Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Honey, are you feelin' kind?

Those are some lyrics from "Kindness," a new track off of Ryan Adams's latest, Ashes and Fire. (Which I'll be seeing him perform live in less. than. a. week.)

I want to direct you over to the Uncontainable Truth today, where I have a followup to my first post there, which was called "Mean People Suck." Today's post is about the opposite: why Kind People Rock. 

And I talk about Jim Henson and Ma Otter. What's not to like?

Ma Otter from Emmett Otter's Jug Band Christmas

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Birthday, Grandma!

Here's a little story about how Emily Cutchen became Grandma.

76 years ago today, Emily Sue Cutchen was born in Newville, Alabama.

15 years later, Sue (as she was being called) would marry her high school sweetheart, Don Pitts. Don, a baseball player, was a few years older than her, already out of high school and about to enlist in the US Air Force.

And a little more than a year after that, at the age of 16, she gave birth to her one and only child, Donna Sue. (Be sure to take note of the clever joining of names.) Since Don was away fighting wars and all that jazz, Donna Sue and Sue were very close. They had many adventures and enjoyed a mother/daughter relationship envied by many.

Sue and Donna Sue showing some skin at the Beach. 
Jump to 1979: Donna Sue had just finished her Masters in the big city of Birmingham and returned to Dothan, close to home, to practice as a Speech Pathologist. She gets set up on a blind date with Fred, a charming baseball player-turned-salesman, fresh from New Orleans (with the accent and olive skin to prove it). She marries him six months later, mainly, she jokes, because he looked like Burt Reynolds.

Fred and Donna Sue, late 70s/early80s
Just a few years later, at the young age of 46, Sue became Grandma, a name she is known to by many, when Donna Sue had her first daughter, Lauren (that would be me). And for a second time two years later, when Natalie was born.
Lauren, Natalie, and Donna Sue... sometime in the 80s.
And a good example of my sister's former mullet and Mom's feathered 'do. 

The years between 1984 and the present have been good and bad, brought joy and tears, as life tends to do. My grandmother has buried not only her parents and her in-laws, but 12 older brothers, sisters, and their spouses; a few nephews; and in 2009, her husband of nearly 60 years. But also in those years, she's been the matriarch of a family. "Aunt Sue" to numerous nieces and nephews (you can imagine how many when you have 12 siblings) and "Grandma" to everyone else. She's the storyteller. The cooking teacher (and the primary chef). The daredevil, forcing her not-yet-teenage granddaughter (that would be me) onto roller coasters and the double-decker Ferris wheel at the Peanut Festival...  just so she didn't have to ride by herself. The Rummy Coach. The listener. The supporter.

She is also one of the primary people in my life who have never made me doubt that I have been loved as much as any little (and now slightly older) girl can be loved. Grandma is always on my team. There aren't all that many folks I can say that about. It's the stuff of a good therapy session.

Natalie, Lauren, and Grandma - Christmas 2010

So Happy Birthday to my Grandma! And Cheers to many, many more!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Thought Catalog

Sara Beth discovered, and has been daily sending me posts from, a site called Thought Catalog. And now I have to share with anyone reading this. Because seriously, every once in a while I think to myself "Did I get up and write this in my sleep and post it under a fake name?" Not because I think I'm so brilliant or as good of a writer, but mainly because so many of these writers share my interests (Parks & Rec, Bright Eyes), but also seem to think like me. For example, "A Non-Exhaustive List of Things that Trigger My Anxiety." Get out of my brain!

The following comes from a recent post: 20 New Year's Resolutions for 20-Somethings (by Jessie Rosen)

  1. Before you status update, Tweet, Tumble or Instagram, pause and say to yourself, “is it entirely necessary that I share this morsel of thought with my entire social network?”and if the answer is not, “yes, I absolutely must,” then step away from the Internet.
  2. Know which candidate you’re going to vote for in the upcoming presidential election, and know why.
  3. Enough with the 14-day juice cleanses. If you want to lose a little weight quickly, eat less and exercise like crazy. If you want to lose a lot of weight slowly, do whatever Jennifer Hudson did.
  4. If you really like the person you’re hooking up with and would like them to be your boyfriend/ girlfriend, find a way to tell them, and hope for the best. If you don’t and wouldn’t, stop.
  5. Find a way to save approximately 300 dollars and spend it on a flight to see a friend or family member who lives far away.
  6. Please stop liking the Kardashians, all of them. It’s not helping anyone, least of all the Kardashians.
  7. Spend less than or equal to the money you earn each month.
  8. Wear clothes that fit you, especially to work.
  9. Call someone on the phone at least once a week, and speak to him or her for at least ten minutes.
  10. Start preparing now to get over the fact that Facebook is probably going to change again in six months. You’re not going to deactivate your account. You don’t know how.
  11. Wait 30 seconds before you look up a fact you can’t remember on your phone, and try to remember it using your brain. This is what the olden days were like.
  12. Replace one terrible reality show you’re currently watching with one wonderful scripted show currently available on television.  Swap suggestion: Real Housewives of Anywhere for HBO’s Enlightened.
  13. Try that food you think you don’t like but have never actually tried, unless it’s brussels sprouts. They really don’t need any more attention.
  14. Cut one person out of your life who you truly do not like and add one person who you truly do. Note: not on Facebook, on Earth.
  15. If you’re still blacking out regularly, you should stop.
  16. Volunteer once over the next 90 days.  You’ll feel really good about it, and probably end up volunteering again over the next 275.
  17. Tell someone who you love that you love them on a more regular basis. To their face, not in a text.
  18. Back up your entire online life onto an external hard drive, especially your photos.
  19. Crap or get off the pot. This applies to whatever thing you’re not doing that you should just sack up and do already.
  20. And in the eternal words of Tom Haverford, “TREAT YO SELF!”
See? Check it out for daily entertainment/enlightenment. They've got some smart chickies writing for them over there.

