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!

Saturday Morning Cartoons

Saturday morning cartoons.

Ahhh…the good old days…when Saturday morning meant eating cereal in my pajamas while seated on the floor in front of the console TV. Saturday morning cartoons were the best. Everybody I knew who was a child in the 70s watched. For whatever reason, those cartoons made quite an impression on us…so much so, that I often find myself making references to them as a 53-year-old!

Just today, in fact, I caught myself making a reference to a Saturday morning cartoon. I got my shower and got dressed. Keep in mind that every November, I observe Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, and since purple is the color for pancreatic cancer awareness, I try to wear it as much as possible. Sounds crazy, I know, and I don’t own as much purple clothing as I used to, but today, I put on some purple leggings with a cute, comfy tie-dye sweater. I then looked in the mirror and said aloud, “Grape Ape.”

When I was a kid in the 70s, The Great Grape Ape Show was one of the cartoons I loved. It featured a 40-foot tall purple ape who often uttered these words, “Grape Ape! Grape Ape!” My most vivid memory is of Grape Ape riding on the roof of his friend’s car after revving it up like a push toy. He was giant. He was purple. My leggings made me think of Grape Ape. You get the picture. You can see episodes of The Great Grape Ape Show on Amazon here.

During football games for my college team, I often can’t watch. My ego is apparently so healthy that I think my very presence actually has an influence on the outcome of the game. When someone asks why I don’t watch, I reply, “Because I’m Schleprock.” Lots of times, I get a puzzled look in return and have to explain that Schleprock was a character on The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show, a spinoff of The Flintstones. Schleprock walked around in all gray clothing, often with a dark cloud (literally) over his head. He is known for having exceptionally bad luck, and when he is around, bad things tend to happen. So yes, if I think I am the catalyst of bad luck, I call myself “Schleprock.”

And since I’m talking about The Flintstones, I absolutely must mention “Yabba Dabba Doo!” Anyone who is familiar with the show knows those three words were used by Fred Flintstone when he was happy or excited…like when the whistle blew signaling the end of the work day at the quarry. I’ve used the exclamation many times over the years. First, every time I take a vitamin of any kind, I actually say, “Yabba Dabba Doo!” This is because, as a kid in the 70s, I took Flintstones vitamins, just like every other kid. In fact, when my brother was two or three, my mother and I were in one part of the house and heard him repeatedly saying, “Yabba Dabba Doo!” We ran to the kitchen to find him taking Flintstones vitamins and making the exclamation every time he took one. Good times! Fortunately, they contained no iron, so he was in no real danger. As an adult, I once noticed that an ice cream shop served Fruity Pebbles ice cream. I said to my then-10-yr-old daughter, “Yabba Dabba Doo!” She didn’t get it. Anyone who remembers The Flintstones knows they did the ads for Fruity Pebbles cereal. In fact, they’re still on the box. They’re also on the box for Cocoa Pebbles cereal.

Going from the prehistoric Flintstone family to modern times, everyone I know is aware of my fascination with midcentury modern architecture. Better yet, they know I love what’s referred to as Googie architecture, which was popular in the 1950s and 1960s. It’s futuristic and space age architecture…like The Jetsons cartoon. I used to have some dinnerware that had a space-age looking pattern on it, and I called that dinnerware my “Jetsons dishes.” Many times over the years, I’ve referred to building as Jetsons buildings. Come on…who hasn’t looked at the Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport and thought about The Jetsons? Want to watch The Jetsons? You can rent episodes on Amazon here.

Anybody remember Hong Kong Phooey besides me? Sure, the name of that cartoon about a dog who is a private investigator is totally politically incorrect now, but back in the 70s, no one paid attention. The lead character was voiced by Scatman Crothers…what a great voice he had! The bumbling PI jumped into a filing cabinet to change from mere mortal into Hong Kong Phooey. Can I walk past a filing cabinet without thinking of the theme song? Hong Kong Phooey, number one super guy. Hong Kong Phooey, quicker than the human eye. He’s got style, a groovy style, and a car that just won’t stop. When the going gets rough, he’s super tough, with a Hong Kong Phooey chop! (Hi-ya!) Like I said, it’s not exactly politically correct. But mention the words “private eye” to me, and all I can think about is Hong Kong Phooey.

But by far, the Saturday morning cartoon I reference the most is Scooby Doo, Where Are You? Everybody loved Scooby Doo. It is one cartoon that truly stands the test of time. My now-17-yr-old daughter loved it so much as a kid that we used it as a measure of time. When she was four, if she asked me how long it would take to get somewhere, and it was an hour away, I would answer, “About three Scooby Doos,” because each episode, without commercials (on DVD) was about 22 minutes. When my daughter was little, if she said she was hungry, I would offer her a “Scooby snack.” Many times, I’ve referred to my daughter and her friends as “meddling kids,” a Scooby reference, for sure. And I’ve even said, “Jinkies!” and “Zoinks!” as exclamations of surprise. But what have I used the most from the show? Scooby Doo’s own, “Ruh-roh,” when I’ve hit a snag. Wanna see some Scooby Doo, Where Are You? Check it out on Amazon here.

