Day 5: Buddy!!!!!

Dear friends,

If you’re of a certain age and pop culture sensibility, the name Buddy (spoken with great enthusiasm or followed by multiple exclamation points) refers to a particular elf of the overgrown variety. Of the looks-like-Will-Ferrell variety.

But in our home, we squeal with glee about a different Buddy.


I’m talking about Buddy Valastro! The Cake Boss!!!

You may recall that CupKate and I went all the way to NYC (Hoboken, actually) to meet Buddy and visit his bakery. His pastries were beyond compare, but Buddy was nowhere to be found.

Turns out, though, Buddy is going to Tulsa. Which is precisely why the best part of my day yesterday was buying VIP tickets for Kate and me to meet him at this event.

It will be a perfect prelude to Thanksgiving and I can’t wait! I’ll drive to Kate’s college and pick her up on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, then we’ll drive on to Tulsa for a dinner out and an evening with our favorite pastry chef and reality television show. I’ll head home the next morning and, 24 hours after that, she and her teammates will head to our house for Thanksgiving break.

It’s all kinds of awesome. And just the delight of planning it made for the best Monday in a long time.

(Especially a Monday on which my biorhythms are still adjusting to the time change and I’m cranky.)

With gratitude {for Monday surprises and mother-daughter junkets},

Joan, who’s pretty sure Buddy will think Kate and I are the coolest mother-daughter fans he meets on his entire tour

Working girls.

Dear friends,


Dolly Parton by Andy Warhol
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Six hundred miles and 36 hours later, I’m home from the third annual Ozarks Rendezvous.

The gathering of five former colleagues — who at one time all toiled under the same roof in Tulsa, Oklahoma — was more fun than I imagined. Filled with award-winning food, fun, art, wine, laughter and a night in an incredibly hipster hotel, the weekend was a tonic for my favorite crew of working girls.

The central activity of the gathering was a visit to the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, AR (the town that Wal-Mart built). Before I tell you what I think about the museum, which opened not quite two years ago, I will offer a disclaimer that our band of five professional, solidly middle-class women understood that our free museum admission was only marginally “compliments of Wal-Mart” (as the greeter informed me). I was acutely aware that it is the legions of uninsured, low-wage workers subject to Wal-Mart’s ignoble labor practices that generated the vast fortune represented by Crystal Bridges.

With that sober acknowledgement (and my longstanding disdain for Wal-Mart) as preface, I can’t help but tell you that the museum is a stunning achievement in architecture, art collecting, and the art and science of making art accessible. Practically every important name in the pantheon of American art is represented at Crystal Bridges, from Norman Rockwell to Mark Rothko, from Frederick Remington to Andy Warhol, from Thomas Moran to Jackson Pollock, from Winslow Homer to Joseph Albers. I alternated between marveling at the art right in front of my nose and marveling at how Alice Walton managed to collect it all and make a tiny town in Northwest Arkansas an art destination. If you ever have an opportunity to drop by Crystal Bridges (or, heck, to travel far out of your way), you should add the museum to your must-visit list.

By the way, don’t let the museum’s odd name discourage you from taking it seriously. After I mused — perhaps a little too loudly — that it sounded like a new-age retreat center, and my friend remarked that it reminded her of a cheesy Country and Western singer, a museum docent quietly and kindly informed us that the museum is built over a body of water known as Crystal Springs.  I felt a little guilty, then, for disparaging the museum’s name, but we still joked that it surely must be a marketing impediment to all those who would lump it in the same class of tourist attractions represented by the Precious Moments Park and Chapel just down the road in Carthage, MO.

After a long and satisfying afternoon at the museum, we spent an even longer and more satiating evening at The Hive, our hipster hotel’s even hipper restaurant. Over cocktails and three courses, we discussed everything from politics, to the state of our respective careers, to religion, to family and children, to feminism, to easy gossip about personalities of mutual interest.  During a particularly amusing conversational diversion regarding technology in the workplace, we laughed so hard I lost my breath and nearly popped my trouser button. It was the perfect ending to a splendid day with friends far and farther, who’ve worked hard to nurture the bonds of friendship stretched by geography but reinforced by abiding affection.

With gratitude {for the restorative power of time spent with girlfriends},

Joan, who met the first of her former colleagues in 1988 when both had Working Girl hair, wardrobes, and career challenges, but nothing close to Harrison-Ford romantic prospects

The odd and slightly unsettling convergance of my late Grandmother, pimento cheese, and my secret, imaginary love life.

