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Why Clemson is STILL #1

Jan

13

Posted by on Jan 13, 2016 | 8 comments

1981 Freshman Clemson picture

Why, yes, I have Big Hair. It was the 80s for heaven’s sake!

Looking back through my lens as a parent, it’s difficult to understand why my father allowed it–

 

Me going to an out-of-state college four years, especially in light of what influenced my decision:

It was only 90 minutes from home.

I loved the Tiger paws dotting the highways leading into campus.

It was not where my sister – 16 months my senior with a shadow that shrouded me for 18 years – went to college.

Oh, sure, I probably gave a more intelligent explanation when asked, but those were the real (now mortifying) reasons. Of course, my Grand Plan included me returning to my hometown to attend the University of Georgia my sophomore year, so it’s not like I set out to break the bank.

Daddy had wanted me and my siblings to have a “true college experience” away from home our freshman year, and apparently I wanted him to pay dearly for it. It’s not like we were spoiled – it was rare for us to ask for extras, and we all worked as soon as we could to earn spending money – but I still can’t believe my gall to think it was okay. At best I was insensitive to the cost differential between in- and out-of-state tuition, and at worst, invoked some sense of entitlement.

My collegiate decision had nothing to do with academics. Clemson didn’t even have the major I was interested in so I had to chose something close.

I can think of no other more shallow or immature decision made my entire life.

 

My husband is quick to remind me it worked out pretty well, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

Monday night in a ferocious contest, Clemson’s #1-ranked, 14-0 football team, played for the National Championship. Though they didn’t come away with the win, I’m not sure I’ve ever been more proud of or happier for my personal association with the school. From underdogs to wonder cats, Clemson has endeared us all.

In full disclosure, I’m not a general football fan; it’s team specific and I only care about a few. Having grown up in Athens, GA, I can’t ignore my long-standing affection for the Georgia Bulldogs, and with my youngest there now I, once again, have a vested interest (I’m still incensed they ran off Coach Mark Richt; he is as fine a man as they come, concerned about developing his players as good men as much as he cares about winning…but that’s a rant for another time).

Here’s why the Tigers are still #1 to me:

 

1)  Quarterback Deshaun Watson. J’adore a good story, and that’s exactly what Deshaun brings along with his cool composure under pressure, wicked passing precision, and the Eye of the Tiger when reading and running the field. Of course, I’ve got near-family affection for this guy–he’s from the same hometown as my sister and her family, and they’ve long lauded his talent and character. There’s great reason former Clemson standout Steve Fuller graciously unretired his number 4 jersey for Watson (a story worth reading), and when you learn why Watson partners with Habitat for Humanity, you might just cry. As far as I’m concerned, if you don’t become a fan of this kid, your heart might just be stone cold.

2) Dabo Swinney. I’ll be honest–at first Dabo’s wiles and ways didn’t win me over. Dork came to mind. We laughed and squirmed at those daffy dance moves. He seemed to wear an unattractive chip on his shoulder when interviewed, and lordy, the things that spilled out of his mouth made me shake my head. “Bring your own guts?” Seriously?

But while I was busy being all judgy, a catch-phrase was birthed in great affection. And the man and his team kept winning. Defying all the naysayers, mucking through rain, and despite the odds, Clemson. Kept. Winning. And then I bothered to learn more about Dabo’s remarkable story and he won me over. Don’t skip this one–Dabo leads by amazing example, and all parents would be privileged to have their football-playing sons to play under his leadership. He loves his team. He shares his faith. He means it when he says #ClemsonFamily, and I’d love to know him as friend.

3) Team Play and Resilience. Less than four minutes into Clemson’s season opener, leading receiver Mike Williams caught a four-yard pass, scored a touchdown…and suffered a small neck fracture when tackled and rammed into the goal post. Thankfully, it wasn’t a career-ending injury, but it wouldn’t be the last injury to an impact-player. Regardless, Clemson’s team rallied game after game, and everyone, together, found a way to win.

What is particularly exciting is how young this team is–as many as nine offensive starters will be returning for the 2016 season; we’ll lose a few more defensive players to the NFL. Going all the way back to pre-season, this was not the year Clemson was expected to do anything great because of its youth; next year was supposed to be The Year. Cannot wait to see!

