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.

A Lucky Duck

Almost a month ago, I wrote about what we referred to as a “Mama Duck” had laid some eggs in one of the planters on our front porch. In this world of COVID-19, murder hornets, and political unrest, Mama Duck, by way of laying eggs at our house, brought us some hope…something to look forward to.

And oh, how we have loved watching her. She ended up laying a total of nine eggs over the course of a week or so. My husband and I became obsessed with her…like four-year-olds, we would peek out the window numerous times a day and through the night. We wanted to be sure Mama Duck and the eggs stayed safe. We wanted that little clutch of eggs to make it, but it wasn’t easy.

About ten days ago, we had a lovely visitor to our backyard. I was so excited to see him…a beautiful 5-foot rat snake! I posted some photos of the snake on Facebook, and then my friends reminded me we needed to keep an eye on the duck and eggs. They were right! A few hours later, my husband found the snake curled up on top of the eggs, with Mama Duck nowhere in sight! I wasn’t home at the time, so when he called me and said, “You’re not going to believe this! That snake is in the eggs,” I said, “GET IT OUT!” He did, and by the time I returned home, he had relocated the snake far away.

Talk about a lucky duck!

We thought we were home free! We thought that since the snake was gone, our duck’s troubles were over…till another snake showed up a few days later! My husband walked past the window and looked out, and somehow, he noticed a tiny tail sticking out from under the planter! This time, I was home, and he called me outside to “help” him get the snake, which basically meant I was his cheerleader. While I love the beauty of a rat snake, I don’t want to have to catch one! With bravery that was reminiscent of the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, my husband captured the snake and relocated him far, far away. Mama Duck flew away during the chaos but returned a few hours later.

Two snakes??? Holy moly! We were scared for our Mama Duck. So we watched. When we couldn’t be home, we watched on security cameras. And we spread snake repellent all around the porch. The whole front of our house smelled like a giant wintergreen Lifesaver…I guess snakes don’t like that?

And then, yesterday, as I watched on the security camera, I saw some movement around Mama Duck in the planter. She was moving around a lot more than usual too! And then I thought I heard a few “peeps”!

We were out of town, but as it turns out, I was right about the “peeps”! Embarrassingly, last night at about 11:15pm, we checked the cameras again (we were out of town), and we saw lots of movement. We couldn’t tell if what we saw was a duckling or a snake, so I called our neighbor…yes, at 11:15pm…and he ran over and checked. No snake, but he couldn’t see any ducklings, because Mama Duck hid them under her wings.

The neighbor on the other side went over and saw the ducklings early this morning, and then a few hours later, they were gone. Mama Duck and the ducklings had left the nest…it’s what they do.

We missed seeing them “in person,” but we are some proud duck grandparents. We are proud that we saved them. We are proud that they made it.

That’s one lucky duck.

Hand Sanitizers

Hand sanitizers.

Who would have ever thought I’d be sitting here writing about hand sanitizers? Before March 15 of this year, it didn’t seem that important, but wow…times have changed.

Hand sanitizers are important. How many of you scoured your homes in March, hoping to find some bottles of hand sanitizer, alcohol swabs, spray cans of Lysol, Clorox wipes, or anything that would help you disinfect your surroundings or your hands? I did. Once everything was gone in the stores, I turned my home upside down trying to find anything I could. I was actually pretty lucky. I found a few canisters of Clorox wipes…score! I found a box of alcohol wipes…yes! I found several random hand sanitizers all over the house…woohoo! And I moved the aerosol can of Lysol from the bathroom to the table in the foyer, so I could spray packages (lots of them) as they arrived.

A couple of weeks ago, I happened to walk into my neighborhood CVS right after they had stocked the shelves with new hand sanitizers. I grabbed a couple of spray bottles of sanitizer, because we didn’t have any of those, and I wanted to see what I thought about them. Here’s the answer: I loved them! It’s so easy to spray my hands or even my surroundings, if necessary.

