I’m Thankful for a Turkey…Drop

Thanksgiving…that time of year we all give thanks, which is something we should be doing all the time anyway.

Don’t get me wrong. I get it. Thanksgiving is a great holiday. Well, it’s an OK holiday. Lots of my friends love a traditional Thanksgiving. They say it’s a low pressure holiday. Me…not so much. The meaning behind it is great, but frankly, the traditional day…meh. Don’t judge! I don’t really like turkey. I love cornbread dressing, but I can only eat so much of the stuff. As for Thanksgiving itself…I know there’s historic significance. I know about the pilgrims and native Americans. I know, and I’m thankful for the pilgrims and the Native Americans. I just think the traditional Thanksgiving is boring. {GASP!} We spend hours cooking with family and/or friends, and the meal is over in an hour. And the cleanup! Whew! Sure, we visit with all the folks around us, but shouldn’t we be making time for them all the time anyway? If someone is important to you, shouldn’t you be putting them on your calendar? 

At the end of Thanksgiving Day, I always find myself thinking, “Is that all there is?” Frankly, there are lots of other days that I truly feel thankful.

Living in the United States, we have a lot to be thankful for: freedom being at the top of the list, I suppose. I’m thankful to God and to the veterans who have protected and continue to protect that freedom.

Obviously, I’m thankful for my family. I’m thankful I had my Daddy for the first 39 years of my life, and I had my Mother for the first 50 years of my life. I’m thankful for my  brother and his awesome family. I’m thankful for family and friends near and far. And of course, I’m thankful for my husband and daughter.

But here’s a list of ten things I’m thankful for that might be a little different than the usual:

  • Waking up. I’m thankful for every day that I wake up! Every day is a gift. Yes, it sounds corny, till you think about the folks who didn’t wake up today. By thinking of how grateful I am to wake up every day, it also makes me think of those I’ve lost…those I wish were still here. They would want me to be grateful to be alive.
  • School nurses. This week, there was a medical emergency at school, and while I always appreciate our school nurses, I was especially grateful we had them on campus this week. Aside from the fact that they can save lives, they also comfort the rest of us when we need it. There is comfort in knowing they are there.
  • Sweet moments. Now that our daughter is 15, those truly sweet moments are not as plentiful. She knows I’m not a superhero. She knows I can’t sing. She knows I’m not a supermodel. But occasionally, we have those sweet moments again. She falls asleep with her head on my shoulder. Or she texts/calls me to comfort her about something. Or she holds my hand in the car. Or when I witness her helping someone else. Or she asks my opinion…and really listens. Or she and her friends sit around the kitchen table with me, talking and laughing. I’m thankful for those moments.
  • Unexpected gifts. This past Saturday, as I was walking out the door, I grabbed a coat that had been hanging in the closet since last winter. After I put it on, I reached into the pocket, and I pulled out $40! Yes! That’s a win!
  • Soap operas. Yes…particularly, The Young and The Restless. I watched it years ago, and only recently, I started recording it to watch it at night. Why am I thankful for it? I’m thankful, because it’s mindless, ongoing television. I get enough of reality, and sometimes, I get tired of it. I love a mindless distraction, and that’s what The Young and The Restless provides.
  • Other moms. What would I do without other moms? They help me survive. Teenagers are a different breed, and while I remember being 15, the lives of teenagers are different now, in some ways, than they were when we were young. Sometimes, we all need some support.
  • Modern conveniences. Oh, yes. Thank God for air-conditioners, electricity, running water, automobiles, jets, online shopping, and everything else. Survive a few days without electricity, and you’ll have a new appreciation for something we take for granted every day. My family members who live in the wake of Hurricane Michael can tell you all the modern conveniences are blessings. And yes, I’m even thankful for Facebook, because there are so many people with whom I would have never connected or re-connected without Facebook. (I just ignore the politics.)
  • Morning coffee. My husband brings me coffee in bed every single morning. He knows I’m nicer after a cup of coffee, so he facilitates that niceness. Recently, when my daughter and I were staying in a hotel for a lacrosse tournament, the coffeemaker in our room didn’t work. I knew room service would take forever, because well, it wasn’t a hotel that’s known for great service. It was a lacrosse tournament hotel. I had to schlep downstairs for a cup of coffee, and fortunately, they had it in the lobby. Whew! Day saved!
  • Memories. Yes, I’m thankful for memories, good and bad, but most thankful for the good. I’ve lost both parents, but I have great memories of them. I have great childhood memories, high school memories, and college memories. I have great memories of friends in my 20s, 30s, and 40s, and now, my 50s. Yes, sometimes I can’t remember certain events, but that’s where friends come in…their versions of stories might be different, but they’re usually good!
  • WKRP in Cincinnati‘s Turkey Drop. Thus, the title of the blog. I know it sounds trivial, but nothing makes me laugh like Les Nessman at the WKRP Turkey Drop…a great moment in 1978 television. If you’ve never seen it, you must. It was based on an event in a town that would drop turkeys from trucks, creating mayhem. But I’ve also read about a turkey drop (from an airplane!) in Yellville, Arkansas. You can read about that here. To see a clip from the episode, click here. Or watch the whole episode on Amazon Prime Video here for $1.99. It’s the 7th episode of the first season. And while you’re at Amazon, you might as well scroll through the Turkey Drop paraphernalia here.

