America, Celebration, Family, Farm, Garden, Health, History, Summer, Uncategorized

Potatoes, Po-tah-toes

My mom wanted me to write another blog post, so here I am.

She was sitting behind me in church yesterday and leaned up and whispered in my ear that it had been too long since I’d written a blog post. Opportune time, mom.

She, apparently, doesn’t think I need some creative burst of inspiration to produce any sort of written materials. I just need her suggestion and that is enough.

I guess it is enough, because again, here I am. Maybe sometimes all we need is for someone to believe in us and tell us what to do. Maybe that’s the secret to life I’ve been missing.

Anyway, back to my mom. She obviously loves to see me practicing my hobbies, but there is one thing that comes around every Spring that she is not a huge fan of.

I love to grow sweet potatoes.

I love growing everything, but sweet potatoes were really my first love of gardening. I think it was just the fact that I’d never grown them before and I researched it and they were successful in the first year. This is really no thanks to me, as sweet potatoes are super easy to grow and do so without much coaxing.

But, in order to grow sweet potatoes, you have to have sweet potato plants. They don’t come up from seed or sprout in the ground like other potatoes do. They’re a different breed altogether.

Now, you can go to your local greenhouse or feed store and find the plants. But, you can also grow them really easily in your own kitchen and then transplant them outside into the garden once they are ready. And, the first year I grew them, I wanted to grow varieties that I couldn’t find pre-grown plants for, so I tried the kitchen method.

It looks like a bad effort at a science experiment at first. Which is what my mom dislikes about it.

You take half of a sweet potato, put toothpicks in it, pick out your favorite mason jars, fill them up with water, and set the potatoes in them.

And, you wait.

And, when you have guests over, you politely explain to them why you have mason jar, water potatoes adorning your windowsill.

It’s a weird process, I’ll admit. But, it’s effective.

About a month or so later, you’ll start seeing plants emerge from the potatoes, both underwater and above water. Eventually when they get a little better established, you cut them off the potato, keep the plant still in the water for a few days while they produce roots, then plant them in the ground outside and let them go all summer long.

I started my sweet potato project a little earlier this year and I’ve had two potatoes sitting in the windowsill for about two months now.

About a month ago, my mom said: I think this one isn’t going to do anything, you probably just want to scrap it. Which I knew was just her way of trying to clear out atleast one of the offenders from the windowsill. Nice try, mom.

What she didn’t know is that one of the sweet potatoes growing in the window is a white sweet potato. If you’ve never tried one, try them! They’re really moist and have a lighter flavor than the typical orange ones. The other potato growing in the window is a regular orange one. The white ones, I have observed, are much more prolific than the orange ones. This one was almost sprouting already when I put started it in the jar. The orange ones take more time.

If you compare only those two, side by side, it looks like the white one is much further ahead and that the orange one is a dud. But, if you study closely, with a sweet potato trained eye, you can see where the orange one is just barely barely barely getting ready to break through with a sprout. I also know this because I have some sweet potatoes growing in the window in my office (what can I say, I’m obsessed) and the white one there is further ahead than the orange one.

I’ve heard all my life that comparison is a killer of joy. If you spend your time looking side by side at other people’s lives, timelines, accomplishments, you’re going to be miserable and not be able to see the great place that you’re at yourself. These two potatoes are the same in almost all regards. But one is designed differently, it blooms faster. Not because it’s necessarily better, but just because it was time for it to bloom. In this age of social media, it is so easy to get wrapped up in the lives of others, to compare, to try to rush, to push to get ahead. But, maybe it’s not quite your time to shine yet. Maybe there are great things in store, just about ready to break ground. Maybe you shouldn’t scrap the plan, thinking it’ll never work. Maybe you should just sit where you’re at, keep growing and changing day by day and wait for your time.

Maybe we’re all just potatoes.

Update: today’s progress with the white vs orange

America, Asia, Culture, History, Travel

Good Question

I literally feel like I’m dusting the cobwebs off of this whole blog thing. I’ve had good intentions. I always have good intentions. It’s on my list of best qualities on my resume’. Right under “go getter” and right above “proficient with Microsoft Word”

What happened is: October. It was the busiest month our business has ever experienced. So, I sat down in my office chair, buckled in, and rode it out. 

