Who Told Me Who He Was?!?!

Last week, I posted a picture on my Facebook and Instagram accounts of me and NBA Hall of Famer, Dominique Wilkins. I ran into him at a restaurant in Uptown Charlotte when I was having lunch with a friend. Soon after posting the photo, I received a phone call.

It was my friend, Mary Ann.

  • Me: Hello?
  • Mary Ann: I saw that picture. Who told you who he was?
  • Me: What?!?!?!
  • Mary Ann: Who told you who that basketball player was?

And here’s where you hear that sound like brakes screeching. What?!?!?

Who told me who he was?!?!

Mary Ann should know better, but I guess she had a momentary lapse. She has been with me when I’ve spotted celebrities. She knows I have a keen eye. She knows I’m a crazy sports fan.

       Did she really think someone had to tell me who he was?!?!

My friend and I had just ordered our lunch when I saw a tall gentleman walked into the restaurant. I took one look at his face and said to my friend, “That’s Dominique Wilkins! He just walked in!”

Years ago, when I first got out of college, I was a flight attendant and lived in Atlanta. It was the late 80s/early 90s. Wilkins was a superstar for the Atlanta Hawks; he was a favored celebrity. Also known as The Human Highlight Reel, he was famous for good reason…highest scorer in NBA, slam dunk champ, All-Pro, and lots more…plus, he had played at the University of Georgia, so everyone in Atlanta loved him. He also owned a popular nightclub near my apartment, and folks were always talking about that. He was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 2006.

One morning, on an early flight out of Milwaukee, the Atlanta Hawks walked onto my flight. That team had lots of great players: Wilkins, Spud Webb, Moses Malone, John Koncak… and I was getting to spend a couple of hours with them! For the record, they were all very gracious…Moses Malone didn’t even flinch when I stepped on his foot, and when I apologized, he smiled and said, “No problem.”

So, of course I would recognize Dominique! Even almost 30 years later, when he was wearing a beanie to shield him from the cold, and glasses because we’re all 30 years older now, I recognized him immediately. I was going to wait a little while to approach him, but my friend pretty quickly asked him if we could get photos, and he very graciously agreed. I told him I had met him before, and I went through the story from almost 30 years ago. I also told him I remembered his nightclub, and he chuckled and said several times, “Now you’re taking me waaaay back!” He was one of the sweetest celebrities I’ve ever met (and I’ve met more than a few), and he even came by our table on his way out to tell us goodbye and wish us a good afternoon. I was so excited…still am!

Who told me who he was?!?! Oh, Mary AnnBahahahahahaha!

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Let’s Talk About Santa Claus

A friend recently posted on Facebook, “When is the right time to tell my kids about Santa?” She has two children under ten. Almost every person who responded said not to tell any child EVER that there is no Santa. Unless your child is about to be embarrassed by peers because he/she still believes in Santa, I agree.

What is more magical than waiting for Santa to arrive on Christmas Eve and then getting up to see what he left on Christmas Day?

Most kids figure it out before 10 or 11. I figured it out in 1976, at age 9, and though I thought I wanted to know, I really didn’t. Once the magic of Santa is gone, part of childhood is over. I know…Christmas isn’t all about the gifts, but kids sure like the gifts.

I remember sitting in my fourth grade classroom at Spanish Fort Elementary School, talking with friends about Santa. Most of us still believed Santa flew around the world in a magic sleigh with reindeer and went down every child’s chimney in one night. We were a sheltered bunch. Oh, I was a firm believer, but someone must have created some doubt along the way, because, well, just read on…

About a month before Christmas 1976, my mother couldn’t find her car keys. She was searching all over the house, and in desperation, she asked me to go out to the car and see if they were in the glove compartment. When I opened the glove compartment, of course, there were no keys, but I did find an address book and diary that would be perfect gifts for a girl my age. I didn’t take them inside and ask Mother about them. Instead, I left them where I found them…as a test. My thinking? If Mother and Daddy gave them to me for Christmas, then Santa was alive and well. BUT…If Santa brought them on Christmas Day, then I would know he wasn’t real. So, I left them and waited for Christmas.

I have a picture of me from that Christmas morning, sitting on the sofa in our den, wearing my yellow nightgown with the number 12 on the front (Joe Namath’s number) and looking less than thrilled. Oh, I was thrilled with my gifts…a 110 camera with plenty of film and flashcubes (remember those?), a telescope, Yahtzee, some 45 records (KC and the Sunshine Band, Rick Dees singing Disco Duck, The Eagles), some clothes, some books, and yes…the diary and address book. The magic was over. I knew Santa didn’t exist. My heart was broken. But I didn’t tell anyone. I just sucked it up and enjoyed the day, but Christmas morning was never the same.

