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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas in Georgia

It's Christmas in Georgia and everybody's here, 'cause no matter how humble there's no place like home for the holidays. I hope your house and your heart are as full as a single-wide trailer. May your yard overfloweth with comp'ny and may their cars crank when it's time to go home.

Merry Christmas

Monday, December 17, 2012

Roadside Georgia Lunch

Every southerner knows that putting BBQ sauce on possum works more wonders than perfume on a pig.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Felling the Tree

My daughter’s teacher sent home a note asking me to write a brief summary of one of our Christmas traditions.  Knowing that all the other students’ parents were most likely asked to do the same, I wracked my brain to think of something original.

I thought of what out family does annually that other families probably don't. Not everyone cuts a tree from the stump and hauls it home, I thought.  I’ll write about that:
Every year in December, about a week before the big day, we pile into truck and car and go in search of the perfect tree: A large feathery cedar with a single trunk and a bird’s nest.  Sometimes we hunt along the roadside.  Sometimes we ferret through forest and field.  Sometimes we look in peoples' front yards. Regardless of where we forage, we start out with high hopes and best intentions.
The night prior, my husband gathers all the necessary tools.  He gasses up the chainsaw, sharpens the handsaw and oils the drill.  A hammer, nails and wire are set at the ready.  And he grabs the duct tape, just in case.
As we go along the next morning, peeling our eyes for the prize, someone eventually shouts, “I see it!  There it is!”

“Oh, it’s beautiful, another voice,” shouts in agreement.
Everyone begins to ooohhh and aaahhh.  Then my husband points out the ignorable.  “It’s on the other side of the fence.  We can’t get a tree from that side of the fence.”

“I thought you brought the handsaw for getting trees on the other side of the fence,” an innocent child from the crowd suggests.  “It’s not loud like a chainsaw.  No one will hear it.”

Taking another approach, my spouse points out the log in our eyes.  “That tree is twenty feet tall with a trunk as big around as Paul Bunyan’s thigh.  It’s bigger than our living room.  We’ll have to chop it into sections to slide it through the front door.”
“So,” a sharp onlooker replies.  “I saw that you got out the wire and duct tape."

Before anyone realizes it, we've talked the patriarch into felling an arborist's dream and Santa Claus's nightmare. Some weak 7 year-old isn't holding up his end of the bargain or the branches as we struggle it into the truck bed. 

Once home, boughs sweep crystal angels from the living room mantel and suck all the joy from the occasion. My husband threatens to throw the thing into the yard. I say we should've just gone to a tree lot and bought a 4-foot, 2-week old, dried up evergreen like normal people. The kids toss on ornaments before its even strung with lights.

Three hours later, we sip hot chocolate and admire the behemoth in our living from a safe distance in the den. Someone sighs, "It's the most perfect tree we've ever had." And we're all reminded of what the season is all about.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Christmas Unplugged

I'm not feeling very social media today. I don't care who is making an angel food cake or baking Christmas cookies. I don't care about the sale tweets. I don't want to link up or link in right now. I'm trying to convince my husband to go unplugged for the holidays and he's putting it all over the Internet how I'm bah-humbug.

It's easy for everyone to sit at their desks and side with my soul mate. They don't have to suffer through the embarrassment of blue monster-teeth icicles hanging from their eaves, giving the yuletide an eery glow. Small children with salient memories of the macabre Halloween scene at my house run screaming to the other side of the street.

Worse than what goes up outside is what happens inside this time of year. If you look closely at the picture below, you will see my spouse sitting on the floor on the left side. This is the calm before the storm, because as you can also see, our Christmas tree is not artificial, nor has it been pruned into a perfect Christmas tree triangle. Our tree is a gargantuan cedar sawed straight from the forest and then wrestled through our front door.

What happens next is horrific. Standing amidst the knots of lights facing off with an untamed sample of wilderness, my husband begins cussing the lights onto the tree. It starts in low, but then like the Whos down in Whoville, it starts to grow.

My children think this is a Christmas tradition in everyone's home. So when I suggested that we have an old fashioned Christmas and go unplugged for the holidays, everyone turned on me. They cherish the annual argument between their father and me about the gigantic length of plastic plugs, one connected to another and so forth, dangling down the front of the tree. For them, it wouldn't be Christmas if their parents didn't discuss why entire strands of lights swagged between branches instead of being nestled neatly in the tree.

