Re-launched, but still slightly under construction. :-)

Monday, December 07, 2015

We say happy holidays

Monday, December 07, 2015 By

Grumpy, Angry and Jerky are not names of reindeer, people.
AUGUSTA, GA. - I see you, bumper sticker. I see you everywhere I go. That little rectangle with one simple sentence that seems to adorn every big, white SUV that cuts me off in traffic.

"We say Merry Christmas."

Well, that's super great. I say "Happy Holidays."

No, really. That's great. You can say whatever you like in this big ol' melting pot of a nation. It doesn't bother me one whit. But, apparently, I bother the heck out of other people with my "Happy Holidays." Even without a bumper sticker.

"Happy holidays!" I chirped at someone recently, as we ended a friendly conversation.

She frowned and waved her hand in a short, chopping motion.

"We say merry Christmas," she said, a thin, tight smile on her lips.

"Cool," I said. "We say happy holidays. Have a great one!"
And I waved cheerfully and walked away.

When did this become a conflict?
It's not the first time I've had this exchange in the last couple of years. And I'm not fool enough to debate someone with an aggressive agenda. There's no winner in that. I actually have no agenda whatsoever in this. So I walk away from that contrived conflict.

I'm off to have some happy holidays.

How can I walk away from that conversation without a care in the world? Because I'm completely not bothered that we say different things. Because that's not even a thing.

Do you hear what I am saying? It. Is. Not. Even. A. Thing.
It's not an issue that I say happy holidays.
It's not an issue that you say merry Christmas.

It's no big deal if someone wishes me a happy Hanukkah.
It would be lovely to receive wishes for a happy Bodhi Day.

I don't celebrate Hanukkah or Bodhi Day or Kwanzaa or Yalda or Ashura. But I would hope that someone who does celebrate one of those holidays would like my time during those holidays to be happy.

Let's all be friends.
I grew up in Georgia, in a Christian family (word up, Presbytery!), headed by two parents who were both from the South and from Christian families. We attended church regularly.

And we said happy holidays.


Because it's accurate. Because it's inclusive.

Back then - back in those "old days" some folks are always wanting us to get back to - people started saying "Happy Holidays" around Thanksgiving. I always thought of it as a shorthand way of saying "Happy Thanksgiving, merry Christmas, and happy New Year - and if you don't celebrate any of those, just happy whatever you do celebrate." It was nice. It was friendly. It was respectful. It was a way of including your friends and neighbors in the spirit of the holidays without judging them for what they do or don't believe.

I don't know at what point being nice, friendly, respectful and inclusive stopped being part of our national values. No, really, at what point did our nation collectively decide that inviting all of our friends and neighbors to share in peace on earth and goodwill towards men is just irritating?

Who has time for this nonsense?

Part of our country's founding principles is the freedom to worship in whatever faith we choose. And I love this country. So it doesn't bother me when someone else says something different during the holiday season.

No one is telling you that you can't say merry Christmas. If they are, you can walk away and ignore it, because that is ridiculous. But, likewise, please don't try to tell me - or bully me - into saying something that is inauthentic to me. Say merry Christmas to me. That's nice. Merry Christmas to you, too.

If I am initiating the parting script, I usually say happy holidays - unless I already know a person's preference, in which case I might remember to say whatever is particular to their faith, but I might not. Because I don't spend a whole lot of time worrying about offending someone by saying that I hope their winter holiday is a nice one.

Some people need a little "spirit of the season" all year long.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Product Review: Pasta Chips

Monday, August 10, 2015 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - Okay, I don't usually buy chips. We eat high fiber around here, so if we're buying something crunchy and salty, it's usually Boom Chicka Pop popcorn from Costco. But I earned a Klout Perk to try Pasta Chips, and they sent a whole bag of crunchy deliciousness straight to my house. Argh! My life is so hard with the free food and stuff!

Anyway, Pasta Chips is the brand name, and they come in six flavors.

