July 26, 2021

Stranded in Ft. Lauderdale

It's been over a year since I posted, and so much has happened in that year. Much of it has to do with my mom's health — she's currently in the hospital facing a major battle. I don't want to talk much about it, but I slept half of the day away and can't sleep now, so I am going to do some writing to keep myself busy. 

So, last month, I went to Turks and Caicos. It was a trip that had been postponed twice, mostly due to the lovely pandemic we've been dealing with for the last year and a half. The weeks leading up it were tough for me at home, but I made it. The trip was fine. It wasn't exactly what I wanted it to be when I planned it, but that couldn't really be helped, and I'm positive I'll go back one day. I did have a good time. Got a stamp on my passport and all of that.  

The trip home didn't go as smoothly. I've never flown anything but Delta in my life, and there was a Delta flight straight home to Atlanta from the Providenciales airport at 3 pm on the day I left. There was also a Jet Blue flight about an hour later that would take me to Fort Lauderdale. It was cheaper. And for some reason, I got the bright idea that I'd add a little road trip to my itinerary and drive home from there. I'd probably stop and spend the night in the Jacksonville area since I know it so well. It was going to be my 24 hours or so to have some alone time that I never get to have and prepare myself for everything I had going on when I returned home — taking care of my mom, starting classes at UGA again, adding 22 chickens to the little farm I'm trying to build, getting back to work, expanding my garden, working on the duck pen I'm building, working on the pool, etc. 

If I could go back in time, I'd just take that damn Delta flight.  

Getting out of Turks and Caicos was fine. Several people had issues, including the friend who accompanied me on the trip. I did not. Everything went so smoothly. I should have known better. I arrived at Ft. Lauderdale, went through customs, got my bags, walked forever, and finally found a place to sit down so I could take a breather. I called my mom to let her know I was back on US soil. I grabbed a Diet Coke. I looked up how to get to the rental car place. For some reason, I thought I could walk to it, but you had to take a bus. I had no interest in taking the bus. I don't like taking the bus. When I went to UGA the first time around, friends would make fun of me because I'd literally walk miles to classes every day because I didn't want to take buses. But I finally worked up the nerve and energy to walk to the bus stop — in the rain, might I add — and get on so I could start my next adventure. I had it all planned out so well. 

I got to the car rental center, and the company I used, which was the only company I could find with availability, was the furthest away, so I had to walk another mile it seemed, and then I had to stand in line and listen to some guy talk about how the COVID vaccine paralyzed his wife. When I finally made it to the counter, I was so excited to be getting out of there. There's some depressing about that airport. I can't really explain it, but every friend I've talked to who has been there knew exactly what I was talking about. I had no idea that I wasn't going anywhere until the next day.  

"M'am, I'm afraid we can't honor your reservation."   


"Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah."  

"Huh? Please, no."  

"The only way to get around it is to do this and that and this and that." 

"Okay, fine. Do it. Whatever it takes. I'll pay whatever. I just want to go home."  

"Then you have to do this and this and this and this and this."  

"Huh? That doesn't even make sense."  

That's basically how my conversation with the guy behind the counter went. I still can't figure out exactly what went wrong. I'd contacted the car rental place three times the week before to make sure the reservation was legit. But apparently, their policies changed in that short timeframe. Something to do with a pandemic-induced car shortage, a reduction in one-way car rentals, me booking with a debit card instead of a credit card, and me not having a return flight ticket to Ft. Lauderdale. It was all so convoluted. And his solution was to buy a bunch of plane tickets and trick another car rental company. No.  

I'll admit, I lost it. I went into the nearest bathroom and sat in a stall and cried. I'm not a person who does a lot of crying, but this did me in. The few weeks leading up to the trip were very emotional, and I just felt so defeated. I texted my parents to let them know what was going on. I asked my aunt who travels to that area often if she could come up with anything. I remembered there was one more Delta flight back to Atlanta that night, and I could probably just make it if I hurried, but it was all booked up. The next one was at 8 am. It was almost booked, and the price had skyrocketed since I'd last looked. I ended up paying almost three times what I would have paid for the car to get the next to the last seat on that flight.      

By this time, it was around 8 pm. I had 12 hours to kill. There was no sense in trying to get a hotel. I'll just spend the night at the airport. People do it all the time. I've been in the Atlanta airport in the middle of the night, and it's buzzing and busy, and it'll be fine. I'll blend in with everyone. Grab some food. Play on my phone.  

Ft. Lauderdale is no Atlanta. 

First, I realized that the car rental center was a long way from the terminal where Delta flights come and go. I wasn't getting back on that bus, so I decided I'd get something to eat as I hadn't had anything since breakfast. It's 8 pm on  Saturday night, so I would think the restaurants in a decently-sized airport would be open. I would be wrong. Everything I encountered was closed. Starbucks, Burger King. I couldn't even find the Chilis that was on the map. I finally walked to Terminal One and saw a couple of vending machines, got some M&Ms and water, and found a quiet little corner with four benches tucked away from most of the foot traffic. Big mistake.   

On the first bench, a lady was sprawled across it, sleeping. On the one across from her, a guy was sitting there charging his phone. He looked okay — not someone I'd want to approach if I didn't have to, but okay. On the third one, a lady was sitting in her pajamas, looking miserable, and the fourth one just across from her was empty. I opted for the empty one. My plan was to sit down, figure out where I needed to go, eat my M&Ms, and get there quickly.  As soon as I sat down, the lady in her pajamas started coughing. Not like an "I swallowed my water wrong" kind of cough, but like a nasty, sick, congested, "I'm miserable and probably have COVID" kind of cough. It took me a minute to remember we are still kind of pandemic-y after a week of lounging around in paradise and not thinking twice about it. I got up and moved to the bench with the guy charging his phone and washed myself down with hand sanitizer. 

About five minutes after I moved to that seat, this other guy who does not look like someone I want anything to do with walks up to us. He asks the guy charging his phone, in some kind of slang terms, if he wants to buy drugs. The guy is like "huh?" He asks him again. "Naw, man. I don't mess with that stuff. Go on." He says. After that, drug selling guy looks at me and says "You?" I shake my head, but he sits down next to me anyway. I picked up my phone, pretended to make a call, and then pretended to ask the person on the other end where they were at the airport. "Oh, you're over there. I thought you were coming here. Well, I'm going to have to get up and go over to where you are then. I'll see you in a second." I guess I didn't want to hurt the drug dealer guy's feelings if I just got up right after he sat down?   

So, I walked to the other end of the terminal and down to the lowest floor. I found some more seats where a few people were just hanging out, and they all looked decent enough, so I sat there. I knew I actually needed to be in another terminal for my flight, and I was trying to figure out exactly how I could get there because, for some reason, the two buildings do not connect indoors? As a matter of fact, most of the buildings in this stinking airport don't connect at all in any way. I was so tired from walking so much already too, but I was not getting back on a bus either. As I'm sitting there, flights are coming, and I realize most of the people I'm sitting with are merely waiting for other people to arrive so they can take them home. The place empties out pretty quickly. 

As I'm sitting there, alone now, a guy approaches me. I don't pay much attention to him, but he has some sort of badge around his neck, and I stupidly assumed he's an airport employee. He starts asking me if I'm okay because I don't look okay. I tell him what's happened — the whole ordeal about the rental car and how I'm not sure how to get to the right terminal.  He tells me that I can walk to it, but it's gonna take me a little while, and it's all outside. And then he tells me he thinks I need a friend and his name is such and such and he would be glad to be my friend. At this point, an alarm goes off and I look at his badge and realize he is not an airport employee and the name he gives me doesn't match the name on the badge and OMG why do strange men keep approaching me I just want to go home?  

Suddenly, I make up a story about how I am about to meet my friend at the other terminal and I better get going. Apparently, I'm trying to avoid hurting weirdos' feelings on this night. Anyway, I grab my bags that I'm really sick of hauling around — I've been on the go for about 13-14 hours at this point — and start my journey towards the next terminal. 

