She’s Returning to College

She’s returning to college.

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!

We Miss the Elves

We miss the elves.

I know, I know. Every parent who is having to deal with The Elf on the Shelf right now is wondering why they ever bought into that commercialized bit of Christmas.

Seriously, how many times will you forget to move the damn elves during the season? I remember many times our daughter would come downstairs in the morning to find the elf in the same spot as the day before. She would ask if it had lost its magic. “Oh, no honey! It was just really foggy/stormy/cloudy out last night, and he couldn’t make the flight safely.” I had to think fast, and I couldn’t let the panic show on my face.

Other times, I would wake up in the middle of the night and remember I hadn’t moved the elf. I would get up, try to wake up enough to be creative with a “hiding place,” and stumble back to bed…cursing the elf the whole time.

And then, the elves multiplied at our house! She teceived them as gifts. Or she asked them to bring friends. When all was said and done, we had SIX elves visiting our home, and that meant I had to move all six of them every night. (I know…I know…I’m crazy to have allowed it.) Not only that, but I also had to get more creative after she heard about other friends’ elves that did more interesting things than just sit in the Christmas tree. Keeping up with the Joneses was real where the elf was concerned. She didn’t want to think Santa sent her a lame elf (or elves!).

Seriously, it got out of hand. Those damn elves were leading better lives than I was: writing all over the vanity with toothpaste, bungee jumping from the stairs, bathing in Christmas M&Ms, coming in on a wrecking ball, drinking Karo Syrup, trapping each other in cake domes…oh, to be an elf! And the notes and “surprises”! They brought little trinkets. They wrote her notes in their special elf handwriting. My brain had not been that creative in years, but I made it happen. Honestly, I became an overachiever where the elves were concerned, and I’m sure all her friends’ parents hated me for it. I don’t blame them. I hated that I let myself fall into the trap of that level of insanity after seeing others post on social media, but I did it.

I thought about all this last night, because my daughter, who is now 19 and a freshman in college, was hanging out with friends and texted me, “Can you send me pictures of the crazy things my elves did?” I searched through years of pictures and found some to send her. She sent back lots of laughing faces, lots of “Lol” and lots of “wow.”

Then I went down the rabbit hole.

I started texting her elf stories. I told her about the time she came running into the kitchen just before Thanksgiving Day (when the elves are supposed to arrive) with an elf in her hand. I’m not sure how old she was…maybe six of seven? She had gone into my room to look for something in a drawer, and she had found an elf. “Mommy! Look what I found in your drawer!” I was standing at the stovetop preparing dinner but looked down to see her holding the elf up for me to see. Somehow, I thought fast and replied, “Wow! He must have known you would look in there today, and he was just waiting for you to find him!” Her eyes widened! She bought it hook, line, and sinker! She replied, “I guess so!” And the elves got an early start (ugh) that year…lucky me (insert eye roll here).

Another year, on Christmas Day, she seemed a little sad…unusual for Christmas Day. She was eight, and she should have been excited and happy the whole day. Finally, in the afternoon, I asked, “Honey, are you OK?” Immediately, the flood gates opened…her bottom lip rolled down as her chin quivered, and tears rolled down her cheeks. “I miss my elf!,” she exclaimed. My heart broke. My sweet little girl thad been holding in those emotions all day. I could have been stern. I could have followed the elf rules, but I didn’t. I hugged her. I comforted her. And then I said, “There might be a way to get him back.” Call me a sucker if you want, but personally, I love knowing my child is full of so much love. That year, her elf had taken on the task of replacing some of her “babies” (stuffed animals) that had been accidentally thrown out while we were having her room painted. She appreciated what that elf had done for her, and she loved her elf for it. Who was I to say the elf couldn’t come back? Surely, there was a way?!? I said, “Here’s a little secret: since it’s still Christmas Day, you can make a wish on a Christmas candle, and maybe the elf will come back.” I’m still patting myself on the back for this one. My husband brought us a Christmas candle, and I sat down on the sofa with her, telling her to close her eyes and make the wish before blowing out the candle. Then close her eyes again and slowly count to ten, just to help the wish. Whatever…I was winging it, OK?!? While she slowly counted to ten after making the wish, my husband scampered quietly into our room, got the elf out of a drawer and placed him on the dining room table. When she opened her eyes, I said, “Maybe the elf will return. He might show up in an unexpected place.” Of course, she couldn’t resist the urge to start searching. When she found him on the dining room table, it was sheer joy! Her Christmas wish had come true! Since the elf had returned on a Christmas wish, she was allowed to hold him (against the Elf on the Shelf rules), so she settled in on the sofa to watch a Christmas movie with him. I told her she had 30 more days with the elf, but he wouldn’t fly back and forth to the North Pole, and had to leave after those 30 days. She agreed 30 more days would be enough…and it was.

