A Conversation

A conversation.

I checked my Facebook memories this morning, and found a memory from this day in 2015. It started with my post that said, “Hoping all my friends in the northeast are staying warm and are ready for the big storm! Wendy, what say you? Are you wishing you lived in Charlotte right now?” (My friend, Wendy, lived in Boston at the time.) And then, Wendy, to my surprise, responded! (She wasn’t always the best about responding, but I didn’t hold it against her!)

  • Wendy: Um, that would be a hell yes!
  • Me: Ahhh…you thawed out enough to comment, Wendy! As soon as I saw how bad it was going to be, I immediately thought of how much you would like to be here [Charlotte] right now! We miss you!
  • Wendy: And actually, I’ve been thinking about how much you would love to be here too! I keep telling our Charlotte snow stories and laughing in comparison. Thinking about how much our kids would’ve loved to enjoy the blizzard together…who would’ve thought I’d see a blizzard again in my lifetime…Miss you too Laverne!

Seeing that exchange made me so happy. I can’t wipe the smile off my face! Sadly, Wendy passed away 3 1/2 years ago after a 30-year battle with various cancers. I miss her, but that little Facebook exchange brought me some joy! I could almost hear her talking. I feel like it’s a transcript of a conversation! It’s different than finding a card from someone, which is one-sided. This is an actual exchange! And it’s a gift. I think of Wendy all the time, but she has really been on my mind for the past few days for some reason. I dreamed of her two nights ago. I wish I had written the dream down, because I can’t remember details of it. I just know that we were going somewhere together in the dream…and it went on and on. I even woke up wishing I’d stayed asleep, so I could keep visiting with her.

I’m sure we were calling each other Laverne and Shirley in my dream. I became Laverne after we took our kids to bike the Virginia Creeper Trail years ago. If you’re not familiar with it, the Virginia Creeper Trail is a 17-mile bike trail down a mountain. The whole trip was a comedy of errors…to the point that we were convinced we were being featured on some sort of secret survival TV show. Early in the bike ride, Wendy had declared herself as Laverne. But after a mile or two on the trail, the chain came off her bike, and she didn’t know what to do. I stopped and said, “Get off the bike. I got this.” I put the chain back on the bike, and then I stood up, and while I wiped my hands, I looked at Wendy and asked, “Now…who’s Laverne?” She laughed and said, “You are!” I said, “Of course I am. Thanks, Shirley!” (Neither of us wanted to be the prudish Shirley from Laverne and Shirley. Everyone knows Laverne was the cool one.)

We both proved to be pretty tough that day, though. We had made a bad decision when we decided to ride the trail in February. It was still too early in the year; in fact, the bike shop owner said it was the first time he had taken anyone up the mountain that year. (There are bike rental shops at the bottom of the mountain that take you to the top with the bikes.) We should have known then. The chain coming off the bike was minor compared to what we endured later. Once we got a few miles down the mountain, out of cell phone coverage, we encountered snow…probably a mile of it. We weren’t dressed for snow. We had three kids with us… and bikes! We would carry the kids a few hundred yards ahead, and then one of us would go back and get the bikes while one of us stayed with the kids. We repeated that till we got to the end of the snow, but our clothes were soaked through and cold! Our kids’ were freezing, so Wendy and I took off our socks and put them on our kids. In fact, I feel pretty sure we gave them our jackets, hats, and gloves too….doubling their coverage…and leaving us with one layer of clothing. Fortunately, through the misery, we were able to laugh about it a few times, asking each other, “Where are the cameras?!?! There must be cameras filming this fiasco! Are we being Punk’d?!?!” (Punk’d was a TV show featuring Ashton Kutcher playing pranks on celebrities.) But there were no cameras. We did make it to the end of the trail safely, and we enjoyed some hot coffee and hot cocoa and some lunch at a restaurant nearby before making our way home to Charlotte.

I sure wish she were here to laugh over a hot cup of coffee now. I’d even be willing to ride the Virginia Creeper Trail in the snow again if she could come back to go with me.

Midnight Sledding

Midnight sledding.

It started snowing at our house in Charlotte, NC, yesterday at about 6pm. We were expecting a few flurries and nothing more. Even flurries are pretty to a girl from Alabama (me), so I enjoyed watching them from the warmth of our home, and eventually, I realized we were getting more snow than had been forecast.

Our daughter had a friend sleeping over, but they had gone to another friend’s house a few miles away in another friend’s car. At about 11:30pm, my daughter texted me, “Can you come pick us up?” I responded, “On our way.” My husband and I got into this Jeep, and once we were on the road, we realized how fortunate we are to have a Jeep with 4-wheel-drive, so even driving on slippery roads wasn’t difficult. (Don’t make fun, Northerners. The city did not prepare the roads in advance, it appeared. I’ve read about schools closing up north because it was too hot to go to school at 85 degrees. I went to school in 100 degree temperatures growing up on the gulf coast, and we didn’t have A/C in schools then.) We saw a few accidents along the way. One car had slid into the back of another. Another car had slid into a light pole. But fortunately, we were fine.

