Vinyl Revival

record bowls

The media says that vinyl records are making a comeback. New bands are starting to produce their music on vinyl and record stores are emerging, once again, all over the country.

This month, a new record exchange, or used LP record store, opened near us.  Jupiter Records is a really cool place, and on opening day, I expected to see my stereotype of a record store crowd. My expectations were only partly met, however, as I took in the handful of hipsters, a few facial piercings, and a cool young guy with mutton chops working the register.  Among the wall-to-wall crowd of about a hundred, though, the majority was made up of middle aged men, sporting short hair, beer bellies, eyeglasses, and collared polo shirts. Soon, my sons and I lost track of my husband in the crowd and my 23 year old joked, “Its really hard to find dad in here. Everyone looks exactly like him!”

I chuckled and remembered what this group would have looked like 25 years ago, envisioning a sea of rock and roll t-shirts and long hair.  I wondered to myself if this is the crowd that is leading the so-called vinyl revival.

But if my husband’s crowd is, in fact, bringing back the vinyl that they loved so much, what other revivals from their youth might they spur as well?   The last things I want to see are the revival of the flannel shirt, the bandanna, the Disco Sucks shirt, or the mullet.

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This week, I was a seller at the Clearview High Band Parents Craft Show, a big and bustling craft event where I was excited to share, and hopefully sell, my upcycled housewares and vinyl LP bowls to the holiday shoppers.

My LP bowls, melted and reshaped from actual LP records, are usually a big hit among those males in the 40-something to 50-something set, the same guys from the record exchange.  Most of these fellows, after all, still have 300 or 400 albums carefully stashed in their attic crawlspaces.  Some still play their LPs, but many don’t, but they sure as heck aren’t parting with them anytime soon.  In vinyl’s heyday, these men worshiped their record collections, studying liner notes and sleeve art, and spending hour upon hour listening, via really giant headphones, to the stereo separation on tracks by the Cars and Pink Floyd.

But with this demographic, I have to offer a disclaimer immediately, as soon as they approach my craft booth.

“Don’t worry, I only melt an album that was scratched or damaged. I would never ruin good vinyl,” I tell them, truthfully, as they approach.

“Oh thank goodness,” most of the graying men reply, with visible relief. “When I saw what you had done to these records, I started to get upset.” Then they look through my stock and typically pick some Kansas or Yes bowl to purchase.

At today’s craft show, though, my first customer was a teenage girl, around 15 years old.

Usually teens approach my wares with a look of puzzlement. Often, they lead by asking, “Are these those taco bowl makers from TV?” And then I offer a mini-tutorial on records and record players, and the teen politely excuses him or herself and walks away, clearly bored.

But this young woman did not look puzzled.

Instead, she was studying my vinyl LP record bowls with a furrowed brow and as she ran her hand across the bowls, her face was stricken with concern and disapproval. This was a look I had seen many times before, only on the faces of folks a bit older.

“Don’t worry, I only melt an album that was scratched or damaged. I would never ruin good vinyl.”

“Oh thank goodness,” she said. “When I saw what you had done to these records, I started to get upset.” And then she added, “I really love vinyl!

She really loves vinyl?!

And it turn out that she is not the only one.

All day, teens were frequent visitors at my booth, browsing, asking questions, and buying.  These teens had a lot to say about vinyl and they excitedly told me about their turn tables and what they liked to listen to and about raiding their dad’s 300 to 400 albums from the attic crawlspace.  And in return, I told them about record exchanges and showed them cool LP features like the etching on the flip side of Paradise Theater.

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So the vinyl revival is really happening.

And to my relief, it appears that it is NOT being led by middle-aged men.

So please encourage the teens in your life to embrace this vinyl resurgence.

Because I was there when Joe used to dress a bit too much like Garth from Wayne’s World and I am hoping to never see that again.

garth

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Recycling, Upcycling, and Raising Strong, Confident Girls!

Any reason why are you defacing that book?” Jake asked me, eyebrows raised.  “You are a librarians worst nightmare,” he said, shaking his head.

I was methodically cutting 10 pages at a time, using a homemade stencil.  Scraps from the book, my own copy of Stephanie Meyer’s mega hit Twilight, were strewn about at my feet as I sat cutting.

I was making a paperback pumpkin, my upcycled craft for the Fall.  This book was becoming a cool and funky autumn decoration, but as an advocate for literacy and books in general, I knew that Jake’s accusation would require a rebuttal.

Normally, my policy with upcycled crafting is that I only disassemble items that are beyond use.  I take items worn and torn and ready for the trash and I try my best to breathe a bit more life into them.  My best finds at the thrift shop include children’s book, spoiled by the loving hands of toddlers armed with crayons or juice, and road maps, scrawled on with a felt tip pen by an enthusiastic traveler who excitedly circled his destinations.

As an upcycling crafter, I take these paper items, which are beyond use, and cut them up and make them into something new and maybe even better!

