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sugar and southern spice

June 17, 2014

sweetteaIn the South, we’re known for many things. Ask for tea, it comes on ice, and with sugar. It’s hot in the summer. We say “y’all,” which means “all you people.” “All y’all’s” is possessive, and it refers to something (or things) belonging to all y’all. “I picked up all y’all’s towels at the pool.” It doesn’t get very cold here, and when it does, we freak out if school isn’t cancelled. If it snows, everything shuts down. Seriously. You can eat at Waffle House, because it never closes, but don’t expect the trash service to run. We’re nice. Well, we try to be, anyway. Or maybe we try to seem nice.
Once on a group email, the messages went back and forth regarding change in the group. Half wanted new things, and the other half wanted to leave it as it was. We were having a seemingly fine conversation, with suggestions for change and reminders of why it should remain. After a few backs and forths, someone piped in and reminded everyone to be nice. What? I thought it was a pleasant discussion. Discussion does not equal argument. Opinion doesn’t mean anger. Sorry if it hurts your feelings when we don’t all agree with you, darlin’.
Talking to a friend today, she told me she hates upsetting people. No one loves it, dearheart. There’s a difference between squashing someone’s hopes and dreams and telling them it’s irritating when they repeatedly cancel appointments. We do that, though. I find that, with age, I’m much less likely to try and ruffle feathers. Is it that we can let it go more easily? Do we care less? Life’s too short to fight about it all, but I’d rather not be a doormat, either. It’s tricky.
We wouldn’t dare complain about someone in public. All complaining and gossiping is done in The Trust Tree. Never been in a Trust Tree? Sure you have. You just might not’ve known its name. “This is between you and me,” is an invitation to the Trust Tree. The Trust Tree is where nice people go, with friends and hushed tones, to be themselves. Ok. I take that back a little. The Trust Tree can also be a place for sharing family secrets that include anything besides white picket fences and sweet tea. They serve bourbon in The Trust Tree. The Trust Tree is a very busy place.
All rules go out the window, if you sass our Mama or pick on our kids. You may never hear us cuss (well, you’ll hear me cuss), and Bless Your Heart means you probably don’t really want to know. There’s always a nice way of saying it, sweetie, even if you don’t feel all that nice about it.
If this makes us sound catty, I’m sorry. We do love you. We’ll pray for you on any occasion. We very rarely show up without an iced cooler full of beer. We may say, “hey y’all! How are ya?” as more of a reflex than a question, but we’ll come running with a casserole every day if needed. If the obituaries tell us your great aunt Glad died, you’ll at least get a pound cake.
If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. With many exceptions. When in doubt, climb the Trust Tree, and pour wine. Sweet tea will occasionally suffice. Cheers, y’all!

