I’m Happy to Be 55

I’m happy to be 55.

I have been 55 since May, so no, I’m not celebrating a birthday. Well, maybe I am…I try to celebrate every day, to some extent. I’m having a glass of bubbly as I type…in the middle of the day, with lunch…that counts as a celebration, right?

And as I sit in a restaurant in Charlotte, awaiting the arrival of my friend, I eavesdrop and type. Yes, I will admit I’m eavesdropping. It was totally accidental at first, but then I realized I am likely hearing what I sounded like 16 or 17 years ago.

At the next table are three lovely women, all of whom clearly have young children at home. I know this, because they are talking about breastfeeding, playgroups, diapers, and toddlers. Seriously, listening to them, I’m thinking of what I would have sounded like at lunch or playgroup with my friends, Wendy, Jenn, Lauren, Neill, Suzanne, Kris, Myndi, and Jennifer back in the day. Same stuff, different moms. Time marches on.

And as I listen to them, I remember what fun times we had as moms of young children. Sure, we were exhausted most of the time. We dealt with various kids’ illnesses…stomach bugs, colds, flu, other viruses and bacterial infections, like strep throat on my daughter’s 4th birthday. But we, the moms, helped each other. We had great fun at each other’s homes, swimming pools, parties, playgrounds. We had lots of fun every time we gathered.

These days, our group of moms is older and fewer in number. Wendy passed away 4 1/2 years ago, breaking all our hearts. Lauren, Suzanne. Myndi, and Jennifer moved away but still stay in touch. The rest of us…me, Jenn, Kris, and Neill…well, we get together for dinner sans kids now! We always gather on Wendy’s birthday and the anniversary of her passing…we want to keep her memory alive. Sometimes, we plan a dinner for ourselves for no reason. And earlier this year, when Wendy’s kids were in town, we even managed to get a bunch of the kids together. But usually, it’s just the four moms gathering for dinner…and drinks! Because we can drink now without worrying that it will affect breast milk! We don’t have to worry that we will have to pick up kids somewhere, because most of them have gone off to college!

When we had little kids, we loved life. As I mentioned, we were exhausted. Oh, we were tired. But we were happy. We made great memories for our kids and ourselves, and we made some fantastic, lifelong friends. It was a great time of life.

But as I listen to the sweet moms at the table next to me, I am especially thankful that I am 55. I am thankful that my daughter and the children of my friends are adults…well, they’re adults living on our dime, but they can vote! I am thankful for all those years of fun with them at playgrounds, amusement parks, Wiggles shows, and more. I am thankful for the times my daughter thought I was the smartest, most beautiful mom on the planet.

Unfortunately, she no longer thinks I am the smartest, most beautiful mom on the planet. But she does think I’m reasonable. She knows I’m seasoned. She knows I give good advice. And she knows, most of all, that I love her dearly.

I’m 55, and our daughter is 19. It seems that I’ve always thought that, no matter what age we are, we think we are the perfect ages. So yes, I am smiling as I eavesdrop on the table next to me, but mostly I’m smiling that we have made it this far. I am thankful for every single day and every lesson we have learned along the way. I’m thankful for my “empty nester” status. I’m thankful to have a daughter who is happy in college. I’m happy I don’t have to wait for school holidays to go on vacation. Im thankful for all the knowledge I have acquired along the way. And I’m happy my daughter is coming home in a week for Thanksgiving break! And I hope we, meaning all the ladies like me who are 55, have lots more days, more fun, and more lessons ahead of us.

I’m thankful for those ladies at the next table, for making me realize how grateful I am for this stage of life.

Thank God I’m 55!

First College Birthday

First college birthday.

If you’ve ever read me, you know our daughter is a college freshman. She experienced her first college birthday yesterday, when she turned 19. Let’s hope it didn’t set a precedent for college birthdays.

She called me at 7:00 yesterday morning, the morning of her birthday, saying, “I woke up a little while ago and can’t go back to sleep.” She is more of a night owl than an early bird, and 7am is way too early for her to just “be awake.” I knew something was wrong. Because I knew she had been coughing a sniffling a little for a couple of days, I said, “Go get the thermometer out of your cabinet. I feel pretty sure you are running a fever.” Moms know these things. She checked her temperature, and sure enough, I was right…she had a fever of 100.9…a legit fever. I knew she had a COVID test in her supplies too, because I had purchased them along with $700 of other medical supplies before moving her into her dorm, so I said, “Take the test real quick, just to rule it out.” As soon as she had the negative result, I said, “Take some Tylenol and go back to bed.”

