Category Archives: Holidays

Turkey Blog 4.0

Do you know where you were a few days before Thanksgiving four years ago? Well, my answer to that question is, right here. I was sitting on this couch with my laptop computer creating my blog, GraphiteFree.  I haven’t been the most faithful companion to my blog. Life sometimes happens and it is less than eventful when you put it into print. This post is to help mark the anniversary and the Thanksgiving season.

The latest Facebook trend this month is to put what you are thankful for each day of November.  I didn’t discover this until a few days ago. I am less than observant at times. This is my futile attempt to be as cool as everyone who started on November 1st, listing what they are thankful for and desperately hoping to keep my blog relevant.

One – God:  I am very thank for our gracious Creator. Knowing that our God and Father is watching over us and loved us enough to save us is the most precious thing in our lives. This is what I am most thankful for.

Two – Family:  I have a wonderful family. Being home in Mississippi recharges my heart and soul. I love being on the farm near my family with my mom cooking in the kitchen and daddy in his chair. On top of that, I have a wonderful extended family in Madison County Alabama.

Three – Blinkers:  I love safety. I am the Be Ready Girl! Blinkers represent planning ahead… look for the safest route to your final goal… and not running into the driver next to you. Blinkers are important.

Four – Freedom:  Until the socialist take my freedom. I will be very thankful for this. Don’t believe everything you read. Thinking for yourself is the best way to experience freedom. The ability to pick and choose what you want to do on a daily basis is a glorious thing.

Five – Great Friends:  Throughout my life I have all ways been surrounded by wonderful people. Life is not much fun unless you have great friends to enjoy life with.

Six – Sports:  I am very thankful to be a fan of sports, a lover of ESPN Sports Center and a competitor in many sporting events. I love crying at sports movies and those touching “Inside the Lines” stories on Sunday mornings.

Seven – Bunnies:  This year, I was blessed by having a litter of rabbit kits. There were seven of the little guys. It was one of the coolest things ever! I now want to start a farm.

Eight – Health:  God has truly blessed me with great health. I can do all things I need to do. I have been given great endurance and I am seldom sick.

Nine – Ragnar:  On November 9th, a team of crazy friends and I ran from Chattanooga to Nashville. I am thankful for friends and for the ability run… I am still not fast, but I can run.

Ten – Soda Box Cookies:  These cookies are not made from some super secret recipe. These cookies however are the best ever conceived and my grandmother taught me how to make them. I miss my grandparents and are truly thankful to have some of the greatest to ever live.

Eleven – Electricity:  I could be one of those people who lives in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. However, electricity and technology has given us so much extra enjoyment in life. Without refrigeration our modern day Thanksgiving would not be possible.  It is great to type a blog and not use graphite to record all my ramblings.

Twelve – Cowbells:  No, Mississippi State is not known for its multiple national titles, but it is know for its cowbells. Mississippi State is a wonderful place with many happy memories attached to it. Hearing a cowbell ring gives me great joy! I am thankful for the Bulldogs and I hope they beat the University of Mississippi on Saturday.

Thirteen – Thanksgiving:  Thanksgiving is the best holiday ever conceived.  There is not a push to over commercialize it. People don’t get lost in shopping to help fuel our economy.  It is a day where we all pause and thank God for those things that are truly important in our lives.

Fourteen – Pencils:  The Dixon Ticonderoga is the quintessential American pencil.  It has been in my backpack, on my desk and behind my ear for many years. I love the pencil, because it does not expect me to be perfect like the pen does. The pencil is a non-judgmental companion that I am very thankful for.

Fifteen – Peanut Butter:  I was a picky eater growing up.  Some say I am still a picky eater.  However, if it wasn’t for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I might not have lived to see the age fifteen. Heck, I didn’t like pizza for a while. I feel sorry for all the poor souls who are allergic to peanut butter.

Sixteen – Golf:  Is there anything better than taking a club and beating the crap out of a small round object. To focus your energy on one single point in space and driving the ball beyond your own expectations is one of the best ways to release stress!

Seventeen – Math:  Seventeen is a prime number.  So is 37, which will be my age this time next year. No matter the number or age, I love math. I loved teaching math and doing math. I even like the new exhibit at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Math Alive.

Eighteen – Peyton Manning:  True, Peyton is not with the Colts anymore, but he is still my most favorite boy friend. But I am still very lucky to see my favorite Manning playing football this season! Thank you for Peyton’s health! Also, I am very happy Peyton attended Rocky Top and not Ole Piss.

Nineteen – Okra:  Delta State is a wonderful university found in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. Knowing how quirky I am, you should know that I would go to school where they have a mascot like the Fighting Okra. I am an okra girl. The Statesmen is a dumb mascot!

