Sweet Escape

Sweet escape…

Sometimes, I just need to get away. It’s not that I have a miserable life. I love my life. But I like to roam sometimes, and last week, I was feeling the need to get away, so I did.

Last Friday, I started dreaming of the food at Nobu. If you’re not familiar with Nobu restaurants, you should be. To say they are Asian fusion restaurants does not do them justice, but that’s what they are…except the food is exceptional. The service is always outstanding, and the atmosphere is incredible. There are 16 or 17 of the restaurants in the United States (and even more worldwide), but I’ve only been to four. I’ve been to those four multiple times, but I’ve only been to four. I’ve never been disappointed…I’ve almost always been overwhelmed by the level of service and the fabulous flavors they meld together! I have some favorite dishes that show up in my dreams sometimes. That’s how much I love it.

Since I was craving it, I decided to check airfares to Miami, where there is a Nobu, and when I checked, I was shocked to find a $90 fare between Charlotte and Miami! I promptly called my friend, Meg, who is always up for an adventure, and asked if she wanted to go to dinner in Miami soon. She was totally up for it, and we made dinner reservations, hotel reservations, and airline reservations within 10 minutes! Our airline tickets ended up being $96 each, because of availability, but we were happy to pay that! Done!

We flew out Monday morning, and we had upgrades on the flights, so we found ourselves in first class on an American Airlines Boeing 777, which offers lie-flat cubicle-style seats between Charlotte and Miami. Yay us! We were so comfortable for those two hours that we hardly knew we were on a plane at all! Upon arrival, we grabbed a taxi to Eden Roc Hotel, and when we checked in there, we were offered a generous upgrade to a lovely oceanview suite with a big balcony. Woohoo! After putting our bags in the room, we dashed out for some nearby shopping, then came back to the hotel for some cocktails at Malibu Farm, an oceanview restaurant that has some great specialty cocktails. She had a watermelon cocktail, and I had a pineapple cocktail…both delicious. Yes, we were drinking our calories, but we at that moment, we didn’t care.

We arrived at Nobu just in time for our 6:15 reservation, and the real fun began! We both have some favorite dishes at Nobu, so we ordered a lot of food! Our server was incredible, guiding us through dishes we were not familiar with and making suggestions. That’s one of the great things about Nobu. In my experience, their servers know all about their dishes and can make recommendations about what dishes work well together. We started with a baby corn appetizer. Sounds weird, right? That’s what I thought the first time a server told me about it. As it turns out, it is one of my favorite things ever…baby corn in truffle butter topped with curry powder. Nobu serves small plates to share, so I think we probably had eight or nine different dishes, and that didn’t include our dessert…Miso Cappucino…one of those dishes I dream about on the regular. By the time we were done, we almost needed to be rolled out of the restaurant! Chalk that dinner up as a huge success! We were happy!

We flew home early Tuesday afternoon (less than 24 hours after arriving) after lots of great laughs and great food! I didn’t sit next to my friend on the flight, but I sat next to a nice lady who had an interesting job…giving me an idea about something my daughter might be interested in doing one day! We were home by dinnertime!

It was a getaway worth taking, and for $96, we couldn’t have driven to Miami! A sweet escape!

Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights…Not an original title, obviously. Chances are, you know I’m talking about high school football. More specifically…high school football in Charlotte, North Carolina. Not exactly what I consider a hot bed of football. North Carolina is more of a basketball state. But we sure had fun at a high school football game in North Carolina last night.

It was the first home football game of the season. Growing up in Alabama, I always loved the first home football game of the season at our high school. Total excitement and anticipation. I vividly remember the big win our high school team had in the first game of my senior year. I was a cheerleader, and we had cheered through two miserable seasons in the previous years, but that first big win of my senior year was foreshadowing of a great season to come. Our team ended up playing well into the playoffs…up to the semifinals…before losing to the eventual state champion team. Last night, it felt much the same at our daughter’s high school. After last year, when fans were not allowed to attend the few games we had, this was a welcome change! It was a fun excuse to get out on a lovely Friday night and celebrate something together…namely, a big win for our high school team. I like to think we were celebrating the win, but we were also celebrating the opportunity to be together. Whole families came out to the stadium for some good, old-fashioned fun on a Friday night, and it was electric!

