Top of the Rollercoaster

Top of the rollercoaster.

David Wilcox, a folk musician/singer-songwriter from Cleveland, Ohio, released a song in 1991 called Top of the Rollercoaster, a song about riding a rollercoaster on a 30th birthday as a metaphor for life. “It’s the moment of truth, the top of your youth…when you tip the top of the rollercoaster, look down the other side.” (To hear the song, click here.) Lucky for me, it came out several years before I turned 30, so I could listen to it on my 30th birthday and feel like it was written for me. However, unlike the song, which proclaims “it’s all downhill from here,” I didn’t look at turning 30 as the “top of my youth;” I looked at it as a new beginning. And honestly, my life got better after 30. But that’s not really what I want to discuss. I want to talk about rollercoasters, because at the age of 53, I still love them.

Don’t most of us remember our first rollercoaster ride? I don’t mean those little rollercoasters like Thunder Mountain at Disney. I don’t even mean rollercoasters like The Rock-n-Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios or Space Mountain at Disney. If those are the most exciting rollercoasters you’ve ridden, I hate to break it to you…they don’t even count. They’re not thrilling. Sure, they’re a little fun, but definitely aren’t thrilling. When I get off those rides, I don’t have the same “high” as I have when I step off the Intimidator or the Fury 325 at Carowinds…or even Goliath at Six Flags Over Georgia. So when I say we likely remember our first rollercoaster ride, I mean a ride on a real rollercoaster…a thrill ride.

The year was 1976. It was the year of America’s Bicentennial, and I had turned nine years old in May…just as school was getting out for summer. I had been to Six Flags Over Georgia countless times with my family, and since 1973, I had been watching people disembark from the Great American Scream Machine, which at the time was the longest (3800 ft), tallest (105 ft), fastest (57 mph) rollercoaster in the world. It was a giant wooden coaster, and for a long time, I was terrified of it. But that summer…the Bicentennial summer…I decided I could ride it. I was standing with my family, watching riders disembark when Daddy asked me if I wanted to try it. I answered, “Yes,” and we got in line. The line for the Scream Machine was always long in those days, and there were no fast passes, so we waited…and I’m sure I changed my mind a dozen times before we ever boarded the coaster, but when it was our turn, I followed Daddy right into that coaster seat.

If you’ve ever ridden a wooden coaster, you know it’s not as smooth as a steel coaster. The first hill seems “rickety,” with the noise of the chain pulling the train up, and the “clickety-clack” of the tracks as you wait to reach the top. I was terrified, but I was excited at the same time. Back then, though, safety mechanisms weren’t what they are now. In my memory, there was nothing tight around my waist to hold me firmly in my seat. I recall a loose chain across my lap and a metal bar that bounced with every bump. Just as we reached the peak of the first hill, the train lurched forward as it started its descent. I weighed less than 50 pounds, and I felt like I was going to fall out of the car. I yelled to Daddy, “Push the bar down!” But he just laughed as we continued the bumpy ride. Once I knew I had survived the first big hill, I knew I could survive the rest, but it was scary…and exhilarating.

The ride ended back at the station after an exhilarating two minutes and twenty seconds. I had survived. I had ridden my first major rollercoaster and lived to tell about it. I feel sure I was giggling as we got off the ride, and I probably talked about it on the walk back up to the top of the hill near the entrance, where my mother was waiting. And then, like any coaster enthusiast, I said, “Let’s do it again!” I’ve never looked back. What an adrenaline rush! And every time I ride a rollercoaster, I remember that day in the summer of ’76.

Fortunately, my own daughter is a rollercoaster enthusiast. When she was a little girl, she would cry, because she wasn’t tall enough to ride the coasters at our local amusement park, Carowinds, which was owned by Paramount at the time, and then purchased by Cedar Fair Parks. As soon as she was tall enough, we rode them all the time…for years. When the old log flume ride was removed from the park in 2010 to make way for the Intimidator, a rollercoaster with a height of 232 feet that goes 80 mph, we had to work up the nerve to ride it, but once we did, we never looked back. And then, five years later, the Fury 325 debuted. Reaching a maximum speed of 95 mph and with a height of 325 feet, it looked daunting. But the first time we rode it, we rode in the second seat. The next time? Front car with my friend, Angela, and her daughter, Hannah…and it was a big adrenaline rush! My daughter was 11, and Hannah was 13…and we loved the ride! In fact, every time I’ve ever ridden it, it has been a big adrenaline rush. I feel pretty sure that if I can ride that coaster, I can ride just about any coaster anywhere.

About 34 years after that Bicentennial summer and my first major coaster ride, I took my daughter to Six Flags Over Georgia. She was six. She wanted to ride the Great American Scream Machine as soon as she saw it. So while my friend, Wendy, and her daughter watched, we boarded the same rollercoaster that was my first major rollercoaster, and it became my daughter’s first major rollercoaster too. The ride was even more bumpy that I remembered, but she loved it. She was laughing when we got off the coaster and wanted to get back in line immediately…like mother, like daughter. Maybe one day, my daughter will have a daughter whose first coaster will be the Great American Scream Machine. A weird family tradition, for sure.

