Tag Archives: Barn

Tri Anything…

Most people know that I am an adventurous red head. However, I haven’t been as outgoing as I would like in recent history.  I did spend a few years in the wild world of retail working at the Barn, better know to many as Pottery Barn.  Then a stint as a tour guide at Jack Daniel’s Visitor Center in Lynchburg, Tennessee. I gave up my part time jobs to spend more time outdoors. In other words, my time has not been spent with Cameron Drape or chilling not the couch, thus causing my blog to suffer.

I am sure you may be wondering what I have been doing in the meantime.  The answer to that question is… A LOT!  Last August, my mom saw a picture of me at a wedding on Facebook. She commented to me on the phone that I had gained weight.  What I heard was, “Ruth Marie, you are fat”.  And she was correct, I had gained too much weight and needed more physical activity than giving tours at Jack Daniel’s.  The new year rolled around and I joined the YMCA to start swimming. Shortly there after while on a camping trip I committed to running the Warrior Dash in Mountain City, Georgia in May with my three friends, Snapper, Speedo and Amazon.  If you are not familiar with Warrior Dash, it is a run with obstacles and lots of mud and some flames. To get ready for Warrior Dash, I ran my very first 5K in April at Camp of the Rising Son in French Camp, Mississippi.

After running about three or four races, I was hooked.  I wanted to run more however, I am an Oliver. Olivers are not known for their lightning fast speed or gazelle like agility.  I continued to swim and run no matter the speed.  At some point after Warrior Dash Snapper, my training buddy, and I decided to run a triathlon. To make this goal a reality we would need to start bike training.  At this point is when the fun really started.  My first bike race of any type was Muddy Buddy in Nashville, Tennessee. Muddy Buddy is a relay where I started riding my mountain bike and Snapper started running.  We would switch at an obstacle, I would run and she would bike. Needless to say, this event was super fun!

The next race is the big one, my first triathlon.  Saturday, Snapper and I, with a few hundred other people, swim, bike and run the Wet Dog Triathlon in Decatur, Alabama.  Snapper’s main motivation is the tri sticker she will place on the back glass of her Subaru.  My motivation is the adventure behind it all. Meeting new people, doing new things and losing some of the fat my mom noticed last year.  I am a little nervous but I have had some really great people help me along the way.  I think this is what life is all about: trying new things, sharing life’s lessons and being daring enough to try anything once, even green beans or deviled eggs.


I am that person! I always said that if I had a blog, I wouldn’t ignore it. I wouldn’t let it sit for months with out updating it. We it is official, I have ignored GraphiteFree. I could blame it on my schedule or on my crappy laptop or on a host of other reasons. But the simple truth is, I have ignored my blog. I am sorry, blog! I didn’t mean to abandon you for so long. I didn’t mean to not write!

I have had lots to write about! There was the Mid South Farm and Gin Show in Memphis I started writing about. Chris and I stayed at the Peabody where we joined my brother, his family, and my parents. Great weekend, I drank a “Presbyterian” or Jack & Ginger. I had an epic adventure to Atlanta… Gosh I hate Atlanta! However, I do love Chipotle and Pinkberry. I visited with Cameron Drape at the Barn a few times. She called the Barn one night to ask when American Idol aired. Lucky for us it is a seven o’clock show, which kept her away from the Barn until the next day. And I should have written about my Jack Daniel Distillery tours.

Since I have fallen out of grace with my blog, I should update what I am currently doing. The last paragraph told you where I have been. Now, I need to tell you where I am headed, because there is much on the horizon for me. This week will mark my seventh wedding anniversary – Copper. Chris and I will be touring the distilleries of Kentucky. I am sure we will see lots of copper while we are exploring. I will be leaving the Barn for another part time job. I love working at the Barn, but I have had a dream of working as a tour guide for a long time. I am also most there, this week I go to the Jack Daniel Distillery for my audition as a tour guide. That should be an adventure.

This summer I will be back at Aviation Challenge, back with the Raptor and back around the lake. I also told our new Social Media Director I would write a blog post for the Ready Room. So I really do need to get back into the writing mood. I will be going on a Disney Cruise with Tim&Anderson and their bridal posse in July. I will get to make another trip to NYC to see my Yankees in August. It will be a Yankees/Mets tour with Snapper. Even though the Mets play the Braves (I hate Atlanta) the trip will be so much fun.

All in all, I have lots to write about. And I am going to do better at this I promise. I know that only a few people read my blog, but I really don’t want to be the person that starts writing and then abandons the poor thing. I love GraphiteFree. It all started as an exercise to make my writing better and I need to keep it up! GraphiteFree, please forgive me.

PS… Jeff Benton is still a scumbag, but the law suit has been settled!

Greetings & Salutations!

