Saturday, December 20, 2008

Redneck Mecca

(artist rendering courtesy of

It's finally here...the official redneck Mecca.

The Bass Pro-Shop in Leeds has opened, just in time for Christmas!

Not since home-town boy Charles Barkley told Jay Leno that he was running for mayor, has Leeds had so much media coverage.

Every mud-splashed, four-wheel drive with deer antler hood ornament and bull-balled trailer hitch had I-20 Eastbound hopelessly gridlocked as thousands of eager outdoorsmen (and women!) made their way to marvel at what is said to be one of the largest stores in the BPS chain. Many stood in line for up to two hours on opening day to check it out. I have heard that any item that one could think of in camoflauge print is sold there. Really, just how badly does one need a camo-covered dining room set?

It's been open a month and I am yet to darken the door.

First of all, I think it's kinda over-rated. Yes, ours has a food court, but it would have to. The next nearest food (save the hot dog counter at the Interstate Chevron) is a good mile into town. I doubt the imcomperable, but tiny, Ole' Smokey Barbeque could hold more than 10 people at a time. All of the other restaurants and fast food joints are at the Moody exit, 4 miles further up the interstate.

Secondly, I doubt that they would have anything I would need. I am NOT the outdoorsey type. My idea of "roughing it" is 5 people in a hotel room with only one bathroom. Before I agree to go anywhere with "camp" in the name, I must know if there is indoor plumbing. Anything without is more "adventure" than I care to deal with. When I was a kid, I wasn't quite as particular, but I'm not a kid anymore. My last "camping adventure" was last Thanksgiving when we went to the hunting camp in South Alabama with the in-laws. I've seen hunting camps before...little shacks with woodburning stoves and big screen tv's. And usually, if you were lucky, an outhouse rather than finding yourself a nice tree. I was so relieved as we pulled up to my in-laws place, a lovely two bedroom trailer with electricity and running water....Praise the Lord! Unfortunately, the hot water tank was barely large enough for one decent shower, let alone showers for 4 smelly men, 1 perpetually sweaty teenage boy and 6 females, 4 with long hair. Thank goodness for ponytail holders!

That being said, it's a pretty safe bet that I may never see the inside of the most anticipated business in my area. However, like many things, morbid curiosity may get the better of me. I've been told by many that there is more than just hunting and fishing gear. One friend was showing me a really nice , roomy, canvas tote bag she got there. And it's not camo. "Just check it out for yourself" she said.

I may do that, sometime around March when some of the "new" has worn off.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Carboholics Annonymous

Hello, my name is Joy and I'm a Carboholic...

November and December are the hardest months of the year for me. Most people call it "the holiday season" but I call it the "carb-a-day season." Between the football playoff parties and the holiday food, my expanding waistline doesn't stand a chance.

While I enjoy all holiday food, cornbread dressing with cream-of-chicken soup gravy is by far my favorite (followed closely by creamed potatoes and brown gravy). My mother makes the most amazing cornbread dressing, a skill learned from my grandmother Clara. It is always moist and seasoned to perfection. I can't do it (though I've never given it much effort either) and my mother knows this. She always makes an extra pan so that I have one to carry home to enjoy later.

Unfortunately, now that I am diabetic, upsetting my delicate carb/protein balance results in an ailment my family and friends have jokingly begun referring to as a "carb coma." It's extra spoonful of potatoes knocks me out within 30 minutes of consumption. I am usually out for about 2 hours, afterwhich I awake with a blinding headache, an a hankering for more carbs. The fact that I get to eat each holiday meal at least 3 times means I am pretty much in a carb coma from late November to the first of the new year.

If Auburn continues to play like they have been, I may need an extra pan of dressing this year.

You would think that I would know better, and keep my protein in check, but I can't help myself. The carbs call to me and I must consume them. I know how alcoholics must feel, yearning for that next drink.

Is there such a thing as Carboholics Annonymous??

I gotta love my girl Angela! Leave it to her to have some extra fun in blogdom.
I've been tagged. I'm about a month late, but here it is. I, unfortunately, have the same I don't have anyone else to tag, but I will answer the questions just the same.

Here are the rules:
Post rules on your blog.
Answer the six "8" items.
Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving them a comment.

8 Favorite TV Shows:
Holy Crap...can I come up with 8? Okay, no particular order here
1)Law & Order (All of them)
2)The Biggest Loser ( I find myself cheering during the weigh ins)
3)America's Next Top Model (I don't know why...but somehow I'm hooked)
4)Wife Swap (corny yeah I know, but it is nice to see how weird other folks are)
5) Desperate Housewives
6) Stylista (follows ANTM...that's how I got hooked on it)
7) Grey's Anatomy
8) ER

8 Things I did yesterday:
1) showered
2) worked
3) went on an errand with Vicky
4) worked some more
5) drove to the Dollar Tree
6) ate
7) watched Law & Order SVU
8) went to sleep
(boring life huh?)

8 Things I look forward to:

1) Dressing at our Thanksgiving meal at the in-laws
2) Dressing at our Thanksgiving meal at my Mother's
3) Dressing from our Thanksgiving left-overs
4) The Iron Bowl (anyone interested in hosting a party?)
5) Dressing at our Christmas meal at the in-laws
6) Dressing at our Christmas meal at Mothers
7) Dressing balls wrapped in bacon at my Dad's
8) Dressing from our Christmas left-overs
(yes...I love it that much)

8 Favorite Restaurants:
(technically, anywhere I don't have to cook qualifies as a favorite, but here are 8 that I frequent)
1) Olive Garden
2) El Cazador Mexican in Leeds
3) Arby's
4) Waffle House
5) Krystal's
6) Cracker Barrel
7) Chili's
8) Does Dominoes count?

8 Things on my wish list:
1) Dressing
2) for my family to be healthy, & happy
3) for my husband's car to be repaired
4) Dressing
5) For Auburn to win #7
6) for my blog to be picked up for weekly publication (hey..I can dream, right?)
7) for an annonymous benefactor to pay off my car and my house
8) Dressing

8 people I'm tagging:
( I one to tag...)

I'm really looking forward to the holidays..

Let the madness begin!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

C'est La Vie!

C'est La Vie! That's French for "That's Life"'s also the title of an 80's song but I'd rather not go down that rabbit trail today.

I've recently had a message from an aquaintance whining about their life and that put me in this mind set.

Bad things happen to good people...all the time. Fact of Life. You can wallow in it or you can change it. The only way to move past something is to get over it. As my friend Georgia says, "Put on your big girl panties and deal with it."

Last night, when we went to start the never-ending laundry process, we discovered our dryer had died. Luckily, there is a laundrymat at the crossroads and we have folks nearby that will let us use theirs when we run out of quarters.

Because I was already in this mindset, I began to think of all the crappy things that have happened to us this year. Let's revisit it shall we?

January: I have an episode that lands me in the ER being checked for a stroke.

February...Darling Hubby's car died. That means we now have to car pool. Oh goody.

March: Actually, I think March was a pretty good month

April: The garage door falls apart and my car starts acting up. We would get to were we were going and then it wouldn't start back up. No lights, no annoying dinging sound, nothing. After sitting for an average of an hour, then it would fire right up like nothing ever happened. We did buy a new battery (and later found out we didn't really need it)

May: We find out neither of the kids are going to pass, too late for anything to be done (don't ask, I still don't want to talk about it.)

June: we finally scrape together the money for the compressor to fix D/H's car, only to find, that's not the problem....great...

July: Darling Hubby is hospitalized and spends 4 days in ICU with what they think is his third bleeding ulcer.

August: School starts.Two kids in Jr High is expensive, especially when the school requires we buy the "official" gym uniform, and insists that no students can carry their books about so you have to rent a locker, but won't rent you a locker until you pay a "donation." I know I've been out of school 23 years, but when did the definition of a "donation change? (Donation: an offering or gift...Webster's New College Dictionary...not to be confused with Fee: a fixed fee or charge for professional services...also Webster's)

September: My car finally dies. Turns out it's a $300 part that took all of five minutes to fix. Then the microwave and both hair dryers die simultaneously. Great now not only do I have to actually cook, I'm gonna look like Rosanna Rosanna-Danna doing it.

October rolls around and I have a blowout right off the bat, that results in having to buy a new tire.

And that brings us to today, where I have clothes strung thru the kids bathroom air drying because the dryer is dead.

The best part is, we have 2 months left in this year...Whoopie!
Oh Well, if it weren't my problems, it'd be someone elses
C'est La Vie!
Thursday, October 16, 2008
I often get responses to my blogs, but never before have I had one so obvious as this week's response from the Lord. Yes, you read that right. Our Heavenly Father has sent me a message regarding this blog.

I know what you are thinking. Even my Christian brethren seem skeptical, but I'm not crazy. I am just open minded. When the Lord decides to send me a message, it is glaringly obvious, and usually comes to me in such a way that there is no way to deny it has come from Him.

Ask those closest to me, who have witnessed these messages first hand.

I subscribe to several motivational emails, one of which is a daily devotional and weekly motivational message from televangalist Joel Osteen.

I made the above post on Thursday evening.

On Friday morning, I had this message in my inbox from Joel Osteen.

Living a No Excuses Life

"We all have things we feel could be a disadvantage, things that make it harder on us. It may not be something physical, it may be the way we were raised, a disappointment we went through, a setback. But just because you have a “disadvantage”, just because you’ve been through a tough time, doesn’t mean you’re supposed to sit back and settle where you are. God still has something great for you to do. You may not look like everyone else and be able to do what others can do, but if you will stay in faith and not get negative toward yourself and toward your future, then what you think is a liability, God will turn around to be an asset. What you think is a disadvantage, God will turn around to be an advantage.

