We are all in this together......

Honestly, to start writing this blog today, I have many thoughts swirling through my mind and want to share it all... maybe taking time to sit down and write and collect what I've experienced will help me reflect back on the weekend of weekends.  So here goes:  ( WARNING:  this is a long post!)

My dear friend, Paula and I, headed up to Nashville early ( 7am) on Thursday morning.  With chicken biscuits and coffee to perk us up for our journey, the 3 hours of driving flew by and we were in Nashville before we knew it!!

We set up my art area and were ready to go!  And it's amazing how those 3 days actually seemed like one week because an art show like this one has a lot packed into two and half days.  Here's the schedule:

Thursday:Get up and go ( 7am.. Birmingham) .... 10:30 ( arrive in Nashville) set up booth.... rest an hour.. then go back to show and have the art night, sell art, come back to hotel.... sleep and then get up Friday morning for all day show plus evening party of art night too. After show, back to hotel, sleep, get up on Saturday morning and sell art until show ends in afternoon.  It's hard work... long days... but absolutely a wonderful time!  And what makes it wonderful? Meeting new friends... seeing old friends, selling art and eating the great food the Harding parents make!  But the highlight is definitely the people... and here are a few below!

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Here's a new friend we made!  Her name is Shea Mayfield... she has beautiful work and you can see it here. And she has a great story.  Love to find out the passion behind the art.  And she has much to share in her life!

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Then a dear friend who Mike and I have known for a long time, Mary Mellon.  Mary is one who always has a smile on her face and makes me laugh.  Her work is so peaceful and serene and beautiful too!

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Above is my red headed friend, Melanie Morris!  She also has amazingly beautiful art and we met a year ago in December and now I'm in her art Bible study, which is very refreshing and encouraging to be in!  You can find Melanie's work here.  Plus, her husband is a novelist and you can find his writing  here. Isn't it really special how they are a writer/ artist couple?  I love that!
Paula and I are going to have a book club and start reading Michael's books:)  Can't wait to actually read a book where we know the author!

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My Nashville friends came by.... and not just any friends, this family above is one of my favorite families in the world... the Hollis family!  Mommy Jill ( in middle) was a dear friend of mine from college and we've grown closer as each years passes. We used to write stories in college about how we would live next door to each other and ride our giraffe to each other's house.   She is one of those friends who makes you laugh and laugh until your side hurts.  She has that wit about her and perspective on life which is comical and fun, generous and loving all mixed together.... she has 4 amazing kiddies and a wonderful husband... will share more about them soon!  They added much sunshine to the last day we were in Nashville!!

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And then, onto my kindred spirit new friends!  This couple added so much sweetness to the art show.  I can't even begin to describe it! The lady above creates beautiful art. It's the kind one just wants to step into the painting and feel it's calm and beauty.  She was across from me at the art show and then to add more sparkly wonder, her daughter is an artist too and she was beside me at the show! Then, her other daughter is an artist too! You can go to this site, Stone House to see the mother and daughter's art.  It is all truly amazing!

And to add more wonder!!..the dad/ husband ( pic above) was the sweetest of sweets! He was telling me how he was a writer and he wrote for the Oxford paper.  Before I knew it, we realized that we had a connection.  His great grandparents settled and homesteaded 160 acres in Nebraska just like my great grandparents did!  And they all lived in dug out houses along the creek.  I felt this special bond with him and you could just see the sparkle in his eye.  Sometimes I wonder, was he an angel as well as his entire family?  Those type of families are ones that stand out and you can see their love and kindness on all their faces! It was a blessing to get to know them this weekend! Oh, one more thing... the mom and dad have a Christmas tree farm! So if you live in or around Oxford, MS... head to their farm to get a Christmas tree for Christmas! ( a few months away though!) They also have art shows at their farm.. how magical is that? Art and Christmas tree farm.... it all goes together and smiles together as well!

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Last but not least!.... my friend, Paula, was the GO TO GIRL the entire weekend. I couldnt' have done this show without her...... she worked so hard and met all the people with a big smile on her face... she LOVES people and sees the uniqueness and special qualities in each person she knows and meets! She kept saying how she wanted to hug the couple ( I talked about earlier) over and over again because they were so sweet! She has a big heart and is a great friend and is pure calm in the midst of a storm!  And so... let me share the last day of the show... now this is where the drama begins!

Last day of show... We woke up to rain.... rain rain rain... we had the show. It was slow... everyone in Nashille wears rain boots... Hunter rain boots! It's a thing! Just discovered that on the epic rainy SUNDAY.  Show was ending... it's around 2:45... tornado sirens start going off and security start coming around and telling us to immediately go to the basement.  As I'm walking with the other artists, Harding parents, art buyers, etc... I notice, everyone is on their cellphone. Then, I overhear..."My car is floating down the river"... in bits and pieces of conversation... I hear the word, "flood"...." Harding Rd is covered with water". I was confused and not sure what to think. Little by little, I realized there was a flash flood and we needed to leave asap!  So after tornado flew past... we loaded up our van in the rain, we drove out of the school ( one of the last artists to leave) and I looked over at the tennis court parking lot... completely covered with water.  Paula and I almost parked there in the morning... but then I remembered we could park closer if it was raining, so we parked on the hill.  Had we parked in the tennis area, my car would be floating like the rest of the cars in the lot.  The road looked like a lake and so we headed up the hill and had our mission, "Get onto interstate asap!".  We started driving and had no idea what we were about to see:

Houses were flooding, people just standing on higher ground and watching their house invaded by water. 

