male with big horns and “other attributes.”

Caddo: the area around Jefferson originally belonged to the Caddo Indians.

Can’t we find a better name for him? Please send your name, email and phone number to ruth@ruthglover.com no later than 5:00 p.m. on 11/15/16 with your suggestion(s). You will win a free copy of my book Gift of the Suitcase. If you have already read it, it will be a good gift for a friend. The goats’ new name and winner will be announced before Thanksgiving on my Facebook page and in the December newsletter of Roving Ruth. It’s your chance to become the “famous-goat-namer.”

Thank you in advance for helping me name my tin goat.

Happy Thanksgiving. May the old goats in your life fill your life with laughter. Don’t take them too seriously.

 

No Ghosts Allowed

 

Monied Casket

Photo by R. Glover

 

Don’t expect a display of ghosts and goblins at this Houston Museum. As you enter the National Museum of Funeral History, your eyes gaze at an indoor parking lot of unusual hearses. Some with wooden wheels. Another looks like someone spent years carving the hearse into a spectacular sculpture, but it is a long station wagon to carry bodies. The caskets tip the scales of innovation. Do I want a casket decorated with encased money on it when I die? I think not!

Everyone must cope with death. We live and then we die. We have celebrations for “All Hallows Eve” or Halloween Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), and All Saints Day throughout the world.

In the US,  many take dying for granted until a loved one surprises us with an untimely death or lingering longer than expected. Death is frightening to many people. Coping with the death of a loved one, or an unloved one, is an emotional experience. Reactions range from dreadful nightmare to possible relief.

The National Museum of Funeral History, established in 1992, seeks to increase and improve our knowledge of how we care for the deceased. With “the largest collection of authentic historical funeral items in America” this exceptional Museum offers many educational displays.

As I stared at a replica of Abe Lincoln in his coffin, I pondered how his death affected history. The extensive Papal exhibit, “Celebrating the Lives & Deaths of the Popes,” shares a story of the popes throughout ages and the traditions behind their burials. Frankly, the extent of the information stunned me.

The President and COO of the museum, Genevieve Keeney, started her career at the museum in 2007 about the time the Papal exhibit began to evolve. Robert Boetticher, the museum’s CEO, became interested in what occurred behind the scenes when Pope John Paul II died. The project snow-balled from a 10×10 foot space into a thorough history of the popes for a “celebration of life with pride and respect.”  Ms. Keeney urges visitors to, “come with an open mind and realize each person responds in a different way.”

I appreciated the diversity of information.  The “Thanks for the Memories” exhibit showcases numerous pictures and objects from people such as Dale Earnhardt, Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, and Prince. People who are curious about the embalming industry find worthwhile information in the “History of Embalming” exhibit. Others might prefer the style show of antique apparel for funerals, as seen in the “19th Century Mourning” exhibit. Both adults and children find fascinating objects and historical scenes, plus a few bizarre novelties.

October at the Museum gives visitors a special October Haunted House with a Classic Car Show on October 22. Try an educational experience that’s a little on the unusual side and offers enormous insight into how we care for our deceased, which offers a little something for everyone, nothing macabre at all.

Kneeling pop

Photo Courtesy of the Museum

Donations, a large annual golf tournament and ticket sales supply funding. Their website is an excellent resource to prepare for a  visit. This 30,000 square foot museum is located at 415 Barren Springs Dr., Houston, TX 77090, which is near Interstate 45 and FM 1960. I suggest allowing  a minimum of two hours to view this fabulous array of artifacts and historical information.

I’m sure no ghosts are allowed, but listen carefully. The figures look real. Maybe you can hear what the Pope is whispering in the photo.

A big thanks to Monica Rhodes and Genevieve Keeney for their assistance with this article.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dignity in Death

Genevieve-headshot

Genevieve Keeney-President of the National Museum of Funeral History
Photo Courtesy of the Museum

Little Genevieve Keeney’s curiosity focused frequently on death and dying. Her mother, a bit incredulous, encouraged her questions. Fearless at age seven, Genevieve never lost her fascination with how we care for our loved ones during death.

Genevieve thought about medical school but money for additional education was scarce. So, instead she joined the Army. While in the military she worked in the medical field managing life and death situations. Her basic medical training led to a career path as a Non-Commissioned Officer and Senior Medic.

