Monday, February 25, 2008

A little discomfort won't ruin my good time

Last Friday, I dropped a dry erase board on my foot and nearly broke my this-little-piggy-went-to-the-market toe. The thing swelled up like something off Snuffy Smith’s foot, and any pressure to the entire foot would take my breath. However, I was not about to let one black deformed toe ruin my weekend. Besides it’s not sandal season yet.

First stop – Carroll County Market in Carrollton.

The quirky, nostalgic environment reminded me of my Ole Miss days on the square in Oxford, and they served best barbeque pizza I have had in ages. Although the atmosphere and company were quite wonderful, the music turned an ordinary night out into a doubled-over-stitch-in-the-side good time.

It was open mic night, and when we called to make reservations, the hostess told my significant other and me to bring our instruments for a jam session. This started a laughing fit at the mere thought of me ringing a triangle and Keith playing the spoons. The trip over consisted of all of the different instruments we could conjure up to play – tambourine, jug, wash board. I figured we could become regulars on Hee Haw with our “talents.”

Entertainment for the evening was provided by a gentleman named Rex from McCool and Cecil Abels, co-owner of Carroll County Market. The two started out with a couple of numbers from Alabama and Conway Twitty. Then things got interesting.

With requests coming from the crowd, our entertainment was forced to improvise. Rex and Cecil had the talent to “fake it” and pick out a melody on the guitar or mandolin if someone sang a few bars, but the right lyrics were a different story. Whole verses were created, rhymed, and localized, and the audience followed along in laughter anticipating altered words.

After nearly four hours of hilarious entertainment, it was time to get the check.

Keith: “We need to wait to get our check.”

Me: “Why? Just flag down our waitress.”

Keith: “She is onstage playing the drums. We have to wait until she finishes this song.”

Me: “Oh, okay.”

Totally normal, right? Well, in Carrollton it is, and that is what made the night so wonderful.
When we left a little before midnight, I felt like I was officially part of the Carroll County Market family. We plan to visit our kin folk again next weekend.

Second stop – the home of Bob Doolittle of Leland, Mississippi.

NASCAR has a Super Bowl, too – the Daytona 500. With hot wings, chips, dips, and other “manly” cuisine (like poor helpless bunnies that were filleted and wrapped with bacon), racing fans from across the county gather to watch this famous race that kicks off the racing season.

I attended my first Daytona 500 party last Sunday, and unlike the Super Bowl where everyone is really only interested in the commercials, racing fans QUIETLY watched the race with the hopes that their favorite driver will take home the prize. I was unnerved by the concentration of the fans in the sport – watching for a monstrous pile up that didn’t happen this year, rough driving, and if driver Jeff Gordan (obviously considered the spawn of Satan to those I was with) would accidentally be struck by lightning in pit lane.

Although I am not a true-blue fan of the sport, I can follow along (SportsCenter junkie) and carry on a reasonable conversation about the sport. Besides, I have been properly tutored by Keith on which driver to cast my support.

Now, I bring up this little stock car soiree because of something one of the announcers said during the race. He recalled something racing legend Junior Johnson said about a breakfast of bacon and eggs. “When you sit down to a breakfast of bacon and eggs, you can be sure of one thing – the chicken was dedicated, but the pig was committed.” The poet lariat of pit road.

I love this. I want this cross-stitched on a pillow.

With my nearly-broken toe, I felt the pig’s commitment. Despite the fact that it will be months before I can wear high-healed shoes again, I bit my lip, sucked it up, and hobbled through Central Mississippi. It was well worth the trip.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Losing myself in the pages of a good book

I am obsessed with books. Not always what is on the inside of books, I love the book and what it symbolizes. Learning, knowledge, answers.

I literally have hundreds, maybe thousands – stacked on shelves and in corners around my house. They are each special to me even if I was not impressed with the text. I am particularly protective of them – very rarely loaning them out.

They represent something new I have learned – as small as a new word or interesting historical fact that can be retrieved at just the right moment. More importantly, each reminds me of a quiet afternoon when I became acquainted with its pages.

Everything one could possibly need to know can be found in a book – if you just look in the right one. (Honestly, my head is so filled with useless knowledge that it will burble out occasionally and frighten whomever I am speaking.)

