Prom Drama

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All week my Facebook news feed has been filled with prom pictures of girls nervously pinning boutonnieres and guys awkwardly poising for the millionth picture of the afternoon hoping his hands aren’t touching something his date’s Daddy will shoot him over. Brings back memories of my first prom.

While at a Vanderbilt basketball game winter break of my junior year, bored, I decided to wander the concession area. Back then every 17-year-old in America didn’t have a cell phone so instead of surfing the Internet or texting my friends who weren’t at some lame basketball game with their family on a Saturday night, I figured buying a coke was a good way to pass the time and it just so happened I bumped into a guy who struck up a conversation. Thus began a blossoming romance between myself and this guy, a football player at a local college. A college football player. I knew none of my friends were dating college boys, much less one that was on a football team. I later learned he was on the practice squad but hey, to a bunch of high school girls, what’s the difference.

What this boy lacked in conversational skills and brain cells, he certainly made up for in biceps, abs and a flashy smile. He would come down on the weekends for a visit and we’d go out. With prom coming up the first week in April, I needed this relationship to last. I needed to take a college football player to prom. Heck, I just needed a date to prom, football player or nerd. Someone with a pulse preferably not related to me. One of my biggest fears in life up to that point was being dateless to the big dance. Middle school dances had left me completely scarred. This guy was going to be my date to the prom and to be sure of it I was going to be the best girlfriend ever. I feigned interest in his ramblings about plays, tackles, Blue 32, onside, offside, whatever. I made brownies, cookies, and all kinds of treats for college care packages to take back to the dorms. I curled my hair, shined my lips, and wore the cutest outfits every time he came over. And guess what????

HE DUMPED ME TWO WEEKS BEFORE THE PROM.

When this illustrious college football dropped me off from our date, he leaned over for a goodnight kiss whispering, and I quote, “You’re a sweet girl but spring training is starting up next week and a lot of girls want to date a football player. I’d hate to have to cheat on you so I think it’s best if we just break up before I do.”

To which I replied, “I hope you die.”

I got out of the truck, walked in the house, slammed the front door, looked at my dad who was waiting up for me and spewed, “Have him killed.” You see for years I’d heard whispered rumors of my Daddy’s so-called mob ties and for that split second I forgot all that I knew to be true and prayed the rumors were correct. I could see why people might think my Dad was a mobster. He was a successful businessman who didn’t take much slack, with his jet black pompadour whooped back hairstyle and reddish olive colored skin, sitting behind his desk in the back office of Kemp’s Foodland meeting salesmen, bankers, employees dressed in silk dress pants, a starched pressed collared dress shirt with matching Italian leather shoes and belt wrapped in a swirl of smoke from the Salem cigarettes lit one right after the other back before we knew anything about COPD and second-hand smoke. He certainly had that mobster air about him but unfortunately for me mobster he wasn’t. Fortunately for that scoundrel football player, Daddy was harmless.

Moma, on the other hand……….

I ended up persuading my good friend Bobby into going with me to the prom. Crisis averted.

1 Timothy 4:12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.photo

My Valentine’s Day Secret Admirer

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Middle school. That pretty much sums up Valentine’s 1991. I was in 8th grade and my sister Melinda was in 6th. All day long, I heard her name called repeatedly over the school intercom, “Melinda Kemp, to the office. Melinda Kemp, to the office.” Girls took turns making their way to the office to pick up some box of chocolate, a balloon trio or vase of FTD’s finest from their latest prepubescent crush. First period came and went. No flowers for me. Second period. No cuddly teddy bear holding a satin heart with the words “BE MINE” puff painted across the front. Third period, fourth period. The day dragged on and on. My heart sank. Was there noone on the face of the earth that thought I was worthy of a measly Valentine? Heck, by 7th period, I’d have settled for a half eaten heart-shaped box of generic dollar store brand candy, you know the kind with the strawberry flavored pieces that taste like Robintussin coated in chocolatey wax.

Then, it happened moments before the dismissal bell rang. My name was called. “Valerie Kemp, to the office. Valerie Kemp, to the office.” I swear I heard angels singing the Hallelujah chorus. I gathered my books and headed down the hall making my way to the front office wondering which one of the teen heart-throbs in my grade had sent me a Valentine. Could it be chocolates, a teddy bear, balloons or dare I dream, a dozen roses?

