Top of the Rollercoaster

Top of the rollercoaster.

David Wilcox, a folk musician/singer-songwriter from Cleveland, Ohio, released a song in 1991 called Top of the Rollercoaster, a song about riding a rollercoaster on a 30th birthday as a metaphor for life. “It’s the moment of truth, the top of your youth…when you tip the top of the rollercoaster, look down the other side.” (To hear the song, click here.) Lucky for me, it came out several years before I turned 30, so I could listen to it on my 30th birthday and feel like it was written for me. However, unlike the song, which proclaims “it’s all downhill from here,” I didn’t look at turning 30 as the “top of my youth;” I looked at it as a new beginning. And honestly, my life got better after 30. But that’s not really what I want to discuss. I want to talk about rollercoasters, because at the age of 53, I still love them.

Don’t most of us remember our first rollercoaster ride? I don’t mean those little rollercoasters like Thunder Mountain at Disney. I don’t even mean rollercoasters like The Rock-n-Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios or Space Mountain at Disney. If those are the most exciting rollercoasters you’ve ridden, I hate to break it to you…they don’t even count. They’re not thrilling. Sure, they’re a little fun, but definitely aren’t thrilling. When I get off those rides, I don’t have the same “high” as I have when I step off the Intimidator or the Fury 325 at Carowinds…or even Goliath at Six Flags Over Georgia. So when I say we likely remember our first rollercoaster ride, I mean a ride on a real rollercoaster…a thrill ride.

The year was 1976. It was the year of America’s Bicentennial, and I had turned nine years old in May…just as school was getting out for summer. I had been to Six Flags Over Georgia countless times with my family, and since 1973, I had been watching people disembark from the Great American Scream Machine, which at the time was the longest (3800 ft), tallest (105 ft), fastest (57 mph) rollercoaster in the world. It was a giant wooden coaster, and for a long time, I was terrified of it. But that summer…the Bicentennial summer…I decided I could ride it. I was standing with my family, watching riders disembark when Daddy asked me if I wanted to try it. I answered, “Yes,” and we got in line. The line for the Scream Machine was always long in those days, and there were no fast passes, so we waited…and I’m sure I changed my mind a dozen times before we ever boarded the coaster, but when it was our turn, I followed Daddy right into that coaster seat.

If you’ve ever ridden a wooden coaster, you know it’s not as smooth as a steel coaster. The first hill seems “rickety,” with the noise of the chain pulling the train up, and the “clickety-clack” of the tracks as you wait to reach the top. I was terrified, but I was excited at the same time. Back then, though, safety mechanisms weren’t what they are now. In my memory, there was nothing tight around my waist to hold me firmly in my seat. I recall a loose chain across my lap and a metal bar that bounced with every bump. Just as we reached the peak of the first hill, the train lurched forward as it started its descent. I weighed less than 50 pounds, and I felt like I was going to fall out of the car. I yelled to Daddy, “Push the bar down!” But he just laughed as we continued the bumpy ride. Once I knew I had survived the first big hill, I knew I could survive the rest, but it was scary…and exhilarating.

The ride ended back at the station after an exhilarating two minutes and twenty seconds. I had survived. I had ridden my first major rollercoaster and lived to tell about it. I feel sure I was giggling as we got off the ride, and I probably talked about it on the walk back up to the top of the hill near the entrance, where my mother was waiting. And then, like any coaster enthusiast, I said, “Let’s do it again!” I’ve never looked back. What an adrenaline rush! And every time I ride a rollercoaster, I remember that day in the summer of ’76.

Fortunately, my own daughter is a rollercoaster enthusiast. When she was a little girl, she would cry, because she wasn’t tall enough to ride the coasters at our local amusement park, Carowinds, which was owned by Paramount at the time, and then purchased by Cedar Fair Parks. As soon as she was tall enough, we rode them all the time…for years. When the old log flume ride was removed from the park in 2010 to make way for the Intimidator, a rollercoaster with a height of 232 feet that goes 80 mph, we had to work up the nerve to ride it, but once we did, we never looked back. And then, five years later, the Fury 325 debuted. Reaching a maximum speed of 95 mph and with a height of 325 feet, it looked daunting. But the first time we rode it, we rode in the second seat. The next time? Front car with my friend, Angela, and her daughter, Hannah…and it was a big adrenaline rush! My daughter was 11, and Hannah was 13…and we loved the ride! In fact, every time I’ve ever ridden it, it has been a big adrenaline rush. I feel pretty sure that if I can ride that coaster, I can ride just about any coaster anywhere.

About 34 years after that Bicentennial summer and my first major coaster ride, I took my daughter to Six Flags Over Georgia. She was six. She wanted to ride the Great American Scream Machine as soon as she saw it. So while my friend, Wendy, and her daughter watched, we boarded the same rollercoaster that was my first major rollercoaster, and it became my daughter’s first major rollercoaster too. The ride was even more bumpy that I remembered, but she loved it. She was laughing when we got off the coaster and wanted to get back in line immediately…like mother, like daughter. Maybe one day, my daughter will have a daughter whose first coaster will be the Great American Scream Machine. A weird family tradition, for sure.

