You Say “Goodbye” and I Say “Hello!”

When my boss asked to meet me at a coffee shop a few days ago, I was surprised. She’s so busy at work she barely has time to drink coffee in the break-room, much less take an hour away from the office. I figured this had to be Something Big.
“I’m doing such a great job, she probably wants to give me more responsibilities,” I thought confidently. “Maybe a move up? Or probably the big bosses realize they’re underpaying me and finally are giving me that raise. Yeah, yeah, that’s it.”
But as we sat down with our coffee, she sighed and said, quickly, “I’m just going to say it: I’m sorry, but you’re fired.”
Gee, this sure wasn’t going how I expected.
And, OK, she didn’t say “you’re fired.” I think Donald Trump’s the only one who can say that. What she actually said was, “Things are tight. They’re cutting the budget and dropping some things, and one of those things is you. It’s about money, not you. And I’m so, so sorry.”
Because she’s my friend as well as my boss, I knew she meant that last part.
On the other hand, that first part sure sounded like “you’re fired” to me.
Now, I know times are bad. I know the economy’s weak and finances are rocky and folks have to tighten their belts. It’s just that nobody asked me if I wanted my own personal belt pulled in a few notches.
Because I was fine with it the way it was.
And here’s the thing: This was the first time I’ve ever been let go from a job. Ever. And this is what I learned: It’s a lousy no-good very bad feeling.
Family and friends told me to go with that feeling.
“Take time to grieve,” they said. “Rant. Rave. Cry. Vent. Get it out.”
It will be alright, they promised. After all, considering the devastation and destruction nature heaped on the South this past week, losing my job doesn’t rank anywhere near the end of anything significant.
But it is the end of something.
It’s the end of 15 years of writing my a column for the first newspaper I ever wrote a column for.
My job – the job getting the budget ax – was writing a weekly column as a freelancer for the TimesDaily newspaper in Florence, Alabama. So today is the last Friday that column appears in the TimesDaily print edition.
I’m still in the sad phase of The Three Steps of Grief in Losing Your Newspaper Job.  (By the way, those phases are 1) “I’m Really Really Mad,” 2) “I’m Really Really Sad” and 3) “Can Some of You Young Whippersnappers Show Me How To Use the Twitters?”) Hanging out with readers every week for almost 15 years in the pages of the TimesDaily has been an honor, a privilege – and a blast. I’m going to miss it. Heck, I already do.
And if you’re here at my blog because you read about it my final TimesDaily column, welcome! So glad you’re here.
Let’s sit and reminisce for a minute.
We sure have had fun during these years, haven’t we? We’ve laughed and cried together, grieved and celebrated. You stuck with me through weddings, graduations and band-booster meetings. We went shoe shopping. You helped me raise two daughters and four cats. Most recently, you shared husband hints to help me train the man who finally succumbed to my feminine wiles after decades of bachelorhood.
Thank you for that.
Thank you for everything.
And since there are plenty of adventures ahead, I hope you’ll keep visiting here. You don’t have to sign up or register or pay for anything or be bombarded with ads for stuff you don’t want to buy, so pour a cup of coffee and let’s keep the conversation going.
You won’t believe what 3-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable said the other day!

Business 101, or I Know Billy Reid!

Oh my goodness, y’all. Did you read today that fashion designer Billy Reid won the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers/Vogue Fashion Fund award as an exceptional and exciting emerging talent? And did you notice that he was described as Southern and country and small-town? Well, he lives in MY Southern and country small-town of Florence, Alabama, and I know him! I’ve been to his house! His sister-in-law and her husband are my periodontists!! He sometimes remembers my name!!! It tickles me no end to see somebody I know — somebody I know as just a regular normal person — all dressed up and under the lights in photographs with Anna Wintour and Karl Lagerfeld. Good for him. He really is a nice family guy with an elegantly classic yet at the same time sentimentally laidback sort of style. It’s like J. Crew meets Holly Golightly and they go have tea at Grey Gardens. See for yourself. I’ve even picked up a couple of Billy Reid pieces at his super-super-way-out-of-season discount sales, which is the only way I can afford designer duds. But the two sweaters and the skirt I did buy are some of my favorite clothes — Reid has high standards for quality and workmanship, which, of course, accounts for the high (for me, at least) prices. And he’s a great neighbor, too. His shop — with company headquarters on the second floor — is smack dab in the middle of downtown Florence, and he’s become a huge community asset. He hosts parties, supports causes and encourages local musicians and artists. He and his family came to Florence — his wife’s hometown — after post 9/11 frugality sunk his fledgling fashion business. He regrouped and started again, and now he’s hanging out in New York with the fashion elite. See where determination and hard work will get you? And talent. And creativity. And financing. But the one thing I really admire Billy Reid for is his incredibly marketing savvy. He knows how to style his brand and get that brand out there. Everything that represents him and his business is consistent and authentic — you know it’s Billy Reid as soon as you open the envelope or read the Facebook post or see the print ad. Seems to me that no matter what business you’re in, that’s a tremendous advantage.