And they say they love, love, love the monster teeth menacingly stretched across the porch . . . as long as I get them home before dark so they don't feel like they're walking into the jaws of doom.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Mayans on the Fiscal Cliff

So, one evening, my husband and I sat in the calm of the living room, enjoying a glass of wine while the children upstairs threatened to send the ceiling crashing down on us. The wine was not enough to distract us completely from the mayhem overhead, so we began delving into the lack of optimism piping into American homes over the air waves.

The election was over, so now the media needed a new topic to send our hearts racing. They hit the honeypot with threatened back-to-back disasters. First, the end of the world according to the Mayan calendar and right behind that the fiscal cliff. As we own a small business, our discussion turned to how we could capitalize on the community's fears and perhaps produce a ray of sunshine.

The next day, I penned a radio spot, which my husband recorded. It ran on our local station, WTHO, last week. Today, it's running on my blog for you. And I hope it gives you a happy glow, too:

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Make Preparations Now - The End is Near

Despite the number of times we've braced ourselves for the world to "end," it still rumbles along, spinning through space, kicking up dust. We're all still here. BUT, that could change this month, because the Mayan calendar says that the world will end on 12-21-2012. And lots of people believe that because credible sources like the Mayans, who nobly sacrificed their young virgins, predicted this particular cessation of our planet as we know it, the date must be accurate.

On the upside, there's no need to buy Christmas gifts or spend all that time wrapping them. Our evenings can be spent contemplating the Christ in Christmas and enjoying our trees.

On the downside, those of us who plan to be raptured, must get our houses in order. When the left-behinds come to plunder, we don't want them criticizing our housekeeping or our organization.

We must also consider our pets. Who will care for them after we're gone? Have you worried about this yourself?

As luck would have it, there are plenty of good-hearted atheists who have a soft spot for displaced, un-raptured pets. They will happily come to your house and retrieve your cat, dog, horse, monkey, hamster or whatever in the days following the "end" and provide it a good home. This is not on a volunteer basis, however.

Atheists, despite what you might think, are also capitalists. Eternal Earth Bound Pets, USA, an organization of atheists, charges a nominal fee for providing peace of mind to their Christian friends. A blurb from their web site:

We are a group of dedicated animal lovers, and atheists. Each Eternal Earth-Bound Pet representative is a confirmed atheist, and as such will still be here on Earth after you've received your reward. Our network of animal activists are committed to step in when you step up to Jesus.

We are currently active in 26 states, employing 40 pet rescuers. Our representatives have been screened to ensure that they are atheists, animal lovers, are moral / ethical with no criminal background, have the ability and desire to rescue your pet and the means to retrieve them and ensure their care for your pet's natural life.

Yes, yes, I too find it baffling that they believe in the rapture but they don't believe in Jesus. There's faulty logic somewhere in this loop. But like I said, those Mayans were a highly intelligent, prophetic civilization capable of mathematical calculations beyond the grasp of anyone since who has claimed to know the hour and the day.

Nonetheless, my inner skeptic is urging me to keep my nominal fee and use it to prepare for Christmas; because chances are pretty good, based on all the results of all the other calls for the world's end, that Christmas will arrive before the rapture.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cyber Monday Through Friday Sale

Today through Friday, November 30  - 25% discount

Cyber Monday is great day to get holiday shopping accomplished in the comfort of your own home. No going out in the cold or braving the crowds or hunting for parking at the mall. With the click of the mouse, gifts are shipped to your house.


To receive the 25% discount, place your order following the PayPal directions below by midnight on Friday, November 30th for If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny and Tuck Your Skirt in Your Panties and Run, or, even better, both. Each book arrives signed and dedicated to the recipient of your choice with a personal message to him or her. (Offer does not apply to books purchased from another online source or through a bookstore.)

If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny discounted to $11.21 (regularly $14.95) and
Tuck Your Skirt in Your Panties and Run discounted to $11.96 (regularly $15.95). 

