My Favorite Holiday Gifts 2019, Part 4: Sparkly Gifts

Yep…sparkly, because I love sparkly, and I know lots of other people do too! But if you think I mean “sparkly” as in diamonds, I should set the record straight here. I don’t mean diamonds. I mean sparkly as in glitter, sequins, and foil. Sparkly as in fun!

If you have someone on your gift list who loves sparkly things, you might just find the perfect gift right here. And if you love sparkly things yourself, well, go ahead and buy it for yourself, wrap it up in some glittery wrapping paper, put it under the tree, and thank a surprised member of your family after you open it. I do that every year! When I look at him after opening a gift he doesn’t know he got me, my husband plays along when I say, “Thank you, Honey!”

It’s no secret that I love glitter and sequins, and I believe in wearing them all the time to brighten my own day and everyone else’s. It just makes me happy to look down and see glittery shoes on my feet or sequins on my shirt or jacket. I can’t help myself.

So without further ado…here are my suggestions for your sparkly friends…

Poo Pourri Pink Citron Glitter Bomb Toilet Spray. OK, so this is not a glitter you wear, but every time you use Poo Pourri Glitter Bomb before you “go,” it will make you a little happier. I can’t help myself. I love this idea. I’ve already ordered a bottle for myself and a few for friends. Priced at $9.99, you can find it here.IMG_5492

Ugg Glitter Boots. The first ones I came across are the Ugg Glitter Cosmos Classic Short boots, priced at $189.95 at Nordstrom. They come in two colors, and they have my favorite feature: glitter! Get them here. Nordstrom also has the Ugg Cosmos Classic Bow Mini Bootie for $159.95, and it is adorable! Get it from Nordstrom here., and I’m angling for the gold ones right now. And Dillard’s offers the same bootie in four colors! You can purchase through Dillard’s here! If anyone is wondering, I wear size 9.

Artland Ambrosia Champagne Glass Set. I fell in love with the champagne glass set as soon as I saw it, because it is definitely sparkly! I love champagne and prosecco, because they make me feel like I’m always celebrating, and I think they would be even better in these glasses! I’ll be ordering these for myself…it includes six champagne glasses and one holder. Get the set at Neiman Marcus for $90 here.NMHCMNS_ez

 

Bari Lynn Sequin Wine Bag. For your sparkly friend who always loves to have a bottle of wine handy, this is a great gift! Priced at $25 at Neiman Marcus, it’s priced right, and it’s darn cute too! Perfect for celebrating every single day! Get it at Neiman Marcus here.

Lauren Moshi Foil Shirts and Blankets. My sister-in-law, my daughter, and I have been big fans of Lauren Moshi for a few years. Their t-shirts, sweatshirts, sweaters, and joggers are all supersoft and fashionable. We stumbled upon the store in LA several years ago…it’s right next door to The Ivy on Robertson, a restaurant often visited by celebrities. I’ve seen one of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills in the store…with her tiny dog. The Lauren Moshi items with foil decor are shiny, beautiful, fun, and comfortable. I have a few of the foil pieces and love them. You can see all the Lauren Moshi foil items here. Prices start at $88. They’re not cheap, but they’re cool!

Gold Glitter Face Mask. The Swoozie’s website says, “Beauty doesn’t have to be serious…have a fun night with your besties with the Glitter Beauty Peel Off Face Mask.” It would make for some interesting selfies or pics with friends, and it leaves skin silky smooth. Priced at $4.95, you can buy several at one time! Get them at Swoozie’s here.239701-500

Zara Blue Collection Glitter Handbag. Priced at $49.90, this mini crossbody bag comes in three colors…blue, pink, and silver. It’s tiny, but it holds all the essentials while adding some sparkle to your ensemble! I’ll be carrying one of these to dinner soon! You can purchase here.8626004009_2_4_1

Glitter Duck Boots. Yes! It’s a thing! I saw these on the Belk website and ordered some for myself immediately! They came in last week, and I love them! They are so cute, and I can hardly wait for the perfect day to wear them. The best thing…they’re inexpensive! Priced at $59, but use code WINTERFEST at Belk.com and get them for under $45! See them here.Belk

Glitter flasks. For those friends or family members who like to take their own alcohol with them, Kitson’s offers two different glitter flasks. If I kept my bourbon in one of these, every time I took it out of my bag for a “nip,” I would smile…not just because of the bourbon, but also because of the sparkle! Priced at $19.95 and $28.00, these make great gifts. Get them here. Nordstrom has a cute one too, the Brumate Glitter Flask, priced at $22.95. You can find it here.

