A Week of Paintings – Set 3

I actually painted last week, after taking some time off for traveling. It’s a manageable goal to pick a week and say: I’m going to paint 7 little paintings this week. Here’s what I painted last week:

Peanut Butter

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A Rooster:

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The Moon. Notice I am stuck in March and even though it was April 2 I dated it March 2.

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A tiny portion of one of Monet’s Water Lilies paintings.  Still stuck in March:

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George Washington or Bust:

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A key from an old door. Or an old key from a door?

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Tomato Soup:

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You can find all the paintings here. 

Try fitting 7 acts of creativity this week!

Train Signals

Walking downtown this evening through the train tracks:

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City

I don’t set an alarm clock in the morning because the train starts blowing it’s horn each day around 8:45am. It’s a much nicer sound than waking up to a blaring beep. I’ve been noticing the trend in the horn, there’s a pattern to it. Obviously there’s a train horn language I’ll need to learn now that we live so close. I think I’m figuring it out without looking it up:

three short blasts = backing up

That’s all I’ve got right now. The horn blows so often that I actually have to focus on paying attention to it, otherwise I really don’t hear it.  Because of the winding roads around here some people have to cross over the tracks a few times to get home, that means more than once…and there isn’t always a little gate doohickey to come down. You actually have to PAY attention, especially in the summer when it comes in and out of town twice a day.

Boo has a new pair of overalls…she could fit right in behind the scenes of the railroad. The hardware store ordered me a pair too. I haven’t had a pair since I moved out to California. I might just wear overalls all the time…when I’m not wearing flannel shirts of course. I’ve come to the conclusion that you really only need 2 good pairs of jeans, a few t-shirts, a few flannels, and a pair of overalls to get along just fine. Oh and maybe one or two nice shirts to wear to a wedding. (that’s for you Harper, I’m not going to wear my overalls to your wedding.)

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Boo and I went to the thrift store to see if she could find anything for Easter. Instead we found this old phone. Who wants to wear an Easter dress anyways…I never did. I told her she could wear her bunny t-shirt instead. I’m not wearing a dress…I’ll probably wear a t-shirt too since I’ll be handing out drinks at the big Easter event afterwards (that EVERYONE is invited to btw, The Grove on Franklin Grove Church Rd).  Oh, this phone has one of the old plugs…I wonder if I could get it converted. Funny, around here phone numbers are still only 7 digits. No one ever gives the area code. I’m not used to that yet, and when I ask what the area code is I get strange looks.

Vintage Rotary Phone

Boo had her first piano lesson last week. We can walk there…her teacher lives above the old drugstore where his antique shop is. He collects old clocks and they all chime at different times which I think is fantastic. I can’t even make this amazing stuff up.

Small Town USA

An old friend from high school asked if I wanted to do an art swap. I paint a few of my 3″ paintings for him and he’ll paint something in return. I didn’t expect this huge painting to arrive in 4.5′ x 3.5′ box!  How awesome is this painting of the depot by my friend Alex:

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I might send my tiny paintings back in the same box he sent the painting in. Just to be funny.

Bryson City Outdoors opened this week! It’s only been open a few days but it’s been a great success so far with lots of visitors. Our friend Sarah made a huge detour on her way back home to DC to come and take some store photos. They came out with a new “Elk” t-shirt today too. If you missed what all that’s about read about the big renovation project here.  Here’s a photo of the building at night before opening day:

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If you make it to Bryson City this summer make sure to stop by and say hi to my hubby Brett! Boo will probably be running around too…and I try and stop by at least once a day, usually towards the end of the day.

Oh, and it’s National Poetry Month. I wrote about that in my weekly letter today. (if you missed it you can find it in the archives)

Have a great weekend!