But that brings us back to the original question: when is the right time to tell  kids about Santa Claus? Most people would say never, and I tend to agree. I never told my own daughter, but she figured it out eventually. When she was 10, she still believed. I remember, because she came down with the flu in the middle of the afternoon on Christmas Eve, and she was up sick all night. I had the hardest time figuring out when I would play Santa that night. Thank God I had wrapped all the gifts in advance. (She had asked Santa several years before to wrap her gifts instead of just leaving them out in the living room.) But by the next year, when she was  11, my daughter no longer believed in Santa Claus. She now tells me someone at school told her. And Christmas has never been as much fun.

But there is an exception to the “don’t tell” rule: your 13-yr-old child is about to do presentation to his 8th grade class about Santa Claus. You have to save him from himself. You have to tell him.

Finding out the truth about Santa can’t possibly be fun for any child. But there is something that’s more fun than believing in Santa: being Santa. Until I had a child, I had no idea that Christmas morning is a lot more fun as a parent than it ever was as a child. Sure, a lot of work goes into making it “perfect,” but seeing the excitement of Santa’s arrival on Christmas Eve and the pure joy on our daughter’s face on Christmas morning were better than I could have ever dreamed it would be. Even now, when I know she knows Santa isn’t “real,” it’s fun to see her excitement as she opens her gifts.

I will be playing Santa till I can’t play Santa anymore.

Same Gift, Different Year

Every year of her life, our 15-yr-old daughter has received a sled for Christmas. It’s a staple. It’s just part of Christmas at our house. Without a doubt, every year, she knows she will come downstairs on Christmas morning and find a sled. She has quite a collection now.

Did any member of your family receive a yearly  gift?

When I was growing up, we always knew, without a doubt, there would be an electric train for my brother under the tree on Christmas morning. And Santa never failed. There were countless trains, but the best ones were the ones with a fat power box with a switch that just made them go forward or backward, fast or slow.

For whatever reason, it was always the most popular gift in the family. What’s so entertaining about watching a train go in a circle? But there was something about it. I think we set up little people at different “stations” around the track and pretended we were picking up the people or cargo when we made stops.

While I don’t remember the all the details of how we played, I know we played with those trains a lot…on Christmas Day.

Usually, about halfway through the afternoon, we’d smell something burning. The first couple of years, we weren’t quick to identify it, but later, we knew right away…the control box was on its last leg. It was an electrical “fire” we were smelling…inside the overheated control box, and we knew the fun of the train was almost over. It usually happened when Daddy was playing with it, but he would never admit it. As adults, we laugh about how he enjoyed the train more than any of us.

Fortunately for our daughter, a sled doesn’t cause electrical fires. And most Christmas mornings in Charlotte, there’s no snow, so no one even touches the sled that day.

But when it finally snows, it’s always the most popular gift in the house!

Because my husband and I grew up in south Alabama, we didn’t have the opportunity to go sledding when we were growing up. In fact, when my family moved into one house, my brother and I found a couple of sleds that had been left by the previous owners. We had a big, tree-filled hill behind our house, and since we rarely had snow, we would go “leaf sledding.” We’d “sled” down that leaf-covered hill, dodging trees along the way. It was fun (and dangerous), but it wasn’t snow sledding.

Sure, you can visit ski resorts, but there is nothing as much fun as “home snow.” There’s nothing like racing down the neighborhood hills on sleds in the snow…with all the neighborhood kids. We know that now, because now that I live in North Carolina, we get to go sledding. We buy lots of junk food and hot chocolate mix beforehand, and we invite friends over…young and old…and we go sledding. Our daughter now has a big collection of sleds, so there are plenty to go around, but you know what happens…we all want to take a turn (or two) on the new sled.

Generally speaking, my husband stays out for about 15 minutes. I’ll stay out for an hour or two. Our daughter stays out all day with friends. She always knows our sledding time will be short, so she doesn’t mind letting us take the new sled for a trip or two down the hill.

This year, she’ll get another sled. It’s supposed to be even faster than the super-fast one she got last year, which was faster than the super-fast one she got the year before.

