Monday, August 31, 2009

A Little Quiet

Ever feel you need a little weekend after your weekend?
We had a wonderful time celebrating my in-laws' 50th wedding anniversary. (Hurray for Mary and Kerry, my favorite couple with rhyming names!)
But between the big party Saturday and Friday's book thing at the Upstate Women's Show (where I made two new author buddies--Hey John and Bobbie!) I'm wishing I was less I and more E. (Confused? See the previous post.)

I'm feeling a little zonked. Care to join me in watching the fishes?
Have a wonderful Monday, y'all!
Love, Becky

Friday, August 28, 2009

Am I Your Type?

Are you familiar with Myers Briggs?

Before I start preaching like a Myers Briggs missionary, I must get something off my chest.
Myers Briggs People out there, you need a new logo. That circle thing looks like an old fashioned pack of birth control pills.
Sorry, but it's the truth.

Now, on to the evangelism...

I'm in love with the Myers Briggs Personality Assessment because it helps my world make sense. It explains why my husband is ready to tango after eating dinner with a table full of strangers, while I require three hours of quiet time in a dark room.

Do you have kids? It can make your parenting be more effective.
Do you have difficult people in your life? It can help you not throttle them.
Are you a writer? It can add depth to your characters.
And it can even tell you which Harry Potter character you are!

According to the Myers Briggs Personality Assessment, there are 16 different personality types, and each type is comprised of 4 different characteristics: extroverted vs. introverted, sensing vs. intuitive, thinking vs feeling, and judging vs perceiving. So each personality type has a four letter code.

Let's use Homer Simpson as an example, shall we?
He's an ESFP, extroverted, sensing, feeling, perceiver
ESFP's are cooperative, here and now people persons that enjoy excitement and love new adventures. Because of their highly social nature, they are especially lively when they're at the center of attention and hate being alone... The Simpsons Myers Briggs Test

Lisa Simpson is an INFJ, my type, an introverted, intuitive, feeling, judger. (I always could relate to that girl!)
Here's what The Simpsons Myers Briggs Test says about her,
INFJ's are introspective, caring, sensitive, gentle and complex people that strive for peace and derive satisfaction from helping people. They are highly intuitive, empathetic, and dedicated listeners . These traits tend to act as a "tell me what's wrong" sign on their forehead, hence the name "Confidant" or "Counselor." They are intensely private and deeply dedicated to their beliefs.
I guess that explains the nightmares the months before my memoir hit the bookstores.

There are some great books on all this type talk. Here are two I recommend.

This one is very detailed. Great for writers trying to flesh out their characters or anyone trying to understand their mate/boss/self.

And here's a great one for parents.

There's a chapter on how to best parent each personality type, from babyhood to teen years.
So do you know which type you are? Want to share? Extrovert or introvert?

Have a great weekend, y'all.
Enjoy this trailer of Breakfast at Tiffany's, in which introvert Audrey Hepburn plays the role of quite the extrovert!
Love, Becky
PS. If you'd like a more in depth explanation of the Myers Briggs Personality Assessment, hop over here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Venturing into the Rat Race...First Jobs, Anyone?

Yes, I know that's not a rat. Hold tight, friend. I'm about to make sense.

I might be a former chemistry teacher, but I like to think that people aren't just composed of oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, and a few random minerals. No, they're also made of the stories they've lived. So I get all excited when my friends open their mouths and stories fall out. It helps me understand who they really are and why.

So I hate to be nosy, (actually I love it...hope you don't mind,) but I've got a question for you. Would you tell me, pretty please, about your first job? Not the professional kind. The kid kind. It'd be fun to know more about what makes you tick.

I'll go first.

My very first job was the summer after my 5th or 6th grade year, babysitting an only child. I don't remember much about it except that as the little girl's mama was driving me to my very first day on the job, I saw my friend Paige Perry up a tree in her yard, and I rolled down my window and yelled, "Paige! Guess what? I'm babysitting!"
Very professional.
Oh, and during my very first week, I accidentally killed her new gerbil. (He took a suicide run off a card table. I still feel bad about that.)

And then there's the job I had after my junior year in high school, working for the Soil Science department of NCSU. My job basically consisted of going to cornfields all over eastern NC to dig hundreds of 18 inch deep holes with a hand auger. It was the first time in my life I ever wore a hat packed with ice, the first time I discovered that corn leaves will give your eyelids paper cuts, and the first time I almost wrecked a state owned car. And it was also the first time anyone ever cussed at me for 15 whole minutes, after I tripped carrying 120 tins full of dirt, thereby forcing us to start all over again.
Good times.

