Farewell to Our Piper and Our Princess

I remember playing Star Wars with my friends after the movie came out. Princess Leia was one of my favorite female characters but I really thought Luke Skywalker was the stuff!

Later in high school I discovered musicals. I remember watching “The Music Man” and then wanting to see “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” to get an idea of the other musical Meredith Wilson had composed. I loved Debbie Reynolds in that musical.

Reynolds was an amazing actress and Girl Scout. She was Carrie’s leader and was even the GS spokesperson in the 60’s. Sad to hear of the pain they shared but a the bond these ladies shared is amazing. Here’s a little history of Girl Scouts behind the scenes from GSUSA.

Sad to say I don’t remember seeing the Piper display at the National Headquarters. Our own troop was there this summer and enjoyed our time there.

Girl Scout History Project

The sudden loss of both Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds this week reminded me of a moment when my teen troop visited the GSUSA museum in 2015. Staff showed them a display on the Piper Project.

“That’s Debbie Reynolds,” said the archivist, pointing to a photo. “Star of Singing in the Rain.”

Blank stares.

Portrait of Debbie Reynolds Debbie Reynolds in her Girl Scout uniform (notice she earned the Curved Bar!)

“Aggie, from Halloweentown,” I translated.

That they understood. The Disney Channel movies are beloved by young women of a certain age. Cheers ensued.

Girl Scouts of a slightly older vintage remember Debbie Reynolds as the face of the Piper Project. Launched at the national convention on October 25, 1966, this three-year program sought to improve retention levels among current Girl Scouts, in part by recruiting more adult volunteers. Reynolds was to shoot a color television spot and film a short movie as…

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Adventures in Huntsville–A 25th Anniversary

This year marks the 25th anniversary of my first Christmas on my own. This is a reblog, but I did add some things to the bottom to kind of wrap things up.

A few years ago, my niece Lisa has gotten her first apartment, and was talking about her first Christmas tree on Facebook. I posted this on her wall on Facebook, but I thought it might be fun to reminisce. This is a less watered down version of the story.

In 1991 I graduated from college. It took me 6 months to find a job. I had finally gotten a job down in Huntsville, AL and I was so excited! I was going to get out of my parents’ hair. I moved to a one bedroom apartment that had cockroaches as long as your pinkie.The apartment was affordable, and I guess I didn’t realize that the complex was somewhat sketchy–until I moved in. My parents helped me move in one big Alabama football weekend in October. That first night in my apartment, we went to heat up a can of soup, and started a grease fire on the stove. That was my first night in my apartment. Everyone who came and went from my complex had at least a 12 pack of beer. My dad suggested that he build a package store at the bottom of the hill, and that he’d make a lot of money  doing that.

I would have probably added a tobacco shop…Everyone around me smoked, so my tiny apartment always smelled like smoke because of the HVAC system. I had officially moved to Alabama. The girl who lived next to me spent lots of evenings playing quarters and having loud parties. I could hear the clinking of the glasses through the paper-thin walls.  Not long after I moved in, she introduced me to the neighbor “This here is Charlie-Monster, cause his name was Charlie and he had a gun! If you ever need anything to call on Charlie Monster and he’d take care of it.”

My job entailed a lot of weekend events. It wasn’t long before we started working like a team and spent most weekends out at camp. My co-workers were pretty fun to be around, and it didn’t take too long to fit in… Well, once I decided to relax a little bit. I may or may not have been a little bit on edge that first couple of months.

December came quickly and I was going to be able to take a few days off to go home, so I decided not to have a tree, as I wouldn’t be home anyway. However, my friend Kaye had other plans. Kaye and I had become friends, and was my partner in crime–she was, perhaps, my first grown up friend, and she had recently gotten divorced. We kind of needed each other at the time…Anyway, we were driving through the sticks in Northern Alabama, when she asked,

“Hey, do you have a tree?”

“Nah,” I said, “I’m not going to be there during Christmas.”

“Everybody has to have a tree at Christmas. Let’s stop and get one.”

Just about the time I was wondering where we were going to get one in the middle of no-where, we stopped on the side of the road.

