Country and Back, and other Such Things

I am proudly from the south, Virginia specifically and don’t ya’ll Yankees say it itn’t the south-it is! Right and proper!  As I was sayin’…I am from the south and I have the cast iron skillet, deviled egg tray, and string of pearls to prove it.  There are so many things I love about being southern, one of many things is that precious liquid gold; that amber colored, sweet, cold, refreshing, drink of the gods-sweet tea.  After sweet tea it all lumps together in second place as one big joy of the south.  Though there is something to be said for snaps(otherwise known as green beans) and new potatoes and crispy, but juicy fried chicken. Mm, mmm, mmmmmm.

I love the language and the way of living in the south, I even love the summer time; though I have yet to comprehend why I have spent my entire life in the south and every summer think “oh, lordamighty I might just keel over and die if there isn’t a breeze soon”.  Even with the hot, sticky, humid summer, there are wonderful parts of summer, like the sound of frogs at night; and I would never know the pleasure of bare feet on cool grass on a summer evening, or the feel of a summer breeze with cool spots like natural springs in a lake.  There are things like blazing hot days and sweet cool nights where neighbors gather together outside (cuz its toi dang hot inside) and eat watermelon and ice cream.  I wish I could share the images that go with these memories, things like little children, boy and girl alike, lined up in a row on the porch stripped down to nothing but shorts with gigantic slices of watermelon and sticky juice lines running all down their bellies, country skies full of stars so dense you can see the milky way, or watching children catch June bugs and store them in Crisco cans where they await their turn to be harnessed to a string. (this provides hours of entertainment for the children as the June bugs  fly in circles, but caused many a crippled bug.) While these joys are fairly universal southern style joys they are especially true of the country.

The country is where the city isn’t! It is rolling hills, creeks, and big trees.  It is where life slows down a bit and with it your mind and your pulse.  It is also where people work hard and know the value of fellowship and family.  One of my favorite poems is by Robert Frost, it is called “A Time to Talk” , I encourage you to click the link and take a minute to read it. (I omitted the full poem for copyrights sake). This poem says it well though.

Life is changing and the south is changing with it, even the country.  People move away, new people move in, farms stop running, generations die away, it is just life and life brings change.  Change can be good, but sometimes it is good to remember and to take note of the life gone by.  With your help I’d like to do that, a little at least.  Often we think of the questions we want to ask, the stories we want to hear, etc. after a loved one is gone and it is too late.  But together we can remember and record those memories. I encourage you to ask people to tell you their story and listen, really listen.  It will be time well spent.

I believe that everyone has a story and everyone’s story is worth hearing and everyone needs their story told in some form.  Do you have stories of a time gone by?  I’d love to hear them.  One thing I’d love help with is remembering the expressions that pass away.  Things like “I’ll give you country and back” which means you’re in a mess of trouble or “I ain’t seen you for a month of Sundees” i.e. a very long time.  One of my favorites is simple “he’s a good man”.  This one sentence said it all, it was just understood that that man was a hard worker, cared for his family, went to church, looked out for his neighbors, gave a helping hand, was polite, and just plain nice.  When I heard someone say that, it made me stop and I felt respect well up in my chest.  That one sentence told me great truths and meant this was a man to be trusted. It was a powerful sentence.  Another short sentence that my grandmother always said before I went anywhere was “now, you do right”.  It is a short way of saying “you do as I’ve raised you to do.  Be polite, mind your manners, do me proud, be courteous, be a lady (or gentleman), tell the truth, obey, just be respectful”.  When that phrase was uttered I knew what that meant and I knew what it meant if I didn’t “do right”.

So, I’m just a girl raised in the south (G.R.I.T.S.) remembering those halcyon days of summertime, the sweet smell of grass, the glistening of dew in the morning, the hale and hearty smell of the soil, and the sounds of the country slowly becoming whispers, nothing more than a dim memory dancing on the breeze. I’m a southern girl asking you to listen and remember and pass it on. Stories are meant to be told.

-Please feel free to share your memories and your story.

