My Favorite Holiday Gifts, Part 6: Stocking Stuffers

Every year, I end up dashing around at the last minute to come up with good stocking stuffers. You can’t just have empty stockings hanging by the chimney on Christmas morning! So, this year, I’m planning ahead. I’m listing something fun for everyone here. Aren’t Christmas stocking supposed to be fun?! Without further ado, here are my favorite STOCKING STUFFERS:

Festive Cracker Set from L’Occitane. Holiday crackers have been around for a long time, but these festive crackers from L’Occitane are special, because they contain fabulous L’Occitane beauty products. Each set contains four crackers, each containing beauty products of a different scent: Sweet Cherry Blossom; Delicious Almond; Fragrant Lavender; and Nourishing Shea Butter. They can be used as stocking stuffers as a set, or break it up and put one cracker in each stocking. Priced at $34 for the set, order from L’Occitane here.

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Sports or Concert Tickets. These always go over well in my household. We tend to prefer sporting events over concerts, but we’ve given each other some great concert tickets over the years: The Eagles, Sade, and more. And when our daughter was younger, she loved getting tickets to see Big Time Rush and Taylor Swift in her stocking. There are some great concerts coming up over the next year: Pink, JoJo Siwa, Justin Timberlake, Ariana Grande, George Strait, and more.  For sports in Charlotte, we’re fortunate to have the Hornets, the Checkers, the Panthers, and the Knights, plus some college sports too! For sporting event and concert ticket information, go to Ticketmaster.com here, or VIPNation.com here.

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Scratch Off Cards. Some of you will think I’m crazy, but Santa puts Scratch Off Cards from the North Carolina Education Lottery in our stockings every year! The most any of us has ever won on one card is $100, but hey, that’s something! One year, when I was buying them, the guy helping me told me his aunt won $40,000 on a Scratch Off on Christmas one year. I don’t sound so crazy now, do I? Prices start at $1 for NC Scratch Offs, and I usually buy about $100 worth to split among our stockings. Get them at Harris Teeter or anywhere they sell NC Lottery Tickets. If you live in another state, perhaps your state has a lottery with scratch-offs, or maybe a neighboring state. I know my friends in Baldwin and Mobile Counties in Alabama have been known to drive to the Florida line for lottery tickets…and others to the north have gone to Georgia. To see the different types of Scratch Offs, go to the North Carolina Education Lottery Page here.

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Foot Massage Roller. Anyone who spends much time on their feet can use a foot massage. This foot massage roller is perfect for do-it-yourself foot massages. Just put it on the floor, and roll it with your foot for instant relief. After walking around lacrosse or soccer fields during a weekend tournament, this will do the trick! And my daughter uses it after playing in those tournaments. Is your spouse a doctor or nurse? They’re on their feet all day…they’d love this. Have a friend or family member who travels a lot? It’s great after trekking through airports or after long flights. Weighing under 6.5 ounces, it’s light enough to carry in luggage without adding bulk. Purchase from Amazon for $18.99 here.

 

Little Stinker Bag of Reindeer Farts Cotton Candy. If you have little boys in your house, you know they love potty humor. Heck, even big boys love potty humor. What’s funnier than a bag of reindeer farts? Well, obviously, they’re not really reindeer farts, but they’ll get a lot of laughs on Christmas morning. Priced at $9.95 for three ounces (cotton candy is light) from Amazon. Purchase here.

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Firebox Head Case. Some folks will think this is absolutely crazy, but when my friend, Mary Ann, told me about it via Facebook, I was all over it! Nothing says “that’s my bag!” like your own giant face on your suitcase. I don’t have my own yet, but I will have one soon! When it comes off the luggage carousel on my first trip after Christmas, I will recognize it immediately…and everyone else will know it’s mine! I think this is a great stocking stuffer for anyone who likes a good, crazy gift. My teenager daughter would be mortified, but I know my crazy sister-in-law will love it! It’s a fabric case cover that fits over your bag. It comes in three different sizes, and the handles are still easily accessible. Purchase at firebox.com here. 

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Lypsyl Lip Balms. My daughter and her friends recently brought these fabulous lip balms to my attention. Available at Walgreen’s, Walmart, and Amazon.com, they are made of Swedish Beeswax Lip Balm. According to the teenage girls who hang out at my house, they are the best lip balms on the market. Guess what will be in the my daughter’s Christmas stocking this year? But Lypsyl’s not just for women. They are offered in the original formula and in Yummy Sticks too. Purchase at your local Walgreen’s or Walmart, or purchase on Amazon.com here.LypSyl_2018_lineshot

Kendra Scott Moody Mood Necklace. I mentioned these in the Christmas accessories post, but they are worth another mention. Doesn’t every woman love to find a little jewelry in her Christmas stocking? This is fun, because it will remind some of the old mood rings of the 70s. Aside from that, they’re just pretty! Priced at $75, the mood necklaces come in silver, gold, and rose gold. Kendra Scott also offers mood rings for the same price. Purchase here.