Twenty – Salt:  What would we do without salt? It a multifunctional tool which I can not imagine a day without. It makes stuff taste better. It is used for many great Biblical analogies. And it is useful in making ice cream.

Twenty One – Antiperspirant:  Let me be honest with you all, I sweat more than most human beings do. If it were not for Degree antiperspirant I wouldn’t have friends and my Ragnar team mates would have kicked me out of the van after my first run. I am very thankful for the help I receive in the use of antiperspirant.

Twenty Two – Cotton:  I love being a farm kid. I love all the amazing memories I have either in the cotton field or the cotton gin. I loved having acres and acres to roam when growing up. I am very thankful for my farming family.

Twenty Three – Proof Readers:  I can’t spell or write very well without an army of people to help me. I need to have proof readers to make this blog thing a reality. It is fun connecting with people though my blog. I couldn’t do that without people to help me.

Twenty Four – Weddings:  This is going to seem like a crazy thing to be thankful for, but I am thankful for Anderson’s wedding last year. After the wedding my mom saw pictures of me on Facebook. She thought I was fat and told me I was fat. Later that fall she told me again after another wedding. I am thankful for this, because it was the kick in the pants I needed to get in shape!

Twenty Five – Running: I am thankful to be able to run, because it makes me not so fat. However, I wish I could be thankful for good genetics which makes me a good runner. But that is not the case, I am slow and thankful for the abilities I do have.

Twenty Six – Recruiting Staff:  Yes, I am very thankful for the efforts made to recruit new staff for Space Camp. But one of the most coolest things about staff recruitment, is staff training is not far behind. Did I mention, I have the coolest job in the world.

Twenty Seven – Baseball:  Since I was 20 months old I have been fascinated with the game of baseball. I have been to many professional, college and high school games. It doesn’t matter if it is a World Series or a little league game, I love the game of baseball. Get well soon Derek Jeter.

Twenty Eight – Gadgets:  I love knives, first aid supplies, tools and electronics. I like being ready for most anything that life could through at me. I am thankful that Lysol can kill 99.9% of germs. I am thankful for those who invented these things and the spirit of innovation.

Twenty Nine – Space Camp:  I am truly thankful for being able to work at a camp that operates year around.  Space Camp has wonderful staff. Everyday is a different day! I am thankful to work at the coolest place for space!

Thirty – Turkey:  I am a turkey for some of the things I have listed. But all in all, I have enjoyed this exercise. I will enjoy my time with my family around the Thanksgiving table. Thank you so much Mr. Butterball!

Facebook Christmas

Seeing people on Facebook today has driven me to the brink of frustration! Why do people have to be negative and grumpy during Christmas? Yes, sometimes the holiday season isn’t the most joyous time. But can’t we at least try? People post dramatic posts like, “This is the worst Christmas ever!” or “Please stop crying… why is there always crying at Christmas.” I am kind of fed up with Facebook’s drama.

What if Mary and Joseph had Facebook when they rolled into Bethlehem on that first Christmas? I don’t think they would have gone negative, but what if? To all those who post drama on Facebook, you should think about Mary and Joseph when you post poo on your profile.

Mary didn’t post these statuses, but I know people that would…

Mary’s FB “Just arrived in Beth-Town. Jo forgot to make reservations. We will be staying with the critters tonight.”

Joseph’s FB “Mary is mad! Forgot to call ahead and we are staying with the goats. I am really in the dog house.”

Mary’s FB “At 9 cm. Hope this kid comes soon.”

Joseph’s FB “Found a great manger to lay the babe in. Can anyone suggest a donkey dung removal product?”

Mary’s FB “It’s a Boy! That angel knew what she was talking about!”

Joseph’s FB “Shephards showed up at the barn… They have been following us on Twitter for a few hours now.”

I know this wouldn’t have happened and it may be a little tacky of me to ask “what if?” However, why do we live our lives in a cyber world? Why is it important what our “status” says? Why can’t we look people in the eyes and tell them what is on hearts and in our heads?

Tonight, I hope for peace and kindness around the world. If you want to know how Mary and Joseph handled that first Christmas night you can read Luke chapter 2. Stop being dorks on Facebook and love thy neighbor!

Maybe we all should just put Facebook up for Christmas and spend time with family in our “RL”.

My Hat

Cold weather has struck North Alabama this week. This comes during a week of me hating Christmas and grumpy about travel. I started to take the philosophy of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day! Unfortunately for the Grinch living inside of me I got a new hat.  The introduction of my new hat was a pivotal moment in my life. This new hat has the power of the elves! Santa has blessed this hat. And with this hat, I will fight off the evil demons that try to kill the Christmas spirit inside of me.