Too many people are waiting for God to remove everything and make them perfect before they pursue their dreams and go after their destiny. No, you need to go after your destiny right now and make the decision to live a no-excuse life. Honor God with what you have. God knew all the issues we would have to face, our struggles, our weaknesses, our inadequacies. We are no surprise to God. And many times what you think is a handicap is the very thing God will use to get you into your divine destiny. He’ll take every stumbling block and turn it into a stepping stone!"
Now tell me that's not a direct message from the Lord to me!

So despite the fact that we discovered this morning that our heating unit needs repair, I know that I need to maintain my faith in the Lord.

He uses all things to His Glory.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

October: A month to celebrate

Who knew October was such a festive month?! This month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month but also contains Oktoberfest (celebrated in my little town on Oct 25) National Customer Service Appreciation Week (this year October 6-10), Yom Kippur begins at sundown tonite, Columbus Day ( Oct 13) National Bosses Day (Oct 16) and of course Halloween.

This year's Oktoberfest coincides with my grandmother's birthday. Yes, the same grandmother who always comments on my weight. While I was overweight, she would have something to say about everything I put in my mouth. After I lost 45 pounds she'd bake me a cake or a pie everyday and tell me it would hurt her feelings if I didn't eat them. Go figure.

I will definately be seeing her early in the day so that I may enjoy all "the fruits" that Oktoberfest has to offer.

We are now over the hump in Customer Service Appreciation Week.
We've had great food and fun little activities and some nifty little gifts. All of our field representatives have told us how much they appreciate us and everyone has been really nice. Everyone, except, of course, our customers, who could care less.

But the main reason for my post today is to tell a little story that I posted earlier in the year. It is about my own close call with Breast Cancer and the courageous fight of 21 year old Catherine Carswell.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Reflections on the Past

I've recently become "aquainted" (thru a blog) with the daughter of a man I've worked with for the past 17 years. Her name is Catherine. She's a 21 year old Senior in college, has a great boyfriend (hopefully soon to be engaged) and is also looking over the edge, at a whole new life. You know the one, where you finish, school, start your career, marry the man of your dreams and start a family. Traveling down the road of life, as it stretches out before her.

But she's hit a little speed bump....she has breast cancer.

I know what you are thinking..."Breast cancer...are you serious? She's only 21! Breast cancer only strikes women in their 40's!" Yeah, that's what your insurance company would like to think too, That is why they only "approve" mamograms for women over 40.

The fact is, anyone with breast tissue (even men!) can develop breast cancer, at any age.And Catherine is working to spread that message.

Read about her here:

I remember when I, myself, was 18 and I found my first lump. It was about the size of a "mojo" marble (telling my age huh?) in my right breast. It hurt like hell and made my whole right side sore. I remember calling for the appointment and the nurse telling me, "Oh, lumpy breasts are common in girls your age, it'll be nothing." and booked my appointment for a month out.

I related this to a dear friend and her mother, content that I had nothing to worry about, because, I was "too young for it to be anything serious." The look that passed between them when I said this could have frozen the Gulf of Mexico. Her mother, usually chatty and upbeat, took my hands in hers and pulled me up close to her. She fixed her eyes on mine, and in a voice I will never forget, said " there is no such thing as 'too young'."

Fighting back tears, she recounted how, just a year before, she had lost her baby sister. My friend and I had been casual friends when it happened. I knew that she had died, but didn't really know the details, and never really thought to ask. She told me about the lump her sister had found, how the doctor told her it was just "lumpy breasts" and at her age it was nothing to worry about. By the time it became "something to w0rry about, " little could be done. She died of breast cancer at 22.

My mother called and successfully convinced the doctor's office to move my appointment up.

The next opening was 2 weeks away. In that 2 weeks, my little "friend" had grown to the size of a golf ball. It hurt to wear a bra, it hurt to go without one. The humiliation began almost immediately. I'd never been to an OB/GYN before and the thought of being naked in front of this strange man was almost too much to bear. The breast exam was painful. When I touched the lump, I did so gingerly, but he did not as he tried to determine size, depth, composition. I nearly came unglued when the doctor suggested he attempt to draw fluid off it to see if it was a cyst. It was solid and unyeilding and the whole process hurt like hell. They took me across the hall to where the pregnant women got their sonograms, to get a look at it. There were were joined by an intern class of about 6. Each one wanted to feel my lump too.

It was determined that not only did I have this lump, I had 2 more on the other side. Not quite as big, but noticable. Attempts to obtain a fluid sample from them were also unsuccessful. It was decided that they all had to come out. Surgery was scheduled for the next week, which was approximately 2 days after Christmas.

I was put to sleep that day, not knowing if I would have breasts when I woke up. I was exactly 6 months from my 19th birthday.

I praise the Lord here! Things went well.

The lumps turned out to be fibrocystic, which is why they grew so quickly...relatively common. I was told that I had one more small lump, just at the base of my breast. It seemed to be the same as the others and was left to avoid damaging the tissue surrounding it. I went home to recover and prepare for the New Year.

It was then that the bills started coming in. The bill for the mamography...DENIED by our insurance carrier....marked "medically unnecessary before age 40." How can something that is ordered by your doctor be called "medically unnecessary'?! My mother, single by this time, wrote letter after letter, copying and highlighting pages of doctor's notes but the insurance company would not budge. We wound up paying for that mamogram out of pocket.

Because of the condition, my doctor ordered a mamogram every 2 years since and every 2 years, I wound up paying out of pocket.

I did eventually get that last lump removed. It grew to the size of a baseball. I had to have a breast reduction to "even things out." didn't have a problem paying for that.

I am now finally 40, the age when my insurance company thinks I should be worried about breast cancer.

And I am....for the young girls like Catherine.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Have You Forgotten (Repost)

As we approach Patriot Day, I decided to repost this story from 9/11.

It is said that if you don't pass on history, it will be forgotten

This is something that we should never forget.

I am posting it early this year, to give everyone time to prepare for this important day of remembrance.


Repost from September 11.2007

It's September 11th. Patriot Day.

I'm wearing my yellow ribbon and my American Flag pin. I haven't really seen anyone else commemorating the day.

I wonder if everyone's else has forgotten.

I know I won't. Every year the emotion is nearly as fresh and raw as it was watching the non-stop news footage.

And every year, I think of 5 cases of coffee.

I cry when I tell it because the emotions bubble back up, so you are at an advantage reading it, though I am about to cry just typing it.

Krispy Kreme was once a customer of my company and every now and again the buyer would request a few cases of coffee be sent directly to a store.

On September 10, 2001 they requested that I send five cases of coffee to the Krispy Kreme store on the basement level of WTC. I am told this is where the food court was. They had requested Next Day Air, Early A.M. delivery, which is to be delivered by 8:00 a.m.

It stood out to me because the address was simply :

Krispy Kreme


WTC, NY and the zip code.

I thought "Well how cool is that?"

The next morning, as news began to spread of the attack, I immediately thought of those five boxes of coffee and the unsuspecting UPS driver I'd sent to his death.

I prayed for a lot of people that day, but I prayed especially for him.

Over the next several days, I began to think about him quite a bit. Was he married, did he have children, what kind of person would he have been....? Because I would never really know his fate, it started to be too much for me. Every time I saw footage of the dust & debris, I imagined a UPS truck buried beneath it. Though it may sound strange, I felt really guilty, like somehow I was responsible. I cried uncontrollably, nearly daily, over this person I'd never met.

Two weeks went by. My best friend told me that I was going to give it to God and let it go. So I finally prayed that God would give me some peace over it and release me from this guilt I was feeling. I prayed once more for him and his family and "laid it down."

The very next day, our local UPS driver returned the five boxes of Krispy Kreme coffee stamped "UNDELIVERABLE." They looked as good as the day I sent them out and I took their pristine condition as my sign from God that the driver I prayed so diligently over, was okay too.

I know, when I tell this story to my grandchildren some day, I will fight back a tear even then.

I know that, as a nation, to some extent, we should "move on." But I was raised that the first part of getting where you are going, is knowing where you've been.

Never Forget

(dedicated to those who unsuspectingly gave their lives Sept 11, 2001, the people who knew & loved them, and all our military hereos keeping us safe ever since.)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Showers: When it rains it pours

Okay...I had to share this column I found on shower gift registries!

I recently had a similar situation and wondered how I should handle it. Glad to see that I am not alone.

Dear Prudence,I was recently invited to a friend's wedding. Enclosed with the invitation was a slip of paper listing the stores where the couple is registered along with the message: "Please include a gift receipt." Am I right to find this message a bit rude? I feel like my friend is announcing, "We have picked out exactly what we want you to buy but still think you'll screw up the job, so we want to make sure it's returnable." Or maybe they already know that they don't want the crap they registered for and are just looking for a way to get cash? Frankly, I'd rather skip the middle man (and the shipping fees) if they don't trust me enough to buy what they have already indicated they want. Am I out of line? (And isn't there a better way for them to ask for cash if that's what they need most?)
—Presumptively Incompetent Giver

Dear Presumptively,I always enjoy hearing about the ever-escalating ways engaged couples seek to chisel the goods out of their friends and loved ones. The innovation here is that the couple clearly doesn't want the stuff they've designated, but they feel they're too classy to come right out and say, "Just give us cash."

Here's a tip for engaged couples: The invitation should announce the where and when of the wedding and say nothing about the "What I want."

For that, you wait until your guests start inquiring, and then, as Peggy Post (heir to Emily's mantle) advises, you graciously say anything they feel like getting you would be delightful and that you've also registered at Crate and Barrel if they want some guidance. If what you want is cash, Ms. Post advises saying you're saving for a big purchase and a check would be most appreciated. (Miss Manners demurs that there is no polite way to say, "Show me the money.") What couples like your friends don't realize is that people who care about them actually enjoy the act of getting them something meaningful to mark the occasion of their starting their lives together. But these couples are killing that pleasure by acting as if they are collection agencies calling in their friends' debts. So, sure, go ahead and write this couple a check—maybe they'll even surprise you and send a thank-you note.
Thank goodness!! The voice of reason...and confirmation from The Emily Post Institute to boot! ( )

I have long been a fan of Emily Post and own a rather large volume of her book of etiquette. Because of this, various friends and family members ofetn call me and ask "hey...what does Emily say on this" Like the Bible...Emily's advice is timeless.

