Don’t Look, Ethel!

Don’t look, Ethel!

Earlier today, on Facebook, a friend posted one of those memes saying, “The song that was number one on your seventh birthday defines 2021 for you.” The song that was number one on my friend’s seventh birthday? Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy. What the what?!?! I was a senior in high school when that song was number one! I was sneaking into R-Rated movies, and she was just seven years old?!? I felt old, but I also felt lucky….lucky that Prince was the soundtrack of my high school years.

But then, I couldn’t resist. I’m a sucker for notalgia, so I checked to see what the number one song was on my seventh birthday. The song that was number one? The Streak by Ray Stevens. I laughed out loud. Of course it was number one on my seventh birthday! I loved that song! I played the 45 single on my record player regularly, because I thought it was hilarious…with its laugh-track and everything. I didn’t understand all the references, but I still thought it was funny.

Streaking was a thing in the 70s. For a long time, I didn’t know if Ray Stevens made it popular with his song, or if he made the song because streaking was popular. You know…the chicken or the egg? I read recently that Stevens totally capitalized on the streaking craze of the 70s…smart move. If you’re familiar with the song, you know Ethel is a “character” in it. There’s a lot of “Don’t look, Ethel!” followed by things like “It was too late…she’d already been mooned!” At seven, I had no idea what “mooning” was. But back in the 70s, spectators streaked across the field at Major League Baseball games. They streaked across college campuses. They streaked through cricket games, soccer games…and unforgettably, across the stage at the 1974 Academy Awards ceremony. Streaking was big in the 1970s.

The summer of 1974, my whole extended family on my dad’s side gathered in Mexico Beach, Florida, for a big family weekend…all of us in one house. It was great fun. We went “scalloping” in St. Joe Bay. We went to the beach every day…getting shocked by the crosswalk button only once before we knew not to do it again. We laughed. We played. And the few of us who were 10 and under plotted to “streak” down the street. We were in a back bedroom, plotting our streaking event, but none of us really had the nerve to carry it out, so we decided to streak through the house where all our parents and cousins were. Silly, I know, but hilarious to a 7-yr-old. Years later, my mother told me she heard us plotting our event in the back bedroom, and she told my aunt, “Kelly will be the first one to run through here.” She was right. In fact, I’m not sure if any of the others participated in the “event.” I wrapped up in a towel and walked into the hallway, then dropped by towel and ran through the main room, where all the adults and teenagers were. Is there anything less exciting than seeing a 7-yr-old run through a room naked? It seemed funny to me, but I don’t think anyone else even cared. It was pretty stupid…but at the time, it was fun.

Ray Stevens had other funny songs, and I guess he still sings them at his Ray Stevens CabaRay in Nashville. I have to get there one day, simply because I am cool with anything that’s completely hokey and nostalgic. Maybe I can get my friend, Mary Ann, to meet me there to hear him sing some of our silly road trip songs like The Streak, The Mississippi Squirrel Revival, Ahab the Arab, It’s Me Again, Margaret, Gitarzan…so many politically incorrect songs! I hope he still sings them, because political correctness aside, they are hilarious!

So one silly meme on Facebook now has me listening to Ray Stevens on Apple Music…and laughing a lot as I sing along while running errands all over town.

According to that Facebook meme, that song defines 2021 for me. Next thing you know, I’ll be streaking through 2021! Bahahaha!

Messages from Heaven

Messages from Heaven.

I lost my dad in 2006. My mother passed in December 2017. And then, a dear friend left this world in 2018. I remember lots of conversations I had with each of them when they were alive, but I also get “messages” from them now.

Unfortunately, Facebook wasn’t a thing when my daddy was living. If Facebook existed then, I didn’t know it. Daddy would not have been into social media, anyway… but if he had been around for Facebook, he likely would have checked it sometimes, just to see pictures of my growing daughter, since we lived 600 miles away.

But my mother and my friend who passed in 2018…they were into Facebook.

Today, as always, I checked my Facebook “memories,” where I get to take a look at my posts from the same day in different years past. No big deal, right? I usually laugh or smile as I scroll through them, and today was no different.

As I scrolled through my “memories,” I came across a post from this day in 2012. In the post, I asked friends to pray for a friend who was having surgery on that day. I read through the comments, and there, at the bottom of the comments…a comment from my friend who was having surgery…the same friend who passed in 2018. It was just one simple sentence, “Oh, sweet Kelly…always thinking of me.” As I read it, I could hear her saying it, and I got a little emotional. You know how we we think we have moved beyond grief? You know how lots of people don’t understand grief continues for an undefined length of time? Well, this is an example of how grief lingers. Who knew such a simple comment would make me miss her so much 2 1/2 years after her passing?

Once, when that same friend and I were walking to the car after spending the afternoon at the beach in Maine many years ago, we looked up at the sky, and we both had the same reaction. We stopped and gasped. There was a big hole in the clouds…it looked as if God might reach down through that hole and touch the earth. (It’s the feature photo, but the photo doesn’t really do it justice.) We called the scene “the hand of God.” Every time I see a similar scene now, I think of my friend and “the hand of God.”

