Monday, January 31, 2011

The "You Don't Know Hot" Conundrum

The South is an awesome place to live, but its weather is not for sissies. 

Granted, any place you live has its perils and I guess it all boils down to the circumstances a person can tolerate.  The North is frozen solid much of the time with the promise of only a day or two of sunshine and I have even heard the term "heat wave" used in connection with temperatures at fifty or sixty degrees.  California can only handle sunshine and seventy degrees--one drop of water and the whole state will slide into the Pacific Ocean.  The tropics harbor the threat of malaria, but I still think I would be willing to tough it out in Aruba for the Greater Good.   

I'm not saying that other areas of the world don't know about hot.  One hundred eleven degrees in Las Vegas isn't fun.  I know because I've been there in July and--yes--I am crazy.  The second a person steps out into the weather, the air hits you like you opened an oven on the broil setting.  It singes your nose hairs. 

Once I went to visit my Aunt and Uncle in Texas during what was purportedly a heat wave.  Everyone was freaking out and cancelling outdoor activities and I vividly recall standing outside in the in the full brunt of the sunshine wondering what n the hell was wrong with Texans.  I could have played a game of tennis and not even broken a sweat--

--and then it hit me--

Humidity.  During Southern summers, there's absolutely no point in drying yourself off after a shower, getting out of a pool or emerging from the ocean because, in the very next millisecond, you will be sopping wet regardless of what you do.  As one of my grandmothers would say:  You could cut the air with a knife and/or it's as think as pea soup.  Of course, I've never tried pea soup, but I can tell you that the air is as thick as Brunswick Stew. 

If I go to hell when I die, there is a very good chance that I will spend eternity in a District Courtroom in the middle of the summer.  I just love (sarcasmsarcasmsarcasm) trooping down to court on bright and shiny summer mornings.  For starters, who exactly is going feel reassured if their attorney is sweating like a pig?  To tell the truth,  I could hitch a ride, but the humidity is so powerful that I would still break a sweat in the short walk from the car through the door of the courthouse.

The courthouse is packed with...well, I won't go so far as to say "the unwashed masses," but they are funky smelling masses nonetheless.  Ah yes, the days when the courtrooms are filled to capacity, the air conditioner is wheezing to keep up and the poor polyester and Kevlar clad bailiffs would very understandably rather launch a pepper spray assault than tell one more soul to get back behind the bar.  The clerks are wilting in their seats and the ADA's are fit to kill as a seemingly endless line of defense attorneys wait their turn to argue almost identical "special circumstances" for each and every client.  I wouldn't even blame the judge if a pair of Duckhead shorts were worn under the cloying black robe--I know that I would do it in a heartbeat if I had the chance. 

I've employed the phrase before, but the atmosphere is really only a crate of live chickens and a mule away from a bus terminal in New Dehli.

What I really love is when folks come to out part of the world talking the big talk.  When I was in high school, I spent a very unpleasant couple of weeks at the Duke University Tennis Camp.  I didn't relish being on enemy territory, but I really really didn't love the fact that the dorms we were assigned to didn't have air conditioning in the middle of July.

On the day of registration, we met a girl named Emily.  Emily was from New Mexico.  A group of us were commiserating over the lack of air conditioning and how that particular little tidbit of information was withheld from us when we signed up.  Emily actually snorted at us and did the patented, "You don't know hot!  I live in the desert where it's 115 in the shade!  This is nothing!"

We all just kind smiled and nodded in an attempt to humor the crazy person.

After a long, sweltering night without even a breeze to give us occasional relief, we started our long day at breakfast where Emily declared that she was too hot to eat.  After the Frosted Flakes, we reported to the tennis courts where we were expected to warm up (ha) with a thirty minute run.  We started off and I did a "power trot" because of my steadfast aversion to running.  (If you ever see me running, that means that there is an axe murderer behind me and you would do well to get on down the road yourself.)

About halfway through, I came upon Emily doubled over at the side of the path.  I stopped to make sure that I didn't have to Rescue 911 her or anything.  She was sopping wet and she was having trouble getting the words out through panting, but I was able to catch "crazy," "hell on earth" and "you people" and that was more than enough to get the general idea. 

Ever the gracious hostess, I accompanied her back to her dorm room where she packed and I called her a cab.  I told her that I would let the coaches know and she smiled and hugged me (still sweaty!  gross!!) as her yellow chariot whisked her to the RDU Days Inn where she caught a flight back to "chilly" New Mexico the next morning. 

Yes, we'll chalk the tale of dear Emily as one more for the annals of "They Ain't From Around Here."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

German Shepherd Bait

Oh Lord.  I really hate to do this, but I don't think I can stop myself.  I fully realize that this rant is going to make me sound like a repetitive harpie-esque fogey-ish person, but I just saw this gaggle of young punks walk past my window and I




I know that there is absolutely zero point in wondering what in the world the parents of these children are thinking.  I know for a fact that I don't have the stomach to look into those mostly empty heads for the few dim sparks of thought that flit around  here and there.  I should probably just be satisfied with the fact that the children at least have clothes...ill fitting and inappropriate as they may be.

The girls wear as little as humanly possible to cover themselves and the boys wear so much that they look like they were full grown men suddenly shrunk by a genie or a laser beam or something.  The jeans I see these days are so low that there isn't even a point to wearing them.  One of the members of the perky little team that just went down the sidewalk had on jeans with the waist around his knees.  He was walking like a penguin.  If you're that proud of your underwear, just wear them on top of your jeans.

Okay, we all know that I am a criminal defense attorney and the first thing that pops into my head is more than likely is not the first thing a normal person thinks about, but how in the hell do you expect to run from the police?  Even the most out of shape police officer could finish his sandwich and still catch you before you even made it a whole block.  Even if you still managed to elude him for more than a block, there's more than enough fabric flapping off of you for him to would be like a game of toddler flag football or chasing Princess Diana in her 25 foot wedding train.

Another thing that blows what is left of my mind is the number of children well under the age of consent sporting tattoos.  In the "weird lawyer thinking" category, why do you want to put something permanently on your person that makes you so identifiable?  "Yes officer, it was the young man with the pot leaf beauty mark on his cheek."  Also--fair warning--when I am sitting in a nursing home and gumming my day's ration of tapioca pudding and a nurse wheels in your 85 year-old ass sporting a "Ladies Playa Club" tattoo on your forearm, I will laugh hard enough to snort pudding on your person. 

Ya'll have to trust me when I tell you that these ensembles don't work for you.  Like every good lawyer, I have case law to back me up:  There once was a young man who thought it was super cool to prance around wearing his jeans with the waist at about mid-thigh level.  He also thought it was very edgy to give a nod to the Run DMC years and wear his ginormous white sneakers without laces. 

Our fair lad was walking to school one day in his literal big boy clothes and, like every other day, he passed the yard that held Sprite the German Shepherd.  Sprite was very protective over his territory, but it wasn't usually too big of a problem in that Sprite was contained by an invisible fence.  Unbeknownst to our hapless hero, the electric fence that protected him from Sprite wasn't working right that minute as the result of a power outage.  Accordingly, when Sir Baggy Pants walked in front of Sprite's yard...oh, it was Christmas come early!

Once our victim realized the true extent of his danger, he immediately pivoted on his foot to run the other way, but--seeing as his shoes weren't laced and thus purely for ornament--they came off.  It was all downhill from there.  He might could have made it if he only lost his shoes, but the second he tried to take an appreciable step to start running, his thigh wasted pants took him right down to the ground.  It was the easiest dog attack you ever saw.  As discussed hereinabove, the piles of cloth on his person made it quite easy for Sprite to grab anywhere he wanted to, but the dog was a traditionalist, so he chose to take a good hold in the seat of the pants. 

Well, our young man tried to hang in there, but Sprite was deeply invested in thrashing his prey around, so the boy felt that he had no other alternative but to come out of the pants and hit the road.  Fortunately, Sprite was content to stick with snacking on the pants, so The Streak was able to go and get assistance--albeit in his Underoos. 

Unfortunately for our hapless victim, the police officer who arrived at the scene was a bit of a traditionalist as well.  The officer took one look at the dog, one look at the boy's clothes and cited the boy for indecent exposure while Sprite was free to go merrily about his day.

Yep, there's more to dressing well to look better.  It might just save your buns.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Other Trinity

From the time they can walk and talk, every little Southern girl dreams about her big day.  She'll wear a beautiful, flowing and fluffy dress...ooh and maybe even white gloves!  Her hair will be done up in curls and her shoes will sparkle magically as she walks on air.  She will be serene and graceful and dripping [tastefully] in jewelry.  Her audience Will.  Be.  In.  Awe.

Ah yes...the day she gets to pick out her china, crystal and silverware patterns.

Oh, don't get me wrong--Princess Belle will still dream of Prince Charming waiting at the end of the aisle, blinding tiaras and golden coaches being pulled by unicorns.  We're still frilly little girls, but we're frilly Southern girls and that means we know how to prioritize.

Right after we learn to say, please, thank you, ma'am and sir, we are taught that you do not touch touch Mama's good china unless you have express permission to set the Thanksgiving table.  The only possible exception would apply in the very rare instance of the house being on fire or blown away in a hurricane where you are the only hope of salvation (and even then, you need to think long and hard on the matter).

When I was little and a wedding rolled around, Mom would haul us all to Belk so that she could get a wedding present for the happy couple.  Back in the day, every bride was registered at Belk—it wasn’t even a question.  As I think on it now, I find myself wondering what would have happened back then if a bride pulled a stunner and didn't register at Belk.  The world might very well have stopped turning.

