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to my son’s teachers (and many more)

May 27, 2015

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Do you remember all of your teachers? What about their names? Until I started thinking about it today, I thought I did. I can recall specific things about almost all of my teachers through 8th grade. Once I get to high school, it gets a little jumbled.

Mrs. Gentry, my kindergarten teacher was sweet and traditional. I don’t remember her being all that fun, per se, but she was gentle. She got onto me for coloring outside the lines and really didn’t like it when I colored every few faces yellow in our class photo. I mentioned something about the picture needing more lighting effects, so I added them myself.

First and second grades are a little hazy. I’m pretty Mrs. Bonner taught first grade. My memory of her is likened to Miss Nelson (the one who went missing in the children’s book). I had a piano teacher named Sally Small in second grade. She signed her capital S as a treble clef every time.

Third grade was Mrs. Nichols. Sherida Nichols. I remember her full name mostly because her handwriting was neat as a pin. I practiced writing like her every day.

In 4th grade, Mrs. Weseman defended me when I asked a kid to stop harassing me. He told on me for calling him an ass. I called him an elephant, and while I’m not sure where I was going with that, we both got in trouble. I had to face the corner for 10 minutes. I counted the cinderblocks until it was time for recess.

Mrs. Manguno, my fifth grade teacher, was one of the most beautiful ladies I’d ever seen. She had big hair, which she must’ve taken the time to curl every day, and her teeth were perfect – like Chicklets gum. I had to tell her about the red lipstick on her teeth often, and she’d laugh, rub it off, and hug me for my honesty. I started shaving my legs that year. She gave me a speech about being too young, but I felt so grown. It was the first year of real crushes and love notes. Check yes or no.

It’s funny, because I don’t remember things they taught me, if we’re talking about math, science, or language arts. Middle school and high school memories are more like that. I hated math, so anyone who had to teach me numbers was doomed from the start. As lover of all books, my English teachers were almost always my favorite.

As my son is wrapping up his six years at Lake Forest Hills Elementary, I pass his former teachers in the hall and remember the support and joy they’ve given him through the years. First tooth pulled, hundreds of books read, thousands of PAY ATTENTION, BOYs. His PE teacher once said “Do you know how many times per day I say his name, trying to get him to tune in?”  I told him to multiply that times his age, and yes. We’ve been there.

A love for learning comes easily for The Boy, though a love for school was once a struggle. I feel for the teachers who tried to engage him. I’m more thankful for the efforts. We’ve not had a bad teacher yet, and for that, I’m forever grateful. As he goes on to middle school (boo hoo), he may not remember what they taught, but he’ll remember how they taught it.

For all of his teachers: please know this. You are appreciated. You spent more time with him than I did, and he loved every one of you. For all the other teachers: please know this. You are appreciated. Parents yell at you, criticize grades given, and question your methods. The standards to which you are held each day requires more work than dollars paid. Most of us get it, though. You work hard, and you work for our kids.

Here’s to the teachers. Hats off and a glass of bubbly. It’s summer! Cheers!


*originally published in the Metro Spirit, Augusta GA on 5/21/15

on marriage: after 13 years

May 19, 2015

“The longest sentence you can form with two words is ‘I do.”  – H. L. Mencken

Funny, right? People love to joke about how miserable marriage is. For some, that’s true. There are plenty of couples living in unhappy marriages. It’s fun to joke about. Women are total pains, constantly nagging and complaining. Men are the cause of it all, what with their laziness and constant passing of gases. Kids further complicate things. They’re dirty and time consuming, to say the least. Let’s not forget imposing mothers in law. Marriage is like jail.

If it’s so bad, why do we even bother?

Oh, I don’t know. Maybe it’s companionship. Having someone around at the end of every day, saying goodnight and “I love you.” When you have a bad day, they’re there, with a hug and a cold beer. If there’s something to celebrate, “Cheers” is just inside your own front door.

Parenting would be hard without help. I’m not saying it can’t be done alone. I have many single friends, and I’m in constant amazement of their strength and patience. It’s easier with help, though. If the kids are driving me crazy, he gets them. He needs a break? They’re all mine. He takes them camping, and I’m teaching them to cook. Divide and conquer. When we’re all together at the theater, out to dinner, or watching a movie at home, there’s nothing better.

Sure, he drives me nuts, and Lord knows how annoying I can be. He can’t load the dishwasher. I know, I know. Be glad he does it at all. I am glad. I also sneak behind him and rearrange everything, because I can fit twice as much stuff in there. I’m not a great keeper of house. I get by, but I don’t particularly like it. Fortunately, I do most of the cooking, and she who cooks does not clean. The list of things we dislike about one another is probably longer than we’d care to admit.

