Thursday, April 24, 2014

You Say It's Your Birthday (Month)?

Surely you didn't think I would let the month of April come and go without talking about my birthday, did you? I think not. Now that I have decided not to get any older, all that's left of birthdays is the celebrating, and I've got that down to a fine art.

Some people don't like to make a fuss about their birthday. I will never understand those people. Your birthday is your own personal holiday, to commemorate surviving another year, making another lap around the sun. I choose to not only celebrate my actual day of birth, but to extol the entire month to be sure and maximize the festivities. It's really a service to my family and friends--this way, they should feel no pressure to get it right on just one particular day--oh, no, I'm giving them a full thirty days to lavish me with attention anyway they please. You know I'm all about helping others. It's just the way I was raised. Side note: I used to celebrate birthday week, but several years ago, a friend suggested it should be an entire birthday month, and I thought, if I can get away with it, why not?

I always love getting mail, but the trip to the mailbox is even more exciting during birthday time. It's almost as good as Christmas card season--opening the box and seeing more cards than bills, more birthday wishes than junk mail. I line each one up in my kitchen, because let's face it: that is the room where I spend most of my time, so that they are there to greet me all day long. And then, of course, there are the packages! My sweet friend Sylvia mails me a gift every year. Not only is it always a great gift (this year, a purse that I love), but it is a delivery just for me. Y'all really shouldn't have, but I am glad that you did. Now, let's get to the revelry.

We kicked off the month with dinner at my favorite Tex Mex restaurant with friends. Margaritas, tacos, and queso make for a very bueno fiesta, if I do say so myself. You know you have friends who really get you when they show up with a dozen cupcakes for the four of you. I'm not saying we ate them all, but let's just say nothing went to waste (okay, we ate them all). After dinner, we even found the time to break in our new fire pit. Birthday month was off to a great start.

Birthday kickoff, around the new fire pit.

For my actual birthday, Clint took me to dinner at the trendy new rooftop restaurant in town, Fahrenheit. I read that Ryan Phillippe was there a couple of weeks before we were, and model Cheryl Tiegs was there the week after that. There were no celebrity sightings the night we were dining, so I guess we were the "hot" (pun intended) VIPs. And since it was my big day, we skipped anything remotely healthy and ordered pimento cheese fondue and lobster mac and cheese. Hey, everyone knows the key to a long (and happy) life is lots of melted cheese. Plus, you can't eat salad on your birthday--it's way too hard to stick a candle in there.

My actual birthday, which came with dinner and a view.

As far as gifts go, the boy did well this year. We had already made a joint shopping effort a few weeks early and picked out some new sunglasses, which were supposed to be my entire present. Imagine my surprise when Clint came home on April 9th (also known as Susie's Day) with a top and necklace from Anthropologie. You could buy me a bookmark from that store and I would be ecstatic, so major brownie points for Clint, especially given the fact that said top and necklace were a) stylish,  b) matching, and c) the right size. After all the gift and dinner excitement, we settled on the couch for birthday cake and TiVo in our pajamas. It was a pretty nice way to spend the first day of my thirty-somethingth year.

We took a brief intermission from birthday weekends to head to Augusta for the Masters tournament. I've already blogged and bragged all about it, so I won't launch into my story again about how great it was (but it was really great). I will say that while it was not technically a celebration of me, it was all very Southern and up-my-alley, and so it fit right in to all the birthday hoopla. The month of April was progressing quite nicely.

If you're putting all this on a timeline, we are just now getting to the middle of the month. Last weekend, we went to my parents' house in Georgia for Easter. Well, Easter guessed it: more birthday! As you can see, my mom does not disappoint. The party was, indeed, there.

My mom knows how to do a birthday right.

Now you know where I get my love of holidays, parties, and celebrating, yes? She even ordered a celebratory cheesecake all the way from Junior's restaurant in New York City. This was not just any cheesecake; it was a red velvet cheesecake and probably the best thing on the planet (you know I am certainly not one to exaggerate). We broke out the birthday candles for the third time this month and pretty much spent the entire weekend eating, shopping, and being merry. These are the things one does to gear up for another year of being me. Living my life takes a lot of work, so it's only logical that it also takes a lot of play. Moderation is my motto, right?

