Monthly Archives: April 2014

A Thank You Gift from a Rotten Brother

I received a package today from my brother. He wanted to thank me for the work I had done helping him get his first book ready for publication. Now, there are a couple of things you should know about my brother. First, he is an awesome gift giver. However, (say the word ‘comma’ out loud there, please … here, I’ll do it again): However, he’s also a brat. When I wrote the post about his birthday and his first book, I had to stop myself from telling all of the stories about the rotten things he did to me (us, whoever) when he was a kid. I didn’t want y’all to think that he was basically rotten. I should have told you more stories.

When we were growing up, Christmas, birthdays, Easter … whenever there was an opportunity for gift-giving … were also opportunities for entertainment for our parents. They loved the entire experience and made it fun. We didn’t have a lot of money, so even small gifts were a big deal and we had as much fun anticipating the gifts as we did receiving them and playing with them.

Dad loved to hide our gifts and then send us on missions to find them. We played a lot of hot / cold in those days. The big gifts – like a bicycle – were hidden quite well and we traipsed all over looking for those things. One year, he and mom tied string to a bicycle (I can’t remember which one of us it was for), wound it up and down the steps, through the rooms, and set the end in front of the recipient. The entire family paraded through the house looking for that gift.  We always had fun.

That’s one part of this story. The second part of this story comes from the book my brother just wrote. I’m going to quote a little passage for you here:

Nick gave it the first shot. “After Tabby tossed me out of the door, I realized that I could open the bottles with the cutter by just hitting them through the control room wall. Once I hit it, the foam exploded into the room and trapped the three of them. You’ll never believe it, but one of them was a deputy. It took an entire day to cut them out of the foam, but they all lived through it. (Rookie Privateer, page 51)

Station Foam. They had to cut people out of foam that had exploded into a room. If you were reading the book, you might just pass by that little bit of information. I’m glad the people lived through it, but it wasn’t terribly important in my world.

…Until today.

13I received a big box from my brother. He told me it was coming and that it was his way of thanking me for the work I’d done. He also told me I would probably want to open it from the bottom and then he got a little worried that I might not think it was quite as funny as he did. He also told me to have the camera ready. I had no idea what to expect.

I obediently turned the box upside down and attempted to pull the flaps back. Umm, what in the heck? Grrr. I turned it back over and attempted to deal with the top flaps. Same thing. I sat down at the computer and messaged him (excuse the bad language):

12I need to begin with … WTF?
I haven’t even gotten into the damned thing yet 

Then it hit me … oh, it hit me and I couldn’t stop laughing. I wrote:
OMG!!! Hilarious!!!
Station foam?

His response? BINGO! He thought that the object lesson was a really great one for me. I totally understand how that stuff works now. Uh huh.

9I wrote back:
Truly … this is the funniest thing I have ever experienced! You are a genius.

His next response made me worry:
lol, say that again in an hour when you are staring at a foam cube

I spent the better part of a half hour hacking away at the box and the foam. Then I knew that I needed to be a little more deliberate about this. It was going to take a knife and a whole lot of patience. I didn’t want to cut anything open and ruin it, but I wanted to do this as efficiently as possible, so I began sawing small slices down the foam (once I got the cardboard ripped away.

I see the M&Ms

I see the M&Ms

The M&Ms make this work worth it!

The M&Ms make this work worth it!

M&Ms, a brown bottle and something fuzzy. Gotta keep going.

M&Ms, a brown bottle and something fuzzy. Gotta keep going.

Excavating

Excavating

Oh good heavens, ANOTHER bag of M&Ms

Oh good heavens, ANOTHER bag of M&Ms

Still excavating

Still excavating

Look at those bottles. I'm going to have fun with them.

Look at those bottles. I’m going to have fun with them.

