While He Was Gone

While he was gone…

A few times a year, my husband and I go on our own vacations. Yes, we vacation together too, but we don’t always enjoy the same places, so instead of arguing about it, we do our own thing.

Last week, my husband visited the beach where he grew up. He got to hang out with his friends there, and I didn’t have to go! Seriously, I didn’t have to go…thank you, Lord. It’s a lovely beach, but it’s just not somewhere I want to spend my vacation time…so he goes when he wants. I go several places each year without him. We take vacations together too…no big deal.

But this time was different. He left Wednesday. He had a routine departure early that morning, and honestly, I was looking forward to having a few days to myself…to enjoy the peace and quiet, catch up on some reading, watch some rom-com movies I’ve seen advertised, and just do whatever I wanted to do. But my plans were foiled as early as the first night.

About ten minutes after I got into bed that night, I heard chimes in the hallway outside our bedroom. The chimes were followed by a loud female voice saying, “The battery is low on your smoke detector. Please change the battery now. The battery power is very low.” Yes, we have a weird talking smoke detector. I felt sure it couldn’t be too low, and I thought it probably wouldn’t talk to me again before the next morning. I was wrong. The “lady inside the smoke detector” repeated her message ten minutes later. I promptly grabbed my pillows and went upstairs to sleep in the guest room.

The problem? I’m short, and we have ten foot ceilings in the hall. I could reach the smoke detector with a ladder (which we have), but I have vertigo. Ladders are not my friend. And any time I lean my head back to look up, the vertigo kicks in…I’d likely fall backward off the ladder. I know my limits.

The next day, I got a neighbor to come change the battery. Problem solved, right? I will be able to resume my peaceful weekend, right? Wrong.

That very afternoon, as I climbed the stairs to retrieve my pillows from the guest room, I noticed that as I got closer to the top of the stairs, it got warmer. Not good. I walked over to the upstairs thermostat, and it was blank. It’s electronic, so I tapped it, hoping it was just in sleep mode. It wasn’t. My husband always deals with the HVAC company, so I called him and asked him to call his contact there. A couple of hours later, the technician arrived, and after an hour or so, he told me we needed a new upstairs HVAC system. I wasn’t surprised, because I knew it was about time for that, but I didn’t expect it to happen when the husband was out of town.

The next day, I sat down with the representative from our service provider, and the day after that, we had a new system installed. It was pretty quick, but it meant I had to sit home half the day while they worked. Not exactly what I had in mind for my peaceful weekend at home.

As soon as the new HVAC was installed, I sat down in the kitchen and thought, “Well, at least I get two more nights to myself.” Not…so…fast! Less than ten minutes later, my husband called and said, “I’m coming home today. Hurricane Ida is coming in, and even though it won’t be a direct hit here, the traffic is going to be impossible if I don’t leave now.”

OK. OK. The peaceful weekend of rom-com movies simply wasn’t meant to be. My husband arrived home safely last night, and we are back to watching the shows he wants to watch. Don’t get me wrong…I’m happy he’s home. I just feel like I missed an opportunity. At least he was grateful that I had handled all the issues in his absence.

It’s OK, I’m driving our daughter to Asheville next weekend for her to meet some friends, and I will stay in a hotel by myself…eating room service and watching rom-coms!

My Favorite Sports Website

It’s no secret that I love sports. I’m not a great athlete, but I’m a fantastic spectator. I love to watch lacrosse, field hockey, baseball (in person), soccer, football, basketball, tennis…I just love to watch sports.

My favorite sports are the ones in which my 14-yr-old daughter is participating. She plays middle school field hockey, basketball, and lacrosse.

However, my favorite non-daughter-participating sport is football. I love professional football, middle and high school football, but most of all, I love college football…specifically, Southeastern Conference Football.

I’ve been known to scare young children when yelling at the television during an SEC game. Unfortunately, I can’t watch all the SEC games, but I like to stay informed.

