One Year

Today marks the one-year anniversary of my mother’s passing. One year. And I have felt it at all the times I would expect to feel it, and I have felt it when I least expected it.

I didn’t sleep at all last night, staring at the clock, thinking of Mother.

I lost my daddy 12 years ago, so I gained some coping skills from that, but grief is grief. It’s going to happen, one way or another. I have been able to keep moving forward more than I did when Daddy died, but I’ve had moments.

I miss her all the time. She gave good advice. She had a calming demeanor. She wasn’t perfect, and she would be the first to admit that, but she was the perfect mama for me and my brother. I never knew exactly how much she loved me till I had my own child.

When do I miss her most?

I stayed in bed most of January. Friends brought meals, and I gave myself permission to give in to the grief for one month. After that, I rejoined the living. Here’s when I’ve missed her most:

  • Every time I’ve gotten in the car. I used to call her and talk (Bluetooth) every time I drove somewhere. Living 400 miles away, I didn’t get to see her all the time, but I called her all the time. I’ve almost called her a thousand times since.
  • When the Alabama Crimson Tide won the National Championship in January, she would have been thrilled. I missed her then…even cried that she missed it.
  • In February, my parents’ wedding anniversary rolled around on the 18th. They married in 1961 on my maternal grandfather’s birthday. Every year, on their anniversary, we would talk about their small wedding and how her Aunt Ola came through to pull it all together. And we talked about her daddy…truly one of the most patient, God-loving men who ever lived.
  • I missed her when my cousin, Patti, was searching for the perfect home for Mother’s dog. In the end, everything worked out, and Sam, the dog, went back home. It worked out the way it was supposed to, but I missed Mother, because I knew she loved Sam, and Sam loved her. I’m sure Sam still wonders about Mother, but she is living a happy life with my nephew in Mother’s home.
  • In March, we vacationed with my brother and his family.  Mother would have loved how much we laughed. She loved when we were all together. We missed her.
  • During our daughter’s eighth grade basketball and lacrosse seasons in winter and spring, she would have wanted regular updates. When something exciting happened, I always wanted to call her.
  • My birthday is in May. She always laughed at how excited I get about my birthday. Nobody loves a birthday like I do, and she would start singing to me days in advance. Missed out on that this year.
  • In the summer, our daughter traveled to Iceland for two weeks. It was not easy for me, but she needed to do it. Mother would have suffered along with me during those two weeks. She would have called me every day, asking about updates from the trip leaders. She also would have been happy my husband and I took our own vacation during that time…visiting South Florida with my brother and sister-in-law. And Mother would have been as excited as I was when our daughter was back on US soil.
  • I also had an eclectic garden in the summer…growing tomatoes, corn, and sunflowers, all favorites of my parents. She would have been amazed at the success I had. I wanted to call her daily and tell her about it.
  • As summer came to an end and school sports teams tryouts came around, she would have suffered through that with me too. Our daughter, a freshman in high school, tried out for varsity field hockey on August 1. I sat in my car, waiting for my daughter to come out after the tryout… to find out if she made the team or not. I wanted to call Mother, but since I couldn’t, I called my friend, Jane, who said all the things she knew my mother would have said. Our daughter made the team, and they won the state championship! I wish Mother could have seen her play.
  • When one of my brother’s sons visited us in Charlotte, I would have loved to share photos with Mother. And when the other one started a new job, a job that can lead to something real for his future, I know she would have been thrilled.
  • When I met Dominique Wilkins, former NBA superstar, in a restaurant several weeks ago, I got in the car and dialed Mother’s number before I realized it. She loved sports and would have loved my photo with Dominique.
  • Any time anyone in the family has gotten sick, I’ve missed Mother, a nurse. Two weeks ago, after an allergic reaction to a manicure (who knew?!?!), my hands broke out, and I sneezed for two days. A couple of days later, I woke up to find an enlarged lymph node in my neck. Fortunately, my pharmacist sister-in-law calmed me down. The next day, I went to the doctor, just like Mother would have advised. She would have called checked on me a few times a day. The node was enlarged because of an infection…viral or bacterial…and yes, it went back to normal after a few days.
  • And the holidays. She would have loved our family gathering at my brother and sis-in-law’s lake house. We all laughed, played games, told funny stories, and ate too much. Mother would have loved it.

