Good Friday is Coming!

This is a repost of something I wrote a few years ago.  I felt very led to share it again this year and although I’ve touched it up a little bit to be current; the sentiment hasn’t changed a bit.  
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As I prepare for Palm Sunday, I feel moved to touch on a subject I feel VERY strongly about. Good Friday.  I love Good Friday and for some reason have always had a special reverence and respect for it.  I’m not really sure why–I just do.  As a matter of fact, one of my favorite high school memories is of a certain Good Friday. On that day, a few too many years ago, a friend and I decided to take a mid-day drive through the very small community where we grew up. We were out of school that day (as everyone should be) so we decided to ride around to look at the dogwood blossoms.  Yes, that’s exactly what we were doing…..looking at dogwood blossoms…..I’m sure it was something like that……  As we approached the main thoroughfare of town–where our lovely church crowns the street–we noticed that the cross was not out in front as it should have been.  We went into panic mode.  Somehow, whomever was supposed to put it up had forgotten to do so. How could such a thing happen? We decided it was up to us to save the day so we put our plan into action.  Unfortunately the storage building out back was locked and nobody seemed to have a key for the padlock.  Not to worry! We found a crowbar and used it to pop the lock, grabbed the cross and ran to the front lawn.  We spent about another 20 minutes looking for the hole in the ground where is goes. It was supposed to be marked by a brick but the grass was high and it took forever to find it. I’m fairly certain we uttered a few words not at all worthy of the church yard during our search but we were on a mission! Finally, we found the brick, dug it up and hoisted the cross upright.  We ran in the church (we had a key for that, no break in was necessary) and rifled through the closets for the black drape.  It was nowhere to be found.  Never fear! We had a plan. We drove back to my house and ripped apart the closets looking for a long black cloth. There had to be some black fabric SOMEWHERE!  Black shroud in hand, we headed back to the church. We ran back up to the cross where she sat on my shoulders to reach high enough and used safety pins to drape my Mother’s long black skirt around the cross.  It gave a whole new meaning to the classic hymn “Lift High The Cross”.Mission accomplished, crisis averted.

In the spirit of full disclosure I have to be honest and tell you that I’m pretty sure this was also the year we rolled the yard at the parsonage on the night before Easter.  Look–we were teenagers and nobody’s perfect. Plus, I think we used colored toilet paper (remember that?!) so it looked very festive and “Easter-y”.

Okay, on with the show.  Back in 2009, I typed a very short email about Good Friday and sent it to a few close friends.  I wasn’t trying to make any sort of grand statement. I wasn’t trying to get something passed around or forwarded around the globe. (For the record, any email I receive with a subject line starting “Fwd. Fwd. Fwd.” goes directly to the trash.) I was just sharing my thoughts with like-minded friends.  I now feel led to share those thoughts again, so I have taken that old email and tweaked it a bit to be relevant today–in 2016.  I am sharing it here and I hope that it will at the very least cause you to stop and think–not only about Good Friday but about each and every day The Good Lord sees fit to grant you.

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Dear Friends,

       Easter Sunday, the greatest Holy Day in the Christian calendar, celebrates the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  As I am sure you know, Good Friday commemorates the Crucifixion of Jesus and His death at Golgotha.
       
       When I was growing up, and for several years after I had children of my own, there was no school on Good Friday. Perhaps that is still true for you but on March 25th, 2016, where I live, school is in session.  School–on Good Friday.  What a shame.  We are given time away from school for Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day, Labor Day, President’s Day, the list goes on.  While I understand and respect the importance of those holidays, I in no way equate them with any type of “Holy Day”.
       
       You should know that I am an avid supporter of my local school system and feel very blessed to be able to send my daughter to such an amazing school. There’s a reason we call it the “Public-Private School”–it’s wonderful. However, this scheduling conflict is where I must take issue.  Please rest assured that I don’t blame this on teachers or administrators or board members. Oh no– I blame it on us.  All of us.  You, me, the folks down the street–we all share the blame.  We have all stood silently by and allowed this to happen.  Nobody says a word when the soccer or softball tournament; baseball game; cheerleading competition or lacrosse practice falls on a Sunday.  We have allowed prayer to be taken from our schools and our sporting events. All the while we just stand around and say “Wow-that’s so awful.  I wish we could do something about that.”.  But nobody ever actually does anything.  Why should we be surprised when the recognition of another Holy Day is done away with? I hate to call on Elvis here but, we need a little less conversation and a lot more action!  We ALL bear the blame for ending up in school on Good Friday. Every last one of us.
         
        One year, I caved and sent my children to school.  Somebody had a test and somebody was getting an award or it was picture day or something…… who can even remember what the reasons were? I surely don’t know.  What I do know is that I have felt badly about it ever since.  Therefore–this year, I will not send my daughter to school on Good Friday. (The one who’s in college has to make his own decision this time around.) I’m renewing my commitment to keep that day Holy.  It’s a small thing I grant you, but it is done with great love.  I don’t want you to think that I’m asking you to keep your children home. I’m not.  I’m not asking you to pull your children out of sports that meet on the weekends. I’m not trying to make you feel guilty if you can’t keep your children home that day–or if you can’t be away from work.  I’m not asking you to call the school to complain–nothing like that!  I am simply asking you to stop and think about the importance of that day.  Remember, without Good Friday–there is no Easter Sunday. 
      
        Think about all that has been given to you–by God. Think about how you are returning the favor. Not just on Good Friday but on every day of the week. What are you doing to show thankfulness and respect? Perhaps if you don’t have school on Good Friday (or if you decide not to send your children) you will think about what a difference you could make in someone’s life that day! Find a charity that needs assistance and volunteer to help out on that day.  Clean out your closets and take things to the homeless shelter. (Nice things–nobody want’s your old underwear and your 1987 Hard Rock Cafe shirt.)  Bake some cupcakes and drop them off at the nursing home. Buy an extra bag of groceries and take it to a local food bank. Drop off an Easter Lilly at a neighbor’s house.  Write thank you notes to your pastor and the staff at your church.  You don’t have to look far to see someone that would benefit from even the smallest act of kindness. And for the record–those things can be done on ANY day–even AFTER school–you don’t have to wait for a special occasion! 
        
       Also, while you’re at it, think about how you could change things if you said “no” to Sunday sports that started before noon. If enough folks did it–you would see a change; I guarantee.  
       
       
       Finally, to be clear, this message is not about finding a reason to skip school or stay home from work.  This is not about making a statement and it is most certainly not about “me”!  This is about paying the proper respect to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ–every single day of the week.

       I hope that you and your family have a most wonderful, happy and blessed Easter!

Love and Blessings,
MaryAlayne

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Well, there you have it.  The updated version of the Good Friday email that did not go around the world.  That’s fine with me.  I only want to remind myself to be grateful for the blessings God has so greatly given to us all and–as I said–I’m just sharing thoughts with like-minded friends.

In my opinion, folks who are grateful are usually great folks.

Coffee Cups, Christians and Crazy Ideas

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The current outrage surrounding the change up of the Holiday cups at Starbucks has left me somewhat baffled.  If you live in a cave and don’t know what I am referring to; apparently Starbucks has taken all of the imagery off of their generally “Christmas Friendly” holiday cups and according to social media—if you’re a Christian—you’re supposed to be angry.  I am not sure why they changed the cups and to be quite honest I don’t really care; and neither should you.  If you are paying $5.00 for a cup of coffee while you cruise through town and your biggest concern in life is for the decoration (or lack there of) on your cup—

1. You are the luckiest person in the world who has

absolutely no problems in your life.

and

2. You are focusing on the wrong things in this world.

Did you know some people don’t have coffee or cups to drink it out of?  Some people don’t have enough money to buy a $1.00 cup of coffee and I assure you if they could round up the funds, forgive me, but they wouldn’t give a fat Santa’s ass what kind of cup it was in.

