Two Friends on the Road, Part 1

Two friends on the road, Part 1.

I’ve recovered now. Wow. About 11 days ago, I embarked on a road trip with my friend, Mary Ann. We were long overdue for some fun, and frankly, we had discussed the possibility of a road trip without kids for years. It was high time we just got into the car and went. So we did. My husband stayed home with our 17-yr-old daughter, and my friend left her three kids with her mom…and off we went. We didn’t plan anything in advance. We didn’t have hotel reservations. However, because of COVID, we decided we needed to travel to places that were actually open, so we headed south…toward Florida.

We had used an app called Roadside America before, so we decided to use it on this trip too…and using the app, we decided our first stop would be at the UFO Welcome Center in Bowman, South Carolina. Crazy, right? It’s not an official welcome center; a gentleman built it in his yard, but it’s rather impressive. We knew when we had arrived, for sure. It’s shaped like a flying saucer and it casts a rather large shadow on the road as we approached from the east. Wow! Someone had spent a lot of time building this! I have to admit it was pretty amazing…an unusual photo op, to say the least. For a $20 “tip” you can go inside the massive structure, but since the sun was setting, and we weren’t sure the structure was “up to code,” we opted out of the grand tour. And soon, we were back on the road.

It wasn’t long before we were on I-95 south, and we stayed the course for several hours, till we decided it was time to stop…in St. Augustine, Florida. We got off the interstate and headed toward town, looking for a restaurant where we could grab dinner. We found a lovely place called Green Papaya, which offered Asian Fusion, but it was nearing closing time. We quickly ordered online and opted to eat it in the car, because we didn’t want to cause the staff to stay late. (My husband would be upset that we ate in my car…but he wasn’t there!) We were impressed with our ability to find a great restaurant, as the food from Green Papaya was just what the doctor ordered! If we find ourselves in St. Augustine again, we will return!

After dinner (in the car!), it was time to look for a place to stay. As I mentioned, we hadn’t made reservations ahead of time, and we wanted a small, locally-owned inn for the night. After checking ratings online, we headed toward a place called Magic Beach Motel in Vilano Beach…just outside St. Augustine. When we rolled into Vilano Beach, it was easy to spot Magic Beach Motel, because it was aglow in neon! It was exactly what we were looking for…a charming little beach motel from days gone by. (See feature photo!) For more info on the Magic Beach Motel, click here. Here’s where I should mention we purchased lottery tickets (it was at $950 million!) and scratch-offs every time we stopped for a bathroom break or to gas up the car. Scratch-offs added some mindless entertainment when we checked into the motel (and every hotel thereafter), and won more than we spent! We got a good night’s sleep, and the next morning, we decided to check out the area. We walked around the village, a tourist/beach area that boomed in the 1940s and 50s, situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Tomalato River. For more information on Vilano Beach, click here. I read there was once a drawbridge that directed traffic to the area, but when a new bridge was constructed in 1995, traffic was diverted away from the area, having a negative impact on the area’s businesses. It’s still a charming area, and it appears to be having a bit of a comeback, as a couple of hotel chains are building there. We strolled from the beach park on one end to the pier overlooking the Tomalato River on the other end. It was at the pier that we found the Bluebird of Happiness statue…another great photo op.

We had fun exploring. Lots of the old motels/restaurants are closed and falling into disrepair, and Mary Ann and I mused about what could be done to revitalize them…if we won the lottery! We also learned there is a Saturday flea market and a cute little Airstream shopping village on weekends. Too bad we were there on a Tuesday/Wednesday. We would have enjoyed it. Good info for next time, though!

We also learned the sign for Haley’s Court, an old beach motel, is an icon of the “beach tourism boom of the 1940s and 50s,”and it has its own historical marker, according to hmdb.org. When we drove into town, the sign was not illuminated, but the next morning, we were able to see it clearly. The sign is a great example of mid-century modern design.

After spending the morning exploring Vilano Beach, we loaded up and drove to The Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine…a tourist trap, for sure, but a fun one. We had lunch at a barbecue spot there, and it was surprisingly good! The park itself is interesting and informative, having begun as a tribute to Ponce de Leon’s landing in the New World. It has since become an archeological park, after several Christian relics were unearthed, positively identifying the area as the location of the settlement of St. Augustine in the 1500s. In the park, we found lots of information about the history of the area and even a planetarium! To learn more about The Fountain of Youth Archeological Park, click here. We didn’t feel any younger when we left, unfortunately.

From there, we revisited downtown St. Augustine in the daylight…and it was just as stunning by day as it was when it was illuminated at night! The town square! The marinas! The fort! The beautiful, historical architecture! It’s definitely worth a visit! To learn more about St. Augustine, click here.

On our way out of town, we visited the lighthouse for a quick photo op, and we drove past the Alligator Farm, a place I visited as a child and loved. We needed to get a little farther south quickly, so we didn’t visit this time, but it’s also worth your time. I love a good alligator farm. Having lived on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay in Alabama, I’ve seen lots of gators…fascinating creatures. You can see lots of other animals at the Alligator Farm too. To learn more about the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine, click here.

As we drove out of St. Augustine, we made a quick stop at a food truck park and grabbed some macróns before getting on A1A to head south on the beach road. We opened the windows and the sunroof, cranked up the 80s tunes and cruised the beach road through Palm Coast, Flagler Beach, and Ormond-by-the-Sea. This stretch of A1A felt like old school beach road…we enjoyed it and put our toes in the sand at several beaches along the way, searching for Right Whales every time we stopped. Right Whales can be spotted off the Florida coast between the months of December and March…something I didn’t know before this trip… so we hoped we might be able to spot one. We didn’t, but it was fun looking for them…and we got to enjoy the beaches in the process! We spoke with some local folks along the way…asking if any of them had ever seen Right Whales off shore…none of them had, but they knew people who had.