Remember that pig? Wilbur was his name I think! To keep from going to the slaughter house his friend Charlotte A. Cavatica, spun a web with a word of the day on it! Need help with a larger vocabulary, ask Charlotte to help. Great thing about Wilbur and Charlotte, they had a farmyard full of critters to help.

I started this blog to improve my writing skills, but I have neglected GraphiteFree of late. It isn’t because I am just sitting at home each night looking for stuff to do. My life is pretty fast paced right now. I feel like I need a break similar to Ferris Bueller. I did drive Rhonda’s car into work on Monday, but I didn’t take the alias of Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago!

I wanted to check in to let everyone know that I am still alive. I am attempting to take classes online, work at my new job, and keep my dog and husband happy (whom I haven’t been able to spend much time with). I worked at the Barn the other day and some of my favorite Barn yard animals visited, Silk Dupioni strolled in on Sunday. She didn’t buy anything, but was very regal! Cameron Drape beat on the window just to say hi! Crazy lady, she didn’t even come in to return anything. I have missed the barn!

Life is crazy! I was addressed as “The Crazy Pencil Lady” by an Advanced Academy 12 day camper today. I am trying to keep my head above water. Really trying to focus on school and work so I can make it to Aug 12th, because on Aug 13th Punkin and I are flying to NYC for a vacation! I am not answering my phone or checking my email. It doesn’t matter who you are, I am focusing on 8.3 million people living in New York! I may ignore Facebook… nah that will not happen!

Terrific was another one of Charlotte’s words. I got to see a pig at camp, so life is all good and very terrific! Thanks, Pig!

The Tide Outside

Note: Please understand that the images depicted in this blog of redneck Alabama fans are only of those who are on the outer fringe, over the top, houndstooth clad, bandwagon followers; not the truly dedicated, highly intelligent fan base who visited with me at the Barn today. Please read this for the humor we all saw today! The point I am trying to make is this isn’t all Alabama fans, heck I married an Alabama Alumnus!

Today, while I was at the Barn, there was definitely more craziness out in the pasture than inside the corral. Walking through the parking lot I saw dozens and dozens of Crimson Tide fans. They were making their way into the mall to stand in line for an autograph by Mount Cody! For those who don’t live in Alabama or don’t know anything about college football in the south, Mount Cody’s real name is Terrence Cody, number 62 on the BCS Title winning University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa football team.  He helped the Tide beat Lame Kiffin’s Vols in October to keep his team undefeated.

So he was there signing autographs. I have never felt like I worked in a real Barn until today. Other than the county fair, I didn’t know there could be more mullets, rat tails, and bearded women in one location. I have waited in line at a Jack Daniel’s bottle signings for a few hours in my time. The difference is I get to met people from all over the United States. Today, it was really just a family reunion. Most everyone there were cousins! Ok, maybe that is an exaggeration, because there were a few baby strollers in the crowd. To my knowledge Alabama hasn’t legalized marrying your cousin just yet.

The first person in line arrived at three in the morning. He was there with iPod and his encyclopedia of Alabama football lore. He had plenty to keep him busy. When I arrived at 11:30 am, the line stretched to the escalators near Belk’s. When I went on break at 2:30 pm, the line was at the Cookie Company near Dillard’s. The line went from the escalator at Dillard’s to Belk’s wrapping around to the DMV and then back to Dillard’s and down that hallway.  At three o’clock in the afternoon they cut the line in half by telling everyone who hadn’t made it to Gymboree to go home – bye-bye, go home! When I left the Barn at 7 pm the last person in line had been waiting since 2:15 pm. She just so happened to be one of my favorite Christmas shoppers at the Barn!

Wow, all of this for a college football player. A senior consumer science major who blocked two field goal attempts against Tennessee. Not Mark Ingram, the Heisman trophy winner. Not the Pope or even the President of the United States of America. All these fanatical Alabama fans were standing in line for six to eight hours for Mount Cody to write his name on a photo, helmet, or football. Heck, he probably wrote more today than he has ever taken notes in class. He is just a guy, not the Lord All Mighty. True the crowd didn’t number five thousand and Sbarro’s was still open, so we didn’t need a miracle. However, he couldn’t perform one even if we did need some food. It was just a crazy day at the mall!

To top all the craziness on the outside we had all our favorite loons visit inside the Barn! Cameron Drape had to pay a visit to purchase things that she will return next Thursday. I don’t care how much she loves the bird plates. Once she gets those precious birds home she will want to visit us again. Cameron’s crazy red-headed kindred spirit walked in proclaiming she “wasn’t one of those D*&% Alabama Fans” I knew this would be an eventful transaction. She wanted something like vase fillers, but not fruit or candles. She wanted something that she wouldn’t knock over. I was left to think she was a blousy drunk; someone that Josh Groban would like. If you don’t get that comment, please start watching Glee, Golden Globe winning Glee. She didn’t want to give me her address, because she lives in a cardboard box.

