Spring at Gibbs Gardens

I lived in Ball Ground, Georgia, for eight years and my parents lived there for eighteen, but during that time, we had no idea that Gibbs Gardens was being planned and planted just a few miles farther out in the country. Right down the road from Stancil’s Store, as a matter of fact. We used to visit that old general store at the corner of Conns Creek Road and Yellow Creek Road on the occasional Saturday morning. We’d walk through the stacks of Liberty overalls and always take home a freshly cut slab of hoop cheese. Mmmmm…

Stancil’s Store is now closed up tight, but we pass the old building on our way to see Jim Gibbs’ labor of love, more than thirty years in the making. It’s the largest daffodil garden outside of Holland and the largest Japanese garden in America. And it has officially put Ball Ground on the map…hardly anyone has ever heard of it before now.

We marvel at the myriad of languages we hear around us. It’s unbelievable that the world now comes to Ball Ground. When I lived here, the post office was my window to the world. I had penpals all over the globe, and the 2-block walk to the post office was the highlight of every day. But now I hear languages I don’t even recognize…here in Ball Ground, of all places.

Gibbs Gardens is about an hour north of Atlanta. If you have a chance to visit, it’s definitely worth the trip. Regardless of the season, there’s plenty of beauty to behold. Get more information and find out what’s blooming here. The scenes of heaven in the movie Miracles from Heaven were filmed here…it’s not hard to see why.

You’ll work up an appetite exploring the gardens, so be sure to stop for lunch or supper at a true Ball Ground landmark, Two Brothers Barbecue. There are lots of food options in town now, but Two Brothers used to be just about the only choice. Dusty antiques still line the walls, although there’s no longer sawdust covering the floors. (Perhaps the health department put a stop to that?) It’s local flavor at its best–just be prepared to eat your barbecue sandwich with a fork. Enjoy!

The T-Square and the Pencil

drafting supplies

My oldest started eighth grade last month. (My youngest started K-3, but that’s a different story…) These middle-school years are so full of change (and drama). But it’s exciting to witness this transition from childhood to young adulthood, like watching a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis. As she begins to spread her wings, I’m wondering which direction she’ll take.

My middle school took seriously its responsibility to help shape our young minds and make us start thinking about the future. Seventh grade girls and boys alike were required to take home ec (unless you were in band or chorus). We made a stuffed rabbit (out of a sock) and an apron. Hand-sewing was fine, but the sewing machine and I weren’t on very friendly terms. Then we put the apron to use in the kitchen, but I didn’t fare too well there either. I only mastered one recipe — French Breakfast Puffs. (It sounds fancy…but the primary ingredient is Bisquick.)

Our big project in home ec was the Egg Baby. Despite its little basket full of fluffy bedding, I broke it the first day I brought it home from school! (Which left me convinced I’d be a terrible mother.) Needless to say, I was so glad when that class came to an end!

Eighth grade brought a new challenge — industrial arts — once again, for boys and girls alike. My parents weren’t too thrilled about the prospect of me using power tools at school, and I was a bit unnerved as well, given that I wasn’t even comfortable using a sewing machine. Thankfully, the class began with an introduction to drafting before we were turned loose in the wood-working shop. I still felt slightly intimidated, perched on a stool at one of the big, slanted drafting tables. But as soon as I taped down a sheet of blank paper and began to draw, I felt like a new world was opening up before me.

And it was.

Drafting was like a harmonious blend of math and art, and I was fascinated. Here was something that sparked my imagination, and the possibilities seemed endless and exciting.

My daddy, who had worked in construction for many years, noticed my interest. He surprised me one day with a T-square and a mechanical pencil, all the more special because he had been out of work for a while, and I knew money was tight. He also gave me his old drafting supplies — triangles, French curves, an architectural scale, and a compass set. I was thrilled!

My teacher was like no teacher I’d ever had before, but he certainly looked the part of an industrial arts instructor — he always wore jeans and had bushy eyebrows, a scruffy mustache, and a gruff voice. I’ll never forget what he said when he called me to his desk one day. He told me in no uncertain terms that I should pursue a career in drafting or engineering.

I wasn’t exactly sure what engineering was or if it was something a girl could do, but I wanted to find out. Without my daddy’s support and my teacher’s encouragement, I probably wouldn’t have had the confidence to explore that option. And the course of my life would have been completely different.

Nine years later, I graduated from Auburn with a degree in civil engineering. And I still use my daddy’s gift –the mechanical pencil — almost every day.

I finally learned to cook, too…while working at Auburn in the asphalt lab — of all places! — measuring precise amounts of hot liquid asphalt and different sizes of rocks and mixing them in the industrial equivalent of a KitchenAid mixer. And despite the Egg Baby experience — or maybe because of it — I’m actually not a terrible mother after all.

I’m so thankful that God clearly showed me which direction to take and so grateful for all the help I received from my parents and my teachers. I’m praying that my oldest will also find that special spark of interest to help illuminate her path. And I’m always looking for opportunities to encourage others along the way.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)