Occasionally, I see comments from my mother on Facebook, and I have an emotional reaction to those too. It’s different than finding a note or card…maybe because it’s a reactive message? She’s reacting to something I posted on Facebook? It just seems more conversational.

And then there are different kinds of messages…

A few days before Christmas, I got a different kind of message from my mother…in the grocery store, of all places. I was shopping for all the things I would need on Christmas Day when I remembered we would also need bread to make sandwiches after Christmas, so I dashed around to the bread aisle. And that’s when I saw her…my mother…standing in front of the bread…and I stopped in my tracks. I took a deep breath and moved closer. Don’t freak out. It wasn’t a ghost. She wasn’t looking at me. She was trying to pick a loaf of bread, and I stood behind her, waiting patiently…and watching.

No, it wasn’t really my mother. It wasn’t a ghost. It was just a woman who, from behind, looked like my mother. She was short…about my mother’s height. She had her hair brushed in the same way Mother brushed her hair. Her arms looked just like Mother’s. She stood like Mother. She was wearing something Mother would have worn. I never saw her face, but I ended up behind her a couple more times before I left the store…and found myself walking out the door behind her! In fact, I took a photo of her and sent it to my brother, my cousin, and my aunt, all of whom reacted exactly as I did. They were shocked, but they were happy. No, it wasn’t my mother, but I felt like seeing this woman was a message from my mother…just a little “hello” in the grocery store.

A few weeks before that, I was in Michael’s Arts and Crafts when I rounded a corner and gasped audibly. Standing in front of me was a woman who, from behind, looked just like my friend who passed away in 2018. I saw her two more times in the store that day…and then, as I was walking out, I passed a woman who, from behind, looked just like my mother. I have decided she was the same woman who was in the grocery store a few days before Christmas.

I get visits from my daddy too. I’ve seen him walking across a parking lot, and I have seen him in the background of other people’s photos on social media. But usually, he visits in my dreams…always laughing and happy. The first time he ever visited me, I was dreaming I was with my little family at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, watching the parade. Float after float went by, and then suddenly, there was Daddy…waving big and laughing from the float. It’s something Daddy never would have done, but it made me happy that in my dream, I was in “the happiest place on earth,” and he was laughing and waving, letting me know he is happy.

Are these really messages from Heaven? I have no idea, but I choose to believe they are, because they keep my loved ones on my mind…and they make me feel connected to them.

Early Christmas Mornings

Early Christmas mornings.

I wish I could say I remember when our daughter became aware of Santa Claus and Christmas…maybe when she was two or three? I know her first Christmas, when she was just two months old…she knew nothing. The next year, 2004, she woke up and had fun playing with all the new stuff, but I’m not sure she was really aware of Santa.

In 2005, when she was two, she was catching on. She wanted to visit Santa in SouthPark Mall constantly…so we did. It was something to do with a toddler, and I was always looking for fu n…because she was not a napper.

Once she caught on that Santa came on Christmas Eve, she went to bed excited…just like so many other kids. And she woke up early…like so many others. But when I say she woke up early I mean my head had barely hit the pillow when she called down from upstairs.

The first year it happened, my husband was not happy. He heard her call for me…it was likely around 2:00am…and he groaned, telling me, “Make her go back to sleep till 7:00 or 8:00.” How exactly was I supposed to do that???

It was easier to reason with a grown man than it was to reason with a toddler, so I said to him, “No. If we get up with her now and let her see what Santa brought, she will play for a while and go back to bed…we will get to sleep a little later in the morning. Otherwise, we will be getting up at 5:30 or 6:00 for the day. Get up.” And so we did.

And I was right. She played for an hour (or two), and I took her back to bed and got to sleep a little later than usual. The same thing happened for several years, and every year, I had to remind my husband that it was just easier to go ahead and get up.

Last night, I saw a Publix commercial that was released last year. It features a little girl walking into the kitchen on Christmas morning, asking Grandma if they can wake up the others. Grandma says she has a better idea and sets about making pastries with the little girl. The sentiment is sweet, but when I was a little girl, I’d have thought my grandmother was just torturing me! What kid wants to hang out in the kitchen making pastries when there are gifts from Santa waiting in the living room???

I know everyone won’t agree with me, but when I was a kid, when we got up, we woke up our parents and ran to see what Santa had brought. I don’t think anyone could have stopped us if they had tried! But my parents never tried to stop us. I’m sure they thought the same way I did…”let them play now, and we can get more sleep.”

At around 7:30 or 8:00, Daddy would cook a big breakfast on Christmas mornings, but Mother always made the biscuits…her special recipe. We would hang around, talking about Christmas, and then we would all have a big Christmas lunch before we went outside to play with neighborhood friends in the afternoon…or as we got older, we settled in with the family (and likely a few friends) and watched football.

