Sunday, December 28, 2008

I'm from the South - and here's how I know

My cousin's wedding had a 3-hour intermission during an Alabama-Auburn game

My first word was "Bama" and my sister's first word was "Tide"

I eat grits with salt and butter; sugar is for Yankees and we call that "cream of wheat"

My aunt had a debutante coming out party in Atlanta

I've worn a sundress to an Alabama football game

My grandfather's prototype microwave was taken to the repair shop and in the meantime, he bought a new one and took it back when the old one was fixed

Most of my family members have two names: Ray Bo, Mary Beth, Sunny Ann, John Paul, Janie Carol, John Michael, Mary Anna

I can set a 5-course meal place setting for 20 with linen napkins, wine glasses, water glasses, tea glasses and coffee cups with saucers in less than 10 minutes

My parents have actually "bondo'd" a car and driven it like that

The house I grew up in had an outhouse by the barn in case the new plumbing didn't work

I say words like "fixin," "all yall," "Momma," and describe driving directions with words like "down the road," "take a left at the huge oak," and "if you've hit the creek, you've gone too far."

As far as I know, there is no other football league or conference outside the SEC
Also as far as I know, there is no other baseball team besides the Braves

My Alabama history class in the seventh grade consisted of a trip to a Civil War Reenactment

I call everyone older than me "Sir" or "Ma'am"

When it looks like snow, I don't drive because the crazy people racing to grab the last of the milk and bread don't know how to

I call anyone who lives above the Mason-Dixon line a "Yankee" and sometimes that includes those border state folks

And lastly, I can carry on a conversation with any stranger anywhere about family, church and gossip without hurting anyone's feelings or truly giving away any information, "Bless her heart."

Monday, December 22, 2008

What do rabbit ears and Bama football have in common? NOTHING!! - Finale

My friend Dan says I'm stretching out this story and he's dying to know if I got to see what was arguably Alabama's biggest game of this season. So for the sake of his children who benefit greatly from their fantastic father's presence on the earth, here goes:

Steve, Patrick and Brad are outside fiddling with the HD antenna, climbing up on the roof for more elevation and grunting to each other inside the Martian cave. Eyeballing each other in that way that only girls understand, Leslie and I walk away from watching them out the window. She grabs the yellow pages. I grab the phone. Calling Buffalo Wild Wings, I put our name on the list. The background noise of loud televisions, clanking dishes and shouting crowds tell me that even though the teenage girl on the phone promises we can get in, it will never happen.

Pulling the plug on "The Adventures of the HD Antenna," I lean out the window and let Patrick know it's time to pack it in. The screen is still black and he and the guys gave it the best effort anyone could ask for. I hated to do it but the reason I finally make this call is the red-faced, steaming ears, two-legged creature pacing the floors of my house. The fanatical animal decked out from head to toe in crimson and white is my favorite sister. To be fair, she never actually SAID anything to me about the fact that she was about to miss this game. But everyone knows that actions are much louder than words. She's rattling keys, holding her purse and eyeballing me. It's time to go.

As fast as I can drive without killing anyone, I turn the radio to the Bama Sports Network to keep her listening to Eli Gold's play-by-play as I race through traffic to Buffalo Wild Wings. I sling up to the door and she jumps out. As Caiden and I walk into the restaurant after parking the car, I realize by the size and sounds of the restaurant patrons, there is NO WAY we'll be sitting down. Janie is in her usual position. Arms crossed, jaw set, she's standing right in front of the closest tv. I hesitate to even approach but she did smile at me as I sidled up and grinned apologetically. Leslie's already talked to the hostess -- 1 big group in front of us. But a 3-hour game just started. Steve is working the phones for another wings place. I'm working my sister to make sure she allows her niece to grow up with a mom.

Florida scores first and the mood darkens. Half the room erupts in cheers. I sigh. Steve gets a hold of Wingers and they have lots of room. We race through the double doors and the crimson crowds outside go crazy as Julio Jones makes a wild 64-yard Alabama catch near the end zone. I get the car and once again we're off to the races. Eli Gold is shouting again on the Bama Sports Network and finally he explodes with the first Bama touchdown. Janie screams. I almost run off the road. She high-fives me. I break a nail on the roof of the car. She's happy. I'm happy. Wingers has plenty of room. Plenty of beer. Plenty of wings. And a huge big screen tv that we have practically to ourselves.

Florida ends up winning but Bama played a great 3 quarters. My Christmas lights didn't get up until the next day. But they did get up and we did get to see the game. A tremendous effort by Patrick and the guys--their perseverance alone probably would have paid off if I'd given them time. But in the end, we met the goal: Bama football, beers, wings and a happy sister!

What makes a snob?

I like to eat off of plates. Not the paper kind but the kind made out of cold, hard glass or china. I like to eat at restaurants that have linen napkins but I also like to eat great, messy BBQ that requires a paper towel roll. I like to eat seafood that isn't fried -- especially stuffed shark and cold shrimp. I like my hotel rooms to have doors that open to the inside not the outside. Some of that is for security reasons and some of that is because the beds aren't lumpy and the bathrooms aren't moldy. I love to travel. I love to read. I love plays and I love Shakespeare. My English teacher mother was fanatical about expanding her kids' vocabulary, so I use words with more than 2 syllables from time to time.

All of these things make me a snob. That's what I was told. Snotty, snooty, uppity--and only because he doesn't know the word "pretentious."

Here's the kicker: I was raised to treat people the way I wanted to be treated. Everyone has a place in the world and no one's place is better than anyone else's. People have likes and dislikes and just because they aren't the same as mine doesn't make them worthless; it makes them interesting. Everyone you meet is going through something. Recognizing that life is hard and people just want to feel like someone gives a damn about them is part of the human experience.

So here's what I have to say. Get a new definition of "snob." My likes and dislikes make me who I am as a person. And I want to be proud of being me, not sorry for it. I want to share all the neat things I like and the cool things I've gotten to do. And I want to continue to learn from people who are different from me. Relationships are what keeps us from being lonely. They are what drives us to get up every day to be able to share that day with someone who cares about us.

