Not My First Rodeo

Happy Throwback Thursday, friends.  By now, people around the world are getting cabin fever regarding the “social distancing” orders concerning the current global crisis.  My daughter, Stefani and I can say that though this is no fun, it’s not our first rodeo quarantine.

If you’re a parent, you already know that all good parents have regrets.  Unless your kids are grown, however, what you might not realize is that the regrets we have as parents are most likely not the same things our kids would go back in time and change if they could.  I have one of those World’s Worst Parenting moments that’s haunted me for 23 years!  Seriously, I have felt guilty about this since my firstborn child (who is now 30) was in the second grade.  (The hilarious thing is, when I recently spoke about this to Stefani, she didn’t remember a thing about it!)

Stefani was seven when she developed a rash.  Her school nurse called and told me I needed to pick her up and take her to the doctor, and that she couldn’t return to school without a note.  I took her to her pediatrician, and he diagnosed her with Fifth Disease, which is a viral infection caused by parvovirus.  It’s known as Fifth Disease because it’s one of five common childhood illnesses characterized by a rash.

For her troubles, Stefani was granted three days off school, plus a lot of Disney movies, popsicles, a new Barbie, and attention.  Score!

Fast forward a couple of weeks.  Monday morning, Stefani was getting ready for school, I was getting ready for work, and Jeremy, who was still a baby, was playing with my Grandma in her room.  Stefani gets a stone-cold serious look to her face and tells me, “Mommy, I think my Fifth Disease is back.  I’m itchy.”

“Mmm hmm.  Nice try,” I tell her as I grab her backpack.  “Let’s get going.”

“No, really.  I better stay home,” she says.

I put on my Angry Mommy Face.  “Stefani, you are not sick!  Now go get in the car and I’ll be right behind you.”

She whined the whole three blocks to school, and I restrained myself from laughing at how clever she really thought she was.

About an hour later, the school nurse called me and said Stefani had a rash.  She said I’d need a doctor’s note before I could bring her back to school.  I was livid!  I couldn’t believe my little seven-year-old could be so conniving as to fool a nurse!

I tried to keep my cool as I waited in the doctor’s office for her to be seen.  I tried not to roll my eyes as the doctor examined her and said, “Didn’t I just see you here with a rash a couple of weeks ago?”

The doctor called a nurse in and they whispered, then she left and came back with a shot and a syringe to take some blood samples.  Wait, what?  This didn’t happen last time.

We were left alone in a room to wait for a while, and Stefani and I drew cartoons on the paper that covered the exam table.  After what seemed like hours, the doctor came back and announced, “She has scarlet fever.  You’re going to have to quarantine her.  She’ll miss at least a week of school…”

Crap.  I felt like a giant ass for ignoring my little girl’s pleas for help that morning.

I took her home, got her set up in her bedroom, explained things to my Grandma (who watched the kids while I was at work), went to the store and tried to redeem myself by buying Stefani tons of coloring books, crayons, fun pads, books, videos, card games, another new Barbie, ginger-ale, popsicles, etc., then I took them to her and went back to work.  That night, I read her story after story, and watched a bunch of silly videos with her to make up for my Bad Mommy Day.

The next day at work, things were going well until my office manager noticed I kept scratching my torso.  “I hadn’t even noticed,” I told her.  I raised my shirt and was covered with a billion red blotches!  My office manager told me to get to the doctor right away and don’t come back without a note.  Yes, you guessed it.  I, too, had scarlet fever and we were both medically quarantined!  (Meaning the doctor gave a LONG list of specific instructions basically saying we needed to live in a closet and not breathe until we were re-examined.)

Stefani moved into my bedroom.  Jeremy moved out of my bedroom and into Grandma’s bedroom.  The doctor said we both had a pretty bad case of it.  Stefani and I spent the next EIGHT DAYS in that room with Grandma leaving our meals outside the door.  These were the days where televisions were small, only got a few cable channels, the internet was dial-up and didn’t have a lot of fun stuff to do, there was no social media, and it was boring as hell!  Not to mention, neither of us felt much like doing anything anyway, but still, it was no fun!

