Some Things Never Change

Some things never change.

Growing up, I lived in a few different small towns in Alabama. I was born in a different state but moved to Alabama as a baby, and the first small town we lived in made quite an impression.

When I say it was a small town, I mean it was a small town, but at the time, I didn’t realize just how small it was. Downtown always looks big to little kids, and this one was no exception. Every year as a little girl, I looked forward to Christmastime. This tiny town would have a Christmas parade with Santa joyfully waving at the tail end of the parade. Downtown was decorated every year with what I thought were beautiful decorations on each pole in the downtown area. I moved away from there when I was seven years old, but in my mind’s eye, I can still see the Christmas decor.

Yesterday, as I scrolled through Facebook, I came across some pictures of a small town Christmas parade. It was, in fact, the same small town. I flipped through the pictures, looking for Santa, and there he was…atop a fire truck at the end of the parade. It made me feel nostalgic, and it made me smile. Some things never change…a small town is still hosting a Christmas parade, complete with Santa. I did notice one difference, though. I remember the parade being a daytime parade when I was a little girl, but this parade was a night parade with illuminated floats. Still, it was a sweet reminder of my childhood. It also appeared the parade might have been interrupted by a train passing through town, as the tracks go right through the middle of the town.

I guess every small town has its own traditions. We moved from there to another small town that was more of a community without a proper downtown area. I don’t remember any kind of community-wide Christmas celebrations there, but that might have been because we were close to a bigger city where we could drive into town and enjoy holiday festivities.

After that, we moved to yet another small town that had its own holiday decor in the downtown area and an annual Christmas parade. The parade was a big deal every year, and it seemed everyone in the town participated in one way or another. I remember wondering who was going to watch the parade, because it seemed almost everyone was involved in the festivities in some way! But every year, the spectators came out to see every local group that participated: high school marching bands, little league and high school cheerleaders, dance troupes, dance schools, convertibles with beauty queens perched atop them, restaurants and other local businesses sponsoring trucks or cars decorated for Christmas, and yes, Santa…always at the end of the parade, waving joyfully to all the girls and boys.

We have raised our daughter in a bigger city, Charlotte, North Carolina, and I absolutely love living here. However, occasionally, I think she has missed out on some of the joy of living in a small town…like the small town Christmas parade. Don’t get me wrong. She has experienced Christmas in different ways in the Charlotte area. When she was a little girl, we would go to Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens to see the lights (and Santa) there. We went to Winterfest at Carowinds Amusement Park to see the lights (and Santa) there. We visited Santa regularly at our club and at the local mall. We did lots of fun Christmas-themed things. But she never went to a small town Christmas parade, and she never had the opportunity to participate in a small town Christmas parade with her cheer team or dance class.

The good news? She has no idea that she missed that experience. Maybe I will drive her through some small towns this holiday season so she can see how it’s done. We still have a couple more weeks. I’ll get excited about it too, because some things never change.

Cleaning Out My Closet Before the Holidays

Cleaning out my closet before the holidays.

A distant cousin posted a meme on Facebook today that said, “Every marriage has one person who throws things out, and a garbage-loving, chaos goblin who says, ‘But I was saving that!'” I replied, “Me…I’m the goblin.”

A few times a year, though, I get the urge to get rid of the chaos, and today was one of those days. I made the decision this morning to tackle my closet again when I realized I needed a place to hide some Christmas gifts. I have a pretty nice-sized closet. It’s not particularly large, but it’s not small by most people’s standards, either. Could I host a party in there? No. Do I have it decorated to the nines with a chandelier and the prettiest wallpaper I could find? No, but my closet, as it is, should be sufficient for the stuff I have, especially since I converted all my hangers to velvet flocked hangers earlier this year. (If you haven’t done that yourself, you will likely find you have more closet space if you do. I purchase mine from Amazon here. The ones in my feature photo are black, but I prefer the ivory ones.) And there should be plenty of space to hide gifts…now that I cleaned it out.

When I first moved into this house 22 years ago, I would swap out my wardrobe seasonally…taking the spring/summer clothing up to our climate-controlled attic space in fall, and swapping it with the fall/winter clothing in spring. I feel pretty sure I did that for several years…until I found better things to do with my time and stopped that insanity. Now, all my clothes and shoes are in the closet year-round, and I’m the first to admit I have a lot of clothes and a lot of shoes. They are color-coded and separated by season (go ahead…gasp! I know you’re surprised!), but they are all in there. So every now and then, especially after I have purchased new things, I realize I need to get rid of some things. Today was one of those days.

Today, I started by going through the dresses then moved on to the jackets, tops, pants, shoes, and finally…the miscellaneous items that get stashed in there when I’m in a hurry…like packets of seeds for my garden…not sure why or how those ended up in there.

