Sunday, August 31, 2008

A weekend in paradise for Southerners

***That was a faun swimming across Lake Hamilton. He wasn't more than 40 pounds and still had white spots on his back. My sister, Stephanie, wanted to catch it and bring it on the boat with us, but Sweetie said it would beat us to death with its hooves. We don't know where the momma was.

*****Ole Miss beat University of Memphis 41-24. Hotty Toddy, Gosh Almightly. Who the hell are we? Flim flam, bim bam. Ole Miss, by damn! (I'm not going to get too cocky. We will probably lose next week!)
******Lots of pictures to show you next week! Tune in.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Throwing your weapons at the burglar is not the best defense

This weekend, I traveled north to my hometown to join the birthday celebrations of my sister, Deana, and my nephew, Hunter. Now, the Sexton family likes to celebrate each and every occasion big. It’s just our way.

However, this weekend was surprisingly low-key. We decided to drive over to the east side of the county for dinner at a popular fish house.

Because there were seven of us, I drove my sisters, my nephew and his friend, Asa. My parents took a separate car (I think they may have planned it that way because they were afraid of too much together time.)

Now, this restaurant is not just around the corner. It took us nearly 40 minutes to get there – down a winding, rolling, country road. My sister, Stephanie, kept repeating for at least 30 minutes, “It’s right around this curve.” One hundred curves later, we arrive.

This restaurant has wonderful fried fish, but it is more famous for its desserts. A display of dozens of homemade desserts met us when we walked through the door. Forget the fish, I thought. Birthdays are all about the cake, and they had a Heath Bar cake that would make you slap your momma! (Hunter kept calling it the Health Bar Cake. Kind of loses it appeal that way, huh?)

There was also some sort of bluegrass hoedown in one of the three main dining rooms. Men were playing banjos and people were dancing about.

“Smoking or non,” the hostess asked.

“Anywhere but in there,” Deana said, nodding to the hoedown.

“Alrighty then,” the hostess said. “Right this way.”

I wonder if we were the only ones who requested that.

The food was wonderful, and most of us were so stuffed, we took our cakes home. Several of my family members ate so much (I won’t name names) they made themselves sick.

It is funny how insignificant trips to the fish house can bring memories flooding back. I remembered the last time I dined at that particular fish house. It was years ago, and my grandparents were with us.

The menu was all-you-can-eat back then, and Daddy and my grandparents were on a mission to get their money’s worth. I have never seen people eat so much! My grandmother ate just as much as the men.

“It’s the Shelton in me,” she would say. Her father was famous for his frugal ways, and his genes were strong. Not only did he pass that trait on to my grandmother, but I believe Daddy got a double dose.

My grandparents loved to go eat fried fish. Their favorite restaurant in Memphis closed, and the two were lost without their regular haute. My father introduced them to that fish house on the east side of the county, and at last, they were content.

In fact, it was during the introduction trip to this restaurant that Stephanie and I were invaded by burglars.

My family had just moved into our newly-built home in Southaven, and my grandparents drove up to go to dinner with my parents. Sixteen-year-old Stephanie was watching me who had just turned 12, and we were instructed to turn the burglar alarm on and not let anyone in the house. (We had just moved to the big city from Eudora, mind you.)

The two of us were watching television upstairs when the alarm started howling. At first we thought, we had just done something wrong when we set it, but we still called our neighbor to check things out. The neighbor checked the inside of the house, confirmed that it was just a false alarm, and went home.

Just as we set the alarm back and got situated on the sofa in front of the television, the alarm sounded again. The two of us ran down stairs, and low and behold, the front door was wide open. Someone had been inside the house with us the entire time.

We called 911 and armed ourselves. Stephanie, who is now a captain in the Sheriff’s Department, donned a shotgun from Momma’s collection, and I grabbed a steak knife. What we intended to do is beyond me.

The two of us paced through the kitchen waiting for the police. Then we saw him. A man was standing on the deck outside the kitchen door watching us. Armed with a shot gun and a steak knife, we screamed and ran. I am not sure, but I think we might have thrown our weapons down as we fled.

