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.

 

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First Day of Sophomore Year

Today is the first day of school at our daughter’s school. She will be starting her sophomore year of high school. Seriously…only three more years of school before she off to college. How can that be?!?

She survived…even thrived in freshman year! She learned a lot academically, socially, and athletically. She got good grades. She loved her teachers. She made new friends. She had some solid extracurricular activities. In fact, she played varsity field hockey and varsity lacrosse, and she was a basketball cheerleader. The cheerleading part is a big deal. She is not one who likes to perform. She likes to play sports. She isn’t looking at her “audience” when she plays sports, but cheerleading is different. I was very proud of her for trying something new. And it wasn’t just new to her. Her school hadn’t had cheerleaders in years, so she was a part of a new team altogether.

And now she begins her second year of high school. She has already had a few field hockey games. She had school orientation yesterday, and after a rough morning of “I have nothing to wear,” she rebounded after orientation, telling me she was thrilled with her schedule for the year. Even though she had no idea which of her friends were in her classes, she was happy with her schedule. Whew! That’s a win!

The first couple months of school, my husband will drive her to school, or she will ride with friends. I will pick her up after field hockey practice most of the time, and I’m sure she will get rides with friends when she can. But in October, she should be getting her driver’s license, and life will change for all of us. She will drive herself to school and home from practice in the afternoons. She will be able to meet her friends on weekends on her own. I won’t have to take her where she wants to go, because she will be able to drive herself. It’s going to be a big change, and though I’m sure I will worry every single time she drives away, she will be gaining some independence.

Independence is the goal. Our little girl is growing up…that’s for sure.

Last night, before going to bed, she made sure she had everything she needs for school today…notebooks, paper, pens, pencils, books, book bag, etc. We made sure she is prepared for a new school year. After forcing her to take “first day of school” pictures, my husband drove her to school this morning, and they stopped at Starbucks on the way. I feel sure she reunited with friends she hasn’t seen this summer, and right now, she’s likely meeting her new teachers. She’ll eat grilled cheese from the cafeteria at lunch, and if she doesn’t get a ride home with a friend, I’ll pick her up after school.

And chances are, she will tell me very little till she is good and ready to tell me.

But I’m embracing this 10th grade year, even though I prefer an eternal summer…and I’m already planning vacations for the holidays, spring break, and next summer. It’s what I do. We always need something to look forward to. Because I want her to know that life is meant to be lived NOW. Do the things you have to do so you can do the things you want to do. See the world. Enjoy your friends. Learn new things.

I’m not going to pretend I’m happy the school year is starting. I’m not. If I could do it, life would be one big adventure. But reality is that she needs to go to school…for lots of reasons.

Our baby is not a baby anymore.

Let’s get this school year started…and I’ll be looking forward to the next holiday!

 

 

Do The Right Thing

Do the right thing.

We hear it almost every day, and I love the reminder. Do I always do the right thing? No. I will admit it…straight up. I don’t.

And neither do you.

Today, I was browsing through Facebook, and on a friend’s post, someone wrote, “You always do the right thing.” Now, don’t get me wrong. This friend of mine does the right thing almost all the time. She is a wonderful person with a giving heart, no doubt. However, she posted recently that a woman on the beach had told her she was beachcombing incorrectly and accused her of being rude. This woman told her you should never start beachcombing in front of another beachcomber. What? I had never heard that, and neither had my friend, but the woman clearly thought my friend was doing the wrong thing. Sometimes, the right/wrong thing is in the eye of the beholder.

Many times, I’m behind cars who are cruising in the left lane of a highway. I think they are rude and choosing to do the wrong thing, but they probably have no idea the left lane is for passing. 

No one always does the right thing, and that’s partly due to the fact that, as humans, we are inherently flawed. Does it mean we always do the wrong thing? No, but sometimes we do the wrong thing. As I’ve gotten older, one thing I’ve learned is that it is impossible to always do the right thing. It is possible to try, but no matter what, “you can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” (John Lydgate) Sometimes, making one person happy makes another person sad. Maybe two friends want to make plans with you for the same day. One is going to be, at best, disappointed when you can’t get together…or maybe furious…depending on the person.

