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Clicks & Clucks Blog

Rocky’s take on writing, reading, and farming for the fun of it

Predators, Studs, and the Art of Pasture Maintenance

We SO much wanted the kids to love horsemanship.  We went 0-4.

Living on a farm is a real “Circle of Life” kind of experience. Papa from A Day No Pigs Would Die said, “Dyin’ and getting bornt is dirty work.”  He wasn’t exaggerating.  Raising animals, kind of like raising teenagers, can get downright grisly.  I’m lucky enough to get to do both!  Here’s what we have going on at Moore’s Creek Farm these days…

OUT of the Egg Business (at least this season):  My chickens and laying ducks got plucked off one by one by a gang of renegade raccoons.  The ruffians would lure the birds into sticking their little heads out of the fence, grab ’em, and start a sick game of tug o’ war.  The poor victim couldn’t scream because of the stranglehold and would come out the other side of the wire dead, divested of its feathers, and ready for eating.  At least that’s what the evidence points to.  We do have the designated survivors sequestered in a pen-within-a pen setup;  they are safe, but my egg business is kaput.

We aren’t ignorant folks, but it can be surprisingly challenging to thwart coons, snakes, foxes, coyotes, owls and the like.  We plan to relocate the hen housing to an area on the farm where the predators will have to run the Great Dane gauntlet to have a go at the birds.  This more open-concept design will sacrifice shade for our feathered friends, but should offer another layer of protection.  I expect shiplap to be involved in the renovation.

We ordered a replacement flock of chicks.  They will come by US Mail in cute little chirping boxes.  The babies will stay in the barn nursery until they feather out and become big enough to start trying to kill each other in the small cages.  The barn is relatively safe, but we must be careful not to leave the door ajar…that looks like an open invitation to a feast for rat snakes.  With a little luck, I’ll be back to providing farm fresh eggs for multiple families by spring.

Ole Number 29:  We have a resident artist here at the farm for a few months.  He’s a gorgeous Black Angus bull with an ear tag that identifies him simply as 29.  I am tempted to make a Weinstein joke here, but perhaps it’s too soon.  You get the idea.  Ole Number 29 is most assuredly serious about getting his job done, and he practices his…um…creativity with enough gusto for us to feel pretty confident we’ll have a couple of calves running around the farm before long.  He’s friendly enough to come right up to the fence for a head-scratching, but I’m just going to let that fence stay right between us.  I’m not sure I quite trust that glint in his eye.

Winterizing:  Russ spent a good part of the day yesterday on the tractor bush-hogging the pastures.  Next weekend, winter grass will get planted so that hopefully we won’t go broke buying hay for the cows and our guard donkey Jack the Ass.  The way this usually works is that we spend a bundle to keep from spending a bundle.  Once the seed is planted, that will cue the driest fall season in Baldwin County history.  Nary a blade of new grass will grow and we’ll get to help support the haying industry…or we’ll get a gorgeous stand of green and the cattle will munch contentedly throughout the winter.  It could go either way.  That’s part of the fun and frustration of farming.

Fencing:  One of my greatest pleasures living out here on the farm is the “chore” of checking the fences.  My job is to walk along the fence lines of the pastures to make sure there are no security breaches. What it really is, though, is an act of love.  Russ keeps a strip along all the fences mowed so that I have a clear path (and a jump on any snake sightings) as I walk.  Naturally, he fixes any fence problems as he does this.  What I get is a tour of the farm, a pleasant bit of exercise, and a daily reminder of the blessing of elbow room.  Smart man.

Folks can take their McMansions, planned communities, and even their beach houses.  Those are all great, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I have fantasized about each.  But when I really get to pondering, there’s no place I’d rather be than right here, mad raccoon raiders and all.

Spittin’ Images, Blood Relations, and Mysterious Legacies…the Making of Clemenceau’s Daughters


Syd Jewel
Spittin’ Image

Call it fate, or call it the creeps, but the idea behind Clemenceau’s Daughters emerged as I was thumbing through my great-grandmother’s photo album, trying to decide if I had the ambition to digitize a bunch of old photos of people completely lost to the collective family memory.  I felt pretty guilty as I toyed with the idea of simply burning it, letting the dead stay buried and lost to time.  Something just didn’t feel right about destroying it, though.  I turned a page and startled, dropping the album as the hairs rose on the back of my neck.  My daughter, pensive expression and devil-may-care stance, stared at me across a century.