Our daughter is a senior at an independent school. She started school there when she was four years old, entering at transitional kindergarten, a kindergarten readiness program. She has grown up there. And this year, her senior year, is the first year she has been a cheerleader for football. She played varsity field hockey for the first three years of high school, but opted for a change this fall. She has been a basketball cheerleader for two years, so she wanted to try cheering for football…this is her first experience cheering for football…and she is loving every minute of it. The team started the season with two away games, so the girls were looking forward to the opportunity to lead a home crowd in cheering for the team. And last night, they did a great job.

The football team did a great job, ultimately winning by a large margin. I’d be lying if I said I knew the exact score, but I know we won by a lot. There were some exciting plays for both teams…long passes, big tackles, turnovers, big runs. I love football in almost any form, and our team did not disappoint. The concession stand crew was working hard, just like they used to do pre-COVID. The pep band showed up in full force. The dance team put on a heck of a halftime show. And we all cheered our team on to victory. The elementary-aged students were happy to be together in the stands. The families were thrilled to catch up. It was exciting to hear the familiar voice of our announcer on the loudspeaker. It was awesome to feel “normal” again.

Many of the students in the crowd and on the field have grown up with our daughter. I was talking with her transitional kindergarten teacher in the stands, and we reminisced about the time…way back in 2009…when a little boy in the class broke his shoulder blade at the end-of-year class party. At 6 feet tall, that little boy is no longer a little boy. The broken shoulder blade healed quickly, and he is a now a handsome young man on the varsity football team. Many of those TK students are still at the school…graduating with my daughter in May. The two other senior cheerleaders started in kindergarten with our daughter in 2009. Almost all the senior football players have been at the school since kindergarten…all except one, a young man who entered the school in ninth grade and quickly endeared himself to his classmates. He’s a superstar on the field and in the classroom.

As it turns out, Friday Night Lights can be fun no matter where you are…Alabama, Western Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia, or even North Carolina. FNL looks much the same in Charlotte in 2021 as it did in Alabama in 1985. I’m just glad it doesn’t look like it looked in 2020!

Modern Love

Modern Love…

Back when I subscribed to The New York Times, one of my favorite regular columns was the one titled Modern Love. The Times describes the it as “a weekly column…about relationships, feelings, betrayals and revelations.” I had been struggling to find the words to describe it, but that sums it up.

The column is different every time, because it is written by readers. Readers submit their own personal stories. I can only imagine how many stories they receive, because I can only imagine how many I’ve read over the years. Sometimes they are poignant. Sometimes they are touching. And oftentimes, they are even funny!

I cancelled my subscription to The New York Times several years ago when I realized I was paying about $80 a month for the daily paper. It was the last newspaper subscription I had; at one time, I received three papers a day, but I had stopped subscribing to the other two when I realized how much I was spending on newspapers. I was sad to drop the NYT, but I just couldn’t justify $80 a month for a newspaper…and I didn’t like how the price seemed to continually climb…it started to feel like I was being ripped off. And it seemed excessive. So I cancelled it, and I have missed it.

This past weekend, I had coffee with my friend, Jennifer. She is my TV/movie guru friend, and she sometimes recommends things for me to watch. This time, she asked, “Have you ever read the Modern Love column in The Times?” I told her I had, indeed, read it many times over the years…and how much I used to look forward to it when I had my daily subscription. And that’s when she told me about the Amazon Prime series based on the stories in the column. It’s called, of course, Modern Love, and Jennifer said it is a must see.

Based on Jennifer’s recommendation and the fact that I love the column, I sat down and watched a few episodes from Season 1 of the series last night. It seems the stories are based on stories printed in The NYT over the years, with some fictionalization added, of course. And the stories are great ones…riveting, even…very well-written.

The first episode is about a young, single editor looking for love in all the wrong places while living in a rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn. Early on, we learn the apartment has been in her family for some time, so we don’t wonder how she can afford the lovely apartment in a doorman building. And the doorman is central to the story, as we learn early on that he is omnipotent and can “see” if each of the editor’s dates will turn into something more. Without giving away too much, I will tell you it will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions during the half-hour episode.

Episodes that follow are based on different characters…an entertainment lawyer’s struggle to find love, a seemingly perfect love, a betrayal, and more. The series is good, because the acting is good, but also because the stories seem real. You might even see your own story in some of the episodes.