Dear friends,


The strangest thing happened Saturday morning and it all started with pimento cheese for breakfast.

Why I was I eating such an odd thing for breakfast?

Because Trisha Yearwood was too and she was in my living room. Granted, she was on television. And she was making lunch, not breakfast. But I was watching her show in the morning and I suddenly got a hankering for the wonderfully creamy, cheesy spread that I first ate in my Grandmother’s kitchen as a young child.

By the way, I love Trisha. I’m not a fan of her music (or her genre), but she lives not far from my hometown and she seems like a cool gal and I enjoy her show. Most of the time I think her recipes aren’t that great (a few too many shortcuts and prepared ingredients for my taste) but I sure do relate to her love of food, family and southern traditions.

Anyway, Trisha says there’s only three ingredients in pimento cheese — shredded cheese, pimentos, and mayo. I beg to differ.

I started by grating an entire (1-lb) block of cheddar cheese. (Trisha recommends sharp cheddar and I do, too, but I only had mild on hand.) To that, I added:

  • A jar (4-oz) of diced pimentos
  • A sprinkling of salt (1/4 to 1/2 tsp?)
  • A sprinkling of sugar (1/2 tsp?)
  • Two pinches of paprika (where pinch literally equals the amount I can pinch between my thumb and forefinger)
  • One pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Mayo to taste, which for me was probably close to a cup

I stirred it all up real good, then spread it thick on soft Italian bread. It was the best breakfast I’ve had in a long time and I’ve got enough leftover for lunch tomorrow. Plus, I was pretty darn excited that at the exact moment I was inspired to make pimento cheese, I just happened to have all the ingredients to do so. Let this be a lesson to you to never underestimate the blessings that can come your way as a result of a well-stocked pantry.

Anyway . . . I posted a photo of my breakfast on Facebook because, you know, that’s what I live for other than this blog, and next thing you know my friend Elizabeth pointed out that she likes Trisha, too, but loves Jamie Deen even more.

And suddenly my sweet and nostalgic memories of my Grandmother’s loving care collided with my secret desire to be swept off my feet by Jamie Deen. I responded to Elizabeth saying that I’d like Jamie to cook for me in his gorgeous kitchen while I sip wine, appear irresistibly beautiful and charming, and otherwise help him recover from the tragic and untimely death of his wife.

And that could happen.

Just like Bill Clinton could fall in love with me and John Cusack could run away with me as they do in my slumber.

Actually, I dreamed about Bill a long time ago. He’s getting a little old for my taste at this point. (I’m ageless you know.) And John — well, once I started following him on Twitter, he’s not so sexy anymore. I always joke I’m about as far left as Noam Chomsky, but John’s pretty out there at this point even for me. And, you know, he’s getting old too.

But Jamie — he’s just right. And I’m certain Mr. Mom wouldn’t mind because in my secret, imaginary love life, there are never complications or broken hearts.

Just gorgeous men, pimento cheese, and sweet dreams.

With gratitude {for tasty sandwiches and Saturday morning diversions},

Joan, who encourages you to never fall for the pre-made pimento cheese available in your grocery store because it’s too easy to make the really good stuff at home

My current excitement level.

Dear friends,

I’ve had a less-than-lovely April, mostly due to a demanding work schedule, but here’s two things that have happened in the last 24 hours that ratcheted my excitement level way, way up.


Kate has recently gotten interested in the West Wing. I love every single thing about the West Wing, especially CJ Cregg, who I fancy I could be if I tried. Today Kate tweeted that some episodes were “wayy” over her head. To which I suggested that we should spend our summer watching the series together so I could explain the context. To which she agreed. To which my inner political nerd squealed. As if I wasn’t already soooooo ready for summer to be here (it snowed today, for Pete’s sake!), that totally sealed the deal for this television-loving, poly-sci junkie mom.

And, as if that wasn’t enough to amp my excitement meter, Kate’s college tennis team received an at-large bid and #2 seed in the NCAA Division II Women’s Tennis Championship Tournament. Holy smokes that’s cool!


Because of their favorable bid, they play their first match at home on Saturday. You can bet your left arm I’m making the trip. As a Freshman reserve, Kate is unlikely to get a match, but it matters not to me. I love these girls, I’m a rabid fan of the team, and I’ll be there cheering loudly.

By the way, the winner of Saturday’s match advances to the round of 16 in Phoenix, Arizona on May 8. Have I said holy smokes that’s cool?

