A Picture Tells a Story

A picture tells a story.

At the end of every year since I got an Instagram account, I go back through all the photos I posted for that year. Recently I went back through my Instagram photos for 2019, and I truly realized that some of the pictures really tell stories.

My first post for 2019 was a photo at the Charlotte airport…not much of a story except that we were starting vacation…meeting friends from Ohio in LA. But the next picture, a photo of me and my friend from Ohio, Jenn, tells a real story.

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Sure, looking at the photo above, all you see is two friends on a chilly day with the Pacific Ocean in the background. But what I see is love. Having just survived the first anniversary of my mother’s death (she died December 30, 2017), I was still reeling. I was feeling lost. And then we arrived in Los Angeles, and Jenn and her daughter arrived. After telling her what a terrible day that first anniversary on December 30 had been (there were additional factors at play)…and crying…Jenn made me feel better. Jenn, the perpetual ray of sunshine, hugged me, listened to me, and made me feel loved. So every time I come across that one single photo that looks completely nondescript and meaningless to everyone else in the world, I remember how much better she made me feel. I can look at my face in that picture and see the pain melting away. I see the relief in my eyes and in my face. That picture reminds me that good friends are hard to find. And that picture reminds me that when we find good friends like Jenn, we need to keep them.

There are other photos from 2019 that stand out for me. In fact, any photos I post on Instagram, I share for a reason…maybe I think they’re funny or cute…maybe I want to share something cool…or maybe there’s another meaning behind the picture. Of course, when I posted the picture of me and Jenn, I had no idea how powerful the picture was for me. It was only when I was looking through pictures a few months later that I saw it again, and the meaning behind it floored me. Instagram photos certainly tell stories…maybe not to the casual observer, but to the originator of the post. Most of my photos tell stories of family, friendship, and love. And then there are some that tell different stories…like this photo of me and my daughter in front of Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The story? In 2015, I took a crazy road trip with my friend, Mary Ann, and our kids. We spent a few nights in Chicago, and while we were there, I had hoped to get the kids up to Wisconsin…just so they could add another state to their list of “states visited.” There was a Six Flags amusement park we could have visited just over the line, but that would have taken too much time, so instead, I suggested Mars Cheese Castle, a giant cheese store shaped like…you guessed it…a castle. We never made it in 2015, and I regretted it. So in 2019, when I was in Chicago with my daughter and one of her friends, we made a quick trip up to Kenosha to visit Mars Cheese Castle. You can see how happy I was!

Those are just a couple of examples of how pictures tell stories, but I can look at every picture on my Instagram account and remember stories and conversations behind them. Right now, though, I keep going back to that picture of me and Jenn. I need to call her and thank her for being a good friend.

 

Complimentary Letters

How many times have you called a business and complained about something that happened while you were there? How many times have you emailed an online retailer to complain about the quality of a product or the slow shipping time? How many times have you complained about bad food at a restaurant? How many times have you complained about bad service on an airplane? How many times have you complained to an administrator at your child’s school about a teacher, an incident, or just something you felt was substandard?

Now…stop and think about how many times you have written an email or letter to compliment someone for offering outstanding service. How many times have you told the manager of a restaurant that your server did an excellent job? How many times have you told administrators at your child’s school they are doing an outstanding job or that a teacher is making a difference in your child’s education?

It’s easy to get into a habit of complaining. It’s easy to call and say your child is being treated unfairly at school. It’s easy to tell an airline how mad you are that your flight didn’t go as planned. It’s easy to send your food back in a restaurant. Complaining is easy.

Let’s try an experiment for the month of December.

Starting now, let’s make the last month of this year…this decade, even…the most positive month we can make it. Sure bad things are going to happen, but unless they’re really going to affect someone’s life long term, let’s try to see the sunny side of things. Let’s try to give recognition to the people who make a difference in a positive way. I know what you’re thinking…”Who would that be?!?” A lot of people are likely making a positive difference in your life every single day. I believe in writing complimentary letters or emails when someone offers me exemplary service, and I do it regularly. My family makes fun of me, in fact, for always writing complimentary letters, but I always remember that people are quick to tell someone when they’re angry, but not so quick to tell someone when they’re happy.