Our daughter is 17, so she knows the deal about Santa and no longer gets up before the crack of dawn to see what Santa brought. In fact, this year, she picked out most of what he will bring, but Santa tries to have a few surprises for her too. Christmas morning is not as exciting as it was when she was a little girl, but she gets the true meaning of Christmas now.

This year, at Christmas, it’s likely we will sleep in a little before we open gifts. We will have a little birthday cake for breakfast…it has become a tradition at our house. When our daughter was one, she asked Santa for a birthday cake, so we always have birthday cake for breakfast on Christmas Day. And after lunch, our daughter will figure out if any of her friends are available to hang out. My husband and I will likely watch football…any game that is on…just give us football.

Sure, as our daughter gets older, Christmas becomes different, but we enjoy being together. Is it as exciting as it was ten years ago? No, but it is more meaningful.

This year, we won’t get to see my brother and his children during the holidays, because of COVID, but we will make up for it in 2021…surely, the vaccine will make that possible. I haven’t left my house since Thanksgiving, except to pick up food…both my grandmothers died on December 26 (different years, and my mother died on December 30…I don’t need to get COVID and join them this year. The days between Christmas and New Year’s Day make me nervous every year.

So we will celebrate Christmas with our little family. Our daughter will likely spend some time with friends who had the virus a month ago, so I don’t have to worry about her. But no matter what…if she daughter wakes up at 3am and wants to open gifts, you can bet your sweet bippy that’s what we will do.

70s Saturdays and Hostess Cupcakes

70s Saturdays and Hostess Cupcakes.

Earlier, I had to run to Walgreens to pick up one thing…some bottled water. Of course, like so many other people, I can’t walk out of Walgreen’s with just one thing. I have to “browse” the aisles. By the time I checked out, my cart contained hand sanitizer, cheap lipstick, Halloween candy I promptly hid when I got home, and Hostess Cupcakes. Yes, Hostess Cupcakes…the ones that come two to a pack. The creme-filled chocolate ones that have the white swirls across the top. The ones that I loved as a kid in the 1970s.

When I was a little girl, Daddy took us to Murphy’s store on Highway 31 in Brewton on Saturday mornings after he gave us our $5 allowance. It was our opportunity to get whatever we wanted, and back then, $5 would buy a lot of treats. Murphy’s was a little locally-owned convenience store. We always referred to it as “Murphy’s,” except Saturdays, when we referred to it as “the candy store.” Mr. and Mrs. Murphy actually ran it themselves. I’m sure they laughed when they saw us coming, because they knew we were going straight for the candy. By the time I left the store, I usually had an Icee or a Grape Fanta and a little brown bag full of different treats. My personal favorites? Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (I remember when the price increased from 15 cents to 20 cents), Pixy Stix, Marathon Bar, Grape Now & Laters, Spree Candy, M&Ms, Candy Cigarettes (it was the 70s, after all), and yes, those glorious Hostess Cupcakes. I thought those swirls across the top were beautiful. I guess I always had homemade birthday cakes, so those Hostess swirls looked like some special handiwork. Here’s a secret, though: I rarely ate the cupcakes. I usually just ate the frosting off the top…and that swirl? I saved that till the end.

So, after I got home from Walgreen’s and ate those Hostess cupcakes, I posted on my personal Facebook page about them, and the reaction was great! So many of my friends remembered those cupcakes from childhood. But the great thing was the memories they shared about their own experiences. One friend commented that her dad would take her to the deli on Saturdays, and while he picked out lunch stuff, the kids could get treats…including Tastykakes…a Mid-Atlantic treat. Others could remember the mom-and-pop shops where they got their weekend treats, and one friend frequented the 7-11 with her dad, buying comic books and candy.

One of my favorite comments was simply, “Nyolator.” It was a comment from a kindergarten friend in Brewton. I’m guessing not just anyone would understand it, but I knew exactly what it meant immediately. In South Alabama, when I was a kid, I didn’t call Now&Later candies by their real name. I called them “Nyolators,” and I now know I wasn’t the only one! We weren’t being funny. Since I never bothered to read the package, I just pronounced them the way I heard it,”Nyolator.” I guess that’s the way my kindergarten friend heard it too! So if someone had asked me what candy I liked at the time, I likely would have answered, “Grape Nyolators.” Later, when I bothered to read the package, I was amused to learn I had been calling them by the wrong name my whole life…I was probably a preteen by the time I realized it, but dang!

So now, I’m thinking those Hostess Cupcakes aren’t just cupcakes. They’re symbols of my childhood…memories of going to Murphy’s store with my daddy. Pixy Stix can have the same effect for me. I loved Pixy Stix then, and I still love them now. Again, grape Pixy Stix are my preferred flavor. I don’t know why I love artificial grape flavoring, but I do.

Grape sodas, which taste nothing like real grapes, also make me think of visiting my Granddaddy. I’ve talked with my cousin, Patti, in recent years about how Granddaddy would give us a quarter, and we would walk down to the little store down the street from his house. I don’t know what the store was called, but I know I could always get a grape soda or an RC Cola there.

