Preparing for Launch to College

Preparing for launch to college.

Boxes are piling up in the foyer of our house…Amazon, Nordstrom, Bed Bath & Beyond, Neiman Marcus, Target, Walmart, Zappos, more Amazon…you name it, we have it. Seriously, the foyer is starting to look like a warehouse. And it’s all because we are preparing to send our only daughter off to college to start her freshman year.

She moves in the first week of August. Are we ready? Well, we don’t have everything she is going to need. But I guess we are as emotionally ready as we will ever be. Who knows? We likely won’t know until we drive away from her dorm. I’m sure there will be tears at some point. Will we cry in the dorm room? Will we cry over dinner after we get everything moved in? Will we cry in the car after we leave? Or will it be a delayed reaction? Maybe we will cry after we get home and see her empty room? I have no way of knowing, but I will gladly answer all those questions after the fact.

Freshman move-in day is a day she will remember for the rest of her life. She already knows her roommate, but she will make lots of new friends on the very first day of dorm life…just like I did back in 1985. I have written before about my first college friends. You can see that here.

My friend, Angela, whose daughter is a junior in college (fortunately, at the same college where our daughter is going), tells me she didn’t cry when she left her in the dorm the first time. However, she did cry after she got home, and she occasionally still cries.

This whole “preparing for launch” thing is real. It’s a lot these days. When I went to college as a freshman in 1985, I feel like I took the bare minimum…linens, towels, enough clothes to last me a couple of weeks, some shoes, toiletries, an alarm clock, photos and posters to hang on the bulletin board in the room…and that’s about it. I wasn’t abnormal for the time, I don’t think. But wow, times have changed.

Now, you can look online and find all kinds of dorm decorating ideas. Girls decorate their dorm rooms with lots of stuff: pillows, rugs, lamps, curtains, extra shelving, headboards…all kinds of stuff. Fortunately, my daughter’s roommate’s mom is an interior designer. Yay, me! When I first talked with her on the phone, she told me, “I can do this in my sleep.” Thank you, Lord! It wouldn’t be left up to me! No one wants me to decorate a room. I think there are two types of people: the ones who see surroundings, and the ones who see faces. I am the latter. You could ask me right now what color the walls are in different rooms of my house, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you. In fact, I am working in our guest room right now, and even though I have been in that bathroom numerous times over the last few days, I couldn’t tell you what the cabinetry in there looks like. Is it white? Is it black? I’m not sure.

But back to the dorm…

The roommate’s mom and I agree that the girls’ room should not be so stuffed with extra things that it feels claustrophobic. It’s a small dorm room for two girls…two XL twin beds, a desk, two wardrobes, a refrigerator/microwave combo, a vanity area, and a bathroom with a shower. Obviously, we need to outfit it with the basics. They’ll need a shower curtain, a bath mat/rug, linens/bedding, towels, hangers, clothes, and their personal belongings. We have added some bed pillows, headboards, two throws for the beds, a rug for the bedroom, curtains, a couple of lamps, a few wall hangings, laundry bags, under-the-bed shoe storage compartments, a stand-up steamer, a vacuum (for the rug), Clorox toilet wand, and a table to put between the beds for the lamps. We aren’t taking extra shelving. We just want them to be comfortable, and I think they will be.

But for now, I am feeling a little overwhelmed by the boxes in the foyer. I just walked into our daughter’s room and told her we need to go through the boxes to see what is “keep” and what is “return.” She just looked at me. I’m sure she feels overwhelmed by the boxes too. Looking at the ever-growing stack of boxes, it seems like a daunting task to open them and make decisions right now.

Last year, I purchased lots of big, blue IKEA moving/storage bags well in advance of this endeavor. A friend told me to purchase them early, because by the time I realized I needed them, they would be out of stock. So they’ve been in a closet just waiting to be used. And tonight, we will carry some of them downstairs to start sorting through the boxes. We will start packing the “keep” items in the moving bags, and we will start putting the returns in my car for me to transport to the store, UPS, or FedEx…wherever they need to go.

I need to get out my checklist and start checking things off. There are checklists all over the internet. I found a helpful one on the Colleges of Distinction website. You can see it here. Some of the items we definitely won’t need, so we will redline those items, but then we will finish collecting all the other items we need and getting them packed. We also have to remember we must be able to fit it all in the car when we go! Sure, we could ship things ahead to the university post office, but honestly, that just sounds like a bigger pain to me, because I’m sure parking would be difficult, and there will be lines to stand in. No thanks. We will simply have to figure this out with the space we have.

Am I dreading the process? In a word…yes. But I’m not dreading it because we will be leaving our daughter behind. I’m dreading it, because we actually have to get all the stuff there and into the room. Even though we are trying to take a somewhat minimalist approach, we will have lots of “stuff.” Once the stuff is in the room and put away, I’m sure I will dread the actual departure without our girl.

Preparing for launch to college is no joke.

Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle.

I just returned from running some errands, and as I approached the back entrance of our neighborhood, I saw the perfectly ripened yellow and white blooms! Honeysuckle! Big bushes of it!

Back when our daughter was a little girl, she and I would watch that area every year, waiting for the honeysuckle to appear. But we didn’t dare approach it too early. From my childhood, I knew we needed to wait until it was just right…wait until it’s bursting with nectar and the fragrance is overwhelming. A few years ago, though, someone mowed down all the honeysuckle, and I haven’t seen it since…until recently. A few weeks ago, I noticed the first sign of it…the yellow buds…and I thought, “Is the honeysuckle really coming back? Just before our daughter goes off to college?” Since then, every time I drive past, I open the car window to look and sniff…and today, after an afternoon shower, it smelled perfect.

