Going Home

One hundred years ago, a little baby girl named Mary Evelyn Gunn, known to her family as Aunt Sissy, was born in a big white house in Enterprise, Mississippi. She was the beloved sister of her five brothers (two older and three younger), one of whom was my grandfather, Frank Carlton Gunn, affectionally called Bubba.

Riverside Plantation

Riverside Plantation

Little did her family know then, how many lives she would touch in her life time.

Many of those family members gathered this past weekend to celebrate her life and her 100th birthday at that same white house, named Riverside Plantation.

All week, I had stressed over how I was going to manage making it from Atlanta to Enterprise to join in the celebration. My husband is in the process of getting his masters and had a huge project due and we realized it would be too risky for him to make the trip in case he couldn’t finish his work on time.

At the last minute, my son and his girlfriend decided to drive up from college in south Georgia to make the trip with me. He had never seen the old home place but had heard about it for years. I welcomed the company and was thrilled that they wanted to be a part of the occasion.

As we pulled into the grassy yard, Riverside stood tall and proud, albeit a bit weathered. Two tall white columns flanked both sides of the front porch, welcoming visitors into the foyer. Built in the early to mid-1800’s, it has seen better days but the sight of it still overwhelmed me. I had been to the place only twice before, but this time, I was older and truly appreciated and understood where I came from. Two chimneys flanked both sides of the house. The green shutters had faded as had the once bright red door, but the beautiful decorative transom windows were still intact. I could hear the squeals and laughter from children who were playing on the balcony above the front steps.

I thought of my grandfather and my great-uncles and Aunt Sissy as they played in the front yard as children. They had climbed the trees, worked in the garden, tended to the livestock, and swam in the Chunky River nearby. I was confident that if I listened hard enough, I could probably hear the ringing of the dinner bell and the voice of my great-great grandmother calling everyone inside the house for dinner.

My grandfather, Aunt Sissy and Uncle Kiddo on the front steps of Riverside.

My grandfather, Aunt Sissy and Uncle Kiddo on the front steps of Riverside.

As we walked in, Aunt Sissy sat in a chair in the very room that she was born in, grinning as those who came to celebrate with her stopped to wish her Happy Birthday.

The hardwood floors creaked as people walked around, soaking in the history that has made up the house, wishing the walls could tell us stories of those who lived here. Before the Civil War, the house was owned by a man who was a Mason. When Union soldiers took over the house, they found a box (supposedly full of valuables) wrapped in Masonic papers. With many Union soldiers also being Masons, they stood by their vow to never cause harm to a fellow Mason, thereby ordering the other soldiers not to burn the house or steal anything. They then turned the home into Union headquarters, where they planned the Battle of Vicksburg from the front parlor. The home is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

There is a book called Riverside Remembered by Wallace Neal Briggs, Aunt Sissy’s cousin, who everyone called “Buster.” His story tells about the times he visited his beloved Riverside, starting when he was only six years-old. For those of us who were not around during that time, it has been a beautiful way to learn about Mammy and Pappy, my great-great-grandparents, along with Allie and Cally, my great-grandparents. I have also learned about my grandfather as a young man, before he met my grandmother. What a rare gift to be able to treasure events in his life long after they occurred!

In addition, the book tells about Mattie Riley and her son Leroy, their black neighbors who helped at the house who were really just part of the family. Sissy and Mattie were especially close, since Mattie had taken care of her since she was a child.

One of the most cherished moments was when Mattie’s grandson, Floyd, arrived at the celebration and handed a photograph of Mattie to Sissy. I wish I could have frozen in time the moment Aunt Sissy saw the photograph – her delighted expression clearly showed the love she had for her and how much she missed her.

Throughout the day, all of the family laughed and told stories of parents and kids and simply loved being there. I hope Aunt Sissy looked around and realized that the people who were there, were there because of HER family – each one of us being a child, grandchild, great-grandchild, niece, nephew, cousin or other relative.

I watched my father laugh with his brother and sisters. I watched my son and nephews look for rusty old railroad spikes by the Chunky River. I laughed with my cousins, some of whom I had not seen in over 25 years.

My Great-Aunt Sissy with her brother Bubba (my grandfather's) kids - Aunt Carol, Daddy, Uncle Pat, & Aunt Polly.

My Great-Aunt Sissy with her brother Bubba (my grandfather’s) kids – Aunt Carol, Daddy, Uncle Pat, & Aunt Polly.

And as the children of my cousins ran through the house and people mingled about sipping coffee and eating birthday cake, I felt the house shake. Some would think that a 150+ year-old home shaking wouldn’t be a good thing, but I felt otherwise.

