Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Veteran's Day

     He is one of my heroes, for many reasons. Veteran's Day seems the perfect time to tell you about my uncle Maurice Holder, Lieutenant Colonel of Marines, Retired. He spent the early years of his military career in Vietnamand boy, does he have some stories to tell.
     He's a handsome devil:


     His caption for that photo is, ”Pull here Gunny, close this gap. This is going to leak, for sure.”
     He is also a witty devil.

     Reese entered the war in 1965 in the planning of an invasion called Operation Starlight. Here are his words:
     "Operation Starlight was a huge success. RLT-7 cleared an entire peninsula (the location of Chu Lai and Ky Ha) of Viet Cong, Viet Minh, North Vietnamese Army and anyone else in black PJs with an assault rifle, who collectively we called Charlie. Body count became a reportable issue, with over 1400 enemy KIA, and only a handful of US casualties.  Momentum in the war shifted.  The Marines had landed.
     I flew in on the glow of Starlight, in the belly of a C-130, with a radar van, a jeep, a six-by, two lieutenants and 25 enlisted Marines, and a loaded 45 on my hip.  We were followed by another C-130 that brought generators, a fiberglass bubble, radios and tents, cots, sleeping bags, and C-rations.  I was Officer-in-Charge of the advanced party of Marine Air Control Squadron-7.  (OIC-MACS-7 Adv).  It was finally sinking in, that I was now a combat commander.  I can’t relate the pride that I still feel, that my Corps had selected me to be at this place and time, and to have given me the opportunity to put it on the line, to be on the point, for my country.  I was a Captain of Marines, I was the Skipper, the absolute pinnacle of my career. This is what it’s all about!"


     Perhaps I have mentioned that I am proud of him.

     The rest of his Vietnam story is his to tell. He went on to have a very distinguished career in my favorite branch of the service.

Semper Fidelis.

     A man's country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers, and woods, but it is a principle and patriotism is loyalty to that principle.
- George William Curtis

     Thank you, Uncle Reese, and all the honorable men and women who have served this great nation.






Love from Delta.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

For 2011's Graduates . . .

. . . Amy Poehler's commencement address to Harvard's Class of 2011. Her remarks make me want to say, "Yeah, what she said." Good advice from a funny lady:






Love from Delta.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

There Goes Rhymin' Simon

A friend reminded me tonight of the music of Paul Simon, and how I've treasured it throughout my life. Here are some favorite videos . . .












And for all you 2011 graduates . . . 




Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Rick Bragg Speaks Southern




Words of wisdom from one of my favorite writers anywhere, anytime . . . ever.

Rick Bragg





Love from Delta.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Who Runs the World?

GIRLS.


Just ask Beyoncé.






"Boy you know you love it
How we're smart enough to make these millions
Strong enough to bear the children
Then get back to business"

She does have a way with words.









Love from Delta.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Highly Suggested Reading

     She scared the hell out of me.

     Joshilyn Jackson is a huge author and a brilliant human being. I had to sit across a table from her in Atlanta and have my fledgling work evaluated by Her Royal Writerness. My palms were sweaty. I had to remind myself to breathe. This was the woman who told her audience she was crazy and had downed a significant amount of Jack before summoning the courage to get her work published. She's pretty, she's on top of her game, and you want her to like you. To really, really like you.

     I never did figure out if she liked me . . . maybe not. I had the audacity to tell her later that day that I was not crazy about her debut novel, because I am freakishly offended by most portrayals of my home state in the media. On the other hand, I acknowledged that she's a wonderful writer, and I loved her other books.

     I tried to sit very still during our initial conversation as she remarked on the twenty page manuscript I'd submitted in advance. She said my opening chapter was one "vicious, hard edit" away from being something wonderful. My shriveled ego responded internally, "Huh? It's great as it is."

     She went on, "You can write. You can write like a house on fire." My ego perked back up and ran home to do just that.

     Thanks to Ms. Jackson, I found myself an editor and discovered I had more work to do. Fingers flew across my keyboard. Connections were established. Publishers were contacted. My writing career began to take shape.

      Whatever happens, I owe some of it to her. And I like her. I really, really like her.

