What a Motley Crew!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Favorite TV Guilty Pleasures

Guilty TV pleasures?! Don’t we all have one or two?!? Seriously, I don’t watch that much television, but when I do, it’s on something completely stupid.

It seems everyone I know counts The Real Housewives of (fill in the blank) as one of their guilty television pleasures. And The Bachelor. I can occasionally watch The Bachelor, but I have a teenage daughter, so I don’t need to watch television to see more girl drama. Teenage girls are dramatic enough; they could be their own reality TV show.

One TV guilty pleasure I’ve had for a long time? My husband and I record The Young and the Restless every day, so we try to watch that before we go to bed at night. It’s actually relaxing, because everything moves so slowly on soap operas. I was so excited when I read recently that Y&R has been picked up through 2024! But we also have another guilty television pleasure, and I am almost embarrassed to admit it.

We watch 90-Day Fiancé.

There, I said it out loud. Go ahead, judge us. The show is on TLC, where there are lots of trashy reality shows. It’s a show about couples who have applied for or received a K-1 Visa to the United States. The K-1 is a visa for foreign fiancés of US citizens. Once the visa recipient arrives in the US, the couple has 90 days to get married or send the fiancé home. Sometimes, the show follows the couple as they wait for the visa…the US citizen visiting his/her fiancé in their home country. And sometimes, the visa has been issued, and we watch the couple interact in the US through their 90 days before getting married…or not. We love 90-Day Fiancé so much that we always talk about which people from the show we could hang out with. Seriously. We are superfans. The show is like a train wreck…once you start watching, you just can’t turn away! ***You can see episodes on TLC or on the TLC website here.***

90-Day Fiance is in its 7th season and not without drama. When we first “met” Angela (Hazelhurst, Georgia) and Michael (Nigeria) in another season, my husband and I voted them “Most Likely to Break Up.” Angela is considerably older than Michael, whom she met online, and their first face-to-face meeting was memorable. He was surprised by her age and weight. My husband and I just knew they’d never make it, but they’re still together…and still trying to get his K-1 visa. They have received word that the government employee who interviewed him for the visa recommended they deny his visa, but he hasn’t received the official denial yet. If they do marry, Michael wants to have a baby right away, because, as he told Angela, “Age is not on our side.” He meant she’s not getting any younger. At first, we laughed at Angela and Michael, but now, we like them! Michael’s family seems to love her, and she has some great one-liners. And her bra is like Mary Poppins’s bag…she carries everything in it! I’m always half-expecting to see her pull a floor lamp out of her bosom.

We have other favorites on Season 7…

  • Michael (Connecticut) and Juliana (Brazil) are a lovely couple who recently wed on the show…after a few struggles of their own.
  • Anna (Nebraska) and Mursel (Turkey) had a rough time when he came over on his K-1 visa, because his parents didn’t want him to marry someone who had children (Anna has three boys), but it appears they are going to squeeze in a wedding just under the 90-day wire.
  • Mike (Washington) and Natalia (Ukraine) seem to be going down the tubes, partly because Michael is Atheist. A problem with Natalia’s K-1 visa might throw another wrench in things, and Mike might withdraw the application anyway.
  • Let’s not forget Tania (Connecticut) and Syngin (South Africa); Tania went to Costa Rica with her girlfriends for 30 days of Syngin’s 90 days, and then was angry when she returned and found he hadn’t taken a woodworking class! What?!?! He’s not from this country, but she expected him to navigate everything on his own for a month?!? We love Syngin, but Tania? Not so much.
  • Robert (Florida) and Anny (Dominican Republic) have had a rough start, because Robert didn’t make it clear to Anny that he’s “poor,” as his sister called him.  Robert has a little boy, and Anny seems to be taking good care of him.
  • Emily (Oregon) and Sasha (Russia) have a baby together, and they recently married on the show. Sasha has been married twice before to other baby mamas, but he assured Emily’s sister this one will last. I don’t know…Sasha seems to love himself more than anyone else.
  • And our least favorite couple? Blake (Los Angeles) and Jasmin (Finland). Nothing to see here, folks. Blake is sweet and pursuing his dream in music, but Jasmin seems self-absorbed. We yell at the TV for him to send her home.

There have been so many couples over the years. You simply have to watch it if you don’t mind getting sucked in to the drama.

But then, there’s an even bigger guilty pleasure called 90-Day Fiancé Pillow Talk.  If someone had told me we would watch this insanity, I would have laughed in their faces. Yet, here we are, looking forward to every episode! And why is this one worse?!? Well, it’s worse, because we are watching other people (former K-1 visa seekers) watch and comment on an episode of 90-Day Fiancé. Some of them are sitting on their sofas at home or watching from bed. Our favorite Pillow Talk cast members are Annie/David and Loren/Alexei. Annie is from Thailand and came to the US with David. She has a big personality. They are now married and watch from their bed in their tiny apartment. In our other favorite couple, Alexei is from Israel. He met Loren when she was vacationing in Israel, and they are now married, living in Hollywood, Florida, and expecting a baby. We have decided they are our 90-Day Fiance Pillow Talk best friends, because they say the same things we do while watching the show. Did I mention my husband and I would totally love to be on Pillow Talk?!?