At Daytona, we hopped off A1A to take advantage of a photo op at Daytona Motor Speedway…a landmark, for sure. We then followed Highway 1 south to Merritt Island. I’ll pick up with that stop next time. At this point, we were having a great time, and the fun continued!

Outside Daytona Motor Speedway

Retro Road Trip

Retro road trip!

I’m 53. I don’t hesitate to tell people my age, because I don’t really care how old I am. I’m just happy to be here. At 53, though, I have accumulated a lot of life experience, and I have a lot of memories.

I don’t remember my parents ever being big on staying in little roadside motels, but I do remember a few occasions when we stayed in them in small towns. I remembering seeing lots of little locally-owned inns and motels in the late 1960s and 70s. There were lots of them lining the beach roads in the Florida Panhandle, a place we frequented. Panama City Beach was full of them, and a few are still there. When I was a little girl living in Spanish Fort, Alabama, on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, there was a cute little locally-owned motel near the entrance to our neighborhood. Anyone who lived in Spanish Fort in the 70s (and probably the 50s and 60s) remembers the Spanish Fort Motel, and they likely remember the Malbis Hotel Courts too, which had a swimming pool shaped like the state of Alabama. I know, because when I was a little girl, locals would purchase “memberships” to pools at both places. We spent lots of hot summer days swimming there. Both places had great restaurants for breakfast, and they both were on old Highway 90, which was the coastal east-west highway before the interstate, I-10, opened. After I-10 opened, of course, lots of those little places closed. Hotel chains built hotels near the interstates, and travelers opted for those instead.

Lots of those little roadside motels are gone now. But in some parts of the country, you can still find them.

This week, I am going on a retro road trip with a friend. We are leaving the kids behind and hitting the road…in search of every cute, little, retro, roadside motel we can find. We aren’t looking for luxury. We are looking for cute, quaint, old-fashioned fun. We haven’t put a lot of thought into where we will go, but we know we have to go somewhere that’s actually open during the COVID pandemic. We know we don’t need to drive into snow. And we know we need to go somewhere that there are still roadside motels. So, we are headed to Florida.

Originally, we had booked a five-night stay at a nice resort in south Florida, but then we decided to make this more of a retro adventure…a step back in time…and that’s what it will be. Plus, we felt like we would likely be more exposed to COVID at a large resort. Trust me when I say we are going to be careful. My travel buddy has already had COVID and still has antibodies. I don’t want to catch it, so I will be extra careful. But we want to have some fun and make new, silly memories.

Now don’t get me wrong. We don’t want to stay at any roach motels, and we don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night to drug deals going down around us, so we have done a little research. And we will check reviews and ratings before we stop anywhere.

While we are on the road, we also will check out every cheesy roadside attraction we can find. All those roadside attractions the kids would grumble about? We are stopping! And we are going to take lots of photos! So stay tuned…the fun starts Tuesday.

I’m wondering if we should wear clothes from the 60s and 70s…maybe we will find some thrift stores along the way!

We are stepping back in time! Retro road trip!

***The feature photo is from a postcard from the Spanish Fort Motel. It features a photo of the entrance/check-in area.

***The photo below is a postcard featuring the Malbis Hotel Courts…and that pool shaped like the great state of Alabama.***

Messages from Heaven

Messages from Heaven.

I lost my dad in 2006. My mother passed in December 2017. And then, a dear friend left this world in 2018. I remember lots of conversations I had with each of them when they were alive, but I also get “messages” from them now.

Unfortunately, Facebook wasn’t a thing when my daddy was living. If Facebook existed then, I didn’t know it. Daddy would not have been into social media, anyway… but if he had been around for Facebook, he likely would have checked it sometimes, just to see pictures of my growing daughter, since we lived 600 miles away.

But my mother and my friend who passed in 2018…they were into Facebook.

Today, as always, I checked my Facebook “memories,” where I get to take a look at my posts from the same day in different years past. No big deal, right? I usually laugh or smile as I scroll through them, and today was no different.

As I scrolled through my “memories,” I came across a post from this day in 2012. In the post, I asked friends to pray for a friend who was having surgery on that day. I read through the comments, and there, at the bottom of the comments…a comment from my friend who was having surgery…the same friend who passed in 2018. It was just one simple sentence, “Oh, sweet Kelly…always thinking of me.” As I read it, I could hear her saying it, and I got a little emotional. You know how we we think we have moved beyond grief? You know how lots of people don’t understand grief continues for an undefined length of time? Well, this is an example of how grief lingers. Who knew such a simple comment would make me miss her so much 2 1/2 years after her passing?

Once, when that same friend and I were walking to the car after spending the afternoon at the beach in Maine many years ago, we looked up at the sky, and we both had the same reaction. We stopped and gasped. There was a big hole in the clouds…it looked as if God might reach down through that hole and touch the earth. (It’s the feature photo, but the photo doesn’t really do it justice.) We called the scene “the hand of God.” Every time I see a similar scene now, I think of my friend and “the hand of God.”

Occasionally, I see comments from my mother on Facebook, and I have an emotional reaction to those too. It’s different than finding a note or card…maybe because it’s a reactive message? She’s reacting to something I posted on Facebook? It just seems more conversational.

