McDonald’s is My Kind of Place

McDonald’s is my kind of place.

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!

Gallbladder Surgery Changed My Life

Gallbladder surgery changed my life.

At least 12 years. That’s how long I had been suffering with gallstones. I knew it the first time I felt them. Every time one moved through a duct, I suffered. Over time, I figured out some of the “triggers” for my “attacks.” Bacon, eggs, avocado, red meat, fried foods, salad dressings, and even some grains were triggers! I know there are vegetarians in the world, but honestly, if you’re not eating bacon occasionally, you’re missing out on one of the great joys of life…and I went years without bacon.

I often meet my friend, Linda, for breakfast, but over the past few years, I had to order egg-white omelets and no bacon. Sad. Don’t get me wrong. Egg white omelets are good, but occasionally, it’s nice to have a real omelet.

Soon after that first attack, I asked my primary care provider to order some tests to check my gallbladder. I felt positive that was my problem. She ordered an ultrasound, and nothing showed up, so life went on. I should have demanded that she order more tests, but instead, I “limped along” for a few years.

Then I changed primary care providers. I decided the one I had was not working to improve my life as much as she was working to improve her own. But while I was between providers, I made an appointment for myself with a gastroenterologist to see if I could get my gallbladder removed, and the PA in that office told me they only removed them in emergency situations. Wow. That is an insane answer. I even said, “You’d rather I end up in an emergency situation in Mexico or the Bahamas or Panama or Peru?” But I moved on.

Over the next couple of years, I had friends in Charlotte tell me they’d had their gallbladder removed, and they were not in an emergency situation. I suffered regularly, wondering when the next “attack” would be and wondering if it would become an emergency situation. When “attacks” occurred, I used my own home remedies. I took over the counter painkillers (and worried about my liver). Sometimes, I mixed apple cider vinegar with apple juice and drank it…yuck. I took Goli Apple Cider Vinegar Gummies (to see more about them, click here). I turned on the seat heater in my car. I got in bed and waited it out. If someone had told me to stand on my head and juggle jars of pickled pigs feet (yes, pickled pigs feet are real), I likely would have tried. it.

So finally, in January of this year, I’d had enough. I made another appointment at the same gastro office but insisted on another provider. And we got real tests underway. The original ultrasound was unremarkable, showing gallstones but nothing wrong with the actual organ. But boy was that wrong! The second test, the HIDA scan, showed that I had only five percent function of my gallbladder...five percent!

I had surgery at the end of August after many delays due to COVID in my household. Without going into any details about my internal organs, I will say the surgeon said it was obvious the gallbladder needed to go. There was quite a bit of scarring, she said, proving I had suffered for a while. For anyone who might be having their gallbladder removed, I’d like to say it was pretty uneventful and easy. After the laparoscopic procedure, I came home and relaxed, taking narcotic pain relievers for less than 36 hours. Two days in, I strolled three miles in the afternoon. The next day, I rested. In fact, I operated on that “alternating exercise days” for the next nine days until I met a friend in Miami for a Caribbean cruise.

At that point, the only pain I had was when I rolled over in bed. Nothing severe…just a reminder that I’d had surgery. But after the first couple days of the cruise, all pain was gone, and by the time I came home, the only reminders were the tiny incisions on my abdomen. At my follow-up appointment soon after my return, the surgeon called me a prize patient! I had done everything I was supposed to do, and my incisions were healing nicely.

And now, I’m seven weeks post-surgery. I feel no pain. Knock wood. It’s amazing how much different I feel!

But the whole reason for this post? If you suspect you have gallbladder problems, force the issue. If you don’t get the answer you want from one doctor, go to another. Don’t just sit on your heels waiting like I did. Gallstones can turn into a very serious situation if a stone gets lodged in or blocks a pancreatic duct, causing pancreatitis, which is very painful. And don’t be afraid of the surgery. No one was more frightened than I was. I had never had general anesthesia before, and I was afraid, but I’m so glad I did it.

