I just have a lot to say.

Archive for the ‘PONDERINGS’ Category

January 31st, 2018 by

Well, I Come from Alabama

Several years ago, I let my subscription to Southern Living lapse. I thought superiorly, I just don’t read magazines anymore. I’ve been concerned about my own lapsing “Southern-ness” ever since.

I feel like the decline began when I started eating lunch at noontime and dinner in the evening (except on Sundays, of course). I’ll declare, there are just too many things about me that belie my Bible Belt beginnings. 

I don’t fry chicken. I tried a few times as a young woman, but I was far too impatient. I fry chicken fingers occasionally, but I buy them pre-breaded at Sam’s.

Chuck grew up in Memphis. I have been there 100 times since I met him in 1982, and I have never been to Graceland.

I have been to New York City, but I have never been to Savannah or Charleston or New Orleans.

I raised my children to eat boiled peanuts like they’re mother’s milk, but I have never boiled them myself. 

I deleted make a quilt and put up pickles from my bucket list.

I have never read Faulkner nor seen a Tennessee Williams play nor been to Monroeville for the springtime outdoor production of To Kill a Mockingbird.

None of my children has a double name.

I haven’t been fishin’ since Daddy died in 1978.

I don’t love a tomato sandwich. (See, I said tomato sandwich not ‘mater samich. That’s pure shameful.)

My children have never chewed sugar cane nor shelled a single pea.

I attend a church that is too large and fancy for dinner on the ground. We have churchwide luncheons.

I have been to the Grand Ole Opry only once, and it was for a show choir competition, for heaven’s sake.

I warm frozen biscuits, and I don’t make gravy.

I buy sweet tea at the grocery store. Not always, but enough to be ashamed of myself.

Bless my heart. I ain’t no better than a damn Yankee. I might as well plan for my children to be married on Iron Bowl weekend and prepare for my mansion to be in the North of Glory. Dadgummit! Is there anything of my heritage left in me? Have all those years of watching the Today show homogenized me? Who in tarnation am I, if I am not a daughter of Dixie? Surely I have some redeemable Southern traits. Surely my upbringing wasn’t all in vain. 

Well, by golly . . .

I have seen Rock City.

I taught myself to fry okra and cornbread, since Mama and Granny are dead; and my cornbread rivals theirs, if I do say so myself.

I cook a mean pot of butterbeans—not lima beans, and with a hambone—not Goya.  

I poured peanuts in my bottled Coke that I pulled from the machines at Daddy’s shop. 

Little Granny taught me gratefulness by muttering in sweltering heat, “I sure am glad I don’t have to pick cotton today.” She was mighty happy with a bowl of pot likker and a skillet of pone cornbread for supper.

I know what red dirt smells like.

I visited Helen Keller’s birthplace in Tuscumbia, Alabama.

I named a dog Magnolia.

Andy Griffith helped me raise my children.

My second cousin married Pat Conroy. Our granddaddies were brothers and best friends. Mine manufactured church pews. Hers farmed peanuts. 

I know that the sweetest sound on earth is a squeaking porch swing to a background chorus of crickets and bullfrogs, and the sweetest taste is a Chilton County peach.

I remember a country store down the road from both of my grandmothers’ houses with a slamming screen door and wide plank hardwood floors.

The muddy water of the Chattahoochee River is my Tara.

I agree that “He Stopped Loving Her Today” is the Greatest Country Music Song Ever Written.

I remember the excitement of passing through North Carolina on vacations and buying Orange Crush.

I buy Golden Flake potato chips, Bama jelly, and Sessions peanut oil.

I had great aunts named Effie Dell and Josie Bell.

One of the best date nights Chuck and I ever had was to a Willie Nelson concert at the Dothan Civic Center. I had the shingles and Chuck had the flu (there’s a country music song waiting to be written), but Willie sang “Seven Spanish Angels” and “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” and we plumb forgot.

I have a vague 5-year-old’s memory of viewing Daddy Byrd’s body at his house, but I don’t know who sat up with it.

