Decide To Be Happy

Sometimes, life hands us lemons. We’ve all heard it…we need to make lemonade. My mother used to always say, “You have to decide to be happy.”

Every single day since I lost my mother in December of 2017, I remind myself that I have to decide to be happy. It’s not that I haven’t experienced any happiness, but sometimes, when I get sad about having lost her, it’s hard to bring myself out of it. And every time, I hear her say, “You have to decide to be happy.”

I try not to write about death and loss very often, because I know people don’t want to hear about it. I know it’s a downer. I know that sometimes, I feel better if I think of something happy. But right now, it’s OK if no one wants to hear about it. It’s OK if everybody skips over this, because right now, I need to write about it.

I’m in the process of closing out Mother’s estate. No, there were no loose ends to tie up. She made it as easy as possible. She had a will. She listed survivors on bank accounts. She didn’t have any debt. She made it easy. Maybe if she had made it complicated, I could have gotten angry with her and been in a bigger hurry to close everything, but nope…she made the division of assets easy. Yet, I still haven’t closed out the estate, and it’s time for me to do it. I should have done it six months ago, but it’s downright depressing.

In fact, I feel more sad now than I did immediately after her passing. Weird, I know, but I guess I feel like closing out the estate is like closing the final chapter on her life. There have been days that I knew would be difficult…my parents’ anniversary, Mother’s Day, her birthday, Christmas Eve (the anniversary of her hospitalization), Christmas Day, the anniversary of her death (December 30)…but I never expected this part to be so difficult. I thought it was completely transactional, and being a tough chick, I thought I’d be able to treat this as a transaction. But I can’t. I realize that now, because I’ve been delaying it…and I’ve been sad.

And I’ve been off my game. Sure, I’ve gone through the motions of regular life, but deep inside, I’ve been off my game since she took her last breath.

And now I’m faced with closing the book on the estate.

But something occurred to me today: Maybe…just maybe…it will be freeing. That’s all I can hope. Maybe I will feel a little sense of freedom, like a weight has been lifted, when I sign all the papers. Maybe closing the estate will actually make me feel better. We’ve all had times like that. We put something off because it’s scary, but once it happens, we feel a sense of relief or freedom. I have friends who put off signing divorce papers, because it was depressing, but once they did it, they felt like the albatross had been removed from their necks. Maybe the estate is my albatross? That sounds terrible. My mother would not like it that I referred to it that way, but she doesn’t get a vote in this.

After my daddy died, mother was talking with her doctor about anti-depressants, and she said, “My husband wouldn’t like it.” The doctor, very calmly, said, “Your husband’s not here anymore. He doesn’t get a vote in this.” And he was right! She knew it, and she actually laughed! For the record, she started taking the anti-depressant, and it made a big difference in her approach to life. Sure, she was still grieving Daddy, but the anti-depressant helped her decide to be happy.

As soon as I receive all the paperwork, I’ll sign off on closing the estate. In fact, I’m going to invite friends to a brunch at my house for that very day, so they can come over and drink some champagne with me to celebrate the closure…the freedom.

Mother would laugh about that, and she would be happy to know that it’s done.

I will decide to be happy…just in time for spring!

 

 

 

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Ask Me About…

Ask me about…

Haven’t we all walked into car dealerships or retail stores and seen someone wearing a button that said, “Ask me about…”? It might be a new warranty plan, or maybe it’s about a new line they’re introducing, but sometimes, it’s something way more funny.

I was reminded of “Ask me about…” one recent morning. My husband brought me coffee in bed, and I did a little reading before opening Facebook. When I finally looked at my Facebook timeline, I laughed till I cried. There was no one else around, but I laughed till I cried…all by myself. A friend…the same one who coined the phrase “friend chicken” (see that story here)…had posted a photo of her husband. They were on their way to his colonoscopy, and she had purchased him a shirt just for the occasion. Apparently, she had to do some pouting to get him to wear it, but he gave in and wore it. It said, “Ask me about my butthole.” Yep…that’s what it said! I even started laughing as I typed it! I know…some folks don’t have a sense of humor and wouldn’t approve, but dang it…it’s funny! It’s especially funny when you go in for your colonoscopy. In fact, they should sell them there…not buttholes; t-shirts…they should sell the t-shirts. You can purchase the shirt from hellotushy.com here.