Going back to David Wilcox’s song, maybe when he said “it’s all downhill from here,” he didn’t mean it was all going to be bad. Maybe he meant it was all going to be fun…a rush…exhilarating. Now that I think about it, I prefer that version. Because honestly, I’ve done my best living after 30. Well…there were those four college years in the 80s, between the ages of 18 and 22…those were pretty awesome too. But there’s something special about being over 30. And if you haven’t turned 50 yet…just wait…it’s great too.

Are rollercoaster rides good metaphors for life? I don’t know. But I do know rollercoasters are fun, and they make me feel young! I’ll be glad when Carowinds is open again! Till then, maybe we’ll even make a trip down to the Atlanta area to visit Six Flags Over Georgia and ride the Great American Scream Machine again…they’re open on a “reservations only” basis! They’re even offering BACKWARD rides on the Scream Machine for a limited time!

We love rollercoasters!

If you’d like to virtually experience the Great American Scream Machine, click here.

Memories of a 1970s Childhood

Memories of a 1970s Childhood.

After reading the Leif Garrett memoir, I find myself thinking about the 1970s. I was born in 1967, but most of my childhood memories were in the 1970s. In fact, I think my brain retains information from that time in my life better than it retains any other decade…and in much more detail. I’ve written before about how I believe we remember events better when they are attached to an emotion…happiness, fear, sadness. Maybe childhood is more emotional, because we have so many more new experiences, so we remember more. Lots of my memories from adulthood are either gone or more difficult to retrieve.

I can probably tell you the telephone number of almost every childhood friend I ever had, and I lived in different places. It’s not like I was dialing the same numbers in 1980 that I was dialing in 1975. I can even tell you the street addresses of childhood friends…the ones I went to kindergarten with. 112 Lakeview Circle? I know whose address that was. 203 Dawson Street? Yep…I know that too. If I don’t know the house number, I know the street name of almost everyone.

It was an epic time. I’m sure everyone thinks their own childhood was the greatest era, but I truly believe it. Our country was pulling out of Vietnam. We didn’t feel the imminent threat of nuclear war that kids felt in the early 1960s. Our relatives weren’t being drafted. Lots of cool things were happening. Here are a few:

  • The milkman delivered to our house. When I told my daughter about the milkman, she looked at me like I had fourteen eyes, saying, “Wait a minute. A man drove a truck around town, dropping off milk on front porches?”  We bought a lot from him…regular milk, chocolate milk (only one carton per week of this special treat), and even eggs, butter, and orange juice! The really big treat we got sometimes, though, was ice cream in a rectangular cardboard carton, and somehow, it just tasted better!images-2
  • When we took photos with our Kodak Instamatic cameras that used 126 or 110 film, we had to drop off the film cartridges at a local TG&Y, Harco, Revco, or other five and dime store to have it developed. We would pick up our photos a week later. We didn’t have the instant gratification…looking at photos immediately to see if they were good. And if we needed flash for our photos, we used flashbulbs atop those cameras! Correction…we had the instant gratification if we had a Polaroid instant camera. They were fun, but with only eight photos per photo cartridge, we wanted to get it right the first time.il_1588xN.2288145040_30ua
  • Kids rode bikes any time the weather permitted. My brother could ride a two-wheeler when he was two or three…much earlier than most kids. I could ride one when I was four or five, and we rode bikes all the time. Our only rule? Don’t ride it across the highway. So if we rode our bikes up to the front of the neighborhood, we had to leave them on the side of the road while we crossed the FOUR-LANE HIGHWAY to get candy and a Coke at the little mom and pop grocery store on the other side. Yes, I said FOUR-LANE HIGHWAY.
  • Kids rode their bikes in the fog from the mosquito truck. OK, so this is not such a great thing, but it’s a memory, for sure. Personally, I was terrified of the mosquito truck, but there were boys in our neighborhood who looked forward to seeing that truck in the summer. I don’t know why it was so much fun for them to ride in the fog…that may or may not have contained DDT…but I can see it vividly in my mind.images
  • Sunday nights were for TV dinners, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, and The Wonderful World of Disney. We had to buy TV dinners on Saturday, because blue laws meant grocery stores were not open on Sunday. In fact, nothing was open on Sunday. Beer and alcohol certainly weren’t sold on Sunday.
  • Families watched TV together. Parents sat in chairs or on the sofa in the family den, while the kids lounged on the floor in front of the console television. It seemed everyone had a giant, color console TV in the family den. Johnny Carson was America’s favorite talk show host, and occasionally, our parents would let us stay up to watch him on The Tonight Show. Later, TV stations signed off with the National Anthem.56adbe711edad2afdadc86c0de9153f8 
  • We stayed outside all day and sometimes, into the night. Our mothers wanted us to come home when the streetlights came on, but with permission, we could stay out and play Kick The Can at night with the neighborhood kids.
  • Seatbelts? What seatbelts? Yes, cars had them, but hardly anyone used them. Kids bounced around on the back seats of cars or stood on the front seat…while the car was moving on a busy highway!photo-1564833840938-2f5041df082d
  • We had a locally owned single-screen movie theater, and it cost $1 for kids and $2 for adults. Most weekends, you could get in at 5:00 for the double feature, which meant you watched a full-length older film first…or maybe an old cartoon movie. Our parents dropped us off in time for the double feature, so they had four hours to go have date night. We got Cokes, popcorn, and Milk Duds. When I was eight, I saw Jaws on the big screen with my six year old brother! It was rated PG; PG-13 didn’t exist yet, and anything that wasn’t rated R was fine. We also saw Smokey and the Bandit, Rocky, Car Wash, The Bad News Bears, and more…all unaccompanied. If you think The Bad News Bears was made for kids, watch it now. I bought it years ago on DVD for my then-five-year-old daughter, because I didn’t remember just how bad the language was!
  • Pizza parties. We were thrilled to go to Pizza Inn (or Shakey’s or Pascuale’s) for a pizza birthday party. Everyone sat around a big table eating pizza. That was the party. We were likely in middle school, and we had the best time hanging out, eating pizza with our friends! Just good fun.
  • TV theme songs and commercial jingles were the best! Seriously. Do TV shows even have theme songs anymore? I can throw out one line from so many TV shows, and I imagine most folks my age can name the show.  1. Come and knock on our door… 2. Here’s a story of a lovely lady… 3. Come and listen to a story ’bout a man named Jed… 4. You take the good; you take the bad; you take ’em both, and there you have… 5. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, shlemiel, schlimazel…Those are TV theme songs, and for commercial jingles… A. Here’s to good friends, tonight is kind of special… B. Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun! C. My baloney has a first name… D. Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us! E. Have a bucket of chicken… *See below for answers*

