Mom On Vacation

For the next week, I’m not just a mom. I’m a mom on vacation.

It’s impossible to take a vacation from everything moms have to do. I can’t (and don’t want to) ignore or abandon my teenage daughter. I can’t say, “I’m on vacation. Don’t expect me to make sure you have food, and don’t expect me to talk with you or help you with anything.” That’s not even what I would want to do. My very favorite role in life…ever…is my role as Mom. I love being a mom. Is it work? Yes. Do I want to get as far away from my daughter as possible on vacation? Heck no! I love being with her…but I do have some things I don’t do on vacation…and some things I love to do.

One thing I do on vacation is unthinkable to lots of people: I don’t check email. I know! In 2019, I don’t check email when I’m on vacation. Irresponsible? Yes, but I don’t want to see the email about summer reading requirements. I don’t want to think about school. I don’t want to think about things that need to be done. I just want to enjoy some time away. I enjoy it with my child, but I don’t want to think about all the other essential stuff like school, what needs to be done at home, and all those other things moms do.

The older she gets, the more time I want to spend talking with our daughter on vacation. When she was younger, she was constantly asking questions…all the time…and especially on vacation. Now that she is 15, I don’t get many questions, except, “Can we go shopping?” Or “Where are we eating tonight?” But we have lots of great conversations about life in general. Vacation is a great time for us to sit down together and just talk…and I love it.

On this vacation, I’ve been getting coffee delivered to the room when I wake up, and I sit out on our balcony and enjoy it. The mornings are just a little cool, so the caffeine and cool air make for a good wake up. My daughter and her friend will come out and chat for a little while. The hummingbirds don’t impress them as much as they impress me, so they don’t sit outside as long as I do, but we make a nice connection first thing in the morning.

And while shopping with two teenage girls can be torture, on vacation it’s more fun, because the stores are different. The people are different. The surroundings are different. And all that makes for more great conversation. Meals are the different too…new restaurants, new foods, new beverages, new experiences…all make for fun conversations.

But I will tell you what else I try not to do on vacation. I try not to nag. Yes, moms can nag…even me. Heck, especially me. My nagging is in the form of “reminders” most of the time at home. I remind her she has three pairs of shoes that need to be put away. Or I remind her that she has less than 30 minutes to be ready to go. On vacation, I try really hard not to do all the reminders. I try to just let life happen…happily. If we have a dinner reservation, I just tell a little white lie about the time of the reservation, and then I don’t get annoyed when she is 15 minutes late getting ready. Reservation at 8:30? I tell her it’s at 8:15 or even 8:00. It’s barely a lie, right? Instead of staying in the hotel room while she gets ready, I go to the hotel bar and enjoy a cocktail while I wait for her to get dressed. When it’s time to leave, she usually shows up right on cue…thinking, of course, that we are about to miss our reservation! But we’re not going to miss it…because of that little white lie.

Also, as part of vacation, I do things I don’t get to do at home. Swim with dolphins? Check. Climb a waterfall? Check. Hike through a rainforest? Check. Swim in pitch black water so I can observe bioluminescence up close and personal? Check. On this vacation, because it’s a city vacation, I’m not doing those things, but I’m trying new foods. I’m spending lots of time outdoors relaxing. I’m just enjoying life without thinking about things that need to be done around our house.

My friend, Angela, will be joining us today. She arrives in a couple of hours, and she will be doing a mom vacation in a different way, because her daughter won’t be here. Her daughter is on a trip of her own. Angela will bring even more conversation. My daughter loves chatting her up, so the conversations will get even better. They’re conversations that don’t always take place at home. And with Angela, I will enjoy people watching on a whole new level, because it’s vacation.

We still have another week left of vacation, and I plan to enjoy it without emails and without nagging. I plan to enjoy being a mom on vacation with my daughter and friends. And I will continue telling the little white lie about the reservation time…just to keep the peace.

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Graduation Gift Ideas

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, the places they’ll go!

 

Gone But Not Forgotten

Today is the anniversary of the death of a very dear friend. We became friends in 2004, right after my daughter turned one, and her son (her first child) was about six months old. Our lives were intertwined for years. Dynamics changed as our kids got older. My friend took a job. She moved to the west coast. She and her husband divorced. They moved again to the east coast…New England. But we always remained friends. Was our friendship always perfect? No. She was hurt when she took her job and our playgroup didn’t envelope her kids the way we should have. We didn’t always agree with each other’s decisions. But we were friends. We were the kind of friends who would have always been friends…and then she died.