To top it all off my table cloth lady finally returned! Well she didn’t, but her really confused husband with her receipt and minus the debit card stood steadfast cursing all Alabama fans and proclaiming War D&^% Eagle! It was a calamity! He wanted to return the table cloth that I had sold in early December after an hour of deliberation. Is it too large, it is the correct color, or will my daughter like this table cloth? Magnolia Garland was helping Mr. Auburn. He didn’t really comprehend what we were saying. He felt that we wanted to just say no to his return. This blog has gone too long, but trust me when I say it was a wild day inside and outside of the Barn.

I was thankful to work today and enjoy the carnival like atmosphere with my Barnyard friends! Manhattan, Magnolia, and all the others! The fun of working the Barn is 1 part customers, 1 part product and 1,000 parts associates! Manhattan said it best when we all had headaches from the ruckus outside, we had seen someone try to sell his place in line for $70, and all of our most special guests visited. “I am glad I could share this day with you!” This is true; if Hudson had been working we would have had to call HEMSI after his brain hemorrhaged. God bless the Barn!

Welcome to 2010

Survival TrainingI started this grand and glorious year with my brother and nephews at Pilot/Co-Pilot camp, a program of Aviation Challenge. It was so much fun! Whoever runs that place is a redheaded mastermind of fun! It was great hanging out with my family at AC for the weekend! It didn’t matter that Reece, call sign Pigskin, looked like a homeless Vietnam War vet. God love the little man, but he doesn’t care how he looks. Rhett, call sign Yankee, was concerned with shooting Alvin down. We all wanted to seek revenge on someone. We are a very competitive family! Shot down everyone in the sims and won the Flag Award. We had our fire built before Cornbread came back to the Boy Scout Area with matches.

Great weekend. I think Walt and I will be remembered as the college football people (Ole Miss and Florida played in Bowl games), because everyone knows I have to keep up with Urban Meyer and his boy! Ole Miss, I was hoping, would get wrangled by the OSU Cowboys. Great weekend only leads me to believe this will be a great year!

I am looking forward to training the newbies, presenting at SEEC and Honeywell Leadership Academy, the Star Wars exhibit, another AC 12 Day camp, and who knows, maybe another trip to Prescott for Oak Creek Nut Brown Ale and a PBC Wedge, or maybe, just maybe a winning season for MSU football! This year I started a really cool five year journal. Every day for five years I will add a paragraph about the day. Quick thoughts, maybe the quote of the day or something like that. Sounds like fun!

With the new journal, I am going to make a few changes this New Year. And they are as follows:

  1. Wear more pink, “Pink is my signature color!”
  2. Watch more reality TV. I want to create a new show, “Real Housewives of the Barn.”
  3. Be more huggie! Being affectionate is the true sign of a great leader!
  4. Stop using Dixon Ticonderoga pencils. Truly, you can’t tell a difference in Dixons and the Staple’s brand.
  5. Finally, break up with Peyton; I think I am more interested in younger men now. Tim Tebow is a hottie!

Good luck and God Bless in 2010!

2009 Year In Review

Last year I had a lot of fun with my year in review blog. Therefore, I made an executive decision to continue the tradition this year. The year 2009 was a great year for me and my hubby Chris. We spent most of the time sleeping under the same roof which was a drastic change from the previous four years in our marriage. During the year I took an exploratory outlook on life. I returned to the Barn after a ten month break and began blogging about the misadventures of the Barn. It was a year of great highs and a few lows, but overall it was a wonderful year! Here are my top ten moments of 2009!!!

Green Bay Pre-Game10. Trip to Wisconsin: Visiting Lambeau Field would have been great if I had seen just any game. However, our visit to Lambeau field was for the Packers vs. Vikings game; the game where Brett Favre returned to the Frozen Tundra, his former home. The best part of the road trip was sharing the adventure with my mom, dad, and Chris. The part that sucked was throwing up in the back seat of my mom’s Lincoln Navigator. All is well in the world, and Brett Favre was victorious!

9. Arizona Traffic School: This doesn’t sound like it should be a highlight of my year’s adventures. However, the recruiting trip to Prescott, Arizona is one of my favorite work assignments. During the fall, Snapper and I made our way back to Embry Riddle for the third time. On the trip into Prescott, a traffic camera caught me speeding. I am well versed in what to say to an officer when they pull me over. I was left speechless when I received a speeding ticket in the mail. One Saturday morning in December I played Mariah Carey music while I completed my online traffic school. The only thing that would have made Arizona traffic school better would have been a PBC Wedge from the Prescott Brewing Company.