I realize that a non-optional errand of that nature could easily spell boredom to the elementary school crowd.  Trust me, when I spent a couple of summers working in that very department, I confess to getting the hives from the games of tag played by bored children among the shelves and stands displaying their delicate wares. 

Regardless, when I was a wee little Belle, I had a fine time wandering around and looking at all of the beautiful china, crystal and silver.  Of course, my tastes changed over the years.  In the early days, I was drawn to what I can only describe as circus china (the more color the better) and crystal cut so much that it would blind a person if it caught a ray of sunlight.  Snazzy!  (Of course, I also thought that George Michael was the hottest manly man to ever prance across the MTV screen...we all eventually grow out of the illusions of our youth.)  After I was about ten years old, I could immediately tell the name of the silver pattern and its manufacturer and my taste never changed on that front—I knew exactly what I wanted. 

So, how seriously does a Southern Belle take her good table service?  Let me tell you the story of two Belles:

Belle S and Belle B have known each other forever.  Their families are so close that they think of each other more as relatives than friends.  After a get together many years ago, Belle B discovered that Belle S always counted her silver when putting it up after use.  The practice was more of a habit than anything else, but Belle B found it terribly amusing that "they couldn't be trusted" and it became a great source of family humor and dinnertime conversation for years to come.

As time passed and the children grew up and went to college,  Belle S and Belle B’s families still got together whenever possible.  This new phase of their lives brought visiting college friends to the table where old stories were told and new stories were made.

Of course, “The Silver Story” was told one night during a dinner at Belle B’s house.  Belle S’s son brought a friend home from school have to understand...he was from Arizona.  Arizonians aren’t very familiar with our ways.

While the cheeky lad listened to the story with amusement, the seed of a more sinister idea sprouted to life in his head.  Everyone was talking and eating and paying little attention to anything else, so the little scamp grabbed one of Belle B’s good silver forks and slipped it into Belle S’s purse.

When the dinner party was long over and all of the kids returned to the colleges from whence they came, Belle S found herself digging around in her purse and felt something...odd.  She pulled it out and I doubt that anyone could properly covey the horror that ran over her from head to toe but, trust me, it was H-O-R-R-O-R when that pretty silver fork twinkled in the light.  Never being one to turn tail and run at a time of trouble, Belle S took a fortifying breath and made The Phone Call.

All was well and laughter occurred and the Legend of the Silver Service received another chapter in its already lively history.   Of course we jest, but there was a real and present danger in that Belle B once called the police with regard to her missing silver only to find out later that a well meaning friend helping clean up put it in the wrong place.

No, Southern Belles do not mess around with the “other” trinity:  China, silver and crystal.

(***I would like to add the caveat that I may not have told the story exactly right, but just think of it as the names being changed to protect the guilty.)

You Are Either Queen of the Jello Molds or a Minion

The South isn't unique when it comes to basing the majority of our social gatherings around food.  We eat food when we are happy at Christmas, we eat food when we are sad at funerals and we eat food everywhere in between.  Nothing else will cause us to get off the couch, out of church, home from work or off the beach faster than the promise of food.  The more kinds of food, the better.  That brings us around to the topic of potluck dinners.

Contrary to popular belief, potluck dinners tend to turn out better when they aren't organized.  I suppose that a hapless "Head of the Committee" type who tends to helm shindigs such as potlucks could try to achieve some sort of order by declaring a theme or assigning different dishes to people, but they will more than likely end up repeatedly banging their head against a wall. 

The main reason for the above referenced futility is that everyone has "a dish."  Mabel is famous for her hash brown casserole and, not wanting to disappoint her real or imaginary fans, Mabel always takes her hash brown casserole to dinners.  Always.  You can sign her up to bring a 7 layer salad until hell freezes over and she will still bring her casserole, thank you very much.   

Yes, even the most carefully and diligently planned suppers tend to sport potatoes made about 23 different ways, 485 deviled eggs, salads containing every shape of pasta known to man, some kind of mystery shit that is an un natural color and appears to have marshmallows in it, 15 different congealed salads, a pure tee massacre of fried chickens, several trays of ham and biscuits and for the health/fiber conscious:  One pot of green beans or butter beans swimming around in enough lard to launch a ship from shore.

Not unlike funeral grub, potlucks can spawn some fierce competition.  Every Southern Belle strives for perfection and some Belles are a little more...zealous...than others.  I am sorry to say that, from time to time, I have witnessed some very un-Belle behavior in the sisterhood.

The first method of Potluck Combat is probably the most obvious:  Table control.  Sure, a Belle is certainly welcome to drop off her her cucumber sandwiches and go off to mingle and be sociable, but she's more than likely "not from around here" if she does.  If said Belle was "from around here," she would know that--if she wants anyone to taste her cucumber goodies--she needs to keep a hawk eye on the self appointed head of the kitchen:  Gladys.

The plan is diabolical in its simplicity.  Someone has to make sure that everything runs smoothly at the grazing trough.  Heaven forfend that there aren't enough napkins and spoons!  (Sigh.  Back of the hand to the forehead)  Gladys will throw herself in front of the bus/take one for the team and subject herself to the kitchen while everyone else gets to go off and have fun.  St. Gladys of the Jello Molds. 

If Gladys is really aggressive in her Queen of the Kitchen status, she will commando raid a Belle before the poor thing can even make it halfway to the kitchen.  Gladys will take the Belle's covered dish from her and fly back to the kitchen where it may or may not make it to the table.  Depending on how another's food competes with or compares to Gladys' recipe, food will either make it to the table, experience a brief five minutes of exposure on the table (just long enough to say it was out) or will never see the light of day.

Of course, there are more subversive ways to operate within the potluck web.  Someone could always have an "accident" and drop the tray while scurrying to and fro, but I need to give you one critical caveat with regard to this method:  Food "accidents" only happen in non-breakable containers.  The tin or aluminum trays that are purchased for one-time use (or washed and pressed into service yet again) are easily sacrified to the tile floor, but if you drop Pyrex, Corningware, Tupperware or the belated Grandma Milton's best casserole dish, I can assure you that said "accident" will be your very last act upon this earth.

On occassion, a Southern Belle comes along who is so gifted at recon and subversion that she has the ability to delegate to minions.  Control Belle is dying to know how her cheese noodle casserole holds up against the one Edna Collins brought, but it would be a cold day in hell before she's caught actually nipping a little spoonful.

Accordingly, Control Belle's husband is snatched from the corner and pressed into service by walking innocently around the potluck table, spooning little bits and bites onto his plate under the watchful eye of his wife.  Theoretically, Husband tastes the food and reports to his wife, but I would argue to you that a husband required to do that sort of work would never report to his wife that anything, anything tastes better than his own wife's food.  She knows where he sleeps.

My take on the situation is that, if someone wants to do all of the work--regardless of whether or not it is for their own purpose--I'm certainly not going to stand in the way.  Besides, seeing as I hate mayonnaise and bacon and--as those items are a major components of Southern food groups--I already know that folks aren't going to be crawling all over themselves to get to what I brought anyway.  So, knock yourself out, Gladys.  Please.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Nekkid Neighbors: A Must for the Season

Well, boys and belles, I am going to have to disabuse a stereotype today.  Sometimes us Southerners aren't really all that neighborly. 

Take a moment to compose yourselves.  I understand.  It's quite a shock.

I know when I close my eyes and think of a Southern neighborhood, warm and fuzzy black and white images come to mind of kids riding bikes, dogs barking playfully and neighbors smiling and greeting each other as they work in the yard or go out and get the paper.  Folks don't have to lock their doors and the neighbors look out for each other.  Ms. Edith even shares her world famous peach cobbler when the first good batch of peaches comes out in the summer.  Just turn on the Andy Griffith Show some and you'll see what I mean.

The funny thing is that it's kind of hard to attain and retain such an idyllic image when you place it up against another little Southern tidbit that is, quite frankly, much more accurate:  Southerners are some peculiar people.  Peculiar people often don't make the best neighbors. 

When Scott and I got married, we rented a house in a nice, but no frills, neighborhood.  There was a family with teenage children living in the house right next to us.  Normally, I wouldn't have a problem with teenagers, but the parents worked at night and you know that is a dangerous equation.  The kids' absolute favorite thing to do was to sit in the carport in the middle of the night and smoke pot.  Of course, the carport was the closest point to our house and the kids would run and hide their stash up under our bushes when a car would come by.

As fun as the little pot smokers were, when we moved to Smithfield, that's when thing got...super quirky.  Before we moved, I already had a little itty bitty clue as to what we might face.  At the time, our dear friends had been living up in Smithfield for about three years.  When Scot and I went to visit them, that is how we met Nekkid Wayne. 

Nekkid Wayne lived directly left of our friend's house, but luckily the lots were large and there was a good distance between the houses.  The distance was a good thing because I never once saw Nekkid Wayne with a shirt on. Wayne was a middle aged fella with a mullet and the beginnings of a seriously impressive beer belly.  Rain, sleet, snow or hail, Nekkid Wayne would stroll around his garden in nothing but a pair of umbros.  He was a real gardening enthusiast.

So, we moved to "downtown" Smithfield and, like most historic districts, the houses were rather uncomfortably close together.  We sort of shared a driveway with Jim, the confirmed bachelor who lived next door to us.  Of course, when I say "share" I mean that he stole our gravel and pretty much took up the majority of the driveway with a bright yellow half dismantled boat called the Banana Boat.  I would lie in my bed at night and dream up ways to get that horrible thing out of the driveway.  I wasn't above sneaking out into the night and torching the thing, but I preferred the less strenuous method of paying someone to steal it.

