Bacon on the Bookshelf

Savory picks for the free range reader

Girlfriends in the Time of Corona: I Don’t Give Anxiety Permission (But Wine Is Allowed)

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Sometimes a girlfriend knows you better than you know yourself. Sometimes a girlfriend likes you better than you like yourself. Sometimes a girlfriend laughs with you and helps you laugh at yourself. Agenia Clark and Marlee Mitchell make each other laugh, and they’ll make you smile too! Agenia Clark is the charismatic CEO of Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee; Marlee Mitchell is a badass, National-Park-loving law partner at Waller…

Hello, friends! Thank you for helping us get our day started right here at Bacon!

How did you meet?

Agenia:

Over dinner. Being introduced by a common friend, at Margot’s, over several glasses (or was it bottles?) of wine…

Marlee:

WELL, THE WAY I REMEMBER IT IS THAT AGENIA TRIED TO GET ME INTOXICATED AT OUR FIRST MEETING.  DINNER AT MARGOT’S, BECAUSE SHE WAS TOLD IT WAS MY FAVORITE RESTAURANT.  THERE WAS A SECOND BOTTLE OF WINE INVOLVED.  SHE BROUGHT ALONG MY THEN-BANKER TO INTRODUCE US.  PLEASE BE CAREFUL IF SHE EVER NEEDS SOMETHING FROM YOU AND OFFERS TO TAKE YOU TO DINNER.

How would you describe your friend? (Fill in the blank style…)

Agenia: “Marlee is calm, calm, calm even when she’s not so calm.”

Marlee: “Agenia is COMPOSED AND PROFESSIONAL even when she’s PERTURBED OR ANNOYED.”

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Agenia: “Marlee is really good at, actually great at, hosting intimate dinner parties. Marlee is not so good at cooking what you eat at those intimate dinner parties.”

Marlee:  “AGENIA IS REALLY GOOD AT TELLING GIRLS HOW TO BUILD COURAGE, CONFIDENCE AND CHARACTER BY GOING TO CAMP.  AGENIA IS NOT SO GOOD AT PITCHING A TENT AND SLEEPING ON THE GROUND IN A SLEEPING BAG, WHICH I BELIEVE IS PART OF THE CAMPING EXPERIENCE?”

*

Agenia: “If Marlee were a weather pattern or event, she would be … bright skies, a few overhead clouds, and a clap of thunder when needed. Don’t forget, she’s a lawyer who knows how to make sure her clients are getting the good news, bad news, and the very best legal advice.”

Marlee: “If Agenia were a weather pattern or event, she would be a DECHERO FOLLOWED BY A WAKE LOW.  NOT REALLY, I’VE JUST RECENTLY LEARNED THOSE TERMS FOR WEATHER PATTERNS AND NOW FEEL COMPELLED TO USE THEM IN CASUAL CONVERSATION.  I THINK OF AGENIA AS A ROCK STAR, SO I GUESS SHE WOULD BE A ROLLING STONES CONCERT.”

(BTW, THIS IS WORSE THAN ASKING “IF YOU WERE A TREE, WHAT KIND OF TREE WOULD YOU BE?”)

Marlee’s home post-dechero

What did you like to do together a lifetime ago – before the Time of Corona? 

Agenia: Great meals, great wine, too much laughter… all just because. Only when she lets you, raiding her wine cellar is the ultimate. Now, we have more access to the wine cellar due to the pandemic. 

Marlee: PERIODIC CATCHUP DINNERS AT LOCAL RESTAURANTS, OUR HOMES, OR THE HOMES OF MUTUAL FRIENDS.  I THINK IT IS FAIR TO SAY THAT WE ARE BOTH FOODIES, BUT NOT IN A SNOBBY KIND OF WAY.

How are you staying connected now?

Agenia: Who knew how easy Facetime and Zoom were, until now. But we’re social types and prefer getting together. This has been fun because we can make fun of our new “pandemic” attire. After all, who dresses up for FT or Zoom?

Marlee: ZOOM!  PLUS FACETIME, EMAILS, LOTS OF EMAILS, OR TEXT MESSAGES, OR PHONE CALLS IF IT IS SOMETHING URGENT OR EXCEPTIONALLY FUN.

