I Can See Clearly Now

***I wrote this in September 2020 but never published it. I was afraid of the backlash, but it makes me a little happier to read it now. It’s a reminder that one reason we are having so much infighting right now is that we have lost our normal “outlets” for stress.***

I can see clearly now the rain is gone. I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind. It’s gonna be a bright, bright, sunshiny day!

-I Can See Clearly Now, Song by Jimmy Cliff

This is how I feel today. I feel like the clouds have been lifted, and I can see the world more clearly than I did before. No, I didn’t have a cataract removed. No, I didn’t get new glasses. I’ve been feelin’ the pandemic blues for quite some time, and it was skewing my view of the world. I think other people are feeling the same thing. I talked to someone today who said he was happy to get to go to a funeral in another city, because it gave him an excuse to get on a plane! I didn’t go to a funeral, but I did get on a plane.

Go ahead. Scold me. Call me selfish. I don’t really care. Yes, I got on a plane, and while some would say it was “unnecessary travel,” I beg to differ. I’m guessing my husband would too, since I came home so much happier. We all make choices. I chose to get on a plane…and go on vacation…during the pandemic. One person on my personal Facebook page said I was “brave” to get on a plane right now. Well, I don’t see it that way. The way I see it…for the past few weeks, people have been brave to approach me, because I’ve been angry. Now, that’s brave. Usually, I’m pretty happy-go-lucky and don’t take myself too seriously, but this whole pandemic thing? Well, it had me downright depressed…and did I mention angry??? You name it, I’ve been angry about it. I knew I needed to get away. I knew what I needed to do to change my mindset, so I did it.

And when I arrived at my hotel, I cried. I promise you, I cried. I was that happy to be there. Make fun. I don’t care. In fact, I told the gentleman at the front desk of the hotel that I could guarantee one thing: no one in that hotel was happier to be there than I was. And I wasn’t kidding. I was on a high for five solid days.

Jennifer met me there. I’ve mentioned her before. Miss Merry Sunshine. Who better to have with you on your vacation during a pandemic than a person who is perpetually happy? She was there for two days, and I was there for five, but we enjoyed the two days we had together. We acted like teenagers…having lunch at a cafe on the beach. When I say it was a cafe on the beach, I mean our toes were in the sand while we ate fish tacos! We took the top off our rented Jeep and drove all through the canyons and took selfies with canyons and selfies with every beautiful vista we could find! We shopped! We laughed. We talked. We ate at a couple of “fancy” restaurants (outdoors, of course)…till we just couldn’t eat more. We drank a lot of champagne. And did I mention we laughed?

After Jennifer left, I dined at a few more “fancy” restaurants…yep, by myself…because I’m cool like that, and because I was just so damn happy to be there, and I was going to take advantage of every moment I had. I ate. I drank. I shopped more. I checked out sights I’d never seen. I met a friend and her new baby for lunch at an outdoor rooftop restaurant. I relished every moment.

When I got home, my husband said he felt like his “old” wife is back. That’s a good thing. That means the “depressed” wife is gone. No joke…staying home all the time was about to make me insane. I was struggling.

I’m putting this out there, because I think we all need to do what we can to become a little happier right now. If you love binge-watching cheesy TV shows, do it. If you like to hike, do it…find somewhere you can hike. If, like me, you need to get on an airplane, well, that’s up to you. I needed to do it. And I can survive on the joy from that trip for a couple of months…till the next time I get on a plane…at Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving travel counts as “necessary” travel, right? To me, it does. And I’m taking my daughter with me too. The hubs doesn’t want to travel, and that’s OK. But when we get home, if the school tells my daughter she has to quarantine for two weeks, because they decided to change the “rules” after telling us they wouldn’t police us outside of school…well, so be it. Damn it. She will just go remote for a couple weeks. And frankly, I won’t give a damn…because we need a Thanksgiving break.

If you see me in the airport around Thanksgiving, that means you’re there too. Give me a wave or a thumbs up, and I can promise I will smile at you, because I’ll just be so damn happy to be traveling again.

As for now, I’m still on a “high” from this last trip. I’m smiling again. I’m laughing. I’m making fun of myself. I’m not taking everyone so seriously. I’m back to my old self. And it feels good.

Garage Coffee

Garage coffee.

No, it’s not a brand of coffee. Although, I think it could be a cool name for a brand of coffee.