The elves were popular at our house for several years until one day, she simply said, “Mom, I know the elves aren’t real.” In some ways I was happy. I wouldn’t have to remember to move them! I wouldn’t have to find creative places to put them! I wouldn’t have to wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat when I realized I hadn’t done anything with them! I wouldn’t have to lie about the fog/storms/clouds. At the same time, my heart broke a little. Sure, my life would be a little easier because she didn’t believe in the elves anymore, but it would be a lot less fun.

Now that she’s 19, the elves no longer come around. One moved to a new home when a neighbor melted her daughter’s elf on a lamp and was in a desperate search for a new one. We had one that matched hers, so we let her have it. Our daughter didn’t believe anymore, so it was nice to know we were saving another parent from a meltdown. Now, we look back on the elves with fondness. And honestly, they make good stories.

We miss the elves…not enough to bring them back, but we miss them!

Last Minute Holiday Gifts

Last minute holiday gifts.

We are getting down to the wire. If you still have gifts to purchase but don’t know where to start (or finish), we have suggestions.

Shop Local. It’s always important to shop local, and I did a lot of local shopping this year. Your local business owners always appreciate your business, but they especially appreciate it when inflation is crazy and prices are soaring. Don’t forget, they are having to pay more for the items from their suppliers too. If you don’t know about local boutiques in your area, ask around. Or if you live in Charlotte, you can check out the Charlotte’s Got A Lot website. They have compiled a lengthy list of local places to shop for everyone on your list. You can check it out here. I checked out their list and got a few ideas for my husband and daughter. Then, I passed along some ideas to friends…straight from the Charlotte’s Got a Lot list. If you don’t live in Charlotte, you might be able to find a similar list for your town. My personal favorite local shops are The Buttercup (great for women/young ladies/neighbors/friends), Paper Skyscraper for whimsical gifts (and stop in for lunch at Thai Taste next door when you go), Charlotte’s for women, Swoozie’s for fun gifts for friends and neighbors, and though it’s not really a shop/boutique, I love purchasing sports tickets or sports merchandise for local teams…the Carolina Panthers (available through Ticketmaster or at the Panthers store in the stadium), Charlotte Checkers hockey tickets/merchandise, and Charlotte Hornets tickets/merchandise.

USA Today List. USA Today published a list just yesterday of some last-minute gift ideas, and it includes gifts for everyone on your list. Prices range from below $100 to over $1000, but you’re likely to find something that will work. Get busy looking, though, because the longer you wait, the less likely it will get here in time. See the USA Today list here.

Amazon. No, it’s not shopping local, for sure, but sometimes you just need Amazon. My mother used Amazon for lots of her shopping when she was alive, because she just didn’t get around real well. Even if you can get around well, you might find that time is not your friend, and you just need to get something now. Amazon has a section on their website called Very Merry Deals, where you can find popular discounted items that can be shipped to your home or to the recipient’s home in time for Christmas. But do your Amazon shopping now! You can see their Very Merry Deals here.

Gift Cards. It sounds cliché, but if there are any college students in your life, they love gift cards. You can purchase gift cards to just about anywhere in Harris Teeter, Target, and CVS. My college-age daughter loves gift cards from Starbucks, Panera, ChickFilA, Netflix, and Amazon, but I’m sure there are others that are popular. As a freshman, our daughter has a dining plan through her university, but sometimes, she just wants to eat what she calls “real food.” That’s when gift cards come in handy.

