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Y’all, I loved to play them when I was little.  I was always begging my parents to play, with minimal success.  And now that I have a kid begging me to play LIFE, I totally understand where they were coming from!

There are board games designed to be fun for children and adults of all ages, though, and as a U.S. Family Guide Blogger, I’ve been given the opportunity to share one of them (plus a coupon!) with you!

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Here’s what they want you to know:

Watch Ya’ Mouth Throwdown Edition is the evolution of the original, wildly popular, hilarious Watch Ya’ Mouth game. Rather than just speak phrases, players now go head-to-head with hilarious and challenging tasks – while wearing mouthpieces. Throwdown Edition takes competition – and laughter – to the next level and builds on the multigenerational gaming phenomena.

Throwdown Edition has already been Awarded Top Holiday Toy of 2017 by Toy Insider & selected for the 2017 Amazon Holiday Toy List.Want a hilarious family game to play during the Holidays? Your search is over.

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And my readers can click here to use this discount: 15% off Coupon Code: 15THROWDOWN 

I’ll be receiving this game in exchange for my honest review, which I will post here after my family and I have a chance to play it!

 

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I know I always used to like to pretend to be one, trying to swim with my legs together at the pool in the summertime.  Too bad this was not a thing back then.

Yes, you now have the opportunity to make someone’s mermaid dream come true!  Now, before I go any further, let me remind you that I am a U.S. Family Guide blogger, and in that capacity occasionally promote products on my blog.  I usually get a product in exchange for my honest opinion.

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You’ll be seeing more of these posts for awhile because it is now Christmas shopping season and companies want you to see what they for offering.  Here’s what Suntail Mermaid wants you to know:

Make your little girl’s dream come true! Sun Tail Mermaid has created the world’s best swimmable mermaid tails and mermaid flippers. Their mermaid tails are soft, comfortable, and come in a wide variety of designs and colors. They are made of high quality swimsuit fabric with 4-way stretch.

Sun Tail Mermaid’s monofins are extremely comfortable and virtually unbreakable. Their patented monofin is several steps ahead of everyone else in engineering, durability, comfort, and functionality. The propulsion and control is exceptional. The monofins come in a wide range of beautiful colors, so you can match your mermaid tails or look amazing wearing it alone.

My readers can get a 10% discount by using this coupon code: BestGiftEver.  And I’ll be back in a few weeks to give you my opinion after trying out my very own mermaid tail and fins!

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It was a beautiful autumn day almost exactly a year ago when I finally visited Bookwalter United Methodist Cemetery, which had been on my list for years.  It is a large–over 4,000 graves–cemetery, and has been in continuous use from the 1880s to the present day.

Many of the earliest graves are those of the Swiss/German immigrants who settled the nearby area now known as Dutch Valley.

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Atop a hill with views of Sharp’s Ridge, Bookwalter Cemetery transcends its humble location, hemmed in by a busy street in front, train tracks in back, and neighborhoods on both sides.

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The peaceful silence one associates with cemeteries was notably absent.  In addition to traffic and train noises, I was assailed by the sounds of barking dogs, blaring radios, and bawling babies.  Most disturbing of all, at the back of the cemetery I was transfixed by an argument going on in an adjacent neighborhood, where a landlord was banging on the door of a rental property and making telephone calls to his renter who was evading his attempts to collect rent.  I could not tear myself away from this troubling drama  of the living unfolding just yards away from this not-so-peaceful resting place of the dead.

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The section of the cemetery nearest to the railroad tracks is partly devoted to the graves of infants and small children, although there are others scattered throughout the cemetery.  This post is being published in October, a month set aside for mourning pregnancy and infant losses, so it seems appropriate to point out that heart-wrenching stones and tiny graves are not only a thing of the distant past.

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This is a decently kept cemetery, with a few exceptions.  By now I have learned that there are always exceptions.

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I have learned that the city has taken on responsibility for the maintenance of the cemetery, taking over from the Police Department which had been mowing it for the sake of the surrounding neighborhoods.  Why is the city having to do this?  Well, that is an interesting story which we will get to below.  But first, a sampling of some of the modern-day stones and epitaphs which caught my eye for one reason or another.

