Bama loss is about more than basketball


Yeah, I’m crying. In the middle of a tornado warning. After my team lost a game.

But this Alabama loss in the Sweet Sixteen is more than just a loss by my favorite basketball team – it’s the fraying of a thread to my dad.

Dad passed away Jan. 15. And Bama basketball has been one of the few bright spots since. 

Alabama sports is one of my connections to Daddy. We watched football, basketball, and even softball together. This basketball season was looking like something special and we were loving it early on.

We texted about the four-overtime win against North Carolina. Then the amazing comeback at Houston on Dec. 10.

“Roll Tide. They didn’t give up. Looks like a good team,” he texted me.

The Alabama-Memphis game on Dec. 13 was an 8 p.m. tip and Dad was tired so he wasn’t able to stay up to watch that win. 

He had been diagnosed with lung cancer in July 2021, had part of his lung removed later that summer, had chemo, and got the “all-clear” in December. In August 2022, the cancer had returned and this time it had spread to his chest and liver. Additional chemo had tanked his immune system, sending him to the hospital twice for weeklong stays with infections – once in September and again in November.

So by December he was fatigued and in a lot of pain, but still happy to talk and/or watch Bama basketball.

On Dec. 17, my brother and my youngest nephew came in for a visit. (My sister-in-law and oldest nephew weren’t able to come.) At my parents’ we celebrated my nephew’s birthday with cake and ice cream and we watched Alabama play Gonzaga. Even though the outcome wasn’t what we wanted, unlike last season’s big win, it was nice to cheer on a good, and exciting, Bama basketball team.

On New Year’s Eve, when we walked into Mom and Dad’s house to watch Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, a home health nurse was poking and prodding Dad. After hearing Dad talk about how much back pain he had been having, she called in more meds and Mom went to pick them up. 

As usual, Dad and I yelled and cussed at the refs (just a little) and enjoyed the 45-20 win over Kansas State, high-fiving and woo-hooing. Because it had been an early kickoff and we didn’t want to tire Mom and Dad too much, Riley and I came home and chilled the rest of the day. 

I texted Dad about the wild College Football Playoff game between Georgia and Ohio State and he texted back: “Good one. Go Dogs”. That would be his last text to me.

Dad’s bloodwork from New Year’s Eve showed another infection and he was back in the emergency room as 2023 began. And he also tested positive for Covid.

After work on Jan. 3, I double-masked and went to hang out at the hospital. Dad wanted a Taco Bell soft taco and Mom needed a sweatshirt because the room was so cold. The three of us Facetimed my brother so we could listen to the recording of the doctors’ prognosis. It was not good.

Not only did Dad have sepsis, the cancer had spread to his spine and lesions were spotted on his heart and his aorta. They couldn’t do a transesophageal electrocardiogram to look at his heart until the Covid was cleared. They couldn’t do chemo because Dad’s immune system was shot. And he wasn’t a candidate for open-heart surgery because of all of his other issues. We were left with nothing but antibiotics.

Even after all that news, after I went home for the night, we texted about the Bama-Ole Miss game, an 84-62 win. My last text to Dad was about the Alabama-Kentucky game Jan. 7. I went and watched the second half with him and Mom at the hospital. Bama won, 78-52, and while he saw a bit of the romp, he slept most of the time.

Dad came home on hospice on Jan. 10, my brother’s birthday, surrounded by our family. The next day we watched Bama beat Arkansas, and I made sure to tell Dad about the game as it went on.

The final game I shared with Dad was the 40-point blowout of LSU. I hope he heard my hootin’ and hollerin’ (albeit quieter than usual) from my spot on the couch next to his hospital bed in the living room. He would have loved seeing that one.

The next day, freed from his pain, Dad passed away. Never have I felt such loss. 

And I kept watching basketball and talking to Dad about it. 

The photos of us at last season’s Senior Night game against South Carolina are treasures. He was so happy to be in Coleman Coliseum, even though we were practically in the rafters and it took a lot for him to make it up the stairs. The smile on his face in that blurry photo brought me comfort as Bama continued to move forward.

Tonight’s loss to San Diego State hurts. I hurt for the players. And I hurt for myself. 

I was so wanting Alabama to make the Final Four and then, maybe, win it all. Every game, every win kept this thread to Dad intact. After tonight, it feels a bit frayed now that the last Alabama season we shared has come to an end. 

I love you, Dad. Roll Tide always.

‘Tis the season

Riley at The Palace, waiting for the Tuscumbia Christmas parade to start in 2020

It’s beginning to look a lot like the holidays in the Shoals as local communities get ready to host Christmas arades, breakfasts with Santa, and winter festivals.

However, only the real Santa and Mrs. Claus will be part of local parades – no impersonators allowed

Town Creek kicks off the cavalcade of parades on Thursday, Dec. 1 at 6 p.m. Call the Town Creek Library at 256-685-2973 for more information. Registration is free. 

