Delicious Autumn

“I feel as if we love each other better in autumn”, I said on the blanket under the tree. “Maybe it’s because we fell in love in autumn and the air takes us back to those first new moments.”

We didn’t admit it till the winter, but we fell in love in the fall. And in Memphis, TN the landscape echoed the autumn crisp in the air – here in Florida it’s still green and brown, green and brown, but the cool air still sweeps over the water from time to time and feels like the most welcomed gift.

It feels like a pause. A pause from the intense heat – a pause from real life, even. Cool mornings are treated differently, almost ceremoniously: windows open, coffee cups clasped, sweaters dug out of the bottom drawer. “It’s beautiful today, we must go sit outside.”

Our living room curtains dance from the open windows and the candle flame on the coffee table flickers wildly, both enchanting to watch. The autumn breeze sends a small shiver down my back and makes the gathered hair around my neck dance.

As I listen to the breeze rush through the palm trees (a sound so full it almost mimics rain) I think about what this air means. It’s the first signal of holidays. It means that in a month or so my family will be gathered around the backyard I grew up in, eating vegetable medley and turkey, watching the little cousins run around the yard and remarking how much bigger they are than the year before. I was once one of the kids running around, but now I’m amazed at how quickly they’re growing.

This air is a signal that soon I will bake my grandmother’s pumpkin pie with my mom. A grandmother I never met, this is a small way I feel connected to her. I don’t know if autumn was her favorite season, but her most beloved dessert was pumpkin pie so in autumn I think of her. In this air I almost smell it. My mother and I don’t need to look at the recipe anymore, it’s memorized by our hands and heart.

These mornings always stir my restless legs. “How can we live so far away from mountains and colors? I need this air in my lungs every October morning!” Every autumn I threaten to run away from the flat lands of Florida and retreat to Tennessee or North Carolina. And with Timothy next to me, I bet one of these years we will.

A full day of work is ahead of me: phone calls and calendars and meeting with volunteers till 8pm. But right now, as the air is coming through my living room window and the sun has just started to peek over the buildings, life is still and rich.

My Undying Love for Inconsequential Things, and Why Publix Rules.

I am an above average passive person. I don’t take strong stances in politics, current events, American Idol, the Superbowl, or the cat vs. dog debate. Sometimes it’s because I don’t understand enough to form a solid opinion (lookin’ at you, anything that happens on CNN), sometimes I just don’t care (any sport of all time), and sometimes I don’t want to step on other people’s toes. Being passive it’s easy. Which makes sense because it’s very similar to being lazy, which is the easiest thing of all time. In fact, being passive is 100% easier than having an opinion of every little thing. I know people who have opinions on every little thing and first of all… ugh. Second of all I am positive they are exhausted all. of. the. time.

There are a few things that have escaped my passivity, however, and instead found their way into a zone of “die hard dedication”. It seems there isn’t much of a middle ground, just indifference and then lunacy. I have very strong (perhaps irrational) opinions about the direction toilet paper should go in the bathroom (over, you fool), which of Rory Gilmore’s boyfriends was actually the best match for her (if you dare suggest Dean or Logan I will scream), and, of course, which grocery store chain is obviously the best in existence. I give you: Publix.

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Like a good Floridian, I grew up loving Publix. I was raised with strong values and taught to appreciate this more-than-just-a-market at a very young age. I have fond memories of running errands with my mom, getting a free sprinkle cookie in the bakery just for bein’ a kid, and grabbing some chicken tenders that were just so good we’d eat them as soon as we’d get in the car instead of waiting till we arrived home.

We had a really long and happy relationship together. We got lucky, Publix and I. Over 20 years of blissful grocery shopping together.

Then something tragic happened.

Tragedy and love go hand in hand all too often. In The Notebook, Allie didn’t get Noah’s letters. Maria and Tony’s love in West Side Story was no match for the bad blood between rival gangs. And of course poor, sweet, beautiful Jack Dawson turns into a human popsicle before he and Rose can spend the rest of their lives together riding horses. For Publix and I? I moved to Memphis.

I’ll never forget the day I first stepped foot inside a Kroger. You can’t forget heartbreak that big – that real. Everything was so… blue. And dirty. And wrong. “Yeah but Kroger is really cheap!” you may say, but you know what? Kroger makes me feel really cheap.