Since I’m getting ready to go on vacation, I thought I should get some more spray hand sanitizer. I was doing some online shopping in the middle of the night, and so, I decided to check Amazon for hand sanitizers. To my surprise, they had some hand sanitizer from a brand I love and trust! It was a brand I trust in every bathroom in my house. I keep small spray bottles from this company in each bathroom, for my family and guests to use. It’s Poo-Pourri! I absolutely love this company! Yes, they make the “before you go” toilet spray, and now, they make hand sanitizers and sell them in 2-ounce spray bottles…the perfect size for taking on the plane with you! Of course, I bought it, and Amazon delivered it the next day.61br3fKr1pL._AC_SL1500_

When it arrived, I could hardly wait to try it, and the reason I’m telling you about it is…I love it! It has a 65% alcohol content for killing germs, but it has a lovely coconut/lavender scent. And the small bottles are perfect for handbags, cars, and even pockets! Yesterday, when I had lunch on the patio of a local restaurant, I used it repeatedly at the table. I even spritzed the table a couple of times…just in case!

I love sharing great products when I find them! If you’re interested in purchasing the Poo-Pourri hand sanitizer, you can get it directly from the company here, or from Amazon by clicking here.

Spritz away those germs!

 

 

Leaving the Group

Leaving the group.

Remember when you were a teenager? I do. I remember my parents telling me that if I attended a gathering where things started to get “out of hand” or “go awry” or if I were uncomfortable, to leave. Get myself out of the situation. At different stages of life, that could mean different things. As a teenager, maybe people were getting too rowdy. Or maybe I had the choice of whether or not to get into a car with someone I didn’t really trust. In college, maybe there were drugs present that I didn’t need to around. Maybe there was a mob mentality about something, and people were about to do something they wouldn’t have done if they were alone.

Recently, I found myself in a virtual group that started to scare me. By “virtual,” I mean it was the Facebook page for a group I joined long ago. According to the Facebook page of this group I remember as always quite civilized and respectful, the goal of the page is stated to be “to build a network of [members]…to share resources and opportunities.” It states clearly in the group rules that there is to be no hate speech or bullying. “Communicate with courtesy and respect,” it says.

Imagine my surprise when communication on this same page recently turned quite ugly and disrespectful. People are calling each other names. People are addressing members in ways I wouldn’t address anyone. People are using profanity left and right as a means of conveying their viewpoints, instead of using respectful speech.

Don’t get me wrong. Generally speaking, I don’t care about profanity, but I don’t like when it is hurled at someone…especially in a setting where we should be treating each other with respect. Imagine hurling obscenities at your coworkers in a professional setting. Or imagine your children hurling them at their teachers in the classroom setting. I don’t know about you, but the school wouldn’t even have to punish my child; she would be in big enough trouble at home.

I’ve seen kids on sports fields and sports courts in recent years sassing referees and gesturing after what they believe is a bad call, and every time, I think, “Holy smokes. My daddy would have walked out there and snatched me off that field.” I’ve been watching when my daughter was playing high school sports, and when a girl behaves poorly or with poor sportsmanship on the field, I’ve thought, “My daughter’s coach surely knows that I would take her home right now if she acted that way on the field.”

That brings me back to my group. Apparently, a lot of people don’t feel the same way. They think respecting others is no longer important. They think it’s OK to get out there and say whatever you want and say it however you want to whomever you want, without regard for others. They think it’s OK to use profanity in every sentence when they are trying to make a point. In this particular group, someone actually typed out these words to another member recently: Sit the hell down. 

And that’s when I knew I needed to leave the group. That was that moment my parents had warned me about. When things start to go awry or you are uncomfortable, leave. So I left the Facebook page of a group I’ve been a member of most of my life. It broke my heart, because I really wanted to try to make a difference. I’m really good at listening to other people’s viewpoints. I know everyone doesn’t feel the same way about everything…and I think that’s OK. That’s what makes the world go around. But I will not tolerate disrespectful behavior. I do not want to be a part of a group that communicates that way.

If it had been a one off situation, I could have gotten past it. But it wasn’t. People were accusing each other of horrible things. Worst of all, no one was hearing anyone else. And as soon as I saw “sit the hell down,” I was done. I left the Facebook page of a group I’ve loved for years…a group I have dedicated time and financial resources to…a group that, for me, was always a soft place to land, a place I made lifelong friends. I had to leave the Facebook page. I hope the behavior of those people is not indicative of the members of the group as a whole. Is civility dead?!?!

I keep getting messages from friends who are still in the group. I’ve received six or eight from people who have left it too, but I’m getting messages showing me screenshots of some of the posts, and I’m brokenhearted. I’m disappointed. I don’t want to be a part of a group that behaves that way.