The Muscle Shoals Christmas Parade will be Thursday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. with Santa welcoming kids to add to his list at Bank Independent starting at 5 p.m. Register at this link by Nov. 23.

Rogersville hosts its “Hometown Christmas” parade on Friday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. Contact town clerk Misty Michael at 256-247-5446 extension 2 to reserve your spot in the parade. Groups, churches, school groups, businesses, and individuals are welcome to participate. 

Sheffield will be filled with merriment on Tuesday, Dec. 6 as the parade marches through downtown. Visit this link to hold your spot in the parade.

Florence hosts its “March of the Toys” Christmas parade on Thursday, Dec. 8, at 7 p.m. The route travels through historic downtown Florence from Court Street to Tennessee Street and up Seminary Street, ending at Wilson Park. Register to be part of the parade by Dec. 1.

Tuscumbia’s parade, originaly scheduled for Nov. 29 before thunderstorms forced postponement, has been rescheduled for Thursday, Dec. 15 at 6 p.m. Lining up in front of Deshler High School, the parade begins at Main Street.


From open houses to merry music to a walk back in time, the Shoals offers plenty of events to welcome the holidays. 

Load up the family and visit SantaLand in Rogersville. This year Santa and Mrs. Claus have invited special friends, including the Grinch! New displays include the Peanuts Gang, Whoville, Kringle Lane, a singing Polar Bear and the four-story Bumble the Christmas Yeti. Open at 5:30 p.m. every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, you can also have your picture taken with the Clauses.

Northwest-Shoals Community College welcomes everyone to breakfast with Santa on Saturday, Dec. 3 from 9-11 a.m. on its Muscle Shoals campus. Tickets are $14 and can be purchased here. Proceeds go to the NW-SCC Foundation.

Also on Dec. 3, from 1 to 9 p.m., catch the Festival of Yule on Main Street in Tuscumbia. Learn more about the Norse, Germanic, and other mystical cultural lore that surrounds winter holidays. Purchase gifts from local vendors, enjoy a 7-foot Krampus photo op and a 360-degree photo booth. Downtown restaurants will be open, and street food and hot chocolate will also be available.

Once again, Tuscumbia will host its Dickens Christmas in historic downtown on Saturday, Dec. 10. Go back in time to meet Dickens characters, warm your hands at a fire pit, enjoy Clydesdale Carriage Rides, live music, holiday High Tea and much more, all while snow gently falls.

Also on Saturday, Dec. 10 head out to Deibert Park in Florence from 1-3 p.m. for A Deibert Christmas! Everyone is invited to meet Santa outside the Deibert Barn for photos, and storytime. Santa will be reading “A Night Before Christmas” at 1pm and 2pm. This event is sponsored by the Florence Parks and Recreation Department and the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library. 

Happy holidays!

Low Places


The smell of corn dogs and funnel cakes coated the air and Bob Seger’s “Main Street” played on the staticky speakers when Jake spotted me standing in line for the Tilt-a-Whirl. He wore a purple button-down and jeans. And that smile. Always that smile.

That memory about a junior college crush led me down a rabbit hole of journal entries and early 1990s music. Back then “big-hat” country played on all of our stereos, and Garth Brooks was its king. Listening to him, 20-year-old me swore the connections I made then would last forever.

Read the rest of my piece on how Garth Brooks shaped my college memories at Kelly J. Baker’s Cold Takes as part of her Albums Series.

Rock ‘n’ roll prayer


My short song story for Rabble Lit‘s Working Class playlist in 2017.

Tiffani Hill-Patterson: “Livin’ On a Prayer,” Bon Jovi

“Livin’ On A Prayer” hit No. 1 when I was 15, driver’s permit in my billfold, 1985 Impala steering wheel in my hands, big plans in my head. I’d be a famous writer, find love like Tommy and Gina, leave the struggle behind.

Thirty years later, I’m a secretary by day, writer by night, stretching every paycheck. Romance came and went; a greater love took its place. As my daughter drives our 2008 Kia to the dollar store, the ink barely dry on her driver’s permit, she blasts “Livin’,” and I head-bang in the passenger’s seat, buckling up for the ride.

Social Distancing 2020

Netflix and pink frosting

I’m glad Riley is not off to college this year of coronavirus. I would not like being “quarantined” alone. It’s hard enough not being able to see Mom and Dad or travel to my brother’s. If I couldn’t hang out with Riley, I’d go stir crazy. Even if she’s dancing in her room with the door shut or sitting at the table engrossed in “Bring It,” it’s a comfort knowing she’s here.