I now meet friends for lunch and eat without worrying about how I’m going to feel afterward. I’m still not much of a red meat eater. I prefer fish and chicken, so at least that good did come from the issues. But when I got to lunch with my friend, Linda, at Bricktop’s, I can order the deviled eggs appetizer with maple sugar bacon…and I enjoy every bite, because I remember life without bacon and eggs! I truly feel like I have my life back, as corny as that sounds. I say prayers of thanks regularly.

First College Birthday

First college birthday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s Get this Garden Started!

Let’s get this garden started!

Last summer, I decided to take the summer off from gardening. After the whole pandemic thing, I thought I needed a break from my backyard garden. By July, I knew I was wrong. No matter how much work it is, I love gardening in summer. It relaxes me. It gives me more purpose. It’s important. Last August, I wrote about how much I missed it. You can see that here.

So this year, I have already gotten started. Before my daughter and I left for her senior spring break trip last week, I got 72 seeds started in a Burpee Seed Starting Greenhouse Kit (order your Burpee kit from Amazon here), and last night and today, I have started 144 more. While I was in Jamaica (with 60 kids and their parents, yikes!), I didn’t even think about the seeds I had started till the third night of my four night trip. As trashy as it sounds, I had left the grow kit in the window of our dining room, so it would get lots of light. I called my husband on that third night and asked him to walk in there and see if anything was happening, and he sent me a picture of lots of emerging seedlings! Once I see that kind of progress, I get excited and want to start more seeds, so I have been busy since we got home.

Being in North Carolina makes gardening a little tricky. It’s hard to tell when winter is officially over. It might be 80 degrees for two weeks, and then we will get snow the first week of April…trust me, it has happened. So I’m never really sure about when to transfer my seedlings to the ground. I try to wait as long as possible for the last cold snap and for the plants to get a little bigger, because I learned a long time ago that birds, rabbits, and deer love seedlings. I think I will likely do the transplant thing in two weeks and put all kinds of things around the garden to deter the pests. It looks crazy out there when I get all my flash tape, pinwheels, and fake owls out, but they do seem to help deter the “pests” a little. I can’t sit outside like Elmer Fudd with a gun hunting “wabbits” all night.

Seriously, I’m feeling better already just because I know I’m going to have a garden. I never realized how much it bolsters my mood till I didn’t garden last year. This year I will have tomatoes (tomato sandwiches, anyone?), three varieties of cucumbers (salad, anyone?), two varieties of corn, and lots and lots of different varieties of sunflowers, including the beautiful Mexican Sunflowers…a big, bushy plant full of tiny orange blooms!

Maybe now is when I should tell you that my “garden” means my whole backyard. There’s not a whole lot of rhyme or reason to my “garden.” I just plant where I can, and sometimes, it drives my husband crazy. Our next-door neighbor seems to enjoy it…she helps me with it when I’m out of town, and I share the cucumbers and tomatoes with her. Plus, she loves bees and butterflies as much as I do, and one of the great things about all those flowers and cucumber blossoms is that they attract both.

Having a garden makes me go outside every morning and every evening to tend things. I like to water everything by hand twice a day. I know, I could set up the irrigation system, but there’s something special about watering by hand…and by hand, I mean with the hose. Occasionally, I mix plant food in a watering can, but most of the time, I water things with the hose. If I’m not watering the plants, I’m pruning the plants or harvesting. And I’m always on the lookout for pests like tomato grubs or cucumber worms/beetles. A tomato grub will make short order of an entire tomato plant in no time!

