College Fall Break

College fall break.

This morning, I walked into a local breakfast place and literally ran into a girl my daughter went to high school with. I was surprised to see her, because she is supposed to be in college hundreds of miles away. I’m sure I audibly gasped before giving her a big hug. She quickly explained that she is home for fall break and asked, “When is Milly’s fall break?” I replied, “She doesn’t get one.” Her eyes widened and she asked, “What? I thought everyone did!” Well, my daughter doesn’t.

When we moved her into college, I knew she wouldn’t get a fall break. I had already looked ahead at the academic calendar for fall, and I realized that while she doesn’t get a fall break, she does get a full week for Thanksgiving, which I think is ideal. I thought nothing of it. Why does anyone need a fall break, anyway? It never occurred to me that she might need it! Did we have those extra days off when I was in college? I don’t remember.

But she does need a fall break.

As it turns out, it’s midterm exam season, and she is worn out. She was sick with the flu last week. She is ready to come home and sleep in her own bed for a few days, but she doesn’t have a fall break. I’m going down to the football game this weekend, and I thought that might be enough to carry her through to Thanksgiving, but no…she wants to come home for a weekend visit.

So yesterday, I purchased her an airline ticket to come home next weekend. After completing the purchase, I said, “Maybe I should just stay home this weekend, since you’re coming home next weekend?” She said, “No. Please come to the game!” That’s all it took. As soon as I heard those words, I knew I was definitely going. Done! As parents, we know that as our kids get older, every minute with them is valuable, and if she wants some time with me, I’m taking advantage of it. So I’ll be leaving Friday. I’ll return to Charlotte Sunday, and next Friday, I’ll pick her up at the airport in Charlotte. She’s needing some Mama and Daddy time…and that’s OK.

She simply needs a reboot. And she needs to sleep in her own bed. And she needs some of her favorite foods…Mama’s grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup, some roasted veggies, cake batter popcorn (recipe here) and some homemade mashed potatoes…not all at the same time, of course. I’ll be going to the grocery store next Wednesday to make sure we have everything I need to make her favorites. And we will sit outside and have a charcuterie board for dinner Saturday night before she goes out.

I have a friend who has a daughter who is a sophomore at another college, and I vividly remember her telling me that when her daughter was a freshman, she would come home occasionally, and she seemed most excited about sleeping in her own bed. In fact, my friend said her daughter made “snow angels” in her bed the first time she came home from college, saying, “I’m just so happy to be back in my BIG bed!” Those twin beds in college dorm rooms are adequate, but who doesn’t love their own big bed in their own bedroom at home?!? Our daughter has slept in a queen bed in her own room her whole life, so I’m sure she is excited to sleep in her own big bed, with her own blankets and her own sweet dog, who misses her terribly.

So no, she doesn’t get an official fall break. She won’t get an extra two days off to come home, but we will create a fall break for her. She will be home for about 52 hours (the same amount of time I was in labor with her, by the way…don’t ask), and we will try to make it as special as possible. We will try to make her comfortable. We will give her lots of hugs. We will prepare all her favorite foods. And we will just love her. There’s no doubt in my mind that we will be happier than she is that she is home. We are thrilled to have a weekend with her…which will really be just a few hours that we get to see her, but that’s OK. There will be lots of hugs.

And she just called to tell me we will have a bonus! A friend is coming home with her! We will have lots of extra laughs, and I am going to call the friend’s mom right now to find out what her favorite foods are!

They just didn’t want to wait till Thanksgiving. We will welcome them with open arms and help them “reboot” to finish out the weeks till Thanksgiving. Sometimes, college students just need to be loved.

Come home, baby!

College Homecoming

College Homecoming.

Lawn decorations on sorority row. Tailgate tents on the quad. Grills smoking. Families and friends gathering. A parade through campus. Band playing.

All these things contributed to a festive atmosphere when I went to the University of Alabama this past weekend for Homecoming. It had been a long time…10 or 11 years…since I had traveled there for Homecoming, but I was so happy I went this year!

When I was in college, we got dates to every football game, so it was always fun, but the Homecoming game every year was more exciting…more festivities, more excitement, more parties. It never occurred to me then that “Homecoming” was actually a time to welcome back alumni. I just thought of it as the football team was coming back for a home game after an away game. Thinking of “alumni” was just not on my radar. And with good reason…I was young and self-centered, just like most young people.

The fact that Homecoming is really for alumni hit me after I had a child. Taking her to the Homecoming football game in 2011 was the perfect opportunity to showcase my alma mater to her. And as anyone who has ever visited the University of Alabama knows, it is a beautiful place…worthy of showing off. My daughter was just seven years old at the time, but she loved football…not much choice in my family…you either love football, or you’ll be miserable during football season, because watching football is what we do. So when she was seven, my daughter and I went with my friend, Angela, and her daughter, who was nine years old at the time.

I remember we made our way around sorority row soon after arriving. The lawn decorations are impressive every year, and little girls love them, so we made sure ours got to see all of them that day. The lawn decorations are a lot different than when I was in college. Back when I was in school, the lawn decorations were as tall as the house! We had to climb on scaffolding to “pomp” tissue paper into giant chicken wire structures to show our spirit for Homecoming week…outside with music blasting till wee hours of the morning…boys helping us till wee hours of the morning. It was great fun in the 1980s, but now, it seems they do most of the “pomping” indoors, and the much smaller structures are placed on the lawn afterward. No more scaffolding…kind of a shame, because it sure was fun!

