Let’s Talk About Snakes

When I was growing up in Alabama, snakes were a full-on reality. I don’t mean green snakes or milk snakes or oak snakes. I mean real, scary, venomous snakes. In fact, in Alabama, there are six kinds of venomous snakes. For comparison, in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, there is one type: the Copperhead. But in Alabama, you have to watch out for the Copperhead, the Cottonmouth (also known as a water moccasin), the Timber Rattlesnake, the Diamondback Rattlesnake, the Pygmy Rattlesnake, and the Eastern Coral Snake. You can see pictures of them at Outdooralabama.com here. And I should tell you…they are plentiful.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve run into lots of Copperheads since moving to North Carolina nineteen years ago, but I was reminded about those Alabama snakes when I saw an article on Facebook today about a woman in Greenville, Alabama, who was bitten by a Timber Rattler. You can see the article here. According to the article, she had to have 16 vials of antivenin…sixteen!

I shared the article on my personal Facebook page with a statement about how I likely narrowly escaped death when I was 18. My nephew, who remembers all the stories I tell about my life, immediately commented that he was sure I had told him the story, but he didn’t remember it. And that’s when I realized I probably had not shared it. Why? Because I was somewhere I shouldn’t have been.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m not one to “hang out” in the woods. I don’t like ticks. I don’t like snakes. I don’t like excessive nature. “Nature,” in Alabama, means you might encounter any number of those creatures and more.

But on this particular day when I was 18, the summer before I went off to college, I ventured into the woods with three friends. Full disclosure: I didn’t really know we were going into the full-on woods. The family of one of the friends had a “hunting camp” in the woods, so we were going there to hang out one Friday night. Now, when I heard “hunting camp,” I guess I was thinking more “hunting lodge.” As we drove, in a Jeep, through the woods to the hunting camp, I started to realize it was really a camp. The fact that there was no road to it was my first clue. And I was a little scared…not gonna lie…I was scared. But I had to play it cool.

We arrived at the hunting camp, and I’m sure my eyes were wide. I looked at it. I’m sure I looked at one of my other non-nature friends, hoping she would say she was scared, but nope. She let me down. She was actually laughing and smiling. I knew I was in trouble. There were no power lines anywhere. I had thought we would be going to a small house where there was television, a refrigerator, modern conveniences. Nope. Heck, when we walked inside, I discovered there wasn’t even much of a floor. I was scared.

It was at this point I spoke up. I don’t really remember what I said, but I made it clear I wanted to get out of there. Nope…not gonna hang out up there. Fortunately, my non-nature friend in the party spoke up too. Hanging out in the “hunting camp” was not an option. I’m sure I said something along the lines of “Let’s leave now.” So we did.

There were three stair steps to get out of the “camp,” and I was leading the charge to the Jeep.

I stepped down the first two steps, and just as I was about to step off the bottom step, I saw a giant rattlesnake slithering by…right where my foot would have dropped. Now, I’m not exaggerating. It was a huge snake…a Diamondback Rattlesnake. A frightening creature. They can get up to more than five feet long, and they are thick-bodied, scary snakes. I’m not sure how big this one was, but he was big. Fortunately, he had no idea I was there, so he just kept slithering by. If he had been aware of my presence, he would have made noise…aren’t we all glad rattlesnakes have rattles?!?! I don’t know if I gasped. I don’t know if I screamed. I know I pulled my foot back quickly and stood frozen on the steps till the snake had passed, but then I was afraid there were snakes I didn’t see! I was scared to go back into that God-forsaken “camp,” but I was afraid to touch the ground to get back to the Jeep. Finally, one person went ahead of me, and then I ran to the Jeep.

As we drove out of the woods, I cried. Yep, cried. I said a prayer of thanks to God that He had spared me that terrible fate. I said a prayer of thanks that my brother was still alive; he spent so much time in the woods that he should have been bitten by at least one snake. I also prayed that the car would not break down before we got back to civilization.

For days, I thought about how fortunate I had been. I would have died if that snake had struck me…no doubt. There is no way my friends could have gotten me out of the woods fast enough to save me, and there were no phones to call an ambulance (which wouldn’t have been able to find me) either. I had seen death in the form of a Diamondback Rattlesnake and escaped.

