Let’s Talk About Snakes

When I was growing up in Alabama, snakes were a full-on reality. I don’t mean green snakes or milk snakes or oak snakes. I mean real, scary, venomous snakes. In fact, in Alabama, there are six kinds of venomous snakes. For comparison, in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, there is one type: the Copperhead. But in Alabama, you have to watch out for the Copperhead, the Cottonmouth (also known as a water moccasin), the Timber Rattlesnake, the Diamondback Rattlesnake, the Pygmy Rattlesnake, and the Eastern Coral Snake. You can see pictures of them at Outdooralabama.com here. And I should tell you…they are plentiful.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve run into lots of Copperheads since moving to North Carolina nineteen years ago, but I was reminded about those Alabama snakes when I saw an article on Facebook today about a woman in Greenville, Alabama, who was bitten by a Timber Rattler. You can see the article here. According to the article, she had to have 16 vials of antivenin…sixteen!

I shared the article on my personal Facebook page with a statement about how I likely narrowly escaped death when I was 18. My nephew, who remembers all the stories I tell about my life, immediately commented that he was sure I had told him the story, but he didn’t remember it. And that’s when I realized I probably had not shared it. Why? Because I was somewhere I shouldn’t have been.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m not one to “hang out” in the woods. I don’t like ticks. I don’t like snakes. I don’t like excessive nature. “Nature,” in Alabama, means you might encounter any number of those creatures and more.

But on this particular day when I was 18, the summer before I went off to college, I ventured into the woods with three friends. Full disclosure: I didn’t really know we were going into the full-on woods. The family of one of the friends had a “hunting camp” in the woods, so we were going there to hang out one Friday night. Now, when I heard “hunting camp,” I guess I was thinking more “hunting lodge.” As we drove, in a Jeep, through the woods to the hunting camp, I started to realize it was really a camp. The fact that there was no road to it was my first clue. And I was a little scared…not gonna lie…I was scared. But I had to play it cool.

We arrived at the hunting camp, and I’m sure my eyes were wide. I looked at it. I’m sure I looked at one of my other non-nature friends, hoping she would say she was scared, but nope. She let me down. She was actually laughing and smiling. I knew I was in trouble. There were no power lines anywhere. I had thought we would be going to a small house where there was television, a refrigerator, modern conveniences. Nope. Heck, when we walked inside, I discovered there wasn’t even much of a floor. I was scared.

It was at this point I spoke up. I don’t really remember what I said, but I made it clear I wanted to get out of there. Nope…not gonna hang out up there. Fortunately, my non-nature friend in the party spoke up too. Hanging out in the “hunting camp” was not an option. I’m sure I said something along the lines of “Let’s leave now.” So we did.

There were three stair steps to get out of the “camp,” and I was leading the charge to the Jeep.

I stepped down the first two steps, and just as I was about to step off the bottom step, I saw a giant rattlesnake slithering by…right where my foot would have dropped. Now, I’m not exaggerating. It was a huge snake…a Diamondback Rattlesnake. A frightening creature. They can get up to more than five feet long, and they are thick-bodied, scary snakes. I’m not sure how big this one was, but he was big. Fortunately, he had no idea I was there, so he just kept slithering by. If he had been aware of my presence, he would have made noise…aren’t we all glad rattlesnakes have rattles?!?! I don’t know if I gasped. I don’t know if I screamed. I know I pulled my foot back quickly and stood frozen on the steps till the snake had passed, but then I was afraid there were snakes I didn’t see! I was scared to go back into that God-forsaken “camp,” but I was afraid to touch the ground to get back to the Jeep. Finally, one person went ahead of me, and then I ran to the Jeep.

As we drove out of the woods, I cried. Yep, cried. I said a prayer of thanks to God that He had spared me that terrible fate. I said a prayer of thanks that my brother was still alive; he spent so much time in the woods that he should have been bitten by at least one snake. I also prayed that the car would not break down before we got back to civilization.

For days, I thought about how fortunate I had been. I would have died if that snake had struck me…no doubt. There is no way my friends could have gotten me out of the woods fast enough to save me, and there were no phones to call an ambulance (which wouldn’t have been able to find me) either. I had seen death in the form of a Diamondback Rattlesnake and escaped.