“Here’s a good place.” I was pretty shocked. I’d never stolen anything except silverware from O’Charley’s.

“Um, isn’t this stealing? What if we get caught trespassing on someone’s property!” S “Shut up, we’re getting you a tree.” She insisted.

Before I could ask how we were going to chop it down she pulls a machete out from under her front seat! Real quick-like she went a few steps into the woods and said, “Here’s a good one.” It was a cedar tree.

“But, Kaye….” I decided I’d better shut up, since she had a machete. She chopped it down and threw the tree in her trunk in less than 5 minutes and we were on our way again.

We got a stand and I put it in my sketchy apartment. At Thanksgiving I had gotten my the ornaments I’d collected over the years. It ended up being pretty and made me feel a little more like I was at home. Luckily, I had signed a 6 month lease, so I was able to find a roommate and move to a much nicer place by the next summer.

Living in Huntsville on my own was a great experience for this small town girl from rural West Tennessee. I learned a lot about being an adult, and as I have gotten older I realize how young and dumb I was! I am glad for people like my friends Chad and Carol, Kaye, and my other co-workers (Gaye and Pat in particular) who took this young arrogant girl under her wings and taught her how to have a job.


Community Servant, Mentor, Friend

We met the first year the Discovery Center was open. Candy Clifford was a ball of enthusiasm and energy and we became community partners. Candy was the  Community Outreach Coordinator at Murfreesboro City Schools, and I was the Public Programs Coordinator at Discovery Center. We had just started working on our Seuss Celebration,  where we were fostering a partnership with MCS. The Discovery Center had only been open a few months and we were still killing ourselves trying to put programs and events together to get people in the doors. Seuss Celebration was just the beginning of our time together.

A few months later Candy called me to propose another wonderful opportunity– the Just Me and My Dad event. We met at Subway for lunch to hear the whole plan and Wow! I had never thought of such a project. I knew it was going to be a huge undertaking, but she and a co-worker had just proposed a terrific idea! Just Me and My Dad was going to get the entire community involved–the Police, Fire Department, and Shacklett’s Photography would take complimentary photos, and the entire city would be invited! They had just created a huge vision, and taught me a wonderful lesson in community building. It was a great event, and again, just the beginning of our relationship  with MCS and Candy Clifford.

Candy has a way with people, and is great at building relationships with community partners. She taught me a lot about how to help people and serve the community. In fact, Candy was a wonderful example of serving others in the community!  I always loved working with Candy because I knew things would fall into place and I could always count on her. She has a very contagious enthusiasm and a real passion for working with people in the community. It was her enthusiasm that made me realize that I loved our community, too!

We worked together to plan many special events through the years,  and then I crossed over to work with Murfreesboro City Schools. A few months after I had been there, I attended a conference where I had gone to a professionalism workshop. The presenter recommended that everyone should have a professional mentor, a spiritual mentor, and a good friend to tell you what you’re doing wrong.  When I returned from this conference, I asked Candy if she would mind being my professional mentor. Candy gave me  lots of advice and suggestions over those years. We talked many times when I was down or just needing someone to talk to. I knew I could always count on her to be confidential and offer sound advice.

I have valued our friendship through the years, and love attending the annual “girlfriend luncheon” she hosts each year. The girlfriend luncheon is comprised of community partners and co-workers who have become good friends through the years.  It is a wonderful  time to get together and talk–something we don’t get to do during work.  The luncheon ends with a Dirty Santa ornament exchange–I have wonderful memories of the people as I put my ornaments on our tree each year.

2016 has been a very difficult year for my friend. Her husband passed away, she retired from her job, sold her house and moved to be closer to her family. I have to admit, it’s been a little difficult on me, too. I miss our conversations, the uplifting encouragement, and her thoughtfulness. Luckily, we have Facebook to keep us connected.

I was very fortunate to find a gem like Candy. Our relationship evolved through the years from co-worker, to mentor, to friend. Although I miss her, I know that it’s time for her to share her passion with others. We wish you all the best as you start 2017 in your new community!

