Early Christmas Mornings

Early Christmas mornings.

I wish I could say I remember when our daughter became aware of Santa Claus and Christmas…maybe when she was two or three? I know her first Christmas, when she was just two months old…she knew nothing. The next year, 2004, she woke up and had fun playing with all the new stuff, but I’m not sure she was really aware of Santa.

In 2005, when she was two, she was catching on. She wanted to visit Santa in SouthPark Mall constantly…so we did. It was something to do with a toddler, and I was always looking for fu n…because she was not a napper.

Once she caught on that Santa came on Christmas Eve, she went to bed excited…just like so many other kids. And she woke up early…like so many others. But when I say she woke up early I mean my head had barely hit the pillow when she called down from upstairs.

The first year it happened, my husband was not happy. He heard her call for me…it was likely around 2:00am…and he groaned, telling me, “Make her go back to sleep till 7:00 or 8:00.” How exactly was I supposed to do that???

It was easier to reason with a grown man than it was to reason with a toddler, so I said to him, “No. If we get up with her now and let her see what Santa brought, she will play for a while and go back to bed…we will get to sleep a little later in the morning. Otherwise, we will be getting up at 5:30 or 6:00 for the day. Get up.” And so we did.

And I was right. She played for an hour (or two), and I took her back to bed and got to sleep a little later than usual. The same thing happened for several years, and every year, I had to remind my husband that it was just easier to go ahead and get up.

Last night, I saw a Publix commercial that was released last year. It features a little girl walking into the kitchen on Christmas morning, asking Grandma if they can wake up the others. Grandma says she has a better idea and sets about making pastries with the little girl. The sentiment is sweet, but when I was a little girl, I’d have thought my grandmother was just torturing me! What kid wants to hang out in the kitchen making pastries when there are gifts from Santa waiting in the living room???

I know everyone won’t agree with me, but when I was a kid, when we got up, we woke up our parents and ran to see what Santa had brought. I don’t think anyone could have stopped us if they had tried! But my parents never tried to stop us. I’m sure they thought the same way I did…”let them play now, and we can get more sleep.”

At around 7:30 or 8:00, Daddy would cook a big breakfast on Christmas mornings, but Mother always made the biscuits…her special recipe. We would hang around, talking about Christmas, and then we would all have a big Christmas lunch before we went outside to play with neighborhood friends in the afternoon…or as we got older, we settled in with the family (and likely a few friends) and watched football.

Our daughter is 17, so she knows the deal about Santa and no longer gets up before the crack of dawn to see what Santa brought. In fact, this year, she picked out most of what he will bring, but Santa tries to have a few surprises for her too. Christmas morning is not as exciting as it was when she was a little girl, but she gets the true meaning of Christmas now.

This year, at Christmas, it’s likely we will sleep in a little before we open gifts. We will have a little birthday cake for breakfast…it has become a tradition at our house. When our daughter was one, she asked Santa for a birthday cake, so we always have birthday cake for breakfast on Christmas Day. And after lunch, our daughter will figure out if any of her friends are available to hang out. My husband and I will likely watch football…any game that is on…just give us football.

Sure, as our daughter gets older, Christmas becomes different, but we enjoy being together. Is it as exciting as it was ten years ago? No, but it is more meaningful.

This year, we won’t get to see my brother and his children during the holidays, because of COVID, but we will make up for it in 2021…surely, the vaccine will make that possible. I haven’t left my house since Thanksgiving, except to pick up food…both my grandmothers died on December 26 (different years, and my mother died on December 30…I don’t need to get COVID and join them this year. The days between Christmas and New Year’s Day make me nervous every year.

So we will celebrate Christmas with our little family. Our daughter will likely spend some time with friends who had the virus a month ago, so I don’t have to worry about her. But no matter what…if she daughter wakes up at 3am and wants to open gifts, you can bet your sweet bippy that’s what we will do.

We Survived the Elf

We survived the elf.

Our daughter is 17. When she was a little girl…not sure how old, maybe six or seven…”the elf” appeared at our house. You know…the elf who appears the day after Thanksgiving and stays till Santa takes him/her home with him on Christmas Eve? That elf.

“It will be fun,” my friends said, and they got elves too.

And honestly, it was fun.

For those who are not familiar with The Elf on the Shelf, I will get you up to speed. Parents of small children purchase the elf and pretend it magically appears the day after Thanksgiving…sent by Santa to watch the children and report back nightly to the North Pole. The kids are not allowed to touch the elf, because he will lose his magic. He “magically” flies back to the North Pole every night while the kids are asleep to report to Santa, and when he returns, he lands in a different spot in the house…sometimes doing something mischievous or bringing a small gift. But the big deal is that every morning, he will be somewhere different when the kids wake up, so they have to look for him in the house. At first, it’s a lot of fun trying to come up with new hiding places and new fun ideas…till you forget one night.

Imagine this: kid wakes up and walks downstairs to find the elf hasn’t moved from where he was the day before. The kid is horrified that his elf hasn’t moved and questions the parents about the authenticity of the story behind the elf. Parents have to think on their feet. I came up with this: Oh, honey, it was so foggy last night! The elf couldn’t go back to the North Pole in dense fog! Too dangerous! I’m sure he will go back tonight!

Fast forward to about 2am the next day when I woke up and realized I hadn’t moved the elf again. My pulse rate quickened, and I jumped out of bed to try to hurry up and quietly move the elf…yep, 2am. Don’t even ask how long it took me to go back to sleep.

These things happened all the time at our house. I would forget to move the damn elf and have to come up with another excuse. Here’s a list in case you need it for a future elf fail:

  • There’s the first excuse: the fog was too dense. (LIE)
  • It stormed during the night, but you (kid) didn’t hear it. (LIE)
  • Air traffic had planes backed up in the Charlotte area, so it was too dangerous for him to try to get out past all those planes. (LIE)
  • He must think this hiding place is extra special. (LIE)
  • I think he fell asleep, because he was so tired from flying back and forth the last few nights. (LIE)

Seriously, even little kids will question those lame excuses, but they got me through the situation.