I miss that tiny little firecracker of a woman. Occasionally, people who knew her will tell me something I said or did brought back memories of her. If only I had her gift of calm listening.

Now…if you still have your Mother, call her or give her a big hug right now.

 

 

 

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The Perfect Christmas

Ahhh…the perfect Christmas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perfection is not my strength, but fun is!

 

 

 

Hurricane Sanity Preparedness

This is not one of those standard posts about hurricane preparedness. You’re hearing plenty of that with 24-hour news, I hope. Between the hype and the doom, they throw in a little information about getting prepared for a disaster. This is about being prepared for the long hours of being stuck indoors…waiting. How will you stay sane?

Hurricanes are scary. No doubt about that. I “survived” four hurricanes and a tropical storm (at least one) when I lived on the Gulf Coast, so I know how scary they are. For one of them, I was 20 miles from the eye at landfall, so I know how long it can take for a hurricane to arrive and move out…making for some long hours.

So for Hurricane Florence, do everything you can to be prepared…stock up on nonperishables (and favorite junk food snacks!) and bottled water, remove any possible projectiles from your yard (planters, patio furniture, etc), fill your tubs with water in case you need it to flush toilets later (this is rare), bring in pets, charge your cellphones and laptops, charge your portable chargers, put fresh batteries in your flashlights, and settle in for a long ride.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What they won’t tell you on TV is how to stay sane during the storm. My disaster preparedness routine includes entertainment for sanity. I’m not making light of the storm, but if the power goes out, we will need entertainment. Otherwise, everybody just gets grumpy. We don’t need a situation like The Shining after everyone starts getting cabin fever.

So here is my list for hurricane entertainment in the event of a power outage:

  • Charades. I know. Sounds boring, but charades by flashlight is hilarious. I’ve done it. Heck, even if the power doesn’t go out, it’s fun to play Charades by flashlight!
  • Movies. Have movies pre-downloaded on your phone or iPad and watch an old favorite or one you haven’t seen before. Since Burt Reynolds just passed away, I will be downloading some of his movies. Or maybe watch movies about a storm…The Perfect Storm, Adrift, or even Sharknado! Or rewatch a favorite classic…maybe some Hitchcock: Vertigo, Rear Window (one of my all-time favorites), or The Birds. I was at my parents’ house one time during a storm, and since Daddy loved Lonesome Dove, we watched the whole series while we waited for the storm to pass. We were very close to where the storm made landfall (20 miles away on the bay, and my parents lived less than a 1/4 mile inland) and we never lost power.
  • Prompt stories. Have everyone in the family write single words on tiny pieces of paper. Put the papers into a bowl or hat and take turns pulling words from the hat. When you pick a word, you have to tell a story from your life using the word. Some good words to use: sunset, key, gate, walk, accomplishment, sport, etc. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a good way to get people to talk.
  • Start a blog…or do lots of writing for a current blog. I’m always looking for subjects for my blog and making notes. I have a long list of topics, so what better time to sit down and write than in the middle of a hurricane? Aside from the storm itself, there won’t be many distractions or obligations.
  • Clean. I know…cleaning with no electricity sounds terrible, but you might not lose power, and if you do, there are some things you can clean by flashlight. My bathroom cabinets can always use a purge. Being trapped inside is the perfect opportunity to sit down and go through all the stuff to see what can go.
  • Read a book on your Kindle or Ipad. If you’re going to be stuck without TV or power for a few days, it creates the perfect opportunity to finally read that book you’ve been meaning to read. Daily life is so busy that it can be difficult to carve out time to sit down and read.
  • Play board games or cards. How often do you bring out those old board games? Well, this is your chance. I could spend hours playing Yahtzee and Scattergories. In fact, I could likely destroy my family’s sanity by forcing them to play.
  • Laugh. Find things to laugh about. Laughter will cure a lot of ills and get us through a lot of hard times. Laugh, laugh, laugh.
  • Watch sports. Download ESPN, CBS, and ABC, so you can watch all your favorite college teams Saturday and favorite NFL teams Sunday, even if the power goes out. You’ll need your login information for your provider. Again, make sure your electronics are charged in advance, and remember you can charge things in your car if you need to!

