Azalea Festival In My City

I chose these images for Sunday in My City, a photo forum that has folks posting pictures on Sunday of their cities. To visit other cities, click on the button and link up with photos of your own town.

Goodness, gracious, it’s Sunday, y’all! Where does all the time go when you’re not blogging?  I have been playing hookey the past few weeks, but I’ve been snapping lots of photos. These are just a few I took at the annual Azalea Festival that is held here, in Wilmington, North Carolina every spring. It is a big southern-style party, complete with a parade, a street fair, fireworks, garden tours, a few celebrities and lots of pretty local girls dressed up like southern belles.

The whole thing is in celebration of the azalea, which blooms here in profusion, along with dogwood trees,

The parade always includes the marching cadets.

And a few colorful clowns. This one even had his poodle dyed to match the azaleas.

The local kids get in the act with lots of talent and loads of cuteness.

The azalea belles are in the parade…


And one of them appeared to be lost in the crowd.


You Capture Spring

I’ve been participating in a photo forum on Thursdays. Brought to us by Beth, at I Should Be Folding Laundry (me too, by the way), it’s called You Capture. Every week there is a new theme. This week it was “Spring.”

Spring is here in southeastern North Carolina, and with it comes days warm enough to finally return to the beach, strawberries to pick at the local fields, nights warm enough to finally sit outside on the patio and enjoy a glass of wine, our annual Azalea Festival and spring breaks.

I took a vacation from work (and blogging) and spent the last two weeks having the whole family over for an authentic southern meal (fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, butter-beans with pork neck bones, fresh tomato salad and sour cream pound cake) for my youngest son’s birthday, rushing to the emergency room right in the middle of beating the eggs into the pound cake batter because my mom passed out from not being able to breathe (she’s fine now and getting treatment), driving to and from New York in two days to pick up two giggly fifteen year old girls (my step daughter and her BFFL)  who spent their spring break with us, dragging the two girls to an Azalea Festival Parade, street fair, fireworks,  garden tour, the beach, a “girl day” complete with mani-pedis and mimosas, going out to dinner several times (which added another ten pounds to my already disgusting weight gain!) and visiting a couple of local garden centers to pick up hundreds of dollars worth a few flowers to plant in my flower beds.

Whew! Did I leave anything out? Probably, but you get the general idea.

Of course, I toted my camera everywhere with me, snapping  hundreds thousands of photos of just about everything! Because everything around here is just so darn gorgeous right now, y’all!

Azaleas and dogwoods are the stars of the festival.

Along with the Azalea Belles!

The North Carolina Azalea Festival is held in April every year in Wilmington, NC. It’s a celebration of everything exceptional about Wilmington: artwork, gardens, rich history and culture.  It is a grand party, southern style, that includes entertainment, a parade, a street fair, a circus, several concerts, pageantry, and of course, authentic southern belles in a variety of pretty costumes.

I have so many gorgeous photos to share, that I’ve decided to start posting again in my other blog, Wilmington Daily Photo, which I have neglected since (gasp!) spring of last year!

Next week’s challenge on You Capture is “Pink!” I will definitely be back to post lots of pink flowers, dresses  hats and poodles from my collection of hundreds thousands of springtime photos!

The Ordeal of a Lifetime, Part Five

spincyclesmallPlease read The Ordeal of a Lifetime, Part One, Part Two, Part Three,  and Part Four before reading Part Five. This is for this week’s Spin Cycle topic, Manners.

When my husband took me on a cruise, to celebrate my 50th birthday, I ignored the advice of  every professional travel planner on the planet,  did things my own way, and in the process, managed to survive The Ordeal of a Lifetime. This is Part Five of the  story. It is true, y’all.  Every single detail of it.

In Part Four of this saga, we had miraculously caught our flight to Miami, in the nick of time, and landed. But there was a hellishly long fifteen minute delay in letting the passengers off the plane, for some ungodly reason. And we still had a cruise ship to catch, at the Port of  Ft. Lauderdale, in exactly fifty five minutes.