So I left the Facebook group. I had to. My parents would be proud that I chose not to participate in the insanity, because that’s what it looked like to me. It looked like a bunch of spoiled, entitled, participation-trophy kids who think they’re the smartest things on the planet, and they’re probably 25 years old. They think their education makes them knowledgeable about life, I guess. At 53, I know that’s not true. They know very little, but they’re not even smart enough to realize that yet. When they’re 53, hopefully, they will look back and realize just how incredibly rude they were.

I’m out.

 

 

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Welcome to the Jungle

Welcome to the jungle.

Yesterday, a friend posted on Facebook that when she was watching NBC’s Today, a woman complained that her best friend had just purchased a new home with a pool, and it made her “feel bad to see the pictures of their family enjoying this pool while she was stuck inside.” Apparently, the hosts told her she should confront her friend about how the photos made her feel. What the what?!?!? Confront her friend because she is envious?!?!?! Are you kidding me??? During the whole isolation thing, weren’t we all just trying to make the best of a bad situation? Weren’t we all just trying to hold it all together? In fact, aren’t we still trying to find happiness where we are? I like to think that if I lived in an apartment in New York, I would have tried to find ways to make my little space a little happier for me and my family. We all make choices in life. We can choose to find happiness.

During the isolation, our little family was very thankful we had a nice backyard and a pool. In fact, if you venture into our backyard right now, you can tell that’s where we spent all our time. When the isolation started, we started sitting on our patio during the evenings. We couldn’t go anywhere, so we decided to “love the one we’re with.” That means we made a conscious decision to do everything we could to make our space as enjoyable as possible for us. The first few nights we had cocktails. Then, in an effort to make it feel a little happier out there, I ordered floating color-changing light balls to brighten up the evenings. They’re solar-powered, and I was thrilled when they arrived! I inflated them and put them in the pool, and immediately, it was a happier place. I was so happy with them, in fact, that I ordered six more of them and hung them from the eave of the pool house…even more colorful happiness in the evenings! They absorb sunlight all day and illuminate automatically when the sun goes down.93244103_10222971590983078_89571285260042240_n

Also, in March, with lots of extra time on my hands, I started seeding sunflowers, cucumbers, zinnias, watermelons, and corn, and then, I transplanted the seedlings to the ground in our backyard and along the side of the house a few weeks later. We purchased small tomato plants, and I even decided to seed some Brussels sprouts. If you walked into my backyard now, you’d see tall sunflowers, bushy sunflowers, cucumber and watermelon vines, Brussels sprouts, and corn plants…they’re all growing beautifully! So when I say “welcome to the jungle,” I mean there are a lot of different things growing out there. There is so much greenery in our backyard, and it is glorious! Some of the sunflowers are blooming, and I have about six different varieties. The zinnias should continue to bloom well into the fall, and some of the sunflower varieties will, as well. As for the cucumbers, they are just now beginning to fruit, and I expect the corn to be ready about the middle of July.

What I’m saying is that our backyard jungle is a product of the pandemic. I’m certainly not happy we had and still have COVID-19 in our midst, and I pray it goes away soon. I pray every day that some company will find a vaccine…and fast. I’d love to see this go away as quickly as it appeared.

While I hate this coronavirus, I’m so glad I used my time wisely. I’m so glad our family got into the habit of spending evenings on the patio together…and sometimes social-distancing with friends out there. I’m glad I got my garden started earlier than I usually do, and I’m glad I branched out and planted more than I usually do…even if the yard is starting to look like a jungle!

I went out of town for a week for a mother/daughter trip, and my husband stayed home. He did a beautiful job of tending the garden while I was gone! I was thrilled to come home and find all the plants are thriving…well, except the tomatoes. While the plants look good, we have yet to see a fruit. They might be a fail for this year, and that’s OK. What I don’t have in tomatoes, I’ll have in corn, cucumbers, and watermelons, I hope.

I’m telling all my friends that if they enjoy sunflowers and zinnias, come on over to our house this summer. We’ll have cocktails on the patio while we talk and laugh. And I’ll show off our garden. Maybe next month, they’ll even be able to take home some cucumbers! I want to share the joy we have experienced in our own little backyard.

Welcome to the jungle!

 

Driving Through Small Towns

Driving through small towns.

