Time for a New Passport

Time for a new passport…

Our daughter’s last passport was issued when she was under 16. Because of that, it was only valid for five years and couldn’t be renewed in the regular mail-in way. We had to get a new one by applying in person at a post office, and a parent had to accompany her.

We aren’t planning to travel out of the country till March of 2022, but because I’ve known so many people who had nightmare issues with passports, I decided we needed to get this taken care of well in advance. So we went to the passport office at a US Post Office today. Getting the appointment was the first hurdle. Appointments are not plentiful, and you’re taking a big chance if you go as a walk-up customer. According to the sign on the door of the office we visited, walk-ins are taken on a first-come, first-served basis…and only if there is enough personnel there to handle it. Wow. To me, that sounds like you could wait all day and still walk away empty-handed. I was so glad we had an appointment. If you’re considering applying for a new passport or getting a new one before your minor child’s passport expires, you can search for appointments in your area here. None of the offices near our house had availability, so I ended up making the appointment at an office about 30 miles away, in Harrisburg, North Carolina.

We arrived, and my daughter groaned when she saw the crowd waiting outside. I said, “Don’t get all worked up. I think a lot of these people probably don’t have appointments, but we do.” As it turns out, I was correct. Most of them didn’t have appointments. We waited outside for the employees to come outside and call the names of people who had appointments. Our appointment was at 11:30, and we arrived at about 11:20. The first employee came out at about 11:40, and she informed us that she was calling people’s names who had 11:15 appointments. Several of them weren’t there. At about 11:55, she came out and started calling the names of people with 11:30 appointments. We were the second ones called.

Luckily, my daughter had filled out everything before we arrived. We had all the appropriate documentation: her current passport, a birth certificate and a photocopy of it, her driver’s license and a photocopy, her social security card and a photocopy of it, checks to pay for everything, and my passport and driver’s license to show as identification to prove I’m her mother (she’s not quite 18). Oh, and passport photos…we had those too. Our daughter went yesterday to CVS and got those done there.

Here’s some info for those who don’t know it: If the applicant is under 16, they receive a passport that is valid for only five years. Both parents must go to the passport office with the child to submit the application. Applicants aged 16 and 17 receive passports that are valid for ten years, but they need to show “parental awareness.” It was easy for me to go with our daughter, so I showed “awareness” in person. To see information about 16 and 17-year-olds and application requirements, click here.

When we got inside, we were seated, and the agent took all our documents. About five minutes later, she came over and asked us to come to her desk. Once there, we signed some paperwork, wrote checks, and answered some questions before we were on our merry way. It didn’t take long at all. In fact, since we were prepared, I would go so far as to say it was easy! The agent helping us was super nice, and it was a pleasant experience.

Now, we wait for the new passport. I paid for super-duper expedited service, because I wanted to decrease the odds of our having a problem. I don’t want to be worrying about our daughter’s passport when it comes time to travel in March. That actually happened to a friend of mine this summer. She was supposed to travel to the Bahamas with us, but her passport didn’t arrive in time. She missed the trip, and we missed her while we were there!

If you know you’re going to need a new passport or need a new one for your child, go ahead and do it. According to the website, the US Passport Agency is still playing catch up after closing for COVID, and it can take up to 18 weeks to get your passport. That’s 4 1/2 months! Also, remember that many destinations require you to have at least six months validity on your passport when you arrive. The country we are visiting in March doesn’t require that, according to their website, but I didn’t want to run the risk of the airline refusing to board us. It’s not worth the worry.

All this is my way of reminding you to check the expiration date on your passport, so you can get busy trying to renew it…or in the case of minors, get a new one.

And don’t dread the process, because we have had some great experiences with agents in the Charlotte area. The first time we got our daughter’s passport, we went to the Post Office in Matthews, NC, and the lady there was amazing. This time, we went to the Post Office in Harrisburg, and the lady who helped us there was amazing as well! I know it’s an intimidating process, but get it done and stop worrying about it!

You’ll Catch More Flies With Honey…

“You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

I had to impart that bit of wisdom on my teenage daughter when we were on vacation recently. She has a tendency, like me, to get “hangry.” However, I see the “hangry” warning signs in myself much more quickly than she does, and when I feel myself moving in that direction, I grab a little snack to keep me going till I can get a meal. Somehow, no matter how many times I have tried to teach her, she doesn’t listen.

