May 22 Editorial

This weekend, like 40,000 other people, I ventured out into the madness that is known as the Hangout Fest in Gulf Shores. Not usually one for large crowds, I knew this was either going to be a horrible experience that finally severed what string of hope for humanity that I had left or the best people watching I’d ever known. Not surprisingly, it was a little of both.
Seeing as how I am considered part of the media, I was lucky enough to snag a media pass for the sold out weekend festival. Not particularly an obscure rock fan, there were only a few bands that I actually cared to see. However, seeing as how covering these events is my job, I headed out into the world of fake hippies and synthetic weed to get the scoop.
As I walked the, what seemed like, three miles to the ticket booth to pick up my pass, I encountered tons of happy go lucky idiots who continuously asked me for high fives. Was this a new thing with the young whipper snappers? Apparently so. You heard it here first people. High fives are back in style.
As a kind of “when in Rome” thing, I high fived the crap out of this vast sea of morons in a desperate effort to avoid conversation as I made a bee line for the media tent. To my surprise, it was quite posh. Free shrimp and beer? Yep. This job rules.
I settled in to see my first act, Wiz Khalifa. Sure, I had heard him on the radio but like most rap acts, I wasn’t sure if he would be any good live without the help of auto-tune and a studio. As his first song began, I giggled as in unison, a legion of white girls all dressed in hippie sheik cutoff, high waisted jean shorts with a headband of flowers around their foreheads started awkwardly bobbing their heads off beat to the music.
Granted, these “hippie” sheik clad girls are probably the same posers who wear sundresses and cowboy boots to every country concert that comes to town, but hey….I always liked to play dress up when I was a kid too.
As it turns out, Wiz Khalifa was actually pretty good. Sure, he sang along to prerecorded tracks, but he switched it up a bit and kept the crowd interested. Thirty minutes later, Queens Of the Stone Age came on stage, only to make the same girls who just spent the last hour trying to “twerk” their tiny size 0 booty, start head banging/zombie dance. I’m not really sure what you call this exactly, but they went from looking like they were in the club to having controlled seizures. All I could do was shake my head. Luckily, mine was to the beat.
As the weekend wore on, so too did my contact high, as the smell of weed lingered in the air like a ton of bricks. I’m sure the police department did their best to deter illegal activity, but I personally witnessed more open pot smoking at this festival than I did in the ghetto in Jamaica. Seriously.
By Sunday, the people that had started out partying so strong were fading fast, and some were even dropping like flies. I watched from the luxury of the media cabana as one guy face planted into a garbage can causing his body to be contorted into a scorpion like figure while he lay there unconscious. The medics arrived on the scene and literally had to wake the guy up to check on him. Once they got him back on his feet, he was stumbling on his way again.
The crowd may have been misguided clones of one another, but they all seemed rather friendly. I didn’t witness anyone fighting, or stealing. Just a lot of white people dancing badly. Oh, and don’t forget about a lot of high fiving.
I know that I’m getting old. If I ever need a reminder, I just go to things like the Hangout Fest. I’m sure the young people looked and me and said, “Check out the old lady who still thinks she’s cool.” Well at least they are right about some things.
As for their hipster ways, I suppose it’s alright. So what if they all dress alike, don’t know how to stand out in a crowd, and listen to mediocre music? I guess there are worse things our younger generation could grow up to be.
Now, I’ll high five to that.

