These are the flowers from a dogwood tree.
The dogwood is the state flower of North Carolina.
A 'Tar Heel' is someone from North Carolina, or someone who cheers for any University of North Carolina sports team.
Or me, yesterday, when I wore a pair of my hot tamale pumps on the newly poured blacktop just outside our neighborhood.
It should be noted, I was not cheering at that time.
Oh. Oh. Oh.
I had the most wonderful weekend. In the most spectacular place. With the most awesome people. And the most cutest husband.
Mine. I mean my husband.
If yours was missing last weekend, I have an alibi, complete with photographic documentation.
I was invited to speak at a Women's Conference in Asheville, North Carolina, by my lovely friends Jenny and Emily and their delightful mother, Lindsay. And let me just say, the least awesome thing that happened was my speaking. Which isn't to say that it wasn't, you know, awesome. It's just that it's not my place to actually say so. I hope it was. Otherwise, those dedicated women came a long way just to listen to me be boring.
But before I describe my weekend, I have to tell you about this WEIRD coincidence, one that assured me that my evil, conniving karma was functioning on all cylinders. 100% true story follows.
You may or may not know that my husband pre-boards airplanes. And he meets the flight crew, and then sits in an aisle seat toward the front, where he can trip potential terrorists heading to the potty to ignite their sneakers.
So, when we fly Southwest, he gets on the plane first, and I nearly always end up with a boarding pass that puts me in Cattle Car D-97 or something like that.
Which means that by the time I get on the plane, he has saved me a seat next to him, but the window seat is usually filled.
As it was when we left Salt Lake.
And it was filled by this GUY who seemed to think he just OWNED the armrest. Like, it had his name on it or something.
So all the way to Chicago, HE had his arm on the WHOLE armrest, while I stored MY arm in an overhead compartment. This made it very difficult to turn pages on my Kindle, or try to steer the airplane with my iPhone.
THEN, as if that weren't diabolical enough, when it was time to return to Utah three days later, I boarded the plane, found my husband, and discovered that the EXACT SAME GUY was sitting in the window seat!! With his giant arm just SPLAYED all over the armrest!!
So, this time, I stuffed MY arm under the seat in front of me, so I could take it out later and beat him senseless with it after he finished his second plastic cup of wine and fell asleep.
Have I mentioned that I hate my karma?
Anyway, the coincidence from hell notwithstanding, here's how the rest of my awesome weekend went:
First, we stayed at this beautiful Bed and Breakfast, shown below:
The Bent Creek Lodge
Exceptionally yummy on every level.
On Friday, we went to this place called the Biltmore House, which I'm pretty sure was named 'Biltmore' because once George Vanderbilt got started with the construction, he just kept going and going. It's the largest private residence in America, and by "private" they mean "anyone can come in any time they feel like it provided they buy a ticket and don't try to slip past any of the velvet ropes to see if there are secret passages leading from the Conservatory to the Kitchen or ask the 739 rope-guarders if they ever found Professor Plum bonked on the bean with the candlestick."
This also explains why I'm not allowed back. Sheesh.
Here's a picture. Of the house. Not Professor Plum. THAT was just too gruesome.
Then, we got to meet the wonderful youth of the Asheville, NC stake. My husband told them kidnapper stories, and I told them Peru stories. But I forgot the one about the sheep. I know! What was I thinking?? I'll tell you what I was thinking: I was thinking, "Holy frijoles, Nacho. Some of these kids drove two hours to listen to you talk about feet."
Well, all I can say is, "feet" were relevant to the other Peru stories I told them. And I brought my "Best Peasant" award from when I went to 'Spamalot' (not an endorsement of extremely funny off-Broadway musicals based on extremely funny movies that we never watch because that's just not what we're about) and it turned out I was sitting on the Holy Grail and didn't even know it (not a commentary on the amount of padding carried around on my personal bottom) and I was spirited onto the stage where King Arthur (played by John O' Hurley) and the other Knights sang me this really loud song and took my picture and -- wait for it -- gave me this FOOT statue that declared me the Best Peasant of All Time Forever and Ever Amen and Amen.
I really couldn't tell you what the 'foot' thing was all about. It's not like I have Monty Python and the Holy Grail totally memorized and say things like, "Let's not go to [the library, church, the gynecologist]; it's a silly place." Nor do I own the complete CD set of Monty Python's Flying Circus, whose opening credits always end with this giant FOOT squashing all the other pictures on the screen.
So don't go thinking that I do.
But it was nice of them to give me the little statue anyway.
This is the picture John O' Hurley handed me as I was leaving the theater.
The inscription on the back said, "Dear DeNae, I am a better man and even better fictional British monarch for having shared a stage with you for those few, brief, life altering moments. I...I...I love you.
P.S. If you ever speak to a group of teenagers in North Carolina, please remember to take your foot."
THEN, on Saturday, it was the women's conference. And I spoke in the morning about how reading Isaiah every day can be the most fun you've ever, ever had, thereby establishing my credibility as a certifiable kook who trucks foot statues clear across the country to use as visual aids.
And I took some of the classes, two of which were taught by the aforementioned wonderful sisters. And I ate cupcakes for lunch, because if I had eaten lunch for lunch there wouldn't have been room for cupcakes.
And then I spoke in the afternoon on ... I really don't remember. I had a cupcake buzz going at the time. But I'm sure it was very inspiring, even though I'm almost positive at one point I bore my testimony of Facebook.
And on Sunday, before heading to the airport, we drove along a portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is just stuffed full of nature and vistas and things of that ilk. It was so gorgeous, and we took all these wonderful pictures on my phone, which I sensibly e-mailed to myself.
And I would post them, except I keep getting a message from Hotmail that says, "Your karma is functioning properly. Ergo, you may not access your account. We would apologize for the inconvenience, but really, you had to know this would happen."
So here are some pictures that are exactly like the phone ones, only in the phone ones there's this cute guy who looks like someone I married once.
Then we took approximately six years to fly home -- do NOT even get me started on crackpots who decide that September 11 is a good day to cause a security breach in Kansas City, forcing TSA officials to blow up said crackpot's luggage and creating delays for the poor shmoes in Chicago waiting for their airplane to arrive to take them home to Utah.
I mean it. It will just set. me. off.
Anyway, it was a wonderful weekend, and when Lindsay said in her closing remarks that "God is a Tar Heel," I totally teared up even though I didn't have the faintest clue as to what she was talking about.
So, a big "Thanks, y'all" to the sweet, delightful women and kids in North Carolina. Our time together was such a joy for me.
I'll be back. I have no choice.
There's a new, permanent dark patch on one end of my Monty Python foot.
If I didn't know better, I'd swear it was tar.