But what about the upcycling of Twilight?

Admittedly, this book could have been read again.  Nothing was spilled on it and it didn’t have a single mark from Dorito-tainted fingers.

So why upcycle a perfectly good book when I usually only upcycle items that are damaged beyond repair?   It seems that Jake’s admonishment might have some merit.

But, alas, I have a defense!

In advance, I will apologize to all of you Twilighters or Twihards or Twi-Moms out there. I get that you all love this book series, but I have to respectfully disagree.

Of course, Twilight was a fun read. But I have concern over the message that Bella and Edward were sending to young readers, especially young women. The female lead, Bella, is a  displace teenager who leans toward sullen and cynical quietude. And while I support a teen’s (or an adult’s, for that matter) right to be brooding and cynical, Bella takes it to a place that is whiny and helpless and wallowing and very dependent on a man.  Bella seems to lean on Edward the way a child leans on a parent and Edward not only encourages it, he seems to demand it.

This book, when it first came out, was a giant hit among the 15 and 16 year-old-set, the exact age group of my child at that time. And I got to hear the breathy and goose-bumpy responses of many young women, who were infatuated with the book, and with Edward and Jacob.  And to my chagrin, these young women were very comfortable with Bella’s dependence on Edward and her insecurity.  Somehow, they equated these characteristics with love.

The book’s sequel, New Moon, added to my concern when Bella, brokenhearted by her separation from Edward, remembers how he always came to her aid when she was in danger. So in a desperate attempt to either force his hand or to jolt her memory, she risks her own life and jumps from a cliff.

This is where the 15 year old girls all sighed with thoughts of true love.

So what to do??

First, I considered forcing these girls on a road trip to the Alice Paul House, a local landmark that was the home of a strong-willed suffragist who busted her corseted butt (I mean waist), to give me and my gal pals the right to vote.

Then I contemplated a group reading of the writing of my bad-grlll idol, Gloria Steinem, who infiltrated the Playboy club and let us know that objectification is not okay!

Then maybe we could follow all this up by a DVD viewing of the Battle of the Sexes, the triumphant tennis match between Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs!

But instead of inundating these girls with the heroes of the fight for women’s rights , I took a simpler approach and talked openly and honestly with them.  I encouraged them to be independent and strong. I told them that while many of us will choose to enter a partnership with a man, it should be just that; a partnership.  No man, whether human or vampire or werewolf, should ever completely define us or render us incapable without him.

So those young women listened to my literary criticism and my life advice and hopefully some of it sank in.

But a few weeks ago, with my scissors and my stencil, I got to truly express my feelings about this book and its influence on our youth.  I got to put Twilight in the same category as an old map that is no longer accurate and that is stained with coffee.

So I cut it up and made it into something better.

book pumpkin

Hooray upcycling!

Next project….the deconstruction and upcycling of New Moon!!

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Big, Black and Not-So-Bad!

Happy Belated National Black Dog Day.

RoofTop Chalie reminded us today that October 1st was National Black Dog Day! Given how people sometime respond to big black dogs, Chalie wanted to make sure we knew that his kind have a special day to encourage people to be open minded.

Black Dog Syndrome is the name for the phenomenon that occurs in some animal shelters, where prospective dog adopters pass over black dogs in favor of lighter colored breeds.

According to the theory, a black dog is more likely to be viewed as potentially violent, regardless of breed.

Appearance is clearly very powerful and can affect how people interpret the disposition of prospective pets.  For some folks, unfortunately, when they see a big black dog, images come to mind of a junkyard attack dog….a dog with a name like Killer.

I had never heard of black dog syndrome until we adopted RoofTop Chalie, a big black greyhound dog.

If you have known any greyhounds firsthand, you are probably surprised that Black Dog Syndrome applies to them too.  Even among this quiet breed, black greyhounds are adopted at a significantly lower and slower rates than their lighter or brindle colored track mates.

Seeing a group of greyhound dogs who have come directly from their racetrack home to be adopted is an interesting experience.  These dogs lived their entire lives at a racetrack and before being presented for inspection to potential adopters, these pups have experienced a whirlwind few days. They have been plucked from a life of rigid routine and have traveled, sometimes for hundreds or even a thousand miles, in the company of strangers. Everything is different and their sense of routine is uprooted.

Other breeds of dog who have had such a shake-up might exhibit nervous behavior and you’d expect to see barking, scratching, howling, whimpering, chewing or even growling from those anxious and displaced doggies.

But greyhounds are not like other breeds.  Greyhounds expect a strict schedule and they cope with dignity by actually clinging to that routine.

So the first time we saw RoofTop Chalie, he was standing in a fenced-in field, with about fifteen other greyhounds and standing around.  There was no playing or running, or barking or sniffing or eating grass…..or anything.  These doggies didn’t look at all like a group of potentially loving and interactive house pets.  They were just standing there, averting their eyes.  Have you ever witnessed fifteen dogs in a fenced-in area who just stood there?  From a distance, this resembled a horse farm, except that horses would have been much more animated.  That afternoon, to me, that group of dogs looked more like a gathering of shell shocked refugees or like a group that had recently been returned from alien abduction than like a group of eager doggies ready for adoption.