Going back to David Wilcox’s song, maybe when he said “it’s all downhill from here,” he didn’t mean it was all going to be bad. Maybe he meant it was all going to be fun…a rush…exhilarating. Now that I think about it, I prefer that version. Because honestly, I’ve done my best living after 30. Well…there were those four college years in the 80s, between the ages of 18 and 22…those were pretty awesome too. But there’s something special about being over 30. And if you haven’t turned 50 yet…just wait…it’s great too.

Are rollercoaster rides good metaphors for life? I don’t know. But I do know rollercoasters are fun, and they make me feel young! I’ll be glad when Carowinds is open again! Till then, maybe we’ll even make a trip down to the Atlanta area to visit Six Flags Over Georgia and ride the Great American Scream Machine again…they’re open on a “reservations only” basis! They’re even offering BACKWARD rides on the Scream Machine for a limited time!

We love rollercoasters!

If you’d like to virtually experience the Great American Scream Machine, click here.

Chicken at Home

Chicken at home.

At the beginning of the economic shutdown, when everyone was scrambling for groceries, and stores were running low on lots of things, including chicken, I was able to get really good chicken.

Through a friend, I found out about a company in Charlotte that offers home delivery of fresh and frozen chicken. I placed my first order, and within 24 hours, it arrived at my door…and it was the best chicken we have ever had! I told my friend down the street and others, all of whom promptly started ordering from them too. I like to think I singlehandedly increased their business tenfold, but I’d be kidding myself.

The name of the chicken delivery service is Queen City Poultry, a subsidiary of Prestige Farms, right here in Charlotte, North Carolina. The company is owned by and run by good people…people who want happy customers…people who care about the product they’re putting out there. If you live in the Charlotte area, you can order from them here.

We ordered fresh chicken breasts and frozen breasts, and we also ordered chicken tenders…all of which were declared the “best chicken ever” by my family and friends. And they delivered with a smile! In fact, one of my orders was delivered by a friend’s son (the family owns the business), and I was thrilled to see him out there working hard.

In fact, it’s time to place another order, which I will sit down and do tonight. I know it’s time to place an order, because when my teenage daughter asked me for chicken at lunch today (she was doing remote school), I realized I didn’t have any. It was early enough that I could place a quick order from the grocery store through Instacart, so I did. This time, I used a grocery store I had never used before…Aldi. I still haven’t ever been in an Aldi, but I have heard about their “red bag chicken,” so I ordered it. It really is packed in a red bag, but the official brand is Kirkwood. I don’t even know where I heard about it, but I heard about it somewhere, so I decided now was as good a time as any. The “red bag chicken” is actually a bag of frozen breaded chicken fillets. Within a couple of hours, they were delivered to my front porch, and I stuck some in the oven for lunch.

My daughter came downstairs and was thrilled when she saw that I had chicken for her. And you know what? She loved it! She said it’s not as good as the home delivery chicken from Queen City Poultry, but it would do in a pinch. Plus, if you live somewhere besides Charlotte, you can’t get home delivery from Queen City Poultry, so maybe you can run to your local Aldi and get the “red bag chicken.” Since it was good, I did a little reading and discovered “red bag chicken” isn’t all they make. They also make “blue bag chicken” (chicken strips), “green bag chicken” (parmesan chicken tenders), and other color bags of honey bbq wings, buffalo honey battered breast tenders, chicken breast nuggets, and dinosaur shaped nuggets. There are more products, but you’ll have to go to the Aldi website to see for yourself. The list is long! And if all the variations are as good as the “red bag chicken,” you’re in for a treat.

But if you live in Charlotte, I highly recommend Queen City Poultry’s home delivery. Order online and get it the next day! And the prices are right too!

Yep…chicken…really good chicken…at home!

Choose Joy

Choose joy.

In my collection of hoodies, I now have a tie-dye one that says “choose joy” across the front. I bought it for myself recently, because sometimes I need a reminder to choose joy.

I like to be happy, and most of the time, I choose to be happy. I’ve had sad things happen and my own struggles in life, just like everyone else, but I try to process that sadness and find joy again. Sometimes it take a while, and sometimes it doesn’t, but I do believe we can all make a conscious decision to be joyful. If we try to see a silver lining, we can usually find one.

And in my experience, choosing joy for yourself makes other people joyful. I find that, if I am happy, the people around me tend to become happier…joy is contagious. No doubt. Just like anger and bitterness are contagious. I know that, because sometimes I’m downright angry and bitter. Occasionally, something will get under my skin and stay there. I get angry or upset about something, and it seems I will never shake it. When that happens, I tend to spread that bad mood…till I realize what I’m doing…and then I try to turn it around. I choose joy.

There have been times in my life that I’ve stepped back and realized I’ve been “spitting venom,” and that’s not good. When I’ve realized it, whether someone pointed it out or I realized it myself, I’ve tried to walk it back and change my attitude. When I was a little girl, if I had a bad attitude, my parents would tell me, “You need to put a smile on your face…now.” Sounds silly, right? But here’s what usually happens when you put a smile on your face: you start feeling a little happier. It goes with the old “fake it till you make it” theory…start acting happier, and you will become happier. I learned that valuable lesson in my 20s, and it’s a lesson I’ve always remembered…and one I’ve tried to teach my teenage daughter. I’ve had to force myself to “fake it till I make it” a lot more through the COVID pandemic, because honestly, it’s downright depressing. But if we look around and find joy somewhere, it makes it a little easier.