But lest you think we are through here, April isn't quite over yet, and even though I have more butter and sugar coursing through my system than a Sara Lee factory, I am still up for just a little more birthday fun. I've enjoyed three plus weeks of cake and cards, get togethers and gifts, decorations and adoration. And hey, if we missed anything this year, there is good news: I'm already starting the planning for next year.

This is my sign. Of course, I have some personality traits that aren't so flattering, but it's my birthday blog post, so I left those out. Birthday girl perogative.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Getting My Masters

My friend Holly has been telling me for a couple of years that Clint and I really need to get ourselves to Augusta for their annual Masters party. I've never been around her that I didn't have a good time (and since I met her in 1996, that's quite a streak she's got going).  And while I'm not a huge golf fan--despite my domination on the putt-putt course--I do love a party, so when she invited us this year, we happily accepted.

My golfer husband (who loves a good 18 holes even more than a good party), was already looking forward to the trip. And then Holly told him she had tournament badges for us to use on Saturday. I believe I will use the word ecstatic, although giddy, euphoric, elated, jubilant, thrilled, and overjoyed are also quite accurate descriptions for his reaction. Apparently, these things are harder to get your hands on than a pet unicorn, so we were both looking forward to the trip.

Practice makes perfect, and years of throwing Masters week parties has led this bash to flawlessness. Tipsy Arnold Palmer cocktails, a backyard decorated with more Southern charm than Scarlet O'Hara has ever seen, great food, good music, and even a late night fire pit. Way after midnight, this belle was still laughing. I didn't even take the time to notice that my feet hurt--yes, it was that kind of night. Here we are, having way more fun than most people should even be allowed to have:

A good time was had by all. Especially me. 

Saturday morning, after sleeping in, enjoying a breakfast fit for a king and a Bloody Mary to wash it down, we headed for Augusta National. Fact: we were having such a good time at our host's house that we actually procrastinated heading for the tournament. I would say they really made us feel at home, except we don't get treated nearly that well at home. We finally tore ourselves away and headed for the main event.

About ten seconds after we entered the gate, we realized we were walking right beside longtime professional golfer Paul Azinger (his nickname is Zinger--based on that alone, I have to like him). The atmosphere at Augusta is so classy that he stopped to help an elderly lady who clearly had no idea who he was with some directions, then put his arm around her and guided her towards where she was trying to go. Cameras and cell phones aren't allowed, but feel-good moments certainly are.

Some of the really unique things about the Masters experience isn't so much what you see as what you don't see. No ads, no electronic scoreboards, or port-a-potties, or jean shorts (and if you have been to a college football game involving the South Carolina Gamecocks, you can really appreciate the absence of jorts). You also won't spot one bit of trash, anywhere. No gum wrappers, cigarette butts, aluminum can tabs...the place is pristine. Everything is in bloom, the grass is so manicured and perfect it would make you swear it's not real, and the dress code is yuppie weekend casual. So far, this is right up my sundress-clad alley.

Back to that part about cell phones. Not allowed--or you will be removed from the property and possibly banned for life (I'm thinking of instituting that policy during dinner parties). That makes my technology hating heart so happy. The masses are all actually walking around with their eyes up, face-to-face with other patrons instead of doing the staggering screen stare that is so commonplace in our culture right now. And yet people still manage to not only survive, but enjoy themselves, without the possibility of texting, tweeting, or a single selfie. Everyone is polite and everything is clean. Even my OCD is happy and relaxed today.

Another element of the Masters tournament that remains unchanged by time is the concession stand prices. For someone who is used to dropping $57 at the movie concession stand for a Diet Coke and a small popcorn, imagine the joy my inner fat kid felt to discover that sandwiches cost (drum roll, please): $1.50. For the same price, you can choose from a "cola," "lemon lime," or "sports drink," and I think we all know those are Cokes, Sprites, and Gatorades, but they are cheap Cokes, Sprites and Gatorades. Basically, if you have a $10 bill, this has become an all-you-can-eat buffet. And I do not back down from an all-you-can-eat challenge.

I have heard for years how great the pimento cheese and egg salad sandwiches are at Augusta (sorry Pinterest, those are secret recipes) , so I felt it my journalistic duty to taste them and report back. They. Are. Mind-blowing. No, really. However good you are thinking right now, triple it. My hands down favorite was the egg salad, but if you don't like that, the pimento cheese will treat you right, too. And if you don't like egg salad or pimento cheese, I am starting to question your taste. You should probably just stay home and make yourself a fresh batch of kale chips.