I have never attended a barbecue, but I savor every bite–and lick my fingers. 

I married a guitar picker. He plays “Amazing Grace,” “Old Rugged Cross,” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” and it sounds like a back rub. I sure hope one of my girls marries a fiddle player.

I wave as I pass strangers, and I’ve been known to ask, “Who are your people?”

I recently downloaded Rick Bragg to my Nook—and renewed my Southern Living subscription.

Strap a banjo on my knee, Susannah; I might be ah’ight after all.


December 20th, 2017 by


“The world is starving for Hope,” proclaim both preacher and politician. Barack Obama’s presidential platform was Hope. Bill Clinton’s campaign touted him A Man from Hope. We name our daughters Hope. We sing about that little ole ant:

He’s got high Hope! He’s got high Hope! He’s got high, apple pie, in the sky Hope!

“Tomorrow is another day!” proclaims hopeful Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind.

At the end of our story, we sigh, “All we had was Hope. We never lost Hope.”

Ah, Hope. Some days I hate Hope.

Hope precedes the interview, then the email: “Thank you for your interest, but we chose someone better than you.”

Hope buoys for the follow up doctor’s visit: “It’s worse than we thought.”

Hope gets flushed down the toilet month after month after month when menstruation starts.

Hope yo-yos. 

Hope lends a hand up, then shoves you back into the dumps.

Hope breathes life into your soul, then sucks it out again.

Hope devastates.

“If only I hadn’t gotten my Hope up.”

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick . . . .” (Proverbs 13:12a)

“The miserable have no other medicine. But only Hope.” (Claudio in Shakespeare’s Measure by Measure)

Hope manages easier during daylight. “The tigers come at night,” Eponine sings in Les Miserables, “with their voices soft as thunder, as they tear your Hope apart.” And rob you of your sleep.

But sometimes, even in waking hours, Hopeless befriends kinder than Hope.

Hopeless never turns its back.

Hopeless never hurts feelings.

Hopeless is consistent, constant, steady.

“Things are going to get a lot worse before they get worse,” instructs wise Lily Tomlin.

I twist my hair and suck my cheeks. I hold hands with Hopeless.

The tall friend forces eye contact. “Are you okay?”

“I’m never okay. I just usually hide it better.”

Into the safety of the darkness, a sunbeam slips. Like Bert in Mary Poppins, I feel a subtle wind change.

“Uh oh,” I confess to a beloved, “I’m feeling hopeful. Please talk me down off the ledge.”

She giggles and encourages, “Give up! All Hope is lost!” Then admits, “Who wants another day if it looks like this one?”

Stupid, stupid Hope.

Emily Dickinson calls Hope “the thing with feathers.”

Alexander Pope rhymes it “springs eternal in the human breast.” 

Apostle Paul lists it in 1 Corinthians 13:13 as one of only three things that last: Faith, Hope, Love.

“If you had lost all your Hope, I wouldn’t be here, and here I am.” (Fairy Godmother in Disney’s Cinderella)

“. . . but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12b)

Oops! There goes another rubber tree plant.

Dadgum. It’s bubbling up again.


November 21st, 2017 by

Happy Thanksgiving, regardless

Dear Father in Heaven, 

Thank you for mamas and daddies.

Thank you for little boys and little girls.

Thank you for sunbeams and raindrops. 

Thank you for a taste of something salty to chase the sweet. 

Thank you that the leaves change colors and fall off the trees and that they grow back again, green and shiny. 

Thank you for percussion and woodwind and brass, for the sweet music they make together, for the melody and the harmony.

Thank you for villages, communities, casseroles.

Thank you for folks who work in the kitchen and those who work the front counter, for folks who come early and those who stay late. 

Thank you for the smart ones who think they’re not funny and the funny ones who think they’re not smart.  

Thank you for integrated preschool classes, full of special friends and typical kids. 

Thank you for Pentecostals and Primitive Baptists. 