To me, it felt as if the home was happy and giggling because after way too many years, it was once again full of the love, laughter and life of the Gunn family.

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Daddy’s Little Girl

All of my life my dad has been my hero. He was always there for me growing up and is still here for me now that I’m an adult. The strength and stability I always felt being in my Daddy’s arms can not possibly be measured. He would carry me on his shoulders when my legs were tired. He could do the best cannonball into the pool out of all the dads. When I was in trouble, he could put the fear of God into me with just a look. And when he’d jokingly ask me “What am I going to do with you???,” I’d say, “Just keep me and love me,” which he still does. 4887_94743471098_643154_n

And over the past year, he has fought cancer by having a stem cell transplant and will continue treatments for many years to come. He has always been strong – not only physically, but mentally – he’s a judge as well as retired military. (Yes, my upbringing was a little strict!)

Knowing that the next few years are going to have their ups and downs, there are some things I want him to know to help keep his spirits up. So this is for my Dad…

Dear Daddy,

I want to thank you for being so strict with me when I was a teenager. I used to think you were the meanest dad EVER for giving me a curfew of 10 p.m., but now that I am a parent, I realize that what you always said is true: “Nothing but trouble happens to a teenager after midnight.”

Thank you for letting me be Daddy’s little girl, but also Daddy’s little tomboy. Thank you for making sure I could take ballet and sewing classes, but I’m sure at some point you wished you had a son. I was as close to it as you got. I love going camping and doing everything outdoors because of you. You encouraged me to go outside and play so I never was really interested that much in TV -except for “The Donny Osmond Show” of course.

Thank you for insisting on meeting my (and Cathy’s) boyfriends, and giving them the kind of handshake that could break their hand and letting them know they were in for it if anything happened to me. Thank you for telling me straight off which boyfriends you liked, and which ones you clearly DID NOT. Looking back on several of my dating mistakes, I realize you did know what was best for me after all…if only I had listened!!!

Thank you for teaching me how to drive a stick-shift. Learning how to drive an “H” shift was pretty tough on the old F150, especially since it didn’t have power steering or power brakes, but I think it is something every girl should know how to do.

Thank you for teaching me manners. I have come to realize that “Yes ma’am” and “Yes sir” were not only polite when I was younger, but beneficial to me as an adult. These are traits I have passed on to Matthew as well and he, too, has seen how people react when they are treated with respect. 4887_94991191098_2137511_n

Thank you for loving me enough to give me boundaries. Although I didn’t get in too much trouble (because I was terrified of getting in trouble with you), I know I was not the easiest teenager to bring up. I got your stubbornness so I’m sure you saw some of yourself in me! And even though I never wanted to hear it, I thank you for loving me enough to tell me “NO” some times.

Thank you for teaching me to be financially responsible and hiding my first credit card from me when it came in the mail. You taught me that if I can’t buy it with cash, then I don’t need it. This is a lesson many never learn until later in life. You taught me that just because my friends may have new cars, big houses and go on luxurious trips, they are also probably swimming in debt. Because of you, our only payment each month is for our house, and if we don’t have the cash for other things that we want, then we save up for them.

Thank you for teaching me how to stand up for myself. As a single mom for almost 10 years, I had to handle things that can be foreign to many women, such as getting work done on my car. If you hadn’t taught me how to watch when someone was about to screw me over, I would have probably would have been financially taken advantage of numerous times.

Thank you for showing me what true love is. After 52 years of marriage (and counting!) you and Mama have shown me that marriages have good times and bad times, but you stick with each other and are there for each other no matter what. Watching you reach over and grab Mama’s hand just while driving in the car makes me smile.

Thank you for teaching me to treat everyone with the same respect. The circle of friends you have surrounded yourself with come from every race, gender, and sexual orientation and EACH ONE of those friends considers you to be a very good friend to them. What an amazing example you lead!

Thank you for teaching me right and wrong. Even when Mom got a speeding ticket in a different city, you never even considered contacting the other judge to get it erased. Instead you told her that since she was in fact speeding, that she needed to pay the $250 fine. I respected that so much more than you will ever know. So many others in your position would have “called in a favor” but you didn’t – and I love that about you.

Thank you for trusting me when I announced ‘I’m getting married!!!” only four weeks after meeting Dale. Although I’m sure you ran a background check on him, you still trusted me enough to officiate our wedding ceremony. To this day, that memory makes me smile. And thank you for setting the kind of example a good husband is. When I first met Dale, I was amazed at how many similarities the two of you share and I knew immediately that if he was anything like you, I had a keeper.4887_94743461098_2165253_n

I hope you are proud of me for what I have accomplished in my life. Everything I have in my life, in some way or another points back to you. Your guidance has led me to where I am and who I am today.

