When it comes to me being a real person (which I am, by the way,) there are several different kinds of blog readers.
1. The Voyeuristic – This blog reader sees me out, watches me while I eat an entire meal, studies my interactions with my family, and then happens to mention two weeks later that they were sitting right next to me at dinner that one night.
This person scares the crackers out of me. Because then I have to frantically try to remember back a fortnight and analyze what kind of mood I was in, did my children have boogers smeared across their faces, and was I wearing leggings as pants (after a run of course), and did it fall into that half-week where I had a zit so big that I looked like Cyclops’ favorite girlfriend?
But then again I can’t be too indignant because I’ve totally done the same thing.
2. The Opportunistic – When this blog reader sees me out, they come over, say hello, and introduce themselves.
I seriously love it when this happens, because I get to meet someone new, and oftentimes put a face to a collection of comments that I have tucked away in a box in my mind. I remember most fondly the blog readers I’ve met like this.
3. The Aggressive – This blog reader contacts me and asks if we can meet up. At the park, at lunch, or to photograph sunsets. Or even out of state – I’ve met blog friends in Atlanta, Mississippi, and in various cities that I’ve travelled through.
I also adore this blog reader, as I so enjoy the relational side of blogging, but don’t always have the time or mental capability to reciprocate by asking them on a second date, so then I feel horrifically guilty and torture myself for being a terrible friend.
4. Heather Neufeld.
Heather earned a category all to herself because she asked if she could come stay in my house.
For five days.
Although we have never had a single phone call (this relationship is so twenty-teens), Heather and I have been chatting for a few years now, she’s shared stunning stories of her and her husband’s missions work in Mozambique (she’s actually Canadian and is home on furlough so technically she only flew from Canada to see me…but it was in the works before that), and I’ve gotten to see all of her amazing pictures and read more stories on her blog.
Without meaning to, she’s challenged me in much-needed and impactful ways – there have been a few nights when I’ve been fed up with all the things that went “wrong” in my day, and we’ve started chatting on Facebook, where she offhandedly mentions what happened in her world that day – mothers whose babies died in childbirth because the hospital staff was on strike and refused to perform an emergency c-section, school children getting eaten by crocodiles, fires threatening to overtake their missions compound….ours is a vital perspective-righting relationship for me.
I’ve been able to send her clothes for her kids, especially after they adopted Ryan, their second, and he came to them with no clothes, in a country where there’s not exactly a way to buy decent children’s clothing (I consider using my bombtastic shopping skills at my local outlet mall as a ministry – if I can send $600 worth of clothes for less than $100, I figure it’s better than sending that same missionary $100, plus I got the gift of going shopping.)
They have no electricity. (They have a generator.)
Or any sort of postal service. (She drives two full days to another country to get her mail.)
But they do have dang good internet service and even 3G in the middle of the river where her husband hunts those crocodiles to keep them from eating the locals, so internet relationships are kinda perfect.
When Heather asked if she and her oldest child, Tendai, could come visit us, I went to Chris and said, “Hey…uhhhhmm….I have a blog reader that wants to come stay with us. For….five days. How do you feel about that?”
Since he’s been around the internet block a few times with me, and he’d heard many of Heather’s stories through me, and his gift is hospitality (mine is not, which I was sure to tell Heather multiple times as a disclaimer and warning), he readily agreed, and helped me plan their visit and changed the sheets and other stuff that I would never think about.
Because my gift is not hospitality.
I picked Heather and Tendai up from the airport on Thursday afternoon, we immediately went to eat at Nabeel’s, because we take all people there first to fully experience the wonder that is Birmingham Greek Culture, and within minutes of arriving back at home, our kids were bonding like kids do these days – glowing faces.
We took them to our small group that night, where Heather shared all of her best missionary stories, and then we left the next morning for a road trip.
Because Heather had a list of things I’d blogged about that she wanted to experience. Specifically: Unclaimed Baggage. In fact, I’m nearly positive that she actually came to Alabama for Unclaimed Baggage and I was just a good excuse to make that happen.