The moral of the story? Well, there are a few lessons here. Don’t go places you aren’t supposed to go. Stay out of the woods. “Hunting camp” does not mean “hunting lodge.” One (a lodge) has real walls, electricity, and modern conveniences, and one looks like a place you might find a dead body…mine if I had stepped on that snake. And this has nothing to do with that particular snake tale, but it is a lesson: I don’t like brown water…like water in lakes and rivers…never have, because snakes can hide in the water. My friends, Angela and Mary Ann make fun of me for it, but here’s what I think: that brown water is their home…the creatures, I mean. I don’t want them in my home, and really…I don’t want to get in their home either.

A few years ago, in Maine, one of the kids with me kicked a ball into a grassy field, and I had to retrieve it. As I ran out into the field, I thought, “I wonder if they have venomous snakes in Maine.” As soon as I got to the ball, I saw a snake. And as soon as we got back indoors, I looked up “snakes in Maine” and found they had no venomous snakes. Whew!

Maybe I’ll move to Maine…

 

 

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Gardening…again

Last year, I tried my hand at a very small garden and had lots of success, so this year, I’ve decided to do it again. Before, I had tomatoes, sweet corn, and sunflowers, so I’m going to see if lightning will strike twice. As I said last year, I’m no gardener. I have no idea what I’m doing. But dang it…it’s fun!

We are planting corn this year on the side of the house, and it will be visible (a little) from the street once it gets tall. I’m not sure how much grain growing is allowed in the neighborhood, but I guess we will find out! I will let everyone know if we receive some sort of written notice. My husband is lucky, because I really wanted to plant it out front. I think corn stalks are beautiful, but he put his foot down on that. I learned last year that I had planted my corn plants too far apart, so I had to pollinate them by hand. We still had corn to eat, but it was a chore making sure they were all pollinated. Therefore, this year, I’m planting them in clusters, so they can pollinate each other. Nature’s way is best, so planting them closer together is the way to go. I learned from the past. I was actually surprised the corn grew last year, and I was doubly surprised when it actually produced ears of corn!

The tomato plants are going into the ground near where they were last year, because our knockout roses are in the same area. I believe our tomatoes survived last year, simply because of the knockout roses. The roses attracted braconid wasps, which in turn, killed the tomato grubs that tried to invade the garden. I had no idea about that when we planted the tomatoes, but I noticed a tomato grub with little eggs all over his back and looked it up. They were the eggs of the wasp, and they killed the tomato grubs. Thank you, braconids! Therefore, we are going to put our tomatoes near some roses again.

If you’ve never had a garden of any type, you might find it therapeutic. Last summer, when I woke up every day, I would walk outside and water our garden. And sometimes, I would water them in the evening too. We had tomatoes galore! But it was also a way for me to relax. Sure, I can sit by the pool during the summer and relax. And I can spend time with friends and family, but there was something about the quiet solitude of tending the plants that was good for my psyche. My mother had died the December before, and I truly believe gardening helped me with that. My parents both loved tomatoes and sunflowers. I knew they would have been pleased with what I was doing. Nobody loved a tomato sandwich more than my daddy, and I was able to enjoy them all summer long last year. Store-bought tomatoes just don’t cut it, so I grew my own! We hope to have the same this year…good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise!

So today, instead of doing all the things I should be doing, I will be doing what I want to do. I will have my hands in the dirt. OK, mostly it will be a trowel in the dirt. But I will have it in the dirt, transferring my seedling plants from the little clear cups into the ground. I discovered last year that birds and moles ate most of the seeds I planted, so I had more luck when I transplanted seedlings for corn and sunflowers. Tomato plants will go into the ground near the roses, and we will see if lightning strikes twice.

I’ve had terrible laryngitis for the better part of the week, so having something quiet to do will be perfect for me today. I haven’t felt much like doing anything, but today, it is on!

 

 

 

 

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Vacation can do a mind and body good. I just returned from a few days on the beach, and I feel rejuvenated. I felt worry-free for a week…almost.