Homeless Coffee Drinker

As a Christian I am constantly discouraged by the things that tend to catch the attention of our tribe.  We get wrapped up about a cup and hashtag ourselves to death making sure the world knows we have issued our obligatory #MerryChristmasStarbucks tweet.  We line up to boycott Target because they won’t let The Salvation Army collect money on their front porch; but we fail to line up to help the people The Salvation Army serves.  We are appalled to see a soup commercial that depicts a family we may not want to see on a soup commercial; but we fail to be appalled when we see homeless folks living under a bridge who would love to have a bowl of soup. We feel compelled to protest things we think go against the teachings of Jesus Christ; but we fail to remember His desire for us to be His hands and feet and to serve those in need.

I recently became aware of an issue in a neighboring community when a friend of mine brought me up to date on an organization she works with to help provide meals to children.  It came to her attention a year or two ago that children from her son’s elementary school were coming back to class on Monday morning and complaining that they were hungry from the weekend.  After a bit of detective work she learned that several children in the school were going home to parents who were not able (for one reason or another) to adequately feed their families without assistance.  She went to work and very quickly formed “Backyard Blessings” so she could send food home with these children and now they send home baskets of food with children every Friday during the school year.  This is 2015 people.  We should not have hungry children in America (or anywhere else for that matter) in 2015.

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Later this week my husband and I are attending an event for a charity called “Beds 4 Kids”.  They are committed to making sure all children have a bed to sleep in each night and they are doing wonderful and important work.  You might think they are raising funds to serve children who live in huts on the other side of the world but you would be wrong.  They are providing beds for children who live in Tennessee, Georgia and now Alabama. To date they have provided over 400 beds and currently have over 100 children on a waiting list.

Think about that while you sip your grande-non-fat-jingle-jangle-latte.

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Trust me when I tell you that a child who is hungry and sleeps on a floor could not possibly care any less what’s written on your coffee cup.  My point in all of this is to remind everyone (myself included) that if you want to get worked up about something—get worked about something that really matters. Don’t let yourself get caught up in the pointless social media frenzy and mob mentality that seem to take over our society on a weekly basis.

I have a crazy idea. What if we as Christians refuse to focus on situations that don’t do one thing to help anyone have a better life (or even simply a better day) and put on our “Jesus Glasses” to see the things in our world that actually matter? What if we use our time and our voices to make a difference in someone’s life?  What if we seek to serve those around us without judgement, with a smile on our faces…. and love in our hearts?  We could volunteer at the homeless daycare center in town.  We could visit the local nursing home.  We could give our waiter an extra nice tip.  We could bake cookies and drop them off at the fire station or take a bag of groceries to the local food bank or even write a check to our charity of choice.  If we insist on involving Starbucks, we could pay for the car behind ours at the drive around window. We don’t have to march down the street in a crowd of angry protestors to make someone’s world a better place. We can’t all do great things but as Mother Teresa taught us; we can all do small things with great love.

In my opinion, you preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips…..or your coffee cup.

Click the links below to learn more about the charities mentioned above~

Backyard Blessings Logo   beds 4 kids 

Gus, Papoo and Dixie

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On this glorious Fall day, I simply can’t resist telling you all about our most prized Labrador Retriever, Miss Dixie. It wouldn’t be right if I told you about her without first telling you how she came to be part of our family, for before there was Dixie there was Gus; and if not for that precious dog we would never have known Dixie…. and that is something I just can’t imagine.

It all started 15 years ago when our neighbor’s Golden Retriever had an unplanned play date with a Black Lab down the street.  This resulted in several unexpected puppies that were ready for homes right around Christmas.  Back then, my husband and I had a six year old boy who dreamt of a dog to call his own; so it was a logical choice for us to adopt one of the pups.  The fact we also had a three month old daughter didn’t even register as a reason to say “no”.  So on Christmas Eve, after the children were nestled snug in their beds, Gus came to stay.  He was the superstar of Christmas morning and we all loved him dearly.  He had a sweet spirit and added so much to our family…….for about six months.  

When Baby Sister started walking, it wasn’t all that fun for any of us–especially for Gus–who was spending more and more time inside while the children played outside.  We were fortunate to have the big, flat backyard where all the neighborhood children gathered to play and Gus would watch sadly from the window just wishing for a chance to run around with everyone else.  He was big like a Golden Retriever but solid black with the face of a Lab.  He could not have been more loving and it broke my heart to keep him away from all the fun.  We tried and tried to let him play with the children but he had so much “puppy” in him and on the day he playfully pushed Sister down (face first) on the concrete driveway we knew a change had to be made.

Papoo and Bird Dogs

My Father-In-Law had raised bird dogs all of his life so when we were trying to make the right decision about Gus’ future in our family, we were all so grateful that “Papoo” stepped forward.  My in-laws lived south of town on several acres of land and already had one Lab, Katie, who kept them company. Papoo had suffered a stroke when our son was two and he didn’t hunt much anymore; but that didn’t take away from his love of the outdoors.  He still loved the idea of training a dog and the companionship that offered.  He graciously and willingly took Gus; and a long time friendship ensued.  Papoo’s truck rarely left the driveway without Katie and Gus in the back.  He took them on his daily drives to fetch the mail at the post office, to the grocery, anywhere and everywhere he wanted to go.  If it had been allowed, he would have taken them to church every Sunday.  

Katie went on to be with Jesus a few years after Gus showed up and Papoo’s friendship with Gus got even stronger.  They continued their daily adventures and once in a while Papoo would drive him up to our house for a visit.  Gus would come inside and lie next to Papoo’s feet while he watched Alabama Football or Atlanta Braves games on TV.  He adored Papoo and they were truly the best of friends.

Papoo and Gus

Once when Gus was really sick and couldn’t walk, we “Googled” ourselves to death trying to find out what was wrong with him. It was late on a Saturday afternoon and visiting the vet wasn’t an option. After much family deliberation we deduced through our combined expertise that he had either been bitten by a snake, struck by lightening or possibly gotten into some antifreeze.  The best treatment we could come across was to give him a cup of vodka.  I’m not kidding–V-O-D-K-A.  Please understand that I don’t recommend this treatment and would strongly caution anyone against giving alcohol to their dog. However in this case it worked like a charm–and it saved Gus’ life. 

We never figured out what he had gotten into or what had “gotten a-hold of him” that day.  All I know is this— after my husband laid in the grass next to him and spoon fed him a measuring cup full of Russia’s finest, he got up for the first time in over 12 hours, ate a huge meal and kept on trucking for several more years. Gus got all the best scraps after supper every night and he was an excellent guard dog.  He and Papoo were inseparable and I’m not sure who loved who more.

Many years later, when my son was a junior in high school, Papoo had a bad fall and was not able to recover.  We lost him early on a Friday morning and it’s a day I won’t ever forget. We were devastated–and that “we” included Gus.  Our family maneuvered our way through the next few days as all families do in these situations. We were consumed by flower deliveries, packed visitations, loving tributes, covered dish after covered dish and then everyone moved back into the lives they led “before”.  Everyone except Gus.  That dog truly mourned for Papoo.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  He would lie on the kitchen floor for hours. He wouldn’t eat.  He cried.  He searched the yard, stood by the truck, and never gave up the idea that his best friend was coming back to get him.  

