You May Now Move About the Country

You may now move about the country.

Remember last summer, when we were afraid to move around much? We were terrified of getting on airplanes and afraid to go to resorts. We were scared we would get somewhere and be hospitalized away from home, right? I was. I love to travel, but last summer, I had to do it differently. My fear was that, if I did get on a plane and fly to a fun destination, I would be stricken with the virus, and as a result, I wouldn’t be able to get home. I wasn’t alone. A lot of people felt the same way. We stayed home or went on short trips. And it was downright depressing. Sure, we went on a few trips, but it just wasn’t the same. I felt like I lost a whole year of my life, including a valuable summer.

In September 2020 and November 2020, I’d had enough and got on planes anyway. Then again, in February 2021, I just couldn’t take it anymore, and I took our daughter to New Orleans with friends, where we proceeded to eat our way through the city. We made some great memories, for sure, and we appreciated every minute.

I flew again in early June on a trip to the Bahamas with my family. When we got to the airport in Charlotte to begin our journey, I could tell people were starting to emerge from their cocoons, but nothing could have prepared me for what I encountered when we flew out to California on June 13. We were on a 7:25am flight, so we got to the airport at about 6:00am. I was utterly shocked at how crowded Charlotte-Douglas Airport was on a random Sunday at 6:00 in the morning! Apparently, people have decided to take off again…and I love it! We are getting vaccinated and feeling more free! When we arrived at Los Angeles International Airport for our return flight, it wasn’t as crowded as Charlotte had been, but then, it was 4:30 in the morning. As it turns out, our return flight was full, so I know people are on the move.

If you haven’t traveled yet but plan to, here are some things to consider.

  • Remember your mask! Even though we aren’t having to wear them in most public places now, the Feds still require you to wear them the entire time you are in an airport or on a commercial flight…unless, of course, you are actively eating or drinking…and then, they ask that you just remove the mask briefly and put it back on between bites/sips.
  • If you live in a hub city (Charlotte, Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Miami, Dallas, etc) you might want to consider getting to the airport extra early. You also might want to look into downloading the My TSA app. Using the app, you can check wait times at TSA checkpoints in your airport. It can mean the difference between missing a flight or making it.
  • Take your own pillow/blanket, if needed. Remember those pillows and blankets airlines used to offer? Well, no more… If you want to try to sleep on a plane, bring your own travel pillow and a sweatshirt. Or do what I do: take two sweatshirts. I take them in my carry-on, because I’m the freak who still thinks we need to look presentable when we board a plane, and a sweatshirt is just not something my mother would have approved for air travel. After I’m seated, however, I wear one hoodie and roll up another hoodie into a tube to wrap around my neck, so it will support my neck while I sleep.
  • Food on planes? Almost non-existent. I always fly American Airlines (I love American). Since the whole virus thing started, they’ve served small snacks in first and business class, but no food in coach. Bring your own if you think you’re going to be hungry, but do your fellow passengers a favor…don’t bring hot food. It smells. Your fellow passengers don’t want to smell your stinky sub from the airport or that greasy pizza you picked up in the concourse. Yuck. And while you’re at it, you might even want to purchase some drinks in the airport. I’ve been on a couple of shorter flights that only offered beverages in coach “on request.”
  • Here are some things to consider, even though they have nothing to do with the virus: Please don’t go to the lavatory in bare feet or sock feet on the plane. Yuck. Just yuck. Please don’t put your feet on the armrest of the person in front of you. Please don’t talk loudly on a redeye or early morning flight. Please don’t use nail polish on a flight (some people get headaches from the fumes). DO try to stay relaxed. DO be polite to your fellow passengers and airline employees.

Whatever you do, enjoy your flight. Enjoy the freedom of being able to move about the country again. Hopefully, we will soon feel more free to move about the whole world, but I know lots of people aren’t comfortable with that, because of virus rates in different countries. There are a couple of other countries I want to visit, but I’m holding off. Right now, I’m just grateful I’m able to see new places and meet new people. We made some nice new friends in the Bahamas when we visited, and we got to spend some time with friends from another part of the country when we visited LA. Summer, this year, feels more like summer. And I’m grateful.