Some of the foam didn’t harden immediately, so it’s still holding on to the two bottles of Irish Cream Whiskey he sent and one of the immense packages of m&ms, but I extracted one bag of candy, a terrific card and an absolutely adorable Longfellow Dragon. As soon as the stuff dries, I’ll begin peeling it off the rest of the gift. I don’t need to be drinking tonight anyway, I have a book to finish and I’m getting so close! It occurs to me that I made a huge mistake in not giving Polly any siblings. They really do mess around in your life and do rotten things to you.

This is an adorable Fickle Dragon for me to hug and a really nice thank you note.

This is an adorable Fickle Dragon for me to hug and a really nice thank you note.

I haven’t laughed this hard in a long time. I really am a perfect foil for my brother’s pranks. It’s been an awesome afternoon of excavation and laughter. Everyone needs a brat in their lives.

Check out his Facebook page. It’s all about the Fickle Dragon.

My Brother’s Book. A Birthday Gift to Himself.

1964 Jamie standingFifty years ago, I was probably still in denial. We had a perfectly good thing going. I had finally gotten used to the fact that I had a little sister and she was almost tolerable. Then, surprise, surprise, Mom and Dad told us there would be another baby coming into our lives. They’d only intended to have two children and a couple of cute little girls was just fine. One day, the dentist asked Mom if she was pregnant. In shock, she laughed and said that there was no way for that to be possible, but he knew better than she did. Come to find out, another baby was about to join the young Greenwood family. This would take some getting used to by everyone. Dad had always told Mom she was emotionally capable of raising 2.6 children and he wasn’t sure where that extra .4 was going to come from. Something would have to give. I’m not saying whether it was either Carol or Jim; you’d have to ask them.

Carol and Jamie - late 1964

Carol and Jamie – late 1964

You might notice in some of these pictures that Jim had a black eye. I know he wants to blame that on me, but I insist that he got himself into trouble all by himself. Of all of us, he was the one who broke an arm and the one who nearly electrocuted himself when washing the carpeting during a thunderstorm. He spent an entire childhood testing the limits of everything he encountered, including the limits of his sister’s tolerance. The church in Sigourney built a new parsonage while we were there and as we moved from the old house to the new one, Mom discovered many little piles of burned … whatever … in our basement. I think we were very fortunate that he didn’t burn the place down. He tore things apart, much to Mom’s chagrin, but what she didn’t realize was that he wanted to see how they went back together. He learned how to explore, despite her fears.

1964 Diane & Jamie walking with black eyeYou won’t see it in these pictures, because we were a little older the day I decided that he would make a great horse for me to ride around the house. He was a strong little bugger. I pulled him up short one time, but not fast enough to avoid a corner made of bricks that jutted out into our dining room. Look closely at his forehead still today, there were a few stitches taken there that night. I don’t know that he ever really forgave me for that. As well he shouldn’t. While most people would be proud of a healthy scar on their face, poor Jim’s was right between his eyes. Okay, okay. I guess we’re lucky that I didn’t blind the poor boy. The best part, though? Carol and I got to spend the evening with some friends down the street who had a color television, while Mom and Dad made a quick run to the emergency room.

Three kids late 1964The three of us had a pretty happy childhood. Jim tormented and tortured us, We did our best to exclude him from all the girly things we came up with. Mom told us all to play nicely and Dad waited for the day we would finally grow up and stop acting like children.

We moved from community to community when the Methodist Church told Dad to move and the thing was, the three of us were always a unit in the world, no matter how we treated each other at home.  We grew up, did different things with our lives, added family members, lost our parents (okay, they died, they aren’t lost at sea or anything), explored dreams, hopes and goals; met fears, disappointments and disasters.

Rookie_Privateer_Cover_for_KindleThe day before his birthday (you know, that one that shall not be mentioned), Jim has fulfilled another dream; one that has been there for a long time. His first book – Rookie Privateer – is alive and in the world for everyone to read. It’s been a great journey for him and I’ve been thrilled to be part of it and watch it take root and grow.