Scott and I weren't thrilled with our neighbor, but I was stressed and focused on surviving law school and Scott had a daily two hour commute and we just didn't have the time to waste on the situation...until December of 1999.  Second year fall exams are notoriously rough and the evidence professor was giving a study lecture.  As usual when I am completely freaked out and in a hurry (a condition that seems to occur far too frequently) I left the house and locked my keys inside.

I was screwed.  Scott worked way to far away to help me out and--of course--we had no hideout key.  The house we lived in was very, very old and--as a result of settling--one of the front windows at the porch didn't close well enough to lock it properly.  Yep, the funky window was my ticket.  All I had to do was get the storm screen off and I could get right back inside.  I scurried around, getting a screwdriver and a ladder and whatever else I needed and--believe me--it took more than one trip to the back shed to get everything.  It was during one of those trips that I noticed Jim.

Jim was standing at his kitchen window and he had apparently been watching my little Vaudeville act from its inception.  Why didn't he do what every Southern gentleman properly raised by his mama should do at the first signs of female distress?  Truth be told, I didn't particularly want him to help because he was buck nekkid.  Not a stitch on.  Just standing there in his birthday suit and drinking his coffee.  Good times.

So the Councils got to have their own special Smithfield neighbor:  Nekkid Jim.  It wasn't too long after "the unveiling" when Nekkid Jim had the Banana Boat towed off.  There was much rejoicing throughout the land, but--alas--our joy was short lived.  We woke up one morning and saw a brand new boat in the driveway.  The boat was very nice and I would have been ok except for the fact that the boat's name was printed in large letters which were quite visible from both our kitchen and our dining room.  Those letters read "M*ff Diver."  (Feel free to insert the "u' yourself, but I simply can't do it.)

I will never forget Scott Council standing in our kitchen pointing and yelling, "WHAT THE HELL?  I CAN'T EVEN HAVE MY MAMA OVER HERE FOR LUNCH!  (Feel free to employ colorful cuss words liberally throughout that statement.)  "IS THE MAN ON CRACK???"

So, when the dust from our screeching car tires settled in Smithfield as we headed home to Wilmington, I can only hope that some of our stolen gravel hit that tacky-assed boat.

I do have to say that we've been lucky with neighbors since we left nekkid Jim, but the attorney handling my closing for our current house still managed to nearly give me a heart attack.  He called and told me that he had finished doing the title search for the property and there was a problem:  "Ash, I didn't realize this before it was too late, but you have lawyers living on either side of you.  If there isn't a zoning ordinance prohibiting three lawyers in a row in a neighborhood, well...there should be."

Amen to that.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

If Your Lawyer is in an Orange Jump Suit, You Might Have a Problem...

I went to Hell for three years.  Hell was disguised as the Campbell University School of Law and it was located in what can only be described as the armpit of Hell:  Buies Creek, North Carolina. 

Leave it to me to go to the only law school in our great State that continued to practice the Socratic Method of education. The Socratic Method really just boils down to being required stand in class by the sadistic professor where--for an hour--he questions you about completely tangential facts on one of the five hundred cases you were required to read the night before.  If a student isn't completely humiliated and confused by the end of the hour...well, the professor hadn't done his job.

I essentially missed out on three years of Thanksgiving because the rat bastard ass clowns at the school thought it would be really kicky to commence exams on the Saturday immediately following Thanksgiving Day.  I spent the majority of my Christmas Breaks sound asleep and/or in a coma for pushing my body and mind beyond the limits of what it could reasonably endure. 

We won't even talk about studying for the Bar Exam.

One would be well within their rights to question the sanity of a person who voluntary subjected themselves to the above.  As a matter of fact, I question my sanity daily and sometimes more than once a day.

Okay, so where in the great wide world are you going with this, Ashley?  Well, boys and belles, I want to give you a glimpse into my mindset when a client starts quoting a jailhouse lawyer to me.

Jailhouse lawyers.  Inmates and other Defendants who have been in the system so long that they think they have it licked.  They always give the appearance of being self-assured and relaxed...of course I would immediately question why an incarcerated person would look so at ease among the bars, pepper spray, jumpsuits, plastic flip-flops and gnarly peanut butter sandwiches.  I don't think I want somebody that used to the system giving me advice on how to get out, but it wouldn't be the first time I was accused of being picky.

True story:  During one of his many jail guest appearances, a habitual drunk driver takes a suggestion from an even more habitual drunk driver to keep a tin of sardines in his car at all times.  If the driver is pulled, the driver needs to shove as many of the nasty little things in his mouth as he can.  I can't say I was surprised to learn that the introduction of anchovies to a pickled stomach causes severe and immediate vomiting and, of course, barfing poses a problem for the Breathalyzer test. 

Okay, yeah, throwing up does pose a problem for a breath test, but I can assure you that throwing up tequila and sardines on a law enforcement officer poses a much more dire problem.  Futhermore, Genius Jones knowingly signed consent for a blood alcohol test, so it was pretty much all for naught no matter how you looked at it.

Ah, and let's not forget one of my favorite return customers of all time.  The Defendant was walking down the street when he finds a wallet on the ground.  Holy cats!  The wallet is full of money and credit cards!  What to do, what to do?  He did the only thing that made sense:  He spent the cash at Pure Gold and ran the credit cards to the limit and then turned in the wallet into the police as a concerned citizen. 

The aforementioned Defendant apparently had the Robert Shapiro of jailhouse lawyers.  They would both call me (collect from jail) daily expressing their dismay as to why I wasn't able to achieve a bond reduction for my client, particularly when my client was being a good citizen by returning [some] of the property..  Perhaps it was because of my client's well-documented tendency to leave the State when pending criminal charges became too much for him--but I'm just spitballing here...

Oh yes, and then there are the comparison shoppers.  My client bristles like a porcupine for getting an active sentence for trespassing when the Johnnie Cochran of Cellblock K got a slap on the wrist with unsupervised probation.  Well, for starters, Cochran was charged with Second Degree Trespass and you were charged with First Degree Trespass because you can't stop showing up at the bar where your ex-wife's new boyfriend works.  Also, perhaps...just perhaps...the judge took your twenty prior trespassing charges into account at sentencing and Mr. Cochrane had no priors.  Different ingredients go into each recipe.

Hey, it's a free country.  If you want to have a jailhouse lawyer represent you, go right ahead.  Just make sure that his release date is compatible.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Twinkle Gene

Twinkling.  Sparkling.  Radiant.  Luminescent. Mesmerizing.  Breathtaking.  Possibly slightly obsession-inducing.


I'm certainly not going to claim that jewelry was invented in the South, but we have  incorporated it seamlessly into our culture.  We Southern Belles are hard won, but there are a couple of tools a gentleman can employ to get on the expressway to a Belle's heart:  (1) Profess as love of grits (and if you don't like them, you'd do well to learn to love them in a fast damn hurry);  (2)  Become compatible with her ACC team preferences;  and (3) Get over the "man side" of your brain that thinks jewelry is impractical and expensive and get your ass to a jewelry store post haste.

Sparklies are one of the few things that a girl can go slightly over the top with and still remain un-tacky.  Mind you, I said slightly, so Mr. T. lookalikes need not apply.  Just as I suspect that men have a gene that repels them from jewelry stores, women have it in their DNA to become mesmerized with anything that glitters (not unlike a cat).  My highly scientific term for it is the "Twinkle Gene."

Certainly, a jewelry attraction is genetic, but it can also be honed from life experience.  Way on back in the day, my paternal grandmother, Pauline, owned a bridal shop named That Special Occasion.  When my parents were out of town or otherwise had something they needed to do, Grandma would pick us up from school and take us to the store until she closed up.  Can you think of a better way for a little girl to spend her afternoon?  Me either.  I dare say I knew more about the store inventory than Grandma herself--and the day the Princess Diana replica dress came in...Hallelu!

When I was probably around seven years old, I spent a Saturday with her at the store.  A soon-to-be bride came into the shop for one last fitting of her dress.  The bride was a wee little thing and I remember hoping that her wedding day wasn't going to be windy because if one good gust got up under her dress, she would be in Roanoke Rapids before the end of the ceremony.

Of course, then I saw the enormous rock she was sporting on her left ring finger and realized that ring would anchor her down in hurricane force winds.  It was blinding.  Her little 'ol spindly hand didn't look like it could bear the weight. 

The bride was fitted and flitted off and I turned to my grandmother and said, "Grandma, that engagement ring was way too big for that lady!"

Whereupon, my grandmother gasped, arched a razor-sharp eyebrow and said, "Too big?  Darling, there is No.  Such.  Thing."

Roger that. 

It was as though I'd received a green light to go and drool over the sparkling and multi faceted splendor and--hoo boy--did I go for it! 

Back in 1992, I spent a summer semester at Cambridge University.  There wasn't a whole lot to do in Cambridge at the time, so we ended up catching the train to London nearly every weekend.  It is possible that I hold a Guinness world record for number of trips to the royal jewel vault at the Tower of London.  I went every single weekend.  I'm sure that I looked like I was casing the joint and the guards probably got a DNA sample from the drool that I left on the display case windows, but it was mind-blowing and very much worth risking a trial at the Hague.

Flashy baubles can furthermore cause problems for me in social settings.  Even when I was as blind as a bat before my Lasik surgery, I could spot a rock across a crowded room and practically through closed doors.  When we end up chatting with the owner of said rock, I rather embarrassingly find myself unable to look her in the eye because I can't stop staring at the ring.  God forbid that the rock owner "talk with her hands" because then I look like a cat watching a tennis match.  Distressing.