So April may have given me a wild ride, but I cannot complain about the destination.

With gratitude {for plenty to look forward to},

Joan, who wishes President Josiah Bartlet was around to save the day

The college girl.

Dear friends,

My two favorite brunettes of all time.

Some women my age would be embarrassed to admit this, but during my college years, Cosmopolitan magazine was my primary textbook. I scoured every issue and took its advice seriously. I thought Helen Gurley Brown was it, and I longed for a career as glamorous as hers.

My views have changed considerably since then — though my appreciation for independent, outspoken women has never waned. So I was sorry to hear Ms. Brown died yesterday in Manhattan at the age of 90.

From her NY Times obit, I learned a story about HGB that had never before caught my attention. Chiefly, that her mother sent the legendary Cosmo editor a telegram just before her best-selling (and career-making) book, “Sex and the Single Girl,” was published. In it, her mother wrote: Dear Helen, if you move very quickly, I think we can stop publication of the book.”

I cringed when I read it. I never want to be that mother, I thought. The naysayer. The second-guesser. The older woman dispensing one generation’s advice to a younger generation for whom the old rules don’t apply.

Lord knows I’ve been dispensing plenty of advice in the last few days as Kate prepared to go to college. Everything from where to buy the cheapest textbooks, to how to get answers from college administrators, to why it’s important to thoroughly read the syllabus.

In the end (where end equals Sunday night, time for mom to go home already), I simply had to zip my lip and walk away.  And, yeah, I walked away with tears in my eyes, trying hard not to make eye contact with the girl who wouldn’t be helped by a tearful goodbye. I left her among her friends and contemporaries, where I hope she will find the space and the encouragement for her unique voice to develop and her dreams to flourish, which is the only thing I ever hoped college would offer her.

I told her to call me if she needs me. (I know she won’t hesitate because barely two hours after I departed, she called to ask where I had put the Q-tips that I unpacked. I’m not sure if I’ll be more or less relieved if her next call for help is about a matter of more consequence.) I told her I loved her. I told her I was proud of her.

And then I drove six hours home, where a new adventure awaits me, too. (Just as soon as I stop crying. Kiddingnotkidding.)

With gratitude {for the strongest, smartest, kindest college girl a mother could hope for},

Joan, who finds it odd that the mother who breezed through Kate’s first day of Kindergarten had to look away or burst into tears while buying last-minute dorm supplies at Wal-Mart on Saturday (Who knew separation at 19 was harder than 5?)

Riding the Tina train.

Dear friends,

After years of blogging in virtual anonymity, I have finally, mercifully figured out the key to success:

Write about Tina Fey.

See — in my previous incarnation as Mayberry Magpie, I figured writing about small-town life was my ticket to blog fame. Two letters: N and O.

Then, I must have thought #gratitude would eventually trend big, but I’m still waiting. Today, it seems to be #FredWillard and #NameMyDickAfterAMovie. Too bad, really . . . although if #gratitude ever catches on, I’m certain I’ll be the next big name on HuffPost.

I had no idea, however, that writing a couple of posts in which I mentioned Tina Fey and my girl-crush on her was just the tag I needed to increase my hits.

During the last couple of weeks, a few dozen people a day have stopped by solely based on a Google search of Tina Fey. I know that a “few dozen” a day is a joke compared to the likes of Pioneer Woman or Kelly Rae, but still.

And I will say it: I can only imagine how disappointed those searchers must be when they land on Debt of Gratitude.

What I cannot imagine is how deep into the Google search results they must dive to find me. (They must be Tina Fey stalkers reading all the way to search result #49,861.) Oh, and the really tragic part? Even people who Google “Tina Fay” and “Tina Faye” and even “Tina Fay’s weight” find me.

Because I aim to please and I hate to think the poor folks who land here find nothing to their liking, I have decided to write a post wherein I mention Tina Fey’s sex life, nude photos of Tina Fey, Tina Fey’s secret love, why Tina Fey won’t admit to reading Fifty Shades of Grey but will play Ana Steele in the movie version, Tina Fey feet (hey, it popped up 9th on Google’s suggested search terms for Tina), Tina Fey’s scar (#3), Tina Fey’s belly fat, Tina Fey’s affair with Fred Willard, and the tragic dismemberment of Tina Fey’s nanny by Tina Fey’s crazy stalker.

You’re welcome.