  • The barista at your local coffee shop who starts making your coffee when she sees you drive up every morning? She’s helping you start your day right…with caffeine…and without having to talk before you’ve had it!
  • The teacher who smiles and waves as you drop off your child at school in the morning? He got up extra early to work carpool duty, and he’s doing it with a smile, so your child will see a smiling face when he arrives.
  • The TSA agent at the airport who is at the end of her shift but still smiles and tells you she likes your shoes? She could just herd you through like cattle, but she makes a conscious choice to be friendly with everyone who goes through security.
  • The food truck employee who helps you pick up all the belongings that fell out of your handbag and onto the sidewalk? He could have looked the other way.
  • The administrator at school who decides to close the school because inclement weather is expected? And maybe the weather never arrives? That administrator was looking out for the welfare of your child and others based on the information he had.
  • The waiter at your favorite restaurant who greets like an old friend when you arrive? And then brings your favorite drink before you order it? He could act like he has never seen you before and give you standard service, but he chooses to go above and beyond.
  • The employee at the dry cleaner who helps you carry your dry cleaning to you car, because you have twenty items, and they’re heavy? He could have let you struggle with it all.
  • The teacher who stays late at school to help your child who has fallen behind in math? She has kids of her own who will need her help when she finally gets home.
  • The airline reservations agent who works extra hard to find you a seat on a good flight after your flight cancelled? She could have taken one look and decided you would have to leave the next day. Instead, she got creative and found a way to get you home that day.
  • The nurse who is caring for your terminally ill mother, but takes time to check on your emotional well being? She could be uncaring. She could do what’s required of her and nothing more, but she knows it’s hard for you.
  • The airline employee who pushed your grandmother’s wheelchair from the airplane to the curb when she came to visit? And they seemed like old friends by the time they got to the curb? He could have pushed her in silence, but he chose to engage her in conversation instead…and she had a big smile on her face, even though you were a few minutes late picking her up.
  • The grocery store employee who walks you to the item you’re looking for instead of giving vague directions to the aisle? She could have just said “aisle 3” without even making eye contact, but she dropped what she was doing and walked with you to the item.
  • The hotel employee who, upon finding out your child has the flu, sends up a complimentary bowl of chicken soup through room service? And some hot tea for you? He wanted you to be comfortable and went above and beyond to make it happen.
  • The hotel employee who has your favorite bottle of champagne waiting in your room when you arrive? She’s making you feel special.
  • The Walmart greeter who has been greeting you for years with a big smile every single time.

For the month of December, take notice of all the folks who make your day a little brighter…and write those complimentary letters or emails. Talk to their managers. Tell the administrator you think she’s a good leader. And if you’re in a situation that calls for tipping, tip extra to those who make you feel special while telling them you appreciate their kindness and outstanding service. You will likely make their day, and you’ll feel a lot better too!

Maybe a month of positivity will make it a habit! 

 

 

The Dead Files

It’s October. Halloween and all things scary tend to be the theme in October. I’m not big on creepy, paranormal things, but I might believe in ghosts. Call me crazy, but we really believed we had a ghost in the house I lived in as a teenager. Our ghost was not violent. We were convinced she was a nice ghost. Go ahead…think I’m crazy. I don’t care. In fact, I might believe in ghosts so heartily that I have trouble watching shows about paranormal activity. Today, I accidentally started watching a show about a ghost in an old house, and all I could think was, “I wouldn’t sleep in that house.” And then I changed channels, because it was a little too creepy.

Earlier this year, I was on a flight from Los Angeles to Charlotte, and a very sweet young lady was seated next to me. We started talking, because she ordered a cocktail before takeoff, telling me she is terrified of flying. She warned me that if there is any type of turbulence, she would become very nervous. I took the opportunity to explain to her that, as a former flight attendant, I might be able to help her stay calm. I told her that she could watch me, and if I didn’t become anxious, she didn’t need to. I even told her she could hold my hand if she needed to.