And then there are different kinds of messages…

A few days before Christmas, I got a different kind of message from my mother…in the grocery store, of all places. I was shopping for all the things I would need on Christmas Day when I remembered we would also need bread to make sandwiches after Christmas, so I dashed around to the bread aisle. And that’s when I saw her…my mother…standing in front of the bread…and I stopped in my tracks. I took a deep breath and moved closer. Don’t freak out. It wasn’t a ghost. She wasn’t looking at me. She was trying to pick a loaf of bread, and I stood behind her, waiting patiently…and watching.

No, it wasn’t really my mother. It wasn’t a ghost. It was just a woman who, from behind, looked like my mother. She was short…about my mother’s height. She had her hair brushed in the same way Mother brushed her hair. Her arms looked just like Mother’s. She stood like Mother. She was wearing something Mother would have worn. I never saw her face, but I ended up behind her a couple more times before I left the store…and found myself walking out the door behind her! In fact, I took a photo of her and sent it to my brother, my cousin, and my aunt, all of whom reacted exactly as I did. They were shocked, but they were happy. No, it wasn’t my mother, but I felt like seeing this woman was a message from my mother…just a little “hello” in the grocery store.

A few weeks before that, I was in Michael’s Arts and Crafts when I rounded a corner and gasped audibly. Standing in front of me was a woman who, from behind, looked just like my friend who passed away in 2018. I saw her two more times in the store that day…and then, as I was walking out, I passed a woman who, from behind, looked just like my mother. I have decided she was the same woman who was in the grocery store a few days before Christmas.

I get visits from my daddy too. I’ve seen him walking across a parking lot, and I have seen him in the background of other people’s photos on social media. But usually, he visits in my dreams…always laughing and happy. The first time he ever visited me, I was dreaming I was with my little family at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, watching the parade. Float after float went by, and then suddenly, there was Daddy…waving big and laughing from the float. It’s something Daddy never would have done, but it made me happy that in my dream, I was in “the happiest place on earth,” and he was laughing and waving, letting me know he is happy.

Are these really messages from Heaven? I have no idea, but I choose to believe they are, because they keep my loved ones on my mind…and they make me feel connected to them.

I Can See Clearly Now

***I wrote this in September 2020 but never published it. I was afraid of the backlash, but it makes me a little happier to read it now. It’s a reminder that one reason we are having so much infighting right now is that we have lost our normal “outlets” for stress.***

I can see clearly now the rain is gone. I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind. It’s gonna be a bright, bright, sunshiny day!

-I Can See Clearly Now, Song by Jimmy Cliff

This is how I feel today. I feel like the clouds have been lifted, and I can see the world more clearly than I did before. No, I didn’t have a cataract removed. No, I didn’t get new glasses. I’ve been feelin’ the pandemic blues for quite some time, and it was skewing my view of the world. I think other people are feeling the same thing. I talked to someone today who said he was happy to get to go to a funeral in another city, because it gave him an excuse to get on a plane! I didn’t go to a funeral, but I did get on a plane.

Go ahead. Scold me. Call me selfish. I don’t really care. Yes, I got on a plane, and while some would say it was “unnecessary travel,” I beg to differ. I’m guessing my husband would too, since I came home so much happier. We all make choices. I chose to get on a plane…and go on vacation…during the pandemic. One person on my personal Facebook page said I was “brave” to get on a plane right now. Well, I don’t see it that way. The way I see it…for the past few weeks, people have been brave to approach me, because I’ve been angry. Now, that’s brave. Usually, I’m pretty happy-go-lucky and don’t take myself too seriously, but this whole pandemic thing? Well, it had me downright depressed…and did I mention angry??? You name it, I’ve been angry about it. I knew I needed to get away. I knew what I needed to do to change my mindset, so I did it.

And when I arrived at my hotel, I cried. I promise you, I cried. I was that happy to be there. Make fun. I don’t care. In fact, I told the gentleman at the front desk of the hotel that I could guarantee one thing: no one in that hotel was happier to be there than I was. And I wasn’t kidding. I was on a high for five solid days.

Jennifer met me there. I’ve mentioned her before. Miss Merry Sunshine. Who better to have with you on your vacation during a pandemic than a person who is perpetually happy? She was there for two days, and I was there for five, but we enjoyed the two days we had together. We acted like teenagers…having lunch at a cafe on the beach. When I say it was a cafe on the beach, I mean our toes were in the sand while we ate fish tacos! We took the top off our rented Jeep and drove all through the canyons and took selfies with canyons and selfies with every beautiful vista we could find! We shopped! We laughed. We talked. We ate at a couple of “fancy” restaurants (outdoors, of course)…till we just couldn’t eat more. We drank a lot of champagne. And did I mention we laughed?

After Jennifer left, I dined at a few more “fancy” restaurants…yep, by myself…because I’m cool like that, and because I was just so damn happy to be there, and I was going to take advantage of every moment I had. I ate. I drank. I shopped more. I checked out sights I’d never seen. I met a friend and her new baby for lunch at an outdoor rooftop restaurant. I relished every moment.

When I got home, my husband said he felt like his “old” wife is back. That’s a good thing. That means the “depressed” wife is gone. No joke…staying home all the time was about to make me insane. I was struggling.