When I entered the front office, I saw Melinda’s arms loaded down with every type of Valentines imaginable. She even had a cart from the cafeteria to help with trinkets from her many suitors. The school’s secretary took one look at me and said, “Oh Valerie, thank goodness, you’re here. We called you to help Melinda carry her stuff home.” Fantastic. No Valentines for me. I was nothing more than a mere pack mule. With all her Valentine’s loot, my little sister looked like someone had thrown up a Hallmark store on her.

We made our way to the bus dragging stuffed animals, oversized greeting cards, bouquets of roses and enough balloons to be airlifted home. As you might imagine, that bus ride will go down in history as absolutely the most unpleasant one ever and I once rode 16 hours to Daytona Beach on a school bus for a band field trip making the mistake of sitting in front of the tuba players who practiced the whole way there. I held it together until me and Melinda got home. Once there, I had one of those “life or death, everyone hates me, I will die an old maid, middle school was created by Satan meltdowns” while my poor mother and sisters watched in horror. There was no consoling me.

Daddy got home from work late that night and shortly thereafter, a knock at the back door which my entire family insisted I answer. Oh yeah, that’s normal. Have your 13-year-old kid answer the door late at night when you’re not expecting company. I opened the door. No one. Just a white rectangular box with one long-stemmed fake rose and a card attached signed “To Valerie, from your Secret Admirer”.

Finally, a Valentine just for me…..even if I secretly knew it was from my Daddy because he didn’t have the forethought to disguise his own handwriting!

So for me, Valentine’s Day is about loving, encouraging, and including someone because after all, there’s an awkward middle school kid in all of us just wanting to feel loved and accepted. Even though there wasn’t a single middle school boy that day that professed his love to me, I was lucky enough to have parents and sisters who did and still do to this day. Let’s try to spread the love today. Happy Valentine’s y’all!

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
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Me, Join a Running Group????

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Last fall, one of the members of our Kiwanis club suggested we host a 5K as a fundraiser. Sounded like a great idea so off we went planning the Middle Tennessee 5K Shootout. As club president, I have been pretty involved in what is quickly becoming a massive undertaking and I was fine with that until our little 5K committee suggested we form a running group to get our community excited about what we dubbed the Shootout. Nothing about me has ever wanted to run much less become a founding member of a running group. I’d done a lot of things for charity’s sake like squeeze into Spanx to make a ball gown fit just right for a charity gala, risk heat stroke selling Coca Cola’s in the blistering sun at little league ballgames, and hold my breath to keep from getting God knows what type of germ while volunteering at elementary schools across the county but a running group? Heaven help me!

Running groups are for people who closely resemble gazelles, antelopes or some other type of species known for their ability to move from point A to point B in a hurry, not a short-legged, full chested 5’3″ woman like me. Y’all know what I’m talking about. Running groups are full of people who look like they just got back from some grand adventure in their North Face jacket, they have zero percent body fat, and they can run ten miles before I can get my darn shoestrings tied right. I just don’t fit the profile to be in a running group much less help start one. My committee apparently is either delusional or took a trip to Colorado since pot was legalized.

However, they assured me this was for all fitness levels, runners, walkers, everyone. I workout several times a week and one thing’s for sure, I know how to walk. Why should I let some stereotype of what a runner is supposed to be stop me from joining this group? To heck with that, I’m gonna go for it.

Armed with a sports bra so tight I’ll look like a thirteen year old boy, tomorrow morning, rain, sleet or snow, I’m going to meet “my running group” at the Cumberland River Trail at 8 am, cue up my playlist of power songs, pump myself up with”Eye of the Tiger” and channel my inner Rocky, walk, jog, run or some combination of the three.

Who says you gotta look like a gazelle to join a running group?

Hebrews 12:11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

10 Things I Learned in 2013

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After a complete year of living a healthier active lifestyle, this is what I’ve learned:

1. Runner’s High Apparently Doesn’t Kick in After 3.1 Miles. I set a goal in 2013 of running a 5K. Since I had quit smoking weed in high school a thousand year’s ago, I was looking forward to that runner’s high all marathoners talk about. By mid-autumn, I had been unsuccessful in running a full 5K. I had walked a handful, alternated running and walking a bunch but never ran a whole 5K. In November, at a 5K held by a Pentecostal Church to benefit foreign missions, I went all in and decided to run the entire thing. I figured if I was going to die at least do it around folks who believed in divine healing. I kept waiting for that runner’s high to kick in but all I got was a side cramp and lungs that felt like I was breathing in razor blades. No runner’s high but with the finish line in sight as I realized I was going to finish having run the entire time, what I got was a big lump in my throat and a huge sense of accomplishment. I had run an entire 5K.

