Memorial Day

Memorial Day.

It’s more than just a day to gather for a picnic with family and friends. It’s more than just the beginning of summer. It’s more than a day off from work.

Lots of folks think Memorial Day is a day to honor all veterans. Nope…that’s Veteran’s Day, observed in November. This federal holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, is for honoring and memorializing military personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country…they died while serving our country.

Don’t get me wrong. there is nothing wrong with gathering with friends and family on Memorial Day weekend. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating the beginning of summer. But the actual purpose of this particular holiday is to remember and memorialize those made the ultimate sacrifice to make freedom possible and keep it possible in this country.

When I was growing up, we gathered with family and friends on Memorial Day, often at my grandparents’ house, but my parents always made sure we, at the very least, talked about the meaning of the holiday. My grandfather served in World War II, but we were fortunate he came home safe and sound, as did his brother. I can’t remember hearing of any family members who lost their lives in the line of duty, but my parents always made us aware that our freedom “wasn’t free.” People lost their lives so we could be free.

I think, this year, with the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have learned a little something extra about freedom. It has forced me to spend a lot of time thinking about freedom and how fortunate we are to live in a country where we have freedom. Sure, it has been limited in the last couple of months, but we know this is temporary. Can you imagine what it would be like if these limitations on our freedom were permanent? If we risked arrest for leaving our homes without permission? Or if we risked living out our lives in a work camp for speaking out against our government? I don’t claim to understand all the other cultures and governments of the world, but I know that in this country, if we aren’t happy with the government, we can, at the very least, vocalize our unhappiness. Remember, people in North Korea can’t do that. If they speak out against the government, they can be killed or sent to work camps.

Several years ago, I read a book called Escape from Camp 14, by Blaine Harden, based on the life and journey of a man named Shin Dong-hyuk, the only former prisoner known to have escaped from an internment camp in North Korea. It was eye-opening and disturbing. In fact, I’m going to read it again, just to revisit the details. It truly made me thankful that I live in the United States, but I think it will be especially meaningful now. If you’d like to read it, you can order from Amazon here.

While Memorial Day is always meaningful to me, this year, it will have more meaning. I will sit down with my family over breakfast Monday and talk about the meaning of the holiday. Weather permitting, my husband and I will take a walk through a cemetery near our home. Unfortunately, we don’t have any small flags to place on the graves of those who lost their lives in the line of duty this year, but we will remember those who lost their lives while fighting for our country’s (and the world’s) freedom.

Happy Memorial Day to you and your family.

 

 

 

Easter Baskets in Social Distancing

Easter is almost here! Sure, there won’t be any church services inside the actual buildings, but there are services on TV, and a friend in Florida tells me there is a church near her that has outdoor services every Sunday. People stay in their cars in the parking lot and listen to the service over a radio frequency, or they can open their windows and hear it through a microphone, with the minister standing on a big stage in front of the parking lot. If we look for it, we can find a worship service of some sort. Check websites of churches in your area for information.

And no, our children don’t have to miss out on the Easter Bunny experience. It’s not like I can just walk into stores this year and get the goodies for the baskets, but I’ve gotten it done.

I went to the Target website to see what I could find there. Target is where I normally get baskets and candy every Easter, but I’m not going to Target right now, so the website is the next best thing. There, I found some baskets they would ship, and I found the usual candies: Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs, Easter grass, Easter M&Ms, Whoppers Robin Eggs, Twizzlers and Jolly Ranchers, and Russell Stover Easter Milk Chocolate Dip-It Rabbit (with Jif peanut butter for dipping). I also ordered some Neutrogena Makeup Wipes for Easter baskets, because my daughter goes through them pretty quickly! Go to Target.com and order now!

I just have one daughter, who is a teenager, but a local friend sleeps over at our house the night before Easter every year. They wake up together and come downstairs to have breakfast and see what the Easter Bunny left them! Last year, we were lucky to have another friend in from Ohio too, so the three teens were together Easter morning. That won’t happen this year, but I told my daughter we can still deliver an Easter basket to her friend’s front porch on Easter morning. She’ll be surprised, and it will be a little joy for us.