That Homecoming in 2011, we walked over to the quad and visited friends who were tailgating. We ate lunch in the alumni tent, and we ran into lots of people we knew from our college days. That is what Homecoming is about…visiting your alma mater to see people and visit with college friends you don’t see on a regular basis.

And this year, we did exactly that…spent time with friends we haven’t spent much time with over the last few years. I even managed to spend a little time with a friend I had not seen in 20+ years…one of the sweetest souls I have ever known. In fact, she is the very friend who told me after a bad breakup in my late 20s, “Just think! You get to fall in love again!” I reminded her of that when I saw her, and I told her how much hope it gave me after that breakup. Now, it’s what I have told my 19-yr-old daughter to say to her friends after they go through bad breakups. Because really…there’s nothing like that “falling in love” feeling.

We ended our Homecoming visit with a little tailgate time with a friend who had folding chairs that rock in her tailgate area. Not gonna lie…it was fun catching up with her, and it was hard to get up from those rocking chairs when it was time to leave! There’s something extra relaxing about a rocking chair…and I could have drifted off to sleep right there. But we needed to get moving, so I had to get up.

We didn’t stay for the game. We were spending the night at Angela’s house in Montgomery, and because we had a 90 minute drive ahead of us, we opted out of the game. We drove home on the winding road from Tuscaloosa to Montgomery, reliving the moments of the day…doing what we call “Post Game Wrapup” of our day. And while we talked about the fun of the day, we reminisced about college too. We had lots of good times at the University of Alabama back in the 1980s. That’s when Angela and I became friends, and we each remember different funny things that happened, so we laughed a lot on the drive.

We barely got to spend any time with our daughters, both of whom are students there. We saw her daughter for about an hour, and literally saw mine for a total of about five minutes! But I was happy…if she’s not clinging to me, she’s happy. I drove back up the next day to spend Sunday night in a hotel, so we had more time to visit. Then o came home Monday night.

It was a successful Homecoming. Yes, the team won the football game, and that’s definitely necessary for a successful Homecoming, but it was mostly successful because we got to see people we care about…people with whom we shared fun experiences in college.

And that’s what Homecoming is about.

Pre-Departure Breakdown

Pre-departure breakdown.

The daughter leaves in three days. I haven’t had a breakdown. My husband hasn’t had a breakdown. In fact, our daughter only had a minor sniffle earlier today because she is going to miss her friends.

But something wicked this way comes…

I can feel it in the air at our house. I’m a little tense. She’s a little tense. And she is trying to squeeze in as much time with her friends as she possibly can. She slept at a friend’s house last night and came home long enough today to pick which clothes she wants to pack…or maybe I should say she picked which clothes she wants me to pack for her. And that’s OK.

After she dashed out to spend time with her friends again, my husband said, “Wow. She doesn’t want to spend time with us as much as she wants to spend time with her friends.” I told him, “That’s normal. In fact, I would be worried if she wanted to be with us more than she wants to be with her friends right now.” He looked surprised, so I explained further, “She knows we are here for her. She knows we always love her. We are the sure thing. But her friends are all going in different directions. I’m glad she wants to spend time with her friends.” And he got it. The fact that she wants to be with her friends means she feels secure in her relationship with us. It’s a good thing. We should actually be flattered by it.

It’s like when a kid behaves perfectly well in public but then gets home and acts like the spawn of Satan. My mother used to tell a story about 4-yr-old me. She said she took me somewhere, and I acted like a perfect angel, but when we got home…I was mean and fussy. She finally asked me, “Why do you act like this at home?” My 4-yr-old answer? “Where else can I act like this?” And she got it. She said, “Nowhere, honey. Just here…where we love you.” She knew I felt secure enough at home to have the breakdowns and act a little out of sorts. I knew she would love me no matter what. And that’s what our college-age daughter is feeling right now. She knows we will always love her no matter what, but she is trying to cement her relationships with friends before she leaves.

So yes, she teared up a little earlier, telling me she was going to miss her friends. She then told me, as we were packing her clothes, that one friend texted her earlier that she had a full-on meltdown about leaving for college. I think our daughter knows it is going to happen to her too. She had a fearful look in her eye. And I reminded her that she is going to be OK. She will, in fact, love it once she gets there and gets through the initial jitters. She laughed and said, “I feel like I am going to sleepaway camp. I guess it’s kind of like that.” I said, “Oh, honey…it’s so much better. You’ll have a brand new dorm room with a great roommate and your own bathroom. You’ll have lots of new friends. You’ll have lots of boys to meet…they don’t have boys at sleepaway camp.” She laughed. She knows I’m right.

She also remembered that I said I would like for her to stay there till Thanksgiving, so she can become a part of the community, and she asked, “What if I want to come home one weekend?” I laughed and said, “Honey, you know I will get you home if you need to come home.”

She can always come home.

I reminded her of something that happened when she was on a group trip hiking across Iceland a few years ago. They were near a volcano, and the guide told them it was due for an eruption. Apparently, she also told them that air traffic is halted for a month when the volcano erupts. (I actually remember that happening 10 or 12 years ago.) Another girl on the trip panicked and ran to their tent (yes, a tent…ugh). My daughter followed her in there, and the friend said, “We could be stuck here for an extra month if it erupts!” And my daughter replied, “Don’t worry. There is no way my mother will let that happen. If that volcano erupts, she will find a way to get us out of here. She knows people.” I laughed out loud when she told me that after she returned home from Iceland. But she wasn’t wrong…I do know people…people who could have “extracted” her from Iceland in no time. And so today, when she was saying she might need to visit home before Thanksgiving, I assured her she can always come home. But if it’s just homesickness…try to stick it out, because she will enjoy college life a lot more if she becomes a part of the community, and you can’t do that if you’re running home all the time. Make college your home.