 

WHY PUBLIX IS BETTER THAN KROGER :

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First of all, the logo. Publix has chosen a nice, minimalistic font choice with a great color scheme: green and white. Simple. Aesthetically pleasing. Bravo. And that tag line? So true, so true. 

Then you have Kroger which is just like.. what is happening. I can’t even with that font choice and the weird swoosh coming from the “K” and “g”. And nice try, but I’m not fooled into thinking your logo is three dimensional so you can cool it with that fake sheen and glisten. And is that tag line done in “Impact”? What is that, windows 95 clip art status? Stop.

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.. what?

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Next there’s the fact that in order to get sale prices at Kroger you have to have a Plus Card. Which means one more awful thing to take up room in your wallet or ruin the integrity of your key ring. Know what you need to take advantage of all of Publix’s wonderful sales? NOTHING. JUST PICK UP YOUR BEAUTIFUL BOGO’S AND DON’T WORRY ABOUT SWIPING ANY DUMB CARD.

(Kroger doesn’t even have BOGO’s. Can you imagine the horror?)

Even more important than logo choices, Publix is so clean. Outkast probably wrote “So Clean” about Publix because I’m just sayin, “ I’m just so fresh, so clean (So fresh and so clean clean) ” is the epitome of this sweet grocery store. And Kroger? Not so much ya’ll, not so much. Are there exceptions to this rule? Sure. I have been in a Kroger that didn’t make me feel like I needed to drench myself in hand sanitizer, but a clean Kroger is truly the exception and not the rule. Here is an actual photograph of the Publix I shopped at in Florida and the Kroger I shop at in Memphis:

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Crazy, right? But that’s the reality.

The list goes on: Publix brand items are INCREDIBLE, Kroger brand is just.. not even. Publix employees are kind and wonderful and beautiful but Kroger cashiers are mad that they’re working somewhere so dirty and therefore they’re grumpy. Again, are there exceptions?  Maybe. But I’ll tell you what, I have bagged my own groceries 90% of the time shopping at Kroger and that nonsense just wouldn’t fly at Publix.

Publix also has the most delicious subs in the entire world. Subway, Lenny’s, and whoever else are just playing for second because Publix has KILLED IT. Kroger doesn’t even make subs that I’ve ever seen, and that’s good. Because it’d be a waste of time. And taste like poop.

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I hope you can hear the angels choir singing in this photo. They even make subs with their chicken tenders WHICH WILL BLOW YOUR MIND.

The only defense I’ve ever heard people try to give for Kroger is that it’s cheaper than Publix. But you know what? That’s not always true. Some items? Sure. All items? No way. Especially when you go off the weekly adds. And those BOGO’s really add up, ya’ll.

So let’s review:

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Not So Secret Love Letter [3]

You are beautiful. You are tall and proud and stately. You are loving, you are warm, you are welcoming. I love you for the way you are quirky and pleasantly awkward and gorgeously imperfect. With you we had the most glorious of dance parties (I think you’re quite the fan of Daft Punk, Passion Pit, MGMT, and The Wobble) and the most bitter sweet of pity parties (thank you for always being well stocked with ice cream). You witnessed exciting conversations and heart breaking conversations and you never once butted in and told us to grow up and stop crying. You kept your door wide open to neighbors and friends and all the dogs and I love you for your hospitality and that your arms are big enough to hug all of them at once. Remember last Easter and how we crammed 40+ people and 4 dogs into one big beautiful messy group? It was crowded and lovely and full of laughter and delicious food and you never once complained that there were too many people. You just kept your arms open.

You are the home that I love.

You are still doing all of those things even though your residents have switched around a little bit. Your porch still stands strong, for the most part, and it is still the most wonderful place to sit during a rainy afternoon. Your tree branches are still begging for a swing to be tied to them and who knows, maybe this year will be the year. Your wood floors still carry the echo of the barks and whimpers from the most beautiful dog to ever exist as well as the laughter from some of the most beautiful women to ever exist. Your kitchen still cooks pancakes and cookies and your refrigerator is still displaying funny baby pictures of all who reside within your walls. Thanks for keeping mine up there even though I’m 700 miles away from you. You make me still feel like I’m as much a part of the house as the wood and nails it took to build you.

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If you can’t tell, my shirt says “Sweetest Angel”. Which is still true.

You were just what we were looking for and you became ours right when we needed you.We made a list of things we HAD to have in a home (wood floors made the list but for some reason having more than 1 bathroom didn’t) and you were our perfect fit. We knew it from the moment we first drove down Louisiana Ave and saw you for the first time. We peeked through windows and imagined kickball games in the backyard and figured out how we could get so many cars in your teeny driveway all before the landlord came to show you to us.