But given their strict daily routine, standing around quietly and calmly actually makes sense.  Because on a daily basis, these dogs only had a few activities on their agenda.  So when they were put out into that field that day, they searched their activity agenda for what to do.

Hmm, is this running time?

Nope, is it eating time?

Err, is it potty time maybe?

Or sleeping time?

And when the answer to all of these items was a definitive no, standing around was the only logical choice.

Of course, after a few weeks or months in a loving and patient family home, these quiet and stoic and statuesque dogs all become loving and LOVED pets. They are sweet and playful and can become ideal companions.  They just need to be taught a new routine.

So given their disposition, how can anyone make an assumption and  lump these guys in with the big black dog syndrome dogs?

And for that matter, how can anyone lump ANY dog into this category?   Big and black or small and brown, get to know your dog before you decide.  Don’t judge a dog by his fur.

Here’s a few images to help you understand……

Scary black dog?

chalie in bed

Err…….Dangerous Black Dog????

chalie pup

Aggressive Black Dog?

chalie pup1

Destructive Black Dog?

chaliepup8

Come on people- get out there and adopt a big black dog!   Making choices based only on appearance is small-minded and you may be missing out on the sweetest family pup!  Get to know your potential pets and don’t let size or color dictate your choice!!

chaliepup5

Happy National Black Dog Day from RoofTop Chalie and me!!!

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If you enjoy RoofTop’s Blog, please consider “following” RoofTop by email.  Simply add your email address in the box at the top right of this page and click the “follow” button.  You will be notified by email whenever Lisa has a new post.  RoofTop also LOVES comments, so share what you think!

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Time + Effort = Ancient Chinese Secret

Need a fix for attaining your every goal?

Well like the old laundry detergent ads said, “Its an ancient Chinese secret.”

Its kung fu– but don’t worry; I am NOT advocating for nunchuck training or even for martial art lessons.

I am referring to the literal translation of the words kung fu.

Of course, when we say the words kung fu, visions of Bruce Lee kicking groins and punching throats do come to mind.  Or maybe you picture young students trying to snatch pebbles from the old, but quick, hands of wise teachers with giant Fu Manchu mustaches.

But quite simply, the words kung fu, or gongfu, are actually translated to time and effort.

Time and effort…..two things that certainly lead to success.. Wanna improve at something?  Apply gongfu!   Gongfu will make you an expert in mechanical engineering, cooking, or in mathematics, or in crocheting, or in candle making, or even in martial arts!  Because time plus effort equals results, in whatever you want to do!

But somehow, in America, we have been taught a different formula.  We have been taught that there can be a way around the hard work and time and patience.  Maybe its all this reality television that has skewed our perspective.  Maybe watching someone win a million dollars by eating bugs or by living naked in the jungle has increased out tendencies to cut corners. Some of us look for easy ways to accomplish things, without the gongfu.

When we want to lose weight and get healthier, we are quick to buy up gadgets and powders and pills from infomercials, all with the promise of results with no gongfu.  When we need money, we invest our limited money into playing the lottery. Again, no gongfu needed.

David Carradine , the star of the 1970s hit series Kung Fu, would be very disappointed in all of us.

Somehow, our society has trained us that miraculously, success and excellence can be achieved by hoping, wishing, or by just pure dumb luck.

But how can we expect to raise smart and successful children in this society of ours if we continuously model behavior that seeks immediate gratification and puts forth no effort?

The question of working (or not) for your accomplishments and accolades is discussed in many popular works of literature and film.  My favorite quote on the importance of doing the actual hard work comes from Jurassic Park’s Dr. Ian Malcom, played by uber-cool Jeff Goldblum.  Describing the accomplishments of the dinosaur park, he sums it up with: “I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here, it didn’t require any discipline to attain it…….You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it….”

Now of course, most folks looking to cut corners, like those seeking easy get-rich-quick schemes or those wanting to change careers without any sacrifice or hard work, are probably not genetically engineering extinct dinosaurs in their basements.

David Carradine would be relieved over that, at least!

Cause while we all need to apply a bit more gongfu to our goals, at least our impatience and laziness won’t rise up and eat us once it gets dark out!

So my challenge to you all and to myself this week, when we are all seeking to improve ourselves, whether it is in the arenas of health and wellness or career aspirations or simply a hobby we’d like to improve at, let’s all employ a little bit of gong fu.

Can we do that, Grasshopper?

And if you decide to apply literal gongfu to training in kung fu, well that might just help with fending off the dinosaurs.