It did not disappoint. I swear the iPad prices get lower every day…
The kids were fans, too, finding the most interesting items, and not getting any dread diseases, since Unclaimed Baggage dry cleans everything.
The climbing apparatuses were also a hit.
(This behavior is not recommended by nor endorsed by Unclaimed Baggage.)
But whatever it takes to keep happy kids throughout a shopping experience is what I recommend and endorse.
…Including blowing kisses back and forth from this precarious situation.
For the overnight portion of our road trip, we stayed at my favorite, The General Woods Inn. There is something magically calming about their porch – I am re-amazed by it on every visit.
Tendai got her exercise,
Noah showed his disdain for Orange Juice,
And all three kids got to experience the grace of being Southern Royalty.
We then drove 30 minutes north to Chattanooga to visit the Tennessee Aquarium.
Tendai and Heather enjoyed the touch tanks, although my kids preferred keeping the relationship between themselves and sharks as observational only.
The penguins were my favorite, and I think they were Noah’s, too.
(And yes, I did buy the girls matching Tea Collection dresses. We were, after all, going for “All of Rachel’s Favorite Things” trip. And the matching was beyond adorable.)
We arrived just in time for the Scuba show, and the presenter blew kisses in response to Tendai’s affection toward him.
They saw butterflies,
And got to actually enter into the Spider Crab exhibit.
The aquarium was definitely a happy place for all three kids, and delightfully uncrowded.
After eating lunch and checking out some local graffiti,
(Where we were all disappointed at not finding a single Moist,)
We rode the Incline Railway – because you can’t go to Chattanooga without going on the world’s steepest railroad.
I didn’t have a good enough seat to get a decent picture this trip, but here’s one from my last ride up in 2009:
After having to duct tape my car back together, because that’s what you do in Alabama when a piece decides to fly away on the interstate,
Photo by Heather
We headed back to Birmingham, where we did a whirlwind tour of all of my favorite things: city overlooks, Silvertron, went to my church, ate Jim N Nicks BBQ, went to the Outlet Mall, ate twice at Chick-fil-a (GUYS – Heather didn’t even know how to pronounce Chick-fil-a. It came out something like “chick-PHIL-uh”….needless to say, her life is changed), watched her first Super Bowl while eating Conecuh Sausage (okay the Super Bowl is not on my favorites list), had family lunch where we ate my Mom’s Chicken Pot Pie and chocolate cake, had a successful spotting of several Moist tags, and took the kids to McWane Science Center.
Photo by Heather
Although a bed of nails is always fun,
The bubble room ended up being their favorite, where we got some really fun pictures,
and slo-mo video.
And of course, we forced her to take proper Bama gear back for the entire family,
And we went blue jean shopping – because, after all, she’d originally found my blog via my butt – like everyone else.
Which, may I say, was shockingly the thing she was most surprised about.
“I can’t believe you’d take me blue jean shopping!”, says Heather.
“I let you fly all the way around the world and stay at my house for nearly a week and the BLUE JEAN SHOPPING is what surprised you?!”, said I.
Although I immensely enjoyed my time with Heather and am always challenged and motivated by her perspective of the world from living in a third world country, the kids were the most precious part of the trip. They bonded so tightly that they will all be talking about each other daily for years.
Ali’s already written Tendai a pen pal letter,
And Noah ended each night of the stay with a giant hug.
One night, they were yelling back and forth between their rooms after being put to bed.
“GOOD NIGHT, TENDAI!!!”
“I LOVE YOU, NOAH!!!”
“I KNOW YOU SO MUCH, TENDAI!!!”
I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I kinda loved it.
And this is why I blog. Because what other medium can create such fantastic friendships – for me and my kids – from literally the other side of the earth?
But don’t all book your trips at once. It’s time that I go back to being an introvert – at least for a little while.