About a month into the pandemic isolation, I was looking out the window onto my patio when I realized the trees behind our patio were becoming greener…sprouting tiny green leaves. Because we were all searching for things to do during that lockdown, I spent some of my time taking photos of the trees as we moved into spring. Sounds boring, right? I agree, but somehow it was fun at the time…and it brought me joy! I also got my garden started way earlier than usual…finding joy where I could…watching seedlings grow into flowers and vegetables. I chose joy that way.

Did I still have times of sadness? You bet. The pandemic shutdowns and isolation have been hard on me. But I refused to give in. Sure, occasionally, I had a breakdown here or there…or I made a big deal out of something that wasn’t a big deal. But when I realized it, I adjusted my attitude and chose joy.

That “choose joy” hoodie I mentioned earlier? Well, I found it on a website called Elly and Grace. I got one of those Facebook notifications that a college friend “liked” the Facebook page for the company, so I checked it out, and I was glad I did. Elly and Grace is a small company in Missouri whose mission is “to provide the softest, highest quality Christian apparel, designed to uplift, inspire and point others to Jesus.” Indeed, they do! The hoodie I purchased is the softest ever, and it certainly promotes an inspirational message! They have other items that feature other great messages and Bible verses. You can see what they offer here. I will definitely be shopping with them again very soon, and I know I will purchase some Christmas gifts from them too. I love to support small businesses…and this one seems special.

So thank you, Facebook, for leading me to Elly and Grace, and thank you to Elly and Grace for reminding me to “choose joy.” I am trying to make that conscious choice every single day.

Choose joy.

70s Saturdays and Hostess Cupcakes

70s Saturdays and Hostess Cupcakes.

Earlier, I had to run to Walgreens to pick up one thing…some bottled water. Of course, like so many other people, I can’t walk out of Walgreen’s with just one thing. I have to “browse” the aisles. By the time I checked out, my cart contained hand sanitizer, cheap lipstick, Halloween candy I promptly hid when I got home, and Hostess Cupcakes. Yes, Hostess Cupcakes…the ones that come two to a pack. The creme-filled chocolate ones that have the white swirls across the top. The ones that I loved as a kid in the 1970s.

When I was a little girl, Daddy took us to Murphy’s store on Highway 31 in Brewton on Saturday mornings after he gave us our $5 allowance. It was our opportunity to get whatever we wanted, and back then, $5 would buy a lot of treats. Murphy’s was a little locally-owned convenience store. We always referred to it as “Murphy’s,” except Saturdays, when we referred to it as “the candy store.” Mr. and Mrs. Murphy actually ran it themselves. I’m sure they laughed when they saw us coming, because they knew we were going straight for the candy. By the time I left the store, I usually had an Icee or a Grape Fanta and a little brown bag full of different treats. My personal favorites? Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (I remember when the price increased from 15 cents to 20 cents), Pixy Stix, Marathon Bar, Grape Now & Laters, Spree Candy, M&Ms, Candy Cigarettes (it was the 70s, after all), and yes, those glorious Hostess Cupcakes. I thought those swirls across the top were beautiful. I guess I always had homemade birthday cakes, so those Hostess swirls looked like some special handiwork. Here’s a secret, though: I rarely ate the cupcakes. I usually just ate the frosting off the top…and that swirl? I saved that till the end.

So, after I got home from Walgreen’s and ate those Hostess cupcakes, I posted on my personal Facebook page about them, and the reaction was great! So many of my friends remembered those cupcakes from childhood. But the great thing was the memories they shared about their own experiences. One friend commented that her dad would take her to the deli on Saturdays, and while he picked out lunch stuff, the kids could get treats…including Tastykakes…a Mid-Atlantic treat. Others could remember the mom-and-pop shops where they got their weekend treats, and one friend frequented the 7-11 with her dad, buying comic books and candy.

One of my favorite comments was simply, “Nyolator.” It was a comment from a kindergarten friend in Brewton. I’m guessing not just anyone would understand it, but I knew exactly what it meant immediately. In South Alabama, when I was a kid, I didn’t call Now&Later candies by their real name. I called them “Nyolators,” and I now know I wasn’t the only one! We weren’t being funny. Since I never bothered to read the package, I just pronounced them the way I heard it,”Nyolator.” I guess that’s the way my kindergarten friend heard it too! So if someone had asked me what candy I liked at the time, I likely would have answered, “Grape Nyolators.” Later, when I bothered to read the package, I was amused to learn I had been calling them by the wrong name my whole life…I was probably a preteen by the time I realized it, but dang!

So now, I’m thinking those Hostess Cupcakes aren’t just cupcakes. They’re symbols of my childhood…memories of going to Murphy’s store with my daddy. Pixy Stix can have the same effect for me. I loved Pixy Stix then, and I still love them now. Again, grape Pixy Stix are my preferred flavor. I don’t know why I love artificial grape flavoring, but I do.