More Kitson gifts. And while you’re looking at those flasks, you might as well check out their other sparkly gifts. One favorite is the Ombre Glitter Box Clutch, priced at $68, and available in two colors. See it here. Kitson also has a cute sequined pillow collection…perfect for the person on your list who likes a little bling in her house. One favorite is black and white sequined and says “Dogs are my kind of people.” See it here. For a more pricey blinged-out gift at Kitson, there are the Chiara Ferragni Silver Slip Ons, and they sure are cute…and like I said, they’re pricey at $365. See them here.

Shiny Shoes. And while we’re talking about shiny shoes, I’ll share a few more. All of these can be found at Nordstrom. First, there are some cute hi-top Converse Chuck Taylors for $65 here. They also have some Vans Glitter Slip-Ons, priced at $59.95 here. But my favorites are some Keds/Kate Spade Slip Ons priced at $90. I actually have two pairs of the keds for casual days, and I get compliments every single time I wear them. You can get them here.

Kate Spade Glitter Huggie Earrings. Priced at $34.80 at Nordstrom, these glittery earrings are a no-brainer for your fashion-forward friends. They come in five sparkling colors, and with a different shape, they’re not your average earrings. Get them at Nordstrom here. b89afc68-5f46-4629-ba3c-b34049a8a61a-2

Rebecca Minkoff Leo Envelope Clutch. Offered at Nordstrom in three colors, this envelope clutch is glitter-covered and thin, but it holds all your credit cards, essentials (ID, lipstick, etc) and even your phone. I love this glitter bag in the multicolor version or the black version, because I feel like they go with everything. Get it for $128 here.167d95df-be86-435b-ae94-8a718b713ff7.jpeg

Rose Gold Glitter Pool Raft. Sure, it’s not warm outside right now, but this is a great gift for any glittery person who loves the sunshine! They can use it when it gets warm. At $29.95, it’s inexpensive, and I can almost guarantee they’ll love it! Get it here.271702-500-2

Glittery makeup. There are lots of glittery options out there. Three I’ve found are from Estee Lauder, NARS, and Urban Decay. Nordstrom carries the Estee Lauder Glitter Pot for $26, and the website says it’s “a twinkly, microfine glitter that delivers glamour, fantasy, and mystery.” Use it over eyeshadow or on cheekbones and bare shoulders to create some glimmer. Get it here. They also carry the NARS quad eyeshadow, which has four shimmery, rich colors for $52. Get it here. And don’t forget the entire Urban Decay Naked Honey line…see the whole line here.

Shiny Accessories from Neiman Marcus. Neiman Marcus carries lots of beautiful, shiny accessories. Some of my favorites? The Ban.Do Glitter Bomb Water Bottle…priced at $30, it’s pretty, and anyone who sees it will immediately feel happier. Get it here. For something really different, check out the Aprons by Jem Sequined Dish Gloves. Yep…sequins for doing the dishes! They’re adorable, and they’re $45. And while you’re checking those out, check out the sequined apron from the same brand. Priced at $145, it’s super cute. See both items here. Want to add a little bling to your home? Neiman’s has the Giselle Sequin Elephants Pillow in blue for $40. See it here. And last but not least, they have my very favorite new earrings…from Sachin and Babi…they’re $145 and come in white, silver or gold…the fabulous Clara Fleurette Sequin Hoop Earrings. I’ll be wrapping some of the gold ones for myself this year. Get them here.

Alice and Olivia tshirts. Alice and Olivia offers some fun sequined shirts in their line this year. In fact, they have sequins all through the line…dresses, skirts, jackets, shoes…but I love the t-shirts. Some of them are on sale right now, and they start at $117. Click here to see all the sequins in the line. Below are some of my favorite tees…

Socialite Sequin Bomber. While scrolling through the Nordstrom site the other day, I came across a sequined bomber jacket that is perfect for casual wear. No, I wouldn’t wear it to my daughter’s lacrosse game, but going out to dinner with friends? Yep. It’s likely aimed at a younger audience (and that’s great too!), but I think it would work for all ages. Priced at just $69.00, it’s silver with black bands…and would work well with jeans or dressed up. See it here.c35ed72c-8868-4499-a7f8-2c897c13f6e8