8. The Plumber App: With a Twisted Taco cup in one hand and a crescent wrench in the other hand I attempted to fix my tub’s broken facet. I am not a plumber nor should I ever become one. In this attempt I broke my Motorola Razor and made way for my darling husband to purchase me, at long last, an iPhone with Plumber App. Looking back at this mini adventure and all the laughs it was well worth the mess I made in my bathroom.

7. Flaming Hookers: I am not going to tell the whole story, but the night of the Space Camp Hall of Fame a few friends and I continued the party at a local watering hole (ATO). This is where I was introduced to a Flaming Hooker. No, it isn’t a lady of the night who is being cremated. It is a drink made popular to space geeks in the book Riding Rockets. This story really isn’t the highlight but gives a great example of the fun I have had socializing with friends, astronauts, and space geeks. The top memory for me wasn’t the night of the hall of fame, but happened a few weeks later when I visited with a few members of STS-125 and Hoot Gibson. It was great sharing Story stories with Michael Massimino. Now I know how the bolt on Hubble was over torqued.

Jack Daniels (Dec 2009)6. Becoming a Squire: Last year while standing in line at Jack Daniel’s, waiting in the bitter cold to have bottles signed, Divot and I made a commitment to visit Lynchburg on a regular basis until one or both of us were Squires. In April of 2009, I received my deed to land at Jack Daniel’s making me a Tennessee Squire. Divot and I continued to visit the distillery and go to bottle signings. Visiting Lynchburg is fun, and being a Squire is a big deal to me!

5. Houston in February: Right after training dozens of new Space Camp counselors, I get away from my job by flying to Houston Texas to attended SEEC. Yes, it is a vacation to me! Learning more about space may make me a space geek, but hanging out with teachers from all over the U.S. is fun to me. Hanging out with my friend Rhonda is a plus! Last year we took a break from the conference to watch Pat Summitt win her 1,000th game as a head coach. I think Urban Meyer can learn a few things from Pat Summitt. She has 8 NCAA Championships over 35 years of coaching. Meyer has two BCS Titles in his young career. Coach Summitt, Rhonda, and NASA are all pretty dang cool!

4. Bourbon Trail: In late August I took a road trip to Kentucky. I was all by myself on this excursion. I visited Mammoth Cave and five bourbon distilleries. Along the way I learned a lot about Kentucky’s history, how to make bourbon, and why Jack Daniel’s is the best whiskey. True, you may think I am a traitor for visiting Jack competitors, but I wanted to see for myself what the difference was between Kentucky Straight Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey. If you decide to visit the Bourbon Trail, make sure you visit Maker’s Mark and Woodford Reserve. By far, those two distilleries have the best tours and a better product than the other bourbons.

Lucy's First Egg Bowl3. Lucy’s Bell: What do you get when you mix family with Mississippi State tailgating? The answer is, the best Egg Bowl ever! It was Lucy’s first Egg Bowl so she got a brand new pink bell from the Barns & Noble at State. Mississippi State gave Lucy and all their adoring fans lots of reasons to ring their cowbells this year in Starkville. Once State took the lead in the third quarter they didn’t give it up again as they pounced on Ole Miss 41-24! I know there have been bigger wins in MSU history, but for me this was the best one ever! My whole family was there for the game as we joined my aunts and uncles for pre and post game refreshments. Days and games like the Egg Bowl can show everyone outside of the South why SEC football is so near and dear to its followers!

2. Epic Return to the Barn: I left work at the Barn in the spring of 2008 just shy of five years with the store. I didn’t think I would return, but in March of this year I did. I was surprised after returning that I love working at the Barn more now than ever before! There is something about it. It is like when I left I was simply a Barnyard Hand in Training. Now, I feel like a Barn Ninja. And on top of all the fun I have working at the Barn, when I get home I can write about working at the Barn. It is truly the gift that keeps on giving. Working with characters (boy, are they characters) such as Hudson, Manhattan, Josephine Bedding and all the others is fun and enjoyable. Isn’t that what we should want in any job?

Red Bull stew1. Chief Reunion: In late July Chris and I visited Camp of the Rising Son for its 30 year reunion. Wow, CRS has been around for 30 years! I enjoyed visiting the camp that gave me my start as a camper and my first job as a camp counselor. It was wonderful visiting with old friends, I mean Chiefs. The whole process was a blessing as I reconnected with so many people. One of the highlights for me was my team winning the Camp Stew Cook Off! The secret is in the bacon! Unfortunately for me, some stories of the past did surface. I would like to tell everyone reading, I am truly sorry for tossing a bucket of water on a past Chief. And yes, the bucket had a few frogs in it. As a camp manager, I have learned that pranks are bad for camp.