Thank you for red, brown, yellow, black, and white. 

Thank you for righties and lefties. 

Thank you for Democrats and Republicans, that each keeps the other from their own Too Much. 

Thank you for seesaws and swing sets. 

Thank you for the famines, so we can appreciate the feasts. Forgive us when we whine about overeating. 

Thank you for the powder white sand of the Gulf of Mexico and the cool, red dirt of the Deep South, for seaweed and pine straw, for scuttling hermit crabs and croaking tree frogs, for grouper and catfish.

Thank you for high tide and low, for ebb and flow, for flora and fauna. 

Thank you for hard copy books and e-readers. 

Thank you for accountants and plumbers, for electricians and architects, for doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs. 

Thank you that azaleas and dogwoods bloom in their season. Forgive us when we whine about sneezes and itchy eyes. Thank you for antihistamines. 

Thank you for the old men who ignore the old women who complain about being ignored by the old men. 

Thank you for AC units and hot water heaters. 

Thank you for peas and cornbread, for biscuits and gravy, for peanut butter and jelly.

Thank you for the spiders that make the webs to catch the bugs, for vacuum cleaners that battle the webs, and for the itsy bitsy spider who goes up the spout again. 

Thank you for flat irons for curly-haired girls and curling irons for straight-haired girls. 

Thank you for those who iron blue jeans and tee shirts and for those who prefer a dryer toss.

Thank you for the Iron Bowl. 

Thank you for fat, squishy newborn hands and old, wrinkly wisened ones.

Thank you for deep and wide, for joy, joy, joy, joy, for peace like a river.

Thank you for each new day, for yet another chance, for 360 degrees, for the Circle that remains unbroken. 

Thank you for grace. 

And for the gifts we so abundantly receive,



October 17th, 2017 by

A Dip in the Temp

She put on a jacket for the first time this season. Fall is always late to show in Alabama. It’s her favorite. She loves blue jeans and turtlenecks and cardigan sweaters. She loves autumnal shadows.

She walked across the park where she works part-time. She opened the doors to the schoolhouse and saw little children sitting in rows, practicing arithmetic on slates. She saw the older girls helping the younger students. She saw the little boys daydreaming about recess.

She opened the doors to the church house, and Shall We Gather at the River bellowed out, all four parts. She saw three generations on one pew. She smelled the fried chicken, brought to be be shared after preaching. She hoped the sermon would be light on hellfire and heavy on Love Your Neighbor.

She raised the flag by the gazebo. She apologized to Old Glory for her lack of adeptness. She was respectful in attitude, but her process lacked poetry. She blamed the fact that she wasn’t a Boy Scout, or even a good Girl Scout. She thought about the United States of America and pondered if most folks are as troubled as the ones who get the attention. She thought about how tired her soul is and wondered where the loud ones find the energy for the anger. She laughed—and cringed—about the time the sun pierced her eyes as she pulled the ropes to lift the stars and stripes. And how the men and women from the Army came that day to volunteer. And how she greeted them one by one at the gate with a cheerful Thank you for your time and for your service! And how she was so proud to be there. And how one of the soldiers asked, “Why is the flag upside down?”

Oh good Lord.

She unlocked the farmhouse and watched the wind nudge the empty porch swing back and forth. She heard Charlotte the Pineywoods cow declare her delight at the softer temperature. She thought:

Perhaps I would like to have lived 100 years ago, in a time sandwiched somewhere between the Civil War and the Great War . . . I like staying home and working around the house with all my babies nearby . . . I like moving slower and more purposefully . . . I like avoiding makeup and pulling my hair back . . . I despise modern Christmas Chaos . . . I could keep the women at the quilting bees in stitches . . . I wish I had lived next door to my sisters. Our children could have played outside together every day. Taking care of Mama and Granny and Aunt Betty would have been easier. Not easy. But less difficult . . . From a distance, life seems to have been simpler. Not simple. But less difficult.

Definitely, she thought, I’d like a turn-of-the-last century life.