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Hollywood Fun Fact:  Rumors tell us that Bruce Lee actually came up with the idea for the television series Kung Fu, about a Chinese martial artist traveling the Wild West, but that Warner Bros stole the idea from under his nose.  And then instead of casting an Asian or Asian-American actor in the lead, they cast a white man, David Carradine, to play the Chinese hero.  Back then, Asians were rarely seen in lead roles in American film or television.

Ultimately, though, both David Carradine and Bruce Lee went on to very successful careers in film and television.

Must have been dumb luck.

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Silhouette illustration of two figures doing martial art stance

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If you enjoy RoofTop’s Blog, please consider “following” RoofTop by email.  Simply add your email address in the box at the top right of this page and click the “follow” button.  You will be notified by email whenever Lisa has a new post.  RoofTop also LOVES comments, so share what you think!

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What’s in a Name?

name tag

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as  sweet.”                                                                              -Juliet Capulet

In Romeo and Juliet, the young lovers were eager to redefine the expectations placed upon them by a society bent on division, in spite of their well-known surnames.  They were determined that their family names should not dictate to them or to their choices!

But what’s in a name, really? Can a name shape you? define you? change you?

A few days after my own wedding, way back in the 1990s, one of my sister split with her husband.  One week later, my two sisters and I joked over cocktails that we were all unified, once again, under our maiden name.  But that would all change if and when I got around to legally changing my name to my husband’s.

But I had given the question of changing my name a lot of thought. I liked being a Dunne. And I asked myself why societal norms should dictate who takes whose name?  Why should I have to change a part of my identity, just because I married?  Whey should I support a gender stereotype that originated back when marriage was more about the transfer of goods than about love and partnership?  Maybe my husband should take my name, eh?  eh?

So all pumped up on Gloria Steinem essays, I decided, defiantly, to remain a Dunne.

But as my family grew, I found that, in my small town, my proud Dunne name caused confusion.  My son’s preschool and early elementary teachers assumed automatically that Joe and I were divorced. No one ever assumed that I was his live-in (but awesome) girlfriend or that we were unmarried parents, which is common these days.  Instead, they always assumed divorce and separate households, again and again.

And even more annoying, the single moms in town assumed that Joe was available.  At little kid parties at the Chuckie Cheese or the Discovery Zone, I watched the small town rumors unfold and young women who didn’t know our family flirted with my husband, in spite of my presence nearby.

So after a few years of parenting as a Dunne, I started hyperventilating……I mean hyphenating.

I became Dunne-Jackson, not because I lost my feminist passion for holding on to my birth name and my strong grrrrl values, but because I was just plain tired of explaining.

Legally, I am still a Dunne. But nowadays, in the community, I am also Jackson, or Dunne-Jackson, all depending on who is addressing me.

So names do carry influence, even when you think they shouldn’t.

A few weeks ago, my book club read a novel about a gutsy young woman who went on a solo back packing and soul searching adventure for four months.  In the autobiographical tale, Wild, author Cheryl Stayed was facing a crisis of self.  Having lost her mother through no fault of her own, and having lost a marriage through quite a lot of fault on her part, she hoped that this trip would help her find herself.

What I found most amazing about Cheryl Strayed’s story is the origin of her surname.  When her divorce papers asked her to select her post-divorce name, Cheryl wondered at first if she should return to to her maiden name or hold on to her married name.  But after some research revealed a hole in her state law, Cheryl saw a name change as a potential game changer for her.

So instead of choosing between the two names in her personal history, she started afresh and selected something new.  Acknowledging that she’d made some hefty mistakes, Cheryl chose the surname Strayed. She felt that it was a fitting, given her life’s course so far.

But, instead of seeing her new name as proof of unchangeable destiny, she used her new name to become self-sufficient, braver, and to ultimately become more rooted in herself.

Names do have power.

So embrace your name. Let it root you and make you strong. If you are a woman marrying, don’t feel obliged to take your husband’s name. While only ten percent of American women keep their maiden name after marriage, it is your name and identity to choose. Choose what works for you.

For me, my own name(s) have given me a great sense of self, family, and community.  As a Dunne, I am connected to my Irish heritage and to my wacky and wonderful Dunne cousins.  I am the Dunne woman who was once a Dunne girl from Oak Valley, a girl with Dunne siblings.

As Lisa Dunne-Jackson, or Mrs. Jackson to the neighborhood kids, I am connected too.  I am part of the giant, loyal, kind and funny Jackson family and I am part of a warm and engaged vibrant community.

And to those of you who still buy into marriage name stereotypes, it should be clearer to you now that Lisa Jackson’s husband is not up for grabs!  Take note of that neighborhood ladies! (He may be older now- but just the same, back off! Otherwise the Dunne in me might come out, and that’s the scrappy side!)

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If you enjoy RoofTop’s Blog, please consider “following” RoofTop by email.  Simply add your email address in the box at the top right of this page and click the “follow” button.  You will be notified by email whenever Lisa has a new post.  RoofTop also LOVES comments, so share what you think!

