Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The road home: Part II (the Betty Ford saga)

Some days are full of adventure. Some days are full of drama. Sometimes when you get to the other side, you discover that the drama was all part of the adventure. I am still working toward that discovery phase, but I think that I'm making good progress.

The last couple of days have been spent in an extended visit with my friend, Amy, in Baton Rouge. The original visit was part of the plan. Its extension was not. Here's how it happened:

During one of the hottest days of the year (this past Monday), Amy indulged me in a frolic through LSU, although the frolic turned into more of a sweat-soaked trudge through the campus due to the 115 degree heat index. Because I wore a dress, Amy kept my ID and debit card in her pocket for me, so that I wouldn't have to tote my handbag with me in the sticky, blazing heat.

At the end of our journey through LSU, we drove back to the church where my car was parked and said our goodbyes. After Amy left, I turned on my car and discovered (eek!) that it wouldn't start. No big deal, I have a jump-start kit. It worked beautifully in getting my car started. As I drove away, I noticed that my battery light kept coming on, but figured that it wouldn't be a big deal because it turned off whenever I pressed the gas pedal.

At this point, I received a call from Amy. Whoops, I had left my ID and debit card with her, so I needed to pick them up posthaste. I turned my car around and started back, all the while with my battery light coming on and going off when the gas pedal was depressed. Then, while I was stuck at a light during 5pm traffic, it happened. The car DIED. DEAD. Wouldn't start for anything, not even with the gentle coaxings of my jump-starter.

I attempted to turn on my emergency flashers, but wouldn't you guess it: they wouldn't work, either. At this point, a couple of gentlemen pulled over and asked if they could help me push my car out of traffic. Of course, I accepted, but not without making an idiot of myself by trying to put the car in neutral without depressing the brake pedal.

Once the car was out of traffic, more men appeared out of nowhere, and they seemed to all take great pleasure in tinkering under the hood of my car, trying to coerce poor Betty into telling them why she had, in fact, died. It was at the point that one of them started banging on things with a wrench that I really began to be overwhelmed. I mean, try to imagine: your car is dead and there are four or five sweaty Southern men, all in overalls, all with tools of some sort, hitting things intermittently and muttering an strange accents that you cannot understand. It was all quite trying.

Thankfully, at this point, a police officer and Amy showed up (I had called both when my car was blocking traffic and I was unable to move it). The police officer observed the men and seemed satisfied that at least one of them was a knowledgeable mechanic. Eventually, we got Betty started and carefully drove her to the rear parking lot of the church, still loaded down with all of my belongings. In the morning we intended to take her to Netterville's Auto Shop, which was only a few miles away, and came highly recommended by a fellow church member.

Betty made it to the mechanic the next morning without incident, and the employees at Netterville's were very friendly. They seemed convinced that the problem was both the alternator and a faulty battery cable, and said that replacing both shouldn't take more than a few hours. "It'll be done by the end of the day, ma'am," they said.

While waiting for my car to be repaired, I spent the day with Amy's mom at the church administration office. It was probably the longest day of my trip to date. Everyone was busy (everyone but me, of course), and the internet connection kept going in and out. I was able to intermittently facebook , but watching a movie or anything actually entertaining was impossible. Boooooo.

As 5pm and the end of the day came closer, I began to get antsy. I wanted my poor car to be finished already, for Betty to make the transition back to the land of the living and get me the heck home. I called Netterville's to verify the cost of the repair and inform them that I would be there shortly. "Oooooh," Miguel (the mechanic) said. "That truck, it brought the wrong alternator and we gotta wait for another one to come in. We'll have it done tomorrow."

Tomorrow!? I wanted to get on the road, and fast! I had a long, long drive ahead of me that needed to be done and over with! Was he serious? "Yes ma'am, don't you worry, everything happens for a reason." Oooh, this made me mad. In my head I was thinking, "that was the wrong response, buddy, and my boot would like to show your behind some reason!" But I didn't. I verified what time tomorrow the repairs would be finished, as calmly and composedly as I could, and informed Amy's mom that they would be stuck with me for another night.

