Tuesday, February 28, 2012


My Grandma was a Leap Year Baby. She was born on Leap Day, but her birthday was changed to today for convenience. She was my Mama's Mama: Edith Bray Clark.

She died when I was in the seventh grade. She would have been 92 today. I miss her and am sad that I didn't get a chance to know her as a teenager and adult.

My memories of her have faded with time and my own aging. But I do remember and know that she was so strong. So brave, tenacious and determined. After my Grandpa died in 1957 (way before my time), she was left to raise their five children alone. And she did. She was a pillar for her family and never gave up. She gave those wonderful traits to my Mama, who has passed some of them on to me. I remember Grandma loved cats and always had a house full of them. I must get that from her, and what a blessing it is to have such an immense love of animals and to know it is deeply rooted.

Mama and I joke often about our shared stubbornness, and even call each other "Edith" from time to time. And although we jest, I take great pride in it. I know I have her spirit in me, her determination and fire. So while I only had her here on Earth for a short time, I have her for always in my character and personality. And that's pretty awesome. She is forever part of my tree of life. The one she created strong roots for.

Friday, February 24, 2012


She would have been 89 today.

And I miss her.

Her smile, her eyes, her laugh. I miss holding her hand and hugging her. I always will. But her presence is still here. Not in the physical form, but her spirit and her love are easily felt.

We were blessed beyond measure to have had her with us as long as we did. It is still hard to let her go.

She sure did make this place beautiful.

But her beauty remains, and her golden thread will never break. Happy Birthday, beautiful lady.

Friday, February 17, 2012


Still striving to make peace a daily goal. I'm learning that peace isn't always about grand gestures that you are sure to notice. Sometimes the peace doesn't shine in as a warm, golden ray of sun.

It doesn't bring rushing waters to wash the chaos away. It doesn't blow a calming wind through your soul.

Sometimes, it simply tiptoes up behind you, and gently whispers in your ear,


You just have to be still enough to notice it.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Defining Moments

When I was in the seventh grade, it was an awkward, weird time for me. I was far from pretty, with one bad perm after another, glasses and several extra pounds. I had friends, many of whom I maintain friendships with to this day, but at the time I wasn't quite sure where I belonged. I wasn't super-popular, I wasn't quite completely nerdy, and I was quiet, shy and introverted. (Wow, have I come a long way! :D )

My escape was music. I played piano and sang as much as I could. I sang in church choir, in the car and at home, in my room. But my favorite place to sing and truly escape was the swing in my parents' backyard. Nearly every afternoon after school, I'd head there with my dual-cassette boombox. (Later I got fancy and had a cassette/CD player.) It was there that I found my voice, singing along with my favorite singers, such as Madonna, Debbie Gibson, Billy Joel, Rod Stewart, Michael Jackson, Elton John, and...

...Whitney Houston.

Whitney's voice transported me. And the more I sang along with her, the better I got. I had a similar mezzo-soprano range, so it was great practice to sing with her. I realized that singing was something I would always NEED to do, like breathing. My identity was forming, my true self emerging. And music and singing were at my core. My family already knew and my parents encouraged and supported me in all my musical attempts. But at school, it isn't that easy when you're shy and unsure.

One day, during P.E., it was a no-dress-out day where the coach allowed us to just get our exercise in by walking the campus yard. A few friends and I stopped to rest and talked for awhile. Somehow, my cousin Kevin convinced me to sing something for the group to hear. I was reluctant and shy, but came around after their encouragement. I sang Whitney's "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" and I felt, for the first time, that I was staking a claim to something. I was becoming Ami, the singer. It's a risky thing to open yourself up like that and show your innermost self, but at the same time, it's something you WANT to show. And bless their hearts, they loved it.

We all have defining moments in our lives. And if we're lucky, we have the presence of mind to recognize when they're happening. This was a defining moment for me, for sure. After that P.E. class, the news spread. People stopped me and asked me to sing. I was no longer in the shadows. I had an identity. My classmates, friends and the whole world, it seemed, welcomed this information, this previously-hidden part of myself.

I could sing, and the world knew it. Well, my little world, anyway. ;D

After that, I simply blossomed and happily grew more into this identity. I sang all throughout high school, in Literary trio, solo, and in our school's show choir. I sang solos in church. I sang in weddings. I just sang. And to this day, I am never happier than when I'm singing. It will always be at the center of who I am.