And I think it’s the “seeing yourself” that makes it especially interesting. It made me think of my own “modern love” story. I’ve been married for 21 years, since I was 33. But before that, I was the perfect example of someone “looking for love in all the wrong places.” Or maybe I just had some growing up to do. I met my husband through some friends at work…not a very interesting start, unless I tell you I had gotten out of a years-long relationship just three weeks before meeting him. Because of my own experience, I always tell young people who are in an iffy relationship, “You won’t meet Mr./Miss Right as long as you’re with Mr./Miss Wrong,” meaning if you stay in a dead end relationship, you won’t meet someone with whom you might have a meaningful, lasting relationship and start your own family. I was just lucky I didn’t meet the man who became my husband three weeks earlier, because it would have been a missed opportunity…I was still with Mr. Wrong. I choose to think it was divine intervention that brought him to my office three weeks later. That’s my Modern Love story, in a nutshell. Maybe I will write it in detail one day…

For now, I’m recommending you take the time to watch Modern Love on Amazon Prime. Each episode is about a different set of characters, so if you find yourself not enjoying an episode (like the one starring Anne Hathaway), you can move on and not miss a beat. I will warn you, though, that while I was initially annoyed by the Hathaway episode, it ended up being a good story, so stick with it if you can.

And because I have fallen in love with Modern Love, the series, I might resubscribe to The New York Times. I used to love reading it…not so much for the news, but for the fashion, the entertainment, the well-written columns…like Modern Love.

Time for a New Passport

Time for a new passport…

Our daughter’s last passport was issued when she was under 16. Because of that, it was only valid for five years and couldn’t be renewed in the regular mail-in way. We had to get a new one by applying in person at a post office, and a parent had to accompany her.

We aren’t planning to travel out of the country till March of 2022, but because I’ve known so many people who had nightmare issues with passports, I decided we needed to get this taken care of well in advance. So we went to the passport office at a US Post Office today. Getting the appointment was the first hurdle. Appointments are not plentiful, and you’re taking a big chance if you go as a walk-up customer. According to the sign on the door of the office we visited, walk-ins are taken on a first-come, first-served basis…and only if there is enough personnel there to handle it. Wow. To me, that sounds like you could wait all day and still walk away empty-handed. I was so glad we had an appointment. If you’re considering applying for a new passport or getting a new one before your minor child’s passport expires, you can search for appointments in your area here. None of the offices near our house had availability, so I ended up making the appointment at an office about 30 miles away, in Harrisburg, North Carolina.

We arrived, and my daughter groaned when she saw the crowd waiting outside. I said, “Don’t get all worked up. I think a lot of these people probably don’t have appointments, but we do.” As it turns out, I was correct. Most of them didn’t have appointments. We waited outside for the employees to come outside and call the names of people who had appointments. Our appointment was at 11:30, and we arrived at about 11:20. The first employee came out at about 11:40, and she informed us that she was calling people’s names who had 11:15 appointments. Several of them weren’t there. At about 11:55, she came out and started calling the names of people with 11:30 appointments. We were the second ones called.

Luckily, my daughter had filled out everything before we arrived. We had all the appropriate documentation: her current passport, a birth certificate and a photocopy of it, her driver’s license and a photocopy, her social security card and a photocopy of it, checks to pay for everything, and my passport and driver’s license to show as identification to prove I’m her mother (she’s not quite 18). Oh, and passport photos…we had those too. Our daughter went yesterday to CVS and got those done there.

Here’s some info for those who don’t know it: If the applicant is under 16, they receive a passport that is valid for only five years. Both parents must go to the passport office with the child to submit the application. Applicants aged 16 and 17 receive passports that are valid for ten years, but they need to show “parental awareness.” It was easy for me to go with our daughter, so I showed “awareness” in person. To see information about 16 and 17-year-olds and application requirements, click here.

When we got inside, we were seated, and the agent took all our documents. About five minutes later, she came over and asked us to come to her desk. Once there, we signed some paperwork, wrote checks, and answered some questions before we were on our merry way. It didn’t take long at all. In fact, since we were prepared, I would go so far as to say it was easy! The agent helping us was super nice, and it was a pleasant experience.