With indoor plumbing, of course.

And air conditioning. She’s never experienced Alabama in August without AC, and she’s too old to start.

Oh! The mosquito truck! The South must be dusted weekly in summers with mosquito spray!

But that’s it. That’s all she needs. She can revert to hard copy books and lined-paper journals and walking to the country store. Easy peasey.

Oops. She forgot about the Chickfila drive-thru. And cute-and-comfy shoes. And Excedrin.

Well, if she could have those things, she’d move back in time tomorrow.

At the end of the day, she locked up the farmhouse, said goodbye to the make-believe schoolchildren, and silenced the imaginary parishioners. She folded the flag without letting it touch the ground.

She picked up Chinese on her way home.

After supper, she changed a load of laundry, took the trash to the road, and eased into a long, hot bath with an ice cold glass of sweet tea. Later, she grabbed her iPad and tucked herself into a bug-less bed. She scrolled through Facebook and wished happy birthday to friends she hasn’t seen in years, then she browsed Netflix for a new show to binge on. 


April 16th, 2016 by

Life’s Not a Highway

“Life,” someone much wiser than I once declared, “is about the journey, not the destination.” For vacation, though, the opposite is now true.

Hurry up and get there!

Enjoy it until the last second!

Hurry home and back to real life!

While I certainly love the destination, I have recently decided about myself that for my whole life, I have preferred the trip.

When I was a little girl, my family sang on road trips, like the Brady Bunch when they drove to the Grand Canyon. We had the same car, the station wagon with the seat in the back, only without as many people. We sang church songs and camp songs and Girl Scout songs in rounds.

When my sisters turned into college students and I was still a girl, we traveled some in the summers, just Mama and Daddy and me. They would lay the back seat down and make me a pallet with a sleeping bag and pillow, since we didn’t have seat belt laws. I would read my library books and snack on packages of Toast Chee crackers and little jugs of Barber’s chocolate milk. Daddy liked to drive until the wee hours. I remember watching the street lamps go by until I fell asleep to the




of the old road, rocking me like it was my mama’s heartbeat.

I like car trips with my children, too. I like packing the snack bag and passing out Goldfish and Blow Pops. The kids holler, “BOAT RAMP!” when we pass a boat ramp and, “PENSKE!!!” when we pass a Penske. No one remembers when or why this started. They promise me that if one of us ever sees a Penske truck at a boat ramp, that person will be the Winner. We will take a picture and declare the game finally Over.

If Chuck is on the trip, we listen to classic country radio. At the beginning of every song, he asks, “Who wrote this?!” We all yell, “Kris Kristofferson!” as our first guess. Then, “Buddy Buie!” as our second. Since most songs were not written by either man, we are usually wrong, and he will tell us who wrote it, because he always knows.

If it’s just the kids and me, we listen to Wicked and Les Miserables and Hairspray. We defy gravity and ponder what our God in heaven has in store when tomorrow comes, while shaking and shimmying with the nicest kids in town.

I even like going “there and back” all in a day. I like driving to the beach for lunch. I like taking a kid to Atlanta to the airport. I am not offended that everyone is going somewhere besides me. I like smelling the adventure and wondering where they are off to, then kissing my baby good-bye and hopping into the car, excited for the solitude on the way home. Alone, I listen to hymns or audio books or the quiet.

Actually, I have a solo trip on my Bucket List. I’m really quite an introvert. When raise children is sufficiently marked off my To Do List, when the Deadlines have mostly been met, I’m going to saddle up a car one day and ride off by myself for a bit.  I’m not going to have a plan. I’m going to set the AC where I want it, a little warmer than everybody else likes it. I’m going to let the windows down or maybe leave them up. I’m going to drive until I decide to stop. I’m going take 10 hours to go 100 miles, if I want to.