Shipping is $4.50 for one book, plus $1.00 for each additional book. (Shipping to U.S. addresses only. Payment in U.S. dollars only.)

Directions for making a secure payment through PayPal:
1. Click on the PayPal link or go to
2. Hover your cursor over 'Buy' in the drop-down menu.
3. Click on 'Make a Payment'.
4. When the payment page opens
     a. In the 'From' box, enter your email address.
     b. In the 'To' box, enter my email address:
     c. In the 'Amount' box, enter the total amount of your purchase (books+shipping)
          - If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny $11.21 each
          - Tuck Your Skirt in Your Panties and Run $11.96 each
          - Shipping $4.50 for the first book, plus $1.00 for each additional book.
     d. Click 'Continue'.
5. If you do not have a PayPal account, you will be directed to a screen to set up an account. It is a very quick process. If you do have a PayPal account, you will be directed to a log-in screen.
6. After successful account set up or log-in, you will be taken to a page to 'Review your payment and send'.
  1. Make sure you have entered the correct amount (books+shipping).
  2. Make sure your shipping address is correct.
  3. Scroll down to 'Email to recipient' In the subject box, type 'Book Order'.  In the message box, include the following information
  • Each book title ordered and the number of that title ordered.
  • The correct spelling of the name of the person to whom you would like each book dedicated.
  • If a book is a gift for some other occasion than Christmas, please specify, otherwise I will assume it's a Christmas gift.

Both books are also available from in print and digital formats. And for the aspiring writer on your gift list this holiday season, the ABC Book of Literary Devices makes a wonderful stocking stuffer.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Do I Talk Funny?

As I always do on Sundays, I asked my husband to read the draft of my newspaper column for  next weekend's paper. I caught him on the way out to do his other usual Sunday activity: Lurking in a tree stand in the forest hoping to snipe a white tail or at least come home with a good story. Nonetheless, he obliged my request though it slowed his haste. He's a good man in that respect.

But in other respects he's absolutely confounding. Today, for example, he had the audacity to turn to me after finishing his compulsory read through of my article and ask, "What do you mean by 'Will it play in Peoria?'"

"What do you mean what do I mean?" I retorted, deeply offended.

He claims to have never ever heard that phrase before and assures me that if he hasn't heard it no one else has either. "Readers won't know what you're talking about," he accused.

The article, by the way, recounts a school-spirit induced traipse onto a rival high school's property to drop off a brief message for the student body. I of course defended my phrasing to my husband by pointing out that the complete sentence, Will it play in Peoria or land me in Sing Sing, provides plenty of context clues by which to decipher it (or to at least get a rough idea that it means something better than going to jail).

"You talk funny," was all he said. Then he put on his hat, grabbed his gun and exited stage left, leaving me wondering if he's right.

Am I the only person who has ever heard or used the line, Will it play in Peoria? Do I talk funny?


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Guest, You are Welcome to Such as We've Got

The leaks in the roof,
The soup in the pot.

With the holidays peeking around the corner at me, this old verse that adorned framed handwork in the guest bedroom of my third cousin's Athens, GA home rolls on an endless loop in my head. Through the coming weeks I'll take turns being a guest and hosting guests, and I honestly don't know which is more stressful, particularly when I'm heavy on leaks and low on soup.

Fortunately, author Kathy Bertone is coming to the rescue of people like me. Having dubbed herself the Visit Wizard, she's doing her best to help me, despite the words 'Lost Cause' stamped on my forehead. Recently, she shared her expert advice with me for an article about holding your tongue during the holidays in the November 2012 issue of Augusta Family Magazine. In her book, The Art of the Visit, released in the St. Nick of time for my annual Thanksgiving meltdown, she gives sage advice on becoming the perfect guest and becoming the perfect host. And the cover is so beautiful, it can be strategically stacked on the bedside table in the guest room.

Here I am publicly admitting that I found the first half of the book, which dealt with hostessing, overwhelming and exhausting. In fact, I initially decided that I must be lazier than a two-toed sloth. Unwilling, however, to sit forever in a cesspool of my own making, I scanned back through the pages to check off what I already do well: I'm welcoming, I plan activities, I plan meals and purchase supplies ahead of time, I clean my house (it's cursory, it's mainly restricted to areas my guests will see, but it is done), and I'm extremely flexible. So, I'm getting there.

