Graduation Gift Ideas

It’s that time of year again! High school seniors all over the country are graduating, and that means we all need gift ideas. When searching for graduation gifts, remember that not all new graduates are going away to college. Some are joining the military. Some are going to college but living at home. Some are going to work. Some are taking a gap year to travel. And some still haven’t figured out what they want to do yet. Therefore, it’s important to tailor each gift to each graduate.

First, here’s what we all need to remember: Cash is king! Grads want cash! Some of them want cash to go on a trip after school gets out. Some want cash to take to college. Some need cash to put a down payment on an apartment or automobile. No matter how they use it…cash is still king. It was king when I graduated from high school in the 1980s, and in 2019, it still reigns supreme.

But if you have lots of gifts to give, you might rather get a meaningful gift instead of giving someone a small amount of cash. I’ve done some research, and here are some great gift ideas:

  • Weighted blanket. I know…I’ve sung the praises of the weighted blanket before, but I’m doing it again. College can be stressful. I always felt like I earned all the fun I had in college, because of the stress brought on by tests and exams. Weighted blankets are great for reducing anxiety. It’s like a big hug. On Amazon, they start at about $60. I have one made by Calming Comfort. I haven’t tried the others, but I love the one I have, and it is priced at about $129 on Amazon here.
  • First Aid Kit. I know it sounds corny, but everyone should have one. If the person for whom you are buying is planning to travel, you might opt for a waterproof travel version. Amazon has tons. I’m not even going to provide a link, because there are so many different types, but go to Amazon.com and search for what you need here.
  • Netflix Gift Card. Young people who are trying to find their way in the world need some downtime. Sure, they have their phones for communicating with friends, but it’s easy to lose track of time. With a Netflix gift card, they can watch a comforting episode of Friends or Fuller House, and when it’s over, they know it’s time to get back to studying. Purchase them in Walmart or Target for $10 and up.
  • Amazon Gift Card. This one comes in especially handy, because they can order whatever they need and have it delivered. Plus, if they get enough money on Amazon, they can purchase a Prime Membership for $119. That will bring them fast, free delivery on lots of items, and they can watch Amazon Prime TV shows and movies. Purchase here.
  • Target Gift Card. Because every college student arrives at college and realizes he/she needs a few more things, Target gift cards are perfect. You can purchase them online or in any Target store. They are perfect when they realize they took all the perfect decorating pieces but forgot to take soap and lotion. Maybe they need a mattress topper after discovering the dorm bed is not comfortable? They can get it all at Target!
  • Personalized items. Personalized stationery, personalized pillowcases, personalized slippers…all these make great gifts. When I went off to college, I had those plus a personalized bathrobe, a personalized shower caddy, a personalized towel wrap, personalized pictures frames, and lots of my friends had personalized sheets for their twin-sized dorm beds. Honestly, anything personalized is…well, personal. It means you actually thought of the graduate. I think a personalized bathrobe with a little cash stuck in the pocket makes a great gift. Maybe stick a fabric marker in the pocket too, so they can put their name in all their clothing. Lots of students take advantage of on-campus laundry services now, so it’s always good to have a name in items. Bed Bath & Beyond offers lots of the items listed here, and will personalize them for you too! They also offer gift cards….not a bad idea either.
  • Insider’s guide or journal. OK, stay with me here. I know some of them are going straight to college and not traveling any before they go. But they might not know about things to do in the area where they are going. I know a girl who is going to NYU in the fall, and I think giving her an insider’s guide to New York City would be great. I’m no “insider,” but if I can’t find the perfect book (in which I would slip some cash), I can get my friends who are insiders to put together some information! People really do enjoy sharing their secrets about cities. Child going to Emory? Give Atlanta info! Child going to Vanderbilt? Lots of good Nashville info out there! I know one who would love to know about all the best thrift stores, and I know the perfect person to compile the info! If not, maybe you give them a book in which they can write all the things they find themselves! And of course…stick some cash in it.

Whatever you do for the grad, it will be appreciated. I read somewhere recently that someone said, “Congratulations, grad! You’ve finished the easiest years of your life!” While that may be true for many of them, the best is yet to come for most of them.

Oh, the places they’ll go!