I’m a self-taught gardener, which means I have learned along the way, and I’m still learning! For example, a few years ago, I planted my corn plants too far apart, so I had to learn how to pollinate them by hand! Later, I realized one corn plant had corn smut, a fungus that is considered a blight here in the US but is a culinary delicacy in Mexico! So you know what I did…I learned how to make tacos with it. In Mexico, they call it huitlacoche (pronounced weetluhkochay), and cooked right, it is delicious. I also learned that braconid wasps lay eggs in the backs of tomato grubs, so if you see a tomato grub with white, spiny-looking things (the wasp eggs) sticking out of a tomato grub’s back, leave it alone. It will die from a toxic substance in the eggs, and the eggs will hatch new wasps that will keep the cycle going! Growing flowers close to tomato plants helps attract the wasps in the first place.

Do I know everything about gardening? No way! I know very little compared to most, but I enjoy learning to new things, so it’s fun. Hopefully, I will learn even more this spring and summer!

Let’s get this garden started!

I’ve Been Out of Circulation

I’ve been out of circulation.

Last week, I woke up one day with a fever and a sore throat. I recognized the feeling…it felt like strep throat. When I was growing up, my mother would say I would catch strep throat “if someone who had it walked within 500 feet of me.” I’m beginning to think that might have been true. The last time I had it, I was in my 30s. I’m 53 now, so it’s been a good run, but I still know what strep throat feels like…and looks like. So when I woke up with a sore throat and fever, I felt sure I had strep throat, but I knew I needed to get a COVID test too.

I went to my local Urgent Care and got a COVID test first. I did not get the rapid test, because I don’t trust it. I know too many people who have gotten false results, and I wanted to know for sure, so I got the PCR test. I knew I would have to wait a little while for the results…and isolate…but that was OK. I also told them I wanted a strep test. The doc did a rapid strep that came back negative, but that wasn’t good enough for me. I literally said, “It looks like strep and feels like strep. I still think it’s strep. I need you to send it off for a culture.” The next day, my PCR results said I did not have COVID. And after waiting three miserable days with 102+ fever and a horribly sore throat, the strep culture results came back positive, and the doc prescribed an antibiotic.

The moral of the story? Don’t trust those rapid tests. I don’t care if you’re a doctor and you argue with me here…I don’t trust those, and this experience was a prime example of why you absolutely must get throat swabs cultured when you think you have strep throat. If you don’t learn anything else from me, learn that. I can’t guarantee I can teach anything else, but I can teach you that.

Soon after I started the antibiotics, I started feeling better. What a relief! When I say I was miserable, it is an understatement. I don’t think I have felt that badly since I had mononucleosis when I was 17. No joke. It was horrible…and I lost six days of my life!

And of course, the next day, my husband said to me, “My throat is sore and I have fever.” He called his doctor’s office and explained the Hell I had just been through with strep, and they immediately ordered an antibiotic for him…sight unseen, because strep is that contagious.

I’m not sharing all this just to complain. I want to share a few things that made us both feel better while we waited for antibiotics to do their job…just in case you find yourself waiting for some antibiotics or suffering from cold or flu:

