Finish Well

It’s May…or what we call “Maycember,” because it’s as busy as the holidays. I’m taking a deep breath and thanking the Lord we made it through April before I dive in for the last five weeks of school. We need to finish well.

The last week of April was full of surprises at our house. Our checking account was hacked. My car was clipped in the Target parking lot by a man who was convinced he “had the right of way” until I proved him wrong. Not that it mattered if he had the right of way…he hit my car! And I had various meetings at school for projects there, and at home, for projects there.

So, I’m actually happy to see April in my rearview mirror. May is usually a happy month in our household. It is the month of Mother’s Day, my husband’s birthday, and my birthday! It’s also the last month of school for our daughter and her classmates. May 31st is their last official day of school, and mine is counting down. Because they have a few days off between now and then, I count only 17 more school day wake ups. As my daddy used to say, “You can make 17 days standing on your head!”

Of course, by this point in the school year, we’re all tired of school. We love our school, but, dang it…I’m ready for summer! It happens to me every single year. And I know our daughter is ready…pool time, social time, vacations, free time…she is soooo ready, but first, she has to finish her freshman year of high school.

While I have been telling her we just need to survive the last five weeks of school, she recently reminded me she needs to finish well. She’s right. I was so happy to hear her say that, because I’ve heard the head of her school say it many times. I’ve heard him tell us in Parents’ Council meetings that it’s not just about finishing…it’s about finishing well.

How do we encourage our kids to finish well? How do we, as parents, finish well?

With exams standing between our daughter and the lazy-is days of summer, we know we need to do everything we can to help her finish well. We will make sure she is well-fed and as well-rested as any teenager can be. On the advice of a friend, I will help her get her room clean before she starts studying for exams…just to get rid of clutter (and there is clutter). We will stock the pantry with all her favorite junk food snacks and some healthy options too. (See below for her list of favorites.) We will make her laugh. We will remind her to take breaks. We might suggest she watch some familiar, comforting TV shows like iCarly, Zoey 101, Henry Danger, and Drake and Josh during breaks. We will offer encouragement and be available. We encourage our daughter to look at things from a positive perspective, and I think that is crucial as the end of the school year approaches. And if she finds she needs extra help studying for exams, we will get her that too. Whatever it takes to finish well.

I’ve given it some thought, and for me, personally, finishing well means going into the final five weeks of school with a good attitude. It means putting a smile on my face, participating in end-of-year meetings, and circling back with friends before we get out for school. It means I need to appear calm throughout our daughter’s exams, so I can don’t stress her out. It means shoring up our plans for the summer, and making sure the whole family is on the same page…coordinating our calendars.

So here we go…the countdown is on. Only 17 more school day wake ups. Only 17 more times to get up early and get out the door. Let’s finish well!

And then we can enjoy the lazy, fun, crazy days of summer!

Bring on the vacations!

Finish well!

Our daughter’s favorite snacks, healthy and not-so-healthy:

  • Bananas
  • Yogurt
  • Berries
  • Cheerios
  • Sour Patch Kids
  • Pop Tarts
  • Cheez-Its
  • Cheetos
  • Oatmeal
  • Scrambled Eggs
  • Cinnamon Toast
  • Waffles
  • Granola/cereal bars
  • Ice cream

 

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My Favorite Easter Gifts

I went to Target last night in search of items to put in my teenage daughter’s Easter basket. For the last few years, a friend of hers…we’ll call her Lu…has slept over at our house the night before Easter. It has become a tradition, and I love it! I get to put together two Easter baskets! This year, though, I get to put together three, because her friend from Ohio is flying in to spend the weekend with us too!

Last week, I did some shopping for them at a local store called Paper Skyscraper and got some really cute items there…Greenwich Trading Company soaps, bunny slippers, and more. I’ve also ordered some favorite childhood collectibles on eBay, but last night, I was on a candy mission.

Easter candy is the best. I know you’re thinking Valentine or Christmas candy might be better, but I’m telling you, Easter candy wins, hands down.