And if your grocery store was out of bread and water when you went, I hope you bought cake and champagne. This is a good time to enjoy that!

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In all seriousness, hurricanes are dangerous and frightening. It’s not a good time to be inebriated, because you need to be able to react in an emergency. Take care of yourselves and your family, and say a prayer that no one is injured or worse, but please don’t sit around worrying! If you’ve prepared, there is nothing else to do. Worrying won’t help. Try to relax and stay aware of what’s going on in your area.

Stay safe, friends.

 

 

 

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Missing My Girl

It hasn’t even been a week since my 14-yr-old daughter left for Iceland, and I’m already missing her. I know…that’s pathetic. We received our first “email update” a couple of days ago, and it sounds like they are having a fabulous time, but it might have made me miss her more, if that is even possible. I know I’m not the only crazy parent missing a child right now, though. I’ve talked to several friends whose children are on these trips, and we all feel the same way. We miss our children! However, I feel pretty sure she isn’t thinking of us…I hope she’s not. I hope she is enjoying everything Iceland has to offer and then some!

She is traveling in a group of twelve teenagers, with two young adult leaders…a girl from North Carolina, and a guy from Louisiana. The group leaders write the updates, and they say something about each traveler. According to that first update, while they were visiting The Blue Lagoon, a well-known geothermal spa, my daughter “led the group to the smoothie bar and then to the mud mask station.” I actually laughed out loud when I read that, because my daughter loves smoothies, and she loves masks. At least I know she isn’t starving, and her skin should be glowing when she comes home!

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Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa, Iceland

I’ve worried about her “starving,” because my daughter is a picky eater. I tried to expose her to lots of different flavors when she was a toddler, but she’s like her daddy…she likes bland food. She eats a lot of grilled chicken, pizza, yogurt, broccoli, fruit, potatoes, grilled cheese sandwiches, and rice. Oh, and peanut butter. I told her before she left that she will have to eat whatever they give her. According to one of her leaders, on the last trip, they had a lot of lamb and salmon, two delicious foods I’ve never been able to get my daughter to eat. My fingers are crossed that she will expand her palate on this trip. I did stick a few snacks in her bag, but she likely has gone through them by now. She doesn’t get that picky-eating gene from me. I will eat just about anything, except organ meat…nope, not gonna do it. My husband, on the other hand, eats nothing spicy. There are things he has declared “spicy,” and then I take a bite and laugh at him.

My sister-in-law has a 15-yr-old son on another trip offered by the same tour company. He is touring Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. We shared our updates with each other earlier today, and his trip sounds exciting too! According to his update, he “nearly had a nose to nose interaction with a baby sea lion who was looking for a buddy to swim alongside him!” Sounds like so much fun! He will get home two days before my daughter, so I will get to talk with him and hear all about his trip first. I can hardly wait, but I’ll have to wait another week.

I’m flying up to New York to meet my daughter and a couple of her friends when they arrive from Iceland. I’m thinking I need to make a gigantic WELCOME BACK sign for them. Think they’d be embarrassed? I don’t really care…I’m doing it. The only people they will know in the JFK Airport will be the people from their trip. I’m flying up a day early and staying at a hotel near the airport, and I will be so excited that I won’t sleep a wink that night. Pray for a safe return for them, and pray they are on time, so I don’t have to wait any longer than necessary.

My husband and I are meeting my brother and sister-in-law on vacation later this week. Our favorite dogsitter/housesitter arrives tomorrow night. I’m hoping the vacation will be a distraction from how much I’m missing my girl. We’ll laugh a lot, get some exercise, and lounge on the beach for a few days. I’m hoping my brother will cook dinner for us every night…he’s a great cook.