But having to hide one elf wasn’t enough. People gave her elves as gifts! At first, she questioned how people could just give them as gifts…she thought they magically appeared, so I had to explain…after we put him on the shelf the first night, he will get his magic during the night and fly back and forth to the North Pole. But that meant I had more than one elf to move and hide creatively.

Oh, it got more complicated. Our young child started writing notes to her various elves with questions. “Do you have a boyfriend?” “Do you have a girlfriend?” “What is your favorite food?” What is your favorite drink?” “Do you have a pet?” “Who is your best friend?” Oh, the questions went on and on, and she expected answers to every question the next morning. So, as a good mom, I had to sit down and come up with a different handwriting for each elf before I went to bed at night…and I had to remember which elf had which handwriting! Insanity…but yes, a small child would notice a discrepancy in the handwriting. Not kidding…

And to make things more complicated, she heard the elves brought gifts to some children, so of course, there had to be gifts. I went to Target and stocked up on every candy and cheap trinket I could find.

The elves had to be mischievous too. They spilled sugar or flour everywhere. They hid in candy bowls. They went ziplining between the banisters on the stair balcony. They wrote words with toothpaste. They even “came in like a wrecking ball.” I know there are some people who think I shouldn’t be proud of that one…but I’m proud of that one. One elf was sitting on an aluminum foil wrecking ball hung by yarn from our oven door…Miley Cyrus-style. And embarrassingly, our daughter knew exactly what it was. Don’t judge.

One year, at about Thanksgiving, before any elves had arrived for the season, my daughter came running into the kitchen, where I was cooking, with an elf in her hand! She had found it in my nightstand drawer and was confused. “Mommy? Look what I found in your drawer?” I’m good. I’m really good. Without batting an eye, I exclaimed, “He’s here! It’s magic! He knew you were going to look in that drawer tonight! He’s magic!” She bought it…hook, line, and sinker.

But the first year, when we had just one elf, heartbreak struck when we had our daughter’s bedroom painted. We bagged up all her “babies,” the stuffed animals she had collected over her lifetime and put them in the garage for “safe keeping” till the room was finished. No big deal…except, somehow, the bag got thrown away. The heartbreak was real when we discovered it. The tears! She was heartbroken, but I was too…so many memories. I had no idea how some of the “babies” would ever be replaced, but fortunately, I had photos of most of them. I got on eBay that night and started searching…and purchasing. I went anywhere and everywhere I could online to find replacements that night. I know…silly…but right then, it was important. And fortunately, I even had duplicates of a couple of special ones hidden away. So that night, after our daughter fell asleep, I got one of the duplicates from a trunk in the attic and propped it up with her elf for her to find the next morning.

When our daughter woke up and came downstairs the next morning…all puffy-eyed from crying so much before bed…she walked around looking for her elf. He was sitting on the sofa in the living room…with the duplicate rag doll that was identical to something that had been accidentally thrown away. When she found them, her face lit up…and she actually cried tears of joy! And so did I. Eventually, most of the babies were replaced by the elf over the course of the next couple of weeks. She really believed in her elf after that!

We were thankful we had the elf that first year, even though I woke up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night numerous times when I realized I hadn’t moved the elf. His ability to make those “babies” reappear earned him a special place in my heart. And it earned him a special place in our daughter’s heart too.

He was so special, in fact, that after opening gifts and having family lunch on Christmas Day, our daughter just didn’t seem herself. I sat her down and asked if something was wrong. Was she disappointed with her Christmas gifts? And she broke down in tears! She explained to me that no, she wasn’t disappointed with her gifts; she was sad her elf had gone back with Santa!

And you know what I did. I broke every elf rule. I comforted her for a while, and then I went into the kitchen and had a word with my husband, explaining to him that I needed him to go get the elf out of my nightstand drawer when I gave him the cue…and he needed to place it on the dining room table. Oh, I was thinking on the fly. I went back into the living room and told our daughter…so sweet…that since it was still Christmas Day, she could make a Christmas wish, and it might come true. Maybe she should make a wish that he would come back? I got a candle and told her to close her eyes and make a wish, then blow out the candle…close her eyes again and count to 20…slowly. While she did all that, my husband was quietly retrieving the elf and placing it in the dining room. We were breaking all the rules, but who wants to have a desperately unhappy child on Christmas Day?!?! I know…it could have been a valuable teaching moment…whatever. When she opened her eyes, I told her to see if her wish had come true. When she found that elf in the dining room, you’d have thought she had found Santa himself! We had more tears…of joy. And because it was after Christmas, we let her hold that damn elf for the rest of the day. I think he might have even slept in her bed that night. But I told her he could only stay for one more month, and he would likely stay in one place the whole time.

Whew! That was long ago. Go ahead…I get 30 lashes with a wet noodle for breaking every elf rule, but desperate times call for desperate measures. And really…was she harmed psychologically by any of it? No. Does she still believe in the elf at 17? No. In fact, a couple of years ago, a neighbor/friend posted a photo of her child’s elf that had accidentally melted when it was placed too close to a lamp. She put out a desperate plea to see if someone had an elf that looked like it. Guess who did?!?! We did! I asked my daughter if I could give it to them, and she was thrilled to get to save the day! I called my friend and said, “Come get it! It’s yours!” If you have an elf and hate it, just know you’ll get some good memories out of it. One day, you’ll look back on it fondly. And if you need some elf ideas, here are a few pics of some things we did back in the day…

70s Saturdays and Hostess Cupcakes

70s Saturdays and Hostess Cupcakes.

