A throwback. Bali, Indonesia. Click here to see more photos from our journey.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Aunt Marilyn Interview

In 2012 I sat down "Oprah style" and interviewed Marilyn Elaine (Espy) McClendon, my dad's sister and one of "the encouragers" who helped me build momentum in developing this blog.  The content and stories would be a lot less interesting without Aunt Marilyn, no doubt.  She had the seen the videos I had made after Uncle Watty had died and said she really liked them, and that he would have loved them.  Of course, that made me happy.  Then I started thinking about the Old Espy Home movie - and I mean the old stuff.  I got the idea from movie dvd special features that I could do a "Director's Commentary" with Aunt Marilyn, giving her a chance to explain the film as it went along. Two things happened, though:  The movie was in hi-speed and there's no way to keep up with it and talk though things coherently.  It would have been crazy!  And then Aunt Marilyn informed me that weekend at her house that her DVD player was not working. That's when we said, "Let's just set up the camcorder and do a casual Q&A."  Uncle Don left for the farm to give us the space and Kade stayed with me to be the camera assistant!  The questions were unrehearsed (as you likely can tell), and at times we were getting a bit brain-dead.  Her coffee kept me going, however.  It was always good!  In all, there's close to 3 hours of footage.  Starting in early April, I will edit it down to the essentials, and go from there.  If any of her family and friends have any memories that coincide with some things she shares, please email at the address at the top of the right sidebar.  I can then add it as a comment, if it's okay.  Enjoy!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Major's Rocking Chair

Major Watt Espy (Sr.)
Headland, Alabama
circa 1909

Here I am, in the same chair.  1972

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Dinah Jen Grace, a portrait montage

You gotta wonder how long it took at the studio to get these precious poses?!?!

I'm winding down my blog Tomfoolery for the rest of the year, and will very likely put it aside - at least new posts anyway - until next Spring or Summer.  I started Tomfoolery in 2007, my very first post being Lake Espy on December 13 of that year.  But as with a lot of my posts, Lake Espy was a work in progress.  Over time, I revised the layout, rewrote some things, added more content, encouraged family to contribute, then introduced YouTube videos.  Tomfoolery has 1167 posts (now 1168!).  My goal, though, is to shrink it down to the essentials and really work on consolidating blog posts of similar content.  Incidentally, Tomfoolery and the name of my travel blog (Ballyhoo) both came from the same scene in one of my all-time favorite movies, Good Will Hunting.  It's when Will visits the very first psychiatrist.  Try to Google that one.

My YouTube channel, Major Allen Espy, was started the summer of 2008.  My first video was simply titled Dad with Horses.  And back then I simply used whatever digital camera I had - low pixels, pretty shaky, no frills.  Now I use a nice camcorder for a lot of my work.  Both the blog and YouTube channel have been fun, but to get them where they are now, it just took doing it over and over and being willing to learn and be creative. There's nothing really magical.  The ingredient, though, that stirs all this is passion.  I hope that's evident.  And, too, almost every blog post I've created has been touched or influenced by someone else. Maybe they simply gave me the inspiration.  In some cases, they collaborated with me by supplying facts and history or agreeing to edit what I put together.  Sometimes I even got bigger participation - showing me homes, agreeing to an interview or video project, handing over family photos for me to scan, or like with the image above, just getting a text today from my sister after she discovered this portrait and other treasures in an antique trunk that belonged to my grandmother.  It appeared, and I posted it!  Simple as that.  I bid you all adieu until 2017.  If you want to get up with me before then, see my email address in the right sidebar. Ta ta!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Jeanette Grace Hayes

 Jeanette Grace Hayes is with her brother Paul Grace (right), and her son Charles Thomas Hayes, Jr. (left).
Jeanette and Paul are two of my grandfather's (Victor Grace) siblings.  As I gather more info and photos on Aunt Jeanette, I will add it to this blog post.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

One of Those

The San Francisco Glacier at El Morado Natural Monument National Park - Chile
What can I say about Chile?  I think I summed it up best in a text to an Atlanta friend:  "Some countries are fortunate enough to have a little bit of everything. Chile is one of those."

I will share something that really "tickled" Kade. As our guide Sebastian was driving us to the national park, I asked him if he could guess where Kade is from.  He said, "Somewhere in Asia?" That was pretty easy. When I said Thailand, his face lit up. I asked if he had been there.  He said he hadn't, but a number of his friends had. I asked what they thought of Thailand. He said very quickly, "They all want to live there." Kade, of course, smiled big.  But that statement says a lot. If somebody from Chile mentions a country being beautiful or intriguing, take them at their word.  They know what it means.  And I would say, likewise, someone from Thailand (or the USA) will be very impressed with Chile.

We also spent time in Buenos Aires (Argentina).  All I can say is world-class.  Think of any of the top tier cities in the world (Paris, Tokyo, Moscow, New York), Buenos Aires is right in there.

Click here for my travel blog, Ballyhoo.  