A friend’s daughter arrived home earlier this week from her tour of the Pacific Northwest. She was gone for three weeks. I called my friend, the mom, the morning the daughter was coming home and asked if she was excited that her baby girl would be coming home tonight. Of course she was! She sent me a cute picture they took of her two daughters right after the younger one arrived home safely. You can see it below. So sweet. You can tell they are so excited to see each other. I asked my friend if she cried, and she said, “We all did!”

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My friend’s daughters. The one on the right just arrived home safely from her tour of the Pacific Northwest.

I guess I need to wear waterproof mascara next week when I go to meet my daughter at the airport in New York.

Joe Namath Lived Here

My friend, Mary Ann, and I had been traveling in a Ford Expedition with her three kids and my daughter for ten days. We had spent the last fun night at the Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky, Ohio (click here for info). We were headed home.

After driving to the shores of Lake Erie to get photos with another of the Great Lakes (we’d visited Lake Michigan in Chicago earlier in the trip), we plugged in my home address as our destination. I was driving, and Mary Ann was the navigator. Did I mention Mary Ann is a really good navigator? She had her phone and an atlas, and she would use the Roadside America app (highly recommend) to find fun things to do. We had a nine hour drive ahead of us. We were just getting started when Mary Ann said, “If we go 40 minutes out of our way, our kids can add Pennsylvania to their list of states they’ve visited.”

I looked at her and said, “If we do, will it take us anywhere near Beaver Falls?” Mary Ann looked at the map and said, “Yes. Why? What’s in Beaver Falls?” I got excited, because I’m a crazy Joe Namath fan.

Immediately, I said, “Joe Namath is from Beaver Falls! Look and see if they have any kind of monument to him anywhere in Beaver Falls!” She looked it up and learned there is a plaque honoring Joe Namath at the Carnegie Free Library in Beaver Falls.

We were on our way.

Of course, Mary Ann made fun of me for knowing Joe Namath is from Beaver Falls. “Only YOU!” she said. Any self-respecting football fan knows Joe Namath (aka Joe Willie, or Broadway Joe) is from Beaver Falls! He had played quarterback at The University of Alabama; of course I knew he was from Beaver Falls. Growing up in Alabama, I heard about Joe Namath my whole life, and I remember, as a child, getting to stay up to watch him as a guest on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. I’ve had a crush on Joe Willie my whole life.

Everybody remembers the story about Joe Namath being heckled at a Pre-Super Bowl III press conference. A Baltimore Colts fan yelled some smack about the New York Jets, Namath’s team, at him from the back of the room, and Joe responded, “We’re going to win the game. I guarantee it.” And he was right. The Jets won. During his football career, he famously wore a fur coat on the field, and he did pantyhose commercials. He owned a nightclub called Bachelors III in New York, much to the dismay of NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. I spent some time with Rozelle in 1989, and we talked about Namath. Rozelle seemed to like him by that point. Namath had swagger as a player, and he has swagger now, at age 74.

While I love Joe Namath most of all football players, I just love football. I told Mary Ann a story recently about meeting another of my favorite football players…totally by chance…and I said to him, “You’re from *****! I worked for the newspaper there for a while when I was in college!” Mary Ann said he probably thought I was a stalker, because a 50-yr-old woman shouldn’t have such knowledge. Well, I do have the knowledge, and I’m not a stalker. It’s just the kind of useless information I tend to remember about people.

In fact, just this week, Mary Ann called me, saying, “Don’t fail me now. My son and I have a bet.” Then she put me on speaker phone and asked, “What town is John Mellencamp from?” I immediately responded, “John Mellencamp is from Seymour, Indiana.”I heard her son groan in the background. She had bet him I would remember, and that crazy kid doubted me. (We visited Seymour earlier in the same road trip.) Bahahaha! Again, I am a walking wealth of useless information.

It was raining when we arrived in downtown Beaver Falls (for more about Beaver Falls, click here). It was gray and dreary, and while a city doesn’t show as well in the rain, we could tell Beaver falls was a quaint, charming town. It’s a beautiful, historic town on the Beaver River. Lots of very nice people live there.