Earlier, I had to run to Walgreens to pick up one thing…some bottled water. Of course, like so many other people, I can’t walk out of Walgreen’s with just one thing. I have to “browse” the aisles. By the time I checked out, my cart contained hand sanitizer, cheap lipstick, Halloween candy I promptly hid when I got home, and Hostess Cupcakes. Yes, Hostess Cupcakes…the ones that come two to a pack. The creme-filled chocolate ones that have the white swirls across the top. The ones that I loved as a kid in the 1970s.

When I was a little girl, Daddy took us to Murphy’s store on Highway 31 in Brewton on Saturday mornings after he gave us our $5 allowance. It was our opportunity to get whatever we wanted, and back then, $5 would buy a lot of treats. Murphy’s was a little locally-owned convenience store. We always referred to it as “Murphy’s,” except Saturdays, when we referred to it as “the candy store.” Mr. and Mrs. Murphy actually ran it themselves. I’m sure they laughed when they saw us coming, because they knew we were going straight for the candy. By the time I left the store, I usually had an Icee or a Grape Fanta and a little brown bag full of different treats. My personal favorites? Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (I remember when the price increased from 15 cents to 20 cents), Pixy Stix, Marathon Bar, Grape Now & Laters, Spree Candy, M&Ms, Candy Cigarettes (it was the 70s, after all), and yes, those glorious Hostess Cupcakes. I thought those swirls across the top were beautiful. I guess I always had homemade birthday cakes, so those Hostess swirls looked like some special handiwork. Here’s a secret, though: I rarely ate the cupcakes. I usually just ate the frosting off the top…and that swirl? I saved that till the end.

So, after I got home from Walgreen’s and ate those Hostess cupcakes, I posted on my personal Facebook page about them, and the reaction was great! So many of my friends remembered those cupcakes from childhood. But the great thing was the memories they shared about their own experiences. One friend commented that her dad would take her to the deli on Saturdays, and while he picked out lunch stuff, the kids could get treats…including Tastykakes…a Mid-Atlantic treat. Others could remember the mom-and-pop shops where they got their weekend treats, and one friend frequented the 7-11 with her dad, buying comic books and candy.

One of my favorite comments was simply, “Nyolator.” It was a comment from a kindergarten friend in Brewton. I’m guessing not just anyone would understand it, but I knew exactly what it meant immediately. In South Alabama, when I was a kid, I didn’t call Now&Later candies by their real name. I called them “Nyolators,” and I now know I wasn’t the only one! We weren’t being funny. Since I never bothered to read the package, I just pronounced them the way I heard it,”Nyolator.” I guess that’s the way my kindergarten friend heard it too! So if someone had asked me what candy I liked at the time, I likely would have answered, “Grape Nyolators.” Later, when I bothered to read the package, I was amused to learn I had been calling them by the wrong name my whole life…I was probably a preteen by the time I realized it, but dang!

So now, I’m thinking those Hostess Cupcakes aren’t just cupcakes. They’re symbols of my childhood…memories of going to Murphy’s store with my daddy. Pixy Stix can have the same effect for me. I loved Pixy Stix then, and I still love them now. Again, grape Pixy Stix are my preferred flavor. I don’t know why I love artificial grape flavoring, but I do.

Grape sodas, which taste nothing like real grapes, also make me think of visiting my Granddaddy. I’ve talked with my cousin, Patti, in recent years about how Granddaddy would give us a quarter, and we would walk down to the little store down the street from his house. I don’t know what the store was called, but I know I could always get a grape soda or an RC Cola there.

And you know why all those items…the candy, the cupcakes, the sodas…remind us of our childhood? Because they represent happy times. We tend to lock things into our longterm memory if they are attached to an emotion, and I guess that emotion, for me, on a Saturday morning, with $5 to spend at a mom-and-pop convenience store…well, that emotion was pure joy! No doubt!

I was big on making my little brown bag candy stash last a while. I could drag out eating some M&Ms by peeling them. I never got Peanut M&Ms. Back then, I only got original milk chocolate ones. And I actually peeled them. Sounds crazy right? I would bite each one just lightly enough to crack the outer shell, and then I would carefully peel off the shell, eating it little bit by little bit. And that’s when there were still red M&Ms with cancer-causing coloring, and there were two different brown colors of M&M…one was tan. Remember that? Long before blue M&Ms. I remember hearing the slogan for M&Ms many times, “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand.”

And while I was peeling my M&Ms and hoarding my candy/cupcake stash, I was likely playing records on my record player…maybe Ricky Nelson singing Garden Party, which takes me back every time. That and Otis Redding singing Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay. But I’m not even going to get into how music takes me back…that’s for another day.

For now, I’m going to sneak back into the kitchen and eat some of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups from the bag of Halloween candy I purchased at Walgreen’s. I hid it from everyone else in my family, but I know exactly where it is!

Favorite College Care Packages

I had lunch recently with a friend from college. She has lived just about 45 minutes from me for years, and we didn’t even realize it till about three years ago. Last month, we finally went to lunch after talking about it for a long time, and now, we’ve decided to make it a monthly thing. She has four children, and her oldest is a freshman in college. She told me she is putting together a Halloween-themed care package to send him, including lots of his favorite little treats, and it reminded me of care packages my own mother used to send me…over thirty years ago, when I was in college. She was really good about sending boxes of fun, silly things, and sometimes, she would just send something as simple as a sweatshirt or a pair of fuzzy socks, but it always made me smile.