Seriously, it’s hard for a college student to be sick in a dorm instead of their own bed at home…especially a freshman, but not gonna lie…it’s hard for the moms too. I wanted to jump in the car or on a plane and get there as quickly as I could. I asked, “You need a mommy hug! Do you want me to come down and get us a hotel room for a few days? I can take care of you!” I explained that since my husband was out of town, it would have to be the next day, because I would need to board the dogs and get things in order, but I could do it. She said, “Absolutely not. I will be fine. I’ll figure it out, Mom.” I guess I did something right as a parent…somewhere, somehow, I taught her to “figure it out.”

She called me a few hours later and said she was feeling better and had gone to her 10:00 class. I knew it was the Tylenol in her system making her feel better, so I explained to her that she was likely to “hit a wall” soon. It was time for the meds to wear off, so I told her what else to take at that point.

It was sad. She had big plans for her birthday. She managed to drag herself to the Big/Little Reveal at her sorority house that evening, but she didn’t feel like going out to celebrate. Fortunately, she has made some great friends since she arrived on campus two months ago, and they went out and brought her a cookie cake to celebrate her birthday. They had all planned to go out to dinner, but that birthday dinner was postponed. And my daughter texted me, declaring her birthday a “do over.”

I’ve had “do over” birthdays, so I get it, and seriously, shouldn’t we all have the right to declare our birthday a do over?!? I think her “do over” has been rescheduled for this coming Saturday night. In reality, that will probably work better for her and all her friends, since it’s a weekend. They won’t have to worry about staying out late, because they don’t have class the next morning.

But last night, she called me after surviving her sick-away-from-home birthday and said, “I’m going to watch a movie and go to bed. What should I take?” I told her to take some NyQuil, and she took it while we were on the phone. Laughing between coughs and sniffles, she said, “I never thought I’d be taking a shot of NyQuil on my birthday.” After taking it, she settled in to watch Sense and Sensibility, a movie I have been trying to get her to watch, because it is one of my favorites of all time. Emma Thompson adapted the screenplay from the Jane Austen novel, and she did a fabulous job…plus, she’s the star. It’s an incredible film. My daughter, I think, is very much like the Marianne character. I want her to watch it to see the similarities and how Marianne changes in the story. I knew she would fall asleep before the first scene was over, because she had taken the NyQuil, but at least she was willing to try to watch it. Maybe I can get her to sit down and watch it tonight without NyQuil. ***You can rent or purchase Sense and Sensibility (the one from 1996) at Amazon Prime here.***

I’m just glad our favorite girl seems to be on the road to recovery. Maybe the illness kept her from getting into some kind of trouble or accident on her birthday? I like to try to find “sliding doors” (a reference to a movie called Sliding Doors, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, and you can also rent this on Amazon Prime here) logic in things, meaning little things that happen to change the timing on things can change the course of life. She’ll celebrate her birthday with friends this weekend, and when I get to town in about ten days, I’ll take her out to dinner with some of her friends…or not, if she’d rather just the two of us hang out.

I think it’s safe to say she will remember her first college birthday…the one that included taking a shot…of NyQuil. She was sick on her fourth birthday too…strep throat…and it made a lasting impression. I took her to a Disney on Ice Show, even though she had strep, because we weren’t going to be around anyone…and she threw up all over herself while we were there. She still talks about it. That one was a “do over” too.

Making memories…somehow those “not so great” birthdays make an impression.

Happy Mom

Happy Mom.

Call me crazy (you wouldn’t be the first). When our daughter was a toddler, a local amusement park made me a happy mom during the spring, summer, and early fall months.

Carowinds is a Cedar Fair amusement park in Charlotte known for its gigantic rollercoasters. Most moms roll their eyes at the thought of going to Carowinds, but not me. Carowinds saved me.