When he leaves town for a weekend, I don’t mind. Sometimes I look forward to having the house to myself. I’m always excited when he comes home. I’m fairly certain he doesn’t mind when I get out of town for a few days, especially now that our kids don’t require diaper changes and constant supervision. I hear people complain about their marriages, and I wonder if they think it’s funny, or if it’s really that bad.

Some marriages don’t work. I think most can, with some effort. It doesn’t simply fall into place. There are highs and lows. Sometimes we connect and see eye to eye, and others we can’t get it together. If there’s a “divorce isn’t an option” attitude, I promise it’s easier. We don’t walk out the door when we’re mad. Keeping in mind our common goal makes the little things more tolerable. I hope he feels the same about my moods.

Our 13th anniversary was a few days ago. We celebrated at home, with our kids. We’ll find a time for a nice dinner out, but this year, that’s how it went. They cooked for us, waited on us, bought us flowers, and made us take anniversary pictures. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s not perfect, but it’s us. You’d be hard pressed to find perfect.

Fine. Maybe this is a sentence. I’m willing to serve it to the fullest extent. I stay because I like it here. Oh yeah, and I love him. We aren’t prisoners. The stereotypes are sometimes true, and it’s not for everyone, but marriage is actually (gasp!) enjoyable. We’re good. Happy anniversary to us. Cheers to many, many more!

“People stay married because they want to. Not because the doors are locked.” – Paul Newman


*Originally published in The Metro Spirit, Augusta GA on 5/14/15

She was a damn good dog

May 5, 2015


 For the second time since we got married, we had to say goodbye to a dog. Making the decision for vet-assisted pet death is sometimes easier than others, but it’s no walk in the park. It’s usually the right and best option, but it can’t help but seem a little wrong. I don’t tell you that for sympathy, but I know how many of you understand.

It’s sad that she’s gone. The house is quiet. We got her when she was about one, and she stayed with us for fourteen years. That’s a long time, and she had a better than average life. She loved loaves of bread and leftover Mexican food. She hated baths but hated thunderstorms even more. She got in the tub with the first dark cloud. 

We got her as a companion to our first pup, Sam. He had anxiety that caused some rather disturbing bodily responses (read: lots of poop), and the vet recommended we get a second dog. There was a sale going on at Animal Services that very weekend. 

A sale? Yep. It was a last ditch effort to find homes for dogs scheduled for euthanasia. They used a spray paint system for decoding which dogs would be adopted with what discount. A hot pink stripe on the fur meant 20% off, yellow 40%, and red let would be adopters know the dog had heart worm. It was a sad, sad sight. So many dogs. It was nearly impossible to choose just one.

I can’t remember who found whom, but she was extra shy. She was the nicest dog in the whole place. She didn’t jump up, her tail wagged a little, and she sniffed with caution. They’d named her Zelda. We named her Lizzy. No offense to any other Zeldasout there. 

We never had to house train her. She did whatever Sam did. Until she was sick and dying, she didn’t go to the bathroom in the house. She learned to sit, shake, and lay down. Again, all figured out by watching Sam. She didn’t eat shoes or underwear, and she never tried to get on the furniture. 

She had a way of sneaking her head right up under your hand, not matter how inconvenient or awkward. We’d warn her victims: if you pet her once, be prepared to do it for an hour. She always wanted to be on the porch with us. It seemed like she hated the mailman, or anyone else who came in the driveway, with her ridge hair on end and a semi ferocious bark, but she was all talk. She was great watchdog. 

Over the past month, we noticed swelling in her leg, and she had a little trouble getting around. Her tail still wagged. Occasionally, we’d carry her up the stairs, just so she wouldn’t have to work so hard. We chalked it up to arthritis and old age. A vet visit during Masters week confirmed bone cancer. She came home with pain meds and a promise to keep her comfortable. 

She spent the last week eating steak wrapped opiates. We told her she was loved. Her tail still wagged. 

If you’re considering getting a dog, look into adoption. If you adopt at Animal Services in Richmond County, the adoption fees aren’t more than $75, and that includes basic vaccines, micro chipping, and spay/neuter services. Not listed on the website but also included is unending loyalty. That, my friends, is worth more than any adoption fee. 

Lizzy’s buried at the lake, next to her buddy, Sam. The last time I saw her, I hugged her frail body and promised her she’d been a damn good dog. She wasn’t the prettiest one we’d ever seen, but she was always grateful. She knew she had a good life. She probably never completely understood just how good she made ours.