Lots of people use the “if I haven’t worn it in a year, I’m not going to wear it” method of cleaning their closet, but not me. In fact, for one of my daughter’s graduation events last May, I wore a lovely pair of designer shoes I purchased in Palm Beach 21 years ago. I had not worn them in 18 or 19 years, but every time I cleaned my closet over those 18 or 19 years, I resisted the urge to toss them out, donate them, or sell them, because like the meme my cousin posted, “I was saving that!” Seriously, I knew I would have another opportunity to wear them. Plus, they are lovely, classic shoes that I purchased on sale for 90% off! How often does a deal like that come around?!?! I can’t get rid of those! I’m too proud of the purchase! I also recently wore a dress I hadn’t worn in 2 1/2 years! It’s a quality dress I purchased in LA three years ago. I had worn it just once before, but I was so glad I had it when I needed it!

It’s rare that I get rid of a quality purchase. I’m smart enough to know that any good shoes or handbags I purchased over the years are likely to be called “vintage” one day. I hang on to those. But the impulse purchases I make in a Zara or H&M store? (Don’t go all crazy on me. I love Zara and H&M.) Or the “filler” clothes I purchase on a whim? By “filler,” I mean they are just clothes I’m likely to wear to events that aren’t fancy, but they’re also not super-casual. I wear good clothes to parties, lunch or dinner with friends, or events. I wear super-casual (we’re talking t-shirts, hoodies, sweatpants, etc) to run errands. But those filler clothes? They are perfect for air travel, school sporting events, and stuff like that. Those “filler” clothes are the ones that are likely to go into the “toss” pile if I haven’t worn them in a year. And that’s exactly what happened today.

I normally don’t throw out handbags. I have tons of “vintage” handbags, even though, as I have gotten older, they have gotten very little use. At 55, I mostly carry a small, black, Tumi Ruma crossbody. (You can purchase one like it from Tumi here. It would make a great Christmas gift for anyone on your list who travels, because it’s small but large enough for important documents, cash, lipsticks, mints, and credit cards.) In fact, I don’t know that I have carried any of my other handbags in a year or two…except for the clear handbags I’m required to carry to college and professional sporting events. And shoes…mostly the ones I toss are well-worn flip flops and sneakers. Today, in fact, I’m wearing some sparkly, purple Uggs I’ve had for at least 10 years. I’m not wearing them to make a fashion statement. I’m wearing them simply for comfort, because they are, indeed, comfortable. These Uggs will never be thrown out. But those cheap flip flops I purchased last summer when I was on vacation and realized I forgot to take flip flops? They were the first things to go today.

So my closet cleaning method, while different than most, works for me. And maybe it will work for you? My method? Toss the cheap stuff, but keep the good stuff and the frequently-worn stuff. I have sweatpants and jeans in my closet that I have had in the regular wardrobe rotation for years!

And now I have a clean closet with plenty of room for stashing Christmas gifts until I can get them wrapped and under the tree (when I get that up!).

Reminds Me of My Mother

Reminds me of my mother.

I’m on vacation. When our daughter told us she was going to Nantucket for a few days in July, my husband and I looked at each other and said, “Let’s go somewhere!” We promptly booked a getaway to the Bahamas.

And here we are. We woke up at 3:45 this morning to make our way to Charlotte-Douglas International Airport to start a rare trip without our daughter. The last time we vacationed without her, she was hiking her way across Iceland with a teenage tour group. That time, we traveled to Miami for a few days.

We arrived on the island at about noon today. Because we are staying in a villa, we went straight to the grocery store to get the necessities and some snacks. And then…because it seemed like we had been awake forever, we took a quick nap before going for a three-mile walk along the beach and stopping for dinner at a beachside restaurant along the way. It was a great afternoon.

But that’s not what reminded me of my mother.

After we returned to the villa, my husband took a shower in one bathroom while I took one in the other bathroom. I think I might do this in the wrong order, but I always remove my makeup before getting in the shower. And when I get out, I repeat the makeup remover process again.

I don’t use some fancy makeup remover. All my adult life, I have used Pond’s Cold Cream to remove my makeup. I have tried lots of the fancier, more expensive products over the years, but I have never found anything that removes makeup more easily for me than Pond’s.

When I’m home, I don’t notice the scent of Pond’s Cold Cream, but tonight, for some reason, in a villa in the Bahamas, I noticed the scent. And it smelled like my mother. Where do you think I got the idea to use Cold Cream to remove makeup? Yep…from my mother. I remember, as a little girl, watching her slather cold cream on her face and thinking it was so funny to see her with her face caked in it. She would slowly wipe the cold cream from her face to reveal a makeup free look. And the scent of cold cream often lingered on her face.