So yes, Saturday mornings are still influencing my daily lexicon, and I love it. There were some awesome live-action shows on Saturday mornings too, many made by Sid and Marty Krofft, but that’s a story for another day. It’s fun to feel like a kid again every now and then!

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

***This is a repost from November 2019***

All my friends know it, because they’ve heard it from me for years…since 2006…November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. What does that mean? To some folks it means nothing. To me, it means a lot. My daddy died eight months after he was diagnosed with this terrible disease. He had been suffering for months, though, without a diagnosis…I’ll get to that in a minute.

When I was in my thirties, I had heard very little about pancreatic cancer. I knew nothing about it…nothing. In 2006, I had been married for six years, and I had a two-year-old daughter. Life was moving along swimmingly, and then my daddy got sick. And it was bad. He was 67 years old when he was diagnosed on February 9, and he died on October 2, three weeks after his 68th birthday…the birthday he declared his happiest ever, because all his family members were there to celebrate with him.

Without getting into the details of his illness, let me tell you this…it never occurred to us he would get pancreatic cancer. There was no history of it in his family, except one aunt, and she was considerably older when she was diagnosed, so we tend to think “we’re all going to die of something.” But when Daddy was diagnosed, it hit us like a ton of bricks. The survival rate is terrible, and after doing some research, we were fully aware of his prognosis, but like Alex Trebek, we tried to have a positive outlook. Without hope, what do you have?!?

Detecting pancreatic cancer is extremely difficult, and that is, in part, why the survival rate is low. My daddy was having symptoms for some time before he was diagnosed, but sometimes, we can’t see the forest for the trees. When he was finally diagnosed, it was too late to do much about it. I’m hoping research funding will help find better, easier ways of detecting it.

There are two things I want you to take away from this…

  • Pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths, but the funding for its research doesn’t match up. There are lots of ways to help. You can donate directly to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCan) here. You can host a fundraiser for the organization too. You can walk in a Purple Stride event in your town. You can purchase purple (the color for pancreatic cancer awareness) gear through PanCan here. You can wear purple in memory of someone you know…and tell people why you’re wearing it. You can write to your representatives in Congress, asking them to do more to fund the fight against pancreatic cancer. I recently hosted a fundraiser for Pancreatic Cancer Action Network on Facebook, and I am grateful to all who donated. I was thrilled that so many people donated, and I was overwhelmed by their generosity.
  • Live your life. We never know what will happen. My daddy was always telling us, “Life is not a dress rehearsal.” He encouraged us to live our lives to the fullest…enjoy time with friends and family, see places and things we want to see, give back to the community, etc. Soon after I turned 50, I told my mother (who has since passed away), “I probably only have 20 more years that I can move around really well.” I was looking ahead and thinking it might not be as easy for me to travel when I’m over 70. She looked at me with a sweet smile on her face and said, “When your daddy was your age, he didn’t have that long. [When he was 50, he only had 18 more years ahead of him.] Do the things you want to do.” Perspective. She was right. And so that’s what I’m encouraging you to do. It doesn’t mean you have to go into debt taking a gigantic whirlwind trip, but get busy ticking things off your bucket list.

And while you’re ticking things off your bucket list, wear purple every now and then.

FYI: World Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Day is November 19, 2020. Please wear purple and support the fight.

Top of the Rollercoaster

Top of the rollercoaster.

David Wilcox, a folk musician/singer-songwriter from Cleveland, Ohio, released a song in 1991 called Top of the Rollercoaster, a song about riding a rollercoaster on a 30th birthday as a metaphor for life. “It’s the moment of truth, the top of your youth…when you tip the top of the rollercoaster, look down the other side.” (To hear the song, click here.) Lucky for me, it came out several years before I turned 30, so I could listen to it on my 30th birthday and feel like it was written for me. However, unlike the song, which proclaims “it’s all downhill from here,” I didn’t look at turning 30 as the “top of my youth;” I looked at it as a new beginning. And honestly, my life got better after 30. But that’s not really what I want to discuss. I want to talk about rollercoasters, because at the age of 53, I still love them.

Don’t most of us remember our first rollercoaster ride? I don’t mean those little rollercoasters like Thunder Mountain at Disney. I don’t even mean rollercoasters like The Rock-n-Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios or Space Mountain at Disney. If those are the most exciting rollercoasters you’ve ridden, I hate to break it to you…they don’t even count. They’re not thrilling. Sure, they’re a little fun, but definitely aren’t thrilling. When I get off those rides, I don’t have the same “high” as I have when I step off the Intimidator or the Fury 325 at Carowinds…or even Goliath at Six Flags Over Georgia. So when I say we likely remember our first rollercoaster ride, I mean a ride on a real rollercoaster…a thrill ride.

The year was 1976. It was the year of America’s Bicentennial, and I had turned nine years old in May…just as school was getting out for summer. I had been to Six Flags Over Georgia countless times with my family, and since 1973, I had been watching people disembark from the Great American Scream Machine, which at the time was the longest (3800 ft), tallest (105 ft), fastest (57 mph) rollercoaster in the world. It was a giant wooden coaster, and for a long time, I was terrified of it. But that summer…the Bicentennial summer…I decided I could ride it. I was standing with my family, watching riders disembark when Daddy asked me if I wanted to try it. I answered, “Yes,” and we got in line. The line for the Scream Machine was always long in those days, and there were no fast passes, so we waited…and I’m sure I changed my mind a dozen times before we ever boarded the coaster, but when it was our turn, I followed Daddy right into that coaster seat.

