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Tennessee....I Will Always Love you!

Do you ever wonder what it’s like to Live Like Lorie? Sometimes it’s only sleeping 3 hours and being at the airport at 3am to take the very first flight out so I can maximize my time making memories. It’s choosing the perfect seat for watching the sunrise from 30,000 feet in the air. It’s soaring 15,000 feet above ground because my connecting flight was too short to go any higher but being able to get a bird’s eye view of the world. It’s renting a car at the airport almost an hour away and driving in an unfamiliar place and up the steep mountains just to be with family because they are the most important part of my world.

Sometime last year, my family decided that they wanted to spend Thanksgiving in Tennessee. My brother found a 3-story log cabin in the mountains in Sevierville that seemed perfect. So he rented it for almost a week. I knew I wouldn’t be able to take off of work that long to ride with them so I decided that if I could figure out a way to go, I would fly out Monday morning and fly back on the latest flight on Thanksgiving Day (which was at 3:45pm) so I could spend at least some time with my family. Then in June my Dad was diagnosed with COVID and hospitalized for 69 days. When he was put on a ventilator, we were told he may not make it. So I just assumed we wouldn’t be going to Tennessee. However, my Dad survived and he didn’t want to miss the trip. So my Dad, Mom, sister, brother, sister-in-law, 4 nephews and my niece drove up to Tennessee on Saturday and I met them there Monday. Despite being tired from waking up so early, my flight there was uneventful. After getting to the airport, I drove from Knoxville to a cute little town square that looked like it came right out of a Hallmark Christmas movie to meet some of my family. We walked through some of the shops and then enjoyed some of the best homemade ice cream (I had the most amazing coconut ice cream) before heading to the cabin. The ride up to the cabin was pretty scary. The narrow road and sharp, steep turns was pretty scary (especially in a rental car that I wasn't used to driving) but I made it. The first thing I did when I got to the cabin was walk out to the back porch on the first floor to check out the unbelievable view. I’ve lived in the city all my life so we don’t see too many mountains. The view of the mountains and trees with leaves that turned beautiful shades of red and yellow was breathtaking. After checking out the cabin (the Bearhemian Rhapsody...which was completely decorated in bears!), we went on a drive to see a view of the mountains that my brother discovered during his morning hike. It was a great photo opportunity. Then we headed to dinner. As soon as dinner was done, Karter was ready to start checking things off his bucket list (that kid makes me so proud). The first thing he wanted to do.....make s’mores! So we bundled up (the temperatures had dropped to the 30’s that night), got the fire going and got everything ready. Graham crackers ✔️, chocolate ✔️, marshmallows ✔️, super cool marshmallow skewers ✔️....we were ready to make s’mores (or as Karter says, ‘mores)! We were all stuffed from dinner but that wasn’t gonna stop us from doing the one thing I promised Karter I’d do when I got there (he was ready to make them the minute I got there but we convinced him the fire is much more fun in the dark). So we enjoyed s’mores and roasted marshmallows around the fire. Karter actually tried one this time (he usually complains that the marshmallow is too sticky and too messy so he doesn’t like to eat them...only make them) and he liked it! We then looked for bears so we could get our second ✔️ on our bucket list. We heard a couple of sounds throughout the trip that made me think we might see a bear but then discovered it was just little squirrels making big noises! We then all settled down and went to sleep because we had a big day (unplanned) the next day!

When I was a teenager, our family went to Dollywood. My Grandma came with us, too (she loved Dollywood and I really wish she was still alive and could’ve been there with us). There were so many memories that I still remembered about that trip...taking pictures with my brother and sisters in front of the butterfly (the same butterfly I took pictures in front of with my niece and nephew), riding the train (this was the only thing my Mom made us all do on this trip together), going to the shows (the first thing I did this trip was go to a show with my Mom and Dad) and just making memories (although at the time I thought we were just having fun). I was excited to finally get a chance to go back to Dollywood and make new memories with my family. Due to COVID restrictions, things were a little different. We had to make reservations and the park was only opened from 2pm-9pm. We got up early and had a nice family breakfast and I enjoyed some hot tea (I try to drink Thieves and Lemon tea with honey before I go out in crowds to help build up my immune system) and a breathtaking view of the mountains. Then we headed out to Dollywood. We got there about 12. Luckily, they opened up a little early that day so we were able to get in and take care of a few things before we headed out to the rides. The first thing we did....take a family picture in front of the Dollywood sign! Unfortunately, the whole family couldn’t be there but the ones that could all willing agreed to get in the picture (they know pictures mean everything to me). As we walked into the park, there was a Christmas display with old fashion plastic Christmas characters. As soon as I saw them, I started to cry. They reminded me of my Grandparent's Christmas display when I was a little kid. I loved that Frosty! When my Grandma passed away, I got her plastic Frosty. However, Frosty was very old and fragile and eventually he broke beyond repair. I still have his broom, though, which I keep near my fireplace all year long. At that moment, I looked up and said, "I know you are with us on this trip, Grandma." Then everyone split up to do their own thing. I went with my Mom and Dad to see a show. It was the first time I’ve seen live music in so long so I enjoyed it. Everyone else went to ride the rides (I’m not a big fan of rides). We all met up to ride the train (which was amazing because the views were incredible and they were playing Dolly Parton Christmas music) and then we went to lunch. We all went our separate ways again after lunch. We walked around enjoying the sights and then it started to get dark. I promised Lauren that I’d bring her some rocks back from the mining store and I knew Karter would love to do that so we met up again to go “dig for dinosaur fossils” as Karter called it. It was so much fun and we came across some really beautifully colored gems. It was starting to get cold and my Dad was getting tired so we decided to head back to the cabin. There were things that Karter really wanted to do and there were things that I wanted to do so I promised him that even though it was supposed to rain the next day, I would take him to Dollywood so we could do those things. We were all tired by the time we got back so we just enjoyed each other’s company and then went to bed.

