Monday, March 29, 2010

College Road Tripping

Do you remember your first visit to a college campus? Not for a basketball game or a concert, but as a prospective student? When it finally hit you that it was actually about to happen? In a little more than a year, you'd be on your own! Mom and Dad wouldn't be there to boss you around, to do annoying things like cook your meals and do your laundry.
I remember being excited, but also glad that I had one more year left.

It seems like yesterday that I was taking Sarah on her college visits. Two steps into our first tour I fell into total freak out mode. Was I really old enough to have a college daughter? How was I going to live without her? And didn't I just finish being a student? I didn't look as old as the other parents, did I?

Then I looked at my beautiful daughter, so grown up, yet still my baby. She was biting her lip like she does whenever she's a little nervous. A tad overwhelmed.
THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU, I said to myself. Then I put on my big girl panties and got over it. Our visit went fine.
In fact, we had a great week touring around lovely campuses, soaking up information about student/teacher ratios and meal plans. Plus we got to observe human behavior.
A few weird memories? I'm glad you asked!

1. The campus guide who took us to the beverage center in the dining hall, waved his hand over the milk station like Vanna White, and said, "Here at Blablabla College, you have the option of whole milk, chocolate milk, and skim milk. Or you can even go nonfat." (Woo hoo! That decides it! This is the school of my dreams!) I guess milk is really important to some people.

2. One daddy who wanted to know who would notify him if his son decided to experiment with alcohol or drugs. (At which point the son's head disappeared turtle fashion into the neck of his jacket.)

3. Another daddy who asked if there were panic buttons connecting each dorm room with campus security. (At which the daughter rolled her eyes and shook her head in humiliation.) I made notes for Todd. Favorite topic of fathers? Campus security! Personally, I thought the panic button was a good idea.

4. A mom raising her hand and asking, "Where do you recommend going if you want to party and don't want to be carded?"
Very weird of you to ask, Cool Mom.

I can't believe it, but it's time for college visits again.

It's the cowboy's turn, and we start today.
We'll be going strong all week, so I'm not sure how much blogging I'll be able to do in the next few days. But if I find any panic buttons, you'll be the first to know!

Have a great Monday, y'all!
Love, Becky

Friday, March 26, 2010

Gesundheit! It Must Be Spring!

Even with sneezing, we're celebrating spring!
How about you?
What are your favorite signs of new life?
The blooming trees make me crazy happy, and I love the periwinkle too.

Baseball season is a sure sign of spring...

As are the tulip trees.

I guess they fit into the blooming trees category, but I have to make special mention of them. I mean, who would ever thought up a tree that blooms in tulips, offering them up to the sky?

Forsythia is another favorite of mine.

It looks like Tanner likes it too.

So tell me, what are your favorite signs of spring?
Have a beautiful weekend, y'all!
Love, Becky

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Holy Listening / CC BY-NC 2.0
This past weekend I experienced a beautiful gift. Over 60 women of my church traveled to Lake Junaluska, NC, for a conference on Holy Listening. It was a peaceful time with beautiful women of all generations, and I'm still replaying the wisdom and laughter in my mind.
Don't you think listening is so important? Listening to others, to your own mind and spirit, and to God?
Dr. Karen Luke Johnson facilitated the retreat, and shared some incredible quotes on listening. Here are a few of my favorites:

"When you listen generously to people they can hear the truth in themselves, often for the first time. Our listening creates a sanctuary for the homeless parts within another person." Rachel Naomi Remen

"Listen is such a little, ordinary word that is easily passed over. Yet we all know the pain of not being listened to, or not being heard. ...In a way, not to be heard is not to exist." Margaret Guenther

"We all suffer, at times, from the effort to study something instead of living it. Or from the effort to fix or advise rather than to listen and hold. But as the theologian Paul Tillich puts it, 'The first duty of love is to listen.'" Mark Nepo / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
If you go to a conference on listening, you can be sure it won't be all talk. We spent a lot of time in prayer, some silent, some spoken. I wanted to share two of my favorite written prayers/poems with you. I hope you enjoy them!

Be silent.
Be still.
Wait before your God.
Say nothing.
Ask nothing.
Be still.
Let your God look upon you.
That is all. God knows.
God understands.
God loves you with an enormous love.
God only wants to look upon you with love.
Let your God love you.
(Edwina Gately, Psalms of a Lay Woman)

In the busyness of this day
grant me a stillness of seeing, O God.
In the conflicting voices of my heart
grant me a calmness of hearing.
Let my seeing and hearing,
my words and my actions
be rooted in a silent certainty of your presence.
Let my passions for life
and the longings for justice that stir within me
be grounded in the experience of your stillness.
Let my life be rooted in the ground of your peace, O God;
let me be rooted in the depths of your peace.
Celtic Benediction: Morning and Night Prayer, J. Philip Newell, 2000

So what are your thoughts on listening? Listening without the need to fix is sometimes hard for me, especially with my kids. Do you have good listeners in your life? Are you one of them?

