Top of the Rollercoaster

Top of the rollercoaster.

David Wilcox, a folk musician/singer-songwriter from Cleveland, Ohio, released a song in 1991 called Top of the Rollercoaster, a song about riding a rollercoaster on a 30th birthday as a metaphor for life. “It’s the moment of truth, the top of your youth…when you tip the top of the rollercoaster, look down the other side.” (To hear the song, click here.) Lucky for me, it came out several years before I turned 30, so I could listen to it on my 30th birthday and feel like it was written for me. However, unlike the song, which proclaims “it’s all downhill from here,” I didn’t look at turning 30 as the “top of my youth;” I looked at it as a new beginning. And honestly, my life got better after 30. But that’s not really what I want to discuss. I want to talk about rollercoasters, because at the age of 53, I still love them.

Don’t most of us remember our first rollercoaster ride? I don’t mean those little rollercoasters like Thunder Mountain at Disney. I don’t even mean rollercoasters like The Rock-n-Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios or Space Mountain at Disney. If those are the most exciting rollercoasters you’ve ridden, I hate to break it to you…they don’t even count. They’re not thrilling. Sure, they’re a little fun, but definitely aren’t thrilling. When I get off those rides, I don’t have the same “high” as I have when I step off the Intimidator or the Fury 325 at Carowinds…or even Goliath at Six Flags Over Georgia. So when I say we likely remember our first rollercoaster ride, I mean a ride on a real rollercoaster…a thrill ride.

The year was 1976. It was the year of America’s Bicentennial, and I had turned nine years old in May…just as school was getting out for summer. I had been to Six Flags Over Georgia countless times with my family, and since 1973, I had been watching people disembark from the Great American Scream Machine, which at the time was the longest (3800 ft), tallest (105 ft), fastest (57 mph) rollercoaster in the world. It was a giant wooden coaster, and for a long time, I was terrified of it. But that summer…the Bicentennial summer…I decided I could ride it. I was standing with my family, watching riders disembark when Daddy asked me if I wanted to try it. I answered, “Yes,” and we got in line. The line for the Scream Machine was always long in those days, and there were no fast passes, so we waited…and I’m sure I changed my mind a dozen times before we ever boarded the coaster, but when it was our turn, I followed Daddy right into that coaster seat.

If you’ve ever ridden a wooden coaster, you know it’s not as smooth as a steel coaster. The first hill seems “rickety,” with the noise of the chain pulling the train up, and the “clickety-clack” of the tracks as you wait to reach the top. I was terrified, but I was excited at the same time. Back then, though, safety mechanisms weren’t what they are now. In my memory, there was nothing tight around my waist to hold me firmly in my seat. I recall a loose chain across my lap and a metal bar that bounced with every bump. Just as we reached the peak of the first hill, the train lurched forward as it started its descent. I weighed less than 50 pounds, and I felt like I was going to fall out of the car. I yelled to Daddy, “Push the bar down!” But he just laughed as we continued the bumpy ride. Once I knew I had survived the first big hill, I knew I could survive the rest, but it was scary…and exhilarating.

The ride ended back at the station after an exhilarating two minutes and twenty seconds. I had survived. I had ridden my first major rollercoaster and lived to tell about it. I feel sure I was giggling as we got off the ride, and I probably talked about it on the walk back up to the top of the hill near the entrance, where my mother was waiting. And then, like any coaster enthusiast, I said, “Let’s do it again!” I’ve never looked back. What an adrenaline rush! And every time I ride a rollercoaster, I remember that day in the summer of ’76.

Fortunately, my own daughter is a rollercoaster enthusiast. When she was a little girl, she would cry, because she wasn’t tall enough to ride the coasters at our local amusement park, Carowinds, which was owned by Paramount at the time, and then purchased by Cedar Fair Parks. As soon as she was tall enough, we rode them all the time…for years. When the old log flume ride was removed from the park in 2010 to make way for the Intimidator, a rollercoaster with a height of 232 feet that goes 80 mph, we had to work up the nerve to ride it, but once we did, we never looked back. And then, five years later, the Fury 325 debuted. Reaching a maximum speed of 95 mph and with a height of 325 feet, it looked daunting. But the first time we rode it, we rode in the second seat. The next time? Front car with my friend, Angela, and her daughter, Hannah…and it was a big adrenaline rush! My daughter was 11, and Hannah was 13…and we loved the ride! In fact, every time I’ve ever ridden it, it has been a big adrenaline rush. I feel pretty sure that if I can ride that coaster, I can ride just about any coaster anywhere.