Last week, my 16-year-old daughter and I drove from Charlotte to the beach in the Florida Panhandle. It’s about a nine hour drive. I could have taken Interstate 85 and cut the time by about an hour, but I wanted the drive to be peaceful and scenic. Rarely is there anything peaceful or scenic about I-85 between Charlotte and Atlanta, so I checked Waze and Google Maps, but I ended up designing my own route, and it worked out really well.

Our drive took us through four states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. And we passed through lots of small towns along the way…some more memorable than others. We were on Interstate 77 from Charlotte to Columbia, SC, and then on I-20 from Columbia to Augusta, GA, but that’s when we dropped off the interstate and started driving through some small towns.

The first one that got my attention was Wrens, Georgia, about 40 minutes southwest of Augusta. At first, there was nothing remarkable about the town, but soon I saw a woman in traditional Mennonite dress walking with three little girls in the same traditional clothing. I slowed down as the speed limit decreased and noticed more Mennonites. Because we had time restrictions, I didn’t stop anywhere, but I made a mental note of the community, and later, when we stopped, I looked online to see if there are any Mennonite restaurants or bakeries in the area. Indeed, there are, and they get great reviews. I might just have to grab a friend for a day trip to Wrens.

We drove through Macon and Albany (pronounced al-binny in Georgia) before passing through the very charming Colquitt, Georgia. On the way down to the beach, we were driving in torrential rains, because a tropical storm was coming through. I had never heard of Colquitt, but even in the rain, it was a beautiful little town. I didn’t think to ask my daughter to take photos, but when we stopped, I looked up the town online, and wow! When we were returning home, I planned ahead. It was a Sunday, so the town was basically closed (small towns in the south do that), but I had my daughter ready to take photos as we passed through. There are 17 beautiful murals throughout the town; my favorite is on a peanut silo and depicts a man picking peanuts and a cotton field with a crop-duster flying overhead. And the town even offers mural tours! You can get the info here. Colquitt is a long way from Charlotte, but next time I am driving down that way to Tallahassee or to the Florida beaches, I will plan ahead to spend a night in Colquitt at the historic Tarrer Hotel. And if it’s in May or October and the COVID restrictions have been lifted, maybe we will visit the Colquitt State Theater and catch a production of Swamp Gravy, the folk life story of Georgia.

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We spent the first night in Marianna, Florida, because I wanted to have dinner with my cousins who live there. We dined at a local restaurant in Sneads called Johnny Mac’s, where my cousins knew everyone who walked in and out of the restaurant. My 16-year-old daughter was amazed that they knew everyone, but she was also amazed at how friendly everyone was. If you ever find yourself in Jackson County, Florida, stop in at Johnny Mac’s. I had the bison burger, but everything looked delicious! See the website here. The next day, we met my cousin for breakfast at the Waffle House in Marianna, and again…my daughter couldn’t get over how friendly the servers were.

The rain was coming down in buckets when we left breakfast, but I wanted to show my daughter a few things around Marianna. One place I wanted her to see was Blue Springs Recreational Area. Because it was raining so hard, it was difficult to see the swimming area, which is fed by a natural spring, but she got the idea. She still hasn’t visited Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna, but one day we’ll do it. Mother used to take us when we were kids. We also drove through downtown Marianna so she could see some of the beautiful historic homes and the charming downtown. I told her that when I was a little girl there was a radio station with Nipper, the RCA dog, on top of the building, but it had been gone a long time. I also remember going to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the theater there and being terrified. What the heck? I think I was about four years old, but there’s no longer a theater in downtown Marianna. In fact, several of the historic downtown buildings were destroyed in Hurricane Michael two years ago. I looked around at the buildings and all the downed trees and thought how my daddy would have been heartbroken by the destruction.

After we left Marianna, we drove on I-10 toward the Defuniak Springs exit, but stopped in Chipley, Florida, to gas up. When I was a little girl, we often drove through Chipley on our way to Marianna, and I remember a sign on Highway 90 that said “Bunnies for Sale.” I wondered if the sign was still there, but before we drove farther in that direction, I checked online. Apparently, someone does still sell bunnies in Chipley, but the operation is no longer on Highway 90. I’m guessing the sign is gone too, so we got back on I-10 and continued driving west.

