30 November, 2008

Ta Da - Things are back to normal...

...or maybe I should say as normal as they get here at Toad Hall. For those of you who had been here today - note the clean as new floor..& Jonathan calling around to see if he could find a home for the leftover soup...So when I said 'Not to worry about the floor to come in get warm and have some eats' it was with good reason. The paper runners (along with the blue/green reversable tarp) were a nice touch...Jonathan said all we needed was a camero and el camino(maybe on chocks) in the circular driveway to make the scene complete. BUT we had a could have REALLY rained and instead we just had a steady drizzle. It didn't seem to daunt the 180 or so people who were here making ~200 lighted Christmas balls. You brought food for us to eat (Thanks Justin and MIllie for heading up all that in the dining room) and you brought food for the food banks (more than last year) and $$ for the food banks...$418 total ( $285 for 2nd Harvest & $183 for Greensboro Urban Ministry) Kathy, Lee, and Beth did a 'souper' job of 'womaning' the stone soup and everyone had plenty to eat and we had 3 gallons leftover to take to Pathways/Potters House. We took some of the leftover rolls which Gardner contributed and the folks there seemed MOST appreciative. I will say that having the incredible host families to help was the greatest gift of all to Jonathan and me. From all the early birds who selflessly came and cut the 1/3 mile of chicken wire beforehand to Jane and Janet laying what must have seemed like a 1/4 mile of brown paper on the carpets with tape no less to the girls 'womaning' the light kit distribution and coming out with the right amount of $$ for the supplies used...thanks Dava, Marlene, Janet, Linda, Brenda, Susan, Lee, Cindy, and GOODNESS I hope I haven't missed anyone. The full compliment of tarp/tent installers: Gardner, Jeff, Drayton, John, Scott, Phil, Jamey, and Emmett just provided the shelter we needed - did I thank all of you for bringing the tailgating tents and the tables (Linda secured 6 from OLG - WOW picked them up delivered them and is taking them back - can I say WOW???? I DO THANK ALL OF YOU for that...we couldn't have pulled it off without those. The expert ball makers John, Marcia, Beth, Clay, Ali, Claire, Phil, Jamey,Daniel, Bethann, and Ferd were all here to teach everyone how to do it and even make a few for folks. We had lots of new neighbors, old neighbors, some folks who had called who didn't live in the neighborhood (5 from Winston Salem) and a couple of drop-ins who were just driving by and joined the fun. I saw several of you (Scott, Millie and Marlene for sure) taking many photos so when you send those over....I will post lots of them and as your creations grow in your yards/trees, send some photos of those over as well. Finally thanks for the fire barrels - and Gardner the music was over the top. Most of all and the most important part is that all of you made everyone feel welcome and you are just the greatest Hosts/Hostesses including all the kids - David, Graham, Liam, Rowan, Sabine(aka Sabine the soup girl), Scott, Izzy, Miles, Walter, and Marlee + I know there were others...shoot me their names and I will include them. All of you guys give a great party - thanks for being part of this wonderful day. Let there be LIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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29 November, 2008

Need Help Hanging those Christmas Balls this year?

Need help hanging those Christmas Balls this year? I have a bucket truck to help you...

Call Dean Harviel @ 336-399-2766

I was out in front trying to dislodge two totally hung up Lighted Christmas Balls from last year when a guy driving a bucket truck stopped in front of my house, unrolled his window, and asked if he could help. Dean and his friend, Laurie had discovered the Lighted Christmas Balls last year and came back to check them out. Dean's Mom (in Salisbury) really wanted him to come by and take a close look to see how to make 'em, and the Bucket Truck was as good a Trojan Horse as there ever was. Dean and Laurie stopping to offer help at the moment I needed it was a surprise joy. While Dean was hitching up to go aloft, I took a couple of shots, and invited them to the Sunday's workshop. I said I'd put his contact info on the blog and post his flyer at at the check in tent tomorrow. Dean smiled big and said, "let's just call it even." Thanks again, Dean. (Note, I've got a short video in *.3g2 format that I need to convert to *.AVI so I can post them here. Any thoughts on what program to covert them with?).