But before we went, my teenage daughter was about to drive me crazy checking the weather. Every time I turned around, she was checking the forecast for our destination, and she kept announcing to me that it was supposed to rain every day of our vacation. Finally, after days of hearing it, I said to her, “Keep checking the weather if you want, but knowing the forecast isn’t going to change it. There’s nothing we can do about it, because we are going.” She knows I’ve preached a million times about worrying and how it can just eat you alive. She knows we shouldn’t worry about things we can’t control.

In my youth, I was a worrier. Somehow, in college, I managed to change all that. I don’t know what happened, but at some point, I realized all that worry was just a big waste of time and energy. Truly, if there’s nothing I can do to change the outcome of something, I should turn over all that worry to God. In fact, worrying is sinful. We are supposed to cast all our worries on the Lord. That’s one way to stop worrying…realize it’s sinful.

If you’re worrying about something you can control…like an upcoming college exam…stop worrying and do what you can to control it. What can you do? Study! Meet with your teacher! Become prepared. If you are prepared for something you can control, then worry should go out the window.

My daughter got into the car one day after school and told me she was afraid she had messed up a test she had taken that day. She had a pained look on her face. I looked at her and said, “Stop worrying about it. It’s done. There’s nothing you can do about it now…let’s celebrate the fact that it’s over.” She laughed, but she knew I was right. I’m not always right…many people will tell you that…but on this matter, I was right. We went to get ice cream to celebrate the fact that the test was over.

As for the vacation, once we got there, my daughter stopped checking the weather. We had mostly beautiful, sunny, worry-free days while we were there. In fact, I can’t think of anything vacation-related that worried me. I did have a couple of aggravating moments when our accountant kept messaging me about tax-related stuff…not what I wanted to discuss while I was on vacation. I’m thinking my husband should have asked him to wait till after I was home. I’ll need to remind him of that next time.

Other than the tax stuff, I could have been walking around singing, “Don’t worry, be happy.” I was very happy, and somehow I’ve managed to be very relaxed even after returning home. Since we were in swimsuits most of the day, I haven’t had tons of laundry to do. I’m still in vacation mode, in fact.

My mother was a worrier. Daddy, not so much. I like to think I’ve broken the familial cycle of worrying passed down by my mother. My brother certainly isn’t a worrier. Generally, we’re the kinds of people who “cross that bridge when we come to it.” We just don’t sit around worrying about what could happen, what people think, or negative outcomes. Sure, I worry about my daughter, and if there are health issues with anyone in my family, I worry about that, but I had an uncle who once explained it this way: worrying doesn’t change the outcome of things. If there is something that is out of my control, and I find myself worrying about it, I give myself ten minutes to ponder it. After that, I hand it over to God and forget about it.

Wise words from my uncle. Personally, I like that approach, and it’s the approach I choose to take. Don’t worry, be happy. And if you are having trouble with it, download Bobby McFerrin singing Don’t Worry Be Happy to your playlist and enjoy. It will help.

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Photo by Belle Co on Pexels.com

 

 

One Year of Blogs

I say it all the time, and the older I get, the more true it is: time flies.

It has been one year since I started “blogging.” I started it as my own form of therapy a month after my mother died, and I do believe it has helped me cope with her death. If you had asked me about that this past December, I might have said otherwise. The first anniversary of her passing was extremely difficult for me…maybe harder than when she actually died. I think I was in so much shock after her death that I didn’t fully digest what had happened. At the one year mark of her death, I was heartbroken. Fortunately, the holidays are a busy time, so I could find lots of things to occupy my mind: shopping, parties, wrapping gifts, spending time with family, spending time with friends. I still grieved throughout the year. There are still times I think I’m losing my mind with grief. But the blog was also a big help.

The blog has morphed somewhat over the year. Originally, I wanted it to be a place where I could share great things I had found and share the stories behind them. There has been some of that, but sometimes, I find myself just sharing stories. I love a good story. I also have a pretty good memory, so I have a story for lots of things that happen. I don’t profess to be a great storyteller, but I appreciate folks who are.

I love writing about my favorite products, but my favorite pieces are stories about my life, my friends, or family members. Yes, I have favorites. I’ll list them at the end of this piece.