The last time I wrote something was on October 17. A lot has happened since then. 

– The Cubs won the World Series. (I was in Chicago on the day that went down, and I’ve never seen more sports fans in my life) 

-Trump became our president-elect. (Equally crazy, I stayed up wayyyy too late watching that coverage) 

– I went to Shanghai (which I didn’t even post anything about, how’d that happen?) 

Here’s a quick pic from rush hour in Shanghai, I’ll write more about it later. Promise.

– And finally, we got some new [massive] screen printing equipment, which they sent a tech out to install. 

His name is Walt. We’ve met once before. He came in and said: do you remember me? 

Yes, I remember you, Walt. 

He’s nice and he likes my music. He’s almost done with the install and I’m currently hiding behind a stack of t-shirts, hoping he’ll quit chit chatting and leave so I can go eat dinner. That pretty much sums up how my day has been. 

Pieces of the machine we got

It seems like everyone thinks that owning a business is the ideal set up, the “American Dream”. You get to set your own hours! Mine were 7 am – 6:30 pm today, so that’s how that works, in case anyone was wondering. Not ideal. Everyone thinks you live a life on easy street, but somehow I got stuck around the corner at “this is hard and I don’t know exactly what I’m doing and it takes more time and energy and patience than I ever imagined” avenue. I’m still wandering around with my map, so I’ll let you know when I find this easy street everyone loves so much. 

I’m really not that cynical. It’s definitely got it’s own unique perks and challenges. Like conducting job interviews. Perk because you get to evaluate the people you’re going to work with. Challenge because I’ve never personally been through a job interview. 

That’s not to say that I haven’t had my share of jobs. I’ve done the standard babysitting, lawn mowing routines when I was in school. I worked at my uncle’s local drug store through high school. But, that didn’t really require a job interview. It was more that the phone was ringing while I was there and I started answering it and I knew how to do what the customer needed, so I just did it and started turning in my hours. 

I also did a typical Arkansas job for awhile: working on a chicken farm. If you ever want to know about a dirty job, go work on a chicken farm. But, farm jobs don’t usually require an interview either. 

As we were getting ready to interview a potential employee, Jake told me to prepare my questions that I wanted to ask. So, I spent some time thinking about it over a couple days, trying to figure out what I needed to know about this guy, what things would most effect the way he and I would cohesively work together. I compiled my list and Jake compiled his, so when he asked me if I knew what I wanted to ask, I was ready. 

I’ve heard interviews are stressful, but the interview day came and I wasn’t nervous at all. The poor guy we were interviewing was. I know that because he came in and told us that. We talked for a few minutes before we got down to the questioning. Then, Jake began. 

When you haven’t done something before and have no precedent for you should proceed, you just figure out your pace as you go along. So, he and I switched off on our questions. 

Jake: “what are the skills that qualify you for this job?”

-a pertinent question, pretty basic, one you’d expect

Brittney: “what is your favorite historical era?”

-also a very pertinent question. I can tell a lot about a person by their favorite historical era. If you like ancient Chinese dynasties, we probably aren’t going to get each other very well. His answer: Middle Eastern history. That’s a pass, I can be fine with that. Not the best answer he could’ve given me, but it’s okay. 

Jake : “what were your requirements at your last job?” 

-straightforward, to the point. 

Brittney: “what’s your favorite food?” 

-again, tells a lot about a person. You could pretty much give me any answer and it would probably pass. Unless it’s Pop Tarts or French fries or some other boring thing like that. He said he wasn’t picky and liked pretty much everything. He obviously doesn’t know my personal definition for a person who “isn’t picky”, but I can’t fault him for that. In my mind though, I know he’s probably more picky than I would prefer. I’ll give him a very slight pass on that one. 

Jacob: “how many hours a week do you expect to work?”

-boring, but necessary question, I guess

Brittney: “what’s your favorite genre of music?”

-he said “rock”, which was too generic for me. I listen to music most of the day and my music choices annoy most people, so that was not a pass. 

Jake: do you have references?


