Award Winning Author

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.



Halftime with the Amazing Fat Burning Machine

Objects in the rear view are not as large as they once appeared.

After three sessions with UltraSlim, the amazing fat zapper, I have reached the halfway point of my targeted treatment plan.  The results speak for themselves:  there’s 8 1/4 inches less of me to lug around.  The scale has tipped enough for me to move that lever down a notch.  At certain times of the day, I can actually see the intersection of my thighs and torso.  You know, no more path of totality as my gut eclipses my lap!

Here are some of the things I’ve experienced over the past three weeks as the amazing fat burning machine works it magic:

  1.  I no longer have to “suck it and tuck it” to button my jeans. I can put them on while remaining vertical.
  2. Baby still has back, but now it’s not spilling over to the sides.  Every hip seam in my closet is breathing a sigh of relief.  And we all know the hips don’t lie.
  3. Familiarity breeds less awkwardness, even when my “kid” doctor  geeked out over my R2D2 panties.  Actually, I don’t think I’ve worn matching underwear yet to one of these sessions.  Is that for real?  Do most women match their undergarments?  Heck, I’m doing good to have on matching socks.
  4. Big shocker for me:  water is refreshing.  I still struggle to down a gallon each day, but now my body actually craves H2O.  Oh, and a margarita on Wednesday nights.  Definite craving right there.
  5. Because I’m sloshed with water (not tequila…ONE margarita is my limit thanks to Benjamin Franklin-I highly recommend his autobiography, by the way), I’m more mindful about my food choices.  I don’t have as much room to waste on trifles like appetizers and desserts.  I did tear up a filet mignon the other night, though, and I don’t regret it.
  6. I’ve quit snacking and I no longer like sweet tea.  I blame the water rather than the amazing fat burning machine for this new wrinkle, but the push in the right direction from UltraSlim keeps me focused.
  7. Speaking of wrinkles, all that hydration is doing wonders for my complexion.
  8. Genetics “blessed” me with Middle Aged Wattle, otherwise known as Expanding Chin Syndrome.  So far, the most visibly dramatic change from UltraSlim has been with my bullfrog puff.  Goodbye, Jabba!  Hello, jawline!
  9. I’m so pumped about the first three sessions that I haven’t bought any new clothes for schoolteaching yet, but I threw down on new shoes!  I think it’s unreasonable to expect to drop a shoe size after these treatments.  They’re amazing, not sorcery!


So far, so good with UltraSlim.  I guess that makes me a real loser, and I couldn’t be more pleased.



Back to School Commando

All the secondary teachers in our system converged on the coliseum for the annual kickoff to a new school year pep talk and fashion show.  I had it going on:  new haircut, makeup ramped up tastefully between “Sunday-Go-To-Meeting” and prom, pedicured toes, and a jaunty skirt.  You know, stuff I’d never wear to actually teach in.

I guess I got a little carried away with that new year/new you thing and was due to be taken down a peg or two.  For teachers, we’re so tired at the end of the calendar year that most of us just resolve to survive from January to May.  That’s why most New Year’s Resolutions for teachers last about as long as it takes us to realize the students are actually returning for the second semester.  But August?  August is golden! It’s the smell of fresh paint, crayons, and bulletin board paper that’s still bright with possibility.  So, yeah.  I spiffed up and got ready to approach the school year with gladitude, a buzzword sure to fire the imaginations of the teens I teach.

Yep.  I was looking good and sporting that gladitude all the way up through lunch when the universe struck back.  I was completely blindsided!  There I was feeling full and chummy after the rare treat of a lunch out with my husband who works at a different school and our good friend Tyson.  Maybe it was the Coke I splurged on for such a festive occasion.  Maybe it was onion rings.  Okay…I just went for broke with this lunch with one bad decision after another.  I was asking for trouble.

Maybe it was the added pressure of propriety that wearing a skirt instead of track shorts lends to a situation.  I stepped off a curb, felt a sudden burst, and the floodgates opened.  I thought, “Surely, I didn’t just…oh, crap!”

I got calm.  Real calm.  It was time to pray to the Good Lord for the continued blessing of strong elastic and the wherewithal to carry a jacket in the Jeep despite the fact that it’s 95 in the shade in August.  I wrapped that jacket around my waist and started walking quickly but gingerly back into the restaurant.  I would have to walk all the way through the crowded dining room to get back to the restroom.  The elastic was giving way!  I prayed again that 1.  I could make it through the throng of people without whatever hell was pouring out of my rear end running down my legs and 2. that no one was in the bathroom.

I made it!  Somehow, I managed to get cleaned up and exited the restroom a few minutes later with my head held high.  Oh, I was commando under that skirt, but folks would be none the wiser if I just strutted out of there with confidence.  My bravado failed me as we drove away and I had my husband make a quick pit stop at the Dollar General.  I just didn’t think I could sit through an entire afternoon of meetings a la Sharon Stone.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, I had to ask where they kept the panties.  They didn’t have a single pair in my size, not even the granny specials.  I figured it’d be better to go smaller than bigger, so I picked up this little $4 number that fell somewhere between bikini and thong…uncomfortably.  Then, I had to ask for the key to the restroom from the young man who just rang up these emergency panties.   The Good Lord took care of me there, though, because he was actually a kid I haven’t taught.