Now, we wait for the new passport. I paid for super-duper expedited service, because I wanted to decrease the odds of our having a problem. I don’t want to be worrying about our daughter’s passport when it comes time to travel in March. That actually happened to a friend of mine this summer. She was supposed to travel to the Bahamas with us, but her passport didn’t arrive in time. She missed the trip, and we missed her while we were there!

If you know you’re going to need a new passport or need a new one for your child, go ahead and do it. According to the website, the US Passport Agency is still playing catch up after closing for COVID, and it can take up to 18 weeks to get your passport. That’s 4 1/2 months! Also, remember that many destinations require you to have at least six months validity on your passport when you arrive. The country we are visiting in March doesn’t require that, according to their website, but I didn’t want to run the risk of the airline refusing to board us. It’s not worth the worry.

All this is my way of reminding you to check the expiration date on your passport, so you can get busy trying to renew it…or in the case of minors, get a new one.

And don’t dread the process, because we have had some great experiences with agents in the Charlotte area. The first time we got our daughter’s passport, we went to the Post Office in Matthews, NC, and the lady there was amazing. This time, we went to the Post Office in Harrisburg, and the lady who helped us there was amazing as well! I know it’s an intimidating process, but get it done and stop worrying about it!

Motherhood

Motherhood.

I awoke at 3:00 this morning…wide awake. Taking a peek at the clocm, I realized immediately it was my late mother’s birthday. And I couldn’t go back to sleep. The same thing happened to me on the first anniversary of her passing. I couldn’t sleep.

As I lay in bed, my brain started going crazy. That’s rare for me. I’m a person who can hit the pillow and fall asleep. Usually, when I wake up, I simply roll over and go back to sleep…many times a night, in fact. But this morning, at 3:00, I could not go back to sleep. I started thinking about my mother and how much she loved being a mother. Then I started thinking about how much I love being a mother. I truly believe it is the right job for me, and it’s certainly the single most important job I’ve ever done. I’ve certainly given it my all…just as I learned to do from my own mother, who gave us her all. She was a registered nurse by trade, but in her heart, what she always wanted to do was be a mom. And she was a damn good one. She would drop anything to help us or our friends. She made sure we were exposed to different cultures, different places, and different experiences. She volunteered at school and our extracurricular activities. She prepared meals and snacks for us and any of our friends who showed up at our house…all the time. Clearly, I did a lot of thinking last night.

After all that thinking, it occurred to me that our daughter will be a full-time resident of our home for less than a year. This time next year, she likely will be a few weeks into her first semester of college. It’s exciting for her, and it’s exciting for us. But until she goes off to college, I want to continue being a full-time mother, the best job in the world. I’m sure there are people out there who think it’s not important, but for me, absolutely nothing is more important.

And because I realized at that moment that my full-time mom career will be coming to an end when she goes to college, I needed to be closer to her. Sounds weird, but at that moment, I just needed to be “mommy” in the middle of the night again, so I went upstairs and crawled into bed with her. She stirred a little before rolling over and asking, “What are you doing here?” I explained how I was feeling, and she gave me a big hug and told me to stay the rest of the night. So I did. She intertwined her feet with mine like she did when she was a little girl, what we used to call “tucking in” her feet. She held my hand, more for my sake than her own, and we both fell fast asleep.

My own mother was always there for us in the middle of the night. Bad dream? I’d wake up Mother. Thirsty? I’d wake up Mother. Simply didn’t want to be the only one awake at night? I’d walk into her room and wake up Mother, asking her to go to the kitchen with me. We would sit there while I drank a little water. She likely had a cup of coffee…yes, she drank coffee in the middle of the night. It wasn’t that I needed water…I really just needed my mother. Last night, I guess I just needed to be a mother.

For years, our daughter would call for me in the middle of the night if she woke up. Or if she had a bad dream. Or if she didn’t feel well. Or if she just needed Mommy. At 17, she doesn’t do that anymore. Rarely, if she isn’t feeling well, she will call downstairs for me to come up. And on those nights, I do whatever it takes to make her feel better…a cold compress or warm compress, Motrin, Drip Drop (a rehydrating beverage), or just rub her feet or knees (growing pains). While I never want her to feel badly, I’m always happy to go up and help her.