Brittney: what was your least favorite class in college? 

-an Ancient Greek class. Interesting, I’ll give him that. So, point from me.

Jake proceeded with a few more questions that I didn’t really care about. I had all the information I needed. 

So, there it is, ya’ll can consider those cobwebs dusted. I’ve got good intentions to post more often now, but because we know how good intentions go, we’ll just play it by ear. 

America, Celebration, Dessert, Family, Food, History

Surprise, Surprise

I’m not good at surprises. This should not come as a surprise to anyone. (pun totally intended) There are a lot of different reasons I could list for me not being good at surprising someone, but I’ll summarize it for you: 1) I’m not a good liar (which is typically an endearing quality, right?) and 2) I live in my own little world most of the time (which is fine except for you have to be pretty self aware to surprise someone) I have noticed though, that while these qualities make me terrible at surprising someone, they make me a great candidate to be surprised.                                                                                         

However, my whole family seemed to overlook this list of factors when they chose me and my brother to be in charge of taking my grandma to her surprise birthday party. Really, the best idea would’ve been for them to not tell me what was going on either and we both could’ve been surprised.


I really did a pretty good job, I think. I went over, in my mind, a list of safe topics to steer the conversation towards that didn’t involve anyone else who was in town for the party. I was cool and casual. I had a story as for why I was dressed up. And, she arrived at the party almost on time. I count that as a roaring success on my part. 


Today is my Grandma Connie’s birthday. I won’t tell you her age, however I will show you this picture and let you guess. 




And since today is her birthday, I wanted to tell you about her. Because if you don’t know her, you’re missing out. 


She’s definitely not your typical grandma type. Let’s just say: she’s very independent. She doesn’t let anyone tell her what to do and she always has an opinion she’s not shy to share. She’s headstrong and free willed. Basically: she’s a force to be reckoned with. 


She’s one of four kids and she had five daughters, who all had two children. As you can tell, we have a large family. Having raised five daughters, I feel like Grandma has some solid life advice. I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite pieces of wisdom. 


1. Diamonds go with everything.


If you are questioning whether or not to wear your best jewelry, it is always a yes. This was said to me because I had changed from something dressy into something casual and still had on a necklace I had been wearing. I made a comment about how it clashed and she said “Brittney, I raised five girls and I told every one of them. ‘Girls, always remember: diamonds go with everything'” So, whether you’re going to a gala or just going to sleep, wear your best. Grandma’s orders. 



Four of the five daughters at the party


2. Don’t waste your time with desserts that aren’t homemade. 


It’s not worth your time or calories. I feel like this same principle could be applied to a lot of different things in life. It’s about quality and time invested and effort.



Three generations of homemade Rice Krispy makers


3. “Whether the wedding costs $5 or $5000, it either takes or it doesn’t.”


This obviously is dated because $5000 won’t buy you a very fancy wedding these days. But, she preaches this one quite a bit. It doesn’t matter what type of wedding you have, if the relationship isn’t solid to begin with, you’ve missed the point. I can attest to this because my parents eloped and they will be celebrating their 30th anniversary this year. Looks like Grandma was right about this one too. 


4. They can chew me up, but they sure can’t swallow me. 


This actually comes to us from my great Grandpa Teasley. So, she’ll always say: “Brittney, Dad always said… Then she’ll repeat this same quote to me every time. Thus, my memorization of it. Essentially, people can and will say what they want about you. But, ultimately, you’ve gotta stand up for what you believe in and ignore the haters. Grandma obviously didn’t say anything about ignoring the haters, that is my own personal summary of what she said. You’re welcome. 


There are so many more that I could talk about, and I know that I’ll think of 100 others after I post this. She’s a lady with a lot of sayings. But, sometimes it’s not the sayings that teach you the lesson, but rather the way the person lives. She instilled in us all the value of hard work, never looking down on someone else because of their status in life, but never thinking that anyone or anything was above you or out of your reach. She taught us to always look for a chance to give and help, to share what we have, and to be nice to people even when we don’t think they deserve it.


