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We didn’t go anywhere for Spring Break this year, except to the zoo.  Today’s planned trip to Dollywood was canceled due to illness.  So I got to feeling nostalgic about last year’s Spring Break trip, which I had never gotten around to sharing here.

Because I’ve waited a year to write about this, the details of the trip are less than clear.  So I’m going to dump a LOT of pictures here, with less explanation than usual.  But let me start by saying that if you live in Knoxville, and you’ve never taken a trip to Chattanooga, you are missing out.  If you live farther away, it’s still worth the drive.  We only did about half of what we wanted to do last year–the children’s museum, the nature center, the art museum, and more all await another visit.

So one year ago yesterday we packed up and drove 90 miles to Chattanooga, where our accommodations were cheap and convenient and that’s the best that could be said about them.

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Clearly, Echo was not in favor of our leaving!

Tickets to local attractions are available at reduced prices online, so we were ready to get started as soon as we arrived.  We began at the bottom of Lookout Mountain and rode the Incline Railway to the top.

I’ve ridden this thing before, years and years ago, but the cars were more enclosed than they are now and the . . . STEEPNESS . . . did not register with me.  It registered with poor William, though, and he was not a fan.

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Once at the top, the first thing to do is marvel at the beautiful views, which are not in short supply on Lookout Mountain.

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We also got a look at the machinery that runs the Incline Railway.

Our first stop was Battles for Chattanooga, right down the street.  On our way we enjoyed the beautiful homes and gardens we passed.  We browsed the gift shop which is replete with Civil War memorabilia while we waited for the show to start.

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The show itself is a combination of film and one of those models of all the battlefields that lights up to illustrate the various campaigns.  You may have seen something similar in Gettysburg or Atlanta if you’ve been there.  This was the first time I’d been to this attraction, and it was very instructive and provided context for Point Park, our next stop.

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History, rock formations, and views are plentiful in Point Park, which charges a small entry fee on the honor system.  There’s a little self-guided museum, and miles of walking trails which I am hoping to return to explore one day.  Seriously, it’s so beautiful and you could spend an entire day right here.

We had other places to go, though, so we rode the Incline back down (William had to be very brave!) and drove the car back up so we could SEE ROCK CITY, just like the barns say.

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Rock City is an attraction that is hard to categorize.  The brainchild of Mr. and Mrs. Carter above, what began as an extension of the garden around their home is now a network of trails, massive rock formation, nerve-wracking bridges, breathtaking views, and more.

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Above you see a nice solid rock bridge and a swinging bridge.  Can you guess which one I walked across?

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I bet you guessed right! 🙂

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Directly above you’ll see a shot of Lovers’ Leap (with the waterfall turned green in honor of Saint Patrick!) and then what Rock City is probably most famous for: the view of seven states which strikes me as totally possible on a clear day.

There are some rare white fallow deer housed at Rock City.  I didn’t get a picture but you can see Lorelei and William looking at them below!

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The white deer are part of the fairy tale motif for which Rock City is known.  Gnomes are plentiful, and there’s a whole gallery of nursery rhyme scenes.

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At the conclusion of our Rock City adventure, we found a family-friendly Asian restaurant nearby before retreating to our lodgings to rest up for the next day’s activities.

We started the second day of our trip with another iconic Chattanooga attraction:  Ruby Falls.

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All I can say is that it’s a good thing God chose Leo Lambert and not me to discover His handiwork and reveal it to the masses.  The story of his harrowing crawl through the pitch-dark and tiny passageways is terrifying. Luckily we can experience the beauty of the caverns without doing that.  I’m just sharing a few pictures because even with an iPhone (WAY better than the Kodak with flip-flash I had the first time I visited almost 40 years ago!) it’s just hard to capture good images in the low light.

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With Ruby Falls behind us, we headed down Lookout Mountain and into downtown Chattanooga with the Tennessee Aquarium next on our agenda.  They’d added a whole new building since our last visit.  One building showcases freshwater and the other seawater creatures.

I’d give more info on these creatures if I could, but it’s been a year and my memory of what things are is hazy.  William would be able to tell me if I asked him–it’s fun to hear him announce the names of obscure animals without reading the informational placards.

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These guys I recognize and you will too.  There are many of them in the bayou area and it was fun to watch them.

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I love all the beautiful colors and patterns–living art.

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Water creatures share the Aquarium with some other wild things.  This was taken in the butterfly room, where if you are lucky you may find yourself a perch for several butterflies!

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And while penguins seem a bit out of place to me I’m not going to complain because look how cute they are.  We had a hard time dragging the kids away.

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These guys though–they are creepy.

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The other-worldly, ethereal beauty of jellyfish is always fascinating to me.

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And there were more to come, as the Aquarium is currently hosting an art exhibit with jellyfish and art inspired by them.