After reading the second half of the book, I realized that I was born to be a guest. I stop a hair short of being a guest in my own home, because, being southern, I simply can't stoop that low. What would my third cousin think of me?

Joking aside, Bertone has duly composed a comprehensive compendium of everything a person ever needs to know about visitors and visiting, and she has done it with wisdom, wit and sensitivity. She outlines specifics on how to prepare for and survive the visit from the moment the invitation is extended to the second the car pulls out of the driveway on the last day. And I don't just mean survive; I mean truly enjoy the time spent.

The Art of the Visit covers:
  • Creating a welcoming home.
  • Essential qualities of a great host.
  • Hosting children and young adults.
  • Hosting older guests.
  • Essential qualities of a great guest.
  • Hospitality in regard to pets.
  • And so much more.
The only thing it doesn't have is this:

Guest, you are welcome here,
Be at your ease.
Get up when you're ready,
Go to bed when you please.

We're happy to share with you
Such as we've got,
The leaks in the roof
And the soup in the pot.

You don't have to thank us
Or laugh at our jokes,
Sit deep and come often...
You're one of the folks!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Mommy's Time Out Whine

This is how I feel the day after Halloween:
After handing out about 2500 pieces of candy one at a time, I'm exhausted. And, no, I do not exaggerate that number. If anything, I've underestimated. By 5 o'clock in the afternoon, itty-bitties beging arriving dressed like bumble bees and lady bugs holding out darling bags and buckets. By 6 o'clock, people are lined up on my walkway three abreast from my stoop to the street. Entire families - Mom, Dad, sister, brother and baby - extend candy collection containers toward me. At 9 o'clock we flee the madness, retreating to the security behind our locked front door. And still, the goblins ring the bell and thrash the door knocker.

To say the least, it's exhausting. Today, I think I deserve:
A few sips of Mommy's Time Out pinot grigio and I'll be good to go again. It's the perfect beverage - not too sweet, not too dry - for whetting my whistle and rejuvenating my spirit. After collecting all of the candy wrappers discarded on the lawn and tidying the Halloween sprawl of ghastly scenes across my front yard, enjoying a little restorative Mommy's Time Out will be well-deserved.

It will wash the sugar sweaters from my teeth, the cobwebs from my head and embolden me to face the onslaught of Thanksgiving. Plus, the raising of the glass will help loosen the sore muscles of my candy-handing arm.

Has Halloween left you feeling like this:
Then maybe you need a Mommy's Time Out wine, too:

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

13 Rules of Halloween

Mooooo-ha-ha-haaaaaaaa! Halloween is upon us and the ghouls are creeping. Surely you'll be out among them trick-or-treating tonight, too. Well, be warned. If the clouds part and the moon shines upon your unfortunate features revealing them to be of someone too old, too greedy or too spooked to participate in the festivities, many curses will fall upon you and your treat bag. Break one of the 13 cardinal rules of trick-or-treating and NO CANDY FOR YOU! Woooooh-hee-hee-hee-heeeeeee!

  1. Wear a costume.
  2. Shave your beard.
  3. If you're taller than 6-feet, hunch down.
  4. Shave your beard.
  5. Tote a traditional orange jack-o-lantern bucket for collecting candy. When you walk from house to house with a large, black garbage sack, you look like you're robbing people.
  6. Shave your beard.
  7. Open your mouth and say, "Trick or treat." Don't grunt. Don't shove your bag toward the candy bowl. Don't smile menacingly. Don't just stand there looking at me looking at you.
  8. Shave your beard.
  9. Do not carry two buckets and claim to be collecting candy for yourself and a mystery family member who sadly could not go trick-or-treating for being struck by a terrible undiagnosed illness. This is trick-or-treating NOT trick-and-treating. You can't have your candy and his candy and eat it, too.
  10. Shave your beard! (I am not joking. Shave it. Do not come to my doorstep asking for candy with even one dangling chin hair wagging at me. It's a dead give-away that you are too old to be out on a night like this.)
  11. Do not claim to be trick-or-treating for your child who is "asleep in the car." Satan will set your pants on fire just as sure as I will turn you away. He and I both have the prerogative to do that on Halloween.
  12. Don't be so chicken-hearted that when something jumps out and startles you you turn around and run over your own offspring. If you can't go bravely, send your husband. If he plans to carry a bucket for himself, tell him to shave his beard.
  13. At 9 o'clock, Halloween, the treating part at least, is officially OVER. Do not knock on my door or ring my doorbell, unless you want to see something really scary. 