The night passed, and Wednesday morning rolled around. I called Netterville's to see what time my car would be ready (keep in mind that he told me it would be ready before lunch when I spoke with him the night before). "Yes, ma'am, we're still waiting on that part. It'll be ready around 12 or 1. In my head (again), I'm thinking, "You've got to be joking! 1pm!? He told me before lunch!" I'm sure my irritation was beginning to show as I ended the call and told Amy the news.

12:15 comes. I call the shop to see if Betty is ready. "No, ma'am, we haven't started on her yet. She'll be done around 2." Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!!!!!!! SCREEEEEAAAAMS went off in my head. I am now 2 full days behind schedule and no closer to leaving than when I took the car to them Tuesday morning. I was most definitely not calm through the rest of that call, but I can't remember what exactly transpired because I was so completely peeved.

Poor Amy, she was such a trooper. Even though it was blazing hot, she amused me as long as she could before she went to work by taking me to an arboretum and getting a mocha frappe (more on this later). But because she had to work, she took me to Netterville's around 1:15 to drop me off and get my stuff out of her car. I see Betty, just as she looked when I last saw her: hood up, so that the whole world could see her engine, and not a lick of work done.

Miguel saunters up, gives me a sweet smile and says, "I was jus' about to roll her in to get that work done." I was not amused. "Well," I said, "since you're not working on it, I figured I'd get my stuff packed in." I put what I can in the car and proceed to the lobby with the remainder of my belongings.

An hour passes. An hour and a half. At 2:45, Betty is FINALLY done. I drive away, relieved that I am finished dealing with Netterville's and relieved that my car is going to work brilliantly from here on out. I drive for about 4 hours and stop at a rural intersection for a nice little picnic, complete with my dinky Styrofoam ice chest and the Judds on the CD player.

I enjoy my pita and a peach, and pack up my car. I put the key in the ignition and turn. Betty is once again dead, and I am in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully, my jump-start kit is fully charged, and it's no problem getting Betty started with its help. As I'm about to close the hood, something catches my eye. Something that is icky, corroded, and attached to the battery. Then I realize: they didn't replace the battery cable.

I'm certain that there's adventure and humor in this somewhere, but I can't quite see it for the red cloud of frustration clouding my judgment at the moment. At present, I'm in Shreveport enjoying an iced coffee and praying that Betty will start without assistance. But at least I'm in an actual city now.

The moral of the story: Stay far, far away from Netterville's Auto Body in Baker, Louisiana. And try to find perspective in the rough bits of life. There's humor there, I promise.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The road home

It's been a mere three days since I left Mississippi, three days full of excitement, friendship, adventure and drama. The road home is not nearly as smooth or predictable as I had planned, but it is certainly exciting!

Early Sunday morning I headed down to Baton Rouge to visit with my friend, Amy. We met up at Bethany World Prayer Center, where I was able to catch the 11am service. Wow. The diversity of the church is stunning, the music beautiful, and the message poignant and well-delivered. It was a great feeling, being able to sit back and enjoy the service. I definitely appreciated it more, having a good idea of all the work that goes into making a church service work smoothly.

After church, Amy and I headed back to her house, which is located in the backwoods of Louisiana. No joke. It takes about an hour to get to her house from Bethany, down winding, twisting roads lined with trees, meadows, farms and the occasional gas station or convenience store. Along the way, we passed towns with names like "Baker," "Slaughter," and "Zachary." I felt nostalgic the entire drive, like the score to 'Elizabethtown' should have been playing in the background.

Amy's property line is shared with a campground that isn't used anymore. In its heyday, Kueta was a girls' camp with horseback riding, pottery classes, hiking, swimming, games and Bible stories. We had a great time bumming around the camp and looking into the old horse stable, a red structure with bright green ivy trailing down the side. Inside, there were old stables with worn wooden gates and feed sacks scattered over the dusty floor. Amy was able to remember which horse went in each stall when she was a child, back when Kueta was in full swing.

While we were looking around the camp, we got the brilliant idea to hike down to Lost Creek, which was supposed to be less than a mile down a trail. We walked through the deserted camp, pushed our way through waist-high grasses, and searched for the trail. It wasn't there. Not satisfied with the lack of trail, we decided to search for the creek anyway. Luckily, Amy is familiar with the area and knew in what general direction to search. We scrambled over logs, stepped carefully over briars and poison ivy, followed part of an old logging trail, skittered down a hill, and finally came upon a sandy white beach littered with small plants and stones. Lost Creek had finally been found!