I had never really thought to investigate the honeysuckle habitat before today. For some reason, I always thought it was a southern thing, but after a little research, I learned it is definitely not just a southern thing. People all over the world use it for its medicinal purpose, and lots of people make simple syrup from it. I have never done that, but I’m up for the challenge!

When I was growing up in Alabama in the 1970s, we watched for three things as summer approached: lightning bugs (fireflies), backyard or roadside blackberries, and honeysuckle.

We knew summer was almost here when we saw our first lightning bug of the season. To this day, at the ripe age of 54, I still look out into the trees around our house as summer is approaching…watching for the first flash of a lightning bug. I haven’t seen one yet this year, but I’m watching. When I was a little girl, we would catch them and put them in Mason jars…poking holes in the top of the jar so they could get oxygen. We never kept them for longer than an hour or so, and we always released them. It was just fun to see how much they would glow in a jar.

As for the blackberries, at one of our houses, we had a big blackberry bush in the back corner of the yard. We would watch for the blooms and then wait for them to ripen before picking, but I only picked right on the leading edge of the bush. They were full of “stickers” (briars), and there was no way I was inviting that pain…not even for blackberries. I was also under the impression that snakes liked blackberries, so I was afraid of that too. I guess I thought the snakes wouldn’t hang out on the leading edge of the bush. If there were more ripened blackberries on the interior limbs of the bush, they went untouched by me…they likely rotted if no one else picked them, because I wasn’t sticking my arm in there to get them.

And then there was the honeysuckle…a sweet little treat that packed a lot of happiness and sunshine. We would go to the honeysuckle bushes/vines in our neighborhood and search for the ripest blooms. We knew the really ripe ones had the sweetest nectar. We would find the perfect flower and pick it whole…making sure to get the calyx (the little green bud that connects it to the stem). With the flower in one hand, we would pinch just above the calyx…not all the way through…just enough to break the edges. We’d then slowly slide the “style” (female part of the plant) out of the flower by gently pulling. As the end of the style approached, we could see the glorious nectar, or “honey.” Once we saw that little drop, we’d stick it to our tongues and taste the sweetness of summer! And that is the glory of honeysuckle! It’s a childhood treat.

As I mentioned before, when our daughter was a little girl…probably about four years old…I showed her how to get the honey from the honeysuckle, just as I had learned as a little girl. After that, she and I would invite neighborhood friends to walk up to the back entrance with us, sharing the glory of the honeysuckle with those who had never had it before. Hopefully, some of them remember how to do it.

Our daughter is not home tonight, but you can bet tomorrow, after brunch, we will be walking up to the honeysuckle at the back entrance of our neighborhood. It’s Mother’s Day, after all, and I can’t think of a better gift than spending time harvesting honeysuckle with my 18-year-old daughter who is headed off to college 450 miles away in August. I think Mother’s Day is the perfect day to revisit the honeysuckle. For a little while, we will relive some precious moments from her childhood.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Late Night Grilled Cheese

Late night grilled cheese.

Last night, my daughter and one of her friends came back to our house to sleep after going to a party. They got home around midnight. My daughter poured herself a bowl of Reese’s Puffs cereal, but her friend requested a grilled cheese sandwich. I was flattered that she asked and happy to make it. All my daughter’s friends know I make a “special” grilled cheese. I know you’re thinking “it’s just grilled cheese,” but if you’re thinking that, you have never had my grilled cheese.

The girls went upstairs, taking their food with them (they remembered to bring their plates and cups down), and a little while later, my daughter texted me asking if some friends could come over for a little while. She asked, very nicely, if I would prepare grilled cheese sandwiches for her friends. I was secretly thrilled she had asked, so I responded, “Tell them to come on over, and tell them to come in through the garage. I will get the grilled cheese ready. Y’all will need to stay in the kitchen and keep it down to a low roar, so we don’t wake your daddy.”

Y’all might think I’m crazy. (Trust me when I say it wouldn’t be the first time someone called me that.) My husband certainly does. He thinks midnight is too late to be awake, so when I tell him we are having visitors after midnight…well, he just can’t process that concept. Who in their right mind would let teenagers come over in the middle of the night for grilled cheese sandwiches? I can tell you who…me! I love when they want to come to our house! I’m a total night owl who loves her daughter’s friends! I love that they request my “special” grilled cheese! I’m always happy to see them. So when I closed the door behind me on the way to the kitchen, I told my husband to go on to sleep. He said, “Make sure the door is locked and the alarm is on before you come back to bed.” He then rolled his eyes at me, and I closed the door.

I was pulling one of my favorite hoodies on over my pajamas as I walked into the kitchen and started getting out all the ingredients. Just as I had gotten started, I heard my daughter and her friend come downstairs and meet the guests as they came in through the garage. They came into the kitchen and started laughing and talking…music to my ears. Now I understand why my mother loved to have my friends over. Even after I became a full-fledged adult (in my forties), she loved when I had my friend, Angela, meet me at her house for a visit. I guess Angela and I revert back to college-age, because Mother always said, “I feel like I have college students in my house again!” She loved it.

