Amazon, Netflix, and Long Distance Dates

July 28, 2018

with the cutest boy in the world.

Isn't he precious!

Eighteen years ago this November, this precious man showed up for our first date in a pair of Liberty overalls, his hat on backwards, and kissed me like I was his.  

We had mutual friends, hung out once, but never a date. We grew up in the same hometown.  He is eight years older and I never knew him growing up.  I was closer to his brother's age.  A mutual friend introduced made plans to introduce us and before I even met him, I told her I wasn't interested- he had two kids, was in the midst of  a divorce,  had two too many kids, one too many ex-wives, lots of too much baggage, no thanks.  And then, I met him.

He lived in Troy and I lived in Birmingham - a two hour drive.   I knew he would be nuts for a while after a divorce and tried to weasel out of it when he asked me out, but didn't want to let someone so cute and smart and funny get away. Single girls know what I'm talking about.

When he asked me out, I explained that I couldn't in good conscience go out with anyone married, period, even if he had filed.  He agreed with me, but the minute the ink was dry, he started calling me. We talked on the phone for hours each night leading up to our big date. We really had a great courtship because we knew one another before our very first date.  I fell in love with him long before he ever kissed me, or showed up in those overalls in the rain that night.

I was so nervous that November, that I locked myself out of the house in the pouring down rain.  Deciding to shimmy up the back brick wall of my house while standing on one cinder block, I busted my behind and ended up covered in mud from head to toe. I fell into the bushes.  I was skint up, dirty, soaked.  and had five minutes to change clothes before he arrived.  I threw on a black turtle neck and a pair of plain jeans.  

Remember that scene in Sleepless in Seattle when Tom Hanks said he took his wife's hand getting out of a car, and it was magic?  That's how it was the first time I met him- magic.  I was so nervous thinking maybe that was all in my head?  What would happen on a real date?

When I flung open the door, I was flushed, had wet hair, probably some dirt on my face still, and there he was in a pair of Liberty overalls, his baseball cap turned backwards, and boots. His hair was curled in ringlets from the rain, and just had a Paul Newman kind of thing going that made my knees buckle.  He stepped in from the rain, took my face in his hands and he kissed me.  I mean, he kissed me- 1940's movie star kissed me!  I felt my heart  skip a beat, my head was swimmy, and I knew right there and then that I would marry this boy- the cutest boy in the world!

For a year and a half, we dated living two hours away.  We made it work.  We commuted back and forth at least twice a week and every other weekend, and finally, he moved to Birmingham and we were married.  We rescheduled our wedding twice and almost didn't get married at all because we went to pre-marital counseling with our priest for 10 months. We wanted our things worked out before we merged homes, children and lives.  It ain't the Brady Bunch, y'all, that's only on television.

On the 27th Day of April in 2002, in a blue sparkly princess gown that I sewed and he put the boning in, and in a tiara I designed that was made in Ireland, I walked in with trumpets blaring and met him at the end of the aisle at the Cathedral of the Advent, where we made our covenant.  I made a covenant with him, with our children, and most importantly with God.  And that covenant, has kept us through things that would have wiped out most marriages, destroyed them.  

We've had career changes, we've raised teenagers together and so far, we are 3/3.  Everyone has a degree, a skill, a job, and in the end, I do believe that all three will have their Doctorates.  Each is working on that as we speak.  They were teenagers, each with their own freak flag to fly for a while, but they are awesome adults.  Good people, good friends, and people that I am proud that I had a part in loving and rearing.  I am really proud of them, they make my heart burst when I think of the challenges they have all endured and have overcome as well.  

Our children are all grown now, and since the last one left for college, we have been able to have different career options, and have traveled all over the country.  Since 2011, we have lived in West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, Texas, and Alabama.  We've toured everything around and between those places that we could possibly see. 

This past year, I have been working for myself from home, re-establishing my design business and clientele, and Jimbo has worked from Texas.  That has all been great, except he works 6 days per week.   Most weeks, I also work 6 days per week, and that leaves traveling to a minimum for us since he has been on this project.  And I miss him- badly.  And he misses me.