So Happy Thanksgiving Day to all! Take a moment to be thankful for everything you have (which you should do every day). Enjoy your meal…whatever it may be. We go out with friends we love on Thanksgiving…friends who are regularly on our calendar…no cooking, no turkey, no cleanup…just good company and lots of laughter. And we thank God every day for life. As my parents used to say, “Every day is Thanksgiving at our house.”

Life is a gift. Enjoy it. Be grateful. Not just on Thanksgiving, but every single day.

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Too Young To Be A Grandparent!

Last week, I attended a baby shower for the daughter of some friends. The daughter is my friend too. It was great fun…food,  family, friends. As I sat talking with folks at the shower, I looked around, and as I looked at my friends who were about to become grandparents, I thought, “They’re not old enough to be grandparents!” They’re still young, vibrant people! But they are old enough. In fact, their daughter is a full-fledged adult with a great job, married to a great guy, and they are both contributing to society and paying their own bills.

A few years ago, as my husband and I sat watching the Heisman Trophy Award Ceremony from our living room, we loved the interviews with each candidate. One candidate, Amari Cooper, was from the University of Alabama, my alma mater. They interviewed Cooper, and he told stories about this youth in Miami. And they interviewed his mother, a lovely lady.

When the interview with Cooper’s mom came on, my husband turned to me and said, “Wow! She looks really good for an older lady!” I agreed. And then I started doing the math. At the time, Cooper was likely about 20 years old.

After a minute or so, I said to my husband, “Amari’s mother probably isn’t an older lady.” He pointed out that Amari was about 20 years old, so she had to be older. That’s when I reminded him that we are older parents, but Amari’s mother was probably younger than we are. I don’t remember if I grabbed my laptop or if they told her age on the segment, but at some point, we learned her age was several years younger than ours…and she had a son who would soon be starting a career in the National Football League! That year, he didn’t win the Heisman Trophy, but Cooper was the fourth pick in the overall draft and signed a fat contract with the Oakland Raiders. *Just yesterday, Cooper was traded to the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for a first round draft pick.*

At the time of that Heisman ceremony, I was 47 years old and had an 11-yr-old daughter. My husband was 48. Because most of our friends who have kids the same age are about the same ages we are, we fell into believing everyone is that way. We lost sight of the fact that most people who have 11-yr-olds are younger than we are. According to this article in Allure magazine, the average age of a first time mother in the US is 28, considerably younger than I was when I gave birth at 36.

So our friends who have now become grandparents since that shower are old enough to be grandparents.  We just have a skewed view…thinking parents of grown children have to be older than we are. We are plenty old enough to have grandchildren. In fact, the average age of a first-time grandparent in the United States is 48. If I’d had a child when I was 25, and if that child had a child at 25, then I would be a grandmother right now…and I’d fit right in with societal norms.Since we were later than average having children, we are later than average having grandchildren, and we don’t plan to have them for at least ten more years. If our daughter is as old as I was when she was born, I won’t be a grandmother till I’m 72 years old. And that’s OK too.

