Thursday, August 3, 2017

Upholding the Dream - Magic Mystery Roadtrip Revelations Part 8

The place of my heart. I didn't think there was one anymore.
So this post is what ties up all the others about this roadtrip. I promised I'd tell you what I bought and it's verrrry special, and has another story behind it too.

This is FOX BOX.
I collect boxes. I have for years. Beautiful boxes. And I put things inside them for my grandchildren, who are not yet a twinkle in the eyes of my children, but they're starting to glimmer. I want for my grandchildren to have things to explore, beautiful things that they can touch, little things in unexpected corners of my house that they can discover and play with. So I collect boxes.

But this one's special. It's for Rob and me.

When I bought it the price tag put spirals in my eyes and I almost didn't buy it. But I did. So I said to the sweet girl at the register that I thought it was expensive, but I wanted something special to commemorate this trip.

Here's what she said:

"When I finally graduated from college I bought a pair of shoes. Those shoes cost me over $300. But I'd earned them and I love them and I wear them and they're special. I'm the first of my family to go to college. I'm working on my master's degree, and after that I'll get my Ph.D. and I don't know if I can do it, but I'm sure gonna try. I'm taking online courses and I work on my studies mostly at night. And when I get my Ph.D.," she said,"I'm gonna buy another pair of $300 shoes."

I introduced her to my hubby, who has his Ph.D. and told her she could do it. They talked academic shop for a few minutes and he encouraged her. "You can do it," he said, and he meant it : )

"You should not feel guilty or that you're not worth this memento," she said to me. "Sometimes we have to feed our spirits."

She's a HAVE. She has a dream and she's working hard on it. She understands about feeding her spirit. It's something we don't do lightly. But we do it. However it suits us best as individuals. She's supportive of others who have dreams. You go girl!! AND she understands about being encouraging to other people. She didn't really know what she was telling me when she said don't feel guilty about buying the box.

So I decided to tell her why I chose this box over the Santa or the little ornament or any number of beautiful things available for purchase in those top-of-the-line giftshops at the Biltmore.

"We fell in love," I said. "When we came through the mountains and drove through the city of Asheville. Oh my god, we fell in love with the mists and the mountains and the thriving economy that's centered around tourism and ART and craft breweries and academia. It offers so much to each of the members of our family. We have decided to retire here, and this is my dream box. When we go home, we will put our dreams in here, and we will find ways to make them happen."

I didn't tell her that I'd thought my dreams were dead. That when my daughter died, my dreams died. That I'd always imagined we would retire out West, which we both adore, close to my daughter, and live near one of our children. That there would be someone near me who loves me in case my husband decides to go to Heaven before me. That I'd be near one of my children in my elder years. I thought I was safe. But all that got shot when sweet Jess died. My son lives in Argentina, South America, and we'd considered retirement there, but I can't order things on the internet and it doesn't have the infrastructure that I need for selling the artwork that I do. I'd love to live close to my son, but I haven't yet had a chance to bring my dreams to fruition, and I want that chance very much before I die. I can't do it there. I have to live my dreams, not my father's, not the obligation of responsibility as I've done for many years, but really live my dreams, even just for a little while. There are hundreds of galleries in Asheville. I want to be friends with all those people I saw walking the streets. They're adorable! I want to decorate them all with my beadwork, it would go so well with their outfits, which range from 1960s psychedelic to stately academic. La!

Asheville is very much like the place where we live now, but it's much more focused on the arts than sports. It's a tourist city, bringing over a million art-loving visitors every year. Peeps who love beautiful things and want to bring home mementos. We'd need several trips just to browse through the galleries! That makes my heart sing, as do our galleries and museums here, though there aren't as many. The weather is similar, with a bit more warmth and a slightly longer growing season. And it's surrounded by nature for miles, you can hike to your heart's content. We also love the number of learning institutions.