She’s still my baby, and I’m still a full-time mom…for less than or year or so, anyway…just like my mother was to me. Today, on what should have been Mother’s 82nd birthday, I’ll be taking bottled water to my daughter’s cheerleading squad at the away football game…just like my mother used to do. And after I get home from the football game, I’ll have a little cocktail and make a toast to Mother’s birthday.

Happy Heavenly Birthday to Mother.

While He Was Gone

While he was gone…

A few times a year, my husband and I go on our own vacations. Yes, we vacation together too, but we don’t always enjoy the same places, so instead of arguing about it, we do our own thing.

Last week, my husband visited the beach where he grew up. He got to hang out with his friends there, and I didn’t have to go! Seriously, I didn’t have to go…thank you, Lord. It’s a lovely beach, but it’s just not somewhere I want to spend my vacation time…so he goes when he wants. I go several places each year without him. We take vacations together too…no big deal.

But this time was different. He left Wednesday. He had a routine departure early that morning, and honestly, I was looking forward to having a few days to myself…to enjoy the peace and quiet, catch up on some reading, watch some rom-com movies I’ve seen advertised, and just do whatever I wanted to do. But my plans were foiled as early as the first night.

About ten minutes after I got into bed that night, I heard chimes in the hallway outside our bedroom. The chimes were followed by a loud female voice saying, “The battery is low on your smoke detector. Please change the battery now. The battery power is very low.” Yes, we have a weird talking smoke detector. I felt sure it couldn’t be too low, and I thought it probably wouldn’t talk to me again before the next morning. I was wrong. The “lady inside the smoke detector” repeated her message ten minutes later. I promptly grabbed my pillows and went upstairs to sleep in the guest room.

The problem? I’m short, and we have ten foot ceilings in the hall. I could reach the smoke detector with a ladder (which we have), but I have vertigo. Ladders are not my friend. And any time I lean my head back to look up, the vertigo kicks in…I’d likely fall backward off the ladder. I know my limits.

The next day, I got a neighbor to come change the battery. Problem solved, right? I will be able to resume my peaceful weekend, right? Wrong.

That very afternoon, as I climbed the stairs to retrieve my pillows from the guest room, I noticed that as I got closer to the top of the stairs, it got warmer. Not good. I walked over to the upstairs thermostat, and it was blank. It’s electronic, so I tapped it, hoping it was just in sleep mode. It wasn’t. My husband always deals with the HVAC company, so I called him and asked him to call his contact there. A couple of hours later, the technician arrived, and after an hour or so, he told me we needed a new upstairs HVAC system. I wasn’t surprised, because I knew it was about time for that, but I didn’t expect it to happen when the husband was out of town.

The next day, I sat down with the representative from our service provider, and the day after that, we had a new system installed. It was pretty quick, but it meant I had to sit home half the day while they worked. Not exactly what I had in mind for my peaceful weekend at home.

As soon as the new HVAC was installed, I sat down in the kitchen and thought, “Well, at least I get two more nights to myself.” Not…so…fast! Less than ten minutes later, my husband called and said, “I’m coming home today. Hurricane Ida is coming in, and even though it won’t be a direct hit here, the traffic is going to be impossible if I don’t leave now.”

OK. OK. The peaceful weekend of rom-com movies simply wasn’t meant to be. My husband arrived home safely last night, and we are back to watching the shows he wants to watch. Don’t get me wrong…I’m happy he’s home. I just feel like I missed an opportunity. At least he was grateful that I had handled all the issues in his absence.

It’s OK, I’m driving our daughter to Asheville next weekend for her to meet some friends, and I will stay in a hotel by myself…eating room service and watching rom-coms!

Who Is Thinking of You Right Now?

Who is thinking of you right now? I had to go to the grocery store two nights ago. On the way there, something made me think of a boy I grew up with …a boy who passed away a few years ago. I don’t even remember what made me think of him…maybe a song? When I arrived at the grocery store, I grabbed a cart and started shopping. I hadn’t been to the grocery store in a while, so I needed lots of perishables…eggs, pepperoni (a staple in our house), cheese, sour cream, butter, etc.