Because I can’t shop in the usual smaller shops I normally would, I decided to try some different things, and here are some things I found:

  • Beach towels. A fun gift that says, “Summer is almost here,” beach towels can be purchased at lots of online shops. I found some really cute ones at Life Is Good. You can see their selection here. They’re pricey, but they are quality towels. We have some we have had for ten or twelve years, and they all hold up really well. Target has beach towels too. You can see them here. I purchased two of the Llamas in a Car beach towels for our daughter and her friend. They’re really cute and just $10. They offer others too! You can also find some inexpensive ones at Walmart.comSun-Day-Beach-Towel_60100_1_lg
  • Pajama pants. There are cute pajama pants at lots of sites, but I ended up ordering some really cute ones from Life is Good, on sale for just $17.99 each, and you know they’re good quality if they’re coming from Life is Good. See their website here.Womens-Palm-Print-Snuggle-Up-Sleep-Pant_60125_1_lg
  • Cookies. Y’all, I love Cheryl’s cookies. Sugar cookies with buttercream frosting? Yes, please! And Cheryl’s has all sorts of Easter cookie gifts. There are buckets and basket and gift tins. Just go look! And some of them are even on sale! See the website here! In Charlotte, we also have Tiff’s Treats, and they will deliver! My 16-yr-old declared their M&M cookies to be the best cookies she has ever eaten! Order here.
  • Baked by Melissa. A friend gave me Baked by Melissa bite-sized cupcakes for my birthday a couple of years ago, and I was hooked! We order regularly now, and they have some great flavors for spring! And they really are bite-sized, so that means “guilt free”! Order now to get them to your house before Easter! See the website here!
  • Religious gifts. Christianbook.com has some lovely cross gifts starting at under $10.  There are palm-sized comfort crosses, wall crosses and cross jewelry. Crosses make great, meaningful gifts at Easter. They also have Bibles, which always make great gifts. See the website here. 3736049_2_adv

Whatever you decide to do, I hope you have a beautiful Easter with your family. Unfortunately, we can’t gather with extended family, but this is a great year to count our blessings and thank the Lord for what we do have as opposed to the freedom we have lost temporarily. Say a prayer for those who are sick and those who have lost loved ones.

 

 

What a Motley Crew!

Over the holidays, I traveled to the Los Angeles area with my teenage daughter, her friend, my 20-something nephew, and his friend. So that’s five travelers, ranging in age from 16 to 52…that highest number being mine.

We came together for meals while we were there and just a few other activities, but we did our own thing a lot. During the final dinner of our trip, I asked my fellow travelers to go around the table and tell what their favorite part of the trip was, and I expected to hear lots of different answers, but they surprised me.

They all answered the same thing…our day in Malibu. The day we were in Malibu was also the 2nd anniversary of my mother’s death. It was the one day we all spent together, and I was thrilled to know everyone enjoyed it. While we were in Malibu, we dined at my very favorite restaurant…on the deck, right on the beach, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Those of us who were old enough had some fun cocktails. We drank a toast to Mother, and we took lots of photos. After leaving the restaurant, we walked down to Malibu Pier…a favorite landmark and another great photo op. The walk was only about a half mile, but we laughed and talked all the way to the pier.

Like I said, before I asked, I thought they would all have different answers. Throughout the trip, we had seen lots of celebrities! We had eaten great meals. We had shopped till we dropped. My nephew and his friend had never been there before, so they did more sightseeing…I thought that might have been their favorite part of the trip. But nope…they all enjoyed the day we were all together. As a mother and aunt, it made me very happy. And knowing it was the second anniversary of my mother’s passing made me more grateful for the time we all spent together. She had to be smiling down on us as we laughed and ate and drank and walked and laughed some more.

My daughter is 16, and I always think she just wants to be away from me. She loves me, but I remember 16…I remember wanting to have more independence. She certainly enjoys any independence she has, but it warms my heart to know her favorite day was the day she was with her old mom and her cousin and their friends. We were a motley crew…the conservative-looking 52-yr-old mom/aunt, the two 16-yr-old girls who are too cool for school, and my 20-something hippie-looking nephew and his girlfriend. No one would have put that group together in a million years, but that motley crew had a great time!

It was a great way to celebrate my mother’s life, and it was infinitely better than the first anniversary of her death. It’s much better to spend days like that with people who are important to you…people you love…people who always have your back. So if you ever find yourself facing this kind of “anniversary,” remember to spend it with people who will wrap you in love. Avoid people who won’t.