Joe Namath lived here.

It was easy to find the Carnegie Free Library (for info, click here). Mary Ann had put it into the navigation system, but it was right on what seemed to be the main street through town, Seventh Avenue.

We pulled up in front of the library, and the rain was not letting up. We parallel parked (I have mad parallel parking skills)right in front of the library, hoping the rain would pass over.

After  a while, we knew it wasn’t going to clear up. Mary Ann and I took turns getting out of the car to take selfies with the plaque honoring Joe Namath in the pouring rain… but we got the selfies! We had driven to Beaver Falls just for Broadway Joe! In case you don’t know this about me, Joe Namath is on my short list of people I want to meet. If you’ve met him, don’t tell me. If you meet him, you can tell him about the crazy lady who drove to Beaver Falls just to get a selfie with the plaque honoring him.

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In front of the Joe Namath plaque in downtown Beaver Falls, PA, at the end of a 10-day road trip, standing in the rain. Good times!

As for the photos, Mary Ann and I laughed at how terrible we looked and got ready to drive back to Charlotte. I don’t remember what Mary Ann looked like, but in my selfie, I look like a mom who has been on a ten day road trip with four kids…standing in the rain.

We turned around to go back through town, and as we drove, we noticed Oram’s Donuts. Mary Ann and I wanted to stop and get some donuts, but the children were ready to get home. To this day, we regret not going into Oram’s. As we drove past, we caught a glimpse of a woman ordering a doughnut…the same woman had asked me for bus fare a few minutes earlier. I guess she decided she didn’t need a ride more than she needed a doughnut. I regularly look at the Oram’s website just to torture myself. According to their website, they have been in business for 77 years, and they make their donuts “the old-fashioned way, concentrating on quality and taste.” You can see their website here. While you can’t order donuts for shipping, you can torture yourself with the pictures. You can purchase Oram’s coffee mugs. Mary Ann and I have declared we will return to Oram’s in Beaver Falls.

I’m guessing Joe Namath knows all about Oram’s.

We stopped at Sheetz in downtown to fill up with gas, and according to the computer, we could drive 530 miles on that tank of gas. According to the navigation system, we had 490 miles to travel to Charlotte. I planned to make it without stopping again, unless someone needed a bathroom break.

We passed to the west of Pittsburgh and headed south. Darkness fell while we were in West Virginia, with hours to go. At some point, Mary Ann was getting sleepy, and we all sang a rousing rendition of “99 Bottles of Beer” from beginning to end…the kids thought it was hilarious to sing about beer…inappropriate, of course, but funny.

I was driving, and I wasn’t remotely tired. The kids dozed off while we were in Virginia, and Mary Ann made it to the North Carolina state line before nodding off.

We made it home on that tank of gas and pulled into the driveway at about 2:30am.

If I ever get to meet Joe Namath, I’ll have to tell him about the detour we made just to get selfies with his plaque beside the Carnegie Free Library in Beaver Falls. And who knows? Maybe one day, Mary Ann and I will make it to Oram’s. When we do, I’ll post lots of photos and reviews of every doughnut flavor they have!

Till then, we’ll have to keep torturing ourselves with the pictures on the website.

And Joe Namath…well, I’ll just have to keep crushing on him.

Safe travels!

Kelly

Eastvale Bridge over the Beaver River, Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania

To read about other parts of the road trip, see previous posts. 

Turning 50

Next weekend, I’m going to a friend’s birthday party. She’s turning 50, quite a milestone birthday. I asked her recently if she is as excited about her 50th birthday as I was about mine, and she said she’s not sure how she feels about it.IMG_4555

I turned 50 last year. If you didn’t have to tolerate me then, I will tell you I was pretty obnoxious. I was almost as excited about turning 50 as I was about turning 21…almost. I’ve never been as excited about one of my own birthdays as I was about turning 21. Turning 50 was a close second, though.