Experiences. If you have an amusement park near you, it might be possible to purchase season passes or gift cards for someone on your list. Call ahead to find out. Movie passes make great gifts too. Maybe there is an attraction in your town that’s fun for someone in your family. We have the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, and it’s fun for the whole family! A gift card there can mean hours of fun! Or give the gift of travel! Charlotte is a hub airport for American Airlines, so a gift card on American Airlines could be a great gift for someone who could fly out of here or fly into Charlotte to visit! See their gift cards here. Delta offers them on their website too. You can see theirs by clicking here.

Some Things Never Change

Some things never change.

Growing up, I lived in a few different small towns in Alabama. I was born in a different state but moved to Alabama as a baby, and the first small town we lived in made quite an impression.

When I say it was a small town, I mean it was a small town, but at the time, I didn’t realize just how small it was. Downtown always looks big to little kids, and this one was no exception. Every year as a little girl, I looked forward to Christmastime. This tiny town would have a Christmas parade with Santa joyfully waving at the tail end of the parade. Downtown was decorated every year with what I thought were beautiful decorations on each pole in the downtown area. I moved away from there when I was seven years old, but in my mind’s eye, I can still see the Christmas decor.

Yesterday, as I scrolled through Facebook, I came across some pictures of a small town Christmas parade. It was, in fact, the same small town. I flipped through the pictures, looking for Santa, and there he was…atop a fire truck at the end of the parade. It made me feel nostalgic, and it made me smile. Some things never change…a small town is still hosting a Christmas parade, complete with Santa. I did notice one difference, though. I remember the parade being a daytime parade when I was a little girl, but this parade was a night parade with illuminated floats. Still, it was a sweet reminder of my childhood. It also appeared the parade might have been interrupted by a train passing through town, as the tracks go right through the middle of the town.

I guess every small town has its own traditions. We moved from there to another small town that was more of a community without a proper downtown area. I don’t remember any kind of community-wide Christmas celebrations there, but that might have been because we were close to a bigger city where we could drive into town and enjoy holiday festivities.

After that, we moved to yet another small town that had its own holiday decor in the downtown area and an annual Christmas parade. The parade was a big deal every year, and it seemed everyone in the town participated in one way or another. I remember wondering who was going to watch the parade, because it seemed almost everyone was involved in the festivities in some way! But every year, the spectators came out to see every local group that participated: high school marching bands, little league and high school cheerleaders, dance troupes, dance schools, convertibles with beauty queens perched atop them, restaurants and other local businesses sponsoring trucks or cars decorated for Christmas, and yes, Santa…always at the end of the parade, waving joyfully to all the girls and boys.

We have raised our daughter in a bigger city, Charlotte, North Carolina, and I absolutely love living here. However, occasionally, I think she has missed out on some of the joy of living in a small town…like the small town Christmas parade. Don’t get me wrong. She has experienced Christmas in different ways in the Charlotte area. When she was a little girl, we would go to Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens to see the lights (and Santa) there. We went to Winterfest at Carowinds Amusement Park to see the lights (and Santa) there. We visited Santa regularly at our club and at the local mall. We did lots of fun Christmas-themed things. But she never went to a small town Christmas parade, and she never had the opportunity to participate in a small town Christmas parade with her cheer team or dance class.

The good news? She has no idea that she missed that experience. Maybe I will drive her through some small towns this holiday season so she can see how it’s done. We still have a couple more weeks. I’ll get excited about it too, because some things never change.

Car Trouble on the Way Home

Car trouble on the way home.

Tuesday was a long day for our family. I took my husband to the airport in the morning to catch an 11:00 flight to Birmingham. Our daughter had finished her first semester college finals and was ready to come home for the holidays, but since her school is 450 miles away, we didn’t want her to ride alone. Therefore, my husband was flying down to make the drive with her. I know some folks will think that’s crazy, but I don’t care. Even our daughter protested, “Really??? I can drive alone!” If purchasing an airline ticket for my husband would create a hardship for us, I might have considered letting her drive home alone, but it’s a long drive for anyone, and well, you never know when something will happen. Our daughter is a great driver with lots of driving experience, but because I have been stranded on the side of the highway before, I know how scary it can be as a woman…especially a young woman. Yes, she has a AAA Automobile Club membership, and she has roadside assistance for her car through the manufacturer, and all of that makes me feel better, but I just don’t feel good about the possibility of her being stranded on the interstate highway. My husband doesn’t either, so that’s why he flew down to drive back with her.