Oh, those were the days! A lot of life revolved around television. It was epic in the 1970s. And to think we fret about our kids’ screen time! Bahahaha!

I’d love to hear your memories from the 70s…

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TV them songs shown above: 1. Three’s Company 2. The Brady Bunch 3. The Beverly Hillbillies 4. The Facts of Life 5. Laverne and Shirley

Commercial jingles: A. Lowenbrau B. McDonald’s Big Mac C. Oscar Mayer D. Burger King E. Kentucky Fried Chicken

Remember Leif Garrett?

Remember Leif Garrett?

Yes, this is on my mind today…Leif Garrett. He was a teen idol when I was a preteen in the 1970s. He had been on a couple of TV shows…Three for the RoadFamily (with Kristy McNichol), and a guest spot on Wonder Woman. He had a singing career with a hit in I Was Made for Dancing. He was in the Walking Tall movies. He was on American Bandstand. And he even had his very own TV special on CBS. All that happened before he was 18.

I don’t even know why I started thinking about Leif Garrett yesterday. Sometimes, I start looking for movies I liked as a child or teenager, and yesterday, I thought of a coming-of-age film from the 80s called Little Darlings, starring Kristy McNichol and Tatum O’Neal. Somehow, that made me think of Leif Garrett.

Oh, he was such a dreamboat at the time! With his flowing blonde locks and surfer-boy looks, lots of teenage girls had his posters all over their bedrooms. Back then, we had Teen Beat and Tiger Beat magazines (remember those?) to keep us up-to-date on our teen idols, and in the late 70s, Leif Garrett was at the top of the list. But as we all know, most teen idols don’t last. Most are a flash in the pan…including Garrett. But there was something different about him. He had charisma that the others didn’t have. Well, David Cassidy had it, but I can’t think of anyone else from my time who had the same X Factor as Cassidy and Garrett. Somehow, David Cassidy managed to reinvent himself as an adult in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on Broadway, but the only place we’ve seen Garrett was Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew…sadly.

I’ve seen clips and read articles about him over the last 24 hours, and his story is tragic. He started acting in commercials as a child before moving into TV and movies. At some point, a management team decided to make him a singing star. With his charisma, Garrett was a walking dollar sign. He felt like he had no say in his own career and told Rosie O’Donnell on her show that he didn’t see a lot of the money from his fame.

But the real turning point in his life was a tragic car accident when he was 17. He was driving his Porsche, and a friend was riding with him. They had an accident, and the friend was left paralyzed from the waist down. Alcohol and drugs were involved. All terrible. It’s also something that could happen to lots of teens…a cautionary tale.

It’s tragic. The friend’s paralysis is tragic. The guilt and downward spiral afterward of Garrett are tragic too. Had he not been in show business, would this have happened? It’s an ugly business. Tragic. He became an addict…cocaine, heroin…sad. Was it the guilt of the accident that sent him over the edge? He made some bad choices, but this was a kid who had too much freedom and too much power too early. Who could handle that at 17? Fame and money make a strange life for a teen. Even good people can get caught up in the trappings of fame. Drugs plus guilt…perfect storm.

I am not diagnosing Garrett. I am not a psychologist. I just wonder what could have been. I look at that innocent face of the 1970s, and I want him to have a mother or someone else to keep him grounded. Had he been more closely supervised, and had he not chosen to drive under the influence that night, would his life have spiraled out of control? It’s sad to look at the photos of that sunkissed, young, hopeful teen and know what a terrible turn his life took. I don’t think he was a horrible individual. He was a teenager without boundaries. He’s likely not a horrible individual now, but wow, he has had a tough life. If he had stayed clean, would he be living a “normal” life now? We will never know. Some teen idols go on to have seemingly healthy lives, but the vast majority seem to have more issues than the “average” kid.