Lucky for me, there is a website, run by two young gentlemen, that caters to the SEC Football fan. It’s called Front Porch Football. To see their Facebook page (please like/follow it for updates and invite friends!), click here. You can go straight to the website by clicking here. Its creators, brothers Chris and Brendan Paschal, are the sons of my friend, Maureen, a school librarian who also has a website called Raising the Capable Student (click here…I’ll be telling you more about it in a future post).

The tagline for Front Porch Football is “We take SEC football as seriously as you do.” And they do.11825968_401491053378587_1538355822811269543_n

Chris and Brendan started Front Porch Football when they were both students at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Brendan is a senior there now, and Chris is finishing up his first year of law school at the University of South Carolina.

It all began in the summer of 2015. The idea came about while the brothers were sharing some BBQ at the Q Shack in Charlotte (see the Q Shack website here). According to the brothers, Chris was doing his usual complaining about “how the national pundits don’t know what they’re talking about” when discussing college football. Apparently, he believes pundits on radio shows should be able to answer callers’ questions. According to Chris, “Knowing who won the 1995 Iron Bowl or the latest on a 3-star prospect from Moultrie, Georgia, isn’t too much to ask.” Their mother (my friend, Maureen) suggested to Chris that they start their own website, and the rest is history.

They needed a name. Naming a website is tough. You want it to be catchy, but you want it to be relevant. Because their site is devoted mostly to SEC Football, Chris and Brendan wanted it to be authentic and Southern, but it needed to get attention. They thought, “How many Southerners out there sit on their front porch and talk SEC football?” A name was born. It seemed only natural to call it Front Porch Football.

Now that I’ve gotten all the formal stuff out of the way, I want to tell you what I LOVE about this site. First, it is informative. These guys know their stuff. Second, it is entertaining and oftentimes, downright hilarious.

They write about various SEC programs and do post-game wrap-ups, from which I garner valuable information and insight. They also started some podcasts that are usually under 15 minutes (I’m the guest in one…click here), and they’ve made videos analyzing matchups, picking winners with guest pickers, interviewing a middle-aged University of Alabama alumna (ahem!), and just talking football. I love their videos of weekly picks, because they do their homework. Usually, I have my own ideas about how a game will shake out, but often, they give me a different perspective. I only get mad if they pick against Alabama. They know not to look me in the eye if they pick against Bama. I’ll give them the wicked “stinkeye” my mother taught me.



BUT what I find most entertaining are their original, hilarious videos. You may be familiar with their video that went viral on October 16, 2017. It is titled “Help a Tennessee Vol,” and it received over ONE MILLION views. In the video, with Sarah McLachlan singing “In the Arms of an Angel,” distraught Tennessee fans appear while a speaker asks viewers to be “an angel for a helpless Tennessee fan.” Of course, it’s a parody of all those ads we see all the time for helping orphaned animals. The University of Tennessee Volunteers have had a few rough years in their football program, and this past season wasn’t any better, resulting in the firing of their Head Coach, Butch Jones. Brendan saw an opportunity in the Vols’ misfortune; he created the video, and the public ran with it. (The University of Tennessee subsequently hired Jeremy Pruitt, the former defensive coordinator at The University of Alabama, and Butch Jones was hired as an off-field analyst at Alabama.)

The “Help a Tennessee Vol” video was shared on Saturday Down South and countless other SEC football sites. You can see it here.

Chris says the videos are Brendan’s “favorite thing to do regarding Front Porch Football, and he thoroughly enjoys poking fun at teams and fans.”

Other funny videos have featured “Burns the Backup,” in which the Paschals’ friend, Ryan Burns, portrays the life of a backup quarterback. I wouldn’t mind seeing him as a recurring character. You can see that video here. There are other videos featuring the brothers’ funny friends and classmates in contests naming all the SEC head coaches, complete with music from The Price is Right (click here); “The Battle of the Brothers” (in which the brothers display some really good “stinkeye” that rivals my own) before the Alabama/Georgia National Championship game (click here); and other hilarious scenarios. One of my personal favorites features the brothers in a parody of Home Alone’s “Angels with Filthy Souls,” retooled as “Playoffs with Filthy Bowls” (click here). Clearly, I enjoy the videos. They are good…really good. You can see ALL their videos by clicking here.