At last, I get back into the Jeep and the guys are clued in that I’ve probably had more than a wardrobe malfunction.  They ask what happened and I mutter something about explosive diarrhea.

Tyson deadpans, “S**t happens.”

Yes, Tyson, yes it does.

Looks like I’m off to a great start for the school year!


Adventures of the Amazing Fat-Burning Machine


If you look up the word skeptic in the dictionary, don’t be surprised to see my face sporting that “Yeah, right” look.  So, when I first heard about Ultra-Slim light therapy treatments I laughed and went on munching my chips and salsa.  Then, I started reading and researching about Ultra-Slim and my curiosity was piqued.

I made an appointment for a free consultation with my chiropractor, a great fellow I taught in 7th, 8th, and 9th grades.  I went in prepared to grill him on everything Ultra-Slim.  He remembered his school days and was prepared for a full-scale rhetorical onslaught.  Heck, after surviving 3 years in my English classes, I’ll bet he was sweating it…just a little.

This method just might work!

I made an appointment and the next thing I know, there I am standing in my bra and panties getting measured by this kid I used to teach.  For those of you who aren’t educators, we always think of our former students as kids–even when they become doctors!  I start speaking with the nurse, and wouldn’t you know it, I taught her in middle school, too.  It was a regular class reunion with a mostly naked teacher!

After the “we’re all trying really hard not to make this awkward” measuring session, I was ready to go under the light.  Imagine being placed under a carefully aimed heat lamp where you have to lie real still and cook for about 8 minutes.  At that point, the doctor comes in and turns you so that the machine can broil you up nice and evenly. So, my fat got roasted on the belly, love handles, thunder thighs, and boo-tay.

Afterwards, the doctor repeated the measurements.  He marked the spots on the first go around to ensure he was measuring the exact same spots for the “after”.  The methodology is to add up all the measurements and then compare the numbers.  So, after a total of 32 minutes under the amazing fat-burning machine I was down 2 6/8 inches.   The doctor provided a computation to show calorie equivalents forgiven…nice verbiage, right there, Ultra-Slim marketers.

The final step of the treatment was a ride on a bizarre shaker machine.  It looks like a stair-stepper, but instead of stepping you just stand there and vibrate.  It’s pretty intense.  You vibrate a lot.  If your grandma had one of those machines that trimmed the waist with a belt, it’s kind of like that.  I now know how to twerk thanks to this machine.  Remember talking into a fan when you were a kid?  It works with this shaker machine, too!

Once home, instructions include downing a gallon of water daily (hardest part) and wearing compression clothing for several hours a day.  I’m not used to wearing a girdle, so jimmying myself into one of those babies has been a bit of a challenge.  I’ve had two treatments now at 2 6/8 total inches a pop.  The scale is moving steadily downward and I’m under a buck-fifty for the first time in about 3 years.




The Linen Curse Strikes Again

I should have known that a household-wide linen cleaning would lead to destruction.  I’m talking comforters, sheets, pillow cases, and pillows for four bedrooms.  My house smelled so clean and fresh!  I even arranged a throw pillow or two and spread one of my grandmother’s handmade quilts over my daughter’s bed.  For once, all four bedrooms were picture perfect.   I totally set myself up for this.

We have a running joke at the farm:  if you change the sheets, you run the chance of falling victim to the linen curse.  It doesn’t happen every time, but it does happen with enough frequency to question its veracity.  Fresh sheets?  Expect a cat to throw up a hairball.  New pillow?  Expect the dog to pee on it.  Freshly laundered, sun-dried, ultra-fresh comforter?  Expect dysentery.

So, yes.  I was spitting into the wind of fate.

Everything was great.  I fell asleep in blissfully fresh linens, breathing in the faint scent of bleach bathed in lavender.  Around 1AM, my 13 year old awakened me with, “Mom, I threw up.  Don’t worry I’ll clean it up.”  Yep…the VERY kid who got the antique handmade quilt on her bed.


I hear the shower start up, so I know it’s bad.  No way I’m leaving this up to her to clean up;  this is the child who loads the dishwasher so haphazardly it looks like a preschool puzzle gone bad.  I get up to investigate.  Oh…my…goodness.

It’s everywhere and it’s the grossest kind.  Her bedroom looks like she made an olympic sport of heaving.  Pillow hit.  Comforter hit.  Sheets hit.  Mattress soaked.  Meemaw’s quilt?  Bullseye.

While she’s showering, I very carefully transport all the disgustingness back to the washing machines.  Thank goodness I have a double set;  smartest purchase ever!  I get her settled on the couch because I have to fumigate her room and spread baking soda on the mattress.  She thanks me for not yelling at her.

How could I be upset with her?  I brought it all on myself with my cleaning frenzy.  No doubt I’ll be staggering the deep cleaning in the future.  At least that way, I spread out the odds of the linen curse striking again.

