Why I Should Never Write About Fashion

You know how you get dressed in the morning and you think you look perfect respectable and even nice but then somehow you get a glimpse of what you REALLY look like and It Is Not Good and you wonder “Why did I think I should wear that?” Yes. You know what I’m talking about. (Un)luckily, I got this opportunity recently when I covered a corporate cooking competition for a feature story for the TimesDaily newspaper in Florence, Ala. It was a hot summery day outside but I knew it would be below freezing in the building where we’d be, so I dressed in layers — that’s me in the pink pants and white sweater, taking notes. (Also, if you wear a white jacket/sweater to a cooking thing, be prepared to answer such questions as “Excuse me, but where’s the milk?” and “Do you think we should saute or broil this?”) From the front (photo on the left), you can see that my outfit works okay. Not the most flattering, but okay. However, from a side view, you can see that I should have never left the house in this and should be condemned to watching extra reruns of “What Not To Wear.” This is what happens when you wear six layers of clothing — underwear, jeans, camisole, belt, top and white droopy sweater. Also, when you eat cupcakes for breakfast. But I mainly blame fashion.

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!

How To (Not) Write A Blog Post

Let’s just say, for instance, that you’re in the midst of decluttering and packing up your house of 15 years to move to a new house about half the size. And let’s just say, for instance, that you’re also trying to get your normal jobs done and sneakily trick impress the people who sign your paychecks by making them think you’re organized and responsible and can handle moving and writing a food story about pumpkins-as-ingredients  and your weekly newspaper column at the same time. And let’s just say that you’re also trying to do your normal life things and keep up with friends and family and the cat-feeding schedule while you’re rationing boxes and figuring out if you need packing tape or sealing tape. But, despite all that, you still want to write a thoughtful blog post. What do you do? Recycle! Point your readers to other things you recently have written but they may not have seen. They won’t notice it’s second-hand material and they’ll be awed by your juggling skills and entertained by your mindless babbling well-reasoned insights. Not that I would ever do anything like that. I’m just saying.

Random Thoughts

Have you ever had people say things to you — and I’m talking nice things here — that made you see yourself as someone other than the person you think you are? It always amazes when I see myself from somebody else’s perspective since usually the image does not jive at all with the image I have of myself. I mean, it sort of makes you wonder if the private you — the one that mostly lives inside your head — and the public you — the one that goes to work and the grocery store and PTA meetings — have anything in common whatsoever. This past week I had three people say things to me/ask me questions that threw me for a loop: 1) The person who cuts and styles my hair told me, “You’re always so sweet and cheerful when you come in. It just makes me day,” when really I think of myself as crabby and grumpy, especially when I have to spend $$$ just to make my hair look presentable; 2) the person working in the dressing rooms at my favorite discount-clothing store asked me if I knew where to find a purse with a clasp closure for a Christmas present, when I really think of myself as someone who can barely find her own purse and get outside the door with two matching shoes; and 3) a person in local-theater circles and I were chatting at a local coffee shop about the struggles of writing and what to do when you hit a wall and I said that caffeine always helps and this person said that (insert name of illegal drug) helps, too, and then sort of paused as if waiting for me to suggest we go get some. So in the space of three days, I’ve been identified as sweet, stylish and a drug user  — when really I’m just a grouchy un-put-together coffee fiend. Sigh.

Spring Cleaning

Seems as if everybody’s spring cleaning. Folks determinedly are clearing out closets and basements and unloading unwanted clothes, shoes (“How have I ended up with 60 pairs of shoes?” one friend said. “I don’t even like them all!”), books, furniture and unfinished (unstarted?) projects. After all, it is easier to operate from sleek and organized spaces. It helps to spring-clean your brain, too. You know all those bits and pieces of ideas and thoughts that flit through your mind and you plan to do something with but never do? I gathered up a few of those and made my weekly newspaper column out of them. Read it at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20090417/ARTICLES/904175001.

And now my mental columns-to-write filing cabinet is alarmingly empty. Ideas, please!!!

Photography and Writing

Photo by Mark Wood, Chattanooga, TennesseeMy four-years-younger brother, Mark Wood, of Chattanooga, Photo by Mark Wood, Chattanooga, TennesseeTennessee, is an awesome photographer. He teaches photography and art at Chattanooga (Tennessee) State College and recently was invited to exhibit with the Appalachian Photographers Project, http://appalachianphoto.org. I love that his photos reflect exactly the sort of person he is: A lover of nature and all things outdoors coupled with a belief that people basically are good — sort of. He also has a wry sense of humor and a wonderful eye for detail and line. I wish I could say I taught him everything he knows, but actually the opposite is true — although he probably would not want me to credit him for my photography (non)skills.