After taking the Defuniak Springs exit, I suggested we drive a few miles north to Highway 90, so I could see if the old Horne’s restaurant building is still standing. Horne’s was a chain restaurant with a circus theme that closed in Defuniak Springs in the 1970s, probably about the time I-10 opened. A lot of businesses along Hwy 90 closed when the interstate came through. Hwy 90 had been the main thoroughfare between Jacksonville, Florida, and West Texas, so there were lots of little roadside motels and mom-and-pop businesses that closed when the interstate opened. The world looked a lot different then. You can still get a glimpse of it by driving down Highway 90 and seeing some of the remnants. Even in Mobile, Alabama, there are still some of the old roadside motels on Hwy 90.

While we were in Defuniak Springs, I called my friend, Linda, in Charlotte. Her husband grew up in Defuniak Springs, and she had mentioned to me that his grandmother had a lovely home on the lake in town. She gave me the address, and my daughter and I set out to find it. It did not disappoint. The home is a lovely Queen Anne-style home facing the lake in the middle of the historic district in town. Yes, a beautiful lake in the middle of town! We took lots of photos of the home, the lake, and some other historic sites in the area. Defuniak Springs is a charming town, indeed…worth a visit when I have more time to spend there. To see more about the history of the area, click here. As we drove out of town, we stopped at a Whataburger, because we love the chain and don’t have one in Charlotte. Again, my daughter was amazed at how friendly the employees were. IMG_8292

From Defuniak Springs, we drove straight to the beach, but those stops in small towns made quite an impression on my teenage daughter. Small towns just have a different flavor. I should know…I’ve lived in several of them in Alabama. God bless small towns.

 

 

 

Big Blue Marble Penpals

Big Blue Marble penpals.

Who remembers Big Blue Marble, the TV show that came on Saturday mornings back in the 1970s (and apparently, on into the 1980s, according to Wikipedia)? Those of us who watched it know the title was a reference to our home planet. In each episode, it featured stories about real-life kids…one segment about an American child and a segment about a child living in another country. The show also encouraged viewers to send letters in to start penpal relationships with kids around the world. I loved it the show, but I never mailed in a letter. But maybe I should have! Because of this pandemic, I’ve discovered that having penpals is fun!

Weeks ago, in an effort to brighten the moods of my friends who are stuck at home, I started sending out letters and some postcards I had collected on different vacations. We are planning to travel with some friends this summer (yes, still planning to go…fingers crossed), so I sent them postcards featuring the places we will visit…because I’ve visited the places before. And lucky for me, when I was there, I picked up some picture postcards, and till now, I’ve never felt the need to use them. But thank you, COVID-19, for encouraging me to dig through all my stuff to find those postcards and send them to friends who live far away.

But here was something cool that I saw on Instagram: one hotel where we have stayed before posted something saying, “Send us your name/address in a direct message, and a member of our staff will mail you a letter from the hotel!” Because I thought it was a fun idea, I submitted my teenage daughter’s name and address…knowing she would love to get some snail mail from one of her favorite places on the planet.

And I was right! When the picture postcard arrived with a sweet note written by the director of guest services, she was thrilled! Without my having to tell you, I’m sure you know what I did. First, I encouraged my daughter to write back…and she did. And instead of just mailing her letter back, I stuck a letter of my own into the envelope, thanking the director of guest services for sending her a postcard.

Since I started mailing postcards and letters, I have had the most fun opening my mail to find some of my friends in faraway places have written back! Some thanked me via facebook or email, and that was thrilling too, because they all said it brightened their days. It’s funny how a simple gesture can make a difference. Seriously, it doesn’t take long to write a quick note, especially on a postcard, and mail it.

If only Big Blue Marble were still on, kids could all get some new penpals all over the world. If I had actually participated as a kid, it would have been a great way to learn about different cultures. I suppose it’s a little old-fashioned now, but I still think it would be fun. Sure, some people use social media to meet “new friends” in other countries, but I don’t trust that. I’ve seen a few too many episodes of 90 Day Fiance, so I see how people get “catfished.” I even saw an episode of Dr. Phil on which a woman had sent thousands of dollars to her “true love” in some foreign country, and then, every time she was supposed to meet him, he missed a flight or had some other lame excuse. He was catfishing her. So no, social media is not the same as the good old Big Blue Marble days, and receiving an email isn’t as much fun as receiving a handwritten letter or postcard.

