Auto, Celebration, Culture, Family, Farm, Outdoors, Summer

Give & Take

Teaching children is one of the great joys in life. Or so I’m told. 

I have friends who teach children daily and I don’t know how they do it. But, I teach a class at church once a week and for the most part, it’s joyous. Sometimes the teaching isn’t as joyous, but the learning definitely is. 

That moment when one of the kids is actually able to remember and apply what you’ve taught them, that’s the moment I think any teacher has to live for. 

Recently I’ve been teaching the class I fondly refer to as “the littles”. They range from 4 to 6 years old. They’re at the age that they soak up everything, the good and the bad. We’ve been learning about Job for awhile and they’d never heard the story before. 

For those of you who haven’t been teaching about Job lately, I’ll update you on his story. He was a good man. One of our first memory verses was “Job was an upright and righteous man who feared the Lord…” (part of Job 1:1) This is a memory verse that some of the kids can still quote, even weeks after they learned it. Proud moment. But the Lord allowed Job to be tested. Job lost everything. His riches, his family, his home, his livelihood, all his worldly possessions. Finally, he lost his health. 

As many of you know, my grandpa passed away recently. And I miss him. He, much like Job, was an upright and righteous man who feared the Lord. 

He was born on the farm we currently live on and grew up well below a poverty line that was not even defined yet. He got an 8th grade education before he had to start working. But, he could read the King James Version of the Bible out loud more eloquently than anyone else I’ve ever heard. 

He raised a son who loves the outdoors and that son raised me in the same way. I have more memories than I can even begin to number from hunting, fishing and farming with him. 

He was raised in a small country church that he went on to pastor, a position he held for most all of my life. He taught me for years, which is probably how I find myself now teaching the next generation in the same church. 

The memory verse the kids learned about Job being an upright and righteous man who feared the Lord is a good verse for them to know. But, it isn’t the verse that comes to mind when I think of Job. 

Job suffered. I’m not sure exactly how long he suffered for, but the Bible devotes 42 chapters to his life, so my guess is that the suffering was anything other than temporary. But during that time, he never denied God. He never blamed the Lord for what happened to him. He continued to be upright and righteous. In all of it, Job is recorded for having said this:

“The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21b)

This. Said by a man who suffered failing health, the death of his children, the loss of everything. He’s blessing the name of the Lord in his times of receiving and in his times of losing.

It’s really easy to bless the name of the Lord in our times of receiving. To say thank you for good things, to feel like God is blessing us. But what about in the times of losing? 

What happens if what you lost and what you gained joined hands and became the same thing?

We focus on our loss in death, but what if we look at what the Lord gave us? 

I was given a grandpa who I saw 2-3 times a week for my whole life, who loved me and told me so, who taught me the right way to live, who made such an impression in my life that I wouldn’t be the same person I am today without his influence. 

My dad and his sister got a father who was involved, who was present, who prayed before meals, who worked hard to provide for them. 

My grandma got a husband for 55 years, a man who was faithful and loved her in a way that is rare to see in today’s world. 

There were countless other people who gained from my grandpa’s existence. A church family who got a humble leader, a host of family that he loved in so many different ways, and hundreds of others. His funeral was the largest I’d ever been to, filled with people I had no idea he’d affected so profoundly. 

There’s a popular worship song that uses this verse in Job as some of its main lyrics.  

“You give and take away, but my heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be Your name.”

Today, we have a choice. In our trials and in our rejoicing. In our times of blessings and in our time of loss. The choice is left to us. But, I know what my heart’s answer will be.

Lord, blessed be Your name. 

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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. 

                                                                                                                                   

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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. 

                                                                                                                                   

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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.

                                                                                                                                   

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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.

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America, Family, Farm, Funny

Wednesday, March 2

Let me tell you what I’m not doing right now. I’m not searching for my phone. Because I didn’t lose my phone. My brother lost his. Which never happens. I’m always the one who loses my phone and goes on an elephant hunt back through my day to figure out at which point I set it down and forgot about it. And when this happens, I’m always given a lecture about how I shouldn’t be constantly losing my phone and how I need to keep track of my stuff. But, now, the aforementioned lecturer has lost his phone. And am I lecturing him? 

