Posts by Kelly Mattei

I grew up in Alabama but have lived in Charlotte, NC, for more than 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.

The Food Tour…er, Vacation

The food your…er, vacation.

I don’t know what it is about me, but the older I get, the more food-centric my vacations become.

We just returned home from a week-long trip to Southern California. Starting a month before we went, I was making phone calls to make sure we secured reservations at our favorite restaurants. It’s a familiar refrain. We travel to SoCal a few times a year, and there are several “must do” restaurants, so I have it all down to a science…starting 30 days in advance.

This trip we managed to hit all our favorites and even added a new favorite or two. We know which restaurant we like for Asian fusion. We know which restaurant we prefer for steak. We know which one we prefer for seafood. We know which one we like for comfort food. We know where our favorite desserts are. And now we have a new “boujie” favorite.

Interestingly, we are pretty low-maintenance most of the time. In “real life,” I’m happy to have a simple salad or sandwich most days. I meet friends for lunch a couple of times a week, but we don’t always do the “boujie” lunch…occasionally, but certainly not always. In fact, tomorrow, I’m meeting a friend at Arthur’s, a restaurant on the bottom floor of our local Belk store. It is a locally-owned restaurant that has been open for 40 years, and everyone I know who grew up in Charlotte has a story about Arthur’s to tell from their high school days. It’s not fancy. It’s certainly not boujie, but it’s good comfort food. Personally, I love their French fries. My friend, Jennifer, who grew up here, loves their Turkey Grinder. I have to admit it’s pretty good. Their burgers are fantastic, and I have another friend, a native Charlottean, who swears by their cheesesteak sandwich.

I even go on vacations to more laid-back places (small islands in the Bahamas or beach towns along the Gulf of Mexico) where I know the local dives serve the best food.

But in SoCal? It’s all about the food…and the people-watching…because really, who doesn’t love to see a celebrity or two? I will admit, I am a stargazer. I’m not a rabid fan. In fact, I have seen lots of celebrities and even met lots of them, but I rarely “fangirl.” I have gone a little “fangirl” a couple of times, but seriously…only a couple. My daughter loves that I can spot a celeb; it takes a special eye. I just happen to be a face person. Lots of people in the world are “surroundings” people, but I’m not one of them. You might remember what color the walls are in a room, but I’m going to remember the faces of the people I see there. And that’s why I’m a good star-spotter…because I look at faces. In fact, on this most recent trip, I spotted a celeb from a favorite teen movie from the 1980s, a very famous rapper, an Academy Award winner, and a recently reunited celebrity couple. And every time, I had to point them out to my daughter and her friend. They wouldn’t have even seen them if I hadn’t made them aware.

But back to the food. We had reservations every night of our stay. A couple of nights I skipped out so the girls (they’re 18) didn’t have to be accompanied by a parent while they dined. I remember 18, and I know how important it is to feel independent. One night I had a migraine anyway. But there were certain restaurants I was not going to miss. One favorite is on the beach in Malibu…incredible food and exciting atmosphere. Another favorite is in the hotel where we stay…nice people in a beautiful setting, and the best dessert in town. We added a new “boujie” lunch option this time after seeing it on a friend’s Instagram. My daughter and her friend had “order envy” when my lunch arrived. They ordered burgers but I ordered “Risotto disguised as a pizza.” And it was fantastic. We have reasons beyond food for dining at certain restaurants, but even with good atmosphere, the food has to be acceptable. Also, because I have gallbladder issues (having surgery for that on July 14…it has been delayed several times), I rarely eat red meat. I try to eat fish and chicken for protein, so I love places that have great fish and chicken dishes. And Southern California has lots of great options.

We flew home late Tuesday night…fat and happy. I probably shouldn’t eat anything for two weeks. I likely need to go running every day for two weeks…or more. And I have taken it easy on the eating. I will say this: it was worth it. We simply can’t get the same kind of food in North Carolina. We live in a lovely city in a great state, but “nothing comes close to the Golden Coast” where food is concerned.

So yes, we enjoyed our vacation…also known as “the food tour.”

Real Life Can Be Stressful

Real life can be stressful. The transition from high school to college can be tricky.

I haven’t posted anything since May 9. Why? Because my brain has been scrambled…that’s why.

If you have never had a child graduate from high school, but you have kids who eventually will graduate, hold onto your hat. What I thought should not be stressful or a big deal of any kind has turned my world upside down.

OK, maybe that’s being extreme. But during the weeks leading up to our daughter’s high school graduation on May 21, there were so many events and activities. I don’t consider myself low energy, but man! They wore me out! Parent meetings, Baccalaureate, Senior Supper, sports awards…and so much more! And those are just the things parents attended…the seniors did all that and more! I know the school was trying to cram lots of “memories” into a few weeks, but I’m not kidding when I say it was overwhelming. Back in 1985, when I graduated from a public high school, we had graduation rehearsal and graduation. I don’t remember any extra things we had to do, and I was cool with that, because honestly…graduating from high school is something we are supposed to do.