I will leave you with one final point to ponder on the Twinkle Gene:

Baby Belle 2 was scheduled to hit the scene on August 31, 2008.  Of course, I did my research and discovered--much to my dismay--that the birthstone for August is peridot.  Now, to those of you with August birthdays who love your birthstone:  Awesome!  More power to you.  Personally, when I want something that is the color of guacamole, I will go to the grocery store and buy an avocado.

So, as you all know by now, Baby Belle 2 wasn't remotely interested in playing by the rules.  Her wee pink butt got here on July 31st and--other than looking a little like a rotisserie chicken with hair--she was blessedly okay. 

A day or so later, when I was still at the hospital, Scott surprised me with the most beautiful antique ruby bracelet you have ever laid your eyes on.  That was when I learned that the birthstone for July was ruby.  My darling baby girl came in under the wire for a ruby!  Mama's precious pumpkin! 

It wasn't until I had a mother's ring made for me that I realized the full symbolism of my daughters' birthstones.  As you know, we are a house divided when it comes to the whole Carolina v. State thing.  Baby Belle 1's birthstone is aquamarine which is a lovely shade  very similar to Carolina Blue.  Baby Belle 2 brought it home for State and we all lived happily ever after.   

Friday, January 21, 2011

Hmm...Kid Show Drag Queens or the Showbiz Judiciary?

Being stuck at home sick isn't all fun and games by a long shot. 

In my youth, a raging fever or a scorching case of the Chicken Pox still beat going to my first grade class at Forest Hills Elementary School (the old cow teacher dealt spankings with the ease of handing out crayons).  Now that I'm old(ish), the joy is pretty much absent from any sick day. 

Of course, I'm older(ish) and only the resilient youth can go from throwing up one day to jumping on a trampoline while simultaneously eating a slice of pizza the next.  There is also the issue of work and knowing that files and chores are piling up on my desk at a height to rival the Himalayas.  There is also one particularly unpleasant issue in the matter of:  Daytime TV.

Sweet baby Jesus.

Mind you, I'm stuck in the house with a six year-old and the first order of business is to relieve her boredom because, when Baby Belle 1 is unhappy, we're all unhappy.  The only television she's allowed to watch is Disney TV and Nick, Jr. and--believe me--it's hurts me more than it hurts her. 

I realize that I didn't exactly grow up in an age known for edgy and well crafted child entertainment.  I'm not going to sit here and tell you that the "Smurfs," "Snorks," "Care Bears" and "Masters of the Universe" were the Golden Age of Saturday morning cartoons.  Heaven forfend that I actually sit here and even mention "Saved by the Bell"...I just threw up a little bit in my mouth at the very thought.

There is, of course, an exception for the Muppets because their fantasticness transcends time periods.

Maybe it's because I'm an older(ish) person watching these kid shows with my daughter that makes me want to either interject logic into the illogical and/or stick my head in a gas oven to just make it go away. 

Bless Dora the Explorer's heart, but she is so damn slow.  If I was a little baby chinchilla counting on Dora and her monky to get me home to my chinchilla family, I would be completely screwed.  Curses, foiled by yellow, red and blue paths!  I often find myself wanting to scream at the TV, "It's the blue path, dammit!  Can you not see the crocodiles on the red path and the Great Scary Canyon on the yellow path?  They're right the hell in front of you!"  The the little baby whatevers that she "rescues" every show would do better to check with when trying to return home.

In my book, "Yo Gabba Gabba" actually trumps the "Teletubbies" when it comes to freaky-assed kid shows that have to be transmitting subliminal messages to children.  For starters, it's great to encourage kids to try new foods,  but to actually show the food in the stomach and swimming around in bile while singing "There's a party in my tummy, yummy, yummy!" is a total appetite killer.  Also, if RuPaul wants to do a kids' show, great, but I hoped that she would have better fashion sense than to run around in an orange track suit with what I can only compare to a Ronald McDonald reject wig for a hat.

While we're on the subject of unappetizing, I don't care if the rat in "Ratatoille" is a benign Disney character and I don't care that he can cook better Emeril.  What it boils down to is that there's a rat in the kitchen and that is nasty.  Period.

I can cast aspersions at kiddie shows well into the middle of next week, but I have to admit that daytime TV for grown-ups is just as bad, if not worse.  One bright spot is that the tacky kissing cousins and who's my daddy talk shows have ridden off into the sunset, but the bad news is that they have been replaced by court shows with judges picked more for their ability to snap their fingers in a Z formation and swivel their heads like a chicken when cutting down both the plaintiff and defendant.  If I have one more client come to me with chock full with dubious wisdom of Judge Judy, I simply cannot be held responsible for my actions.

Of course, there are always the soaps.  My paralegal inadverntently dug her own grave a couple of months ago when she sagely stated that reality tv was for her generation what soap operas were for my generation.  I felt like I needed to apply to the Gray Panthers or something.  Regardless, it's really quite frightening to turn on a soap opera after about fifteen or sixteen years only to see the show diva looking exactly the same, yet strangely unable to move her mouth or express emotion.  I can almost visualize the crew loading her back up into refrigerated storage when filming wraps for the day.

Yeah...I think I'm gonna go snuggle back up in the bed, crack open a good book and wait for these cooties to vacate the premises.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Barfing Belles--God Help Us All

I can't make any representations about how this entry is going to turn out.  Baby Belle 1 and I are quarantined in one room of the house with the flu.  As my father likes to say, I feel like I have to get better to die.  I have noticed, however, that the crippling head pounding in my ears abates when I sit upright, so I've at least got that going for me, I suppose.  Woohoo.

Of course, if we were really squinting for the silver lining, I guess you could say that the cooties have at least given me the topic for the day.  My fabulously wonderful paralegal sent me a text a little while ago asking me how I was feeling.  The following is my verbatim response:  "Like re-heated shit.  Like a skydiver who's parachute didn't open.  Like a root canal without drugs.  Like being sentenced to a lifetime of tax law classes with a migraine."

That's when it hit me--the general consensus is that men turn into total babies when they get sick while women keep the stiff upper lip and suffer quietly, continuing on with their chores and obligations.  Hmmm...well...on occassion, that is the truth to an extent, but there is a certain quantitative (hey, I married a geek) difference applied in some Southern households:  Southern Belles are the original drama queens. 

O.D.Q., holla!

The beloved Aunt Pitty Pat in Gone with the Wind never, ever, ever, evereverever missed an opportunity to fall conspicuously and ostentatiously into fits of the vapours.  Even Scarlett herself declared from her labor bed that she would be electing the "Abstinence Plan" in order to prevent having to go through that again.  Most anything said could be said better with the back of the hand across the forehead--preferably from a ladies' fainting couch, but we can make do in a pinch.

Take my adorable Baby Belles, for example.  Baby Belle 1 is a five-star drama queen and Baby Belle 2 is a little more subtle in her approach.  This week is the flu, but last week, the Council House was under an attack from a stomach bug (we live in a damned petrie dish).  Baby Belle 2 was the first to get it and there was no warning whatsoever.  One second, she was asleep and then she sat up and just barfed all over her unsuspecting Mama.  When she was done with her most current attack of nausea, she would go off to play and do her thing and would only return to Mama or Daddy when she felt the need to vomit thereby coating a parent yet again.

Then Baby Belle 1 caught it.  I do so wish I could nominate that child for an Oscar.  She cried and wailed and carried on in a dramatic performance that would put the great Meryl Streep to shame.  When she felt an attack coming on, she would start screaming which was my cue to take her into the bathroom and:


Sobbing, wailing, then sobbing uncontrollably annnnnnnnnnd...scene.

Baby Belle 1 also makes these whimpering noises that completely freak the dogs out because they think that another dog has come onto their turf.   

Of course, I can't judge Baby Belle 1 too harshly because she gets that drama queen gene from her mother.  I hate getting sick and it tends to make me really, really cranky.  I also hatehatehate to go to the doctor and my aversion doesn't help things much. 

As a matter of fact, about a month ago, I was patting myself on the back for the fact that I had managed to stay out of my GP's office for over a year and a half.  As Murphy's Law would have it, I started to feel sick shortly thereafter. 

I couldn't hear, was very congested and then I thought my face was going to explode off of my head.  I tried really hard to play it cool, but by Day 3, it was pretty impossible to keep up a cover with the pain like it was.  Scott tried to reason with me that going to the doctor would be a good idea, but I stalwartly refused by saying that I didn't feel well enough to subject myself to ten hours in a waiting room next to Meningitis Myrtle and Frank Flu.  Then, Scott stopped playing nice and all but booted my butt out the door to go to the walk-in clinic.

Suffice it to say that I did not acquiesce with lady-like deportment.  I sat in the waiting room constantly texting ummm...less than lady-like...messages to my husband as to how I didn't want to be there and what I thought of his tactics.  There were one or twelve four-letter words thrown in for good measure.  Scott texted back telling me to shut up and take my medicine whereupon I bristled at the indignity of it all.

The doctor told me that I had a double ear infection, a sinus infection with completely impacted sinuses and pneumonia in my left lung.  I wasn't overjoyed to hear the news, but not for the reason that you might think.  Of course, I wasn't happy to be that sick, but I was more unhappy to hear the news because it meant that I had to apologize to my husband.  Sigh...

So, Scott my love, if I didn't say it sufficiently before, I am terribly horribly sorry about my Bad Belle behavior.  Poor thing, living in an house with five females (including the dogs) have no safe port in a storm.  I shall henceforth take every measure to not place the back of the hand on my forehead whilst making declarations of misery.  Of course, that's cold comfort considering that Baby Belle 1 is a nuclear level drama queen...yes, the student has now become the master and we are so screwed.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Techno Belle 2.0

Technology can be a tricky thing for a Southern Belle.  Lord knows it's made keeping up the church directory a breeze and putting together the new Hospital Auxiliary cook book was positively worlds better, but technology can turn on a Belle when she's least expecting it.  Yes, when faced with too many gadgets and geegaws, there is the distinct possibility that a Southern Belle could lose her decorum. 