So that brings me to Garrett’s book, released at the end of 2019. Of course, I didn’t know about it then, and I didn’t hear about it earlier this year. With COVID in our midst, there hasn’t been a lot of press about the memoirs of former teen idols. But when I learned about it yesterday, I ordered it from Amazon, and I’ve read a couple of chapters, and it’s pretty darn good so far. It’s called Idol Truth: A Memoir. Yes, I will be the first to admit that I tend to be sympathetic. I’m a bleeding heart. I tend to want the best for people, and I’m sure I will still want the best for Garrett when I finish this book. If you’re interested, you can order from Amazon here. It will be available on the Audible app on August 11…I’ve already preordered it.

In the meantime, I’ll give my teenage daughter some extra hugs and be grateful that she’s a normal teenage girl living a normal life in North Carolina…not a teen idol. And I’ll tell her the story of Leif Garrett as a cautionary tale. I’ll tell her how quickly his life spiraled out of control, and hopefully, we will both learn some valuable lessons from Garrett’s experience.

Big Blue Marble Penpals

Big Blue Marble penpals.

Who remembers Big Blue Marble, the TV show that came on Saturday mornings back in the 1970s (and apparently, on into the 1980s, according to Wikipedia)? Those of us who watched it know the title was a reference to our home planet. In each episode, it featured stories about real-life kids…one segment about an American child and a segment about a child living in another country. The show also encouraged viewers to send letters in to start penpal relationships with kids around the world. I loved it the show, but I never mailed in a letter. But maybe I should have! Because of this pandemic, I’ve discovered that having penpals is fun!

Weeks ago, in an effort to brighten the moods of my friends who are stuck at home, I started sending out letters and some postcards I had collected on different vacations. We are planning to travel with some friends this summer (yes, still planning to go…fingers crossed), so I sent them postcards featuring the places we will visit…because I’ve visited the places before. And lucky for me, when I was there, I picked up some picture postcards, and till now, I’ve never felt the need to use them. But thank you, COVID-19, for encouraging me to dig through all my stuff to find those postcards and send them to friends who live far away.

But here was something cool that I saw on Instagram: one hotel where we have stayed before posted something saying, “Send us your name/address in a direct message, and a member of our staff will mail you a letter from the hotel!” Because I thought it was a fun idea, I submitted my teenage daughter’s name and address…knowing she would love to get some snail mail from one of her favorite places on the planet.

And I was right! When the picture postcard arrived with a sweet note written by the director of guest services, she was thrilled! Without my having to tell you, I’m sure you know what I did. First, I encouraged my daughter to write back…and she did. And instead of just mailing her letter back, I stuck a letter of my own into the envelope, thanking the director of guest services for sending her a postcard.

Since I started mailing postcards and letters, I have had the most fun opening my mail to find some of my friends in faraway places have written back! Some thanked me via facebook or email, and that was thrilling too, because they all said it brightened their days. It’s funny how a simple gesture can make a difference. Seriously, it doesn’t take long to write a quick note, especially on a postcard, and mail it.

If only Big Blue Marble were still on, kids could all get some new penpals all over the world. If I had actually participated as a kid, it would have been a great way to learn about different cultures. I suppose it’s a little old-fashioned now, but I still think it would be fun. Sure, some people use social media to meet “new friends” in other countries, but I don’t trust that. I’ve seen a few too many episodes of 90 Day Fiance, so I see how people get “catfished.” I even saw an episode of Dr. Phil on which a woman had sent thousands of dollars to her “true love” in some foreign country, and then, every time she was supposed to meet him, he missed a flight or had some other lame excuse. He was catfishing her. So no, social media is not the same as the good old Big Blue Marble days, and receiving an email isn’t as much fun as receiving a handwritten letter or postcard.

So I’ll just keep on sending letters and postcards to friends and family in faraway places. If you’d like to receive a postcard, send a private message with your name and address!

In fact, I’m walking down to the mailbox to send off a few more postcards now.

 

Graduation Gifts

Graduation gifts.

Yes, it’s getting close to that time of year, and sadly, this year’s graduating class is not going to have the same experience as other classes. I have lots of friends whose children are graduating from high school during this terrible pandemic, and I know they feel “ripped off.” That seems to be the general consensus…ripped off.

As much as I feel ripped off on my favorite things…vacations, sports, etc…I’m an adult. Some might argue that I don’t always act like an adult, but technically speaking, I’m an adult. At 52, I know “this, too, shall pass,” but then, this isolation isn’t delaying my graduation, my prom, my wedding, or anything else. Sure, I’m having to delay (or even cancel) some of my vacations to some of my favorite places. Sure, I’m not getting to watch my daughter, who is a sophomore in high school, play school lacrosse. But “good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise,” she’ll be playing next year, and I’ll get to take other vacations.

These high school (and college!) seniors don’t get a “do over.”

And as I sat thinking about that recently, it occurred to me that, at the very least, I can let them know that I’m thinking of them. Normally, I would wait till the end of May or early June to send graduation gifts, but I decided to go ahead and start sending them now…just trying to put smiles on their faces right now…let them know we’re thinking of them. These kids are missing out on so much, and I think they will be thrilled to start getting some early gifts…no matter how big or small those gifts may be! They just like knowing someone remembered they are graduating.

