Moms Stick Together

Moms stick together.

My daughter, a senior in high school, was just accepted to my alma mater, and we have paid the enrollment deposit. Next fall, she will be attending a university that is 450 miles away from home…450 miles away from us! But thinking about it doesn’t cause me great stress, for a number of reasons. One reason is that we live in Charlotte, a hub city for American Airlines. We can hop on one of five or six daily flights and be by her side pretty quickly. Another reason? I’m familiar with the surroundings there; there is some comfort in familiarity. The main reason? I know lots of people who live pretty close to the university who can act quickly to help her if needed. There is a lot of comfort in that.

Last Friday, at a high school football game, I was chatting with the mother of another senior, and she told me her son is interested in the same school, but they are hesitant for him to go there, because it’s so far away! A six or seven hour drive! I reminded her that we can be there quickly on American Airlines. And then I told her what every mom really wants to hear: I have lots of friends in the area who can be there to help with just one phone call, and I’m happy to make introductions. Moms like to know their college-age kids have someone to help them if they need it. Sure, they’ll be eighteen years old, but people need support systems…even at my age, I need a support system. When I told my friend that I know other moms and dads there who will be happy to help, I could see her relax. “Really? That makes me feel so much better,” she said.

One thing I’ve learned from being a mother for the last almost-18-years is that moms have to support each other. We have to stick together. We have to help each other.

Three years ago, my friend, Wendy, passed away after a long battle with various forms of cancer. I had met Wendy through a toddler playgroup right after my daughter turned one. Today is her 50th birthday, so I’ve had her on my mind. I posted something on Instagram and on Facebook about her birthday, and all our playgroup moms commented. One of them sent a text saying, “Thinking of Wendy today and that always makes me think of you all and the playgroup that saved my life and enriched my girls’ childhood. Love you all.” And she wasn’t exaggerating. We were all first-time moms when we met, and we truly saved each other. We started as a weekly playgroup but went on to become best friends, support systems, confidantes…we saved each other, for sure. With toddlers, life can be lonely, but our weekly playgroup turned into friendship so strong that we gathered almost daily. It saved our sanity and gave our kids a support group too!

All our kids went on to different preschools, kindergartens, elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools. They’ll probably all go to different colleges. But along the way, they’ve always known that core playgroup was rooting for them. They might not get together regularly, but they’re still friends. They know who they really are. They know their childhood would not have been the same without each other. And along the way, the playgroup moms have added other support systems, but we still know we have each other…no matter what.

I know our kids have learned a lot from us (and vice versa), but I hope that, along the way, they learned the importance of finding and maintaining a good support system. They saw their moms supporting each other, propping each other up when it was needed. I like to think they know that, no matter where they are in college, if they need someone to call, they can always call one of the playgroup moms. They can even call one of the playgroup kids…the ones who are almost adults now. And I hope they share that support system with other people who need it.

Don’t we all feel like that mom who is concerned about her son being 450 miles away without a support system? Don’t we all like to know there is someone we can call or someone our children can call in an emergency, or if they just need to talk with someone?

Two weeks ago, a college friend I haven’t seen in years texted me, telling me she was afraid her teenage son might be stranded in the Charlotte Airport and asking me about hotels near the airport. There is no way I would have let her teenage son go to a hotel, and I’m sure she knew that, but she didn’t want to impose. I texted her back, saying, “I don’t live too far from the airport. If he is stranded, call me, and I will bring him to our house for the night.” Another friend in Ohio had called me two weeks before that, asking if I could pick up an Ohio friend’s daughter at the airport and keep her for the night if she missed her connection. Of course I could! I was flattered to be asked! And you know why?!?! Because I want to be part of someone’s support system. I certainly would have called on those friends to help my daughter if needed!

So yes, we moms have to stick together…especially the moms of high school seniors who are preparing to go off to college. I’m putting it out there now: if your child is going to college in or near Charlotte, put me on your list of people to call in an emergency. I’ll always help.

Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be…

Mammas, don’t let your babies grow up to be…

Songwriters Ed and Patsy Bruce wrote a country song titled Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys back in the 1970s, and Mr. Bruce released it on his album in 1975. (For the record, I prefer to spell it as “mamas” instead of “mammas,” but that’s how it’s spelled in the song.) The version I’m more familiar with was recorded and released by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson in 1978. I’m not a big country music fan, but for some reason, I’m familiar with that song. The song lists a whole host of reasons mammas shouldn’t let their babies grow up to be cowboys. You can hear it here.

I don’t recall anyone telling me, when I was growing up, that they wanted to grow up to be a cowboy. I remember my daddy saying that when he was little, he wanted to be a cowboy when he grew up. Western movies were all the rage then. But one day it occurred to him that his daddy was a cowboy…running a farm…and as soon as he realized it, he knew he didn’t want to be a cowboy. He didn’t want to do what his daddy did when he grew up. I’m sure he had mad respect for his hardworking daddy, but he didn’t want to follow in his footsteps that way.

Recently, I flew home from Miami on American Airlines, and I found myself seated next to a lady who works for a department within the federal government. I didn’t get her whole name, and I don’t even know her official position, but she told me she majored in Criminal Justice. My own daughter had expressed an interest in that at one time, and I said to her, “What are you going to do?” I don’t even remember what her response was, but I forgot about the conversation and moved on, thinking that was probably just something she said on a whim. But in talking with the lady on the plane, I began to second-guess myself. She had majored in Criminal Justice and loves what she does! I shouldn’t have been so dismissive of my daughter’s desire to major in Criminal Justice. It’s her life! She gets to decide what she wants to do with it, and maybe she knows something I don’t!

When I got home, I went to my daughter and apologized for poo-pooing her idea. We had a long conversation about her future, and I told her I had just gotten a reminder that it is her future, after all. She can major in whatever she wants, but we need to discuss, so we can make sure she gets all the information she needs before deciding on a major. She needs to understand what kinds of careers she can have with what kinds of majors. She needs to make an informed decision. And I was reminded of that once more just two days later, when we met with the assistant dean of a division of a university we visited. He talked with her about who she is and what she enjoys, and he suggested some majors she probably didn’t even know existed…and the careers that go with them.

It’s a big world out there with lots of opportunities. For me, I think I have realized it’s important that I help our daughter decide what she wants to do, but I don’t tell her what she can and can’t do. That’s for her to decide. It’s her life.

That being said, if she comes to me and says she wants to be a cowgirl when she grows up, I won’t tell her she can’t, but I might discourage her for any number of reasons. She has ridden horses but doesn’t have a whole lot of experience in that department. And there aren’t a whole lot of cowgirls in cities. I just don’t see her living in a rural area, so the cowgirl life could be tough for her in, say, the greater metropolitan Los Angeles area…or New York…or Chicago…or even Charlotte, for that matter.

She’ll be off to college next year, and who knows what she will major in or how many times she will change her major? I just want her to do something that helps her become a contributing member of society while being able to take care of herself.

A Mother’s Work is Never Done…

A mother’s work is never done.

This week started out so great. I took my “sweet escape” with my friend to Miami for dinner at Nobu, and we had the best time! The day after we returned from that fun adventure, I took my daughter on a college visit. We have done a few, and she didn’t really want to do anymore, but I told her we were going, because some people had gone to a lot of trouble to schedule this tour, and we had a great time. We flew home Thursday night, feeling good about everything we had seen. College visits are one of the great things about motherhood. I love them. I’ve been doing unofficial college visits with our daughter every time we were near a university or college over the years, and we have done a few official visits. This was the last official college visit I plan to make as the parent of a prospective student. We are enjoying the college admissions process, but we are happy to have all the official visits under our belts. We came home on a high.