Over the past couple of weeks, since Thanksgiving, I’ve become much more paranoid about COVID. My behavior reminds me of my junior year in college. Up till my junior year at The University of Alabama, I was willing to go out to bars with a fake ID. Back then, in Alabama, if you were caught by the Alcohol Beverage Control officers (ABC) underage in a bar, you were arrested and taken to jail. When I was a freshman and a sophomore, it was a risk I was willing to take. But when I became a junior, and I was so close to my 21st birthday, it wasn’t worth the risk. I stopped going out to bars. My thinking? “I’m so close to my 21st birthday…I can wait till then, because I’m afraid of getting in trouble…when I can just wait a little longer.” So I waited.

Here we are, in the middle of a pandemic, and we are being told the vaccine is just around the corner. I know there are lots of people who are not willing to get the vaccine, but I am. I’m ready to start living again, and the vaccine is the only way I know to do that. And we are being told it will be available relatively soon. Just like my junior year and my 21st birthday, I’m afraid to risk getting COVID (I’m over 50) when the vaccine is in sight. Actually, I don’t want to risk getting COVID at all, but especially now. Call me a “sheep” if you want. I don’t care. I’m not staying home because the government is telling me to. I don’t think our government should be telling us what to do. I think it should be our own choice, so I’m not a sheep…I’m making my own decision.

In November, I was not as afraid, and I went on vacation. Yes, I did. I will admit it, but I was as careful as one could possibly be, and frankly, COVID was out there, but it wasn’t as bad as it is now. I made my child (who went with me) quarantine for two weeks prior, and I quarantined for two weeks prior as well…no lunches with friends, no coffee with friends in my kitchen…nothing. I didn’t want to get to our destination and get sick while we were there. I don’t want to be hospitalized anywhere…especially in another city. When we went to the airport, we found seats to wait in a secluded area of the American Airlines Admirals Club. We threw up a prayer and wore our masks for the entire flight. We stayed the first few days in a bungalow on the beach and the next few days in a bungalow at a hotel…very little close contact with anyone…and never in a crowd the whole time we were there. We had a rental car, so we never had to use Uber. We went to restaurants, but we always dined outside…never near anyone else. And on the way home, we found seats in a secluded part of the Admirals Club again. We have TSA precheck, so we never stood in a crowded line.

Even with all those precautions, if I had a slight headache or coughed at all during the trip or over the week after we got home, I thought I had COVID, and I was scared. Do I think I would die with it? No. I like to think I’m healthy enough to survive it, but one never knows. I feel sure my teenage daughter would be fine, and I feel like my husband (also over 50) is healthy enough to survive, but do we want to push our luck? That’s a resounding NO.

And right after that Thanksgiving trip, COVID exploded. The number of daily cases is climbing rapidly. I have talked to several doctor friends who tell me it’s “foolish” to gather. So I’m not gathering. I’m barely leaving my house. In fact, last week, I left my house a total of five times. Three times to pick up lunch, once to the grocery store, and once to run in Michael’s Arts and Crafts to quickly grab some yarn to knit Christmas gifts.

I like to be out and about, so that tells you I’m taking this seriously. I’m not staying home because of Governor Roy Cooper’s latest stay-at-home order. I’m staying home, because it’s just not worth it to me to catch COVID now, knowing I will be able to get the vaccine soon. I do not want COVID…it’s as simple as that. Well, that plus the fact that both my grandmothers died on December 26 (different years), and my mother died on December 30, 2017. I don’t want to push my luck.

That brings me back to “garage coffee.” Because I like seeing my friends…and I love laughing with them…I’m now hosting “garage coffee” at my house. I move the cars out of the garage and invite a friend or two (no more than that) over for coffee, which I prepare indoors and bring out to the garage for them. I set up rocking lawn chairs and heaters at our feet (it’s really cold in Charlotte right now), and we chat while social-distancing. It’s not as much fun as going out to lunch, but it’s better than nothing. I’m expecting a friend to come over tomorrow for “garage coffee,” and I’ve decided to add some Christmas music for our visit. I’ll just use my phone and my daughter’s bluetooth speaker to create a Christmas mood. Maybe I’ll set up my lamp from A Christmas Story and some of my light-up Christmas lawn decor in the garage just to make it feel more festive. My husband will think I’m crazy, but that’s nothing new.