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I’m pretty sure my kids would name the Aquarium if you asked them which part of our visit to Chattanooga they enjoyed most.

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We were there until closing time and then we hit downtown to search for a William-approved restaurant (Genghis Grill) before heading back to the motel.  We squeezed a lot of fun into two days and I was just talking to John today about how much more there is to see and do in Chattanooga.  We will be back!

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Dear Facebook Friends:

Next time you are tempted to gleefully post about how happy you are to see ObamaCare repealed, I want you to think about the people whose lives are going to be affected dramatically when that happens.  I want you to think about people who are terrified of losing their coverage, who went years uninsured,  who saw doctors only when in dire need, who went bankrupt due to medical bills, who visited the emergency room for care because they didn’t have the money a clinic would have demanded up front, who spent hours researching online and filling out forms and chasing down doctors for signatures to get prescription medication payment assistance, who figured out which of their medications they could forgo in a given month, who held their breath in the pharmacy drive-through line while they waited to hear the terrible total.

You are entitled to your opinion and the ACA isn’t perfect, but it’s sure better than the nothing many people had before it was passed.  You can suggest changes and discuss drawbacks and talk policy without appearing to be enthusiastic about the fact that millions of Americans stand to lose their care and that some of them are going to die.

Consider, please, how it makes me (and others) feel when I see people who are supposed to be my friends celebrating the fact that my family may soon be without health insurance and thus effectively without care.  In my posts on this topic in the past I have always been careful to affirm my friends who told me that the implementation of the ACA had caused them difficulties like higher premiums and changes in doctors.  I was always sympathetic and willing to concede the imperfections in the ACA, as evidenced by my many honest posts  (which I will link at the end).  I agreed that improvement–although not repeal–was needed.

Remember that there are suffering people who see your Facebook posts, people who are frightened, for whom this isn’t about politics or partisanship or finances but about staying alive.  Remember that, and if you care about those people, watch the tone of your posts.

Your friend,

A Once and Possibly Future Uninsured American

My previous posts on ObamaCare:

The $64,000 Question, Answered

Who Are the Uninsured?

Uninsured No More

ObamaCare Update

ObamaCare Update 2

ObamaCare:  My Latest Update

ObamaCare Revisited

More on Our Journey to Health, Brought to You by Obamacare

It’s Good to Be Insured: An ObamaCare Update

Obamacare in Practice:  An Update

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This is a little exercise I’ve been taking part in for three years now.  It’s always fun to look back over the year, and this year I am struck by two things: 1) How much Lorelei used my phone to take pictures of Webkinz this year and 2) How many adventures I had that I did not share on my blog, even though I meant to.  I plan to remedy that shortly, but in the meantime here are some favorite pictures and memories from 2016, proving that it wasn’t ALL bad!

JANUARY:  Our oldest son turned 22.  We celebrated with a family dinner at our favorite sushi place, Lemongrass, which sadly closed later in the year.

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FEBRUARY: A BIG birthday party for my husband, pictured here being toasted by our “big kids.”

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MARCH:  One of so many pictures from a delightful weekend visit to Chattanooga, just a short drive from Knoxville and full of things to see and do.  I have so many beautiful pictures from that weekend and still plan to blog about this trip.

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APRIL:  I don’t have as many hiking pictures this year, because we didn’t hike as much, something else I hope to change soon!  This one was taken at the Forks of the River Trails in the South Knoxville Urban Wilderness, my favorite hiking destination.

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MAY:  Y’all, these chairs were my Mother’s Day present and I love them so much.  I now actually sit occasionally.  I can look at my garden, read, and occasionally nap in my chair–although I sometimes have to sit in my less preferred seat if our cat has already claimed the other one.

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JUNE:  My husband’s uncle died this year and this picture was taken at his funeral.  We were so fortunate to have visited with him just a couple of weeks before.

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JULY:  This was also taken at Forks of the River, during the annual sunflower extravaganza.  If you live in our near Knoxville, you don’t want to miss this.

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AUGUST:  Obligatory cat picture here.  This time it’s Mace and Echo, shortly before we went from two cats to four (which, if you are interested, is kind of a lot of cats).

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SEPTEMBER:  How long it had been since I went to a Tennessee Volunteers game I can’t even remember, but it had been a long time!  Win or lose, there is nothing like it.

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OCTOBER:  I took this in Cades Cove, in the Smoky Mountains, when Emily and I went up early one morning to take in the leaves before the crowds arrived.

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NOVEMBER:  After we went to vote, Emily, Lorelei, and I went downtown to have lunch and pay tribute to this trio of Tennessee suffragettes.  It’s still painful to think about how happy and full of hope we were that afternoon.

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DECEMBER:  Merry Christmas! These Santas are so special to our family.  My grandmother collected them over a period of time from Lowe’s and displayed them every year.  At some point, as she often did, she turned them over to me and my kids always loved organizing them.  At the burned down house (that’s how we refer to it around here), the Santas were displayed in the basement and thus survived the inferno.  They are soot-stained but precious to us.