When she left the Army after 12 years, she researched what offered decent pay, fit her skills, and matched her interests. Smart lady!  Her new, part time job at the Veterans Administration Medical Center steered her to become an expert in palliative care, helping patients and families during their final chapter in life.  Returning to college became reality. She completed a Masters in Science in Non-Profit Organizational Management in 2015. Long hours and hard work are a way of life for her.

Originally wanting to be a coroner, her studies and profound experience led her to become a funeral director. During her studies for the license, she volunteered at the nearby National Museum of Funeral History. The staff recognized her diligence and passion for helping with whatever needed to be accomplished.

Soon after she began her volunteer work, Museum leaders decided to build a small tribute to the passing of the Popes. The plan started small but when others saw Genevieve’s creative talent in helping with the project, they hired her full time, beginning in 2007. She has a gift for creating thought provoking exhibits that support the Museum’s mission and make an often difficult subject more tolerable for visitors. She has truly helped take the museum to the next level, helping grow awareness, change perception and increase attendance. Innovation and willingness to speak with diplomacy suggest the perfect match for her talents. Her quiet demeanor and empathy on the job soothes the souls of her listeners. Yet, when she needs to be direct, watch out!

Whether speaking to a group of children about death and dying or working with the issues that confront the Board of Directors, her communication skills aid in her countless duties. The newest special exhibit she created, in remembrance of the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, offers memorial books signed by a grieving nation and pictures drawn and colored by children to honor those who perished that fateful day.

When I interviewed her, we talked some about Halloween. The main goal at the Museum is to honor the compassion and dedication of the funeral services industry, enlighten visitors on one of man’s oldest cultural rituals and celebrate the heritage of the funeral services industry. The museum takes great care to present information in a respectful and tasteful way. Genevieve is not a big fan of people who disrespect the customs of others. She assures the Halloween displays, like the annual family-friendly Haunted House, epitomize, not ridicule or mock, the unique ways others celebrate the end of life.

When you visit the museum, you may see her wandering throughout the facility, making sure the exhibits and displays are well-lit and shiny clean or talking with the gift shop manager, where all items are tastefully displayed; she might even be leading a tour or visiting with museum goers. She tries to circulate but much of her time is devoted to speaking and coordinating events. She also still holds her job at the local veterans’ hospital. I loved her comment, “I continue to work at the VA where I am honored when I hold the hand of a dying Veteran. I get to use all of my skills every day, both at the VA and the Museum. Who would have thought when I was young, I’d be a part of such an elegant, thoughtful career?”

I, too, am honored to meet and write about this gifted lady. Marathon runner, mother, new grandma, and lifelong learner—she understands the joy of life and preserves dignity in death.

A big thanks to Monica Rhoades and Genevieve Keeney for their assistance with this article.

 

 

 

How to Become Uncommon

 

Implement ideas

Take time to develop your ideas.

What ideas are you not sharing with others? Are you a fourth grade teacher with a system for keeping your students organized? Are you a retired gentleman with an idea for a duck call you know works? Are you passionate enough about the baby toy you created for your child that you would like to be on Shark Tank? Are you uncommon?

To write I must read and listen carefully to others. To prepare my articles about uncommon people today, I watched several YouTube videos. I read Chris Anderson’s book titled TED Talks: the Official Guide to Public Speaking, which is fabulous. I considered writing about Chris. He is renown as he is the Curator and “inventor” of TED Talks, which means he decides who speaks at their conferences.

Chris personifies the ultimate entrepreneur. During his 20s he played in the rock band REM (a rock band from the 80s. He jumped from business venture to business venture, some created winners and others failed miserably. His list of employment includes Los Alamos National Laboratories, known for nuclear physics projects for the government and wide variety of other entities. He applied his tech savvy when he became the editor of numerous scientific journals, most notably as the former editor-in-chief of Wired magazine. While playing with his children in the backyard with their remote control airplanes, he realized the power that drones bring to government and private industries. DIYDrones and 3D Robotics became realities. Plus, he’s a writer and speaker. He has a wife and five children.

