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  • Tears & Laughter - An Alabama Lottery Proposal Loses Value Every Year

    Amanda Walker|Apr 1, 2022

    The Alabama Legislature has once again introduced a lottery proposal that would give voters the opportunity to choose whether or not Alabama can have a lottery. It is one of the only states in the union not to have a lottery. They do this every year. I write about it every year. They meet, and talk, and wring their hands, and second-guess themselves. They open it up for public discussion. Then they get anxious and table whatever plan they were considering and agree to start over from scratch...

  • Tears & Laughter: How to be Social Without the Social Media

    Amanda Walker|Mar 1, 2022

    The United States surgeon general has issued a report stating the negative effects social media platforms are having on mental health, especially in teens and young adults. The platforms generate feelings of loneliness and erode self-esteem. Social media has proven to offer the opposite of what the name states, allowing users to isolate while constantly comparing themselves to others. This has been exacerbated further by the pandemic. There has been a rise in suicide attempts, depression,...

  • Tears & Laughter: Waiting and Watching for Purple Martins

    Amanda Walker|Feb 1, 2022

    Even before daybreak, you can hear them singing their happy sounding songs from inside their swinging gourds. The purple martin song. It will soon be their season. They return every year from their winter homes in South America to raise their young. They fly the same instinctual path across the Gulf of Mexico. The first scouts start arriving in south Alabama in late January and early February. Those who consider themselves landlord’s of the purple martin, are already watching the afternoon s...

  • Tears & Laughter: Be Ashamed to Tell Others to be Ashamed

    Amanda Walker|Jan 1, 2022

    [Editor’s note: Introduction is from December 1, 2020] Before I launch into my topic this [month], I want to acknowledge what happened in Wilcox County yesterday. A long time, much-loved, retired deputy with the Wilcox County Sheriff’s Department, Deputy Madison “Skip” Nicholson, was killed by a gunman while responding to a domestic-violence call in the Yellow Bluff community. Chief Deputy Trenton Gulley was also injured, but is expected to recover. The whole county is shrouded today in sadness...

  • Tears & Laughter: The First Day of the Season of Excess

    Amanda Walker|Dec 1, 2021

    I’m sure I heard it somewhere, but I can’t remember where. Or maybe I read it. I don’t know. But for a few years now, when I think about the day after Thanksgiving – or Black Friday as it is more commonly known – I think about it being the first day of the season of excess. It, and the first day of the Christmas season, have somehow become one in the same. Last year, things may have been less excessive because of COVID. This year, it could be less excessive because of the excessive amount of...

  • Tears & Laughter - Christmas is Not Trapped on a Ship Off the Coast of California

    Amanda Walker|Nov 1, 2021

    The White House cannot guarantee Christmas gifts will be available this year. It is warning that you many not get what you want. It has never occurred to me before to consider that the White House is responsible for the availability of Christmas gifts, but Americans are being advised by the government to do their Christmas shopping earlier than the usual early this year due to supply chain issues. Approximately half of a million shipping containers carrying everything from fake snow to talking...

  • Tears & Laughter - For the Love of Autumn

    Amanda Walker|Oct 1, 2021

    This week’s cooler air has been refreshing after a long Alabama summer…a summer that is likely not through. These first dips in temps are just teases. We know this. We know Southern summers linger late into October some years. Summer often won’t leave until ushered out by an early frost or chased away by the chilling ghosts of Halloween. By September’s end, most everybody is ready for a change of pace. College football is in full swing, days are becoming noticeably shorter, and the kudzu a...

  • Tears & Laughter - We are woke, but are we awake?

    Amanda Walker|Sep 1, 2021

    It depends on how old you are, but most people in the United States can tell time by the attacks that took place on September 11, 2001. There was before, and then there was after. Everybody remembers where they were. I was home. The kids were little, they were playing…too young to fully comprehend what was happening. It was before cell phones were common and my husband had called home from work asking what was happening. I was standing in front of the television. I had been glued to the s...

  • Tears & Laughter - Life is a fleeting thing

    Amanda Walker|Aug 1, 2021

    There are voices in other rooms tonight. Soft voices. Young voices. Granddaughters’ voices. Their brother – the baby – is asleep in an adjoining room. We were all worried if he could sleep, or would sleep. This is his first night ever away from his mama…and when you are one, being away from your mama is a big deal. His being the baby is about to change. He will have relinquished the title and become a big brother before daybreak. He doesn’t know. He will never remember a time before her. He i...