4) Worst of Times, Best of Times. Didja see (or at least hear about) Andy Teasdall’s self-decided fake punt during the ACC Title Game against North Carolina? The only thing uglier than the punter’s bad decision was Coach Swinney’s post-play tirade. But in a beautiful tale of redemption, a fake punt play was called by coaches in the Orange Bowl against Oklahoma, and this time Teasdall delivered beautifully.

5) Coaching staff. I don’t know a lot about Clemson’s coaching staff, but the stories I do know make me proud. “The incredible underdog story of Clemson’s Tony Elliott” is an inspiring, heart-wrenching must-read whether or not you like football, sports, OR Clemson. And you’ll love this true tale of two Notre Dame midnight hitchhikers and their providential meeting with assistant coach Robbie Caldwell. Thankfully, it has a happy ending.

6) R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I know I’m showing my age, but I kept thinking of Rodney Dangerfield of the “I don’t get no respect” fame early in the Clemson season, what with all the predictions of “Clemsonning,” that somehow, some way, the Tigers would find a way to lose. But I’ll be darned if they refused to give in to all those haters by shutting them up win after win and re-defining Clemsonning. Clemson fans were treated to something very special this season–we saw a team finally come into its own and earn play by play and game by game the respect it deserved.

My husband and sons will totally roll their eyes that I’m writing a football post, but I have the pedigree: a) I grew up in Athens during the Dooley years, cheered with his daughters, and went to our high school homecoming dance once with his son; b) I was one of the first Georgia Girls, back before there was a former program or any kind of scandal…. c) I can remember sitting on The Hill, long gone now but a great memory for those lucky enough to experience simpler times. I can still remember the scent of sweat and alcohol, probably before I even knew what I was smelling.

 

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Dance Magic

Jan

04

Posted by on Jan 4, 2016 | 5 comments

Dance Just Dance sign

I love that I grew up when I did, when you had to get up to change the TV channel, when there were only three networks and manageable choices. You were at the mercy of network programmers as to what old movies they’d re-run on the weekends, and I can remember studying the TV Guide to decide what to watch. Elvis movies were my favorite, oh, and every musical. No one said bad words and no one had to get naked to hold your attention. We might’ve preferred color to black and white, but it wasn’t a deal breaker. We took what we could get.

It was golden.

That was forever ago and it’s tucked away in clouded memory now, but every now and then the internets will cook something up that helps me remember. Such is the case with Nerd Fest UK’s 66 (Old) Movie Dance Scenes Mashup (Mark Ronson-Uptown Funk ft. Bruno Mars), originally posted in October. It started popping up on Facebook, and I finally clicked a link to see why so many were sharing it. If you haven’t yet seen it, by all means stop what you’re doing and watch it from beginning to end. You’ll thank me.

And if you’re doubly lucky, you’ll be treated to a Poo-Pourri commercial. That I have no words for, but much like a train wreck, I couldn’t stop watching. Props for all their tongue-in-cheek monkeyshines.

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The beautiful-est little Christmas thing ever

Dec

24

Posted by on Dec 24, 2015 | 5 comments

Clay pieces

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. ~ Thomas Merton

 

I believe in the art of play. I believe in the play of art.

Scripture tells us we’re created in the image of God, and in him we see creativity beyond comparison, imagination with no bounds. Nature screams it in her beauty, her complexity, her diversity.

Study your hand. An odd thing, perhaps, but look at it in a way you never have before. You’ll be amazed. Your nails, the joints, the prints on fingers and thumb. Lines that might not tell your future, but certainly tell your life. Your hand is art by a masterful creator. And that’s only one tiny part of you.

As image bearers we share in God’s creative nature, and I think children know it best. Or maybe they’re freer to declare the joy in, and goodness of, their work: “Look what I made!” They know how to be proud without a hint of arrogance.

Children grow up and forget so many important things (adults forget so many important things), or maybe self-awareness settles in and we stuff down or crowd out or silence the creative in ourselves.