My husband and I first took our then 2-yr-old daughter to Carowinds on his 40th birthday. I had driven past the park many times and seen the rollercoasters. I will readily admit that I love rollercoasters, so Carowinds looked like a fun way to turn 40. I love a song by David Wilcox called Top of the Rollercoaster that was a metaphor for turning 30. Personally, I think it can be a metaphor for any of the big birthdays. You can hear it on Apple Music or listen to it here. My husband didn’t think Carowinds sounded like fun, but I talked him into it, and afterward, he was glad I did. No, we didn’t get to ride any rollercoasters that day…we had a toddler with us…but we had a great time! He rode the little boats with our daughter. I rode the little cars with her and the helicopter ride. We rode the Dora Train and yelled “Swiper, no swiping!” at the appropriate time. And our daughter laughed and laughed. And we all went to what we referred to as the “Dora Show.” It was a live show in the kiddie section of the park…based on the Dora the Explorer cartoon show. At the end, we all did the chicken dance with the rest of the crowd, and we laughed! It was a great day, and even though my husband thought he didn’t want to turn 40 there, he has great memories from that day.

My husband’s birthday is in May, and after we went on his birthday, I realized Carowinds would be a fun place to visit regularly. I just didn’t realize how regularly we would go.

We got season passes for all of us, and one morning in June, I got up and took our 2 1/2 year old daughter to Carowinds by myself. After we entered the front gate, I rented a stroller. The park’s strollers had steering wheels, and even though the steering wheels controlled absolutely nothing, our daughter enjoyed thinking she was in charge while I was pushing her around the park. And after that visit, I realized we were both happy there. No, I didn’t get to ride rollercoasters, but back then, the park was owned by Paramount, so some of our daughter’s favorite cartoon characters were roaming the park. She loved seeing Dora the Explorer, the Fairly Oddparents, Little Bill, and the characters from Spongebob Squarepants! Oh, we have so many pictures of her with them! She also loved riding the little rides in what we referred to as the “kiddie” section of the park…swings, a little rollercoaster, the boats, the cars, and the Dora Train. And she loved seeing the Dora the Explorer show at least once on every visit.

As for me, I loved being outside with a happy child for a few hours every day. Yes, I said every day, because after that, we visited every day that we were in town and weather permitted. With the season pass, it was a cheap way to spend a day. Sure, the food was pretty expensive, but we often had lunch right there in the park…always having French fries. She had at least one Icee on every visit, and sometimes, she enjoyed a frozen lemonade. I walked miles on every visit, pushing the stroller and chasing a toddler.

We went so often that Mr. Bob, the usher for the Dora the Explorer show, knew us. Seriously, we would walk in, and he would greet us like old friends. In fact, after we had seen the show 20 or 30 times, Mr. Bob would tell her, “If anyone doesn’t show up for the show today, we can let you stand in for them, because you know the whole show.”

Sometimes, our friends from our toddler playgroup would go with us, adding another element of fun.

We were, quite possibly, the best customers at Carowinds for several summers (yes, several summers, because we were regulars for several years), and I was a happy mom. I got out in the sunshine without worrying about my child in a pool! I got exercise with my happy toddler accompanying me! We played games (one summer, sometime between age four and six, she climbed the wiggly rope ladder to win a gigantic, stuffed purple dog!).

As she got taller, she could ride bigger rides…eventually the giant rollercoasters…new adventures for us to enjoy together!

And we made great memories. Seriously, I would not trade those summers for anything. They were some of my happiest times. I love being a stay-at-home-mom, but I didn’t enjoy being stuck at home all the time. I loved getting out with her on a regular basis, and Carowinds was an easy way to keep both of us happy.

Yes, Carowinds made me a happy mom.

To see more about Carowinds, click here.

Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day.

Something about Groundhog Day makes me a little introspective every year. I know…weird. Most people don’t even notice Groundhog Day, and they haven’t even thought about it since they were kids. Well, I’m not “most people.”For a variety of reasons, Groundhog Day has meaning to me.

My godmother was born on Groundhog Day. She passed away in April 2020, during the first round of pandemic shutdowns. On the day she died, a bluebird “harassed” me as I walked through our neighborhood. OK, “harassed” is a strong word. Maybe I should just say a bluebird followed me. It flew around me, and it landed on a mailbox in front of me, as if it were waiting for me to approach. As I got closer, it dropped down to the ground and just watched me…from really close. I thought it was odd at the time, but a couple of days later, I learned that my godmother had passed that day. She loved “bluebirds of happiness.” She had given my mother some glass bluebirds of happiness that I sent back to her after Mother died. Was the bluebird’s visit really a visit from her? I’ll never know, but Happy Heavenly Birthday to Cynthia!