Camp is my life! It has molded me into who I am today. I am a rambunctious, redhead who isn’t afraid of adventure. I love my family more than camp, but it is good going to a job you love every single day. My job has given me a lot of the experience listed above. I am lucky to have a great life surrounded by people I love, and who I think love me, or at least they don’t dislike me. So I am looking forward to the adventures of next year, and the next decade. I wish you all a very Happy New Year!

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!!

Bucking Tradition

Manger Growing up Christmas was so special. You learn about the birth of Christ in the nativity play. You witness the compassion and giving through family gatherings on Christmas day. Santa is a larger than life figure in a child’s development. The magic he represents and the belief that anything is possible can impact a child to dream big dreams. For me Christmas was all those things, but now I am just like all other adults I have stopped believing in Christmas.

My father laid a foundation of Christian beliefs before the belief of Santa and his elves. Each year before opening presents he would read the nativity story from Luke 2. He would always remind us that Christmas was more about our Lord giving his Son to us than it was about gifts and treats. I remember enjoying being in the Christmas play and sign carols at church. I loved Christmas.

One year in the late 80s my father and I heard a story about a cross being removed from hill side public land during the Christmas season. To answer this action, my dad build a ninety foot cross with PVC pipe and strands of Christmas lights. Drivers could see the cross from US 51 and sometime Interstate 55. I remember playing outside in the glow of that cross. It was comforting and somewhat protective. No one could change the culture on our hill in Carroll County.

As a thirty-three year old kid I don’t enjoy Christmas as much. I have seen the world and all its marketing executives hijack the meaning of Christmas. I work in a retail job where I see people flood into our store and the mall just to find stuff for people who do not need stuff. Most of the time what these people really need is love, hope, peace, or grace. So often in our modern, on the go, culture we forget the simple things. I have grown to hate Christmas as an adult. I know that is some strong words. However, we creep ever closer to forgetting what love really means.

For example, advertisements for jewelry stories trying to convince consumers that diamonds are the sign and seal of “True Love!” That if anyone wants to tell their significant other how much he or she really means to them they should buy a diamond and give it to them in a driving thunderstorm or at 2 AM beside the Christmas tree. What is love any how? Isn’t it patient, kind, protective, trusting, and true? And the only one who I think can pull off that kind of love is the exact person Christmas is supposes to honor and glorify, not Kris Kringle, Santa Claus, Saint Nick or any bearded old man in a red suit.

If you have been reading my blog since the start, this may all sound a little familiar. In my second blog entry, Traditions and Symbols, I talked about creating a new Christmas tradition of using a “feed trough” rather than a Christmas tree in my home. Pottery Barn didn’t catch the trend, but my father made me a darn nice manger. This year my gifts are wrapped in brown paper packages and tied up with string laying gently in a manger, just like baby Jesus thousands of years ago. Having my manger has melted just little of my Christmas hostility.

So I encourage everyone to finds something about Christmas they love. Latch on to some old traditions, break some rules, be nice to everyone, and create your own tradition. Our lives are not going to be as perfect as the Zales commercial might lead us to think they should be. However, if we put our faith in Christ and follow his example for life our next life will be perfect!

Barnyard Surprises

My blog was never intended to be a blog about my second job at the Bucket Barn. However, I have found great joy in sharing all the wonderful stories from the retail world on the world wide web. I enjoy finding creative names to protect the innocent Barnyard animals that mill around the pasture that is the mall. People I work with have referred to me as the chick that has the Bucket Barn blog. My blog is about everything and nothing all dyslexically mixed together. So tonight when Faux Snow proclaimed “I feel a blog in the making” to describe the night we had just finished, I knew my next blog would be focused on all the livestock that visited! It was a crazy night!

In the middle of several crazy phone callers, Baja Glassware came in the Barn. Baja is one of those men you would think would never walk into a Barn. He emulates the personality and manners of Dirty Harry. Judging by his military tour jacket he is more like Gunny Highway. His favorite Barnyard friend is Manhattan but he still gives her crap on a regular basis. Please don’t get me wrong, Baja is a loyal lover of the Barn who brings us lots of business, but when he swaggers into the Barn his motto is “Go ahead, make my day, I need to buy slipcovers for my sofa!”

Tonight when he came in asking for inserts to his couch this was something none of us knew how to do off the top of our heads, and Manhattan was no where around. Hudson saved the day by helping Baja. Baja always wants some deal, or great find. He has practically worn out his Barn credit card, which was also carved out of stone sometime after the Ten Commandments.

