July 23 Editorial

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Sometimes life gets so busy, we forget about the things that brings us the most joy. This week, I was reminded of one of those things as I spent the day shopping with my mom. Usually an activity that involves laser focus when it comes to sales and the need for snack breaks to keep our strength for this marathon, it had been far too long since we set out to do some serious retail damage.
When special occasions roll around, my mom isn’t always the easiest person to shop for. Usually, I’ll ask her what she wants and she’ll tell me something lame like pajamas or a gift card, so I was rather pleased when this year for her birthday she asked for a day of shopping together. Thinking back to my college days, my visits consisted of shopping til we dropped while talking about everything under the sun. I missed those days, and I was excited to rekindle our mother/daughter adventures.
At our first stop, we made a beeline for the jewelry section and immediately hit the sale items. In true “Mom” fashion, she of course had a coupon. (Seriously, this woman never leaves home without a coupon.) Making our already sale purchases even more affordable, we decided to check out the clothes.
Ten minutes later, she had picked out an outfit for me that I actually liked and when I tried it on in the dressing room, it was like the heavens had parted. “That makes you look super thin,” she said. She was right. It’s a rare occasion that anything makes me look “thin”. Does this come in any other colors?
After my stylist had super slimmed me with her outfit choice, we headed to our next stop where we encountered a row of giant hats that were fit for a fabulous Sunday morning service or the Kentucky Derby. We couldn’t resist trying them on.
As I whipped out my cell phone to take some selfies in our “mad fly” hats, my mom started laughing……hard. This is usually the point where bladder control waivers, but I couldn’t help but encourage her to keep laughing. I love when she laughs like that.
As we stood there, snapping pictures of ourselves in these ridiculous hats while cackling like wild hyenas, I knew that people were staring and I didn’t care. This was one of those awesome moments that I had been missing and will remember forever.
I can’t believe it’s been so long since we’ve spent the day together like that. No matter how fast paced and busy life gets, I want to always remember that these moments are special and won’t last forever.
I decided that we need to make these days a tradition, at least on a monthly basis. Life is too short to regret the time you didn’t take with the ones you love. Especially those that make you laugh until you need to buy a new pair of pants.
For now, my only regret is that I didn’t buy those hats.
Hey, Mom…..guess what you’re getting for Christmas? And fire up the jet….we’ve got some horses to bet on.

July 16 Editorial

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Being the animal lover that I am, this week I got the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, as my husband and I got up close and personal with baby tigers. Two of the cutest things I’ve ever seen, Boris and Sonja stole my heart and most of my fingers….but nothing beats getting mauled by two of nature’s most majestic little predators.
I found out nearly two months ago that the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo had once again this year been chosen to sponsor several little tiger cubs from the Marcan Tiger Preserve in Ponce de Leon, Florida. A program that acclimates captive newborn tiger cubs to life with human interaction, the zoo keepers allow four people at a time to play the day away with these gorgeous creatures until they are large enough to adapt to life with other tigers.
I called immediately and was told that the waiting list was over a month long. As our tiger encounter day finally arrived, I felt like a kid getting to meet Santa Claus for the first time (and I’m talking about the real one….duh).
I rushed my husband to get ready nearly an hour early because I just couldn’t wait one second more. We drove to the zoo under a crystal clear blue sky with the sun shining on our shoulders all the way to the zoo. That’s when everything changed.
I noticed a dark cloud in the distance and thought to myself, “No way! Hopefully it will go the other direction.” It didn’t. Within minutes of our entering the zoo and the Tiger Encounter area, the bottom dropped out. Not thinking a thing of the storm, as most showers here on the gulf coast last mere minutes, my excitement continued until I heard the zoo keepers radio relay a message, “We are closing the park due to lightning. Please evacuate the patrons.”
My heart dropped. As the zookeepers herded people towards the front gate, I looked at the tiger handler with tears welling up in my eyes, and she said, “Don’t worry. We are taking you guys inside the facility. You get to stay.”
Once we were led inside, the lightning and thunder were nearly in sync as the storm was directly on top of us. The baby tigers growled and groaned in agitation and fear, and I worried that they might not be in the mood to be social. That fear subsided as we stepped into what I know refer to as “the ring” with these 33 pound killers.
Excited to get some “hands on” time with these furry little angels, I reached out for Boris only to be attacked from behind by his sister, Sonja. She latched on with all four paws and dug into the back of my shoulder with her insanely sharp fangs (think puppy teeth on steroids). As she continued to gnaw away at my flesh, I squealed in pain while my dumbfounded husband stood there not knowing what to do.
Thankfully, the zookeeper grabbed a stuffed toy and shoved it between me and Sonja’s face before the now flowing blood ruined my shirt. “Oh yeah, by the way….they are ambush predators and they are learning how to hunt. You have to watch for them sneaking up on you from behind,” she said. That would’ve been a helpful tidbit before I got in the Siegfried and Roy “Pit of Death”.
I armed myself with a stuffed Tweety Bird and decided if these guys were going to play dirty, I too was going to have to learn to play rough. For the next 45 minutes, I ran, tackled, and played hide and seek with these two rambunctious maniacs…and I loved every second of it.
Sure, my husband and I both left with battle scars that included cuts, bruises, and even a ripped pair of jeans, but getting the opportunity to hold those babies in my arms while they nursed from a baby bottle and then roll around on the floor with them as if I belonged in their “ambush” was worth it. It was a truly magical day that I’ll remember forever.
What I took away from the experience the most is how beautiful these creatures are and how fragile life is. Not just because I nearly got taken down by two 33 pound cats, but because there are just far too little of these guys left to enjoy. I’m thankful for programs like the one at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo for teaching us about these amazing animals and allowing us to realize that we must make changes in our habits to ensure their survival.
I hope that I never meet one of these guys full grown in the wild, but I sure do hope that they are out there, thriving. Take the time to learn about what you can do to help nurture the last of our incredible species like the tiger, and support the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. If you do, you’ll be left with a memory you’ll cherish forever.