These days, it’s easier than ever to send care packages, and I’ll get into the easy ones later, but Mother used to send me things she had bundled herself, and those care packages were hard to beat. Don’t all college students love to get mail and packages? Sometimes, she would send small packages just for me, and sometimes, she would send a bigger bundle for me and a roommate. Here are a few examples of things she did:

  • Halloween Care Package in October. It included silly Halloween socks, the kind you get in the Dollar Spot at Target; my favorite Halloween candies; a few favorite snacks (chips, cereal bars, etc); plastic spiders; rubber snakes; glow-in-the dark plastic teeth; wax teeth; Halloween hair ties; Halloween t-shirt (you can get some pretty inexpensive ones in Walmart and Target); and if she were sending it now, she would have definitely included some gift cards to local eateries.Exam Care Package. At the end of November, she would send a big box as a care package for final exams. She would include lots of favorite snacks: Toastchee Crackers,Microwave Popcorn, Chips, Breakfast Bars, and some favorite candy. She might also include a MadLibs book…great stress-relieve entertainment for silly college students. A couple of People and Us Magazines were good for taking a break from studying. And she might have included some silly childhood toys like YoYos, Jacks, a Gyro-Wheel, an Etch A Sketch, and even a Wooly Willy…see below. Oh…and temporary tattoos…always fun. Squirt guns were a big hit! Childhood toys were always fun, because they were good for a laugh. Friends from all over the hall would take study breaks and come to my room to play with those silly toys.
  • Winter Care Package. In late January, she would send a Winter Care Package that included cheap gloves for me and my roommate, warm socks for both of us, cheap sock hats, a warm sweatshirt for each of us, packages of powdered hot chocolate, cheap ear muffs, and maybe some travel magazines that showed sunny destinations.

You get the picture. As the year progressed, she tried to put together thoughtful bundles. Sometimes they were all very similar, but she would include just one or two special items for a holiday….like those packages of Valentines you get in elementary school…she knew it would be fun for us to tape those on the doors of friends on our hall.

And after I graduated from college and moved to Atlanta, she would still send me care packages. My favorite was one she sent to me and my roommate in December. It was an Advent calendar in a box. The days weren’t on it, but there were two of the same wrapped gifts for every day of Advent, and she had the gifts numbered. I wish I could remember everything she sent. On the first day of Advent, we opened Christmas stockings. We didn’t have a fireplace, so I think we just hung them on the bar. The next day, we likely opened…you guessed it…socks. Big fat candy canes might have been day 3. Light-up antlers might have been day 4. Lights to hang in our apartment could have been day 5. You get the picture. She wrapped anything Christmas-themed she could find and put it into the box. 

Nowadays, though, if you don’t want to take the time to put together a care package, you can simply order online and have them shipped to your student. Simply go to Amazon.com and find regular care packages, but if you want themed packages, simply input what you’re looking for. I entered “Halloween Care Package” on the Amazon search, and I got several options. You can see them here. Another option is a monthly subscription to care packages through College Care Packages…see their options here. I have also found a fun company called Hip Kits that puts together care packages for college students, and they are a little different than the ones on Amazon. See Hip Kits here. 

And for some other unique care package ideas, go to Etsy.com and enter “care packages,” and you’ll get lots of unique results. Click here to see some of the options.

Also, don’t forget restaurant gift cards make great surprises for college students. Sometimes, too, I’ll just Venmo a little money to college students I know, and when I do, I say it’s for WAM (walking around money) and I add the emoji of the person walking plus the emoji showing a bag of money.

 

When I was in college and in my 20s, any time I left my parents’ house, Daddy would give me some “walking around money,” which we also called “WAM.” If you aren’t familiar with the Venmo app, it’s time to get with the program. It’s super easy to send money to friends/family with Venmo. If my daughter picks up the tab for her friend at Starbucks, the friend will send her $5 via Venmo. Get it?

But no matter what little happy surprise you choose to send your child…or someone else’s…they will be grateful. College is fun, but it can be stressful, and it’s always fun to receive a package or some walking around money.

Daddy’s Birthday

“Tough row to hoe.” I’ve heard it my whole life. My daddy loved idioms, and “tough row to hoe” was one of his favorites, and sometimes he would say it as “long row to hoe.” Either way, it means someone is facing a difficult situation. If you’ve never been on a farm, you might not get it, but to “hoe a row” on a farm means you’re turning the soil in a row for planting.

Someone might say, “They have a long/tough row to hoe cleaning up the Bahamas after the recent hurricane.” You get it.

I thought of that just now, because I’m watching a news show, and one of the commenters said “tough ROAD to hoe.” That would have driven Daddy crazy. Who ever heard of using a hoe (the farm implement) on a ROAD?!? It is clear that commenter hasn’t ever spent any time on a farm.

Daddy’s birthday is today…his 81st birthday, but he is no longer with us. He died 2 1/2 weeks after his 68th birthday….pancreatic cancer. I’ve written about him before, and I’ve written about the misery we all experienced as he suffered. I don’t like to dwell on that, though. I like to think about the things Daddy taught me and the things we all learned from his illness.

For many years, on his birthday, I remembered the illness, the suffering, the sadness, but I am finally at the point that I remember happy, healthy times. I remember how he laughed…something I couldn’t recall for a long time. He did love to laugh, and he loved to tell stories. Most of all, he loved to tell stories that made us laugh.

And that’s one thing we learned from Daddy during his illness: laughter can cure a lot of ills. It can’t cure cancer, but it sure can make it easier. He said it. He wanted us to keep laughing with him as much as we could. We talked about old times. We laughed about old stories. My brother told his usual crazy stories. Having my then-two-year-old daughter and my brother’s then-eight-year-old twins around helped too. They gave him something to smile about. He loved those grandchildren. When we were growing up, he had to travel for work a lot, so he wasn’t able to enjoy us as much, but after he retired, he got to spend time with his grandchildren…and that brought him great joy.

Incredibly, we have a lot of happy memories from his illness. He turned 68 a few weeks before he died. His brothers and sister came over to Alabama from Florida to be with him on his birthday. He didn’t know they were coming, and when we awoke from a nap to find them standing in his room, he looked around and said, “Well, this is a motley crew!” We have laughed about that for years. In fact, I recently visited his oldest brother in a rehab facility (he broke a hip) in Florida, and I reminded him of that moment…and we laughed again.