It’s the tale of a young man seeking to live beyond his immediate life and the twists and turns he takes to get to something bigger. Liam Hoffen faces down pirates and his own father’s expectations. He confronts his fears and decides to address their challenges rather than allow them to control his fate. He makes choices about who to trust and is surprised by the actions of those who should have been trustworthy.

It’s an adventure in space, the dream of a young man who sees the stars every day and wants nothing more than to fly among them. He will do what it takes to keep that dream alive.

You can find my brother’s book on Amazon in both paperback and for the Kindle. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read it now. I’ve laughed and gasped, rolled my eyes at his droll humor and gotten to know Liam and his buddy, Nick James, as they meet their new life head on.

Happy Birthday, Jim. After 50 years, I can say that I’m glad you showed up on that cold April day.

Connecting

This morning I had an email conversation with my friend, Rebecca, about social media interactions and how for many of us, the importance lies in the connections that are made rather than simply marketing a product. 

Last week, I realized just how many people I was getting to know on my Facebook Bellingwood page. The interactions aren’t as intimate as those I have with close friends, but as a minister’s daughter who regularly interacted with hundreds of people at once, it feels like the same types of relationships are growing. I get to know them well enough to enjoy being around them. We aren’t together every day or even every week, but they have become part of my life and thus are important to me. Names and pictures, words and methods of communication are familiar and friendships are being built … with people I never would have had the opportunity to meet before this medium was available.

I’ve always been a connector. There are hundreds of people that I’ve encountered throughout my life and social media has given me the opportunity to reconnect with them. It brings me great joy to introduce people to each other and watch their friendship blossom … to watch them find commonalities with each other. I love to see people encounter a program or ministry, a service project or even a book or television show that I’ve exposed them to and become fascinated with the same things that intrigued me.

Immediately after I had the conversation with Rebecca, a college classmate posted an introduction to connect me with another writer friend of his. I was flabbergasted that at that exact moment, he thought to extend the invitation for two friends of his to connect. I grabbed it. Of course I want to meet someone new! Of course I want to be exposed to her thoughts and views on the world! His timing could not have been more perfect.

I see social networking as a wondrous frontier for us to explore with the same exuberance and excitement as early pioneers trekking across the wild west. There are great and grand adventures ahead and I like the idea of taking my friends with me for the ride.

However, I find that too many people only look for the pitfalls and dangers and circle the wagons rather than explore new territory.

What does it take to ‘like’ a new page on Facebook and learn about someone else’s journey? What does it take to ‘like’ a post and encourage someone along their own adventure? Yet we lurk behind corners, afraid to put ourselves out there unless we know people intimately … or worse yet, we ignore things because we are too focused on our own misadventures.

Social media has the potential to explode our world into something bigger than it is, to expose us to what others are thinking, even when we might disagree. We can learn and grow because of the great people that our friends know, the causes they support, the products they endorse, the artists they encourage and the passions they hold dear.

I would encourage you to make the most of social networks. Build and strengthen the connections to people you don’t see as part of your everyday life and to new people you encounter. Don’t run away, don’t fade away. When you are gone, you take part of the whole with you. When you interact, you make the entire thing better than it was.

C.S. Lewis once wrote about the loss of his friend, author Charles Williams.

In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s [Tolkien’s] reaction to a specifically Charles joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him “to myself” now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald…In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious “nearness by resemblance” to heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each of us has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest

TB is connecting with his need for a nap.

TB is connecting with his need for a nap.

This is how I feel about the people I interact with in any area of my life, whether in person – in large and small groups, or online through social networking. Each of you adds to the whole of my experience … and yours. When you are missing, you take more than just yourself away from it, you take away so much more.

The world is bigger than our little circles of acquaintances and friends, and yet it grows smaller every day. There is great potential for each of us. Grab it. Connect. Share. Explore. And along the way, smile. You are becoming something better than you were yesterday.