Grape sodas, which taste nothing like real grapes, also make me think of visiting my Granddaddy. I’ve talked with my cousin, Patti, in recent years about how Granddaddy would give us a quarter, and we would walk down to the little store down the street from his house. I don’t know what the store was called, but I know I could always get a grape soda or an RC Cola there.

And you know why all those items…the candy, the cupcakes, the sodas…remind us of our childhood? Because they represent happy times. We tend to lock things into our longterm memory if they are attached to an emotion, and I guess that emotion, for me, on a Saturday morning, with $5 to spend at a mom-and-pop convenience store…well, that emotion was pure joy! No doubt!

I was big on making my little brown bag candy stash last a while. I could drag out eating some M&Ms by peeling them. I never got Peanut M&Ms. Back then, I only got original milk chocolate ones. And I actually peeled them. Sounds crazy right? I would bite each one just lightly enough to crack the outer shell, and then I would carefully peel off the shell, eating it little bit by little bit. And that’s when there were still red M&Ms with cancer-causing coloring, and there were two different brown colors of M&M…one was tan. Remember that? Long before blue M&Ms. I remember hearing the slogan for M&Ms many times, “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand.”

And while I was peeling my M&Ms and hoarding my candy/cupcake stash, I was likely playing records on my record player…maybe Ricky Nelson singing Garden Party, which takes me back every time. That and Otis Redding singing Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay. But I’m not even going to get into how music takes me back…that’s for another day.

For now, I’m going to sneak back into the kitchen and eat some of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups from the bag of Halloween candy I purchased at Walgreen’s. I hid it from everyone else in my family, but I know exactly where it is!

My Falsies

My falsies.

I know what you’re thinking, but reprogram your mind, please. I’m not talking about falsies you put in your bra. I’m talking about false eyelashes.

I made it to age 53 without ever having used false eyelashes. I was a teenager in the 1980s, and I don’t remember ever seeing anyone with false lashes back then. I remember seeing people with them in the 1970s…along with wigs and hairpieces…but as far as I know, no one I went to high school or college with wore them. Our lashes just weren’t so important to us then, I guess.

Truth be told, at 53, I still don’t care too much about my lashes, but I see so many people who do that I got curious about them. What put me over the edge was my addiction to Love Island on CBS over the last few weeks. It was a reality show I just knew I would hate, but I watched one episode, and I was immediately hooked. It’s a “reality” show about people who are brought together in a competition to be voted favorite couple by America by the end of the series. This season, they all lived in a rooftop suite with pools and more in Las Vegas. Cameras are on the participants 24/7, and when the ladies on the show get ready every day, we see their makeup routines. Every single one of them used false eyelashes.

I’ve often thought about what a difference false eyelashes make for people on TV. And as an adult, I’ve even had friends who have individual false eyelashes added by lash professionals. I don’t have the patience for that, and I don’t like people I don’t know all up in my face. Add in the very important fact that I’m allergic to the glue, and those just are not an option for me.

Lately, I think more attention is on our eyes, because we’re all wearing our masks during the COVID pandemic. I read that lipstick sales are down, and that’s because we don’t really need lipstick if we’re wearing a mask; our lips don’t show. But you know what does show? Our eyes!

So recently, I ordered some magnetic lashes from Amazon.com, just to see how they work…and if there’s any possibility I will like them. Here’s how they work: users apply a magnetic liquid eyeliner just like they would any other liquid eyeliner. Let it dry. Once the liner is dry, the strip of lashes will adhere to it, because it has small magnets in the lash strip.

I’m 53. My eyelashes are not as plentiful as they used to be…thanks, menopause. Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed I’ve had difficulty making my lashes lustrous using mascara. Maybe these falsies will help? So today, after I got a shower and got dressed for the day, I decided to go through my makeup routine and use the falsies. The eyeliner was easy to apply…just like my other liquid eyeliners. I put a little translucent power on my face and eyes before applying the eyeliner, because over the years, I’ve found the liner seems to go on better and last longer if I do that…so I tried it with the magnetic liner. After applying it, I tried to keep my eyes closed for a minute or two, allowing the liner to dry. Once it had time to dry, I started applying the lashes. They come in several different thicknesses/lengths, so for this purpose, I picked the least thick/long. I just wanted to see how they worked. To apply, I started at the outer edge of my eye, and applied one end of the strip…I was surprised at how easily it adhered to the magnetic liner! From there, it was easy to apply the rest of the strip.

Once the lashes were on, I stood there, looking in the mirror and blinking. I needed to make sure they were on correctly before I paraded around in public wearing them. After a minute or two of blinking, I felt pretty sure they were secure, so I walked into the living room, where my husband was. He looked up when I walked into the room but said nothing about the lashes. After going to the kitchen to get something to drink, I went back to the living room and sat down in a chair facing him. He looked up and talked for a minute or two…not commenting on the lashes at all. However, in a minute, he said, “You look happy today.” What?!?! Did the lashes make me look happier? I simply said, “Thanks.”

Later, our teenage daughter came in. This would be the real test. She notices things like false eyelashes. She came in and hugged me, sitting down to chat for a few minutes. Eventually, she said, “Your makeup looks really good today.” But she didn’t notice the lashes were fake! That was a big surprise, because I felt sure she would ask, “Why are you wearing false lashes?” She didn’t. I had made it past the teenager with the false lashes! When I told her I had on false lashes, she actually said she liked them!

