Earthquake?!? In North Carolina?

Earthquake?!? In North Carolina?

We awoke with a jolt this morning. Literally…a jolt.

A little after 8:00 this morning, we experienced an earthquake in North Carolina. While it was centered about 100 miles from where I live in Charlotte, we felt it. My husband and I were lazing in bed when suddenly, the windows started rattling, the bed started shaking from side to side, and we heard a rumbling sound. My husband asked, with an alarmed look on his face, “What was that?!?!” I responded, “I think that was an earthquake.” He didn’t believe me, of course, but I stood firm…”I think it was an earthquake.” Then I took to Facebook, posting, “Anybody else in Charlotte feel a shake just now?” And the comments started coming, starting with a friend who lives a few miles from me, “Um yep! That was insane!” Another friend who lives in a different direction said, “Yes!!! What the heck!?” I turned to my husband and said, “I was right. It was an earthquake. People all over the place felt it too.”

I started checking the United States Geological Survey website (see it here), but for the first few minutes, I didn’t see any report of an earthquake. Finally, a few minutes later…there it was…a 5.1 earthquake in the area of Sparta, NC, which is about 100 miles north of us. Apparently, there was an earlier quake…a 2.5 at 2:00 this morning. We slept through that one.

There was an earthquake in Charlotte several years ago. I don’t remember the year, but I had just dropped off our daughter with some friends at their club pool. I was driving and talking on the phone when it occurred, so when I heard about it later, I was surprised…didn’t feel a thing. My daughter, on the other hand, said she was sitting on the edge of the pool at the time and felt it.

I have never lived in California, but I have been there countless times. I visited San Francisco in 1989, just days after the World Series earthquake, and there were aftershocks while I was there, but they were all in the middle of the night…I was sleeping and didn’t feel a thing. I don’t want anyone to ever get hurt or killed, but I wish I had been awake when the tremors occurred. I returned to San Francisco soon thereafter, and the same thing happened.

Then, in 2014, I was getting ready to go to Los Angeles with a friend and our daughters. I have been there countless times, but for some reason, I had a different feeling about this upcoming trip. My mother was alive at the time, and knowing what a worrier she could be, I called her and said, “Mother, I just want to tell you…if there is an earthquake while we are in the LA area, you should always assume we are OK unless you hear otherwise.” I went on to explain to her that when lots of people are using their cellphones, it can be difficult to get calls to go through. “We’re tough chicks,” I told her. Later, I laughed and told my friend, Mary Ann, about the call to my mother.

The LA event was held at Barker Hangar, an event venue in Santa Monica. It was a family-friendly event, so we all went. We decided to leave at about 9pm. We had hired a car to take us to and from the event. We had been in the car, on the way back to the hotel, for about ten minutes, when I got a phone call from Mary Ann, asking if we were OK. She went on to explain that she had just heard there had been a 5.6 earthquake in the LA area. I said, “We’re fine. We are in the car, so we had no idea. Of course, I missed it.” When we arrived back at the hotel, everyone there was talking about it. I called my mother and told her, “If you’ve heard there was an earthquake, don’t worry. We are fine.”

So yes, I’ve been in several earthquakes, but I’ve never felt one…till today. I guess I can mark that off my bucket list. I don’t need to do that again.

If only we had been looking at the pool when it happened…that would have been cool, for sure.

8th Grade Underdogs

8th Grade Underdogs.

No, I don’t want to relive middle school. Lord, no…just no. I don’t even want to relive my daughter’s middle school years. We were fortunate she had great teachers and administrators for most of her middle school, but she wouldn’t want to do it again, and I wouldn’t want her to. Today, though, a friend posted her daughter’s field hockey stick for sale on Facebook, with the caption, “For sale! The field hockey stick has a proud history of fending off many goals plus an epic win over [our rival]. #letthemeatcake  And it brought back a great memory from my daughter’s 8th grade field hockey season.

One great thing about middle school was that it offered students an opportunity to try sports they had never played before, and our daughter wanted to try to play field hockey in seventh grade. She had been to a field hockey clinic or two, but soccer had always been her primary sport. As the school year started, she decided that, even though she was also playing club soccer, she wanted to play middle school field hockey.

And so the school year started, and she would stay after school for field hockey practice for a couple of hours. Then I would shuttle her over to another part of town for soccer practice. It was more stressful for me than it was for her, because of the traffic at 5:30, but we did it. And then one day, after one of the first field hockey games, she got in the car and said she just couldn’t go to soccer practice. She had too much homework.

Something had to give.

I told her, “It’s time to make a choice. We can’t continue like this. Your schoolwork can’t suffer because of all these sports commitments.” And right there in the car, without hesitation, she picked field hockey. She was tired of soccer, and I understood…she had been playing since she was five years old. Frankly, I was tired of traveling all over the state for it every weekend. Getting up at 5am to drive to Mebane, North Carolina, for an early game was not my ideal way to spend a weekend. So…field hockey it was!

She loved it, but I wouldn’t let her play club field hockey, because I wasn’t getting us back into the same situation we had been in before with soccer. She needed time to get her schoolwork done in a timely fashion, and she needed family time and friend time. So she just played on her 7th grade school team, and she had a great time! Most of the girls on the team had never played before, so they were all learning together. They won some games and lost some games…maybe even lost most of them, but they had a great time. It was a good learning year, and they had a coach who was patient and let everyone get some playing time. And then, in 8th grade, most of them played again.