Often, I will reapply a little cold cream and wipe down my face one more time before bed, just because it moisturizes my skin and smells clean to me. Tonight was one of those nights. I am sitting in bed listening to the talk show my husband has on his computer. I’m wearing my green and white striped pajamas from my favorite hotel. They feel crisp and clean, and my face feels smooth and clean…and smells like my mother. It’s a good memory for me.

If mother were still alive, she would laugh at the fact that the scent of Pond’s Cold Cream makes me think of her. But I like to think she would be flattered too. She would think it is sweet that I have childhood memories of watching her slathering her face with cold cream.

I’m not sure why being in a different place brought out the scent, but I’m glad it did. I like thinking of my mother. And now I will pay more attention to the scent every time I use Pond’s Cold Cream.

It reminds me of my mother…

The Food Tour…er, Vacation

The food your…er, vacation.

I don’t know what it is about me, but the older I get, the more food-centric my vacations become.

We just returned home from a week-long trip to Southern California. Starting a month before we went, I was making phone calls to make sure we secured reservations at our favorite restaurants. It’s a familiar refrain. We travel to SoCal a few times a year, and there are several “must do” restaurants, so I have it all down to a science…starting 30 days in advance.

This trip we managed to hit all our favorites and even added a new favorite or two. We know which restaurant we like for Asian fusion. We know which restaurant we prefer for steak. We know which one we prefer for seafood. We know which one we like for comfort food. We know where our favorite desserts are. And now we have a new “boujie” favorite.

Interestingly, we are pretty low-maintenance most of the time. In “real life,” I’m happy to have a simple salad or sandwich most days. I meet friends for lunch a couple of times a week, but we don’t always do the “boujie” lunch…occasionally, but certainly not always. In fact, tomorrow, I’m meeting a friend at Arthur’s, a restaurant on the bottom floor of our local Belk store. It is a locally-owned restaurant that has been open for 40 years, and everyone I know who grew up in Charlotte has a story about Arthur’s to tell from their high school days. It’s not fancy. It’s certainly not boujie, but it’s good comfort food. Personally, I love their French fries. My friend, Jennifer, who grew up here, loves their Turkey Grinder. I have to admit it’s pretty good. Their burgers are fantastic, and I have another friend, a native Charlottean, who swears by their cheesesteak sandwich.

I even go on vacations to more laid-back places (small islands in the Bahamas or beach towns along the Gulf of Mexico) where I know the local dives serve the best food.

But in SoCal? It’s all about the food…and the people-watching…because really, who doesn’t love to see a celebrity or two? I will admit, I am a stargazer. I’m not a rabid fan. In fact, I have seen lots of celebrities and even met lots of them, but I rarely “fangirl.” I have gone a little “fangirl” a couple of times, but seriously…only a couple. My daughter loves that I can spot a celeb; it takes a special eye. I just happen to be a face person. Lots of people in the world are “surroundings” people, but I’m not one of them. You might remember what color the walls are in a room, but I’m going to remember the faces of the people I see there. And that’s why I’m a good star-spotter…because I look at faces. In fact, on this most recent trip, I spotted a celeb from a favorite teen movie from the 1980s (Ben Stein), a very famous rapper (Nelly), an Academy Award winner (Nicholas Cage), and a recently reunited celebrity couple (Bennifer!). And every time, I had to point them out to my daughter and her friend. They wouldn’t have even seen them if I hadn’t made them aware.

But back to the food. We had reservations every night of our stay. A couple of nights I skipped out so the girls (they’re 18) didn’t have to be accompanied by a parent while they dined. I remember 18, and I know how important it is to feel independent. One night I had a migraine anyway. But there were certain restaurants I was not going to miss. One favorite is on the beach in Malibu…incredible food and exciting atmosphere. Another favorite is in the hotel where we stay…nice people in a beautiful setting, and the best dessert in town. We added a new “boujie” lunch option this time after seeing it on a friend’s Instagram. My daughter and her friend had “order envy” when my lunch arrived. They ordered burgers but I ordered “Risotto disguised as a pizza.” And it was fantastic. We have reasons beyond food for dining at certain restaurants, but even with good atmosphere, the food has to be acceptable. Also, because I have gallbladder issues (having surgery for that on July 14…it has been delayed several times), I rarely eat red meat. I try to eat fish and chicken for protein, so I love places that have great fish and chicken dishes. And Southern California has lots of great options.