No. 

I am relishing silently in this glory, basking in his frustration at having to figure out where he irresponsibly laid his phone down at. Because for once, it wasn’t me. 
  
Let me tell you what I am doing, though. I am in a narrow stairwell, having Jake take a passport picture. Why the stairwell? Because we need a white wall for a background and a two foot wide stairwell seemed to be our best option.. Which basically means his phone (which has been located) is right in front of my face, which causes me to laugh because this situation is just so ridiculous and results in a passport picture that looks like a cross between a mugshot and an emoji. He took a decent one, but I’m pretty certain he’s currently in the process of printing the mugshot emoji one. 

Wednesday, March 2 was not an eventful day for me. I currently babysit on Wednesdays for a friend, so my day consisted of bottles and diapers and rockers and all things baby. Me and the baby have developed a good working relationship. We have mutual respect for each other, understand our roles, and perform our jobs to the best of our abilities. We’re all business, no drama.

However, Wednesday, March 2 was eventful for my brother. Which he relayed to me at the end of the day. And I took such a liking to the story, in all of its ridiculous detail, that I told him he should write about it. 

The thing about me and Jake is that we both love stories. I love to be told stories. And I love to tell stories. But, vocally telling a story is not my forte. I become too bogged down in the details and lose the point too easily. I like to write stories, it’s more organized and detailed. It suits me better. 

But, if you have ever heard Jake tell a story, his medium is definitely vocal. He does impressions, voices, mannerisms, he’s a mockingbird, including every detail in the way he tells a story. It’s enjoyable. In fact, he made me laugh so hard at a story he was telling the other day that I choked on my coffee and was fairly certain that I was going to end up with pneumonia from aspirating liquid down into my lungs. 

So, he obliged me and wrote the story down. Which really has no point except for that I found it amusing. So, here it is, in Jake’s words:

The week prior to leaving on a trip is always chaotic, however I think…. “we’ve done this enough that we should have this down to a science.”  If only life were that simple.

My grandpa lost his cell phone in the field a week or so ago while feeding cows and has been off the grid when he leaves the farm to run errands. This is driving my grandma insane because she had become accustomed to picking up the phone and calling him to remind him he had a funeral that day, the baptistry needed to be filled up while he was out, or that they were out of Bran Flakes (her current favorite).

In a cataclysmic turn of events, their home phone and internet services have also been on the fritz this week.  Let me just say, it’s been several phone calls back and forth to CenturyLink.

Wednesday’s are an odd day of the week for us at work because Brittney is out of the shop.  It also happened to be that my mom had an appointment with her eye surgeon that my dad needed to take her to. This meant that it would only be 1 person coming into work for the first part of the day. 1 out 3, it’s hard to pass with 33%, imagine trying to take a self portrait with a tripod that only has one leg.. You get the point.  Any other time, I would sit this morning out, except this was not possible, remember, three days until we leave for Vietnam.
 

One man shop

 

(8:30 am) My day started with slow single person tasks and as I was mid-first monogram of the day, my grandpa came in the shop looking for my dad.  I told him he was gone this morning, what did he need? Their home phone went out again, he needed to borrow a cell phone to call CenturyLink. After waiting 15 minutes on hold, he gets through and then the phone call cuts out. What is it with Maysville and glorious telecommunication services?  (aside: #MaysvilleLivesMatter). 

 Another call back to CenturyLink and passing the phone off to me, I get a few instructions to troubleshoot their problem.  My grandpa felt equally confident that he could do as the lady instructed and also that what she instructed would not fix their problem, so away he went.  In the meantime,  I text my dad to get them a cell phone card for a cell phone my aunt gave my grandparents.
  

Morning embroidery

(10:30 am) My dad called for me to meet him in Gentry (20 minutes away) to pick him up as he was going to leave my mom’s car with her at her work. I told him we needed to grab lunch at McDonald’s because we didn’t have time to sit down and eat lunch at home and we were already sitting for 20 minutes in the car on the way home. (Note- even in an apocalypse, efficiency is the key to survival.)

