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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Observations In An Airport

My daughter and I traveled to Los Angeles for a couple of weeks recently, and we had some travel “snafus” on the way home with some flight cancellations. We originally were supposed to fly nonstop from LA to Charlotte. Long story short, we ultimately ended up being booked on a connecting flight through Columbus, Ohio, with a five hour overnight-ish layover in the Columbus airport. We made some new friends, and I made some observations.

I’ve spent lots of time in airports. When I first graduated from college, I was a flight attendant for a while. I worked in the travel industry till I was married in 2000, and we are still pretty regular fliers. We aren’t flying every week, but we fly pretty regularly. This last trip was a new experience for me. First, I always book nonstop flights, so I haven’t had the inconvenience of having to connect in a long time. We are very fortunate that Charlotte is a hub airport for American Airlines. Secondly, I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever had to spend five hours in an airport from about midnight to 5am…until last night. And those five hours gave me some time to make some observations.

  • When you’re in a less-than-ideal situation, you bond with others in the same boat. It’s true. Three ladies in the airport with us had been traveling for 36 hours because of cancellations. They didn’t have any food, but I had a bag full of snacks. I offered them a turkey sandwich and some chips, and they were grateful. I was happy I could help. One of them said the turkey sandwich tasted like Thanksgiving! I hope they’ve made it to the Cayman Islands by now.
  • Some folks can sleep anywhere. It was impressive how some of the other people who were waiting could sleep! I didn’t even think about sleep. In fact, I just strolled around the airport taking silly pictures…walking a few miles while I waited. But folks were sleeping with their heads on carry-on luggage. Some slept on the floor, and some slept in chairs. Some were even snoring! They were really asleep.
  • Connecting is a pain in the butt. I’ve known this for years. My husband always gets miffed with me when we discuss retiring and moving. He wants to move to a beach. I want to live in a city that’s a hub airport. Give me Charlotte, Atlanta, or even Houston or Dallas…but please don’t make me live somewhere that requires connecting flights to everywhere.
  • All airports are not created equal. I knew this too, but as we landed in Columbus, I expected to go to our gate and wait out the five hours till our next flight. Nope. After we had been sitting in the gate for about an hour, two security type personnel came over and rudely told us (there were about seven passengers waiting for the next flight), “You have to move outside the security barrier now. Let’s go.” What?!?! Was it really necessary to approach us so rudely? Trust me, our layover wasn’t long enough to get a hotel room, or I’d have gotten us one. We were not happy about having to hang out in the airport, but honestly, I was trying to make the best of it. They were just rude, rude, rude. And one of them, the female, appeared to need a visit to a doctor about an eye infection of some sort…ick. To add insult to injury, there were quite a few vending options inside the security barrier but very few outside the barrier. It seems as though they could have come to us earlier and said, “I’m sorry, but in about 30 minutes, we’re going to need you to move to the lobby area outside security. If you need to get anything from vending, you might want to do it now.” But nope…rude, rude, rude. ***I know several lovely people who live in Columbus…I think most folks there are great!***
  • All vending machines are not created equal. Kudos to Columbus for having a Jeni’s Ice Cream vending machine/kiosk in the terminal. I wish they were in every airport! Heck, I wish they were on every street corner! I would have loved to have gotten some for my daughter and her friend. It looked delicious. Too bad security didn’t give me the option of going to get it before they hustled us out of the terminal area like cattle. Also, on the outside of the machine, it said, “Welcome to Columbus, home of the best ice creams (and the nicest people) in the world!” I guess those security folks didn’t get the “nicest people” memo.
  • The smell of bacon is stronger at 5am when you’re boarding a flight. No joke, just as we started to board, I guess a restaurant opened and put some bacon on to cook. Does anything smell more yummy than bacon in the morning?
  • Little noises are enhanced when you’re in an airport and running on no sleep. Squishing plastic water bottles? Flip flops on sweaty feet? Cracking knuckles? Those noises don’t normally bother me, but in the last five minutes before we boarded the plane, my ears were sensitive to all those little noises that normally go unnoticed. I wanted to snatch water bottles out of people’s hands. I wanted to throw powder at people’s feet to stop the sweaty flip flop sound. And I wanted to pass out gloves to stop the knuckle cracking. Clearly, I was nearing my limit.
  • Attitude is everything…really. I was not thrilled about the cancellations/re-routing situation. I was unhappy. But I didn’t take it out on the American Airlines reservation agent. It wasn’t her fault. I’m sure she was having a terrible day with all the cancellations. And when we landed in Columbus, I decided I wasn’t going to try to sleep. I was going to walk around taking goofy pictures to entertain myself. I wasn’t going to be unhappy. I made that decision. And despite the rude security personnel (bless their hearts!), I was pretty darn happy.
  • Small acts of kindness mean a lot. During our flight from LA to Columbus, I was talking with the flight attendant about our predicament…I was laughing about it. But she felt terrible and made sure the girls had plenty of snacks for our layover. Kudos to her for her kindness.
  • Shiny airport floors would be great for running and sliding. I considered it. I wanted to do it. But would I break a hip? Or an arm? Besides, my daughter would have been horrified. I kept my cool. I didn’t run and slide…but it would have been fun!
  • An alarming number of people walk around barefoot in airports. I have TSA Pre-check. One of the main reasons I wanted pre-check was so I wouldn’t have to remove my shoes at security. It totally grosses me out to walk barefoot where all those other sweaty feet have walked. Yuck. But I noticed quite a few people walking through the airport lobby with no shoes last night. That’s almost as bad as the ones who go to the airport lav with no shoes…ick.