If you’d like to have garage coffee with friends at your house and need a good, inexpensive space heater to put at your feet but don’t want to fork out a lot of cash, I purchased two Comfort Zone Energy Save Personal Heater Fans for $24.99 each plus tax and shipping from Target. Shop it here.

That’s how I’m surviving mentally right now…garage coffee. And I thank the Lord that I have friends who are willing to participate. Otherwise, I’d be losing my mind right now.

Come on over for garage coffee!

Leslie Jordan Will Brighten Your Day (and your Christmas List)

Leslie Jordan will brighten your day…and your Christmas list!

If you’re not familiar with Leslie Jordan, you need to be. He is an actor from Chattanooga, Tennessee, who embraces who he is and shares joy with the world regularly through Instagram and Facebook. You’ve likely seen him before on Will and Grace, The Help, Sordid Lives, or one of many other roles on TV or in film. I love him onscreen, but one thing I’ve learned in COVID is that I love Leslie Jordan even more in “real life” in Insta and Facebook. If you don’t follow him on social media, stop what you are doing, and go follow him…right now! You need to become a “fellow hunkerdowner” with Leslie during the COVID pandemic.

You definitely want to be following him before Sunday, because on Sundays, he sings hymns. Does he have the greatest voice ever? No. But you feel the spirit of his joy when he sings hymns with Travis Howard…they are awesome. Lately, they have shared some snippets of Christmas songs. Last Sunday, he sang a snippet of Let it Snow, and another day, a snippet of I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus…yes, Daddy…Leslie is gay…and he is delightful and funny and charming.

Here’s the thing about Leslie Jordan: I feel like I know him. He grew up in the south, just like me, and anyone who grew up in the south will tell you we have “characters” in our lives…people we remember as being bigger than life. I didn’t know Leslie, but he reminds me of a few “characters” I knew and loved growing up. They had/have the same infectious joyful spirit as Leslie. Don’t we all love spending time with people who bring some joy into our lives? Well, Leslie Jordan, with his infectious laugh, he sweet smile, his funny innuendos, and his singing…he is just a bundle of joy…a 4’11” southern bundle of joy.

If you’d like to share the joy of Leslie with others this holiday season, you’re in luck. His book, My Trip Down the Pink Carpet is on sale on Amazon. I plan to start reading it tomorrow. A friend read it and told me Leslie is a born storyteller…southerners tend to like to tell stories, and Leslie being Leslie…I can hardly wait to read all his crazy stories. You know what they say about southerners: We don’t hide our crazy; we put it on the front porch and give it a cocktail. I can only imagine the crazy experiences Leslie has had between Chattanooga and Hollywood! If you’d like to order the book, you can get it here.

But there’s more! Leslie has always had great onscreen presence, but I think he is approaching a whole new level of fame, simply because folks love watching him on social media! He now has a site where you can purchase Leslie Jordan merchandise! Right now, the site features Christmas sweaters and sweatshirts, but there was a pink hoodie offered last week…hoping it returns! Shop Leslie merchandise here. Seriously, if my friends and family don’t love Leslie Jordan yet, it’s just because they don’t know about him yet. They’ll know him and love him after they open their Christmas gifts!

It’s going to be a Leslie Jordan Christmas at our house this year! Can’t we all use a little extra laughter and joy in our lives this year? Well, Leslie brings it!

Razzle Dazzle!

Razzle dazzle!

Several weeks ago, at the end of September, I took a much-needed vacation to the Los Angeles area. I had not been on an airplane since the whole COVID shutdown started, and I was having withdrawals. I needed to get on a plane and go where I wanted to go. So I did.

My dear sister-friend, Jennifer, flew in from Ohio and met me for the first couple of nights, and we had the best time talking, laughing, and drinking champagne…lots of it! She could only stay for two nights, but I stayed a couple more nights after she left, and that’s when I razzle dazzled the maître d’ at one of my favorite restaurants. I had made a dinner reservation for one (I don’t mind dining alone), and when I arrived, he greeted me warmly. He then looked down at my very shiny, glittery gold shoes and exclaimed, “Razzle dazzle!”

Apparently, prior to my arrival, he and the hostesses had been discussing how a little “razzle dazzle” can add some excitement to life, and when I arrived in my shiny shoes, I brought it with me! As I dined near some old school Hollywood types (a Corleone and a very tan man), I laughed thinking how I had brought the razzle dazzle. These two very famous gentlemen were dining at the next table, but I had the razzle dazzle! And I knew the maître d’ had learned something I’ve known for a long time…a little razzle dazzle can brighten a mood, add some excitement, and improve my outlook.

