Famous in a Small Town

Miranda Lambert’s song Famous in a Small Town could have been written about my home town, Butler, Alabama. Really it could be about our county, Choctaw. “Every grandma, in-law, ex-girlfriend, maybe knows you just a little too well.” Yep, and if they don’t know? They make it up. The grapevine and rumor mills are always growing and running. Stick with me, and hear me out on this, please?

That is the part that I do not miss. That is the part that had me running out of town the first chance I got. That is the part that I try to forget. You see, I hated being there in high school. Rumors would always go around, even if you were sitting at home. That is the part that helped me construct thick walls so I could keep my distance. That is the part that helped develop my lack of trust for others. So when I look back, the memories I pull are like that of Mayberry (yes, as in the old TV show), where it is all smiles and everything works out in the end. I remember the people in my graduating class, most I had known since Kindergarten. I remember the supportive people, the back road riding nights blaring music, mud riding and getting stuck but somehow making in home by curfew with the rescue of my hero, the charm and the amazing local shops.

Y’all I kid you not when I say that I knew everyone in my graduating class. I knew their full names – first, middle and last, their birthdays, their parents and siblings, and most of their grandparents. Usually we all called each other’s grandparents by their grandparent name too. Yeah, that small of a town. Think a little, and I mean very little, bigger than Mayberry. Despite being this small, and a very small county, we still have 4 schools – 2 private and 2 public, one of each in the North and South end of the county. Classes are small, which means you hang out with the other schools as well. So we all know each other. And the summer ball teams are not divided by schools, so you get to spend time with kids you don’t see all school year. Despite being in a small class, I have kept in touch with barely a handful of them – including family members (cousins). We are all adults, in age, and I know they have changed like I have. I know they have families and jobs of their own, but I have no idea who they are anymore. Is the quiet girl, that was in band, still quiet or did she find her voice? What happened to the funny guy, he moved away and blocked most of us on Facebook? How is my once best friend managing being a working woman, wife, mom and bonus mom? Is my frienemy still competing with everyone, when she never had to compete with me but did always? I would love to know who they all are now. I’ve kept in touch with a few more closely over the years, and it’s nice to have those that knew me then, to also know me now. To see how they have grown into amazing men, husbands and even fathers.

When I tell you most of my teenage nights were spent riding around the back roads, blaring music and playing stupid games, basically every night that it was not bad weather. Sometimes we would park in a field and build a fire, others we would go mud ridin’, and a rare few were gathered at a random house “watching” a movie. Those nights were so carefree. The biggest problem was who was gonna buy beer and smokes for us and who would drive? I admit, I drove a lot of the time, but not to try and be a goody goody, I just didn’t like beer. I mean come on guys, if you don’t remember Senior year and our NYE Party? Let’s just say my world was spinning and I was sick the next two days. And then I got grounded, but all on a technicality. My dad was angry about the party and said that I misled him. Hey, I asked if I could spend the night with my friend. It is NOT my fault that I did not mention it would be at “the New House,” I feel as a parent and friend of the other couple in FULL knowledge of said “New House,” that my dad should have asked which house? Hahaha. He and I did laugh about it at the time, he was upset I drank, but I got less time in grounding because he was a lawyer and I argued my side and technicality very well. I miss these people, and think about them often.

The one thing that has not changed, that I miss and love dearly, are the local shops. The owners knowing you and letting you take home whatever you want to try on and just take back the rest in a few days, without paying. The workers knowing your name and checking on your sister who is away at college. I remember being able to call after they had closed to please have them wait so I could come grab this one thing that I absolutely had to have right then. Y’ALL, listen, well read carefully……THEY ARE STILL THERE!! Most also have a Facebook or Instagram page, and ALL of them will SHIP TO YOU!! This has made me so happy. I love being able to still keep up with those families that run and work in these amazing local shops. But more than that I love being able to support my local home town businesses. They have the BEST stuff and at WAY better prices than I could find in Birmingham or even online. Also, my mother is still local so she can grab stuff and bring it up on a trip to visit the boys! It is fantastic and dangerous. Packing for Thanksgiving Yonke trip, I basically got a new wardrobe thanks to Magnolia Traditions and The Village Shoppe, info provided below, You’re Welcome. I asked mom to stop and pick up ONE item from each…..O-N-E I tell you! Two days later I’m cutting tags off of all these things I just “had to have” when she Facetimed me from the store (by my request). These shops embody the best of small towns. They are full of loving and caring workers and owners. These are some of the most compassionate, toughest and hard-working individuals on the planet. They deserve my support now, just as they supported me growing up. Letting me play dress-up, putting items on hold so my mom or dad could come “approve,” all the school fundraisers for the yearbook, they were always there. They are still there because of these people.