That’s my wisdom from the airport. If you’ve made other observations, I’d love to hear them. And for the record, we love American Airlines. I think they are experiencing some labor issues right now, but I certainly hope it all gets resolved soon…for my sake, but especially for the sake of the airline. Labor disputes can cripple an airline, inconveniencing passengers and employees too. My hope is that everyone involved will realize there is a better way to do things.

 

Do The Right Thing

Do the right thing.

We hear it almost every day, and I love the reminder. Do I always do the right thing? No. I will admit it…straight up. I don’t.

And neither do you.

Today, I was browsing through Facebook, and on a friend’s post, someone wrote, “You always do the right thing.” Now, don’t get me wrong. This friend of mine does the right thing almost all the time. She is a wonderful person with a giving heart, no doubt. However, she posted recently that a woman on the beach had told her she was beachcombing incorrectly and accused her of being rude. This woman told her you should never start beachcombing in front of another beachcomber. What? I had never heard that, and neither had my friend, but the woman clearly thought my friend was doing the wrong thing. Sometimes, the right/wrong thing is in the eye of the beholder.

Many times, I’m behind cars who are cruising in the left lane of a highway. I think they are rude and choosing to do the wrong thing, but they probably have no idea the left lane is for passing. 

No one always does the right thing, and that’s partly due to the fact that, as humans, we are inherently flawed. Does it mean we always do the wrong thing? No, but sometimes we do the wrong thing. As I’ve gotten older, one thing I’ve learned is that it is impossible to always do the right thing. It is possible to try, but no matter what, “you can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” (John Lydgate) Sometimes, making one person happy makes another person sad. Maybe two friends want to make plans with you for the same day. One is going to be, at best, disappointed when you can’t get together…or maybe furious…depending on the person.

And sometimes, we do the wrong thing without even realizing it. Maybe your in-laws feel slighted because you spend more time with your family than with them…they think you are doing the wrong thing. Maybe you don’t know the left lane is for passing. Perhaps you think it’s OK to beachcomb in front of another beachcomber…or maybe you’re the person who is rudely explains the “rules” to the other beachcomber. Maybe you sign up to be on a committee but forget the meetings or always find you have something “more important” on the calendar when the meeting rolls around. Maybe you forget to meet a friend or family member somewhere. Perhaps you exclude someone you should have included. Maybe you were quick to anger. Maybe you didn’t attend a friend’s 50th birthday party. Maybe you got caught up in a conversation you should have walked away from. Maybe you didn’t defend your friend when someone was talking about her. Maybe you tried to do the right thing and it went awry. Maybe a wrong was perceived by someone that you didn’t perceive as a wrong. Maybe you found yourself in a situation and just didn’t know how to handle it, so you didn’t handle it at all.

There are so many ways to do the wrong thing…intentionally or unintentionally. Life is complicated. And remember…everyone has different sensitivity levels, making it even more difficult to know what’s right and what’s wrong. If someone tells me I shouldn’t comb the beach in front of another beachcomber, I’m thinking that person is completely and utterly nuts, but she’s thinking I’m rude. If someone calls me at the last minute to cancel lunch plans, I don’t freak out…I’m a low-maintenance friend; but to some folks, that’s a big deal.