Oh, and hey! Thanks for stopping by.

With gratitude {for the deep well of Tina love in American popular culture},

Joan, who needs to back away from the WordPress stats page and would if only she could move without weeping after day 3 of interval training

Please don’t tweet “tool” unless you mean hammer.

Dear friends,

After my literary rant yesterday, there’s just one more thing I have to get off my chest.

There’s this teenage girl I made the mistake of following on Twitter and she really upsets me. I’ve only met her once and got an odd vibe. I’ve met her mother a few times and found her delightful.

The rub is this: the girl frequently sends out the most vile tweets I have ever seen. To judge her by her tweets, she is rude. She is vulgar. She is a brat. But since no one wants to be judged solely by their social networking persona, I’m trying to refrain from drawing knee-jerk conclusions.

This is one of her milder posts: “Middle finger up to the high school. See you later b-tches!”

The one that nearly sent me over the edge said “I just accidentally told my mother to f— off. #oops

I didn’t use the expletives in my sentences even though she did.  Mostly, her vulgarities are pointed at members of her peer group (most of whom she calls “tools”) and her family.

I could totally get on my soapbox here about the dire consequences to any child of mine that would dare say those words to me or about me, much less brag about it on Twitter. There would be a destroyed phone. There might be bodily harm. I dare say all the child’s possessions would be carted to Goodwill and hard labor would plague the child until the age of consent. But that’s not the point.

The point is probably that I should unfollow the girl immediately because her behavior is none of my business.

Except . . . except . . . if it’s not my business, whose is it? If I were chaperoning a dance, for example, and she was speaking that way within earshot of me, I would say something — to her and to her parents. Should the rules be different for social networking?

So I’m really torn about whether or not to make the call to her mother. I’ve met plenty of parents, including Mr. Mom, who aren’t on Twitter so I have a hunch the mother doesn’t know what’s going on. Still, there’s probably far more potential downside than upside to reaching out. If her mother reads her tweets and isn’t aghast, what do I say? To quote her daughter . . . Oops? If her mother doesn’t read her tweets but doesn’t appreciate me alerting  her to her daughter’s behavior, well that’s a big ol’ can of worms, too.

I want to be clear and honest about something. As a family, we are not as pure as the driven snow. We curse. Out loud. But putting curse words in writing in a public forum is just plain dumb, and I told my kids so. “Look” I said,” if you want to rip one off in front of your friends, okay. No big deal. But be smart and keep your tweets clean. Someday you’ll need a job — or something else for which you will be checked out and evaluated — and you don’t need a questionable social networking history following you.” To make sure they follow my advice (at least while they live under my roof), I read their tweets regularly and give feedback whenever I see something that merits discussion or correction.

I know that most kids spend all their energy posturing in front of other kids. So why do I give a whit about one teenage girl’s vulgar tweets?

Because it doesn’t feel like posturing. It feels like a young woman who needs help. And maybe the other adults around her just haven’t noticed yet. Or haven’t spoken up for all the reasons I’ve wrestled with.

So please weigh in. What would you do? On both sides of the fence, if you were me and if you were the girl’s mother hearing from me?

With gratitude {for the parts of my life that are less complex than parenting, such as sleeping},

Joan, who thinks kids are like math papers and therefore require frequent correction

50 shades of drivel.

Dear friends,

I’m going out on a limb here for more reasons than I will enumerate, with the Top 2 being 1) I’m more comfortable being a cheerleader than a critic and 2) I love a bandwagon as much as the next blogger even though this particular one makes me cringe, but . . . I spent the last few days reading the book pictured above.

Let me for the record state I didn’t buy said book (thank god). Friend handed all three to me and said “Enjoy!”

Let me for the record state I have never read a bodice-ripper in my life, so I’m not familiar with the romance genre and therefore have no context by which to evaluate this title. If you are a romance fan (or maybe I should say erotica fan . . . are they two different genres or simply two ends of the spectrum?) I invite you to enlighten me.

Let me for the record state I had no idea what the book is about because I’m primarily a non-fiction gal and I hadn’t picked up on the buzz.  I think I had heard the word “porn” used about this book, but I had not heard “BDSM.” So, yeah, I walked in blind.

But now let me state this: I know good writing when I see it and I’ve seen (savored, actually) volumes of it in my lifetime. I like to think I’ve even strung together a decent phrase here and there. I was NOT shocked by the sexually explicit narrative. But I was absolutely floored that such horrid writing, meager characterization, ridiculous dialogue, bad grammar, and page after page after page of repetitive and cliched imagery could be strung together, sold to the masses, and rise to the top of the Times list. Holy cow . . . I’ve apparently been out of the popular fiction category for a long, long time.