There are other spinoffs of 90-Day Fiancé, but we don’t regularly watch them. Maybe one day, but right now, I can’t spend more time on guilty pleasures. I’ll just stick with the original and Pillow Talk. Maybe you record some and watch them with your love on Valentine’s Day? If nothing else, it’s likely to make you feel better about your own relationship…or lack thereof!

You can thank me later.

A Picture Tells a Story

A picture tells a story.

At the end of every year since I got an Instagram account, I go back through all the photos I posted for that year. Recently I went back through my Instagram photos for 2019, and I truly realized that some of the pictures really tell stories.

My first post for 2019 was a photo at the Charlotte airport…not much of a story except that we were starting vacation…meeting friends from Ohio in LA. But the next picture, a photo of me and my friend from Ohio, Jenn, tells a real story.

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Sure, looking at the photo above, all you see is two friends on a chilly day with the Pacific Ocean in the background. But what I see is love. Having just survived the first anniversary of my mother’s death (she died December 30, 2017), I was still reeling. I was feeling lost. And then we arrived in Los Angeles, and Jenn and her daughter arrived. After telling her what a terrible day that first anniversary on December 30 had been (there were additional factors at play)…and crying…Jenn made me feel better. Jenn, the perpetual ray of sunshine, hugged me, listened to me, and made me feel loved. So every time I come across that one single photo that looks completely nondescript and meaningless to everyone else in the world, I remember how much better she made me feel. I can look at my face in that picture and see the pain melting away. I see the relief in my eyes and in my face. That picture reminds me that good friends are hard to find. And that picture reminds me that when we find good friends like Jenn, we need to keep them.

There are other photos from 2019 that stand out for me. In fact, any photos I post on Instagram, I share for a reason…maybe I think they’re funny or cute…maybe I want to share something cool…or maybe there’s another meaning behind the picture. Of course, when I posted the picture of me and Jenn, I had no idea how powerful the picture was for me. It was only when I was looking through pictures a few months later that I saw it again, and the meaning behind it floored me. Instagram photos certainly tell stories…maybe not to the casual observer, but to the originator of the post. Most of my photos tell stories of family, friendship, and love. And then there are some that tell different stories…like this photo of me and my daughter in front of Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The story? In 2015, I took a crazy road trip with my friend, Mary Ann, and our kids. We spent a few nights in Chicago, and while we were there, I had hoped to get the kids up to Wisconsin…just so they could add another state to their list of “states visited.” There was a Six Flags amusement park we could have visited just over the line, but that would have taken too much time, so instead, I suggested Mars Cheese Castle, a giant cheese store shaped like…you guessed it…a castle. We never made it in 2015, and I regretted it. So in 2019, when I was in Chicago with my daughter and one of her friends, we made a quick trip up to Kenosha to visit Mars Cheese Castle. You can see how happy I was!

Those are just a couple of examples of how pictures tell stories, but I can look at every picture on my Instagram account and remember stories and conversations behind them. Right now, though, I keep going back to that picture of me and Jenn. I need to call her and thank her for being a good friend.

 

Posts of 2019 (Joe Namath is a Winner)

Now that 2019 is over, I’ve taken a few minutes to go back and look at some old pieces I wrote during 2019. I can see how many people viewed each one, and the numbers are interesting.

All the “favorite gifts” pieces were read by lots of people…just as they were in 2018. I wasn’t surprised by that at all. Even the most-read piece didn’t surprise me. It was a piece I wrote about teens and much-needed life skills. I wrote it back in the summer, and it got lots of clicks immediately. What I loved most about it was the feedback! So many people had more suggestions to add after they read it! And I’d like to add one more thing to the list: make sure your teen driver knows not to put diesel fuel in his/her car unless it actually has a diesel engine. Trust me…they need to know this information.

But what surprised me most was the second most-read piece of 2019. For one, it wasn’t even written in 2019. It was written in May of 2018, but it gets lots of new readers every week! I use WordPress to write my blog, and through my account, I can see how many people read posts, how many like them, comments, and feedback; and I can see when someone has used a search engine to get to the page instead of clicking through Facebook or Instagram. Don’t worry…I can’t tell who does it…I can simply see that someone does. And frequently, I’ve noticed one Google search that leads people to my website more than any other search. If you guessed “Joe Namath,” you are correct.