As we stood there in the aisle of the plane, being mashed on all sides by the mass of humanity that was the other passengers, all of whom had their own agendas to keep and similar looks of desperation in their eyes, I was starting to feel decidedly unsouthern, y’all. Not only could I feel drops of  sweat rolling down my underarms, along with the awareness of my horrible absence of lipstick, but I was developing a real unladylike case of aggravation.

img_1286Now, southern women, like me, are born with this gene that makes us instinctively know how to catch more flies with honey, than with vinegar. In normal situations, this inbred sense of good manners makes us all charming and sweet, whenever we are faced with adversity. I’m sure my mother, who’s had years of practice at batting her eyelashes and flashing her beauty queen grin, would have been able to murmur, “Oh excuse me, shugar, but can I ask you to quit standin’ on my foot, if you please,” but I was just about ready to throw my years of good southern manners out the window and STOMP somebody to death, right there in public.

FINALLY, right before I threw a right proper hissy fit, the door opened. Apparently, there were no other real southerners on that plane, because everyone started pushing and shoving like a pack of wild dogs tryin’ to get after a lame squirrel. We were caught up in the hysterical flow and deposited at the entrance of the Miami International Airport.

miami-636Now MIA covers an area of 3,300 acres and contains four runways. It is a major gateway between the United States and Latin America, and the twenty-ninth largest airport in the world, in terms of passenger traffic. It is home to 29 restaurants and 33 shops. You can get your hair cut, your nails done, buy a new wardrobe, get a massage, get a new cell phone, play the lottery, rent a movie, fill your prescriptions, get your shoes shined, buy a whole new set of leather suitcases, stock up on booze and get married, all while you are waiting on your flight to take off. I’m pretty sure it’s much larger than Burgaw,  which is a whole town in North Carolina.

In other words, we were completely lost and had absolutely no idea which way to go  to reclaim our luggage, y’all.

I knew my husband would stand there trying to figure out the lay of the land all by himself, until we had no earthly chance of making it to Ft. Lauderdale in time, because, well, duh, he’s a man and that’s what they all do. So I headed straight to The Tourist Information Center and got in line. There was a man ahead of me, who was talking to the customer service representative at great length. In Spanish.

So I stood there, and as patiently as I could, I waited. And waited. And, sigh, waited.

The two of them appeared to be friends. They were having a very animated Spanish conversation, punctuated by much laughter and postulatin’. All the while, I was nervously watching the clock and trying not to scream in frustration, because, well, that would have been, not only rude, but decidedly unsouthern.

Thinkin’ that I must be invisible, I cleared my throat. “Um, excuse me, please,” I said, in my best Southern accent. “I just need to ask y’all a quick question.” I also batted my eyelashes, for effect.

The man behind the counter  looked unfazed. “Be right with you, lady, in just a momento.” Leaning casually against the counter, he resumed his conversation, in Spanish, with the man in front of me.

“Oh FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!” I thought. I saw another customer representative standing on the other side of the counter, talking on the phone. I rushed over to him. “Excuse me!” I said breathlessly. Unbelievably, he held up his hand in a dismissive gesture. “I’ll be right with you,” he said.

So I waited. And waited. And waited some more. When he finally hung up, I told him which flight number we had been on and asked where we could pick up our baggage.

He smiled brightly.  “Oh, that’s easy,” he said. And then he said something that might have been, “You need to go to baggage claim area number 352, which is very easy to get to. Just go past Burger King right up this corridor, turn right, go down a little until you see Dunkin DoNuts, then take  the next left, the go down past the third waiting area and turn right near the restrooms and you should see 352 right there on the left!”

Only, I’m not real sure, because he spoke way too fast, and with much more of a Spanish inflection than my little ole southern ears could translate….especially as stressed as I was.

As I blinked in confusion and disbelief, he was already beginning to speak Spanish to another person who had come up behind me. I turned around to look for my husband. All I could remember was something about number 352 and it was somewhere beyond  Burger King.

“Did you find out where we’re going?” Jeff asked me.

“Yep,” I lied. “It’s right up here past Burger King.” I could see the sign, and it was a bit of a walk, so we needed to hurry.

00245-restaurants-parent_14We rushed down the corridor towards the sign. Ahead of us, I noticed another couple that were about our age, that I remembered seeing on the plane with us. They were striding purposely down the corridor towards the Burger King sign, so I decided to follow them. All the way to a baggage carousel, which was carrying everyone’s bags around and around.