Over the years I have been shocked by the greediness of soon-to-wed couples. Some have multiple showers, teas, parties, order to glean as many gifts as possible, and believe it is okay to do so. I've even seen young brides register for some really off-the-wall items such as a flat-screen tv and his & hers IPod Nanos! Where does this sense of entitlement come from?!

Being raised by a proper Southern woman, I was taught that for special occasions ( weddings, births, graduations, birthdays, etc..) you invite others to share your joy. If they CHOOSE to also bring you a gift, that was entirely up to them. It should NOT be expected.

A tea or a shower is to give a bride going from her parents home to her marital home the basics to set up a household (okay...that was back in the day, but you see my point.) A gift registry was used for "suggestion." While it does take the hassle out of "what do I get them?" gifts for the happy couple should not be limited to that list, and they should not expect to get everything they ask for either. A flat-screen and an IPod Nano are not necessary to set up household.

Just because someone ( or several someones) want to throw you a shower or tea, does not mean you can't say NO and suggest they pool their resources. I would think that the potential hostesses would be relieved! And you do not invite someone to a party that would not be invited to the wedding. That is saying "You are good enough to give us stuff, but not good enough to watch us get married."

My mother had recently called me (to consult "Emily") regarding a situation in our extended family where the mother of the bride wanted each sister to throw a specific shower and was calling about to set her plan in motion. I was mortified! It is one thing for the young bride (or her friends) to not know any better, but this mother is "of sufficient age" to have taken etiquette and elocution in school. I wonder if her desire for her daughter to have a good, strong marriage is as strong as her desire for her to get presents.

The only saving grace to this scenaio is that the sisters have divided the master guest list between them so that everyone gets invited to one event rather than everyone getting invited to all (another common faux pas).

My daughter is now of the age that she and her beau are discussing the possibility of marriage. Having been out on her own for over a year now, she pretty much has everything she needs for a household (thus nullifying the need for a shower, in the traditonal sense) however, because of the generous nature of her friends, I am certain that they will be amply fetted.

I plan to caution her to think carefully about her choices and her guests.

Perhaps my first gift to her will be a new copy of Emily Post!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I See You in I.C.U.

We have finally made it to Sunday...tomorrow begins a new week. This past week has been very trying for the family. With the start of school looming over us, nationals just 2 weeks away and Darling Hubby's car still not working (despite the $200 part) all of this paled in comparison to what lay ahead.

Wednesday morning, about 2:00a.m. D/H awoke to a nasty bout with "the big D" (and I don't mean Dallas) only to find that it signalled the possible return of our old adversary The Bleeding Ulcer.

He called in sick to work and sent me on my way to work in the one car we are currently sharing. The children had orientation that night and he didn't want us to miss it. The plan was to call the gastro doctor and see what he should do. He promised to have either his brother or our oldest carry him to the emergency room should things worsen. I told my boss what was happening, just in case I had to leave work early. Having not heard from D/H, I assumed that everything was fine.

Why is it that men can hear the plan, agree to the plan, but never execute the plan?

Needless to say, the kids and I sped through orientation (which was completley unnecessary because both had attened the school the previous year and were sufficiently oriented!) and then rushed home to carry D/H to the emergency room. We arrived about 7:30pm.

At 11:00pm it was decided that he could indeed be suffering from another bleeding ulcer, his 3rd, and that he was to be sent to ICU and given blood because his blood count was 26 ( around 40 is normal), a procedure that could have been avoided had he remembered "the plan" and come to the hospital earlier in the day. It was agreed that I would go on to work Thursday, because while he was in ICU, I would only be able to see him for 15 minutes ever 2 hours. I could be more productive ( and less worried) if I were focused on my work. He was taken to M.I.C.U. and the first of 2 units of blood were started.

I came home, arriving about 11:30pm and unable to sleep because darling hubby was not in the house, watched t.v. and played a bit on the internet. I thought about the conversation I'd had with Heath just last Friday, after our company benefits meeting that outlined the insurance changes effective September 1st. When I got in the car that day, I'd joked "If you are going to be sick again, you've got to do it before September 1st" Little did I know he'd take me up on it! I drifted off to sleep just in time for my alarm to wake me just in time for the first day of school.

Traffic the first day of school in our little town is bedlam. There is always a traffic jam and at least one wreck, which happened this time at the end of our street. I made it to work almost 10 minutes late, but still managed to find a parking place in the same zip code as the building.

I sent an email to my boss asking to work through my lunch hour in order to leave early. Most of the day, I had to defend our choice for me to come into work, rather than sitting around the hospital, wasting time and wringing my hands. I was focused on my work which made the time pass quickly and productively. I kept hearing ..."well, if it were me..." and I felt like I would explode. I felt bad enough without everyone trying to make me feel more guilty! But I knew that I was following my husband's request and that we'd made the best choice.

As once mentioned before, one of my aunts has been a nurse for over 40 years (most at the very hospital my husband was in). It is a well known fact among our family that she will NOT visit the hospital unless specifically summoned. I always thought it was because she spent enough time there already, however, after my grandmother had summoned us both specifically to the hospital, she explained to me her reasoning.

"People come to the hospital to be well, not be entertaining" she had said. "They do not need a lot of people hanging around. That is why visiting hours are limited like they are. Patients need to rest. For some reason, people think they need to be at the hospital all the time, but really, unless they have a medical degree, there is nothing they can do for the patient that isn't already being done. They can do more harm than good, getting in the way of the staff and needlessly stressing out the patient. I know what it is like trying to care for a patient and having to deal with the family. When the care team thinks you need to be there, they will tell you to be there."

I had never really given that much thought before, but it made perfect sense. And coming from a seasoned medical professional, I took it as the general attitude of other seasoned medical professionals and my attitude toward hospital visits changed considerably. Many could benefit from this sage advice, including many a hospitalized loved one.

I tried to be light-hearted and joke about why I was not at the hospital, only to be told later that I hurt some people's feelings. WHAT?!?! As if I didn't have enough on me already, I , the wife of the patient, who had enough guilt and stress as it was, had yet one more thing to worry about! How sophomoric! Did anyone ever stop to consider what I was going thru?! I was immediately hot, flushing from my chest to the top of my head. I had a melt-down and had to excuse myself to the ladies room where I leaned against the cool, metal wall of the stall and cried.

I arrived at the hospital that afternoon. D/H was ill from the liquid-only diet and had commented on how many restaruant commercials there seem to be on t.v. He had just finished his 4th unit of blood in an effort to stabalize his counts. We did not get to see the doctor but the nurse told us the endoscopy was clear. An ulcer was located in the same area as the previous two, but it was not bleeding. No other source coudl be found in the upper digestive tract and that a colonoscopy would be performed the next day to check the rest. The Go-lytely arrived soon after. Anyone who has had Go-lytely knows that whomever invented it had a sick sense of humor because you are far from "going litely!" I left D/H to the evening task and again found myself unable to sleep.

It was again agreed that I would go to work on Friday, but it was harder to do given the previous days events. Hardly anyone asked about D/H and that helped me stay focused on what I was doing. I had planned to work through my lunch as before, but soon found myself unable to concentrate and asked to leave at 2pm instead. When I reached the hospital, I found D/H enjoying his first solid meal in 2 days. I settled in to wait for the doctor.

The actual gastro doctor never came, but the doctor in the unit read through D/H's chart and gave us the high points. The colonoscopy was also clear, which meant the only other place to check was the 25 +/- feet of small intestine. There are several options but the most interesting seemed to be the "camera pill." We were to wait for the final word from the GI lab, but in the mean time D/H would be moved to a regular room.

After a visit to Cyn's I arrived home, but was still unable to sleep, despite the the wave of exhaustion that was sweeping over me and a belly full of carbs (Cyn knows a double order of hashbrowns all-the-way is a surefire sleep aid for me) . The thought that they were unable to find the cause that resulted in loosing nearly half his blood volume kept me staring at the ceiling fan for several hours.

Saturday I was unable to function from lack of sleep, but I did manage to get up and head to Nancy's. I had been putting off gown fittings since I missed the first one Wednesday evening. While at Nancy's (where the gown is taking shape quite nicely) D/H called to say he'd been released!

By the time we crossed the threshold here at home, I was out, sleeping soundly for several hours.

We still do not know the cause of the bleeding, but D/H's upcoming doctor appointment should shed some light on that.

Thank you all for your continued prayers.

Meanwhile, it's business as usual.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

My Bucket List

I have decided it's time to compose a Bucket List. You know...a list of all the things you want to do before you kick the bucket. Okay, I guess it's obvious that I've just watched "The Bucket List" with 2 of my favorite actors Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.

But you have to admit, it's one heck of a concept, and it seems like the ultimate goal setting exercise.

I'm 41 so I figure, best case scenario, I have about 40 years (give or take a few) to accomplish everything on it. Well, that is if I take after my dad's side of the family. My mother's side of the family can't seem to get anymore than 10 days past their 70th birthdays.

No kidding. When we buried my mother's only brother, who died exactly 10 days from his 70th birthday a few years back, I remember being unnerved that everyone was walking across the graves of their parents. I was trying to be as respectful as possible, taking up a position behind my mother, which was coincidentally on top of my grandfather's footstone.

It was then I had a "movie moment" ... you know, those moments when everyone is intently focused on the clergy/speaker/wedding party, etc... and someone in the back says something really stupid, really loudly and everyone in the congregation turns to look? As I caught the heel of my shoe in the engraved Masonic emblem, I glanced down and saw that the date of his death was, get this, 10 days after his 70th birthday! I gasped...loudly...causing an awkward pause to fall over the graveside service.