So, I guess the lessons to be earned from this are: I lived though a quarantine before, so I know I can do it again; at least there are more entertaining things one can do at home now versus back then; and apparently my daughter doesn’t remember what I would consider my largest parenting fail, so I can finally stop kicking myself for it and let it go.

Let’s talk:  Have you ever had scarlet fever?  Have you ever been under a true medical quarantine?  Would a new Barbie buy your way out of a bad parenting call?  Are you upset that this post was not actually about a rodeo?  Do you have cabin fever yet where you are?

The Late for Christmas Feety Foot Shoe Socks

Happy Throwback Thursday, friends!  Ever since my daughter Stefani was little, jokes about feet were our “Mommy-Daughter Thing.”  Every Christmas stocking, Easter basket, or birthday gift bag I ever gave her always included a little something foot-related.  They were always just stupid little insignificant things, like a foot-shaped eraser, but they were one of the ways I let her know I loved her.

That’s my lovely daughter!

A couple of years ago for Christmas, I’d done all my shopping except for the “foot thing” I’d forgotten.  So, to remedy the situation, I got on Amazon and found the ugliest pair of feet socks you’ve ever seen.  Actually, they were “feety foot shoe socks.”  The socks were, for the most part, flesh-colored, and the top over the feet were feet slid into pink flip-flops, and the bottom part under the feet were the bottom of the flip-flops.  Hideous, right?

Well, after I submitted my order, I got a message that they would, in fact, not be here in time for Christmas.  We had Christmas that year, and I kind of forgot all about the “feety foot shoe socks” until sometime in late January when they arrived.  I opened the package and removed one sock and inspected it.  It was goofy and cheap, but otherwise, not remarkable.  It had a right foot painted on top, and a shoe bottom painted on the bottom.

Here’s what they were supposed to look like, top and bottom

Then I removed the other sock.  I laughed so hard, I might have wet myself.  [I will nether confirm or deny if I really wet myself.]  The second sock also had a right foot painted on top.  It also had another right foot painted on the bottom!  All told, we had three right feet tops, and one foot bottom.  I giggled the whole time that I wrapped the “feety foot shoe socks” up then called my daughter to come over for a surprise.  When she opened them, we both laughed so hard, our bodies were shaking uncontrollably, and we weren’t making any noise.  It was that hilarious!

But instead, here was what we received.

And here, you can see each top and bottom together.

Let’s talk:  What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever ordered that was different than what you expected when you received it?  Have you ever laughed so hard you didn’t make a sound?  Do you name certain things odd names like “feety foot shoe socks?”  Do you have a certain repetitive inside joke “thing” with one or more of your kiddos?

Rub-A-Dub

Happy Throwback Thursday, friends.  I can’t believe it’s been nearly five years since I last shared my homemade soap-making adventures with you. At the time, I’d been making my own soap in three different fragrances – gardenia, lavender, and almond with oats & honey for a few years.  I made one batch of each fragrance about twice a year, so about six batches a year in all.  Sister Michelle and I made them mostly for ourselves due to allergies, and we’d occasionally give a couple of bars away to friends who expressed interest.  We used homemade wooden molds, we used a knife to cut them, just eyeballing the size, and they weren’t necessarily pretty.  In fact, they were pretty ugly. Looking back, I realize they didn’t even smell very strong because we cooked the oils so long to burn off the lye that it got so hot, it burned off the fragrance.  But it was moisturizing and had a nice lather.  We called it “hippie soap.”

This was our old “hippie soap” in my old house.

About a year and a half ago, I was in the middle of a “too much in pain to really do anything productive” mood when I sporadically looked up any updated soap-making techniques. There’s actually a lot out there now as opposed to when we started.  (Back then, everyone was so secretive with their success secrets.  I guess once the cat was out of the bag, there was no reason not to spill the beans, and the secret-keepers then decided to capitalize on getting the most hits for their how-to videos.)