There were about three hundred other passengers standing there, two and three deep, watching for their luggage. Jeff and I also stood there, holding our camera bag, laptop case, a carry on, my pocket book and my precious itinerary, helplessly waiting for our other four  suitcases and incredibly heavy golf club bag which was stuffed with two sets of golf clubs, plus our shoes and a bottle of Peach Schnapps to appear.

Then, we spotted one of our suitcases! But there seemed to be  no opening in the line of passengers to get over to it. They crowded around the carousel greedily, refusing to move.  I looked at my watch. It was 4:24 pm. We had to be in Ft. Lauderdale, on the cruise ship, before it set sail, in exactly thirty six minutes.

Well, it’s like this, y’all. I was hot. I was tired. I was hungry. My hair was messed up, my make up had long since disappeared and my clothes were rumpled beyond description. Not only that, I was on the verge of tears. There was no way we were going to miss that ship! We had gone through too much and come too far to let a measley three hundred people stand in our way!

Now y’all please don’t tell my Momma, but I’m afraid I got a little carried away and may have come across like a raving lunatic as being a tich rude.

I snapped.

I lunged for the suitcase. I pushed, I growled, I elbowed, I grabbed and may the Good Lord in Heaven help me, I may have even exchanged a few bad words with a woman in a hideous flowery dress. But by the time all of our luggage rode around and passed near me, allowing me to snatch it triumphantly and throw it to Jeff, people were eying me warily and scootching away to give me plenty of room.

We used the last item, our incredibly heavy golf club bag which was stuffed with two sets of golf clubs, plus our shoes and a bottle of Peach Schnapps, as a sort of battering ram to clear a wide pathway back through the crowded room and out through the front door.

f_taxiAs soon as I was out on the street in front of the airport, I dropped everything I was carrying in a heap on the ground, and raced towards the row of cabs. As I banged on the window of the nearest taxi, the cab driver looked at me as if I was crazy.

“CAN YOU GET US TO THE PORT IN FORT LAUDERDALE IN THIRTY MINUTES?” I screamed.

The door of the cab opened. The driver slowly climbed out. He stood up. I found myself looking up into a pair of large, black eyes in the face of a very muscular black man. He stared quizzically at me for a moment. Then, in a distinctly Jamaican accent, and a calm, deep voice, he said:

“I do my best, Ma’am.”

To be continued…..

Part Six: Did We Break the Sound Barrier?

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Guilt, Southern Style

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No, I didn’t say Grits, y’all. I said Guilt.

It’s the Spin Cycle topic of the week. I started out thinking that I just couldn’t write about this. I was born in the 50’s, in the South, and as such, raised in a culture where women are set up to feel guilty about everything. Really, y’all. We were put up on a pedestal of The Perfect Southern Belles – obedient, little, polite and always smiling, pleasantly pretty wives and mothers. We weren’t supposed to have an opinion, speak our minds, get dirty, look disheveled, or care about anything except attending to our husbands’ needs, first, and then assuming all the chores of raising children and keeping the house tidy. It also helped if we could make a banana puddin’ every Sunday and grow a few rows of turnip greens and tomatoes….in our spare time.

Southern Belles certainly don’t raise their voices, argue, drink alcohol, act ugly, know more than their husbands, swear or forget to fold their laundry. Their husbands expect a good hot meal, obedient children, a cold beer and a fresh wife when they walk in the door every evening. She was supposed to be interested in his day, offer cute little anecdotes about the children and remain silent while he watched the news.

While all this sounds real peachy, it just doesn’t happen in real life, y’all. Not even down here in Dixie. So when we didn’t measure up to the Perfect Southern Belle Image, our southern men conveniently had a right handy person to blame. And yes siree, we got blamed for everything.

I think all this collective guilt kinda rolled and trickled down through the generations and by the time I was born it was just in me, like a disease. My mother and her mother were experts at playing the role of the Failed and Blamed Belles, and so I learned from them how to quickly apologize for anything and everything, and how to internalize everyone else’s problems and make them my own.