I’ll take mostly back roads to wherever I’m going. I won’t venture too far off the highway, because I’m not foolish. I want to be able to get to a gas station and a rest room. I want AAA to be able to find me, if necessary. I’ll look for two-lane roads that dance with the interstate, like US 11 does with I-59 between Birmingham and Chattanooga. Maybe by then I’ll know how to work a GPS or talk to Siri, but maybe I won’t. I know how to read a map, and talking to strangers is one of the few things I’m good at.

When I get stuck behind a large piece of farm equipment moving from field to field, I will be glad that I’m not in a hurry.

I’ll stop to eat at local dives with the most cars parked nearby.

I’ll order the daily special and a side of okra at places called Mom’s or Pop’s or Granny’s. I’ll ask for my sweet tea to be cut in half. Sweet tea soothes my soul, but I don’t like syrup. “Forgive me, please, but top mine off with a little of the Yankee brew.”

I’ll eat supper at a BBQ joint owned by an old black man named Willie and an old white man named Bubba, who have been friends for 50 years, whose relationship began as cook and proprietor but now is a partnership. They will still laugh at their motto We Like Big Butts, because the word butt makes boys giggle, regardless of their age.

I’ll return to the BBQ joint for breakfast to have my eggs scrambled on the greasy griddle and to taste their biscuits. Willie and Bubba will have a long-standing argument over whose grandmama’s recipe it was.

I’ll dine at girlie places with frou-frou names like The Hummingbird Café, where the specialties are chicken salad plates and mimosas, where the only males are the teenager who buses the tables and the preschool boy with his mama on her lunch date with her girlfriends. He will play in his own world with his toy truck and plastic dinosaur. He will mimic the noises that tiny pickups and miniature prehistoric beasts make when they battle. He will have his shirt tucked in.

I will go to church on Sundays. One week, I will attend the big box church where the dynamic preacher and the praise band lead a pep rally for Jesus. The next week, I’ll visit the little church with the large steeple, where the children sit on the pew beside their grandparents and their great-grandmother who was recently moved to an assisted living home, where the little girls wear long smocked dresses and the little boys have their hair slicked down in “church hair,” as Phillip used to call it. Each time, I will follow the crowd to the Sunday dinner buffet. I’ll pile my plate high with their version of chicken and rice. I will try the squash casserole and note that Angie’s tastes better. I’ll smile sneakily and superiorly that their butter beans are not as good as mine, because they didn’t cook them slow enough nor long enough. I’ll debate over lemon ice box or pecan pie, then I’ll get both because no one will be looking. I’ll spy the coconut cake and grin, knowing that if Chuck were with me he would say, “I wish I could have a piece of Aunt Josephine’s coconut cake just one more time.”

I’ll eat in places that used to be something else, like the old movie theater that wasn’t torn down or the T G & Y, that a young couple renovated when they returned to town after college and a few years in the big city.

I will taste French fries and homemade potato chips every chance I get.

I will whisper “God bless America” when I hear Kenny Rogers crooning, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em” at the non-chain Chinese restaurant with Wall or Dragon in its name.

I’ll shop at junque stores named for attics and treasures. I’ll touch every dusty thing that reminds me of Granny’s and Mama King’s houses, but I won’t buy anything until I get to the front counter and see the self-published book printed locally, written by a friend of the owner. I will pick it up and thumb through it and pull a folded $10 bill out of my back pocket.

I will take a photo of every homemade sign that reads “Tanning and Tackle” or “Haircuts and Beer.”

I will complain out loud to no one in particular that there is a Dollar General on every corner in the USA. Then, I will stop at many of them, picking up what I need: lip balm, a phone charger, a package of Toast Chee and a jug of Barber’s chocolate milk. I will not need tampons, because this trip will not happen until I don’t need those.

I will most likely avoid local motels. On those late nights with my parents, Daddy frequently wanted a few more miles behind us. I remember getting stranded occasionally without reservations, when a convention was in town. I remember him banging on the doors of managers to wake them up to find a room in a sketchy motel, before we even said “sketchy motel.” I remember the quiet in the car the next day, when Mama wasn’t ready to let go of her fury from the night before.