The walk to the next terminal is indeed outside. It's not as long as I thought it would be, but it wasn't a quick little jaunt either. And earlier, the sidewalk had been filled with cops and security people, but at this hour, most of them were gone, and it was filled with homeless people, people waiting for transportation, and people asking me to get into their cars and they'd take me where I wanted to go. Meanwhile, there are signs everywhere telling me not to get into cars with anyone who is not clearly a taxi. I guess that's an issue there. It's also dark. It's nasty. And the heat and humidity were awful. But I finally made it to my terminal. 

As soon as I got inside, I saw that there were maybe four people sitting around. One guy was brushing his teeth in the water fountain. He was wearing no shoes and had made one of the sets of seats into a bed, complete with pillows and sheets. One guy went up to a hand sanitizing wipe station and just started pulling out all the wipes and throwing them onto the floor. One guy was sitting off to himself, charging his laptop. He looked okay, but he was also taking up a whole roll of seats with his stuff. Then I saw a girl wearing a Georgia State shirt and decided she was my people. I sat across from her. She wouldn't sell me drugs or make unwanted advances. No. But she would leave about 10 minutes after I sat down because the person she was waiting for arrived and was ready to go. Of course. 

At this point, the place was practically empty except for the rogue employee who walked through. Apparently, Ft. Lauderdale doesn't see many overnight flights. For some reason, I started googling the airport around this time. I guess I was looking for some kind of hope that I would not be sitting by myself all night with Guy Who Apparently Lives at the Airport and Crazy Guy Who Throws Wipes All Over the Floor. I completely forgot that there had been a shooting at this airport a few years ago. That knowledge added to the whole creepy vibe of the place. Instead of shutting Google down, I clicked on an article about the shooting. I clicked on a video from the shooting. I realized I was literally sitting in the exact spot in the exact terminal where the shooting took place. Like, it literally happened right where I was. Literally. Not dozens of feet away. Not across the room. Right where I was sitting.  I got up and moved. 

At this point, my mom calls me and asks how I am. I told her I was fine, but I was not feeling it.  At all. Maybe it wasn't as bad as I thought it was, but I was so physically and mentally exhausted. I just wanted to get home. To see my dog. To sleep in my bed. To be away from creeps. A friend texted me some podcasts to listen to keep me company. Of course, when I went to get my headphones out of my purse, I realized I left them on the nightstand in Turks and Caicos. Of course.  

It's around 11 pm by now. I finally had a realization. At the opposite end of the room I'm in, there's some sort of security checkpoint. It's where the airport employees check in and out for work. There are a couple of older women in security uniforms sitting there running it. They look bored but they look safe. I walk up and ask them if I can sit with them. One of them shrugs and says sure. 

After about an hour or so, the other one keeps walking wide circles around me, giving me the side-eye. Finally, she approaches. "What exactly are you doing here?" she asks, her Caribbean accent thick and suspicious. "Are you waiting on someone?" No, I'm not, but I explain to her exactly what happened.  Her attitude changes from airport security lady to mother figure, and she takes pity on me. "Stay right here with us," she says. "Try to get some rest. We'll keep an eye on you." She shows me where all the cameras are and asks about my flight details. When I share them, she tells me exactly how to get to where I need to go and what time I should get there. I loved that woman that night. She checked on me every half hour or so. And she went to lunch, she reminded me where to go and when. I felt like a 12-year-old, but you just have no idea how tired I was. It was a long day in a long month in what's been a long year so far. Defeated is the only word I can think to describe it. 

When the time rolls around to head to where I need to go to catch my flight, I do, but there isn't a Delta employee in sight at the counter. We stand for two hours, waiting. The flight is full. People are mad. They are loud. "We're going to miss the flight," they complain. A security guard who passes through assures us that the flight is not going to leave with all of us not on it. Finally, the employees show up. They check us in with great speed. They put us through security with great speed. Until I get there. Of course. 

Apparently, the detector goes off, highlighting at least four parts of my body as suspicious, ranging from my head to my crotch. The security guard let me know I'm about to receive the ultimate patdown and asks if I want a private room. That just seems like more wasted time and walking. "Just do it, " I say. I don't care anymore. And she does. For a long time. I've never had a patdown like that. But I actually felt worse for her because I was so nasty and sweaty at this point, and I'm sure I smelled just peachy.  For what it's worth, the same thing happened to the girl behind me, so I think their system was malfunctioning, but whatever. 

The plane boards pretty quickly, which is fabulous because there's nowhere to sit after I get through security. And thankfully, I paid the extra $50 for Delta Comfort, so I got to go first and sit in front. I'm pretty sure I fell asleep for part of the flight. The girl next to me probably enjoyed me snoring and smelling exactly like I'd spent almost 24 hours sitting on plastic seats in a hot airport, but I didn't care. 

When we arrived in Atlanta, I wanted to kiss the ground. Instead, I had to walk another 2.4 miles - (I measured it - this whole incident gave me the highest number of steps I've ever gotten in the history of counting my steps) - to get my checked bag. And that includes riding the moving sidewalks and the Plane Train for part of the journey. And then I had to get an Uber. Apparently, there's a specific place to get an Uber at the airport. I've never done it before, but I followed the signs and ended up in the exact wrong place. I finally just sat down on a bench. I was hot. I was tired. I was hungry. I was thirsty. I was lightheaded. I was over it. I asked someone who sat down next to me if they knew where the Uber pickup place was, and they did not speak English. I called my mom and told her I was just going to sit there because if I had to move another inch I would likely pass out. She told me to go back inside and get something to eat or drink, but I just didn't have it in me. I wanted to get home. I texted my cousin who lives near the airport and told him I'd pay him to come get me, but he was asleep and didn't respond.   

So, I walked back to the baggage claim area and followed the signs again. I then realized my mistake. I was supposed to downstairs and then go out, not go out and halfway around the world. So, I did. And there was a short walkway and then I was back out on the sidewalk and there were signs that said "Uber" and "Lyft" and I wanted to kiss the ground again. I pulled out my phone, scheduled a ride, and waited about five more minutes before some guy drove up to get me. He wasn't very friendly. At all. And his idea of "cool," per my request, was rolling the front windows down while he weaved in and out of traffic on I-285 on a 90-degree day. He listened to the most awful talk radio that went against all of my political beliefs. But I didn't care. When he pulled into the driveway, I wanted to kiss him...and the ground again. 

I came in, ordered some Chinese food, changed out of my nasty sweaty clothes, and fell asleep for about three hours. Thankfully, my dad offered to feed all my animals for one extra day because I just couldn't move another muscle. I dreamed about being stuck in an airport for exactly two weeks after I got home. 

I know worse things have, do, and will happen, but that whole experience was just awful. Much of it had to do with the state I was already in from dealing with other stuff, I'm sure, but I maintain that that airport is one of the worst I've ever visited, and I have no interest in ever going back. As a matter of fact, I just Googled "worst airports in the United States" and Ft. Lauderdale was on every single list. I feel validated. And if I ever go to South Florida again, I'll drive.  

May 15, 2020

Quarantine Confessions: Part One

So, it's May 14, and I haven't left the house in exactly two months. Well, that's not true. I've been to a plant nursery twice, though it's mostly outdoors, and I wore a mask. I've been to a pharmacy drive-thru a few times, and sometime around day 39, I started going back to Chick-fil-A, though drive-thru only. Apparently, that's how long I can last without Chick-fil-A. And I have to drop my mom off for medical treatments a few times a week, though I don't go inside there either. I've been to a neighbor's house, though they weren't home, and I dropped some things off at my cousin's house, but I didn't go inside, and I bought some eggs from another neighbor's farm store, but they use an honor system, so there was no human interaction.

That's what my version of what quarantine looks like. 

And I have to confess, I don't absolutely hate it. The older I've gotten, the more I enjoy my own personal time at home. I'd prefer to be here about 80% of the time. 

Over the last couple of years, both of my parents have dealt with some major health issues, and that's kind of left me at their beck and call. Running around doing their errands, spending endless nights in hospitals or driving back and forth to hospitals, buying groceries, taking them appointments...all I wanted was a stretch of time where I could stay home and just do some things I needed/wanted to do.  I was burnt out on errands and running and go go going. I've fantasized about just staying home for a month with no responsibilities.   