I learned a LOT of amazing new techniques, and I also played around with ingredients until I developed a much better recipe.  The results:  We now make really beautiful bars of soap that smell amazing and are still very sudsy and ultra-moisturizing.  So, Sister Michelle and I took our soap show on the (metaphorical) road and opened a soap shop.  Or maybe it’s a shoppe.  We haven’t decided yet.

We started off just selling to friends and family, but we’re starting to get referrals from them now, so we had to set up a Facebook Page (which is still short of about half the photos I need to add because we had less than four bars in stock of each of those, and I like to include four in each promo photo).  However, I don’t really want a full-time career in soap-making, so I have no plans to take it to Etsy or any of the other on-line sales sites (especially because postage rates are so high now), or even to the local Saturday markets that sell such goodies (because I have no desire to come into contact with all the germs).  It’s just for a little extra income and because we have fun making it.

We’ve developed about twenty fragrances so far plus other seasonal scents.  Sister Michelle loves “Autumn Pumpkin” the best, so even though we were done selling that fragrance in November, she still uses it.  My favorite is “Gift of the Magi” which was a Christmas scent of frankincense and myrrh with stripes of gold mica and gold-covered frankincense nuggets on top.  I have one customer who comes a couple of times a month to buy the Dark Chocolate Birthday Cake soap and a sea sponge for her many girlfriends’, daughters’, and granddaughters’ birthdays.  (And I think also because she loves chocolate!) But Coffee Shop seems to be just about everybody’s collective favorite.

A lot of people tell us they smell good enough to eat, though I wouldn’t recommend it.  They may look and smell delicious, but I can almost guarantee that they still taste like soap.  Our regular fragrances include Goat Milk Oats & Honey, Coffee Shop, Casanova, Berry Blue, Spearmint, Lavender, Country Apple, Goat Milk Dreamsicle, Lemon, Naked, Gardenia Garden, Raspberry Beret, Lavender Lemongrass, Peppermint Orange, Peppermint Lavender, Hawaiian Luau, Pink Diamonds, Garden of Eden, Dirty Hippie, Spruce Forest, Dark Chocolate Birthday Cake, and Hazelnut Toffee Birthday Cake.

At any rate, I wasn’t really writing about this today to promote anything, but just to show you the (HUGE!) difference between my former “hippie soap” and what I’m making now.  (Though if you wanted to Like my Facebook page, I wouldn’t mind in the least.)  I went from six batches a year to a minimum of that each month.  It’s a lot more artsy-looking now, don’t you think?

Let’s chat:  Have you ever made homemade soap?  Have you ever used homemade soap?  Do you have allergies that prevent you from using any particular store-bought item and force you to make it at home instead?  Would you ever use soap that smells like food?

We Are Family

Happy Throwback Thursday, friends!  One of the projects I mentioned working on prior to my most recent absence from the blogosphere was that I had uncovered some pretty cool genealogical finds within my family, and two in particular that I want to share today.  Now, I fully recognize what a boring subject ancestry can be, especially when you’re talking about someone else’s family, but I think if you’ll stick with me here, you’ll see that it’s worth the read. 

Honestly, when I started looking into my family’s history, I didn’t really have much interest in genealogy at all, but I took on a project following the death of my Grandma (who raised me and was really my mother).  I wanted to do something to honor her which would also help me deal with my grief.  She was really proud of her parents and siblings, so this seemed like the logical choice.  First, I researched and then designed a book that showed both Grandma and Granddaddy’s heritage and how each branch of their families relocated and such until the stars aligned for the two of them to meet.  Most of Grandma’s family started in England and made their way to North Carolina.  Many of Granddaddy’s family originated right here in America since his mother was half-Cherokee, and I picked up their trail in South Carolina.