24 November, 2008

OSHA discovers Sunset Hills chicken wire cutting operation in total compliance

Anne and I arrived home from Asheville at 5:00 pm to find:
  1. our trailer piled high with chicken wire cut into 45" sections,
  2. about 5 dump trucks worth of leaves in our yard,
  3. and 45 minutes of daylight left.
We blew, raked, and mulched leaves till well after dark. About an hour into it, Anne noticed the garage lights were on and somebody was in there cutting chicken wire. Turns out it was none other than Cindy Wells, who cut an entire roll of chicken wire, single handedly. We returned to the leaves and left Cindy at her work. Jon discovered mulching isn't as precise as grass cutting and says you don't have to keep your tracks straight. By the light provided from the Bowman's side porch lamps and the headlights of cars turning from Ridgeway to Madison, he was able to knock it out. By 7:00 pm our tongues were hanging out. Cindy was still cutting wire like machine. At that point, there wasn't anything I could do but go fetch the bottle of 337 Cab, three wine glasses, and an opener. And so Anne and I made a toast to Cindy, who, I am sure, who works harder, smarter, and faster than any man. Cindy, for all you tool-belt conscious men, has her own Wiss Aircraft Shears and her own leather holster. About the time I snapped this pic, Jamey and Phil stopped by to see what six rolls of chicken wire looks like after its been chopped into 45" sections, and to give us the neighborhood "light" report:

On Rolling Road, their lights are on (why are we not surprised?), as are their neighbors on both sides of their house and three houses across the street, and on the corner of Rolling and East Greenway South. Jamey and Phil won't brag about themselves, so I'll have to: they made and hung all those Lighted Christmas balls.

On Friendly Avenue, I noticed the Dollars had their Lighted Christmas balls up and on this morning at 6:30 am. Way to go, Jim!

How all this chicken wire came to be

Last year about this time we were out in the front yard hoisting lights and a car stopped and unrolled its window. That wasn't unusual but what happened next was. Turns out the couple inside were Bill and Laura Womack from Raleigh. Bill grew up on Ridgeway, played all throughout Sunset Hills, and graduated from Greensboro Senior High School. Laura grew up on Sherrill Street in Lindley Park. Turns out Laura and Pat Wilcox (whom Daniel and Bethann Hassell bought their home from) have been friends since they were little girls. When we asked Bill and Laura how long they've known each other, they answered, in unison, "since 2nd grade." I guess when two people have known each other since 2nd grade they can finish each other's sentences. Bill made a career out of distributing hardware to retail stores. And when he said, "I can get you that chicken wire," Anne was quick to ask for his contact info. When Lowes didn't have any, Anne called Bill, who gladly obliged, and so Bill and Laura asked if we wanted to meet in Siler City and have lunch and transfer the wire. And so it was, Anne and I got to meet Bill and Laura for cheeseburgers and French fries at Johnson's Restaurant, which, as far as I could tell, holds 1st place in the cheeseburger category, and has for 62 years. After having more fun than the legal limit (Jon and Bill had 2nds on their cheeseburgers) we moved seven rolls of 150' wire (that's 3 1/2 football fields) from Bill's car to Anne's. When you see this couple at the workshop, be sure to stop and say Hi!
(This wonderful surprise took place on 11/19 but I forgot to post it then. I'll change its post date in a few days.) 

23 November, 2008

Lighted Christmas Balls showing up all over the U.S.