Also on Groundhog Day, I started my blog in 2018, a little over a month after my mother passed away. I was nervous about putting myself out there, but I shouldn’t have been. Everyone I know has always been so supportive and gracious. And I’d like to think some of my own experiences have helped others. Plus, I have quite the record of crazy stories from my life for my daughter to read later…long after I’m gone.

When I was a little girl, I fell in love with the whole idea of Groundhog Day when my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Peavy, told us about it. I was five, and I was absolutely fascinated by the idea of a groundhog (which I had never seen in south Alabama) coming out to look for its shadow! And the idea that it would predict how much winter was left was incredible to me! I took it at face value. I truly believed that groundhog knew something the rest of us didn’t. Oh, to be five years old again! My five-year-old self was full of wonder and soaking it all in! And Groundhog Day gives me a day to remember what it felt like to be five years old. For the record, I did check on ol’ Punxsutawney Phil today. He saw his shadow, which means he predicts six more weeks of winter for us. I’m OK with that. Winter is short in the Carolinas. I need opportunities to wear my winter clothes and shoes!

And then, there’s the movie, Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. It’s a silly movie, of course. The whole idea of reliving the same day over and over and over is preposterous! But there are days I would love to live over and over…especially if I could alter the course they take on each subsequent day till I got it perfect. Remember how Murray’s character starts each day with his alarm clock playing Sonny and Cher’s I Got You, Babe? That song is, of course, a favorite from my childhood, when I would spend one night a week watching The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour in front of our big, Zenith console TV in the family den. The duo ended every episode with that song, and sometimes, they would bring out their cute little girl, Chastity, to sing with them. But it’s not the song that makes the movie special. It’s just a way of letting the viewer know the same day is being replayed. It’s the whole concept that I love…keep doing it over and over till you get it right. I would have a hard time picking what day I would want to live over and over, if I could pick.

But for all the joy and good memories Groundhog Day brings me, I know there are people who have lost loved ones on this day…one family, in particular, who lost their 16-year-old daughter/sister eight years ago. I know it’s a heartbreaking day for them and many others out there. So every Groundhog Day, I say a little prayer for them. As much as these types of anniversaries can be difficult, sometimes they bring us peace, as they force us to remember the loved one.

Whatever Groundhog Day means to you, I hope you see some bluebirds of happiness instead of your shadow.

Ten-Year Challenge

Ten-year challenge.

Anyone who is on Facebook has seen the posts over the last few days with this hashtag: #tenyearchallenge. I don’t know where it started, but I’ve seen a lot of posts. If you’re not familiar with it, the “challenge” is to post a photo of yourself from 10 years ago next to a current photo. Yes, I finally gave in and did it too…posting a photo of me and my friend, Angela, from 10 years ago (at a New Orleans Saints/Detroit Lions playoff game) and a current photo of us at a Bama/New Mexico State game in November.

It was a little daunting to consider taking the “challenge.” Just recently, I was talking with some friends about how we feel like time is catching up with us in the last five or ten years. I can certainly look in the mirror and see more lines on my face and more lumps on my body. I got a good laugh out of it with my friends, but come on…we’re 54. It’s OK to start feeling some aging when we’re 54! My gosh! I’ve earned these wrinkles and lumps! I’ve especially earned every laugh line on my face…and that’s mostly what they are…laugh lines, because I spend a lot of time laughing. If I’m not laughing, I’m not doing something right.

But as we discussed our “aging,” I reminded my friends and myself of some things. First, there’s the obvious: wrinkles and lumps are better than “the alternative.” After all, we are still here, and we have some friends who are not. I know my friend, Wendy, who died before her 47th birthday and should have turned 50 this year, would love to be here laughing with me. Every time someone complains about turning 50, I remind them that my Wendy would have loved to make it to 50. And every single day, I find something we would have laughed about, or there’s something I would have liked to share with her. That puts things in perspective. She left behind two kids who were 14 and 12 at the time she passed away in 2018. They would have loved to have her for another 10 years.