I think it is sad that he judges me for what interests me and not for who I am. Because it says his worth in life is based on things we can't take with us when it's over. I hope his cold bed of Judge Judy, paper plates and fried shrimp keep him happy because he's robbing himself of the opportunity to experience life beyond his comfortable, little world where he sits on his throne and judges me.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What do rabbit ears and Bama football have in common? NOTHING -- Part III

So biggest football game of the year. Sister who will kill me if she can't watch it. Friends coming over. Chili to make. Christmas lights to hang. No CBS television.

"I've got medicine for the tv," Patrick says as he walks back in from Best Buy. As he starts pulling boxes out of plastic bags, all I see are tons of wires, an enormous metal V-looking thing and a blank TV screen. Rather than interfere, I find anything else to do. Patrick starts running wires out my living room window and hooking up the new gray box to something on the tv cabinet. About this time, Brad shows up. One hour to game time.

Brad laughs when he sees the mess and comments that he just figured out why the Christmas lights weren't already up. Jumping right in, he takes the new antenna outside to a "high" spot in the yard. Evidently, the signal will get stronger if its outside and elevated. Climbing up on my daughter's swingset, he places it at the top of the slide. I sigh and go back to doing anything else.

All I hear for the next 10 minutes is "try something else!" as Patrick flips channels back and forth, pushes buttons and through his chanting, wills CBS to work. Outside, Brad twists the antenna one way and then another, a few degrees at a time, in the vain hope that a new angle will help. Finally, Patrick comes in asking for a ladder. He's decided more elevation should do it. Evidently, the closer the antenna is to Heaven, the more likely my prayers will be answered.

The clang and clatter of the metal ladder ring through the backyard as they prop it up against the roof. Up goes Brad and shouts come from the frontdoor. Steve and Leslie have shown up. Steve is dressed for hanging lights, according to Leslie. Fortunately, his jogging pants and sweatshirt are well-suited for climbing on roofs, so beating his chest and grunting, out the backdoor he goes to be with the men. It's 15 minutes to game time, Leslie looks at me and I just shake my head.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Power of a Hug

There is one thing that tells us we aren't alone in the world. One thing that tells us we are cared for and that we care for others. And in the smallest way, it tells us that we matter in this world.

It says, "Hello" and "Goodbye."

It says, "I missed you" and "I care about you."

It says, "Congratulations!"

It says, "Things will be OK."

It says, "I'm so happy for you!"

It says, "I love you" and it says, "I'm here for you."

It is such a small thing and we should do it more often. It's the simplest thing to do and the easiest thing to share.
It's a hug.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What do rabbit ears and Bama football have in common? NOTHING!!! -- Part II

So my sister is driving in from South Carolina to watch the big SEC Championship game with me. The girl NEVER misses an Alabama football game. And because she lives five minutes from my father's brother, she watches them with my uncle on his super huge flatscreen so they can yell and scream and cuss at the TV together. Since Daddy played for the Bear, it's just family tradition. But there is a lot of pressure on me to make sure she doesn't miss what is arguably the Tide's biggest game of the year. And my cable is out and I can't get the CBS station.

But I do know a great guy who says the rabbit ears at his house work just fine for CBS and I shouldn't drive all the way up to my equally Alabama football-crazy cousin's house in Birmingham to watch the game because he can make it work. At least he's 99% sure.

Now, at the same time, my objective for that Saturday was to get my Christmas lights up on the house and I needed Brad and Patrick to help me out with that. Driving all over the state would not get that accomplished. So I agree to the rabbit ears idea and figure if it doesn't work, Buffalo Wild Wings is just down the road. Janie should be happy with that, right?

So Patrick comes bebopping in around 2 hours before game time with his little rabbit ears box, moseys into my living room, plugs in the rabbit ears, punches a few buttons, wiggles the antennas and gets a great picture from ABC. Gets another great picture from NBC and another one off of Fox. But when he gets to CBS, he gets absolutely nothing. Smiling at me in the "ha ha oops, I can make it work" kinda way, he starts clicking on the remote and fiddling with wires. If this were a movie, I would be standing there with a look of WTF on my face, my arms crossed, my foot tapping on the floor and repeatedly checking my watch. But this wasn't the movies. I smiled in an "I'm not worried" kinda way, stood up and went to go get ready ... with my thumping heart reminding me that my sister will rip it out if this doesn't work.

About 5 minutes later, I hear him shout that he'll be right back. I can only imagine what he's going to do at Best Buy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What do rabbit ears and Bama football have in common? NOTHING!!! -- Part I

The biggest game of the year for Alabama fans was on CBS last weekend.

Hailing to the uprights at the Georgia Dome in Hotlanta, the Tide was to faced off against the Gators in the first BCS 1-2 matchup in SEC history. To be fair, the BCS isn't very old but nothing was going to stop the Bama Nation from watching their beloved Nick Saban pull the prized Alabama football team up from its embarrassing drudge of pigskin play of the past few years back to the super heights of college ball.

This season has been spectacular with an 11-0 record going into the SEC Championship game. My father, an icon in his daughter’s eyes because he played for the Bear, would have wept to see it after all these years. And his other daughter carries on his legacy of pulling her chair directly in front of the TV and screaming at it with her hands flailing for the entire 3 hours of post routes, body slams and 2-minute drills. Shrill screams have pierced the ears of anyone daring to talk to her during Eli Gold’s play-by-play and the rule of thumb is to just tip-toe around, drink a lot of beer and don’t munch the chips too loudly when she’s in the room. For her, there is NO missing Bama football.

That daughter, my sister, came to my house to bow to the LCD panel god for the big game. Now this puts a lot of pressure on me. There is no room for error. So I invited friends over. Chopped up veggies for munchies. Grabbed enough beans, burger and chili powder to make 2 gallons of chili. Put beer on ice and decorated the house in about an hour.

