Tag Archives: Atlanta

Cry Havoc and Let Slip One Inch of Snow

1781958_10202268250500702_631927003_nIt’s a Snowmaggedon here in Georgia.  Tuesday, as I made my way to Kroger for essentials (cocoa mix, milk, cheese, wine, toilet paper, apples, marshmallows), I laughed to see that there was only ONE cart left in the giant corral of carts by the entrance.  One.  But you better believe I hopped on it like a duck on a bug.  Winter weather in Georgia is cause for panic.  The mood of the day put me in mind of that line from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” where Antony worries that Caesar’s pissed off ghost will “cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.”  In ancient times, “Havoc” was a military command that basically gave the troops permission to pillage, murder and sack.  So when the commander cried HAVOC…things ended up looking much like the bread aisle at Kroger.

I have friends from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado, Maine, Illinois–all of whom roll their eyes at us Southerners when we panic at the first sign of snow.  Yes, WE GET IT.  You have seen more snow in your lifetime.  You don’t understand what all the fuss is about.  In your book, this is NOTHING.  They would NEVER close schools back where you’re from.  Good for you.

For those of you who have grown jaded to snow, here’s a little insight into a snow day in Georgia:

  • As long as you get to choose when to be out in it, we still think snow is FUN.  It makes the dogs all giddy.  It even glosses over the piles of dog crap in the backyard.  It’s so unusual that it makes our kids all hyped up, like your kids would be if they suddenly got a pleasant day–sunny and 65–in the middle of January.  We get sunny and 65 all the time and it doesn’t freak us out.  We don’t rush to the store for sunscreen and margarita mix like y’all do.  
  • joySnow means “play” for young and old.  I spent $60 on sleds from the Army Surplus store this morning and my boss–who grew up in Indiana then Colorado–said, “YOU CAN’T SLED IN ONE INCH OF SNOW!”  Um, yeah–you can.  My kids would sled in the ice maker if I would let them give it a try.  We have a steep hill in the backyard coated in a bunch of crunchy grass and a thin skin of snow.  We. Are. Sledding.  I don’t care if it’s on an old shower curtain liner, a trash can lid or a fancy sled that will dry rot in the garage before we have a chance to use it again.
  • Yes, lots of snow is better for snowy activities, but we are snow beggers and cannot be snow choosers.  I have been snowboarding in Utah on two feet of fresh powder and it was delightful.  I have skied down the Stubaier Glacier in Innsbruck, Austria (in a very pokey fashion) and it was ripping fantastic (once I found a pocket of oxygen).  But an inch of snow can be a treasured childhood memory if it only happens once or twice in your life.  I still remember the week we were out of school in 1982 or 1983 due to snow.  Our house was the only one in town with a wood burning stove for heat and a gas stove for cooking.  Someone found an old sled at the antique dealer’s house.  My mom made real cocoa in a pan on the wood stove.  Our Irish Setter played until his coat was matted with icicles.  I’ll never forget that week because it not very often that we have an excuse to stop what we’re supposed to be doing and play.  
  • OK, we do talk about snow incessantly if there is any threat of a flake falling.  It is the only topic of conversation, whether the conversation be with a stranger, your coworkers, or the weatherman on the television set as we beg, “Please please please say it’s going to happen!”  Again, we talk about snow because it is exceptional for us (the same way transplants to the South talk about gnats and humidity and the fat content of mayonnaise–things we got over long ago).
  • chickenGo ahead and make the jokes about how we run to the grocery store for milk and bread.  Things can get dicey here pretty quickly when the roads freeze up, the power lines start snapping and the trucks can’t keep up.  We lost power for two days when Vivi was a toddler and it scared the crap out of me.  My brother got stuck in that epic traffic jam in Atlanta tonight–almost 10 hours to go from Buckhead to Marrietta (10-15 miles).  But guess what?  He made it OK because he had an 8 piece pack of chicken in his truck.   He had the good sense to stop by the grocery store first!

So y’all go on and roll your eyes if you must while we Southerners dash around with our mismatched mittens, insufficient footwear, and complete lack of black ice driving maneuvers.  I will be over here on my shiny new sled, just like it’s Christmas morning.  Or I will be in the E.R. with a head wound and some fried chicken in my purse.  

The Smile on His Mama’s Face

baby MLK

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has compiled 30 photographs from the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  I learned so much from them that I thought I would share the link with you today.  Click here to view the gallery.  As a picture is worth a thousand words, this gallery left me speechless.  

Dr. King died before I was born, so I’ve only ever known about his life along with the knowledge of his end–that’s why that smiling laughing picture on the balcony in Memphis is so heartbreaking to me.  We can’t look at it these days without also hearing the sound of the gun cracking.  It’s hard to see a moment for what it is, when we know how it all worked out.  Some of these pictures took me back to see the joy of his life.  The hard work that was worth it.  The delight in living.  The great well of love that drives courage.  Before today, I had never seen the smile on his mama’s face.  

“…give only the excess after you have lived your own life…”

2mitchell_youngTo tie together last week’s thoughts on hand-written letters to my daughter and this week’s thoughts on parenting, here’s a gem of a letter from a mother to a daughter…

In January of 1919, Margaret Mitchell was away at Smith College when her mother fell ill with the deadly Spanish Influenza that was sweeping the globe. Margaret rushed home to Atlanta from New York. Her brother met her at the train station with the sad news–their mother had died the day before. As they made their way home, he gave Margaret the following letter that their mother had left for her.  