I picked up the first perishable item (the very important pepperonis) and checked the date, only to find it was dated with the birthday of the boy I had been thinking of earlier! It felt serendipitous, so I smiled and just thought of it as a God-wink. I kept shopping, and as I did, I noticed a trend: every perishable I picked up was dated with the birthday of someone who had impacted my life in some way. One item had a college friend’s birthday. Another had a childhood neighbor’s birthday. Yet another was dated with my daddy’s birthday. It went on and on, and each time I saw a different birthday, I smiled to myself and remembered something about the person whose birthday was on each item. When I saw my college friend’s birthday, I thought of ordering delivery from Wings & Things. My childhood friend’s birthday made me think of playing on the swings in elementary school. My daddy’s birthday…well, that just made me think of him.

Later that night, I received a text from a friend I met in California a couple of years ago. I tend to talk to everyone I see, so I make friends that live in different cities. This particular friend is bi-coastal, living in New York and Los Angeles. (Don’t get all weird on me now…my husband is very aware of this friend and enjoyed watching him in the FX documentary, Hip Hop Uncovered, which I highly recommend, but that’s a story for another day. See the trailer here. You can watch the documentary on Hulu now.) I rarely hear from him. But the text on Wednesday night simply said, “Hi Kelly! How you been?” I smiled and replied with, “I’m doing great! How about you, my friend?” We had a brief text exchange, and afterward, I thought about how often we all think of someone and never let them know. All those friends whose birthdays appeared on my perishables have no idea I was thinking of them that moment in the grocery store. If my friend in California hadn’t texted me, I’d have never known I had crossed his mind.

So now, I think I need to sit down and make a list of those birthdays from the grocery store. I need to reach out to those friends whose birthdays made me smile in the dairy aisle of my local store. I need to tell them I’ve had them on my mind. I need to tell them I’ve been thinking of them.

I have lost several friends to COVID over the past couple of months, and my only regret is that I didn’t reach out to them more often. Maybe my grocery store trip combined with my message from my California friend is God’s way of telling me to reach out. It will make me happy, and it might just bring a little happiness to someone else just to know someone is thinking of them. Don’t we all like to think friends and family have good memories of us or just think of us every now and then? Remember those old Bell System “Reach out and touch someone” commercials from the late 70s (see one here) and AT&T in the 1980s (see one here that features the late Janet Carroll, the mom from Risky Business)? Maybe we should remember that…and actually reach out, even if it’s just a simple text asking “How you been?”

I Missed My Garden

I missed my garden.

For the past few summers, I had a “garden.” Maybe I should say I planted flowers and vegetables in every available space in my backyard, because there was not really much organization to it. I had sunflowers, corn, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Early this year, though, I decided I would take the summer off. I decided to let the soil rest for a year.

And oh, how I missed spending time in the garden.

If you had told me ten years ago that I would enjoy gardening, I might have laughed in your face. Before that, I had grown some sunflowers and loved it, but it wasn’t terribly time consuming. A few years ago, though, I opted to plant lots of things, and it became time consuming. Sure, I loved it most of the time, but it was real work. I couldn’t just walk out there in the morning like Snow White and pluck a vegetable here and there, whistling while I worked. It’s hot in Charlotte in the summer. No, it’s not as hot as some places, but it’s hot. I would get up in the morning, put on some shorts and tshirt, and go outside to start the morning work…watering, weeding (which I’m not real good at), checking for pests, doing things to prevent/get rid of pests (insects, rabbits, deer), and when the time came, harvesting. And I would repeat the process in the evening. And I was always…always…on the lookout for snakes. I had a fear of sticking my hand between cucumber vines and pulling out a snake, but fortunately, it never happened.

This year, because I didn’t have a garden, I spent less time outdoors. I relaxed more. I was flat out lazy. I had too much time on my hands. Sure, I was able to catch up on some reading, and while I loved that, I realized in July that I should have planted a garden in spring. Before, when I had a garden, after working the garden, I would get in the pool to read, but between pages, I could check out the flowers and vegetables from a distance, deciding what I needed to work on next.

I thought it was work, but now I realize it was fun. OK, so it was fun work. I learned a lot from gardening. I learned that corn needs to be planted close together, so it can pollinate. I learned more about corn smut (and huitlacoche tacos!) than I ever dreamed I would. I learned about different varieties of sunflowers and cucumbers. Before last summer, I had no idea there was something called a lemon cucumber! I learned about hornworms and the braconid wasps that lay eggs on the backs of said worms. I learned.

