When I was a little girl, Memorial Day weekend marked the start of summer for me. School usually got out around Memorial Day, and I had the extra bonus of having a birthday at about the same time, so I loved the end of May…still do! And this year will be no different.
I have written before about how we need to remember the reason we celebrate Memorial Day…to honor those who lost their lives defending the very freedom we enjoy every single day. I have written about how my parents always made sure, when we were gathering with friends and family, that we remembered the meaning behind the day.
Does that mean it can’t be fun too? I like to think those who lost their lives would be happy to see us enjoying the freedom they made possible. We tend to have a pool day at our house. Sometimes we have friends over, and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes, our daughter invites friends over, and sometimes she goes somewhere else. This year, we will be fortunate to have some houseguests over the holiday weekend, and we are excited to hang out in the pool, cook out, and relax.
In fact, I’m ordering a few things from Amazon to help me be sure we have fun and stay safe at the same time, and if you order today, you can probably get them in time too! Even if you don’t want them for Memorial Day, these items can be great all summer! My new necessities for starting summer with some fun (and safety in mind):
Fun Boy Mesh Floats. I love being outdoors, but when it’s really hot, I need to be in the pool. And I don’t mean I need to be floating on top of something. I need to have some of my body actually in the water. These inflatable mesh floats from Funboy are perfect for relaxing and staying cool. Priced at just $39 for a mint colored or yellow one, and the pink ones are $41 each. Or you can get two pink ones or two mint ones for under $67. I just ordered two pink and two mint. They’ll add a little color to the pool and keep us all cool. Of course, on Saturday and Sunday, the weather isn’t likely to be cooperative, but it’s supposed to be pretty warm Monday. Purchase here.
Backyard Blast. When our daughter was a little girl, she and her friends loved to set up a Slip n Slide in our yard. They could play for hours. I even participated a few times. Personally, I think sliding water play is fun for all ages, so when I saw this Backyard Blast heavy duty waterslide for adults and teens, well…I had to have it. We haven’t tried it yet, but it’s 75′ long and 12′ wide! Priced at $159, it’s not cheap, but since it’s “heavy duty,” I hope to get lots of fun out of it. It gets good reviews. Purchase here.
Nerf Water Products. Nerf is a name we can trust in water toys, but there are so many to choose from! A good SuperSoaker battle is always fun, but Nerf also makes refillable water balloons for younger kids, and even ride-on floats for on-the-water battles! See what they offer here. The possibilities are endless!
Fun in the Sun Toys. In fact, there are lots of summer fun toys out there: Bubble machines, bubble wants, reusable water balloons, beach balls, splash pads…fun stuff to keep everyone cool and keep everyone moving! These toys are great for kids of all ages…including those like me who will be turning 56 this weekend! Amazon will ship quick and free if you have an Amazon Prime account. Check them out here.
Sunscreen. You have to stay safe in the sun! Sunscreen is essential. There are lots of different brands to choose from. Personally, I prefer Coppertone lotions when I’m going to be outside for a while, because they smell like my childhood. Other times, I like Hawaiian Tropic oils, because we used them when I was a teen, and it reminds me of some happy times. I do not like sprays, because one of the first ingredients listed is often alcohol, so while it’s easy to apply a spray, it actually dries out your skin! Not good. To purchase Coppertone lotions, click here. To purchase Hawaiian Tropic oils with different SPFs, click here. (You might have to scroll down a little.) And remember to protect your lips, which can burn fast. We use Coppertone Sport Lip Balm with SPF 50. Purchase here.
Hawaiian Tropic After Sun Products. Don’t forget you’ll need something to soothe your skin after you’ve been in the sun. In our house, we swear by Sun Bum Cooling After Sun Gel. Purchase here. They offer lots of products to choose from: lotions, gels, body butters.
Summer’s almost here! Let’s be ready for some fun! Happy Shopping!
My daughter attended an independent school in Charlotte from Transitional Kindergarten through 12th grade, and the former head of the school often had wise words to share. One of his favorite phrases? “Finish well.” As the end of each school year approached, I would remind our daughter, “Finish well!” Did she always hear me? She always finished pretty well, so maybe.
Now, the end of her freshman year of college is rapidly approaching. Like a train out of control, freshman year is moving forward at lightning speed. She will be home in less than a week. Less than a week! I find myself saying, “Finish well!”
We moved her into her dorm at the beginning of August. It was an exciting time. It was a scary time. Like lots of moms out there, I was excited for her to experience college, but I was nervous about leaving her 450 miles away. However, I remembered something I had read before:
Put the basket in the water.
I got that sentence from a piece written by Ashlei Woods. You can read it here. “Put the basket in the water” is a reference to the time of Moses, when midwives were ordered by Pharaoh to kill baby boys born to Israelites by drowning them in the Nile. Moses’s mother, in an effort to save her baby, placed him in a basket and placed the basket in the river, in hopes that he would live. I’m no Biblical scholar, but even I remember the story from Sunday School lessons. Moses did live, obviously, and went on to become a great prophet. I certainly don’t expect my daughter to become a great prophet, but I want her to live and become the best person she can be. I want her to live life. And by placing her proverbial basket in that proverbial river (college), I sent her on her way.
Has she learned things in college that will help her in her future endeavors? In short, yes. She has learned something in each class she has taken. She has learned about music, public relations, writing…so much. More importantly, she has learned more about who she is. She has learned how to make friends from lots of different places. She has learned how to handle medical emergencies and automobile situations. She has learned how to make doctor appointments and pick up her own prescriptions. And even though I always tried to expose her to as many new experiences as possible, she has been exposed to even more new experiences. She has learned to manage on her own. Sure, she still gets advice (sometimes wanted, sometimes not) from me, but she is doing it! We still support her financially, but she is doing it! We put the basket in the water, and we trusted God and trusted her.