(11:30 am) When we got home from Gentry,  we went directly down to my grandparents house (1/4 mile down the dirt road) to setup the minutes on the cell phone they have because my grandma had an appointment to get a perm that afternoon. My grandma said the phone in the kitchen on the charger, unfortunately, it was the charger to their old phone. Also unfortunate was the fact that the new cell had enough battery life to appear functional.  I read the directions on how to load the minutes and as soon I loaded the minutes, my grandma asked if I could make that phone have the same number as the old phone (which, remember, is sitting somewhere out in a hay field). It dawned on me that I didn’t even know what phone number this phone had so I read off the number to my grandma.  She reread the number out loud and then looked surprised, “that’s Sherri’s number (my aunt)… not our number”.  The minutes didn’t load on this phone and the phone still has the same number as my aunt’s current phone. What a debacle. We still aren’t sure where the minutes went but put Net10 on the growing list of telecom people to call.

(11:45am) Back to work, I was only halfway through our first printing order of the day when I got a phone call from CenturyLink. The guy was on his way out to setup our internet/phone in the shop, but at this point I’m wondering why bother? Anyone got a tin can and a string? I’m about ready to kick it old school and tie hand quilled invoices to doves to deliver and hope they bring back payments.

I quickly finish the job we’re working on because I knew there would be a pause when he got there. My dad saw him pull through the gate and as soon as he said “he’s here” my cell phone rang…. It was Lisa, my grandma’s hairdresser. 
(Remember #1 This is Arkansas #2 I love Nanny- my grandma we’re referring to here and #3 I’m central contact point for Maysville, apparently.) Back to Lisa’s call-
Lisa:  “Hey Jacob, have you talked to your grandparents today? I’m worried something happened, they didn’t make it to their 12 o’clock and I can’t get a hold of them- that’s not like her…”

Jacob: “Yes, I was just down there and their phone is out and he just lost his cell… But don’t worry their appointment was at 2, right? That’s what she told me just 15 minute ago and they are planning on being there”

Lisa: “Is there anyway you can go tell them they missed their appointment? Maybe they can borrow your phone to call me back and reschedule.”

Jacob: “Uh-oh, oh-no and okay”

At this point my dad hears my end of the conversation and says “Do I need to go tell them they missed it?” sort of hastily, I said yes confused as to why he was in a hurry. I look out the window to see the CenturyLink guy is stopped in the road talking to my grandparents, who are now leaving to go get their hair cut, permed, and washed. The CenturyLink guy comes on out to the shop as I watch my dad, seemingly in slo-mo, take off across the yard to catch them.

(11:55am) Sorry it took so long to account for 10 minutes of my life, but wow.  So the CenturyLink guy asks me if I’m related to “Mr.Scott”? To which I say “Yes, all of us.” Because he had then met all three “Mr.Scott’s” of Maysville.

He continues (imagine this in a cyber native Arkansan accent):
“Yeah, his phone line… I fixed it last week when it went out. The problem with his line is that it runs through the other way…”

(Aside- our property lies between two telecom lines and also two power companies, our home and shop phone line comes in from the south while my grandparents comes from the north)

“… That darn line is so chewed up and bad. I’m trying to get CL to come run a new line for them. Their line now runs through two creeks and it floods every time it rains, then that makes all them mice and rats nest up in our service boxes. That’s what’s making their phone and Internet go out. I cleaned out two mice nests up in that service box last week but I’ll back and clean it out again.”

Basically what he was saying is: If CenturyLink doesn’t fix the problem, this morning may be repeated for you on a weekly basis. Ahhh…

Wednesday’s are also a short day for my dad and I in the shop because we have to quit around 4:45 so he can go get ready to drive the church bus and pick up kids all over the tri-state. So a quick recap of the rest of the day… My dad caught my grandparents at the mailbox, they used his phone and sweet talked Lisa into fitting them in that afternoon. My dad then got a call from a friend and had to leave quickly to go help him. Somehow through the chaos of the day, we still ended up getting about 500 prints done, which is a semi-normal day.
 