After all that, she said to me she had been hypnotized to help with her fear of flying before, and while it worked for some time, it seemed to be wearing off. She explained that she has to travel for work. And then she told me something that surprised me: she had been in two crashes before!

We took off, and after we were in the air, I asked her what she does that requires her to travel, and that’s when she told me she is on a television show called The Dead Files. Because I had never seen it at the time, I didn’t have any questions to ask her. I had never even heard of the show, but I told her I felt sure some of my friends were probably big fans. I had no idea what I was talking about.

After we landed, I posted on Facebook that I had been sitting next to Amy from The Dead Files, and a couple of my friends got really excited. When I got home, I did some “research,” which means I googled The Dead Files. And that’s when I discovered Amy is a medium. Oh, that brought up so many questions that I wish I had been able to ask her at the time. Like: When she said she had been in two crashes before, did she mean she had physically been in two crashes, or did she somehow feel the emotions of someone else who had been in crashes? Had she communicated with people who had died in crashes? So many questions…

So now, I’ve watched The Dead Files a few times. It has been on The Travel Channel since 2011, and they have produced about 200 episodes. Amy Allan is the medium who was sitting next to me on the flight, and she was pretty, sweet, and charming…not creepy at all. Of course, at the time, I had no idea she was a medium. After seeing a few episodes, I’m fascinated, and I wish I had known more about her and the show when I met her. Missed opportunity.

But if you are interested in some paranormal activity/communication, The Dead Files might be right up your alley.  You’ll wonder if Amy was actually in a crash or if someone else was in the crash and communicated through her. I hope she has gone back for more hypnosis for that fear of flying.

 

 

Drip Drop

If you think you’re about to read about leaky faucets, change your thought process. This is a new favorite thing for me!

Ever have a headache? Maybe you had an extra cocktail last night and have a hangover? Are you preparing to run a 5K? 10K? Marathon? Maybe you just complete one? Someone in your house have a stomach bug?

Last week, I went to a friend’s house for evening cocktails, and when I arrived, her daughter told me she had been feeling dehydrated but was drinking something to help. I immediately asked, “Drip Drop?” And she was amazed I had heard of it! Frankly, I was amazed too…I don’t even know where I heard about it; maybe I saw an advertisement somewhere, but I had been wanting to try it, so I asked her about it, and she said she loves it.

And you know what I did. I went home and ordered a three-pack of lemon, berry, and watermelon flavors from Amazon….and then I waited for it to arrive. It arrived less than 24 hours later, and I immediately tried the lemon flavor. It was good, but then I tried the berry flavor, and it was love at first sip! My daughter loves berry, and we both really like the watermelon flavor too.

Here’s the skinny: according to the Drip Drop website, it was “invented on a relief mission by a doctor treating life-threatening cases of dehydration. When he saw how quickly patients recovered, without the use of an IV,” he thought everyone should have it. It is formulated for fast absorption of water and salt without all the excess sugar present in sports drinks. Need electrolytes? Drip Drop might be your answer!

We plan to keep it on hand at our house all the time now. As much time as we spend in the hot sun every day, it could be an answer to our prayers! And you never know when someone will come down with something…it’s an easy way to stay hydrated during illness.

In fact, remember my friend’s daughter who was drinking it when I arrived at their house? Well, an athletic trainer had recommended she try it. She and her mother truly believe it makes them feel better when they need it, and now, my daughter and I are drinking it too! My daughter even adds it to her water bottle for field hockey practice in the afternoons….and drinks more when she gets home in the evening. I find myself taking a big cup of it with me when I go outside to tend my garden. It has been so hot outside this summer, and the heat is continuing on into September. So I’m Drip Dropping in the garden.

Ooooh…now that I think about it, maybe I should contact Drip Drop with that as a suggestion for an ad campaign?!? “I Drip Drop in my garden.” “I Drip Drop at sports practice.” “I Drip Drop in my race car.” “I Drip Drop on the airplane.” It will take on a life of its own!