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Restaurant Gift Cards. This is almost too simple to mention. We all know about gift cards, and they make great stocking stuffers for just about everybody. For teenagers, there’s Starbucks, ChickFilA, Shake Shack, and more. For adults, you can go more upscale, or just something they like: Starbucks (again), Cafe Monte in Charlotte, Bricktop’s in Charlotte, or The Palm. Or maybe you know a hotel they frequent? Lots of hotels and spas offer gift cards, as well.

 

Dylan’s Candy Bar Hot Chocolate. Dylan’s Candy Bar has an assortment of hot chocolate mixes that are fun for the whole family. They offer several “mystery color” hot chocolates that turn red, pink, or green in your cup, making for an interesting hot cocoa experience. And they offer flavored hot chocolates as well: Fir Real (Double Chocolate Christmas Hot Chocolate), Just Hangin’ (Salted Caramel Christmas Hot Chocolate), and Sweet But Twisted (Peppermint Christmas Hot Chocolate). For any family member who has seen the movie or the musical, Mean Girls, they offer a hot chocolate called You Go Glen Coco pink hot chocolate mix. Purchase directly from Dylan’s Candy Bar here.

 

Claus Porto Musgo Real Soap-on-a-Rope. Soap-on-a-Rope has made a comeback in recent years. Because I love Claus Porto soaps, it’s the one I recommend for men. The Classic Scent is fantastic and fresh, but not flowery, and Claus Porto uses Shea butter in all their soaps, making them great for moisturizing too. Get this at Neiman Marcus for $28 here. OR get it in a set with cologne directly from Claus Porto for $90 here.

 

Lush Bubble Bar. Starting at $5.95, these beautifully-scented bubble bars create a relaxing bath experience. Some of them are even reusable. There are different shapes and scents, and who doesn’t love a bubble bath? Shop Lush Bubble Bars here.

 

L Erickson Grab and Go Pony Tube. Best ponytail holders ever! I discovered these several years ago when I was waiting to check out at Anthropologie in Los Angeles. You know how they have all sorts of little accessories near the checkout? Well, I grabbed one of these tubes, and I was so glad I did! My daughter and I both use them, and they hold our hair without damaging it. Anybody in your life who ever wears a ponytail will love these. Priced at $18 for the tube of 15 ponytail holders, they’re not cheap, but they are worth it. Get them at Amazon Prime here. Or from Nordstrom here.

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Bluetooth Beanie. Bluetooth Beanies are a hot item this Christmas, and they are the perfect size to shove down into the toe of a Christmas stocking. You know how you have to have something you can push in to the toe to support everything else in the stocking? Well, here it is! Bluetooth beanies are great for listening to music while attending sporting events, running, skiing, and more. Amazon offers lots of them, but here is one that gets great ratings…the Everplus beanie, starting at $14.95. Get it at Amazon here.

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Duluth Trading Larry Flashlight. I have one of these, and it comes in handy. Sure, we have flashlights on our phones, but they’re not like this. I’ve used this one at the beach while we looked for ghost crabs at night. I’ve used it while I walked the dogs at night. It gives off a lot of light, and it’s lightweight too. Makes a great stocking stuffer for any member of the family. Don’t all little kids love flashlights?!? Don’t teens and college students need flashlights? Priced at $14.95, it’s a great deal. Purchase from Duluth Trading Company here. 

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City Clues. One Christmas, we planned a trip to New York for our daughter, so we decided to fill her stocking with clues about the trip. Since she was 11 or 12 at the time, we went with clues a girl her age would associate with NYC. That meant her stocking contained a magnet from the Empire State Building, an 8″ replica of the Statue of Liberty, come candy from Dylan’s Candy Bar, some frozen hot chocolate mix from Serendipity, an Eloise doll (from Eloise at the Plaza), Yankees tickets, and tickets to see Matilda on Broadway. Oh, and an I Love NY t-shirt. She figured it out, and she was thrilled. Planning a big trip? Find some souvenirs online to put in your family member’s stocking.

 

 

And there you have it…stocking stuffers! Get busy shopping! Christmas is just over a month away, and you don’t want to miss out on the good stuff!

***Next time: TEENS AND COLLEGE STUDENTS!***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Favorite Holiday Gifts, Part 1: Books

Christmas is two months away. I know! I know…it’s early to be thinking about it, but there was a time in life I had all my shopping done by the end of October. Those days are behind me, I’m afraid. I haven’t purchased the first gift this year. I have, however, been looking at possible gifts for a few months, and I’ve talked with friends and family about gift ideas. Because I’ve found so many awesome things, I’ve broken them into categories that I will feature over the next week or two: Books, Apparel, Accessories, Home, Travel, Men, and Stocking Stuffers…and maybe Kids & Teens. Today is BOOKS. These are nonfiction, with the exception of one, a collection of fiction short stories. I find it’s more difficult to gift fiction than nonfiction, but I have listed some popular authors’ recent fiction releases at the bottom, in case you have a friend or family member who is a fan of a particular author. I’ve read a few of these selections, but some were recommended by friends. Without further ado, here are some books, in no particular order, I think would make great gifts:

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Whiskey in a Teacup by Reese Witherspoon. If you were lucky enough to see her when she visited Charlotte last month promoting her book, you know Ms. Witherspoon is truly southern and truly adorable. This lovely book contains some of her southern grandmother’s recipes, and some great stories behind them. She includes party hosting tips, book club info, “do gooding” info, and more. Plus, the cover looks really pretty on a coffee table! Great for friends or sisters! Purchase through Amazon.com here.