There are lots of reasons I like to see my daughter’s friends walking into my kitchen. I’m glad they feel comfortable showing up here whenever they like. I’m flattered they like my “special” grilled cheese. (Yes, it really is special, and I won’t give away my secrets.) I love hearing them laugh and talk. But most of all, I am especially happy that they know I am a friendly face for them, and our house is a safe space. During the late night visits, I always take the opportunity to remind them they can call me to pick them up anytime they need a ride. And I hope they will remember these nights fondly years from now. I have mentioned before that my next-door neighbor once told me the friends of her grown children tell her some of their best high school memories were made at her house. I want these kids to say the same thing. I want them to have good memories of coming to our house to hang out. I want them to feel comfortable rehashing their evening fun while I “cook.” And yes, I want them to laugh about my willingness to make grilled cheese sandwiches for them at any hour.

Juniors and seniors show up on a regular basis. The seniors that come for visits are going off to college soon.But I’m not just making memories for them. I’m getting to know them all better, and I’m making memories for myself too! What I’m really hoping is that they will come visit me when they come home from college over the next few years. I’m hoping they’ll ring my phone and ask if they can come over for a late night grilled cheese.

And while they’re here, I hope they’ll say, “Some of my best high school memories were made at your house, Mrs. Mattei!”

Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day.

Something about Groundhog Day makes me a little introspective every year. I know…weird. Most people don’t even notice Groundhog Day, and they haven’t even thought about it since they were kids. Well, I’m not “most people.”For a variety of reasons, Groundhog Day has meaning to me.

My godmother was born on Groundhog Day. She passed away in April 2020, during the first round of pandemic shutdowns. On the day she died, a bluebird “harassed” me as I walked through our neighborhood. OK, “harassed” is a strong word. Maybe I should just say a bluebird followed me. It flew around me, and it landed on a mailbox in front of me, as if it were waiting for me to approach. As I got closer, it dropped down to the ground and just watched me…from really close. I thought it was odd at the time, but a couple of days later, I learned that my godmother had passed that day. She loved “bluebirds of happiness.” She had given my mother some glass bluebirds of happiness that I sent back to her after Mother died. Was the bluebird’s visit really a visit from her? I’ll never know, but Happy Heavenly Birthday to Cynthia!

Also on Groundhog Day, I started my blog in 2018, a little over a month after my mother passed away. I was nervous about putting myself out there, but I shouldn’t have been. Everyone I know has always been so supportive and gracious. And I’d like to think some of my own experiences have helped others. Plus, I have quite the record of crazy stories from my life for my daughter to read later…long after I’m gone.

When I was a little girl, I fell in love with the whole idea of Groundhog Day when my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Peavy, told us about it. I was five, and I was absolutely fascinated by the idea of a groundhog (which I had never seen in south Alabama) coming out to look for its shadow! And the idea that it would predict how much winter was left was incredible to me! I took it at face value. I truly believed that groundhog knew something the rest of us didn’t. Oh, to be five years old again! My five-year-old self was full of wonder and soaking it all in! And Groundhog Day gives me a day to remember what it felt like to be five years old. For the record, I did check on ol’ Punxsutawney Phil today. He saw his shadow, which means he predicts six more weeks of winter for us. I’m OK with that. Winter is short in the Carolinas. I need opportunities to wear my winter clothes and shoes!

And then, there’s the movie, Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. It’s a silly movie, of course. The whole idea of reliving the same day over and over and over is preposterous! But there are days I would love to live over and over…especially if I could alter the course they take on each subsequent day till I got it perfect. Remember how Murray’s character starts each day with his alarm clock playing Sonny and Cher’s I Got You, Babe? That song is, of course, a favorite from my childhood, when I would spend one night a week watching The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour in front of our big, Zenith console TV in the family den. The duo ended every episode with that song, and sometimes, they would bring out their cute little girl, Chastity, to sing with them. But it’s not the song that makes the movie special. It’s just a way of letting the viewer know the same day is being replayed. It’s the whole concept that I love…keep doing it over and over till you get it right. I would have a hard time picking what day I would want to live over and over, if I could pick.

But for all the joy and good memories Groundhog Day brings me, I know there are people who have lost loved ones on this day…one family, in particular, who lost their 16-year-old daughter/sister eight years ago. I know it’s a heartbreaking day for them and many others out there. So every Groundhog Day, I say a little prayer for them. As much as these types of anniversaries can be difficult, sometimes they bring us peace, as they force us to remember the loved one.

Whatever Groundhog Day means to you, I hope you see some bluebirds of happiness instead of your shadow.

A Conversation

A conversation.

I checked my Facebook memories this morning, and found a memory from this day in 2015. It started with my post that said, “Hoping all my friends in the northeast are staying warm and are ready for the big storm! Wendy, what say you? Are you wishing you lived in Charlotte right now?” (My friend, Wendy, lived in Boston at the time.) And then, Wendy, to my surprise, responded! (She wasn’t always the best about responding, but I didn’t hold it against her!)

  • Wendy: Um, that would be a hell yes!
  • Me: Ahhh…you thawed out enough to comment, Wendy! As soon as I saw how bad it was going to be, I immediately thought of how much you would like to be here [Charlotte] right now! We miss you!
  • Wendy: And actually, I’ve been thinking about how much you would love to be here too! I keep telling our Charlotte snow stories and laughing in comparison. Thinking about how much our kids would’ve loved to enjoy the blizzard together…who would’ve thought I’d see a blizzard again in my lifetime…Miss you too Laverne!