So I’ll just keep on sending letters and postcards to friends and family in faraway places. If you’d like to receive a postcard, send a private message with your name and address!

In fact, I’m walking down to the mailbox to send off a few more postcards now.

 

Ducklings in our Future!

Ducklings in our future!

The world is a crazy place. I don’t have to tell you that. But in the midst of all the craziness this world has to offer, my husband discovered a little gift on our front porch two days ago…two eggs in one of the planters on our front porch. They weren’t tiny, little speckled eggs. They were big white eggs. I decided they were duck eggs. And we discovered today that I was right.

After he found the eggs, we checked many times throughout Sunday and Monday to see if the mama was hanging around. Nothing. That also helped me feel sure they were duck eggs. I did a little research and found that ducks will lay an egg a day, till they have a clutch (usually 8-14 eggs), before they start “brooding,” or sitting on the eggs. Mama doesn’t hang around much till then. After the mama duck starts “brooding,” it’s usually 26-30 days before the eggs start to hatch. I am supposed to be out of town 28 days from today, but if she keeps laying eggs and doesn’t start brooding for another week, I’ll be back in time to see them! My husband will be here the whole time, and he can document it all, but it will be a lot more fun if I’m actually here to see the ducklings hatch!

I also hope I’m in town when they hatch for another reason. The eggs are in a planter that is tall. How is Mama going to get those babies out without breaking their necks? And then there are several steps! She’s going to need some help! Or maybe she’s smarter than I give her credit for, and she already has a plan. I just hope the plan doesn’t include taking the new babies for a swim in our pool, because aside from the mess they create, they will have lots of difficulty getting out. If you ever watched The Sopranos, you likely recall Tony Soprano building a ramp for visiting ducks to use to get out of his pool. My husband’s not going to do that, for sure. In the past, we have had to rescue ducklings from the pool with a net, creating great stress for the mom and for the ducklings. Heck, it was stressful for me. There are two lakes nearby, so we are hoping Mama Duck has those in mind as the places to introduce her babies to water.

A friend/neighbor had ducklings in her pool a few years ago, and we went over to help rescue them. There was a big, loud owl in a nearby tree just waiting to swoop in and carry away one of those babies. We got them out, and I don’t know what ultimately happened to them. I shudder when I think about it, so I try not to think about it.

I’d rather think happier thoughts.

It’s nice having something positive to look forward to every morning! We were so excited when we saw the mama duck this morning, and I’m even more excited thinking we get to watch the eggs add up over the next week or so!

We needed something happy right now. Make way for ducklings!

 

 

I Can’t Hear You!

I can’t hear you!

Since the COVID-19 pandemic has required me to wear a mask in public, I have learned something: I cannot hear, see, or communicate well while wearing a mask. In fact, I’ve decided masks totally interfere with my brainpower. It’s weird!

It’s terrible. No, it’s not as terrible as getting sick, but dang it…it seems all my senses are failing while I’m wearing a mask! Add in the fact that it’s hot inside that mask, and my glasses steam up, and it hardly becomes worth it to leave my house. I also feel like the maskless people are thinking I’m judging them when I’m not. No, I’m not. Y’all go ahead and judge everybody else all you want, but I’m just not that person. I know someone who actually confronted people who weren’t wearing masks in the grocery store recently. Nope. Not gonna do it. Personally, I think she is more in danger of getting beaten up in the parking lot than she is of catching COVID, but whatever. 

But back to the real topic: how masks impair our communication skills. Like I said, I can’t hear while wearing a mask. I know my hearing is not as good as it should be anyway, but it’s worse with a mask. Maybe I have some mad lip-reading skills that I just can’t use while others are wearing masks. Maybe it’s the claustrophobia I feel behind the mask. Maybe the mask is decreasing oxygen to my brain! Maybe it makes me feel like I’m disconnected. It really does do that, for sure. People can’t read my facial expressions, and I’m accustomed to smiling at folks all the time. I can smile all I want now, but no one is going to see it. A smile, in my opinion, is the same as a space alien saying, “We come in peace.” But if we can’t see each other’s smiles, we all look a little hostile. Sure, resting b***h fave doesn’t show either, but frankly, I think everyone looks like they have RBF under a mask.