In eighth grade, the stakes were a little higher. The girls all got some playing time, but they didn’t get equal playing time. In eighth grade, they play to win. Again, I think most of the girls had a great time, and they played pretty darn well. In fact, as the season came to an end, they found themselves in the semifinals of the conference championship (the highest level in middle school) against their biggest cross-town rival. Our team was the underdog, but they had heart…just like The Bad News Bears…but with field hockey…and they’re girls. Their coach got them motivated, and they went into the game wanting to win…on the other team’s field.

The game started, and it was a close one…both teams were playing really well. A friend’s daughter was playing goalie for our team and had some great saves. The girls were stepping up their play! They were playing together beautifully as they never had before! Coach had really pulled them together! She certainly gets all the credit. And then, my daughter, who was playing center-mid, went down with an ankle injury right after halftime, when one of her friends on the opposing team accidentally hit the ball hard right into her ankle. We heard it in the stands: THWACK! My friend who was sitting next to me sat down with me, as I fully expected to have to take my daughter to Urgent Care, where, at the time, we should have had our own parking spot from all her sports injuries. From the stands, though, I could see her crying on the other sideline and icing the ankle, and in a little while, she was back on the field! I was elated!

The game came to an end, and our little team of Bad News Bears won by one goal! They jumped! They screamed! They cheered! They celebrated! And then, while our girls were still celebrating, two or three players from the opposing team quietly approached our players. They were carrying a cake…the one that was intended for their celebration…except they weren’t celebrating. The girls said their coach wouldn’t let them have their celebratory cake, because they didn’t win…and they offered it to our team. We didn’t have a cake, so it was a gracious gesture. Our girls were in shock but accepted it, and a new motto was born: Winners Eat Cake!

Our girls went on to play another cross-town rival in the championship and lost, and although they were disappointed, they have never forgotten how awesome that semifinal win was! As our girls start their junior year of high school and a new, strange field hockey season during COVID, they are still looking forward to the season and being together…and making more memories together. Sometimes the underdogs get the win. Such a sweet memory…

Hoping we can have a great season this year…even with COVID!

Winners eat cake!

 

 

 

Memories of a 1970s Childhood

Memories of a 1970s Childhood.

After reading the Leif Garrett memoir, I find myself thinking about the 1970s. I was born in 1967, but most of my childhood memories were in the 1970s. In fact, I think my brain retains information from that time in my life better than it retains any other decade…and in much more detail. I’ve written before about how I believe we remember events better when they are attached to an emotion…happiness, fear, sadness. Maybe childhood is more emotional, because we have so many more new experiences, so we remember more. Lots of my memories from adulthood are either gone or more difficult to retrieve.

I can probably tell you the telephone number of almost every childhood friend I ever had, and I lived in different places. It’s not like I was dialing the same numbers in 1980 that I was dialing in 1975. I can even tell you the street addresses of childhood friends…the ones I went to kindergarten with. 112 Lakeview Circle? I know whose address that was. 203 Dawson Street? Yep…I know that too. If I don’t know the house number, I know the street name of almost everyone.

It was an epic time. I’m sure everyone thinks their own childhood was the greatest era, but I truly believe it. Our country was pulling out of Vietnam. We didn’t feel the imminent threat of nuclear war that kids felt in the early 1960s. Our relatives weren’t being drafted. Lots of cool things were happening. Here are a few:

  • The milkman delivered to our house. When I told my daughter about the milkman, she looked at me like I had fourteen eyes, saying, “Wait a minute. A man drove a truck around town, dropping off milk on front porches?”  We bought a lot from him…regular milk, chocolate milk (only one carton per week of this special treat), and even eggs, butter, and orange juice! The really big treat we got sometimes, though, was ice cream in a rectangular cardboard carton, and somehow, it just tasted better!images-2
  • When we took photos with our Kodak Instamatic cameras that used 126 or 110 film, we had to drop off the film cartridges at a local TG&Y, Harco, Revco, or other five and dime store to have it developed. We would pick up our photos a week later. We didn’t have the instant gratification…looking at photos immediately to see if they were good. And if we needed flash for our photos, we used flashbulbs atop those cameras! Correction…we had the instant gratification if we had a Polaroid instant camera. They were fun, but with only eight photos per photo cartridge, we wanted to get it right the first time.il_1588xN.2288145040_30ua
  • Kids rode bikes any time the weather permitted. My brother could ride a two-wheeler when he was two or three…much earlier than most kids. I could ride one when I was four or five, and we rode bikes all the time. Our only rule? Don’t ride it across the highway. So if we rode our bikes up to the front of the neighborhood, we had to leave them on the side of the road while we crossed the FOUR-LANE HIGHWAY to get candy and a Coke at the little mom and pop grocery store on the other side. Yes, I said FOUR-LANE HIGHWAY.
  • Kids rode their bikes in the fog from the mosquito truck. OK, so this is not such a great thing, but it’s a memory, for sure. Personally, I was terrified of the mosquito truck, but there were boys in our neighborhood who looked forward to seeing that truck in the summer. I don’t know why it was so much fun for them to ride in the fog…that may or may not have contained DDT…but I can see it vividly in my mind.images
  • Sunday nights were for TV dinners, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, and The Wonderful World of Disney. We had to buy TV dinners on Saturday, because blue laws meant grocery stores were not open on Sunday. In fact, nothing was open on Sunday. Beer and alcohol certainly weren’t sold on Sunday.
  • Families watched TV together. Parents sat in chairs or on the sofa in the family den, while the kids lounged on the floor in front of the console television. It seemed everyone had a giant, color console TV in the family den. Johnny Carson was America’s favorite talk show host, and occasionally, our parents would let us stay up to watch him on The Tonight Show. Later, TV stations signed off with the National Anthem.56adbe711edad2afdadc86c0de9153f8 
  • We stayed outside all day and sometimes, into the night. Our mothers wanted us to come home when the streetlights came on, but with permission, we could stay out and play Kick The Can at night with the neighborhood kids.
  • Seatbelts? What seatbelts? Yes, cars had them, but hardly anyone used them. Kids bounced around on the back seats of cars or stood on the front seat…while the car was moving on a busy highway!photo-1564833840938-2f5041df082d
  • We had a locally owned single-screen movie theater, and it cost $1 for kids and $2 for adults. Most weekends, you could get in at 5:00 for the double feature, which meant you watched a full-length older film first…or maybe an old cartoon movie. Our parents dropped us off in time for the double feature, so they had four hours to go have date night. We got Cokes, popcorn, and Milk Duds. When I was eight, I saw Jaws on the big screen with my six year old brother! It was rated PG; PG-13 didn’t exist yet, and anything that wasn’t rated R was fine. We also saw Smokey and the Bandit, Rocky, Car Wash, The Bad News Bears, and more…all unaccompanied. If you think The Bad News Bears was made for kids, watch it now. I bought it years ago on DVD for my then-five-year-old daughter, because I didn’t remember just how bad the language was!
  • Pizza parties. We were thrilled to go to Pizza Inn (or Shakey’s or Pascuale’s) for a pizza birthday party. Everyone sat around a big table eating pizza. That was the party. We were likely in middle school, and we had the best time hanging out, eating pizza with our friends! Just good fun.
  • TV theme songs and commercial jingles were the best! Seriously. Do TV shows even have theme songs anymore? I can throw out one line from so many TV shows, and I imagine most folks my age can name the show.  1. Come and knock on our door… 2. Here’s a story of a lovely lady… 3. Come and listen to a story ’bout a man named Jed… 4. You take the good; you take the bad; you take ’em both, and there you have… 5. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, shlemiel, schlimazel…Those are TV theme songs, and for commercial jingles… A. Here’s to good friends, tonight is kind of special… B. Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun! C. My baloney has a first name… D. Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us! E. Have a bucket of chicken… *See below for answers*

Oh, those were the days! A lot of life revolved around television. It was epic in the 1970s. And to think we fret about our kids’ screen time! Bahahaha!

I’d love to hear your memories from the 70s…

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TV them songs shown above: 1. Three’s Company 2. The Brady Bunch 3. The Beverly Hillbillies 4. The Facts of Life 5. Laverne and Shirley

Commercial jingles: A. Lowenbrau B. McDonald’s Big Mac C. Oscar Mayer D. Burger King E. Kentucky Fried Chicken

Remember Leif Garrett?

Remember Leif Garrett?

Yes, this is on my mind today…Leif Garrett. He was a teen idol when I was a preteen in the 1970s. He had been on a couple of TV shows…Three for the RoadFamily (with Kristy McNichol), and a guest spot on Wonder Woman. He had a singing career with a hit in I Was Made for Dancing. He was in the Walking Tall movies. He was on American Bandstand. And he even had his very own TV special on CBS. All that happened before he was 18.

I don’t even know why I started thinking about Leif Garrett yesterday. Sometimes, I start looking for movies I liked as a child or teenager, and yesterday, I thought of a coming-of-age film from the 80s called Little Darlings, starring Kristy McNichol and Tatum O’Neal. Somehow, that made me think of Leif Garrett.

Oh, he was such a dreamboat at the time! With his flowing blonde locks and surfer-boy looks, lots of teenage girls had his posters all over their bedrooms. Back then, we had Teen Beat and Tiger Beat magazines (remember those?) to keep us up-to-date on our teen idols, and in the late 70s, Leif Garrett was at the top of the list. But as we all know, most teen idols don’t last. Most are a flash in the pan…including Garrett. But there was something different about him. He had charisma that the others didn’t have. Well, David Cassidy had it, but I can’t think of anyone else from my time who had the same X Factor as Cassidy and Garrett. Somehow, David Cassidy managed to reinvent himself as an adult in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on Broadway, but the only place we’ve seen Garrett was Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew…sadly.

I’ve seen clips and read articles about him over the last 24 hours, and his story is tragic. He started acting in commercials as a child before moving into TV and movies. At some point, a management team decided to make him a singing star. With his charisma, Garrett was a walking dollar sign. He felt like he had no say in his own career and told Rosie O’Donnell on her show that he didn’t see a lot of the money from his fame.