When my friend, Nikki, said she wasn’t sure how she felt about fifty, I thought, “She’s got this.” She’s a young fifty. She lives life to the fullest and has a positive outlook on life. All those things point to being happy about a milestone birthday.

Maybe I’m weird, but I look at fifty as a positive.

Of course, I look for reasons to celebrate. Fifty was the perfect excuse for celebrating myself! Fifty deserves Champagne at lunch and anytime I want it! Trust me, almost anyone who has had lunch with me in the past year will tell you I love Champagne with lunch.

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Bellinis in some adorable stemless flutes my friends, Jenn and Neill, gave me.

When I turned fifty in May of last year, I took full advantage of the fact that I was having a big, important, milestone birthday. My husband had turned fifty the year before, and he wanted no fanfare. I honored that. He didn’t really even want it mentioned. He did, however, go to the beach with some friends one weekend near his birthday. Judging by the late night phone call I received, he had a good time.

I didn’t want “fanfare” in the way of my husband throwing a party. Some sweet friends did come together and surprise me with a small dinner party, and some other friends took me out to lunch and to see Smokey and the Bandit (its 40th anniversary) on the big screen. Both events were great fun, as we had fun at the dinner celebrating my birthday, and we lusted after a young Burt Reynolds in the movie theatre after lunch. I wore a “50 Looks Good On Me” sash and black feather boa at dinner and a Smokey and the Bandit homemade t-shirt at the movie. ***Note: black feather boas shed, and if you have any sweat on your chest, the loose feathers will stick, making it appear as though you have a hairy chest.***

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Proof that shedding feather boas can make you appear to have a hairy chest

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My sweet friends humoring me by wearing Smokey and the Bandit t-shirts at the movie

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Drinking Dr. Peppers my friend smuggled into Smokey and the Bandit

My husband gave me a gift I planned: a trip to Los Angeles with my daughter and one of her friends (taking the daughter and a friend gave me lots of time to do whatever I wanted)…staying at my favorite hotel, where we had a lovely suite with a beautiful, gigantic patio that I enjoyed every…single…day. I love outdoor spaces; the hotel gifted me with a glorious outdoor space unlike any other.

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On my glorious patio at the hotel, recreating Faye Dunaway’s pose the day after she won the Academy Award. She posed by the pool, but she was a young, tall, skinny Hollywood star. I posed on the private patio, because I’m not.

While we were there, I visited with a friend who had just turned 40, and we traded “war stories” over dinner while watching celebrities dine. I also had the chance to meet two hot gentlemen, Tony Romo and Chace Crawford, and pretend I was just meeting them so I could take a picture of my daughter and her friend with them.

I embraced turning fifty. I see it as the age of respect. I have knowledge I didn’t have at 20, 30, or 40. I have experiences I wouldn’t trade. As a result of those various experiences, I have wisdom. If you’re thirty and want to tell me about “real life,” be prepared to get, “Bless your heart. I’m 50. Let me tell you about real life.”

There’s also something relaxing about being fifty. When you’re twenty, you worry about what other people think. When you’re thirty, that becomes less of a worry. You understand that when you go to a party, other people don’t really care what you’re wearing…they’re more concerned with what they are wearing. In fact, I like to think that at 30, that all went out the window with me. Some people refer to 40 as their “kiss my a** age” (I heard someone say that on David Letterman’s show years ago), meaning they stopped letting other people influence them and stopped caring so much about what other people think, but I think mine was 30. Some people who knew me in my 20s might argue that it was earlier.

If my mother were here today, she would tell you I was the “classic strong-willed child.” I didn’t cause problems, but I was stubborn. I was known for it in my family. Daddy always talked about it and wondered aloud where I got that lovely trait. He would often say, “If she doesn’t want to do something, or if she doesn’t agree with something, she is not going to give in.” Generally speaking, I didn’t care what other people did, but I wasn’t going to do something I didn’t want to do, and I wasn’t going to be talked into changing my mind about something.