Grandma Connie is not perfect, she’ll be the first to tell you that. In fact, she told a joke the other day that made me blush. She’s that type of grandma. But, her life is a testimony to the lessons she’s taught. And quite a few of those lessons are worth taking note of. Surprise, surprise.

America, Culture, History, Travel

For Free

On my way to the airport this morning, a man in the elevator asked me where I was from. He was from Texas, which I could tell before he even told me. Those Texas people, you can always just tell. When I told him I was from Northwest Arkansas, he said, “Oh, the pretty part of the state!” And he was immediately my friend. Atleast someone knows what’s up.  

Selfie on my final flight home

You know, I love a lot of things about traveling. There are some downsides. Currently, I’m sitting at the airport, having been delayed overnight in Chicago. So, I can definitely say there are downsides. But, the thing I love about traveling is perspective. 
We have no idea how many things we take for granted. I will be the first one to stand in that line and raise my hand. I have no idea. But, traveling gives you that perspective. It exposes you to new ways of thinking, to taking things as they come, to not always getting things your way. 
In America, we have so much more freedom than we know. We argue and banter about freedoms and the government trying to take away freedoms or be too free. But, the fact that we can even have these conversations, the fact that we can oppose or agree with whatever we want is, in itself, a freedom. We don’t even realize it. 
We don’t have to take things as they come. We can change, we can fight, we can protest. But, it’s not like that everywhere. 
I started out this post thinking I was going to write about the things I’ve realized I take for granted. Like ice (I love ice and they don’t have it in abundance in very many places), fresh milk, drinking water from the tap, hot water whenever you want it, clean streets, understanding the language, cereal, central heating, things like that. Little things, preferences that I don’t get when I travel. 
But, I think the bigger picture is freedom. You don’t know what you have until it’s taken away. You don’t truly know freedom until you’ve experienced restraint. I’m used to getting what I want. It’s the American way. I want it, I’m going to have it. Not everyone has this privilege. Don’t take it for granted. 

History, Medicine, Middle East, Religion, Travel, Uncategorized


We’ve officially crossed into the Holy Land of Israel. I’ve crossed a few land borders: America to Canada, Hungary to Romania, and Germany to Poland. But, crossing from Jordan to Israel definitely reminds you that you’re in the Middle East. The security is tight. Which is good to know. It should be tight, especially in this part of the world. 
They sent my backpack through the x-ray scan, and when I came through the metal detector, I saw it had been held back and two people were discussing it. Not a good sign. They brought it over and started pulling everything out. Apples, phone chargers, my iPad, magazines, a scarf. Then, started the questions: where did you get the scarf? How much did you pay for it? What did you bring with you? What did you buy in Jordan? Finally, after they had flipped through every page of my Glamour magazine and my Bible, they declared I was not a security threat and let me in. 

Jake asked our bus driver where we could get a phone card for our wi-fi and the driver said, Bethlehem. So, we decided to follow a star and see where it took us. 

As it turns out, there wasn’t a wi-fi card to be found in Bethlehem. We did, however, find an inn with an open room. Ironic, right? 


We moved on to Jerusalem and found the card we needed there, then headed south toward the town we would stay in for the night. As is normal, I was sitting near the back of the bus, with my headphones on, so I had no idea where we were at. It was dark outside and dark in the bus, so to be honest, I didn’t care where we were. 

Apparently, in this darkness, we crossed from Israel into the West Bank (a shortcut to get us where we needed to go)  What I also didn’t realize was that when our bus came to the border to enter back into Israel, we would be checked. Again. 

Jake passed back my passport to me from the front of the bus and I was ready for the standard check. As the woman boarded our bus, she passed by a few people, not taking one look at their passports and picked one of the women on the bus to ask a couple questions to. There was a man behind her who followed and as he came closer, you could see his gun, not hanging casually by his side, but finger on the trigger and ready for aim at a moment’s notice.

The woman passed by everyone else and came right towards me. Immediately, she started firing questions at me. Where was I going? Where had I been? “Do you have a weapon, maybe?” How were all these people on the bus related? Were we all from the same church? The questioning ended with a search of my backpack. The very same bag that had been searched earlier in the day. So, out come the apples, scarf, snacks, cords, books, and everything all over again. Finally, she was satisfied and exited the bus without looking at anyone else. 