So with three days left before departure, I feel pretty sure a meltdown is on the horizon. The question is…will it be my meltdown or hers?!?!

Not One Prairie Dress

Not one prairie dress.

Last week, our teenage daughter had her final high school Homecoming dance. When she was a freshman, it was quite the ordeal. All the girls in her grade were so excited to finally be attending a high school dance, and the boys were on the deal. They started asking early, and the girls started shopping early.

Oh, it was quite the ordeal. There is nothing like dress shopping with a 14-year-old girl. We ended up purchasing lot of dresses and returning most of them. We kept three. We had one altered…the one she really wanted to wear. I don’t even remember what it looked like, because on the day of the dance, she decided to wear a different one. The one she opted to wear was a dress I had purchased on a whim. She didn’t like it on the hanger, but apparently, when she put it on the night of the dance, she loved it. The problem? She was getting dressed with her friends at a friend’s house, and the dress had not been altered to fit. Her friend’s mother ended up pinning the dress to fit her. I think I still owe that mom for that. It was a cute, light blue, tiered dress…age appropriate and not just like everyone else’s.

Her sophomore year, they had a Homecoming dance, and I did not approve the dress she picked. I’ve never been one for gratuitous cutouts in dresses, and the one she picked without my input had cutouts at the waist. No offense to the folks who love cutouts in dresses. I just don’t. But her sophomore year, she wore a fitted red dress with cutouts. Usually I think cutouts look cheap, but I have to admit she did not look cheap in the dress. I was looking at it with a mother’s eye, and it passed the test. It fit her perfectly, and I thought she looked really pretty.

Her junior year…no Homecoming…thanks, COVID.

And this year, her senior year, I had absolutely no input. She works at a boutique in town, so she does all her own shopping. About two weeks before the dance, she said to me, “I’m going to wear a leather dress.” Ugh. That did not sound appealing to me, but I didn’t argue with her, because some battles just aren’t worth it. When she came home with the dress, she called me upstairs to zip it up, and I was shocked! I loved it! It fit her like a glove, and even though a leather dress sounds like she should be carrying a whip, it didn’t look that way at all. She didn’t look like a dominatrix. It was absolutely appropriate. I should have known it would be tasteful. It was a chocolatey brown “pleather” dress with ruching in front and thin straps. And I thought she looked beautiful.

In fact, there were lots of fitted dresses in her Homecoming dinner group. Remember the Little House on the Prairie dress trend from last year? I wrote about it here. It was a trend that drove me crazy. Why was everyone dressing like Laura Ingalls and Nellie Oleson?!? It was not a good look then, and it will never be a good look. Unless you’re wearing those dresses for religious reasons, you should bypass that “style.” I wore it in the 80s, and I have lived to regret it. There wasn’t one person who looked like she had purchased her dress in the Oleson’s Mercantile store. There wasn’t one girl who looked like she had stepped out of a Holly Hobbie book or DVD. Remember Holly Hobbie? Not a good look for the modern girl.

I’m certainly not saying it’s a good thing they didn’t have Homecoming my daughter’s junior year, but I’m glad I didn’t have to see them in those awful prairie dresses for a school dance. Maybe they wouldn’t have worn them. Maybe they would have ignored that style. I feel sure my own daughter would not have worn a prairie dress, since she turns her nose up at them every time she sees them, but would other girls have worn them? The world may never know.

I’m just glad I didn’t see any this year…not one prairie dress.

My Favorite Rescue Story…3 Years Later

***I first published this story on February 10, 2018, but today, January 30, 2020, is the third anniversary of the actual “homecoming” mentioned in the piece. Sam is alive and well, enjoying life in my mother’s old house with my nephew. This is a repost of the original from 2018.***

Eight years ago, when my mother lost her Jack Russell Terrier, Sissy, to heart failure, she needed rescuing. I mean my mother needed rescuing. Daddy had died three years earlier, and Mother missed him terribly. So now, she was missing Sissy too. She needed company, so after a few months, she went to the local animal shelter.

FullSizeRender-28On that fateful day, it happened there was a young female Jack Russell Terrier who had been picked up and brought in by animal control. There was a hitch: she had only been there a couple days, so they had to hold her for two weeks to see if anyone claimed her. Mother waited. She called me and told me about the cute, little, white terrier with brown spots. Mother said she was a muscular little dog with lots of energy. She told the people at the shelter she would take the little terrier if no one claimed her. She was excited, and secretly, she was praying no one would claim that cute little terrier. She waited two weeks.

September 14th rolled around, and Mother went back to the shelter. The cute little terrier was still there, and since no one had claimed her, she was available for adoption. It seemed fitting that the cute little terrier, which Mother would name Sam, went home with Mother on Daddy’s birthday. Mother gave Sam a home, but really, Sam rescued Mother.

The two of them were together almost every single day for eight years. As long as she was able, Mother would throw the ball in the backyard for Sam. They “talked” to each other. They sat out on the back porch together. When company came over, sometimes Sam would run and hide under the bed, but she didn’t realize only her head was under the bed, and the rest of her wasn’t…just like  a two-year-old, “I can’t see you, so you can’t see me.” She made Mother laugh. She rescued Mother.

Mother died December 30. She fell on Christmas Eve. I’m sure Sam saw her fall. I’m sure Sam saw the EMTs carry her out. I’m sure she was confused. Heck, I’m still confused; I wish Sam could talk and tell me exactly what happened. For a few days, Mother’s friend/caretaker, Lois, would go feed Sam and visit with her some. When we realized Mother wasn’t going to make it, my aunt and cousin were with me at the hospital, and they offered to take Sam from Alabama to Florida to another aunt. (I would have loved to keep her, but we have three non-shedding dogs at my house, and my husband’s allergies can’t handle shedding.)