Have there been hiccups along the way? Yes, but she has learned from each one. Last week, SpaceX launched a test rocket…the most powerful one ever launched. There was excitement surrounding it, but it failed. And afterward, Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, seemed happy in spite of the failure, saying they (the engineers, the company) would learn a lot from the failure. He was excited about what they would learn! Those words stuck with me, because this very successful man was reminding the world that we learn from failure. Don’t get me wrong. Our daughter’s hiccups, so far, haven’t been in the classroom. But any hiccups she has experienced along the way have been opportunities for learning. Learning what doesn’t work is how she will learn what does work.
In a few days, we will move our daughter out of her freshman dorm. As she finishes her freshman year, I will remind her several times, “Finish well.” I am already reminding her to start packing things up and cleaning out her room. And after we get her home for the summer, I feel sure we will notice she is a different girl than the one we sent to college in August. She is older. She is more confident. She is more independent. She is more knowledgable. As my own parents said when I came home after my freshman year, “We sent our daughter off to college and got a different person back.” They often joked that I was “switched at college.”
High school graduations will start happening next month. If you know anyone who is graduating this year, now is the time to start thinking about gifts. My daughter graduated from high school last year, so I saw lots of gift ideas. I’m going to share a few of my favorites so you don’t have to search for ideas. SHOP EARLY TO MAXIMIZE YOUR CHOICES! Here we go:
Personalized Necklace. Personalized gifts say “I really put some thought into this gift for you.” For a fun, in expensive gift, you can purchase a personalized necklace for under $20. The high school graduate will love it and wear it every day! No, it’s no real gold, but it’s 18k gold-plated, so it looks like real gold. To purchase, click here.
She’s Birdie Personal Alarm. Last year, when our daughter was getting ready to go off to college, I saw these alarms on a TV show. They’re compact. They hang on a keychain. Most of all, they’re pretty darn loud and “alarming.” They also have a small strobe that will illuminate a darker area. If you’re worried about a high school grad parking in a parking deck or walking alone, this is a great gift. This gift says “I care about you and your well-being.” Offered in lots of colors, the She’s Birdie Personal Alarm is inexpensive. To purchase, click here.
Tile Mate Bluetooth Tracker. If the graduate on your list is absent-minded or has ADHD, this is a great gift to help him/her locate a misplaced item. He/she can hang it from a keychain to locate lost keys. I wish I’d had one of these when I was in college instead of having to panic every time I lost my keys. To purchase, click here.
Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker. A quality speaker is a must for almost any young adult. When I was young, my friends and I had our own “get ready” music, just like athletes have their walkout music. Some things never change. I still have a playlist for getting dressed, and my college-age daughter and her friends do too. A waterproof bluetooth speaker is essential. They can take it to the pool. They can take it to the lake. They can even take it in the shower! My daughter’s preferred speaker is a JBL FLIP 5, priced at about $90, but there are lots of options and price points out there. To purchase JBL, click here. To see others, click here.
4-in-1 Wireless Charger. Young adults have all the devices, and they need a place to charge them without having to use multiple electrical outlets. That’s where a 4-in-1 wireless charger comes in. They can charge two phones phone, an Apple watch, and airpods…all at once. I know you’re thinking, “Why two phones?” When a friend visits and needs to charge a phone at the same time, it comes in handy. Priced at under $30, this gift is a steal…and guaranteed to be a hit. To purchase, click here.
Spikeball set. College students need a distraction from the stress of classes and exams. When I was in college, we played a lot of games, but we didn’t have Spikeball then. Apparently, it’s a lot of fun and can be played indoors or outdoors. If you have a graduate on your list who needs to take study breaks, this could be a big hit! To purchase, click spikeball set.
Comfy Wearable Blanket. Everyone my daughter knows has a Comfy, and everyone loves their Comfy. These make great gifts. Priced at under $40, they are sold at a great price point, and they are worth every penny and more. With a fleecy inside, these oversized wearable blankets will make anyone feel better. To purchase, click Comfy.
Sunset Projector. I don’t know why college girls love these light projectors in their rooms, but they do. It creates a glow that somehow mimics a sunset…or some semblance thereof. I think they just like the colors. What I do know is that they are very popular in freshman girl dorms. To purchase, click sunset projector.
Verilux Happy Light. Just after the holidays, my daughter called me from college and said she was sad. She wasn’t clinically depressed; she was simply feeling the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Shorter days in winter can seriously affect our moods, but I knew the Verilux Happy Light was a possible solution. It mimics sunlight during those cold winter months. She got it. She set it up, and she used it for about 30 minutes a day while she was putting on makeup or just hanging out. And you know what? She felt better! To see the various models and purchase, click here.
Levoit Air Purifier. Lots of dorms and apartments have dust and mold. That’s where an air purifier comes in. This small Levoit Air Purifier will effectively help clean the air of a room by removing dust and mold particles. Cleaner air can help people avoid illness, and this small purifier from Levoit doesn’t take up a lot of room. If the grad in your life is planning to live in a dorm or apartment, this could be a welcome gift. To purchase, click here.