Two Friends on the Road, Part 1

Two friends on the road, Part 1.

I’ve recovered now. Wow. About 11 days ago, I embarked on a road trip with my friend, Mary Ann. We were long overdue for some fun, and frankly, we had discussed the possibility of a road trip without kids for years. It was high time we just got into the car and went. So we did. My husband stayed home with our 17-yr-old daughter, and my friend left her three kids with her mom…and off we went. We didn’t plan anything in advance. We didn’t have hotel reservations. However, because of COVID, we decided we needed to travel to places that were actually open, so we headed south…toward Florida.

We had used an app called Roadside America before, so we decided to use it on this trip too…and using the app, we decided our first stop would be at the UFO Welcome Center in Bowman, South Carolina. Crazy, right? It’s not an official welcome center; a gentleman built it in his yard, but it’s rather impressive. We knew when we had arrived, for sure. It’s shaped like a flying saucer and it casts a rather large shadow on the road as we approached from the east. Wow! Someone had spent a lot of time building this! I have to admit it was pretty amazing…an unusual photo op, to say the least. For a $20 “tip” you can go inside the massive structure, but since the sun was setting, and we weren’t sure the structure was “up to code,” we opted out of the grand tour. And soon, we were back on the road.

It wasn’t long before we were on I-95 south, and we stayed the course for several hours, till we decided it was time to stop…in St. Augustine, Florida. We got off the interstate and headed toward town, looking for a restaurant where we could grab dinner. We found a lovely place called Green Papaya, which offered Asian Fusion, but it was nearing closing time. We quickly ordered online and opted to eat it in the car, because we didn’t want to cause the staff to stay late. (My husband would be upset that we ate in my car…but he wasn’t there!) We were impressed with our ability to find a great restaurant, as the food from Green Papaya was just what the doctor ordered! If we find ourselves in St. Augustine again, we will return!

After dinner (in the car!), it was time to look for a place to stay. As I mentioned, we hadn’t made reservations ahead of time, and we wanted a small, locally-owned inn for the night. After checking ratings online, we headed toward a place called Magic Beach Motel in Vilano Beach…just outside St. Augustine. When we rolled into Vilano Beach, it was easy to spot Magic Beach Motel, because it was aglow in neon! It was exactly what we were looking for…a charming little beach motel from days gone by. (See feature photo!) For more info on the Magic Beach Motel, click here. Here’s where I should mention we purchased lottery tickets (it was at $950 million!) and scratch-offs every time we stopped for a bathroom break or to gas up the car. Scratch-offs added some mindless entertainment when we checked into the motel (and every hotel thereafter), and won more than we spent! We got a good night’s sleep, and the next morning, we decided to check out the area. We walked around the village, a tourist/beach area that boomed in the 1940s and 50s, situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Tomalato River. For more information on Vilano Beach, click here. I read there was once a drawbridge that directed traffic to the area, but when a new bridge was constructed in 1995, traffic was diverted away from the area, having a negative impact on the area’s businesses. It’s still a charming area, and it appears to be having a bit of a comeback, as a couple of hotel chains are building there. We strolled from the beach park on one end to the pier overlooking the Tomalato River on the other end. It was at the pier that we found the Bluebird of Happiness statue…another great photo op.

We had fun exploring. Lots of the old motels/restaurants are closed and falling into disrepair, and Mary Ann and I mused about what could be done to revitalize them…if we won the lottery! We also learned there is a Saturday flea market and a cute little Airstream shopping village on weekends. Too bad we were there on a Tuesday/Wednesday. We would have enjoyed it. Good info for next time, though!

We also learned the sign for Haley’s Court, an old beach motel, is an icon of the “beach tourism boom of the 1940s and 50s,”and it has its own historical marker, according to hmdb.org. When we drove into town, the sign was not illuminated, but the next morning, we were able to see it clearly. The sign is a great example of mid-century modern design.

