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Laughing with Life

Feb. 28, 2012

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Duane Jones

The Details:

The first Zippity Doo Dah® Parade raised more than $65,000 for “the Chirren” at Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children. This year, Browne has set her sights even higher, with a weekend-long festival.

Thursday, March 22 — Fondren’s largest outdoor event, Arts, Eats & Beats, will serve as the kickoff event.

Friday, March 23 — A huge outdoor tent will be installed on Duling Street and will provide a venue for a number of events. Browne’s newest book will be launched during this weekend, and the SPQ Big Hat Luncheon will be hosted in the tent during the day.

Saturday, March 24 — “Fat is the New 30” Book Release/Signing Party at Duling Hall in Fondren mid-morning; tickets are $20 and will include a signed book, food and adult beverages; open to the public. The Sal & Mookie’s Annual Kid’s Street Carnival will be held; the “Fondren Un-Zipped” Port-A-Potty Awards will be given; the Patty peck Honda Doo Dah Day Blue Car Giveaway will take place; and the Zippity Doo Dah Parade will roll out with Jackson State University President Dr. Carolyn Meyers serving as Grand Marshal.

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Life isn’t always a parade, even when you more often than not wear pink sparkly cat-eye sunglasses anytime you step outside. Just ask Boss Sweet Potato Queen Jill Conner Browne, who found herself in a bit of a funk following the release of her book “American Things: The Sweet Potato Queens’ Guide to Preserving Your Assets” (Simon & Schuster) in 2009.

“I got a lot of experience in following my own advice for dealing with adversity,” Browne said. “There are very few things in life that we really and truly can NOT change; but when faced with one, the task at hand is to figure out how to either make fun OUT of it — or make fun OF it.

“My daddy taught me that — I have put it to the acid test the last few years, and I’m happy to report: it does work!”

Lucky for us, Browne has used her personal struggles as inspiration for her latest book, “Fat is the New 30: The Sweet Potato Queens’ Guide to Coping with (the crappy parts) of Life.” On sale April 3, the new book is a collection of individual essays full of hilarious (and quite sound) advice told as only Browne can tell it: brutally honest, but in a Southern drawl and finished with a “bless your little heart.”

“If all you get from any of my books is a good laugh, then I have served you well,” Browne said. “Life is hard on a good day — for all of us. The humor is just the vehicle by which the Greater Message is delivered — but the humor is just as important.”

Be sure to visit Browne at her second Zippity Doo Dah Parade® this month. And until you can get your own copy of her newest book, consider this your cheat sheet for handling life’s crappiest moments, direct from the Queen herself.

The Sweet Potato Queen's Top 10 Ways to Deal with the Crappy Parts of Life

1. Live in denial. As in: FAT is the New 30! That’s my current fave — and I am workin' it, hunny. (Which is NOT the same as saying, “it's working,” mind you!) Reverse denial: Declare yourself to be a Queen (despite all evidence to the contrary) and spend the rest of your life living into that. Best job I ever had, bar none.

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2. Get yourself a dog. Making a dog happy is one of our highest callings as human beings and also one of the easiest — so if you have a dog, you can always experience success, simply by fulfilling this mission. It is impossible to be completely unhappy in the presence of a good dog. I have three — we laugh a lot at our house.

3. Or a cat. “Having a cat” (and I have three), is not actually possible. We do not “have” cats — we are had by them — and they could take us or leave us, frankly. We serve At the Pleasure of the Cats, and could be summarily dismissed at any moment. If you cohabit with a cat, you come to accept this. Anybody who thinks they “have” a cat is seriously delusional.

4. Learn how to make gravy. Everything is better with gravy — words to live by — and there are so many forms of it, all of them wonderful. Icing is cake gravy. Diamonds are hand (and wrist and neck and ear) gravy. Plastic surgery is face gravy.

5. Find a new hobby. In the fall of 2009, I took up gator hunting. “Took up” is slightly less than accurate. I followed some other people who were actively hunting alligators. I followed them from a distance and in a much bigger boat — one with lots of food and a bathroom. Even at that, it was one of the stupider things I've done in my life. But laughs — lotsa laughs!

6. Put some sparkles on. Sweet Potato Queens are very crow-like in our affinity for things that go sparkle. Our belief (and practice) is that More is More — whoever said “less is more” is just stupid.

7. Make someone laugh. And remember, you count as someone. You may be unaware of this: when preparing fresh okra, those ends that you cut off? They will STICK TO YOUR SKIN. Like glue. You can stick a couple on your forehead — even the tip of your nose — and run down the street with ’em and they will stick right there. I do this every time I cook okra, and it makes me laugh every time. (I don't actually run down the street — just hanging around in the house is sufficient.) It also makes any and all around me laugh as well. It’s just funny — every time — it never gets old. Cheap date, here.

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8. Eat up. Anyone who tells you food cannot mend all wounds has never tried my “I Can’t See My Feet but WHO CARES Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding.” People always say that “time heals all wounds.” That is such a lie. FAT heals all wounds. There is no such thing as “low fat comfort food.” But that bread pudding? You WILL be comforted, I guarantee it.

9. Watch how other people deal with their kids in the grocery store. It will make you feel like a better parent. The grocery store line just does that to you. There is nothing quite like witnessing Other People publicly suffering with misbehaving children to give one a lift in the Feeling Superior department — as long as one’s OWN precious heathens are not in attendance rendering that impossible.

10. Go to a Parade. Spectating at a parade does perk one up considerably; however, that cannot be favorably compared to the life-altering exuberance afforded to the PARTICIPANTS in said parade. Let me urge you in the strongest but most loving terms possible to JOIN IN. My Daddy put “spectating” on almost a “SIN” level! He said that if there was something going on that you were in ANY WAY capable of PARTICIPATING in, you had a moral obligation to do so; and further more, that you should DO what you will WISH you HAD DONE when you're 50. Whatever it is, by the time you’re 50, I can promise you, you’ll wish you had done it. After you pass 50, that moves up to the Nursing Home — what are you gonna WISH you had done when you go to the nursing home? I can GUARANTEE you — there is not ONE person in a nursing home wishing they had served on a few more committees or vacuumed the stairs a few more times. PLAY is AS IMPORTANT to our health and well being as food, clothing and shelter. This has been scientifically proven in university studies — although I could have saved them a whole bunch of time, money and research and given them that answer years ago. COME PLAY WITH US!