Last week, we were on vacation on an island in the Caribbean. I am very familiar with “island time,” and I thought I had made the concept clear to my daughter. Apparently, I failed. We went to dinner one night, and as soon as we were seated at the restaurant, I knew we had a wait ahead of us. It was crowded, and we were on an island…that equals a wait. And it was, indeed, a wait. I saw the anger building in my daughter’s eyes. I know that hangry look. Honestly, if we had been in the United States, I would have been angry too. The wait time was excessive by US standards, but not by island standards. At least we had a table, right? We had been sitting for a while and had not placed our dinner orders when a large group came in. I knew then that I had to take action, so I got up and walked over to the server station where a lovely, hardworking, young lady was entering orders in the computer. She was working hard, but there was no way I wanted our order to get to the kitchen after that large group. I very kindly approached her with a big smile and said, “Hey. I know it’s crazy here right now, and nobody here is working harder than you are. If a large group hadn’t just come in, I wouldn’t be worried, but I’m afraid their order is going to get to the kitchen before ours, and we will be waiting forever. We are ready to order whenever you can get to us.” I was sweet. I used my best southern charm, and she smiled and very kindly said, “I’m on my way to your table right now.” She came over and took our orders, and I thanked her profusely. When she walked away, my daughter, who was starting to look like Linda Blair in The Exorcist, said to me, “How can you be so nice to her right now?!?! We have been waiting forever!” She was right. We had been waiting a long time and didn’t even have drinks yet. And that’s when I replied, “You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” I explained to her that the servers in that restaurant were working extremely hard (waiting tables is hard work), and their culture doesn’t look at time the same way we do in the US. And I had to explain the meaning of “you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

Is that a southern saying? My mother used it a lot when I was growing up. If you’ve never heard it and don’t understand the meaning, I will clarify: it means you will win people over more quickly/easily by being kind. Get it? Honey = sweet, and vinegar = bitter. Kindness goes a long way.

Clearly, in the case of our dinner wait on vacation, it worked. We told our hardworking server how grateful we were, and we tipped her well to show our gratitude. At first, when my daughter asked how much I tipped, she said, “What?!?! The service took forever!” And I reminded her about honey/flies/vinegar. I also told her that she could bet that, when we returned to the restaurant, the server would remember us…and I was correct. The next time, she came to our table immediately with a big smile. It was a good lesson for my daughter. And in the end, we all won. The server got some fat tips, and we got better, more timely service. And frankly, by the end of our ten-day vacation, we felt like we had become friends with the server.

Trust me when I say that my mother had to repeat the saying about flies/honey/vinegar lots of times to me over the years. I’m not always the most patient person, and I’m not always the most kind person. I try, but I don’t always succeed. I have a bit of temper that I often have to keep in check. But I was happy I could use the opportunity to prove a little something about kindness to my daughter. She was impressed, so hopefully, she learned a little something.

“You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” I can still hear my mother saying it.

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.

Vote Me Off the Island…Please!

Vote me off the island…please!

Last night, I accidentally woke my husband up about 15 minutes after he had fallen asleep. He was fast asleep, and I was scrolling Facebook, waiting for my restless leg syndrome meds to kick in…pun intended. As I passed pictures of different people around the country in various stages of “shelter in place” or “economy is open,” I came across something from the Today.com Facebook page titled Married? Quarantined? These hilarious parents get the struggle. And that got my attention. So I clicked.

Do you remember middle school health class? Remember when the teacher told the whole class they were going to learn about sex, but if you laughed, you were just showing your own immaturity? Remember how just knowing you weren’t supposed to laugh caused a giggle to start welling up inside you, even before anyone said the word “penis”? That’s how I felt while I was reading this piece on Today.com…I felt like that kid in health class who was trying to stifle a laugh, but because she was trying not to laugh, everything was funnier.

Well, I started reading the piece on Today.com, and everything it said was so familiar! Those other people writing the posts could have been me! You can see the whole post by clicking here. But just so you get the idea, one post, from “Lurkin’ Mom,” said, “My husband came home from the store with red delicious apples like he thinks I won’t divorce him just because we’re in the middle of a pandemic.”  Aren’t we all tired of listening to our family members chew?!?! I started to giggle…even though I knew I wasn’t supposed to, because my husband would be angry if I woke him up….and knowing I wasn’t supposed to laugh just made it worse. My silent giggles were causing me to shake, which in turn, was causing the bed to shake. I kept reading, because there was no turning back once I got the giggles, and then I read this post by Maryfairyboberry:

Quarantine Day 2, Hour 689- I’ve become very aware of my husband’s toenails and I’d like to be voted off the island now.