I’m putting this out there, because I think we all need to do what we can to become a little happier right now. If you love binge-watching cheesy TV shows, do it. If you like to hike, do it…find somewhere you can hike. If, like me, you need to get on an airplane, well, that’s up to you. I needed to do it. And I can survive on the joy from that trip for a couple of months…till the next time I get on a plane…at Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving travel counts as “necessary” travel, right? To me, it does. And I’m taking my daughter with me too. The hubs doesn’t want to travel, and that’s OK. But when we get home, if the school tells my daughter she has to quarantine for two weeks, because they decided to change the “rules” after telling us they wouldn’t police us outside of school…well, so be it. Damn it. She will just go remote for a couple weeks. And frankly, I won’t give a damn…because we need a Thanksgiving break.

If you see me in the airport around Thanksgiving, that means you’re there too. Give me a wave or a thumbs up, and I can promise I will smile at you, because I’ll just be so damn happy to be traveling again.

As for now, I’m still on a “high” from this last trip. I’m smiling again. I’m laughing. I’m making fun of myself. I’m not taking everyone so seriously. I’m back to my old self. And it feels good.

My Food/Beverage Guilty Pleasures

My food/beverage guilty pleasures.

I don’t know if everyone has food and beverage guilty pleasures, but I definitely do. There are some things I simply cannot pass up…and some things I crave. I have some guilty pleasures that are labeled as guilty pleasures simply because of the calorie content. But I have other guilty food and beverage pleasures that are guilty pleasures because they are trashy and cheap.

When I was pregnant in 2003, I craved birthday cake. No, not expensive birthday cakes. I craved the, as we called them, “el cheapo” birthday cakes from the local grocery store. I don’t know if it was the cake part or the frosting, but I craved them…and I treated myself once a week. Actually, my husband would pick up a small birthday cake, labeled a “patty cake,” once a week when he went to the store. He was a regular at the grocery store, so we used to laugh and laugh at the conversations the employees likely had every time he walked out with another cake…they probably thought he had a whole house full of kids. Nope…just one pregnant wife.

These days, if I crave a quick and easy cake, it’s more likely to be one from Nothing Bundt Cakes. Holy smokes, those things are good! We joke at our house that they must put some secret addictive ingredient in them, because once you have one, you keep craving them. If you haven’t had one, you should. They have store locations in lots of places. We are fortunate to have a couple of different locations in the Charlotte area, and one is just a few miles from our house. We don’t go often, but when we do, we stock up! Our personal favorite? The chocolate/chocolate chip with cream cheese frosting. We also like the Raspberry/White Chocolate. Oh, who am I kidding?! We wouldn’t turn down any of them! To see the website for Nothing Bundt Cakes, click here.

But I am a little ashamed to say I crave some cakes that are even cheaper than the regular grocery store cakes. Cheaper than a grocery store cake? And more embarrassing? Yep. Here’s my embarrassing cake guilty pleasure: Hostess Birthday Cupcakes. You likely remember the Hostess Chocolate Cupcakes with the white swirls you’d see in stores as a kid…they came in packs of two. Well, Hostess also makes Birthday Cupcakes. They taste, to me, like Twinkies with cheap frosting on top…but I’m not gonna lie…I’m completely addicted to them. I think about them all the time, but I only buy them once every few months. Each little cupcake in the two-pack has 180 calories, so I must refrain on a regular basis. But sometimes…I give in and go buy some. I’m not going to tell you where I buy them locally, because well, I want to be able to find them when I want them, but you can look on the Hostess website here. In truth, when I browse the Hostess website, I see there are lots of Hostess brand treats I’d love to try. But since I only allow myself to have those treat every couple of months, it will likely be a while before I can try them all. Does anyone else remember having Honeybuns as breakfast or snacks as a kid? Hostess makes them!

My cookie guilty pleasure comes from Tiff’s Treats in Charlotte. I discovered this place when someone sent me a box of them a year or two ago. My daughter and I couldn’t stop eating them! These cookies are yummy! My favorite flavor? The M&M cookies…they take me back to my childhood when my aunt used to make them. What makes Tiff’s Treats even better? They deliver! If you join them as an “elite” member, you even get free delivery and monthly specials! And if you send them to someone, you can also send cold milk or ice cream! I highly recommend this guilty pleasure. Check them out online here.

I also have a fried food guilty pleasure. All my friends know what it is, because I order it any time we go to Ilios Noche. If you haven’t visited Ilios Noche on Providence Road in South Charlotte, it’s high time you did. And when you do, order this guilty pleasure: Zucchini and Eggplant Chips. You’ll thank me later. They are lightly breaded and fried and served with tzatziki. You’ll keep going back for them, no doubt. See the Ilios Noche website here.

Other food guilty pleasures? Chips and salsa from Paco’s Tacos and Tequila in Charlotte, The Bento Box from Cowfish in Charlotte, soufflés from a favorite restaurant, and the Hazelnut cookie from a favorite restaurant. I could tell you where they are, but then they’d likely disappear before I could ever get them…some guilty pleasures should remain a secret, I suppose.