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Jack of the Lantern

Hundreds of years ago, there lived upon the Emerald Isle, a right dodgy fellow known as Stingy Jack.  Stingy Jack stole turnips and potatoes from his neighbors’ gardens.  He played terrible tricks on his family.  He made ghastly faces at children. Whenever someone asked, “Why do ye act the maggot, Stingy Jack?” he shrugged his shoulders and wickedly replied, “The devil made me do it.”

Bad to drink, Stingy Jack spent many an evening in the local pub, drowning himself in whiskey and slapping the supple hindquarters of weary barmaids.  There, he finally met up with the devil himself, who enjoyed keeping company with drunkards.  The two nasty fellows sipped crappers together well into the wee hours.

When it came time to close shop, Stingy Jack refused to pay the tab.  To settle the bill, he connived and conned the devil into transforming into a silver piece; but as soon as the Prince of Darkness did, Jack slipped the coin into his pocket, alongside a cross, trapping the villainous old gobshite. 

Eventually, Stingy Jack grew weary of hearing the devil complain and threaten; so, in exchange for release, Jack negotiated with the fiend a 10-year reprieve for rebuttal. Mephistopheles promised to wait a dime before collecting Jack’s soul. 

Time passed. Jack got meaner and more irritable with every change of season.  He grew old, shriveled and lonely.  At the turn of the decade, as Stingy Jack traveled a desolate bogway, Lucifer appeared from the shadows.

 “Ahh,” said Jack, who’d been expecting this meeting, “céad míle fáilte, a hundred thousand welcomes. I see ye have returned for me soul.  Before ye take it, could ye climb that tree yonder and shake down an apple for a poor old man.”

Well, the devil, always happy to serve dark hearts, never minded thieving anything for anybody.  He climbed the tree.

Jack, set straight to hammering crosses in the ground.  “It seems I’ve trapped you again there Satan,” he laughed, hacking a sick, wet gurgle. Believing he had the goat by the horns now, he bargained, “I tell you what Beelzebub, promise to never take my soul and I will let you down.”

The devil briefly considered his options and smiled a yellow, worm infested grin.  Again, he agreed to Stingy Jack’s terms.

A few days later, Stingy Jack, without anyone who cared whether mean, jarred Jack staggered on through the world or disappeared in a peat bog, passed away with one last, thick cough. Still in a stupor, he made his way toward the pearly gates.  But, alas, St. Peter took one look at him and commanded, “Gerrup da yard!” 

Dejected and surprised, but half-pleased to go visit his old conspirator in evil, Jack crossed the River Styx. Jovially, he rang out, “How's she cuttin',” as he approached the pits of Hell.

Remembering Stingy Jack’s trickery, however, and true to his word, the devil would have none of Jack, either.  “Do ye take me for a blasted eejit, man?”

“Where shall I go,” slurred Jack.

“Back the way ye came,” decreed the devil, tossing an ember from Hell’s fire to light the way for a lost soul.

In death, as in life, Jack, grumbling that the devil made him do it, stole a turnip and carved it into a lantern to hold the ember.  To this day, Jack of the Lantern restlessly wanders the countryside, seeking a place to settle.  (Insert evil cackle.)

Be careful that he doesn’t settle on your doorstep this All Hallows Eve. Carve a pumpkin. Light the candle. Above all, extend generous hospitality and treats to all of your spooky visitors.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Time Out

Every mommy needs a time out. The great thing about being a mommy (actually, I'm a mama, but close enough) and a freelance writer is that sometimes I get time-outs sent to me in the mail. A little earlier this morning, a rectangular package arrived on my doorstep. Guess what was inside:

a) A baby with a note saying, "Please give me a loving home."
b) Kittens with a note saying, "Please help us find loving homes."
c) An encyclopedia salesman saying, "I heard this is a loving home."
d) A bottle of wine with a note saying, "A mommy's time out is a well-deserved break."