Leads coworking Nod

Chirag Gupta

But many uncommon people are unrecognized nationwide. I thought about featuring Chirag Gupta, who started his own company before graduation from Northwestern University in Chicago. His current business, called NoD, is a coworking community space in North Dallas. He gathers various entrepreneurs for collaboration and community. They lease space from him where their businesses flourish. Chirag attracts people of all ages and cultures. He schedules tours for enlightening the public about the company’s energy and atmosphere. He writes, he speaks, and he teaches social media classes. Under age 30, yet he is uncommon. Down to earth, loves music and plays the drums. He understands the power of networking and cooperative efforts.

How does this relate to the fourth grade teacher with an idea to organize her students or the guy who wants to build a better vacuum cleaner? If you want to be uncommon, you need guts and not glory. You need to form your ideas regardless of the naysayers: pretend you work for Nike and “just do it.”

Words bring power to your ideas whether it is writing or speaking. You don’t need to be an extrovert, but you must pull words together to express your ideas. You must be willing to fail. If you don’t try, you can’t fail. If you try, you can refine your idea or find a different idea to move forward. After the fourth grade teacher watches the YouTube about Khan Academy for motivation he or she must articulate the idea to the right people for funding and implementation. Take Chirag’s advice, “You can read the news or be the news.”

Collaborating for fun and work at Nod.

Collaborating for fun and work at Nod.

What is your uncommon motivation? Are you passionate about your idea? Is the idea workable?

It’s September. A new school year started. You’ll be celebrating New Year’s Eve in five minutes. Start now to mold your idea, to nudge it, to polish it. Can you make progress by the end of the year?

Promise yourself today, right now, to start your plan. Do a little research. Determine if your idea is viable. Write a short proposal to share with friends and family for their input. Refine the idea and rock on! You can be any age to focus your idea into reality. You can become uncommon.

 

 

All Aboard for the Glacier Express

mountain top

The Matterhorn-Photo by T. Glover

Wine, cheese and chocolates at every stop appealed to me. My husband and I traveled through Switzerland for ten days in 2003. Every stop on the itinerary left us in awe of Swiss beauty. If you ride with me on this trip, you may want to buy a ticket for the next flight to Europe.

My cousin suggested we visit Zermatt where he spent many vacations throughout his life. He loved the place, both summer and winter. I discovered the Matterhorn Mountain, one of the most photographed sites in the world, looms over Zermatt.

A friend told me about her ride on the Glacier Express, which travels from St. Moritz to Zermatt. Research increased my enthusiasm for riding this small train, which is neither an express train nor a glacier but travels slowly towards St. Moritz.

St. Moritz

Our trip took place in late May. Upon our arrival at the airport in Zurich we boarded a train to St. Moritz.  After an extremely long travel day, we sighed with relief for the bright light over the hotel door and the friendly innkeeper, who spoke English, French, German, and Italian.

In the morning we hiked around the lake with the warm sun shining in our eyes. The snow-capped Alps surrounded us. We drank hot chocolate near the town square.

When we explored the back streets of the hilly, little town I expected to see Hansel and Gretel or hear someone yodel from a balcony. We discovered a small waterfall. We could touch the icy waters splashing down the brown rocks where green ferns dotted the rocky hill. I recall a plethora of yellow flowers growing out of cracks in a stone wall along a narrow road. I ate white asparagus for the first time, drank superb, regional wine, and gorged on chocolates.

The Glacier Express

little swiss train

Glacier Express Train

We departed St. Moritz on the Glacier Express, a small train with few passengers aboard and no tour guide that day. The weather report reflected heavy snow storms on our eight-hour train ride from Saint Moritz to Zermatt on Memorial Day at home.

Huge pine trees and cows (each with a different bell) in the pastures peppered idyllic views as train ride began. Frigid rivers raced beside the tracks.

As the train clicked along the track the snow began to fall. We rose higher with increasing snow around us.  I don’t mean the sideways snow crossing a road which I would have recognized from living in the Midwest. My husband thought it looked like we were traveling inside a full milk carton. Nothing but white appeared outside the windows. At times the engineer used cog wheels to climb and descend through the snow and ice.

A new, more glamorous train takes tourists on this panoramic experience today through a nine and a half-mile tunnel on the 180-mile adventure. The data shows 91 tunnels and 291 bridges across the Oberalp Pass at 2033 meters in altitude (almost 7000 feet). Arches, some built in the Middle Ages, stand like aqueducts with the small train rumbling along the tracks to Zermatt.