The population of Choctaw County is less than 13,000. Let’s break that down for fun. Bryant Denny Stadium (BDS), the University of Alabama’s football game facility, has a capacity -can hold over- 101,000 individuals. If you divide the capacity of BDS (101,821) by the “capacity” of Choctaw County (13,000 – rounded up) you get 7.83. 7.83 is the amount of times that it would take the population of Choctaw County, Alabama to fill up a college football stadium. I provide that information and visual so you can fully grasp how small this county is, which makes these towns even smaller. (Pause: My hs math teacher and my dad would be so proud about that part, haha). Which also leads to the average income for the households in Choctaw County to have a median of $35,892 – according to the US Census Bureau facts provided on their website. This right here tells you EVERYTHING that you need to know about being from a small town. THIS right here tells you EVERYTHING you need to know about someone with roots in a small town. These people are resilient. These people are hard working and fierce in all they do. These people can adapt to their surroundings as needed, even if it is slow going or tough at first, they can change. I know that my hometown has changed, because I have changed. But I also know, when it truly comes to it, the support and fierceness is still there in those shops, and in the people – some family, some friends, some I have never met, but they are still there and will be for generations to come.

I love my “Famous in a Small Town,” flaws and all, hometown and I am proud to have finally realized that I didn’t lose my fierceness. THANK YOU ALL!!

Magnolia Traditions
13418 Choctaw Ave, Gilbertown, AL 36908
Phone: (251) 843-2002
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/magtraditions/

The Village Shoppe
51 W Main St
Gilbertown, AL 36908
Phone: (251) 843-2323
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thevillageshoppe.gilbertow

PS – They both ship and have the BEST customer service you could imagine! LOVE THEM!!!

Sources:

Choctaw County Info: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/choctawcountyalabama
Bryant Denny Stadium Info: https://rolltide.com/sports/2016/6/10/facilities-bryant-denny-html.aspx

My Second Favorite F Word

Football is my second favorite F word. If you know me in real life, you know that I am a tried and true Alabama Crimson Tide fan and a Chiefs fan by marriage. My husband happens to be a Kansas State fan (the purple team from Kansas), at least he isn’t an Auburn fan. If there is a football game being aired, it is likely playing on our TV, doesn’t matter which teams are playing. I often tell people I am the son my parents never had because of my love for sports, football mostly.

My love started early and I’m pretty sure my dad was excited to have someone in his house not complain when he had a game on the TV. From there I was a cheerleader for 6 years, spending most of the game with my back to the stands, yelling thru my megaphone to the guys on the field! Once I was in college I had the opportunity to work with the football operations team and recruiting….sidelines on game day in Bryant Denny? Pretty much what dreams are made of, well mine anyway. I have been an Alabama fan since birth, and that includes some pretty tough years – you can search the web if you don’t know what I’m referencing.

So now that I have shown support for my football obsession, you’re probably wondering why it is my second favorite F word.

My favorite F word is four letters long and used daily! Dirty minds…..I mean FOOD. Football and food go hand in hand. I love tailgates and the food served at them. For my wedding, I literally told my catering team that “I want one step up from a tailgate.” From dips to small sammies to burgers and hotdogs, I have not attended a tailgate/football party that was not complete with fantastic football food. What the heck is football food?

Football food is kind of like finger food, the smaller bite sizes you might see at a shower, but these are all yummy and all filling. Football food doesn’t take into consideration calories, so do not come over for a game expecting celery sticks and peanut butter. If you come over for football you can expect sausage balls, a chicken cheese ball, pigs in a blanket, buffalo chicken dip and that is just to start! If it is cold a good chili or stew will be served as well.

Sadly football season is coming to an end. Bowl games are being played and the Super Bowl will be here in a few short weeks. As I get ready to make the snacks for the Cotton Bowl (Alabama vs Cincinnati), I thought I could share one of my go to dishes. It is easy and delicious! You can make ahead or in the moment you need it. 4 ingredients and your choice of cracker/chip.