Then, just three days before Christmas, he got out of the yard and sadly never came back.  Before this, Gus NEVER got out of the yard–he never even tried.  We all firmly believe he was going to look for Papoo. He had walked circles around the house and I have no doubt that he was making one last effort to find the best friend he loved so much as he ran down that long driveway and out into the street.  As if our hearts could stand to be broken any further, Gus was hit by a car.  He didn’t suffer, but we did.  We were glad Papoo and Gus were reunited but it was a jolt we just couldn’t process. 

The very next day, I made a big decision.  We were getting a dog for Christmas. A BIG dog.  A Chocolate Lab to be exact. It’s what my son had dreamt of (and begged for) for years. A dog to take to the hunting camp. A dog to ride around with him in his truck. A dog that could see someone cast a fishing pole with a quail wing tied to the end and know exactly what to do. NOT a dog that would fit in someone’s purse.

In the years after Gus moved away, we had filled his void with our “little dogs”. We had a poodle and a pomeranian and they were tons of fun but our son always longed for another Lab. All of the loss in the preceding months had put me in a perpetual life is short stage and I was bound and determined we were getting another dog. 

I know you shouldn’t make major life decisions when you are processing major life changes, that wasn’t going to stop me.  I didn’t say a word to my husband or anyone else, I just got out my computer and searched for “Chocolate Lab puppies in the Birmingham area.”.   I hit the jackpot.  I found a man down near Willow Point who’s prize winning hunting dog had given birth to a litter several weeks earlier.  There were only two puppies left; the female pick of the litter he was keeping and one male that someone was coming to look at that same day.  I hid in the closet so nobody could hear me on the phone and explained my situation to the very nice man. It didn’t hurt that his wife did not want him to keep another puppy; so I tugged on his heart strings a little talked him into letting me have the girl he had planned to keep.  

I loaded up my son, refused to tell him where we were going, and drove out to a little house in the middle of nowhere for the Christmas surprise.  We pulled up in the yard and the prettiest little dog you have ever seen came prancing around the side of the house. My normally somewhat stoic teenage son lit up like I hadn’t seen since Santa brought him a John Deere pedal tractor when he was three years old.

Dixie and Jake

Our entire family fell in love with Dixie immediately.  She was the best puppy I have ever seen.  Having little dogs, one gets used to cleaning up “accidents” even years after the puppy stage has long ended.  Not with Dixie.  She had very few accidents, immediately learned to sit, stay and walk with a leash. Her excellent breeding was evident early on and she could not have been any sweeter. It didn’t take long for my husband to start talking about the beautiful puppies she could have one day.  I thought about it for about 15 minutes and then quickly vetoed the whole idea.  I couldn’t let some strange dog take advantage of that sweet baby girl! I surely wasn’t going to take her babies away from her–mercy.  I made an appointment for her to be spayed and the vet actually volunteered to keep her overnight.  She knew I wouldn’t be able to keep her in the kennel for 24 hours–which is where she needed to be for a safe recovery.  I would have heard one tiny whimper and she would have been right in the middle of our king size bed. 

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I freely admit I indulged her.  We all did.  There was more than one occasion when she jumped up on the kitchen table (after it had been cleared) to clean the crumbs–and we let her.  We quickly put a stop to that for fear she might decide to try her trick during a dinner party but other than that; she didn’t hear “NO” very often. The little dogs slept in bed with us so we let her do that too.  She wanted to ride in the car, so we started taking her everywhere we went. On the rare occasion we couldn’t take her with us, she would stay home with a babysitter.

Once when we were heading to New Orleans for The Sugar Bowl, we had to board her. Our sitter was going to be out of town and we didn’t have anyone to stay with the dogs at our house. We gave serious thought to boarding the little dogs and taking her with us.  We stopped short out of fear someone might come in the room while we were at the game and something could happen to her.  We were in our hotel about 7 minutes when a man got on the elevator with us……and he had his Chocolate Lab with him.  I started crying.  Ridiculous I admit but what can I say?  Nobody loves me like Dixie does and I felt horrendous guilt. She hasn’t been boarded since.

After almost three years of living like the Queen of the Castle, something terrible happened.  My husband was coming home for the afternoon and had very kindly offered to stop at the grocery on the way in.  When he drove up Dixie and I walked out to meet him in the driveway and help with the groceries.  In the craziest freak accident I have ever seen or heard of, just as he stepped out of the truck, Dixie ran by excitedly and the corner of the truck door caught her in the side. She let out a high pitched yelp I had never heard before.  I knew immediately it was bad.  I ran to her in the yard and the gash was worse than I expected.  I turned to my husband and said in a very calm voice (okay, yelled in a panicked voice) we are going to the vet, NOW! 

We threw golf clubs and shotgun shells and boat paddles and Piggly Wiggly bags out of his truck and on to the garage floor.  We loaded her up in the back seat and  I called ahead to the vet.  They were waiting on the ready when we pulled in the parking lot and our sweet, precious vet stayed late to stitch her up.  It was so bad they had to put her under to repair the wound.  They sent us home to wait it out and I was in quite a state.  I chased my husband back to the truck as I hit him with the dog leash and I apologize to anyone who drove by and saw that spectacle.  I KNOW it wasn’t his fault…..but it was still his fault.  It was a mighty long 3 hours waiting on that phone call telling us to come pick her up.

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When we got there she was pitiful.  She came out groggy, confused and wearing the dreaded “cone”.  We got her home and Rick sat up all night with her in his lap.  The next morning as she came out of the fog it didn’t take long for her to be settled on our bed. It also didn’t take long at all for her to clearly announce she would NOT be wearing the cone.  That meant I would NOT be going anywhere for several days.  I didn’t mind.  We took turns watching her at night and I rarely took my eyes off of her during the days.  We finally figured out that a soft old t-shirt was a perfect foil for her desire to nibble at the wound.  She was a trooper waiting for the stitches come out but she is healed up quite well.  In no time at all you couldn’t even see the scars……the one on her side or the one on my heart.

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In the past few years this dog has filled a hole in our family that I didn’t even know was there. She has taught me about love, tolerance, forgiveness and patience in ways I never knew before.  When she chewed through the fabric on the custom sofa in our den, I didn’t even get mad. I simply had it repaired and flipped the cushion. She didn’t mean to be naughty, I just know it.  A few years ago when my daughter had the flu, Dixie never left the bed.  She would keep a paw across Sister’s back as she slept and stayed by her side for days.  When we need more firewood out on the back porch, she will run down to the wood pile and bring back a piece.

IMG_4710When my son comes home from college, she goes crazy.  She knows the moment his truck pulls in the driveway.  It’s as though she can sense it.  For the brief moments he is home, she follows him around like, well…like a lost puppy. Even when he takes a shower, she lies on the floor right outside the door until he comes out. When she sees us pick up an overnight bag, she runs straight to the car because she knows there’s an adventure ahead.  

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She often rides with me to the beach and she knows when I stop at exit 130 we are both getting a Bate’s turkey sandwich.  Even as I type this on this beautiful first day of fall, she is laying right beneath my feet.

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It may sound hokey but I have absolutely no doubt Papoo sent Dixie to us.  I think he knew we needed her even though we had no idea.  She has a sweet spirit, just like he did.  She has just a little mischief in her, just like he did.  She loves her family, just like he did.  She holds a special place in all of our hearts, just like he did…….just like he always will. 

As the temperature drops, the doves fly overhead and the sun sets on the fourth anniversary of Papoo’s passing, I felt the need to share this story.  I’m not really sure why;  I just did.

I have had pets my entire life and I have loved them all but I never realized it was possible to love a dog the way I love Dixie.  

Precious Miss Dixie, the dog who came to teach us all a few new tricks. 

In my opinion, if you’ve never had a dog, you’re not living a full life.