Seeing that exchange made me so happy. I can’t wipe the smile off my face! Sadly, Wendy passed away 3 1/2 years ago after a 30-year battle with various cancers. I miss her, but that little Facebook exchange brought me some joy! I could almost hear her talking. I feel like it’s a transcript of a conversation! It’s different than finding a card from someone, which is one-sided. This is an actual exchange! And it’s a gift. I think of Wendy all the time, but she has really been on my mind for the past few days for some reason. I dreamed of her two nights ago. I wish I had written the dream down, because I can’t remember details of it. I just know that we were going somewhere together in the dream…and it went on and on. I even woke up wishing I’d stayed asleep, so I could keep visiting with her.

I’m sure we were calling each other Laverne and Shirley in my dream. I became Laverne after we took our kids to bike the Virginia Creeper Trail years ago. If you’re not familiar with it, the Virginia Creeper Trail is a 17-mile bike trail down a mountain. (For info on the Virginia Creeper Trail, click here.) The whole trip was a comedy of errors…to the point that we were convinced we were being featured on some sort of secret survival TV show. Early in the bike ride, Wendy had declared herself as Laverne. But after a mile or two on the trail, the chain came off her bike, and she didn’t know what to do. I stopped and said, “Get off the bike. I got this.” I put the chain back on the bike, and then I stood up, and while I wiped my hands, I looked at Wendy and asked, “Now…who’s Laverne?” She laughed and said, “You are!” I said, “Of course I am. Thanks, Shirley!” (Neither of us wanted to be the prudish Shirley from Laverne and Shirley. Everyone knows Laverne was the cool one.)

We both proved to be pretty tough that day, though. We had made a bad decision when we decided to ride the trail in February. It was still too early in the year; in fact, the bike shop owner said it was the first time he had taken anyone up the mountain that year. (There are bike rental shops at the bottom of the mountain that take you to the top with the bikes.) We should have known then. The chain coming off the bike was minor compared to what we endured later. Once we got a few miles down the mountain, out of cell phone coverage, we encountered snow…probably a mile of it. We weren’t dressed for snow. We had three kids with us… and bikes! We would carry the kids a few hundred yards ahead, and then one of us would go back and get the bikes while one of us stayed with the kids. We repeated that till we got to the end of the snow, but our clothes were soaked through and cold! Our kids’ were freezing, so Wendy and I took off our socks and put them on our kids. In fact, I feel pretty sure we gave them our jackets, hats, and gloves too….doubling their coverage…and leaving us with one layer of clothing. Fortunately, through the misery, we were able to laugh about it a few times, asking each other, “Where are the cameras?!?! There must be cameras filming this fiasco! Are we being Punk’d?!?!” (Punk’d was a TV show featuring Ashton Kutcher playing pranks on celebrities.) But there were no cameras. We did make it to the end of the trail safely, and we enjoyed some hot coffee and hot cocoa and some lunch at a restaurant nearby before making our way home to Charlotte.

I sure wish she were here to laugh over a hot cup of coffee now. I’d even be willing to ride the Virginia Creeper Trail in the snow again if she could come back to go with me.

Ten-Year Challenge

Ten-year challenge.

Anyone who is on Facebook has seen the posts over the last few days with this hashtag: #tenyearchallenge. I don’t know where it started, but I’ve seen a lot of posts. If you’re not familiar with it, the “challenge” is to post a photo of yourself from 10 years ago next to a current photo. Yes, I finally gave in and did it too…posting a photo of me and my friend, Angela, from 10 years ago (at a New Orleans Saints/Detroit Lions playoff game) and a current photo of us at a Bama/New Mexico State game in November.

It was a little daunting to consider taking the “challenge.” Just recently, I was talking with some friends about how we feel like time is catching up with us in the last five or ten years. I can certainly look in the mirror and see more lines on my face and more lumps on my body. I got a good laugh out of it with my friends, but come on…we’re 54. It’s OK to start feeling some aging when we’re 54! My gosh! I’ve earned these wrinkles and lumps! I’ve especially earned every laugh line on my face…and that’s mostly what they are…laugh lines, because I spend a lot of time laughing. If I’m not laughing, I’m not doing something right.

But as we discussed our “aging,” I reminded my friends and myself of some things. First, there’s the obvious: wrinkles and lumps are better than “the alternative.” After all, we are still here, and we have some friends who are not. I know my friend, Wendy, who died before her 47th birthday and should have turned 50 this year, would love to be here laughing with me. Every time someone complains about turning 50, I remind them that my Wendy would have loved to make it to 50. And every single day, I find something we would have laughed about, or there’s something I would have liked to share with her. That puts things in perspective. She left behind two kids who were 14 and 12 at the time she passed away in 2018. They would have loved to have her for another 10 years.

And secondly: we’re supposed to age. We are not supposed to look the same at 54 as we did at 44 or 34 or 24. My daughter is 18, and she is living proof of the difference ten years can make. Just think about how much she has grown between the ages of eight and eighteen! Why do we think time should stand still for us, as adults, when we can look at what time does for the growth of kids? And why can’t we look at our “aging” as continued “growth”? At what point do we stop looking at it as growth? If I know one thing, I know I’m still growing. Yes, I’m growing a little older, but I’m also growing in wisdom…and I know that to be true. I know that, at 54, I understand some things I used to think were so important just aren’t that important in the overall scheme of things. In fact, I feel like I learn something new every day. In my opinion, if I’m still learning, I’m still growing.

