Friday, December 7, 2012

Decoration debacle or gift in disguise?

When Jay and I moved into our house in NC in 2005, it was just after Christmas, so we were sort of in a holiday limbo that year. We're sort of in the same boat this year on the tail end of leaving our house. We have all of this stuff that was measured for the house that is too big for this apartment - and it's all crammed into boxes in the storage closet off the patio.
We're very excited to be seeing some family this week, and I had every intention of "decking our halls," but with work being uber crazy, it just hasn't happened. There's a wreath on our door and I'm gonna hang up some lights out on the balcony, but that's pretty much it.
I figure we'll be out and about at places with plenty of holiday cheer - and hopefully next year we'll be in a place with a little more space and feel a little more settled - and they I'll know just where to hang the garland and just where to trim the tree.
While his family is here, we're also planning to take them to see some of the hundreds of decorated trees down at Disney, and to the Candlelight Processional at Epcot and to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, so I think that'll be plenty festive!
Our Christmas spirit will come from within - and the post-holiday stress of taking down the decorations is gone! What a gift!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Tweets vs. Christmas Cards

A friend of mine posted something funny on Facebook yesterday - a funny story from The Onion about a family discontinuing the "print" edition of their Christmas cards in favor of online.
This obviously struck a nerve with me in the year that Newsweek went under, during the same week that saw three more journalists laid off at Jay's newspaper and about the general perceived (or real) decline of print products in general.
As I write this, I can actually see the little mail house where all of the apartments go to pick up their mail in the one centralized hut. There are little garbage cans out there, too - so that people can just chuck their junk mail directly in there.
And it got me to thinking: Do people think our Christmas cards are old-fashioned? Passe? Or do they do for them what they do for me - and to others who I've watched at this box: (Junk. Junk. Bill. Junk. Smile, for the Christmas card.) For so many of us, it's just impossible to send. There's no guilt meant to be put on anyone else here. Frankly, some years, it is just unmanageable. But for me, it's just something I enjoy.
Going through my old address book (still written in pen!) makes me reflect for just a moment on old friends, acquaintances and family to whom I should have spent more time and attention with.
Certainly, things like FB and Twitter have helped with that in some cases. But for the part of my contacts who aren't on those avenues, it will always be a part of my tradition.
But I WOULD like to apologize now. My handwriting STILL isn't getting any better. So the Christmas letter (which my Dad hates!) is typed.
There are many people for whom we are missing addresses. We hope to get them soon to send another batch of cards. Sending them is really the start of the season for us. Happy holidays!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Silver and Gold

There’s an old campfire song that says, “Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other gold. A circle is round, it has no end; That’s how long I will be your friend.”

On a day like yesterday, I received so many wonderful birthday wishes from all over the country - from people I haven't seen in a while, and I was reminded just it is so nice to be connected. It made me really think about friendships throughout the years. (Here are some pictures of some of those people.)
Sixth Grade at Lawrence Intermediate School
During every phase of life, you meet a slew of new people. Some of them come into your world and make a wonderful impression, but then slip out of your circle of friends because of time or space. But the important ones always find their way back.
Lawrence High School (junior year)
Other people stay in your life’s colander, never slipping through the holes. There are those who you know are constants – the ones who have been with you since childhood, or college, or maybe the key people you met when you first arrived at a new job. These are the souls who really know you. They’ve seen you ugly cry. They know what you look like first thing in the morning.
Winthrop girls in Charleston (sophomore year??)
A quality of each friendship can’t be measured in the same way. In every part of our lives, we need and want different things from friends, and we have unique memories of each person. We may even touch people in ways we don’t know. There are those that you know will be permanent. These are the people who we know we can always call when we REALLY need them – even if we haven’t talked in a while.
Tanya's baby shower at Kim's house
I recently had someone share with me a memory of something that I had done for her 11 years ago that was meaningful to her. I had no recollection of it at all. You just never know what will touch people. A word, or a gesture, or a card at just the right time that seemed insignificant to you, may have been just the right thing. No matter what, people who take care of other people are gifts to be cherished.
In the Christmas spirit after a N&R bake sale.