All my life I’ve been apologizing. I’m sorry for talking too much, not talking enough, calling at the wrong time, or not calling when I should, wearing the wrong thing, not saying the right thing, having a bad day, having too much fun, eating too much, not eating enough, being tired, being broke, having trouble understanding, expecting to be understood, having to ask questions, not asking the right questions, not doing enough, sleeping, drinking, being emotional, getting upset, having a headache and ever, ever hurting anyone’s feelings.

So, I couldn’t figure out how I was going to write a blog about everything. But there’s some southern gals in the Spin Cycle that are a lot smarter than me, and they figured out how to explain what I was feelin’ pretty darn well.

My girl Debbie, over at Buzzin’ By, from Southern Maryland, said she has guilt about bein’ a workin’ mom and spending time on herself and just about everything else in the world: so deeply imbedded that it is just part of who she is. Well said.

Sandie, at Sandie Simply Says, in Georgia, says she feels guilty for every little thing she’s ever done wrong in her life. “Little” is a word we southern woman seem to use a lot. I think it makes us feel a little less guilty, when our issues are small. (There. I just said it again.) Sandie has a lot of “mom” guilt, or as Arwen, over at Spors in the Desert, calls it, “mommy guilt”, which seems to be a common thread of every mom, no matter where we hail from.

Heather, at Riding the Short Bus, sums it up this way – she asks, has there been a more pervasive emotion in my repertoire since I became a mother? She says motherhood is synonymous with guilt, and the prevailing theme of her blog.

Ve, over at Getting Older… And Still Neurotic, broke my heart with her story about the guilt she feels over losing an unborn child. She’s in Texas. Y’all should swing by her blog and show her some love.

Rachel, at Burning the Soufflé, from Tennessee, took us all the way back to a friendship she had in kindergarten and had us weeping along with her as she enveloped us in a blanket of guilt. Only a true southerner can tell a story like that, y’all.

Laufa, at Morgan Madness, claims to be in the Midwest, but said she is from a long line of women who mastered the art of the Guilt Trip. Definitely southern. So, I did some snooping on her blog and discovered that her family in in Florida, and her son’s nickname is Bubba. I’m going to claim her as southern, y’all.

Jan, over at Jan’s Sushi Bar, a darling southern gal if I do say so, took the words right outta my mouth when she started talkin’ about her ex-husband, the “Grand Master of the Guilt Trip.” I had one of those, myself. You know the type. A good ole boy. Mine even managed to make me feel guilty for gettin’ cancer before he had time to go out and buy a life insurance policy on me. Jan, bless her heart, came to the realization that dragging around a shitload of guilt served no purpose in her life. And she even used the “F” word. (Pretty gutsy for a southern girl. I love her for that.)

Heather, at Geez Louise, said she was BORN guilty. Oh my, how southern. I started chiming right in, agreein’ with that emotion.  But the first thing I see on the top of her page? Colorado Girl! And she’s Catholic, not Baptist. That hushed me right up. She says being born Catholic makes her automatically guilty. Huh?

Well, huh.

Rikki, at Cowgirls like Me, (from somewhere in the desert, y’all) said that guilt was as much a part of her daily life as trying to decide which pumps to wear with her tweed skirt. And Amber, at Travis and Amber, in Utah and new to the Spin Cycle, listed seventeen things that she feels guilty about. (She must have at least a couple of southern roots there).

Meli, at Meli’s Rambling Randomness, really blew my mind. She said she had so much guilt that it was oozing from her pores. Her pores, y’all. You can’t get much more southern that that. But guess what? She’s in Canada! Yep, all the way up there in God’s snow country.

Michelle, at It’s a Dog’s Life, is in Washington-I’m-guessing-State. She says she’s guilty of being the biggest idiot on the earth, EVER, for also being married to a jerk. So that’s not just something us southern women do!

Phhst, at Pseudonymous High School Teacher, lives in Hawaii. She says she used to wake up in the middle of the night and worry about details left undone. I’ve done that one, too. She says it took a trip through cancer territory to teach her to stop beating herself up over things. Then she goes on to completely blow us all away with a story about a teenage prank that practically drips with shame and emotion. I was transported back to bein’ fourteen and awkward, y’all.