Alabama Renaissance Faire

Gorgeous statue, right? So detailed and pristine.  It’s amazing that there’s such incredible art work brought in to the Alabama Renaissance Faire, which was this past weekend in my town of Florence, at Wilson Park in the heart of downtown. In fact, this statue is so breathtaking that it’s worth two different photos. But … wait … Notice anything? It’s like those “Find the Differences” games when you’re supposed to compare two almost-identical pictures. Because you’re right if you think the statue has moved — because, of course, this is not really a statue. It’s Barbara O’Bryan, of Ypsilanti, Mich., who portrays the living statue Naimh A’Danu — a huge crowd-pleaser at the Alabama Ren Faire. I have no idea what all she has to do and how long it takes to transform herself into a statue, but I do know that everybody who wanders by is fascinated. O’Bryan’s grace and patience are phenomenal. Didn’t we play some sort of statue game when we were kids? Maybe that’s how she got her start.

Nina and Pinta

I’m not sure which is the more startling: Driving past our local marina and seeing 15th-century masts towering over the more-usual fishing boats or stepping onto one of these replica ships and realizing that people actually crossed a big scary ocean and lived for months in something smaller than most people’s closets. Well, the closets of really rich people, anyway. But, still. These replicas of Christopher Columbus‘s Nina and Pinta are tiny, tiny, tiny. See the guy to the right of the center in the photo on the left? He practically can touch both sides of his ship when he stands in the middle and stretches out his arms. Truly. Built with hand tools in Brazil and owned by a British charity in the British Virgin Islands, these ships are making their way along the Mississippi and Tennessee rivers. When they dock in local harbors, the captain and his volunteer crew open the ships for tours. They’re here in Florence, Alabama, through Monday. Come take a look. You’ll be amazed. These ships come to my town every few years or so. They previously were here in 2003, and I remember because they were at the marina when my now-husband officially asked me to marry him … on a day that happened to be Columbus Day.  And why that strikes me as funny — that I got engaged on Columbus Day — I have no idea. Help!!!

Come Fire-Hoop with Me. Also: Laura Bush Stole My Tomatoes

Today was the sort of day which makes me glad for the blogosphere, as most of my friends in Real World already are incredibly tired of hearing this story and so I get to bore and test the patience of share this with y’all sweet people in Blog World. Anyway, this is the story of my Very Strange Day that started out weird, got better and then ended up with Laura Bush — yes, the Mrs. President Laura Bush — stealing tomatoes from me.  You just never know.

The morning kicked off great. I woke up — always a good sign. For once it was not already 91 degrees outside by 6 a.m. and was, in fact, quite pleasant. Plus, I’d made Toddy (cold-pressed coffee) overnight and it drained perfectly for a smooth and fresh first cup of the day. Then the weirdness began, because then I powered up the laptop, logged onto Facebook … and saw a video of Older Daughter hooping with fire. Hooping. With. Fire. She’s a talented and skilled hooper, teaches several hooping classes and even makes and sells hoops with her husband. All that I know. I did not know, however, that you could actually set fire to your hoop and then hoop with it. I think I wish I still didn’t know you could do that. Older Daughter assured me, however, that she’d gone through an intense fire-safety class beforehand and there were bunches of people standing around with a fire extinguisher, a fire blanket and several wet towels. I was not reassured.

However, after that my day improved immensely. Despite me yelling at her over the phone — “Why would you think that hooping with fire is a good idea???” — Older Daughter brought 2 1/2-year-old Capt. Adorable over while she got her hair cut. The Captain and I ran up and down the backyard, tormented the kitty cats (at least, he tormented while I protected) and ate blueberries with grilled-cheese sandwiches. After they left, the magic kept rolling. I went to get a pedicure and didn’t have to wait one single minute. Then I used coupons to get freebies at a couple of my favorite mall stories and racked up some bargains in the Belk clearance rack — I don’t care what my husband anybody says, $65 for a dress and three tops is pretty good.