Now, razzle dazzle has become a part of my daily lexicon. I read an article recently about words you can add to your daily lexicon to sound “more literate.” Sadly, razzle dazzle wasn’t included in the list! No surprise there, but I don’t feel the need to sound more literate. I want to sound more exciting…more fun! Life can get so boring. It can be so monotonous. And during the COVID shutdowns, it gets downright lonely and depressing sometimes. Am I right? But if I’m lonely and depressed, I can remind myself to razzle dazzle, and if I turn on the right upbeat music, or have a glass of champagne, or put on my shiny shoes, or even sport some bling-y jewelry, well, my mood improves immediately! I know it’s silly. But sometimes life calls for silly. I’m a firm believer that we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously. Again…depressing.

So for my next big razzle dazzle, I’m going to put up my aluminum Christmas tree with its color wheel. Yes, I know it’s just the first week of November, and believe me when I say I normally don’t go all holiday crazy before Thanksgiving. But in 2020? I think we need a little holiday razzle dazzle to brighten up the end of what has been a dismal year.

I purchased this particular tree earlier this year from Vermont Country Store. You can see it and order here, and get the color wheel here. ***Did you know the color wheel was invented to keep people from stringing lights on the aluminum trees, because it would have been a fire hazard?*** Several years ago, I had a tree/colorwheel that had belonged to my grandparents. I remember it in their living room back in the 1970s…and as a little girl, I thought it was absolutely glorious! The beautiful colors of the light wheel reflecting off the silvery tinsel of the tree! It was mesmerizing to me. In fact, if you’d like to see some photos of “mid-century” women enjoying their aluminum Christmas trees, click here. After my grandparents died, I got the tree and the wheel. I put it up one holiday season and kept it illuminated, but after that, I was afraid of it. It was old and dusty. And I wasn’t sure about the electrical components. Frankly, I was afraid it would catch fire. So this year, I purchased a new one, and I can hardly wait to put it up and razzle dazzle my family and friends with it. My husband likely won’t approve, but he’s not a big fan of razzle dazzle like I am. It won’t be our only tree. It’s just going to be our early tree…the one that will razzle dazzle us through Thanksgiving. We will put up our regular traditional tree after that, but I will keep the aluminum tree up too…just for the razzle dazzle effect…and maybe just to drive the husband crazy.

And when I put up the aluminum tree this week, I will be wearing my shiny shoes. In fact, I will be wearing different pairs of shiny shoes throughout the year, but especially during the holiday season, so if you see me, please feel free to yell, “Razzle dazzle!”

This year, I’m especially glad the holidays are approaching. We need some light! We need some brightness! We need some razzle dazzle!

Choose Joy

Choose joy.

In my collection of hoodies, I now have a tie-dye one that says “choose joy” across the front. I bought it for myself recently, because sometimes I need a reminder to choose joy.

I like to be happy, and most of the time, I choose to be happy. I’ve had sad things happen and my own struggles in life, just like everyone else, but I try to process that sadness and find joy again. Sometimes it take a while, and sometimes it doesn’t, but I do believe we can all make a conscious decision to be joyful. If we try to see a silver lining, we can usually find one.

And in my experience, choosing joy for yourself makes other people joyful. I find that, if I am happy, the people around me tend to become happier…joy is contagious. No doubt. Just like anger and bitterness are contagious. I know that, because sometimes I’m downright angry and bitter. Occasionally, something will get under my skin and stay there. I get angry or upset about something, and it seems I will never shake it. When that happens, I tend to spread that bad mood…till I realize what I’m doing…and then I try to turn it around. I choose joy.

There have been times in my life that I’ve stepped back and realized I’ve been “spitting venom,” and that’s not good. When I’ve realized it, whether someone pointed it out or I realized it myself, I’ve tried to walk it back and change my attitude. When I was a little girl, if I had a bad attitude, my parents would tell me, “You need to put a smile on your face…now.” Sounds silly, right? But here’s what usually happens when you put a smile on your face: you start feeling a little happier. It goes with the old “fake it till you make it” theory…start acting happier, and you will become happier. I learned that valuable lesson in my 20s, and it’s a lesson I’ve always remembered…and one I’ve tried to teach my teenage daughter. I’ve had to force myself to “fake it till I make it” a lot more through the COVID pandemic, because honestly, it’s downright depressing. But if we look around and find joy somewhere, it makes it a little easier.

