Posts by Kelly Mattei

I grew up in Alabama but have lived in Charlotte, NC, for almost 20 years...longer than I've ever lived anywhere. My husband and I have a teenage daughter and three dogs. We love to laugh, and fun is the name of our game.

Spring Is Here Despite Coronavirus

Spring is here despite coronavirus.

Yes, we’re still all locked down. Coronavirus has disrupted our lives like never before. Every day I wake up and wonder if this is a bad dream. And after I realize it’s not, I take a deep breath just to see if I can. That’s my own personal little test for coronavirus, which I know is in no way scientific, but I also feel like it’s a good way to keep my lungs healthy…wake up, deep breath. And every single day, I’m making sure I do some form of cardio exercise, mostly walking. A couple of times, I’ve coughed, but I realized it was because of all the pollen.

While we hate the pollen in the air, it’s a sign that spring is here! On my personal Facebook page, I’ve been posting a few pictures of the signs of spring here in Charlotte, North Carolina, including pictures of us enjoying the backyard pool in the beautiful sunny weather we’ve been having. However, the picture that got the most response was a set of three photos taken 15 days apart. The first picture, from March 21, shows a barren tree behind our house. The second photo in the set shows the same tree ten days later, March 31, when it was turning green. And five days later, I took the third picture, which shows the tree is lush and green. That’s how fast the tree went from bare to lush…fifteen days.

After I posted those photos, friends who live in colder parts of the country lamented the fact that it’s still cold where they are. A friend in the Chicago area said she wished she were here. A friend in Massachusetts said she wishes she had more signs of spring where she is. At first, I felt a little guilty, but then several of them asked me to keep posting pictures of spring! They were enjoying them!

Many times, a friend in Mobile has reminded me how fortunate we are to live in the south during this coronavirus pandemic and the isolation it’s causing. She reminds me we are lucky we live where the weather is warm most of the time in spring, because we can spend time outdoors. And she’s right. In fact, I think we have enjoyed our patio and pool more this spring than we have in any other previous year. We always enjoy it in the summer months, but I can’t remember a time we spent so much time sitting out in the sun or in the pool in April.

So today, I took a walk around my neighborhood, which is absolutely gorgeous this time of year, if I do say so myself, and I took pictures of signs of spring. You can see them all below, and feel free to share them with your friends who live in other parts of the country that are still cold. Blue skies and bright-colored flowers can certainly brighten someone’s day!

Stay healthy!

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Lovely yard in the neighborhood

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Knockout roses in my front yard

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Beautiful, blooming Dogwood tree in a neighbor’s yard

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Blooming azalea

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Angel in a neighbor’s yard

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One of my favorite trees in the neighborhood

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Flowers in one of the prettiest yards in the neighborhood

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Tulips lining a neighbor’s driveway

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The walk down to one of the neighborhood lakes

Snail Mail Therapy

Snail mail therapy.

I just dropped three letters in the mail. Yep…three handwritten letters. I know, I know…when was the last time you just sat down and wrote letters/notes and stuck them in the real mail?

Two days ago, my daughter received a  sweet, handwritten note from one of her school teachers. The bright pink envelope was a welcome sight in the middle of all the regular junk mail, and I immediately took it upstairs to her. The envelope had a return address that I recognized, her school, but no name, so I waited while she opened it. When she opened it, she looked and realized it was from her English teacher, and she smiled as she read the sweet note aloud to me. It truly brightened her day…and mine!

And that gave me an idea! I can write a few snail mail notes of my own and stick them in the mail!

So today, I sat down at my computer and printed off a few photos from old times. I picked three friends in different cities to write to, and I sat down and wrote notes to them. I wrote about the photos from happier times. One photo I mailed was of my daughter and a friend’s daughter playing in our front yard years ago. I know my friend will smile when she sees it. I also included a few funny things that have happened at our house during the pandemic isolation, and I reminded my friend that brighter days are ahead. We are going to get through this, and life will be better again. I think we all need to hear that right now, don’t we?

I would love to see the faces of my friends when they open their little letters, but here’s an added benefit: it made me feel better! I could hardly wait to get the letters into the mailbox! It lifted my spirits to know I might be sharing some joy with my friends.

Now, I can hardly wait to sit down every single day of the pandemic isolation and write a note or two to stick in the mail. My husband keeps us well-supplied in stamps, but I’m thinking I might need to order more through USPS.com. I’m also going to order some more note cards/stationery, since they offer it on the site. Order by clicking here.