May 15 Editorial

This week marked the end of my Advocare 24 day challenge, where I basically gave up everything that has ever brought me joy in a quest for not just weight loss, but a long term healthy lifestyle. I have to say that the results were quite shocking.
As you may have read earlier this month, the first week of this journey was full of ups and downs including sugar withdrawals, caffeine (or lack thereof) headaches, and mood swings that almost lead me to commit murder on more than one occasion. I stayed powerfully hungry for the first ten days, and longed for days past where I lounged in sweatpants in my recliner stuffing my face with pies and Doritos while letting my gut spill out from under my once fitted t-shirt.
When these thoughts almost brought me to my breaking point, I looked down and reminded myself that once upon a time, I could see my feet without sucking in. I also had already taken the liberty of throwing away all the junk food from the cabinets as a last ditch effort in case of an emergency “fall off of the wagon”. But I stayed strong.
On day ten, I stepped on to the scale and realized it hadn’t budged a pound even though my commitment had never faltered. My husband clapped like a little girl when he weighed in screeching, “I lost 11 pounds.” Those feelings of murder were bubbling up inside me again. Instead they manifested themselves as tears.
“Why are you crying,” he asked. “Because I’ve done everything right and I haven’t lost a pound. I have even been running 3 miles extra a day,” I whined. He just kept telling me to stick with it and results would come, but all I kept thinking was, “Who died and made you a weight loss expert? All you did was cut out sodas and lost 11 pounds.” I was frustrated and angry but decided that the best way to tackle my anger was to push my body even harder. I vowed to stay off the scale and focus my attention more on success rather than failure.
My 3 mile runs turned into 4 mile runs. My hunger pains turned into determination. My little black dress that I haven’t worn in years became my muse.
Today, day 24 finally arrived. I stepped on to the scale once again, and to my surprise I had lost 9 pounds and 8 ½ inches from my entire body. I slipped the little black dress over my head and even though I have a ways to go, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Low and behold…..eating right and exercise works.
No more diet pills. No more starving myself. No more gimmicks promising the world. This was as simple as it was ever going to get. Stop eating crap, pound the pavement, and get results. Why has this taken me so long to understand? Because I wanted a quick fix with instant results.
Although 9 pounds in 24 days seems like a lot, I did it by eating clean and good old fashioned exercise. The most shocking thing that I’ve found is my new habits. I used to hate running more than the Kardashian’s hate white boys, but now have found that I wake up longing to run. It helps me start my day. It allows me to center myself in the silence while taking in the morning. Whoa…..never thought I say those words.
And for my grand finale of shocking changed behavior…..I no longer want to drink alcohol. After 24 days without so much as a sip of wine, I feel better than I ever have and I intend on keeping it that way. No more poison in this body people! There may now be a huge overstock of wine grapes that throw off our entire ecosystem on earth. In that case, I may have to change my mind. I’ll keep you posted.
Even though my 24 day challenge is over, for me the real challenge has just begun. I intend on continuing my journey until I reach my ultimate goal. Then, who knows? I did think about starting training for a triathlon today. Can someone check the weather, because I think somewhere really hot just froze over!

May 1 Editorial

This week, I ventured out into the land of sundresses, cutoff jean shorts, and cowboy boots….that’s right kids! I attended the Darius Rucker concert at the Wharf.
For those of you who have never attended a country concert at this venue, allow me to give you some insight into the hilarity that it brings. The clones come in droves, decked out head to toe in outfits they wouldn’t be caught dead in anywhere else. Jean vest, cowboy hats, boots, you name it. They are wearing it.
Then there’s the drunk people. This is where it gets a little interesting because there are two distinct types of drunks at a country concert. One being the type who drinks heavily on the regular and has been “tailgating” all day with a case of Natural Light, and the other being the light-weight drinkers who go all out for the love of country music and end up heaving up their very souls in a public restroom ten minutes in to the opening act.
In general, the first type of drunk either gets kicked out of the venue due to rowdy behavior or punched in the face by another concert go-er for inappropriate comments in the crowded stands. The light-weight drunk usually leaves the concert in one of two ways: being carried out, completely incoherent, by friends angry enough to kill due to missing the concert, or they get paraded by the crowd in all their glory on a gurney by the event medical staff while on their way to the ambulance.
Now I will turn my attention to the newest fashion trend on the scene thanks to every 13 year old boy on the gulf coast….tall black socks with shorts and sneakers. I’ve seen this combo before, but usually on old tourist from the north who rock sandals with black socks and shorts in 38 degree weather while snapping photos of blue herons with the camera hanging around their neck. I mean, do these kids not have parents…..or a mirror?
As for the concert itself, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. I loved the Darius Rucker days of Hootie and the Blowfish, and I was curious to see if country “Hootie” would hold up to the radio hype. When Rucker stepped on to the stage and belted out his first song, I was shocked that he didn’t sound just like he did on the radio. He sounded better.
As the night wore on, my husband and I played the “click” game (a game where you say the word click as if using a counter to log each girl sporting the country concert uniform, generally followed by a sip of an alcoholic beverage) in between one Rucker hit after another. Then to my surprise, I heard the familiar riff of ‘Let Her Cry’.
I squealed like a little girl and was elated when the entire crowd joined in on my enthusiasm for the 90’s classic. Rucker followed the throwback tune with all of every 90’s kid’s “Hootie” favorites. I was already gaining a ton of respect for Darius Rucker as an artist, but my cup runneth over when, in the middle of the concert, he stopped to call out a guy in the crowd who was giving him the double middle finger. “Dude, you don’t have to be here. You can get the ….out,” he said. “You’re not going to disrespect me tonight. If you don’t like me, there’s the door.”
The crowd went wild. Hootie, 1….drunk idiot who got kicked out, 0.
Just when I thought that the concert couldn’t get any better, Rucker decided to close the show with an amazing version of the Prince classic, ‘Purple Rain’. I could now die happy.
I’ve been to a ton of country concerts at the Wharf, but I have to say this one might have been my favorite. It had it all; walking clichés, drunk NASCAR fans, misguided teenaged boys, and the kind of music that makes a child of the 90’s heart go pitter pat. Rucker’s country chops were impressive as well, but seeing Hootie do Hootie was like seeing a unicorn or Mariah Carey have a hit song again.
If you haven’t been to a concert at the Wharf yet, do it. And even if it’s not your favorite artist, give it a try anyways. I found out first hand, you might just be pleasantly surprised!