Closet Organizers and Storage. Everyone in a small apartment or dorm room needs ways to maximize organization and storage. Shoes, sweaters, tshirts, school supplies, and even medical supplies…they all need a place to be stored. My newest organization tool? Some storage bins from Haixin. Load at the top, then stack. Open from the front thereafter. See them here. But you might rather give the graduate something like shoe bins or over-the-door storage. If so, there are lots of possibilities. To see options and purchase, click here.
Jonathan Adler Lollipop Holder. Y’all might think I’m crazy on this one, but stick with me. I got our daughter a Jonathan Adler Lollipop Holder for Christmas this past year, and at first, she thought I was crazy. Once I showed it to her and explained it could be a bonding tool with her neighbors and friends in the dorm, she understood! It’s quite the conversation piece. The picture below shows the desktop-sized sculpture with unwrapped lollipops, but I gave her wrapped Tootsie Pops to put in it…much more sanitary, and it still looks good. Priced at under $100, it’s a fun, memorable gift. In fact, every graduate I know might get them from now on! To purchase, click here.
Trinket Trays. Don’t all women need a place to put little things on their nightstands and desks? Every night, when I’m getting ready for bed, I put my earrings in a trinket tray on my nightstand. The next morning, I put them in the jewelry box, but it’s nice to have a little place to store them overnight. I love Jonathan Adler colorful trinket trays, but there are lots of options out there. If you have a Clemson fan on your list, she’s likely to love the small tiger trinket tray by Jonathan Adler pictured below. To see lots of options (including the Adler tiger tray), click here.
Acrylic Makeup Organizers. One of the very best gifts I received as a high school graduate in 1985 was an acrylic makeup organizer. My mother’s friend, Polly, gave it to me, and I treasured it all the way through college and beyond. It’s a great gift for any young lady, and they’re pretty darn inexpensive.To see options, click here.
Back Rest Pillow. Reading or studying at a desk is not always optimal in a dorm room, and that’s where a back rest pillow comes in. Great for boys or girls, back rest pillows offer great support for sitting up in bed. I had one back in the old days, and this is one great idea lots of people still use! The grad in your life will be grateful, and your wallet will too, since it’s priced at under $50. To purchase, click here.
Laundry Backpack. Laundry bags are crucial for anyone living in a dorm, but laundry backpacks are easy to carry and good looking too! My daughter has one and loves it, because it keeps her hands free while she walks to the laundry room or to drop off her laundry.To see options and purchase, click here.
Foldable Drying Rack. Not every clothing item can go in the dryer, and that’s where the Amazon Foldable Drying Rack comes in. The graduate might not understand at first, but as soon as they shrink something in the dryer, they’ll get it. This foldable rack takes up minimal room in a dorm and is easy to stand up and take down. Highly recommend. To purchase, click here.
Tool Set. A family friend gave our daughter a tool set for graduation last year, and it was one of the best, most useful gifts she received! We used it at move-in, and she has used it many times since! Amazon offers lots of tool sets at reasonable prices. The one pictured below is marketed toward women (pink), but there are lots to choose from. To see what Amazon offers, click here.
Baboon to the Moon Bag. This is one of my favorite brands of anything. I have several Baboon to the Moon bags for travel, and my daughter loves hers too. We especially love the “Go Bags” in various sizes for air travel. They’re waterproof, colorful, roomy, and guaranteed for life! Our favorite is the Go Bag-Small, which is priced at just under $200, but they have a couple of colors on sale for under $100 at time of writing. See the Go Bags here.
Mattress Topper. I simply cannot express strongly enough how necessary a mattress topper is for anyone living in a dorm and having to sleep on a dorm mattress. We purchased our daughter a Sleepyhead 3-inch mattress topper, and while it was expensive at over $300, we feel like it was worth every penny. However, if you want to give someone a mattress topper without breaking the bank, there are lots of options. To see Sleepyhead toppers, click here. To see other brands, click here.
Amazon Gift Card. All graduates love gift cards, and with the Amazon gift card, they can get just about everything they need for a dorm room or apartment. For grads, I prefer to send the gift card in a box shaped like a graduation cap, adding a cute touch. Any amount would be appreciated by a graduate. To purchase, click here.
Monogrammed Towels. Monogrammed towels are one of the best gifts ever for high school students. If they are going to college, it’s an easy way to keep their towels from disappearing! I highly recommend monogrammed towels for guys or girls, but I’m not going to recommend a brand, because it’s all about personal preference.
That’s a list of suggestions for gifts for guys and girls who are graduating from high school this year. If you have a friend or family member graduating this year, you will likely make them happy with some of the gifts above, but shop early! Good graduation gifts sell out fast, and won’t you be more relaxed if you get it done early?!? Happy shopping!
It’s not too late! If you’re just now trying to figure out Easter Basket stuffers, you’re in good company: me. I just finally ordered Easter stuff today. Yes, I still put together an Easter basket for our 19-yr-old daughter and one of her friends every year. For years, our daughter’s friend has spent the night at our house the night before Easter, and every year, the bunny brings them baskets. Even though they are college freshmen this year, they will still get baskets. In fact, as long as I am able to do it, they will get baskets from our Easter Bunny.
Try to shop local whenever possible! I have purchased some items from local boutiques in Charlotte like Paper Skyscraper, The Buttercup, and more. The Buttercup has some great Easter items for younger children. They are located at 1035 Providence Road in Charlotte, and Paper Skyscraper is on East Boulevard.
Target also has some good Easter basket offerings, but they’re getting pretty picked over by now I haven’t had the opportunity to go there, so I sat down and started ordering online.
