It is the tail end of February, 2010 and I am on my way to Maine to pick up a load of dolls from a client; my friend, Tom, is riding along with me. We listened to an audiobook the entire ride – ‘The Sweet Potato Queens Book of Love’ by Jill Conner Browne. We laughed and laughed, and probably shed a tear or two, and by the time I got back home from that trip I had my mind set on going to the upcoming Sweet Potato Queens parade, meeting all of the fabulous characters, and experiencing all the hilarity in person. I’m guessing 99% of you have never even heard of the Sweet Potato Queens. Well, I hadn’t either until a close friend made the recommendation and said it would be a great way to kill the travel time. Boy was she right! I went online and looked up the Sweet Potato Queens, read all about the upcoming “weekend” and called the hotel to see if there were any rooms still available... there was! I booked my flight to Jackson, Mississippi and started counting down the days and preparing for, what I was sure to be, a life changing experience. And so, 30 days later, Tom and I found ourselves in Jackson, Mississippi to partake in the Sweet Potato Queens’ weekend shenanigans. If you love to read and love humor mixed with life-changing “ah-ha” moments, I highly recommend ANY of Jill Conner Browne’s books but would suggest starting with Jill’s first book “The Book of Love”. There are 9 books that Jill has written in which she gives humorous advice on everything from love to raising children. Each and every one of them are a hoot and if you are looking for a good read that will have you peeing in your pants laughing, do not hesitate…go straight to Amazon or Libby (that an app you connect your library card to) after reading this post and get started. From the moment I walked into that hotel till the moment I left I felt wrapped in pure love and kindness. Women from all over the world gather to celebrate playfulness and dress up in the most outrageous regalia one could imagine… it’s all about the BIG red hair, butts and boobs… but in the most innocent and light-hearted of ways. Friday afternoon kicks off with a “Big Hat Brunch” at a local restaurant that they bus you to from the hotel. Hats of all sizes, shapes and colors filled the entire restaurant as women from all walks of life chitchatted over Italian specialties. Friday night offered an array of music and dancing, karaoke, and more outrageous costumes. Saturday was the actual parade and if you and your “team members” chose, you could walk in the parade and even have a float. Saturday night kicked off with a “Pearls & PJs” party and everyone was dressed in… you guessed it… pearls and PJs. No need to get dressed for the “Bathrobe Brunch” on Sunday morning, which closed out the weekend extravaganza. The entire weekend was all about fun and good times but the “Bathrobe Brunch” offered a touch more seriousness, leaving me with a sense of gratitude, compassion, and longing for “more” in life. The weekend proved to be everything I dreamt it would be, all of the characters (real life people) from the book were the sweetest and most welcoming bunch. All of the women who came from near and very far were also warm and approachable; you do not come to one of these events without leaving with at least a dozen new best friends. The entire event was a blast but it was also moving, inspirational, and motivational. I left that weekend a changed person, it’s hard to put in words exactly how I felt but I think stronger and more confident, ready to conquer the world, sums it up nicely.
The year is 2010, it is February 14th Valentine’s Day and what a surprise I got...
My boyfriend at the time was stuck in California dealing with family matters so I hooked up with a couple of my single friends and we headed out to start the day with a hearty breakfast. On our way home one friend asked if she could borrow my camera. When I asked her ‘what for’ she explained that she wanted to take some selfies in the privacy of her own home to use for social media (remember this was 2010, she had a Blackberry and taking photos with your phone wasn’t really the “norm” just yet). We arrived back at my apartment, which was located above a bakery and gift shop called “The New York Store”, and I gave her a quick tutorial on how to use my camera. We headed back downstairs and outside to enjoy a bit of the unseasonably fair weather and do a little people watching; the little hamlet of High Falls was bustling with locals and weekenders. I noticed a snappy older guy dressed in a tuxedo headed my way, as he nears I say "Why, aren't you looking schnazzy today", he smiled and thanked me for the compliment. Three other gentlemen dressed in the same tuxedo, with deep red vests and bowties, joined him; at this point I thought there must have been a wedding or something somewhere and they were all coming to eat at the Depuy Canal House (the upscale restaurant that I used to work for that was located next door). The older guy asked if he was singing to me, I replied "Well Honey, if you're gonna sing you can sing to me!", still completely unaware of what was about to happen. A younger guy approached me and said something about ‘singing to Jamie’, that's when I got that dumb-founded look on my face like "is this some kind of joke”. He smiled and said… "Yeah, if you are Jamie McGlothlin, then we are here to sing to you". WTH??!! He handed me a single red rose surrounded by a cloud of baby’s breath, packaged up in cellophane and tied with a red ribbon. I took a seat on the porch of the New York Store and the four gentlemen lined up and serenaded me with a love song on behalf of my “one and only”. My friend used my camera to take some photos and captured the ending of the song on video; this was the whole reason she asked to borrow my camera… sneaky, sneaky. I never saw it coming... even my accomplice friends did a great job of letting on that nothing was out of the ordinary. Valentine's Day 2010 will go down in history as the most memorable to date.