Every year, when they put the Easter candy out…right after Valentine’s Day…I purchase some Whoppers Mini Robin Eggs. I don’t eat Whoppers any other time of year, but at Easter, I want the Mini Robin Eggs. They make me think of my friend, Angela. We have been friends for 33 years, so we’ve made lots of crazy memories. In the early 2000s, when we were both married without children, I visited her around Easter one year, and we sat on the sofa in her den, laughing and eating Whoppers Mini Robin Eggs. We might have eaten them till we both felt sick. But the point is…I have to buy them every year, because they make me think of Angela and good times!

I have other favorites too, so whether she likes them or not, my daughter gets these candies every year:

  • Peeps. I think Peeps are the best-selling Easter candies. Some people absolutely love them. Me? Not so much. But the Easter Bunny put them in my basket every year anyway. As an adult, I’ve discovered they aren’t that bad, but still not my favorites to eat. They are, however, necessities for Easter baskets. It just wouldn’t be an Easter basket without Peeps. I feel pretty sure my daughter throws them away every year, but this year, she and her friends will be getting a Peeps candy/sock gift combo. So cute!s-l1600-2
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs. When I was a little girl, Daddy would give us our “allowance” on Saturday mornings and take us to the “candy store,” which was really a little, locally-owned convenience store called Murphy’s. Mr. and Mrs. Murphy were always there, and they were always kind to us. We would go in with our money and pick the candies we wanted. My favorite was Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I would pick up those first, before getting Now & Laters, Super Bubble Bubble Gum, a Three Musketeers Bar, Spree, a Blow Pop, and sometimes a Marathon Bar. But Reese’s were my favorite. Somehow, the Reese’s Peanut Butter eggs taste more like the peanut butter cups tasted when I was a child. Whether my daughter likes it or not, she’s getting those.9101dS1S5jL._SX522_
  • Pez. Come on…Easter baskets wouldn’t be complete without an Easter-themed Pez dispenser. Little chick? Little Lamb? Little Easter Bunny? Sold! Pez candies are OK tasting, but the real novelty is in the dispenser. easter-pez-127510-im1
  • Fun Dip. My daughter loved Fun Dip when she was little, and so did I. They make a “spring” edition….pastel colors. She’ll be getting some in her basket, and so will her friends!springtime-fun-dip-multi-pack-16ct-sold-out-2
  • Chocolate Bunny. I don’t care if it’s good chocolate or cheap chocolate. Because I always received a chocolate bunny in my Easter basket, my daughter and her friends get chocolate bunnies too. One year, my daughter left it on the dining room table…right where the sun shines through the window. I walked in later to find an unidentifiable chocolate creature that looked a little zombie-ish, because it had melted.Palmer-Hollow-Milk-Chocolate-Bunny
  • Chocolate Cross. It’s Easter, people. solid-chocolate-cross-2-5oz-milk-or-white-chocolate-22

And then, there are gifts of the non-candy variety:

  • Devotional Book or Bible. There are devotional books that contain daily or weekly devotionals. There are books that explain The Bible in plain speak. There are books of Bible stories for children…and frankly, I see no shame in reading those myself! When we were little, Mother would read to us nightly from a children’s book of Bible stories. Amazon offers lots of options for devotional books and Bibles. I found one for teenage girls here.51LHcMF7M7L._SX352_BO1,204,203,200_

Silver cross necklace. Nordstrom has a nice variety of cross necklaces…a meaningful gift to add to the Easter basket. You can see their selection here.

There are other little things I put into the baskets on Easter, so I’m going to share some of those ideas too (some will appear in baskets this year):

  • Lip gloss
  • Hand lotion
  • Garden gnome (every…single…year)
  • Flower seeds or Grow Kit
  • Starbucks gift card
  • Other gift cards (Chick-Fil-A, Target, Smoothie King, etc.)
  • Good-smelling soaps. I purchased some made by Greenwich Trading Company.
  • Lacrosse and field hockey balls.
  • Decorative cross. Again, it’s Easter, and a decorative cross makes a lovely gift any time of year…to remember He is risen.

Happy Easter, friends! Christ died so we could have everlasting life, and on the third day, He arose. Let’s celebrate His resurrection.

 

Get Busy Living…

My friend, Mary Ann, called me one day this week and told me she had read about a little boy with a terminal illness who wanted to get his photo with “Welcome to…” signs of different states. It was important to him. Mary Ann, in her infinite wisdom, said, “Shouldn’t we all be doing that, anyway?” She didn’t mean we should all be taking photos with signs. She meant we should all be doing things we want to do...living our lives.