And I can’t forget the polls they have on the site’s Facebook page. Recent polls have asked followers, “Which is the real Death Valley: Clemson or LSU?”(LSU won) and “Better Rivalry: Iron Bowl or UNC/Duke Basketball?” (That last one was a close one. Iron Bowl won, and I might or might not have had a hand in making sure the Iron Bowl won.)

I’ve known these gentlemen since long before Front Porch Football was even a thought. They are hardworking, clever, witty, and they come from a nice family…have to make sure you know that! In talking with them about the website recently, I asked them what their goals are for Front Porch Football.

They didn’t hesitate. They want to “establish a strong fan base that ranges from the hardcore fanatic to the casual fan to the Grandma/wife/brother who doesn’t know much about SEC football.” They know there are people who just watch the games and people who live for the games. There are fans who watch it because there’s nothing else to do, and then there are the fans who, on any given day, might be re-watching a game from the 1980s, with the late, great Keith Jackson (you remember him, “Whoa, Nellie!”) commentating. They want all these people to follow their page/site and contribute their opinions and comments. They want everyone to become engaged in the discussion.

They say they created Front Porch Football for the fans, so their other big goal is to provide fans with a platform to voice their thoughts about SEC Football. They say they will be making some exciting changes this summer to the site to get more fans involved. I can hardly wait!

Down the line, they’d like to expand their brand and product, “especially into the apparel market.” As students, they know money doesn’t grow on trees, so they’d like to bring some quality apparel to the market at an affordable price. Actually, Chris’s words were, “Of course, each school has their own swag, but it feels like you have to sell a kidney to buy a decent shirt.” The apparel is a longer range goal. Personally, I’d love to own some apparel from my favorite sports website. I’ve already told them I’m first in line when they get some t-shirts out there.

So here’s the skinny: if you love college football as much as I do, this is a great site for you. If you have no knowledge of football but would like to impress someone with your football “knowledge,” you can learn a lot at Front Porch Football. Even if you are just a very casual college football fan, these guys are wicked funny, making Front Porch Football worth your time.


If websites could have cheerleaders, I’d cheer for this one.

***If you like the videos you watched through my links, please go to Front Porch Football on Facebook and like/follow their site. ALSO, please share this story in support of these guys and invite your friends to follow them as well!***











School Trip

This week, my 14-yr-old daughter and the rest of the eighth graders from her school are going on a trip for two nights. They go to a conference center a few hours away.


In fifth, sixth, and seventh grades, they visited camps. Well, most of them did. In fifth grade, my daughter went with them to a camp, but I think it was one night. It wasn’t her favorite night, and frankly, it wasn’t mine either. I was one of the overnight chaperones, along with another mom.

The kids weren’t allowed to take snacks, which can make for unhappy little girls. I will admit it: I took a few “not messy” snacks for them. I knew those girls weren’t going to eat the dinner they were served. Shhhh!

The cabin was fine. It was a cabin. The bathroom was even fine. The mattresses, however, were those thin mattresses covered in plastic. They make noise every time someone rolls over.

I woke up every single time someone rolled over that night. I could hear them every time. And every time, I thought someone was falling out of a bunk. So not only did I wake up, I woke up in a panic, thinking I needed to buffer someone’s fall. It made for a terrible night’s sleep. I was happy to leave the next morning before they started activities, and my daughter wanted to leave with me. I told her she had to stay for the day.

In sixth grade, they went to another camp for two nights. Of course, the night before, my daughter fell at soccer practice and injured her thumb. My husband brought her home around 9pm. Urgent Care was closed, and I needed to get her to a doctor before the field trip the next day, so we went to the emergency room. She got x-rays, but a radiologist wouldn’t see the x-ray till the next day. (The X-ray below is not her hand.)


I did a stupid thing. I sent her on the trip with the thumb in the splint from the ER. While she was gone, I got the call from radiology that it was not broken, but I should have kept her home. She was miserable the whole time. I shouldn’t have made her go. I will always feel guilty about that.