So, worst case scenario, I have 29 years...and 10 complete the items on the list.

All my life I've joked about things I'd like to accomplish before I die. Silly, inconsequential stuff...learn to play piano, see Paris, learn converstaional Japanese, write a novel. Now, after having given it some serious thought (and a stroke scare in January), compiling this list of goals doesn't sound like a bad idea.

Once, a family friend attended a seminar about obtaining your dreams. After serving as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, Richmond became an attorney, but kept his pilot license current, serving as a helicopter pilot in the Reserves. His office was always fun to hang around and he told the most interesting stories, smattered with corny jokes. He was very smart and enjoyed expanding his horizons with classes and seminars and such.

At this seminar, the instuctor handed out 3x5 cards, on which he asked everyone to write down what their dream job would be if money were no object. Richmond jotted down that he would like to own his own helicopter piloting service. Then the instructor told everyone to write down how they would go about obtaining this dream job, still keeping in mind that money was no object. Richmond quickly mapped out what would be needed. Then the instructor told everyone their next assignment was to go out and obtain that job! He told everyone that money IS NOT a factor if one really wanted to reach a goal. Needless to say...Richmond began piloting for a helicopter service that flew employees back and forth to oil rigs in the Gulf. I do not know if he ever reached his goal of owning his own service, but I know that he was very happy from that point forward. A few years ago, he died from complications of sleep apnea.

This story springs to mind whenever I think of lofty goals and how I should not give up on them.

I read somewhere that when you are setting goals, you should have a few that you can't obtain. That if all your goals are ones that you can actually reach, that you don't strive for them as much. That contridicts the idea behind creating a Bucket List, since the list should contain obtainable items.

I plan to have a few items that are subject to interpretation to be crossed off as I see fit. I noticed that in places in the movie, the characters were creative with the items on their list. The whole discussion of the origin kopi luwak (which, conincidentally, I already knew about, being in the coffee biz myself) though funny, would not make me laugh til I cried, but it was a heck of a punch line.

Unlike the movie, I plan for my husband to join me in many of them. Probably the sentimental ones, like having 10 grandchildren (a project mainly for my children!) and watching the sunset from the porch of our mountain top retirement villa. There are sure to be some silly ones too...real "Lucy and Ethel" moments, as I intend my best friend Cyndi, 4 years my junior, to join me on quite a few items. What good would the list be if I can't share it with those I love?

As I start to compile this list, I urge you, my reader, to check out the book film writer Justin Zackham is publishing by the same name. Zackham compiled the Bucket Lists of indiviuals ( actor Morgan Freeman included) from a broad spectrum of culture.

I plan to share my list with you as it forms, because part of setting a goal is having others keep you accountable to them.

That said, here is the beginning of Joy's Bucket List: (in no particular order)

Write a Novel (and publish it!)
Write something that will be read widespread
Surf the North Shore
See Paris
Scuba on the Great Barrier Reef
Represent Alabama at one of The Big Three
See all 3 of my children find the love of their life
Own my own business
Enjoy at least 10 grandchildren
Drive on the track at Talledega
Meet Kathleen Turner
Run for political office
Restore an antebellum mansion
Go on safari's a work in progress...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tanning disasters and other pageant prep

I have 8 weeks until my pageant, Beauties of America, in Myrtle Beach and I am as white as a piece of paper.

Oh, I'd intended to be tan by now, but with Darling Hubby's car breaking down and the gas prices and all the other day to day, money-sucking crap that goes along with being a parent and a spouse, there was just no extra funds to obtain a tanning package or the time in which to use it.

So here I am, looking as Irish as ever.

I did get a wicked little sunburn on my appearance at the Miracle League party when I agreed to be the dunkee in the Dunk a Buddy booth. I had prepared (so I thought) by slathering spf45 all over myself when I got out of the shower that morning. It took quite some time to correct last year's nasty little sunburn before competition and I was not going through that again. I took extra care to get my shoulders, ears and my entire neck. What I did NOT get was a sliver of skin between my neck and the collar of my that happened is a mystery. Sufice it to say, I now have a crescent shaped patch, about the size of a slice of cantelope, peeling off my neck!

I used to have a fair bit of success with self tanners when they first came out. Coppertone made a great one. Unfortunately, as with many things, when you find something you like, that works well, they decide to "improve" it, thus changing it so that it never works for you again. I mean, helloooo...if it ain't broke, don't fix it! But manufacturers never quite see it that way and feel they can be more "marketable" by making "improvements." Good idea in theory, but usually lacks something in the execution. (I always refer to the "new Coke/Classic Coke" debacle in the late '80's as an example of this phenomenon)

One of the "improvements" was adding a fragrance. Those of you who know me well know that I can't do fragrance. Someone in my offices uses that ghastly "Sweet Pea" lotion by Bath & Body works. They don't use it often, but enough. The fragrance is so powerful, it shuts down my sinuses from several cubes away. Then I am sick for the rest of the week. Now one would think that a tanning product would have that pleasant tanning-product-cocoa-butter-and-pina-colada-going-to-the-beach smell. We all know that smell really well. (Admit just got a whiff while I was talking about it!) Imagine my shock and horror when I picked up the "new and improved" version of my favorite self-tanner and read "NEW PLEASANT FLORAL SCENT!"

I was never able to use it again.

Other self-tanners have bee disapointing in other ways.
Orange, streaky, hard to apply, hard to remove, or I would get hooked on one just in time for them to be taken off the market because the company went out of business. I did really like one that Toni Fake-Ponytail was hawking on HSN. It was brown, so you could see where it was going (and what you'd missed!) and the resulting mild golden brown color did not scream "fake tan" on my pale Irish skin. Best of all, there was ZERO fragrance! It was $19.95 for a 3 ounce bottle. Kinda pricey compared to the 10 ounce bottle of the "new and improved" brand I'd been using. But I deemed the expense worth the money and bought several bottles.

No one told me the crap had a shelf life, so imagine my surprise when 6 months down the road all the elements seperated and turned a lovely Kermit-the-Frog green!

So here I am...pastey and white...contemplating my options.

8 weeks is not enough time to get any sort of tan from the tanning bed. Heck, by 8 weeks I've just worked up to where I can lay in it the full 20 minutes!

I could do the whole airbrush tan thing, but no one around here does it anymore. I could buy the canned version they sell at Sally's but neither my husband nor my best girl pal Cyndi are willing to help me with it (primarily because they are both tan and don't understand my persepective).

So I headed off to my one of favorite places on the neighborhood Walmart.

Our Walmart has it's tanning products displayed on an island shelving unit. For those of you who are unfamiliar with store fixture terms, (thanks to 7 years of grocery & drug store experience I can share) an island shelving unit is a section of shelving designed to be used freestanding and can be moved around the store. They are typically set up in high traffic areas of a store for seasonal or sale merchandise. As with all retail shelving, they are 4 feet wide and typically range in height from 3 to 5 shelves, netting from 12 to 20 feet of merchandising space. Some are sectional and can be linked together to increase merchadising space. The island in question is 12 foot wide with 2 sides: one for actual tanning and/or tanning prevention and one for self-tanners and an assortment of the green & blue gooey stuff to use when all the others have failed. At an impressive 6 shelves high, that makes 144 feet of tanning goods. An island indeed.

So I stood in front of the 8 feet of self-tanning products. I knew to rule out my beloved Coppertone but the dizzing aray of benefits and tones and application processes made it hard to choose. I tried to think of things others had told me about various products. There was something good about them all. I knew I needed "medium" because I would look foolish with "dark" so that ruled out another section. I knew I didn't want lotion and spray wasn't looking great either, so I settled on the towel variety.

I purchased my box and headed home.

Lucky for me, I still had the rubber gloves that came with my expensive tanner. I read the instructions carefully. I showered, exfoliating like mad. I dried completely. As instructed by another of my pigment-challenged friends, a pro at self tanning now, I slathered Vaseline on my elbows, knees, ankles, feet and the scar on my leg so as not to attract too much tanner. I donned my gloves and opened the package.

A tanning towel is like a big wet wipe. The instruction say to start wiping the folded towel across the areas of your body that you want tanned, unfolding as needed. Let dry completely and the tan would develop within the hour.

I thought I'd done pretty good for my first attempt. I'd gotten my legs completely, but had a big, swirling white spot on my left arm where I'd swiped but missed on 2 passes.

I made my second attempt a week later. We were going to attend a picnic and fireworks show at D/H's cousin's church. I had planned to wear shorts, so it was a must. I began the ritual all over again. I made extra care to get all of my arms, my neck & chest, but when I got down to my legs, there as a knock at the bathroom door. "30 minutes" my hubby informed me. Knowing I had to dry completely or risk ruining both my clothes and my tan, I started wiping in high gear.

It felt like I hit everything. It wasn't until I went to the ladies room at the church, a good 2 or 3 hours later, when I saw my first mistake. A wide, white patch down the inside of my calve. Okay, it's on the inside, I'm good I thought to myself. The ladies room was far too crowded for any real inspection, so I finished up and went outside to find a seat for the fireworks show.

"Hey, you missed a spot on the back of your leg" my husband informed me.
"Yeah, I saw it"
"I don't see how, it's the back of your thigh. You'd be sitting on it"

Holy crap...I dashed for the ladies room. Sure enough, I missed a patch down the back of my thigh and to make matters worse, I could see that now my feet had tanned too. The swipe at my feet highlighted only the bones, each with a nice white stripe in between!

I was turning into a zebra, right in front of everyone's eyes! There is no telling what these people thought. Bet I made it on to the prayer list for having some horrible skin disease.

When we got back, I began googling ways to get self tanner off. Surprisingly, there aren't that many that don't involve some sort of torturous scrubbing. Perhaps someone needs to invent a self tanner remover.