Now I’m likely to really disgust some of you with my beverage guilty pleasure. No, it’s not Mountain Dew or any other super sugary soda. It’s not Kool Aid, Hawaiian Punch, or Hi-C. I will readily admit I loved Kool-Aid as a kid. Everyone did in the 70s…if your mother allowed you to have it. Ours definitely did. In fact, I drank so much grape Kool-Aid that…embarrassing as this is…my poop turned blue. It’s true. Yikes! But back to the topic at hand…my embarrassing guilty beverage pleasure is a drink called Verdi Sparkletini. You likely haven’t heard of it, and that’s because it’s not something you’d likely buy. It is sold in the wine aisle, but the label calls it a “malt beverage.” It’s usually less than $6 a bottle. Go ahead and laugh. I know it’s cheap and trashy. And I think you are supposed to chill the bottle and serve it. However, I was introduced to it last summer when someone I know (I won’t let her secret out) served it to me over ice. Now, I’m not a beverage snob, so I didn’t care, and I was happy to try it…lucky for me! That day, we had the watermelon flavor, but they also make a yummy raspberry flavor and a peach flavor. In all seriousness, served over ice, they taste like spritzers. I offered one to a friend last summer at the beach, and she turned her nose up at it, telling me, “That cheap stuff gives me headaches.” I begged her to try it, and after we finished the bottle, we were both really relaxed…and neither of us ever got a headache! In fact, my friend ended up liking it so much that she secretly purchases a bottle every couple of days! Check your local grocery stores in the sparkling wine aisle (even thought I’m not sure it’s really wine). And it won’t turn your poop blue!

Oh, how I love my guilty food and beverage pleasures! Did I mention Guthrie’s chicken fingers that I have to pick up and bring home in a cooler any time I drive through Opelika, Alabama? Yeah…that’s a little embarrassing…I run into the restaurant (it’s co-branded with a gas station) and order the big bucket of chicken fingers. Then while they’re getting those ready, I run over to the gas station section and purchase a bag of ice and a styrofoam cooler. I fill up the cooler with the ice and put them in my car before I run back into Guthrie’s to get the chicken fingers. I put them on ice and drive the rest of the way to Charlotte! My daughter meets me at the door for those Guthrie’s chicken fingers every time! See their website here.

Now I’m feeling the need to drive to Opelika…

Whew! We Made It!

Whew! We made it!

While it seems everyone is feeling like they “made it” through 2020, I’m feeling that and breathing a sigh of relief that I made it through the month of December. Sounds crazy, right?

Here’s what you don’t know: both my grandmothers died on December 26…in different years, but still, same day. Eerie, right? And then, my mother fell ill on Christmas Eve three years ago, in 2017, and was taken to the hospital. She lived a few hundred miles away from me, so I made it to her bedside the next day, Christmas Day. She wasn’t in great shape when I got there, but she was awake and communicative. My friend, Angela, brought me Christmas dinner to the hospital from her family’s gathering. I knew Mother was sick, but I didn’t realize just how sick she was till the doctor told me the next day that she was just getting worse. I understood what he was saying. I’d been through this before with my dad.

And then I realized it was December 26. I remember asking the doctor, “Is she likely to die today?” I explained to him that I was asking, because both my grandmothers had died on December 26, and if my mother died on that day, I would be curled up in the fetal position in my closet every year on that day. Call me selfish for thinking that way, but I’m just being honest. If every woman in my family died on the same day, I would be terrified every year as December 26 approached. Did I want to lose my mother? No way! I’d always known I had the best mother in the whole world, and I certainly didn’t want to lose her, but I really didn’t want to lose her that day.

Mother passed on December 30, 2017. She made it past the 26th, so now that day doesn’t scare me quite so much…but now I’m just terrified of the whole month of December. Does that mean I’m superstitious? Generally, I don’t think of myself as a superstitious person, but when I think about some of the silly things I do…maybe I am superstitious.

There are the New Year’s Day superstitions. Yes, every year, I eat black-eyed peas, greens of some kind, and pork of some kind. That comes from my parents. Every year, on New Year’s Day, we were required to eat at least one teeny tiny bite of each of those things. Black-eyed peas for prosperity. Greens are for wealth and health. Pork, from what I understand, is based on the fact that pigs root forward while foraging…by eating it we are embracing the challenges and adventures of the coming year. I’ve now learned I should also eat round cakes, pastries, or cookies…the round shape signifies that the old year has come to a close, and we have a promising new year. I’ve never done that, but I guess I’ll be making some cookies today. There are more superstitions for the new year, but those are mine…and now, of course, I’ve added the cookies. Ugh.

Other superstitions I’ve had in my life? When I’m driving and I drive under a yellow light, I “kiss the roof.” By kissing my fingers and quickly touching the ceiling inside the car, I’m supposed to make it through safely. When I was a kid, if we drove past a cemetery, we would hold our breath. We also didn’t step on cracks in the sidewalk, walk under ladders, or open an umbrella in the house…all bad luck. If a black cat crosses my path, I always say, “Damn that cat.” Supposedly, saying that will do away with the curse the cat put on you by crossing your path. Drive over railroad tracks? Lift your feet so you don’t have bad luck! I also use “knock wood” a lot…when I make a positive statement, I knock wood to avoid tempting fate or jinxing myself. I’ve been known to cross my fingers for luck, but generally speaking, I find that prayer works better. See a penny on the ground? “Find a penny, pick it up. All day long, you’ll have good luck!” Someone around me sneezes? I always say “bless you,” unless it’s a Spanish-speaking friend, to whom I say “Salud!” That’s supposed to keep their soul from escaping with the sneeze. (After a certain age, women aren’t worrying about their souls escaping when they sneeze…they’re worrying about pee escaping their bladders!) And here’s another one: don’t put your handbag on the floor…your money will go down.

So looking at that, I guess I am superstitious, even though I shouldn’t be. I’ve found several Bible verses that warn us against superstition, including 2 Kings 21:6, which says “And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger.”

I guess that means I shouldn’t be worried about the month of December, and I shouldn’t feel the need to eat black-eyed peas, greens, and pork on New Year’s Day. I will try not to worry in December and say lots of prayers asking for help with that. But honestly, I just like black-eyed peas, greens, and pork, so I’ll keep eating those on New Year’s Day and any other chance I get!