It warms my heart to know they all enjoyed being together. I can hardly wait for the next trip!

How Did I Miss Out on This?!?!

How did I miss out on this?!?!

Throughout life, there are times that I’ve thought, “How did I miss out on this?!?!” But by the time I reached age 52, I thought I had likely seen it all. Surely, unless it’s something new, there’s nothing that’s been going on for years around me that I didn’t even notice. Sure, at 40-something, I learned about the little tabs on the end of the aluminum foil box that hold the roll in place, but that was before I was 50. I wasn’t surprised about the flat tire icon on the car dashboard or the little arrow that shows which side the gas tank is on. If you don’t know all those things, you need to get busy Googling.

But earlier this week, I learned about something that is supposedly southern that I didn’t know about. That thing? Pineapple Casserole. Never heard of it till Sunday or Monday of this week, and as I type, it’s Wednesday. I grew up in Alabama. If it’s a southern dish, how did I manage to make it to 52 without ever having heard of it?!?

So I did what I do. I went to my personal Facebook page and asked my friends if they grew up eating/knowing about Pineapple Casserole, and if they did, where did they grow up?

I got lots of responses saying they grew up with it. Lots of folks from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, and surprisingly (to me), Alabama…even a friend from High Springs, Florida, which is actually in the part of Florida that’s still “southern” had grown up with it! My people (an aunt and cousins) in the Florida Panhandle (a part of Florida that is still very southern) had not grow up seeing it, just like I’d never seen it. One cousin said she had it as an adult when a friend made it, but otherwise, my family had somehow missed out on Pineapple Casserole. Maybe it’s a familial thing??? I’d never even had it at my grandmother’s house in Birmingham, but according to a cousin who now lives in California, she had served it to her and her friends she referred to as the “soup ladies.” Even my friend, Amy, from Selma, Alabama (does it get any more southern than Selma?!?), said she did not eat it growing up. I promptly decided we must be related, since we both grew up in Alabama and had never heard of it. I now refer to her as Cousin Amy.

But just so you know, friends from Indiana, Philadelphia, and Delaware also had it when they were growing up, so now I’m wondering just how “southern” it is. But that’s beside the point. Everyone except one South Carolina girl gave it two thumbs up, so you know I have to try it.

I will make it later this week, and I can hardly wait! But for the holy grail of Pineapple Casseroles, I’m going to ask my friend, Crazy Jane, to make it for me when she visits. Crazy Jane is the best cook in the world, so even if we followed the exact same recipe, her version would be far better than mine. She just has a special touch.

I’ve asked several friends what I should expect. Some say it’s the perfect side dish with ham. Others say it’s almost dessert-like, because it does contain sugar…and not just a little of it. Plus, pineapple is sweet and a little dessert-like, right? It also contains butter, flour, cheese, and other stuff. Sounds disgusting, right? But my friends know good food, so I’m trusting them when they say it’s delicious. I thought the recipe for the Mississippi Pot Roast (click here) sounded disgusting too, but I absolutely love the stuff!

So I know you’ve been waiting for the recipe. I went to the Southern Living website for the recipe, because it’s a site I trust. If Southern Living posts a bad recipe, they hear about it from lots of southern ladies, so I think they’re pretty careful. You can see the recipe here.

If you’ve never had Pineapple Casserole and decide to make it, I’d love to hear your feedback! I’m starting to question my southern roots, since I’ve never had it! How did that happen?!? I’ve been to lots of church covered dish lunches and family potlucks, and I’ve never seen it. Or maybe when I was a kid, I saw it and thought it looked disgusting. That’s likely. I’ll let you know what I think after I make it.

I’m also wondering if I can get Hungry Girl to do some ingredient swaps and bring down the calorie count on this crazy sounding dish?!? Maybe I’ll send the recipe to their test kitchen!

 

 

I Won’t Get Jewelry for Valentine’s Day

I won’t get jewelry for Valentine’s Day.

That’s one thing I know for sure. My husband and I agreed a long time ago that Valentine’s Day isn’t a time for us to exchange big gifts. It’s a little celebration that means little gifts. In fact, if my husband got me jewelry for Valentine’s Day, I’d be a little upset with him. Long ago, my husband learned that I’d rather have a vacation than jewelry, so he just lets me plan my own vacations, and frankly, I think he loves that the pressure is off.

