Earthquake?!? In North Carolina?

Earthquake?!? In North Carolina?

We awoke with a jolt this morning. Literally…a jolt.

A little after 8:00 this morning, we experienced an earthquake in North Carolina. While it was centered about 100 miles from where I live in Charlotte, we felt it. My husband and I were lazing in bed when suddenly, the windows started rattling, the bed started shaking from side to side, and we heard a rumbling sound. My husband asked, with an alarmed look on his face, “What was that?!?!” I responded, “I think that was an earthquake.” He didn’t believe me, of course, but I stood firm…”I think it was an earthquake.” Then I took to Facebook, posting, “Anybody else in Charlotte feel a shake just now?” And the comments started coming, starting with a friend who lives a few miles from me, “Um yep! That was insane!” Another friend who lives in a different direction said, “Yes!!! What the heck!?” I turned to my husband and said, “I was right. It was an earthquake. People all over the place felt it too.”

I started checking the United States Geological Survey website (see it here), but for the first few minutes, I didn’t see any report of an earthquake. Finally, a few minutes later…there it was…a 5.1 earthquake in the area of Sparta, NC, which is about 100 miles north of us. Apparently, there was an earlier quake…a 2.5 at 2:00 this morning. We slept through that one.

There was an earthquake in Charlotte several years ago. I don’t remember the year, but I had just dropped off our daughter with some friends at their club pool. I was driving and talking on the phone when it occurred, so when I heard about it later, I was surprised…didn’t feel a thing. My daughter, on the other hand, said she was sitting on the edge of the pool at the time and felt it.

I have never lived in California, but I have been there countless times. I visited San Francisco in 1989, just days after the World Series earthquake, and there were aftershocks while I was there, but they were all in the middle of the night…I was sleeping and didn’t feel a thing. I don’t want anyone to ever get hurt or killed, but I wish I had been awake when the tremors occurred. I returned to San Francisco soon thereafter, and the same thing happened.

Then, in 2014, I was getting ready to go to Los Angeles with a friend and our daughters. I have been there countless times, but for some reason, I had a different feeling about this upcoming trip. My mother was alive at the time, and knowing what a worrier she could be, I called her and said, “Mother, I just want to tell you…if there is an earthquake while we are in the LA area, you should always assume we are OK unless you hear otherwise.” I went on to explain to her that when lots of people are using their cellphones, it can be difficult to get calls to go through. “We’re tough chicks,” I told her. Later, I laughed and told my friend, Mary Ann, about the call to my mother.

The LA event was held at Barker Hangar, an event venue in Santa Monica. It was a family-friendly event, so we all went. We decided to leave at about 9pm. We had hired a car to take us to and from the event. We had been in the car, on the way back to the hotel, for about ten minutes, when I got a phone call from Mary Ann, asking if we were OK. She went on to explain that she had just heard there had been a 5.6 earthquake in the LA area. I said, “We’re fine. We are in the car, so we had no idea. Of course, I missed it.” When we arrived back at the hotel, everyone there was talking about it. I called my mother and told her, “If you’ve heard there was an earthquake, don’t worry. We are fine.”

So yes, I’ve been in several earthquakes, but I’ve never felt one…till today. I guess I can mark that off my bucket list. I don’t need to do that again.

If only we had been looking at the pool when it happened…that would have been cool, for sure.

My Favorite Dogs of Instagram

My favorite dogs of instagram…

Bear with me here. I know you might be thinking dog Instagrams are silly. And I’m the first one to say, “yes, they are silly.” I haven’t always liked them, but right now, I’m all about some dogs of Instagram. Here’s why: COVID. I have always loved scrolling through Insta and seeing travel pics of my friends in different parts of the country…and different parts of the world. But with COVID, I’m seeing the same things over and over…beach, lake, mountains, beach, lake, mountains…it’s all the same things I’m posting, and frankly, it’s getting tired. The beach is OK, but I need more mental stimulation. The beach is a little like fireworks to me…after a little while…meh. I prefer seeing pictures of friends and their families in cities! I like seeing funny/fun gatherings and sporting events! I like seeing concerts! But none of that is likely to happen for a while, so Insta needs a boost. I don’t even like my own Insta right now!

And that brings us to the dogs of Instagram. It’s different! These dogs are funny and heartwarming! They make me smile. They spread joy…and can’t we all use a little joy right now?!?!