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Of course, I had to share the photo of my friend’s husband on my Facebook page. They are both doctors, so I hope they don’t mind that the picture of him wearing the t-shirt is going viral! I couldn’t help myself! I’ll have to ask her how many times it has been shared.

And after I shared it, a friend from Alabama commented that her husband uses The Butt Hut “for all his colonoscopy needs.” I looked it up. It’s a real place, and it’s in Birmingham. She added that they have t-shirts that say, “The Butt Hut. We stand behind our work.” I love it! What is it about butt humor that makes me laugh so hard?!? I can just imagine myself standing in line at the grocery store and seeing that t-shirt standing in front of me! I’d have to take a picture. And then I’d want one of the t-shirts.

Now that I’m 51, I have a lot more knowledge than I had when I was 21 and playing a silly game in college. I don’t know how useful my knowledge is, but there’s a lot more of that useless knowledge. I was talking with my friend, Mary Ann, about what we could put on our buttons or t-shirts, if we ordered them, and we laughed and laughed. A lot of what we said can’t be put in writing, but here were some of our ideas for things we actually know about:

  • Ask me about going back to bed after sending my kid(s) off to school.
  • Ask me about where I hide the clutter in my house when I have guests over.
  • Ask me about my favorite vodka.
  • Ask me where to buy last minute snacks for an entire athletic team.
  • Ask me where to buy last minute snacks for the team and my favorite vodka.
  • Ask me about the best doughnuts in town.
  • Ask me how much I love not camping.
  • Ask me how much I love room service.
  • Ask me about the time I hung out with Woody Harrelson.
  • Ask me about my silly conversations with Mary Ann.img_4072

For things we don’t actually know, but we think would make hilarious buttons, we came up with these:

  • Ask me about the ten years I served in the state penitentiary for what I did to the last person who asked me that stupid question.
  • Ask me about the time Mary Ann helped me drag something to the lake.
  • Ask me about the thirty cats in my house.
  • Ask me about my explosive diarrhea.
  • Ask me about the time I took Ambien and woke up in the parking lot of a bar.

But one thing we never would have come up with is “ask me about my butthole.” Even Mary Ann and I wouldn’t put that on a shirt or a button, but we sure laughed when my friend made her husband wear that shirt! I don’t know why butt humor is so universally funny, but dang it, it is! And if you don’t think so, don’t tell me. I’ll just think you are lacking a sense of humor.

There’s a reason Beavis and Butthead were popular…ask me about them if you’re not familiar with them.

***You can order Ask Me About buttons from zazzle.com (here) if you’re interested in coming up with your own thing.***

 

 

 

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I’m Leaving On a Jet Plane (Spring Break!)

“I’m leaving on a jet plane…don’t know when I’ll be back again…”

John Denver wrote about it in 1969, but Peter, Paul, and Mary’s version of the song is the most popular. If you’re not familiar with it, you can hear the song here.

When I was in first and second grades at Brewton Elementary School, in Brewton, Alabama, we would swing as high as we could on the swingset on the school playground, and when we did, we would sing that song. Well, we sang that and Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, but that’s another story.  When I think of I’m Leaving On A Jet Plane, I think of happy childhood days.

And I think about it a lot…mostly when I’m preparing for a vacation. While I’m packing, I walk around my house singing, “All my bags are packed, and I’m ready to go…” I can’t help myself. I get excited about vacations, and I guess that song represents the joy of childhood and the joy of a vacation for me.

Our next vacation will be spring break…just two weeks away. I need spring break. I need it every year. My friends laugh at me, because I start making plans in October or November. By the time we’ve celebrated New Year’s Eve, I’m already looking forward to spring break. I count down the days, and as of right now, we will be leaving in fourteen days. Bring it on!