And although we know the next couple of years are going to be both good and tough, please know that I plan on taking care of you and Mama as you have ALWAYS taken care of me. Cathy and I will be the strong ones for you this time.

I’m all grown up now, but I am and always will be, Daddy’s little girl.

Let me carry you on my shoulders now.

Why March Is A No Nookie Month

Nineteen years ago today, my life changed in a way I never could have imagined:

I became a mom.

It all started with the infamous “blizzard” of 1993 in Atlanta, GA. We actually got enough snow that year to cover the street, which, if you are familiar with living in the South, means that all normal ways of life come to an absolute stand-still.

It’s pretty simple. We don’t know how to drive in the snow. It is rare that we see more than an inch of it at a time. Even the mere mention of the word “snow,” people will flock to the grocery store to stock up on bread and milk even though the snow more than likely won’t last past 11 a.m. the next morning.

Such was the case in March, 1993. What started off as snow flurries quickly turned into what would be soon plastered across the news as a “blizzard”. Anyone living North of Tennessee would have considered it a light dusting, but people in Atlanta were in a panic. You would think us Southerners will begin to contemplate cannibalism if we can’t get enough bread and milk to last us a few days.

Then the power went out.

With no power and no backup generator, what was a young newlywed couple to do?

Five weeks later, I was in for quite a surprise.

I made an appointment with an OB and soon found out that my husband and I weren’t the only ones who lost power. A RECORD number of pregnancies were reported that year and they were all due in December.

Fast forward eight more months.

My son was actually due on my mother’s birthday, which is Christmas Day, but he had other plans.

For the first time in his life, he came early and showed up on my father’s birthday – December 9.

Now that would be a coincidence in itself, right? Due on my mother’s birthday but born on my father’s birthday?

December 9, 1993

December 9, 1993

What is really interesting is that my father has a brother and three sisters. Three out of five children were born on December 9. And when my sister was pregnant, her due date was also December 9 (but he broke tradition and arrived two days later.)

December 9, 2012

December 9, 2012

March, it appears, is a very fertile month in my family.

And as we celebrate the lives of two of the most wonderful men that I have in my life, I am also thankful that I have an equally wonderful and understanding husband. Because he knows that March is officially EXTRA SAFETY MONTH in the romantic department at the McIntyre house.

Just in case.

Do You Suffer From Mom Brain?


I’ve always said that our intelligence is highest when we are babies. We probably know all of the answers to the universe but we just can’t say anything or let anyone know what we are thinking.

As we get older, we start losing some of our brain power. It comes to a head with what I call “Mom Brain.” It’s very similar to what my cancer-survivor father calls “Chemo-brain”, but “Mom Brain” isn’t caused by cancer. It’s caused by children.

Mom Brain Sufferer

Mom Brain was diagnosed for me when my son was young, but really went active when he was about ten years old. I was divorced, working crazy hours to make ends meet, taking my son to his hockey practices and weekly games, and trying to have enough energy to cook dinner, (which was apparently very rare since the Domino’s delivery guy knew me by name.)

In other words, I was exhausted. ALL THE TIME.

“Hey Mom, Is this milk still good?”
“It should be. Smell it.”
“It smells like… milk. Should I drink it?”
“It’ll be fine.”
“Is it supposed to be thick?”

In a nutshell, Mom Brain means that you when have a baby, you lose a ton of brain cells along with the afterbirth. Unfortunately more kids could mean a more severe case of Mom Brain. I’m not a doctor so this isn’t medically proven. it’s just my excuse for why I am forgetful and frazzled for 99% of my day.

I’m naturally blonde, which is a strike against me in the first place, so I’m lucky I only gave birth to one child. Any more than that and I’d need to be institutionalized or at least heavily medicated.

The best (or should I say funniest?) case of Mom Brain comes from my dearest friend, who I will not name or else she will probably end our friendship. She is the mother of two beautiful young daughters, both under the age of two. To her horror, her oldest has finally started the terrible two phase, and it seems that she wants to stay there until she’s 10. Her youngest has been screaming with colic since coming out of the birth canal. This has now caused my friend to lose endless hours of sleep and put 147 extra miles each week on her car due to driving around the neighborhood at 3am to help put the baby to sleep.

We were discussing the effects of Mom Brain and she said she was certain she had it. She was telling me about a conversation she had with a girl she ran into at the gym a few months after her daughter was born.