Amy and I took our shoes off and waded in the cool water. It felt so good on our hot, sticky ankles and feet. While we were wading, Amy came across a chunk of purple clay that had fallen from the opposite bank. It was so strange to find, sitting in a creek, clay that had the consistency of store-bought modeling clay. We played with it, shaped it, and covered our hands and arms with the clay. As we washed it off the creek turned purple, a sign that the long-deserted creek finally had visitors.

Amy's dad met us on the trek back to her house and gave us a ride on the back of the truck. Since we were fairly drenched with sweat and covered in grass seeds, we gratefully accepted the ride, enjoying the wind that buffeted our faces as we rode down the bumpy, grassy drive. I have never been so thankful for a shower in my life, or so exhilarated and exhausted all at once. We ate the pork chops Amy mom prepared with relish, enjoying each and every bite. Later, as I collapsed into my cool, soft bed , I counted my blessings for the day: a great friend, a memorable adventure, good food, and above all, showers.

Friday, July 2, 2010


I stole this from Shawna because it looked like too much fun. Here goes...

1. Were you named after anyone?
My middle name is from my Aunt June, my dad's sister.

2. When did you last cry?
The last time I talked to Carson. That little booger makes me tear up.

3. What is your favorite lunch meat?
Oven roasted turkey breast. So delicious!

4. Do you still have your tonsils?
I do!

5. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off?
Nope, tying and untying shoes annoys me.

6. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
Rocky Road is so good. But so is Ben & Jerry's Country Peach Cobbler.

7. Shoe Size?
It kind of depends on the shoe, but usually 9 1/2 or 10.

8. Who do you miss the most?
My Lo.

9. Last thing you ate?
Rocky Road ice cream :)

10. What are you listening to right now?
Jim Henson's 'The Storyteller.' Netflix is awesome.

11. Who was the last person you talked to on the phone?

12. What's the strangest thing you've seen?
A confederate flag with Barack Obama's face emblazoned on it.

13. Do you wear contacts?
When I feel like it.

14. What is the worst thing you've ever eaten?
Nasty liver stuff that my Gramie made me eat once. Sick.

15. Last movie you watched at the movie theatre?
Letters to Juliet. Yep, I watched it.

16. Favorite Dessert?
Strawberry shortcake.

17. What books are you reading?
'Praying God's Word,' 'Pride & Prejudice,' & 'Don't Waste your Life'

18. What did you watch last night?
The Last Boy Scout. Haha, my Dad made me.

19. The furthest you've been from home?
South Africa.

20. What's your special talent?
I'm not sure I have one, but I like to crochet, cook and make cards for my friends.

21. Favorite singer right now?
Harry Connick, Jr. Then, now and forever.

22. Right or Lefty?

23. One thing you want to do before you die?
Climb Half Dome. No contest.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


There are a few things you should know about my dad:

1. BBQ is a religion to him. Seriously. He believes fervently in three things: oak pit bbq, the right brew to go with it, and the power of a good homemade bbq sauce.

2. He's not a fan of technology. At least that's what he says. But although he refuses to text or use the internet, I'm pretty sure he listens to XM Satellite radio non-stop and watches Dish network whenever he gets the chance.

3. We haven't always been close. There are a lot of lost years between my Dad and I. In fact, I've only begun to really know and appreciate him in the last four years or so. After he and my mom got divorced when I was in Junior High, I pretty much cut him off because I thought he was the "bad guy" in the situation. And because he didn't constantly plead with me to come and visit him, I thought he didn't care. I was so wrong. Those years that I didn't spend time with my Dad hurt him deeply. He regrets not being the "nagging" father and having a presence during my junior high and high school years. Years that saw the shaping of my character, where the loving encouragement of a dad would have been a huge help. I regret those years, too, and wish that I hadn't cut him off. But you know how divorces go...the kids always feel like they have to take sides, and I was no different. I chose my side. I wish I had possessed the insight to see that there really aren't any sides at all. But this whole experience has given me the opportunity to experience yet another of my dad's qualities:

4. My dad is loving and forgiving. He has a different way of showing it, but he definitely showers his love on the people who are important to him. You just have to know his love languages, which include (but are not limited to) BBQ, control of the TV remote, treating you to a meal out, hugs, TV time, and consistently bragging about you to his friends (which, of course, I have never heart firsthand, but have heard plenty about).