After spending the morning exploring Vilano Beach, we loaded up and drove to The Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine…a tourist trap, for sure, but a fun one. We had lunch at a barbecue spot there, and it was surprisingly good! The park itself is interesting and informative, having begun as a tribute to Ponce de Leon’s landing in the New World. It has since become an archeological park, after several Christian relics were unearthed, positively identifying the area as the location of the settlement of St. Augustine in the 1500s. In the park, we found lots of information about the history of the area and even a planetarium! To learn more about The Fountain of Youth Archeological Park, click here. We didn’t feel any younger when we left, unfortunately.

From there, we revisited downtown St. Augustine in the daylight…and it was just as stunning by day as it was when it was illuminated at night! The town square! The marinas! The fort! The beautiful, historical architecture! It’s definitely worth a visit! To learn more about St. Augustine, click here.

On our way out of town, we visited the lighthouse for a quick photo op, and we drove past the Alligator Farm, a place I visited as a child and loved. We needed to get a little farther south quickly, so we didn’t visit this time, but it’s also worth your time. I love a good alligator farm. Having lived on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay in Alabama, I’ve seen lots of gators…fascinating creatures. You can see lots of other animals at the Alligator Farm too. To learn more about the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine, click here.

As we drove out of St. Augustine, we made a quick stop at a food truck park and grabbed some macróns before getting on A1A to head south on the beach road. We opened the windows and the sunroof, cranked up the 80s tunes and cruised the beach road through Palm Coast, Flagler Beach, and Ormond-by-the-Sea. This stretch of A1A felt like old school beach road…we enjoyed it and put our toes in the sand at several beaches along the way, searching for Right Whales every time we stopped. Right Whales can be spotted off the Florida coast between the months of December and March…something I didn’t know before this trip… so we hoped we might be able to spot one. We didn’t, but it was fun looking for them…and we got to enjoy the beaches in the process! We spoke with some local folks along the way…asking if any of them had ever seen Right Whales off shore…none of them had, but they knew people who had.

At Daytona, we hopped off A1A to take advantage of a photo op at Daytona Motor Speedway…a landmark, for sure. We then followed Highway 1 south to Merritt Island. I’ll pick up with that stop next time. At this point, we were having a great time, and the fun continued!

Outside Daytona Motor Speedway

I Can See Clearly Now

***I wrote this in September 2020 but never published it. I was afraid of the backlash, but it makes me a little happier to read it now. It’s a reminder that one reason we are having so much infighting right now is that we have lost our normal “outlets” for stress.***

I can see clearly now the rain is gone. I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind. It’s gonna be a bright, bright, sunshiny day!

-I Can See Clearly Now, Song by Jimmy Cliff

This is how I feel today. I feel like the clouds have been lifted, and I can see the world more clearly than I did before. No, I didn’t have a cataract removed. No, I didn’t get new glasses. I’ve been feelin’ the pandemic blues for quite some time, and it was skewing my view of the world. I think other people are feeling the same thing. I talked to someone today who said he was happy to get to go to a funeral in another city, because it gave him an excuse to get on a plane! I didn’t go to a funeral, but I did get on a plane.

Go ahead. Scold me. Call me selfish. I don’t really care. Yes, I got on a plane, and while some would say it was “unnecessary travel,” I beg to differ. I’m guessing my husband would too, since I came home so much happier. We all make choices. I chose to get on a plane…and go on vacation…during the pandemic. One person on my personal Facebook page said I was “brave” to get on a plane right now. Well, I don’t see it that way. The way I see it…for the past few weeks, people have been brave to approach me, because I’ve been angry. Now, that’s brave. Usually, I’m pretty happy-go-lucky and don’t take myself too seriously, but this whole pandemic thing? Well, it had me downright depressed…and did I mention angry??? You name it, I’ve been angry about it. I knew I needed to get away. I knew what I needed to do to change my mindset, so I did it.

And when I arrived at my hotel, I cried. I promise you, I cried. I was that happy to be there. Make fun. I don’t care. In fact, I told the gentleman at the front desk of the hotel that I could guarantee one thing: no one in that hotel was happier to be there than I was. And I wasn’t kidding. I was on a high for five solid days.