And boy, did I get it. Sort of. I didn't want it this way, and I wish I'd been more prepared, but it is what it is. I'm finally getting into the groove of getting some of those things I've always wanted to  do accomplished, but it took a while. The rest of this will probably read like a quarantine diary for my own benefit, so it might get boring. But it's been a surreal time, and I felt like I needed to capture it somehow. 

For me, it all started in January or February. With my dad home from work after a battle with sepsis, followed by open heart surgery, I get to hear about news stories I otherwise try to ignore. He watches a ton of TV these days. (I don't watch it at all and haven't since 2016, a big change for someone who used to be a political/news writer.) But that's the first thing I'd probably change about quarantine — you may or may not know that I've been living with my parents for a few years through no fault of my own. Every time I try to buy a house, something falls through or someone gets sick or injured and I have to put it off a little longer. The three of us suddenly home together 24/7 isn't ideal. Thankfully, there are plenty of places around our property to escape each other's company, but if someone told me last year that a quarantine was a comin', I would have worked a little harder on fixing up the house next to them that I'm probably going to end up living in for a while. 

So, yeah, my dad kept talking about this virus in China, and I didn't think much of it. I had all kinds of travel plans this year, and I didn't have time to worry about what was happening in China. By February, everyone was taking it a little more seriously, and honestly, all I was concerned with was whether or not it would affect my trip to Turks & Caicos. I got sick in late February with what I'm convinced was possibly the coronavirus/Covid-19/reason for quarantine, and shortly after I recovered, my mom decided we needed to run to the store to stock up on groceries and supplies. I dropped her at one store and I went to another. We may have mocked her a little, but I'm the only person I know that hasn't had to scavenge for toilet paper.  

Fast forward to Wednesday, March 11. Shit was getting real. My dad had a doctor's appointment at a hospital about 45 minutes away. We decided it was best for my mom not to go and expose herself and for us to carry a bottle of hand sanitizer into the office with us. When we arrived, nurses greeted us as the door, taking our temperatures and asking us questions about whether or not we'd been out of the country, how we felt, etc. That was the moment when I knew we better take this seriously. My dad talked to his cardiologist about it, and he seemed worried. We drove home with a different mindset than we had on the way there. By that evening, we found out the first known person to die from the virus in Georgia had been at that very hospital where we'd gone for the appointment. The next night, I think, the president canceled travel to Europe. The day after that, they shut down the schools. By Saturday, my cousin called me and told me there was hardly any food left at the grocery store. 

My mom has a lot of allergy and breathing issues, and she was in need of some over-the-counter medicine. My cousin reported that a Dollar General in a not-so-great part of town was fairly empty, so, I put on my mask and gloves and headed over there. It was a little more crowded than normal, and some of the food shelves were empty. They didn't have the medicine I needed, but they did have a few snacks I decided I had to have just in case. I mean, sure, I'd been busting my butt to get into shape for that Turks & Caicos trip — not a carb in sight in my pantry or fridge — but much like I do when there's the possibility of a an inch of snow or a hurricane that'll likely weaken to a tropical storm by the time it reaches me, I decided I needed candy and junk. Spoiler alert: I still have that mentality two months later. Just ask my wardrobe.   

Anyway, this trip to the Dollar Store was memorable because an old man made some rude comments towards me for wearing a mask. Something about how "they" said you don't need it and you're wasting medical supplies. I held my cool...and his wife whisked him away before I could smart off. I paid for my junk food and headed to Walgreens, which was actually less crowded. I saw a few other people wearing masks, and one girl was sitting in an aisle, FaceTiming her mom. She was so upset about toilet paper and certain foods. It was a little surreal, but Walgreens had the meds. And they also had tons of these little breakfast cookies my dad eats, and they had more quarantine snacks for me, so I made my way to the counter with a mountain of stuff in my arms. That was my last real life interaction with another person beyond my parents for a while. 

So, another thing I need to admit here is that this whole situation hasn't affected my job too much. I already work at home. Most of what I write these days is more digital marketing than creative stuff or politics and news. As all of these companies were shutting down and moving their business online, I knew I'd be okay unless we just entered some sort of depression. As a matter of fact, my working from home was born out of the recession of 2009. I have a few friends who lost jobs or were furloughed. Most of the people I know were simply asked to work at home. Others have essential jobs, whether they work in hospitals or grocery stores. 

Anyway, for the first couple of weeks, I had so much work, so I wad largely distracted from the rest of the world. Lots of people I know confessed to being scared or depressed, and I, the queen of needless anxiety, hadn't really felt any of that yet. Other friends seemed like they were on spring break and were binge-watching every show on Netflix and making their way through their TBR piles and beating all the video games. I was jealous. Finally, my work wrapped up for a bit. I tried to jump into spring break mode, but it just wasn't happening. I couldn't even listen to my favorite podcast, Tell 'em Steve-Dave, which has become a bit of a comfort blanket for me through all of my parents' medical issues over the last few years.  

My friend Pat and I talked about this a little bit and she posted some articles on it. I found it difficult to concentrate on reading or writing or doing much of anything but watching the news, scrolling through Facebook (the meme game has been strong during all of this) and not really knowing how I spent my days. It hit me that the last time I felt like this was when my grandfather died a few years ago. It took me a while after that to have the ability to concentrate on much of anything. I guess we were all sort of mourning our formal lives during those first few weeks. Maybe some still are.   

I busied myself with work around the house instead. I started opening the pool and cut grass. Finally, one night, I decided to find a random show on Netflix and just started watching it. What I chose was Reign, a CW version of the life of Mary, Queen of Scots. I've been on a European history kick lately, and it was the perfect blend of that and escapism (it's the CW after all — and there are plenty of cute boys in it). I watched all 78 episodes in less than three weeks. I'll always be grateful for that show.  

In the meantime, I listened to my mother whine about how she wouldn't be able to plant a garden this year, because we couldn't go buy plants and most places are sold out online. So, I made it my mission to get her a garden together. Somehow, we've ended up with 72 tomato plants. Oops. 

Running errands has been replaced with orders beyond orders. I can't even keep up anymore with what I have coming from Amazon and Home Depot and Chewy and Target and Sephora and all the other places I shop. We also order groceries once a week from Publix. I've ordered meat from Omaha Steaks and a local farm here in Georgia where I usually get my beef anyway. And I realize I could technically go to some of these places, as they never closed, but first, my parents are both medically fragile and I can't put them at risk. Second, see my above statement about not wanting to go go go all the time. I've thoroughly enjoyed living in loungewear for two months thank you very much. 

Although, I am starting to get the urge to go to stores again, so maybe I'm healed of my desire to stay home. Maybe not. Anyway, it's getting late — I'm going to wrap this up here and save the rest of my quarantine diary for another post. 

January 26, 2020

On Kobe Bryant

I know it's been a couple of years since I updated this thing, and if I told you what all has happened in those last couple of years, you wouldn't believe me. So, I won't. I don't want this to turn into one of those "here's why I haven't updated my blog or whatever in so long" posts. The real reason I'm updating it is because I've been trying to do more non-work writing lately, and I figured this as good a place to start as any.  

It's been a weird day. The fact that Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash has kind of set the tone, which is probably weird considering I don't know him. I couldn't even say I'm a big fan. I used to be really into basketball and go to Hawks game and still watch from time to time, but football is front and center now, and it's about all I have time to keep up with these days.  

I think the real impact of his sudden and unexpected death is broader than basketball, though. Whether you were into sports or not, Kobe was a big part of 90s and 2000s pop culture. He's one of those figures that we — and by "we," I guess I mean my generation or Millennials or whatever — all grew up with, whether we were fans or not. He was just always there in the background.   

Throughout my 30-something years, I've only had strong feelings about two celebrity deaths. One was Paul Walker, and I liken this to that. Whether you were a fan of Walker's or you'd never so much as seen a Fast and Furious movie, he was just kind of just a part of our generation. He was someone who was also there in the background, entertaining us or making headlines. Losing him felt like losing a part of our youth...a part of us. It made us realize that no one is immortal. 

And that's exactly what it felt like when I walked into my parents' living room today, and my dad, wide-eyed and frantic, said, "Did you hear the news?" 

I could never in a million years know what his family is going through. And to find out his young daughter was with him — while that's enough to make anyone sad, let's face it: Kobe's private life has never been very private, so that affected us too.

