Tennessee Archives

May 9, 2008

view from our house


Charlotte playing in the sprinkler last week.


Finding frogs with dad in the Smokie Mountains


July 28, 2008

Home "safely."

We decided to leave a few weeks early and so arrived home last week. It was an interesting re-entry back to US and home base. I thought I was ready to leave Costa Rica because between the scary driving, threat of crime and high prices, I was thinking longingly of home.

Today though something horrific has happened in my home and I am alternately wishing I was back "safely" in Costa Rica and very glad to be here. Our loved Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist church was the scene of a shooting today. A gunman entered the church with a guitar case which he opened up and randomly fired at people who were innocently watching a big children's production of Annie during our service.

My family was not at the service although last night we had discussed going. This morning we were still feeling lazy so stayed at home and made muffins in our pjs. Why we make these decisions and how the smallest decision can change our entire life is a total mystery and scares the heck out of me at times such as this. Even my 18 year old son who normally attends every week did not go as he was staying at a friend's home.

As of now one person is dead (he put himself in front of the shooter to protect children) and a few others are clinging on. One of them is a mom of two adorable little boys who were sitting next to her in the sanctuary when it happened. Please hold them and all the congregation in your hearts. We are going to need some healing here.

I cannot help but compare this to Costa Rica. There we lived with an armed guard 24 hours and the worry of theft and car jacking etc. I wrote previously about how draining that was but you know it is crime that I can understand. People are very poor and steal to provide for their families and themselves. I can even understand the thefts to gain money to support their drug or alcohol problems. But senseless and random shooting at children and parents in a church is just incomprehensible. No words for it.

July 29, 2008

The Sun Will Come Out

As I posted yesterday, our UU church was the scene of a tragic shooting this Sunday. Two people are dead and others seriously hurt. Our friend Tammy is still in critical condition but the news is positive so we are hopeful she will be back to laughing and chasing preschoolers around the playground soon.

Last night two of my sons and I attended a big candle light vigil held at the neighboring church. The parking lot was full so we had to walk through our church to get there. It was actually very healing to do so but incredibly sad. There is an aura of heaviness now. The other church was packed with people. I started to notice many women wearing head scarves and men in yarmulkes and to realize I didn’t know a lot of these folks. It turns out the local mosque and synagogues, plus other local churches, had rallied together to bring large amounts of food to nourish our community and be of support. There were hundreds of people of varying faiths coming together in this large Presbyterian church just to hug us, hold candles, listen to our laments, and demonstrate in their presence the support for goodness and love of all.

Our minister spoke and the president of the UU church, Rev. William Sinkford gave a moving speech and shared that at the same time we were having our candle light vigil, other UU churches around the world were doing likewise. This really impacted my 13 year old Ben and helped him to recognize and feel joy about being a part of such a large and wonderful community. At the end of the service the song The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow started to play and the children who had practiced so hard and were putting on the play Annie went up on stage. They sang that song with such determination and hope it had most in the audience in tears again. Good shines through.

The gunman killed our congregants because he doesn’t agree with our open stance to accepting and loving everyone. He disagrees with being “liberal” and is anti-gay. Well what a showing last night to present a visible force against such hatred and negative ideology. Many of the represented religions may disagree with elements of our beliefs but our shared belief in loving and accepting all and seeing the goodness in life was what came through last night as we all stood holding candles to light our world. One mentally ill and deranged person can not stop goodness from going forward. The sun WILL come out – hatred isn’t going to stop that!


Here is a link to the recording from the candle light service of the kids and congregation singing Tomorrow. I am so privileged to be part of such an amazing group of people.

August 2, 2008

Aquarium and butterflies

Yesterday we decided to take the children to Chattanooga and go to the big aquarium there.

We have all had such a rough week that a family outing seemed appropriate and healing for all. The aquarium has grown since we have been going and is now two large buildings and with both you start at the top floor and work your way down, passing huge tanks and glass walls of every variety of fish you could think of. They have a special exhibit right now with tons of sea horses and sea dragons – favorites with our children (and me).

The second (newer) building starts you out in a tropical environment and we were full of mixed emotions looking at the plants and trees that were exactly the same as Costa Rica. Ben (13) kept pointing and saying “Look. The same flowers!” Then we headed into the butterfly exhibit which again was very similar to Costa Rica’s flora and fauna and, after reading the information sheet, we realized why. All the butterflies are imported from the Butterfly Farm in Costa Rica. We visited there earlier in July (see July 7th post here) and it was really lovely. At the end of the visit we watched the women packing up boxes of larva ready to be sent around the world and we had asked if they shipped to Tennessee. They do, and the aquarium receives a box from the Farm every Monday and Wednesday with about 500 new butterflies a week coming in.

As Max (5) was holding a butterfly on his finger he said “I wonder if we got to see this little guy when he was just an egg in Costa Rica?” Doing the math we figured that, yes, we were probably there when “he” was in that early stage. We were all again amazed at how small our world really is, and how learning and travel make connections that stir our souls in so many complex ways.