About a month into the pandemic isolation, I was looking out the window onto my patio when I realized the trees behind our patio were becoming greener…sprouting tiny green leaves. Because we were all searching for things to do during that lockdown, I spent some of my time taking photos of the trees as we moved into spring. Sounds boring, right? I agree, but somehow it was fun at the time…and it brought me joy! I also got my garden started way earlier than usual…finding joy where I could…watching seedlings grow into flowers and vegetables. I chose joy that way.

Did I still have times of sadness? You bet. The pandemic shutdowns and isolation have been hard on me. But I refused to give in. Sure, occasionally, I had a breakdown here or there…or I made a big deal out of something that wasn’t a big deal. But when I realized it, I adjusted my attitude and chose joy.

That “choose joy” hoodie I mentioned earlier? Well, I found it on a website called Elly and Grace. I got one of those Facebook notifications that a college friend “liked” the Facebook page for the company, so I checked it out, and I was glad I did. Elly and Grace is a small company in Missouri whose mission is “to provide the softest, highest quality Christian apparel, designed to uplift, inspire and point others to Jesus.” Indeed, they do! The hoodie I purchased is the softest ever, and it certainly promotes an inspirational message! They have other items that feature other great messages and Bible verses. You can see what they offer here. I will definitely be shopping with them again very soon, and I know I will purchase some Christmas gifts from them too. I love to support small businesses…and this one seems special.

So thank you, Facebook, for leading me to Elly and Grace, and thank you to Elly and Grace for reminding me to “choose joy.” I am trying to make that conscious choice every single day.

Choose joy.

Embracing My Inner Ouiser

Embracing my inner Ouiser.

I saw Steel Magnolias soon after it premiered in 1989, and once I could digest some of the questionable southern accents (Tom Skerritt and Darryl Hannah, I’m looking at you), I loved the movie. As a southerner, I saw characters I could totally identify with. Growing up in Alabama, I knew people like those characters. I knew folks like M’Lynn, Truvy, Clairee, Drum, Shelby, Annelle, and yes, I knew people like Ouiser.

On Facebook, I often see these silly quizzes titled Which Steel Magnolia Are You? Yes, I take the bait and jump right into the questions with gusto. Going into them, I’ve often thought of myself as the very practical M’Lynn. Sometimes, I might be a cross between Claire and Truvy. But after all these months of COVID? I’m becoming Ouiser. And honestly, I’m embracing my inner Ouiser.

Normally, I consider myself a “glass half full” person. I try to see the positive side of things, and I look for silver linings. I’ve never considered myself a “glass half empty” girl. But now, since I’m embracing my inner Ouiser, I might have to become a “throw the glass against the wall” kind of person. Damn glass…who cares if it’s half full or half empty? This is so out of character for me, but I just need to wallow in it right now.

If you’ve seen the film, you know Ouiser is the grouchy, sarcastic member of the friend group. She is “eccentric.” And honestly, she brings a lot of flavor to the movie. Shirley MacLaine, even as a non-southerner, brought life to a character all good southerners have known at some point in life…the grumpy neighbor lady…the bitter teacher…the friend’s mom who locked them out of the house during the day all summer…the old lady with the constant scowl on her face…the old woman who screams at neighborhood kids for being too noisy. We know them.

I haven’t seen the movie in a long time, but I have it on my list of things to watch again in the next month or so. I’ll squeeze it in somewhere between old episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man, Family Affair, Petticoat Junction, Green Acres, and The Partridge Family. Oh, and don’t forget That Girl. You can see Steel Magnolias on Amazon Prime for a small fee here. Yes, I’m digging deep to find some joy…anything that takes me back to a happier time, because life in the days of COVID? Well, a lot of the joy has been sucked out of daily life. I’m just telling it like it is…just like Ouiser would.

So to channel my inner Ouiser, I looked up some of her best quotes from the movie, and here they are…for your reading pleasure:

I’m not crazy; I’ve just been in a very bad mood for 40 years!

I’m pleasant, damn it! I saw Drum Eatenton this morning at the Piggly Wiggly, and I smiled at the son of a bitch ‘fore I could help myself.

Ugh. Leave me alone.

Don’t try to get on my good side. I no longer have one.

The only reason people are nice to me is because I have more money than God.

He is a boil on the butt of humanity.