And while it’s been weird to spend so much time in the house, we have had fun, too. We’ve been talking about college (her future and my and her dad’s past), laughing at dumb internet memes, learning TikTok dances, reminiscing about her childhood, watching Korean dramas and 80s movies, and putting together her audition videos for the Roar, UNA’s Dance Team. She made it!

Something I haven’t done much that I thought I would is read. I have not been able to concentrate on a page. I managed to finish How to Break Up with Your Phone, but I started it before “confinement.” And, anyway, this is a hard time to be without a phone. It’s our only connection to the world outside our little duplex.

I’ve been working throughout this pandemic–full time the first two weeks, then two days a week the next three weeks, and now back to full time since the governor loosened restrictions on the Stay-at-Home orders. I hope we don’t regret that.

What We’ve Watched
Cinderella and the Four Princes
Crash Landing On You
Memories of Alhambra
Book Club (twice)
Harry Potter 1 & 2
In the Shadows of Motown
DJ DNice Club Quarantine Instagram Live
New Kids On the Block Live
Knives Out
Bring It (Riley)
Waiting to Exhale
Romancing the Stone
Say Yes to the Dress (Riley)
Total Divas (Riley)
Babyface and Teddy Riley on Instagram Live
NFL Draft
Sound of Music
Footloose (new one–Riley)
Remember the Titans
Back to the Future 1 & 2
Star Wars
Baby Boom
La Bamba
Jimmy O. Yang’s comedy special
Little Mermaid (Riley)
Return to Neverland
The Farewell

What I’ve Downloaded
Ritchie Valens
Dixie Chicks
Babyface hits
Songs from Waiting to Exhale
Teddy Riley hits
House Party-New Kids on the Block
Neill Diamond
Hall & Oates
Songs from Club Quarantine by DNice

What I’ve Bought
Food, and a lot of it
A rug
Flatten the Curve T-shirts to benefit employee assistance fund
House Party shirts to benefit No Kid Hungry
Abide No Hatred shirt to benefit SPLC
Contacts with Transitions coating
$28 prescription eyeglasses
Two Senior 2020 yard signs (because she missed out on all the fun senior year stuff)
Senior portraits

Sounds of the season


(Originally published Dec. 12, 2011)

Imagine the sounds of the Christmas season: the ripping of wrapping paper, the squeal of an excited child, jingle bells, the whispers to Santa, and your favorite Christmas carol.

Now imagine the holidays without those sounds. That’s how it was for Riley until she turned 2. With the help of cochlear implants and years of auditory-verbal therapy, she is able to enjoy all the sounds of the season just like any kid with typical hearing, including me yelling, “Riley! Stop shaking your presents!”

One of Riley’s favorite Christmas sounds is a DVD by The Wiggles. The kiddie band was one of the first things she heard after her implants were activated. “Mama, I don’t care how old I get, ” she says, “I’ll always love The Wiggles.”  The photo at right shows her gettin’ wiggly during her first holiday to hear. Pretty special, right?

Since then she has sung in numerous school Christmas programs and played three roles in her third-grade-class production of “A Christmas Carol.” Not bad for a girl who, when she was born, couldn’t hear a jet engine if you held her next to it.

When all the noise starts getting to you, stop and think what it’d be like if you couldn’t hear at all. No kids singing “Away in a Manger,” no friends laughing, no voice saying “I love you.” Then be grateful for the sounds. And take some ibuprofen and a nap and get on with your holiday-ing.

Cruel Summer: When life stops it also keeps going


So much has happened since my last post about disappointment. I’m not ready to share the details, but if you know me at all, you know it’s been a difficult summer. Instead of writing about that right now, I’m sharing some ideas that I might eventually make sense of, too. Let me know if any of them sound interesting.

Handwritten essay drafts in various notebooks:

Stevie Nicks as the Fairy Godmother of Rock

The Evolution of Baby in Dirty Dancing

My favorite summer spot

Essay/story/joke ideas in Notes on my phone:

Dolly Parton and football

What NOT to say to someone who’s just lost a loved one

Play it where it lies

Always Duckie, Never Andie

Talking to girls about Rob Sheffield

We will be fine. Your friends will be fine. It will be OK. I promise. (Did I lie?) 11/8/16 10:52pm

Rites of passage: So many of my firsts were disappointing

Every boy she has a crush on is dying … crushed under the weight of her infatuation.

The best of the era in music. The worst of the era in racism. Alabama.

If women are so powerful that we can control men’s thoughts through such a mundane thing as our clothes, don’t you think we’d have given them better thoughts? Like … “Let’s pay women the same as men for the same job!” “Don’t rape!” “Let’s take half our corporate profits and feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, make sure a great education is free for all kids, and provide for our veterans!” “Love who you love!” “Women can make their own reproductive decisions!”


The failure that changed my life


As the final name was called, I felt my throat tighten and my eyes well up. It wasn’t mine. I walked out of the room, out the doors and down the stairs. I waited until I was safely in my house, nestled in my bedroom before I cried. I wasn’t going to let anyone see my devastation.

