Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Historic Photos of Mississippi- A book review

One would think there is not much to say about a book filled with pictures. At first glance, there are just pictures bound together, with captions that detail where and when the photos were taken.

But whoever said a picture is worth a thousand words was right. That's the case with this book "Historic Photos of Mississippi"

I am relatively new to the state and to its history, even though I've spent the last 18 years here. There is so much to this place, to its history, that I've yet to uncover, and for the first time I've gotten a glance of the way things used to be before I arrived here.

The book is filled with photographs and its divided in four sections: "The Civil War and Survival", "The Joy of the Golden Age", "Depression Years and Singing the Blues", "War in Europe and Struggles at Home". The captions for the photos are written by Anne B. McKee.

Each section tells part of the story of the Magnolia State in pictures. You will not find lengthy discussions about each pictures but in reality they are not needed. Each photo in this book speaks for itself.

In the Civil War section you will find pictures of the battlefields, of towns and homes destroyed during the war, pictures from the period following the war that show the growth in cities like Jackson and Meridian; you may even recognize some of these buildings as they still stand today.

The following section shows the Mississippi of the early 1900, when the state was prospering. You will find photos of historical buildings like the Old Capitol Museum, a class photo from Sykes Chapel School (an early African American school), of people at work, and steam wheelers in the Mississippi river.

The flood of 1927 in the Mississippi Delta, the times of the Great Depression, the Civil Right era are all documented in this book.

I wish the book had included pictures from the last 3 decades of the 20th century, as the last pictures included were from the dawn of the 1970s.

Still it is a good book. Perfect for someone who loves the state of Mississippi, and wants to reminiscence about the good ol' days.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Early Saturday morning

A few weeks ago, I decided I would volunteer for the Renaissance Half Marathon. I wasn't sure what job I wanted to do, but I figured I'd come and support my sister and her husband as they ran this race. I managed to recruit one of my sisters, my niece, her boyfriend, and a friend to come and be part of the water crew at Mile 8.

Saturday came very early for us, since we had to report to our stations by 5:15 and we live 1 hr away from the race. As I was getting ready that morning, I kept wondering if I had lost my mind. Why on earth would anyone get up so early to go and hand out water to people who are even crazier than me?

We arrived at our station in the Bridgewater subdivision. Wow. Those houses are enormous, big enough to fit the entire Duggar family! We picked up our jaws from the ground, and started to set up. Coffee hadn't started working yet, some people were trying to be the "boss" and well, no one was getting paid so we didn't exactly appreciate the attitude. Finally we started to see runners coming up.

Our station was Mile 8 of 13.1. The front of the pack fit the stereotypical picture of a runner: fit, faster than a speeding bullet, and "in the zone". Most didn't want any water, others wanted us to throw water at them to cool them off. They went by us rather quickly, we were all in awe to see them disappear as quickly as they approach our table, like a bunch of gazelles. Some of them you could hardly hear breathing.

Then the middle of the pack started to show up, the real people, people like you and me who enjoy running and don't care if they ever win a medal. They are just loving it.
Some of them thanked us for being there, for cheering them on, for getting up so early to help out. I saw several people I knew, some from work, others whom I had trained with for the Chicago marathon.

The back of the pack were mostly walkers, but boy, can they walk! They smiled, they were just happy to be there, and didn't seem bothered by the fact they still had 5 miles to go before they could claim their medals. They were happy to be doing it.

I have to say the volunteers at our station were awesome. We never discussed it but when the first runners showed up, we started to cheer for them, as they came up the hill to our water stop. And we didn't stop until the very last person passed our water stop. We cheered them on in unison, which was very cool, because up until that morning, most of us had never met.

As I was there, watching, serving, I realized why I got up so early that day: I have been in their shoes. I know how important it is to hear a stranger call your name, cheer you on, tell you they believe you can do it. Saturday, I was one of those strangers for a lot of people. By the time they came to our stop, they had gone 8 miles and still had 5 more to go. That's where their minds would start to take over their bodies, and they'll have to pull the strength out of somewhere to finish.