May 8 Editorial

Like many of you around the area, my household is still drying out after last week’s “Noah’s Ark” re-enactment by mother-nature. Although we sustained some damage and tested the strength of our bowels while on the roof in the middle of Armageddon, my husband and I fared much better than most.
We had heard that a terrible storm was set to blow through north Alabama, so we called our friends and relatives in Birmingham to make sure they were prepared for the worst. Never in our wildest dreams did we think that they would be the ones that needed to be checked on!
The rain had already been falling for hours. The dogs, who refuse to pee outside when it rains but love to swim and play in the sprinklers, had relieved themselves in the house for the second time when I noticed them getting unusually nervous. They paced, cried, and hid under the bed. Soon, I heard the roar of thunder getting closer and closer.
Around 7 pm, the house was shaking and the chimney started to leak with the ferocity of Niagara Falls. I rushed to the garage for two five gallon buckets, and quickly placed them under the newly sprung faucet in my living room. Within minutes they were full, so I emptied them….then again….then again. I soon realized this was a losing battle.
I called my husband at work, and told him about our new living room water feature. While on the phone with him, I heard a crash and rushed outside to see a gaping hole on the side of the roof. I panicked. He panicked. I panicked some more. Within minutes, he was on his way home.
I hadn’t realized how awful the roads were becoming, and just as he arrived home we got word that roads were collapsing all over town. The storm had gained even more strength at this point, and our buckets were no longer sufficient in saving our home from rushing water. My husband looked at me with a little fear in his eyes and said, “If we’re going to have any shot at stopping it, we’re going to have to get on the roof and cover it with a tarp.”
I stared blankly for a minute, knowing he was right but tried to think of another way. Anything other than climbing on the roof in the worst lightning storm I’d ever seen.
“Here, put this on,” he said, handing me a ‘Frog Togg’ poncho. “What in the heck do you think this is going to do? Have you seen it out there,” I replied. Realizing that we didn’t have a choice, we slipped on our green Frog Togg’s and headed out into the madness that was pouring down outside.
The sky looked like a strobe light due to the constant flashes of lightning. The rain came down so hard that I couldn’t even see the fence that lined the edge of our yard. My husband carefully climbed onto the roof and said, “Shine the flashlight up here and don’t go too far away so that you can hear me.”
There I stood for the next fifteen minutes, rain pouring down on me so hard that I felt like I was completely submerged. The water was up to my ankles, and I was struggling to keep my eyes open as the rain beat my eyeballs while I looked up to the chimney of our home with a tiny flashlight beam searching for signs of life from my husband.
There hadn’t been a peep from him since he got up there, and for a moment I thought he might be playing the world’s best/worst trick on me as he sat on our couch in the comfort of dryness watching me stand in the rain like an idiot. Then it crossed my mind that he might have fallen off the backside of the roof without me hearing due to all the other commotion in the air.
I called up to him with no answer. I grabbed the metal ladder to make my rescue attempt just in time for a bolt of lightning to make my hair stand, and I thought to myself, “Well there’s no need for both of us to go and get ourselves killed.”
Just then, I heard him yell, “Whoo hoo! That was close!” I yelped, “Hurry up! You’re going to get struck!” We continued to work the tarp onto the roof for the next ten minutes in the most hellacious thunderstorm I have ever encountered.
Finally, the hole was covered and we headed inside unscathed. I was truly convinced that we had cheated death. What I wasn’t convinced of was why we had paid $40 for Frog Togg’s. We both looked like drowned sewer rats from head to toe.
Thanks to my husband’s bravery (or insanity), our house made it through the storm with minimal damage, but some of our friends and neighbors weren’t so lucky. The streets all around us are littered with wet carpet, heaps of moldy drywall, and ruined furniture. My heart breaks for them.
Things like this remind you how quickly the life you have can be taken away, and how material things can always be replaced….the people in your life can’t. If you lost your things in the storm, just know that our heart goes out to you, and if you came through it nearly unharmed like we did then be sure to help out someone who didn’t. Our friends and neighbors need us more than ever now.
Be the reason someone smiles today. Even if it’s just because you offered a hand. As for my next project? I’m thinking arc building 101.