Get Out Your Skylab Repellent

Get out your Skylab repellent!

With the impending crash of a Chinese rocket sometime today, I’m reminded of the Skylab “incident” from my childhood.

Remember that?

It was July of 1979, and the whole country was waiting to see where Skylab, the first successful space station, would crash to Earth. It had been launched by the United States just six years earlier and had successfully housed astronauts for extended periods of time, but after unexpectedly high sunspot activity, it began to deteriorate and eventually, came crashing to Earth, raining debris on the Indian Ocean and Australia. No one was injured by the falling debris.

But in the lead-up to the “event,” enterprising people all over the country cashed in. My parents wouldn’t let me waste my money on it, but at twelve years old, I sure wanted to buy a can of Skylab Repellent. It was a joke, of course, but people really bought it. There were also t-shirts depicting a “Skylab Protection Device,” featuring an umbrella with a satellite dish on top. I’m not sure how that was supposed to protect someone, but OK.

Everyone was wondering aloud where Skylab would fall to Earth, and kids like me were terrified we would be squashed by it. No one was squashed.

In the aftermath of the Skylab crash, people continued to cash in, selling t-shirts declaring, “I Survived Skylab.” Cha-ching! Cha-ching! That was the sound of dollars hitting their bank accounts, because I feel pretty sure they sold quite a few of those gimmicky shirts. And after that? I don’t know what happened to all those t-shirts, but I haven’t seen one in person in years. I’ve seen a few on eBay, but I don’t know anyone who actually has one. Maybe they are locked in trunks in people’s houses. Most of them were pretty crude designs, so they’d look silly today. Maybe people are embarrassed they actually spent money on them. Or maybe they all just got lost along the way.

I haven’t seen any of that entrepreneurial spirit about the Chinese rocket. I guess, these days, we are all too jaded by 24-hour news to get interested in much. If you’ve seen anyone selling rocket repellent or t-shirts, let me know.

Of course, we don’t have any idea how much of the Chinese rocket will actually make it back to Earth. Some of it will surely disintegrated on re-entry into the atmosphere, but pieces of it could still fall. The chances of you or anyone you know or love being in its path? Let’s just say it’s not very likely. It’s not something to worry about, and if it does fall on you, you won’t even know what hit you…literally.

Which Gilligan’s Island Character Are You?

Which Gilligan’s Island character are you?

If you’re about my age, you likely remember Gilligan’s Island. It was a favorite when I was a kid, and frankly, I can even laugh at episodes now. Interestingly, I guess I saw it in reruns (also known as “syndication”), since it only ran for three seasons, from 1964 to 1967. I was born at the tail end of its run, so I certainly don’t remember it from its first run. If you’re familiar with the show, you probably remember the personalities of each character. Remember the characters? Gilligan (the first mate), Skipper (the captain) Thurston Howell III and Mrs. Howell (the millionaire and his wife), Ginger (the movie star), the Professor and Mary Ann (the farm girl)…all on Gilligan’s Isle.

I took my daughter and some of her friends to Miami for Spring Break a few weeks ago, and a friend met us there with her daughter. One day, we chartered a boat to take us out on Biscayne Bay for a day of boating and swimming. On the way to meet the boat, my friend and I were laughing that we were going out for a three hour tour, based on the Gilligan’s Island theme song. In case you don’t remember it, it went like this:

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip, that started from this tropic port, aboard this tiny ship. The mate was a mighty sailing man, the Skipper brave and sure. Five passengers set sail that day for three-hour tour…a three-hour tour. (Lightning cracks.) The weather started getting rough. The tiny ship was tossed. If not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Minnow would be lost…the Minnow would be lost. The ship set ground on the shore of this uncharted desert isle with Gilligan, the Skipper too, the millionaire and his wife, the movie star, the professor and Mary Ann…here on Gillian’s Isle.

Yes, we actually sang the song while we rode in the car, and the kids had no idea what we were singing. Sad. Truly sad, because Gilligan’s Island was some comedy genius. I’m sure there are people who would say it was just a series of slapstick gags, but there’s a reason we all remember it…it was funny!

As we drove through Miami, our conversation turned to those very characters. My friend asked me, “Which character are you? Ginger or Mary Ann?” I laughed and laughed. I know I’m not Ginger, the sexy movie star. But I don’t think of myself as naïve Mary Ann, either. And then it hit me, and I responded, “Oh honey, I’m Lovey.” If you don’t know who Lovey is…she’s Mrs. Thurston Howell III. Apparently, her legal name was Eunice Wentworth Howell, but I don’t remember hearing her ever referred to that way. Mr. Howell called her Lovey, and everyone else called her Mrs. Howell. She was a little spoiled (ahem), but she was always up for some fun and for trying something new. I’ll take that description of myself and run with it. My friend laughed…and then started calling me Lovey. I wear my “Lovey” name tag proudly. In fact, I might just start calling myself “Lovey” in real life. I wonder if my husband can adjust to that?

We decided my friend had to be Mary Ann…not because she isn’t a sexy movie star, but because she gets things done. Mary Ann was naïve, and my friend is anything but naïve. But Mary Ann was also a farm girl who knew how to get things done. You might remember Mary Ann doing laundry or cleaning up around the place. Well, my friend is no farm girl, but she takes care of business. Ginger could never do what my friend does in a day, but Mary Ann could!

We designated one of my daughter’s friends as the professor. Sure, she’s not a man, and she is a whole lot prettier than the professor on Gilligan’s Island, but she had a solution for anything that came up during our trip. There weren’t a lot of obstacles to overcome, but she was organized and came up with different ways to do things.

