Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Welcoming Daniel

My grandson, Daniel

My grandson, Daniel

We welcomed a new member into our family on January 16th. Daniel is my first grandchild. Sunday dinner after church at Grandmother’s house was a tradition in my family for most of my life. When she went into assisted living, I began hosting dinner for the family. This past Sunday was my first time hosting as a bonafide grandmother.

Things I remember about my grandmothers’

Magenta Crepe Myrtle trees that the great grandchildren love to climb

Her favorite pink rose bush

Her hands using the biscuit cutter to slice through dough forming perfect circles

The house painted a bright blue, which didn’t seem so vivid on the small paint chip she selected from

Picking tommy toe tomatoes from her garden

Morning glories that she hated and constantly tried to annihilate

Ugly cakes that tasted delicious

The yellow kitchen with the large wooden fork and spoon on the wall

Bifocals perched on the tip of her nose, her smile when she read something she liked

Ear bobs that were clip ons because she didn’t have pierced ears

Walking the railroad tracks behind her house pretending that I was walking a tightrope in the bigtop

Hopscotch on the sidewalk in front

The floor covered with torn Christmas wrapping paper

Silver tinsel Christmas tree

Hot cornbread oozing with melted butter

Lemon pie that she forgot to add sugar to

Everyone gathering on the steps for a family picture taken by a camera without film

My brothers washing dishes because it was Mother’s Day

Reece cups and canned Coca Colas in the refrigerator waiting for us

Meatloaf on Monday nights

Her bowling trophies on display

Crisp, white bedspread

Sweet tea in sunflower glasses

Being a grandmother for the first time is just like being a mother for the first time. You don’t understand until you are one. It really makes me appreciate my grandmothers. I am blessed to have two wonderful grandmothers. I am fortunate to have one grandmother still living. She will proudly tell you that she is 88. We brought Daniel to meet her for the first time. Daniel is her first great great grandchild. He slept through most of the visit.

Daniel with his great great grandma

Daniel with his great great grandma

Posted by connie | 4:49 pm

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Christmas 2011

Thompson Family Christmas 2011

Thompson Family Christmas 2011

Christmas of 2011 was particularly extraordinary for my family. My little brother came in from New Orleans. My nephew came in from Canada and for the first time in several years my father actually had all of his children and grandchildren together.

My Christmas present to my father was actually a copy of a book that my great great aunt Daisy made for my grandfather. My grandfather lost his father when he was only five and so to preserve family memories, my Aunt Daisy made a book for him complete with family lineage, photos, and stories. She presented it to my grandfather in 1961.

As a child, my grandfather would allow me to read the book. I cherished those moments and it was always one of my most favorite things to do at his house. And it was probably that very book that led me to my profession as a graphic artist. So last year, I scanned the pages of the book and added additional pages updating my Dad’s family.

Page from the Thompson Family Book

Page from the Thompson Family Book

This is just one of the pages from the Thompson Family Book from 1961. I think my grandparents look like the parents from the television show, Leave It To Beaver. My aunt wrote each page by hand. She had such a beautifully unique handwriting.

Thompson Family Pyramid December 1999

Thompson Family Pyramid December 1999


Thompson Family Pyramid December 2011

Thompson Family Pyramid December 2011

My brothers have always loved to do family pyramids. I found one picture of my brothers with the grandkids. My nephew who was only three was at the top of the pyramid. My brothers wanted to recreate the scene, but of course this year that nephew is 16 and taller than everyone in the family. He had to take his place at the bottom. And of course there have been a few additions since then. And obviously we are expecting one more. My daughter is expecting this month so she had to stand beside the pyramid rather than be part of it. And you may wonder where I am? I’m the one taking the pictures.

Posted by connie | 6:32 pm

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is a month long challenge for writers. The goal is to write
50,000 words by the end of the month. This averages to 1,724 words per day if you write everyday this month except for Thanksgiving.

The most consistent advice I’ve heard from published writers is a writer must write, even when the Muse is absent. At a conference last year, one of the published authors said her key to success was A-I-C. She patted her backside and said in chair. She makes herself write everyday even when she knows what she is writing is terrible. It is consistent dedication that breeds the most creativity. It is also very difficult. Like those who promise to work out everyday, sometimes, often most days, life just gets in the way. And of course there is procrastination. I am guilty of watching a movie I’ve seen countless times instead of writing.

Some writers swear by a schedule saying they rise early in the morning and crank out a couple of thousand words before most of us have even had our breakfast. I like the little bit of sleep I get in the morning and I refuse to give it up unless the Muse wakes me, which happened this morning. I woke with the beginning words of a poem, and since I am in the middle of a poetry writing class, this is a good thing since I have a portfolio due soon. Poetry is not my preferred field, but I’m finding the class extremely enlightening. I began putting the words together on paper. I wasn’t extremely happy with what I wrote, but I think it is a good start with some great images.