It was a smashing night at the Barn. During all the craziness Hudson broke a glass shelf in the back room. He proclaimed, “If I could just package up all these ten million pieces I could sell them as glitter, gems, or vase fillers!” It was a mess. I was wrapping wedding gifts, four to be exact, for a lady who didn’t want us to pull the numbers off the online Barn bridal registry. “I want it to be a surprise,” she said. If she wanted it to be a surprise then don’t get something off the bridal registry. The bride and groom pick out all that stuff. Faux Snow was holding down the fort outside in the Barnyard, lots of guests and lots of phone calls.

At Christmas time you get lots of phone calls on top of the hundreds of guest each week. I had several strange and odd ones tonight. One lady called asking about the cost of shipping for products we had in the Barn. Come to find out she really wanted to know for her mother-in-law because it was her gift. Really, you are going to call about shipping on your own gift? True, it was from her mother-in-law and I am sure she was avoiding fuzzy slippers, socks, bad jewelry, or a heart shaped bookmark. The call was very complicated in nature with measurements and colors involved. I wanted to call mother-in-law to teach her the joy of “Gift Cards!”

I had another caller who thought the Barn was Old Time Bucket! I am getting to the point where I know the tone in someone’s voice when they are looking for the Old Time Bucket. I had a needy Barn patron who wanted to return a rug she bought yesterday over the phone so she could use a coupon. The same needy guest wanted a tracking number on the same rug. Finally, she tried to haggle over the rug price once more thinking I would change my answer. I hated saying no, but obstinate shoppers make it easy.

However, the best phone call of the night had to be from the lady who wanted to know how long Santa would be at the mall. I chuckled at first and told her that he would be leaving before Christmas Eve for his journey around the world delivering presents. She really wanted to know Santa’s hours for the night, in other words, when he would be closing up shop for the evening. We answer the phone, “Happy Holidays thank you for calling the Barn…” not “Thank you for calling Santa’s Photorama.” When I told the guest I didn’t know Santa’s hours she explained that the mall office didn’t know either. The only interaction the Barn has with Santa is all the thousands of kids needing to go to the potty while waiting in line. The caller asked if I would venture outside the Barn to ask for her.

The greatest thing of the night was the BFFs shopping at the end of the evening. Hudson, Faux Snow and I were trying to put the store back together. If only we had the help of “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men” we might have been able to avoid the tsunami. Hudson was painstakingly tucking the sheets, comforters, and bedding. I was folding towels. As soon as Hudson was done straightening the Barn bedding, in walks three ladies, the Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The first thing they destroyed was the bed Hudson completed seconds earlier. Then they moved on to lounging in the second bed. It was as if they were in their own homes enjoying a day off. All the work Hudson had completed was trashed.

The apocalyptic destruction carried on for what seemed like an eternity. I would try helping the ladies, by asking questions about their homes’ decor. They ignored me only to shout more question at me but didn’t have time for my answers. “What is the difference between 300 and 400 thread count in sheets?” “What is a duvet?” “Can I get this in another color?” Finally all the questions stopped and it was time for check out. The leader of the pack pulled out her deck of 52 credit cards, spread them out as if she was showing me a card trick, and proceeded to pay. We had survived the night and remained calm.

Some shoppers find joy at sucking the joy out of retail, which made for one heck of a crazy night. I seem to think those people are challenges to make me better at my job. If I can remain cool and help the guest out, I have succeeded. These guests shop for only one goal, they want to find happiness for themselves. Happiness isn’t found in a box wrapped under a Christmas tree or on a bed in the middle of a Barn in Huntsville, Alabama. Happiness is found in family and friends celebrating the birth of Christ. I know I have a cynical view on Christmas to some, but if we could all focus on Christ and a little less on us Christmas it would be better for everyone.

Divas Storm the Barn

Late last night two denim clad divas stormed the Barn in Huntsville, Alabama. Barn yard hand Magnolia Garland greeted the divas at the door at approximately 8 pm. They stormed the store wreaking havoc throughout the Barn. The buns of steel (I am not talking about their butts) blazed from tablescape to tablescape. The long skirted divas were out shopping while dad had the dozens of kids.

While Santa Baby was playing for the millionth time this season, the diva’s phone rang with hubby on the other end of the line. There was some trouble at the Dugger’s house. It sounded like a little kid fell or busted their lip or maybe some other catastrophic event in a preschooler’s life. Hubby urged the darling diva to hurry home and little miss denim replied, “Oh, the Barn is about to close in five minutes. I’ll be home soon.” It appeared that little miss denim was shopping with mom or mom-in-law for a party on Friday night. They grabbed and moved and tossed and tumbled all round the Barn. Thankfully, the pair didn’t have any little turkey plates with them.