Every year, we also pretend “Cupid” came by our house on the eve of Valentine’s Day. Cupid always leaves a few little gifts for our daughter, who is now 16 and thinks the whole Cupid thing is ridiculous, but she likes the little treats anyway. Remember how I mentioned my teenage daughter’s eye rolls in my piece about work pants? Well, when we tell her Cupid visited (or the leprechaun visited on St. Patrick’s Day), we get one of those eye rolls.

Cupid is bringing bite-sized cupcakes from Baked by Melissa this year for the whole family! You might still have time to order if you do it quickly! Order here.

Since it’s getting a little late for ordering things for Valentine’s Day, here are some things you can get locally at the last minute:

  • Valentine card. I know, it sounds obvious, but lots of us forget to get or make an old-fashioned Valentine card. In fact, maybe I’ll make a card for my husband this year. I love a good craft. That doesn’t mean I’m always good at crafts, but it’s the thought that counts, right? Country Living has some great DIY card ideas here.
  • Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. Krispy Kreme has some heart shaped doughnuts with icing for Valentine’s Day this year, and my mouth waters just thinking about them. I was talking with a single friend yesterday and told her to go buy some Krispy Kreme Valentine doughnuts to celebrate her love for herself. In fact, I  might have to pick up a dozen for me too!
  • Dunkin’ Donuts. Dunkin’ Donuts also offers heart-shaped donuts for the special day. I love Dunkin’ Donuts too…and I’d love to get Medium Iced Coffee with cream and four Splendas with those Donuts!
  • Chick-Fil-A heart-shaped trays. Chicken is the new chocolate! ChickFilA got in on the Valentine’s Day game a couple of years ago, and this year, they are continuing the tradition. You can get ChickFilA Chicken Minis, nuggets, or their chocolate chunk cookies in a heart-shaped tray. I’d love for my husband to surprise me with breakfast in bed this weekend! What says “I love you” more than some Chick-Fil-A Chicken Minis served in a heart-shaped tray?! Hint hint, honey! You can read Chick-fil-A’s blog post about them here.
  • Papa John’s Pizza. Papa John’s will deliver a heart-shaped pizza right to your house! Right now, they have a special…a heart-shaped pizza plus a brownie for $16! That’s delicious and inexpensive! Order on the website here.
  • Olive Garden. I don’t even know the last time I stepped foot into an Olive Garden, but I do remember some yummy bread and salad from there. Well, they have a Valentine’s Day Dinner to Go for Two that starts at $35.99. For that price, you get breadsticks with a choice of soup or salad, a choice of dipping sauce, an entree for two (Chicken Alfredo or Five Cheese Ziti al forno), and a dessert to share. It’s actually a good deal and a good idea! You can order here.
  • Flowers. Sure, you can order from your local florist, which is always a great way to surprise your Valentine and a great way to support the local economy. But if you find yourself in a bind on Valentine’s Day, you might be able to find some beautiful fresh flowers in your local grocery store.
  • Any Favorite Bakery item. My husband has surprised me with some of my favorite bakery items for Valentine’s Day, and I’m always thrilled by that. One year, he brought me a patty cake sized chocolate cake with buttercream icing, and very little makes me happier than that.
  • Gift card/certificate. I have lots of friends who would love to receive a gift card or certificate for a mani/pedi or for a massage at a local spa. Or maybe your loved one would rather have a night out? You can give a restaurant gift card, and instead of going out on a very crowded Valentine’s Day that falls on a Friday this year, promise to go on another night!
  • Coffee in bed. Lots of people would love nothing more than a good cup of coffee served in bed first thing in the morning.
  • Bottle of Champagne. What’s more romantic than a bottle of Champagne? You can run into your local grocery store or wine store and grab it on the way home on Valentine’s Day!
  • Cheap Valentine’s Candy. Last year I wrote how one of my favorite Valentine’s gifts was a box of conversation hearts from someone I’d only gone out with once. It was perfectly simple and sweet. You can run into any local Target, Walmart, or grocery store and grab some different Valentine’s candies for you Valentine. I love Reese’s Peanut Butter Hearts myself.

