Blogging: May Cause International Friendship.

I regularly struggle about this blog. Besides the fact that blogging is a dead art, I have less to write about than when my kids were tiny, I have less time (thanks, kids, for not napping anymore), I have more varied interests that take up my time (running, hiking, photography, reading), and it’s harder for me to write well. Late at night when I can’t sleep and anxiety attacks me in random ways, I sometimes decide to quit writing. But the next morning, I always change my mind. And a chief cause of that is relationships.

I have made hundreds of friends through writing, in dozens of states and quite a few countries. I have met scores of these people in real life, and many of my good friends came from blogging. These bonds were formed because we, for many various reasons, have things in common. We view life out of the same lens (sorry if your lens is as sarcastic and cynical as mine.) We can relate. Because somehow – via comments or social media or emails exchanged in the middle of the night, we connected. We made an impact on each other’s lives simply through the exchanged written word.

This is why I still write. Not as often, not as well-crafted. But I write.

This past week was a reminder of the beauty of this blogging side effect.

A blog reader, who googled “Plus sized blue jeans” and found me half a decade ago when she lived in the jungles of Mozambique, came to visit me last week – for the second time. And she brought her husband along this time – who, for some bizarre reason, agreed to come stay with strangers for six days.

Now back to being residents in their home country of Canada, Rick and Heather are (clearly) the adventurous sort, and as such, we did all the things while they were here.

We greeted them at the front door, and they seemed happy to have arrived…

blog Heather and Rick About Town IMG_4529

Okay no we didn’t try and convince them that this was our house. But it would’ve been exceedingly fun to send them this address and wait for the texts to come in.

Back to what we DID do.

Heather wanted to meet all the people in Birmingham that I’ve “introduced” her to via the internet. So we started with lunch with Katherine of Grass Stains fame. (We tried to get Jamie to join us as well, but she was attacked by an October cold.)

We didn’t manage to get a picture with Katherine at our delightful lunch, but we did, however, find time to take multiple photos of the bathroom.

Because – who knew? The old Federal Reserve building downtown (where our lunch date at Urban Standard was located) turned the old vault into the bathrooms.

blog IMG_3449

Talk about needing to make a deposit.blog IMG_3447

blog IMG_3452

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since, on their trip down, Rick and Heather stopped at the biggest everything that they could find (you can see Heather’s Instagram feed for evidence of that), I took her to the OLDEST things.

The oldest baseball field in America (Rickwood Field),

171015 Moss Rock Preserve High Falls 171011-Rickwood-Field--IMG_4461

The oldest castle in Birmingham (Quinlan Castle, built in 1927 – you know because we have so many castles),

blog IMG_3468

The oldest Giant Amazon Box in Birmingham (okay there are a few others and I have no idea which was built first but they’ve been around for like a week or three),

blog IMG_3526

The oldest selfie-angel-wings in Birmingham (they’re not quite a year old yet but aren’t they fabulous?)

blog IMG_3549 3

And the oldest cannon pointed at downtown Birmingham.

blog Heather and Rick About Town IMG_4564The Canadians are coming! The Canadians are coming!!

We also visited some of the best Birmingham restaurants (Nabeel’s and John’s City Diner) and fantastic Birmingham signage nearby,

blog Heather and Rick About Town IMG_4614

blog Heather and Rick About Town IMG_4631

Along with the Light Tunnels,blog Heather and Rick Light Tunnel IMG_4687

blog Heather and Rick Light Tunnel IMG_4704

blog IMG_3523

Graffiti of note,

blog Heather and Rick About Town IMG_4579

And OBVIOUSLY the sunset.

blog Heather and Rick Sunset IMG_4546

It was basically a Birmingham Second Honeymoon. With tour guides.

Because Heather found such fabulous deals last time she visited, we took another trip to Unclaimed Baggage, a couple of hours away – where all unclaimed baggage of all the airlines ends up.

I hung out in the books section for most of our visit, because I discovered that all paperbacks are $1.49-1.99 and hardbacks are $2.99 (and people read REALLY GREAT books on planes). I bought about 15 books, so I’m set for a few days.

I also reprised my small group girl’s trip tradition of finding the most unsafe pair of heels and trying to stand in them.

blog IMG_3530

I do not exaggerate when I say that I almost broke myself. And I only put one of the shoes on.

Heather’s husband, Rick, was surprisingly cool with all this – even the shopping trip, where he found himself the hottest vintage Baywatch jacket in all the land.

171015 Moss Rock Preserve High Falls 171012  Weathington Park IMG_4510Did I mention he’s a pastor? He’s going to look so fabulous preaching in his Baywatch gear.

Rick did find the need to DO something, which led him to begging us for access to our chain saw (to cut down a tree that fell through our trampoline during what was left of Hurricane Nate), putting together a “some assembly required” storage box I’d ordered from Amazon, and also I came home one day to my dryer taken apart because apparently, cleaning the lint filter doesn’t get all the lint out. (Who knew?) In his spare time, he made things like this with my children:

blog IMG_3473

A man’s gotta vacation how a man’s gotta vacation.