I had no information about this girl whose uncanny resemblance to my Syd was enough to convince folks of the validity of reincarnation, or, at the least, the power of genetics.  Gently, painstakingly, I pried the photo from the page in hopes of a clue.  Scrawled on the back of the photo in my grandmother’s distinctive hand was the single word Jewel.  I remembered my grandmother taking me to visit an ancient relative in what could only be described as a hovel.  She lectured me on manners and not turning my nose up at Aunt Jull, whose poverty was by choice.  I was just a child and found it inconceivable that someone could actually live without TV.   I soon found out Aunt Jull also lived without indoor plumbing.  It was like walking into another world.

Could this Jewel be the Aunt Jull my grandmother took me to see?  The girl in the photograph did not reconcile with my memory of the old woman, pruny with age and ripe with the smell of snuff, so unlike my grandmother who left traces of Estee Lauder and talcum powder in her wake as I walked behind her.  I recall little of that day except the having the vague sense my grandmother was making more of a pilgrimage than a social visit and that, somehow, I had been judged.

I called my father to ask if he remembered a Jewel.  He was my best shot since everybody else on that side of the family is dead and gone.  “Jull, you mean?” he piped up without hesitation, “Yeah, she was the old bag who talked to ghosts.  Spooky as hell.”  The hairs rose on my neck again.

That old photograph haunted me for weeks.  If family resemblance can be that marked, what about personality?  Was there anything to this macabre snippet of family lore?  I started poring through the other albums I inherited from the matriarchs of the family.  I ran across another photo of me as a little bitty thing standing in the roots of a storm-tossed, upturned oak.  It towered over me, the naked roots twisting almost protectively in tendrils about a face that also echoed across generations.  I thought about family trees and how death uproots us from our past.  I thought about young Jewel, my Syd from another age, and what little was remembered of her.  Could the two of them be connected in any way beyond blood?

Renae Clemenceau materialized and a novel sprang to life.


Clemenceau’s Daughters is available right here at or your favorite book retailer.



Nate’n To It

Rocky’s “should be famous” hurricane wine punch


The tailwinds of  Hurricane Nate whistle through the trees this morning, providing a rhythm section to birdsong and punctuated by the cymbal shriek of our guineafowl and the deep baritone bray of Jack the Ass.  Aside from a forgotten wind chime, spread-eagle on the grass, all is as it should be on the farm.

What did we ever do in these situations before street-level radar and Jim Cantore? How did people know it was time to make a run on bread and batteries, or jump in their bathtubs (which should have been filled with clean water if they followed the hurricane preparedness guides correctly) when their cell phones screeched out yet another tornado warning?  Who would have ever expected a hook signature or rotation in a hurricane without the good folks at the media to help us through the storm?

Now, I’m not going to pick on Jim Cantore.  Any man who can juggle his pecs a la The Rock while spelling out potential doom is okay by me.  I’m not going to chuckle too much at the local third string weatherman who spotted a waterspout (via the station’s remote camera, mind you) and gave us the play-by-play as it made its way to the beach, his tone more like that of a sports commentator calling a touchdown run as the thought of a future Emmy could be read on his face as plainly as the waterspout/tornado appeared on the split screen. That Emmy run dissipated as quickly as the waterspout when the station hit a rather unfortunate (for the weatherman) spate of tech issues.  I understand the gravity of the situation, especially in light of recent storms, and I’m sure many of us here on the Gulf Coast are relieved that this one was a bit, well, overblown.

As we breathe a collective sigh of relief, I’d like to provide you with a light-hearted look at this dark and stormy experience.

Hurricane Preparations: You could smell the hope and teen spirit rise on Friday as 1800 cell phones vibrated simultaneously with the storm warning, causing the high school to register as an epicenter on the Richter Scale.  “I’ll bet school will be out on Monday!” flew like a viral tweet across the campus, most likely perpetrated by the overwrought teachers.