The denim divas could be considered regulars around the Barn, but I don’t want to admit they are good customers. I am sure all they buy they return days later. Closing quickly approached and Hudson scurried to finish his onslaught of straightening and overall overachievement of Barn cleanliness. I added ornaments to a Christmas tree we lassoed and drug to the front of the Barn. Great concept, if you ever want to move a fully decorated Christmas tree tie a leash around the base and pull the tree wherever you want.

Oh, back to the divas. Shortly after closing they were still in the Barn acting like Cleopatra or Marie Antoinette. They acted as if they didn’t know that 9 pm was our closing. They were still looking and shopping at their own time and pace. Heather Chenille was attending to them at this point… 9:14 the two divas wanted to know what time the Barn closes. “Oh, it should have been fourteen minutes ago.” They didn’t budge. I can’t understand how someone can be so self-absorbed to think their retail servants don’t want to go home to their own families and would rather pluck ornaments out of tablescapes than shut down for the night.

Yes, we are in the business of customer service. However, they smugly stood with their pocket books open and eyes shut to the fact we were closing. We gave service with a smile, but I can’t help but think the next time I am in a store minutes before close I will be considerate of other people’s time as well as mine. The point I am trying to make is, in the Christmas season when people are grumpy, walking like zombies through the mall we all need to be a little bit more compassionate. Is that what Jesus would have done. Wouldn’t Christ, the reason for the season, want to enjoy the company of a merchant rather than demand service late at night! Christmas isn’t about decorating your home and giving over priced electronics.

Tomorrow I will storm the aisles and hallways of the malls and shops around Huntsville. I will force myself to think of others, not myself while I am shopping. The denim clad divas taught me this late last night.

PS… Today, I visited the Barn to pick up a few Christmas gifts. I heard a report that the Denim clad Divas returned to the scene of the crime to return most all of the stuff they purchased. WHY? I know, they didn’t want the stuff in the first place.

Blogging for Blog Sake

Lots of GraphiteLast year on November 27th I posted my first blog on Blogger, and I have enjoyed every minute of the adventure. I am not blogging to make money, market a product, give cooking tips, or improve your golf game. I am not a mommy blogger or topical blogger. I am blogging to improve my writing skills. Yes, you read that correctly, I am blogging just for the heck of it. I am not hoping to get a book deal or have fifty-two minutes of fame. I am simply doing it to grow as a person and as a writer.

Growing up I struggled with the English language, and yes, being from the south there is a wise crack there somewhere. I couldn’t spell, didn’t know how to diagram a sentence, nor could I tell you the difference between a preposition and a participle. Despite my struggles I graduated high school and college. In fifth grade I was evaluated for a learning disability. My parents and I learned that I don’t decode words the same way most people do. I see the shape and my brain breaks words down like it would art or a geometry problem. I see shapes not sounds. The examiner told me that a typewriter was in my future. Wow, he couldn’t tell the future but was close, because I got a laptop!

My freshman year at Delta State I had one of the toughest English composition professors, Dr. Sarcone. I was scared to death of her. She kicked my butt, however I didn’t give up. She would tear my papers to shreds and then stomp on them. If only she had used a Dixon Ticonderoga correction pencil I could have found some positive in the class. There was one paper I wrote about living in a small town that she liked. As shocking as that was, I still couldn’t spell and I didn’t read so well, but this small bit of encouragement fueled me not to give up on school.

I sometimes feel like my blog is very “me” centered, like I want to draw attention to myself. This is not my intention, but I do want feedback. I want people to tell me if I have typos or misspelled words in a blog. I would like to know if I make sense to the general public. Looking back on my year of blogging I asked people on Facebook what their favorite blogs were. Facebook is where most people read my digital ramblings. There was no clear cut best blog and it seemed like all I was doing was drawing more attention to myself and butchering the English language. I have narrowed the list down to ten of my favorite blogs. Before I give you my top ten blogs, here are a few fast facts about my year in blogging…

  • I have written 83 blogs. Combine them all together, they account for more writing than I did in all four years of college at Delta State.  Sad, but true.
  • I started blogging on Google’s Blogger, but recently I have switched to WordPress.org using a personal server. I have some regrets to the switch, but the editing flexibility is worth it.
  • I have divided my blogs into seven categories and my favorite category to write about is the Barn. I get to use more creative license with Barn blogs than any other.
  • Facebook pushed more people to my site than any other referral site, almost as much as direct links to graphitefree.com. If you are considering blogging, make sure you have a great network of friends on Facebook.

After those few facts, I am sure you will not be interested in my best blogs to date; however, I will tell you anyhow. You can stop reading; we do still live in a free country! In no particular order here is a few of my favorite ramblings.

Boo in Sleeping BagHouse Guest: I loved writing this sentimental blog, but I knew that I was hooked on my new hobby of blogging when in the middle of the night Salem the cat used me as a pillow. I thought to myself, “This would make a great blog”. I was addicted and I didn’t even know it at the time.