Soon after our daughter’s graduation at the end of May, she and I flew down to attend her college orientation. The event itself wasn’t stressful, but it was a lot of information at one time. Y’all know I didn’t even know want to go. I don’t think parents should have to go to orientation. In this case, nothing ever said it was mandatory, but as I talked to other parents leading up to it, I was afraid my daughter would look like an orphan if I didn’t go with her. So I went. But again, I don’t think there should even be sessions for parents. Back in the 1980s, my parents didn’t go. I drove myself there without GPS or a cellphone, and everything was just fine. I think they started doing parent sessions to give the parents something to do. You know, in 2022, we can’t just let our kids do things on their own. {Insert eye roll here.} So that one day I spent in the parent session is one day of my life I will never get back. Nope, I didn’t attend the second day. The second day, I just dropped her off with her roommate for the sessions, and I went back to the hotel for a leisurely cup of coffee…just as it should be.

But things went awry in our household after that. It actually started at orientation. Without getting into too much detail, I will say it has been a tough couple of weeks emotionally. Graduation actually hits these kids harder than we realize. Internally, they know they are feeling something stressful, but they don’t know why! Here’s why: they are leaving their family and friends to go to college soon. Everything they have ever known is about to change, and I don’t care how “ready” your kid is, it’s a scary time for them. I honestly believe it’s why we see so many friendships change in the summer after graduation. We see romances end. And seriously…I have seen my daughter trying to disconnect from me. It’s OK. I knew it would happen. I know she will need to disconnect emotionally for the college transition. It doesn’t necessarily make it easier, but I know it’s part of the process. She is moving 450 miles away to experience a new life. She won’t be coming back to Charlotte on the regular. It doesn’t make it any less sad, though. But that’s what stress does…we react to it in weird ways…and our daughter has certainly reacted. Wow.

We were fortunate to be able to slip away last week for some mother/daughter time at our favorite hotel in California. No, we didn’t just stay in the hotel the whole time, but frankly, I would have been OK with that. It’s a place of great comfort for me. It’s a place we feel at home. It’s a place we see friends. There is a reason it’s our favorite. We were able to relax, shop, eat great food, and relax some more in a beautiful environment. Did it help? Yes, it did. It helped us feel better, but it also forced us to have a conversation about the pressure we are feeling. She and I had a few heart-to-heart conversations. I told her everything she is feeling is normal. It’s OK to feel stress. It’s OK to feel pressure. It’s even OK to feel the need to disconnect. But it’s also important to try to handle things respectfully and compassionately. She is a sweet girl who is simply experiencing something new. And I’m a mom experiencing something new. As we barrel toward becoming empty-nesters, I’m feeling weird emotions too. I’ll likely sleep with one of her dirty sweatshirts after she leaves, just so I can have her scent nearby.

So, she moves into her dorm in six weeks. Of those six weeks, we will be on vacation again for two of them. I will have gallbladder surgery in July (ugh), so that will be two weeks of nothing. And then, we will move her in. Of course, I won’t be able to carry anything heavy for six weeks after the surgery, so it will be up to my husband to do all the heavy lifting. I’m not sure he knows that yet. We will move her in, and when we drive away, I feel sure I will shed a tear or a thousand. They will be sad tears for me, but they will be happy tears for her, because I know college is going to be a great experience.

And once she gets all moved in and starts classes, there will be more stress. College life is an adjustment, but she will figure it all out.

College is a good way to learn to deal with the stress of life, because real life can be stressful.

Happy Mom

Happy Mom.

Call me crazy (you wouldn’t be the first). When our daughter was a toddler, a local amusement park made me a happy mom during the spring, summer, and early fall months.

Carowinds is a Cedar Fair amusement park in Charlotte known for its gigantic rollercoasters. Most moms roll their eyes at the thought of going to Carowinds, but not me. Carowinds saved me.

My husband and I first took our then 2-yr-old daughter to Carowinds on his 40th birthday. I had driven past the park many times and seen the rollercoasters. I will readily admit that I love rollercoasters, so Carowinds looked like a fun way to turn 40. I love a song by David Wilcox called Top of the Rollercoaster that was a metaphor for turning 30. Personally, I think it can be a metaphor for any of the big birthdays. You can hear it on Apple Music or listen to it here. My husband didn’t think Carowinds sounded like fun, but I talked him into it, and afterward, he was glad I did. No, we didn’t get to ride any rollercoasters that day…we had a toddler with us…but we had a great time! He rode the little boats with our daughter. I rode the little cars with her and the helicopter ride. We rode the Dora Train and yelled “Swiper, no swiping!” at the appropriate time. And our daughter laughed and laughed. And we all went to what we referred to as the “Dora Show.” It was a live show in the kiddie section of the park…based on the Dora the Explorer cartoon show. At the end, we all did the chicken dance with the rest of the crowd, and we laughed! It was a great day, and even though my husband thought he didn’t want to turn 40 there, he has great memories from that day.

My husband’s birthday is in May, and after we went on his birthday, I realized Carowinds would be a fun place to visit regularly. I just didn’t realize how regularly we would go.