The real test came later when I needed to remove them. Removing the strips was not difficult, but I was more concerned about removing the waterproof liner. I shouldn’t have worried. I was able to remove it with my normal makeup remover and about the same amount of effort that I would use with a waterproof mascara.

So now, the question is…will I continue to use them? Well, I certainly won’t use them every day, but if I have fun lunch plans, dinner plans, or an event to attend, I will definitely use them! I think they will make my eyes look better in pictures too.

I ordered HSBCC brand from Amazon.com, because they were inexpensive, and they had really good reviews. You can order the same ones here. But be forewarned that I have no idea where they are manufactured. Based on the wording on the package, I’m guessing it’s not the US. They are distributed by an LA company, but I found it funny that the package says “nutual looking,” which, I’m just guessing, means “natural looking.” (See photo below.) I still like them. But there are lots of brands out there. I think it’s worth a try!

The Loss of a Beloved Teacher

The loss of a beloved teacher.

When I was growing up, my family moved several times. In fifth grade, I landed in a new town and new school. It was a school that was several times bigger than my previous elementary school. At my “old” school, we had only two classes for each grade. Everyone knew each other, and we were a pretty sheltered bunch. At my “new” school, there were four or five classes for each grade. Everyone did not know each other, and well…they weren’t as sheltered. Fortunately, I fell into the classroom of a wonderful, caring teacher.

I feel pretty sure she could feel my pain on the first day. While everyone was friendly, I’m sure I looked like a deer caught in the headlights, so my new teacher assigned two girls to look out for me. They showed me around and introduced me to their friends, and it certainly made the transition easier. Assimilating wasn’t difficult, thanks to the teacher and those girls she introduced me to.

There was something special about this teacher. She was dealing with students from various socioeconomic backgrounds and races, and somehow she brought us all together. I don’t know how public schools work in Alabama now, but back in the day, students were grouped by reading level and math level. We had at least two different levels in our class at any given time, except math, when we went to a different classroom where everyone learned the same thing. In some cases, I’m sure students who weren’t working on the highest level might have felt inferior, but I don’t think they ever felt that way in her class. She loved all of us, in spite of and because of our differences. And while I was in the highest level reading group, I know we never looked at the other groups in our class and thought they were “less than.” That’s because our teacher pulled us together. She understood that fifth grade students needed to move around some during the day, and she encouraged us all to participate in discussions, be creative, and work with our “neighbors.”

I had always been a good student, but I had usually been pretty quiet in class. But at the end of the first grading period, the teacher called my mother before sending home my report card. She wanted to warn my mother ahead of time that she had marked “talks too much” on my report card, but she explained that she had done it for our whole group that sat in the same area. Apparently, we had bonded well enough that we never stopped talking! My mother was surprised but thought it was funny, since she had never been told I “talked too much” at school. And we, the students, learned a valuable lesson about working as a group…everyone in the group is responsible for each other.

One of those friends, James, from that class group texted me recently. He is my longest continuous-contact friend, and we were brought together right there in that classroom. We have been friends for 43 years. He texted me to tell me our beloved teacher had passed away. He loved her too. In fact, he was, quite possibly, the student who checked in on her the most over the years. She saw something special in him when we were in 5th grade, and he didn’t disappoint. He remembered her kindness and spent time with her when she was in the hospital several years ago, and then, last year, he visited her at home…spending time laughing and talking with her.

The last time I spoke with our teacher was Mother’s Day weekend in 2019…just over a year ago. We talked about old times. We talked about how she let us veer from the lesson plan sometimes to give us time to be creative. She sometimes secretly gave clothing and snacks to the students who needed it…but in a way no one else knew it, so the student wouldn’t be embarrassed. We talked about how she became a teacher. We laughed a lot while we reminisced, and we solved some of the world’s problems in that phone call. She reminded me of a few things, and I reminded her of a few things. And she asked me to write down some of my memories of her/her class and send them to her.

She taught my brother two years after she taught me. We are two totally different personalities; frankly, he’s a lot more fun than I am. And I’m sure he was quite the class clown, but this teacher? She had an appreciation for his humor. She found a way to teach him without squashing his spirit. She saw something special behind his twinkling, mischievous eyes, and she loved him. He loved her too.

When I heard about her passing, I was heartbroken. I knew her health had been in decline, but I was surprised to hear she had passed. I was, however, happy I had followed through on my promise to write down some memories and send them to her. It took me a few months to get it done, but I got it done. I emailed it and then sent her a hard copy of it too. A friend was having coffee with me at my house when I got the news, and I told her, “Wow. My fifth grade teacher just died.” I went on to explain to her how special this teacher was to all her students…how she actually cared. And then I said, “I’m so glad I talked to her last year and sent her some memories I had written down for her.” No regrets.

She had long since retired, but she made a difference in the lives of lots of children over the years. She was special. I feel sorry for the ones who didn’t get to be in her class. If you had a beloved teacher during your school days, make his/her day by sending him/her a letter, or even just an email, letting him/her know he/she made a difference in your life.