Just when I think I’ve run out of stories or new things to share, something else pops up. Lots of times, I see someone or something that reminds me of something else. I make a note in my phone, and then, when I get time, I sit down and write about it. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Some things are easier to write about than others.

But here’s the thing: I write for me. Do I like that people read it and sometimes reach out to me? Of course I do! Does that make it more fun? You bet! But I’m really writing it for a selfish reason: my sanity. It’s a great outlet. If I’m mad, sometimes I write about it. I might not ever share it, but it’s saved in my “drafts” folder. If I’m sad, I write about it, and again, it might not make it past “drafts.” If I’m happy or amused, I might write about that too! In fact, I just took a look at my drafts folder and found that I have about 240 blogs in that folder! And I’ve published just over 140. And hopefully, one day, when I’m long gone, my daughter will still have some of my stories.

Thank you for reading me. I never expected this to become “the next big thing.” I expected it to help me get through the first year without my mother. And it did. Now, I hope it will help me through the second year without my mother. Readers have sent me messages about how some of my stories remind them of things that have happened in their own lives. That’s what I enjoy. I enjoy the feedback. I enjoy the interaction.

So thank you. I’m grateful.

***Some of my favorite pieces from the past year (click on title):

 

 

 

 

 

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My Favorite Rescue Story (1 year later)

***I first wrote this story on February 10, 2018, but today, January 30, 2019, is the first anniversary of “the homecoming,” so I’m sharing it again. It makes me happy.***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Give your dog an extra treat today.

***One year later, Sam is living a happy life with my nephews in my mother’s old home, and she is enjoying lots of love and exercise.***

If you enjoy Kelly Mattei’s Favorite Things, please share this post and invite your Facebook friends to like/follow it too! 

 

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Let’s Talk…We’re the Been There Moms

My friend, Maureen, and I recently started a site called Been There Moms. I have loved spending time with Maureen for years…we chat, we laugh, we share, and now, you can join us for our chats! Been There Moms is a quick look at the things we discuss…and the humor we share. We make videos discussing topics of interest to parents and other folks, too! We share our own parenting fails, share our lessons, and sometimes we just “kvetch” about the hazards of parenting. And we laugh…a lot.

We have a great time, for sure. Maureen’s twenty-something son is very patient with us when he’s helping us with the videos. We are grateful for his patience, his directing skills and especially his mad editing skills. I know it’s hard to believe, but sometimes, we get carried away when we’re talking, and he has to reign us in. We can turn a three minute video into 15 minutes of chat, so he has to edit a lot. Lots of times, he has given us the “wrap it up” sign, and when he turns off the camera, we all laugh. Seeing our chats on video, I’ve realized some things: Maureen is especially talented with her sense of humor. She comes up with the best one-liners. I’m definitely the squirrel chaser, so Maureen has to get me back on topic. I’m the long, drawn-out storyteller. Come to think of it, I’m probably the reason our chats run long. I should apologize to her son, our director/editor.

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Maureen has four children, ranging in age from 14 to a second year law student…three boys and a girl. I have one child…a 15-yr-old girl. Together, we cover a lot of topics, and we offer different perspectives. Maureen is from the north, and I’m from the Deep South. She went to a highbrow, liberal arts college. I went to a big state university. We’ve had different experiences, but we are great friends.

So far, we have discussed some parenting parenting dilemmas: children flying alone; shopping with teenage girls; Homecoming proposals; being nice; high school sports; being the new mom at school; and summer reading. There are more videos to come, but since it’s not our day job, we have to make them when it’s convenient. We are having a great time! It’s a good excuse for us to get together!

This past weekend, my nephew visited with a friend, and the friend (she’s 22) told me she loves the Been There Moms site! Yay! We have a young fan who isn’t even a mom! According to my nephew, his friend watches our videos regularly and walks around saying, “We’re the Been There Moms!” Seriously, I was so excited, and when I saw Maureen at my daughter’s field hockey game Friday afternoon, I could hardly wait to tell her: our young fan thinks we’re funny! I guess it’s not just for moms anymore! Anyone who knows me knows I love a good audience.