She picked him up at the Birmingham airport at about noon, and they started the 6-hour drive back to Charlotte. Over the past couple of years, we have decided that, because of the road construction and heavy truck traffic on I-85 between Charlotte and Greenville, South Carolina, it’s easier to travel on I-20 and I-77 between Birmingham and Charlotte. Its a slightly longer drive…20 minutes or so, but it’s just a more peaceful drive. Well…usually it is.

After they had passed through Atlanta, my husband noticed a vibration in the car that was just too much to continue. The tires were not inflated properly. They were showing various pressures, so when he called me, we decided that might be the issue. He decided to stop at a tire store in Conyers, Georgia, to try to get the issue resolved before continuing. Thank God they stopped when they did. It took a couple of hours to get the issue straightened out…rotation, weights, and alignment…but eventually, they were back on the road. I even suggested they might stop at a hotel and just come home in the morning, because in addition to the fact that it was getting late, there was also a heavy fog settled over the Carolinas. They would have none of that; they both wanted to get home.

At about 11:30pm, they turned into our driveway. I went out to greet them as soon as they parked. They were exhausted and hungry, since they hadn’t stopped for food anywhere along the way. We all came in, and I made grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for them before we all turned in for the night.

I was just thankful they had arrived safely. Yes, it was a long trip for them and a long day of worry for me, but they made it. I also said prayers of thanks that my husband was there with our daughter, so she didn’t have to deal with all the issues alone. I would have been driving to meet her somewhere if he hadn’t flown down to ride back with her, and I would have been terrified for her. It’s a good lesson. If you ever question whether you should go help your child with something like a long drive, err on the side of caution. I’m not even a particularly cautious mom, but when it comes to long drives, I am.

Now, we are enjoying the holidays and preparing for another drive, as my daughter and I are traveling to Charleston with friends tomorrow morning. I’ll be riding with my friend, and our daughter will be driving herself and the daughter of said friend. We are meeting some friends who are flying in from Ohio, and we plan to enjoy as much shopping and dining as we possibly can over the course of a few days!

Stay safe out there!

Wrapping Paper

Wrapping paper.

Every year, as Christmas approaches, I meet a friend at Paper Skycraper in Charlotte to find stocking stuffers and wrapping paper. It’s a tradition. We pick a day, and we know we will enjoy a leisurely lunch at Thai Taste before walking next door to Paper Skyscraper to shop ’til we drop. Seriously, I always walk out with way more than I planned to purchase.

For those who don’t know, Paper Skyscraper is on East Boulevard in the Dilworth neighborhood of Charlotte. According to their website, they have been open for more than 30 years. I have been shopping there for more than 20. I moved to Charlotte in 2000, and I remember going there with a friend soon after moving here. They have lots of fun gifts and lots of quirky gifts. If you decide to go, know in advance that this is not your grandmother’s gift shop. It’s full of sexual innuendos and f-bombs…even on some of the wrapping paper! One thing is for sure, you will laugh a lot while you’re there. If you can’t get into the store, you can shop some of their items online here.

Our designated day to shop together this year was last Friday afternoon. We met at Thai Taste first. I had the Pad Thai with chicken and medium spice, and she had the green curry dish. (I seriously considered ordering the curry dish to take home for dinner. It looked that good.) We had just ordered when another friend called us, and we immediately asked her to join us. She was only about five minutes away, so it worked out perfectly, and our duo became a trio! We enjoyed a lunch and lots of laughs before strolling over to Paper Skyscraper. You can see more about Thai Taste here.

As soon as we walked into Paper Skyscraper, I saw one of the light-up ceramic Christmas trees we all had in the 1970s. I wanted it, but I resisted the urge to purchase it. I didn’t even check the price, because I knew if I gave it too much attention, I would have to have it.