Jennifer met me there. I’ve mentioned her before. Miss Merry Sunshine. Who better to have with you on your vacation during a pandemic than a person who is perpetually happy? She was there for two days, and I was there for five, but we enjoyed the two days we had together. We acted like teenagers…having lunch at a cafe on the beach. When I say it was a cafe on the beach, I mean our toes were in the sand while we ate fish tacos! We took the top off our rented Jeep and drove all through the canyons and took selfies with canyons and selfies with every beautiful vista we could find! We shopped! We laughed. We talked. We ate at a couple of “fancy” restaurants (outdoors, of course)…till we just couldn’t eat more. We drank a lot of champagne. And did I mention we laughed?

After Jennifer left, I dined at a few more “fancy” restaurants…yep, by myself…because I’m cool like that, and because I was just so damn happy to be there, and I was going to take advantage of every moment I had. I ate. I drank. I shopped more. I checked out sights I’d never seen. I met a friend and her new baby for lunch at an outdoor rooftop restaurant. I relished every moment.

When I got home, my husband said he felt like his “old” wife is back. That’s a good thing. That means the “depressed” wife is gone. No joke…staying home all the time was about to make me insane. I was struggling.

I’m putting this out there, because I think we all need to do what we can to become a little happier right now. If you love binge-watching cheesy TV shows, do it. If you like to hike, do it…find somewhere you can hike. If, like me, you need to get on an airplane, well, that’s up to you. I needed to do it. And I can survive on the joy from that trip for a couple of months…till the next time I get on a plane…at Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving travel counts as “necessary” travel, right? To me, it does. And I’m taking my daughter with me too. The hubs doesn’t want to travel, and that’s OK. But when we get home, if the school tells my daughter she has to quarantine for two weeks, because they decided to change the “rules” after telling us they wouldn’t police us outside of school…well, so be it. Damn it. She will just go remote for a couple weeks. And frankly, I won’t give a damn…because we need a Thanksgiving break.

If you see me in the airport around Thanksgiving, that means you’re there too. Give me a wave or a thumbs up, and I can promise I will smile at you, because I’ll just be so damn happy to be traveling again.

As for now, I’m still on a “high” from this last trip. I’m smiling again. I’m laughing. I’m making fun of myself. I’m not taking everyone so seriously. I’m back to my old self. And it feels good.

We Save $$$ Traveling with Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Christmas Card Photos

Have you finished your holiday shopping? How about your holiday travel plans? Have you locked in your airline reservations? What about hotels? And just when you think you have everything done, you remember you have to do holiday cards! Try finding a picture of the whole family together…good luck finding one where everyone is behaving nicely.

Yesterday, I said to my husband, “We need to get a photo for our Christmas cards.” He asked, “Can’t we just do a card with no picture this year?”

And you know the top of my head almost blew off before I calmly said, “No. Our card always has a picture on it.” He replied, “Well, maybe this year we change it up.” Nope. Nope. And nope.

So last night, I sat down and starting scrolling through the pictures on my cellphone, trying to find one that would work. I could find pictures of my daughter and me. I found pictures of my husband and my daughter. I found pictures of me and my husband. But finding a pic of all three of us? That’s tough.

I decided to get creative. Since I couldn’t find a good picture of all three of us, I decided I would create one! I found a picture of Velma, Daphne, and Shaggy from one of the Scooby Doo movies, and I superimposed our faces onto their bodies. Yes, I let my daughter be Daphne, and I became Velma, while my husband was Shaggy. I laughed till I cried thinking of my husband dressing and acting like Shaggy. And my daughter walked in while I was laughing by myself. She looked at me like I’m a weirdo…the same way she always looks at me, because she’s a teenager…and asked, “What are you doing?!” I said, “Working on our Christmas card picture.” And I showed her my creation. She was not amused.