Only a true geek would check the web visit stats to Lighted Christmas Balls. Since one week ago Saturday 11/14, lighted Christmas balls has had seventy visits, courtesy of a new friend, Alex, at, in San Diego. Alex has been making a similar but different Lighted Ball to celebrate Christmas many years. Starting out in Roanoake before taking the sparkleballs to Chapel Hill, she's now in San Diego. Alex is just one of those people who loves spreading joy. And when she discovered lighted Christmas Balls, she shared LCB with all her friends in California. This is truly the richness and reach of the internet at work and at play. Thank you Alex! Little dots on the image above represent where the most recent 100 visits to our site came from. The most recent visit (the red dot) came from Asheville, NC.

22 November, 2008

Wirecutters working wonders on wire

Friends Beth, Claire, Ali, Cindy, David and Gardner brave the cold to get the lighted Christmas ball kits ready for the 6th annual Sunset Hills lighted ball workshop and charity fund raiser. Each 150' roll of Chicken Wire will make about 40 lighted Christmas balls. That's a lot of wire cutting to make kits for 300 or more lighted Christmas Balls. It looks like Beth, Claire, and Ali invented a special system to make measuring faster and easier.

Claire and Ali had already helped out in a big way before helping cut wire: they hand-delivered invitations to families in the neighborhood for whom we didn't have email addresses. David is wondering which family will be the first to get their lighted Christmas balls up in the trees.

Anne and I spent last night and today with grandchildren Avery, Jackson in Asheville. Today, treat of all treats, we got to take them up to Windy Gap (13.4 miles NE) to see cousin Grayson and her Mom and Dad and a bunch of old and new Young Life friends. On the way up to Windy Gap, we saw some early Christmas lights. There must be a lot of excited people here. Avery announced she was ready to see lighted Christmas balls at Sunset Hills. (Well really, she said "Toad Hall" but I know she meant Sunset Hills . Avery is 2 1/2 and knows all about Christmas lights. Her cousin Grayson is 13 months and knows all about Christmas lights and a thing or two besides. Between the two, they have more passion for life than is safe to be around! But you'll never hear me complain.

My highlight today was getting to feed Grandson Jackson his 10:45 pm bottle. We talked all about the day and how much fun we had.

18 November, 2008

Making her list and checking it twice

Anne Smith, looking more like a Lowes VP for Garden Center Sales than a community organizer, goes over her shopping list one more time with Lowes Garden Center employees Jonathan (left, not Anne's husband) and Scott (right). "You just don't find this level of service at other stores." Lowes' Scott and Jonathan said they get upward of 25 calls a day for chicken wire and for help making Lighted Christmas Balls.

Scott transporting 576 boxes of mini Lights to check-out, smiling like he does this every day:

"If I ran Lowes, we'd have a Christmas Light Center and these would be the guys who'd head it up, they're smart and they can do math in their heads" said Anne.

17 November, 2008

Because hunger never takes a vacation

This is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week; it is co-sponsored each year by the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness. Observed one week before Thanksgiving, NHHAW's aim is to bring awareness and promote efforts to end homelessness and hunger in communities across the nation.

The poor have friends, one of whom is Michelle Forrest, in Greensboro. Among other things, Michelle is a mom, and though StreetWatch, an advocate for the poor. She's a blogger and a web designer and member of the NightWatch and DayWatch street outreach teams.

She and her friends know the pain of bare shelves and the blessing of sacrifice. They know requests for food and financial assistance are up everywhere and they know donations are down. In their compassion, they worry that the homeless and hungry, whose needs outweighed provisions at the top of the boom, will be those who will ride the bust the longest. They don't worry alone.

After hosting a one day food drive at last year's workshop, extending it for the entire Thanksgiving/Christmas season seemed like the right thing to do. Although no one had experienced then the cratering retirement accounts and plummeting home prices we experience now, still the greater portion of donated food came from hands who could least afford to give it. Most plastic grocery store bags contained just one or two items, and from Food Lion not Fresh Market; some bags still had the cash register receipts showing what had been purchased was paid for with cash not plastic.

I just read that during some of the worst of times, giving remained strong. Even during the great depression, the NY Times reported charitable giving more than doubled from 1933 to 1941.

Let's hope the same will be said of this generation.