So here they are…my favorite dogs of Instagram:

mocha.dale  This one is my very favorite pooch of Insta. Mocha is an Airedale Terrier who lives in Miami. Honestly, I don’t even remember how I came across Mocha’s Insta, but I’m so glad I did! She is a beautiful 7-yr-old Airedale Terrier. She has been dealing with some health issues as of late, but she is an energetic Airedale through and through. We had an Airedale named Annie. She was truly my favorite dog of all time, and we lost her in November of 2013. But this beautiful Mocha reminds me of our Annie. She “talks” to her human, and she is just an all-around happy, beautiful dog. She swims. She does tricks for treats. And her “human” manages the posts really well. Plus, you get to see scenes of sunny Miami! Did I mention she wears hats sometimes? She’s my fave…hats off to Mocha! *Another Airedale I love on Insta is juan_theairedale.

dougthepug Doug the Pug doesn’t need me to boost his Instagram presence. This adorable little man has over four million followers! Yes! Four Million! But he works hard for his “money.” Doug the Pug has posted over 3,000 times, and he always has a gimmick. Just last week, he was wrestling with the waterhose in his yard…very amusing. He wears clothes! He eats ice cream and hamburgers! He goes boating! And he is very expressive! Everyone falls in love with Doug the Pug…including me.

butter_roux Y’all remember the 1989 movie starring Tom Hanks called Turner and Hooch? You might not even remember Tom Hanks was the star, but it’s likely you remember what Hooch, the dog, looked like. Well, Butter Roux and Creme Brûlée, the mastiffs featured in this Instagram account will remind you of Hooch, slobber and all. They live in Pittsburgh, and their “parents” take them on lots of adventures and post lots of photos. These two pups love each other, and because we don’t see a lot of this breed, it’s fun to look at their soulful eyes and frowning faces…gives new meaning to the term “resting bitch face.” But they’re sweet dogs! Need a smile? Check out Butter Roux and Creme Brûlée!

desi_loves_elmo Elmo, the Greyhound featured in this Instagram account is a funny-looking dog with great expressions. Aren’t Greyhounds just interesting dogs anyway? They’re so lean and expressive! Well, Elmo doesn’t disappoint, and his “parents” love to dress him up for the camera. Elmo posts regularly, and I think lots of his photos should be memes. Through this account, I also found some Italian Greyhounds named Mateo and Ernesto. You can see their Insta account at mateo.y.ernesto.

tunameltsmyheart This little chiweenie (chihuahua/dachshund mix) will quickly find a spot in your heart. I had never seen a dog like Tuna before; he is one of a kind. With a massive overbite and “jacked up” teeth, Tuna has an unusual look, to say the least. Some folks would likely say, “He’s so ugly, he’s cute.” Does that make sense? And did I mention he has an attitude that’s bigger than that overbite? But he’s loving to his people and will even do a video via Cameo if the price is right! Yep, you guessed it…Tuna is immensely popular on Instagram with over two million followers. I didn’t discover Tuna. He was already crazy popular before I found him. Serious….ugly cute. And I love this dog!

Here are a couple more I love but they don’t post very often, so I didn’t include them in my list above:

reallylolly OK, y’all. Lolly is the “daughter” of Hungry Girl Lisa Lillien. If you aren’t familiar with the Hungry Girl brand, you’re missing out. You can see the website for Hungry Girl here. But back to the girl of the hour…Lolly. I wish I could tell you what kind of dog she is. I’m sure I’ve heard Lisa say it before, but

frankiemoney Holy moly! Frankie Money took me by surprise! I was visiting Los Angeles with my daughter on New Year’s Day of this year, and while she and a friend were shopping at The Grove (not my favorite place in LA), I decided to sit down on a bench for a few minutes. I had been sitting there alone for about three minutes when suddenly, a woman sat down next to me. She appeared to have some sort of baby carrier attached to her torso, but instead of a baby, there was a small dog. The woman was turned in such a way that it was a little difficult for me to see the dog; his rear was toward me.  People were approaching, asking to take photos of the dog, so I knew there was something interesting about the pooch. And then, the “mom” stood up with the dog to take a photo with a passerby, and I saw what was going on. The dog was dressed in a white biker jacket, sunglasses, and gold chains holding not one, but two rhinestone-studded dollar signs. He was cute! And he was calm and friendly at the same time. And his name? Frankie Money. The mom introduced me to him. I took a photo of them, and I started following the adventures of Frankie Money on Insta…the rest is history. Frankie doesn’t post often…hasn’t posted since February…but when he does, it’s funny. I hope he’s OK?

#squishypaws If you have kids who ever watched Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn on Nickelodeon, it’s likely you have heard of Squishy Paws, the family dog on the show. Squishy Paws is actually portrayed by a dog named Carson the Dog, but I’ve never found an Insta account for Carson the Dog. I included Squishy Paws in my list, though, because I recognized him when I did a tour of Paramount Studios with my daughter and her friend a few years ago. The kids didn’t believe me when I said it was Squishy Paws, so I asked the lady who was with him! That’s Squishy Paws in the photo of my daughter and her friend at the top of this piece!