 

 

 

 

How to Make Stamped Solder Pendants

How to make stamped solder pendants solder jewelry

This was such a fun project. I made all of these cute little pendants using plain old plumbing solder! I think they resemble wax seals or old coins:

Bernzomatic torch projects: jewelry pendants

Basic List of Materials (a little goes a long way):

TS4000 Bernzomatic Trigger Start Torch
MAP Fuel Canister (yellow)
1 Roll of Sterling Plumbing Solder
1 Roll of Copper Picture Wire (18 Gauge)
Non-Asbestos Soldering Block
Lead-free Water-Soluble Flux
Rubber Craft Stamps (Postmarks)

Optional but Recommended:
Parchment Paper
Bon Ami Powder

Each pendant only requires a tiny bit of solder and a few inches of copper wire making it a very inexpensive project:

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Here’s my TS4000 Bernzomatic Torch. It ignites with just a push of the button so it’s not scary or hard to use. Once you start torching…it’s kind of hard to stop!

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The pendants are primarily made up of metal from melting this sterling plumbing solder:

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To created the base of the pendant I used 18 gauge copper wire. Using pliers I created this “8” shape:

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I use a non-asbestos soldering block to fire against. It can withstand the heat:

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Brush a little bit of flux onto the copper wire. This will help the solder adhere to the wire:

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Using the torch, carefully heat the solder so that drops of solder begin to fall into and around the copper circle. It doesn’t have to be precise. Once there’s enough solder to fill the circle let the piece cool.  I put parchment paper underneath because it will catch any extra beads of solder that can also be reheated to create pendants:

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Use the torch to remelt the solder. If you burn heat in a circular pattern around the edges the solder will shift towards the center into a circular glob:

rubber stamped jewelry

Take a regular craft stamp, mine are the “Far Off Posts” set by Dawn Houser:

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Press the rubber stamp onto the molten solder. They need to be wood-mounted so you don’t have to get your fingers near the molten solder.

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One the sterling solder has cooled you can just tap the stamp on the block and the pendant will fall away:

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Kind of addicting to make these…feels a little like minting money: [Read more…]

The BCO Renovation: Indoors

So yesterday I shared all the renovations to the outside of Bryson City Outdoors. I think what we are most proud of is how much recycling and environmentally-friendly thought went into it:

Salvaged windows
Salvaged doors
Reclaimed barn wood walls
Recycled/reclaimed wood furniture
Recycled paper bag floors
Recycled lighting
Recycled A/C system and energy efficient gas furnace
Locally sourced low-impact hemlock siding
And all the t-shirts are recycled from plastic bottles.

And what happened to the old stuff:

The new roof was built over the old to reduce waste
The old drop ceiling tiles were upcycled to our church to repair damaged tiles
The old brick was saved for a future project so it won’t end up in the landfill
The old windows were sold to someone for use in a greenhouse
All the large hemlock scraps were saved for art projects

The past few weeks have also been spent working simultaneously on the indoors. I love stopping by each day to see what’s new. The building used to be two separate retail spaces, and the floors were even different levels.  One of the doors to the outside was like a miniature door because of a step-down. That door is now gone. Here is the inside when demolition first started:

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(photo courtesy of Bryson City Outdoors in Instagram)

The demolition found all kinds of stuff behind the walls including a few windows that had been covered by drywall. And once all the ceiling tiles were removed they revealed beautiful soaring rafters:

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Oh, I should show you a REAL before photo of the interior: (click here to see the exterior before)

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The office is in one corner of the building and the door you see from the retail space was found at Habitat ReStore in Asheville. The interior window was left in place and painted with chalkboard paint:

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 (photo courtesy of Dwayne Parton on Instagram)

 A few interior walls were covered with reclaimed barn wood, and the sides were drywalled to make electrical easier. Here is Ben painting one of the walls where drywall went up:

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In person I think the wall color looks just like the color of Ben’s dog Lager. Below Lager and Max are meeting for the first time. Now they are old pals.

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Ben also painted this amazing mural map on the wall depicting the Great Smoky Mountains’ North Carolina side. Complete with all the main trails and distances. So when people visit they can see how close Deep Creek is to downtown Bryson City…just a few miles…and three gorgeous water falls within a short walk.

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The concrete floor was such a mess that the guys decided to put down a paper bag floor. The floor is made of Elmer’s glue, paper and polyurethane. It looks like high end concrete. And if it gets messed up all you have to do is add another layer to that spot. I’ll upload a tutorial in the next day or so.