And sometimes, we do the wrong thing without even realizing it. Maybe your in-laws feel slighted because you spend more time with your family than with them…they think you are doing the wrong thing. Maybe you don’t know the left lane is for passing. Perhaps you think it’s OK to beachcomb in front of another beachcomber…or maybe you’re the person who is rudely explains the “rules” to the other beachcomber. Maybe you sign up to be on a committee but forget the meetings or always find you have something “more important” on the calendar when the meeting rolls around. Maybe you forget to meet a friend or family member somewhere. Perhaps you exclude someone you should have included. Maybe you were quick to anger. Maybe you didn’t attend a friend’s 50th birthday party. Maybe you got caught up in a conversation you should have walked away from. Maybe you didn’t defend your friend when someone was talking about her. Maybe you tried to do the right thing and it went awry. Maybe a wrong was perceived by someone that you didn’t perceive as a wrong. Maybe you found yourself in a situation and just didn’t know how to handle it, so you didn’t handle it at all.

There are so many ways to do the wrong thing…intentionally or unintentionally. Life is complicated. And remember…everyone has different sensitivity levels, making it even more difficult to know what’s right and what’s wrong. If someone tells me I shouldn’t comb the beach in front of another beachcomber, I’m thinking that person is completely and utterly nuts, but she’s thinking I’m rude. If someone calls me at the last minute to cancel lunch plans, I don’t freak out…I’m a low-maintenance friend; but to some folks, that’s a big deal.

But do most folks try to do the right thing? Yes, I like to believe so. I try to do the right thing, and often, I fail. That’s life. The only people who don’t make mistakes are the ones who don’t do anything.

Here’s the thing: Sometimes you’re the windshield, and sometimes you’re the bug. That’s a funny way of saying sometimes we are the offender, and sometimes we are the “victim.” Personally, I don’t like to be either one.

You’ve likely heard this: People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. And you know what? We all live in glass houses. As much as someone might like to think they’re perfect, they’re not.

Everyone makes mistakes, and no one always does the right thing. I’m usually quick to warn folks I am going to anger them at some point…I will likely say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing. People get mad, and when I’ve done something wrong, I totally understand why someone gets mad about it. But sometimes, our perceptions are different…maybe you think I did the wrong thing, but I disagree. That’s life too.

Over lunch with my friend, Jennifer, we discussed this recently. We acknowledged that everyone is flawed. But you know what we decided? We decided real friends know our flaws and love us anyway.

Try to do the right thing.

 

 

Let’s Talk Curfews

My 15-year-old daughter went to a Travis Scott concert called Astroworld with some friends last weekend. An adult who had been to a previous show assured me it would be pretty tame. My daughter doesn’t have a driver’s license, and almost all her friends can’t drive yet either, so I dropped off four of them at the concert with the understanding they would be sleeping over at one house.

A few hours before the concert, the mother with whom they would be staying texted the rest of the moms, telling us, “I told my daughter they had to be home by midnight. She acted like I’m the mean mom. What do you think?”

I assured her that I agreed with her, and the other moms did too.

Before we picked up all the others on the way to the concert, my daughter and I had this exchange:

  • Me: You understand that you have to be in by midnight, right?”
  • Daughter: Yes ma’am.
  • Me: Even if the concert isn’t over, you have to be back to your friend’s house by midnight. Understand?
  • Daughter: Yes ma’am.
  • Me: That doesn’t mean you can wander around uptown after the concert if it ends at 10:30.
  • Daughter: What?!? Why would we wander around uptown?!?

Whew! She does have sense! Sometimes, when you’re the parent of a teenager, you wonder if they have sense, and sometimes, you wonder if you’ve lost your mind.

So all that curfew talk led to more questions from her. She is rapidly approaching driving age. She asked what would happen to her if she misses curfew when she can drive.

I explained to her that I would rather have her get home a couple of minutes late than drive too fast trying to get home. She has been in the car with me three times when a teenager in our neighborhood nearly ran us off the road trying to make it home in time for her curfew. (For the record, if you’re reading this, the teenager is not yours.) I told her that the best case scenario would be for her to call me if she is going to be late, and of course, she asked, “What if I’m driving?” I told her she should know before she leaves somewhere if she is going to be late, but if she finds herself stuck in traffic, it’s OK to use voice text and let me know, but do not pick up the phone.