Since photography isn’t my forte, it’s a good thing I can at least string a few words together to make at least some sense. Here’s my weekly newspaper column from this past week on how my 1-year-old grandson is all boy, despite my attempts to encourage his inner girly side: http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20090410/ARTICLES/904105006. Friends who had both girls and boys say there’s an inherent difference and I’m seeing that in Capt. Adorable. However, there’s a great discussion on this topic at blogher — http://www.blogher.com/your-son-acting-boy-your-daughter-acting-girl — about what “acting like a boy” and “acting like a girl” really means and how this gender stereotyping may be harmful. Check it out and see what you think.


Dinner with friends

If you’re like me, your friendships with your girlfriends are some of your most Shoe shopping with friendsvalued relationships. We are so blessed to have these smart, strong and talented women in our lives. I am in awe of my friends and grateful every day that they let me hang around them: My high-school pals who gratefully have allowed me to grow up and out of my geeky phase, my college roommates who know the real me but love me anyway, the moms I raised my children and many many glasses of wine with, my margarita- and book-loving co-conspirators who can smell a shoe sale from 10 miles away and the wonderful women I continually am privileged to meet and get to know. What would we do without these special people? I recently witnessed once again the healing power of friends and laughter (and shoe shopping, of course) when a friend needed our help preparing for her husband’s funeral. Read about it in my newspaper column, http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20090220/ARTICLES/902200301. And while you’re at it, you’ve got to read this wonderful piece from national columnist Sharon Randall: http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20090221/ARTICLES/902210301. It’s her birthday list of life lessons she’s learned so far. And I don’t know her, but from her list I think she’d make a good friend, too.


red-shoes-2I’m a woman who’s a freelance writer. I write a lot about shoes. My husband’s a man who’s a newspaper sports editor. He writes a lot about … sports. You wouldn’t think that those two worlds would collide, would you? But he pulled it off in his column today for his paper, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, in Tupelo, Mississippi. And he even got me in there! (Thanks, sweetie.) Read it at http://www.djournal.com/pages/story.asp?ID=285705.

And speaking of shoes, these $300 Cole Haan red patent pumps caught my eye at zappos. com. “This posh peep-toe pump is a perfect marriage of comfort and style,” the description says. Yes, indeedy. Is that me all over or what? (With, I’ll admit, an emphasis on the “comfort” part. Gone are the days when I teetered around for 10 hours on 3-inch heels. Sigh.) Anyway, I think these are the perfect Valentine’s Day shoes, paired with a slinky black dress and some great jewelry. Don’t y’all?


Newspapers have always been a huge part of my life. I grew up watching my parents read the big-city daily that came to our driveway every evening and checking our small-town weekly for school lunch menus and ballgame wrap-ups. I met my husband while working at the college newspaper. My first jobs as a college graduate and later as a newly  divorced woman and single mom were as newspaper reporters. My husband is a newspaper sports editor, I’m a newspaper columnist and we pick up newspapers everywhere we go. Am I worried about the future of newspapers as the industry faces crisis and change? Hmm … maybe. Read my column today at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20090130/ARTICLES/901300301

An Epic Read

Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon were among the women singers/songwriters whose music defined a generation: the hippie baby-boomers coming of age in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Sheila Weller’s book, “Girls Like Us,” explores the trio’s intertwining lives and how their successes changed the music industry. It’s a fascinating look at these women’s beginnings, their personal and professional struggles and the men who inspired them (although not always for the good). It’s also an homage to the rise of feminism and the fast-track advances in women’s rights from one decade to the next. Sounds like a must-read, right? Well, maybe. It’s long — more than 500 pages — detailed and peppered with references and observations that do nothing to move the story along. Also, Weller writes with interminably long sentences, relies on distracting hyphens and parentheses and can’t disguise an annoying sort of exclusionary elitist attitude that’s prejudicial and unattractive. For example, she believes that the only smart and progressive women found in America in the early1960s were at the elite Northeastern women’s colleges. Really? Hmmm … That’s just one instance of Weller’s biased and insider approach. But, that being said, I’m glad I read this book. If you’ve ever belted out Simon’s “You’re So Vain,” if King’s “Tapestry” is on your best-album-ever list or if a mellow mood sends you to Mitchell’s “Clouds,” this is the book for you. But if you like quick reads and straightforward writing, it’s not.