Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Major the Millsaps Office Fish

I'm in the process of re-organizing/decorating my office. I've been in my "new" office space since January and it's taken me a couple of months to figure out what to do. I'll share pictures soon, but until then, meet Major the Office Fish.

Isn't he pretty? Yes, we are the Millsaps Majors, and no, I couldn't come up with a better name. But he is a pretty close match to our official PMS 273 so at least he meets our graphic standards!

Millsaps has a long history of campus pets - there are the Mill Cats behind Murrah Hall and past presidents are remembered warmly for their dogs (including the Graves family's beagles who followed the family to Sunday lunch in the Caf). My favorite story, though, is of Joe - a stray bulldog that lived on campus in the 1910s & 20s.

Apparently, he was Millaps' unofficial mascot as retriever for the ball team. During WWI enlisted men were stationed at Millsaps for training and Joe quickly became a favorite with the soldiers. The College sent Joe the soldiers' mascot to Camp Livingston and then to Camp Beauregard. There, sadly, he was accidentally shot during a target practice. Lula Gaulding Waktins, wife of the Millsaps president at the time, wrote that Joe was mourned by all on campus and that the soldiers buried him with full military honors -- "salute, reveille, and all."

If anyone out there has a picture of Joe, please let me know! As far as I can tell, there isn't one in the Millsaps Archives!


I recently finished "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand. It was, by far, the best book I've ever read. And then I started reading about the author (she also wrote "Seabiscuit") and now I don't know which one I'm more impressed by - Olympic runner and Japan POW survivor Louie Zamperini or writer Laura Hillenbrand who wrote the book while unable to leave her house for years because of chronic fatigue syndrome.

Louie Zamperini beside his plan after fighting in the Pacific.

Here's a great article that was in The Washington Post: She interviewed Zamperini 75 times in the years she was working on the book. Here's an excerpt from the article:

For seven years, they developed a friendship in absentia. Zamperini didn't know why all of their conversations were over the phone until he read an interview with Hillenbrand and learned about her illness. Then, "I sent her one of my Purple Hearts. I said, you deserve this more than me."

Journalists have liked pointing out the irony of Hillenbrand's work: A woman for whom walking around the block constitutes a marathon writes about the finest specimens of physical endurance.

It's not irony, she says. It's escape. "I'm looking for a way out of here. I can't have it physically, so I'm going to have it intellectually. It was a beautiful thing to ride Seabiscuit in my imagination. And it's just fantastic to be there alongside Louie as he's breaking the NCAA mile record. People at these vigorous moments in their lives - it's my way of living vicariously."

Amazing! The book has also made me curious about family members who served in WWII. Mama Jean's two older brothers were both pilots and survived the war. One is still alive. Doc's grandfather (who passed away when he was little) was a POW in the European Theatre. He was captured after the Battle of the Bulge. He was hiding with other soldiers in a German family's house, when Nazi youth (with guns taller than they were) arrested the soldiers and turned them into the Nazis). And my Aunt Carole's father was in Europe.

I absolutely cannot imagine what these men lived though. And how they were able to rebuild their lives to become meaningful, productive citizens and husbands, fathers and friends. The emotional scars from a wartime experience, especially one including imprisonment as a POW, are just beyond where my brain is capable of going. God bless our troops!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Painted Porch

Some of my favorite childhood memories are swinging with Mammy on her front porch swing after she moved from Oxford to Senatobia. From the age of four on, most of our visits with Mammy took place on the porch where we'd snack on cheese wafers or oatmeal cookies, play Go Fish and Old Maid and listen to her tell stories about our dad and uncle and their cousins.  Mrs. Veazey, my friend Elise's grandmother, (recently featured on the Today Show for turning 105!) tells me she and Mammy had lots of fun having a "toddy" on the front porch in the afternoons and discussing their families. I'm sure it was nothing but praise.

So, anyway, since we moved in four years ago, I've wanted to paint our front porch ceiling blue and get a swing. We love sitting out on the porch in the evenings to watch all the active Belhaven population pass by running or biking or something strenuous like that. Somehow, the cheese and wine taste even better when you're seeing other people sweat. And since DeeDee and I initiated W.A.W.O.W. (walking and wine on Wednesdays), painting the porch ceiling jumped to the top of my priority list.

We don't have a swing yet, but we now have the perfect blue ceiling for porch sitting. Some people say blue ceilings keep away mosquitoes or wasps because they think it's the sky. Others say it keeps away haints for the same reason. I can testify that it doesn't keep away mosquitoes. I'm not yet sure about the haints - we do seem to have a friendly ghost that we like to blame things on so I hope he stays on!