Too bad the #tenyearchallenge can’t show the compilation of memories we have from the last ten years. It can’t show the skills we have picked up along the way. Those photos don’t show the experience that I can bring to different situations. And it can’t show how much more wisdom we have than we had ten years ago. Ten years ago, our daughter was in second grade, and I thought everything about second grade was important. It wasn’t. I’m here to tell you…it wasn’t. If you have a second grader, take note: lots of what you think is important just isn’t. The most important part of second grade? Social learning. If I had known what I know now, I wouldn’t have cared about her “reading record.” I wouldn’t have tortured her by forcing her to do her “required summer reading” in elementary school. Because that’s what it was…torture. I’d have sent her off to the first day of school with that brand new, unread book in her backpack, and I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. Instead, I let the “required summer reading” ruin the last few days of summer…time we should have been enjoying together. I also wouldn’t have made her go on field trips she didn’t want to go on…even in middle school. And you know why? Because I’m wise enough to know now that none of that really matters. At 54, I also have the wisdom to know I should be doing the things I want to do instead of what other people want me to do. I should be planning vacations to Panama, Costa Rica, and Mexico City. I should be planning a road trip on Route 66. I should be visiting airplane graveyards in the desert. And I plan to take some of those trips this year, providing COVID doesn’t mess everything up. At 54, I know life is short…live it.

Sure, I likely had some of that knowledge ten years ago, but I know I didn’t have all that knowledge. I’m much wiser at 54 than I was at 44. Just ask me.

Some folks call it aging. I call it growth.

What Other People Think of Me…

What other people think of me is none of my business.

I can’t take credit for that. In fact, I have no idea who the originator of that quote was, but I like it. And you know why? Because really…what other people is think of me is none of my business. Isn’t it completely and utterly liberating to know that?

I’m what lots of people would refer to as an “over-sharer” on social media. I like to post all kinds of stuff…funny stuff, pretty scenes, and yes, lots of pictures of my family having fun. Just like everybody else in the world, my life isn’t perfect. I’ve had my share of tough times in life…losing loved ones being at the top of the list. And I have had my share of embarrassing moments. I tell people all the time that I have fallen down in all 50 states; well, not quite, but I do think I have probably fallen down in 35 or so. In February of 2021, I fell down the stairs of Galatoire’s in New Orleans! My teenage daughter was mortified, of course, but lucky me…no broken bones. Just a bruised ego. However, since I’m over 50, I know when to be really embarrassed, and since I knew I’d never see most of those people ever again, I wasn’t terribly embarrassed. Fortunately, as far as I know, there were no photos of the incident and no video. It would have been pretty funny, though…even I can admit that.

If there had been photographic evidence of it, I likely would have shared it on social media. Nobody loves seeing a good fall more than I do. I think I’ve written about it before. As long as no one is hurt, a good fall is downright hilarious.

Lately, with the ringing in of the new year, I’ve been getting lots of ads from PastBook on Facebook. PastBook prints all the photos you post on Facebook in a calendar year in book form. I ordered one last year, just to see what it was like, and I really liked it! I keep that 2020 PastBook on the coffee table in my livingroom for all the world to see. I don’t know that anyone has looked at it besides me, because even though I “over-share,” I know everyone in the whole world is not interested in my posts. I started over-sharing when my mother was still alive, because she lived hundreds of miles away, and she liked seeing pictures of her granddaughter. It was an easy way to share. And then, I guess I became addicted, because I realized Facebook is a good place to store memories! And Pastbook puts them all in print form!

Looking through my PastBook from 2020, I can see that, despite the pandemic hiccup in all our lives, I managed to have some fun that year. My husband and I spent a lot of time outdoors, and I had the most beautiful garden I have ever had in the history of my gardening! Even without air travel most of that year, we managed to go to some fun places and make some new memories. Looking at the book, though, I can see clearly that by September of 2020, I needed to get on a plane…and I did. I threw up some prayers and flew to California…and then I did it again that November…unvaccinated! And then everything surged again.

But in 2021, I started throwing caution to the wind, so I think my PastBook will be better for 2021. We met friends in New Orleans, LA, and the Bahamas…just like old times! I can hardly wait to order the Pastbook and see all the memories in print.

And y’all can make fun of me for over-sharing all you want. When our daughter was a little girl, I took pictures of every move we made…actually, I still do that. As much as it can be an annoyance, she appreciates it later. I’m the one my friends come to if they need pictures from the past, because I was always ready with a camera…till smartphones came along…so now I just use that. But my over-sharing is not for the rest of the world. It’s for me. And it’s for my daughter.

One day, many years from now, our daughter will be thrilled to have all the photos I have taken over the years. Just like I loved going through the pictures my nephew brought me from my mother’s house last weekend, she will likely enjoy going through all the photos I have taken and stored in books, on social media, and in Rubbermaid bins in our attic. She will be able to look through the photos and try to remember who the people are. She’ll likely have lots of stories to tell about the photos too. I made my nephew and his girlfriend sit through a lot of my stories last weekend!

I finally went through the second bin my nephew brought, and near the bottom, stuck in a Bible, was the black and white photo of my kindergarten graduation in 1973…something I thought was long gone. It’s the photo I used in the header for this post…just like the graduation caps worn by all those six-yr-olds, the photo is a little askew. My family had moved several times, and I hadn’t seen that photo in years, but there it was…at the bottom of a Rubbermaid bin. And I was thrilled to have it! In fact, I have now framed it and put it on a shelf in my livingroom, so I always know where it is. But I also shared it on Facebook. And lots of those kindergarten classmates chimed in, helping identify the kids in the picture! I remembered lots of them, but since I moved away in February of 1975, less than two years after the photo was taken, my memory was a little fuzzy on some of the faces. That’s OK, because after a little time, one classmate found a newspaper article that listed all the names and shared it in the comments of the photo. It made for some fun exchanges on Facebook…all of which will show up in my PastBook for 2022, I’m sure.