All the other teenage girls with us were Ginger. Aren’t all teenage girls a little bit like Ginger? Teenage girls, generally speaking, are a little self-centered and concerned about their appearance…much like the sexy movie star from Gilligan’s Island. They’re also a little delusional about real life…much like Ginger, who always thinks she can solve problems with ideas from some of her movies.

As for Skipper and Gilligan, we found them on the boat. We had a captain who drove the boat, and one crew member who assisted with everything. The captain was knowledgeable, gregarious, and strong, and our “Gilligan” helped us onto and off the boat when we swam in Biscayne Bay, providing us with swim noodles and a kayak. Our “Gilligan” served us our afternoon snacks as we soaked up the sun and poured the champagne for me and my friend.

We had a great time on our little tour. We didn’t encounter rough weather. We didn’t get stranded on an uncharted island. We didn’t have to build our own huts and sleep in hammocks for years while finding our own food. We didn’t have to gather around a radio to listen to news from the mainland, where we had been forgotten. None of that happened. We made it back to shore alive and well. We were all a little more tan. No one was hungry. Everyone was happy.

We had enjoyed a Happy Cruise…that’s the name of the company we hired to take us out, Happy Cruises. If you are going to Miami and would like to charter a fun little boat for a day, see the website here. Tell Captain Derek you were sent by Kelly from North Carolina!

Or just call me “Lovey.”

And don’t forget the Gilligan’s Island closing song: So this is the tale of our castaways; they’re here for a long, long time. They’ll have to make the best of things; it’s an uphill climb. The first mate and his skipper, too, will do their very best, to make the others comfortable in a tropic island nest. No phone! No lights! No motor car…not a single luxury. Like Robinson Crusoe, it’s primitive as can be. So join us here each week, my friends; you’re sure to get a smile…from seven stranded castaways…here on Gilligan’s Isle!

Old School Fundraisers (You’ll Recognize a Few)

Old school fundraisers.

Back in the day, public schools, like the ones I attended, were all about fundraisers. PTOs, PTAs, marching bands, sports teams, and cheerleaders all raised money for one thing or another. And back then, there were lots of different things you could sell to raise funds.

The earliest fundraisers I remember were in Brewton, Alabama, where I lived till I was seven. I remember two different fundraisers, mostly because I remember the items my mother purchased from band members or athletes who lived in our neighborhood. One of my favorites was a birthday calendar. I hope someone else will remember these, because over the years, I’ve asked people if they remember them, and no one else can recall them. Back in the early 1970s, some part of our local school…I’m guessing the band or an athletic team…sold birthday calendars. They were wall calendars, but I don’t even remember what the pictures were. I just remember that on each date, it listed local people’s birthdays. I don’t know how it worked, but I guess you got to submit your family birthdays if you purchased a calendar. I loved it. As a kid, I was obsessed with little facts like birthdays, addresses, and phone numbers…weird, I know, but these fundraiser calendars made me very happy…especially when I saw my own name on my birthday. In fact, to this day, I still remember the birthdays of some of my childhood friends, simply because I flipped through that calendar all the time. I could also tell you some of their phone numbers, but that might be weird.

Something else my mother purchased through a fundraiser at TR Miller High School in Brewton? Red and white pleather (plastic leather) duffel bags. They were emblazoned with “TR Miller Tigers” and a graphic of the tiger mascot on one side, and it seems there were ads for local businesses on the other side. If I remember correctly, the bags were red with white lettering and white piping and a white plastic handle. I could be a little off with some of the details, but that’s how I remember it. Unfortunately, my family moved several times when I was growing up, and that duffel bag (or gym bag) got lost in the shuffle somewhere along the line. I sure wish I had it now. Apparently, they were popular at the time, because you can look on eBay for “high school duffel bag” and see quite a few of them (like the ones below)…from lots of different high schools across the country. Heck, I might purchase one from a different school just for the nostalgia!

Later, when we lived in Spanish Fort, Alabama, we sold chocolate bars to raise funds for the PTA at Spanish Fort School…our local elementary school. I think the brand was World’s Finest. I was probably in third grade, and I was all excited to sell some candy bars out of a cardboard box with a handle on it, but my mother was not keen on it. What I remember most? Each candy bar wrapper had a “buy one get, get one free” Whopper at Burger King. That sounded awesome to me! Nevermind that the nearest Burger King was across the bay in Mobile. In fact, the only one I remember at the time was way out toward the airport, but there might have been one closer to town. Either way, it was at least 30 minutes from our house, and we never went to Burger King. Also, I’d never had a Burger King Whopper at the time, so I had no idea that there was no way I would eat a burger with all those veggies at the time.

We moved another time, and my new elementary school, Wetumpka Elementary (or Bobby’s Brain Factory, as my parents called it, because the principal’s name was Bobby, and we all loved him) which I attended in fifth and sixth grades, was on a perpetual quest for air conditioning. I’m sure I participated in fundraisers for that…or maybe I should say my parents just bought all the candy bars I brought home…only to move on to middle school before the air conditioners were installed. I then went to a middle school that didn’t have air conditioning…in Alabama. In fact, I never went to a school that had any kind of air conditioning till I was in ninth grade…in Alabama. And then, it was just window units…in Alabama. Do I need to mention how hot it is in Alabama? We were tough, though. Seriously, I know I sound like an old person, but can you imagine today’s wimpy kids going to school without air conditioning? In Alabama?!?! Folks make fun of southerners for not being able to handle a little snow, but I remember reading about some schools in New Hampshire canceling classes a couple of years ago because of a “heat wave.” I think the temps were in the 90s. Haha! It was in the 90s from April or May through September (and maybe even into October sometimes) in Alabama, and we didn’t miss a day of school because of it!