 

order-book-tourHungry Girl Clean and Hungry Obsessed by Lisa Lillien. It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of the Hungry Girl brand. Lisa Lillien is the busiest woman I know, and she is always providing great info…by book, magazine, podcast, magazine, TV appearances, and website! And she’s really sweet too! If you need gifts for folks who want ways to cut the calories and fat in their lives, this is it. Purchase at Amazon.com here.

 

 bushtwavail.jpgGeorge and Barbara Bush: A Great American Love Story by Ellie LaBlond Sosa with Kelly Anne Chase. Through letters, photographs, and stories, Sosa tells the story of the enduring relationship of her grandparents, George and Barbara Bush. You can purchase on Amazon here, or *I received word that The Buttercup Gifts and Stationery in Charlotte will be hosting the author on Saturday, November 3, from 10:30am to 2:00pm for a book signing. Call The Buttercup for more information at 704-332-5329.*

 

510oZZ5X3DL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_-2Sean of the South, Volume 1 by Sean Dietrich. Deitrich is a humorist, storyteller, and writer with roots in south Alabama and a connection to a small town where I once lived, Brewton. He is plain-spoken, funny, and if you grew up in the south, you will relate to his experiences. If you grew up elsewhere, you’ll enjoy his stories too. Raised mostly by a hard-working single mother, he shares stories of his life and people he meets along the way. My mother loved reading Sean Dietrich, and we often talked about his Facebook posts. He has several books. This one is the first collection of short stories, so it is not newly published, but it’s a good place to start reading his work. See all his books at Amazon.com here.

 

 

caddyshack-book-cover-1-1525443738Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story by Chris Nashawaty. For those who were old enough to enjoy this movie in the theater or those who were too young and had to sneak to watch it on HBO, this book is a fun look behind the behind the scenes of the one of the most surprisingly beloved comedies of all time. Starring Rodney Dangerfield and Bill Murray, those of us who remember the film know it was comedic genius. And the candy bar will never be forgotten. I was in Target recently, and two young people ahead of me in line were discussing 1980s movies they wanted to see. I recommended a few, and Caddyshack was at the top of the list. Purchase from Amazon here.

 

sons-of-cain-1534874929Sons of Cain: A History of Serial Killers From The Stone Age To The Present by Peter Vronsky. This one was recommended by a friend who knows my fascination with serial killers. Having an interest in serial killers does not make me a serial killer.  According to my unnamed friend, the book is entertaining while examining the psychology behind serial killers and examining certain cases. She said the author includes too many statistics, but aside from that, she thoroughly enjoyed the book. It was released in August of this year. This one is on my short list for me, and I think my friend, Mary Ann, would like it too. Purchase from Amazon here.

 

 

NMHBQJZ_mzBruce W. Talamon Soul R&B Funk Photographs: 1972-1982. A collection of photographs by Bruce W. Talamon, this book features “legends such as Marvin Gaye, Earth, Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder…” and more. For the music lover you know, this is a lovely gift that will likely bring back lots of memories or familiarize him/her with groups he/she has only heard and never seen. I’m getting one for my husband. Purchase at Neiman Marcus for $70 here.

 

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You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld. Ms. Sittenfeld is a successful Charlotte author with whom I was not familiar until she interviewed Reese Witherspoon onstage last month. Though I haven’t read them yet, she has hit the bestseller lists with previous novels, including Prep and American Wife. My friends sing her praises. Her latest, You Think It, I’ll Say It, is described on her website: “With moving insight and uncanny precision, this first collection of short fiction pinpoints the questionable decisions, missed connections, and sometimes extraordinary coincidences that make up a life.” I can hardly wait to pick it up for some friends! Purchase all her novels and this new short story collection through her website here.

 

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Road Swing
by Steve Rushin. I spoke with a friend about what books he would recommend for sports lovers, and this one was the first one he mentioned. An obsessed sports fan takes a road trip through the United States visiting every major sports “shrine” and shares his insight. It will make any sports fan want to do the same road trip to the same epic places.  Perfect for the sports fan on your list…especially if he/she is a fan of road trips too! Purchase through Amazon here.

 

41f1eA1LEoL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Belichick: The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All Time by Ian O’Connor. Even if you don’t like the New England Patriots. Even if you think Deflategate was a terrible football scandal. By all accounts, this in-depth look at the most successful football coach of all time is compelling. Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe called it “a must-read for football buffs and anyone who appreciates leadership.” Purchase through Amazon here.