But I have lots of happy memories of Daddy in general. When we were little and living in Brewton, Alabama, he would take us to the “candy store” on Saturdays. It was really a locally owned convenience store called Murphy’s. In fact, now that I think about it, we only called it the “candy store” on Saturdays. The rest of the time, we called it “Murphy’s.”  Sometimes, he would take us to fly kites in a nearby pasture. I remember holding the kite string one time, and of course, I accidentally let it go. I can still see Daddy chasing it and catching it! He took us fishing at the pond in our neighborhood and cleaned the fish we caught. Mother would fry it up in the kitchen afterward. He helped us climb high up in the sycamore tree in our backyard. He rode a tandem bicycle with us. We had a lot of fun.

And when I was an adult, he helped me whenever I needed it. Heartbreak? Call Daddy. Bad day at work? Call Daddy. Stressed out about a test in college? Call Daddy. Sometimes, I just needed to talk. Sometimes, I needed him to “rescue” me when I had a flat tire or a car accident. And whenever I visited my parents, he always gave me WAM (walking around money) as I left. It was usually $20 or $40, but I was happy to have it, and he was happy to give it to me. In truth, we were always fortunate to know Daddy was our safety net…emotionally and financially.

Just like Mother, Daddy loved the happy faces of sunflowers. Most of my Mammoth Sunflowers have already bloomed this year, but there is one that’s holding out. Incredibly, one of my Evening Sun Sunflowers started opening today…the first of that variety to open. I’m in New York, but I called my husband in Charlotte and asked him to walk outside and see if it was opening, and it is…on Daddy’s Birthday. It made my day when he sent the picture of the bloom just beginning to open.

We have lots of great memories of Daddy. His laughter was contagious, and his sense of humor was awesome. His strength was unrivaled, and his love for his family was great.  I hope God lets him get little glimpses of his beautiful grandchildren. He would be so proud of them. And I remind them all the time that Big Ken (as they called him) would want them to enjoy life…sure, save for a rainy day, but enjoy today.

Happy 81st Birthday to Daddy in Heaven.

 

*****

The Eagles of My Childhood

Recently, my husband and I watched a show called The Eagles: Breaking The Band. We saw The Eagles perform in Charlotte about 10 years ago, and it was an incredible concert. We had crazy good seats, and they played for hours. I’ve tried to talk him into going to Vegas for their concerts in September and October, but he has a lot going on, so …no dice. (See what I did there? Vegas/dice???)

When I was a little girl living in Spanish Fort, Alabama, in the 1970s, The Eagles were wildly popular. I remember going into the one of the anchor stores in Springdale Mall back then to peruse their single 45 records. The records were set up in a display case on the second floor near the top of the escalator…but I can’t remember if it was inside Gayfer’s department store or Montgomery Ward. It was one of the two big anchor stores there, and the year was 1977. I feel pretty sure I purchased Life in the Fast Lane and Hotel California there. I didn’t buy the album…just the singles, because for a nine-year-old, the album would eat up way too much of my allowance. So I just bought singles.

I remember playing the singles on my record player in my room for hours. I also remember some misheard lyrics. Specifically, I thought the line in Life in the Fast Lane that says “He was too tired to make it; she was too tired to fight about it” said “He was two-timing naked; she was too tired to fight about it.” What?!?!? Where did a nine-yr-old get that?!?! In fact, I still sing it that way, just because I think it’s funny.

I had a friend in Spanish Fort who lived just down the street from us on Caisson Trace. Her name was Cathy, and I thought her parents were cool. Her mother drove a cute little green Fiat with a sunroof…not just everybody had a Fiat. And her daddy had long-ish curly hair like Don Henley’s and a bushy mustache, and he had an antique Coke machine in their garage. That made them cool in the eyes of a nine-yr-old, but what made them even cooler was that when The Eagles came to the Mobile Municipal Auditorium on June 25, 1977, Cathy’s parents went to the concert! Yep…they were ultra cool.

So any time I think of The Eagles, I think of Cathy’s family. And thinking of her family reminds me that I was a sleepwalker as a child. One night, when I was sleeping over at Cathy’s, I walked in my sleep to her brother’s bed. I was a regular sleepwalker at home, but I had never walked in my sleep at a friend’s house! When I woke up in the middle of the night, I realized where I was, slid silently out of bed, and ran back to Cathy’s room…all the while praying no one knew. The next morning, when we were eating breakfast in their kitchen, her two brothers came in, and the younger one asked, “Which one of y’all got in bed with me last night?” My heart almost stopped. But I didn’t miss a beat on telling a lie…”Not me!” By the time breakfast was over, I’m not sure if he thought he was crazy or if he knew I was lying, but I didn’t care. The discussion was over, but my fear wasn’t. For the previous year or so, I had been sneaking into my parents’ room to watch soap operas and a miniseries caked Rich Man, Poor Man on occasion….totally against the rules at our house. Well, on those shows, they talked about how “sleeping together” made people pregnant. So, for months, my nine-yr-old self worried I might be pregnant because I had walked in my sleep to Cathy’s brother’s bed. That’s what happens when kids watch shows they don’t understand. For the record…I wasn’t pregnant. Aside from the fact that I was nine years old and her brother was eight, I actually slept, and I guess he did too, even though he realized I was there. I guess he just went back to sleep…probably scared him! I didn’t even tell my mother about it till I was 18 or 19…and we got a good laugh out of it then.

But now that I think about sneaking to watch those soap operas, I think I know where I got “he was two timing naked, she was too tired to fight about it.”