Back in 2003, our friends were having babies in their late 30s, so we started thinking everyone was having babies in their mid to late 30s. Those same friends who were “late bloomer” parents are likely to be “late bloomer” grandparents too, so we will be in good company. We don’t fit into societal norms for the age of first-time grandparents, but we fit in with our societal norms, since lots of our friends are the same age we are.

The point? Any age is OK to be a grandparent! When you become a grandparent, you’re just happy to have a new grandbaby! If you need ideas for baby gifts for someone who’s having a baby, here are some ideas I talked about earlier this year.

We’re lucky to have these younger friends who have just become grandparents, and we’re lucky to know their daughter too. They bring joy to our family, and I’m not gonna lie…the new grandmother can cook!

Congratulations to our young friends on the new granddaughter!

***Our friends’ granddaughter was born on October 15 and weighed 4 pounds, 10 ounces!***

 

 

 

 

 

Be Vulnerable: Is Friendship Worth It?

Life’s not easy. No one ever said it would be. It’s something we should know as adults, but we never learn.

Friendships aren’t always easy, either. Yes, there are times friendships are easy, but there are times they are difficult…hanging by a thread. Because I have a teenage daughter, I spend a lot of time discussing friendships, forgiveness, trust, and communication. But frankly, I’m still learning myself, so I don’t always give sound advice. We all make mistakes in friendships, even as adults, and we all have friends who make mistakes, even as adults.

We’ve all had times in relationships that we realized we needed to “fish or cut bait,” haven’t we? Aren’t there times you step back when a situation arises and think, “Maybe I don’t need to continue this friendship.” When I’ve felt that way, I try to take a deep breath and think logically…evaluate the situation without emotion.

But that’s easier said than done, because friendships are emotional connections. Just like marriage, friendship requires trust.. And just like marriages, friendships can fall apart. Unfortunately, just like marriages, going into them, we don’t know which ones will last and which ones won’t. A friend posted this on Instagram earlier this week:

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How true are those words of C.S. Lewis? We can’t be hurt emotionally by people to whom we don’t have an emotional connection. If you accidentally cut someone off in traffic, making them angry, do you worry about it for days to come? Likely not. But if you accidentally offend a longtime friend, do you worry about it for days to come? Probably. At least, you should, if you care about the person.

Likewise, if someone who is not your friend tells you a lie, do you care? Unless it’s going to affect something, probably not. If your friend tells you a lie, do you care? Yes. You do. And it’s all because you’ve made yourself vulnerable to that person by letting him/her into your life…trusting them. And that’s when you have to decide what to do. Do you confront them about it? Do you chalk it up to a mistake and let it go? Do you silently harbor ill feelings? Do you walk away from the friendship? It’s difficult. Because you’ve made yourself vulnerable, that hurt cuts a little deeper.

But, as C.S. Lewis says, if you want to keep your heart “intact,” you have to lock it up, don’t risk it by loving anyone. To have love of any kind is to have occasional pain, but the real friendships last…after forgiveness is sought. At the same time, we have to give those very friends the benefit of the doubt until we have reason to believe otherwise. Maybe your friend didn’t hurt you intentionally. Injury without malice, in friendships, should be forgiven. Injury with malice, in friendships, should be forgiven, as well…to free yourself from the burden of anger. I’ve written about forgiveness before. You can read it here.

I cannot imagine my own life without friendships. Sure, there have been friendships that have fallen by the wayside. It’s the way life is. Some of them fall away accidentally…you don’t know the last time you talked, and you didn’t realize at the time it would be the last time you would talk. Sometimes, there’s an argument or disagreement that ends a friendship. Other friendships, we choose to end, for one reason or another. Maybe you feel you’ve been taken for granted. Maybe the other person feels manipulated. Maybe you disagree all the time, and it has become tiresome. It happens, and when it has happened to me, I’ve chosen to believe I’ve learned from each instance.

But here’s one thing: if your heart gets broken, get up, and try again. Making yourself vulnerable is difficult and scary, but if you don’t, you won’t know what it’s like to have real friends. And remember, everyone isn’t going to like you. It’s a fact. And once you are OK with that, life gets a lot easier.