We delivered our daughter and her friend safely back to our house, and as soon as we got home, we all ran inside to put on snow gear, so we could go sledding! Yes, it was midnight, but that just made it more fun! After putting on warm clothes, coats, gloves, and hats for the snow, we all met in the garage and grabbed sleds. Fortunately, our daughter gets a new sled from Santa every Christmas, so we have a collection from which to choose!

I’m sure our neighbors thought we were crazy, but we didn’t care. They might have even been disturbed by our laughter, but we didn’t care. I could hear one neighbor shoveling snow while we were sledding (yes, shoveling in the middle of the night), and I just felt sorry for him. He was missing out. We just wanted to have some fun, and we did!

My husband and I started the fun by taking a sled run down the big hill on our street. The snow wasn’t packed, so it wasn’t as fast as it usually is, but it was still fun…and funny. Then our daughter and her friend started sledding down another smaller, but steep, hill next to the lake. They laughed, and we laughed. Between sled runs, we threw snow balls and took photos. My husband was wearing a Santa hat for warmth, which made the pictures even more festive.

We had lots of fun. We laughed. We sledded. But mostly, we made midnight sledding memories. We don’t have snow every winter in Charlotte, but when we do, we try to take advantage of the opportunity. Over the years, we have made some great memories with great friends. In fact, a friend who now lives in Boston saw my new photos on Instagram and commented, “Brings back fun memories.” And that made me smile. So yes, we made more fun memories last night too. Our daughter is 18 (so hard to believe) and will be heading off to college in Alabama in August. She won’t be here in Charlotte during January and February anymore, so we likely won’t get to sled with her next winter. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to go midnight sledding last night.

And today, we’ll do a little more sledding. It’s going to melt pretty quickly, so we will have to take advantage of it early. We’ll make a couple of runs down the big hill before going over to the adjacent golf course. I won’t stay long…one or two quick passes down the hill…but we will make good memories. And we will laugh. Our daughter will likely stay a little longer, and then everything will melt, and we will go back to business as usual.

But years from now, if our daughter has her own child(ren), I hope she will tell stories about midnight sledding with us. Last night, she said of me and my husband, “Y’all are both just five years old at heart. Most parents are just getting old.” She probably doesn’t even remember saying it, but I remember it; I took it as a high compliment.

I hope it snows again soon, so we can go midnight sledding again!

Fish or Cut Bait?

Fish or Cut Bait?

Recently, I discovered that an organization I have been associated with for a number of years has changed its mission and its financial objectives. I can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened, but it seems small changes were made over time. Each change was so small that I didn’t really notice till it was glaring in my face. And not only is it glowing in my face, but the same organization suddenly asks for money way more often than they used to. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about supporting an organization that has a mission with which I agree. But when I no longer agree? What do I do? How do I know when to do it? What do I do when I no longer agree with how the money is being spent?

If you’ve never heard the phrase “fish or cut bait,” it’s a saying that means “proceed with an activity or disengage.” It can be used in business…maybe in sales, you have a customer who is taking up a lot of your time and energy in trying to make a sale, and that energy/time might be better spent elsewhere. You have to decide if you’re going to “fish or cut bait,” meaning you have to decide if you are going to continue to pursue the sale or walk away and look for other sales that might have faster, more positive results. In a personal context, if you’re dating someone, there might come a time in the relationship that you have to decide it you want to stick with the person long-term or walk away from the relationship. Kind of like “should I stay or should I go.”

And that’s how I feel about this organization. I’m trying to decide if it’s worth more investment of my time and money, or if I should just walk away, since I no longer agree with the way the administrators are running the show. It’s heartbreaking, because I believed in this cause wholeheartedly…till I didn’t. After all, there are lots of other organizations that I actually agree with, and they would love to receive my charitable donations. I know that any funds I’ve been funneling toward this organization would be welcomed at my college alma mater, my sorority, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, or Ronald McDonald House…and I agree with their purposes, their missions, and their spending. But it’s not that easy. I’m personally invested with this particular group, and that’s what makes it difficult. It’s like a marriage almost…you become so invested…and if your spouse slowly changes his/her beliefs about everything you’ve ever agreed upon, how do you know if/when to file for divorce?

No, I’m not filing for divorce…don’t go starting that rumor.

Here is what I finally had to do to come to a decision: I had to sit down and make a list of the things that have changed. I had to sit down and make a list of things I continue to believe in about the organization after all these changes. And after doing that, I could see clearly that there is very little about this organization I agree with in 2022. Because of that, I have chosen to “cut bait.” My charitable dollars and my volunteer time will be redirected elsewhere. Will it make or break the organization? No. They will notice that I’m no longer volunteering for the cause, but they likely won’t even notice I’m no longer contributing money, and that’s OK. I will notice. I will know I am no longer contributing to an organization whose ideals do not align with my own. I will no longer contribute to an organization that, in my view, is no longer being a good steward of the dollars I contribute. I’m not going to start a battle. I’m not going to continue to “fish,” because when I have tried to express my views, they went unheard.

I won’t go out and say ugly things about the organization. I will let their actions speak for themselves. I won’t try to damage their reputation. What they are doing might even be popular; it’s just not popular with me.