So, while it’s on my mind, I want to share a few ideas for graduation gifts, in case you want to go ahead and send something to someone you know who is missing out on the fun stuff of senior year.

AMAZON GIFT CARDS. Seriously, this is what I’ve been sending. You can pick the amount you want to send, and Amazon will attach a gift note and ship it out to your favorite grad. With an Amazon gift card, they can order just about anything they want, right? I’ve been ordering the card that comes “wrapped” in a box with a bow. You can order here.

BATHROBE. For young people who will be heading off to college in the fall, a bathrobe makes a great gift. Many of them will have community bathroom situations, which in my mind, is part of the “joy” of freshman year, and they will need a good bathrobe. Lands’ End has some quality robes starting under $50, and many of them can be monogrammed. See their selection here.

OTHER PERSONALIZED GIFTS. Personalization Mall has lots of great ideas for personalized graduation gifts. When I graduated from high school many moons ago, some of my favorite gifts were a personalized laundry bag and shower caddy. Personalization Mall offers those and lots of other things. I know, a laundry bag sounds old-fashioned, but if a college student is as crafty as I was, they’ll find the nearest place that will wash, dry, and fold all their laundry for a small fee. Yep, I dropped mine off regularly…so much better than waiting for a washer and dryer to come available!  You can see their selection here.

OTHER GIFT CARDS. There are so many great gift cards graduate will love. Whether they are going off to college or not, they can use lots of different kinds of gift cards. Just think about what your graduate likes or enjoys. Most young folks in our area love Chick-Fil-A, so that’s a safe bet for a gift card. A Netflix gift card is another safe bet. Target and Walmart gift cards could come in handy for almost anyone. You can get them online at each company’s website.

CASH. Because cash is king. No doubt. Doesn’t every graduating senior love to get some cold hard cash as a gift? This year, I will be sending one cash gift to a friend’s daughter in Alabama, but I’m afraid she will have to get it in the form of a check, since we can’t see her to hand her the cash.

All these ideas are not new ideas for graduation gifts, but my point is…start gifting these grads NOW. They will appreciate the recognition. It might take some of the sting out of this isolation for them. Who doesn’t like to receive a surprise gift? Plus, you’ll not only be helping the graduates; you’ll also be helping the economy when it needs it!

 

Sliding Doors

Sliding Doors.

It’s a strange time in our lives…in history, even…right now. So many of us are stuck at home, and we’re having to do life differently. Sure, it’s not easy being stuck at home all the time, but there are some good things about it. One big one is that I’m getting to spend more time with my teenage daughter, who will be off to college in two short years. Secretly, I think she is enjoying the togetherness a little bit too.

We have been cooking together, walking together, and talking a lot. We have watched some of her favorite shows on Netflix. I hardly ever ask her to watch any of my favorites, because she tends to lose interest pretty quickly. A few years ago, I forced her to go see Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner on the big screen with me, and she fell asleep halfway through the movie. I had hoped she would watch it and enjoy it while learning a little bit about the civil rights struggle of the 1960s. I loved that movie when I was a teenager in the 1980s. My mother and I would watch it together every time it came on TV. If you’re not familiar with it, the movie was made in 1967 and stars Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, and Isabel Sanford. It’s a lovely movie about a couple living in California and the weekend their grown daughter brings home her new fiancé, played by Poitier. The family is white, and the new fiancé is black…and he is perfect. It leaves me crying every time. You can rent it on Amazon Prime.

So last night, when my daughter asked me if I wanted to watch a movie with her, I played it safe. I asked her what movie she had in mind, and she said, “I don’t know. Is there something you’d like to watch?” What?!?! She was trusting me to pick a movie for us to watch together?!? I responded, “I really think you would like Sliding Doors. It stars Gwyneth Paltrow.” Apparently, Paltrow is too old for the teen set, because she asked, “Who is that?” I laughed and explained who Paltrow is and then explained the premise of the movie, “It’s about a woman who gets fired from her public relations job and is on her way home to her live-in boyfriend. It takes two paths…in one scenario, she catches the subway and gets home to find her live-in boyfriend in bed with someone else. In the other scenario, she misses the subway, because a little girl steps in front of her on the stairs, and she doesn’t catch her boyfriend cheating.”

I explained that the movie follows both paths and shows how one small moment in time can change the path of our lives.

To my surprise, she thought it sounded great! So we sat down on the living room sofa together, and I rented the movie through my Amazon Prime account, and we watched it on the TV. She has watched so many movies on her laptop lately; I think she enjoyed watching on the television for a change. Lots of times, I will go upstairs to her room and watch some of her favorite shows with her, but we rarely watch movies. But last night, we snuggled up under blankets and watched the movie. She put her head on my shoulder, and we talked about the movie as it played. It was a great night, and I plan to let her pick a movie tonight or tomorrow night for us to watch together.

Who knows? Maybe this will become a habit, and we will share some of our favorite movies with each other. My hope is also that we will carry it on through after life becomes “normal” again, and if it doesn’t, that’s OK too, because we will have some memories. I hope this slower pace will teach us some valuable lessons that will carry on. Maybe we are learning that we don’t need to be rushing to the next thing all the time. Maybe we are learning to stop and smell the roses…both literally and figuratively. Maybe we are learning what’s important in life.