So, we are back to how we began dating in the beginning- we stay on the phone for hours each night.  We laugh and tell stories and catch up on our days, and we probably spend more time together actually listening than we ever do when we are together and can tune out.  

We watch a LOT of Amazon and Netflix series together.  We synch our tv's, count down 3-2-1,  and press play together.  We give picture descriptions until we are synched and then we watch whatever it is we are watching, analyze the characters, laugh, and have movie night- just remotely.  It isn't dreamy, but we're in it, and we're doing it together.  And this gets us through to the next point in our lives where maybe one day, we can end up somewhere working in the same place again.  Maybe he stays in Texas and gets to a bigger city with his company and I go there one day?  With his business you never know, but he has a fantastic team and he is happy, and that makes me happy.  I am doing what I love and re-establishing my brand and that makes me happy, and when Mama's happy, everybody is happy.

The toughest thing about being apart is all of the little things that you do for one another that you take for granted.  I miss having him rub my back and my feet, bring me coffee or hot tea in bed without me asking.  He loves to go to the grocery store and I despise it.  He changes my oil, loves to fold clothes.  He forces me to eat healthier, lets me sleep in his lap at 6am during Squawk Box and enjoy my coffee lull and he rubs my hair while he listens to the market breakdown for the day.  There are a million more things, but I have learned how much I take him for granted by us being apart.
I schedule his appointments- doctor, dentist, you name it.  I do the major shopping and I cook fun things, I make sure everyone has gifts that are supposed to have gifts and cake, I help him write letters and thank you notes.  I make the punch lists, send him to Lowe's and we fix things together. I have his back and he has mine.

When we are apart, we have our regular lives, plus we miss all of those perks.  Those are the hardest things, and I think when we feel the most alone.  I have had Type A Flu for a week and have been home pitiful.  I said "whatever happened to in sickness and in health?"  He said "You were healthy when you got on the plane to come see me, you were sick when you got home, so...there ya go, sickness and health."

Marriage has seasons, and our lives have seasons.  And although I want to believe this is temporary, I do realize that this is our life, for now.  We have plans for  moving to the coast one day and growing tomatoes-  big fat, juicy, Big Boys that cover an entire slice of white bread loaded with mayonnaise and black pepper.  That is our crazy dream and maybe explains our obsession with overalls.

For now, we will just eat tomato sandwiches and watch Netflix, get on airplanes with a dog, and remember that covenant that holds us together.  One day, we will look back on this time as a blip on the screen  and be so thankful that we stayed true to our path and made our dreams come true.  And every day,  I pray that his day is easy to get through and so is mine.  When he has a day to take care of himself, like he did yesterday,  and do the things that I normally do for him, I feel guilty and sad and I hope that he can navigate the things that I think are much more difficult for him than they actually are.  Maybe I like to believe he needs me more than he does, because I know I need him more than he thinks I do.  

Don't take the beautiful, simple moments for granted.  Make them count and celebrate them!

Love Y'all,

And...just for the record.  When we went to Hollywood to the Chinese Theatre, his hands and feet perfectly matched Paul Newman's. 

Rule Followers with Stupid Names

July 13, 2018

There are people in this world that I like to refer to as Rule Followers.  They are the people who never break the rules.  They are sticklers, tattle tales, narcs who grow up to become compliance officers, auditors, and people who absolutely cannot EVER think outside of the box.  These people don't get invited to my Christmas party because they are the downers of the world.  

Their sole purpose is to make my life on earth a living hell and to remind me why I work in a creative field.  I cannot abide these characters who do not have the ability to look at a particular situation, see the rule that should apply,  and decide for themselves whether or not they should enforce the rule every single time. 

I suffer from travel anxiety- major travel anxiety.  Packing to go on a trip is the most overwhelming thing for me.  Laugh and call me ridiculous, I don't care.  I have an impending fear that I will never get back home.  I have always returned home, always.  I realize that my fear is ridiculous to many, but it is rooted in my truth.  I am terrified of being on a plane used as a weapon.  I have an intense fear of burning to death or drowning and I freak out when I have to fly, which is often.