I was talking to another friend who has read it and she said “I like good smut as much as the next middle-aged married woman, but I think the most disturbing thing is that it’s porn, bad porn, written on a 4th grade level. That’s just wrong.”

We joked I would title this post “See Dick and Jane F*&$.” But that’s just wrong, too, so I refrained.

I get how filmed porn turns out the way it does. But I guess I thought if you were going to the trouble to write porn, there’s an advantage to doing it well. I told Mr. Mom that to my way of thinking, a narrative template for porn that could be wildly successful involves a happy marriage, an attentive husband, AND sexual fireworks.  Maybe I should write that story and see if I can get as rich as James.

By the way, on my beside table right now in various stages of completion are:

  • In one person by John Irving (literary fiction)
  • The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking (science non-fiction)
  • Griftopia by Matt Taibbi (non-fiction social criticism)
  • No impact man (non-fiction activism)
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy: an experiential approach to behavior change by Hayes, Strosahl and Wilson (academic psychology text)

Add “50 Shades” to that pile and it’s pretty easy to figure out which one isn’t like the rest.

So, really, I shouldn’t even say a word. This book is out of my league.

But it did prompt a bit of soul-searching, which the best and worst of popular culture always does for me. Mostly my inner dialogue was something like “Really? This is how millions of women want to be entertained? No wonder my blog hits are so low. What happened to nobility and writing with the power to uplift and improve, as well as provoke? Where are our better angels?

This summer, it seems, they’re in the smut aisle.

With gratitude {for the real-life formula that beats contrived fiction any day},

Joan, who thinks maybe Mr. Mom is on to something when he asserted that 25% of males 50 and older suffer from ED so it’s no wonder 50 shades is a chart-topper

Snapshots from New York.

Dear friends,

I’ve been resisting writing a travelogue post about my recent trip to New York City.

Mostly because it would bore you death, not because I wouldn’t love to do it.

As much as I’m a small-town girl, I adore cities, especially New York, and there’s nothing more I’d rather do than write at length about every detail of my six days there. (Mr. Mom will affirm this. I think he’s tired of my one-track conversation, but he’s still politely listening).

So for your sake, I decided to consolidate my favorite impressions and photos into a Top 5 list.  By the way, Kate would have a totally different list. This is Joan’s opinion only and everyone knows Joan is one opinionated broad.

Joan’s Short List of New York City Wonders (in no particular order):

MOMA ought to be designated one of the Seven Wonders of the World. I got goosebumps and shed a tear or two during the few hours we spent there. Really, it was sublime overload. It made me think heaven is probably filled with art. Anyway, besides works by Dali and Pollock and Monet and Rothko and Mondrian and Van Gogh and so many others that made me marvel, I was absolutely smitten by this piece by Edward Ruscha:

The gallery text reads: “In capital letters, ‘oof’ floats against an empty blue backdrop, suspended somewhere between image and language and between iconicity and absurdity.”  Ruscha’s delicate balancing act is deliciously irreverent and ironic and reminded me why I love modern art. And you know what else I love about MOMA? Cameras are allowed! I took a slew of photos of both art and gallery text as a personal memoir. Thanks, MOMA curators. You totally made my week.

Broadway simply can’t be beat as an entertainment destination. I had the good fortune of seeing two shows and wished I could have seen 10 more. “Jesus Christ Superstar” was brilliant — a post-modern vision of the passion story with a soundtrack that everyone my age knows well. I couldn’t help singing out loud to most of the songs. “Hosanna” was especially well staged with a chorus line waving giant aluminum palm leaves.  And “Nice Work if You Can Get It” with Matthew Broderick was two hours of old-fashioned Gershwin fun chock full of eye-candy costumes, slapstick humor and more songs you know all the words to. My next dream vacation is to spend five days in Times Square doing nothing more than seeing as many shows as can be crammed into 120 hours. By the way, the discount tickets line in Times Square is a bargain one should not lightly dismiss. Yes, it’s crowded. Yes, you have to wait in a long line. But it’s also a fun way to pass a couple of hours. I wouldn’t be smiling if it weren’t.