We flew home late Tuesday night…fat and happy. I probably shouldn’t eat anything for two weeks. I likely need to go running every day for two weeks…or more. And I have taken it easy on the eating. I will say this: it was worth it. We simply can’t get the same kind of food in North Carolina. We live in a lovely city in a great state, but “nothing comes close to the Golden Coast” where food is concerned.

So yes, we enjoyed our vacation…also known as “the food tour.”

I Wish I Hadn’t Said That

I wish I hadn’t said that.

Seriously. I have said this to myself a million times. Maybe I accidentally offended someone with something I said. Or maybe I struck back hard (verbally) at someone who, I felt, had struck at me first. Maybe I overreacted. Maybe I used inappropriate language. Maybe I was sick or tired…and I was snippy. Maybe I wasn’t sick or tired, but I was snippy for some other reason. Maybe I said something ugly I shouldn’t have said. Or maybe I repeated something I shouldn’t have repeated. It happens…not just to me. It happens to lots of people, unless they’re living in a cave…alone…with no one else around to talk to.

No matter what the different situations were, there have been lots of times I have wished I had kept my big mouth shut.

I’m guessing everyone on the planet has said something they wish they hadn’t said. Unfortunately, once we put words out there, we can’t reel them back in. It’s a lesson we should all learn as children, but sometimes we make mistakes.

I was talking with a teenager the other day who told me she regretted some things she did and said when she was younger. She told me some of the things she regretted…most were silly, elementary-school type things. And that’s when I took a moment to tell her that, even at 54, I still say and do things I regret. Many times, I look back on things I have said or done, and I know I could have handled things differently. It’s just part of life. We like to think we learn all the lessons we can ever learn, but I know really nice, good-hearted, genuine people who tell me they often wish they had handled different situations differently.

A friend was telling me just yesterday how her Mama Bear instinct had kicked in on a situation with her daughter, and she had interceded where she shouldn’t have. I get it. I have been there. I have done that. That Mama Bear instinct is fierce. People who have never been a Mama don’t understand just how strong that instinct is. And even some Mamas don’t have the same strength of instinct as others. My friend said she can recall lots of times she lashed out over situations involving her kids…and she cringes. Again…been there, done that…I wonder how many hours of my life have been spent cringing over something I have said.

I’m certainly not perfect. I’m not a perfect person. I’m not a perfect parent. I’m not a perfect friend. I try, but sometimes my emotions get the best of me. But if anyone tries to tell me I’m the only crazy mom out there, I will laugh. I know I’m not the only one. I know every mom out there is capable of doing whatever it takes to keep her baby from getting hurt. But in most of the cases in which I have interceded, I have regretted it. In almost every instance, I later wished I had just stepped back and let things play out. Protecting our kids is not always helpful. Why? Because as painful as it may be, they need to learn to protect themselves. And honestly, in hindsight, I wasn’t always interceding on my daughter’s behalf…it simply felt like it at the time. But often, I found I was interceding because of my own beliefs…not hers. She usually didn’t even care about what was happening, but I did. I’m cringing again right now.

So yes, those regrets continue throughout life. Even today…this very day…I regret something I said to my husband. I was in a hurry to get somewhere, and he was slowing me down with a conversation…I got snippy. Instead of asking him nicely if we could discuss it later, I said, “I’m trying to get out the door! Can’t this wait?!?” I ended up apologizing later. Fortunately, he accepted my apology…probably because he has to live with me for “as long as we both shall live.” Forgiveness is key.

It’s important to remember that forgiveness is key in all these situations. We all live in “glass houses.” We all hurt people sometimes. We should all be forgiving. And we also have to learn to forgive ourselves.

So when I offend you…I can almost guarantee it will happen at some time if we are ever around each other…I will likely ask for forgiveness if I’m aware that I have hurt you. If you’re not the forgiving type, we don’t need to be friends anyway, because I am definitely the forgiving type. I only hope my friends will offer me the same courtesy I would offer them in a situation. I tell people all the time, “You have to try to offend me…and you have to try many times before it becomes an issue.”

And if you’re my friend for very long, you’ll hear me say at least once, “I wish I hadn’t said that.” Maybe I should just carry cards in my handbag that say, “Please forgive me for _____________. I wish I hadn’t said/done that.” I can hand them out after I realize I’ve likely offended someone.

I wish I hadn’t said that.

Underneath Is Just A Lot Of Poop

***I wrote this when my daughter was 14 and never published it. Found it today and remembered this conversation that made me laugh.***

Recently, my daughter was telling me how much she would rather be participating in something one of her friends is participating in than what she was doing at the time. It was the same old song and dance, “Bertha (not a real person) says it’s great.”

I responded with, “I hear what you’re saying. I know you think Bertha’s activity is more fun, but you need to remember, the grass is always greener over the septic tank.”