  • Icees and Slurpees. When our daughter was a little girl (she’s now 17), anytime she was sick, one of us would run get her an Icee at Target or a Slurpee at our local 7-11 store. She thought Icees/Slurpees cured all ills, and truly, we may have been on to something. When I was so miserable last weekend, my husband got me a Slurpee, and it made me feel so much better. The cold on my throat was a Godsend! In fact, while I was drinking it, my daughter walked to the bedroom door (no closer, because she didn’t want to catch it) and said, “That Slurpee will make you feel a lot better.” Therefore, I highly recommend Icees and Slurpees, if you can get them. You have to stay hydrated when you’re sick…why not with a frozen drink?
  • Cool Mist Humidifier. Lots of illnesses make your throat dry or cause you to have nighttime cough. Strep made my throat dry, and that made me have a hacking, dry cough at night. I read online that a cool mist humidifier might help, so I ordered one online at Walgreen’s, and my husband picked it up same day. When he got it home, I set it up and added a little DoTerra Breathe essential oil. What a difference! The humidifier kept my throat from drying out, and the essential oil made my room feel like a spa!
  • Hall’s Cough Drops. I’ve tried them all, and nothing worked as well as Hall’s Cherry Cough Drops. They taste good and soothe your throat.
  • Chloraseptic Spray. Chloraseptic makes lozenges too, but I prefer the spray, because I can target it right to my throat when I need it. If I felt my throat starting to tickle as I was getting ready to fall asleep, I’d spray a few sprays, and that did the trick. We keep it on hand all the time. Always follow directions when using…might not be advisable for children.
  • Cool, damp washcloth. Never underestimate the power of a cool, damp washcloth. My husband has finally learned that from me. When you’re sick, a cool, damp washcloth can help in lots of ways. Since this time, I had fever, I placed a cool, damp washcloth on my neck when I was trying to sleep or anytime I was feeling worse. Something about it is soothing. If you have a stomach bug, it helps then too…wipe your face, cool your skin…whatever.
  • Starbucks Medicine Ball Tea. Wow! This stuff might not work miracles, but it might make you feel like it’s working miracles for a short time, anyway! It’s actually called a Honey Citrus Mint Tea, and it contains all the perfect ingredients. A friend brought me one (thanks, Dawn), and I love it! I had no idea it existed! It’s even good on a cold morning when you’re not sick!
  • Soup. We’ve always been told to have soup when we’re sick. It helps. I don’t know why, but it does. I have a friend who sent over some yummy, homemade, vegetable-beef soup, and it made me feel so much better. (Thanks, Linda.)

I certainly don’t claim to know everything about strep throat and recovery, but I do know what helped me feel better with this most recent bout. Obviously, you want to have plenty of analgesics and pain reducers (Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen) on hand, but all the things listed above brought me some relief. The first thing I recommend? Don’t get sick.

Whew! We Made It!

Whew! We made it!

While it seems everyone is feeling like they “made it” through 2020, I’m feeling that and breathing a sigh of relief that I made it through the month of December. Sounds crazy, right?

Here’s what you don’t know: both my grandmothers died on December 26…in different years, but still, same day. Eerie, right? And then, my mother fell ill on Christmas Eve three years ago, in 2017, and was taken to the hospital. She lived a few hundred miles away from me, so I made it to her bedside the next day, Christmas Day. She wasn’t in great shape when I got there, but she was awake and communicative. My friend, Angela, brought me Christmas dinner to the hospital from her family’s gathering. I knew Mother was sick, but I didn’t realize just how sick she was till the doctor told me the next day that she was just getting worse. I understood what he was saying. I’d been through this before with my dad.

And then I realized it was December 26. I remember asking the doctor, “Is she likely to die today?” I explained to him that I was asking, because both my grandmothers had died on December 26, and if my mother died on that day, I would be curled up in the fetal position in my closet every year on that day. Call me selfish for thinking that way, but I’m just being honest. If every woman in my family died on the same day, I would be terrified every year as December 26 approached. Did I want to lose my mother? No way! I’d always known I had the best mother in the whole world, and I certainly didn’t want to lose her, but I really didn’t want to lose her that day.

Mother passed on December 30, 2017. She made it past the 26th, so now that day doesn’t scare me quite so much…but now I’m just terrified of the whole month of December. Does that mean I’m superstitious? Generally, I don’t think of myself as a superstitious person, but when I think about some of the silly things I do…maybe I am superstitious.

There are the New Year’s Day superstitions. Yes, every year, I eat black-eyed peas, greens of some kind, and pork of some kind. That comes from my parents. Every year, on New Year’s Day, we were required to eat at least one teeny tiny bite of each of those things. Black-eyed peas for prosperity. Greens are for wealth and health. Pork, from what I understand, is based on the fact that pigs root forward while foraging…by eating it we are embracing the challenges and adventures of the coming year. I’ve now learned I should also eat round cakes, pastries, or cookies…the round shape signifies that the old year has come to a close, and we have a promising new year. I’ve never done that, but I guess I’ll be making some cookies today. There are more superstitions for the new year, but those are mine…and now, of course, I’ve added the cookies. Ugh.