*originally published in The Metro Spirit, Augusta, GA

Your kids won’t die (so you shouldn’t opt out of standardized testing).

April 27, 2015

rosieriveterdolphinWe’ve been talking of golf and weddings. It’s a beautiful time of year – mostly. If you have a child in public school, or if you are an educator, or if you live anywhere but under a rock, you’ve heard the whining. Everyone’s stressed and filled with dread. There’s fear of the unknown and, worse, failure.

It’s a beast. It’s standardized testing.

No one likes it. It’s nearly sucked the joy out of teaching. Teachers are required to meet standards and prove growth, and if they can’t, it’ll look like they can’t do their jobs. They feel the pressure, and so do the kids. An immense amount of prep goes into getting students prepared. My two had study packets over spring break. While I understand why, I hated it completely. They’re kids. It was vacation.

However. The teachers don’t have a choice. They’d rather not administer tests like these at all. Principals hate it all, too. None of them want to intentionally stress out our kids. If they could, I’m pretty sure they’d skip it altogether.

I learned something the other day. There’s a movement called Opting Out. There are numerous local, regional, and national facebook pages dedicated to the cause.  Articles are being shared with extra exclamation points, with headlines like “Don’t Subject Your Children” and “Opt-Out for Our Babies.” Templates for letters to principals, demanding an alternative, have been copied, pasted, and printed with loud, angry, Mama-backed Go Girls.

The motivation behind such a movement isn’t lost on me. Many kids aren’t good test takers in general. Kids with learning disabilities can’t sit still that long. It’s the first year for this type of test, and critics are calling for total failure. If teachers hate it, and it’s somewhat pointless, why should we have to do it? It sucks and is stupid.

Newsflash: many parts of life suck and are stupid. Like, a whole lot of them.

I don’t want to give my kids the idea that, just because something sucks and is stupid, I’ll come along and opt them out. Believe you me, if something would cause true harm to my child, I’d protect them.  This week isn’t going to crush their spirits. It’s not going to steal their joie de vivre. Life failure doesn’t directly stem from a week of testing.

Test anxiety is real. I experienced it first-hand throughout school. I’ve never performed well on standardized tests, including the SAT. My grades were excellent, and the ACT was my key to college entrance. If the SAT was all I had, let’s just say my options would’ve been limited.

It’s all in the approach. My kids were a bit nervous, but I said, “just do your best.” This isn’t the end of days, y’all. We have been very fortunate at our little school. Although the teachers would rather have a root canal without anesthesia, they’ve been positive and supportive. 5th grade made Rosie the Riveter posters of encouragement. Snacks supplied by parents. We’re doing our best to make it through the week with healthy meals and plenty of sleep.

BUT MY KID THIS AND SHE CAN’T THAT! Schools make exceptions for ADHD, dyslexia, and the like with extra time, bathroom breaks, or quiet rooms with fewer students. They’re not trying to ruin your angel.  Well, the local schools aren’t anyway. Unfortunately, the US Department of Ed doesn’t even know your kid.

Revolution doesn’t happen at this level. If all you want is a tantrum, opt out. If you’re interested in being a veritable game changer, it’ll take more than a letter to the principal. I’m sure you can Google the process. For now, hug your kids. Cheer them on. Send notes to the teachers. Kids sense negativity, and it only feeds their nerves. Instead of getting them out of it, help them through it. They’ll be better off overall, and you’ll deserve a reward. Pat yourself on the back and enjoy a glass of something bubbly, while you come up with a plan that will actually affect change. You’ve got this. Cheers!

*originally published in The Metro Spirit, Augusta, GA on 4/23/15. Visit

Put your drinkin’ shoes on, and leave the jean shorts at home. 

