Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Best Christmas Moment - 2010

Christmas 2010-133.jpg
Originally uploaded by lukelucas
My brother has had in his possession for many years a recording that my Grandpappy, Tom McCord, made in December of 1948 in which he took on the role of Santa Claus.

His friends, Mr. and Mrs. Hickey, owned a home on Myrtlewood Drive that was a real showplace during the Christmas season. It was a popular destination for holiday sightseeing in the city. Keep in mind that folks didn't just pile in their cars and go like they do now, and you'll have some idea of how special this must have been!

Mr. Hickey was a lover of gadgets and technology, and had the recording equipment in his home. Grandpappy and Nannaw were there for a party -- Grandpappy decked out in tuxedo, according to Mama -- when the idea for this recording came up.

Grandpappy, who made his living as an auctioneer (after a career with the railroad), had a rich, wonderful voice, and a kind and playful spirit, so it's no wonder he was happy to go along!

Anyway, my brother Thomas has asked any number of people over many years to help convert this recording to a format that could be used with current equipment, and to clean up the pops and scratches that are on it, too.

This Christmas that finally happened!

What this picture captures is the exact moment at which my Mama recognizes her father's voice on the recording.

None of the four of his grandchildren were born when this recording was made, although my brother Jim would be born just about 2 months later.

Grandpappy died in February 1967, just before I turned 9 years old. Hearing his voice for the first time since then was stunning. I was lucky enough to have heard this a couple days before, so I know exactly what Mama was feeling at the moment captured here.

It was a Merry, Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

What do I love about the South?

It's the only place you see women wearing fur coats 
carryin' around children in bare feet !

With fondest appreciation for the cooperation of my sweet models,
who enjoyed the irony right along with me!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Great Experiment: The Removal

I know this is VERY much past due, but it's the holiday season, and I work retail.

That pretty much excuses everything, don't you think?

Just in case you missed the first part...  and the second part....  this little series has been about a new "polish" technique called shellacking.    I'll be succinct.  I LOVE IT.

With bright, bold color, my nails stayed flawless and shiny for 2 whole weeks.   I'm on my second color now, more of a dark cranberry red color, and when it comes off in about a week I'm going with a French manicure using the shellac method.  Can't wait!

But you want to know about the removal, right?

Well, your sweet little fingertips all go into little remover-soaked sleeves, and while my Nail Guru Stephanie and I were discussing what color to go with next, my nails were letting go of the last color.

When these came off, Stephanie gently nudged the little bit of remaining color off my nails -- no hard scraping, or big machinery, or anything else that would damage my nail beds at all.

I've had two sessions now, and just so you know I'm being completely honest, I'm going to lay out the best parts and the downsides (because nothing is perfect).

I am horribly bad on my nails.  I forget or choose not to wear lotion, and I abuse my nails in unspeakable ways.  The shellac did exactly what I hoped it would do:  retained its true color, never lost its shine, and  protected my nails.    I cannot remember a 3 week period EVER that I haven't had little nicks or chips on my fingertips that required filing to smooth away.   The first go-round, I did have to file down one rough spot that happened when a sharp knife I was using sliced just a wee bit the side of a nail; and on Friday I picked up a very large, very heavy book wrong at the store, and the nail on my right thumb broke fairly badly.

The good news is that I was able to clip it down and file it smooth with no problem.  There is one area of my nail that lost its polish where the break happened, and this leads me to one of the downsides.

If this had happened with normal polish, I would have spent part of my day yesterday at home removing the color and slapping on something else until I could get back.  Because removal is something that needs to be done at the salon (I've read of workarounds, but I'm not inclined to try them because I am a manicure idiot), you're sort of stuck until you can get an emergency appointment!

If I had some major thing to do that required perfection, I would have called to get one of those, but as it happens, and because the defect is on a thumb it's not as obvious as it would be if it were on one of the other fingers, I'm content to wait until my next appointment.