In high school, in the 1980s, we had more fundraisers, and I have some fond memories of them. When I was a cheerleader, we sold lots of things…ice cream from a freezer in our advisor’s classroom, suntan lotion (because we called it suntan lotion instead of sunscreen then), spirit towels, and my all-time favorite: booster badges! I don’t know if other high schools had booster badges, but they were all the rage at mine. As cheerleaders, we were given a stack of booster badges on Thursday afternoon to sell every Friday during football season. I think they were fifty cents each, and we each had to sell $50 worth each week. I would get to school early Friday morning with a shoe box full of booster badges to work the parking lot. It worked out that each cheerleader ended up having loyal customers. In fact, I remember who my loyal customers were to this day! If you’re not familiar with booster badges, they looked like the photos below. But ours weren’t all positive like the signs kids are expected to make today. Our said things like “Mutilate the Mustangs,” “Pulverize the Panthers,” and “Butcher the Bulldogs.” As soon as we had sold all our allotted booster badges for the week, we would take our boxes to our advisor who would take the money, and we stored our shoe boxes in her room till the next week, when we picked up more booster badges.

I remember our marching band selling Krispy Kreme Doughnuts (I think they were $2.50 a dozen), candy bars, and boxes of M&Ms. One reason I remember is that I often had those M&Ms for lunch. If I arrived in the school cafeteria and found they were serving something I didn’t want to eat, I would search out a friend who was selling M&Ms and have Peanut M&Ms for lunch. I probably washed them down with a Coke or Dr. Pepper from one of the school vending machines, but that’s a story for another day. I also remember one person in the band who had a car accident and woke up to find herself at the bottom of a ravine, alone. One thing she remembered about waking up? She had M&Ms in her hair from the fundraiser. She was fine…no injuries.

Things are a lot different now. My child has never come home from school with stuff to sell for a fundraiser, and her school doesn’t have vending machines with sodas or snacks for students. The food in her “dining hall” is prepared from scratch by a chef and skilled staff, and the food is fantastic…and there are lots of choices! While I know my parents thought some of those fundraisers were just a scam to get them to send in money, I feel like my daughter has missed out on some special memories. I’m going to eBay now to order a duffel bag.

My Favorite Martian

My Favorite Martian.

Yesterday, the NASA Mars rover, Perseverance, landed on the red planet. I was slightly intrigued, but not nearly as interested as I would have been if it had happened in the 1970s. In the 1970s, Americans were obsessed with Mars, Unidentified Flying Objects, Martians, aliens, and Skylab. Remember Skylab? Remember folks making a quick buck on Skylab repellent when we knew the orbiter was going to be falling back to earth, crash-landing somewhere?

Skylab was the first United States space station, launched in May of 1973. Six years later, in 1979, its orbit began to decay, and NASA could no longer communicate with the satellite. I was 12 at the time, and while we awaited the “crash,” I was truly concerned Skylab would cut my life short when it fell to earth. I felt sure I would die without ever having kissed a boy. Kids in the neighborhood were talking about it, and I was terrified. My parents tried to tell me the odds of that happening were very minute, but when you’re 12…it’s scary, especially when people are selling Skylab repellent, even as a joke. Skylab came “crashing” to earth in July 1979…ultimately disintegrating over Esperance, Australia, where residents saw bright lights and heard sonic booms before finding debris from the space station spread over their town.Once I heard it had fallen in Australia, I could relax, and I desperately wanted one of those t-shirts announcing “I survived Skylab.” I didn’t get one…I’m sure my parents thought it would be a ridiculous waste of money, but I sure wish I had one now…just as a silly souvenir.

Today, with the landing of Perseverance on Mars, people are talking about Martians again. “What if we hear whispers from Mars?” “What if we see alien beings on the red planet?” It’s enough to make a 12-yr-old kid worry, right?

I spent my entire childhood looking for UFOs in the sky. We heard about them from every angle, including The Brady Bunch. Remember when Greg tricked Bobby and Peter into thinking a UFO was flying past their house? Remember the chaos it created?

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a UFO, but when I was six or seven, the local high school had its annual bonfire. I don’t even really know what happened, but maybe a helicopter flew nearby? Who knows? It had to be 1973 or 1974, when UFO talk was at its peak. Someone at the bonfire made me think there was a UFO in the vicinity. To me, at that age, “UFO” meant alien spaceship ready to land, kidnap me, and probe my belly button to learn more about the human race. I was terrified. I ran to my friend’s mother’s car as fast as I could and jumped into the backseat. I don’t even know what happened after that. She took me home, but I truly believed there had been an alien spaceship at the bonfire…hovering over TR Miller High School, in Brewton, Alabama. Hmmm…why would an alien spaceship want a small child from Brewton, Alabama? Short answer: no alien spaceship wants a kid from Brewton. No offense to the kids from Brewton, but if I’m landing an alien spaceship somewhere, it’s more likely to be in the desert in Arizona or somewhere…not small town Alabama.

Adding to my personal belief in alien beings was the TV show called My Favorite Martian. I don’t even know how I watched it, since it premiered in 1963 (four years before I was born) and only ran for three seasons…in reruns, I guess…probably after school. My Favorite Martian starred Bill Bixby as Tim O’Hara and Ray Walston as “Uncle Martin,” or the Martian anthropologist who crash-landed on Earth and was rescued and taken in by O’Hara. I don’t remember a lot about the show itself, but now that I have it on my mind, I plan to watch a few episodes on Amazon Prime. Yep, if you’ve never seen it or if you liked it back in the day, you can watch it free with your Amazon Prime membership. I’ve actually watched the first episode and found it rather entertaining. Just be forewarned…it’s filmed in black and white. Also, the first episode has some racy references about “a man’s metabolism.” Who knew?