Joan Vass Lion Sweater. I like this one because it’s different. At Neiman Marcus, Joan Vass has a beautiful sequined lion sweater…black sweater with gold/silver sequin lion and red bands near the wrists. It’s scoop necked and looks cute alone or with a shirt underneath. Sale priced now at $202 (reduced from $270), it would make a lovely gift. You can see it here.NMTZ4VR_mz

 

You can see there are lots of options for the sparkly person on your list. Shoes? Yes. Sweater? Yes. T-shirts? Yes. Makeup? Yes. Accessories? Yes. And lots more! To find more, sit down with a glass of Champagne or Prosecco and go to different websites, entering “glitter” or “sequin” in the search bar to see what they have to offer. You’re guaranteed to find lots of “bling.”

*** Coming soon: Gifts for men! Stocking stuffers! Travel gifts! Southern gifts! And if you have a suggestion for another category…let me know!***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crazy Movies We Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or instead…just watch movies about it.

 

Sweet Sixteen!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, she just has to pass the test.

Daddy’s Birthday

“Tough row to hoe.” I’ve heard it my whole life. My daddy loved idioms, and “tough row to hoe” was one of his favorites, and sometimes he would say it as “long row to hoe.” Either way, it means someone is facing a difficult situation. If you’ve never been on a farm, you might not get it, but to “hoe a row” on a farm means you’re turning the soil in a row for planting.

Someone might say, “They have a long/tough row to hoe cleaning up the Bahamas after the recent hurricane.” You get it.

I thought of that just now, because I’m watching a news show, and one of the commenters said “tough ROAD to hoe.” That would have driven Daddy crazy. Who ever heard of using a hoe (the farm implement) on a ROAD?!? It is clear that commenter hasn’t ever spent any time on a farm.

Daddy’s birthday is today…his 81st birthday, but he is no longer with us. He died 2 1/2 weeks after his 68th birthday….pancreatic cancer. I’ve written about him before, and I’ve written about the misery we all experienced as he suffered. I don’t like to dwell on that, though. I like to think about the things Daddy taught me and the things we all learned from his illness.

For many years, on his birthday, I remembered the illness, the suffering, the sadness, but I am finally at the point that I remember happy, healthy times. I remember how he laughed…something I couldn’t recall for a long time. He did love to laugh, and he loved to tell stories. Most of all, he loved to tell stories that made us laugh.

And that’s one thing we learned from Daddy during his illness: laughter can cure a lot of ills. It can’t cure cancer, but it sure can make it easier. He said it. He wanted us to keep laughing with him as much as we could. We talked about old times. We laughed about old stories. My brother told his usual crazy stories. Having my then-two-year-old daughter and my brother’s then-eight-year-old twins around helped too. They gave him something to smile about. He loved those grandchildren. When we were growing up, he had to travel for work a lot, so he wasn’t able to enjoy us as much, but after he retired, he got to spend time with his grandchildren…and that brought him great joy.

Incredibly, we have a lot of happy memories from his illness. He turned 68 a few weeks before he died. His brothers and sister came over to Alabama from Florida to be with him on his birthday. He didn’t know they were coming, and when we awoke from a nap to find them standing in his room, he looked around and said, “Well, this is a motley crew!” We have laughed about that for years. In fact, I recently visited his oldest brother in a rehab facility (he broke a hip) in Florida, and I reminded him of that moment…and we laughed again.

But I have lots of happy memories of Daddy in general. When we were little and living in Brewton, Alabama, he would take us to the “candy store” on Saturdays. It was really a locally owned convenience store called Murphy’s. In fact, now that I think about it, we only called it the “candy store” on Saturdays. The rest of the time, we called it “Murphy’s.”  Sometimes, he would take us to fly kites in a nearby pasture. I remember holding the kite string one time, and of course, I accidentally let it go. I can still see Daddy chasing it and catching it! He took us fishing at the pond in our neighborhood and cleaned the fish we caught. Mother would fry it up in the kitchen afterward. He helped us climb high up in the sycamore tree in our backyard. He rode a tandem bicycle with us. We had a lot of fun.

And when I was an adult, he helped me whenever I needed it. Heartbreak? Call Daddy. Bad day at work? Call Daddy. Stressed out about a test in college? Call Daddy. Sometimes, I just needed to talk. Sometimes, I needed him to “rescue” me when I had a flat tire or a car accident. And whenever I visited my parents, he always gave me WAM (walking around money) as I left. It was usually $20 or $40, but I was happy to have it, and he was happy to give it to me. In truth, we were always fortunate to know Daddy was our safety net…emotionally and financially.

