While He Was Gone

While he was gone…

A few times a year, my husband and I go on our own vacations. Yes, we vacation together too, but we don’t always enjoy the same places, so instead of arguing about it, we do our own thing.

Last week, my husband visited the beach where he grew up. He got to hang out with his friends there, and I didn’t have to go! Seriously, I didn’t have to go…thank you, Lord. It’s a lovely beach, but it’s just not somewhere I want to spend my vacation time…so he goes when he wants. I go several places each year without him. We take vacations together too…no big deal.

But this time was different. He left Wednesday. He had a routine departure early that morning, and honestly, I was looking forward to having a few days to myself…to enjoy the peace and quiet, catch up on some reading, watch some rom-com movies I’ve seen advertised, and just do whatever I wanted to do. But my plans were foiled as early as the first night.

About ten minutes after I got into bed that night, I heard chimes in the hallway outside our bedroom. The chimes were followed by a loud female voice saying, “The battery is low on your smoke detector. Please change the battery now. The battery power is very low.” Yes, we have a weird talking smoke detector. I felt sure it couldn’t be too low, and I thought it probably wouldn’t talk to me again before the next morning. I was wrong. The “lady inside the smoke detector” repeated her message ten minutes later. I promptly grabbed my pillows and went upstairs to sleep in the guest room.

The problem? I’m short, and we have ten foot ceilings in the hall. I could reach the smoke detector with a ladder (which we have), but I have vertigo. Ladders are not my friend. And any time I lean my head back to look up, the vertigo kicks in…I’d likely fall backward off the ladder. I know my limits.

The next day, I got a neighbor to come change the battery. Problem solved, right? I will be able to resume my peaceful weekend, right? Wrong.

That very afternoon, as I climbed the stairs to retrieve my pillows from the guest room, I noticed that as I got closer to the top of the stairs, it got warmer. Not good. I walked over to the upstairs thermostat, and it was blank. It’s electronic, so I tapped it, hoping it was just in sleep mode. It wasn’t. My husband always deals with the HVAC company, so I called him and asked him to call his contact there. A couple of hours later, the technician arrived, and after an hour or so, he told me we needed a new upstairs HVAC system. I wasn’t surprised, because I knew it was about time for that, but I didn’t expect it to happen when the husband was out of town.

The next day, I sat down with the representative from our service provider, and the day after that, we had a new system installed. It was pretty quick, but it meant I had to sit home half the day while they worked. Not exactly what I had in mind for my peaceful weekend at home.

As soon as the new HVAC was installed, I sat down in the kitchen and thought, “Well, at least I get two more nights to myself.” Not…so…fast! Less than ten minutes later, my husband called and said, “I’m coming home today. Hurricane Ida is coming in, and even though it won’t be a direct hit here, the traffic is going to be impossible if I don’t leave now.”

OK. OK. The peaceful weekend of rom-com movies simply wasn’t meant to be. My husband arrived home safely last night, and we are back to watching the shows he wants to watch. Don’t get me wrong…I’m happy he’s home. I just feel like I missed an opportunity. At least he was grateful that I had handled all the issues in his absence.

It’s OK, I’m driving our daughter to Asheville next weekend for her to meet some friends, and I will stay in a hotel by myself…eating room service and watching rom-coms!

I Missed My Garden

I missed my garden.

For the past few summers, I had a “garden.” Maybe I should say I planted flowers and vegetables in every available space in my backyard, because there was not really much organization to it. I had sunflowers, corn, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Early this year, though, I decided I would take the summer off. I decided to let the soil rest for a year.

And oh, how I missed spending time in the garden.

If you had told me ten years ago that I would enjoy gardening, I might have laughed in your face. Before that, I had grown some sunflowers and loved it, but it wasn’t terribly time consuming. A few years ago, though, I opted to plant lots of things, and it became time consuming. Sure, I loved it most of the time, but it was real work. I couldn’t just walk out there in the morning like Snow White and pluck a vegetable here and there, whistling while I worked. It’s hot in Charlotte in the summer. No, it’s not as hot as some places, but it’s hot. I would get up in the morning, put on some shorts and tshirt, and go outside to start the morning work…watering, weeding (which I’m not real good at), checking for pests, doing things to prevent/get rid of pests (insects, rabbits, deer), and when the time came, harvesting. And I would repeat the process in the evening. And I was always…always…on the lookout for snakes. I had a fear of sticking my hand between cucumber vines and pulling out a snake, but fortunately, it never happened.