“What should we call it?”

“How about The Louisiana Purchase?”

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When I think of Tampa, I think of you. You and the most wonderful friends that still live in your embracing arms. You hold my fondest and heaviest memories and a big goofy doberman that I’m crazy about.

What Everyone (Besides Floridians) Know About The Winter

Being from Florida, I have never lived anywhere where the weather, like.. changed. Florida is pretty constant: for at least 10 out of the 12 months figure you’re going to be in the 80’s, and it may dip to the 50’s around 2am on some mornings but don’t worry because by the afternoon you’re going to be sweating your eyebrows off and regretting your black long sleeved shirt. There are rare exceptions to this, but generally speaking Florida stays true to it’s hot and sweaty reputation.

I was sitting with my mother one day before moving up to Tennessee and I was googling “average monthly temperatures for memphis, TN”. I can specifically remember saying to her after I saw the first chart, “Oh this isn’t right. This chart must be using Celsius because it says highs in the 20’s.”

Florida cracker, y’all.

Here's me standing in a pittance of snow for the third time in my life and now knowing what to do with myself.
Here’s me standing in a pittance of snow for the third time in my life and not knowing what to do with myself.

SO HERE IS A LIST OF A FEW OF THE HARD TRUTHS EVERY FLORIDIAN MUST LEARN THE FIRST WINTER THEY ARE NO LONGER EMBRACED BY THE LOVING AND WARM ARMS OF THEIR HOME STATE:

(created with the help of a few other Florida born babes who have also recently embarked on a wintery wonderland adventure)

  • What the “defrost” button does. And why it is in fact called defrost and not defog.
  • What even in the world “sleet” is.
  • The iPhone weather app ACTUALLY has little snowflake pictures and not just bright suns and thunderstorms.
  • In that app, a picture of a thermometer with a little snowflake next to it means “below freezing temperature”. Which means below 32º. I know this only because I had to google it. I recall learning once in school what the freezing point was on the Fahrenheit scale was, BUT YEAH RIGHT LIKE I NEEDED TO REMEMBER THAT LIVING IN THE LAND OF T-SHIRTS AND SHORTS.
  • Work out pants don’t do jack squat in terms of keeping you warm. Seriously like, I am unable to even – you may as well wear nothing.
  • Gloves are useless for opening doors.
  • Gloves are useless for texting.
  • But wear gloves even though you can’t open anything or text because those ten little phalanges freeze the quickest.
  • Besides your nose, which will fall off  at any moment.
  • Being from Florida, ladies, you’re in the habit of shaving your legs weekly but you may as well throw your razors to the curb because your skin won’t see daylight for months.
  • “Wintry Mix” is literally a meteorological term used on forecasts. It sounds like a delicious winter themed style of chex-mix, but it actually means you’re going to be miserable.
  • “Ice Pellets” and “Hail” aren’t the same thing. Apparently.
  • All those cute little tissue paper scarves that you buy at Forever 21 don’t count for anything.
  • Northerns get their thrills by telling you that whatever temperature it is, it’s nothing compared to what they’re used to. There’s a lot of one-upping when it comes to cold. Just.. ignore them and put on your ear warmers.
  • That said, it actually is annoying to hear people in Florida talk about being cold. Turns out.. 50 degrees isn’t all that cold. So maybe no more whining.
  • Target, up here, sells something called an “ice scraper”. And people actually need them.
  • If you don’t have an ice scraper, CD cases also work for scratching sheets of ice off your windows as you sob because it’s so cold.
  • The reason cold mornings seem charming in Florida is because they happen like, five times. In places that aren’t Florida.. it’s months of cold. Months. It looses it’s charm quick.
  • Unless you live somewhere where people aren’t babies about snow, quadruple your expected travel time. No matter where you are going. You won’t be driving over 45 mph.
  • Driving on ice is literally the most terrifying thing in life. You’ll constantly be chanting “steer into the skid, steer into the skid..” just in case.
  • But the hardest lesson to learn is that snow, the beautiful mystical magical snow that every Floridian child dreams of,  is only pretty when it first falls and then as soon as it gets walked in it turns into nasty wet slippery dirty poop ice.

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No one tells Floridians about the poop ice. Actually, maybe they do. To be honest, when someone starts a sentence with “Well, snow isn’t THAT great…” we stop listening.