The moral of the story? Well, there are a few lessons here. Don’t go places you aren’t supposed to go. Stay out of the woods. “Hunting camp” does not mean “hunting lodge.” One (a lodge) has real walls, electricity, and modern conveniences, and one looks like a place you might find a dead body…mine if I had stepped on that snake. And this has nothing to do with that particular snake tale, but it is a lesson: I don’t like brown water…like water in lakes and rivers…never have, because snakes can hide in the water. My friends, Angela and Mary Ann make fun of me for it, but here’s what I think: that brown water is their home…the creatures, I mean. I don’t want them in my home, and really…I don’t want to get in their home either.

A few years ago, in Maine, one of the kids with me kicked a ball into a grassy field, and I had to retrieve it. As I ran out into the field, I thought, “I wonder if they have venomous snakes in Maine.” As soon as I got to the ball, I saw a snake. And as soon as we got back indoors, I looked up “snakes in Maine” and found they had no venomous snakes. Whew!

Maybe I’ll move to Maine…

 

 

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Waiting For Rob Lowe

We got home from vacation yesterday…after a couple of delays…and a friend offered me a ticket to see Rob Lowe (yes, that Rob Lowe) speak in uptown Charlotte last night. I landed in Charlotte at about 6:30am, came home, and got in bed for a couple hours. After waking, I tended my garden ( more on that later…the tomatoes and corn are doing well!) and started getting dressed for an early dinner before seeing Rob. Yes, I prefer to call him Rob.

If you don’t know, Rob Lowe wrote a couple of books a few years back. The first one is titled Stories I Only Tell My Friends, and the second is called Love Life. You can purchase them from Amazon.com here. I have read both, and the first one, Stories…,¬†is my favorite. He really does share some great stories from his life growing up in the Malibu area with Charlie Sheen, Emilio Estevez, the Van Patten family, and the Penns (Sean and Chris). He also shares stories from his career and adult life…which has been colorful.

So last night, we went uptown ¬†and waited patiently for Rob Lowe to tell us stories. Thus, the title of this piece, Waiting For Rob Lowe.¬†Fortunately, he didn’t keep us waiting long.

While we were “spending time with Rob” with about 2,000 other people, we heard a few anecdotes from his books, but we also got a glimpse into his private life. He talked about his family, the freedom he had as a child (“where were my parents?!?!”), and he told some stories he had not shared in his books. We saw his personality shine. We heard funny stories about Cary Grant, Robert Wagner, Tom Cruise, and Sally Field. We even saw a short homemade film he did as a teenager with Sheen and his own brother, Chad Lowe. It was time well spent.

And at the end, he did a question and answer session…sort of Carol Burnett style. Remember how she did that at the end of her show? Well, they turned up the house lights, and hands went up all over the theater…including mine. The first person asked about his indiscretion at the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta in 1988, but he didn’t really answer. He laughed and remarked at the “hard hitting” question, but didn’t really talk about the “incident,” which, I’m sure, was a low point in his life. And I’m glad he didn’t address it…water under the bridge. Honestly, I couldn’t believe someone asked about it. It was more than 30 years ago!

After that, the questions got lighter. One lady asked for a picture, but he very politely  declined. Another person asked about his favorite movie experiences. Still another one asked about his memories of Patrick Swayze. And all this time, I was waving wildly from the balcony, hoping he would pick me!

Here’s my Rob Lowe backstory: When I was a teenager, the first time I ever saw Rob Lowe was in a movie called Hotel New Hampshire, based on a book written by my favorite author, John Irving. I had not read the book yet at that point, and honestly, I didn’t even know who John Irving was, but I loved the quirky movie, and I fell in love with a young, beautiful Rob Lowe. And yes, beautiful is the correct term, because he was a beautiful young man. He’s a “smoking hot” middle-aged man, but he was a beautiful young man. Of course, he made better movies (About Last Night, St Elmo’s Fire, The Outsiders, and more), but my very first glimpse of Rob Lowe was in Hotel New Hampshire.

And then…fast forward 30+ years…last week, when I was on vacation, I had an experience to remember: I actually ran into Rob Lowe in a coffee shop. Yep…the same Rob Lowe. My friend, Angela, was with me, and when I realized he was sitting just down the counter from us, I looked at her wide-eyed and said, without trying to move my lips too much, “Rob Lowe.” She asked, “What?” I said, again without trying to move my lips, “Rob Lowe.” “Juan Pablo??” “Rob Lowe!” She said, “Oh. OK.” And she kept eating! In about a minute or two, she looked at me and said, “You know I can’t hear. I have no idea what you said.” I said, much more clearly this time, “Rob Lowe!” She immediately turned and saw him sitting just a few seats away.