And we’ll wait for snow…

***If you’re interested in a toy train for someone in your family this year, Amazon has an assortment. You can shop here. I’m not in the market for one, but if I were, I’d probably purchase this one. They also have an assortment of sleds here.***

My Favorite Fun Things To Do At Christmas

Our daughter is a teenager now. No more trips to Southpark Mall for her to sit on Santa’s lap. Oh, that used to be one of the highlights of the season…and she did it 15 or 20 times a year.

She doesn’t want to hang out with us like she used to, and we’re cool with that. She’s growing up, and I’m glad she is becoming more independent every day. During the Christmas season, she’ll join me for a few fun Christmas things, but we used to do a lot when she was younger. Every city has its own places to visit, but here are my favorite fun things to do during the holidays that can be done anywhere:

  • Neighborhood Lights. Riding around looking at Christmas lights never gets old. Image-1Fortunately, our daughter will still do this with us. She will invite a few friends, and I’ll get a mom friend, and we will drive around looking at lights. Sometimes, we might even stop for the girls to “carol” at a friend’s house, which really means they want to visit with someone for a little while.
  • Host a Cookie Swap. This is something we haven’t done in years, but when we did it, it was fun. Maybe this year, my daughter and I will pick a weekend day to invite friends over and have an old-fashioned cookie swap. We’ll make a few dozen of our favorites and ask our friends to bring their favorites, and we’ll swap them out while we drink hot chocolate or coffee…or maybe champagne for the moms!photo-1510545724575-ca1a01b0cd1e.jpeg
  • Decorate the Tree. I know, lots of people hire folks to decorate their tree and do their outdoor lighting, and that’s great if that’s what you want to do. Not me. Part of the fun of the holiday is doing that stuff! Sure, it’s frustrating at times, but it helps with the spirit of the holiday. Often, teenagers think they’re too cool to help decorate the tree or help with outdoor decor. At our house, it will be a family event…again. Besides, the best memories are made when the tree isn’t perfect! I remember when our daughter was four, we let her hang the ornaments on the tree, and they were all on the bottom third of the tree. Good times!
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  • Christmas specials. Maybe I’m the only 51-yr-old mother who loves the old Christmas TV specials more than my child does. She cares nothing about watching the old animated shows I watched as a child, so I usually end up recording them and watching them by myself. My husband thinks I’m a nut, but it never really feels like the holiday season till I see some of my favorites: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming To Town, A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Little Drummer Boy, and The Year Without A Santa Claus. Those were the ones we could hardly wait to see every year when I was a little girl. We’d get an early bath and get into our pajamas. Mother would turn off all the lights in the den, and we’d lie in front of the TV, watching the special of the night.
  • Christmas Movies. When I was a teenager, I still looked forward to those specials, but I loved staying up late at night with Mother, watching classic holiday movies. Our favorites were Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Holiday Inn…all on TBS. One year, when It’s a Wonderful Life was on earlier in the evening, Daddy came in and wanted to watch something else on the television in the den. I pouted, but I went upstairs to finish watching my movie. He ended up coming upstairs and telling me we’d watch the movie in the den. He watched with me, and it became one of his favorite movies of all time. His other favorite Christmas movie? National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Daddy had a good sense of humor. I can remember his laugh like it was yesterday.
  • Bake, Bake, Bake! Every time I go into Target between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I pick up some baking supplies: sugar, flour, butter, Karo Syrup, or even just cookie or cake mix. I have some favorite things I like to bake for the holidays: Fudge Pecan Pie Bars, Cardamom Cookies, Sugar Cookies, Buttermilk Pie, and Beer Bread! Maybe I can get my daughter to stay home long enough one weekend afternoon to do some baking with me. I’ll share some recipes soon too!
  • Knitting. In Charlotte, December is when it starts to get a little cold, which puts me in the mood to do some knitting, and this year is no exception. I’m dragging out the yarn and knitting needles, getting ready to make a new snow beanie for my husband. He has one I made last year, and surprisingly, he loves it. He actually  requested another one. It’s very relaxing for me to knit, and it’s great to know he likes what I made him.
  • Visit Local Holiday Sites. Every city has different things to enjoy during the holidays, and every year, something is added. I love to get online and search for holiday fun in Charlotte every year. Maybe it’s a tree lighting or candlelight tour of a local attraction. There are so many fun things in Charlotte around the holidays. Lots of them are listed here. Our favorites are Winterfest at Carowinds; Christmas at the Library, Billy Graham Library, click here; Christmas in the Gardens at Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens; Gingerbread Lane, Holiday Tea, Hot Chocolate and Toddies, and more at Ballantyne Hotel…see their events here; Charlotte Christmas Village (click here), and the drive-thru Nativity at Carmel Presbyterian Church located at the corner of Carmel Road and Sharonview Road (click here).