If you’ve ever ridden a wooden coaster, you know it’s not as smooth as a steel coaster. The first hill seems “rickety,” with the noise of the chain pulling the train up, and the “clickety-clack” of the tracks as you wait to reach the top. I was terrified, but I was excited at the same time. Back then, though, safety mechanisms weren’t what they are now. In my memory, there was nothing tight around my waist to hold me firmly in my seat. I recall a loose chain across my lap and a metal bar that bounced with every bump. Just as we reached the peak of the first hill, the train lurched forward as it started its descent. I weighed less than 50 pounds, and I felt like I was going to fall out of the car. I yelled to Daddy, “Push the bar down!” But he just laughed as we continued the bumpy ride. Once I knew I had survived the first big hill, I knew I could survive the rest, but it was scary…and exhilarating.

The ride ended back at the station after an exhilarating two minutes and twenty seconds. I had survived. I had ridden my first major rollercoaster and lived to tell about it. I feel sure I was giggling as we got off the ride, and I probably talked about it on the walk back up to the top of the hill near the entrance, where my mother was waiting. And then, like any coaster enthusiast, I said, “Let’s do it again!” I’ve never looked back. What an adrenaline rush! And every time I ride a rollercoaster, I remember that day in the summer of ’76.

Fortunately, my own daughter is a rollercoaster enthusiast. When she was a little girl, she would cry, because she wasn’t tall enough to ride the coasters at our local amusement park, Carowinds, which was owned by Paramount at the time, and then purchased by Cedar Fair Parks. As soon as she was tall enough, we rode them all the time…for years. When the old log flume ride was removed from the park in 2010 to make way for the Intimidator, a rollercoaster with a height of 232 feet that goes 80 mph, we had to work up the nerve to ride it, but once we did, we never looked back. And then, five years later, the Fury 325 debuted. Reaching a maximum speed of 95 mph and with a height of 325 feet, it looked daunting. But the first time we rode it, we rode in the second seat. The next time? Front car with my friend, Angela, and her daughter, Hannah…and it was a big adrenaline rush! My daughter was 11, and Hannah was 13…and we loved the ride! In fact, every time I’ve ever ridden it, it has been a big adrenaline rush. I feel pretty sure that if I can ride that coaster, I can ride just about any coaster anywhere.

About 34 years after that Bicentennial summer and my first major coaster ride, I took my daughter to Six Flags Over Georgia. She was six. She wanted to ride the Great American Scream Machine as soon as she saw it. So while my friend, Wendy, and her daughter watched, we boarded the same rollercoaster that was my first major rollercoaster, and it became my daughter’s first major rollercoaster too. The ride was even more bumpy that I remembered, but she loved it. She was laughing when we got off the coaster and wanted to get back in line immediately…like mother, like daughter. Maybe one day, my daughter will have a daughter whose first coaster will be the Great American Scream Machine. A weird family tradition, for sure.

Going back to David Wilcox’s song, maybe when he said “it’s all downhill from here,” he didn’t mean it was all going to be bad. Maybe he meant it was all going to be fun…a rush…exhilarating. Now that I think about it, I prefer that version. Because honestly, I’ve done my best living after 30. Well…there were those four college years in the 80s, between the ages of 18 and 22…those were pretty awesome too. But there’s something special about being over 30. And if you haven’t turned 50 yet…just wait…it’s great too.

Are rollercoaster rides good metaphors for life? I don’t know. But I do know rollercoasters are fun, and they make me feel young! I’ll be glad when Carowinds is open again! Till then, maybe we’ll even make a trip down to the Atlanta area to visit Six Flags Over Georgia and ride the Great American Scream Machine again…they’re open on a “reservations only” basis! They’re even offering BACKWARD rides on the Scream Machine for a limited time!

We love rollercoasters!

If you’d like to virtually experience the Great American Scream Machine, click here.

My Falsies

My falsies.

I know what you’re thinking, but reprogram your mind, please. I’m not talking about falsies you put in your bra. I’m talking about false eyelashes.

I made it to age 53 without ever having used false eyelashes. I was a teenager in the 1980s, and I don’t remember ever seeing anyone with false lashes back then. I remember seeing people with them in the 1970s…along with wigs and hairpieces…but as far as I know, no one I went to high school or college with wore them. Our lashes just weren’t so important to us then, I guess.

Truth be told, at 53, I still don’t care too much about my lashes, but I see so many people who do that I got curious about them. What put me over the edge was my addiction to Love Island on CBS over the last few weeks. It was a reality show I just knew I would hate, but I watched one episode, and I was immediately hooked. It’s a “reality” show about people who are brought together in a competition to be voted favorite couple by America by the end of the series. This season, they all lived in a rooftop suite with pools and more in Las Vegas. Cameras are on the participants 24/7, and when the ladies on the show get ready every day, we see their makeup routines. Every single one of them used false eyelashes.