 

An Accidental Reunion

An accidental reunion.

Earlier this week, I told my teenage daughter to pack a bag, because we were making an impromptu trip to a college in another state for an “unofficial” visit. She’s a rising high school junior, so it’s time to start getting an idea about where she might like to continue her education. Most admissions offices at colleges are not open now because of COVID, so “official” visits aren’t happening, but what was to stop us from going to a campus and checking things out on our own? Since it seems all we have done is go to the beach this summer, I was ready to roll to almost anywhere that wasn’t the beach. So we quickly packed our bags with a single change of clothes and the essentials, and we hit the road.

When I say we packed “essentials,” I mean we absolutely packed bare bones. I took a change of clothes, something to sleep in, any medications we might need, and toiletries…hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant. That’s it. I didn’t take makeup, because we were just going to be staying for one night and weren’t going to spend any time socializing. On the way out of town, we did a swing through the ChickFilA drive-thru for some lunch, and my daughter made a hotel reservation for us while I drove.

We had 3 1/2 hours to talk while we were on our way there, and because we took the scenic route, we had lots of cute little towns to see and some beautiful scenery too!

We arrived on the college campus at about 4:30 in the afternoon and went straight to the campus bookstore. I learned a long time ago that the campus bookstore is a good place to start. It’s usually easy to find, and shopping is always fun! We purchased a few items before the store closed at 5pm, and we set out driving around, trying to get a feel for the university. We looked at dorms…all from the outside of course…and we also got a feel for the campus by looking for different areas…the science buildings, education buildings, athletic facilities, sorority and fraternity housing…and of course, the always important football stadium, which was impressive, for sure.

We then checked into our hotel and walked to dinner at a nearby restaurant to discuss everything we had seen. While we were at dinner, I posted a few pictures, and then…bam! Two of my friends from college who live nearby commented, reminding me that they live there! How had I forgotten they lived there?!?! I have seen one of them a few times over the last couple of years, when she visited Charlotte, and I last saw the other one nine years ago when we had a planned reunion at the Virginia Creeper bike trail. After hearing from them, we scheduled a lunch for the next day…an accidental reunion! What an amazing surprise in the middle of this road trip!

The next morning, my daughter and I checked out a few more things on the college campus before meeting my “old” friends for lunch! Here’s the great thing about being 53 and getting together with friends from college…it’s always comfortable! It’s always easy! There was absolutely no awkwardness about it as we reminisced about old times but laughed and talked about what’s going on in our lives now too. The three of us met when we were 18 and 19 years old, and here we are…more than 30 years later…still able to fall right back in where we left off…without missing a beat! We talked about funny memories…it was the 80s when we were in college, after all! And they weren’t appalled by and didn’t make fun of my makeup-free, t-shirt clad look!

We’re all 30+ years older and wiser. I’d be willing to bet we’re even 30 years more fun…which would be quite an accomplishment, since we were a lot of fun in college! Next time I’m there, we’ll make time for some fun! One friend has a grown daughter in her 20s, and the other has two boys…both college age. I’m behind the curve with a 16-yr-old, but I loved that my daughter was there to meet these lovely ladies I’ve known for more than half my life. She enjoyed meeting them, and afterward, she told me she had decided, after meeting them, that maybe I was cool when I was younger after all! I’m not sure what she thought I was like before, but apparently, she wasn’t sure I was “cool.”

Over lunch, we also talked about actually planning a reunion…maybe another trip to the Virginia Creeper Trail, since it’s fun, super easy, and in a cute town. Last time, we stayed at the lovely Martha Washington Inn in Abingdon (for info, click here) and took in a show at the Barter Theater, the State Theater of Virginia. The Barter is even staging shows during COVID at a local closed drive-in theater! (For info on The Barter Theater, click here.) Maybe next time, we can stay at the Martha Washington Inn again and look for some ghosts while we’re there. I’ve heard the place is haunted, but we didn’t encounter any spooky visitors while we were there. And the restaurant at the hotel, called Sisters, was fabulous.

Even more exciting to me is the possibility that I could see these ladies more often if my daughter opts to go to college in the town where they live! Wow! I could visit my daughter and hang out with my old friends too! Plus, she would have a couple of surrogate moms nearby.

I’m so glad we had our accidental reunion! It was a bright spot in the middle of all this COVID madness…a much needed visit with some dear friends.

 

Please Drop In

Please drop in.

Maybe I should phrase that differently. Maybe I should say “please drop out.” What I mean is that we would love to have friends and family visit anytime, but only in the backyard. With the COVID pandemic, things have changed, and I don’t just let lots of folks in my house. But outside? All bets are off. If you’re in the area…or bored…or just looking for some company…come on over!