But the real turning point in his life was a tragic car accident when he was 17. He was driving his Porsche, and a friend was riding with him. They had an accident, and the friend was left paralyzed from the waist down. Alcohol and drugs were involved. All terrible. It’s also something that could happen to lots of teens…a cautionary tale.

It’s tragic. The friend’s paralysis is tragic. The guilt and downward spiral afterward of Garrett are tragic too. Had he not been in show business, would this have happened? It’s an ugly business. Tragic. He became an addict…cocaine, heroin…sad. Was it the guilt of the accident that sent him over the edge? He made some bad choices, but this was a kid who had too much freedom and too much power too early. Who could handle that at 17? Fame and money make a strange life for a teen. Even good people can get caught up in the trappings of fame. Drugs plus guilt…perfect storm.

I am not diagnosing Garrett. I am not a psychologist. I just wonder what could have been. I look at that innocent face of the 1970s, and I want him to have a mother or someone else to keep him grounded. Had he been more closely supervised, and had he not chosen to drive under the influence that night, would his life have spiraled out of control? It’s sad to look at the photos of that sunkissed, young, hopeful teen and know what a terrible turn his life took. I don’t think he was a horrible individual. He was a teenager without boundaries. He’s likely not a horrible individual now, but wow, he has had a tough life. If he had stayed clean, would he be living a “normal” life now? We will never know. Some teen idols go on to have seemingly healthy lives, but the vast majority seem to have more issues than the “average” kid.

So that brings me to Garrett’s book, released at the end of 2019. Of course, I didn’t know about it then, and I didn’t hear about it earlier this year. With COVID in our midst, there hasn’t been a lot of press about the memoirs of former teen idols. But when I learned about it yesterday, I ordered it from Amazon, and I’ve read a couple of chapters, and it’s pretty darn good so far. It’s called Idol Truth: A Memoir. Yes, I will be the first to admit that I tend to be sympathetic. I’m a bleeding heart. I tend to want the best for people, and I’m sure I will still want the best for Garrett when I finish this book. If you’re interested, you can order from Amazon here. It will be available on the Audible app on August 11…I’ve already preordered it.

In the meantime, I’ll give my teenage daughter some extra hugs and be grateful that she’s a normal teenage girl living a normal life in North Carolina…not a teen idol. And I’ll tell her the story of Leif Garrett as a cautionary tale. I’ll tell her how quickly his life spiraled out of control, and hopefully, we will both learn some valuable lessons from Garrett’s experience.

My Favorite Dogs of Instagram

My favorite dogs of instagram…

Bear with me here. I know you might be thinking dog Instagrams are silly. And I’m the first one to say, “yes, they are silly.” I haven’t always liked them, but right now, I’m all about some dogs of Instagram. Here’s why: COVID. I have always loved scrolling through Insta and seeing travel pics of my friends in different parts of the country…and different parts of the world. But with COVID, I’m seeing the same things over and over…beach, lake, mountains, beach, lake, mountains…it’s all the same things I’m posting, and frankly, it’s getting tired. The beach is OK, but I need more mental stimulation. The beach is a little like fireworks to me…after a little while…meh. I prefer seeing pictures of friends and their families in cities! I like seeing funny/fun gatherings and sporting events! I like seeing concerts! But none of that is likely to happen for a while, so Insta needs a boost. I don’t even like my own Insta right now!

And that brings us to the dogs of Instagram. It’s different! These dogs are funny and heartwarming! They make me smile. They spread joy…and can’t we all use a little joy right now?!?!

So here they are…my favorite dogs of Instagram:

mocha.dale  This one is my very favorite pooch of Insta. Mocha is an Airedale Terrier who lives in Miami. Honestly, I don’t even remember how I came across Mocha’s Insta, but I’m so glad I did! She is a beautiful 7-yr-old Airedale Terrier. She has been dealing with some health issues as of late, but she is an energetic Airedale through and through. We had an Airedale named Annie. She was truly my favorite dog of all time, and we lost her in November of 2013. But this beautiful Mocha reminds me of our Annie. She “talks” to her human, and she is just an all-around happy, beautiful dog. She swims. She does tricks for treats. And her “human” manages the posts really well. Plus, you get to see scenes of sunny Miami! Did I mention she wears hats sometimes? She’s my fave…hats off to Mocha! *Another Airedale I love on Insta is juan_theairedale.

dougthepug Doug the Pug doesn’t need me to boost his Instagram presence. This adorable little man has over four million followers! Yes! Four Million! But he works hard for his “money.” Doug the Pug has posted over 3,000 times, and he always has a gimmick. Just last week, he was wrestling with the waterhose in his yard…very amusing. He wears clothes! He eats ice cream and hamburgers! He goes boating! And he is very expressive! Everyone falls in love with Doug the Pug…including me.

butter_roux Y’all remember the 1989 movie starring Tom Hanks called Turner and Hooch? You might not even remember Tom Hanks was the star, but it’s likely you remember what Hooch, the dog, looked like. Well, Butter Roux and Creme Brûlée, the mastiffs featured in this Instagram account will remind you of Hooch, slobber and all. They live in Pittsburgh, and their “parents” take them on lots of adventures and post lots of photos. These two pups love each other, and because we don’t see a lot of this breed, it’s fun to look at their soulful eyes and frowning faces…gives new meaning to the term “resting bitch face.” But they’re sweet dogs! Need a smile? Check out Butter Roux and Creme Brûlée!