And then, Friday morning, things took a bad turn…

My daughter went to school in her cute little cheerleader uniform, excited about the Friday night football game. She left home at about 7:30am, and at exactly 9:30am, I received a text from her, saying she wasn’t feeling well. She was experiencing nausea. I responded, “Go see the school nurse.” Our daughter had lots of fun plans for the weekend, and I knew she wanted to tough it out, but when she called me a little while later, I knew she needed to come home. She had been to see the nurse and gotten some Tums, but she was feeling worse. I instructed her to go to the nurse and tell her she needed to come home.

She fought the good fight, but she was home at about 11:00am, and she went straight upstairs to her bed. And soon thereafter, the real nausea kicked in. Thank God she made it home before that started happening! It was a loooong day, to say the least. I didn’t know if she had a stomach bug or food poisoning, but either way, it was a long day. It’s hard to be sick, but it might be harder to see your own child sick like that. I did everything I knew to do…encouraged her to sip Gatorade, wiped her face and neck with a damp washcloth, rubbed her feet, prayed with her, stayed with her, encouraged her to try to sleep it off. We finally called the doctor, who prescribed some anti-nausea meds, and after taking them, she fell asleep till the next morning (yesterday). I was so thankful she wasn’t “hugging the porcelain throne” anymore. She was on the road to recovery, but I made her stay in bed most of the day yesterday. Her body had to be exhausted. I was pretty tired too, after staying up most of the night with her, which I was glad to do, because she is my baby, after all. A mother’s work is never done.

All day yesterday, my husband and I watched college football. My team won…barely…but a W is a W. We watched other games and relaxed all day. Our daughter crawled into bed with us last night and watched a game before retiring to her own bed for the night. I slept really well after being up most of the night before.

And then…

This morning, at about 6:30, I heard my husband jump up and run to the bathroom. The stomach bug had struck again. Man…the hits just keep on coming! We have managed to get his nausea under control somewhat, and again, I’ve worked hard keeping his drinks fresh, keeping a damp washcloth handy, rubbing his feet, and encouraging him to try to sleep it off, but now that I know how contagious this particular virus is, I’m not getting anywhere near his face. I’ve been washing my hands so much for the past three days that they’re starting to crack! I ran the dishwasher on extra hot this afternoon, and I’ve washed all the towels and washcloths in hot water. I’ll be moving them to the dryer soon…on high heat. These germs must die!

Our daughter went out for a little while this afternoon, but she wasn’t gone long. She called me and said she was on her way home. When she arrived, I met her at the door with a fresh cup of Gatorade and helped her get upstairs to her room. She is simply exhausted. I went to the nearby 7-11 and got her a Coca-Cola Slurpee. There’s just something about a Slurpee (or an Icee) that makes us feel better; she has believed since she was a little girl that Slurpees/Icees cure all ills. When she was a little girl and not feeling well, she would ask, “Will you go get me an Icee/Slurpee?” I dashed out and got her one every time. A mother’s work is never done.

I’m praying the husband starts to feel better in the next couple of hours. And I’m also praying I don’t catch this bug. Oh, it’s terrible. I’m even eating bland foods, just in case…grits have been the staple of my diet today. There’s very little I hate more than a stomach virus.

I’ll be sleeping in the guest room tonight, in hopes that I can bypass it! Yes, I slept in the bed with my husband last night, but I have a pretty strong fan on my side of the bed, and I hope it was blowing all his germs in the other direction. We shall see!

One thing I know for sure: when our house is rid of this horrible bug, I’ll need another “sweet escape.”

The Best Part of Weekends

The best part of weekends.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Target Saved Me

Target saved me.

Almost 18 years ago, I had a baby. I was completely clueless. I had never taken care of a baby. I had never spent much time around babies. And somehow, I got the baby who didn’t require much sleep. Our pediatrician assured me I wasn’t doing anything wrong…I just got a baby who didn’t sleep. God does have a sense of humor. I love my sleep. He knows that. But He found a way to make me learn to live without sleep. The joke was on me!

Staying home all day with a baby who doesn’t sleep makes for a long day. When she was several months old, after the worst of the flu season had passed, I made a real effort to find places I could go with the baby…places I could waste lots of time. The best place I found? Target.