Now, I am unsure of how this event became a complete spectacle, but it did. Before the police could arrive, a friend of the family, Emily Sanford, rushed to the house to save us. She barged in the door wearing her satin pajamas and welding an Estee Lauder lipstick. She repeated over and over again while she applied that someone was trying to kill her babies.

Stephanie’s friend from school arrived, and it was nice to finally have a male around in case something else happened. He did let us know that Stephanie (now, Captain Stephanie) had loaded the bullet in the gun wrong.

When the police finally arrived, the house was in chaos. Ms. Sanford was yelling at them for not getting them earlier. Our neighbor had returned in a panic. My parents and grandparents had come home to find the police at the house. Stephanie and I were both talking incessantly about the events of the night.

It was some time before my parents left us alone again.

All this came from a plate of fried fish and a chunk of Heath bar cake.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A few of my favorite things

Today at lunch, my co-workers and I were discussing our favorite things. It was very telling. I thought I would share some of mine, and see what secrets of my personality I reveal.

My family is my world. There is nothing else to say.

My sweetheart, Keith. I am a very lucky girl!

My three sons -- Toulouse, Skipper, and Don Juan. Aren't they the sweetest things?

Diet Coke. I could put it in an IV and not get enough.

I am total Anglophile. British books, movies, television. Love it!

I adore antiques. They have such a history. New stuff is just not the same. No character or great story.

Independent bookstores are so much better than a chain, and the people who work there have more than likely read a book or two.

I love bunnies -- live or glass. My mother started me collecting bunnies when I was little. It kind of stuck.

Feather pens. I might be a professional writer, but I can still have fun. Agree?

I love folk music. The songs are so relaxing and the lyrics are beautiful. I am all about the lyrics. Forget the voice and the melody.

There is nothing like Southern fried chicken fried in a cast iron skillet -- especially Momma's.

Board games are awesome, and I hate to lose.

My favorite scent is honeysuckle. It just smells Southern.

My favorite scent to wear is Michael by Michael Kors. Keith adores this stuff.

I'm a red IPOD girl. I so can't live without my one gadget.

I love my journal even though I don't write in it every day. It is a well for random thoughts.

A relaxing weekend at Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Paradise for the Southern girl.

The lost art of letter writing is something I find beautiful in that Jane Austin kind of way-- especially love letters. I never get letters anymore.

I love Mississippi. If you weren't born here, you just won't understand.

The sound of ocean waves is wonderful. I actually sleep with a noise box on making ocean sounds.

Opera. One word: chills.

I love the color pink. It is so cheerful.

I adore setting a beautiful formal table -- especially for tea parties and garden parties. Get out the silver polish, girls.

Okay, I'm a junkie -- especially true crime documentaries and British comedy.

However, television is not television without TIVO. For a while TIVO and I were in a serious relationship until I cheated on him with Keith. TIVO and I have decided to stay friends, though.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Completely honored!

Dana from One for the Books nominated me for the E for Excellence Award. I am speechless (yes, it is possible!). Dana is the sweetest thing, ever!

Anyway, with my new award, I must pass on the excellence award to others. Here are my seven favorite blogs that I read every single day and am SO disappointed if a new post isn't to be found. However, I am giddy with anticipation that a new post will be up in the next day or two.

My seven favorites (in no particular order):

1. Maggie Reads: I love Maggie. Her goal is to make Mississippi read. As a librarian, Maggie is up on all the newest books. Maggie also organizes the most wonderfully creative contests, and the prizes are the best of all -- books!

2. Oh, Happy Day: This blog comes from Jordan in San Francisco. It is all about beautiful things she finds -- fashion, decorating, stationary, or anything else that makes life more beautiful.

3. Conversations with my Hairdryer: Okay, I love Jenni. I believe she and I are kindred spirits (not in that crazy stalking kind of way). I love reading about her family and her successes with Weight Watchers. Her blog always makes my day.

4. Journey to Vegan: Dana is on a quest for absolute veganism. I WISH I HAD THE WILL TO DO THIS! However, living in small town Mississippi the probability to find something to eat that is not cooked in bacon fat and smothered with cheese is dang near impossible.