And you know what? It feels good. It feels good to know I stand for something. As my daddy used to say, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” The quote doesn’t actually belong to him. Alexander Hamilton gets the credit for the origin of that saying. But it’s true. Even by simply changing the direction of my philanthropy, I’m standing up for something.

It’s likely we have all found ourselves affiliated with groups whose ideals we ultimately questioned. I know friends who have lost faith in their employers, their churches, their schools, and charities. Several years ago, our city’s largest charitable organization was involved in a spending scandal and lots of people stopped volunteering and contributing. It happens.

In this situation, I chose to “cut bait,” and it feels good to channel the support elsewhere…to organizations that have ideals in line with my own.

***When becoming involved with a non-profit, it’s a good idea to find out how much of the money you donate is going to administrative costs and how much is actually being used for the mission. Charity Watch is a good place to check. You can see their website here. At the website, enter the name of the nonprofit, and you will see their grade and how they spend.***

Lessons from Avocado Toast

Lessons from avocado toast.

We love avocado toast.

For the past few years, we have loved avocado toast at our house.

There are lots of different ways to make it. Some people add a fried egg on top. Some people like tomatoes. Others like to add onions, seeds, nuts, mushrooms, mayo, or cheese…or Sriracha sauce! All that sounds yummy, but that’s not how we make it.

A few years ago, we were dining at a favorite diner in the Los Angeles area, having our daily avocado toast for breakfast, and we finally had the bright idea to ask for their recipe. Surprisingly, they shared it without hesitation! And the rest is history. We have been using their recipe for the past few years. (See the recipe at the end of the post.) I say “we,” but just recently, I realized I have been the one making it. No one else in my house makes it. I do. My 18-year-old daughter eats it, but I make it.

I came to that realization when I walked into the kitchen one afternoon last week and found a mangled lemon on a plate. There were smears of avocado on a towel, and in the sink, I saw the remains of the avocado toast she had made for herself and some friends. I laughed, because it was at that moment that I realized I needed to teach her how to get juice from a lemon without mangling it.

So the next day, I asked her to come down and have some avocado toast with me, and when she got to the kitchen, I showed her how to juice a lemon. I showed her how to roll it on the cutting board to soften it, so it will release the juice more easily. And then I showed her where to cut it (or poke it with a skewer/ice pick) on the non-stem end to get the juice easily without the seeds. She thought I was a genius. I’m not. My mother had to show me how to do it years ago.

Fortunately, she knew how to do the rest of it. She knows how to cut an avocado, mash it, and spread it on the toasted sourdough bread (our bread of choice). She knows how to drizzle the olive oil and spread it evenly. She knows to use the coarse salt and add red pepper flakes (or crushed red pepper) to the top of the mashed avocado. She even knows not to touch her eyes after handling the red pepper flakes. And then…the lemon juice…the seedless lemon juice from a not-mangled lemon…she knows the perfect amount to add to enhance the flavor of her favorite avocado toast.

It was a bonding experience, for sure. It’s the little things like that she will remember forever. The next time she needs to get the juice from a lemon, she will remember exactly how to do it without mangling the lemon. And one day, when she has to show someone else how to do it, she will remember that I showed her how to do it. She will pay it forward…a lesson passed on.

But it has me wondering what other lessons I have forgotten to teach her along the way. She leaves for college in August. She’ll definitely need to know how to juice a lemon, but there are so many other things she needs to know, and I just pray I have remembered most of them. Thinking about it has been driving me crazy, so I’m actually compiling a list of little things I know I need to teach her and wisdom I need to impart on her before she leaves.

I’ll be sharing that list soon, but for now, I’ll just enjoy another serving of avocado toast.

***RECIPE FOR AVOCADO TOAST***

Ingredients: two freshly toasted sourdough bread slices, one avocado, olive oil, coarse salt, red pepper flakes (or crushed red pepper), one lemon or lemon juice.

Cut and mash the avocado before spreading it on the toasted sourdough bread. Drizzle with olive oil and spread the olive oil evenly. Sprinkle with coarse salt and red pepper flakes (or crushed red pepper) to taste. Drizzle lemon juice to taste. Enjoy!

Snow in the South!

Snow in the south!

I received a notification that snow might be in the forecast for Charlotte next weekend. And when I say “snow,” I don’t mean flurries like we’ve had a couple of times this winter. I mean real snow might be headed our way. Some folks speculate it’s just the dairy farmers putting out false info, because they know southerners will rush to the grocery store and buy milk and bread before the storm arrives. I choose to think…to hope, even…that it will happen.

If you grew up in the northern United States, snow is no big deal to you. In fact, it’s likely more of an annoyance to you. You don’t remember your first snow, because it was there every winter…year after year.

I remember my first snow.

The year was 1973, and I lived in Brewton, Alabama. I was five. Back then, we didn’t have 24-hour news. Kids didn’t have as much access to constant news, and in some ways, that was a good thing. We weren’t afraid of our shadows like so many people are today. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. And I went to bed February 8, 1973, completely unaware of the possibility of snow. I’m sure my parents watched the 10:00 news that night and likely had some idea of what was about to happen, but I knew nothing. I had never seen snow, and it would never have occurred to me that it would snow in Brewton.