So yes, I over-share, and I’m glad I do, because I’ll have a record of so many different things in my life, and my daughter will have that record too. I might not ever write a bestselling novel or biography, but there will be proof of my life in pictures. And if my over-sharing is annoying, well, keep scrolling. Whatever you do, don’t tell me, because “what other people think of me is none of my business.”

***If you’d like to check out PastBook and possibly make your own, click here.***

A Holiday Village

A holiday village.

Today started as a a standard Saturday morning. I got up at about 8:30 and prepared breakfast. OK, so I don’t do that every Saturday, but I should. Our daughter had a 10am lacrosse game, so I wanted to make sure she had plenty of energy…scrambled eggs, bacon, grits, and “special” toast. (I’ll post info about that later.)

After breakfast, she got dressed quickly and left for the field. After loading the dishwasher, I slapped on a little makeup and threw on some comfy yoga pants and a sweatshirt before going to the field with my husband. The girls won their game, and we all headed home.

As soon as our daughter got home at about 11:25, she told me she needed to get cleaned up before going to a Secret Santa party, but she had to stop and purchase a gift on the way. I felt my pulse quicken and my blood pressure rising, because I knew she would have to drive 20 minutes to the party. There was no way she could pull it all off.

I asked her, “Do you want me to run to a boutique and get a gift? You could stop by there on your way to the party and get it from me.” She agreed that was a good plan, and I was off to the boutique…showerless and in the same yoga pants/hoodie I had worn to the lacrosse game…clothes I shouldn’t have even worn to a Saturday morning sporting event, and I definitely shouldn’t have worn them to a boutique. But there was no time to change. I had planned to take a shower after the game, but that could wait.

I arrived at the boutique and immediately found a gift. Just as I was taking it up to pay for it and get it wrapped, a friend of my daughter’s walked in. I knew she was shopping for the same party, and she knew why I was there. She then very graciously offered to take the gift to the party so my daughter wouldn’t have to make an extra stop. Wow! Things were coming together!

When I got back to my car, I called my daughter and told her she could go straight to the party, because her friend was taking her gift.

My morning had not gone as planned, but disaster had been averted! It had taken a village, but it had all worked out. Of course, as a mom, I was the only one who still needed a shower.

I posted about it on Facebook, and one friend said, “Kinda makes you worry that she’ll be fine on her own at college next year, doesn’t it?” Indeed, it does. But I can’t get too crazy about it, because I was the same person at 18. And I went off to college, and somehow, things worked out.

I was lucky I found a supportive village in college pretty quickly. I made great lifelong friends, and I’m sure they can all tell stories of rescuing me in different situations, just like I can tell stories of rescuing them in different situations. That’s how bonds form, right? And it’s how memories are made in college. Every time I spend time with friends from colleges, we talk about shared experiences…and often the stories involve disasters we averted!

It made me realize that next year at this time, our daughter will be having Secret Santa parties at her university. And I find myself hoping she finds a good village there…a holiday village that helps her…and a village in which she will help others. When she needs that last-minute gift and can’t get it, I hope someone will jump into action for her. And when a member of her village needs help carrying lots of boxes from the parking lot to her dorm room, my daughter will help her. It’s what makes friendships.

We all need villages to help us raise our kids. I thank the Lord every day for the village that helped me get our daughter to 18. I talk often about how I don’t know how I would have survived without my friends in our toddler playgroup. They have been a part of my village for a long time. We all need villages to help us with those last-minute items. We need villages when we’re sick. And yes, we especially need villages during the holidays…like the one my daughter had today.

I hope when she gets to college hundreds of miles away from me, she finds her village.

Holiday Gifting 2021 (Part 7): Gifts for Mom

Gifts for Mom.

Yes, like the Saturday Night Live video from last year, Moms often get robes for Christmas. Personally, I love a good robe, and I always welcome one as a gift, but sometimes it’s nice to get something else. Therefore, I’ve compiled a list of items that might make great gifts for the Mom on your list…at lots of different price points. Don’t be alarmed or run away when you see the first one, priced at $549.99…there are items in all price ranges.

