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.

 

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!

A Bluebird Takes Flight

A bluebird of happiness takes flight.

I just received word that a dear family friend passed away. When I say “dear family friend,” I mean someone who had basically been a member of my family since my parents first married in 1961. My mother met her when they were both working at a Sunland Center in Florida. Sounds luxurious, right? Well, Sunland was  actually a facility that specialized in offering services for the physically and mentally disabled…mostly children. My mother was a nurse there, and Cynthia, the family friend, worked in the recreation department. Cynthia was just 18 when they met, and while she admired Mother, I think Mother kind of took her under her wing. Mother was four years older, a registered nurse, and married. They became lifelong friends.

With encouragement from my mother, Cynthia later went to nursing school and then continued her education to become a nurse anesthetist…against the odds, since she was dyslexic. But she worked hard, and she was successful.

My parents moved to Alabama soon after I was born, and I remember Cynthia visiting regularly throughout my life. In fact, I thought she was my aunt till I was eight or nine. I have pictures of her visiting when I was a baby.  I know she was with us at a hotel in Panama City Beach in March 1970, when my toddler brother pulled a coffee pot off the table, burning himself. Mother and Daddy rushed him to the hospital, and Cynthia stayed with me. We watched people shooting fireworks off the balconies of the hotel…out over the beach. That’s likely one of my earliest memories, since I was not quite three years old. I’m sure it registered in my longterm memory because my brother’s burn was emotional for me.

Later, Cynthia had a little Triumph convertible. I thought she was the coolest, and I loved riding in that little car with her. She would visit us once or twice a year, and she was fun and energetic. She loved telling stories, and she loved to laugh. She had an infectious sense of humor with a twinkle in her eye, and she was always supportive of our little family. With no kids of her own, she treated us as if we were hers. Interestingly, somehow I remember that she was visiting us in Spanish Fort when I turned ten in 1977. She gave me a cool hooded shirt and shorts, and some Faberge Tigress cologne…what I thought was a grown-up gift! I loved it…the bottle was beautiful, with a fuzzy top that looked like a tiger skin. Funny what we remember.

And when Daddy was dying with pancreatic cancer, Cynthia was right there with us…helping us help him. I vividly remember her bathing mother’s dog and entertaining my daughter and my cousin’s daughter. The girls were two and three years old at the time, and Cynthia knew how to entertain them.

You might remember that I wrote about Cynthia once before, a couple of years ago when I wrote about the Bluebird of Happiness I found in my mother’s home after she died. I didn’t know where she got them, but I knew Cynthia often brought little gifts when she visited Mother, and I was right…when I called Cynthia, she said she had given them to her. I promptly packaged them up and sent them to Cynthia, and she later told me she kept them on a little table next to a picture of Mother. You can see the Bluebird of Happiness piece here. 

Last year, when I took my daughter and one of her friends on a road trip along the Gulf Coast, we visited Cynthia in Tallahassee. She took us to dinner at Shula’s atop the Hotel Duval, and we enjoyed the view of the Tallahassee skyline from the balcony. I had planned to see her again at Labor Day this year, when we visit Tallahassee again for a Florida State University football game.

While I’m brokenhearted…again…after a big loss, I know that if she were here with me right now, we would be laughing about something. She could make anything funny…with just a look.  In fact, last year, when we went to dinner, she kept my daughter in stitches with her crazy sense of humor. She told my daughter stories from my youth, and we laughed and laughed.

She loved my family as if we were her own, and the feeling was mutual, so this loss is a big one. It took the wind out of my sails. While I know loss is going to happen, this one was a shock. She was 76, but she was a young 76, if that makes any sense. She was a tough chick, and she is missed already.

Hug your loved ones, and if you can’t hug them because of this pandemic, talk with them as much as you can.

I Never Wanted to Homeschool

I never wanted to homeschool.

Seriously…never. It never, ever crossed my mind in a serious way. There were times I thought, “If we homeschool, we can go on vacation all the time! We can educate our daughter on the road!” And I know that works for some folks. But for me? Nope, nope, nope. I love my daughter, but we don’t need to be together 24/7.