Just like Mother, Daddy loved the happy faces of sunflowers. Most of my Mammoth Sunflowers have already bloomed this year, but there is one that’s holding out. Incredibly, one of my Evening Sun Sunflowers started opening today…the first of that variety to open. I’m in New York, but I called my husband in Charlotte and asked him to walk outside and see if it was opening, and it is…on Daddy’s Birthday. It made my day when he sent the picture of the bloom just beginning to open.

We have lots of great memories of Daddy. His laughter was contagious, and his sense of humor was awesome. His strength was unrivaled, and his love for his family was great.  I hope God lets him get little glimpses of his beautiful grandchildren. He would be so proud of them. And I remind them all the time that Big Ken (as they called him) would want them to enjoy life…sure, save for a rainy day, but enjoy today.

Happy 81st Birthday to Daddy in Heaven.

 

*****

Mother’s 80th Birthday

My mother’s 80th birthday is approaching…September 3. She was born in Alabama two days after World War II started in Poland. Sadly, she isn’t here to celebrate her 80th birthday. She died 20 months ago, on December 30, 2017. To say I miss her is an understatement. I’ve written about her before. She was nurturing…nurturing us as well as lots of neighborhood kids and our classmates. She liked for things to be done “the right way.” Yes, she was a rule follower…I got it honestly. But she also had a fantastic sense of humor…it’s necessary in dealing with my brother, for sure. And she had a great sense of adventure and encouraged us, her children, to have a sense of adventure, as well. My husband would tell you she did a good job of instilling a sense of adventure in me.

In November 1997, I decided I wanted to go to Mexico City for vacation. I didn’t have any friends who were interested in going, so I decided I would go alone. A few days before I was scheduled to go, Mother called me and offered to go with me. I knew she was going simply because she didn’t want me to go alone, but it turned out to be the trip of a lifetime. She purchased her airline ticket, and a few days later, we were on our way to an adventure. I had visited Mexico City in 1982, but Mother had no idea what to expect. I tried to make sure she saw everything she could safely see while we were there. We visited El Zocalo, which she found fascinating. We spent a lot of time touring the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, a place she considered one of the most beautiful places she had ever seen. We had coffee in the Gran Hotel, an historic hotel facing El Zocalo, admiring the beautiful glass ceiling. We shopped in local markets. We toured El Palacio de Bellas Artes and the Museum of Anthropology. We ate street food. We ate in great restaurants and dined al fresco at different places in La Zona Rosa. She always ordered chicken in molé sauce. And she fell in love with the warm people of Mexico. We spent Sunday afternoon in Chapultepec Park (see info here), visiting the zoo (pandas!) and Chapultepec Castle atop the hill overlooking the park. She laughed for years at how much I made her walk while we were there. And she laughed that we ordered late night room service every night while we were there. In fact, when the hotel put a copy of our bill under the door, I was shocked at the total. Remember, I was single and thirty years old…working in the travel business. I took one look at the bill and said to Mother, “Ummm…this bill is $8000. My credit card won’t take that much!” We quickly remembered, of course, that it was 8000 pesos. At that time, that translated to just over $1000 USD. Since I worked in the travel industry, I had secured us a great rate on the hotel room…80 percent off the rack rate…and we were staying in a beautiful hotel in La Zona Rosa. And in the end, it didn’t matter about my credit card, because Mother picked up the tab, as my parents had done so many times. Good times, no doubt, and it’s an adventure I’m glad we shared. She knew I loved Mexico City, and I am thrilled we experienced it together. I hope to one day take my own daughter to Mexico City to show her the same sights.

I have lived in North Carolina for the past 19 years, and Mother lived in Alabama, so I didn’t see her all the time. Many times, after Daddy died in 2006, I tried to talk her into moving to Charlotte, but she didn’t want to move this far north. I saw her several times a year, but we spoke on the phone every day…and often, more than once a day. She loved to talk about current events. She loved hearing about my life. She loved hearing about my daughter. She loved hearing about our adventures. She loved to talk about football.