This year, because I didn’t have a garden, I spent less time outdoors. I relaxed more. I was flat out lazy. I had too much time on my hands. Sure, I was able to catch up on some reading, and while I loved that, I realized in July that I should have planted a garden in spring. Before, when I had a garden, after working the garden, I would get in the pool to read, but between pages, I could check out the flowers and vegetables from a distance, deciding what I needed to work on next.

I thought it was work, but now I realize it was fun. OK, so it was fun work. I learned a lot from gardening. I learned that corn needs to be planted close together, so it can pollinate. I learned more about corn smut (and huitlacoche tacos!) than I ever dreamed I would. I learned about different varieties of sunflowers and cucumbers. Before last summer, I had no idea there was something called a lemon cucumber! I learned about hornworms and the braconid wasps that lay eggs on the backs of said worms. I learned.

And this year, without a garden, what I really learned is that I need a summer garden. I need that sweaty work. I need to learn about vegetables and flowers. I simply need it.

I truly feel like I’ve been less active this summer, because I didn’t have a garden. You can bet your sweet bippy that I will plant next spring. I won’t forget this valuable lesson. In fact, I’ve decided to plant a fall garden…something I have never done. I’ve checked, and it appears there are lots of vegetables and flowers I can plant in late August/early September. I’m thinking carrots, peas, and spinach? All those are new to me, but it’s worth a try.

I guess I’ll be visiting my local gardening store tomorrow. Someone might want to warn my husband in advance. The bad news for him is that I might need a little help getting started. The good news for him? I’ll likely be in a better mood!

Coyotes in the City

Coyotes in the city.

We have lived in the same house for over 20 years. We love our neighborhood in Charlotte (North Carolina). We don’t live right in uptown (what Charlotteans call downtown), but we are well within city limits on the south side of town.

Because our neighborhood has two lakes, lots of trees, and borders a golf course, we have lots of wildlife. Over the years, it hasn’t been unusual to see owls, blue herons (they nest right behind my friend’s house), deer, snakes, hawks, rabbits, turtles, bullfrogs, ducks, geese, Bald Eagles, and even a lone turkey! And yes, we have seen a few coyotes…maybe three over the course of twenty years.

During the pandemic, we started having evening cocktails on the patio. Every evening, we sat outside laughing and talking…sometimes just us, and sometimes with neighbors and friends. I don’t remember hearing or seeing any coyotes last year, but this year…wow.

Earlier in the year, the people who purchased a house just over the ridge behind us decided to demolish the house and clear a lot of the trees from the three acres of land. I thought it was sad as I saw beautiful trees being mowed over by heavy equipment. One tree that went down was a favorite one I could see from the patio, but it was none of my business. Since then, all construction activity has stopped on the property. For several months, it has been quiet.

Well, construction has been quiet, but the neighborhood has been eerily noisy.

We started sitting outside for cocktails again as soon as the weather allowed in the spring. And one of the first nights we were out there, we heard something: howling, yipping, yapping…the creepy sounds of coyotes. Yep, coyotes, right here in Charlotte city limits. It happens at some point almost every night, but I don’t think it’s something I will ever get accustomed to hearing.

Recently, I was sitting outside at 10pm with my neighbor when we suddenly heard a long, lone howl. It was one of those perfect howls like in a western movie. We looked at each other in disbelief. And shortly thereafter, we heard the familiar yipping, yapping sounds of a coyote frenzy. After investigating the meanings of these different sounds, I have learned that one long howl is likely a coyote trying to locate its pack. The yipping/yapping heard afterward is the pack responding to the howl. So I guess that is the communication we were hearing that night.

A few nights later, my husband and I had some friends over for cocktails, and at about 8:30pm, just before dark, my husband pointed at something and asked, “What is that?” I responded, “That’s a coyote…and another…and another!” Three coyotes roaming just past our next door neighbor’s house. They looked very confident. I’m not sure if they saw us, but if they did, they clearly were not disturbed by our presence. Of course, the men ran out to the other side of the house to see if they could see more of them, but nothing. We had never seen three coyotes together in our neighborhood…and it was relatively early in the evening!

Not gonna lie…I find it fascinating, even if it is a bit scary. I know…coyotes generally want to stay away from people, but that knowledge isn’t much comfort when we go for a walk in the evening. I have a fear of encountering a whole pack of coyotes. My husband always tells me not to worry about it, and I jokingly tell him that if we are charged by a pack of coyotes, I’m pushing him down, and I’m running. It’s a joke, of course. I have no idea what I would do if we encountered an angry pack. Chances are, I wouldn’t have to do anything, because they would run from us, but I don’t really want to find out.