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Men, Beer, and Yard Sale Shopping!

This post was first published in January 2013.  With excitement over the season of yard sales and backyard socializing, I wanted to reshare. 

At first I thought it was a simple potting bench. But then the female yard saler pointed out that the narrow wooden table also came with two wooden benches. “It’s a picnic table,” she said. “We bought it from Germany when we were first married. My husband is from Germany. But you could definitely use it as a potting bench. Five dollars.”

The unusual table had promise, but exposure to the elements had taken its toll. The wood was splitting, the paint was cracked and bubbling, and the metal folding legs were badly rusted. But a potting bench doesn’t have to be pretty, so I paid the price as the woman called her husband to help me lift.

The husband sighed as he lifted the table and perhaps I was imagining it, but he actually looked sad. As he was loading the benches into my minivan, he lowered his head to my ear and said in a hushed tone, “Do you have a husband?”

Now I am not the type of woman that typically attracts the flirtations of young, muscular, foreign, (did I say muscular?) men.  So I looked back at the woman’s husband curiously and told him yes, wondering what the heck he was going to say next.

He leaned in even closer, so I now felt his breath on my ear, and he whispered, “This is not a potting bench. Tell this to your husband.  This is a Bavarian beer table.  Tell your husband.” And without another word, he quickly walked away.

My exchange with the German was certainly unusual, and I left the yard sale a bit befuddled.

But it turns out that men really do know men.  Because when I did tell my husband, Joe, that I had purchased yet another piece of aged furniture that was battered and worn and would require a great deal of labor to restore, I expected his usual disapproval. But when I included the words “Bavarian beer table,” I was met instead with widening eyes and enthusiasm.

So my husband, who usually moans and groans his opposition to my projects, was transformed into a restoration work horse: sanding staining, and painting like the project had to be finished that very day!

In the end, the final product was a very nice beer table, and not the potting bench that I needed. The German had gotten his way.

So what is is about beer gardens and grown men? I think back and wonder what went through my husband’s head when he decided that this project of mine was worthy of his help, when so many others were not. Did he imagine that the refinished beer table would bring the unique Oom-pah sounds of accordion and tuba to our suburban back yard? Did he envision young women dressed for Oktoberfest doling out overflowing steins of a good German ale on a hot summer day right here in NJ?

I also wonder how that sad German husband parted with his cherished Bavarian beer table. Did giving it up mean saying goodbye (or adieu) to some part of his past or with his youth, even?

Perhaps one of these weekends, we should invite him over here for a beer!

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After all that work, here’s the refinished beer table…..in real life.

The finished beer table in our backyard in real life.

And here’s that same table…..in Joe’s imagination.

The refinished beer table in Joe's imagination!

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If you enjoy RoofTop’s Blog, please consider “following” RoofTop by email.  Simply add your email address in the box at the top right of this page and click the “follow” button.  You will be notified by email whenever Lisa has a new post.  RoofTop also LOVES comments, so share what you think!

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The Haves and Have Nots

homelesscropped

“Hello and good day,” the homeless man said to me as I neared.

He was seated on a wooden rail near my parked car and he was leaning back, taking in the sunshine.

“Hello,” I responded back automatically.  “How are you today?”

Immediately, I regretted my choice of words.  This man was homeless and living in a shelter.  Asking “How are you today?,” in my upbeat, energetic style as I sipped from a disposable $2 bottle of water seemed like the wrong way to go.

How was he?   Errrr…….homeless, that’s how.

This past weekend, Jake and a group of high school youth from People to People Student Ambassadors were scheduled to volunteer at the Atlantic City Rescue Mission, working in the kitchen and in the warehouse of this amazing charity.

I was excited that Jake was having this opportunity, since this volunteer assignment involved working right at the shelter, with clients present.  Young people do not often have the opportunity to actually see the recipients of their volunteer work.  In fact, most volunteer experiences for youth keep them safely and comfortably removed from the problem that they are hoping to fix.  We often engage our children in fund raising and supply drives and while these undertakings are essential to the charities receiving the money or food or clothing that we gather, they also keep our children at a very wide berth from the people they are helping.

But at the shelter, the recipients of Jake’s efforts were present, indeed.  There were homeless clients in the parking lot, on the sidewalks, in the courtyards, and inside the building in the hallways and bathrooms.   Atlantic City has a serious homelessness problem, and many, many folk in need were taking advantage of the outstanding services available to them.

When we encourage our children to volunteer, most parents hope that we will instill a commitment to service and altruism in them that will last.  But we know that there are other lessons that get thrown in as well.

In our everyday life, it can be easy to forget to appreciate the things that we have.  If we are not careful, our life perspective can become focused on what is lacking in our lives, rather than what is abundant.  This is especially true at those times when life is stressful or feels unkind or unjust. During those times, the worry over the have and have nots can be hard to ignore.