The cover of the book I made

Grandma and Granddaddy met as teenagers in a small town in North Florida where she was born and had been raised and near the town where he was born and had been raised.  During my lifetime, neither of them seemed to know a whole lot about their own ancestors past the names of their grandparents.  That’s why this first cool thing I’m about to share makes me particularly sad that they aren’t alive anymore for me to show them…

I found numerous documents backing up the trail of where each family had originated and moved further south through the generations… And that’s when one particular document seemed familiar while I was researching her family… Because I had already seen it when I researched his family!  Turns out that Granddaddy’s mother’s father’s father’s father and Grandma’s mother’s father’s father were both residents of a small town in Georgia in the 1830s, and both were Privates in the same regiment under the same Captain in the Indian Wars there!

(Of course, it goes without saying, I don’t like the injustice to the indigenous people, and I don’t even understand it considering Granddaddy’s mother was half-indigenous herself, but how cool is it that their ancestors knew each other!)

(To add to the weird coincidences found throughout history, when I later did research for my next-door neighbor and made her family’s genealogy book, I found documentation where her 3x great grandfather sold land to my 4x great grandfather —  in a city approximately 200 miles from where we both live!)

Finally, growing up, I always knew Grandma – whose maiden name was Milton – was related to John Milton the poet (born in 1608), and we also knew she was not a direct descendant of the poet.  I was able to crack the code and find documentation to show how we’re related – with Grandma being the poet’s first cousin 9 times removed.  (That’s not the cool thing yet.)  Turns out the poet’s paternal grandfather had one son that was the poet’s dad, one son that was Grandma’s 9th great grandfather, and one son that was among those missing in the lost Roanoke Colony.  (Still not the cool thing yet.)

John Milton, the poet

Now, fast forward from 1608 to 1807 when another John Milton was born in Georgia.  This John Milton ended up being the fifth Governor of Florida during most of the Civil War.  (He was a very prejudiced man and killed himself upon learning that the South lost.)  Several sources claim this John Milton was a direct descendant of the poet John Milton, though I’ve also found some conflicting documents that seem to indicate he was actually the 5th great grandson of the brother (that was also Grandma’s direct ancestor) of the poet’s father.  At any rate, I think you can imagine that either way, we’re going back as many as ten generations from Grandma’s children to wherever they and the Governor John Milton’s family meshes together.  (Now we’re finally going to see the other cool thing.)

Which is why it’s so strange that being separated by a few hundred years, a couple of continents, and a few generations, Grandma’s son, my own Uncle David, is the living doppelganger to the aforementioned governor!  What do you think?

The governor is on the left and Uncle David is on the right.  The truth is, if Uncle David wasn’t wearing the hat, his hair and hairline at the time he was that age also looked exactly like the governor’s, but the only other non-hat photos I had of him at that age were of his profile.

(I have to admit, as strange as this is, I can’t take credit for actually discovering it.  Uncle David was up at the Florida State Capitol Building and, while waiting for his wife, stood in the corridor minding his business when some tourists came up to him and wanted to shake his hand.  They told him what a magnificent actor the state had selected in portraying the former governor.  Uncle David was perplexed until he looked over his shoulder and realized he was standing directly in front of a portrait of his cousin the governor.)

Let’s talk:  Do you know of any unrelated people who met long before their descendants also met?  Do you have any family members who look just like another distant family member?  Do you think Uncle David should try to pick up some extra income standing around the State Capitol building portraying the former governor? 

Snakes Alive!

Greetings, friends.  Happy Throwback Thursday!  As promised, I’m back to share another of my life’s crazy adventures that happened during my time away (which, since I’ve been off the grid a while, I guess technically counts as a Throwback).  Do you remember the movie “Snakes on a Plane?”  Well, my story’s title would be better suited as “Snakes in a Drain… and Frogs in a Toilet.”

Sister Michelle, Son Jeremy, and I purchased a house in mid-2017.  It’s a 4/3, so we each have our own bathroom.  It’s a wonderful house in a great neighborhood, but the previous owners didn’t necessarily do all the upkeep required, so we’ve been running into several problems that we’ve had to fix right away with little notice.  That being said, when we encounter another unexpected issue, we just kind of palm smack our foreheads and shrug our shoulders, because from what all we’ve already encountered, we know we shouldn’t be surprised.  When we moved in, one of the first things I did was replace all the weatherstripping around every door because for some reason, they all looked like a dog had teethed on them!