About 34 years after that Bicentennial summer and my first major coaster ride, I took my daughter to Six Flags Over Georgia. She was six. She wanted to ride the Great American Scream Machine as soon as she saw it. So while my friend, Wendy, and her daughter watched, we boarded the same rollercoaster that was my first major rollercoaster, and it became my daughter’s first major rollercoaster too. The ride was even more bumpy that I remembered, but she loved it. She was laughing when we got off the coaster and wanted to get back in line immediately…like mother, like daughter. Maybe one day, my daughter will have a daughter whose first coaster will be the Great American Scream Machine. A weird family tradition, for sure.

Going back to David Wilcox’s song, maybe when he said “it’s all downhill from here,” he didn’t mean it was all going to be bad. Maybe he meant it was all going to be fun…a rush…exhilarating. Now that I think about it, I prefer that version. Because honestly, I’ve done my best living after 30. Well…there were those four college years in the 80s, between the ages of 18 and 22…those were pretty awesome too. But there’s something special about being over 30. And if you haven’t turned 50 yet…just wait…it’s great too.

Are rollercoaster rides good metaphors for life? I don’t know. But I do know rollercoasters are fun, and they make me feel young! I’ll be glad when Carowinds is open again! Till then, maybe we’ll even make a trip down to the Atlanta area to visit Six Flags Over Georgia and ride the Great American Scream Machine again…they’re open on a “reservations only” basis! They’re even offering BACKWARD rides on the Scream Machine for a limited time!

We love rollercoasters!

If you’d like to virtually experience the Great American Scream Machine, click here.

Remember Leif Garrett?

Remember Leif Garrett?

Yes, this is on my mind today…Leif Garrett. He was a teen idol when I was a preteen in the 1970s. He had been on a couple of TV shows…Three for the RoadFamily (with Kristy McNichol), and a guest spot on Wonder Woman. He had a singing career with a hit in I Was Made for Dancing. He was in the Walking Tall movies. He was on American Bandstand. And he even had his very own TV special on CBS. All that happened before he was 18.

I don’t even know why I started thinking about Leif Garrett yesterday. Sometimes, I start looking for movies I liked as a child or teenager, and yesterday, I thought of a coming-of-age film from the 80s called Little Darlings, starring Kristy McNichol and Tatum O’Neal. Somehow, that made me think of Leif Garrett.

Oh, he was such a dreamboat at the time! With his flowing blonde locks and surfer-boy looks, lots of teenage girls had his posters all over their bedrooms. Back then, we had Teen Beat and Tiger Beat magazines (remember those?) to keep us up-to-date on our teen idols, and in the late 70s, Leif Garrett was at the top of the list. But as we all know, most teen idols don’t last. Most are a flash in the pan…including Garrett. But there was something different about him. He had charisma that the others didn’t have. Well, David Cassidy had it, but I can’t think of anyone else from my time who had the same X Factor as Cassidy and Garrett. Somehow, David Cassidy managed to reinvent himself as an adult in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on Broadway, but the only place we’ve seen Garrett was Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew…sadly.

I’ve seen clips and read articles about him over the last 24 hours, and his story is tragic. He started acting in commercials as a child before moving into TV and movies. At some point, a management team decided to make him a singing star. With his charisma, Garrett was a walking dollar sign. He felt like he had no say in his own career and told Rosie O’Donnell on her show that he didn’t see a lot of the money from his fame.

But the real turning point in his life was a tragic car accident when he was 17. He was driving his Porsche, and a friend was riding with him. They had an accident, and the friend was left paralyzed from the waist down. Alcohol and drugs were involved. All terrible. It’s also something that could happen to lots of teens…a cautionary tale.

It’s tragic. The friend’s paralysis is tragic. The guilt and downward spiral afterward of Garrett are tragic too. Had he not been in show business, would this have happened? It’s an ugly business. Tragic. He became an addict…cocaine, heroin…sad. Was it the guilt of the accident that sent him over the edge? He made some bad choices, but this was a kid who had too much freedom and too much power too early. Who could handle that at 17? Fame and money make a strange life for a teen. Even good people can get caught up in the trappings of fame. Drugs plus guilt…perfect storm.

I am not diagnosing Garrett. I am not a psychologist. I just wonder what could have been. I look at that innocent face of the 1970s, and I want him to have a mother or someone else to keep him grounded. Had he been more closely supervised, and had he not chosen to drive under the influence that night, would his life have spiraled out of control? It’s sad to look at the photos of that sunkissed, young, hopeful teen and know what a terrible turn his life took. I don’t think he was a horrible individual. He was a teenager without boundaries. He’s likely not a horrible individual now, but wow, he has had a tough life. If he had stayed clean, would he be living a “normal” life now? We will never know. Some teen idols go on to have seemingly healthy lives, but the vast majority seem to have more issues than the “average” kid.