2. Feeling feelings sucks. In 2013, I resolved not to eat my feelings. Do you know how bad a bad day feels when you don’t shove a cupcake in your mouth to forget about it? And, if you decide to just say screw it and eat the cupcake, you are now cognizant of the fact that you are using the cupcake to make you feel better. At that point, either way, the cupcake has lost its appeal and no longer makes you forget all about whatever it was the upset you. On the other hand, not eating feelings keeps me being able to only buy one seat on an airplane, not buy my clothes at Nashville Tent and Awning and keeps little trucks with flashing lights and wide load signs from following me around. There are perks to not eating my feelings. Note to self: In 2014, learn other coping mechanisms.

3. Most People Push Food. If I ate every time someone thought I should, I would be as big as the broadside of a barn. Why are people so concerned with when I eat or how much I eat? I don’t need a slice of cake at every wedding, birthday party, bridal shower, or girls’ night out. NO means NO, people…..whether it’s sex, drugs or FOOD.

4. If You’ve Lost More Than Twenty Pounds, You’re an Instant Party Hit. If people hear I’ve lost weight, boom, instant hit at a baby shower, bridal party, cocktail reception, you name it. People are curious about what I eat, what type of exercise I do, anything and everything pertaining to how I’ve lost weight. My answer is simple: eat better and exercise; what works for me may not work for you but eating healthier and exercising in some form or another works for everyone. After they hear that no easy quick fix answer, my popularity fades pretty quick.

5. Eating Healthier Doesn’t Equal Deprivation. Now that I’m eating healthier, I eat more food than ever, 4-6 times a day. I used to wake up, drink a Diet Coke, go all day without eating, come home at 6 pm, basically set up a buffet and graze the rest of the night on junk food until bedtime. Now I eat all day long, just better choices, whole grains, lean proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, and LOTS and LOTS of water….with even more and more trips to the bathroom!

6. I Need a Team. As a self-proclaimed know it all, I realized when it came to getting fit, I didn’t know it all. I enlisted a trainer to help me get into an exercise routine and streamline my eating habits. I talked to my doctor and made sure we were on the same page. I told all my friends what I was doing. I set up a network of friends and professionals who hold me accountable, a system of checks and balances if you will.

7. It’s OK to Ask for Help. My super independent self just cringed even thinking about asking for help but I’ve had to that this year. When my darling husband kept bringing home contraband like jars of peanut butter and jelly or Ritz crackers with summer sausage I had to ask for help and we compromised by having him keep those types of snack foods in his truck tool box. When my Moma kept dropping off sweet surprises while I was burning the midnight oil at the office, I had to ask her to find other ways to help me out like running an errand or bringing a healthier snack. Asking for help is OK. I think I just gritted my teeth reminding myself of that.

8. Try New Things. I have tried all kinds of new things in my quest for a healthier lifestyle. Some I now love and some, not so much. I tried Spin classes. At first, I thought I might die. Now, it’s one of my favorite forms of cardio. I tried celery root as a substitute for mashed potatoes. It didn’t fake me out that I’m was eating mashed potatoes but it was dang good celery root purée. I tried making flaxseed muffins. Let me just say, sawdust from my Daddy’s barn has to taste better than those muffins. I tried Hot Yoga. Nothing about me wants to be in 110 degree weather unless I’m floating like a walrus in a swimming pool with a fruity drink in my hand. Point is, try something new. Somethings won’t work but somethings will.

9. I Have Hip Bones. Ok, so technically, I knew this already but it had been so long since I felt them I had forgotten I had them. I rediscovered I had hip bones and various muscles this year. I’m still searching for rock hard abs but I’m hoping they make an appearance sometime in 2014.

10. It Ain’t Easy. I’m not going to sugar coat it. This past year hasn’t been sunshine and rose petals. To put it plainly, some days, it’s been hard as hell. Some days, I’ve cried, I’ve whined, I’ve raised cain. Other days, I’ve laughed, smiled and jumped for joy when I’ve fit into a smaller size, watched as the scales dropped or noticed a muscle I hadn’t seen before. Tomorrow’s the big day when everyone sets out with all their New Year’s resolutions. If you think it’s going to be easy, forget about it. But if you’re willing to do the work knowing that some days are going to just be plain old awful, have at it. Trust me, a year from now, you’ll be glad you did. I know I am.