I will try to correct my self tan today. Can't get any worse, right?
And if it does, well I still have 8 weeks, right?

Gotta love pageant prep...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

All moved!

Whew! It took a bit of doing, but I am finally "all moved in" to this blogspot!

In case you were wondering why all these "old" posts popped up here above the new ones, I have decided to delete the "It's Good to Be Queen" blog. I had created it before finding out that the fabulous Darlene Deeben, Mrs Galaxy 2007, had a website by almost the very same name.

I will use this blogspot for my rantings and personal observations and tidbits of family life.

My pageant appearances will be reported on my new blog Just Joy: Royal Appearances.

Thanks for reading


Have You Forgotten?

(Repost: Originally posted September 11, 2007)

It's September 11th. Patriot Day.

I'm wearing my yellow ribbon and my American Flag pin. I haven't really seen anyone else commemorating the day.

I wonder if everyone's else has forgotten.

I know I won't. Every year the emotion is nearly as fresh and raw as it was watching the non-stop news footage.

And every year, I think of 5 cases of coffee.

I cry when I tell it because the emotions bubble back up, so you are at an advantage reading it, though I am about to cry just typing it.

Krispy Kreme was once a customer of my company and every now and again the buyer would request a few cases of coffee be sent directly to a store.

On September 10, 2001 they requested that I send five cases of coffee to the Krispy Kreme store on the basement level of WTC. I am told this is where the food court was. They had requested Next Day Air, Early A.M. delivery, which is to be delivered by 8:00 a.m.

It stood out to me because the address was simply :
Krispy Kreme
WTC, NY and the zip code.
I thought "Well how cool is that?"

The next morning, as news began to spread of the attack, I immediately thought of those five boxes of coffee and the unsuspecting UPS driver I'd sent to his death.

I prayed for a lot of people that day, but I prayed especially for him.

Over the next several days, I began to think about him quite a bit. Was he married, did he have children, what kind of person would he have been....? Because I would never really know his fate, it started to be too much for me. Every time I saw footage of the dust & debris, I imagined a UPS truck buried beneath it. Though it may sound strange, I felt really guilty, like somehow I was responsible. I cried uncontrollably, nearly daily, over this person I'd never met.

Two weeks went by. My best friend told me that I was going to give it to God and let it go. So I finally prayed that God would give me some peace over it and release me from this guilt I was feeling. I prayed once more for him and his family and "laid it down."

The very next day, our local UPS driver returned the five boxes of Krispy Kreme coffee stamped "UNDELIVERABLE." They looked as good as the day I sent them out and I took their pristine condition as my sign from God that the driver I prayed so diligently over, was okay too.

I know, when I tell this story to my grandchildren some day, I will fight back a tear even then.

I know that, as a nation, to some extent, we should "move on." But I was raised that the first part of getting where you are going, is knowing where you've been.

Never Forget

(dedicated to those who unsuspectingly gave their lives Sept 11, 2001, the people who knew & loved them, and all our military hereos keeping us safe ever since.)

Christmas Light Intervention

(Repost...originally written & posted on Myspace on date listed below)
Thursday, January 11, 2007

Christmas Light Intervention

Today is Thursday, January 11th. Let me make myself very clear on that....TODAY is Thursday JANUARY 11TH. It is January 11th and my best friend's neighbors still have their Christmas lights on. Nearly three full weeks since Christmas and they still have their Christmas lights on. Not just up, mind you, but ON.

Every Tuesday is "Chick-Flick" night with my girls, Cyndi & Brandy. We meet at Cyndi's ( because she has the most kids and it's just easier for her than loading up all the kids and the baby toys and what have you) drink coffee (or have the occasional glass of wine or two) and watch a chick-flick. We put the older children in charge of the younger ones and (attempt to) enjoy a relaxing evening and just decompress. We share our troubles and a pot of coffee or two, planning each others lives, all the while some sappy-sweet romantic comedy provides background noise. I look forward to Tuesdays all week long.

I was in particularly good mood this past Tuesday, because the evening was to be the beginning to a much needed vacation. I sang along with the radio as I made my way to Cyndi's, but as I approached her neighborhood, something caught my eye. It was bright and colorful. The closer I got, the more of it there seemed to be. I could not believe my eyes....Christmas Lights! Blazing into the night sky, two full weeks AFTER Christmas! I mean I understand not finding the time yet to take them down, but having them ON is another story entirely.

What kind of people are still BURNING their Christmas lights this long after Christmas? Do they know we are nearly two weeks into January?!

Do they want to be the source of conversation around the neighborhood? "Well you know those Joneses, still burning their Christmas lights..."Yes, I know there's that whole St. Lucia and Twelveth Night celebrations, but this is Alabama...Buckle of the Bible Belt, Protestant capital of the South.

Some of you may think, "Okay, so what's the big deal?" As a Christian, I understand the concept of holding Christmas in my heart all year long, but I don't have to wrap it in multi-colored twinkle lights! The big deal is, this is not the neighborhood Mexican restaurant, which I believe, is the only place it's legal to display & operate Christmas lights outside the month of December. Come on people, rural Alabama has enough stereotypical crap to overcome, let's not perpetuate it!

When Alabama is depicted in a film or t.v. show, you never see the tony areas like Mountain Brook or Vestavia or Hoover. Oh, MTV did come film the Hoover Bucs for the wildly popular "Two A Days" but did they ever once go to the Galleria or the Summit? I think they showed WalMart once and they guys going fishing, but never showed the multimillion dollar shopping complex just up the road from the school. You always see some ramshackle house with a malfunctioning major appliance on the porch and Christmas lights strung all about.

It's bad enough we are currently having to live down the "Bama Kissing Bandit," a one Collette Connell, who loudly praised Jesus for Alabama's new coach, Nick Saban, and then reached out and planted a big wet one on him, in plain view of all national sports media. The photo made the front page of sports sections across the nation, accompanied by her mugshot from the subsequent DUI arrest soon after.

I call it the classic "trailer park tradgedy" media spin. A tornado wipes out hundreds of homes, who does the media seek out? The most articulate or the most dentally-challenged? The person who lost at $300,000 home or the person who lost a $3,000 single wide? This is the person CNN chooses to represent us to the rest of the nation. Everytime.

At this time, let me take a moment to restate for the record, I am an Auburn fan. And now I'm even more glad that I am. But I digress.

Where was I??

Oh, yeah, Christmas lights...

The neighborhood Cyndi lives in has several champion light displays. The two most impressive are the house in the woods and Mr & Mrs Notary Public.

The house in the woods is just that...a house far enough off the road, enveloped in a pine thicket , that it is completely invisible. Invisible that is, until the weekend after Thanksgiving and the entire month of December. During this time, it looks like an extension of the Birmingham International Airport. This home owner pulls out all the stops, covering every inch of the house, windows,eaves, and all, completely outlining the house in lights. The lights spill over into every adjacent bush and tree for a 50 foot radius. I will never forget that first Christmas that we went to Cyndi's new house and my daughter said, "I've lived in this town my whole life and I never knew there was a house back there!"

Mr & Mrs Notary Public (so named for the large "Notary Public" sign hanging above their mailbox) have the most impressive collection of lawn ornamentation year round. I am quite sure they own one of every type of concrete staturary possible. Then, at Christmas time, they throw lights all over them. You can see the house from space. I'm not sure it's possible, but each year it seems they add more and more lights!

But I will give both of these families credit: they know when it's time to take the lights down.

I was raised believing that it was bad luck to have Christmas decorations up on New Year's Day. I think that perhaps that was really my mother's way of making us help her take them down the weekend before we went back to school. But because I've heard this all my life, I've never questioned or disputed it. I am also a little afraid to tempt fate and leave my Christmas decorations up, just like I am afraid not to eat the traditional blackeyed peas and turnip greens with ham.

I was also taught it is bad luck to do laundry on New Year's Day, but that one seems perfectly logical, so I will not debate it. I've never been told what may actually happen, but it must be truly awful for my mother to remind me of it every year. I have caught myself, on more than one New Year's Eve, franically washing clothes prior to leaving for some event, for fear I would either be naked or face some horrid fate for washing clothes on New Year's Day. Were my brother and I the only people on the planet to be taught this lore? Apparenlty so, if there are people who are still displaying their Christmas lights three weeks after Christmas.

I told Cyndi and Brandy that there needed to be a Christmas light intervention.We should knock on the door, present this individual with a current calendar, pointing out that Christmas has past some time ago and offer to help take the lights down.

"Well you go right to it Sunshine," Cyndi chirped "but watch out for the couch and the washing machine on the porch. And if you hear banjo"

Driver's Ed Should Be Required!

(Repost...originally written & posted on Myspace on date listed below)
Saturday, January 06, 2007
Driver's Ed should be required!
Current mood: annoyed

Two people have died on the interstate this week. I heard about them on the news. There was a time, when you could look up at the Vulcan statue, standing guard over Birmingham (while simultaneously mooning Homewood) atop Red Mountain, and know someone had lost their life. ( ) . If someone had died in a traffic accident, Vulcan's light was red, and green when all was clear. I remember looking for that all my life and feeling sad when the light was red. When they restored Vulcan in 1999, they replaced the torch with a spear, which I'm told is what he was originally intended to hold. Now you have to read about traffic fatalities in the news again.

But Vulcan history is not my intended topic. People who make stupid driving mistakes is.

Those of you who know me, know what a careful driver I am. You also know that stupid drivers are in my top ten, biggest, all time pet peeves. It's pretty high on the list, like number 2 or 3. It runs a pretty close race with my number 1, people who don't wash their hands in the bathroom. The thought that there are people out there that think that's okay nearly gives me hives, but that is a story for another day.

Even in my wild teenage years, safe driving was paramount. Over the years I have seen friends and family needlessly injured and even lost a few, some very dear to me, to the perils of motor vehicle operations. In every situation, regardless of who was at fault, it all boils down to someone being stupid & careless.