I know that once “normal” life resumes, we will fall back into some of our rushing around, but maybe we will pick up some new, good habits. And maybe my daughter will trust my taste in movies after seeing Sliding Doors! Next time, though, I will be prepared with her favorite cake batter popcorn to snack on while we watch. If you haven’t seen the movie, and you’re looking for a good one, this is one I loved when I was in my early 30s, and I still love it now! It will make you think. Rent it on Amazon Prime.

And if you’d like to make cake batter popcorn, you can see the recipe here.

 

Keeping a Coronavirus “Wartime” Journal

Keeping a coronavirus “wartime” journal.

I do think of this pandemic as wartime. We are waging a war against an unseen enemy…COVID-19. When our country has been at war in the past, we could see our enemies, but now…the enemy is all around; we just don’t know where.

We are prisoners in our own homes. Our children are missing out on real school…learning online, but missing their friends, their sports, and their social lives. Those who are supposed to graduate from high school are missing out on more…”lasts,” proms, and graduations, even.

During the “greatest generation,” people wrote letters…snail mail, real letters with pen and paper. For lots of people, that is their historical record of what happened during those days. People don’t write a lot of snail mail these days, so it’s not likely we’ll have that type of historical record of this “war.” And then there was Anne Frank, who wrote in her diary about her days in hiding with her family during the war…an historical record, for sure.

I was talking with my teenage daughter today and told her she needed to start keeping a daily journal of her thoughts, her feelings, and her activities during this pandemic. She likely thought it was a weird mom idea, but she agreed, nonetheless. At first, I was searching through the house for an unused composition notebook or spiral notebook for her to used as a journal, but after having no luck, I realized she doesn’t need a notebook. All she needs is her computer. She’ll be more likely to keep a journal on her computer. And her private thoughts are probably safer there anyway. I’m planning to keep my own journal on my computer too, simply because I know I’d be likely to misplace a journal, but I’m not going to misplace my computer. We can print our pages daily and bind them later.

Journaling, in my opinion, is a good idea anyway…in “normal” life. It’s relaxing, and I have found, in my past, that it was therapeutic. Sometimes, if I write down my feelings, I can get some clarity. Maybe I realize what I’m feeling is ridiculous, or maybe I realize my feelings are justified, but either way, it is helpful. As for journaling during this pandemic, I suggested to my daughter that we write something every day. It doesn’t even have to be meaningful…just something. But I reminded her we need to count our blessings. Sure, we can complain and write the facts about the pandemic…how many are infected, how many have died, all the restrictions to daily life, the shortages…but we need to write about the things we enjoy too and how we feel every day.

Take, for example, how fortunate we are that today is a beautiful day…75 degrees and sunny…in Charlotte. We are fortunate to have a backyard pool, where we can lounge and soak up the sun…something that is very good for improving mood, by the way. Roses are beginning to bloom on the back patio, and trees are growing thicker with bright green leaves every day. We are fortunate to have plenty of food in the pantry. And yes, plenty of toilet paper and Clorox wipes. And as far as we know, we do not have the dreaded coronavirus. Digging deeper into our situation, I might write that I’m beginning to feel really uneasy about the way the world is now. Will our economy ever rebound? Will we forget who we are while we’re all hunkered down in fear of the invisible virus? Will we be fearful of each other after this? Will we be afraid to travel?

Hopefully, my daughter will join me in journaling these crazy days in world history. I told her it’s likely her children won’t believe what we have been doing and will likely continue to do for the next few weeks, possibly months. Hopefully not months, though…seriously…hopefully not months. Her kids likely won’t believe people were hoarding toilet paper, paper towels, and groceries. They will likely be perplexed when she tells them airlines had to cut way back on flights, and people were wearing all kinds of crazy getups to “essential” stores. Hopefully, she will laugh when she tells them we made regular trips to the Krispy Kreme drive-thru, since thankfully, doughnuts are considered “essential.” Oh, I hope my daughter remembers to write all the funny stuff.

And after we write our own little historical records, I will say a prayer of thanks and forgiveness, and I will ask Him to keep us safe and end this pandemic as soon as possible.

Hanging With The Teenage Daughter (during the COVID-19 crisis)

Hanging with the teenage daughter (during the COVID-19 crisis).

I’m getting accustomed to it. I hate to admit it, but I’m getting accustomed to “sheltering in place.” If you had told me I wouldn’t be completely stir crazy after this many days at home, I never would have believed you. It’s likely there are several reasons, but I think the main one is our daughter.

Our daughter is 16, so in “normal” life, she’s rarely home. She has school Monday-Friday, like most kids, and after school, she “normally” goes straight to lacrosse practice in the spring. She doesn’t get home till around 6:00pm, and then she has to finish her homework. That leaves very little time for us to to spend together. Sure, there are weekends, but she is quite social, so she wants to hang with friends on weekends. I get it. I remember 16.

I’m not happy that people are suffering and even dying with COVID-19. We say prayers for them every day, and we are trying to observe all “shelter in place” rules. We are at home most of the time, except when we go out for “essentials.”