Zermatt

Dusk surrounded us as we departed the train when we arrived in Zermatt. Cars are forbidden in Zermatt in the tourist district because of limited space. However, small trucks rushed through the narrow streets finishing daily deliveries to the hotels, gift shops and restaurants.

hotel ceiling

Hotel ceiling with hand-painted tiles

A five-minute walk dragging our roll-arounds through snowy slush led us to our hotel. The hand-painted flowers on the ceiling of our hotel room fascinated me. Later, we ate pizza at a cozy restaurant with a roaring fire, a glass of local Swiss wine, and stinky cheese for dessert. What a way to spend Memorial Day!

The Matterhorn

Crow

What is he doing here?-Photo by R. Glover

After wandering through town the next day we boarded another, small train, which rattled up the side of the mountain for tourists to see the Matterhorn Mountain more closely. While we ate sandwiches on a chilly patio at the top, a crow lit on the railing. As a little boy in a red and white snowsuit tried to feed the bird; the crow seemed as far from home as we were.

Thanks to Gay Vencill who suggested the Glacier Express. If you’d like to hear more about this trip, let me know. Next stop was Montreux on Lake Geneva.

 

 

 

Sachse-Home, Sweet Home

caboose

Railroads play a role in Sachse history.

Is Sachse uncommon? Sachse cannot claim a destination location for weddings or vacations. If you have relatives or friends who live in Sachse, you may choose Sachse. Otherwise, a small beach town in Hawaii or location in the mountains might be more likely. I write about Sachse to tell you our little town offers “uncommon” opportunity.

Three years ago we chose Sachse for its location. Our son and his family lived in a neighboring suburb. Would I adjust living in a smaller town? Would I miss my friends? Would it be too close to family? As with most plans, surprises arose. Our son transferred to Houston after we moved, but we are not planning to relocate. We love Sachse.

The railroad which runs through the town has played an important role in the history of the town, since the mid-to-late 1800’s. The population of Sachse was 10,251 in 2000 and the 2010 census shows the population as 20,472. I noticed an estimate for 2015 at 24,554. Sachse lies about thirty miles from downtown Dallas with “a little bit of country.” Horse farms exist on the other side of town. A goat farm exists near me. Our “little bit of country” disappears daily with new homes and businesses blossom like bluebonnets along the Texas roads in spring.

Lake Lavon Sunset

Nearby Lake Lavon at Sunset

Involvement

The people are friendly. On my regular walk with the dog in our sub-division people grin and greet, even when my little dog grumbles lustily at their dogs.

When I asked the librarian to recommend an authors’ group three years ago, she encouraged me to start one. I joined the Library Board. I’m on a first name basis with the Mayor. I see Mike Felix, the long term leader of this small growing town, at the Council meetings, celebrations, the annual car show and other events. The Chamber of Commerce presents good programs with active participants.

Instead of attending a church of 3000 (or was it 5000?) members we attend a small, growing church, another opportunity to meet new, exceptionally friendly people.

Unemployment is low. For example, one of our neighbors is a Fire Fighter who sells real estate. My next door neighbor sells insurance. Technology engineers live around us.

Recently I attended a meeting about Sachse’s long range plans. Hearing the ideas and plans

to grow the town helped me appreciate what is happening behind the scenes.

Quotes from Sachse Residents:

“I’ve lived places where my store was not safe. I feel safe in Sachse. When I moved my business to Sachse, I have saved a considerable amount of rent.”

Sherri Arwood-Co-Owner of Arwood Custom Jewelry

“I’ve lived here long enough to remember when we didn’t have a Krogers on Highway 78. Now we have two nearby.”

Laurie SteenisKeller Williams Real Estate (and Packer fan)

“Sachse has the charm of a smaller country town…yet close enough to shopping and restaurants.

Dr. James Moebius-owner of Murphy Road Animal Hospital

“Ive had my business in Sachse since 1998. I like the small town atmosphere near Dallas. It’s always nice to come home to Sachse.”

Frank Milsap-owner of Sachse Rod Shop (ongoing business in the same location, since 1982)

“I never intended my business to be more than part time. Before long I had to quit my day job. We have unlimited growth opportunity in this community.”