So, here’s the deal: we are always looking for new topics to discuss. I have a running list, and Maureen does too, but we would love folks to send us some topics to discuss. Check out our Been There Moms Facebook page here; like the page, and then send us a message or comment with some topics! We would love to hear from you! And who knows? If you offer up a good topic, we might invite you to be a guest on our “show”!

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A Wilderness Life Skill for Girls

Guys have it made when they’re stuck outside with no bathroom. On camping trips or hiking trips, they just walk over to a private place in the woods and do their thing. It’s not so easy for girls. First of all, there’s no way for a girl to make her bladder gladder without actually exposing herself. Well, there is a product out there called Go Girl that helps, but it takes a little practice at home before trying to use it in the wilderness. You can see it here. It really does work and makes going outside much easier. I know, because my sister-in-law gave me one for Christmas. Do you camp? Do you fish? Do you ever find yourself needing to “go” when you’re hiking? I don’t. I don’t camp. I really don’t, but there were times in life I needed wilderness relief. Therefore, I know the importance of carrying the Go Girl with me.

When I was a little girl, my friend, Allyson, who lived down the street, had two older siblings…a sister in the high school band, and a brother on the football team. Allyson’s mother took us to games, and what fun it was! To a little girl in a small town in the south, a high school football game is a big deal!

Allyson’s mother volunteered in the concession stand sometimes, and on those nights, Allyson and I waited for her to close up shop. It probably didn’t take long, and we were happy to get to keep playing together, but on those nights, we were the last ones out.  One night when I was probably six or seven, while we waited for her to close up the concession stand, I knew I needed to pee…I was in a bind. The field lights had all been turned off, except at the concession stand. I told Allyson’s mother I needed to go to the bathroom, but she laughed and told me the bathrooms were locked. Eek. Her mom was (and still is, I’m sure) a sweet lady…not all stuffy and formal, so she gave me an alternative: “Nobody’s here but us. Just go around the stands where it’s dark and tee-tee in the grass.”

I’m sure I looked at her wide-eyed, and said, “I’ve never done that outside.” With a little encouragement from her that I would be able to pull it off, Allyson and I set off into the darkness. We walked around the bleachers, but not too far because we were a little scared. I remember vividly that I was wearing my very favorite little navy, sailor-style skort with white, anchor-embellished, decorative buttons on the front. I went behind the bleachers, pulled down my little sailor-style skort, and tinkled…all over the back of my favorite little sailor-style skort, but I didn’t know till I pulled it up. I had discovered what many women have known for years: it’s not that easy to pee outside. It was my last attempt for many years. When it was time to drive home, I had to stand up in the backseat of the Buick. I couldn’t sit on the seat…I would have gotten it wet. And since there were no seatbelt laws in the mid-70s, standing up while the car was moving was not unusual.

Years later, I attempted wilderness relief again…desperate times call for desperate measures. I was in my twenties and had walked down to a river with some friends. Realizing I wouldn’t be able to wait till we got back into town for the bathroom, I went behind a tree down by the water. This time, I was old enough to understand how to do it correctly. It’s all about balance…no big deal, right? Right…except for the boat that came around the bend just as I got started. They got a look at that full moon, and they honked and waved. I was past the point of no return at that point so all I could do was continue and give a big wave…and laugh. But I didn’t wet my shorts.

Wilderness relief is a life skill. For whatever reason, my mother didn’t teach me that one. It’s likely she tried and I flat refused. I’ve always been a little stubborn. But when I became a mother, I knew my daughter needed that life skill. I taught her the skill of wilderness relief when she was about two…in the Nordstrom parking deck at SouthPark Mall in Charlotte. I don’t know that you could call it wilderness. She was potty-training, so we had visited every ladies room in the mall, and I made sure she went in the last one before we walked to our car. As soon as we arrived at the car, she said, “I need to tee-tee.” I didn’t have the time, patience, or energy to go back into Nordstrom, so I said, “Well, you need to learn how to do it outside.” And right there, in the Nordstrom parking deck, between two parked cars, she learned about wilderness relief. It has come in handy over the years when she has had sports practice at fields where the bathrooms were locked.

I hope it’s a skill she will pass on to her daughter one day…just so she won’t mess up her favorite little, sailor-style skort.

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