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The conference table in the office was made from a 1950’s era window that we just had replaced in our living room on Hospital Hill. The legs of the table were reclaimed from fence posts Brett found at his mother’s house in Mississippi. All of the carpet was salvaged from a “model train” room in our friend’s house that was being torn down.  It was in perfect condition.

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Here is Brett making the base for the table from the reclaimed fencing:

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A table made from reclaimed wood for a display:

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How awesome are these chairs? These were given to us by our friends Nick and Suzie to fix up. They just needed a little sanding and a layer of clear coat:

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Here they are in the building. The side table was made from a slice of one of the trees we cut down in our yard. I’ve been collecting outdoor books when I come across them at the used book store, doesn’t every outfitter need an outdoor-themed reference nook?

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The building used to be a jewelry store and a pawn shop among other things over the years.  There was a huge built-in concrete vault.  A few sections were cut out to make windows and now it’s the check-out area. I think my favorite part of the whole renovation is how the guys worked with the existing finishes of the walls and left as much as they could original.

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The retail store is slowing coming together. The other day Boo came home wearing this awesome hat with the new logo on it:

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Today Boo and I stopped by and saw this yummy pile of folded t-shirts getting ready to be put out on the floor.  Each BCO shirt is 100% recycled.  Each one is made from 8 plastic bottles.

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One of the designs, “the Smokies” tee, is by my artist friend Stephanie Corfee. And I love the Leave No Trace shirt:

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The grand opening of the store is scheduled for the end of next week.  I’m so excited for everyone involved. All the t-shirts designs will be offered online too as they are added. You can see the current ones here.   I’ll post more photos soon as the store inside is set up!

Walking Away to The Outdoors

So this is a long overdue Brett update. After the post I wrote last year about walking away from everything the most perpetual question I get from people is: What will your husband do?  I think people might have assumed he retired? Some thought we bought the inn we were staying at.

For the past few months Brett’s been renovating a building in downtown Bryson City. Just a little background, last October we were looking at places to live after the inn and we started with downtown Bryson City because we thought renovating some retail spaces that we could live above would be a fun project. After looking at a few places I had second thoughts about living right downtown, I needed more personal space. Right around then we ended up finding the House on Hospital Hill. But after looking at a few places an old building on the corner of Main Street, right in the middle of town square caught Brett’s eye.

When our agent Marty took us to look at it I was like: are you serious?! But Brett was serious. Last summer we got to know two guys, Ben and Dwayne, owners of a web company WNC Interactive. They were helping me change some stuff around on my website.  Brett became instant friends with them. When they weren’t working on websites they were renting paddle boards at the lake under the name Bryson City Outdoors.  Ben even took us out one day so we could try it out.

Brett: I think the building on the corner would be perfect for Bryson City Outdoors.
Me: That building is horrendous.

But Brett, Ben and Dwayne were able to look past the horrendous-ness. It took me a little longer to visualize it, but the more I heard Brett talk about how he thought he could help out this small local company the more excited I got about seeing him excited. Plus, we are all about giving back and the result would be fixing up the building that is always conveniently left out of Bryson City photos. And so we put in an offer and soon we had a deal. Shortly after that Brett became partners with Ben and Dwayne in Bryson City Outdoors.

It’s been an entirely different experience renovating a building downtown, in a small town. The locals stop by all the time to see the progress. Each visitor has an opinion how something should be done. You have to have a little bit of a thick skin for that, and a friendly demeanor: that’s Brett.  Most everyone is glad that someone is finally updating the building that has sat there so long. And everyone just wants to know what it’s going to be. I usually reply: Walmart. 

Here is the building when we bought it back in October:

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I don’t want to scare you but here are a few photos:

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The first stage of demo to the inside. That was awesome as the guys found secret walls and windows revealing the past history of the building:

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The goal was to use as many reclaimed, recycled and locally sourced materials as possible. We were able to salvage all of the large windows from a home our friends were tearing down in Charlotte to replace the old ones in the building.  Below is a photo of Ben and Brett installing the first windows….they had to cut through a concrete wall to enlarge it:

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Slowly the exterior began to come off. A friend stopped me in the grocery store one day and said: every time another layer comes off of that building it gets a little uglier.

