Sunday, December 28, 2014

the most wonderful time

Merry Christmas Break Part 1

 Halfway through my Christmas break time slows down.  These are literally the darkest days of the year.  All the events leading up to Christmas seem to rush by and all my planning to be creative gets unplanned.  But we have lots of fun and I'm not complaining about any of it.  

 Blue and Violet had their Christmas things at school.  Violet had a solo and she sang loud and wonderfully.  She's the adorable one in the red dress.

 Blue managed to look unhappy and uncomfortable during his class's performance...but not as unhappy as the girl beside him.  I'm not sure what was wrong but she looked sad the entire time.  I made a funny face at Blue and he scowled even harder.  Maybe he was focused on going on Christmas break in about 20 minutes.

 Spartanburg has their Main Street ice skating rink open again this year.  Blue was wobbly at first and clung to the wall but soon he was racing me and doing accidental tricks.

 Violet was even more unsteady but she did take a few breaks from the stand so she could practice her ballet moves.

 And then this weird snowman showed up and took awkward photos with a few kids.  

 Zeke and I did a little hiking and we found this tree the beavers had been working on.

 Tiki is always on Christmas break.  A tough day for her is only stealing 5 Cheetos between her two 12 hour naps.  Clearly having us around more often is annoying her.

 The McAbee party had the annual Bingo game and the musical present opening game.

 Santa came in his gym shoes again.  He had a busy day and came straight from his workout.

 We don't really get that into Christmas lights.  Don't get me wrong, they're pretty and festive, but do I want to drive 45 minutes or wait in traffic or pay to see them?  Nope.  But since we were in the area, we drove by the Foster's place in Inman.  This place has been awesome at Christmas since we were kids.  And it's free with no waiting.

 There's a tiny horizontal black line between the trees.  It's a hawk but you'll have to take my word for it.  They're fast and skiddish and I can never get a good photo of them with the phone.  This guy was perched at mom's and he was one of many I've seen in the last two weeks.  One day I saw 4 before lunch.  Another day I saw 9.  I'm apparently supposed to keep drawing them.

 On the shortest day of the year, this lady has a birthday.  LJ turned 79 this year.  I hope you don't mind me telling people how old you are, LJ.  You look better than some of the people I went to high school with, so I think it's ok.  

 The kids made a gingerbread house.  Seconds later they completely destroyed the gingerbread house.

 Then there was Christmas Eve at Nana's.

 ...complete with lots of gifts.

 Followed by Christmas Eve at Great Grandma's complete with a whoopee cushion.

 And then it was time for Santa.

 Violet got an easel and lots of cool girl things.

 And Blue fell out when he saw his stash of Christmas loot.

 He's a tad dramatic but this is the quintessential kid Christmas face.  

 Then it was on to Christmas brunch and presents at Grandma's.  She cooked a breakfast feast and then all the grandkids gathered in one room to open gifts.  There were so many kids a panoramic photo was the only way to get them all in.

 I don't think we have any Christmas afternoon traditions other than a good food induced nap.  But this year we ventured out to the local Waffle House and stuffed even more food in our faces.

Along with some cool running accessories, G got me a super cool professional waffle maker.  It's only been a couple of days but it's already changed our lives.  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

my people are the best

December is off to a great start.  The first week was filled with finishing up classes and projects.  Busy is an understatement.  After the second week I was really struck by how awesome the people around me are.  Let me 'splain.

 These are my coworkers.  They are amazing.  They're funny and irreverent and goofy and at the very same time they are experts and geniuses and masters of their fields.  And they're all fine people.  The best.  I'm so lucky I get to work with them.  This photo was from our tacky Christmas attire party last Thursday.  We always take a "serious" photo where we are all supposed to NOT smile.  In each of these photos Sandy is grinning from ear to ear.  Jon and Esnipes are trying to get Sandy to be serious.  Also, there's a Photoshopped framed image of Jon's head on another man's body on the mantle.

 These are some of my Avett friends.  Concerts are better in groups.  And to be honest, it takes G and Ginger both to talk me into going to one.  For a person who doesn't especially like hanging out with people, a room filled elbow to elbow with thousands of humans doesn't always sound like a good idea.  But there's always a reason why this one wont be that bad and why we should go.  We first saw the Avett Brothers with Ginger about 10 years ago at a small club in Greenville called The Handlebar.  The room was small and half full.  Langhorne Slim opened.  Since that night the Avetts (and Langhorne) have blown up and if you want to go see them these days you'll be doing so in a large amphitheater.  Somehow G and Ginger got word of a secret fundraising show in a small venue about 20 minutes from our house.  Ashley (The Whisk) was lucky enough to find a ticket as well and we all met to tailgate before the show last Friday.

 The fundraiser was for The Carpenter's Table and the event was at Byrnes High School in Spartanburg.  Ashley's seat was in the back corner.  Our seats were about 30 feet from the front right in the middle.  They were perfect.