Because I don't take the sort of kind care of my nails I should, I am probably Stephanie's worst nightmare.  I doubt this will apply to many of you, but I will not have a bright/deep color applied again unless I am having the full manicure.  She tells me that we will tame the beasts that are my overachieving cuticles, and I believe her, but I'm going to stick to a pattern of neutrals/clears for times that I'm only having a polish change.

So -- on a scale of 1 - 10 -- I am placing this new thing at a 9.58.

And looking forward to another trip back for my next nail adventure!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Making a Joyful Noise

It has been an Upchurch family tradition for as long as I can remember that the youngest "reading" child present at the Thanksgiving gathering is charged with reading Psalm 100 before grace is asked. It happens from time to time that an exception is made, but not this year.

This is my sister's granddaughter, Hayden, doing the honors for us all this year.

She is 7 years old, smart as a whip, and the Bible from which she read without any hesitation belonged to her Great-great-great-great-great Grandfather James Baird (b. 1821, d. 1892), who was my mother's Great-great Grandfather.

We were all so very proud of her. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

One Week In....

Last Thursday I got a shellac manicure from Stephanie Gregory at Amplify Salon & Spa here in town.  These are supposed to last two weeks with no chipping or degradation of color or shine.  I told you then that I would keep you posted on how it was holding up, so here goes....

Over the past 7 days I have wrapped dozens of books at the store.  This aspect of the season is the chief reason I have not bothered with manicures of any sort for years during the holidays.  Color would wear off every time I had to use my fingertips to smooth the paper, and something about wrapping paper dried my nails out so badly that they were prone to breaking and peeling and chipping.  Using lotion to keep cuticles and hands replenished is a trick when you need to handle books -- unless whatever you've used has a good chance to fully absorb, you just don't want to to do this because the residue can mark a book.

Well, amazingly, 7 days in the only evidence that there is any age on this manicure at all are the nailbeds, which have (of course, and as expected) grown out a little bit.  If I were not wearing a big color, I seriously doubt i'd notice it nearly as much -- but even what I do notice is only because I am watching it with eagle eyes!  Most folks don't even notice it unless I point it out.

There is one miniscule area of wear on one fingertip.  When I say miniscule, that means I didn't even notice it until I started really studying my fingers for purposes of writing this update.

The color is as true red as it was the minute I walked out of the salon, and the shine has not "matted out" a whit.   There hasn't been the slightest transfer of color from my nails to wrapping paper (which always happens with regular polish).  The only nail snag I have had at all this week happened when a knife I was using scored the tip of a nail -- and I was able to lightly file it down to smoothness with no problem, and without compromising the integrity of the shellac.  (This is actually where that one tiny area of wear is, by the way.)

Women who take extraordinary care of their hands -- cuticle oils, lotions, always wearing household gloves when their hands are going to be in dishwater -- might not even have these tiny issues -- and certainly someone whose nails are slower to grow might not, either. 

In short (okay, so it's too late for that, exactly) my shellac manicure has exceeded every expectation I had for it, and I am completely pleased.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Great Experiment

My very most favorite salon, Amplify, is offering a new sort of manicure that is called shellac.   I run hot and cold on making my nails all fancy, mainly because a really nice manicure gets ruined so quickly.  For those who don't realize this, something unkind happens to fingernails as one gets more fully mature, and the ridges alone make keeping a really pretty manicure difficult.

Even when my nails are at their healthiest and strongest, holidays in retail are murder on them.  We offer free gift-wrapping at the store, and as the requests for that heat up, the nails just get ruined.  It's just not ever been worth it to try to keep my nails looking pretty from mid-November until after the first of the year.

Anyway,  the owner Jami and I talked about it, and she had Stephanie (one of the nail artists) call me.  She put some of my biggest concerns to rest, and I decided to take the plunge.

I decided to document the first application and its wearability, because some of my friends around the country have been interested, but nobody particularly wanted to be The First.

Hey.  I figure if it stands up to the torture it's going to go through, then for everybody else it's going to be life-changing in a "this really isn't important, but it's cheaper than a facelift for a little vanity boost."

So.  Here we go.