*originally published in the Metro Spirit, Augusta, GA 6/12/14

101 Years

June 9, 2014

charbonnayPardon me. I interrupt your otherwise peaceful (and relaxing?) summer to talk about death. I suppose it might be more about life.
Funerals are sad, right? Even seeing traffic pull over and stop for the procession makes me cry. It’s hard to go to one without tearing up at least once. Sometimes, we’re sad, because death is just so damn tragic. A young father dies too soon, or a child can’t be healed with medicine. These are the worst of the worst. They catch us off guard. They don’t feel right.
We took The Kids to a funeral on Monday. This wasn’t their first, but The Boy even said, “That was actually pretty lovely for a funeral. It wasn’t too sad at all.” He wasn’t kidding. There were tears, but it was a true celebration of a life well lived.
Martha Shueler lived 101 years. 99 of them were in the same house. With the exception of a very, very brief time just before she died, she had a caregiver who stayed with her during the day, bringing her meals and driving her around town, but she lived by herself. Her daughter visited regularly, buts she got herself ready for church each week and never missed lunch with a friend or family member.
She was Nama (pronounced Namaw) to 4 grands and 8 great grandchildren, but so many of us got to try her chocolate cake. Nama’s Chocolate Cake. It might be a little confusing when you first taste it. The cake part isn’t chocolate, but the icing is. It’s still called chocolate cake. Her grandchildren will tell you of conversations over a Snickah (sic) Bar and a Co-Cola. She liked to tell stories, but she loved to hear other people’s stories even more.
When she was born, across the street from the house she owned until she died, there was no such thing as television. Woodrow Wilson had just defeated Teddy Roosevelt and Taft to become President, and she’d see sixteen other men elected. Shoeless Joe Jackson and Ty Cobb made the news, and Alaska had yet to become a state. The Masters wouldn’t start for another twenty two years. The Titanic went down months before her birth. That was just 1912.
Throughout her lifetime, so much happened. Can you imagine if someone told her, when she was a teenager, that one day we’d have these phones you could take anywhere, and they’d have a camera and could answer any question you could think of? She probably would’ve laughed. She wasn’t ever really interested in learning about the internet, but it must’ve amazed her. She often drank a glass of wine. Her CharBONnay, as she called it. Proudly.
There are hundreds of funny stories about Nama. Those who knew her well can talk for days about the things they love about her. She was the oldest living native of North Augusta when she died. The list of things she saw in her lifetime will blow your mind. That’s not my point, though.
It’s not about death. It’s not necessarily about her life. It’s about how she lived.
When asked about her secret for staying so healthy and living so long she always replied, “a positive attitude.” Is it that simple? She wasn’t smiling and happy every minute of every second of her 101 years. That’d be unrealistic. All of us have bad days. Was she able to focus on her positive attitude better than the rest of us? Shortly after she was married, her father died, and she moved home to help her mother. Her husband died many years ago, and not long after that, she lost her only son. Her life wasn’t without heartache. She was able to thoroughly enjoy what she had, while looking past what she didn’t.
There’s something to be said for positivity and longevity. Lower stress, longer life. We can’t eliminate the stressors, but maybe we can handle them better.
I’m also going to continue my little wine habit, and I’ll throw in a slice of chocolate cake on a regular basis. Nama would approve, I’m sure of it. Let’s all try to assume good intentions, listen to other people’s stories, and have a positive attitude. For Nama. First, though, we’ll raise a glass of charBONnay (or Co-cola), and toast a superb Southern lady and a life well lived. To Nama! Cheers!

*originally published in The Metro Spirit, Augusta GA June 5, 2014 http://www.metrospirit.com