But for most everyone else, no matter who you voted for, what you look like, or who you sleep with, you probably knew who Kobe Bryant was. Losing him feels like losing a little bit of what unites us. A little piece of our younger days is gone. He won't grow old with those of us who are lucky enough to do so, but he did remind us all today that life is fleeting, and we should all enjoy the ride while we can.  

July 16, 2018

The only good yellow jacket is a dead yellow jacket

My goal for today was to get some exercise. I've been slacking lately and really just haven't had a ton of spare time, so I figured I'd make this Sunday all about fitness. I had a long list of workouts to do, which included a swim, some kickboxing, and some weight-lifting, but I wanted to start it all out by getting in as close to 10,000 steps as I possibly could before I did any of that.

Earlier this year, I discovered that cutting grass with a push mower is an excellent way to get those steps in and feel like a productive member of society at the same time. I'll throw on some music, plug in my earbuds, and push that mower across any yard in town if I have to. Seriously, if you live in the Atlanta area and need your grass cut, give me a call!

So, on this particular Sunday afternoon, when it's 90+ degrees in mid-July in Georgia, with 90 percent humidity and absolutely miserable, I decided I'd cut some grass in front of my parents' house. There's this long grassy embankment, about three to four feet tall, that covers most of the front of their property. My parents typically use a riding mower to cut their grass, but this area is too steep for that. It's a pain to mow, but I decided I'd tackle it. Not only would I get my steps in, but all that climbing up and down that hill, pushing and pulling that mower would most certainly lead to a nice Kim Kardashian butt when I finished for sure.

I worked for about half an hour on it, but I can't lie; it was grueling. Sweat poured off of me, my feet hurt in my cheap Old Navy flip-flops, and the air was so thick I could barely breathe. I went inside for a drink of water and a quick break halfway through the job. It was tempting to stay in, but I only had like 1,500 steps (in my head, I had 8,000) and I'm no wimp. So, I went back outside, determined to finish cutting this little strip of land and earn myself that Kardashian-like body part.

I powered through until I had a space that was about 3 x 3 feet left. The light at the end of the tunnel. And believe me, I was so hot and tired and delirious, I was seeing lights and tunnels and all sorts of other things that weren't actually there. But just as I started to push the mower towards that strip, I felt a sharp pain in my left thigh. And then another. And another. I thought I was having a stroke or something.

All of these searing pains were happening on the same side and seemingly inside my clothes. I was wearing skintight capri leggings, so it's not like anything could just slide down in there without me noticing it. I just knew this was how I was going to go out. Cutting the damn grass.

But then I felt the same sharp, stinging pains on my right side. And down my shirt, in my bra, on my ankles, on my fingers, on my arms, on my calves...  My first thought was that I'd hit an ant bed, but I've been bitten by plenty of ants and none of them felt this severe, nor did they have time to climb up in my bra in such a short period of time.

I guess I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, because it took a minute for me to realize there were hundreds of angry yellow jackets swarming around me, and it took another minute for me to realize that this is what was causing this searing pain all over my body. Suddenly, I was dancing all over the yard, swatting at the little jerks and screaming every curse word I've ever learned in my life. Thankfully, I'm related to the only close neighbors, and they're used to me doing strange things.

On the bright side, it made me realize there are only 46 days until the college football season starts. Hey, it's July, and I've been without football for months, so if being stung by the mascot of my college team's rival team makes me think about football, even through some of the most awful pain I've been in in a while, then so be it. Go Dawgs!

June 16, 2018

When life hands you lemons, you write stories.

If you know me at all, both in the real world and online, you know life has thrown me many curve balls lately. It started around March 1st when my cousin's dog got a little too excited when he saw my mom and knocked her over onto their cement driveway, breaking her pelvic bone. She couldn't walk for a few weeks, and that set off a chain reaction of new health issues and complicated some stuff she was already dealing with. I won't get into her business here, but I'll sum it by saying I didn't get any sleep for nearly three months, she ended up in the ER six times, and she spent something like 20 nights in the hospital. Maybe more — I lost count. And while there were some scary days mixed in there, she's still here and actually getting better, so I'm thankful for that.

In the midst of it all, my Jeep decided to start going dead at random times. In the middle of busy intersections, at stoplights, in parking lots, in heavy traffic — there was no rhyme or reason to it. It happened dozens of times. Whether or not it would start back up was anyone's guess. I took it to four separate mechanics, and each and every one of them claimed there was nothing wrong. The last guy charged me hundreds to fix something that may have been the culprit, but two days after I drove it out of his shop, it started doing it all over again. When your mom's in the hospital (or has three or four medical appointments a week), and you have no siblings or significant other to depend on for help, having a vehicle that breaks down on railroad tracks at 9 p.m. and on busy highways at 8 a.m. in Atlanta traffic isn't ideal. Thankfully, I am now driving a new SUV, and I thank God for it every time it gets me from one place to another and back home again. 

And in the midst of all that, I lost my job in probably the most terrible way possible. I've worked as a freelance writer for the last nine years, and for approximately the last five or so of those years, I've worked almost exclusively for one client. It wasn't my dream job, but I enjoyed it enough, it opened many personal and professional doors for me, and I dedicated an embarrassing amount of time to it. I won't go into the details of what happened, but essentially a higher up person threw me and a few others under the bus to save her own ass. Other people who worked there tried to come to bat for me, but it became painfully clear after a few days that there was nothing I could do about it. I was collateral damage for something that was beyond my control.

I was devastated.

Many other things happened in the midst of all this job/car/mama drama. I spent a couple of weeks with the flu. A tornado ripped through my parents' property. One of my closest friends lost her mom. I nearly killed my poor sweet dog. A hawk did kill one of my poor chickens. My social life became just me calling a few friends, relatives, and neighbors and asking if they could pick my mom up from whatever appointment because I was stranded in a parking lot. And I could go on, but I won't, because I know it could always be so much worse. It just seemed like it got to a point where I woke up and wondered what was going to go wrong that day. I will say I had big and specific plans for this year — huge life-changing plans — and I watched them all get picked off, one by one, as the last few months rolled by. The only thing I really had left was a plan to buy a house later this year.

And last week, just as I began to try to settle back into a normal routine so I could actually afford that house, the person who planned to sell it to me texted me and said she needed to talk. Long story short, she's decided she wants to live in in the house herself. I am actually okay with that. It's one of my favorite people, and she's lived out of state for too long now. I'll get to spend more time with her and her family. But at the same time, it felt like the last little dangling hope for my year was shot down. I wasn't sure whether I should laugh or cry.

I think I spent the rest of the day trying to come up with a plan B. Maybe I should go back to school. Maybe I should fix up my parents' old house and move into it. Maybe I should try again to beg for my old job. To be honest, I've been offered several jobs since losing that one, but I was either not in a place to take them because of everything going on, or those offers came from previous clients who were rude and awful to work for, and I couldn't bring myself to say yes. But maybe it was time to suck it up and do something I would hate. I had no idea what else to do with myself.

After moping around like some sort of emo 14-year-old for a few days, something occurred to me. Maybe I need to stop coming up with plan B. Maybe it's time to get back to plan A.

Like I said, I've been supporting myself as a writer for nearly a decade. It's been great. Sort of. I have a ton of flexibility, but I'm not writing the things I want to write. I've penned stories about everything from politics to Pottery Barn. Somewhere in there, many years ago, I also wrote a novel. And at some point, I started shopping around for agents and such, and it wasn't all negative. But life got in the way, and work got in the way, and I put it all on hold for a moment. And before I knew it, that moment was four or five years long.

I kept telling myself I'd get back to it after this or after that, but after those things, something else would come up. I had so many ideas floating around in my head for more stories, but the few times I'd take a night and try to do something with them or go back to my old novel to fix it up, I'd find myself writing in the style of whatever I'd written for my paying job that day. I'd lost my own voice.

Thankfully, it wasn't gone forever.

What I haven't mentioned yet is that after I lost my job in March and went through all the phases of grief, something sparked inside of me. All of these ideas I've had floating around in my head came to the surface with so much new inspiration behind them. Even though life was really tough, this wave of creativity came over me. All I wanted to do is write for myself. I had some savings to keep me afloat, so I'd tell myself that I could spend this week working on a story I've always wanted to write, but next week I'd take one of the crappy job offers. And the next week, I'd say okay, you can work on these stories again, but next week you're taking one of the crappy job offers.