Before I continue, you should know I do a lot of travel research before I plan a trip. Friends also make fun of me for that, but I don’t really care, because it’s rare for me to have big surprises about hotels or destinations. My very favorite site is TripAdvisor, because it has reviews on hotels, airlines, restaurants, and places to visit. I read carefully, and if I have questions about something, I call resorts or hotels directly, or I call friends who have visited the same place before, if I know someone who has been.

We are doing a beachy, sunny vacation this year, and I need it. We’ve had so much rain this winter in Charlotte….it’s depressing. I need the warm sunshine on my face, so I can produce some much-needed Vitamin D. Aside from that, I need worry-free time. I need to be away from the city in which I live. Seriously, I love Charlotte, but occasionally, and I don’t care where you live, you need to get away from the same four walls, the same people, and the same scenery. I just need a break. I need a week of no homework, no sports practices, no cooking, no cleaning, no obligations…just a week to do whatever we want to do.

Here’s the thing about Spring Break, though. For me, it doesn’t have to be somewhere glamorous. The main thing for me is that it has to be somewhere that’s easy to get to. Because it’s just a week, I don’t want to waste a lot of time on the getting there and getting home. I want to get to my destination quickly and get home just as quickly.

This year my daughter is taking a friend with her, and I am taking a friend too. My husband is staying home…he doesn’t enjoy traveling as much as we do. I offered…he didn’t want to go. He’ll probably enjoy the quiet time he’ll have at home without us!

I’ve already arranged our airport transfers and reserved our poolside cabana. Having the cabana ensures we will have a spot by the pool every single day we are there. I don’t want to have to get up at 7 o’clock in the morning while I’m on vacation, just so I can have a chair by the pool. It also makes it easy for my daughter and her friend to find us if they need us. But who am I kidding? They will avoid us like the plague!

I hope to come home rested, tan, happy, and ready to tackle the rest of the school year…a little over two months after the break is over, but we do have a nice Easter break in there. Once spring break is over, I’ll be counting down to that…for the record, that break will start 25 days after spring break ends.

Two more weeks till we get the party started! Maybe I should call now to order a bottle of champagne for our cabana…

“So kiss me and smile for me…tell me that you’ll wait for me…”

She’s Our Favorite Child

Just this week, when I told someone my 15-yr-old daughter was an only child, I got that look. That “poor thing” look. I’ve seen it several times over the course of her life. I’ve even had people say weird things. “Oh, she must be so lonely.” “When you die, she’ll be alone.” “When you die, she’ll have to handle everything herself.” “When you get sick, she’ll have to take care of you.” “She’s stuck in an adult world.”

Really? 

First of all, I believe our only child is pretty well-adjusted. I spent her early years making sure she was well-socialized…and many of her peers were/are only children too. Her preschool teacher once told me, “If I didn’t know she is an only child, I’d never guess it.” If we go on vacation and she wants to take a friend, she can. She can invite people over whenever she wants. We have an open door policy at our house…all friends are welcome. Getting ready for a school dance? Come on over! Snow? Come on over! Bored? Come on over! No invitation necessary…

She has never told me she is lonely. I know people who have lots of siblings who are way more “lonely” than she is.

She has never seemed jealous of her friends who have siblings.

She plays well with others.

She is happy most of the time, but she is a teenager, so she has her moments.

She relates to girls and boys well.

And no one can convince me that having siblings would make her life any better than the life she has right now.

My mother was an only child. My husband is an only child. Mother was a happy person. My husband seems fine with it.

Did we intend for her to be an only child? I don’t know. At one point, we considered having another child. I was 38. But then my daddy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and I knew I would need to help Mother as his illness progressed. I decided being pregnant while helping them wouldn’t be a good idea. The first three months of pregnancy had not been easy for me…migraines, nausea…I knew I couldn’t help them if I were sick.

And honestly, I didn’t want to push my luck.