Yet here we are, in the middle of a pandemic, and homeschooling is the only way. I’m not officially homeschooling, because she is still signing in to her school website and having remote video “class” and conferences with teachers. Thank God. We just returned from “spring break,” during which our trip was actually canceled, but we had a break nonetheless. And now school is starting back.

Lucky for us, our daughter is 16 and a sophomore in high school. She is old enough to figure it out herself. In fact, I have been receiving emails from her teachers about remote learning, and every time I see one, I think, “Really? Don’t y’all tell us to be ‘hands off’ when they get to high school?” Why do they suddenly want us to be hands on?!? I know the students are home, but my daughter needs to drive this bus herself. I never know what her homework is, just like my mother never knew what my homework was in the 80s. That is entirely her responsibility.

When my daughter was in third grade, another mom approached me at school one day and asked, “Is your daughter ready for the Bunnicula test?” I must have looked at her like she had three heads, because I responded, “What the heck is a Bunnicula?” Apparently, it was a book they had read, and they were having a test on it that day. For a brief moment, I wondered how the other mom knew they were having a test! I had no idea, because even when she was in third grade, I didn’t help with homework. I didn’t help her get or stay organized. I didn’t help her with her homework at all. It was all up to her. That was her job…just like it is now. I know…I know…some of you will say that was a little too hands off. Trust me, I am a very present parent in every other way, but I have always believed she needed to learn how to do her schoolwork the same way I did…without any help from parents. I remember when she was in sixth grade, I sat down with her and taught her my secret method for studying for tests, and she has thanked me a million times since. I’ll offer guidance. But helping with daily homework? I’ve never done it.

She knows she can come to me for guidance when she needs it. I will always provide support and guidance. As recently as this morning, I reminded her that she needs to stay in close touch with her teachers. She needs to email or conference with them pretty regularly, even if she doesn’t feel like she needs help. She needs to keep the lines of communication open. That’s my advice for the day. That’s how I help her with her education.

Many times I’ve told her about a calculus class I had in college. I had a low A going into the final, but I had been meeting with the teacher two or three times a week to keep that A. And then I bombed the final…I don’t mean I made a C.  I bombed it. Back then, to see our exam grades before we left school at the end of the semester, we had to go see where they were posted outside the teacher/professor’s office door. After I saw my terrible grade, I entered his office, he said, “Oh, Kelly, you did not do well on the final.” I said, “I saw that!” I then asked him what grade I would get for the semester (the final was supposed to have a lot of weight). Instead of answering me, he asked, “What grade do you think you deserve?” I would have said a C. But seeing an opening, I returned the question, “What do you think I deserve?” He looked at me, very kindly, and said, “I give you B. You do good in long journey.” He was from another country…I don’t remember where…so he spoke in broken English, but he had the sweetest way of expressing his wisdom, and he was a very compassionate man. I thanked him profusely, and I was on my way. I have remembered his kindness for all these years…and when someone in our family works hard and meets a goal or accomplishment, I say, “You do good in long journey.”

That’s my long way of saying I worked hard to try to get a good grade in that class, and my teacher recognized that. That’s what I am encouraging my daughter to do right now. She has heard that story a million times, and as a teenager, she might not fully hear it, but one day, something will happen, and she will know I’m right.

So, while I’m sure her teachers and school are simply making sure I’m informed with those emails they’re sending me, I’m not getting into the fray. If she were younger, I might have to jump in with both feet, but in 10th grade? Nah. She can do this, and she’ll appreciate it a lot more if she does it on her own.

Homeschooling? It’s still not for me. That’s one thing I know for sure. I’ll be team mom. I was a homeroom mom many times when she was in elementary school. I volunteer all over the place. But I’m not planning to take the reins on this homeschooling.

She’s got this. She will “do good in long journey.”

 

Quarantine: March 1985

March 1985.

Thirty-five years ago.