A South Dakota girl, Jennifer, at Whoa My Horses, made me go, “Whoa,” when she said she grew up listening to her mother say she was sorry about things, whether it was in her power or not. So she’s constantly apologizing for things that are not her fault! She thinks her guilt could come from being raised in a church, or from a past relationship flop, or from simply being a woman and trying to make everyone happy.

Mo, at The Daily Snark, had me laughing my southern fannie off at her blog about how she’s guilty for everything because she’s Catholic. She says she can think of a million things to feel guilty about, without even trying. She describes her mother as being nagging, over protective, controlling and more than a bit manipulative on occasion. She has just described every southern, biscuit bakin’ mama that I know. Where’s she from? I had to know. Philadelphia! And grew up in San Francisco! And lived in Taiwan for two years!

Michelle, over at Michelle’s a Mom, tells us an amazing story about her grandmother, in a blog about guilt, which she calls her demon. Rather strong language, I thought at first. She cautions us not to let it pull us into it’s clawing vortex that will rob our soul. She’s Jewish and I don’t know where she’s from. It doesn’t matter….she’s got a fabulous attitude .

Leslie at Captain Crazy, who’s mother gave her every Southern Woman’s Secert Weapon –the silent treatment – says guilt is a member of her family, because she’s Italian!

Here I was, convinced that we Southerners, and the ones reared up in the Baptist persuasion in particular, had the market cornered on the Guilt Thang. This week I learned that I was wrong.

Thanks to y’all, I learned that Yankees, Italians, Catholics, Mid westerners, Canadians and just about everybody else, especially mothers, all have the same inner struggle with this demon called guilt! Who would have thought – we’re not that different, no matter who we are, or when we were born, or where. Guilt is just a human condition and not a southern affliction, like I had believed.

Unless, of course, all of y’all are really southern and you’re just pullin’ my leg.

Ten Reasons Why Wilmington, NC is my Favorite Hometown

This week’s spin cycle, brought to us by Sprite’s Keeper at  www.sprteskeeper.com is about favorites. We were supposed to go through our archives, find our favorite blog and post the link or copy it into a new post, or something equaly mystifying, but since I’ve only been blogging for a few months, and since I don’t know how to work the link thingy, I decided to write about one of my favorite places, WIlmington, N.C., instead.

So here are ten reasons why I love Wilmington. I’m going to let the pictures do the talking, since they can say a thousand words, silently, without any typos.

1. The Battleship North Carolina makes her home here, the centerpiece of the Wilmington Riverfront and a living Memorial to the men and women who fought in the pacific theater of WWII.

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2. The HENRIETTA III, a steamboat on the Cape Fear River.  A trip on the HENRIETTA III is a scenic experience, complete with dinner, dancing and narration by Captain Carl Marshburn.

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3. The Waterfront, along the Cape Fear River, filled with charming historic buildings, homes and the churches that gave Wilmington her nickname, ” The City of Churches.”

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4. Horsedrawn Carriage Tour’s impressive horses and costumed drivers narrate the journey, as passengers ride past the stately mansions, impressive restored homes and the cobblestone and brick streets of historic downtown Wilmington.

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5. Johnny Mercer’s Pier, the gem of Wrightsville Beach. It used to be made of wood, before being destroyed by Hurricane Fran in 1996. It was rebuilt in concrete in 2001, and is considered one of the most popular attractions in southeastern North Carolina.

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6. Every year, in April, Wilmington is home of the Azalea Festival, which includes a grand parade along the riverfront.

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7. Southern Belles in the Azalea Festival. These local beauties wear authentic antebellum dresses and have come to symbolize the Festival season as much as the flowers they represent.

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8. The incredible beauty of our beaches. This is a rocky stretch near Fort Fisher, and a favorite spot for fishermen.

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9. Summer Rest Road, a little slice of heaven on earth, located along the scenic Intracoastal Waterway. The mature live oaks and the dangling Spanish moss make this one of the most tranquil spots in the area.

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10. Wrightsville Beach, in the fall, at sunset. There is no better time, and no better place on earth to relax, unwind and reconnect with nature.