The superintendent, who apparently has Jim Cantore on speed-dial, issued multiple cease and desist orders for the idea of closing school while simultaneously admonishing school personnel to keep the millions of dollars worth of school technology housed in classrooms high, dry, and backed up just in case the worst occurred.  People started to worry that Friday night football might be cancelled.  The superintendent wisely chose not to take the school system to Def-Con 1 until Saturday morning.

Closings:  Social media lit up over the course of Saturday as Lower Alabama collectively rolled up the sidewalks and tucked in.  APB’s of which stores had water and a well-timed truckload bread sale peppered Facebook.  Hundreds of well-meaning citizens, including me, posted about how they were personally battening down the hatches.  Then things got real.  The churches started cancelling Sunday services.  Nothing else was quite as effective in putting worry into the heart as the news that the Lord would be sitting this one out.

Hurricane Cooking:  You never know if, when, and for how long you’re going to lose power during a hurricane, so it’s time to put on the feed bag.  Hurricane cooking is second only to a good funeral spread, and with the news of no meeting on Sunday, I just threw caution to the wind.  Hurricane cooking is defensive cooking meant to soothe the soul and the nerves, so I pretty much said to heck with health and stuck to a menu that completely ignores cholesterol warnings.

We feasted on bacon-wrapped Conecuh sausage bites kissed with brown sugar,  spicy chili with a pone of cornbread, fried okra (hand-breaded, none of that frozen mess), and “Redneck” burgers.  Crisco was heavily involved.

To take the edge off, I whipped up a pitcher of Hurricane Wine Punch.  This is a sweet “nectar of the gods” kind of drink that somehow only tastes right if you keep it in an earthenware crock.   You guys who know me understand that I’m not fond of measuring when it comes to cooking, but a number of my Facebook friends have asked for the recipe, so do your best.

Mix up about half a bottle of muscadine wine, a bottle of red wine, a jigger or two of Cat Daddy moonshine, a splash of lemon juice, about a cup of sugar, and some Milo’s.  Squeeze a lime into it and let it set in the fridge for a couple of hours.  It’s mighty fine sippin’.

I’ll be sippin’ some more today.  You know, to take the edge off the upcoming school week.


Where Are You, Breakfast?

Sit-down Breakfast

I don’t know what happened to breakfast.  Somehow, in the hustle to slide in ahead of the morning bell, I lost it.  Now, when I think of breakfast, it’s with that soft glow of nostalgia–sepia toned and crackled around the edges like the bone china gravy bowl Meemaw jokingly called her petite spittoon.

I see it in vignettes, me caught in various stages of childhood, like a collection of Polaroids.  Little details of memory remain in perfect focus.  Daddy joking with a faceless waitress that he likes his coffee like he likes his women:  tall, hot, and blonde as Mommy grins and busies herself cutting my little brother’s pancakes, her brown hair tucked neatly behind her ear.  Sawing into a slice of country ham at the Holiday Inn and trying not to slosh the redeye gravy into my scrambled eggs.  Papa crumbling stale cornbread into a tall glass of buttermilk and declaring it better than a Coke float.  Uncle LD slurping his coffee from a saucer while Aunt Kathryn sips daintily from a teacup, eyeing her starched tablecloth.  Aunt Charlotte serving a plate of fresh-sliced tomatoes and cucumbers and my cousins acting as if that were typical breakfast fare.

I am always elsewhere in these breakfast musings, never at home.  I’m sure we had thousands of delicious breakfasts growing up;  my mother was a fine cook, but the only images from those days I can conjure are of me propped up watching Saturday morning cartoons with a Tupperware bowl full of Lucky Charms.  It wasn’t until I was married that I could appreciate those Norman Rockwell moments as imitations of life rather than extensions of a Walton’s holiday special.  It wasn’t that I had a dark childhood;  it was quite the opposite, actually.  I just have little if any recollection of gathering around the breakfast table as a family when I was a child because we were always on the go.