And this year, without a garden, what I really learned is that I need a summer garden. I need that sweaty work. I need to learn about vegetables and flowers. I simply need it.

I truly feel like I’ve been less active this summer, because I didn’t have a garden. You can bet your sweet bippy that I will plant next spring. I won’t forget this valuable lesson. In fact, I’ve decided to plant a fall garden…something I have never done. I’ve checked, and it appears there are lots of vegetables and flowers I can plant in late August/early September. I’m thinking carrots, peas, and spinach? All those are new to me, but it’s worth a try.

I guess I’ll be visiting my local gardening store tomorrow. Someone might want to warn my husband in advance. The bad news for him is that I might need a little help getting started. The good news for him? I’ll likely be in a better mood!

Retreat

Retreat. It’s a word I never want to hear unless someone is telling me to run from a bear, as in, “Retreat! There’s a bear!” Chances are I will never hear that, since I never put myself in a place where bears are…but that’s a story for another day. Today, I’m talking about retreats.

Years ago, a friend invited me to join her on a “ladies retreat.” I’m sure I asked her to repeat the question, because I couldn’t have heard her correctly. I was thinking, “Clearly, she doesn’t know me well. If she did, she would know I think the very idea of a ladies retreat sounds like Hell on earth.” No joke. Very little sounds worse to me than women going up to some little camp in the mountains, sitting around talking about their feelings. Yuck. I don’t mean to be offensive. I know some people love that stuff. I’m just not one of them. The last thing I want to do is be holed up somewhere with a random bunch of women. Don’t get me wrong. I love my friends, but I’m picky about how I spend my time. My time is valuable, y’all, so I’m choosy about who I spend it with. The older I get, the pickier I am. I barely have enough time to spend with my real friends. I’d much rather pick some fun stuff to do with them than go on some “ladies retreat.” It’s just who I am. No excuses.

For years, I’ve believed “retreat” is just another word for “mandatory, forced fun,” which doesn’t sound like fun at all. I hear about people going on work retreats, church retreats (***those were actually fun when I was a teenager and they were co-ed***), ladies retreats, and my personal favorite…a retreat for students at school. Nothing says “mandatory, forced fun” more than a school retreat.

Our daughter is starting her senior year in high school. She has endured more than a few school retreats. And when I say “endured,” I mean it. I’m not talking bad about the school. I’m just saying she has her mama’s genes…she hates the idea of “retreats,” too. We also hate the word “mandatory,” and it seems that’s always attached to a school retreat. I wish I could remember which grade was which retreat. One year, they went to a YMCA camp. Maybe 5th grade? I don’t remember, but I do remember that I volunteered to chaperone overnight, which meant I got to sleep on one of those horrible plastic-wrapped, thin, noisy camp mattresses in a cabin with a bunch of girls. It was not fun. It was fun spending time with the girls, but the sleep quality was nothing short of miserable. One girl in the bunk next to mine tossed and turned and tossed and turned, and because of the awful plastic mattress, I heard every toss and every turn. Eventually, I whispered, “Is there a problem?” No answer, but the tossing and turning stopped. Soon thereafter, I fell asleep, but every time someone moved, I awoke in a panic, because I thought someone was falling out of a top bunk. Fortunately, that didn’t happen. But one night was enough for me. It was enough for my daughter too. The next morning, she begged me to take her home with me, but she had to stay for more activities. Poor kid. I felt terrible for her, because I wouldn’t have wanted to be there either.

Because I went on that trip, I never had to do another one. I was off the hook, but our daughter wasn’t. She’s like me…she loves not camping. And that’s OK! Give me a nice hotel with room service any day of the week, but please don’t ever ask me to sleep in a cabin, a tent, or an RV. We simply aren’t those people. The next year, when the “retreat” rolled around, she was begging me not to make her go. We were sitting in her bed two nights before. She was already dreading it. I was explaining that she had to go. You know…”it might be fun!” I knew she didn’t want to sleep in a cabin. And while we were talking, I noticed a nasty-looking bump/wound on her knee. When I said, “That looks like a staph infection to me! You might not have to go if it’s a staph infection,” she couldn’t believe her good luck! I circled it with a Sharpie, to see if the redness grew overnight. I’m sure she prayed for it to be a staph infection that night. The next morning, the redness had expanded outside the Sharpie circle, so I took her to the doctor, and the doctor confirmed it: staph infection. She prescribed an oral antibiotic and ordered her to stay home from the retreat. Success! Who knew she’d be so happy to have a staph infection?!?