She looked at me, puzzled. “What does that even mean?”

Of course, she has no idea what it means, because she has no idea what a septic tank is. So first, I had to explain what a septic tank is. She made that ugly face teens make when they think something is disgusting. I then tried to explain the septic field to her, but she didn’t want to get that in-depth, and she again asked what my statement meant.

I explained that sometimes, concrete septic tanks form cracks in them, and a little bit of what’s inside seeps into the surrounding area…causing the grass above to grow a little greener. It was easier to explain it that way than to get into the mechanics of a septic field. Of course, that elicited an “ewww.” I explained the meaning of the saying this way, “Sometimes you see green grass (or hear about green grass) and that lush, green grass is beautiful, but what’s really underneath is just a lot of poop. That means someone might be telling you how great their life/job/school/relationship is, but you can’t see what’s underneath, and it might really be bad, but it looks good from the outside. You can’t see the poop, but it’s there.”

She understood poop talk, of course. I’m sure my explanation left a mark on her memory. She likely wishes she hadn’t asked. I was just glad we could stop talking about septic tanks, even though I was the one who mentioned them in the first place.

Y’all know I totally stole that saying from Erma Bombeck, about whom I’ve written before. Thank God for Erma. I’m reading her books now, and hopefully, I’ll find some more words of wisdom I can use on my daughter from time to time…especially ones that contain bathroom humor. Teenagers totally understand that.

For now, though, I”ll just keep using, “The grass is always greener over the septic tank,” and if she keeps doubting what I’m telling her, I might have to make her get into the car. We might have to drive a long way to find a septic tank for me to prove it to her. I don’t know exactly how far outside Charlotte that will be, but I’m willing to do it to make a point.

Or I guess I could make her watch The Wizard of Oz with me again. We would have to watch the whole movie to get to the point in the story where they pull back the curtain on the “wizard,” revealing that things aren’t always what they seem. I’m still a little afraid of those flying monkeys though, so that will have a to be a last resort.

And maybe one day I’ll have an opportunity explain to her what a grease trap is and tell her about the time our neighbor’s dog fell into ours while it was being cleaned! Ewwww!

Let’s Get Patted Down

Let’s get patted down.

Yesterday, when I was preparing to return to Charlotte from Montego Bay on a flight today, I was having a lot of difficulty with the Verifly app. I couldn’t get it to work for me, while all the other people in our group (high school senior spring break) were zooming right through the flight check-in process on their apps. I was frustrated and wasted a lot of time before finally giving up. I knew I could check in at the airport, so I wasn’t terribly concerned.

I should have known better.

When I arrived at the airport three hours before my international flight, I went straight to the American Airlines Priority line and got checked in. And that’s when I saw it: the dreaded SSSS on my boarding pass. For those who don’t know, if your airline boarding pass shows SSSS on it, it means you have been selected, for some reason unknown to you, to be subjected to a full bag check and pat down. I groaned audibly, and my daughter asked what was wrong. I told her, “I’m going to be pulled for extra security check.” She rolled her eyes. Was she surprised? No. She had encountered this with me many times. I have been flagged more times than I can count.

I have done everything I can to make the travel gods know I’m not a criminal. Sure, I drive slightly over the speed limit sometimes, but that’s about it. I even come to a full stop at all stop signs…unlike most people I know. I have TSA Precheck, for goodness sakes, but sometimes, they just don’t care. I guess they like looking at my underwear.

It has actually been a while since I have seen that dreaded SSSS…so long, in fact, that I was shocked to see it this time. Before I had TSA Precheck, I had SSSS on my boarding pass every time I flew. The first few times, it was frustrating. After about the 20th, it just made me flat-out angry. And today…I was angry. Really? I’m a short, middle-aged mom from Charlotte. I don’t look threatening. Nothing in my past makes me look threatening. Big Brother clearly hasn’t watched closely enough to realize just how boring I am. I just don’t understand it. And that’s why it makes me angry. It’s pretty frustrating to be in Group 1 for boarding but have to stand aside to be searched while groups 2, 3, and 4 fill up the overhead bin space. And it’s frustrating to have someone pull your dirty laundry out for everyone to see…literally, your dirty laundry. Add the fact that something inevitably gets lost…today it was a pen and a book…both disappeared after they searched my bags. Oh, and did I mention they were soooo slow? One girl was searching the first bag while the other one watched till I said, “Really? Can’t you be searching the second bag while she searches this one, so I don’t miss out on the overhead bin space altogether?” She actually said, “Everyone gets the space above their seat.” I literally laughed out loud. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, honey, and those dogs are eating your overhead bin space.