Seriously, it takes very little time or effort to sit down and write a quick note to someone, and it might brighten their day when they receive it…if even for a moment. But I would love for it to have a bigger effect! Maybe my friends will “pay it forward” and send a note or two to some friends near and far! And it’s totally therapeutic for me! First, I get all the fun of going through photos, and then, I get a chuckle out of some of the memories.

I hope it will help me have a little bit of happiness every single day of this pandemic. Snail mail…who knew?!?

 

Keeping a Coronavirus “Wartime” Journal

Keeping a coronavirus “wartime” journal.

I do think of this pandemic as wartime. We are waging a war against an unseen enemy…COVID-19. When our country has been at war in the past, we could see our enemies, but now…the enemy is all around; we just don’t know where.

We are prisoners in our own homes. Our children are missing out on real school…learning online, but missing their friends, their sports, and their social lives. Those who are supposed to graduate from high school are missing out on more…”lasts,” proms, and graduations, even.

During the “greatest generation,” people wrote letters…snail mail, real letters with pen and paper. For lots of people, that is their historical record of what happened during those days. People don’t write a lot of snail mail these days, so it’s not likely we’ll have that type of historical record of this “war.” And then there was Anne Frank, who wrote in her diary about her days in hiding with her family during the war…an historical record, for sure.

I was talking with my teenage daughter today and told her she needed to start keeping a daily journal of her thoughts, her feelings, and her activities during this pandemic. She likely thought it was a weird mom idea, but she agreed, nonetheless. At first, I was searching through the house for an unused composition notebook or spiral notebook for her to used as a journal, but after having no luck, I realized she doesn’t need a notebook. All she needs is her computer. She’ll be more likely to keep a journal on her computer. And her private thoughts are probably safer there anyway. I’m planning to keep my own journal on my computer too, simply because I know I’d be likely to misplace a journal, but I’m not going to misplace my computer. We can print our pages daily and bind them later.

Journaling, in my opinion, is a good idea anyway…in “normal” life. It’s relaxing, and I have found, in my past, that it was therapeutic. Sometimes, if I write down my feelings, I can get some clarity. Maybe I realize what I’m feeling is ridiculous, or maybe I realize my feelings are justified, but either way, it is helpful. As for journaling during this pandemic, I suggested to my daughter that we write something every day. It doesn’t even have to be meaningful…just something. But I reminded her we need to count our blessings. Sure, we can complain and write the facts about the pandemic…how many are infected, how many have died, all the restrictions to daily life, the shortages…but we need to write about the things we enjoy too and how we feel every day.

Take, for example, how fortunate we are that today is a beautiful day…75 degrees and sunny…in Charlotte. We are fortunate to have a backyard pool, where we can lounge and soak up the sun…something that is very good for improving mood, by the way. Roses are beginning to bloom on the back patio, and trees are growing thicker with bright green leaves every day. We are fortunate to have plenty of food in the pantry. And yes, plenty of toilet paper and Clorox wipes. And as far as we know, we do not have the dreaded coronavirus. Digging deeper into our situation, I might write that I’m beginning to feel really uneasy about the way the world is now. Will our economy ever rebound? Will we forget who we are while we’re all hunkered down in fear of the invisible virus? Will we be fearful of each other after this? Will we be afraid to travel?

Hopefully, my daughter will join me in journaling these crazy days in world history. I told her it’s likely her children won’t believe what we have been doing and will likely continue to do for the next few weeks, possibly months. Hopefully not months, though…seriously…hopefully not months. Her kids likely won’t believe people were hoarding toilet paper, paper towels, and groceries. They will likely be perplexed when she tells them airlines had to cut way back on flights, and people were wearing all kinds of crazy getups to “essential” stores. Hopefully, she will laugh when she tells them we made regular trips to the Krispy Kreme drive-thru, since thankfully, doughnuts are considered “essential.” Oh, I hope my daughter remembers to write all the funny stuff.

And after we write our own little historical records, I will say a prayer of thanks and forgiveness, and I will ask Him to keep us safe and end this pandemic as soon as possible.

Easter Baskets in Social Distancing

Easter is almost here! Sure, there won’t be any church services inside the actual buildings, but there are services on TV, and a friend in Florida tells me there is a church near her that has outdoor services every Sunday. People stay in their cars in the parking lot and listen to the service over a radio frequency, or they can open their windows and hear it through a microphone, with the minister standing on a big stage in front of the parking lot. If we look for it, we can find a worship service of some sort. Check websites of churches in your area for information.