  • Tears & Laughter - The Hydrangeas are Blooming

    Amanda Walker|Jul 1, 2021

    It is July. The hydrangeas are blooming. It has always struck me odd how it is that we can know something is coming up…we know it is on the way, and yet, we are still taken back a little by its arrival. I knew July was on the calendar. Knew it was next. But when I turned the page in my planner to the month of July…it didn’t seem possible. The clock seems to tick too quickly sometimes. It’s equal opportunity, but it waits for nobody. Turning the page to a new month feels like a fresh start....

  • Tears & Laughter - The Good Times of an Alabama Summer

    Amanda Walker|Jun 1, 2021

    Summer means different things to different people. To some it probably means nothing more than long days and hot nights. Unless you are a fan of the two…which I happen to be. I’m not sure anymore if I like summer because of the season itself, or if it has more to do with the state of mind. Or maybe it’s just the memories. In Alabama, summer is not defined so tightly by the calendar and temperature as it is activities. School being out adds more freedom for some – for teachers, and student...

  • Tears & Laughter -Growing Tomatoes & Thumping Watermelons

    Amanda Walker|May 1, 2021

    By this time of the year, gardeners have already tilled their ground and formed their rows. They have sown seeds that by now sprouting and growing. The watching and waiting has begun. I like people who garden. There is a realness about them I appreciate. A lack of pretentiousness. I am from people who garden. They were good at it. If I look back at census records of my old family, they were listed as farmers. They have gardened for a long time. Growing up in Sandflat, I would follow behind my...

  • Tears & Laughter - What is the Significance of Alabama History in 2021?

    Amanda Walker|Apr 1, 2021

    Sometimes, when I am in Montgomery, I make it a point to go out and have lunch with Hank and Audrey. Usually, I take fried chicken. They don’t ever say too much, and neither do I really. Nobody sings. If you are there and hear lonesome music, it’s probably only in your head … or maybe your heart. I go, I guess, for the silence, or the solace. It is a feeling. There is an energy there. Or maybe a spirit. I’m not sure. It is not something you can reach out and touch or take a picture of, at leas...

  • Tears & Laughter: The Beauty of Alabama Dirt

    Amanda Walker|Mar 1, 2021

    Alabama has delivered into the world many an eccentric personalities, one of those being the late Eugene Walter – an entertainer, writer, and chef who engaged in so many varied activities he was known as “Mobile’s Renaissance Man.” He grew up in old Mobile, back when women would dress-up in their finest attire – wear heels and put on lipstick – just to go shopping downtown on Saturday mornings. He could describe it in such a charming, and almost intimate way, that if you read his work even t...

  • Tears & Laughter: We the People Get Along Just Fine

    Amanda Walker|Feb 1, 2021

    Now that he is in office, Joe Biden has the task of trying to unite the United States. He says it is his intention. He is committed to it. I think it is possible. I really do. I don’t know how much President Biden will have to do with it, but I do think peace is possible. Mainly I think it is possible because I see us getting along. There may be pockets of civil unrest across the country, but mostly it is politicians who aren’t getting along. We the people get along fine. If you can find a way...

  • Tears & Laughter

    Amanda Walker|Jan 1, 2021

    The Two Sides of Education in Alabama I sometimes talk – half in jest – about this book I am going to write one day called, “The Two Sides of Camden.” I would call it that because there are two sides of Camden. And the two sides each have two sides as well. These two sides tend to spill out all over the county. They cross the river and seep into the surrounding counties of the Black Belt on all sides. I see it and recognize it here, but it is everywhere across the state. I suppose to some ex...

  • Tears & Laughter: Doing Your Job Doesn't Make You A Hero!

    Amanda Walker|Dec 1, 2020

    I grew up in the 1970s and 80s, and it was not a time when self-esteem was widely recognized as being terribly important. We did not all get trophies. We were not all winners. I don’t remember any standout losers either. Some of us tried harder and some of us were more talented or had more ability, some of us practiced more and improved out skills, some people could have cared less. We had one ole boy in high school that could sing pretty good, and we had another that went on to play s...