I’ve often thought about what a difference false eyelashes make for people on TV. And as an adult, I’ve even had friends who have individual false eyelashes added by lash professionals. I don’t have the patience for that, and I don’t like people I don’t know all up in my face. Add in the very important fact that I’m allergic to the glue, and those just are not an option for me.

Lately, I think more attention is on our eyes, because we’re all wearing our masks during the COVID pandemic. I read that lipstick sales are down, and that’s because we don’t really need lipstick if we’re wearing a mask; our lips don’t show. But you know what does show? Our eyes!

So recently, I ordered some magnetic lashes from Amazon.com, just to see how they work…and if there’s any possibility I will like them. Here’s how they work: users apply a magnetic liquid eyeliner just like they would any other liquid eyeliner. Let it dry. Once the liner is dry, the strip of lashes will adhere to it, because it has small magnets in the lash strip.

I’m 53. My eyelashes are not as plentiful as they used to be…thanks, menopause. Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed I’ve had difficulty making my lashes lustrous using mascara. Maybe these falsies will help? So today, after I got a shower and got dressed for the day, I decided to go through my makeup routine and use the falsies. The eyeliner was easy to apply…just like my other liquid eyeliners. I put a little translucent power on my face and eyes before applying the eyeliner, because over the years, I’ve found the liner seems to go on better and last longer if I do that…so I tried it with the magnetic liner. After applying it, I tried to keep my eyes closed for a minute or two, allowing the liner to dry. Once it had time to dry, I started applying the lashes. They come in several different thicknesses/lengths, so for this purpose, I picked the least thick/long. I just wanted to see how they worked. To apply, I started at the outer edge of my eye, and applied one end of the strip…I was surprised at how easily it adhered to the magnetic liner! From there, it was easy to apply the rest of the strip.

Once the lashes were on, I stood there, looking in the mirror and blinking. I needed to make sure they were on correctly before I paraded around in public wearing them. After a minute or two of blinking, I felt pretty sure they were secure, so I walked into the living room, where my husband was. He looked up when I walked into the room but said nothing about the lashes. After going to the kitchen to get something to drink, I went back to the living room and sat down in a chair facing him. He looked up and talked for a minute or two…not commenting on the lashes at all. However, in a minute, he said, “You look happy today.” What?!?! Did the lashes make me look happier? I simply said, “Thanks.”

Later, our teenage daughter came in. This would be the real test. She notices things like false eyelashes. She came in and hugged me, sitting down to chat for a few minutes. Eventually, she said, “Your makeup looks really good today.” But she didn’t notice the lashes were fake! That was a big surprise, because I felt sure she would ask, “Why are you wearing false lashes?” She didn’t. I had made it past the teenager with the false lashes! When I told her I had on false lashes, she actually said she liked them!

The real test came later when I needed to remove them. Removing the strips was not difficult, but I was more concerned about removing the waterproof liner. I shouldn’t have worried. I was able to remove it with my normal makeup remover and about the same amount of effort that I would use with a waterproof mascara.

So now, the question is…will I continue to use them? Well, I certainly won’t use them every day, but if I have fun lunch plans, dinner plans, or an event to attend, I will definitely use them! I think they will make my eyes look better in pictures too.

I ordered HSBCC brand from Amazon.com, because they were inexpensive, and they had really good reviews. You can order the same ones here. But be forewarned that I have no idea where they are manufactured. Based on the wording on the package, I’m guessing it’s not the US. They are distributed by an LA company, but I found it funny that the package says “nutual looking,” which, I’m just guessing, means “natural looking.” (See photo below.) I still like them. But there are lots of brands out there. I think it’s worth a try!

The Loss of a Beloved Teacher

The loss of a beloved teacher.

When I was growing up, my family moved several times. In fifth grade, I landed in a new town and new school. It was a school that was several times bigger than my previous elementary school. At my “old” school, we had only two classes for each grade. Everyone knew each other, and we were a pretty sheltered bunch. At my “new” school, there were four or five classes for each grade. Everyone did not know each other, and well…they weren’t as sheltered. Fortunately, I fell into the classroom of a wonderful, caring teacher.

I feel pretty sure she could feel my pain on the first day. While everyone was friendly, I’m sure I looked like a deer caught in the headlights, so my new teacher assigned two girls to look out for me. They showed me around and introduced me to their friends, and it certainly made the transition easier. Assimilating wasn’t difficult, thanks to the teacher and those girls she introduced me to.

There was something special about this teacher. She was dealing with students from various socioeconomic backgrounds and races, and somehow she brought us all together. I don’t know how public schools work in Alabama now, but back in the day, students were grouped by reading level and math level. We had at least two different levels in our class at any given time, except math, when we went to a different classroom where everyone learned the same thing. In some cases, I’m sure students who weren’t working on the highest level might have felt inferior, but I don’t think they ever felt that way in her class. She loved all of us, in spite of and because of our differences. And while I was in the highest level reading group, I know we never looked at the other groups in our class and thought they were “less than.” That’s because our teacher pulled us together. She understood that fifth grade students needed to move around some during the day, and she encouraged us all to participate in discussions, be creative, and work with our “neighbors.”