It’s just two days away, so we’re down to the wire for Valentine’s Day gifts. Hopefully, you got a few ideas here. Personally, I’d love to wake up with coffee and Chick-Fil-A Chicken Minis in bed, followed by the special Valentine lunch from Olive Garden with a bottle of Champagne, and maybe order a heart-shaped pizza from Papa John’s before having every possible heart-shaped doughnut in town for dessert! Oh, and I’d need some iced coffee somewhere in there too.

Hoping you have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

We Save $$$ Traveling with Friends

We save money traveling with friends…and make some great memories at the same time!

I’m always thinking about the next vacation. My husband just rolls his eyes every time I say, “You know where I want to go next?” He rolls his eyes because he does not have wanderlust, and I do. He loves being home, and he loves visiting the beach where he grew up. That’s fine, but I like to go to different places. That doesn’t mean I don’t repeat places, but the places I like are different than what he likes. No, it’s not a problem, because he doesn’t care when I vacation without him, and I don’t mind when he vacations without me. We’re married, but that doesn’t mean we have to be together 24/7.

My daughter and I travel with friends quite often, and we love it for so many reasons!

Our 16-yr-old daughter is an only child, and I have a cousin and several friends who also have “only children,” so it’s fun to travel with them. I get to catch up with my friends or my cousin, and my daughter has fun with their daughters.

Aside from the fun factor, it saves money for all of us, and we get to do more! How does it save money? Well, we always travel with friends we love…people we enjoy sharing space with. For example, this summer, we are going to a Caribbean destination with a friend from Alabama and her daughter. When we both had daughters, we joked that they would have to be best friends whether they wanted to or not…and fortunately, they love each other! As for the money savings, we share a hotel room or suite. Because we are sharing, we are splitting the cost, making it much more affordable for both of us. It doesn’t save us anything on airfare, but we manage to save a lot anyway.

In fact, this summer, we will do trips with three different friends and a cousin, and it’s all possible, because we aren’t spending a fortune on the rooms/suites, even though we will have beautiful, top-of-the-line accommodations! But we don’t just save on the room. We also save on rental cars, taxi rides, Uber rides, and gas costs. Seriously, it all adds up, and at the end of a five day trip, we are usually amazed at how much we saved by sharing the costs with friends.

Another way to save on travel? Consult a travel agent. I used to work at a travel agency, so I know they often are aware of specials the general public might not know about. Planning a trip to the Caribbean? Let an agent help you. Planning a cruise? Let an agent help you find the perfect one!

Maybe you want to book your own hotel reservation? One quick thing about hotels: when you are making a reservation, always check the special offers. Sometimes, they offer a fifth night free. Sometimes, they offer suites at a discount, but if you don’t check into it, you might be paying the same thing for a room that you could be paying for a much larger space. And always…always…always…continue to check the rates even after you book your reservation. Last year, after I booked our hotel for spring break, I kept checking, and the rates kept going down. I ended up with a rate that was $500 less (total) than the original rate I booked.

Other good ways to save when traveling? Some credit cards offer extra points for dollars spent while traveling, and you can get cash back. I have a credit card that gives me cash back for every dollar we spend, and we get a greater percentage if we apply it to travel. In fact, we try to pay for everything we can on that credit card, and the savings add up fast! I pay for two vacations a year with the points from that card! And don’t forget your frequent flyer miles and hotel rewards programs. If you haven’t signed up for the rewards programs of hotels where you stay, you are just throwing money away. Registration is always free for the programs, and you get points that can add up to free hotel rooms. Seriously, last year, we had 12 free nights in hotels. That’s real money.

And anyone can check out The Points Guy’s website here. The website has a plethora of information about travel savings, but one of the first points he makes is one of the points I’ve already made: get a credit card that will maximize your cash back or points for travel. He says, “By using your debit card [instead of a credit card with rewards], you are spending money and getting nothing in return.”

Travel doesn’t have to cost you a fortune, and it’s a lot more fun when you make memories with people you love! So if you want a surefire way to save on travel, grab a friend and split some costs! That’s my favorite way to save on vacation costs!

 

Favorite February Things

Favorite February Things.