So I'm not sure what that tells you about who I really am and why, (a gerbil killing, slightly clumsy, enthusiastic soul whose arms used to be in incredible shape) but there you go.
Now, what about you?

Love, Becky
PS. Be sure to take a listen to this fabulous song by one of my favorites, Dar Williams. It's quite a story in itself. The singing starts around the 30 sec mark.
Have a great Wednesday, y'all!

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Snapshot in Time

Happy Monday!
Have you been taking any photos lately?
A snapshot in time can be beautiful and full of meaning, or it can be weird and terribly unflattering. Like this one.

Wow. I must love you guys an awful lot to send this photo into the universe.
Let's further embarrass me by examining it, shall we?
A snapshot can tell quite a story, even several stories all at once.
See the look on Sarah's face?
What? It's too hard to see it? Here, let me make it bigger.

That's Story #1. That is the look of a 19 year old happy to be on her own again. One who's thrilled to have a teensy weensy dorm room all to herself. To share a bathroom with two girly neatniks instead of a pair of grubby brothers who leave the toilet seat up and their dirties on the floor.
Now, back to the photo.
What about Story #2?

That is the leaping form of a ten year old who just spent two hours restrained in a seatbelt, reading The Encyclopedia of Immaturity, his new favorite work of literature. The book has apparently called forth his inner ape, and he must move in leaps and bounces or he'll spontaneously burst into flames.
How about Story #3?

This is a frustrated mother, who would like to shout at the 17 year old camera boy, Would you stop taking dumb pictures and help us move her stuff before this drizzle turns to a downpour, but is afflicted with an attack of Inappropriate Laughter anytime that child makes faces at her.

That snapshot reminded me of another photo, a mental picture my dad shared with me a year ago as I prepared to move Sarah to college for her freshman year. I think it shows the power of story, and how a snapshot in time can reveal surprising things about people. Want to hear it?

Back in the days before my Granddaddy Skaggs mellowed into a teddy bear, he could be pretty intimidating. He was a big, barrel chested farmer who forced crops of tobacco out of the hollers of eastern Kentucky, and once offered my mom a quarter to quit dating his son. Though neither he nor my grandma had gone to college, (nobody had the money for that back then,) he was known for being a wise, intelligent man. My dad planned to leave Sandy Hook for the University of Kentucky, and the day finally came for Granddaddy to move him into his dorm. Daddy had been to UK plenty of times for 4H competitions and thought he knew his way around, but soon after they arrived, they got completely turned around. After a few minutes of wandering around campus, trying to get their bearings, Granddaddy looked at my dad and said, "Son, do you want to just go on back home? You don't need to do this."
This story stuns me. My big tough granddaddy was afraid for his little boy.

Do you carry around mental snapshots that won't let you go? I find these frozen moments of time to be powerful fuel for my writing, but I write memoir, so that's probably not a big surprise. How do you save these snapshots for posterity?
And how about you, artists and fiction writers out there? How often do you recycle these snapshots into your work? I heard a quote by a famous writer's ex wife (Pat Conroy's, maybe?) that he never wrote a word of fiction in his life. I find that fascinating!

Have a wonderful Monday, y'all!
And just so you know, all that stuff finally did make it into Sarah's room.

I'm not sure where she'll sleep, though.
Love, Becky

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Time for a Change

Today's Wonder of the World is...Change.

Happy First Day of School! At least at our house.
We've got new backpacks, packs of paper galore, and pencils and glue sticks coming out of our ears. It's a brand new year, and change is in the air.
For me too.

I've been thinking about making a few changes to this blog. After posting over 290 Wonders of the World, it thrills me that wonders keep presenting themselves (just like the Montana bunny rabbit) but I'm thinking it might be fun to change things up a bit. Maybe along with the wonders, we could discuss other topics of interest- writing and memoir, how you nurture the creative spark, that sort of stuff. Oh, and Krispy Kreme doughnuts, too, and anything else of likewise spiritual importance. What do you think? I ask because this involves you too. When I say we could discuss, I'm not using the royal We. I hope you'll stay with me and share your thoughts. I love you guys dearly and enjoy your comments so much.

So I'm taking a miniature blog break to think things over. Ben and Todd had their mancation, so it's time for a womancation of my own! I'm afraid they used up all the frequent flier miles so there's no Rome or Athens or Paris for me. No problem. I'll sit right here and mull things over at my desk with a nice cup of coffee. And maybe a Krispy Kreme.

Have a wonder-ful week, y'all! Before you leave, I'd love to hear your thoughts. What do you think?
Love, Becky
PS. Hope to see you back on Monday!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tanner the Slobber Dog Goes Out for Ice Cream

Tanner Fan, don't say I never did anything for you!