April 6, 2015

  If you’re reading this and don’t live in Augusta, I’m going to assume that you’re a golf fan. If you’re not a golf fan, you’re probably married to one. It’s not that there aren’t other reasons to come to town. It’s just that no one in their right mind would be here this week, braving the crowds, if they didn’t have any plans to hit the tournament (read: tunamint).
In fact, many Augustans get out of town. They spend weeks, months even, cleaning out closets, fluffing pine straw, and stocking up on new sheets and towels, in preparation for renting their house. It’s a lot of work, but it’s all worth it when you get a big, tax-free check from the renters.
Most people who stay do so because it’s a great week to live here. There are complainers (always are!), and everyone tries to avoid the traffic, but it’s basically one big adult spring break. Having beer during the day is more acceptable than usual. We usually offer perfect weather, although the pollen will be out of control. We move our televisions outside, eagerly anticipating the afternoon coverage.
We’re glad you’re here. I do have a couple of tips for you, though.
Please, forthelove, do not wear jeans (or worse, jean shorts) to the golf course. I’m not asking that you get all fancy or anything, but respect the sport. Khaki pants or shorts and a collared shirt for the guys, and dresses, skirts, or nice shorts for the women. We like to call it Southern casual. Wear shoes you can walk in. Cause you’re gonna walk a lot.
Speaking of shoes, ladies, forget the fancy heels. It’s completely acceptable for women to wear running shoes with a dress. You’ll see people in golf shoes, too. This used to puzzle me, but spikes handle muddy, smelly grass better than any other footwear.
If it rains, you’ll be glad you listened to me. I’ve had many friends who insisted on wearing cute shoes to match their outfit. They were the first ones to slip and fall in the stinky mud out there. When it happens, I can promise none of your friends will leave the tournament, so you’ll be forced to walk around with what looks like a bad potty accident up the back of your precious Lilly sundress. Bless your heart.
For the first time since 1966, the field has the potential to top 100 golfers. At press time, Tiger is still unsure whether he will attend or not. Like him or not, if he does, eyes will be watching. Ticket scalpers will tell you about the direct correlation between Tiger’s performance (or attendance) and sale prices. I won’t miss his cheering section, if he decides to stay in hiding. It’s like a wrestling match. Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing better than the loud roar that follows a flawless putt. It’s the “Get it in the hole!” or “You da man, Tiger!” as soon as he tees off that is borderline offensive.
Speaking of loud roars, if you want to witness the cause of such excitement, don’t stand near me. I like to call them the Faraway Roars, because they always seem to happen far away from where I am. I have seen a couple of holes in one on 16, but otherwise, I have to wait and see the replay when I get home.
Don’t bring your phones or cameras. They ain’tkidding. Once Wednesday is over, no cameras allowed. Cell phone s are never allowed. Really, people. Never. There’re several banks of courtesy phones around the course, and you can pretty much call China for free. “How will I find my people,” you ask? Set a time, pick a place, and meet up. It’s like the olden days. You’ve got this.
If you decide to bring a phone anyway, you’ll get caught. Trust me here. As soon as that hot pink Otter Box iPhone comes out of your pocket, an official will come out of the azaleas and vaporize you. 
Hopefully, everyone in Augusta will treat you with respect, kindness, and southern hospitality. When done well, there’s nothing better. Please wave back, say thanks, and don’t be afraid of conversation with a stranger. Ask for directions. We want to help, and especially this week, we love showing off our town.
Walton Way is Walton Way, Washington Road is Washington Road, and The Partridge Inn is the Partridge Inn. For some reason we don’t shorten them to Walton, Washington, or The Partridge. It is what it is.
Otherwise, have a big time. Enjoy our restaurants and bars. Relax in our houses, and know that hours went into making them yours. The weather is supposed to be perfect. Eat an egg salad or ten, and remember that a beer held too long will only get warm. Welcome, y’all!


*originally published in the Metro Spirit, Augusta, GA on April 2, 2015

On being shirtless at weddings…

April 1, 2015

10391429_10155334903665414_2317694539252189868_nIt’s that time of year again. Flowers bloom, drinks flow freely, and happiness abounds. I’m not talking about the golf tournament…yet. It’s wedding season!

When our friends were finishing college, there was a wedding nearly every weekend. Though I cried during each ceremony, I’ll admit to growing tired of making travel plans, buying gifts, and just sitting through another wedding.

Once we had ours, I felt differently. I didn’t want anyone to think, “Oh no. Another wedding?” I promised not to dread attending any more. I’m sure people still felt that way at our wedding, but I’ve happily gone to every one since. I cry at them all.

All those years ago, when it seemed as if everyone was getting married, the ceremonies lost their lustre (a little. Don’t freak out. I loved yours and it was super special). A chilled glass of chardonnay to take to my seat,  a Skin So Soft wipe for keeping the mosquitoes at bay, and other little touches made some stand out from others, but let’s be honest. A wedding is a wedding.

We went to one this weekend. I was looking forward to it, actually. The bride and groom are fun people (and very sweetly in love), we haven’t been to a wedding in awhile, and the guest list promised to be entertaining.

Sure, weddings are special on their own. Two people starting a life together, overflowing with optimism and love. When a couple adds little details, important to them and their people, there’s an extra sweetness. A well-stocked bar is a plus. I realize that not all people drink alcohol, and that’s a choice we are free to make. If you want ties off, shirt unbuttoned unabashed dancing, serve beer. I’m not saying anyone unbuttoned their shirt at the wedding this weekend, but that’s only because I don’t want to embarrass anyone.