Is friendship worth the risk of heartache? You bet. For every disappointment, heartache, and sorrowful moment involved in friendship, there will be countless more good times.

To love is to be vulnerable. Be vulnerable.

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Photo by Dennis Magati on Pexels.com

Shopping For Homecoming Dresses

***I wrote this blog in early September, but I know some of you have Homecoming in the next month, so I wanted to share again.***

School has started, and for many students, that means Homecoming is coming up.

My daughter is in ninth grade, so it’s the first year she can go to the Homecoming Dance. This year, at her school, the dance is early, September 22, so the rush is on to find the dress. Shopping is fun. Shopping with a teenage girl is not. It’s torture. We rarely agree on a dress. I don’t want her to get something too short, too low-cut, too cheap, too cheap looking, or too…anything else. The struggle is real.

Homecoming has morphed over the years. When I was growing up, if a boy asked someone to Homecoming, he might call on the landline, or he might approach a girl at her locker saying, “Hey…would you go to Homecoming with me?” No one else heard it or saw it. Now, it’s quite a show. Signs are made. Baked goods are purchased. And when the young man invites the girl (or vice versa or whatever), he presents his sign, baked goods, or candy. It’s quite a display. My daughter would kill me if I used the picture of her cute Homecoming proposal (and it was cute!) in my blog, so here’s one example:

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Another thing that’s different? Back in the day, we wore gigantic Homecoming Mums…Chrysanthemums. Our school colors were black and gold, so we wore gigantic yellow chrysanthemum corsages with black and yellow ribbons, and black pipe cleaner lettering on top of the mums. They were big and weighty. They were pretty, no doubt, but times have changed.

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This photo illustrates the size of the Chrysanthemum corsages we wore in the 80s…almost as big as a human head.

We also had our dance immediately after the game. Now, our school’s Homecoming Dance is not right after the game. The game is Friday, and the dance is Saturday night, so the kids often go to dinner and take photos with dates or friends before going to the dance.

With the dance three weeks away, she needs a new dress. Please pray for me. I am bracing for what lies ahead. And it’s not just the dress…it’s the shoes too. It’s difficult to communicate to a 14-yr-old that “just because you can walk really well in six inch heels doesn’t mean you should wear them.” This year, I’m going to use athletics against her. She is playing on the school field hockey team, so I will say, “If you wear tall heels to the dance and twist your ankle, you won’t be able to play field hockey.” That should do it. We find our currency where we can.

Because I am beginning the dress search, I have found some places, in different price ranges, to look. Most have something on the lower end of the price scale, because who wants to spend a fortune on something their daughter will likely wear once? I love a good deal. I’m listing them in random order:

BOEM One place my daughter and her friends love to shop is Boem, a boutique located in Morrison Place, at the corner of Sharon Road and Colony Road. They also have a website from which you can order. Dress prices range from $15 to just over $200. If you’re unable to go into the store, you can shop online with them here.

LULU’S Last year, someone told me about lulus.com. Hoping to find a Homecoming dress for your daughter without breaking the bank? This could be the answer. Dresses start at $12. To go to lulus.com, click here.

KK BLOOM Another boutique in Charlotte that’s popular with teens is KK Bloom, located at 2823 Selwyn Avenue. They also have a website, which can be accessed by clicking here. Prices range from $20 to about $200.

REVOLVE I’ve shopped Revolve.com for years. Remarkably, it’s one of those sites where I can find stuff for me and my daughter. In fact, I bought the dress she wore to Homecoming from Revolve. They have a great free return policy, and they have a great selection. See the website here.

SHOPBOP This website has it all. Prices start about about $50 and go up from there. I could spend hours perusing the site, and my daughter could too. They also offer free shipping and free returns. You can see the website here.

NORDSTROM Nordstrom is a go-to for teens in Charlotte. They have lots of inexpensive offerings in store and online. In Charlotte, the store is located in SouthPark Mall, but you can shop online here.

IVY AND LEO Another locally-owned boutique that’s popular with teens is Ivy and Leo. There are multiple locations in Charlotte and all over the Carolinas. Most dresses are priced around $50, and they’re having a Labor Day Sale! See their website here.