Of course, Hobby Lobby and Michael’s exist for those who remember.

This year I signed up for a clay class at my church, led by two friends whose artistic talents match the joy they have in sharing their giftings with others. Their enthusiasm is contagious, and they make you believe there’s Midas touch in your fingers.

Each week they supplied us with a flat of clay and new instructions, and from there we cut and shaped, slipped and scored our way to something incredibly special: my new favorite Christmas nativity.

I’ve always loved crèches, and though there are so many beautiful ones you can buy, my favorites are handmades.

A beautiful takeaway from the class is a deeper glimpse of God as potter; clay in my hands helped me grasp the care and intention in God’s creation of humanity. Not that I’ll ever fully understand it….

I loved both the process and end result. I strongly encourage you to take an art class in your area, but it comes with a caution:

Don’t strive for perfection; go for perfect imperfection. It’s so much more beautiful.

 

My angel. I’d probably re-think that heart now, but when I added it, it was a simple expression of love.

Clay angel

The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls. ~ Picasso

 

I had a hard time with Joseph and my little sheep. I couldn’t get Joseph’s hair quite right, I smudged the pattern in his cloak when shaping him, and my sheep? Well, he looked like a cross between a brain and a wig for Joseph. In the end they were fine, a great reminder how forgiving clay is. 

Joseph and a sheep

 

Mary, Babe in Manger…and tools of our trade. I had hoped Mary’s head covering would be removable; same with Jesus’ swaddling cloth. But, the way I made them they became attached (a little harder to paint…I’ll take note the next time I work with clay).

Mary and Jesus in manger

The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection. ~ Michelangelo

 

Glazed but not yet fired in the kiln. It is amazing to me how different they look before…

Glazed but not yet fired

 

And after.

Handmade Clay Nativity

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. ~ Aristotle

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The Bookmark Thief

Sep

01

Posted by on Sep 1, 2015 | 4 comments

There were no greater treasures than her books - Robin Dance

It was likely birthed as a gentle correction to my inconsiderate transgression: I had dared to turn down the corner of a page in one of her books.

For one so young, she took good care of her special possessions, and there were no greater treasures than her books. These were no papery trophies staged on a shelf. They were stirrers of imagination, journeys of escape, introductions to new friends. It wasn’t hard to figure out those she loved most, loose bindings or passages lined and noted told on her.

You could read this child by studying her bookshelf, and even more so if you opened some of those books. For a season, she carefully applied Wite-Out to profanities, a discovery that made me shake my head in wonder and admiration. We were intentional parents who did our best to train a child in the way she should go, but this was beyond expectation. She was so much better than I ever hoped to be. In case you didn’t realize, “bad” words do show up in children’s books sometimes.

If memory serves me rightly, I was annoyed when she scolded me for folding a page corner to mark my place. She was making a mountain out of a molehill. I was disrespecting her property. Neither of us was particularly impressed with the other’s point of view.

I don’t think I fully understood the gravity of this breach to her until she handed me a present a few days later, a hand-stitched bookmark. Certainly, it served both of us, but it was no doubt a love offering. She paid for it with humanity’s most valuable currency – time – and to me it was priceless.

I was heartbroken years later when it was no where to be found.

 * * *

But this is a story with a happy ending, the kind punctuated with tears, heart-wrung but binding joy to sadness in the presence of good but hard things.

 

She found the bookmark she had sewn for me half her life ago.

She was in the process of turning her room into mountains, piles to sell, piles to give away, piles to throw away, piles to keep. The yuckiest pile was the one marked undecided; it held sentimental attachment but no practical good. Every thing was a symbol of something more, a memory or season worth holding onto. It wasn’t about the thing itself but the everything else of it that made these things so hard to get rid of. If you’ve got an old tee shirt in your drawer you haven’t worn in decades but won’t throw away, you know exactly what I mean.

Somewhere in the sorting and pile-making, she found my bookmark. Neither of us know why it was in her room but who cares? She found a treasured possession.

When I look at this bookmark, I see her then. I can sense her indignation over my scarring her precious book, and her satisfaction in figuring out a brilliant solution.