desi_loves_elmo Elmo, the Greyhound featured in this Instagram account is a funny-looking dog with great expressions. Aren’t Greyhounds just interesting dogs anyway? They’re so lean and expressive! Well, Elmo doesn’t disappoint, and his “parents” love to dress him up for the camera. Elmo posts regularly, and I think lots of his photos should be memes. Through this account, I also found some Italian Greyhounds named Mateo and Ernesto. You can see their Insta account at mateo.y.ernesto.

tunameltsmyheart This little chiweenie (chihuahua/dachshund mix) will quickly find a spot in your heart. I had never seen a dog like Tuna before; he is one of a kind. With a massive overbite and “jacked up” teeth, Tuna has an unusual look, to say the least. Some folks would likely say, “He’s so ugly, he’s cute.” Does that make sense? And did I mention he has an attitude that’s bigger than that overbite? But he’s loving to his people and will even do a video via Cameo if the price is right! Yep, you guessed it…Tuna is immensely popular on Instagram with over two million followers. I didn’t discover Tuna. He was already crazy popular before I found him. Serious….ugly cute. And I love this dog!

Here are a couple more I love but they don’t post very often, so I didn’t include them in my list above:

reallylolly OK, y’all. Lolly is the “daughter” of Hungry Girl Lisa Lillien. If you aren’t familiar with the Hungry Girl brand, you’re missing out. You can see the website for Hungry Girl here. But back to the girl of the hour…Lolly. I wish I could tell you what kind of dog she is. I’m sure I’ve heard Lisa say it before, but

frankiemoney Holy moly! Frankie Money took me by surprise! I was visiting Los Angeles with my daughter on New Year’s Day of this year, and while she and a friend were shopping at The Grove (not my favorite place in LA), I decided to sit down on a bench for a few minutes. I had been sitting there alone for about three minutes when suddenly, a woman sat down next to me. She appeared to have some sort of baby carrier attached to her torso, but instead of a baby, there was a small dog. The woman was turned in such a way that it was a little difficult for me to see the dog; his rear was toward me.  People were approaching, asking to take photos of the dog, so I knew there was something interesting about the pooch. And then, the “mom” stood up with the dog to take a photo with a passerby, and I saw what was going on. The dog was dressed in a white biker jacket, sunglasses, and gold chains holding not one, but two rhinestone-studded dollar signs. He was cute! And he was calm and friendly at the same time. And his name? Frankie Money. The mom introduced me to him. I took a photo of them, and I started following the adventures of Frankie Money on Insta…the rest is history. Frankie doesn’t post often…hasn’t posted since February…but when he does, it’s funny. I hope he’s OK?

#squishypaws If you have kids who ever watched Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn on Nickelodeon, it’s likely you have heard of Squishy Paws, the family dog on the show. Squishy Paws is actually portrayed by a dog named Carson the Dog, but I’ve never found an Insta account for Carson the Dog. I included Squishy Paws in my list, though, because I recognized him when I did a tour of Paramount Studios with my daughter and her friend a few years ago. The kids didn’t believe me when I said it was Squishy Paws, so I asked the lady who was with him! That’s Squishy Paws in the photo of my daughter and her friend at the top of this piece!

 

An Accidental Reunion

An accidental reunion.

Earlier this week, I told my teenage daughter to pack a bag, because we were making an impromptu trip to a college in another state for an “unofficial” visit. She’s a rising high school junior, so it’s time to start getting an idea about where she might like to continue her education. Most admissions offices at colleges are not open now because of COVID, so “official” visits aren’t happening, but what was to stop us from going to a campus and checking things out on our own? Since it seems all we have done is go to the beach this summer, I was ready to roll to almost anywhere that wasn’t the beach. So we quickly packed our bags with a single change of clothes and the essentials, and we hit the road.

When I say we packed “essentials,” I mean we absolutely packed bare bones. I took a change of clothes, something to sleep in, any medications we might need, and toiletries…hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant. That’s it. I didn’t take makeup, because we were just going to be staying for one night and weren’t going to spend any time socializing. On the way out of town, we did a swing through the ChickFilA drive-thru for some lunch, and my daughter made a hotel reservation for us while I drove.

We had 3 1/2 hours to talk while we were on our way there, and because we took the scenic route, we had lots of cute little towns to see and some beautiful scenery too!

We arrived on the college campus at about 4:30 in the afternoon and went straight to the campus bookstore. I learned a long time ago that the campus bookstore is a good place to start. It’s usually easy to find, and shopping is always fun! We purchased a few items before the store closed at 5pm, and we set out driving around, trying to get a feel for the university. We looked at dorms…all from the outside of course…and we also got a feel for the campus by looking for different areas…the science buildings, education buildings, athletic facilities, sorority and fraternity housing…and of course, the always important football stadium, which was impressive, for sure.

We then checked into our hotel and walked to dinner at a nearby restaurant to discuss everything we had seen. While we were at dinner, I posted a few pictures, and then…bam! Two of my friends from college who live nearby commented, reminding me that they live there! How had I forgotten they lived there?!?! I have seen one of them a few times over the last couple of years, when she visited Charlotte, and I last saw the other one nine years ago when we had a planned reunion at the Virginia Creeper bike trail. After hearing from them, we scheduled a lunch for the next day…an accidental reunion! What an amazing surprise in the middle of this road trip!