It is not all in the stitching of this North Face hat. It is with a strong and valiant commitment from Santa’s friend that I renew my Christmas cheer. See Santa’s elves crafted my hat and the community organizer for Santa helped me select my hat. Now with renewed heart and spirit, I look forward to Christmas Eve and even a trip to Rushing Parc (I am sure Camper Jack will join me there still), and zig zagging across the Southeast will be joyful!

Why? Because Christmas is not about receiving stuff or spending time in an over commercialized, germ infested, zombie walking mall!  Christmas is about giving! Just like Christ gave up his cozy home with his Dad to hang with earthly dorks like me. I am going to celebrate and enjoy Christmas with family and friends!

What am I thankful for this season? I am thankful for a hubby who lives most of the year closer to the north pole than I would like, but he does it so that one day we can do whatever we want! I am also thankful for people who would help me pick out a brown hat and create the Christmas Calendar of Awesomeness. And if this was like a genie with three wishes, my third would be Dan Mullens be thankful for his home and job in Starkville. Please stay, Coach Mullens. What does Florida have that MSU doesn’t?

Christmas is a magical time of year. But the magic comes from the people around us. Someone famous once said, “It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air.” That person should start a greeting card company! My hat is filled with Christmas and my heart is looking forward to December 25th!

Don’t Forget Thanksgiving

To all those who listen to Christmas music in October or the people who have already visited Santa in the mall, happy Thanksgiving! Today is that day that American’s stop what they are doing to give thanks for all they have been given. In my humble red headed opinion, far too many people look past Thanksgiving straight to Christmas. People go from sugary Halloween to the gift giving frenzy of Christmas. And for what, why do we look over the greatest holiday ever invented?

Thanksgiving is designed to stop what you are going, gather with your favorite people, eat food and give thanks for what you have been given. I am a firm believer in doing your Christmas decorating after Thanksgiving Day. You can shop before Turkey Day, but only if the item is hard to find or you can get it at a discounted rate. But under no circumstance should you wrap the present before black Friday.

What is black Friday anyhow? It is the day after Thanksgiving where all the stores bring in tons of cash from selling piles of stuff. But what it really is – it is just another day that takes away from the greatness of Thanksgiving. People go from the hustle and bustle of their Wednesday work day, drive through killer traffic, and pause for one day only to jump back into the zoo that is retail mania Friday morning at 4am. Four o’clock in the morning is too early for people to even be awake, and especially too early to shop. If I haven’t proclaimed this a life rule, I would like to submit it for the record that, I don’t shop on black Friday (Life Rule #7).

I encourage everyone to pause (today and tomorrow) to spend time with the ones they love, the people that are important to them, eat lots of food, especially carbohydrates, watch copious amounts of football, and most of all be thankful for all we have been given. We live in a great country with unlimited opportunities. Don’t spoil this great day by omitting it just for more Christmas time! There are twenty-four days in December before Christmas. That should be plenty to prepare. Let’s at least have one solid day with no distractions to give thanks.

Great Deep South World Tour

Tour MapEach Christmas Chris and I venture across the state line several times to visit family. Chris calls this journey the Great Deep South World Tour 2009! I call it crisscrossing the Southeast in hopes to find sanity at the end of the trip, or somewhere in between. Don’t get me wrong, I love it! However, it is a little crazy if you break it down. Try and follow along.

Wednesday 5:05pm I complete a shift at the Barn. Chris, Boo and I drive feverishly to Winona, Mississippi 4.5 hours away. We unload the vehicle share a few stories and off to bed. We wake up at my parent’s house and prepare for a day of celebrating my father’s and sister-in-law’s birthday along with our Oliver family Christmas. Mom is not feeling well so we placed her on injured reserve for the day. Walter and Christy led the food prep team as Chris entertained the little ones and helped out where needed.

After we finished a wonderful meal of meats and carbohydrates, Daddy read Luke 2 from an English Standard Version of the Bible. He threw in a few thee’s, thou’s, and a goeth here and there to be reminiscent of the King James Version. Unfortunately, there was a Bible misplaced during set up for the day. No worries, we made it through the day! We made out like a bandits with Mississippi State Cheese, silverware, and a really cool flash light; all useful gifts. The night ended early because Santa was nearing North America in record speed. Did you know that you can track Santa on Google Maps? Very useful in getting kids to go to bed!

Boo the Traveling Dog!Christmas morning started at 5:30am with several, “I don’t want to get up” and a few “really do I have to?” Chris and I did have enough time to empty our stockings Santa had left for us before we hit the road heading for Hoover, Alabama and the Land of Houndstooth! We stopped by my brother’s house to check out the damage Santa and the reindeer caused to the roof of their house. By the way things looked under the tree, Santa landed well over his weigh limit, dislodging a few shingles in the process. We were back on US 82 at 7:20am an in Hoover, Alabama by 10:03am.