 

 

41EQr37Py+L._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_All The Way: My Life in Four Quarters by Joe Namath. Last but not least, the one I’m most looking forward to…this autobiography is actually not available yet, but you an preorder it on Amazon here. I’d be thrilled to receive a card at Christmas telling me I will be receiving this book as soon as it is released. Scheduled for release in May of 2019, this book is the football icon’s life in his own wordS. He has lived a life like no other, so I expect an exciting read. Honestly, I have to admit I don’t really care what it says…I love Joe Namath so much that I’d be happy just looking at photos of him. Till that book is released, you can gift Namath by Mark Kriegel, a biography of Broadway Joe that was released in 2005, which you can purchase here.

POPULAR FICTION AUTHORS WITH NEW RELEASES:

Jodi Picoult, A Spark of Light: A Novel, purchase here.

Nicholas Sparks, Every Breath, purchase here.

Dorothea Benton Franks, By Invitation Only, purchase here.

John Grisham, The Reckoning, purchase here.

****Next time, more gift suggestions: ACCESSORIES.****

 

 

 

 

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Let’s Talk…We’re the Been There Moms

My friend, Maureen, and I recently started a site called Been There Moms. I have loved spending time with Maureen for years…we chat, we laugh, we share, and now, you can join us for our chats! Been There Moms is a quick look at the things we discuss…and the humor we share. We make videos discussing topics of interest to parents and other folks, too! We share our own parenting fails, share our lessons, and sometimes we just “kvetch” about the hazards of parenting. And we laugh…a lot.

We have a great time, for sure. Maureen’s twenty-something son is very patient with us when he’s helping us with the videos. We are grateful for his patience, his directing skills and especially his mad editing skills. I know it’s hard to believe, but sometimes, we get carried away when we’re talking, and he has to reign us in. We can turn a three minute video into 15 minutes of chat, so he has to edit a lot. Lots of times, he has given us the “wrap it up” sign, and when he turns off the camera, we all laugh. Seeing our chats on video, I’ve realized some things: Maureen is especially talented with her sense of humor. She comes up with the best one-liners. I’m definitely the squirrel chaser, so Maureen has to get me back on topic. I’m the long, drawn-out storyteller. Come to think of it, I’m probably the reason our chats run long. I should apologize to her son, our director/editor.

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Maureen has four children, ranging in age from 14 to a second year law student…three boys and a girl. I have one child…a 15-yr-old girl. Together, we cover a lot of topics, and we offer different perspectives. Maureen is from the north, and I’m from the Deep South. She went to a highbrow, liberal arts college. I went to a big state university. We’ve had different experiences, but we are great friends.

So far, we have discussed some parenting parenting dilemmas: children flying alone; shopping with teenage girls; Homecoming proposals; being nice; high school sports; being the new mom at school; and summer reading. There are more videos to come, but since it’s not our day job, we have to make them when it’s convenient. We are having a great time! It’s a good excuse for us to get together!

This past weekend, my nephew visited with a friend, and the friend (she’s 22) told me she loves the Been There Moms site! Yay! We have a young fan who isn’t even a mom! According to my nephew, his friend watches our videos regularly and walks around saying, “We’re the Been There Moms!” Seriously, I was so excited, and when I saw Maureen at my daughter’s field hockey game Friday afternoon, I could hardly wait to tell her: our young fan thinks we’re funny! I guess it’s not just for moms anymore! Anyone who knows me knows I love a good audience.

So, here’s the deal: we are always looking for new topics to discuss. I have a running list, and Maureen does too, but we would love folks to send us some topics to discuss. Check out our Been There Moms Facebook page here; like the page, and then send us a message or comment with some topics! We would love to hear from you! And who knows? If you offer up a good topic, we might invite you to be a guest on our “show”!

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Daddy’s 80th Birthday

My daddy died a couple of weeks after his 68th birthday, in 2006. Pancreatic cancer. Today is his 80th birthday. It makes me sad to think he has been gone so long and to think about what he has missed, but it makes me happy to think how happy he would be that my brother and I have remained close. He would be happy to know my brother and I have great relationships with our extended family, and he would love that I have come to know our cousin, Ardrue, over the last couple of years.

Daddy worked hard to make sure we had the things we needed and most of what we wanted…within reason. He was practical, but some indulgences were allowed. According to Aunt Katie (Daddy’s younger sister), Daddy was a quiet young man…and serious, making it interesting to me that he made a living in sales and was good at it. He had to step outside his comfort zone (quiet) and talk…convincing companies to purchase his product. I don’t remember him as quiet. At home, he was jovial. He loved telling stories about his childhood. He loved goofy jokes, and he loved wordplay. He mellowed with age, so I can only imagine what fun he’d have been if he had made it to 80.