All in a day’s work

 

I text Brittney and said “God is calling me to be a comedian because he is giving me so much content today, I don’t even know what to do with it all.”  I told it all to her when she got home, who I’m sure found it more amusing and humorous than you just did, and suggested I guest post on her blog. Sorry if you find yourself saying “Geez, that was a great read for wasting 10 minutes” and you’re welcome if you needed to waste 10 minutes reading someone’s mundane recollection of Wednesday, March 2nd.

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Celebration, Culture, Family, Food, Middle East, Travel

All Hands on Deck

I’m good at making friends. I always have been. I remember in elementary school, when I’d start a new year, I’d survey the classroom and decide which girls I wanted to be my friend. Then, we’d be friends. I think it’s probably because I’m a little annoying and just shove my way into people’s lives. But, it’s kinda charming, right? 

So, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I made some friends the first time I went to Jordan. Here’s mostly how I made them: Hi! Do you speak English? The golden question. If they say, yeah, a little bit, you’re in! It’s that easy. 

 

A few of my new and old friends from Jordan

 
I met Hana, Danny, and Ziad the first time I was there. So, they were my base contacts during my visit. They made sure I was taken care of, led me around, introduced me to new people, and made fun of me in Arabic. You know, the usual stuff. So, Danny’s house was one of the first places we went when I arrived. 

 

My warm welcome crew

 
Jordanian women are a force to be reckoned with. They will feed you until you’re full then feed you some more. You don’t enter their house without being offered something to eat and drink. And Danny’s mom followed the standard. 

After the greeting hugs and kisses, she brought me one of my new favorite things. It’s called hamleh. They’re toasted chickpeas that you shell and eat. They reminded me of the Jordanian version of popcorn. Not really because they’re anything like popcorn. But, that’s just what I thought of. 

Hamleh

They’re so good! And tea. Because I love tea. And Danny’s little brother, Feras, just happened to have made a homemade pizza, so I had some of that as well. It’s always a smorgasbord with any Jordanian family. 

And at the end of our little gathering, they told me they’d teach me something I’ve wanted to learn: to eat mansaf with my hands. 

Mansaf is the dish that defines Jordan. It’s a chicken and rice dish and I’ve had it a few times in Jordan, but never with my hands. 

Another version of mansaf I had while I was there

Now, there are certain preparations you must make when you eat like this. It feels a little like going into battle. 
To start, you have to roll your sleeves up. And not just a little bit. Your sleeves must be securely tucked above your elbow. You must take all jewelry off. No rings, no bracelets. You have to stand solidly above the dish, letting everyone know you mean business. And, for me, I had to pull my hair back, to make sure it wouldn’t get in my way. 

  

Once you have fully prepared yourself to partake, the real work begins. 
First, you make a little bit of a well in the rice nearest you and some hot broth gets poured on it. 

I asked Feras what the liquid was made of because 1) he speaks really good English and 2) he cooks, so he knows all the recipes. It’s some combination of buttermilk and yogurt, obviously with spices and other things in the mix. 

  
Second, you carefully dig your hand in, making sure it’s cooled enough to not burn you. Now, as I said before, this is not a free for all. There’s a method to the madness, perfected over many years, I’m sure. 

You start by getting the amount of rice you feel you can fit into your mouth at one time in your hand. (Brittney tip: get a smaller amount than you think you’ll need, I know from experience that my mouth is not as big as I sometimes judge it to be) And you start balling it up. This isn’t as easy as it sounds because you’ve got rice and chicken covered in the broth and it’s hard to get it all compacted together. 

Of course, everyone else made it look simple. Once you’ve sufficiently made a ball, you rest it on your fingers and use your thumb to shove it off your hand and into your mouth. 

  

  
It’s a skill. One that I’m not very good at. But, I managed to get completely full and didn’t get food all over myself. Which is more than I can usually say for myself when using utensils. 