And you know why all those items…the candy, the cupcakes, the sodas…remind us of our childhood? Because they represent happy times. We tend to lock things into our longterm memory if they are attached to an emotion, and I guess that emotion, for me, on a Saturday morning, with $5 to spend at a mom-and-pop convenience store…well, that emotion was pure joy! No doubt!

I was big on making my little brown bag candy stash last a while. I could drag out eating some M&Ms by peeling them. I never got Peanut M&Ms. Back then, I only got original milk chocolate ones. And I actually peeled them. Sounds crazy right? I would bite each one just lightly enough to crack the outer shell, and then I would carefully peel off the shell, eating it little bit by little bit. And that’s when there were still red M&Ms with cancer-causing coloring, and there were two different brown colors of M&M…one was tan. Remember that? Long before blue M&Ms. I remember hearing the slogan for M&Ms many times, “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand.”

And while I was peeling my M&Ms and hoarding my candy/cupcake stash, I was likely playing records on my record player…maybe Ricky Nelson singing Garden Party, which takes me back every time. That and Otis Redding singing Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay. But I’m not even going to get into how music takes me back…that’s for another day.

For now, I’m going to sneak back into the kitchen and eat some of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups from the bag of Halloween candy I purchased at Walgreen’s. I hid it from everyone else in my family, but I know exactly where it is!

Memories of a 1970s Childhood

Memories of a 1970s Childhood.

After reading the Leif Garrett memoir, I find myself thinking about the 1970s. I was born in 1967, but most of my childhood memories were in the 1970s. In fact, I think my brain retains information from that time in my life better than it retains any other decade…and in much more detail. I’ve written before about how I believe we remember events better when they are attached to an emotion…happiness, fear, sadness. Maybe childhood is more emotional, because we have so many more new experiences, so we remember more. Lots of my memories from adulthood are either gone or more difficult to retrieve.

I can probably tell you the telephone number of almost every childhood friend I ever had, and I lived in different places. It’s not like I was dialing the same numbers in 1980 that I was dialing in 1975. I can even tell you the street addresses of childhood friends…the ones I went to kindergarten with. 112 Lakeview Circle? I know whose address that was. 203 Dawson Street? Yep…I know that too. If I don’t know the house number, I know the street name of almost everyone.

It was an epic time. I’m sure everyone thinks their own childhood was the greatest era, but I truly believe it. Our country was pulling out of Vietnam. We didn’t feel the imminent threat of nuclear war that kids felt in the early 1960s. Our relatives weren’t being drafted. Lots of cool things were happening. Here are a few:

  • The milkman delivered to our house. When I told my daughter about the milkman, she looked at me like I had fourteen eyes, saying, “Wait a minute. A man drove a truck around town, dropping off milk on front porches?”  We bought a lot from him…regular milk, chocolate milk (only one carton per week of this special treat), and even eggs, butter, and orange juice! The really big treat we got sometimes, though, was ice cream in a rectangular cardboard carton, and somehow, it just tasted better!images-2
  • When we took photos with our Kodak Instamatic cameras that used 126 or 110 film, we had to drop off the film cartridges at a local TG&Y, Harco, Revco, or other five and dime store to have it developed. We would pick up our photos a week later. We didn’t have the instant gratification…looking at photos immediately to see if they were good. And if we needed flash for our photos, we used flashbulbs atop those cameras! Correction…we had the instant gratification if we had a Polaroid instant camera. They were fun, but with only eight photos per photo cartridge, we wanted to get it right the first time.il_1588xN.2288145040_30ua
  • Kids rode bikes any time the weather permitted. My brother could ride a two-wheeler when he was two or three…much earlier than most kids. I could ride one when I was four or five, and we rode bikes all the time. Our only rule? Don’t ride it across the highway. So if we rode our bikes up to the front of the neighborhood, we had to leave them on the side of the road while we crossed the FOUR-LANE HIGHWAY to get candy and a Coke at the little mom and pop grocery store on the other side. Yes, I said FOUR-LANE HIGHWAY.
  • Kids rode their bikes in the fog from the mosquito truck. OK, so this is not such a great thing, but it’s a memory, for sure. Personally, I was terrified of the mosquito truck, but there were boys in our neighborhood who looked forward to seeing that truck in the summer. I don’t know why it was so much fun for them to ride in the fog…that may or may not have contained DDT…but I can see it vividly in my mind.images
  • Sunday nights were for TV dinners, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, and The Wonderful World of Disney. We had to buy TV dinners on Saturday, because blue laws meant grocery stores were not open on Sunday. In fact, nothing was open on Sunday. Beer and alcohol certainly weren’t sold on Sunday.
  • Families watched TV together. Parents sat in chairs or on the sofa in the family den, while the kids lounged on the floor in front of the console television. It seemed everyone had a giant, color console TV in the family den. Johnny Carson was America’s favorite talk show host, and occasionally, our parents would let us stay up to watch him on The Tonight Show. Later, TV stations signed off with the National Anthem.56adbe711edad2afdadc86c0de9153f8 
  • We stayed outside all day and sometimes, into the night. Our mothers wanted us to come home when the streetlights came on, but with permission, we could stay out and play Kick The Can at night with the neighborhood kids.
  • Seatbelts? What seatbelts? Yes, cars had them, but hardly anyone used them. Kids bounced around on the back seats of cars or stood on the front seat…while the car was moving on a busy highway!photo-1564833840938-2f5041df082d
  • We had a locally owned single-screen movie theater, and it cost $1 for kids and $2 for adults. Most weekends, you could get in at 5:00 for the double feature, which meant you watched a full-length older film first…or maybe an old cartoon movie. Our parents dropped us off in time for the double feature, so they had four hours to go have date night. We got Cokes, popcorn, and Milk Duds. When I was eight, I saw Jaws on the big screen with my six year old brother! It was rated PG; PG-13 didn’t exist yet, and anything that wasn’t rated R was fine. We also saw Smokey and the Bandit, Rocky, Car Wash, The Bad News Bears, and more…all unaccompanied. If you think The Bad News Bears was made for kids, watch it now. I bought it years ago on DVD for my then-five-year-old daughter, because I didn’t remember just how bad the language was!
  • Pizza parties. We were thrilled to go to Pizza Inn (or Shakey’s or Pascuale’s) for a pizza birthday party. Everyone sat around a big table eating pizza. That was the party. We were likely in middle school, and we had the best time hanging out, eating pizza with our friends! Just good fun.
  • TV theme songs and commercial jingles were the best! Seriously. Do TV shows even have theme songs anymore? I can throw out one line from so many TV shows, and I imagine most folks my age can name the show.  1. Come and knock on our door… 2. Here’s a story of a lovely lady… 3. Come and listen to a story ’bout a man named Jed… 4. You take the good; you take the bad; you take ’em both, and there you have… 5. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, shlemiel, schlimazel…Those are TV theme songs, and for commercial jingles… A. Here’s to good friends, tonight is kind of special… B. Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun! C. My baloney has a first name… D. Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us! E. Have a bucket of chicken… *See below for answers*