15 in 5

June 2, 2014

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Because I love a list. Especially a random list.
1. Have I told you how much I love summer? So far, we haven’t enrolled in a single organized activity. I’m sure we will, but sleeping in and being lazy hasn’t made anyone complain.
2. I never slept in much as a kid. If I went to a sleepover, I’d always wake up before my friends. Sometimes I’d cough a little too loudly or tug at the covers and pretend to be asleep, just so they’d stir. I was a jerk sometimes, I guess.
3. Now that I appreciate a good night’s rest, I don’t get the chance to sleep late very often. If I did, I’d be super mad at anyone to tried to wake me like that.
4. Isn’t it strange how we fight napping as a child, and as adults we’d like nothing more than time to simply rest in the afternoon. I love naps.
5. Watching these seniors graduate takes me back to a time of seemingly huge responsibility, but, sheesh. It was nothing. Life was easy in Athens. Want to get a pitcher of beer at 3 in the afternoon? Sure, let me study for 20 minutes, first.
6. My only advice is to have fun. You still have to study and go to class (because otherwise why are you there, and if I don’t say that, your parents will kill me), but it’s ok to relax. You think college is stressful? Buckle up, and enjoy the ride, because you can’t ever, ever, ever, ever, ever go back.
7. I actually wouldn’t go back, unless I could be sure my life would end up just how it is today. Then, I’d only go back to have the chance to go through it all again.
8. If given the opportunity, I might be more diligent about using all allowed excused absences for college classes, if you know what I mean. Perfect attendance doesn’t go on your resume. You can get the notes from someone. I’m not suggesting you skip class. I’m just saying, you have a certain number of excused absences per semester, and it’d be a shame to see them go to waste.
9. It doesn’t get much better than sitting around, at the lake, in the sun, with great friends, laughing so hard you’re all in tears.
10. Well, ok. That all might be even better on a boat. Actually, it is. We tried it.
11. Heads up: fried chicken eaten by children on a boat results in a very greasy boat. Slippery when not wet.
12. If you aren’t aware, the life jacket laws changed last year. All kids under 13 years old must wear a life jacket while on a moving vessel in the water.
13. Oh, and hey? It seems a few of you missed this memo: The 100 Foot Rule prohibits people from operating any vessel at a speed greater than idle speed within 100 feet of any vessel which is moored, anchored or adrift outside normal traffic channels, or within 100 feet of any wharf, dock, pier, piling, bridge structure or abutment, person in the water, or shoreline of any residence or public use area.
14. My last safety reminder is brief, but important. Watch your children in the water. If they can’t swim, make them wear a flotation device. Don’t rely on other parents to watch your little ones. That’s too much to ask. Drowning is quick and quiet.
15. Trust me. I don’t want to take the fun out of summer. It’s the best time of the year. Be smart, people, and enjoy your friends. Drink responsibly. Cheers, y’all!

Summertime, and the livin’ is (well, should be) easy

May 28, 2014

photo (20)School gets out this week. By Friday, I’ll have a 3rd grade girl, and a boy in 5th. If I think about fifth grade too much, my chest tightens a bit, and I might cry. I’ll deal with that when it’s really time. For now, it’s summer.
I love summer. The heat doesn’t bother me. It needs to be cold where I sleep, but the extreme humidity is welcomed after winter. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Y’all can complain. I never will.
I’m looking forward to lazy days with my kids. Because The Boy is 10, I know he might not want me around for a whole lot longer. I plan on secretly smothering him this summer. He won’t really know it’s happening, but I’m soaking it all in.
In the meantime, let’s get real. I love my kids, and I’m so glad and thankful and blessed and blah blah blah, BUT, they will be home every day. Every. Day. Right around this time each year, I’m in limbo between planning enough activities for them and making sure we have more than enough downtime. The beauty of summer is the lack of schedule, right?
Several of my friends went to camp all summer long. If my kids asked, I’m sure I’d oblige, but fortunately they haven’t. They expressed interest in going to a two-week sleepaway camp, but it never materialized. I always wanted to go to such a camp. It seemed so cool in Parent Trap and Poison Ivy (the Michael J. Fox one), what with having a cabin and a counselor and camp food. My parents never suggested it.
Maybe we were unusual. We did swim team for the first six weeks or so, but besides a trip or two to the beach, we didn’t make plans. Summers consisted of wandering the neighborhood with friends, with nothing to do but get out of the pool during adult swim and wait for the ice cream man. This is mostly what our summer looks like now, too.
I feel a bit of pressure to sign The Kids up for things. It’s almost as if they’ll fall behind, compared to their friends, if they take the summer off. I’m not caving, though. Mine love having a day to do nothing. And by “nothing,” I mean The Girl builds Fairy houses out of found objects and The Boy reads Harry Potter or hits golf balls in the backyard. That’s my kind of day. If you ask me, which, per usual, you did not, that’s how kids should spend summer days.
We have a couple of trips planned already, which will take up about 2.5 weeks of what feels like an already too short summer. They go back on August 11th. It will be here before it’s time to reapply sunscreen. There will be days when they drive me crazy and we separate to watch different movies, but at least we won’t have to eat dinner in the car or rush from here to there.
I want to let them relax but keep them just busy enough not to bicker all day. I want our biggest decision to be whether we go to the pool or not. I want to teach The Girl to water ski and watch The Boy kayak until his arms give out. I want to grill supper as often as possible. I want to enjoy them while they still enjoy me. That time is fleeting. I’m not saying they’ll hate me next year, but I’m not taking any chances. It’s a short temporary season. Don’t let the heat get you down. Wear bug spray. If you feel an “it’s too hot” complain coming on, find a sprinkler or cold beer. It ain’t that bad. It’s summer. Cheer’s y’all!

