I Lied.

I lied.

I said we wouldn’t cancel our spring break trip to Miami, but I canceled today.

We ended up canceling, even though I really didn’t want to. I’m stubborn. I hate to give in. I didn’t want the stupid coronavirus to beat us. I wanted to win this battle and enjoy a week in the sun. It simply wasn’t meant to be.

I was still planning to go. In fact, I finally canceled this afternoon. I hated to do it, but some of the people we were traveling with were coming from Ohio, which has been hit hard, and some of the kids were getting anxious. Ugh. I was actually in a store buying a few things for the trip when my daughter texted me that she was a little scared to go.

When I first got her text, I responded, “Let me think.” And then, I remembered something that happened 17 years ago. In 2003, I was pregnant. I’ve always loved to travel, and pregnancy didn’t slow me down. So in the summer of 2003, I met a friend in Florida for a weekend of fun. We had a great time, and I boarded the plane for my flight home. Everything was normal till just after takeoff, we took a bird in the right engine of the plane. I was a flight attendant for a little while after college, so as soon as it happened, I knew what was going on. I also noticed we stopped climbing. I turned to the lady sitting next to me and said, “We just took a bird in the right engine. This could be interesting.” Sometimes, taking a bird in the engine isn’t a big deal, and sometimes it is. Since I could hear that one engine was still operational, I wasn’t too concerned, but since we had stopped climbing, I was a little concerned. Finally, the captain came on and said we were going to land at a nearby airport, so I knew everything was OK, but the incident did make me think. No, it didn’t make me afraid to fly, but at the time, I thought, “Wow, if we had taken birds in both engines, my baby might have died before she was born…for a stupid vacation.”

And today, when that same baby…now 16 years old…expressed a little fear about traveling during this stupid coronavirus outbreak, I thought about that trip, and I knew what I needed to do.  I knew I needed to cancel. It’s just not worth the risk of coronavirus. We can go to Miami later.

Now we’re home in Charlotte for spring break, and while I’m not thrilled about it, I intend to make the most of the situation. I’ve decided we will contribute to our local economy and encourage others to do the same…in a safe manner. Here are some ways I plan to do that:

  • Visit local restaurants at off hours, when they’re less crowded OR order takeout from local restaurants. Tip generously.
  • Shop local. Visit local stores and shop! You can avoid crowds and still shop. Since we’re not going shopping in Miami, we will shop here.
  • Post on Facebook about places we visit and encourage others to do the same.
  • Enjoy a little staycation at a local hotel.
  • Go on a little road trip to a place where I know there is little light pollution; it’s the perfect place to sit outside and stargaze at night. Plus, there aren’t other people there…no coronavirus.
  • Buy gift cards. I can’t go to Miami right now, but I know that when I do, I will dine at certain restaurants. I can purchase gift cards online for my future travel. We have several vacations planned for later this year, and it just makes sense to purchase gift cards from restaurants and stores now that I can use later!

Yes, this stupid coronavirus is changing the way we do things right now, but we can’t let it get us down! I’m putting on my happy face and doing everything I can to make the most of a bad situation.

Coronavirus be damned!

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Should I stay or should I go now? If I go, it will be trouble. If I stay it will be double. 

What a great song by The Clash! How many times did I sing and dance along to that one at a party in college?!?

Well, now, with the new coronavirus, it’s a real question. As spring break approaches for lots of us, we’re all wondering if we should travel or not.

Here’s how I feel…unless someone in my family catches the new coronavirus in the next week, we’re going. It’s spring break. We are meeting friends at a resort inside the United States, and by golly, we are going. This trip has been booked for a while, and we have been looking forward to it. If we were planning to go somewhere the government advised against going, we would definitely cancel. But that’s not the case, so we are going to single-handedly save the economy! Somebody has to do it! We’re all relatively healthy, and hopefully, I’m not jinxing us by putting this out there. If we come home sick, we’ll definitely isolate ourselves. I have friends who have family members who simply cannot be exposed to this virus, because they have health issues. I get it. I don’t want them to catch it, and I don’t want anyone in my family to catch it either, but we’re going.

It has become obvious to me in the past few weeks that people are cancelling travel plans. Whenever we travel, I continue checking hotel rates right up till I get there, because rates can go down, and I’ve seen a sharp decrease in the resort rates over the past couple of weeks. Every time, I call the hotel and ask them to adjust my rate, and they oblige. I always tell my friends to do the same. (That’s you. I’m advising you to check your hotel rates, and if they have gone down, call your resort/hotel and insist on a rate adjustment.) Seriously, our rate has gone down about 30%.