After looking for one of my best friends for four days after 9/11, I will never view flying the same. Those of you who know how much I love to travel are probably scratching your heads wondering "How is this possible? Her husband travels with his job and they are all over the place."  Better living through chemistry, that is how it is possible-  medication and determination to achieve the final goal and then I get on the dang plane.

I am one of those aggravating people who travels with their dog.  Yes, my shrink certified him as an emotional support animal, and he is truly that.  I cannot imagine getting on a plane without him.  He has been with me when I cried my eyes out when three of my best friends died within one year, he has been with me when I was so angry with my husband that I could've spit nails.  He was with me when my world completely fell apart and I couldn't imagine it ever coming back together.  He has been the best friend I have ever had.  Who would want to fly with anyone else?

The other day, I was at the ticket counter, presenting my "I am crazy enough to fly with an animal letter" which really should have at the top of it- "I have been through shit that you have only seen in Lifetime movies, and some things they haven't dared to show yet because you people can't handle it..."  But, it doesn't.  Instead, it says that I suffer from PTSD and depression, and it has a date on the top.  Apparently, my date was one week expired as of a few days ago.

I was already a little bit confused when I looked at the clerk's nametag.  I thought she must be the second in charge, second shift?  Until she called her Supervisor...saying "Ummm, yeah....this is Seconda in Birmingham and we've got one with an expired letter.  I don't know if it's legit, I mean, she looks okay to me."  

Looks okay?  Did I look okay?  Thank you.  I am so glad that ticket clerks can make medical assessments by looking at travelers and how they are accessorized.  I do accessorize well, but that has nothing to do with a panic attack, mmkay? 

Robin Williams looked okay, Kate Spade looked okay.  Just because someone looks okay, doesn't mean that they aren't chasing rabbits in their head every day just to keep it together and not crack in certain situations.  She had no idea what it took for me just to GET to the ticket counter at the airport without having a melt-down.

Seconda?  What a name.  I kept wondering if she was the second child, second daughter, or if maybe she'd just been in Miss Patton's class and was second in line and Miss Patton said Secondaaaaahhhhh!  She was widely known for adding ahhhhhh!  to any name ending in a consonant.  One of my favorite teachers ever, Miss Patton.

Seconda was too old to have been in Miss Patton's class, so I surmised she was obviously the second girl in the family, the second child, the child born to hillbilly parents who were too lazy to give her a name, so they just named her Secondahhhhh?  I have no idea, but grown people, if you have a name as ridiculous as Seconda and you want people to take you seriously, change your damn name.  

Where was I?  ADD- they don't have those letters on my letter, but should.  Seconda was giving me down the road, telling me that I had to have a new letter from my doctor (which can't be emailed, by the way).  Her counterpart had looked up my frequent flier account and saw that I had flown with my dog within the past few months and that my letter was good then.  So, I was okay a few months ago, but I'm ten days past her rule, so now I'm out of the circle of trust?  Lighten up, Seconda.

Did she really think that my diagnosis changed in ten days?  I mean, in ten days did I erase trauma that caused PTSD?  In ten days was I supposed to have been to a Binny Hinn revival and been healed with a hit on the head?

I understand that people abuse the system. I had a brand new anti-anxiety script that I had picked up that morning before I got on the plane- was that not enough to go with my expired letter to show that I am still the same as I was 10 days ago?  My husband was already on the road to pick me up in Dallas and I was about to miss my flight because of Seconda who never breaks rules. 

Since 2011, I have never had anyone look at the date on my letter, usually it's just a check to verify that I have one.    Seconda, she went over it line by line to the point that I was so humiliated I was crying.  I had mascara running down my face, I was snotting.  Finally I said "How much for the my dog's ticket so I can just get out of here?"  I knew that if I ever walked out of the airport doors to go pick up a letter and take a later flight, I would be heading home and would not get on the plane.  The walk from the parking garage to the ticket counter is always the longest walk of my life.

I don't think Seconda has been in charge of many things in her life, as that is generally the case with a rule follower.  The Secondas, the people who are always second in charge of everything- almost never get to the run the show and when they do get to impose a rule on others, they do it with meanness and contempt.  She is everything that her name implies.  She is Seconda.