Uneven stitches…ragged edges…skewed alignment–the casual observer might see a mess of imperfection, but all I see is something perfectly beautiful.

 

The same could be said of all of us, I suppose.

* * *

When you’re raising your children it feels like it will last forever, doesn’t it?  The fridge is a revolving gallery, measuring time in footprints and thumbprints and handprints. Crooked letters and misspelled words. Construction paper and tissue paper, glitter and glue and gumption.

We save every masterpiece…

because we don’t quite know when the last one will be The Last One.

But make no mistake my friends, there is a Last One.

* * *

I find her sitting on the floor in her room surrounded by piles of things wanted and not, an undoing of the life she’s constructed for more than a dozen years. It will be the place she’ll remember as “home” when she’s grown and away, the house dreams about her childhood will travel back to.

The bookmark is on the floor next to her –  “The bookmark you made me…!” “Yeah, I’m not sure why it’s in here….” – and the sight of it slays me happy. It’s a prodigal, an old friend, treasure found, and surely it’s a good sign of some sort. The edges are a bit frayed and the ink escaped her lines, but those things only endear me further.

Sometimes you can love a thing so much it becomes an idol, but sometimes that thing is a just a placeholder for something else, and there’s no sin or shame in those affections.

 

Memories roll in like thunder. So do thoughts of her future.

In four days we’ll pack up the piles she decided to take and drive 1400 miles to go confidently in the direction of her dreams, to begin living the life she’s imagined.

The bookmark stays with me.

 

 

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The Wedding Gift and Mr. Housman

Aug

11

Posted by on Aug 11, 2015 | 8 comments

Toulouse from Reed and Barton Select

Mr. Housman was a crusty old man with gravel in his voice.

 

A stubble of white dusted the sides of his head. His skin was a map of liver spots and blotches. When he stood his tallest I could look him square, and his belly looked like he had swallowed a watermelon whole.

Mr. Housman was never in a hurry. Even if those stubby legs could’ve shuttled him faster, he wouldn’t have bothered. He had lived long enough to learn that getting there quicker wasn’t always better. Better than most, he knew life was less a straight shot and more a tangled road.

If Mr. Housman were a book, you’d do yourself wrong to judge him by the cover. He was much, much more than meets the eye.  Slipping out in a wink or slight nod, mischievousness might’ve been his superpower.

He had been with the company longer than I had been alive.

When I first met him, I was intimidated. I was fresh out of school and he was a walking institution. I thought I knew something until I was around people like him. When in the presence of a sage, I became aware of how little I knew, how brief my life had been in comparison. People like Mr. Housman had trudged the history I had only read about in school.

My perception started shifting as soon as the stories began. His prickly veneer masked satin.

Mr. Housman had one son and one wife. He’d say he got it right the first time. Among a pile of surprises I’d learn about Mr. Housman was finding out he and his missus fostered children. More than you can count on your fingers and toes. That’s something.

That’s great love.

 

When I got engaged, the company I worked for hosted a bridal luncheon a few weeks before I left to start my new life. I remember sitting around a long table full of people, most of whom probably came for the good eats more than the good-byes. Mr. Housman wasn’t among them.

A few days later he stopped me in the hall and squired me to a quieter spot. He handed me a beautifully wrapped gift, heavy and easy enough to guess what was inside–a set of flatware. Though I would never admit it to him, I knew we weren’t going to use it. I had bought a good set of stainless when I moved out on my own a year earlier and I had registered for “nice” silverware when we engaged.

Soon enough, however, I would discover Mr. Housman’s gift was a seed for a dream…

 

…but that’s another story for another time.

When he handed me the gift, he winked and said something like, “This is just a cover…” and I was confused as he reached to shake my hand, an odd gesture even for an odd man. He withdrew his own hand leaving a small slip of paper in my palm, or at least that’s what it felt like until I looked down.

It was a yellow post-it note with three words in his familiar script. One of those surprises about Mr. Housman you wouldn’t have anticipated was his beautiful penmanship.

“Go, and quietly.”