Chicken Cheese Ball

Ingredients:
1 – 8oz. block of cream cheese
Shredded Cheese – at least one cup
1 – Can of premium white chunk chicken
1 – Package dry ranch

Directions:
1. Soften cream cheese
2. Drain can of chicken
3. Add dry ranch, can of chicken and cheese to softened cream cheese
4. Mix together and form ball
5. Place in fridge to chill
6. ENJOY!!!

My personal favorites to eat with the chicken cheese ball are club crackers and everything pretzel crisps. Honestly you can use any cracker or chip that you like, because it is that delicious!

I hope you enjoy it as much as we have over the years. ROLL TIDE!

Grandma Greatness

How in the hell did my grandmothers do it all and make it look effortless? I’m talking about each had: a husband, 3 kids, at least 6 grand kids – not including the adopted ones, always a clean house and always homemade food! I seem to struggle most days and I have zero human children at this point in my life.

Do moms get a visit from a fairy once they become a grandmother that gives them extra greatness? I’ve seen this change that comes in my own mom, and even mother in law! It is like grandmothers can figure it out and do it all, while they are making memories and your favorite dinner too.

Is it because they were just so much better at getting things done than I? Probably. I honestly just think people aren’t “made” the way they used to be. Kind of like appliances….seriously, how many times did your grandma get a new washer/dryer/fridge/dishwasher? Maybe once, but unlikely. I swear nothing is as durable as those yellowish/green/brown fridges they made in the 1960s and 1970s. If you know, you know.

My Maw, Dad’s mom, and my Nanny, Mom’s mom, were as different as night and day. One was soft spoken and would gently scratch your back. One was loud and her back pats could knock a grown man around. Yet they both were each part of a special group, no not being a grandmother, I mean the angels on earth group. They were the type of people that would give you the shirt off of their backs if you needed it, but more than that. Maw and Nanny each has this presence that made you feel loved and comfortable. This extended to each person they met.

I remember when my Nanny started working in a school cafeteria. All of the kids loved her, so much so they started calling her Nanny. I was so upset because she was MY Nanny, not theirs. She sat me down and told me that she would always love me and by my Nanny, but that she could love “them kids too.” She was bright and filled up a room as soon as she entered. Her laugh was contagious. She was a pro at picking switches and swatting your legs with a fly swatter for being bad. She embodied the Home Sweet Home feelings.

Maw was the epitome of kindness, classiness and love. Honestly if you knew Joe, my grandfather, you already know she was an angel for putting up with him for all of those years! She was the strongest woman I’ve ever known, but also the most feminine. While none of us got her outer beauty, I try to share her inner beauty by helping others as she did so often. She recognized my wild streak, love of shoes and red lipstick, and just grinned and shook her head, never passing judgement. She reminded me to always count my blessings.

I developed my love for cooking with each. Both could make homemade biscuits that made you close your eyes and groan out loud. I picked beans with one and blueberries the other, using these ingredients in that nights dinner. How did they cook so many delicious homemade meals each week? I’m proud of myself if I cook one and we have leftovers…..sad, but true.

Also, why is grandma’s house always freaking clean? How is every single thing in it’s place at all times? I would be embarrassed if someone popped by unannounced, but Grandmothers? Bring on all the guests, any day, any time.

I’m not a physically affectionate person, but I have never had a hug from a grandmother, mine or not, that did not make me want to rest my head on her shoulder and have my back rubbed. I’m serious! Unless you are my nieces or nephews, it is likely that you have never had a hug from me. (Not starting now either, thanks COVID!) So is there a secret training on hugs as well? Is it because of the years of life that you know a hug is more than a hug? I’m not sure, but you can never replace a grandma hug. When I see my husband’s grandma, I hug her so hard I worry she can’t breathe sometimes. She’s another one that deserves to be praised for her greatness.

She was one of 9! Yep, 9….helping take care of her siblings early on in her life. Married her husband and then had 4 of her own. She is also one of the most talented people I have ever met. She can paint, make or sew just about anything. But what is her real greatness? Her unconditional love. The way that she supports those she meets is astounding. I’m lucky to be included in that. She is the best listener and provides a calm to those pouring out their problems.

Not only do each of the grandmothers I know make me want to cook more, keep my house picked up, but truly they make me want to have greatness. To be able to share my greatness with others as they each have done with me. To have half of the influence on someone as they did for me. To actually leave this world a better place.