I arrived at the salon this afternoon to find out their power was out, and I came home disappointed.   (The shellac machine needs electricity to run!)  I had scarcely settled in with my cup of coffee when they called to say, "Come back!  We have power!"   Run back I did, and I took these with me.

My nails were in horrible shape, with peeling and ridges beginning to cause little snags and tears, and I was having to perform triage on them daily.

The special stuff that has to be used for this process has at least one potential drawback:  a sort of limited supply of color.   That's not a huge problem for me, mostly -- I'm pretty traditional, generally opting for neutrals, or clear.   Stephanie tells me that she can mix colors by layering, too.  Again, this was, for me, not a sticking point.   She took extraordinary care with a basic manicure:  shaping, whipping my cuticles into shape, but nothing out of the ordinary had to be done to my  nails before the application began.

This is a HUGE plus in my book.  I don't want my nails damaged, and I don't want them looking fake.  I just want my nails to be presentable, and pretty.

Stephanie began the process, which involved a base coat followed by "curing" in the special shellac machine.  This took practically zero time.  This curing process happened again after each application of color as well.

There's no heat involved, no windy breezes -- just incredibly brief exposure to UV light.  When I say brief I mean probably less than 10 minutes per hand.

When it was all finished I got up to get my purse and started to hand it to Stephanie so I could ask her to dig into my wallet for my debit card and keys, and she said, "Nope -- you are totally dry and set, and you can do that."

Oh. My.  She was not kidding.  The color is incredible, and shiny wet looking, but I dug my wallet out, grabbed my keys, ran my fingers through my hair -- all with absolutely no effect on my nails!

So, which color did I pick?

This looks a little orange, but I assure you -- it is FIRE ENGINE RED, and it is just glorious!

I thought of clear; I thought of the neutral shade that looks like what I usually default to; I thought about the dusky pink-ish color.   Truly I did, but I picked the red for two reasons:

First, this test will be easier to follow if there is COLOR on my nails.

Second, why the heck NOT?

I'll keep you posted how this all actually DOES, but in the meantime, a huge thank you to Jami Lewis, owner of Amplify Salon and Spa; and to Stephanie Gregory, Fingertip Wizard!

Have questions? Post them in the comments section, and I'll answer what I can 
(no technical stuff, of course, but just real-world girlfriend type stuff.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Baby, It's Cold Outside

We had our first sub-freezing temps of the season this morning.

I took my long Saturday jaunt after it warmed up just a touch, and I surely hope the Borders family wasn't looking out their window when I passed their house, because I was peeling off a layer by that time. 

If they were, my deepest apologies.

Anyway, I brought in an 8 miler right at just about a 14.5 minutes a mile pace, so that felt good.  

Take THAT, Balloon Lady!

But I digress.

As I opened the back door and stepped into my kitchen I found my husband (the most astonishingly interesting husband on the face of the planet) at the kitchen sink dicing up some of these

to put into one of these

to make some of THIS.

I am the luckiest woman on the planet, because my husband knows how to turn up the heat!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Talons and Teeth

I enjoy my early morning walks, and will miss them when it gets too cold -- and I get too wimpy -- to head out before having my second cup of coffee.   You get to witness things you miss if you're still in bed, or zipping by in a car, the sorts of things that cause you to reflect on life in general.

For instance, this morning I had just finished the first half of my 4 mile jaunt, and was heading homeward.  I came off Melton Road (which I use to cut through to get to and leave Vaughn Road Park), turned right onto Wiley Road, then left onto Vaughn Lane when something sort of big caught my eye:

 coopers-hawk-1.jpg (331×450)

Now, I actually do see these hawks (and no, I did not take this picture) from time to time, but what I hadn't seen them do before was swoop out of their tree and chase one of these down.   

Squirrel.JPG (471×342)

I mean, talons were out and the hawk had actually begun to grab its prey, and I had flashbacks to every episode of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom I ever watched with my Daddy, and I knew I needed to just let that whole survival of the fittest thing happen -- AND catch it on my iPhone camera.

As I whipped it out of my back pocket and lifted it to take my shot, the hawk startled, dropped his squirrel breakfast, and flew away.  I didn't get a picture, and worst of all, I feared I had somehow set off a little chaos theory thing.   