It was my senior year in high school, and as spring break approached, I was feeling miserable. My mother took me to see Dr. Mracek, our family physician, and he said those words no high school senior wants to hear, “I think you have mono.” You know…mononucleosis…also known as “the kissing disease,” because it’s easily transmitted between teenagers. It was the last thing I wanted to hear, because at the time, for a teenager, it was a death sentence for all activities. Of course, I felt so badly that I couldn’t go anywhere, anyway.

My throat hurt. My head hurt. I had no energy. The mono test came back positive, and the doctor told me to stay in my bedroom and only leave it to go to the bathroom and take a shower/bath. He told my mother to get me a good multivitamin and keep the rest of the family away from me. He told her to get paper plates and plasticware for me…and get me my own salt and pepper shakers. He didn’t want the rest of the family to catch it. And he told me to stay hydrated. He also instructed me to stay out of school till he told me it was OK to return. I think people worried a lot more about mono back then, because I see kids returning to normal activities much more quickly after being diagnosed now. My mother, being a registered nurse, followed the doctor’s orders to the letter. I stayed in my room, but I didn’t really have the energy to do anything else anyway.

At 17, I couldn’t believe it. It was my senior year of high school. I was missing a spring break beach trip. It meant I would be home on Friday nights to watch The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. While that would have sounded awesome a few years earlier, as a senior in high school, it sounded terrible. Interestingly, I remember seeing the debut of Mr. Belvedere, a sitcom starring Bob Uecker and others, but since my family always watched sports, Uecker is the one I remember from the show. Uecker is a former baseball player who is the broadcaster for the Milwaukee Brewers, but he is also known for some Miller Lite ads he made in the 80s, using the tag line “I must be in the front row!” I still use that line regularly, but no one knows what I’m talking about when I do.

My bout with mononucleosis is my only “quarantine” experience. After missing spring break and a week or two of school, I was slowly allowed to return to half days, then full days of school. Eventually, I resumed all normal activities. By summer, I was feeling normal, and I was able to go off to college in August of that year.

Interestingly, that time of “quarantine” is just a blip on my radar now. I don’t remember much about it. I know I was heartbroken to be separated from friends and missing school activities, but while I remember that, I don’t feel it.  I don’t feel any sadness in looking back on it. I don’t feel sad about what I missed because of it. I missed a few months of normal activities, but now, it doesn’t matter. In fact, I feel pretty sure I had gotten over the sadness by the time I started college that fall.

Now, March 1985 is a distant memory, and one day, March 2020 will be a distant memory too. Because this COVID-19 pandemic is being experienced by the whole country, we will likely remember it more clearly…and hopefully learn from it… but my hope is that, eventually, we, as a country, will recover…just like my bout with mononucleosis. It will be a much bigger blip on the radar of life, but eventually, it will be behind us.

There will be recovery time from this. Lots of people have lost their lives and/or family members. Lots of folks have lost businesses and jobs. Lots of us have lost lots of money. I certainly don’t mean to make light of that, but I think we all need to look out for each other. It’s devastating…but our country will recover.

***I’m saying daily prayers for those who are suffering with COVID-19. I know there are lots of sick and dying people out there, and I pray for them and their families.***

 

Practicing My Spanish! (¡Practicando mi Español!)

Practicing my Spanish. (Practicando mi Español.)

When I was in ninth grade, I took Spanish. I don’t remember if a foreign language was required then, but I took it because I knew the Spanish teacher took students with her to Mexico every year, and I wanted to go on that trip. What I didn’t know is that I would love the language and the people of Mexico.

Of course, in the 1980s, we had no way of seeing the future. We didn’t know Spanish would be a hot commodity in the 2000s. Back then, everybody was telling us we needed to learn Russian and Japanese, because it appeared as if Japan would be an economic superpower. Maybe it is. I don’t know, but one thing I do know is that Spanish is something we can use every single day in this country.