My bedroom and bathroom are an en suite, so they have a door between them and both also have doors that lead outside to the pool.  My rooms were also added on ten years later than the rest of the house was built, so we often find that certain things were constructed differently than the rest of the house.

Now, keep in mind that I live in The Swamp Florida, and in this humid subtropical environment, we have a lot of reptiles, amphibians, and just creepy, scaly, slimy things that are supposed to live outside who often try to get inside.  In my house, I’m the resident lizard / frog / *snake / and other creepy thing catcher, and when we get one of these critters where it doesn’t belong, I usually try to catch the displaced visitor and relocate them back outside.  (*I don’t mind snakes if I know what kind they are, if they are babies, or if they are someone’s pet.  Otherwise, no I don’t go out of my way to catch adult snakes, I turn and run like any other terrified red-blooded lady.  Also, I won’t touch mice or rats unless they’re someone’s pet.)

So, one night, while the rest of the house was asleep, I was up late reading.  When I was ready to get to sleep, I made a last trip to the restroom and as soon as I flipped on the light, I spotted a sizeable (about a third the size of my fist) frog sitting on the toilet seat!  Figuring it squeezed in under the door from the pool area, I tried to catch it, but it kept jumping every time I got close.  I opened the outside door, hoping I could just chase it out, but the little booger jumped into the toilet!  It was late, I was tired, and I didn’t feel like chasing it around any longer, so I murdered flushed it!  I felt bad that things turned out that way, but I figured it would survive and end up somewhere in the sewer where it could find its way to freedom.

The incident all but forgotten, it was about a week later when I was dealing with a particularly painful Lupus flare and I made a late-night trip to the restroom.  If I’ve already been asleep, I don’t usually turn on the light, but I heard a noise, and something told me to flip the switch.  There was another frog perched on the toilet seat, and this one was larger than my comfort zone to catch.  (He was about three-fourths the size of my fist.)  I was exhausted, in pain, and in no mood to break my neck trying to play hero.  I opened the back door and intended to either catch it on the first try or just quickly shoo it outside and get back to bed.  As I went to grab it, he jumped straight into the hole at the bottom of the toilet!  So, with no remorse this time, I flushed it.

The next morning, I realized that there was a pattern going on here that I didn’t particularly care for, so I Googled “frogs coming up out of my toilet” to see if indeed that may have been what happened.  Since I had recently replaced the weatherstripping, I found it hard to believe that two sizable frogs might be able to get inside through my door.  One might be a fluke, but two in a week’s time was had to swallow.  What I found on Google was that my late-night visitors did not likely come up thought my toilet from the sewer, but that they came down through my toilet from the roof!  Yes, apparently, those aluminum pipes that stick out of the roof on most houses have a purpose:  They are gateways for amphibians to get into your house to regulate air pressure in the house’s pipes.  Who knew?  They suggested that I cover the opening with a piece of something called a “hardware cloth” which isn’t a cloth at all, but is a wire mesh thing.  I went out that afternoon and bought some, and now, several months later, I’m just waiting for my son to install it for me.  But I guess just having it on hand did the trick, because after that, no more frogs.

Fast forward a few weeks.  My lawn service did something that broke open a large piece of PVC pipe in my yard, right outside my bathroom window.  They told me right away and said they would be back to fix it later that week.  As promised, they were back within a few days and fixed it as good as new.  No problem.  Or so I thought.

