Tears and Laughter: What makes a good day good? 

We tell people all of the time to “have a good day.” I tend say have an “easy” day. Some people carry it so far as to say “have a great day,” but…I guess that is where I draw the line.  

It is a positive practice to be grateful for all days. Relish every hour you can because it’s all so very temporary, but even with the mindset of gratitude – not all days are great. 

With any luck and careful planning, most days are good. But some will be bad. Some will be awful. Some…you will literally just have to survive. You just have to live through them. 

It is often the bad days that help us recognize the goodness in ordinary days. If you are relatively healthy, not grieving the loss of anyone, and nobody close to you is in pain or suffering – it’s the start of a good day. Time teaches that to everyone. 

And sometimes, when you aren’t planning it and when you are least expecting it, a really great day happens. 

I had one of those days Monday. 

Once a year, for just over 20 years now, a couple of friends and I go Christmas shopping. We pick a city and a date, and we plan the thing all year. We send each other reminders for months in advance and do a countdown waiting for it to arrive.  

On that day, we always leave earlier than any of us are used to functioning, so nobody has enough coffee, sleep, or mascara. That is part of the fun, and so is the drive. We claim we have shopped the full radius around us, including so far south we could practically see saltwater.  

This year it was narrowed down to the Galleria, or Prattville. After much deliberation, Prattville won out because it is closer and we can take backroads the entire way. 

So Monday by noon we had blown through several stores, a flea market, and a few sips of Sangria. It had been so cold at the flea market that two of us began to experience the first stages of hyperthermia. There were still patches of snow everywhere. Our other friend said she would normally have been cold too, but due to hot flashes, she was comfortable. We had walked through old memories and talked our way back again. 

It was at one of our last stops for the day. The afternoon was ticking too quickly along, and I was making final decisions at the jewelry counter when out of nowhere a familiar voice behind me said, “Hey, your mom is in here somewhere.” 

It was my stepdad and he was motioning towards where she was when I saw her. She was just standing there, her back was to me. Sunlight was pouring through the overhead windows around her. 

They live far on the east side of Montgomery. It is not unusual for us to have our own day together, especially now that she is retired and my kids are older. But it was unusual for us to meet in such an unexpected way and place. It struck me later how lucky I was to have had such a simple experience.  

That was my final thought that night after the day was done and the trip complete. Not all days are great and are ever perfect. But every once in a while, like snow in South Alabama, they happen…and those are the ones we treasure forever.

Amanda Walker is a blogger and contributor with AL.com, The Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Wilcox Progressive Era. Contact her at walkerworld77@msn.com or athttps://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist

DECA drive contributes 300 coats

Pictured are Holiday Cleaners employees with DECA members, Courtney Roberts and Brionna Howerton.

Demopolis High School DECA launched their “DECA is Driven” Coat Drive Campaign during the month of November to help make this Christmas season warmer for children and families in Marengo County. Coats and monetary donations were collected from classes at Demopolis High School and U.S. Jones Elementary.

The classes held a friendly competition to see who could win a wing party catered by Batter Up! Several local businesses also had donation jars to help the cause. ​This year’s coat drive was a huge success with 303 coats, nine stuffed animal toys, and $225.82 in donations! Donations were delivered to Marengo County DHR. The donated jackets and stuffed animals were generously cleaned and mended by the staff at Holiday Cleaners.

DHS DECA leads entrepreneurship program for DMS students

For the second year in a row, Demopolis High School DECA conducted a course on entrepreneurship for the students who participate in the Demopolis Middle School After School Program.

This year, DHS DECA named the program, “Who’s the Boss?”. “Who’s the Boss?” was a seven week program that taught sixth, seventh, and eighth graders the basics of entrepreneurship.

During the seven weeks, students had the opportunity to create a service that would benefit the community. While learning how to run their businesses effectively, they also developed skills on how to make a commercial to advertise their businesses.