When I was growing up in different places in Alabama, folks used to drop in all the time. This was well before the era of the cellphone. Back in the 70s and 80s, if we were driving down the road and decided to drop in on some friends, we couldn’t just pick up a cell phone and call. I guess we could have gone to a payphone, but often that would have taken us out of our way. Drop-ins were common. Wanna stop in and see your friend? Turn into the driveway, and walk right up and ring the doorbell!

I remember, when I was a little girl living in Brewton, Alabama, my mother had a good friend named Martha. We lived on the outskirts of town, but Martha lived right in the middle of town…on the main drag…in a big, beautiful, historic home. We visited often, because she had kids our age. One day, when I was probably five or six, I had a baby tooth that was ready to fall out. It was even starting to hurt…it needed to come out. We were driving down Belleville Avenue, the road where Martha’s house was, and Mother said, “Let’s stop and let Martha pull it. She’s really good at pulling teeth.” And without calling ahead, we drove into the driveway, right up to the porte-corchere on the side of the house, like we owned the place. Mama knocked on the door, and Martha let us into her kitchen, which I thought was beautiful, because it had yellow gingham wallpaper. Martha stood me on a chair in her kitchen and pulled that tooth right out. I can still see in my mind exactly where I was standing.

Another time, Mother was going to drop in on Martha, but when she approached the driveway in her car, she didn’t see Martha’s car in the driveway. Instead of stopping, she kept driving. Later, when they were talking on the phone, Mother told her, “I was going to drop in to your house today, but when I got there, your car wasn’t there.” Martha replied, “Well, did you come to see me or my damn car?!? I was home! You should have stopped.” Mother laughed. In fact, that was a story Mother told for years afterward.

When we lived in Spanish Fort, Alabama, all the neighborhood kids dropped in all the time, and Mother’s friends would often show up on the doorstep. They would sit in the kitchen and drink coffee. And sometimes they talked for hours…solving all the world’s problems, I’m sure. Or maybe just talking about soap operas.

I vividly remember neighborhood moms standing around talking in the driveway. Back then, everybody didn’t have a garage with a garage door opener. We didn’t drive right into our garages when we got home from somewhere. We got out in the driveway, and if our neighbors were outside, everybody stood around and talked for a while. I think our garages/garage door openers put an end to that for a lot of people. Fortunately, in my neighborhood, we’ll see our neighbors out walking and pull our car over to chat. But that doesn’t happen everywhere.

When we were teenagers in the 80s, it was like we had a revolving door…neighborhood kids and teenagers in and out all the time.

Drop-ins used to be part of life. But no more. Now, everybody calls ahead, so we don’t have any pleasant surprises when friends show up unexpectedly.

I’m ready to change that. I’m telling my friends, “Drop in!”  Ring the doorbell when you get here, and if we’re home, I’ll motion for you to walk around the side of the house to the backyard, where we can sit by the pool and have a cocktail. If you want to bring lunch, that’s OK too! Chances are, I’ll be here, since I’ve become accustomed to spending more time at home with this pandemic happening. Of course, it’s hit or miss on whether I’ll still be in my pajamas, but if you don’t mind, I don’t mind! Maybe I’ll even share some cucumbers or tomatoes from my garden!

 

Driving Through Small Towns

Driving through small towns.

Last week, my 16-year-old daughter and I drove from Charlotte to the beach in the Florida Panhandle. It’s about a nine hour drive. I could have taken Interstate 85 and cut the time by about an hour, but I wanted the drive to be peaceful and scenic. Rarely is there anything peaceful or scenic about I-85 between Charlotte and Atlanta, so I checked Waze and Google Maps, but I ended up designing my own route, and it worked out really well.

Our drive took us through four states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. And we passed through lots of small towns along the way…some more memorable than others. We were on Interstate 77 from Charlotte to Columbia, SC, and then on I-20 from Columbia to Augusta, GA, but that’s when we dropped off the interstate and started driving through some small towns.

The first one that got my attention was Wrens, Georgia, about 40 minutes southwest of Augusta. At first, there was nothing remarkable about the town, but soon I saw a woman in traditional Mennonite dress walking with three little girls in the same traditional clothing. I slowed down as the speed limit decreased and noticed more Mennonites. Because we had time restrictions, I didn’t stop anywhere, but I made a mental note of the community, and later, when we stopped, I looked online to see if there are any Mennonite restaurants or bakeries in the area. Indeed, there are, and they get great reviews. I might just have to grab a friend for a day trip to Wrens.