Are we there yet? 

Culture, History, Middle East, Religion, Travel, Uncategorized

Trader Joe

The rumor is true. You can only float in the Dead Sea. It is seven times more salty and you literally just float like a bobber. There’s no swimming, just floating.   
This trip has been part mission, part sight seeing. So, today was a sight seeing day. We’ve been to Mount Nebo where Moses looked over the Promised Land, to an ancient Roman city that was part of the Decapolis that the Apostle Paul travelled through and by the river Jabbok where Jacob wrestled with the angel. 

City hall at Jerash

And to the Dead Sea, where we were covered with mud and dried out and floated around. My skin has never felt softer. You go out in the water so far until you can’t touch the bottom any more. It’s such a weird sensation to stay above the water without any of the effort of swimming. There were waves, but because you float, you can take your phone or camera out in the water and float around taking pictures. So, a selfie seemed appropriate. 

Along with touring comes souvenir shops, which are not my favorite. And this is the reason why:

They are always trying to dress me up. All I want to do is browse and I end up getting fully clothed in the local style. 

First, it was the Bedouin skirt. I tried to explain that I was fully aware how it was supposed to be worn, but he insisted on putting it on me anyway. 

Next, it was the Bedouin scarf. These are harder to tie and I didn’t ask for a demonstration. In fact, I hadn’t even looked at the scarves. But, he found one and brought it over and tied it on my head. 

Then, it was the face covering, just to complete the look. 

And the cherry on top, he brought out some Arabic kohl, which he put on my eyes to give me the real look. When he finished his work with the kohl pencil, I thought we were done and I could take off the garb and leave. Nope, not quite done yet. 

Let me explain who the Bedouins are. They’re tribal people who travel in caravans, making their home out of animal skin tents. They’re nomadic. They have herds of sheep and goats and camels, so they travel where the animals can graze. Let me give you a clearer picture: Abraham was the original Bedouin. As in Father Abraham. The one who had many sons. 


Bedouins at Petra

So, once I was dressed up in traditional Bedouin attire, the man asked my brother if I was his wife or girlfriend? (Take note: he didn’t ask me, he addressed the male, which is the norm in this culture) Jake said, no, I was his sister. Next question? 

How many camels will you take for her? 

I’ll shortcut the story for you. No deal was made, no camels were exchanged, but it left me with a question I’ve never asked myself before.

Just how many camels am I worth? 

Culture, History, Missions, Religion, Travel

Second Story Room

Pictures seem to be a sensitive subject. I was told to ask if I wanted to take a picture of someone. I completely respect that and they return the favor. (For the most part. I have caught a few people taking pictures of me when I wasn’t looking. I don’t mind, it’s just a little odd. Which, I guess, is good to know how it feels) I don’t usually ask any of the women, but they don’t hesitate to ask me. One girl came up to me yesterday and asked to take my picture, so I posed with her while someone snapped it. But when I asked her if I could take one with mine, the answer was no. 

The women especially do not go for the photographs. Except for this one. I was told, rather than asked, that I was going to take a picture with her. Then, the person beside her was cleared out of their chair so I could sit down. And, the cameras were brought out. 

With all of that being said, I did take pictures of the Syrian families I visited. They were very willing to be photographed. However, since some of them shared so openly about their faith, I think it’s best not to attach pictures to all of their stories.

We entered a narrow alleyway, were led up two flights of stairs and welcomed into a small, bright room. Taking our shoes off and sitting down on the mats placed around the walls, we made ourselves comfortable and the story began. 

This is another Syrian family: a husband, wife and 4 young children. The youngest was just a newborn, only 24 days old. They have been in Jordan for 2 and a half years. They lived in the town in which the uprising started. The man was an Arabic teacher, the woman a high school chemistry teacher, both with college degrees and good jobs. They were surrounded by family, most of which are still in Syria. 