But being in the presence of so many men and women who have so little and who are working hard to improve their lives was a serious lesson in perspective, the type of perspective that made my look down at my $2 water bottle and feel like an heiress.

“Hello and good day,” the homeless man said to me as I neared.

He was seated on a wooden rail near my parked car and he was leaning back, taking in the sunshine.

“Hello,” I responded back automatically.  “How are you today?”

The Rescue Mission’s client answered me without a shred of sarcasm.

“I am good and I am feeling very blessed so far today.  I have air in my lungs and the sun is shining.  I am feeling very blessed so far today.”

He smiled a big and genuine smile.  “And how are you?”

Perspective.

“I am feeling very blessed today too.”  As I said the words, I realized how true it was.

Looking back, I hope that the feeling stays with me long after our visit to the shelter fades into memory.

If not, I guess will just have to go back!

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The Atlantic City Rescue Mission serves 600 to 700 meals daily, and is open 365 days a year.  They serve the poor and homeless community and they can provide shelter to 320 people. They offer extensive services to their clients, including workshops to prepare them for the work world, counseling on life issues, parenting classes, and if needed, literacy classes and addiction counseling.

They strive to solve the homelessness crisis, not only by providing food and shelter, but also by addressing the underlying problems that contribute to homelessness in the first place and by sharing a faith based approach to life’s difficulties.

The Atlantic City Rescue Mission needs all kinds of help.  They need monetary donations and donations of many types of items.  And they also need donations of time, because there’s a lot of work involved in keeping an operation of this scale up and running.

See their website below  to learn how you or your group can help. http://www.acrescuemission.org/main

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Bee Calm and Carry On

sunflower-and-beeJoe is allergic to bees.  Not the scary, run for your epi-pen and clutch your throat type of allergic, thankfully, but he does get what doctors call an exaggerated localized reaction.

Joe’s first extreme reaction to a bee sting occurred when Jake was just a tot.  I was out when it happened and arriving home, I was greeted by little Jake, clutching a crayon masterpiece.

“I drew Daddy,” he said, so sweetly.

The drawing was a typical depiction of a humanoid, as drawn by any four year old artist, and it featured straight lines for the body and appendages and an lopsided circle for a head.  But Jake had added a twist  to the stick-figured daddy and this study in fatherhood had ears; one normal sized and one gianormous!  Stick-man dad’s right ear extended all the way from what would be his scalp to his chin on his big circle head.

I wondered at the drawing and then I saw real-life Joe.  That’s when I experienced two simultaneous emotions:

  • awe at Jake’s ability to draw proportions so accurately at such a young age
  • horror that Joe had chosen to treat his condition, not by seeking the advice of a medical professional……but with beer.

I argued for an immediate trip to the local E.R., but lost.  Beer, apparently, was doing the job just fine.

But I am not here to spread panic about the perils of bees or to point out my husband’s poor medical choices.

Instead, I want to talk about why bees are glorious and essential creatures.  Over 100 agricultural crops in the U.S. are pollinated by bees.  As those docile furry fellows are out foraging for nectar, they are also promoting the growth of countless flowers, fruits, and vegetables.

But over the past decade, the bee population in North America and Europe has begun to drop off dramatically. Between 2007 and 2008, the number of honey bee hives in America decreased by 35%.  And every year since, this trend has continued. In 2013, the number of hives decreased by close to 50%.  Colony Collapse Disorder, as the phenomenon is called, continues to befuddle entomologists and to frustrate farmers, who rely on bees to grow successful crops.  Use of pesticides is the suspected cause of this alarming trend, but scientists also blame loss of natural habitat and a reduction in the bees’ preferred wildflowers.

Cue the guerilla gardener.  Guerilla gardeners plant flowers or vegetables on land that is not their own, often covertly, but usually with the intention of beautifying an otherwise neglected or barren space and improving the environment.  One tool of the guerilla gardener is the seed bomb, a projectile made of compost, seeds, and a bit of potters clay or flour to hold it all together.  Simply throw a bunch of flower seed bombs over a chain link fence into an unattractive vacant lot and a few weeks later…..viola!…. a wildflower meadow emerges.  These illicit gardeners argue that that a field of brown-eyed susans and sunflowers beats dirt and concrete any day!

wildflowers

A field of wildflowers beats an unattractive, barren lot any time!

But aside from aesthetics, seed bombing also attracts honey bees!   Seed bomb an area and you are inviting the bees, and creating an environment that might even support a new hive.  Several companies now sell ready-made seed bombs, but who needs store-bought when there is homemade?!

So tonight, Jake and the kids from the Youth Group of Colonial Manor United Methodist had the assignment of making wildflower seed bombs, with big plans for beautifying the world and helping those bees in need!

The project turned out to be a lot smellier than expected, thanks to the compost, but after the kids got past the cringing and a little bit of gagging, those seed bombs turned out great.

You can find an easy recipe for wildflower seed bombs at the link below.   If you try it yourself, be sure to use wildflowers that are native to your area.  And make sure you work in an area with good (I mean really good) ventilation!