A dirty mind is a terrible thing to waste.

I’m not as sweet as I used to be.

This is it. I’ve found it. I’m in Hell.

Honestly, Ouiser doesn’t have a lot of the best quotes in the movie (that award goes to Truvy), but her character is a doozy. She says some of the things we would all like to say sometimes, but our manners keep us from saying them. She gives that meaningful scowl…the one that says “eat s**t and die.” It’s not likely I will start walking around telling people to “leave me alone,” but right now, I want to. I want to stand up and scream at the world to just stop! Just stop! Stop trying to make it look like COVID isn’t ruining a lot of our fun! Stop trying to make it look like everything is “normal.” It’s not. And yes, before you come at me telling me “we live in the best country in the world,” I will tell you that yes, I know that. I know I am fortunate to have a loving family and a roof over my head. But damn it, I’m sick and freaking tired of COVID. I know people who have died. I know people who have been terribly ill. And by golly, it’s OK for me to have a bad attitude for a while…just because.

I know my friends and family expect more from me, but frankly, I just want to kick COVID’s ass for messing up the good thing we had going on.

But after all this, I’m sure I will pull myself together. I will not be shouting “bah, humbug” at people or telling them to “leave me alone.” I’m sure that in a few days, I will embrace my inner M’Lynn or Clairee, once again, and move on. But unless you want to encounter Ouiser, you might want to tread lightly till the weekend.

In the meantime, if you want to join the Ouiser Fan Club, call me.

All My Rowdy Friends…

All my rowdy friends have settled down.

Yes, that’s a quote from a Hank Williams Jr. song. I used it for two reasons: 1. I love me some Bocephus (Hank’s nickname). 2. All my rowdy friends really have settled down. When I say they have “settled down,” I don’t mean they’re not fun. I mean they have “settled down” into who they are. They are comfortable in their own skin. They’re still a lot of fun…maybe even more so. They’re in their 50s.

Today, another friend turns 50. I have been in my fifties long enough that I feel sorry for all those folks in their 30s and 40s who still take themselves so seriously. No, really…I feel sorry for them. Lots of them are still worrying about what other people think. Lots of them still think they need to make the hamster wheel spin faster. They still think more expensive = better. Lots of them still think they have to keep up with the Joneses. Bahahaha! Yes, I feel sorry for them.

Interestingly, my friend, Jennifer, who is turning 50 today has been an old soul for as long as I’ve known her, but she’s also the most fun person I’ve ever known. We met about 15 or 16 years ago through another friend, when they both lived in Charlotte. The birthday girl moved to Columbus, Ohio, years ago, and the friend who introduced us moved to the Chicago area years ago. We were all supposed to go to Lollapalooza together in Chicago this year, but COVID messed that up.

When I say Jennifer has been an “old soul,” I don’t mean she has some sort of Yoda-like wisdom. She’s wise, but she’s no Dalai Lama. She has a different kind of wisdom. She can smile through almost any situation. Nothing seems to get her down. I like to think of myself as a pretty positive person, but she has had to talk me off the ledge more than once. I’ve seen her in situations where she should have been on the ledge, and she wasn’t. She kept smiling and kept moving forward. She also doesn’t worry about what other people think of her. As an example, she went back to work a couple of years ago, so I’m sure she “dresses” for work, but before that? T-shirts and shorts with sneakers or Birkenstocks every day. Chilly outside? She’ll throw on a sweatshirt or hoodie. During winter, I’m sure she wears long pants, but I’m guessing she still wear sweatshirts or hoodies every day. Handbags and shoes? She has a few designer bags, but like I said…I don’t know if I’ve ever seen her in anything but sneakers and Birkenstocks. Well, I saw her in hiking boots when we did a rock scramble with sprained ankles years ago. Yes, we both had sprained ankles.

As for the hamster wheel. Yes, she works again, but it’s not her whole life. She doesn’t “live to work.” She works to live. Her work doesn’t define her. She knows the hamster wheel is just a means to an end.

And she really is the happiest person I know. Nothing phases her. When she was looking for a job after not having worked for 15 years, she called me and told me when her first interview was coming up. I said, “You’re going to get this job.” She laughed, as she often does, and said, “I haven’t worked in 15 years! Why would they hire me?” I said, “Well, you’re confident. You’re clearly smart…you went to graduate school at Vanderbilt. Most of all, you’ll be good for morale in an office setting. You’re Miss Merry Freaking Sunshine!” Guess what? I was right. She was offered the first job she interviewed for in fifteen years, and she has been working there since.