Have a peaceful, lovely day, y'all!
Love, Becky

Monday, March 22, 2010

Strong, Beautiful Women and the Art of Jamie Caplinger

Riveting, by Jamie Peterson Caplinger
I have a new artist friend to add to my list of Creative People Who Inspire Me! Allow me to introduce you to Jamie Peterson Caplinger.

Lucky girl! She's incredibly talented, and gorgeous as well!

I first learned about Jamie when this lovely painting suddenly appeared as my sister- in- law's profile pic on facebook.

A Bath Full of Talent
Isn't it amazing? From the moment I saw it, I loved everything about it. Not only does it show off how beautiful Swanee is, but it also captures Swanee's love for her own art. For years my sister in law has wrapped her family in the most artful quilts of her own creation. Designing and creating them is a big part of the way Swanee shares herself with others, and the painting shows that. And the colors! I just want to bathe in those colors.

When I asked Swanee about the painting, she told me all about Jamie and her upcoming show, Facets, an exhibition of works depicting the strengths and struggles of military wives. It's an incredible collection.

This one stuns me.


And I really like this one too.

There's A Reason the Kids Hog the Tire Swing

If you'd like to see more, why not take a road trip and experience Jamie's work for yourself? The public is invited to this Thursday's opening reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Patriot Hall Galleries, 135 Haynsworth St. in the Sumter County Cultural Center, Sumter, South Carolina. The exhibition will remain in the galleries through April 22. Want to hear more about the show or Jamie's work? Hop over here for more info.

I don't know about you, but seeing these strong and beautiful military wives puts a song in my head.
I am strong. I am invincible. If I have to, I can do anything...
Have a great Monday, y'all!
Love, Becky

Friday, March 19, 2010

Miss Minnie

Lately we've had more than our share of frustration at our house. Boys spend a half hour on the computer on homework they don't even want to do, exit out, then realize they forgot to save. Someone eats the ENTIRE BOX of someone else's favorite cereal. There is too much work and not enough time. People misunderstand. Feelings get hurt. Baseball coaches expect too much. Can't anyone see we're trying our best?

It's not just teen and preteen frustration. Around here we enjoy all varieties-- the adult version too. But then Wednesday comes around, I go on my Meals on Wheels route and visit with Miss Minnie*, and any frustration that I'm embracing dissolves away for a while.

Remember Miss Minnie? Her life seems to be getting harder by the day. I keep reminding myself that she's just about blind. She can't see how filthy her house is, the trash scattered on the floor, the grime. She uses a walker all the time now, and last time I was in, I noticed she had a chamber pot by her bed. She must empty it fairly often because I didn't notice an odor.

Once a month I help her pay her bills. I read the bills to her, and she points to her purse (she keeps it on the bed, along with a box of cereal for snacking,) I find her wallet and write the checks. The first time I did it, I signed her name for her, and boy, she gave me a talking to. Now I put my thumb by the signature line and she feels for it, and then carefully writes her name. Usually her shaky signature floats up the check towards the date line, but the bank always accepts it.

Three weeks ago when we did her bills, she had put them in a bill holder on the wall. When I pulled them out of the holder, a dozen bugs showered down on us. I guess they were nestled in there, feeding on the glue of the envelopes? I tried not to react too much--Miss Minnie didn't see them, so I just flicked them off of both of us, wrote her checks, and drove straight to the Meals on Wheels office to report what happened, flicking at imaginary bugs the entire way. No one should live like that. She can't see well enough to take care of herself and her home anymore without help, and her only family is a niece a half hour away who visits only sporadically. Hopefully the Meals on Wheels folks will be able to get her some help so that she can stay in her home. We'll see.

I hope I haven't ruined your breakfast or lunch. I tell her story because there are so many Miss Minnie's out there, barely making it, invisible to everyone else. I'm sure I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. You may know a Miss Minnie yourself. Their stories should be heard. I'm thankful for her courage and stubbornness and persistence--and for the way she enriches my life.

Have a great weekend, y'all!
Love, Becky
*Miss Minnie is not her real name, in case you're wondering. The photo was taken on my MOW route, but those are not the homes of any of my clients.

PS. If you've got a couple of hours to volunteer once or twice a month (or more,) check out Meals on Wheels. It's a great way to contribute the community and meet incredible people. (And the bug thing had never happened to me before in years of doing this, thank goodness!)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

Fashion, the Hard(ware) Way

Is this what you wear to the hardware store?
Why not pick up a box of garbage bags the next time you're in, and sew the outfit up yourself?! If you were Jay Nicolas Sario, a designer on this season's Project Runway, you could do exactly that.