And no, we won’t be wearing face masks. From what I understand, they don’t work unless the sick person is wearing them.

We will refrain from shaking hands. We will try to avoid crowds…well, except at the airport, because we’re flying…so there’s that. But we will try to wipe down every surface we come into contact with in the airport and on the plane. We will have lots of hand sanitizer with us, and we will use it…constantly. We will wash our hands and refrain from touching our faces. We will not hold our phones up to our faces. That’s not a problem for my teenage daughter, because teenagers simply don’t talk on the phone. They only text. Teenagers these days don’t even flinch when the phone rings. I’m not sure they even know how to talk on the phone. It’s a dying art.

It will actually be interesting to see what folks are doing in the airport. If someone coughs or sneezes, will everyone turn and look at them?!? If someone looks a little sick, will everyone keep their distance? Will there be lines to wash hands in the restrooms all over the airport? That’s weird to think about, because standing in line will put people in close proximity with each other. Maybe we should all wear hazmat suits in the airport? That’s actually a funny visual.

My husband isn’t traveling with us this year, because we are doing some renovations in our home, and he is going to stay home and deal with contractors. Hopefully, we don’t bring home coronavirus or the flu! Everyone does remember it’s still flu season too, right?

I’m taking my own little, homemade first aid kit. Here’s what I’m including:

  • digital thermometer
  • Ibuprofen and Acetominophen
  • Mucinex (expectorant for cough, get it here)
  • one personal hand sanitizer per person (good luck finding them now if you don’t have them)
  • rubbing alcohol/alcohol wipes (I’ll have to bring what I have on hand, since I can’t find them anywhere)

And when I arrive, my friend and I will go to the liquor store and purchase a bottle of Everclear pure grain alcohol. It’s 95% alcohol, so I’m thinking I can add a splash to drinks, but I can also wipe down surfaces with it if I need to. Seriously. Call me crazy, but I think it’s creative!

Should I stay or should I go? I should go…and take all the necessary precautions, including saying prayers that coronavirus doesn’t strike and prayers of healing for those who have it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a Motley Crew!

Over the holidays, I traveled to the Los Angeles area with my teenage daughter, her friend, my 20-something nephew, and his friend. So that’s five travelers, ranging in age from 16 to 52…that highest number being mine.

We came together for meals while we were there and just a few other activities, but we did our own thing a lot. During the final dinner of our trip, I asked my fellow travelers to go around the table and tell what their favorite part of the trip was, and I expected to hear lots of different answers, but they surprised me.

They all answered the same thing…our day in Malibu. The day we were in Malibu was also the 2nd anniversary of my mother’s death. It was the one day we all spent together, and I was thrilled to know everyone enjoyed it. While we were in Malibu, we dined at my very favorite restaurant…on the deck, right on the beach, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Those of us who were old enough had some fun cocktails. We drank a toast to Mother, and we took lots of photos. After leaving the restaurant, we walked down to Malibu Pier…a favorite landmark and another great photo op. The walk was only about a half mile, but we laughed and talked all the way to the pier.

Like I said, before I asked, I thought they would all have different answers. Throughout the trip, we had seen lots of celebrities! We had eaten great meals. We had shopped till we dropped. My nephew and his friend had never been there before, so they did more sightseeing…I thought that might have been their favorite part of the trip. But nope…they all enjoyed the day we were all together. As a mother and aunt, it made me very happy. And knowing it was the second anniversary of my mother’s passing made me more grateful for the time we all spent together. She had to be smiling down on us as we laughed and ate and drank and walked and laughed some more.

My daughter is 16, and I always think she just wants to be away from me. She loves me, but I remember 16…I remember wanting to have more independence. She certainly enjoys any independence she has, but it warms my heart to know her favorite day was the day she was with her old mom and her cousin and their friends. We were a motley crew…the conservative-looking 52-yr-old mom/aunt, the two 16-yr-old girls who are too cool for school, and my 20-something hippie-looking nephew and his girlfriend. No one would have put that group together in a million years, but that motley crew had a great time!

It was a great way to celebrate my mother’s life, and it was infinitely better than the first anniversary of her death. It’s much better to spend days like that with people who are important to you…people you love…people who always have your back. So if you ever find yourself facing this kind of “anniversary,” remember to spend it with people who will wrap you in love. Avoid people who won’t.

It warms my heart to know they all enjoyed being together. I can hardly wait for the next trip!

We Save $$$ Traveling with Friends

We save money traveling with friends…and make some great memories at the same time!