She was a lovely lady, and “lovely” is high compliment from me…one I don’t throw out lightly. God bless her family, and God bless the soul of Mrs. Stiff.

October 2 Has Meaning for Me

October 2 has meaning for me.

Different days have different meanings. To a lot of people, October 2 means nothing different than any other day. To me, it has meaning.

October 2 is the anniversary of a day my life changed forever…the day my Daddy died in 2006. Pancreatic cancer. I’ve written about it before. Today is the 14th anniversary of his passing. While it’s hard to believe it has been 14 years, it also feels like I haven’t seen his face or heard his laugh in forever.

For years, I could only remember him sick. Pancreatic cancer was a cruel disease for him. Frankly, it was cruel for me and the rest of the family too. I had never felt such emotional pain. I thought I would lose my mind with grief. Yes, the disease was terrible, but through those months from diagnosis to his passing, we managed to have some good times. We laughed…a lot. We cried a lot too. We spent a lot of time together. My husband and I moved our little family down to the Alabama Gulf Coast for months, to be closer to Mother and Daddy. We were lucky we had a condo on the bay near their house. Our daughter was about to turn three. It wasn’t easy to uproot the family. We had good support in Charlotte…great friends we had made over the course of our marriage. They called to check on us, and they mailed little treats to our daughter. I called them and cried regularly. We didn’t have a lot of support in Alabama, but I enrolled our daughter in a church preschool…they very graciously took her when they didn’t have to. And I did everything I could to keep my little family happy while trying to help my mother help my daddy. Daddy was so sweet throughout his illness. It was heartbreaking watching him get sicker and sicker…and that was all I could remember for a long time.

But now, I can remember him not sick. I can remember his laugh. I can remember his stories and his wordplay. I can remember watching Atlanta Braves baseball on WTBS with him. I can remember watching the Chicago Cubs on WGN and listening to Harry Caray with him. We loved the early days of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire…when Regis hosted. He was into all the same “useless knowledge” I’m into. I remember what a jokester he was. I remember how he carried me to the car when I had a stomach bug at 17…just picked me up like I weighed nothing and carried me to the car to take me to the doctor. I can remember how big his hands looked when I was a little girl. When he was dying, I kept looking at his hands…trying to etch them in my memory. I don’t know why that was so important, but for some reason it was. I think his hands represented his strength to me…his physical strength, but also his emotional strength. He was rock solid to us. He carried the burden of supporting our family, and he didn’t have a financial safety net in the form of parents who could help him in a financial emergency. He gave us that safety net, though.

My brother and I laughed just recently talking about how Daddy always made sure we were taken care of. He provided for us…everything we needed and most of what we wanted…throughout life. And here’s the funny thing…he’s still providing for us, in a way. Just recently, almost three years after my mother died, we discovered they had a life insurance policy he had set up many years ago. Today, on the fourteenth anniversary of Daddy’s passing, I deposited the check from that policy into a bank account, and afterward, I sat in the car and thought, “Wow. Fourteen years to the day after he died, and he’s still giving to us.”

Don’t get me wrong. Mother provided lots for us too…in a different way, but today is about remembering Daddy. I used to dread October 2 every year, because it meant heartache to me, but now I smile. I’m certainly not happy he’s gone, but when October 2 rolls around, I spend the day thinking about Daddy. I’ll look at the moon tonight and remember how he used to call me in Charlotte from his home in Alabama and tell me to go outside and look at the moon when it was particularly spectacular.

Just this weekend, when I was in a store with a friend, someone heard me call her “Miss Merry Sunshine” and asked if that was her name. I explained that I just call my friend that because she’s perpetually happy. And even that made me think of Daddy. When he was sick, I would take our toddler daughter over to visit, and he would sing Good Morning, Merry Sunshine any time she walked into the room. She loved it…and frankly, I did too. In one of his final days, I walked into the room with her, and he had a lot of morphine in his system…his speech wasn’t clear. His smile was clear, but his speech was garbled. He was “singing” but it wasn’t clear. I took that almost-three-yr-old little girl outside, and said, “I wonder what Big Ken was trying to say to you?” She looked up at me with a big smile and said, “Good morning, Merry Sunshine!” So yes, I thought of him this past weekend when the woman in the store thought my friend’s name was Merry Sunshine.

Now that little toddler girl is almost 17. In memory of Daddy, before she goes out with her friends tonight, I’ll take her hand and press a crisp $20 bill into it. He used to do that…give me “walking around money,” or WAM, as we started calling it when I was in college.

His passing was difficult. That’s not even a good word for it. It hit me hard. But it also taught me some coping skills…his final lesson to me.

Lots of good memories of Daddy. Thanks, October 2, for making me sit back and think about him. I still miss him, but I have wonderful memories of him.

My Favorite Athletic Shoes

My Favorite Athletic Shoes.

Let me start by saying that I haven’t always been one to spend a lot of time in athletic shoes. I normally wear them for the exercise of the day and ditch them afterward. For whatever the reason, I have never wanted to spend whole days in sneakers, or as we called them growing up, “tennis shoes.” Yes, growing up in Alabama, we never used the word “sneakers;” we just used “tennis shoes” instead. Unless shoes were specific to a sport (basketball shoes, cleats, etc), we just called everyday athletic shoes “tennis shoes.” I don’t know why.