I NEVER expected to fall in love with anyplace on this planet other than the West Coast, but it happened. In the mountains, in the mists, in the beautiful city, along the highways and tiny roads of North Carolina. We have a NEW DREAM. Asheville. It'll take a decade or so, cause my husband's not ready to retire, but we're going to move there eventually. I'd live in a freakin' closet just to be in that beautiful place. It hums with life everywhere. It is not an economy in decline like many of the little towns we drove through in our 2200-mile trip. The Biltmore is the hub, like our university is in our present hometown, and so much has sprung up around it that it's absolutely thriving. There are so many things to do that don't cost a dime, and if you do want to spend a little bit there's tons more and you don't have to drive four hours to get to it. The people are very creative, positive, sweet, and just the kind of people I love to be around. My hubby too. There are several higher institutions of learning there if he chooses to "stay plugged in" after he retires. It's a craft brewers' hub too, in case my son might want to come back to the U.S. He sometimes says he might. And his wife is almost finished with her degree in international corporate law. That's portable, marketable anywhere. Come back, oh please come back and have my grandchildren here. But okay, if they don't we'll do summer visits and the children can go through my boxes, lol. xoxo

So Rob and I went into the kitchen after we arrived home and as we clinked our wineglasses and toasted to 2200 miles of adventure, tests, revelations, and pleasure, we put our hands to our mouths and blew our new dream into them, then sprinkled them into Fox Box.

Fox Box holds dreams and some special tokens to support them.
When I was sitting out on the loggia at Biltmore, I spied a marble that was just sitting there on the polished concrete. I picked it up. It was a gift. My grandfather loved marbles and had a wonderful collection, some of which I have, mixed in with my grandmother's buttons in a clear glass button jar. Hope, this little marble said, and play. Laugh, it said. Have fun. Live.

And I also picked up some gravelly rocks from our hotel in Asheville. I hope to bring them back when we move and put them in our yard. It may be several years, and I'm ever so happy to be here in State College doing what we do until then, but it's so very good to have a dream for our golden years, too. Especially when I thought my dreams were pretty well shot.

Rob drove us all over Asheville, through downtown, into little neighborhoods, through the surrounding mountains, and I was vibrating like nobody's business. Home.

Well, so there we are and here we are and next time we take a roadtrip we know where we're going! Back to Asheville!

But get this last leg of the journey, which really hits home the last revelation.

We stopped at a little place off the highway on the way home for lunch. The Choo Choo Cafe, in Erwin, Tennessee. "Are you up for it?" Rob asked. "Sure!" I said. He loves diners and out of the way places. So we took the exit into a tiny railroad town, crossing four sets of tracks to get to the Choo Choo Cafe.

I'll bet my last dime you've never eaten in a place like this. It's an antique store housed in a building that's over 100 years old, with a tin ceiling and tons of tiny trainset railroad villages set up, with all-year-round Christmas decorations and antiques for sale.

The Choo Choo Cafe
Let's eat in an antique store!
The Choo Choo Cafe is run by a woman and her husband who make home cooked food, German chocolate cake to die for, chicken salad, and other yummies, and this woman is very special. She's all about rejuvenating the town of Erwin, Tennessee, and their menu has foodstuff on the front, and history on the back. The story of the Cafe, the 100 year-old building, and fun facts to ponder.

I asked her about the elephants we'd seen driving in to this little town.

First little elephant we saw.
Here's her sweet little face.
Another little elephant we saw.
Okay, okay I'll put me in here, but that shirt is not all me,
even if I did eat Choo Choo's homemade chicken salad.
I know, right? You kinda want to put one of these in your yard or something.
Take it home with you. I definitely had to learn the story behind them. And wow, it's a winner.
So I asked the woman right before we left her lovely cafe what the significance of these elephants is. Here's what she said.

"There was an elephant named Mary who had a trainer that abused and mistreated her. One day when Mary was more interested in watermelon than performing her trainer let her know what he thought of that and she killed him. So the railroad, who owned Mary, decided she needed to be punished. They declared she needed to be put to death. So they looked all around for how to do this, they didn't have guns powerful enough to shoot her, and they decided to hang her."

Me: "Hang an elephant?!"

Sweet woman: "Yes. So they looked around for a place to do that and our little town of Erwin was the only one that had a crane strong enough to hold her. So they shipped her to us and hung her. But the chains that they used to do it broke, and she fell and broke her hip. She didn't die."

Hope sprang in my heart, soon to be dashed.

"They hung her again. And this time it worked and she went. So she's buried at the outskirts of town."