“Hey! You had the baby! Was it a girl or a boy?”
My friend replied, “I had a little girl!”
“Oh that’s wonderful! What did you name her?”
“I named her Anna!” she said. (Long pause here as she thought to herself). “No, actually I didn’t name her Anna. I named her Abby.”

This conversation is absolute proof that Mom Brain exists. I think that maybe webMD should add Mom Brain to their list of diseases so we can self-diagnose ourselves. It kind of makes it a little better to deal with when you know what you have.

I can see it now. The list of symptoms is as follows:
Short term memory loss?
Difficulty performing familiar tasks?
Disorientation?
Increasing problems with planning and managing?
Trouble with language?
Rapid, unpredictable mood swings?
Lack of motivation?
Changes in sleep?

If you answered yes to any of these, then you either have Mom Brain, Dissociative Identity Disorder, Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Because the symptoms are EXACTLY THE SAME.

And like me, if you too suffer from Mom Brain then I’m not even sure why I wrote this blog entry, because by tomorrow you will probably have forgotten you even read this post.

An Unconventional Friendship

Two young girls are playing together upstairs at my house. Even from downstairs, I can hear them giggling and dancing around the bedroom. One is trying to teach the other how to dance “Gangnam Style”. The song plays over and over and over. I shake my head. I have no idea what that song means, but it really doesn’t matter.

They are best friends, but these two girls do not have what many would call a “typical” friendship.

One is my step-daughter.

The other is the daughter of my ex-husband.

Yes, you read that right.

How did this unusual friendship happen? Well, let me explain.

Being silly

My ex-husband and I divorced 12 years ago and believe me, it wasn’t cordial. Our divorce was finalized after two years of name calling of words that hadn’t even been invented yet, playing “This is Mine, You Can Keep That”, and paying barrels of money to our lawyers who loved us for basically covering their mortgages each month.

Fast forward another year when I was out visiting my then 85-year old grandmother in rural Mississippi. I had been griping about something my ex had done, when she looked at me and said “Why do you hate him so much? You were best friends until you divorced.”

“Well”, I began, “He did this, and this and this…” (of course, not taking any of the blame for myself!)

Pitifully, she just shook her head and said “You’re divorced. You don’t love him. He doesn’t love you. But you have a small child together and you both need to stop acting so selfish and start acting like parents. Forgive each other and move on.”

Ok. Let me tell you that when your grandmother (who normally has you on a pedestal and thinks you can do absolutely nothing wrong) begins to notice that you’ve become nothing more than a griping whiner, you have to really look at yourself. What I saw wasn’t pretty. I had always been a cheery, happy, funny Mommy but somewhere I had turned into an extremely bitter person, and I didn’t like myself like that.

Upon returning home, I called my ex and told him what my grandmother said. We decided we needed to try to work out his – I mean our “communication” issues. Although we had never argued in front of our son, we realized that if we wanted to bring up a good, well rounded child, we would need to stop the constant complaining and arguing. The plan worked. Over time we actually were able to become friends again.

We realized the important thing was for our son to be able to see his parents as respectable friends who just couldn’t stay married. He didn’t have to choose sides: he could spend weekends or holidays with either one of us and it was okay.

My ex married a wonderful lady who has become a very good friend to me. I have said before that I would have been drawn to her as a friend if we had just met at an office or school. We really get along and I especially appreciate how much she loves my son.

My ex and his wife now have a ten year old daughter. I would babysit her when she was a baby and I’ve watched her grow over the years into an amazing young girl. I have been to her birthday parties and I have cheered her on at her soccer games. I adore her.

I remarried three years ago, and as unconventional as it sounds, I invited them to my wedding. We introduced their little girl to my new little step-daughter. At first they were shy around each other, but soon they began running around the reception like old friends. They danced out on the dance floor and giggled over slices of wedding cake.

Making Monster Wreaths (idea by @babyrabies)

They truly hit it off. They now spend the night at each others houses as many times as possible. They do arts and crafts together. They build tents on the catwalk overlooking our living room.

Although they have both voiced that they would love to have more siblings, (sorry, but this baby factory is CLOSED) neither of the girls has a sister. One afternoon when I was putting away freshly laundered clothes, I overheard them trying to figure out how they could possibly be sisters because they sort of share the same brother….my son.

And now as I sit at my desk writing this post, I hear them upstairs laughing and playing, and my heart giggles along with them. It is so amazing to me that out of a sad and hurtful past, a beautiful new friendship was born. And what could be sweeter than that?

But I still don’t get what “Gangnam Style” means.

Are You A Baby Book Slacker?