I had always been a good student, but I had usually been pretty quiet in class. But at the end of the first grading period, the teacher called my mother before sending home my report card. She wanted to warn my mother ahead of time that she had marked “talks too much” on my report card, but she explained that she had done it for our whole group that sat in the same area. Apparently, we had bonded well enough that we never stopped talking! My mother was surprised but thought it was funny, since she had never been told I “talked too much” at school. And we, the students, learned a valuable lesson about working as a group…everyone in the group is responsible for each other.

One of those friends, James, from that class group texted me recently. He is my longest continuous-contact friend, and we were brought together right there in that classroom. We have been friends for 43 years. He texted me to tell me our beloved teacher had passed away. He loved her too. In fact, he was, quite possibly, the student who checked in on her the most over the years. She saw something special in him when we were in 5th grade, and he didn’t disappoint. He remembered her kindness and spent time with her when she was in the hospital several years ago, and then, last year, he visited her at home…spending time laughing and talking with her.

The last time I spoke with our teacher was Mother’s Day weekend in 2019…just over a year ago. We talked about old times. We talked about how she let us veer from the lesson plan sometimes to give us time to be creative. She sometimes secretly gave clothing and snacks to the students who needed it…but in a way no one else knew it, so the student wouldn’t be embarrassed. We talked about how she became a teacher. We laughed a lot while we reminisced, and we solved some of the world’s problems in that phone call. She reminded me of a few things, and I reminded her of a few things. And she asked me to write down some of my memories of her/her class and send them to her.

She taught my brother two years after she taught me. We are two totally different personalities; frankly, he’s a lot more fun than I am. And I’m sure he was quite the class clown, but this teacher? She had an appreciation for his humor. She found a way to teach him without squashing his spirit. She saw something special behind his twinkling, mischievous eyes, and she loved him. He loved her too.

When I heard about her passing, I was heartbroken. I knew her health had been in decline, but I was surprised to hear she had passed. I was, however, happy I had followed through on my promise to write down some memories and send them to her. It took me a few months to get it done, but I got it done. I emailed it and then sent her a hard copy of it too. A friend was having coffee with me at my house when I got the news, and I told her, “Wow. My fifth grade teacher just died.” I went on to explain to her how special this teacher was to all her students…how she actually cared. And then I said, “I’m so glad I talked to her last year and sent her some memories I had written down for her.” No regrets.

She had long since retired, but she made a difference in the lives of lots of children over the years. She was special. I feel sorry for the ones who didn’t get to be in her class. If you had a beloved teacher during your school days, make his/her day by sending him/her a letter, or even just an email, letting him/her know he/she made a difference in your life.

She was a lovely lady, and “lovely” is high compliment from me…one I don’t throw out lightly. God bless her family, and God bless the soul of Mrs. Stiff.

October 2 Has Meaning for Me

October 2 has meaning for me.

Different days have different meanings. To a lot of people, October 2 means nothing different than any other day. To me, it has meaning.

October 2 is the anniversary of a day my life changed forever…the day my Daddy died in 2006. Pancreatic cancer. I’ve written about it before. Today is the 14th anniversary of his passing. While it’s hard to believe it has been 14 years, it also feels like I haven’t seen his face or heard his laugh in forever.

For years, I could only remember him sick. Pancreatic cancer was a cruel disease for him. Frankly, it was cruel for me and the rest of the family too. I had never felt such emotional pain. I thought I would lose my mind with grief. Yes, the disease was terrible, but through those months from diagnosis to his passing, we managed to have some good times. We laughed…a lot. We cried a lot too. We spent a lot of time together. My husband and I moved our little family down to the Alabama Gulf Coast for months, to be closer to Mother and Daddy. We were lucky we had a condo on the bay near their house. Our daughter was about to turn three. It wasn’t easy to uproot the family. We had good support in Charlotte…great friends we had made over the course of our marriage. They called to check on us, and they mailed little treats to our daughter. I called them and cried regularly. We didn’t have a lot of support in Alabama, but I enrolled our daughter in a church preschool…they very graciously took her when they didn’t have to. And I did everything I could to keep my little family happy while trying to help my mother help my daddy. Daddy was so sweet throughout his illness. It was heartbreaking watching him get sicker and sicker…and that was all I could remember for a long time.

But now, I can remember him not sick. I can remember his laugh. I can remember his stories and his wordplay. I can remember watching Atlanta Braves baseball on WTBS with him. I can remember watching the Chicago Cubs on WGN and listening to Harry Caray with him. We loved the early days of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire…when Regis hosted. He was into all the same “useless knowledge” I’m into. I remember what a jokester he was. I remember how he carried me to the car when I had a stomach bug at 17…just picked me up like I weighed nothing and carried me to the car to take me to the doctor. I can remember how big his hands looked when I was a little girl. When he was dying, I kept looking at his hands…trying to etch them in my memory. I don’t know why that was so important, but for some reason it was. I think his hands represented his strength to me…his physical strength, but also his emotional strength. He was rock solid to us. He carried the burden of supporting our family, and he didn’t have a financial safety net in the form of parents who could help him in a financial emergency. He gave us that safety net, though.