Of course, seeing Ray Walston in My Favorite Martian made me think about Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Yes, this is how my brain works…from Skylab to Fast Times at Ridgemont High…it’s why I’m good at Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. (Not familiar with Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? It’s a game based on the premise that we are all separated by six degrees of separation or fewer. In the “Kevin Bacon” version, participants try to find connections between Bacon and another famous person in six steps or fewer.) Walston was awesome in Fast Times. I don’t know if his character, Mr. Hand, a history teacher at Ridgemont High, would be very interested in the Perseverance landing on Mars, but surely he would recognize it as a significant historical event.

It is an historical event, indeed, even though the people of our country don’t seem nearly as excited about it as we have seemed about other NASA missions. I guess we have all been conditioned to it by now. And while I don’t find it particularly interesting, I will be listening for news of life on the red planet…life that’s bigger than an amoeba.

Don’t Look, Ethel!

Don’t look, Ethel!

Earlier today, on Facebook, a friend posted one of those memes saying, “The song that was number one on your seventh birthday defines 2021 for you.” The song that was number one on my friend’s seventh birthday? Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy. What the what?!?! I was a senior in high school when that song was number one! I was sneaking into R-Rated movies, and she was just seven years old?!? I felt old, but I also felt lucky….lucky that Prince was the soundtrack of my high school years.

But then, I couldn’t resist. I’m a sucker for notalgia, so I checked to see what the number one song was on my seventh birthday. The song that was number one? The Streak by Ray Stevens. I laughed out loud. Of course it was number one on my seventh birthday! I loved that song! I played the 45 single on my record player regularly, because I thought it was hilarious…with its laugh-track and everything. I didn’t understand all the references, but I still thought it was funny.

Streaking was a thing in the 70s. For a long time, I didn’t know if Ray Stevens made it popular with his song, or if he made the song because streaking was popular. You know…the chicken or the egg? I read recently that Stevens totally capitalized on the streaking craze of the 70s…smart move. If you’re familiar with the song, you know Ethel is a “character” in it. There’s a lot of “Don’t look, Ethel!” followed by things like “It was too late…she’d already been mooned!” At seven, I had no idea what “mooning” was. But back in the 70s, spectators streaked across the field at Major League Baseball games. They streaked across college campuses. They streaked through cricket games, soccer games…and unforgettably, across the stage at the 1974 Academy Awards ceremony. Streaking was big in the 1970s.

The summer of 1974, my whole extended family on my dad’s side gathered in Mexico Beach, Florida, for a big family weekend…all of us in one house. It was great fun. We went “scalloping” in St. Joe Bay. We went to the beach every day…getting shocked by the crosswalk button only once before we knew not to do it again. We laughed. We played. And the few of us who were 10 and under plotted to “streak” down the street. We were in a back bedroom, plotting our streaking event, but none of us really had the nerve to carry it out, so we decided to streak through the house where all our parents and cousins were. Silly, I know, but hilarious to a 7-yr-old. Years later, my mother told me she heard us plotting our event in the back bedroom, and she told my aunt, “Kelly will be the first one to run through here.” She was right. In fact, I’m not sure if any of the others participated in the “event.” I wrapped up in a towel and walked into the hallway, then dropped by towel and ran through the main room, where all the adults and teenagers were. Is there anything less exciting than seeing a 7-yr-old run through a room naked? It seemed funny to me, but I don’t think anyone else even cared. It was pretty stupid…but at the time, it was fun.

Ray Stevens had other funny songs, and I guess he still sings them at his Ray Stevens CabaRay in Nashville. I have to get there one day, simply because I am cool with anything that’s completely hokey and nostalgic. Maybe I can get my friend, Mary Ann, to meet me there to hear him sing some of our silly road trip songs like The Streak, The Mississippi Squirrel Revival, Ahab the Arab, It’s Me Again, Margaret, Gitarzan…so many politically incorrect songs! I hope he still sings them, because political correctness aside, they are hilarious!

So one silly meme on Facebook now has me listening to Ray Stevens on Apple Music…and laughing a lot as I sing along while running errands all over town.

According to that Facebook meme, that song defines 2021 for me. Next thing you know, I’ll be streaking through 2021! Bahahaha!

Retro Road Trip

Retro road trip!

I’m 53. I don’t hesitate to tell people my age, because I don’t really care how old I am. I’m just happy to be here. At 53, though, I have accumulated a lot of life experience, and I have a lot of memories.

I don’t remember my parents ever being big on staying in little roadside motels, but I do remember a few occasions when we stayed in them in small towns. I remembering seeing lots of little locally-owned inns and motels in the late 1960s and 70s. There were lots of them lining the beach roads in the Florida Panhandle, a place we frequented. Panama City Beach was full of them, and a few are still there. When I was a little girl living in Spanish Fort, Alabama, on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, there was a cute little locally-owned motel near the entrance to our neighborhood. Anyone who lived in Spanish Fort in the 70s (and probably the 50s and 60s) remembers the Spanish Fort Motel, and they likely remember the Malbis Hotel Courts too, which had a swimming pool shaped like the state of Alabama. I know, because when I was a little girl, locals would purchase “memberships” to pools at both places. We spent lots of hot summer days swimming there. Both places had great restaurants for breakfast, and they both were on old Highway 90, which was the coastal east-west highway before the interstate, I-10, opened. After I-10 opened, of course, lots of those little places closed. Hotel chains built hotels near the interstates, and travelers opted for those instead.