Mostly I write when I can, which is usually right after work. As a writer you never really stop writing. I have note cards, notepads, and even a notes section on my iPhone. I was in a seminar with Elizabeth Cox and she said her husband was forever trying to clean up after her, but it was difficult for him to discern what to keep and what to throw away. She leaves notes on napkins, the back of envelopes, and really any piece of paper she can find.

Right now I’m reading Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer. She talks about dialogue, sentence structure, characters, and narration by telling of her own experience and referencing passages written by other authors. Does reading make you a good author? No, but it can make you a better author. Just like writing poetry and non-fiction can make you a better writer.

So do these 500 words count towards my daily goal for NaNoWriMo?

Posted by connie | 12:55 pm

Monday, October 24, 2011

Ellyn Bache at Hub City Writer’s Workshop

Over fall break I had the opportunity to attend a workshop with Ellyn Bache as part of the Hub City Fall Creative Writing Workshops. Ms. Bache shared with us her twelve essential tips for fiction writers. Writing a novel can be a daunting task, but Ms. Bache gave some very practical advice. As a writer you always hear writers write and to write on schedule and Ms. Bache agrees with this, but she also shared that sometimes it is very difficult even for experienced writers to adhere to. She wasn’t giving us permission to be lazy, but merely letting us know that she understands and it is something that she still struggles with at times. Sometimes life just gets in the way of your writing time and if the muse isn’t with you, it is so easy to be distracted.

Ms. Bache has written nine novels. Her novel Safe Passage was made into a film starring Susan Sarandon. Her latest novel The Art of Saying Goodbye is an “Okra Pick”. Since I just purchased the book and cannot give you my own description of it, the following comes from her website. In a gesture of support and affection for a long-time neighbor who has fallen ill, four women in a close-knit suburban development tie white ribbons to trees in front of their houses, and embark on a powerful journey of transformation.  The ailing woman, Paisley, has always been the neighborhood star, an effervescent beauty whose charm draws all of them in.   As they grapple with her illness, each woman is affected in a different way as she begins to face the pressing issues in her own life with new perspective.  A marriage put on hold because of a difficult child, a nurse’s eerie and unwanted gift of diagnosis, a widow’s destructive bitterness, and the price of a successful career, all come into play to shape their stories.  Ultimately, each one learns to say goodbye . . . but not before drawing from her friend’s strength the courage to move on and change, as she recognizes that her own life, in the afterglow of someone else’s, is richer and more precious than she thought.

Spartanburg is so fortunate to have the Hub City Writers Writers Project, Bookshop, and Press http://www.hubcity.org/. I have attended their annual summer conference a few times as well as many of the workshops they offer intermittently throughout the year. It is such a wonderful resource and if you’re interesting in writing, you should definitely check it out. They are also Spartanburg’s indie bookshop with a coffee shop and bakery located next door.

On Tuesday, October 25 Téa Obreht will be reading from her novel The Tiger’s Wife. She has been named by The New Yorker as one of the twenty best American fiction writers under forty.

Posted by connie | 3:32 pm

Monday, October 17, 2011

Books from some of my favorite Christian authors

This past summer I attended two writing seminars. The first one was sponsored by the Hub City Writer’s project and was here in Spartanburg. The second one was sponsored by the Proverbs 31 ministry in Matthews, NC. I was fortunate to attend some wonderful workshops.

110597985At Hub City I met Beth Webb Hart. I had recently read her novel, Love, Charleston and I was really looking forward to meeting her. As part of the conference, I had the opportunity to receive a critical analysis on one of my short stories and I was thrilled to find that Beth would be critiquing my work. I even wrote the opening chapter of my novel in progress from an exercise we did in class. Beth’s new book Sunrise on the Battery just came out. The heroine, Mary Lynn Scoville seems to have the life she always hoped for. She has a wonderful husband, three beautiful daughters, and her family is finding their way into Charleston society. On Christmas Eve she goes to church alone. Religion has never been a priority for the family, but Mary Lynn has been attending Bible studies and she longs for a relationship with God. She prays that night for her husband to know God and she is surprised by the events following this simple prayer.

80963617I have been a subscriber to Proverbs 31’s daily devotions for several years now. They have many women who participate in writing the devotionals. MaryBeth Whalen’s devotions have always touched me and I was so excited last year when she published her first fiction novel, The Mailbox, which is set in Sunset Beach, NC. There is actually a mailbox that sits off in the dunes mysteriously refilled with pens and journals. Anyone can walk to the mailbox and write about anything they wish. My girls and I have been going to the mailbox every year since 2006. MaryBeth’s new novel, She Makes it Look Easy is a story about two mothers and the paths they choose. Justine seems to have the perfect life while Ariel always seems to struggle.