We got season passes for all of us, and one morning in June, I got up and took our 2 1/2 year old daughter to Carowinds by myself. After we entered the front gate, I rented a stroller. The park’s strollers had steering wheels, and even though the steering wheels controlled absolutely nothing, our daughter enjoyed thinking she was in charge while I was pushing her around the park. And after that visit, I realized we were both happy there. No, I didn’t get to ride rollercoasters, but back then, the park was owned by Paramount, so some of our daughter’s favorite cartoon characters were roaming the park. She loved seeing Dora the Explorer, the Fairly Oddparents, Little Bill, and the characters from Spongebob Squarepants! Oh, we have so many pictures of her with them! She also loved riding the little rides in what we referred to as the “kiddie” section of the park…swings, a little rollercoaster, the boats, the cars, and the Dora Train. And she loved seeing the Dora the Explorer show at least once on every visit.

As for me, I loved being outside with a happy child for a few hours every day. Yes, I said every day, because after that, we visited every day that we were in town and weather permitted. With the season pass, it was a cheap way to spend a day. Sure, the food was pretty expensive, but we often had lunch right there in the park…always having French fries. She had at least one Icee on every visit, and sometimes, she enjoyed a frozen lemonade. I walked miles on every visit, pushing the stroller and chasing a toddler.

We went so often that Mr. Bob, the usher for the Dora the Explorer show, knew us. Seriously, we would walk in, and he would greet us like old friends. In fact, after we had seen the show 20 or 30 times, Mr. Bob would tell her, “If anyone doesn’t show up for the show today, we can let you stand in for them, because you know the whole show.”

Sometimes, our friends from our toddler playgroup would go with us, adding another element of fun.

We were, quite possibly, the best customers at Carowinds for several summers (yes, several summers, because we were regulars for several years), and I was a happy mom. I got out in the sunshine without worrying about my child in a pool! I got exercise with my happy toddler accompanying me! We played games (one summer, sometime between age four and six, she climbed the wiggly rope ladder to win a gigantic, stuffed purple dog!).

As she got taller, she could ride bigger rides…eventually the giant rollercoasters…new adventures for us to enjoy together!

And we made great memories. Seriously, I would not trade those summers for anything. They were some of my happiest times. I love being a stay-at-home-mom, but I didn’t enjoy being stuck at home all the time. I loved getting out with her on a regular basis, and Carowinds was an easy way to keep both of us happy.

Yes, Carowinds made me a happy mom.

To see more about Carowinds, click here.

Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle.

I just returned from running some errands, and as I approached the back entrance of our neighborhood, I saw the perfectly ripened yellow and white blooms! Honeysuckle! Big bushes of it!

Back when our daughter was a little girl, she and I would watch that area every year, waiting for the honeysuckle to appear. But we didn’t dare approach it too early. From my childhood, I knew we needed to wait until it was just right…wait until it’s bursting with nectar and the fragrance is overwhelming. A few years ago, though, someone mowed down all the honeysuckle, and I haven’t seen it since…until recently. A few weeks ago, I noticed the first sign of it…the yellow buds…and I thought, “Is the honeysuckle really coming back? Just before our daughter goes off to college?” Since then, every time I drive past, I open the car window to look and sniff…and today, after an afternoon shower, it smelled perfect.

I had never really thought to investigate the honeysuckle habitat before today. For some reason, I always thought it was a southern thing, but after a little research, I learned it is definitely not just a southern thing. People all over the world use it for its medicinal purpose, and lots of people make simple syrup from it. I have never done that, but I’m up for the challenge!

When I was growing up in Alabama in the 1970s, we watched for three things as summer approached: lightning bugs (fireflies), backyard or roadside blackberries, and honeysuckle.

We knew summer was almost here when we saw our first lightning bug of the season. To this day, at the ripe age of 54, I still look out into the trees around our house as summer is approaching…watching for the first flash of a lightning bug. I haven’t seen one yet this year, but I’m watching. When I was a little girl, we would catch them and put them in Mason jars…poking holes in the top of the jar so they could get oxygen. We never kept them for longer than an hour or so, and we always released them. It was just fun to see how much they would glow in a jar.

As for the blackberries, at one of our houses, we had a big blackberry bush in the back corner of the yard. We would watch for the blooms and then wait for them to ripen before picking, but I only picked right on the leading edge of the bush. They were full of “stickers” (briars), and there was no way I was inviting that pain…not even for blackberries. I was also under the impression that snakes liked blackberries, so I was afraid of that too. I guess I thought the snakes wouldn’t hang out on the leading edge of the bush. If there were more ripened blackberries on the interior limbs of the bush, they went untouched by me…they likely rotted if no one else picked them, because I wasn’t sticking my arm in there to get them.

And then there was the honeysuckle…a sweet little treat that packed a lot of happiness and sunshine. We would go to the honeysuckle bushes/vines in our neighborhood and search for the ripest blooms. We knew the really ripe ones had the sweetest nectar. We would find the perfect flower and pick it whole…making sure to get the calyx (the little green bud that connects it to the stem). With the flower in one hand, we would pinch just above the calyx…not all the way through…just enough to break the edges. We’d then slowly slide the “style” (female part of the plant) out of the flower by gently pulling. As the end of the style approached, we could see the glorious nectar, or “honey.” Once we saw that little drop, we’d stick it to our tongues and taste the sweetness of summer! And that is the glory of honeysuckle! It’s a childhood treat.