So to recap 2008… Five weddings, two funerals, a trip to Italy, and my first Tonner Doll convention. And let’s not forget the expansion of my new eBay business with my second official client. I attended my second Tonner factory sale in December of 2008 and invested several hundred dollars in merchandise to help supplement my income. I held off sorting through anything and getting it listed on eBay until after the holidays had come and gone. In many ways my life was pretty fantastic, but the loss of my mother still loomed over me and the holiday season that year felt sad and somewhat empty. My sister and I made the best of it, continuing our family tradition by visiting our grandmother on Christmas Eve, and my sister’s boyfriend proposed on Christmas Day which started the count for multiple 2009 weddings I would be attending. Aside from my mom and my aunt passing away, I wanted 2009 to be just like 2008… busy, with lots of travel; which basically translated to “reasons to escape reality”, and for the most part it was. I traveled to the 2009 IDEX in Florida and attended the 2009 Tonner Doll Convention in Lombard, IL. The IDEX convention opened my eyes to a much larger world of doll collecting, I marveled for hours at the many different styles and designs of the many artists who showcased their work. I must confess though, I was a bit bewildered by all of the “newborns”. Admiring their life-likeness at the artist’s booths was one thing; seeing them strolled around in strollers, cradled and caressed in the arms of their “mothers”, and their diapers being changed on the changing table in the ladies room was another thing (my apologies if I’ve offended you, but I’m sure you can imagine how odd this might look to a non-doll collector). I attended three weddings, two of which I was in and had to travel out of state for. I was hired by an old friend to photograph her wedding in San Francisco, CA; that was a really interesting trip as the entire wedding party and guests stayed on an old tugboat (unfortunately, or should I say “fortunately”, the bride called off the wedding the night before). Yes, it was definitely another whirlwind of a year; we sold my mom’s house and my sister moved to Ohio after getting married, I took trips with friends near and far, AND…I gained five new eBay clients. I officially felt like a real entrepreneur and it was time to get more serious with how I ran my little eBay business.
‘Tis the season… This week I’d like to share with you the time I took Henry with me to go chop down a Christmas tree.
It was December 2006; Henry had been a part of my life for a little more than a year. I have no idea what possessed me to do such a thing… I guess maybe I am a crazy cat lady. I pulled out the pet carrier backpack that was gifted to me the year before and plopped Henry inside, he was starting to outgrow the carrier but he still seemed to enjoy being inside of it; he is true feline when it comes to empty (and sometimes not so empty) bags and boxes. I placed him in my car and we, along with a co-worker friend, headed out to one of our local Christmas tree farms. Upon arrival I second-guessed this whole crazy idea of bring Henry along, but I brushed it off and placed the backpack carrier on my back; giggling at the site of Henry’s big and curious eyes peering through the mesh sides. We made our way to the small farm stand shack and selected a handsaw that didn’t look like it had been used to cut trees down for 50 years. The previous year was the first time I ever cut down my own Christmas tree; I grew up with mostly artificial trees and continued that tradition into my seventeen-year marriage. My life had changed drastically and so I decided to change along with it. We headed into the field of trees in search of the perfect little evergreen that would fit inside my small apartment. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” has always been one of my most favorite holiday shows. I’ve always felt like I could relate to poor ol’ Charlie Brown; wise beyond his years, trying to fit in, and his overall frustration with the feeling of not being seen or heard. One of my favorite parts is when Charlie Brown picks out the pathetic little tree that stands alone in the Christmas tree lot, left over after all of the good trees had been selected. I suppose, as a child, I could also relate to that poor little tree. Charlie Brown got teased and ridiculed for presenting such a pathetic Christmas tree to his schoolmates but his heart was in the right place. Charlie’s pal, Linus, comes to the rescue with his recitative of Luke 8-14, making all of the other kids rethink their harsh criticism. Things always worked out in the end, as they often do for our fictional friends. Year after year, and still to this day, I look forward to watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas”; finding joy and inspiration in the sweet outcome of its portrayal of the commercialism and self-centeredness that imbue the holidays as we know them. But I digress, I searched and searched but had a very hard time finding a good Charlie Brown type of tree, tree farms don’t grow such. I finally settled on a small tree that had a couple of “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree” traits and, with Henry in his backpack carrier sitting close enough by to watch, I went to sawing it down. We all made it home alive and unscathed! This particular year I decided to decorate my tree with photographs that I had taken during that year; it was a perfect way to celebrate and appreciate my new friends, my new life, and my new furbaby.