Step One: Clean 80 years worth of dust, dirt and dead bugs off the ceiling.

It's also very important to make sure all the locks "lock" into place on the ladder, or else one of the legs could fold up under you. And you may just feel like a cartoon character when the ladder slides down into itself. Lesson learned.

Notice the dark rim of almost brown looking trim on the rim in the first photo. That was dirt. And grime and bugs and only the Lord knows what else. I wiped down the whole ceiling and edges with a Clorox and water mixture. Also, notice how it's bright and sunny in the first photo and nearly dark in the second. The cleaning was the hardest part!

Step two: Paint coat number one. 

I let the porch dry overnight and painted coat #1 on the ceiling before church on Sunday morning. I'm not a big fan of working hard in the heat. It's just not natural. I found a drop cloth was very important for not getting paint all over the floor. The best tool for getting the edges turned out to be a little flat, rectangle brush with rollers along the edge (I had one leftover from painting the kitchen last year).  I used an angled brush to try and get in the cracks along the ceiling.

Step three: Paint coat number two.
This was the easiest part, but I was so tired of climbing up and down the blasted ladder! I rolled vertically with the first coat and then horizontally with the second coat and that seemed to work well in filling in between the boards.

Hopefully, we'll get a swing put up before the wonderful fall weather gets here! Although, since dove season starts this weekend and is closely followed by duck season, I may have missed my opportunity for honey-do projects for the year. 

Read this great story from NPR on porches: I love what one listener from Rhode Island wrote in: The porch is alternative theater. At this theater, the audience sits upon the stage… Here's another thought: The porch is the only room in the house from which it is socially acceptable to spy on one's neighbors. Oddly enough, it is the only room in the house where you're most likely to be seen doing it. This last paragraph is dedicated to Jenna Lee and family :)

Mammy and me on her front porch. Sis is in the background - I think that's Net's hand over her shoulder. The back of the photo shows it was developed in July of 1995.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Pepè in the Kitchen

It is often the case that some of the best photographs are taken at the least social times of the day - very first thing in the morning or toward sunset, and even on into the night...but light at these times has a special soft and delicate quality.
                  John Hedgecoe's "Complete Guide to Photography"'s not just a dream!

Are you leaving the bacon unattended? Don't walk away - it might burn. Come back!
You can get another coffee cup...

Okay, crisis averted. Bacon is safe. Now if they'll just keep Scout outside all day long... 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Old House Depot

I spent some time Saturday morning wandering around my absolute favorite store in Jackson - Old House Depot. It's an architectural salvage warehouse and chalk full of stuff - old stuff, not so old stuff, really old stuff, from all over.

The owner, Jim, is so helpful and has a cat named Moe. He's great to suggest ways you could use old things in new ways. He also doesn't seem to mind if you pester him with questions and then don't buy anything:) I'm on a unvoluntarily spending freeze. It's really not much fun.

50 Liter Bemi John Bottle, circa 1920:

 Antique Backpack - used to pick wine grapes $185 - someone feel free to get me this for Christmas...

1960s Coke machine - I'm pretty sure there is still one of these in the Tate County 4-H building:

European Baby Bath Tub:

I love old windows - I have one from here above the piano in our living room but people do so many creative things with them.

Fun yard ornaments...

These doors. They remind me of Tara. My dream home will definitely have HUGE front doors that are very old. These were just $2,500. Doc and my mother just cringed at the words "just $2,500." I seriously have no clue what giant, Tara-type doors should cost, but that sounds good. 

Curved railings...

There's something romantic about lanterns...

My dream home also includes glass doorknobs on all doors.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Losing Battles with Welty Book Club

I'm in a lovely little book club. I don't know if we have an official name, but it grew out of a Great Topics  class at Millsaps College about two years ago. The class was lead by Suzanne Marrs, Welty Scholar-in-Residence at Millsaps and the best-selling author of several books including Eudora Welty, A Biography and One Writer's Imagination: The Fiction of Eudora Welty.

I took the class for graduate credit, but I think everyone else took it just as an opportunity to learn more about literature. We studied the works and friendships of Eudora Welty, Elizabeth Bowen and Ross McDonald. Since the class ended, we've met once a month to discuss a piece of literature. I don't always get to go because of work conflicts, but I always try! I love getting to see my Welty Book Club friends - they are so knowledgeable and many of them knew Eudora personally and have great insight to people she used as inspiration for characters or events in Jackson that inspired her work.