  • Dyson Air Wrap Complete Styler. This one is a pricey gift, but Mom will definitely appreciate it…if you hurry up and get it, because this particular hair “system” is in hot demand and limited supply. Priced at $549.99 (yep, you read that right), it’s a hair dryer/styler/brush all in one. Somehow it dries hair but uses less heat than traditional hair dryers, causing less damage. Add in the fact that it dries hair while you style it, saving Mom lots of time, and it could be her very favorite gift ever! I purchased one for myself this past summer after several friends told me how much they loved theirs, and I have to say I give it five stars! There was a little learning curve, but once I got it all figured out, I love it. Right now, I see it is still available online at Ulta here. If you purchase from Ulta, make sure you sign up for Ultamate Rewards, because you can get free stuff in exchange for points later!
  • MikWright Gifts. I have been a fan of MikWright products for years. They make the funniest greeting cards and gifts using old family photos. And sometimes, the “greetings” are a little naughty…making them even funnier. I love their bar towels and would welcome them as gifts. Priced at $7.95 and $9.95, they could make great gifts for the mom who has a fun sense of humor. See MikWright’s website here. The towel show below come with the caption “#almostdrunkenough to wish you were here”
  • Brookstone Heated Shiatsu Foot Massager. If I didn’t have one of these myself, I’d likely laugh if you asked me if this would make a great gift. If I didn’t have one myself, it would sound like one of those things someone gives someone…and it never gets used. But at my house, it gets used! My husband bought this for me a few years ago when I was having aching feet after working on a project that required me to be on my feet a lot. He surprised me with it, and frankly, I thought he had lost his mind, but then I tried it. It is a great, great thing…probably one of the best gifts I’ve ever received! It heats, kneads, and massages feet. There are nights that I find myself having trouble falling asleep, so I go into the living room and put my feet into the feet massager. After 10 or 20 minutes, I’m much more relaxed and fall asleep pretty quickly. It’s a great gift. Get it for Mom if you can. She might thing you’re crazy at first, but she will find out it’s a great gift. Priced at $199.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond right now, it’s not cheap, but it’s worth every penny. And remember, you always have those 20% off coupons from Bed Bath & Beyond. If you don’t have one, you can get one by entering your email address at the website. Trust me…Mom will thank you. See it here.
  • St Tropez Award Winning Kit. If Mom likes to keep a little “color” year-round, she might like St.Tropez Bronzing Kit with Mousse, Gradual Tan-in-Shower Lotion and a Luxe Double-Sided Applicator Mitt. Again, this is something I have at home…I keep it on hand all the time, because I have found I feel better if I have a little “color.” When I look in the mirror and see pale face, I don’t like what I see…and my makeup doesn’t work so well when my face doesn’t have some color. If Mom likes to have a tan in winter, this would make a great gift. Priced at $49 at Ulta right now, it’s a deal and a great gift. See it here.
  • Giant Hoodies. This is not the first time I’ve recommended Giant Hoodies. There’s a reason I recommend them repeatedly: I love them! They make great gifts, because no size selection is required…they are one size fits all (most). They’re comfy. They’re cozy. They’re perfect for hanging out on the sofa watching football or Mom’s favorite TV shows. And the price is right. See the Giant Hoodies website here. OR if you prefer their bleach-dyed versions (my personal favorite), you can get them for $60 on Amazon here.
  • Cadence. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you realize you haven’t seen it all! Created by a woman who, on a camping trip, realized she and many others needed a solution for carrying all the little things one has to carry. She developed Cadence, magnetic capsules for carrying all those little things you need: skincare, haircare, makeup, meds, and more! The magnetic capsules stick together to form a larger “honeycomb” of sorts! Perfect for your carry-on bag when you travel, for going to the gym, or for camping trips, these capsules are environmentally friendly, because they’re reusable…instead of all those sandwich bags you throw away after every use, the mom on your list can use Cadence! Prices start at $14 for one capsule, or build a bundle of seven for $84! Pick Mom’s favorite color! See the website here. (Thanks to my friend, Meg, for telling me about this!)
  • Family Art. Mom love their families, and they (we) love anything that makes us think of our families or depicts our families. Uncommon Goods offers lots of options for family art…Personalized Family Fire Pit Art, Personalized Beach Family Art…all kinds of options…even family dance sculptures! And from what I can see, prices start at about $75. Remember, it’s personalized…Mom loves knowing you put some thought into the gift. See the offerings here.
Family Campfire Art from Uncommon Goods
  • Bala Bangles. I’m obsessed with the thought of these…I say “the thought,” because I haven’t purchased them yet. I’ve added them to my own personal wish list for Christmas…maybe my husband will read this. These cute bangles are wearable weights that can amp up a work out. They come in lots of colors, so they look cute while you exercise. I’ll take the Blush Pink, thank you very much. They come in one-pound or two-pound weights, priced at $45 and $65 on Amazon, respectively. See them here.
  • The Mini. I’ve sung the praises of Away luggage all over the place, but now I’m singing about the Away Mini. This little accessory is designed to stow your small travel essentials, like hand sanitizer and tiny toiletries. It’s made of the same durable polycarbonate shell as the suitcases I love, but this case is just 6.5″ x 5″ x 3″. It’s a great companion to the Away luggage or any luggage (till you decide to break down and purchase the Away brand), and at $45, it’s priced right. It comes in several colors. I could use a blush pink one to match my carry-on bag. See it here.
  • Marc Jacobs Snapshot Bag. I’ve mentioned the Marc Jacobs Snapshot Bags several times before, and those are as popular (and convenient) as ever. But now they’ve upped the game, and they’ve offering a “shaggy” version that I love! Offered at $350 for a confection pink version or a bonfire orange version, these cute bags are eye-catching and fun! I’ll take one of each, please! See them at Neiman Marcus here.
  • Ugg Scuffette II Sparkle Shearling Slippers. Y’all know I love shiny, and you know I love comfort. Put those two things together, and you get the Ugg Scuffette II Metallic Slippers that any mom would love. My daddy would have laughed at them, but my mother would have loved them. Priced at $100, they’re a great buy for a gift Mom is sure to love. I always hope to have one pair of good slippers under the tree each year, and this year, I hope it’s these. See them here.
  • Sorel Go Mail Run Multicolored Faux Fur Slipper. Or if you’d like to spend a little less on a cool slipper for Mom, this Sorel slipper is different and stylish for just $75. Highly recommend. See it here.
  • French Riviera Trinket Tray. I keep a trinket tray on my nightstand, so I can drop little things there at night that I’m going to need the next day. Maybe I’m too lazy to get up and put my earrings in the jewelry box before I doze off? Maybe I keep a pen handy at all times? Maybe I just need to put my reading glasses there before I drift off for the night? I love a good trinket tray, and who wouldn’t love to see the French Riviera before they fall asleep at night? This is a favorite, and at $40, it’s a steal. See it here.
  • Great Escapes USA Book. Mom loves seeing beautiful places and beautiful photography? If so, she will love this book of hotel photos by Angelika Taschen. Priced at just $60, it is literally a beautiful gift. Mom can appreciate the beauty as it is presented or plan a getaway to some of the glorious hotels featured. That’s what I plan to do. Purchase this lovely gift here.
  • Instant Pot. Don’t shoot me for putting a kitchen appliance on the list. I’m always hesitant to do this, but I have so many friends who love kitchen appliances…I’d be remiss if I didn’t have one on here. The Instant Pot is here to stay. I remember when people first started buying microwave ovens…and they’re still here. I also remember when folks started purchasing Instant Pots. If you don’t have one, you’re behind the curve. If mom likes to try to pressure cook things faster (that roast? that spaghetti squash?) this could be the perfect gift for her. Get it on sale at Target here.
  • Hermes Mini Jardin Collection Coffret Set. Who doesn’t love opening a gift to find a lovely Hermés gift box? Mom will be pleasantly surprised. And the fragrances inside the box reflect the scent of gardens. At $55, these bottles of eau de toilette will be one of Mom’s favorite gifts this year. Purchase it here.
  • Hermés Esperon d’or Scarf 45. Another orange-box gift option? A scarf. This lovely silk twill scarf offered by Hermés is pricey but not as pricey as one would think. It’s offered in four colors, and it’s $205. Mom will be proud to say she got it for Christmas. Purchase it here.
  • Memories. If you want a guaranteed Mom-pleasing gift, give her a memory gift. I posted about them recently, and any of the “memory” options would make Mom happy. See them here.