Monday, January 9, 2012


In a past post, I talked about my new job, and how crazy it is that I've finally found something that combines my past experience in writing, design, library studies, IT, and communications... and is also faith-based. Essentially, this is a culmination of every professional job I've had in my adult life, and both of my degrees. Neat, right?

The idea of a career in my generation is interesting, and something I'm pretty sure has actually been studied. As children, we were told... The Sky is the limit!... You can have it ALL!... Go to college, and the world is yours for the taking!

So it's no surprise that the idea of staying in one career for 50 years gives us the heebyjeebies. We jump around and are always on the lookout. (This is the first time, at the age of 29, when I can see myself sticking with something for the longrun.) For me, this has always applied to living situation (it seems I'm already checking Craigslist the second I sign a lease) and even the city I live in. And of course no one thought to warn of recessions in which jobs wouldn't be readily available for the taking. If you had told me back in high school that 10 years later, I'd be waitressing at night to make my ends meet, I would have laughed in your face.

This is not to say there is a thing wrong with choosing the service industry as your career. My circle of friends consists of  just as many bankers as it does career servers and bartenders. And I enjoy waitressing. I've learned more about cooking, more about people, and I've made tons of friends in the three years I waitressed. It just wasn't what I wanted for the rest of my life.

But so it goes. And here we are. And I feel fortunate to have struggled and am thankful for the humility instilled in me. Having worked in a restaurant kinda gives you this little in. Either you've worked in food services, or you haven't. And you can instantly bond with someone who has. Because they understand. It's a truly interesting culture. And one that I actually miss a lot now that I'm not there full-time.

So with that being said, check out this article about Five Jobs Everyone Should Have. And of course, working in a restaurant is at the top.

I highly recommend this read for anyone who's ever worked in a restaurant or wants to know more about what goes on behind the scenes. 

There have been books upon books and blog posts upon blog posts written about the things you learn as a server. Really, everyone at this point should be aware that servers are just people, trying to pay their rent and feed their kids just like everyone else. But, alas, this is not the case.  Here's a really great and hilarious blog from my buddy and fellow server Boeskool. Titled "How Not to be a Jack Ass," it should be required reading for all restaurant-goers. In addition, here are a few things I've learned/witnessed in the few years I've been in the biz.

1: Waitressing is one of those "do not bite the hand that feeds you" type of things, and it works both ways. Don't tick off your waiter, since he or she is the person in charge of getting your food to you, paying attention to your needs, and whatnot. I personally would never spit in someone's food or do anything gross like that, but I know plenty of people who would and have. And in the same token, servers realize just as much as patrons that unless they are able to add gratuity to a table, they are being paid solely because of the generosity of the payer at their table. And while there are tons of other circumstances that may lead someone to leave a less-than-desirable tip (greed, arrogance, old age), the server has the obligation to make sure they don't do something to directly influence this. So for the most part, if everyone plays nice and all goes to plan, it evens out well for both parties. But that table can be so quickly tipped in one favor. And like Boeskool says, food timing and quality are NOT a server's fault, but the kitchen's.

2: Teens should never be allowed to go to a restaurant with table service without having been properly instructed on how to act and tip.

 It's true.

3: People really do leave their phone numbers on receipts. And sometimes real relationships are formed from this. I've witnessed it happen a number of times. I've also witnessed someone being offered a threesome via number left on receipt. I do not recommend this. 

4: People are ridiculous, and you just have to laugh it off. I'll never forget the night a buddy of mine, who I'll admit is quite attractive, had a table with a teenage girl who thought he looked like Edward Cullen. And her mother straight-up asked, without hesitancy, if he would bite her daughter's neck for her birthday. And like any obliging server wanting a good tip and to humor some folks, he did. And he was well-compensated for it, I believe. Lesson learned here is... everyone has their price.

Yall have seen this, right? The Edward Cullen body pillow?

5: If you ever want to hear the inside scoop about what's going on in the restaurant, who's sleeping with who (a common theme of working in a restaurant is that the staff inevitably becomes somewhat incestuous), and to add a few more colorful words to your vocabulary... seat yourself close to the beverage well or the area of the bar closer to where servers congregate. 

6: And lastly... always ask the server what they suggest if you're unsure. Most servers are honest enough to not just tell you the most expensive thing on the menu, but what they genuinely think is the best thing to order. And some, me included, will even give you an indication if there's something you should not be ordering. 

(All efforts to obtain a picture to demonstrate this grossed me out and forever scarred my web browser.)