My Go-to Favorite Local Spot

Where do you go first when you visit a new locale? I’m not talking about getting settled in your hotel, bed & breakfast, Air BNB, tent, et al. What is it you want to be sure to experience ? Art? Architecture? The great outdoors? Foodie destinations? Historical spots?

My favorite would fall under the “historical spots” category. Now, don’t be too quick to judge my fascination or think me maudlin. One place I want to hang out in wherever I go is a cemetery.

I love the architecture, the sense of family amongst a group of headstones, the flora and fauna. And they make for incredible photo opportunities. Cemeteries are peaceful places and great to hang out in as long as they are in a safe location. I’ve been in graveyards where I was the only person save one who was following me around. Not cool!

Today, I am in Charlottesville, Virginia. My oldest daughter, Kate, graduated from the University of Virginia as did her partner, Vincent. So, I’ve spent a lot of time here taking her to lunch, hanging out on campus and passing through for a coffee on the way to Smith Mountain Lake. But I’ve never been to a C-ville cemetery.

My interest in cemeteries amped up when I visited Boston with my husband on a business trip almost 20 years ago. When I travel on these conferences, he is busy most of the day and I am free to explore. One day I decided to find the original Cheers bar as I was a fan of the show back in the day. Inevitably, I got lost and “had” to wander. (So blessed that I had no cellphone with the option to Mapquest my way to the location as I would have missed an amazing experience or two.)

The first was a lady in a doorway with every color of electrical tape on her body a la Native American warpaint though I’m sure our nation’s First Citizens were much more artful and purposeful with their body art. I felt compassion for her and tension as she was angry.

Back to the point — I stumbled upon a small cemetery between two wings of a high-rise building that was obviously ancient. It was a warm day and the shade was welcome. I strolled and skimmed names on the markers. That’s one of the reasons I love these places. Ancient names we don’t see in today’s society and some of the deceased’s taglines are intentionally hilarious.

As I wandered I found a mass grave in a back corner of over 150 people in about a 12-by-12 foot spot. I have no recollection of why but remember some of the dead were children. I moved to the right and as I perused the stones I found Benjamin Franklin’s parents’ graves and Paul Revere’s among others. Who would have thought it? I love happy accidents, don’t you?

I’ve visited many cemeteries since then in Lexington, Williamsburg and Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia, New Orleans, Louisiana, etc. Today, I visited Riverview Cemetery on a misty, dreary, appropriately-atmospheric day. The view from the hill was breathtaking even in the foggy conditions. And, you guessed it, it made for the perfect backdrop for the destination. Due to weather and the isolation of the location, I did not get out so my car windows were worn out traveling up and down to allow for the perfect shot. As you can see in the attached photo gallery (all from Riverview) the clouds dusting the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance were breathtaking.

Save for the groundskeepers I was alone in that memorial yard and was pleased to be. It was a moody morning after too little sleep in a so-so hotel. It was a brief overview of the serene spot without the joy of walking among ancestors, but a thoughtful stop on my way to work and shop at the Downtown Mall.

I’ve also included a small headstone sales office on a corner I passed on the way to Riverview Cemetery. Never seen anything like it. You can see for yourself in a photo here. Looked to me like an edifice erected in a bygone era itself.

What are your favorite cemeteries, if you are given to this predilection? Anyone who has any fave memorial spots would be most welcome to share them in the comments below.

Happy wanderings!


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Choosing Healthy for 365 Days

So…I hope this April 14th post is worth waiting for. I intended to write it this morning, but circumstances intervened and I am so glad I waited.

My husband, Keith, and me are at Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia for a long weekend; a much needed break from everyday life. Being up here early in the season has its challenges and anytime you are on vacation, things are more involved than they are at home as far as routine, daily accomplishments are concerned.

That being said, this has always been a time for me to reflect and be more mindful and intentional about my life. Today is the only summer-like day of our trip and we spent four-plus hours traveling to and attending the funeral of a dear friend and former pastor’s mother. Our pastor friend spoke of his mother’s words to him about being a good son, father, husband and pastor that, to him, was only second to Jesus saying, “Well done, thy good and faithful servant.”

Her pastor talked about our lives beginning as a journey of purpose and function which eventually, as we age, becomes a life of substance filled with love, service, spirit and experiences with those around you.

When we returned to the cabin, I picked up my weekly lesson for Bible Study Fellowship International’s study of Romans 14. This chapter talks about refraining from judging others and not being a stumbling block to those who are challenged in areas…and my mind went to the area of what we eat.

I have people in my family and friends who are diabetics. I have people in my life who are overeaters, allergic to gluten, allergic to mammal meat, who eat in excess and many other areas of food challenges. We all have our struggles.

My trigger foods are popcorn and pizza. I went over three months before going to a movie because of the popcorn. After losing 16 pounds and appreciating the way I feel, I found a way to tackle the popcorn issue. I bought a huge popcorn for me, my niece, Brooke, and my youngest daughter, Melissa. Then….I put the equivalent of a small popcorn in a cardboard tray and ate only that amount with a bottle of water. Oh yes, if you are wondering, I used the fake/lard-based/excuse-for-butter on it when it was half full before asking the man at the counter to fill it almost to the rim (yes, you need room to shake all that oil down so you can add more — see the problem?) but I only ate a small portion.

Truth be told, by the time I got halfway done, the popcorn was cold and not very appetizing. But true to my movie butter popcorn addiction, I ate every last minute piece of it…and I was satisfied. It may still have been a lot of junk food to eat, but I managed to keep it to a smaller portion and did not put weight on that day! To me, that was a victory.

I don’t want food to be the end all/be all of my life. I want to enjoy things that are allowable in reasonable portions and not be a stumbling block to others if there is a food that they have issues with. I have to admit to eating beef in front of my husband who can’t have it, but it is rare (not the beef, but the frequency).

For me, finding a way to eat what I like is a goal. How I eat it and how much I eat is the key. My father-in-law used to say, “It’s not what you eat once in a while, but what you do consistently that matters.” There is much wisdom in that.

So eat and enjoy it. Be sensitive to others who have challenges with food and hold yourself accountable for your influence on them.

Food was made for nourishment. It is ultimately good if well chosen and judiciously consumed. We are called to be people of substance and do what we can to contribute to the good of this world. Watch what you eat. If you slip up, get back on the horse and strive to do better next time. Don’t beat yourself up. As a friend of mine said, when it comes to the true meaning of this life, none of this matters in the end.

I love everyone who supports me on my Choosing Healthy for 365 Days Facebook page — for the influence they have been on my journey to healthy eating and a healthy body. I have a ways to go yet, but I owe this tribe a great debt of gratitude.

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