April 29, 1988. Thirty years ago. And I still remember how disappointed and embarrassed I was.

Continue reading

Stay focused


Two weeks into 2018 and life has been busy. Riley started the second semester of her sophomore year, and I’ve spent every extra hour planning a seven-team, 300-dancer showcase. I sent about 200 emails and countless texts while coordinating one of Riley’s dance team’s largest fundraisers. Unfortunately, a wintry weather forecast forced its cancellation. Maybe we can come up with another fundraiser before our Nationals trip at the end of February to help offset travel costs.

Last post I talked about focusing on the word CREATE. This post I want to talk about my need to STAY FOCUSED. If I cannot stay focused on where I want to go and what I want to do and be, then creating will be out of the question. I’ll just sit around on Twitter or Facebook all night after work and get nothing accomplished. Speaking of Twitter, here’s my plan to STAY FOCUSED on my creations:

  • Less Twitter – More books
  • Less sitting – More moving
  • Less outrage – More action
  • Less outrage – More peace
  • Less multitasking – More finishing

Twitter is anxiety-inducing so I’ve cut back. I don’t need to check an app to know the president has done something to make a mockery of our country and our democracy. That’s an everyday thing now. And my books are still waiting for me, their jackets getting dusty.

In addition to “Good Booty” and my other music books, I also want to read “America’s Original Sin” about slavery and its effects today and my books on writing like “Writing Is My Drink” and “Writer With a Day Job.”

Another goal is to get physical. I spend 8-10 hours at a desk at my day job and it is terrible for my body, both inner workings and outer shell. I’ve done a few squats and pushups the last couple of days – it may not be much, but I have to start somewhere. I’m trying to make it a point to stand more at work, too, even if just for 5 minutes at a time.

Next on the list is less outrage, more action. That means not clogging up social media with anger and disbelief at what is happening in the world, but doing something to make the world better. Whether it’s helping a family navigate a hearing loss diagnosis or donating to a progressive political candidate or calling a friend or writing an article or biting my tongue when I really want to lash out at someone. Doing something will give me more peace than just being mad online.

And, finally, less multitasking, more finishing. I’ve found that when I have too many pots on the stove, something gets burned. Usually me. I’m more productive when I focus on only one or two projects at a time. Any more and I get overwhelmed and procrastinate.

Oh, and one other thing: Roll Tide! What an incredible season and comeback to win the National Championship! Because ESPN’s streaming of live events is terrible, Riley and I listened to Eli Gold on the radio. Listening to a game is a very different experience. You really have to … STAY FOCUSED!

Goodbye, 2017. Hello, 2018.


Every December, I think about how I want to do something better the next year. 2017 was no different. Like I told my friend, Jamie, on Twitter, I feel like I’ve wasted so much time this year – being angry, zoning out, being frustrated, doing too little of consequence and too much of nothing.

So I’ve decided for 2018 to focus on the word CREATE. I want to create a better life for Riley and me and that starts with these three things: Home, Health, Hustle.

Home — Create a good home life for Riley and me. Improvement projects. More dinners in. A better, less expensive place.

Health — Create the body, mind and soul I want. Workout. Devotionals. Journal. Meditate.

Hustle — Create the career I want. Writing. Designing. Editing. Consulting/mentoring related to hearing loss, cochlear implants and IEPs and therapy and teaching kids to advocate for themselves. What else?

Writing and blog ideas: I’ve read and enjoyed books related to music, both fiction and nonfiction, and I want to share my thoughts here. I don’t know if that would be something anyone would read, but it’s something I’ve been thinking of doing for a while. I’ve read bios of Rod Stewart and Rick Springfield, and Elvis, Guns ‘n’ Roses’ Duff McKagan are on my To Be Read shelf. I’m also interested in Slash and Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye and Keith Richards and Loretta Lynn.

Then there are the Rob Sheffield books about how music has shaped his life. And the fictional “Grace & The Fever,” inspired by author Zan Romanoff’s affinity for Hanson and One Direction, and revolving around internet fandom and what happens when you meet the object of your desire.

And I just started “Good Booty” by Ann K. Powers– a look at how music shapes fundamental American ideas and beliefs about social issues, especially sex and race.

I have essays that I’d like to sell. I haven’t finished (or started really) any of them–they are mostly just outlines.

Anyway, it’s a new year and I want to create. Instead of making resolutions, I’m going to use the following from The Universe as a guide:

  1. Give thanks that your life is exactly as it is.
  2. Decide that 2018 will be the happiest year of your life yet.
  3. Every day, follow your heart and instincts down new paths.

Happy 2018! Now, let’s get a good night’s sleep and wake up ready to create the world we want to live in.