Our yard is fenced. We leave exterior lights on at night. We don’t leave pet food outdoors. Our back yard is fenced. And we have a relatively big dog, a Doberman Pinscher. All of those things are supposed to deter coyotes. Our veterinarian says that if we see any near our yard, we should make loud noises to scare them. He also said we could soak pieces of cloth in ammonia or perfume and tie them along the fenceline. Apparently, those unnatural scents deter coyotes too. I’m not going that far…yet. Right now, as long as they keep their distance, we will co-exist peacefully.

When I moved to Charlotte more than twenty years ago, I certainly didn’t think we would have coyotes in the city!

The Best Part of Weekends

The best part of weekends.

Weekends take on different meaning throughout life. I remember when I was a little girl, weekends meant going to the “candy store” on Saturday morning with Daddy after watching cartoons. As a kid, weekend nights didn’t mean much, except I might have slept over at a neighborhood friend’s house. We might have stayed up to watch Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show on a Friday night…and maybe even The Midnight Special with Wolfman Jack. When we were elementary age, my parents would drop us off at the movies on Saturday nights. They went out for date night while we watched a double feature.

As a teenager, weekend nights meant high school football games or basketball games, school dances, movie dates, or just hanging out with friends…maybe staying out till midnight at a party.

College weekends were all about the parties and sporting events…staying out till all hours. Good times.

As a parent, when my daughter was a baby, weekend nights were no different than any other night. We knew we would be up early the next morning, because our daughter woke up early. As she became a toddler, we might get a babysitter and go out to dinner with friends, but the greatest thing about weekend nights was knowing we could sleep in (a little) the next day.

As she got a little older…elementary and middle school age…she developed her own social life and had things to do on weekends. We became her own private Uber, and we were OK with that. We enjoyed taking her where she needed to go and where she wanted to go.

And then she got her driver’s license. She doesn’t need us to drive her around anymore. She goes out with friends on weekends. They go to parties. They go to sporting events. They will go to concerts now that live music is starting up again. They just go. They have a lot of fun. And when the night is over, she and her friends often have group sleepovers. Sometimes, six or eight of them will sleep at our house. And we are thrilled to have them.

The best part of Friday and Saturday nights these days is seeing all those teenage girls piling into our house after a fun night. They are always hungry when they arrive. Sometimes I order pizza, but the most fun is cooking breakfast when they come in. Last night, I had a total of six girls here, so as soon as they arrived, I asked, “Who wants breakfast?” All of them were hungry, so I scrambled a dozen eggs, cooked bacon, and made enough toast for all of them. One girl wanted grits, which was fine (I love grits too), but I told her they would have to be instant grits. I wasn’t going to cook real grits while I was trying to get everything else ready. She was fine with instant grits.

And while I cooked, they sat around the kitchen table, laughing and talking. They showed each other TikToks and talked about old times, and they laughed about things that had happened during their evening out.

I worked like a short-order cook and listened to their silly stories and their funny giggles. They asked me questions about when I was a teenager, and I told them funny things that happened. They love hearing about the 80s almost as much as I love listening to them all sit around laughing together.

I love that they are making fun teen memories, and I hope late night breakfasts at our house will be locked into their long-term memories.

Soon…in just one year…they will all be off to college. They won’t be in Charlotte on weekends anymore. My weekends won’t be filled with teenage laughter anymore. Of course, there might be weekends when some of them are in town at the same time. On those weekends, I sure hope they will have a group sleepover and let me cook them breakfast in the middle of the night while they sit around laughing.

But until then, I’m going to savor every weekend night they are here. I will continue to cook late-night breakfast for them, and I will enjoy the laughter. It’s the best part of the weekends.

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!”

And I got a robe!

And I got a robe!

If you haven’t seen the Saturday Night Live sketch starring Kristen Wiig about Christmas morning, you’re missing out. You can see it here. Everyone is excitedly opening their gifts and announcing what they are…and the mom keeps saying “and I got a robe.” It’s funny in the sketch, because it’s an accurate depiction of Christmas morning for moms around the world. Typically, moms “handle” Christmas…in this country, at least. Ask my husband how many gifts he purchased and wrapped this year. My daughter purchased one (for me!) and wrapped it, but my husband didn’t purchase one gift or even assist in wrapping. He did put up the Christmas tree for me to decorate, but he didn’t help decorate it, and he didn’t assist with Christmas lunch either. I’m not complaining, though…that’s just how it is. I enjoy doing it, and since he would not enjoy it, I don’t want him to help with it. I think we are pretty typical. That’s why the SNL sketch is so funny.