That’s a wide array of gifts in a broad price range…from $7.95 to $550. Happy Shopping!

****Coming next, my favorite: Stocking Stuffers!****

A Visit.

A Visit.

This past weekend, I took a whirlwind trip to a college football game. When I say whirlwind trip, I mean I barely felt like my feet were on the ground between flights. But we crammed a lot of fun into a short stay. And yes, my team won.

On the return flight, I was the first to board. I always like to board as early as possible. I don’t know why…it’s just who I am. As the plane filled up, I noticed a gentleman boarding who reminded me of my daddy. He was tall with white hair…much like my daddy. I lost my daddy 15 years ago to pancreatic cancer, and on very rare occasions, I “see” him somewhere…I see someone who looks like him walking across a parking lot or in the background of photos. This particular gentleman ended up sitting in the row in front of me on the flight; it’s the first time I’ve been seated behind someone who reminds me of Daddy. If you’ve lost a loved one, you might know it’s interesting to see someone who resembles the person you’ve lost. I found myself looking at the back of his head a lot during the flight. It didn’t make me sad. Quite the opposite…it made me happy…made me feel a little comforted. It made me think Daddy was saying “hi” to me.

The flight was uneventful, and then we landed in Charlotte. As soon as we landed, the gentleman made a phone call. I don’t know if it was his wife or his daughter. I preferred to think it was his daughter, but it was probably his wife. I don’t know what had occurred, but he listened for a minute and then calmly responded with, “OK. You’re fine. Stop worrying about it. It’s over.” He had a calming voice, much like my daddy’s, and his southern accent sounded like Daddy’s too. He responded that way several times, “Let it go. It’s over.” I remember hearing my own dad say those very words to me many times in my life. When I was in college and I finished an exam that I thought didn’t go well, I would call him, and tell him. And he would always respond, very calmly, “Stop worrying about it. It’s over.” Or he might say, “Stop worrying about something you can’t change. It’s over now. You’re wasting your energy.” Even after a car accident, when I was trying to replay the events that led up to it, he would say, “Let it go. It’s over.” Seriously, hearing the gentleman on the phone last night really made me think of Daddy. If I had been worried about something at the time, I’d have thought Daddy was trying to send me a message. Maybe he was sending me a message about a future worry?

The gentleman ended his call with an “I love you,” and soon thereafter, we arrived at our gate. We all stood up to retrieve our carry-on bags from the overhead bins, and I found myself standing directly behind him while we waited to deplane. He and another gentleman started talking, and “the” gentleman revealed that he was traveling to Minneapolis. He said he had started his day in 87-degree weather, and when he arrived in Minneapolis, it would be 27 degrees. He also revealed that he enjoys traveling to Minneapolis and started talking about the food there. I don’t remember the particulars of everything he was saying about the food. I just remember that it reminded me of Daddy. When he traveled, he talked to people and learned about the city he visited. This gentleman was sharing little facts about the Swedish influence in Minneapolis, and he also revealed that everything he eats in Minneapolis is served with wild rice. Apparently, lots of wild rice is grown in the state of Minnesota…something I didn’t know before…and one of those facts Daddy would have picked up in his travels.

As weird as it sounds, I enjoyed the little bit of time that I felt like I was in the presence of my dad. I know it wasn’t Daddy. I’m not crazy. There’s just something a little reassuring about hearing a similar voice saying something Daddy would have said.

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. If you’re familiar with pancreatic cancer because a family member or friend has it or had it, I’m sorry. It’s a terrible, deadly disease that gets very little research funding. If you’d like to make a donation to an organization that works to support those who have pancreatic cancer and their families, please consider donating to Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Thursday, November 18, is World Pancreatic Cancer Day, and the organization will be hosting an online event, sharing the latest information on advances in research and treatment. You can see the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network website here. Please consider donating to this worthy cause.

And on November 18, please consider wearing purple in support of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness. I will wear purple in memory of my Daddy.