So I tried something else and put our faces on Carly, Sam, and Freddie from iCarly. It had the show’s logo across the top, and I kept Spencer in the photo too. If you’re familiar with Nickelodeon’s iCarly, you know the characters. If you’re not familiar with the show, you can see info here. When I showed that picture to my daughter, she let me know I was taking things too far, “Mom, no. Just no.” Seriously, though, her reaction made me really want to use that one on the card.

But after that, I tried a different approach. I found a picture I liked of me and my daughter, and I added my husband’s face to it…like he is sticking his head into the picture from the side. When I showed it to the daughter, she laughed and said, “Add the dogs too!” So I did. It was a joke, but then, I kind of liked it, and the daughter liked it too. But the husband absolutely did not approve. In fact, he went back to “can’t we have a card with no picture?” I told him that indeed, he could, if he were married to someone else, but I love photo cards! And he said, “Let’s take a picture of the three of us this weekend though, and we can do that.” He has no idea how hard it is to get all three of us together…showered….dressed….and photo ready…at the same time.

So at some point this weekend, we will try to get a picture of the three of us. It won’t be professional, but maybe we will pull it off. If not, folks will be receiving a card with the picture of me, the daughter, the husband’s face Photoshopped in, and the dogs Photoshopped in too! I know…if you’re on our list, you’re hoping for the Photoshop picture!

***Once we find an acceptable picture, we will upload it to Shutterfly.com to make our cards. You can see Shutterfly card options here.***

The Dead Files

It’s October. Halloween and all things scary tend to be the theme in October. I’m not big on creepy, paranormal things, but I might believe in ghosts. Call me crazy, but we really believed we had a ghost in the house I lived in as a teenager. Our ghost was not violent. We were convinced she was a nice ghost. Go ahead…think I’m crazy. I don’t care. In fact, I might believe in ghosts so heartily that I have trouble watching shows about paranormal activity. Today, I accidentally started watching a show about a ghost in an old house, and all I could think was, “I wouldn’t sleep in that house.” And then I changed channels, because it was a little too creepy.

Earlier this year, I was on a flight from Los Angeles to Charlotte, and a very sweet young lady was seated next to me. We started talking, because she ordered a cocktail before takeoff, telling me she is terrified of flying. She warned me that if there is any type of turbulence, she would become very nervous. I took the opportunity to explain to her that, as a former flight attendant, I might be able to help her stay calm. I told her that she could watch me, and if I didn’t become anxious, she didn’t need to. I even told her she could hold my hand if she needed to.

After all that, she said to me she had been hypnotized to help with her fear of flying before, and while it worked for some time, it seemed to be wearing off. She explained that she has to travel for work. And then she told me something that surprised me: she had been in two crashes before!

We took off, and after we were in the air, I asked her what she does that requires her to travel, and that’s when she told me she is on a television show called The Dead Files. Because I had never seen it at the time, I didn’t have any questions to ask her. I had never even heard of the show, but I told her I felt sure some of my friends were probably big fans. I had no idea what I was talking about.

After we landed, I posted on Facebook that I had been sitting next to Amy from The Dead Files, and a couple of my friends got really excited. When I got home, I did some “research,” which means I googled The Dead Files. And that’s when I discovered Amy is a medium. Oh, that brought up so many questions that I wish I had been able to ask her at the time. Like: When she said she had been in two crashes before, did she mean she had physically been in two crashes, or did she somehow feel the emotions of someone else who had been in crashes? Had she communicated with people who had died in crashes? So many questions…

So now, I’ve watched The Dead Files a few times. It has been on The Travel Channel since 2011, and they have produced about 200 episodes. Amy Allan is the medium who was sitting next to me on the flight, and she was pretty, sweet, and charming…not creepy at all. Of course, at the time, I had no idea she was a medium. After seeing a few episodes, I’m fascinated, and I wish I had known more about her and the show when I met her. Missed opportunity.

But if you are interested in some paranormal activity/communication, The Dead Files might be right up your alley.  You’ll wonder if Amy was actually in a crash or if someone else was in the crash and communicated through her. I hope she has gone back for more hypnosis for that fear of flying.