As I mentioned before, when our daughter was a little girl…probably about four years old…I showed her how to get the honey from the honeysuckle, just as I had learned as a little girl. After that, she and I would invite neighborhood friends to walk up to the back entrance with us, sharing the glory of the honeysuckle with those who had never had it before. Hopefully, some of them remember how to do it.

Our daughter is not home tonight, but you can bet tomorrow, after brunch, we will be walking up to the honeysuckle at the back entrance of our neighborhood. It’s Mother’s Day, after all, and I can’t think of a better gift than spending time harvesting honeysuckle with my 18-year-old daughter who is headed off to college 450 miles away in August. I think Mother’s Day is the perfect day to revisit the honeysuckle. For a little while, we will relive some precious moments from her childhood.

Happy Mother’s Day!

I’ve Already Graduated from College

I’ve already graduated from college.

When our daughter was in third grade, she came home one afternoon and asked me to help her with a math problem. She didn’t ask for help often, and I was happy to oblige. I sat down and worked with her, showing her how to do a problem. When I finished, she just looked at me and said, “That’s not how my teacher does it.” I said, “Well, that’s how I do it. I won the math award in high school…I know what I’m doing.” Again…”that’s not how my teacher does it.” My response? “Then ask your teacher in the morning. I have already passed third grade math.” And honestly, that was the best response for lots of reasons, the main one being that I don’t know how to do “new math.”

It reminded me of my mother when I was in school. I remember asking her for help with geometry, and her response was, “Honey. I don’t remember. That was 30 years ago. I’ve already passed geometry.” And with that, she turned back to continue watching Dynasty, because what Krystle Carrington was wearing was important. At that point in my life, I guess I thought moms retained every bit of math knowledge they had acquired in school. I guess I expected her to be able to recall the Pythagorean theorem on demand…30 years after passing her geometry class. My daughter has not asked me for math help (or any other kind of help in school) since. I guess, if she needed help along the way, she asked a classmate or a teacher.

And now, she is finishing high school in the next few weeks and preparing to leave for college! Exciting times at our house! She is enrolled, but she has lots of things to do before she can go off to college.

Back in the 80s, when I was applying to college and preparing to leave, I did it all. I don’t remember my parents helping me at all. Sure, they paid for everything, but I did all the legwork. I remember brochures and packets coming in the mail from different colleges and universities. My mother put a bag in my room to deal with that. Every day, after the mail arrived, she would bring all the brochures and packets up to my room and drop them into the bag. Every now and then, I would weed through the information and throw away the information from the schools I wasn’t interested in. When I applied to colleges, I simply asked her for checks to mail with the applications. I wrote the checks, and she signed them. I’m not even sure if she knew which schools the checks were going to. And that was OK, because I was the one going to college. She had already graduated from college.

Now, as my daughter is preparing to leave for college, I have joined some Facebook parent pages for her university, which is also my alma mater. I have written about the parent pages before. They are annoying, to say the least. Moms asking how to send baked potatoes to their kids’ dorms. (Not kidding.) Moms asking where their kids should park. (Not kidding.) Moms asking about tutors for their kids. (Not kidding.) Moms asking how to do their kids’ schedules. (Not kidding.) Moms asking how to drop/add classes. (Not kidding.) Rarely, there is someone who asks a question or shares information that is useful.

Why did I put “not kidding” behind each of those items I listed? I will tell you why: because those are all things the kids should be handling themselves. And do you know why? Because they are the ones going to college. Fortunately, my daughter hasn’t asked me to handle anything for her (I don’t have any login information for her student account). She likely knows I would say, “That’s something you need to figure out like I had to do when I went to college. I’m not going to college; you are. I’ve already graduated from college.” Does it mean I don’t care? No, it means the opposite. It means I care enough to let her do it herself. She needs to learn to solve her own problems. She needs to know how to get her own questions answered. She needs to be responsible for herself. I have full confidence in her, because I have let her figure things out for herself for a long time. Heck, it’s easier for them now than it was when we were in college! Now, all the information they need is on the website!

Back in the good ol’ 1980s, if we had questions about college stuff, we had to search through the university catalog. Or get the university phone book and make some calls to get answers. If we were wondering about where to order a baked potato to have delivered to our dorm, we had to find the yellow pages and look it up. Only, we couldn’t look up “baked potato delivery.” We had to look up restaurants and search for one with an ad for delivery. We also had to have some idea of which ones offered baked potatoes. Or we could walk down the dorm hall asking people if they knew where we could order a baked potato…that often worked. But back in the 80s, our moms were not ordering food to have delivered to us. No way. Honestly, I’m not even sure my mother knew the name of the dorm I lived in freshman year! No joke.