Let me be your cautionary tale.

Okay, so I married a mechanical engineer.  As far as a mechanical engineer is concerned, there can never be too many buttons, blinking lights and whirring noises.  I can promise you that any gadgety thingamajig in my house is top of the line because Scott Council's motto is "Go Big or Go Home," but I can promise you in the same breath that I probably don't know how to work it. 

Our vacuum is a cool looking purple color...and I couldn't tell you how to work it if you put a gun to my head.  I just kind of count on the dogs doing their part to gobble up anything my little cookie crumbling Baby Belles might drop and I just do my pitiful best to keep the house together in between visits from our cleaning lady.  Thank the good Lord for my cleaning lady...I'm 90% sure that she knows how to work that vacuum...

I did finally master the television and it's various and sundry attachments an quirks.  That was a trial by fire/born of necessity sort of deal.  When you have two sick and crabby children staring you down, you either get the Disney Channel on or die trying. 

Of course, if I'm being honest, I don't have the TV, et al completely figured out.  Scott got the big 'ol flat screen HD thing.  I broke his heart just a little bit when I once declared that I couldn't tell the difference between a regular channel and the HD channel.  I now admit to being able to tell a teeny tiny difference, but not enough to encourage me to memorize the four digit channel number required to actually see Diane Sawyer's crows feet.  It drives Scott crazy when he comes in and I'm watching a "plain" channel.  He thinks I'm doing it on purpose when the truth is that I don't do numbers and only keep the most critical in my head at any given time (such as a couple of phone numbers...and yes, I do include 911 in that statement).

Of course, I can't work the DVDs in Scott's car, but Baby Belle 1 can usually help me out.  One doesn't wish to put Baby Belle 2 in the car for more than three minutes if Elmo or Alvin and the Godforsaken Chipmunks aren't playing to soothe the wee beastie.  (Most people drive their infants around in cars to get them to sleep, but such a tactic only serves to make Baby Belle 2 projectile barf.)

The thermostat is digitally controlled and I think the burglar alarm is, too.  When my brother stayed with us, he accused our microwave of being HAL from "2010 A Space Odyssey" because it wouldn't stop asking him questions and/or coming up with suggestions about how to cook his food.  You have to understand that us Culbreths are not techno-savvy folk...if you can't work it by shaking it, colorfully cursing it or beating it with a rock, we're at a loss.

Poor Scott.  When we are faced with puchasing a new gadget, my input is that I would like it to have as few buttons as humanly possible.  It makes his eye twitch.

And that, boys and belles, is how a Southern Belle finds herself driving around the Charlotte Metro Area screeching at her husband's GPS that it doesn't know what the hell it is talking about.  I'm proud to say that I eventually figured things out and I apologized to her.  I see a lot of that in my future since Baby Belle 2 doesn't seem to be physically capable of passing a button without pushing it.  She is daddy's girl!

Monday, January 17, 2011

When All Else Fails: Chant Chicken Sh*it and Sue 'Em

I practice law with my father.  There's something to be said for having 43 years of legal experience sitting right down the hall from me.  I have learned and will learn all sorts of things, but--on Day One--Dad gave me the two most priceless pearls of wisdom:

1.  You don't make the facts.  The facts make themselves and you can't make chicken salad out of chicken shit.

2.  When all else fails, sue everybody and let God sort it out.

The first rule applies indiscriminately to the areas of both criminal law and civil law.  When one starts out as a young attorney, one feels the heavy burden of the client's dependency and the desperate need to make everything right.  A baby lawyer takes it personally if they don't win and can't really see from the depths of despair in which they throw themselves that the client--perhaps--isn't as pristine as they made themselves out to be.  Go figure. 

Of course the aforementioned problem isn't helped at all by the client's rabid readiness and willingness to blame their attorney for their downfall:

1,  The client suffering from a "crippling" back condition as the result of a wreck is filmed by an insurance company PI while he heartily tosses cinderblocks around in his front yard.  So what?  He had a right to privacy in his own front yard!

2.  Yes, the Defendant "updated" her boyfriend's car with a can of hot pink spray paint and a crowbar, but he was like totally cheating on her with a like total skank!

3.  Bill was just driving along and minding his own business when a hooker suddenly jumped into his car while he was stopped at a corner known far and wide as the Wal-Mart of the sex trade.  What was he supposed to do?

4.  Yes, the Plaintiff did jump into the back seat of the car until after the wreck, but he needed someplace to sit and recover from the emotional distress caused from witnessing the horrific incident.

Jeez, Ms. Council, what's your PROBLEM???  I'm sure I'm probably just being picky.

After I grew out of the infancy of my legal career, it was much easier to embrace the Chicken Salad/Chicken Shit Philosophy.  A lawyer can burn out real fast if they continue to accept all responsibility for the unhappy outcome of every case.  Yes, 75 year-old Edith may have been distracted when she put the bottle of wine into her purse and attempted to leave the grocery store, but I'm not sure that the judge will buy that argument while staring at the record of her 36 prior shoplifting convictions.  I'll do my best, but that's all I can do.

These days, I'm perfectly comfortable not accepting custody of chicken shit blame.  In fact, more often that not, I find myself biting my tongue while a client rails at me about the crappy job they think I'm doing.  I mean, the fact that a Defendant refused to take a Breathalyzer test doesn't pose quite the evidentiary coup he would expect in his DWI case--especially when he told the cop that he'd consumed two bottls of Jack Daniels with a tequila chaser.  Inner peace.  All that Yoga shit.  Ohmmmmmmmmmm...

The "Sue Everybody and Let God Sort it Out Rule" has been equally as helpful as the Chicken Shit Chant.  God forbid that my radical liberal ravings offend all and sundry, but big corporations are as slick as pig shit these days.  (I suddenly realize that we are focusing on manure a lot here, but it can't be helped.)

The lengths that the Bigass Marts of the world go to in order to avoid liability would be really impressive if they weren't so damned infuriating. 

For example:  The elderly Miss Perkins was shopping at Evil Empires 'R Us when she was run over by an employee taking a joy ride on a forklift.  So sue EERU and do your job, right?

Wrong.  As it happens, the real estate lot upon which the EERU sits was purchased by EERU Reality Holdings, LLC.  The store itself was constructed by EERU Buildcorp, Inc. and leased by EERU, LLP, but is operated by EERU Operations Corp. which employs EERU Independent Contracting Services, Inc. for staffing purposes.  As for the forklift, it was just left there and nobody owns it (uh-huh). 

Personally, it is my belief that the Bigass Marts and the Evil Empires 'R Us of the world have think tanks that do nothing but dream up these spider webs.  Eeeeeeevil think tanks.  Run by Dr. Evil.  They might even have sharks with frigging laser beams attached to their heads.  Anyway, these conglomerates count on the fact that an attorney will miss at least one crucial LLP or not find the extra Inc. thereby throwing Miss Perkins' entire lawsuit into jeopardy.  Good times!

The real trick is that there is no way to determine the extent of the corporate maze without conducting discovery and you can't conduct discovery until you've filed suit.  Accordingly, the only thing to do is...wait for it...SUE EVERYBODY AND LET GOD SORT IT OUT!  Sue the owner of the shovel that broke ground on Day 1 construction all the way up through and including the present day.  If EERU Mosquito Control Services,  Ltd. or EERU Do Nothing But Pay the Power Bill, LLC doesn't belong in your suit, then let them spend their money to prove it to the judge.

I think that the adherence to the Two Basic Rules has kept me from going even more insane than I already am.  Who knows?  They could potentially apply to everyday life.  Chant them and give them a try.  Of course, I do need to warn you that I'm not particularly fond of chicken salad anymore...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mortification in White Gloves

Well, Baby Belle 1 received her first invitation to junior cotillion last weekend and I don't really know what to do.

On one hand, as a Southern Belle mother of two itty bitty belles, I have a duty to see to it that my progeny are raised right.  I have to admit that I didn't always pay the best attention during my own classes, so a professional is most likely needed to fill in the almost certain gaps in my memory.  I also remember my old cotillion instructor saying in her sing-song voice, "From now on, when you attend a social gathering, you will always be able to tell who has cotillion training and who has not!"

Well, I did have occasion to find fault with the aforementioned statement during many of the college parties I attended in my misspent youth, but she wasn't completely off the reservation.

I don't want my baby belles to suffer any criticism if I can help it, but it just seems little young to get started on serious deportment training.  I'm still doing the constant reminders of ma'am, sir, thank you and please in addition to dealing with temper tantrums.  (Temper tantrums--oh my God there is so much drama going on in my house!)  What exactly are the goals of these baby cotillions?

Of course, if I'm honest with myself, my predominately unpleasant memories of my own cotillions are throwing the biggest kink in the works.  I took cotillion every year of junior high school.  Junior high school as a whole ranks right up there with root canals and studying for the Bar Exam as the most miserable experiences of my life.

Puberty.  Braces.  Crippling shyness.  Boys that think nothing of tearing you down verbally while the girls watch and giggle from within their cosy little cliques.  Acid washed denim.  Bon Jovi.  Bill Cosby sweaters.  [shudder]

We reported to the Country Club ballroom where chairs were arranged in a large oval around the room.  The girls fidgeted in their Sunday best while the boys squirmed in their coats and ties.  We learned the Fox Trot, the Waltz, the Cha Cha Cha and a bunch of other crap that I can't remember.  We applauded politely at the end of each song.  Boys learned to button their jackets when they stood up and to unbutton them when they sat down.  Girls learned to sit with their ankles crossed with their hands folded in their lap.