Last weekend, I made my first trip to Turnrow Books in Greenwood. It is a magical little place that specializes in Southern and Mississippi literature. My favorite part? Tiny handwritten notes from the staff sticking out of various books recommending the work. You don’t get that kind of service from a chain bookstore.

Like Sophie’s Choice, I had to choose one book. I picked Southern Fried Farce, a collection of Southern humor (Other writers making fun of their families as well, I am sure). Yet, there were so many that were begging to find a home.

I will just have to get Mrs. Bootsie Weed at the Winona Public Library to hunt them down for me. The only problem with library books is returning them; I always have a late fee.

Of course like any avid reader, I have my favorite books that I read again and again and never bore. John Kennedy Toole’s Confederacy of Dunces is probably my favorite book ever written. I actually named my cat (dearly-departed) after the main character, Ignatius J. Riley. Ignatius the Cat was much like Ignatius the character – both belching, lazy mounds of blubber and hot air.

Even after a dozen re-reads, I still laugh out loud over Ignatius and his “pyloric valve” issues and Patrolman Mancuso (Ignatius’ nemesis) and his “disguises” (Groucho Marx fake glasses, nose, and mustache certainly do not create effective aliases.) If you haven’t read this one, I highly recommend it.

Jane Eyre is another of my favorite works of literature. I was quite distressed when I was told this book was currently not a staple in high school literature classes. The classic Victorian romantic novel – I am still madly in love with Mr. Rochester, and although he is fiction, I still pine for him. Alas, the only way to find a man like that is to make him up.

I do have more contemporary favorites: Dust Tracks on the Road by Zora Neale Hurston (the writer’s autobiography), Child of God by Cormac McCarthy (disturbing but beautiful), Angry Housewives Eating Bon-Bons by Lorna Landvik (it is a lot more than chick lit), Jubilee by Margaret Walker (get the tissue), A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel (absolutely hysterical), Queen of the Turtle Derby by Julia Reed (coined my favorite phrase “There were only two perfect men. One died on the cross and the other surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse.”). There are just too many to list.

One Spanish proverb said, “Books are hindrances to persisting stupidity.” I don’t know about all of that – I ooze with stupidity most days. However, I do relate to something I saw on a t-shirt once: “Lead me not into temptation or into bookstores.”

Happy reading!

He's Archie's boy!

The New York Giants whipped the once-undefeated New England Patriots on Sunday, and I (yes, the rabid Dallas Cowboys fan) am ecstatic. It was the ultimate underdog story – David and Goliath, the 1980 U.S. Hockey Team, Barbaro, Rocky Balboa, the Tortuous and the Hare (I think I have drifted into fiction). Regardless, what a game!

There gathered around my kitchen television, we all enjoyed an evening of food and football – in that order. Homemade gumbo, dips, cheese, brownies, cookies, and grilled venison wraps prepared by my significant other, Keith. (In fact, there was so much food, I will be eating hors d'oeuvres for a week.)

There were no true-blue Giant fans in the house, but it was filled with Eli fans. We were pretty evenly split – four Ole Miss fans, five Mississippi State fans, but only one of us was not cheering for Eli and his team. (Don’t worry, Keith, I won’t name names.)

And just as Ole Miss gives me a heart attack most games, Eli delivered the come-from-behind win that brought true palpitations. With poise and concentration, he delivered 19 of 34 passes for two touchdowns (and one interception) – a MVP performance worthy of the name Manning.

Eli also showed his versatility on the field Sunday as he wiggled out of a herd of Patriots to connect (on the head of) with David Tyree. And as he launched the final touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress, we jumped for joy and hugging in football euphoria. I even think a few Hotty Toddys were exchanged.

The next morning, the news was all about Eli and the Manning family – as good a time as ever to jump on the Manning legacy band wagon. I got to live the excitement again and again.

So humbly Eli spoke about his team and his supportive family. It made me proud that Eli conducted himself in a true Southern manner unlike that very rude head coach for the Patriots who made a complete spectacle out of himself because of the loss. That Belichick fellow should learn to make a better example for his team. (Now he is hiding out – probably in some bunker like Saddam Hussein, what is that all about?)