Yes, way back in 2004, Target saved me. I found I could put my baby in the stroller and spend hours in Target. She was happy, and I was happy. She was seeing new faces, and I wasn’t stuck at home. It was what I referred to as the “Target effect.”

The “Target effect” kept us going for a long time. I could take the baby there in the morning and spend time outdoors in the afternoon. Or if it was raining, we might put in extra time in Target. As our daughter grew older, Target entertained in different ways. We could have snacks (with Icees!) in the snack bar. We could wander through the toy aisles. So much fun in one place! It was especially awesome in winter! In fact, even after she started school, we would go to Target most afternoons after I picked her up , and we would get Icees and popcorn. It was a great opportunity to do a “post game wrap up” of her day.

As she got older, we added other places to our go-to list. Carowinds, a local amusement park, became our favorite place in summer. We got season passes, and I could push her around in the stroller for a few hours a day…with her climbing out to watch live shows or ride rides or play games. We would have lunch in the park and work up a good sweat. Good times! In fact, she would be heartbroken when the park closed at the end of the summer (and secretly, I would be heartbroken too).

Sports Connection, a local place with video games, bowling, inflatable trampolines, and a snack bar, became a favorite when she was elementary school age. I could relax in the snack bar and watch her move around the building with friends. Other places on our list were Gymboree Play and Music, Charlotte Nature Museum, and any splash park or swimming pool in summer.

We were also fortunate to have great friends in a very active “playgroup.” Originally, we met once a week, but as the kids got into toddlerhood and elementary age, we met almost every day we were in town during summer months.

I should probably write a thank you note to Target and all those other places for saving my sanity during those early years. But I owe a really big thank you to the lifelong friends I made along the way. I don’t know how we would have managed without our awesome playgroup. It was made up of moms from all over the country. We were from different backgrounds, religions, and political beliefs, but we developed incredible friendships that are still alive and well today.

Now that our daughter is entering her senior year of high school, I feel sure I will be calling on those friends to keep me sane again! Too bad our favorite Target got rid of the in-house snack bar. We could have survived our kids’ senior year together by having Icees together right there.

Quality Time with Your Teenage Daughter

Want to spend time with your teenage daughter?

Yesterday, my 17-year-old daughter texted me from a friend’s house, “Can we go to Ulta later?” I responded soon thereafter with, “Anytime today is fine with me. Just let me know.” I didn’t want my response to sound too excited, but I was.

I had been waiting for this day for quite some time. Our daughter started driving in 2019, and if you have a teenager who drives, you know that once they start driving, quality time together can be hard to come by. But I had an ace up my sleeve…my Ultamate Rewards points. I’ve been reminding her for a few months that I have lots of points, but she has to go with me to cash them in, because I have to show ID to use them. I’ve used my points before, but this time, they accumulated over a greater amount of time, and I had more points than ever.

I’m big on rewards systems. I have a credit card that gives me great points for purchases, and I love to combine that with other rewards, so I’m getting points in two places with every purchase! I signed up for Ulta Rewards a few years ago. I shop there anyway, so I might as well get points for shopping I would do anyway. If you’re not familiar with Ulta, it’s a store that sells cosmetics, skincare, and haircare products, and the stores near me also have in-house salons. When you shop and give them the information for your Rewards account at checkout, you get points. The base level is one point per dollar spent, but once you’ve spent $500 in a calendar year, you become a Platinum level member, and you start accumulating 1.25 points per dollar spent. Spend $1200 in a calendar year, and you reach Diamond level to start earning 1.5 points per dollar spent.

All these points add up to free money (100 points = $3 off, and 2000 points = $125 off)…and it happens more quickly than you would think, if you’re smart when you shop. By “smart,” I mean you should check the Ulta app for special deals…and activate them on your account…every time you shop Ulta. Often, there are brands on which you get two times points, three times points, or even five times points. And in your birthday month, shop Ulta and get 2X points, a free gift, and a $10 coupon. At the highest level, Diamond, you also get a a Diamond Gift (not diamonds, but something else), a $25 services reward, and free shipping on all online purchases over $25.