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Making room for a new window out front:

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All the new windows put in! But no roof.

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Brett had our friend Erik Perkins sketch out and plan a new roof:

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The Perkins brothers, Erik and Jaime, took control of this huge roof job:

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Amazing what a pitched roof can do for an old building!

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Then the awning was added:

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See that diagonal walkway in the photo above? I always wondered why that was there, until I found this old photo below of Bryson City’s main square and you can see that the diagonals mark the old intersection. It’s now been squared off.  This photo is from about 1910 I think. The BCO building stands at the bottom right corner where that pitched roof peeks up behind the brick building:

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Everyone involved are the hardest workers. They were even out there when it was snowing.

snowBrett(photo courtesy of Brett Hackshaw on Instagram)

 That’s Erik sawing in the freezing cold:

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(photo courtesy of Brett Hackshaw on Instagram)

Hemlock siding was chosen because it could be sourced from a local sawmill, which makes it low impact to the environment because it only had to be transported a few miles. Each piece was picked out one by one:

sawmill

The siding was done in a board and batton pattern, which just means using vertical panels and then covering the seams with smaller strips of wood. The cedar shakes were stained (“Bark” by Cabot) before they started putting them on:

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Industrial lighting was added under the awning:

lightingbrett(photo courtesy of Brett Hackshaw on Instagram)

The green door is Bryson City Outdoor’s signature color:

tables(photo courtesy of Brett Hackshaw on Instagram)

The finished exterior. We may have set a record for the amount of reclaimed, recycled, and re-used materials ever used to renovate a building on a shoestring budget. All the amazing industrial lighting inside Ben salvaged from a Buckle Store in Asheville. We even reused the old air conditioner that came out of our house. Just wait until you see the inside!

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And meanwhile the inside was also being worked on. You can read about that here. 

So proud of this guy. And all the guys. And Ben and Dwayne thanks for having faith in us. And thank you to everyone who has been involved from the start. It’s been a lot of hard work. You can follow more of the progress and look for the grand opening at @brysoncityoutdoors, @bretthackshaw and @dwayneparton on Instagram.

Brett Hackshaw

 

And there’s an awesome outdoor blog too…devoted to one of the prettiest places on earth:

bcoblog

In closing, I would like to send prayers to the family and friends of Mike Jones. He was the electrical contractor that worked on our building, and even more recently our home. He lost his life unexepectedly earlier this week. It was a great shock to everyone.  Our hearts are heavy. I had only met him a few times but I know many of our friends who worked on the building were very close to him. You just never know what’s going to happen in this life. Make the most of it. And like Mike did for me: be friendly and smile to everyone you cross paths with.

The Ghost of a Seminary School

When we were in D.C. two weeks ago my friend Sarah said: I have a place to take you. I think you’ll love it. And we went to the National Park Seminary grounds. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am obsessed with old, abandoned places. This place was like a dream for me. The original/unrestored portion of the grounds reminded me of The Shining meets Epcot, and in the best sort of way.

The Seminary isn’t necessarily abandoned because it’s slowly being rehabilitated, but it’s only half way there. The other half is still boarded up and in need of conservation and repair. It was a resort hotel until 1893, and then was turned into a finishing school for young women. Walter Reed Army Hospital acquired the property in 1942 and used it as a medical annex. Back when it was a school, the girls were required to join a  sorority and held their social events in small one-of-a-kind themed clubhouses: a pagoda, a castle, a windmill-like Dutch house, Greek and colonial are just a few examples. The quotes I’ve listed throughout are from plaques on the grounds.

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This was closed off, but my curiosity gets the best of me:

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“The Forest Inn was built in 1887 as a summer resort hotel. In 1894 it was leased and alter purchased by John and Vesta Cassedy to be the National Park Seminary for young women. The hotel building became known as Main and was expanded several times, providing space for classrooms, dormitory rooms, and school offices. When the Walter Reed Army Hospital acquitted the seminary in 1942, it used Main for administrative offices and convalescent wards.”