 

 

A Little Fever Won’t Keep Me Down

What is it about vacation that brings on sickness? I don’t mean getting sick on vacation; I mean getting sick right before vacation. It always happens to me. Always happens to me.

Tomorrow morning at 10:00, I’m getting on a flight to Los Angeles. Come Hell or high water, I’m getting on that plane. But for the past few days, I’ve noticed I’ve been “trying” to get sick. A few nights ago, I woke up in the middle of the night, and I couldn’t breathe through my nose. A little tissue and some Afrin helped that night. Same for the next night. Then yesterday, I woke up with a slight sore throat, and as the day progressed, my ears started to hurt. Ugh.

Today, I woke up feeling about the same, but after having an early birthday lunch with friends and a quick trip to Target, I realized I was feeling a little worse. I found a thermometer in my house, which is not an easy thing to do, because my daughter and husband tend to misplace them, but this time, it was exactly where it should have been…in the kitchen drawer. Doesn’t everyone have one of those kitchen drawers? It has paper clips, safety pins, tape, and yes…it’s supposed to have at least one thermometer. And this time I was especially lucky…the thermometer was there, and the battery in it wasn’t even dead! So I checked my temperature, and just as I suspected, I had a low-grade fever, which I probably still have, because I haven’t taken any medication yet. I’ve been staying hydrated, but waiting to take meds.

The fact that I haven’t taken meds stresses out my husband. “Have you taken anything yet?” “When are you going to take something?” I promise, I’m not sitting around complaining. He just sees me sitting in my bathrobe and remembers I’m not feeling well. I explained to him that I wanted to keep the fever for a little while to give it the opportunity to fight the germ I have. He thinks I’m nuts. Well, he always thinks I’m nuts, but he even gave me one of those “you’re nuts” looks. So right now, I’m taking an Advil Cold & Sinus tablet, because I need to feel well enough to get packed for my trip tomorrow. I’m giving it about 45 minutes to start working, and then I will get busy packing.

Tonight, I’ll take some NyQuil, you know, the “night time, sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy head, fever, so you can rest” medicine. I know it won’t cure me, but it usually does what the old commercials said it would do.

And tomorrow, I’ll get on that plane. Oh, I’m going. I’ve been looking forward to my friend’s “big, African wedding” for months (she is from Nigeria!), and there is no way I am going to miss it. Before you freak out and say I’ll be sharing germs with everyone on the flight, settle down. It’s a cold. I don’t have measles. I don’t have flu. I don’t have tuberculosis. It’s a common cold. The wedding isn’t till Monday, so by then, I should be good as new. Sure, it has me feeling pretty bad today, but I won’t let a cold keep me down. No sir…not gonna happen.

This is one of those many times I’m thankful we live in an airline hub city. Nonstop flights sure are easier than connections. I know…connecting is no big deal, but as my daughter pointed out after we cleared customs/immigration in Charlotte after a flight home from Mexico in March, “all those other people have another flight before they get home, and we get to go home now!” There’s something great about living in a hub city. Thank you, American Airlines, for being here. So tomorrow, I’ll get on that American Airlines plane and sleep as much as I can on the way to LA. We will get there, and just like always, I’ll hit the ground running.

I don’t have time to be sick. Did I mention Memorial Day is also my 52nd birthday and the bride’s birthday? Yep…she’s getting married on Monday on our birthdays. It should be a fabulous, memorable birthday. Happy Birthday to me!

And when I get home, my daughter will have three more days of final exams at school before SCHOOL’S OUT FOR SUMMER!

I Arrived, But My Luggage Didn’t

One would think your luggage would always arrive as expected on a nonstop flight…not always the case.

Lots of folks will be flying out for Spring Break soon! Students are parents are looking forward to lots of fun. But it’s not fun to arrive without luggage.

On New Year’s Day, my teenage daughter and I traveled to Los Angeles to meet some friends from Ohio. We live in a city that is a hub for American Airlines, so we are fortunate to have lots of nonstop choices. One would think your luggage would always arrive as expected on a nonstop flight…not always the case.