I’m thinking I’m gonna start skipping out on the forks and spoons from now on. Saves on doing dishes plus it’s way more fun! 

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Culture, Family, Food, Middle East, Travel

Cereal Comfort Zone

So, in all of my travels, I have actually never stayed for any extended period of time with a family. Mostly because it’s usually me and Jake traveling together and it’s more of an imposition for families to keep two people. And also because Jake doesn’t like staying with people. He’s American to the core and personal space rules the day. So, no family visits.

I, on the other hand, love putting myself in the middle of things like that. I don’t know why, but I like the unpredictability of it. I guess I kinda crave being out of my comfort zone a little, in a strange way. No choices. You eat what they eat. You sleep when they sleep. You go where they go. It’s a true experience.

 

My cute host family

Most people probably don’t know this about me, but I love breakfast. Not the actual meal. But the morning time surrounding it. I love the preparations, sitting around drinking coffee, talking. I just like it. And I like the food too. At home, I’m usually up around 7 am. I eat a bowl of cereal every morning and drink coffee. That’s my routine.

Let me go ahead and re-emphasize that nothing in Jordan resembled anything from my life at home. So, out of my comfort zone is an understatement. I’ll also go ahead and tell you that I spoke to no other native English speakers the whole week. Most everyone knows English, but it’s everyone’s second language so there is still a barrier there. Needless to say, I picked up on a little bit of Arabic.

 

Can you pick me out of the crowd?

So, let’s take a Jordanian breakfast. First, it starts around 10:30 or 11 am. I was staying with my friend, Hana, and her family and her dad was cooking us eggs for breakfast. She invited me to the kitchen for coffee, which looks like this.


So, definitely not Americano.


But, the smell of it is amazing. Every country has a smell for me and this is the smell of Jordan. It’s spicy and rich. I love it. And it’s always made like this.

Apparently because the coffee is so strong and bitter, you have it with a sweet. Which, at Hana’s house, turned out to be chocolate. Coffee and chocolate are not a bad way to start breakfast.


Then, after that comes the main course. Which are a bunch of different dishes. With bread. Toasted like this.


You kind of just dip and assemble as you please. Hummus and olive oil are the standards with everything. Then, there’s lebaneh, which is similar to plain yogurt. It’s really tangy, almost like a cheese.


And homemade olives. Because there are olive trees everywhere. So everyone cans their own. To go with the main breakfast, you drink tea, which for us was slightly sweet and minty. You finish up around noon and you’re good until lunch, which commences at roughly 3 to 4 pm.


Cereal, anyone?

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Culture, Family, Middle East, Religion, Travel

Riding Solo

Arabian airport etiquette 101: follow the white girls. If you don’t know what to do, don’t know where to go, look for a blonde. And stick with her. Actually, that’s probably not great advice, seeing as how I’m blonde and I basically never know where I’m going. But, still, it’s a pretty good bet.

I’ve been in Jordan for a week by myself, visiting some friends I met there in August. When we were there with the mission group, I wasn’t able to really take in much of the culture, so going back and staying with a Jordanian family gave me that experience.

 

Me and Hana, my Jordanian hostess

Jordan is such an interesting country. I’ve never been exposed to Muslim culture before. In Jordan, Christians and Muslims co-exist in society, but with Christians composing around 2% of the population, the laws and culture are Muslim. So, it’s a really unique situation.

 

The clinic at the church

One of my friends told me there are only about 5000 believers in the whole country. He asked me how many we had in the US and I couldn’t even fathom a guess. We so take for granted the fact that we live in a Christian nation. After spending just a week in a Muslim country, I can say that most assuredly.

Take our culture, turn it upside down, twist it around, turn it inside out, then smooth it back out, and you’ll have an idea of what the Muslim culture is like. It’s just the most different thought processes and ways of doing things that you could imagine.

But, it was a good experience for me. I think we have so many pre-conceptions about Middle Easterners and most of them are completely unfounded. Admittedly, all of my friends and the families I know in Jordan are Christians, so that may change things slightly in the ways they act. But, the base culture is the same and they are such fun people.