For some, this was their first 13.1 miles. They had never done it before, and probably weren't sure if they could finish it. I wanted to offer some support, to let them know that finishing 8 miles was a big accomplishment and they could complete the rest.

A lady told us we were the best water stop so far, because we were cheering everyone on. She thanked us for that. That felt pretty good, I have to admit.

When we finished, we went back to the finish line to find my sister and her husband. Along the way, we passed some of the runners in their last mile towards their goal. One of them said "Oh, there you are again" and smiled. We cheered them on as we passed them and told them the finish line was close.

It was a great experience. Having been in the shoes of a runner before, I know how good it feels to have complete strangers line up the streets and cheer you on as you battle to conquer your goal. You may think it's not important if you are there or not, but runners notice the expectators and the volunteers, and they are thankful for you.

So next time there is race in town, like the MS Blues Marathon, consider coming out and cheering. You may be surprised how good it feels to know you made someone's day.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Discovering Navarre Beach

Our annual family vacation this year was to a destination that most people haven't really heard of: Navarre Beach, Florida.

The first time I heard of it was in 2004 in a Southern Living Magazine. It talked about how beautiful and quiet it was, and how appropriate it was for families with kids. I filed it somewhere in my brain for future use.

You see, back in 2004, I had an irrational fear of the ocean. I'm not sure when or how it started but the first time I went to the beach I realized I was terrified of it. The sound of the waves, the feel of the sand slipping away under my feet, I simply could not handle it.

It wasn't until last year that I decided to face my fear. My children are growing up, and they had never seen the ocean. I wanted them to see it for the first time during our vacation to my homeland, Panama.

It was there, in front of the Pacific Ocean, and facing 12 ft waves that I faced my fear and conquered it. I'm not even sure how it happened. I just stood there, took a deep breath, and allowed the sounds to enter my soul, and I kept telling myself everything was fine. Before I knew it, a sense of calm came over me and I was able to enjoy my time there.

So I began to plan our first official "beach vacation" earlier this year. My criteria for selecting a beach was simple: it had to be within a reasonable driving distance, the water had to be beautiful, and the lodging options affordable. I asked beach lovers about it, most of them recommended places like Destin, Panama City Beach (which was on top of my list simply because it reminds me of my beloved Panama), Gulf Shores.
While I was doing my search, I remembered that article in Southern Living, and started researching Navarre Beach. Before long we had picked it as our destination.

I started to look for places to stay that were affordable, and not on a high rise building. I have 2 children who believe they can fly, so I wanted to make sure they weren't going to pull a stunt while on vacation.

We were fortunate enough to come across this townhouse . The price was reasonable, the location was great, so we made the deal, put down a deposit and prepared for our vacation.

We arrived at Navarre Beach on May 30, in the late afternoon. It didn't take very long for us to realize we had picked the right place and the right house. The beach was gorgeous, the water had a blue-green hue to it, and the sand was so white. The kids were in awe, and so were we. The house was more than we had expected, had more amenities than we could have ever imagined, including bicycles for us to ride around the Santa Rosa Island, beach chairs, toys for the kids, and even a cart to help us carry our stuff to the beach. The place is beautifully decorated (no tacky stuff there), and so comfortable. We fell in love with this place. The best part (as if being on Navarre Beach wasn't enough), the master bedroom had an awesome view of the Gulf.

We spent a week doing absolutely nothing more than relaxing. The kids enjoyed it beyond belief and so did I. It was exactly the place I was searching for, there were mostly families at the beach, it wasn't crowded, and it was beautiful. We came back ready to plan our next trip to Navarre Beach.

I know most people go to some of the other more popular beaches where there is tons to do, and the crowds are big. But if you are looking for a place to relax, with an unbelievably beautiful beach, Navarre Beach may be for you. ;-)