This is the first year I have heard so many people complaining about January! Everywhere I turn, it seems like people are saying, “January has been the longest six months ever.” Or “When will January finally end?!” Well, it’s over, folks. February is here, and there are so many great things about February. Here are some of my favorites:

Sadie Hawkins Dance. We never had a Sadie Hawkins Dance at our school when I was growing up. At my daughter’s school, they refer to it as “Sadie’s.” In case you don’t know, it’s a dance to which girls invite boys as their dates. It’s fun just to see them all get dressed up. Lots of them go to dinner at a country club, restaurant, or someone’s home. This year, my daughter and her crew are taking pictures at a friend’s house and then going to Waffle House for dinner. I love it. Not familiar with Waffle House? It’s a southern thing. Check the website here. And who knew they sold merchandise on their website? You can get this awesome t-shirt for just $18!Screen_Shot_2019-07-16_at_1.13.00_PM_1024x1024@2x

Ice Cream for Breakfast Day. I wouldn’t be opposed to having ice cream for breakfast every day, but I recently discovered there is actually an official Ice Cream for Breakfast Day. This year, it’s tomorrow, February 1st. To see some lower calorie ideas to celebrate the day, click here.retina_hungry-girl-healthy-banana-split-pie-recipe-20190329-1849-16905-0283

Groundhog Day. I’ve always been a fan of Groundhog Day, February 2nd…ever since my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Ella Mae Peavy, told us about it in 1973. To a five-year-old, there’s something fascinating about an animal predicting the weather. And frankly, there’s something fascinating about groundhogs, in general. Add in the fact that I love the Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day, and it’s a perfect storm. You know what I’ll be watching Sunday. You can see it for a fee on Amazon Prime here.71+dMjmPLSL._AC_UY436_QL65_ML3_

Super Bowl. There’s a lot of fun at the beginning of the month this year, since Super Bowl Sunday also falls on Groundhog Day. It’s like double the fun! It’s no secret that I love football, and even though I don’t “have a dog in the fight” this year, I will still enjoy watching it. And the commercials! To see some Hungry Girl recipes for some fun Super Bowl food, click here.photo-1566577739112-5180d4bf9390

Valentine’s Day. Some people think Valentine’s Day is just torture for single people, but I’ve never looked at it that way. Single? Go out and buy yourself some candy! Who says someone else needs to give you flowers and candy? I love Louis Sherry chocolates so much that I wrote a piece about them last year. You can see it here. My husband always sends me some flowers or candies for Valentine’s Day, but there’s no rule that says I can’t order a little something for myself too! I love Baked by Melissa mini cupcakes, and I always recommend them as a special treat for friends and family. They’re bite-sized, so the portions are perfect. Order themhere. And if you just want to run to your local Target, you can always grab some Reese’s Peanut Butter Hearts…I know this, because I’ve been eating them for weeks.

IMG_0510

Presidents Day. A long weekend? Yes, please! Of course, we all need to remember the reason we have this long weekend is to honor the folks who have lead our great country. We also need to remember there are some great sales going on during that long weekend! Don’t judge! If I were playing Match Game right now and the clue was “Presidents Day _______,” I would answer “sale”! Not gonna lie!

Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday. This is not a big deal everywhere, but in some parts of the country, Mardi Gras is a big event. Mobile, Alabama? You bet they’re partying! New Orleans, Louisiana? It’s on! Fat Tuesday this year, also known as Mardi Gras Day, is February 25. In Mobile, folks will be catching Moon Pies and other trinkets all day, and there will be parades all day in New Orleans too. In fact, Mobile area schools will have that whole week off! If you’d like a little taste of Mardi Gras in Charlotte, you can visit Cajun Yard Dog in the Arboretum for a slice of King Cake. Or you can order them from Haydel’s in New Orleans here. Or even from Edgar’s Bakery in Birmingham, Alabama, here.Strawberry-King-Cake-5-2-MP-1536x935

Leap Day. Yes, this is a Leap Year, so we get an extra day of February! When I was a little girl, I had a friend whose brother was born on February 29, and I was so jealous, because everyone made a big deal about it. 

February is a fun month. With so much going on, and a long weekend thrown in there too, it might just be one of my favorites.

The Sad Season

The holidays are winding down. Lots of folks get depressed after the holidays…Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or just plain old sadness that the holidays are over. And then there are people like me who have experienced loss…and the unfortunate few of us who have actually experienced loss during the holidays.

