My fifteen-minute Grandpa

This post, I originally wrote on April 12, 2011, on my now-private blog that I used in college. So it’s a three-year throwback. :) I hope you enjoy it.

“I have a new Grandpa!”
12 APR 2011

Today, a Tuesday, April 12, 2011.

I have a new Grandpa. His name is Woody. He cleans about five buildings at a university in the South of America. He collects the trash. He carries around keys, so many, that he says when he went to see his supervisor the other day, they weighed him down so much that she asked why he was stumped over, to which he replied, it’s all these keys!

He asked my name and how many years I had left here. He asked what I wanted to do, where I was from, and if I had a boyfriend. The only certain answer to any of those being where I was from: Cherryville. He said he knew a student from here about nine years ago who was from Cherryville. The student was going to be a pastor. He had a girlfriend who broke up with him, then married him a year later, and “what do you think about that?” I said, “I think that’s odd.” He said maybe.

He told me he collects the trash and cleans Noel Hall, Communications building, this building, the Chapel, and another I cannot remember now. “Too many for an old man.” he says. He is almost 81 years old.

He has worked for Gardner-Webb for 18 years. He says he loves meeting people as he works. That’s the best thing about his job, he says, meeting people like me.

He liked my name, said it wasn’t very common, but a pretty name.

And he told me when he was 21, what he wanted to do, his dream-he said I wouldn’t believe it-and then he pointed to a poster on the wall behind him: a bullfighter jumping over a charging bull. Feria de Nimes. The fair at Nimes, where people come not only for the bullfights, but for the party, the music, the people they meet there. That’s what Woody wanted to be. A bullfighter.

He said he knew a woman, who became a bullfighter. She was successful. He couldn’t remember her name, though he said he ought to. Hard to get insurance for that, wouldn’t it be? I agree.

Before he goes, he tells me God loves me, he loves me, the best thing he likes to tell people about is Jesus. Once again, I agree. I tell him I hope he has a good day. He tells me the same. “You can tell people you have a new Grandpa now, Woody is your grandpa” he says. Because when he asked me how many grandpas I had, I only have one. Now, he says, you have me too.

Call for help: Tweeting National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month poster, via

National Poetry Month poster, via

Y’all, it’s national poetry month this April (and every April). And I always completely forget about it until the end of the month, despite the fact that I LOVE poetry. But this year? I’m not forgetting.

I’m posting poetry to Twitter, searching for the best poems short enough to post in their entirety in one tweet. Or, if that’s impossible, the best lines from some classic favorites.

But I need your help.

I had a great response from so many people when I talked about how much the poet Carl Sandburg means to me. So naturally, I’d love to draw on some of that response again and ask those of you who commented then to share now, too.

What are your favorite short poems/verses? Do you know any that can be tweeted in their entirety in 140 characters?

If you’d like, give me a follow on Twitter @MollyAPhipps and suggest poems to me there or in the comments section here. I’ll be glad to follow you and retweet your poems, too. :)

I look forward to your thoughts. Be blessed, everyone.


A giant art installation targets predator drone operators

Molly Phipps:

To kick off a new weekly feature (which I’m calling Things That Matter Mondays), I’m reblogging this post today. I’m going to start posting each Monday with something I find online, something thought-provoking and original, that challenges us to be better people. To be retrospective, introspective and more open to those different–yet not so different–from us. Be blessed.

Originally posted on #NotABugSplat:


In military slang, Predator drone operators often refer to kills as ‘bug splats’since viewing the body through a grainy video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed.

To challenge this insensitivity as well as raise awareness of civilian casualties, an artist collective installed a massive portrait facing up in the heavily bombed Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa region of Pakistan, where drone attacks regularly occur. Now, when viewed by a drone camera, what an operator sees on his screen is not an anonymous dot on the landscape, but an innocent child victim’s face.


The installation is also designed to be captured by satellites in order to make it a permanent part of the landscape on online mapping sites.