5. My dad is a fighter. He's lost a child, been through bankruptcy, seen two of his siblings die because of drug and alcohol addictions, grew up without a dad, been married and divorced twice, worked in the prison system for over 20 years, and struggled through diverticulitis, two herniated discs, and two knee replacements. But he's still going, still fighting. He still supports the people he cares about through all of their mistakes (although he might grumble while he's doing it). And he still puts on a crazy amazing Memorial Day BBQ every single year for whoever wants to come and eat. Yep, he's a fighter.

6. My dad has a limited wardrobe. He mainly wears denim shorts, flip flops and a tank top that he got in Cancun, Ensenada, or some kind of cruise. His favorites are shirts that have a message, like "5 reasons beer is better than women," "1 tequila, 2 tequila, 3 tequila, FLOOR," or some other party-related colloqualism.
We've tried and tried to get him to wear "normal" shirts, but for some reason, he is unwavering in his determination to wear his "funny" shirts until they fall apart. It's ok, though, because the "funny" shirts are definitely a step up from the shiny spandex shorts and semi-mesh tank tops that my dad used to wear.

7. He is a road trip WARRIOR. No joke. We drove to Elbe, WA from Atascadero, CA in less than a day. I think we might have stopped three or four times: for gas, bathroom break, food, and a "power nap." I'm very similar when it comes to driving long distance. Unless I have something in mind that I want to see, I'd rather just get to my destination. Pit stops are short, sweet and to the point. No messing around whatsoever!
My dad is bringing his lady friend and her son with him to visit me in July. He seems to think that they can make it here in two days. I think they will probably do it. Like I said, road trip WARRIOR.

8. He likes to shoot things. I think I get this from him. Beer cans, squirrels, woodpeckers, targets, you name it, we'll shoot it. One of the things I'm most looking forward to when he visits is spending some quality time together, shooting off about a million rounds and then eating some of his special tri-tip. Mmmm, good!


9. I love him unconditionally. No matter what happens, I have determined that no level of communication gaps, craziness or family drama will separate me from my dad. He's got a heart of gold under the gritty show he puts on, and I love him for it!

So even though my dad doesn't use the internet and will probably never read this, I'm putting it out here for all the blogosphere to see:


Thursday, June 17, 2010


I haven't written lately because my mind's in a million places. It's been difficult to collect my thoughts and come up with something interesting or coherent. Here's what I've been up to:

1. I visited California's central coast, where I hiked, visited friends and family, ate tri-tip, and helped my friend, Shiran, out with her wedding. I'm not sure that I want to be a wedding coordinator again any time in the near future, but I was soooo glad to help Shir out on her special day!

2. I started a website for my photography and put a page on facebook. I've decided that I really want to pursue photography more, both for artistic enrichment and potential income. I have a display up at the Oak Street Place gallery right now as part of the Laurel Underground Arts exhibit. Hooray!

3. The Laurel Farmers Market, of which I am the manager, has finally begun! Last week was our first market, and it was AMAZING, despite the rain. I had a great time, and even got interviewed for the local paper. Read it here.

4. I've been working like a crazy person: Olan Mills, the cafe, Farmers Market, some freelance photography, and church stuff. It's kind of insane, but it keeps me out of trouble ;)

5. I moved into a different mobile home at "the ranch," and I'm patiently waiting here all by my lonesome for Beth, Becky, Ian and Jill to get here. Beth and I are going to be the most amazing of housemates. Yay!

I think that about sums it up for now, at least in terms of what I've been doing. I promise I'll provide something more substantive next time!

Monday, May 24, 2010

To Carson

Sweet nephew,

I cannot believe how quickly you are growing up! It seems like just yesterday we were waiting for you to be born; suddenly you're a precocious toddler, infatuated with exploring the world around you.