So, to catch everyone up, I’m basically doing a winter world tour. I started in Korea, with Jake and Jordan, visiting friends there. Then, Jordan left us and me and Jake went on to Germany to visit another friend. From there, we split up and I went to Jordan (the country) and Jake went home.

 

The only lonely

In case anyone doesn’t know where Jordan is, it’s situated snugly in the Middle East by Israel, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. Perhaps you’ve heard of some of these places on the news? Yeah, needless to say, my friends and family were not too excited I decided to go there. But, I got the invitation to be hosted and took them up on the offer!

I boarded in Germany with no problems and to give you an idea of what Jordanian people are like: when we landed in Amman (the capital), I had received a phone number and two email addresses from fellow passengers with offers to help me with anything I could possibly need. They helped me off with my bags and through everything at the airport. Jordanians will extend themselves to no bounds to help someone else. They really rival our Southern hospitality.

After gathering my bags, I found my friends right away. Maybe I don’t need my airport etiquette after all. Seems I find my way around by myself just fine!

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Travel

Lettuce Commence

In Jackson, I think the air and the clouds battle to see who can hold the most water. And right when you think the air is going to win and the humidity gets so thick you could cut it with a knife, the clouds prove their dominance and pour down a rain like you’ve never seen before, putting to rest everyone who doubted them. Feeling assured of their victory, they beckon the sun back out to make nice. And the air goes back to bat, collecting up the water the clouds threw down, sure it can win this time.  I have 10 first cousins. 8 boys and 2 girls. My mom has 4 sisters and my dad has 1. Each of the sisters had 2 kids. 3 had 2 boys each and 2 had 1 boy and 1 girl. That’s a lot of numbers and in my case (at this point in my life), a lot of graduations. I was the third in line on my mom’s side to graduate high school. I graduated with my cousin just older than me, so everyone got lucky that year to only have to attend one. Then, I graduated college when his younger brother graduated high school, so we had one reception that year as well.

High School Graduation

Consequently, receptions are something I do well. I think it is one of those many life lessons that are taught to girls in the South without ever really being taught. The art of hosting, whether it is hosting a gathering, one guest, a reception, a wedding or baby shower, you just somehow grow up knowing how to do it. In preparing for graduation receptions, everyone has their tasks, the things they excel at and are called upon to do again and again. Like a faithful old recipe, these are things you know you’re good at and put to practice. For me, this is the assembly of the fruit and veggie tray.     Life rule #275: never buy a pre-assembled tray. They are sub-par produce with processed dressing. Buy fresh what you like best, then make your own trays and your own dressings. This PSA brought to you by generations of women who raised generations of people of which I am now a part. {my personal PSA: don’t question the advice of the generations before you, accept it and move on.}

Our three generations

Graduation is such a celebration of endings and beginnings, of accomplishments and goals left to be accomplished. My cousin, Brett, graduated from high school and will head to Southern Miss in the Fall to pursue a degree in Physics. He was the valedictorian of his class and received a perfect 36 on the science portion of his ACT. To say he will succeed in college is an understatement. He already talks of things and theories way out of my realm. If you know Brett, he is not one for words, so I was curious what he would say in his speech he had to give.

Brett and Jake

Oddly enough, I love graduation speeches. Actually, I really like graduations in general. I’m a nerd, what can I say? The speeches are always part sentimental, part hopeful, part inspirational, and almost always funny. Brett’s was all of those, but he emphasized one thing that stuck with me. It’s not Earth shattering or new, but coming from him, it just seemed all the more profound. Success is not based on the things you accumulate in life: wealth, a house, a car. Success is determined by happiness. If you are happy and doing what you love with those you love, you’re successful. Maybe I’m just at a point in life where I needed to hear that. That particular definition of success, the kind society doesn’t tell us so much about. Brett’s speech was short and to the point (the way everything is with him). Then, there was cake, which makes everything even better. Maybe that’s why I like graduations? Cake.     So another one is in the books, the next will be in two years when Brett’s sister, Savannah, graduates. Did I mention how much we look alike? It’s like we’re related or something…   

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