How I love Project Runway. Do you watch it? Whenever I feel my creative soul shriveling up, knocking around my body like an old prune, it's my go-to show for re-hydration. And my all time favorite episodes are the ones in which they have to make an outfit out of unconventional materials. Remember the supermarket challenge?

Hello, Solo cup dress! I still find you fascinating.
It's just so cool to watch ordinary things be made into something beautiful. Or maybe it's the other way around: that the created outfits show off the beauty of ordinary things. Either way, it jump starts my creativity.

I like this outfit fine, but the best thing about it is the necklace. It's made of keys and metal screening.

I thought this was cute too, though the bodice is made out of sandpaper.


I'm not so crazy about this one.

Although it does remind me of those aluminum foil blankets we used to lay out on to fry our skin. Remember those? I'm paying my dermatologist for that.

Speaking of repurposing items, I just had to show you this.

Photo from Recyclart
I found it on one of my favorite sites: Recyclart. Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos created it, and I bet you can't guess what it's made of. Click on the photo and find out.
Need a hint? Let's just say it's a very feminine chandelier.

Have a great Monday, y'all!
Love, Becky

Friday, March 12, 2010

What Music Pumps You Up?

Just so you know, this is not what pumps me up.
But I listened to Thunderstruck three times through last night, as my youngest rocked out in my minivan.
Between you and me, I needed a handful of Tylenols when it when we finally got out of the car.
This is why we played it.

It pumps Sam up. That's him, the one in the air. He had a church basketball tournament to win and needed the inspiration.
It made me think, what music inspired me when I was in 5th grade?
This is what I came up with.

Sam would fall to the floor laughing and slip into a coma of hilarity.
But how I loved the Carpenters.

So what music motivated you when you were in fifth grade? What about now? What pumps you up?

Have a great weekend, y'all!
And enjoy Elton John's Philadelphia Freedom. Sam would say he's tons cooler than the Carpenters, but he's just as old. (See the Soul Train version here.)
Love, Becky

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hanging out at the library... / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Do you enjoy hanging out at the library?
As for me and my youngest, it's just about our favorite past time ever.
In fact, I wish I was there right now, wearing the outfit of that cutie on the right. Shorty plaid overalls and knee socks with sandals. And that fabulous vinyl purse, with a library card inside.

Of course, a lot has changed since then.

The clothes aren't nearly as cool, and libraries have even more to offer.
Why, in March alone, our library gives classes on decorating for Easter, navigating the internet, money management for kids, preparing your spring garden, and birding. There are oodles of book clubs, as well as knitting clubs, craft programs for kids and teens, and even an evening of live Celtic music.

Oh, and one more thing. There are thousands of books to take home, free of charge.
What an awesome tool of democracy.

What do you like to do at the library? I get a stack of books and park myself at a big table, while my eleven year old strolls around, perusing the books at his leisure, browsing the videos and the music.
We also love the microfilm. We'll love up some famous sports event and stumble upon the weirdest, most delightful stories!
Like this one, from 1935.

Are you a library lover? Do share!
Love, Becky

Friday, March 5, 2010

Face It. You've Got Pareidolia.

Poor clock. It's so dusty. Does it look sad to you?
My clock (and a tree I saw on my walk recently, photo to come...) reminded me of my love of pareidolia. Are you a fan of pareidolia too?
Pareidolia is the human tendency to see faces and meaningful shapes in things like clouds and clocks and pieces of toast.

Carl Sagan used to say that human beings are hard wired from birth to identify the human face. I love that. It's a cool thing to be able to see a grouping of tiny details from far off and recognize it as a person, even someone we know. But sometimes it does lead us into strange predicaments.

Like when we shuck out $28,000 on ebay for old grilled cheese sandwich.
But who knows. Maybe pareidolia is a gift from God. A way to spread the love around.
(Though I'd bet God would rather you give your $28,000 to people who need it than use it to buy old bread. :)

Hey. There's another example of pareidolia. Seeing a colon and a parenthesis, and noticing a smiling face turned sideways!

Pareidolia does make me happy.
Like the face in this box at the florist's.

Photo by / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Or this smiling bag.

Photo by / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Cute nose.

This one scares me a little.

Photo by / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

But not this one. It reminds me of a dragonfly.

Photo by / CC BY 2.0

Faces are fine, but that's not all pareidolia helps us see.

The End.

Have a great Friday, y'all! My college girl is coming home for Spring Break and we're off for a weekend at the beach. See you Wednesday!
Love, Becky

PS. Enjoy the pareidolia in the cool images that start around the 26 second mark. But beware, it can be kind of spooky.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

How a Dozen Mice Saved the Day

Last Sunday was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
In spite of a very nice morning at church, a bad spirit seemed to hang over our house. Todd had gone to France AGAIN without me, and grouchiness reigned with just me and my boys. Hormones were reeling, feet were stomping, voices were yelling, doors were slamming. And that was just me!
"We need to get out of the house," said my eleven year old.
"Why?" I asked him, clinging to my crossword puzzle.
My eleven year old gave me a look. As if I didn't know why.