My teenage daughter is into sneakers, though, and even wears them with dresses on a regular basis. And she looks cute! Because of that, I’ve noticed lots of adults doing the same, but I still couldn’t do it.

But recently, a friend posted on Facebook that she had bought the most comfortable sneakers she has ever owned. It was a brand I had considered purchasing before, but I had chosen to stick with what I know. Her post, though, made me rethink the brand, and I looked online, discovering that the company has a “try it for 30 days” policy.

The brand? ON brand athletic shoes. You can see their website here. They have a patented CloudTec technology that’s “engineered to deliver a soft landing followed by an explosive take-off.” I’m the first to admit that the sound of “soft landing” sounds great, but there will never be an explosive take-off in any shoes I’m wearing! That being said, I wanted to try them. I had nothing to lose, since they have that “try it for 30 days” policy. So I ordered two pairs after filling out their questionnaire that helped determine which of their shoes would be best for me.

The two I purchased? The Cloud and the Cloud X. My thought process? Use the Cloud for everyday wear and the Cloud X for exercise.

I received them within a few days and tried the Cloud first. I immediately took them out of the box and put them on to wear around the house, and I found them very comfortable. They’re lightweight, and they don’t slip. They offer good arch support, and their breathable and flexible. They’re cute too! Even my teenage daughter gave them a thumbs up! Soon after I put them on, my phone rang, and I did what I always do…I walked outside to walk laps around the pool while I talked. And the Clouds were awesome! A few days after that, I went to work as a substitute in the library at my daughter’s school, and I wore the Clouds. I’ve never been one to wear athletic shoes to “work,” but these are so cute and comfortable…I couldn’t resist! And I was glad I did. My feet still felt great at the end of the day.

I also wore the Cloud X sneakers when I went out for a walk, and again…I was thrilled with the comfort level! The Cloud X sneakers are built for more activity than the Clouds…they’re more durable, a little heavier (not much), and still offer great arch support. No surprise…I love the Cloud X sneakers too. I often have difficulty finding athletic shoes that don’t slip on my heels. If they don’t slip on my heels, they’re often too flat…I feel like I’m walking uphill in them. Or as I tell my husband, I feel like I have clown feet. But with the Cloud X, I didn’t feel like they were too flat, and they didn’t slip at all. Sold!

Surely, you can guess by now that I didn’t need to use their “try it for 30 days” offer. It hasn’t been 30 days since I got them, but I knew after just one day of wearing each pair that I didn’t need 30 days. Honestly, I will likely never purchase another brand. I love these shoes! In fact, I love them so much that I keep going back to the website to look at different colors. Yes, I love them that much. They offer so many different shoes…you need to check them out yourself: waterproof, hiking, trail running, everyday wear, and more.

If you’re looking for new athletic shoes, try On brand. With their “try it for 30 days” policy, what do you have to lose?

Your Daily Bright Boost

Your Daily Bright Boost

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…I love Hungry Girl. Need some easy cookbooks that offer swaps for higher calorie recipes? Turn to Hungry Girl. Need some fun low-cal cocktails? Hungry Girl! Want to try a beverage mix that was developed to offer nutrition and a morning (or anytime) pick-me-up with only 20 calories? Hungry Girl has that too! It’s called Hungry Girl Your Daily Bright Boost, and I love it!

I’m not one to try nutritional supplement fads. As soon as someone says “whey protein shake” to me, I run the other way. I don’t hang out at the local nutrition stores, looking for a miracle cure to growing old. But when Hungry Girl developed Your Daily Bright Boost with Eboost, I was game, because I know Lisa Lillien, the founder of the company, helped develop the product, and she isn’t going to put the Hungry Girl name on something she doesn’t believe in. In fact, I could hardly wait to try it! Hungry Girl has never steered me wrong, so I felt confident I would like it.

I ordered a box of 15 mix packets, and when it arrived, my teenage daughter and I each mixed a packet with water and added lots of ice. We sat down at our kitchen table and tried it together, and we both declared it delicious. A nutritional beverage that can please a teenage girl and her 53-year-old mother? Sold!

Hungry Girl Your Daily Bright Boost contains 15 vitamins and minerals, collagen peptides to improve skin appearance and nail growth, caffeine to put a little pep in your step…all for just 20 calories and mixed into a delicious citrus-flavored driving mix! And guess what else? It’s gluten-free, soy free, non-GMO, and sugar free!

There are lots of different ways to mix it. Sometimes, I stir the mix into 8-10 ounces of cold water and add lots of ice afterward…sometimes it’s cube ice, and sometimes it’s crushed ice. The crushed ice version feels a bit like a slushy to me, and I love it! Who wouldn’t enjoy and orangey-citrus slushee?

I have also been known to mix it with water/crushed ice and top it with whipped cream, which can sit on top or be stirred into the beverage to create a creamsicle flavor…refreshing in the morning or by the pool in the afternoon!