And that was it…I lost it. All those giggles I had been trying to suppress came out in repeated snorts! Yes, I was snort-laughing, because I was trying so hard not to laugh! It wasn’t just one snort…and they were loud snort-laughs! I knew I was in trouble when my husband sat straight up and said, “Are you OK?!?!?!”

That’s when I could just let the laughter go…tears of laughter were rolling down my face as I tried to explain to him while gasping for air, “I’m…fine…I’m…just…laughing…at…this…post!” He was not amused. He wasn’t terribly angry, but he did say, “Why don’t you just go to sleep like a normal person?!?”

Hmmm…because I’m not a normal person?

Here’s the thing…I was laughing so hard at all those posts, because they ring so true! I don’t mean the toenail thing is true. My husband’s toenails are just fine, but when you’re cooped up together for so long, something is going to bother you! I love my husband, but we just aren’t meant to be together 24/7 for weeks/months on end! Is any couple really supposed to be together 24/7 for weeks/months on end?!?! I feel pretty sure that if someone asked my husband right now, “If you were stranded on a deserted island and could pick one person to have with you, who would it be?”…he would not pick me. I’d probably pick Bear Grylls, for his survival skills alone, but he’d make fun of my lack of survival skills…so I’m going with Jason Momoa or The Rock…or maybe Mike Rowe! Yes, Mike Rowe would be my choice. My husband would for sure pick Heidi Klum or Giselle Bundchen. He would not pick me.

Trust me when I say he wants to be voted off this island too! It’s not just me! We enjoy each other’s company, and we have had a lot of fun together during the shelter-in-place order. We’ve spent time in the sun. He has helped me with my gardening. We’ve watched a lot of bad TV. We’ve had cocktails under the stars….and laughed till our stomachs hurt. But it’s time to leave Isolation Island, and if one of us doesn’t leave soon, well, don’t blame us for what happens.

Lucky for him (and me), he is going to the beach this weekend. I guess here is where I need to put another disclaimer: I love my husband. I do not want him to be gone permanently, but his going to the beach for the weekend will be good for both of us! When he comes home, I will welcome him with open arms. Absence makes the heart grow fonder!

But back to that Today.com piece…do you want to know which post resonated the most with me? My friend, Mary Ann, called me after I reposted the whole piece from Today.com. She said, “I know exactly which post made you laugh the hardest.” And she was right. If you read my piece back on February 26 titled Karma Bit Me (you can see it here), then you’ll understand. In the Today.com piece, jackwax04 posted this exchange:

(my husband has the man flu. After 3 days):

M: will you please just take the medicine?

H: “pouts” fine, what flavor is it?

M: what flav…it’s ADULT FLAVORED!

 

Holy moly…welcome to my world! And yes, please vote me off the island now!

Tell Me Something Positive

Tell me something positive.

We all need to hear positivity! We’ve been listening to the news too much. We’ve all been holed up in our own homes for almost a week now, and we’re hearing bad news all the time. Personally, I’m hoping the outlook is brighter than we think. I like to think we are going to come out of this stronger than ever, and if you doubt that, I don’t want to hear it. There’s enough doom and gloom right now.

In the midst of all this depressing news, I’m hoping we can find some positivity. I’m hoping we can take the time to see the great things happening around us every day. I’m hoping we will all stop and smell the roses.

So, I’m going to share some positives I’ve had in my life during the past week.