My kids, however, should have little problem reminiscing over the wonders of a table laden with biscuits, eggs, and bacon for days.  Saturday morning breakfast is an event at Grandma’s house.  It’s not unusual to have multiple members of the extended family there, and everyone is ensured heaping helpings.  When our daughter is home on leave, she stays with her grandma to be sure she doesn’t miss out on the fun.  All four of my kids have been known to snub their noses at my meals (some more frequently than others) to hold out for Grandma’s wonderful breakfasts.

I envy them those memories, but I don’t really feel short-changed.  Grandma whipped up these moments for me, too.  Breakfast is not really lost;  it’s just been pre-empted by all my scrabbling to make a future, to make ends meet, to make “it” in a world where it’s getting harder and harder to gather round a table and slow down enough to enjoy the simple pleasure of a pat of butter sliding down a mound of steaming grits.

But, you know what?  It’ll be my turn to be the grandma one of these days.  I’ll be the one who gets to call time-out so my kids can build their tomorrow while savoring the flavor of yesterday.  I’ve been well-trained.  Breakfast, after all, is so much more than bacon.



Sound and Fury

Getting Right with Mr. Faulkner (with family friend Tyson Reed)

I washed my vitamins down with a wine cooler yesterday.  It was that kind of week…a week of ups and downs, wins and losses, sin and redemption.  It was the kind of week where I added the being to the doing and came up a little short in every department.  Some weeks go like that, I guess.

Wiliam Faulkner (oh, great bastion of positivity) echoed Shakespeare when he wrote that  life is “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.  He even wrote a novel from the perspective of an idiot–the trick to that one is to detect the real idiot.  Now, we all know Faulkner knew a thing or two about writing and most folks can surmise that he washed his vitamins down with bourbon a time or two rather than a piddling wine cooler, but I’ve had a bone to pick with Mr. Faulkner ever since my Sewanee days sitting in the great Dr. Carlson’s lit class wrasslin’ with why on God’s green earth Faulkner would put TWO characters named Quentin in the same dang book.

Naive as I was at 18, I figured we were reading The Sound and the Fury primarily because it contains a shoutout to Sewanee’s proclivity for enjoying our tumblers neat.  Thirty years later, the only thing I can choke down neat is Kahlua (in teensy sips, mind you…I’ve always been a lightweight in the adult beverage department if not on the bathroom scale), but Faulkner’s book filtered through Dr. Carlson’s perspective has stuck with me.

And here’s the thing:  they were both wrong.  I mean no disrespect, either to the Pulitzer Prize winning author or the best professor of my college experience, grad school included, but they’re wrong nevertheless.  The jump line, Shakespeare’s bit, was the heart’s cry of an embittered old man broken by betrayal in every way you can imagine.  It is both pitiful and piteous.  It is wrenching, but it is not a metaphor for life as I know it.

I told the ghost of William Faulkner about it as I sat on the front porch of Rowan Oak just a few weeks back.  I looked down his tree-lined front walk to the remnants of an English knot garden.  I walked under his scuppernong arbor and sat on the stone patio he built for his daughter’s nuptials. Everything about that beautifully haunted place whispered a message of hope, not one of desperation.

As I type this, my Muse door is flung wide to let in the morning air.  Thunder rumbles in the distance and the faintest cool breeze, laced with the promise of autumn, licks at my skin.  Zeke, our old retriever, snoozes at my feet as the cattle low and a pair of hummingbirds dive-bomb the bottle brush in audible zips and tweets.

Yeah, sometimes I’m the idiot in my tale.  Who, in their right mind, doesn’t recognize the oxymoron in taking your vitamins with a wine cooler chaser?  Sometimes, like this week, my tale is full of sound and fury. I spin my wheels trying to get it all done, and for what?  All my fretting signifies nothing.  But sometimes, like right now with an overcast sky and a week looming ahead that is already busier than the last one I barely scraped through with my sanity intact, my heart becomes quiet enough to hear that still-soft voice.

That still-soft voice tells me that there is purpose, there is reason, there is peace.  And, that, gentle reader, signifies everything.