I couldn't stop working on the stories. And I also knew I couldn't keep going because I had a house to buy in a few months, and I needed to be working one or some of those crappy writing jobs so I could pay for it.

But I don't have a house to buy anymore. I literally have no concrete plans for the rest of the year at this point because of the way everything happened in March, April, and May. At first, the idea made me miserable. Now that I've had time to reflect, I'm thinking maybe that's not such a bad thing. Maybe it's time for me to buckle down and work on plan A — writing what I want to write — without worrying about backups for a while.

I do have a few odd freelance writing jobs I do here and there for people I like working for, and it's easy work. It's not going to buy me a house (or anything beyond food and utilities for that matter), but it's enough to pay my basic bills, and I really only have to work no more than 10-20 hours a week. I'm basically taking a 80 percent pay cut if I did the math correctly, but maybe I don't have to place weekly Sephora orders or buy every book Amazon has ever recommended right now.  Maybe I can work part-time for a few months and spend the rest of time dedicated to what I really want out of life for once instead of putting so much effort into my backups.

If the last few months have taught me anything, though, it's that you never know what's going to happen from day to day. So, I'm not going to make any promises, but I'd like to revisit my old novel and spend some time on the new one I've started. One is super light and airy Southern fiction and one is super dark and teeters between horror and thriller, so that's fun. I've also got some essays and short stories I've been writing and putting together. Who knows if I'll get anywhere with them, but the idea of dedicating time to work on them is exciting.

One last thing. JT Ellison, one of my favorite authors to read and follow on social media, always posts great advice for writers on her website and beyond. Her online presence has been a bit of a bible for me for several years. This week, right around the time this whole idea came to me, she posted this: The Process Begins by Actually Sitting Down. It couldn't have come at a better moment and felt like the final bit of guidance I needed for this new plan. This needs to be my mantra before I fall back into the same old habits that prevented me from writing before. I may not be working in the traditional sense, but if I'm doing to succeed, writing my stuff needs to be my job. 

April 28, 2018

Reliving the 90s with Little Fires Everywhere + Hootie & the Blowfish tickets

Over the last few months, the book Little Fires Everywhere has been, well, everywhere. I've seen it in places ranging from the grocery store to ads on Facebook, and a few of my good friends were reading it, so I decided to pick it up. 

And that's how it became the second book I've read this year. Yeah, I'm a little behind on that 100-book Good Reads challenge, but when you have to take your mom to the ER four times in less than two months and your car to four mechanics within the same time period, plus you lose your awesome writing job of six years in the midst of all of it, reading kind of gets pushed to the back of the old to-do list. But enough about that. I actually finished this particular novel late one night in my mom's hospital room.  

So, did it live up to the hype? Maybe. I enjoyed it, but I often felt like I was siding with the wrong characters. One of the major conflicts revolves around a baby who is adopted after her birth mother abandons her, and that turns into a custody battle. While reading the second half of the book, I felt like the author, Celeste Ng, wanted you to take a certain side. I felt like she was more sympathetic to one side than the other. After I read it, though, I wasn't so sure. Maybe her goal was to make your feel conflicted. I discussed it with a friend who read it at the same time I did, and I cringed when I admitted to her whose side I took in the custody battle and which main character I couldn't stand. I was shocked when she agreed with me.  

My point, though, is that the book made me think and re-think some of my positions. Adoption, which is near and dear to me, was a central theme. It also took place in a city — Cleveland — that I don't normally read much about, so I learned some things. One of my favorite things about it, though, was that it took place during the 1990s, and there are some music and pop culture references scattered throughout. I wish there had been more, but I'll take it. All in all, I'd recommend giving it a read.  

And if you're into this sort of thing, it looks like Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington will be turning Little Fires Everywhere into a miniseries.  

Speaking of the 90s and my glorious teen years, back then, along with the rest of the country, I was a huge Hootie & the Blowfish fan. While I can't pinpoint the exact moment it happened, I'd guess it was circa middle school when Cracked Rear View became a thing, and it was one of the only gifts I asked my parents to get me for my birthday that year. Well, it's 20+ years later, and I'm still a big fan of the band. Next to maybe Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and REM, I listen to them more than just about anyone. 

The problem is I can't seem to see them live. Ever. 

Every year, they do a concert or two in their hometown and one of my favorite places, Charleston, and every year I'm way too late to get tickets. One problem is that they announce the dates just a week or so before tickets go on sale, and I find out about it a couple of weeks later. This year, however, thanks to many boring days spent unemployed and at the hospital, I saw the initial announcement. This was going to be my year, even if I had to go alone. A leisurely trip to Charleston in August to see one of the greatest bands of my coming of ages years would be a nice reward after the last couple of months from hell, right? 

I wasn't sure if I'd be home at 10 a.m. on the big sale day, so I had other people ready and waiting to buy my tickets for me. But I ended up being home and awake at that, so I was also working on my laptop and my phone at 9:55 a.m. I did everything right.  

I still didn't get tickets.  

I took to Twitter to vent, because it's good for that, and I actually made friends with other people who also didn't get tickets. Despite all the limitations put in place to prevent scalpers from scooping them up, that's exactly what happened. By 10:07, the $50 tickets were on StubHub for $400. I'm all for capitalism and everything, but something about this just seems wrong.  

So, I guess I'm not going to see Hootie & the Blowish yet again this year. I'll definitely try for 2019, though. Hopefully, Ticketmaster and whoever else handles this stuff will get their act together.  If you happen upon this blog and you did manage to snag tickets, though, I'd love to hear from you. 

Especially if you have an extra one or two you'd like to sell for a reasonable price. I'm just saying....  

April 02, 2018

Politics: I learned to stop caring, and I couldn't be happier

If you know me at all, either online or in person, you know that I've always been pretty passionate about politics. Even as a little kid. It's something my grandfather (who agreed with me on most things) and my father (who doesn't agree with me on most things) and I all bonded over. Many of my conversations with both of them always reverted back to current events, elections, and the news stories of the day. I volunteered at voting booths, ran social media campaigns for candidates, and stuck signs in my yards and bumper stickers on my cars. My interest in politics even landed me my some of my first writing jobs. I've interviewed everyone from local politicians and gubernatorial candidates to congressmen and people who've worked in the White House. I kept the TVs in my house on various news stations from the time I got up to the time I went to sleep. I cleared my calendar for debates and conventions. I'd say at least half of the friends I have right now I made through various political ventures over the last decade or so.

And now I'm kind of over it.

Exactly one year ago, I went to great lengths to remove as much political stuff as I could from my life. I unfollowed all news sites on social media. I stopped watching the "news" channels. I stopped reading the newspapers and websites. I even cut back on interactions with people who were nonstop talking about current events and stopped posting about them on social media myself.

Guess what? The world didn't come to an end. The only thing that happened was that I had a little less stress in my life and a little more time to focus on what's real. Because, as it turns out, a lot of this stuff isn't even real. So much of it is manufactured so that people have something to be outraged about. I was tired of being outraged and being around outraged people. Sign into Facebook or turn on a cable news channel, and you'd think everyone hates everyone else. Go spend a day in the world with people who aren't just like you, and you'll realize that for the most part, most people don't actually hate each other and just want to mind their own business. Everyone's not racist, sexist, or homophobic. Everyone's not offended.

Lately, I've spent a lot of time with my parents, and no matter what's going on with them, they have to watch the same network news program at 7 pm every night. My mom gets kind of irritated when I point out how much of it is not really even news at all, or point out how biased it is or whatever. My dad also gets irritated when he says something like, "Did you hear what (random politician) said today?" Nine times out of ten, I didn't and don't want to. 

Admittedly, it's cost me some friendships. Then again, being overtly political did, too. But I've kind of come to the conclusion that I don't want to be friends with people who are going to judge me based on my political views anyway. And I don't want to judge other people based on theirs anymore. I do think social media is to blame for much of it. I managed to go years without knowing how every kid I went to high school with felt about gun control, abortion, or gay marriage. And I'm sure many felt the same way about me.