July 9 Editorial

While my husband’s 30th birthday Superhero 4th of July extravaganza went off mostly without a hitch, I learned a valuable lesson in not mixing business and friendship.
I had everything under control weeks in advance of the party, but decided that my crazy friends might enjoy some music and a little “drunk:30” karaoke. My friend who I’ve known for nearly 20 years, happens to be a karaoke DJ. I hesitated to inquire about his services, but decided to go ahead with my plan because not only did I want him there as a DJ/karaoke specialist, but I also wanted him to be able to attend.
Knowing that he would be forced to give up his normal Saturday night paying gig to be at our shindig, I offered to pay him the same fee that he would’ve normally made on any other Saturday night…and let me tell you……he isn’t cheap. I didn’t bat an eye, and we worked out our payment arrangements.
Party day rolled around, and we were excited to get things going. The party started at noon, and by 1 pm, there was still no sign of my friend or his equipment. I sent a text to find out when he would be arriving, and he replied, “Loading up now. Be there in a few.”
Apparently, a few in his world is two hours later as he finally showed up around 3 pm. Already a bit perturbed, I let it go and continued having fun with our family and friends. Throughout the day, I tried to get my friend in on the party action, but it was clear he would have rather been anywhere but here.
As 5pm rolled around, I started gathering the troops to begin karaoke. I told my friend that we were ready to kick the party up a notch, but instead, he dismantled the equipment and said, “It looks like it may rain.” I told him we could set up inside, but he insisted that we wait for the storm to pass first.
The “storm” was light rain that lasted literally about 7 minutes. When the sun came out again, I started looking around for my DJ. He was nowhere to be found. Finally, someone told me that he had left to head to Lillian, Alabama to buy fireworks.
I was baffled. First of all, we had fireworks blasting all up and down the beach (which I had previously told him would occur), and secondly, when you are paid to do a job, you don’t leave in the middle of it. Ever.
I tried to keep my cool and act like it was no big deal so I didn’t ruin my husband’s day. When he finally arrived back to the party nearly two hours later, many of our guests had already gone home. My husband asked him why he left when he was paid for a service, and my friend responded with a snarky, “I really don’t care what you think” attitude.
My usually mild mannered husband responded with, “The party is over and you weren’t here to do your job. We’ve already seen fireworks, so I think its best that you leave now.” I wanted to express my anger to my friend, but I knew it wasn’t the time or the place. He packed his things and left, and hasn’t contacted us since.
I can’t believe that people you think you know and can trust will take advantage of you without so much as a thought. If he had offered to do the party for free as a favor, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. But he was paid….and paid well.
If a stranger had hired him for a wedding or a party, I guarantee you he would’ve stayed there the entire time doing his job. The fact that he thought he could do anything different at my party just because we are “friends” is just asinine.
And let’s talk about those fireworks. So, he left in the middle of the party for two hours to go buy them, and I’m assuming that he then wanted to spend more time away from his “job” to shoot them, right? What kind of sense does that make?
If he didn’t want to do the job, he could’ve said no, and I would’ve happily hired someone else (and probably for less money). But promising a service and then showing up three hours late and then leaving for two hours before coming back is just plain unacceptable.
In the end, the party was a huge success, even without his services. But I am so disappointed that my long-time friend hasn’t even attempted to contact us with an “I’m sorry” or “I messed up”. For me, it isn’t about the money. It’s about the lack of respect, loyalty, and integrity my friend showed.
I never would’ve imagined in a million years that this person would do me wrong, but I guess you shouldn’t mix business and friendship unless you are prepared to find out who your real friends are. Luckily, I have plenty more where he came from. I wish him the best, but until we get an apology and a refund, looks like this friendship’s song is over.