Slipping the Vortex

A quiet moment

It’s mid-September and I’m caught–even though I swore I wouldn’t let myself get this way again–in the vortex.  It’s not a matter of poor planning.  Those of you who know me well enough to forgive me for my quirks know that whenever someone comments on one of my “OCD” tendencies, I am quick to respond that there is no “Dis” in my order.  Heck, I’m the kind of person who Facebook-bragged on having my meals planned through December 2018.  It’s all right there in my datebook.  I’m the kind of person who is working on hand-copying the Book of Psalms as a method for calming my mind.  I figure those Benedictine monks may have been onto something way before Herr Gutenberg invented his printing press and changed the face of history.

I’m the kind of person who has lists of lists, organized for quick reference.  It shouldn’t surprise you at all that I was that kid who memorized the Dewey Decimal System just for fun in the third grade.  To this day, I highlight every word I look up in the dictionary and, yeah, I have argued vehemently over the necessity of the Oxford comma.  The organizational strategies I model at school are far more valuable than either a passing appreciation of Harper Lee or the formula for cracking at least a 3 on an AP exam.  One of my greatest points of pride is when my students realize that the skillsets I empower them with cross over not just to other classes, but to life beyond the hallowed halls of the school building.  That, folks, is the difference between teaching and educating.  LOTS of us are making it happen!

But, sometimes, like about now, I let the sound of my own wheels drive me crazy (nod to both the Eagles and my parents for raising me right musically).  I get caught in the vortex of  planning/teaching/grading at breakneck speed as I implement whatever the mandated “solution of the year” for getting standardized test scores up may be.  Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t mean that cynically.  The point I’m trying to make is that I’m stuck in that lather/rinse/repeat cycle as we settle into the expected performance norms, which of course have shifted enough to make last semester’s objectives irrelevant. We are so busy with process that we overlook purpose. It’s not enough for me and it’s not enough for the kids.

The vortex is a powerful one that colors my attitude at home as well.  I race home each afternoon just in time to pick up the girls from band/vet science/drama/orthodontist/???, try to get them to eat something besides chicken fingers, pitch in with farm chores, do laundry (talk about a vortex…I’ve been caught in that cycle since 1994!), and crash exhausted in bed only to crank it back up again at 5AM. I burn up my Saturdays catching up all I didn’t have time to do over the week and feel lucky if I have time to snatch a Sunday afternoon nap. We are so busy doing that we overlook the living.  It’s not enough for me and it’s not enough for my kids.

So, it’s time for me to snap out of my “I’m so busy I feel like I’m drowning in to-do lists” pity party and slip that vortex.  Perhaps you feel caught up in the “Wool Pooh”, too.  If you’re also in that September riptide, you know you have to swim parallel to the “beach” until you escape, well, the suckiness of your situation.

We can’t drop our to-do’s.  That’s just part of the fabric of being a grown-up, a teacher, a mom…or all three!  Try slipping your particular vortex with a to-be list.  What do you want to be this week?  Write it down right there next to your to-do list.  Itemize it!  I want to be a cook, a voice of reason, a force for positivity, a road biker, a field hiker, a freakin’ Julio Jones of English (a former student paid me this tremendous compliment and I’ve been trying to live up to it ever since), a worshipper, a friend, a comforter.

Vortex slipped!

PS, gentle reader:  Bonus points if you can identify the source of the Wool Pooh reference!


A Pilgrimage of Sorts

2010 July 023_face0

Sometimes I allow myself to engage in fantasies of Heaven.  I hope it’s not sinful because I myopically imagine the Hereafter in completely human terms, but I suppose that’s precisely what God expects.  How egocentrically I picture it all, this wonderful other prepared for my decidedly undeserving reward.  Is it even possible that one day God Himself will share a laugh with me at the narrowness of my scope of imagination?

I thought I’d let you take a little peek into the Heaven of my mind, even though I’d take this with a big ole grain of salt if I were you.  Other than what glimpses the Bible gives into the ethereal, I’m totally clueless, so understand that all this is idle speculation; but it’s fun to play “I Can Only Imagine” nonetheless.

I figure I’ll be happily ensconced for a few millennia in Heaven’s library.  I picture it in grand 19th century style with overstuffed leather wingback chairs and a friendly fire snapping in the grate.  The lighting will be from oil lamps, not industrial fluorescence to despoil the mood.  Authors and even characters (as real in spirit as the rest of us) converse amicably in the alcoves and I am welcomed into their discussions.  Great leaded windows replete with exquisite stained glass scenes from God’s favorite books throw prisms on the stacks while I ride, giddy, on one of those cool wheeled library ladders down the aisle.