"The elephants you see," she said, "came about because we feel just awful about Mary's demise, and to make restoration, we thought we might ask artists to paint these elephants and auction them off one at a time. All the proceeds are going to be donated to the support of live elephants at the Knoxville Zoo, where they have a sanctuary."

And so went the tale of sweet Mary, the elephant who, despite adverse circumstances, continues to support her sister and brother elephants, through the heart of the townspeople of Erwin, Tennessee.

I know. It's a hard story to forget. Can't stop imagining the mound of elephant bones buried on the outskirts of Erwin. I'm glad it has a silver lining though, in the benefits created by the enchanting painted elephant auction.

And the thing is, here's the revelation behind this leg of our journey: Magic Mystery Roadtrip Revelation Number 12 - When one door closes, another opens, yes it does, even when you don't believe it's ever gonna be there. Keep the faith.... Don't give up.

I had not expected any kind of new dreams, just was staggering along amidst the devastation of my daughter's death, trying to rebuild, but I'd  - we'd discovered a brand spanking new clean page. Completely unexpected. A gift. Something to work towards.

Isn't it funny that the things we reject, the things we dread to do, sometimes bring us our greatest gifts?

Right after we arrived home after our roadtrip we realized it was our anniversary.

We didn't need a darn thing, but we bought flowers.
And we opened our cards, which sprang open sharing oodles of love.
Here's to all we do, together.
Namaste,
Jen

5 Big Spirits, Falling in Love, Finding a Dream - Magic Mystery Roadtrip Revelations Part 7 Continued 4

Men will be men, and sometimes it's best to just leave them to it.
This is an exquisite place for them to do that!
They did say that women were also welcome in these rooms.
Leather couches, pool tables, lots of gorgeous graphics.
Okay so a few of the graphics are a little randy.
But I say that's good and healthy. This one hangs behind the door so you don't see it
unless the door is closed, or unless you look, like I did : P
Country girls are randy, right?
I think this was in the gun room, which is fairly spartan.
It's not really an "entertainment" area. Just where they stored the hunting guns. 
The ceiling in the gun room is gorgeous glowy gold.
A place to sit with a cigar after a good morning/afternoon/evening of shooting.
The fireplace in the gun room is very simple compared to the rest in the house.
All done. Now we've been through the Biltmore together. Wasn't it just beeautiful?! I want to go back. I want annual passes.

Magic Mystery Roadtrip Revelation Number 11: Sometimes that very thing you dread, the thing you think you can't do, turns out to be a surprisingly inspirational thing if you have the courage to step past your barriers and do it.

If you're up for a good read, check out the Serafina books, which are set at the Biltmore. They're written for children ages 9-12 or so, but still fun. A very wise move on the part of the author. The books sell Biltmore tours, and the Biltmore sells the books. I bought my copies and read them about a year ago. You can look for "mystery" items in the house as you go through, such as secret panels, certain cats, owls, etc. Makes it a whole lot of fun.

They have worldclass top of the line shopping in their giftshops. The giftshops are located in the area where the stables used to be, so it's interesting to see how they converted the real estate, preserving some beautiful, interesting aspects of the architecture.

I saw the most beautiful nativity set I've ever seen in my life there - it's only about 850 bucks. No I didn't buy it! But it was great to take a photo! I asked first and they said it's allowed. I love the three kings the best.

The Nativity Set
I fell in love with this Santa because he's all naturey, plus he has an owl.
How cool is that? But I didn't buy him.
I bought something very special to remember our Biltmore visit. I'll show it to you in the next post and share the last story of the "HAVES," along with the new dream.


4 Big Spirits, Falling in Love, Finding a Dream - Magic Mystery Roadtrip Revelations Part 7 Continued 3

Now let's go see where they played!
Are you still with me on the magical tour of the Biltmore? The best is yet to come! We're down on the basement level, where the grownups went to play.

Whimsy and love decorate what's called "The Halloween Room."
The master and his lady painted it themselves, with such joy and sweetness.
You can feel the happy vibes down here.
Pineapples represent hospitality, and those look like some very happy fish!
A nod to Napoleon, whose chess set sits in the library upstairs.
You just know that painting this section of the basement had to be a darn good time!
Enchanting. They loved their kitties at Biltmore, cause they took care of the mice.
She must be dreaming of wonderful things to write down, it looks like she has
a writing instrument in her hand and maybe some rolled up parchment paper.
Maybe she's going to draw instead....