Tanner, enjoying the annual night before the first day of school trip to Dairy Queen.
(He likes vanilla soft serve in a cup, in case you're curious.)

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Montana Mancation

Today's Wonder of the World is...a Mancation on the Missouri River.

Don't you love this photo of my Ben's bony, size 14 feet? The pic was taken as my very own Lewis and Clark spent a week canoeing down the Missouri River, eating Beanie Weenies, and reliving the Corps of Discovery, as the famed explorers called their adventures.

And to think that it all started from a footnote in a book!
Back in 1997, Stephen Ambrose's book Undaunted Courage turned my mild mannered husband into a raging Lewis and Clark evangelist. "I must see this for myself," he said, and showed me Ambrose's footnote on page 228.

It is today as Lewis saw it. The White Cliffs can be seen only from small boat or canoe. Put in at Fort Benton and take out three or four days later at Judith Landing. Missouri River Outfitters at Fort Benton, Montana, rents canoes or provides a guided tour by pontoon boat. Of all the historic and /or scenic sights we have visited in the world, this is number one. We (his family) have made the trip ten times.

"That's nice, honey," I said. "Maybe you can use some of those frequent flier miles and make the trip one of these days."
Little did I know that he was a man obsessed.
A few months later, he packed up his tent and vanished into the wilderness with his crazy friend Butch. I was six months pregnant with Sam at the time, but I didn't worry too much. After all, he was with Butch, the original Marlboro Man. The man who flies a World War II biplane for fun, who's flown water bombers into forest fires, who worked for years spraying coca plants in South America while people were shooting at him. Butch is there, I'd repeat to myself. Everything will be fine.

But this time Butch and Todd were taking my middle baby Ben.

And then Butch canceled!
I worried just a little.
Okay, I worried a lot.
They were going to be out of cell phone coverage, just the two of them, in complete wilderness.
Well, almost. To their surprise, park rangers had installed port-a-potties at various spots along the river route since Todd's last trip. They wouldn't have to dig holes after all. Aw, too bad, guys.

They had a fabulous time together.
Ben learned how to canoe without turning the boat over.

And how to pull over and set up camp.

They did about twenty miles a day and spent the rest of the time eating, sleeping, reading, and enjoying whatever fun presented itself. One day an extroverted bunny rabbit presented itself, and Ben got in touch with his inner four year old, hopping after it, making it his friend. A few hours later after Ben and Todd had zipped themselves in the tent for the night, Ben heard the bunny rabbit being attacked and eaten by a wolverine. Perhaps extroversion is not a good quality in a bunny rabbit.
Ah, the wonders of nature.

No hasenpfeffer for them. But they did enjoy some blueberry cheesecake, a goodbye gift from Sam.

They also enjoyed breathtaking sunrises.

And lots and lots of cows.

And even a surprise rope swing, in the middle of nowhere!

Doesn't my man look happy?

Scruffy, but very happy.
Who wouldn't be happy in such a beautiful place?

Have a wonder-full Monday, y'all!
And tell me, does the wilderness call your name, or do you prefer the wilds of the Holiday Inn?
Love, Becky

Friday, August 14, 2009

Saving Home Sweet Tiny Home

Today's Wonder of the World is... Little Bitty Houses that I Find Doing Research and Want to Rescue and Live in Forever

Like this one. Except it doesn't look like it needs rescuing. Still, I would dust it and caress it and love it with all my heart.
Maybe I've got little houses on the brain because I'm trying to distract myself from the fact that we move my sweet Sarah back to college this afternoon and that girl has tricked me into getting used to having her around again. I'm going to seriously miss her, but let's not talk about that. No, let's swallow the lump in our throats and move right along...

I've spent several days this summer driving around the Upstate of South Carolina, lurking in textile mill villages of old, falling in love with the houses and doing research for a book I want to write one of these days. I know I've blogged about my obsession with mill villages before and probably sound like your Great Aunt Mabel droning on and on about how wonderful the party line on her rotary phone used to be, but I haven't shown you many pictures yet, so sit tight, bub.

First, a little background, if you please. If you've heard this before, feel free to talk amongst yourselves. It'll only take a sec.
From the late 1800's to the mid 1900's, my corner of South Carolina was known as the Textile Jewel of the South. Everywhere you found a textile mill, you'd also find the village the mill owners built for its workers.
Many of the mills look like this now.

Dilapidated shells of what used to be the center of daily life for hundreds of families.
But not all mills are broken down.
Some lucky ones look like this.