Mike Felix-Mayor

“Our events bring families together for fun and friendship.”

I never lived in such a small town but for me its advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Is it uncommon for a small town? I do not know but it is “Home, sweet home!”

 

 

 

 

 

From Bucket Challenge to Bucket List

Traveling with an Advocate for ALS

 

Ice Bucket

The Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS

Do you remember the Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014? Andrea Heaberg, my uncommon friend and former colleague, recalls her participation. She volunteered with the ALSA (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association) with a sneaky suspicion she might have a neurological issue. The Ice Bucket Challenge began as a “grass roots” effort to raise money and awareness for ALS, a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease. The Challenge rode the social media wave around the world for a number of months. Other philanthropies joined the melee to earn money and awareness, but ALSA realized $115 Million that year in donations, which helped fund several new research studies.

A Few Statistics

ALS is difficult to diagnose; it is a progressive, neuromuscular condition without a cure. Three doctors and a year of costly medical tests determined that Andrea Heaberg’s weak hands would never become strong again. She is gradually losing muscle control in her arms and legs and has a caregiver, her husband.

More men than women are afflicted by ALS. A new case is diagnosed every 90 minutes.

Military veterans are 50% more likely to develop ALS than the general population.

There are more than 50,000 people in the U.S. living with ALS; the average lifespan, from diagnosis to death, is 2 to 5 years. By comparison, the FDA drug approval process takes twice that amount of time.

Generally, the ALSA  budgets about $39 Million per year to fund research projects and provide grants for specialized equipment, among other support activities for ALS patients; their Board includes patients with ALS. The Muscular Dystrophy Association  is involved in similar activities, but ALS is a small part of their focus. When both groups lobby congress for resources, they compete with each other, except where proposed legislation benefits all patients. But…Andrea does her share to help improve the statistics.

The Conference

at the conference

Andrea with Penny, her fierce service dog, at the conference.

Last May, a major, world-wide ALS conference occurred in Washington, D.C. Andrea attended, along with more than 1000 others. One hundred and twenty-eight patients from around the world attended. Her husband flew with her or she could not have gone; she can no longer carry a bag or fasten a seat belt. She planned to meet legislators at the conference.

I asked her what she liked about the conference. Her response shows her heart. “I loved hearing about the ongoing drug trials. Seeing the new, marvelous equipment to help with my speech issues encouraged me. The drug trial results may not provide hope for me, but may for those in the future. All the patients we met were extremely positive in their outlook.”

The Advocate

Andrea defines herself as an Advocate for ALS in Texas, not as an ALS patient but as a Person with ALS. She expected to speak to the legislators during the conference, but she wound up visiting with their “specialists” whose roles revolve around improving laws for medical care. She met in the offices of six congressmen and one senator to seek support of three specific bills that would provide immediate or short term benefits to those whose lifespan might be measured in months. The legislative update can be found at alsa.org/advocacy/advocacy-day.

Andrea is eligible for Medicare, but because she will not get better, only worse, Medicare refuses to pay for physical therapy. She can pay for it herself or go without. She has learned many techniques to keep her muscles as flexible as possible at home. “Get on living or get on dying. While there is no bright future for me, I choose to find a new normal every day with something positive to keep me going through my journey,” she says. Her daily struggles include finding alternative ways to remain active without the use of her hands and arms.

Using the phone is a chore, because it is difficult to tap a key. She works from her home office for her ALS organization by contacting legislators and sharing the stories of others. She participates with the local ALS organization during fund-raising walking events (while she is still mobile) and support group activities. As technology improves, she will record her voice (in a voice bank) to use when she can no longer speak, and use her eyes to ‘type’ her communications.

Her personal ‘Bucket List’ includes filling The Ice Bucket. The Challenge is still around, but “we need other local events to find new methods to increase awareness and donors; there are ALS chapters in all 50 states where folks can volunteer.”

As she becomes weaker, her will to live is stronger with her willingness to advocate. If you are looking for a new way to serve others, please think about Andrea, who continues to make a difference in the world while traveling with her illness.

A huge thanks goes to Andrea and Jim Heaberg for their help with this article. More statistics are available at the ALS website.