We learned a new dance every week.  The instructor would perform a demonstration with a very unwilling pupil.  After that, the real fun began*. (*Please read with as much dripping sarcasm as you possibly can.)  The girls stayed at their chairs while the boys circulated the room one mortifying dance at a time. 

I can at least tell you that I quickly learned and appreciated the reason for white gloves:  Cold, clammy and sweaty palms were all over the place.  Every time the boys switched partners, the embarrassment would start all over again.  Eye contact was studiously avoided and as much distance as was physically possible was maintained at all times. 

Maybe it's the mothering instinct that makes me want to step in and spare my baby belles all of that misery, but they are different from their mother and I need to remember that.

Baby Belle 1 is a total social butterfly.  The young 'un thrives at parties.  When she was about 17 months old, she closed down a wedding reception.  Most folks went on home to go to bed, but she was till dancing on the floor in the ballroom.  Where I get a cold dread at the notion of a social gathering, she lights up and can't wait to get there.  She used to start crying when her daddy and I told her that it was time to leave a party and go home and I used to worry that someone would think that there was a more sinister reason for her reluctance to return to her house rather than the fact that she still had a lot more party left in her.

Baby Belle 2--well, I'm not quite sure how that one is going to play out.  At the ripe old age of 2 1/2, she is very much her own person.  I can already tell you that she doesn't give a shit about what someone thinks of her.  She can enjoy a party just fine, but if you have a problem with her, you can leave her alone to go about your business or she can kick your ass--the choice is yours and there's no skin off her back either way.

So, I guess the answer to my dilemma is that I should provide the opportunity for my girls to grow and learn and be their own person.  I can only hope that they are better at the Cha Cha Cha than their mother.

(**I would like to take this moment to apologize to all 9364 toes I stepped on back in the day.)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Southern Belle's Kevlar

I think I've gotten the point across that Southern Belles--gracious and beautiful as they may be--should not be messed with in any way, shape or form.  To be perfectly frank, if you haven't derived that hidden danger by now, you may just be too stupid to live and the wheels of Darwinism are turning toward their inevitable conclusion.

GENERAL RULES:  A Belle holds her family close in her heart.  She will brook no aspersions cast upon her ACC team.  One takes their life into their hands if one dares to call her manners into question. 

Certainly, the above tips comprise a good, basic survival guide for maneuvering safely through the South.  Unfortunately, there are a few more basic tenets to get under one's belt and I aim to address one of those today:


Do not everevereverever mess with a Southern Belle's hair.  Most Diamond Magnolias are--or give a darned good impression of appearing--perfectly put together 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Clothes are stylish, understated and flawless.  Shoes are expensive and un-scuffed.  Manicures are get the picture.  The crowning achievement on all of this perfection is "The Hairdo."

A Belle can certainly sport different hair styles, but each of those styles have one common thread:  Hairspray.  Gobs of hairspray.  Costco quantities of hairspray.  Enough hairspray to freeze a woolly mammoth in it's tracks and fossilize it.

I know that many of you are familiar with the wonder that was '80's mall hair.  For those of you too despicably young to recall, the very popular hair metal bands at the time (Poison, Motley Crue, etc.) fluffed their long locks up to the heavens.  It was both a mating call and a way to be seen on the stage during an arena concert. 

Anyway, hair metal bands learned their tricks from the Southern Belles.

We live in a land of humidity and hurricanes, so there is no room for playing around when it comes to hair.  We also live in a land of beauty pageant tiaras and Miss Sweet Potato Pie did not spend thousands of dollars on sparkly gowns and risk her life tossing flaming batons during the talent portion of the program for Mother Nature to blow the crown off her head and screw up her 'do when she finally gets her chance to preen in front of her subjects!

Of course, industrial quantities of hairspray can go horribly wrong.  Miss Sweet Potato Pie is highly flammable and would do well to keep the flaming batons on the shelf until the end of her reign.  She is also at risk of getting gnats stuck in her hair like a spider web would catch flies.  I've even had occasion to witness pageant hair so thickly laden with hair spray that the outgoing queen literally could not penetrate the shield on the new queen's 'do with the bobby pins necessary to attach the tiara to her noggin.  Horror!

Just to give you an idea as to how critical hair care is in the South, let me talk to you about our mature Southern Belles.  Every Friday at 11:00 AM for time immemorial, my Grandma Willie has an appointment with the House of Charm to get her hair did.  This appointment is religiously observed because Grandma gets her hair styled for the week.

Yes, the whole week.  There are various sleeping caps, shower caps and rain caps employed to get her through to the next Friday.  By the way, her appointment is on Friday so that she will look her best at Sunday Church.  A better belle has never been and never will be.  Nothing stands between Grandma and the House of Charm at 11:00 Friday.

CASE IN POINT:  I get a cell phone call from Grandma at 10:00 AM on a Friday.  She locked her keys in the car at the grocery store.  Does she need me to come and help?  Well...eventually...but first I have to take her to the beauty parlor so she's on time for her appointment and then I need to go back to the grocery store to deal with the car that swallowed the keys.  The aforementioned scenario has played through with a dead car battery and a wreck. 

I just love my Grandma Willie.

Mind you, absolutely nothing of what I've told you applies to me.  I have naturally curly (read:  naturally squirrely) hair.  It doesn't matter how many hours I spend styling or how much cement I pour onto my head, when I step out of the house and into the 300% humidity, I look like an electrocuted poodle.

Oh well...we all have our crosses to bear.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Trailer Park Trespass: Tacky Tally Ho!

Boys and belles, I'm afraid that I have a confession to make.  In the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you something that I have heretofore kept hidden deep within the dark recesses of my mind:  I actually kinda like tacky.

Now, let me clarify that statement by telling you that I am not talking about tacky behavior.  There never has been, never is and never will be an excuse to act common.  Poor behavior will earn you a tanned hide from your mother and, if your mothers isn't available, I can assure you that mine will be more than willing to step in and wield the paddle.

No, what I am talking about is over the top, glorious displays that positively revel in their own tackiness.  As a dear friend of mine once said after unexpectedly enjoying a NASCAR race at the Darlington Race Track:  "Everyone has to cut loose and be a redneck once in a while."

I couldn't agree more and I practice that philosophy religiously.  For starters, a mother of two girls has to have an appreciation for mountains of sequins, glitter and feathers and I think that we can all agree that those media are essential elements of tackiness.

I have also been to the Liberace Museum in Las Vegas and I enjoyed every minute of it.

What lengths will I employ to actually take in some tacky?  Well--for starters--I broke into a trailer park once.

Right before Mom and I flew out to Los Angeles to visit my brother, I saw a show on the Travel Channel about million dollar mobile homes and there was a segment about Blue Skies Trailer Park located in Rancho Mirage, California. 

Blue Skies Trailer Park was founded by Bing Crosby back in the day when Palm Springs was grooving in the 1950's.  It is and was a very exclusive community and the trailers are...wait for it...THEMED!  There is an Egyptian trailer with a Sphinx and pyramids, a mobile home based on a Japanese pagoda, one with a jungle theme, one with a Hollywood red carpet kind of thing going on and the list goes on and on.

Palm Springs runs right into Rancho Mirage and Mom and I were planning on taking a day trip out that way anyhow.  I couldn't ignore that Fate had dropped an opportunity squarely into my lap,  I mentioned the trailer park possibility to Mom and she was enthusiastically on board.  (Hey, I had to get my love of tacky from somewhere, right?)

I called the joint ahead of time because we did have the foresight to think that such splendid wonder would be gated.  I also found out that Blue Skies was prodominantly a retirement community, so I called the sales office and told them that I wanted to show my elderly mother around as a prospect. 

When my ears stopped ringing and my eyes unblurred from the maternally instigated swat to the back of my head, I was able hear the lovely lady on the other end of the line give me their hours of operation.

So, we got out to Palm Springs--which is really cool, by the way--and we Mapquested our way out to the beautiful Blue Skies.  We found it, pulled up...and were heartbroken.  The office was closed and the security gate was firmly shut.  (I don't know why, we were on time.)  I felt like Dorothy finally arriving at the Emerald City only to be told that the Wizard wouldn't see her.  We had come so far and we were so excited.

We sat out in the parking lot for a while as if staring hard enough would open the security gate or re-open the office.  It didn't work.

Suddenly, a car pulled up and punched the pass code at the gate.  The door swung open and it stayed open for a really long time.  Fate appeared to be intervening again.  Mom looked at me from the passenger seat and said "Go!"  I went.

I regret to inform you that the Blue Skies Trailer Park was a little anti-climactic.  Although, to be perfectly honest, we'd built it up so big in our heads that nothing based in reality stood a chance.  Still, it was pretty cool and Mom really wanted to stay for the community cookout that was advertised on various fliers hanging around, but that would have bordered on the tacky behavior hereinabove set forth.

I also have to admit that it was a little difficult for me to enjoy the sights because I was too busy looking over my shoulder.  I just knew that I was going to get busted for trailer park trespass.  Great for a legal resume.

Additionally, the thought occurred to me that a gate that required a pass code to get in could potentially require a pass code to get out.  They were going to find my body in Blue Skies Trailer Park and my ghost would be doomed to weave in and out between the trailers for all eternity.

Fortunately, we found the gate again and it opened indiscriminately to let us out.  I'm still glad we did it if for no other reason than gaining the ability to stop party conversations by saying, "I broke into a trailer park with my Mom."