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    Live Nativity at Billy Graham Library

Now, I’m getting my calendar out to schedule everything we can possibly do between now and Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rudolph Made Me Cry

Last week, I had planned to watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with my teenage daughter. It didn’t work out. I don’t remember what we did instead…maybe I took her to a high school basketball game? Instead, I recorded it on the DVR, and I had not had the opportunity to watch it till this morning.

I was home alone. My husband had dropped off our daughter at club lacrosse tryouts before going to the gym, so I sat in my warm bed on a rainy morning and watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I even turned off all the lights in my room to create some darkness (it was cloudy outside too!), so I could watch it the way we watched it when we were kids. Back then, in the 1970s, we would lie on the floor in front of the big, console Zenith television…not too close, because well, we had been told we might start to glow in the dark if we sat too close to the TV. Mother and Daddy turned off all the lights in the family den, and we watched Rudolph in our pajamas.

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And for about an hour this morning, I was five years old again. Every character brought back memories…Rudolph, Clarice, Hermey, Burl Ives, the Abominable Snowman…ahhh…the good old days. Remember the days before VCRs and DVRs? We had to watch the Christmas specials when they came on once a year, or we had to wait till the next year. Remember looking forward to all your favorite Christmas specials?

Oh, I had favorites, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer being at or near the top of the list. I also loved Frosty the Snowman, The Year Without a Santa Claus, and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. As a teen, I fell in love with classic movies: Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Holiday Inn, and I would stay up late at night, watching them with my mother, because for some reason, TBS always ran those movies late at night.

As for watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as an adult…I don’t care what they say…for one hour, I was a little girl again…right up till the end, when Santa and the reindeer land on the Island of Misfit Toys.

As soon as Santa and the reindeer, led by Rudolph, landed on the Island of Misfit Toys on Christmas Eve to pick up the misfits, I cried. I will admit it. I cried. I cried, because I remembered exactly how magical it was to watch it when I was five. I remembered how exciting it was to see Rudolph, having been banished from the reindeer games, leading Santa’s sleigh through the fog….landing safely to pick up the Misfit Toys. And then the beautiful take-off! Wow! Rudolph had overcome adversity, and back in the day, every kid in the Eastern and Central time zones cheered him on simultaneously. We were all excited that Rudolph had saved Christmas!

And we were believing that Santa really did visit every household in the whole world in one night. After all, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, NORAD, an “official government agency,” tracked the sleigh’s whereabouts, reporting to local television and radio stations, who then passed on the information to all the children who were having trouble falling asleep. That was proof that Santa existed!

As kids, we all wondered what Santa’s take-offs and landings looked like, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer showed us how spectacular they were! As I watched this morning, I remembered, and so yes, I cried. As we get older, life loses some of the “magic,” but don’t let anyone tell you it’s not possible to feel it again for a little while. Don’t believe me? Sit down in a quiet, dark room, and watch it. You’ll see…

You know Dasher and Dancer, and Prancer and Vixen…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Let’s Get This Christmas Started!

As I drove home from a friend’s house last night, I realized lots of folks in Charlotte have decorated their homes and lawns for Christmas. I’m behind the curve. I haven’t done a single thing to decorate for Christmas. It’s only December 1, so I’m impressed at how many people are on the ball. But it made me wonder:

When is the perfect time to decorate for Christmas?

I guess that depends on who you ask. I have one friend who was ready to put up her tree as soon as Halloween was over. But I have others who haven’t removed the jack-o-lanterns from their porches yet.

I’m neither of those people. In fact, I don’t even do anything for Halloween. It’s just not my thing, but at least I didn’t have to figure out what to do with a bunch of rotting pumpkins.

I would never decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving, but the weather hasn’t been particularly cooperative since. I had hoped this would be the weekend I’d get off my duff and get things decorated, but it’s raining, so no outdoor decor yet. The very least I can do is bring down the big fake poinsettia for the table in the foyer and put our leg lamp in the dining room window. We will likely get the tree up before Monday too. One can dream.

We don’t do a lot of outdoor decor, but we will eventually (as soon as the rain stops) do some lights on the trees closest to the house. Lots of people hire someone to do it, but where’s the fun in that?!?! It’s not Christmas decor till you’ve had to re-wrap a tree a few times and get into a “discussion” with family members about the extension cords.