But do most folks try to do the right thing? Yes, I like to believe so. I try to do the right thing, and often, I fail. That’s life. The only people who don’t make mistakes are the ones who don’t do anything.

Here’s the thing: Sometimes you’re the windshield, and sometimes you’re the bug. That’s a funny way of saying sometimes we are the offender, and sometimes we are the “victim.” Personally, I don’t like to be either one.

You’ve likely heard this: People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. And you know what? We all live in glass houses. As much as someone might like to think they’re perfect, they’re not.

Everyone makes mistakes, and no one always does the right thing. I’m usually quick to warn folks I am going to anger them at some point…I will likely say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing. People get mad, and when I’ve done something wrong, I totally understand why someone gets mad about it. But sometimes, our perceptions are different…maybe you think I did the wrong thing, but I disagree. That’s life too.

Over lunch with my friend, Jennifer, we discussed this recently. We acknowledged that everyone is flawed. But you know what we decided? We decided real friends know our flaws and love us anyway.

Try to do the right thing.

 

 

Facebook Is Like A Nosey Neighbor

Y’all know I love Facebook. I don’t really think it’s like a nosey neighbor. Heck, you don’t have to be nosey to see details of my life on Facebook…I’m putting them out there myself.

But yesterday, my clever, witty friend, Mary Ann, posted this on Facebook:

Facebook is like having nosey neighbors who don’t really like you. They just stay connected to look over the fence and see what you’re doing.

Before I continue, I must say I prefer it to be spelled “nosy,” so that’s how it will be spelled from here on in this piece.

It wasn’t Mary Ann’s original creation. She got it from a site called Kitchen Fun With My 3 Sons. First of all, it made me laugh, and then it made me think. Aren’t we all peering through a window or over a fence into each other’s lives on Facebook? The difference between looking over a fence or peering into a window and Facebook, though, is that, on social media, we control what other people see about our lives. If you have a peeping Tom or a nosy neighbor, you don’t always know what they see, and you can’t always control it.

About ten years ago, a friend (I’m keeping her name private, to protect the innocent) moved to a new house. She left behind some beloved neighbors, and when she settled into her new home, she discovered her new next-door neighbor was Gladys Kravitz. If you don’t know who Gladys Kravitz is, you never watched the television show, Bewitched. On the show, Mrs. Kravitz was the ultimate nosy neighbor. So my friend’s neighbor wasn’t actually Gladys Kravitz, but she was a real-life, 21st century version of her.

They had a privacy fence between the backyards of the two houses, and occasionally, when my friend was outside, she would catch a glimpse of “Mrs. Kravitz” peering over the fence or between the slats. One day, she called me and said, “I wish I could think of something to shock her.” Well, she had come to the right friend! It became my mission to find the perfect thing to shock Mrs. Kravitz. Sure, we could have gone with a life-size nude statue. But that would have been a little heavy…and probably expensive. Instead, we devised a plan.

My friend went to her local discount store and purchased a rotary clothesline, putting it up in her backyard. (You can purchase them at Amazon here.)I went online to search for the perfect thing to hang on it. I knew I’d be able to find it somewhere, because years before, my brother had caught some that were tossed from a Mardi Gras float in Mobile. After some searching, I found it, ordered it, and had it shipped to my friend.

When she received the package, she called me, laughing hysterically. I said, “Go hang them up! Hurry! I want Gladys Kravitz to see them the next time she looks over there! But you have to sit outside till you get her reaction.”

And she did. She walked outside, and on the clothesline, she hung up the most gigantic pair of red panties one could ever imagine…so big that no one could possibly wear them.

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She called me and said, “It’s done! Those panties look like a big ol’ butt-shaped flag flapping in the breeze!” And she waited. After an hour or so, she heard Gladys Kravitz walk out her back door. Mrs. Kravitz was talking on the phone as she wandered around her yard. My friend was sitting out of sight, but she called me as soon as she heard Mrs. Kravitz. After a few minutes, she knew Mrs. Kravitz had peeked over the fence, because she heard her say to whoever was on the other end of the phone line, “My word! You wouldn’t believe what’s hanging in my crazy neighbor’s yard!”