So yeah…The Eagles take me way back. Now I really want to go to that concert in Vegas. Maybe I can convince my husband it will be my early Christmas gift? Anyone else want to go? Tickets start at about $500 here.

But now, every time you hear Life in the Fast Lane, you’re going to hear “he was two timing naked.”

College Orientation for Parents

I’m not poking fun. My child won’t be going off to college for three more years, so please don’t think I’m poking fun at students or parents, but I have a question:

When did colleges start having orientation for parents?

Like I said, I’m not poking fun, but when I went off to college orientation…way back in 1985…my parents didn’t go with me. In fact, I don’t recall seeing any parents there, and I certainly don’t recall any orientation sessions just for the parents. Of course, my memory could be failing. My parents felt college was my adventure.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it. It just seems strange to me. Going off to college is a rite of passage for lots of new high school graduates, and to me, it was part of growing up. It was the beginning of more independence. It was something I did on my own. I don’t mean I paid for it. Nope…my parents paid…but they didn’t go to orientation with me.

They did go with me when I moved into the dorm my freshman year. They wouldn’t have missed that, and I wouldn’t have wanted them to miss it. But as soon as everything was moved in, we went to lunch, and they were on their way home. They didn’t want to stick around long enough for there to be any tears. Things have changed since 1985, and like I said, I’m not knocking it, but it seems like an interesting step… backward.

Trust me…when my daughter goes to college, I’ll be one of the parents participating in the parent orientation sessions, because I will feel like a terrible parent if I don’t. I don’t want to be the only one who doesn’t go; I don’t need to get those dirty looks and whispers…I get enough of those now, and she’s not even in college yet! But why did colleges feel like they needed to start having parent orientation sessions?

I don’t have an answer. I don’t even know when it started.

When we were kids, we ran all over the neighborhood all summer. We were outside from the moment we got up till the neighborhood street lights came on…and sometimes later, if we got permission to play Kick the Can at a friend’s house. We loved playing Kick the Can in the dark…hiding behind trees, dashing about and trying not to giggle. We rode our bikes for miles a day. We went to different friends’ houses. And guess what? We didn’t even have cell phones! Not even a bag phone! Those things weren’t around yet. To find us, our parents had to go outside and call our names, or they had to call around to various friends’ houses, or they had to drive around the neighborhood.

It’s not that way anymore. We’ve all been told our kids will be kidnapped if they play outside. We think they’ll end up in the emergency room if they are left unsupervised.

Is the cell phone to blame?

Starting in the late 80s, people really starting getting cell phones, and the cell phone became more and more popular and sophisticated as time went on. Unlike any time before, we could all call each other anywhere, anytime. And with smart phones, we can now see where people are at any time. I have the Life 360 app, and I can see where my daughter’s phone is all the time. Does that mean she is with the phone? Probably…teenagers these days go nowhere without their phones. But don’t be fooled…there are ways to get around Life 360.

I know one teen who downloaded Life 360 to his iPad and removed it from his smartphone.  While he was out and about with his cellphone, his iPad was safely tucked away anywhere he wanted it to be, so it looked like he was where he was supposed to be. It’s true. If you want to keep tabs on your child’s whereabouts and you pay for the cellphone, you might want to check that.

Parents know the whereabouts of their children…even college students…all the time. I thank my lucky stars every single day that my parents couldn’t always see where I was! Yet, I want my daughter to have the Life 360 app on her phone. Even when she goes to college, I will likely want her to have the app, and I will likely check it from time to time.

But will I want to go to parent orientation sessions at her college? I doubt it. I hate “mandatory” meetings…always have. If you want me to come to a meeting, invite me like it’s a party…and maybe give away prizes…and I’ll be all in. I especially hate meetings that are a waste of my time. Why do I need to know about her college or university? As far as I’m concerned, I’m supposed to move her in, pay for it all, visit occasionally, and talk with her regularly. I’m not calling for everyone to boycott parent orientation sessions. Some folks probably love the idea. I just think it’s strange that it wasn’t considered necessary for so long, and now, college has become a family affair.

By the time our daughter does off to college, if things keep “progressing” the way they have been, parents will have to go to class with their college freshmen for the first week of school.

Good luck to all of you who are attending parent orientation sessions this summer. God willing, I will be doing it too one day…but I don’t think I will like it.

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What’s In A Name?

What’s in a name?

Prince Harry and Megan just had a baby boy and named him Archie Harrison. And then it happened…everybody voiced their opinions. Even I voiced my opinion…not that Megan and Harry really care what I think. I’ve heard some folks say they love that it’s less formal, and I’ve heard others who think it’s not formal enough. Does it really matter? Does anyone besides that baby have to walk around with that name? To see pics of Archie, click here.

I remember when Prince Harry was born, and I remember when Prince Charles and Diana announced his given names…Henry Charles Albert David. They also announced they would call him Harry. And you know what? The reaction was similar to the reaction to Archie’s name. Lots of folks thought “Prince Harry” sounded ridiculous, and others loved it. Lots of people didn’t care. Now, though, Harry is grown, and we are all so accustomed to calling him Prince Harry that no one thinks it’s odd. I never hear anyone say anything about his name.

Our daughter was born when I was 36 years old. All my friends were already moms, and I had seen them deal with struggling to name their babies. Anytime someone told people what they planned to name a baby before it was born, people offered their unsolicited opinions. Or maybe they got the dreaded, “Is it a family name?” That question often means they think it’s an ugly name. I know people thought I was crazy when we named our baby girl Camilla, but I think it’s a pretty name. Also, there are some family connections, and we wanted to name her a traditional name that everyone didn’t use. I didn’t want to call her name on a playground and have every other little girl think I might be calling her. She goes by a shortened version of the name now. But before she was born, I told no one her name. I didn’t want to hear the unsolicited opinions, and a friend in Florida told me that if we waited till we had already named her, people would feel less inclined to say anything.