We drove through Macon and Albany (pronounced al-binny in Georgia) before passing through the very charming Colquitt, Georgia. On the way down to the beach, we were driving in torrential rains, because a tropical storm was coming through. I had never heard of Colquitt, but even in the rain, it was a beautiful little town. I didn’t think to ask my daughter to take photos, but when we stopped, I looked up the town online, and wow! When we were returning home, I planned ahead. It was a Sunday, so the town was basically closed (small towns in the south do that), but I had my daughter ready to take photos as we passed through. There are 17 beautiful murals throughout the town; my favorite is on a peanut silo and depicts a man picking peanuts and a cotton field with a crop-duster flying overhead. And the town even offers mural tours! You can get the info here. Colquitt is a long way from Charlotte, but next time I am driving down that way to Tallahassee or to the Florida beaches, I will plan ahead to spend a night in Colquitt at the historic Tarrer Hotel. And if it’s in May or October and the COVID restrictions have been lifted, maybe we will visit the Colquitt State Theater and catch a production of Swamp Gravy, the folk life story of Georgia.

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We spent the first night in Marianna, Florida, because I wanted to have dinner with my cousins who live there. We dined at a local restaurant in Sneads called Johnny Mac’s, where my cousins knew everyone who walked in and out of the restaurant. My 16-year-old daughter was amazed that they knew everyone, but she was also amazed at how friendly everyone was. If you ever find yourself in Jackson County, Florida, stop in at Johnny Mac’s. I had the bison burger, but everything looked delicious! See the website here. The next day, we met my cousin for breakfast at the Waffle House in Marianna, and again…my daughter couldn’t get over how friendly the servers were.

The rain was coming down in buckets when we left breakfast, but I wanted to show my daughter a few things around Marianna. One place I wanted her to see was Blue Springs Recreational Area. Because it was raining so hard, it was difficult to see the swimming area, which is fed by a natural spring, but she got the idea. She still hasn’t visited Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna, but one day we’ll do it. Mother used to take us when we were kids. We also drove through downtown Marianna so she could see some of the beautiful historic homes and the charming downtown. I told her that when I was a little girl there was a radio station with Nipper, the RCA dog, on top of the building, but it had been gone a long time. I also remember going to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the theater there and being terrified. What the heck? I think I was about four years old, but there’s no longer a theater in downtown Marianna. In fact, several of the historic downtown buildings were destroyed in Hurricane Michael two years ago. I looked around at the buildings and all the downed trees and thought how my daddy would have been heartbroken by the destruction.

After we left Marianna, we drove on I-10 toward the Defuniak Springs exit, but stopped in Chipley, Florida, to gas up. When I was a little girl, we often drove through Chipley on our way to Marianna, and I remember a sign on Highway 90 that said “Bunnies for Sale.” I wondered if the sign was still there, but before we drove farther in that direction, I checked online. Apparently, someone does still sell bunnies in Chipley, but the operation is no longer on Highway 90. I’m guessing the sign is gone too, so we got back on I-10 and continued driving west.

After taking the Defuniak Springs exit, I suggested we drive a few miles north to Highway 90, so I could see if the old Horne’s restaurant building is still standing. Horne’s was a chain restaurant with a circus theme that closed in Defuniak Springs in the 1970s, probably about the time I-10 opened. A lot of businesses along Hwy 90 closed when the interstate came through. Hwy 90 had been the main thoroughfare between Jacksonville, Florida, and West Texas, so there were lots of little roadside motels and mom-and-pop businesses that closed when the interstate opened. The world looked a lot different then. You can still get a glimpse of it by driving down Highway 90 and seeing some of the remnants. Even in Mobile, Alabama, there are still some of the old roadside motels on Hwy 90.

While we were in Defuniak Springs, I called my friend, Linda, in Charlotte. Her husband grew up in Defuniak Springs, and she had mentioned to me that his grandmother had a lovely home on the lake in town. She gave me the address, and my daughter and I set out to find it. It did not disappoint. The home is a lovely Queen Anne-style home facing the lake in the middle of the historic district in town. Yes, a beautiful lake in the middle of town! We took lots of photos of the home, the lake, and some other historic sites in the area. Defuniak Springs is a charming town, indeed…worth a visit when I have more time to spend there. To see more about the history of the area, click here. As we drove out of town, we stopped at a Whataburger, because we love the chain and don’t have one in Charlotte. Again, my daughter was amazed at how friendly the employees were. IMG_8292

From Defuniak Springs, we drove straight to the beach, but those stops in small towns made quite an impression on my teenage daughter. Small towns just have a different flavor. I should know…I’ve lived in several of them in Alabama. God bless small towns.

 

 

 

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!

 

 

I Can’t Hear You!

I can’t hear you!

Since the COVID-19 pandemic has required me to wear a mask in public, I have learned something: I cannot hear, see, or communicate well while wearing a mask. In fact, I’ve decided masks totally interfere with my brainpower. It’s weird!