And here’s what I always hear…”Life goes on.” But what exactly does that mean? Her life didn’t go on, but the lives of her children, family, and friends have gone on. Because she had moved away years ago and never answered her phone, she wasn’t a part of our daily lives in Charlotte anymore. But she was a part of my life…and she was a part of the lives of others. I’m not going to say all that sappy stuff like “she lit up a room”…or “she was always good.” People were drawn to her, and I was flattered that she picked me as her friend. But she wasn’t perfect, just like I’m not. But dang it…she was my friend. And she was the mother to two children…now aged 13 and 15. She was the daughter of two wonderful parents who loved her beyond measure, and her sister and brother….well, they adored her too. She loved her family more than anything, and they were always active in her life. But her life stopped on June 4, 2018. Gone too soon. She was just 46, even though the priest at her funeral kept saying she was 47…that actually made me chuckle during the service, thinking of what her response would have been, “Are you kidding me?! Don’t make me older than I am!”

She was active. She exercised all the time and ate really well most of the time…even though we did love eating Doritos together late at night when we vacationed in Maine. She loved red licorice, Zotz candy, and Spree candy. Those were her weaknesses…her guilty pleasures. She didn’t eat them all the time, but she sure enjoyed them when she had them! There was a candy store in Kennebunkport, Maine, that sold the perfect red licorice for her, and we were regulars there. Once, she was going to another store, so I went to stock up on candy. I had forgotten my wallet, so she gave me her credit card and her drivers license. I laughed, saying, “Ummm…if they ask for ID for the credit card, there is no way they are going to believe this!” She was tall, dark, and Irish/Italian. I’m short, fair, and Anglo. She said, “Just take it!” Luckily, they didn’t ask for ID, so I was able to stock up on licorice, Zotz, Spree, and good old-fashioned candy cigarettes for us. Go ahead. Grimace. We didn’t care. Candy cigarettes were old school, and we liked them.

My friend had suffered since she was a teenager with various types of cancer. Lymphoma, breast cancer, leukemia…life wasn’t easy for her, but she kept living it…till she didn’t. I think I always believed she would continue to beat cancer…till she didn’t.

Her children, a boy and a girl, are being raised by their very capable dad. He’s a good dad, exposing them to the world while also making sure their souls are nourished. They go to camp with other children who have lost parents to cancer. They have loving grandparents, and they have aunts and uncles who love them too. But they don’t have their mother. She’s not there every day to encourage them to finish homework. She’s not there to hug them when they need it. She’s not there to guide them, listen to them, help them, parent them.

So yes, life goes on…but it goes on without my friend. For her children, life goes on without their mother. For her parents…without their daughter.

Things happen all the time that make me think of her. Every time I go to Dunkin’ Donuts and order an iced coffee with extra cream, I think of her. Every time I drive past her old house in Charlotte…at least twice a week (I do it intentionally)…I think of her. Every time I think of summer on the beach in Maine…I think of her. Or summers at the pool…all our friends had memberships at different clubs, so we would alternate the pools we visited during the summer. Every time I eat Spree or Zotz, I think of her. I even saw a Santander Bank in Cancun and thought of her…she had worked for them at one time. I was talking with someone last week about Mike’s Pastries in Boston…thought of my friend; she introduced my daughter to cannolis at Mike’s Pastries. Every time someone mentions the Virginia Creeper bike trail, I think of her and the time we took our children…it turned into a comedy of errors, but we survived. Every time I pass the hospital, I think of her, because we actually spent quality time there together, when she was having chemo. Mention California Pizza Kitchen, and I think of the time she almost died from an anaphylactic reaction when we were having lunch there. When I think of my daddy’s cancer diagnosis, I think of her too, because I was on my way to dinner with her when I found out Daddy had pancreatic cancer. And every time I hear about a young person who has cancer, I think of her and how long she fought.

My friend hasn’t been forgotten. She is still a part of our lives and our regular conversations. She taught us a lot about friendship. Tonight, our playgroup friends will gather for dinner, sans kids, to drink a toast to our friend who is no longer with us…one year gone. Life goes on…but it goes on differently.

 

 

 

Gardening…again

Last year, I tried my hand at a very small garden and had lots of success, so this year, I’ve decided to do it again. Before, I had tomatoes, sweet corn, and sunflowers, so I’m going to see if lightning will strike twice. As I said last year, I’m no gardener. I have no idea what I’m doing. But dang it…it’s fun!

We are planting corn this year on the side of the house, and it will be visible (a little) from the street once it gets tall. I’m not sure how much grain growing is allowed in the neighborhood, but I guess we will find out! I will let everyone know if we receive some sort of written notice. My husband is lucky, because I really wanted to plant it out front. I think corn stalks are beautiful, but he put his foot down on that. I learned last year that I had planted my corn plants too far apart, so I had to pollinate them by hand. We still had corn to eat, but it was a chore making sure they were all pollinated. Therefore, this year, I’m planting them in clusters, so they can pollinate each other. Nature’s way is best, so planting them closer together is the way to go. I learned from the past. I was actually surprised the corn grew last year, and I was doubly surprised when it actually produced ears of corn!