And no, our children don’t have to miss out on the Easter Bunny experience. It’s not like I can just walk into stores this year and get the goodies for the baskets, but I’ve gotten it done.

I went to the Target website to see what I could find there. Target is where I normally get baskets and candy every Easter, but I’m not going to Target right now, so the website is the next best thing. There, I found some baskets they would ship, and I found the usual candies: Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs, Easter grass, Easter M&Ms, Whoppers Robin Eggs, Twizzlers and Jolly Ranchers, and Russell Stover Easter Milk Chocolate Dip-It Rabbit (with Jif peanut butter for dipping). I also ordered some Neutrogena Makeup Wipes for Easter baskets, because my daughter goes through them pretty quickly! Go to Target.com and order now!

I just have one daughter, who is a teenager, but a local friend sleeps over at our house the night before Easter every year. They wake up together and come downstairs to have breakfast and see what the Easter Bunny left them! Last year, we were lucky to have another friend in from Ohio too, so the three teens were together Easter morning. That won’t happen this year, but I told my daughter we can still deliver an Easter basket to her friend’s front porch on Easter morning. She’ll be surprised, and it will be a little joy for us.

Because I can’t shop in the usual smaller shops I normally would, I decided to try some different things, and here are some things I found:

  • Beach towels. A fun gift that says, “Summer is almost here,” beach towels can be purchased at lots of online shops. I found some really cute ones at Life Is Good. You can see their selection here. They’re pricey, but they are quality towels. We have some we have had for ten or twelve years, and they all hold up really well. Target has beach towels too. You can see them here. I purchased two of the Llamas in a Car beach towels for our daughter and her friend. They’re really cute and just $10. They offer others too! You can also find some inexpensive ones at Walmart.comSun-Day-Beach-Towel_60100_1_lg
  • Pajama pants. There are cute pajama pants at lots of sites, but I ended up ordering some really cute ones from Life is Good, on sale for just $17.99 each, and you know they’re good quality if they’re coming from Life is Good. See their website here.Womens-Palm-Print-Snuggle-Up-Sleep-Pant_60125_1_lg
  • Cookies. Y’all, I love Cheryl’s cookies. Sugar cookies with buttercream frosting? Yes, please! And Cheryl’s has all sorts of Easter cookie gifts. There are buckets and basket and gift tins. Just go look! And some of them are even on sale! See the website here! In Charlotte, we also have Tiff’s Treats, and they will deliver! My 16-yr-old declared their M&M cookies to be the best cookies she has ever eaten! Order here.
  • Baked by Melissa. A friend gave me Baked by Melissa bite-sized cupcakes for my birthday a couple of years ago, and I was hooked! We order regularly now, and they have some great flavors for spring! And they really are bite-sized, so that means “guilt free”! Order now to get them to your house before Easter! See the website here!
  • Religious gifts. Christianbook.com has some lovely cross gifts starting at under $10.  There are palm-sized comfort crosses, wall crosses and cross jewelry. Crosses make great, meaningful gifts at Easter. They also have Bibles, which always make great gifts. See the website here. 3736049_2_adv

Whatever you decide to do, I hope you have a beautiful Easter with your family. Unfortunately, we can’t gather with extended family, but this is a great year to count our blessings and thank the Lord for what we do have as opposed to the freedom we have lost temporarily. Say a prayer for those who are sick and those who have lost loved ones.

 

 

Love and Loss

In just the past week, a friend in Mobile and my brother both lost their beloved pets…and when I say “lost,” I mean the dogs passed away. If you’ve never had a pet, you likely think “beloved” before the word “pet” is odd. But if you’ve had pets, you get it.

Growing up, we always had pets…mostly dogs. We had a cat once, but it was a stray that stayed outside. I was too young to remember its arrival, but my mother told me we named it Valentine, because it showed up on Valentine’s Day. We had lots of dogs along the way, and no matter what breed they were or how much of a mutt they were, we loved them all. After I got married, we got an Airedale Terrier and named her Annie, even though I wanted to name her Fannie, after a college roommate. My husband wouldn’t go along with the name “Fannie,” but later, he said he wished we had named her Fannie. I was crazy over that dog.

Annie helped me get through morning sickness (or all the time sickness) in the first trimester of pregnancy. She was a big dog (about 80 pounds), but when I would lie in bed with nausea, she would get in bed next to me and put her warm back against me. She was the only dog I had as an adult who I knew would put her life on the line for me. And I knew she would. She was not aggressive, but she was very protective, and I was grateful for that, especially when my husband was out of town.