All joking aside (or maybe I’m serious about that ad campaign?), it’s good stuff…the flavor is light, not overwhelming. I do believe it’s delivering valuable, necessary electrolytes to my system, and it’s making me drink more water! Win/win!

You can purchase Drip Drop from Amazon.com here, or purchase directly through the Drip Drop website here. I started a subscription through the Drip Drop website, and it will be delivered to my house every two weeks. Just go on both sites and compare pricing to see what works best for you. It’s not cheap, I will admit, but I’m replacing other beverages with it. I’m even taking the little packets to restaurants with me and adding it to my water! Now that I think about it, I might like the berry flavored water mixed with a splash of vodka!

Drip Drop!

***I’ve also recently heard you can purchase Drip Drop in your local Walgreen’s. I haven’t checked, but putting that out there…***

Drip Drop

If you think you’re about to read about leaky faucets, change your thought process. This is a new favorite thing for me!

Ever have a headache? Maybe you had an extra cocktail last night and have a hangover? Are you preparing to run a 5K? 10K? Marathon? Maybe you just completed one? Someone in your house have a stomach bug?

Last week, I went to a friend’s house for evening cocktails, and when I arrived, her daughter told me she had been feeling dehydrated but was drinking something to help. I immediately asked, “Drip Drop?” And she was amazed I had heard of it! Frankly, I was amazed too…I don’t even know where I heard about it; maybe I saw an advertisement somewhere, but I had been wanting to try it, so I asked her about it, and she said she loves it.

And you know what I did. I went home and ordered a three-pack of lemon, berry, and watermelon flavors from Amazon….and then I waited for it to arrive. It arrived less than 24 hours later, and I immediately tried the lemon flavor. It was good, but then I tried the berry flavor, and it was love at first sip! My daughter loves berry, and we both really like the watermelon flavor too.

Here’s the skinny: according to the Drip Drop website, it was “invented on a relief mission by a doctor treating life-threatening cases of dehydration. When he saw how quickly patients recovered, without the use of an IV,” he thought everyone should have it. It is formulated for fast absorption of water and salt without all the excess sugar present in sports drinks. Need electrolytes? Drip Drop might be your answer!

We plan to keep it on hand at our house all the time now. As much time as we spend in the hot sun every day, it could be an answer to our prayers! And you never know when someone will come down with something…it’s an easy way to stay hydrated during illness.

In fact, remember my friend’s daughter who was drinking it when I arrived at their house? Well, an athletic trainer had recommended she try it. She and her mother truly believe it makes them feel better when they need it, and now, my daughter and I are drinking it too! My daughter even adds it to her water bottle for field hockey practice in the afternoons….and drinks more when she gets home in the evening. I find myself taking a big cup of it with me when I go outside to tend my garden. It has been so hot outside this summer, and the heat is continuing on into September. So I’m Drip Dropping in the garden.

Ooooh…now that I think about it, maybe I should contact Drip Drop with that as a suggestion for an ad campaign?!? “I Drip Drop in my garden.” “I Drip Drop at sports practice.” “I Drip Drop in my race car.” “I Drip Drop on the airplane.” It will take on a life of its own!

All joking aside (or maybe I’m serious about that ad campaign?), it’s good stuff…the flavor is light, not overwhelming. I do believe it’s delivering valuable, necessary electrolytes to my system, and it’s making me drink more water! Win/win!

You can purchase Drip Drop from Amazon.com here, or purchase directly through the Drip Drop website here. I started a subscription through the Drip Drop website, and it will be delivered to my house every two weeks. Just go on both sites and compare pricing to see what works best for you. It’s not cheap, I will admit, but I’m replacing other beverages with it. I’m even taking the little packets to restaurants with me and adding it to my water! Now that I think about it, I might like the berry flavored water mixed with a splash of vodka!

Drip Drop!