We discussed the fact that curfew isn’t just to make her come home; it’s also a way for me to know she is safe. If she doesn’t make curfew, I will start worrying, and we might need to start looking for her…not because we don’t trust her, but because something might have happened.

In addition, I explained to her that if she frivolously or repeatedly misses curfew or breaks other rules along the way, the gravy train stops. She will stop getting to do things she wants. She will stop getting things she wants. She will stop having so much freedom. We don’t reward bad behavior. As long as she follows our rules, she will continue to have “privileges.”

Oh my gosh…I am my mother.

It made me think of when I was a teenager back in the 80s. Good times. Back then, we didn’t have cell phones, so our parents didn’t always know where we were, and they couldn’t always get in touch with us. Back then, if I were going to be late, I had to call my parents from a pay phone and let them know. I’d be hard pressed to find a pay phone now!

My little exchange with my daughter about curfew didn’t turn into a lecture or argument. It was simply a conversation outlining expectations. It is a conversation we will have many times before she goes off to college, and frankly, I’m glad we’re talking about it now.

Maybe that Travis Scott Astroworld concert was a good thing…a good opportunity for the two of us to talk about expectations. And she even texted me from the concert, sending me video clips and saying how much I would have enjoyed it. Seriously, it looked pretty tame. And for the record, they were home a little after 11:00.

Thanks, Travis Scott. Who thought I’d ever say that?!?

 

 

 

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Move Over! My Driving Pet Peeves

I’m going to throw something out there that people don’t seem to remember: the left lane on a multi-lane road is for passing. I know! I know! You think it’s the fast lane. Some folks like to refer to the lane closest to the median as the fast lane, but in truth, it’s a passing lane. If you’ve been cruising all over town in the left lane, you’re doing it wrong. In fact, in some states you will be ticketed for cruising in the left lane…I have a cousin who learned the hard way after receiving a ticket for it on Interstate 10 in Louisiana. Just yesterday, I was trying to pass someone, and the car ahead of me in the left lane was going the same speed as the car beside him in the right lane…for three miles…get around the other car and move over!

Ever been driving in the left lane and had a car come up rapidly behind you? Unfortunately, the state in which I live, North Carolina, has very weak left-lane laws, but you’re supposed to move over so that faster car can pass. Surely, you’ve noticed clusters that form in traffic when cars in the left lane are not moving faster than other lanes. Here’s the gist: Use the far left lane (nearest the median) for passing. In some states, all lanes except the far right lane are for passing only, and if you’re using the lane for anything other than passing, you can be ticketed. You can see information about states’ left lane passing laws here.

In fact, within the last year, lots of Alabama drivers were surprised when they were ticketed for it. I know, because I talked with an Alabama State Trooper about it. Alabama State Troopers sent out a message via Yellowhammer News two years ago. To see it, click here. If you are slowing down the left lane, you are endangering lives. I always say, “If I’m having to pass you on the right, you’re doing it wrong.” Jake Lingeman wrote about it in Autoweek here.

Now that my daughter is about to get her learner’s permit, I’m paying more attention to driving habits, and here are some observations:

  • HAZARD LIGHTS IN RAIN Do not slow to a crawl in rain and turn on your hazard lights. Just don’t. Some states have laws against it. Hazard lights are for traffic hazards. Where I grew up, if you couldn’t drive in rain, well, you would hardly ever drive. If you consider yourself a hazard, you need to get off the road. If you can’t drive in rain, get off the road. Don’t stop on the shoulder; have lunch or coffee somewhere. By slowing to a crawl with hazard lights flashing, you are creating a hazard. Should you drive 85 through a rainstorm? No. But the other day, I was behind a car that slowed to 35mph in rain on the interstate highway…with hazard lights. Don’t do it. To see state laws regarding the use of hazard lights in rain, click here.
  • TURNING RIGHT ON RED First thing you need to know is you must come to a complete stop before turning right on red, and then you may turn ONLY when clear. You must be sure all parts of the intersection are clear, including cars facing you from across the intersection. If someone else has a green light or green turn arrow, you must wait. It happens all the time coming out of my neighborhood. I get the left turn green arrow, and mid-turn, someone from the other side turns right on red at the same time. Nope, nope, nope. Traffic facing a steady burning GREEN ARROW has exclusive right to enter the intersection to make the indicated movement free from conflict. Cars turning with a green arrow have right of way. And don’t forget to watch for pedestrians and cyclists. For more info, click here.tim-gouw-128115-unsplash
  • U-TURNS ON RED LIGHTS It’s illegal. I see it all the time. If you go into the intersection at any time on a red light, except making a right turn when clear, you are violating traffic laws. In some states, as long as you don’t enter the intersection or crosswalk, it’s OK, but that’s rare. To see what a Florida officer said about it, click here.

