Voices of Gatlinburg

November 23, 2016, a fire started along the Chimney Tops 2 that would spread throughout Gatlinburg and become the worst fire in Tennessee of the last 100 years. It claimed 14 lives and over 2,000 homes and businesses.

As the devastation became apparent, Nashville-based photographer Jeremy Cowart had an idea to use his camera to bring healing and awareness to the region’s victims in a series.

December 14–20, Cowart and a volunteer crew photographed families on a white mattress contrasted by the dark rubble of their destroyed homes. Using a camera attached to a drone, they broadcast their stories and needs to the world.

These are the “Voices of Gatlinburg.”


Please visit and help with the recovery of individuals and families that lost everything.



Procrastination, Last Semester Baking and Night Owls

I love to bake.  Not cakes and things that have to be decorated, but I love to bake bread: rolls, croissants, cinnamon rolls, scones, baguettes (which are a staple in the McBride house), matzah, tortillas, challah bread, etc.  I have tried bagels and donuts.

Tonight, img_2065-2instead of catching on up on my Aroma Chemistry and my final Aromatherapy class, I am making Pull Apart Bread, just because of some damn photo I saw somewhere on Instagram when I got up.  I found Ree Drummond’s description and decided to give it a chance using the cinnamon roll recipe from my old school Better Homes & Gardens book from 1989.  Obviously, a high school graduation gift.  And it fell apart years ago.  I don’t remember it ever really being bound since I started using it.

This semester is my last for my Diploma of Aromatherapy.  After the first couple of weeks, I got behind because of moving, then no Internet at the house, then travel, then just so much chaos of getting settled in.  I am going to have to file an extension because I am not giving up on these two classes.  I have come too far.
But for now… It’s baking time so that I don’t have to worry about much tomorrow morning besides throwing it in the oven! (Plans changed. It was cooked tonight.)

Here are their directions for Sweet Rolls, with a few edits from me because it didn’t list ingredients at the top of the recipe:

4 to 4 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 package yeast (I used 2 1/4t. out of a jar)

1 cup milk

1/3 cup butter (I will never suggest margarine)

1/2 t of salt

2 eggs


Combine 2 cups of the flour and the yeast.  Heat and stir 1 milk, sugar, butter and salt until warm (120º to 130º F) and butter almost melts.  Add to flour mixture with eggs.  Beat with an electric mixer on low for 30 seconds, scraping bowl.  Beat on high for 3 minutes.  Using a spoon, stir in as much of the 2 to 2 1/3 cups of flour remaining as you can.

Turn out on a lightly floured surface.  Knead in enough of remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (3-5 minutes).  Shape into a ball.  Place in a lightly greased bowl, turning once.  Cover and let rise until double (about an hour).  NOTE: I don’t knead that much anymore because I let my KitchenAid Artisan Mixer* do all the work.  I mix it until it’s the same consistency and then let sit for an hour.  Although, if you bake breads a lot, I’d go with a KitchenAid Professional Mixer*.


From here, I go onto Ree’s directions**.  Here’s where I start, though:

1 stick Butter, Melted

1-1/2 cup Sugar

3 Tablespoons Ground Cinnamon


3 cups Powdered Sugar

2 Tablespoons Butter, Melted

1 Tablespoon Maple Extract or Coffee or 1 t vanilla (I used Maple syrup and coffee)

1/3 cup Whole Milk

Dash Of Salt

“Roll out dough onto a floured surface. Drizzle on melted butter and smear so that it covers all the dough. Mix together the sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle it all over the surface of the dough. (Dough should look very covered.)

Cut the dough into 6 to 8 strips, then stack all the strips into one stack. Cut the stack of strips into 6 slices. Place the stacks sideways into a buttered bread pan. Do not cram the slices into the pan. (You may have a few leftover.) NOTE: I cut this in this recommended way the first time and ended up with smaller stacks.  On the second batch, I only cut into 4 strips initially and then cut the stack of strips into 6 stacks. You can see the difference in the two bread pans.


Cover with a dish towel and allow to rise for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, checking at 20 minutes to make sure it’s not getting too brown on top. It’s important to bake the bread long enough to ensure that the middle won’t be too doughy, because if it is it won’t pull apart easily. If the top looks like it’s getting too brown, cover it lightly with aluminum foil for the rest of the baking time. REPEAT: IT’S IMPORTANT TO BAKE THE BREAD LONG ENOUGH FOR THE CENTER TO NO LONGER BE DOUGHY.