And secondly: we’re supposed to age. We are not supposed to look the same at 54 as we did at 44 or 34 or 24. My daughter is 18, and she is living proof of the difference ten years can make. Just think about how much she has grown between the ages of eight and eighteen! Why do we think time should stand still for us, as adults, when we can look at what time does for the growth of kids? And why can’t we look at our “aging” as continued “growth”? At what point do we stop looking at it as growth? If I know one thing, I know I’m still growing. Yes, I’m growing a little older, but I’m also growing in wisdom…and I know that to be true. I know that, at 54, I understand some things I used to think were so important just aren’t that important in the overall scheme of things. In fact, I feel like I learn something new every day. In my opinion, if I’m still learning, I’m still growing.

Too bad the #tenyearchallenge can’t show the compilation of memories we have from the last ten years. It can’t show the skills we have picked up along the way. Those photos don’t show the experience that I can bring to different situations. And it can’t show how much more wisdom we have than we had ten years ago. Ten years ago, our daughter was in second grade, and I thought everything about second grade was important. It wasn’t. I’m here to tell you…it wasn’t. If you have a second grader, take note: lots of what you think is important just isn’t. The most important part of second grade? Social learning. If I had known what I know now, I wouldn’t have cared about her “reading record.” I wouldn’t have tortured her by forcing her to do her “required summer reading” in elementary school. Because that’s what it was…torture. I’d have sent her off to the first day of school with that brand new, unread book in her backpack, and I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. Instead, I let the “required summer reading” ruin the last few days of summer…time we should have been enjoying together. I also wouldn’t have made her go on field trips she didn’t want to go on…even in middle school. And you know why? Because I’m wise enough to know now that none of that really matters. At 54, I also have the wisdom to know I should be doing the things I want to do instead of what other people want me to do. I should be planning vacations to Panama, Costa Rica, and Mexico City. I should be planning a road trip on Route 66. I should be visiting airplane graveyards in the desert. And I plan to take some of those trips this year, providing COVID doesn’t mess everything up. At 54, I know life is short…live it.

Sure, I likely had some of that knowledge ten years ago, but I know I didn’t have all that knowledge. I’m much wiser at 54 than I was at 44. Just ask me.

Some folks call it aging. I call it growth.

Motherhood

Motherhood.

I awoke at 3:00 this morning…wide awake. Taking a peek at the clock, I realized immediately it was my late mother’s birthday. And I couldn’t go back to sleep. The same thing happened to me on the first anniversary of her passing. I couldn’t sleep.

As I lay in bed, my brain started going crazy. That’s rare for me. I’m a person who can hit the pillow and fall asleep. Usually, when I wake up, I simply roll over and go back to sleep…many times a night, in fact. But this morning, at 3:00, I could not go back to sleep. I started thinking about my mother and how much she loved being a mother. Then I started thinking about how much I love being a mother. I truly believe it is the right job for me, and it’s certainly the single most important job I’ve ever done. I’ve certainly given it my all…just as I learned to do from my own mother, who gave us her all. She was a registered nurse by trade, but in her heart, what she always wanted to do was be a mom. And she was a damn good one. She would drop anything to help us or our friends. She made sure we were exposed to different cultures, different places, and different experiences. She volunteered at school and our extracurricular activities. She prepared meals and snacks for us and any of our friends who showed up at our house…all the time. Clearly, I did a lot of thinking last night.

After all that thinking, it occurred to me that our daughter will be a full-time resident of our home for less than a year. This time next year, she likely will be a few weeks into her first semester of college. It’s exciting for her, and it’s exciting for us. But until she goes off to college, I want to continue being a full-time mother, the best job in the world. I’m sure there are people out there who think it’s not important, but for me, absolutely nothing is more important.

And because I realized at that moment that my full-time mom career will be coming to an end when she goes to college, I needed to be closer to her. Sounds weird, but at that moment, I just needed to be “mommy” in the middle of the night again, so I went upstairs and crawled into bed with her. She stirred a little before rolling over and asking, “What are you doing here?” I explained how I was feeling, and she gave me a big hug and told me to stay the rest of the night. So I did. She intertwined her feet with mine like she did when she was a little girl, what we used to call “tucking in” her feet. She held my hand, more for my sake than her own, and we both fell fast asleep.

My own mother was always there for us in the middle of the night. Bad dream? I’d wake up Mother. Thirsty? I’d wake up Mother. Simply didn’t want to be the only one awake at night? I’d walk into her room and wake up Mother, asking her to go to the kitchen with me. We would sit there while I drank a little water. She likely had a cup of coffee…yes, she drank coffee in the middle of the night. It wasn’t that I needed water…I really just needed my mother. Last night, I guess I just needed to be a mother.