Oh, those were the days! A lot of life revolved around television. It was epic in the 1970s. And to think we fret about our kids’ screen time! Bahahaha!

I’d love to hear your memories from the 70s…

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TV them songs shown above: 1. Three’s Company 2. The Brady Bunch 3. The Beverly Hillbillies 4. The Facts of Life 5. Laverne and Shirley

Commercial jingles: A. Lowenbrau B. McDonald’s Big Mac C. Oscar Mayer D. Burger King E. Kentucky Fried Chicken

My Birthday

My birthday.

Today is my birthday. Everyone who knows me knows I love my birthday in a crazy way. I can’t help it. It’s my day, and I love it.

My daughter is fully aware of how much I love my birthday. She woke up this morning and texted me before I was even awake. Apparently my husband took coffee up to her before bringing me coffee this morning…to give me a few extra minutes of sleep. His bringing me coffee is not a birthday thing; I’m fortunate that he brings me coffee in bed every day, which makes every day feel like a birthday, I guess. But today really is my birthday.

When my daughter texted me from upstairs this morning, she said, “Happy Birthday to the best mom ever!” I replied, “Thank you! I love you!” She replied, “Love you more!” I responded with “You have no idea how much I love you. One day, when you have a child of your own, you will understand.” And that’s the absolute truth. I always knew my mother and daddy loved me, but once I had my own child, I fully understood the depth of their love for me. So when she says “love you more,” I always think, “Just you wait till you have your own child.” Always.

Birthdays are funny like that. I love celebrating, but I also love reflecting on previous birthdays.

Last year on this day, I was in Los Angeles with my friend, Meg. My “birthday twin,” Chiko, was getting married on our shared birthday. Chiko and I call ourselves “birthday twins,” because we share a birthday. No, we aren’t the same age. In fact, she is far younger than I am. She is also far taller, and she is drop-dead gorgeous. Add in the fact that I’m from Alabama, and she is from Nigeria, and we are some interesting “twins.” She is, quite possibly, one of the kindest people…and funniest people… I’ve ever known. I was fortunate to be invited to her wedding, and I took my friend, Meg, as my “plus one.” My teenage daughter had final exams, and my husband stayed home with her. It was a glorious wedding/reception, and Chiko was the most beautiful bride! I’ve written about it before, because a Nigerian wedding is a real event! Wow! And the food! We made new friends and tried new foods…a most memorable wedding and memorable birthday.

This year is a much quieter birthday, partly because of the pandemic, and partly because it’s raining all day in Charlotte. I’m perfectly happy with a quiet birthday. My daughter eventually came downstairs this morning and snuggled in bed with me, and I told her, “This right here is the perfect birthday gift…just getting to be with you.” And it made me think of my mother. It sounded like something she would have said. I’ve been a mother for 16 years, so now I fully understand why my mother felt that way…because she loved me more than I ever could have imagined.