Many blessings to you and yours this holiday season!
I attended my first doll convention in 2008; it was the Tonner Halloween convention in Framingham Massachusetts at the Sheridan that resembles an old medieval castle. I was excited about this for a couple of different reasons. One - it was another excuse to escape reality for a few days and two - I would get to play dress up. I always loved dressing up for Halloween as a child but once I became an adult, and was married to someone who could care less about such things, I didn’t have many opportunities to dress up anymore. I purchased a few different costumes for the weekend-long event. There were different themes each day, which equaled several different looks. My first costume was a “girl with apple on head but knife-thrower missed the apple and knives were stuck in belly/chest”, I’m sure there is a shorter name for that! This was such a cool idea but the costume was really cheap and screamed store-bought compared to everyone else’s amazing handmade creations. My second costume was an old-fashioned lady ghost, this was a fun look and I felt more confident than the night before yet still not as incredible as the majority of elaborate costumes that filled the room. My last costume was Elvira. I went all out for this costume, ordered it online and chose the high-quality version with her signature bouffant wig. I had way too much fun playing Elvira and have several times since then. I couldn’t believe all of the people who came to this event from all over, their love for Robert Tonner and his doll creations and the whole Tonner staff was unmistakable. The creativity of the attendees was also astonishing, from their costumes to their doll art that they entered into the various contests. There was everything from actual dolls and doll displays to doll photography. It entire event was super fun, Robert Tonner, along with his staff, sure did an amazing job of entertaining us all. It truly was one giant family of doll enthusiasts, gathering together to celebrate their common passion. I gave much consideration prior to the event on whether or not to introduce myself to anyone or just stay anonymous; I decided on staying anonymous, I didn’t want everyone to know that I was brodjam on eBay, fearing that it would somehow complicate things. A small handful of people figured me out but for the most part I remained just another Tonner Doll admirer. I took all of my souvenir dolls home and offered them up on eBay, it paid my way to attend the event and put a few extra bucks in my pocket. I was already looking forward to the next convention and was excited about playing around with some doll photography to, perhaps, enter in the competition room.
And now that I am back on track with the timeline of my story, let’s pick up where I left off with Installment #24.
My trip to Italy was fabulous; aside from a couple of cruises to the Caribbean, it was my first time being outside of the United States. I had to put a rush on applying for a passport (my very first) in order to be guaranteed that I would receive it in time, which I did. I purchased a book on learning to speak Italian and studied all of the basics. I thought I was doing really well and looked forward to using this new language when I arrived in Italy. Unfortunately once I was face to face with the opportunity to put this new skill into use all I could muster up was mediocre versions of hello, goodbye, and thank you; and those came out with a slight southern twang. Luckily most people spoke English; I find it interesting that many countries teach English as a second language but in America, the melting pot for so many different cultures, it is only an elective. I visited Venice, Milan, Florence, Pisa, and mini small towns in between. It was the adventure of my lifetime thus far and as I marveled at the architecture and people-watched, it was hard to believe it was me who was really there experiencing it all. I returned from my Italian adventure bitten by the travel bug. I had always loved to travel but this was a game changer...I wanted more and I wanted more NOW. Traveling to various locations within the United States for the numerous weddings that I either attended or was a part of would have to do until I had another opportunity to travel out of the country. I returned from one of the wedding trips to find my apartment door ajar. I freaked out, ran inside and started calling Henry’s name. I couldn’t find him anywhere. I went outside and looked around, but I just didn’t know what to do, I had no idea how long my door had been that way. I reached out to my friend’s sister who had stayed with him while I was gone but didn’t get an answer. I went back into my apartment, distraught and panicking, I went into my bedroom and looked around some more. I was looking under the bed and all around the room but was looking too low, once I looked “up” I spotted him tucked inside of my closet on top of a stack of storage bins holding seasonal clothes. I could see his little eyes peering out at me wondering if it was safe to come out of his hiding spot. Relief washed over me as I grabbed him and held him as tight as I could, crying and thanking the Universe that he was not lost. Time to find a new Cat Sitter!