Ground Zero is hallowed, mystical ground. There’s a vibe to the place I can’t describe — except to say it’s simultaneously reverent and celebratory. I almost passed it up thinking it would be overrun with tourists (it was), which would ruin the moment (it didn’t). My last trip to NYC was in 1999, at which time I stood on the observation deck (107th floor) of WTC 2 and took in the wondrous view on a cold but clear winter day. This trip, I laid on the grass of the Memorial in silent meditation and concluded the view of the emerging four towers was just as spectacular.

Buddy of Cake Boss has it going on! The man is not just a TV star — he’s a pastry God. I was all set to conclude the whole “Hoboken Baker” schtick was just a hefty fork-full of reality-television schlock. But his baked goods were ungodly good and unbelievably fair-priced. Props to him for not jacking up his prices in the wake of his television success. And next time you go to the Big Apple, make time in your schedule to visit Hoboken. (You can get there in 15-20 minutes from almost anywhere in Manhattan on the Path 33 subway line.)  Hoboken is totally underrated, which I’m sure has everything to do with the fact that New Jersey is its surname.

Street performers are one of the coolest free benefits of big cities and NYC abounds with talent. Kate and I sat and watched these two  guys near Times Square for quite a while. I couldn’t help but give them a few bucks. I always give street performers a few bucks. I mean, if they’re going to the trouble of entertaining me for free, how can I not give them a little legal-tender appreciation?

With gratitude {for the trip of a lifetime and 144 hours of uninterrupted time with my sweet CupKate},

Joan, whose face is hurting because she still can’t stop smiling

My love affair with Mayberry.

Dear friends,

If you know anything about me at all, you know I am an incurable small-town inhabitant.

I’ve lived in big cities – Los Angeles and Boston among them – and I delight in treks to New York and Chicago and Atlanta, but my heart has always been in Mayberry.

And, for me, Mayberry is more than a metaphor, more than easy shorthand for the kind of sweet, safe place we all long to believe in.  Mayberry is my home, or at least what I still profess my hometown to be and what I know small towns and communities all across America still are. Mayberry is real. Mayberry is true. At a time when it’s tempting to succumb to cynicism and divisiveness and a rampant strain of civic cholera that drains us of any sense of collective destiny, Mayberry has the power to darn the raveled edges of our humanity.

For some, Mayberry is nothing more than a fictional town from a television show so long gone as to be culturally irrelevant. With this week’s passing of Andy Griffith, many have paused to reflect on the man and his career, as well as his iconic character that epitomized the notion of Mayberry and came along just when American television viewers were eager to welcome a common-sense hero into their living rooms every week.

I grew up watching Andy and Barney and Aunt Bea, both in the show’s original run and in syndication.  But I also grew up in my own Mayberry where folks like Goober and Helen and Floyd were literally around the corner and made my childhood seem as idyllic as Opie’s. It wasn’t, of course, idyllic. My family and my community fared no better or worse than most in our state, but I somehow clung to the notion that a tight-knit group of folks could keep the ship afloat no matter the size of the swells ahead.

I read in the New York Times this week that “Eventually, the tumult and accelerated pace of the decade pushed The Andy Griffith Show aside, but not the notion that the moral center of the country lives somewhere in a small town.” The assertion made me cringe, though I’ve certainly promulgated the idea (chiefly through the writing of my former blog that was little more than a three-year love letter to my hometown).

Maybe I flinched because “moral center” has become such a politicized notion these days that I immediately thought of “Joe the Plumber” and the kind of fabricated, exploited, wholly manipulated dialogue that passes for civic debate in American modern life.  “Hogwash!” I thought to myself as I read the Times. Our moral center resides anywhere and everywhere two or more souls work together for a common good. I’ve seen it in my own Mayberry, I’ve observed it on the street I live on now, and I witnessed it on a corner last week in New York City. Just as my notion of God transcends a single doctrinal definition, my notion of collective conscience isn’t limited to a certain kind and size of town in a specific kind of place. The story of Mayberry is a particularly American script, but its narrative and characters and morals can be found anywhere we want it to be, anytime – like Andy — we allow kindness to trump cruelty, respect to outman contempt, gratitude to best greed.

Those inclinations are what Andy embodied, and they flourished in my hometown, which is why I love it so.  But the Mayberry I believe in will always be a reflection of the capacity of the resident’s hearts, not the size of the town.

With gratitude {for the blessings of having resided in more than one Mayberry in my lifetime},

Joan, who’ll always be Joan-Marie to the folks in her favorite Mayberry