You two share a love of books. Agenia – My Sister the Serial Keeper was one of my favorite reads of 2019 (your recommendation). What are you both reading right now?

Photo from Agenia’s house with terrific books!

Agenia: I’m a newly minted “ABD.” That’s an “All But Dissertation.” I haven’t had time to read much other than research for lit reviews. But, I had to take a mental vacation and read Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. As if that wasn’t enough, I continued my mental vacation by signing-up for a HULU free trial to watch the drama series, “Little Fires Everywhere.” As to be expected, the series was not 100% true to the book. It didn’t matter. They both were outstanding. In one of our get-togethers, I learned that Marlee had done the same!

It’s a secret – but I’m also reading the advance copy of Al Roker’s You Look So Much Better in Person: True Stories of Absurdity and Success. Poignant and hilarious. The release was delayed due to the pandemic but it’s now scheduled for release in July 2020. 

The last book I enjoyed with my book club was Trailblazer: A Pioneering Journalist’s Fight to Make the Media Look More Like America by Dorothy Butler Gilliam. A nonfiction journey with the first African-American female journalist with the Washington Post.

Marlee: WITH MY PANDEMIC-SHORTENED ATTENTION SPAN, THE STACK OF BOOKS I AM ROTATING THROUGH IN A NON-LINEAR FASHION ARE:

  1. PALE HORSE, PALE RIDER (KATHERINE ANNE PORTER);
  2. SPYING ON THE SOUTH (TONY HOROWITZ);
  3. THE LAST BALLAD (WILEY CASH); AND
  4. GRINNELL–AMERICA’S ENVIRONMENTAL PIONEER AND HIS RESTLESS DRIVE TO SAVE THE WEST (JOHN TALIAFERRO).

COULD BE WORSE, I’M NOT DRIVING LONG DISTANCES SO NO BOOKS ON AUDIBLE ARE GETTING “READ” FOR THE TIME BEING.  THAT’S THE ONLY WAY I’M EVER GOING TO GET THROUGH THE LATEST WINSTON CHURCHILL BIOGRAPHY.

What are you watching or listening to? TV/podcasts/music…

Agenia: Nothing! Don’t have time. Since I no longer commute, thanks to the pandemic, no podcasts either. After “Little Fires Everywhere” it’s back to my dissertation. Ask me again in four months.

But, pre-COVID, I was recommending to all of my friends my favorite podcasts.  In order:

#1 “Dolly Parton’s America”

#2 “The Dropout – The Rise and Fall of Elizabeth Holmes”

#3.  Marcus Whitney’s “Audio Universe” hosted by Nashville’s serial entrepreneur Marcus Whitney

#4 “Root of Evil:  The True Story of the Hodel Family and the Black Dahlia”

#5 “Steve McNair: Fall of a Titan”

Marlee: NOT A BIG PODCAST OR TV PERSON.  AN EXCEPTION IS THE PODCAST ON THERANOS/ELIZABETH HOLMES (EVIL) THAT AGENIA (OF COURSE) RECOMMENDED TO ME. THE EXCEPTION FOR THE LITTLE SCREEN IS BINGE-WORTHY SERIES, SUCH AS “LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE”, “OZARK”, OR ANYTHING REALLY DARK, SUCH AS “KILLING EVE”, OR ANYTHING, AND I MEAN ANYTHING, THAT INCLUDES POST-APOCALYPTIC DYSTOPIAN SOCIETIES, OR ZOMBIES.  THE MORE ZOMBIES, THE BETTER?

Killing Eve

MUSIC:  JOHN PRINE AND BILL WITHERS. I’M STILL MOURNING BOTH. THANK GOODNESS CAT STEVENS IS STILL WITH US!

ALSO, TENNESSEE BREW WORKS HAS HOSTED A TIP JAR SERIES WITH A BUNCH OF TALENTED ACTS; MOST RECENTLY, I WATCHED GRACI PHILLIPS PERFORM, AND SHE WAS FANTASTIC.  I’VE ALSO RECENTLY DISCOVERED MINGO FISHTRAP FOR MORE UPBEAT TUNES.

I’M NOT WORKING ON MY PhD.  CLEARLY.

How has your work changed in the Time of Corona? 

Agenia: I’m a social creature. So this has been a challenge. But, I do like my new wardrobe better than ever before. After all, no one knows you’re wearing jeans and Converses, every day.