Other superstitions I’ve had in my life? When I’m driving and I drive under a yellow light, I “kiss the roof.” By kissing my fingers and quickly touching the ceiling inside the car, I’m supposed to make it through safely. When I was a kid, if we drove past a cemetery, we would hold our breath. We also didn’t step on cracks in the sidewalk, walk under ladders, or open an umbrella in the house…all bad luck. If a black cat crosses my path, I always say, “Damn that cat.” Supposedly, saying that will do away with the curse the cat put on you by crossing your path. Drive over railroad tracks? Lift your feet so you don’t have bad luck! I also use “knock wood” a lot…when I make a positive statement, I knock wood to avoid tempting fate or jinxing myself. I’ve been known to cross my fingers for luck, but generally speaking, I find that prayer works better. See a penny on the ground? “Find a penny, pick it up. All day long, you’ll have good luck!” Someone around me sneezes? I always say “bless you,” unless it’s a Spanish-speaking friend, to whom I say “Salud!” That’s supposed to keep their soul from escaping with the sneeze. (After a certain age, women aren’t worrying about their souls escaping when they sneeze…they’re worrying about pee escaping their bladders!) And here’s another one: don’t put your handbag on the floor…your money will go down.

So looking at that, I guess I am superstitious, even though I shouldn’t be. I’ve found several Bible verses that warn us against superstition, including 2 Kings 21:6, which says “And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger.”

I guess that means I shouldn’t be worried about the month of December, and I shouldn’t feel the need to eat black-eyed peas, greens, and pork on New Year’s Day. I will try not to worry in December and say lots of prayers asking for help with that. But honestly, I just like black-eyed peas, greens, and pork, so I’ll keep eating those on New Year’s Day and any other chance I get!

This year, when I finally went to the grocery store, they were out of black-eyed peas, so I had to buy a mixture of dried beans/peas for soup. It contains black-eyed peas, so we are covered. I threw in a little spinach, some fatback, and some ham, so we’re covered, but I’m also going to have collard greens. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the ingredients to make cornbread, so we’ll be missing out on that.

All this is my long way of saying, “Welcome, January!” and “Happy New Year!”

My Favorite Athletic Shoes

My Favorite Athletic Shoes.

Let me start by saying that I haven’t always been one to spend a lot of time in athletic shoes. I normally wear them for the exercise of the day and ditch them afterward. For whatever the reason, I have never wanted to spend whole days in sneakers, or as we called them growing up, “tennis shoes.” Yes, growing up in Alabama, we never used the word “sneakers;” we just used “tennis shoes” instead. Unless shoes were specific to a sport (basketball shoes, cleats, etc), we just called everyday athletic shoes “tennis shoes.” I don’t know why.

My teenage daughter is into sneakers, though, and even wears them with dresses on a regular basis. And she looks cute! Because of that, I’ve noticed lots of adults doing the same, but I still couldn’t do it.

But recently, a friend posted on Facebook that she had bought the most comfortable sneakers she has ever owned. It was a brand I had considered purchasing before, but I had chosen to stick with what I know. Her post, though, made me rethink the brand, and I looked online, discovering that the company has a “try it for 30 days” policy.

The brand? ON brand athletic shoes. You can see their website here. They have a patented CloudTec technology that’s “engineered to deliver a soft landing followed by an explosive take-off.” I’m the first to admit that the sound of “soft landing” sounds great, but there will never be an explosive take-off in any shoes I’m wearing! That being said, I wanted to try them. I had nothing to lose, since they have that “try it for 30 days” policy. So I ordered two pairs after filling out their questionnaire that helped determine which of their shoes would be best for me.

The two I purchased? The Cloud and the Cloud X. My thought process? Use the Cloud for everyday wear and the Cloud X for exercise.