I turned it over and it was stuck tight to a neatly folded $100 bill. (In today’s dollars, about $212, a very nice gift.) I quickly glanced up to challenge him – it was much too lavish a gift – and, without a word, he dismissed me with a wave of his hand as he turned to walk away.

Twenty-eight years later, the flatware is still unopened in its original box, still a dream’s seed.

Twenty-eight years later, Mr. Housman’s wedding gift is the one I remember best.

 

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The Perfect, Most Delicious Way to Cook a Steak

May

20

Posted by on May 20, 2015 | 3 comments

The Perfect Way to Cook a Steak

Google “How to cook the perfect steak” and you’ll have 6.7 million returns telling you how to do it. Pioneer Woman, Bobby Flay, Emeril, Gordan Ramsay, Guy Fieri, Rachael Ray, Robert Irvine – even Martha Stewart – all have recipes and methods touting theirs as the best steak in the world.

But then there’s Wes. The guy next door you’ve never heard of. Wes, who makes the best steak I’ve ever had. Wes, who also happens to be my neighbor.

Lawsy, we hit the jackpot.

Wes is an analytical kind of guy who appreciates the science of cooking. He understands the relationship between acids and bases and what happens to food on a molecular level. I understand as long as Wes understands, it’s all good.

Really, REALLY good.

If you’ve already signed up for the 30-Day Protein Challenge, you know it’s not all about beef–that just happens to be my favorite type of protein. (Which made it a no-brainer to work with the Georgia Beef Board during Georgia Beef Month to promote the #ProteinChallenge.)  A slow-cooked roast with carrots and potatoes is practically my love language. Beef tacos is a family favorite. And burgers on the grill? Well, no one does ’em better than my own husband.

One of my favorite discoveries during the 30-Day Protein Challenge is all the delicious-sounding and good-for-you recipes they have. If you’ve been reluctant to try the challenge because you think you’ll be eating the same thing three meals a day for a month, you should sign up for access to so many meal ideas (all the other information is bonus).

Except for cooking a good ol’ filet or rib-eye. For the perfect steak, you’re going to want to do it Wes’ way. Anything else is sloppy seconds.

Wes’ World Rocking, Life-Altering, Magical
Way to Cook the Perfect Steak*

Preparing the perfect steak

 

  1. Buy high quality steaks from your favorite grocer. My favorite is a filet but my husband will choose a rib-eye for the marbling every time.
  2. Lightly coat steaks in corn oil, about a teaspoon per side. Wes uses Mazola, which works out just fine for us, because that’s all I’ll use for the Best (Apple Pie) Crust in the world.
  3. Season heavily with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper, coarsely ground.  Apply equal amounts of both the salt and the pepper, and be careful to season with respect to thickness of the steak.
  4. Heat a large, seasoned cast iron skillet to very hot on a propane burner outside; you’re going to sear the steaks, and at this high of a temperature, it’s best to do so outside because they will smoke.
  5. Sear at high heat two minutes per side or until outside is a nice dark brown (not black).  After taking them off, allow to rest at least 5 minutes.
  6. Finish in 500° oven or grill (indirectly only) 10-20 min until desired temp is reached.  I use a baking pan, but a rack on top of a pan is ideal.  Finishing will take some practice; each steak is different–i.e., ribeye cooks different than filet. Or you can feel the steaks with your finger to judge the doneness. A meat thermometer can help as well.

My friends at the Georgia Beef Board suggest medium rare as the optimal level, cooking to an internal temperature of 145°.

During the searing process the steak should reach approximately 100°. At this point you can actually put the steaks in the fridge and finish them in the oven later or even the next day.

Make sure to allow time for your steaks to rest at least 5-7 minutes before cutting.

Enjoy!

Be sure to sign up for the 30-Day Protein Challenge for daily tips, recipes and great inspiration to eat better, in order to feel better. 

Also, if you haven’t yet entered to win one of four prize packs sponsored by the Georgia Beef Board (including $100 toward beef at your favorite grocer’s), there’s still time! Enter here.

NCBA_PC_FeelTheDifference_300x250

 

 

*Which Wes actually got from his friend Laurence…which is very similar to Alton Brown’s method of preparation.  

 

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