We saw torrents of water go under bridges and I wondered to myself, "ok... are we going to make it home?"  Paula at one point said, "If we need to, we'll jump out of the car and leave it immediately." I was in a daze as I drove... lots of traffic, lots of water.  We got to the interstate and then saw that the 1-65 North was flooded... a complete river was over it and then on our side south.... class 4 rapids were all around.... it was sweeping under the bridge we were going over. I was stressed......To put it mildly, I really dont' like rapids of any kind!  We saw local news trucks and camera crews and floating cars and lakes that were supposed to be parking lots and fields.  So we started talking to friends in Nashville, hearing more news that the interstate south we were on was closed and tornado warnings were not too far down the interstate. The sky looked ominous and I felt trapped inside a flood bubble cloud!

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With all the information,   Paula and I decided to head to my friend's house...not just any house, but THE happy Hollis family house! It took us a veryyy long time to get to their house, but once I parked in their driveway and walked out of the rain, I felt a weight lift.  I was exhausted and tired and wondering... "Will we ever get home??"  We walked into their house and their kids had a big banner that said, " WELCOME PAULA and TRICIA!" and  they were jumping around and so excited. The sweet daughters, Lilly Kate and Lauren showed us the whimsy cupcakes they made for us. I have never felt more loved and welcomed walking into a house! It was true hospitality!!! That good kind of hospitality that makes you relax and know that everything is going to be ok.

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Then, Jill announced, "There is pizza in the oven!" and she had this big case of strawberries and started slicing them for us!  Even in the midst of her 4 children, she gave us food, merriment, and made us feel like queens for the evening!  And her husband ( Vince Gill look alike) was the one who talked us through the entire drive on the interstate and kept us informed of what was going on around us.  He was like the "immediate weather service man", which was worth gold!

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During our pizza dinner, we had so much fun with the kids:)   And then after our good meal with the Hollis family, Paula and I realized we needed to figure out what to do next.  So we planned on heading to her friend's house to stay, but got onto the road and saw the parking lot interstate was now flowing nicely, so we decided to head home.  We left at 7:30pm and at 10:30 pm we were home in our driveways and never so happy to be back in Birmingham. 

With all that being said...I have been thinking about several things since this trip to Nashville.

First... The gift of friendship: it means so much, especially when you feel helpless and scared in the middle of a flood.  And your friends come through again and again.  Thank you dear Hollis family, Ronn, Jill, Lilly Kate, Lauren, Wilson and Georgia.  Your sweet friendship means the world. And I will always remember that night, the pizza, the sign, the cupcakes and most of all your kindness and generous hearts. Thank you! ( Plus, Lilly Kate and Lauren and Jilly Bean.. I can't wait for art camp!) 
And thank you Paula for being so calm and brave in the middle of that flood!  I cannot even imagine driving all by myself and doing the art show by myself.  You were a sunshine in every way! You smile even in the midst of chaos.... and Jesus continually shines through you!  I think this art show will be put down in the record books for most surreal show!

Second, the sweet spirit of the husband/wife couple ( The Arrechea's) at the art show.  When you see a couple who have lived many years and have known joy and sadness yet, they still see beauty and wonder in life....it's inspiring.  Their kindness and humility are worth way more than diamonds and gold and money and power. I want Mike and I to be like them when we are in our 70's and 80's.. who knows... maybe we'll even have a Christmas tree farm and maybe, just maybe, we'll be square dancing in our red barn!

Third, my heart goes out to all the people in Nashville who have lost their friends, homes, businesses in this flood.  It's one of those things that we can't explain and have no power to stop. But we can pray and we can give and we show kindness in the little things which add up in life to be a continual thread of  real love. 

Which brings me to my Fourth thought..., my heart is hurting fiercely over the oil spill.  It is threatening my magical beach area and entire panhandle. If you have never been to these beaches... I really think they are the prettiest in the United States....and I am realizing how deeply passionate about this entire situation.  Anger, sadness has run through my veins.  And I am praying hard.... praying for a miracle. Praying for the leak to stop and praying that our country ( me included) will start looking at some things ( oil) in a new way and see our country in a way that we will fiercely protect and stand up for. 

May we all say prayers for our Nashville friends and for the people on the Gulf Coast.  And what I am learning... and what I have learned more deeply from this weekend is that kindness and generosity and love go a long long way.

because, we are really...

all in this together.