Remove the pan from the oven when it’s done. Run a knife around the edges and take the bread out of the pan. Mix together the icing ingredients and drizzle over the top, allowing it to sink into the crevices. Serve warm or room temperature!” (Pull-apart bread, 2012)


I started to prep and cook tomorrow, but we are night owls, so I am cooking these at 11:30 pm.  If River eats them while we are sleeping…

The icing tastes delicious, by the way!  River told me I had reached perfection again.  The kids gobbled down and licked their plans part of the one with mini pull-part bread.  Hunter said it could be considered breakfast because it was after midnight.  Our kids.  Thank goodness for our years in virtual school.


* Affiliate Links

** No Material Connection




The trip from hell

The kids and I went down with Geoff to Florida a couple of weeks ago for a last minute gig before we had moved into our house.  We were still in the cabin. I thought about letting him go alone, but then he wouldn’t know where he was going, couldn’t contact the lady who planned the event and I was going to drive so that he could sleep. When I woke up that morning, I knew something was going to happen. I could feel it. I didn’t want to go, but I knew we had to. We didn’t want to bother Me-Maw and Pa-Paw with the animals, so we took our corgi and the last remaining guinea pig with us in the van. (One passed away in August.)

Everything was fine. We made it south of Atlanta and all was good. We stopped at the bank, got gas and ate at Chick-Fil-A, which is tasty but nasty. We made it to Dothan and everything was still good.

River had to stop somewhere at 2:00 pm CDT to have a stimg_0526udent council meeting, where she was giving a speech to be elected. We stopped at the truck stop below I-10 in Cottondale about 1:40 pm. We were making decent travel time. I could get to Santa Rosa Beach, go to the UPS Store and get his medicine from the pharmacy before he had to be at the venue. I put gas in the van and Geoff was cleaning the windows. I went inside to get her settled with the Internet in McDonald’s.

Zoë comes in and tells me the van’s battery died. Luckily, we were at a truck stop and there are employees there that can help you. They brought their truck over and tried to jump off the van. Nothing. It wouldn’t hold a charge. The alternator was dying. One of the employees took the battery to the shop behind the store to charge for about 45 minutes so that we could get to Panama City Beach, which is about 45 minutes from where we needed to be. I didn’t have the event planner’s phone number so I couldn’t get in touch with her. I called our old mechanic in Santa Rosa Beach and talked to him, knowing that once we left the truck stop, we were on our own.

img_0533On a side note, I got to meet part of the “Vaxxed” team in the last place I would ever expect them to be.  It was really cool to talk to him.  I also suggested International Connections Academy to him as an alternative for school that would not require vaccinations in California.
So, we had a choice to make. We had about 85 miles to go. We could head straight south to Panama City Beach and then hit stoplights or take Hwy 20 over towards Freeport and get as far west as we could because there are only 3 stoplights. There’s no one out that way, but we didn’t have cell service even when our phones were on either way. We sped down Hwy 20.

Brake lights, blinkers, radio, A/C and much more run on battery power. We had to keep as much of those off as possible. I couldn’t come to a stop because I knew that the car would die on us, so it was a crazy, spastic drive.

We made it about 65-70 miles of that drive before the van died. It just slowly shut down. As we rolled past the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center, I pondered our next move to get Geoff there. IF someone was able to get us, we could still get him there on time.

The only call I could make was a 911 call. So I called as asked for a Walton County Sheriff’s Deputy to come help. While he was on his way, a few people stopped, so I tried their cell phones to call friends. None answered because they didn’t recognize the numbers. I didn’t leave messages. The Deputy arrived and he called a couple more numbers. One of our closest friends answered. She had a dog, her daughter and another teen in the car she’d have to drop off, but she’d be there. Let’s just say she’s always late.

By the time she got there, other people had checked on us, which was heartwarming. We prepared the car to shove everything we could into her much smaller car. When she got there, somehow we got everything into her hatchback, all kids, dog and guinea pig into the backseat and Geoff and I in the passenger side. We were off.I had her drop me and the girls off at the local grocery store that we always went to because everyone knows us there and it has WiFi. She took Geoff down to the event, where he was an hour late, but played and extra hour and a half, so everyone was happy.

I had her drop me and the girls off at the local grocery store that we always went to because everyone knows us there and it has WiFi. She took Geoff down to the event, where he was an hour late, but played and extra hour and a half, so everyone was happy.