  • Tears & Laughter: Be Careful Which Cow You Cuddle!

    Amanda Walker|Nov 1, 2020

    I’m not saying we should go all the way back to Luckenbach, Texas…but honky-tonks may need to make a quick comeback because cow hugging has become one of the latest wellness trends. I don’t think that there is anything CBD Oil can do for you if you cuddle the wrong cow. The trend started in the Netherlands years ago after a Dutch farmer claimed cows to be very relaxed animals that do not fight or get into trouble. They are described as being patient and sweet. So naturally, it gravitated to th...

  • Tears and Laughter: The Season of Cooking

    Amanda Walker|Oct 1, 2020

    The temperature in my quiet kitchen early in the morning has felt a few degrees cooler this week. I am still drinking coffee out of a cup with a pink flamingo on it, but summer is being ushered out by fall. Before long, a flurry of leaves will be followed by the first frost. I am from people who did not believe in eating certain foods until after the first frost – like cabbage and collards. Turnips, carrots…root vegetables. These were people who collected cookbooks but didn’t use recipes. I am...

  • Tears and Laughter : Some of My Best Friends Are People!

    Amanda Walker|Sep 1, 2020

    Personally, I started thinking things were getting out of balance in the pet department when they put refrigerators at the end of the pet food aisle to keep the latest dog food cold. I mean, I am all for feeding the animals fresh food, but where does it stop? Or does it? People love their pets. I am no exception. My dog, Buddy Rogers, is a fine dog…although I am not exactly sure what kind of dog he is. It seems pretty obvious that he has a fair amount of pit in him. I say that mainly because o...

  • Tears & Laughter - The Cancel Culture is Killing Creativity

    Amanda Walker|Aug 1, 2020

    There are two types of writers in the world: those who can write…and those who want to be able to write. Proofreading is just part of the process. If the deadline allows, it is best to have a little space between finishing writing and proofing, but I don’t do that so much anymore…even as Southern as I am. That is no longer the point of proofing. People who can’t write seem to find great joy in pointing out simple sins in the words of those who can. But it is easy to use the wrong form of a wo...

  • Tears & Laughter - Purple Martin People

    Amanda Walker|Jul 1, 2020

    Even before daybreak, you can hear them singing their happy songs from inside their swinging gourds: the purple martin song. It is their season. They return every year from their winter homes in South America to raise their young. They fly the same instinctual path across the Gulf of Mexico, arriving in the South in early February. There are two types of people—those who don’t know or notice, and those who have proclaimed themselves to be landlords of the purple martin. It is a tradition bet...

  • Tears & Laughter - How to Cook a Mean Pot of Greens

    Amanda Walker|Jun 1, 2020

    Last week I mentioned in this space how we eat a lot of greens down here in the Black Belt. I am sure other people in other places also eat a variety of greens. There are even people up north who try and serve greens. I doubt they cook them right, and their family probably won’t eat them, but they try. I was bragging about how I was taught how to cook turnips by one of the best cooks in Possum Bend, and much to my surprise I received an email asking for the recipe. That is when I realized I d...

  • Tears & Laughter - What is wrong with you people in the Black Belt?

    Amanda Walker|May 1, 2020

    I read articles about the Black Belt sometimes that make me feel like we should all immediately pack up and leave. I don’t know where we should go, but we may not make it if we stay. I read one yesterday that was really playing us up. It said we are poor, dumb, and tend to have a life expectancy that is nine years shorter than the rest of Alabamians. I knew we were poor and dumb, but I was surprised about those nine years…because we eat a lot of greens down here. I cook a mean pot of greens mys...

  • Tears & Laughter: The Tissue Shortage of 2020

    Amanda Walker|Apr 1, 2020

    While I do understand that the toilet tissue shortage has been caused by panic buying in response to the coronavirus, I can’t help but to blame Auburn fans to some extent. How much tissue have y’all wasted on those trees at Toomer’s Corner? And now look at us. I saw a couple of women on the news a few days ago who were tied up fighting over a 12-pack of Charmin. That didn’t worry me though. People having to be taught the proper way to wash their hands and all of the cancellations are freakin...

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