January 23, 1919

Dear Margaret,

I have been thinking of you all day long. Yesterday you received a letter saying I am sick. I expect your father drew the situation with a strong hand and dark colors and I hope I am not as sick as he thought. I have pneumonia in one lung and were it not for flu complications, I would have had more than a fair chance of recovery. But Mrs. Riley had pneumonia in both lungs and is now well and strong. We shall hope for the best but remember, dear, that if I go now it is the best time for me to go.

I should have liked a few more years of life, but if I had had those it may have been that I should have lived too long. Waste no sympathy on me. However little it seems to you I got out of life, I have held in my hands all that the world can give. I have had a happy childhood and married the man I wanted. I had children who loved me, as I have loved them. I have been able to give what will put them on the high road to mental, moral, and perhaps financial success, were I going to give them nothing else.

I expect to see you again, but if I do not I must warn you of one mistake a woman of your temperament might fall into. Give of yourself with both hands and overflowing heart, but give only the excess after you have lived your own life. This is badly put. What I mean is that your life and energies belong first to yourself, your husband and your children. Anything left over after you have served these, give and give generously, but be sure there is no stinting of attention at home. Your father loves you dearly, but do not let the thought of being with him keep you from marrying if you wish to do so. He has lived his life; live yours as best you can. Both of my children have loved me so much that there is no need to dwell on it. You have done all you can for me and have given me the greatest love that children can give to parents. Care for your father when he is old, as I cared for my mother. But never let his or anyone else’s life interfere with your real life. Goodbye, darling, and if you see me no more then it may be best that you remember me as I was in New York.

Your Loving Mother

If You Walk Out of Your Panties…

Yesterday, I shared with you some sage advice about fools from my father’s side of the family.  Today, let’s turn to my mother’s side of the family.  I’d like to share a nugget of advice that my Grandmama Irene told me 30 years ago that I have never forgotten:

“If you ever walk out of your panties, just keep walking.”


“Come again?” you might ask, as you clutch your pearls and lean in across your chicken salad plate.  Honey, you heard me.  I don’t stutter and your ears don’t flap.  If you ever walk out of your panties, just keep walking.

Grandmama Irene is 94 and has amassed a wealth of great advice over her years.  I think of her whenever I make a big breakfast because she always said, “Breakfast is the hardest meal of the day to get everything hot at the right time.”  Or when I’m cooking a big meal–“Wash pots as you go along and you won’t have such a mess when you’re finished.”  If it’s too humid, I don’t make divinity candy because she taught me that candy just won’t set if there’s too much moisture in the air.  (Well, to be honest, I’ve never made divinity because it’s too damn hard, but I know to BLAME IT  on the humidity.)  On budgetary matters, I hear Grandmama saying, “Pay your bills THEN buy your groceries.”  She’s right–you can always eat beans if the power bill was high that month.

But no advice compares to the jewel in the crown:  If you ever walk out of your panties, just keep walking.  I think I love this piece of advice so much because it came out of the clear blue.  It’s not like I was walking along with Grandmama Irene when my panties tangled up around my feet and she saved the day with sage advice.  Nope.  We were just puttering around the kitchen, probably cleaning up after a holiday meal, when she grabbed my wrist and said with a great sense of urgency, “Oh!  Ashley!  If you ever walk out of your panties (finger pointing for emphasis), just.keep.walking.”

She was born in 1918, in an age when elastic was…less dependable.  Now, I’m not one to reveal specifics about how this life lesson was learned, but back in the 1940’s on a lovely summer day, a lady might have found herself walking in downtown Atlanta, right past Rich’s department store, when her elastic decided to head south.  Should one find oneself on a sidewalk in a metropolitan area when one detects a certain “breeziness” in her skirt, one must NOT attempt to retrieve said underthings.  LET THEM GO.  Keep walking.  To quote a more modern sage, Obi-wan Kenobi:  “Those are not the panties you are looking for.”  Once they head south, they are no longer your panties and you will compromise your dignity if you stoop to pick them up.  They are feral panties at that point and belong to the street.

Keep Moving!  Nothing to see here!

Keep Moving! Nothing to see here!

Why do I share this advice with you today?  Because as I was walking through the parking lot at work this morning, I see a bright pink pair of cotton panties lying right there on the asphalt.  

Someone’s mama has raised her right.  I bet you a dollar those panties are still there at 5pm today.  

If you’re thinking, “That’s good advice, but it’s never going to apply to me.”  Maybe not, but let’s take it from the specific panty-dropping probability and take a more metaphorical perspective.  Just think of the life situations where this applies!

  • Do you have a cheating husband?  Girl, he has walked out of your panties, so just keep walking.
  • Have you been eating right and exercising?  Hey!  You walked out of your panties!  Keep walking!
  • Are you breaking free of the bonds of appropriateness and embracing authenticity?  Sister, it’s time to walk out of those panties.
  • Is it time to leave the past behind?  Walk out of your panties and keeeeeeeep walking.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a Grandmama Irene, so PLEASE share this advice with everyone you know!  Keep it breezy!


gi and vivi

P.S.  Some of you have asked for a photo of Grandmama Irene herself.  Here she is at Vivi’s first birthday luau, talking about cake.  She has been famous for her homemade cakes for half a century!