I also imagine Heaven as home.  This part is where my idea of love and family lives.  Visions of mansion after mansion and streets of gold are problematic for me.  Sounds like an awful lot of polishing would be going on.  Think more like Walton’s Mountain and you’ll get a clearer idea.  I imagine the happiness of Thanksgiving Day minus the stress that comes with doing your darnedest to make sure everyone is happy.  Here’s where Jesus sits down at the table with us and has a second helping of Granny Porch’s pecan pie.  He smacks his lips over my mom’s fried chicken and my great-grandma’s potato salad that I wasn’t old enough to truly appreciate before she went on to be with the Lord.  We all chuckle, when, true to form, Mama Opal gets to talking and burns the rolls.  And, yes, I imagine porch-sitting and pea-shelling.  The men-folk will labor good-naturedly at whatever skills they never “got around to” while swapping stories and whopping each other on the back whenever they think something is funny.  The nutty aroma of pipe tobacco mixed with masculinity and a hint of Old Spice will perfume the air as they settle in for evenings by the fire.  So far, it still looks like my imagination is stuck somewhere around the turn of the twentieth century.  I don’t know why, but I’m having fun thinking of it.

Of course, the great outdoors in Heaven will be expansive…well, boundless, I reckon.  I will be able to run and run through glorious vistas.  My knee won’t hurt and I’ll have the stamina to trot as long as I wish.  The courses will be challenging and have endless outlets for exploration.  I don’t mean for this to be sacrilegious at all, but I can envision Jesus in running clothes.  Our runs will be where we have our best conversations, that is, when we’re not biking, hiking, or cross-country skiing.

And the animals!  I’ve loved an awful lot of pets over my life thus far.  Somehow, there’ll be room for all of them…and they’ll all be house-broken and squeaky clean when they get to come inside.  T.K., Yellowy, and Grey Ghost, my childhood cats, come immediately to mind.  Mr. Buffalo, Dobber Dog, and Sir Spots-a-Lot the Great (Dane) will be at my side.

Like I said, I hope it isn’t sinful to try to imagine Heaven on such a piddling scale.  It sure does make a person feel grateful and blessed, though, to let one’s imagination run unchecked for a little while.  Where does your imagination take you?


The NOT-As-Fat Lady Sings: Amazing Fat-Burning Machine Finale


My six-week odyssey with UltraSlim has drawn to a close.  I’d like to give a shout-out to the good folks at One Life Chiropractic/Gulf Coast UltraSlim for putting up with me and my antics along the journey, especially for looking the other way while I practiced my dance moves and Darth Vader voice on the vibrating stepper thingy.  They get my “glowing” recommendation.

So, what are the results and what have I learned over the course of six weeks?  Read on, gentle reader, and I’ll give you the low-down.

  1.  IT WORKS!  Whether it was the groovy infrared lighting, the introduction of  drinking water into my life, or the social pressure of getting down to my skivvies in front of a former student (Sorry, Doc, I can’t help but see the adorable little 7th grader in you) just doesn’t really matter.  I’ve lost 12 pounds.  Full disclosure:  I found two of them back last weekend in a football glutton-festival of wings, fries, nuts, pound cake, and cream soda.  Roll Tide!  I’ve since atoned for my glorious indiscretion.

2.  My clothes fit better everywhere, but I’m proud to report that I wore size 8 pants to school TWICE this week!  This is the first time I’ve hit the single digits in a couple of years, so yeah, I’m proud.  So proud, in fact, that I put two other pairs of pants that were swallowing me whole in the give-away basket!

3.  Aside from a little bit of…okay, a whole lot of tailgating, I’ve quit grazing.  I’ve made an investment to drop a few and it just doesn’t make sense to undermine what I’ve spent.  Yeah, the printouts after each Ultraslim session show calories “forgiven” and I chuckle at the pitchy semantics.  It stands to reason that one will net better results if one refrains from free-range stuffing while receiving the treatments.  Of course, it’s human nature to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  I’m trying not to do that.