So, yeah…not complaining…just putting it out there. I certainly make mistakes when driving…probably every single day. But if I cut someone off or make another mistake, I always give the courtesy wave. If you don’t know about that, you can read about it here.

Happy motoring!

***COMING THURSDAY: My Favorite Holiday Gift Ideas for 2018!***

 

 

 

 

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Keep The Courtesy Wave Alive

Is it possible there are people out there who don’t know what a courtesy wave is? I guess it’s possible. I grew up thinking everyone knew about it and everyone did it, but as time has passed, I’ve come to realize some folks still don’t know. Are we witnessing the slow death of the courtesy wave?

A courtesy wave is a hand wave or gesture a driver or pedestrian offers as an expression of gratitude for a kindness on the road, or as an expression of apology after a mistake.

When I was growing up, courtesy waves were commonplace. Everybody did it, as far as I knew. I remember both my parents being courtesy wavers, and my brother and I became courtesy wavers, as well. It’s just what we do. Or at least that’s what I thought. It seems fewer people offer the courtesy wave these days.

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Last week, when I was driving to school, a man was trying to back out of his driveway into the street, but traffic made it difficult for him. I stopped so he could get out. He backed out of his driveway and drove away…no courtesy wave. He certainly didn’t owe me anything, since I did it out of the kindness of my heart, but really? I couldn’t believe it! I stopped traffic for him, and he couldn’t just hold up his hand to thank me? That’s like someone holding open a door for you and you don’t say “thank you”! Come on, dude! Just give me the wave!

Another afternoon, I was picking up my child from a crowded place. The car next to me and I allowed a car to pass in front of us, so he could exit. He didn’t even look at us, much less give a courtesy wave. I looked over at the driver of the car next to me and recognized him, so I put down my window and said, “Wow. A courtesy wave would have been nice.” He responded, “I thought the exact same thing!”

But it happens all the time. I think there are way fewer courtesy wavers than there used to be. I don’t get mad, but I often wonder if they know how great the courtesy wave is. Courtesy waves carry a lot of power, but if you don’t do it, you’ll never know. They have the power to make someone feel appreciated; or to apologize; or to offer forgiveness.

I’m an extreme courtesy waver. My courtesy wave is one long continuous wave from different angles…or accompanied by a “thank you” if I’m a pedestrian. I offer that wave in different situations. Here are some examples:

  • If I’m trying to walk into Target, even if I’m in the crosswalk, and you stop to let me cross, I’m giving you a courtesy wave to thank you for your kindness. I’m likely going to smile and actually say, “Thank you!” I appreciate someone letting me cross. That’s how a pedestrian can use the courtesy wave.
  • As a driver, if traffic is backed up in my lane, and you let me over in front of you, you get a giant courtesy wave. In fact, chances are I will roll down my window and hang out the window to give a big wave with a big smile, and I will likely follow up with another wave over my shoulder and a wave out my sunroof. Like I said, I’m an extreme courtesy waver.
  • A courtesy wave can go a long way in bad situations too. If you cut me off in traffic and keep going, I think, “What?!?!” But if you offer a courtesy wave after, I simmer down. That courtesy wave means, to me, that you are apologizing for making that mistake. And I even give the courtesy wave of forgiveness in return. At the same time, if I accidentally cut someone off, I raise my hand for that courtesy wave as quickly as possible.