And she’s right. Mary Ann knows how abruptly a life can end. Her daddy was killed in a tragic automobile accident when he was in his 40s. I’m sure he had lots of things he still wanted to do.

My conversation with Mary Ann made me think of a line from The Shawshank Redemption, a movie starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins. The film is based on a Stephen King Novella, Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption, which I now need to read. The line? It is a line spoken by Tim Robbins’s character, Andy Dufresne, a banker who had incorrectly been found guilty of murdering his wife and was subsequently sentenced to prison:

Get busy living, or get busy dying.

My daddy loved that line. We took it for what it was: If you don’t get out and do the things you want to do now (live your life), then you will start to wither…mentally and physically.  We can make the time and energy to do the things we dream about, or we can sit around, letting time pass, till there’s no time or energy left to do it. We can choose to live life in a positive way…or not.

Think about that. What are some things you’ve always wanted to do? It can be something as simple as learning to knit…or something adventurous…or something to help the community.

Both my parents are gone now, but I feel like they did most of what they wanted to do in life. They encouraged me to live life to its fullest. Yes, they wanted me to be responsible, but I remember, when Daddy was dying, he told me, “Y’all need to enjoy your lives. You can’t take your money with you…enjoy it.” Both my parents always reminded us often that “life is not a dress rehearsal.”

Daddy didn’t mean we should get out there and waste money.  What he meant was that we need to use it to do some things we want to do. My parents were very conservative with their money. After Daddy died, Mother became even more conservative with her spending and investing. I would tell her, “Mother, spend it. Enjoy it!” And she would always tell me she wanted to save it for us. But she still did a lot of what she wanted.

Mother and Daddy took lots of trips together. They preferred the Caribbean for big trips, but they were happy to find a local sporting event to attend most of the time. Indoor track meet at the local coliseum? They were in! Baseball game? You bet! Daddy loved driving, so often they took road trips together too. And when I say he LOVED driving, I mean he LOVED it. Daddy started driving in 1952, and as an adult, he drove many times the miles most people drive in a lifetime. He died in 2006…54 years of driving, and he never had an accident.

They also helped others…quietly. They didn’t want accolades for their acts of kindness. Many times I knew Mother to take care of an ailing neighbor…for months! They both gave away money to individuals or families who, they said, “needed it more than we do.”

Mother and Daddy enjoyed their lives. Sure, their experiences were different than mine, but they were of a different generation. I’m sure our daughter’s life experience will be different than mine. Heck, my brother is just 17 months younger than I am, and his life experience is different than mine, because we have different interests.

But here’s one thing I know for sure: I live my life. I’m not sitting around waiting for life to happen to me…I’m making life happen. I’m trying to spend time with people I love. I’m trying to make the world a little better. I am trying to create lasting memories with our daughter and with my husband. I am trying to do the things I want to do, and I am enjoying the ride.

So…get busy living, or get busy dying.

 

 

Wishing Summer Would Last?

Tonight I walked into my local Bath and Body Works for the first time in a while. My daughter was obsessed with this store for a few years. She loved their hand sanitizers, shower gels, and fragrance mists. Eventually, I started to like the fragrance mists as well, because I am not a big fan of perfume or cologne. When you have migraines, strong smells are not your friend. I ran out of my favorite fragrance mist today, so I ran to Bath and Body Works after I dropped off my daughter at a party.

When I walked into the store, a very pleasant saleslady greeted me, and as I stopped to take a whiff of a Pumpkin/Waffle scented candle, she asked, “Are you ready for fall?” What? Just sniffing a pumpkin/waffle candle makes me ready for fall? Of course I’m not ready for fall! I don’t even want school to start!

Instead, I just said, “Not just yet. I wish summer could last a little longer.”

The fragrance I usually use is Vanilla Bean scented, but after that exchange about fall, I was looking for something more summery, and boy, did I ever find it! I actually found a fragrance mist called At The Beach! Could it be more perfect? I picked up the sample bottle and sprayed some on my arm. Ahhhh….the scent of suntan lotion and sea mist! I picked up a bottle, and then I picked up another. Then I picked up some At The Beach Body Cream. Even though summer has to end, it doesn’t mean I have to stop smelling like summer! I’m walking around smelling like the beach! If you’d like to smell like the beach or purchase candles that smell like the beach, you can go to Bath and Body Works by clicking here.