As we sit and talk to them, we are encouraged to ask questions. My same question for every family is always: how did you get here? Their town was close to the Jordanian border, so they walked. 10 miles with their small children. The boy was 5 months old at the time, their girls 2 and 4 years old. They took nothing with them, except a bag of medicine. No clothes, no personal belongings. Imagine loading up your small children and fleeing into the unknown. The Syrian army was shooting at them from a distance as the walked. 

Since this was at the beginning of the conflict, many people had decided to flee at the same time. They said their group totaled 700 adults and 200 children. It was a literal exodus. At evening, as they approached the border, three bombs exploded around them. But, they made it. 

Local families have ministered greatly to them and because of that, they have come to know Jesus. When the woman was asked what convinced her to believe, she said: “Jesus was the only one who said, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one else said that. My background has only been confusion. This was clear to me.” 

God is love and in a place that violence and war and radicalism has wrought so much destruction, the love of Christ shines bright. “I read in the Bible about how Christ loved the world and came to give us eternal life.” What a light giving message that is to someone who has wandered in darkness for so long. 

When they were asked about the future, their response was one of faith. “The Kingdom of God is like a seed that has produced a large tree. We hide ourselves in that tree.” Come what may, their faith is sealed and they rest assuredly in that. 

War is obviously terrible. There are lives lost, hate spread, homes destroyed. What can be good in this? Is there anything at all that can come from something so awful? Yes. The Lord promises us in that He works ALL things together for our good. And that promise stands, even in times of war. At the end of our visit, they proved this to be true. “The only benefit from war is that we have learned of Christ and received eternal life.” 

The Lord’s work will prevail. Always. He is removing people from Syria and displacing them around the world, places they never dreamed they’d have to go. And He is placing people there to minister to their needs. Everything has been taken from them, but through the grace and love of Christ, they are receiving life they never knew of and a new home for eternity. 

Culture, History, Missions, Religion, Travel

Out of the Blue

Beer and nuts. Not the snack I expected from a missionary. We arrived in Jordan a day early and the missionary invited us over to his house to meet his family.  

We started off with coffee and baklava. I love the opportunity to sit down with people one on one and hear their stories. This family is so warm and inviting, answering all of my questions and sharing their experiences. 
More family showed up to join in the festivities and more food was brought out: bowls of nuts and ashtrays, which I discovered were to put the shells from the seeds in. They asked me if I wanted a drink and the description was that it was like non-alcoholic beer. In my western mind, the thing I compared this to and thought they were trying to explain was root beer. So I told them that was fine. 
 They brought it out and I found that it was literally a non-alcoholic malt beverage that looked and smelled exactly like beer. They obviously were being completely literal in their translation. 

Visiting is a little bit of a vague term to me. Visit has always been synonymous to talk in my life. Like when my aunt would call my mom and they’d talk, that was referred to as “visiting”, just talking and catching up on life. Going for a visit meant going to someone’s house and doing that very same thing. 

So when the missionary asked if I wanted to go on home visits, I didn’t really know exactly what that would entail. As I loaded in the van with a couple of the leaders from our group, I learned that we would be going to the homes of Syrian refugees that are currently living here in Jordan. 

I’ve been hearing about Syrian refugees for months now on the news. About them escaping Syria, about countries deciding whether or not they’ll allow the Syrians to seek refuge within their borders, about government and politics and war. But, to be honest, I mostly ignored it. I didn’t really understand what was going on and I never took the time to learn about it. There was never any relevance for me. But, that has changed.

Syrian refugees aren’t a news headline, they aren’t politics. They’re people. People who have been displaced by violence. People who have had to leave their home, leave everything they own and move to a foreign land where they are given no rights and barely enough help to survive. 

So, I want to share their stories. 

This family fled Syria a year and a half ago. The husband and wife had a fruit and vegetable stand there, where they sold produce. They came to Jordan in a Jordanian army bus, which helped them flee from the fighting going on. They came with only the clothes on their backs, leaving everything and everyone behind. 

Mom and son

Her children are fortunately able to enroll in school here (only 25% of Syrian children are allowed into the Jordanian public school system). She and her husband, however, are not able to get jobs. They survive on 10 dinar per person per month. This is given similarly as food rations and is the equivalent of about $14. Their pricing is not too much different than ours in the U.S. so you can imagine how difficult it is for this family to survive. 