We laughed and laughed, even though my friend had to keep down the volume of her laughter. I remember her whispering, “I’m the crazy neighbor! I always wanted to be the crazy neighbor!” But Mrs. Kravitz had no idea those gigantic panties had been hung outside for her viewing pleasure. My friend eventually took down the panties, but she left them up long enough for Mrs. Kravitz to get angry about them. She knew she was angry, because she would hear her grumbling through the fence. Unfortunately, this was before every cell phone in America was a smart phone, so there is no photographic evidence.

When I saw Mary Ann’s post about how Facebook is like having nosy neighbors, I responded, “The key lies in giving them PLENTY to look at! You wanna peek over the fence? I’ll give you a reason to peek over the fence!”

But of course, I love Facebook. I don’t think of my Facebook friends as nosy neighbors. I love that they share their lives with me, and I love sharing mine too. After all, when I run into them, we don’t have to do the cocktail party chat. We can converse about real life…or at least the life we put on Facebook. And we can laugh about our nosy neighbors!

***If you have a nosy neighbor you’d like to shock, you can purchase Big Momma Panties at Amazon.com here.***

 

 

 

 

 

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Shutterfly Engagement Party Ideas

Planning an engagement party this spring? Shutterfly can make it easier.

Before you plan the party, think about the effort that goes into planning the actual wedding. Then, take a deep breath and thank the Lord the engagement party is easier to plan! Unfortunately, though, we can’t just twinkle our noses or flip our ponytails and make a party happen…it takes thought, time, and planning.

There are lots of details, but one thing’s for sure…millenials love photo opportunities. With the invention of the smart phone, everyone takes photos of everything, and parties are special photo opportunities. They want them to be cute. They want them to be fun. And they want their pictures to be perfectly shareable…with their own hashtag, no less. Shutterfly can help.

In 2003, when I had a baby, I discovered Shutterfly.com was the perfect place to store and print my photos and photo gifts, and I haven’t stopped using them since. Shutterfly was great for my baby pictures, but recently, someone told me about something else they offer: printable engagement photo prop ideas and photo shoot tips. With this, the site offers lots of fun props and lots of fun ideas, as well, to turn your engagement party into the perfect photo op for friends and family. The printable props they offer come in a variety of styles, from vintage to fun to rustic…even fairytale style!

You can see their printable engagement party photo props here.

 

And Shutterfly is great for even more for the engagement party. You’re going to need invitations. The bride and groom will send you the names and addresses of friends and family, but you’ll need to pick an invitation, have it printed, and send it out. Shutterfly offers lots of ideas for that, as well. They offer a wide array of engagement party invitations, some that include photos, but some that don’t, as well, making it easy for you to choose what you want and order them online.

You might even find some personalized party favors for your guests on the site. Shutterfly offers party favors starting at $5.00 for a personalized bottle opener…could be popular with the young couple’s friends!

But one of my favorite things offered by Shutterfly is their page dedicated to Ideas and Inspirations, which is dedicated to helping the consumer with party planning, decorating ideas, and more. You can see that page here. It even offers a wedding hashtag generator! Just enter the bride and groom’s names, and Shutterfly will generate hundreds of hashtag ideas for the wedding! That’s important to millennial when they share all their photos on social media. It’s pretty awesome! See the wedding hashtag generator here.

So, while it can be daunting to start preparing for and planning an engagement party, Shutterfly can make it a little easier. I’ll be using the site for any parties I plan…starting with a spring brunch at my home next month. I’m absolutely amazed at the ideas they offer.

Happy planning!

 

 

 

 

 

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Group Text Etiquette

Group texts…I’ve started some and I’ve been included in others. Chances are, you have been on a group text too.

Sometimes I love technology and sometimes I hate it. I love when I can text five friends at the same time to share pictures of their sons or daughters involved in an activity. I love when we can arrange group gatherings more easily because of group texts, emails, or Facebook Messenger. Really, it can make life so much easier.

I was included on a group message on Messenger recently about an upcoming event. We were all able to let each other know if we would be participating, and we were able to volunteer to help with certain things. And maybe I did the wrong thing: once I knew my job, I dropped out of the message. Yep…dropped out of it. But I wasn’t making some terrible statement. I wasn’t saying I didn’t want to be involved in the event. I simply didn’t need to know how the sausage was made! I knew my job, and I knew I would do it.