My nephews were crazy about daddy, whom they called Big Ken (he was tall). My daughter was almost three when he died, so she doesn’t remember him, but she loved him. I think being a granddaddy was his greatest joy. After he retired, he had time to spend with them, and he laughed and smiled when they were around. When they were infants/toddlers, he spent a lot of time holding them in his lap, reading to them or talking to them. As my nephews got older, he played baseball with them, had Easter egg hunts, and let them pretend to be waiters at Cock of the Walk (a fried catfish restaurant) while he sat out on the back porch, repeatedly placing his pretend orders for hushpuppies and fried catfish.

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My 2-yr-old daughter enjoyed Easter egg hunts with Big Ken too…all year. Other times, he would take spoons outside for her to dig in the dirt. He had built a bridge across the Civil War mound in their front yard, so my daughter spent a lot of time running back and forth across the bridge. Daddy was amazed that she never stopped running.

Today, he’d be proud of his grandsons…one working hard in college and the other making his way as a writer. He would enjoy watching my daughter play sports.

When we were growing up, he enjoyed watching sports on TV…there was always a baseball or basketball game on. If sports weren’t on, he was likely watching Sanford and Son, Cheers, All in the Family, or The Jeffersons. He loved to laugh, and those shows made him laugh, without fail. As for dramas, he loved Lonesome Dove, and one of his favorite movies was Cool Hand Luke.

He peppered his language with things we called “Bascom-isms,” named after a place he lived as a little boy, Bascom, Florida. I wish I had written them down over the years, because they’re difficult to remember. I was reminded of them recently, when I posted on Facebook a picture of the sun shining while it was raining, and captioned it, “The devil’s beating his wife.” It was something Daddy said, and lots of people from the south say it. We learned it as, “The devil’s beating his wife with a frying pan,” while others apparently said, “The devil’s beating his wife behind the door.”

Here are some things Daddy used to say:

Ned in the first reader. Daddy said this all the time. I called Aunt Katie to confirm the meaning. In our family, Ned in the first reader means someone who is poor at what he/she is doing. It means Ned never advanced beyond the first reading level, meaning he wasn’t good at reading or he wasn’t very smart. For example, let’s say Suzy and Jane are doing the same job, and Suzy gets three times as much done as Jane in the same amount of time. Daddy would say, “Suzy makes Jane look like Ned in the first reader.” Or if someone is trying to learn to sew but can’t even thread the needle, we might say, “Bless her heart. She’s like Ned in the first reader.”

“Don’t care” has neither home nor master. This is something Daddy would say if we answered, “I don’t care.” I think it means that if you “don’t care” about something, then you stand for nothing. You should always care. Daddy’s mother used to say it to him when he was growing up. She was right. We should never say we “don’t care.” Maya Angelou once said, “Can’t Do is like Don’t Care. Neither of them have a home.” The meaning is the same…you should never say you can’t do something, and you shouldn’t say you don’t care about something.

You can make three days (or any time reference) standing on your head. This was Daddy’s way of saying “you got this.” If we had three more days of exams, it’s something he would say to remind us something was do-able.

I hope my brother will call me and remind me of some of Daddy’s sayings, because I feel like we keep his memory alive, in part, by keeping these sayings alive.

If Daddy were here to celebrate his 80th birthday today, I would call him and sing the birthday song from The Little Rascals. The episode is called Feed ‘Em and Weep, and it’s about Darla’s friends bringing gifts to her dad on his birthday…when all he wanted was a quiet evening with family. Daddy thought Alfalfa and Spanky were hilarious, and he looked forward to my singing every year…and we would laugh. To see the clip of the song, click here.

Today we celebrate his birth 80 years ago. He loved sunflowers, just like Mother did, so we will use some from our yard as our centerpiece for the day, and I’ll have a tomato sandwich. Maybe I’ll make the Sour Cream Pound Cake his mother used to make. Our cousin, Ardrue, gave me the recipe last year, and it is delicious.

If Only I Could Call Them

When Daddy was dying, it seemed the thing he hated most about dying was thinking about what he was going to miss. He said he wasn’t afraid of what would happen to him, but he was sad he would miss his family, and he would miss some of the big moments.

I think, we, the ones left behind, often feel the same thing. There are lots of times I think, “I wish Daddy were here to see this.” And since December, I often think, “I wish I could call Mother and tell her about this.”

In the last few weeks, I’ve found myself wishing they were here more than usual. I always miss them, but situations arise that I would love to share with them, and that’s when I really wish they were here.

In May, I wrote a piece titled Behind That White Picket Fence (click here to see it) about how we never know what’s going on in someone’s private life. A friend from college commented on my post, making me think of Mother and something that happened twenty years ago.

When I was about 30, a friend was diagnosed with colon cancer. Her name is Susan, and I think she was 28 or 29 at the time. She was/is married (in fact, I introduced her to her husband) and while her husband was supportive, her parents jumped right in to help. Her husband needed to work and couldn’t be there all the time, so her parents took turns spending the night at the hospital with her and stayed during the day, as well. She had  complications after surgery, but they were there to advocate for her. If I remember correctly, she was in the hospital for months.