How many times has your child done or said something funny and you think “I’ll always remember when he did that”? And then the following month you are wracking your brain trying to remember what exactly it was? My son is now 18 years old and I still think of funny events but can’t remember all of the details.
After my son was born I was determined to fill in his baby book with memories, sayings, firsts, etc. I think I got to month three before I became a slacker on the job. The only reason I remember what day he took his first steps is because it was my sister’s birthday. But which birthday? I don’t know because I didn’t write it down.

But that all changed, thanks to my mom.

Years ago when my son was just a toddler, my mother would often babysit him while I went to work. She was able to spend the first three years with him, often telling me some of the funny things he said or did while he was at her house.

That following Christmas I opened a present from my mother. It was a standard black notebook – the kind with the paper that has to be punched with three holes. Nothing fancy. But what was inside was utterly priceless.

My mother had written down almost every funny conversation they had, typed it all up, and gave it to us. She said that she kept paper in all of the rooms of the house and when Matthew said something funny, or something happened that she thought would be good in the book, she would write it down. At the end of the year she took all of her little sheets of paper and typed them up. (As a side note – my mom is Ninny.)

Here are some of my favorite “Matthew Funnies”, as the book is so appropriate titled:
Age 3 – Your Dad was teaching you the sign language alphabet. When he got to the letter “p”, you said “we don’t pee in the tub.”

Age 3 – The pest control man, Tucker, came to the house today and you followed him around.
Tucker: How old are you?
Matthew: (silence)
Ninny: You know how old you are. You can tell him.
Matthew: (silence)
Tucker: When is your birthday?
Matthew: When I turn four!!!

Age 3 – Your Mom: I’ve got to go to the bathroom.
Matthew: I’ve got to go to the bathroom, too.
Your Mom: Well, you’ll have to wait a minute – I’m about to pop.
Matthew: Well, I’m about to poop.

Age 4 – You gave me a kiss on the cheek and then I felt something stuck on my cheek.
Ninny: Gross, Matthew! It’s a fingernail!
Matthew: No it’s not! It’s a footnail!

Age 4 – Ninny was working on the porch when you came outside.
Matthew: I have a new wallet. Want to see it?
Ninnny: Of course I want to see your wallet!
(And you showed me a rock that was about two-inches long.)
Oh my. Where did you get that nice wallet?
Matthew: I got it in the Army ‘bout four years ago.

She did the same thing for my sister with my two nephews. This is one of my favorites:

Zachary was sitting in his dad’s lap and was running his little hand over the hair on his dad’s arm.
Zachary: Hey Dad!!! Look! When I do this to your arm, your fur lays flat.

And now that my son is an adult, reading these precious stories helps me exactly remember these events that would have been lost long ago. Those yearly “chapters” continue to give me endless belly laughs remembering “funnies” that I have already forgotten.

To do this for your family, consider just keeping a little notebook in your purse and jot down simple memories as they happen. If you wait too long, you will more than likely forget certain details. As time allows type up your notes and then you can print and give numerous members of your family your child’s “Funnies” book. It is such a personal holiday present for grandparents, parents & friends.

Remember to write down the amusing stories but don’t forget the heartfelt ones too…

Age 4: You were gazing out the window and you were lost in deep thought.
Matthew: You know what, Ninny?
Ninny: No, what, Matthew?
Matthew: I love you.

Confessions of a Former Dating Loser

I met my husband three years ago on Match.com.  Many times when I tell people that they get this shocked look on their face as if to say “What were you thinking by dating on-line????”   Well to be honest, it wasn’t my idea.

I was a 10+ year Realtor who was suddenly faced with limited commissions when the housing bubble burst. I had a client who wanted me to list the house I had helped her purchase five years earlier because she had gotten engaged.  I met with  her and we talked about the house and our lives.  She said she had gotten tired of the single life and her teenage daughter talked her into going on Match.com.  I just giggled and thought to myself  “I may be a total dating loser, but I could never do that.”

I’m serious, I was a LOSER.  If there was another loser within a five mile vicinity, I was completely enamoured with him.

After she realized I was still painfully single since the last time we had talked (FIVE YEARS EARLIER) she said “I won’t give you my house listing unless you promise to go on Match.”  I got nervous.  What if someone I knew were to see me on a dating site?  Would my loser dating status just be confirmed?  Would it be embarrassing?  What kind of guy would sign up for online dating?  A serial killer?  Someone already married?

Then reality kicked in.   I started thinking of the fact that my mortgage and car payments were coming up and how desperately I needed the commission.  I reluctantly agreed.