 The Avett's collect fan posters from various occasions and tape them to the back of the piano.

 That's my hero Joe Kwon on rock and roll cello.

 That's Seth Avett levitating.

 That's my new friend Mike Marsh on drums in the back.  More on him later.

 Fellow Winthrop Eagle, Bob Crawford with his "This Machine Kills Cancer" bass guitar.  Oh and there's Paul Defiglia on the keyboards.

 Scott Avett singing "Murder in the City".  The venue was small and because there were all sorts of people from every age group and physical ability present, they asked that we remain seated for the entire concert.  To my knowledge this has never happened before.  Even when you have seats, when the brothers come out, you stand.  But everyone was respectful and we all just kinda danced on our seats.

Seth and Scott's sister Bonnie was responsible for organizing this event and they talked her into coming out for a couple of songs.  

 So when we walked in the building I saw a woman who looked familiar.  This happens all the time.  I'm visual and while I do not have a photographic memory, my memory is just good enough to remember most faces but not good enough to remember where I saw those faces.  I think the setting helped me this time though.  See, 8 years ago we saw the Avetts at a little cafe/record store in Greenville for a album release event.  While standing in line to get our CD signed I was holding Blue in his "Little Avett" onesie.  The lady in front of us in line thought it was funny and she asked to take a photo of him.  The familiar face last Friday was her.  A few minutes later she and her family came in and sat down right in front of us.  I leaned up and asked her about the photo and she remembered and said she always wanted to send us that photo.  I gave her my email address and there's the photo.  Avett people are good people.  

The concert was great.  The song selection was superb.  And for me, a person who doesn't like crowds, people getting in my personal space, standing still for hours at a time or drunk people spilling beer on me, this was an ideal situation.  No smoking, no drinking, no standing.  The concert started around 7:20 pm and ended around 9:30 pm.  I saw a great concert in comfort and was still going to find my bed before midnight.

 And just when I didn't think it could get any better, at the end of the show each musician pulled their copy of the set list off the floor in front of them and wadded it up and threw it into the crowd.  When drummer Mike Marsh wadded his up, we locked eyes and I knew this was my moment.  The last set list.  The pressure.  With his drum-muscled arms he drew back his arm and thundered the set list high into the air.  My eyes never left that spinning ball of precious paper.  As it descended every muscle in my body synchronized and prepared for action.  I jumped up and back and I could see every wrinkle in the paper as it landed safely in my hands.  I may have fell back over the seats a little, but I didn't fall.  After celebrating with my slightly embarrassed wife I waited around for Erin Andrews to come interview me about the catch.  When she didn't show up, we just left.

 After dropping Ginger off at home, G and I slowed down for a second to fully appreciate the tallest Christmas Tree in the upstate located in downtown Inman.  40 feet of LED Christmas cheer.  

 And you can make fun of me for being old and wanting to go to bed, but I did outlast both my kids who we found like this at my mom's.

 I also got up earlier than them on Saturday for a run before heading off to graduation.  That's Travis Monroe Taylor rocking his sculpture tshirt under his cap and gown.  Travis is good people.  We are so going to miss him.

Monday, December 8, 2014

great moments in sculpture #5629

Last week my Advanced Sculpture students installed their functional public sculptures at the new Grace Street Dog Park in Greenwood.  The students were asked to design permanent functional sculptures to liven up the dog park.  They created digital public art proposals and formally presented each one to a committee from Greenwood Parks Foundation.  The designs were approved and the students spent several weeks creating the sculptures.  Last Tuesday we loaded them all up and hauled them a couple of streets over for installation.  *You'll notice that these photos are actually very good photos.  That's because I did not take them.  All photos were provided by Oscar Reyes, photographer extraordinaire.

 Tyler Frasier's giant fire hydrant became the centerpiece for the park.  We expect it to be just as popular with the dogs as it is with the humans.

 Ellen Walborn created several large nest baskets and placed them in the air on the nearby walking trail.

 Daniel Sorrow created a painted steel bench that is also a giant weenie dog.  Visitors can sit on the bench and watch the dogs playing inside the fence.

 Candice Caughman created a very large steel 4 leaf clover as a resting space on the walking trail.

 Paige Railey created a trash bin made of steel bones and featuring Super Dog barking a lightning bolt.

 Christine Chapman created a large steel tree that also functions as a bike rack.

 That's the group (minus Tyler) making sure the bench works.

 And that's the official photo of all of us in our sculpture shirts.  Thanks for the photos Oscar!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


 Thanksgiving is a great time of year.  It's Thanksgiving which means a short break from school and good turkey cooked by my mom, but it also means a trip to the beach and the start of the Christmas season.

As usual, I got up early on Thanksgiving day and headed to USC Upstate for the Gobble Your Gibblets 5K.  It's a race around their campus sponsored by their cross country team and for a person who runs on relatively flat surfaces everyday, it's an excruciating race of hills, somehow managing to feel uphill every step of the way.  This year I talked the family into coming to watch so brother Daniel would have some company since he decided not to run.