5. Blissfully Domestic: This is such a guilty pleasure for me. Make-up tips, celebrity news, and tips for women living in a busy world. Love this blog!

6. Mrs. Fussypants Guide to Life: I am a Fussypants addict. Completely hysterical commentary from a girl close to my own heart!

7. Derfwad Manor: Mrs. G is bodacious. Got to love a girl who will tell you like it is. She makes me laugh so hard no sound comes out of my mouth, and I start hyperventilating.

To those I have listed, here are the rules:
1. Put the logo on your blog. (Right-click the logo above and choose Save Picture As… Then upload it.)
2. Add a link to the person who awarded you.
3. Nominate at least seven other blogs.
4. Add links to those blogs on your blog.
5. Leave a message for your nominee on their blog.

Thanks again, Dana, for the nod!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

It's a good thing my name isn't Grace!

Last week, I fell flat on my face in front of The Winona Times office. It would not be fair to make excuses – I just got tangled in my own feet and fell. Flop!

I am sure motorists passing on Summit Street and customers at Renasant Bank got an eyeful as I lay on the sidewalk, trying to figure out how to get up. I wasn’t hurt much – just my pride. I did get a good chuckle out of my misfortune. (Got to laugh to keep from crying, I guess).

It’s all in a day’s work for me. Write stories, check. Review e-mail, check. Make a complete and utter fool of myself, check, check.

On average, I fall in a public place at least once a month. I am famous for falling up flights of stairs.

A few years ago (and I will change the names to protect the innocent), I was to meet with a powerful executive at his office to discuss possible sponsorship opportunities for a non-profit. His office was on the second floor, and a long spiral staircase connected the lobby to his office. Mr. Powerful Executive descended the stairs to greet me, and the two of us walked up together.
Nearing the top, the heel of my sandal hung up on a step. I fell backward, twisted in mid-air and landed on my hands and knees on the landing. My shoes flew off my feet, over the banister, and to the first floor. Mr. Powerful Executive was forced to jog down to the bottom floor and fetch them.

After the enormous spectacle I created, I still had to deliver my presentation. He agreed to the sponsorship, but I have a feeling he feared a lawsuit. (For my own stupidity, I will save the court some time!) Thankfully, I have never seen Mr. Powerful Executive again.

I also am quite often the damsel in distress. Once while working at my desk (not in Winona, mind you) my rolling chair rolled right out from under me. I landed under my desk in that hole where your legs go. The chair bounced off the wall and somehow wedged underneath the desk – trapping me. I just kind of sat there for a while hoping to die, but after a few minutes, I realized I needed help to get out of this predicament.

“Excuse me, can someone help me out? I seem to be stuck here,” a small voice called over the patricians of the cubicles. Finally someone came to my aid, but it still took several minutes to get me out after he gathered all of our co-workers to “look what Amanda’s done now.”

I am sure the University of Mississippi is dying for me to come back and head up the school’s ambassador program after my debacle in front of an entire group of in-coming freshmen.

My senior year, I was taking Southern Arts and Antiques during the summer session, and we met in the old Chemistry building on the circle. While walking to class, I managed to fall out on the front steps of the building just as a bus load of orientation kids were passing. The bus stopped. I don’t get up. I just laid there shaking – from laughter. I literally had fallen and couldn’t get up!

So you see, my little accident the other day in front of my office was nothing -- just a little quirk in my every day life.

Graceful is not a word that would describe me. Case in point, in sixth grade, I broke my ankle while walking down a hill. Yep, I lost my balance and ended up rolling down the hill. I was in a cast for six weeks.

In high school, my parents sent me to Charm School to smooth out the edges. They hoped I would eventually out grow my awkwardness, but alas, no. In college, I was as uncoordinated as ever.

During a candlelight ceremony during sorority rush (I was a rusher by this point not a rushee) I accidently set the front of my dress on fire. Polyester crepe. Went up like a torch. I almost stopped, dropped and rolled. Luckily, my roommate put me out before I ended up in the burn unit.

I heard girls talking about “that girl who caught on fire” until I graduated.