I do realize that if I had an up to date letter - dated ten days earlier- I would have had no problems.  So to all of you thinking I expected special treatment, I did not, just humane treatment for making a common mistake.  You can fly a year after your license has expired. 

I'm sure Seconda sits at home at night doing crossword puzzles, deciding which underwear to wear the next morning, smoking her Pall Mall cigarettes, thinking of how she never gets a promotion, and probably wondering which person with a dog she is going to mess with tomorrow.  

I hope the next person with an Emotional Support Animal that she messes with has an African Grey Parrot and teaches it to say "Seconda is a bitch.  Seconda is a bitch.  Seconda is a bitch."   

Love y'all,

Funerals, Banana Pudding, and Skynard.

July 10, 2018

Yes, we measure dead babies and take their pictures in smocked dresses and we take their little footprints and handprints.  Why?  I have never known why until today, when a friend who recently lost a baby told me "To prove that there was actually a life."  My great grandmother (Bigmama) was notorious for recording every birth and death in the family in the front of her Bible and once measured my cousin's baby in the casket and all but picked her up at the funeral home.  My Grandmother snatched the tape measure out of her hand and said "Don't you touch that baby again, Mama or I am dragging you out of here."  She needed details,  we had lost a dear, precious baby.

Bigmama was detailed, very detailed,  in her descriptions of our relatives' demise as she entered things like  "Poor ole Ethel fell dead, had her voting ballot filled out and had just ate breakfast. Straight Democrat ticket. Praise God, she had turned off the stove."  One uncle, written next to his name, just had "Hit by a truck when he saw ole so-and-so and was crossing the road and ran to get away from him."  I loved reading the notes in her Bible about relatives I had never met, because I felt connected to them through her short stories of their deaths.

I wonder what she would have written about her husband, my Pa Julian, who passed 11.5  years after she did.  I would imagine she would have written "Stingy Julian went back in the house-a-far to get out his deeds and certificates.  Suffocated to death and was burnt up. Holly foundt him in the rubble of Joy's house.  She had him a good funeral, she did."

Those of us who come from large families- meaning 50 cousins or more- seem to have a better grip on death.  Death was always as much a part of my life as living.  I learned to expect it, I learned that it wasn't the end.  I learned that the best food you will ever eat is at a funeral of someone dearly beloved and that only tacky people bring fake banana pudding and gummy dumplings to a wake.

I learned not to eat past the blue dishrag.  Bigmama and Aunt Myrtie set up their "dinner on the ground" on the concrete tables under the pavilion, and at the end of the food they prepared, they placed a blue dishrag. We never ate anything after the blue dishrag marker, cause that's where you might not know how clean the folks were who did that cooking.

I learned that legacies go on, stories are told long after your demise, and if you act right and love Jesus, there might be something more waiting on the other side.  Bigmama believed that.  She told me it was true, so I believed it too.

One year, I sang at seven funerals.  I don't think my husband has even been to seven funerals in his entire life.  When we met, he had lost one grandparent and didn't remember the funeral.  Not my family, no sir. We make the casket blanket, cook the food, do the hair and make-up of the dead, and pick out a real nice dress or suit for them to wear.  We preach our own funerals, give the eulogies, and once I rode the in the hearse of an in-law from the church to the cemetery.

My Granddaddy always said that we shouldn't be afraid of dead people, but that the living should scare the shit out of us.  Most days, the living, they do scare me like that.

The living gave my cemetery plot to Oleta, whose wreath is featured above.  She was our beloved housekeeper for over 20 years.  She is now buried next to my Granddaddy, in my spot, the spot I claimed when I was about 15 and was a dark, depressed teenager believing that my impending doom was nigh.  Now, I don't really give a damn if they put me in a mason jar, an old fruitcake tin, or ziplock bag.  I have even considered being planted as a pod to nourish a tree- the circle of life and all.

