The Ring

I got married with “the Ring” countless times as a child. Played dress up, wore my grandmother’s wigs, put on shows, and dance recitals in the living room of the house on Paradise Way. All with that pretty, art deco piece of silver sparkle on my finger.

When I was a little girl, my grandparents had a 1965 Chrysler Imperial. It had been my great-grandmother’s car, and the story was, they got it for her so if she came up against other than a Sherman tank, she’d win. After she passed, my grandparents kept the car and my grandfather babied it until we lost him in 1986.

I adored my grandfather. And, as I was prone to do, I followed him around a lot trying to help with chores. Of course, there was an ulterior motive. I helped so he’d finish faster and take Alexandra and me swimming at the neighbor’s pool, or even better, at the country club where there was a diving board.

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Lakewood Country Club, St. Petersburg, Florida 1972 with Alex

One afternoon found me in the back seat of the Imperial “helping” to clean the car, but really, I was digging around for loose change and stray packs of my grandmother’s beloved cinnamon chewing gum. The back seat was a bench seat, and it was basically the size of our current sofa. I have many memories of lying down in that back seat on the way home from Christmas Eves at the Patterson’s. My grandparents would challenge me to look for Rudolph’s blinking nose in the night sky while we drove home. In my little girl mind, it was a magic place, and that afternoon, helping to clean my grandfather’s land yacht of a car, it yielded some treasure for an inquisitive child.

The door armrests in older cars used to flip up, and they would have a storage compartment for things like, maps, tissues, cinnamon chewing gum, etc… I can remember the moment, so clearly, of flipping open the armrest compartment on the right rear door of the Imperial and finding, “the Ring.” It was silver and sparkly and small. I mean, even as a child the ring wasn’t huge on me. I showed it to my grandfather, and asked if I could have it. I mean, it was small, right? Obviously it was meant to be mine. He didn’t recognize it, and told me to go ask my grandmother. She took one look at it and said, “I think it was a piece of my mother’s costume jewelry.” And with that airy dismissal, it became mine.

I got married with “the Ring” countless times as a child. Played dress up, wore my grandmother’s wigs, put on shows, and dance recitals in the living room of the house on Paradise Way. All with the pretty, art deco piece of silver sparkle on my finger. Then I became a tween, and yellow and rose gold were all the rage (What? it was the 80’s), the ring got thrown into my dressing table drawer, and was forgotten for a few years. Finally, developing my own sense of style in my later teens, I began to favor silver and rescued it from the back of the drawer.

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So, now it’s 1987 and my Mom and I are at a Florida Press Association conference in Pensacola. We wandered into a jewelry store and the jeweler asked if he could take a look at my unusual ring. So, I hand it over, and the jeweler gives me a stern look and says, “I hope you have this insured young lady.” I was like “Why? It’s just silver and paste!” and he responds, “No, it’s platinum and diamonds.” This ring, I so casually played dress up with, flung into a drawer, and never really gave a thought to it’s whereabouts was so much more than a piece of costume jewelry. I did have it valued in 1990, and well, I was gob smacked. I became more careful with it.

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Pensacola 1987

But not as careful as I should have been… Remember how I mentioned it was small? By the time I was an adult, the only finger the ring would fit on was my pinkie finger of my left hand. One night my ex-husband Aaron and I were at a murder mystery dinner party (remember those?), and the dining room had gotten hot, so our hosts opened some windows. It cooled off and eventually it was cool enough, that the ring was slipping off my pinkie finger. I moved it over to my ring finger so it wouldn’t fall off. Then I proceeded to get very tipsy. Needless to say, I forgot to take it off when we got home, and I woke up the next morning with very swollen fingers (I blame the alcohol) and couldn’t get it off. We tried everything. Hand in ice water, olive oil, dish soap. Anything we could think of. Nothing worked, so we headed to the ER and I had the ring cut off my finger. It was that thick, that they had to cut it in two places to get it off. Anyway, we had it repaired and I continued to wear and love it.

Fast forward to February 2017. I’m on a plane coming home from a conference in Las Vegas. Like most people, airplanes dehydrate me, so I slipped the ring and my watch off, and placed them in my lap while I put on some moisturizer. I changed planes in Nashville, and went on to repeat the same routine, but found the ring wasn’t on my finger. I turned everything upside down looking for it, and it was nowhere. Just gone. Panicked, I texted Rob and asked him to get in touch with Southwest in Nashville to see if they could get onto my previous plane to look for it. They did, but it never turned up.

