August 6, Editorial

This week, I was asked to fill in for a friend and work on a pirate ship. Yes, you read that right, a pirate ship. If you haven’t seen it, it sails all around the Orange Beach and Perdido Key areas full of tourist trying to get a day out on the water with their little ones.
Always one to have a little fun playing dress up and getting into character, I jumped at the chance to make a few extra bucks while working on my tan. Little did I know that this would be some of the hardest earned money I had ever earned.
I arrived early to help the crew prepare for the day. We filled up water balloons for a water fight, stocked waters and ice, and dressed ourselves like Blackbeard himself from head to toe. Feeling good as the day was about to begin, I was actually excited to let my inner child hang out with a boat full of anxious kids. That feeling was short lived.
Our first boat load of cruisers began boarding, and within minutes I knew this was going to be harder than I thought. There were about 40 kids running in every direction like wild maniacs hopped up on Mountain Dew, and it was my job to get them to cooperate.
I attempted to wrangle the little swashbucklers into a circle, and for the most part, they did what I asked. Thinking I was about to gain control, I noticed three older boys and two girls, probably between 8 and 10 years old, on the front of the ship rummaging through the bucket of props (swords, guns, etc.). I called to them, “Hey guys! I need you to put those down and come over here and join us.” One of the mothers turned to them and said, “Oooo…..you better listen to her. She’s a scary pirate”, to which her little darling replied, “I don’t have to because I’m not scared.”
If only I could make them walk the plank.
I asked again nicely, and this time I was completely ignored. Annoyed, I told the little ones to stay put and I headed to the front of the ship where I promptly snatched the plastic props that were now being used to beat each other senseless from their grubby little hands. I leaned in and said, “When I ask you guys to do something, you need to do it. You can get hurt if you don’t follow the rules.”
They looked baffled as if no one had ever spoken firmly to them before and they did what I asked. Once everyone was on board with the planned activities, the day went by pretty quickly. That is until it was time to hand out their “treasure” at the end.
These kids acted as if they had never received a 10¢ plastic gumball machine toy before. They pushed, slapped, and screamed at one another to get to the front of the line. I watched as the older kids once again nudged the little ones out of the way to get to the goodies. We handed them out and I watched in awe as the oldest little girl put her toy in her purse and got in line again at the back.
I didn’t say anything when she arrived at the front again, and I although I know it wasn’t teaching her anything, I gave her another toy to avoid a meltdown.
That all ended when the greedy little monster once again, put the toy in her purse and got in line for a third time. When she reached me and asked yet another toy, I said, “Well, I’ve already given you two.” She snapped at me, “No you didn’t! You are lying.” I ended the argument quickly when I simply said, “Well, then let me see how many are in your purse.” Without another word, she turned and walked away.
Seriously….is there a plank I can make some of these kids walk?
At this point I was sweaty, soaked to the bone, thirsty, hungry, battling a migraine headache, but I was ready to do my duties on the ship. When we arrived at the dock, I reached for the platform that bridged the gap between our boat and the dock. I pulled the rope, and in turn, pulled my back. I yelped in pain, but kept going. I could see the end of the tunnel, and there was wine on the other side.
I helped the crew finish with the crowd and then the cleanup, and headed to the office to collect my pay. I counted the money, most of which was tips, and I waved to the crew and said, “I’ll see you guys tomorrow.” Even with all the annoying things I encountered throughout the day, it was worth it.
Maybe I’ll work on my “scary pirate” persona for my next voyage. Or maybe I’ll just do what a real pirate would do……have a sip of rum and peg the bad kids in the face with water balloons.
“Hey kid, there’s no crying in pirating.”

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.