But here’s the kicker….my cable was out and I didn't have CBS.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Singing in the Car

I love singing in the car! And I think it's hysterical that Caiden is now singing all my favorite songs; although for a 7-year-old, she probably shouldn't know one or two of them. Her first concert was Puddle of Mudd when the 1st Armored Division returned from Iraq. In my defense, there were lots of kids there since their parents were celebrating war heroes.
But now she's listening to Selena and believe it or not, singing in Spanish. How cool is that?
Kids are so smart.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cart Paths and Freakin' Trees

He hit 6 trees and every time he hit a cart path, his ball would zoom an extra 30 yards. I spent more time looking for his balls in the rough than I did actually golfing on the 18-hole course yesterday. My team played best ball in a work tournament and only by the grace of God did we hit 3 over par. Scott, Ethan and Phil were my partners in crime.

Scott hit a straight-ball streak around hole 9 but smacked another tree on hole 12. Two holes later he climbed into the horse pen to retreive another ball and another two holes later, he nailed a bird at the top of an old oak tree.

The best part of the day was the use of Jim's driver. Phil calls it "the toaster" because it is by far the most massive driver I have ever seen. When they hit with it, it sounds like Tiger Woods just nailed a 400-yarder ... the skies open and golf angels sing. The first time Ethan took a whack at it, the ball soared over the grass and came up short at the women's tee box. But man did it sound good. The guys have decided Jim may never get his driver back.

It rained and we took a wrong turn but the day was lots of fun; especially later over beers.

Monday, November 3, 2008

It's Good to Have Friends

When I was little, I was playing with some neighborhood kids from my church. There were about ten of us running around but I only knew two of them. What I remember most was the older brother of one of the girls. He was probably only 12. He was tall and dark-headed and had the kindest eyes.

We were running through an empty lot that had tall grass. The wind was blowing little hay-colored seeds all around us. Pigtails were flying. The boys were all carrying baseball bats and gloves.

As I ran to catch up, one of the seeds got into my eye. It stung and my eye watered. I couldn't get it out. The older brother stopped and turned back to me when he saw that I wasn't with the rest of the group. He gently pulled my hair out of my face and bent down to look in my eye. As easily as he could, he helped me get the seed out of my eye. Then he rubbed his thumb under my eye to wipe away the tears.

I couldn't have been more than 8 and I have always remembered how nice that kid was. We should all have friends who will take the seeds out for us.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


This past year and a half or so has been so exciting! I've had a great time watching all this politics and election stuff. BUT I'M SO GLAD IT'S JUST ABOUT OVER!!!!
McCain will cut your taxes. Obama will raise them. McCain is for off-shore drilling. Obama is for clean coal but will tax it. McCain wants capitalism to work, even in the health-care industry. Obama wants socialized medicine (that means YOU pay for it). McCain is pro-life. Obama is pro-choice.
The bottom line to me is how involved do you want the government to be in your life? I want the federal government to make sure roads are built, electricity works and capitalism is strong. That's it. Nothing else. Other than those two things, the government can stay put in DC.
But the most compelling issue during this election cycle for me is the war. I have too many friends sitting in Iraq and Afghanistan for it not to be. Candidates can talk about pulling out all they want to but if they do it irresponsibly or too quickly, then what happens to the last few left in Baghdad? Do people remember what happen in Saigon during the embassy evac in April 1975? I do not want that to be my friends. They are heroes for doing the duty asked of them by the American people and deserve a president who understands that.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sitting on the dock of the lake

John Keats had painful tuberculosis and was high on laudinum most of the time. During one of these opiate states, he was sitting in a chair outside as the sun sank in the sky and the air became cool. Wrapped in a blanket, he watched a bird as it flitted among the leaves high up in a tree.
Reminiscent of Coleridge's drug-induced Kubla Khan, Keats discussed the absence of pain with the bird.
He felt its freedom to fly without a care in the world. His face turned to the sun, eyes closed. The breeze lifted him higher and higher, farther and farther from the racking of his body.
I was thinking about this as I sat on my dock wrapped in a blanket the other day. The sun beat off the water but was unable to penetrate the cold air as the steam rose off the clear, glass-like lake. The wind blew waves over the water and my hair out of my face.
Nature is the world's best medicine.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Cajun Food

There is a fantastic Cajun restaurant in the middle of the projects up in Nashville that is a must-visit every time I'm in town. The man who owns it is from Lafayette, Louisiana, and the place fits 20 small-sized people. It's a shack with falling roof pieces and walls full of country music singer pictures. The neighborhood it's in is full of industrial complexes filled with smoke stacks and railroad cars that absolutely tower over the joint. The only way a potential customer would know it was there is because a sad little sign protrudes out into the street and reads "Breaux's Cajun Cuisine."

Regardless, this little treasure has a platter that any Cajun would fish in the Ponchatrain for. Boudin (that's boo-dan), crawfish etouffee, gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice and more flavors of shrimp than even Bubba could come up with. The flavors drift to your nose and instantly your mouth waters with the little perks under your jaw going crazy. It's the French Quarter and voodoo all mixed in one. It's the swamp, Mardi Gras and witch doctors. This is the type of Cajun I'm used to.

And last night I found another. Served up on iron skillets with sweet tea and Cajun bread...Wetumpka's Cajun Grill is NOT Breaux's but it sure is close. Situated in a tiny little strip mall between the nail salon and auto parts store, I almost missed it. But like a fly to sugar, it screamed at me as I passed it on the highway. All I need are candles for the spirits, jazz musicians and moss on the trees.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fishing with Caiden

Last night was warm and perfect for fishing if you're amatuers like us. We trounced down to the dock around 5:30. The neighbor hollered and asked if I was catching dinner. I laughed and said I just hoped we caught something. Caiden toted the white plastic bowl with the holes in the lid that she grabbed off the counter at the local gas station/grocery store/restaurant/tackle & bait shop earlier. I thought that was cute that she was going to fish with worms. She held them close to her in one hand and in the other was her pink Barbie fishing pole. I followed along with my pole and the little pink tackle box that matches her fishing pole.