     To book groups everywhere, including my own Well Read, Well Fed friends in Florida, I recommend Between, Georgia, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, and most especially Backseat Saints. It is her new novel featuring Rose Mae Lolly. (She first appeared in gods in Alabama, the one I occasionally gripe about.) Backseat Saints is fantastic. Here are some impartial reviews:

"Backseat Saints will pull you in and won't let you out until the last page. Raw, tangy and funny, it is an enthralling peek into the secret sorority of mistreated women. Follow the journey of one courageous, witty woman who decides, I'm not going to take this anymore. I love reading about smart, flawed and ultimately wise women, like Rose Mae. " (Kathryn Stockett, #1 New York Times bestselling author of THE HELP )

"The arrival of a Joshilyn Jackson novel feels like the first perfect day in a favorite season and BACKSEAT SAINTS is no exception." (Laura Lippman, author of LIFE SENTENCES )

"From the moment I began reading, I could not put this book down. Rose Mae is an enduring character with a fierce and unstoppable spirit. This is a beautifully written story about an important subject. Pass the word." (Brunonia Barry, New York Times bestselling author of THE LACE READER and THE MAP OF TRUE PLACES )

"A sizzling chunk of Southern Gothic." (The Altanta Journal-Constitution Gina Webb )

     This one is a must read, folks. Joshilyn Jackson is among the most talented authors gracing bestseller lists these days, and she does not disappoint.

     Not even one-on-one with terrified, trembling neophytes from Alabama.

     Read her books—she's fabulous. In person, too.






Love from Delta.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Riverdance, Anyone?



     Thank you to (one of my favorite authors) Alice Hoffman for sharing this cool video of the beautiful Ann Leary and her talented step-dancing horse. Ann looks pretty good at it, too . . . enjoy!





Love from Delta.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mommy Rhapsody

Thanks to Casey McClash for showing me one of my favorite videos ever . . .

Mommy Rhapsody from Church on the Move on Vimeo.

Haba haba, hujaza kibaba.

    

     That's Swahili for "It's the little steps in life that are going to make you happy." Seems like an excellent way to start a Monday morning to me. Watch this video by Stella Mwangi of the Norwegian and African hip hop scene (I did not make that up). It's pretty inspirational.














Love from Delta.

Friday, May 13, 2011

My Home's In Alabama


    

This song has always meant so much to me, never more than now. I continue to be heartened, touched and amazed at the outpouring of support for those affected by the devastating storms my home state recently experienced.

Gretchen Wilson contributed her talents to CMT's "Music Builds" fundraiser with "Angel From Montgomery".



Alabama's native son Hank Williams, Jr. did the same.



My son returns to life in Tuscaloosa tomorrow, and it's a city changed forever. Despite the hardship, there is a renewed sense of community there—people are reaching out to others all over. I will travel with him, and see the progress that's been made. I know this: he will be surrounded by people who care . . . Alabama is that kind of place.

Toomer's For Tuscaloosa - Your Brother's Burden Is Your Own
The Haves Helping the Have Nots on Facebook

Thank you to all who have helped and continue to help. God bless you all.




Love from Delta.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

myRomeo Designs


     Every once in awhile, you find a talented and crafty artist who deserves recognition. Reneé is one of them. I discovered her work on Etsy.com a few weeks ago and ordered one of her custom matchboxes. This is a person who pays attention to detail: she immediately asked exactly what colors and glitters and type of decorative pull knob I wanted. She wrote that she looked forward to making my little box. She charged me a bit less than three dollars for my purchase. 
     
     I was impressed.

     In addition to her cute matchboxes (suitable for party favors, pillboxes . . . whatever you can imagine), she fashions wonderful miniature baked goods. This is a woman after my own heart—I love tiny anythings, and Reneé has cupcakes, donuts, cakes and more. They are all adorable. Magnets can be affixed for your fridge. The possibilities are endless.

     She has the coolest notebooks/journals for about $8.50. How does this sound?

"Handmade notebooks are unique, made-from-scratch, hand-painted, embellished, sometimes recycled, one-of-a-kind pieces of art.

Notebooks created by myRomeo Designs can be used for a variety of things: original, custom designed & personalized journals, diaries, guest books, to-do lists, place-cards, decorative accents, wedding favors, party favors, stocking stuffers…

The item in this listing can be used as a sample to completely customize* your own handmade notebook(s) – any size, any design, any color, any detail, any embellishment, any occasion!!!

Please feel free to share your ideas or request a custom order* by contacting me."