Hopefully, your Homecoming shopping experience will be pleasant. My pulse rate goes up just thinking about it. If we find something at the last minute that needs alterations, it will be too late to get it done professionally. I’ve been known to alter it myself…and pray it holds up throughout the time she’s wearing it!

Happy HoCo!

Back to Reality

Ahhhh…vacation. If only we could feel as relaxed in daily life as we do on vacation.

We returned last night from what is likely the last big vacation of the summer for us. I love vacation. I love vacations of all kinds…active, outdoors (but not camping), water, city, lazy, big, small…just vacations in general. I love visiting new places and familiar places.

This most recent trip was to a familiar place, Los Angeles, but we had people with us who had never been, so everything old was new again. We had a great time…three moms with three teenagers. One mom was my awesome sister-in-law, whom I adore, and the other was my college friend, Angela…also adored. As we all started to depart the hotel yesterday, I could feel “reality” hanging over our heads like a fog.

I always get a little sad when I know the final big trip of summer is over. This year, because of high school sports, the final big trip of summer had to be a little earlier. (Note that I keep saying our final big trip, because I keep hoping for a couple of small adventures.) Our daughter is starting 9th grade and trying out for high school teams this year. Those tryouts start in early August, so no more vacations…back to reality.

Reality means it’s time to start getting prepared for the next school year. I get queasy just thinking about it. I don’t know if my daughter is nervous at all, but I am. It happens every year, but this year, more so, because she is going to high school. I’ve never had a child in high school, so this is a new experience for us. Deep down, though, I know she will settle in just fine, and eventually, I will settle down.

The most immediate thing on the horizon is the “assigned summer reading.” That is reality at our house right now, and that is the part I do not like. It’s not really my reality; it’s my daughter’s reality, but I will have to listen to her complain about it. I’m not the mom who helps with homework or nags about assignments. Most of the time, I don’t even know what the assignments are…and that’s how I’d like to keep it. I’ve talked with my friend, Maureen Paschal, about assigned summer reading on Been There Moms. You can see the video here. I simply do not like assigned summer reading. I feel like it is encroaching on my family time, and it’s like a cloud hanging over summer for us. I love to read, and I hope my daughter will eventually love it too, but even as a reader, “assigned” reading was tough for me as a student. At some point in the next couple weeks, she will take a couple days to sit down and read that book. She will complain about it, but she will get it done.

Personally, I think, if the school is going to require summer reading, I think they should also require outdoor exercise. There are some students who love reading all summer, and there are some who enjoy being outdoors all summer. Sure, there are some who fall between the two, but my daughter loves moving around and being outdoors. Sitting still? Nah. There’s no fun in that. But I really believe that if the school is going to have assigned summer reading, they should also have required outdoor exercise hours. If we are trying to enrich the whole student, let’s build their minds and their bodies.

Another reality is getting prepared for my daughter’s freshman year, meaning I need to make sure she has everything she is going to need. Right now, though, we are one month out from the first day of school, so seeing school supplies in the stores just makes me nauseous. I will get everything in advance with time to spare, but I don’t look forward to it.

And then there’s this reality: a month of back to back trips means things in my closet (and my home) are in disarray. I came home from the beach in June, and I’ve had several back-to-back trips since. I won’t get into listing all the places we visited, but it has been a lot of packing, unpacking, and packing again. And in some cases, I didn’t even unpack and repack…there wasn’t time. I just packed other stuff in a different suitcase. I need to take the time to straighten out all that, and it is one of my least favorite things to do. It means pulling out everything from closets around my house and purging. I’ve found some good “purging” advice in an article from the Huffington Post here. I dread it. But I will do it…maybe while my daughter is doing her assigned reading!

Today, though, I choose to ignore those realities. I want to enjoy the last fun, lazy days of summer…hanging out in the pool, spending time with family, harvesting tomatoes, spending time outdoors, and possibly, taking a little road trip or two. I’m on my way out to the pool now…

 

My Favorite Social Experiment

The American South and Midwest have reputations as friendly places, while the West and Northeast have reputations of being less so. On another note, people in the West are perceived as creative, and people in the Northeast are perceived as less inhibited. A 2013 study by the University of Cambridge supports that. You can see the results of the study here. After reading that today, I started thinking about our own little social experiment we conducted in Beverly Hills a few years ago.