We set up on the edge of the dock and I made sure all the hooks and bobbers worked. And then she dug into the cool, damp dirt that filled the plastic bowl. The squiggly worms were all cornered on the bottom which meant she and I were covered in dirt before we got the worms out. She was good with snagging them, she was not good with piercing them to her hook. So I took on that job. Once she was all set, she cast out about 5 feet and waited for the bobber to be drug underwater. Too cute.

I cast out and tried to remember where my fishing license was. About 20 minutes and 100 worms later, she screamed because a fish about the size of my little hand had grabbed a hold of her worm. She danced around, screeching and crying and wanting me to take the pole. So after making her hold it until I could reel mine in, I reached down and pulled out a flopping little thing that I would assume was a crappie or a blue gill. Anybody reading this who knows the difference between the two can feel free to let me know. The locals assured me that this was all we would find near the shore. All I know was that if skinned and cooked, it wouldn't qualify as an appetizer much less a meal. And my hysterical daughter had me laughing until I cried. After I unhooked it and threw it back, she decided that she could indeed put the worm on and that became her new job.

Casting out another 5 feet, she was very excited about fishing again. Less than 2 minutes later, a slightly bigger fish snagged her worm and the screeching began again. This tough little sucker wouldn't let go of the darn hook and I practically had to stick my fingers in its mouth to get it out. At the same time, all I'm hearing is "Mommy! Mommy! Get it out! Get it out!" By this time, the full moon was up and I hadn't caught a thing. But I did get two great pictures of my little fishergirl standing with her pole in her oustretched hand as far away as possible with the silver little fish dangling and twisting from the end.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Pumpkin seeds and candles

I love Halloween! It's one of my favorite holidays. As we strolled into the produce section of Walmart the other day, Caiden starts pointing and ranting about pumpkins. The little ones, big ones, white ones, orange ones were all on sale. So we spent hours choosing the best three of the small ones and the largest, roundest, longest-stemmed of the big ones we could find.

When we got back to the lake, my sister pulled the newspaper out of the garbage and spread it all over the table. I dug up two knives and Caiden scurried to her room to find her red marker. That way she could draw the faces on the pumpkins. Janie and I cut open the tops in zigzags and spent the better part of an hour up to our elbows in pumpkin pulp and seeds. Using huge spoons and forks, we tunneled through the muck to make sure the insides were completely scrapped out.

While Janie cut out eyes and teeth, I scrapped seeds that stubbornly clung to the pulp and spread them in a pan to roast in the oven. Now we have three very scary small pumpkins and a big Momma one sitting out on the dock. We put pink and purple candles in them so that the folks across the lake can see them.

Sitting out on the green chairs, we munched on salted pumpkin seeds and waved at folks as they boated by for a look at our pumpkins. It's a little early and I'm sure I'll be doing it again in a couple of weeks, but it's a lot of fun!

Monday, October 6, 2008

42 Steps - porch to pier

I love living at the lake! I always wanted to wake up to cool air bouncing off the water as it lapped up against the dock. The first cup of coffee in the morning is almost like good sex but sipping that first cup out on the pier while the sun lazily breaks through the dawn--there is no description for it.

This morning, the sun hadn't quite come up and neither had the neighbors so the air was a little cool, for Alabama, and very quiet. The water was like glass. The smell of coffee filled the kitchen and wafted into the Florida room that faces the lake. That Florida room is filled with wicker furniture and surrounded by large, pane glass windows. Perfect.

Yesterday, my sister and I pulled the green loungers from the screened front porch and carried them down to the dock. Counting the steps to the dock, it was 42 from the last step off the porch to the first step up on the weathered wood. We sat out sipping sweet tea and chatting about nothing. Occasionally a boat would tool by. And every so often, we could hear the sound of carp cut across the lake as they jumped and splashed.

I may never want to leave.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

VP Debate - a whole lotta fun

So I'm sitting here listening to the vice-presidential debate.

Joe Biden is his normal loquacious self. Ranting and raving, raising his hands and hitting grand slams on foreign policy. Exactly where he should have considering his extensive foreign policy experience. He explained the Ahmadinejad did not control the Iranian security apparatus but that the theocracy did. While that is a true statement, I'm not sure most of the American people won't understand that. The Supreme Leader Ayotallah Khomeini is the leader of Iran but the American people have been exposed more to Ahmadinejad -- the same man who stood behind the capture of UK citizens and the supplying of weapons to Shiites in Iraq.

Sarah Palin winks and uses lexicon that resonates with every American. While foreign policy is not her strong point, energy and economics are. She is scoring two-point conversions on those issues. Taking on major oil companies and McCain's tax voting record help her score those points. Her biggest message is a typical conservative one -- keep the government out of our business and let us raise our families and build successful businesses.

The one thing they agreed on is same-sex marriage. Neither support a definition of marriage as anything but a man and a woman. On the same note, they both agree for a civil union as such. This isn't too surprising since he is a Catholic and she is an Evangelist.

So far, I'd say Palin held her own up against one of the best debaters in the Senate.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Press One

Why? Why do I need to press 1? I have been on hold with the VA for what feels like a week. Elevator music rings in my ear and at the end of every concerto, I hear "If you wish to remain on the line, press 1" in the most reassuring, nauseatingly calm voice.

For the umpteenth time, I've pressed one. I feel like Phoebe from friends who refused to hang up because that's how the company got you; by wearing you down. That could go for the federal government as well.

It seems to me that if someone didn't wish to remain on the line, they would just hang up. Just hearing that guy's irritating voice in my ear is reason enough to hang up. That stinging music in my ear constantly interrupted by the idiot who keeps telling me to push one is enough to make me pull my hair out.

Where are all the attendants? Is the VA so understaffed? I refuse to be beaten.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Soccer -- my brother loves it!

Growing up, I used to watch my brother John play soccer and I thought it was pretty boring. Cleats running in a blur chasing after a black and white ball. Slamming it with the inside of the shoe to another blur of feet or at a white net on one end of the large, grassy field. But then he used all that kicking to snag a high school football kicking record...56-yard field goal that still stands today. Super cool to see in person. I started to rethink soccer.