G put together this collage of photos that she took.  The first image is just a mile into the race.  There was a very small kid running in front of me at that point.  I'm thankful he's not in the photo making me look bad.  Eventually I passed him and some other high school cross country kids from the area.  There was this one guy ahead of me the whole time and about halfway through I started to think I may have a chance at winning my age group.  I'm not a good judge of age but he looked like he could be close so I made him my target.  There's a really nasty mountain to run up in the last mile and I got just ahead of him there.  I could hear his footsteps right behind me the rest of the race.  When we approached the finish line I knew he was going to make a go at passing me.  I pretty much put everything I had left into sprinting the last tenth of a mile.  As I sped up, his footsteps got more and more faint.  So I beat him and I beat my time from last year by about 30 seconds.  Then I ended up winning my the male 40-49 age group.  I think Violet was more excited than I was.  She and Blue were thrilled with the trophy.  Thanksgiving was off to a great start.

 If I haven't made this abundantly clear in the past, my mom is an excellent cook.  Think of all the famous chefs you know - all crap compared to her.  I arrived at her house early enough to start sampling the various turkeys.  All I had for breakfast was a banana so cut me some slack.  She deep fries her turkeys and she always spices one up with cajun spice and they are amazing.  Oh and she made a bacon peanut butter pie this year with a whole pound of bacon in it.  It was good, but we all agreed it may have been better without the bacon.  And that's the family up there.  Mom, my brothers, sisters in law and all the nieces and nephews.  And LJ took the photo for us.  She's our immediate family too.  Go ahead and count the kids.  One of my brothers was prolific.

 After lunch we grabbed our chocolate chip cookies for the road and headed toward the coast.  There are so many landmarks along the way that I use to mark the time and distance.  The interstates are so long but once you get off I-95 time speeds up a little.

 The kids get more and more excited as they see "beach trees" more often.  The sun was setting on the Intracoastal Waterway as we arrived.

 And it made for a nice balcony view after we threw our bags down.

 Thanksgiving dinner.  People always think it's weird that we have Thanksgiving dinner at TGI Fridays.  I'm not sure why.  There are always plenty of other people eating dinner there with us.  We do the family thing at lunch and have our own goofy thing for dinner.  G and I started making this trip years ago when no one went to Myrtle Beach at Thanksgiving.  The first year Domino's was the only restaurant we could find open.  Every year since then, more restaurants have been open and more people have been cluttering up our weekend.  We found TGI Fridays one year and it was warm enough to eat outside.  Since then it's been our go-to place for Thanksgiving dinner.

 The next morning we woke up to this.  Not bad, huh?

 After a chilly run we had Omega Pancake house for breakfast.  French toaaaaaaast!

Blue was apparently inspired by the Thanksgiving race and asked to run on the beach each afternoon.  He ran a mile with me each day and did really well.

 We often skip shopping in favor of playing on the beach on Beach Friday.  This one was pretty chilly so we carefully drove by a parking lot and when we saw that people were not parked all up in the grass like usual, we decided to give it a try.  The kids hate shopping but they were so excited about seeing their favorite man with facial hair that night...Russell.  Russell's is our favorite seafood place and Russell makes his rounds while we eat and has a good time going on with the kids.  Either he was running late or we were too early but we missed him this time.  Blue left him a drawing and a note and he headed out to see the other facial hair guy.

Santa arrived at Market Common and lit the Christmas tree.  Blue was excited and Violet burst into tears.  She likes the idea of Santa, but the real guy, not so much.

 Blue knows you have to get your specific requests in as early as possible.  He had a little chat, smiled for a photo and then headed for the ice cream place.  

 Another great sunrise and another beautiful day.

 We needed to wait a few hours after breakfast for the beach to warm up so G made a lap around the mall while I watched the kids play on the bouncy things.

 They ran wild for almost an hour and wore themselves out.

 The Carolina Clemson game was on so we watched a bit of it at Hamburger Joe's.

And then we hit the beach.  The kids played in the sand for a while and then Blue and I ran a little.  

 Then we played a little more in the sand.

 And then we got in the ocean.  G opted to stay dry and warm, but the rest of us got in.  It was cold.  Very cold.  

 We had some hot showers to warm up and cruised around Broadway for a while doing some Christmas shopping.

 The kids got in a little trouble and had to be put in the stocks.

 The seagulls posed for us before we left.

 The answer to the question "how close can you get before he flies away"?  That close.

 I love the beach at night.  You cant see the stars or hear the waves but trust me, it was beautiful.  Magnificent.  It was church.

 We headed back home early to beat the traffic and caught the sun rising somewhere near Florence.

Back home that afternoon my Nike+ running app finally synced properly and gave me credit for all my miles.  Now a couple of busy weeks before Christmas break.