The only thing I can think of, is that I never put it back on during the Las Vegas-Nashville leg. I put my watch on, but I must have left the ring in my lap. You know what I’m like, there are no strangers, so I was talking to the two people next to me throughout the flight, and my ADHD had my mind focused elsewhere.

I know it’s just a thing, but it was an important “thing” to me. The memories I have tied to “the Ring,” are some of my favorites, and I’d be mourning its loss even if it were just silver and paste. I just hope that someone found it, and has started their own story with it. Maybe it’s helped them financially at a time when they needed it. That scenario I could live with. What I can’t take is the thought that it might have been vacuumed up and is sitting in a garbage tip somewhere.

I’ve cried my way through writing this. I played with that ring on my finger constantly. I would always rub my thumb over it when I was thinking. I lost my Mom and my grandparents years ago. With the loss of the ring, I feel a little of that ache all over again because my memories of them are tied to it. For a long time I always made sure that our house insurance had a copy of the valuation on the schedule of our contents. When we moved in 2014, I knew I needed to update it and kept putting it off. I never did get the valuation to the insurance company, but it doesn’t matter. Money won’t bring “the Ring” back to me.

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Despite the politics, 2016 was a good year for us.

Reflecting on 2016

If you were my friend on Facebook (pre-reset) or follow me on Twitter, you might think 2016 was a personal catastrophe. Despite the time I spent on my political soapbox, not so quietly freaking out about the rise of DJT, and the off the rails 2016 election cycle, it was a really good year at a personal level.

We kicked off 2016 in the UK surrounded by family and friends. We travelled to St. Barthélemy for a job, a project which ended up being one of the highlights of my career. We watched our daughter graduate from high school. We spent father’s day in New Orleans with my Dad (who was nominated for his 4th Emmy in 2016). And, we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary in Washington, D.C.

We filmed 13 weddings. I photographed 46 families, 15 seniors, and three proposals. Rob sold a bunch of houses.  I have absolutely no complaints about how 2016 treated us professionally.


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Really, because of the 2016 presidential election, I’ve learned to narrow my circle, and that’s not a bad thing. Our biggest tragedy was losing Rob’s Dad, but at 90 years old, we all feel he had a good run. Rob was able to be with him when he passed, and for that we were very grateful.

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And, my Noles had a pretty good season, so that always makes me happy!

What does 2017 have in store? Hopefully, personally and professionally, another great year. Onward.

Peaceful Protest

And finally, there was Washington, D.C. itself. A city full of diverse culture and people, yet the embodiment of America. We walked this city and stood in awe of it. A collection of heritage, government, remembrance and hope.

For our 20th anniversary on November 16th, 2016 Rob and I took a trip to Washington, D.C. to celebrate. So, a week after the election, we found ourselves walking the streets and visiting the sites of our beautiful capital city. It’s no secret that I was feeling devastated after the general election. The bogey man had been elected president, and while I was afraid the very city which embodies democracy would be turned on it’s head on January 20th, 2017, I came away hopeful.

There were peaceful protests. I saw for myself how organic they were. Grandmothers sitting in front of the White House. School girls, too young to vote, at the Washington Memorial. People of every race and background marching down Pennsylvania Avenue chanting “The people United will never be Divided” and “Love trumps Hate.” Democracy was in action, and it was tangible.

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If you’ve been in any large American city in recent years and taken a taxi or Uber, you know, the majority of the drivers are immigrants. My motto has always been, “Better to know you for five minutes, than never to have known you at all,” because I truly feel everyone has a story, and who knows what you might learn from them? One of our Uber drivers was from Ethiopia and he talked about the political unrest in his country:

“You don’t have the right to speak. If you do, you don’t know who is listening. The police came to my house and killed my brother-in-law for speaking about the government.”

He watched his brother-in-law murdered in his own home, and speculated that he’d been turned in by one of their neighbors. Then we discussed living conditions, government corruption and the inequality of wealth distribution in Ethiopia. He basically told us, no matter how bad the president-elect is, he’s still light years away from the Ethiopian government.