I was texting with a friend earlier, and she told me she got pajamas for Christmas, but she didn’t get a robe. I told her I didn’t get a robe this year, either, but I would have been happy if I had! I love robes. In fact, all my friends know I have quite an extensive collection of hoodies, but they don’t know I also have quite a few robes…and I love every one. When I told my friend I also have a small robe collection, she called me the “Queen of Comfort.” I will take that title and run with it!

It’s good to be queen!

I won’t go into too much detail about my robes, but my oldest one is a purple one I got from Lands End right after I got married in 2000. It’s monogrammed, and it’s still in great shape…probably because it’s made out of indestructible polyester fleece. We could have an apocalypse, and that thing would survive. I also have a pink one (not polyester fleece) from my favorite hotel in the world and a white one I don’t even remember purchasing. And I have two robes that belonged to my mother. They’re both blue. She seemed to have an affinity for blue robes and pajamas (I have two pairs of blue PJ pants from her). When I wear Mother’s robes, I tell myself she’s keeping me warm. In fact, at breakfast this morning, I looked up to see my daughter wearing one of my mother’s blue robes…a fuzzy one. My daughter had no idea that she was wearing her grandmother’s robe, but it made me smile…especially since today is the third anniversary of mother’s passing. It seemed right that she was keeping my daughter warm this morning. It was a little glimmer of happiness on a day I dread every year. God bless Mother’s soul.

After my friend called me the “Queen of Comfort,” I started thinking, “Is there anything better than being the Queen of Comfort???” No way! I love to be comfortable, but I also would love to think I could be the Queen of Comfort in another way! I hope I am comforting to my friends and family when they need support. That is a quality my mother definitely had. She was nurturing, and she always knew the right thing to say or do to comfort someone. It could be a complete stranger, and Mother would know the right way to offer emotional support. It was her specialty. She died in December 2017, and for three years, lots of different people have told me stories of how Mother helped them in some way. I could only hope to be as comforting as she was. I know how comforting she was…she was my mother, and I always knew I was fortunate to have a wonderful mother who everyone turned to in times of need. God bless Mother’s soul.

While I know I do not possess the same comforting skills my mother had, I hope to develop them over time. I don’t know how to do that, but maybe it will be a personality trait that will come to me as I grow older. I’m “only” 53, so maybe by the time I’m 70, I’ll feel like a real adult, and I will be able to offer comfort and support to others.

And then “queen of comfort” would have a dual meaning! I will be wearing my comfortable, cute hoodies (and robes!) while I offer comfort to others. I wonder if a person seems comforting when they’re wearing a Travis Scott/McDonald’s limited edition hoodie? I think I can still hold the title of Queen of Comfort even in that, right?

But don’t worry. No one will never have to address me as HRH.

Virtual Christmas Cheer!

Virtual Christmas Cheer!

Flat Rock Playhouse, the State Theater of North Carolina, can lift your holiday spirits with a virtual Christmas show!

I’m no theatre critic. I don’t know my way around a stage, and I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but I know entertainment when I see it/hear it, and Flat Rock Playhouse brings it! This year, they are staging A Flat Rock Playhouse Christmas virtually. Yes, you can watch it from the comfort of your own home, while wearing your own pajamas and drinking your own eggnog…all by purchasing a link to the show for just $50 here. Think about that…your whole family can enjoy the show for $50. Make it a family night!

I became familiar with Flat Rock Playhouse several years ago when my friend, Linda Edwards, suggested I come see her in a show there. I knew Linda was a talented singer, but wow! She’s an incredible stage actress too! She has performed in theaters all over the world, and Flat Rock Playhouse is fortunate she is a regular there.

In all honestly, I haven’t seen this year’s version of A Flat Rock Playhouse Christmas yet, but I feel safe recommending it, because the playhouse has never disappointed me. I’ll be watching the show this evening on my computer, but I saw it a few years ago and loved it. I don’t know if they use the same songs in each production of the show, but I know they do a fantastic job. I left the theater that year feeling full of Christmas cheer. There were uplifting songs, and there were songs that touched my heart…and it felt like Christmas. I had so hoped COVID would have been cleared up by now, so I could see this show live, but obviously, that was wishful thinking.

The show has received glowing reviews. The Times-News in Hendersonville featured a review by Steve Wong you can read here. In his review, Mr. Wong writes, “It probably took a miracle on Greenville Highway to pull off this first-time virtual production, but like it always does, Flat Rock Playhouse did it with good taste, talent, spirit and technology.” He praises the production’s creativity in filming the scenes in the yard of the playhouse and on the streets of Hendersonville in “purposefully ironic” casual clothing “as they sing and dance in the warmth of a late-fall day in Western North Carolina,” adding that when they are not wearing face masks, they are “all smiles and in step.”