There is a great contrast between Chris’ family and my family. Chris would describe my family as loud and I would describe his family as quiet, reserved, almost boring. His family’s house feels like a very sterile place. His family has moved all over the US following their father’s career in the coal mining industry. So their home doesn’t really have the same lived in feel that the farm has. My parents still live in the home they built just before I was born. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when the new grandparents placed plastic under the 10 month old granddaughter’s high chair. This is the best comparison I can give. I am sure there are still hidden green beans in my childhood room from when I was stubborn and wouldn’t eat them; meanwhile Chris’ parents are a little worried about macaroni and cheese on their Persian rug.

We exchanged gifts at his parent’s, which is contrasting from Christmas on the farm. In Hoover, we all unwrap gifts at the same time. If we chose this method with my parent’s we would lose track of who gave what to whom. Did I mention we are loud on the farm? I got bath gear and Chris received three or four flash lights. I am not sure what message this sends, but useful gifts, so bonus points for both families this year. Great gifts given to me by my quiet mother-in-law… a THONG! Yes, thong! However, it wasn’t what you would think; it was a “Book Thong” bookmark. Why name it a book thong? I don’t know, but it is funny!

We left Hoover at 1:34pm headed north to Huntsville, Alabama and back home for Christmas on the creek! Chris and I chose to exchange gifts at home; this hopefully starting a new tradition for us. We enjoyed leftovers and hanging out in the peace and comfort of our own home. But wait; the weekend is still not over! I worked at the Barn the day after Christmas to find out that everyone visiting the Barn wanted items we didn’t have. We were out things which we had been sold out of weeks ago. I ended my Barn session at 8:00pm on Saturday.

Christmas Game of TossThe last leg of our journey was back to Mississippi to visit my mom’s side of the family. The Land clan gathered in Ridgeland, Mississippi to visit and share gifts. My cousins and my brother reminisced about epic backyard football games of our childhood as we tossed the football back and forth with the next generation. Things like that make zig-zagging across Mississippi and Alabama all worth it!

We ended our trip at 10:09pm Sunday night (just a few minutes ago) traveling 1,290 miles visit all of our families. We stopped for gas five times along the way. Boo peed on seventeen trees and lost tons of hair during the stressful trip (most of which seems to have landed in the vehicle). We passed Tuscaloosa’s Chipotle twice, stopping to eat only once. We crossed the state line four times and traveled through four area codes. However you slice it or dice it, Chris and I love our families and we enjoy visiting them. We shared homemade Kahlua with the reserved Key family. This would be the play of the entire tour! The combined trip time of nineteen hours in the TEV was worth the time spent with family! Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Top 10 Ways to Be Annoying at Christmas

Everyone loves lists. Since 1985, David Lettermen has regularly given a top ten list. People also love Casey Kasem’s Top 40. I loved it when my mother gave me a list to go grocery shopping. Well, this blog entry will stand as my Barn year in review as I list the ten things you shouldn’t visit the Barn for during the holidays. All these have actually happened and the workers have the scars to prove it.

10.  Making out on a Pearce Sectional.

9.  Opening a Bridal Registry on Black Friday… or the weekend before Christmas.

8.  Returning merchandise purchased after closing… anytime, but especially returning merchandise on Black Friday purchased after closing the night before Thanksgiving.

7.  Lounging with your BFF on a Barn bed while Hudson is standing in the room.

6.  After weeks of being sold out and still having CO-OP call us for a Sleigh Bell pillow by asking for just one “Golf Delta” bell pillow (Golf Delta is code for cursing… remember this is a PG blog!).

5.  This one is complex… Calling the Barn to ask for the contents of boxes which were delivered to your lake house when your wife is at the lake house but won’t open the boxes or bring them inside out of the rain.  [Editor’s note: Really?!]

4.  Taking a running leap on to a bed during rush hour the weekend before Christmas.

3.  Asking Barn management to play more Christmas music than necessary… I am talking about you Faux Snow, but I still love you!

2.  Simply being Cameron Drape with Turkey Plates in tow, Cowbell, Bella Beer Mug, Baja Glassware, Napoleon, or my darling Denim Divas will get you kicked out without much fuss.

1.  People who get mad, pitching a fit, throwing hands up in the air angry that we are sold out of merchandise the week before Christmas. Two things for these people, first if we had the product we would sell it to them. Secondly, if they wanted to shop in a Barn that has lots of merchandise, live in Atlanta, Houston, New York or San Fran, not Huntsville. [Editor: Amazing how Christmas always sneaks up on you]

This has been a great year for me at the Barn. I have enjoyed every single minute of work, if you can call it work! Hudson, Manhattan, Heather Chenille, and the head farmer make the Barn a great place. I wish everyone inside and outside the Barn a very Merry Christmas! And I will leave you with this sentiment: don’t leave your “Barn door” open!!