 

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Happy Birthday, Joe Willie

I’ve never met him, but I haven’t given up hope. Maybe one day, if I’m lucky, I’ll get to meet Joe Namath. A few years ago, when I took a crazy road trip through several states, on the way home, I made a detour, just so I could visit the plaque honoring Joe Namath in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. It’s right outside the Carnegie Free Library in downtown Beaver Falls, if you decide to go.

Back in November, I wrote a piece about books as Christmas gifts, and one that I recommended was Joe Namath’s latest autobiography, All the Way: My Life in Four Quarters. At the time, it had not yet been released, but I recommended it anyway, because well…I think he is a fascinating person. And now it’s out! It was released this month. Lucky me…my friend, Linda, gave it to me for my birthday. My birthday was Monday, May 27, but I find it fitting that she gave me the gift today, May 31…Joe Willie’s birthday.

I’m not going to pretend to know everything about him. I know Joe grew up in Beaver Falls. I know he went to The University of Alabama and played football for the legendary Bear Bryant. In fact, Coach Bryant said Namath was the best athlete he ever coached. From there, Joe went on to play quarterback for the New York Jets, and after guaranteeing a win against the Baltimore Colts, he led the Jets to win Super Bowl III. *Here’s a little trivia: the first two Super Bowls were also won by a former Alabama QB, Bart Starr, who played for the Green Bay Packers.

While in New York, Joe earned quite a reputation as a ladies man, wore fur coats on the sideline, was given the nickname Broadway Joe, and disagreed with then NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle over his ownership of Bachelors III, a Manhattan bar. Years later, when I was in my early 20s in 1989, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Mr. Rozelle during an Atlanta Falcons game, and we talked about Joe. I don’t fully understand what transpired between them, but I know that by 1989, Mr. Rozelle had respect for Joe. He spoke very highly of him to me.

When I was a little girl, Johnny Carson was still the host of The Tonight Show, and even though I was usually in bed by 10:30, when the show came on, my parents would let me stay up and watch anytime Joe was one of the guests. Of course, I’m sure much of the humor went way over my head, but he was always smiling and self-deprecating. He had that wavy hair and that sweet smile…he had the X Factor…charisma. And he still has it at 76. That’s how old he is today…76.

I also remember his appearance on The Brady Bunch. I was so jealous of those Brady kids, even if Bobby got Joe to visit by deceptive means. I was green with envy.

When I arrived at lunch today, Linda had my birthday gift all wrapped up with a pretty bow. Her husband went to Auburn, so it never occurred to me that she would give me Joe’s autobiography. As I started to unwrap it, I realized what it was, and I’m sure my face lit up! Fortunately for everyone else in the restaurant, I have laryngitis, so they didn’t have to hear me squeal with joy. As soon as I had it opened, I double-checked the date on my phone, and I told Linda, “I love it! And you gave it to me on Joe’s birthday!” She had no idea, of course, and I could seem like a total stalker for knowing it, but I don’t care.

As for now, I’m sitting on the sofa reading the book already. I’ve read great reviews for it, so I’m sure I’m going to love it. I’m just thankful to Linda for giving it to me. I’ll be celebrating Joe’s birthday by reading about his life. If you’re interested in getting a copy of the book, you can purchase through Amazon here.

Happy Birthday, Joe Willie!

Trying Something New

In high school, I was a cheerleader. Back in the 80s, it was great fun. We had big hair and cute uniforms, and we cheered at football and basketball games. I loved everything about it.

Our daughter has always loved sports. She played soccer for years before switching to lacrosse and field hockey. In seventh and eighth grades, she played basketball too. This year, as a freshman in high school, she opted not to try out for a basketball team, so she’s cheerleading.

Isn’t it scary to try something new?

Her school hasn’t had cheerleaders in years. I’m not sure why. She has been at school there since transitional kindergarten, in 2008, and there haven’t been cheerleaders since she has been there. We have a fabulous dance team. Those girls have crazy talent! But we haven’t had cheerleaders.

Lots of the girls at our daughter’s school participate in other sports, so I guess, cheerleading just wasn’t on their radar.