The next morning, my daughter and I checked out a few more things on the college campus before meeting my “old” friends for lunch! Here’s the great thing about being 53 and getting together with friends from college…it’s always comfortable! It’s always easy! There was absolutely no awkwardness about it as we reminisced about old times but laughed and talked about what’s going on in our lives now too. The three of us met when we were 18 and 19 years old, and here we are…more than 30 years later…still able to fall right back in where we left off…without missing a beat! We talked about funny memories…it was the 80s when we were in college, after all! And they weren’t appalled by and didn’t make fun of my makeup-free, t-shirt clad look!

We’re all 30+ years older and wiser. I’d be willing to bet we’re even 30 years more fun…which would be quite an accomplishment, since we were a lot of fun in college! Next time I’m there, we’ll make time for some fun! One friend has a grown daughter in her 20s, and the other has two boys…both college age. I’m behind the curve with a 16-yr-old, but I loved that my daughter was there to meet these lovely ladies I’ve known for more than half my life. She enjoyed meeting them, and afterward, she told me she had decided, after meeting them, that maybe I was cool when I was younger after all! I’m not sure what she thought I was like before, but apparently, she wasn’t sure I was “cool.”

Over lunch, we also talked about actually planning a reunion…maybe another trip to the Virginia Creeper Trail, since it’s fun, super easy, and in a cute town. Last time, we stayed at the lovely Martha Washington Inn in Abingdon (for info, click here) and took in a show at the Barter Theater, the State Theater of Virginia. The Barter is even staging shows during COVID at a local closed drive-in theater! (For info on The Barter Theater, click here.) Maybe next time, we can stay at the Martha Washington Inn again and look for some ghosts while we’re there. I’ve heard the place is haunted, but we didn’t encounter any spooky visitors while we were there. And the restaurant at the hotel, called Sisters, was fabulous.

Even more exciting to me is the possibility that I could see these ladies more often if my daughter opts to go to college in the town where they live! Wow! I could visit my daughter and hang out with my old friends too! Plus, she would have a couple of surrogate moms nearby.

I’m so glad we had our accidental reunion! It was a bright spot in the middle of all this COVID madness…a much needed visit with some dear friends.

 

Lemon Cucumbers? Yes, Please!

Lemon cucumbers? Yes, please!

Back in the spring, when we were first “sheltering in place” because of the COVID pandemic, I decided to order the seeds for my summer garden online. As soon as I searched a couple of different sites, I realized I was not the only person with that idea. With the pandemic, lots of people decided to grow their own food this year, so I had to pick from what was available…and the “pickings were slim.”

I ordered my usual varieties of sunflowers and added a few new varieties I had never grown before…more about those later. And for veggies, I wanted to order squash, zucchini, and other things I like, but because they were all sold out, I ordered a few regular green cucumbers…some “slicers” and some “garden sweet hybrids.” I ordered some corn to plant (which was terribly unsuccessful)…and watermelon seeds. And then I saw something I’d never seen before…seeds for growing Lemon Cucumbers, or as Ferry-Morse labeled them, Cucumber Lemons. In reality, they are cucumbers, so I prefer to call them Lemon Cucumbers. According to Health Benefits Times, it is also known as a Yellow Cucumber, an Apple Cucumber, or a Crystal Apple, but I prefer Lemon Cucumber. It’s part of the gourd family, and despite the lovely yellow color of the skin, it is not a lemon in any way. These unusual cucumbers are round and bright yellow, and they are slightly sweeter than a traditional cucumber…with a slightly earthy flavor. It also has health benefits…offering Vitamin C, potassium, and fiber…and they look really summery in a cucumber salad. You can see more of the health benefit and recipes here.

So way back in March, I seeded lots of flowers and vegetables, starting them in the pool house, but eventually bringing them into my very own dining room, where I had a little more space and could get to them more easily. When I felt it was warm enough outside, I transferred all my seedlings, and I was absolutely shocked at how many of them actually made it this year! Usually, I have about a 50% yield on transplanted seedlings, but this year, it was closer to 85% or even 90%! You might have read my piece titled Welcome to the Jungle earlier this year…and now you know why my backyard looks like a jungle.

The plants were prospering, it seemed, but the vegetables were late to fruit. But at the beginning of July, things started picking up. The green cucumbers started fruiting like crazy, and I noticed small yellow cucumbers on my Lemon Cucumber vines. The plants have become quite prolific, and I was able to slice my first Lemon Cucumber earlier this month…after watching a YouTube video about when to harvest them.

As it turns out, they are as tasty as I had hoped! I’ve shared some with my next-door neighbor, a friend across town, and a friend who lives in Alabama. She sent some tomatoes, eggplants, okra, and peas from her garden, and sadly, all I had to offer in return was a few Lemon Cucumbers, but hopefully, she will enjoy them as much as I have. There is no way she will enjoy them as much as I’ve enjoyed what she sent me, but maybe I can make it up to her next year, because I plan to grow them again! So far, they’re growing like crazy cakes, and I love to grow anything that produces like these things do!