This year, when I finally went to the grocery store, they were out of black-eyed peas, so I had to buy a mixture of dried beans/peas for soup. It contains black-eyed peas, so we are covered. I threw in a little spinach, some fatback, and some ham, so we’re covered, but I’m also going to have collard greens. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the ingredients to make cornbread, so we’ll be missing out on that.

All this is my long way of saying, “Welcome, January!” and “Happy New Year!”

Whew! We Made It!

Whew! We made it!

While it seems everyone is feeling like they “made it” through 2020, I’m feeling that and breathing a sigh of relief that I made it through the month of December. Sounds crazy, right?

Here’s what you don’t know: both my grandmothers died on December 26…in different years, but still, same day. Eerie, right? And then, my mother fell ill on Christmas Eve three years ago, in 2017, and was taken to the hospital. She lived a few hundred miles away from me, so I made it to her bedside the next day, Christmas Day. She wasn’t in great shape when I got there, but she was awake and communicative. My friend, Angela, brought me Christmas dinner to the hospital from her family’s gathering. I knew Mother was sick, but I didn’t realize just how sick she was till the doctor told me the next day that she was just getting worse. I understood what he was saying. I’d been through this before with my dad.

And then I realized it was December 26. I remember asking the doctor, “Is she likely to die today?” I explained to him that I was asking, because both my grandmothers had died on December 26, and if my mother died on that day, I would be curled up in the fetal position in my closet every year on that day. Call me selfish for thinking that way, but I’m just being honest. If every woman in my family died on the same day, I would be terrified every year as December 26 approached. Did I want to lose my mother? No way! I’d always known I had the best mother in the whole world, and I certainly didn’t want to lose her, but I really didn’t want to lose her that day.

Mother passed on December 30, 2017. She made it past the 26th, so now that day doesn’t scare me quite so much…but now I’m just terrified of the whole month of December. Does that mean I’m superstitious? Generally, I don’t think of myself as a superstitious person, but when I think about some of the silly things I do…maybe I am superstitious.

There are the New Year’s Day superstitions. Yes, every year, I eat black-eyed peas, greens of some kind, and pork of some kind. That comes from my parents. Every year, on New Year’s Day, we were required to eat at least one teeny tiny bite of each of those things. Black-eyed peas for prosperity. Greens are for wealth and health. Pork, from what I understand, is based on the fact that pigs root forward while foraging…by eating it we are embracing the challenges and adventures of the coming year. I’ve now learned I should also eat round cakes, pastries, or cookies…the round shape signifies that the old year has come to a close, and we have a promising new year. I’ve never done that, but I guess I’ll be making some cookies today. There are more superstitions for the new year, but those are mine…and now, of course, I’ve added the cookies. Ugh.

Other superstitions I’ve had in my life? When I’m driving and I drive under a yellow light, I “kiss the roof.” By kissing my fingers and quickly touching the ceiling inside the car, I’m supposed to make it through safely. When I was a kid, if we drove past a cemetery, we would hold our breath. We also didn’t step on cracks in the sidewalk, walk under ladders, or open an umbrella in the house…all bad luck. If a black cat crosses my path, I always say, “Damn that cat.” Supposedly, saying that will do away with the curse the cat put on you by crossing your path. Drive over railroad tracks? Lift your feet so you don’t have bad luck! I also use “knock wood” a lot…when I make a positive statement, I knock wood to avoid tempting fate or jinxing myself. I’ve been known to cross my fingers for luck, but generally speaking, I find that prayer works better. See a penny on the ground? “Find a penny, pick it up. All day long, you’ll have good luck!” Someone around me sneezes? I always say “bless you,” unless it’s a Spanish-speaking friend, to whom I say “Salud!” That’s supposed to keep their soul from escaping with the sneeze. (After a certain age, women aren’t worrying about their souls escaping when they sneeze…they’re worrying about pee escaping their bladders!) And here’s another one: don’t put your handbag on the floor…your money will go down.

So looking at that, I guess I am superstitious, even though I shouldn’t be. I’ve found several Bible verses that warn us against superstition, including 2 Kings 21:6, which says “And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger.”

I guess that means I shouldn’t be worried about the month of December, and I shouldn’t feel the need to eat black-eyed peas, greens, and pork on New Year’s Day. I will try not to worry in December and say lots of prayers asking for help with that. But honestly, I just like black-eyed peas, greens, and pork, so I’ll keep eating those on New Year’s Day and any other chance I get!

This year, when I finally went to the grocery store, they were out of black-eyed peas, so I had to buy a mixture of dried beans/peas for soup. It contains black-eyed peas, so we are covered. I threw in a little spinach, some fatback, and some ham, so we’re covered, but I’m also going to have collard greens. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the ingredients to make cornbread, so we’ll be missing out on that.

All this is my long way of saying, “Welcome, January!” and “Happy New Year!”

Those Target Dresses, Though!

Those Target dresses, though!

Social media is going crazy making fun of some dresses Target is selling. Someone named Lorca Damon posted a photo/meme of dresses on display with the following caption: Target has decided if we’re gonna suffer a pandemic, we might as well look like we just lost the farm after the locusts ate our crops. To get a better understanding, here’s the photo:

Lots of people are making fun of these frocks, but I’m sure there are people who are actually buying them. Yes, some of them are purchasing them to make fun of them, but I’d be willing to bet there are people who are getting them because they really want to wear them in public. They think they’re cute.

And if you were a girl in high school or college in the late 80s, don’t act like you’ve never seen this kind of “fashion” before. Come on. Yes, it’s hideous, but there was a time we actually thought it was cute. Yes, we did…admit it.