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As I wandered through the cemetery I noted the signs below.  I knew there would be a story behind this.

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There was actually a surprising dearth of information about Bookwalter Cemetery online*, and this lack of historical background may be significant to what I did find–a series of legal documents indicating that the state had been forced to involve itself in the affairs of one portion of the cemetery.  Like many old cemeteries, this one doesn’t have clear ownership, and what was worse, neither did the graves.  Several people laid claim to the same plots and there were insufficient records kept to indicate whose claim was true.  A complete survey of the cemetery had to be conducted, determining how many plots there were and which had bodies therein, with arbitration being conducted to make sure that everyone who laid claim to a plot got one.  What a mess.

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So I am providing you–and me–with another cautionary tale:  before you buy a plot make sure the cemetery you choose is owned by a responsible company that is not only going to provide upkeep but that also maintains accurate records!

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*EDIT:  A reader tells me (see comments below) that the first half of the cemetery is properly called Bookwalter United Methodist Church Cemetery and is maintained by the church, and that the back half is Bookwalter Community Cemetery and is maintained by the state.  I did look for information on the church’s website before writing this post, and there is no mention there of the cemetery.  I also checked public records in which the cemetery appears as a single entity.  I appreciate his clarification.

For more cemetery stories, visit this post.

Writing about hiking used to be a pretty big chunk of this blog.  Not so much lately, as I fell off the fitness wagon.  But fall is a great time for walking–it’s beautiful as well as cool.  So to inspire myself, and as a resource to any Knoxvillians or visitors, I’ve collected all my walking posts right here along with a brief description and picture for each.

Walking in East Knoxville: Welcoming Spring at the Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum

It’s not Spring as I am writing this but I am absolutely sure that this unsung gem will have fall foliage and flowers to delight you.  Don’t wait for Spring!

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Walking in South Knoxville

This was my introductory post of many about the 40 miles of trails in the Urban Wilderness.

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View from the Ijams River Trail

Walking in South Knoxville II: The William Hastie Natural Area

One trailhead for this section of the Urban Wilderness is in the Lake Forest neighborhood where we used to live.  We were curious and went walking back here when it wasn’t even a thing.

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Walking in South Knoxville III:  Forks of the River WMA

These are hands-down my favorite trails in the system.

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Walking in South Knoxville IV:  Anderson School Trails

These fancifully named trails that wind along an easement through private land are Emily’s favorite.

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Walking in South Knoxville V: Ross Marble Natural Area

This area features the remains of a quarrying operation, almost like exploring exotic ruins.

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Walking in South Knoxville VI:  Fort Dickerson Quarry

This place is amazing.  You will forget you are in Knoxville.

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Walking in South Knoxville VII: In the Homestretch

Fall wildflowers along the Ross Marble Quarry trails and other autumn delights.

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Walking in South Knoxville VIII: Another One Bites the Dust

It’s back to the William Hastie trails with their shady hills and wildflowers.

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Walking in South Knoxville IX:  Forks of the River

There is something for everyone in this section of trails, whether you like woods or meadows, hilly or flat, dirt or pavement.

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Walking in South Knoxville X: A Quiet Walk at the Quarry

The Mead’s Quarry trail is challenging, but it will reward you with beautiful views.

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Walking in South Knoxville XI: A Belated Fall Roundup

A collection of pictures from a variety of trails.

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Walking in South Knoxville:  Success

Another roundup of trails and pictures, including some great views.

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Walking in Knoxville:  North, South, and Further South

This one is a bit further afield with walks in Norris and the Smokies included.

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Walking in West Knoxville

This is a collection of several great places to walk in South Knoxville, suitable to all skill levels.

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A May Stroll You Must Take

If you love the smell of honeysuckle, you’ll want to do this in the Spring, but if you are an architecture fan you will enjoy it any time of year.

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Short West Knoxville Walks

These aren’t pretty (comparatively) but they are good for exercise!

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Walking in West Knoxville:  The Jean Teague Greenway

This trail has the advantage of running right through a playground, where you can abandon your kids for awhile as you walk.

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Walking in Knoxville

This showcases the Pellissippi Greenway, which is at its best when the daffodils are in bloom.