And then things got weird again, because we’re coming to the part where Lara Bush stole my tomatoes. All day I’d been looking forward to stopping by the farmers’ market this afternoon to pick up some heirloom tomatoes. I love these heirloom tomatoes. They’re so full of flavorful tomato goodness, I can’t even tell you. I’d run out of my latest batch a couple of days ago and couldn’t wait to replenish. But, no. No heirloom tomatoes anywhere at the market. That I could see, anyway. And when I asked Steve, the owner of the market, if he had any of these tomato treasures stashed away, he sorrowfully shook his head and pointed to a long list pinned to his bulletin board. I knew Laura Bush was coming to town to speak at a fund-raising dinner. I did not know that the chefs preparing the dinner had asked Steve to save all his best things for the menu — including my heirloom tomatoes. Hence — and how often do you get to use the word “hence” anymore? — Laura Bush stole my tomatoes. But I still think she’s a nice person. A stealer of tomatoes, but a nice person.

Yard-Sale Success

Success!  Our yard sale this weekend was great fun. Plus, we sold a bunch of stuff. I mean, our garage has not been this clean and uncluttered since we moved in. This is all we have left. Compared to what we started with, it’s amazing. Yup, it was hot. Yup, it was miserable. Yup, folks thought we were crazy for having a yard sale in 101 degree heat and threats of thunderstorms. But the rain held off and, really, once you’ve sweated so much your T-shirt has become one with your skin and your hair has no resemblance to anything human, then you get sort of used to it. The most popular items at the sale that people asked about and I had to pry out of folks’ hand? Our bottle of hand sanitizer and our table fan. I know exactly what to stock up on for next time.

DIY Yogurt

In my town of Florence, Alabama, the newest place to eat and greet is Frostbite, a make-your-own-yogurt-extravaganza spot. I know that folks in Other Places That Aren’t Here have been enjoying yogurt like this for a couple of years and may be all blase and nonchalant about it, but even after several months of pumping yogurt and trying to decide between Butterfinger or Snicker sprinkles and can you mix hot fudge and caramel sauce, it’s still a thrill that’s not getting old. Here’s how it works: There are three machines with two flavors of soft-serve yogurt each that change daily. You can sample each flavor and then grab a cup and pump away. Then you add your own toppings, ranging from cereal to candy to fresh fruit as well as a couple of flavors of ice-cream sauce. When you’re done, you plop your creation on a scale and pay by the ounce — usually about $4-$6. There are several different approaches to designing your own dessert. Some people head straight for their favorites every time. Some people experiment with different combos every time. Others try to see how much they can cram into one cup — $15 yogurt, anyone? — while others are so frugal that they limit themselves to the toppings that weigh the least (puffed cereal tops that list). So far, my favorite yogurt flavors are Birthday Cake, Vanilla Bean and Espresso. Every time I’ve gone, I’ve tried to take a photo of my own creation but, honestly, I’m sort of embarrassed to let you all see how many crumbled-up Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups I can pile on a scoop of yogurt. Sad, really. I obviously need to go back today and try again. Check out Frostbite, which is locally and independently owned (whatever happened to TCBY, anyway?), on Facebook.

Wings

What is it about hot summer days that make us want to up the ante even more with spicy hot wings? Purely in the pursuit of journalistic investigation, Husband and I researched this question recently at Wing Shack in Florence, Alabama, where there only are three things on the menu: Wings, fries and chicken tenders. You have to respect a place that quite literally puts all its wings … uh … eggs in one basket. The star attractions are substantial and meaty, and you can order them with one of a dozen different sauces or create your own custom blend. (Honey mustard/garlic? Atomic/teriyaki?) Or you can choose from four dry rubs or again mix-and-match. And, listen, even though these fries look like generic crinkle-cut, they’re fried perfectly — light and crispy on the outside and nicely potatoey on the inside. The beer selection is basic at best, but really when you’re eating wings you mainly want something drinkable and fire-quenching, so it’s okay. Every time we have wings, Husband always remembers the evening years ago when we were on a date and he ordered some for both of us and I said, “Oh, you’re going to have to eat them all because I really don’t like wings” and then I proceeded to work my way through most of the plate. In my defense, I really thought I didn’t like wings. Now we each get our own. Check out Wing Shack on Facebook.