The next morning we woke up and got ready to head out to Dollywood....just me, Karter, my sister and a PLAN!! I am a planner and when people don’t plan, I feel like you waste too much time trying to figure out what to do next. So after Tuesday’s lack of planning, I was prepared for Wednesday. I had been tracking the weather so I knew when the highest chance of rain was (although when it said a 30% chance of rain I tried to remain positive because that meant there was a 70% chance of NO rain) so I knew we would have to do the things we wanted to do the most as soon as we got there. Karter wanted to ride the flying elephants so that was one of the priorities. And I wanted a funnel cake so that was on our daily bucket list, too. The gates opened and our first stop....SANTA! The day before I waited in line for awhile and then was told Santa needed a cookie break and we could come back in about an hour and wait in line again. That wasn’t an option for us because kids don’t have much patience. So this time we went straight to the line and was the second family there. It was definitely worth it. Karter got to write a letter to Santa and mail it to him. Then he got to see Santa in his workshop and take a picture with Santa, behind the glass for health reasons, of course. Welcome to Christmas COVID-style! Afterwards, he asked if we could ride the carousel. I love the carousel so we rode it together. Then I had to keep my promise. We headed to the flying elephants. As soon as we got buckled in, I could feel the rain drops. I was praying that they wouldn’t stop the rides due to the rain because I didn’t want to disappoint him. But apparently it’s safe to fly in the air on an elephant in the rain and Karter didn’t mind that he was getting wet (I didn’t care either because his smile and that memory was worth it). Afterwards, my sister took him to get old time cowboy pictures taken. He is one adorable little boy and he loves the camera. That was such a fun experience and the photographer captured some really great photos. Then we went to get a funnel cake while there was no line. I got a funnel cake with whipped cream and Fruity Pebbles (I’m never gonna grow up)! It was so yummy!! Then we decided to do some shopping and head back to the cabin before the weather got any worse. The cabin was way up in the mountains and I didn’t want to have to drive up the sharp, winding road in the rain. Karter was happy that he got to ride the elephants and I was happy to get my funnel cake so it was a successful day. We went back to the cabin with lots of great stories and some gifts. That night I had to pack because I was leaving the next morning. Me and Karter ironed on our checks on our bucket list shirts and then I spent some time with the family before my mini-vacation came to an end.

Thanksgiving wasn’t easy. I woke up feeling grateful that I got to spend time with my family but sad that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with the family. I took a few pictures with some of them, loaded up the car and hugged everyone before it was time to start my journey back home. The ride to the airport was about an hour. I enjoyed some music, the beautiful scenery and that amazing car (I wasn’t as scared driving it back because I was more familiar with the roads) on the way back to Knoxville. I returned the rental car and got settled in to an almost deserted airport to wait for my flight. The airport is very small and the only thing opened on Thanksgiving was a souvenir shop so the food choices weren’t great. So my Thanksgiving meal consisted of pretzel chips and hummus and a pepperoni and cheese snack pack. But it was ok because I got to spend time with my family and be there with my Dad, who we didn’t know if he would even be with us just a few months ago. Sometimes you have to learn to just be thankful for the little things because they could really mean so much. My flight home was a little more stressful. There were lots of screaming kids and one that was kicking my seat throughout the trip. But I just sat back and reminisced about all of the memories that I made and how grateful I was for my wonderful family and the incredible time we had together.

This trip taught me a few things. I learned that you don’t really have to get to the airport 2 hours early for super early flights because the ticketing agents don’t get there until 4:30-5:00am. I learned that I’m not really a fan of driving up or down steep, winding roads. I learned that not having a plan stresses me out even more when I’m with a big group of people. But I also learned that spending time with family and making memories (and taking lots of pictures) means more than anything else. I learned that it’s worth getting up super early to catch the first flight out so not only do you get to see the sunrise but you can maximize your day. I learned that even though your loved one isn’t with you in person, they are still there in spirit (I felt like my Grandma was definitely with us). I learned that even the shortest trips can be full of amazing adventures and memories if you do it right. I learned that I love making other people's bucket list dreams come true (Karter LOVED his bucket list shirt and that we got to check off almost everything!) almost as much as I like making mine come true. And I learned that we are not promised tomorrow so we should travel as often as we can, when we can, especially with those we love. I am thankful that my Dad was well enough to be able to enjoy the trip with us. This is definitely one trip that we will never forget! Dad, I will ALWAYS Love you....

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Dare to Dream,



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