IMG_0158

Set your seed bombs in the sun to dry. Don’t worry, as they dry, the smell of the compost goes away!

But one word of warning – unless you want to face potential legal action while you are improving the world, it may be wise to ask permission  from the property owner before you launch those flower bombs.  Seed bombing has been the topic of legal discussion in a few larger cities and experts warn that in certain circumstances, seed bombing  could actually be interpreted as criminal trespass.

It is hard to imagine a land owner opposed to flowers, right?!  Somewhere out there, there might even be a land owner opposed to sunshine and rainbows and teddy bears too.  So just ask permission before you toss….or maybe before you hand out teddy bears!

I am excited to hear  where the kids shared their seed bombs.  And I am hoping to see my neighborhood brimming with wildflowers, maybe in the most unexpected places!

And in preparation for the influx of bees, Joe will need to prepare as well.

Time to stock up on beer!

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Here’s a great tutorial on seed bombs- there are many others online as well. Now get out there and support those bees!!!

http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Make-a-Seed-Bomb/

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If you enjoy RoofTop’s Blog, please consider “following” RoofTop by email.  Simply add your email address in the box at the top right of this page and click the “follow” button.  You will be notified by email whenever Lisa has a new post.  RoofTop also LOVES comments, so share what you think!

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Word to Your Mother

words-600x400

“Words are alive. Cut them and they bleed.”  — Ralph Waldo Emerson

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The spoken word has great power.  The right word spoken at the right time can set amazing things in motion.  But what about the wrong word?

Recently, I was at a high school sporting event and a young athlete, not playing his best and clearly frustrated, was receiving guidance from the sidelines.

Now of course, this young man’s mother meant well.  But perhaps, to his ear, she yelled her advise a bit louder than he would have preferred.  And perhaps her voice came in a bit louder and clearer, to him, than the voices of the other parents and coaches who were also chiming in that day.  And perhaps, at that moment, he was a bit of a raw nerve.

Turning toward the sidelines, he blurted out, “Shut the f*** up,” making eye contact with the woman who had carried him inside her small body for nine long months…..the same woman who had spent the last 16 years planning every minute of every day around him and his well-being.

But here is one thing you need to know–  This particular young man is NOT a street thug.  He is NOT a gang member or a drop-out, degenerate, or cad.  He is not a louse, scoundrel, rake, or a deadbeat.

In fact, this young man is pretty darn respectful most of the time.  He is an upstanding member of his high school…. just a regular kid……a nice kid.  And he comes from good stock.

So what the F*** happened?

Language is a powerful tool.  And our choice of words can shape large and small histories.  But many of us have a strange relationship with words.

On the one hand, we sometimes assign great weight and importance to certain words.

For example, if a husband blurts out “You are such a B*tch!” during an argument with his wife, we would all agree that one strategically placed word  makes for a strong, powerful statement.  That one word has the potential to bring hurt and resentment and leave destruction in its path.

But on the one hand, we often use otherwise powerful words in the most casual way.

“Can you please make your f***ing move?” a woman might say to her spouse, playfully, with raised eyebrows, and in front of a group of friends during board game night.  After all, he always takes way too long on his turn, whether it is Scrabble or the Settlers of Catan!

“Holy Sh*t! I’m Irish!” you might announce on Facebook when Ancestry.com helps you discover that your people hailed from Dublin.

“Mother F***er!,” you might yell out to no one when you bang your head on a low beam in the basement.

OR — “”Hey B*tches!” -to your very best girlfriends….or your coworkers…or your sisters…or your aunts…or pretty much any group of females that you know and kinda like.   I even know a woman who regularly refers to her daughter as “such a little b*tch.” Because everyone is fair game when women start tossing around curse words in the interest of friendship and camaraderie.  Her daughter, by the way, just turned four.

But  tonight, after watching a usually controlled and well-mannered young man suddenly F-bomb his own mother in front of a crowd, I got to thinking about the casual use of serious language in our culture.

Could the relaxed and off-handed use of the top five swear words be giving our young people a mixed message?

Of course we expect our young people to respect these powerful words and to use them sparingly, or not at all.  Yet for many of us, we are not leading by example.

So here’s my simple  advice – Let’s give these words a wider berth. Let’s steer clear.  And unless the actual goal is shock and awe (and it’s usually not), let’s choose another noun or another verb.

Because when you toss these words around in casual conversation, they can suddenly and accidentally slip out at the most inopportune time, sometimes when you didn’t intend to use such a powerful word.

Just ask our teenage athlete.

But wait, we can’t ask him…..because I am pretty sure that he has lost his phone privileges, his internet privileges, and his socializing privileges. Grounded for the next year or so, he is probably living a secluded and monastic life.

So let’s all try harder to curb our tongues.

In the words of fantasy author Ben Galley:   “You can’t hammer in a nail with words….No, but you can start a war with them.”