On the morning of February 9, 1973, my mother came into my room and woke me up, telling me, “Get up and look out the window!” I had no idea why I was looking out the window….a new puppy? friends were visiting? what could it be? And much to my surprise, the ground was covered in glorious snow! I can still remember the excitement I felt. It was possibly the most excitement I had ever felt up to that point in my life!  We could hardly wait to get outside!

But here’s the real shocker: when all was said and done, we had about six inches of snow on the ground in Brewton, Alabama! If you don’t know, Brewton is located in southern Alabama, near the Florida line. Aside from that time, I don’t know that Brewton has ever had so much snow. Any amount of snow is rare there. That snowstorm came to be called The Great Southeastern Snowstorm of 1973! You can read about it here and here.

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A childhood friend, Cindy Finlay, in the snow in Brewton, Alabama, 1973

We didn’t own sleds. We didn’t own snow boots. We didn’t own winter gloves. We didn’t own those things, because we had never needed them! But that didn’t deter us. Fortunately, we did have winter coats, so underneath them, we layered on our warmest clothes and doubled up our socks before pulling on our sneakers. We pulled two socks onto each hand, and off we went…into the wild white yonder! Y’all, no one was ever more excited to see snow than I was on that February day!

It seems like we played all day. We built a snowman. We made snow angels. We threw snowballs at each other. We ran through the snow a lot. Our noses ran. Our faces stung. Our hands and feet hurt. But we had the best time ever.

When we realized our hands and feet were numb, we would go inside and take off our shoes and socks (the ones on our hands and feet) and place them in front of the space heater in the den, so they would warm up and dry. Mother would put some of the layers of clothing in the dryer, and after a cup of hot cocoa, we would pull on all those layers and those warm sneakers and go back out to play. At some point, one of us placed our sneakers a little too close to the space heater and melted the rubber sole of the shoes…an interesting odor.

I don’t have any pictures from that day, but I have pictures in my mind. Cameras weren’t everywhere like they are these days. It seems like we might have posed for a photo or two, and maybe one day, I’ll find photos in a box I brought back from Mother’s house. But for now, I can only imagine how comical we must have looked in those layers of clothes with socks on our hands. One thing I know for sure is that all the kids in our neighborhood (and the whole town) were thrilled! The Great Southeastern Snowstorm of 1973 created some great memories for us!

As an adult, I moved to Charlotte, but when I moved here at age 33, I had never gone sledding. The first winter I lived here, though, I finally got to go sledding with the neighborhood kids. And after our daughter was born, it snowed a lot the winter after she was born (2004), but we didn’t have another good snow for a few years.

When she was in 4-yr-old preschool, her teacher, Mrs. Sadow, told her that if she wanted it to snow, she needed to sleep with her pajamas inside out, put a spoon under her pillow, and flush ice cubes (or ice cream) down the toilet. We usually save those rituals for the night before snow is predicted to arrive, so if snow is in the forecast later in the week, you can bet your sweet bippy we will practice all those rituals the night before it’s supposed to arrive!

We are prepared for it now. Living in North Carolina, snow happens a little more often than it does in Brewton, Alabama, so we have snow boots, parkas, gloves, hats and most importantly, sleds!

Nobody loves a snow day like a southerner loves a snow day!

Ten-Year Challenge

Ten-year challenge.

Anyone who is on Facebook has seen the posts over the last few days with this hashtag: #tenyearchallenge. I don’t know where it started, but I’ve seen a lot of posts. If you’re not familiar with it, the “challenge” is to post a photo of yourself from 10 years ago next to a current photo. Yes, I finally gave in and did it too…posting a photo of me and my friend, Angela, from 10 years ago (at a New Orleans Saints/Detroit Lions playoff game) and a current photo of us at a Bama/New Mexico State game in November.

It was a little daunting to consider taking the “challenge.” Just recently, I was talking with some friends about how we feel like time is catching up with us in the last five or ten years. I can certainly look in the mirror and see more lines on my face and more lumps on my body. I got a good laugh out of it with my friends, but come on…we’re 54. It’s OK to start feeling some aging when we’re 54! My gosh! I’ve earned these wrinkles and lumps! I’ve especially earned every laugh line on my face…and that’s mostly what they are…laugh lines, because I spend a lot of time laughing. If I’m not laughing, I’m not doing something right.

But as we discussed our “aging,” I reminded my friends and myself of some things. First, there’s the obvious: wrinkles and lumps are better than “the alternative.” After all, we are still here, and we have some friends who are not. I know my friend, Wendy, who died before her 47th birthday and should have turned 50 this year, would love to be here laughing with me. Every time someone complains about turning 50, I remind them that my Wendy would have loved to make it to 50. And every single day, I find something we would have laughed about, or there’s something I would have liked to share with her. That puts things in perspective. She left behind two kids who were 14 and 12 at the time she passed away in 2018. They would have loved to have her for another 10 years.