Plumber App: Plumber App was a great way for me to poke fun at my awkwardly ironic life. It was short and to the point, but funny. And it was fun to write.

Barn Gone Wild: I enjoy writing Barn blogs more than any other topic. I started writing my twist on my retail experience in June. I have to be creative with my Barn banter to help protect the identity of those who shop and work at the Barn. And those who know what I am talking about seem to think it is funny stuff.

Dead Bird: This blog give a great description of why my job is one of the coolest jobs on earth. I can walk down a sidewalk, get distracted and meet a moonwalker. Or I can hang out with space shuttle commanders at Otters giving a new meaning to ATO!

Raptor (1997)Piggly Wiggly Flu: A very deep topic, I almost didn’t post it because it may be too heavy for readers, especially on Facebook. I was wrong. A lot of people enjoyed it and was pleased that I wrote it. Keep washing those hands and taking vitamin C!

Ode to the Raptor: I write about camp, a lot! Since I was young all I ever wanted to do was work at a summer camp. From Camp Garaywa, to CRS, and now at Aviation Challenge I love the dynamic educational environment around camps. This blog represents the best in the camp spirit. I love my AC family and that includes the Raptor.

A Jack Daniels Still Bourbon Trail Blogs: I love my adventure blogs, because my first journal was a travel journal. Lookin’ for Adventure, Joe and Jim, Who is Elmer T. Lee? and White Dog were the blogs I wrote while on my Kentucky adventure. I can’t just pick one because I like them all. While I was gone I realize that if I don’t make it with my real job or working at the Barn, I could write for travel magazine.

Benefits to Jack Daniels: Chris made a contact with his current employer while sharing a meal with strangers at Miss Mary Bobo’s in Lynchburg, Tennessee. His move from PwC to Booz Allen Hamilton has forced us to be married… first time in five year of marriage.

Good Okra Hunting: I love my college. Sharing my love for Delta State and the Mississippi Delta is so enjoyable to me. I wrote this blog after a recruiting trip to DSU with Amazon. I got to find new places to eat and catch up with a few professors and friends.

I Think I May Lose My Job: My blog is about my random rambling about my life. When Bill Belichick went for it on fourth down against the Colts I knew I wouldn’t get much done at work the next day. I love Peyton Manning and I love went Boston teams loose!

Poverty Barn

This weekend was a great weekend at the Barn. I had been away from the Barn for over a week. Returning from a trip to Wisconsin and a recruiting trip to Florida, it was great to work with all my friends on Sunday. I got to work with an old timer Manhattan Chair. Manhattan and I go way back… back, back, back, back, all the way back to the store opening. Earlier this fall we celebrated our Barn’s sixth anniversary by working together. I have learned a lot from everyone I have worked with, but Manhattan has taught me a lot about management and the PB way!!!

I want to share one of Manhattan’s stories with you first.  She had a guest that wanted to freshen up her bedroom décor. Fresh being the key word… This guest needed something new to re-energize a room that had given her so many memories. She shared that so many men had influenced her life and this was represented in her bedroom. She had dated a Protestant, a Catholic, and… {whispering} a Muslim… she had been married to an American, a Russian, and a Canadian. At this point in time, I would have boldly stated, “I feel so uncomfortable!!!” Not the calm, cool and collected Manhattan Chair! The guest was asking for intimately more than decorating advice. She stared a blushing situation down without blinking an eye. I on the other hand would have run screaming into the back of the Barn. No time to chat about rolling in the hay around this Barn.

I had the privilege of meeting a delightful couple in need of a dining table and chairs. This I could handle! They reminded me of Goldilocks and The Three Bears. The Montego family sat in one chair and it was too BIG. They tried another chair and it was too SMALL. They finally found a chair that was just RIGHT!! It was so charming how they moved from one chair to the next and communicated their likes and dislikes. They looked at this table and that table and found the one that was just right for them. They asked me if it would be going on sale anytime soon. Unfortunately for them the Barn’s executives don’t share top secret pricing information with little ole me. I shared with them some shopping strategies and tips and they shared with me their pet name for the Barn.

Before I tell you their clever name for the Barn, the Montegos are loyal lovers of the Barn. I am sure they are just Dave Ramsey disciples. Their pet name is a great reminder that the Barn must truly appreciate their loyal lovers during this economic down turn. Thus, customer service is a must! They lovingly call the Barn, Poverty Barn, because if you shop too much at the Barn, you will be forced to live in the poverty house. As soon as they shared their pet name, they gave me permission to use the name. So I shared with them my little blog that I sometimes write about the best retail store in Huntsville!!! I think me and the Montegos are kindred spirits. I hope I am at the Barn when they purchase their dining room table.