Back in May of 2018, I wrote a piece about how my friend, Mary Ann, and I did a little detour during one of our road trips, so we could visit Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, the town where Joe Namath grew up. And because of that, some Google searches will take readers to that piece on my page. You can see the piece here. That little piece from 2018 had the second highest number of readers in 2019. Apparently, I’m not the only person in America who loves Joe Namath. Much like Bobby Brady on The Brady Bunch, I would love to know Joe personally…like in the photo above. I wrote another piece titled Happy Birthday, Joe Willie about his book, All the Way: My Life in Four Quarters, in May of this year, and it didn’t get even a fraction of the “hits” as the old piece. The search terms tend to be “Joe Namath, home” or “Joe Namath, Pennsylvania,” so I guess folks don’t care too much about his birthday. They just want to know about his childhood. I hope his book had a lot more readers than the piece I wrote about his book!

Other pieces that were at the top of the “clicks” list were about misery. One about all the trials and tribulations my 19-year marriage has survived. Another one, called Poking the Bear, was about grief, something we will all experience, if we live long enough. And falling right in with those was a piece about summer reading for our school-aged children, titled I Bought the Summer Reading Book Today. That one is just one big gripe-fest about how I hate that my teenager has required summer reading for school. You can see it here. Apparently, it’s true that “misery loves company,” because lots of folks read those pieces, and a lot of them read them more than once. I don’t think we like knowing other folks are miserable…we just like knowing we’re not alone in misery. I truly believe we like to know other people have experienced some of the things we experience, and we like to know they got through it.

At the other end of the spectrum, there were pieces that hardly anyone read. They were mostly happy pieces, reflecting on something I enjoyed. But I refuse to believe people don’t like reading about happiness. I think it’s just that trials and tribulations bring us together. When the weather is great in your neighborhood, the neighbors are friendly enough, but when a big storm comes through, everyone works together to help each other. I guess it’s the same with writing. When things are going well, it’s not noticed, but write about a life altering event that lots of people can relate to, and you get their attention.

Recently I watched a movie I had never seen, and I watched it because a friend recommended it. Or maybe I should say she insisted I had to see it. So I sat down and watched Love, Actually. Since I cried during the opening, I knew I would like it. The basic premise is that love isn’t dead. The world isn’t just full of hatred…it’s full of love too, but you have to look around to see it. The narrator (Hugh Grant, I believe) said he enjoys going to the airport arrivals area, where he sees lots of love as people greet their loved ones. And yes, being the sap that I am, I loved the movie.

It reminded me that there’s a lot of love out there, and it reminded me that while disaster and misery bring people together, people really do like to hear about positive things too.

I’ve said before that I don’t write this blog to see how popular it will become. I write it for me. I write it, because it calms me. And frankly, I like saving my memories right here. When I’m long gone, hopefully, my daughter will sit down and read all of them…maybe printing them off…before the subscription for the website expires and everything is lost! Maybe I should print them off myself and bind them. It might be that she doesn’t even care, but lots of times, I wish I could ask my parents about things that happened to them. Just today, in fact, I texted my aunt (my daddy’s sister) to find out the story behind a Facebook post.

So in 2020, if I’m feeling like I need to share some misery, I will do just that. And if I want to share happy story, I’ll do that too. And if I ever get to meet Joe Namath, well…you’ll know it. I’ve met lots of celebrities…had lots of “brushes with fame.” But Joe Namath is one I haven’t met…yet. If you know anything about me, you should know I fully believe in the “power of yet.” That means I truly believe I haven’t met him YET.

 

Discover Hungry Girl Now!

At 52, I still love learning new things, and I really love sharing when I find something I love….thus, my website, of course. In January, we always hear a lot about people wanting to get healthier. Yes, there are lots of different ways to do that…diet, exercise, sleep, etc.

I’m not a good “dieter.” As soon as I think of the word, “diet,” I just want to eat every potato in sight. That’s the truth. Any time I have ever gone on a diet, all I’ve thought about is food.

But here’s something that I love: Hungry Girl. If you aren’t familiar with Hungry Girl but you’d like to know about some good low-calorie swaps and get some new recipes, you need to familiarize yourself with the brand. I had the pleasure of meeting Lisa Lillien, the founder, and her staff a couple of years ago, and I immediately wanted to become a part of that fun group! I don’t think of it as a diet, because the recipes are flavorful and fun, and frankly, I am amazed at the ease of most of the recipes! Hungry Girl knows how to keep it exciting, and there are so many ways to get dialed into it.