Proverbs 2:10-11 When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee.
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This is Still America, Right?

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camo-american-flag-XSmallI’ve tried to stay out of this. I’ve tried to bite my tongue. I’ve tried to mind my own business. Three things, this Southern woman is rarely successful in doing and I’m afraid if I keep my mouth shut my head will blow straight off!

Last night after a long day of meetings followed by an even longer evening of Christmas shopping that would make speed skaters look like they were moving in slow motion, I finally collapsed into bed. My body had just made the perfect arc with my pillows and duvet when I made a colossal mistake. I pulled out my cell phone scrolling through Facebook to see what cocktail parties my friends got invited to that I didn’t, to see whose kid sang what in the school play, to see what elaborate displays these over the top elf on a shelf parents had come up with, you know the ones who have had that Christmas version of a Chucky doll swinging from the Christmas tree since Thanksgiving. Just enjoy the spirit of the season via Facebook. Instead of seeing all the usual stuff, all I saw was PHIL ROBERTSON. Sign this petition, boycott that, A&E this, Duck Dynasty that. Lord have mercy!!

I don’t know Phil Robertson. I don’t know all that much about Duck Dynasty. All I know is that with the way Uncle Phil guzzles sweet tea, he’s got one heck of a chance at ending up with sugar diabetes. That, and, he has every right to say whatever it is he wants to say. If he wants to say homosexuality is a sin, go for it. If he wants to say that people who don’t drink sweet tea are infidels, have at it. It’s his right last time I checked our Constitution.

We forget this is America. We have the right to free speech, doesn’t matter who it offends. We have the right to our opinions, right or wrong. We have the right to be who we want to be, gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, Alabama fan or even, heaven help them, a Florida Gators fan. This is still the United States of America, where the right to this freedom was paid for by the dying breathes breathed at Yorktown, Shiloh, Normandy and battlefields across the globe.

Don’t cancel Phil Robertson from A&E. Let the public make that decision. We are not only the land of the free and the home of the brave but also the land of a free marketplace. That means if I am offended by what Phil Robertson says, I stop watching Duck Dynasty. If enough people are offended and don’t watch, ratings go down. When ratings go down, A&E cancels the show. Not because Phil Robertson thinks homosexuality is a sin but because there is no market for the show. The public has spoken.

So, where do I stand on this issue? This is not going to be popular but in my belief, homosexuality is a sin. I’m not the person to get into a theological debate with because frankly, I’m a tax accountant and have trouble understanding the US Tax Code which is a heck of a lot less ambiguous than the Bible. I just think it is a sin. I’m not the condemning type. I’ve sinned way too much and needed forgiveness way too often to get into all that. However, pointing out a sin and condemnation are two different things.

Some of my best friends are gay. I love them in spite of their sin. They love me in spite of mine. Christ loves us ALL in spite of ours. Do my friends know where I stand? Yes, I’m not the sugar-coating type. Unless, it’s a powdered sugar donut. It’s a sin for that not to be sugar coated.

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.

Tyler Perry and Oreos

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I was in a funk yesterday afternoon. Maybe because of that last second 109 yard touchdown Auburn made crushing my beloved Crimson Tide’s chances of another National Championship title. Maybe it was the 110 poinsettia I’ve been hocking the past couple of Sunday’s at Church for a mission fundraiser and people have quit making eye contact with me for fear they will have to buy one. Maybe it’s that while Thanksgiving is a holiday full of football, food and family, three of my favorite things, it’s also a reminder of empty seats around the table of loved ones gone on and ones that just stopped coming by.

Whatever the reason, I was in a foul mood. Heck, I’d been in one off and on for the past several months. Life, seasons and people change and it seemed 2013 was a record-breaking year for change, some good and some just plain depressing. And so, while watching an especially moving Tyler Perry movie, I ate my feelings in the form of a Oreo. Not just regular Oreos. Double stuffed with a faint smear of peanut butter on top dunked in Purity’s Sweet acidophilus milk. My absolute favorite way to eat a Oreo.

As I dunked the last one in milk (yes, I ate the whole darn bag), Tyler Perry’s main character sat in a Church service listening to a man preach about not growing weary. You know the verse, “And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Of course, the whole time the man of the cloth spoke the congregation was nodding, clapping and Amening while the choir hummed in the background. It was one of those scenes in just about every Tyler Perry movie where you want to jump up and take a lap around your living room shouting “Hallelujar”.