Then in school I met a goalie. A big guy who guards the net as dozens of players stampede toward him in those cleats. They all have one goal: smashing the black and white ball completely through him. It's his job to stand in front of the goal like the Secret Service, taking one for the big guy except in this case the welts aren't typically life-threatening. Just hearing him talk about playing soccer made me rethink it. He ate, slept, thought, and breathed the sport -- passion could be heard in every word. Sounded a lot like my brother. The excitement from both mirrored SEC football in the south and as contagious as that is, I didn't stand a chance.

Then I had an opportunity that evidently was something soccer/futbol hooligans would kill for. I lived in Germany during the 2006 World Cup. When the US played Italy in Kaiserslautern, it was a mad house. I high-tailed it to Switzerland. In the cutest little guesthouse in the Alps - a place that you can only reach by rail - I was having dinner next to a couple from the UK. When they found out that my server was from Italy, it was like Alabama was playing Auburn. The teasing, taunting and relentless ribbing lasted the entire meal.

Later I walked down the main street where all the pubs were snuggled in between mountain wear stores, I could hear shouts pouring out into the streets. Goaaaal! Brazil was playing and losing to an African team. Sounded like Tuscaloosa. That same crazed-Saturday-in-the-South-gotta-tailgate-and-eat-BBQ could be felt from every pore of that sleepy little village. I can smell the burning fall leaves now (the ultimate fall, football, parade smell). It was intoxicating and I couldn't help it. I got into it.

Now I've decided to take a little vacation to one of the soccer/futbol capitals of the world - Italy. I love Italy but I've never been to Venice and have always regretted that I didn't make it when I lived there. On the way, I'll pop in to see my brother and I know I'll be watching soccer. The village will break out its spring team and they'll go to town. I'll watch as John gives me the players' stats and his own recruiter-like opinion about whether they are any good or not. The competition among the players alone will be worth going to see. Maybe that goalie could have held his own.

Either way, the pub will put on a spread. Soccer jerseys will be worn by babies in strollers, old men with pipes and canes, and girlfriends to show player ownership. It won't be BBQ but brauts and beer. And the shouts will reverberate off the trees and windmills. What a party and I can't wait!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mean people - why?

*Disclaimer - this would not be one of my more upbeat posts*

I am terrible at relationships. Do other people say that? I hope that I'm not alone in that. My problem is that I think I'm a good judge of character but my most recent relationship would prove that I'm not. The real problem is that I knew the guy had it in him to be nasty and mean and I stayed with him anyway. Always hoping that he would get better; believing him when he'd apologize and promise to get better. Does that make me weak? Probably.

Why can't he let it go? It's over and his answer to that is to make my life as awful as he can. I'm sure people have heard that before. What is it in someone that drives them to be so cruel? To rub it in when they are hurt. To make you as absolutely miserable as possible because if he is then I should be too. Beyond that though, what creates someone who isn't just mean but so vicious that they screw with your job, your family...everything you are.

I thought if you loved someone that you want them to be happy no matter what's going on. You don't stick the knife in over and over and then twist it again for good measure.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Middle of the Bread

I like the middle of the bread. Not just any bread. French bread. I like to tear off the top and dig out the middle. It's soft and filling. When I was a kid, I would hide the end I took off and put it back on the serving platter. After a few minutes, fits of hee-haws had me rolling off my chair and onto the floor when the unsuspecting spaghetti eater would reach for bread only to find a gigantic hole in it. Evidently I haven't changed that much.

I'm sitting here at Panera Bread eating a Greek salad with a large piece of sourdough, French bread. The middle is all gone. It was yummy too. I figure some psychiatrist would have a hey day with it. But they would with my good friend Stephen too. He can't have anything on his plate touching anything else or he won't eat it. He also refuses to let you eat french fries out of the McDonald's bag until we get where we're going to eat. Something about touching his food.

So I figure Stephen can't trust anybody. In contrast, I figure I'd rather to cut to the chase. Why waste all your energy on small talk? Well, down South small talk is a way of life. You have to get through it to get to the real stuff. It's invasive and happens everywhere.

A total stranger in the grocery store will talk to you about why you are buying cranberry juice. Bless your heart sweetie, trying to get regular?
Or at the gas station, another stranger will ask you where you work....because obviously you are high on the hog since you drive that BMW.
My personal favorite is sitting in the pedicure chair and the lady beside you wants to make sure you have a church to attend...since you so clearly don't have one seeing as how you are getting bright red nail polish on your toes.

If you understand how it works down here, responses are automatic and swift. No I'm regular...just need to clear up a UTI. My BMW? Honey, my 99-year-old husband bought that for me just before he kicked the bucket. And red nail polish? Why that's perfectly acceptable in my church. We also worship idols and talk to snakes.

This little ritual is taught from childhood and we can all do it. It's just part of life down here. It helps make new friends and helps you pick up on the new gossip but you can't let them get the better of you. Recognize the bad small talk from the good small talk. It can be a fun game.

Chatting in the grocery line is perfectly normal - just stick to what's on the magazine rack. Discussing outrageous gas prices will endear you to the other sucker who has to pay that much for gas too. And nail salons, stick to pink. And whatever you do, if you are not a card-carrying member of the NRA, don't tell anyone.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

ROLL TIDE -- Good start to the SEC year

Bama beat out the #7 team Saturday .... with a bunch of freshman!!!! JP Wilson had a great game and completed more passes than he did in all of last year! Not really, but he did have a good game.

Here's the deal. Alabama fans are fanatical. No pun intended. They are obsessive, crazy and still gloat about the Bear Bryant glory days. I should know, I was raised by one of Bears Boys.

Saturday was always dedicated to Red Elephant flags hanging off cars, off houses, on t-shirts and on tattoos. Chili, nachos, coke and beer -- all broken out before noon and stayed out until midnight. Whether we were at the game or in the living room, everyone wore red t-shirts, red hairbows, face paint. My aunt even wore red sweatpants. And "Roll Tide" was said as a greeting, a salutation, a high-five and even a curse.

And the stories were always the same. Remember the 1979 goal-line stand against Penn State? Bama held and we won another national championship. How about the 1993 Sugar Bowl when George Teague chased down that Miami guy and stripped the ball, held on to it and ran it back -- we won 34-13? You can't forget the Bear's last game: December 1982, the same year he became the winningest coach of all time.