Sam is ornery, doesn’t adapt well to change, and she must have been scared and confused. She couldn’t get along with the aunt’s dog. My cousin, Patti, found her another home…and another. She was loved at the last home, but because of her shedding and her running into the road (a lot of acreage but no fenced yard), after a month, the lady couldn’t keep her.

Patti called me and told me she was looking for another home for Sam. I immediately texted my brother, whom I affectionally call “Brother,” and said, “We need to bring Sam back to Mother’s house.”   Because he lives near Mother’s house and would be responsible for her, I held my breath, thinking he might text back a firm “no.’

To my surprise, his first response was, “Maybe.” I knew, if Sam went back to Mother’s, she would have lots of company and be loved, because my brother stays there sometimes, my nephew was planning to move into the house, and friends visit all the time. Most of all, Sam would be comfortable. I typed back, “We can pay someone to come clean the house once a week.” Brother typed back, “Yes.”

Next, I texted, “I think Sam would be so happy.” He immediately responded, “OK.” Yippee! I promptly called Patti to start arranging Sam’s homecoming. I relayed messages between Patti and Brother, and they made it happen.

Patti called me after picking up Sam from her most recent temporary home, and said, “Sam went absolutely wild when she saw me!” Patti used to visit Mother and Sam a lot, and Sam is crazy about her. I could hardly wait for Sam to see Brother. A week ago, Brother met Patti at the halfway point between their cities and picked up Sam.IMG_8703.JPG

Sam was as excited to see Brother as she had been to see Patti. She and Brother’s dog, Amos, don’t always see eye to eye, but when she saw Amos in the car, she was even excited to see him! The three of them drove back to Mother’s house.

Brother called me after he got Sam home and said, “She was so excited. She ran into the house, and then she ran and ran and ran around the backyard.” He said, after a little while in the house, things got too quiet. He thought Sam had escaped. (She loves to slip out the door and go for a run if she can.) He looked in the bedroom, and there was Sam, piled up on the bed, sound asleep. It was probably the best sleep she’d had since December.

Mother would be happy to know, this time, we rescued Sam. She’s home. She’s comfortable, and she’s happy. I haven’t even seen her since her return(I live 400 miles away), but every time I think about her homecoming, I cry. I’m crying now.

We rescued Sam. I engineered it, and Brother and Patti made it happen.

Give your dog an extra treat today.

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Mother’s 80th Birthday

My mother’s 80th birthday is approaching…September 3. She was born in Alabama two days after World War II started in Poland. Sadly, she isn’t here to celebrate her 80th birthday. She died 20 months ago, on December 30, 2017. To say I miss her is an understatement. I’ve written about her before. She was nurturing…nurturing us as well as lots of neighborhood kids and our classmates. She liked for things to be done “the right way.” Yes, she was a rule follower…I got it honestly. But she also had a fantastic sense of humor…it’s necessary in dealing with my brother, for sure. And she had a great sense of adventure and encouraged us, her children, to have a sense of adventure, as well. My husband would tell you she did a good job of instilling a sense of adventure in me.

In November 1997, I decided I wanted to go to Mexico City for vacation. I didn’t have any friends who were interested in going, so I decided I would go alone. A few days before I was scheduled to go, Mother called me and offered to go with me. I knew she was going simply because she didn’t want me to go alone, but it turned out to be the trip of a lifetime. She purchased her airline ticket, and a few days later, we were on our way to an adventure. I had visited Mexico City in 1982, but Mother had no idea what to expect. I tried to make sure she saw everything she could safely see while we were there. We visited El Zocalo, which she found fascinating. We spent a lot of time touring the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, a place she considered one of the most beautiful places she had ever seen. We had coffee in the Gran Hotel, an historic hotel facing El Zocalo, admiring the beautiful glass ceiling. We shopped in local markets. We toured El Palacio de Bellas Artes and the Museum of Anthropology. We ate street food. We ate in great restaurants and dined al fresco at different places in La Zona Rosa. She always ordered chicken in molé sauce. And she fell in love with the warm people of Mexico. We spent Sunday afternoon in Chapultepec Park (see info here), visiting the zoo (pandas!) and Chapultepec Castle atop the hill overlooking the park. She laughed for years at how much I made her walk while we were there. And she laughed that we ordered late night room service every night while we were there. In fact, when the hotel put a copy of our bill under the door, I was shocked at the total. Remember, I was single and thirty years old…working in the travel business. I took one look at the bill and said to Mother, “Ummm…this bill is $8000. My credit card won’t take that much!” We quickly remembered, of course, that it was 8000 pesos. At that time, that translated to just over $1000 USD. Since I worked in the travel industry, I had secured us a great rate on the hotel room…80 percent off the rack rate…and we were staying in a beautiful hotel in La Zona Rosa. And in the end, it didn’t matter about my credit card, because Mother picked up the tab, as my parents had done so many times. Good times, no doubt, and it’s an adventure I’m glad we shared. She knew I loved Mexico City, and I am thrilled we experienced it together. I hope to one day take my own daughter to Mexico City to show her the same sights.

I have lived in North Carolina for the past 19 years, and Mother lived in Alabama, so I didn’t see her all the time. Many times, after Daddy died in 2006, I tried to talk her into moving to Charlotte, but she didn’t want to move this far north. I saw her several times a year, but we spoke on the phone every day…and often, more than once a day. She loved to talk about current events. She loved hearing about my life. She loved hearing about my daughter. She loved hearing about our adventures. She loved to talk about football.