I am sure the squirrel was grateful, and I began to think lofty thoughts about how the little guy always gets picked on by the big guys unless a bigger guy steps in to intervene.  I was hearing tiny well-tuned violins playing as I scripted out the magnificently written, moving devotional I was going to make out of this.

Until I turned onto Aimee Drive, and began making my way up the first rise.  That's when I spotted a man in surgical scrubs out in his yard with his froofy dog, which looked sort of like this.

maltese.jpg (300×328)

Go on.  Get all gooey and gushy, and say "Awwwwww" a few dozen times.  It's okay.

You should click on that, by the way.

Okay -- you done now?

'Cause here's what happened!

That adorable little hound of hell came flying out in the street after me -- not once, not twice, but about 5 times! That boy's teeth were set to full bite mode, and I had the canine spit on my ankle to prove it.  

It took both the Very Nice Man in the Surgical Scrubs and me making many very strange noises and gestures, but finally Whackadoodle Dog gave up, satisfied he had scared off all threats to his master's peace and well-being.

It was at this point I began to rethink my Inspiring Message from the earlier incident.

Yes, I had saved Mr. Squirrel from the Big Bad Hawk, because I was bigger and badder, but I got my comeuppance from an animal with a festive bow on its head.  

Of course, now I could write a moving devotional about humility, I suppose.....

No animals were harmed in the writing of this blog. All of the pictures above are dramatizations of actual incidents, and none are the property of the writer.  It is entirely possible that the hawk pictured is not exactly the breed of hawk we have here; and the squirrel may be the Yankee version; and the dog?  Well. 

It was froofy-puffy white and that's as close as I can get to what sort of dog it actually was since I was traumatized.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

(Not So) Wordless Wednesday

I've been a bit distracted the past few weeks.  Too many things going on that required time and attention I just haven't had time or attention to handle well.   And then last night I realized I'm already past deadline on a writing assignment I agreed to, and I have had ZERO inspiration.

And let's not forget that the weather has taken this nasty turn to heat and crushing humidity so that even my morning walks are not invigorating. 

So you can see my basic problem:  the universe has quite forgotten that it is all about me.

I headed out -- reluctantly -- for my walk this morning.  It was 77 degrees outside at 6:20 a.m.  The humidity was around 80-something %.  The dew point (aka The Misery Factor) was 73, and I usually skip going out at a dew point of 71.

But I headed out anyway, because there is some scant reason to believe we might have rain coming, and I want to squeeze in as many outdoor walks as I can when I can.

It was dark when I stepped out.   The cloud cover appeared malevolent. If it had come complete with a soundtrack there would have been a whole lot of Wagner involved.

I pressed on, though, and I was a couple miles into my walk at the apex of my loop when I rounded a corner and looked up and saw this:

Photographically speaking, that's not great, I know.  I was walking and I took it with my iPhone. Forgive me.

But it was a breathtaking reminder of something for which I should not really need a reminder:

There is no storm from which beauty does not come.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

All that, plus okra.

We kept Rosemary this weekend while Little Acorn (aka Her Parents)  did a wedding shoot on the beach at Perdido.  It was an interesting one with not much time to rest or reflect -- cutting uppers is hard work -- so here's a handful of things that went zingin' through my brain over the course of the last 72 hours or so.

Nobody who knows me would accuse me of being a lukewarm Alabama football fan.  What I also am, however, is a person with at least one foot grounded in reality and a sense of perspective.  So -- here's a newsflash:  we were not going to stay undefeated forever.  We have a young defense who play well when they play well, but otherwise are uneven.  We play in a tough conference, although I'm not expert enough to claim with any authority that it's the best in the nation.  That means all SEC teams will look forward to a slate of tough weekends.   I may be bucking conventional wisdom (what a shock), but I'm happier to have lost to a conference opponent than one outside the conference.  This loss -- and there's no reason to whitewash the fact that we got beat by the superior team on that particular day in that particular place -- is our whetstone for the rest of the season.  