I’ve heard this passage from Galatians preached more times than I can even count. This particular time, something the preacher said stood out. He authoritatively spoke, “What I am trying to tell you is that God is faithful. And, in his faithfulness, he reminds us that in doing good you shall get weary. There’s no sin in getting weary. The sin is giving up.”

I had always thought that the “let us not be weary” part meant if I was the Christian I claimed to be I wasn’t supposed to get tired. I wasn’t supposed to feel like I was at my wit’s end trying like hell not to throw in the towel, like all those Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights sitting on a Church pew had been in vain. If I had moments when I felt like giving up then something must be intrinsically wrong with me and my walk with Christ.

Hearing this robed preacher from the Wheat Street Baptist Church tell his congregation that Jesus didn’t count it a sin to get tired gave me hope. Jesus had given me permission to get tired. Just because I get tired at times and question what this is really all about isn’t the crime here. Choosing to give up is and, I sure wasn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet.

Yesterday, I ate my feelings and surprisingly enough, they didn’t even taste that good. Oreos not taste that good. Somebody call the doctor. I must be sick.

Galatians 6:9 And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
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Is This What the Pilgrims Had in Mind?

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Thanksgiving, a day entirely focused on eating until the elastic in your sweat pants begs for mercy, a day of ingesting a week’s worth of calories in just one meal, a day filled with carb induced coma-like napping, a day dedicated to food. Is this what the Pilgrims had in mind when they landed at Plymouth Rock?

What did they eat that first Thanksgiving? I’m going to go out on a limb and say it probably wasn’t my mother’s congealed cranberry salad made with a whole can of crushed pineapple, a box of raspberry jello and the cranberry sauce that slides out of the can still shaped like the can. I’m almost positive they didn’t have my grandmother’s boiled custard, the one made with two dozen eggs and twice as many tablespoons of her homemade vanilla extract which is nothing more than a vanilla bean soaked in a bottle of vodka for a month or two. Sweet potato casserole that taste more like candy than casserole probably didn’t make it to their table, either.

So what in the world did they eat? Duck was the centerpiece of the meal for those first settlers. Guess it seems fitting that today is the first day of duck season in Tennessee making dysfunctional families across the state even more dysfunctional when the patriarch of the family chooses to spend Thanksgiving Day in a cold duck blind chewing on deer jerky rather than carving up a Butterball in the dining room with his offspring. But, I digress.

Corn was a huge part of the first Thanksgiving, not my Aunt Nancy’s fried corn full of butter and bacon grease. Certainly not corn like my Moma’s cornbread dressing, the one that no one will ever be able to replicate because my Daddy adds a pinch of this and a handful of that every time my Moma turns her back. Corn like porridge, the gloppy cousin of the breakfast favorite of every true Southerner, grits.

By all accounts, the Pilgrims and Indians didn’t have Martha White bleached flour or any other kind during that first feast. No butter, either. If we were sticking with the traditional first Thanksgiving, we just lost three-fourths of my family’s traditional meal leaving those two ingredients out. No coconut cake. None of Moma’s famous pumpkin roll. And not a single casserole. You tell me how in the world the Pilgrims thickened their giblet gravy without flour and butter? My family would just as soon cancel the whole darn holiday.

If we want to get technical, we are actually celebrating the fact that the Pilgrims’ along with some help from their friends the Indians had a successful first harvest, one that would leave them with enough to keep from starving to death that winter like they had almost done the year before.

I’m not sure we can even understand the Thanksgiving of that first feast. Here we are saturated with food, an artery clogging McDonald’s, Wendy’s or Burger King on every corner and a CVS, Riteaid or Walgreen’s on every other one to unclog our grease filled arteries. The Food Network, Top Chef and Cooking Channel help us hone our skills in the kitchen. Food is everywhere, delivered to our front doors, handed to us through our car windows, even put on dry ice and mailed, easily accessible.

So much so, I forget there are still people who skip meals, not because they want to fit into that cute cocktail dress for an upcoming Christmas party but because the cabinets are empty. I forget there are kids that miss dinner because Moma and Daddy had a knock down drag out and nobody felt like eating. I forget there are families struggling to make ends meet barely scraping by subsisting on scraps I wouldn’t feed a dog.

Today, I am thankful. Thankful that worrying about what I should eat is far better than worrying if I get to eat.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
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