I’m always thinking about the next vacation. My husband just rolls his eyes every time I say, “You know where I want to go next?” He rolls his eyes because he does not have wanderlust, and I do. He loves being home, and he loves visiting the beach where he grew up. That’s fine, but I like to go to different places. That doesn’t mean I don’t repeat places, but the places I like are different than what he likes. No, it’s not a problem, because he doesn’t care when I vacation without him, and I don’t mind when he vacations without me. We’re married, but that doesn’t mean we have to be together 24/7.

My daughter and I travel with friends quite often, and we love it for so many reasons!

Our 16-yr-old daughter is an only child, and I have a cousin and several friends who also have “only children,” so it’s fun to travel with them. I get to catch up with my friends or my cousin, and my daughter has fun with their daughters.

Aside from the fun factor, it saves money for all of us, and we get to do more! How does it save money? Well, we always travel with friends we love…people we enjoy sharing space with. For example, this summer, we are going to a Caribbean destination with a friend from Alabama and her daughter. When we both had daughters, we joked that they would have to be best friends whether they wanted to or not…and fortunately, they love each other! As for the money savings, we share a hotel room or suite. Because we are sharing, we are splitting the cost, making it much more affordable for both of us. It doesn’t save us anything on airfare, but we manage to save a lot anyway.

In fact, this summer, we will do trips with three different friends and a cousin, and it’s all possible, because we aren’t spending a fortune on the rooms/suites, even though we will have beautiful, top-of-the-line accommodations! But we don’t just save on the room. We also save on rental cars, taxi rides, Uber rides, and gas costs. Seriously, it all adds up, and at the end of a five day trip, we are usually amazed at how much we saved by sharing the costs with friends.

Another way to save on travel? Consult a travel agent. I used to work at a travel agency, so I know they often are aware of specials the general public might not know about. Planning a trip to the Caribbean? Let an agent help you. Planning a cruise? Let an agent help you find the perfect one!

Maybe you want to book your own hotel reservation? One quick thing about hotels: when you are making a reservation, always check the special offers. Sometimes, they offer a fifth night free. Sometimes, they offer suites at a discount, but if you don’t check into it, you might be paying the same thing for a room that you could be paying for a much larger space. And always…always…always…continue to check the rates even after you book your reservation. Last year, after I booked our hotel for spring break, I kept checking, and the rates kept going down. I ended up with a rate that was $500 less (total) than the original rate I booked.

Other good ways to save when traveling? Some credit cards offer extra points for dollars spent while traveling, and you can get cash back. I have a credit card that gives me cash back for every dollar we spend, and we get a greater percentage if we apply it to travel. In fact, we try to pay for everything we can on that credit card, and the savings add up fast! I pay for two vacations a year with the points from that card! And don’t forget your frequent flyer miles and hotel rewards programs. If you haven’t signed up for the rewards programs of hotels where you stay, you are just throwing money away. Registration is always free for the programs, and you get points that can add up to free hotel rooms. Seriously, last year, we had 12 free nights in hotels. That’s real money.

And anyone can check out The Points Guy’s website here. The website has a plethora of information about travel savings, but one of the first points he makes is one of the points I’ve already made: get a credit card that will maximize your cash back or points for travel. He says, “By using your debit card [instead of a credit card with rewards], you are spending money and getting nothing in return.”

Travel doesn’t have to cost you a fortune, and it’s a lot more fun when you make memories with people you love! So if you want a surefire way to save on travel, grab a friend and split some costs! That’s my favorite way to save on vacation costs!

 

My Favorite TV Guilty Pleasures

Guilty TV pleasures?! Don’t we all have one or two?!? Seriously, I don’t watch that much television, but when I do, it’s on something completely stupid.

It seems everyone I know counts The Real Housewives of (fill in the blank) as one of their guilty television pleasures. And The Bachelor. I can occasionally watch The Bachelor, but I have a teenage daughter, so I don’t need to watch television to see more girl drama. Teenage girls are dramatic enough; they could be their own reality TV show.

One TV guilty pleasure I’ve had for a long time? My husband and I record The Young and the Restless every day, so we try to watch that before we go to bed at night. It’s actually relaxing, because everything moves so slowly on soap operas. I was so excited when I read recently that Y&R has been picked up through 2024! But we also have another guilty television pleasure, and I am almost embarrassed to admit it.

We watch 90-Day Fiancé.