And secondly: we’re supposed to age. We are not supposed to look the same at 54 as we did at 44 or 34 or 24. My daughter is 18, and she is living proof of the difference ten years can make. Just think about how much she has grown between the ages of eight and eighteen! Why do we think time should stand still for us, as adults, when we can look at what time does for the growth of kids? And why can’t we look at our “aging” as continued “growth”? At what point do we stop looking at it as growth? If I know one thing, I know I’m still growing. Yes, I’m growing a little older, but I’m also growing in wisdom…and I know that to be true. I know that, at 54, I understand some things I used to think were so important just aren’t that important in the overall scheme of things. In fact, I feel like I learn something new every day. In my opinion, if I’m still learning, I’m still growing.

Too bad the #tenyearchallenge can’t show the compilation of memories we have from the last ten years. It can’t show the skills we have picked up along the way. Those photos don’t show the experience that I can bring to different situations. And it can’t show how much more wisdom we have than we had ten years ago. Ten years ago, our daughter was in second grade, and I thought everything about second grade was important. It wasn’t. I’m here to tell you…it wasn’t. If you have a second grader, take note: lots of what you think is important just isn’t. The most important part of second grade? Social learning. If I had known what I know now, I wouldn’t have cared about her “reading record.” I wouldn’t have tortured her by forcing her to do her “required summer reading” in elementary school. Because that’s what it was…torture. I’d have sent her off to the first day of school with that brand new, unread book in her backpack, and I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. Instead, I let the “required summer reading” ruin the last few days of summer…time we should have been enjoying together. I also wouldn’t have made her go on field trips she didn’t want to go on…even in middle school. And you know why? Because I’m wise enough to know now that none of that really matters. At 54, I also have the wisdom to know I should be doing the things I want to do instead of what other people want me to do. I should be planning vacations to Panama, Costa Rica, and Mexico City. I should be planning a road trip on Route 66. I should be visiting airplane graveyards in the desert. And I plan to take some of those trips this year, providing COVID doesn’t mess everything up. At 54, I know life is short…live it.

Sure, I likely had some of that knowledge ten years ago, but I know I didn’t have all that knowledge. I’m much wiser at 54 than I was at 44. Just ask me.

Some folks call it aging. I call it growth.

Being the Ricardos

Being the Ricardos.

It’s rare that I sit down and actually watch a movie or series. I’m that person who, more often than not, watches the first episode of a series on Amazon or Netflix and never goes back for the second episode. If a show doesn’t hook me early, I’m out. I’ve written before about The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime, Modern Love on Amazon Prime, The Undoing on HBO, and Mad Men (I watched this on Amazon Prime long after it was broadcast)…all series that I completed. Oh, Succession on HBO is another one. But there aren’t many recent shows or movies that fall into that category of shows I’d spent time watching.

Enter Being the Ricardos, a movie on Amazon Prime. It stars Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball and Javier Bardem as Desi Arnaz. Before watching, I wondered if I would believe Kidman and Javier as these two icons, but I need not have wondered.

Wow.

I Love Lucy. Yes, just like the rest of America, I love Lucy. I even loved every incarnation of television shows starring Lucille Ball. Being the Ricardos is a biopic about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, and I love it. After hearing about and reading outstanding reviews of it repeatedly, I finally sat down last night to watch it. I had read that Lucie Arnaz, their daughter, had given it two thumbs up as a pretty accurate portrayal of her parents, so that piqued my interest. I didn’t get to watch it one sitting, because of household distractions, because I have a husband, a teenage daughter, and three dogs… but wow…what a film.

Most people in my generation and my parents’ generation feel like we knew Lucy and Desi. I wasn’t alive when I Love Lucy originally ran, but I feel pretty sure I’ve seen almost every episode in syndication…a concept that was invented by Desilu Productions, the production company founded and co-owned by Lucy and Desi, in fact. But I feel like I knew Lucy and Desi. I knew he was a womanizer. I’ve toured Paramount Studios in Los Angeles and seen a brick wall Lucy allegedly had constructed over the door to Desi’s office to keep women from “visiting” him in his office. But did any of us really know Lucy and Desi? No. This movie, though, gives us a glimpse into their lives behind the scenes, and it’s heartwarming and heartbreaking all at the same time.

I got so swept up in it, in fact, that I suddenly had a crush on the late Desi Arnaz! Or maybe I have a crush on Javier Bardem playing Desi Arnaz? That Cuban accent! Wow! The charm! The humor! The intelligence! Whether it’s Desi or Javier I’m admiring from afar, I can go back and listen to that Cuban accent over and over…and I never grow tired of hearing it.

I also learned a lot about Desi and Lucy as people. I had no idea Desi had fled the Cuban revolution in the 1930s. I knew he came to the US from Cuba, but in all these year, I thought he came here to pursue a career in music. No. He came to the US to flee the revolution in 1933, when he was just 16. He attended Catholic High School in Miami. No, I didn’t learn all that from the movie. I did a little research after watching, because I needed to have a good timeline of his life. He was a fascinating man, and clearly, lots of women thought so at the time, because in 1960, Lucy filed for divorce from him.