After all, I pretty much asked for it.



Shipping This One On Out

book 2

Well, it’s finally happened.  I’ve found the 2nd novel that I just can’t bring myself to give what I consider a fair shake.  Here’s my general reading rule:  I’ll give the author 50 pages, maybe even 100 to hook me into the story.  If I’m not “in” by then, I’ll move along.  So far, the only novel I haven’t been able to stand by for 50 measly pages is E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India.  I’ve read other Forster just fine, even liked A Room with a View, but for some reason I just can’t make myself proceed.

Now, I have some pretty decent reading chops.  I’ve read Tolstoy, handled Hardy, “got” Joyce,  and adore Dickens.  While not necessarily voracious, I am a regular reader with a somewhat discriminating taste.  Yeah, I’ve read ALL the Game of Thrones books and hung out with the likes of Anne Rice, Ken Follett, Stephen King, and John Jakes.  So, I’m not a snobbish reader, either.

When I picked up the Pulitzer Prize winner by Annie Proulx, The Shipping News, I was particularly excited because this novel is featured as part of the curriculum for high school pre-AP English courses I teach.  This novel not only snagged the Pulitzer, but also the National Book Award and the Irish Times International Fiction Prize.  So, I was all fired up to add some new life and a new read to my teaching repertoire.  I was hoping for something to atone for the perennial student “favorites” The Scarlet Letter and Julius Caesar.  Bless their hearts, it’s a rough reading year…Anne Bradstreet, Thomas Paine, and that ilk.  Maybe I set myself up for disappointment.

I regret to report I didn’t even make it out of the first chapter of The Shipping News.  I felt book shame, no doubt.  This is GOOD stuff, must be EXCELLENT stuff and I can’t see it.  The diction is not breathtaking to me; it’s breathless and frenetic.  The premise of  “a vigorous, darkly comic, and at times magical portrait of the contemporary American family” (this is on the back of the book) got drowned by the total lack of connection for my students…not with the central character, not with his age, lifestyle, not with the exposition of the story.  I simply could not find the appeal for my students.

It’s not often that I use my TEACHER VOICE here, but sometimes I just have to wonder what the devil curriculum writers are thinking.  Now, before you haul off wondering who am I to rant about what folks write into their teacher training programs, you need to know that I’ve been in the education foxholes since 1991 and have written curriculum professionally since 2005.  I know a thing or two about how adolescents read, about what works, and what doesn’t.

At this point, I’m shipping The Shipping News on out.  I’m going to shelve it for a few months and try to approach it again, not as a teacher, but as a reader.  Perhaps then it won’t make my brain ache with skepticism.  I just picked up an old friend, Anne of Green Gables, to pacify me and get me back in the right frame of mind for the start of a new school year.

This year, I’ll be teaching the level that gets to experience To Kill a Mockingbird  and Romeo and Juliet, so I have plenty of time to change my mind.


Meat Bomb, Meat Bomb, Double-Double Beef Bomb!


meat 3
Meat bombs come out about the size of the palm of your hand.

Why, oh why, have I never thought of this before?  I’ve spent the last 23 years of my life cooking for a bevy of, shall we say eccentric, eaters.  Pretty much the only food all four of my kids like is the ubiquitous chicken finger.  Everything else is just a sideshow of “Who does Mom love best tonight?”

By the way, I tried the “eat-it-or-starve” tactic.  I was met with a very calm “We’ll just eat at Grandma’s”.  Yup.

We recently filled the freezer with beef, so I have been trying to come up with various recipes for hamburger meat.  I was rummaging through the baking pans when inspiration struck!  I’d been having a hankering for meatloaf (that one’s a 0/4 kid-approved dish) when I spotted the poor, neglected muffin tin.  I hardly ever make muffins because one doesn’t like chocolate chips and the other doesn’t like berries.  The other two are grown now, so they’re on their own to find someone who will cater to their food proclivities.  Yes, they spend lots of time at Grandma’s when they come home!

What if…I made individual meatballs in the muffin tin?  You know, a muffin-sized meatball!  A heavenly beam of light shone down on the kitchen counter and I knew I could make a “one-dish” pleaser for two different palates.  Once I had the bright idea to call them meat bombs, I had them hooked.  The recipe was surprisingly easy to modify and the nifty muffin tin made clean up a breeze.

So, without further ado…here’s how to make meat bombs. If you’re new to my food blogging, I don’t really measure ingredients very often.  Experiment on your own to find the perfect combination to suit your taste!

Meat Bombs

Preheat oven to 450.  This will give the bombs a nice crunch on the exterior.  Mix up hamburger meat (ground pork works, too) like you’re gonna make burgers.  I use Worcestershire, garlic salt, pepper, and some fine bread crumbs.  For the ones who like plain bombs, go ahead and form balls and place them in the muffin tin.  For the rest of the meat, I mixed in shredded cheese, formed the balls, and topped them with a good squirt of ketchup.  You can add in onions if you like, but nobody likes at my house.  Pop the bombs in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes.  Drain on paper towels before serving.

The meat bombs were…wait for it..a hit!

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