She and my daddy also loved sunflowers. I grew some in my garden last year, and this year, I’ve grown more. Some of them are blooming now, but I hope a few will hold out a little longer. I want to have some blooming on her birthday, and it would be great if a few would hold out till Daddy’s birthday on September 14. In fact, two of my Mammoth Sunflowers are side by side…one is about two feet taller than the other, and that height difference makes me think of Mother and Daddy too. Mother was under five feet tall, and Daddy was 6’3″…so it makes me smile every time I see those two mismatched sunflowers.

When she fell ill on Christmas Eve 2017, I got up on Christmas morning and drove to Alabama, with the intention of bringing her back to Charlotte with me. On the long drive there, I thought of what I would say to make it clear she didn’t have a choice in the matter…she was coming home with me. But after arriving and speaking with the doctors, I realized she wouldn’t be coming home with me. She would be going home to the Lord. She would be laughing with Daddy soon. She died on December 30, 2017.

On her birthday, I will add a little Bailey’s Irish Cream to my coffee in memory of her. She would laugh if she knew that.

Happy Birthday in Heaven, Mother.

Lessons From The Florida Panhandle

The Florida Panhandle. It’s a place I know well. It is a place that is near and dear to my heart.

My daddy, his siblings, and all my first cousins grew up there. I was born there. My grandparents lived there. My daddy is buried there, and my mother’s ashes are there.

When I was five months old, my family moved to Brewton, Alabama, and I never lived in the Panhandle again, but we visited family there regularly. We also vacationed at the beaches along the gulf coast in the Panhandle. I learned a lot in the Panhandle.

This past week, I took my teenage daughter on a road trip through the panhandle. Neither of us had been there since 2007, and she had no recollection of that visit. I also showed her some places she had never been. She didn’t act particularly interested in all my stories, but maybe she will remember some.

Maybe she will remember my telling her about doodlebugs in the Panhandle. Nope, I’m not talking about VWs. I’m talking about antlions, insects whose larvae dig pits to capture prey. If you’re not familiar with them, this will be as confusing to you as it was to my daughter. But doodlebug pits look like tiny holes in the ground with a small crater around them. When my cousins and I were little, our Granddaddy showed us how to get doodlebugs to come out of what we thought were their homes. He told us to put a tiny stick down into the hole and stir it while saying, “Doodlebug, doodlebug, come out and get a cup of coffee. Doodlebug, doodlebug, your house is on fire.” After a few stirs and a few chants, the doodlebug would emerge! We thought it was because of our chanting, but as an adult, I know it was because of the stirring. I think Granddaddy was just giving us something to do, so we wouldn’t bother people, but we spent hours bothering doodlebugs…and we had fun and made memories!

I also learned about biddies in the Panhandle. Nope…not gossiping old ladies or hot girls (urban slang). Biddies…young chickens. I must have been about six or seven the first time I heard young chickens called “biddies” by my cousin, Patti. I think we were visiting her house when she suggested we go see the biddies. I followed her to someone’s barn…I have no idea who it belonged to. I don’t remember much about the biddies, but I do remember there were cats there…and hay. I also know my mother must not have known where we were. She would have been worried about snakes. I don’t think we stayed long, but I learned that some folks call young chickens “biddies.”

When my Granddaddy died, a family friend took some of the cousins to get a milkshake at cousin Patti’s other grandparents’ store in Sneads while the grownups talked. They didn’t have a chocolate shake, so I ordered a strawberry shake. I feel sure the folks at Patti’s grandparents’ store knew how to make good milkshakes, but on that day, I learned I don’t like strawberry milkshakes.

On the beach in Panama City Beach one year, when I was a teenager, I learned that tar sometimes washes up with the tide. There had been an oil spill in the Caribbean, and the jetstream pushed a lot of the tar into the Gulf of Mexico. I knew nothing about it, until I was walking the beach near the Fontainebleau Terrace and got some tar on my white sneakers. Had to throw those away…tar doesn’t just wash out easily.

Also in Panama City Beach, at Miracle Strip Amusement Park, I learned a Scrambler amusement park ride is a lot more fun when it’s enclosed in a giant building shaped like an abominable snowman with loud music playing and mirrors on the walls…and bright lights flashing. I also saw a chicken play a piano at Miracle Strip and rode the Starliner roller coaster.

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Miracle Strip Amusement Park in 60s or early 70s

And everywhere in the Panhandle, I learned that gnats will congregate around your eyes, your nose, and any cuts or scrapes you have. Natural springs are naturally cold (Blue Springs Recreational Area). And more info here. I learned that Spanish moss is beautiful, even though it’s not a moss at all…it’s a flowering plant. I learned about stalactites and stalagmites at Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna. In Quincy, I learned about a banker who loaned folks money to buy Coca Cola stock….eventually making them millionaires. Many years later, I became friends with that banker’s great granddaughters purely by accident, after meeting one of them at a party in Charlotte! From my daddy and his siblings, I learned what life was like in the rural Panhandle after the Great Depression. I learned about peach trees right outside the door whose limbs were used as switches. I learned about the one room schoolhouse in Bascom and Faye Dunaway’s being a student there. Yes, that Faye Dunaway…of Bonnie and Clyde fame. I listened to speculation about how a community called Two Egg got its name, and I ate as much pound cake as I could when I visited a great aunt in Two Egg. In my grandmother’s house, I learned what an antique sewing machine looked like, and I heard stories about my grandmother and aunt playing organ and piano at folks’ weddings and funerals…oh, one funeral story I’ll have to share another time. At the beaches in the panhandle, I learned how much fun it is to bunk with all your cousins in one house on vacation. And I used my first crosswalk button to cross the beach road in Mexico Beach when I was six…it was malfunctioning and shocked the stew out of me. On that same trip, I learned about wading out into a bay to catch scallops on the same trip. And I learned that fireworks are pretty on the beach.