That's The Lofts at Mills Mill near downtown Greenville. Very fancy.
It's very trendy now to refurbish an old mill into condos. People love the high ceilings, exposed brick, and the chance to live in a place steeped in history. I wouldn't mind living there myself one day, though I must say that the villages attract me more.
Some villages are in considerable disrepair...

like these on my Meals on Wheels route,
or like this mill store half a mile from my house.

Others look pretty good for their age. I like the broken down ones best. Whenever I start telling Todd my dreams of rescuing a mill house and nursing it back to health, he furrows his brow and starts spouting off about muscadine grapes or how he needs to give our dog a haircut. Then he turns on the radio.
I can't explain it, but those old houses call to me.

Maybe they remind me of my Granny Farley's house, one of the places in my life where I've felt the most loved. By this pretty lady.

There she is on the patio, holding my college sophomore. How I miss her!
There aren't any mill villages in Sandy Hook, Kentucky, but her house was about the same size as one. Until my uncles added on a back room, it had only a small galley kitchen, one finished bathroom, two bedrooms, and a living room. I loved how close people always were to each other in that house. They had to be!

We're lucky to live where the cost of housing is relatively low, so our house is fairly roomy--not huge, but big enough for us. The neighborhood is safe for bike riding, and there's a neighborhood pool and yards big enough for kickball games. But once my kids are grown, I'd really like to adopt one of those mill houses and nurse it back to health. If I can find another husband, that is.
Just kidding, sweetheart!

I know it's entirely possible that once I move into my mini dream house, I might be overcome with claustrophobia and run screaming out, begging Todd to take me back to a house where I could turn around without bumping into something. (In which case I'd have to start wearing a blond wig and dressing like Marilyn Monroe just to keep him from unloading all the I told you so's he'd have saved up. But I doubt that would happen. At least I hope not.

Cute, huh? And no repair needed. Probably. Maybe.

So what do you think? Does a house rescue appeal to you? Or do you dream of spreading out in a mcmansion with a suite for just your shoes? No judgment here. Everyone has a right to their dreams!
Have a wonder-full weekend, y'all!
Love, Becky
PS. Look at this. I found a kindred soul!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hush, Sweet Puppy!

Today's Wonder of the World is...the Hushpuppy!

Just so we're clear, I'm talking about these morsels of heavenly deliciousness, not shoe leather!

Flickr photo by swhall72
Those seventies style dogs might make your feet happy, but some Carolina hushpuppies will curl your toes in ecstasy! I guarantee it!
I decided to blog on the wonder of the hushpuppy a couple of weeks ago when my friend Jen P saw hushpuppies on my barbecue blog, and the pour soul didn't know what they were! Then the Good Lord whispered in my ear, "The World Must Be Educated! So send I you!" (Plus my pal Gina suggested it in a blog comment, so it was unanimous. Kind of. Thanks Gina!)

So, class, let's begin our study. Hushpuppies are little bits of deep fried cornbread dough so tasty that you want to French kiss everyone at your table. Even if you're not French!
Here we have a typical plastic basket of hushpuppies in their native habitat.

Notice the paper underneath, for absorbing excessive greasiness. Notice the containers of whipped spread and honey butter added to the basket. Oh, how I wish I could show you a video of my niece Susanna eating hushpuppies. The girl is practically a professional at the art of butter smearing. Alas, you'll just have to imagine it.
Those particular hushpuppies are finger-like in shape, but they can also be spherical. Like Paula Deen's, here.

Good heavens. What is that dip in the middle? Who dips their hushpuppies, anyway? Paula, you know I love you, but I wonder if you might have gone all Hollywood on us and strayed from your roots somewhat. Still, the recipe is AMAZING. (I do add a tablespoon of sugar, though, to my batter. I like mine slightly sweet and figure that if you're going to fry them, you might as well add sugar too! Who cares about heart disease? Woo hoo! It's hushpuppies!) Hop over here for the recipe and make your family happy. Or just yourself! I won't tell anybody.

Know where the name comes from?
There are plenty of legends. I had always heard that during the Civil War, the Confederate soldiers would keep hidden from the Union soldiers by quieting their dogs with bits of fried cornbread-- hushpuppies. Others say that slaves gave the bread its name. They'd toss it to the dogs when bringing food in from the cookhouse, or feed it to the dogs tracking them during an escape attempt. Still more reasons to love the hushpuppy.
All I have to say is...those lucky dogs!

Flickr photo by mattlehrer
Have a wonder-full Wednesday, y'all!
Love, Becky

Monday, August 10, 2009

Can You Come Out to Play?

Today's Wonder of the World is...Making Time to Play!

Are you good about taking time for play? Take my word for it: these two silly boys (and their imaginary friend, I suppose) are excellent at it. See my coffee on the checkerboard? It's required if you want to keep up with those two!