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  • Hungry Girl on Facebook. This should be your first step to getting informed about Hungry Girl. When you go to the Hungry Girl Facebook page, click “sign up,” then where it asks how you heard about it, click “Hungry Girl Ambassador” and enter my name, Kelly Mattei! Go to the Facebook page here. I love Hungry Girl, and I want them to know how much I love them, so make sure you enter my name! Yes, I’m a Hungry Girl Ambassador, but anyone who knows me knows I can’t promote something I don’t believe in…I believe in it.
  • Hungry-girl.com. So, once you’ve signed up through facebook, you’ll start getting emails from the website. Y’all, the website is chock full of great recipes, great swaps, and great tips! Want something low carb? Just type it into the search bar and find some recipes! Want something made with chicken or turkey? Type it into the search bar! And through the website, you can access Lisa’s podcasts, recipe spotlights, and great product finds! You’ll also know when Lisa is going to have TV appearances…she’s so cute and bubbly; you don’t want to miss her! You will get all sorts of great information! Check it out!
  • Hungry Girl Magazine. This fabulous magazine started at the beginning of 2018. I could hardly wait to get my hands on the first issue…and I have enjoyed every issue since. It’s full of recipes, as well, and offers tips on how to snack smart, but it also features some success stories from Hungry Girl fans. You should be able to find copies of the magazine in your local big box retailers like Target and Walmart, but I usually pick up a copy in my local Barnes and Noble bookstore.
  • Hungry Girl books. Honestly, I have all of them and love all of them, but my personal favorite is Hungry Girl: Simply 6, because all the recipes have six ingredients or fewer. All the recipes I’ve tried from her books have been easy, and since I’m no chef, that’s saying a lot! Pick up a copy of one or all of her books at Amazon.com here.

And you know what else? You can follow Hungry Girl on Instagram too! It was from Instagram that I found out about the recipe I’ll be trying for dinner tonight: Mexican Spaghetti Squash Bowl! Yum! You can find it by clicking on the link in the Hungry Girl bio on Instagram!

It costs nothing to sign up with Hungry Girl (on Facebook here)…please remember to click that you heard about them from a Hungry Girl Ambassador and put my name. You will find recipes your whole family will love, and you never have to utter the word “diet.”

Let me know that you’ve signed up! And once you’ve tried a few of the recipes, let me know which ones are your favorites! I think you’ll find food doesn’t have to be boring to be good for you! I will feature a few of my favorites from time to time!

Happy New Year!

The Sad Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s make 2020 a good year.

 

The Dead Files

It’s October. Halloween and all things scary tend to be the theme in October. I’m not big on creepy, paranormal things, but I might believe in ghosts. Call me crazy, but we really believed we had a ghost in the house I lived in as a teenager. Our ghost was not violent. We were convinced she was a nice ghost. Go ahead…think I’m crazy. I don’t care. In fact, I might believe in ghosts so heartily that I have trouble watching shows about paranormal activity. Today, I accidentally started watching a show about a ghost in an old house, and all I could think was, “I wouldn’t sleep in that house.” And then I changed channels, because it was a little too creepy.

Earlier this year, I was on a flight from Los Angeles to Charlotte, and a very sweet young lady was seated next to me. We started talking, because she ordered a cocktail before takeoff, telling me she is terrified of flying. She warned me that if there is any type of turbulence, she would become very nervous. I took the opportunity to explain to her that, as a former flight attendant, I might be able to help her stay calm. I told her that she could watch me, and if I didn’t become anxious, she didn’t need to. I even told her she could hold my hand if she needed to.

After all that, she said to me she had been hypnotized to help with her fear of flying before, and while it worked for some time, it seemed to be wearing off. She explained that she has to travel for work. And then she told me something that surprised me: she had been in two crashes before!

We took off, and after we were in the air, I asked her what she does that requires her to travel, and that’s when she told me she is on a television show called The Dead Files. Because I had never seen it at the time, I didn’t have any questions to ask her. I had never even heard of the show, but I told her I felt sure some of my friends were probably big fans. I had no idea what I was talking about.

After we landed, I posted on Facebook that I had been sitting next to Amy from The Dead Files, and a couple of my friends got really excited. When I got home, I did some “research,” which means I googled The Dead Files. And that’s when I discovered Amy is a medium. Oh, that brought up so many questions that I wish I had been able to ask her at the time. Like: When she said she had been in two crashes before, did she mean she had physically been in two crashes, or did she somehow feel the emotions of someone else who had been in crashes? Had she communicated with people who had died in crashes? So many questions…

So now, I’ve watched The Dead Files a few times. It has been on The Travel Channel since 2011, and they have produced about 200 episodes. Amy Allan is the medium who was sitting next to me on the flight, and she was pretty, sweet, and charming…not creepy at all. Of course, at the time, I had no idea she was a medium. After seeing a few episodes, I’m fascinated, and I wish I had known more about her and the show when I met her. Missed opportunity.

But if you are interested in some paranormal activity/communication, The Dead Files might be right up your alley.  You’ll wonder if Amy was actually in a crash or if someone else was in the crash and communicated through her. I hope she has gone back for more hypnosis for that fear of flying.