There were also stories of us at home. Remember when Granddaddy jumped off the couch and launched into the air in front of the TV to catch a ball Joe Namath threw in the hopes of catching it for the win? How about when Momma was 8 months pregnant and hid behind the couch because she was afraid to watch all the excitement for fear of accidental delivery from football stress? And Sister...can't watch a game with her. She screams at the TV, the players, the coaches and you if you get anywhere near her view.

But that's SEC football. The best game in town. The fall is made for burning leaves, parades and tailgating. Down here it's religion. Down here it's life. And what better way to start it off than with huge win in Atlanta!? Next week's home opener is sure to be just as good. Doesn't matter that we're only playing Tulane. The stadium will be packed, tailgaters will be BBQing, cheerleaders will be screaming and ESPN is sure to notice the new Bama team from Tuscaloosa.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Do you ever miss someone?

I miss the sound of his voice. It doesn't matter what he says, I like his voice.
I miss his laughter. Sometimes it booms, sometimes it whispers.
I miss his making fun of me and then calling me baby to take the sting out. I miss his self-deprecation--which is just a mask because he is smart, sexy and funny. I miss his soapbox, when the world just got too much and he had to let it out.

I miss his hands. I miss the rough, long fingers he used to brush my hair out of my face. They feel worked with, rugged not weak. They engulf mine. I miss sweeping my thumb over his just to let him know I'm thinking about him. I miss the strength that flowed from the lines on his palm.

I miss the idea of us--the bumps that would keep us together until we're 90. I miss talks that wrapped us around each other to keep out the world. I miss curled up when we're sick. Smiling across the room when we're not.

I miss his goodness and kindness; even when he was mouthing off. I miss how he made me laugh. I miss the crazy love I felt when he made me feel better after a crappy day. I hate that I took out so much on him. I miss that he let me.

Most of all, I just miss him.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Met a Korean War Vet Today

I served in Korea for a year back in 2003. There's a lot to know about the 3-year "forgotten" war that took the lives of over 50,000 Americans. Living there, I was inundated with history and background as I should have been considering I was the heir to help carry on that legacy. But no year in a relatively, quiet time could ever illustrate to me what it was like to fight in the freezing, cold snow in barren valleys and mountains with cold k-rations to eat.

I know the Korean cold but under the blanket of a heated dorm room or thick layers of clothing that I wore only to walk from one building to the next. I also know the rainy season when you wear rain gear from head to toe, again to slosh from one building to the next. I do not know what it's like to carve a hole in the ground and have to sleep in the pond it creates during that cold, wet season.

I have seen the World's Most Dangerous Golf Course -- a one-hole, par 1 where if you lose your golf ball, you do not go after it for fear of anti-personnel mines. But I do not know what it is like to build a human chain down a mountain, through c-wire and over mine fields to be able to drag a buddy missing half his skull safely to a helo landing pad.

Today, I met the man who's platoon formed that human chain--up the snow-covered side of a mountain and one of the men in his platoon. Both originally from Oklahoma, their guard unit was paired with another from California and headed to Korea in December 1951. This was a year and a half before the armistice was signed and a year and a half after the war started. Joe Mac, the wounded man, was pulled from that valley and flown to Japan the day after his 19th birthday.

Veterans of all ages, no matter if they serve three years, 13 years or 30 years deserve all the respect we can give them. America seems to be split on patriotism these days. Some support the soldier and are scolded for believing in America. Others scorn the military man and everything he stands for because they disagree with how he's being used. Funny, America stands for liberty, freedom and God-given rights. Isn't that what the soldier stands for too?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Golf in a Hurricane

First of all, I like to play golf. I have my own set of clubs with my super-cool Alabama covers on the woods. I even have special tees and a neat little white glove; although sometimes I feel like Michael Jackson when I wear it. But the deal is, I like to play 9 holes. That's it. Anything over and I'm bored, irritated and ready for a beer at the clubhouse.

So why I signed up to play in an 18-hole tournament on Saturday is beyond me. Could be that my regular partners were playing. Could be that the tournament was for something at work I was in charge of. Could be that I just had a momentary lapse of sanity - of which I am known to have. Either way I did it and resigned myself to the fact that at least I was playing with friends.

So Saturday came and so did Hurricane/Tropical Storm Fay -- flooding the entire southeast! But when you are in the Air Force, especially at Maxwell Air Force Base, unless it is lightening and thundering, you will do whatever the outdoor activity is. So in this case, the 60 folks who signed up for the golf tourney knew that because the skies were only drizzling at 7 am, we would be playing golf. By the 8 am start time, rain was between drizzling and pouring and going back and forth.

Resigned to my fate, I threw on my parka and jumped into the cart. For the next four hours, I hit the green a total of 3 times. I also managed to hit a tree, a sand trap, the water and not one single hole with my putter. By hole 15, the club was slipping out of my hand spraying water farther than the golf ball. And I was counting down how many strokes we had left.
Bryan hit one. Then Barzya. Then Kirchner. My meager contribution may well have been forgotten but ... one hole down. Can't see a thing through the water that is now streaming out of the gray sky at full force. Still no thunder. Clouds hovered and we hit another one.

It was time for the BBQ that awaited us at the clubhouse. It took everything I had not to be a whining little girl on the 17th hole. My sunflower seeds might have well sprouted with the amount of water in the bag. All the clubs were covered with half the fairway grass. The goodie bags that Kirchner and I put in the cart were soaked through and completely worthless. Where's the darn beer?!

18 holes down and I could have won Daytona with the speed I put on our little cart. As soon as we got back, 59 other people had war stories of golf clubs flying through the air, water soaking their socks, and just how miserable they were on the last 4 holes. I wasn't alone! And with all the giveways during lunch, it was almost worth it!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Baseball & Nachos

My 7-year-old and I walked into the Montgomery Biscuits stadium last night and one of the ushers pitched her a little ball on the way in. "Look Mommy! That man gave me a volleyball!" she sreamed at me. So I asked her if she meant a baseball and she said matter-of-factly, "No Mommy. It's a volleyball, look." I looked at the little, round white ball with the red seam and contemplated how to tell her it's a baseball. She continued to assure me that it feels like a volleyball but oooo look - there's Mo! I looked over at the Biscuits mascot as she waved wildly to him...the baseball momentarily forgotten.