     You should check her out. Tell her I sent you.







myRomeo Designs on Etsy.com






Love from Delta. 

 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Dear Monroeville, I love you.

  
      In January, I found my voice at an Atlanta Writers Club event (see House On Fire). On May 6th, I lost my voice at the Alabama Writers Symposium in Monroeville. Fortunately, I am speaking literally and not figuratively. By the end of the festivities, I was whispering to people through my laryngitis . . . but it was so worth it.

     Alabama's Literary Capital gets its nickname from the fact that this is the land of Truman Capote, Harper Lee, Mark Childress, and Cynthia Tucker. It is said that if you drink the water, you derive magical inspiration. I guzzled. (It helped the throat.)

  

     I arrived at the beginning of Friday's elegant luncheon. In my usual Lucy Ricardo style, I plunked down at a table and asked where the famous authors were in the room. I was sitting with Frye Gaillard, the writer in residence at the University of South Alabama, at the time . . . but I didn't know that until a few hours after I asked to trade my roll for his stuffed squash. Next to me was Joe, a very nice man who writes for the Andalusia Star News. Singer/songwriter Kathryn Scheldt was two seats over.

     Next time, I'll just seat myself delicately and ask someone to please pass the salt and pepper.

     After lunch, my scratchy throat was worsening. I decided I needed a nap back at the motel. That's when I met Portia, who became my surrogate daughter for the balance of my visit. She was working as a transportation specialist for the symposium through Alabama Southern College and hauled me around town, fussed over me, and even gave me a ticket to the sold-out annual performance of To Kill A Mockingbird. (This is Harper Lee's hometown, after all.) The play was very professionally done and featured an exceptional young actress as Scout. I was asked to make a guest appearance as a thirties era housewife riding in a mule drawn cart. My role was to look at Miss Maudie Atkinson standing on her porch and wave. I like to think I pulled it off with aplomb, but there are no photographs in existence. I enjoyed my one minute of fame (that's what the mule cart driver called it).

     If you know me at all, you may be beginning to sense why I adored the people of Monroeville. Everywhere I went I encountered friendly, charming, thoroughly Southern men and women who welcomed me to their town. I was surrounded by brilliant writers, and only wish my voice had been a bit less raspy. It was darned hard to talk as much as I'm inclined to.

     Roy Hoffman and Sena Jeter Naslund were particularly interesting to listen toI have to read their books now. I arrived too late to hear Joshilyn Jackson, but talked to enough who attended her presentation to know she was in her usual rare form. I also missed the session with Harper Lee Award winner Winston Groom. Darned sore throat.

     We concluded with a tasty champagne brunch at the Monroeville Community House featuring Sonny Brewer. I've been a fan of Sonny's ever since meeting him in Atlanta last year. He autographed my new copy of Don't Quit Your Day Job, and I can't wait to read it. (Note to my Bradenton friends: Sonny Brewer is an excellent candidate for the annual Library Foundation luncheon. I promise he would be witty and keep people awake.)

Here are some scenes from my trip:

    Only in Monroeville . . . this is in the excellent Beehive Coffee & Books.


     Thank you to Portia and all the other fine folks in Monroeville. I had a great time.







Love from Delta.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ohatchee

  


     This lovely lady is Jill Fendley. She is volunteering her eighteen-hour days to coordinate tornado relief efforts for the community of Ohatchee, Alabama. She has enthusiasm, intelligence, energy and motivationshe cares about people, and her people are in need of help. They are living in tents. Basic needs like food, water and underwear are pressing. Things are pretty hectic at the Red Cross shelter at Ten Island Missionary Baptist Church. 

     Jason and I visited there today with a massive amount of food and drinks, courtesy of the Delta Community Club. It was a rainy, cool afternoon, but cars filed in one after another as folks unloaded donations of their own possessions as well as store-bought goods.

     It did my heart good to meet the women and men who are spending their days and nights helping their neighbors. 



     Someone sent fifty cases of dark chocolate Premium M&M's. Now that's comfort food.
   
     Ohatchee is one of countless towns across the South rebuilding after last week's storms. It's in good hands, and we all appreciate the countless hours our fellow Alabamians are devoting to creating a better tomorrow.

     Here's a song I want to share with them from tonight's Glee episode. It speaks to all of us.









Love from Delta.