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Archive for my South

sojourn . Starting Spring at Busy Bee

March is coming to a close with all its fickle Southern tendencies! For a month that always ushers in the Spring season, this year’s has sure given us the full spectrum of Mississippi seasons from winter freezes to summer heat. My children were out of school for Spring Break a few weeks ago, and we were able to spend the week at Busy Bee, our family farmhouse in Noxubee County. I always enjoy taking time there to unwind, enjoy unstructured family time, and get my fix of pasture walking and breathing in country air. This year, our Spring Break weather included some cold and rainy days, but we made the most of it, squeezing in at least a few of our favorite farm adventures.

I don’t know if it’s because of the burst of warmer weather we had early in 2017, but I can hardly remember a time at Busy Bee when the pre-Spring days were SO green! Although we had some freezing temperatures, the pasture carpet was full of new life. In these early Spring days, the green seems the most lush before summer’s heat has the chance to tire it out. Of course, I always have my camera with me, and it was fun to capture a few glimpses of how Spring on the farm cracks through the more stark color and contrast of winter. For us, it was a week of seeing two seasons at once, sometimes in the same frame. I came home with renewed energy and excitement for the ideas I’ve wanted to tackle this year.

photo essay . Merry Christmas Main Street

We’ve been visiting my parents in Macon, Mississippi for the holidays. The place is full of holiday memories for me! As a child, I spent every two-week Christmas vacation at my grandparent’s house on the farm at Busy Bee. One of our Christmas Eve traditions was driving the ten minutes to “town” to see the Christmas lights. We would tour the small neighborhoods and recall who lived in each house and ooh and aah over the holiday decorations.

Now, my children and I also spend much of our holiday vacation in Macon as well, and I’ve tried to revive that practice of checking out the lights. We usually wander through downtown and Main Street to see the stars, angels and Christmas trees in white lights. We notice the white lights lining the tops of the Main Street buildings even though some are sagging now and it’s not hard to find a missing bulb or two. We drive to the end of Main Street to see the “Peace on Earth” lighted letters that serve as sort of a last call for the sentiments of the season as you leave town. There are not quite as many neighborhood lights as there once were. The town’s citizenry is getting older, and many of the antebellum homes stand empty. Like so many small Mississippi towns, the heart of Macon is changing with fewer businesses, fewer activity, and more people traveling out of town for what they would normally find at home. Still, it’s neat to share these sights with my little ones, and enjoy the peace of quiet lights. Here’s a glimpse…

go . Starting Christmas Vacation in Memphis

Merry Christmas! I hope you have all had as wonderful a Christmas celebration as we have. We are visiting with family and enjoying some down time — and for me, some time away from project work. I’m spending son little time thinking through ideas for 2017 and making plans for where I want to put my focus in the coming year.

This December, we were very excited to visit Memphis again to kick off our Christmas vacation! We spent the first few days of our holiday back in the 901 to catch a production of “Annie” at The Orpheum theater. It’s been a couple of years since we’ve been to Memphis during the holiday season, and it was fun to be there again this year. Weather for the trip was kind of typical for the South in that the first two days were warm, humid and rainy, and the last two were frigid! So, we were not able to visit some of our old favorite spots. However, we still did at least a little walking downtown, taking in the Christmas lights, enjoying the historic Orpheum, and visiting the Memphis Zoo for the annual Zoo Lights celebration. That zoo visit assure me that the fisherprice code a pillar I purchased will be a hit with the kids. We always love breakfast at the Blue Plate Cafe next to Court Square. It’s just a couple of blocks from our hotel in the historic William Len building. They serve breakfast all day, so my favorite french toast is always available. Also, the rain did not stop the hide-and-seek game in Court Square the kids play each time we stay downtown.