So in 1982, I took Spanish just so I could do the Mexico trip with some of my classmates. I’ve written about it before. Five girls from the class went with our pregnant teacher and a friend of hers as our chaperones. The teacher was an awesome Spanish teacher, but we ran pretty unsupervised through Mexico City for days. Mexico City was our first stop, and to this day, I still love that city. After Mexico City, we visited Taxco and Acapulco…back when it was safe to visit Acapulco. I took more Spanish classes as a result of that trip.

I have visited Mexico City (and other cities in Mexico) numerous times since then, and I love it every time. I find that every time I visit, after a few days, my Spanish improves by leaps and bounds. I have friends in Charlotte who are from Mexico, Venezuela, and other Latin American countries, so I get to practice my Spanish some, but it’s a lot of fun to visit  other countries and speak Spanish.

This summer, we are taking several vacations, but the only place I will visit where Spanish is the first language is Puerto Rico. I’ll practice it some, but usually, I find that, in Puerto Rico, when I ask a question in Spanish, they answer me in English. I continue speaking my terrible version of Spanish till they usually humor me by speaking some Spanish back to me. So I have a long list of Latin American countries I really want to visit in the next few years. I’ve been to Costa Rica and Peru, but I have other countries I’d like to visit: Argentina and Panama top the list.

But for now, I’ll get to practice my Spanish in Puerto Rico and just hope some folks there will cooperate. I know a few words I will definitely use while I’m there. I’ll exchange the regular greetings, and then, pretty soon after we arrive, I’ll use this word: churro. Yes, you know that word, and if you don’t, you’re missing out. The hotel where we will stay has some fabulous churros, so I’ll be saying that word really early in the trip when I place my first order! Next word? Alcapurrias! Actually, I’m not even sure that’s a Spanish word, but I’ll be using that word, because I know the pool bar serves great alcapurrias. Not familiar? They’re beef-filled, fried fritters. I can’t make them, but I can eat them! And only one more food word: mallorca! Pan de mallorca is actually a sweet bread made in Puerto Rico, modeled after a bread made in Majorca, Spain. Restaurants make sandwiches with the bread, and my very favorite thing to order is a mallorca con huevo, queso, y jamón (egg, cheese, and ham).

Seriously, I don’t just speak Spanish to order foods. When I’m visiting a country where Spanish is the first language, I try to use my Spanish as much as I can, and I try to learn new words. I love to come home with an expanded vocabulary.

I’m excited about Puerto Rico waaaaay to early, and next year, maybe I’ll make it to Argentina!

 

 

 

My Favorite Holiday Gifts, Part 7: MORE Stocking Stuffers!

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!

 

 

 

My Favorite Halloween Memories

I was born in 1967. In the late 60s and 70s, trick-or-treating was a big, fat, freaking deal.

When I was a little girl, just like lots of little girls of the time, I looked forward to Halloween. Everybody went trick-or-treating then. Mother would take us to Elmore’s 5 & 10 (in case you don’t know, it was called “Elmore’s five and dime”), TG&Y (info here), or Grant’s (info here), and we would pick our costumes. I don’t remember wearing a homemade costume before age 10. Up till then, it was those packaged costumes with the plastic masks that stayed on with an elastic band around your head. It was great fun picking Halloween costumes. We lived in Alabama, though. It can be hot in Alabama at Halloween, making it especially hot inside those plastic masks. In fact, I remember the inside of the mask steaming up when I would breathe. Good times! Apparently, folks eventually figured out it was difficult to breathe and see through the eye holes and nose holes in those plastic masks, and companies stopped producing them. Sad…I thought they were awesome. I remember a few plastic-mask costumes I had: Raggedy Ann, a bride, Cinderella. I remember my brother as a skeleton, Batman, a Planet of the Apes character, and an Atlanta Falcon football player. Funny that I can remember more of his costumes than my own. I was probably jealous that he got to be more cool things than I got to be.