Wong also praises individual performances, especially my friend, Linda Edwards, calling her “a veteran performer with a killer singing voice” and “a masterful standout.” I’m not surprised, of course. I’ve seen her perform lots of times, and she is always a standout, no doubt. A consummate professional, she takes my breath away every times she sings. She works hard, and it shows. I can hardly wait to see her virtual performance in this show.

This has been a tough year for us all, but Flat Rock Playhouse has worked hard to continue to present several productions…some at a drive-in theater, and this one, virtually. These folks are working hard for the money, and I commend them for doing everything they can to continue to produce outstanding shows. Support the State Theater of North Carolina by purchasing your link to A Flat Rock Playhouse Christmas here. Even though I’m saving it to watch tonight, I know I’m in for a treat. I will have my popcorn ready!

Get in the Christmas spirit with Flat Rock Playhouse!

*Featured photo from flatrockplayhouse.org*

We Survived the Elf

We survived the elf.

Our daughter is 17. When she was a little girl…not sure how old, maybe six or seven…”the elf” appeared at our house. You know…the elf who appears the day after Thanksgiving and stays till Santa takes him/her home with him on Christmas Eve? That elf.

“It will be fun,” my friends said, and they got elves too.

And honestly, it was fun.

For those who are not familiar with The Elf on the Shelf, I will get you up to speed. Parents of small children purchase the elf and pretend it magically appears the day after Thanksgiving…sent by Santa to watch the children and report back nightly to the North Pole. The kids are not allowed to touch the elf, because he will lose his magic. He “magically” flies back to the North Pole every night while the kids are asleep to report to Santa, and when he returns, he lands in a different spot in the house…sometimes doing something mischievous or bringing a small gift. But the big deal is that every morning, he will be somewhere different when the kids wake up, so they have to look for him in the house. At first, it’s a lot of fun trying to come up with new hiding places and new fun ideas…till you forget one night.

Imagine this: kid wakes up and walks downstairs to find the elf hasn’t moved from where he was the day before. The kid is horrified that his elf hasn’t moved and questions the parents about the authenticity of the story behind the elf. Parents have to think on their feet. I came up with this: Oh, honey, it was so foggy last night! The elf couldn’t go back to the North Pole in dense fog! Too dangerous! I’m sure he will go back tonight!

Fast forward to about 2am the next day when I woke up and realized I hadn’t moved the elf again. My pulse rate quickened, and I jumped out of bed to try to hurry up and quietly move the elf…yep, 2am. Don’t even ask how long it took me to go back to sleep.

These things happened all the time at our house. I would forget to move the damn elf and have to come up with another excuse. Here’s a list in case you need it for a future elf fail:

  • There’s the first excuse: the fog was too dense. (LIE)
  • It stormed during the night, but you (kid) didn’t hear it. (LIE)
  • Air traffic had planes backed up in the Charlotte area, so it was too dangerous for him to try to get out past all those planes. (LIE)
  • He must think this hiding place is extra special. (LIE)
  • I think he fell asleep, because he was so tired from flying back and forth the last few nights. (LIE)

Seriously, even little kids will question those lame excuses, but they got me through the situation.

But having to hide one elf wasn’t enough. People gave her elves as gifts! At first, she questioned how people could just give them as gifts…she thought they magically appeared, so I had to explain…after we put him on the shelf the first night, he will get his magic during the night and fly back and forth to the North Pole. But that meant I had more than one elf to move and hide creatively.

Oh, it got more complicated. Our young child started writing notes to her various elves with questions. “Do you have a boyfriend?” “Do you have a girlfriend?” “What is your favorite food?” What is your favorite drink?” “Do you have a pet?” “Who is your best friend?” Oh, the questions went on and on, and she expected answers to every question the next morning. So, as a good mom, I had to sit down and come up with a different handwriting for each elf before I went to bed at night…and I had to remember which elf had which handwriting! Insanity…but yes, a small child would notice a discrepancy in the handwriting. Not kidding…

And to make things more complicated, she heard the elves brought gifts to some children, so of course, there had to be gifts. I went to Target and stocked up on every candy and cheap trinket I could find.

The elves had to be mischievous too. They spilled sugar or flour everywhere. They hid in candy bowls. They went ziplining between the banisters on the stair balcony. They wrote words with toothpaste. They even “came in like a wrecking ball.” I know there are some people who think I shouldn’t be proud of that one…but I’m proud of that one. One elf was sitting on an aluminum foil wrecking ball hung by yarn from our oven door…Miley Cyrus-style. And embarrassingly, our daughter knew exactly what it was. Don’t judge.

