So Long, Sweet Home Alabama

Living in Alabama has taught me a lot of things, personally and otherwise. I’ve always been told that patience is a virtue – something to be cultivated over time. Well, if you need to practice your patience, head south. When Jamison and I first moved down here, we couldn’t believe how long it took to be served food, buy movie tickets, or drive anywhere. What started as a mild aggravation quickly turned into the norm. I’ve come to embrace this slow-paced life. Not only has it taught me patience while I wait at least 10 minutes for coffee, but it’s a daily reminder to relax. It doesn’t surprise me that this slow-it-down attitude comes hand in hand with friendly people. Southerners are happy to help  and put their plans on hold for a stranger.

I’m a firm believer in finding the good in every situation. And while I’ve suffered bouts of homesickness down here, I’ve come to love a lot about my southern home.

I actually do love the weather. While mid-day in the spring and summer can be unbearable, the nights are perfection. And I have to say – the winters down here are pretty nice compared to the bitterly cold tundra up north.

I love the southernisms that my friends have for every occasion. Think we can win our kickball game tonight (our record is 0-6)? A fitting response – “Good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise!” I’m sure some of you are familiar with the phrase, “Beggars can’t be choosers.” Down here, they put a spin on it – “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” And when you’re daddy doesn’t approve of your new boyfriend, you’ll surely hear, “He can’t never could do nothin.”

I love the college football obsession – it’s contagious. (Roll Tide!)

I love the taste of a wood-smoked BBQ sandwich paired with a locally brewed beer.

I love the scenery – whether it’s going on hikes in the lush Appalachian foothills or taking in the beautiful magnolia trees, the south is very picturesque.

I love southern manners and the gentlemen that come along with them.

I’ll never stop loving being called sweetheart, darlin’, baby and honey on a daily basis. I’ve never sensed a condescending tone – it always seems natural and endearing.

I love the abundance of dresses. Not only are they adorable, but they’re necessary in the Alabama heat. You can also pair these dresses with cowboy boots – no questions asked.

I love the history that surrounds Birmingham. From MLK Jr.’s groundbreaking marches, to Civil War battlefields, to Mae West and Will Rodgers’ shows at the still-standing Lyric Theatre.

I’ve grown a lot since I made the move down south. Because of an awesome job and co-workers, I’ve gained great professional experience. I feel lucky that ASRM has only encouraged my desire to work in healthcare. I’ve met some wonderful people who’ve touched my life and added to who I am. My new friends have shown me the beauty of going on an adventure and have taken the fear out of living somewhere new. More importantly, they taught me the Alabama fight song.

All in all, my time in Birmingham has enriched my life and I hope to bring some of my newfound insights with me up north.

To my southern friends, I’ll miss you terribly and promise to visit. You always have a friend in Minnesota.

And if you’re a Yankee – I’ll be seeing you soon, darlin!

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Salamander Love

When a friend recently asked me to attend a “nerdy event” that involved salamanders, my ears perked up. Mention of that slimy little animal reminded of my childhood outdoor adventures: catching the poor creatures, making habitats for them in recycling bins, and then setting them free when mom explained that keeping them wasn’t right. We caught other critters too: garter snakes, neon-green tree frogs and bumpy toads – the frogs and toads usually ended up as Barbie pets.

As a young girl, I had an avid love for science. There wasn’t one book (or episode) of The Magic School Bus that I didn’t love. The way Ms. Frizzle explained the human digestive system by shrinking the bus and taking a field trip inside the body – brilliant! And don’t get me started on, “At the Waterworks” or “Lost in the Solar System.” I consumed nature books and animal encyclopedias at a voracious rate. One of my favorite presents was a doll that came with a nature guidebook. I was fascinated by all the facts that were contained in that little book. My parents were concerned when they found me outside letting mosquitos fill their stomachs on my arms. I told them not to worry; my guidebook explained that a mosquito injects an itchy chemical that breaks down your skin so it can suck your blood. Once the bug is full, it’s takes that chemical with it. However, we usually slap them before we let them fly away, which results in irritating mosquito bites. Mom and Dad weren’t buying it and told me I had to stop feeding the mosquitoes.

And although I now find myself in working in the communications sector with an English major under my belt, I’m still fascinated by the intricacies of nature and simple scientific wonders. And by simple I mean, I thoroughly enjoy pestering earthworms to come up from the soil by only using mustard water (yes, this really works – it’s amazing). As soon as Jamison starts talking about trinucleotide repeats, my eyes start to glaze over.

So you’ll understand my excitement when Laura mentioned attending a Science Café at one of my favorite coffee shops. I walked into Hart & Soul right as the trivia was starting. I joined a team with people from Michigan – rightfully so, we were Team Midwest. And although the local children’s science center was hosting the trivia, the questions were tough! Who knew that a slinky stretched out flat was 87 feet? Or that the only letter that doesn’t appear solo on the periodic table is J? My fellow Midwesterners turned out to be great teammates and we won! I am now a proud owner of two free passes to the McWane Science Center. But the fun didn’t stop there; trivia was followed by a great presentation on salamander romance. Fitting not only because Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, but also because the coffee shop is located right near Shades Creek – a hot spot for salamander mating rituals this time of year.

Megan Gibbons, an associate professor of Biology at Birmingham Southern College, covered everything from basic amphibian facts to the complexities of salamander mating. At times, I may have learned more than I wanted to know about the creation of baby amphibians, but I definitely enjoyed myself. Plus, I’m now chock-full of “did you know” facts to break out at future dinner parties. And with that, I will leave you with one of my favorite discoveries of the night. The Túngara Frog, found in Central America, has an awesome mating call that sounds like a Stormtrooper’s laser gun.

 

Note: Last night’s Science Café was the first one to ever be held in Alabama and it was put on by some very cool local organizations: The Southern Environmental Center, Birmingham-Southern College and the McWane Science Center.

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