So I’ll enjoy a quiet birthday with my little family. It’s also National Sunscreen Day, but we definitely don’t need sunscreen in Charlotte today, since there’s not a chance the clouds are going to lift. We’ll stay in and be quiet today, but that doesn’t mean I can’t keep celebrating for at least a week (or a month)! I’ll need that sunscreen soon!

Happy Birthday to me!

 

Revisit Walnut Grove

Revisit Walnut Grove. 

Last week, I was working on a project, and for background noise, I wanted something relaxing. I didn’t want to listen to the news. I didn’t want to hear stupid talk shows. I didn’t need to know anything else about the pandemic…no real life, thank you very much. I started flipping through the channels, and I came upon an episode of Little House on the Prairie. I stopped flipping channels, and I decided to record it. I found two more upcoming episodes and recorded those too, and then I changed to a relaxing music channel, saving the shows for later.

When I was a little girl, I loved Little House on the Prairie. I loved the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. My parents gave them to me for Christmas one year. And I loved the TV show. The TV show premiered in September 1974, when I was seven years old, and I was the perfect age to think it was the greatest show ever! Anyone who was a little girl at the time probably remembers the Holly Hobbie dolls that became popular in 1975…likely due, in my opinion, to the popularity of the Little House on the Prairie TV show. But Holly Hobbie is a discussion for another time. As for Little House, I loved watching the life of Laura Ingalls and her family in the “wilderness.” 

I looked forward to it every week…for a couple of years anyway.  The show was on for nine seasons, but I didn’t watch it for those nine years. Little girls become preteens and teenagers, and tastes change; as a preteen and teen, I thought I was way too cool for Little House on the Prairie and stopped watching.

And then I grew up.

I went to middle school, high school, and I don’t think I watched another episode during that time. I went off to college, and after my junior year, I had an internship at a small town newspaper. I would go home every evening and watch an episode of Little House on the Prairie. I was growing up, I guess…I no longer thought I was too cool for the show. And every night, at some point during the show, I would cry. What the heck? The show, with its life lessons, would always elicit an emotional response. 

So last night, my husband and I settled in to watch a little TV before going to sleep, and I said, “I’ve recorded a couple of shows I think we should watch!” Was he thrilled when I said it was Little House on the Prairie? No, but we watched anyway. And he enjoyed watching it as much as I did. Yes, I cried. We watched back to back episodes titled Sylvia, parts 1 and 2, and they are heart wrenching episodes about a teenage girl being raised by her daughter. Sylvia, the character for whom the episodes are named, is a teenage girl being raised by her father. There are lots of twists and turns to the story, but she becomes pregnant as the result of a sexual assault. Albert Ingalls, the adopted son of the Ingalls family, is in love with her, and they plan to marry, even though they are mere teenagers…oh, it just gets worse after that. Heartbreaking.

My husband watched it, and even liked the show, but when I cried at the end, he did what he always does when I cry over a television show…he made fun of me.

Afterward, I posted on Facebook that we had watched a couple of episodes of Little House on the Prairie, and I was shocked at the number of responses! Lots of my friends said how they loved the show. One mentioned that Michael Landon, the actor who played Charles Ingalls, was easy on the eyes…indeed! Another said it was her favorite show of all time. And yet another mentioned Alison Arngrim, the actress who played the incorrigible Nellie Oleson. 

My friend, Nikki, who lives in Alabama, somehow knew that Alison Arngrim is reading the books on Facebook Live, so I checked it out, and oh my! It’s worth tuning in! As it turns out, the girl who played the incorrigible Nellie Oleson, is actually a hilarious adult! To see one of her Facebook Live readings, click here. And while you’re at Arngrim’s Facebook page, look around! She also has a comedy show where she dishes about the secrets of the show! That one requires the purchase of an online “ticket,” but I’m thinking it might be worth it after watching her hilarious readings.

If you decide to revisit Walnut Grove by watching some old episodes of Little House on the Prairie, just be forewarned that you’re likely to cry, and you might just become addicted. I’m likely to be watching it for months!  And if you want some of the behind-the-scenes dirt, check out Alison Arngrim on Facebook!

 

 

 

 

Sliding Doors

Sliding Doors.

It’s a strange time in our lives…in history, even…right now. So many of us are stuck at home, and we’re having to do life differently. Sure, it’s not easy being stuck at home all the time, but there are some good things about it. One big one is that I’m getting to spend more time with my teenage daughter, who will be off to college in two short years. Secretly, I think she is enjoying the togetherness a little bit too.

We have been cooking together, walking together, and talking a lot. We have watched some of her favorite shows on Netflix. I hardly ever ask her to watch any of my favorites, because she tends to lose interest pretty quickly. A few years ago, I forced her to go see Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner on the big screen with me, and she fell asleep halfway through the movie. I had hoped she would watch it and enjoy it while learning a little bit about the civil rights struggle of the 1960s. I loved that movie when I was a teenager in the 1980s. My mother and I would watch it together every time it came on TV. If you’re not familiar with it, the movie was made in 1967 and stars Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, and Isabel Sanford. It’s a lovely movie about a couple living in California and the weekend their grown daughter brings home her new fiancé, played by Poitier. The family is white, and the new fiancé is black…and he is perfect. It leaves me crying every time. You can rent it on Amazon Prime.