As life has gone on, I’ve become less rigid, more relaxed, and most of the time, I don’t sweat the small stuff. I like to think I quit sweating the small stuff when I was in college. My parents used to say, “She might have been ‘switched’ at college” (a reference to Switched at Birth), meaning a different person came back than the one they dropped off four years before. Whatever happened, I had gained wisdom in those four years, and I’ve gained even more since…I don’t care who is right and who is wrong…unless, of course, it negatively affects me, my child, or my family. Then…well, you already know about Mama Bear.

For me, with age has come peace. I have peace in knowing God is in charge. I truly have peace in knowing there are some things over which I have no control. I have peace in knowing that I, generally speaking, try to do the right thing. I will admit that I’m perfectly capable of being petty, but I try to do the right thing most of the time. I have peace in knowing I have a nice family and good friends. I have peace in knowing I’m trying to raise my daughter to take care of herself and others. I have peace in knowing a small act of kindness can mean a lot to someone. I have peace in knowing my brother and I will talk almost everyday, whether we have something to say or not. I have peace in knowing he is happy. I have peace.

So, to my friend, Nikki, and all my other friends who will be turning fifty in the next year or two, this is my gift to you: Embrace the 5-0! Tell everyone you see you are enjoying your 50th birthday! Enjoy it! And don’t just celebrate it for one day; celebrate the whole dang year! Find the peace you deserve at 50!

My 51st birthday is approaching one month from today, and I have called this past year The Year of Me, this year that I am 50.

Unfortunately, I lost my mother during this year, but she laughed and laughed last May at how I embraced turning 50. She had a great sense of humor, and she was happy I was celebrating life. She was glad I took some extra vacations (my favorite thing to do), and she was glad I was spending time with friends and family during the year. She encouraged me to enjoy every single day. As my parents used to tell me, “Life is not a dress rehearsal. Make it good the first time around.” I’m certainly trying.

Friends, enjoy every day. Be glad you’re turning fifty. It’s a milestone. Eat cake! Cake is for winners! (Nikki knows what that means.) It should be a celebration.

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Now, let’s pop the Champagne!

Cheers!

Kelly

Mama Bear

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DISCLAIMER: I am not a mental health professional, but I am a mother. This post is written after being given the word “bear” as a prompt…I ran with it.

Everybody knows you don’t mess with a mama bear in the animal kingdom. Generally speaking, you don’t mess with a Mama Bear in the human world, either.

Mama Bears can be mamas, or they might be teachers fighting for their students, coaches fighting for their players, or any adult fighting for a child.

Let me start by saying I am a person who gives everyone the benefit of the doubt. I expect good things from people. I think most people are good. I think most people try. I want good things for other people. I also want good things for my child and other people’s children. Most of the time, I think everyone around me is doing everything they can for everybody.

And then there are the times I feel like I’ve been gut-punched.

If you’re a mama, you’ve experienced it…that feeling you get when you feel the need to protect your child, or even your teen, from something. You feel the need to intercede. It’s an instinct that becomes part of who you are when you become a mother.

It might be you feel the need to keep them from going to a party. Maybe you feel the need to talk to a teacher. Maybe parents need to come together sometimes. MOST of the time, I try to encourage my child to work things out on her own. But Mama Bear is always in there…sometimes she’s hibernating, but she’s there.

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It’s an instinct that’s difficult to ignore. I know, because sometimes, I become Mama Bear.

Generally speaking, I don’t act on the Mama Bear instinct (and sometimes it’s painful to hold it in), unless I see what I perceive to be a real problem. Lots of times, I’ve had to vent to friends. Sometimes I ask for feedback about my instinct, but usually, I just want to vent.

My friends know the difference. They know when I want feedback and when I want to vent. And some of them know when I need feedback, whether I want it or not.

I’m not a big complainer, and I’m a reasonable person. Usually, if I run across a situation that I think needs to be mentioned, I sit on it for a while. I try to shelve it for a few days…a cooling off period, if you will. Often, I realize the “situation” was no big deal.

I have one child, a 14-yr-old daughter. What I have learned in her 14 years of life is something my mother always told me: Something might be a big deal to her, even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal to you. 