He was sitting with his son and someone else, and soon they got up to leave. Not one to let the opportunity to pass, as he walked slowly past us on his way out, Angela turned and told him (while touching him!) how much she admired his work…and I think she even told him he’s beautiful. He was slowly continuing on toward the door…smiling and being friendly…but continuing to move, so we didn’t ask for a picture. I simply chimed in as he approached the door (right next to where we were sitting), telling him I’d loved him in Hotel New Hampshire.¬†And it got his attention! He stopped in his tracks, laughing, turned around and said, “Oh my God! You are the one person who saw it!” I told him I loved it, and he left.

So, of course, since I didn’t have photographic evidence of my meeting him, I needed to prove to 2,000 people that I had actually met him. Yes, something is wrong with me. I’m a middle-aged groupie. During the Q&A, I continued waving wildly from my seat, and then it happened…he invited “the crazy waving lady” to ask a question. Yes, I’m the crazy waving lady!¬†I’m cool with that. In fact, if you want to refer to me as Crazy Waving Lady every time you see me for the rest of my life, feel free. I stood up and said, “I met you last week at the [name of coffee shop] and mentioned Hotel New Hampshire.”¬†At this point, I paused before continuing, hoping he would remember, before asking my question. He said, “Yes!” And he explained to 2,000 people, that we had, indeed, met in Beverly Hills, and I had mentioned an obscure movie called Hotel New Hampshire that opened in theaters on the same day as the Tom Hanks/Darryl Hannah movie, Splash.¬†I had a question about Hotel New Hampshire and Jodie Foster (who was also in the movie), but I never got to ask it…or rather, he didn’t hear me, because he was explaining the obscurity of the movie. But really, I didn’t care. I no longer needed photographic evidence of our meeting. My friend, Jenn, heard him say he remembered the meeting…and so did 2,000 other people. Woot!

I guess, when it comes to Rob Lowe, I’m still a teenager going to movies and reading Teen Beat and Tiger Beat. And I loved hearing him tell stories last night. He is, indeed, a storyteller. He knows how to get a laugh. He knows how to tell a story. And he has some great memories.

And now I have two great memories of interactions with Rob Lowe. Now I have more stories to tell friends. I’m Crazy Waving Lady. If I ever write an autobiography, that will be the title: Crazy Waving Lady…or maybe¬†Waiting For Rob Lowe.

***My friend, Jerry Parker, gets all the credit for the title of this blog. I posted a pic of me and Jenn (see below) waiting for the show to start last night, and the caption was “Waiting for Rob Lowe.” Jerry suggested it would be a good book title.***

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Observations In An Airport

My daughter and I traveled to Los Angeles for a couple of weeks recently, and we had some travel “snafus” on the way home with some flight cancellations. We originally were supposed to fly nonstop from LA to Charlotte. Long story short, we ultimately ended up being booked on a connecting flight through Columbus, Ohio, with a five hour overnight-ish layover in the Columbus airport. We made some new friends, and I made some observations.

I’ve spent lots of time in airports. When I first graduated from college, I was a flight attendant for a while. I worked in the travel industry till I was married in 2000, and we are still pretty regular fliers. We aren’t flying every week, but we fly pretty regularly. This last trip was a new experience for me. First, I always book nonstop flights, so I haven’t had the inconvenience of having to connect in a long time. We are very fortunate that Charlotte is a hub airport for American Airlines. Secondly, I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever had to spend five hours in an airport from about midnight to 5am…until last night. And those five hours gave me some time to make some observations.