Ways to find your true calling in Life

If only it were this easy…and, maybe it is… for everyone else.  I don’t know why this is so hard for me. These are not my words, but I found them to be helpful–and I actually realized I knew this already, but they were a good reminder.

Five things to help you find your true calling.

1. It is not rational.

Don’t think about it too much. The more you think, the more you will fall into the trap of what is considered right for you (which is not what you are looking for).

Your dream doesn’t have to be something that society approves of. Often the real dreams are the ones considered “crazy, impossible ideas.” Impossible until you prove them wrong. That’s the fun part. Show people what you’re capable of!

But first things first: you have to believe in your dream with everything you have. No matter how crazy it might seem, just believe in it. Scientific studies have demonstrated that our brain is highly influenced by our attitude and positive thinking. Athletes, businessmen and successful people in general, use these techniques to “trick” their minds into success.

Believe that you will succeed and you’re half way there. I still remember when I started believing that I could really quit my job and travel the world—a fire started burning inside me and no one could stop me.

Imagine the same happening to you because anything is possible! Unless you’re a 100-year-old man and you want to become an astronaut, then (maybe) Houston, we have a problem! Otherwise, dare to dream big.

2. Discover your passions.

Everyone has passions and I bet you are no exception. It could be anything, from sports to video games, traveling to amazing destinations or even petting cats all day. The list goes on and on.

Passions are crucial factors to finding out your true calling. You might have many passions but there will always be one or two that win over the others.

All you have to do is to keep pursuing your passions.

The keyword here is fun. Don’t push yourself, take your time and the answers will come, often when they’re least expected.

3. The “no comparison” rule.

If there is only one piece of advice I could give, this is it.

Do not compare, under any circumstances, your life to other people’s lives. When you still don’t know what your path is, you might be tempted to copy whoever is (in your eyes) successful.

You are unique, with your emotions, struggles and everything that comes along with them. Comparing yourself to other people can lead you to think that you are not good enough. When you find out what you are really good at, none of this matters anymore.

I felt like a failure while I was working in the fashion industry, because it simply wasn’t something that I was passionate about. If you feel like I did, there is probably nothing wrong with you because you can’t be good at everything.

Find your strengths and forget about what other people are doing. You are good enough, you just need to find what makes you special, gives a new purpose to your life and never give up.

Einstein was considered mentally retarded by his teachers during his early years at school. Steve Jobs was fired from the company he had created and J.K. Rowling’s first book was rejected 30 times before she got a chance to publish it. What would have happened if they had given up, thinking that they were not good enough?

They are no different from us, they simply found their own path, stood up after each failure and tried again.

4. Find your own voice.

Don’t do something just because a friend suggested it: find your voice.

While others might seem to have their lives under control, don’t be fooled even if you feel like you are left “behind” because you still have to figure out what you want. You don’t know what they are experiencing. You are not them.
“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” ~ Oscar Wilde

5. When you know, you know.

Finding your calling is similar to falling in love. When it happens, everything brightens up.

You will feel more alive than ever and you will start thinking about a plan to bring your dream into reality. Suddenly, the idea that looked crazy for years now looks very achievable. You will start to think in very creative ways and you’ll be as excited as a kid in a toy store before Christmas.

You’ll find solutions that you never thought were possible.

Clelia Mattana From Elephant

Wind & Fire: Stirring Up Memories in Gatlinburg

A friend’s photo of the mountains. the orange glow looks pretty, but it’s actually the fires in the mountains.


For weeks we in Middle Tennessee have seen and smelled the smoky air of the fires that have now ravaged the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We were told to watch our children with asthma as they play outside because of the air quality. Firefighters have been fighting these fires all month. Most areas in Tennessee have had very little rain for the last 3 months. The reality of a drought this fall really hit us hard.