Normally, when I’m in public, I might strike up a conversation with the person standing in line in front of me or behind me. Lots of times, I’ve stuck up conversations with folks and discovered we had people in common…even in faraway places! I was in Tennessee a few years ago, and when I started talking with the lady in front of me in line at a tourist attraction, I learned she was from Panama City, Florida. She told me she worked for a dentist, and I mentioned that my aunt worked for a children’s home in the area. The lady then told me she the dentist she worked for did a lot of work with the children’s home. I called my aunt, who told me that yes, she knew the dentist…but she didn’t just know him from there. She had gone to high school with him!

That’s what I miss…those impromptu conversations with new people. The masks are taking that kind of fun away from me. Yes, they might be saving us from spreading the virus, but they’re taking away some of the fun of life. Communication is just a little more difficult. 

I know, I know. Masks are likely going to be a way of life for the foreseeable future. I’m just going to have to get accustomed to it. But that does not mean I have to like it. I miss making new friends in Target. I miss making connections. I miss smiling at people in public. 

 

 

 

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It’s Official…I’m Not Tech Savvy

It’s official. I’m not tech savvy.

I went to college at a time when it was OK to not be tech savvy. I knew how to type. I knew how to use a Mac for journalism, since that was my major. I didn’t take a programming class, because I took Spanish…I loved learning a new language. I didn’t learn how to make a spreadsheet or how to use Microsoft Word. I don’t even know if all that existed then. I knew how to do what I knew how to do, and that was fine. It was the 1980s.

Right out of college, I took a job as a flight attendant. All I needed to know how to do on the computer was sign in for trips and sign out when I was done. Easy peasy! I didn’t need to know more! I later worked in the travel industry, planning trips and meetings, but there was a certain computer system we used for that. I knew what I knew, and it worked for me. I was a pen and ink girl for a lot of things, because I found that I remembered things when I wrote them down. I still take constant notes when I’m in a meeting or on the phone, because that’s how my memory works…write it down, and I’ll remember it. My memory rarely fails me. Four hundred people attending a meeting? I have immediate recall if I write the names down before typing them into the computer. When they arrived and told me their names, I knew if they were registered or not…immediate recall. If someone couldn’t find someone’s name in registration, they would come to me, and when I heard the name, I would know if they had actually registered or not…immediate recall.

And then, technology moved a lot faster than I did. I can use a computer. I can launch a simple website using WordPress. I have always been able to do most of the things I needed to do, or I knew who to ask.  I have a dear friend who is a librarian, and she has taught me a lot. Sometimes, when I knew it would take time for her to teach me how to do things, I simply asked her to do them for me, and being the awesome friend she is, she did them. But I should do better.

One thing I learned during this pandemic is that I need to get up to speed on technology.

With the pandemic, everything has become “virtual.” That means I had to learn how to join Zoom meetings and Google Meet. Seriously, I had never done that before, but now I get it! I haven’t set one up yet, but I’m going to figure that out too. I might even try that today, just so I know how when I need it.

This year, I became a member of the board of a club at our daughter’s school that produces and presents a big awards show at the end of the year, and I signed on to chair that event. Fortunately, the people who have chaired it for the past six years were still on board, and I would treat this year as an apprenticeship, because I learned that I have a lot to learn…about the event, the process, and about technology.

I like to think I “learned on the job” this year. I can usually open an app and figure it out. I’m not completely inept. And I’ve worked with the Word app before, but this year, I was given a Word template to use for the awards show, and it threw me for a loop! It was something that was to be top secret, and only my eyes could see the finished product, so I had to figure it out. Word is a pretty simple app, right? Well, I sat down to work with the template, which I had been warned was a little tricky, but I thought, “I’ve got this!” No, I didn’t. Every time I would try to replace script within the template, it became skewed, or it wouldn’t do anything at all! I would click where I wanted to type…nothing.

After struggling with the template, I called my librarian friend to ask her what I’m doing wrong. After telling her what was happening, she said, “I think you have a different version of Word on your laptop, and maybe you need the latest one.” I couldn’t get my computer to download the latest version of Word, because well, my laptop is on my husband’s ID, and I don’t know the password. He was out of town, so I called him…he doesn’t know it either. I think it’s time for me to get my own laptop. That was the first thing I learned.

I struggled. I stressed. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I refused to admit defeat. I refused to admit to the other committee members that I didn’t have a clue. I had a few days to figure it out at that point, so I put it aside and went to bed.