July 2 Editorial

This weekend, my “child” becomes “man-child” as my husband celebrates his 30th birthday. Usually upon hitting such a milestone age, an adult will want something special to commemorate the occasion like a nice watch or new car, but not my man. When I asked him a couple of months ago what he wanted, he had one simple answer; “A superhero party.” I don’t know why I was surprised.
“You mean like a costume party, right,” I asked. “Well, yeah, but with a blow up slip-n-slide, a bouncy castle, and games,” he replied, like an excited six year old boy. So thus, my party planning adventure began.
But how do you plan a six year old’s birthday party and make it adult friendly you ask? Simple…..booze. But I’ll get to that in a minute.
My first awkward call was to the blow up rental place. It went something like this:
Me- “Hi, I’m interested in renting a blow up slip-n-slide and a bouncy castle.”
Them- “Great how many children are we expecting?”
Me- “Um…like 40 adults.”
Them- (long silence) “Okay. Well, our slip-n-slide weight limit is 300 lbs., and we only have a bouncy house that will accommodate 3 adults at one time.”
Me- “Bummer.”
Them- “And also, we do charge extra if someone vomits in it.”
Me- “Let’s just stick with the slip-n-slide.”
Them- “Good choice.”
My next awkward encounter was with the lady from the bakery. I wanted to get him a special three tiered, multi-superhero-awesomeness cake that featured one layer of Spiderman, one layer of Superman, and one layer of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Thank goodness for Pinterest….otherwise I’d never have any good party ideas.
I explained to the baker what I was looking for, and a few minutes later she had sketched up exactly what I had in mind. Then she asked, “On the top layer we’ll put ‘Happy Birthday, Jonathan’ and his age on it in fondant. How old is the little guy?” I replied, knowing the look I was about to get, “Um….thirty.” She gave me a look at first like she thought I was kidding, then upon realizing that I wasn’t, she just burst out in laughter and said, “That is awesome.”
My next adventure was to come up with some adult friendly games that people might actually want to play. After hours and hours of YouTube and Google searching, I decided that we will have “pin the bikini top on the centerfold”, Battleshots (Remember Battleship as a kid?), and a slip-n-slide/flip cup team relay race. I ran the idea by a couple of friends, and they all had the same reaction, “Oh cool…..I want to be on your team.”
I’m pretty sure that I should be ashamed of that, because I run like a slow duck, but I can drink like a fish. After all, my days at FSU consisted of many beer pong and flip cup championships. Sorry, mom. I guess some things never change.
And in all honesty, I don’t want them to. I find it extremely charming that my husband is all grown up, but is still a kid at heart. He’s always fun and spontaneous, and while he takes care of me and our family the way every man should, he is never one to pass up a chance to be silly and adventurous.
As I sat here today sewing “scales” onto his Ninja Turtle costume, I realized that I’m lucky to have found someone who doesn’t take life too seriously and isn’t afraid to be a major dork. We may not always be perfect, but there is always a lot of laughter and love in our house. I don’t think you can ask for much more than that.
Except for asking me to dress up as ‘Master Splinter’, which he did, and I said no. I draw the line at dressing as a giant ninja rat warrior. Not happening.
So, I want to take a minute to say happy birthday to my amazing husband, Jonathan. You are a hard worker, a great doggy dad, and the most perfect weirdo in the world. Here’s to the next 30…..I can only imagine what you’ll come up with for that shindig.