My friends made their way to the area full of fun gifts in the side room, while I made my way first to the wrapping paper. I am obsessed with their wrapping paper, and like a child, I didn’t want someone to walk away with some paper I might want. I found lots of lovely paper. I’m not a wrapping paper snob, but I do like quality paper. I always know I can find it at Paper Skyscraper. They have lovely rolls of Christmas paper and some funny ones too. Plus, they have sheets of beautiful wrapping paper made from recycled materials. When I say it’s beautiful, I mean it’s beautiful. I picked up a few rolls of paper and put them in my hand basket. I picked eight or ten sheets of recycled wrap and put that in my hand basket, and I made my way to the other side of the store to meet my friends. What I hadn’t considered was that, with all those rolls of paper sticking out of my basket, I was likely to knock things off every rack along the way…and I did. Fortunately, I didn’t break anything. After rearranging the basket, so I didn’t knock down anything else, I was able to continue shopping with my friends, who had been smarter than I was and waited till the end to get their wrapping paper. After an hour or so of shopping, we all left with lots of stocking stuffers, gifts for friends and neighbors, and wrapping paper.

I now have a lovely assortment of wrapping paper and have been wrapping gifts for the last couple of days. I love wrapping gifts. It’s very relaxing. Aside from the Paper Skyscraper wrapping paper, I also have some I ordered from Zazzle. Our daughter will be quite surprised when she sees it, and I’m sure she will think I’m totally crazy. It’s personalized wrapping paper with family photos on it. You can order it from Zazzle here. It can add a little fun to your gifts! I have wrapped lots of gifts, and they are piling up in the keeping room off my kitchen.

If we would only get our Christmas tree up, I would have somewhere to put them!

***Also, see great wrapping paper at the following retail stores in Charlotte:

The Buttercup, 1035 Providence Rd

Swoozie’s, 4722 Sharon Rd Ste G

Paper Twist, 2902 Selwyn Ave, Ste A

Back Home Ballers

Back Home Ballers

When I was growing up, there were young people in and out of our house all the time. Likewise, when our daughter was growing up, we had young people in and out of our house all the time. And then, this past August, she went to college, and our house became a lot quieter. She came home once in September and once a few weeks ago, and we got to see one or two of her friends, but now that Thanksgiving is upon us, they’re all home from college, and there is so much activity! It has been like a revolving door of friends since she got home, and we couldn’t be happier! If you have seen the SNL video titled Back Home Ballers, you know where I stole my title. If you’re not familiar with it, you can see it here. And if you’re a parent of a college student, you get it. Your husband is probably the “valet,” carrying bags up and down the stairs. At our house, I’m the mom who just went to Costco (or Publix, in my case) in anticipation of the college student’s arrival…and hopefully, there are lots of friends dropping in too! And the students themselves? Well, they are just enjoying every minute of the attention and preferential treatment.

I remember my friend, Angela, visiting me at my mother’s house when I was in my forties. I had gone down to Alabama to visit with Mother for a few days, and lucky for me, Angela lived nearby. One particular trip, Angela came over, and we were playing “Heads Up” with our smartphones, laughing and poking fun at each other. We talked and laughed and talked and laughed some more. I remember Mother saying, “Having y’all together here makes me happy. Y’all bring fun energy into my house.” I heard her, but I didn’t fully understand what she was saying.

Now I get it.

Now I understand what mother was feeling. I feel energized with all these friends of our daughter in and out of the house. I’ve been to the grocery store four times in anticipation of their visits. Normally, I do not enjoy the grocery store, but this week, I have enjoyed every minute of it…practically skipping and dancing down the aisles! I have tried to purchase all their favorite comfort foods, because I want them to feel comfortable and a little nostalgic. We have a few more days before they all head back to college, so I hope to prepare a few more meals, snacks, and desserts before they leave. My refrigerator is still bursting at the seams, so they need to come over as often as possible to eat all that food! The benefit for me? While they hang out in my kitchen, laughing and talking, I absorb their fun, positive energy, and I get to laugh a lot! Good times.

Last night, in fact, a few friends were here, and we stayed up well into the night laughing and talking…even crying some too, but it was good crying. I have watched these young people grow up! Obviously, I have known my daughter her whole life, but I’ve known most of her friends since they were five or even before that! We go way back…lots of history there. Now they have new lives at their universities spread across the country, so there was lots to cover there too.

I have even been able to drive my daughter and some of her friends to the homes of other friends…and even pick them up late at night! Many of these college students are home without their cars, because they have to fly back and forth to their universities. Our daughter doesn’t have her car here, so I almost feel like I used to feel before she was old enough to drive! Yes, it was aggravating sometimes then, but now I’m the mom driving late at night with a big smile on my face! I’m just so happy! That is my life right now! It’s real, y’all.