Their temporary home is here in this one room apartment. They sleep on mats on the floor. In Syria, they had a home. Now, they have this. 

They have applied for asylum through the UN. They’re hoping to be able to move, but the list of asylum seekers is long. People have been waiting since 2012 and still are stuck, with no way to support themselves. 

They were a happy group despite their situation. They were excited to have us visit and wanted to take pictures with us. 

This mother didn’t ask us for help, she didn’t want anything, she only asked that we listen. She needed to tell her story, to share her burdens. These are the stories that need to be told. This is what people need to hear. 

Art, Europe, History, Travel

Da Vinci Code

I have this theory that all travel pictures are repeated. And I think I’m finding it to be true.  

Cathedral of St. John the Divine


When we were in NYC in October, we happened by this huge church. Everything looks pretty big there, but this looked like the biggest building I had ever seen, which is saying a lot since it was situated around skyscrapers. It was just massive. So, we went in and found out that it is the fourth largest church in the world (by area). And, the fifth largest is located in Milan’s city center. The Duomo. I had no idea I was even working my way down this list. I don’t even want to know where the others are. 

The Duomo

There are lots of old churches in Milan and when we walked by one yesterday, I commented that I felt like I was living the da Vinci Code. I had forgotten that Jake bought us tickets to see the Last Supper. Which I learned later is housed in the exact church we were walking by when I said that. 


Santa Maria delle Grazie

Seeing this masterpiece was a process. You have to buy tickets three months in advance. I never knew this, but it is actually painted on the dining room wall of this old monastery. So, you have to be in Milan to see it. I guess I just thought it was a painting that could move from museum to museum. 

To see it, you have to go through two dehumidifying chambers before entering the huge dining hall. Lucky for us, while we were waiting, an English tour came through and I got to hear their guide explain the details surrounding the painting. 
The Last Supper was apparently a popular topic to paint during Leonardo’s time. However, all the paintings prior to this depicted the moment when Judas Iscariot was revealed as the traitor. They show Judas seated on the opposite side of the table from Jesus and the Apostles, which puts all emphasis on Judas. As Judas is sitting on the same side of the table as the viewers of the painting, it symbolizes that we are all sinners alike with Judas and that our sin separates us from Jesus. In these typical depictions, Jesus and the Apostles are showing no emotion, as the Apostles are considered Saints in the Catholic tradition and thus are above expressing human emotion. 

Da Vinci’s depiction was completely different and revolutionary. It shows Jesus at the center (the actual central point of the piece is Jesus’ temple, which the rest of the picture is painted in reference to). It depicts the moments before the traitor is revealed, at the peak of emotion when the disciples are shown trying to figure out who will betray Jesus. 

This was not a point of view that had been painted before, and apparently people began coming to the monastery to see it soon after it was finished. Did I mention that it took him 4 years to paint it? To think of devoting 4 years of your life to a single piece of work is a little mind boggling. Unfortunately, he didn’t use a painting technique (fresco) that was conducive to painting on plaster. He painted on dry plaster and the painting began to disintegrate soon after it was completed. Then the church was damaged due to a bombing in 1943 during World War II, which led to further destruction. Luckily, the integrity of the painting has been restored and is now closely monitored (although they estimate that the current state of the work is about 50% diminished from what it originally was).

When we went into the dehumidifying chambers, the guides covered nothing about taking pictures in the dining hall. But the moment we were inside and a lady brought out her camera, it was made known that NO pictures were to be taken. Which was extremely disappointing to me. Not because everyone needs to see the actual painting. Everyone knows what that looks like. 

I was disappointed because it is hard to explain the magnitude of it. This room is huge, with a high, arching ceiling. The Last Supper is painted on one end of the room, while a huge painting of the crucifixion is at the other end. Leonardo painted it while on scaffolding because it is so high up on the wall. The size of it really is astounding. 

So, I did what any good older sister would do. I coaxed Jake into sneaking a picture. Because we all know that I am not discreet enough to commit criminal acts. Plus, the other lady got a picture before they told her not to, so I figured it couldn’t hurt. So, here it is. 