I put my profile together and realized that it was sort of like writing about myself as if I were going into a catalog.  Interests?  I like camping, triathlons, anything outdoorsy but I’m still girly-girl enough to enjoy getting a mani/pedi on occasion.  Smokers?   Nope – not interested.   I did want someone who went to church but not someone who was going to make me feel horrible about a cuss-word slip up or a glass of wine.  I was also very serious about my political views (but won’t post them here!)  but I knew we definitely needed to agree on politics.

For about three weeks I received messages from some of the most interesting people I’ve ever come across.  (One guy actually sent me a picture of himself dressed as Abe Lincoln ….and another wearing a Superhero helmet.  One guy sent me pictures of his house.  One sent pictures of his pit-bulls.  One sent a picture of himself from what appeared to be 1985 leaning against a Trans Am, looking like Tom Selleck with the thick mustache.  But at least I didn’t receive a message like another friend of mine who I later found out was also on Match – her potential suitor immediately wanted to know her weight because he needed to ensure that she wouldn’t put them over the weight limit on his motorcycle if they were to get together.  Nice.  That one was definitely a keeper…said no one.)

Just when I thought I was destined to be forever single, the picture of the one that would steal my heart popped onto my computer screen…and the rest is history.  I sent him a “wink” which is sort of a computer cat-call.  He responded within a few hours with a long e-mail, to which I promptly replied.  We began e-mailing each other several times a day and then within a week moved up to phone calls before deciding to meet in person.

We decided  to meet up at a park where we could be out in public but we could talk and see if there was any chemistry.  If we didn’t like each other we wouldn’t be stuck sitting through a very uncomfortable dinner.  Meeting at the park was perfect because I had just gotten out of a cast after breaking my foot but was still scheduled to participate in a triathlon three weeks later. We could talk and exercise at the same time.  If there wasn’t any chemistry, one of us could just leave.

When I pulled into the park, I saw that there were two vehicles matching what he said he drove.  Both drivers got out at the same time:  one was in good shape, had a great smile and was dressed in black, and the other guy was wearing a dirty t-shirt and cutoff blue jeans, and looked like the only exercise he got was lifting twelve Budweisers a day.   I remember saying a little prayer that the fit one was my guy…and thankfully he was.

We thought we were going to only walk about 2 miles that afternoon since my foot was still healing but when I turned on my iPhone and checked out my pedometer, I realized we had walked 7 miles.  As I got in my car to go home I called my mom.  I told her I knew this one was “the one” and we would be married within six months.  Little did I know…

A mere four weeks later we were engaged, and eight more weeks later we were married.  We will celebrate our third anniversary this week.

Wedding day

Some people might think it was crazy of us to get married after knowing each other for only 12 weeks, but somehow we both knew we were a match made in heaven.

Finding the love of my life at an online dating website is something that I never could have imagined.  I used to think online dating was for the most desperate daters and although I easily fell into that category, I was completely in denial.  Why do online dating sites have such a bad reputation?  It’s really isn’t much different than being set up on a blind date through friends.  People realize you have something in common and you meet.  Sometimes it works out – my parents met on a blind date and just celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary.  Sometimes it doesn’t work out…but even then you at least  gave it a shot.

Who knows?   You may end up meeting your perfect match and living in your own love story.

And every love story is unique and amazing.  Ours is just my favorite.

Wedding day

Be Like A Boy Scout – Be Prepared!

This past weekend my husband, Dale and I decided to take a short getaway to help us relax and enjoy life so we decided to go camping. The North Georgia mountains are only an hour away from our home so it’s an easy drive to make to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

We got there early and started setting up camp. Soon the tent was up and we were sitting by a nice roaring campfire sipping on a long deserved glass of chilled chardonnay.

Although the campsites are wooded and far enough away from each other to allow for some privacy, we couldn’t help but notice a young couple at the campsite across from us attempt to make a fire. After a while my amusement turned to sympathy because it was starting to get dark as well as a little chilly.

I watched them crumple up little pieces of paper and dried leaves to get a fire going. They would get it set up, lite it, blow on it to make it smolder, and then it would go out.

Finally I told Dale that we needed to help them out or else they were going to be miserable all night. Now, I love the simplicity of primitive camping (no electricity, no water, etc.) but I am not foolish enough to think that I can create a fire with a piece of flint and some sticks. I’m much smarter than that…I had fire-starter logs. We took some over to them and within minutes they had a fire competing with ours.

In the morning the girl, Katie came by our campsite and thanked us profusely for helping them out. She said that they hadn’t been camping in years so they didn’t have the slightest clue what to bring. She looked around our campsite said “Wow – you really are organized with your camp stuff!!”

