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Why Snow in the South is No Joke.

You know how you can joke about your family, internally, but no one is allowed to make the SAME joke if they’re NOT part of the circle? Let me invite you into the circle for a moment.

Those of us in the south know what we’re seen as. There are parts of our history that are incredibly dirty – rotten to the core, no doubt – and we know that. We know that parts of that history still bubble up to the surface from time to time. We know that we’re a deeply religious region, one aptly named The Bible Belt. We know that you are surprised to hear that we have running water, indoor plumbing, and dental services.

We know that you laugh at how we “overreact” to snow and inclement winter weather.

It’s okay. We laugh a lot too, internally. Inside our circle, it’s not uncommon to hear “The schools are closing” announced across a room full of people and hear groans and moans, normally two or three days prior to any snow ever touches the ground. We smile and laugh at how predictions of ice prompt the grocery stores to empty their shelves of bread and milk. (Why bread and milk?)

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Your guess is as good as mine. In fact, one time I made Bryan go to the store before an inclement storm hit (I think this was tornado season, not cold weather), and he literally ONLY bought bread and milk. So we sat there and stared at each other, wondering how we would feed ourselves and our children should the unspeakable happen.

But here’s what you need to know about the south: we have had some terrible, terrible weather things happen. I’ve lived in the true south since I was nine years old, and I can’t tell you how many tornado warnings I’ve huddled through, how many blizzards we’ve suffered, and how many floods we’ve endured. We have gorgeous weather too, no doubt, but we have some terrible weather.

We are largely unprepared for cold weather. It’s true. You can laugh at how each town may have one salt truck, because we laugh at that too. We cancel schools in advance of potential ice storms or abnormally cold temperatures. We do that because the south is largely underprivileged. A large – startlingly large – percent of our population lies below the poverty line. Even children that are not considered poverty or below may not have proper cold weather gear. Our power lines run above ground. Our power grids are not meant to sustain our population at temperatures below freezing for any length of time.

Here’s the backstory you don’t know about that: our weather forecast for the last two days predicted cold temperatures and a light dusting of snow. That was it. There was no mention of ice, and even our most trustworthy and seasoned meteorologists admitted that no accumulation of snow was expected. The chance of precipitation was 0%.

As a result, we sent all of our salt trucks/utility trucks/help south of us, where the majority of the storm was supposed to it. The coast line was bracing for the brunt of the wintry mix, so we sent all of our resources down there.

To help them. That’s what we do in the south.

When a surprise blizzard hit, it wasn’t that we were ignorant in preparing. The storm was sudden and without warning. No one realized it was coming. When the severity of the storm became apparent, folks did what we normally do in weather situations – they headed out to pick up their kids. The storm’s intensity was so strong and so fast-moving that people were literally iced in their cars as they drove. The pictures you see out of Birmingham, AL or Atlanta, GA are not reasons to mock. They are your neighbors, stuck in their cars without food, water, or life-saving medications. They are your parents, landlocked in their vehicle with not enough gas to keep them warm. They are your children, terrified on school buses that had no chance of getting them home.

It is not a joke. It is my community.

Many – HUNDREDS – of drivers in the south slept in their cars last night, unable to make it to any meaningful shelter. Children slept on school buses while parents prayed that their child was safe, warm, and accounted for. Fervent pleas for help flew across my many social media circles – the circles I joined after we were left helpless from the tornadoes of 2011 – for supplies of insulin, bottled water, and blankets.

So before you consider cracking a joke about rednecks not being able to handle the winter weather, remember that the south sent a good amount of aid and supplies and resources north when Hurricane Sandy hit. See, we aren’t prepared for winter weather because we don’t get it all that often down here. But we know that not everyone is as tornado-ready as we are, so we’re happy to lend a hand. Our local Red Cross and utilities companies dispatch en masse whenever there’s a disaster that we’re too familiar with. We know how terrifying it is to find yourself helpless against the elements, so we are always quick to offer a warm blanket and a hug along with whatever else we have to share.

There are times that I’m not proud of how some of my Southern family may hold themselves, but they are still my family. And if you’re lucky, you’ll find your way into the circle too – you look like you could use some sweet tea, bless your heart.

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To Every Morning Show Host, Everywhere.

Hi. I’m Sarah. In most cases, I’m your target demographic.

Let me tell you a little something.

I appreciate that you have a female co-host because, hey, I’m a woman and you’re trying to earn my drive time. I appreciate that you consider her the yin to your yang, the estrogen to your testosterone. I appreciate these things.