The project is a collaboration of artists who made use of the French artist JR’s ‘Inside Out’ movement. Reprieve/Foundation for Fundamental Rights helped launch the effort which has been released with the hashtag

View original 93 more words

Reflecting on my vacation

Over the past two days, I’ve had many people ask about my vacation. And it’s one of those sort of life-changing vacations–if you’ve ever had one, you know what I’m talking about–that you can’t explain in just a few minutes. It’d take me hours to talk about it. But for those who care, here are the highlights. And if you want to hear the whole story, I’ll probably tell you, if you ask. Here’s part of it. :)

1) I learned that Carl Sandburg went by Charlie until he was 30 because he thought Carl sounded too Swedish.
2) I learned that he owned 17 THOUSAND books.
3) I met a vegan who believes in reincarnation and made me eat healthy food while I was there. I didn’t eat much.
4) I tried German food at the Haus Heidelberg in Hendersonville. If you go, get the Peach Melba for dessert.
5) I laughed a great deal.
6) Tried a lot of new things.
7) Went on a few dates with people I didn’t know beforehand.
8) I saw water droplets frozen on the tips of pines.
9) I ate breakfast like a queen every morning.
10) I realized that everybody believes that what they’re doing and how they live their life is right. And I realized that it doesn’t mean I can’t like them or get along with them or love them.
11) I lit a candle in a Roman Catholic basilica with a guy I’d just met.
12) I learned to appreciate the sun.
13) I learned that I hate the movie “500 Days of Summer” and am totally done thinking that Joseph Gordon Levitt is cute.

But most of all, I learned that I can’t do this all on my own. I need people in my life, to talk to, to listen to, to learn from, to love. New people, new experiences are so good for us sometimes.

We get so stuck with our lives the way they are and we forget how big the world is, how many people are just out there, waiting for us to say hello.

Carl Sandburg was asked, in 1954, what the worst word in the English language is. He responded with:


“When you’re exclusive, you shut out a wide range of humanity from your heart, from understanding them.”

To Sandburg, we were all part of the same world. Indeed, when he died, his wife sold the house, gave away 5,000 of his books to the University of Chicago and left everything in the house exactly as it was, taking only her clothing and necessities. Why?

She said Carl belonged to America, he belonged to the world.

He was a man who cared more about other people than himself. He wrote his poetry on a typewriter balanced on an orange crate. He was a socialist. The only award he was ever truly proud of was the lifetime achievement award from the NAACP for his work “for the negro and the common man.”

I think we forget what matters a lot. I think I did.

But this weekend, I was reminded of what matters. I was reminded that there are people who really do care about other people more than themselves.

I was reminded of my great friend, Scottie Kale. He died in 2010 at the age of 19. But he was one of those people–honest, good, never exclusive, always enjoyed the simple things in life. You could count on him to tell you the truth, to be there for you, to value others and be a help.

Since my vacation, I’m inspired to be different. There are so many people in the world who are nothing like Carl or Scottie. Duplicitous, angry, rude, selfish–so many adjectives. But maybe, things would change if we’d all be a little more honest, a little more open to people who aren’t like us.

Maybe…those people are just waiting for you to care, to take an interest in who they are without trying to change who they are.

Maybe they’re just waiting for you to say hello.

How Journalists Celebrate Pi Day

Even though it’s not actually National Pie Day (that’s in January), it is National Pi Day and that means nerdy and foodie celebrations of both the numerical pi and the edible pie.

I decided not only to eat pie for this joyous occasion, but also to throw an English-major spin on it by writing both a piku and a piem.

Piku: a haiku with three, one, then four syllables.

Piem: a poem in which the number of letters of successive words is determined by pi.

Oh and by the way, here are the newsroom’s pies today: a pumpkin and a chocolate peanut butter. Much thanks to our new reporter, Joyce Orlando, for making them! :)


So here is my piku:

We eat pie
celebrate life.

And a piem:


Share your piku or poem in the comments below! I’d love to read it. Happy Pi Day!

Creating the wrong empire: What “Duck Dynasty” can learn from Jesus

-Tweeted from a Robertson parody account, with 340K+ followers.

Since when are we supposed to create our own empires?

You’ve heard quite a lot about Phil lately, so I’m not going to talk about him. I’m not going to preface this with a short explanation, because you probably know what happened.