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Part of the hospital and power plant:

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Buildings seemingly mismatched together and connected with more tunnels:

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Details:

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Love the round porthole windows:

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Boarded up:

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A room in one of the sorority houses:

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“Although originally built in 1887 as a resort, the first structure on what is now National Park Seminary was converted into a girls’ finishing school by the beginning of the 20th century. Under the guidance of three different headmasters the site transformed itself into what has been called a “Fairy Tale Setting.” The 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago influenced much of the diverse architecture and landscaping, and the school’s first headmaster purchased a book of plans at the exposition from which many of the single family homes on the site were designed. At its peak, National Park Seminary boasted tuition rates higher that both Harvard and Yale and catered to some of the nation’s most influential families.”

I think this is the Colonial house:

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A picture from the early 20th century:

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Here’s an old picture of a young student on the porch of the Greek building. The students held their meetings and social events in the small unique houses. Eight houses were built between 1896 and 1905:

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Here is the Japanese Pagoda house:

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The castle is really cool. Really hard to access because the bridge was removed in the 1960’s:

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Early photo of the castle. Match up the windows with the previous photo and you’ll see the changes.

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 “Hotel guests and seminary students arrived at the Forest Glen railroad station and entered the campus by one of several bridges across the glen. The natural beauty of the glen was enhanced with stone paths, stairways, and a grotto. The bridges were removed and part of the glen was lost when the Capital Beltway was built in the early 1960s. The Italian Villa, a dormitory built in 1907, and the English Castle, built in 1904 for the Pi Beta Nu sorority, can be seen across the glen.”

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A great video showing before and after photos of the entire renovation process, plus the extent of ruin and disrepair they were in,  can be found here. It’s all fascinating…reminds me of the big house in the movie Great Expectations. 

The buildings were interconnected by covered walkways to protect the students as they walked from building to building and that’s what you see below. I think they were added by the 2nd headmaster of the school:

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We toured this building which used to be the President’s house:

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Here’s a photo from back in the day, the overlook doesn’t exist anymore, it’s now just a solid floor:

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The “Main” building as it’s called:

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Once the hotel here it is as a dining area for students. Pretty posh. All that woodwork has been restored:

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Inside the hallways today. Walking through them I definitely heard the voices of the past:

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A view of the Greek house with the smoke stack in the back. And how cool are those passageways?

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The ballroom was built in 1927 as a social gathering place for students of National Park Seminary, and later, for soldiers recovering at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Want to know more? There is a full lecture with photos and history on the ballroom here. 

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Girls outside of the gymnasium, which by the way is being completely renovated and the swimming pool will be a sunken living room for whoever lives there.

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Yes, a fairy tale setting. I’m so glad it’s being saved. Nothing makes me more disappointed than old historic buildings being bulldozed.

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You can read more about the history of the Seminary here. I love this project.

 

New York City

Our trip last week wasn’t just limited to Washington, D.C and the Holocaust Memorial. We headed up the coast a little farther to NYC. We stayed with our friends Maya and Amy and they gave us the grand tour:

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Boo has wanted to see the Statue of Liberty since she was about 3 years old (since seeing it on an episode of Wonder Pets):

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So awesome:

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Ellis Island:

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Boo wanted to visit the 9-11 Memorial and Museum.  Taking it all in:

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Leaving a message:

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It was definitely an emotional few hours, but the museum was awe inspiring.  So well done and I can’t imagine how much work went into it to keep it respectful and show the imprint of the 2 towers. We’ll never forget it.

*****

We probably had more fun at Maya and Amy’s house than visiting the big city. They have so much cool stuff going on: poetry, artwork, classes. And lots of neat little collections of inspiration. Boo would wake up early, get dressed all by herself and head downstairs to play with all the neat things she’d find:

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Out in front of their house they have a Little Free Library…..and a Wish Tree (with sharpies and tags ready to add wishes!). I’m totally going to start a wish tree somewhere in Bryson City:

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A collection of awesomely colorful typewriters. The first time I met them I knew we were kindred spirits! (Maya and Amy…not the typewriters)

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 (Photo courtesy of @foodforthesoultrain on instagram)

I’d never seen a Hebrew typewriter. This one types right to left!