Skillets, Spoons and Spider Lillies

When I was six weeks old, on the day my Mother headed back to work, I went to stay at Maw-Maw’s house.  As much as she would have loved to, it wasn’t an option for my Mother to stay home with me and since everyone knows the next best thing to your Mother is your Grandmother, off to Maw-Maw’s I went.

Every day of my life, Monday through Friday (Until I was old enough to start school) I stayed with Maw-Maw.  She strolled me all around the neighborhood and sat with me in the swing out back.  We watched very little TV but never missed The Price Is Right or As The World Turns or the local noonday news.  We couldn’t miss Mimi Butler! She would pull a name out of the phone book and call that person each day to award a cash prize.  If she called you, and you knew “The Count, And The Amount” you would win. Maw-Maw couldn’t take a chance that Mimi would call her one day and she wouldn’t know the answer.  And although I can’t ever remember her driving me anywhere, we had the time of our lives.

Back in those days children who went to kindergarten did so at a church, not a school, so I went to kindergarten at Maw-Maw’s church and earned another year at her house.  Once I started “big school” I only stayed with Maw-Maw during the summertime and it was amazing. I played outside and made mud pies and pretend soup with the old vegetables she let me cut up.  Then I would come inside and learn to make real pies and cook the good vegetables.  I learned that the best biscuits are mixed with your hands, the best turnip greens have a little pepper sauce on top, the best apple pies are fried and the best cornbread doesn’t even look at the sugar bowl much less have any sugar in it.  Lawdy mercy, no!

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She was always worried about “running up the power bill” so I learned to cherish the feeling of a fresh clean towel that had been dried on a clothes line and I learned that if you keep all the doors closed to the den, a window unit air conditioner really is all you need.  In the winter I learned not to touch the gas heaters that were in each room of her house and I learned that when you are 7 years old and it’s too cold to go outside, a set of encyclopedia’s can entertain you for days.

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Back in the days of little houses with huge yards, there seemed to be no end to the things you could discover.  There were spider lillies that sprouted in her yard each year and four o’clocks that fascinated me on summer afternoons.  She had a big pecan tree on one side of her yard and a big chestnut tree on the other and we would pick up the fallen nuts together. She kept a garden on the other side of the creek in her back yard and fresh vegetables were always on the table.

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Every year at Christmas our entire family would gather at her house on Christmas Eve.  She would always put a string of big blue lights around the window on her front porch. I don’t know why but she always did that, every single year.  Except once, right after I got married, she didn’t put them up.  I forget why but I remember I was disappointed–and she knew it.  Those lights went right back up the next year and she never missed putting them out again for years and years.  Every year after we had supper and opened presents we would all go outside to shoot fireworks.  I don’t really know how our why we decided Christmas Eve was the appropriate time for a fireworks display but that’s what we did–and I miss it.

When I got married, she gave me two spoons and a skillet.  The spoons are ones she cooked with all my life and the two favorites I always wanted to use when she let me help.  I keep them in my kitchen and use them daily.  At my bridal coffee she came in with a big black skillet tied with a bow and proudly announced that she had been cooking in it for a month to get it seasoned just right; just for me.  I couldn’t have loved any gift more and we displayed it right there on the white tablecloth along with the Francis I silver and Wedgewood china.  I keep that skillet in my oven and I cook in it at least once a week.

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The last few years Maw-Maw has become an Alzheimer’s patient.  I dare not say she became a “victim” because I don’t think that suits her.  For a woman who married at 16, has lived to be 94 years old, gave birth to four children at home and never spent a night in the hospital until she had gallbladder surgery in her 70’s; victim isn’t the word I would choose.  She fought it to the bitter end and is fighting still today although she does so from the nursing home……. and they have told us it could be any minute.

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We have all said our good-bye’s and now we sit and wait; some of us at her bedside and some of us from afar.  We know it is her time and more importantly, we know it is God’s time for her.  She has lived a wonderful, lovely and mighty life and I couldn’t be more proud to be the grand daughter of a lady who is so very grand, indeed.

I think I will cook a little cornbread tonight, maybe some turnip greens too. If the mood strikes me, I may even shoot a few fireworks.

In my opinion, anyone who has a Maw-Maw like mine is living a very blessed life.

Where Is Your Mother Part III

” Clothes make the man.  Naked people have little or no influence on society. “

~ Mark Twain

Well here we are on the last day of August and I’m running out of time to get this last post up in the series on manners.  Granted, my original plan to post on the 7th of each month hasn’t worked out so far but……I am doing my best to hit the mark in September.  Fingers crossed!

While I had originally planned to cover more than table manners, cell phone etiquette and proper clothing choices; if I try to include everything I really want to cover we will be here for a good long while.  I’m sure most of the subjects I am leaving out (discipline, stationery arts, chewing gum, etc.) will pop up in future posts but for now, I’ll close us out with clothes.  

See what I did there?  Punny isn’t it.  No–it’s not….and  know better.  I’m so sorry but all of the “Back To School” nonsense is creating havoc in my brain.  I am not ready.  I’m not ready to get out the door at 7:30.  I’m not ready to see my sweet Baby Girl start high school.  I’m not ready to put on real clothes and be a person and go places and be around people.  And I’m really not ready for the slippery slope I am now on that will lead my youngest child out the door to college.  I know I have a while to go but if I have learned anything in the last 40-some-odd years of my life it’s that Ferris Bueller was right.  Life moves pretty fast and if you don’t stop and look around once in a while; you could miss it.

I’m not sure what sort of slippery slope we are sliding down when it comes to the clothing folks are wearing these days.  If I am strictly basing my opinion on the outfits I have seen in the last few months I would have to say it’s a slope that rips your clothes off while you’re sliding down it. Some of the things I have seen recently cause the wearer to appear as if they had become a part of some crazy Gulliver fantasy in which their bodies mysteriously outgrew their clothing over night.  For those of you who are obviously confused as to how your clothing (or your children’s clothing) should actually fit; let me help you out.

If your pockets hang down 3 inches below the hem of your shorts; THEY ARE TOO SHORT.  If you must constantly tug at the inseam of your shorts because they are stuck to your legs and/or crotch; THEY ARE TOO TIGHT.  If you can’t raise your arms above your head without exposing your stomach; YOUR TOP IS TOO SMALL.  If your bra straps are freely visible (and I am giving you the benefit of the doubt here that you’re wearing a bra) then; YOU NEED A DIFFERENT BRA. If you are out in a sheer dress and don’t have on a slip; PUT ON A SLIP.  I find myself wondering if there are people out in the world who have no family, no friends, or no access to mirrors.  Otherwise, how on earth could you explain their ability to get out the door and be roaming around in public wearing these outfits my Mother would refer to as “trashy get-ups”.  To say I am baffled by this trend is putting it mildly.

I am especially bothered by the young girls I see walking around in shorts that appear to actually be some sort of underwear.  I don’t know why I continue to be so surprised by all the distasteful wardrobes I continually encounter  when more often than not, these young folks are wearing inappropriate clothing while they are with their parents!  I don’t have any idea what my children may wear when they aren’t with me but I can assure you that I do know what they will wear when they are in my presence.  I might not like it, but it won’t be inappropriate–especially if I am paying for it.  I don’t understand parents who talk about 10 year old children and say “I just can’t get her to wear anything decent.  I don’t know what the problem is.”  I do–it’s you.  I’m sorry, but what 10 year old has a job and earns enough money to buy their own clothes?  Beyond that, who’s driving them to the mall to buy this tacky, trashy stuff?  Last I checked, even in Alabama, 10 year olds are not legally allowed to drive cars.  