My brother and I laughed just recently talking about how Daddy always made sure we were taken care of. He provided for us…everything we needed and most of what we wanted…throughout life. And here’s the funny thing…he’s still providing for us, in a way. Just recently, almost three years after my mother died, we discovered they had a life insurance policy he had set up many years ago. Today, on the fourteenth anniversary of Daddy’s passing, I deposited the check from that policy into a bank account, and afterward, I sat in the car and thought, “Wow. Fourteen years to the day after he died, and he’s still giving to us.”

Don’t get me wrong. Mother provided lots for us too…in a different way, but today is about remembering Daddy. I used to dread October 2 every year, because it meant heartache to me, but now I smile. I’m certainly not happy he’s gone, but when October 2 rolls around, I spend the day thinking about Daddy. I’ll look at the moon tonight and remember how he used to call me in Charlotte from his home in Alabama and tell me to go outside and look at the moon when it was particularly spectacular.

Just this weekend, when I was in a store with a friend, someone heard me call her “Miss Merry Sunshine” and asked if that was her name. I explained that I just call my friend that because she’s perpetually happy. And even that made me think of Daddy. When he was sick, I would take our toddler daughter over to visit, and he would sing Good Morning, Merry Sunshine any time she walked into the room. She loved it…and frankly, I did too. In one of his final days, I walked into the room with her, and he had a lot of morphine in his system…his speech wasn’t clear. His smile was clear, but his speech was garbled. He was “singing” but it wasn’t clear. I took that almost-three-yr-old little girl outside, and said, “I wonder what Big Ken was trying to say to you?” She looked up at me with a big smile and said, “Good morning, Merry Sunshine!” So yes, I thought of him this past weekend when the woman in the store thought my friend’s name was Merry Sunshine.

Now that little toddler girl is almost 17. In memory of Daddy, before she goes out with her friends tonight, I’ll take her hand and press a crisp $20 bill into it. He used to do that…give me “walking around money,” or WAM, as we started calling it when I was in college.

His passing was difficult. That’s not even a good word for it. It hit me hard. But it also taught me some coping skills…his final lesson to me.

Lots of good memories of Daddy. Thanks, October 2, for making me sit back and think about him. I still miss him, but I have wonderful memories of him.

Your Daily Bright Boost

Your Daily Bright Boost

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…I love Hungry Girl. Need some easy cookbooks that offer swaps for higher calorie recipes? Turn to Hungry Girl. Need some fun low-cal cocktails? Hungry Girl! Want to try a beverage mix that was developed to offer nutrition and a morning (or anytime) pick-me-up with only 20 calories? Hungry Girl has that too! It’s called Hungry Girl Your Daily Bright Boost, and I love it!

I’m not one to try nutritional supplement fads. As soon as someone says “whey protein shake” to me, I run the other way. I don’t hang out at the local nutrition stores, looking for a miracle cure to growing old. But when Hungry Girl developed Your Daily Bright Boost with Eboost, I was game, because I know Lisa Lillien, the founder of the company, helped develop the product, and she isn’t going to put the Hungry Girl name on something she doesn’t believe in. In fact, I could hardly wait to try it! Hungry Girl has never steered me wrong, so I felt confident I would like it.

I ordered a box of 15 mix packets, and when it arrived, my teenage daughter and I each mixed a packet with water and added lots of ice. We sat down at our kitchen table and tried it together, and we both declared it delicious. A nutritional beverage that can please a teenage girl and her 53-year-old mother? Sold!

Hungry Girl Your Daily Bright Boost contains 15 vitamins and minerals, collagen peptides to improve skin appearance and nail growth, caffeine to put a little pep in your step…all for just 20 calories and mixed into a delicious citrus-flavored driving mix! And guess what else? It’s gluten-free, soy free, non-GMO, and sugar free!

There are lots of different ways to mix it. Sometimes, I stir the mix into 8-10 ounces of cold water and add lots of ice afterward…sometimes it’s cube ice, and sometimes it’s crushed ice. The crushed ice version feels a bit like a slushy to me, and I love it! Who wouldn’t enjoy and orangey-citrus slushee?

I have also been known to mix it with water/crushed ice and top it with whipped cream, which can sit on top or be stirred into the beverage to create a creamsicle flavor…refreshing in the morning or by the pool in the afternoon!

But here’s the great thing about it: it tastes great while delivering nutrition! Sometimes I drink it from a giant Tervis tumbler with a giant straw, and sometimes, I pour it into my Camelbak straw cup and take it with me. Sometimes I drink it in the morning, and sometimes, I sip it through the afternoon. When people ask me what I’m drinking, they actually get a little jealous when I describe the deliciousness…and nutritional qualities it offers…at just 20 calories.

Now that we’re heading into fall, I’ll continue enjoying my Hungry Girl Your Daily Bright Boost. The citrus flavor will make me feel like the best parts of summer are still here! If you’d like to order, click here. And if you’re not familiar with Lisa Lillien and her Hungry Girl brand, you should check out her website here. You can get great recipes and tips! You can also watch her live on Instagram at hungrygirl or on Facebook at Hungry Girl. She is adorable and funny…and I enjoy watching some of her recipe videos.