Today, I ordered a couple of baskets in the girls’ sorority colors. They are in the same sorority at different schools, so those baskets will match! I ordered them from Amazon, and they are actually baskets for “gamers,” but I thought they could actually use the baskets in their rooms, because they don’t really look like Easter baskets. See the Easter baskets offered by Amazon here. You can see and purchase the one I purchased here.
And then I went straight to Easter basket stuffers. I purchased Easter candy at my local Walgreens, but I wanted to get the girls some things they could actually use. Even though a garden gnome seems like a strange Easter Basket stuffer, I got them each one, simply because I got them gnomes a couple of years ago. Purchase the one I purchased here. And see Amazon’s other gnome selections here.
Since they are both first-year Kappa Kappa Gammas, I thought it would be fun to incorporate that into their basket items too. They love sweatshirts, and I found some cute sorority Comfort Colors sweatshirts. I needed them to arrive in time for Easter, so the pickings were slim, but I found these. To find similar ones for your daughter’s sorority on Amazon, click here. Just be careful to be sure whatever you order will arrive in time for Easter if you want to include it in the basket.
Additionally, I got them some Jojowell Shower Steamers that come 21 to a package in seven different scents. Each package is less that $25, and these steamers can make a shower feel like a spa! They come complete with two mesh bags and two suction cups for hanging the steamers in the shower. To purchase them, click here.
What else are they getting? How about some matching pajamas in their sorority colors? Yes! They get very excited about PJs every year, so they will be expecting some kind of pajamas, but the sorority colors will be a surprise! See the ones I purchased here. To see other cute PJ options on Amazon, click here. Or purchase some at your favorite boutique or retailer.
Because they loved Nickelodeon, specifically the show, iCarly, I got them both some XL iCarly t-shirts. They’ll laugh, and honestly, they’re likely to use them as pajamas sometimes. Last year, I gave them some iCarly Kooky pens, so this will carry on that theme. You can see the Amazon’s selection of iCarly t-shirts here. There are t-shirts for various Nickelodeon shows on Amazon here.
I also got them some acrylic glasses they can use in their dorms or in next year’s apartments or sorority houses. They can never have too many plastic or acrylic cups that they don’t have to worry about breaking. See the large selection on Amazon here.
And don’t forget the plastic Easter eggs! Sure, you can get the standard plastic Easter eggs, or you can get some that are especially cute from Amazon! I found some that I will fill with chocolates and other candies, because what’s an Easter basket without colorful Easter eggs?!? See the cute ones I purchased here. Or if you’d like something different than what I bought, you can see a huge selection here.
I know some of you might have younger children, so your Easter basket stuffers will likely be different than what I’m getting. If you have younger children, there is a whole section on Amazon that’s just for basket stuffers of all shapes and sizes. You can see them here.
But order right away! You don’t want to be left with an empty basket on Easter morning!
My friend, Linda, shared a video recently (on Facebook) that featured Sir Ian McKellen telling a story about getting into a taxi in Manchester, England, and the driver asks, “Where you going to, love?” Sir Ian said he immediately feels at home, where grown men call strangers “love.” He goes on to say the world would be a better place if we all called each other “love,” and I agree. It’s a practice I hope to start now. In my estimation, once I say in 10 or 12 times, it should become a habit, right?
It’s really not a stretch. I already tell everyone I love that I love them when we hang up the phone or when we say goodbye in person. I have written about that before and how it annoyed my friend, Wendy, until I got her in the habit of saying it too. But calling complete strangers “love” could be a little tougher.
In recent months, I have started something new with my daughter. She likely hasn’t noticed. Every now and then, I simply text her “I love you” out of the blue. That’s not really abnormal for us, but in recent months, it has become more frequent for a reason. Sometime after the first of the year, I realized I would text her things that sounded like I was correcting her or giving unsolicited advice. Once I realized it, I decided to try to keep myself in check, so every time I find myself preparing to send her a text with unsolicited advice, I stop myself and text “I love you” instead. Don’t get me wrong. I still offer advice, but normally, only when we are talking on the phone or in person. So basically, I’m replacing my unsolicited advice and nagging with love messages. It makes me feel better, and I’m sure that, even thought she hasn’t even realized the difference yet, she feels better too. She always returns the message with “I love you too.”
So now I need to implement my plan to call everyone “love.” I’m sure some people will find it odd. Some people might even say, “I’m not your love.” And that’s OK. I will know, deep down, that I’m just trying to be nice and spread joy and love. I know everyone will react differently, because my friend, Mary Ann, and I did a social experiment in Beverly Hills ten years ago. We said “good morning” to everyone we passed on the sidewalk. Some people acted like we were weirdos, but a few hugged us and thanked us. You never know when someone needs some love! I feel like there are lots of people walking around out there who haven’t been called “love” or felt loved in a long time! Maybe just one stranger will appreciate being called “love”? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to walk around just saying “hi love” to everyone I see. It will likely be used where I would normally use “sir” or “ma’am.” For example, if someone holds the door open for me as I’m walking into a store, I might say, “Thank you, love!” Or if I’m in a restaurant and my server asks me a question, maybe I answer, “Yes, love.” Maybe I will use it with my friends when they answer the phone, “Hi love!” It is a work in progress. I’ll keep you posted.
Any chance you might want to join me in this plan, love?
If you came here looking for an intelligent op ed piece, you’ve come to the wrong place. Leave now. You will not get any form of intelligence here. In fact, if the balloon that hovered over the US last week listened to phone calls I made, they intercepted a whole different kind of “intelligence.”
Think about that. If “they” were listening to your calls, what would they hear?