My brother didn’t call me and tell me about his dog’s passing. His dog, a beautiful Weimeraner named Amos, was his sidekick. I woke up yesterday to a text message from a family friend, Jane, who told me, “Amos is gone.” I must have gasped audibly, because my husband asked me what was wrong. I called Jane immediately, and she told me Amos’s health had declined rapidly, and he had passed away during the night. We sat on the phone and cried together, and after we hung up, I texted my brother. I couldn’t call him, because I couldn’t stop crying. He didn’t need to listen to me blubber.

My friend in Mobile who lost her dog called me a few days before my brother’s dog died, crying hysterically, after her dog was hit by a car. She lives on a busy road, and the dog had jumped the backyard fence. She had fostered the dog after she found him wandering somewhere. We always laugh that she’s a “bleeding heart.” After her dog passed, she said to me, “I just love too hard!” She said she had resolved she wouldn’t do that again, because it hurts so much when she loses a pet, but she can’t help herself.

I remembered something Dr. Seuss said about love, “A life with love will have some thorns, but a life without love will have no roses. To the world you may be one person, but to one person, you may be the world.” Isn’t that the truth? My brother was certainly the world to his dog, as my friend in Mobile was to hers.

Here’s the thing…yes, it hurts to lose those pets we love so much, but the joy they bring us outweighs that pain. I cried for a month when we lost Annie, but now, six years after her death, I mostly remember the good stuff: her fighting off the scary snowman, her happiness when I came home, how she drooled like crazy when she saw me get out the peanut butter jar, her floating on the pool lounge, and her unconditional love.

And sometimes I have to remind myself  the same applies to people. Yes. It’s totally worth it to put yourself out there. I’m 52. I’ve loved friends along the way. No, I’m not talking about boyfriends, but yes, I had boyfriends when I was young. Do I regret loving any of those people along the way? No. Most of those folks are still my friends, but some are no longer my friends, and I certainly don’t have any boyfriends. Even though a few friends are no longer in my life for whatever reason…their fault, my fault, or no one’s fault…I’m glad I loved them. I’m even glad I trusted them. Here’s why: if they were my friends, there were some “roses” along the way. Sure, there were thorns, but I know we had some “roses” along the way. And no matter what, I learned something from every relationship…sometimes learning more form the thorns than the roses. And don’t get me wrong…sometimes I presented the thorns, no doubt. All my relationships, the great ones and the failures, have contributed to my life. In fact, because of that, I don’t hold grudges. I wish all those people well.

So right now, during this coronavirus, I’m making a point to reach out to some folks I haven’t talked to in a while. Because, yes, there will be some thorns, but the roses are glorious!

 

Sharing Your Location

Sharing your location?

Y’all, you need to check your phones now. You might be surprised to find out you’re sharing your location with everyone you know. A few weeks ago, a friend texted me to tell me she was turning off her location services on her phone. I asked, “Why are you telling me?” She said, “Because I’ve been sharing my location with you and didn’t even know it!” So funny…because I had no idea she was sharing her location with me! She then said, “You might want to check your own phone to see what info you’re sharing through the FindMy app and others!”

Holy moly. For the technologically challenged (me), this would be a chore. I sat down with my phone and eventually figured it out. Seriously…when I say “eventually,” I mean it took me a while. I had to Google different things, but I finally figured it out.

I had no idea I had been sharing my location with so many apps and with so many contacts!  Maybe I had done that intentionally at some point, but I don’t remember it. It’s very possible that I had intentionally shared my location with hundreds of friends through my phone…maybe at different times? Maybe when some of us were trying to meet somewhere? I don’t recall. But there it was in front of my eyes…I was sharing my location with hundreds of people all the time. I guess it’s a good thing I’m not a criminal, because if I were out committing crimes, it would be easy for people to see where I was!

I’ve gotten a couple of texts from friends who noticed they could no longer see my location, and then today, my friend, Mary Ann, tagged me in a post on Facebook, “Did we break up? I can’t see your location any longer. How am I going to stalk you?” Always the jokester…leave it to Mary Ann to call me out publicly. She was kidding, of course. We are not “breaking up;” she will always be my friend. I’m not even sure how she noticed it…maybe she was stalking me?!?!? Bahahaha!