Years ago you could protect yourself from these sorts of outfits simply by avoiding David Allen Coe concerts and the infield of the Talladega Racetrack; but no more.

Case in point: A few months ago I begrudgingly agreed to return to Walt Disney World.  My daughter is a “Disney Person”.  I am not.  I agree to these trips because I love her and because I will admit even though the crowds and lines get the best of me; I have a deep admiration for the well oiled machine that is Disney. It really is amazing.   Plus, the list of things they do quite well includes a mighty fine club lounge and that’s always a plus with me.  While I was there (for 5 days that felt like 5 years) I could not believe the clothes I saw–or rather didn’t see. In a place targeted to families with young children I really thought I would be safe.  I honestly can’t believe they haven’t instituted a dress code there.  Mark my words, it’s coming.  Pretty soon you’ll walk in and Mickey Mouse will be standing there holding a big sign that reads “Welcome to The Happiest Place on Earth!  No Selfie Sticks and No Booty Shorts Allowed.”.  It’s a crying shame that it has come to this but trust me–we’re there.  I saw so many ass cheeks during my trip I began to question if a porn star convention was being held in the greater Orlando area……. and the welcome bags included a free day pass to Magic Kingdom.  I was aghast.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think you need to have on your Easter outfit every time you leave the house but at the very least; please be somewhat modest. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to get a nice outfit either so don’t use that as an excuse.  T.J. Maxx can take care of you from head to toe on any budget. 

 I don’t know why I am continually surprised by all the distasteful wardrobes I continually encounter.  Did you know we actually have PARENTS who willingly allow their daughters to dress in skimpy “cheerleading” outfits to perform in public competitions?  Some of the uniforms I have seen look much more like a swim suit than a cheerleading outfit.  (As an aside about swimsuits–Unless you freely walk down the street/ride a bike/shop at the grocery/go out to eat, pump gas, etc. wearing a swimsuit and no cover up while you are in your hometown; don’t do it at the beach.  You look completely ridiculous and everyone is staring at you…..in a bad way. However, if you are simply so free that you feel comfortable walking/riding/shopping/eating/pumping in a bathing suit whilst out and about in the general public regardless of your surroundings; carry on.  I do not understand you but, be who you are.) Who in their right mind decided it’s appropriate to parade young girls around in front of large groups of people in these get-ups—all while they are sprayed down in glitter, wearing makeup fit for a drag queen? It is perplexing to say the least.  Let them cheer or prance or dance their hearts out but for goodness sake, buy them a shirt! 

I truly believe that folks are walking around in poor outfit choices primarily for one reason.  I have mentioned it throughout this series and it’s something that is missing in the homes across America.  A tragic lack of “home training” is clearly at the root of this social apocalypse.  Home training simply doesn’t seem to exist in the ways it used to. While I will say (especially in The South) manners still do mean something to most people, we still have some work to do, even in Alabama.

It makes me think about armadillos.  Twenty years ago you had to travel far, far away from Alabama to see an armadillo walking through the woods or dead on the side of the road.  Now they are simply everywhere.  Why, a couple of years ago we had one right out in our very own backyard. I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to let bad manners and a lack of proper home training sneak around and crawl in to tarnish the lives of today’s youth any further. (A word to the wise, if you ever find yourself face to face with an armadillo out in your very own back yard; don’t use a baseball bat to try and kill it. You’ll just make it mad.)

We can’t just teach our children to say “please and thank you” and “ma’am and sir” and be done with it.  There’s so much more they need to know to live successfully in polite society.  I encourage you to take charge of your children’s home training.  Give yourself a refresher course if need be.  Books on manners and etiquette are easily found on Amazon.com or even in your public library.  If you think all this is frivolous and doesn’t really matter, well then you’re crazier than an armadillo that’s been hit in the head with a baseball bat and I’ll be praying for you.  If we don’t all pitch in and do something now, we will have no one to blame but ourselves. 

As I close out this series I thank you for your interest and I want to remind you~ Manners should always be used to make those around you feel more at ease.  If you’re using your knowledge of proper etiquette to make other folks feel badly about themselves–you’re doing it wrong.

In my opinion, good manners can open doors that even the highest education cannot. 

Where is Your Mother? Part II

Something to Talk About

Well so much for my pledge to post something once a month.  Perhaps since I am only ONE day late I can get a small reprieve.  Hopefully you’ll forgive me and read along anyway.  Either way, I thank you for stopping by!

And so now, let’s get on with the show~

Surprise Surprise Surprise!  I’m back—and I am not talking about high school mascots.  If you tuned in last time you’ll know I took a mini-break from writing about manners to stand up for something I believe in; The Vestavia Rebels.  For those who are keeping up with that exciting, interesting and somewhat confusing situation; so far The Rebels have kept their name and are now deciding on the appropriate outfit for the mascot.  To be quite honest, I still haven’t figured out what was wrong with the old outfit. If someone had asked me to give my description of it I would have said Southern Gentleman, certainly not slave owner.  Otherwise, I surely wouldn’t have allowed my children to parade around wearing clothing emblazoned with its likeness.  Not that I have ever given much thought to slave owners in general (other than to find them horrific, inexcusable, totally detestable and completely deranged–I swear, no matter how long I live, I will NEVER understand how ANYONE could think slavery was an okay thing……but I won’t go into that right now) but if I had to imagine what sort of clothing one of them might wear, my mind would conjure up someone dressed like Charles Ingalls. Not an old, Yosemite Sam lookalike in Rhett Butler’s suit— but that’s just me. I am grateful for the wisdom of those who understand what The Vestavia Rebels truly represent and I am anxious to see where this adventure takes us next.  I now join my other faithful Rebel fans as we wait to see our newly updated mascot.

I strongly suggest we don’t hold our breath while we wait for a decision. 

Now on to the matter at hand…….

As this segment focuses on cell phone etiquette, if you happen to be reading this on your cell phone right this very minute, please first confirm that you are not currently driving a vehicle or operating any type of heavy machinery.  Secondly, check your surroundings to make certain that your spouse, children, parents or any other human being you could be having a personal interaction with is not within your sight.  Then and only then should you continue.  If you happen to be reading this on a computer screen I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you are in appropriate surroundings and need no further warnings.

There really isn’t enough time, (or enough strength in my hands to type the words necessary) to adequately describe my feelings on cell phones.  The level of security and convenience they have added to our lives pales in comparison to the loss of civility they have brought to our relationships not only with others but with ourselves.  I freely admit that I am looking in the mirror when I say that because if I am honest, I must confess that I recently found myself sitting on the beach looking at paint colors via an app on my phone.  Seriously?  I’m right there in front of one of God’s greatest creations and I’m looking at my phone?  It was time to stop the insanity.

I decided to take a lesson from my son (who recently chose to delete all apps except Twitter, Instagram and The Bible) and announced that I was purging my phone. Talk about pressure!  That meant I had to let go of Amazon and Ebay and Pinterest, oh my!  I refused to delete Dubsmash (because I am ridiculously addicted) or Heads Up (because it is way too much fun) but I let most of the the others fall away.  It was actually freeing but I can’t lie and say I don’t sometimes miss my friendly apps.  They were my best friends when I sat in carpool on a rainy day or when I couldn’t sleep at 3 am—which is most nights—or when I was passing time in a waiting room somewhere…. with my phone on silent of course. 

It’s not the apps that are causing so much public trouble though.  It’s the talking.  The nauseating, self important, loud, announcement level talking by people who are seemingly ignorant of their surroundings and proceed to prance around in all areas of society chatting openly about everything from taxes to tampons.  It is ridiculous and incredibly rude.