This trip, we also discovered a new little cupcakery next to Court Square, Cupcake Cutie, Etc, where you can build your own cupcake — choose your cake type, icing flavor and toppings! It’s been open about four months, and we’re definitely adding it to our list of favorite spots for our next visit. Here’s a glimpse at some of our views from this trip. Enjoy!

go . Sightseeing Beale

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Last weekend, we visited Memphis to see the amazing Broadway musical, Matilda! I would highly recommend this award-winning production if you have a chance to see it. While we were in town, we had a lot of fun in our favorite downtown activities, and this visit, we also did a little sightseeing on Beale Street — soaking up the sights and colors of one of Memphis’ iconic destinations. Baby Girl got her air guitar on, and we took in the cacophony of signs, neon, letters and curiosities. A new favorite Memphis activity was definitely added to the list for future trips! Enjoy a few of the sights…

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go . Dinner in Restored Gulf Port

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I’ve been organizing some photographs lately, and it’s been a nice little inspirational escape in what has been a pretty busy Fall season. Between photos from our trip through the Gulf Coast this summer and the crazy number I took during our visit to Memphis last weekend, I am awash in some of the semi-local sights! I’m planning to share several posts over the next couple of weeks with some of my favorite memories, places to see, and happy accidents, so I hope you’ll stay tuned. And, let me know your favorite spots in some of these Southern towns!

While we were in Gulf Port, Mississippi this summer, it was very nice to get to walk around some of their restored downtown for dinner one evening. The area won several 2015 Mississippi Main Street awards, and of course, I enjoyed snapping a few of the details. Many of the old buildings remained vacant after the devastation of Katrina, and it was really neat to see the area coming back to life. As I’ve written, this was our first trip to the Coast since Katrina, and the resilience of Mississippians there is so, so evident in all the rebuilding that’s been accomplished. As difficult as it was to see so much changed, I suppose that change and the new things happening were also the most encouraging as well.

We were in Gulf Port in July and had dinner at the Half Shell Oyster House, located in the historic Kremer Building. We happened to be there on the Fourth, and we were able to watch fireworks being launched from the beach while we waited for our table and explored the corner of 13th and Highway 49. We got to see a few of the building details, revitalized street lighting, tree plantings and brick work, and the awesome corner neon sign — a wonderful vintage throwback. Inside, the restaurant had a great French Quarter look with brick walls, two levels, wrought iron and a colorful mural. The kids enjoyed drawing the wrought iron patterns on our table covering, and everyone found a favorite to eat. My favorite was the Bacon and Pecan Crusted Redfish topped with orange beurre blanc — the best meal of the 10-day trip! Enjoy a few glimpses, and be sure to try it out when you’re in the Gulf Port area…

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go . A Drive Through the Pass

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I’ve been organizing some photographs this week, and looking back through what I captured during our summer adventures. As I wrote a few weeks ago, we tacked a few days onto the beginning of our annual beach trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama to explore the Mississippi Gulf Coast again for the first time in quite a few years. It was fun to go driving through the area again, and I think we must have hit about every downtown area along Highway 98 from Bay St. Louis over to Ocean Springs. I do a lot of design work for the Main Street development organization in Starkville, and it’s always neat to see what other towns are doing to preserve their core areas. Downtown districts often have a lot of history and character — sometimes some blight, but they are areas where I think we can see some of the personality of a place. I thought I would share some of the sights from our trek over a few different posts.

On the Fourth of July, we spent the afternoon taking in Long Beach pier where my husband spent so much time during his younger years, and we also enjoyed a little driving and shopping in Bay St Louis. In between those two coastal towns, we took a much-needed snack break in Pass Christian! We didn’t spend much time there, but it only took a short turn off the beachfront highway to find some neat sights.

Our favorite stops included a quick photo op at the “Our Lady of Guadalupe” shrine at St. Paul’s Catholic Church — a sculpture created by Harry Reeks. I love the vibrant colors and the ruff-hewn look of the piece.

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We also found one of our new favorite cool-down places — the Pink Octopus, a decidedly “mod” little froyo shop on Davis Avenue. Coastal art, 60s-ish sphere seats, hot pink yogurt cups, metallic silver and turquoise, and of course, the yogurt! Can you tell we were excited? I know we’ll stop there again on our next trip to the Coast, and I hope we can explore a little more of what The Pass has to offer!