After the game, I was asked a question by the only Patriots supporter at the party: “If Eli did not go to Ole Miss, would you still be cheering for him.”

My answer: “Of course, he is Archie’s boy.”

It is all about Mississippi loyalty and royalty for that matter. I doubt there is more than a handful of Mississippians who don’t know the name Manning. They are our version of the Kennedys. Archie didn’t bring us Camelot; he brought us glory, and the best kind of glory in Mississippi – football glory.

And so we continue to honor the number 18 by supporting his sons.

No, I was not happy when Peyton decided to go to Tennessee, and I would never support Tennessee (it is not natural for an Ole Miss girl). However, I did support him in his win against the Bears last Super Bowl.

I had to. He’s Archie’s boy.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Life as the baby of the family

I am the youngest of three, and regardless of the spoiled “baby” stereotype, I was abused, dressed up, stripped down, used as a guinea pig, and always took the blame. Other “babies” will understand what I am talking about. The rest of you, especially the oldests, need a lesson in life as the “baby.”

My oldest sister, Deana, was a mean child. Even my grandmother, who was supposed to be so biased about her grandbabies, figured that out when Deana took a bite out of a strange little girl in the grocery store.

Deana just liked to be mean. Once, she and Cousin Dennis poured an entire can of gasoline over my sister Stephanie’s head. Momma caught them just as they were looking for the matches.
At one point, she had convinced me that I was left on the doorstep by circus people. I am petrified of heights, so I had a serious identify crisis until my teens.

Deana could talk at nine months old, and is still just a talking. It was so bad, that Stephanie didn’t say a word until kindergarten because Deana wouldn’t let her. Someone would ask Stephanie a question, and Deana would answer.

Most of the time, she would beat us to a pulp if we did not do what she wanted. In the car, Stephanie and I would curl up on about a foot of seat while Deana stretched out. We were instructed not to cross a certain line or we’d pay.

Oh, were we abused! I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have a bruise from a stolen pinch or a red mark from her chubby hand has she smacked us, and we were scared to tell on her. She could convince our parents that Stephanie and I ganged up on her and she was just defending herself.

I can still see her with her Dorothy Hamil haircut, hands on her hips and lips pursed into a pout, “I’m telling Daddy on you.”

You see, Daddy made Deana mean – just as if you would grab a dog by the nose and shake it. She would do something bad, and Momma would spank her. Deana would end up waiting at the backdoor for Daddy to come home from work to tattle on her. Then Momma would beat her again.

Stephanie, on the other hand, was the quiet one, and you always have to watch the quiet ones. She was the prankster, and got so tickled when she scared me or convinced me to do something utterly stupid.

Once, Stephanie told me (I was only around six) Cousin Candice could stick her finger up her nose and touch her brain. I, of course, try it, pop a blood vessel and almost bleed to death.
Another time, I was shampooing my hair with my head under the faucet of the tub when Stephanie ran in and screamed, “Boo.” Alarmed I shot up, catching the faucet with my forehead and cutting a clean gash. Again, I almost bled to death (scalp wounds take forever to stop bleeding).

Stephanie was seriously manipulative, too. (The quiet ones always are!) Once Momma called us for dinner, and I came running to the backdoor. Stephanie was holding the iron door shut.

“What are the magic words?” she said. Instead of just saying, “Stephanie is wonderful. She can ride horses better than me. She can swim faster than me. Momma and Daddy like her best,” I pulled on the door knob. Just as I had all my weight against the door, she let go, and I slid across the carport floor and smashed my head into a brick wall.

Because I was the “baby,” Momma and Daddy would have let me juggle knives and not have broken a sweat. So, some extra bruises or a scratch or gash here or there did not call for alarm.
“Babies” had to make their own justice, be smart and quick witted. They also have to know what assets they have to bargain with. I became a master of diverting attention to something else, and I am quite the diplomat. Trust me -- growing up with sisters, I could talk myself away from a terrorist.

I am surprised I made it to adulthood.

I think about someday having a family of my own, but I have decided I want more than one child if I am lucky enough to have them. I want my own children to learn to live with siblings. If they learn that, then even an occupying foreign army couldn’t frazzle them.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Snow Days

Last Friday, the Crossroads braced for a potential winter storm. While some sleet and freezing rain did fall and stick to trees, cars, and gutters, children were disappointed that a fluffy blanket of snow did not cover lawns and streets.