Her happy little face looked up at me and let me know that Mo wanted her to have chips and cheese. He does, huh? So after watching the high-schooler load up a holder full of chips and squirt bright, yellow cheese all over them, we made our way to our seats on the 3rd baseline. "I go for the Biscuits Mommy. Who do you go for?" she asked me very intently to ensure that I know we together will go for the Biscuits. This is not our first game but it's important to establish our team up front.

It was the bottom of the 2nd when Rhyne Hughes hit a double that resulted in the first score of the game and Caiden screamed like a banshee, knocking her chips to the floor. The Montgomery skyline peered over into the stadium.

As the next Biscuits batter made it to first and the pitcher started trying to pick him off, she scrambled to pick up her chips and asked me why the guy throwing the ball kept throwing it the wrong way. "The guy on that little hill keeps throwing it over there instead of at the batter," she pointed to first base. So we had a chat about leading off and stealing bases. But she insisted he just kept throwing it the wrong way.

Later, when Erold Andrus sprinted in from deep right field and made a diving, slider catch of a short fly, my scream startled the chips right back on the ground. But Caiden threw her arms in the air and cheered along with the crowd anyway. And as Gabby Martinez's homerun went right near our heads, she looked up with cheese on her cheek and screamed with a mouth full of chips. The Biscuits pulled out front for good in the 6th and "La Bamba" blared on the overhead. She jumped up and danced along with the stadium staff who had doned sombreros, colorful blankets and shook maracas.

With all the chips, cheese and Sprite gone, Luiz Munoz finally hit the game winner and the Biscuits won 9-4. On the way out, Caiden told me she can't wait for the weekend game .... because it has fireworks.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Running with my Nikes

I love to run. Sounds crazy? Probably is but it's how I feel when I finish that is so great.

Since I was a junior in high school, I would drag my wanna-be-eating-in-front-of-the-tv self into my blue and white Nikes for a run. I'd pound around for what seemed like an eternity. Fifteen minutes later I would lumber my pace to a walk and with hands on hips, bend over puffing and huffing with a red face. Any passer-by would probably only have one thought. Why bother?

And in college I ran. At first it was only because my Army ROTC drill instructor was screaming my butt all the way to kingdom come. The bottom of my beloved Nikes were worn through with everyday 5 am physical training. By far I was the worst runner and being the shortest, my Nikes and I had to set the pace for these super macho, run fanatics who were easily 6 foot and taller and could outrun a cheetah. No doubt about it, group running is NOT my thing. And neither is running until you puke or to a supposed finish line, until the lead screamer tells you to run passed it and you have no idea where you're headed and there is no way to eke out another heel to toe. Needless to say, I chose not to pursue a career with the Army.

But I did start a decent run program. Ten years later, I run my Nikes in 5K races on a regular basis. The latest run was the 10th Annual Fiddler's Jamboree 5K and it was a hilly monster. Through the woods, down trails, over roots, beside ponds and streams. No matter which race it is though, no one is yelling at me and I can run whatever pace I feel like. Folks along the route cheer, even for the walkers. Volunteers pass out water and the t-shirt at the end is all worth it!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Body for Life

My sister and I are all doing a program called Body for Life. Bill Phillips came up with it in the late 1990s, made a lot of money and taught a whole bunch of people how to trim off the fat in 12 weeks. I think it is one of the best programs ever!

First of all, I get to eat 6 times a day and any program that allows me to eat that much is fantastic in my book. Of course, the portions are small and it's important to include a protein and a carb at each meal. And I don't have to count anything or figure out what a portion size is. As long as it's the size of my palm or fist, then it's the right amount. How easy is that!

The second thing is I exercise 6 times a week. Yep, every day of the week except for one. BUT, every other day is only 20 minutes of cardio. And the days that aren't cardio are less than an hour of free weights. For example, Monday would be lower body, Wednesday is upper body and Friday is back to lower. Then you continue the cycle the next week. Pretty easy, huh?

It actually is. The hardest part is planning. The program requires a good amount of planning. Meals, exact workouts, eating schedule. But the forms are provided to make it a little easier. And they work. I sit down every night and go over what our workouts are going to be for the next day and what we're going to eat. It helps that we generally eat the same thing.

It's also a great conversation topic. The plan gives you a goal and a way to reach it and 12 weeks of nonstop fun! I have become a walking advertisement for it. And since I'm always writing about something, I decided to keep a blog about this as well. If you want more info, click above or go to