It’s terrible. No, it’s not as terrible as getting sick, but dang it…it seems all my senses are failing while I’m wearing a mask! Add in the fact that it’s hot inside that mask, and my glasses steam up, and it hardly becomes worth it to leave my house. I also feel like the maskless people are thinking I’m judging them when I’m not. No, I’m not. Y’all go ahead and judge everybody else all you want, but I’m just not that person. I know someone who actually confronted people who weren’t wearing masks in the grocery store recently. Nope. Not gonna do it. Personally, I think she is more in danger of getting beaten up in the parking lot than she is of catching COVID, but whatever. 

But back to the real topic: how masks impair our communication skills. Like I said, I can’t hear while wearing a mask. I know my hearing is not as good as it should be anyway, but it’s worse with a mask. Maybe I have some mad lip-reading skills that I just can’t use while others are wearing masks. Maybe it’s the claustrophobia I feel behind the mask. Maybe the mask is decreasing oxygen to my brain! Maybe it makes me feel like I’m disconnected. It really does do that, for sure. People can’t read my facial expressions, and I’m accustomed to smiling at folks all the time. I can smile all I want now, but no one is going to see it. A smile, in my opinion, is the same as a space alien saying, “We come in peace.” But if we can’t see each other’s smiles, we all look a little hostile. Sure, resting b***h fave doesn’t show either, but frankly, I think everyone looks like they have RBF under a mask.

Normally, when I’m in public, I might strike up a conversation with the person standing in line in front of me or behind me. Lots of times, I’ve stuck up conversations with folks and discovered we had people in common…even in faraway places! I was in Tennessee a few years ago, and when I started talking with the lady in front of me in line at a tourist attraction, I learned she was from Panama City, Florida. She told me she worked for a dentist, and I mentioned that my aunt worked for a children’s home in the area. The lady then told me she the dentist she worked for did a lot of work with the children’s home. I called my aunt, who told me that yes, she knew the dentist…but she didn’t just know him from there. She had gone to high school with him!

That’s what I miss…those impromptu conversations with new people. The masks are taking that kind of fun away from me. Yes, they might be saving us from spreading the virus, but they’re taking away some of the fun of life. Communication is just a little more difficult. 

I know, I know. Masks are likely going to be a way of life for the foreseeable future. I’m just going to have to get accustomed to it. But that does not mean I have to like it. I miss making new friends in Target. I miss making connections. I miss smiling at people in public. 

 

 

 

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Memorial Day

Memorial Day.

It’s more than just a day to gather for a picnic with family and friends. It’s more than just the beginning of summer. It’s more than a day off from work.

Lots of folks think Memorial Day is a day to honor all veterans. Nope…that’s Veteran’s Day, observed in November. This federal holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, is for honoring and memorializing military personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country…they died while serving our country.

Don’t get me wrong. there is nothing wrong with gathering with friends and family on Memorial Day weekend. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating the beginning of summer. But the actual purpose of this particular holiday is to remember and memorialize those made the ultimate sacrifice to make freedom possible and keep it possible in this country.

When I was growing up, we gathered with family and friends on Memorial Day, often at my grandparents’ house, but my parents always made sure we, at the very least, talked about the meaning of the holiday. My grandfather served in World War II, but we were fortunate he came home safe and sound, as did his brother. I can’t remember hearing of any family members who lost their lives in the line of duty, but my parents always made us aware that our freedom “wasn’t free.” People lost their lives so we could be free.

I think, this year, with the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have learned a little something extra about freedom. It has forced me to spend a lot of time thinking about freedom and how fortunate we are to live in a country where we have freedom. Sure, it has been limited in the last couple of months, but we know this is temporary. Can you imagine what it would be like if these limitations on our freedom were permanent? If we risked arrest for leaving our homes without permission? Or if we risked living out our lives in a work camp for speaking out against our government? I don’t claim to understand all the other cultures and governments of the world, but I know that in this country, if we aren’t happy with the government, we can, at the very least, vocalize our unhappiness. Remember, people in North Korea can’t do that. If they speak out against the government, they can be killed or sent to work camps.

Several years ago, I read a book called Escape from Camp 14, by Blaine Harden, based on the life and journey of a man named Shin Dong-hyuk, the only former prisoner known to have escaped from an internment camp in North Korea. It was eye-opening and disturbing. In fact, I’m going to read it again, just to revisit the details. It truly made me thankful that I live in the United States, but I think it will be especially meaningful now. If you’d like to read it, you can order from Amazon here.

While Memorial Day is always meaningful to me, this year, it will have more meaning. I will sit down with my family over breakfast Monday and talk about the meaning of the holiday. Weather permitting, my husband and I will take a walk through a cemetery near our home. Unfortunately, we don’t have any small flags to place on the graves of those who lost their lives in the line of duty this year, but we will remember those who lost their lives while fighting for our country’s (and the world’s) freedom.