I emailed and called (she had since called my Google Voice number) the event planner. We ran into people we knew from Alpharetta, GA that sang with Geoff. No one recognized me with my short, salt and pepper hair. The girls and I picked up some random stuff and then went outside to contact more people. A couple of friends offered for us to stay at their places, but one said, “I’m coming to get you.” She got there about the time our other friend got back to the grocery store with Hunter. We took all of our remaining stuff over to her 2 bedroom apartment and hung out until Geoff was done. We all lived in the same neighborhood for 4 years, so it was fun to hang out. And I am so appreciative of friends who were willing to let us stay if we needed to.

While telling stories of our adventures over the summer, they laughed and said we needed our own TV show. We just needed GoPro cameras attached to our heads. It was so good catching up with them!

The next morning, we rented a mid-size SUV with the help of both friends and we hit the road fimg_0548inally at about 1 pm, knowing that Geoff was going to be late to work. (Hint: If you have to go one way, don’t use Enterprise. Alamo is cheaper and we still used an Enterprise vehicle.) We had no snags at all. Atlanta traffic was still pure hell at 9:30 pm at night. Geez, I don’t miss that insanity. We got back to the cabin around 12:30 at night and Geoff headed to work.

I met him at work in the morning so we could return the SUV to the Asheville Airport and brought Zuri with me. We took the scenic route home on the Blueridge Parkway. I know that parts of it add time to your trip, but that added an hour and a half. It was gorgeous and we needed it, but the kids were freaking out when we got back to the cabin. Luckily, we brought gifts of apples and apple juice from the local apple farm along the way.  That made them a little happier, except for the fact that they wanted to go.

Glad that trip is over, but very happy that we have flexible kids who try to make the best of everything.

Update: This isn’t the last story about the van…

How we ended up living on the side of a mountain

My friend in North Carolina did not know we had even left Santa Rosa Beach and had sent me a text warning us to stay out of the water at the beach, which we haven’t gone in much since the 2010 oil spill anyway.  This was while we were in transit to the hotel to stay after we left my parents’ house.img_1287

She and her husband have been two people I have loved since the day I met them in 2008 at a kindergarten Thanksgiving class party. Their grandson was in Zoë’s class. I was already friends with one of their daughters. They had left Santa Rosa Beach in early 2011 for their homes in the mountains.

I text her back asking where in western NC they were and if they were near Murphy because that’s where my childhood friend’s in-laws were. She responded and said they were about an hour west of Asheville and about 70 miles from Murphy. She mentioned Franklin, Sylva, and Bryson City, but none of that meant a damn thing to me at that point. After a couple more texts back and forth, she offered their extra cabin so the kids and I could stay and figure it all out. So, on June 26th, we put everything we could in with the rest of our stuff in storage in Madison, GA and we took off for a cabin just south of Cherokee with our corgi and two guinea pigs in our Corolla.

The mountains that day were something that the kids had never experienced and it had been decades since I had been in Western NC. The only 2 times I remember it were going to Gatlinburg and going to Asheville when I was 13 or 14. River and Zoë had only been to Helen, GA when they were really tiny before we left Athens in 2004.

That day, the kids and I decided to look at the whole thing as an adventure and that we were gypsies. We arrived early to NC and walked around at a rest area below Franklin. They were ready for a mini vacation and happy.

We got to their cabins pretty earlier than we thought because it’s just a few hours from where we were in Georgia. Later, she told me we probably had post-traumatic stress disorder because we were all freaked out and jumpy. When we got out of the car, my dear surrogate parents hugged us and told the kids to call them Me-Maw and Pa-Paw. They have two little 600 sq. ft. cabins on the side of a ridge.

We only planned on staying for a few days while we found Geoff a job in Athens and a house. My plans didn’t matter. The Universe did not open doors for returning home to Athens, where River and Zoë were born. Plus, their daughters’ families were supposed to visit and plans fell through, so we were able to stay for an extended period of time.

img_0987Around the 4th of July, we were already falling in love. The kids hadn’t gotten used to the idea of calling them Me-Maw and Pa-Paw, but they would in the coming weeks.

We didn’t have residency anywhere and I did not know what to do about school for the kids.  They ended up enrolled in International Connections Academy, the sister school to the state-run Connections Academies. River skipped the 10th grade. And they were excited to find out that school didn’t start until after Labor Day.