August 10, 2008

Our church

Just wanted to say thanks to all the people who have sent their messages of hope and good thoughts to our family and our congregation. There have been so many good things to come out of something so awful that it shows the power of love and peace.

Our friend Tammy is the only person left in the hospital and she has been moved to the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center and is doing pretty well all things considered. The love and strength of her family and friends is a testament to Tammy's own positive traits and the care she has shown others in the past. Fingers crossed she will be home soon.

The minister of our church when I first joined was with us all last week which I know many people found helpful. She wrote a lovely article for the Washington Post which I'm going to put in the extended entry here as the link isn't working for me now. I think it again shows the way Knoxville came together to show care and love. That has been very powerful for our own family.

Continue reading "Our church" »

August 21, 2008

Boating on the river

I have to apologize for the lack of photographs and only boring text! It's sad how busy our regular home life can get and probably why I appreciate the slow travel days with a more relaxed schedule!

But last Friday we did have a day of fun. Everyone had a day off work or switched schedules, public school is back in session (as homeschoolers we like having places to ourselves) and so we took a pontoon boat out for a day of boating, picnicking, and fishing. It was lovely just hanging out together.

Here's Ben:


And Jacob:


Charlotte and Ben:


Charlotte and Max:


Ben and brothers all wanted to drive. It's so nice to sit back and do nothing on these trips!


And our fashion boating queen Charlotte:


No fish were caught but no anchors were lost this boat trip and no one fell in. Just good fun with family.

April 10, 2009

Easter fun

We had a great Easter this year with the whole group around. We even had the pleasure of our soon-to-be daughter in law (wedding in July!) and her parents. They are lots of fun. Weather was great so we pulled tables together out on the deck and ate a huge meal, including good ceviche and wine and chatting.

Afterward the kids all had Easter egg hunts and games including egg and spoon races:



April 14, 2009

Chattanooga Visit

We live about 1 3/4 hours away from Chattanooga, TN and try to get there a few times a year as they have a wonderful aquarium and children's museum.

The museum is good for at least half a day with children ages 1-10 years or so. It's fun to see the youngest of our children playing with some of the things I remember their older brothers playing with when we lived here in the late 90s.

Max loves the science area:


Ben always loved the dinosaur dig! Now he tends to watch the little ones.


The aquarium is fun and has two huge buildings.

One thing we like is the butterfly exhibit on the top floor as all the butterflies come from the Butterfly Farm that we visited in Costa Rica!


May 10, 2009


We have lived in this area for a total of 9 years now and decided it was time we finally went to Dollywood. Our homeschool group had good deals on season tickets so we spent a couple of visits there now. The park is owned by country music singer Dolly Parton who grew up in the town it's in. It's themed around Appalachian/crafts and old timey kind of things.

I have to say the park itself is really nice. Good rides with lots of shade and places to sit down. Even water fountains and people who wander around asking if you need help or directions. The shows we have seen have been good as well. Some of the visitors to the park are "interesting" but if you view it as a good sociological study of the varieties of human kind, it takes the edge off!

Glad dad doesn't mind getting wet:


Charlotte is a little speed demon but Max and I are quite happy on the carousel!


May 12, 2009

Charlotte starts ballet


Charlotte has wanted to start ballet for ages. Put her near a stage and she immediately dances and sings! It has been a fight to get her out of the outfit!

August 21, 2009

Our town

We have not managed to go far abroad this summer but have been busy with a month long visit from Grandma, wedding (pictures to come), beach and mountain trips, and activities around town. The pool and local fountains have been popular given the heat and humidity here in the south US.


We are lucky to have various fountains and these in the middle of downtown Knoxville are especially fun during the farmer's markets. Sitting at one of the outside restaurants while the kids run back and forth to the fountains is "almost" Mediterranean feeling!


October 7, 2015

Road Trip Time

We’ve all been wanting to hit the road since we came back from Dubai but with surgeries it has put things on hold. With Jake’s birthday happening we decided to head up to Atlanta to see him. It took about 8 hours to get there from St Pete but it was a fun drive with a stop for dinner at Cracker Barrel – it’s a tradition!


Continue reading "Road Trip Time" »

October 8, 2015

Road Trip Continues: Chattanooga and Knoxville


The next couple of days were spent in Tennessee. We used to visit Chattanooga quite often because of the amazing aquarium and children’s museum in downtown. Getting too old now for the museum but the aquarium was just as good as we remembered. It really is one of the best we have been to and we like it better than Monterey and others.

Continue reading "Road Trip Continues: Chattanooga and Knoxville" »

October 9, 2015

Road Trip Time: Smokies

Leaving Knoxville we headed up to Gatlinburg as a gateway to the Smoky Mountains. The leaves were just starting to change so not at their full color but still pretty.


Cades Cove drive is always lovely even when a bit overcast. We saw lots of roped off areas warning not to stop as there were active bears but we didn't see any. Turkeys and horses were it.

Continue reading "Road Trip Time: Smokies" »

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