So last night, when my daughter asked me if I wanted to watch a movie with her, I played it safe. I asked her what movie she had in mind, and she said, “I don’t know. Is there something you’d like to watch?” What?!?! She was trusting me to pick a movie for us to watch together?!? I responded, “I really think you would like Sliding Doors. It stars Gwyneth Paltrow.” Apparently, Paltrow is too old for the teen set, because she asked, “Who is that?” I laughed and explained who Paltrow is and then explained the premise of the movie, “It’s about a woman who gets fired from her public relations job and is on her way home to her live-in boyfriend. It takes two paths…in one scenario, she catches the subway and gets home to find her live-in boyfriend in bed with someone else. In the other scenario, she misses the subway, because a little girl steps in front of her on the stairs, and she doesn’t catch her boyfriend cheating.”

I explained that the movie follows both paths and shows how one small moment in time can change the path of our lives.

To my surprise, she thought it sounded great! So we sat down on the living room sofa together, and I rented the movie through my Amazon Prime account, and we watched it on the TV. She has watched so many movies on her laptop lately; I think she enjoyed watching on the television for a change. Lots of times, I will go upstairs to her room and watch some of her favorite shows with her, but we rarely watch movies. But last night, we snuggled up under blankets and watched the movie. She put her head on my shoulder, and we talked about the movie as it played. It was a great night, and I plan to let her pick a movie tonight or tomorrow night for us to watch together.

Who knows? Maybe this will become a habit, and we will share some of our favorite movies with each other. My hope is also that we will carry it on through after life becomes “normal” again, and if it doesn’t, that’s OK too, because we will have some memories. I hope this slower pace will teach us some valuable lessons that will carry on. Maybe we are learning that we don’t need to be rushing to the next thing all the time. Maybe we are learning to stop and smell the roses…both literally and figuratively. Maybe we are learning what’s important in life.

I know that once “normal” life resumes, we will fall back into some of our rushing around, but maybe we will pick up some new, good habits. And maybe my daughter will trust my taste in movies after seeing Sliding Doors! Next time, though, I will be prepared with her favorite cake batter popcorn to snack on while we watch. If you haven’t seen the movie, and you’re looking for a good one, this is one I loved when I was in my early 30s, and I still love it now! It will make you think. Rent it on Amazon Prime.

And if you’d like to make cake batter popcorn, you can see the recipe here.

 

Keeping a Coronavirus “Wartime” Journal

Keeping a coronavirus “wartime” journal.

I do think of this pandemic as wartime. We are waging a war against an unseen enemy…COVID-19. When our country has been at war in the past, we could see our enemies, but now…the enemy is all around; we just don’t know where.

We are prisoners in our own homes. Our children are missing out on real school…learning online, but missing their friends, their sports, and their social lives. Those who are supposed to graduate from high school are missing out on more…”lasts,” proms, and graduations, even.

During the “greatest generation,” people wrote letters…snail mail, real letters with pen and paper. For lots of people, that is their historical record of what happened during those days. People don’t write a lot of snail mail these days, so it’s not likely we’ll have that type of historical record of this “war.” And then there was Anne Frank, who wrote in her diary about her days in hiding with her family during the war…an historical record, for sure.

I was talking with my teenage daughter today and told her she needed to start keeping a daily journal of her thoughts, her feelings, and her activities during this pandemic. She likely thought it was a weird mom idea, but she agreed, nonetheless. At first, I was searching through the house for an unused composition notebook or spiral notebook for her to used as a journal, but after having no luck, I realized she doesn’t need a notebook. All she needs is her computer. She’ll be more likely to keep a journal on her computer. And her private thoughts are probably safer there anyway. I’m planning to keep my own journal on my computer too, simply because I know I’d be likely to misplace a journal, but I’m not going to misplace my computer. We can print our pages daily and bind them later.

Journaling, in my opinion, is a good idea anyway…in “normal” life. It’s relaxing, and I have found, in my past, that it was therapeutic. Sometimes, if I write down my feelings, I can get some clarity. Maybe I realize what I’m feeling is ridiculous, or maybe I realize my feelings are justified, but either way, it is helpful. As for journaling during this pandemic, I suggested to my daughter that we write something every day. It doesn’t even have to be meaningful…just something. But I reminded her we need to count our blessings. Sure, we can complain and write the facts about the pandemic…how many are infected, how many have died, all the restrictions to daily life, the shortages…but we need to write about the things we enjoy too and how we feel every day.