The tomato plants are going into the ground near where they were last year, because our knockout roses are in the same area. I believe our tomatoes survived last year, simply because of the knockout roses. The roses attracted braconid wasps, which in turn, killed the tomato grubs that tried to invade the garden. I had no idea about that when we planted the tomatoes, but I noticed a tomato grub with little eggs all over his back and looked it up. They were the eggs of the wasp, and they killed the tomato grubs. Thank you, braconids! Therefore, we are going to put our tomatoes near some roses again.

If you’ve never had a garden of any type, you might find it therapeutic. Last summer, when I woke up every day, I would walk outside and water our garden. And sometimes, I would water them in the evening too. We had tomatoes galore! But it was also a way for me to relax. Sure, I can sit by the pool during the summer and relax. And I can spend time with friends and family, but there was something about the quiet solitude of tending the plants that was good for my psyche. My mother had died the December before, and I truly believe gardening helped me with that. My parents both loved tomatoes and sunflowers. I knew they would have been pleased with what I was doing. Nobody loved a tomato sandwich more than my daddy, and I was able to enjoy them all summer long last year. Store-bought tomatoes just don’t cut it, so I grew my own! We hope to have the same this year…good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise!

So today, instead of doing all the things I should be doing, I will be doing what I want to do. I will have my hands in the dirt. OK, mostly it will be a trowel in the dirt. But I will have it in the dirt, transferring my seedling plants from the little clear cups into the ground. I discovered last year that birds and moles ate most of the seeds I planted, so I had more luck when I transplanted seedlings for corn and sunflowers. Tomato plants will go into the ground near the roses, and we will see if lightning strikes twice.

I’ve had terrible laryngitis for the better part of the week, so having something quiet to do will be perfect for me today. I haven’t felt much like doing anything, but today, it is on!

 

 

 

 

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!

Fur Babies and Weddings

Ask young ladies what kind of wedding they dream about, and their answers will be all over the board.

My husband and I got married almost 19 years ago. We had a small wedding, at my insistence. My husband wanted a bigger shindig, but I didn’t. If I’d had my way, we would have been married by my friend’s dad, who was a Presbyterian minister, very quietly. Or we’d have been married by another friend’s dad, who at the time, was a Probate Judge. The groom would not hear of it. No way. So, we compromised and had a small wedding in the Presbyterian church…mostly family and a few friends…at 11:00 in the morning. We served brunch afterward and had Mimosas. And we are just as married as folks who have a million dollar extravaganza.

But I think I’m in the minority here. It seems so many brides want it all…the big church wedding, the expensive wedding dress, the huge reception. Or their mothers want it for them. Just watch Say Yes to the Dress, and you’ll see examples of brides who want it all, and you’ll see examples of moms who want it all. (I’m already bribing my daughter to elope when the time comes.)

There are people who have children and want to incorporate them into their weddings, and there’s a lot of information all over the internet about ways to do that.

And then…there are brides and grooms who want to find creative ways to incorporate their dogs into their weddings, but how?

How does one find creative ways to incorporate dogs into weddings?

Recently, a friend told me her daughter wants to have her beautiful, well-trained Golden Retriever as a part of her upcoming wedding. The dog, Binky, has been a part of the bride’s life since she graduated from college six years ago, and the bride wants her there. Binky has been with her through thick and thin for six years.

But the bride works long hours and has very little time to investigate ways to have her dog be a part of the big event. She asked her mother to handle everything about the wedding…including how to have the dog there for the preparation, the ceremony, and for photos.

Fortunately for my friend, I knew where she could find good ideas. 

There’s a website called Personal Creations. You can see the website here. Most people think of Personal Creations when they are looking personalized gifts, because they offer lots of personalized gifts for lots of different people and occasions. What people don’t know is that they also have a blog, which you can access here.  On the blog, you can find lots of great information and printables for different holidays, and it was there I found something titled How to Incorporate Dogs Into Your Wedding. I told my friend about it, and she called me a little while later, thanking me…she had found everything she needed right there!

You can see How to Incorporate Dogs Into Your Wedding here.

This brilliant blog post offers ideas for having your dog as a part of the “getting ready for the big day” process. Want your dog to take part in walking down the aisle? You’ll find ideas for that as well. You’ll also find ideas for getting your dog color-coordinated with your ceremony and ways to capture the moment with your pooch in photographs. The paws-ibilities are endless!  I won’t spoil it for you, but click on over there for great info.

I’ve saved the information, even though my daughter is just a teenager. If she decides, one day many moons from now, that she wants to have her furry friend (and I mean a dog, not a hirsute friend) as part of her ceremony, I’ll have the perfect information for her. For us, that day is a long way off, but it doesn’t hurt to have the information filed away just in case!

My friend whose daughter will be getting married soon was grateful for the info, and she is using three of the ideas from the site. After you’ve read the blog, you might want to shop around for some great personalized gift ideas on Personal Creations too!

 

 

 

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