I now drive, twice a day, along a stretch of Interstate 20, known here in Alabama as "Death Valley." Those unfamiliar with I-20, it runs west to east across Alabama from Mississippi to Georgia. "Death Valley" starts at Leeds exit 144 and runs to somewhere around the Talledega Motor Speedway exit at Lincoln. It is called this because, reportedly, there have been more fatalities here than any other area of interstate in the state, including I-65 that runs from Tennessee all the way to the Gulf Coast. It is also here that I encounter the majority of the state's stupid drivers. I often wonder if I was one of the only people to actually take Driver's Education, (as mandated by my parents and their insurance company) because most of the stupidity I see was covered in the very first week!

When I was a Sophomore at dear old LHS, I was given the "option" to take driver's ed. My parents were insistent, as neither of them had quite the patience to let me get above 10 miles an hour or out of our neighborhood. Although I had inherited my grandmother's 1972 school-bus-yellow Vega at 12, and sat longingly behind the wheel for close to three years, I had little actual driving experience. There were the occasional attempts by my high-school boyfriend to teach me to drive his car, but despite his patient nature, I made him nervous as well. So my driving instruction was left to the expert educators, one of which was my next door neighbor, our football coach Coach Joe Campbell (Lord, rest his soul).

It was pretty much a "pass or fail" course and pretty much everyone who attended passed. I only knew of one person who actually failed, but that is what wrecking the driver's ed car will do for you.

I remember very little about the actual class, other than the car had a brake on the passenger side (Cool! would like that now sometimes when I have to ride with Heath or Julia!) and we watched the mandatory scratchy, reel-to-reel version of "Blood on the Highway", circa 1960-something.

When it came to the actual driving, we were split into groups of four that would take turns driving around Leeds. My group included my friends Eve and Melissa and a young lady whose name escapes me. I do remember that she had very long hair, wore dresses all the time and was very quiet. I also remember that she was a Senior and was in our class, two years after it was first offered to her as an elective, because she had finally, successfully convinced her parents that she needed to know how to drive.

Melissa and Eve were experienced drivers, turning 16 in the middle of that school year. They, like me, were in the class because of the insurance discount and it gave them something to do for an hour out of the school day. I felt pretty safe riding along when they drove. Our Senior, however, was quite a different story. Because of her parents reluctance to allow her to drive, she had even less outside driving training than I did and often would wear on Coach's patience. I remember once, narrowly missing another car, she threw her hands over her face, leaving Coach to grab the wheel and stand on the passenger brake. I don't know what happened to her after she graduated, but I will say, I hope she is not driving!

Some stupid mistakes that really get on my nerves are:

Not using turn all....ever. A driver about to execute any type of turn or lane change is to indicate it by engaging their turn signal. For those of you offenders, that is the little lever sticking out of the side of the steering wheel. It is not for hanging up your sunglasses.

Not checking the "blind spot." This is the area on the sides of your vehicle NOT VISIBLE IN YOUR MIRRORS. I am constantly amazed at the people who, not only do not indicate that they are changing lanes, but also do not bother to see if anyone is already driving in that lane! These are the people who nearly sideswipe you, then have the audacity to cuss at you and flip you the finger for their stupidity. How dare you already be driving in that lane!

Related: Not turning around to back up. You know, throw your arm over the seat and turn around. First rule of driving, look in the direction you are going. Most of the time I am a pedestrian when I run into these yahoos. However, every now and again, when I am trying to back out at the Walmart, I see them coming. Usually because I am watching them start toward me as I am backing out. You have to honk at these people or they plow right into you. The trucks at my company have those beeping back-up signals.

I wish all cars had them. Maybe then some of these people would turn around and look.

Failing to properly yeild to the right of way. If you are currently driving in a lane, be it on a city street or the interstate, it is "your" lane. Anyone wishing to merge into that lane must yeild to YOUR right of way. They are to signal their intent (the aforementioned lever on the steering column), then wait for YOUR response. You may choose to let them in front of you or you may not. It is up to YOU. You can be nice and pull over or slow down to let them into your lane, but you don't have to.

You are in "possesion" of that lane.

This includes traffic merging onto the interstate. Just because their turn indicator is engaged does not give them the right of way either. Merging drivers need your permission or wait for another opening.

Notable exception: Pedestrians and all emergency vehicles have the right of way. Emergency vehicles take precident and are to be granted right of way as soon as safely possible.

People who do not grant emergency vehicles right of way. Have you ever been the victim of an emergency situation, waiting for the blasted ambulance or fire truck to come and it feels like forever for it to get there? That is because there are selfish, stupid, dense, uneducated people in their way. My brother drove an ambulance before he became a police officer. My best friend was an EMT and volunteer fire fighter. Both have related horror stories of people who refused to let them pass, or equally as bad, did not know what to do and stop dead in the middle of the road. The preferred method, if they are behind you is to pull to the right and let them pass on your left. If they are approaching you, also pull to the right. This makes an opening that the vehicle can safely pass between the opposing lanes of traffic.

Lights and sirens mean someone's life is in danger. Move as quickly as safely possible. Remember this one thought: One day, it could be you or a loved one waiting for that vehicle.

Not driving the posted speed limit. If you need to get there faster, leave earlier. People who speed make me mad, people who drive too slow make me mad. People who speed up and slow down so you can't pass them make me furious. I stopped carrying my gun in the car for this very reason.

Passing in the marked "no passing" zone. These people not only endanger themselves, their stupidity endagers others as well. These zones are marked this way for very good reasons, whether you see their value or not. I'm sorry that I am driving the posted speed limit and you think you need to get around me. You should have left earlier.

Failing to obey traffic signs and signals. These are not there for decoration. They are for information. If you are unfamiliar with the meanings of different traffic signs and signals, how the hell did you pass your driver's test?! This reminds me of the very elderly lady, who nearly ran me down in the Walmart parking lot last September as I crossed in the very wide, very obvious pedestrian crosswalk.(Remember aforementioned Pedestrian Right of Way exception) This old bag then had the audacity to cuss at me and call me stupid. I was really missing that gun about then, but I politely aquainted her with the pedestrian crosswalk sign that was apparently invented long after she first obtained her driver's license 100 years ago.

I could go on and on, but I don't think dear old Tom intended for me to use all of Myspace-dom to vent on every stupid driver I've ever encountered in the 23 years I've been driving.

I will say this. I wish the powers-that-be would recognize the importance of driver's ed for all licensed drivers. It should be required, in some form, prior to being able to obtain a driver's license. I insisted that Julia take it when it was offered as an elective and in two years, Tyler will be taking it and Kaitlyn the year after that or they can forget me taking them for that license!

If Vulcan still had his torch, he'd be telling you right now.."Keep it green"

You Always Hurt the One You Love

(Repost...orginally written & posted on Myspace on or about January 5, 2007)

You always hurt the one you love...
Current mood: confused

My husband, is NOT a morning person. I learned this pretty early on in our marriage. However, he was not always the person I find myself waking up with lately. During the time that we were dating, I will say, he had me fooled.He would call me each morning, bright and early, to make sure I was up, getting ready for work, tell me good morning and that he loved me. His voice was sweet and tender and he always knew just what to say. Usually his was the first voice I heard in the morning, even before my own. Being a single mom at the time, sometimes Julz would beat him to it, but not often. This practice started pretty early on in our relationship, stemming from our late night talks and early work shifts. I soon began to do in kind and at times we would race each other to see who could be the first to make the call. Sometimes one would pick up the phone to dial, only to find the other had called and the phone hadn't even had time to ring. We'd laugh and then neither would want to be the first to hang up. The romance of it all was enough to put my diabetes into high gear.

Well, as you would expect, once the shine had worn off our wedding rings, we went back to being normal, sane, selfish, grouchy morning people.

A typical work-day morning at our house, now starts with everyone hitting "snooze" and trying to catch those few last precious Z's before being forced to head out to work or school. The annoying buzzing all over the house begins about 5:40a.m. That gives each snoozer about two more "snoozes." However, if we are not on our feet at 6:00 a.m. sharp, we are officially LATE.

I don't know how it started, but somehow, everyone's inability to rise in a timely manner has come to be my personal responsibility. (Keep in mind, I am dealing with a grown adult male, an 18 year old with her own job, a 13 year old son and an 11 year old who wants to be 18.) Each time someone in our household is late, it is deemed my fault, regardless of the actual circumstances.

Case in point, not long ago, I was home on a much deserved vacation day, only to be blamed for everyone else oversleeping. Because I did not have to go to work, I did not feel the need to get up at 5:45a.m. that particular morning. Everyone knew that I was off prior to going to bed, but still expected me to bang on their door and make sure they were up and moving. Imagine that.

This being said, I have made it my personal mission to ensure that if anyone is going to be late or otherwise inconvenienced in any way in the morning, it will be me. Hey, what can I say, every other mom in America is doing the same thing. What we do for love.

While Tigger and Kit-Kat can shower the night before and rise fresh each morning, Darling Hubby, Julz, and I must have that morning shower to help us wake up, before we have access to caffeine. Trying to get three adults showered in the space of an hour is quite a challenge. Since he has to be at work at 7:00am, D/H, of course, gets to go first. His typical shower lasts about 25 minutes, of which the first 15 minutes are just standing, and a fart or two.

I usually use this time to make sure the kids are moving then I lay back down and try to catch a few Z's of my own. I then have to wait at least 10 minutes for the hot water to build back up, with Julia hot on my heels soon after. From time to time, I actually get up with the alarm clock and get to enjoy a hot, leisurely shower prior to 5:30, but somehow, that always seem to inconvenience the others, so it is rare that I try it.