I’ve been making lemon cucumber sandwiches and cucumber salad. I’ve been putting lemon cucumbers in my water and in my salads. Does anything taste more like summer than fresh cucumbers? I’m hoping my plants will continue to produce for another month or so, because I’d love to keep enjoying these delicious yellow cucumbers as long as possible. For cucumber salad recipes, click here.

If you’re intrigued and want to plant them next year, I’m guessing you’ll be successful, because I do not have a green thumb. If I can grow them so well, I think anyone probably can! In the meantime, I’m sharing lemon cucumbers with anyone who asks! And when I share a lemon cucumber, I feel like I’m sharing some joy…because gardening has brought me great joy this summer, and the lemon cucumbers are a surprise, tasty treat.

Blame It On the Limoncello

Blame it on the limoncello.

After I posted my piece titled Please Drop In, I received a text from a friend telling me she was on the way to my house. This particular friend is funny…hilariously funny…and smart…put those two qualities together, and it makes for an awesome person. In fact, she’s so awesome that, years ago, when she told me she had “people” (that’s Southern for family) in Clanton, Alabama, I told her we absolutely must be related. I have family all over Alabama, so anything’s possible, right? Rather than digging through genealogy, I just went ahead and declared her my cousin. So, now we’re cousins. I’ve written about my “fake cousins” before. I don’t have a lot of them, but when I feel a particular kinship with someone…well, they become my fake cousin. So…when she said she was on her way to my house, I was thrilled!

A few minutes later, she drove up my driveway in her beautiful white convertible, and when she hopped out, she had a bag in her hand. Here’s what it contained: two cups of ice, a bottle of vodka, a bottle of Limoncello, a bottle of Diet Sprite, and some lemon juice. That’s a party in a bag! And yes! As you see…she even brought cups of ice! This cousin was prepared!

I have to admit that when I saw the bottle of limoncello, I got a little scared. I had an unforgettable experience with limoncello several months ago. You’d think at 53, I’d know what not to do where alcohol is concerned, but apparently, I’m not the fastest learner. A friend invited me to go with her to see Kathleen Turner perform in her one-woman show in Greenville, South Carolina. Because I’m a control freak, I offered to drive us there. We made an early dinner reservation for 5:30 or 6:00 at a restaurant near the theater, and we hit the road, arriving at the restaurant at about 5pm. The bar was open, but the restaurant wasn’t open yet, so we bellied up to the bar. My friend ordered an Old-Fashioned, and I ordered a glass of Prosecco. Well, one glass turned into two…never a big deal, because we wouldn’t be getting into the car for hours. But then, the bartender offered us some homemade Limoncello.

Has anyone ever told you how dangerous Limoncello can be? Well, I drank what he poured me, and when I stood up to go to the ladies room, I knew immediately that I was a little drunk. Yes, at 53, I was accidentally drunk before dinner. Fortunately, when I returned from the ladies’ room, our table was ready, so we could go straight to our table and order dinner. After dinner, I was feeling better, and we walked in the cool, brisk air to the theater. The show was great, and we joined some friends of my friend for “drinks” afterward…I just had coffee, thank you very much. By the time we left, it had been six hours since we moved from the bar to our table, and I was sobered up. I had a terrible headache, but I was sober.

The day after that little jaunt to Greenville, I was talking with another friend who said she’d had a limoncello experience too, and she reminded me of a time Danny Devito appeared drunk on The View. Later, he blamed his slurred speech and unsteady gate on the limoncello he’d been drinking, saying, “I knew it was the last seven limoncellos that was going to get me.” Since then, whenever something goes awry in my world, I say, “Blame it on the limoncello.”

But last week, my cousin who dropped in assured me no bad behavior was on the horizon. She assured me we were going to have one very light afternoon cocktail. And I watched intently as she mixed a lovely, summery-tasting concoction using all the ingredients she brought with her. And it was delicious! It tasted like sunshine!

All this was my long way of saying a great big “thank you” to my cousin for dropping in with the perfect treat in hand. Even better, she brought her infectious sense of humor and optimism…just when I needed it most! This whole pandemic has cancelled some of my vacations, and she knew I had the blues. But she cured that! I hope she’ll drop in again soon…or maybe I’ll drop in on her!

Blame it on the limoncello!

 

Please Drop In

Please drop in.

Maybe I should phrase that differently. Maybe I should say “please drop out.” What I mean is that we would love to have friends and family visit anytime, but only in the backyard. With the COVID pandemic, things have changed, and I don’t just let lots of folks in my house. But outside? All bets are off. If you’re in the area…or bored…or just looking for some company…come on over!

When I was growing up in different places in Alabama, folks used to drop in all the time. This was well before the era of the cellphone. Back in the 70s and 80s, if we were driving down the road and decided to drop in on some friends, we couldn’t just pick up a cell phone and call. I guess we could have gone to a payphone, but often that would have taken us out of our way. Drop-ins were common. Wanna stop in and see your friend? Turn into the driveway, and walk right up and ring the doorbell!