It doesn't mean I don't have strong opinions about certain issues. It doesn't mean that I will stop voting for the candidates I think are best or doing what I can to stop true injustices. It doesn't even mean that I'm not paying attention. It just means that I'm filtering out the noise. I'm finished listening to everyone shout and argue at each other when it's not going to amount to anything.

I'd rather spend my time hanging out with friends and family. I'd rather spend my time playing with and taking care of my pets. I'd rather travel, see the world, go on adventures, read good books, watch good TV, write stories, swim, hike, plant something, grow something, eat good food, create stuff, explore historical sites, remodel a house, take pictures, enjoy nature, watch sports, listen to music, help people and animals in need, be in a play, go for a drive, or meet interesting people. Not to be cliche, but we're only here for so long, and I'd rather fill whatever time I have left with those things.

December 15, 2017


Since I've been documenting my chicken drama here since March, I thought I'd take a minute to talk about how it all came to an end today. I don't like how it happen, though, but I guess that's not my call.  

If you're new here, the just of it is this: I had a sick chicken in my flock in March. After some TLC, a vet visit, and some medication, she mostly recovered, but my flock wouldn't accept her back. During this time, four random chickens — two roosters and two hens — randomly showed up in my yard. (How does that even happen?) The roosters quickly disappeared, and after trying to find a home for the hens, I decided to keep them. Why? They weren't mean to my sick chicken like my other gals were. They actually kind of loved her. So, after a couple of months of trying to deal with this mess, I built a brand new coop, and I had my old crew in one coop, and the sick chicken and the two newbies in the other. I can't express how stressful things had been up until that point. I'd almost lost all interest in raising these birds, something I'd been really passionate about before.  

Just when I thought the stress was over, it wasn't. Sick chicken, Marigold, died about a week after I finished the coop. She wasn't expected to live long anyway as she had some internal issues with her egg-laying parts. Shortly after Marigold died, one of the two strays, Tulip, got super depressed. She wouldn't eat. She wouldn't walk around much. I believe she mourned herself to death, because a few weeks later, she took her last breaths in the garage. 

That left Jasmine. Oh, Jasmine. She was small, but she made up for her size with plenty of attitude. She hated being alone in the coop and eventually stopped sleeping in it and moved to the garage. She'd greet any cars that drove up. She went broody once, and I briefly considered ordering her some babies so she'd eventually have her own flock, but I don't think I could have handled it if she'd eaten them or something. So, I finally decided to let her join my flock. They didn't get along at first, naturally. She remained pretty low on the pecking order, but eventually they let her pal around with them. Mean Myrtle still pecked her when she tried to eat with them, but she followed them around the yard and slept with them in the bushes. 

She just wouldn't sleep in the coop. Either coop. She slept in the garage for a while, but eventually, she even stopped doing that. I searched the yard over, but I couldn't figure out where she was spending her nights until one evening, I was in the kitchen, and I saw something out of the corner of my eye in the cedar tree that towers over the back patio. "What kind of bird is that?" I said to no one in particular. It took me a few minutes to realize it was Jasmine. She would climb up the patio steps, fly up on the railing, jump into the tree, and walk the flimsy branches until she was in a safe spot. 

What could I do? I let her sleep there until temperatures dropped into the 20s last week, and we experienced an unprecedented snow. My dad helped me get her into the garage where she stayed for about four days. As I said, she's a feisty little thing, and I am personally afraid to mess with her. She's pecked and clawed the hell out of him multiple times, especially when he had to break her from her broody spell. Once the snow melted, Jasmine tried to return to the tree every night, and every night we had to coral her back into the garage. 

Until last night. We had her schedule figured out. She always got into the tree around 5:20, right before my chickens went into the coop for the night. Just before dark. My dad was working out. I was charging my phone. We met on the back patio at the same time we always did, but that damn chicken was already in the tree. I think she tried to outsmart us by going to bed early. At this point, there wasn't much we could do. She wanted to be in that tree. She thought she was safe there. We thought she was safe there. Until she wasn't. 

This morning, my mom and I were working on our antique booth, and my dad called. He'd discovered feathers all over the backyard when he went out to work on cutting up all the trees that fell during last week's snow, and Jasmine was nowhere to be found. When he let my chickens out, they were spooked. They spent the day hiding in the bushes, only coming out when I took them some sunflower seeds. My first thought was a coyote was still out early this morning, waiting when she got down out of the tree. After all, they've been hanging around lately. But that didn't really make sense.  

Long story slightly shorter, my dad thinks something got her in the night. A big limb from the cedar tree she slept in had fallen, creating something of a ladder to the top of the tree. There were little scratch marks up and down it as if something big had climbed it. A raccoon maybe? I can't be sure, but whatever it was must have grabbed her while she slept. I just hope that whatever it was, it killed her quickly. She more than likely would have put up a fight at any other time of day, but chickens can't see what's coming in the dark. 

Believe it or not, my parents were attached to her. I think they took it pretty hard. I'm sad, but I learned a long time ago that when raising animals like this, you can do the best you can, but there is no right way to both keep them 100 percent safe and let them live a free and happy life. I mean, a coyote snatched my little Rose right out from under me back in February. There was literally nothing else I could have done for her, and I've gone to great lengths to protect these girls. You have to detach yourself a little, especially if you believe as I do that animals just don't belong in cages 24/7. 

But I'm glad that Jasmine had a home for the last 9 months of her life, and she didn't have to be a "street chicken," though she still had that instinct. I'm glad she got to pal around with my chickens, even if Myrtle pecked her. I'm glad she had a yard where she was happy to dig and run and explore and nap in the sunshine and the dust-bathe in the bushes. I'm glad she enjoyed treats like biscuits, sunflower seeds, kale, corn, noodles, and yogurt. And if there's a little chicken heaven out there somewhere, I hope she's reunited with Marigold and Tulip, and they are living the high life.   

August 28, 2017

97 percent totality of everything

Took this with my phone during the 2017 solar eclipse.

Back in college, I worked at a big brand bookstore for a little over three years. I enjoyed it for the most part, but one of my most memorable moments of employment was the day a Harry Potter book was released. Now, I have no idea which book it was, nor have I ever read more than a page or two of that series. But at the time, I was knee-deep in acting classes and big dreams, and my first major role had presented itself.

I would be playing Fortune Teller at the Midnight Harry Potter Release Party.

The night was a blast. Hundreds of people showed up to play games, enjoy refreshments, buy their books at midnight, and have their fortunes read by sweet little old me. I was terrified up until showtime, and then it was like an out-of-body experience. I went from Sarah the book-selling college student to Fortune Teller at the Midnight Harry Potter Release Party almost instantly, delighting teens and tweens from across Metro Atlanta with my predictions about their upcoming school years, unrequited crushes, and future plans.

Most of those kids freaked out when I told them they'd meet a new boyfriend at school or their band would play a big gig next year. I remember one guy asking me how I knew he was in a band. "I'm psychic," I explained, but the truth was that it was a lucky guess based on the fact that he was wearing a Green Day t-shirt and was trying really hard to look just like Billy Joe Armstrong.

That's how it went. Most people offered you up some kind of clue if you paid attention, and if they didn't, I'd come up with something generic on the fly, such as "Hey, 13-year-old girl who looks kind of geeky — the guy you like is totally going to talk to you at school this year." I mean, I've been a geeky 13-year-old girl. I know what they want.

The point to this story is that I am not psychic. A decent actor, maybe, but I don't believe I have any otherworldly powers. I have had a few dreams in the past that sort of predicted the future, but was that some moment of clairvoyance or merely a string of coincidences? I'll likely never know.

And that's why, Saturday night, when I dreamed an old friend from high school had called me up and asked me if I wanted to buy 200 lottery tickets, I didn't think a thing about it. She claimed that if I bought these 200 tickets, I'd have a big chance of winning the lottery, but I was stuck in a basement and had no access to my wallet, and she needed a credit card number right then and so I couldn't pay her for them. She tried to haggle, to offer them up for less than the original price, but I assured her it wasn't that.