And while “sheltering in place” initially sounded terrible, having my daughter around more is great. She’s doing her school work online during the day Monday -Friday, but in the afternoons and evenings, we’ve been spending more time together. Our world has slowed down a little, and I’m trying to appreciate the slowdown.

Yesterday, for example, she took a break in her schoolwork to come down for lunch and asked if I would make her some avocado toast for lunch. I was thrilled to get to do that for her, but our avocados weren’t ripe enough yet, so I made her some peanut butter/banana toast. She was happy. Normally, during the week, I don’t get to sit with her for lunch, because she’s at school. Afterward, she went back to finish her studies, and later, she sat outside by the pool with me for a while…something else she wouldn’t normally be able to do on a weekday. ***I’ve since been informed that I can soften an avocado by sticking it in the microwave briefly.***

At dinnertime, we opted to go get takeout from a local favorite Mexican restaurant, something we had both been missing since all this started. We came home and had dinner as a family, and then I suggested we go for a walk around the neighborhood. I was thrilled when she said it sounded like a great idea…and off we went!

The night before, we all lay out on the patio as a family…looking at the stars and watching for satellites to identify using the SkyGuide app. Our daughter didn’t stay out as long as we did, but she seemed to enjoy it. She was much better at spotting satellites moving through the night sky, because her eyesight is better than ours, and it was obvious she was enjoying it when she would exclaim, “I see one!” She would then tell us where to look, and I would try to find it on SkyGuide to see what country launched it and how big it was. Would she have willingly gone out there for stargazing under “normal” circumstances? Probably not. She likely wouldn’t have been home or would have been doing homework.

Tonight, my daughter and I are going to start watching Tiger King, presently the #1 series on Netflix. We don’t alway agree on shows, and when I first suggested this one, she wasn’t interested. But when a teenage boy told her it was really good, she changed her tune. No, I wasn’t offended. Like I said, I remember 16. We have a few more series “on deck” to watch after we watch Tiger King. We will likely watch All-American on Netflix, Peyton’s Places on ESPN+, and a few more sports-oriented shows, since we miss our sports right now.

Additionally, she has been helping around the house…today, she will do some laundry and cook dinner for the family. She and I are going to sit down in a little while and find the perfect recipe for her to make a chicken dish for us. She loves spinach, so she will likely sauté some spinach for the side dish.

So while this COVID-19 crisis is terrible for individuals, public health, and the economy, we are using it as a time to strengthen our little family. We were a pretty tight unit anyway, but I feel like we are getting a gift of extra time with our daughter. She will be going off to college in 2022, so I’m happy to have some extra time with her. No, the reason for the extra time isn’t ideal, but I’m trying to look at the bright side. I’m making lemonade out of lemons.

We are hopeful that the pandemic will be under control sooner rather than later, but till then, we plan to enjoy this time with our daughter. Sure, we all miss sports. We all miss friends and extended family. We all miss “normal,” but we’re trying to make the best of the cards we’ve been dealt.

Till then, we’ll be hanging out with our teenage daughter.

I Never Wanted to Homeschool

I never wanted to homeschool.

Seriously…never. It never, ever crossed my mind in a serious way. There were times I thought, “If we homeschool, we can go on vacation all the time! We can educate our daughter on the road!” And I know that works for some folks. But for me? Nope, nope, nope. I love my daughter, but we don’t need to be together 24/7.

Yet here we are, in the middle of a pandemic, and homeschooling is the only way. I’m not officially homeschooling, because she is still signing in to her school website and having remote video “class” and conferences with teachers. Thank God. We just returned from “spring break,” during which our trip was actually canceled, but we had a break nonetheless. And now school is starting back.

Lucky for us, our daughter is 16 and a sophomore in high school. She is old enough to figure it out herself. In fact, I have been receiving emails from her teachers about remote learning, and every time I see one, I think, “Really? Don’t y’all tell us to be ‘hands off’ when they get to high school?” Why do they suddenly want us to be hands on?!? I know the students are home, but my daughter needs to drive this bus herself. I never know what her homework is, just like my mother never knew what my homework was in the 80s. That is entirely her responsibility.

When my daughter was in third grade, another mom approached me at school one day and asked, “Is your daughter ready for the Bunnicula test?” I must have looked at her like she had three heads, because I responded, “What the heck is a Bunnicula?” Apparently, it was a book they had read, and they were having a test on it that day. For a brief moment, I wondered how the other mom knew they were having a test! I had no idea, because even when she was in third grade, I didn’t help with homework. I didn’t help her get or stay organized. I didn’t help her with her homework at all. It was all up to her. That was her job…just like it is now. I know…I know…some of you will say that was a little too hands off. Trust me, I am a very present parent in every other way, but I have always believed she needed to learn how to do her schoolwork the same way I did…without any help from parents. I remember when she was in sixth grade, I sat down with her and taught her my secret method for studying for tests, and she has thanked me a million times since. I’ll offer guidance. But helping with daily homework? I’ve never done it.

She knows she can come to me for guidance when she needs it. I will always provide support and guidance. As recently as this morning, I reminded her that she needs to stay in close touch with her teachers. She needs to email or conference with them pretty regularly, even if she doesn’t feel like she needs help. She needs to keep the lines of communication open. That’s my advice for the day. That’s how I help her with her education.