Years ago, a friend’s phone was tapped. This was before cellphones were everywhere, and we still used land lines. We were both probably 25-ish. She was married. I was in the dating pool. We talked all the time, and at some point, I realized I would hear strange clicks in the line. Or we would hear a click or two and the call would disconnect. One day, when I called her back after being disconnected, I said, “I think your phone is tapped. This doesn’t happen when I talk to anyone else.” Later, we discovered it was, indeed, tapped. This is when I tell you she had done nothing wrong. I had done nothing wrong. We were just stupid young women talking on a phone line that was tapped for another reason. After we realized it really had been tapped, we wondered aloud to each other, “Can you imagine the frivolous conversations they heard between us?” I still think about it and laugh. They heard me talk about guys I dated. Hopefully, they got a good laugh out of my dating stories, because they could generate some laughs, for sure. They likely heard me talk about going out at night. And they had to listen to endless tales of our work lives. I feel pretty sure the clicks and disconnections were when they hung up to put themselves out of the misery our inane conversations caused them.
However, those calls were undoubtedly more interesting than the phone conversations someone would hear if they listened in on my calls today. What might they hear?
On the day I learned about the balloon, they would have heard me call the veterinarian office about our dog’s ear infection. They would have listened to me trying to describe the yuck that I saw and smelled in my dog’s ear. After about 30 seconds of listening to that call, they were likely gagging.
Another day, they probably heard me talking with a friend about how we keep telling our college daughters to use the meal plans we have paid for. It’s a struggle. I would have been complaining about the fact that my daughter had a $63 restaurant charge on my credit card for dinner the night before. And that’s on top of the meal I have already paid for in her meal plan! Whoever was listening probably wanted to be my daughter at that point, because it seems she’s living in high cotton (while I’m eating at home every day). However, “they” probably heard me hang up and call my daughter again and remind her I can block her credit card if she keeps pulling that stunt.
“They” would have listened to a silly call from my brother, who called to ask me how to say some things in Spanish. If they heard that call, they heard him butcher every Spanish word he tried to repeat. Trust me, it was painful.
They could have listened to me on the phone with a friend, singing old TV theme songs. Yes, that really happened. TV show theme songs used to be good…think Gilligan’s Island, The Beverly Hillbillies, Facts of Life, The Brady Bunch, even The Flintstones. Oooh…and because I loved watching shows from before my time: The Patty Duke Show had a great theme song.
At some point, I called our daughter at least three or four times to square away the details on an upcoming trip to Miami. I already had my ticket, but she’s flying from a different airport. I was purchasing her ticket, so I needed to make sure I booked flight times that would work for her. Once the tickets were booked, we discussed restaurant reservations. The daughter likely made fun of me at least five times during the call, because that’s what 19-yr-old daughters do, right?
After that? A friend called to ask me if I knew where she could get a toenail fungus taken care of. Y’all know a toenail fungus is not easy to cure, right? Sure, you can buy that over-the-counter stuff, and it will improve the appearance, but it won’t cure it. You can take an oral prescription for three months, but it can cause liver damage. Nobody wants liver damage. I will tell you what I told my friend: there are podiatrists that treat it with lasers, and the $1300 treatment works. Don’t ask me how I know. One place to get the treatment is the Carolinas Laser Nail Center; make an appointment here.
The friend whose phone was tapped 30 years ago called to tell me about another car mishap. She totaled a car a few weeks ago, and just got a new car. Less than a week after getting a new car, a buck…as in a big deer with antlers…ran into the driver’s side door of her car while she was driving down a city street! She said, “I mean, he ran right into my door! We were eyeball to eyeball!” Ugh. Talk about bad luck…
Another morning, they might have heard me describing to my friend, Mary Ann, the scene at our house. One of our dogs had experienced some stomach issues during the night, and all three had somehow, managed to roll in it. They had all slept in a big crate together that night, and we still aren’t sure which one had stomach issues. When “they” heard me say one of our dogs had “exploded” overnight, they were probably really confused! I just don’t think it would translate well. “They” probably lost their appetites after listening to that call.
On yet another call, they’d have heard me telling my friend, Kelli, about my husband’s DIY project that became my project. He was assembling a gardening table and asked for my help. Anyone who is married knows DIY projects are recipes for disaster. I knew Kelli would understand the pain I felt as I tried to “assist” my husband with that project.
Sadly, “they”would have heard me talking with my daughter, who was sick last week. She called me upset after waking up with fever, and I rushed around getting everything I could think of to help her feel better…calling her repeatedly to ask about different things I thought she might need.
On one phone call, I talked with a friend about Charlie’s Angels, the original show from the 1970s, starring Jaclyn Smith, Farrah Fawcett, and Kate Jackson…and later Cheryl Ladd, Shelley Hack, and Tanya Roberts. I actually saw Jaclyn Smith on the sidewalk in New York a few years ago and thought how my little girl self would have gone crazy! As we discussed all the angels, we wondered aloud if Shelley Hack was dead; she’s not. But she did star in some commercials for Charlie perfume back in the day, so of course, we sang the jingle, “There’s a fragrance that’s here today, and they call it…Charlie!” To see one of the commercials on YouTube, click here. That led us to the jingle on the commercials for Enjoli perfume (“I can bring home the bacon…”), which you can see here. It was a real trip down memory lane. And FYI: Tanya Roberts is the angel who is no longer with us; she passed in 2021.
The only call that would have been a problem for “them” to hear was the one in which I made a hotel reservation on the phone and gave the hotel reservations rep my credit card number. I guess “they” could have gone on a shopping spree with my credit card. Praying I don’t start seeing charges from China.