Another driver was from the Philippines. If you’ve only followed American news, you might not have heard about Duterte’s genocide of suspected dealers and drug users in the Philippines, and his chilling call to “slaughter them all.”  Over 2000 people have been shot and killed by officers in self-defense during anti-drug operations since the president took office on July 1, 2016.  So… the Filipino government is saying here that over 2000 people resisted arrest? That’s hard to believe, but it doesn’t begin to touch the total death toll. Another 3000 deaths have been recorded since the start of Duterte’s drug war. In July. This started in July, and over 5000 people are dead. Think on that. Then think on the people you know who are in recovery because they were able to overcome their addiction. Imagine life without them. Now research the methods used by the police in the Philippines, and consider, while many of these people were users (arguably already victims), and very few were actual “drug lords.” It’s genocide. The president-elect may be a lot of despicable things, and, according to Duterte, approves of his methods, but I don’t really think he’d try to get away with genocide. Even though I might think of Trump as the bogey-man (and I do, I think he’s going to be an unmitigated disaster as president), he’s got nothing on Duterte, and it took a couple of conversations with immigrants from countries experiencing unimaginable atrocities to remind me of that.

Then there were the monuments to great men who lived and led our country, in extremely difficult times. I read their words, sometimes written in despair, and found hope. Hope that things do change. Fear, selfishness, and greed do not ultimately prevail. Change happens. The journey might be painful, but rights are recognized, roads are built, the hungry fed.

These images are from the FDR and MLK memorials. FDR was commenting on the Great Depression and WWII. MLK on the Civil Rights movement. Three incredibly difficult times for American’s, and yet all of these quotes resonate strongly for me today.

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And finally, there was Washington, D.C. itself. A city full of diverse culture and people, yet the embodiment of America. We walked this city and stood in awe of it. A collection of heritage, government, remembrance and hope.

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The building where my Grandmother Elena worked during WWII.
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Side note: This is exactly the same statue of Andrew Jackson which stands in Jackson Square in New Orleans.
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A sweet “Thank You.”

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Democracies are fragile, but the American people are not. I love my country and believe in it’s resilience. We will find a way forward. I will find a way forward. Most importantly, I will hold on to faith and hope.

Always hope.

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I will not hold that shoe.

Rallying against racist rhetoric in recent months, I’ve heard “welcome to the south.” To that I said, “my south is not your south.”

Gene Patterson is the reason I finished my college degree, and later went on to be accepted into a Masters program at St. Edward’s University. Without his faith in my abilities it would not have happened. I had incredible grandparents, and a wonderful great uncle and aunt in Gene and Sue. Their debates over the dining table as I was growing up taught me much about grace and healthy discourse.
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Rallying against racist rhetoric in recent months, I’ve heard “welcome to the south.” To that I said, “my south is not your south.” This gentle man, from rural Adel, Georgia, with his soft southern accent, his empathy, and his strong will to see change where there was injustice, taught me that.

 

He wrote in his unflinching article “A Flower for the Graves” about the bombing which killed 4 young girls at a church in Birmingham, AL in 1963:

 

“We — who go on electing politicians who heat the kettles of hate.

 

We — who raise no hand to silence the mean and little men who have their nigger jokes.

 

We — who stand aside in imagined rectitude and let the mad dogs that run in every society slide their leashes from our hand, and spring.

 

We — the heirs of a proud South, who protest its worth and demand it recognition — we are the ones who have ducked the difficult, skirted the uncomfortable, caviled at the challenge, resented the necessary, rationalized the unacceptable, and created the day surely when these children would die.”

 

 

Basically, Gene said, as Southerners who enabled racism, we had to own those murders. I’ve been saying something along the same lines the last six months. Steve Bannon, KKK endorsements, hateful, xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic, and racist rhetoric, by the president-elect, are causing us to slide backwards to a time we should not be proud of in American history.

 

The president-elect’s supporters need to own their part in that regression. Not saying anything would make me every bit the enabler the “heirs of a proud South” were to the bombers of that Birmingham church 53 years ago.
So, I will harp on. I will continue to be vocal about the dangers of someone like Steve Bannon having access and influence over our future president. I will call bullshit on fake news, rationalization, and normalization of things which we should abhor. I will remind you, we can’t sit idly by and accept this. Whether or not you agree with me, I will probably annoy you at some point.

What I won’t do, is say nothing. I will not hold that shoe. (Read Gene’s full article here – http://www.poynter.org/2013/a-flower-for-the-graves/4761/).

 

Congratulations to my Uncle Gene for being recognized and inducted into the 2016 Atlanta Press Club Hall of Fame (another accolade to add to his legacy). I wish he could have been with us for this moment of recognition. However, a part of me is glad he isn’t here to witness the direction our country is taking.