Lucy’s life was just as fascinating, but in a different way. I’m not sure I ever knew she had to testify before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee in 1960, because she had registered as a Communist in her youth. According to the movie, by registering as a Communist, she simply was honoring the man who had raised her. If things truly played out the way they played in the movie, Desi Arnaz was a genius in getting the American public to look past that and continue to love Lucy. He had fled Communism to come to the USA, a country he loved. He was also a genius in developing a special three-camera system for TV and for convincing CBS and Phillip Morris (the sponsor of I Love Lucy) to allow Lucy’s pregnancy and Little Ricky’s birth to be portrayed on the show.

I’m grateful to Mr. Arnaz for clearing Lucy in the court of public opinion, because I love Lucy. And I’m grateful for the contributions they both made to American entertainment.

If you haven’t seen it, watch Being the Ricardos on Amazon Prime. It’s worth your time, if you’ve ever been a fan of Lucy or Desi in anything they ever did.

I Love Lucy.

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What Other People Think of Me…

What other people think of me is none of my business.

I can’t take credit for that. In fact, I have no idea who the originator of that quote was, but I like it. And you know why? Because really…what other people is think of me is none of my business. Isn’t it completely and utterly liberating to know that?

I’m what lots of people would refer to as an “over-sharer” on social media. I like to post all kinds of stuff…funny stuff, pretty scenes, and yes, lots of pictures of my family having fun. Just like everybody else in the world, my life isn’t perfect. I’ve had my share of tough times in life…losing loved ones being at the top of the list. And I have had my share of embarrassing moments. I tell people all the time that I have fallen down in all 50 states; well, not quite, but I do think I have probably fallen down in 35 or so. In February of 2021, I fell down the stairs of Galatoire’s in New Orleans! My teenage daughter was mortified, of course, but lucky me…no broken bones. Just a bruised ego. However, since I’m over 50, I know when to be really embarrassed, and since I knew I’d never see most of those people ever again, I wasn’t terribly embarrassed. Fortunately, as far as I know, there were no photos of the incident and no video. It would have been pretty funny, though…even I can admit that.

If there had been photographic evidence of it, I likely would have shared it on social media. Nobody loves seeing a good fall more than I do. I think I’ve written about it before. As long as no one is hurt, a good fall is downright hilarious.

Lately, with the ringing in of the new year, I’ve been getting lots of ads from PastBook on Facebook. PastBook prints all the photos you post on Facebook in a calendar year in book form. I ordered one last year, just to see what it was like, and I really liked it! I keep that 2020 PastBook on the coffee table in my livingroom for all the world to see. I don’t know that anyone has looked at it besides me, because even though I “over-share,” I know everyone in the whole world is not interested in my posts. I started over-sharing when my mother was still alive, because she lived hundreds of miles away, and she liked seeing pictures of her granddaughter. It was an easy way to share. And then, I guess I became addicted, because I realized Facebook is a good place to store memories! And Pastbook puts them all in print form!

Looking through my PastBook from 2020, I can see that, despite the pandemic hiccup in all our lives, I managed to have some fun that year. My husband and I spent a lot of time outdoors, and I had the most beautiful garden I have ever had in the history of my gardening! Even without air travel most of that year, we managed to go some fun places and make some new memories. Looking at the book, though, I can see clearly that by September of 2020, I needed to get on a plane…and I did. I threw up some prayers and flew to California…and then I did it again that November…unvaccinated! And then everything surged again.

But in 2021, I started throwing caution to the wind, so I think my PastBook will be better for 2021. We met friends in New Orleans, LA, and the Bahamas…just like old times! I can hardly wait to order the Pastbook and see all the memories in print.

And y’all can make fun of me for over-sharing all you want. When our daughter was a little girl, I took pictures of every move we made…actually, I still do that. As much as it can be an annoyance, she appreciates it later. I’m the one my friends come to if they need pictures from the past, because I was always ready with a camera…till smartphones came along…so now I just use that. But my over-sharing is not for the rest of the world. It’s for me. And it’s for my daughter.

One day, many years from now, our daughter will be thrilled to have all the photos I have taken over the years. Just like I loved going through the pictures my nephew brought me from my mother’s house last weekend, she will likely enjoy going through all the photos I have taken and stored in books, on social media, and in Rubbermaid bins in our attic. She will be able to look through the photos and try to remember who the people are. She’ll likely have lots of stories to tell about the photos too. I made my nephew and his girlfriend sit through a lot of my stories last weekend!

I finally went through the second bin my nephew brought, and near the bottom, stuck in a Bible, was the black and white photo of my kindergarten graduation in 1973…something I thought was long gone. It’s the photo I used in the header for this post…just like the graduation caps worn by all those six-yr-olds, the photo is a little askew. My family had moved several times, and I hadn’t seen that photo in years, but there it was…at the bottom of a Rubbermaid bin. And I was thrilled to have it! In fact, I have now framed it and put it on a shelf in my livingroom, so I always know where it is. But I also shared it on Facebook. And lots of those kindergarten classmates chimed in, helping identify the kids in the picture! I remembered lots of them, but since I moved away in February of 1975, less than two years after the photo was taken, my memory was a little fuzzy on some of the faces. That’s OK, because after a little time, one classmate found a newspaper article that listed all the names and shared it in the comments of the photo. It made for some fun exchanges on Facebook…all of which will show up in my PastBook for 2022, I’m sure.