If you don’t understand the frustration, you clearly have not had to endure it. Shoes off…standing on a nasty floor where you’re likely to pick up a fungus. Someone feeling you up without buying you dinner…someone you don’t even know, in fact! People boarding the plane ahead of you and looking at you like you’re a criminal. People going through your personal belongings and then getting some of your dirty laundry caught in the zipper of your suitcase when they try to close it back. Because yes, I expect them to close it back. You open it…you close it…and good luck with that. Ugh. And then you board the plane and pray there will be overhead space. It’s frustrating and maddening. And now that it has happened again, it is likely to keep happening to me. I probably need to take an anti-anxiety med before going to the airport from now on.

So if you have trouble checking in for a flight online, it might be because you’ve been flagged. If you check in and see SSSS on your boarding pass, prepare yourself for what’s ahead…a thorough bag check and a pat down. You can ask for all of it to be done privately, but then you just lose more time. Just suffer through it and be on your merry way. If you’d like to read more about the dreaded SSSS, click here. And if you would like to apply for a government redress number to possibly avoid this in the future, read more about it here. It is one reason you need to get to the airport well ahead of your flight time.

Today, I finally boarded the plane and found I had superhuman strength from the angry adrenaline when I lifted my luggage into the one space left in the overhead bin near my seat. Honestly, I think I might have just sat down and cried if it hadn’t been available. It was a long trip. Not long in time, but I was feeling really under the weather most of the time, and it was a group. The people in the group were absolutely lovely, but generally speaking, I just don’t do group travel. I like my travel to be more my own thing. I like to make my own plans and do my own thing. I’m kind of selfish about my travel, because well, it’s what I like to do, and I’m particular about how I do it. I guess I “don’t play well with others,” so whatever viral thing I have made it a struggle…not COVID…I tested negative for that. This trip wasn’t about me, anyway. It was about the high school seniors, and they had a blast.

Let’s get patted down.

Forever Friends

Forever friends.

We never really know who will be our forever friends, do we? I have had friends in my life I thought would be forever friends, but for different reasons (sometimes my fault, sometimes theirs, sometimes no one’s fault), it didn’t work out that way. For the most part, we just never knew the last phone call would be the last phone call. Or the last lunch would be the last lunch. We just drifted apart for whatever reason…moving, new responsibilities, life. No matter what, they all had some effect on my life. I have learned something from every friend in my life.

But my 18-yr-old daughter is visiting a friend in Pensacola, Florida, this weekend, and I think they are going to be forever friends. I can’t explain why I think it, but I do. Something about these two…a bond formed outside of other friendships, maybe? They support each other all the time. They have each other’s backs all the time. And they have similar interests (they’re both athletic, fun, and funny). They talk, I think, almost every single night via Facetime. So many nights I have walked into my daughter’s room to wish her good night, and she is talking with this friend. It makes me happy.

In 2014, when my daughter was 10 years old, we had a place on the Alabama Gulf Coast. That summer, because we knew she wouldn’t be willing to do it later, we decided to spend most of our time there…at the beach. Our daughter was playing club soccer, and at that point, she was very into it. Her club soccer coach, upon hearing we would be at the beach for the summer, suggested she find someone to practice with there…or even attend a camp there. So I did what moms do; I enrolled her in a camp and also enrolled her in some regular training sessions.

The camp I signed her up for turned out to be on the Naval Base in Pensacola. That Monday morning, bright and early, when we arrived, she looked out at the field from the car and said to me, “Mom, it’s all little kids.” She was right. It looked like a lot of six and seven year old kids. We had arrived early, so we had time to sit in the car and talk while we scanned the field. After a few minutes, I spotted a blonde girl who appeared to be about my daughter’s age, and I said, “There’s a girl your age!” She didn’t waste any time; she jumped out of the car and ran straight to the girl on the field. I stayed for the session but didn’t watch all the training. I walked around the area for exercise while she played, but I noticed when they had a break and walked back over to the sideline. My daughter came running over, her new friend in tow and introduced me to Lindsey. Even after knowing each other for an hour, they were already acting like best friends!

The camp was a one-week camp. Our daughter wasn’t feeling well one of the days, so she missed. Another day, it stormed, as it does on the Gulf Coast. But when she was there, she played soccer with her new friend at the camp. The last day was cut short by another storm, and soon after starting, the skies opened with torrential rains. We all ran to our cars to escape the downpour, and the rest of the last day of the camp was canceled. We left without getting contact information for Lindsey, because everything had ended so abruptly. It was fun while it lasted.