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"Band of Brothers" Museum

On the way home from a weekend with my sister, we were driving down I-85 in 101-degree heat.  I glanced up from my book just in time to see a mile marker for Toccoa, Georgia 17 miles.  I looked at my husband and asked him if he thought that was the Toccoa…you know, the one from the Band of Brothers.  As he started to shrug, over his shoulder and up in the tree line I saw a billboard with the HBO poster on it.  The one with the soldiers all standing on a hill in a row.  And the billboard read "Toccoa Museum Next Right."  So, being huge fans of the series, the book and the soldiers, we took the next right.  Drove nearly 11 miles through back Georgia roads with very little direction to go on.  It was a normal, hot, muggy day down south and the countryside was everything I remember growing up with.  Large fields outlined with enormous, brown oak tree groves.  Rundown, brick buildings that were once used as gas stations or fire houses.  There were even oblong brick buildings with dingy white awnings, drooped over a walk up window that served as a drive-up restaurants popular in the 1950s.  Sleepy, backwater Georgia.  But around a bend about 9 miles from the interstate was a brand-new Super Wal-mart and row of fast food restaurants.  Intermingled with all of this was the typical, small town Americana.  Another couple of miles, we turned down the older part of town to the train depot where Amtrak has a station on its way from Birmingham up to Washington, DC.  Inside the depot is the best treasure we've seen.  A museum dedicated to the WWII parachute men who trained at Camp Toccoa in the 1940s before shipping overseas, including Easy Company and the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment.  An old navy man, Ray Ward, took my husband, our 7-year old daughter and me around the museum and told us all the great stories and showed us all the neat stuff.  But the best part of the museum is a horse stable that was brought over from England.  Yes, a horse stable complete with stalls, thick brown walls and triangle roof.  It would have looked perfect in an English countryside and it was the last one left from WWII.  All the others had been torn down or replaced over the years.  So the museum decided it wanted to preserve it.  Why?  Because men who trained at Camp Toccoa lived in it for some time while they were stationed in England waiting for the Normandy jump or before Market Garden.  So the Mississippi Air National Guard took a C-17 and made its way over to England and brought it back to be reconstructed at the Toccoa Museum.  They refurbished it and used the stalls for displays of maps, gear, beds, flags and other memorabilia.  A great find was a letter from Denver "Bull" Randleman from his mother that was found in one of the walls.  A hand written note about life back home is now behind glass for everyone to read.  It is funny and witty and reflects what life was like for a woman in Arkansas worrying about her son's well-being.  There are so many other treasures for anyone interested in WWII history and especially Band of Brothers history.  They are holding a reunion open to the public on the weekend of 4 October.  There is even a Run Currahee event -- 3 miles up, 3 miles down!  If you are interested, the website is

Friday, May 16, 2008

Dinner for a 7-year old


She wants macaroni.
I offer corn.
She wants a corn dog.
I offer green beans.
My hair will fall out before she eats what I want her to. Her teeth will fall out if she eats what she wants to.
She laughs from her perch at the kitchen bar. I sigh. She grins and points to the pop tarts. I silently curse her daddy for bringing those home.
Grilled chicken?
Chicken tenders.
Only if it's fried with ketchup.
She lowers her head and eyeballs me.
I put my hands on the counter and eyeball her right back.
Time to play hardball.
She wants a hamburger.
I have veggie burgers.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

American Idol - Jerry Springer with songs

I hate the Jerry Springer show. I can't stand Judge Judy. It's probably some deep-seated aversion to conflict but either way, I hate listening to people venting their personal issues on national television especially when it ends up with someone going to jail on assault charges. My husband loves this stuff! He can't get enough of it. And I can't even pretend to understand why this is entertainment for him. Evidently though American Idol totally gets it and that's why they always let through folks who break glass and screech like owls to sing for the American people. To me this is just Jerry Springer with a soprano slant.
Don't get me wrong, once the show gets to Hollywood, I love it. I like getting to know the contestants and seeing folks put themselves out there to make a future for themselves. It takes a lot of gumption and chutzpa to expose yourself to ferocity of Simon's caustic, blunt professional opinions.
But until then, I'll just listen to my husband hee-haw at the yodels, screams, hiccups, falls and creepiness that is what we have to endure to get to the good stuff.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Great Peanut Brittle Escapade

Ever tried to find peanut brittle in department stores outside of the 1980s? You can't. But you also can't convince your mother that it is impossible. So I spent the weekend before Christmas sprinting from Dilliards to Belk to JC Penney and running to Target to Walmart to yes, Kohl's and racing through every supermarket in between. I reminisced with blue hairs who remembered the days of peanut brittle. I sighed at teens who wrinkled up their noses in confusion as to what peanut brittle actually is. I fought shopping carts and beat a gauntlet of red and greed-clad shoppers who were spinning in my wake as I dived toward a red box that I swear was swiped off the shelf in an utter state of ignorant bliss from the little lady who innocently put it in her basket and moseyed off in the opposite direction. I'll never know if I was close.
And why go through all this trouble? Because ever since my mother was five, she gave her father a box of peanut brittle for Christmas. The last man standing for cracking his teeth on peanuts and hardened syrup. So after days of no luck, she decides to make it.
Walmart didn't have light corn syrup. But Winn Dixie did. Bruno's didn't have fresh peanuts but Walmart did. So on Christmas Eve my mother broke out bowls and pans. Happily digging through all my cookbooks she found recipes for peanut butter, peanut souffle, peanut butter cups and cookies but not one of my thirty cookbooks had a recipe for peanut brittle. So she turned to the newfangled machine sitting on my desk and broke out the internet. Within two hours, she had a recipe and was on her way.
First thing she needed was the two cups of butter that I had just creamed with sugar for my annual Christmas chocolate chunk cookies. Snatching the phone and phone book, she furiously paged through the yellow pages for the grocery section. The first phone call ellicited nothing. The second, from my vantage, was a nice conversation about the need to close early on Christmas Eve. The third hit jackpot and my husband snatched up his keys and raced out the door.
Once ready, Mom started building her recipe with her peanuts only to realize that she had the no-salted ones. The recipe called for salted ones. Undeterred, she realized she could make microwave peanut brittle if she used whatever peanuts she had. Filling her bowl with sticky, light corn syrup, salted peanuts, brown organic sugar (because I didn't have regular), she happily put the concoction in the microwave and waited. At the beep, she jerked open the door and smiling, lifted the bowl. Pouring it on to the flat pan waiting expectantly on the stove, she grinned. Now all we had to do was watch the brown syrupy, sticky, lumpy mixture harden into cracky, crunchy, world famous peanut brittle.
Unable to wait, she checked it at the one hour mark. A little stringy.
Two hours later, a little chewy.
Four hours later, a little like taffy.
Twelve hours later, it cracked. Sucking in air in eager anticipation, she cut a small piece.
Looked up at me.
Placed it in her mouth.
Smiling, the taste was perfect.
Peanuts mixed with syrup. A little like peanut butter sandwiches with sugary sweet syrup instead of jelly. I can still remember when my sister and I would make them early on a Saturday morning right before cartoons.
All of a sudden, Mom frowned. Her eyes ran side to side. She pointed to her jaw. It wasn't moving. She couldn't talk.
Her teeth were sealed together.

Granddaddy got a gift card instead.