So when you see me around town, and I accidently knock over a display at the grocery store or ram you with my basket at Wal-Mart. I mean no harm. I am simply trying to make it through the day without eating pavement.

You see, God has a sense of humor. If he didn’t, I wouldn’t be here.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

"I'd be happy to pound the erasers, Ms. Beverly."

This weekend, as I shopped at the Winona Wal-Mart, I became very nostalgic as I watched children pick out new backpacks, lunch boxes, and zipper bags for pencils. There is nothing in the world better than brand new school supplies to make a kid aim for the stars academically.

A week or so before school started, Momma would take my sisters and me to the store to stock up on school supplies. Of course, I always had to adapt the list to my particular style - which I convinced Momma would help me make better grades.

I always opted for the pink lined notebook paper. It was just prettier and so much more interesting. I also had to get those pens with the three different colors of ink. You know the ones I mean - with the red, green, or black levers on the top to change color.

Although I was only required to get the 24 pack of crayons, I would have to have the jumbo, hundred-count box with colors like flesh and turquoise.

"Mo-mmm-a, how will my pictures look realistic if I don't have a flesh crayon," I whined, which is the best way for any child to get exactly what they want.

Many times I convinced her to take me to Happy Names in Memphis to get "personalized" school supplies. I really needed those pencils with my name on them and my name painted on all my notebooks. It was all about theft prevention. If someone stole my pink Hello Kitty trapper keeper, I would immediately know it was mine because of the large "Amanda" emblazoned across the front in calligraphy.

Oh, I loved school; I had to be on my death bed to actually miss a day. All those books and lectures and recess were so my cup of tea, and as you might guess, I was probably considered a big kiss up with my hand in the air every time my name was called. I would volunteer to read aloud or work that math problem on the board. (Really, it just gave me a chance to write on the board. I hated math.)

Trips to the library, book fairs, career day, science fairs - I loved them. I especially liked show and tell. Once, I had a kitten that was born with her tail bent at a 90 degree angle. It just kind of pointed to the left all the time. After a few months, the bent end just fell off. We found it on the carport floor. I put the tail in a Ziploc bag and tada, show and tell. It was a hit.

Of course, I was the teacher's pet most years, but I can't say I never got into trouble. In Kindergarten, I learned really quickly that hauling off and popping someone for ticking you off got your name on the chalk board with three check marks. Three checks meant I had to sit out at recess and Ms. Beverly, my teacher, called my parents. I got punished all over again when I got home.

In second grade, Aunt Jean, Daddy's sister, was my teacher. I was so lucky. Aunt Jean really appreciated my zeal for learning - so much so that I was her favorite student. (Of course, that is what I thought and told everyone in the class).

But even I could make Aunt Jean angry. One afternoon at recess, my friend, Scooter, and I stole Aunt Jean's mercuricomb and painted our knees and elbows with the dark red liquid. The two of us pretended to fall down and hurt ourselves. Panicked that blood was involved, Aunt Jean rushed to help. She wasn't very happy when she discovered our prank. If I remember correctly, she told Daddy, and I am sure the words "she wasted my good mercuricomb" were used. (Well, she was a Sexton, after all.)

I was never a fan of P.E. Recess was okay, but structured athletics has never been my thing. I was not blessed with hand-eye coordination. Organized sports were a nightmare. I can't even begin to tell you how many times I was hit in the face by a ball.

However, I loved the trampoline. My cousins had one, and I could do flips and other tricks. I was so looking forward to showing off my skills in front of the class, but the teacher put a stop to it. He said unless I could do "swivel hips" (seat drop, flip in mid-air, and seat drop in the opposite direction) a flip was out of the question. Only one student could do "swivel hips," and I despised her.

The teacher loved this girl. Most of the class period, the other students and I would stand around the parameter of the trampoline with our arms in the air to catch the "swivel hips" girl if she launched herself across the room. We would stand there forever as she did tricks and flips while the teacher praised her. (Actually, I am beginning to think this experience is what scarred my psyche against athletics. Regardless, it is now my new excuse.)

So as classes commence in the community, know this. I miss school. If the real world would just take a cue from elementary school, the world would be such a better place. I will take the 30-minute nap for $100, Alex.