Sweet boy, know that you are loved. You have a group of people surrounding you who love you, will fight for you, and will tell you how special and amazing you are every day. No matter what happens, you can count on them, and on your Creator to see you through.

Don't ever lose your love of adventure: they are part of who God designed you to be! And through the tough times in life, your adventurous, fun-loving spirit will pull you through and help you to see the bright side of things.

And always, always remember that you have an Auntie who loves you dearly. She will be there for you no matter what! Keep growing, keep loving, and keep learning, my sweet nephew. You are a wonderful, amazing little boy and I love you so, so much!

With all the love, hugs and kisses in the world,
Auntie Andrea

Saturday, May 15, 2010

I left my heart in...

Three short days remain until I board a plane to California, where I will have twelve blissful days of family and friends, visiting my old haunts, hiking my heart out, and witnessing the marriage of one of my most favorite people. It's strange to think that it's been five whole months since I packed up (most of) my belongings into my Ford Focus and trekked across the country to make my home in Jones County, Mississippi.

This transition has been the most difficult thing I have ever undertaken. Nothing here is predictable, not even the weather (in the last ten minutes, we have had sun, humidity, thundershowers, and now calm overcast skies). I find myself constantly sticking my foot in my mouth, guilty of some cultural faux pas that my California upbringing definitely did not prepare me for. I find myself missing the most random things: Trader Joe's, hummus, the Pacific Ocean, the familiarity of making waffles with Katie, Rene' and Brittney on a Sunday morning, and lending a hand with a stubborn horse pen that desperately needs cleaning.
Through it all, though, I've survived. I've found some work and I'm doing my best to re-orient myself, so that I think of Mississippi, not California, as my home. One thing that has made the transition bearable has been the people. Wonderful people, who have invaded my life and my heart in ways that I could not have predicted. And since I can't take them with me to California, I'm sending them before me through the blogosphere, in hopes that my California family can begin to know and appreciate the people that have begun to fill the holes that California left in my heart.

This is Brooke. We work together at Lee's Coffee & Tea, and she has been such a source of encouragement in my life. Brooke is the kind of person you want on your side: cheerful and constant. She is getting ready to embark on her own adventure, marriage and a move to Pennsylvania, where she'll help start up a church.

Meet Gabby. What can I say about this girl? She reminds me at times of my cousin in Tennessee because of her bubbly personality. Gabby is an amazing person: fiercely loyal, full of life, and so artistic! When she's not working at Lee's with Brooke and I, she's probably making headbands for her business, Anchor and Sparrow, or hanging out with Patrick.

Patrick is a creative kind of guy. Besides being the boyfriend of Gabby, he also works for Roberts Creative, designing web content, branding, and other such things. According to an article I read in the ReView today, Patrick is going to be opening a store, called Chuck & Sally downtown! One of the things I appreciate about Patrick is his willingness to question things. I think he's a bit cerebral, like someone else I know.... He also owes me a homemade cheeseburger.

And where would I be without Amanda? We have enjoyed some amazingly fun times together: Farmer's Market, Bop's, Beauty and the Beast at the Saenger, movies, mall trips, and the list goes on. She's a nursing student at local community college, but she also has a B.S. in Biology. Wicked smart. I love that about her :) Plus, she likes to go on random adventures with me, which makes me sooooo happy!

Then there's Jackie. Jackie is a person of super-amazing persuasive and administrative talents. I am constantly in awe of her ability to get things done quickly and effectively. We've been working together on Farmer's Market, and she is always full of great ideas, and she always has the contacts and resources line up to make things happen. Jackie is a HUGE part of revitalizing downtown Laurel.

And finally (at least, for now) there's Bill. Need a cool home design? Bill's your guy. He's also super encouraging, and nearly always has a kind word. Bill is also musical, and he plays keys in a band. I haven't seen him play yet, but I'm determined to someday! Bill is also a big part of the revitalization plan for downtown Laurel. He, Jackie, Eric Roberts and I have been working to get the space all ready for our first market on June 4th.

That's all I have time for now! I promise, I'll introduce you all to some more of my Mississippi peeps as soon as I get a chance! California, here I come!