My own name is, obviously, Kelly. I was born in the late 1960s, when Kelly was quite popular. And even though there were lots of other Kellys in my generation, I have always  loved my name. To me, it sounds like a happy name. There was always another Kelly in my classes at school…boys and girls…so I often was called by my first and last names, but that’s OK. I still like my name, and I didn’t care that there were others, but I just thought, for my daughter, I wanted her to be the only one with her name in school. And even shortening it to Milly, she was the only one in her grade…until sixth grade, when another one came to her grade at school. She wasn’t happy about another one coming in, even thought she spelled it Millie, instead of Milly. She said, “Now I’m going to be called by my first and last names!” I reminded her she was there first, so it was likely the new girl would be called by both names. I said then, “You know, if you went by Camilla, you’d be the only one.” She grimaced.

No matter what someone names us, our names don’t define us. I have a lifelong friend named Eloyse who is a fabulous person. She’s funny, thoughtful, generous, bright, and a great friend, but when I considered that for our daughter and her we were considering it, she said, “No! Do not do that to your child!” I love the name…maybe because I love the person, but on her advice, I didn’t name our daughter Eloyse, but I still think it’s a beautiful name.

I do think our opinions of names are affected by people we’ve known. When my husband and I were discussing names, I would throw a name out there, and he would poo-poo it for various reasons. Maybe he dated someone with the name. Maybe he didn’t like someone with the name. Maybe he was afraid of the nicknames that could be formed with the name. Maybe he thought people wouldn’t be able to pronounce it. Or he thought it sounded too old. And I did the same things when he brought up names. We eventually found a few we could agree on and picked one, but it was a process.

So, whether people name their boys Aloysius or John, or they name their girls Esmeralda or Jane, I no longer offer my opinion. I know one thing for sure: those children will shape those names more than those names shape those children. I used Aloysius as an example, because while lots of people think it’s an odd, old-sounding name, I knew someone named Aloysius, and I thought he was awesome…so I like the name.

And now, I’m off to lunch with some friends: Kelli and Kelly. No joke. Three ladies with various spellings of the same name are having lunch together today. We are all different ages too! I’m the oldest at 51 (two weeks from 52!). The next one is 47, and the youngest is 42. I was born in the 1960s, and they were born in the 1970s. Pretty amazing that we are all friends with the same name…and there is a ten year age range.

What’s in a name? I say the person makes the name instead of the name making the person. So, God bless Archie! If he’s anything like his daddy, Prince Harry, he’ll be charming and adorable.

Thoughts?

 

 

 

 

 

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Once Upon A Time…

Television made quite an impression on me when I was growing up. I like to think I wasn’t staring at the TV screen all the time, but back then, families watched TV together. These days, my husband mostly watches the news or business channels. Our daughter and I don’t watch much TV, but sometimes, she and I watch something together…a rerun of Zoey 101 or Drake and Josh…or maybe a new episode of Henry Danger.

But when I was growing up, the big three networks were the bomb. I remember going to school on Wednesday mornings in third grade, and everyone would be talking about Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley, because those popular shows came on ABC on Tuesday nights. I remember pretending to be Laverne and Shirley with a friend, and  I remember how we all imitated Pinky Tuscadero, Fonzie’s brief love on Happy Days. She had this catchy snap and point thing she did with her hands. Her sister, Leather Tuscadero, who appeared later, didn’t impress us so much.

Those shows were great, but I didn’t really want to be Laverne and Shirley or Pinky and Leather. They weren’t living my dream. I didn’t dream of living in a basement apartment with a roommate and having Lenny and Squiggy around all the time. And I didn’t dream of riding in a demolition derby like Pinky did.

My very favorite shows were shows that had women as the lead characters, and they were living good lives. I wanted to be those ladies. The shows that had characters I wanted to be were The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Bewitched, and Charlie’s Angels.

I still love those shows, in fact. I rarely see any of them, but occasionally, I watch on Amazon Prime.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show is one I remember from early childhood. Mary Richards, played by Mary Tyler Moore, worked at a TV station…glamorous. She was single and living by herself…exciting stuff! Sometimes, she wore leotards and did 1970s-style exercises in her living room. And often, her cool friend, Rhoda, would stop by. Mary was spunky, but sometimes got herself in trouble at work. I can still hear her saying, “Oh, Mr. Grant!” In the show’s opening sequence, Mary stands in the street and throws her hat up into the wind…I’ve always wanted to do that in a city. And Mary had great hair.09-mary-tyler-moore-show.w1200.h630

 Bewitched. Who didn’t want to be Bewitched?!?!? Heck, I still find myself thinking sometimes, “I wish I could just twitch my nose like Samantha Stephens.” In a traffic jam?   Twitch my nose and arrive at my destination! Someone gets hurt? Twitch my nose and rewind time. My team is losing? Twitch my nose and change the outcome! I loved Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stephens.  Samantha got herself into jams lots of times when her husband, Darrin, would bring his boss, Larry Tate, for dinner. And when she did, she would say, “Oh, my stars!” She also had a great wardrobe. She wasn’t fancy, but she had some groovy outfits. Plus, if she were sick, all she had to do was say, “Calling Dr. Bombay! Calling Dr. Bombay!” He would pop right in! And she could clean up messes just by snapping her fingers! Did I mention she had great hair? I’m starting to see a theme here. It’s likely I remember this mostly from reruns, because it ran from 1964 to 1972, meaning I was five when the series ended. I’m sure I was watching it in first run, but I probably remember more from reruns.https---s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com-nine-tvmg-images-prod-63-16-83-631683_p183952_b_h3_aq

And then Charlie’s Angels came along in 1976. I remember it vividly…sitting in my big yellow beanbag chair in the family den to watch it…right in front of the TV. The three original leading characters were Sabrina, Kelly, and Jill.  Lots of women who were little girls during the show’s run from 1976 to 1981 can spontaneously recite the show’s opening monologue by John Forsythe: “Once upon a time, there were three little girls who went to the police academy. And they were each assigned very hazardous duties. But I took them away from all that, and now they work for me. My name is Charlie.” They were the three most gorgeous private detectives ever, and I wanted to be them. Lots of women my age have at least one photo of themselves with their friends posing like the silhouette from the show’s logo. They were young, single, smart, brave, tough, and beautiful…and they had great hair. Last July, when I was in New York, Jaclyn Smith, who played Kelly Garrett, walked right past me on the sidewalk in front of the Sherry Netherland Hotel. I was speechless. She was talking on her cell phone, so I didn’t say anything, but she is still beautiful. I saw a real live Charlie’s Angel!