Christmas Crash

Traditions continued and new ones created, another Christmas is officially in the books. My social media was full of cookies and presents and smiling faces….the pictures were bright and merry. My trashcan is overflowing with festive paper and cardboard boxes. We are still munching on leftovers and using the last few remaining Santa napkins. Football is on the tv and the countdown to 2022 has begun…..

Before we enter 2022, can we talk about the Christmas Crash? Am I the only one? After all of the holiday festivities, I literally crash. Today I am in all black and trying to keep my house as quiet as possible. Decorations are still on display and leftovers are still being heated up, but no more Holiday music or movies. I’m wondering when I should take the tree down, but really do not have the desire or energy for the task! I’m not sure if it comes from the stress or anticipation of having everyone over to our house, but after it is done? I am on a two day, not leaving my house, only speaking if necessary route.

I don’t say that to sound mean or ungrateful, but it is true. I’m one of the most extroverted introverts you will ever meet. I get over stimulated in social situations and have to almost go into a cocoon to recover. My desire to engage on any level is less than a 1. I learned this about myself a long time ago, and over the years I have done better about recognizing the signs and trying to avoid becoming a recluse. I’m not always successful and certain situations can’t be avoided.

So here I am, starting a blog in the middle of my Christmas Crash……

Is it really Happy Holidays?

The Holiday season brings with it excitement, anticipation, happiness and all the good feelings one can muster. What it also brings, that is too often left unaddressed, is sadness and loneliness. Whether it is the loss of a loved one that will be missing from around the table, the financial strain that you won’t be able to provide your family with the “perfect” holiday, or even the change of your family status, Holidays are not always merry and bright.

Personally, I fall into the first category. I have lost loved ones throughout my life, and I still miss them. Most days are fine, some days memories come in and I can’t help but laugh. During the holidays, I struggle with the sadness of missing them, wanting them to be around to enjoy it all with me. It is a hard balance of remaining present to keep the happiness going and my nieces and nephews enjoying the magic that the holidays can bring, and not being sad, or even angry, because they are not here to participate. I feel selfish for even saying that, but there is part of the problem. We should be able to talk about being sad or angry during this time of year. None of us are Santa, with his forever rosy cheeks and jolly disposition. I understand “life must go on”, but that shouldn’t stop us from being able to acknowledge what we miss, what is making us sad or hurt.

I recently watched a Christmas movie, yes the Hallmark cheesy kind where you know the ending will be a happy one. This movie was different. It addressed losing loved ones. This little girl reminded her Foster Mother that if we push down the memories and act like they don’t exist we just miss them even more. This hit me HARD. I feel guilty for bringing up my dad to ones that loved him too. But why? Why is it so hard to talk about loved ones after they have died? Why can’t we talk about the good and the bad times, share stories to keep the memories going? I’m not sure, because I can’t even answer why I don’t talk about my dad or grandmothers or grandfather more.

These thoughts have been swirling around in my head since last night. I talked to a friend that falls into the third category, her family status has changed. She is sad and spending her first Christmas “alone.” It is hard for her because she is not doing the traditions she has done for the past twenty plus years. She is sad, but doesn’t want to “impose” on anyone or feel like the odd duckling at some other family’s gathering. I understand, I mean who wants to be the “odd man out” during a holiday gathering? While this would not be the case with most of her friends, it is still how she feels and she should validate those feelings. The point I’m trying to make is that Holidays are not even close to Hallmark movies.

It is ok to be like the main character in Elf and spread all the cheer you want, but know not everyone likes to smile all the time. It is ok to scale back on participating in holiday events, and boycott it all even! It is ok to not be ok all the time, especially during the Holidays.

Whatever your Holidays look like, I hope that it comes with a little bit of inner peace. It is easy to say because I’m not a parent, but most people do not remember WHAT you gave them, but HOW you made them feel. So if you happen to fall into the second category, give the gift of time. Spend time with those you care about, after all it will be the one thing they talk about when you are not around.

I can’t tell you a gift my Maw gave me specifically, but I can tell you about her deep frying turkey breast and always doing extra because she would “sneak” a couple of pieces to us all. I remember the lights on my Nanny’s front porch and how warm and cozy her house was every Christmas Eve. I remember my grandfather sitting in his recliner pretending not to notice, but truly keeping a close eye on all the activities during Christmas lunch. I remember my dad and our “arguments” over who would get the middle orange danish roll after we opened gifts. I remember them and how they made me feel.

So embrace all the emotions that come with the Holiday season! From my heart to yours, Happy Holidays!

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