A friend who was on the same message called me shortly thereafter, asking, “Did you leave the group message?” I replied, “Yes. Was that wrong?” I explained that the host knew I would be there, and she knew what I would be bringing…did I really need to know what everyone else was doing? Did I really need to hear my phone “ding” every two seconds for the rest of the day?!

Maybe I broke some unwritten rule. I’m kind of a no-nonsense, “just the facts” kind of person. When we had our pool resurfaced a few years ago, I asked the contractor when it would be ready. He started telling me what all they had to do, but really…I didn’t need to know how the sausage was made. I just wanted to know when I could use my pool again. Of course, I tried to say it in a nice way, “I have no idea what all that means. I’m leaving town for a couple of weeks, so I guess what I’m actually asking is what date the pool will actually have water in it. What date will we be able to get in the pool?” Just the facts, sir. Despite the fact that I am from the Heart of Dixie…in the Deep South…I’m just not good at sugarcoating things…at all.

So in that recent group message, it was the same situation: I didn’t need to know what Susie and Mary and Jane were bringing…I needed to know my job. I didn’t need to get more notifications on my phone.

Remember when we all first started doing the group email thing? Remember how everyone would “reply all”? I hated that. I still hate it. When I send a group email, I usually say, “Please do not reply ALL. Please simply reply to me.” But you can’t do that in a group text or group message on Messenger. You have to suffer through all the notifications that someone else has responded…unless you leave the group. And if it’s something I won’t even be participating in, well, I’m out as soon as I say I won’t be participating. Once I tell the host that I can’t be involved, I’m out. Get it?

Am I breaking some unwritten rule by taking myself out of group texts and messages when the business part seems to be done? If you’re not volunteering to help with decor for some event, do you really want to read all the texts about it? Am I crazy? Better yet…am I offending people when I leave the group?

Lots of times group texts are fun and/or necessary. There are plenty of times that we’re sharing pictures. I’m totally staying in that. I have some group messages with college friends that we use for special things. We don’t constantly send messages to the group…only when there is something we really want to share. Son’s getting married? Daughter made the team? And then there are times we are still in the middle of discussing what to do for decor for an event…I’m totally staying in if I’m participating. But if I’ll be on vacation while y’all are decorating, I’m leaving the group text. Sorry. I certainly don’t mean to hurt any feelings, but my brain can only take so many “dings” on my phone.

I can’t possibly be the only one who gets annoyed by excessive notifications. Lots of folks have made memes about it, so I know I’m not alone.

So, if I’m ever on a group message or text with you, don’t be offended if I leave it. Either I’m not attending the event you’re discussing, or I feel like the business is done, and I know what my job is. I’m not leaving you; I’m just leaving the notifications/dings.

I have a friend who once told me that if someone doesn’t return her phone call promptly, she automatically thinks she has done something to offend them. I told her, “Oh, I always think they didn’t get the message…or they’re out of town…or they’re as busy as I am.” I guess I’m just not easily offended, so I don’t expect people to be easily offended.

But please…someone tell me if it’s offensive to leave a group text. If it is, I will find a way to tolerate the excessive notifications and dings on my phone…or maybe I’ll just go back to an old flip phone that doesn’t receive texts!

 

 

 

 

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What I Learned in 2018

Every year, I’m glad to see the old year go and ring in a new one. This one is no exception. There are lots of great things that happened in 2018, but there were some not-so-great things too. No matter what happened, I learned a few things along the way (these are things I’m trying to apply to my own life…not preaching to you, per se):