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I understand frustration in traffic. There are lots of things I dislike about driving: slow drivers in the left lane, drivers who fail to yield the right of way, people who change lanes without looking, and more, but a lot of those things can be forgiven with a courtesy wave. Sometimes slow drivers don’t realize they need to get over, but if they give me a quick wave and move over after I pass them on the right (ugh…if I’m having to pass you on the right, you’re doing it wrong), all is forgiven. I know they don’t care if I forgive them or not, but it’s civility.

Civility is good, and courtesy waves are part of that. I refuse to believe this gesture is dying. I choose to believe it is alive and well, but some folks just don’t know about it yet. Spread the word, friends…courtesy waves are powerful. They aren’t required, but they are appreciated.

***Thank you for reading Kelly Mattei’s Favorite Things. If you enjoy my blog, please go “LIKE” it on Facebook.***

 

 

 

 

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Accentuate The Positive

No matter where you live, people complain about where they live. Maybe they’ve spent their whole lives there, so they’re bored. Maybe they just moved there and think the place they lived before was better.

Here’s the funny thing, though: complaining doesn’t help. No matter the situation or place, pointing out the negative in life makes everything worse. Constructive criticism = yes. Complaining = no.

Recently, I was talking with a friend who moved to Charlotte from a large city in another state last summer, and I asked her how she liked it. Rarely do I hear someone say they don’t like Charlotte. In fact, a pilot on a recent flight out of Miami, before takeoff, said, “We are going to Charlotte. If you don’t want to go there, well, you’ve probably never been there.” It’s a lovely city…not too big, not too small.

When I asked my friend how she liked our fair city, she responded, “It’s fine, but I can’t believe schools close when there’s hardly any snow! What is wrong with you people?” Really? Frankly, complaining about snow days in Charlotte is not very original, so you get zero points for creativity. As always, I explained that, because we don’t get much snow, cities in the south don’t spend money on a lot of snow-clearing road equipment, so some roads can be icy for days. Plus, some people in the south have never driven in snow or ice, adding another level of danger. Blah…blah…blah…I’ve said it all before.

Different regions have different strengths. Southerners might not drive in snow, but we can drive in torrential rains! Before living in Charlotte, I lived in Mobile, Alabama, a city on the Gulf Coast where we had afternoon thunderstorms almost every day during summer. Guess who had trouble driving in it? People from other parts of the country. You won’t see someone from Mobile turning on their hazard lights and slowing to a dangerous crawl on the interstate in a rainstorm..but that’s another discussion for another day.

Sooooo…instead of pointing out the obvious to that friend who was complaining about snow days in Charlotte, I asked, “What do you LIKE about Charlotte?” After all, she chose to live here. Folks can get defensive about their cities.

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Photo by nika kakalashvili on Pexels.com

I could sit around thinking of bad things to say about Charlotte, but I can immediately  give people a laundry list of great things about this city: great climate, friendly people,  an awesome amusement park, an airline hub, miles of scenic greenways for biking/walking, green spaces everywhere, plays/musicals/shows, museums, sporting events, good shopping, churches on “every corner,” a fantastic Jewish Community Center, great employment opportunities, colleges and universities in the area…the list goes on and on.

Every place has strong points. In a small town, it might be the sense of community or safety. In a bigger city, it might be great restaurants, cultural events, or sporting events…or maybe the city, like Mobile, is near the beach.

When my daughter was younger, I would pick her up from school and say, “Tell me two great things that happened today.” It forced her to find two positives. It’s easy to complain, but it’s more fun to find something good. It started the ride home on a good note.

So, if you’ve moved to a new city or town and can’t find something nice to say, well, don’t say anything at all. You probably haven’t been looking for good things. Search for good things about it. But if you’ve searched and still can’t find anything nice to say, it’s likely not the place that’s the problem.

Next time it snows in Charlotte, I’m going to pray schools are closed, so we can drink hot chocolate and eat grilled cheese sandwiches after we go sledding in two inches of snow till it melts. And next time there’s a rainstorm (with no lightning), I’m going outside and splash through some puddles.

Accentuate the positive, folks!

***This made me think of my Mother telling me one time, “If you think everybody else is crazy, chances are you’re the crazy one.” But that’s for another day…***

For information on events and things to do in Charlotte, click here. Charlotte’s got a lot!