The finale for this event took place during DECA’s Global Entrepreneurship Week on Wednesday, November 15, 2017. For the finale of “Who’s the Boss?”, students presented their businesses and commercials to a panel of judges which consisted of local entrepreneurs, Kirk Brooker, Sinda Fendley, and Ashley Coplin.

Upon conclusion of the presentations and the scores were tallied, the group with the highest score was presented with gift cards that were donated by Naheola Credit Union and all groups were recognized for their accomplishments.  A reception was held for all of the participants and their families that were in attendance.

Tears and Laughter: There is something about a small town Christmas parade 

The Thomasville Christmas parade was this week. We went. We almost always do. It’s tradition. We will go and stand in the middle of a closed-off Wilson Avenue with people we will recognize and know but haven’t seen in years.  

Together we will wait for the heavily adorned floats and firetrucks. Trinkets and beads and candy will rain down around us. We will feel the drums from the approaching marching bands. It all moves quickly forward, yet I like many, drift back in time. 

The sidewalks are very familiar to me in downtown Thomasville. They serve as a portal to what used to be. Part of the parade route was the way I walked every afternoon when I was in elementary school. I would walk downtown to where my dad’s truck would be parked at the old city hall on Wilson Avenue. He would get off from work with the city at 3:30. 

Every day there would be several of us walking together when we left the school, but before we made it to the bank at the corner of Alabama Avenue, everyone would have scattered, turning off on the streets they lived on. 

Sometimes, if I had saved enough break money, I would stop by Spink’s Drugstore and buy pretzels. Other times I would walk on down to the Dollar General and speak to Ms. Kat, the manager. It was still on West Front Street back then, diagonally across from Zeke’s Service Station. 

I used to love being downtown during Christmastime, especially on cloudy days. I’m sure it was just the colorful lights and the reflecting tinsel, but I always thought the spirit seemed especially bright when it was cloudy. I still tend to feel that way. 

For a game, we would try and avoid the cracks in the sidewalks. Over time, the repetition committed to memory the cracks, the streets, the houses, buildings, and storefronts. We knew the shortcuts, which buildings to cut behind to come out where we needed to be.  

The Christmas Parade used to be on a Thursday afternoon, shortly after school was out. That day, was the only day the sidewalks would be brimming with people. Everybody’s mama would be there, some of them trying to keep the little brothers and sisters we never saw while we were in school out of the street. 

Several dads would be helping drive the floats and keep everything and everyone moving forward in an orderly fashion. Grandparents would be there too, including my own from both sides of the family.  

I can’t remember when the parade moved from Thursday afternoon to Saturday before evolving into an evening event that includes a downtown stroll. It has been a nice change. It allows for more mingling…and shopping at downtown businesses. 

But every year, when we all line up shoulder-to-shoulder on Wilson Avenue waiting, it’s just like they are there again. At moments, their energy feels as strong as the beat of the drums in the band. 

I guess that is why most all small towns have a Christmas parade. They allow for memories and feelings and festive walks back down the sidewalks of time.

Amanda Walker is a blogger and contributor with AL.com, The Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Wilcox Progressive Era. Contact her at walkerworld77@msn.com or athttps://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist

UWA to recognize nearly 700 graduates on Dec. 9

LIVINGSTON, Ala.—The University of West Alabama will honor nearly 700 graduates during fall commencement exercises Saturday, Dec. 9. The undergraduate ceremony begins at 10 a.m. in Pruitt Gymnasium on the UWA campus. The graduate ceremony will begin at 1:30 p.m., also at Pruitt Gymnasium. Presidential Receptions will be held prior to each ceremony and are open to all graduates and their guests at 8 a.m. and noon in the Bell Conference Center.

Guests must have tickets, which are available from the graduates, to attend each ceremony in Pruitt Gymnasium. Overflow seating to watch the commencement exercises will be available in Bibb Graves Auditorium. Ceremonies will also be streamed live online at www.uwa.edu/live.