I have finally settled on letting my husband decide on where and what to do with me if I go before he does. I do hope that he will put me somewhere respectable, like Blackwater Cemetery-I mean, put me a headstone there next to my old dead relatives- my great, great, great, great Grandfather is buried there.  That's not a bad place to be buried, next to relatives born in the 1700s and their dead babies that didn't make it, their first and second wives, and brothers and sisters.  Maybe ole Griffin won't be ashamed to have me there next to him.  I would like to hear some of his stories.

If I do go before y'all and you plan on coming to my farewell party, somebody make a good chocolate cake, homemade, like the one Kelly Bell's mama makes.  Somebody make some banana pudding with the meringue, not that cool whip mess-  cool whip on that boxed banana pudding is disrespectful of the living and the dead.  Play Sweet Child of Mine, Forever Young by Dylan, Respect by Aretha, I'll Have a New Body from the old Red Church Hymnal, When Love Came to Town by U2 and B.B.King, and for the love of all holy, don't play Free Bird.  I do not need to pass on to the next life drunk on Skynard.

Love y'all,

This Flag, My Flag

July 2, 2018

When I was twelve years old, the week before Christmas, I went to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial with my Grandmother and my Uncle who was stationed at Pearl Harbor.  That day, my twelve year old eyes saw  December 7, 1941,  through my Grandmother Lenis's twelve year old eyes.

If you've never been to the Arizona Memorial, there is a film they show to explain what happened that day.  The film begins with a camera going down under water while the names of the fallen are whispered and echoed as the camera approaches the barnacle covered ship.  As you are transported below the waters to the resting place of those 1,177 faithful servicemen who gave their all on a beautiful Sunday morning, there is an eeriness that they are present.  Above where those 1,177 men are entombed, we watched a film of their last day- footage of them fighting for their lives in what became a fiery, watery grave.

Lenis lost friends in World War II.  She lost boys she grew up with, who were older brothers of her friends, boys she'd had little girl crushes on, and boys who had helped her family out on their farm.  As the names of the Arizona fallen were called, her mascara ran down her face in streaks.  I had never seen her cry, never.

My Grandmother is 89 years old this year.  She looks 75 and until recently has always been in the best shape of anyone I have ever known.  We all begin to wear out and we grow tired.  I can tell, for the first time, that she is getting tired.  She is strong.  She is resilient. She has seen and done, fought more fights, and won more battles- in her own home, in the court room, in lease negotiations, and in her own mind- than most people could even fathom.  She is fabulous.  She is fearless.  She is a badass. For me to see her cry was overwhelming.  She is stoic.

As she told me the stories of the boys she knew who had gone away to war, she told me how she and her cousin Jody made homemade candy and sent care packages to the boys from their community- hoping that the candy would make it to the boys before the enemy did.  She cried telling me about a boy who never came home.  All she said as she wiped the black streaks off of her face was "a good boy, he was a good boy."

Three years later, at the age of 15, I saw the Arizona Memorial from a different perspective.  I rode the ferry to Ford Island quite often to the pool there with my new found friend, Chrissy.  The buildings on Ford Island still had bullet holes in them from the attack in 1941. I knew what they meant.  I knew how many men had died.  I knew that my Grandmother's heart was broken, and mine was too.  Every bullet hole and remnant of bombing was still in tact; time stood still on Ford Island.

The Arizona became real to me, as well as the other seventeen ships and their men.  I swam in the pool so many of those good boys swam in when they were enjoying Hawaii and all of its majesty.  I saw the air control tower that so many men used to launch a response to the unexpected attack on that fateful December day, the same one you see in the movies Tora, Tora, Tora! and in Pearl Harbor.

I remember one particular day, as the sun was beginning to set on our ferry as we traveled back to Oahu, we saluted the flag on the Arizona.  We stood proud.  We were silent.  We held our heads high.  Tears rolled down my fifteen year old face thinking about that boy, that good boy, my Grandmother had known.

When I graduated from high school on May 26, 1989, the Arizona Memorial flew a flag- this flag, my flag.  Maybe my Uncle didn't realize why I asked for a flag for graduation, but I am so thankful for it every day.  It was flown at the exact time that I graduated.  It is and has always been in a place of reverence in my home. A reminder to me of that boy, that good boy- that boy who wasn't much older than I was when I graduated.  This flag, my flag, is a symbol to remind me that as long as we have freedom, we have choices.  Choices yield possibilities.