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I think it was the “lady” next to me at the day spa (who carried on a 20 minute phone conversation detailing the shopping trip she took with her daughter to choose the perfect pageant dress) that lit this fire underneath me.  However I know it was the guy in the airport who poured gasoline all over that fire and inspired me to get going on this post.

A while back, someone sent me a video of a completely ridiculous man prancing around talking on his cell phone…..in the middle of the airport.  This man was well dressed and looked to be quite capable so it was somewhat of a surprise to see him pacing back and forth while he appeared to be talking to himself.  He looked like one of those sad homeless people who walk around just mumbling to the world.  On closer inspection it was obvious that he was using a bluetooth earpiece (I like to call those “ear bugs” because they bug the T-Total stew out of me.) to carry on a conversation.  Ridiculous.  It was very clear to me that this man had absolutely no home training whatsoever.

  Some of you may be wondering why I let the videographer get a pass on making the video (on a cell phone no less) to begin with.  First, this loud talking man was in PUBLIC.  If you don’t know by now that any time you leave your home you are being filmed in some way by someone, somewhere; then let me be the first to welcome you to 2015. Secondly, the person filming this did so very discreetly, not secretly.  There’s a difference.  Had this man been in any type of private area (bathroom, club lounge, office space) then it would have been another story.  Finally, if you don’t want someone to document your bad public behavior, don’t act badly in public. After all is said and done, if this can be used as a teachable moment then I am all for it.

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Please bear in mind that I am not trying to shame anyone or make anyone feel guilty about having or using a cell phone.  I firmly believe good manners should never be misused to make others feel inferior; but should always be used to make everyone around you feel comfortable.  All I would ask is this; if you are going to keep a cell phone (and we are all going to keep one) please follow a few simple guidelines to help maintain decorum.

I’m listing only 7 suggestions here and while it could easily get up to 77,  I think this list can help us all remain civil when it comes to cell phones. Please note: I’m not even going to address texting and driving.  If you are in a car, you can text (or tweet or read email, etc.) in the car when the car is STOPPED.  The end.  If you don’t know that, nothing I can say will help you.

Without further adieu I present:

~Cell Phone Guidelines for Civilized Living in 2015~

1.    If you are not home alone or in some sort of emergency situation that requires you to explain your every move to someone trying to locate you and save your life, do not walk around willy-nilly, loudly taking on your cell phone.

~This includes walking on a treadmill at the gym. 

2.    Unless you are a doctor on call or are expecting an emergency to take place or you are waiting for a call from a child who is out of your care, DO NOT take your phone into church. 

~If you must take a phone into church, place the ringer on silent. Not “vibrate”, SILENT!

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3.    When you enter schools, doctors’ offices, movie theaters, restaurants, grocery stores or other public establishments-TURN THE RINGER OFF ON YOUR PHONE.

~You may leave your phone on vibrate but if you absolutely must answer a call and talk any longer than to say “I can’t really talk right now, is everything okay?”  GO OUTSIDE. 

4.    If for some reason you must take a call while in a public place, step to the side or out of the way somewhere and speak softly.  If you are with others or if a sales person is helping you, apologize before you answer and again when you return to your party.

~If you find that such a call will take longer than one or two minutes to complete, make arrangements to return the call after you have completed your other business.

5.    Please do NOT keep pushing your cart through The Piggly Wiggly while you run through a grocery list with someone, schedule dance carpool with your neighbor or plan your Mother’s surprise party.  Whatever you do–I beg you–do not discuss the latest finding of your visit to the OB-GYN/Gastroenterologist/etc.  And for Heaven’s sake, DO NOT talk on your phone while you are checking out and paying at a store!

~If you are actually so busy (I say busy because nobody is that important) you can’t put your phone away long enough to have a polite interaction with the person working at the cash register, you need to hire a personal shopper. Preferably one with better manners than you.

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5.    Do not leave your phone on the table while you dine in a restaurant and for Heaven’s sake; do NOT sit in a restaurant at a table or a counter or a bar and have a phone conversation.

~If you must have your phone out in a restaurant, place it on vibrate and keep it in your seat, just underneath the edge of your leg.  I do this often if I think one of my children might need me and it works like a charm.  Once again, if you absolutely must answer a call and talk any longer than to say “I can’t really talk right now, is everything okay?”  GO OUTSIDE. 

6.    Do not talk on your phone while you pay at a drive through window. 

~Again, if you are so busy that you can’t politely interact with someone serving you, get an assistant.  They can drive through Starbucks or Chic-Fil-A for you while you are at etiquette class.

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7.     Do NOT walk around in Target wearing your tennis skirt or Lulu Lemon outfit talking your fool head off to- well, to anyone is still willing to listen to someone who is obviously as self-absorbed as one who acts like that must be.   This is a double NO-NO if you are talking through a blue tooth bug clipped your ear.

~This behavior is even more annoying if it is obvious you haven’t actually played a lick of tennis or done the least bit of exercise; and your tennis skirt or Lulu Lemon outfit are just for show.  And trust me–it’s obvious.

I’m sure you’ve seen yourself in some of those situations because Lord knows I have!  We have all done most all of those things at some time or another and not because we are terrible people; because we are human.  Of course I know that not everyone talking publicly on a cell phone is horribly rude.  I was getting out of the car this morning while I was still on a call and caught myself walking down the sidewalk chatting away.  I realized what I was doing and ducked into a corner to finish up the call.  I then apologized to the couple sitting at the sidewalk cafe beside me because I felt so bad. 

I believe many times people just don’t think about what they are doing and/or they think others can’t hear them speaking.  I promise, we can ALL hear you.  There’s not some magical privacy shield that warps up out of nowhere and surrounds you when you answer calls in public. You are not in a soundproof booth.  EVERYONE can hear EVERYTHING you are saying and I am sorry to tell you–none of us really wants to.  Take a bit of advice from my Daddy and  “Act like you have some walking around sense.” and you should be fine.

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I thank you once again for taking the time to read what I have written. I hope it might encourage you to think twice before grabbing your phone to pass the time. Hopefully you will consider these guidelines AND consider teaching them to your children.  I weep for the lack of manners amongst today’s youth and for their increasing inability to participate in polite conversation.  If any one of these suggestions can help with that I will be as pleased as punch!  The Good Lord willing I will be back again next month (MAYBE sooner) with Part III of Where is Your Mother? which will address proper clothing choices at every age.  Prepare yourself—I have a whole heck of a lot to say about that!

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In my opinion, talk is cheap and good manners are priceless.

When you play one Rebel, you play us ALL!

