Category: Train

It was a strange afternoon.  We drove down to visit Erick’s aunt and uncle in Columbia and enjoyed some time in the country talking about the future of energy and transportation in America.  The countryside was quiet without a single train passing until the very last moment, when we were about to leave and we heard the loud, long horn off in the distance.  I jumped off the porch, leading the pack of train-happy folk, down the narrow gravel road where Celli leapt ahead of me, tongue a flyin’ and hell-bent on scaring off whatever it was we were all chasing and woo-hooing about.  Suddenly, I became aware of a more immediate and urgent chase as my beagle was heading full-speed in the direction of a blind corner where the 200-ton engine was approaching at full speed.  

I called after her, but the engine roared and its horn blared and I could only see Celli’s mouth moving as she barked in cadence with her every step.  As the train emerged out of the woods she crossed one set of tracks and met it full on coming within in a few inches of the massive steel wheels.  I stopped and turned away; a sob caught in my throat.  I thought she was gone.  When I looked again, she was running away from the tracks and over to the road where I stood.  I scooped up her frame and sat down forgetting the enormous freight passing.  

Erick and his uncle informed me that as Celli reached the train, where the low oil tankers were passing, the larger box cars following emerged from the shadows and startled her in time to stop her from biting the wheel.  I’ve never been so grateful for boxcars in my life.  I love this beagle.

We had only been driving a few minutes on the interstate when I felt something akin to a bee-sting along my spine – right in the middle of my back where my reach was clumsy.  “Erick I think there’s a bee in my dress,” I said calmly; assuming it wouldn’t get any worse.  I was wrong.  A few minutes later, the lone and very pissy hornet was making cross-stitch patterns all the way down my back and my butt.  Erick pulled over and I jumped out of the truck doing a little dance as I tried frantically to find the angry little hornet.  I found him as he stung me one last time and flew off into the cab, where Erick smacked him off Celli’s head and smushed him under his shoe.  

The pain has subsided for the most part, but the image still stuck in my head is of that scene from Nothing to Lose where Tim Robbins leaps out of the car with the gigantic spider on his back and does that dance.  You know the dance.

The girls are getting creative.  My oldest is blogging, and all of our girls are working on various art projects at the moment.  Yesterday, I set up Popo’s paint set and let them have at it.  Their creation was yummy.  

I’m always finding little things they’ve made like the magnet-flowers that began springing up the other day. Here we are in the center of a concrete jungle and our children have created a mini-garden out of magnets!  Let the sun shine in!

Erick and I are considering condo living, so we took a look at the Arlington, a 25+ story building on the light-rail.  It’s beautiful and the units were very spacious.  The top floor offered a magnificent view as well as a lap pool and fitness facility.  It’s just under 2K/month which isn’t bad considering we never use our car in Uptown, so the added cost would go into housing rather than fuel or vehicle maintenance.  Still, I think it would be best for us all to have some space outdoors in which to play and explore.  And a place where Celli and Lady could run free.  

All this creativity is exhausting!  

Erick joined us right before the march began and the whole family (including Celli Belle) walked to raise money for research to beat cancer.  We met so many nice people and beautiful pups.  There must have been over a hundred dogs and their families.  Along the walk, there were water bowls and wading pools.  The police escorted the march, so we were able to spread out across the street and it was then you could see just how many people were out early in the morning heat in support of a cure.  Warm fuzzies all over.

Later, Erick, the girls and I walked down to the festivities in Uptown.  We saw the Calypso Tumblers performing on the street – VERY cool and wild.  I hadn’t heard of them until yesterday, but they’re amazing stage performers.  We watched them jump over a line of people about 10 deep.  Crazy stuff.

After a few hours in Uptown Erick and I thought it might be fun to take the train down to Pineville, so we purchased day passes and hopped the train.  We had to stand the entire 20-minute ride, which at 70mph, was pretty exciting and when we arrived in Pineville the temperature had soared to 100 degrees, so we were pretty slow-moving, but nonetheless determined to have a good time.  We meandered through shops and enjoyed milkshakes and a lot of water before boarding the train for home.  And this is when things got strange again.

I’ve mentioned openly before seeing “ghosts,” but I haven’t had the pleasure while here in Charlotte to see much other than the overriding face of fast-paced life all around.  Maybe it was because I was more relaxed than usual, having found a seat for the ride home; or perhaps I was suffering from a heat-stroke induced hallucination, but regardless, yesterday I saw my first “ghost” in Charlotte.  

I heard a boy laugh and I turned my head in time to see a little boy, about nine-years-old, approaching my girls.  He wanted to engage them, but clearly they couldn’t see him.  He faded out, but I remember him clearly.  He was black, wearing a little-league uniform with the colors green and yellow.  The cap had a lot of yellow on the front and he showed me a ball – the ball also had a lot of yellow.  He was connected somehow to a man seated behind me and I got the feeling he was someone’s brother.  I didn’t get the feeling of grief that might accompany a parent losing a child, but rather one that might accompany someone losing a peer.  I also felt like his passing was sudden – so accident or sudden death by other means – not a drawn-out illness.  I also felt like his death happened some time ago – more than 10 years.  