Did I mention Jennifer has always been a lot of fun? She had a lot of fun in high school and college…and beyond. Oh, the stories she tells. She has a different kind of fun now, but frankly, she makes everything fun. She’s always up for the next adventure…and we have had many: rock scrambles in upstate New York, cold lake swimming in upstate New York, climbing a waterfall in Puerto Rico, swimming in the pitch black bioluminescent bay, ziplining in a rainforest, shopping with street vendors in NYC, riding bikes through a state park in Florida, all kinds of crazy fun in California. She lives life. And she encourages others (like me) to live our lives.

Am I worried Jennifer is going to get down about turning 50? Not one bit. She will approach her 50s just like she approaches everything else…with a big smile on her face and a sense of adventure.

She’s Miss Merry Freaking Sunshine!

Happy 50th to Jennifer!

College for Your Teen

College for your teen…

Where do you want your teen to go to college?

Someone asked me that question recently. It didn’t take me long to answer, because I know exactly where I want her to go.

I have always thought she would love a big state university. I went to a big state university and loved every minute, so I have always thought she might like the “full college experience,” just like I did.

And then sometimes, she will tell me about some smaller schools that interest her…different ones all over the country. It’s then that I think, “Maybe one of those will be best for her.” Maybe she would like being on a small campus in a cute little town somewhere.

There are so many colleges and universities all over the country to choose from. Almost anyone who wants to go to college can likely find a place that work for them. Interested in big time sports? Check out state universities. Interested in the arts? Check out liberal arts schools near you. Interested in a smaller school setting? Looking for a school that has a high commuter population? You want a school that doesn’t have a high commuter population? You can likely find something that works.

But with so many options, the decision can be difficult. I peruse brochures that come in the mail. I take virtual tours online of different campuses. I talk to friends about where they went to college and listen to their college stories. And honestly, if you talk to the right person, almost every college experience sounds great. I always encourage my daughter to talk to people about their experiences.

It can be difficult to choose.

But here’s the thing: the decision isn’t mine to make. It’s my daughter’s.

My husband and I decided a long time ago that we want her to go to the college of her choice. We want her to find her people. We want her to go into the college experience knowing she picked exactly what she wanted. We want her to be excited. When she has tough days adjusting to college life, we don’t want her to think, “If my parents had let me go where I wanted to go, this wouldn’t be happening.”

Sure, I can listen to her and help her make the decision, but she will make the decision. This is a teenager who, as a toddler, wanted to make her own decisions. She’s got this.

We have made “unofficial” visits to colleges all over the country, just so she could get a feel for the campuses. She has narrowed it down to five or six that she likes. But she’s just entering her junior year of high school. She could find new places of interest over the next two years. She will likely learn about colleges she doesn’t even know exist, and it’s possible some of them could look interesting to her.

So when someone asks me where I want her to go to college, I will give them the same answer I gave my friend a few days ago:

I want her to go where she wants to go.

For the next two years, I will be an innocent bystander in the college search process…simply a facilitator. I will make sure she has access to information about lots of different types of schools. If there is a college she wants to visit, we will do it. If there’s a college she wants to mark off the list…by all means, mark it off the list. Because, when it comes right down to it, it’s her life. She gets to live it. She is quickly approaching adulthood, and she needs to know how to make decisions. I firmly believe a child/teen who isn’t ever allowed to make decisions will become an adult who doesn’t know how to make decisions. I’m going to trust that my daughter will make the right decision for herself, and I’m excited for her to do it.

She has two years to decide.

Let’s get this party started!

A Lucky Duck

Almost a month ago, I wrote about what we referred to as a “Mama Duck” had laid some eggs in one of the planters on our front porch. In this world of COVID-19, murder hornets, and political unrest, Mama Duck, by way of laying eggs at our house, brought us some hope…something to look forward to.

And oh, how we have loved watching her. She ended up laying a total of nine eggs over the course of a week or so. My husband and I became obsessed with her…like four-year-olds, we would peek out the window numerous times a day and through the night. We wanted to be sure Mama Duck and the eggs stayed safe. We wanted that little clutch of eggs to make it, but it wasn’t easy.