For years, our daughter would call for me in the middle of the night if she woke up. Or if she had a bad dream. Or if she didn’t feel well. Or if she just needed Mommy. At 17, she doesn’t do that anymore. Rarely, if she isn’t feeling well, she will call downstairs for me to come up. And on those nights, I do whatever it takes to make her feel better…a cold compress or warm compress, Motrin, Drip Drop (a rehydrating beverage), or just rub her feet or knees (growing pains). While I never want her to feel badly, I’m always happy to go up and help her.

She’s still my baby, and I’m still a full-time mom…for less than or year or so, anyway…just like my mother was to me. Today, on what should have been Mother’s 82nd birthday, I’ll be taking bottled water to my daughter’s cheerleading squad at the away football game…just like my mother used to do. And after I get home from the football game, I’ll have a little cocktail and make a toast to Mother’s birthday.

Happy Heavenly Birthday to Mother.

Who Is Thinking of You Right Now?

Who is thinking of you right now? I had to go to the grocery store two nights ago. On the way there, something made me think of a boy I grew up with …a boy who passed away a few years ago. I don’t even remember what made me think of him…maybe a song? When I arrived at the grocery store, I grabbed a cart and started shopping. I hadn’t been to the grocery store in a while, so I needed lots of perishables…eggs, pepperoni (a staple in our house), cheese, sour cream, butter, etc.

I picked up the first perishable item (the very important pepperonis) and checked the date, only to find it was dated with the birthday of the boy I had been thinking of earlier! It felt serendipitous, so I smiled and just thought of it as a God-wink. I kept shopping, and as I did, I noticed a trend: every perishable I picked up was dated with the birthday of someone who had impacted my life in some way. One item had a college friend’s birthday. Another had a childhood neighbor’s birthday. Yet another was dated with my daddy’s birthday. It went on and on, and each time I saw a different birthday, I smiled to myself and remembered something about the person whose birthday was on each item. When I saw my college friend’s birthday, I thought of ordering delivery from Wings & Things. My childhood friend’s birthday made me think of playing on the swings in elementary school. My daddy’s birthday…well, that just made me think of him.

Later that night, I received a text from a friend I met in California a couple of years ago. I tend to talk to everyone I see, so I make friends that live in different cities. This particular friend is bi-coastal, living in New York and Los Angeles. (Don’t get all weird on me now…my husband is very aware of this friend and enjoyed watching him in the FX documentary, Hip Hop Uncovered, which I highly recommend, but that’s a story for another day. See the trailer here. You can watch the documentary on Hulu now.) I rarely hear from him. But the text on Wednesday night simply said, “Hi Kelly! How you been?” I smiled and replied with, “I’m doing great! How about you, my friend?” We had a brief text exchange, and afterward, I thought about how often we all think of someone and never let them know. All those friends whose birthdays appeared on my perishables have no idea I was thinking of them that moment in the grocery store. If my friend in California hadn’t texted me, I’d have never known I had crossed his mind.

So now, I think I need to sit down and make a list of those birthdays from the grocery store. I need to reach out to those friends whose birthdays made me smile in the dairy aisle of my local store. I need to tell them I’ve had them on my mind. I need to tell them I’ve been thinking of them.

I have lost several friends to COVID over the past couple of months, and my only regret is that I didn’t reach out to them more often. Maybe my grocery store trip combined with my message from my California friend is God’s way of telling me to reach out. It will make me happy, and it might just bring a little happiness to someone else just to know someone is thinking of them. Don’t we all like to think friends and family have good memories of us or just think of us every now and then? Remember those old Bell System “Reach out and touch someone” commercials from the late 70s (see one here) and AT&T in the 1980s (see one here that features the late Janet Carroll, the mom from Risky Business)? Maybe we should remember that…and actually reach out, even if it’s just a simple text asking “How you been?”

My Food/Beverage Guilty Pleasures

My food/beverage guilty pleasures.

I don’t know if everyone has food and beverage guilty pleasures, but I definitely do. There are some things I simply cannot pass up…and some things I crave. I have some guilty pleasures that are labeled as guilty pleasures simply because of the calorie content. But I have other guilty food and beverage pleasures that are guilty pleasures because they are trashy and cheap.