  • Our daughter’s school is helping make a difference! The engineering department, in conjunction with some local doctors, a hospital, and a university, is making surgical masks for medical personnel! There is a GoFundMe set up to accept donations. You can support this endeavor by clicking here.
  • Family time! Sure, some folks probably think it’s a little too much family time, and anyone who has a teenager in the house understands that pain. I think lots of families have gotten back to basics just to keep their sanity. My friend, Mary Ann, has three kids at home…two teenagers…and they’ve spent a lot of time outdoors, because she won’t let their friends come inside. Yesterday, her oldest son and his friend built a lean-to and cooked chuck wagon stew, whatever that is, outside over a fire last night. It looked tasty! And so far, no one has come down with food poisoning.
  • I’ve caught up on some reading. I’m always purchasing books and planning to read them, but I don’t always find the time. Right now, I have the time. I just finished Mike Rowe’s The Way I Heard It, and I highly recommend it.
  • The weather where I live, in Charlotte, NC, has been beautiful for the past few days, so I’ve been able to enjoy a few days in the sun! Today will be more of the same, and I intend to take advantage of it while I can. I even had dinner out by our backyard pool last night…in March! It has been absolutely glorious, and I truly believe the sunlight has boosted my mood. I’ve just been pretending I’m on vacation.
  • Most people, I believe, have been good citizens…thinking of others in this desperate time. Most are trying to support businesses as much as we can, and most of us are trying to help our neighbors. I know I’m trying to do business with local companies as much as I can. A friend posted yesterday on Facebook that her family’s chicken business is doing home deliveries. I’m placing my order now for a delivery tomorrow. Our teenage daughter will be thrilled to have some chicken tenders in the house, and I’ll be happy to have some wings!
  • The environment is appreciating the quarantine, I’m sure. I saw on the news that people can actually see through the water in the Venice, Italy, canals now…something that hasn’t happened in years, apparently.
  • My knitting skills are being put to good use, and next week, I’m going to have a virtual knitting circle with some friends via the Zoom app. Some of them know how to knit, and some don’t, so I’ll be trying to teach them “remotely.” I think it will be fun! As for now, I’m working on a baby blanket and baby hat for a friend who has a new baby. Knitting is very calming…a good thing right now, for sure.
  • I’ve had lots of time to catch up with friends by telephone. We are all so busy in “normal” life that we sometimes lose touch with people we love. Without errands to run or volunteer work to do, I’ve had a lot more quiet time at home. During my newfound quiet time, I’ve had time to chat with friends and family all over the country…at length! I have laughed and laughed with friends and family. We all know laughter is the best medicine, and I have some really funny friends and family.
  • Ordering gardening seeds has been super easy online, so I’ve ordered flower and vegetable seeds that I’m expecting to arrive sometime in the next few days. I even ordered the supplies I needed to get started. I plan to use our little poolhouse out back as a makeshift greenhouse till it’s warm enough for me to transfer seedlings to the ground. (If I didn’t have the little poolhouse, I’d find somewhere else.) I’ll actually be ahead of the curve this year with my garden instead of behind the curve like I usually am! Maybe I’ll have an even more beautiful garden! And I’m motivated to try to grow more food instead of just flowers, corn, and tomatoes. Maybe I’ll have some beans and brussels sprouts too! Time will tell, but I’m looking forward to getting started!
  • My teenage daughter is lucky she can communicate via FaceTime and other apps these days. When I was a teenager in the 1980s, we would have been a lot lonelier if we’d been practicing social distancing. We could handwrite letters or talk on the phone, but we could only talk to one person at a time, and if you called someone who was already talking with someone else, you just got a busy signal. Technology is a good thing for keeping today’s teens connected.
  • I getting to use the Flight Aware app a lot, and I find it entertaining and relaxing. There aren’t as many planes in the skies right now (let’s hope that changes soon), but it’s still fun to use the Flight Aware app. If you don’t have it, you should. We live in an airline hub city, so there are lots of flights to track in and out of the Charlotte airport, but today, I enjoyed spotting flights going from Montego Bay, Jamaica, to Montreal, and flights from Varadero, Cuba, to Toronto. My husband will tell you I’m a little crazy about Flight Aware. Any time I see a plane, I have to look it up. Get it on the App Store.
  • My husband has promised he will ride out to “the country” with me soon…whenever we have a clear night sky. I love stargazing and searching for satellites, but it’s hard to do at our house, because there’s too much light pollution. I don’t want to go sit in the dark somewhere alone, so he has to go with me. Last time I made him go, he enjoyed stargazing a lot more than he thought he would. I use the Sky Guide app to identify stars and constellations, and it also shows me satellites that will be passing overhead. It’s fun to search for them. That gives me something to look forward to.
  • And last but certainly not least, we’re all probably praying a lot more. Nothing brings people closer to God than a crisis.

There’s a lot of good going on in the world right now. Maybe you’d like to “tell me something good”? Share something you’re doing to keep yourself and/or your family entertained. Or tell me something positive that’s happened in your life this week.

 

 

I Lied.

I lied.

I said we wouldn’t cancel our spring break trip to Miami, but I canceled today.