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And there you have it!  If you want to see prior years in pictures, just click right here:  2013, 2014, 2015.

I’m linking up with others who are doing the same thing at Revolution of Love.  Click the image below to visit the rest of the collection!

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When our first child was a baby, 25 years ago, I had very specific ideas about Christmas that went along with my ideas about being a perfect mother.

From time to time when I was a child, my mother would suggest we should cut back on Christmas gift giving and concentrate instead on the true meaning of Christmas.  At which point we kids would raise a chorus of protests.  (Never happened, naturally.)

I thought to conquer materialism on the front end, by buying just a few well-chosen presents.  And that first year, it worked.  Between us and Santa, baby Emily received about $50 worth of well-chosen gifts.  My memories of that Christmas are idyllic:  Christmas dishes displayed in the china cabinet, Celtic Christmas music in the background, a baby in red velvet eating apple cinnamon bread, Midnight Mass, a day spent showing off Emily to adoring family members.

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Of course it escalated from there.  And I didn’t count on extended family who didn’t want to get with the program.  Eventually several relatives who wanted the kids to get lots of presents but didn’t know what to buy them started sending me so much money I could hardly figure out how to spend it all, resulting in a veritable mountain of gifts under our tree each year.

That’s not to say that we ever left Christ out of Christmas. Presents were important, no doubt, but I don’t think our kids have ever forgotten the reason for the season.

The way we keep Advent has a lot to do with this, I think.  Two weeks before Christmas, the only signs of the season apparent are our Advent wreath and a few other candles here and there.  Our preparations build slowly–the other decorations will go up next weekend, probably, and the tree just a few days before Christmas.  We hold off on hosting any sort of gatherings until just a few days before Christmas or ideally even afterwards, waiting to start celebrating until the Guest of honor has arrived!

Religious decorations are given pride of place in our home.  Yes, we have Santas and trees, but my favorite Santa shows that he knows his proper place in the celebration.

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Christmas really begins for us on Christmas Eve, when we attend Mass as a family.  Not Midnight Mass, which doesn’t work for us at this point, but an evening Mass which we traditionally follow with a dinner out before coming home to one of my favorite Christmas rituals.

Every Christmas Eve, each child gets one present to open and it is always a Christmas book.  So the last thing the kids do before going to bed to talk and dream of Santa and presents is listen to me reading them Christmas stories, both the new ones and old favorites, most of which relate to the true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas Day is all presents and dinner and family and more presents, but one way we avoid having it turn into a materialistic free-for-all is that in our family presents are opened one at a time, youngest to oldest, until everyone finishes.  The kids are excited to see the happiness of the other members of the family upon opening gifts.  We do this in the morning and then we do it all again after dinner with the extended family–almost twenty people taking turns.  It takes HOURS.  It teaches patience.  And in the exchange of gifts and the love they represent we commemorate God’s gift of Christ to us, always recalling that God Himself is Love.

This post is part of the Siena Sisters’ CWBN Blog Hop.  You can read other posts by clicking here.

 

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No joke, y’all, I started seeing houses with their Christmas lights up just after Halloween.  Is it any wonder that there will be Christmas trees lying on the curb by Christmas night, tossed out by people who have celebrated themselves out before the guest of honor even arrived?

But the reality is, that’s the world we live in, and being all sanctimonious about it (IT’s NOT EVEN ADVENT YET!!) isn’t going to help.  We could shut ourselves away from the world and refuse to participate, but that’s not much fun, is it?  The Christmas concerts and television specials, the tree lightings, the pageants and parades–they will all be over after Christmas Day.

So how to reconcile what the world teaches with what the Church teaches?  How do we keep Advent when the world says it’s already Christmas?  (And how do we celebrate Christmas when the world says it’s over?  Perhaps I will post on that at the proper time!)

Our family participates in many treasured Christmas traditions in the community, even though they start in November.  We can’t control how the rest of the world celebrates.  But we can control HOW and WHAT our family celebrates this time of year.  Here’s what we do:

  • We remove the harvest/fall decorations, and leave the mantel bare except for candles.
  • We wait much longer than everyone else to decorate for Christmas, putting up most of our decorations ten days or so before and the tree only a few days before.
  • We play special Advent music.
  • We attend our parish’s annual Advent Workshop.
  • With varying degrees of success from year to year we have an Advent wreath, a Jesse Tree, and Advent Calendars.

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If you are just getting started with the idea of keeping Advent, start small.  Pick one activity and make sure you do it every day.  Kicking yourself for not doing a better job of celebrating Advent is probably not productive.  Last year was a rough one for me in this area, so I am resolving now to be more intentional about Advent this year, even as we continue to take part in the early Christmas revelry around us.