Happy Memorial Day to you and your family.

 

 

 

Returning to a Simpler Vacation

Returning to a simpler vacation.

When I was a kid, my family took vacations. They weren’t usually extravagant, but they were loads of fun. Lots of those vacations involved amusement parks and beaches.

The beaches were almost always Gulf Coast beaches, because those were the closest to where we lived, and let’s face it, they are the prettiest. Argue if you want, but I know the truth…it’s hard to beat the powder-white sand and crystal-clear waters of the Gulf Coast. Sure, I’ve had fun on Atlantic beaches (lots of great memories on Maine beaches) and Pacific beaches, but the most beautiful beaches in the US? Gulf Coast. Sure, Caribbean beaches are incredible, but with air travel being a little iffy right now? Gulf Coast.

When I was growing up, we tended to visit the Gulf Coast beaches of the Florida Panhandle. Often, it was Panama City Beach…the most-developed beaches of the area. It was great fun. Back in the day, there was Miracle Strip Amusement Park…lots of great memories were made there. The rides were legendary: the Starliner rollercoaster; the Abominable Snowman; Dante’s Inferno; and lots of other midway-like rides. We loved it. Aside from Miracle Strip Amusement Park, there was also Shipwreck Island, a waterpark with a wave pool (a big deal in the 1980s) and waterslides that were so big they gave you wedgies. Great memories!

The beaches were beautiful. Restaurants and gift shops were plentiful. And often, our friends were there too, so we would run into someone we knew.

We also visited Destin and Fort Walton. A couple of times, we stayed in Seagrove Beach with family friends, and one year, our whole family…with all our aunts, uncles, and cousins, spent a few days in Mexico Beach, a quiet beach community in the Panhandle…we made some great memories on that trip. Mexico Beach is still a quieter village than most beach towns, and back then, there wasn’t an amusement park or arcade in sight. We spent time on the quiet beaches. We went scalloping in Port St. Joe. We sat around laughing and playing games. We made some great memories. In fact, we talked a lot about streaking, because the Ray Stevens song, The Streak, was popular at the time.

Even more funny is that we often traveled in a Volkswagen bus. My mother, for whatever reason, decided in the early 1970s that she wanted a VW bus, and she got one. Daddy thought it was funny that she wanted one, because Mother couldn’t even drive a car with a manual transmission. But you know what? She learned. He bought the VW, and he then taught her how to drive it.

After we got the VW, we took it on all our family vacations. Daddy used to laugh at the fact that we had two perfectly good air-conditioned cars sitting in the driveway, but we opted to drive that VW, sans A/C, on our crazy vacations. For whatever reason, vacations were just more fun in that vehicle. I’m not sure why my parents eventually decided to sell it…maybe it had something to do with the perpetual oil leak that no one could seem to repair. But it was fun while it lasted.

So, this summer, since flying is not an option till at least July for us, we’ll be reliving some of those vacations of my childhood. I’m taking my daughter to a Florida beach to hang out with her cousin who lives nearby. They’re about a year apart in age, and I’m hoping they’ll make some great memories just like I made there. Hopefully, I’ll get to spend some time with my cousins and my aunt too. We have friends from Ohio meeting us later in the visit, and maybe I’ll have the chance to show them some of the things I loved in that area when I was a kid. We won’t be staying in Panama City Beach. We’ll be staying in the resort area between there and Destin, and it’s a lot different than it was when I was a kid, so I’ll be figuring it all out too.

Later in the summer, we will visit the beaches in Alabama…also beautiful, white sand beaches, but I don’t often tell people about them, because those beaches are the best-kept secret in the country. My husband grew up on the Alabama beaches. We visited them when I was growing up too, but he practically lived there in the summer. We’ve been taking our daughter there for years, and we had our own place on the beach there several years ago, but we sold it, because I didn’t like feeling like we needed to go there. But now that our daughter is 16 and can drive, it will likely be a different experience for her. She has a friend who lives there too, and she will likely take a friend with her, so she will have lots of fun. I’ll likely get to see some friends from college (I’m talking to you, Suzan and Cupcake) and some friends from the Mobile area (where I lived before moving to Charlotte).

We do have a vacation to Puerto Rico planned for July…still holding out hope that it will happen. It looks like we won’t visit California this summer…the first time in years we won’t spend at least a week there in June. But we don’t want to go if restaurants and stores aren’t open. That’s a big part of the fun there. So that’s off the table…but Puerto Rico…we still have our fingers crossed on that one.