As we approach the 4th of July, I pray that God will continue to richly bless us all. I pray that we don't take for granted the sacrifices of all of the good boys and good girls who have given their all, their lives,  so that we might make solid choices- choices that might yield possibilities, that in turn, could make dreams come true for generations we will never meet.

Love Y'all,

***Update- the boy's name was either Calvin or Alvin Bray

Am I sensitive or just raised in Lower Alabama?

July 1, 2018

Telephone Etiquette, Old School

Growing up, I spent a lot of time at my Grandparents' home.  Before the advent of answering machines or cell phones, they had rotary phones in their home.  The main house phone was a tan Bellsouth rotary model that sat on the wooden top counter in front of the bookshelves that were filled with the book of the month club books. 

The tan rotary phone never moved, that was its place.  There were other phones in the house, but that was the phone, THE phone.  It was the phone that everyone rushed to answer and say "Holley Residence, May I help you?"

Someone always answered the phone swiftly and answered it with a cheerful greeting.  No matter whether the housekeeper answered the phone, my grandmother answered the phone, or anyone else in our household, the greeting was always "Holley Residence, May I help you?"  Come to think of it, everyone where I grew up, regardless of their economic status answered their phones that way.  Isn't that a wonderful way to be greeted, with a 'May I help you?'

I am working on a project, where I am dealing with a lady who just rubs me the wrong way.  If I am completely honest, she has infuriated me on two occasions. I always want to believe the best in people, no matter how poor their form, until they show me that they are, indeed,  a jerk.

This morning, I saw her phone number come up on my caller id.  After my last interaction with her, I was dreading seeing her number pop up on my phone.  I answered and said "Good Morning, Sarah.  How are you today?"  First thing out of her mouth was "Blah blah blah, YOU YOU YOU, blah blah, he said, she said, you said, YOU need to blah blah, followed by "Holly, You obviously have selective hearing."


Yes, after she has already insulted my crew and me weeks ago regarding something so trivial that I dare not ever mention it again, out of fear that God will smite me for wasting another precious second of life that He has given me, I am going to let it go. 

I would like to believe that she has no intention of coming across so vile, wretched, mean and evil, but I have to wonder if she doesn't treat everyone like this.  My husband, Jimbo, swears that some people just wake up with their knickers in a knot and that I should never take it personal when someone acts this way.  His theory is that she most likely treats everyone with the same disregard as she does me and that everyone who knows her dreads her calls as much as I.

Let's not be like Sarah.  Let's learn from her ignorance and meanness.


When I am calling someone and they answer I always say "Good Morning, Sarah.  Thank you for taking my call.  Do you have a minute to talk?"  If she says no, then I immediately ask "When would be a better time for me to call you?  I just need a minute of your time to discuss abc..."

Most people are very courteous and appreciative and will either continue the conversation or give you a better time to contact them.  I often will text people and ask when would be a good time to call.

In a world where we communicate via text, email, and social media, a telephone call out of the blue isn't as common as when it was our sole immediate form of communication.  Since texting before a call is a very common practice, wouldn't it make sense that bitching at someone the second that they answer the phone isn't the way to ask a question.  To begin a conversation with "We have a problem" is absolutely uncalled for in any situation, unless someone has been in a car wreck, someone's home has burned, or a relative has passed. Those are problems.  Your temper tantrum is not my problem- not now, not ever.

I am forty six years old.  I survived an abusive first husband who beat me, I have raised three teenagers to adulthood, I have severed relationships with people whom I love because I refused to be talked down to, and I have lost and rebuilt everything twice in my life.  The very last thing that I am concerned with first thing on a beautiful Monday morning is a first world problem created in the head of someone who probably doesn't have many friends and never has, who is probably on a micro-power trip because this is the first time that she has been able to talk anyone into putting her in charge of anything?

So, what is the moral of this story?  Be kind on the telephone and, if you are going to volunteer to steer a committee or chair a charity event, don't be an ass.  That's all.  Be kind to one another.

Love Y'all,

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