So that leads me back to Whitney. Her music helped me come out of my shell. Everything happens for a reason, and it was not by accident that her music first fell upon my ears, was imitated by my voice, and settled to make its home in my heart. She was one of my first and most powerful influences, musically. She inspired me.

She died Saturday. And the whole world is buzzing about it. But very little is being said about the huge talent she shared with us, the musical legacy she leaves us, and her value as an artist. Most people are diminishing her life to be solely about her drug addiction. That's sad to me. She was so much more than that. Maybe not to everyone. But she was to me. Small things become big things. A music note becomes a song, a song becomes an album. And a musician, singer or artist, when influential to you at a critical time in your life and development, becomes a part of you forever.

I've been observing people on Facebook in the couple days since her death. I read someone say, "Don't mourn her."
"You don't know her personally."
"Move on."
"She wasn't a good role model."
"She was just a junkie."
And now I've even started seeing pictures of soldiers' coffins, draped with flags, with a caption that says, "Whitney who?"


No one did this a few weeks ago when Etta James died. Was it because Etta didn't have a drug problem? Etta (and rightfully so) received love, adoration and recognition. And people openly mourned her passing. Does Whitney's alleged drug problem make her trash, unworthy of compassion? I don't think so. Everybody has their problems. Their addictions and demons. It doesn't have to mean those things define them and what they bring to the world.

Of course all lives are important. Soldiers' lives are very important. EVERY life is important. It's not a competition between Whitney Houston and every.other.person who suffered, struggled or died. No, everyone isn't going to make the news. And that's ok. Don't diminish what she was just because she's all over your TV and you don't think that's fair to everyone else who has died. I'm totally fine with not making the news when I die. I haven't contributed talent, defined what music would become for generations after me, and had an impact on billions of people. I'm ok if I go quietly. :D

Whitney Houston was one of the great artists of my generation. Her music and style contributed to our culture, our society. She was a role model for me, growing up, both with her then-clean, Christian lifestyle and her musical influence. She paved the way for many female African-American singers. She was the most-awarded female act of all time. She was truly a pioneer for today's R&B, pop and gospel genres, and the ripples of her influence continue in the music of many great artists today. So no one should dare say she wasn't a good role model. She influenced me, I looked up to her, and I didn't grow up to do drugs, drink or participate in crime. Score one for Whitney!

I don't care how many drugs she did or how many poor lifestyle choices she made, she deserves credit, recognition and RESPECT for what she did for music. You don't have to even like her music to appreciate her as an artist and the contributions she made. She is not solely her poor choices and mistakes. She is so much more than that. She deserves to be so much more than that.

And I can totally mourn her. No, I didn't know her personally. You don't have to know someone to mourn them. To mourn the void they are leaving. To mourn what they COULD have been. When someone's music has an impact on me, I feel it deep within my soul. Music is not just "fluff" to me. It's not just something in the background of life. It IS life. It's ingrained in me. And Whitney will always be a part of that. So I will mourn that she is gone, that her life didn't turn out differently, and I will mourn that the voice that impacted BILLIONS is now silent. I will mourn her openly, defend her without apology.

She shouldn't be judged. No one knows her circumstances. None of us really knows *anything*. All we need to know is that she was a monumental and crucial figure in music, someone whose legacy will remain long after we're gone. That's something to celebrate, not condemn.

I will always look back on Whitney's earlier career with very fond memories. I will always appreciate and respect her as a singer. I will always be sad that she couldn't overcome her troubles, her demons and go on to do greater things. But I will always, always celebrate her music. And I will always be grateful that her music was with me during a defining moment in my life. I will always be PROUD to say that Whitney Houston's music is forever a part of me, my culture, my generation and my heart.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Grits Cafe

Brian and I went out to eat at Grits Cafe in Forsyth to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. We have eaten there before, and it tends to be one of those "it's a special occasion" places to eat. The food, atmosphere and service are so amazing, I thought Grits Cafe deserved its own blog post.