Tomorrow is the second anniversary of my mother’s passing…two years without my mother. She fell ill on Christmas Eve 2017, and I received a phone call at 8:30 that night…she was in the hospital in Alabama. My little family rushed through opening gifts in Charlotte that night, and before the crack of dawn on Christmas Day, I left to go be with my mother. As I drove to Alabama, I was thinking of how I was going to tell my mother that she was coming back to Charlotte with me. I was thinking of how angry she would be that I wanted her to leave her house. But I never got to tell her she was coming home with me. The doctor made it clear to me on December 26 that she would not recover, and since both my grandmothers had died on December 26 in different years (eerie, right?) I needed Mother to make it past that day. I asked the doctor if she was likely to make it to the 27th, explaining why I was asking, and he assured me she would…but not much longer. I didn’t want her to die at all, but if she had died on the 26th, every year after that, I would have been waiting for something to happen to me on the 26th. We needed to break the cycle. She made it to the 30th.

Last year, the first anniversary, was a terrible day…terrible. I didn’t sleep at all the night before, and it was just a terrible day. But this year, I am bound and determined to make it a happier day. Of course, I’m still sad my mother isn’t here, but instead of crying all day, I hope to be celebrating her life…drinking a toast to her memory.

In fact, as I type, I’m on a plane to Los Angeles…a vacation with my daughter, her friend, and my nephew and his friend. Mother would have loved knowing my nephew is vacationing with us. We have a lunch reservation tomorrow at a fabulous restaurant, where we will remember Mother. We might even order a Bailey’s and coffee, her favorite, after lunch.

And as hard as I will try to be happy, positive, and upbeat, I know a little sadness will creep in. I know that, because I just tried to read a piece by Sean Dietrich (see Sean of the South on Facebook here), and I couldn’t get past the first couple paragraphs about his dad, who he lost years ago.

So right now, for this second anniversary, I’ll take “mostly happy with a little sadness creeping in.”

All this is my way of reminding everyone that some people are sad right now. Some are suffering. Some are just trying to push through the season. And then some will be even more sad at the thought of starting a new year without a loved one. I hope I will show mercy and offer courteous goodwill to those who need it. I hope I will try to help my friends and family into 2020…with some love, patience, hope, and clarity. And I hope they will do the same for me.

Let’s make 2020 a good year.

 

What Do You Do With Christmas Cards?

A friend asked me recently what I do with my Christmas cards when the holidays are over. She said she had been admonished by friends after she told them she throws them away. And I started thinking: what do other people do with their holiday cards after the new year rolls in?

I posted the question on my personal Facebook page and got lots of interesting answers. I had no idea people got so creative with their cards! At our house, as cards come in, we put them on our Christmas tree. That way, we get to see them all the time, and anyone who visits can see them too. Just in case you want to ask…the placement is totally random. But when we take down our tree, I take one more look at the cards before disposing of them. When my mother was alive, I would put them all in a Ziploc bag and show them to her when I visited her during the holidays. But since she passed away, my husband would kill me for keeping extra stuff around!

As your holiday greetings arrive this year, put some thought into what you might do with them. Here are some things my own friends do with their holiday photo cards:

  • BOXES/TRUNKS. Several people said they have every holiday photo card they have ever received. Seriously?!?! I came across one from a few years ago when I was getting the ornaments out of the bin. It was the two lovely daughters of a neighbor…I’m talking to you, Jennie from the block. But that’s the only old card I’ve found. I think I probably have a Ziploc bag or two stashed somewhere, but we likely won’t find them till we clean out the house to sell it…who knows when that will be?!
  • PHONE CONTACT. Three very creative friends said they use the Christmas card photos as the contact photo for the person in their phone. They take a picture of it, save it in their contacts, and then they dispose of the actual card after the holidays.
  • PHOTO ALBUM. Several friends said they put the photo cards from family and/or close friends in a photo album, so they can see how they change over the years. That’s actually a lovely idea…too bad I didn’t think of it twenty years ago!
  • LAMINATED PLACE MATS. Yet another friend said that when her kids were little, they would cut the pictures out of the cards and make laminated placemats for Valentines Day! Wow! But then they threw them away after that.
  • BIBLE. Another lovely idea? Place the photo cards in places throughout your Bible. Then when you come to that picture during the year, pray for that family. Wow…that one is impressive too. Afterward, she throws them away.
  • SENIOR CITIZENS’ CHURCH GROUP. My friend, Linda, keeps them in a red and green bow basket till the next year, and she enjoys looking at them as she addresses the next year’s cards. After that…she donates them to the senior citizens’ group at her church, where they are used for craft projects. As she said, “They are born again!”
  • HOLE PUNCH/CLIP/RING. A couple of people said they hole punch them, and put them on a clip/ring…keeping them on the coffee table as a conversation piece. One of them keeps them on the ring for eternity, and the other throws them away after the holidays.
  • ST JUDE’S RANCH. One friend suggested sending them to St Jude’s Ranch’s Recycled Card Program. They are not able to use all greeting cards, but you can read at their link to see what they are able to accept. Great idea! See the link here. 
  • ORNAMENTS. One person said she has a friend who cuts the photos out and attaches them to cardboard ornaments to regift to the original sender! That’s a great one too!
  • SEND BACK. And here’s another idea I like: one friend said she has a friend who keeps all the cards for a year, and the next year, she sends them back to the original sender with a little handwritten note. I like that idea too!

So go ahead and start thinking now about what you’re going to do with all those cards as they’re coming in this year! I will still display ours on our Christmas tree throughout the season, just as I always do. When Christmas is over, I will gather them up and put them in a Ziploc bag till I decide what I want to do. I might actually keep them this year and make ornaments for my friends/family for next year. That’s ambitious, though, so don’t be surprised if I don’t pull it off!

Favorite Ornaments

This week, I decorated our Christmas tree. My husband carried the bins down from the attic, and I went to work.

We have a lot of meaningful Christmas ornaments. My mother was a big collector of ornaments, so I have lots of crystal and sterling ornaments. We have some lovely ornaments my husband’s family gave us. We have ornaments commemorating our first Christmas together and the birth of our daughter. We have lots of ornaments our daughter made in preschool and elementary school. And we have some silly ornaments we collected along the way.

When I was growing up, my favorite ornaments on our family tree were some ornaments that looked like the toys from the Island of Misfit Toys on Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. I know I brought those back after my mother died, but I’m having difficulty locating them. It’s not likely I will find them this year, but I hope to put my hands on them before next Christmas.

We do, however, have some fun ornaments from A Christmas Story…one that looks like the house from the movie, and another of the leg lamp and Ralphie. The ones that really made me smile, though, were two ornaments from the Nickelodeon show, iCarly. Our daughter loved the show when she was younger (and likely still does), and her very favorite characters were Carly and Sam. I don’t remember where I purchased them, but when she was a little girl, I found some Carly and Sam ornaments.

Back then, we were still doing the Elf on the Shelf thing, and our daughter loved the Elves (yes, more than one…we were overachievers) as much as she loved iCarly. She often wrote them notes…sometimes asking them questions about themselves…favorite foods, favorite TV shows, favorite sports, etc. And sometimes, the elves brought little gifts…very small gifts…but they generated a lot of excitement. One morning, she came downstairs to find the elves had brought her a Carly ornament from iCarly, and the next morning, she found a Sam ornament. Carly and Sam were the two main female characters from the show, and she thought they were hilarious. She adored them. I didn’t park her in front of the TV when she was really little, but when she was elementary school aged, I didn’t mind if she watched a few shows here and there. She loved iCarly so much, that she knew the title of each episode! In fact, I’m guessing she can still name each episode and give a brief synopsis.

All that is a long way of saying that yesterday, as I pulled ornaments out of the bin, I found the two cheap iCarly ornaments that generated so much excitement on that December morning eight or ten years ago. I hung them on the tree together…they’re pals, after all. Our daughter wasn’t home, but I took a picture of them and sent it to her, asking, “Recognize those ornaments?” She replied, “OMG! Yes!’ I couldn’t see her reaction, but I imagine she felt like she was six or eight years old again…just for that second. She likely remembered exactly how excited she was to receive them.

And you can bet your sweet bippy they will continue to be on our tree every year…right up there with all the sterling and crystal ornaments from my mother.

 

 

 

***