Many times I’ve told her about a calculus class I had in college. I had a low A going into the final, but I had been meeting with the teacher two or three times a week to keep that A. And then I bombed the final…I don’t mean I made a C.  I bombed it. Back then, to see our exam grades before we left school at the end of the semester, we had to go see where they were posted outside the teacher/professor’s office door. After I saw my terrible grade, I entered his office, he said, “Oh, Kelly, you did not do well on the final.” I said, “I saw that!” I then asked him what grade I would get for the semester (the final was supposed to have a lot of weight). Instead of answering me, he asked, “What grade do you think you deserve?” I would have said a C. But seeing an opening, I returned the question, “What do you think I deserve?” He looked at me, very kindly, and said, “I give you B. You do good in long journey.” He was from another country…I don’t remember where…so he spoke in broken English, but he had the sweetest way of expressing his wisdom, and he was a very compassionate man. I thanked him profusely, and I was on my way. I have remembered his kindness for all these years…and when someone in our family works hard and meets a goal or accomplishment, I say, “You do good in long journey.”

That’s my long way of saying I worked hard to try to get a good grade in that class, and my teacher recognized that. That’s what I am encouraging my daughter to do right now. She has heard that story a million times, and as a teenager, she might not fully hear it, but one day, something will happen, and she will know I’m right.

So, while I’m sure her teachers and school are simply making sure I’m informed with those emails they’re sending me, I’m not getting into the fray. If she were younger, I might have to jump in with both feet, but in 10th grade? Nah. She can do this, and she’ll appreciate it a lot more if she does it on her own.

Homeschooling? It’s still not for me. That’s one thing I know for sure. I’ll be team mom. I was a homeroom mom many times when she was in elementary school. I volunteer all over the place. But I’m not planning to take the reins on this homeschooling.

She’s got this. She will “do good in long journey.”

 

Quarantine: March 1985

March 1985.

Thirty-five years ago.

It was my senior year in high school, and as spring break approached, I was feeling miserable. My mother took me to see Dr. Mracek, our family physician, and he said those words no high school senior wants to hear, “I think you have mono.” You know…mononucleosis…also known as “the kissing disease,” because it’s easily transmitted between teenagers. It was the last thing I wanted to hear, because at the time, for a teenager, it was a death sentence for all activities. Of course, I felt so badly that I couldn’t go anywhere, anyway.

My throat hurt. My head hurt. I had no energy. The mono test came back positive, and the doctor told me to stay in my bedroom and only leave it to go to the bathroom and take a shower/bath. He told my mother to get me a good multivitamin and keep the rest of the family away from me. He told her to get paper plates and plasticware for me…and get me my own salt and pepper shakers. He didn’t want the rest of the family to catch it. And he told me to stay hydrated. He also instructed me to stay out of school till he told me it was OK to return. I think people worried a lot more about mono back then, because I see kids returning to normal activities much more quickly after being diagnosed now. My mother, being a registered nurse, followed the doctor’s orders to the letter. I stayed in my room, but I didn’t really have the energy to do anything else anyway.

At 17, I couldn’t believe it. It was my senior year of high school. I was missing a spring break beach trip. It meant I would be home on Friday nights to watch The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. While that would have sounded awesome a few years earlier, as a senior in high school, it sounded terrible. Interestingly, I remember seeing the debut of Mr. Belvedere, a sitcom starring Bob Uecker and others, but since my family always watched sports, Uecker is the one I remember from the show. Uecker is a former baseball player who is the broadcaster for the Milwaukee Brewers, but he is also known for some Miller Lite ads he made in the 80s, using the tag line “I must be in the front row!” I still use that line regularly, but no one knows what I’m talking about when I do.

My bout with mononucleosis is my only “quarantine” experience. After missing spring break and a week or two of school, I was slowly allowed to return to half days, then full days of school. Eventually, I resumed all normal activities. By summer, I was feeling normal, and I was able to go off to college in August of that year.

Interestingly, that time of “quarantine” is just a blip on my radar now. I don’t remember much about it. I know I was heartbroken to be separated from friends and missing school activities, but while I remember that, I don’t feel it.  I don’t feel any sadness in looking back on it. I don’t feel sad about what I missed because of it. I missed a few months of normal activities, but now, it doesn’t matter. In fact, I feel pretty sure I had gotten over the sadness by the time I started college that fall.

Now, March 1985 is a distant memory, and one day, March 2020 will be a distant memory too. Because this COVID-19 pandemic is being experienced by the whole country, we will likely remember it more clearly…and hopefully learn from it… but my hope is that, eventually, we, as a country, will recover…just like my bout with mononucleosis. It will be a much bigger blip on the radar of life, but eventually, it will be behind us.

There will be recovery time from this. Lots of people have lost their lives and/or family members. Lots of folks have lost businesses and jobs. Lots of us have lost lots of money. I certainly don’t mean to make light of that, but I think we all need to look out for each other. It’s devastating…but our country will recover.

***I’m saying daily prayers for those who are suffering with COVID-19. I know there are lots of sick and dying people out there, and I pray for them and their families.***