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

John Espy To Wed Ozark Belle

The Wiregrass Sifting
Dec. 17, 1901

Thanks to Judy Fay West for finding and sharing this!

Monday, August 29, 2016

A Big One

Today marks (Mark's) a half century!  
And a nice little play on words!

Kade hugging Mark after an amazing party in Asheville!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

On Fear

I have been reading a book titled On Fear and it explains how, through years of conditioning, human beings, even and especially ones closest to us, can be very unwilling to be open and vulnerable.  I think a lot of it has to do with insecurity, which likely lies in our subconscious minds.  This insecurity leads to attempts to escape reality by keeping the uncomfortable reasons for the insecurity at a distance.  How do people escape?  This book lists drugs, excessive consumerism, religious fanaticism, overeating, hostility, etc. But you can add so much more.  In my family, you could add overindulgence on sports and the deployment of artful passive aggression.  Life is a bit less complicated, at least in the short-term, when things are pushed away.   - from a 2004 email I sent to a relative

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Little Known Fact

This is a vintage portrait of the present-day Thai king and queen; I purchased it several years ago in Bangkok.  A little known fact:  The king was born in Cambridge, MA (USA) in 1927.  On a trip to Boston Kade and I discovered a square named for the king,  But apparently there are numerous spots in the Boston area that are recognized for their connection to him. To discover these places and delve into the history of the king's birth in the United States, click here.

To see a portrait of the nine Chakri Dynasty kings who have reigned over Siam/Thailand, go here.

Friday, August 26, 2016

In Loving Memory

Clay Brannon, my cousin

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.
From an Irish headstone”
Richard Puz, The Carolinian

Thursday, August 25, 2016

headed for a headstone

I've had this video in a folder titled 'blog' and just didn't know when I would post it.  Now seems as good time as any.  My takeaway from this song:  You better be truly living.  Life is too grand.  And this is the only one you've got.

he said baby what’s the big deal
feel what you wanna feel
say what you’re gonna say
you’re gonna die one day

for example I could kiss you
just because I want to
what’s the difference if you turn away
I’m gonna die one day

why do you waste your time
thinkin bout your reputation
trying to meet an expectation
wonderin what they’re gonna say
when everyone you ever known
is headed for a headstone
I don’t wanna give the end away
but we’re gonna die one day

your body is an animal
doesn’t ask for much
a little music and a soft touch
why don’t you let it out to play
your heart is in a bird cage
singing in your chest

you wanna shut it up, but give it a rest
you’re gonna die one day

why do you waste your time
thinkin bout an obligation
runnin from a confrontation
wonderin what you oughtta say
when everyone you ever known
is headed for a headstone
I don’t wanna give the end away
but we’re gonna die one day

so baby what’s the big deal
if you wanna be free
say what you wanna feel
and spend the night with me

I’m gonna take you up in my arms
and if we must go down
we’ll go singin to the smoke alarms
we’ll dance into the ground