At about 1:30am, I woke up and had a thought, “Maybe I can download the latest version on my phone and make it work?” I downloaded the latest version of Word to my phone, and lo and behold…within two minutes, I had everything on the template changed. I slept peacefully after that. I had found a solution to my problem, and I even felt a little…dare I say… savvy!

In reality, I know I’m not savvy. When other people send me documents to peruse or edit, it still scares me. I’m terrified I will mess it up beyond repair. I tend to think of the old Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman, Steve Sax, in the 1983 season. I remember hearing someone say about him, because he was the error king, “He has messed up second base so badly, nobody will  ever be able to play it!”  (In all fairness, I should tell you Sax eventually overcame his case of the “yips” and had a full career in Major League Baseball…and he was easy on the eyes. You can see an old picture of him on TMZ here.)  I suppose I need to take my own advice that I often give our daughter. She enjoys sports, and I always tell her that if she believes she can do something…if she can visualize herself doing something in a game…she can do it. Sometimes, confidence will pull us through. My brother goes into things knowing he can do them. He’s not cocky. He’s just confident. I need to approach technology with the same confidence.

So if I’ve learned anything during this pandemic, it’s that I have a lot to learn. I have set a goal to learn as much as I can over the summer about different useful apps…so I won’t be afraid of them anymore. I’m going to learn how to create slides and videos and fancy, complicated spreadsheets. Sure, I might have to ask my teenage daughter to tutor me along the way, but that’s OK.

I also know I owe my librarian friend dinner and a cocktail for all the whining she has listened to!

Bring on the technology!

My Birthday

My birthday.

Today is my birthday. Everyone who knows me knows I love my birthday in a crazy way. I can’t help it. It’s my day, and I love it.

My daughter is fully aware of how much I love my birthday. She woke up this morning and texted me before I was even awake. Apparently my husband took coffee up to her before bringing me coffee this morning…to give me a few extra minutes of sleep. His bringing me coffee is not a birthday thing; I’m fortunate that he brings me coffee in bed every day, which makes every day feel like a birthday, I guess. But today really is my birthday.

When my daughter texted me from upstairs this morning, she said, “Happy Birthday to the best mom ever!” I replied, “Thank you! I love you!” She replied, “Love you more!” I responded with “You have no idea how much I love you. One day, when you have a child of your own, you will understand.” And that’s the absolute truth. I always knew my mother and daddy loved me, but once I had my own child, I fully understood the depth of their love for me. So when she says “love you more,” I always think, “Just you wait till you have your own child.” Always.

Birthdays are funny like that. I love celebrating, but I also love reflecting on previous birthdays.

Last year on this day, I was in Los Angeles with my friend, Meg. My “birthday twin,” Chiko, was getting married on our shared birthday. Chiko and I call ourselves “birthday twins,” because we share a birthday. No, we aren’t the same age. In fact, she is far younger than I am. She is also far taller, and she is drop-dead gorgeous. Add in the fact that I’m from Alabama, and she is from Nigeria, and we are some interesting “twins.” She is, quite possibly, one of the kindest people…and funniest people… I’ve ever known. I was fortunate to be invited to her wedding, and I took my friend, Meg, as my “plus one.” My teenage daughter had final exams, and my husband stayed home with her. It was a glorious wedding/reception, and Chiko was the most beautiful bride! I’ve written about it before, because a Nigerian wedding is a real event! Wow! And the food! We made new friends and tried new foods…a most memorable wedding and memorable birthday.

This year is a much quieter birthday, partly because of the pandemic, and partly because it’s raining all day in Charlotte. I’m perfectly happy with a quiet birthday. My daughter eventually came downstairs this morning and snuggled in bed with me, and I told her, “This right here is the perfect birthday gift…just getting to be with you.” And it made me think of my mother. It sounded like something she would have said. I’ve been a mother for 16 years, so now I fully understand why my mother felt that way…because she loved me more than I ever could have imagined.

So I’ll enjoy a quiet birthday with my little family. It’s also National Sunscreen Day, but we definitely don’t need sunscreen in Charlotte today, since there’s not a chance the clouds are going to lift. We’ll stay in and be quiet today, but that doesn’t mean I can’t keep celebrating for at least a week (or a month)! I’ll need that sunscreen soon!

Happy Birthday to me!