There are no precedents in my house either. One morning D/H may be up and in the bathroom by 5:45, sometimes at 5:59, but he is ALWAYS in the shower at 6:00 or he is LATE. As was the case just yesterday, but a nasty traffic snarl on I-20 helped with his excuse. The kids are still out on holiday break, so not having them underfoot has helped as well.

So on this morning, when my husband, whom I love, was still snoozing a few minutes after 6:00, needless to say, it sent a panic through me. I jumped up and asked "Are you going to work today?" This was met with the usual, grunt I have come to know as his morning voice, and he started moving toward the bathroom.

This Christmas, at a family gift-swap, we recieved an I-Sing shower radio with digital clock. D/H put it in our shower sometime last week. If anyone else has one of these, I hope yours is better than ours, as the sound quality in our four-by-four fiberglass shower stall leaves much to be desired. From the bedroom it sounds as if someone is bathing one of the cats.

I have endured this noise during my snooze time for the past week and this morning, when the door opened prior to the mirror-wiping and hair-drying, I chose to address it. Big Mistake. My darling husband promptly slammed the door and finished his morning grooming ritual in the sauna-like environment he'd just created.

When he emerged a short time later, and headed for the kitchen, I followed him."What is the matter?" I asked,. "Why do you always start in the morning?" he shot back, "you're always criticizing!" "What did I do?!" I asked again, somewhat befuddled. "You're pissing me off, that's what," throwing up his hands, " and if you keep on, it's going to wake the kids."When I pressed for more details of my heinous actions, he cut me off mid-sentence. Knowing the limit before the "yell-o-meter" goes off, I retreated to the bedroom, on the verge of tears. He was gone before I got out of the shower.

I've mulled it over all day. Like the little things that we do for each other that we take for granted. For example: he always makes sure my cell phone is charged; I buy him Dt. Mountain Dews and stash them so the kids don't find them. I am really thankful for those little things, but I don't think I've told him lately. I don't think he realized that I wasn't trying to be difficult this morning. I was just trying to take care of him, and make some conversation.

Whoever said "you always hurt the ones you love" was right.

Maybe tomorrow I will wake him with "I love you" like the old days instead..

I am okay, but the SNAKE was not as lucky

(Repost...originally written & posted to Myspace on date listed below)
Tuesday, May 01, 2007

I am okay, but the SNAKE was not as lucky

Okay, I promised that when the swelling in my hand went down, I would tell everyone what happened. It has taken nearly a week for the swelling in my left ring finger to go down enough to stand to type more than a few sentences at a time. Before anyone gets all upset and worried, no, I did not suffer a snake bite, but I was injured nonetheless.

Tuesdays, as you know, are Chick-Flick nights at Cyndi's. Last Tuesday, was a particularly warm, sunny day and when I arrived, Cyndi was seated in the "green room", a section of her front porch enclosed in lattice, that is soon to be a screen porch. It contains a white wicker set with green cushions and green indoor/outdoor carpeting. I took my place on the wicker love seat and we chatted about how nice it was outside and various things that had gone on during the day. She had cut back some of the shrubs, so we had a better view of the neighborhood.

About fifteen minutes into my visit, Maddie, the 6 year old, came out , wearing just a t-shirt and her panties, to ask her mother some innocuous question. I commented on her choice of attire and how young ladies should think about such things before traipsing out onto the porch in full view of the neighborhood. She just stood there, starring out into space. I thought she was ignoring me, like sometimes she likes to do and Cyndi said "Did you hear what we are saying?" Her gaze was fixed on the wall between Cyndi and me. "Yeah, but…" her little voice trailed off. Cyndi and I followed her gaze and much to our surprise, hanging from the brick wall, was a large, brown and yellow snake!

His head had been less than a foot from my own, his body following the mortar line along the wall and up the corner. He was muddy brown with alternating yellow stripes. The middle of his body was perched atop a group of bamboo tiki torches leaned against the wall and his tail seemed melt into the corner just a few inches from the eave. He was about four feet long , about as thick as a silver dollar, with the exception of the section atop the tiki torches, a lump the size of a fist, evidence of his last meal. He did not blend into the red and black brick at all, so I do not see how we missed him!

Contrary to my own belief, I did not have a heart attack on the spot, but it's a thousand wonders we did not kill each other trying to escape the green room. We stood in the alcove by the front door, with our hands over our hearts and tried to collect ourselves. Maddie summoned the other children, who had to come see the yet-to-be-identified snake. Mac, the oldest child and resident animal enthusiast, excitedly took pictures of our unwelcome visitor with Meryn peering from behind her, squealing. Matt-Matt, the baby, was all underfoot, unsure as to what exactly was happening, but happy to be in the fray.

It was soon established that Cyndi owned no gardening tools. We discussed several, less than savory methods of dispatching the reptile and the consequences and clean up methods of each. We decided to summon Russell, the neighbor, not because he was male, but because he was surely better equipped (and most certainly owned a weapon of some description) to handle the situation.

I was left to "watch the snake," who seemed somewhat oblivious to the pandemonium raging just a few feet from him, while Cyndi walked across to Russell's. As she walked across his yard, it dawned on me that perhaps the neighbor boy up the street who cuts the grass may have some sort of garden implements we could use when it happened. Never taking my eye off the snake, I stepped to my left to lean out of the alcove and share my epiphany. I lost my footing and fell off the porch onto the scalloped concrete edging that separated the flower bed from the walkway. My full weight came down on my left hand, gripping my cell phone like a vice and my left elbow and hip came down on the edger like a sack of potatoes. But I never dropped my cell nor did I take my eyes off the snake.

Throbbing and bleeding, I scrambled to my feet. I hurt everywhere at once and jumping up too quickly made me feel faint. I couldn't gather enough breath to yell at Cyndi, who was returning, alone, from Russell's. All I could do was repeat " I fell, I fell," over and over. While she called her boyfriend (who was out on a call and no where near close enough to rescue us), I went in to wash my hands and survey the damage. The heel of my left hand was scrapped and bloody, as was my left wrist down to my elbow and two fingers. The nail of my left ring finger was so scratched up, all the nail polish was gone. This finger was also rapidly swelling and turning a lovely eggplant color. The whole left leg of my pants was muddy, but thankfully, and surprisingly not torn, despite the fact the skin underneath was cut up and bleeding from my hip to my knee. I changed into a pair of Cyndi's lounging pants and went back onto the porch.

David had suggested we call the city, to see what type of animal control they may have. The dispatcher promised that someone would be out right away and soon we were joined by two of Moody's finest boys in blue. Apparently the fire department felt the police were better equipped to handle this, given they had guns.

The banter between us and the nervous officers would fill this blog alone, so I will just paraphrase for the sake of time and space. The first officer informed us he would be unable to shoot the snake because of its position on the brick wall (Well Duh!) . He attempted to pick the snake up with his extendable baton, something the snake wanted no part of. The second officer, who kept reminding us that he was not sure his salary covered this type of public service, used the tiki torch and together they attempted to move the increasingly agitated snake.

Mr NoShoulders let go of his hold on the wall and dropped to the floor between the love seat and the chair, attempting to hide under the table in between. The first officer tried to loop the snake around the baton, while the second held the cup-end of the tiki torch down over its head, all the while leaning over an assortment of furniture in the corner of the green room. "Oh if I only had a machete' this would be over real quick" the first officer lamented. Cyndi & I exchanged our "Oh, I could have had a V8" look and she excused herself to go back in the house.

I know that I have mentioned before that my best friend is a black belt. At this time, may I add, she is well versed in several types of martial arts weaponry and actually owns those in which she is proficient.

She returned a few moments later. "Will this do?" she asked grinning, stealthily unsheathing her 36 inch Samurai sword from its scabbard. The officers looked at her, then at each other and agreed in unison that the sword would more than do the trick.

Officer One made quick work of the snake and soon removed its writhing, headless body from the green room. Officer Two was enthralled, asking Cyndi about the disciplines she'd studied and the other types of weaponry she could use. She was showing him a short sword kata when the third police car pulled up.

"Oh great, " I said to Cyndi, "What on earth are your neighbors gonna think? You're in the front yard with a Samurai sword, I'm bleeding all over the place and there are three police cars in your drive way.

"Oh well, they already think we're a "special couple" anyway.

Jesus Died for Everyone, Even The Jerk in the Jetta

(Repost...originally written & posted on Myspace on date listed below)
Friday, April 06, 2007
Jesus Died For Everyone, Even the Jerk in the Jetta
Current mood: irate

It is Good Friday, the beginning of the most holy time in the Christian calendar, and I am already started out on the wrong foot. So I thought I'd share it with you, so that you can be just as ill and befuddled as I am now.

On my way home from the office, I decided to stop at Chili's and pick up an order of their chips and salsa. If you haven't had them, I highly recommend them! The salsa has just the right kick and the chips are thin and crispy with just the right amount of salt. When I decide I want them, my "taster is set," as my daddy would say, and nothing else will do. I order them so often, that Chili's number is saved in my phone. I call in my order when I reach Edward's Lake Road, so by the time I pull up in the To Go lane, they are standing there with the bag. I am sure this is why they ask, not only my name, but also what kind of car I am driving.

Today was no different, except that I took a little detour by TJ Maxx that is right behind Chili's, so I was a little later than usual getting into line. No problem, it's just chips & salsa. It's not like I've got a rack of baby-backs cooling off and potentially breeding some mysterious and deadly pork-borne food poision.

When I reach Chili's, they are as packed as any other on a Friday night. I am third in the to-go line, behind a silver Jetta.Now anyone who has ever had to go thru a drive thru has, from time to time, been asked to "pull up" to wait until their food is ready. This usually happens to Cyndi and me because we are usually trying to feed an army of hungry chilldren and we have placed an astronomical order. Usually, someone, or several someones, with smaller orders get their food before us. It happens. I understand the concept of moving people thru the line as quickly as possible and meeting the orders that can be met. I've worked in Customer Service long enough to realize that you do what you can do and that's all you can do. Clear the line. Don't have a problem with it and I don't mind waiting.