During Cousin Luke's visit, we found a very cool new playground beside the Greenville Zoo, and I found myself wishing I could be a kid again, like Tom Hanks in Big.

I watched my nephew try to drink my soda ("Look Aunt Becky! I can suck it up without even touching my lips to the straw!")

and saw Sam moonwalk across a crowded bridge, and I wanted to try it too! Kids are so ready to go for it. I love that!

So I've made a resolution for the new school year: I'm going to make an effort to play more in my life.

If I need any teachers, I know just who to ask!
What about you? Are you good about taking time to play? What's fun for you?

Have a wonder-full Monday, y'all!
Love, Becky

Friday, August 7, 2009

Aren't You a Little Short for a Stormtrooper?

Today's Wonder of the World is...Embracing Your Inner Geek and Celebrating Star Wars!

As you can see, we've been letting our geekyness go wild for years.
So naturally when we brought Sam's cousin home from Kentucky for a week-long sleepover, we got out the popcorn and planned a Star Wars Marathon!
Perfect for these silly knuckleheads,

especially for cousin Luke. (His mother's name is Leah, after all!)
Everything was proceeding as I had foreseen. Until my VCR wouldn't work.
Boo hoo. My tech guy was off gallivanting in Montana, pretending to be Meriwether Lewis with his middle child Clark.
No problem! The cousins found this.

Have you seen it? I'm still speechless.
Then they moved on to this and this, and this, laughing themselves silly, until they got hungry and tried to trick me into giving them seconds on the chocolate pie.
Ha! Your Jedi mind tricks don't work on me, boys!

All this Star Wars talk reminded me of Star Wars, The Legacy Revealed, a documentary I saw a couple years ago on the History Channel which explored the history and mythology that inspired the movie. Have you seen it? Meriwether Lewis made me watch the beginning, and you know what happened when he left the room? I didn't even turn the channel to HGTV! Who could resist a nerdy documentary about a geeky movie? Especially one featuring interviews with folks from Stephen Colbert and Dan Rather to Newt Gingrich and Nancy Pelosi! Talk about a diverse crowd. Perhaps we need more Star Wars showings to bring this country together. What do you think? Shall we all link arms and try to become one with the Force?

Sorry. I'm getting a little carried away.
Thankfully, the boys did not. They stepped away from the computer and found some adventures of their own.

Have a wonder-full weekend, y'all, full of your own adventures!
Love, Becky
PS. But first watch this!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

All in the Family

Today's Wonder of the World is...Family Reunions!

You know how you can tell if you had a great family reunion? You weigh at least three pounds heavier and your face hurts from smiling.
Don't weigh me. Just take my word for it: We spent a glorious long weekend in Kentucky hugging, laughing, telling tall tales, and eating way too much home cooking at two (count them--two!) family reunions. Both the Skaggs family (my dad's side) and the Farley family (my mom's side) reunited this weekend. I think both celebrations were the best we ever had. Really, they were!
You know what that means?
Break out the elastic pants!

And while you're at it, find some dental floss for all that sweet corn!
Some sweetheart even made cornbread the way Granny used to make it.

And to wash it all down?
Ale 8! It's tradition on the Skaggs side.

But the best part food wise?

Dessert, of course, made by my dear aunties.

The food was incredible as always, but it wasn't the only thing that made both reunions amazing.
So what was it?
I thought about this all the way home, and I think I've figured out contributing factors to reunion greatness.
1. Both took place in meaningful places.

My daddy's reunion took place at his parents' farm. My cousin Adam lives at the old home place now, but just being there started the memories flowing.
Plus, there's the creek to play in!

My mother's reunion was at my Uncle Bill's house. There was plenty of room for all the kids to play and lots of space for picnic blankets...

And for bean bag toss.

I mean Corn Hole.
(Did you know it was called that? I didn't until I found it here.)

2. We played together. And not just with balls and bean bags.
Some of my cousins brought music with them.

This branch of my family tree is just dripping with musical talent. So why is my little twig all dried up? One of the mysteries of life, I guess.

3. My Aunt Patricia brought out my Granny's old photo albums. There were a bunch of them.

We spent at least an hour flipping through pages and laughing over big hair, big eyeglasses, and little short shorts.

4. Puppies!

There were plenty of dogs and several puppies at both reunions. Puppies make anyone happy.

5. Watermelon! With or without the salt.

It's a perfect reunion food, plus if things go south, you can always spit seeds at each other!

Before you scoot, tell me. Have you had a family reunion yet this summer? What's your favorite part? Any traditions to share? Food or play wise?
Have a wonder-full Wednesday, y'all!
Love, Becky