I received them within a few days and tried the Cloud first. I immediately took them out of the box and put them on to wear around the house, and I found them very comfortable. They’re lightweight, and they don’t slip. They offer good arch support, and their breathable and flexible. They’re cute too! Even my teenage daughter gave them a thumbs up! Soon after I put them on, my phone rang, and I did what I always do…I walked outside to walk laps around the pool while I talked. And the Clouds were awesome! A few days after that, I went to work as a substitute in the library at my daughter’s school, and I wore the Clouds. I’ve never been one to wear athletic shoes to “work,” but these are so cute and comfortable…I couldn’t resist! And I was glad I did. My feet still felt great at the end of the day.

I also wore the Cloud X sneakers when I went out for a walk, and again…I was thrilled with the comfort level! The Cloud X sneakers are built for more activity than the Clouds…they’re more durable, a little heavier (not much), and still offer great arch support. No surprise…I love the Cloud X sneakers too. I often have difficulty finding athletic shoes that don’t slip on my heels. If they don’t slip on my heels, they’re often too flat…I feel like I’m walking uphill in them. Or as I tell my husband, I feel like I have clown feet. But with the Cloud X, I didn’t feel like they were too flat, and they didn’t slip at all. Sold!

Surely, you can guess by now that I didn’t need to use their “try it for 30 days” offer. It hasn’t been 30 days since I got them, but I knew after just one day of wearing each pair that I didn’t need 30 days. Honestly, I will likely never purchase another brand. I love these shoes! In fact, I love them so much that I keep going back to the website to look at different colors. Yes, I love them that much. They offer so many different shoes…you need to check them out yourself: waterproof, hiking, trail running, everyday wear, and more.

If you’re looking for new athletic shoes, try On brand. With their “try it for 30 days” policy, what do you have to lose?

Your Daily Bright Boost

Your Daily Bright Boost

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…I love Hungry Girl. Need some easy cookbooks that offer swaps for higher calorie recipes? Turn to Hungry Girl. Need some fun low-cal cocktails? Hungry Girl! Want to try a beverage mix that was developed to offer nutrition and a morning (or anytime) pick-me-up with only 20 calories? Hungry Girl has that too! It’s called Hungry Girl Your Daily Bright Boost, and I love it!

I’m not one to try nutritional supplement fads. As soon as someone says “whey protein shake” to me, I run the other way. I don’t hang out at the local nutrition stores, looking for a miracle cure to growing old. But when Hungry Girl developed Your Daily Bright Boost with Eboost, I was game, because I know Lisa Lillien, the founder of the company, helped develop the product, and she isn’t going to put the Hungry Girl name on something she doesn’t believe in. In fact, I could hardly wait to try it! Hungry Girl has never steered me wrong, so I felt confident I would like it.

I ordered a box of 15 mix packets, and when it arrived, my teenage daughter and I each mixed a packet with water and added lots of ice. We sat down at our kitchen table and tried it together, and we both declared it delicious. A nutritional beverage that can please a teenage girl and her 53-year-old mother? Sold!

Hungry Girl Your Daily Bright Boost contains 15 vitamins and minerals, collagen peptides to improve skin appearance and nail growth, caffeine to put a little pep in your step…all for just 20 calories and mixed into a delicious citrus-flavored driving mix! And guess what else? It’s gluten-free, soy free, non-GMO, and sugar free!

There are lots of different ways to mix it. Sometimes, I stir the mix into 8-10 ounces of cold water and add lots of ice afterward…sometimes it’s cube ice, and sometimes it’s crushed ice. The crushed ice version feels a bit like a slushy to me, and I love it! Who wouldn’t enjoy and orangey-citrus slushee?

I have also been known to mix it with water/crushed ice and top it with whipped cream, which can sit on top or be stirred into the beverage to create a creamsicle flavor…refreshing in the morning or by the pool in the afternoon!