A dentist lived down the street from us, and every year, I avoided his house. I would walk past on the street, but I didn’t step into the yard. I had heard older kids talk about bobbing for apples there. You couldn’t get candy till you bobbed for an apple. OK, nothing scared me more than the thought of sticking my head into a bucket full of water to try to get an apple with my teeth. I didn’t even like apples. I didn’t need their candy that badly.  And as an adult, it grosses me out even more. Stick my face into a water-filled bucket where other people had done the same thing…opening their mouths to get an apple? Yuck. I can only imagine what kind of Petri dish that bucket was. Sometimes, the dentist’s wife would hand out toothbrushes by the street…what a rip.

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The small town where I lived also had a Halloween Carnival every year. I don’t remember a lot about it, but I remember being excited about it, and I know it was another opportunity for us to wear our Halloween costumes. I remember two things: “fishing,” where we held a cane pole over a curtain, and someone on the other side attached a prize; and the cake walk. In a cake walk, folks have donated cakes to be given away. All the cake walk participants stand in numbered spaces in a long circle and walk till the music stops. A number is then picked, and the person standing on that number wins a cake. It’s great fun, and it was always a popular event.

As a tween, I loved going to radio station-sponsored haunted houses. My friends and I would all pick a night to meet at the haunted house that had been advertised on the radio for weeks. I think admission was about $3 per person…not sure about that. We would call each other from our landline phones and make plans to meet. Usually, once we got there, the line was really long, so we stood in line for a couple of hours before we ever took the 10-15 minute tour of the haunted house. The house was fun, but the real fun was standing in line with our friends…especially if there were boys there!

When I was a teenager, mischief was the name of the game. It was a different time, and people weren’t so serious, it seems. We loved to “roll” yards with toilet paper. Here’s the thing: we didn’t roll someone’s yard unless we liked them. It was a compliment…a way of saying we liked them. You could always tell if it was an all female yard-rolling crew, because most of the toilet paper would be near the bottoms of the trees. If boys were with us, it was higher, and if my brother were there, it was really high. In fact, rolling yards was so much fun that we did it other times of the year too…not just Halloween. I wish we had pictures of ourselves rolling yards…ahhh, the memories.

As an adult, Halloween can be fun with costume parties, but the real fun for Halloween comes when you have your own kids. Our daughter loved Halloween a lot when she was little. In fact, she wanted to dress up for weeks. And because she has an October birthday, several of her birthday parties were costume parties when she was little. One of her little friends loved her Daphne costume (from Scooby Doo) so much that she wore it for months. She was four…not fourteen. In fact, she wore it every day, but my friend (the mom) would make her wear something different one day a week, so it could go in the wash! Fortunately, the little girl didn’t wear the wig all the time, but she did wear it some!

Halloween is different than it used to be. Our neighborhood has a fun Halloween for the neighborhood kids…party in the park, appetizers for adults, and then the fire truck comes and leads the parade before the kids scatter for trick-or-treating. But it’s not the same free-for-all it was in the 1970s.

Wishing everyone a safe and fun Halloween 2019!
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***The images included are not my property. I wish I had some Halloween photos from my own childhood. ***

Crazy Movies We Love

This past weekend, my friend, Angela, and her daughter came in from Montgomery. It was my daughter’s 16th birthday, so we wanted them here for the festivities. The girls “partied” all weekend. When they were around us, we all shared some great meals. And Angela and I talked about our very favorite movies about exaggerated, deranged characters. Yes, we have favorites, and since it’s October, and we are leading up to Halloween, you might be in a crazy movie mood.

At some point during the weekend, Angela told me there’s a new sequel to The Shining coming out in theaters in November. The Shining is one of my very favorite movies of all time…so many great scenes. Who can forget “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”? Or how about “Heeeeere’s Johnny!”? Plus, the twins, the red rum scene, the maze, the snowplow…so many great scenes. I most recently watched it with my friend, Jennifer, and our daughters, a few years ago when we were staying at Mohonk Mountain House, an historic hotel in a lovely, mountain resort setting in Upstate New York. Some claim Mohonk Mountain House is haunted, so that made our viewing of The Shining even more erie! Making it even scarier? About 3/4 of the way through the movie, we heard someone trying to open a door. I thought it was our balcony door, so I threw myself against the door to give everyone else time to get out into the hall. Yes, I was going to sacrifice myself to save the others! Go ahead…laugh. But seriously, I threw myself against that door so hard that my arms hurt the next day! Jennifer ran out the door into the hallway with the girls. Nope, she wasn’t worried about holding back the would-be villain like I was. Of course, it turned to be no deranged villain at all. We discovered it was the neighbors who had just checked in, checking the lock on the door connecting our rooms. For more info on Mohonk Mountain House, click here.