If you think you’d never reach Platinum or Diamond status, you might surprise yourself. There are lots of items you might be purchasing at other stores that you could be purchasing at Ulta and getting rewards for it. Shampoo? Get it at Ulta. Need a new hairdryer? Get it at Ulta. (I just purchased the Dyson Airwrap Complete System after several friends recommended it, and just that purchase alone would put you into Platinum Status with Ultamate Rewards. You can see the Dyson Airwrap here. It’s very pricey, but my friends assure me it’s worth it.) Need nail polish? Ulta. Need cosmetics? Ulta. (They even carry higher end brands like Laura Mercier and Lancome.) Need perfume or cologne? Ulta. Need skincare products? Ulta. Think about how much you spend on your hair, makeup, and skincare over the course of a year…you could be getting Ultamate Rewards for those purchases. For more info on Ultamate Rewards, click here.

As for the quality time with my teenage daughter, it was great. She met me at the store, where I was waiting outside so we could walk in together. We each grabbed a shopping basket and moved around the store together, separating when necessary, but coming back together to discuss purchases throughout our visit. I asked about concealers, and she asked me about bronzers. We consulted the app to see which items came with free gifts, just in case anything we needed or wanted would get us something extra. We talked. We laughed. I will admit it was more fun to shop for cosmetics when we could sample them in-store, but things still aren’t back to “normal” for that yet. We had fun anyway, and it was an easy way to spend time together. I find my daughter sometimes chats with me more during an activity, and shopping is a good distraction for free-flowing conversation.

At checkout, we got a lot of free cosmetics using my points and even had some points leftover for another visit. We walked out to our cars together and stood in the parking lot talking for a while before leaving. I know it sounds silly, but it really was quality time. If you have a teenager daughter who drives, you get it. We have family meals together, but sometimes we need mother/daughter time.

Thanks, Ulta, for the quality time with my daughter (and the free stuff too)!

I’m Proud of You, Mom

“I’m proud of you, Mom.”

Recently, I finished a big volunteer project…you know, I was working for free for weeks on end (months) when I could have been eating bonbons in the pool. It was a big project, no doubt…an athletic awards show for my teenage daughter’s school. I’m not complaining, of course. I worked with some awesome people and made some new friends. It was definitely a group effort, as lots of other parents and school staff pitched in. There were a few times I’m sure I was quite snippy with my family, because of the stress I was feeling, but we made it through!

Our daughter is finishing up her junior year at her much-loved independent school in Charlotte. She started there in transitional kindergarten, and now, we are entering the summer before her senior year. It’s hard to believe she’s going to be a senior. My husband and I are just enjoying the ride. We have loved every age as our daughter has grown. It hasn’t always been easy, but big picture…life with her is definitely an adventure. She is an only child, so she doesn’t get away with much. We don’t have any other kids distracting us. And I’ve always warned her that I’m likely to have done anything she tries to get away with. I’m likely to realize when she’s up to something. As I’ve always said, “You can’t bull***t a bullsh***er.” Forgive the language, but nothing seems to get the point across as well as that does. Has she always been perfect? No, but neither have we. All the little mistakes we make along the way (as teens and as parents) are part of who we are. I have a great relationship with my daughter. We talk. We hang out. We respect each other. Of course, there are times I embarrass her, but isn’t that just part of it?

Over the years, I have embarrassed her at least a million times. I’ve even written a piece before about the countless ways I embarrassed her on a trip to Boston a few years ago. I’ve grown accustomed to her sighs and groans when I do something that embarrasses her. Greet people we encounter? She’s embarrassed. Ask too many questions? She’s embarrassed. Wear something she doesn’t like? She’s embarrassed. Seriously, it’s not difficult to embarrass a teenager.