Side Note: To hear stories from all walks of life I encourage you to check out the Story Corps.  It is a non-profit organization who works to preserve people’s stories.  I am not affiliated with Story Corps in any way, but admit if I had my perfect, pie in the sky, dream job it might be for Story Corps, since the role of Indiana Jones is already taken.

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Why Dharma and Greg Should be Andy Stanley’s next teaching

I work for a church. This is an interesting environment where there is great opportunity for the organizers and the dreamy thinkers to get together-it might make something groovy! Let me start by telling you who Dharma and Greg are, just in case you’re not in the loop. A quote explaing the TV show “Dharma and Greg” taken from Wikipedia.comFree spirited Yoga instructer Dharma and Lawyer Greg get married on their first date despite being complete opposites . Their conflicting views lead to comical situations. Greg’s parents and Dharma’s parents are totally different . But over time they too learn to like each other causing a unique family blend “. So, in other words the hippie marries the lawyer and the fun begins. Truthfully that is exactly what happens. Dharma and Greg learn how to work as a team. (If you haven’t seen this show-check it out, but be warned there is mature content).

I have had wonderful opportunities to hear great speakers and attend wonderful conferences like Catalyst by Andy Stanley and his team (Andy Stanley is a one of many gifted speakers who teach church staffs how to work together, grow, lead, and build while keeping Christ at the center and our keeping co-workers hearts in mind) and the ACS Technologies conferences (ACS is a church database software provider and much more, and lead conferences helping churches grow practically and spritually). In the conferences I discovered that the church I worked for was no different from many others. I heard the “Greg’s” say things like “sigh, I can’t just make it happen. You have to plan” and the “Dharma’s” say things like “I don’t know why my team is always shooting down my great ideas?” And the fact is they are both right, if we are not carful that is how it can be or if we are not truly listening that is how it can seem.

The Type A, organized, planners thrive on having a plan and ticking off each task on the list and have every detail planned out, while the free spirited creative ones equally thrive on the excitement that is produced with the newest idea. They see how the people will love it and get involved how their lives may be changed or how they might just have fun. Neither side is wrong and both need each other. The problem arises when we don’t speak the other person’s language or at least hear the language.

When the “Greg’s” are telling the “Dharma’s” things like: Did you make sure we have enough chairs? Does it conflict with anything on the calendar? Do you need A/V? Will there be childcare? Etc. Dharma often hears “nope, not gonna work, I don’t think I can partner with you in this, uh-huh won’t work.” Or When the “Dharma’s” say “oooooohhhh, I have great idea… we could have floats, and prizes, and… and doves…. Or What if there was a giant ice cream Sunday….?” the “Greg’s” often miss the real vision and heart of the idea and get so turned off by the wide-open free spiritedness that they miss an opportunity to make ministry happen. I love the tagline from the “Dharma and Greg” show “She’s got her head in the clouds. He’s got his feet on the ground. Together, they’re a match made in heaven.”

A match made in heaven… I think that is true. By taking time to understand the differences and appreciate them we can have the perfect marriage-even if it has bumps and a little comedy. So next time Greg can say “wow, what a great idea, I really love your creativity. You know what, I’m organized and can probably make that happen for you-but no doves” and “Dharma” can say “I have a great idea, but I need your strengths in organization to make it happen, can we work together on this? Oh, ok… no doves. What about balooons??” In addition to how we respond we need to listen differently. Take the earlier statement “Did you make sure we have enough chairs? Does it conflict with anything on the calendar? Do you need A/V? Will there be childcare? Etc.” in this statement “Dharma” needs to hear the desire to make her idea really happen and say “wow, I’m so glad you have the bases covered, those are great questions, let’s get together and try to answer those questions-really, no doves? And like wise “Dharma’s” Statement “oooooohhhh, I have great idea… we could have floats, and prizes, and… and doves…. Or What if there was a giant ice cream Sunday….?” “Greg needs to hear this as an opportunity to touch lives, real people not just boxes on a task list and to see the workable plan within what he is hearing. And Really, … no doves, but giant ice cream Sunday-I’m there!”