There, I said it out loud. Go ahead, judge us. The show is on TLC, where there are lots of trashy reality shows. It’s a show about couples who have applied for or received a K-1 Visa to the United States. The K-1 is a visa for foreign fiancés of US citizens. Once the visa recipient arrives in the US, the couple has 90 days to get married or send the fiancé home. Sometimes, the show follows the couple as they wait for the visa…the US citizen visiting his/her fiancé in their home country. And sometimes, the visa has been issued, and we watch the couple interact in the US through their 90 days before getting married…or not. We love 90-Day Fiancé so much that we always talk about which people from the show we could hang out with. Seriously. We are superfans. The show is like a train wreck…once you start watching, you just can’t turn away! ***You can see episodes on TLC or on the TLC website here.***

90-Day Fiance is in its 7th season and not without drama. When we first “met” Angela (Hazelhurst, Georgia) and Michael (Nigeria) in another season, my husband and I voted them “Most Likely to Break Up.” Angela is considerably older than Michael, whom she met online, and their first face-to-face meeting was memorable. He was surprised by her age and weight. My husband and I just knew they’d never make it, but they’re still together…and still trying to get his K-1 visa. They have received word that the government employee who interviewed him for the visa recommended they deny his visa, but he hasn’t received the official denial yet. If they do marry, Michael wants to have a baby right away, because, as he told Angela, “Age is not on our side.” He meant she’s not getting any younger. At first, we laughed at Angela and Michael, but now, we like them! Michael’s family seems to love her, and she has some great one-liners. And her bra is like Mary Poppins’s bag…she carries everything in it! I’m always half-expecting to see her pull a floor lamp out of her bosom.

We have other favorites on Season 7…

  • Michael (Connecticut) and Juliana (Brazil) are a lovely couple who recently wed on the show…after a few struggles of their own.
  • Anna (Nebraska) and Mursel (Turkey) had a rough time when he came over on his K-1 visa, because his parents didn’t want him to marry someone who had children (Anna has three boys), but it appears they are going to squeeze in a wedding just under the 90-day wire.
  • Mike (Washington) and Natalia (Ukraine) seem to be going down the tubes, partly because Michael is Atheist. A problem with Natalia’s K-1 visa might throw another wrench in things, and Mike might withdraw the application anyway.
  • Let’s not forget Tania (Connecticut) and Syngin (South Africa); Tania went to Costa Rica with her girlfriends for 30 days of Syngin’s 90 days, and then was angry when she returned and found he hadn’t taken a woodworking class! What?!?! He’s not from this country, but she expected him to navigate everything on his own for a month?!? We love Syngin, but Tania? Not so much.
  • Robert (Florida) and Anny (Dominican Republic) have had a rough start, because Robert didn’t make it clear to Anny that he’s “poor,” as his sister called him.  Robert has a little boy, and Anny seems to be taking good care of him.
  • Emily (Oregon) and Sasha (Russia) have a baby together, and they recently married on the show. Sasha has been married twice before to other baby mamas, but he assured Emily’s sister this one will last. I don’t know…Sasha seems to love himself more than anyone else.
  • And our least favorite couple? Blake (Los Angeles) and Jasmin (Finland). Nothing to see here, folks. Blake is sweet and pursuing his dream in music, but Jasmin seems self-absorbed. We yell at the TV for him to send her home.

There have been so many couples over the years. You simply have to watch it if you don’t mind getting sucked in to the drama.

But then, there’s an even bigger guilty pleasure called 90-Day Fiancé Pillow Talk.  If someone had told me we would watch this insanity, I would have laughed in their faces. Yet, here we are, looking forward to every episode! And why is this one worse?!? Well, it’s worse, because we are watching other people (former K-1 visa seekers) watch and comment on an episode of 90-Day Fiancé. Some of them are sitting on their sofas at home or watching from bed. Our favorite Pillow Talk cast members are Annie/David and Loren/Alexei. Annie is from Thailand and came to the US with David. She has a big personality. They are now married and watch from their bed in their tiny apartment. In our other favorite couple, Alexei is from Israel. He met Loren when she was vacationing in Israel, and they are now married, living in Hollywood, Florida, and expecting a baby. We have decided they are our 90-Day Fiance Pillow Talk best friends, because they say the same things we do while watching the show. Did I mention my husband and I would totally love to be on Pillow Talk?!?

There are other spinoffs of 90-Day Fiancé, but we don’t regularly watch them. Maybe one day, but right now, I can’t spend more time on guilty pleasures. I’ll just stick with the original and Pillow Talk. Maybe you record some and watch them with your love on Valentine’s Day? If nothing else, it’s likely to make you feel better about your own relationship…or lack thereof!

You can thank me later.

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.