  • When you’re in a less-than-ideal situation, you bond with others in the same boat.¬†It’s true. Three ladies in the airport with us had been traveling for 36 hours because of cancellations. They didn’t have any food, but I had a bag full of snacks. I offered them a turkey sandwich and some chips, and they were grateful. I was happy I could help. One of them said the turkey sandwich tasted like Thanksgiving! I hope they’ve made it to the Cayman Islands by now.
  • Some folks can sleep anywhere.¬†It was impressive how some of the other people who were waiting could sleep! I didn’t even think about sleep. In fact, I just strolled around the airport taking silly pictures…walking a few miles while I waited. But folks were sleeping with their heads on carry-on luggage. Some slept on the floor, and some slept in chairs. Some were even snoring! They were really asleep.
  • Connecting is a pain in the butt. I’ve known this for years. My husband always gets miffed with me when we discuss retiring and moving. He wants to move to a beach. I want to live in a city that’s a hub airport. Give me Charlotte, Atlanta, or even Houston or Dallas…but please don’t make me live somewhere that requires connecting flights to everywhere.
  • All airports are not created equal.¬†I knew this too, but as we landed in Columbus, I expected to go to our gate and wait out the five hours till our next flight. Nope. After we had been sitting in the gate for about an hour, two security type personnel came over and rudely told us (there were about seven passengers waiting for the next flight), “You have to move outside the security barrier now. Let’s go.” What?!?! Was it really necessary to approach us so rudely? Trust me, our layover wasn’t long enough to get a hotel room, or I’d have gotten us one. We were not happy about having to hang out in the airport, but honestly, I was trying to make the best of it. They were just rude, rude, rude. And one of them, the female, appeared to need a visit to a doctor about an eye infection of some sort…ick. To add insult to injury, there were quite a few vending options inside the security barrier but very few outside the barrier. It seems as though they could have come to us earlier and said, “I’m sorry, but in about 30 minutes, we’re going to need you to move to the lobby area outside security. If you need to get anything from vending, you might want to do it now.” But nope…rude, rude, rude. ***I know several lovely people who live in Columbus…I think most folks there are great!***
  • All vending machines are not created equal.¬†Kudos to Columbus for having a Jeni’s Ice Cream vending machine/kiosk in the terminal. I wish they were in every airport! Heck, I wish they were on every street corner! I would have loved to have gotten some for my daughter and her friend. It looked delicious. Too bad security didn’t give me the option of going to get it before they hustled us out of the terminal area like cattle. Also, on the outside of the machine, it said, “Welcome to Columbus, home of the best ice creams (and the nicest people) in the world!” I guess those security folks didn’t get the “nicest people” memo.
  • The smell of bacon is stronger at 5am when you’re boarding a flight.¬†No joke, just as we started to board, I guess a restaurant opened and put some bacon on to cook. Does anything smell more yummy than bacon in the morning?
  • Little noises are enhanced when you’re in an airport and running on no sleep.¬†Squishing plastic water bottles? Flip flops on sweaty feet? Cracking knuckles? Those noises don’t normally bother me, but in the last five minutes before we boarded the plane, my ears were sensitive to all those little noises that normally go unnoticed. I wanted to snatch water bottles out of people’s hands. I wanted to throw powder at people’s feet to stop the sweaty flip flop sound. And I wanted to pass out gloves to stop the knuckle cracking. Clearly, I was nearing my limit.
  • Attitude is everything…really.¬†I was not thrilled about the cancellations/re-routing situation. I was unhappy. But I didn’t take it out on the American Airlines reservation agent. It wasn’t her fault. I’m sure she was having a terrible day with all the cancellations. And when we landed in Columbus, I decided I wasn’t going to try to sleep. I was going to walk around taking goofy pictures to entertain myself. I wasn’t going to be unhappy. I made that decision. And despite the rude security personnel (bless their hearts!), I was pretty darn happy.
  • Small acts of kindness mean a lot. During our flight from LA to Columbus, I was talking with the flight attendant about our predicament…I was laughing about it. But she felt terrible and made sure the girls had plenty of snacks for our layover. Kudos to her for her kindness.
  • Shiny airport floors would be great for running and sliding.¬†I considered it. I wanted to do it. But would I break a hip? Or an arm? Besides, my daughter would have been horrified. I kept my cool. I didn’t run and slide…but it would have been fun!
  • An alarming number of people walk around barefoot in airports.¬†I have TSA Pre-check. One of the main reasons I wanted pre-check was so I wouldn’t have to remove my shoes at security. It totally grosses me out to walk barefoot where all those other sweaty feet have walked. Yuck. But I noticed quite a few people walking through the airport lobby with no shoes last night. That’s almost as bad as the ones who go to the airport lav with no shoes…ick.