Please, no Christmas Business until November 29th.

I’m listening to Tegan & Sara and eating an embarrassingly large number of Hershey Kisses (sorry not sorry) while the most precious of little boys naps next to me. I don’t hate it. This is one of the few chunks of my day where I’m not following a one and half year old around saying things I never thought I’d have say to another human being. For example, “you can’t eat your shoe” and ” don’t put your hands in your poop”.

Very soon I shall be boarding a plane (annoyingly early in the morning) back to the home in which I grew up for yet another beautiful Thanksgiving. There will be pumpkin pie, endless hugs, and probably — definitely — dancing in the kitchen. Thanksgiving doesn’t get enough credit. People who know me at all know that I may be pretty passive when it comes to lots of things, but I am at the front lines in the war against starting Christmas too early. You know, because I pick important battles. Listening to Christmas music / watching Christmas movies / putting up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving enrages me. Thanksgiving is a beautiful holiday, and gosh darn it,  give it some space! Sure, Christmas is the bee’s knees. I get it. I love Christmas just as much as the next tall redhead, but because I love it I don’t want it’s season to get soiled! And the fact that Christmas is awesome doesn’t mean that Thanksgiving can’t be! Ya’ll, we can have more than one enjoyable holiday. Starting Christmas in November is ludicrous. It overshadows Thanksgiving and it makes me exhausted of carols way too soon. I can only deduce that if you’re in a rush to get Thanksgiving over and done with, you never had a slice of my Grandmother Charlotte’s pumpkin pie. Let me brag a little: my family does Thanksgiving right, ya’ll. A bonfire with s’mores the night before as we all arrive from out of town, an early morning Thanksgiving 5k complete with turkey hats I am too embarrassed to wear, cooking together, chowing down together, plotting our Black Friday excursion, disagreeing about which movie we’re going to all go see Thanksgiving evening (you can’t know how happy I am that the “Twilight” series is over – I’m exhausted from dramatically declaring, “I WOULD RATHER BE PUNCHED IN THE FACE THAN GO SEE TWILIGHT” — yes, sisters, this is directed at you), a 5am Black Friday start time, auntie anne pretzels, punching clingy and obnoxious employees at Bath & Body Works (this has never actually happened but every year I’m amazed it doesn’t), an Olive Garden lunch, a nap, etc.

My beautiful mother preparing a Thanksgiving feast 2011
My beautiful mother preparing a Thanksgiving feast; 2011

This year in particular I AM SO EXCITED FOR THANKSGIVING I CAN NOT SEE STRAIGHT, and I think it’s because of all of those little traditions. I know what to expect at Thanksgiving. It’s familiar. It’s count-on-able. Thanksgiving is my longest and most consistent relationship. It’s with the people I have known most deeply. The people who know me better than anyone else. And because I’ve spent the last few months being the new person in a city that confuses me, familiarity sounds amazing. Instead of attending a gathering where I only know three people and have to introduce myself over and over and over again (uggggghaskdfakuweh), I will instead be attending a gathering where every attendee has known me for twenty three years. Ahhhh, to be known.

To be really really known and understood. To end a day in conversation with a friend who knows your backstory because she lived it with you. A friend who knows the reasons behind your quirks. Most often what I find I miss about Florida is simply the time that has already been invested there. By that I mean the fact that my friendships aren’t a few months old, but years. When I tell my mother or one of my old roommates something, we’ll call this hypothetical something “IT”, they consider it in the context of who I am and what I have experienced. Because they know my backstory they know how IT will affect me / how IT makes me feel / how wonderful IT is / how terrible IT is without my having to say so. And maybe even more lovely, they know how to show me love. Ask any Christian female, we all have “love languages” and it’s the most marvelous thing for yours to be known and met by others. For instance, this is a freebie for anyone interested, one of the languages that communicates love to me is hand written letters. Okay, I will grant you this is not one of the 5 technical languages, but it’s mine. Letters and words and stationary sets and pressed leaves. I eat that up. The fact that I have people who know this and send me notes mean more than anything. It has been so exciting to make new friends in Memphis, and frankly I am crazy about the ones I’ve met. But we don’t fully know each other yet simply because we’ve had only a few months and not years and years to laugh and dance and argue together. This will come (even the arguing), and I’m looking forward to knowing them and being known fully.

Till then, I am thankful for my aunt’s delicious turkey stuffing and being known.