 

 

 

 

Gifts for Moving Forward

The Road Is Rarely Straight.

The Road Is Rarely Straight.

The other day a bright, young lady, a neighbor, age 19, told me her life plan. She explained in detail she will become a physician, marry, and birth two children. Her intentions are admirable and possible but surprises often interfere with our plans.

When I asked one of my grand-daughters if she is looking forward to the next step in her education she answered with a strong “No, I don’t want to grow up.” Is it fear or is she having too much fun? Fun and fear are intertwined frequently.

Career Change

My first book, “MORE than a Paycheck: Inspiration and Tools for Career Change,” shared twenty stories about people who changed careers or jobs. As a recruiter and outplacement consultant I saw people often trapped in unhappy job situations. When people are laid off they go through a grief process, which can last too long in the anger or sadness. “MORE than a Paycheck” gives people role models for career transitions. The stories resonate with encouragement for the readers to put their fears into a large paper bag and dump the bag in the trash. Some kicked and screamed when their jobs evaporated, never to return. They had to take action or lose their homes and sometimes families.

If you know someone who could profit from “MORE than a Paycheck,” you can order the paperback book on my website at a discounted rate. Order the book or e-book online on Amazon or other e-book site for about the same price. It makes a nice gift for people changing jobs or for a graduation present.

Gift of the Suitcase

I am excited to announce my upcoming book, “Gift of the Suitcase,” which shares the inevitable changes in life such as relocating, facing a divorce or experiencing other critical situations.

My new book launches within the next eight to ten weeks. Since I don’t have an exact date from the publisher yet, I cannot take pre-orders for “Gift of the Suitcase.”

This book begins with a gift from my parents for college graduation. I received a large suitcase and a plane ticket to France for a summer job before I began teaching French. The story encapsulates the unexpected changes in my career and personal life. I wrote it as a gift for people who face similar issues. They make plans and the plans fall apart. We learn from these experiences or stay mired in muck.

Watch for details about my journey of unexpected changes. International travel is part of the story to grasp that loosing baggage may not be a loss. My website will be changing soon to share more information. The road through life is rarely a straight.

 

 

Changing Plans: from Charleston to Jefferson

Enjoying Jefferson, Texas: Part 2

breakfast

Breakfast at the Carriage House

When the hurricane and high tides “attacked” Charleston, South Carolina on our dream vacation, we returned toTexas after two full days. Much to my surprise, my husband made reservations at the Carriage House Bed and Breakfast to complete our vacation. He found the property online, choosing it when he read they serve a “two course breakfast.” The man likes good food and I love antiques! Changing plans meant new adventure.

Happy Anniversary

Jessi Brooks, owner of the Carriage House, knows the ins and outs of hospitality with 30 plus years in the hospitality industry. She decided, about six years ago, to transfer her skills from large hotel chains to her own business. When she discovered the Carriage House on the market, she and her sister began the negotiations. Located on the edge of the shopping district in Jefferson, Texas, the property needed her decorative touch to make it “her own.” Read a more detailed account of her life and the property on the website.

The weekend we arrived on her doorstep several guests celebrated their anniversaries and Jessi’s accomplishments since opening a year ago. I asked her why she left corporate America. Her response, “I wanted to have my own place where I can achieve amazing customer service for my guests.”

Thoughtful Customer Service

Jessi the owner

Jessi from Jefferson

The fire pit offered a surprising “extra” at the Carriage House. Early October brings balmy days and cool evenings. The wood fire on the patio created a splendid space for sharing the evening with the other guests. When she delivered blankets as we sat talking by the fire I realized how seriously she attends to detail. She thinks of everything! In the morning, the fire pit blazed for the focal point of visiting with others until breakfast. We had s’mores the previous night and a two course breakfast in the morning which included a blueberry compote/bread pudding for a starter. An egg dish followed.

A Little History

We knew from previous visits that the city exploded with paddlewheel boats for merchants between 1845 and 1873. The town grew to approximately 30,000 people during its heyday, but someone unflooded the Bayou and the river port dried up. Today Jefferson numbers around 2000 people. Many of the lovely B&Bs share the history from the era with their guests.

A Harrowing Halloween Story

Our new friends, the anniversary couple who both work for one of the chicken manufacturing plants in the area, planned to take the Ghost Tour during their stay. The wife told her own Halloween story.