Since our daughter was a little girl, I’ve tortured my husband by putting various lighted Christmas animals on the front porch and occasionally, in the yard. If I can find my Christmas pig, we’ll put it out for good luck. We have an elephant we’ll put out too…for the Alabama Crimson Tide. And two cardinals. In my family, when a cardinal “visits” you, it symbolizes a “visit” from a deceased loved one. My daddy died twelve years ago, and this will be our first Christmas without Mother. She died on December 30 of last year. So, when I was in Target and saw some cardinals that are lawn decor, I scooped up two of them for the front porch steps. Every time I see them over the holidays, I’ll think of Mother and Daddy.

We have other yard decor. I’ll have to decide which pieces to put out. I’m sure the neighborhood frowns on our decor every year. Oh well! We have some inflatables, and we have something from my childhood: remember those plastic Noel candles everyone had in the 70s? Well, we have some just like the ones we had when I was a little girl. I didn’t get them out last year, but I might drag them out this year.

My husband, as sweet as he is, will reluctantly help me whenever I ask. I’ll do as much as possible by myself or with our daughter, but if there’s something I can’t reach, we’ll summon him to help us. He’ll grumble a little. He’ll act like we’ve put the lights on the outdoor trees wrong. He’ll act like he hates the outdoor decor, but he’ll help us.

And every night till Christmas, he’ll plug in all the lights and decorations. He’ll still act like he doesn’t really like them, but he won’t miss one single night of plugging them in.

So, while lots of folks believe Christmas decor goes up the day after Thanksgiving (and some before that!), our tradition is this: we put up the Christmas decor when we get ready to do it. We don’t have a designated day. And really, I don’t like it all up too early, because frankly, I don’t want to get tired of looking at it before Christmas.

I’m on my way to the storage room now…

 

 

 

 

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My Favorite Holiday Parties

December is rapidly approaching, and with it, holiday parties! I love when folks get creative with parties, so I’m going to share some of the best party ideas/themes I’ve come across over the years. I love holiday fun!

  • Holiday Cookie Swap. This one is old school, and almost everyone has heard of it, but because it’s fun, I’m starting with it. If you aren’t familiar with it, it works like this: Plan to have between eight and sixteen guests, and ask them to bring three dozen of their favorite homemade cookies on a platter. Serve finger foods and beverages of your choice. After visiting for a while, have everyone two or three of each type of cookie and put them on paper plates (divided by you), because their platters will be on the table till they are ready to leave. So easy and so fun, and everyone gets to take home lots of cookies! I also think it’s fun to have prize drawing for small prizes like fun cocktail napkins or tea towels. See some at Swoozie’s here.
  • Ornament Exchange. A fun, holiday-themed party, this one is super easy too. Have guests bring wrapped ornaments to put under the tree when they arrive. Serve finger foods and beverages, and maybe play a game like “Who’s Most Likely To…” if everyone knows each other. Have guests draw numbers from a hat, and whoever gets number one starts picking an ornament to take home. Remember, they’re wrapped, so they can’t see the ornament they’re getting till everyone picks one, and they are unwrapped! Anthropologie has some cute ornaments. Shop them here.

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  • My Favorites Party. A friend told me about this recently. Everyone brings a gift valued at $25 or less. One of their favorite things, and it can be anything…soap, candle, earbuds, beanie…anything you like. Again, it needs to be wrapped. It works the same way as the Ornament Exchange by drawing numbers to decide the picking order. Serve finger foods and beverages. As a host, I would want to have four or five of my own favorite things to give away in a prize drawing.
  • Gingerbread House Party. It sounds like something kids do, but moms can build them too! It’s OK to use the pre-fab kits or put the houses together before the guests arrive. That way everyone just does the fun part…decorating the houses! Of course, serve finger foods and beverages. At the end of the night, the guests take home their creations! You can purchase pre-fab kits for $9.99 each from Target here.

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  • Christmas Show PJ Party. I don’t know about your kids, but my daughter doesn’t enjoy the Christmas shows I watched when I was a little girl. My friends do, though! For this party, invite friends to show up in their pajamas and watch shows you’ve downloaded on your DVR or something from Amazon Prime. It can be a few old shows like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and Santa Claus is Coming to Town, or maybe a Christmas movie you love like Miracle on 34th Street. Serve popcorn and candy and fun beverages! It’s a great thing to do with good friends.

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Maybe you have some other ideas! If so, please share them! I’m always looking for something fun to do during the holidays!

 

 

 

 

 

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