Several numbers were tossed around during that dream. When I woke up the next morning and saw people on Facebook talking about buying their Powerball tickets, I kind of dismissed it. I must have dreamed about it because I inadvertently heard someone talking about it. I can count on one hand the number of times in my life I've purchased a lottery ticket, and while it'd be nice to have my family to the beach house for Christmas, I just kind of believe in hard work and perseverance instead of dumb luck.

But I ain't gonna lie. I wrote down the numbers from my dream. I decided that maybe, just maybe, if I had time, I'd go buy the ticket. Of course, shortly after I decided that, things got a little hectic, and I spent the week dealing with a difficult work project and an equally difficult car issue. By the time I got the car out of the shop and was settled in on Wednesday night, I realized I'd forgotten to buy a ticket but eh, I wasn't going to win anyway.

On Thursday morning, I hopped on Facebook and saw that many friends had posted news about a winning lottery ticket in Massachusetts. While waiting for my dog to come inside, I decided to glance at the winning numbers. To my surprise, I had almost all of them, and the one I didn't have was only one number off from what I did have. Upon doing further research, I realized that I would not have won the $700-million-whatever-it-was, but depending on which number I chose as the Powerball, I could have won either $100 or $50,000. Enough to either buy my groceries for the week or that Lexus SUV I was eyeing earlier. Whatevs.

* * * * *

My near miss with the lottery wasn't the only exciting thing to happen this week. Unless you've spent the last month in a coma, and perhaps even then, you know a total solar eclipse went rolling across the United States on Monday. I was actually supposed to be in Charleston that day - a trip I'd had planned since May - and I was excited about it because the Greatest City in the World just happened to be in the path of totality, while poor little old Atlanta here was only at 97 percent. Long story short, I had to switch my trip dates to September, but I figured 100 and 97 were about the same thing.

Apparently 100 and 97 are about the same thing in everything but total solar eclipses and lottery games. Most people I know were underwhelmed with this celestial event, but you know, we all stood outside wearing our overpriced sweat-drenched paper glasses and staring up at the sky anyway.

I think this guy was a little underwhelmed with the eclipse.

Underwhelming as it was, at least I got to watch it with the cutest people I know.

While it wasn't quite what I expected, it was kind of neat to have something bring some kind of unity to the country right now. For a few hours, no one was talking about Nazis and statues and riots. Instead, they were spending time with the people they love (or work with) and geeking out over this proof that we're all just one small part of the same universe. My cousin came over with her two little boys. We sat outside and watched until it was over and the 6-year-old asked if we could do something else now because he was bored. But just like people can tell you where they were in 1979 and 1984, I'll always look back and remember that I was standing in the front yard where I practically grew up with some of my favorite people during the total solar eclipse of 2017. 

There is supposed to be another eclipse in 2024, and maybe I'll drive to one of the states that is in the path of totality for that one. Maybe next time I dream about Powerball numbers, I'll actually buy a ticket and beat the odds. For now, though, I have to say I'm pretty content with living a 97 percent totality kind of life.

Eclipse shadows on the driveway

July 08, 2017

It's never too hot for a yard sale...

I had every intention of spending yesterday parked in front of my computer, working from sun up to sun down, but about half an hour before my alarm went off, my mom called and told me to get dressed. There was a yard sale to attend.

For years, my mom and I have designated Friday as yard sale day when the weather is appropriate and the locals are out selling their junk. Right now, we mostly look for things to put in our antique booth, but we end up buying a few treasures for ourselves, too. To be quite honest, most of my home decor came from yard, garage, and estate sales. Some of it was new and just never used, some secondhand, but all of it was cheap. And gorgeous. I received decorating compliments from practically everyone who visited. Little did they know an entire room probably cost less than $100.

So, I got up, threw on some clothes, and we headed a few miles east in my little Metro Atlanta town, despite the fact that we'd agreed the night before to take the day off from yard sale-ing so we could both get some things accomplished (we've both been swamped with various things lately). And despite the fact that temperatures have been in the 90s before noon. Throw in the humidity, and it's a wonder anyone's even holding a yard sale. But I digress.

The sale was located at a gorgeous house, and they had the basement, first floor, and backyard shed filled with neat stuff. Between the both of us, we ended up with a carload, including plenty of Christmas decor for the antique shop. My only regret is that we didn't get there earlier, because I know they had more good stuff.  Forget the mall — this is how I like to shop.

If you know me, you know I already own thousands of books, and yes, many of them come from yard sales. Picked these up yesterday so I can work on my carpentry and gardening skills, and I'm a sucker for logic puzzles (oh, hush). I also have a collection of Gone with the Wind books, so if I see one I don't have, I'll grab it, especially for 50 cents.

Yeah, jigsaw puzzles, too. I'm kind of nerdy like that. 

I thought this picture of the girl pulling the wagon of books was adorable. It doesn't really go with anything I own, so it'll probably end up in our shop.

And this is a Christmas tree skirt. I just fell i love with the pattern. I like to do a few different trees during the holidays, so I'm sure I can work this in somehow. If not, I'll just put it in the shop. 

I bought some nice yard tools for myself, along with a few other neat things not pictured. (It may not be too hot for yard sales, but it was too hot to stand outside and take photos of everything.)

Have you discovered any secondhand treasures lately? 

July 01, 2017

When it rains...

When it rains, it pours. That's been the theme around here lately, both literally and figuratively. While Atlanta did enjoy a few days without rain this week, dryness hasn't been the norm. We've seen flooding, downed trees, power outages, and everything else that comes along with day after day after day of wet, stormy weather.

As a matter of fact, the weather could be what started this little turn of bad luck I've run into for the last two weeks.

My mom and I have a booth in an antique shop here in town. It's located in an old K-mart building— it's been there since sometime long before I was born—and the building isn't in the greatest shape. Luckily, the entire shop is moving to a newer nicer building later this summer. As a matter of fact, that move is one of the big items on my 70-item summer to-do list I mentioned a few posts back.

Or it was on my list. I got to cross that one off.

Early last week, I was sitting here minding my own business when the store manager called and said we'd better get up there as quickly as possible if we wanted to save our stuff. When we arrived, the entire back corner of the store was flooded, nearly ankle-deep in some places. The ceiling tiles were caving in one-by-one. There was a waterfall of rain cascading down the wall behind our booth, and it was raining inside in other spots, the flood spreading. Every five minutes or so, another ceiling tile hit the ground hard and water swooshed in behind it. The lady who runs the booth across from ours was also there, and we laughed a little too hysterically when the Mission Impossible theme blared over the loudspeaker.

A few ceiling tiles missing.

Look closely at the doorway, and you'll see a waterfall.

Standing water is always fun.

Naturally, I was wearing a pair of cheap Old Navy flip-flops that slip and slide if I so much as look at anything wet. By the time we left, my pants were soaked almost to the knees, and I'd fallen at least four times. The only thing on our side was the fact that we've sold so much inventory and haven't replaced it because of the move, so there wasn't quite as much to pack. We had four grocery carts full, and I managed to get them all into the car so that we only had to make one trip. I'm not sure where to put it on a resume, but I have some mad packing skills after all the moving I've done in my adult life. 

After that, the rest of the week just kind of went downhill. My mom ended up having to have several unexpected medical appointments and procedures (not a big deal - just had to take care of some business, basically, and prep for some future stuff). Once they called when we were halfway to one hospital to tell us that we actually needed to go to another two counties away. Once they didn't have a time set up, so they called and asked if we could be about 30 minutes away in less than an hour. We were both sound asleep when they called.

Because it wouldn't be my life without some kind of animal mishaps, I ended up with a sick cat and a sick chicken during this period. I had to change the sick cat's vet appointment three times to give you an idea of what my schedule has been like. Fortunately, the doctor thinks it's just allergies and a respiratory infection. Unfortunately, he made giving her a pill and eye drops look ridiculously easy, so I left feeling cocky about my ability to do it just as well. No comment on that. 