So, as they say “that’ll preach” Maybe Dharma and Greg will be topics at the next Catalyst?? In the mean time remember your a team and fun things can happen and happen with excellance, but probably no doves.

Our Travels Continued

As I mentioned in my previous post it is the time with friends, time with those we love that makes our experiences rich and colorful. It is people with laughter and tears, stories, lives, experiences all ready to share with one another that truly make any trip, journey, experience full and joyful. The next leg of our journey was the richest because it was shared and enriched by our friends and the new ones we made. Cambridge, United Kingdom:

We spent the rest of the week in Cambridge preparing for and enjoying a beautiful wedding which was held at Trinity Chapel, Trinity College. It felt like being in a movie. The dining hall looked so much like the one from Harry Potter, that for a moment I could swear the candles were floating. Amazing!!

If you are in Cambridge go to Charlie Chan’s Restaurant, it will be the best Chinese food you will ever eat! The rest of Cambridge is beyond words, believe me I keep trying. We had our first British tea and learned that there is a debate; do you put the clotted cream on the scone first or the strawberry jam? I was told that the real goal is to pile it as high as you can with both and always use strawberry jam.

One of our days in Cambridge the ladies went to the spa where we had the bridal shower and a lot bubbly beverages. The younger men went punting (click to see what this is), and the older men went pubbing and then all of the men went to the library where they saw things like Isaac Newton’s hand written notes, Shakespeare’s first folio etc. The incredible history, art, and antiquities we saw were almost more than we could wrap our minds around.

The wedding was beautiful, our friends were wonderful, the buildings were stunning, the foods and wine were wonderful, the history overwhelming and the list goes on. I have written this several times and cannot find the balance between Travel Log and hyperbole, I think we will go with hyperbole! It was amazingly stupendously, fantastically, tremendous and so much more. My recommendation is to click this link, it will take you to Google maps and from here use the street view and wander around, the buildings alone will amaze you (not hyperbole-truth).

The worst part about Cambridge was parting company with dear friends old and new. The time had gone so quickly and we all fell into each other’s lives just as easily as we always have, as if there had been no time apart. We missed one another even before we were gone. Sunday, we left Cambridge and some of our friends and traveled on to London where the adventure continues. I hope you will join me as we walk London together.

Our Travels, part 1 – Wales

Photos from our Trip

I apologize for the absence. Life has been a little crazy, but we recently had a wonderful trip to Europe and I thought this would be a great way to share our trip (especially, for our friends who have asked about our trip). My hopes are to resume a slower, calmer pace in life soon. Well, one can hope. I will write about our trip in installments so that I don’t fall asleep. I’m imagining the blog equivalent of the never-ending vacation slides. Speaking of slides, many of the photos from the trip may be found at the flickr link above and I will continue to add photos as time allows, there are also photos on Pinterest.com. One other note, many of you know that I love to cook and learn about new foods, so you will find that I give the food we ate a bit of attention. Thank you for sharing in our adventure!

There is a family in my life, each of whom hold a special place in my heart. The oldest daughter, who lives in Europe now, asked me to be in her wedding. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I am so honored to have been part of this wonderful day and part of her life, our relationship has brought me great joy. Since we were going to be in Europe we decided we would to go early and stay longer to take advantage of being in England and Wales, since we don’t know if we will ever make it back. Here is how it went…

Day 1: We leave Greensboro NC at 3:45 pm EST and arrive at London Heathrow at 6:30am BST. Customs, etc., was amazingly easy, and though the flight was long, we were not too tired. The first item of business was to pick up the rental car, and I was the intended driver. We felt that I was the calmer driver and would therefore be better under the pressures of left-hand driving and roundabouts. Ummmmm, no.