American Airlines handles lots of bags successfully every single day. I’ve flown American Airlines countless times over the past 18 years, and I’d never had an issue till this LA trip. I love American Airlines, so I’m not bashing them. I’m simply telling a story in hopes that someone will learn something.

Upon arrival in LA, my daughter and I walked down to the luggage carousel to retrieve our checked bags. We had just reached the carousel when I received a message from American Airlines, telling me one of the two bags we had checked was delayed. I told my daughter, and she looked terrified, saying, “I hope it’s not mine!” Because we took an early flight out of Charlotte, she wore more casual clothes than I did. I don’t dress up when I fly, but I don’t dress down either.

While my daughter waited at the carousel for one bag, I got in line at the baggage counter. The line was short…only one person ahead of me. When it was my turn, I told the agent one of our bags had been delayed, and we would need to have it delivered to our hotel. I wasn’t frantic. I wasn’t angry. The info I was getting from American Airlines said it would arrive on the next flight. While I was talking to the American Airlines agent, my daughter approached with her bag. She was smiling, knowing she would be able to change as soon as we got to the hotel. Whew!

Could I have been angry? Maybe. Should I have been angry? No. Was I worried? No. Was I panicked about our dinner plans for the evening? No.

I’ve only had my bag delayed one other time…on a different airline. And I learned some valuable lessons from that first experience. I’m going to share those lessons, so maybe no one else will panic when their bags don’t arrive.

  1. Don’t dress down when flying. This doesn’t mean you need to dress up. Wear something you will be OK wearing for the first full day of your stay, in case your bag is delayed. On the January trip, I wore something on the flight I could wear anywhere we went that day…even to dinner. My shoes were cute and comfortable, so I was fine in those for the day and night as well. On that particular day, I had opted for mostly black…pretty safe for most places.
  2. Don’t put valuables in checked bags. Jewelry and expensive shoes/accessories do not belong in your checked baggage. On our trip, I was wearing the most expensive shoes and jewelry I was taking for the trip, so I didn’t have to worry about never seeing them again. I had a few more pieces of jewelry and another nice pair of shoes with me, but they were in my carry-on. Never check anything that’s irreplaceable.
  3. Carry medications/change of clothes/makeup in your carry-on. I have some necessary restless leg medications that I cannot live without. Well, I could live without them, but I wouldn’t sleep. I always put them in my carry-on. Same for makeup. Yes, I can live without it, but I don’t want to. And frankly, makeup is expensive and difficult to replace on the fly. I also like to have a lightweight change of clothes in my carry-on. And if you’re going to a sunny destination, stick a swimsuit in your bag, so you can hit the pool/beach till your bag arrives. Toothbrush/toothpaste/hairbrush…all in my carry-on. Follow TSA regulations for liquids/gels.
  4. Take a photo of your bag with your smart phone. Take a photo of your checked bags, so if one is lost, you can show it to the baggage agent. In LA, the baggage agent was thrilled when I was able to show that to her, making her job easier.
  5. Make sure you have your name/number on your bag. The tag should list your last name and cell phone number. I also put a sticker inside my bag with my name and number on it. That way, if the bag is misplaced, someone can call me if they find it.
  6. When checking your bag, make sure the airline tag shows your name and destination. This sounds silly, but it doesn’t hurt to double-check. If the wrong tag gets put on your bag, you might never see it again.
  7. Take a photo of your bag claim check. I’m the queen of misplacing things, so I always take a photo of my claim check, thinking I’m more likely to lose that than I am to lose my phone.
  8. Download the airline app before you travel. Because I use the American Airlines app, I was informed via message through the app that my bag had been delayed.  It makes it a lot easier to keep track of where your bag is.
  9. As soon as you realize your bag is delayed, report to the baggage counter. In our case, because there were two of us, my daughter could wait for one bag while I spoke with the agent. Make sure the agent has the correct delivery information. Before walking away, I asked her to read my hotel’s name/address/telephone number and my number back to me. And I got her name and direct phone number, as well.
  10. When you arrive, inform the hotel you are expecting a delayed bag. When we were checking in at our hotel, I told the bellman and the front desk agent we would be receiving a delayed bag later. They assured me they would accept the delivery and take it to my room as soon as it arrived.

