Unplug in Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains [PHOTOS]

Heather relaxes on a beautiful Ozark morning

The Ozark mountains are a restful destination where we love to reconnect with nature and good friends.
(Photo by Jathan Fink, Jadeworks Entertainment)

We love our friends in Texas, but sometimes the chaos of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex is enough to drive anyone batty. That’s when we know it is time to escape to the mountains. Read more of this post

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The Old Mill Is A Photographer’s Paradise [PHOTOS]

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When we travel, it is always fun to find an out-of-the-way place that is both picturesque and relaxing to visit. During our trip to North Little Rock this weekend for the Bon Jovi concert, we pulled up Trip Advisor on my cell phone to see if there was anything we should stop and see while we were in town. One of the off-the-beaten-path destinations it listed was the Old Mill at T.R. Pugh Memorial Park. So we decided to check it out, and boy were we glad we did!

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Every road leads back to you

Heather made a new little friend in Arkansas.

August 2011

Dear Friends,

I wrote an article a few years ago called “The Long Road Home” that chronicled my trip to meet family members in California who I had never met before. In that piece, I reflected on how amazing a blood connection can be and that despite time and distance, our connection was so deep and instantaneous it felt as though we had known one another all our lives.

Still, when asked about our “family,” our first thoughts are not usually about kin: the cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, siblings and others that are bound to us by blood. In fact, as we were just sharing with someone quite dear to us recently, for us our friends are the family we get to choose. This statement has never ringed more true than during the course of the past month.

Nelda Paschal

Nelda Sue Paschal died Friday, July 15, 2011 in Texarkana, Ark.

As many of you know, in July we had some vacation time and we were supposed to simply enjoy some time off around home, checking out venues and attractions that we had never visited before. We did get to do some of that, including our visit to Big Bone Lick State Park in Union, Kentucky and our trip to the Smithsonian-affiliated National Underground Railroad Freedom Center here in Cincinnati, which we’ll write more in depth about later.

The bulk of our vacation time, however, was spent back to Arkansas, where I grew up. My mom called to tell us that two of my best childhood friends had just lost their mother, Nelda Paschal. She was so beloved that the building that held her memorial service nearly burst at the seams trying to contain all her friends and relatives. There wasn’t even a question if we would go or not, we knew we had to be there to support our friends during this difficult time, so we packed up our things and made the 13-hour trek to Arkansas.

As we drove, “Every Road Leads Back to You” played on the radio, a song recorded years ago by Bette Midler as part of the For the Boys soundtrack. Since then, the lyrics to that tune have been haunting me, particularly this verse:

Old friend, here we are
After all the years and tears
And all that we’ve been through.
It feels so good to see you.

Lookin’ back in time,
There’ve been other friends and other lovers,
But no other one like you.
All my life, no one has known me better….

From the moment we arrived in Texarkana, we were warmly greeted by both friends and family, people who have known me my entire life and have known Heather for over a decade. Many of these friends no longer live in town, but have moved away to other places, bigger cities and busier lives, yet they too knew the importance of returning home to celebrate the life of this wonderful woman who died too soon.

Still, it was so good to catch up with each and every one of them, whether we were offering condolences or laughing about old times. As one of my dearest friends, Sheila, said, “This is one place we can come back to that never seems to change. We can pick up right where we left off.” Moments like these, filled with love, warmth, big hugs and good food are precious reminders of who we are, the people who helped shape us and make us into the individuals we are now. For Bette sang it best when she said, “It feels so good to see you…No one has known me better.”

So in memory of dear friends and in tribute to true Southern hospitality and home cooking, this month we’re going to share some of our stories from our own journeys. Along the way, we’ll also introduce you to some of the tasty recipes that we helped cook up with friends during our trip. Stay tuned for favorites like Pork Chop Casserole, Braised Greens with Peppers and Onions, and Wanda’s Chocolate-Strawberry Torte.

In the meantime, enjoy the remaining weeks of summer and try to beat the heat with a good book, a tall glass of your favorite iced beverage, and some silky smooth music to ease your end-of-summer blues.

With love,
Jathan & Heather

p.s. Here’s a video of Bette Midler performing “Every Road Leads Back to You.”

© 2011 Jadeworks Entertainment.