One year, at about Thanksgiving, before any elves had arrived for the season, my daughter came running into the kitchen, where I was cooking, with an elf in her hand! She had found it in my nightstand drawer and was confused. “Mommy? Look what I found in your drawer?” I’m good. I’m really good. Without batting an eye, I exclaimed, “He’s here! It’s magic! He knew you were going to look in that drawer tonight! He’s magic!” She bought it…hook, line, and sinker.

But the first year, when we had just one elf, heartbreak struck when we had our daughter’s bedroom painted. We bagged up all her “babies,” the stuffed animals she had collected over her lifetime and put them in the garage for “safe keeping” till the room was finished. No big deal…except, somehow, the bag got thrown away. The heartbreak was real when we discovered it. The tears! She was heartbroken, but I was too…so many memories. I had no idea how some of the “babies” would ever be replaced, but fortunately, I had photos of most of them. I got on eBay that night and started searching…and purchasing. I went anywhere and everywhere I could online to find replacements that night. I know…silly…but right then, it was important. And fortunately, I even had duplicates of a couple of special ones hidden away. So that night, after our daughter fell asleep, I got one of the duplicates from a trunk in the attic and propped it up with her elf for her to find the next morning.

When our daughter woke up and came downstairs the next morning…all puffy-eyed from crying so much before bed…she walked around looking for her elf. He was sitting on the sofa in the living room…with the duplicate rag doll that was identical to something that had been accidentally thrown away. When she found them, her face lit up…and she actually cried tears of joy! And so did I. Eventually, most of the babies were replaced by the elf over the course of the next couple of weeks. She really believed in her elf after that!

We were thankful we had the elf that first year, even though I woke up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night numerous times when I realized I hadn’t moved the elf. His ability to make those “babies” reappear earned him a special place in my heart. And it earned him a special place in our daughter’s heart too.

He was so special, in fact, that after opening gifts and having family lunch on Christmas Day, our daughter just didn’t seem herself. I sat her down and asked if something was wrong. Was she disappointed with her Christmas gifts? And she broke down in tears! She explained to me that no, she wasn’t disappointed with her gifts; she was sad her elf had gone back with Santa!

And you know what I did. I broke every elf rule. I comforted her for a while, and then I went into the kitchen and had a word with my husband, explaining to him that I needed him to go get the elf out of my nightstand drawer when I gave him the cue…and he needed to place it on the dining room table. Oh, I was thinking on the fly. I went back into the living room and told our daughter…so sweet…that since it was still Christmas Day, she could make a Christmas wish, and it might come true. Maybe she should make a wish that he would come back? I got a candle and told her to close her eyes and make a wish, then blow out the candle…close her eyes again and count to 20…slowly. While she did all that, my husband was quietly retrieving the elf and placing it in the dining room. We were breaking all the rules, but who wants to have a desperately unhappy child on Christmas Day?!?! I know…it could have been a valuable teaching moment…whatever. When she opened her eyes, I told her to see if her wish had come true. When she found that elf in the dining room, you’d have thought she had found Santa himself! We had more tears…of joy. And because it was after Christmas, we let her hold that damn elf for the rest of the day. I think he might have even slept in her bed that night. But I told her he could only stay for one more month, and he would likely stay in one place the whole time.

Whew! That was long ago. Go ahead…I get 30 lashes with a wet noodle for breaking every elf rule, but desperate times call for desperate measures. And really…was she harmed psychologically by any of it? No. Does she still believe in the elf at 17? No. In fact, a couple of years ago, a neighbor/friend posted a photo of her child’s elf that had accidentally melted when it was placed too close to a lamp. She put out a desperate plea to see if someone had an elf that looked like it. Guess who did?!?! We did! I asked my daughter if I could give it to them, and she was thrilled to get to save the day! I called my friend and said, “Come get it! It’s yours!” If you have an elf and hate it, just know you’ll get some good memories out of it. One day, you’ll look back on it fondly. And if you need some elf ideas, here are a few pics of some things we did back in the day…

REPOST: Stocking Stuffers from 2019, Part 2

***This is the second of two reposts about stocking stuffers from 2019. We will be posting even more stocking stuffers (a new 2020 version) tomorrow, December 1.***

MORE Stocking Stuffers! As I said before, this is the fun category for holiday shopping! So here is my list of MORE…something for every member of the family. Without further ado…

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Lipstick. If you have a family member who loves Amazon Prime’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, he/she needs this lipstick! Don’t we all want to look like Midge Maisel?!? Revlon is offering this lipstick based on the lipstick choices of the character. I hope I find this in my stocking! Heck…I know I’ll find it in my stocking, because I’m ordering it now and wrapping it as soon as it get here! Thanks, Honey! Get them at Revlon.com here for $19.99 per tube. ***And continue reading for more Mrs. Maisel items later in the post.***

Nostalgia Candy Boxes. Maybe you want your child to see what candy you loved as a kid, or maybe you’d like to bring back some memories for someone else on your list. Amazon carries Nancy Adams Nostalgia Candy Boxes full of all the favorites of the decades. Get one for the 1960s here. Get one for the 1970s here. And you can find the 1980s here.