*originally published in the Metro Spirit, Augusta, GA on 5/22/14 http://www.metrospirit.com

I’d like to thank…

May 19, 2014

photo (19)I saw went to see the Wizard this weekend. Nine times. I’m not complaining. We were exhausted after all those trips, not to mention the practice runs. In the spirit of full disclosure, I didn’t actually make the journey. The Kids did. I got to play Stage Mom.
I’m not That Stage Mom, though. I won’t claim to have any talent, when it comes to acting or singing. I’ll leave that to The Kids. I don’t even coach them. I leave that to the professionals. I’ll hot glue, sew buttons, supervise backstage, and volunteer The Man to build sets. You may recall, they’ve done shows with the Augusta Players children’s wing before (Aladdin, Sleeping Beauty, and Charlotte’s Web), but this. This was a main stage show.
Don’t get me wrong. The Junior Players is a wonderful organization with great leadership. Both kids have learned so much and had incredible experiences. I hope they’ll stay involved for many more years. I’d like to think we’re just getting started.
There’s a magic to the main stage, though. The teens and adults are the best of the best. We’re told they take the most talented kids. The sets, after hours of hard work, come together like the real thing. The costumes and the makeup are barely short of unbelievable. There’s a pit, filled with a real, live orchestra.
Back in February, both kids asked to audition. I hesitantly said yes. If they were even assigned parts, this would be a big commitment. We decided to focus on first things first. They auditioned and, to my surprise, were called back.
You see, my worry for them was more than “gee, I hope they get a part.” The Boy wants to act. Besides piano, it’s the only activity he wants to do outside of school. The Girl thinks it’s pretty fun, but she hasn’t narrowed her career focus just yet. They won’t always get their way, and although The Boy is laid back, it would’ve been sad if she’d gotten a part, but her brother didn’t. She’d gladly be a chair or a tree and stand on stage in a pretty costume. He fashions himself a thespian.
23 munchkins in all. The Boy even had one line, as the Munchkin Braggart. The Girl wore a flowery hat and more eye makeup than Lady Gaga. Both were over the moon excited. We were excited for them.
So, yes. They were awarded roles. We buckled up and organized our calendars and a carpool.
As an aside, I highly encourage those of you with multiple children to get them involved in the same activities. Rehearsal night = date night. I kid. Encourage them to follow their hearts. And their big brothers.
The rehearsal schedule isn’t for the faint of heart. Tech week, which is the week leading up to the performances, will try to kill you. If you’re not prepared to volunteer and pull your weight, this might not be for you. But there’s more.
You’d be missing the point entirely, if I didn’t tell you the best part. This was the best group of people. Understandably, the adults are nervous when a cast is made up of a large number of young children. Heck, I think the parents are wary, too. These kids had mics. Like, the kind that turn on and project sound. They had hours of downtime between the 10 minute Munchkin sequence and the curtain call at the end of the show. Nine shows in all, including the six daytime school shows during tech week. They were stuck in the (badly in need of renovation) non-air conditioned green room at the Imperial theater, where it got so hot the mic tape melted off their faces. Not to mention the fact that they were wearing very heavy polyester townspeople clothing and lots of makeup.
No one complained. They didn’t argue. On stage, they did what they were told and so much more than that. People talked about the remarkableness of this group. The moms even got along, too, despite having spent all week together in that sweaty room. If you know women, you get it.
To say this was an excellent experience for these kids would be a total understatement. They made friends and were sad when it was over. As much as the adults were ready to get back to regular daily life, I think we’ve all missed our Oz family.
I don’t tell you this as the Stage Mom or Mother Braggart, but more as a service announcement. We’ve got a great thing in The Augusta Players. The Wizard of Oz sold out the Imperial with its talent, pyrotechnics, smoke effects, and strobe lights. The monkeys actually flew, and I’ll be dammed if Mrs. Gulch didn’t ride her bike 25 feet above the stage, right before the house spun across the stage.
Next season, which begins this fall, includes The Addams Family, Shrek, West Side Story, and the classic, A Christmas Carol. The Junior Players’ schedule won’t disappoint, either, I promise. There are camps this summer. As The Kids will tell you, they’re well worth the money. For more info, including audition announcements and ticket purchases, visit http://www.augustaplayers.org.
It may seem obvious, but I’m more than impressed. I hope that, aside from getting to be on stage, my kids will gain confidence and make lifelong friends. So far so good. They’ve found a home in the theater. There’s no place like home (see what I did there?).