We ended up canceling, even though I really didn’t want to. I’m stubborn. I hate to give in. I didn’t want the stupid coronavirus to beat us. I wanted to win this battle and enjoy a week in the sun. It simply wasn’t meant to be.

I was still planning to go. In fact, I finally canceled this afternoon. I hated to do it, but some of the people we were traveling with were coming from Ohio, which has been hit hard, and some of the kids were getting anxious. Ugh. I was actually in a store buying a few things for the trip when my daughter texted me that she was a little scared to go.

When I first got her text, I responded, “Let me think.” And then, I remembered something that happened 17 years ago. In 2003, I was pregnant. I’ve always loved to travel, and pregnancy didn’t slow me down. So in the summer of 2003, I met a friend in Florida for a weekend of fun. We had a great time, and I boarded the plane for my flight home. Everything was normal till just after takeoff, we took a bird in the right engine of the plane. I was a flight attendant for a little while after college, so as soon as it happened, I knew what was going on. I also noticed we stopped climbing. I turned to the lady sitting next to me and said, “We just took a bird in the right engine. This could be interesting.” Sometimes, taking a bird in the engine isn’t a big deal, and sometimes it is. Since I could hear that one engine was still operational, I wasn’t too concerned, but since we had stopped climbing, I was a little concerned. Finally, the captain came on and said we were going to land at a nearby airport, so I knew everything was OK, but the incident did make me think. No, it didn’t make me afraid to fly, but at the time, I thought, “Wow, if we had taken birds in both engines, my baby might have died before she was born…for a stupid vacation.”

And today, when that same baby…now 16 years old…expressed a little fear about traveling during this stupid coronavirus outbreak, I thought about that trip, and I knew what I needed to do.  I knew I needed to cancel. It’s just not worth the risk of coronavirus. We can go to Miami later.

Now we’re home in Charlotte for spring break, and while I’m not thrilled about it, I intend to make the most of the situation. I’ve decided we will contribute to our local economy and encourage others to do the same…in a safe manner. Here are some ways I plan to do that:

  • Visit local restaurants at off hours, when they’re less crowded OR order takeout from local restaurants. Tip generously.
  • Shop local. Visit local stores and shop! You can avoid crowds and still shop. Since we’re not going shopping in Miami, we will shop here.
  • Post on Facebook about places we visit and encourage others to do the same.
  • Enjoy a little staycation at a local hotel.
  • Go on a little road trip to a place where I know there is little light pollution; it’s the perfect place to sit outside and stargaze at night. Plus, there aren’t other people there…no coronavirus.
  • Buy gift cards. I can’t go to Miami right now, but I know that when I do, I will dine at certain restaurants. I can purchase gift cards online for my future travel. We have several vacations planned for later this year, and it just makes sense to purchase gift cards from restaurants and stores now that I can use later!

Yes, this stupid coronavirus is changing the way we do things right now, but we can’t let it get us down! I’m putting on my happy face and doing everything I can to make the most of a bad situation.

Coronavirus be damned!

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Should I stay or should I go now? If I go, it will be trouble. If I stay it will be double. 

What a great song by The Clash! How many times did I sing and dance along to that one at a party in college?!?

Well, now, with the new coronavirus, it’s a real question. As spring break approaches for lots of us, we’re all wondering if we should travel or not.

Here’s how I feel…unless someone in my family catches the new coronavirus in the next week, we’re going. It’s spring break. We are meeting friends at a resort inside the United States, and by golly, we are going. This trip has been booked for a while, and we have been looking forward to it. If we were planning to go somewhere the government advised against going, we would definitely cancel. But that’s not the case, so we are going to single-handedly save the economy! Somebody has to do it! We’re all relatively healthy, and hopefully, I’m not jinxing us by putting this out there. If we come home sick, we’ll definitely isolate ourselves. I have friends who have family members who simply cannot be exposed to this virus, because they have health issues. I get it. I don’t want them to catch it, and I don’t want anyone in my family to catch it either, but we’re going.

It has become obvious to me in the past few weeks that people are cancelling travel plans. Whenever we travel, I continue checking hotel rates right up till I get there, because rates can go down, and I’ve seen a sharp decrease in the resort rates over the past couple of weeks. Every time, I call the hotel and ask them to adjust my rate, and they oblige. I always tell my friends to do the same. (That’s you. I’m advising you to check your hotel rates, and if they have gone down, call your resort/hotel and insist on a rate adjustment.) Seriously, our rate has gone down about 30%.