She and my daddy also loved sunflowers. I grew some in my garden last year, and this year, I’ve grown more. Some of them are blooming now, but I hope a few will hold out a little longer. I want to have some blooming on her birthday, and it would be great if a few would hold out till Daddy’s birthday on September 14. In fact, two of my Mammoth Sunflowers are side by side…one is about two feet taller than the other, and that height difference makes me think of Mother and Daddy too. Mother was under five feet tall, and Daddy was 6’3″…so it makes me smile every time I see those two mismatched sunflowers.

When she fell ill on Christmas Eve 2017, I got up on Christmas morning and drove to Alabama, with the intention of bringing her back to Charlotte with me. On the long drive there, I thought of what I would say to make it clear she didn’t have a choice in the matter…she was coming home with me. But after arriving and speaking with the doctors, I realized she wouldn’t be coming home with me. She would be going home to the Lord. She would be laughing with Daddy soon. She died on December 30, 2017.

On her birthday, I will add a little Bailey’s Irish Cream to my coffee in memory of her. She would laugh if she knew that.

Happy Birthday in Heaven, Mother.

A Weekend to Remember

Wow! I turned 52 on Memorial Day. While I have always loved my birthday, this one was extra special…and most memorable.

On Saturday, I flew to Los Angeles with a friend. She was my “plus one” for another friend’s wedding on Monday, because my husband needed to stay home to make sure our teenage daughter prepared for final exams at school.

We flew home Tuesday, but we still haven’t stopped talking about the wedding reception!  The bride is someone I met in LA a couple of years ago, and she is gorgeous on a regular day, but she was positively radiant on her wedding day, which also happened to be her birthday too! And I’m sure she will remember it for the rest of her life as well.

I remember when she got engaged. I remember she said these words to me, “I hope you’re ready for a big African wedding!” And honestly, I was flattered to be invited. She is a special lady who loves looking out for others and making other people happy. She is Nigerian, and her new husband is as well. Have you ever been to a Nigerian wedding? If you haven’t, you’re missing out. I can’t believe it took me 52 years to have that fabulous experience! There was so much to take in: the incredible handmade dresses of fine fabrics and beautiful colors; the culinary delights of the food; the African music we had never heard, but all the Nigerians knew every beat and every word; the exciting processions of both families and different groups associated with the bride and groom; the DJ who worked the crowd; the love of the families; the dancing! I could never write a description that would do it all justice, but I can say we met some lovely people and had an incredibly memorable experience. And I got to see my sweet friend get married. She and her new husband look so peacefully happy with each other.

Before the reception, I had wondered what food would be served. I was hoping I would get to have some Nigerian food, and I was not disappointed! For first course, we were offered an option of Peppered Goat Soup or Yam Porridge. I consulted with the bride’s cousin, who was seated next to me, and she steered us toward the Yam Porridge…spicy and mellow all in one bowl. It was fantastic, but I wanted to make sure I had room for the other courses, so I ate about 3/4 of the bowl. For the entree, we had a choice of five different things, and the cousin recommended the Fried Rice, Moi Moi, Assorted Meats and Plantains. I think Meg (my plus one) and I surprised the cousins by eating so well! The fried rice had a little kick to it, while the plantains added a little sweetness. And the meats…chicken and I think, goat ribs…incredible spices. We dined like queens!

If you ever watched The Wonder Years, you might remember the episode titled Birthday Boy, in which Paul (the main character’s best friend and neighbor) has his Bar Mitzvah on Kevin’s (the main character) birthday. I don’t remember everything about the episode, but I do remember Kevin was a little envious of Paul’s family traditions and history. Listening to Paul’s grandfather talk about his own Bar Mitzvah had Kevin wondering about his own family history…and I get it. Being at my friend’s big Nigerian wedding made me think of that episode of The Wonder Years. I found myself looking on in awe at how these lovely people had managed to hang on to Nigerian traditions in the United States. The people are American, but they remember their African heritage…and I loved every minute of it.

I will likely never have another experience like it. If it took me 52 years to be able to experience it once, it’s not likely I will get to do it again. But I will always remember it. I wish my daughter could have gone. I wish she could have experienced it. I learned a lot, and the bride’s cousins answered all my questions, even though it had to be difficult to hear me, since I can’t talk above a whisper with laryngitis. They were so kind and patient while I tried to ask my questions about details.

So yes, I had a happy birthday…it was fantastic. Most of all, I am grateful to my friend for inviting me to celebrate her new marriage with her…a happy birthday, indeed!

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!