I remember, when I was a little girl living in Brewton, Alabama, my mother had a good friend named Martha. We lived on the outskirts of town, but Martha lived right in the middle of town…on the main drag…in a big, beautiful, historic home. We visited often, because she had kids our age. One day, when I was probably five or six, I had a baby tooth that was ready to fall out. It was even starting to hurt…it needed to come out. We were driving down Belleville Avenue, the road where Martha’s house was, and Mother said, “Let’s stop and let Martha pull it. She’s really good at pulling teeth.” And without calling ahead, we drove into the driveway, right up to the porte-corchere on the side of the house, like we owned the place. Mama knocked on the door, and Martha let us into her kitchen, which I thought was beautiful, because it had yellow gingham wallpaper. Martha stood me on a chair in her kitchen and pulled that tooth right out. I can still see in my mind exactly where I was standing.

Another time, Mother was going to drop in on Martha, but when she approached the driveway in her car, she didn’t see Martha’s car in the driveway. Instead of stopping, she kept driving. Later, when they were talking on the phone, Mother told her, “I was going to drop in to your house today, but when I got there, your car wasn’t there.” Martha replied, “Well, did you come to see me or my damn car?!? I was home! You should have stopped.” Mother laughed. In fact, that was a story Mother told for years afterward.

When we lived in Spanish Fort, Alabama, all the neighborhood kids dropped in all the time, and Mother’s friends would often show up on the doorstep. They would sit in the kitchen and drink coffee. And sometimes they talked for hours…solving all the world’s problems, I’m sure. Or maybe just talking about soap operas.

I vividly remember neighborhood moms standing around talking in the driveway. Back then, everybody didn’t have a garage with a garage door opener. We didn’t drive right into our garages when we got home from somewhere. We got out in the driveway, and if our neighbors were outside, everybody stood around and talked for a while. I think our garages/garage door openers put an end to that for a lot of people. Fortunately, in my neighborhood, we’ll see our neighbors out walking and pull our car over to chat. But that doesn’t happen everywhere.

When we were teenagers in the 80s, it was like we had a revolving door…neighborhood kids and teenagers in and out all the time.

Drop-ins used to be part of life. But no more. Now, everybody calls ahead, so we don’t have any pleasant surprises when friends show up unexpectedly.

I’m ready to change that. I’m telling my friends, “Drop in!”  Ring the doorbell when you get here, and if we’re home, I’ll motion for you to walk around the side of the house to the backyard, where we can sit by the pool and have a cocktail. If you want to bring lunch, that’s OK too! Chances are, I’ll be here, since I’ve become accustomed to spending more time at home with this pandemic happening. Of course, it’s hit or miss on whether I’ll still be in my pajamas, but if you don’t mind, I don’t mind! Maybe I’ll even share some cucumbers or tomatoes from my garden!

 

A Lucky Duck

Almost a month ago, I wrote about what we referred to as a “Mama Duck” had laid some eggs in one of the planters on our front porch. In this world of COVID-19, murder hornets, and political unrest, Mama Duck, by way of laying eggs at our house, brought us some hope…something to look forward to.

And oh, how we have loved watching her. She ended up laying a total of nine eggs over the course of a week or so. My husband and I became obsessed with her…like four-year-olds, we would peek out the window numerous times a day and through the night. We wanted to be sure Mama Duck and the eggs stayed safe. We wanted that little clutch of eggs to make it, but it wasn’t easy.

About ten days ago, we had a lovely visitor to our backyard. I was so excited to see him…a beautiful 5-foot rat snake! I posted some photos of the snake on Facebook, and then my friends reminded me we needed to keep an eye on the duck and eggs. They were right! A few hours later, my husband found the snake curled up on top of the eggs, with Mama Duck nowhere in sight! I wasn’t home at the time, so when he called me and said, “You’re not going to believe this! That snake is in the eggs,” I said, “GET IT OUT!” He did, and by the time I returned home, he had relocated the snake far away.

Talk about a lucky duck!

We thought we were home free! We thought that since the snake was gone, our duck’s troubles were over…till another snake showed up a few days later! My husband walked past the window and looked out, and somehow, he noticed a tiny tail sticking out from under the planter! This time, I was home, and he called me outside to “help” him get the snake, which basically meant I was his cheerleader. While I love the beauty of a rat snake, I don’t want to have to catch one! With bravery that was reminiscent of the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, my husband captured the snake and relocated him far, far away. Mama Duck flew away during the chaos but returned a few hours later.

Two snakes??? Holy moly! We were scared for our Mama Duck. So we watched. When we couldn’t be home, we watched on security cameras. And we spread snake repellent all around the porch. The whole front of our house smelled like a giant wintergreen Lifesaver…I guess snakes don’t like that?

And then, yesterday, as I watched on the security camera, I saw some movement around Mama Duck in the planter. She was moving around a lot more than usual too! And then I thought I heard a few “peeps”!

We were out of town, but as it turns out, I was right about the “peeps”! Embarrassingly, last night at about 11:15pm, we checked the cameras again (we were out of town), and we saw lots of movement. We couldn’t tell if what we saw was a duckling or a snake, so I called our neighbor…yes, at 11:15pm…and he ran over and checked. No snake, but he couldn’t see any ducklings, because Mama Duck hid them under her wings.

The neighbor on the other side went over and saw the ducklings early this morning, and then a few hours later, they were gone. Mama Duck and the ducklings had left the nest…it’s what they do.

We missed seeing them “in person,” but we are some proud duck grandparents. We are proud that we saved them. We are proud that they made it.

That’s one lucky duck.