I’ll be content to earn points at the Holiday Inn Express with a comfy mattress and wifi. I’ll stay at the hotel one day to do my laundry. I’ll take my recently purchased self-published book with me to the pool where I will doze in the sun and listen to a young family play. The kids will climb out and jump in and climb out and jump in. They will tattle to Mommy, “Daddy is playing too rough!!” Then, they will squeal, “Do it again, Daddy!!”

I will suddenly miss my own family and decide it’s time to go home. When I get home, folks will ask me, “What sites did you see on your trip?” I’ll reply, “None.”

“What did you buy?”


“Where did you go?”


Life's Not a Highway


November 13th, 2014 by

Because I Said So

In this era of political correctness, tolerance, and “Blurred Lines,” boundaries are disappearing. Distinct black and white blend to a murky grey. More and more, we make our own Truth these days.

But not at my house.

At my house, certain long-standing, non-negotiable, hard-and-fast rules exist and must not be broken.

At my house, we attempt to have gratitude in our hearts every day of the year, and we do not listen to Christmas music until the day after Thanksgiving. We devour it for the season, promptly pack it away before school returns to session, and do not pull it out again for 10 ½ months. (Wiggle room exists for choir or band practice, but we are not to enjoy it.)

My mama’s rule was No Cheering in the Kitchen. She did not care that the beautiful plate glass window showed a brilliant reflection of a perfect hurky.

Another Conner canon states The Book Must Be Read before the Movie Is Watched and/or Series Are to Be Consumed in Order. My friend Jordan is a willy-nilly book reader/movie watcher. She WATCHED HP and the Goblet of Fire before she ever READ HP and the Sorcerer’s Stone. This is unacceptable behavior. One comes before 2; a comes before b; doe comes before re. (At times I struggle to fathom how I can befriend someone with such a blatant disregard for natural order.)

Fried chicken must be eaten at family reunions and washed down with sweet tea. (I believe this to be a universal truth.)

At the lake, you don’t wear makeup. Or, you don’t wear makeup at the lake. (Either rule is acceptable.)

When Jeremy showed up for a funeral with a five-oclock shadow (probably more of about a 4:30 one), Starla decided then and there, “If you’re wearing a tie, you have to shave.” These are words to live by.

When I told Little Granny that the ultrasound detected TWO heartbeats, she wisely instructed, “You know their names have to rhyme.” I am a rule follower most of the time, but I didn’t obey this one. I just wasn’t sure who was going to enforce it. However, I did look over my shoulder for a while and whisper my newborns’ names when in public, because you never know who is eavesdropping in the next booth at Larry’s BBQ.

I have a new decree that needs to have the kinks worked out. It is called No Drumming until You Are Dressed. Every morning, the Boy gets out of the shower, puts on his clothes, and begins to drum on every imaginable surface. I holler, “No drumming until you are dressed!” He replies, “I am dressed!” While his hair is not combed nor his teeth brushed, he is technically dressed. I haven’t given up on the wording of this mandate yet, because No Drumming until You Are Ready to Walk Out the Door and Your Backpack Is Packed Up Like It Should Have Been Done Last Night When I Told You To Do It just isn’t catchy.

I don’t care if you wear white after Labor Day, but at my house, you are not allowed to talk smack about High School Musical; you will help at Vacation Bible School; and you had better kiss your mama goodnight.


Bubba teeth


November 5th, 2014 by

Priceless Pics of My Pretty Peeps at the Peanut Parade


The parade route still went north on Foster, turned right at the old Houston Hotel, and proceeded south down Saint Andrews. Perhaps my sisters were old enough to drive. They were at least old enough to participate with peers. I was in a pickle. Mama was too pooped to plow through the plentiful crowd, and Daddy was back peddling.

“Do you want me to call the Pitmans and see if you can go with them? How about Becky or Evelyn? Are they going?”

“If I can’t go with you, I don’t want to go.”

“Lemme get my hat.”