This year, though, some of the high school girls came together and decided to start cheerleading. My daughter came home and told me she had been to the informational meeting. I was surprised, to say the least. They started practicing before the holidays. I have to be honest in saying I thought she was probably doing it just so she could know I would take her to all the basketball games, but I’m wrong. That’s not why she’s doing it! The cute uniform might have a little something to do with it, but she is thoroughly enjoying her adventure in cheerleading!

The faculty member who is coaching them knows what she is doing. She has gotten the girls excited, and she has gotten them prepared. According to my daughter, she has made the practices fun! They cheered at a game for the first time a little over a week ago, and they looked good! I was shocked at how “together” they seemed! I should have known their coach wasn’t going to let them go out there and look bad. She is a person who has it all together. She made sure they made their debut in the perfect way: at a JV boys’ game…sort of “easing into it” instead of throwing them out there in front of a big crowd at a varsity game.

Our daughter was out of town this past Friday, so she missed a game, but she will be cheering again later this week, and I can hardly wait to watch this group perform again.

It makes me smile to know these girls are out there trying something new. We all know trying something new can be intimidating and nerve-wracking. And my daughter has never been much of a “performer.” She is athletic and competitive, but when she’s on the field, she’s not thinking about the people who are watching her. She’s thinking about the job she has to do. This is different. Sure, she has a “job” with this too, but it’s performing. And that’s what makes me happiest. She is facing a crowd and performing…and smiling through it!

Personally, I think she is learning a lot. Most of all, she is learning it can be fun to try something new, and I am proud of her and thrilled for her. Hopefully, she will translate some of what she’s learning into some life skills. I’m grateful to their coach for making it fun, but I’m especially grateful to her for giving them the opportunity to try something new. And they’ve discovered they like it!

This Friday, I’ll be there watching them again…and cheering them on!

 

Who Told Me Who He Was?!?!

Last week, I posted a picture on my Facebook and Instagram accounts of me and NBA Hall of Famer, Dominique Wilkins. I ran into him at a restaurant in Uptown Charlotte when I was having lunch with a friend. Soon after posting the photo, I received a phone call.

It was my friend, Mary Ann.

  • Me: Hello?
  • Mary Ann: I saw that picture. Who told you who he was?
  • Me: What?!?!?!
  • Mary Ann: Who told you who that basketball player was?

And here’s where you hear that sound like brakes screeching. What?!?!?

Who told me who he was?!?!

Mary Ann should know better, but I guess she had a momentary lapse. She has been with me when I’ve spotted celebrities. She knows I have a keen eye. She knows I’m a crazy sports fan.

       Did she really think someone had to tell me who he was?!?!

My friend and I had just ordered our lunch when I saw a tall gentleman walk into the restaurant. I took one look at his face and said to my friend, “That’s Dominique Wilkins! He just walked in!”

Years ago, when I first got out of college, I was a flight attendant and lived in Atlanta. It was the late 80s/early 90s. Wilkins was a superstar for the Atlanta Hawks; he was a favored celebrity. Also known as The Human Highlight Reel, he was famous for good reason…highest scorer in NBA, slam dunk champ, All-Pro, and lots more…plus, he had played at the University of Georgia, so everyone in Atlanta loved him. He also owned a popular nightclub near my apartment, and folks were always talking about that. He was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 2006.

One morning, on an early flight out of Milwaukee, the Atlanta Hawks walked onto my flight. That team had lots of great players: Wilkins, Spud Webb, Moses Malone, John Koncak… and I got to spend a couple of hours with them! For the record, they were all very gracious…Moses Malone didn’t even flinch when I stepped on his foot, and when I apologized, he smiled and said, “No problem.”

So, of course I would recognize Dominique! Even almost 30 years later, when he was wearing a beanie to shield him from the cold, and glasses because we’re all 30 years older now, I recognized him immediately. I was going to wait a little while to approach him, but my friend pretty quickly asked him if we could get photos, and he very graciously agreed. I told him I had met him before, and I went through the story from almost 30 years ago. I also told him I remembered his nightclub, and he chuckled and said several times, “Now you’re taking me waaaay back!” He was one of the sweetest celebrities I’ve ever met (and I’ve met more than a few), and he even came by our table on his way out to tell us goodbye and wish us a good afternoon. I was so excited…still am!

Who told me who he was?!?! Oh, Mary AnnBahahahahahaha!