Southern California: beautiful weather, beautiful people, good food, creativity, and good people-watching. My daugher and I love to go. We’ve been, as my mother used to say, “umpteen times.” That means we’ve been a lot. Today, we are embarking on another adventure to the Los Angeles area. We love visiting. Is it different than other parts of the country? Yes, and that’s part of what we love. Different parts of the country have different cultures and different attitudes, and that’s a good thing. How boring would our country be if there weren’t differences? Why bother visiting another place if that’s the case?

We love visiting the LA area, but would we want to live there? The bloom might fall right off the rose if we lived there. I’ve had to explain to my daughter on more than one occasion that living there isn’t the same as visiting. If you live there, real life gets in the way. Plus, you don’t live in a hotel with fantastic room service, and really, that’s part of the charm.

The first time I took her to LA, we were standing in line at a coffee shop, and my then 7-yr-old daughter looked up and said, “I want to live here, Mom.” The lady behind us heard her and leaned up to say, “Oh, honey. You don’t want to live here. People aren’t nice here like they are where you’re from.” Maybe she heard the southern accent? I had to take a few minutes after we sat down to explain that there are lots of nice people in LA, but I thought the lady meant they don’t wave to everybody and speak to everyone on sidewalks like we often do.

My friend, Mary Ann, who lives in Mobile, Alabama, and her son went with us on our next trip to the area. One day, as we were walking to breakfast at a restaurant about a mile from our hotel, we decided to conduct a social experiment by saying “good morning” to everyone we met on the sidewalk. We got all sorts of responses. Some people gave us sideways glances and moved farther away on the sidewalk, clutching their bags more tightly as if they thought we were trying to mug them. Others ignored us altogether. But there were three who were thrilled. One said how refreshing it was. Another hugged us and thanked us. And yet another had an entire conversation with us, starting with, “You’re not from around here, are you?”

We felt pretty sure we would get different results in the South.

We came home to Charlotte and tried the same Good Morning Experiment at our local Neiman Marcus, thinking the socioeconomics would be closest to Beverly Hills. About two weeks after the initial “experiment,” my daughter and I strolled through Neiman’s, and I greeted everyone we encountered with “Good morning!” My daughter didn’t even notice, because I do it all the time. Here’s what happened: no one looked at me like I was going to mug them. Every single person smiled, and most responded with a pleasant “good morning” in return. One had two gifts in her hand for her young daughter and stopped my daughter to ask which one was better for a young girl. Two or three complimented my shoes. And not one person looked at me like I was strange for greeting them.

I considered trying it in my favorite Target store in Charlotte but realized it wasn’t necessary. I speak to everyone in there every time I go anyway. I’ve even made friends in Target!

On our next visit to LA, we were with friends from the Northeast. We hadn’t discussed the social experiment. We were having breakfast in a restaurant one morning when a gentleman walked past our table on his way to the deli case and smiled. I smiled back and kept talking. When he passed again, he smiled again. I smiled and gave a little wave…it’s what I do. Apparently, he walked past two more times, and I smiled back without even realizing it. As we were leaving, he stopped me at the door. He told me he and his wife were dining in the back of the restaurant and decided to see how many people smiled back when he walked to the deli case. He said, “I smiled at every person at every table I passed, and you were the only one who smiled back. Not only did you smile every time, you waved!” I told him about our previous social experiment, and we all had a good laugh.

I’m not saying I’m always friendly and in a happy mood, and everybody in Charlotte isn’t always friendly either. The “results” of our “experiments” were interesting, though.

That’s not to say there aren’t friendly people in LA. I know some fabulous, friendly people who live there, and I hope to see them when we are there this time. Every time we go, we meet delightful people…every time…LOTS of great people. We’ve met people who treated us like old friends or family. We’ve met people who have welcomed us to their city with open arms…lots of fantastic people.

I can hardly wait to introduce our “newbies” to the places and people we love, and I’m looking forward to spending time with this fun group. We won’t be the most beautiful, skinniest, or most wealthy people in the city, but we can try to be the happiest and most friendly!