And you know what? I’m loving every minute and trying to lock things into my long term memory!

*Feature photo from NBC’s SNL* I wish I had thought to get our daughter and a group of her friends to pose like this!

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Holiday Decorating for Our College Student

Holiday decorating for our college student.

She’s coming home Thursday…a whole week before Thanksgiving.

Sunday afternoon, I was texting with a friend in Mobile who sent me pictures of her wrapped Christmas gifts! Yes, I said wrapped Christmas gifts...lots of them! She is even in the process of decorating her tree! She has two sons in their early 20s, and she is way ahead of the holiday game! I am impressed, especially because I have done very little to prepare for the holidays. Don’t get me wrong. I’m shopping. I have purchased a few items…a couple of gifts and some stocking stuffers. I have a little bit of holiday travel planned. I’m trying to figure out everything else. But decorating? It’s mid-November! My holiday game just isn’t there yet.

But then I realized…our daughter is coming home from college later this week, and it might be fun for her to come home and find a festive atmosphere.

I’m not ready to start wrapping gifts. I’m not ready to put up the tree. But I started thinking about what I can do now to make it feel festive when she arrives home this week, and it occurred to me that I can, at the very least, get the dining room table set and decorated for the holidays. Sorry…I’m skipping right over Thanksgiving table decor and moving on into Christmas decor. It’s not like I have ever decorated for Thanksgiving before anyway. I’m a bit of a holiday decor minimalist…especially for anything besides Christmas, but by most standards, I’m pretty minimal at Christmas too.

So yesterday afternoon, I went up to the attic and brought down some of the decor…not much, but some. And I got busy removing the regular china from the dining room table and replacing it with Christmas china. Some of the silver needed polishing, so I did that too. I didn’t go so far as to start playing Christmas music while I worked, but I might have been singing my own version of some Christmas carols. The dogs didn’t howl as I sang, but they did run to the other room. My husband came home in the middle of my chaos. I felt sure he would ask why I was decorating before Thanksgiving, but nope…he just kept his head down and kept walking. He probably was afraid I would ask him to help! (I didn’t.)

After gathering everything, I realized I was missing several items…a couple of my red champagne flutes (broken last year) and some of the pieces for my “tablescape.” So I placed a couple of online orders for the things I need. I still improvised with what I have, replacing the red champagne flutes with regular crystal ones until I have all the red ones, and putting out as much of my “tablescape” as possible. Yes, I put “tablescape” in quotation marks, because I’m not much of a scaper. However, even with the minimal table decor I have now, the dining room will feel festive when our daughter walks in. ***For tablescape ideas, see links at the bottom of page***

I stopped short of dragging out any other Christmas decor.

My husband grows weary of holiday decor, so I don’t want to send his brain into Christmas overload too early in the season…or before the season even gets started! I did not put up the tree. I didn’t go out and put lights on the trees in the front yard. I didn’t put the garland on the stairs. I didn’t start baking cookies for Santa. However, I am still considering putting the bows on the front porch lanterns before our daughter arrives Thursday. I know she would love to see those when she arrives, but I’m feeling a little like I need to save that until after Thanksgiving. Otherwise, even I will be tired of looking at all of it before Christmas even gets here. Plus, I don’t want to send the neighbors into complete shock by decorating too early.

For now, I’m relatively happy with my dining room table. When I’m finished, will it look like I hired Martha Stewart? Nope. Not at all. Maybe it will look like I hired Martha’s friend, Snoop Dogg. I’m not knocking Snoop; I love him! Frankly, I’d love to have him decorate my house for the holidays! In fact, I think I’d prefer his decor over Martha’s.

And we will all feel festive as soon as our daughter walks through the door for her weeklong Thanksgiving break! Maybe she will want to help me with some holiday decor after she gets here!

Fo shizzle!

****Here are some websites for table decorating ideas:

Town and Country Magazine

Country Living

Jane at Home

And some fun ideas from Country Living

*Also, follow Shayla Copas on Instagram here for great ideas! Or order her book, Four Seasons of Entertaining, here.*

A Whole Week Home From College

A whole week home from college.