About ten days ago, we had a lovely visitor to our backyard. I was so excited to see him…a beautiful 5-foot rat snake! I posted some photos of the snake on Facebook, and then my friends reminded me we needed to keep an eye on the duck and eggs. They were right! A few hours later, my husband found the snake curled up on top of the eggs, with Mama Duck nowhere in sight! I wasn’t home at the time, so when he called me and said, “You’re not going to believe this! That snake is in the eggs,” I said, “GET IT OUT!” He did, and by the time I returned home, he had relocated the snake far away.

Talk about a lucky duck!

We thought we were home free! We thought that since the snake was gone, our duck’s troubles were over…till another snake showed up a few days later! My husband walked past the window and looked out, and somehow, he noticed a tiny tail sticking out from under the planter! This time, I was home, and he called me outside to “help” him get the snake, which basically meant I was his cheerleader. While I love the beauty of a rat snake, I don’t want to have to catch one! With bravery that was reminiscent of the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, my husband captured the snake and relocated him far, far away. Mama Duck flew away during the chaos but returned a few hours later.

Two snakes??? Holy moly! We were scared for our Mama Duck. So we watched. When we couldn’t be home, we watched on security cameras. And we spread snake repellent all around the porch. The whole front of our house smelled like a giant wintergreen Lifesaver…I guess snakes don’t like that?

And then, yesterday, as I watched on the security camera, I saw some movement around Mama Duck in the planter. She was moving around a lot more than usual too! And then I thought I heard a few “peeps”!

We were out of town, but as it turns out, I was right about the “peeps”! Embarrassingly, last night at about 11:15pm, we checked the cameras again (we were out of town), and we saw lots of movement. We couldn’t tell if what we saw was a duckling or a snake, so I called our neighbor…yes, at 11:15pm…and he ran over and checked. No snake, but he couldn’t see any ducklings, because Mama Duck hid them under her wings.

The neighbor on the other side went over and saw the ducklings early this morning, and then a few hours later, they were gone. Mama Duck and the ducklings had left the nest…it’s what they do.

We missed seeing them “in person,” but we are some proud duck grandparents. We are proud that we saved them. We are proud that they made it.

That’s one lucky duck.

Ducklings in our Future!

Ducklings in our future!

The world is a crazy place. I don’t have to tell you that. But in the midst of all the craziness this world has to offer, my husband discovered a little gift on our front porch two days ago…two eggs in one of the planters on our front porch. They weren’t tiny, little speckled eggs. They were big white eggs. I decided they were duck eggs. And we discovered today that I was right.

After he found the eggs, we checked many times throughout Sunday and Monday to see if the mama was hanging around. Nothing. That also helped me feel sure they were duck eggs. I did a little research and found that ducks will lay an egg a day, till they have a clutch (usually 8-14 eggs), before they start “brooding,” or sitting on the eggs. Mama doesn’t hang around much till then. After the mama duck starts “brooding,” it’s usually 26-30 days before the eggs start to hatch. I am supposed to be out of town 28 days from today, but if she keeps laying eggs and doesn’t start brooding for another week, I’ll be back in time to see them! My husband will be here the whole time, and he can document it all, but it will be a lot more fun if I’m actually here to see the ducklings hatch!

I also hope I’m in town when they hatch for another reason. The eggs are in a planter that is tall. How is Mama going to get those babies out without breaking their necks? And then there are several steps! She’s going to need some help! Or maybe she’s smarter than I give her credit for, and she already has a plan. I just hope the plan doesn’t include taking the new babies for a swim in our pool, because aside from the mess they create, they will have lots of difficulty getting out. If you ever watched The Sopranos, you likely recall Tony Soprano building a ramp for visiting ducks to use to get out of his pool. My husband’s not going to do that, for sure. In the past, we have had to rescue ducklings from the pool with a net, creating great stress for the mom and for the ducklings. Heck, it was stressful for me. There are two lakes nearby, so we are hoping Mama Duck has those in mind as the places to introduce her babies to water.

A friend/neighbor had ducklings in her pool a few years ago, and we went over to help rescue them. There was a big, loud owl in a nearby tree just waiting to swoop in and carry away one of those babies. We got them out, and I don’t know what ultimately happened to them. I shudder when I think about it, so I try not to think about it.

I’d rather think happier thoughts.

It’s nice having something positive to look forward to every morning! We were so excited when we saw the mama duck this morning, and I’m even more excited thinking we get to watch the eggs add up over the next week or so!

We needed something happy right now. Make way for ducklings!