122809052Dandelion Summer was written by Lisa Wingate, who I also met at the Proverbs 31 conference. The heroine, Epiphany is a teenage girl just trying to find her way. She doesn’t seem to belong anywhere because Epiphany is not like her peers, she is of mixed race and doesn’t fit. She doesn’t have much of a relationship with her mother. Epiphany feels her mother would have been better off if she had never had her. Epiphany is hired to cook and clean for J. Norm Alvord who is recently widowed and estranged from his only daughter. J. Norm was a pioneer in NASA’s race to space. He spent all of his time working rather than with his family. These two form an unlikely bond and set off to solve the mystery of J. Norm’s mysterious childhood memory of playing with other children who are his siblings yet he was an only child.

All of these books are Christian fiction, but they do expose real life, not a syrupy goody-goody life that many Christian fiction authors are associated with. If you’re interested, you can also find these ladies on a blog they all contribute to at http://www.southernbelleview.blogspot.com/

Posted by connie | 12:50 pm

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

See Winter

winter

Winter

This past weekend I took my niece and nephew to see the movie, Dolphin Tale. They are eleven and nine years old. When we entered the theatre, previews were playing. These weren’t the actual previews, but more like the pre-previews. My nephew wanted to know if the movie was ever going to start.

Dolphin Tale is a movie about a dolphin that gets caught in a crab trap and washes ashore. A fisherman and young boy find her. She immediately bonds with the young boy emitting a whistling sound whenever he is near. They call for help and animal rescue responds.

The little boy who finds her skips summer school and goes to see how the dolphin is doing. He meets the veterinarian’s daughter and they become friends. They come to realize that the dolphin responds favorably when the boy is around. The dolphin eventually loses her tail, there was just too much damage from the injury. They all wonder how can a dolphin survive if she can’t swim. Winter, the dolphin soon finds a way to swim without a tail.

It is a beautiful story about people coming together to help an animal. Winter’s new way of swimming is damaging her spine and will eventually kill her. A specialist at the local VA hospital agrees to help make a prosthetic that will allow Winter to swim in a way without damaging her spine. They struggle as Winter rejects the prosthetics. And of course there are looming debt problems that the aquarium is experiencing and they must consider selling the property as prime real estate, which will force them to find new homes for all the aquarium’s inhabitants. But nobody wants a dolphin without a tail.

Winter’s story is picked up by the local television station. She immediately becomes a symbol of someone who has overcome tragedy. People and children with other disabilities come to visit her. They also finally find a prosthetic that she does not reject.

It is a heartwarming tale of overcoming adversity. It is a story about family and friendship. And as the credits rolled, people wiped their eyes and clapped their hands. If you’re looking for an uplifting story, Dolphin Tale is what you should see. And if you want to check out Winter online, go to www.SeeWinter.com

Posted by connie | 1:16 pm

Friday, September 30, 2011

Half Marathon in Nashville, TN

photo-2

Bib with number and name

Last Saturday, I participated in my second half marathon, Nashville’s Women’s Half Marathon. I am not much of a runner and I walked most of the course. My goal was to finish in the four hour allotted time limit. How long is a half marathon you might wonder? 13.1 miles.

The course was beautiful taking us through downtown Nashville. People cheered us along the way. It was surprising to hear people you don’t know call you by name – your name is printed on your bib along with your number.

At one of the water stations, young men from a local fraternity wearing togas met us. As they gave us water, they invited us back for a party later that evening.

This half marathon was unique in that most of the participants were women. There were a few men, but most of them were walking in honor, in memory, or in support of a woman they love. Some women were dressed in costumes. Some wore pink tutus. Some proudly displayed their lack of hair announcing to everyone that they were or had battled cancer. And there were also two pregnant women. At the half way point, their husbands and children met them. They paused long enough to get water and a quick snack and they resumed their trek. At the finish line they revealed that they were each 38 weeks in. It was definitely a sisterhood with the women encouraging each other along the way. All the volunteers were awesome supplying us with water, Gatorade, and encouragement along the way.

As you crossed the finish line, an announcer would call out your name and everyone around would cheer loudly. They had servicemen there to place your finishing medal around your neck. Of course those men and women are the ones who really deserve the recognition.

My official time was 3:55. I finished twenty minutes faster than my first marathon. I was much better prepared for this one. I’ve learned a lot about training and nutrition. And of course, Lori Peters (Converse II alumnae 2000) has been a great source of information and encouragement. We first met when we were dating brothers. We love say the only good thing to come out of those relationships is the friendship that we have with one another.

After the marathon we went back to Lori’s place and had a chick flick marathon. I believe either Matthew McConaughey or Bradley Cooper was in every movie we watched. We teased each other about walking around like old grandmas – the bones in my feet and ankles ached terribly. But after a regimen of Tylenol and a good night’s sleep, I was only just a little sore the next day.