Geoff came up the week before Hunter’s birthday, at the end of July. He had done a lot of work on our van and so it was in good condition to drive up here. We had already gotten used to the mountains, but he was freaked out by the twists and turns. A quick trip down to Cashiers really scared the hell out of him. He had to return to do some work but would be up permanently a few weeks later.

A day or two before he got up there, there was a terrible thunderstorm. We saw a bolt of lightning and heard a thundering crash at the same time. Poor Zoë ran out of the bathroom in the dark. Lightning had hit the well house 50ft above us and hit the roof. The worst damage in our cabin was yellow water for a few days, the oven died and my iPhone plug (which didn’t matter anyway). Luckily, none of our computers were plugged in. At the other cabin, their computer was fried and there were WiFi problems for both cabins for a few weeks. No oven meant no bread whatsoever. I learned to wing tortillas and making breadsticks out of a recipe for pizza dough on the stove.

img_0337After Geoff up here, I was complaining about having to dye my roots every 2 weeks. Seriously, I am only happy with my hair color for about 7 days and I start seeing roots. At 2 weeks, I cannot handle it, so I color my roots. On August 25th, I threatened to shave my head and he said he’d use his clippers… So he shaved my hair down to about a quarter inch.  Thank goodness it grows quickly!

We were planning on moving near Asheville, although the kids and I were falling in love with Sylva. Still, Geoff took a night job in East Asheville at the very end of August, because it was the first to come through. Harrah’s in Cherokee was taking too long. We should have held out for Harrah’s but we needed some income faster. We had him booked, thanks to friends, at the Cashiers Leaf Festival. Most venues and private events have been booked through October by the time Geoff got up here. Before that, I did not know when he would be here, so I did not book him. I should have.  Hindsight is always 20/20, isn’t it?

I got a job with Amazon, but without having Ethernet access and not just WiFi, I was not been able to start work. We looked at houses around Asheville, but outside of the actual city. Again, no doors opened up. Poor Geoff has been driving back and forth and working 50 hours a week right now. (I am standing in the window, waiting for him to get home while writing this morning.)

The neximg_0591t few weeks were ones where we were working to pull together bookings and find a house. We had finally decided on the Sylva area because it’s much less expensive and we like small towns. It is actually considered to be a mini-Asheville because it’s very hip and liberal, but not crowded. Some bookings came in, others didn’t. We had to be out of the cabin by Tuesday, the 4th of October because they were having their carpets cleaned and the cabins ready for one of their daughters (my friend) to come and visit this past weekend.
We found houses and found crap. One we loved the yard, but we could only rent it through May unless we bought it. It needed a lot of renovations. On Saturday, the first, I was looking through houses and decided to contact a few we had skipped. One property manager contacted me Sunday morning and told me to give her a call. I did and we planned on meeting Monday afternoon. Yes, we were cutting it close!

We loved the house. The photos did not do it justice at all. It was absolutely perfect, minus the yellow interior paint. Through a series of crazy juggling, we got into the house on the 5th. Geoff said he would paint the hoimg_0860use so we went with the property manager to pick out the colors. We put a taupe color in the main living area and a more minty, light green in the bedrooms. The carpet in the master had to be replaced and they scheduled that. Now, the juggling of getting furniture in the house. We left everything that we couldn’t get in the car or van in a storage unit in Georgia, three hours away. (We still haven’t figured that out yet because of Geoff’s schedule.)

Honestly, the last couple of months have caused us to let go of so much but we have been given even more than we ever expected and we are so grateful.

The Universe had other plans

I haven’t posted on my blog for a while. As I mentioned in one of my last posts, we were planning on leaving Florida to move to Georgia because we knew we couldn’t survive another year down there financially. We were already in a huge hole and the pressure was not letting up after the collapse of the record label. Geoff’s health was bad with bronchitis and his adrenals. Our health care plan was the best and his primary care doctor was not pushing to get him into specialists.  He waited for over 6 months to see a pulmonary specialist and an endocrinologist and never saw either one.

(Plus rent has gone up in that area so much that you cannot find a house under $2000.00 that’s remotely decent. Even 2 bedroom apartments are $1650 and then after a year lease, the rent goes to $2100.00. That’s not affordable for middle-class families, especially those who depend on tourism for their incomes.)