And just because you lose touch with someone doesn’t mean that they weren’t important – it might just mean that you both have other things going on. Inevitably, your paths will always cross again. During the past year and a half, I have been overwhelmed with the love and friendship and goodwill that came to me, both when I left the News & Record, and now that Jay and I are leaving North Carolina. 
The N&R gang.
It makes me think that maybe the song isn’t quite right. I think the friends song – at least the one that I relate to – isn’t an either or proposition. I think I’m looking for more of a mixed metal bracelet. What makes the circle strongest is all of the piece together – and they will never let the chain of silver AND gold break.
Dioni's tubing adventure on the Dan.
The Gold and Silver friends in my life have found wonderful spaces together, and I will miss all of them in their own way. And I can’t wait to make new ones in our new space.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Why yes. Little 'ol me is gonna drive this here big truck

I consider myself a pro at moving. After our most recent trip, I actually think I'd even consider a career in the logistics business as a highway transportation specialist. (That's my new fancy name for a trucker.) Check out my 26-foot long, 12-foot tall ride that DID take up the entire length of the gas station:
The first "cross-country" move, of course, was when I went off to college in South Carolina from New Jersey. I didn't have a whole lot of stuff - just what would fit in my my parents car and my 1983 LTD police car model (oh, Bessie, how I miss you) to fit in a half dorm room.
But while I was in college, I moved back home for the summer, then into a different dorm, back home again, and then to a third dorm where I had my own room.
This is where things started getting more complicated. Now, I could fit a small sofa that I got at the Salvation Army. (Whoever's truck I borrowed, thank you (Neely?)).
The following summer, instead of moving home, I moved in to an off- campus apartment (where we bought more furniture.) Another off-campus apartment (with still more furniture now included things like a dining room table and chairs, a coffee table, a super heavy TV cabinet of some sort and I think some dressers and beds? (Again, I have no recollection of how we hauled this stuff around.) I don't remember a Sherpa, but it was a long time ago.
After graduation, my first apartment in Hillsville, Va. was nice, but sparse, and everything I owned fit in a small U-Haul. Friends drove my car while I drove the smallish U-Haul - and boy, that truck did NOT like going UP that big mountain. Thanks to the experience in my giant car, I felt pretty comfortable driving the big truck, though.
Which was good. It came in handy for when I helped a friend of mine move to Petersburg, Va., and she asked me to drive her 24-foot U-Haul truck DOWN the mountain. The truck had plenty of space. Which was good - since she and her fiance had a lot of stuff. 
What it did not seeming have was any brake pads. There was not a gear low enough to slow this truck down to a speed that would prevent me from having to use the brakes nearly all the way down the mountain. I suddenly had a very new appreciation for the "runaway truck ramps" and wondered just how much of her grandmother's silver would end up over the side of Low Gap, Va., if we ended up pulling an Evil Knievel. Luckily, it never came to that.
Each new experience after that - up to Maryland and back down to North Carolina, then led me to the wise realization that  Jay and I finally came to when we moved into our new home in Kernersville:  Hire movers, stupid. Yeah. It was worth it. Of course, that was just an across town move. Sort of affordable.
Cut to our latest adventure, and pricing moves 500 miles away? I don't consider myself cheap. Frugal, perhaps. But $5,000!?? No. I would be back up in that truck. (We could hire movers to load and unload it for a couple hundred and the truck rental for under $1000.)
We got the truck in the driveway - And it DID take up nearly the entire length of our driveway.
And the then people started asking me things like:
  • "Wow. YOU'RE gonna drive THAT truck?"
  • "So, are you scared to drive it?" 
  • And my favorite: "Oh, I didn't know you had your CDL" (commercial driver's license.) (I don't, I said.) "And they still let you drive it?"
I'm pleased to report that I did not hit anyone or anything on the way to Florida. There ARE a couple of stories from the road. Those are coming next....

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A whole new world

With apologies to Alan Mencken and Tim Rice, I can't really think of another way to talk about what Jay and I have gone through in the past eight weeks. ("We're not in Kansas anymore" would certainly be appropriate, but since we're moving to Orlando, I had to go with that.)
The application
Right around July 4th, Jay applied for a multi-platform production editor job at the Orlando Sentinel. He got a phone call several weeks later and had a great phone interview.
At the end of the call, I came out of the office at our house and looked down the stairs to ask him how it went. I will never forget the sound of his voice or the look on his face as he stood at the landing at the bottom of the stairs and said, "I think I'm gonna get this job."
A few days later, he was contacted to come down in person.
By then, I spent evenings looking hopefully at apartment and housing listings in the area - just in case. While he was at his interview, I also bought one roll of packing tape. Just in case.
The wait
Jay thought everything had gone pretty well. But then we didn't hear anything back for about a week. One night, we had a talk about the fact that it was ok, and there would be other jobs. I knew he was disappointed, but he has done his very best.
The next morning, Aug. 7, I got a call at work.
"Do you have a second?"
I took my cell phone out into the back hallway at work and waited for the bad news.
"Wanna live in Orlando?" he asked.
Everything changed. Just like that.
Get a move on
Now what?
Jay had to give notice. I had to hope that my boss would give me permission to work from home. (Thank goodness she did.)
Then all we had to do was find a place to live, pack up everything we owned, move it ten hours away and sell our house. No problem.
What blows my mind is that our house will be on the market this weekend - just a month after all of this began. It looks better than ever, too - with the new paint on the banister and the pressure washing on the vinyl, deck and driveway - it's shiny and bright. I actually find that spackling and painting is pretty relaxing. 
We have lots of stories from the actual move. More to come.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Olympic's parade of nations - a march of athletes or social studies lesson?