At first the thought of walking 13.1 miles was intimidating. I often wondered why agreed to do such a thing. It was lonely training by myself. Lori lives in Nashville, but we kept in touch with frequent phone calls. Two weeks before the half marathon, my training schedule designated an 11-mile walk. My son met me and we walked the last few miles together. It helped me push through and meet my weekly goal. Perseverance is the key. If you persist, you will succeed. 3,078 women finished the marathon on Saturday.

Posted by connie | 12:13 pm

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Traditional or Digital

One of my earliest memories is walking through the library holding tightly to my Grandmother’s hand with the crisp scent of new and old books mingled together. When you open a new book, which has never been touched by another’s hands, the pages are smooth clinging together as your fingertips brush the crisp pages. And what about a favorite book that has been read so often the pages are worn and soft more like fabric than paper.

There is a line in the movie, The Lake House where the daughter notices her mother reading one of her late father’s books. She is surprised to find her mother reading a Dostoevsky book, but the mother says it is comforting to be reading the pages he once read. I have my Grandmother’s Bible. I like to look at the notes she made in the margins and I can’t help but smile because back when she made those notes it was considered almost sacrilegious to mark in the Bible. I also have some of my Mom’s books. One of the last things we did together was to listen to Dorothea Benton Frank speak and have her sign copies of her books for us. Just being on the pages they once read does give me comfort.

So how could I ever give that up for an e-reader? I love the instant download feature. If there is a book I want to read, then I can have it in minutes without ever having to leave my home. And of course there is the advantage of price. A new hardback book is typically around $20, but the highest price of a new e-book has been $12.99. Also I have found they offer great deals on books. I bought The Help and Water for Elephants for $5 each last year after Christmas.

Another advantage is that I can change the font size, which is very important since I am fast approaching the time when reading glasses will be required. My e-reader is also backlit, which means I do not need a light source to see. It t is nearly impossible to read in the sun, but I do more reading in the evening than I ever do outside.

What about library books? I can download any available title from our local public library. If someone has it checked out, I can get on a list and when it becomes available, they email me. And now library titles are available for the ipad, Kindle, and Nook – the three most popular e-readers.

I do have some criticism. I don’t like the lending features. I think I should be able to lend any book in my library just like I could if I had a traditional book. There are too many rules and many titles cannot be loaned to friends. And occasionally, it will take a little time to display a page and sometimes my e-reader crashes. And of course you have to remember to charge it.

I am amazed at how quickly I converted. I would much rather read my e-reader than a traditional book. It is convenient to have access to my whole library rather than the one book I could fit in my bag. And although I still love the feel of a book, I definitely appreciate and enjoy the convenience of e-readers.

Posted by connie | 1:53 pm

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Dream Come True

I grew up in the Beaumont mill village, which is just down the street from Converse College. When it snowed, we trudged to the top of the hill on North Fairview Avenue, where we would slide down on either a sled, cardboard box, aluminum trash can lid, and even an old car hood (but that was only once and I knew better than to be one of the kids on that ride). Sometimes Converse girls would ride their horses through our neighborhood. This was back in the early seventies when students had a place to board their horses if they wished. I think the stables were where the soccer field is now. On December nights, we would ride by the college enchanted by all the lights that hung from the huge trees on campus. As we passed by, I would always tell my mother that one day I would go to Converse.
After high school, I went to work. College seemed an unattainable dream. I married and had children and for years my college dreams were forgotten. As my children entered their teenage years and I realized that opportunities were not open to me because of my lack of a college degree, I went back to school. It was difficult at first to juggle being a single mother of two teenagers, work full time, and attend classes, write papers, study, and turn in homework assignments. Often my children and I sat together doing our respective homework assignments.
The teenagers are grown. It was difficult to watch my son take time off from school. He lost his scholarship. He wanted to work and make money. He wanted a new car. My daughter avoided school when she first graduated from high school. She always struggled with homework and classes, especially those she found no interest in. But if she was interested in a class, her grades were excellent, but if she was bored, they were terrible. It is hard to watch your children make their own mistakes, but sometimes you have. My son begins Sherman College of Chiropractic this fall. My daughter will receive her certification as a medical assistant in a few weeks. I am proud of my children. They did not take the paths I wished for them, but the ones they each chose.
And it took me a while, but I am a student at Converse. With my current schedule it will take me two years to complete my senior year, but I am so thankful for this opportunity. There are so many wonderful teachers (Tekulve, Rose, Howie, Morgan, West, and Mulkey to name a few). The staff has always been so helpful and if you’re a Converse II student then you know Tammy Stokes and how invaluable she is.
This is just a little information about me. Being a student at Converse has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl.

four_easter

four_easter

With my kids one Christmas

With my kids one Christmas

Posted by connie | 12:19 pm