When I was pregnant in 2003, I craved birthday cake. No, not expensive birthday cakes. I craved the, as we called them, “el cheapo” birthday cakes from the local grocery store. I don’t know if it was the cake part or the frosting, but I craved them…and I treated myself once a week. Actually, my husband would pick up a small birthday cake, labeled a “patty cake,” once a week when he went to the store. He was a regular at the grocery store, so we used to laugh and laugh at the conversations the employees likely had every time he walked out with another cake…they probably thought he had a whole house full of kids. Nope…just one pregnant wife.

These days, if I crave a quick and easy cake, it’s more likely to be one from Nothing Bundt Cakes. Holy smokes, those things are good! We joke at our house that they must put some secret addictive ingredient in them, because once you have one, you keep craving them. If you haven’t had one, you should. They have store locations in lots of places. We are fortunate to have a couple of different locations in the Charlotte area, and one is just a few miles from our house. We don’t go often, but when we do, we stock up! Our personal favorite? The chocolate/chocolate chip with cream cheese frosting. We also like the Raspberry/White Chocolate. Oh, who am I kidding?! We wouldn’t turn down any of them! To see the website for Nothing Bundt Cakes, click here.

But I am a little ashamed to say I crave some cakes that are even cheaper than the regular grocery store cakes. Cheaper than a grocery store cake? And more embarrassing? Yep. Here’s my embarrassing cake guilty pleasure: Hostess Birthday Cupcakes. You likely remember the Hostess Chocolate Cupcakes with the white swirls you’d see in stores as a kid…they came in packs of two. Well, Hostess also makes Birthday Cupcakes. They taste, to me, like Twinkies with cheap frosting on top…but I’m not gonna lie…I’m completely addicted to them. I think about them all the time, but I only buy them once every few months. Each little cupcake in the two-pack has 180 calories, so I must refrain on a regular basis. But sometimes…I give in and go buy some. I’m not going to tell you where I buy them locally, because well, I want to be able to find them when I want them, but you can look on the Hostess website here. In truth, when I browse the Hostess website, I see there are lots of Hostess brand treats I’d love to try. But since I only allow myself to have those treat every couple of months, it will likely be a while before I can try them all. Does anyone else remember having Honeybuns as breakfast or snacks as a kid? Hostess makes them!

My cookie guilty pleasure comes from Tiff’s Treats in Charlotte. I discovered this place when someone sent me a box of them a year or two ago. My daughter and I couldn’t stop eating them! These cookies are yummy! My favorite flavor? The M&M cookies…they take me back to my childhood when my aunt used to make them. What makes Tiff’s Treats even better? They deliver! If you join them as an “elite” member, you even get free delivery and monthly specials! And if you send them to someone, you can also send cold milk or ice cream! I highly recommend this guilty pleasure. Check them out online here.

I also have a fried food guilty pleasure. All my friends know what it is, because I order it any time we go to Ilios Noche. If you haven’t visited Ilios Noche on Providence Road in South Charlotte, it’s high time you did. And when you do, order this guilty pleasure: Zucchini and Eggplant Chips. You’ll thank me later. They are lightly breaded and fried and served with tzatziki. You’ll keep going back for them, no doubt. See the Ilios Noche website here.

Other food guilty pleasures? Chips and salsa from Paco’s Tacos and Tequila in Charlotte, The Bento Box from Cowfish in Charlotte, soufflés from a favorite restaurant, and the Hazelnut cookie from a favorite restaurant. I could tell you where they are, but then they’d likely disappear before I could ever get them…some guilty pleasures should remain a secret, I suppose.