Aside from that one call, my calls probably would make them think Americans are idiots. They would likely think we laugh a lot, because I laugh a lot. If nothing else, I hope “they” think I’m funny. And I hope “they” don’t use my credit card. I think it’s safe to say the wouldn’t get any national security secrets from my phone calls, but they would definitely get a snapshot of life in these United States. I hope they were entertained.
Sunday, my husband and I drove back to Charlotte from our daughter’s university. We had a friend’s son with us; he went down there with us, because he was visiting the university. Soon after we started our trip home, I told my husband we would need to stop for food somewhere along the way, because I hadn’t eaten breakfast.
That’s when we started energetically discussing our favorite gas station food stops. Yep, gas station food stops. Y’all can laugh, but occasionally, I like to sample gas station food.
First, we talked about Buc-ee’s, a chain of travel centers/convenience stores based in Texas. Buc-ee’s has opened locations across the south over the last few years, so we see their cartoon beaver mascot on highway billboards across several states. I have been in a Buc-ee’s once, in Loxley, Alabama, and I was a little overwhelmed, to tell the truth. Maybe it was because it was new, but there were far too many people. In defense of Buc-ee’s, however, they handled the crowd very well. There were lots of gas pumps and all kinds of tshirts, themed souvenirs, and different kinds of food. I have a friend here in Charlotte who swears Grandma GG’s Pepper Jelly sold at Buc-ee’s is his all-time favorite. Apparently, it’s hard to find in their stores, because it’s so good, so when he finds it, he stocks up. Buc-ee’s offers lots of different t-shirts and sweatshirts featuring their beaver logo, but it seems they are best known for their clean restrooms, brisket, jerky, and fudge. Unfortunately, on this trip, the only one we passed was way too busy for me to risk going in. Maybe next time. *For more information about Buc-ee’s, click here.
We then talked about Sheetz andWawa, both based in Pennsylvania. There are no Wawa stores in North Carolina, but we have quite a few Sheetz stores located north of Charlotte. I’ll get back to Wawa in a minute. Sheetz is a longtime family favorite. My daughter and I love Sheetz and have been known to take a day trip to the one in Troutman, just north of Charlotte. We always laugh that we are road tripping to a gas station for food. We were introduced to Sheetz when a club soccer mom (I’m looking at you, Meredith Walker!) suggested we meet there during a tournament break several years ago. My daughter fell in love with the place. Made-to-order junk food? Yes, please! I love their tater tots and hot dogs, and my daughter loves the popcorn chicken. They also offer great burritos, tacos, and salads, but one of my favorite things to get there are the Sheetz Gobbz, a prepackaged small whoopie pie. Yum. A friend from Pennsylvania (props to you, Sara) made some gobs for me years ago, and an addiction was born. The Sheetz brand item is called Gobbz, and they’re pretty awesome…not as good as the ones Sara makes, but good. I highly recommend you try Sheetz if you find yourself in the vicinity; also, their bathrooms are always clean too. *To see more about Sheetz, click here.
As for Wawa, it’s another popular gas station/convenience store with made-to-order food based in Pennsylvania. The only one I’ve ever visted was in Ocala, Florida. I was visiting a college friend for a few days, and when she stopped to put gas in her car at the Wawa, I suggested we get some food while we were there. I would be lying if I said I remember exactly what I ordered. I know I ordered a cold hoagie, but I don’t remember which one. I do remember that I liked it. We sat outside at a picnic table to enjoy our meals, and I remember feeling like it was a positive experience. I’ll need to try Wawa again. To see more about Wawa, click here.
As I said earlier, we talked about Buc-ee’s but opted not to stop there on this trip. Our friend who was traveling with us extolled the virtues of the food at QuikTrip (QT), an Oklahoma-based chain that we have all over the Carolinas and in lots of other states. I have been in QT many times, but I never noticed that they have made-to-order food! How did I miss that? We decided we would get some food at QT. My husband won’t eat junk food, so while he put gas in the car at a QT, my friend and I walked inside to order. We located the ordering kiosks and started making our selections. I think our friend was a little surprised at the sheer number of items I ordered. Heck, I was experiencing something new, so I said, “Let’s order lots of different things! I want to check them out! We have a long ride; might as well enjoy some junk food!” And order we did. What did we order? We had a Cuban grilled cheese, a sausage biscuit, a brisket taco, brisket mac & cheese, a Buffalo chicken grilled cheese, a chocolate shake, a vanilla shake, an Icee, and a few other random snacks. Oh yes, we did! My personal faves were the Cuban, the brisket taco, and the brisket mac & cheese. Also, I never met a milkshake I didn’t like. We “feasted” on junk food for miles! I even sent my daughter a video showing her how much stuff we had ordered, and she called me, laughing. One thing I can say: QT knows food. Everything we had was delicious! To see more about QT, click here.
We have QTs all over Charlotte, so I called a friend with whom I often lunch and asked her if she knows about the food at QT. She said she does know. I said, “Seriously? We should grab lunch there one day.” Who would ever think the “ladies who lunch” would grab junk food from QT? Well, it will happen. I’m craving that Cuban grilled cheese. Maybe I will introduce her to Sheetz with a quick day trip to Troutman.
The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
I have heard that my whole life. It was one of those sayings my parents used when I was upset that things weren’t going the way I had planned. I heard it a lot when I was a teenager, a college student, and well into my twenties. Since my parents were about 30 years older than me, they had perspective I didn’t have. Those movie plans with friends that fell apart when I was 12? My parents knew it seemed like a big deal to me at the time, but they had perspective. Date plans that fell through when I was in high school? Probably for the best, they knew. Study schedule in college that got interrupted? Again, they knew it wasn’t a big deal…I would find a way to circle back and make things happen.