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Two Walks

Finally, this is my very first walking post, laying out a nice hike that hits the high points of downtown Knoxville.

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I’ll continue to update this post with new hikes as I write them–I have a backlog which includes Baker Creek, House Mountain, and Haw Ridge, among others.

 

 

 

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may be with you for ever. 

John 14:16

As I meditated on the concept of Comfort while preparing to write this post, I reflected that it’s a word that evokes strong feelings, and it comes with conflicting connotations in modern times.  We are urged to “get out of [our] comfort zones” on the one hand while we are bombarded with advertisements promising comfort through consumerism on the other.  Along with visions of stuffing ourselves with so-called comfort foods come images of a fat and lazy populace too comfortable and complacent to do anything.

And yet Jesus promises us comfort, so what did He mean?  If it’s something He wants to give us, how can it be bad?

Read the rest at Everyday Ediths!

When last I wrote on the topic of healthcare back in February, I envisioned writing many posts on the ACA this year.  I was HOT.  I wanted to showcase some stories (besides mine) of people who have been helped by the law, and I wanted to encourage activism to prevent its repeal.

But I find my capacity for outrage is finite, and the constant barrage of bad news on this topic and others has stretched it to the limit.  ObamaCare has survived almost an entire year without Obama, with little help from me other than the occasional Resistbot letter to my Congressmen (who voted in favor of every lame proposal thrown up by the GOP this year despite my pleas).

In just a couple of weeks I’ll be back on the ACA website, and I wanted to tell y’all a little about the way this year–on a new plan–has gone for us.  I want my readers to see at least one story that demonstrates that the ACA is NOT imploding (Yes, it needs revision.  I have always said that) and that it is still helping people.

In addition to regular checkups for John, Emily, Teddy, and me, we’ve had some expensive extras that would have either been out of reach when we were uninsured or would have thrown us deep into medical debt had we chosen to go forward with them.  Back in March, John developed bursitis.  He went to the doctor three times–including twice to a specialist–and the chiropractor once, had two sets of X rays and an MRI, and got a cortisone shot and several medications.  All this helped us to meet our deductible early in the year (we are still paying for the MRI), but we wouldn’t have gotten in the door to run up these bills if we didn’t have insurance.  I cannot stress this often enough:  insurance equals ACCESS!

In September, John’s doctor was concerned with some symptoms he was having and ordered an EKG, and then sent him to a cardiologist for further testing.  I haven’t seen the bills yet for the stress test and heart ultrasound performed at the hospital and two visits to the cardiologist (he’s fine, by the way), but I know that we will only be paying 20% of the negotiated rate.  Insurance equals LOWER PRICES!

I had my first mammogram this year, and am scheduled for my first colonoscopy in November.  If I didn’t have insurance, rest assured I would not be getting these screening tests performed.

Finally, last week I noticed some discomfort and a coating on my tongue.  I was pretty sure I had an oral fungal infection.  Did I wait to see if it got better on its own?  Did I look for home remedies? That’s what I would have done and did do, back in my uninsured days.  No, I called the doctor and made an appointment IMMEDIATELY, got some medication, and felt better after two doses.  Being able to go to the doctor right away is a privilege I do not take for granted.

Have we had issues with the ACA this year?  Certainly.  Due to quirks in the sign up process, we were not allowed to insure Jake.  So when he wanted to go to the doctor in September, he went as a self-paying patient.  However, the fact that he has been insured the past three years meant that he had a relationship with our doctor, and she was willing to see him and even give us a discount for paying the whole bill up front.

Also, I don’t much like having to get my prescriptions at Food City with its limited hours; but on the other hand its small size means a very personal touch that I didn’t always experience at Walgreens, and a relationship with the actual pharmacist.

Look for another update after I undergo the tribulations of Healthcare.gov.  Last I heard, Blue Cross will be making a reappearance in the Marketplace, but I have no idea whether our former plan will still be available or how much the rates may rise.

For more of my ObamaCare stories, see below and click away!

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

An Open Letter to My Friends Who Want to Repeal ObamaCare

Obamacare Update: Good, Bad, and Ugly

 

It's so strange that autumn is beautiful, yet everything is dying.- Unknown

As the year dies, it is only natural that our thoughts turn to musings on our own mortality.  For Catholics, Halloween is not only about pumpkins and trick-or-treating; it is the eve of the Feast of All Saints, followed immediately by the Feast of All Souls, days set aside for us to remember and pray for the dead.