If you guessed a, I would like to inform you that this isn't the 1950s anymore. No one has left a baby on a doorstep in decades. If you picked b, I suspect you thrive off of chaos. If you selected c, perhaps you've read too many romance novels. Encyclopedia salesmen went the way of the baby in the basket on the stoop.

Ding, ding, ding, ding! The correct answer is (d), a time out!

The label even provides directions for use:
See the chair in the corner? That's where mommy sits to gather her thoughts. Her "snack" is on the table next to her time-out chair. Just like Junior, sometimes mommy needs a few minutes to regroup and regain her self-control.

How about you? Do you need a Mommy's Time Out?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

O Babysitter, Thou Art Divine: 5 Steps to Finding a Good Babysitter

O’ babysitter, thou art divine. You drive your own car. You don’t drink our wine.                               

But then there were other babysitters who left much to be desired. Of course, my gaggle of children wasn't always the easiest on the fragile ones. (One girl nervously dropped her cell phone in the toilet and accidentally flushed it while hiding in the bathroom.) And my husband and I left a few standing startled in the doorway as we hit the gas in our get-away car, leaving tire streaks on the drive. 

It always seemed that when we needed a babysitter the most, they were scarcer than jackelopes. I had to harden myself to rejection as the years went by and my family's reputation grew. My pockets got deeper. I actually had a teenage girl, who sat for us occasionally - probably only when she was desperate for money - tell me she couldn't babysit because she had to clean her room. I called her on a Tuesday. We didn't need her to come over until Friday. I tried to tell myself that her room was really, really messy, but the real truth hid right behind that thin consolation.

Nonetheless, I learned a lot during those years about how to select a sitter. The best ones weren't just warm bodies. They wanted to play with my children, talk to my children, and make memories with them. My oldest child is 17 now and I haven't retained a sitter's services in years. We still see many of our blasts from the past, however. And I love the way their faces and my children's faces light up in each other's presence. Then I know I took good care of my children even when I wasn't physically there.

Five Simple Steps to Finding a Good Babysitter:

STEP 1: Identify potential candidates for the job. Lots of parents who have found the perfect match for their family are reluctant to give out their best sitter’s name. Still, it’s never a bad idea to start by asking friends with children who they recommend. Another good source is church. Get the word out to the youth group and to the seniors group. Teachers, too, often supplement their incomes with babysitting. Don’t forget to check with neighbors. Also try an on-line service, such as, that connects parents with a list of local sitters who fit the family’s identified needs.

STEP 2: Screen the potential candidates. Which ones have the experience you’re looking for? Which ones are available at the times you most often need a sitter? Who on the list is trained in CPR and first aid? Who has his own transportation?  Parents who are clear about the requirements they have can very quickly cull their top 2-3 choices over the phone. Of course, ask for references and call those, as well. If using an on-line service, like, read the posted reviews.

STEP 3: Conduct a face-to-face interview. Prepare a list of questions ahead of time. Present problematic situations, both emergency and non-emergency, and ask potential sitters how they would handle them. Possible scenarios might include discipline, a stranger at the door, phone calls, and so forth. provides a comprehensive set of interview questions that parents can modify to their family and their situation. Aside from simply asking questions, the interview should also include opportunities for the candidate to interact with the child or children. A person’s body language and verbal exchanges, combined with a child’s response to the individual, add valuable information to the overall picture.

STEP 4: Plan a trial run. After selecting one or two candidates, run a background check on each. This may not be necessary for sitters under the age of 18, but it does apply to adult caregivers. Furthermore, Also, insist on a couple of short, trial sessions, about an hour at a time, to put everyone at ease.

STEP 5: Trust your gut. By this, I mean your parental 6th sense. If you get a bad feeling or your child displays opposition to a sitter, don’t brush it off. Investigate or move on to another candidate.

Do you have a funny or compelling babysitter story?

Useful Links:
The rate calculator:
The sitter cheat sheet (all the information you should leave for your sitter):
The Four Step Screening Process: