Tag Archives: Southern

The Appliance Body Count


Have you ever had a week where every appliance in your house breaks down, gets struck by lightning, or just seems to inexplicably and suddenly become contrary?

I’m having one of those weeks. The appliance bodies are piling up for the landfill. It’s like there’s something viral being passed along the electrical circuits in my house, just waiting to fry every appliance we own. Now that I think about it, I don’t ever remember a time when only ONE appliance died. It’s ALWAYS more than one, as if something as contagious as the plague is lurking in our vents just looking for a way to cause trouble and force me to write big checks. This time, so many appliances have died that it feels like Monopoly money I’m doling out.

To start the week, an obnoxious, ill-mannered man creamed one of our cars, while it was parked in the Target parking lot. I was shopping and didn’t discover the damage until I came out to find an off-duty cop leaning against my car with his arms crossed, clearly determined to prevent Mr. Bad Manners from scampering away. God bless that cop.

The next morning, I awoke to the sound of my middle child screaming, “It’s raining over my bed AGAIN, Mom!” as if this was somehow my fault and something I had chosen to happen as a way to screw with his day. Just for the record, we re-roofed two years ago. This shouldn’t be possible. We’re aware there’s a leak. We’ve called the man. He’ll come when he can. In the meantime, I scrambled to find my gumbo pot to position it in the best spot to catch the deluge. Classy.

Next, I jumped into my husband’s car because it was parked behind mine (We live in an old house. No garage. The driveway was built for one small motorcar at the turn of the century—not a 14-year-old Suburban and three other old cars) and backed down our steep driveway to take my daughter to school for an early-morning practice. That’s when a bucket of water rained down on her from the leaky sunroof. She got soaked. This ruined her carefully straightened hair. She would have preferred to face the day with a broken leg. She was not a happy camper, and she was vocal about it.

“Why is everything we own so old and broken?” she demanded.

“Easy answer, sweetie: Three kids, college, sports, cheerleading, show choir, summer camp, braces, 4 cars, groceries, insurance, medical bills . . . but what it comes down to is—choices. We’ve made choices about our family budget. We’re trying to be good stewards of limited recourses,” I said.

I have to admit it: I feel her pain. I’m sick of the old cars, too. The turn signal in my old Suburban has been making that annoying blinking sound off-and-on for seven years. The locks don’t work. Before I climb in after shopping, I check to make sure no one is hiding in the car. No kidding. Everything we own is a little bit special. It’s tiresome.

“Well, I think we need new cars,” she retorted.

“Me, too,” I responded.

After dropping her off, I came home and opened my freezer to dig out a roast for dinner. That’s when I discovered it wasn’t working. Thus began a massive freezer clean out in order to salvage as much as possible. I began frantically cooking what I could and packing the rest into coolers. By 6:30 am, I had baked a ham, a roast, and made homemade Chex mix. I marinated chicken breasts; I defrosted an assortment of sweet rolls and breads on the counter, and I briefly considered throwing a pizza party for the neighborhood kids for dinner to get rid of a stack of soggy pizzas. I can’t bear waste.

I shoved the melting ice cream into blenders, made milk shakes, and thrust them into the hands of my teenager and his friends as they headed to school. Honestly, my son looked fairly pleased with how the freezer demise worked out for him.

My kitchen looked like we were packing for a hurricane evacuation. It wasn’t even 7 am, and I was already tired and teary.

Since I was already filthy from mopping up the car and cleaning out the freezer, I decided to hit the treadmill. After the first mile, I heard, over the “Hallelujah Chorus” blaring in my ear buds as a little pick-me-up, the unmistakable crunching sounds of the treadmill shredding important metal parts. Then I smelled the burning motor. Pulling the emergency stop cord, I abandoned that sucker like it was a sign from God not to exercise.

Going along with my I’m-already-dirty theme, I decided to mow the small patch of yard we have in back. I’m not a yard work kind of gal, as I talk about in my books, so this was a sign of how desperate I was for distraction.

You know what happened, right? Yep. Broken lawnmower. I left it parked next to the grill that broke last month.

I wondered, briefly, if I would be considered an alcoholic if I poured a mimosa just for myself before 10 am. Fearing that I would drink the entire bottle of champagne if I opened it to make one drink—to avoid waste—it was a tough call. Then I pulled up a bar stool and dialed my husband’s cell phone. I felt the need to spread the joy around.

“Do want the good news or the bad news?” I asked him.

“Good. Definitely the good,” he answered quickly, recognizing my tone and proceeding with caution, “Have you been drinking?”

“Yes, I have. Don’t worry about it. Good news is: You won’t have to mow the lawn for a while,” I said, taking a big swig of mimosa and laughing hysterically.

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How To Romance a Southern Woman


  1. Hold her hand voluntarily in public without looking embarrassed about it.
  2. If you really want to go for broke, turn her hand over and press a kiss on her palm. She’ll swoon in your arms. I guarantee it.
  3. Ask her if she’d like you to beat up somebody for her. Don’t worry. She won’t actually ask you to do it. It would just be nice if someone would occasionally offer.
  4. Just once, instead of the usual perfunctory peck on the lips before you leave town for a few days, grab that woman by the waist, pull her up against you, and plant a kiss on her lips she’ll remember to her dying day.
  5. Start the car one cold morning so that it is unexpectedly toasty when she climbs in for the first foray of the day. Leave a note on the windshield—not a Post-it reminding her to buy milk—a LOVE letter. It doesn’t have to be a Shakespearean sonnet. A hand-drawn heart and your initials can reduce even the meanest matron to a weepy puddle of sloppy sentiment.
  6. While she finishes cleaning up the kitchen, run a bubble bath for her. Light candles. Put a magazine or a trashy book by the tub for her to read. Lead her there with her eyes closed before the water cools. Smile at her. Kiss her on the lips. Then leave her alone to enjoy it.
  7. Bring her a guilty pleasure for no reason at all: a banana split, cheese straws, milk chocolate, or whatever you know really pots her plant. If she doesn’t like those things, bring them to me. I do.
  8. Take her on a date. PRETEND. The date cannot involve work clients, church functions, children’s activities, or any other mundane life events. CHOOSE to spend time with her. Woo her. You’re older now. You should be better at it. She might surprise you and woo you right back.
  9. Before she falls asleep one night, tell her about your favorite memory of her—extra points for details. Caution: make sure you get the details right. If your favorite memory of her turns out to actually involve a former wife/girlfriend, things could get ugly.
  10. 10. Make a sacrifice for her—of time, money, patience, or real blood. Women are biologically programmed to fall for strong providers and protectors. Use basic biology to your advantage. Real men are willing to take a bullet for the women they love, and nothing is more attractive to a woman than a wounded warrior.

* Want more? This list is an excerpt from my 3rd book, I Love You–Now Hush. My co-author for that book, Morgan Murphy, has a hilarious accompanying list, “How to Romance a Southern Man.” It’s my favorite thing in the book!


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God, Grammar, and Coach Sills


I know what you’re thinking.

  1. You’ve never seen me wear a t-shirt.  True enough. I don’t often wear them because it’s not a good look for me. The truth is that I need a few layers between me and the rest of the world to be happily attired.
  2. I don’t seem like a woman who would wear a preachy t-shirt. Also true.
  3. You’re betting I won’t wear this t-shirt because it has a grammar error on it. I do not play when it comes to grammar.

Of course, I see the mistake. I’m not blind. This t-shirt should read, “God is much bigger than I.” I admit it bothers me. I’m a big enough person to confess that. Because I love the coach who gave it to me, we’re going to say that this error is by design. I’m going to declare it a charming colloquialism, an attempt to convey a message informally for maximum effect.

Just so you know, we’re going with that excuse today ONLY. Only Coach Steve Sills could give me a shirt with a grammar error on it and expect me to wear it while running on the treadmill. I wouldn’t do that for anyone else in the world. It may actually hurt. We’ll see.

Coach Sills and I are unlikely friends. He’s young enough to be my son. That’s irritating enough. He’s a coach. I say unflattering things about coaches all the time. He’s a former athlete. I wash athletic uniforms, work concessions, and feed the team. He’s male, a dad to two adorable little girls. I’m a mom to three teenagers, and I can barely remember when my kids were that little. He’s black. I’m white. He calls me Ma Thompson. I boss him around without compunction. When I found out he had not finished the work for his teaching certificate, for example, I hounded him mercilessly to finish that up.

I love him fiercely, and so does everyone else who knows him. He’s something of a community celebrity where I live. He’s hip, cool, and a good role model. He is eternally optimistic. I’m known on the home front as Negative Nancy. Kids follow him around like he’s handing out free homework passes. If I worked in a public school, kids would run from me like Medusa with the snake-locks. Coach Sills is deep into philanthropic projects. I’m just trying to raise my three kids without bouncing a mortgage check. He’s deeply religious, completely comfortable with public demonstrations of faith. I’m Episcopalian, and I’m not even comfortable with the word “evangelism.”

Bottom line: I’ll wear the t-shirt with the grammar error, which is positively self-sacrificing, as far as I’m concerned, because Coach Sills is the kind of man I hope my boys grow up to be. That’s what I wrote when I autographed a copy of my last book for him. His response is now my favorite prayer: “May God bless everything you lay your hands to.”

Today’s life lesson: On rare occasions, when you give someone a little grammar leeway, you get pure poetry.


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Silk Stockings and Hot-Pink Gloves


One morning this week I dressed hurriedly, pressed for time, as always. I took one shortcut after another with my morning routine. My goal was simple: I wanted to look professional and at least marginally attractive. This gets harder and more time-consuming every year. I can no longer shower, slap on some lipstick and dark sunglasses, and go with a clean, fresh-faced look. If I forgo the make-up, I spend the entire day fielding questions about my health. People with skin as pale as mine look like we’re going to keel over at any moment without a touch of blush. If I omit concealer, I look like I’m coming down with malaria. I’m not exaggerating.

I miss the days of hour-long bubble baths, experimenting with make-up and hairstyles, and the anticipation of date night. Remember that feeling? By the time I finally walked out the door for the evening, I’d leave behind a pile of discarded outfits I’d tried on before selecting the right one for my mood. That was two sizes ago. Those clothes look like tiny hobbit clothes to me now.

After my kids were born, I considered myself good-to-go if I had on a shirt without spit-up on it—or worse—and I put on the first items I touched when I opened my drawers. On the rare nights when we could afford a babysitter, I dressed quickly. No way would I waste a second of babysitter time primping!

This week I stood in my closet at 6:15 AM dressing for a noon out-of-town speaking event. I had just enough time to finish my morning chores and toss something in the slow cooker for dinner before firing up my GPS. There was no time for waffling about cute outfits.

Breakfast was ready, and I’d packed my kids’ lunches and threatened them with the loss of something precious to them if they didn’t get up immediately and get ready for school. I’d barked out the daily reminders about homework, permission slips, and after-school activities before showering and heading to my closet to ferret out some mythical outfit that would somehow make me look tall, slim, and worth my speaking fee.

Dropping the towel to the floor, I wiggled into no-line panties and began the arduous task of smoothing stockings over my legs with fingers in desperate need of a manicure. I rarely bother with a manicure anymore. What’s the point? It never lasts. My hands are constantly working—dishes, laundry, flowers, and cleaning solutions. It’s a waste of money.

You can guess what happened. I barely got my stockings past one painted toe before snagging them with my rough fingers. Hopping on one foot, peering down over my dollar store reading glasses, and cursing like a sailor, I flung the ruined tights to the floor and opened another package to begin the whole wiggly, sweaty process all over again.

I got the second pair up over my hips—no small feat—before poking a hole in my panty hose that traveled all the way up my calf at the speed of light, blossomed behind one knee, and finally petered out at my control-top waistband. Like a volcano that has been simmering for weeks, I immediately erupted with more colorful language. I have a big vocabulary, and I’m oddly creative when I swear, so I was colorful in several languages.

Then I sat on my closet floor to fume and contemplate my options. It was too early to drink. I’m not an alcoholic. Yet. I was out of new stockings, but I had older stockings shoved in the back of the drawer. The colors were a little dated, but I was no longer aiming for perfection.

I remembered an almost-forgotten piece of Southern lady lore: you’re supposed to wear gloves to smooth on stockings. No snags! I felt like patting myself on the back for remembering that tidbit, and I immediately began rummaging around in my lingerie drawer for gloves.

Of course, I couldn’t find any white gloves. I don’t even remember the last time I’ve seen my white gloves. I did find some hot-pink winter gloves. They were a bit fuzzy, certainly not as smooth as white, cotton, bell-ringing gloves, but they were better than nothing. They weren’t mittens. They had fingers. They would do. I slipped them on and lifted a foot to begin another panty-hose application process.

That’s when my husband opened the door to my closet to discuss some calendar question and got an eyeful of me in my early-morning glory: panties—nothing else—half-mast stockings, and hot-pink winter gloves.

He took his time looking. I could tell he had no clue what to say. He couldn’t figure out what little party was going on in my closet. He looked puzzled–like a toddler who stumbles upon his parents having sex and tries to process a totally alien visual. It wasn’t a Fifty Shades of Gray moment. Trust me.

“Do you need something?” I asked testily.

“Not really,” he said, still looking.

“Do you need help with . . . anything?” he asked delicately, obviously attempting to tiptoe around any hormonal mine fields.

“Nope,” I responded, “I need to finish getting dressed now.”

“Sure. No problem. Absolutely. Carry on,” he said, closing the door with a perfectly straight face and zero color commentary.

He’s a smart man. I really should give him more credit than I do. We’ve been married a long time. My husband knows when to keep his mouth shut. I think that’s an invaluable marital skill.


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$1.99 e-Books! September only!

My publisher is offering the e-Book version of my first book, SWAG, for $1.99! Wow! Get out your gadgets and start downloading!Image 

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The Pity-Party Box

Nearly thirty years ago, I was riding on a streetcar, heading downtown on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was Easter Sunday, and I was searching for a church service vaguely reminiscent of the one I knew would be taking place in my hometown church.

While I was riding, swaying right to left in that peculiar rhythm found only on streetcars, I was idly thumbing through my mail, occasionally closing my eyes to enjoy the wonderful sounds of the streetcar as it stopped and started. This sound is completely unique, and it is hard to describe if you’ve never heard it, but it will instantly spring to your mind if you have, even if it was twenty years ago.

I have always loved to ride the streetcar with all the windows wide open and the humid breeze blowing through.  I love to ride simply as an avid voyeur of other streetcar riders—some headed to work or school, others riding just for the thrill. I have never been bored in my encounters with streetcar riders.

Like everyone else, when I am in New Orleans, I am partial to certain streetcar drivers. I like the ones who carry on monologues—occasionally directing a comment to one of the regular riders, always challenging traffic that risks being crunched crossing the streetcar’s path, harassing latecomers to hurry up or wait ten minutes for the next streetcar. I particularly like the tour-guide information, offered gratis to all, full of fascinating historical fact, interesting bits of legend and local gossip, and some remarkably credible lies.

As usual, I was not to be left alone with my thoughts on this trip. I was happily ensconced, with a whole wooden seat to myself, my elbow propped on the window and my chin in hand, anticipating the joys of Easter brunch, when my reverie was interrupted by an Easter bonnet in the boldest of color hues and its owner, who managed to squeeze her generously proportioned self into the seat next to mine. It was tight fit. Long ribbon streamers from her hat kept flying into my face.

I crammed myself into the corner as tightly as possible and began reading my mail. In it was a card from a boy I’d been dating—the particulars of which I no longer even remember. After scanning it quickly, I snapped it closed before my seatmate had a chance to finish reading it over my shoulder, crumbled it into a ball, and shoved it down into my bag.

“Oh, you shouldn’t do that!” my seatmate admonished. “You can’t just throw it away! You should save it for your pity-part box.”

All the while she offering me her unsolicited advice, the streamers on her hat were flying wildly about her head in punctuation of every word. The hat was evocative of something I couldn’t quite place. I finally decided that the ribbon had come off a Mardi Gras float. Without a doubt, that hat was parade quality.

Intrigued by a woman self-confident enough to wear that hat, I said, “Okay, I’ll bite. What is a pity-party box?”

Clearly, this was the opening my fellow traveler had been waiting for in all the years she had been riding streetcars and making Easter bonnets.

“Every time you get a letter, something special from someone you love, you put it in a special box. One day you’ll be old like me, and when you’re feeling low, you’ll take out your pity-party box, and you’ll feel happy,” she promised.

Naturally, I didn’t keep the card. I didn’t even start my own pity-party box until after my children were born, when I couldn’t bear to throw away their treasures in crayon, paint, and marker. But that was just he beginning.

I have notes in that box from my grandmother who is long dead. When I see her strong, scrawling handwriting on her monogrammed stationery, I can actually hear her voice in my head.

I have notes from the saddest and happiest moments in my life. There is something in there from almost every person I have ever loved, people who are a constant in my life and those who have died or drifted away.

Perhaps it is a deep-seated love of the written word, but nothing brings to me a sense of presence more than a person’s handwritten words, and nothing reduces me to tears faster than a handmade valentine. My pity-party box is a huge shoebox decorated by my child to hold his valentines when he was in preschool.

Over the years, I have sometimes thought of the Easter bonnet lady on the streetcar and hoped she was as comforted by the odd bits in her box as I have been by mine. I’m glad I eventually took her advice. So far, I haven’t felt the urge to wear an ostentatious Easter bonnet, but if I feel so moved over the next few years, I want you to know that I’m not above it. I don’t rule out much of anything these days.

*Thinking about all my NOLA friends today with Hurricane Isaac coming ashore, so I thought I’d post this excerpt from my first book, SWAG: Southern Women Aging Gracefully. Be safe and enjoy!

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Conversations With Dead People

Have you ever found yourself making a mental note to tell someone about something that happened to you, a trivial bit of news you know that person would relish; mentally saved up a choice morsel of gossip; or smiled in anticipation of the reaction you expect when you relate recent shenanigans only to realize, with a belated shock, that the person you are planning to tell is dead?

I hope I’m not the only person out there talking to myself AND dead people. I have, at times, questioned my own sanity and determined that although I can distinguish the living from the daisy pushers, my brain occasionally seems to willfully jump its track to continue sharing amusing anecdotes and all the other wonderfully ordinary events of daily life—never mind a little thing like mortality. I’ve asked myself the standard emergency-room-orientation questions, and I can name the current president and get close on the exact date, but somewhere, deep down, I still long for contact with all the people I have ever loved, the living and the dead.

I can’t decide if this is one of those comforting mind games our brains play to fill the void of missing people in our lives or if we continue in some way to commune with all those who have gone before us. All of this is just way out of my theological and metaphysical comfort zone. But I admit to feeling the presence of all those “others” sometimes, a comforting, you-are-not-alone feeling, as if it’s okay to share a one-liner with a deceased friend because I already know what he or she would have quipped in response.

Maybe love is just so strong you can feel it from one world to the next. Love may, in fact, be the strongest force in the universe. It is, after all, one of the primary catalysts for human behavior, yet it is something intangible and impossible to prove. Strangely enough, most of us hardcore, show-me humans—those of us who struggle daily with issues of faith in our religions—still believe in love. If asked, most of us say we believe love exists. We are convinced of it, have seen evidence of the power of love in our lives: love between children and parents, lovers, and friends, even between humans and animals.

The last words from a dying person’s lips are almost always words of love or caring, not expressions of hate or enmity. And love doesn’t end with death, does it? The object of affection may be six feet under the ground, but the love and longing for that person do not end. Grief is, in fact, frustrated love.

Katharine Hepburn has a great line in the movie Love Affair about just this subject. In reply to a question about the wedding ring on her finger, she says, “Dearie, I am married—although my husband has been dead for years.”

I know exactly what she means by that, don’t you?

Want to read more? This essay is an excerpt from my second book, The SWAG Life. I took the photograph this month in an old cemetery in Selma, Alabama, where I had a wonderful time poking around. The Spanish moss was very evocative to me as a writer (of all kinds of things!), and the craftsmanship in marble and concrete was breathtaking. Imagine being loved that much!  To me, it  looked like a restful place to spend forever.

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Writers, Rock Stars, and Bad Reviews

Today’s Ask Melinda Question: Have you ever gotten a bad review?

Yes, indeed, of course, I have. Every writer has–whether he or she admits it or not. When I put myself out there as a writer, nationwide, with the release of my first book, it took about five minutes before I figured out that some people are going to love my books, and me, and some people are not. That’s just the way it goes. I learned to pull up my big girl panties, stow the pout, and deal with it–without throwing heavy objects or resorting to drink.

On the upside, avid readers often turn into fans. There is nothing more fun than a book fan. Fans sometimes become groupies. They buy matching T-shirts, form reading groups, and name their pets after me. (Somewhere out there is a dog named SWAG, just FYI.) Unfortunately, upon rare occasions, groupies become cyber-stalkers. That’s a little creepy. Other readers are merely lukewarm about the books I’ve spent the best years of my life writing. They can take me or leave me. And despite my best attempts to touch every reader in America, most have never heard of me or my books in their lives, and they never will, which makes me sad, since I am confident that if I could just get to them, I could make them laugh. I just know it.

For writers, reviews come with the territory. Like any other job, you don’t get to pick and choose the aspects of the job you’d like to participate in. There’s no drop-down menu.  If you’re a stay-at-home parent, you get the just-up-from-a-nap toddler hugs, but you also get to clean up vomit when your kid doesn’t quite make it to the bathroom. C’est la vie.

My experiences with book tours taught me that whenever I make public appearances to speak, sign books, and answer questions, I will be treated in one of two ways: like a rock star or the hired help.

Sometimes, people stand in long lines to talk to me, ask to have photographs taken with me, and shove their books eagerly in my hands to sign. For those events, I am queen for the day. I get a fabulous hotel room, sumptuous meals, cocktails with the literati, and the opportunity to sell scads of books to people who write speaking fee checks with nary a whine. At other book events, I am nothing more than the hired help—one step up from the dishwasher.

The truth is that I read reviews when I stumble up on them, but I don’t actively seek them out unless it’s something long-anticipated—The New York Journal of Books or The Library Journal or Publishers Weekly, something like that—a publication I’ve been longing for a good review in. When it’s bad, what can I do? I can’t call the person up and try to change his or her mind or argue a point with them or anything—even though that’s usually my first instinct.

“That’s not true!” I think to myself in righteous indignation.

You can’t make people you don’t know like you. For the record, I’m a nice person. I swear it. I am. The really nasty, personal attacks shock me. Generally, I have to know someone to get that riled up; don’t you? Sometimes people think they know me when they read my books, especially since I write nonfiction humor. Just this week, a woman rushed up to me in the mall, threw her arms around me, and hugged me. I couldn’t decide whether to hug her back or reach for the pepper spray.

Recently, I’ve become a Goodreads author. You’ll never read a book I “recommend” there unless I can really recommend it. That’s the whole point; isn’t it? I have to like the book to tell you why I like it, how much I like it, and who else I think will like it. If I don’t like it, I won’t write a review. I’ll leave that to the readers who DO like it. That seems fair to me. There are so many wonderful books to recommend every year! I’d never waste time pointing out the bad ones. (This is also my political philosophy. I don’t want to tell you about the candidates I hate. I’ll gladly tell you about those I admire and want to see win an election.)

Does a bad review hurt my feelings? Sometimes. After all, each book represents about a year of work. Most often, they make me feel indignant or misunderstood. As a Southern woman, I feel that everyone should like me all the time. It’s a cultural thing and not something you can talk me out of. I work hard to be polite to every person I meet, charming to as many as possible, and in general, I attempt to please every person who has chosen to spend a few hours of his or her precious leisure time with me or my books.

Happily, truly nasty reviews are few and far between. Often, there is clearly an agenda for that reviewer that has nothing to do with me personally. And, yes, occasionally, I’d like to call up some devoted fans and say, “Could you go online and say something nice about me? I just got blasted by somebody in ________!”  I’m afraid some of them might go armed into the fray, however. Like I said, I have some loyal fans. Boy, am I grateful for them!


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The Sweet Tea Sacrifice


This week a number appeared on my bathroom scale that I have never seen before in reference to my own body, a number more commonly associated with small ponies, kitchen appliances, and Crimson Tide linemen. My first reaction was to turn around and smack the unknown person who must be standing right behind me on the scale with rocks in his pockets to weigh us down. Unfortunately, I didn’t see a soul in that bathroom but me. That joker with rocks was quick.

It was time for me to face the horrid, unflattering truth: The season for hopeful thinking, stretchy fabric, and new, distracting lipstick has passed. Drastic action is called for before double-digit clothing sizes are my new norm, so . . .  I decided to give up sweet tea. Yeah. You read that correctly. I’d rather give up a kidney. That would be easier.

As a Southern woman, this is personal sacrifice on an epic scale—like removing rice from the diet of anyone on the Pacific Rim. I assume this offering to the gods will rectify the previously mentioned scale issue. I certainly don’t plan to toy with my life-sustaining supply of cheese straws, petits fours, or drinks with tiny umbrellas in them. I hope this is an end to the matter. If not, you’re going to hear about it, and so are readers all around the country. In my experience, Southern women rarely suffer alone.


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Death By Vacuum Cleaner

I was nearly killed by my vacuum cleaner today. In the interest of full disclosure, I should confess that this wasn’t my first potentially lethal encounter with a household appliance. Upon occasion, I have been known to stick a fork in the toaster, and my gas logs and I are barely on speaking terms. I also had a close call with a professional carpet-cleaning machine a few years back (which inspired a chapter called “The Big Red Cleaning Machine” in my book Southern Women Aging Gracefully). It had me trapped against my car for about half an hour. Dicey.

What do such run-ins say about me? Nothing good. How exciting could my life possibly be if I have near-death experiences–not by bungee jumping in Belize or soaring over the Grand Canyon–but by vacuuming?

Here’s the story: I was vacuuming the stairs to my second floor, backing my way down, manhandling the vacuum awkwardly down one stair at a time. I had the cord wrapped around my neck so that I wouldn’t accidently suck it up in the vacuum. I’ve done it this way a thousand times before WITHOUT INCIDENT, I’d like to point out right here, so . . . don’t start with me.

You can guess what happened next. I accidentally knocked the vacuum cleaner over. It immediately tumbled to the bottom of the stairs. I rocked back and forth for a few seconds on the stair tread; there was just enough time for me to feel smug for not falling in the wake of the vacuum, when I was suddenly jerked off my feet as the vacuum cord necklace I was wearing tightened into a noose worthy of the Wild West. I reacted as any panicked vacuumer would react—I grabbed the cord and started yanking, trying to prevent a suburban garroting. It was immediately obvious that my only chance for survival was to follow the vacuum free fall. I needed some slack, and I needed it bad.

As I allowed myself to be tugged like a misbehaving dog on a leash to the first floor, I had time to reflect upon how truly distasteful my obituary would be: “A local writer and mother of three was strangled in her home today by her vacuum cleaner.” Every single person at my funeral would be fighting a serious case of the giggles. Who could blame them? My teenagers would likely be too embarrassed to attend the service.In general, I am not a prideful person. I’m known for my self-deprecating humor, in fact. I have to admit, however:  death by vacuum cleaner—that’s not the way I want to go. Even I can do better than that.


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