All this also makes me think about something that happened when our daughter was about six years old. My friend, Wendy, and I had taken my 6-yr-old daughter, Wendy’s 6-yr-old son, and my twin 6-yr-old nephews to Great Wolf Lodge one weekend. When we took them to dinner, my daughter was holding her own plate, but standing next to me at the buffet. Wendy’s son was holding his own plate but standing next to her at the buffet. I looked around for my nephews and saw one at the prime rib station, asking the server for a slice of prime rib. The other one was navigating the salad bar on his own. When we sat back down, Wendy and I talked about how awesome it was that they handled it all on their own! I called the nephews’ mom the next day and said, “Wow! They handled the buffet like champs!” And I still remember her response. She said, “That’s what happens when parents ignore their kids. They become self-sufficient.” I laughed, because I knew she didn’t really ignore them, but she didn’t baby them. They handled things for themselves at six! And I learned a valuable lesson. l didn’t ignore my daughter, for sure, but I let her handle things on her own. Those same nephews are off to college this fall too, and I feel sure they can handle anything that comes their way.

When we get my daughter moved into the dorm in August, I will feel pretty sure she can figure things out. She can handle it. She has always been a decision-maker. She is like me; she can make a decision…it might not always be the best one, but she can make a decision, and that is a life skill. Why can she make decisions? Because I have always stepped back to let her make her own decisions. I might present the facts before she makes it, but she makes her own decisions. I’m proud of that, because “the road of life is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t make a decision.” If your kid is about to leave for college, and you haven’t let them make life decisions, you have a few more months to let them practice, so they don’t become a flat squirrel.

I’ve already graduated from college.

Finding a College Roommate

Finding a college roommate.

It’s that time of year…the time when lots of high school seniors who are going to college are searching for roommates. My own daughter, fortunately, found a roommate from another Charlotte school soon after they both decided to go to the same college, so we don’t have that stress. But there are still lots of people looking. How do I know this? {Deep breath} I know this, because {another deep breath} their parents are posting their photos and bios on college parent pages, trying to find roommates for them. {And another deep breath) I’m not judging, but my daughter would definitely stop talking to me for a while if I did that.

There are tried and true methods for high school seniors to find roommates, and those methods do not include their parents posting photos and bios on parent pages. They also don’t include the moms doing it for them. Seriously, I’m not judging. I just think it’s something the students need to do. If your soon-to-be college freshman needs a roommate, here are some ways for your child to find one:

  • Ask friends if they know anyone. You might be surprised at how small the world is. Several people have asked my daughter if she knows someone going to a particular college, and she has been able to make some connections. If your child knows someone who is already a student at the university he/she plans to attend, that person might have friends who have younger siblings who will be freshmen next year. If your child is going to college in a different state, he/she might reach out to people he/she knows who live in that state. For example, if your child is going to college in Florida and knows three people who live in that state (cousins, family friends, etc), they can ask them for suggestions. It’s even OK for moms to ask other moms if they know anyone…it’s OK to help them get started, but the kids need to carry this. They need to do the reaching out.
  • Post your declaration on your college’s Instagram for incoming freshmen. This one is easy for most soon-to-be graduates. Most of them are accustomed to navigating social media, and if they’re not social-media-savvy, they need to be. Lots of communication in college is done via social media. Get with the program. Most colleges/universities have public Instagram accounts where incoming freshmen can post their photo/bio. Many of them are called State University Class of 2026. I know lots of people who have found roommates using Instagram.
  • College-sponsored roommate selection services. Lots of colleges and universities have a selection service that helps students find roommates. At my daughter’s university, it’s called My College Roomie. The process starts with creating a profile. Next the incoming freshman completes a questionnaire. Based on his/her answers, matches will be generated, and they can reach out to their matches by sending messages through the service. I have heard of other college having the same type of program. Your student should look at his/her school’s housing website to see if a similar service is offered.
  • Facebook groups. Facebook is another great social media resource for finding a roommate. Again…your child needs to do this…not the parent! If you aren’t the person who actually needs the roommate, you don’t need to do the search. If your child doesn’t have a Facebook profile, he/she will need to create one before joining Facebook groups. I have seen at least three Facebook groups for roommate searches at my daughter’s university. In the search bar, your child can enter “university name, roommate,” and specify that he/she is searching for a group. Some possibilities for groups will likely appear.
  • Roommate Search Apps. And lastly, there are roommate search apps. Two that I have heard of are RoomSync and Roomsurf. I think they work a lot like online dating sites…create a profile…maybe complete a questionnaire. Matches are made.

Worst case scenario, your child doesn’t find a roommate before school starts, and he/she gets assigned a random roommate. That is not a disaster. It often works out great. If your child ends up having a random roommate, it could be a new, forever friendship. You never know where a new friendship will blossom.

Sure, mom and dad can help a little along the way by asking people they know, but personally, I don’t recommend posting your child’s photo/bio on a parent page. Personally, I think that shouldn’t even be allowed on parent pages, but since I’m not the administrator on those pages (thank you, Lord), I don’t have any say-so. I’m not judging. This is one of those things that falls under “things your college student needs to do on his/her own.” That’s just my opinion, and it’s worth what you pay for it.