Last month, I re-ignited this blog with a post (the first in a series) on manners.  I did so with a promise to post something at least once a month for a year and pledged that this month’s edition would focus on cell phone etiquitte.  I had the entire piece ready to go and then…..Charleston.  What more can I say.  That horrible, senseless, tragic event left me feeling like the rest of the country–horrified and shocked.  I considered writing something else to express my feelings on that entire event but that would have only called attention to myself and that’s not why I write.  I like to write with a touch of humor and try give people a laugh. Obviously that was a time that called for prayer and was not a time to joke around about anything; so I chose to wait.   I didn’t know a single person in that church or from that city and was not directly involved in any way so I didn’t feel qualified to add anything to that very somber discussion. Last Sunday at church, My Pastor prayed for each family affected by the shooting–including the family of the shooter–and that’s all I know to do as well.  Pray; and place ALL those touched by this tragedy into the hands of Almighty God. madeline's drawing For the last few days though, there’s something buzzing in the local news that’s hitting close to home.  It’s something that doesn’t affect the quality of human life, I’ll grant you, but something important in my community none-the-less.  The notorious “They” are trying to come after The Vestavia Rebels and that’s just something I can’t stay quiet about. “They” are saying that “The Rebel mascot is a vestige of racism” and “a smear on the city”.  I take issue with that.  I won’t go so far as to say I am offended because I am so dearly sick and tired of hearing about what everyone is offended by; but I will tell you why I disagree and I will also tell you a little something “They” may not know.  The Vestavia Hills Rebels are not just a football team, or a soccer team or marching band or a school–The Vestavia Hills Rebels are a FAMILY.  A strong, close knit family not only of students and athletes but of teachers, coaches and parents–many teachers, coaches and parents who themselves were once Vestavia Rebel students and athletes.  This community is lovely, lively and flourishing and it reaches from Liberty Park through Cahaba Heights all the way to “The Hills”.  It is warm and welcoming, loving and supportive, respected and beloved and filled with what Coach Buddy Anderson would call The Rebel Spirit.  My family and I moved to Vestavia Hills just over 15 years ago and fell in love with the entire community. Since that time I have served as room mother to countless class rooms at three different schools, produced the elementary school yearbook for five years and worked at May-Day Play Day and Pirate Day and Lancer Day on numerous occasions. I have served during registration at VHELP and Pizitz and Liberty Park and VHHS more times than I can count.  I composed the VHHS All Sports Program for three years and I also served as a member of the Vestavia Hills Athletic Board for four years. I know the secret game dog recipe for “Rebel Sauce” and I’m pretty sure there’s a permanent dent in the top row of Thompson Reynolds Stadium from my backside.  I am also a member of Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church. My experience within this community is widespread and never, not one time in 15 years, have I ever heard one single person mention anything at all about our mascot in a negative way nor have I ever seen it used negatively.  I have had countless students and athletes (as well as parents, teachers and coaches) from all races and socioeconomic backgrounds in my home for meals and events and while I have seen most all of them proudly wear uniforms or T-shirts of some sort bearing The Vestavia Rebel mascot, I have never seen or heard about racism of any type.  I am not a fool and I can only imagine that it does go on in this school and in this community; but I don’t believe it happens because of a mascot. I don’t believe that a rebel mascot represents racism any more than I believe a blue-devil mascot represents satanism. For the record, if I did believe The Vestavia Rebel mascot was a racial issue, I would be the first to want it gone. VH I don’t know the person Mr. Archibald mentions in his article and certainly don’t bear any ill will toward her or anyone else regarding this issue. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I also agree everyone has right to yell “Go ‘whatever'” they like. Anyone who wants to can yell “Go unicorns” if it makes them feel better; it really doesn’t matter.  If someone has hate in their heart, a mascot certainly isn’t going to change that.  Trying to make folks feel guilty about having pride for a mascot they all love is silly, pointless and takes focus away from things that really matter.  My last check of the Birmingham News poll on changing our Rebel to something new showed that out of 1981 votes, 1282 people had voted to keep it exactly the same. That just goes to show you, there’s nothing anyone can do to break The Rebel Spirit. I would also like to ask this: Where will it stop? Where will we draw the line?  What about Alabama football?  Can they still be “Dixie’s football pride”? Or Auburn–they claim to be the “power of Dixieland“–should they change the fight song just incase it offends someone who would rather hear them say they are the “power of The Plains” or some such nonsense? Let’s move away from football now and let me ask if we are going to stop eating from Kentucky Fried Chicken, which is promoted and served by the Antebellum Colonel Sanders? Do we throw out all of our Aunt Jemima pancake syrup? What about my dog?  Her name is Dixie.  Should I change it?   Chicken and syrup and dogs and football fight songs have about just as much to do with the promotion of hatred and as a high school mascot.  Absolutely nothing.  If hate lives in your heart, it doesn’t matter where you eat, who you yell for or what you call your dog.  You’ve got to get right with God to change that. OlineIn the last several years I have seen many good ways in which The Vestavia Rebels represent the school. Here are a very few examples:

-After the April 27th tornadoes, I saw Rebel Football coaches and players (only hours after the storm) load up into trucks with chainsaws and head out into the community to cut down trees.

-Each year, rather than taking semester tests for athletics (where no test would be necessary) Rebel athletes go out into the community and work in the neglected yards of elderly Vestavia residents.

-In the winter, Rebel athletes can be spotted under the bridge in downtown Birmingham handing out coats to the homeless. -After every single football game (and I’m sure other sports do the same) the entire team kneels on the field to pray.  99% of the time the opposing team joins in.

-For the last several years, VHHS has not named a Valedictorian because TOO MANY students have a 4.0 or above.

-Every fall and spring, The Rebels raise thousands of dollars through SGA for various charities. SGA -The yearly canned food drive is always hugely successful and provides for countless needy families.

-VHHS Habitat for Humanity builds a home for a needy family each year. Senior Supper-VHHS Relay For Life raises an enormous amount of money for cancer research each year. In 2015 they raised over $176,000.00. Post Game -Through SGA, STUDENTS purchase gifts for other needy STUDENTS during Christmas time and deliver them anonymously.

-Every Wednesday night (for over 30 years) Head Coach Buddy Anderson has lead FCA in his home.

-VHHS is one of only ten Blue Ribbon High Schools in the state of Alabama.

I could go on and on and on but, I won’t. I will just close with this–Things can change and things have changed. At Vestavia Hills High School, being a Rebel means loving everyone equally. It means helping others. It means working hard, making a difference, doing what’s right. Being a Rebel means striving every day to grow and to love one another. Regardless of what it once may have meant to be a “Rebel”, that’s what it means now–at least in Vestavia Hills. In the past that word may have had a negative connotation but that is no longer the case.  This school, these administrators, teachers, coaches, students, athletes and this entire community have changed that definition. At Vestavia Hills, everyone is a part of the Rebel family and anyone who is a part of that family knows…. When you play one Rebel, you play us all.

In my opinion, when people focus on the things that matter, instead of the things that don’t, the world is a much better place.

Where is Your Mother?


I must admit that I have been a failure at many, many things.  The list is long and stretches across a wide range of subjects all the way from mastering a roundoff-back handspring-back tuck in my teenage years to cleaning out the basement of my present day home.  One of the many things on that sad yet impressive list is this blog.  Two posts in just over two years is completely pitiful for someone who claims to love writing.  There’s no excuse so I won’t make one.  However, I AM making a new commitment.  On my honor, I pledge that I will do my best to post something to this blog at least once each month, for at least one year.  There–I wrote it and you read it. Or at least my Mother read it.  I’m still convinced she is the only person who has ever read this blog and is one of the very few who are remotely interested in anything I have to say. More importantly I have made a writing pledge to a close friend (who happens to be an attorney) and I promise she WILL hold me to it.  I originally promised to post something on the 7th day of each month so as today happens to be May 9th, 2015 and I am already two days late; I better get going.

I have decided to follow the lead of many great pastors I have known and begin a series of blogs.  Don’t you just love when they do that?  They know good and well you have no choice but to come back next week to find out how it all ends.  They can be sneaky that way.  Hopefully, that will work for me too and will not only give me more time to hold up my end of the writing deal but will also keep you coming back for more.  That’s the goal anyway.  

Since I am debuting this just in time for Mother’s Day weekend; the series will be appropriately titled- 

“Where is your Mother?” 