Let it be known that Jake risked being thrown in a dungeon to take this. You can thank him later. 

Beauty, Celebration, Culture, History

Pig Tales

You know how you know it’s the week before VBS? When your shopping list includes 6000 pony beads and a 50 pack of giant Pixy Stix. And, in case you were wondering, one of these pixy stix exceeds my recommended daily allowance of sugar. ONE STICK. As in, there are over 50 days worth of sugar in this package. Like 2 months worth of sugar. How ridiculous is that?! And I’m buying these for children. I’ll go ahead and bury my head in the sand and assume they are not going to consume all of this at once. Right?
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Sugar coma waiting to happen

I get asked/volunteered to do a lot of things. I think I just have that face, where people look at me and think, we could talk her into doing that. Write it off as fulfilling my civic duty: I was asked to judge the beauty pageant at our annual town celebration. I’m not quite sure who decided I’d be qualified for this, but I was told to show up at 9:30 in the morning and we’d start with the tiny tots.
Tiny Tots division

Tiny Tots division

I assume everyone reading this knows me. And if you do, you know that my standard outfit is athletic shorts, tshirts (shocker, I know), and sandals. I wear my hair in a ponytail with a headband and 92% of the time, I don’t wear any makeup. So, beauty is not really my scene. But, for Maysville Day, anything goes. (To be completely honest, I judged the kids more by what they said their favorite foods were than by how they looked. One kid said mole’. Bonus points from me!)
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Our town is really more of a community. The population is 130 people. It’s small town America at its smallest. Just to give you a better idea of what it’s like here: I dropped a tote of packages off at the post office and left my credit card with them to process the payment when they were done then forgot about it and went back two days later to retrieve my card. So basically what I’m saying is I’m irresponsible and forgetful, but it’s okay because I can trust the post master not to run away on a shopping spree.
Our tiny little post office

Our tiny little post office

When I was born, we lived in the house on the corner (if you’re from here, you’d know exactly what house I’m talking about because there are only 4 corners and only one of them has a house on it), which was built in 1899 and used to be the doctor’s house. I think it’s the oldest building still standing, along with our church which was built in 1905. Maysville has been there to see a Civil War battle fought on its doorstep and to see the Cherokee Trail of Tears make it’s final entrance into Oklahoma. It even survived through Prohibition, selling bootleg liquor out of the back of one of the stores on old main street because the front of the store opened into Arkansas and the backdoor opened into Oklahoma. We have a rich history and it is one of the binding threads of this little community.
Maysville Day is the event of the year and it is an event, let me tell you. It’s country. There’s southern culture, then there’s country culture and it overlaps in a lot of places, but it differs too. We have the best (or worst, depending on how you want to look at it) of both worlds. I’ll just highlight some of the events of Maysville Day for you. There is live music all day (country, bluegrass, and gospel, of course) and the stage consists of pallets laid out together and the seating? You guessed it: hay bales. There’s a horse shoe contest, pancake breakfast, car cutting by the fire department, all the typical things. Then, there’s cow patty bingo and a pig chasing. Because this is Maysville and pig chasing is apparently part of our heritage.
The homemade stage

The homemade stage

I showed up (civic duty check-off) at 9:30 (let’s be real: it was more like 9:38) to find 35 beautiful little people ready to be judged by yours truly. Last year, they had 8 contestants. This year, 35, in a room with no air conditioning, on the hottest day we’ve had here so far. It’s useless trying to be beautiful in this heat, trust me. We crowned our winners. Just in time for them to saddle up their horses and get in the parade.
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We were just wrapping up and getting ready to leave when a man came in all in an uproar because someone unloaded “a black pig in a black cage” behind his truck and asked him to watch it and hadn’t been back for it. He also informed us that his wife scared the pig (at which point the wife chimes in with an overlapping story about how the pig actually scared her) and they weren’t going to try to move it again but that the pig needed watered because the man had left it sitting out in the sun. Why was he coming to the beauty pageant room to air these grievances? I don’t know. But as I was walking to my car, I saw a guy moving the pig and dumping a bucket of water on it. Looks like he’ll be nice and rested by the time they let him loose to be chased.