We got Garlic Olive Oil, which was just fine by us. The chips were light and had a perfect crunch. I really liked the texture. But they flavor was nothing new. In fact, it was quite familiar. I just couldn't put my finger on it...

Anyway, a pasta chip is just what you'd imagine: A chip made from baked pasta dough. And the website is hilariously enthusiastic in explaining that the idea was born at "a small, authentic Osteria" located "in the hills of Tuscany." And that might be true. Maybe. But the reason I'm calling bull$#!% on that is because EVERY brand even Italian-adjacent claims to be born on a Tuscan hillside by an authentic Italian midwife who birthed the idea with her authentic Italian hands made of authentic Italian fettuccine.

Have you ever seen a brand claim to have been born on an Umbrian hillside? Or in coastal San Marino? No! Because Tuscany is the only region most Americans know - although they're not sure if it's a city, a state, a province, or what. Americans also know the cities of Rome and Venice. When prompted, they know Milan, although they sometimes think Milan is in Spain. Folks who actually read their Shakespeare in high school (instead of just the Cliffs Notes) might remember Genoa. Fans of E.M. Forster know Florence. And a precious few know Turin, because of the Shroud of Turin - although they probably think Turin is somewhere near Jerusalem.

Long story short, I think the idea for these was born an an authentic American food science lab. Kind of like The Olive Garden.

Regardless of their nonsense backstory created for marketing purposes, the chips were garlicky and crunchy and lovely. They didn't break when I dipped them in hummus or tzatziki sauce. And they held up when I baked them in the oven with some Muenster cheese melting on top.

I still couldn't place the flavor of the chip.

But that's really all I ask of a chip: Be not-too-crunchy and don't taste like garbage. I'm not asking for hand-raised semolina massaged by virgins until ready for ritual sacrifice in the miller's evil grinder. But for those of you with higher requirements for your dip-delivery mechanisms, you should know that the marketing firm that designed the packaging also claims that the chips are: "All Natural, NonGMO Verified, 60% Less Fat than a Potato Chip, 20% Less Fat than Pita Chips, Kosher Certified, Vegan and only 120 calories per serving." Take that with a grain of authentic Mediterranean sea salt.

And I like that they're only 120 calories per serving; however, they measure their serving size in ounces, and I don't know why companies do that. Do I look like I carry around a kitchen scale everywhere I go? How am I supposed to figure out what an ounce is? Food companies: Don't give me ounces and grams so that I have to math my food. I am very busy adulting my life! Just give me the number of chips I can shove in my face hole.

Anyway, the flavor of the chips was still a mystery to me. Then I was making Emerson some chicken broth before her surgery last week, and got some of the consommé powder on my finger. It tasted almost just like the pasta chips. Then I got a whiff of the summer breeze as the cat escaped the front door again and it all came back to me. I don't know if anyone else's mother bought these in the 70s and 80s to pair with our squeeze cheese and Shasta/Big K colas, but this is the flavor I was remembering:

And I'm not mad about it. I haven't had these in 25 years, at least. I was suddenly drenched in lake water and sunscreen, surrounded by bathing-suit-clad 10-year-old friends, pulling a grape soda out of icy cooler water, watching my younger brother try to fit an entire can of squeeze cheese in his mouth while my mother passed out soggy, plastic-wrapped ham-and-cheese sandwiches with more mayo than I cared to eat in a lifetime.

Pass the Pasta Chips.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Cowboys always drink upstream from the herd

Wednesday, August 05, 2015 By

AUGUSTA, GA - Emerson and I are leaving campus when I spot Dr. Mike Searles leaving the Library in his usual attire: cowboy boots, jeans, plaid shirt, cowboy hat.

"Look, Em, a cowboy."

She cranes her neck. "Wow, is that a real cowboy?"

"Yep, that's Cowboy Mike. He's a professor of history, and his area of research is black cowboys and Buffalo Soldiers. They do reenactments with horses on campus every year."