In my defense, it was rush hour traffic leaving Heathrow my first time driving in England. I did ok, until the first roundabout, which I would like to say didn’t look very round. When I panicked and drove the wrong way part way through the roundabout, I had sense enough to pull straight into a parking lot (car park) to try to recover. Breathe in, breath out, relax! Ok… back onto the road. I moved over into the correct lane, got through the roundabout and was doing well, but then I was pulled over by a very nice London Police officer. She had seen my adventure through roundabout number 1. I explained that I had been in the car a total of 5 minutes and this was my first roundabout, but felt like I was going to be fine. She said “are you American??” This apparently explained everything. She nicely gave me directions to my next stop and sent me on my way-without a ticket!! I then drove for a while without further incident, but I had been so badly shaken that I got sick. Oh, well. As it turns out Van drives wonderfully in England and did so for the rest of the trip.

First stop, Stonehenge. Stonehenge was amazing to see, but it was freezing cold, with a wet, biting wind. I’m sorry to say we walked quickly around it. Even my Michigan bred man was cold! But it was worth the stop. We left Stonehenge and continued through the lovely Welch countryside (where we saw more sheep than we had ever seen to this point), to Cardiff, Wales.

We arrived in Cardiff in the afternoon and got settled into a fantastic hostel called the Riverhouse Backpackers Hostel. If you are ever in Cardiff, stay here. The people were wonderful, the beds were comfy, the food was great, and we could walk most places. This first night we learned something very important. In pubs you must quickly grab an open table and claim it, then send someone to the bar to order food for everyone. We did not know this, and sat a very long time waiting for a waiter before we gave up and left. As we stood to go, a gentleman informed us that there was no table service. Oh well, we were tired and hungry and ready to go, so we left, agreeing to return another night, and walked back towards the hostel. On the way back, we stopped at Subway, where we ordered subs and they were playing “Play that Funky Music, White Boy”. It felt, I don’t know, American? We then fell into bed and peacefully slept until morning. No jet lag. I guess extreme exhaustion takes care of that.

Day 2: DOCTOR WHOOOOO, OHHH YEAAA. We met our friends in Cardiff and went to the Doctor Who Experience, an interactive museum, and then to Cardiff Castle We had a great time! For those of you who are Doctor Who fans, I actually stood in the Tardis! I can’t believe it, whoop, whoop, ah-hem, I mean to say that I enjoyed the experience. The museum was well done. The first part involved a walking tour through sets from the series with a video of the doctor talking to us in each room, complete with special effects. I admit, it was pretty realistic. The second part was the museum itself. In the museum they had the original costume of every doctor on display and costumes of many of the companions. There were Dalaks, Cybermen, and even the Face of Boe. Many items were props from the show. We were in geekville having a blast. Oh, and bow ties are cool!

We left Doctor Who and his wonderful Tardis and walked to a small cafe/diner that had just opened a few weeks prior where we had our first experience with Welsh food. Most of the group ordered something called Caul, which is lamb stew-very yummy. My friend had some toast with Marmite oh man, blech. It tasted like bullion cubes-straight. But now we can say we know what it tastes like. Apologies to those who love it. I tried the vegetable soup which is actually a split pea type of soup, also very yummy. The breads and butter were amazing and the cheese was terrific.

After lunch we went to Cardiff Castle. http://www.cardiffcastle.com/. The castle was incredible. The castle had changed through the years, meeting the needs of the time, including war-time. It was thought-provoking and touched my heart to see the sections that had been prepared for the war. The castle keep, the castle itself, grounds, tunnel, everything were amazing architecturally and historically. We all had a nice time there. We ended the day at Y Mochun Du, which was the pub we had left the day before. The food was great. My daughter said it was the best fish and chips she had the whole trip. Several of us tried more traditional dishes, I had laverbread (uhh, that would be seaweed) and cockles (small, edible saltwater clams), Van had Steak and Ale pie, someone had Welsh rarebit, another lamb dish etc. We enjoyed every bite and enjoyed the time sitting over diner and Welsh beers with friends. Everything is so much better when shared, especially when shared with those special people who come into our lives, as if they has always been there. The kind you can go years without seeing and pick right back up where you left off. This was our richest experience.
More to come….