Of course, I picked up some of my favorite Vanilla Bean fragrance as well, but I will put off using that for as long as I can.

In the past, I’ve extended summer for myself by using tanning oil or suntan lotion as moisturizers. If you’ve ever walked into a meeting I was attending and thought you smelled Hawaiian Tropic tanning oil, you probably did. I’ve been known to moisturize my skin with it. Nothing takes me back to high school like the aroma of Hawaiian Tropic. Or sometimes, I will use Coppertone Tanning Lotion, which immediately takes me back to my childhood and makes me think of the old ad…you know, the one in which the puppy is tugging on the little girl’s swimsuit. I actually had a beach towel with that ad on it when I was younger. You can purchase the oil and lotion in Target, Walmart, or most any drugstore.

This next summer-extending product is not something that smells like the beach, but it does taste a little like sunshine: Chick-Fil-A’s White Peach Tea Lemonade. What says summer more than lemonade? White Peach Tea Lemonade…that’s what. I happened upon this recently when I zipped through the drive thru of a Chick-Fil-A. I was waiting in the line and saw an ad on the menu board for this special tea, so I decided to try it. Normally, I don’t drink my calories, but I drank them that afternoon, and it was worth it. It has been added to the menu permanently after being tested in various markets. I know in November when I need to think of summer, I’ll turn into my neighborhood Chick-Fil-A.

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Even after school starts, I’ll be dragging summer out a little longer in other ways too. I’m growing corn and tomatoes in my backyard, and right now, it’s looking like the corn will be ready to harvest around Labor Day. Maybe I’ll be able to talk my husband into grilling some hamburgers to go with our fresh, homegrown, sweet corn. And we’ll put some of the tomato slices on our burgers. My first tomato harvest wasn’t so good earlier this summer, so I’m hoping these late ones will be better. My sunflowers are just about to bloom, so they’ll be pretty for a few more weeks too. It could all make for a lovely Labor Day, which happens to be my mother’s birthday…our first without her. She would be proud.

Labor Day weekend also marks the beginning of college football season, so that’s something to look forward to.

I plan to smell like summer while drinking my iced tea till at least November. Maybe then I’ll light a pumpkin/waffle candle, but I will still be dreaming of summer while I sip my White Peach Tea Lemonade.

Back to Reality

Ahhhh…vacation. If only we could feel as relaxed in daily life as we do on vacation.

We returned last night from what is likely the last big vacation of the summer for us. I love vacation. I love vacations of all kinds…active, outdoors (but not camping), water, city, lazy, big, small…just vacations in general. I love visiting new places and familiar places.

This most recent trip was to a familiar place, Los Angeles, but we had people with us who had never been, so everything old was new again. We had a great time…three moms with three teenagers. One mom was my awesome sister-in-law, whom I adore, and the other was my college friend, Angela…also adored. As we all started to depart the hotel yesterday, I could feel “reality” hanging over our heads like a fog.

I always get a little sad when I know the final big trip of summer is over. This year, because of high school sports, the final big trip of summer had to be a little earlier. (Note that I keep saying our final big trip, because I keep hoping for a couple of small adventures.) Our daughter is starting 9th grade and trying out for high school teams this year. Those tryouts start in early August, so no more vacations…back to reality.

Reality means it’s time to start getting prepared for the next school year. I get queasy just thinking about it. I don’t know if my daughter is nervous at all, but I am. It happens every year, but this year, more so, because she is going to high school. I’ve never had a child in high school, so this is a new experience for us. Deep down, though, I know she will settle in just fine, and eventually, I will settle down.

The most immediate thing on the horizon is the “assigned summer reading.” That is reality at our house right now, and that is the part I do not like. It’s not really my reality; it’s my daughter’s reality, but I will have to listen to her complain about it. I’m not the mom who helps with homework or nags about assignments. Most of the time, I don’t even know what the assignments are…and that’s how I’d like to keep it. I’ve talked with my friend, Maureen Paschal, about assigned summer reading on Been There Moms. You can see the video here. I simply do not like assigned summer reading. I feel like it is encroaching on my family time, and it’s like a cloud hanging over summer for us. I love to read, and I hope my daughter will eventually love it too, but even as a reader, “assigned” reading was tough for me as a student. At some point in the next couple weeks, she will take a couple days to sit down and read that book. She will complain about it, but she will get it done.