And no, we won’t be wearing face masks. From what I understand, they don’t work unless the sick person is wearing them.

We will refrain from shaking hands. We will try to avoid crowds…well, except at the airport, because we’re flying…so there’s that. But we will try to wipe down every surface we come into contact with in the airport and on the plane. We will have lots of hand sanitizer with us, and we will use it…constantly. We will wash our hands and refrain from touching our faces. We will not hold our phones up to our faces. That’s not a problem for my teenage daughter, because teenagers simply don’t talk on the phone. They only text. Teenagers these days don’t even flinch when the phone rings. I’m not sure they even know how to talk on the phone. It’s a dying art.

It will actually be interesting to see what folks are doing in the airport. If someone coughs or sneezes, will everyone turn and look at them?!? If someone looks a little sick, will everyone keep their distance? Will there be lines to wash hands in the restrooms all over the airport? That’s weird to think about, because standing in line will put people in close proximity with each other. Maybe we should all wear hazmat suits in the airport? That’s actually a funny visual.

My husband isn’t traveling with us this year, because we are doing some renovations in our home, and he is going to stay home and deal with contractors. Hopefully, we don’t bring home coronavirus or the flu! Everyone does remember it’s still flu season too, right?

I’m taking my own little, homemade first aid kit. Here’s what I’m including:

  • digital thermometer
  • Ibuprofen and Acetominophen
  • Mucinex (expectorant for cough, get it here)
  • one personal hand sanitizer per person (good luck finding them now if you don’t have them)
  • rubbing alcohol/alcohol wipes (I’ll have to bring what I have on hand, since I can’t find them anywhere)

And when I arrive, my friend and I will go to the liquor store and purchase a bottle of Everclear pure grain alcohol. It’s 95% alcohol, so I’m thinking I can add a splash to drinks, but I can also wipe down surfaces with it if I need to. Seriously. Call me crazy, but I think it’s creative!

Should I stay or should I go? I should go…and take all the necessary precautions, including saying prayers that coronavirus doesn’t strike and prayers of healing for those who have it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practicing My Spanish! (¡Practicando mi Español!)

Practicing my Spanish. (Practicando mi Español.)

When I was in ninth grade, I took Spanish. I don’t remember if a foreign language was required then, but I took it because I knew the Spanish teacher took students with her to Mexico every year, and I wanted to go on that trip. What I didn’t know is that I would love the language and the people of Mexico.

Of course, in the 1980s, we had no way of seeing the future. We didn’t know Spanish would be a hot commodity in the 2000s. Back then, everybody was telling us we needed to learn Russian and Japanese, because it appeared as if Japan would be an economic superpower. Maybe it is. I don’t know, but one thing I do know is that Spanish is something we can use every single day in this country.

So in 1982, I took Spanish just so I could do the Mexico trip with some of my classmates. I’ve written about it before. Five girls from the class went with our pregnant teacher and a friend of hers as our chaperones. The teacher was an awesome Spanish teacher, but we ran pretty unsupervised through Mexico City for days. Mexico City was our first stop, and to this day, I still love that city. After Mexico City, we visited Taxco and Acapulco…back when it was safe to visit Acapulco. I took more Spanish classes as a result of that trip.

I have visited Mexico City (and other cities in Mexico) numerous times since then, and I love it every time. I find that every time I visit, after a few days, my Spanish improves by leaps and bounds. I have friends in Charlotte who are from Mexico, Venezuela, and other Latin American countries, so I get to practice my Spanish some, but it’s a lot of fun to visit  other countries and speak Spanish.

This summer, we are taking several vacations, but the only place I will visit where Spanish is the first language is Puerto Rico. I’ll practice it some, but usually, I find that, in Puerto Rico, when I ask a question in Spanish, they answer me in English. I continue speaking my terrible version of Spanish till they usually humor me by speaking some Spanish back to me. So I have a long list of Latin American countries I really want to visit in the next few years. I’ve been to Costa Rica and Peru, but I have other countries I’d like to visit: Argentina and Panama top the list.