Try it! I’d love to hear what you think!

All My Rowdy Friends…

All my rowdy friends have settled down.

Yes, that’s a quote from a Hank Williams Jr. song. I used it for two reasons: 1. I love me some Bocephus (Hank’s nickname). 2. All my rowdy friends really have settled down. When I say they have “settled down,” I don’t mean they’re not fun. I mean they have “settled down” into who they are. They are comfortable in their own skin. They’re still a lot of fun…maybe even more so. They’re in their 50s.

Today, another friend turns 50. I have been in my fifties long enough that I feel sorry for all those folks in their 30s and 40s who still take themselves so seriously. No, really…I feel sorry for them. Lots of them are still worrying about what other people think. Lots of them still think they need to make the hamster wheel spin faster. They still think more expensive = better. Lots of them still think they have to keep up with the Joneses. Bahahaha! Yes, I feel sorry for them.

Interestingly, my friend, Jennifer, who is turning 50 today has been an old soul for as long as I’ve known her, but she’s also the most fun person I’ve ever known. We met about 15 or 16 years ago through another friend, when they both lived in Charlotte. The birthday girl moved to Columbus, Ohio, years ago, and the friend who introduced us moved to the Chicago area years ago. We were all supposed to go to Lollapalooza together in Chicago this year, but COVID messed that up.

When I say Jennifer has been an “old soul,” I don’t mean she has some sort of Yoda-like wisdom. She’s wise, but she’s no Dalai Lama. She has a different kind of wisdom. She can smile through almost any situation. Nothing seems to get her down. I like to think of myself as a pretty positive person, but she has had to talk me off the ledge more than once. I’ve seen her in situations where she should have been on the ledge, and she wasn’t. She kept smiling and kept moving forward. She also doesn’t worry about what other people think of her. As an example, she went back to work a couple of years ago, so I’m sure she “dresses” for work, but before that? T-shirts and shorts with sneakers or Birkenstocks every day. Chilly outside? She’ll throw on a sweatshirt or hoodie. During winter, I’m sure she wears long pants, but I’m guessing she still wear sweatshirts or hoodies every day. Handbags and shoes? She has a few designer bags, but like I said…I don’t know if I’ve ever seen her in anything but sneakers and Birkenstocks. Well, I saw her in hiking boots when we did a rock scramble with sprained ankles years ago. Yes, we both had sprained ankles.

As for the hamster wheel. Yes, she works again, but it’s not her whole life. She doesn’t “live to work.” She works to live. Her work doesn’t define her. She knows the hamster wheel is just a means to an end.

And she really is the happiest person I know. Nothing phases her. When she was looking for a job after not having worked for 15 years, she called me and told me when her first interview was coming up. I said, “You’re going to get this job.” She laughed, as she often does, and said, “I haven’t worked in 15 years! Why would they hire me?” I said, “Well, you’re confident. You’re clearly smart…you went to graduate school at Vanderbilt. Most of all, you’ll be good for morale in an office setting. You’re Miss Merry Freaking Sunshine!” Guess what? I was right. She was offered the first job she interviewed for in fifteen years, and she has been working there since.

Did I mention Jennifer has always been a lot of fun? She had a lot of fun in high school and college…and beyond. Oh, the stories she tells. She has a different kind of fun now, but frankly, she makes everything fun. She’s always up for the next adventure…and we have had many: rock scrambles in upstate New York, cold lake swimming in upstate New York, climbing a waterfall in Puerto Rico, swimming in the pitch black bioluminescent bay, ziplining in a rainforest, shopping with street vendors in NYC, riding bikes through a state park in Florida, all kinds of crazy fun in California. She lives life. And she encourages others (like me) to live our lives.

Am I worried Jennifer is going to get down about turning 50? Not one bit. She will approach her 50s just like she approaches everything else…with a big smile on her face and a sense of adventure.

She’s Miss Merry Freaking Sunshine!

Happy 50th to Jennifer!

Memories of a 1970s Childhood

Memories of a 1970s Childhood.

After reading the Leif Garrett memoir, I find myself thinking about the 1970s. I was born in 1967, but most of my childhood memories were in the 1970s. In fact, I think my brain retains information from that time in my life better than it retains any other decade…and in much more detail. I’ve written before about how I believe we remember events better when they are attached to an emotion…happiness, fear, sadness. Maybe childhood is more emotional, because we have so many more new experiences, so we remember more. Lots of my memories from adulthood are either gone or more difficult to retrieve.

I can probably tell you the telephone number of almost every childhood friend I ever had, and I lived in different places. It’s not like I was dialing the same numbers in 1980 that I was dialing in 1975. I can even tell you the street addresses of childhood friends…the ones I went to kindergarten with. 112 Lakeview Circle? I know whose address that was. 203 Dawson Street? Yep…I know that too. If I don’t know the house number, I know the street name of almost everyone.