Personally, I think, if the school is going to require summer reading, I think they should also require outdoor exercise. There are some students who love reading all summer, and there are some who enjoy being outdoors all summer. Sure, there are some who fall between the two, but my daughter loves moving around and being outdoors. Sitting still? Nah. There’s no fun in that. But I really believe that if the school is going to have assigned summer reading, they should also have required outdoor exercise hours. If we are trying to enrich the whole student, let’s build their minds and their bodies.

Another reality is getting prepared for my daughter’s freshman year, meaning I need to make sure she has everything she is going to need. Right now, though, we are one month out from the first day of school, so seeing school supplies in the stores just makes me nauseous. I will get everything in advance with time to spare, but I don’t look forward to it.

And then there’s this reality: a month of back to back trips means things in my closet (and my home) are in disarray. I came home from the beach in June, and I’ve had several back-to-back trips since. I won’t get into listing all the places we visited, but it has been a lot of packing, unpacking, and packing again. And in some cases, I didn’t even unpack and repack…there wasn’t time. I just packed other stuff in a different suitcase. I need to take the time to straighten out all that, and it is one of my least favorite things to do. It means pulling out everything from closets around my house and purging. I’ve found some good “purging” advice in an article from the Huffington Post here. I dread it. But I will do it…maybe while my daughter is doing her assigned reading!

Today, though, I choose to ignore those realities. I want to enjoy the last fun, lazy days of summer…hanging out in the pool, spending time with family, harvesting tomatoes, spending time outdoors, and possibly, taking a little road trip or two. I’m on my way out to the pool now…

 

Rookie Gardener

I’ve said before that I am no gardener. A few years ago, I had some pretty good luck with gardening in my backyard, but then I developed a fear of snakes and became afraid. Every time I thought about sticking my hands into or near the dirt, I was terrified I would pick up a copperhead.

In Mecklenburg County, the only venomous snake species we have is the copperhead, but it seems there are lots of them. Growing up in Alabama, we had six species of venomous snakes, including three different types of rattlesnakes, which are highly dangerous to humans. I’ve seen more than my fair share of rattlesnakes and copperheads. In fact, I came dangerously close to stepping on a big diamondback rattlesnake when I was 18. To learn more about the venomous snakes of Alabama, including the copperhead, click here. Be forewarned: just like Jaws made us all afraid to go back into the water, seeing the pictures of these snakes may make you afraid to go back outside altogether.

Back to gardening. For years, I did nothing, till this year, and I’m not doing a lot, but I am doing a little. I have more than one inspiration. I want to have some sunflowers in memory of my parents this summer, and posts by my friend, Michelle, owner of Corner Copia Gardens and Gifts in Fairhope, Alabama, would make anyone want to try their hand at gardening. To see her Facebook page for inspiration, click here.

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Photo from Corner Copia Gardens in Fairhope, Alabama

While I want sunflowers in my backyard, I’m not planting any other types of flowers. We have some beautiful knockout roses that continue to bloom, so I don’t feel like I need to add much to those. I’m adding a few vegetables.

One thing I’ve always loved is a good homegrown vine-ripened tomato. When my friend, Wendy, lived here in Charlotte, she had a neighbor who grew some of the best tomatoes I’ve ever had in my life. And I’ve had a lot of tomatoes. Growing up, I didn’t care for tomatoes. I think a lot of kids are turned off by the slightly acidic taste of tomatoes. When I was in college, I went to the lake with a friend, and her mother had some homegrown tomatoes for us. Not wanting to be rude, I ate the slices she gave me, and I never looked back.

If you are a tomato person, you know store-bought tomatoes are deceiving. Every year, I make the mistake of picking up some beautiful tomatoes in the grocery store with hopes they are as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside. Then, I get home and slice into them, only to find they are hard and ugly on the inside. A good, homegrown tomato is just as red on the inside as it is on the outside.