Concert/Sporting Event Tickets. Never underestimate how excited a person will get over receiving tickets to an experience! I love concert and sporting event tickets as gifts…and I’d love to pull some great tickets from my Christmas stocking, as would my husband, my daughter, and my nephews. Of course, the concerts would be different for each of us. And we all love sports, so that would be a sure bet too. Ticket-Icon

Lottery Scratch Off Tickets. I love finding these in my stocking! I’ve never won a lot, but I have won a little, and I know someone who won five figures on a scratch-off ticket. No joke. I’m not encouraging gambling, but scratch off tickets are something we have in our stockings every year.nc698

Kiehl’s Products. My husband has loved Kiehl’s skincare products for years and introduced me to their Creme de Corps body lotion years ago. It does wonders for dry skin and makes my skin look smoother. We also love their Ultra Facial Moisturizer. In addition to these staples, Kiehl’s offers lots of great skincare products for men and women. See them all here.

Holiday Crackers. No, not the kinds of crackers you eat…the kind you POP! We loved these at our house when I was a kid. Sure, you can place them at each person’s place setting for lunch or dinner, but they’re fun to find in your stocking on Christmas morning. Some of my favorites:

  • L’Occitane’s Crackers Quatour, $34 for a set of four. The set of four can be broken up and one placed in each family member’s stocking. They contain petite sized products from L’Occitane’s fabulous collections.NAOCVKI002490
  • Molton Brown Cracker Gift Set, $25 per cracker. Contains four scented bath/shower gels. Get it at Saks Fifth Avenue here.MBC906_uk_Floral-Fruity-Christmas-Cracker_image_01
  • Racing Reindeer Crackers, $45.99 for a set of six. Putting a fun spin on the traditional cracker, each of these contains a windup reindeer, hat, joke, and a racetrack. Fun for all! Get them from pbs.org here.images-2
  • Robin Reed Hand Bells Musical Crackers, $85 for a box of eight. Adding a musical element to your family’s holiday, each of these crackers contains hand bells. Great for caroling with cocktails after dinner! Get them at Neiman Marcus here.NMHCBFB_mz-2
  • Godiva Luxury Poppers, $24.95 for a set of six. Who doesn’t love Godiva Chocolates? These will be a sure hit! Each popper contains three chocolate truffles. Get them here.13983-1

Bath and Body Works Products. These products are less “high brow” but great products for all ages, nonetheless. Their hand sanitizers, fine fragrance mists, and body lotions are great stocking stuffers, and you can find the perfect scent for each recipient. For example, their “Into the Night” scent is a little heavier, while their “Champagne Toast” is a little crisper and lighter. If anyone’s purchasing for me, I’d prefer the Champagne Toast, thank you very much. I should mention the prices on their products are always great, but there is almost always a special of some kind. Kids love their hand sanitizers. My own daughter had quite the collection when she was younger. See everything here.

Fun toys. When we were growing up, we loved a good Nerf gun or squirt gun, and our parents knew we would be occupied for hours with them, developing games with complete sets of rules for each one. Nerf, as it turns out, makes their traditional Nerf guns, but they also make squirt guns. See my pick for a Nerf gun stocking stuffer here, and my pick for a Nerf squirt gun here.

Liquor Miniatures. Adults need great stocking stuffers too! I have lots of friends who have a family tradition of putting miniatures in the stockings of adults. You can get them at your local liquor store. My personal favorites? Maker’s Mark Bourbon and Tito’s Vodka…in case my husband is reading this.

Perfumes/colognes. Every time I walk through Nordstrom or Neiman Marcus in SouthPark Mall in Charlotte, I check out the fragrances. Since I was a little girl, I’ve always found the fragrance department in department stores beautiful. Shopping fragrances makes me feel “fancy.” It’s one of the places in a department store that feels like days of yesteryear…the makeup counter! (Think The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.)There aren’t fragrances many I love, but when I find something I like, I really like it. Right now, I like Gucci Bloom. Recently, I discovered their Gucci Bloom Hair Mist! Game Changer! For $49, it’s a lighter version of the scent, and I love it! Get it at Nordstrom here.a700bee8-eaed-48aa-922b-8fa39b5a7721

Fun socks. They’re everywhere I look. Every time I look at Facebook or Instagram, I see an ad for those socks that start with “If you can read this…” on the bottom of the foot. See some at Amazon here. Or maybe you know a Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood fan. See some Mr. Rogers socks at Joy of Socks here. And while you’re at Joy of Socks, take a look around at everything they offer. Alien abduction socks? Check. Dog socks? Check.