The University will confer degrees in the colleges of liberal arts, natural sciences and mathematics, business, and education during the morning ceremony, and the school of graduate studies during the afternoon ceremony.

The University will recognize students graduating from the UWA Honors Program and those graduating with honors. There will also be special recognition for the faculty recipients of the Nellie McCrory Service Excellence Award, the McIlwain Bell Trustee Professor Award and the William E. Gilbert Award for Outstanding Teaching.

The University will also induct four individuals into the Society of the Golden Key, a prestigious organization established to honor University alumni, faculty, and staff who have brought distinction to their alma mater through exceptional service in their fields. The four inductees are John D. Crawford of Valdosta, Ga., Amelia Hawkins Mackey of Demopolis, Ala., James W. Brown of Montgomery, Ala., and Tim Mansour of Loganville, Ga.

Director of Choral Activities Christopher Shelt will lead the UWA Choirs in a special performance honoring graduates. Livingston United Methodist Church minister Steve Spining will give the invocation and benediction.

For more information on UWA Commencement Exercises, contact Dr. Tina N. Jones, commencement chairperson, at tnj@uwa.edu or 205-652-3833.

Demopolis Singers Present “Christmas In our Home Town”

The Demopolis Singers will present the “Christmas in our Home Town” on Thursday, Dec. 7 at First Baptist Church of Demopolis. The community is invited to attend.

Demopolis boys basketball ranked for first time in 20 years

The initial Alabama Sports Writers Association basketball rankings of the 2017-2018 season are out and a pair of Marengo County teams are getting some early shine. Demopolis’s boys team is ranked for the first time since 1997 after it went 2-0 in the Hamptonality Bracket of the Holiday Inn Thanksgiving Bash at Wallace State Community College last week. The Tigers, ranked No. 6 in Class 5A, sit at 3-0 on the young season, their first under coach Norvie Womack.

The Linden High girls have yet to tip off their season but a recent run of success (state finals in 2015 and regional finals in 2016) as well as the return of a core of players led by Amber Richardson and Dajia Miller has Teressa Bolden’s squad with high hopes for 2017-2018.

This week’s rankings appear below in their entirety.

1. Mountain Brook (7-0)
2. Hoover (8-0)
3. Sparkman (6-1)
4. Buckhorn (6-1)
5. McGill-Toolen (6-3)
6. James Clemens (4-1)
7. Grissom (4-3)
8. Lee-Montgomery (3-1)
9. Oak Mountain (5-1)
10. Gadsden City (4-4)
Others nominated: Alma Bryant (4-2), Baker (5-6), Murphy (3-4).

1. LeFlore (4-0)
2. Carver-Montgomery (3-2)
3. Ramsay (7-1)
4. Blount (7-2)
5. Paul Bryant (3-2)
6. Helena (5-0)
7. Hazel Green (4-4)
8. Daphne (5-1)
9. Homewood (3-2)
10. Muscle Shoals (1-0)
Others nominated: Albertville (4-1), B.C. Rain (5-1), Chelsea (3-3), Hartselle (5-2), McAdory (5-2), Pelham (3-3).

1. Sumter Central (8-0)
2. Faith-Mobile (8-2)
3. Eufaula (6-2)
4. Lee-Huntsville (1-4)
5. Guntersville (4-1)
6. Demopolis (3-0)
7. Jemison-Huntsville (4-3)
8. Scottsboro (5-1)
9. Briarwood (3-1)
10. Etowah (3-1)
Others nominated: Alexandria (2-0), Brewbaker Tech (2-4), Central-Tuscaloosa (5-1), Hayden (4-1), Lawrence Co. (4-1), Mortimer Jordan (3-3).

1. Oneonta (5-0)
2. Westminster-Huntsville (3-2)
3. Escambia Co. (5-0)
4. Cordova (2-1)
5. Madison Academy (3-2)
6. Monroe Co. (0-0)
7. Catholic-Montgomery (3-0)
8. UMS-Wright (5-2)
9. Haleyville (4-1)
10. Andalusia (0-0)
Others nominated: Cherokee Co. (2-2), Deshler (1-0).