The Southeast Alabama Community Theater had just performed its first play, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, starring my friend Sandi’s mom, Jo Peterson. She was a passenger on the SEACT float. Daddy hollered, “Are you down yet, Molly?!” She piped back, “NOT YET!”

I remember Kenny Rogers posing in a convertible. Possibly, it’s a phony memory. If so, please don’t reprimand it. I prefer to keep it.

NPF - float
Mama (on left) as Miss Newton (1952)
Mama Byrd made Mama’s pageant dress, displayed on our playroom wall.
sisters at parade

“The parade was fun for two smiling sisters, Angie (left) and Starla King. The daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Phillip King, 1304 Decatur St., used a coat against the chilly morning air,” stated the Sunday Dothan Eagle (1965).


My cousin, Brittany Shepard Pugh, rockin’ her Byrd blood (2005)

DSCN0644 - Copy

Rowdy Boltons (and Halla and Jordan Lee) make everything, well, rowdier (2005).

NPF - Abby

Abby marched with Northview High School band from 2008-2011.

She did not march with an instrument, because she played the marimba.

NPF - Emma

Emma and Briana sold concessions for FBC youth

to raise money for summer missions for a half dozen years or more.

Phillip for blog

Phillip’s first parade (November 9, 2013)

DSCN5025 - Copy

Katy and Jeremy came to cheer for Phillip!


In 1977, particular personnel at Dothan City Schools pondered how to penalize the upcoming 8th graders. They purposefully changed the present junior high schools to middle schools and put all the kids who had finally arrived in the big league back with the babies.

Although my classmates and I are still perturbed over this puddin-head decision, that’s not the year that this post is set. This story takes place in that practically perfect 7th grade year. (7th and 11th were my 2 favorite grades, and not just because they rhyme.)

Mama pressed her babies to perform with the band in junior high. She permitted us to our own preferences regarding high school, pending our knowledge of an instrument. So, there I perched in 7th grade Beginner Band at Girard Junior High School. We had skills tests and theory tests and competed for first chair.

Most importantly, we partook in a primo competition. GJHS provided 2 classes of Beginner Band. The student who possessed the highest cumulative points in each period was picked to portage the pennant for the 8th and 9th grade Advanced Band in the National Peanut Festival parade. I pronounced spit spot that if I had to be in the band, by golly, I would be proudly prancing in the procession.

I pulled it off! Alan Lopez procured the other spot. We both played alto sax, and neither of us pursued our saxophone potential post Girard. The parade premiered on West Main Street that year. We passed right by my church.

Here’s the pathetic part of the parable: I don’t have a picture. It was my prized parade appearance, and I have no proof.

DSCN5029 - Copy

But I’ve got one of Bradley.

May 29th, 2014 by

The Road Often Traveled (or Time Well Spent)

The Conner Carpool

August 3, 1999 – May 29, 2014


Dear Carpool,

We have shared countless hours as we traveled a bazillion miles together along the same route from home to school to home (especially from fall 2005 to January 24, 2010, when the kids were at two different schools).

Chuck has always enjoyed taking the kids to school in the mornings, so you and I bonded every afternoon for 15 years. In the beginning, you shepherded the girls at Girard Elementary, while the little brother typically napped in his car seat. Then, the school zones changed, and I visited with you at Landmark Elementary and later at Montana Street, in the line that made the entire square around the block. I would work on my weekly Bible study lessons while waiting with you.

Remember when Emma told me she wished I would get a job, so that she could go to Extended Day and play on the playground with her friends whose moms worked?

Remember when Abby spent some of her book fair money to buy a little Cat in the Hat to hang from the rearview mirror, so my white Dodge Grand Caravan would be recognizable from all the other white Dodge Grand Caravans in your line? Remember how queasy it made me at first, swinging back and forth, but how I couldn’t take it down, because it was such a thoughtful gift?