During this time, my maternal grandmother and a friend of hers were breezing through Mobile on a trip and stopped in to visit Mother. We will call the friend Gladys. Mother had never met Gladys and frankly, found her to be rather harsh. They were there for a few hours, so Mother didn’t jump to that conclusion quickly.

While they were there, insurance became the topic of conversation. Gladys, at some point, complained about her insurance agent, saying he had not been responsive over recent months. When she mentioned his name, Mother knew she had to say something. She responded, “Well, I’m sure you don’t know, but his young daughter has colon cancer. She’s had surgery and complications, and he has been spending days and nights at the hospital with her. If he hasn’t been responsive, that’s a good reason. God bless him.”

That evening, Mother called me to tell me what had happened, and she was a little hot under the collar. Of course, I reminded her Gladys probably had no idea, and while Mother realized that, she was miffed Gladys wasn’t giving Susan’s dad, her insurance agent for 30 years, the benefit of the doubt.

So, after Susan commented on Behind That Picket Fence, I sent her a message telling her about the exchange. She responded by telling me she was happy to hear my mother had interceded. She reminded me her daddy had stayed with her in the hospital and had even devised a way to wash her hair, simply because he knew it was something he could do that would make her feel a little better. He made some sort of “contraption” that made it possible for him to wash her hair while she was lying in bed. The nurses didn’t want him to do it, but he did, and Susan immediately felt better. Afterward, the nurses started started using the same contraption and method to wash the hair of other patients.

That exchange with my friend was one of those moments I wish Mother were here. I wanted to call and tell her I had shared the story with Susan, and in response, she told me what great things her daddy did for her. In fact, Susan told me her daddy was retired by the time she was diagnosed, so no wonder he wasn’t responsive! He was no longer the agent!

But I couldn’t call Mother. She would have loved that story.

There are also things I’d love to share with my daddy. Just this week, I had lunch with my cousin, Ardrue, who lives in Cherryville, North Carolina, about an hour away. Ardrue and I started getting together over the past couple of years. We had never met until early 2016, but I had heard about Ardrue my entire life. She is my daddy’s first cousin. Their mothers were sisters.

When I say I’d heard about Ardrue my entire life, I mean it. I remember, as a little girl, hearing Daddy and Aunt Katie talk about Ardrue. I don’t remember the stories, but who can forget a name like Ardrue? I’ve told her this, so it’s OK…I remember asking daddy, “What kind of name is Ardrue?” I remember seeing pictures of a little girl/teenage Ardrue when I would go through old pictures. Her name appeared on the backs of several pictures.  In fact, I can hardly wait to get back to Alabama to go through pictures and find some to bring back to show her.

Ardrue has told me stories about my daddy as a young man, and she has shared stories about the family, as well. When we are talking, I love when she mentions a familiar name in one of her stories. Sometimes she is even surprised I recognize a name. Most of the times, I recognize the names from stories Daddy used to tell…he was a good storyteller. She is a charming lady with a great sense of humor. I’ll have to ask her if a sense of humor runs in the family. It’s hard to tell, because in all the old pictures of my grandparents and great-grandparents, they all look so serious.

And this is one of those times I wish Daddy were here. He would be thrilled Ardrue and I  get together. Not only that, but we enjoy each other’s company! He would want to sit right there with us, laughing and talking. The two of them would be able to reminisce and remind each other of things that happened when they were children.

But I can’t call Daddy. He can’t join us for lunch. He would have loved spending time with Ardrue.

And recently, when our daughter was away for two weeks on a group trip to Iceland and not allowed to use her phone to call home, Mother and Daddy would have commiserated with me. They likely would have been calling me three times a day to ask if there had been any email updates from the group leaders.

While it’s painful immediately following the loss of a parent, there are other times that are difficult too. Interestingly, for me, it’s usually the happy times that I miss them. I wish they could see my daughter play lacrosse and field hockey. Daddy would have loved watching her play basketball too. I used to always call Mother from my car after I dropped off my daughter somewhere, and I would call her after any of my daughter’s games and give her the post-game wrap-up. That was a habit that was hard to break after Mother passed.  I wish I could just pick up the phone and call both of them to tell them funny stories, talk about trivial stuff, and brag about my daughter. They would love knowing my brother and I talk almost every day, and we still call each other to get answers to trivial questions. And they would be so happy to know we have been vacationing together.

But I can’t call them.

If only I could call them…

Remembering Daddy

With Father’s Day approaching, I’m thinking about Daddy. His grandchildren called him Big Ken. He has been gone now for 12 years. Pancreatic cancer. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

We will order new flowers for my parents’ gravesite. I’m not big on visiting cemeteries. Never have been. Daddy was a good cemetery visitor. I don’t know if it made him feel closer to his parents, or if he did it as a sense of duty, but he was good about visiting cemeteries. My brother is good about it too.