As we get older it becomes harder to ignore the fact that every second that passes brings us that much closer to our own deaths.  Children, for whom time seems almost to stand still so that the time between Christmases feels infinite, usually don’t think about the inevitability of death as we do.

But children will encounter death, some sooner than others, and how we prepare them for this and help them deal with it when it comes is important.

There doesn’t have to be some big moment where you sit your kids down and explain death to them.  Better for it to be introduced early, before they can really comprehend it, as a natural process.  You can start with what your kids encounter as they play–dead insects.  If they’ve heard you talking about the fact that an insect is dead from infancy, they’ll always have at least a vague concept of what death is, which you can flesh out later when they have questions.  Tell them that the insect got tired and old and its body couldn’t work anymore, so it was time for it to die.

When they ask questions about their own eventual deaths or yours, it’s best to reassure them by saying that they–and you–are still very young and it will be a long time before you die.  There’s no need to muddy the waters at this point with discussions of death by accident or illness.  Sadly, there will no doubt come a time when you will have to answer those kinds of questions.

My children had their first close encounter with death when my grandmother died.  They were 16, 13, 12, six, and three at the time.  They knew Mima well so they were definitely affected by her death and I felt they should be a part of it.  We told the little ones that, like the insects, Mima was old and her body had worn out, but we also added that she had gone to Heaven to be with God as we all hope to one day. (I personally don’t think that it’s particularly necessary or useful to bring up the concept of Purgatory with little kids right when they are grieving the loss of a loved one.)

We took all the kids with us to the funeral home.  The open casket was at the far end of the room and we let the kids decide whether to approach.  Lorelei and her cousin Ella, who were three and five at the time, were interested and spent time looking at Mima.  William, who was six, did not want to look at her and stayed at the other end of the room.  The children also attended the funeral Mass and the graveside service.

It’s very important not to impose your own–or other people’s–expectations or interpretations on the grieving of children.  They may not look as upset as you think they should look, but don’t make assumptions.  When my dog was hit by a car when I was four, I was very upset, too upset to even talk about it.  I will never forget an adult making the comment that it didn’t seem like I cared very much.  So keep in mind that your children may need space to grieve, or they may need for you to draw them out so that they can express their feelings or ask questions.  I was very impressed by a friend whose husband died when their son was about ten years old.  He wanted to go sit with his friends at the funeral.  Some people might have insisted that he sit up front with the family but she gave him the space he needed and allowed him to find comfort with his friends.

Many children’s first experience with death is the loss of a pet.  My children experienced this for the first time a couple of years ago, when we had to put our elderly dog to sleep.  Lorelei and William accompanied me to the veterinarian and we all supported each other.  I was proud of how brave they were and how they comforted our dog through the process, constantly petting him and reassuring him with loving words.  When kids lose a pet they will almost certainly ask you if the pet will go to Heaven.  The best answer I’ve heard to that question is that when you go to Heaven and want your pet, he will be there.

Like everything else, children will learn more from your actions around death than your words.  Do you talk about how you miss those who have died, or do your avoid discussing uncomfortable feelings?  Do you pray for those who have died and encourage your children to join in? (That’s when you can explain about Purgatory!)  Do you lead by example by attending funerals of those you know whenever possible and encouraging your children to come when appropriate?

My grandfather died when I was 13, and his was the first funeral I ever attended.  For years I was uncomfortable with the whole idea of “viewing” the body, and dreaded going to funerals.  But forcing myself to attend many out of a sense of duty and obligation over the past several years changed my attitude.  In one tragic week several summers ago, a high school friend’s son committed suicide, the father of one of Teddy’s football teammates died in an accident, and the father of one of his classmates committed suicide.  I took Teddy to the funeral of one father, and he accompanied me to take food to the family of the other one.  Set an example for your children with your actions when death touches you, and encourage their participation, and they will internalize the value of these rituals and will not fear them.

This post is part of the Catholic Women Bloggers Network Bloghop.  For more writing on this topic, click below.

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