We only discussed parts 3 & 4 so I'm not going to give it all away, yet, but I did want to share the above piece of art. I cannot remember the artist's name but will find out and post it soon! The landscape is what is described in the first two paragraphs of Losing Battles:

When the rooster crowed, the moon had still not left the world but was going down on flushed check, one day short of full. A long thin cloud crossed it slowly, drawing itself out like a name being called. The air changed, as if a mile or so away a wooden door had swung open, and a smell, more of warmth than wet, from a river at low stage, moved upward into the lay hills that stood in darkness.

Then a house appeared on its ridge, like an old man's silver watch pulled once more of its pocket. A dog leaped up from where he'd lain like a stone and began barking for today as if he meant never to stop.

Isn't that beautiful? If you've never read any of Eudora Welty's work, Losing Battles is a wonderful novel. It's set in the 1930s in Mississippi's hill country and is about a family celebrating their Granny's 90th birthday and waiting for Jack, wrongly accused of a crime, to come home from Parchman. I'll give a full review after our September meeting!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Let Your Light Shine

Earlier this week, I attended the sweetest celebration of a life well-lived, authentic in seemingly every way. As the minister said, we were celebrating the totality of life that was Miriam Wilson Weems. I've never been to a funeral quite like this one and I loved how the program opened:

The liturgy for the dead is an Easter liturgy. It finds all its meaning in the resurrection. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we, too, shall be raised. The liturgy, therefore, is characterized by joy, in the certainty that "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

This joy, however, does not make human grief unchristian. The very love we have for each other in Christ brings deep sorrow when we are parted by death. Jesus himself wept at the grave of his friend. So, while we rejoice that one we love has entered into the nearer presence of our Lord, we sorrow in sympathy with those who mourn.

The congregation sang this hymn (by Daniel L. Schutte) and at the end, some man let out a "Woo-whoop." It was a perfect sentiment to what everyone there was feeling - disbelief that this light will not be seen on earth again, yet a joyful celebration that we were all blessed to have known her.

I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in deepest sin
My hand will save.
I who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?

Here I am Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me,
I will hold your people in my heart.

I the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people's pain.
I have wept for love of them,
They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone.
Give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak my word to them.
Whom shall I send?

I, the Lord of wind and flame,
I will tend the poor and lame.
I will set afeast for them,
My hand will save.
Finest bread I will provide
Till their hearts be satisfied.
I willgive my life to them.
Whom shall I send?

When I got home I told Doc I was ready to become Episcopalian. They're just Methodists with money, right?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Memories from 4-H

This afternoon I got a sweet e-mail from Ms. Nancy over at Nonni's Blog. She and my dad were good friends growing up in Senatobia and Sis and I were good friends with her daughters through 4-H and horse shows and all that other fun stuff you get to do when you grow up in a small town. Olivia and Doc were in the same class and close friends - so funny that Olivia knew both of us but we really didn't know each other!

I absolutely LOVED getting to spend time at the Patterson's house. She would always host the 4-H Young Riders group and Olivia and Haley had the best horses, outfits and equipment of anyone in 4-H. I always got the that feeling, like most kids (including me), they didn't really know how good they had it! We all did Tate County Saddle Club horse shows every Saturday night and the only first place ribbon I ever got was when I got to ride Haley's horse, Claude, in Western Pleasure. I still have it.

She asked me in her e-mail, if I would do all that over again and what life lessons I learned. Well, there are too many life lessons count and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I'm sure it was much less fun for all the adults involved, but for me it was pure fun. I loved every second of it. I learned about interacting with different types of people and making do with what you have. Even if you don't win first place (or at all!) you can still have a fun time.

I love these photos she sent:

1995 Tate County 4-H Young Riders - I wish I could name everybody but I can't. On the top row: Anna Murphree, Hayley Patterson, Amanda Giddens, Denee Crockett, Allison Hardy, Tabitha Nelson, Melissa Giddens, and Hannah. On the bottom row is: Leah Crockett, Olivia (with Moe), me and Sis (with Trixie).

Olivia and I thought we were big stuff when this picture was taken by a photographer from the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal in June 1997. I love how Pete is posing for the camera - he does this anytime someone points a camera at him. Such a ham. Check out those pink Wrangler jeans. Classy.

At this camp, each camper was given two stalls - one for your horse, one for you. Or you could sleep in the arena, if you didn't have a trailer with a bed and A/C in it. Our trailer barely made it to Verona. Needless to say, there was no bed. There were hardly floorboards. The year after this summer, Sis and Bookie came to camp with me and Pete. Sis spent the whole week hiding in the barn from the instructors because she was hot and bribed boys to muck out her stall. I think she was waiting on the highway when Dad finally came to pick us up at the end of the week. Thanks Ms. Nancy - and everyone else - who worked so hard to make sure we had such wonderful opportunities to create life-long memories!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Well, I wasn't going to post this story to blogland because, well you'll see in a second, but Sis told me I should, so you thank her. Or blame her. It all began a few weeks ago when Borders first declared they were going bankrupt and closing all their stores. The good-deal alert light in my head went off and I immediately went out to the Dogwood store to browse. That day, I believe I bought two or three books for the beach for about 30% off.