1. Plainview (4-0)
2. Houston Academy (6-0)
3. Piedmont (0-0)
4. East Lawrence (2-0)
5. Mobile Christian (3-1)
9. Prattville Christian (3-3)
6. Geneva (4-2)
7. American Christian (3-2)
8. Lauderdale Co. (3-2)
10. Glencoe (2-2)
Others nominated: Montgomery Academy (0-0), Straughn (1-2).

1. Vincent (4-1)
2. Westbrook Christian (4-1)
3. Abbeville (2-0)
4. Barbour Co. (4-2)
5. Section (1-3)
6. Mars Hill Bible (2-0)
7. Collinsville (1-1)
8. Chickasaw (2-2)
9. Horseshoe Bend (2-2)
10. Tarrant (1-2)
Others nominated: None.

1. Sacred Heart (3-4)
2. Decatur Heritage (5-1)
3. Lindsay Lane (8-0)
4. Georgiana (1-0)
5. Skyline (4-2)
6. R.A. Hubbard (2-3)
7. Whitesburg Christian (2-2)
8. Spring Garden (0-0)
9. Linden (0-0)
10. Coosa Christian (2-2)
Others nominated: Belgreen (2-0), Pleasant Home (1-4).

1. Lee-Scott (4-2)
2. Lakeside (4-3)
3. East Memorial (5-0)
4. Macon-East (2-1)
5. Evangel Christian (7-1)
6. Restoration (1-3)
7. Tuscaloosa Academy (1-1)
8. Fort Dale Academy (3-0)
9. Pike Liberal Arts (2-1)
10. Northside Methodist (3-2)
Others nominated: Abbeville Christian (1-1), Bessemer Academy (0-1), Eastwood (2-1).

1. Hoover (5-0)
2. Sparkman (9-1)
3. Spain Park (5-1)
4. Huffman (5-1)
5. Hewitt-Trussville (7-1)
6. James Clemens (5-1)
7. Davidson (7-3)
8. McGill-Toolen (5-4)
9. Gadsden City (5-3)
10. Lee-Montgomery (3-3)
Others nominated: Buckhorn (6-4); Mountain Brook (6-1); Murphy (5-3); Oak Mountain (6-2); Tuscaloosa County (5-2).

1. Hazel Green (9-1)
2. LeFlore (8-0)
3. Ramsay (4-2)
4. Brewer (7-1)
5. Homewood (3-3)
6. Athens (5-1)
7. Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa (6-2)
8. Austin (6-0)
9. Blount (7-1)
10. Northview (6-2)
Others nominated: Carver-Birmingham (9-1); Clay-Chalkville (7-2); Florence (5-1); Hartselle (6-2); Muscle Shoals (3-3); Opelika (6-3); Oxford (5-1); Southside-Gadsden (4-0).

1. Charles Henderson (5-0)
2. Eufaula (7-0)
3. Wenonah (3-2)
4. Faith Academy (5-2)
5. Central-Tuscaloosa (8-1)
6. Lee-Huntsville (6-5)
7. West Point (7-0)
8. Brewbaker Tech (3-2)
9. Talladega (1-0)
10. St. Paul’s (5-0)
Others nominated: Calera (3-0); Fairview (5-3); Pleasant Grove (2-2); Scottsboro (4-1).

1. Deshler (1-1)
2. Madison Academy (4-1)
3. Anniston (2-0)
4. Hokes Bluff (3-1)
5. Sipsey Valley (4-0)
6. Danville (5-0)
7. Madison County (5-2)
8. Greensboro (2-1)
9. Cherokee County (3-0)
10. Jacksonville (3-0)
Others nominated: DAR (3-3); Dora (3-0); Montgomery Catholic (1-1); Priceville (2-1); Rogers (4-0); St. James (2-2).