***I’ve also recently heard you can purchase Drip Drop in your local Walgreen’s. I haven’t checked, but putting that out there…***

We Finally Made It

Has there ever been somewhere you wanted to go but just never made it happen? I don’t mean a big trip. I mean a little place somewhere you wanted to visit when you were in the area, but circumstances kept you from going?

A few years ago, I embarked on a road trip with my friend, Mary Ann, along with her three kids and my daughter. We started in Charlotte and drove al through Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania…and straight home from there. We saw most of the things we wanted to see, but we missed a couple.

The first one we missed was Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha, Wisconsin. You can see the website here. It’s a giant cheese store about 45 minutes from Chicago. It’s actually more than a cheese store…it’s a gift shop, an ice cream parlor, a restaurant, and a big photo op! Of course, it’s shaped like a castle, but it’s not made of cheese. We found out about it when we were looking at information about something that might be fun to visit just over the Wisconsin border from Chicago…it would be a way to make a quick visit to Wisconsin so our kids could add it to their lists of states they had visited.

Alas, we didn’t get to go while we were on that trip. There was so much fun to be had in Chicago on that trip that we never made it to Mars Cheese Castle…never even crossed the border into Wisconsin. And I’ve always regretted it. I used to go to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, all the time, and I loved it. The people were always so nice, and well…the cheese! So I especially hated my daughter didn’t get to go. She, of course, didn’t care. She was 11 years old when we took that road trip, and Mars Cheese Castle just didn’t sound that interesting to her.

Yesterday, we flew into Chicago…me, my daughter, and her friend. The girls are going to a small concert early today, and then we are going to Lollapalooza in downtown Chicago. We are staying in Schaumburg, because the early event is near here. We will Uber into downtown later.

But when we landed yesterday and got our rental car, I told the girls I wanted to make a quick trip up to Mars Cheese Castle. They grimaced. They moaned. They complained. Actually, only my daughter complained, grimaced, and moaned. Her friend was very polite about it. My daughter asked if I could drop them at the hotel and go by myself? I almost agreed to it, but then I said, “Come on. You’ve never been to Wisconsin, and it won’t take long.” She rolled her eyes but gave in, asking only if I would stop and get them food on the way.

After a quick stop for food and a 45-minute drive north, we found Mars Cheese Castle! It was everything I had hoped and more! Seriously, I had wondered if we would get there and just see shelves of cheese curds, but whoever built it knew what they were doing. Of course, it looks like a castle on the exterior, and there is a big electric sign out front. I made the girls take pictures of me in front of the sign and the building when we got out of the car, and to my surprise, they wanted pics too! Winning!

We walked in with a family who had visited many times before. They were practically giddy! They had lived nearby at one time but had moved away, so they were there for a visit…and they were stocking up on the cheese curds! Of course, I grabbed some cheese curds and put them in my cart too. The girls disappeared as soon as we walked in, but in a few minutes, they came back to me, eating ice cream cones and wearing paper crowns with the Mars Cheese Castle logo on the front. We shopped a little; I grabbed a hoodie for me and some t-shirts for all of us, and we took some photos inside the store. I also got myself a cup of Superman ice cream and a paper crown.

As we walked to the car, we were laughing and taking more pictures. As soon as we started to drive away, my daughter said, “That was a lot more fun than I thought it would be!” Whew! One day, they will learn that I do my research ahead of time.

So I was able to mark Mars Cheese Castle off my list of places to visit, and my daughter has now been to Wisconsin! She has the paper crown to prove it! But don’t get me wrong…given the opportunity to visit again, I will be going back to Mars Cheese Castle!

The other place we didn’t get to visit on that road trip in 2015 with Mary Ann? Oram’s Donuts in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. See their website here. We made it to Beaver Falls, but we didn’t go to Oram’s because we had a car full of cranky kids that day…well, mine was cranky. It was the last leg of our big road trip of 2015, and we were all tired. But one thing I know for sure is that Mary Ann and I will get to Oram’s Donuts…without our kids.