By now you have seen the photos of Tennessee’s most beloved tourist destination. The pictures are disheartening, depressing, and devastating. Every time I see the smoldering ashes of what used to be beautiful mountains, old stores, and winding trails it just makes me cry. I have loved going to these mountains! You can pretty much do anything you want to do in these mountains. You can get away, ski, ice skate, shop, eat, and hike. I still remember the first time I saw Gatlinburg– it wasn’t quite what I thought it was going to be. The city of Gatlinburg is both a step back in time  built in the style of the old time tourist trap– and shopping and new cool stuff of the new millennium in the same place. I loved seeing all the old stuff–hillbilly mountain stereotype souvenirs, the airbrushed t-shirt artists everywhere, artisan mountain crafts, funnel cake shops, carnival food, and those weird carnival sideshows. If shopping isn’t your thing there’s also things to see like Ripley’s Aquarium, Cades Cove and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. There’s so much beautiful nature to visit.

Most Tennesseeans will agree that Gatlinburg is a very special place that holds special memories for them. My first trip to Gatlinburg was in 9th grade on a Girl Scout Wider Opportunity council trip. We had a wonderful time visiting Cades Cove and seeing downtown Gatlinburg. In high school we went to an annual youth conference during Christmas break. (Long before climate change was a thing, I remember one year it was so warm we wore shorts!) We had some fun times in high school.

In college, while dealing with a bad breakup my friend Paige asked me to visit her family in Oak Ridge. It was my birthday weekend, and we went up to the mountains to hike. We found Ramsey Falls and we went rock hopping and found trails to hike. It was great therapy!

Right after I graduated from college, my camp buddies Kristen and Kjerstine and I spent several days hiking in the mountains, wading is streams, and shopping. (I actually left a pair of Nike hiking boots in a Pigeon Forge hotel on that trip…I am still sad about those boots!) A couple of years later Brad and I spent a few days of our honeymoon there. We also spent a perfect Valentine’s weekend that ended in the most beautiful snow flurries.

Not long after we got married, we planned for our youth group to visit. We found this new inexpensive place in Pigeon Forge. A couple owned the “hotel” and there were all kinds of crazy rules.  Miss Betty, the owner, met us in a moomoo and they left the beds wrapped in plastic. The walls were so thin we thought the kids were going bust a hole through them! We named it Aunt Betty’s. It was hilarious!

When the girls were in school we rented a mountain cabin with friends and enjoyed a relaxing week in the mountains. Later our kids had youth retreats there and visited Dollywood on weekend band trips. One of the last fun trips I took was with my childhood friends Laura and Michelle from Girl Scout camp. We had a blast shopping and walking downtown . So much had changed since our first trip in the mid-80s.

As the smoke clears, they are seeing the damage. I have friends who live up there, and they’re going to be dealing with the rebuilding. My high school friend Dan is the pastor at a Baptist Church in Sevierville. My teacher friend Juli (one of my former campers) first alerted FB friends about the fires. My church friend Heather works on the team at Camp Tremont, a camp that focuses on environmental ed. Luckily, the camp is on the other side of park, and it’s pretty far from the main damage. Finally, my new music friend Martha, who touched us with her music at our last youth retreat. Martha’s dad is the mayor of Gatlinburg. Martha recently moved with her family to Kentucky. She is  concerned about her family and friends who live in the affected areas.

We hear of the fires out west that happen every year, but this one hit very close to home.  The governor has come to visit the damage, and they are saying that 15,000 acres have burned. Please consider saying a prayer for the people in East Tennessee. So many of us have wonderful memories of a magical place.

There is some good news, though. First, the entire town didn’t burn down. There’s a lot of cool things left, and there will be a lot of cool things to come. Second, there’s a huge rainstorm heading their way, but lots of wind and lightning is coming with it. I am hoping the storms die down and it brings the much needed rain to the area. More good news–Dolly Parton, who built Dollywood to give back to her community, has agreed to  donate $1,000 a month for a year from the Dollywood Foundation .  How cool is that?




Two Ears, One Mouth & a Big Heart: Some Election Follow-Up for Everyone

I particularly like #5, and his point that we have 2 ears but only 1 mouth. You should listen twice as much as you speak.


At the risk of further upsetting an already-rickety apple cart, there are a few groups of people I wanted to talk to in light of the election of Donald Trump. I think it can be just as harmful for …

Source: Two Ears, One Mouth & a Big Heart: Some Election Follow-Up for Everyone