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Blue Springs Recreational Area and Park, Marianna, Florida

The coastal Panhandle looks different now. There are planned communities and high rise condos where beach houses and roadside motels used to be. The original Miracle Strip Amusement Park is long gone from Panama City Beach, but there is a new Miracle Strip located near Pier Park on the beach road. Shipwreck Island waterpark and Capt. Anderson’s Restaurant are still there, and even the old Fontainebleau Terrace is still standing…it was a beauty in its heyday.

A little farther north, along Highway 90 in Jackson County, one big difference is that most motel/hotel accommodations either closed or moved over to I-10 after it was completed through the area. Well, that and the Hurricane Michael damage that is everywhere from Panama City to Jackson County…lots of devastation. In Marianna, lots of the downtown businesses were damaged and/or destroyed. I have lots of memories there…getting my first Florida State University sweatshirt at Daffin’s, seeing the RCA dog on top of one downtown business, and watching Mary Poppins in the old movie theatre there. The theatre has been gone for a long time, but I remember. Say a prayer for the folks who are still affected by that terrible storm. Lots of people are still suffering, including my aunt, whose house in Panama City was badly damaged by the storm.

The Panhandle taught me a lot. All this, and I didn’t even mention Tallahassee, Destin, and other places yet! Whew! I’ll share stuff about those places soon. Big lessons from all over the Panhandle. Mostly, it taught me my aunts, uncles, and cousins are keepers. Maybe we need to plan another beach vacation for the whole bunch!

I hope my daughter will remember some of it…

***Some friends asked me about the planned communities along the Gulf Coast. You can find lots of rental information here.

 

 

 

 

 

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My Favorite Rescue Story (2 years later)

****I first wrote this story on February 10, 2018, but today, January 30, 2020, is the second anniversary of “the homecoming,” so I’m sharing it again. It makes me happy.****

Eight years ago, when my mother lost her Jack Russell Terrier, Sissy, to heart failure, she needed rescuing. I mean my mother needed rescuing. Daddy had died three years earlier, and Mother missed him terribly. So now, she was missing Sissy too. She needed company, so after a few months, she went to the local animal shelter.

FullSizeRender-28On that fateful day, it happened there was a young female Jack Russell Terrier who had been picked up and brought in by animal control. There was a hitch: she had only been there a couple days, so they had to hold her for two weeks to see if anyone claimed her. Mother waited. She called me and told me about the cute, little, white terrier with brown spots. Mother said she was a muscular little dog with lots of energy. She told the people at the shelter she would take the little terrier if no one claimed her. She was excited, and secretly, she was praying no one would claim that cute little terrier. She waited two weeks.

September 14th rolled around, and Mother went back to the shelter. The cute little terrier was still there, and since no one had claimed her, she was available for adoption. It seemed fitting that the cute little terrier, which Mother would name Sam, went home with Mother on Daddy’s birthday. Mother gave Sam a home, but really, Sam rescued Mother.

The two of them were together almost every single day for eight years. As long as she was able, Mother would throw the ball in the backyard for Sam. They “talked” to each other. They sat out on the back porch together. When company came over, sometimes Sam would run and hide under the bed, but she didn’t realize only her head was under the bed, and the rest of her wasn’t…just like  a two-year-old, “I can’t see you, so you can’t see me.” She made Mother laugh. She rescued Mother.

Mother died December 30. She fell on Christmas Eve. I’m sure Sam saw her fall. I’m sure Sam saw the EMTs carry her out. I’m sure she was confused. Heck, I’m still confused; I wish Sam could talk and tell me exactly what happened. For a few days, Mother’s friend/caretaker, Lois, would go feed Sam and visit with her some. When we realized Mother wasn’t going to make it, my aunt and cousin were with me at the hospital, and they offered to take Sam from Alabama to Florida to another aunt. (I would have loved to keep her, but we have three non-shedding dogs at my house, and my husband’s allergies can’t handle shedding.)

Sam is ornery, doesn’t adapt well to change, and she must have been scared and confused. She couldn’t get along with the aunt’s dog. My cousin, Patti, found her another home…and another. She was loved at the last home, but because of her shedding and her running into the road (a lot of acreage but no fenced yard), after a month, the lady couldn’t keep her.

Patti called me and told me she was looking for another home for Sam. I immediately texted my brother, whom I affectionally call “Brother,” and said, “We need to bring Sam back to Mother’s house.”   Because he lives near Mother’s house and would be responsible for her, I held my breath, thinking he might text back a firm “no.’

To my surprise, his first response was, “Maybe.” I knew, if Sam went back to Mother’s, she would have lots of company and be loved, because my brother stays there sometimes, my nephew was planning to move into the house, and friends visit all the time. Most of all, Sam would be comfortable. I typed back, “We can pay someone to come clean the house once a week.” Brother typed back, “Yes.”

Next, I texted, “I think Sam would be so happy.” He immediately responded, “OK.” Yippee! I promptly called Patti to start arranging Sam’s homecoming. I relayed messages between Patti and Brother, and they made it happen.