"Whoa, I didn't know cowboys were real. I thought they were just in stories and movies and stuff."

"Oh, yes, they're very real."

"What does a cowboy even do?"

"Well, they help out on the ranch, raising cows and selling them at the market. So they feed the cows, water the cows, help them have babies, keep them healthy, drive them to the market, and protect them from wolves and cattle rustlers and stuff."

"Cattle rustlers?"

"Cattle thieves."

"So the cattle rustlers take the cows for their own?"


"And then they wrestle them?"


"They steal the cows and then they wrestle them?"

"Hahaha, no, sweetie. RUSTLERS. Not WRESTLERS."


"But cattle wrestling should totally be a thing."

"Yeah. It really should."

Monday, August 03, 2015

Thanks, Obama

Monday, August 03, 2015 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - We're in the Children's Hospital of Georgia, waiting for Emerson's surgery to be completed. The Disney Channel is playing in the waiting room. Emerson's grandfather turns to me and says, "Huh. That actress favors Michelle Obama."

I look: "That IS Michelle Obama."

"Oh. I was wondering how they found an actress who looked so much like her."

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Kids are weird

Saturday, August 01, 2015 By

Emerson: "My stomach hurts."


Emerson: "Owwwww! Jackson! That hurt! Geeez, you punched my arm!"

Jackson: "Yeah, but does your stomach hurt?"

Emerson: ".... no...?"

Jackson: "Okay, you're welcome."

Emerson: "Huh. That's interesting."

Jackson: "Yeah."

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Cinderella's slippers too small for the ball - and she's too big for her britches

Wednesday, July 15, 2015 By

AUGUSTA, GA - As Emerson gets older, she gets more opinionated about what she wears. I've never been a chevron-dress-and-hair-bow kind of mom. I'd rather she DID get dirty while playing. I don't want to give her any reason not to enjoy her childhood. Even so, as she grows, she has very specific opinions, and I'm usually fine with her doing whatever she wants, so long as it's age/temperature/functionally appropriate. But this morning was a trial.

Emerson wanted to wear short black booties with her capri jeans and sparkly dog t-shirt. It did not go, and within some rather expansive parameters, I do not care about that. But the booties have short little-girl heels, so she feels pretty and grown-up when she wears them.

"Em, I don't think those shoes are the best choice. Don't you want a pair you can run around in?"

"I like these boots."

"I know. But they're not really for playing. Do they even still fit?"

"We don't even have a playground at this camp. We're inside all day."

"I bet you run around in the fellowship hall."

"Mom. They're fine. Really."

[disapproving look] "...okay."

We got in the car and I had further second thoughts. "Em, do you want to grab a pair of shoes to put in your bag just in case you need them?"

"Mom, it's ffiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine-uh! Let's just GO!"

I side-eye her, but it is Friday and I am Picking My Battles. "Okay."

She curls up on the front seat with my phone and her headphones, listening to Tobuscus and Markiplier on Spotify. I try to engage her in a rousing sing-a-long to "Bohemian Rhapsody," to no avail. She just frowns and scootches away from me. Sigh. Fine. I can sing it by myself. ALL THE PARTS.

We get to the church and she grumbles her way out of the car.

"Em, honey... what's wrong?"




Aw, hell, naw.

I fold her into a hug that she returns by standing stick straight, arms at her side, face turned defiantly away from me. It was so awkwardly hilarious that I grin and held it a few extra awkward moments. But she knows better than to pull away or I'll do my Hunchback of Notre Dame impression behind her all the way inside, no matter who is watching. I have no shame.

I bent down in front of her and asked in Monster Voice, "Emmie sad?"

I saw the corner of her mouth twitch.

"Emmie mad?"


"Monstah Emmie mad at Mommie Monstah?"

"No-uhhh!" she whined. But failed to hide a grin.