Originally published in The Metro Spirit, Augusta, GA http://www.metrospirit.com

15 in 5

May 9, 2014

Because I love a list. Especially a random list.
1. The weather is finally warm. I won’t complain. Many will. Welcome to Augusta. It gets hot.
2. You think it’s hot now? This is nothin’, y’all. It’s May. Just wait until July. If you think July’s hot, buckle up for August. Your brain might explode.
3. Speaking of brain explosions, I thought it was happening to two ladies today. Two.
4. I was in the parking lot for the dollar store on Washington Road (by Hooters!). As I passed, I stopped to let an older woman cross the parking lot to get to her car. I waited. She yelled at me. She was unhappy, screaming, and waving frantically. I motioned for her to cross in front of me, and she continued to yell GO. I thought I was being nice.
5. As it turns out, the last time someone motioned for this lady to cross, in the very spot I was sitting, they revved their engine as she walked to her car. She told me this, apologetically, while she put her purchases in the trunk of her huge two door, red, vintage Caddy. She said it scared her so much, she never walks out in front of cars anymore.
6. To the jerk who revved her engine at the Red Caddy Lady in the Steinmart parking lot: You’re a jerk. That’s about as nice as I can be.
7. On that same day, I was actually in the Dollar Store, when the elderly woman in front of me had trouble with her card. She was the sweetest lady, apologizing for the issues. She wanted to run her card as credit, but because of a miscommunication, the cashier sent it as debit. The lady explained that, because of a stroke, she was unable to remember numbers well, so she didn’t have a PIN. Mean Lady behind me, tapping your fingers and audibly sighing and groaning? You’re a jerk, too.
8. Teddy, our presidential pup, is doing really well. He’s basically house trained. He rolled in a dead bird carcass yesterday. He stunk. We promptly gave him a bath in the kitchen sink.
9. He hates baths.
10. Our sweet old dog, Lizzy hates baths too. She’s also terrified of thunderstorms. Apparently, thunder trumps bubble baths, because when it rains, she goes straight for the tub.
11. Lizzy doesn’t love Teddy. It’s not like she hates him or anything. She has selective love. If she’s in the mood, she tolerates him. If not, well, she makes him aware of her displeasure.
12. No matter Lizzy’s mood, Teddy bounces around her saying “be my friend be my friend be my friend,” wildly and over and over. Oh, the optimism.
13. I’m optimistic they’ll be buddies someday. Giving Lizzy steak on a regular basis seems to be softening the blow.
14. The Augusta Players, in its 69th year, presents The Wizard of Oz at the Imperial theater, this weekend (May 9-11). If you don’t have plans and can still get tickets, go! You won’t be disappointed. The monkeys really fly!
15. I happen to live with two of the munchkins, so I might be a little biased. They’re more excited about this show than any Christmas I can remember. The Boy is wearing a puffed sleeve bolero jacket made of someone’s old curtains, and the matching pants have built in hips. The Girl gets to wear green striped tights and the sweetest little flower covered hat (Oh, and a dress, too. Of course). I’ll be there opening night, front and center. Hope to see you there!
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Augusta Sucks: The most amazing story you’ve ever read.