But you know? Women are, in general, pretty smart creatures. I feel comfortable making that generalization. Sure, we have the exceptions – OctoMom and Tanning Mom are a few recent not-so-stellar examples – but on the whole, we’re okay. I worked in radio for years and I feel comfortable saying that women in radio are pretty smart too.

So you should let them be that way.

It is a particular thorn in my side that every local morning show I have access to here has a female cohost. And that’s not the rub. The problem lies in the fact that her job is 1) to tell the time and weather after every break, 2) to laugh uproariously at her host and 3) to titter and giggle about “womanly” things.

I was scanning through on a drive to work this week and I heard the host slam another show – the syndicated show which his morning show replaced – and his version of slamming it included mocking their female cohost.

Um, sweetheart. Bob & Sheri may have not been local, but Sheri was a GODSEND to radio. She is quick, funny, admittedly dysfunctional, and (LORD FORBID) female. She talks about sex. She is open about her failures in life. She has kids and tells funny stories about them. She is AWESOME.

And by the way – new LOCAL morning show – prank calling folks for two hours is very 1985. You know why that format didn’t stick around? Because it purposefully makes someone the butt of your jokes. That’s a really shitty way to start someone’s day. It’s uncomfortable for the listener. It’s downright mean.

Oh, also. Say what you will about Sheri, but she does more than obnoxiously laugh and then hock diet drugs three times every commercial break.

So, guys. Us women? We came equipped with more than ovaries and boobs. We have brains too. And it doesn’t lessen your manhood to let a woman spar with you. And if she can’t hold her own in a spar with you? It’s not a good fit. And it’s not fun to listen to. Move her to the afternoon shift and try another cohost.

And for PETE’S SAKE. Stop the stupid prank calls. They weren’t even funny in ’85.

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What Hate Feels Like

I’m not talking about chicken or merit badges today, because I KNOW, RIGHT? Beating a dead horse, right?

Except that there are some people who cannot just stop reading about it, because they’re sort of living it.

I kept trying to put my stance into words last week, and I probably failed miserably each time, because how do you articulate things that you just feel are right? Especially when you want to do so without hurting anyone with differing opinions, even if they’re so much louder than you? I don’t know these answers, and so I tried to keep quiet last week. I tried to smile about the chicken and whatnot, because I couldn’t adequately put into words why I felt the way I did.

And then this happened.

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Although I very rarely wear polish on my hands, my toes are always painted in the summer. I do them myself, because I have this very unnerving reaction to pedicures: I laugh uncontrollably. I don’t know why, but I do. I don’t think I like people messing with my feet seems to be the root of it, but mostly it’s that I feel downright guilty that someone has to touch my feet, and then it tickles, and the awkward laughter, it does not stop.

Anyway, so I paint my own toes and I have quite the (obsessive) collection of polishes as a result.

I don’t know why, but as we’ve neared the wedding, Tony has asked me many times to paint his nails. I’ve resisted for a long time, but finally, last week, I gave in. He wanted to pick the color and – God help me – I steered him toward a more masculine color. He settled on a dark green, although that was not his first choice.

Pink was.

So we sat in my bedroom floor, he and I, sprawled out with limbs everywhere. I painted his tiny toenails and sat back. “No, Momma, my hands too!” he begged. “I want color EVERYWHERE!”

I consented.

He danced around the house, so pleased with his color. He sat back every five minutes or so, admiring his new nails. He LOVED them. “I can’t wait to show everyone!” he beamed.

I was late getting home the next night because of work stuff, and when I walked in, Bryan threw me the be gentle with him glare.

“Momma,” he said. “I have to take my color off.”

Why, baby?

“Everyone laughed at me. Said I looked like a girl. But I like it, Momma! But they laughed.”

It’s worth noting that this was Wednesday. The Day of Chicken.

I may have been a little sensitive.

So we sat, again, in my bedroom floor. Limbs sprawled out. And we talked about how harsh words can be. We talked about how everyone is different, and we all like different things, and that’s okay. We talked about how the color on your nails means nothing more than your preference for that color on that particular day. I did all of this with a solid, comforting voice.

I started to dab his toes with the polish remover and he said, “No, Momma. Don’t. I really like my color. And I can wear shoes, right Momma? So no one will know? I can hide it so only I know, and that would be okay, right Momma?”

Aaaaaand then I lost it.

No one should have to hide who they are. Or what they love. Or who they love.

They should not have their personas beaten out of them.

We should not have to pray that away, any more than we pray away someone being left-handed.