We knew we were fortunate to have her, and we said, “One and done.”

Has she ever said she wished she had siblings? When she was about four, she mentioned it. I told her, “You’ll need to share your toys.” She was OK with that. “You’ll have to share your mommy.” No dice. That was a dealbreaker for her. She said, “I don’t want a brother or sister.” Of course, we had already decided she would be an only child, so she wasn’t actually making the decision. I was 40. We were having the time of our lives!

As for her having to take care of us when we’re old and dying, well, we can “get busy living or get busy dying.” I can’t sit around all the time thinking about that. I choose to live life to its fullest. Hopefully, we will all live a long time, and hopefully, my husband and I will have the wherewithal to know if we need to go to assisted living.

But till then, we are going to enjoy her, and hopefully, she enjoys us. We know the world doesn’t revolve around her, but our little family is important to us. Providing her with the tools she needs to navigate the world is important to us. She’s growing up, and we want to enjoy our time with her. She will be off to college in three years. Three years…hard to believe. We have plans to enjoy her while she still lives with us full time. We have vacations to take. We have colleges to visit. We have people to meet with her. We have new things to experience with her. We have things to teach her. We have memories to make.

And no matter what…she always knows she’s our favorite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Group Text Etiquette

Group texts…I’ve started some and I’ve been included in others. Chances are, you have been on a group text too.

Sometimes I love technology and sometimes I hate it. I love when I can text five friends at the same time to share pictures of their sons or daughters involved in an activity. I love when we can arrange group gatherings more easily because of group texts, emails, or Facebook Messenger. Really, it can make life so much easier.

I was included on a group message on Messenger recently about an upcoming event. We were all able to let each other know if we would be participating, and we were able to volunteer to help with certain things. And maybe I did the wrong thing: once I knew my job, I dropped out of the message. Yep…dropped out of it. But I wasn’t making some terrible statement. I wasn’t saying I didn’t want to be involved in the event. I simply didn’t need to know how the sausage was made! I knew my job, and I knew I would do it.

A friend who was on the same message called me shortly thereafter, asking, “Did you leave the group message?” I replied, “Yes. Was that wrong?” I explained that the host knew I would be there, and she knew what I would be bringing…did I really need to know what everyone else was doing? Did I really need to hear my phone “ding” every two seconds for the rest of the day?!

Maybe I broke some unwritten rule. I’m kind of a no-nonsense, “just the facts” kind of person. When we had our pool resurfaced a few years ago, I asked the contractor when it would be ready. He started telling me what all they had to do, but really…I didn’t need to know how the sausage was made. I just wanted to know when I could use my pool again. Of course, I tried to say it in a nice way, “I have no idea what all that means. I’m leaving town for a couple of weeks, so I guess what I’m actually asking is what date the pool will actually have water in it. What date will we be able to get in the pool?” Just the facts, sir. Despite the fact that I am from the Heart of Dixie…in the Deep South…I’m just not good at sugarcoating things…at all.

So in that recent group message, it was the same situation: I didn’t need to know what Susie and Mary and Jane were bringing…I needed to know my job. I didn’t need to get more notifications on my phone.

Remember when we all first started doing the group email thing? Remember how everyone would “reply all”? I hated that. I still hate it. When I send a group email, I usually say, “Please do not reply ALL. Please simply reply to me.” But you can’t do that in a group text or group message on Messenger. You have to suffer through all the notifications that someone else has responded…unless you leave the group. And if it’s something I won’t even be participating in, well, I’m out as soon as I say I won’t be participating. Once I tell the host that I can’t be involved, I’m out. Get it?

Am I breaking some unwritten rule by taking myself out of group texts and messages when the business part seems to be done? If you’re not volunteering to help with decor for some event, do you really want to read all the texts about it? Am I crazy? Better yet…am I offending people when I leave the group?