Last Tuesday, my big athletic awards show project finally ended. In normal times, the show is live in the auditorium at the school. Seniors and state championship teams are honored. Parents are in attendance. All those folks are shoved into the auditorium, shoulder-to-shoulder, but this year, we couldn’t do it that way. In fact, we had to come up with a “hybrid” plan to present to the administration. In the end, we pre-recorded the show and had a “screening party” for the seniors on the football field…with a gigantic, inflatable screen…drive-in movie style. Only seniors, coaches, and the parents of seniors were allowed to attend. Sadly, I think some people were upset they couldn’t go, but we couldn’t do more than was approved by the administrative team. However, anyone else who wanted to watch could simultaneously watch the “broadcast” from home online.

I was at the field for hours the day of the show…getting things ready beforehand, staying for the show, making sure everyone picked up their awards and got photos afterward, cleaning up. l didn’t even look at my phone for hours, but at 11pm, when I got into my car, I checked my phone and saw a text message from my daughter. Apparently, she had been watching the show at home. The text message, which she had sent at 9:38pm, said, “This is really good. I’m proud of you, Mom.” I was exhausted, but that message made it all worth it. Tears welled up in my eyes as I started the car, and before I drove away, I texted her back, “Sweetest message ever. Thank you.”

Who knows when I’ll hear/read those words from her again, but if I never hear/read them again, I will always remember that moment when I saw her text. I had complained and fretted about the preparation for that show, but those words in that text from my teenage daughter made it all worth it.

Two Friends on the Road, Part 1

Two friends on the road, Part 1.

I’ve recovered now. Wow. About 11 days ago, I embarked on a road trip with my friend, Mary Ann. We were long overdue for some fun, and frankly, we had discussed the possibility of a road trip without kids for years. It was high time we just got into the car and went. So we did. My husband stayed home with our 17-yr-old daughter, and my friend left her three kids with her mom…and off we went. We didn’t plan anything in advance. We didn’t have hotel reservations. However, because of COVID, we decided we needed to travel to places that were actually open, so we headed south…toward Florida.

We had used an app called Roadside America before, so we decided to use it on this trip too…and using the app, we decided our first stop would be at the UFO Welcome Center in Bowman, South Carolina. Crazy, right? It’s not an official welcome center; a gentleman built it in his yard, but it’s rather impressive. We knew when we had arrived, for sure. It’s shaped like a flying saucer and it cast a rather large shadow on the road as we approached from the east. Wow! Someone had spent a lot of time building this! I have to admit it was pretty amazing…an unusual photo op, to say the least. For a $20 “tip” you can go inside the massive structure, but since the sun was setting, and we weren’t sure the structure was “up to code,” we opted out of the grand tour. And soon, we were back on the road.

It wasn’t long before we were on I-95 south, and we stayed the course for several hours, till we decided it was time to stop…in St. Augustine, Florida. We got off the interstate and headed toward town, looking for a restaurant where we could grab dinner. We found a lovely place called Green Papaya, which offered Asian Fusion, but it was nearing closing time. We quickly ordered online and opted to eat it in the car, because we didn’t want to cause the staff to stay late. (My husband would be upset that we ate in my car…but he wasn’t there!) We were impressed with our ability to find a great restaurant, as the food from Green Papaya was just what the doctor ordered! If we find ourselves in St. Augustine again, we will return!

After dinner (in the car!), it was time to look for a place to stay. As I mentioned, we hadn’t made reservations ahead of time, and we wanted a small, locally-owned inn for the night. After checking ratings online, we headed toward a place called Magic Beach Motel in Vilano Beach…just outside St. Augustine. When we rolled into Vilano Beach, it was easy to spot Magic Beach Motel, because it was aglow in neon! It was exactly what we were looking for…a charming little beach motel from days gone by. (See feature photo!) For more info on the Magic Beach Motel, click here. Here’s where I should mention we purchased lottery tickets (it was at $950 million!) and scratch-offs every time we stopped for a bathroom break or to gas up the car. Scratch-offs added some mindless entertainment when we checked into the motel (and every hotel thereafter), and won more than we spent! We got a good night’s sleep, and the next morning, we decided to check out the area. We walked around the village, a tourist/beach area that boomed in the 1940s and 50s, situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Tomalato River. For more information on Vilano Beach, click here. I read there was once a drawbridge that directed traffic to the area, but when a new bridge was constructed in 1995, traffic was diverted away from the area, having a negative impact on the area’s businesses. It’s still a charming area, and it appears to be having a bit of a comeback, as a couple of hotel chains are building there. We strolled from the beach park on one end to the pier overlooking the Tomalato River on the other end. It was at the pier that we found the Bluebird of Happiness statue…another great photo op.