Last year, I downloaded the Life 360 app, because our teenage daughter was starting to drive, and I intentionally share my location with family through that, but that’s it. No friends. Only family. Because really?!? Is it necessary for anyone else to know where I am all the time? Nope. Am I paranoid?!

Know what else? It’s not necessary for me to know where folks are either. Not gonna lie. It’s a little creepy. I don’t even want to know where they are. I prefer to think they might be enjoying an afternoon of social distancing in a tropical location, drinking Mai Tais by the pool.

Everybody knows where we are right now anyway…home.

Hanging With The Teenage Daughter (during the COVID-19 crisis)

Hanging with the teenage daughter (during the COVID-19 crisis).

I’m getting accustomed to it. I hate to admit it, but I’m getting accustomed to “sheltering in place.” If you had told me I wouldn’t be completely stir crazy after this many days at home, I never would have believed you. It’s likely there are several reasons, but I think the main one is our daughter.

Our daughter is 16, so in “normal” life, she’s rarely home. She has school Monday-Friday, like most kids, and after school, she “normally” goes straight to lacrosse practice in the spring. She doesn’t get home till around 6:00pm, and then she has to finish her homework. That leaves very little time for us to to spend together. Sure, there are weekends, but she is quite social, so she wants to hang with friends on weekends. I get it. I remember 16.

I’m not happy that people are suffering and even dying with COVID-19. We say prayers for them every day, and we are trying to observe all “shelter in place” rules. We are at home most of the time, except when we go out for “essentials.”

And while “sheltering in place” initially sounded terrible, having my daughter around more is great. She’s doing her school work online during the day Monday -Friday, but in the afternoons and evenings, we’ve been spending more time together. Our world has slowed down a little, and I’m trying to appreciate the slowdown.

Yesterday, for example, she took a break in her schoolwork to come down for lunch and asked if I would make her some avocado toast for lunch. I was thrilled to get to do that for her, but our avocados weren’t ripe enough yet, so I made her some peanut butter/banana toast. She was happy. Normally, during the week, I don’t get to sit with her for lunch, because she’s at school. Afterward, she went back to finish her studies, and later, she sat outside by the pool with me for a while…something else she wouldn’t normally be able to do on a weekday. ***I’ve since been informed that I can soften an avocado by sticking it in the microwave briefly.***

At dinnertime, we opted to go get takeout from a local favorite Mexican restaurant, something we had both been missing since all this started. We came home and had dinner as a family, and then I suggested we go for a walk around the neighborhood. I was thrilled when she said it sounded like a great idea…and off we went!

The night before, we all lay out on the patio as a family…looking at the stars and watching for satellites to identify using the SkyGuide app. Our daughter didn’t stay out as long as we did, but she seemed to enjoy it. She was much better at spotting satellites moving through the night sky, because her eyesight is better than ours, and it was obvious she was enjoying it when she would exclaim, “I see one!” She would then tell us where to look, and I would try to find it on SkyGuide to see what country launched it and how big it was. Would she have willingly gone out there for stargazing under “normal” circumstances? Probably not. She likely wouldn’t have been home or would have been doing homework.

Tonight, my daughter and I are going to start watching Tiger King, presently the #1 series on Netflix. We don’t alway agree on shows, and when I first suggested this one, she wasn’t interested. But when a teenage boy told her it was really good, she changed her tune. No, I wasn’t offended. Like I said, I remember 16. We have a few more series “on deck” to watch after we watch Tiger King. We will likely watch All-American on Netflix, Peyton’s Places on ESPN+, and a few more sports-oriented shows, since we miss our sports right now.

Additionally, she has been helping around the house…today, she will do some laundry and cook dinner for the family. She and I are going to sit down in a little while and find the perfect recipe for her to make a chicken dish for us. She loves spinach, so she will likely sauté some spinach for the side dish.

So while this COVID-19 crisis is terrible for individuals, public health, and the economy, we are using it as a time to strengthen our little family. We were a pretty tight unit anyway, but I feel like we are getting a gift of extra time with our daughter. She will be going off to college in 2022, so I’m happy to have some extra time with her. No, the reason for the extra time isn’t ideal, but I’m trying to look at the bright side. I’m making lemonade out of lemons.

We are hopeful that the pandemic will be under control sooner rather than later, but till then, we plan to enjoy this time with our daughter. Sure, we all miss sports. We all miss friends and extended family. We all miss “normal,” but we’re trying to make the best of the cards we’ve been dealt.

Till then, we’ll be hanging out with our teenage daughter.