Lots of times group texts are fun and/or necessary. There are plenty of times that we’re sharing pictures. I’m totally staying in that. I have some group messages with college friends that we use for special things. We don’t constantly send messages to the group…only when there is something we really want to share. Son’s getting married? Daughter made the team? And then there are times we are still in the middle of discussing what to do for decor for an event…I’m totally staying in if I’m participating. But if I’ll be on vacation while y’all are decorating, I’m leaving the group text. Sorry. I certainly don’t mean to hurt any feelings, but my brain can only take so many “dings” on my phone.

I can’t possibly be the only one who gets annoyed by excessive notifications. Lots of folks have made memes about it, so I know I’m not alone.

So, if I’m ever on a group message or text with you, don’t be offended if I leave it. Either I’m not attending the event you’re discussing, or I feel like the business is done, and I know what my job is. I’m not leaving you; I’m just leaving the notifications/dings.

I have a friend who once told me that if someone doesn’t return her phone call promptly, she automatically thinks she has done something to offend them. I told her, “Oh, I always think they didn’t get the message…or they’re out of town…or they’re as busy as I am.” I guess I’m just not easily offended, so I don’t expect people to be easily offended.

But please…someone tell me if it’s offensive to leave a group text. If it is, I will find a way to tolerate the excessive notifications and dings on my phone…or maybe I’ll just go back to an old flip phone that doesn’t receive texts!

 

 

 

 

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! Lots of folks are out there saying, “New year, new me,” but I’m not going that far. Who would I be kidding?!?! Sure, I’ll try to make some small changes in my life, but I’ll still be the old me…take me or leave me.

This year, I started the new year in a different way…with a vacation. I think it is the first time I’ve ever taken a vacation the first week of the year, and I think it was the perfect way to start the year. Years ago, someone said to me it’s important to start the year doing something you enjoy…to set the tone. Well, if that’s the case, hopefully, I’ve set a good tone for 2019.

My daughter and I met my friend, Jennifer, and her teenage daughter in Los Angeles, one of our very favorite places to visit, and we stayed in our very favorite hotel. We ate at some of our favorite places, and we shopped till we dropped. It was great fun. We were happy. We felt great. Even though the arrival of my checked bag was delayed and I had a cold…I still felt great, because of my surroundings and the great company.

While I’m sure there are going to be lots of bumps in the road in 2019, I sure hope starting the year with a fun vacation set a good tone for the next twelve months.

One year when I was in my early 30s, New Year’s Eve was rapidly approaching, and I had plans for the night that just didn’t sound like fun to me. I was talking with an older co-worker (she was probably the same age I am now), who said, “New Year’s Eve should be spent with people you want to be with…doing something you want to do. It’s bad luck to start the new year wrong.” She was right. I changed those plans, and I’ve remembered that every year since.

Don’t get me wrong. On New Year’s Eve, I was home with my husband…a great place to be. Plus, I was anticipating a great vacation. That’s the perfect New Year’s Eve for me…looking forward to something good! I don’t need to be in Times Square, wearing a diaper and watching the ball drop. Heck, I don’t even need to be awake! But it’s fun to know something fun is “just around the bend.” (Cue the song…Pocahontas singing Just Around the River Bend.)

So, if the rest of the year is like New Year’s Eve, it will be filled with excitement and anticipation. If it’s like the first week of the year, it will be fun. I might have a cold for the rest of the year (like I did the first week), but the year will be filled with time with good friends. It will be filled with excitement and trying new things. If it’s like the first week of the year, we will have encounters with exciting people, and we will meet people from all walks of life. We will spend time with old friends and make new friends. And if it’s like the first week of the year, I will sleep well at night and make good use of my time during the day. I will be happier than I was in 2018, and hopefully, I will be a better person.

And my only resolution is to commit one random act of kindness every day. Surely, I can do that?!?! Amazon offers a book that might give me some ideas. You can see it here.

So, while I won’t be saying, “New year, new me,” I will be saying, “New year, better me.” It will still be the same old me, but an improved version filled with more hope and happiness than ever before…spending time with family and friends old and new.

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!