When the seventh grade trip came around, she had a horrible looking spot on her knee. I took her to the doctor the day before the trip and found out it was a staph infection for which she needed to be taking antibiotics. This time, I made the right decision: I kept her home.

Now, it’s time for the eighth grade trip, and this is supposed to be the fun one. They can take snacks. They can take their phones. They can take stuff. They aren’t required to stay with their advisory group. Fingers crossed she stays healthy enough to go, because she is actually looking forward to it.

A friend said yesterday that she is going to miss her daughter while they’re gone. While I always enjoy time with my daughter, I am going to welcome the opportunity to be lazy. No school pickup. No practice pickup. No driving all over town.


It is good for my daughter to have to fend for herself sometimes. This trip is a taste of that. Yes, she will be with friends and teachers, but they will be staying on their own. It’s good for them.

This summer, my daughter is going on a two-week trip to Iceland with a group of teenagers. I’m excited for her, and I’m a little jealous at the same time. Iceland looks beautiful in photos. My friends who have been there tell me it’s incredible and unlike anywhere else they’ve ever been. She will have the time of her life, I’m sure. She will be making memories that will last a lifetime.


I was the same age when I went on my first big trip out of the country with other teenagers. She will be 3 1/2 months shy of her 15th birthday, and that’s almost exactly how old I was when we flew to Mexico City, then traveled on to Cuernavaca, Taxco, and Acapulco…back when you could go to Acapulco. I know we returned on March 6, 1982, the day after John Belushi died. Everyone was talking about it on the flight home.


Taken right after we arrived in Mexico City, at the National Cathedral

That trip was an incredible learning experience for me and for my friends. I’m sure we came back with a mutual respect for each other and a respect for other cultures. We were exposed to more than we would have been exposed to as regular tourists. We learned a lot. We even learned how to haggle with vendors in the market in Mexico City…our first experience with that. That’s where we bought the sombreros pictured below. That haggling experience came in handy last summer when my friend, Jennifer, was purchasing something from a street vendor in Puerto Rico. He told her a price, and she was ready to pay when I stopped her and “haggled” with the vendor as best I could in Spanish. I’m sure he spoke English, but it was fun to try my hand at Spanish.


This photo is from our hotel room in at the Hotel Reforma in Mexico City…wearing our new purchases

In addition to learning about each other and a different culture, we learned a lot about ourselves. We learned how to handle homesickness…cry it out, and then the tears turn into laughter. We learned about sharing a bathroom and mirror space with four other teenage girls. And we looked out for each other. I was actually physically ill for a good part of the trip…Montezuma’s Revenge and a terrible upper respiratory illness…coughing the whole time. My friends helped me. Among other things, they supplied the Pepto Bismol I had for breakfast the day I woke up with Montezuma’s Revenge.

The pictures below are also from our Mexico trip in 1982. The one on the left is our waiter at a pizza parlor in Acapulco. Note he is posing next to the beer menu…there was no drinking age in Mexico in 1982. We might have taken advantage of that. The photo on the right is the cute waiter at our hotel in Mexico City, Manuel. I thought he was adorable.



The coughing was terrible and constant. The Montezuma’s Revenge was short-lived, thank goodness. But the memories are forever.

Anytime teens are away from their parents for more than a few hours, they learn something. Hopefully, while she is on her school trip this week, mine will learn something about keeping her own belongings separate from everyone else’s. This summer, in Iceland, I hope she learns something about getting those belongings together and being ready to move on at a moment’s notice. I hope she learns more about how strong she is…mentally and physically.

This week, while she is gone, I hope I take some time to be selfish…just for Wednesday. Just one day of total selfishness…doing what I want when I want. Thursday morning, I will be excited to host some friends at my home, and that afternoon, my “baby” will come home.

While I’m looking forward to a couple days to myself, I’m already looking forward to her return, and I hope to hear all about the fun school trip.

I guess I need to make a Target run to get some snacks for her to take!

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