Every two years, during the opening ceremonies of the Winter or Summer Olympics, there seems to be a debate over whether the commentators (usually NBC's Bob Costas) should try to weave in interesting tidbits about the countries as they parade in.
What would make the most sense on this occasion would be fun facts about the athletes. Or perhaps some insight into a struggle that one of the Olympians has overcome.
But anymore, it has turned into a Western-centric, lowest common denominator boiling down of every stereotype of each country. In the cases where the voices behind the mics actually try to talk about the strife in countries, they are boiled down to a context-less, banal explanation without any insight into the possible impact on the Olympians themselves.
Frankly, there is no time in the 30 seconds per country to begin a geo-political discussion about the issues in Egypt, Syria, Afghanistan or even the political hot buttons of universal health care that were dredged up during theatrical portions of the show.
Here's some friendly advice for the writers of the Sochi Winter Games in 2014 - keep the spirit of the games in mind.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

General News Feature - "Open-air art - An unusual cabana reflects its owners' spirit of fun"

Open-air art - An unusual cabana reflects its owners' spirit of fun
Greensboro News & Record (NC)-May 20, 2012
Edition: News & Record
Section: LifePage: D1

        GREENSBORO - You might notice something is a little different as soon as you pull up to the home of Drs. Larry Ransom and Kathleen Lucas.

        A bright bird of paradise is painted on the mailbox. The entry is a stained-glass work of the plant, too, one that blooms into a brilliant plume of yellowish orange, purple and green.

        Proceed down the long driveway. And listen. You'll hear the sound of a … waterfall? Where is it coming from? Is it the carport?

        Nope. That's their car cabana.

        "Par-ty, par-ty, chi-chi-chi," Lucas chanted one recent morning as she described the mood that she and her husband wanted to create when they built the open-air structure.

        Is it functional? Sure. But it's also a piece of art, it's fun, and it captures their spirit.

        The car cabana features a skylight, a water feature, a cupola and a one-of-a-kind, built-in sculpture by renowned Greensboro artist Jim Gallucci.

        Lucas bought the home in northwest Greensboro in 1998, a year before she married Ransom.

        The couple honeymooned in Aruba and then got their first bird of paradise. The plant now stands nearly 4 feet tall in their living room and blooms every year. The colors and its spirit of calm run through their home and her office.

        When Ransom, a neonatologist and a Master Horticulturist, leaves his tiny patients, he comes home to a sanctuary that he has spent years cultivating - one that includes a fruit orchard, mini vineyard, greenhouse and, now, this project.

        The couple had a practical need for a carport. But they had other storage spaces, so the new building didn't need to be a garage.

        "The car cabana isn't just about a place to park," Lucas said. "It's a place to gather and entertain."

        Lucas' home and office are decorated in the colors of the bird of paradise: shades of purple, aqua blues and lush greens.

        "I like things that are art as well as practical," Lucas said.

        Enter architect Carl Myatt, who helped Lucas redesign her pediatric practice years ago.

        "The idea is to start the job with a concept and then figure out how to interpret the idea," Myatt said. "It's got to fit the style of the house and bring in the idea."

        And in this case, the technical requirements weren't easy. The cabana is open on all four sides, with no support beams in the middle, and requires a pump for the water feature.

        But the extra, exposed structural beams underneath just provided an opportunity for more colors to be injected into the project.

        With the help of builder John Fields, Myatt, Gallucci and other experts, they did it. The pitch of the roof and even the shingles match the home's roof.

        Though the carport faces the front of the house, the custom cupola, the water feature and the skylight all face the home.

        "I wanted to relate the structure to the existing home," Myatt said.

        All of the artistic details happened organically, too, Lucas said.

        Whether it was solving problems of splashing or finding creative new touches (such as using a Chinese takeout box as a sculptural element to slow the flow of water on each side), there seems to be a story about every detail.

        Lucas and her sister, Gina Lucas, created a tile mosaic in the catch basin of the water feature, and each capstone in the base of each support beam has a special meaning.

        Even after the space was finished, elements were added. During a trip to Asheville, Lucas found an albatross mobile that now hangs in the middle of the space, almost serving as a protector of the domain.

        When the car cabana was finished, Ransom got to work on other projects, including a Japanese rock garden and a bamboo installation to blend into a nearby koi pond.

        Ransom said the whole project - including the landscaping, cabana and four tons of gravel that he shoveled into the Zen garden - probably cost between $15,000 and $20,000.

        But the end result? A veritable oasis.

        Lucas has advice to other homeowners who might want to make improvements to their homes.

        "Don't be afraid to go out of the box," she said. "Use all of your senses. And then find someone to help you design it."