The vows themselves aren’t bad reminders for us already marrieds. For better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health…until death. I’d like to add in, while hormonal and while not, in good moods and bad, whether the kids are annoying or well behaved, and always with a nice Pinot. Most of that was probably covered in the better or worse part, but a little clarification never hurt. Not that my husband would ever doubt his undying love for me. That was for the rest of you.

I cried at this one, too, remembering the “whoosh” as everyone stood to watch the church doors open. I had a death grip on Dad’s arm. It wasn’t because I was afraid to get married; I wanted the day to go off without a hitch. Seeing my now husband at the end of the red carpet, waiting for me, sent me in to a wedding tunnel. I remember waving to people on the way down, but I don’t remember who I saw. We exchanged those same vows, though guests will tell you they couldn’t hear a single word.

Every day isn’t as sweet as the first day. Most days aren’t, really. Weeks go by when we don’t feel as connected or the kids’ schedules seem to occupy every free minute.  We can still hear those vows today, reminding us why we ever got started. Here’s to the newlyweds. May your life be filled with unbuttoned shirt dancing and happy tears. When the vows seem distant, remember your wedding tunnel. Your one person, waiting at the end of the aisle for you and only you. Cheers!

*originally published in the Metro Spirit, Augusta GA on 3/26/15. Visit for more!

funerals, cakes, and casseroles

February 23, 2015

funeralfoodWhat is up with all the funerals lately? I’m kidding. The past week has been unusual, though. And yes, unusual equals sad, too. I’m not a total jerk.
I mean, people die. It’s part of life. Sometimes though, it seems like death is everywhere. It feels like more than we can handle.
A friend’s grandmother, Jewel, passed away after a long, full life. She wasn’t sick, but she was prepared to die. She’d told them for years she was ready. She was an artist, she met her grandchildren, and she loved God. She was proud of her family.
Her service was short and sweet and attended by her closest family. It was at the church where she was a member. The pastor knew her well and told stories about her life. She’d painted the giant painting hanging above the baptismal pool. The church ladies served us lunch afterward in the fellowship hall. Do you want to guess what we had?
The same friend’s aunt died two days later. She wasn’t sick either, and it was completely unexpected. She leaves behind a family, who is stunned and deeply saddened by the empty space she left behind. These women were from different sides of my friend’s family, but they knew each other. They were both from the same small town.
At the funeral home for the aunt’s visitation, there was another service taking place at the same time. Now, if there’s one place we shouldn’t be surprised to find the deceased, it’s there, but bear with me here. This place was packed. I can almost guarantee everyone in this small town dropped by. They were all mingling in the hall between the two open caskets, chatting about the shock and sadness. They’d walk out of one room and go across the room to the other guest book and sign and get in line. I guess it was convenient?
As an outsider, just there to support a friend, it was mildly entertaining. I wouldn’t ever find joy in sorrow, but the culture of it all is so interesting. Traditions come to an end. At the very least they change. Some people are comfortable with it all. Some wandered through the funeral home wide eyed and awkward. Bowls of mints and boxes of tissues on every little table, and hushed tones abound. There was this one lady who didn’t understand a hushed tone, though. She talked loudly and laughed like she was trying to win a contest. She stood off to the side gossiping and making jokes. Maybe that was her nervousness coming through. We all have our ways.
An entirely different friend experienced loss on a whole other level. One of her 5th grade daughter’s friends, a beautiful, sweet little girl, lost her battle with cancer this week. It’s a part of death I can’t imagine and don’t ever want to realize. Gone too soon.
Aren’t they all, though? A lengthy illness passes too quickly. Sudden deaths are wrought with unsaid words. Children shouldn’t ever die really, and when they do, the pain and reality of a life cut short is more than we can bear. It’s hard to understand the purpose.
Hug your people, people. Hold that little hand a few minutes longer. Tell them you love them, and make sure they believe it.
And it was fried chicken, obviously. I think I counted 13 casseroles, and at least ten had cream of something soup. There was even one that I think was just cream soup with buttered crackers on top. No veggies. Oh, and there were cakes. Red velvet, chocolate, pineapple upside down with coconut and cool whip, and pound cake. They brewed gallons of sweet tea, and we drank it right up. We toasted our loved ones and laughed at the memories. Here’s to yours, too. Cheers, y’all.

*originally published in The Metro Spirit, Augusta GA on 2/12/15


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