I’m not going to say that I support him. I don’t. I’m not going to say that I hate him. I don’t.

I am going to say that this is not a free speech issue. You can say whatever you want in America. But you can get in trouble for what you say. (Like these 16 people did.)

Instead of all that, I’m going to offer you some things I found in an old book. It’s a book I love to read pretty often. It’s a book that sometimes makes you feel bad about yourself, but it also makes you want to change.


I’m pretty sure you know which book I’m talking about.

I’m offering the following quotes from it to Phil and his family. I’m offering them to Christians who are supporting him. And I’m offering them to myself. Because one of the greatest problems with us Christians today is that we look in the mirror, then go our own way, and straightway forget what we saw there.

We read the Bible, make our own judgments, and straightway forget what Jesus said.

So let this be a reminder. Please follow along. You’re not following me. But if you profess him, you are following Christ.

These are from the gospel of Matthew, chapter 23, and the book of James, Christ’s brother.

“Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”

“But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.”


“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”


“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.”

(Note from Matthew 27: Then Pilate said to Him, “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?’ And He did not answer him with regard to even a single charge, so the governor was quite amazed.’)

“Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!”

“Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.”

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.”

“And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”

What are your thoughts on the Robertson family? Do you feel that the Robertsons are good examples of what we should be? If not, what is your advice? How can we work together to build again the bridges that we have broken?

What Machu Picchu Means To Me

After my recent post on Carl Sandburg was freshly pressed, two things happened.

1)     I wasn’t sure what I should write about next, now that I had all these new followers.

2)     I realized that many of them wanted to know why I chose Machu Picchu as my blog title and header.

Since I wrote that post, I’ve realized the best way for me to write is straight from my heart, from who I am. Because I think, somehow, you’ll understand it.

So from my soul to yours, here is what Machu Picchu means to me.

Ever since I could read, I’ve been fascinated by ancient places and mysteries. Things like Stonehenge


Easter Island


and the Great Wall of China. I would read books by Charles Berlitz about Atlantis and the Bermuda Triangle, and of course I was an avid Nancy Drew fan.

One of my favorite animated movies was El Dorado.

Discovery, mysteries, the past took hold of me and would not let go.

One day, after perusing my favorite bookstore, my love of ancient places came together perfectly.

I found the “The Atlas of Mysterious Places.”


The book featured all kinds of ancient places from around the world, from the Garden of Eden to Atlantis to the Forbidden City in China. It wasn’t saying that everything about these places was true; it wasn’t saying Atlantis existed; it was simply exploring the mysteries held by the common memory of humanity.

Out of all the places in the book, the one place that intrigued me the most was Machu Picchu.

Here was this place that–although the Spanish had conquered the Incas and laid ruin to their cities–survived completely intact. Nestled between two tall peaks, Machu and Huayna Picchu, it rested among the clouds with an air of calmness and serenity that said, “I know things that you never will.”

A turn of the century historian named Hiram Bingham was the one who discovered–or rather rediscovered–Machu Picchu in 1911.  When he and his companions began to clear away the vegetation, they found stone houses so precisely made that not even a knife could fit between the stones.

hiram bingham

They found what was–in the words of the Atlas–a miracle. A city that stood, despite everything that had happened around it.

Machu Picchu lay untouched. It was a hidden treasure, a secret city that survived safely between those two tall mountains, resting calmly among the clouds.


Today, it survives as a permanent monument to the Incas’ workmanship and intelligence. To me, it survives as a monument to what humanity is capable of.

No matter the onslaught against them, the Incas’ foundation was strong. They carefully crafted their greatest work. They did not worry about the world outside. I imagine they lived comfortably, in a hierarchical social system, where one of their chief duties each day was drawing water from the springs that flowed unhindered from the mountain.

What they created there in Peru has survived for hundreds of years. Those stones still speak, where the Incas cannot.

They whisper from inside the clouds, from the gusts of wind,  ruffling through the green, green grass. Their spirits speak. Their message is simple.

“We were here.”

Machu Picchu, Peru

What about you? What is your favorite mystical/ancient place? Why do you think these ancient places are so fascinating to us?