Other than Puerto Rico, though, it will be totally old school beach vacations for us. And that’s OK. No matter what, we will have fun. I’m actually looking forward to spending time in the car with my daughter…extra time to talk and see different things as we go. And we will get to enjoy more time with family just hanging out at the beach.

I sure wish we had an old school VW bus to drive.

Vote Me Off the Island…Please!

Vote me off the island…please!

Last night, I accidentally woke my husband up about 15 minutes after he had fallen asleep. He was fast asleep, and I was scrolling Facebook, waiting for my restless leg syndrome meds to kick in…pun intended. As I passed pictures of different people around the country in various stages of “shelter in place” or “economy is open,” I came across something from the Today.com Facebook page titled Married? Quarantined? These hilarious parents get the struggle. And that got my attention. So I clicked.

Do you remember middle school health class? Remember when the teacher told the whole class they were going to learn about sex, but if you laughed, you were just showing your own immaturity? Remember how just knowing you weren’t supposed to laugh caused a giggle to start welling up inside you, even before anyone said the word “penis”? That’s how I felt while I was reading this piece on Today.com…I felt like that kid in health class who was trying not to laugh, but because she was trying not to laugh, everything was funnier.

Well, I started reading the piece on Today.com, and everything it said was so familiar! Those other people writing the posts could have been me! You can see the whole post by clicking here. But just so you get the idea, one post, from “Lurkin’ Mom,” said, “My husband came home from the store with red delicious apples like he thinks I won’t divorce him just because we’re in the middle of a pandemic.”  Aren’t we all tired of listening to our family members chew?!?! I started to giggle…even though I knew I wasn’t supposed to, because my husband would be angry if I woke him up….and knowing I wasn’t supposed to laugh just made it worse. My silent giggles were causing me to shake, which in turn, was causing the bed to shake. I kept reading, because there was no turning back once I got the giggles, and then I read this post by Maryfairyboberry:

Quarantine Day 2, Hour 689- I’ve become very aware of my husband’s toenails and I’d like to be voted off the island now.

And that was it…I lost it. All those giggles I had been trying to suppress came out in repeated snorts! Yes, I was snort-laughing, because I was trying so hard not to laugh! It wasn’t just one snort…and they were loud snort-laughs! I knew I was in trouble when my husband sat straight up and said, “Are you OK?!?!?!”

That’s when I could just let the laughter go…tears of laughter were rolling down my face as I tried to explain to him while gasping for air, “I’m…fine…I’m…just…laughing…at…this…post!” He was not amused. He wasn’t terribly angry, but he did say, “Why don’t you just go to sleep like a normal person?!?”

Hmmm…because I’m not a normal person?

Here’s the thing…I was laughing so hard at all those posts, because they ring so true! I don’t mean the toenail thing is true. My husband’s toenails are just fine, but when you’re cooped up together for so long, something is going to bother you! I love my husband, but we just aren’t meant to be together 24/7 for weeks/months on end! Is any couple really supposed to be together 24/7 for weeks/months on end?!?! I feel pretty sure that if someone asked my husband right now, “If you were stranded on a deserted island and could pick one person to have with you, who would it be?”…he would not pick me. I’d probably pick Bear Grylls, for his survival skills alone, but he’d make fun of my lack of survival skills…so I’m going with Jason Momoa or The Rock…or maybe Mike Rowe! Yes, Mike Rowe would be my choice. My husband would for sure pick Heidi Klum or Giselle Bundchen. He would not pick me.

Trust me when I say he wants to be voted off this island too! It’s not just me! We enjoy each other’s company, and we have had a lot of fun together during the shelter-in-place order. We’ve spent time in the sun. He has helped me with my gardening. We’ve watched a lot of bad TV. We’ve had cocktails under the stars….and laughed till our stomachs hurt. But it’s time to leave Isolation Island, and if one of us doesn’t leave soon, well, don’t blame us for what happens.

Lucky for him (and me), he is going to the beach this weekend. I guess here is where I need to put another disclaimer: I love my husband. I do not want him to be gone permanently, but his going to the beach for the weekend will be good for both of us! When he comes home, I will welcome him with open arms. Absence makes the heart grow fonder!

But back to that Today.com piece…do you want to know which post resonated the most with me? My friend, Mary Ann, called me after I reposted the whole piece from Today.com. She said, “I know exactly which post made you laugh the hardest.” And she was right. If you read my piece back on February 26 titled Karma Bit Me (you can see it here), then you’ll understand. In the Today.com piece, jackwax04 posted this exchange:

(my husband has the man flu. After 3 days):

M: will you please just take the medicine?

H: “pouts” fine, what flavor is it?

M: what flav…it’s ADULT FLAVORED!

 

Holy moly…welcome to my world! And yes, please vote me off the island now!