June 25 Editorial

This week, unless you’ve been an ostrich with your head in the sand, you’ve heard about nothing but racism, gun control, and the South Carolina church shootings. Normally a debate I would rather stay away from, I found myself extremely passionate about the subject this week. Not because I agree with one side or another, but because I believe we are all missing the real point. Racism exist because of our society and guns and don’t kill people….psychos kill people.
Now, I’m not here to say that Dylann Roof wasn’t a racist or a foul human being for that matter, because he is. Anyone who can commit such a heinous crime fueled by hate is guilty of that. But instead of saying his act was purely based on race, pitting us against one another, let’s dig deeper.
It’s so easy for us to say that his act was caused by his radical views on race, but we need to remember where that comes from. A child isn’t born into this world a racist. We create them. We create them with our own bigoted ideas. We create them by ganging up on one another simply because of the color of our skin or because of an act like the Charleston massacre.
Instead of pointing fingers at each other and blaming the rage and hate that exist between different groups in this nation, take a look the people you know. Now take a look at yourself. I’ll admit….as I watch media coverage on these subjects whether it be riots, shootings, courtroom injustice, etc….it’s hard sometimes not to form an opinion.
When you see and hear people scorning, accusing, and implying something about you simply based on your race, your immediate reaction is to become defensive or even angry. I mean how can someone assume that I am part of the problem when they haven’t even met me? How can someone group me into such a disgusting group of people that I have nothing in common with other than the color of my skin? Frustration turns to anger, anger turns to hate, and voila….you have racism. To say that it doesn’t exist in every culture in America is false. Black, white, Asian, Latino….we are all guilty.
Now I’m not saying that everyone in whole wide world is a racist, I’m simply saying that racism exists in people of all ethnicities. And the reason it still exists today? Because we allow it to. Instead of taking that frustration and anger and directing it towards one group as a whole, start making assumptions based on the individuals you meet. If you meet five white people you dislike….well, maybe those five white people were just all jerks. It doesn’t mean ALL white people are jerks. Met five black people who you didn’t like….again, maybe those particular people just suck at life.
My point is, racism will exist until we start seeing people for who they are as individuals. It will exist until we let our anger go towards one another and start teaching our children to respect EVERYONE. It will exist until we stop using it as a scapegoat to segregate ourselves instead of coming together to stamp out the true evil in this world. Haven’t you heard “It takes a village to raise a child”? Well wake up people, because we are all the village and these are all our children to raise.
Dylann Roof, like so many other awful people out there, was a product of his environment. He wasn’t born with hatred in his heart. Someone put it there, because they had hate put into their heart, and so on and so on. It’s a vicious cycle that we ALL must make changes in order to stop.
As for gun control, I’ll touch on it briefly, but I won’t beat a dead horse. Here’s how I see it…..in this country you have two choices. You can own a gun if you want to, or you can not own a gun because you don’t like them. It’s your prerogative. But let’s be clear…..guns don’t kill people. People make a conscious choice to take someone’s life.
In a perfect world where you could eliminate every gun, gun control would work. But taking away the rights of law abiding citizens to own one won’t keep them out of the hands of criminals. We outlawed drugs, and you see how well that worked out.
And let’s not forget that even in a world without guns, murder will always occur. I mean, Cain killed Abel with a rock, so whatever works, right? We can’t go around banning every blunt object, (or sharp one for that matter), to eliminate crime. You have to put the blame where it belongs, the individual person behind the weapon.
We have become a society of finger pointing, overly-sensitive, whiners who would rather hate each other and take away rights and freedoms rather than do the work to come together and stop the real problems. To ask your children to be color-blind is stupid and unrealistic. Besides, our differences are what make us interesting. Instead, raise your children to embrace our differences and respect one another. Teach them the value of all living things. Bugs, plants, animals, and humans….we all have our place, and we are all important. Teach them to be gentle, compassionate, and instill the need to want to help others. This is how we keep another Ferguson or Charleston from happening.
Spewing more and more hate via the media is like throwing a billion gallons of gasoline on an already dangerous fire. A fire that, until it’s put out, will burn us all so badly that we won’t recognize what’s left of our once great nation.