Those were the feelings that accompanied the vision.  I’m sharing the experience here for future reference.

As I have mentioned in the past, it is my belief that these visions may be a glimpse of someone else’s projected thought.  The strange thing was I saw the boy before the man connected to the boy got on the train.  



Above is an image of the narrow peninsula uncovered for less than a decade at a time every 75 years, where Erick and I were married in 2000.  I stopped there earlier this month and the water has reclaimed a good half of what was there originally.  In another year, we’ll have to wade into the water to show the girls were Mommy and Daddy were wed. 


Yesterday for Popo’s birthday, we took a long walk down past Dilworth, through the historic neighborhood, catching the new old-fashioned trolley into Uptown and back to Tea-Rex for afternoon tea.  The trolley was a great experience; just us and a driver passionate about trolleys.  The driver showed the girls how to operate the trolley and let them ring the bell and even showed them how to switch tracks.  He then took us up to the trolley barn where we saw one of Charlotte’s original trolleys, No. 85, built in 1927 and still in operation today.  (Trolley photos taken with my phone.)


Yesterday afternoon was spent celebrating Po-po’s 7th time around.  She received art supplies, tools, and lots of requested clothes.  Her favorite gift was a set of magnets.  She spent hours playing with them.

Also celebrating a birthday was my beloved Poe House; added to the historic register the same day my own Po made her debut into this world.  Also see Poe Stairs.


Following our showing of the Poe House on Saturday, we drove farther into the mountains and stopped for lunch at a little bar perched on the edge of the world.  Our view from the restaurant: 

On our way home from the Poe House, I took a self-portrait.  I always glow like that after seeing historic homes and mountains in the same day.  // Erick has been practicing up on guitar and banjo and the girls enjoy dancing to the music. 


It was an eventful weekend and we’re about to begin the first of weekdays with Jasmine tea.  May you (may we all!) have a wonder-filled, adventurous week!


Everyone with children in Charlotte will tell you (if you also have children) to visit Discovery Place in Uptown, Charlotte.  It’s quite costly ($100/family membership), so we had not yet gone, but today we took the train to 6th St. heading for the Mint Museum of Art and after listening to the girls groan the whole way there, I decided it was time to check out DP conveniently located less than a block away.  

Wow!  With the thought that $100 might have been better spent elsewhere, we entered the long, dark corridor to the dinosaur exhibit.  A full-size replica tyrannosaurus skeleton stood at the entry mid-roar.  I actually shivered at the size of its jaws.  The girls ran up ahead to a full-size metal brontosaurus skeleton and I followed reading the placards beneath each exhibit.  

A sign up ahead advertised a “Paleontology Dig,” so I asked the man how much and he told me $2 per child.  I paid him, grumbling to myself about the additional charge for digging up plastic dino bones in a sandbox, but was stopped mid-thought when I entered a room full of neat artifacts, tables and tools of the trade along with two scientists dressed as paleontologists (though one was a biologist and the other a physicist).  They welcomed us and explained that the large buckets given to each child were full of sediment from a sulfur mine in Aurora, NC.  While watching my collection of Shark Week videos I had heard of this site, famous for megalodon teeth, and was thrilled to see buckets filled with untampered prehistoric remnants.  

The girls began to sort through the buckets and immediately found shark teeth, coral, spines from urchins, shells, and even some dino poo.  I know the girls loved it, and I was equally enthralled.  The attentive scientists helped us determine the species of shark to which our teeth belonged and then asked us if we had yet visited the aquarium downstairs?  Aquarium?  It just got better from there. We ran from exhibit to exhibit exploring, learning, observing eels and nurse sharks, touching live horse-shoe crabs and talking with parrots in the rain forest atrium complete with a two-story waterfall.  And to think there’s still more to see!  

There’s even a room dedicated to small children where you can play in water, sand, dress up as dinosaurs and, from the perspective of our kids, meet other kids.  

Afterward we walked over to Erick’s office and heard an incredible band playing on the street.  And all of this on a beautiful sunny summer-like day.

Last night on our menu: Soup with spice!  I finally decided to buy some spices: Dill, basil, lemon pepper, and rosemary, though I only used the middle two in the soup.  Yum.  



MLS Search

I just did an MLS search in North and South Carolina for four-bedroom homes on four+ acres under 300K and found a total of seven properties.  The same search in the Grand Traverse region resulted in 114 properties.  I’ve been so home-sick this week, but at the same time enjoying all Charlotte has to offer.  It really is a fantastic city.  The girls and I hopped on the train to pick up a carton of milk at 7th St. Station.  Yes, it’s organic. 