Marlee: NO MORE LUNCHES AT MY DESK.  LUNCHES MUST BE EATEN ON MY BACK PORCH OR PATIO SO I CAN EAT AND COMMUNE WITH NATURE AT THE SAME TIME.  ALSO, EVERY DAY IS TAKE-A-DOG-TO-WORK DAY AT MY HOME OFFICE.

How are your family and pets doing?

Agenia: No pets. Family is all good. Nashville knows how to handle a pandemic… a 100 year flood… tornadoes… etc.  We’re in this together and we will be okay.

Marlee: IN REVERSE ORDER, I THINK NASHVILLE IS HANDLING TORNADOS/DERECHOS/WAKE LOWS/PANDEMICS AS WELL AS CAN BE EXPECTED.  I THINK ADVERSE WEATHER EVENTS HAVE CAUSED OUR CITY TO BE RESILIENT AND I AM REALLY PROUD OF LOCAL LEADERSHIP IN THIS REGARD.

I WILL SAY THAT HAVING A 90-YEAR OLD MOTHER IN A NURSING HOME IN MEMPHIS IS NOT OPTIMAL, BUT SHE SURVIVED THE DEPRESSION, WORLD WAR II, THE LOSS OF HER SPOUSE, MY CHILDHOOD, 3 BOUTS OF PNEUMONIA AND MY BOUTS WITH THE MUMPS, MEASLES AND CHICKEN POX, SO SHE’S MADE OF TOUGH FABRIC.

OLIVER WENDELL HOMELESS (THE MATURE TERRIER MIX) AND JAKE FROM STATE FARM (THE WHIRLING DERVISH MIDDLE TENNESSEE BOXER RESCUE) ARE DOING GREAT, EXCEPT I THINK THEY THINK I AM BORING.  EXCEPT WHEN I PLANT THINGS, THEN THEY FIND GREAT FUN IN DIGGING UP MY PLANTINGS.

What’s your best advice for people trying to stay sane?

Agenia: If you don’t, cook something. If you haven’t, grab a great book that you just can’t stop reading. If you don’t, go for a walk. If you haven’t, have your next Zoom meeting from your deck or patio. If you don’t, schedule a coffee/cocktail hour with a friend or friends. And, don’t forget, this is all temporary.

Marlee: IF YOU DON’T ALREADY OWN THEM, ACQUIRE ONE OR MORE OF THESE THINGS:

  1. A MUSICAL INSTRUMENT YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO LEARN TO PLAY.  EXCEPT  BANJO, THAT COULD BE REALLY ANNOYING TO OTHERS AROUND YOU.
  2. A SWIFFER.  WHO KNEW WHAT KIND OF STUFF HAD BEEN LURKING UNDER FURNITURE AND ON BASEBOARDS?  FOR THAT MATTER, WHO KNEW I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE DUSTING MY BASEBOARDS?  WHEN YOU WALK BAREFOOT ON HARDWOOD FLOORS ALL DAY, EVERY DAY, AS I DO, YOU WONDER WHY NO ONE HAS INVENTED SWIFFER BOOTIES, TO SWAB THE FLOORS AS YOU WALK…..
  3. A DURAND CORKSCREW; I HAVE NOT BROKEN A SINGLE CORK SINCE ACQUIRING THIS ENGINEERING MARVEL.

ON A DIFFERENT NOTE, STOP WORRYING ABOUT THE “QUARANTINE 15”, SUPPORT LOCAL RESTAURANTS.  ALL OF THEM. GYMS WILL REOPEN SOME DAY.

Let’s wrap up with a few speed dating questions…

Favorite beverage in the Time of Corona?

Agenia: Trying new red wines. Favorites are Red Cabs or Zins.

Marlee: TENNESSEE BREW WORKS BEER, ANY FLAVOR, OR (MAY I HAVE TWO ANSWERS?) ANY WINE I DISCOVER IN MY BASEMENT.

Favorite snack?

Agenia: “BB’s Garlic Gourmet Pretzels” that I get from BB at the Franklin Farmer’s Market.  You can also email her: bbsgourmetpretzels@yahoo.com

Marlee: CHEESE.  ALL CHEESE.  ANY CHEESE.

Favorite time of day?