I was kind of disappointed as well not just because my dogs love playing in the snow but because a snow day always brings back such fond memories for me.

My family was the best at snow days. As soon as the faintest light appeared in the east, my sisters and I would have our noses pressed against the window glass – fogging up the panes with excited breath. Then we would run downstairs to watch school closings on television.

When our school was named, we would cheer with excitement and run to change into our coats and mittens. We knew Granddaddy would be there soon to pick us up.

Granddaddy was the most fun on snow days. He would watch for school closings, too, and as soon as he knew we were free, he would drive around Eudora picking up grandchildren to play with him.

Of course, Granddaddy wasn’t a very good driver on a warm, sunny day, so the snow turned him into a maniac. Once he sideswiped what he thought was a “snow bank” and kept on driving like nothing had ever happened. We found out later that the “snow bank” was actually a yellow VW Bug that was wearing a snow coat.

Throughout the year, Granddaddy planned for snow days. He built a sled that could be pulled by a horse. It was just a wood platform, and it took several horses to make it move (it weighed a ton!). Besides, he didn’t put on those metal runners that make sleds, well, sled. The horses just kind of dragged the thing behind them up and down the hills – grandkids flying off with each bump.

We used to have so much fun sledding. There were these plastic disk sleds that would spin as they traveled down the hill. We felt like superheroes until we got to the bottom and threw up. But once our stomachs were settled, we were trudging back up the hill for another turn.

After about an hour, we discovered we were cold and hungry, and made our way to Aunt Gaye Gaye’s house for snacks. She would make us homemade cocoa (the kind you make with brown box Hershey’s Cocoa) and let us warm up. Eventually, we would talk her into making us snow cream – of course, that was always a secret from Momma and Daddy.

For those of you who are unaware of the culinary delight of snow cream, it is just a bowl of undisturbed snow (always from the top of a car or picnic table to avoid critter infestation) covered in Eagle Brand Milk. So in short, we ate slushy Eagle Brand Milk. We were always so wired when we got home; I am surprised my parents never figured out what Gaye Gaye was feeding us.

Daddy wasn’t a big fan of snow days (workaholic), but he did love to go sledding. After many failed attempts to drive to work – well, after he sunk all of our cars in the neighbor’s yard – he would give in to the magic that is snow day. He always found ingenious ideas to make sledding more effective.

His best idea to date was to coat the bottom of the sled with non-stick cooking spray. Very Clark-Griswald-like, the sled would fly at mach speed. We had to abandon the enhanced sled after a neighbor kid went airborne and landed in the lake. Daddy ended up bribing him not to tell his very overprotective mother.

There were always the little accidents on snow days (we were Sextons and it was our destiny.)
My sister Deana got stuck in the middle of a frozen pond once after the sled got off track.
Thankfully she just sat there very nonchalant-like as the ice around her was cracking. Daddy had to throw a rope out to her and drag her in (then he had the breakdown he deserved).

I had my own frozen pond experience. My cousins and I were riding horses in the pasture when we noticed the enchanted pond (that is what I referred to it as, but no one else thought it had any magical powers) had frozen over. My pony, Tiny Boot, got spooked and threw me into that pond. (I told you it was enchanted.)

Scared Momma and Daddy would be angry, my cousins took me to Gaye Gaye’s house to dry my clothes. I spent the rest of that snow day eating homemade fudge wrapped in an afghan. (Gaye Gaye always did like me best.)

As adults, snow days are always a hassle. We have to figure out how to get to work and who will watch the kids when the school closes. It is just one more thing to reaffirm that I am now an adult – like asking Santa Claus for a washing machine.

I ain't got no business in show business

Saturday night, I attended the 72nd birthday party of the Dr. Reverend Duran Palmertree, pastor of Bethany Church of God, hosted by Mildred Fondren. The sit-down dinner for nearly 30 guests seemed an easy accomplishment for Miss Mildred – of course, anything in the kitchen seems easy to Miss Mildred.