Patti called me after picking up Sam from her most recent temporary home, and said, “Sam went absolutely wild when she saw me!” Patti used to visit Mother and Sam a lot, and Sam is crazy about her. I could hardly wait for Sam to see Brother. A week ago, Brother met Patti at the halfway point between their cities and picked up Sam.IMG_8703.JPG

Sam was as excited to see Brother as she had been to see Patti. She and Brother’s dog, Amos, don’t always see eye to eye, but when she saw Amos in the car, she was even excited to see him! The three of them drove back to Mother’s house.

Brother called me after he got Sam home and said, “She was so excited. She ran into the house, and then she ran and ran and ran around the backyard.” He said, after a little while in the house, things got too quiet. He thought Sam had escaped. (She loves to slip out the door and go for a run if she can.) He looked in the bedroom, and there was Sam, piled up on the bed, sound asleep. It was probably the best sleep she’d had since December.

Mother would be happy to know, this time, we rescued Sam. She’s home. She’s comfortable, and she’s happy. I haven’t even seen her since her return(I live 400 miles away), but every time I think about her homecoming, I cry. I’m crying now.

We rescued Sam. I engineered it, and Brother and Patti made it happen. My nephews love her dearly, and she loves them.

Give your dog an extra treat today.

***Two years later, Sam is living a happy life with my nephews in my mother’s old home, and she is enjoying lots of love and exercise. She gets lots of attention and lots of visitors. My nephews take great care of her, and my mother would be thrilled to know Sam is living a happy life in her home.***

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Friend Chicken

Yep…you read it right, “Friend chicken.” With an n.

I didn’t coin the phrase, but I use it all the time now.

Anybody who grew up in the South knows we deal with everything…funerals, new babies, illness, new neighbors…by sharing food. Nothing makes us feel good like sharing food. Somebody has a baby? We set up a meal schedule for their friends to take them dinners for a few weeks. Somebody loses a family member? Same thing. Surgery? You guessed it…meals. In fact, one of my mother’s friends has a daughter who discovered the joy of taking food to someone who needed it. After she had delivered the meal, she called her mother and said, “Wow! That was awesome! I can’t wait to get to do it again!” Unfortunately, in her case, she was taking food because of a death in the family, and she realized what she had said, correcting it to, “I can’t wait for somebody to have a baby!”

Another friend, Joe, had a father who was very patient with his wife (Joe’s mom). They lived in a small town in Alabama, and the dad was very well-liked by people (including the widows) in the community. The mom would often joke that if something happened to her first, the widows of the community were going to “casserole him to death.”

Friends have delivered food to us on many occasions: birth of a baby, loss of my dad, my husband’s brain surgery, the loss of my mother…and I’m sure I’m missing some. And every time, I am grateful.

And I’ve been “fooding people up” for years. To me, nothing says “I care about you” like a good meal. And here’s where friend chicken comes in…

Several years ago, I met a woman from Memphis when I was visiting Los Angeles. She told me she had a friend in Charlotte and asked if I knew her. I told her I did not know her, but I knew we had a mutual friend. The Memphis woman and I became Facebook friends soon thereafter, and I noticed that often, her friend in Charlotte and I would comment on the same posts on her page, so I “friended” her friend. She didn’t accept my request immediately, instead sending me a message asking how we knew each other. I explained the connection, and we became Facebook friends too!

In fact, after becoming her Facebook friend, my Facebook feed became infinitely more fun and interesting! I follow her worldwide travels with fascination and read her beautifully woven stories, often laughing and crying along the way. She is a remarkable woman…a physician, a world traveler, a mother, a wife, a friend to the homeless, and lucky for me, an incredible storyteller.

And then one day, the Facebook friend in Charlotte posted that her husband was having surgery. Being from the south, I did what I do…I offered to take them a meal, and she graciously accepted! I set it up for a Wednesday, because there is a place near my house that has the world’s greatest fried chicken every Wednesday night. I knew I could cook something for them, but since I knew she was from Kentucky and her husband is from Alabama, they were likely to enjoy the fried chicken more than anything I could prepare.

Wednesday came, and it was pouring down rain. Her husband had gone home from the hospital that morning. She texted me, telling me not to get out in the rain, but I would have none of that. I lived in Mobile, Alabama, for years, where it rains all the time. I wasn’t going to let a little rain stop me. I picked up the chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, mac and cheese, and biscuits, and I drove to her house. When I arrived, she greeted me warmly on her beautiful front porch, and I helped her carry the food into her kitchen. It was our first face-to-face meeting, but we felt like old friends because of Facebook. We chatted a few minutes, but I knew they didn’t need company after coming home from the hospital, so I left.

Soon thereafter, I received a message from her thanking me for the “friend chicken,” a typo, but an accurate description, nonetheless.

Now, whenever I opt to get takeout from that particular place for someone who has had surgery, or a baby, or is dealing with a death in the family, I tell them I will be bringing them “friend chicken.” Because really…what better way to say “we are friends” than with some good old, homestyle comfort food?!?!

So, I made a friend in Charlotte through a friend in Memphis, whom I met in LA…and I’m so glad I did! I learn a lot from her Facebook posts, but she also coined the term, “friend chicken.”

There are lots of good places in Charlotte to get good fried chicken (or “friend chicken”). Here are a few:

Price’s Chicken Coop, website here.

Mert’s Heart and Soul, website here.

King’s Kitchen, website here.

South 21 Jr, website here.

Publix, any location.

My favorite places for fast food fried chicken are Bojangles’, Popeye’s, and Hart’s Fried Chicken in Mobile, Alabama.

I’m Thankful for a Turkey…Drop

Thanksgiving…that time of year we all give thanks, which is something we should be doing all the time anyway.