My husband and I returned from visiting our daughter at college yesterday. We drove the seven hours there (including food and gas stops) on Friday and drove the seven hours back yesterday (Sunday). A son of some friends rode with us, because he wanted to visit the university. As we got ready to leave our house Friday to start the journey, I told him he’d be riding shotgun. He looked a little surprised, but I explained that I love riding in the backseat…more room to spread out and less opportunity for me to correct my husband’s driving…thus, avoiding any “tension.” We started our trip at about 8:00 am. I was excited to see our daughter, and I had big dinner plans for both nights with some friends from college who would be visiting at the same time.
When we arrived, our daughter was working on a group project that was due that afternoon, so we had to wait a little while to see her. I knew in advance that our time with her would be limited, because there was a lot going on, and I was OK with that. As long as we got to have a little time with her and some meals with her, I was going to be happy. Once she got the project turned in, she came over and picked up the young man who had ridden down with us, so she could deliver him to the friend he was staying with. We saw her for about five minutes. I then had an afternoon cocktail at a local restaurant with my husband before going out for a lovely dinner with two friends from college, one of whom I had not seen since I graduated 34 years ago! We laughed. We told stories. We drank a little, and laughed some more. And before we turned in for the night, we made plans to get together the next day with another friend, Angela, who would be arriving around lunchtime.
Little did I know my plans were about to go awry.
The next morning, our daughter called me in tears, saying, “I don’t feel well.” I drove over and picked her up, and as soon as she got in the car, I knew she was sick. I felt the back of her neck like I have done her whole life, and yep…she had a fever. I tucked her into bed in the hotel room, and my husband stayed with her while I rushed to the grocery store and pharmacy to get everything I could think of to help her: Tylenol, Advil Cold & Sinus, Gatorade, Chicken Broth, Rice (microwaveable), Premium Saltines , Nyquil, and a COVID test. While I was rushing around, I called my friends and told them I wouldn’t be able to participate in the fun that night, since my baby girl was sick. Of course, they understood. After she got a negative result on the COVID test, we knew it was just a cold with fever, but I felt like she needed me. She was missing some big parties that afternoon, so I knew she was genuinely sick.
A little later, she told me her roommate had the same symptoms back in the dorm, so I rushed back to the grocery store and pharmacy, taking the roommate all the same things I had gotten for our daughter. Then I went back to the hotel and spent the rest of the day watching sports and cheesy movies on TV with my husband and daughter. At one point, later in the evening, our sweet girl looked at me and said, “Mom, I’m so sorry I messed up your plans.” So sweet. I said, “No! Please don’t be sorry! I will see those friends another time! It just gives me a reason to plan something else with them! I’m not happy you’re sick, but I’m getting to take care of you, and that’s what I do. I feel like God wanted us to spend a little more time together.” She got some extra “mama hugs” because she didn’t feel well, and I got extra hugs too. I think we might have both needed them.
Yesterday, she still felt crummy when she woke up, but with a good breakfast and some meds in her, she started to feel a little better. We got her back to her dorm with all the sickness supplies, and I ran to Starbucks to get her and her roommate each a Honey Citrus Mint Tea, what we call a “Medicine Ball” in our house. It always makes us feel better when we have upper respiratory viruses. It’s a blend of steamed lemonade, peach herbal tea, citrus mint tea, hot water, and a touch of honey…the perfect blend to soothe the throat and open up those nasal passages! Read about Starbucks Honey Citrus Mint Tea here.
After dropping off the teas, I gave my daughter a few more hugs before loading up to head back home. Again, I rode in the back seat, so I couldn’t “correct” my husband’s driving. He and our friend’s son picked different music for the trip, and we all laughed and told stories along the way. We also had a “junk food fest” when we stopped at a QT gas station for gas, but that’s a story for later…a story I plan to share soon!
I will make plans to meet my friends another day somewhere, or maybe they’ll come for a visit in Charlotte.
For now, I’m taking care of the husband, who seems to have caught the virus from our daughter. Anyone with a husband knows how that goes; at our house, we call it the “man flu.”
Our daughter is returning to college for the second semester of her freshman year. In just 36 hours, our blissful month of having her under our roof will end. She and my husband will load up her car and start the 450 mile drive back to her university. She will drop him off at the airport before she goes to her dorm. He will fly home…without her.
And our house will be eerily quiet…again. It will be as quiet as it has been for the past few months, since we dropped her off in August. That dorm move-in is a distant memory now. Remember all the planning? Remember all the boxes of dorm supplies and decor stacked up in my foyer? I can hardly remember it now.
She survived first semester. With medical emergencies, the flu, late nights, lots of fun, lots of new friends…she survived. Not only did she survive, she thrived. Our girl was made for the big college atmosphere. It’s her happy place, for the most part. Don’t get me wrong; there were occasional tears. If you have a child leaving for college next fall, just know there will be tears. Sometimes they just have to get through the tears to get to the good stuff. I have told our daughter that in many late night phone conversations. If we didn’t have the bad, we wouldn’t appreciate the good. It’s absolutely true. The good seems so much better after you experience the bad. If your child calls you crying from college, remind them and yourself of that.
I will be having to remind myself of that over the next few weeks, as we adjust to a quiet house again.