"I've got an idea," he said. "But it might seem kind of babyish."
I put down the crossword. The child never wants to look babyish. We must do whatever he says.

We did it, and it turned our beast of a day into sunshine! Into happiness!
I thought you might like to hear about it, and then maybe you can share what you do to break a bad mood. Maybe I could even put together a file of your ideas, for the next time Todd leaves me for France.

So what did we do? We went on a mouse hunt on Main Street in downtown Greenville.
Are you acquainted with Goodnight Moon? It's a children’s picture book about a rabbit getting ready for bed, and there's a mouse hidden in each scene. A young man in our town thought it might be fun to take this idea and make a scavenger hunt for kids on Main Street. He raised the funding and commissioned Zan Wells, a local sculptor, to make the individual mice. You can read more about his project here.

So we headed downtown and got started.
With all the grumpiness, we hadn't noticed that it really was a gorgeous day.

Sam had printed off the sheet of clues, and away we went.
Here's mouse #1!

They were tricky to find.

They could be anywhere. Down low...

Or up high.
Do you see it?

Take a closer look.

And here's the last one.

At the feet of General Greene.
He's quite the patriotic mouse, as you can see.

At the end of the hunt, we enjoyed some hot cocoa at the real treasure of Greenville, Falls Park. Fresh air and chocolate--the sure way to recapture the goodness of a day.

So how do you do it? What do you do when a dark mood sets in?

Have a great Wednesday, y'all!
Love, Becky
PS. Enjoy a walk around downtown Greenville!

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Hippest Trip in America

Today's Wonder of the World is Soul Train!
So why is a forty something white woman like me blogging about a pop music dance show with an African American focus?
Because I'm still in love with a documentary I watched a few weeks ago from VH1, "Soul Train: The Hippest Trip in America."
And because I wasn't always forty something.

I used to be seven.

Around the same time that I saw the documentary, I also found this photo of my second grade class. I don't know about you, but second grade was about the time I started noticing that people came in different colors. It may just be the age that kids start thinking about stuff like that, about their similarities and differences from other people, or maybe it was the measles shot.
(A very short story first to explain, and then we'll get back to Soul Train, promise.)

If you were in first or second grade in 1972, you had to line up with the rest of your class in the cafeteria and get immunized for measles.
This freaked me out.
After Mrs. Elkins walked us back to our classroom, I threw up all over myself.
Mrs. Elkins rushed me into the bathroom and told me to take off my shirt, that she'd find me something to wear for the rest of the day. The navy cardigan she brought me had some holes in it, but not in strategic places, so I put it on and went back to my desk. It was then I noticed that Linda, the little black girl whose desk was next to mine, looked different than she had a moment before. I was wearing Linda's sweater. Mrs. Elkins had asked, and she had lent it to me.

It sounds silly now, but I found this very interesting. Linda's skin was brown. I was wearing her clothes. Her sweater felt the same as my sweaters did. It smelled a little different. A nice smell, like her hair. At seven years old, African American hair fascinated me. The Wimberleys next door were African American. Mr. Wimberley had a pharmacy downtown and Mrs. Wimberley was on the school board. Peele was my friend but he was a boy, so I hadn't paid much attention to him. Though I did try to find reasons to accidentally touch his hair. Sometimes I'd just ask him and he'd roll his eyes and tell me to quit.

I was curious. African Americans were in my class at school and in my neighborhood. But not in my church. We were the same, but we were different.
But we were the same.

In 1972, black Americans weren't on TV, except on the news. And on Soul Train.
It came on after the Saturday cartoons and American Bandstand, and I'd watch a little bit of it, sometimes the whole thing.
The dancing was amazing.

And I loved Don Cornelius' smooth voice.

The live music was the best--The Jackson Five, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Marvin Gaye.

But my favorite part was the Soul Train Line,
in which couples get to dance by themselves as everyone else enjoys the music from the sidelines.

Nobody danced like that on American Bandstand. So cool.
And a few of those dancers became famous on their own.

Remember What's Happening? It's Rerun!

So did you watch Soul Train? If you did, I bet you'd really love the documentary. Check out VH1's website for future broadcasts. You can find more about the documentary here.

Do you remember your early impressions and feelings about race? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Wishing you love, peace, and soul!
Love, Becky
PS. Check out this line dance. If you watch carefully, you'll see Rerun in slow mo!
PS. 2. In case you're wondering, that's Linda and me in the class photo, middle row, first two on the left.