Don’t get me wrong. I get it. Thanksgiving is a great holiday. Well, it’s an OK holiday. Lots of my friends love a traditional Thanksgiving. They say it’s a low pressure holiday. The meaning behind it is great, but frankly, the traditional day…meh. Don’t judge! I like turkey and ham. I love cornbread dressing, but I can only eat so much of the stuff. As for Thanksgiving itself…I know there’s historic significance. I know about the pilgrims and native Americans…which might be a myth. I know, and I’m thankful for the pilgrims and the Native Americans, even if all that fellowship is a myth. I just think the traditional Thanksgiving is boring. {GASP!} We spend hours cooking with family and/or friends, and the meal is over in an hour. And the cleanup??? Whew! Sure, we visit with all the folks around us, but shouldn’t we be making time for them all the time anyway? If someone is important to you, shouldn’t you be putting them on your calendar? 

At the end of Thanksgiving Day, I always find myself thinking, “Is that all there is?” Frankly, there are lots of other days that I truly feel thankful.

Living in the United States, we have a lot to be thankful for: freedom being at the top of the list, I suppose. I’m thankful to God and to the veterans who have protected and continue to protect that freedom.

Obviously, I’m thankful for my family. I’m thankful I had my Daddy for the first 39 years of my life, and I had my Mother for the first 50 years of my life. I’m thankful for my  brother and his awesome family. I’m thankful for family and friends near and far. And of course, I’m thankful for my husband and daughter.

But here’s a list of ten things I’m thankful for that might be a little different than the usual:

  • Waking up. I’m thankful for every day that I wake up! Every day is a gift. Yes, it sounds corny, till you think about the folks who didn’t wake up today. By thinking of how grateful I am to wake up every day, it also makes me think of those I’ve lost…those I wish were still here. They would want me to be grateful to be alive.
  • School nurses. This week, there was a medical emergency at school, and while I always appreciate our school nurses, I was especially grateful we had them on campus this week. Aside from the fact that they can save lives, they also comfort the rest of us when we need it. There is comfort in knowing they are there.
  • Sweet moments. Now that our daughter is 15, those truly sweet moments are not as plentiful. She knows I’m not a superhero. She knows I can’t sing. She knows I’m not a supermodel. But occasionally, we have those sweet moments again. She falls asleep with her head on my shoulder. Or she texts/calls me to comfort her about something. Or she holds my hand in the car. Or when I witness her helping someone else. Or she asks my opinion…and really listens. Or she and her friends sit around the kitchen table with me, talking and laughing. I’m thankful for those moments.
  • Unexpected gifts. This past Saturday, as I was walking out the door, I grabbed a coat that had been hanging in the closet since last winter. After I put it on, I reached into the pocket, and I pulled out $40! Yes! That’s a win!
  • Soap operas. Yes…particularly, The Young and The Restless. I watched it years ago, and only recently, I started recording it to watch it at night. Why am I thankful for it? I’m thankful, because it’s mindless, ongoing television. I get enough of reality, and sometimes, I get tired of it. I love a mindless distraction, and that’s what The Young and The Restless provides.
  • Other moms. What would I do without other moms? They help me survive. Teenagers are a different breed, and while I remember being 15, the lives of teenagers are different now, in some ways, than they were when we were young. Sometimes, we all need some support.
  • Modern conveniences. Oh, yes. Thank God for air-conditioners, electricity, running water, automobiles, jets, online shopping, and everything else. Survive a few days without electricity, and you’ll have a new appreciation for something we take for granted every day. My family members who live in the wake of Hurricane Michael can tell you all the modern conveniences are blessings. And yes, I’m even thankful for Facebook, because there are so many people with whom I would have never connected or re-connected without Facebook. (I just ignore the politics.)
  • Morning coffee. My husband brings me coffee in bed every single morning. He knows I’m nicer after a cup of coffee, so he facilitates that niceness. Recently, when my daughter and I were staying in a hotel for a lacrosse tournament, the coffeemaker in our room didn’t work. I knew room service would take forever, because well, it wasn’t a hotel that’s known for great service. It was a lacrosse tournament hotel. I had to schlep downstairs for a cup of coffee, and fortunately, they had it in the lobby. Whew! Day saved!
  • Memories. Yes, I’m thankful for memories, good and bad, but most thankful for the good. I’ve lost both parents, but I have great memories of them. I have great childhood memories, high school memories, and college memories. I have great memories of friends in my 20s, 30s, and 40s, and now, my 50s. Yes, sometimes I can’t remember certain events, but that’s where friends come in…their versions of stories might be different, but they’re usually good!
  • WKRP in Cincinnati‘s Turkey Drop. Thus, the title of the blog. I know it sounds trivial, but nothing makes me laugh like Les Nessman at the WKRP Turkey Drop…a great moment in 1978 television. If you’ve never seen it, you must. It was based on an event in a town that would drop turkeys from trucks, creating mayhem. But I’ve also read about a turkey drop (from an airplane!) in Yellville, Arkansas. You can read about that here. To see a clip from the episode, click here. Or watch the whole episode on Amazon Prime Video here for $1.99. It’s the 7th episode of the first season. And while you’re at Amazon, you might as well scroll through the Turkey Drop paraphernalia here.

So Happy Thanksgiving Day to all! Take a moment to be thankful for everything you have (which you should do every day). Enjoy your meal…whatever it may be. We go out with friends we love on Thanksgiving…friends who are regularly on our calendar…no cooking, no turkey, no cleanup…just good company and lots of laughter. And we thank God every day for life. As my parents used to say, “Every day is Thanksgiving at our house.”

Life is a gift. Enjoy it. Be grateful. Not just on Thanksgiving, but every single day.