There was another retreat the next year, and maybe the next year. I have trouble keeping up with all the mandatory, forced fun. And then today, she had her senior mandatory, forced fun…a day trip (in the rain) to a local camp, where they had a book talk about their mandatory (ugh) summer reading (for over an hour!) before having lunch (she ate Oreos) and swimming in a “lake.” I should also note here that we don’t do warm, brown water, as in lake water. On the rare occasion, I have had to get in a warm lake, but generally speaking, it’s not my thing. I don’t mind it up north, where the lakes are cold, but in the south, the brown water just feels like it’s teeming with bacteria and snakes…lots of snakes. No, thank you. (No offense to the lake lovers of the world. It’s just not my thing.) As I’ve heard before, “I’m outdoorsy in that I like having cocktails on the patio.” That’s a joke, of course; I like outdoor activities…just not in warm brown water.

Today, she rode the bus to and from the “retreat” with her classmates and tolerated the mandatory, forced fun. They rode home on a hot bus filled with seniors. I did the math. Statistically, at least a few of them must have COVID. There were 140 kids on buses. (Yes, the plural of “bus” is “buses.” “Busses” would be kisses. If you doubt me, click here.) Praying there isn’t a giant outbreak from the mandatory, forced fun.

The good news? The “retreat” is over. Thank you, Lord. And now we proceed with her final year of high school.

So, if you ever plan a “ladies retreat,” please don’t invite me. It won’t hurt my feelings.

For the Love of Lamination

For the love of lamination.

Several years ago, my daughter was on a sports team at school, and the team mom told me she would laminate schedules for parents. She would laminate rosters. She would laminate everything…because she had a laminator at home, and she loved using it.

I thought she was being funny. But sure enough, soon thereafter, she showed up to a game with laminated schedule, laminated rosters…laminated anything and everything. She clearly loved her laminator.

I have been the team mom for several sports teams and never needed to laminate anything. But for whatever reason, this lacrosse season, the parents of the girls on our team wanted laminated rosters. I didn’t have a laminator. What to do? One mom recommended I go home, make the roster on my computer, and send it over to an office supply store to get them laminated. All I would have to do is pay online and pick them up when they were ready. Sounded easy enough! I went home and made the roster, but when I uploaded it to an office supply store site, I was a little surprised by the cost of the lamination. I didn’t really want to pay what they were asking. I checked other office supply companies and other printing companies, only to find the prices were all in line with each other.

Then, I remembered my friend, and I decided to look into the price of a laminator. Because I needed it in a hurry and didn’t want to traipse all over town looking for it, I looked for it online. Honestly, I was a little surprised to see they were pretty inexpensive. I placed an order for a home Scotch brand laminator and even got it delivered overnight for less than I would have paid to get our rosters laminated at a big box company.

The laminator arrived the next day, and I set it up on the cooktop in my kitchen. It was super easy. I had also ordered laminating pouches, so while the laminator heated up (it takes five minutes or so), I placed the rosters in the pouches, and by the time it was heated up, I was ready to get started. I fed each punch into the laminator, and within ten minutes, I was done. I had 30 laminated rosters for the parents of the girls on the lacrosse team.

And I was officially addicted to my laminator.

I searched around my house for things to laminate and ended up laminating some recipe cards that night before I unplugged the laminator, let it cool down, and put it away.

Since then, I have laminated our COVID-19 vaccine records for safe keeping. My husband thought I was crazy at first, but after it was done, he didn’t think I was crazy anymore. My daughter’s friends have brought their vaccination cards over, and I have laminated theirs.

Yes, I’m addicted. I’m no longer laughing at that team mom with the laminator addiction. In fact, I’ve put out a few emails to friends, inviting them to bring their vaccine cards, and I will laminate them while we have coffee or cocktails.

Maybe I should have a party?

***The laminator I purchased is the Scotch Thermal Laminator. There’s nothing fancy about it, but it gets the job done. Would I use it for big laminating jobs? No, but for getting 30 team rosters done in 10 minutes or less, I think it’s perfect. I ordered it from Amazon for $31.99. You can see it here.***