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Southern Women Don’t Get Mad

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I was supposed to write a post about anger management for last week’s Spin-Cycle topic, which is brought to us by Sprite’s Keeper. Last week, y’all.

But, every time I thought about it, it just didn’t feel right. There was something about admitting that something made me mad, that didn’t sit quite right with me. After I week of pondering over this, I figured it out. Southern women just don’t get mad, y’all.

Now, look-ey here. I was raised by a Baptist Southern Belle, who was raised by a Southern Belle who had a Pentecostal Southern Gentleman father. Our extended family included a whole passle of other kinds of Southern Bells. Down here in Cape Fear Country, we even have a Festival, called the Azalea Festival, to honor the beautiful azaleas and the cute lil Southern Belles. In other words, I didn’t stand a chance of being any kind of normal.

A true Southern woman is obliged, by virtue of her birthright, to always smile, be polite and smooth over problems with good manners and a glass of sweet tea. No matter how upset, riled up, or irked we get, we just don’t ever admit to being angry. We can be, under circumstances of high provocation, “ill” or “aggravated” or “upset”. But really, anger is not lady like and it’s not fitting of the image that a Southern woman strives for: all that-there grace and beauty.

My grandmother is the ultimate Southern matriarch. The only girl in a family of six boys, she was taught to drive a car, fire a gun and cook up a mean bunch of collards. She is a steel magnolia inside a velvet glove. I’ve seen her get so “riled up” that she drove right past the speed limit to get to a woman’s house to very politely, and sweetly, refuse a gift from someone that was acting “messy”. It might have even been, in her mind, “a Big Mess”. She may have raised her voice just a tichy. She might have slammed her car door as she left. But she definitely was not mad.

My mother, a prim and proper Southern gal with a peaches and cream complexion, always preached to me that “pretty is as pretty does.” Everything in her life is “Little”. She wears a “little” sweater with her “cute, little skirt” and she has “little parties” where she goes to dance “a little”. She never gets mad, she just gets a “little upset”. I think she has the image of the Little Baby Jesus permanently stuck in her head. Anyway, she was so upset one time that she threw a right proper hissy fit. This “fit” included jumping up and down in place, while screaming, “YOU’RE BEING UGLY TO ME!”

But to this day, she will not admit to being mad. Nope, she was just a little upset because I wasn’t acting nice. I was being “ugly”. It got real messy. In other words, I dared to disagree with her.

When I think about it, it kinda makes sense. After all, what with Jesus hangin’ on the cross and all that Amazing Grace and us meetin’ at the River (the beautiful, beautiful River, so it had to be in the South) that we absorbed into out Southern spirits – it DOES seem kinda rude to be gettin’ all hot and bothered at each other over silly stuff, y’all. And I’m pretty sure there is a special place reserved in the Lake of Fire for Mad Women, along with all those cheaters, liars and other types of rude folks.

So, when my momma had her hissy fit and jumped up and down in the floor, accusing me of “bein’ ugly to her,” I got even uglier and got in my car and left. I slammed my car door real hard and I drove right past the speed limit that day. But I wasn’t mad, y’all. I was just all riled up.

All this is Okey dokey until you try and be married to a damn Yankee. Then things can get a lil complicated, ya’ll. He’ll say something really tacky that gets me all upset. I guess I get kinda angry pouty. He’ll say, “Are you mad at me?”

“No,” I say (with tone), “Of course I’m not mad!” (Well, duh, y’all. I DON’T get mad!!)

“Well,” he says dryly. “You sound mad.”

Now I’m IRKED. “I’m NOT MAD, I’m just a lil ill.”

“Ill?” he asks, perplexed. “Are you sick or something?”

“No.” Heavy sigh. “I’m not sick, I’m just ill. Aggravated. I’m UPSET.”

“Oh,” he says. “Then you ARE mad.”

“I’M NOT MAD!! YOU’RE JUST JUST TREATING ME UGLY!!” I wail. Why can’t he get it through his thick, yankee head that I’m NOT MAD???!!!!

And of course, if a Southern woman ever got PISSED OFF…..well, I shudder to even THINK about that. Lightning would most likely strike her, ya’ll.