At a Halloween party at a bowling alley near their home in East Texas, people attended in costume. She wore a fabulous witch costume. Her grandson, about age 5, was hit in the head at the party with a bowling ball causing severe bleeding. She picked him up squawking that he didn’t want stitches…he didn’t want to leave the party. She dumped him in the car, racing to the nearby hospital. She said, “I knew he’d need stitches when I saw the white meat on his chin.” Apparently the hospital could not tell who to treat in which department when they arrived. Hospital personnel saw an extremely bloody witch with a tall hat and small screaming, wounded child. I’m sure it was not funny at the time but her recitation grew raucous response from her listeners.

Nearby

Graceful Ghost

Graceful Ghost-steamboat on Caddo Lake

Nearby Caddo Lake is the largest, freshwater lake in Texas. We found Big Pines Lodge in Uncertain, Texas with tours available for fishing or  riding the small paddlewheel steamboat around the lake. Our hostess at the B&B suggested other places to eat and visit.

With sadness we visited Marshall Pottery, discovering they laid off the artist and small team producing one of a kind pottery to focus on manufacturing only clay pots. We had purchased a few pieces years ago which probably appreciated with the loss of their specialty pots, mugs, birdhouses, and other gift items. I questioned the lady at the  cash register who had tears in her eyes when she explained the large, vacant space with few products.

church

Church of Uncertain, Texas

Don’t be afraid of changing plans. We enjoyed Charleston, but we’ve made reservations to return to Jefferson again this time next year. I’m not thrilled about returning to Charleston yet, especially not during a full moon and hurricane to interfere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changing Plans in Charleston-Part 1

                                                           “Let’s go to Charleston,” I suggested.

The Battery

Charleston, South Carolina-the Battery

 

The “loved one” and I planned a six day vacation to Charleston, South Carolina months in advance. The first week in October seemed perfect for the visit as the weather would be cooler and the humidity less intense. We queried our friends for suggestions for historical sites and fabulous food. An outdoor market appealed to me. My husband wanted to see Patriots Point, especially for the Vietnam display.

The Beauty of Charleston

We arrived Tuesday mid-afternoon and headed for The Battery to watch the glorious sunset from the walk and park by the tip of Charleston. We wondered about the wet streets, hearing later high tides flood the streets,  even higher twice a year. The full moon and gravity played an unexpected role.

Vietnam Exhibit

Vietnam Exhibit at Patriots Point-Charleston, SC

In the morning we hustled through breakfast for a fun-filled day, starting with the water taxi to Patriots Point.The Vietnam display stunned both of us. We heard bombs exploding in the background, explored the replica bunkers and the tiny hospital. The ground seemed to shake with the noise from imaginary helicopters.

Our bus trip around town allowed us to understand geography for sites to visit. We ate a decadent dinner before attending an evening concert at the Round Church. “The Sounds of Charleston” at this church is a must-see concert with ballads, Gershwin and twangy, country tunes. The narrator added history, humor and quick transitions. I said to my husband, “This may be the best day of our visit.” A soft rain fell with twilight.

The Weather

Round Church

Music in the Round Church, Charleston, SC

The next day television newscasters predicted flooding and storms from the nearby hurricane with bad weather for the next three days. Our hotel, situated near the water, made us extremely nervous. I wandered outside our hotel. Yikes! The swamp beside the hotel was full of water. A sidewalk on the opposite side of the hotel surrounded a small bay with three story yachts.

We could have stayed to watch the rain and floods, but after a bit of deliberation, I called the airline to change our flights. The decision to depart took less than an hour. When we reached the airport, 18 people on the “wait list” leaned against the wall, wanting to share the ride. Luckily, our airplane left before they closed the airport. Later we heard that Charlestonians kayaked down the street where we dined the previous evening. The open-air market flooded badly.

With three days of vacation unplanned, my husband excitedly announced he made reservations for us to go to Jefferson, Texas. Sometimes his surprises are not approved, but I bounced into the car, eager to avoid the reality and disappointment of our adventure.

Part 2 extends the story of our fateful trip to Charleston, which ended too soon. My last article talked about how unexpected surprises often bring new joy. Please return for “The Change in Plans,” which I hope to post next week.