We had fun exploring. Lots of the old motels/restaurants are closed and falling into disrepair, and Mary Ann and I mused about what could be done to revitalize them…if we won the lottery! We also learned there is a Saturday flea market and a cute little Airstream shopping village on weekends. Too bad we were there on a Tuesday/Wednesday. We would have enjoyed it. Good info for next time, though!

We also learned the sign for Haley’s Court, an old beach motel, is an icon of the “beach tourism boom of the 1940s and 50s,”and it has its own historical marker, according to hmdb.org. When we drove into town, the sign was not illuminated, but the next morning, we were able to see it clearly. The sign is a great example of mid-century modern design.

After spending the morning exploring Vilano Beach, we loaded up and drove to The Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine…a tourist trap, for sure, but a fun one. We had lunch at a barbecue spot there, and it was surprisingly good! The park itself is interesting and informative, having begun as a tribute to Ponce de Leon’s landing in the New World. It has since become an archeological park, after several Christian relics were unearthed, positively identifying the area as the location of the settlement of St. Augustine in the 1500s. In the park, we found lots of information about the history of the area and even a planetarium! To learn more about The Fountain of Youth Archeological Park, click here. We didn’t feel any younger when we left, unfortunately.

From there, we revisited downtown St. Augustine in the daylight…and it was just as stunning by day as it was when it was illuminated at night! The town square! The marinas! The fort! The beautiful, historical architecture! It’s definitely worth a visit! To learn more about St. Augustine, click here.

On our way out of town, we visited the lighthouse for a quick photo op, and we drove past the Alligator Farm, a place I visited as a child and loved. We needed to get a little farther south quickly, so we didn’t visit this time, but it’s also worth your time. I love a good alligator farm. Having lived on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay in Alabama, I’ve seen lots of gators…fascinating creatures. You can see lots of other animals at the Alligator Farm too. To learn more about the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine, click here.

As we drove out of St. Augustine, we made a quick stop at a food truck park and grabbed some macróns before getting on A1A to head south on the beach road. We opened the windows and the sunroof, cranked up the 80s tunes and cruised the beach road through Palm Coast, Flagler Beach, and Ormond-by-the-Sea. This stretch of A1A felt like old school beach road…we enjoyed it and put our toes in the sand at several beaches along the way, searching for Right Whales every time we stopped. Right Whales can be spotted off the Florida coast between the months of December and March…something I didn’t know before this trip… so we hoped we might be able to spot one. We didn’t, but it was fun looking for them…and we got to enjoy the beaches in the process! We spoke with some local folks along the way…asking if any of them had ever seen Right Whales off shore…none of them had, but they knew people who had.

At Daytona, we hopped off A1A to take advantage of a photo op at Daytona Motor Speedway…a landmark, for sure. We then followed Highway 1 south to Merritt Island. I’ll pick up with that stop next time. At this point, we were having a great time, and the fun continued!

Outside Daytona Motor Speedway

Whew! We Made It!

Whew! We made it!

While it seems everyone is feeling like they “made it” through 2020, I’m feeling that and breathing a sigh of relief that I made it through the month of December. Sounds crazy, right?

Here’s what you don’t know: both my grandmothers died on December 26…in different years, but still, same day. Eerie, right? And then, my mother fell ill on Christmas Eve three years ago, in 2017, and was taken to the hospital. She lived a few hundred miles away from me, so I made it to her bedside the next day, Christmas Day. She wasn’t in great shape when I got there, but she was awake and communicative. My friend, Angela, brought me Christmas dinner to the hospital from her family’s gathering. I knew Mother was sick, but I didn’t realize just how sick she was till the doctor told me the next day that she was just getting worse. I understood what he was saying. I’d been through this before with my dad.