In less than a week, our college student daughter is coming home…for a whole week! We haven’t seen her for seven days in a row since she left for college in August! We have seen her for a couple of days here and there…two football weekends, one day when my husband visited when he passed through town, and she has been home for two quick visits. But soon, she will be here for a whole week! In fact, she will be home for a little more than a week! And we can hardly wait.

Back in September, I booked her ticket on American Airlines to come home Saturday. But then, two days ago, she called me and said she wants to come home earlier. My first question? “Don’t you have class Friday?” She told me her Friday class has been canceled. I kept her on the phone while I looked at the American Airlines website. We discussed flight times and finally decided she could come home on an afternoon flight Thursday for only $99 more than we paid for the original ticket. Sold!

Seriously, y’all, I was so flattered that she wanted to spend more time with us. Anyone who has college-age kids will tell you it’s fun when they’re around again. I told her I was excited we are going to get to spend some extra time with her. And that’s when she said, “Oh, well, yes…but I’m going down to Columbia, South Carolina, with friends Saturday morning for the South Carolina game.”And that’s when I realized she isn’t coming home early to spend more time with us. She is coming home early to go to the University of South Carolina! I laughed out loud, because of course that’s what she wants to do!

I remember what it’s like to be 19, so I’m happy she gets to go visit friends in South Carolina with friends from home! I loved going to football games at different schools with friends when I was in college, so I get it. Will we, her parents, be offended when she wants to spend every evening with her friends? Nope, not one bit. In fact, I hope she will bring them here to gather at least once or twice. We love the energy they bring into our home, and I love preparing food for them…grilled cheese sandwiches, avocado toast, or even a late night breakfast.

But I also realize that, because she wants to go to South Carolina for a day or two, she is still coming home earlier than she originally was, and that’s a bonus for me and my husband! We are so excited! Of course, at the end of her stay, I’m sure I will be writing about how little time we actually got to spend with her! And that’s OK too, because we just want her to be happy and healthy. Spending time with her friends in Charlotte will be good for her. When she returns to Charlotte from South Carolina Saturday night, I will be here, ready to feed her (and friends) when she gets home.

Plus, I’m sure she will sleep a lot. Our daughter who has never been much of a sleeper will need to make up for lots of lost sleep while she is here. Sleeping in a twin bed in a dorm just isn’t the same as sleeping in a queen bed at home. I remember that too. There’s nothing quite like sleeping under your parents’ roof, with your dog in the bed like old times. She will sleep soundly knowing her daddy will bring her coffee in bed in the morning, and I will call her down for a hot breakfast shortly thereafter. Just like her last visit, we will have all her favorites at breakfast: scrambled eggs, grits, hashbrown casserole, bacon, biscuits, and Conecuh Sausage (again, if you’re not familiar with this, you want to try it. It’s from Alabama, but they carry the original sausage at most Publix stores. See the Conecuh Sausage website here). Some mornings, she might want avocado toast too. And she will get it if she wants it.

We are excited for her to arrive Thursday. My husband can hardly wait to go pick her up at the airport…a job he has already volunteered to do. I will ask her what she wants as her “welcome home” meal, and I will have that ready when she arrives. Of course, she’s likely to eat and run…or as my late friend, Wendy, would say, “chew and screw,” which means the same as eat and run. She was from Boston, and I don’t know if that’s what other people say there, but I think it sounds funny, so I say it occasionally.

Now, we just play the waiting game. My husband started his countdown today, telling me she will be home in just five days!

We are excited!

***Feature photo from Charlotte Business Journal***

Cleaning Out My Closet Before the Holidays

Cleaning out my closet before the holidays.

A distant cousin posted a meme on Facebook today that said, “Every marriage has one person who throws things out, and a garbage-loving, chaos goblin who says, ‘But I was saving that!'” I replied, “Me…I’m the goblin.”