The menu consisted of pork tenderloin with an apricot chutney, au gratin potatoes, green beans, layered salad, and homemade rolls. No birthday party would be complete without a cake, but Miss Mildred had to go the extra mile and make three different kinds – her famous chocolate, sour cream coconut, and orange slice.

With the help of her niece, Bonnie, and childhood friend, Elsie, who both drove down from Germantown, Tenn., to help, the party was a tremendous success. The entertainment, however, might be questionable.

Miss Mildred asked Nell Middleton, Patti Corley and me to provide entertainment for the evening. Of course, we asked Miss Nell to sing a hymn which is her specialty. Her rendition of “I Bowed on my Knees and Cried Holy” would bring tears to your eyes, and it even turned out to be one of the guest of honor’s favorite hymns.

After dinner, the three of us (donning feather boas) broke into the 1930’s hit “Baby Face.” We were Winona’s version of the Supremes, and Miss Nell was Diana Ross. I, trying to remember the chorography (I look like I am having a seizure when I dance, remember), forgot the words, and Patti got off track watching and laughing at me. Miss Nell took the lead for a rousing performance (thankfully, to cover for us). I would not say we received applause – I think there were more laughs than applause (I am choosing to think they were laughing with us not at us).

Now, what I would like everyone to know is that there are very few people on earth I would agree to make a big fool of myself for, and I would have to say Miss Mildred and a man of God would be two of them. Trust me, I tend to make a fool of myself most of the time without practicing and choreographing it.

My sophomore year in high school, I got a part in the spring production of “Lil’ Abner.” I was so excited until I discovered I was cast as a man, Jack S. Fogbound. Tell me if that isn’t a slap in the face.

Here I was padded from head to toe and wearing a white polyester suit with a cowboy hat. (I mimicked Granddaddy for the voice – poorly.) I looked and sounded like Boss Hog going through adolescence with a squeak here and a cough there.

During the last of three shows, I was delivering a particularly long monologue when both my feet flew out from under me, and I landed flat on my back. The problem was I was wearing so much padding, I couldn’t get up. I kind of rocked back and forth like a beetle belly up.

The other cast members in my scene were laughing so hard, no one would help me up. They had to close the curtain on us so my co-stars would not have to grab my arms and drag me back stage.

You see, show business has never been good to me. In sixth grade, while acting in “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” I tripped over a part of the set, flew across the stage, and knocked down two other members of the cast. I literally tackled them.

This curse even followed me to college. When my sorority performed its annual dance number at the Sigma Chi Derby Day my freshman year, I forgot all the steps, broke into a jig so no one would notice, and threw off the three back rows of the formation. Of course, any idiot who would take my lead deserved to make a fool of herself. I think we came in last – big surprise, huh?

You see, I do not have a false sense of reality to think I have any possible talent – well, maybe as the fourth stooge.

My life as a dog person

For Christmas, my significant other built me a doggy fence for my three critters. Honestly, he could have given me a new Mercedes Benz, and I wouldn’t be any happier than I am with my fence. (His response to this was, “Yeah, right.)

But I am being completely serious. For the past six months, I have had to walk my critters on a leash three or four times a day. It could be raining, 20 below zero, or even midnight, and I had to walk my dogs. Hopefully, my neighbors have gotten used to me being pulled around the backyard in my pajamas.

With my new super-duper-multi-tasking-no-longer-worried-one-of-the-idiots-will-escape fence, I just have to open the back door and let them run. It has truly been a Zen experience for me.

My new pastime is watching them from the kitchen window as they play in the yard. Amused, I watch Don Juan (Chihuahua) hide behind the corner of the garage waiting to pounce on the others, and it works every time. (They really are mentally challenged.)

Since the unveiling (the critters saw it being built and they were waiting patiently), Skipper (Fox Terrier) and Don Juan walk the parameter of the yard looking for intruders or unwelcome wild vermin like squirrels and chipmunks. They will freak out and act threatened like my neighbor walking his miniature weenie dog is secretly casing the house for an invasion.

The hair on both their backs will be standing on end, and they let loose a tirade of yip yaps. Of course, they each weigh less than 10 pounds, so what are they going to do? Gnaw on someone’s ankle?