On a mostly unrelated note, Rosemary's parents are Auburn football fans.  This is not a big deal to me.  Our son fell under the spell of his Pap (also an Auburn fan) when he was a little boy, and it gave me silly pleasure to see them share something special together.   When Rosemary is old enough to care, who knows? She may want to share something special with her Grandmama.  

In the meantime, my second favorite college football team for the past several years has been the Oregon Ducks.  I have a friend who is maybe their biggest fan, and she sent me my own Duck Lips, which proves that even I can be rented.  

I have, therefore, been able to devise an elegant solution to this divided household thing, and I am not ashamed to admit it is rather brilliant.  


Rosemary and I strolled over to my folks' house this morning, and along the way I kept seeing weird things along the sides of the road.   A pair of socks, a sun visor, one baby shoe, hair extensions, etc., etc.  You know you've been watching too many crime shows when your first thought at seeing these things is THIS COULD BE EVIDENCE!

I spare you the photos I might have taken of those sorts of things, and give you this instead.  Those who know me will not be surprised to know I had to ask my husband what you call it.  

It's a caladium!


I have had difficulty this year reading at the same pace as I normally do, for various and sundry reasons, and it has often been very easy to put a book down that I usually would have kept working on enjoying.  But I finished a book this weekend that was so remarkable, so stunning, that I just had to share, so here are the remarks I made on Goodreads.     Oh, one other thing I wrote about it in the comments section of my favorite book blogger's review of the same book..... 

For 50 years, folks have defaulted to "To Kill a Mockingbird" to provide a literary snapshot of the South, and that tendency has never really been challenged. Until now. It's that good.


And speaking of literary classics, Rosemary loves Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar so much that she kisses the butterfly at the end of the story.   Every. Single. Time.  We think this is adorable. And that it shows extraordinary good taste in literature.  


Late this afternoon Henry and I were relaxing on the sofa, listening to the Golden Oldies digital music channel on TV when this song came on.  We don't think they write Teen Drama Themes like this anymore.  It has a great beat, though, and you can dance to it. 


So, that's pretty much it in an okra shell.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Grocery Giggles

I love the little moments that happen in a day that snap you out of whatever rut you're in and make you smile. 

I had one of those at lunchtime today when I stopped by Super Foods, the smallish grocery around the corner from my house, to grab a couple cans of soup for lunch for the next couple days.

The Grocery Bagger, who is probably doing that high-school/work thing, was putting my soup and the few other things I picked up while I was there in a bag.  (Mayfield Banana Popsicles, a carton of the Breyer's Ice Cream we love, and a package of the $1 a package Whole Wheat Toast I have become addicted to, in case you were interested.)

I hardly ever really pay much attention to these fellas, who tend to do their work efficiently at this store, and who carry out when you want them to, so I was thinking of not much else but getting the little check-out screen signed, and getting my keys out of my purse.

Then he said, "We hope you enjoyed your stay at Super Foods today, ma'am!"

I couldn't help but laugh.  He is taking what has to be an incredibly boring and tedious job and spreading a little good cheer with it.  

And the answer to the question was, "I surely did!"

I don't know anything at all about this young man, but with a spirit like that, I don't think he'll be bagging groceries for long!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Race Day!

Last year Montgomery held its first Half Marathon/5K race.  It was a great success, and I participated along with my friend Sandy, who flew in from Ann Arbor, Michigan just to race with me.  She, of course, left me in the dust, but it was an experience I will never, ever forget. 

I wasn't able to participate this year, so I did the next best thing: I volunteered, along with lots of other church members, to work the water/misting station at Cloverdale Park.   I remembered how wonderful it was to have encouragers all along the route last year, and how lovely it was for people to choose to spend a beautiful early autumn morning handing out water to sweaty strangers, and I wanted to be one of those encouragers.

So -- I got to the park around 7:30 this morning, and we began setting up tables and hauling water jugs, and scrambling to get cups filled and ready for participants.   The misting tent was not operating, so Youth Minister Robbie Plunkett (recovering from very recent sextuple bypass surgery--yes, SIX bypasses) and other volunteers became human misters with spray bottles. 