A few times a year, though, I get the urge to get rid of the chaos, and today was one of those days. I made the decision this morning to tackle my closet again when I realized I needed a place to hide some Christmas gifts. I have a pretty nice-sized closet. It’s not particularly large, but it’s not small by most people’s standards, either. Could I host a party in there? No. Do I have it decorated to the nines with a chandelier and the prettiest wallpaper I could find? No, but my closet, as it is, should be sufficient for the stuff I have, especially since I converted all my hangers to velvet flocked hangers earlier this year. (If you haven’t done that yourself, you will likely find you have more closet space if you do. I purchase mine from Amazon here. The ones in my feature photo are black, but I prefer the ivory ones.) And there should be plenty of space to hide gifts…now that I cleaned it out.

When I first moved into this house 22 years ago, I would swap out my wardrobe seasonally…taking the spring/summer clothing up to our climate-controlled attic space in fall, and swapping it with the fall/winter clothing in spring. I feel pretty sure I did that for several years…until I found better things to do with my time and stopped that insanity. Now, all my clothes and shoes are in the closet year-round, and I’m the first to admit I have a lot of clothes and a lot of shoes. They are color-coded and separated by season (go ahead…gasp! I know you’re surprised!), but they are all in there. So every now and then, especially after I have purchased new things, I realize I need to get rid of some things. Today was one of those days.

Today, I started by going through the dresses then moved on to the jackets, tops, pants, shoes, and finally…the miscellaneous items that get stashed in there when I’m in a hurry…like packets of seeds for my garden…not sure why or how those ended up in there.

Lots of people use the “if I haven’t worn it in a year, I’m not going to wear it” method of cleaning their closet, but not me. In fact, for one of my daughter’s graduation events last May, I wore a lovely pair of designer shoes I purchased in Palm Beach 21 years ago. I had not worn them in 18 or 19 years, but every time I cleaned my closet over those 18 or 19 years, I resisted the urge to toss them out, donate them, or sell them, because like the meme my cousin posted, “I was saving that!” Seriously, I knew I would have another opportunity to wear them. Plus, they are lovely, classic shoes that I purchased on sale for 90% off! How often does a deal like that come around?!?! I can’t get rid of those! I’m too proud of the purchase! I also recently wore a dress I hadn’t worn in 2 1/2 years! It’s a quality dress I purchased in LA three years ago. I had worn it just once before, but I was so glad I had it when I needed it!

It’s rare that I get rid of a quality purchase. I’m smart enough to know that any good shoes or handbags I purchased over the years are likely to be called “vintage” one day. I hang on to those. But the impulse purchases I make in a Zara or H&M store? (Don’t go all crazy on me. I love Zara and H&M.) Or the “filler” clothes I purchase on a whim? By “filler,” I mean they are just clothes I’m likely to wear to events that aren’t fancy, but they’re also not super-casual. I wear good clothes to parties, lunch or dinner with friends, or events. I wear super-casual (we’re talking t-shirts, hoodies, sweatpants, etc) to run errands. But those filler clothes? They are perfect for air travel, school sporting events, and stuff like that. Those “filler” clothes are the ones that are likely to go into the “toss” pile if I haven’t worn them in a year. And that’s exactly what happened today.

I normally don’t throw out handbags. I have tons of “vintage” handbags, even though, as I have gotten older, they have gotten very little use. At 55, I mostly carry a small, black, Tumi Ruma crossbody. (You can purchase one like it from Tumi here. It would make a great Christmas gift for anyone on your list who travels, because it’s small but large enough for important documents, cash, lipsticks, mints, and credit cards.) In fact, I don’t know that I have carried any of my other handbags in a year or two…except for the clear handbags I’m required to carry to college and professional sporting events. And shoes…mostly the ones I toss are well-worn flip flops and sneakers. Today, in fact, I’m wearing some sparkly, purple Uggs I’ve had for at least 10 years. I’m not wearing them to make a fashion statement. I’m wearing them simply for comfort, because they are, indeed, comfortable. These Uggs will never be thrown out. But those cheap flip flops I purchased last summer when I was on vacation and realized I forgot to take flip flops? They were the first things to go today.

So my closet cleaning method, while different than most, works for me. And maybe it will work for you? My method? Toss the cheap stuff, but keep the good stuff and the frequently-worn stuff. I have sweatpants and jeans in my closet that I have had in the regular wardrobe rotation for years!

And now I have a clean closet with plenty of room for stashing Christmas gifts until I can get them wrapped and under the tree (when I get that up!).