My Maltese, Toulouse, will only leave the sidewalk for a few seconds at a time – grass phobia, I suspect. He will travel down the sidewalk to the fence, walk along the edge and then walk backward until he is back on the sidewalk. He then prances back up the walk and waits by the door until I let him in.

Skipper has discovered a new way to annoy Toulouse, who hates him with all of his being. He will back up close to Toulouse and kick grass and dirt all over him, and in Toulouse’s toe-nail-painted-barrette-wearing world, this is a travesty. Then the fight begins (well, they just growl and push on each other because both are scared of each other).

The fence has also brought a new critter into my fold part-time. I baby sit my significant other’s three-legged black lab, Jackson, on deer hunting weekends. He is such a sweet dog – a little clumsy with the three legs, but sweet.

Like Don Juan and Toulouse, Jackson hates Skipper who will run through his legs and knock him off his one back leg. Skipper being such an idiot does not realize that when Jackson falls, he has to land somewhere – usually that somewhere is on Skipper who is too stupid to move out from under him as he knocks him off balance. There is Jackson in the splits (or thrits or whatever you call a three-legged dog in the splits) with four little white legs sticking out from under him – poetic justice.

I know what you are thinking – crazy dog person. Personally, I just think I am a normal dog person.

Recently, I purchased a sofa for my dogs because I felt guilty about quarantining them in the kitchen. As insane as it sounds, dog people do stuff like that. I actually bought the sofa from another dog lover who used it for her dog. (I had to stick that in so you won’t think I am completely pathetic).

The truth is, I love my critters like children, but Daddy said this will change when I actually have a real human baby one day. I don’t really know about that. Momma has three children, and she would give her Westie a kidney if she needed it.

I don’t go around wearing my dogs’ pictures on a t-shirt or fry up liver for their dinner like my Aunt Pete did. And I don’t force them to wear matching outfits – with me or with each other. I consider them members of the family, and they should be treated as though.

If you see me taking them out trick or treating next year, then, by all means, plan an intervention.

Winning is always best

My friends saw the real me around 1:15 a.m. on New Year’s Day. No, I do not mean the vulnerable side. Or the self-deprecating side. Or even the obsessive-compulsive side (Goodness, I am starting to sound like Sybil). I am talking about the competitive side.

After attending the John Anderson concert in Greenville on New Year’s Eve (oh, yes, we were just a Swingin’), my friends and I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning playing spades.
It was boys verses girls, and although I had never played before, I must say I am GOOD!

Now, I have to confess that if I am not good at something, I simply refuse to do it. For example, I tried bowling before, and along with wearing rented shoes (barbaric) I was utterly miserable – and terrible at it. I have never bowled again.

Not the case in spades. It was all about trumping the other players, so I put on my poker face (enough that my friends kept asking if I was sure I was having a good time) and Keetha and I whipped some tail – winning 500 points to 320 points.

I just like to win. Period. And I am not afraid to admit the source of my condition – genetics. As usual, I blame my family.

I am the baby sister, the baby grandchild, and the baby cousin. Just as survival of the fittest, I learned to compete in every situation and usually with some kind of handicap. Swimming races in the pool with my cousins. Roller skating races down the driveway (my sister, Deana, ended up in traction after one of those). Racing on horseback through the pasture (I had a Shetland pony with 12-inch legs; I would never win that one).

Everything growing up was a competition, and because I was the youngest, I never won. Now that age or a pony with short legs no longer applies, I now have a shot a winning, and that is my ultimate goal. Trial Pursuit, Celebrity Taboo, Connect Four, Hungry Hungry Hippos – there must always be a victor – why shouldn’t it be me?

To this day, my sisters and I still compete at everything. Once, Stephanie and I took my nephew to Chuck E. Cheese for an afternoon, and the two of us ended up in an air hockey tournament. First, the table was designed for children, so we were playing on our knees.
Second, we made such a spectacle that we attracted an audience. The game eventually ended in a draw because we ran out of tokens.

Then there was the infamous game night experience. Someone had gotten the new Survivor board game based on that stranded-on-a-desert-island game show, and I was all set to make alliances, win challenges, and be the sole survivor. My loving family voted me off the island first! It is still the source of anxiety for me, and I am still holding a grudge.