On our trip, just as promised, American Airlines delivered my bags later that day. In fact, it arrived earlier than promised. I was prepared to wear the outfit I had on to dinner that night, but when the bellman brought my bag to the room, I was thrilled. But if the bag hadn’t arrived till later, I would have been fine too, because I had planned ahead.

Happy Travels!

thumbnail_IMG_4340

 

 

 

 

*

I’m Leaving On a Jet Plane (Spring Break!)

“I’m leaving on a jet plane…don’t know when I’ll be back again…”

John Denver wrote about it in 1969, but Peter, Paul, and Mary’s version of the song is the most popular. If you’re not familiar with it, you can hear the song here.

When I was in first and second grades at Brewton Elementary School, in Brewton, Alabama, we would swing as high as we could on the swingset on the school playground, and when we did, we would sing that song. Well, we sang that and Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, but that’s another story.  When I think of I’m Leaving On A Jet Plane, I think of happy childhood days.

And I think about it a lot…mostly when I’m preparing for a vacation. While I’m packing, I walk around my house singing, “All my bags are packed, and I’m ready to go…” I can’t help myself. I get excited about vacations, and I guess that song represents the joy of childhood and the joy of a vacation for me.

Our next vacation will be spring break…just two weeks away. I need spring break. I need it every year. My friends laugh at me, because I start making plans in October or November. By the time we’ve celebrated New Year’s Eve, I’m already looking forward to spring break. I count down the days, and as of right now, we will be leaving in fourteen days. Bring it on!

Before I continue, you should know I do a lot of travel research before I plan a trip. Friends also make fun of me for that, but I don’t really care, because it’s rare for me to have big surprises about hotels or destinations. My very favorite site is TripAdvisor, because it has reviews on hotels, airlines, restaurants, and places to visit. I read carefully, and if I have questions about something, I call resorts or hotels directly, or I call friends who have visited the same place before, if I know someone who has been.

We are doing a beachy, sunny vacation this year, and I need it. We’ve had so much rain this winter in Charlotte….it’s depressing. I need the warm sunshine on my face, so I can produce some much-needed Vitamin D. Aside from that, I need worry-free time. I need to be away from the city in which I live. Seriously, I love Charlotte, but occasionally, and I don’t care where you live, you need to get away from the same four walls, the same people, and the same scenery. I just need a break. I need a week of no homework, no sports practices, no cooking, no cleaning, no obligations…just a week to do whatever we want to do.

Here’s the thing about Spring Break, though. For me, it doesn’t have to be somewhere glamorous. The main thing for me is that it has to be somewhere that’s easy to get to. Because it’s just a week, I don’t want to waste a lot of time on the getting there and getting home. I want to get to my destination quickly and get home just as quickly.

This year my daughter is taking a friend with her, and I am taking a friend too. My husband is staying home…he doesn’t enjoy traveling as much as we do. I offered…he didn’t want to go. He’ll probably enjoy the quiet time he’ll have at home without us!

I’ve already arranged our airport transfers and reserved our poolside cabana. Having the cabana ensures we will have a spot by the pool every single day we are there. I don’t want to have to get up at 7 o’clock in the morning while I’m on vacation, just so I can have a chair by the pool. It also makes it easy for my daughter and her friend to find us if they need us. But who am I kidding? They will avoid us like the plague!

I hope to come home rested, tan, happy, and ready to tackle the rest of the school year…a little over two months after the break is over, but we do have a nice Easter break in there. Once spring break is over, I’ll be counting down to that…for the record, that break will start 25 days after spring break ends.

Two more weeks till we get the party started! Maybe I should call now to order a bottle of champagne for our cabana…

“So kiss me and smile for me…tell me that you’ll wait for me…”

The Perfect Christmas

Ahhh…the perfect Christmas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perfection is not my strength, but fun is!