So that brings me to Garrett’s book, released at the end of 2019. Of course, I didn’t know about it then, and I didn’t hear about it earlier this year. With COVID in our midst, there hasn’t been a lot of press about the memoirs of former teen idols. But when I learned about it yesterday, I ordered it from Amazon, and I’ve read a couple of chapters, and it’s pretty darn good so far. It’s called Idol Truth: A Memoir. Yes, I will be the first to admit that I tend to be sympathetic. I’m a bleeding heart. I tend to want the best for people, and I’m sure I will still want the best for Garrett when I finish this book. If you’re interested, you can order from Amazon here. It will be available on the Audible app on August 11…I’ve already preordered it.

In the meantime, I’ll give my teenage daughter some extra hugs and be grateful that she’s a normal teenage girl living a normal life in North Carolina…not a teen idol. And I’ll tell her the story of Leif Garrett as a cautionary tale. I’ll tell her how quickly his life spiraled out of control, and hopefully, we will both learn some valuable lessons from Garrett’s experience.

Revisit Walnut Grove

Revisit Walnut Grove. 

Last week, I was working on a project, and for background noise, I wanted something relaxing. I didn’t want to listen to the news. I didn’t want to hear stupid talk shows. I didn’t need to know anything else about the pandemic…no real life, thank you very much. I started flipping through the channels, and I came upon an episode of Little House on the Prairie. I stopped flipping channels, and I decided to record it. I found two more upcoming episodes and recorded those too, and then I changed to a relaxing music channel, saving the shows for later.

When I was a little girl, I loved Little House on the Prairie. I loved the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. My parents gave them to me for Christmas one year. And I loved the TV show. The TV show premiered in September 1974, when I was seven years old, and I was the perfect age to think it was the greatest show ever! Anyone who was a little girl at the time probably remembers the Holly Hobbie dolls that became popular in 1975…likely due, in my opinion, to the popularity of the Little House on the Prairie TV show. But Holly Hobbie is a discussion for another time. As for Little House, I loved watching the life of Laura Ingalls and her family in the “wilderness.” 

I looked forward to it every week…for a couple of years anyway.  The show was on for nine seasons, but I didn’t watch it for those nine years. Little girls become preteens and teenagers, and tastes change; as a preteen and teen, I thought I was way too cool for Little House on the Prairie and stopped watching.

And then I grew up.

I went to middle school, high school, and I don’t think I watched another episode during that time. I went off to college, and after my junior year, I had an internship at a small town newspaper. I would go home every evening and watch an episode of Little House on the Prairie. I was growing up, I guess…I no longer thought I was too cool for the show. And every night, at some point during the show, I would cry. What the heck? The show, with its life lessons, would always elicit an emotional response. 

So last night, my husband and I settled in to watch a little TV before going to sleep, and I said, “I’ve recorded a couple of shows I think we should watch!” Was he thrilled when I said it was Little House on the Prairie? No, but we watched anyway. And he enjoyed watching it as much as I did. Yes, I cried. We watched back to back episodes titled Sylvia, parts 1 and 2, and they are heart wrenching episodes about a teenage girl being raised by her daughter. Sylvia, the character for whom the episodes are named, is a teenage girl being raised by her father. There are lots of twists and turns to the story, but she becomes pregnant as the result of a sexual assault. Albert Ingalls, the adopted son of the Ingalls family, is in love with her, and they plan to marry, even though they are mere teenagers…oh, it just gets worse after that. Heartbreaking.

My husband watched it, and even liked the show, but when I cried at the end, he did what he always does when I cry over a television show…he made fun of me.

Afterward, I posted on Facebook that we had watched a couple of episodes of Little House on the Prairie, and I was shocked at the number of responses! Lots of my friends said how they loved the show. One mentioned that Michael Landon, the actor who played Charles Ingalls, was easy on the eyes…indeed! Another said it was her favorite show of all time. And yet another mentioned Alison Arngrim, the actress who played the incorrigible Nellie Oleson. 

My friend, Nikki, who lives in Alabama, somehow knew that Alison Arngrim is reading the books on Facebook Live, so I checked it out, and oh my! It’s worth tuning in! As it turns out, the girl who played the incorrigible Nellie Oleson, is actually a hilarious adult! To see one of her Facebook Live readings, click here. And while you’re at Arngrim’s Facebook page, look around! She also has a comedy show where she dishes about the secrets of the show! That one requires the purchase of an online “ticket,” but I’m thinking it might be worth it after watching her hilarious readings.