We have even corrupted my nine-year-old nephew, Hunter. In the summer, we spend a lot of time at the pool, and I always become Hunter’s playmate. Last year, I created a new game, pool jousting, where each competitor straddles a float and tries to unseat the other with one of those foam noodles. Of course, I always won, and Hunter got mad and wouldn’t play with me anymore.

I am trying to toughen him up. If I had to go through it, so does he.

I realize I take it a bit too far sometimes, but I still try to be respectful – win or lose. I have never done a victory dance, and I do not taunt the opposing team (does “How ‘bout them Dawgs” ring a bell?) Winning to me is all about personal satisfaction and redemption for all those years of losing to my sisters and cousins.

Now that I know I have a knack for spades, I am all about a re-match. Of course, if we lose this time, I will have to consider giving it up for life. I am not too proud to take my ball and go home.

Granddaddy's Diary

I didn’t ask for anything for Christmas this year, but I received a family treasure I thought was lost.

On Christmas morning after the gifts were opened, my father off-handedly remarked about a diary he found in my grandfather’s books. You see, I had been looking for this diary since
Granddaddy’s death in 2000.

It was something he was working on at my request. I wanted to keep a part of him always, and the one thing he taught me was that as long as there is family to keep memories alive, no one is ever forgotten.

On his 85th birthday, I had given Granddaddy the diary to record his history, and he was thrilled with the gift because he had so much history to tell. I inscribed it: “This is to keep you memories in. You never know, I might write a book about you one day.”

Granddaddy always nurtured my desire to become a writer although everyone joked that he just wanted to be immortalized. I don’t know about that, but he did give me something any writer would sell his soul for – a treasure trove of characters that even William Faulkner could not conjure.

Growing up, I spent a lot of time at my grandparents – they lived just next door. I would polish my grandmother’s furniture while Granddaddy would sit in his chair and read. He would read everything he could get his hands on – religious books, novels, biographies, even celebrity tabloids especially The Star.

He could tell you about any Hollywood scandal since 1945. Once he told me that when he got to Heaven the first thing he would ask was who killed President Kennedy and did O.J. Simpson really kill those people.

Granddaddy also told the best stories. He would talk about growing up with his nine siblings and the trouble they would get into. He used to say that he hoped God forgave him for his wild youth. However, I don’t think tying my Uncle Aubrey to a bull and letting him loose will get you tossed into the pits of hell.

He talked about his cousins and aunts and uncles – all of them so outlandish they sounded like cartoon characters. He had an uncle who would color his hair with shoe polish and by the end of the day, it was smeared all over his forehead.

There were the drinkers and the fighters and the gamblers. There were also the preachers and the healers and the businessmen. His life was a saga, and it screamed to be written down.

“I regret so much for not keeping a diary of my life but my loving baby granddaughter asked me to now,” he wrote.

Granddaddy began writing, starting from his earliest memory. There in a worn, bound volume of line paper with a cowboy featured on the cover were my grandfather’s thoughts and dreams and precious memories, and I can’t read a word of it.

He never had the best penmanship, but it will take a handwriting expert to decipher that chicken scratch.

For years, I have been hoping to find it – wishing, imagining the treasure inside. I am left like Gerald Rivera looking in Al Capone’s vault.

Granddaddy still deserves to go down in history as one of the greatest characters Eudora, Mississippi, ever produced, and I plan on immortalizing him just as he would have wanted. But they won’t be from his memories, they will be from mine.

I will remember Granddaddy driving me to Aunt Laura’s store to buy ice cream sandwiches. Or taking all the grandchildren to Miss Lucy’s (the neighborhood meanie) house on Green River Road to leave ugly notes in her mailbox (always the instigator).

I will remember him for chasing us around the yard with his lasso and pulling out his cane and rocking chair every birthday. I will remember him as a wonderful grandfather, but more importantly as the best playmate a kid could ever have.

I wish I could pull out the wisdom and family secrets from that old diary, but alas, it was not meant to be. In a way, I am glad – he always was bigger than life. The legend will live on.

New Year's Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions – oh, the joy of them. I make a list every year, and I haven’t checked off one of them yet. Most of the time, I go in the opposite direction, and so I have done a little self-reflection to understand the reasoning behind my un-kept resolutions.