But here’s the great thing about it: it tastes great while delivering nutrition! Sometimes I drink it from a giant Tervis tumbler with a giant straw, and sometimes, I pour it into my Camelbak straw cup and take it with me. Sometimes I drink it in the morning, and sometimes, I sip it through the afternoon. When people ask me what I’m drinking, they actually get a little jealous when I describe the deliciousness…and nutritional qualities it offers…at just 20 calories.

Now that we’re heading into fall, I’ll continue enjoying my Hungry Girl Your Daily Bright Boost. The citrus flavor will make me feel like the best parts of summer are still here! If you’d like to order, click here. And if you’re not familiar with Lisa Lillien and her Hungry Girl brand, you should check out her website here. You can get great recipes and tips! You can also watch her live on Instagram at hungrygirl or on Facebook at Hungry Girl. She is adorable and funny…and I enjoy watching some of her recipe videos.

Try it! I’d love to hear what you think!

Embracing My Inner Ouiser

Embracing my inner Ouiser.

I saw Steel Magnolias soon after it premiered in 1989, and once I could digest some of the questionable southern accents (Tom Skerritt and Darryl Hannah, I’m looking at you), I loved the movie. As a southerner, I saw characters I could totally identify with. Growing up in Alabama, I knew people like those characters. I knew folks like M’Lynn, Truvy, Clairee, Drum, Shelby, Annelle, and yes, I knew people like Ouiser.

On Facebook, I often see these silly quizzes titled Which Steel Magnolia Are You? Yes, I take the bait and jump right into the questions with gusto. Going into them, I’ve often thought of myself as the very practical M’Lynn. Sometimes, I might be a cross between Claire and Truvy. But after all these months of COVID? I’m becoming Ouiser. And honestly, I’m embracing my inner Ouiser.

Normally, I consider myself a “glass half full” person. I try to see the positive side of things, and I look for silver linings. I’ve never considered myself a “glass half empty” girl. But now, since I’m embracing my inner Ouiser, I might have to become a “throw the glass against the wall” kind of person. Damn glass…who cares if it’s half full or half empty? This is so out of character for me, but I just need to wallow in it right now.

If you’ve seen the film, you know Ouiser is the grouchy, sarcastic member of the friend group. She is “eccentric.” And honestly, she brings a lot of flavor to the movie. Shirley MacLaine, even as a non-southerner, brought life to a character all good southerners have known at some point in life…the grumpy neighbor lady…the bitter teacher…the friend’s mom who locked them out of the house during the day all summer…the old lady with the constant scowl on her face…the old woman who screams at neighborhood kids for being too noisy. We know them.

I haven’t seen the movie in a long time, but I have it on my list of things to watch again in the next month or so. I’ll squeeze it in somewhere between old episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man, Family Affair, Petticoat Junction, Green Acres, and The Partridge Family. Oh, and don’t forget That Girl. You can see Steel Magnolias on Amazon Prime for a small fee here. Yes, I’m digging deep to find some joy…anything that takes me back to a happier time, because life in the days of COVID? Well, a lot of the joy has been sucked out of daily life. I’m just telling it like it is…just like Ouiser would.

So to channel my inner Ouiser, I looked up some of her best quotes from the movie, and here they are…for your reading pleasure:

I’m not crazy; I’ve just been in a very bad mood for 40 years!

I’m pleasant, damn it! I saw Drum Eatenton this morning at the Piggly Wiggly, and I smiled at the son of a bitch ‘fore I could help myself.

Ugh. Leave me alone.

Don’t try to get on my good side. I no longer have one.

The only reason people are nice to me is because I have more money than God.

He is a boil on the butt of humanity.

A dirty mind is a terrible thing to waste.

I’m not as sweet as I used to be.

This is it. I’ve found it. I’m in Hell.