If you decide to revisit Walnut Grove by watching some old episodes of Little House on the Prairie, just be forewarned that you’re likely to cry, and you might just become addicted. I’m likely to be watching it for months!  And if you want some of the behind-the-scenes dirt, check out Alison Arngrim on Facebook!

 

 

 

 

Happy-Up the House

Happy-up the house.

Everybody’s sick of being home right now. It’s not just me. It’s not just you. It’s everybody.  I’ve said before that every day, I wake up wondering if this is all a bad dream. It’s not. It’s reality.

But here’s the thing: it doesn’t have to be terrible.

I spend a lot of time trying to think of ways to make things a little happier around here. We’re playing music throughout the house on a regular basis. We’re spending a lot of time out in the sun on the patio on warmer days. My daughter and I strung some LED lights around her bedroom doors and windows…she can change the colors with a remote…pink, blue, violet, red…all kinds of colors. We’ve been baking. I’m constantly looking online for different ideas to brighten up things around our house. What can I do to make it seem a little more festive around here?

Last week, it was Krispy Kreme doughnuts all the time. Looking for somewhere…anywhere…to go, I would leave after dark and drive to the nearest Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, and my daughter would gladly go with me. The last time we went, we got a dozen of their spring mini doughnuts. Yum. That added a little happiness for a while. I’ve ordered cupcakes, cookies…you name it.

And then, I was scrolling through Instagram and saw a picture of someone’s pool, and it had floating light balls in it! Immediately, I knew I had to have them! I went straight to Amazon and typed in “floating light balls.” Wow! There were lots of them to choose from, so I set about reading every review I could possibly read in a reasonable amount of time.

Within an hour or so, I had found the solar-powered color changing floating light balls I wanted, and I placed an order for four. You can order here. What makes a swimming pool more festive at night than color-changing light balls? In placing my order, I also discovered that not only can you use them in the pool, but you can also hang them! Each ball has a loop on top, so you can hang them from trees, eaves, posts…anywhere! I could hardly wait for them to arrive! I knew my husband would think I was absolutely nuts, but when have I ever let that stop me before?

A few days later, they were delivered to our home. The next morning, I woke up, and started opening the box. My husband asked me what it was, and when I said, “You’re going to think I’m crazy. It’s something for the pool.” When I told him the box contained floating light balls,  interestingly, he didn’t think I was crazy at all! He also didn’t help me blow them up. Each one is about 15 inches in diameter, and I blew them up while we watched the morning news. He did look at me several times and say, “You’re going to get a headache.” But I didn’t. Once I had them all inflated, I hurried outside to put them in the pool. Since they are solar powered, I wanted them out there all day to absorb as much sunlight as possible so we could enjoy them in the evening.

And guess what? We’ve sat outside on the patio having cocktails every night since, and those balls of light are glorious! And happy! It adds an element of happiness to our backyard! I’m so glad I ordered them, and secretly, I think my husband is too! Our daughter loves them, and she and I agreed I need to order more to hang from the front eaves of the poolhouse, so I ordered more to hang from the eave. They should arrive in a few days, and they will add a little more happiness. And when summer is over, and we aren’t using the patio as much, maybe I will use them as Christmas decor in the trees in the front yard!

I’m still thinking about other inexpensive ways to brighten things up around here while we’re stuck at home. If you have any ideas, please send them my way!

Tell Me Something Positive

Tell me something positive.

We all need to hear positivity! We’ve been listening to the news too much. We’ve all been holed up in our own homes for almost a week now, and we’re hearing bad news all the time. Personally, I’m hoping the outlook is brighter than we think. I like to think we are going to come out of this stronger than ever, and if you doubt that, I don’t want to hear it. There’s enough doom and gloom right now.

In the midst of all this depressing news, I’m hoping we can find some positivity. I’m hoping we can take the time to see the great things happening around us every day. I’m hoping we will all stop and smell the roses.

So, I’m going to share some positives I’ve had in my life during the past week.