The next week, I took our daughter to the first of the weekly soccer training sessions. It was just going to be two hours a week on Wednesday mornings. So that Wednesday morning, I drove her to the field. And when we arrived, she looked out at the field and said, “Mom, it’s all big kids.” I couldn’t believe it. She was right. They all appeared to be over 13, and she was just 10. We sat in the car and talked about whether she wanted to do the training or not, and after a few minutes, I saw a minivan pull up behind me, and three kids tumbled out…two older kids and a girl who appeared to be our daughter’s age. I said, “Look! That girl is about your age!” She looked back and excitedly said, “It’s Lindsey!” And she couldn’t get out of the car fast enough! She jumped out with her soccer bag, and the girls embraced happily before going out onto the field.

After that, Lindsey visited us at our place on the beach, and the girls bonded. Whenever we visited the beach after that, they hung out. Two girls who lived 500 miles apart became best friends…having been brought together by soccer…with a little nudge from God, I think. Eventually, Lindsey visited us in Charlotte a couple of times, and last year, she vacationed with us in California. I’m not sure if her parents know it yet, but the girls are planning for her to vacation with us again this summer…maybe more than once!

Their meeting and formation of a friendship is one of my favorite friendship stories. In the fall, they are both off to college. No, they aren’t going to the same school. Mine is going to the University of Alabama, and Lindsey is off to Ole Miss. They’ll be just three hours apart, so I see lots of road trips in their future.

They’ll likely still Facetime regularly, though not every night, but I feel pretty sure these two will be forever friends. God put them in each other’s path for a reason.

Midnight Sledding

Midnight sledding.

It started snowing at our house in Charlotte, NC, yesterday at about 6pm. We were expecting a few flurries and nothing more. Even flurries are pretty to a girl from Alabama (me), so I enjoyed watching them from the warmth of our home, and eventually, I realized we were getting more snow than had been forecast.

Our daughter had a friend sleeping over, but they had gone to another friend’s house a few miles away in another friend’s car. At about 11:30pm, my daughter texted me, “Can you come pick us up?” I responded, “On our way.” My husband and I got into his Jeep, and once we were on the road, we realized how fortunate we are to have a Jeep with 4-wheel-drive, so even driving on slippery roads wasn’t difficult. (Don’t make fun, Northerners. The city did not prepare the roads in advance, it appeared. I’ve read about schools closing up north because it was too hot to go to school at 85 degrees. I went to school in 100 degree temperatures growing up on the Gulf Coast, and we didn’t have A/C in schools then…seriously.) We saw a few accidents along the way. One car had slid into the back of another. Another car had slid into a light pole. But fortunately, we were fine.

We delivered our daughter and her friend safely back to our house, and as soon as we got home, we all ran inside to put on snow gear, so we could go sledding! Yes, it was midnight, but that just made it more fun! After putting on warm clothes, coats, gloves, and hats for the snow, we all met in the garage and grabbed sleds. Fortunately, our daughter gets a new sled from Santa every Christmas, so we have a collection from which to choose! To purchase the fastest sleds we have, click here.

I’m sure our neighbors thought we were crazy, but we didn’t care. They might have even been disturbed by our laughter, but we didn’t care. I could hear one neighbor shoveling snow while we were sledding (yes, shoveling in the middle of the night), and I just felt sorry for him. He was missing out. We just wanted to have some fun, and we did!

My husband and I started the fun by taking a sled run down the big hill on our street. The snow wasn’t packed, so it wasn’t as fast as it usually is, but it was still fun…and funny. Then our daughter and her friend started sledding down another smaller, but steep, hill next to the lake. They laughed, and we laughed. Between sled runs, we threw snow balls and took photos. My husband was wearing a Santa hat for warmth, which made the pictures even more festive.

We had lots of fun. We laughed. We sledded. But mostly, we made midnight sledding memories. We don’t have snow every winter in Charlotte, but when we do, we try to take advantage of the opportunity. Over the years, we have made some great memories with great friends. In fact, a friend who now lives in Boston saw my new photos on Instagram and commented, “Brings back fun memories.” And that made me smile. So yes, we made more fun memories last night too. Our daughter is 18 (so hard to believe) and will be heading off to college in Alabama in August. She won’t be here in Charlotte during January and February anymore, so we likely won’t get to sled with her next winter. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to go midnight sledding last night.

And today, we’ll do a little more sledding. It’s going to melt pretty quickly, so we will have to take advantage of it early. We’ll make a couple of runs down the big hill before going over to the adjacent golf course. I won’t stay long…one or two quick passes down the hill…but we will make good memories. And we will laugh. Our daughter will likely stay a little longer, and then everything will melt, and we will go back to business as usual.

But years from now, if our daughter has her own child(ren), I hope she will tell stories about midnight sledding with us. Last night, she said of me and my husband, “Y’all are both just five years old at heart. Most parents are just getting old.” She probably doesn’t even remember saying it, but I remember it; I took it as a high compliment.