Lots of those little roadside motels are gone now. But in some parts of the country, you can still find them.

This week, I am going on a retro road trip with a friend. We are leaving the kids behind and hitting the road…in search of every cute, little, retro, roadside motel we can find. We aren’t looking for luxury. We are looking for cute, quaint, old-fashioned fun. We haven’t put a lot of thought into where we will go, but we know we have to go somewhere that’s actually open during the COVID pandemic. We know we don’t need to drive into snow. And we know we need to go somewhere that there are still roadside motels. So, we are headed to Florida.

Originally, we had booked a five-night stay at a nice resort in south Florida, but then we decided to make this more of a retro adventure…a step back in time…and that’s what it will be. Plus, we felt like we would likely be more exposed to COVID at a large resort. Trust me when I say we are going to be careful. My travel buddy has already had COVID and still has antibodies. I don’t want to catch it, so I will be extra careful. But we want to have some fun and make new, silly memories.

Now don’t get me wrong. We don’t want to stay at any roach motels, and we don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night to drug deals going down around us, so we have done a little research. And we will check reviews and ratings before we stop anywhere.

While we are on the road, we also will check out every cheesy roadside attraction we can find. All those roadside attractions the kids would grumble about? We are stopping! And we are going to take lots of photos! So stay tuned…the fun starts Tuesday.

I’m wondering if we should wear clothes from the 60s and 70s…maybe we will find some thrift stores along the way!

We are stepping back in time! Retro road trip!

***The feature photo is from a postcard from the Spanish Fort Motel. It features a photo of the entrance/check-in area.

***The photo below is a postcard featuring the Malbis Hotel Courts…and that pool shaped like the great state of Alabama.***

Messages from Heaven

Messages from Heaven.

I lost my dad in 2006. My mother passed in December 2017. And then, a dear friend left this world in 2018. I remember lots of conversations I had with each of them when they were alive, but I also get “messages” from them now.

Unfortunately, Facebook wasn’t a thing when my daddy was living. If Facebook existed then, I didn’t know it. Daddy would not have been into social media, anyway… but if he had been around for Facebook, he likely would have checked it sometimes, just to see pictures of my growing daughter, since we lived 600 miles away.

But my mother and my friend who passed in 2018…they were into Facebook.

Today, as always, I checked my Facebook “memories,” where I get to take a look at my posts from the same day in different years past. No big deal, right? I usually laugh or smile as I scroll through them, and today was no different.

As I scrolled through my “memories,” I came across a post from this day in 2012. In the post, I asked friends to pray for a friend who was having surgery on that day. I read through the comments, and there, at the bottom of the comments…a comment from my friend who was having surgery…the same friend who passed in 2018. It was just one simple sentence, “Oh, sweet Kelly…always thinking of me.” As I read it, I could hear her saying it, and I got a little emotional. You know how we we think we have moved beyond grief? You know how lots of people don’t understand grief continues for an undefined length of time? Well, this is an example of how grief lingers. Who knew such a simple comment would make me miss her so much 2 1/2 years after her passing?

Once, when that same friend and I were walking to the car after spending the afternoon at the beach in Maine many years ago, we looked up at the sky, and we both had the same reaction. We stopped and gasped. There was a big hole in the clouds…it looked as if God might reach down through that hole and touch the earth. (It’s the feature photo, but the photo doesn’t really do it justice.) We called the scene “the hand of God.” Every time I see a similar scene now, I think of my friend and “the hand of God.”

Occasionally, I see comments from my mother on Facebook, and I have an emotional reaction to those too. It’s different than finding a note or card…maybe because it’s a reactive message? She’s reacting to something I posted on Facebook? It just seems more conversational.

And then there are different kinds of messages…

A few days before Christmas, I got a different kind of message from my mother…in the grocery store, of all places. I was shopping for all the things I would need on Christmas Day when I remembered we would also need bread to make sandwiches after Christmas, so I dashed around to the bread aisle. And that’s when I saw her…my mother…standing in front of the bread…and I stopped in my tracks. I took a deep breath and moved closer. Don’t freak out. It wasn’t a ghost. She wasn’t looking at me. She was trying to pick a loaf of bread, and I stood behind her, waiting patiently…and watching.

No, it wasn’t really my mother. It wasn’t a ghost. It was just a woman who, from behind, looked like my mother. She was short…about my mother’s height. She had her hair brushed in the same way Mother brushed her hair. Her arms looked just like Mother’s. She stood like Mother. She was wearing something Mother would have worn. I never saw her face, but I ended up behind her a couple more times before I left the store…and found myself walking out the door behind her! In fact, I took a photo of her and sent it to my brother, my cousin, and my aunt, all of whom reacted exactly as I did. They were shocked, but they were happy. No, it wasn’t my mother, but I felt like seeing this woman was a message from my mother…just a little “hello” in the grocery store.

A few weeks before that, I was in Michael’s Arts and Crafts when I rounded a corner and gasped audibly. Standing in front of me was a woman who, from behind, looked just like my friend who passed away in 2018. I saw her two more times in the store that day…and then, as I was walking out, I passed a woman who, from behind, looked just like my mother. I have decided she was the same woman who was in the grocery store a few days before Christmas.

I get visits from my daddy too. I’ve seen him walking across a parking lot, and I have seen him in the background of other people’s photos on social media. But usually, he visits in my dreams…always laughing and happy. The first time he ever visited me, I was dreaming I was with my little family at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, watching the parade. Float after float went by, and then suddenly, there was Daddy…waving big and laughing from the float. It’s something Daddy never would have done, but it made me happy that in my dream, I was in “the happiest place on earth,” and he was laughing and waving, letting me know he is happy.