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You know what else all those shows had in common? Great openings. If you’re close to my age, you can likely hum the Bewitched theme song while remembering the animated witch on a broom in the opening credits. See it here. Surely, you can sing the theme song to The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Hear/see it here. And everybody remembers Charlie’s speech in the opening credits of Charlie’s Angels…see/hear it here.

Television made quite an impression on me. Now, if I could just twitch my nose like Bewitched and be dressed for the day with great hair before starting my private investigator work like Charlie’s Angels, I could end the day with some exercises while wearing a leotard in my living room like The Mary Tyler Moore Show!

 

 

 

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The Perfect Christmas

Ahhh…the perfect Christmas.

Perfection is in the eye of the beholder, my friends.

What some consider “perfect” is completely different than what I consider perfect. Perfect family gatherings like we see in Hallmark movies? I’ll pass…they rarely measure up to the “perfection” they are meant to be. I’d rather gather with my family, friends, and neighbors over games and laughter, in comfortable clothing, with fifteen different conversations going on at the same time. I’m sure most of America disagrees with me, but apparently, I’m not like most of America.

My husband thinks I’m crazy every year at the holidays, but he goes along with me. I’m not into the “perfect” Christmas. I’m into the fun Christmas. Fun stuff to do. I’m not the person who has perfect bows hung on perfect chandeliers, perfect garland on the banister, mistletoe hung in the perfect spot, or fresh poinsettias perfectly placed all over my home. I’m not the person who prepares the perfect meal. I just don’t have the time or energy for that.

Today, we were watching football and talking, and my husband asked me why I like to do the fun/funny Christmas.

I had to think about that for a moment. And then, I answered, “I don’t do the perfect Christmas, because generally speaking, I don’t do perfect well. My strength is fun, not perfection. I do fun really well.” He looked at me, and then he laughed and said, “Well, you’re right about that!”

That tends to ring true with almost everything in my life. I don’t want to be the perfect mother…way too much pressure in that. I want to be a fun mom. That doesn’t mean I’m a pushover who lets my child run wild and unsupervised. That doesn’t mean I’m not checking up on her regularly. Our daughter is generally well-supervised, and we have a great relationship. We talk…and we talk…and we talk. But I remember fifteen, and I know fun is a lot more…well, fun. Do I strive for perfection as a mother? No. Perfection? That’s just not my strength.

Our vacations are fun. Are they perfect? Well, if they’re fun, they’re perfect for us! Do we visit every perfect museum tourists are supposed to visit when they go somewhere? Nah…we might visit one or two, but my teenager just isn’t impressed by museums. She’s impressed by fun places. She is her mother’s daughter. It doesn’t make us shallow. It’s just a different approach. I try to make sure we get a little culture on vacation, but we always want to have fun. Visit the hometown of John Mellencamp and try to find Jack and Diane’s Tastee Freeze when we’re passing through Indiana? Yep. Plan our dinners in LA and New York based on where we are likely to see a celebrity or two? Sure! Have lunch at places with gigantic mojitos and milkshakes? You bet! Struggle through a rock scramble and finish it by climbing straight up 60 feet and pulling myself out of a rocky crevice? Done that! Jump into a bioluminescent bay at night, not having any idea what the water around me looks like? Yes, I did. Climb a waterfall, including wading through murky chest-deep water? Check! Drive halfway across the country in 10 days with a friend and four kids? Yes…and we slept in a wigwam along the way! Volunteer to eat fire with the entertainment on stage? Pick me, please!

And so, I guess that’s why I go the fun route on Christmas. Maybe my love of the fun Christmas started when I was a little girl and my grandparents had aluminum Christmas trees with color wheels! I absolutely loved them…I was fascinated by them! Sure, I could be all serious now, but that’s just not who I am. I simply don’t take myself or life too seriously. My parents taught me many years ago that life is short. I remember Mother and Daddy telling me, “Life is not a dress rehearsal. Enjoy it.” And that’s exactly what I try to do…enjoy life.

If I’m leading a meeting of volunteers, there will be prizes at the end. Passing through a city with a great rollercoaster at a great amusement park? I’m in! Silly photo op somewhere? Get your camera!

So, if you want to drive past the perfect Christmas house, don’t drive past ours. If you want to see the perfect Christmas tree, chances are you won’t like ours. If you want to eat the perfect holiday meal, our house is not where you want to be.

But if you want to take photos with a leg lamp from A Christmas Story, come on over! If you want to see a 10.5′ inflatable Christmas elephant, visit us! If you want to dine on hamburgers, hot dogs, Cuban sandwiches, beer bread, spicy fiesta dip, buttermilk pie, and other fun food during the holidays, we’ll be happy to set a place for you. If you want to drink champagne with breakfast, drink up, baby! If you want to see our “perfect” artificial poinsettias, then we’d love to have you over. If you want to play card games on Christmas Eve or “Who’s Most Likely To…” on Christmas Day, you’re welcome at our house. Just bring a positive attitude and be ready to laugh.

Perfection is not my strength, but fun is!