4.  Six weeks is a great timeframe for establishing a habit.  What habit have I gotten into?  It’s the drinking of water.  Seriously.  I’m the person who has fallen off the “No Cola Wagon” numerous times.  Whereas it would be rare in the past to see me without a Coke in hand, now I’m toting water.  I credit UltraSlim with this change.  Will I ever slug a Coke again?  Sure.  You just won’t see me sucking on one all day long like a sugar teat anymore.  Drinking an entire gallon of H2O was, and still is, a bit much for me, but now I actually prefer water over Coke and even sweet tea.  Who would’ve thunk it?

5.  There’s an extra spring in my step.  Maybe it’s because I have a higher center of gravity.  Maybe it’s because I no longer fear putting out someone’s eye with a projectile button flying off my jeans.  Maybe it’s because I just don’t feel as frumpy.  Oh, don’t worry.   I’m well past the point of middle-aged invisibility.  I won’t be putting on airs or trolling the aisles of Forever 21 looking for that perfect crop top with jeggings combo.  I’ve lost a little weight, not my mind!

So, the ultimate question is… was the Amazing Fat Burning Machine worth it?  Absolutely.  Would I do it again?  Why wouldn’t I?  I’ve gotten concrete, measurable results without feeling deprived, irritable, or sick. My silhouette no longer resembles a fireplug and my whole general attitude has improved.  Is Ultraslim right for you?  I don’t know, but like Hooked on Phonics, it worked for me.

The Throes of August

The Faces of August in Lower Alabama

“I’m so glad I live in a world that has Octobers,” said the irrepressible Anne (with an “e”) Shirley as she breathed in the aura of Prince Edward Island.  Languishing through the staggering heat and humidity that is a South Alabama August, I take heart from that gangly Titian of Green Gables and wipe the sweat from my eyes in hopes of seeing my way to October.

August is a weird month for me.  I have a love/hate relationship with Augusts.  Of course, there is always the excitement of a new school year and the challenges teaching droves of teenagers brings, but with that comes a sort of breathless rush toward the holidays punctuated by the roar of the crowds during football season.  In August, I get hyper-organized and, frankly, somewhat exhausted by all my well-laid plans for the coming year.

For teachers, August marks the beginning of the year even though we’re technically eight months in.  New classes, new kids, new clothes, new sports, new lessons, new attitude.  All the newness of August would leave me winded if the oppressive heat hadn’t already soaked my lungs with moisture.  Although I am more than grateful to Mr. Carrier for the glorious invention of air conditioning, the face-slapping climate change between walking indoors and out along with the sudden exposure to, shall we say, teen spirit sandblasts my throat every opening week of school.  August is an uncomfortable marriage of freezing and frying.

August is a rush.  We rush to get school started and then we rush to get school “started”.  We open the football season with heat safety timeouts and sweat-soaked band uniforms. Heat rises in visible eddies from the asphalt as I rush to the store for those “What, a project already?” supplies.  The slow, easy pace of June and July fades like a mirage in the rearview mirror.

August has its ups and downs on the farm, too.  August brings the sweet goodness of muscadines and the comic antics of the ducks when they get ahold of too many grapes fermented by the Alabama sun.  The dogs dig out wallows that become mud holes when the humidity finally lets loose with electric ferocity.  The chickens are just plumb worn out from heat and may even stop laying altogether.  The cats nap on oak branches to catch any breeze that whistles through the trees.  The cows follow the shade, lowing half-heartedly as they lumber across the pasture.  The donkey approaches vulgarity with the frequency of his “showmanship”.  Never does a barnyard smell more like a barnyard than when it’s in the throes of August.

The grass looks its age and the salvia grows gangly and rank.  The yellow jasmine makes a bedraggled climb as its petals droop and fall soundlessly to the ground.  The evergreens take on an almost greyish hue, as if holding their breath for that first hint of fall.  It will be a long wait.  August is a jealous lover of Lower Alabama and rarely relinquishes her stranglehold before mid-September.

I’ll wait, too.  Anne and I are kindred spirits as dear as lifelong friends.  I can’t imagine a world without Octobers.



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