Are these really messages from Heaven? I have no idea, but I choose to believe they are, because they keep my loved ones on my mind…and they make me feel connected to them.

There’s Something About Joe

There’s something about Joe…

Namath, that is.

That’s no secret, though, right? I’ve heard Namath’s name my whole life…and I’ve written about him more than once. I was born in the late 60s, and my grandparents were Alabama football fans. My grandfather was offered a place on the Alabama football team as a kicker, but because the family home burned down, he stayed home to help his parents. My parents both went to other colleges, but my mother was a Bama fan. Daddy grew up in Florida and liked Florida State, but he knew a good athlete when he saw one, I supposed…so he was a Namath fan too.

Plus, I’ve written about Joe’s charm and charisma before…you want to like him, and you want to root for him. He still has that same charm and charisma…at 77.

I’ve said before that when I was a little girl in Alabama, my parents would let me stay up and watch The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson if Joe was going to be on. He was always so funny and self-deprecating…and always smiling. I’m sure there were lots of jokes that went way over my head. All I knew was that Joe Namath was on TV, and everybody else on the show seemed to love him. Even now, whenever I hear he’s going to be on a TV show, I make a point of watching it. He is still just as charming as ever. He seems like a man who loves his daughters and granddaughters. And he remembers where he came from.

But I’m not writing this to try to figure out Joe Namath. He’s an enigma. No one will ever figure him out. I’m guessing he doesn’t even know the secret to his charm, but it has carried him a long way. He’s that guy. The one about whom we say, “Women love him, and men want to be him.” Even at 77…he’s still that guy.

I’m writing, because I will never get over how many people seem to love him. In 2018, I wrote a piece about visiting his hometown (Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania). It was an impromptu visit to the riverside town. My friend, Mary Ann, and I had been on a long road trip with our kids and decided to visit Beaver Falls on the way home. You can read about it here. Interestingly, that is the most-read piece of my blog this year…just like it was last year. It seems lots of people put “Joe Namath” or “Joe Namath home” in their search engines, and sometimes, it takes them to my little blog, where they read about my visit to Beaver Falls and my posing (in the rain with no makeup) with the plaque honoring Joe right there in the middle of town…next to the Carnegie Free Library.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Like I said, I’ve heard about him my whole life, and he wasn’t even playing for Alabama anymore when I was born! He was already playing for the New York Jets, but his was a household name…in my house, for sure. In fact, I remember seeing Richard Todd, another Alabama quarterback, play in the Senior Bowl in January 1976 in Mobile, and then I remember hearing he had been drafted by the Jets to take over after Joe Namath retired. Joe played the 1976 season before going to the LA Rams for the 1977 season and then retiring. To put it all in perspective, I was only eight years old at that Senior Bowl, and I knew all about Joe Namath.

Last year, for my birthday, my friend, Linda, gave me Joe’s autobiography called All the Way: My Life in Four Quarters. I was so excited to get it and just as excited to read it! Joe has had an interesting life, so it made for an easy read. If you’d like to read it, first, check your local bookstores to see if they have it, and if not, then you can order from Amazon. Since I’ve had him on my mind today, I decided to see if there are other books, and I found three more I want to order for my husband for Christmas: I Can’t Wait Until Tomorrow…’Cause I Get Better Looking Every Day, Namath: A Biography, and Countdown to Super Bowl: How the 1968-1969 Jets Delivered On Joe Namath’s Guarantee To Win It All. Think he’ll let me read them too? You can find them all on Amazon here. Also, if someone in your family is a Namath fan, shop the Joe Namath Fan Shop here.

If you grew up watching Joe on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson like I did, or even if you didn’t, his life makes for a fun read. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised so many people search him on the internet. Like I said…women love him, and men want to be him. And if you ever decide to visit his hometown, Beaver Falls, PA, please stop in and get some goodies from Oram’s Donuts. I might just have to make a special trip there for those donuts.

***Feature photo from joenamathfanshop.com***

REPOST: Stocking Stuffers from 2019, Part 2

***This is the second of two reposts about stocking stuffers from 2019. We will be posting even more stocking stuffers (a new 2020 version) tomorrow, December 1.***

MORE Stocking Stuffers! As I said before, this is the fun category for holiday shopping! So here is my list of MORE…something for every member of the family. Without further ado…

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Lipstick. If you have a family member who loves Amazon Prime’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, he/she needs this lipstick! Don’t we all want to look like Midge Maisel?!? Revlon is offering this lipstick based on the lipstick choices of the character. I hope I find this in my stocking! Heck…I know I’ll find it in my stocking, because I’m ordering it now and wrapping it as soon as it get here! Thanks, Honey! Get them at Revlon.com here for $19.99 per tube. ***And continue reading for more Mrs. Maisel items later in the post.***

Nostalgia Candy Boxes. Maybe you want your child to see what candy you loved as a kid, or maybe you’d like to bring back some memories for someone else on your list. Amazon carries Nancy Adams Nostalgia Candy Boxes full of all the favorites of the decades. Get one for the 1960s here. Get one for the 1970s here. And you can find the 1980s here.