  • Our daughter’s school is helping make a difference! The engineering department, in conjunction with some local doctors, a hospital, and a university, is making surgical masks for medical personnel! There is a GoFundMe set up to accept donations. You can support this endeavor by clicking here.
  • Family time! Sure, some folks probably think it’s a little too much family time, and anyone who has a teenager in the house understands that pain. I think lots of families have gotten back to basics just to keep their sanity. My friend, Mary Ann, has three kids at home…two teenagers…and they’ve spent a lot of time outdoors, because she won’t let their friends come inside. Yesterday, her oldest son and his friend built a lean-to and cooked chuck wagon stew, whatever that is, outside over a fire last night. It looked tasty! And so far, no one has come down with food poisoning.
  • I’ve caught up on some reading. I’m always purchasing books and planning to read them, but I don’t always find the time. Right now, I have the time. I just finished Mike Rowe’s The Way I Heard It, and I highly recommend it.
  • The weather where I live, in Charlotte, NC, has been beautiful for the past few days, so I’ve been able to enjoy a few days in the sun! Today will be more of the same, and I intend to take advantage of it while I can. I even had dinner out by our backyard pool last night…in March! It has been absolutely glorious, and I truly believe the sunlight has boosted my mood. I’ve just been pretending I’m on vacation.
  • Most people, I believe, have been good citizens…thinking of others in this desperate time. Most are trying to support businesses as much as we can, and most of us are trying to help our neighbors. I know I’m trying to do business with local companies as much as I can. A friend posted yesterday on Facebook that her family’s chicken business is doing home deliveries. I’m placing my order now for a delivery tomorrow. Our teenage daughter will be thrilled to have some chicken tenders in the house, and I’ll be happy to have some wings!
  • The environment is appreciating the quarantine, I’m sure. I saw on the news that people can actually see through the water in the Venice, Italy, canals now…something that hasn’t happened in years, apparently.
  • My knitting skills are being put to good use, and next week, I’m going to have a virtual knitting circle with some friends via the Zoom app. Some of them know how to knit, and some don’t, so I’ll be trying to teach them “remotely.” I think it will be fun! As for now, I’m working on a baby blanket and baby hat for a friend who has a new baby. Knitting is very calming…a good thing right now, for sure.
  • I’ve had lots of time to catch up with friends by telephone. We are all so busy in “normal” life that we sometimes lose touch with people we love. Without errands to run or volunteer work to do, I’ve had a lot more quiet time at home. During my newfound quiet time, I’ve had time to chat with friends and family all over the country…at length! I have laughed and laughed with friends and family. We all know laughter is the best medicine, and I have some really funny friends and family.
  • Ordering gardening seeds has been super easy online, so I’ve ordered flower and vegetable seeds that I’m expecting to arrive sometime in the next few days. I even ordered the supplies I needed to get started. I plan to use our little poolhouse out back as a makeshift greenhouse till it’s warm enough for me to transfer seedlings to the ground. (If I didn’t have the little poolhouse, I’d find somewhere else.) I’ll actually be ahead of the curve this year with my garden instead of behind the curve like I usually am! Maybe I’ll have an even more beautiful garden! And I’m motivated to try to grow more food instead of just flowers, corn, and tomatoes. Maybe I’ll have some beans and brussels sprouts too! Time will tell, but I’m looking forward to getting started!
  • My teenage daughter is lucky she can communicate via FaceTime and other apps these days. When I was a teenager in the 1980s, we would have been a lot lonelier if we’d been practicing social distancing. We could handwrite letters or talk on the phone, but we could only talk to one person at a time, and if you called someone who was already talking with someone else, you just got a busy signal. Technology is a good thing for keeping today’s teens connected.
  • I getting to use the Flight Aware app a lot, and I find it entertaining and relaxing. There aren’t as many planes in the skies right now (let’s hope that changes soon), but it’s still fun to use the Flight Aware app. If you don’t have it, you should. We live in an airline hub city, so there are lots of flights to track in and out of the Charlotte airport, but today, I enjoyed spotting flights going from Montego Bay, Jamaica, to Montreal, and flights from Varadero, Cuba, to Toronto. My husband will tell you I’m a little crazy about Flight Aware. Any time I see a plane, I have to look it up. Get it on the App Store.
  • My husband has promised he will ride out to “the country” with me soon…whenever we have a clear night sky. I love stargazing and searching for satellites, but it’s hard to do at our house, because there’s too much light pollution. I don’t want to go sit in the dark somewhere alone, so he has to go with me. Last time I made him go, he enjoyed stargazing a lot more than he thought he would. I use the Sky Guide app to identify stars and constellations, and it also shows me satellites that will be passing overhead. It’s fun to search for them. That gives me something to look forward to.
  • And last but certainly not least, we’re all probably praying a lot more. Nothing brings people closer to God than a crisis.

There’s a lot of good going on in the world right now. Maybe you’d like to “tell me something good”? Share something you’re doing to keep yourself and/or your family entertained. Or tell me something positive that’s happened in your life this week.