I even wore some dresses similar to these…on dates! What in Hell’s bells was I thinking?!? And why were boys asking me out at all when I was dressed like I lived in a place so remote that I didn’t even know television existed? Seriously…nothing says “please don’t kiss me on this date” like a dress that covers every inch of skin except your face! In my defense, I didn’t wear them a lot; I think I had one or two of the dresses that I wore maybe a couple of times, but I wore them!

I’m not kidding. I have a picture of myself wearing one of those Little House on the Prairie dresses at an Alabama football game when I was in college…I think it was 1986…with a date! It was a royal blue flannel dress with a black floral pattern, long sleeves, and a black velvet collar and cuffs. Ugh. On that particular day, I wore it with black pantyhose and black flat shoes. I can’t post the photo here, because I don’t want to make the poor guy look bad for having a date with someone dressed like Laura Ingalls Wilder. Honestly, I think anyone who wore a dress like that in the 80s needs to send notes of apology to all the guys we knew. Laugh if you want, but I wasn’t alone. All the girls were wearing them! And often, we were wearing them with…wait for it…Little House on the Prairie lace-up boots. Here are some pictures of various dresses from that era in the 1980s:

Those dresses above are real dresses from the 1980s. Those hideous dresses were so popular that the brand, Laura Ashley, had whole stores full of them in malls across the United States! And another brand called Gunne Sax too…two brands devoted entirely to making us look like Laura Ingalls. It was a terrible style then, and it’s a terrible style now…unless you never want to get a date…or you’re trying to repel all men. Even my parents made fun of them in the 1980s. Every time I wore one or they saw a photo of me or my friends in one, they made faces. They even suggested then that we looked like we didn’t want dates. And they were right that we looked like we didn’t want dates, but we wanted dates…and we got dates…even dressed like that! Poor guys had to look at us in those dresses and pretend we looked pretty…even when we were wearing boots like these with the dresses:

So yes, I love seeing the memes about the Target dresses. In fact, a woman named Laura Waters did a whole silly photo shoot in one of the dresses and posted the photos on Facebook. You have to see it to believe it…I shared it on the Facebook page for Kelly’s Favorite Things, so you can see it there, or you can see the original post here. And as hard as I have laughed at the dresses, I have to remember that I actually wore dresses like that…and I cringe. Did I mention we wore skirts down to our ankles with those lace-up boots too?

I have to ask myself why styles like this would catch on in modern times in the first place. I saw this coming, though. I noticed in the past year that necklines got higher on blouses. It’s a lot more difficult to find a v-neck dress or top than it used to be…even in spring and summer styles! Maybe the pandemic is making us look for safer fashions?!? I don’t know what the reason is, but it’s terrible.

Let’s just hope this doesn’t catch on as widely like it did in the 80s. I don’t want to see whole stores filled up with dresses Laura Ingalls Wilder would wear. We have to do better than that in 2021.

And I got a robe!

And I got a robe!

If you haven’t seen the Saturday Night Live sketch starring Kristen Wiig about Christmas morning, you’re missing out. You can see it here. Everyone is excitedly opening their gifts and announcing what they are…and the mom keeps saying “and I got a robe.” It’s funny in the sketch, because it’s an accurate depiction of Christmas morning for moms around the world. Typically, moms “handle” Christmas…in this country, at least. Ask my husband how many gifts he purchased and wrapped this year. My daughter purchased one (for me!) and wrapped it, but my husband didn’t purchase one gift or even assist in wrapping. He did put up the Christmas tree for me to decorate, but he didn’t help decorate it, and he didn’t assist with Christmas lunch either. I’m not complaining, though…that’s just how it is. I enjoy doing it, and since he would not enjoy it, I don’t want him to help with it. I think we are pretty typical. That’s why the SNL sketch is so funny.

I was texting with a friend earlier, and she told me she got pajamas for Christmas, but she didn’t get a robe. I told her I didn’t get a robe this year, either, but I would have been happy if I had! I love robes. In fact, all my friends know I have quite an extensive collection of hoodies, but they don’t know I also have quite a few robes…and I love every one. When I told my friend I also have a small robe collection, she called me the “Queen of Comfort.” I will take that title and run with it!

It’s good to be queen!

I won’t go into too much detail about my robes, but my oldest one is a purple one I got from Lands End right after I got married in 2000. It’s monogrammed, and it’s still in great shape…probably because it’s made out of indestructible polyester fleece. We could have an apocalypse, and that thing would survive. I also have a pink one (not polyester fleece) from my favorite hotel in the world and a white one I don’t even remember purchasing. And I have two robes that belonged to my mother. They’re both blue. She seemed to have an affinity for blue robes and pajamas (I have two pairs of blue PJ pants from her). When I wear Mother’s robes, I tell myself she’s keeping me warm. In fact, at breakfast this morning, I looked up to see my daughter wearing one of my mother’s blue robes…a fuzzy one. My daughter had no idea that she was wearing her grandmother’s robe, but it made me smile…especially since today is the third anniversary of mother’s passing. It seemed right that she was keeping my daughter warm this morning. It was a little glimmer of happiness on a day I dread every year. God bless Mother’s soul.