Concert/Sporting Event Tickets. Never underestimate how excited a person will get over receiving tickets to an experience! I love concert and sporting event tickets as gifts…and I’d love to pull some great tickets from my Christmas stocking, as would my husband, my daughter, and my nephews. Of course, the concerts would be different for each of us. And we all love sports, so that would be a sure bet too. Ticket-Icon

Lottery Scratch Off Tickets. I love finding these in my stocking! I’ve never won a lot, but I have won a little, and I know someone who won five figures on a scratch-off ticket. No joke. I’m not encouraging gambling, but scratch off tickets are something we have in our stockings every year.nc698

Kiehl’s Products. My husband has loved Kiehl’s skincare products for years and introduced me to their Creme de Corps body lotion years ago. It does wonders for dry skin and makes my skin look smoother. We also love their Ultra Facial Moisturizer. In addition to these staples, Kiehl’s offers lots of great skincare products for men and women. See them all here.

Holiday Crackers. No, not the kinds of crackers you eat…the kind you POP! We loved these at our house when I was a kid. Sure, you can place them at each person’s place setting for lunch or dinner, but they’re fun to find in your stocking on Christmas morning. Some of my favorites:

  • L’Occitane’s Crackers Quatour, $34 for a set of four. The set of four can be broken up and one placed in each family member’s stocking. They contain petite sized products from L’Occitane’s fabulous collections.NAOCVKI002490
  • Molton Brown Cracker Gift Set, $25 per cracker. Contains four scented bath/shower gels. Get it at Saks Fifth Avenue here.MBC906_uk_Floral-Fruity-Christmas-Cracker_image_01
  • Racing Reindeer Crackers, $45.99 for a set of six. Putting a fun spin on the traditional cracker, each of these contains a windup reindeer, hat, joke, and a racetrack. Fun for all! Get them from pbs.org here.images-2
  • Robin Reed Hand Bells Musical Crackers, $85 for a box of eight. Adding a musical element to your family’s holiday, each of these crackers contains hand bells. Great for caroling with cocktails after dinner! Get them at Neiman Marcus here.NMHCBFB_mz-2
  • Godiva Luxury Poppers, $24.95 for a set of six. Who doesn’t love Godiva Chocolates? These will be a sure hit! Each popper contains three chocolate truffles. Get them here.13983-1

Bath and Body Works Products. These products are less “high brow” but great products for all ages, nonetheless. Their hand sanitizers, fine fragrance mists, and body lotions are great stocking stuffers, and you can find the perfect scent for each recipient. For example, their “Into the Night” scent is a little heavier, while their “Champagne Toast” is a little crisper and lighter. If anyone’s purchasing for me, I’d prefer the Champagne Toast, thank you very much. I should mention the prices on their products are always great, but there is almost always a special of some kind. Kids love their hand sanitizers. My own daughter had quite the collection when she was younger. See everything here.

Fun toys. When we were growing up, we loved a good Nerf gun or squirt gun, and our parents knew we would be occupied for hours with them, developing games with complete sets of rules for each one. Nerf, as it turns out, makes their traditional Nerf guns, but they also make squirt guns. See my pick for a Nerf gun stocking stuffer here, and my pick for a Nerf squirt gun here.

Liquor Miniatures. Adults need great stocking stuffers too! I have lots of friends who have a family tradition of putting miniatures in the stockings of adults. You can get them at your local liquor store. My personal favorites? Maker’s Mark Bourbon and Tito’s Vodka…in case my husband is reading this.

Perfumes/colognes. Every time I walk through Nordstrom or Neiman Marcus in SouthPark Mall in Charlotte, I check out the fragrances. Since I was a little girl, I’ve always found the fragrance department in department stores beautiful. Shopping fragrances makes me feel “fancy.” It’s one of the places in a department store that feels like days of yesteryear…the makeup counter! (Think The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.)There aren’t fragrances many I love, but when I find something I like, I really like it. Right now, I like Gucci Bloom. Recently, I discovered their Gucci Bloom Hair Mist! Game Changer! For $49, it’s a lighter version of the scent, and I love it! Get it at Nordstrom here.a700bee8-eaed-48aa-922b-8fa39b5a7721

Fun socks. They’re everywhere I look. Every time I look at Facebook or Instagram, I see an ad for those socks that start with “If you can read this…” on the bottom of the foot. See some at Amazon here. Or maybe you know a Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood fan. See some Mr. Rogers socks at Joy of Socks here. And while you’re at Joy of Socks, take a look around at everything they offer. Alien abduction socks? Check. Dog socks? Check.

Personalized Pocket Tokens. These are great little reminders people can carry with them in their pockets or handbags. Sometimes, we just need a little reassurance or pick-me-up, and these could do the trick. Get them on Etsy here.il_fullxfull.945896910_shp1

Balsa Wood Airplanes. Remember these from childhood? You can get a “squadron” of 12 of these for $28.95 at Duluth Trading. I remember playing with these with my brother when I was a kid. I would think lots of kids would love to have contests for flying these things. Get your squadron here.91032_alt_01

Drugstore colognes and aftershaves. Seriously. Call me crazy, but don’t we all remember how good Old Spice smelled when we were kids? How about Brut, English Leather, and Aqua Velva? Well, I must admit, I didn’t come up with this idea myself. Brett from artofmanliness.com wrote a piece on these old favorites after giving them a test run himself. You can see the awesome piece here. It will make you want to run to your local drugstore and pick up a few of these as stocking stuffers for the men in your lives. It also makes me want to find Joe Namath and find out if he still wears Brut!

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Photo from artofmanliness.com

Block Letter Monogram Necklace. These have been popular, in one style or another, for as long as I can remember. It’s a personalized gift without being “over the top.” And it makes a great stocking stuffer. Anthropologie has a great one for $38 here.37659125_901_b

MikWright Products. I found this brand of greeting cards and gifts at Paper Skyscraper when I first moved to Charlotte years ago, and I’ve loved them since! They use old photographs with hilarious captions on greeting cards, napkins, flasks, and more. Any of their items would make great stocking stuffers. Shop the MikWright website here.