It was an epic time. I’m sure everyone thinks their own childhood was the greatest era, but I truly believe it. Our country was pulling out of Vietnam. We didn’t feel the imminent threat of nuclear war that kids felt in the early 1960s. Our relatives weren’t being drafted. Lots of cool things were happening. Here are a few:

  • The milkman delivered to our house. When I told my daughter about the milkman, she looked at me like I had fourteen eyes, saying, “Wait a minute. A man drove a truck around town, dropping off milk on front porches?”  We bought a lot from him…regular milk, chocolate milk (only one carton per week of this special treat), and even eggs, butter, and orange juice! The really big treat we got sometimes, though, was ice cream in a rectangular cardboard carton, and somehow, it just tasted better!images-2
  • When we took photos with our Kodak Instamatic cameras that used 126 or 110 film, we had to drop off the film cartridges at a local TG&Y, Harco, Revco, or other five and dime store to have it developed. We would pick up our photos a week later. We didn’t have the instant gratification…looking at photos immediately to see if they were good. And if we needed flash for our photos, we used flashbulbs atop those cameras! Correction…we had the instant gratification if we had a Polaroid instant camera. They were fun, but with only eight photos per photo cartridge, we wanted to get it right the first time.il_1588xN.2288145040_30ua
  • Kids rode bikes any time the weather permitted. My brother could ride a two-wheeler when he was two or three…much earlier than most kids. I could ride one when I was four or five, and we rode bikes all the time. Our only rule? Don’t ride it across the highway. So if we rode our bikes up to the front of the neighborhood, we had to leave them on the side of the road while we crossed the FOUR-LANE HIGHWAY to get candy and a Coke at the little mom and pop grocery store on the other side. Yes, I said FOUR-LANE HIGHWAY.
  • Kids rode their bikes in the fog from the mosquito truck. OK, so this is not such a great thing, but it’s a memory, for sure. Personally, I was terrified of the mosquito truck, but there were boys in our neighborhood who looked forward to seeing that truck in the summer. I don’t know why it was so much fun for them to ride in the fog…that may or may not have contained DDT…but I can see it vividly in my mind.images
  • Sunday nights were for TV dinners, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, and The Wonderful World of Disney. We had to buy TV dinners on Saturday, because blue laws meant grocery stores were not open on Sunday. In fact, nothing was open on Sunday. Beer and alcohol certainly weren’t sold on Sunday.
  • Families watched TV together. Parents sat in chairs or on the sofa in the family den, while the kids lounged on the floor in front of the console television. It seemed everyone had a giant, color console TV in the family den. Johnny Carson was America’s favorite talk show host, and occasionally, our parents would let us stay up to watch him on The Tonight Show. Later, TV stations signed off with the National Anthem.56adbe711edad2afdadc86c0de9153f8 
  • We stayed outside all day and sometimes, into the night. Our mothers wanted us to come home when the streetlights came on, but with permission, we could stay out and play Kick The Can at night with the neighborhood kids.
  • Seatbelts? What seatbelts? Yes, cars had them, but hardly anyone used them. Kids bounced around on the back seats of cars or stood on the front seat…while the car was moving on a busy highway!photo-1564833840938-2f5041df082d
  • We had a locally owned single-screen movie theater, and it cost $1 for kids and $2 for adults. Most weekends, you could get in at 5:00 for the double feature, which meant you watched a full-length older film first…or maybe an old cartoon movie. Our parents dropped us off in time for the double feature, so they had four hours to go have date night. We got Cokes, popcorn, and Milk Duds. When I was eight, I saw Jaws on the big screen with my six year old brother! It was rated PG; PG-13 didn’t exist yet, and anything that wasn’t rated R was fine. We also saw Smokey and the Bandit, Rocky, Car Wash, The Bad News Bears, and more…all unaccompanied. If you think The Bad News Bears was made for kids, watch it now. I bought it years ago on DVD for my then-five-year-old daughter, because I didn’t remember just how bad the language was!
  • Pizza parties. We were thrilled to go to Pizza Inn (or Shakey’s or Pascuale’s) for a pizza birthday party. Everyone sat around a big table eating pizza. That was the party. We were likely in middle school, and we had the best time hanging out, eating pizza with our friends! Just good fun.
  • TV theme songs and commercial jingles were the best! Seriously. Do TV shows even have theme songs anymore? I can throw out one line from so many TV shows, and I imagine most folks my age can name the show.  1. Come and knock on our door… 2. Here’s a story of a lovely lady… 3. Come and listen to a story ’bout a man named Jed… 4. You take the good; you take the bad; you take ’em both, and there you have… 5. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, shlemiel, schlimazel…Those are TV theme songs, and for commercial jingles… A. Here’s to good friends, tonight is kind of special… B. Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun! C. My baloney has a first name… D. Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us! E. Have a bucket of chicken… *See below for answers*

Oh, those were the days! A lot of life revolved around television. It was epic in the 1970s. And to think we fret about our kids’ screen time! Bahahaha!

I’d love to hear your memories from the 70s…

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TV them songs shown above: 1. Three’s Company 2. The Brady Bunch 3. The Beverly Hillbillies 4. The Facts of Life 5. Laverne and Shirley

Commercial jingles: A. Lowenbrau B. McDonald’s Big Mac C. Oscar Mayer D. Burger King E. Kentucky Fried Chicken