Throughout my life, I had seen my daddy eat tomato sandwiches. He loved a good tomato sandwich, and apparently, my mother knew the perfect way to make them. It’s not difficult, but if you don’t make them just right, you can mess them up. My daddy liked his tomatoes peeled. Weird, I know, but that’s what he liked. Sometimes, I peel mine too. But the main thing is to use white bread…not whole wheat, not whole grain, not pumpernickel or rye…white bread. On the white bread slices, slather your favorite mayonnaise. Daddy preferred Hellman’s, but I prefer Duke’s. Yes, you can use the reduced fat versions, but because good tomatoes are hard to find, I don’t want to mess them up with the reduced fat stuff. Add tomato slices to the mayo-slathered bread and top it with a little salt and pepper to taste. I can almost taste it now. ***It’s difficult to find Duke’s Mayonnaise in some parts of the country. If you’ve never had it, you should try it. You can order it from Amazon here.***

Obviously, I’m trying to grow my own tomatoes this summer. My husband and I picked up a few small plants, and he put them in the ground. We purchased Bonnie Plants brand Big Boy tomato plants and Better Boy tomato plants at a local store. To see the Bonnie Plants website for tomato information, click here. It’s not too late to do your own. I’ve been tending ours. That means I’ve been calling my brother to get tips on growing good tomatoes. I’ve also been checking online for information. So far, I haven’t killed them yet, and we even have a few small tomatoes showing up on our plants. I looked online to see how long it takes tomatoes to ripen on the vine, and on average, for the types we are growing, it takes about 75 days after germination. That seems like a long time. I’m counting down the days and hoping I don’t kill them before then.

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I’ve also planted a few other vegetables. We’ll see how that works out before I go into any detail.

My friend, Leah, in memory of my parents, gave me a Sunflower Grow Kit earlier this year, and I was so excited to get that started, and so far, they’re growing! The kit included potting soil, seeds, plant food, and a bag in which to grow them. You can see various grow kits here. I also planted some Burpee brand sunflower seeds, which you can find at your local home stores. I purchased mine at Home Depot, but they have them in Lowe’s too. If you live in or near Wetumpka, Alabama, you can visit the Lowe’s there and see my handsome nephew, Brennen.

My sunflowers have been a little slow-growing, but in the past few days they seem to be getting some traction. I have hope. Sunflowers aren’t difficult to grow, and I had huge success with them 16 years ago, growing some of the biggest, most beautiful sunflowers I’ve ever seen. I planted mine a little later than before, but with sunflowers, I think that’s OK.

For planting this year, since I still haven’t overcome my fear of snakes, I wore gardening gloves and used a gardening trowel. I don’t know how much protection that offers from snakes, but it made me feel better. I found myself scanning all around me while I dug, though. I won’t even walk out onto the patio without checking out the steps before opening the back door.

As the summer progresses, I’ll keep you posted on my gardening. Hoping for tall sunflowers with big heads and some juicy tomatoes soon.

Go play in the dirt!

***If you enjoy Kelly Mattei’s Favorite Things, please invite friends to like the facebook page.***

 

 

 

 

 

Sunflowers

Sunflowers look like happy faces. The young ones all face the same direction…toward the sun (to read why, click here). It’s not sunflower season, but pictures of them can sure brighten a dreary, winter day. They were my daddy’s favorite flower and by default, they became my mother’s favorite too. Bees love them too. Big fields of them cause people to stop on the sides of highways for photos. Because they were my parents’ favorite, they became my favorite too.

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This month is my parents’ 57th wedding anniversary (February 18), but they aren’t here to celebrate. That’s why sunflowers are featured in the Facebook cover photo. I took that picture last summer when my friend, Meg, and I drove up to Flat Rock to see our friend, Linda, perform the role of Ursula in The Little Mermaid. We stopped right on the side of the highway and took a bunch of photos.IMG_8684

Mother died December 30. It wasn’t really expected, but not entirely unexpected either. She had been in failing health for some time, but I didn’t see it coming. We talked every day, and even before Thanksgiving, she started saying, “Always remember I love you.” I thought she was just being sentimental, but in reality, she knew she was dying. Denial was strong for me. Looking back, I should have known, but I didn’t.  She mothered me for 50 years, and she was “Mama” to anyone who needed her. Fortunately, I was with her when she passed. There was no doubt she knew I loved her, and I knew she loved me. That’s all that matters.