So yes, I over-share, and I’m glad I do, because I’ll have a record of so many different things in my life, and my daughter will have that record too. I might not ever write a bestselling novel or biography, but there will be proof of my life in pictures. And if my over-sharing is annoying, well, keep scrolling. Whatever you do, don’t tell me, because “what other people think of me is none of my business.”

***If you’d like to check out PastBook and possibly make your own, click here.***

A Bad Day Turned Good

A bad day turned good.

Today was the fourth anniversary of my mother’s passing. We all grieve in different ways, but for me, anniversaries like this can be tough. I dread it every year, and today, I cried several times. But they were not tears of sadness. They were tears of joy. It turned out to be a good day!

I managed to sleep last night, which is quite a feat in itself, because in the past, on this day, I have found myself awake most of the night. So I slept through the night…a good thing…a gift.

I awoke this morning at 8:00, when my husband brought me coffee in bed. He does that every morning, and it’s the perfect way to start the day. I’m a much happier wife, and he has a much happier life because of that first cup of coffee.

Soon thereafter, one of my favorite friends came over for a cup of coffee. Yes, I was getting caffeinated, but I had a headache, anyway, and caffeine helps the migraine meds kick in faster. My friend came in, and we sat and talked for over an hour before she had to go. It was a great way to start the day…we are good therapy for each other. We have been friends for more than 16 years, so we understand each other. Good friends are hard to find, and I definitely found a good one in this one…a gift.

After she left, I finally decided to get a shower and get dressed for the day. I knew I would feel better if I put on “real clothes,” instead of the comfy clothes I tend to wear around the house. So after I got out of the shower, I decided to put on a red shirt…color makes me feel happier. And because I was going to have cocktails with friends later, I wanted to wear some festive, happy earrings. I have some “statement” earrings I haven’t worn in quite some time, but I thought they would be perfect. Because they are large, I keep them in their own box, so I got out the box and found a surprise! Several months ago, I misplaced some treasured pearl earrings my husband gave me soon after we married. I was heartbroken when I realized it, and I turned my bedroom/closet/bathroom upside down looking for them, to no avail. I had to put it out of my mind and put it behind me, because thinking about the missing earrings stressed me out. But today, when I opened the “statement” earring box, I found the pearl earrings right there with them! Oh, I was so excited that I cried tears of joy! I know it will sound silly to some, but I felt like my mother, on the fourth anniversary of her passing, had delivered me a gift.

Later, at 2:00 in the afternoon, I went to a friend’s house. She had invited me over for holiday-ish cocktails. Last year, we had cocktails on my driveway, because of the pandemic, and she brought edible shot glasses she had made from chocolate and cookie dough. And because we had so much fun with it, she decided to do it again this year! Some good fun on the anniversary of my mother’s death, and to top it off, we put Bailey’s Irish Creme in the shot glasses…my mother’s favorite. My friend had purchased it just for the occasion. Most of the time, I pick good friends, and I picked this one 11 or 12 years ago. She’s a keeper…a gift.

Afterward, I came home just in time to greet my nephew and his girlfriend when they arrived to spend the weekend with us…a gift in itself. It’s always fun when they come to town, but this time, they brought boxes of pictures from my mother’s house…two giant Rubbermaid tubs of photos!

Before we could go through the photos, my husband and I walked down to a neighbor’s house to have cocktails in celebration of his retirement…another gift…great neighbors. We are very fortunate to have lots of people around us who are good people. It was fun visiting with them, and it was nice to see the new retiree so happy.

After we got home…late in the evening, we had the best times going through the photos from the Rubbermaid tubs…laughing as I told family stories to my nephew and his girlfriend. And near the bottom of the box was a mini cassette recorder. We opened it and found a cassette inside, so we decided to replace the batteries and find out what was on the tape…and what a gift it was! It took me a while to figure out that it was recorded in the fall of 2000, when we all met in Panama City, Florida, for my cousin’s wedding. It started with one of my nephews, who were almost three years old at the time, singing into into the recorded. And the recorder was left on after that, so I could hear us all laughing and talking for about twenty minutes…in 2000! What an incredible gift! My mother’s voice! My daddy’s voice! My daddy and my brother playing with my nephews! And all of us laughing! What a joy! It was like a visit with my parents…a gift!

Also, near the bottom of the box, I found an envelope that contained a photo of a group of women. It also contained a list of names and addresses, and I finally figured out it was from a reunion of my mother’s nursing school class. Apparently, she didn’t attend the reunion, but someone had sent her all the info afterward. I scanned the list and recognized a few names, and then I saw a last name that was familiar. It was the same last name as the married name of a friend from college. I texted her and asked if she was related to the woman. She replied, “That’s my mother-in-law. I’m almost afraid to ask why.” I explained that her mother-in-law went to nursing school with my mother! Small world! Another connection made…a gift.

So yes, the fourth anniversary of my mother’s passing was a good day. I went to bed happy, knowing my mother had sent me gifts and memories. It was a bad day turned good.

Maybe I should have purchased a lottery ticket.

Ready for the New Year?