I explained that after years of camping and forgetting this and that, I put together three containers which I keep things that we ONLY use for camping. After each trip we make a list of the things we used up and need more of, and other items are washed and put back in the containers until the next trip. That way we don’t ever end up camping without fire starter logs. I told her that I also keep a “camping list” on my phone, which she asked me to share…so here goes:

Camp supply bins & shelf with tents & sleeping bag

1) Tent. I am sure that even the most inexperienced camper can figure out why you would need this. The only exception would be if you have a camper. If you have one, don’t forget to bring that.
2) Tarp to go under the tent. This helps eliminate condensation on the floor of the tent, keeping your stuff from getting wet.
3) Air mattress. This isn’t a necessity, but it certainly makes camping more comfortable. The ground can get colder than you think.
4) Air pump for blowing up the air mattress. And don’t forget the batteries.
5) Sleeping bags. My husband is hotter than a meteor (I’m sure he’ll love that analogy, but his body temperature is really hot and keeps me warm when it’s cold outside) so we take sheets and blankets instead of individual sleeping bags so I can snuggle up and keep my feet warm.
6) Pillows.
7) Table canopy. I personally do not like things to fall in my food so we bring a tarp (or one of those pop-up canopy’s that you use when you’re tailgating) to go over the table.
8) Cooler. (I make a list of food we are going to eat and then pack accordingly.) Don’t forget the ice!
9) Camp stove. If you have ever had a full breakfast when you’re camping, then you know why you want to bring a camp stove. Scrambled eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, & toast have never tasted so good!

Yep, that’s a non-showered me eating my camp breakfast


10) Pots, pans & utensils.
11) Propane (or whatever fuel your stove calls for.)
12) Paper plates & bowls. (Don’t forget coffee cups if you expect to have coffee in the morning!) Just toss them in the fire when you’re done eating!
13) Charcoal and lighter fluid. Most camp sites have designated fire pits which double as a grill so you won’t need to bring your Weber, just bring the charcoal. (I also use foil over the grill because who knows what’s been cooked there.)
14) Folding chairs to sit by the fire. I have a deathly fear of spiders and granddaddy long-legs…and if you end up sitting on the ground to enjoy your fire, then be prepared because these bugs tend to enjoy the fire while sitting on YOU.
15) Lantern or flashlights. We also have head lamps which makes it nice when going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, or just reading a book in bed.
16) Towels. If your camp site has running water and shower facilities.
17) Your clothes. Check the weather beforehand and pack appropriately.
18) Gallon jugs of water. If your campsite doesn’t have water, you will want this to make food, clean cookware, and just to wash your hands. Camping can get dirty.
19) Firewood and fire starter logs. I am going camping to have fun – not to prove that I could be on “Survivor” therefore, I am going to go the easy route and bring along something that makes starting a fire as simple as the flick of a Bic. (On a side note, be aware that many Federal and State campgrounds have incredibly HIGH penalties for cutting down branches and trees for firewood. BRING YOUR OWN!!!)

Miscellaneous:
a) Trash bags
b) Matches
c) Hammer (to knock in the tent stakes)
d) Scrub brush & dish soap
e) Hand soap
f) Batteries
g) Rope
h) Table cloth
i) Knife
j) Grill utensils
k) Ziplock bags
l) Foil
m) Baby wipes. You can use these if you can’t shower but need to clean up a bit
n) Cards or small board games
o) Citronella candle
p) Pepper spray. (This one is important. Most Federal and State parks have rules about bringing in firearms…you can’t…so the thought of being in a fabric house with a zippered door always makes me a little nervous so we keep pepper spray within arms reach)
q) Toilet paper. When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go…Just watch where you squat. Those three leaved bandits are poison ivy and take it from me, you don’t want poison ivy on your butt.

The key is to figure out what type of camping you want to do. If you’re primitive camping then you will need to bring more items than if you are camping where there is electricity and running water. If you’re hiking the Appalachian Trail then you don’t need this list or you will need to bring along some pack mules to carry it all for you.

Or if you are like many of my friends then you will just need to check into the local Ritz Carlton because that’s as close as you’re ever going to get to camping.

In any case, enjoy!

Do you enjoy camping? Share your story!


We made the fun photo above using StoryMark – download for free in the iPhone app store or Android market.

Another Year Older…Dang It.

My 44th birthday is coming up this month. When I was in my 20’s, being in my 40’s seemed to be SO FAR OFF. Holy cow. When the heck did this happen?