And very important: tell your kids to be themselves when searching. Do not misrepresent yourself. If you don’t drink, say you don’t drink. If you go to bed early, say you go to bed early. If you prefer quiet space, tell potential roommates that. If a potential roommate says he/she likes to get up and run several miles every day, it’s OK to admit you can’t even run to the mailbox. Be who you really are.

Good luck to everyone looking for college roommates for Fall 2022. It’s an exciting time! These students will remember their freshman-year roommates for the rest of their lives…good or bad…but hopefully good.

“Cheater” Charcuterie Boards

“Cheater” charcuterie boards.

Charcuterie boards have become popular over the last few years. Anyone who has not been living in a cave knows that. I became absolutely obsessed with creating them a little over a year ago, and I have made lots of different ones with lots of different ingredients.

Sometimes, I want to have people over and serve charcuterie, but I don’t have time to shop for it! What to do? I do what I call a “cheater charcuterie board.” I order from a business in Charlotte that will deliver charcuterie boxes and/or boards to my home with lots of fantastic, locally-sourced ingredients. I was having a crazy week a couple of months ago, but we had friends coming over on a Friday night. I wanted to serve charcuterie, but I didn’t have time to go to the store beforehand. So I searched online with “charcuterie boards, Charlotte,” and I found Off the Block Charcuterie. (If you live in another city, simply search online for “{your city}, charcuterie.” to find something similar in your area.) After perusing the Off the Block website, not only did it appear they offer quality ingredients, but I also discovered they would deliver to my home for no additional charge! Score! And I quickly placed an order.

I ordered their Large Signature Box, which features a selection of North Carolina sourced cheeses and meats plus house-roasted nuts, house-made crackers, and seasonal items. I have now ordered it several times, and the cheese have been plentiful…and included my personal favorites of bleu cheese, brie, and goat cheese. If you don’t like those cheeses, you can specify when you order. The meats have included prosciutto and other cured options. And the seasonal items have been olives, blackberries, orange slices, strawberries, raspberries, figs, and dried apricots…different items on different dates. I have not been disappointed. In fact, I have been absolutely delighted every time I have ordered, and the lady who has delivered to us is lovely. The Large Signature Box is $65, and it serves 5-6 people appetizers. We tend to use it for three or four of us as a meal with wine. Let me mention here that the price also includes the delivery to my home! It’s a bargain!

When the box arrives (on time, every time!) I get out one of my own beautiful charcuterie boards and arrange the items how I want them arranged, and I even add a few of my own favorite items from my own pantry: praline pecans, salted caramel chocolate pieces, and various crackers. (My favorite crackers are Blue Diamond Nut Thins…I usually get the artisan flavors and the almond thins.) Don’t worry. I don’t try to pass everything off as my own. I always own up to the fact that I created a cheater charcuterie board, but everyone enjoys it. I usually wait until I get a compliment on the fresh items on the board, and that’s when I say, “I have to admit it’s what I call a ‘cheater’ board, because I didn’t gather the ingredients myself…”

But that’s not all Off the Block Charcuterie offers. They also offer vegan and vegetarian boards, caviar boxes, crudité boxes, charcuterie cups, and more! At Easter, I ordered a special board from them that included cookies from Honeybear Bakeshop cookies that were fantastic! To see Off the Block’s website, click here. I’m definitely ordering for Easter…and I plan to have quite a few add-ons…maybe some caviar and chocolate.

Everything we have had delivered from Off the Block Charlotte has been outstanding, and every guest has given it rave reviews! Even our very picky teenage daughter loves them. If you would like to assemble your own cheater charcuterie board or would like to order a pre-arranged board full of locally-sourced, delicious, high quality ingredients, place your order now, and they will bring it to your home (in Charlotte) at a time you select! Serve it all with your choice of wine, and voila! You have delicious appetizers or a delicious dinner…however you choose to serve it. We have ordered so many times now that I told our delivery lady yesterday we need to invite her over for drinks one weekend.

Cheers!

***I mentioned my “beautiful” charcuterie boards above. When I say I have beautiful boards, I mean they are gorgeous. A family friend I have known for 45 years retired recently, and he is making charcuterie boards by hand. He makes them from different types of wood and finishes them in FDA-approved finishes, so they are food safe. Seriously, I get compliments on them every time I use one. If you’re interested in one, contact me at kellymattei@msn.com for more information. Photos below. ***

***Again, to see the website for Off the Block Charlotte, click here.***

Senior Prom

Senior Prom.

It’s a tradition that has been popular in the United States since the 1930s. For those who didn’t know, “prom” is short for “promenade,” which is defined as “the formal, introductory parading of guests at a party,” according to mentalfloss.com. I know proms were definitely popular by the 1950s, because my own mother, whose nickname was “Doll” because she was so tiny, was a prom queen at her high school in Alabama. I remember my own high school proms in the 1980s with fond memories. And now, it’s time for our daughter to go to her senior prom.