Beautiful windows, gorgeous views, even from the basement.
Yes, they even had a bowling alley! The niches in the walls at the far end of the lanes are
where staff people would stand, ready to run out and set up the pins after they'd been knocked down.
A huge bench where peeps could sit awaiting their turn to bowl, or just to watch the game!
These are the doorways to the changing rooms down in the basement,
where peeps would put on their sports clothing or swimsuits.
Inside one of the changing rooms.
The indoor swimming pool was magnificent.
I think it holds some 60,000 gallons, which is very, very large!

The other end of the workout room.
Let's play!
Walking through some of the basement corridors you could see where the fireplace ashes
could be cleaned out from downstairs so as not to get the rooms dirty upstairs.
The floors are gleaming, and beautiful even in the basement.
Walk in cold storage area.
Canned goods storage area. Note the desk where the staff could makes lists and organize details. I love it.
Yes! They did a lot of canning : )
Male staff had their rooms in the basement. Females were on the highest floors.
No hanky panky here!
Really nice rooms, well appointed.
I think this was the pastry kitchen, but I might be wrong on that.
This kitchen had a huge place with a spit where they could cook
a whole pig or deer or whatever beastie was for dinner.
I LOVED the sinks! There were many in the multiple kitchens down in the basement. Well-used.
With wonderful, long marble cutting/washing board areas where I'm sure meat was prepared.
Very nicely functional, especially for this era, with hot and cold water available right where the work was done!
Even in the basement there were lovely windows letting in light and breezes.
And these windows had spectacular views!
I could stand here all day and do whatever they wanted me to do! What a spectacular place to work.
Dishes? No problem! Let me....
All kinds of state of the art equipment in these kitchens!
This is the view over the big sink. Yeah, I could work there. I bet it's different every day.
Beautiful floors in those kitchens.
Beautiful views in those kitchens. Warm in winter, breezes in summer, and cold water to work with.
The other side of the main kitchen. Look at those gleaming copper pots, mmmmm.
More state of the art equipment for something, maybe a coffee grinder? Very pretty....

Small cold storage for cheeses and things in the kitchen area.
Dumbwaiter for sending food upstairs.
There was another one right across from it.
I didn't count the sinks, but there were many of them throughout the multiple kitchens.
I could happily work at this one too. How beautiful!
Lots and lots of little coffee cups!
And THIS is the staff dining room. Very nice, eh?
Storage area for plant things, yum.
Isn't this a lovely space to do plant things?
Storage for vases and more plant things. They were exquisite. 
See that rabbit up there? Yeah, I want him....
Storage for display equipment used upstairs. Those little wooden stands that
you can pop a bowl on and make it look like a million.
Those glass dust protectors for statuary and what nots. All just beautiful!
Oh my gosh, I'm trying to wind this up but I have to show you the laundry rooms.
Get a load of those irons!
Lots of side-by-side sinks with washboards. Imagine being a staff person and
the sense of community you'd have while you  worked. Could be fun.
Yep, lots and lots of sinks. Wonder if they fought over water pressure.
We can clearly see which was the favorite : )
Part of the main laundry room with clothes press. And/or linen press.
I think this was a clothes dryer. Very innovative for the time.
Am sure they used it for linens, but definitely not clothing.
Get a load of this linen hanger for drying things like tablecloths and sheets. Wowzers!
A little fountain even in the basement area!
Looking up!
Well shoot. I've taken you through the kitchens, but realize I haven't taken you through the bachelor's quarters yet or the gun room and they really are worth a peek. All right, just one more post 'til I wind this up with our big dream revelation. Stay with me, li'l old me wasn't even tired walking this tour over 5 and 1/2 hours, so you can't be suffering too much in your armchair though I know it's long, just enjoy it.... : ) I had a heck of a time whittling down my 586 photos!

Magic Mystery Roadtrip Revelations Number 10: It's so beautiful at the Biltmore that I find it hard to choose whether I'd rather be a staff worker or a member of the aristocracy, back in the day! Biltmore is a great example of how different levels of society can coexist and get work done, but everyone is made to feel appreciated. The employees today say it's still a happy place to work, and it had a great reputation back in the day.