Special Court Date Thongs

Oh the things I have seen in my life as a criminal defense attorney.  I'm not talking about the alleged criminal acts themselves--although many of them are seriously impressive--but about something a little more basic:  Courtroom wardrobe ensembles.  Boys and belles, I have seen things that would make Emily Post bang her head on the wall and drive Amy Vanderbilt to drink. 

When I started practicing law, I took it for granted that people would have the common sense to wear something at least a little court appropriate for their big day.  My first mistake was for assuming that anyone had common sense.  One should not even attempt to attribute common sense to someone who gets into a hair pulling, fake fingernail scratching fight with their baby's daddy's significant other slap in the middle of the Wal-Mart beauty department.

Additionally, I can certainly understand the time constraints that [alleged] hookers operate under with regard to working all night and being in court the next morning.  I'm willing to forgive a high hemline and low neckline in special circumstances, but I would like to suggest that a gal at least pack a pair of panties in her purse to wear for the big day.  See?  I'm not being unreasonable--I don't even ask for a bra in spite of one's tendency to literally jump for joy when one's bond is unsecured.

Another suggestion I would like to throw out is that one probably shouldn't wear any sort of clothing that is sporting rips and tears (professionally done or otherwise).  Perhaps a person might consider not wearing any jeans at all, much less jeans that have been cut off.  I will pause here to recognize that the former sentence could be construed by some as license to not wear any pants at all and such realization makes me shake my head sadly.

I think my favorite "distressed outfit" was one that I saw recently at the New Hanover County Courthouse.  When the jail moved out into the county, they replaced all of those lovely orange inmate jumpers with tan jumpers and some enterprising soul managed to get a pair of the old ones. (For sentimental reasons, perhaps?)  The top was sleeveless and the bottom was shorts.  Mama always told me that it's not polite to stare, but that was one train wreck I could not look away from.

Going back to the "duh factor," it would be advisable to not wear a shirt that sports an enormous pot leaf when one is in court to deal with a drug charge.  In that same vein, a guy or gal would do well to leave the shirts saying "Original Gangster" and "Pimp Mama/Pimp Daddy" at home.  It is also strongly advisable for ladies to not wear anything with the word "Juicy" on it--couture or otherwise. 

I don't really know what a person can and can't take out when it comes to piercings and I more than likely don't want to know, but just give it some thought.  To those of you with tongue studs:  If your attorney appears to be swaying in your peripheral vision as you stand with her at the judge's bench, she's just trying her hardest not to pass out cold from the heebie jeebies.  Yeek!  I can't even think about it...

Finally, boys and belles, please do not meet with me the day before your court date as a man only to show up on your actual court date as a woman.  I am behind you 100% and I have no problem at all with your choices, but I would simply like to be able to recognize my client when I go into the courtroom.  My needs are few.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Yard Art: Decoration or Cover for Commando Attack Ducks?

One of the goals of this blog is to celebrate and give voice to all aspects of a Southern life...even if some areas of discussion are a little more touchy than others.  A person can't get a true image of this wonderful part of the country unless all of the corners are exposed, and some of those corners...yeek.  

Yard art.  We Southerners are particularly fond of our gardens.  Some of us actually tend toward growing sustenance (you haven't lived until you've had a home grown tomato or butter beans) and some of us go for aesthetics.  Personally, I like a yard that I can appreciate from the window of my air conditioned house.  Finding more reasons to be outdoors in the land of 980 degree summers with 300% humidity ain't my my idea of a good time if there isn't an ocean or pool involved.

To each his own, but I can pretty much guarantee you that at least one house in every Southern neighborhood has a home with spectacular decoration of the type that gives Homeowner's Associations the shivering fits.  For those of you not schooled in the ways of yard ornamentation, let me start off by saying that there are two basic theories:  Concrete and plastic.

Some might say that concrete is the classier option, but it can be argued that the term "classy lawn ornament" is a bit of an oxymoron no matter how you look at it.  There is a business here in New Hanover County that specializes in the manufacture and sale of concrete lawn ornaments and it is really worth the trip.  There are acres and acres of everything you could possibly dream up to memorialize in concrete such as nekkid women, men and cherubs, Disney characters, NASCAR odds and ends, a giant polar bear made to scale, snakes (the hooded cobra might be my favorite) and any other animal that you could possibly dream up.  Of course, as far as I'm concerned, the concrete Dolly Parton takes the cake, but I wouldn't trust it to stand upright.

As I said, folks might think of concrete yard art as a more tasteful way to go, but I can think of at least one gentleman--we'll call him Fred--who would heartily disagree with that statement.  Fred retired to a nice, modest community on a golf course where he looked forward to many mornings of sitting out on his front porch, reading his John Grisham novels, sipping his coffee and gazing out at the rolling green expanses surrounding him.  Fred's dream went according to plan for a month or so, but then a new neighbor moved in next door.

The neighbor proceeded to unpack a menagerie of concrete statues ranging from woodland creatures to water fountains that looked more appropriate for the streets of Rome.  Some of them were painted and some of them weren't.  Some of them moved while some of them stayed still.  Some of them made little gurgling noises and some of them were silent.  All of them drove the drove Fred bat shit crazy.

Fred complained to his Homeowner's Association, but they were uncharacteristically reluctant to step in.  Finally, Fred felt he had no recourse but to erect a nice, tall fence.  Of course, by the time the fence went up, the neighbor was fully aware of the havoc he was wreaking and derived considerable pleasure from wreaking it.  Accordingly, the neighbor snuck out into the night and placed a family of concrete possums across the top of the nice, tall fence. 

Imagine Fred's surprise and dismay when he woke up the next morning and stepped out onto his porch with his coffee and his Grisham novel.  All of those little possums were mocking him.  Fred snapped.  He went back inside to get his shotgun (we are talking about the South, after all), loaded it up, went outside and conducted target practice on the decorative yard critters.  Of course, Fred got into all sorts of trouble and even--somewhat ironically--received a citation from his Homeowners's Association for his retaliatory action.

Now we come to plastic yard art.  In my book, the plastic media is a much more vibrant and interesting.  I mean, who can say that fifty pink plastic flamingos in a yard isn't fun?  My church sure can't. 

The youth group has rigged up a brilliantly diabolical money making scheme that they call "flocking houses."  Pursuant to this practice, a church member can pay to target another church member's home whereupon the youth group shows up in the wee hours of the morning to insert plastic pink flamingos in every square inch of the targeted yard.  The home owner has to pay the youth group to come and pick them back up and, of course, said home owner can pay money to retaliatory flock the flockers yard. 

Did you follow that?  I'm worried about you if you did.  It's kind of Mafia if you think about it a little too hard, so stop.

I will leave you with the tale of my own frightening brush with yard art:  I had to go up into the country to take a document for a client to sign.  As I pulled into her driveway, I couldn't help but notice the spectacular yard art displayed before me.  She had deer and fountains and totem poles and all manner of things memorialized in a mixed media of plastic and concrete. 

I got out of the car and started down the walkway to her front door.  I walked past a little pond scene with what I thought were plastic ducks because THE LITTLE BASTARDS WEREN'T MOVING AT THE TIME.  I don't know if any of you have ever come into contact with domesticated ducks, but they are some of the meanest SOB's you will ever deal with.  A friend of mine had a duck when we were little and that thing would chase and bite you faster than a pit bull. 

So, the ducks "magically" came to life and started getting territorial.  I shrieked when they started moving and that probably fired them up even more.  The whole scene ended with me running around the yard in an attempt to get away from the snapping ducks while my client watched in glee from the safety of her window. 

Suffice it to say, boys and belles, that yard hasn't done Your Truly any favors.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Peace Bitches: Long May We Reign

I vaguely recall turning 17 years old.  It was the summer before my senior year at New Hanover High School and--although I'd toyed with the notion of colleges and admissions applications, it was officially time to buckle down and take a serious look at where I wanted to be when August of 1991 rolled around.

Although I grew up in an unabashedly Tar Heel home, my parents were miraculously neutral-ish about where I should go to start the next chapter of my life.  At that point in time, I was pretty freaked out about the enormity of UNC and I had a definite fear of getting sucked into giant Carolina Blue ocean, never to be seen again.  Truth be told, I think that my parents were more than a little worried about me having a bit too much freedom right out of the starting gate and--although I bristled at the notion at the time--they most likely weren't too far off the mark.

So, Mom and I started a three-state tour of women's colleges.  Some of the colleges scared me--like the one where a purple Mohawk-ed gal gave me a tour and told me the best places close to campus to get tattoos and piercings.  One college made me quite literally sick by serving us spoiled beefaroni for lunch and several pit stops were made on the way home from that joint.  Some of the colleges were perfectly fine, but I just couldn't see myself as a there as a student...

and then came Peace...

From the moment Mom stopped the car and I put my feet down in the parking lot, every fiber of my being said, "Home." 

Peace College was founded by William Peace in 1857.  It is located in the heart of downtown Raleigh, but the beautiful old oak trees and the Georgian buildings emit a serenity that belies the urban setting. 

In 1991,  Peace was a two-year school that boasted an above average success rate at placing its graduates at their pick of four-year institutions.  It was a college steeped in tradition (which we all know is close to a Southern Belle's heart) with boys rarely being allowed on campus and never in a dorm room.  Chapel attendance was required once a week and a white dress was required for various college functions.  There was a curfew and, if a girl intended the spend the night out, she had to sign out.  For graduation, students had to don formal white ball gowns and carry a dozen red roses.  At the end of the graduation ceremony, all of the girls gathered around the old fountain to sing the school song and and throw one of their red roses into the water. 