Monday, August 22, 2016

What I learned about sleep

The best sleep of my adult life occurred during my six months of traveling around Asia in the year 2000.  It was combination of many factors - being excited about something, living in the moment, expending lots of physical and mental energy, having no obligations, eating a very good diet and not needing to live by the clock.  I would sleep soundly at night and wake up in a natural way, not needing to use an alarm.  Probably halfway into my journey, and as a result of learning more about myself and my particular needs, I started researching about sleep.  I would even peruse books on this subject at bookstores.  I was feeling so fresh and so alive, it was as though I had found a cure for something.  And I guess I had!  Not just any kind of sleep would ever satisfy me again.  One of the first questions I had was How do we know how much sleep we truly need?  I always heard the standard 8 hours was the right amount.  I certainly didn't always get it.  I knew that in many cultures and environments, sleep would be forfeited for the sake of getting to the office a bit earlier, packing in as much as possible on a vacation day or just trying to do everyday things.  And I knew that people felt guilty, or were made to feel guilty, about sleeping in or napping. There would always be an expectation that they'd have to answer an incoming call or get up if someone knocked on the door.  Sleeping was often secondary, especially getting that deep, satisfying sleep.  What I discovered was that the best way to determine how much you need - and it's very important to know this, since it varies person to person  - was first to determine if you feel very rejuvenated upon awakening, and if you can wake up without an alarm clock.  Then, you'd need to look at your weekends, when you don't have work, and check to see if you are erasing a sleep debt by needing to sleep more hours those mornings.  This is a start to learning how much you need.  But the ideal way was to evaluate your sleeping patterns over a period of time.  This is very hard to do for most, due to modern lifestyles, our daily commitments, the obligations placed on us by work and culture.  Is there ever an opportunity to get away for just a month, where you silence your cell phones, turn off the TV and go to sleep when you're ready and then wake up when you do?  Almost impossible.  But while I was traveling during that period, I thought, "I now have the perfect chance to do this."  And, so, I started keeping track. The results could not have been more obvious.  Looking back on the first half of my trip (three months) and then consciously observing my sleep patterns over the remaining period (another three months), the conclusion was that I need nine hours of quality sleep a night, or every 24-hour cycle.  Not eight, not ten, not seven and half.  I would wake up, without fail, after nine hours of sleep.  And when I woke up - and this is key - I was completely rejuvenated.  I was very alert, I felt fresh and I was in a great frame of mind.  This was empowering personal insight.  Next, I wanted to learn more about why sleep is needed.  I learned that sleep is primarily for our brains.  They need to recharge, heal and even grow.  It's like our laptops needing those updates and then a reboot.  Getting the right amount of sleep would make us smarter, would keep our brains younger, would regulate our moods better, would give us more energy during the day, would help us cope with stress, would positively affect our perceptions of others and the environment around us, and would be the best anti-aging strategy.  It's not called Beauty Sleep for nothing!  And I also learned from my research - and this has been proven in studies released in the past few years - that getting an inadequate amount of sleep contributes greatly to obesity levels.  Show me someone who struggles with their weight, and I can show someone who is very likely not getting enough sleep.  Think about it.  When you're sleeping, you're not awake, and therefore, not eating.  Seems elementary to say it that way.  But it's true.  And when you're sleep-deprived, you're more likely to turn to carbs, fatty foods, sugar and caffeine to stay awake, just to get through the day.  This does terrible things to your metabolism, and causes you to pack on pounds.  So something so fundamental - sleep - is vital for maintaining a healthy body weight.  You would think that alone would be enough motivation for people to do whatever it takes to get quality sleep!  We're so image-conscious, and a proven remedy for premature aging is getting adequate sleep.  It's quite funny that the one or two people in my life who have seemed most obsessed with the amount of sleep I get - or my wife gets - are quite large and out of shape, and clearly display a number of other sleep-deprivation side effects.  In conclusion, traveling like I did enabled me to learn about my specific sleeping needs, and it caused me to change my perspective on the subject.  If I could do one thing, it would be to encourage people to do their own research, period.  After that, make sleep as important as going to church or watching your favorite football game.  Give it that kind of attention, and I can assure you will feel better and live a longer, healthier life.  And if anyone tries to make you feel guilty about how much sleep you get, hit them with the facts.  Ask them how many hours Albert Einstein slept a night (ten!).   At the end of the day, only you can take care of your health!

Here's another one of my blog posts on the relationship between sleep and weight:

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Teen Center - Headland, Alabama

 Brenda Skinner Stroup's Memories

Hank and I talked about this today.  We can't remember the first movie we saw together.  In those days in Headland, a lot of "group" activities happened.  A group of us would go together to the movies and to Oscar's for a hotdog.   This was usually before we could drive.   We also went to Dothan after MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship) to cruise around and get a coke, etc.  Of course, Mark was not in that group.  I don't know who or how many kids were in BTU.  We had a very good group for MYF and a wonderful youth director.  Also had a youth counselor who had the coolest Thunderbird.  We would always go in his car.  There didn't seem to be much interaction between the Baptist and Methodist  youth groups on the weekends.

As for the Teen Center, I think it started when I was in about the 9th grade-1959 or so.  It was started by the parents and the teenagers.  The parents agreed to alternate chaperoning each Friday and Saturday night.  It was upstairs in the old city hall, that 2 story building by the library on the square.  The jail was on the first floor!  We were charged 10 cents to enter (we used to money to buy 45 records)  Chester Cunningham served as our DJ-he was a couple of years older than I.  Occasionally someone would have a birthday party and serve refreshments, etc.  This is also where we would have dances after football games.  As I think back on this experience, it was just the best.  Most of us loved to dance and it was a great place to meet friends, especially boys.  There were several really good dancers in the group and we all wanted to dance like them.  I cannot remember Mark ever coming to the Teen Center.  I have a  fuzzy memory of Major and Edith chaperoning one time early on.  I just cannot recall Mark being there.  He did not have serious girl friends during this time.  As I have told you before, he was into sports, livestock, etc.  I think that he would come to birthday parties or parties at someone's home, but he just didn't hang out at the Teen Center on weekends.  I don't have any pictures ot the Teen Center.  I think it was active about 3 years, then just sort of died.  

Hank said that maybe the Baptists were not that much into dancing.  I do remember other Baptist kids being there, it wasn't just the heathen Methodists.  Mark was fun and personable, but I just don't remember his participating in our shenanigans.  Linda Oates and I talked about this when we were in Headland for the reunion.  Mark walked the straight and narrow when he was in high school.  No wild oats sown during that time. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

U.S. Navy Reserve Enlistment

This is Granddad Major's ID.  He enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserve shortly after graduating from Howard College (now Samford University), and before returning to his hometown to work at The Headland National Bank.  Circa 1925

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Return to Wiregrass

James Wesley Vann (Uncle Jim)


Mila, Mark & Marilyn

Edith & Mark

Old Espy House on East Church Street

Dot & Dinah

Found this gem in my grandmother's cookbook.  Like a fortune inside a cookie!

Major Watt Espy, Sr.