I bought my first painting by an artist I’ve never before met.  She works with watercolor primarily, but also had some oils on display.  I love her color pallets; very bright without losing the detail in each image.  The one I purchased is on a small canvas, but I hope to buy one of her larger framed pieces.  There’s one that reminds me so much of the farm up north.  It’s a grape vine with some withered grapes – they way they look in the spring before new growth has taken over.  

We took the train to Fuel Pizza down a few stops.  It’s a neat place with great ambiance and very affordable food probably not found on the typical food pyramid, but good for the soul, if not the body.  

Celli and I bundled up against anticipated cold. Friday was near 90-degrees, then temperatures dropped into the 40s for the rest of the weekend. When we stepped outside into a thick fog, the air felt warm and wonderful and I decided then that springtime in the Carolinas is noncommittal. We go through the seasons during this time, as if to reflect on each. As though we needed reminding of our gratitude for the warmer months by showering us with a cold autumn rain or a sudden severe winter wind. It definitely helps. I’m loving these days when the air is gentle and the birds seem to be singing out joyfully in a backdrop of blossoming shrubs and trees.

Erick and I ventured out to the music store with the girls yesterday. I met some really neat people in the woodwind/string section while Erick was playing the bass across the store with the girls. I’d really like to make some friends down here sooner than later. I miss that connection we had up north. It will likely get easier when we know we’re settled somewhere, but I’m still going to try. I know there are a lot of people feeling much the same in this great expanse of city and I think the same thought frightens us all away from committing to a friendship. I think it’s the choices – the sheer numbers. There are so many new people we meet each day only never to see them again, you feel sort of awkward asking one of them out to coffee without looking like you’re trying to pick them up. Even the store seems to rotate through employees so fast I have trouble keeping track of faces, let alone names.

There was that guy who wanted to know all about Michigan. He was Greek, but had lived here most of his life. I told him about the Mackinac Bridge. He had never heard of the Mackinac Bridge and he was so intrigued! I could have easily gotten along with him, but I’ve never seen him since. And there was the woman from Russia at the train stop with two small children. We hit it off instantly, but I hesitated to give her my number for the same reasons I mentioned above. Would I ever see her again even though she lives only one street down? I have not yet.

The nice thing about all this variety is that I’m feeling more comfortable around strangers. I’m able to be direct, communicate and laugh with them. I love them for their potential to be great friends. And there are just so many beautiful people in this city, at times, you just want to observe them. The diversity of culture is incredible, welcome. The languages sifting through the great halls that connect Wachovia One with Wachovia Two remind me of the songbirds lining the electric cables powering the light rail. Their songs mingle to form one flavorful medley. When the train passes Celli and I in the morning, though the engineer and I have never met face-to-face, we wave and smile. We connect and that connection lasts long after the rails have quieted in my contemplation of what could be, what will be given a little patience and time.


I spotted this tiny bundle of green on a brick patio outside my apartment building last night and limped up four flights of stairs to fetch my camera. It reminds me of my grandmother and her namesake, Hope. It was a name I used to think sounded too old. And yet in the last couple of years I’ve learned that the name, as tiny and seemingly insignificant as the small bouquet of clover, holds a meaning that is unrivaled by anything; word or otherwise. Love is important, patient, kind, but there are times when only hope can persuade us to move forward.

When I saw these leaves unfurling out from a barren earth, I related. My own family is enshrined in a concrete palace where helicopters, leaving the nearby hospital, cast long, pulsing shadows on the ground below and where birds hover, wings beating against our windows, finding no place to land. And yet, here we are, gathered together again stretching our imaginations to fit this foreign surrounding; hoping we made the right decision.

It seems each day we’re down here in the midst of all these people, in a sea of swirling cars and trains, our leaves broaden, our path widens and the sun, no matter the shadows cast, is always somewhere overhead.

Celli, the beagle, has done a fantastic job of adjusting to the strange sounds and textures of the city. She’s made friends with another dog who frequents the Canine Cafe’ down the road and she no longer quivers at the sight of an oncoming train.  Still, there’s always a surprise for the little Northern Michigander beagle.

The other morning, as we crossed Bland St. on our walk, a train approached and out of nowhere, the train-crossing road block arms-of-God came down right over our unsuspecting pup.  All four legs went out and I couldn’t budge her in either direction.  As the bells ding-ding-dinged and the train roared past, my dog sprang from the ground to the curb at lightning-fast-instinct-for-survival-speed and I, less inclined toward protest, flew along beside her, happy to be somewhere other than the road.

At home, Celli is frequently rewarded for her daily efforts at normalcy with healthy treats and a lot of love and attention.  She now looks forward to our walks, but remains ever vigilant when we cross Bland St. for those sneaky, pesky road blocks.   sunshineuptown2_08-136.jpgsunshineuptown2_08-132.jpgsunshineuptown2_08-146.jpg