There were so many moments during the morning when I was humbled.  One of our volunteers was a young woman with Down Syndrome.   Runners were drawn to what I can only assume was her beautiful smile (I was standing behind her), because the difference in their countenance before they reached her and then after they passed her was night and day.

So many participants inspired me that it's impossible to pick one that stood out the most. 

Was it the members of the Hope for the Warriors group, who participated as hand cyclists because they no longer have use of their legs?

Or was it the young woman with a severe upper body birth defect who was running?  I depend on my arms when I am doing my walking for balance and for help with speed bursts, so how does she run a half-marathon with only one arm -- and that one badly malformed?

Maybe it was the group of young women who ran in memory of their friend, Virginia Jacks, who had been training to run the event, but was killed in a car accident after leaving an Auburn game just a couple of weeks ago? 

I don't know -- every person running, or hand cycling, or walking has a story that brought them to this, and for every obvious hero there are probably 50 other inspiring stories.  

Today I got to just stand on the corner and be their cheerleader, and that was a privilege.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

And Sew It Goes

The Seamstresses:
Jean Upchurch and Deborah Moebes

Yesterday we hosted a booksigning for Deborah Moebes, owner of Atlanta's Whipstitch Fabrics and author of the new book Stitch By Stitch.  

That's my mother on the left up there.  She's been sewing forever.  Most of the clothes I can recall most vividly from my childhood were those she made for me.  As prodigious as she was -- and with two daughters, she really did sew all the time -- neither my sister nor I ever quite caught the bug.  Testament to that is that while the conversation you see taking place up there between my mother and Ms. Moebes was going on (it involved something about bias tape and scissors got involved), I was showing the author's mother the waistband of my slacks.

Which is missing a button.

For 3 years.

Because I don't have a needle or thread in my house.

If I could fix it with duct tape, I would, because that works very, very well on all the clothes I have with hemming issues.  

My mother is weeping now.

Monday, September 27, 2010

One of those Mondays....

The day started out rife with goof-ups, bad timing, and just generally nothing going right or according to plan.  We've all had Mondays like this.  It must be why Mondays have such a bad reputation.  They've earnnnnnnnnnned it.

The weather made things tolerable.  It was the first day in a long time that has me hopeful we might get an autumn this year.  The sun came out, a nice breeze hung around most of the day, and my 3:00 cup of coffee didn't seem as masochistic as it does when it's 102 degrees in the shade.

But the day itself?  Truly a take it or leave it one. 

Until I got to Rosemary's house.  Her folks had a meeting with a client, so I served as a placeholder for what was to be just about a half hour.  Rosemary got up from her nap and we went to sit on the front porch where we could catch a breeze, listen to the dry leaves skate down the driveway in a hurry to get somewhere I hope is special to them, and ring the fairy bells a few times.   (That's what she and I call the wind chimes next to her back porch.  Well, mostly I do the calling and she does the ringing, so far.)

When her people got home they invited me to come to the park to share a few minutes of their precious family time together.   Luke and Abby played fetch to an appreciative audience, who soon had their fill of such and went to the swings for a bit.

I had shared the cursed beginning of this day with so many folks that it seems only fair to share the blessed ending of it.


Rosemary enjoying silly Abby Dog.

Rosemary also enjoys watching her Daddy fetch.

And she is a great studier of nature. 

I have no idea how far back in the family this goes,
 but Great Big Buzzard never, ever fails to delight a kid
with any Upchurch genes at all.

And Grandmamas get to snatch a kiss
when the Great Big Buzzard lands!

Princess Oopsy Doodle and her sweet Mama.

Sue me.  I can't stand to see beautiful trees without taking a picture. 

Shall we swing?

I believe we shall!

"Do again, Mama!"


I hate to think how many decades it's been
since I was on a swing.  

If they could bottle moments like this the world would be a nicer place.

What next? 

The afternoon ended with some Peek-A-Boo going on in the gazebo.
I love how babies are delighted by this every time.