But here’s the great thing about it: it tastes great while delivering nutrition! Sometimes I drink it from a giant Tervis tumbler with a giant straw, and sometimes, I pour it into my Camelbak straw cup and take it with me. Sometimes I drink it in the morning, and sometimes, I sip it through the afternoon. When people ask me what I’m drinking, they actually get a little jealous when I describe the deliciousness…and nutritional qualities it offers…at just 20 calories.

Now that we’re heading into fall, I’ll continue enjoying my Hungry Girl Your Daily Bright Boost. The citrus flavor will make me feel like the best parts of summer are still here! If you’d like to order, click here. And if you’re not familiar with Lisa Lillien and her Hungry Girl brand, you should check out her website here. You can get great recipes and tips! You can also watch her live on Instagram at hungrygirl or on Facebook at Hungry Girl. She is adorable and funny…and I enjoy watching some of her recipe videos.

Try it! I’d love to hear what you think!

Who Wants A Jetpack for Christmas?

Who wants a jetpack for Christmas?

Yes, it’s a little early to be thinking about Christmas. However, I remember how I would start making my Christmas list for the next year as soon as it was over. I don’t do that now, but there are some things I’ve always wanted that were far out of reach. I’d love to hear other people’s wish lists.

-Jetpack. On the news recently, there was a story about two airline pilots reporting someone flying near them with a jetpack on their approach for landing at Los Angeles International Airport. I was intrigued. I have always wanted a jetpack…since seeing one in the opening credits of the short-lived 1970s Saturday morning live-action show called Ark II as a child. If you don’t remember the show, I’m not surprised. I have mentioned it to various people over the years, and not one other person has ever remembered it. It’s a Mad Max-type show that was aimed at kids during the CBS Saturday morning lineup, and I must have been the only kid who enjoyed it. (You can watch an episode on YouTube here.) But like I said, in the opening credits, there is a guy flying with a jetpack. In fact, the lead actor, who is the captain of the ark, is the guy who portrayed the original Jack Abbott on The Young and The Restless. His name was Terry Lester. Unfortunately, he died in 2003 from a heart attack at the age of 53. But back to Ark II. Yes, people can fly in jetpacks, but there aren’t that many of them out there, and according to a company in Australia, you can purchase them for $250,000. As unbelievable as it seems for people to be flying around today, imagine how unbelievable it was in 1976! I wanted one then (I was nine years old), and I still want one now. How incredible would it be to just put on a jetpack and go where you want to go? I could get errands done a lot faster! Or I could just fly over the city. I have regular dreams about that, but we won’t get into the Freudian meaning there. Years ago, my friend, Mary Ann, called me telling me her young son was trying to tell her what he wanted for Christmas, but she couldn’t understand him. He had endured lots of ear infections, so he didn’t always pronounce words clearly. I asked, “What is he saying?” She was standing beside him and asked him to tell me what he wanted. He said, “Et pat.” She put the phone back to her ear, and I said, “He wants a jet pack.” She turned to him and asked, “Are you saying you want a jet pack?” He got excited, because finally she got it! He is a teenager now and speaks as clearly as anyone else, but at the time, Mary Ann couldn’t believe I knew what he had said. “How did you get ‘jet pack’ from ‘et pat’?” I said, “Because I always wanted a jet pack when I was a kid too.” In fact, I still want one.

-Flying Car. You’re likely beginning to see a theme here, but my flying car is not like what you see on The Jetsons. Mine is more of a short-distance, low-flying car that can get over traffic. I’ve thought it all out when I’ve been behind a slow car in the passing lane (that’s the left lane, for those who don’t know it), wishing I could pull back on my steering wheel like an airplane throttle. I have actually thought this through. The flying cars wouldn’t be long distance flyers. The flying ability would be for only short distances, enabling the car to get over slower cars. In my mind, these flying cars would require operators to obtain a special license issued by the FAA. Part of the license testing, aside from normal operations, would include safety…knowing how to look for overpasses and power lines ahead. So, if you ever see me stuck behind a slow car in the left lane, you can know that, at that very moment, I am dreaming of my flying car. I don’t think Santa can help me with this.

Vaccine. Of course, I want a safe vaccine for this stupid coronavirus! I want us all to be able to resume life as we know it. I want to be able to hang out with friends. I want my daughter to be able to play sports. I want college students to be able to enjoy the college experience…going to classes instead of remote learning, going to football games, socializing. I’m thinking I should move “vaccine” to the top of my wish list. I actually created a meme about this a while back showing Cindy Brady from The Brady Bunch on Santa’s lap. Remember the episode? Carol Brady had laryngitis, but she was supposed to sing a solo at church on Christmas. Cindy was brokenhearted that her mother might now be able to sing and told Santa all she wanted for Christmas was for her mother to get her voice back. Long story short…it was a Christmas miracle! OK, so it wasn’t a miracle, but Carol’s voice returned in time for the solo, and Santa got all the credit. Maybe we should all take the time to go sit on Santa’s lap and ask for a vaccine?

Obviously, I’d love to have cures for lots of diseases. I’d love to have world peace. Those are obvious. I’m sure there are more things I’ve thought about over the years, but for today, they’ve slipped my mind. Maybe you have some of your own “interesting” things on your wish list?

If you’d like to see a cool “flying people” video, click here.