She looks calm, but try giving her a pill and eye drops.
Sadly, the sick chicken won't be recovering. She died this morning in my parents' garage. It was Tulip—one of the new girls who showed up out of the blue back in April—and she's been a little off ever since Marigold died. Part of me thinks she mourned herself to death. If she had a disease, I would think the other hen would have it, too, and if it were something else like being egg bound or an impacted crop, I don't think it would have taken her three weeks to die. Yesterday, I went on a little shopping spree for all the foods and medications I could put together to try to make her well again. She did perk up a little, but today when I saw her heaving in the garage, I knew it was the end of the road for her. 20 minutes later, she was gone. I've felt so helpless dealing with her lately that it's almost a relief to know she's not suffering anymore

RIP, Tulip

So, remember that coop I spent two weekends building for my three little misfit chickens? There's only one left, and now I have to figure out how to make sure she's healthy and integrate her with the others. I'm right back where I started but not quite as stressed out about it. 

On top of dealing with a sick chicken this morning, someone tried to break into my car. In broad daylight. Who does that? 

Between sick animals, flooded stores, running a gazillion errands, almost daily medical appointments with my mom, and a few other private things, work has been something I squeeze in when I can, and sleep comes second. Aside from what mother nature forced me to do, my 70-item summer to-do list hasn't been touched, and I have 47 days to make it happen before I go out of town. 

It hasn't been all bad, though. Someone I used to work with contacted me to see if I'd be interested in writing for their new business venture, and I'm really excited about that. I also received word of some interest in some of my personal writing, and while I won't know anything about what's going to happen there for a while, it's a nice reminder to not let these rainy days and weeks stop me from losing focus on my goals. 

June 25, 2017

10 Southern Fiction Books for Summer Reading

When I resurrected my blog this year, I wanted to write about books, authors, reading, and writing — in addition to my life — but I've had a hard time even sitting down to write anything that's not work-related lately. While I'm still working on my 2017 reading challenge, I'm also still way behind, so that's out. 

That said, I was just upstairs doing some cleaning, and I have a bookcase that houses all the books I've read over the last three years. Looking over the titles made me a bit nostalgic for some of my favorites, so I thought I'd take some time to write about a few of them. Not surprisingly, many of them fall into the category of Southern fiction, and most of them are perfect for curling up with on a warm sandy beach or by the pool or on the back porch or...you get the idea. 

So, if you're in the market for some fun (and some dark) Southern fiction to lose yourself in this summer, these are some of the books (and authors/series) I'm digging lately.

1. Tradd Street Series by Karen White

If you know me, you know I'm a sucker for anything about Charleston, and these books put me right smack dab in the middle of the city. As a matter of fact, I read through most of the series last summer when my mom and my dog were both really sick, and I needed an escape. I can visualize every place Melanie, a real estate agent who just happens to see dead people, and her family and friends visit as if I am there myself.

One thing I love most about this series, aside from the setting, is that the supernatural stuff is not silly or over-the-top. Having grown up in an old house filled with strange phenomena myself, my standards for ghostly things are high. I just finished up the last book in the series, and at this point, I feel like the characters are old friends.

I recommend reading these books in order, starting with The House on Tradd Street. I also recommend following the author, Karen White, on social media. She's delightful! As a matter of fact, she has several standalone books, and I haven't read as many of those as I'd like to just yet, but I have a few in my own summer reading pile. 

2. Almost anything by Mary Kay Andrews

Mary Kay Andrews is the quintessential Southern beach read, if you ask me. Her books and characters are fun, and most of them take place along the coasts of Georgia, Florida, or the Carolinas. As a matter of fact, her new releases typically coincide with my annual family beach trips, so I almost always find myself parked at Tom Petty's pool with an MKA hardcover in my hands.

That said, I do love some of them better than others, but I'd also say you can't go wrong with whatever one you choose.  My absolute favorite is Savannah Blues, which also has a couple of sequels. Hissy Fit is another favorite; it takes place in Madison, Georgia. I just realized my other favorite, Fixer Upper, also takes place in Georgia. I'd love to see some of her future novels return to the Peach State, because she does Georgia so well. 

3. The Cypress House by Michael Koryta

This may not be your typical beach read, but I read it at the beach, so it's making the list. Idgie at Dew on the Kudzu recommended it when I told her I needed some Southern Goth in my life, and when she recommends, I listen. The book takes place in Florida, mostly at an old boarding house on a marsh island during a hurricane. The protagonist is kind of a dark guy, and he has some psychic abilities that help set everything in motion. It's not your typical fun, girly beach read, but I couldn't put it down. Sadly, I haven't yet read more of Michael Koryta's books, but I do have them on my to-read list.  

4. The River Witch by Kimberly Brock

This book is not just one of my favorites from the last couple of years; it's one of my favorites things I've ever read. Something about the setting, the characters, the plot — it was all just so hauntingly beautiful and tragic. I don't often re-read books, but I could see myself getting into this one again. It's about a young woman who has gone through some rough stuff, so she retreats to a mostly secluded island off the coast of Georgia. She meets a unique 10-year-old girl who "brings alligators, pumpkins and hoodoo" into her life and the girl's family. I can't say enough good things about this one, and I can't wait to see what else Kimberly Brock has for us in the future. 

5. Heart of Palm by Laura Lee Smith

I purchased this one on a whim when I saw in a magazine that it won some sort of Florida book award...and that it takes place just outside of St. Augustine, a city where my family has vacationed for years. It sat on my to-read pile for a long time before I decided to finally give it a try. Part of me thought I'd end up getting rid of it after a chapter or two, because I feel like the summary on the back does not do it justice. I couldn't have been more wrong. Like The River Witch, this is one of those books that is probably one of my all-time favorites, not just a favorite from the last few years. It follows the members of a deeply flawed family who has lived and owned a restaurant in a little North Florida town for years. I'll be honest — I don't remember all the details of the plot, but I do remember thinking about the characters long after I put the book down and not wanting it to end.  

6. At the End of the Road by Grant Jerkins

This is definitely not a beach read. I'd file it more into the Southern Gothic category, but I loved every minute of it. Part of that could have to do with the fact that it takes place in my hometown. I don't think I've ever read a book that so much as mentions the city where I grew up, so I could picture exactly where everything took place. As a matter of fact, every time I go through that area, I think of that book now. It tells the story of a 10-year-old boy in the summer of 1976 and a series of off-the-wall events that will change his life. There is some heartbreaking stuff in the plot that some may find difficult to read, but it's one of those you can't put down without knowing how it ends.

7. Bound South by Susan Rebecca White

I picked up Bound South, Susan Rebecca White's first novel, at a garage sale a few years ago, and I couldn't believe how much I loved it. Most of it takes place in Atlanta and its suburbs, so you know that was a big selling point for me. Seriously, set a book in the Atlanta area, and I'm instantly hooked. White's knowledge and detailed descriptions of the city were just as enjoyable to me as the plot. As a matter of fact, I made my dad, who grew up in town, read it, and he also loved it, so don't let the girly cover or the women's fiction label fool you. It's a must if you love books based in Atlanta as much as I do. While that one is my favorite, I suggest following it up with the author's second and third novels, both great reads in their own right.

8. Anything by Joshilyn Jackson

To be honest, I haven't read all of Joshilyn Jackson's work, but she's another author who will always be in my to-read pile as long a she is writing.  My favorite so far is Gods in Alabama, which has a little bit of everything — small Southern towns, big city life, murder, religion, and race — but don't let any of that scare you. I recently read another one of her books which I'll talk about on a future post, so I'm not going to say too much here. Just put her on your list; you won't regret it. 

9. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

This is one of those books that always popped up in my recommendations on Amazon, and I always saw people reading it when it debuted, but I never bothered to buy it myself until I saw it at a garage sale. Ironically, that seems to be where I find the best books. I fell instantly and madly in love with the main characters, the Savannah setting, and the relationships formed in the story. A little girl's mother dies, and she goes off to live with an older relative in Savannah. It's easy to dismiss it as a Hollywood cliche story, but there's so much more to it than that. If you love a book that makes you laugh at one point and cry your eyes out in the next chapter, this one's for you.

10. The Happy Hour Choir by Sally Kilpatrick

To be honest, I purchased this book because it sounded similar to some of the stuff I've written, and I wanted to see that there were other people out there who wrote and enjoyed the same kinds of stories I do. When my uncle died a couple of summers ago, I also needed something kind of light and fun, so I pulled it out of the to-read pile. It lived up to those expectations and then some. Kilpatrick's books are quirky - not too sweet and not too sassy - and 100 percent Southern. I promise, if that's your thing, you'll devour them.