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And tiny people:

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(photo courtesy of @mayastein on instagram)

Love these gals. They are so inspiring with all that they do: writing classes, camps, tandem poetry tours, and retreats. I look forward every Tuesday to Maya’s 10-line poem email.    

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Boo’s wish on the wish tree? That she could come and stay with Maya and Amy again. Yeah me too.  Thanks gals!  You both rock.

P.S. Check out Amy and Maya’s upcoming creative retreat in Vermont!

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Things I Found in the Old Depot

I found a lot of random things while cleaning out the old depot that we moved to our property:

(“Dee  POT” as Boo calls it)

how to move a house or building - house mover

Part of the deal with moving it was that I had to move all the contents as well. That has been my most favorite part. Sifting through old stuff and finding things like this one tiny bible page tucked away behind a dresser drawer:

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I like to find old things and I like to keep lists of things.  So here is an extensive list of the 57 old things that I found in the old depot:

1 vintage can opener
2 metal serving spoons, 1 strainer, 2 spatulas, 2 carving forks
2 large kitchen spoons, 2 spatulas
1 ice pick
1 knife with the carved initials J.N.B.
1 1940’s coal stove with chimney
1 dresser, 1 vanity, 1 desk, 1 side table
1 metal hospital style bed
1 roll of wood/wire picket fencing
1 carved wood 4-post bed
2 metal mattress springs
1 clay bowl
1 burlap hardware store sack
1 pulley-screw-thingy
1 plastic flower pot
1 aluminum walking cane
1 wood slat chair
2 broken lamp shades
1 aluminum lawn chair bench, no cushions
2 lawn chairs, no cushions
14 bits of metal, springs, chain
2 sets of yard chains
1 instruction sheet for yard chains
1 magazine cut out of a bride with another cut out with the words: My Dear Old Home Farewell: Good-by each room, each sunny nook, Where I have live my days, Good by before I close the door, Upon my girlhood ways.
1 magazine cut out of a floral arrangement
1 father’s day card signed: With love, Charlene, Jay and Ronnie
1 plaque: Corbett Champers, Ph: 926-1133, Rt. 4 Waynesville, NC*
1 photo of a young boy outside a farmhouse in the snow
1 “The Workbasket” subscription card with an address hand-written on the back: Mrs. John Towe, Route 4, c/o Roundtree Dairy Farm, Sulfolk, VA**
1 photo negative of a man in front of a car
1 small bible page: Luke 12:1-33
1 baby hospital photo: Carol Lee Plott, St Joseph Hospital, October 4, 1965, Weight 6 lbs, 13 oz, The proud parents: Mr and Mrs Charles Plott (Back: Infant Photo Supply, Dayton Ohio)
2 birdnests
1 gigantic hornet nest

*I looked up Corbett Champers, he died in January 1978. He worked in the leather cutting department at Wellco, 1 of 28 employees according to an anniversary ad in the Waynesville Mountaineer September 3, 1951.

**I looked up Rountree Dairy Farm. It’s now a housing development.

 

In Pictures:

This magazine cut out looked like it was cut to fit in a frame. The frame is long gone. Maybe it had been pieced together for a wedding present?

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The boy in the snow. This photo was half eaten by some little varmit:

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A hospital birth photo:

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The old negative of a man and his car. I reversed it to see the actual image:

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A vintage can opener:

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Odds and ends and cooking utensils:

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A metal plaque, probably for a hunting dog collar:

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This beautiful streamer filled bird’s nest:

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A bunch of random furniture and other remnants:

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The old 1940’s stove and the chimney:

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If anyone happens to know any of the people in the “orphan” photos let me know. I would love to return them to their families.

We haven’t yet done anything to fix it up the depot yet. Hopefully this summer will be the start of that process.  The first step will be sealing it up and making windows for it.

You can read about thefinding and moving of the depot here.

Faith Hope Love and Luck

St. Patrick’s Day is my father’s birthday. He would have been 68 today.  I’ll always wonder what he would have looked like as an old man, at 80 years old like my grandfather was. They’d probably look very much the same. He’ll always be forever young now. But I know he sees what we are up to these days!

Did you know that each leaf on a 4-leaf clover stands for something? Faith, Hope, Love and the fourth for Luck.