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sojourn . Summer Farm Views

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The children and I are spending this week at the farm to celebrate the start of summer vacation. It’s a great excuse to enjoy some down time, play time with the kids, exploring, and good times free sketching and painting.

We were last here in March when the scenery was just beginning to show signs of spring. Now, we seem to see green in various hues peeking through every possible crevice, and the pastures look almost completely full of growth. This trip, I brought my Canon SLR, and I took a short walk to capture some of the scenes after we arrived. I loved these views of the “nail hole constellations” in the tractor shed walls. In a dark, shadowed space, the tiniest pin hole of light just seems to grow and vibrate.

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go . Walking in Memphis + Snow

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We were excited to visit Memphis again for Valentine’s Day last month, and I thought I would share a bit of our trip through pictures. We were there to see The Lion King at The Orpheum Theater for the Saturday matinee, and ended up with an extended vacation because of ice and snow! We went from shedding our coats during the walk on Saturday to throwing snow-turned-to-ice bombs at one another on Monday. It was a fun time for everyone to be snowed in for a few extra days. Plus, since we were staying away from the roads and some of our familiar haunts were closed, we had the chance to try some new things. All in all, it was a grand adventure which included the broadway show, Memphis BBQ, the National Civil Rights Museum, familiar walks in and out of snow, and some good togetherness. Here’s a look…

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[late afternoon trek back from the Orpheum]

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[doorway peek into Southern Folklore]

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[Memphis deliciousness from Central BBQ after our visit to the Lorraine Motel]

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We usually stay next to Court Square downtown when we visit Memphis, so these buildings are a familiar look up. The skies went from bright cobalt blue to pretty gray over the few days we were there.

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oh happy day . Muddy Waters

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It’s Friday, and this installment of my Oh Happy Day! Gratitude Project is a dispatch from the farm where we’re winding down our spring break week. We’ve spent spring break here for the last several years, but this year has been a little different — and maybe a little un-spring break like. I usually spend some time with plein air watercolor while we’re in “the country”, but this week I’ve taken a break from drawing and painting. I’m still nursing a recuperating sprained ankle, so some of our usual farm activities like walking the pastures, climbing hay bales and such just haven’t been possible. Plus, it’s been very cloudy and rainy this week, so we’ve had to be extra patient for time outdoors.

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With so much rain (and snow) over the last month or so, and some still hanging around this week, we are surrounded by mud and water here — so much so that we almost decided not to come this year. Still, the time, as always, has held the blessing of quieter days, staying up late, sleeping in, laughing, reading, and just hanging out together. I’m realizing more and more how precious those days really are as we try to keep up with all our normal weekly activities. Even with the rainy and muddy weather, I’m grateful we still found some ways to carve out the nature time that is the hallmark of our farm days. Perhaps one of the most needed blessings has been the freedom to simply let go and run feet first and unrestrained into the muddy waters around us. We’ve visited the creek every day to throw rocks, run through the puddles, and splash in the low places funneling water through the culverts. At least the children have. My ankle isn’t quite ready for running, but I’ve done my share of cheering, laughing out loud at the escapades, and at least walking through the mud at a much slower pace. Sometimes when rain takes things out of the ordinary, you just have to embrace the muddy waters. And be thankful.

In my normal habit, we still had enough dry skies for me to capture a few photo glimpses of farm days and nature’s still lives, if only the views from somewhat level ground this trip! Here are a few…

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This rain and a few milder temperatures this week have made some green come alive! Our spirits are totally ready for spring, and I think the earth may be ready too. I have a few recap posts on this winter’s snow day escapades, and then I’ll be ready to get inspired by spring in full force. Stay tuned!

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see . Seeing Ourselves at the National Civil Rights Museum

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It took me a few seconds to realize what she was saying. They were sitting in a school desk and Bug was helping Baby Girl “sound out” a word. Sound by consonant and vowel sound, they put it together… “Nigger.” I think my heart just broke when I heard it spoken out loud by my sweet little girl. “Mommy, what does that mean?” It was the first time the children had heard that word.