So if you find yourself in Chicagoland or southern Wisconsin, visit Mars Cheese Castle. Think of me as you walk around eating your ice cream cone and squeaky cheese (cheese curds) while wearing your paper crown (they’re free at the ice cream counter).

True Friends Are Like Warm Blankets

True friends are like warm blankets.

This weekend, I spent three days in central Florida with a dear friend from college. We have kept in touch since we were 19 years old and students at the University of Alabama. We’re both 52 now…do the math.

We have shared a lot over the years…secrets, tears, laughs, good times, sadness, hard times…heck, we even have the same wedding anniversary, but she married five years before I did. We are true friends…through thick and thin. Oh, the stories we could tell! Stories of fun nights, bad dates, good parties, bad boyfriends, great experiences, terrible breakups, exciting jobs, sad losses, new babies, teenagers, and some stories of things that could only happen to us…or at least it feels that way. And we have shared some of those stories with our kids. They didn’t really seem to care at the time, though. In fact, they likely rolled their eyes, but one day, they will remember the stories we have told them…and they’ll laugh about some of them, and likely cry about others.

As for this weekend, we didn’t talk about old times a lot. We have covered that many times over the years. Of course, we laughed about some of the funnier things that happened when we were together, but we didn’t rehash it all. We talked about life as we see it now…33 years after becoming friends. We’re middle-aged moms now. We have a different vantage point now than we did at 19. We talked about things we have been through…things we have survived…and we talked about happiness. We talked about how, at 52, we know happiness doesn’t come from having material things. We are very aware that not worrying about how the bills will be paid can contribute to a peaceful, happy existence, but all the extra stuff...not so much. You can have lots of jewelry and fancy cars, but do those material things make you happy? We discussed that what makes us happy is experiencing life with people we love.

We know that for a lot of reasons, but mostly, we know it, because we didn’t sit around talking about material things at all. We didn’t talk about cars, jewelry, handbags, or clothes. We enjoyed talking about interactions with people. We shared stories about life experiences. It wasn’t about bragging rights. It was about sharing life events and how we handled them. We discussed painful experiences and what we learned from them. I’ve lost both parents, and she has lost her dad…we talked and cried about that a lot. And we talked about joyful experiences…things we did together; things our kids have enjoyed; stories of our children’s childhoods and our own childhoods…and more.

Did I mention we laughed a lot?

And while no one can “relive” their youth, we found ourselves absolutely slack-jawed while we watched Endless Love (rent it on Amazon here), a movie we were too young to see when it was a released with an R rating in 1981, but we both watched later on HBO. In fact, it had been so long since either of us had seen it that we forgot Tom Cruise and Jami Gertz had bit parts in the movie. And we had never realized before that a then-unknown Ian Ziering (of Beverly Hills 90210 fame) was in the movie. We also watched Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink (you can rent both on Amazon.com) and reminisced about seeing those movies as teenagers. And before you even think it…I know Sixteen Candles could never be made today with its sexism, underage/nonconsensual sex, underage drinking, and more…but it’s comedy, people! It’s supposed to be funny. I thought it was funny in 1984, and I still think it’s funny now.

During the day, we drove around the lovely town where she lives. We looked at historic homes, parks, flowers, and trees, and one day, we went tubing with her teenage son at Ichetucknee Springs State Park…quite the adventure! The water was refreshingly cold as we floated down the river…laughing and talking. She laughed at me when I would float off into the grasses on the edge of the river, and I laughed at her when she missed the entrance to the disembarkation ramp. We made new memories we will laugh about for years to come.

But what I enjoyed most was simply being with my friend. She knows who I really am and loves me anyway. Spending time with my friend was like being wrapped in a warm blanket. She’s comforting. She has been around for a long time. And she makes me feel secure. I came home feeling rejuvenated. I came home feeling content.

Sure, we are middle-aged moms now, and we have had a lot more life experience than when we became friends. We are, in fact, older than our parents were when we became friends. Wow…we really are middle aged.

She’s a keeper.