Personalized Pocket Tokens. These are great little reminders people can carry with them in their pockets or handbags. Sometimes, we just need a little reassurance or pick-me-up, and these could do the trick. Get them on Etsy here.il_fullxfull.945896910_shp1

Balsa Wood Airplanes. Remember these from childhood? You can get a “squadron” of 12 of these for $28.95 at Duluth Trading. I remember playing with these with my brother when I was a kid. I would think lots of kids would love to have contests for flying these things. Get your squadron here.91032_alt_01

Drugstore colognes and aftershaves. Seriously. Call me crazy, but don’t we all remember how good Old Spice smelled when we were kids? How about Brut, English Leather, and Aqua Velva? Well, I must admit, I didn’t come up with this idea myself. Brett from artofmanliness.com wrote a piece on these old favorites after giving them a test run himself. You can see the awesome piece here. It will make you want to run to your local drugstore and pick up a few of these as stocking stuffers for the men in your lives. It also makes me want to find Joe Namath and find out if he still wears Brut!

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Photo from artofmanliness.com

Block Letter Monogram Necklace. These have been popular, in one style or another, for as long as I can remember. It’s a personalized gift without being “over the top.” And it makes a great stocking stuffer. Anthropologie has a great one for $38 here.37659125_901_b

MikWright Products. I found this brand of greeting cards and gifts at Paper Skyscraper when I first moved to Charlotte years ago, and I’ve loved them since! They use old photographs with hilarious captions on greeting cards, napkins, flasks, and more. Any of their items would make great stocking stuffers. Shop the MikWright website here.

Evel Knievel Stuff. Lots of little boys in the 1970s thought Evel Knievel was the greatest stunt person ever! I know he was famous at our house! My brother had all kinds of Evil Knievel toys…and frankly, I wish we still had them! But any Evel Knievel item would be a great trip down memory lane for some grown men. Take a look at all the items offered on Amazon.com here. There are dolls, action figures, tshirts, socks…and lots more!

Golden Girls Shady Pines Key Ring. The Golden Girls series ended its original run a long time ago, but there are lots of us who still remember it and love it. This cute little key ring is just a small nod to the show we all loved, and any fan would love to have it. It’s a guaranteed smile on Christmas morning for just $8.99 at Amazon here.

Ugg Earmuffs. Expecting cold temperatures and/or big snow this winter? Everybody has to keep their ears warm! These classic earmuffs from Ugg will do the job while making your friends and family look good at the same time! Priced at just under $60 at dsw.com here.348340_202_ss_01

Zippo Handwarmer. This is an unusual gift…it might be new to you, in fact! I had never heard of the Zippo Handwarmer till recently, but now that I know about it, you can bet your sweet bippy we will all find them in our Christmas stockings this year! They’re offered in several different colors and finishes, and they are refillable. For $19.99, they’re great stocking stuffers for anyone on your list who might spend some time in the cold this winter! Personally, I like the dayglo yellow one, because I think I’ll be less likely to lose it. Get it at Amazon here.

Other Marvelous Mrs. Maisel merch. Just as promised at the beginning of the post, here are some more items based on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel:

  • Marvis Tour with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Limited Edition Set. Toothpaste! It’s toothpaste! Amazon says, “Go on tour with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (and her fresh mouth), with this limited edition set, made exclusively in partnership with the show. $15 for the set at Amazon here.81kqkk44cxl._sl1500_.jpg
  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Illustration Travel Mug. Offered by Society6.com, this travel mug will make any fan of the show laugh. Fans will immediately recognize the characters and the quote. (I had to mark out a word, because my mama wouldn’t approve of that word!) Get it here.IMG_6498
  • We Got The Rabbi T-shirt. Trust me, any fan would love this shirt. If anyone on your list is a fan of the show, get this t-shirt for him or her! Priced at $32, this will roll up and fit right into a stocking…and guaranteed smiles when the recipient finds it! It’s offered in lots of different colors! Get it here.mockup-49fd6357_1000x
  • More show merchandise at Amazon. Seriously, I can’t believe Amazon isn’t cashing in with tons of merchandise from the Amazon Prime show, but they do have a few items. Click here to see a few items they offer.

So there are some ideas for folks on your list…different ages…different interests…just different altogether! Happy shopping!