Take, for example, how fortunate we are that today is a beautiful day…75 degrees and sunny…in Charlotte. We are fortunate to have a backyard pool, where we can lounge and soak up the sun…something that is very good for improving mood, by the way. Roses are beginning to bloom on the back patio, and trees are growing thicker with bright green leaves every day. We are fortunate to have plenty of food in the pantry. And yes, plenty of toilet paper and Clorox wipes. And as far as we know, we do not have the dreaded coronavirus. Digging deeper into our situation, I might write that I’m beginning to feel really uneasy about the way the world is now. Will our economy ever rebound? Will we forget who we are while we’re all hunkered down in fear of the invisible virus? Will we be fearful of each other after this? Will we be afraid to travel?

Hopefully, my daughter will join me in journaling these crazy days in world history. I told her it’s likely her children won’t believe what we have been doing and will likely continue to do for the next few weeks, possibly months. Hopefully not months, though…seriously…hopefully not months. Her kids likely won’t believe people were hoarding toilet paper, paper towels, and groceries. They will likely be perplexed when she tells them airlines had to cut way back on flights, and people were wearing all kinds of crazy getups to “essential” stores. Hopefully, she will laugh when she tells them we made regular trips to the Krispy Kreme drive-thru, since thankfully, doughnuts are considered “essential.” Oh, I hope my daughter remembers to write all the funny stuff.

And after we write our own little historical records, I will say a prayer of thanks and forgiveness, and I will ask Him to keep us safe and end this pandemic as soon as possible.

We Save $$$ Traveling with Friends

We save money traveling with friends…and make some great memories at the same time!

I’m always thinking about the next vacation. My husband just rolls his eyes every time I say, “You know where I want to go next?” He rolls his eyes because he does not have wanderlust, and I do. He loves being home, and he loves visiting the beach where he grew up. That’s fine, but I like to go to different places. That doesn’t mean I don’t repeat places, but the places I like are different than what he likes. No, it’s not a problem, because he doesn’t care when I vacation without him, and I don’t mind when he vacations without me. We’re married, but that doesn’t mean we have to be together 24/7.

My daughter and I travel with friends quite often, and we love it for so many reasons!

Our 16-yr-old daughter is an only child, and I have a cousin and several friends who also have “only children,” so it’s fun to travel with them. I get to catch up with my friends or my cousin, and my daughter has fun with their daughters.

Aside from the fun factor, it saves money for all of us, and we get to do more! How does it save money? Well, we always travel with friends we love…people we enjoy sharing space with. For example, this summer, we are going to a Caribbean destination with a friend from Alabama and her daughter. When we both had daughters, we joked that they would have to be best friends whether they wanted to or not…and fortunately, they love each other! As for the money savings, we share a hotel room or suite. Because we are sharing, we are splitting the cost, making it much more affordable for both of us. It doesn’t save us anything on airfare, but we manage to save a lot anyway.

In fact, this summer, we will do trips with three different friends and a cousin, and it’s all possible, because we aren’t spending a fortune on the rooms/suites, even though we will have beautiful, top-of-the-line accommodations! But we don’t just save on the room. We also save on rental cars, taxi rides, Uber rides, and gas costs. Seriously, it all adds up, and at the end of a five day trip, we are usually amazed at how much we saved by sharing the costs with friends.

Another way to save on travel? Consult a travel agent. I used to work at a travel agency, so I know they often are aware of specials the general public might not know about. Planning a trip to the Caribbean? Let an agent help you. Planning a cruise? Let an agent help you find the perfect one!

Maybe you want to book your own hotel reservation? One quick thing about hotels: when you are making a reservation, always check the special offers. Sometimes, they offer a fifth night free. Sometimes, they offer suites at a discount, but if you don’t check into it, you might be paying the same thing for a room that you could be paying for a much larger space. And always…always…always…continue to check the rates even after you book your reservation. Last year, after I booked our hotel for spring break, I kept checking, and the rates kept going down. I ended up with a rate that was $500 less (total) than the original rate I booked.

Other good ways to save when traveling? Some credit cards offer extra points for dollars spent while traveling, and you can get cash back. I have a credit card that gives me cash back for every dollar we spend, and we get a greater percentage if we apply it to travel. In fact, we try to pay for everything we can on that credit card, and the savings add up fast! I pay for two vacations a year with the points from that card! And don’t forget your frequent flyer miles and hotel rewards programs. If you haven’t signed up for the rewards programs of hotels where you stay, you are just throwing money away. Registration is always free for the programs, and you get points that can add up to free hotel rooms. Seriously, last year, we had 12 free nights in hotels. That’s real money.

And anyone can check out The Points Guy’s website here. The website has a plethora of information about travel savings, but one of the first points he makes is one of the points I’ve already made: get a credit card that will maximize your cash back or points for travel. He says, “By using your debit card [instead of a credit card with rewards], you are spending money and getting nothing in return.”

Travel doesn’t have to cost you a fortune, and it’s a lot more fun when you make memories with people you love! So if you want a surefire way to save on travel, grab a friend and split some costs! That’s my favorite way to save on vacation costs!