FullSizeRender-27When my daddy died in October 2006, we had time to prepare and time to have those long, meaningful conversations. He had been diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer in February of that year, so we knew. We spent lots of time reminiscing with him and making jokes, because if we didn’t laugh, we would cry. He helped us get out of jams our whole lives, but we couldn’t get him out of this jam. Since our daughter was not quite three, she wasn’t enrolled in real school yet, so our little family moved down to our little condo on the bay near my parents’ house in Alabama for the last couple months of his life. We are grateful for that time together.

My husband and I got married in August of 2000, and the next spring, I planted sunflowers all over our backyard, half expecting them to survive. Surprisingly, those sunflowers grew to be the biggest I’ve ever seen! The blooms were way bigger than my head, and I have a big head. Some of the stalks were thicker than my arm, and lots of them grew to be ten feet tall…or more! When it was time, I stood on a step stool and still had trouble reaching some of the blooms to cut them.

Mother and Daddy were proud. Sunflowers are pretty easy to grow, but I had worked hard fertilizing them, staking them, and watering them. Unfortunately, we didn’t have cell phone cameras then. I did take some pictures, and they’re in the house somewhere, but I have no idea where. After that year, I never planted sunflowers again; I developed a fear that I would stick my hands in the soil and pull out a snake.

This spring, however, I plan to honor my parents by planting OUR favorites, sunflowers, in my backyard again. I’m going to overcome my fear of snakes and plant those flowers so Mother and Daddy can look down and smile.

If you want to grow your own, they’re pretty hardy flowers. You can order seeds here. There are probably more varieties than you know. The year I had all my sunflowers, I planted the seeds in trays and transferred them when they were a few inches tall, but I’ve heard people say it’s just as easy to grow them straight from the soil.

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I think the sunflowers Meg and I ran across were just west of Shelby on the south side of Highway 74. Another friend, Carolyn, tells me there is a big field of sunflowers on Hallsboro Road near Hallsboro, NC.

***Read about other sunflower fields at the bottom of the page.***

So this summer, when you see a field of sunflowers on the side of the road, I hope you’ll stop and take pictures. I’ll stop at every sunflower field I see, and I’ll be thinking of Mother and Daddy.

If you know of any sunflower fields anywhere in the US, please share the location in the comments. And please remember to invite your friends to follow Kelly Mattei’s Favorite Things on Facebook.

In the meantime, keep facing the sun…

 

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Sunflower field locations 

ALABAMA

*According to Country Living’s website, there has been a sunflower field in Autauga County, Alabama, in 2016, at the intersection of Highway 14 and Highway 33. Click here to go to their website and see an aerial video (by Alabama Aerial Photography) of the field. It’s incredible! I’m hoping it’s an annual planting.

*In Summerdale, Alabama, Alligator Alley has had a field in years past. This is located in Baldwin County, about 30 miles north of Gulf Shores, AL. It’s a small field, but easily accessible to visitors of Alligator Alley. Learn more about Alligator Alley here.

*I’ve seen photos of a sunflower field at Cornfield County Farms, just north of Montgomery, Alabama, in Elmore County. See more about that here.

GEORGIA

*The Anderson’s Sunflowers are located on Shiloh Road, in Cumming, Georgia, just north of Atlanta. You can see their Facebook page here.

NORTH CAROLINA:

*The previously mentioned flowers on Highway 74, west of Shelby; and the field in Hallsboro.

*Visit The Biltmore in Asheville between July and September, and you can see their sunflowers by the road to Antler Hill Village. See more about that here.

PENNSYLVANIA

*According to Heraldmailmedia.com, there has been an annual field in Marion, Pennsylvania, at Lesher’s Poultry Farm. Read more about that here.

SOUTH CAROLINA

*The Draper Wildlife Management area in Western York County, SC. Click here for more info. I visited this one with my friend, Jenn, and our girls a few years ago. When we went, they were smaller sunflowers, but beautiful, nonetheless.

VIRGINIA

*Burnside Farms in Haymarket, Virginia, hosts the Summer of Sunflowers. You can find out more about that here.

SUNFLOWER FESTIVALS

*There are sunflower festivals all over the world! Maybe my friend, Mary Ann, will road trip with me to a Sunflower Festival this summer. To find more info about those, click here. 

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