Remember when a crying Phillip slammed the van door and declared, “This was the worst day of my life!!! First, it rained, so we couldn’t go out to recess, then I COULDN’T GET MY STRAW IN MY JUICE BOX!!!!” Remember how the girls and I held back the squalling laughter and pretended to mourn with him over his Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day?

Remember Gas Station Fridays?

Remember when Chuck got a new truck and sold my van and gave me the Yukon XL to drive? Remember all those curbs I jumped?

Remember how we listened to Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana sing, “I’ve got the be-e-est of both worlds” on Radio Disney every day for the entire three years that the girls went to Carver Middle School? Remember how I thought I was gonna self-destruct if I ever heard that song again?

Remember that I brought Gracie home, too, and that she was the only one who would give me the middle school gossip?

Remember how the middle school girls categorized the other middle schoolers?

Plastics – The kids who think they’re all that

Paper Bags – The kids who wish they were Plastics

Normal Kids – Well, as “Normal” as middle school kids can be

Wall Ballers – The kids who are so outcast that they actually play wall ball at break or PE (and don’t care about the opinions of the kids in the “higher” categories)

Remember how embarrassed Normal-Kid Emma was that Abby was a Wall Baller?

Remember when the girls instituted the Boys in the Back rule? Remember how they hollered it every time Phillip and a friend got in the car? (The rule still exists today, even though the boys’ legs are so long that they tangle in the back seat, yet the boys have never thought to question The Word of the Sisters.)

Remember, “Sure, my mom will take you home. BOYS IN THE BACK!”?

Remember when the girls started driving and Phillip got to ride shotgun every day?

Remember how my autopilot went from band practice to Bradley’s house to home on Tuesday and Thursday evenings during football season?

Remember how I stepped out of the car and walked around to the passenger’s side each day at Northview High School this year and asked, “Do you have your permit?”

Do you remember all that, Carpool? I do. I remember every bit of it.

We’ve been a good team, you and I, for a long time. And now we’re parting ways.

I doubt I’ll miss you, but I will always remember you fondly. I sure am grateful that I had the privilege of knowing you.

Rest in peace, Conner Carpool.



The Last Carpool


May 15th, 2014 by

The Long LA Winter

Perhaps this has been pondered before today, and I’ve missed the discussion. If so, please forgive and/or ignore me. I typically run 5 minutes behind, so I might be just be late to the conversation.

It’s not a complaint, merely a perusal. August is far too hot in Lower Alabama for it to be a complaint.

I noticed the brisk temperature this morning when I sent The Boy to school, but it didn’t occur to me until several hours later, when I ventured forth from my cozy house and was assaulted by an Alabama arctic blast. I turned around, went back inside, grabbed a jacket, and covered my springtime pedi with socks and tennis shoes.

My revelation was this: I think I know why the South is still blanketed in 50-degree temps on May 15, 2014. And I think it’s all our fault. Oh, we’d love to blame El Nino, La Nina, or even Al Gore, but the blame is not theirs.

Walt Disney is partially responsible, but not solely. Nope. I share the burden of guilt. And so do you. And not because we use aerosol sprays and drink out of Styrofoam Chickfila cups. Nope. We caused this long winter every time we sang with Elsa.

Elsa, the Snow Queen, created an eternal winter to fall on her country of Arendelle in the Disney movie Frozen. She ignited a blizzard that turned the whole place into ice.

Did we mourn for her people? Did we pause to think how we would shiver in similar circumstances?

No, we did not. Instead, we enthusiastically encouraged her to “Let it go. Let it go. Be at one with the wind and snow.” We belted out repeatedly and emphatically, “The cold doesn’t bother me anyway.” We smiled at each other and sweetly chirped “Do you wanna build a snowman?”

We wagged our mittened fingers in the face of an icy Disney princess, and now we are paying our frosty dues.

I am afraid we’re in for a chilly summer. I’m afraid that Olaf, indeed, will be a happy snowman.

Personally, I wish he were a puddle.


2014-04-06 16.45.08

 “Come on, let’s go and play!”