  • Celebrate every year. I don’t mean blow horns and throw confetti at midnight tonight. I mean celebrate every year. Sure, we’re all getting older, but turning 50 or 60 or 70 is a gift. Celebrate your life by living it! As my parents would say, “Life is not a dress rehearsal.” It’s not, folks. Is work important? Yes! But should your entire life be about work? No. Do the things you have always wanted to do. Want to go skydiving? Do it! Want to write a novel? Do it! Want to drive cross-country? Do it! And for the record…only one of those things is something I want to do.
  • Spend money on experiences instead of things. I actually learned this a long time ago, but I stop and think about it regularly. Do you remember most of the things you’ve purchased this year? Probably not. But you likely remember most of the experiences you’ve had. I bought a lot of things this year, and I remember some of them, but I have memories from every experience.
  • Don’t sleep your life away. This is one of those things my parents used to say. This year, I slept through the month of January, after my mother died at the end of December, because that was how I grieved. At the end of that month, though, I knew my mother would be disappointed if I didn’t “pull myself up by my bootstraps.” Sleep used to be one of my hobbies, but every minute you sleep is a minute of your life ticking away. You can’t get it back. Live it, people. Sure, we need sleep, but too much of it is just laziness, unless you have some health issues. And if your napping or frequent sleeping is affecting others by delaying get-togethers or slowing folks down, rethink it. Do you really need that rest? Or it is just laziness? Or selfishness? Don’t be a Lazy Daisy.
  • Be coachable. Nobody knows everything about anything. I certainly have a lot to learn about life, in general. This is one of those things I heard retired Alabama football coach, Gene Stallings, say…be coachable. Listen to others, and actually hear what they say. He talked about how the best players had good attitudes and were good listeners…the ones who did what he, as the coach, wanted them to do, instead of what they wanted to do. Were they always the best ones on the team? Not necessarily, but sometimes, they got to ride the travel bus just because they were coachable. He also said that, as a coach at a high level, he needed to be coachable too. Sometimes, he had to listen to others to learn…and he certainly had to be “coachable” at home. Be coachable in life. Stay in your airplane seat when the seatbelt sign is on. Don’t pass on the double yellow line. All of those “rules” (or laws) are in place for a reason. Someone before us knew we would need to know. Be coachable.
  • Give grieving people a break. If you haven’t lost a loved one, you don’t understand what grieving people are experiencing. Even if you have lost a loved one, you don’t know what someone else is feeling. We all grieve differently. In grief, I lost my mind. Generally speaking, I have a good memory, but not in 2018, after losing my mother in December 2017. And I lost a dear friend six months later. As scary as it sounds, many times I didn’t even know what month it was. I have been angry. I have been sad. I have been hateful. Maybe someone was complaining about something I considered trivial. In grief, I would think, “Really? Who gives a flying fig! My mother just died!” Every emotion I’ve had this year has been amplified tenfold. And I have been forgetful. I have thought on several occasions I might have dementia, but then I realize it is grief. I have been crazy. I have tried to fake it till I make it. I have tried to hold it together for family. But I’m still grieving, and I know that, because when my brother calls to tell me he loves me, I cry. If I forgot something important to you, or if I was unkind, some of it (not all of it) might have been grief. If you have never lost a parent, I hope that if you do, I can help. I will remind you grief makes you crazy. In fact, I’ve wanted to go back and apologize to people I know who experienced it before me…because I didn’t get it. You can laugh or say I’m making excuses if you want, but we all grieve differently, and obviously, mine manifests itself in crazy. A friend texted me yesterday, “Grief sucks.” And she’s right. I like to think I acquired some coping skills after Daddy died, but I’m not sure. You can read all the self-help books about grief, and you still don’t know about another person’s grief, so don’t throw that mumbo jumbo out there. It’s insulting. You might have some understanding, but every person is different. I have a friend who lost both parents a month apart earlier this year, and even though I lost both parents twelve years apart, I cannot even imagine what she must feel. Cut your grieving friends a break, because you do not understand. Grieving people keep putting one foot in front of the other, because we have to, and sometimes, we think we are OK, but then something happens, and we know we are not. Maybe we’re putting on a brave face. And if you think grief ends after one month or six months, you need to know now it does not. I have been more sad the month of December than I was any other month of the past year. I don’t need people to understand that, and frankly, you don’t have to cut me a break, but I will forever cut grieving people a break. 
  • Fake it till you make it. I mentioned this above in my rant about grief. I still believe “fake it till you make it” is good. I still believe you start to feel happier if you act happier. I still believe you might be able to do something if you convince yourself you can. Just trust me on this one. Fake it till you make it.
  • Let it go. The new year is the perfect time to let go of excess baggage. I’m not one of those people who carries anger and resentment, but a lot of folks do. Get over it. It’s hurting you. Someone was snarky to you? Who gives a damn?!?! Move on. That doesn’t even begin to compare to real problems…like losing a loved one. Let it go!

And with that, I bid you a Happy 2019. My daughter and I are meeting friends in Los Angeles on New Year’s Day to celebrate new beginnings. We hope to have fun and laugh and celebrate, because that’s what I want to do this year. I’m kicking 2018 to the curb. I wish I could say I’m kicking grief to the curb too, but only time will help with that.

 

 

 

 

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