I hope it snows again soon, so we can go midnight sledding again!

Holiday Gifting (Part 5): Give the Gift of Fun!

Give the gift of fun!

So, we have all been hearing for weeks on end that we need to shop early this year, because the supply chain is messed up. I have seen a few signs that this might be true, so I’m looking to purchase gifts that don’t have to be shipped here from other countries. Near the top of the list? The gift of fun! Someone said to me recently that I remind them of Tigger from Winnie-the-Pooh’s Hundred Acre Woods. At first, I didn’t understand, so I simply asked, “Tigger?!?” My friend responded with, “Yes, Tigger! You’re always looking for the next fun thing!” Well, I won’t argue with that. And I love to share fun with other people! So why not give the gift of fun?!?!

Here are some ideas:

  • Amusement Park Passes. If you happen to live near a good amusement park and have someone on your list who loves rollercoasters as much as I do, a season pass could make a great gift! We are fortunate in Charlotte to have Carowinds, an amusement park with world-class thrill rides and rollercoasters. I used to be a regular there when our daughter was growing up, but in the last few years, I haven’t even been! I’d love if my husband gifted me with a season pass…it would give me an excuse to go!
  • Movie Passes. Movie theaters are finally open again, and we need to take advantage of it! I haven’t been to a movie since the pandemic began, but I plan to change that this week when I go see High Society (it’s the 65th anniversary) on the big screen! And I hope to continue going to movies! If you have someone on your list who enjoys a good movie, movie passes or a gift card to a local theater could make a great gift! And if they happen to love older movies, you might want to check the schedule for big screen oldies here.
  • Sporting Events. If you have a college or professional team in your area and have a sports fan on your list, tickets to a game could be a fun gift! In Charlotte, we are fortunate to have the NFL Carolina Panthers, the NBA Hornets, the minor league Charlotte Knights baseball team, and even some college teams! Not in Charlotte? Look around for other sporting events: rodeos, track meets, and more! If it’s a female friend, maybe you order an inexpensive stadium-approved clear handbag from Amazon (click here) and put the tickets in that!
  • Concerts. A few years ago, someone gave us tickets to a Sade concert as a Christmas gift. My husband loves Sade, but I was never a big fan…till we went to that show! John Legend opened and put on a fabulous show, making me a big fan, and then Sade was incredible! Wow! The lady is a performer! We had a great time, and I knew then that concert tickets make great gifts. Don’t we all remember concerts we’ve attended? How many gifts of “stuff” do you actually remember?
  • Special events. Maybe a local hotel or restaurant is hosting a wine tasting? Or maybe there’s a local Yoga and Mimosa event? Tickets to any type of special event of interest to the recipient make great gifts. A hotel near us, for example, hosts afternoon tea on weekends. Tickets are not required, but I have a friend who loves the afternoon tea experience at this hotel, so I know I could give her a hotel gift card with a note about the tea, and she would love it.
  • Family experiences. If there’s a family with kids on your list, they might enjoy a night at a Great Wolf Lodge! When our daughter was younger, she absolutely loved our local Great Wolf Lodge…the water slides, the restaurants, the kids club room, the arcade…everything about it. And I loved taking her and a friend, because I could relax while they had all the fun they could stand! Top Golf is another fun family experience…give a gift card for the whole family to spend some time together there! For kids, you might give the gift of art at Small Hands, Big Art, where they have art classes for kids of all ages.
  • Classes. I have a friend who loves taking classes. She just loves trying new things! She has taken cooking classes at Sur la Table. She has taken painting classes. She has taken glass-blowing classes and pottery classes. She loves to learn, so I know I can gift her a class of some type, and she will be thrilled!
  • Thrilling experiences. Have someone on your list who is a bit of a daredevil? Maybe they would like to try skydiving? Check with local companies…they might offer gift cards. Or maybe they would just to do indoor skydiving at iFly Charlotte. That’s an experience I’d love to have myself! Or if NASCAR is their thing, give them the Richard Petty Driving Experience! Into whitewater rafting? We are fortunate to have the US National Whitewater Center right here in Charlotte. It’s worth a trip to Charlotte for all the fun there! Or maybe they just like to watch thrilling experiences…like an air show. Air shows are held all over the country; check your local listings…tickets to an air show could be fun for the thrill enthusiast. Or perhaps flying lessons?

Just consider the recipient and think of something that would be fun for him/her. A cooking class sounds dreadful to some people (me), but lots of other people would co crazy over it!

The gift of an experience is something that will be remembered forever.

So this year, instead of worrying about whether or not the gifts you ordered are on a ship in the Pacific, give the gift of fun!