May 1, 2014

dangerOh! Ha. You’re here. It worked.
With flashing headlines and endless tickers across TV screens, and pop up ads and text messages to distract us from those, it’s no wonder our attention spans are shot. It’s harder to focus.
I used to be an avid reader of books. I still love books. It’s a lot harder to finish a book these days. It’s my fault, I know. Turn it all off and make yourself read, you say. I’ll try. I have a list of books for summer reading. If anyone has a beach house to donate, I read much better at the beach.
It seems I’m not the only one with this problem. Unfortunately, it’s creating an even bigger annoyance.
Last week, on social media (various sources), it was posted that Allison Krauss and Union Station, with Willie Nelson as a special guest, wouldn’t be playing in Augusta for their upcoming show. As someone who wants to see Augusta flourish, this is disappointing. However upon further reading (meaning past the dadgum headline), they had good cause for cancelling. An “unforeseen and urgent health condition” will prevent travel for a few days.
The comments under the article were priceless and oh-so-typical. They ranged from things like “of COURSE they did. Augusta SUCKS,” to “All the good acts cancel. WAY TO GO, Augusta.” Um, excuse me, but did you read the article? They didn’t cancel because of lack of ticket sales. It wasn’t because of the paper mill or meat packing plant smells. They cancelled due to a health issue. How quick we are to judge based on a ten word headline at the top of the page.
One person went so far as to blame Willie for the cancellation, saying he probably hates Augusta, too.
When I wrote about getting a puppy, I knew there would be folks who asked why we didn’t get an older dog, why we didn’t get a rescue, and if we knew what getting a puppy truly entails. I thought I covered that. I mentioned or sweet and old rescue, Lizzy. I talked about our beloved Sam, who died a few years ago. I also discussed the research we’d done in finding the right place to get our newest family pet. We looked for weeks. It wasn’t spontaneous. We love animals, and we barely paid anything for our little Teddy. As a matter of fact, I know we barely covered the vet bills incurred in having newborn pups in a home. We didn’t pay any more than the re-homing fees charged by rescue groups.
I was asked what would happen when the puppy grew up. He’s cute now, but will we still love him then? I’ve never had a pet I didn’t love. Every last one, from Dick and Virgil the hamsters who practically ate each other to death, to Teddy Roosevelt Wright, the most presidential puppy, has been loved and cared for. If the commenter had actually read the column, they’d know that, because I said it all.
Sometimes, people skim and don’t have the time to thoroughly read articles and such. Totally makes sense. I’m guilty, too. Can we make a deal? Let’s all refrain from commenting on anything, unless we’ve really read the words. Sometimes headlines are misleading.
I learned this first-hand after being in a car accident a couple of months ago. The headline said I ran over a police officer. That tugs at the heart strings, doesn’t it? “Mother, distracted by her two young children, mows over deputy.” Interesting, but untrue. The article as corrected later, but the comments continued to stream in about the poor deputy and how inconsiderate drivers are when it comes to motorcycles.
Look, I felt bad for the deputy, too. It was an unfortunate situation. He didn’t start his day planning to wreck his bike. Thank goodness we had only minor property damage.
Maybe this is a two part problem. Headlines are misleading, and no one’s bothering to read what’s underneath. Are we forever unable to focus long enough to hear the facts?
I’m completely positive this isn’t the most amazing story you’ve ever read. It’s not even in your top one hundred. I hear ya. Mine, either. I don’t think Augusta sucks, and so many of you agree with me. I wish I’d seen the faces of the haters, when they read my title, thinking “yes! It sure does.” It’s probably all Willie’s fault.

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