Usually, my little chips & salsa order is considered a small order, and often, knowing I am the silver Saturn, when they see me waiting, they bring my small order while others are still waiting for their food.

I sat patiently as the young man handling the to-go orders went back and forth handling the customer in the first car. He was apparently manning the to-go line by himself, because he never looked back down the line at the other cars waiting. After about 10 minutes, the first car got their food and moved out of the line. The silver Jetta in front of me inched forward and I followed close behind. To-Go Man bebopped up to the Jetta with a ticket in hand, and soon disappered back in the glass door. He made this trip several more times in the space of about 10 more minutes, still not acknowledging anyone else in the line.After a few more minutes, I decided to just see if my little order was ready and I would be one less person waiting. Obviously, Mr Jetta had a sizeable order that was being cooked while he waited. So I hopped out of my car and went in the to-go door. As I had suspected, my order was sitting on the counter.

The manager, a very short, dark-haired man named Joe, met me in the alcove and asked if he could help me. I told him that I had ordered chips and salsa close to 45 minutes ago and thought I would see if I could go ahead and get them. He checked the bag on the counter, verified it was my order, and handed the ticket to To-Go Man and handed me the bag. Little Joe also gave me a little magnet with the Chili's To-Go logo and phone number on it in appreciation of my patience.

Just as I thanked Little Joe for the magnet and assured him it would be put to good use, Mr Jetta, whom I will from here further refer to as The Jerk in the Jetta (or JJ for short) snatched open the to-go door."Are you waiting on her or are you waiting on me!" he yelled, startling everyone standing in the alcove. "There is a line you know!" Joe responded that they were preparing his order, and with that JJ closed the door. He began pacing like a caged tiger under the canopy between the door and his car. He looked to be one of those uptight, Junior executive types, who had just spent his only off day in three months lugging the CEO's clubs around the country club. He was dressed in khaki's, an all-weather pull over with a logo I couldn't make out, a matching visor and a Bluetooth blinked like a strobe on the side of his head.

To-Go Man swipped my card and hastily handed me the slip to sign as he went about printing JJ's ticket. I laid my signed ticket on the counter and as I turned to leave, JJ again snatched open the door.

"I'm sorry," I said smiling, "I only had chips and salsa." I unlocked my car with the remote and started to get in.

"Oh and that makes your order more important than mine?!" He yelled. "Excuse me?!" I responded, shocked . "That was very rude, there was a line!" JJ retorted. To-Go Man was standing next to him, trying valiantly to hand him the ticket to sign. "There's such a thing as manners you know." I couldn't believe this was happening. "It was just chips and salsa" I repeated. "And that is SOOO important" he repeated."No, it's not more important, but I didn't see the point in waiting 45 minutes for chips and salsa that was already ready" I was starting to get a little hot. I was an hour past taking my second blood-pressure pill of the day, and I could feel my heart starting to rev up. I couldn't believe this jerk was getting so torqued. "I was first, there was a line, but if your time is SOOO much more important.." JJ yelled at me again.

I knew I'd better get in my car and get out before I clocked JJ with my precious chips and salsa that I had waited an hour to get and wound up having to call someone to get me out of jail for assault with a deadly condiment. "Some people have no manners" he yelled again, signing the ticket with a flourish.

What the hell did this have to do with manners? Obviously JJ had never had to pull up and wait for his food, while smaller orders were handled around him. Maybe that strobing Bluetooth was causing a mini-seizure that triggered some long dormant case of Tourettes.

I was beginning to see my pulse in my eyeballs, and in one last ditch effort to get the last word, I leaned out my half open door, car running and yelled "JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVE A PENIS DOES NOT MAKE YOU MORE IMPORTANT THAT EVERYBODY!" With that I slammed my door and drove off. As I turned left onto Highway 11 and passed back in front of Chili's I saw JJ jesturing wildly at To-Go Man and Little Joe.

You know how after you have a confrontation you can think of a thousand great things to say? Well on the drive from Trussville to Moody, my brain was working overtime. I felt bad for To-Go Man, who I was sure was now in trouble for my inpertenance. I decided to call back and make sure he was not reprimanded for what happened.

Little Joe answered my call. I told him who I was and that I wanted to call and apologize for what had happened and make sure that To-Go Man did not get into trouble. I explained that I ordered chips and salsa often and was often helped out of turn, while other customers ahead of me waited for their larger orders. He told me that To-Go Man was a rookie, and he would revisit the procedure and assured me that he was in no trouble. I even apologized for arrogant JJ, who should have apologized for himself . Little Joe thanked me for my call and my willingness to apologize. He said that I was the type of customer that Chili's wanted and thanked me for being a loyal customer and that he looked forward to the opportunity to serve me again.

Some what vindicated, I drove on to Cyndi's where I was to watch her children while she went out on a much deserved dinner alone with her honey. I recounted my story, my blood still at near boiling. She was impressed with the cleverness of my final retort. (Of course she would be, it sounded more like something she would have said herself than something I'd have come up with on my own,) I began to rattle off the things I should have said that I'd thought of on the drive home."I wish I'd had the presence of mind to say 'Happy Easter to you too' instead." I said remorsefully, "You know, made him feel bad for being such a jerk." Then Cyndi, my ever-clever bossom buddy responded, "No, what you should have said was 'And to think, it never ceases to amaze me, that Jesus died for you too."

And so He did.

And we will be celebrating His triumph over death and the grave in two days time.I'll be the one down front, on the altar, begging forgiveness for wanting chips and salsa.

Patriotism & Thankfulness

(Repost...originally written & posted on Myspace on date listed below)
Friday, January 12, 2007

Patriotism & Thankfulness

In my previous blogs I've tried to be somewhat comical, but today I'm going to be serious.Given Pres.Bush's recent decision to send more troops to the Middle East, and the apparent terror attack on the US Embassy in Greece, I thought you might need to see another side of me.
My patriotism.

I was born and raised in tiny Leeds, Alabama, a city east of Birmingham just off I-20. Yes, that is also the home of basketball legend, Charles Barkley, ( a really nice guy once you get to know him, as most of us from Leeds do. He truly lives up to his quote "It's not what you have, it's what you give back.") but that is a story for another day.Leeds has been recognized as a City of Valor, having more decorated war veterans than any other city of it's size, in the country. (

This distinction includes three Medal of Honor reciepients; Henry "Red" Erwin, Alford Mclaughlin, & William R. Lawley.

Bill Lawley was my grandfather's cousin and a boyhood companion.Read more about him here ( )

One of my favorite stories of their friendship, was when he accidently shot my grandfather in the leg, while chasing a wounded rabbit. My grandfather carried that bullet the rest of his life. He'd tell the story, then rub our fingers along the side of the bullet, lodged just to the inside of his shin, above his ankle. I always thought it was a funny little story.

I do not recall ever seeing Alford McLaughlin, outside of pictures, but I remember vividly the first time I ever met Red Erwin. Severely burned from a phosphorous bomb, he barely resembled anything human. His face was disfigured, he was missing his nose and an ear and only had two fingers on one hand. When I was small, I was terrified of him. He personified what the boogeyman might actually look like. It was not until I was older, when I learned how he was injured, that I understood and appreciated his sacrifice. When he would come into the store I worked at in high school, I remember he was quiet and kind, and had very nice blue eyes.

In November of 1999, Alabama legislature named Highway 119 "Medal of Honor Highway" and dedicated it to these heroes.( )

Everytime I hear the National Anthem played, I cry a little. Always have. Have you ever noticed that it was written during and about the heat of battle? I am reminded, each time, of Americans that have fought for this country and my freedom.Military families currently top my prayer list.They are what is keeping our military going. So many parents, both mothers and fathers, are currently serving our country. Families having to get by, day to day, with their loved one so far away.

I wonder if they are hurt by some of the things they see other American's saying about the war. The crass, insensitive comment made by John Kerry springs to mind. I know I'm ashamed to admit people like him are Americans too. I wonder if he thinks about that when he hears the National Anthem.

If freedom was something that everyone had to work for, like a salary, do you think that we'd appreciate it a little more?

The Lawley family boasts a long line of military service: not only my grandfather, but all his brothers, my father, and brother as well. My husband's family has a rich military history also.My husband, his father, an uncle and both grandfather's also served our country. I am certain they followed the example of generations before them, who felt it was not only a duty, but an honor.This dedication to service is also found in the families of my friends. My best friend's father lost his leg in Vietnam, before she was born. Even though I see him often, I can't begin to imagine what that was like.Cyndi has never known him any other way.

Cyn, Darling Hubby, Me...we all learned early on, what is probably the most valuable lesson any American could learn: our freedom isn't free.I take a lot of things for granted in my life, but that fact is not one of them. I wonder if the war protesters realize that they have the right to assemble freely and protest, because someone died for it? Or may die for it tomorrow.

I have friends in all branches of service, all across the globe. Some are in harms way as you read this. Some are unpacking from their assignments, some are packing for deployment.Cyndi's little brother Sean will soon be deployed to his second tour of duty in the Middle East. Here at home are his wife and three small boys, ages 6,4 and the youngest nearly 2.Over Christmas, we talked about his first tour. He told me about not being able to shower for nearly two months; having to burn their clothes because of a possible bio-threat; sand in everything; the unimaginable heat and the surprising cold; going for weeks with no mail, then getting a month's worth all at once. He was different from the person I used to know. Harder somehow. As he spoke, it was all I could do not to cry and grab him and hug him and tell him thank you, over and over again.

I know that there are people right now, boarding buses somewhere with their little signs, to go and demonstrate about Pres. Bush's latest decision. And that is all well and good for them.But I challenge them to use just a portion of that energy to say "thank you" to someone preserving that freedom of speech.

As for my family from Moody,AL, we would like to say THANK YOU to our military personnel. We are praying for you as you serve.