1. Lauderdale County (4-0)
2. Pisgah (3-0)
3. Hillcrest-Evergreen (1-1)
4. Plainview (5-0)
5. Midfield (5-4)
6. Locust Fork (2-0)
7. Clarke County (6-0)
8. Geneva (6-2))
9. Montevallo (4-0)
10. Susan Moore (5-0)
Others nominated: Colbert County (4-1); Daleville (5-1); Glencoe (3-1); Lexington (3-1); North Sand Mountain (1-3); Pleasant Valley (4-2); Prattville Christian (5-1); Weaver (2-1).

1. Geneva County (6-0)
2. Samson (5-1)
3. Tanner (3-1)
4. Collinsville (4-2)
5. Section (2-1)
6. Fyffe (3-1)
7. Central-Hayneville (2-1)
8. Abbeville (2-0)
9. Cold Springs (3-3)
10. Sand Rock (2-1)
Others nominated: Asbury (6-2); Chickasaw (4-0); Hatton (4-4); LaFayette (2-0); Red Bay (1-4); Winston County (5-2).

1. Spring Garden (4-0)
2. R.A. Hubbard (1-1)
3. Loachapoka (4-1)
4. Pleasant Home (4-1)
5. Linden (0-0)
6. Holy Spirit (3-0)
7. Skyline (5-1)
8. Phillips (1-0)
9. Vina (7-1)
10. Westminster-OM (2-2)
Others nominated: Addison (2-2); Brantley (1-2); Cedar Bluff (0-0); Coosa Christian (5-2); Covenant Christian (5-2); Decatur Heritage (4-5); Isabella (2-2).

1. Glenwood (4-1)
2. Tuscaloosa Academy (6-0)
3. Lee-Scott (5-1)
4. Springwood (5-1)
5. Macon-East (5-2)
6. South Choctaw Academy (2-0)
7. Fort Dale Academy (2-1)
8. Wilcox Academy (4-0)
9. Lakeside (5-3)
10. Northside Methodist (8-2)
Others nominated: None

Compton, Ratliff receive Demopolis Rotary honors

Wednesday the Demopolis Rotary Club recognized two native sons by honoring them as Paul Harris Fellows, possibly the tallest recipients in the history of the club. Hunter Compton is a local attorney, volunteer and event organizer. Theo Ratliff is a Demopolis High School, University of Wyoming and Detroit Piston basketball all-star who established the Theo Ratliff Center in Demopolis.

Alan Jackson announces Tuscaloosa Amphitheater date

With a year of sold-out shows and packed houses in the rearview mirror, newly-minted Country Music Hall of Famer Alan Jackson’s Honky Tonk Highway Tour adds more miles and rolls into 2018 with a stop at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater in Tuscaloosa, AL on Friday, May 4. Tickets go on sale Friday, Dec. 1 at 10 a.m.

Tickets and information are available at Ticketmaster.com and the venue box office or by visiting alanjackson.com/tour, where you can find information about Alan, his tour schedule, music and more. Jackson is again teaming up with CID Entertainment to offer VIP Experiences at many of his 2018 shows. Fans can choose from four experiences with a variety of perks including a backstage tour, the opportunity to watch the show from a custom barstool by the soundboard, access to a pre-show party, a signed poster, and more!

Alan Jackson’s Honky Tonk Highway Tour will find the country icon performing hits that have gained him legions of longtime fans, songs that continue to draw new crowds as a younger generation discovers his music. Jackson’s repertoire stands the test of time; it has impacted a field of artists who cite Jackson as an influence. It’s these same songs – many written by Alan – that earned him his newfound place alongside country music’s greatest names and cemented his place in its history with membership in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Fans will hear the songs they love from the man who wrote them and made them famous, including his debut hit “Here in The Real World”…signature songs such as “Chattahoochee,” “Drive” and “Gone Country”…party anthems “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” and “Good Time”…and many, many more.