Agenia: 6:15 AM, when I leave for my daily morning walk/run. Quiet, no mask required, and cooler temperatures.

Marlee: SUNRISE, FOR DOG WALK TO START OFF THE DAY ON THE RIGHT FOOT, OR PAW.

Wearing a mask?

Agenia: Of course. So far, I’ve made about 80 for family and friends.

Marlee: I WEAR A FACE MASK AT THE GROCERY STORE AND PHARMACY ONLY, AS I DON’T GO ANYWHERE ELSE INDOORS – TOO “PEOPLY.”  I HAVE NOT BEEN WEARING FACE MASKS FOR OUTDOOR WALKING/HIKING ACTIVITIES.  IN FACT, I HAD NO FACE MASKS UNTIL AGENIA HANDMADE SOME FOR ME WITH DOG THEMES AS AN EARLY BIRTHDAY GIFT.  SEE HOW THOUGHTFUL SHE IS?

Level of anxiety on a daily basis, 1-10?

Agenia: I don’t give anxiety permission. Guess I’m a “1.”

Marlee: I’M SETTLING INTO A SOLID 5-ISH WITH BETTER WEATHER, EXCEPT ON DAYS I GET A PHONE CALL FROM THE NURSING HOME, AFTER WHICH I SPIRAL INTO AN 11.  SHE TESTED NEGATIVE, SO I’M COASTING FOR A WHILE.

Most annoyed by…

Agenia: It’s annoying when we don’t “raise our hands” to help. During this pandemic, it’s so warm to witness how many have “raised their hands.” It’s been emotional seeing how many Girl Scouts have “raised their hands,” making and donating more than 5,000 masks to their communities.

Marlee: POWER OUTAGES.  HAVEN’T WE SUFFERED ENOUGH?

Most encouraged by…

Agenia: Surrounding myself with friends who have a great sense-of-humor keeps me encouraged. If you don’t know this, Marlee has a wicked sense of humor and is the wittiest person I know. With friends like her, I’m constantly encouraged.

Marlee: HAVING AGENIA AS A FRIEND, AS I KNOW WE WILL CONTINUE TO HELP EACH OTHER GET THROUGH THIS WITH HUMOR AND GRACE!

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19 Comments

  1. Such a fun conversation to listen in on this morning! Thank you Agenia, Marlee and Jennifer. XOXO, Lucy

    PS. If all goes well, I will finish My Sister The Serial Killer today. So good!

  2. Oh, what fascinating women! Thanks for a fun peek under the hood of those cool, calm and wise exteriors. Maybe I’ll cook something this weekend.

  3. I love these women! Thanks for the fun, lively conversation to kick-start my day.

  4. Once again, Jennifer, you share your incredible friends because you are an incredible Friend ( can’t get the upper case to cease!). Warm and witty – great way to start a rainy day

    • What a very kind thing to say, Louise… I feel like I got kind of a slow start on friendships. I spent a lot of time alone as a kid. Reading, etc! It took me a while, watching and learning, if that makes sense. Xoxo

  5. Fun and inspiring! Thank you Jennifer, Agenia and Marlee for starting my day with a smile. Raise your hand. Yes!
    XO,
    Mary

  6. Holy Cow! What a great post. I have respected and adored Agenia for years. I don’t know Marlee yet but i now have a new goal for 2020! Must meet Marlee! So funny! What a lovely friendship! Jennifer, one day (hopefully this year) I would love gather with y’all (and maybe sweet talk our friend Joelle into joining). Would be good for my soul! Be well and keep these charming posts coming.

  7. Oh good lord these women need to run for president. They can fight over who gets top of the ticket, which would be entertaining to watch. Love this!

    • Haha yes they do!!! I can’t wait for them to read your comment, Ann!! Xoxo

    • That’s easy, I am Agenia’s Amy Klobuchar. Agenia walks much faster than I do, so I’d have to be her VP running mate. Besides, the VP gets to be in charge of the space program and a bunch of other cool stuff. Which cabinet position does Ann want us to hold for her? After all, this was her idea!

  8. Great interviews of two amazing women Jennifer! Of course, I know Marlee but not Agenia. They are both amazing!

  9. So funny to learn that two terrific people I know from totally different contexts are such good friends with each other! I never knew–but maybe I should have guessed!

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