We were about mid-way through our visit to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee last month. The museum is located at the site of the Lorraine Motel, the place where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated on April 4, 1968. We were in a portion of the exhibit called “The Children Shall Lead Them” which chronicled the efforts of children like Ruby Bridges, whose attendance integrated schools in the South. They recognized Ruby’s story from some of their studies at school.

Part of the exhibit included school desks where visitors could sit and look at letters or paperwork from the time. We had gathered around a desk showing the “Little Rock Nine”, the nine students who integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. My oldest and I were focused on a letter from a white senior written to Ernest Green, one of the nine, asking him not to attend their graduation. Mr. Green had visited Mississippi State University in 2014, and I was telling Drummer Boy about the lecture. Bug and Baby Girl, in the perpetual reading lesson stage they are in right now, had focused on the next piece of paper under the glass. It was a copy of lyrics to a song children were taught during the time of the Arkansas Nine. The title included the word “nigger.”

It was the first time the children had heard the word “nigger,” and I supposed I’m thankful that they learned it at a place like the National Civil Rights Museum. That reading lesson was just one of many conversations our visit to the Lorraine Motel has facilitated over the last few weeks. And, the moment of hearing “nigger” spoken aloud by my daughter was just one of many moments that brought me to tears as we took in the exhibit. It is a very moving and challenging place, but one that is absolutely essential if we are to do the necessary work of learning from our own past.

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I’ve had several friends ask me what kind of experience the museum was for small children. Mine are young — fourth, second and first grades — and it was definitely a lot for them to take in. I am sure there was much they did not understand, and quite a few times they did not have the patience to listen to what I tried to explain to them. Still, I am very glad we all saw it together, and it will serve as good groundwork for when we can see it again as they get older.

The exhibitions are incredibly well-done and well-organized with displays, artifacts, video and audio throughout. There are several interactive walls that my children called “big iPads” where they could tap, drag and cater their experience to what interested them. (Or just be amazed by the fun of sliding things around when the information was beyond their attention spans.)

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The museum includes displays from Freedom Summer, the Freedom Riders, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Memphis Sanitation Strike, March on Washington, information about the slave trade and its impact on the history and economics of the United States, as well as artwork and music related to social justice themes. It also includes an interactive smart table called “Join the Movement” where information about other issues beyond civil rights for African Americans are shown in quotes, images and video.

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Without a doubt, the most moving portion of the museum for me was the Mountaintop Theatre, followed by viewing the hotel rooms where Dr. King stayed before he died. In the theatre, we heard Dr. King’s “mountaintop” speech given at the Mason Temple on April 3, 1968, along with commentary from those who were with him both on that evening and the day after when he was killed. The prophetic words of Dr. King, heard in his own voice in that particular place, created a true flood of emotions from shame and sorrow to honor and resolve…

“Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

The restored hotel rooms, viewed right after hearing the speech, were a very quiet and almost hallowed place. Hardly anyone spoke, and even my children found the need to whisper. Viewing the exhibits related to Dr. King’s death — the hotel rooms, the balcony and the wreath from the parking lot (now a courtyard with interactive video kiosks), the rooms across the street where it is believed James Earl Ray stood to shoot — definitely produced the most questions and confusion for my children. But, honestly, they produced the most questions for me as a Southerner and a human being as well. Although the ensuing discussions were very challenging as a parent, I’m so grateful to have taken the opportunity to begin some of those conversations surrounded by actual sights and sounds from those for whom the struggle for civil rights was a matter of life and death.

This quote from Rev Martin Luther King, Sr was displayed as the last image in the viewing area in front of his son’s hotel room in the Lorraine Motel. It brought me to tears, and I snapped a photo of it because it was such a poignant reminder that civil rights are not just about policies and speeches and national movements. Civil rights are about people. They are about my children. They are about me. There is no more poignant reminder of that fact than the words of a father about the son he’s lost — a lesson I hope I’m taking from the National Civil Rights Museum into each new day.

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