It’s not that our family ever made a big deal about Father’s Day. My parents always said they should give us (children) gifts at Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. They didn’t give us gifts, but it was their way of saying they were happy to be our parents.

If Daddy were here now, he’d say the same thing again.

But he’s not here. I’ve said before Daddy was funny and charming. He could also read people very well. When we were in a group somewhere, he knew if someone looked uncomfortable, and he would try to bring them into the fold. He was good like that.

I got my love of sports from my parents. My daddy liked all kinds of competition, and he always believed second place was just the first loser. We spent a lot of time watching sports on television, and it wasn’t unusual for us to attend sporting events whether we knew participants or not. When I was a little girl, we would go to minor league baseball games, high school indoor track meets, football games…any sporting events. There were even times we would be driving down the road, and he would see information about a sporting event…and of course, we went. I sat outside at a lot of hot baseball games in Alabama.

I really think basketball was his favorite, though. He was tall, and he had played basketball in high school. He understood the game, and he loved watching college basketball. I don’t remember watching a lot of professional basketball, but we watched a lot of college games on television. In a state devoted to football, my daddy loved NCAA Tournament time.

We also watched a lot of Atlanta Braves games and Chicago Cubs games. WTBS, also known as Superstation TBS, at the time was owned by Ted Turner, who also owned the Braves, so they broadcast their games. In fact, we knew a lot about the players, coaches, the announcer, and the team, because they were on television all the time.  While I enjoy baseball, as a teen, I mostly enjoyed looking at some of the cute players. When the Braves played the Dodgers, I tuned in to watch Steve Sax, who was quite the looker, but Daddy thought he was a terrible second baseman. He might even be the player about whom Daddy once said, “He has messed up second base so badly that no one will ever be able to play it.” Cubs games were broadcast on WGN, so we knew all the Cubs too. This was before Wrigley Field had lights, so all their games were day games. Often, there would be a Cubs game on our TV in the afternoon, followed by a Braves game in the evening.Good times. Daddy loved it. Our summer is all planned out, but next year, I’m taking my daughter to a Braves or Cubs game.

Daddy also loved wordplay and trivia. He was a walking wealth of useless knowledge like me and my brother. We know all kinds of stuff that doesn’t matter one bit, till someone asks a question like, “On The Andy Griffith Show, who took care of Opie before Aunt Bee moved in?” The answer there is Rose. All that trivial knowledge comes in handy sometimes, though…I’ve bonded with lots of good folks over trivial information.

In the early days of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, when Regis Philbin hosted it, Daddy and I loved watching it when I visited. We were watching together when the first big winner answered the winning question: Which of these US Presidents appeared on the television series “Laugh-In”? The answer, of course, was Nixon, and Daddy and I both knew it…because, well…useless trivial knowledge.

There was always a dictionary around, because we loved talking about words. I remember quizzing each other on the meanings of prefixes, suffixes, and root words when I was growing up. We were weird, but honestly, that silly game we played probably helped me on standardized tests.

Daddy was a good storyteller too. We loved hearing stories of his childhood, because he was born in the 1930s, and the world made some huge leaps in technology and everyday life between the 1930s and the 2000s. He grew up in the Florida panhandle, a rural area, so his childhood had been very different from ours. He told stories of telephone numbers that started with community names…like “Greenwood 368,” and having to ask the operator to connect them instad of dialing the number.

And there were always stories of “ice cream on a stick,” Eskimo Pie to you and me. When he was a little boy, you could buy “ice cream on a stick” for a nickel at the local store. Often, Daddy didn’t have a nickel, so he was out of luck. As an adult, any time he found a nickel on the ground, he would comment on how that would have bought an ice cream on a stick when he was a child. He remembered where he came from. Therefore, when his grandchildren visited, he always shared ice cream on a stick or popsicles with them. It would have brought him great joy as a child to have it, and as an adult, it brought him great joy to watch his grandchildren enjoy it.

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At some point in his youth…I’m not sure of the age…maybe in high school…he worked at a full-service gas station, so he made sure I knew to tip the attendants when I stopped at one. He also made sure I knew about cars…how to check the oil, tire pressure, water levels, and how to correct all that if needed.

When I lived near my parents, I tried to visit them every Sunday evening. We would have dinner, and before I would go back to Mobile, Daddy would have to check my car. Interestingly, he seemed to always wait till I was walking out the door to leave. He would grab his tire gauge and a paper towel and walk out to my car. He had to check the tire pressure, and he always had to check the oil and water levels. Back then, I would get aggravated that he was slowing down my departure. I would wonder aloud to Mother, “Why does he always wait till I’m ready to go?” Now, though, I look at it differently. He was in no hurry to see me drive away. I smile thinking about it now.

And before I drove away, he always made sure to take me hand and press some money into it. Sometimes it was a $20 bill…sometimes more, but he always wanted to make sure I had “WAM”…walking around money. He continued that tradition with my nephews as well, and when they were really little, they knew he always had toys in the trunk of his car. Of course, Mother had helped him pick them out, but Big Ken got all the credit. He found so much joy in seeing them run to the trunk of the car, and then watching their little faces light up.