Our house has felt like our house again for the past month, while our girl has been home. We had her friends in and out of the house at all hours. Many times, I was up at 2am, making grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for a gaggle of friends. I’m not complaining; I loved every minute of it. Some nights, I was picking her up from a friend’s house or a party in the wee hours of the morning. After the murders at the University of Idaho, I wasn’t real keen on her taking an Uber. That horrible crime was a reminder that a background check is just a check of what someone hasn’t been caught doing or hasn’t done yet. It’s scary to think young girls all over the country hop into the car with strangers all the time, right? So while our daughter was in Charlotte, I was her personal Uber driver if she needed me. *Say a prayer for the families of those University of Idaho students.*
Did my husband love the late nights? No. It drives him crazy to have to stay up past midnight. He leads a very structured life, and if the timing gets messed up, he’s not happy. I’m a total vampire who flies by the seat of my pants, so in my world, I love the chaos. I love spontaneity. I love getting in the car at 1:30am to pick up our daughter and friends to bring them back to our house. I love standing in the kitchen, in my pajamas and robe, preparing food for them after they get here. And I’m going to miss it.
Will we get to bed at a reasonable hour every night? Yes. Will the amount of laundry I have to do decrease exponentially? Yes. But honestly, I will miss the extra laundry. I will miss watching the clock as we wait for her to come home. I will miss the late night talks in her room. I will miss watching football games with her.
I will miss her.
Thank God we have some vacations coming up soon, so we won’t be in this quiet house. Before we know it, she will come home for a visit. If she doesn’t, chances are I will hop on a plane and go see her one weekend soon…just because I miss her. She’ll need a Mama hug, and I’ll need to see her face to make sure she’s OK.
I keep reminding myself that in just four short months, she will be home for summer. We will take mother/daughter trips again. She will likely want to visit friends in different cities, and that’s OK too. We will just be happy to have her here when we can. Just having that to look forward to will keep us going. Well, that and some fun trips.
Meet us in the Bahamas, but bring your own snorkel gear!
I was born in the late 1960s, so most of my childhood was in the 1970s. If yours was too, you likely loved McDonald’s. From the time I was a year old until I was seven, I lived in a little town in Alabama that didn’t have McDonald’s. We had a local hamburger drive-in that was really good, but it wasn’t McDonald’s. We even had a Dairy Queen…not McDonald’s. Eventually, we got a Jack’s, a hamburger place based in Birmingham, Alabama, but we still didn’t have McDonald’s when I moved away. We often went to Pensacola or Mobile for doctor appointments or to shop, so we had McDonald’s then, and it was a treat! I’m not kidding…a treat we could hardly wait to get! Those hamburgers! Those fries! Those chocolate shakes!
When I was seven, I moved with my family to the Mobile area, and we got McDonald’s all the time, because McDonald’s was plentiful in Mobile…I mostly remember the two on Government Street, and the one near the University of South Alabama on Old Shell Road. As kids, we even went to birthday parties at McDonald’s, and those were the best birthday parties! When I was eight years old, they even opened a McDonald’s in Bel Air Mall…a big, huge deal, because that whole wing of the mall started smelling like McDonald’s. To kids back then, McDonald’s was a little slice of Heaven.
One night last week, I craved McDonald’s. It happens occasionally. McDonald’s crosses my mind, and I simply have to have it. That night, I hopped in the car and drove to the nearest McDonald’s, got in the drive-thru line, and placed my order: hamburger, large fries, and a large Diet Coke. The service was quick, and I didn’t even make it out of the parking lot before I started gobbling up the feast from the paper bag. That first bite smelled and tasted like childhood happiness. I can’t explain it, but as soon as I unwrapped that burger, I felt like I was a kid again. And the fries? Well, it doesn’t get better than hot McDonald’s fries. I have known that my whole life.
If you’re anywhere near my age, chances are you have some McDonald’s memories. Maybe you went to birthday parties there. Maybe you ate there after every high school home football game (like I did). Maybe you remember the aroma of those hamburgers and French fries. Maybe you remember the McDonaldland characters and can identify all of them! Maybe you went there with high school friends or stopped there for breakfast on the way to school in the morning.
Sadly, the latest generations don’t seem to appreciate McDonald’s like we did. However, our daughter might be one of the exceptions. She loved McDonald’s Happy Meals as a kid. I took her to McDonald’s because I liked it, so she learned to like it too. Sometimes, we met friends there, so the kids could play in the indoor play area. Sometimes, we went to the two-story McDonald’s in South Park in Charlotte. My daughter, when she was a little girl, called it the “upstairs McDonald’s.” But I think a lot of kids didn’t have the joyful McDonald’s experience because society became health conscious and frowned upon it. Too bad, because kids missed out on that little indulgence. McDonald’s is supposed to be fun, and frankly, I think it’s OK in moderation. Do I want my daughter eating there all the time? No, and she doesn’t. But if she wants some fries from there once or twice a month…enjoy!
Fortunately, my daughter has a friend who told me about the McDonald’s App. If you have any appreciation for McDonald’s and don’t have the app, you’re leaving money on the table! Through the app, you can earn points to use toward future purchases, but you have immediate access to special deals like Free Fry Fridays, BOGO offers, and more! Seriously, if all you like about McDonald’s is their perfectly fizzy sodas, get the app now!
Right now, they have a BOGO order on breakfast sandwiches. They also have percentage off offers on different sandwiches, meals, and beverages. Seriously, if you like their coffee (it’s good) you can use the app for deals on that!
So if you’d like to experience a little childhood happiness, go download the app. You’ll be glad you did, because McDonald’s is your kind of place!