Reinforcements

Sometimes life gets so tough that you need to call in back-up. That’s what I did. Cue: my mother-in-law.

My mother-in-law, Lori, has been eager to see her furry grandchildren as she calls them (she had never met Crockett until now!) and she was due for a little time off. She is such a laid back visitor. I never feel the need to entertain her, and she likes playing with the dogs while I go run and meal planning for me. Yeah, I’m pretty lucky.

grandma

Much of our time and energy went toward taking care of all the annoying things I had been procrastinating and struggling with. (We took multiple trips 70 miles away to Franklin, TN for my car. Ugh!) Even with all the work we had to do, we still managed to have a little fun. Here’s a peak at what we were up to:

Lunch at Monell’s

Monell’s website bills itself as “Serving South to your mouth since 1995.” Love it! I wouldn’t say that I’m a big fan of southern food in general. Being that I’m a vegetarian and my parents hail from Michigan, I never ate much southern food growing up. However, I was up to try anything while Lori was in town. She had done a ton of food research (I told you she was a great house guest!), and this place had outstanding reviews. Well, I now consider my a southern food convert!

From Monell's Website

From Monell’s Website

The restaurant is in a huge house built in the 1890’s. The house burned down at one point but was rebuilt in the 1920’s. It has gone through several reincarnations. It seems that they struck gold with the current restaurant. The dining room is full of huge tables, and you get to sit with strangers. (I realize this fact may be terrifying to some people – aka me – however, we had really lovely people at our table.) As soon as you sit down, they start passing around rolls, biscuits, cucumbers (surprisingly one of my favorite things!), and other cold dishes. Then the real food starts! We were treated to mac n’ cheese, turnip greens, green beans, corn pudding, mashed potatoes, gravy, fried chicken, Cajun catfish, ribs, and roast beef. Again, it’s all passed around the table. Any time a bowl ran low, the staff replenished it. It’s like Thanksgiving dinner! But with strangers!

A glimpse at Monell's decor. This fella was holding up a mirror. His partner in crime was facing the other way, giving us a full frontal!

A glimpse at Monell’s decor. This fella was holding up a mirror. His partner in crime was facing the other way, giving us a full frontal!

We had fun talking with our tablemates (fellow teachers!) and oohing and ahhing over how pretty the house was. We finished the meal with coffee (for Lori) and sweet potato pie (for me) before venturing into the rest of the house to admire the décor.

Live Taping of Gilmore Guys at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center

After we stuffed ourselves silly at Monell’s, we headed into downtown for the big event of the weekend – Gilmore Guys! If you are a Gilmore fan and you like podcasts and you somehow haven’t heard of Gilmore Guys, you need to check them out! The two podcasters, Kevin and Demi, are hilarious. Kevin is a lifelong Gilmore fan and Demi had never seen the show until he started the podcast. Each podcast episode reviews a Gilmore episode. You get to hear their different perspectives and enjoy the lightning fast pop culture references. I’ve become addicted over the last year, and when I heard they were coming to Nashville, I snatched up tickets right away.

This is how close our seats were!

This is how close our seats were!

My eagerness paid off; we had third row seats! The crowd was amazing – so many people were dressed up. Is this what it’s like to be a trekkie? The show lasted almost 3 hours! I laughed the entire time. I wondered how enjoyable a live taping of the podcast would be. I mean, it’s just two dudes sitting on stage talking. Well, they did not disappointed. They were so energetic! They danced, they came into the audience, they joked nonstop, they showed clips from the show. It was amazing! And totally worth the late night for these two old ladies -it was after 11 by the time we got back to my house. You can believe we slept in the next day.

Ooh-Wee BBQ

This was another find courtesy of Lori’s research. She had seen this restaurant (can you call a trailer with picnic tables a restaurant?) on an episode of Driven by Food starring Andrew Zimmern. I really love BBQ but there often aren’t a ton of BBQ options that I eat. (I usually settle for BBQ sauce dumped all over veggies cooked at home.) But Ooh-Wee had quite a few things I could eat, and Lori had already scoped out their menu before we drove over there.

oohwee

Although the place doesn’t look like much from the road, I was super impressed. They have a huge smoker, which smells amazing. The men we met (the cook and owner) were so friendly and accommodating. The owner kept asking if we had our ooh-wee moment and told us it was really important to him that we did. We sat at a picnic table and enjoyed huge catfish sandwiches (with two catfish filets on each sandwich!) and crispy fries. There was a hint of a breeze outside and we just stuffed ourselves silly.

We couldn’t leave without dessert. We got two chess squares to go. I’ve never heard of a chess square, and I honestly don’t even know what it is other than to say they were sweet and flaky and tasty. Lori accidentally left hers in my fridge and I’ve already eaten it.🙂

Dinner a la Lori

No visit with my mother-in-law would be complete without a homemade meal or two. We picked up a ludicrous sized bag of turnip greens (7 pounds! 7!) and green tomatoes being sold from a stand on the side of the road. I’ve seen the Amish people selling their food here before and always been curious. Now I know, their stuff is fresh and delicious! Lori was able to work her kitchen magic and make it into something beyond delicious.