And in the words of Vanilla Ice:   “Word to your Mother.”

But not THAT word, of course.

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If you enjoy RoofTop’s Blog, please consider “following” RoofTop by email.  Simply add your email address in the box at the top right of this page and click the “follow” button.  You will be notified by email whenever Lisa has a new post.  RoofTop also LOVES comments, so share what you think!

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The Hunt is ON!

Scavenger Hunt (definition):  a game, typically played in an extensive outdoor area, in which participants have to collect a number of miscellaneous objects.

My mini van was occupied by two sensible adults and four overly eager, almost frenetic teens.

At each stop, the youngsters leapt from the minivan as soon as I put it in park and ran full force, which is pretty darn fast when you’re 14 or 15 years old.  My adult copilot and I did our best to keep up, but a serious speed walk was about the best we could muster without risking injury.

“We need to save time,” one young man called out, as we neared a destination.  Everyone had cell phones out, desperately searching for the fastest route.  “Slow down as you approach the curb here and just open the door.  I’m gonna roll out.”

Roll out?  Really? – cause jumping from a moving car seemed a bit extreme for the First United Methodist Church Acts of Kindness Scavenger Hunt.

Television’s Amazing Race offers its winners a million dollars or so.  But here, the organizers had only promised a pot-luck dinner at completion, yet these kids were treating this hunt with the urgency of Indiana Jones’ race to get to the lost Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis could.

The R.A.K. Scavenger Hunt involved collecting random acts of kindness.  We raced (or speed-walked for those of us over 30) to a location where we collected a specific list of hidden non-perishable food items. Then we ran full force to our car (speed walking is better for your knees) and drove off to a food pantry to shelve our items and accept another allotment of food; this one to be hand delivered to the home of an individual in need.  From nursing homes to museums, we zigzagged across town, trying to beat the competition and  shouting expletives at our smart phone GPS applications.

Scavenger hunts have been around since the 1930s, and first became popular with affluent members of high society, who hunted, not in minivans, but in Model A Fords. And whether an event sends folks out to perform good deeds or sends them searching for assorted hodge-podge objects, most scavenger hunts spark an intensely competitive spirit and a willingness to collect even the most outrageous objects.

In the 1936 comedy film, My Man Godfrey, which popularized scavenger hunts among the Great Gatsby era crowd, a shallow socialite had to acquire an unusual object – a homeless man.  But this mad-cap comedy also had a lesson about goodness at its center, and our socialite learns from the down-on-your luck fellow and even falls in love.

So unexpectedly, the film’s scavenger hunt led to a life lesson.  But our real-life Random Acts of Kindness Scavenger Hunt was teaching lessons by design, not by accident. Another scavenger hunt that purposely sets out to do good is G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. – the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen.

GISHWHES is the brainchild of actor Misha Collins.  Teams, often made up of individuals from several countries or continents, race to complete as many challenges as possible in seven days time and to record their accomplishment in photography. Each challenge on the list is assigned a point value and past examples have included acts of selflessness, like blood donation and volunteer work, and acts of ridiculousness, like placing nuns on rope swings and covering cars in shaving cream.  Some higher point challenges, though, have been tougher to accomplish, like having the astronauts on the international space station hold up a placard showing a team’s name or covering a commercial blimp in fall leaves.

According to Misha Collins, all of the challenges set out to make the world a better place, either by bringing joy or by doing good acts.  Kind of like our R.A.K. hunt, huh?

But GISHWHES does have one added incentive.  The winners each receive an all-expenses paid lavish vacation, to hang out with Misha Collins.  That prize might warrant rolling-out of a moving car a bit more than a covered dish dinner, eh?  But luckily for all involved, GISHWHES rules prohibit dangerous acts, making car safety a priority.  Misha Collin’s safety rules are approved by this nervous mother and would probably make Ralph Nadar proud!

So our team finished the R.A.K. Scavenger Hunt in not-so-record time and we earned a delicious pot luck dinner and a Dunkin Donut gift card.  In spite of the running and yelling and competitive banter, we did good deeds, helped feed a hungry family, and even spread some joy.  Not bad for an afternoon’s work.

Maybe we will tackle GISHWHES next!  The list of challenges won’t come out until August 1st, but in preparation, we might need to make friends with a few nuns and look into the rental of a blimp.  

Check out GISHWHES here:   https://www.gishwhes.com/

Check out the First United Methodist Church here: http://glassboromethodist.org/

And check out our awesome team here!:

youth group RAK2

 Our youth group wore matching green bandannas.  These could have doubled as first aid bandages if needed, but since no rolling out was allowed – we were all okay!!

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If you enjoy RoofTop’s Blog, please consider “following” RoofTop by email.  Simply add your email address in the box at the top right of this page and click the “follow” button.  You will be notified by email whenever Lisa has a new post.  RoofTop also LOVES comments, so share what you think!

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