Evel Knievel Stuff. Lots of little boys in the 1970s thought Evel Knievel was the greatest stunt person ever! I know he was famous at our house! My brother had all kinds of Evil Knievel toys…and frankly, I wish we still had them! But any Evel Knievel item would be a great trip down memory lane for some grown men. Take a look at all the items offered on Amazon.com here. There are dolls, action figures, tshirts, socks…and lots more!

Golden Girls Shady Pines Key Ring. The Golden Girls series ended its original run a long time ago, but there are lots of us who still remember it and love it. This cute little key ring is just a small nod to the show we all loved, and any fan would love to have it. It’s a guaranteed smile on Christmas morning for just $8.99 at Amazon here.

Ugg Earmuffs. Expecting cold temperatures and/or big snow this winter? Everybody has to keep their ears warm! These classic earmuffs from Ugg will do the job while making your friends and family look good at the same time! Priced at just under $60 at dsw.com here.348340_202_ss_01

Zippo Handwarmer. This is an unusual gift…it might be new to you, in fact! I had never heard of the Zippo Handwarmer till recently, but now that I know about it, you can bet your sweet bippy we will all find them in our Christmas stockings this year! They’re offered in several different colors and finishes, and they are refillable. For $19.99, they’re great stocking stuffers for anyone on your list who might spend some time in the cold this winter! Personally, I like the dayglo yellow one, because I think I’ll be less likely to lose it. Get it at Amazon here.

Other Marvelous Mrs. Maisel merch. Just as promised at the beginning of the post, here are some more items based on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel:

  • Marvis Tour with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Limited Edition Set. Toothpaste! It’s toothpaste! Amazon says, “Go on tour with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (and her fresh mouth), with this limited edition set, made exclusively in partnership with the show. $15 for the set at Amazon here.81kqkk44cxl._sl1500_.jpg
  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Illustration Travel Mug. Offered by Society6.com, this travel mug will make any fan of the show laugh. Fans will immediately recognize the characters and the quote. (I had to mark out a word, because my mama wouldn’t approve of that word!) Get it here.IMG_6498
  • We Got The Rabbi T-shirt. Trust me, any fan would love this shirt. If anyone on your list is a fan of the show, get this t-shirt for him or her! Priced at $32, this will roll up and fit right into a stocking…and guaranteed smiles when the recipient finds it! It’s offered in lots of different colors! Get it here.mockup-49fd6357_1000x
  • More show merchandise at Amazon. Seriously, I can’t believe Amazon isn’t cashing in with tons of merchandise from the Amazon Prime show, but they do have a few items. Click here to see a few items they offer.

So there are some ideas for folks on your list…different ages…different interests…just different altogether! Happy shopping!

Share Your Stories With Your Kids This Holiday Season

Share your stories with your kids this holiday season…in book form.

I was talking with a friend recently who, like me, has lost both her parents. Yes, she is a full-fledged adult like me, but she remarked that, looking back, she feels like she knew nothing about the years before she was born. She knows very little about her parents’ childhoods. She doesn’t know any stories from their teen years or college years. To her, they were just parents. She asked if mine were the same, and when I told her I knew lots of stories from both my parents’ younger years, she looked sad. I think she feels a little cheated, because her parents never shared stories with her…or worse, she never listened.

I always loved stories of my parents’ lives…stories about Daddy, as a little boy, wishing he had lots of nickels, because an ice cream on a stick cost a nickel. Or how his friends said they wanted to be cowboys when they grew up, but he knew he didn’t want to be a cowboy, because he saw his daddy’s work as a “cowboy” on the farm. Mother told stories of walking to school with her cousin, Phyllis, and stories of days spent in New Orleans at Charity Hospital in nursing school. In fact, now that I think about it, I need to write down some of their stories for my own daughter.

And that’s why I occasionally share stories about my childhood here. It becomes a permanent record. I hope to live a long life, but I hope my daughter will live on long after I do, and I want her to have some of my stories. Like my story about peeing in my shoes during my kindergarten “operetta.” Or the time, when I was eight years old, that I was sleeping over at Cathy Farris’s house and walked in my sleep to her brother’s room…and got in bed with him! That’s a story. Or stories of all my college friends and shenanigans. I still have lots to write…and I will share it all here to make into a book for her later.

There are times I tell her stories about my life and think she’s not listening…or I even tell the same story multiple times and get the eye roll. But she’s listening. She had to write a paper recently for her English class, and she told me she wrote a story from my childhood. She hears me.

I’m sure she gets tired of my stories, because I have lots of them, but that’s one reason I write this blog. Sure, I love sharing ideas about products and experiences, but I’m also sharing and saving my personal stories for my daughter. She will never say she didn’t know anything about my life before I became a mom. So I plan to write more about my childhood and college years over the next few months.

One day, I hope to print it all out and give it to her in the form of a book…Shutterfly.com offers photo books with and without lots of text. In fact, just yesterday, my daughter said she had never seen very many pictures from my childhood and college, so I’m planning to gather some photos over the next few days and make a book on Shutterfly.com for her as one of her gifts this Christmas. You can make one at Shutterfly: ://www.shutterfly.com/photo-books/

And maybe next Christmas, when she’s 18, I will give her the book of my stories. I think it would make a great gift for anyone to give their child or grandchild…telling your stories in your own words. My daughter, when she has children, will have photo books of herself to show her kids, because I have made them for her over the years. In fact, that makes me think I should write down some of her childhood stories and make a book of those too…whew! I’m going to be busy!