I can now honestly say that I'm a fan of southern food!

I can now honestly say that I’m a fan of southern food!

We had three grocery store sized bags of leftover greens that we gave to my neighbors. I was happy to share; there’s no way I could have eaten all that! I don’t know that I’ll be making turnip greens myself in the future, but I will happily order them off of a menu or eat them out of a can!

Lori and I had plans to see the Parthenon but timing (and parking) was not on our side. We also managed to visit multiple grocery stores (Aldi, Costco, Wal-Mart, Oh my!). We didn’t do a ton of sight-seeing, but we both figure that just leaves plenty to look forward to the next time Lori visits.

Fruitcake And Things

One of my favorite classes in college was creative writing. Probably not a surprising thing to read on a blog.  But it was awesome. Professor Wenthe ran the class like a poetry workshop. Each week we’d learn a new type or style or aspect of poetry, everyone would write something, then we’d bring in enough copies for everyone, and devour each other’s work, in a nice way. Two things stand out from that class: a girl that wrote a bad ass sestina and a guy who wrote a poem about fruitcake. The poem was only one short stanza long, but the title was, “The best thing about that Christmas was the fruitcake (and I never really liked fruitcake that much).” I chuckle to myself just remembering that. Hehehe.

The fruitcake poem keeps coming to mind lately, so I decided to write my own version:

The thing I’m handling best right now is this deployment (and I’ve never been any good at handling deployment)

Oh yeah, Stephen is deployed. He’s been gone for months (yes, plural) but I don’t really know what to say. I’m not sure what I can say. I even feel silly calling it a deployment when he’s not in Iraq or Afghanistan. But he is gone and I’m still here, alone, trying to make all the pieces of my life interlock.

Deployments are hard. The time difference. The one million times Face Time drops the conversation. The stilted conversations via e-mail. It’s not the same as being together. Duh. I don’t know what I thought, but it never really occurred to me that we’d be there, at deployment number three. Mercifully, I think this one will be shorter than the others. Still hard.

I started to write a long list of things that are not going my way in life right now, but I deleted it. I know all to well what’s getting to me. No need to catalog it. Here’s the short version: everything. I feel it all to the nth degree with Stephen gone.

Run for the Fallen

This Saturday I attended my first running event at Fort Campbell: Run for the Fallen.

run-for-the-fallen2

I had no idea what to expect, but the turnout was huge! There had to be 500 people. Full disclosure: I’m really bad a guessing sizes of groups. The run was an untimed run/walk with a short course of over a mile and a long course of less than three miles.

I took some time when I arrived to wander through the boot display. They had a book for each soldier from Fort Campbell killed in the Global War on Terror. I imagined a man or woman standing tall where each empty boot was placed. It was a sobering sight. I had been given the name of a soldier to wear on my bib, and I found his boot and looked at his picture.

run-for-the-fallen3

Wear Blue: Run to Remember had a small meet-up. When I first arrived at Fort Campbell, I was eager to jump in with WBR2R. Sadly, there was no group here -until now. Since this was the first gathering, it was only a few other families and me. Still, I know the seeds are being planted and hopefully our group will go. Wear Blue was huge for me in El Paso in terms of giving my running purpose and finding friends. I’m hoping to find the same thing here in my new home.

After our Circle of Remembrance, I wiggled my way into the middle of the huge crowd. The national anthem was played and everyone surged to the starting line. With the blast of a cannon, we took off.

run-for-the-fallen1

My plan was to “run fast.” I thought that maybe it would feel easier since the distance was so short. Ha! Apparently I cannot will myself into being speedy. I didn’t wear my headphones, so that made it easy to take in all the sights and absorb my first run on post. We ran by a cemetery, and people pulled off to stop and pay their respects. Different units had put up signs along the way in support of the men and women they had lost. One table even had framed pictures.

It was amazing to turn and head back toward the finish to see the throngs of people were still coming behind me. I don’t know if I’ll be running any races here -it was a huge field and very competitive. This definitely gave me a good first taste of races to come and it was very powerful to run for such a good cause.

The course was 2.35 miles long according to the signage. I ran it in 18:23. That means, I ran really fast. Or that means that the course wasn’t really that long and I ran at an average pace. Shrug. My watch was way off at the Air Force Half Marathon, so who knows!

My Saturday got even better after a Starbucks date with a new friend and a trip to Nashville to cheer on the hockey team, the Nashville Predators. (I know zero about hockey, but I enjoyed everyone chanting “you suck” in unison.)

The view of downtown from the Bridgestone Arena. Go Preds!

The view of downtown from the Bridgestone Arena. Go Preds!

Thatsalltheendgoodbye.