Let’s just say that the Universe had different plans for us. We left Florida on June 2nd and we spent a hellacious but quite the eye opening 24 days in Georgia. By the end of that time, we all experienced the undeniable fact that there will never be much relationship with my parents, if any. I have not existed to them for years and I accept my part in that, but I don’t see a reciprocal understanding that relationships are two-way streets. I have a post about the emotional aspects of being adopted that I have been working on and will post at a later date, if I am ever able to get the words out. My younger brother and his family… Let’s just say Karma takes care of it all.

Through a series of events, including that childhood friend seeing if we could stay at her husband’s family’s place in Murphy, NC and a random text from a dear woman about the bacteria levels in the Gulf, our lives changed path forever…


Being Adopted and Looking Back

NOTE: I started this draft over 2 months ago and I could never imagine where life would take me since writing this post. I am publishing this, but I will post on what has happened since.  Some of my statement on my next post will contradict my feelings here about my adopted family, but I do not want to change a thing.  I am setting the date back two months because I want to keep the flow of the time frame.

I watched a profound move last week on Amazon Prime.  It is called Adopted.  If you are adopted, have adopted or are thinking of adopting, please watch it.  It is profound, heartbreaking, yet hopeful.  In the mid -90’s, I got the book Being Adopted.  It was as profound as this movie was, but it did not give me another person’s words and emotions like the movie did. I have not read it since that time because it was too loaded with raw emotion for me.

Although, I did not deal with the cross-cultural issues that were discussed in the movie, I have deeply felt 95+% of what the adult adoptee went through for most of my life.  And I worry daily that my adoptive parents will pass away before anything can be healed and that they see and accept me fully for who I am and allow me to accept them for who they are.  Until Easter Sunday, I had held tightly (probably too tightly) onto the hope that one day, all could be healed.  After a very traumatizing conversation with my father, I realize that nothing has changed between us since I was a young person.  My wish for healing was crushed, but at the same time I feel released from a lot of guilt and stress about not measuring up to what he thinks I should be.

I know he loves me and I love him (and the same goes for my mother), but the trauma that is caused by the initial abandonment by a birth mother can never be swept under the rug.  Adopted kids carry that burden with them and they are expected to just be grateful for the fact that someone chose them to be their child.  What is unspoken is that for someone to choose them, someone first had to choose to give them up.  They are expected to fit in and no one mentions the void in their life from being abandoned.  Added to that is the difference of love between a biological child and an adopted child.  I have older and younger brothers, who are their biological children.  There is a difference in love.  It cannot be helped.

The easy answer for unwanted pregnancies has been adoption.  It makes everyone on the outside “feel better” about the situation.  “Well, So-and-So got pregnant, but she gave the baby up for adoption, so it all turned out well.”  No one looks at the trauma to the mother, the child and the adoptive families.  I have been front line in this argument a few times on social media because I don’t buy into the thought that unwanted pregnancies should just be dealt with by giving the baby up for adoption.  I was grateful that a woman dear to my heart echoed the same words from a different perspective.  She said that babies and people who have been given up (both orphans and those adopted) have a hole in their soul from the trauma of being unwanted as a baby.

Right after that (one of those Universe things), I friend sent me an article called The Primal Wound.”  It was the biggest eye-opener of all and completely put into words much of my experience as a child give up for adoption.  Please, please read that article.  There is also a book.  I have not read it yet, but I have ordered it and look forward to reading as soon as I have a moment.

In my very early 30’s, I got to meet my birth mother, her family and eventually my birth father’s family, including half brothers and a sister.  He had passed away in 1977, so I never met him.  My experience was pretty classic and similar to the author of “10 Things Adoptees Want You to Know” above.  She gave me up and never looked back until I showed up one day by phone calls.  I cannot say that it didn’t hurt when she wasn’t as excited to know about me as I was about her.  It did.  Finding your birth parents is Pandora’s Box because you really never know what you will be handed on the other side of that phone call, email or meeting.

Although I do not have a relationship with my birth mother, it has been healing overall because I see where I came from and why I am me.  Let’s just say genetics wins, hands down.  And I do have a good relationship with a number of aunts, uncles, cousins on my birth mother’s side, plus I have brothers and a sister on my birth father’s side and they are amazing.

There are a few articles on the profound connection between biological mother and child that I would love for you to check out if you are interested.

Scientists Discover Children’s Cells Living in Mothers’ Brains

The bond between mother and child

10 Things Adoptees Want You to Know

Adoption: Trauma that Last a Life Time

(For books linked in this article, please see this for an Amazon Affiliate disclaimer. For the articles listed, there are no affiliate relationships of any kind.)