Remember when your child was a toddler? There were things that bothered him/her that seemed completely trivial to an adult. For my child, one of those things was collared shirts. She hated them. When I put a collared shirt on her and realized how it bothered her, I couldn’t get it off her fast enough…because it became painful listening to her! Whew! What was a big deal to her initially seemed small to me, but after much ado, it became very clear to me that it was a big deal all around!

All these teenage “big deals” should be taken into consideration too.

And sometimes, I have to help her put things into perspective. Easier said than done, but I try. If she continues to act like it’s a big deal, then I try really hard to see things from her point of view.

One thing I do know is that middle school girls are not like everybody else. I remember being 14, and I remember an emotional rollercoaster…daily. I also remember that I didn’t feel like I had the power to take problems to higher-ups, i.e. adults. So I kept my mouth shut.

My own daughter tends to do the same thing, like lots of girls her age. She gets upset about something, but she doesn’t say anything to anyone…except me. I try to teach her that she needs to learn to handle these “situations” on her own, but sometimes, it’s just impossible. Maybe she’s afraid she won’t be heard. Maybe she’s afraid of repercussions.

Let me clarify that I have never complained about a teacher. In fact, I am usually the first one writing a complimentary letter for just about anyone…teachers, flight attendants, customer service personnel, waitstaff, salespeople, hotel employees. Truly, I know people work hard for a living, and I like to help people. My friends actually LAUGH at how much time I spend writing complimentary letters, but I appreciate a job well done. I can’t remember the last time I flew somewhere and didn’t write a complimentary letter for at least one airline employee. Same with hotel employees. I find something good in them. That’s my long way of saying I’m a positive person.

Here is something else I know: sometimes we have to intercede on our children’s behalf, because truly, they feel like they are being disrespectful if they question authority. It’s an interesting thing we teach our children in this country: We start with “respect your elders,” and then we change our tune to “handle it yourself.” That’s a pretty confusing message to lots of preteens and teens…including mine.

We even teach girls not to call each other out! How many times do we talk about how polite they have to be, and how many times have we said, “Be nice.” Ugh. Yes, please be polite and nice, but don’t be a doormat.

They have this fear that they will appear too sensitive. They have a fear of getting in trouble for being “mean” when they defend themselves. My child has actually said to me, when someone has been rude, that it would be “mean” if she defended herself. WHAT?!? But sometimes, people will be rude as long as you let it go on. I’ve spent countless hours trying to teach my daughter to stand up for herself and others.

Growing up is hard. It’s hard for the child/teen, and it’s hard for the parents. It’s hard to see our teens lose confidence because of something an adult does. It’s hard to see our teens feeling sad.

Most kids learn to handle it, including mine. Most of the time when this Mama Bear flares up,  no one ever knows it.

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Usually, my flare-ups are about adults who act without considering the psyche of a 14-yr-old girl. Do people actually have that much difficulty remembering what it felt like to be that age? At 14, they are still part little girl and just taking one baby step into adulthood. They don’t know if they are little girls or big girls. They need guidance, and they need conversation, and they need someone to hear them.

Will a middle school girl speak up if she feels slighted? Maybe. Is it possible she will shut down if she feels slighted? Maybe.

And sometimes they internalize it…thus, the emotional rollercoaster.

Unfortunately, they often are afraid to speak up. That’s when Mama Bear has to step in. This Mama Bear always feels great pain about this. Generally speaking, I give people the benefit of the doubt, but problems arise when someone dealing with teens doesn’t take into consideration that they are still kids at heart. If someone doesn’t understand teens, they shouldn’t be in a position to deal with teens.

Their reality is different than the reality of adults. They can’t drive. They are trapped at school all day. They have to follow more rules. They’re distracted by social stuff. They’re distracted by almost anything. They’ve been told to be “nice” their whole lives, and dang it, most of them are.

I don’t profess to be a mental health professional, but I am a Mama Bear. I choose to be a Mama Bear who TRIES really hard to keep it to herself.

I give a mean “stink-eye,” though.

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Cheers to all the Mama Bears of the world!

Kelly