Our daughter was lucky to even have a prom last year. The previous two years, prom was cancelled because of…you guessed it, COVID. But last year, when our daughter was a junior, our school made a real effort, even in the middle of a mask mandate, to make sure our kids had a prom. (If I ever complain about our school, I need to also remember how hard they tried to make things better for the kids during COVID.) It was outdoors. I didn’t get to see it in person, of course, because here in Charlotte, parents don’t go to the “lead out” like they do in some areas. I am actually glad about that…no offense to those who do…but I don’t feel like I have any business at my daughter’s prom. We go take photos at a club or someone’s house beforehand with a group, and groups of couples go to dinner before going to the actual prom. That’s the norm here, and that’s what they did last year. The kids were so excited to feel somewhat “normal” again last year, and our daughter and her beau had a great time and made lovely photos and lasting memories.

This year, things are much more normal. They are gathering for photos and dinner beforehand and going to an actual indoor prom! So exciting! I’m just thankful she is having a “normal” senior prom. She’ll make memories just like we did back in the 1980s…except there won’t be as much hairspray as there was in the 80s. They will take lots more photos than we did, because they have smartphones. They might even take some silly videos or make some TikToks. In fact, in 2022, the girls won’t have big hair, but the boys will. The dresses will be more revealing now than they were in the 80s…back when we covered our bodies in as much fabric as possible. I still don’t know how we got dates wearing all the baggy clothes we wore. Wow…it has been a long time since my senior prom. They will have fun, I’m sure, but really…the prom itself is just the excuse to get dressed up, get photos, and go to a party afterward, I think. They just enjoy being together…just like we did back in the 80s…so that’s still the same.

I hope they will remember to stop and take mental notes throughout the evening…just enjoy the moment. It’s a memorable occasion. Everyone who goes to prom remembers it. They might not remember lots of details, but everyone will remember who they went to prom with. They will remember what they wore. They might remember where they had dinner. They will even remember some funny things that happen. Because it’s an emotionally-charged night, it’s a memory that gets imbedded in their long-term memories. I’ve written before that I learned a lot about long-term and short-term memory when my husband had brain surgery. Big emotional events land in our long-term memory, because of the emotions attached to them. It’s why we remember where we were when someone dies. It’s why we remember where we were when we fell in love.

It’s not just a big night for the students, though. The senior prom marks the end of an era for parents too. Since my husband and I have just one child, this is the end of the high school line for us. And it’s the first time our daughter has ever trusted me to pick a dress for her. That’s a memory in itself!

I hope they all have a great time. I hope they all have a safe night and make good decisions. I hope they make some great memories to look back on when they’re my age. I hope they’ll enjoy this big event together, because these seniors will be going in different directions soon. Many of them have been in school together since they were four or five years old. Life is changing! Those little kindergarten students I remember from 2009 are finishing their stint at their independent school and moving on to college…many in different states!

Good times…senior prom.

I Wish I Hadn’t Said That

I wish I hadn’t said that.

Seriously. I have said this to myself a million times. Maybe I accidentally offended someone with something I said. Or maybe I struck back hard (verbally) at someone who, I felt, had struck at me first. Maybe I overreacted. Maybe I used inappropriate language. Maybe I was sick or tired…and I was snippy. Maybe I wasn’t sick or tired, but I was snippy for some other reason. Maybe I said something ugly I shouldn’t have said. Or maybe I repeated something I shouldn’t have repeated. It happens…not just to me. It happens to lots of people, unless they’re living in a cave…alone…with no one else around to talk to.

No matter what the different situations were, there have been lots of times I have wished I had kept my big mouth shut.

I’m guessing everyone on the planet has said something they wish they hadn’t said. Unfortunately, once we put words out there, we can’t reel them back in. It’s a lesson we should all learn as children, but sometimes we make mistakes.

I was talking with a teenager the other day who told me she regretted some things she did and said when she was younger. She told me some of the things she regretted…most were silly, elementary-school type things. And that’s when I took a moment to tell her that, even at 54, I still say and do things I regret. Many times, I look back on things I have said or done, and I know I could have handled things differently. It’s just part of life. We like to think we learn all the lessons we can ever learn, but I know really nice, good-hearted, genuine people who tell me they often wish they had handled different situations differently.

A friend was telling me just yesterday how her Mama Bear instinct had kicked in on a situation with her daughter, and she had interceded where she shouldn’t have. I get it. I have been there. I have done that. That Mama Bear instinct is fierce. People who have never been a Mama don’t understand just how strong that instinct is. And even some Mamas don’t have the same strength of instinct as others. My friend said she can recall lots of times she lashed out over situations involving her kids…and she cringes. Again…been there, done that…I wonder how many hours of my life have been spent cringing over something I have said.

I’m certainly not perfect. I’m not a perfect person. I’m not a perfect parent. I’m not a perfect friend. I try, but sometimes my emotions get the best of me. But if anyone tries to tell me I’m the only crazy mom out there, I will laugh. I know I’m not the only one. I know every mom out there is capable of doing whatever it takes to keep her baby from getting hurt. But in most of the cases in which I have interceded, I have regretted it. In almost every instance, I later wished I had just stepped back and let things play out. Protecting our kids is not always helpful. Why? Because as painful as it may be, they need to learn to protect themselves. And honestly, in hindsight, I wasn’t always interceding on my daughter’s behalf…it simply felt like it at the time. But often, I found I was interceding because of my own beliefs…not hers. She usually didn’t even care about what was happening, but I did. I’m cringing again right now.