The problem with New Year’s resolutions is you don’t get enough time to do everything you want. There are probably 20 items on my list each year, and there is no way I can achieve all of them in just 365 days, 52 weeks, or 12 months. Usually, my resolutions call for major change, and major change takes time – lots of it in my case.

When I try to accomplish them all in a year, I get discouraged and quit them all together (just think of a resolution as a really big life diet.) So, this year, I have only made five resolutions with the hope I will accomplish one of them before next Christmas.

The most common New Year’s resolutions according to the website are
lose weight , pay off debt , save money , get a better job , get fit , eat right , get a better education, drink less alcohol , quit smoking , reduce stress overall , reduce stress at work, take a trip and volunteer to help others.

These are all good, but in my mind, you should be more general so you can more likely succeed at something. This year mine are simple: try to live a healthy lifestyle, improve time management, focus more on my personal life, sharpen the saw (taking a little tip from Franklin Covey), and enjoy life more.

Pretty general, huh? Let me explain my method.

When I say try to live a healthy lifestyle, I did not mean “run a marathon by Christmas.” I was simply referring to assessing my Diet Coke addiction and sleep deprivation. I know it doesn’t sound like much change, but let me tell you, for me, it is huge.

Right now, I probably drink eight to10 Diet Cokes a day, and I can’t remember the last time I actually drank a glass of water. I am completely and totally addicted (and certainly dehydrated). I am sure my insides are pickled with all the NutraSweet.

And sleep? I am the worst insomniac ever. I am over 30, and I still fight my sleep. Seems that I am a giant worry-wart, and when I turn off the lights -- my mind haunts me. If I could get at least six hours of sleep each night, I wouldn’t be so ADD.

The next two resolutions kind of work hand and hand. By improving time management, I would focus more on my personal life. I have been one-sighted when it came to the biggest thing in my life – work and school. It’s simple: I am a workaholic. Everything else just suffers.

Trust me, I need to make a dent in that enormous pile of laundry that never seems to get smaller or actually fold the clothes when I wash them instead of just getting what I need out of the dryer. Cooking every once in a while might be good, too. Frozen dinners and take out can take a toll after a while.

Several years ago, I took the Franklin Covey Time Management seminar, and since then, I have had the most unnatural connection with my weekly planner. The seminar is based on the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and let me say, I completely recommend this program to any busy professional. (Of course, I’m not real effective if I need to make a list of resolutions, but I like the idea of effectiveness.)

One major focus of this program is to “Sharpen the Saw.” The premise behind the idea is simple. Two men go into the woods to cut down a tree with a saw. One man has sharpened his saw and the tree falls quickly. The other man has a dull saw and he just saws and saws without ever accomplishing his task.

When I go home at night, I usually collapse with my Diet Coke (see, I told you!) and vegetate until I no longer can fight my sleep. I don’t do anything productive with my spare time. My problem is figuring out what is considered productive. I need to hone my skills (whatever they might be), but most of all, I need to exercise my brain in other ways outside of newspaper. I love to read, but have this awful habit of deducing from the first chapter if the author is an idiot or just trying to get accepted into Oprah’s Book Club. It is rare that I am actually blown away by an author these days – especially with Chic Lit so popular.

A while back, I read this book that was touted as being “the true story of Vlad the Impaler.” What I got was another Dracula book that killed Vlad in the end, but low and behold, it left an opening for a sequel. It was a little too Days of Our Lives “Marlana is possessed by the devil” for me.

This now brings me to my final resolution – enjoy life more. I have no game plan to accomplish this one. I need to find a hobby, and of course, I have no idea of what that might be.
Sports are out of the question because I have no hand-eye coordination and I don’t like to sweat. I don’t do the outdoors because I don’t do nature, and I don’t like to sweat. I tried gardening, and I like gardening except for the manual labor part. Also, I don’t like to sweat

So now, I am officially on a quest for a hobby. I need something relaxing like yoga without all the twisting and spandex (and chanting, not a fan of chanting). I need something creative like music and dance (by the way, I look like I am having a seizure when I dance). And I need something that requires skill like golf (I am very good at driving the cart).

Well, I have a year to figure out if golf cart interpretive dance actually works.
To all of you, Happy New Year!