I also smile thinking about how he would love that I am growing tomatoes this year. He loved a tomato sandwich as much as anybody does. There are quite a few on my tomato plants now…they should ripen next month, “good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.” And if I get the opportunity to cut a giant red tomato off the vine, when I cut into it, I will think of my daddy and smile.

My daughter would have enjoyed being around my daddy. He died just before her third birthday, so she doesn’t really remember him. She was crazy about him, and he was crazy about her. He always had a way with kids. My nephews were eight years old when we lost Daddy, and they were heartbroken when he passed. In his retirement, he had loved spending time with them…scavenger hunts, dinners, playing baseball in the yard…good times.img_7188

If he were here now, he’d be proud of all of them…and he’d be proud my brother and I look out for each other.

We miss him, and we will honor his memory this Father’s Day. I’m going out to buy a box of Eskimo Pies, and we will all sit out on the patio Sunday afternoon and enjoy our “ice cream on a stick” in memory of Big Ken.

Trying To Get Out The Door

My 14-year-old daughter is preparing to go to lacrosse team camp for the weekend. She is excited about it and has been looking forward to it for a couple weeks. But she still can’t get packed.

I know I’m not alone. I can’t possibly be the only parent who has a fantastic teenage daughter who just can’t do things (like getting packed for camp) in advance. My daughter has some friends who are planners. One of them went to a soccer camp with my daughter at The University of Alabama a few years ago, and honestly, she is more organized than most adults.

So here I sit in the living room of our home, waiting for her to pack for a weekend camp. It’s only two nights, thankfully, but I’m not packing any of it for her. She has to do it. We have to leave in a few hours, and she wants to go to the pool before we leave, so I’m hoping she is motivated to get this task done. We made a stop yesterday to get some things she needed from Lacrosse Unlimited in the Arboretum. If you have a child who plays lacrosse and have never been to this store, you need to know about it. They have saved me more than once since she started playing lacrosse. For info, click here.

In less than three weeks, she will be going to Iceland for a two-week trip with a teenage tour group. I’m so excited for her. I also look at all the gear and wonder how she will fit it all into the 60-liter bag she has to carry it in. I have a feeling I will be helping her pack for that one. The gear, right now, is in three shopping bags. I took her to Jesse Brown’s Outdoors earlier in the week and tried to purchase absolutely everything on the list in one trip. Thankfully, the employees there were very knowledgeable and very helpful. If you live in Charlotte and have a teenager who will need gear for a summer trip, I highly recommend visiting Jesse Brown’s Outdoors in Sharon Corners. For info, see their website here.

If you’re like me, it’s very difficult to sit and wait for your teenager to get things done. Truly, I had to stop getting up with her before school, because her tardiness stressed me out so badly that I then, in turn, stressed her out. It was not a good way for either of us to start the day. Now, my husband wakes her up. She gets dressed at her own pace, and he drives her to school. Before she leaves, she comes in and gives me a quick kiss before walking out the door. When my husband gets home, he brings me a cup of coffee, and everybody is happy. More often than not, when I’m volunteering at school, I see my daughter at lunch, and I always bring her home. Don’t judge me for not getting up in the mornings…trust me, it’s better this way.

As for getting to other events, as long as she isn’t going to inconvenience someone else, I now let her do things at her own pace, and I try to just stay away from her during the process. For a kid who can run a lot in a lacrosse or field hockey game, she sure takes her time getting ready to go places.

I’m the type of person who must get to the airport about two hours before my flight. I don’t do it because the airline suggests it. I do it, because it makes my life easier. I like to get there, clear security, and relax in the airport lounge or gate area. There is nothing worse, to me, than being in a hurry at the airport.

Years ago, I traveled with a friend who couldn’t be on time for anything. Arriving at the airport twenty minutes before takeoff was ideal for my friend, but not for me. It was always a bad way to start a trip. We started taking separate cars to the airport if we were traveling together. That way, I could get there early enough for my comfort.

My husband goes along with me on it, because he knows it is a big stressor for me. Why create stress when there doesn’t have to be any?

For most of our daughter’s sporting events, we take separate cars, though, because he doesn’t feel the need to be there as early as I do. It’s just who I am.

But now I will confess something. I wasn’t always this way. When I was a teenager and in college, I was known for being the last one ready. (Here is where I should apologize to my friends and family.) It drove my parents crazy, because they believed that if you weren’t early, you were late. Fortunately, as I got older, I realized I was causing myself added stress that wasn’t necessary, and I started padding my schedule with extra time to get places. Life got easier.

Therefore, I guess there is hope for my daughter. At some point in her life, she will realize life is easier if she plans appropriately. And I don’t mean plan out every minute. Just plan to be ready on time. Likely she will learn a lot about it on the Iceland trip, when she has to be ready to move to the next destination with the group. Let’s just hope she brings that lesson home with her.