You've heard that wise saying, "happy wife, happy life." I also subscribe to the theory that you should let a man be happy when you can. And so, I allowed him to shush me once for talking too loudly (this typically results in corporal punishment with me) and I was, as Clint put it, "a real trooper." We were there for a little over five hours and three egg salad sandwiches, and not a whisper of a complaint from me. That may or may not be as rare as the badges.

At this point we had pretty much walked our legs off, and we wandered over to the clubhouse, to ogle see what we could see, and took in the scores of well-dressed, not-in-the-slightest-bit-poor folk enjoying life behind the ropes. We eagerly watched green jacket wearers exit the building, always ready for a celeb sighting, when Clint recognized Lynn Swann. Mmm hmm, the one that played for the Steelers. I waved, but I'm pretty sure the sun was in his eyes and he didn't see me, because he did not wave back. After a few more minutes of gawking, we decided to go find ourselves another sandwich or two and some souvenirs from our afternoon.

We walked to the massive and yet somehow still classy souvenir shop where my spend-happy husband gets another giddy moment, courtesy of his usually frugal wife. I told him to buy anything he wanted. Hey, you only live once, right? What can I say--I was drunk with buying power after that whole concession stand experience. Clint bought himself some apparel, we got a hat for a friend of mine, and I took away numerous compliments from visitors from all over on my Southern accent. Looking back, the most difficult part of the weekend were taxing decisions like: mimosa, or Bloody Mary? Grits, or biscuits? Do we have to leave now, or can we stay a little (or a lot) longer? All in all, I can see what all the fuss is about. And I think we all know that making a fuss is par for my course.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Just Say Know

Last week, there was a huge response to my blog about my granddaddy. I loved all the sweet comments and memories that the post prompted you to share, and you should know that R.L. would have really loved all the attention.

Clint mentioned that maybe the fact that so many people were engaged by that post was because it was a personal insight about someone I knew, and he suggested that I write similar posts going forward. I appreciate the advice, but very few people really want me to write an entire blog post about them, and it can get a little tedious for you all to read about the branches of my family tree and my close friends each post.

So I decided to write about someone I know really well. She's by no means perfect, can be a bit hard to handle at times, but bless her, she tries. That person is me. Moi. Yours truly. Because you know a little about me, but being the expert on myself, I can really dish the dirt. You already know I'm afraid of birds, not a fan of technology, love a holiday and/or a party, and that a good dose of Days of Our Lives and a swig of Diet Coke keeps me satisfied.

But I am a woman of mystery, a conundrum, a head scratcher, and there are more than a handful of things about me that you probably haven't heard before. And so, I present a short list of Things You Might Not Know:

I still sleep with the security blanket I've had since I was a baby. I tapped into my creativity way back at a young age and named it "my yellow blanket." I can't/don't/won't sleep without it. It particularly comes in handy because Clint is a serious cover hog. My parents had hoped I might leave for my honeymoon without it, but no such luck. As a side note, I also sleep in a retainer. I know what you're thinking, and you're right: my husband is one lucky man.

I've been on a diet since I was six. I started out taking Slender (which was the meal replacement shake that existed pre-Slim Fast) in my lunchbox, wrapped in aluminum foil to keep it cool. I've done low fat, Atkins, South Beach, the 3-day Diet, the Abs Diet, Super Shred. My workout VHS/DVD library has, over the years, included such mega-hits as Sweatin' to the Oldies, the Cosmopolitan Best Body workout, Tae Bo, Dancing with the Stars Dance Fit, Womens Health Circuit Training, P90X, Turbo Fire, P90X3, and Windsor Pilates. I read a quote from Dolly Parton: "I tried every diet in the book. I tried some diets that weren't even in the book. I tried eating the book, and it tasted better than some of the diets." I'm right there with you, Dolly.

My first car was a black 1990 Pontiac Firebird (with T-tops). My second car? A 1995 black Pontiac Firebird (with T-tops). Take that, Knight Rider.

Even though only 0.5% of women are color blind, I'm one of the lucky elite. Thankfully, I'm only what they call blue-green weak, which basically means I have a hard time deciding when something is green (it generally looks blue to me). The novelty of that condition wore off very quickly, and now I fake my way through it like a champ. But it does give new meaning to the term bluegrass.