It's Southern cuisine "with flair," so that means they prepare foods that are definitely rooted in Southern recipes, but they somehow reinvent the food to take on new, scrumptious characteristics. From their website:

"Grits CafĂ©’s menu focus is traditional southern food, not exactly like Mom used to make, adding creativity and flair by fusing old and new ideas. Many appetizers and entrees spotlight local produce, seafood and cheeses, with a touch of Cajun, Southwest and Asian influence thrown in to keep things interesting. The flavors are trendy and unique, and closely rival the artistic detail paid to the presentation of each plate. The wine list features a number of handcrafted boutique wines produced in limited quantities, many not readily available in other areas of the country."


Here are a few pics from our special night at this special place.

The view from our table, looking back towards the entrance:

The menu:

Pretty table vignette:

My handsome anniversary date:

This Diet Coke is fancy.


Grits Fritters. Shutcho mouth.

Caesar Salad with Grits croutons. What-what!

Cheddar and white peppercorn biscuits. Ridonk.

And this. This is the Praline Chicken. So seriously amazing. It's one of the best things I've ever eaten. Anywhere. Anytime. In all my 35 years. The description: Pecan coated, stuffed with forest mushrooms and spinach, with a goat cheese potato croquette.
It's beyond comprehension. Just look at it.

Seriously, LOOK at it.

Brian snapped this pic of me. I was a little Praline Chicken drunk.

We had mentioned to our server (the amazing Annie) that it was our anniversary, so she surprised us with this special anniversary dessert, on the house!

Bye-bye chocolates they gave us.

Outside view.

Amazing food, amazing service, amazing date with my amazing husband. If you get the chance to go, GO! Grits Cafe is a pure delight.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I can hardly believe fifteen years have gone by. On February 8, 1997, I married my best friend and soulmate. We celebrated our fifteenth anniversary today.

Words can hardly express what he means to me.

But here are a few I found that come pretty close.

What a happy fifteen it's been.

I love you, Brian. Thank you for being my dream come true.

Monday, February 6, 2012


Yesterday, I saw the most amazing sky I have ever, ever seen.

Pale blue, blanketed in puffy clouds. Layers, stacks, staircases of clouds, with brilliant, gleaming sunlight shining through. Shadows and light, so gorgeously playing chase. I had my camera with me, not even an arm's reach away, yet I did not grab it to photograph this sky. It's not that I didn't think to; I did. But I was too captivated, fixed, riding in the passenger seat of the car as Brian drove us to Oglethorpe. And this sky was one for my mind's eye to cherish. Somehow, it didn't seem my camera's lens could have captured its splendor.

We were on our way to the funeral of one of the most amazing women I've ever had the honor to know. Mrs. Linda Beckum, Brian's Great Aunt, who also happened to be our beloved English teacher from high school. She passed away after a long battle with cancer. We were both devastated to learn of her passing. People like Mrs. Beckum are a precious rarity. Her life, her wit, her intelligence, talents, kindness and grace--were all gifts to those who knew her. She accepted people as they were, yet encouraged them to grow even more into themselves. Into their true selves. And to celebrate those true selves.

This was no accidental sky.

It was there to get my attention.

Mrs. Beckum was brilliant with words. It was as if this sky held every word she'd ever spoken. I felt immersed in its brilliance and beauty. I felt her spirit. The shimmering sunlight through the layers of clouds felt like a beacon, an invitation for me to release my sadness and watch it float away. It felt like a promise, a reassurance of renewal. And that while I was not ready for her life to end, this reassurance told me that I could walk through an end to a new beginning.

Her service was beautiful. She had prepared some hymns, passages and Bible verses that she specifically wanted shared. It was so deeply, meaningfully her. We all felt her presence there with us, and that was so comforting.

When we went to the graveside, a breeze began to move around us. It was uplifting, like her spirit was there, dancing among us. It made me smile through my tears. She never wasted a day, never wasted a chance to help or influence someone. Even through the pain and exhaustion of her illness. Right to the end, she gave of her time and talents. She planted so many seeds in her students, friends, family and community. These seeds form, scatter and begin to grow. They have grown in me, and I hope to pass them on as well. This is her legacy to everyone whose life was blessed by her, touched by her, influenced by her.

I have heard the saying, "The bigger your heart, the bigger your life" before, and so I know Mrs. Linda Beckum had a big, big life. She lived her purpose and passed her gifts on to so many. She would want us to see life's beauty and promise, and in doing this, she is with us. Always.

I am so glad I did not photograph that sky's splendor. My soul will always remember the view.


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