But for now, I’ll get to practice my Spanish in Puerto Rico and just hope some folks there will cooperate. I know a few words I will definitely use while I’m there. I’ll exchange the regular greetings, and then, pretty soon after we arrive, I’ll use this word: churro. Yes, you know that word, and if you don’t, you’re missing out. The hotel where we will stay has some fabulous churros, so I’ll be saying that word really early in the trip when I place my first order! Next word? Alcapurrias! Actually, I’m not even sure that’s a Spanish word, but I’ll be using that word, because I know the pool bar serves great alcapurrias. Not familiar? They’re beef-filled, fried fritters. I can’t make them, but I can eat them! And only one more food word: mallorca! Pan de mallorca is actually a sweet bread made in Puerto Rico, modeled after a bread made in Majorca, Spain. Restaurants make sandwiches with the bread, and my very favorite thing to order is a mallorca con huevo, queso, y jamón (egg, cheese, and ham).

Seriously, I don’t just speak Spanish to order foods. When I’m visiting a country where Spanish is the first language, I try to use my Spanish as much as I can, and I try to learn new words. I love to come home with an expanded vocabulary.

I’m excited about Puerto Rico waaaaay to early, and next year, maybe I’ll make it to Argentina!

 

 

 

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!

 

Foodmobiles

It’s no secret…I love cars shaped like food!

There’s the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile, the Planters Nutmobile, the Hershey Kissmobile, and some lesser known ones…the Cadbury Creme Egg Car, the Pepperidge Farm Goldfish car, the Big Idaho Potato truck, and even a truck shaped like a can of Spam. It’s true!

I’m fascinated by them. Yes, I’m way too old for that nonsense, but I love automobiles shaped like food.

I thought about it again earlier today when I saw the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile had been in Charlotte this week, and I missed it. I still can’t believe it, but I have to let it go. It’s done. I’ve seen the Weinermobile before, but it has been a long time. It was late 1989 or early 1990, and I was fresh out of college and living in the Atlanta area. One morning, as I left my apartment, I noticed a new Wendy’s was opening across the street…and then I saw it…the Weinermobile! It was parked in the Wendy’s parking lot, just beckoning for me to come over and have a hot dog! Alas, I had to get to work, so I didn’t actually “meet” the Weinermobile, but I plan to meet it someday! You can see the Weinermobile website here , and there’s an app you can download too!

In 2016, I had an encounter with the Hershey Kissmobile. I did a fun road trip with my friend, Sara, and our daughters, and our last stop was in Hershey, Pennsylvania, before heading home. We were staying at a hotel that was not a Hershey property, but as we drove to Hershey Park, we spotted something special parked near our hotel…the Kissmobile! There were no drivers around, so our interaction with the Kissmobile was not very ceremonious, but we had a great time getting photos!

My most recent food-shaped automobile encounter occurred earlier this year. I was having lunch with some friends at a restaurant in the SouthPark area of Charlotte, and suddenly, I saw it…the Planters Nutmobile was driving slowly past the restaurant. Fortunately, we had a seat near a window, so I could see it in all its beauty. As I realized what was approaching, I said to my friends, “Oh my goodness! It’s like a dream come true!” I’m sure they thought I had lost my mind, and I refrained from running out the door and chasing down the Nutmobile on foot…but it wasn’t easy. After another half hour or so, we left, but as I was leaving the parking lot of the restaurant, the same Nutmobile drove right past…right in front of me! I made a quick right turn and fell in behind it…following it into a shopping center…around the back of the shopping center…past the dumpsters…and finally, it parked beside a store. I think the drivers were just looking for a place to have lunch, but I jumped out of my car and took a selfie with the Nutmobile, and then one of the drivers offered to take a picture of me. And of course, I promptly uploaded the pics to Instagram, knowing my teenage daughter would be mortified when she opened her Instagram account after school and saw that I had stalked the Nutmobile.

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So now I’m on a quest to get photos with as many food-shaped automobiles as possible. Lucky for me, the Big Idaho Potato Truck has a tour schedule online, and I see they are going to be in Hickory, NC, on August 20. Guess I’ll be getting ready for a quick roadtrip! You can see the schedule here.

It looks like I’ve already missed the Spam Tiny House of Sizzle tour for this year…they were in Lexington, NC, in May. You can see their schedule here. I’ll have to remember to check that one next spring.

As of right now, I haven’t been able to find any websites or social media sites for the Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Car or the Cadbury Creme Egg Car, but I’ll keep looking!

Hopefully, I’ll get some more good photo opportunities with food-shaped automobiles.