That’s my wisdom from the airport. If you’ve made other observations, I’d love to hear them.¬†And for the record, we love American Airlines. I think they are experiencing some labor issues right now, but I certainly hope it all gets resolved soon…for my sake, but especially for the sake of the airline. Labor disputes can cripple an airline, inconveniencing passengers and employees too. My hope is that everyone involved will realize there is a better way to do things.

 

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.

Party Prizes

A few weeks ago, I hosted a brunch at my home for a committee I chair at our daughter’s school.

It was on a Monday, so I had Sunday to prepare. I did the usual de-cluttering of the house, which my husband loves, and I started getting the food ready. I opted not to hire a caterer, but I did get the flowers done professionally by a local florist, The Blossom Shop, and they did a beautiful job.

Anyone who has ever attended a meeting led by me knows I love prizes. Doesn’t everyone love to be a winner? For the brunch, I opted to have bundtlets from Nothing Bundt Cakes for the party favors. If you’ve never had them, you should try them. We have a few stores here, so it’s easy to get them in Charlotte. But since I love prizes, we had a few giveaways too. I had ordered a few of my favorite things and wrapped them the night before.

Just because I think prizes are fun, I’m going to share some prize options, in case you plan to have a gathering of friends this summer:

  • Comfy. This lovely prize is one of my favorite things. It’s a giant, cozy, one-size-fits-all blanket sweatshirt. Yes, I have one, and I love it! Priced at about $35-39, you can purchase them online from Amazon here or in Target in the “as seen on TV” section.¬†
  • Burt’s Bees Soy Candles. Scented candles are great, but when they’re soy candles, you can use them to soften your skin too! People thought I was crazy when I said that, but it’s true! While it’s still warm (not hot) after burning the candle, stick your finger into the candle and scoop out a little to rub on your hands…making them super soft! These were just $5.99 at my local grocery store, but you can also order them on Amazon here.41Oj9-2vVEL
  • Hungry Girl Simply 6. This recipe book, by one of my favorite people, Lisa Lillien, is a great gift. It contains recipes, all with six ingredients or less, that are low in calories. Get it at Amazon here.51YV0FPDcCL._SX409_BO1,204,203,200_
  • Maybe You Touched Your Genitals Hand Sanitizer. It’s an old favorite. If you’ve read some of my old posts, you’re familiar with it. I know…it’s crude. But it’s funny. Admit it. It’s funny. Everybody needs a good laugh every now and then. I purchase it from Amazon.com.81GXntyinJL._SY679_
  • Poo-Pourri. Great stuff, no doubt, and it works. Ever seen the lengthy youtube commercial for it? See it here. The “commercial” is crude…not kidding…but if you have a sense of humor and can handle it, watch it. Get Poo-Pourri at Amazon here.
  • Blue Q Novelty Dish Towels. I find them at Paper Skyscraper in Charlotte, but you can order online. One friend went home with one yesterday that said, “Do one thing every day that scares your children.”¬†You¬†can order from Amazon here.¬†Blue Q also makes cute oven mitts. I have one that says, “I’m Not Bossy. I’m the Boss.”81cmBO22V9L._SL1304_
  • Fred and Friends Good Measure Cocktail Pitcher.¬†Another old favorite, this one was a popular prize at the brunch. It’s a pitcher with recipes for cocktails by the pitcher…pure genius. We’ll be using them out by our pool all summer. I used two of mine at the brunch, so everyone had seen them as I poured up Bellinis and Mimosas, but they had no idea one of them would be the proud owner of one. One lucky friend took one home! Get it at Amazon here.81-CmMZCBUL._SY879_
  • Whitman’s Sampler Spring Collection.¬†I’m a sucker for a Whitman’s sampler…have been since childhood. I think folks of my generation see them and think of their grandparents or their own childhood. You can find it in your local grocery store, Target, or Walmart.1f74f0cb-0dd4-4927-90ae-12929f5aad37_1.09c7d23fd3a8fad06afa50f610b46b8c.jpeg
  • Anne Taintor Products.¬†Anne Taintor products are fun. Get them at annetaintor.com. ¬†From trays to napkins to kitchen towels…they’re fun. I have a coffee mug from Anne Taintor that proclaims, “I love not camping!” And there’s this fun one:55729_brag

There you have it. A few fun ideas for prizes or giveaways when you have a gathering of your girlfriends. Like I said…I love giving away prizes. And who doesn’t love being a winner?!

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.

 

 

 

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!