After my friend called me the “Queen of Comfort,” I started thinking, “Is there anything better than being the Queen of Comfort???” No way! I love to be comfortable, but I also would love to think I could be the Queen of Comfort in another way! I hope I am comforting to my friends and family when they need support. That is a quality my mother definitely had. She was nurturing, and she always knew the right thing to say or do to comfort someone. It could be a complete stranger, and Mother would know the right way to offer emotional support. It was her specialty. She died in December 2017, and for three years, lots of different people have told me stories of how Mother helped them in some way. I could only hope to be as comforting as she was. I know how comforting she was…she was my mother, and I always knew I was fortunate to have a wonderful mother who everyone turned to in times of need. God bless Mother’s soul.

While I know I do not possess the same comforting skills my mother had, I hope to develop them over time. I don’t know how to do that, but maybe it will be a personality trait that will come to me as I grow older. I’m “only” 53, so maybe by the time I’m 70, I’ll feel like a real adult, and I will be able to offer comfort and support to others.

And then “queen of comfort” would have a dual meaning! I will be wearing my comfortable, cute hoodies (and robes!) while I offer comfort to others. I wonder if a person seems comforting when they’re wearing a Travis Scott/McDonald’s limited edition hoodie? I think I can still hold the title of Queen of Comfort even in that, right?

But don’t worry. No one will never have to address me as HRH.

Goodbye, Christmas Tree (and goodbye, 2020)

Goodbye, Christmas tree.

We took our Christmas tree down today, December 29. I know lots of people leave their trees up till the Epiphany, but we don’t. Usually, late on Christmas Day, my husband will turn to me and say, “Can’t we take down the tree now?” I always manage to get him to hold off till the 26th, but that’s usually his limit. I guess the pandemic is getting to him, because I didn’t even have to talk him into leaving it up this long this year. But today was the limit. This afternoon, while our teenage daughter was at work (she has a job!), we took the ornaments off the tree, and I wrapped them and packed them up. We worked together, and within an hour or two, our house no longer looked like Christmas.

There is one lone present left in the foyer where the tree used to be. We gave my husband a fire pit for Christmas, and we also got him a box of firewood. The firewood is still in the foyer, but I feel pretty sure he will move it to the storage room in the pool house tonight. While I know the Christmas season isn’t over, at our house, the decorations are gone. Of course, over the course of the next month, I will likely find little touches of Christmas here and there, but for the most part, the decorations are gone. I did leave my “Christmas llama” out just for a friend to find when she visits! It’s actually a little Christmas decoration that’s really an Airedale Terrier. I got it the Christmas after my Airedale, Annie, died…just to remind me of her every holiday season. But when my friend was visiting recently, she saw it and asked, “Is that a Christmas llama???” I laughed out loud…so now I’m leaving it out just for her.

Tomorrow is the third anniversary of my mother’s passing…a day I dread. We will tell stories about her tomorrow and have a Bailey’s and coffee in her memory. I think of her every single day, and honestly, I probably say something about her every day too, so she is definitely remembered. My friend, Jane, calls and texts me all the time with stories about my mother, and my brother and I talk about her too. She is remembered well, and she is still loved.

And then we roll right into New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. We will be home for New Year’s Eve…as usual. We will likely have a cocktail or two and watch a movie. This year, we probably won’t be asleep before midnight, because we have to stay up till our daughter is in for the night, but we will definitely be in our pajamas. I have already planned ahead for New Year’s Day. Today, I made some bean soup that includes black-eyed peas and pork. I’ll cook some collard greens on New Year’s Day, and hopefully, all those things will bring us good luck, good health, and lots of money in 2021!

On New Year’s Day, I will watch a lot of football, and I will go back through all the Christmas cards we received this year. I love getting Christmas cards every year. I admire the creativity of my friends and family. Thank you to everyone who sent us cards. One friend made beautiful homemade cards from leaves at her family farm. Another made a cute postcard with a photo of her sons posing with a cool truck…I love the postcard idea. My honorary niece, a new bride, sent a beautiful card with a wedding photo. Lots of friends sent pics of their kids; I love seeing them grow every year. And one friend sent a Happy New Year card that featured her dogs. That description, however, does not do it justice. I loved the front…her two dogs wearing Christmas hats, sitting on her porch…one in a red chair and one in front of what appears to be a Coca-Cola themed table…Christmas lights wrapping the banister…with the words, “well…THAT was CRAZY! Happy 2021 (finally)” Adorable. On the back? She quotes John McClane from Die Hard with, “Welcome to the party, pal.” And there’s a photo that was featured in newspapers and online news stories all over the country in the late summer and fall…a long line of people waiting to get into Gallette’s, our favorite college bar in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. News outlets all over the country picked up the photo while reporting about reckless college students during the coronavirus pandemic. What they didn’t know was that several of the folks in that photo were actually middle-aged alumni…including my friend (and other friends too)! She drew a big red arrow pointing to herself in the line, and to memorialize the year, she also featured a picture of a toilet-paper themed cake…definitely a sign of the times.

So as I welcome in 2021 and say goodbye (and good riddance) to 2020, I’m feeling some pressure to do a better job on my Christmas card in 2021. Ours featured a photo of our teenage daughter holding one of our dogs on the front. When I edited the photo, I had to put glasses on the dog, because in the original, she had what we refer to as “devil-dog eyes,” as they reflected the camera’s flash. It looked evil…not a good luck for a Christmas card…so I put red sunglasses on her after the fact. The glasses were not creative…just a necessity. But in 2021, I want to do better. I’m guessing I should start thinking about it now.

Of course, tonight, I’m tired from taking down the tree and carrying all that stuff upstairs. I won’t officially start thinking about next year’s card till January 2, but I’m open to suggestions! In the meantime, enjoy a safe New Year’s Eve!

Happy New Year! And bring on that vaccine!