But what they REALLY came for…

was Alabama football.

blog IMG_3624

To see the things our state celebrates so thoroughly, like an elephant taking a poop on a Beetle.

blog IMG_3627

To see what we do with our excess tissue paper.

blog IMG_3646

And most importantly, to see Alabama Gameday Fashion at its absolute finest.

We saw it all. Multiple men changing clothes in public, ladies wearing scarves as shirts, all manner of visible bras (and visible oh-well-would-you-look-at-that-she’s-not-wearing-a-bra), and tutus. SO MANY tutus.

Heather said, more than once, and I quote,

“Wh – but Wh – Wh wh wh wh WHY??”

blog IMG_3642

Because Alabama. That’s why.

We made it into the game, where the culture continued to pour out onto us – this time in the form of significant back sweat of the man sitting in front of – and leaning onto – our row.

blog IMG_3658The back which provided the artisan Alabama perspiration can be seen leaning on Rick’s legs.

We had six days of all the adventure and experience and oddities that Alabama could offer. Which was absolutely delightful.

…As was this Introvert’s ICU ward that I entered upon their departure.

Porch Swing IMG_3660 2

Red Legos & Hamm

Guest Post by Chief Husband and Editor Chris

It’s Championship Eve. The last holiday cometh. Tomorrow, my team, the Alabama Crimson Tide, will rematch Clemson to defend their national title and try to go 15-0 for the first time. It just so happens that most of this weekend was spent iced in at home. Everything was cancelled, travel discouraged, you know the drill. So after all the Christmas decorations came down, multiple Star Wars movies were watched, rooms rearranged and organized, my idle hands started playing with Lego.

My mantle rolled its eyes at me and smiled.

National Champ Lego_MG_2678_6452

It started with some fun officially licensed gifts Rachel has given me the past few years.

National Champ Lego_MG_2655_6429

Then I added some fan seating in various financial tiers.

National Champ Lego_MG_2669_6442

And the fandom I know best, the tailgating.

National Champ Lego_MG_2657_6430

The Wayne Enterprises skybox is for VIPs only, but its not the cheeriest place. The Dark Knight, the worried hobbit, and Mr. Attitude the Wizard enjoy their wealth and privilege, but there’s not a pom-pom in sight.

National Champ Lego_MG_2653_6427

The upper deck is bit less stodgy, and a solid cross-section of Lego society.

National Champ Lego_MG_2681_6456

Down in the safely guarded concourse, the crowd picks up their yummy fish.

National Champ Lego_MG_2703_6478

The grouchy custodian just came from cleaning the ladies’ room. She is no fan of the hovering fans she cleans up behind.

National Champ Lego_MG_2701_6476

Her coworker is having a better time taking care of the field.

National Champ Lego_MG_2686_6460

Meanwhile, outside the stadium, Ma & Pa Cop are hosting a fantastic tailgate outside their RV.

National Champ Lego_MG_2659_6433

And the grill masters are taking care of the hungry crowd.

National Champ Lego_MG_2660_6434

The whole crowd, inside and out, players and fans, are, like me, filled with hope and expectation. The game kicks off in less than 24 hours. By the time you read this, I’ll either feel like these guys:

National Champ Lego_MG_2684_6458

Or like Hamm.

National Champ Lego_MG_2690_6464

Either way, I’m over here having fun. Roll Tide.

The Day The Tide Turned Brown.

The history of Alabama Football is nuanced and deep in its tradition. Why, for instance, would our mascot be an elephant, yet we’re called The Crimson Tide?

It came from a simple phrase used by a journalist.

In 1907, there was a particularly momentous game – the Iron Bowl, in fact – that was played in a sea of red mud which stained the Alabama jerseys, formerly white, into a deep crimson. Hugh Roberts, a sports editor of the Birmingham Age-Herald, used the catchy phrase “Crimson Tide” in his article to capture the imagery, and that was that.

…So it would be fitting if another momentous game caused a shift in the naming of the team.

Such was Saturday’s game.

It was a huge game from the outset – two undefeated teams this late in the season, ranked 1 and 6. College Gameday was there. The entire city was basically standing room only – forget actually trying to walk in the quad. The gameday attire (or lack thereof) was turned up like never before, and that’s saying something – I saw more body parts sticking from the places they’re typically kept covered than I have ever seen in my entire life.

When game time arrived at 2:30, the 101,821 people that were lucky enough to be inside the stadium had been given ample time for tailgating and general celebration of the occasion, which of course included the consumption of many things – both in liquid and solid form.