The next week, all the furniture and fixings were also on sale. We bought Doc a desk chair for $35, some supplies from the coffee bar area (including a whipped cream dispenser thingy for $15) and signed up to be on the list to buy a laptop when they completely close down the store.

During the initial visit, my usually highly ethical self may have left itself in the car. Just a little. In the cookbook section I saw a copy of "Master the Art of French Cooking" volumes I and II by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck for $90. But even at 30% off it was still more than my pocketbook could handle. So, I did what any responsible, resorceful, thrify-minded person would do. I hid it. And I hid it really well - in the psychology section among some books that were about discovering the tranlucent power of sex.

And then I went back every couple of days and tidied up the section to make sure it was still there. When it went down to 60% off (and all the copies in the cookbook section were gone), I went ahead and bought it. And I love it!

Guess where? I'll never tell...

I've almost perfected the L'Omelette Roulee! It was so worth it...Thomas told me this sounds like something mom would do...I'm taking that as a compliment:)

Ole Miss ID Cards - 48, 76, & 05

I know there is nothing unusual about having three generations (or more) attend Ole Miss, but I do think it's unusual that the pack-rat gene runs so tightly that the Givens have student ID cards that go back to 1948. Aren't these three good looking guys?

Granddaddy graduated with a degree in chemistry in 1949, Daddy graduated in 1977 with a degree in banking and finance and Thomas graduated in 2009 with an undergraduate in accounting and the next year with his master's.

Isn't it funny how the hair cuts change? And the clothes? And then they come right back around. Warren Givens is looking very similar to his Uncle Frank with his current hair cut and facial hair...

(I snagged this picture from his Facebook page, check out his very-talented band here.)

Classes at Ole Miss began this week and the first football game is just a little over a week away...Hotty Toddy!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Belgique European Antiques

This weekend Laura mentioned to me that she was going to a furniture warehouse sale to look at a table. She did not mention it was a furniture warehouse full of European antiques. Oh my! I thought I knew of every "good deal" type place in Jackson, but I've been missing this for the past four years? (Apparently, according to Doc, not knowing about the place doesn't mean that I have four years worth of buying to catch up on). I'm ready for someone to get so engrossed in med school that he forgets to look at the bank statement.

It's owned by two couples who all met at Millsaps (yay for Millsaps!). They started the business about seven years ago and go to Europe three times a year, buy a bunch of antiques and have them shipped back. The warehouse is open once a month and has over 7,000 square feet of antique and vintage furniture, paintings, mirrors and accessories. Their European operations are based in Belgium, but they have things from Holland, France, Spain, Italy and beyond.

I'm sure what's considered "old" to us is the equivalent of us buying something from the 80s in Europe. Over across the pond, something that is 100 years old really isn't that big of a deal when the New Town section of Prague was built in 1348. That's old. (Thanks Mama Jean for that random bit of knowledge!)

So what did I buy? All the above? Of course not! I did buy this beautiful handmade 1920s oriental rug from Belgium. It was originally $249 but was on sale for 20% off. Isn't it divine? I've been looking for one for a few years and have never found the right colors, size and, most importantly, price.

Now how in the world, in case you're wondering, am I going to keep my precious puppy dogs off my new rug? It's been easy so far, just takes a little creative thinking. Enter, the evil vacuum cleaner (to them, this is like the basement furnace to Kevin in Home Alone).

I have it guarding the rug and can reach the power button with my toe from the sofa. It scares the bejezzes out of them. Yesterday, when I came home for lunch, Pepe was sprawled out in the middle of the rug, snoozing away and didn't hear me come in. I grabbed the hose attachment, pointed it at his butt and turned the thing on. He jumped three feet from a dead sleep. He hasn't been near it since.

Scout's not too sure about laying this close to the evil vacuum cleaner. He moved shortly after this picture was taken.

Belgique is open once a month - friend them on Facebook for notices of their next sale date:!/pages/Belgique-Inc/120146924688153. Happy hunting!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Sweet Neighbor

Miriam's paintings - of the Mississippi we know and love - reflect all the enthusiasm and delight we find in her own dazzling smile, and her unmistakable "voice" sings from every brushstoke.