 

(click here for the story of these 4 leaf clovers)

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Boo is still on Spring break…and it is instantly spring here in the mountains. We left last week to the remnants of snow and today there are flowers blooming.  Boo returning from a walk today with Max:

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I love this time of year.

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They Were People

On our trip last week we visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum.  It was at the top of Boo’s list. Brett and I debated on whether or not she was too young for the main exhibit, but we felt it was something she needed to see. She’s always been very inquisitive about the Holocaust and Hitler, just like she is with Pompeii and September 11. She becomes fixated on events that are complex and tragic and hard to comprehend.  Last year we read Anne Frank together and after a few chapters she stopped me and asked: do they find her? When I told her yes, they find her, she didn’t want to read anymore. We haven’t finished the book yet.  Back then she asked me if I thought Hitler was in heaven or hell.  I asked her what she thought and she answered: he’s in hell.

The most powerful moment was when we walked into the permanent exhibit entrance and encountered a large picture of the Ohrdruf camp liberation:

Boo: What are they looking at? What is that on the train tracks?
Me: Those are human remains.
Boo: What do you mean?
Me: People. They were people.

She turned her back to the picture for a few moments, for the first time realizing the magnitude of the evil, for the first time realizing what humans are capable of.  I saw her lose her innocence right before my eyes. I knelt down and whispered to her: we are here to be witnesses.  She nodded…and then I saw her fill up with strength and walk to the next image in the exhibit.

The Holocaust Memorial Museum

She walked thoughtfully through the museum, reading every notation.  I was so proud of her.  Her interest, compassion and empathy floor me sometimes. She whispered and tiptoed and showed the exhibits more respect than some of the adults did. When we came to a pile of books representing the books burned by the Nazi’s she knew exactly what they were because we had watched The Book Thief this last summer. When I pointed out a book by Helen Keller in the pile she lit up with recognition because we had also just recently watch the Miracle Worker (1962). And she said: I’m glad Helen Keller made more copies of her books.

We left the Memorial to eat lunch and afterwards Boo wanted to go back, so we went through the children’s exhibit a second time. It follows a boy named Daniel. She wept in the room where she learned his sister and mother didn’t survive. So did I.  But she wept….standing in the center of the room with tears streaming down her face, captured by the story on the screen, as other visitors walked around her noticing her emotion. After a while she continued on to the next exhibit. She walked through the room that transforms Daniel’s old life into his life in the ghetto and exclaimed: hey, that’s my bed.  (it really was…she has a bed exactly like the one in the museum that we got from the old depot).  And then I think it really hit her: Daniel was a kid just like me.

The Holocaust Memorial Museum

A few questions from her perspective:

On the gas chambers: Why would they go into those showers at the camp?  Why would people think it was normal to shower with other people? That would have told me that something bad was going to happen.

On the murder of the disabled: Why would they kill people just because they were different? What if Hitler lost a leg? Would he have had to kill himself? Like when they tried to kill him at a meeting, he could have lost a leg. (she told me the story of the attempted assignation of Hitler at Wolf’s Lair, I don’t know where she learned this, maybe school?)

I asked her today what she remembers the most and this is what she said:

The gas chambers. That they locked people in rooms and pretended they were going to take a shower.

The shoes. So many of them. And some of the shoes were so nice, it was like the people didn’t even know where they were going! They were all dressed up. 

That they tried to burn the bodies, to hide what they had done. They knew they were wrong. 

 

They knew they were wrong. Yes. And still the Holocaust happened. That’s the hardest part to explain to her.  And persecution still happens all over the world today.

I wanted Boo to be a witness. That’s why we went. To know what our responsibility is when we see injustice and hatred. To know when to stand up and say:

THIS IS NOT RIGHT. 

This is why we have sought out a new path in life, this is why we continue to simplify and seek ways to be more generous and compassionate:

to create space for the things that matter. 

This is why our kitchen chalkboard always reads: let your faith be bigger than your fear.

Memory is what shapes us. Memory is what teaches us. We must understand that’s where our redemption is.
-Estelle Laughlin, Holocaust Survivor

If you haven’t yet been to the Holocaust Memorial Museum, please go. You can start here.