Now I’m likely to really disgust some of you with my beverage guilty pleasure. No, it’s not Mountain Dew or any other super sugary soda. It’s not Kool Aid, Hawaiian Punch, or Hi-C. I will readily admit I loved Kool-Aid as a kid. Everyone did in the 70s…if your mother allowed you to have it. Ours definitely did. In fact, I drank so much grape Kool-Aid that…embarrassing as this is…my poop turned blue. It’s true. Yikes! But back to the topic at hand…my embarrassing guilty beverage pleasure is a drink called Verdi Sparkletini. You likely haven’t heard of it, and that’s because it’s not something you’d likely buy. It is sold in the wine aisle, but the label calls it a “malt beverage.” It’s usually less than $6 a bottle. Go ahead and laugh. I know it’s cheap and trashy. And I think you are supposed to chill the bottle and serve it. However, I was introduced to it last summer when someone I know (I won’t let her secret out) served it to me over ice. Now, I’m not a beverage snob, so I didn’t care, and I was happy to try it…lucky for me! That day, we had the watermelon flavor, but they also make a yummy raspberry flavor and a peach flavor. In all seriousness, served over ice, they taste like spritzers. I offered one to a friend last summer at the beach, and she turned her nose up at it, telling me, “That cheap stuff gives me headaches.” I begged her to try it, and after we finished the bottle, we were both really relaxed…and neither of us ever got a headache! In fact, my friend ended up liking it so much that she secretly purchases a bottle every couple of days! Check your local grocery stores in the sparkling wine aisle (even thought I’m not sure it’s really wine). And it won’t turn your poop blue!

Oh, how I love my guilty food and beverage pleasures! Did I mention Guthrie’s chicken fingers that I have to pick up and bring home in a cooler any time I drive through Opelika, Alabama? Yeah…that’s a little embarrassing…I run into the restaurant (it’s co-branded with a gas station) and order the big bucket of chicken fingers. Then while they’re getting those ready, I run over to the gas station section and purchase a bag of ice and a styrofoam cooler. I fill up the cooler with the ice and put them in my car before I run back into Guthrie’s to get the chicken fingers. I put them on ice and drive the rest of the way to Charlotte! My daughter meets me at the door for those Guthrie’s chicken fingers every time! See their website here.

Now I’m feeling the need to drive to Opelika…

Memories of a 1970s Childhood

Memories of a 1970s Childhood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Birthday

My birthday.

Today is my birthday. Everyone who knows me knows I love my birthday in a crazy way. I can’t help it. It’s my day, and I love it.

My daughter is fully aware of how much I love my birthday. She woke up this morning and texted me before I was even awake. Apparently my husband took coffee up to her before bringing me coffee this morning…to give me a few extra minutes of sleep. His bringing me coffee is not a birthday thing; I’m fortunate that he brings me coffee in bed every day, which makes every day feel like a birthday, I guess. But today really is my birthday.

When my daughter texted me from upstairs this morning, she said, “Happy Birthday to the best mom ever!” I replied, “Thank you! I love you!” She replied, “Love you more!” I responded with “You have no idea how much I love you. One day, when you have a child of your own, you will understand.” And that’s the absolute truth. I always knew my mother and daddy loved me, but once I had my own child, I fully understood the depth of their love for me. So when she says “love you more,” I always think, “Just you wait till you have your own child.” Always.

Birthdays are funny like that. I love celebrating, but I also love reflecting on previous birthdays.

Last year on this day, I was in Los Angeles with my friend, Meg. My “birthday twin,” Chiko, was getting married on our shared birthday. Chiko and I call ourselves “birthday twins,” because we share a birthday. No, we aren’t the same age. In fact, she is far younger than I am. She is also far taller, and she is drop-dead gorgeous. Add in the fact that I’m from Alabama, and she is from Nigeria, and we are some interesting “twins.” She is, quite possibly, one of the kindest people…and funniest people… I’ve ever known. I was fortunate to be invited to her wedding, and I took my friend, Meg, as my “plus one.” My teenage daughter had final exams, and my husband stayed home with her. It was a glorious wedding/reception, and Chiko was the most beautiful bride! I’ve written about it before, because a Nigerian wedding is a real event! Wow! And the food! We made new friends and tried new foods…a most memorable wedding and memorable birthday.

This year is a much quieter birthday, partly because of the pandemic, and partly because it’s raining all day in Charlotte. I’m perfectly happy with a quiet birthday. My daughter eventually came downstairs this morning and snuggled in bed with me, and I told her, “This right here is the perfect birthday gift…just getting to be with you.” And it made me think of my mother. It sounded like something she would have said. I’ve been a mother for 16 years, so now I fully understand why my mother felt that way…because she loved me more than I ever could have imagined.

So I’ll enjoy a quiet birthday with my little family. It’s also National Sunscreen Day, but we definitely don’t need sunscreen in Charlotte today, since there’s not a chance the clouds are going to lift. We’ll stay in and be quiet today, but that doesn’t mean I can’t keep celebrating for at least a week (or a month)! I’ll need that sunscreen soon!

Happy Birthday to me!