Ready for the new year?

I don’t know that I’m ever actually ready for a new year, but most years, I am ready for New Year’s Day, and this year is no exception. I think different cultures have different traditions/superstitions for New Year’s Day, and growing up in the American South, I have a few of my own:

-“Rabbit! Rabbit!” I make sure to say this at some point on the first of every month, preferable first thing in the morning. But let’s face it, most mornings, when I first wake up, I don’t know what day it is! Lots of people say “Rabbit! Rabbit!” on the first day of every month for good luck. Apparently, rabbits are considered good luck. I tried to find an explanation online, and I found an NPR episode in which Martha Barnette, an etymology author, says the phrase dates back to at least the early 1900s. Some folks believe rabbits are good luck because of their fertility, which can be associated with new beginnings. Whatever. I just do it, because I’m always welcoming any good luck that comes my way! But it seems especially important on the first day of the year!

-Black-eyed Peas. A few years ago, I returned home from vacation late on New Year’s Eve, and I had not had an opportunity to go to the grocery store to prepare for New Year’s Day. Lucky for me, I had a can of black-eyed peas in my pantry. I can’t imagine what made me purchase canned black-eyed peas, because I prefer to cook dried ones, but the canned variety will do in a pinch! In my family, and across the American South, it is believed that eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day brings good luck and prosperity. Even when I was a little girl and didn’t care for them, my parents made me eat a spoonful of black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. According to Modern Farmer, black-eyed peas came to the US on slave ships, and slaves planted them in their gardens. The same source says the Union Army took everything edible when they raided the south, but they didn’t take black-eyed peas. They were looked at then as “poor people’s food,” but after the war, they became popular all across the south. Some people in the south believe they represent coins. And some southerners cook them in Hoppin’ John, a southern rice dish. Personally, I love them…especially on New Year’s Day. I purchased them early this year…dried ones that I will start cooking early on New Year’s Day, so we can enjoy them in the afternoon. As for a recipe, I don’t make Hoppin’ John. I just soak the peas before I boil them with Goya pork seasoning and salt. I throw in the spinach, and while I normally try to keep them healthier, I’ll likely throw in some pork for New Year’s Day.

Greens. In the south, when most people say they eat “greens” on New Year’s Day, I think they mean collard greens or turnip greens. Some folks mean cabbage. I’m the outlier…I eat spinach on New Year’s Day. It’s still a green, and it’s iron-rich. I just can’t bring myself to cook turnips, cabbage, or turnips in my house, because I remember how our house smelled when I was growing up and Mother cooked greens. Collard greens, turnip greens, and cabbage taste good, but they smell rancid when they’re cooking. I can’t do that to my family, so we have spinach. Of course, I’m the only one who eats regular sauteed spinach, so I have to mix the spinach with the black-eyed peas. Greens represent money. And who doesn’t want more money in the new year? This year, I might add some extra spinach, in fact! And remember the year I had canned black-eyed peas? I was also lucky enough to find canned turnip greens in my pantry (Glory brand is seasoned really well).

-Pork. I don’t care what kind of pork it is, everyone who doesn’t have a religious exemption should eat a bite of pork on New Year’s Day. All my life, I’ve believed eating pork on New Year’s Day brings good luck, because that’s all I’ve ever heard. I looked into the reasoning, and according to thespruceeats.com, it’s considered a sign of prosperity in some cultures because “pigs root forward.” I guess that means we will continue to move forward if we eat pork. When I was growing up, my mother would cook a ham. My family won’t eat a whole ham, so I just purchased a couple of ham steaks to prepare on New Year’s Day. I’ll throw some of it in the black-eyed peas for seasoning. As for the preparation of the ham steaks, I will just cook them on the stove top in a skillet with a little butter and seasoning.

Cornbread. My parents used to make thin, fried cornbread when I was growing up. I’d never be able to do it. There was skill involved, and it was delicious. My cousin, Patti, still makes it, but I need a special brand of fine cornmeal that I can’t find in Charlotte. I’ll get Patti to bring me some next time she comes to town. Interestingly, the fried breads are round, which would be great if I could make them, because round foods are considered good luck in some countries. We used to eat it till we just couldn’t eat any more. I’ll make cornbread, but it will be regular baked, buttermilk cornbread. Why cornbread? Apparently, because of the golden color, it represents gold. I see a theme here. Southerners seem to want luck and prosperity in the new year!

-Champagne (or prosecco). Yes, I have bubbly not just on New Year’s Eve, but also on New Year’s Day, because it’s a celebration, after all. I have always believed we should start the new year on the right foot…celebrating. And bubbly goes great with all the foods listed above. And if you don’t like the foods listed above, it’s a lot easier to wash them down with bubbly!

Clearly, my traditions, except “Rabbit! Rabbit!” are all based around food! The good news for me is that these are some of my very favorite foods. For my family, though, it’s not one of their favorite meals, so they’ll choke down a few bites. We’d normally have lots of leftovers, but my nephew and a friend are coming to town this year, so I know they’ll help me eat it. I’ll have some pickled onions on hand, too, because they go so well with all of these foods! My mouth is watering just thinking about it!