If you're fortunate enough to own even one Miriam Weems painting, your home and your heart will be forever gladdened by it. If you're also lucky enough to call her a friend - you're lucky enough.
                                              Jill Conner Browne, forward to Mostly Mississippi

Today I'm so saddened to learn that my sweet neighbor, Miriam Weems, passed away suddenly yesterday. Mrs. Weems reached out and welcomed Doc and I when we moved in across the street from her art studio and I've enjoyed getting to know her (and her precious little dog) in driveway chats - our main subjects being rescue dogs, Oxford and wine!

She has so inspired me to not be afraid to use your talents and go after your dreams. Her studio - a darling grey bungalow with a bright pink door and trim - has a big picture window and she's usually standing in front of a large easel painting in the late afternoons.

She will be greatly missed by her friends in Belhaven and beyond and will be remembered as a Southern lady who lead a well-lived life full of kindness and gentleness.

Photos are taken from her Mostly Mississippi coffee table book. She was kind enough to give both Sis and me autographed copies when Sis came to Jackson to take the bar exam a few years ago. I'm sure Miriam didn't realize how much we both loved our visit to her studio on what had been a very stressful afternoon!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Our Week in Reverse According to My Phone

I don't have the willpower to go back and reload these pictures in chronological order, so we're just going to hit rewind and go backwards. This week as been hectic!

Witt turned SIX! And started his first week of Kindergarten.

I bought these cute iron chairs at Tarjay - on sale for $26 each. I just love a good deal!

Theo, security guard extraordinaire, and I solved the mystery of three cars blocking crucial spots outside Bacot Hall on Move-In Day at Millsaps. I persuaded an unnamed student to tell us whose cars they were, and I swore that we won't reveal her/him as the source. Theo agreed not to write them tickets. I told Theo we were like the show Castle (a security guard and PR person are basically the same concept, right?). He didn't know what I was talking about. I bet he was thinking #crazywhitegirl

Scout right before he found a King snake. Doc put my hammock back up for me after we returned from our fun one at the beach. Not quite the same view, but I love it just the same!

And the biggest news, someone started M2 year on Monday. We are back in school mode and hardly remember the long, lazy days of summer. Did we really watch the entire third season of Castle in June on Hulu?

My parents came last weekend for Will Todd's wedding. We all enjoyed the beautiful, fun reception at Old Capital Inn. I love seeing Senatobia people in Jackson. I about rear-end somebody every time I see a Tate County tag trying to figure out who it is!

Laura and Thomas got a puppy! Introducing Milly - she's a French bulldog - and just so precious. I can't wait for them to go out of town so I can babysit.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pepè and Pizza

They say a picture's worth a thousand words...wonder what he's thinking?

Aww, Pooh...I'm not getting any pizza, am I?

Isn't he just precious?

He does not like the camera...always tries to avoid me when he sees the camera bag. But I trapped him between the oven and his only escape route. Poor thing.

Hop over to the the Sideboards tab at the top of the page for the pizza recipe!

And the Winner Is..

And the winner is (insert drum roll sound) . . . Jill Bell of Oxford!

There were a total of 17 comments and random generator picked number 16. Congrats Jill - I'll stick autographed edition of "The Help" in the mail to you today!

Jill and I knew each other in high school, but became really good friends when she and Sis roomed together during our freshman year at Ole Miss. I love this girl and she has two of the cutest little boys. And she's doing her own giveaway on her blog ( so jump on over there for a chance to win one of her paintings. They are also for sale at Belles & Beaus in Oxford.

Many thanks to all who left a comment! I got some good reading suggestions and enjoyed hearing everyone's favorite parts of the movie and book.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

OUUMC comes to Millsaps

Today was Move-In Day for Millsaps College. You can see all the pictures our staff took on Millsaps' Flicker page  here (edited and narrated by yours truly).  It was so fun to be around so many students and parents who were all so excited about new roommates, new friends, new dorm rooms, new bedding, new textbooks, etc. It really made me want to organize something!

And I was so, so excited to see these entering freshmen from Oxford, Miss (pictured with Millsaps junior Chelsea Overstreet, also of Oxford, in the red shirt) - I think all of them grew up going to Oxford-University United Methodist Church. I worked at OUUMC for about a year in-between reporting for the New Albany Gazette and moving to Jackson. I absolutely loved every second of it! I worked with the nicest people and the congregation was wonderful. 

Aren't they cute? I can't believe it's been nine years since Leigh Allyn and I were moving into the sixth floor of Martin.The guy in the green polo on the right was about nine when I first meet him - his mother, Melanie, was one of the Tri Delt advisers and sometimes her kids would be at the house. That kinda makes me feel old!