"Monstah Mommie sowwy. Monstah Mommie lub Emmie Monstah." I gently bit her forehead. For those who aren't familiar with the sociology of monsters, that's a Monster Kiss.

She giggled and then sighed. "Emmie Monstah angry at... Emmie."

"Why Emmie Monstah haz a angry?"

She dropped Monster Voice. "Because these boots are really hurting my feet! And I didn't even listen to you, and now I have to wear them ALL DAY!"

I straightened and took her gently by her shoulders: "There's another pair of shoes in the car."

"No, there's ISN'T," she whined.

I opened the door back up, reached inside, and TADAAAA! Extra pair of shoes.

Monstah Mommy no fool. Monstah Mommy know what happen. Monstah feet very sensitive.

We walked inside, got a couple of band-aids from the office, and put on her socks and shoes.

"Thanks, Mom. You're the best mommy ever."

We hugged and said good-bye in Monster Voice.

And I floated back to my car on a cloud of self-righteousness.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Vampires rising in Augusta

Monday, July 13, 2015 By

Augusta, GA - Emerson and I are driving home when we pass the Shepeard Community Blood Center's Bloodmobile.

"Haha!" she laughs. "Bloodmobile. What is that even for?"

"Homeless vampires," I said. "They have to take the blood to them during the day because they can't go out in the sun.

I don't think she believed me, but I could see the wheels spinning in her head. We didn't talk about it again, but I am dying to see what she cooks up in that awesome little brain of hers.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Research shows tweens' speech patterns are remarkably similar to braying donkeys

Friday, July 10, 2015 By

AUGUSTA, GA - Emerson has three volumes: yelling, yelling louder, and asleep. Her tween vocal stylings really drive home to me why other parebts get their tweens cell phones: to save what little hearing us old folks have left.

One night, she was reading to me from her book of useless and annoying fact lists. Who is the Greek god of fertility and crops? WHO CARES?! (Note to self: speak with this Demeter character about my herb garden). And for those who do care, how many want to to learn it by having it shouted in their right ear while reading before bed? No one. What? ...I said, NO ONE! Here's your ear trumpet, grandma. There's a good chap.

Anyway. One night she was shouting useless facts in my ear at 8:45 p.m., and my repeated gentle reminders were completely ineffectual. I finally snapped.

"Emerson, pleeeaase stop yelling. You are killing me. You sound like Foghorn Leghorn."

She blinked at me. "Who's that?"

Ugh. Can someone tell me where to buy an ear trumpet?

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Doctor Who, Why and How

Tuesday, July 07, 2015 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - C.B. walked into my office.

"So, tell Emerson that I watched like 5 episodes of Doctor Who."


"It's the worst show ever."

"Right?! It's SO BAD."

"I don't understand why it's so popular."

"And it's been on for like FIFTY... YEARS."

"I know. It's ridiculous."

"It is."

"I think the only thing worse is True Blood."



"Okay, no. Get out of my office."

Friday, June 26, 2015

Now hiring out my child for motivational speaking opportunities

Friday, June 26, 2015 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - It had been a long day at work, and it was only just barely after lunch. I was driving Emerson and her BFF, Kayla, back to the university with me, where they'd been and helped and behaved themselves all day. But I'd only gotten 4 hours sleep the night before, and I had needed to be on campus by 6:45 a.m., so I was dragging.

We sat in the air conditioning in the car while I tried to get myself back in gear.




Yeah, no. It wasn't happening.

"Ugh, I need a hype man!" I exclaimed. "I need to get hyped up for the rest of the day."

Emerson sprang forward in the backseat: "You can DO this, mama. Just ONE MORE HOUR. You are SMART. Everybody LIKES you. You are IMPORTANT, and EVERYBODY KNOWS it. You can do this!"

Tony Robbins, look out.

She kept it up as we walked back in the building. By the time we got back to my office, I was grinning and felt great. I'm thinking of renting her out as Ultimate Hype Whoa-man.