Honestly, Ouiser doesn’t have a lot of the best quotes in the movie (that award goes to Truvy), but her character is a doozy. She says some of the things we would all like to say sometimes, but our manners keep us from saying them. She gives that meaningful scowl…the one that says “eat s**t and die.” It’s not likely I will start walking around telling people to “leave me alone,” but right now, I want to. I want to stand up and scream at the world to just stop! Just stop! Stop trying to make it look like COVID isn’t ruining a lot of our fun! Stop trying to make it look like everything is “normal.” It’s not. And yes, before you come at me telling me “we live in the best country in the world,” I will tell you that yes, I know that. I know I am fortunate to have a loving family and a roof over my head. But damn it, I’m sick and freaking tired of COVID. I know people who have died. I know people who have been terribly ill. And by golly, it’s OK for me to have a bad attitude for a while…just because.

I know my friends and family expect more from me, but frankly, I just want to kick COVID’s ass for messing up the good thing we had going on.

But after all this, I’m sure I will pull myself together. I will not be shouting “bah, humbug” at people or telling them to “leave me alone.” I’m sure that in a few days, I will embrace my inner M’Lynn or Clairee, once again, and move on. But unless you want to encounter Ouiser, you might want to tread lightly till the weekend.

In the meantime, if you want to join the Ouiser Fan Club, call me.

I Can’t Hear You!

I can’t hear you!

Since the COVID-19 pandemic has required me to wear a mask in public, I have learned something: I cannot hear, see, or communicate well while wearing a mask. In fact, I’ve decided masks totally interfere with my brainpower. It’s weird!

It’s terrible. No, it’s not as terrible as getting sick, but dang it…it seems all my senses are failing while I’m wearing a mask! Add in the fact that it’s hot inside that mask, and my glasses steam up, and it hardly becomes worth it to leave my house. I also feel like the maskless people are thinking I’m judging them when I’m not. No, I’m not. Y’all go ahead and judge everybody else all you want, but I’m just not that person. I know someone who actually confronted people who weren’t wearing masks in the grocery store recently. Nope. Not gonna do it. Personally, I think she is more in danger of getting beaten up in the parking lot than she is of catching COVID, but whatever. 

But back to the real topic: how masks impair our communication skills. Like I said, I can’t hear while wearing a mask. I know my hearing is not as good as it should be anyway, but it’s worse with a mask. Maybe I have some mad lip-reading skills that I just can’t use while others are wearing masks. Maybe it’s the claustrophobia I feel behind the mask. Maybe the mask is decreasing oxygen to my brain! Maybe it makes me feel like I’m disconnected. It really does do that, for sure. People can’t read my facial expressions, and I’m accustomed to smiling at folks all the time. I can smile all I want now, but no one is going to see it. A smile, in my opinion, is the same as a space alien saying, “We come in peace.” But if we can’t see each other’s smiles, we all look a little hostile. Sure, resting b***h fave doesn’t show either, but frankly, I think everyone looks like they have RBF under a mask.

Normally, when I’m in public, I might strike up a conversation with the person standing in line in front of me or behind me. Lots of times, I’ve stuck up conversations with folks and discovered we had people in common…even in faraway places! I was in Tennessee a few years ago, and when I started talking with the lady in front of me in line at a tourist attraction, I learned she was from Panama City, Florida. She told me she worked for a dentist, and I mentioned that my aunt worked for a children’s home in the area. The lady then told me she the dentist she worked for did a lot of work with the children’s home. I called my aunt, who told me that yes, she knew the dentist…but she didn’t just know him from there. She had gone to high school with him!

That’s what I miss…those impromptu conversations with new people. The masks are taking that kind of fun away from me. Yes, they might be saving us from spreading the virus, but they’re taking away some of the fun of life. Communication is just a little more difficult. 

I know, I know. Masks are likely going to be a way of life for the foreseeable future. I’m just going to have to get accustomed to it. But that does not mean I have to like it. I miss making new friends in Target. I miss making connections. I miss smiling at people in public. 

 

 

 

*