I love Advent, and have written a lot of posts on the topic.  In addition to those I linked above, check out the links below for more:

Advent Memories

Tragedy and Traditions

Christmastime Is Here–Not!

This post is part of the the Siena Sisters Monthly Blog Hop.  This month’s theme is Keeping Advent, Advent.  You can read the rest of the entries here.

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The first year we had health insurance via the ACA, I updated y’all frequently and promised to keep doing so.  I realize that’s a promise I didn’t keep.  Now that the law’s very existence is threatened, it seems like a good time to share how it’s been going for us in the almost two years since my last post.

I’m listing here for comparison some numbers I just crunched from the three years we have been covered thus far.

2014

  • Premiums paid:  $3,796.75
  • Physician Charges:  $41,191.17
  • Prescriptions:  $9,581.96
  • Our portion after insurance:  $5,454.47
  • Total health care costs: $9,251.22

2015

  • Premiums paid:  $7,558.68
  • Physician Charges:  $10,083.20
  • Prescriptions:  $7,603.03
  • Our portion after insurance:  $2,668.16
  • Total health care costs: $10,226.84

2016 (to date)

  • Premiums paid:  $7,239.24
  • Physician Charges:  $16,849.10
  • Prescriptions:  $6,492.23
  • Our portion after insurance:  $2,613.13
  • Total health care costs: $10,452.37

You will probably notice a couple of things:  Our premiums went UP, and our physician charges went DOWN.

Well, it’s no secret that premiums are going up across the land, which many people blame on ObamaCare.  Ours would be unaffordable by now if it weren’t for the generous government subsidy we receive thanks to the size of our family vs. the size of our income.

Our physician charges went down because for one thing we didn’t have a major medical issue as we did the first year when Jake required surgery for a severed tendon, and the first year we also all went to the doctor a lot to make up for years of not being able to do so.  One of the things that has been driving costs up has been exactly this–people who hadn’t been able to access care, some of them very sick as a result, finally getting the care they need.   Presumably some of that will improve as time goes on, as it has for us.

So our experience continues to be positive.  We love our doctors.  We love that we can still provide insurance for our two adult children who are not in school.  We love that whenever anyone is sick we don’t have to worry about paying for or accessing care.  We love having regular preventive care and psychological care too.  And we love the lack of sticker shock at the pharmacy.

None of that is to say that there aren’t problems that need to be fixed.  Because insurance companies now have to cover those who they used to be able to reject, they haven’t been able to make a profit for the past three years.  Premiums continue to rise.  And Blue Cross has pulled out of Knoxville so we have to find another plan for next year.  Any day now I will have to devote a couple of hours to the hell on earth otherwise known as Healthcare.gov–which has only improved marginally since the last time I was there.

Now that I’ve got you all caught up, count on seeing more–a LOT more–on this topic over the next few weeks.

 

And here’s the rest of our ObamaCare story:

The $64,000 Question, Answered

Who Are the Uninsured?

Uninsured No More

ObamaCare Update

ObamaCare Update 2

ObamaCare:  My Latest Update

ObamaCare Revisited

More on Our Journey to Health, Brought to You by Obamacare

It’s Good to Be Insured: An ObamaCare Update

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As y’all know by now, I’m a US Family Guide blogger, which means occasionally I share offers for admission to attractions with you, then visit the attractions and honestly review them in this space.  In return, I get free tickets for me and my family.  Today I am sharing an attraction that I already know you’ll enjoy because I’ve visited it before.  Here’s what they’ve asked me to share with you:

Oakes Farm is the place to experience an amazing corn maze, a delightful pumpkin patch, an old-fashioned hayride, and lots more! Fall is simply fantastic at Oakes Farm … so, join us for a day that will provide a lifetime of memories! We’re becoming famous for our amazing corn mazes, which are works of art when viewed from above (of course, we have pictures) and challenging, life-size puzzles when you’re inside them.

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General Admission includes admission to the “Back 40” and a hayride. The “Back 40” includes over 25 fun attractions! A Giant 9 Acre Professionally Designed Corn Maze, Giant Slide, Bouncing Pillow, Kids’ Corn Maze, Pedal Karts, Giant Sand Play Area And much more! Fun for all ages and any occasion including groups, field trips and birthday parties!

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Located about 12 miles north of Knoxville, TN, Oakes Farm is a wonderful place for both the young and the young-at-heart to enjoy a truly unique outdoor experience at a very affordable price.

And guess what!  My readers get to save on your visit! $1 off General Admission – to Oakes Farm Tennessee Corn Maze! Valid for up to 19 guests!  Just click the link below for your coupon:
Oakes Farm Coupon for readers of Life in Every Limb

Hope to see you there!  And be sure to check back in a few weeks for my review, which will include lots and lots of pictures!

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