And then I realized it was December 26. I remember asking the doctor, “Is she likely to die today?” I explained to him that I was asking, because both my grandmothers had died on December 26, and if my mother died on that day, I would be curled up in the fetal position in my closet every year on that day. Call me selfish for thinking that way, but I’m just being honest. If every woman in my family died on the same day, I would be terrified every year as December 26 approached. Did I want to lose my mother? No way! I’d always known I had the best mother in the whole world, and I certainly didn’t want to lose her, but I really didn’t want to lose her that day.

Mother passed on December 30, 2017. She made it past the 26th, so now that day doesn’t scare me quite so much…but now I’m just terrified of the whole month of December. Does that mean I’m superstitious? Generally, I don’t think of myself as a superstitious person, but when I think about some of the silly things I do…maybe I am superstitious.

There are the New Year’s Day superstitions. Yes, every year, I eat black-eyed peas, greens of some kind, and pork of some kind. That comes from my parents. Every year, on New Year’s Day, we were required to eat at least one teeny tiny bite of each of those things. Black-eyed peas for prosperity. Greens are for wealth and health. Pork, from what I understand, is based on the fact that pigs root forward while foraging…by eating it we are embracing the challenges and adventures of the coming year. I’ve now learned I should also eat round cakes, pastries, or cookies…the round shape signifies that the old year has come to a close, and we have a promising new year. I’ve never done that, but I guess I’ll be making some cookies today. There are more superstitions for the new year, but those are mine…and now, of course, I’ve added the cookies. Ugh.

Other superstitions I’ve had in my life? When I’m driving and I drive under a yellow light, I “kiss the roof.” By kissing my fingers and quickly touching the ceiling inside the car, I’m supposed to make it through safely. When I was a kid, if we drove past a cemetery, we would hold our breath. We also didn’t step on cracks in the sidewalk, walk under ladders, or open an umbrella in the house…all bad luck. If a black cat crosses my path, I always say, “Damn that cat.” Supposedly, saying that will do away with the curse the cat put on you by crossing your path. Drive over railroad tracks? Lift your feet so you don’t have bad luck! I also use “knock wood” a lot…when I make a positive statement, I knock wood to avoid tempting fate or jinxing myself. I’ve been known to cross my fingers for luck, but generally speaking, I find that prayer works better. See a penny on the ground? “Find a penny, pick it up. All day long, you’ll have good luck!” Someone around me sneezes? I always say “bless you,” unless it’s a Spanish-speaking friend, to whom I say “Salud!” That’s supposed to keep their soul from escaping with the sneeze. (After a certain age, women aren’t worrying about their souls escaping when they sneeze…they’re worrying about pee escaping their bladders!) And here’s another one: don’t put your handbag on the floor…your money will go down.

So looking at that, I guess I am superstitious, even though I shouldn’t be. I’ve found several Bible verses that warn us against superstition, including 2 Kings 21:6, which says “And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger.”

I guess that means I shouldn’t be worried about the month of December, and I shouldn’t feel the need to eat black-eyed peas, greens, and pork on New Year’s Day. I will try not to worry in December and say lots of prayers asking for help with that. But honestly, I just like black-eyed peas, greens, and pork, so I’ll keep eating those on New Year’s Day and any other chance I get!

This year, when I finally went to the grocery store, they were out of black-eyed peas, so I had to buy a mixture of dried beans/peas for soup. It contains black-eyed peas, so we are covered. I threw in a little spinach, some fatback, and some ham, so we’re covered, but I’m also going to have collard greens. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the ingredients to make cornbread, so we’ll be missing out on that.

All this is my long way of saying, “Welcome, January!” and “Happy New Year!”

And I got a robe!

And I got a robe!

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

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

It’s good to be queen!

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

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

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

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

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