Maybe we will conduct another social experiment of some kind on this trip. Ideas?

Stargazing

If you know about my affinity for Los Angeles/Beverly Hills, you probably think I’m going to write about famous people. Nope. I’m actually talking about stargazing of the astronomical kind, not the Hollywood kind.

Last year, my friend, Mary Ann, and I went to Damascus, Virginia, with five kids: her three, my daughter, and a friend of my daughter. Damascus, Virginia, is the home of the Virginia Creeper Trail, a 34-mile bicycle trail that starts at the top of Whitetop Mountain. For info about the trail, click here. We went to ride half the trail…the first 17 miles from the top of the mountain to the town of Damascus.

Before we went, I called ahead to the bike shop and let them know we would be coming. The bike shop I like to use, Creeper Trail Bike Rental (see website here), has a large assortment of rental bicycles for adults and children. I spoke with Craig, one of the owners of the shop with whom I had dealt before. Next, I set up a rental for the night before our ride. We opted to rent a local four-bedroom apartment for the night, so we would have plenty of room for the seven of us.

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We left Charlotte in the afternoon and arrived in Damascus a couple of hours later. It was late afternoon, and we went straight to our rental apartment. After everyone picked a room, we decided to go out to dinner. Damascus is a small town, and a lot of places close early, but fortunately, we ran into some locals who told us about a locally-owned pizza place, which turned out to be fun and delicious. It was located near a grocery store, so right after dinner, we went to the grocery store to get milk and cereal for breakfast and a few other snacks to take out on the trail with us the next day.

Once we were back at the apartment, some of the kids went inside, and a few of us stayed outside. We had noticed how clear the skies were, and thanks to Mary Ann’s oldest son, I had a new app on my phone that would help me see constellations, satellites, and stars. Mary Ann and I sat out on the picnic table in the backyard chatting for a while before lying back to see the stars. Where I live in Charlotte, there is so much city light that it’s difficult to see any stars. Add in the fact that my husband lights up the exterior of our house like an airport, and there’s not much chance of seeing anything in the sky. Using the app Mary Ann’s son had told me about, Sky Guide, I knew which satellites would be coming over the horizon, and I found constellations I wouldn’t have been able to find otherwise. I don’t know if there was a meteor shower that night, but we saw lots of meteorites, or as I like to call them, shooting stars. The term, shooting stars, just sounds more exciting. Two of the kids came out to join us as we were stargazing, and we all were amazed at the sky above us. I had never realized just how much fun it is to stare at the sky. I could have stayed there all night.

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We were relaxed and enjoying the sky show when suddenly, we heard a loud BANG! I don’t know what we thought it was, but it scared us. Well, it scared three of us, anyway. Three of us were off that picnic table in a split second and fighting our way up the porch steps and through the back door of the apartment. Mary Ann never made it inside. She was too busy laughing at us from the picnic table. As it turns out, the sound was a truck backfiring on the road in front of the apartment, so nothing to fear, but it took a few minutes for my pulse rate to come back down. I still wonder why Mary Ann didn’t run…was it a set up? Couldn’t have been, though, because no videos of the three of us running scared have surfaced…yet. Actually, I wish we did have a video, because it had to be hilarious. We did go back to stargazing afterward, but we couldn’t stop giggling about the backfire.

The next morning, we all got up, packed up our belongings, and went to the bike shop at about 9am. Craig loaded our rented bikes onto a trailer and drove us up the mountain in his van. On the way up, we told him about our stargazing the night before, and he suggested that net time we are in the area, we should go up to the top of Whitetop Mountain and do some stargazing from there. He said it’s beautiful on a clear night. I’m hoping I can get Mary Ann to go with me again in a few weeks, but frankly, I’m a little afraid of going to Whitetop…what about bears? Or Bigfoot? Maybe we will go in my car and watch the skies through the sunroof…at least then, we could make a fast getaway if necessary. I’m not usually a wimp, but I’m a wimp about bears and Bigfoot…and mountain lions…and snakes…and spiders.

So, Mary Ann, get your shorts and sneakers, and let’s hit the trail…The Virginia Creeper Trail! Looking forward to some pizza and stargazing!

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