Now, I know that a lot of you are probably thinking that Peace sounds like a detention camp, but that is far from the case.  The man-free atmosphere was actually rather liberating and girls were encouraged to have opinions and be their own person.  There is definitely something to be said for being able to attend class in flannel pajamas with your hair squirreling all over the we  got to see plenty of boys at NC State which was practically walking distance away. 

We learned that it was okay to speak our own minds and to even yell when nobody was listening.  We learned to take up for ourselves and we jokingly call ourselves "Peace Bitches," but we are proud of it.  What Peace college provided for me was a home away from home, a stellar education, preparation for the "big schools" and the best damned friends a Southern Belle could ever hope to have. 

It's mind-blowing how, for nothing more than random dorm assignments, Fate gives you the sisters you never had.  We were from all corners of the State with backgrounds as different as night and day, but--from Day One--we had each other's backs.  We laughed together and cried together and gathered breathlessly around the TV for Beverly Hills, 90210.  We had pizza night and Golden Corral night (before the restaurant chain started sucking so bad).  We could even finish each other's sentences.  During my sophomore year, I clearly recall being in the midst of raucous fun with my Peace sisters and suddenly being struck with the melancholy thought that things were going to come to an end all too soon. 

When the end did come, we shot off to different schools, but we still spent wild weekends together.  We were bridesmaids in each other's weddings and I never would have met my husband but for the Peace girl that lived across the hall from me in Davidson dorm.  We helped each other move and we settled down in different parts of the State and got to work on yet another chapter of our lives.  I actually have law school to thank for putting me in the same town with one of my girls and her husband and--but for the cold terror unceasingly provided by Campbell Law School--it was three pretty great years. 

Nonetheless, our lives took us away to different cities and states.  We got caught up in careers and children and we told ourselves that there really wasn't time for anything else.  We would occasionally call each other, email or send Christmas cards, but we were busy and we shamefully had yet to even meet each other's children and then God made me slow waaaay down.

I became very ill in the summer of 2009 and I was hospitalized for quite a while.  Right before everything fell apart, I'd actually gotten in touch with my girls via Facebook.  With the certain knowledge that my girls would either call the police or come down to Wilmington themselves if they didn't hear from me, I asked my husband to call and tell them what was going on.  Less than 24 hours after my husband made that fateful call, I got a note from two of them that said, "We love you and we'll see you on Thursday."

I did see them on that Thursday and we hugged and sat and talked and it was as though our years apart never existed.  We had each other's backs again.  Every single Thursday of my hospitalization, my girls left their husbands and children and otherwise busy lives to drive hours to come and be with me.  One of my girls lives in Kentucky, so a visit was next to impossible, but she sent me wonderful care packages and cards and pictures.  I may never be able to express the magnitude of my thankfulness and love, but we're sisters and sisters know what's in each other's hearts when words don't come easily.

If nothing else, my illness made us realize that we need each other.  This past summer, our families went on an amazing vacation to the mountains and I look forward to many, many more times together.  It continues to blow my mind that every single one of us Peace girls has nothing but daughters.  There's not one boy in the bunch and it has been suggested that Peace chromosomes are stronger than average.  It is our dream to get all of our baby belles together, put them white dress-up gowns and get a picture of them around the Peace Fountain.

We all want our girls to have the exceptional opportunity to go to Peace College when the time comes and we are heartbroken to hear that--as with the rest of the country--Peace is currently experiencing some very hard times.  Every girl should have the opportunity and privilege of becoming a Peace Girl and, if I had a million dollars, I would give all I had to keep that dream alive. 

I'll never forget going to dinner with one of my girls and her husband many, many years ago.  We were talking about how Peace had recently become a four year school and that particular information was news to her husband.  The conversation went:

Husband:  You mean Peace is a four year school now?

Us:  Yep.

Husband:  Oh my God, NOBODY could live with ya'll if you'd stayed there four years!

At which time, said husband was smacked in the back of the head.

This world needs more Peace Bitches.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Study in Southern Grandmothers: Tact v. Fire Bomb

In keeping with my recent Diamond Magnolia theme, I would like to take the opportunity to discuss persons very near and dear to my Southern heart:  Grandmas. 

Of course, deep abiding love and reverence for grandmas isn't a requirement of every good Southern boy and belle, but I feel comfortable saying that such feelings for one's grandma are present more often than not.  In addition to the revered 11th Commandment (Thou shalt not be tacky), we here in the South are also schooled on the 12th Commandment:  Thou will respect thy elders--particularly grandmothers--lest thou risk a swift and fierce whipping of thou's posterior.   

Our elders Do.  Not.  Mess.  Around.  My grandmothers are as different as night and day, but I have a healthy respect for each one's M.O. 

One of my grandmothers checked into Heaven to keep things straight sixteen years ago yesterday and not a day goes by that I don't miss her.  I have to say that she her approach, but she got things done.  She always spoke very evenly and with lots of grace, but she had more of that Jedi skill set where a person didn't realize that they were being handled.  "These are not the droids you are looking for."

Of course, there was always the truly obtuse individual who didn't respond to suggestion and they would therefore be subject to her patented "arched eyebrow."  Trust me when I tell you that The Eyebrow left no room for question.  I am proud to be the genetic recipient of The Eyebrow and it totally freaks my husband out, so I use it a lot.  I'll never forget getting up with Baby Belle 2 for an early morning feeding when she was only a few months old and catching her gaze as she swiftly sucked her bottle dry.  Out of nowhere, my tiny little baby gave me The Eyebrow and I suddenly felt the need to say "yes ma'am."  Ghostly.

The amazing thing is, I can honestly say that I never once heard Grandma raise her voice in the twenty-two years I had the privilege of knowing her and that is pretty amazing considering that she owned two thriving ladies clothing stores (with one of them being a wedding dress shop and, while Bridezillas is new show, trust me when I tell you that they still existed back in the day) was married to a homicide detective and had three children.  Of course, I wasn't yet born at the time my Grandaddy Ed loaded up pigs for transport in the trunk her her brand new car and I think most anyone would forgive that little slip. 

Now, my Grandma Willie turned 90 on November 11th and there's a sporting chance that she'll see me buried first.  Where my other grandmother had tact, Grandma Willie has a definite knack for calling 'em like she sees 'em.  In her book, tact is one of the dreaded four letter words.  She would rather save time and fire bomb the bush rather than waste precious moments dancing around it. 

Case in point:  Several Thanksgivings ago, we were all sitting around the dining room table eating and enjoying each other's company (or so we thought).  Out of nowhere, Grandma stood up, said, "I'm tired of you people," and promptly exited the room.  Granted, there were some with mouths hanging agape in shock, but those of us who really knew her just giggled and took it in stride.

This is the same woman who, during a visit across The Pond, gravely shocked a docent at Westminster Abbey.  When the  unsuspecting guide pointed out where the Queen sat during services, Grandma huffed and said, "Well, that's just the dumbest thing I've ever seen.  She ought to sit out with the rest of God's children."  We tried to tip the nice old fella handsomely, but I'm not sure if he ever really recovered from his brush with Hurricane Willie.  Bless him.

There's also that little something extra about certain older Southern women:  They have super powers.  I'm not talking about leaping tall buildings or stopping locomotives.  I'm also not talking about the [admittedly super] ability to make it through the Great Depression and World War II and raise a family.  No, I'm talking about...well...more of a sixth sense if you will.

I don't exactly know what you call it.  My dad calls it Black River Magic in reference to the area in South Carolina where Grandma Willie grew up.  For starters, the woman knows things.  If something is going on--someone is sick or someone is out of town--you can expect the call from Grandma and the first words you'll hear are "there's something you need to tell me." 

I know, I know.  I can hear you saying, "Well, that's just a good questioning tool."  Fine, but she only asks when there is, in fact, something we aren't telling her.  Mom doesn't like to spring things on Grandma because of her age and her tendency to worry, so we are on occasion called upon to not mention so and so's foot surgery or trip out of town or stomach bug and those situations are the only time Grandma makes that eerie statement.  It's gotten to where I refuse to comply with Mom's orders of silence because I get freaked out and I don't hold up under interrogation. 

I surely can't get mad at my brother for folding the same way I do.  In July, 2008, my parents went on a trip to Alaska and I was 8 months pregnant.  Mom and Dad hadn't been gone two days when my water broke and I found myself going into labor a month early.  When my husband called my parents to give them the fateful news, one of the first thing out of Mom's mouth was "We're on the way back and--for God's sake--don't tell Mother!"  About five hours into labor, my brother came in with a hang-dog look and his conversation with Grandma went a little something like this:

(Phone rings)  Ethan:  Hello?

Grandma:  Ethan--

Ethan:  Okayokayokay!  AshleyisinlaboratthehospitalandtheythinkeverythingisgoingtobeokaybutwecalledMomandDadandtheyarechartering aplanebackandshouldbeinbytomorrownight!

Folded like a Poker hand.  Greater men had gone before him.

Grandma also has the ability to make things happen.  My husband lost some weight and he didn't want to waste money in getting pants that would fit him better.  Every time Grandma Willie saw him, she'd say, "Scott, you need to get some new britches.  Those are about to fall off of you." 

Not more than twenty-four hours later, Scott's pants would rip and he would have to go and buy a new pair.  I suppose you can call that coincidence if you want to, but when it happened four times in a row, Scott no longer felt the need to test the hypothesis. 

So, us Southerners adore and revere our grandmothers.  I think you could say that we have a healthy respect for our elders all together.  They are a link to a different time and we would all do well to hear and learn their lessons.  Unfortunately, they had to learn a lot of life's lessons the hard way. 

Of course, if you see Grandma Willie out and your britches.