Jackson’s concert announcement comes on the heels of his show-ending CMA Awards performance celebrating his 2017 induction to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Alan and his band, The Strayhorns, reminded fans what they’ll enjoy on the Honky Tonk Highway Tour in 2018 as he closed out “Country Music’s Biggest Night” with back-to-back performances of “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow” and “Don’t Rock the Jukebox,” bringing the star-filled audience to its feet as the likes of Luke Bryan, Keith Urban, Eric Church and others were seen singing along to Alan’s memories of “livin’ that honky tonk dream.”

Alan Jackson’s Tuscaloosa show will continue his tradition of “keepin’ it country” for people far and wide as he travels the Honky Tonk Highway, bringing nearly 30 years of hits to Alabama.

Recently inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame, Alan Jackson’s membership among country music’s all-time greats is the latest in a long line of career-defining accolades that include three CMA Entertainer of the Year honors, more than 25 years of membership in the Grand Ole Opry, a 2016 Billboard ranking as one of the Top 10 Country Artists of All-Time, induction to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Heritage Award as the most- performed country songwriter-artist of ASCAP’s first 100 years.

The man from rural Newnan, GA has sold nearly 60-million albums worldwide, ranks as one of the 10 best-selling male vocalists of all-time in all genres. He has released more than 60 singles – registering 50 Top Ten hits and 35 #1s (including 26 Billboard chart-toppers). He has earned more than 150 music industry awards – including 18 Academy of Country Music Awards, 16 Country Music Association Awards, a pair of Grammys and ASCAP’s Founders and Golden Note Awards.

Jackson is one of the most successful and respected singer-songwriters in music. He is in the elite company of Paul McCartney and John Lennon among songwriters who’ve written more than 20 songs that they’ve recorded and taken to the top of the charts. Jackson is one of the best-selling artists since the inception of SoundScan, ranking alongside the likes of Eminem and Metallica. He’s also the man behind one of Nashville’s most-popular new tourist stops, AJ’s Good Time Bar, a four-story honky-tonk in the heart of downtown (along a stretch of Broadway known as the “Honky Tonk Highway”) featuring daily live music and a rooftop view of Music City.

DMS’s Harrison represents Varsity Spirit in Disney

Molly Katherine Harrison of Demopolis Middle School is one of more than 500 elementary, junior high and high school cheerleaders and dancers from across the country that represented Varsity Spirit in the 2017 Thanksgiving Tour at the Walt Disney World® Resort in Orlando, Florida.

The individuals invited to perform in the parade are part of a select group of cheerleaders and dancers chosen as All-Americans during Varsity Spirit summer camps across the country.  All-Americans are selected via tryout based on either superior cheerleading or dance skills at camps operated by Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA), Universal Dance Association (UDA), National Cheerleaders Association (NCA), or National Dance Alliance (NDA).  Only the top 10% of the cheerleaders and dancers from Varsity Spirit camps earn the chance to march in a holiday parade of this caliber.

Harrison will perform with the Varsity Spirit All-Americans in an one-of-a-kind pre-parade performance through Disney’s Magic Kingdom® Park on Thanksgiving Day.  Besides enjoying a sunny trip to Orlando, All-Americans will have the opportunity to meet cheerleaders and dancers from across the nation and enjoy a magical holiday season at Walt Disney World® Resort parks.

“I can’t wait to get to travel to Disney with my family and enjoy the parks and especially performing in the parade with other cheerleaders from all over the USA,” Harrison said of the opportunity.

Memphis-based Varsity Spirit has been a driving force behind cheerleading’s dynamic transformation into the high-energy, athletic activity it is today, and the leading global source for all things cheerleading and dance. A division of Varsity Brands, Varsity Spirit is a leader in uniform innovation and educational camps, clinics and competitions, impacting nearly a million athletes each year. Focused on safety, entertainment and traditional school leadership, Varsity Spirit’s 5,000 employees have been helping raise cheerleading’s influence and profile since 1974. For more information about Varsity Spirit or Varsity Brands, please visit www.varsity.com or www.varsitybrands.com.