So yes, those regrets continue throughout life. Even today…this very day…I regret something I said to my husband. I was in a hurry to get somewhere, and he was slowing me down with a conversation…I got snippy. Instead of asking him nicely if we could discuss it later, I said, “I’m trying to get out the door! Can’t this wait?!?” I ended up apologizing later. Fortunately, he accepted my apology…probably because he has to live with me for “as long as we both shall live.” Forgiveness is key.

It’s important to remember that forgiveness is key in all these situations. We all live in “glass houses.” We all hurt people sometimes. We should all be forgiving. And we also have to learn to forgive ourselves.

So when I offend you…I can almost guarantee it will happen at some time if we are ever around each other…I will likely ask for forgiveness if I’m aware that I have hurt you. If you’re not the forgiving type, we don’t need to be friends anyway, because I am definitely the forgiving type. I only hope my friends will offer me the same courtesy I would offer them in a situation. I tell people all the time, “You have to try to offend me…and you have to try many times before it becomes an issue.”

And if you’re my friend for very long, you’ll hear me say at least once, “I wish I hadn’t said that.” Maybe I should just carry cards in my handbag that say, “Please forgive me for _____________. I wish I hadn’t said/done that.” I can hand them out after I realize I’ve likely offended someone.

I wish I hadn’t said that.

Now I’m Getting Nervous

Now I’m getting nervous…

It’s no secret that I have been looking forward to my daughter’s high school graduation. She has been at the same independent school since she was four years old, so she really thinks she is ready for graduation. Plus, she is an only child, so when she graduates and goes off to college, we become empty-nesters. We start a new phase of our lives. It’s a phase we are excited about.

And up until now, I’ve been nothing but excited. I have been looking forward to summer vacations. I have been excited about how much she is going to love college. I have been looking forward to the adventures my husband and I will have…traveling to different places…the possibility of living somewhere else (not right away, of course, because we know our daughter needs to be able to come back home during her freshman year). There’s a lot to look forward to.

But earlier today, I was talking with a friend whose only child, a daughter, is a sophomore in college, and she gave me a warning, “No matter what you think right now, you are going to miss that girl when she goes to college.” And it hit me. She’s right. I’m going to miss her. I’m going to miss her like crazy. We have been together almost every single day of her life. Soon, she will be leaving me behind. I’m happy for her, but now I’m nervous for me. It’s uncharted territory for me.

I wrote recently about how I have one job. I’m a mom. And that has been my one job for eighteen years. But now that’s about to change. I’m not officially being “fired” from that job, but the job description is going to change. She won’t need me daily; frankly, she probably hasn’t needed me daily for a long time. However, once she goes off to college several hundred miles away, I will likely go months without seeing her in person or giving her a hug! She will be fine. I’m worried about me.

God prepares us for this. As they grow up, kids gradually become more independent. Even in elementary school, they start going to friends houses without us. They go to sleepovers with friends. And then, before they can drive, we drop them off at places to meet friends regularly. Then, they learn to drive, and everything changes. As soon as our daughter turned 16, she was off to the races…we hardly saw her anymore, because she had the freedom to move around the city at will. Four months after she got her license, though, COVID hit. Because she couldn’t spend as much time with friends, she did a lot of driving around. She even invited me to go for drives with her. We looked for places to drive around…sometimes just driving around town, and other times driving into South Carolina to see what it looked like when states started to re-open during the pandemic. South Carolina opened way before North Carolina did, and we drove around looking at the lines outside restaurants!

Because teenagers are social creatures, we were not particularly strict about the COVID restrictions. She needed to see her friends. She needed to spend time socializing, so we let her. I joked that she spent the summer of 2020 trying to catch COVID but never caught it. I felt sure she would bring it home to me and my husband during those first few crucial months, but we never got it. Actually, I did have it in late January of this year, but I didn’t get it from my daughter.

Pandemic restrictions lifted, and school eventually went back to “normal.” She has been going to school dances and sporting events. Her social life has resumed in full force. She is hardly ever home, but we usually see her for at least a few minutes a day. Lots of times, I don’t even know when she will be home after lacrosse practice.

And now, she is taking another step toward independence…and so are we! We are going to have lots of free time on our hands. It’s going to be scary. It’s going to be fun. But even while we are having fun, I’m sure I will miss our little girl who’s not so little anymore. She is three inches taller than I am and ready to face the world. We just have to get ourselves ready to face the world in a different way…and really, that’s the scary part. I’m going to have to reinvent myself!

Yes, God prepares us by making their independence gradual…so gradual that we hardly notice till they’re ready to fly the coop! And now it’s almost here…

Once we get her to college, we plan to take a nice, relaxing vacation to “celebrate” our new status as empty nesters. Hopefully, we embrace the freedom…

The future is bright!