On my mother’s last birthday, my 93 year old grandmother asked how old she was. My mother, who we call “Ninny” replied, “Well how old do you THINK I am?” My grandmother thought for a few moments and said “42?” My mother told her she was CORRECT. (Ninny later told me that she doesn’t want my grandmother to really know how old my mother is because then my grandmother will realize that she is 93!)

Birthdays have always been so much fun for me. I’ve always loved them – no matter whose birthday it is. And now that I’m older, when I look back it seems like something crazy always happens on my birthday.

On the day I turned 18, I was a fun loving college student at Mississippi State University. I was so excited because back in 1986 if you were 18, you were of legal drinking age. Unfortunately for me the VERY NEXT DAY – October 1st, the drinking age changed to 21. And there was no grandfathering. So I was legal for 24 hours and then I couldn’t drink legally for another THREE years. Talk about a buzz kill.

On my 25th birthday I was married and six months pregnant. On my 30th birthday I was going through a very bitter, two-year divorce and custody battle.

I spent my 35th birthday at the hospital with Ninny while my father was having surgery for Melanoma. Halfway during the day, mom looked over at me and said “Oh! It’s your birthday!” Then she smirked and sing-said “Ha-ha-ha You’re 35 years old!!!” I just smiled at her and said “Well, at least I can say that I don’t have a 35 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER.” SCORE for the smart ass daughter.

On my 40th birthday I went to dinner with a nice fellow but found out a few days later that he was interested in pursuing someone else. Apparently my competition was not another girl.

My birthdays are starting to get better though. On my 41st birthday, I was on day 4 of my honeymoon. How awesome is that? Wedding cake + birthday cake = heaven.

Birthdays 42 & 43 were both spent with my sweet hubby at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. For my 44th? I’ve been told it’s a surprise, but it better involve cake!

I still have 49 more years to go until I make it to my grandmother’s age.

And as much craziness as I’ve had over my last 44 birthdays, I will be thrilled if the next 44 are just as fun…because at least that will mean I have lived until at least age 88.

Dang it. I just realized I’m already halfway there.

I just opened a birthday card & a dollar fell out. Oh how I love birthdays!

September 11 – Inspiration From Adversity

Each morning I get up around 6:45 and make sure my step-son is getting up and ready for school. I make breakfast for him and get his lunch box together. Then his carpool ride arrives and on most days, I head on back to sleep. I am usually still up until 1 or 2AM every night so 6:45 comes fast.

Tuesday morning of this week was no different than the usual except for one thing…Tuesday was September 11, and marked the 11th anniversary of the attacks on America.

My husband works from home also, but on Tuesday he got up early to do some work with his father. I highly contemplated going back to sleep but as my snuggley warm bed called out to me, I thought about all of the women who went back to sleep after their kids left for school. As their husbands were getting ready for work, they missed what turned out to be the last opportunity to eat breakfast and spend some time just being together. So I put my house-coat and fuzzy slippers back on and shuffled into the kitchen.

It made me really think – how often do we take for granted the time we spend with our loved ones? Who knows when the last breakfast will be? The last kiss good-bye? The opportunity to tell someone we love them? Or just waving at your spouse from the kitchen door as he drives away?

I can’t imagine what the 9/11 women (or men for that matter) would give for a do-over of that horrible morning.

I need to do better so I decided Tuesday morning that l would include in my daily or weekly schedule as much as the following as possible:

Being thankful for my life and the lives of my friends and family… Saying “I love you” as often as possible without getting annoying… Hugging my kids and husband tightly every opportunity I have… Writing letters to my 93 year old grandmother since she can’t hear me when I call on the phone… Calling my parents even though they only live 20 minutes away… Writing my sister an e-mail to let her know what’s going on in my life instead of having her read it on Facebook… Getting together with my girlfriends… Reading more books no matter what the topic is… Creating new recipes for my step-son who has a gluten allergy… Watching sci-fi movies (that I can’t stand) with my husband just because he loves them… Playing cards with my step-daughter and not calling it quits after just one game… Driving three hours one way just to have lunch with my college student because I miss him… Standing up for my political beliefs and using my right as an American to vote… Running three miles every single day and actually looking forward to it… Going back to church each week and maybe getting up the nerve to sing in the choir…

Sounds like a New Year’s resolution list, but for me it’s something that I really need to do.

We have all heard how nice it would be if we all lived like there was no tomorrow. It is clearly easier said than done or else it would already be happening. But if it did happen, people might generally be nicer and people across the world could hold hands…yadda yadda yadda. More than likely that is not ever going to happen.

But at my house, it will.

And in it’s own tiny way, it’s a start.