The game started happily. Alabama scored, the stadium was wild with excitement over such a fantastic match-up. I admit I wasn’t actually in my seat when the game began – we have hospitality tickets, so I was enjoying the food and drinks provided in the cushy indoor seating where you watch the game on TV, you’re not squished into the people on the right, left, north, and south of you, and the bathrooms are pristine.

I visited those pristine bathrooms when we arrived and noticed that the toilets were eterni-running. They had the flush that never ends, and moreover that was a bit too high in pressure so that they also doubled as a bidet.

Not great, but who am I to complain about overzealous toilets.

Right before we left the Stadium Club to head to our actual seats, I visited the little girl’s room one more time – just in case. This time, the bathroom was silent. Too silent, in fact. Gone was the eterni-flushing. Gone were any flushes. I wiggled the handle – not even a wave emanated from the bowl.

Huh. Weird day in the bathrooms.

Then I quickly moved on.

We got to our seats just in time to see a couple of exciting plays, and then there was….

…the announcement.

Attention: the stadium is currently experiencing water pressure issues. We are working to resolve the problems. Until that occurs, there will be no running water. Please do not use the facilities until further notice.

And then the game continued as if nothing catastrophic was afoot.

My mind quickly went into math mode.

101,821 fans.

32% were too drunk to hear the announcement.

Another 45% heard it, but were too filled with liquids to heed it.

10% were in the bathroom during the news and didn’t hear it.

100% of the stadium concessions were still selling fountain drinks.

28% of the people in the stadium smuggled in their own liquids.

And 100% of Rachel Callahans now had to pee since discovering that they weren’t allowed.

I tried to come to grips with my situation by turning to Twitter.

IMG_0517

Surely the issue would be quickly remedied. The population of the stadium alone was currently Alabama’s fifth largest city. Every state employee except Nick Saban was surely frantically working on this.

So I sat and watched the game, crossing my legs, suspiciously staring down each and every person who left their seats, wondering if they were on their way to worsening our situation.

IMG_0518

We headed back inside during halftime, severely disappointed that no follow-up announcement had been made. There were lines to the regular stadium bathrooms, so maybe we’d just missed the all clear?

That, or truly no one was heeding the gravity of the situation.

When we arrived at the Stadium Club, we were greeted with grave warnings that all of the bathrooms inside were off limits.

In fact, they were being guarded by a wall of workers. Martial Pooping Law had been enacted.

I decided that I’d had enough of the cramped quarters of the stadium, so I stayed in the club while Chris went back out to the game. Plus, I was hopeful that the bathrooms would be opened any minute. My personal situation was feeling more urgent.

But alas. The Palace Guard was not budging.

After a little while, I went back to the normal stadium bathrooms, thinking that the long lines from earlier had to be proof that they were once again working.

I walked in and headed to a stall. And gasped, then promptly choked on the air I had just inadvertently sucked in.

There was a pyramid constructed of moist toilet paper and who-knows-what-else…all the way up to the seat.

Noooooo.

I walked into another stall. The same sight greeted me.

Third, fourth, fifth stalls – the pyramid scheme was nonstop.

TwilightSparkleNopeNopeNope_zpsf3c479db

I couldn’t do it. I turned and walked out. But then the urge was too great and so I turned around and got in the back of the now-formed line. Everyone that came out said “Oh my GOSH ladies it’s TERRIBLE in there.”

I got to the front of the line, looked in one stall, and once again backed out.

I just couldn’t.

10% out of sympathy for whoever the poor soul was that was going to have to DEAL with THAT, and 90% out of complete and utter terror from the contents therein and the closeness they would pose to my own body.

Uh uh. I would internally burst first, thankyouverymuch.

I trudged back up to the Stadium Club to wait it out. I sat down next to a friend and she leaned over and said, “Look what’s going on over there….there’s some sort of…LIQUID…dripping through the ceiling.”

IMG_0508

There was zero water running through the pipes of the stadium – I had just confirmed that fact by attempting to scrub the nast of the bathroom off of me – but the sink was bone dry. So the logical conclusion was that whatever that was coming through the ceiling did not originate from the pipes that carried clean water.

And it was dripping steadily into a room that was designed for…and full of…food.

We sat and watched it drip into the trashcans strategically yet subtly placed underneath it.

Needless to say, I lost my appetite for any further consumption, and my bladder insisted that I throw away the rest of my ice water (which, oddly, was still available and flowing from the drink machine.)

Meanwhile, I pondered gravity, and the downward motion of the liquids drip dripping away. And imagined the situation on the field itself.

cousin-eddie-scene

By the fourth quarter, the game was well in hand and my husband, being the type that likes to take mercy on his wife and beat the traffic, decided we should leave early. As we walked down the street by the Health-Hazard of a Stadium, there was a small river running in the gutter… even though our state is currently in a Level Three drought.

That there was not water.

That was the Brownish Yellow Tide.

Roll Tide, y’all. And pass the toilet paper.

Crimson Tide Turns Brown