I don’t care if you judge me for painting my son’s nails. I don’t care at all. And quite frankly, if you do judge me, it says worlds more about YOU than it does about me. Do his nails affect you in any way? Do they impact your life? Are your morals shaken by his painted nails?

I emailed this story to Kim on Thursday, to let her know that I thought about her through all of this. We both agreed that we have to believe – we have to believe, for our own sanity’s sake – that people don’t understand what their actions are doing. That they don’t understand the hate the other side sees.

I learned, through my son’s eyes, what hate feels like.

And my God, I will speak louder to keep that as far from my world as possible.

Update: last night, Tony asked me to paint his nails again. I let him choose the color. He chose a pastel pink, and wanted sparkles on top of it. I painted his fingernails and his toenails. He loves them – says they look like little birthday cakes. He says he knows they may laugh at him, but his bucket will stay full.

Teach your children well.

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And the Tide Rolled in.

Oh. OHHHH.

So I’ve mentioned a few times on here that – you know – I’m a leeeetle bit of an Alabama fan. Just a little bit. Okay, a lot. I can talk to you about anything regarding Alabama football, and most of SEC football. We are a big college football family.

And last night, my team showed up.

But more importantly, so did our fan base. Our Bama Family was there. And I was so proud of us. Early in the 4th quarter, the majority of the gold and purple left the stadium. THIS IS SEC FOOTBALL, Y’ALL. YOU DON’T LEAVE UNTIL THE GAME IS OVER. I was very sad for LSU at that point, because .. they were abandoned. Such a fairweather fanbase. Not cool.

The people of Tuscaloosa have had a really hard year. The devastation in Tuscaloosa is still there, where entire blocks were leveled by the tornadoes in April. They have spent the year since that rebuilding their lives. I’m not saying the championship was OWED to them because of a natural disaster, but ..

I think the same fierce determination and focus that the people of Tuscaloosa have demonstrated was echoed last night on the field. Our boys came together, cheered eachother on, focused on one play at a time. Brick by brick, house by house, yard by yard, they persevered.

And my God, it was beautiful to watch.

There are the haters out there, the ones who say it was a boring game. That their team should’ve been in the championship. To them I say: WIN MORE GAMES NEXT SEASON. Play better. Play harder. And it was not a boring game. Each yard was a battle. Each field goal was three points that we didn’t have earlier. We lost two key players in the game, one of which ended his career with the Tide with a hamstring injury. Our boys focused. Our defense dominated, and our young quarterback showed promise and leadership we hadn’t seen earlier this year.

To be honest, it was one of those moments that takes your breath away. You just sit back, and watch something come together as if it was scripted as part of Friday Night Lights. Even us die hard fans were amazed.

To LSU: I am sorry that the game went that way. The Tide has had off nights. And it just comes down to that – it’s an “any given Sunday” premise. Some nights you win, some nights you don’t. And I’m so sorry this was an off night for you. We knew it.

To everyone else: I sincerely hope you have something in your lives that unites you across huge boundaries like Alabama football. I am so proud of our Tide Pride today, and proud to be a part of the Bama Nation that has brought home 14 championships. I love being able to walk in the halls today and high five people over last night’s game, even the people with whom I have nothing else in common.

It’s an amazing thing, this college football that we love so much.

Thanks, Bama.

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Extra Crispy Wings No More

One of the most depressing parts of the recession – obviously, outside of job loss and home foreclosures – is that a lot of our local institutions have suffered.

My favorite coffee house at work fell under in August.

I’ve seen more and more businesses – mostly local, mostly restaurants – fall victim to the economy.

BUT Y’ALL, SHIT’S GETTING REAL.

Beauregard’s, which has been a place to get wings for Y-E-A-R-S, is closing. Like, SATURDAY.  I am so completely heartbroken about this. Our local wing joint is CLOSING. We’ve had countless birthday parties there over the years. We ate there the night Bryan asked permission to marry me. Tony knows the menu by heart, and those checkerboard/newsprint tablecloths are prevalent in photos.

More importantly: THEY UNDERSTAND HOW TO COOK WINGS. Oh. I am so picky about wings. I want them crispy. EXTRA crispy. I cannot feel the ooey gooey ness of potentially undercooked meat. I want them CRISPY. FRY THEM LONGER. Yes, I know it sounds simple. AND YET.

Hell. We named our dog Beau. AFTER THE BEAUREGARD MASCOT.

I am crazy sad about this. Mostly because we’ve grown up there. Also because .. adieu, extra crispy wings.

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