It will cover all sorts of subjects one would hope you learned about from your Mother when you were growing up. More importantly, they will be subjects I hope you are currently teaching to your own children.  (Can I have a small “Mother’s Day” aside here please?  I know I’m just getting started but I really need to get this off my chest before I go any further.  I LOVE my Mother. She is an amazing, loving, thoughtful, caring, graceful, elegant Southern Lady and her undying love for me is clearly the only plausible reason she didn’t throw me in the river years ago.  Again, I LOVE my Mother but— I LOATHE and DESPISE made up, hokey-pokey Hallmark holidays-like Mother’s Day.  I also despise store bought cards–except for those really funny, sometimes inappropriate ones with vintage photos on them. Now those are a different story.  I simply feel that if someone wants to thank me or express a feeling of love and devotion they shouldn’t look to an anonymous card writer to do that for them. I would much prefer to read their very own words from their very own mind written on paper with their very own pen. Even if they only wrote “I love you” or “Thank you” it would be so much better than some rhyming, syrupy, sugary sweet paragraph of nonsense.  However, If you want to wish me happy birthday by showing me a black and white photo of women from the 1950’s drinking martinis and smoking cigarettes inside a station wagon filled with rambunctious children, carry on. I can’t get enough of cards like that! Rant over, let’s continue.) I always loved reading the Dr. Seuss/P.D. Eastman book “Are You My Mother?” to my children. It is so sweet and funny and clever like all Dr. Seuss books tend to be. It follows the adventures of a little bird as he travels around town searching for his Mother.  He stops to visit a dog, a cat, a cow, even a huge back hoe or “Snort” and asks them all “Are you my Mother?”.  Of course, none of them are his Mother but in the end he finds the proper “Mother bird” and everything ends quite happily.  Sadly, I am convinced now more than ever that we have an entire generation of children who are desperately looking for someone to “Mother” them.  The weird thing is, most of them have actual Mothers. Unfortunately the desired effect of maternal parenting is becoming more and more of a lost art and I am convinced some of these children would be better off with the Snort.  In recent years, and even more so in recent months, I have become incredibly concerned about the lack of home training in the youth of America.  Honestly, it extends well past the youth to several of the adults and it is starting to develop a form of rage inside me that I struggle with daily.  Keep in mind that good manners and social graces are not intended to make others feel ill at ease and should never be used in negative ways. Some misguided people will try to use their knowledge in these areas to make those around them feel inferior.  Those people don’t know as much as they think they do.  Manners and social graces are designed to make everyone around you feel comfortable. People should remember that and lead by gracious example.  

It makes me shudder to think of the direction our county is heading in for many reasons but overall; the absence of basic manners, perceived entitlement and the general inability to properly behave regardless of one’s surroundings is becoming more and more common. From the lack of table manners to the notion that you can talk on a cell phone anywhere, anytime about anything to the inability to write a proper thank you note, to horribly inappropriate clothing choices, to generally poor social etiquette–I can’t help but believe we are all going to hell in a hand basket.  Even worse, we are going without an invitation while we wear tacky clothes, talk on speaker phones and chomp on bubblegum. And don’t even think about getting me started on the need for discipline! Good gracious, that is a big ‘ol can of worms that deserves its own three volume novel.  Wow!  This is shaping up to be quite a series if I do say so myself!  

Before I move on, please let me be clear about one thing: FATHERS have just as much responsibility to set examples of good manners to their children and are just as capable as Mothers of doing so.  

And now, without further adieu, the first subject we will cover in this series is………

Table Manners

                    outdoor table

Judith Martin once said “The dinner table is the center for the teaching and practicing not just of table manners but of conversation, consideration, tolerance, family feeling, and just about all the other accomplishments of polite society except the minuet.”.   Now I am the first to admit that Judy could come across a bit bossy and sometimes fell into that group of misguided people I was mentioning earlier.  However, she is right about the supper table’s importance to a family. (Yes, I say “supper”— I’m from ALABAMA.) The fact that we seem to be raising a generation of children who don’t know how to properly set a table much less eat properly when seated at one is a direct result of eating in cars from paper sacks as we ferry our children to and from one perilous activity to the next.  The family table is declining and it is taking table manners and civilized society with it.  It is one of many slippery slopes that we are sliding down at an alarming rate.

 You don’t have to be at Downton Abbey or dining with The Queen to care about table manners.  Basic human decency requires that anyone over the age of 5 should at the very least know how to chew with their mouth closed and place a napkin in their lap. Is it really that much to ask that you take just a few minutes to learn where the silverware belongs?  Surely not.  You may or may not wonder why I care but I am telling you anyway. It’s not just about me, it’s about you too.  You may not think that poor table manners could affect you in a bad way but you, My Dear, are wrong.  Allow me to explain myself.  Not too very long ago my husband and I were at a lovely gala event.  There was a seated dinner served and we were sharing a table with a handful of people we had never met before.  A very beautiful young lady sat next to me and although she was quite attractive, she had on a very inappropriate dress.  I’ll get to the clothing portion of this series at a later time but for now, I’ll stick to table manners.  This lovely young lady with her perfectly coiffed hair, Oscar worthy makeup and freshly manicured nails performed at the table as if she had been raised in the woods by Earnest T. Bass.  She held her fork and knife like she was trying to carve wood.  She chomped and chewed with her mouth open, gulped and sloshed her drink and never even touched her napkin.  It stayed on the table all evening. You would have thought she hadn’t eaten in weeks.  Once when she noticed she had something on her hands she used the tablecloth to wipe them.  Thankfully she never felt the need to wipe her mouth.  I think that would have put me UNDER the table.  YOU do not want to be like this young lady and I know you don’t want you children to be like her. All through the evening I kept thinking–where is your Mother?  Did ANYONE ever teach you how to behave?  She was smart, otherwise polite and truly delightful to talk with. It just didn’t make any sense.  Her presentation was atrocious and I just sat there hoping she never had a job interview that included a meal.  I have seen a lot of poor table manners in my day but this was just show stopping.  She wasn’t the worst I have ever seen though.  That honor goes to a fellow I had a few dates with many, many, MANY years ago.  He was a super nice fellow who was polite, came from a nice family and was actually pretty fun to be around.  He had perfectly reasonable walking around sense so it came as somewhat of a surprise the first time I sat across the table from him for a meal.  All of a sudden this otherwise gentlemanly fellow morphed into Jethro Clampett right before my eyes.  His table manners were beyond atrocious.  It made me physically ill to sit across from him while he ate.  I tried everything short of flat out telling him he ate like a starving monkey but none of my hints hit the mark. While there was no real love connection and no real loss for either of us, for me the table manners were a deal breaker. I’m sure he probably ended up married to some sweet girl and I am so very hopeful that she was able to polish him up enough to take him out in public.  Where ever you are today Mr. Monkey Manners, I wish you well…..and P.S. Just incase your wife hasn’t told you yet, when dining out, if bread is delivered to the table, it is not acceptable to place the entire loaf on your own personal dinner plate, carve it with your steak knife, butter each slice and pass it around to the other guests.

how-to-design-beautiful-table-settings1All that to say, table manners are important.  They reflect on you and your children whether you realize it, or like it, or not. So even if you find you have no other choice than to eat in the car, or in “shifts” as we sometimes do at our house, or even standing over the kitchen sink; make an effort to sit down together at least once a week. Teach your children how to properly set a table. Teach them to wait for everyone to be seated and to be served before they begin to eat.  I would also actually prefer that you teach them to say the blessing before eating as well.  I can’t eat if I don’t pray–but that part is up to you.  You should also teach them how to behave when seated at a table that has been properly set before them. And by all means; whether you are driving, dancing, sitting, standing or swinging from a trapeze, teach them to have an awareness for the feelings of others. That is the foundation for good manners in all areas of life.

I hope you’ll come back next time, when the second part of the series will cover Cell Phone Etiquitte.  Get ready.  

In the meantime: 

In my opinion…….there’s a lot more than eating going on at the supper table.

mothers-day-tableAuthor’s Note:

~This post first appeared at my old blog on May 9, 2015.~

~ It was reposted here at a later date.~