I really wanted to be an only child, but resigned myself to the idea of having a sister when, at age seven, my mom told me she was pregnant (it's a good thing I didn't wind up with a sister, because I have little doubt that some sort of Hunger Games scenario would have broken out and it would not have ended well for one of us, not to mention the fact that my poor mother would have never left the house because of all the hair fixing and nail painting). As a consolation prize, I got to name my baby brother. I did so after my crush at the time: Joey Lawrence from Gimme A Break. When I found out he had been born, I threw up. He's grown on me since then. Sort of.

Clint and I were introduced by our mothers. They were college roommates who reconnected after years and years and realized they had children about the same age. We reluctantly agreed to go on one date, and 14 months later, we were engaged. The lesson is this is that your mom is always right. Always. Even when it seems that she is completely wrong, she will turn out to be correct. It's a gift from the Lord, as a reward for enduring child birth and your toddler years. Just agree with her and make life easier on both of you.

Back in 1996, when I was Miss SCHS, I was asked to make an appearance at the grand opening of Toccoa's new Belk store. Dressed in an evening gown and sporting my tiara, I attracted the attention of Grayson McCouch, also known as Dusty Donovan on the daytime drama As the World Turns. He asked if I would like to ride with him in his limo to his next appearance, which was more autograph signing at the Belk in Anderson, South Carolina. I turned him down because a) I had a job that I had promised to do, and b) my mom told me not to get in the car with strangers. I bet that after reading this, those of you who refused a perfume spritz from me that day feel some real remorse, don't you?

I can't do a cartwheel and I never learned to roller skate. My mom was pregnant with the above mentioned baby brother during all the skating craze, so I didn't really have a teacher. And my cartwheeling days were in the '80s, and I simply could not run the risk of mussing up my carefully moussed, scrunched, banana-clipped hair for any kind of tumbling. So if you insist on having your birthday party at the skating rink, I will either come and skate around on the carpet, or I will be "busy" that day.

My first real job after college was at a "declining" shopping mall in south Atlanta. It paid $23,000 a year, but the dividends were the life experiences I gained from working in such an, ahem, unique environment. As marketing assistant, I got to handle complaints and conflicts between mall tenants, as well as log any issues customers might report. These are just a few gems from the customer complaint log:

  • Management has received multiple reports of the Easter Bunny smoking outside the mall, while in full costume, holding a cigarette in one hand and the bunny head in the other. Children are frightened by the bunny and also say he smells like smoke.

  • Customer found a hair in her collard greens at Piccadilly Cafeteria. Customer proceeded to file complaint, and also insisted on bringing the collards to the mall management office and having the marketing assistant (also known as me) witness the removal of "this nasty damn hair."

  • Parent wishes to have Santa Claus fired. When her son sat on his lap and wet his pants, Santa apparently told the parent to "get this little b*stard off of me." 'Tis the season, right, Santa?

In addition to these very serious responsibilities, I also managed the hen pen of senior citizen women who worked the mall customer service booth. I got calls that Edna was repeatedly showing up five minutes late ("which doesn't sound like much, but it adds up, I'm telling you") and that Linda took a pair of scissors home in her purse. While all this hubbub was going on, someone stole the ATM out of the mall food court. On a Saturday, during lunchtime. And no one saw a thing.

Besides all that glamorous marketing experience, I also have another feather in my cap: I am a graduate of the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicle's Defensive Driving School. I have the certificate to prove it (somewhere). I was born with a medical condition known as Lead Foot Syndrome, and so, as part of my rehabilitation, I found myself enrolled in this eight-hour Saturday class, filled with DUI recipients, career truck drivers, and little old speedy me. I got to watch "Blood on the Highway" and also learned (through some serious repetition) that "driving is a privilege and not a right."

Over the years, I've been told I look like Kristian Alfonso, the actress who plays Hope on Days of Our Lives (thank you, Big A Elementary School lunch lady), Monica Lewinsky, "the fat Dixie Chick" also known as Natalie Maines, Martina McBride, Rachel McAdams, and Wonder Woman. Based on my belief in big hair and accessorizing, I think I'll stick with Wonder Woman.

So, now you know a few more or less fascinating facts about yours truly. Clearly, there is more to tell, but in addition to not getting in the car with strangers, my mom also told me to always leave them wanting more. And you know she's always right.