But in discussing The Shining and its sequel, Angela and I started talking about other “crazy” movies we love. ***Disclaimer: we call these movies crazy because the characters are extreme. We are, in no way, saying people who are mentally ill are “crazy.” There’s a difference between deranged movie character and a mentally ill person.*** Here are a few films we recommend:

  • Fatal Attraction, starring Michael Douglas and Glenn Close, released in September of 1987. Angela and I were a little shocked when we looked up the release date…can it really have been that long?!?! We were both only 20 years old when it came out. Wow. The film centers around a brief weekend affair between Dan, a married man played by Douglas, and Alex, a woman (played by Close) who refuses to let the affair end. Yes, Alex becomes obsessed with Dan and inserts herself into his life in various ways, and when things don’t go the way she hopes, she boils his daughter’s pet bunny in their kitchen. If you’ve ever heard someone call someone a “bunny boiler,” well, they are referring to a scene in Fatal Attraction. My friend, Wendy, who passed away in 2018, loved that reference. You can see the film on Amazon Prime.
  • Single White Female, starring Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason-Leigh. Taking it way back again, Angela and I both thought of Single White Female, and we agreed it is worth mentioning. Based on a novel by John Lutz called SWF Seeks Same, it’s the story of Allie (Fonda), a young software designer who, after finding out her boyfriend has cheated on her, advertises for a roommate. Hedra, aka Hedy, (Jason Leigh) responds to the ad and moves in. Hedy becomes obsessed with details of Allie’s life and even becomes jealous when Allie reconciles with her boyfriend. In one memorable scene, Hedy is clearly trying to become Allie. Hedy, as it turns out, is not mentally stable, and as that becomes obvious, characters start dying. The film was released in 1992, but I still hear references to it on a regular basis. When a female becomes “obsessed” or overly interested in the life of another female, I’ve seen people look at each other and utter three words: single white female. I’ve even said it myself. Heck, I’ve felt like I had my own single white female following me around before. You can see the film on Amazon Prime. It’s a good one to watch with girlfriends.
  • The Gift, starring Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, and Joel Edgerton, released in 2015. This is one my husband discovered, and I made Angela watch it. She loves a good, suspenseful movie, so it was right up her alley. First of all, there’s Jason Bateman…a great reason for any woman to watch a movie. This film is about a young married couple (Bateman and Hall) who run into an acquaintance from high school in a store, bringing the acquaintance, Gordo, back into their lives. The plot takes lots of twists and turns. The first time I saw the movie, I was surprised by some of the twists, and it left me a little shaken. It will make me question my own character judgment. You can see it on Amazon Prime. *There’s another movie called The Gift on Prime that was released in 2001, so make sure you get the right one. The other one might be good too, but I’m not familiar with it.
  • Gone Girl, starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, released in 2014. This film centers around the disappearance of the young wife of Ben Affleck’s character. When it appears he might have been involved in her disappearance, Affleck’s character becomes the focus of the investigation. Again, lots of twists and turns, and I won’t spoil it by telling you which one is crazy, but believe me, there’s a lot of crazy…a whole lot of crazy. This movie was well-received by audiences and critics. It’s worth seeing. See it on Amazon Prime.

There are others…Diabolique, starring Sharon Stone…one of my favorite lines of all time was from this movie. Kathy Bates, as a detective, suggests to Sharon Stone’s character that she might have killed the man involved because he left her and went back to his wife. Her response? “Have you seen his wife? Honey, if I couldn’t get a man to leave her, I wouldn’t kill him; I’d kill myself.” A biting line, indeed. Misery, starring Kathy Bates and James Caan, is another good one; What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? starring Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, is a classic; Sunset Blvd, starring William Holden and Gloria Swanson; Natural Born Killers, starring Woody Harrelson and Juliet Lewis…and many more.

So go ahead, become the winter caretaker of a mountain hotel. Find a roommate who wants to take over your life. Marry someone you thought you knew. Run into an acquaintance from long ago. Better yet, have an affair and find a boiling bunny in your kitchen.

Or instead…just watch movies about it.

 

Sweet Sixteen!

Our daughter is a high school sophomore, and she and lots of her friends are turning 16. No one is more excited than she is. In fact, if I asked her right now how long till her birthday, she could likely tell me how many days and how many hours. More importantly, if I asked her how many days till she can test for her drivers license (a few days after her birthday), she might know down to the minute.

Lots of friends have told me stories about watching their kids drive away on their own for the first time. For some, it’s scary and nerve-wracking. Others say it’s exciting, knowing their children are gaining more independence. One friend has told me how upset she was when her son drove to school by himself for the first time, because it hadn’t occurred to her that the last time she drove him was the last time.

While we are excited for our daughter, there is a little apprehension. She’s 16, and her brain still works like a 16-yr-old. Driving is a big responsibility. We have done everything we can to prepare her for this moment. While North Carolina requires young drivers to log 60 driving hours while they have their learner’s permits, we have required her to log 120 hours. It gives me a little peace of mind to know she has logged double the required number of hours. We have reviewed different situations in driving:

  • Always STOP before turning right on red when clear.
  • When the light turns green, look to make sure cars aren’t coming before driving into the intersection.
  • Plan your route before you leave home.
  • Avoid difficult left turns.
  • At a certain shopping center in Charlotte, never use a particular entrance/exit.
  • When coming around a bus in said shopping center, be aware that cars might not see you and will turn in front of you.
  • Slower traffic keep right.
  • When brake lights come on in front of you, immediately put your foot on the brake…and watch for brake lights two or three cars in front of you.
  • Don’t follow closely.
  • Avoid high traffic areas when possible…and high traffic times too.
  • Don’t play loud music; you need to be able to hear what’s going on around you.
  • Pay extra close attention in roundabouts. You might know what you’re doing, but it’s difficult for lots of people.
  • If you’re not sure you can fit into a parking space easily, just drive farther out in the parking lot. You’re healthy. You can walk.
  • No cell phone usage or other distracted driving.
  • Be smart/use good judgment.
  • Pay attention to road signs!

There are so many things to know/learn when driving. I remember when she was younger, she once asked me if driving is difficult. I explained to her that no, the act of driving is not difficult; it’s the other drivers/cars on the road that make it difficult. Anyone who can drive will know that is true. You never know when someone will follow you too closely or stop unexpectedly in front of you. You never know when a car will turn in front of you or change lanes on top of you. And we all make mistakes while drivingwe just have to hope we don’t make big mistakes. And if you’re wondering…yes, I’ve taught her all about the courtesy wave…when someone lets you into traffic…when you make a mistake that affects another car…courtesy wave.

So here we go…in a few days, if she passes the test, she will be driving by herself. Several of her friends have failed the driving test the first go-round, so we aren’t counting on it being a sure thing. My husband will take her to the DMV, and they will call me afterward. He navigates government offices better than I do. He also navigates cell phone stores better, but I’ll save that for another day.

The bad news is that I won’t have that car time to chat with her. Now, when I bring her home from school or sports practice, that drive time is a little decompression time. We catch up. She likely won’t be a passenger in my car very often for the rest of her life.

The good news? I won’t have to drop everything to pick her up somewhere. She can drive herself to and from school and sports practices. She is excited. She is gaining some independence, and I can have a cocktail on the patio in the afternoon!

Don’t we all remember when we got our driver’s licenses? Don’t we all remember how it felt like forever till we had them? It’s a milestone. It’s a big deal. It’s what makes the sixteenth birthday a special one. And I’m excited for her to spread her wings!

Now, she just has to pass the test.