A few more weeks passed, and again, I was dealing with the Lupus flare from hell, so I didn’t feel like even combing my hair, much less playing critter whisperer.  I was using the restroom one evening, when I happened to notice a black hair tie on the floor by the sink.  I knew if I didn’t pick it up, one of my cats would end up trying to eat it.  But I hurt too much to bend over or kneel down.  So, as I washed my hands, I attempted to pick up the hair band with my toe.  And then it moved.  And then I kicked, and the hair tie was flung across the room and started flopping around.    And then I screamed like a little girl.  And then Michelle and Jeremy came running.  And then the hair tie started sidewinding.  And then Michelle and Jeremy screamed.  While in hindsight, I realize it was just a baby black racer snake, at the time, it was not where it belonged, and the shock of the hair tie coming to life and slithering around in my bathroom when I didn’t feel well was too much to handle.  So, without thinking, I bent down, grabbed it, flung it into the toilet, and flushed!

(In retrospect, I think it looks like I probably spend a lot more time in the bathroom than I actually do!)  I didn’t immediately think of the previously open hole in the PVC pipe, but I did reprimand Jeremy for not getting around to putting that hardware cloth up yet (though the large holes in the hardware cloth mesh wouldn’t have likely prevented that small of a snake from coming in anyway).  I figured my newest visitor must have been blown up on the roof by the wind.

All was forgotten until a few days later when I was cleaning the kitchen.  Now, of course we have a dishwasher, but when there aren’t many dishes, I prefer to just hand wash them in the right sink and let them dry in the left sink.  I put away the clean dishes, removed the dish drainer, and scrubbed the sinks.  Then I popped out the left side drain strainer to wash it, and that’s when I noticed another baby snake stuck to it!  I gasped shrieked and tossed it into the right sink where it did this creepy sidewindery thing, and before I could think any calm thoughts, I turned on the water and washed it down the garbage disposal!  And then chopped it up in the disposal for a good 40 seconds.

I felt bad that I overreacted and didn’t try to save it, but by then, I was really starting to get skeeved out by all the vermin attempting to share my home!  I immediately went to Google and identified the snake, and that’s when I learned that black racers lay around 20 eggs at a time.  I realized then that the mama must have found her way into my broken PVC pipe and that I could soon expect about 18 more visitors!

I called my plumber and told him snakes were coming out from my drain, and he said that was pretty much impossible.  Then I explained about the broken PVC pipe and that I figured on seeing 18 more of them, and that’s when he told me my best bet was to get a shotgun or learn how to run fast.  I told him I’m a Democrat, so I don’t do guns, and that with my Lupus being hot, I wasn’t running anywhere quickly.  So, he wished me good luck, and I was on my own again.  I ended up boiling several pots of water and pouring them down each sink and shower drain, then I loaded a heaping amount of vinegar and baking soda down each drain, then, for good measure, I poured a good amount of lye from my soap-making business down each drain.  (I believe I can now win the Cleanest Drains in the Neighborhood Award.)

Thankfully, since then, other than the occasional lizard, salamander, or tree frog that sneaks in through the front door sometimes, we haven’t had any more surprise visitors, though I do expect PETA will be giving me a call soon and revoking my request for membership.

Let’s talk:  What kind of wildlife do you encounter inside your house?  When that happens, do you catch it and take it back outside, kill it immediately with no regrets, or scream and run?  Did you know that the toilet plumbing vents out the roof of your house?

 

#LupusAwareness

A Picture’s Worth…

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words…  I hope that’s true, because for today’s Throwback Thursday, I’ve got nothin’!  Actually, I’m so busy at work, I’ve barely had time to breathe, much less do anything fun.  If any of you have noticed me missing on the Blogfront, that’s why.  (I promise to be back soon and catch up reading and commenting on all of your blogs, as well as my own.)  But in the meantime, for today’s TBT, presented for your approval are some old and not-so-old photos I took them with the thought of doing something with them someday…  I guess today’s that day, and this is the something…

Time to talk:  Which photo do you like the best and why?

‘Tis the Season

I bet from my title, you can already guess the theme of today’s Throwback Thursday.  However, you might still be wondering how I plan on incorporating that into something currently happening in my life.

When I was a kid, the best Christmases were of course the ones where I got the best presents.  The year I turned two was a great Christmas.  Three days after my birthday, Santa came and left me a purple tricycle, a green desk that was a chalkboard on the top and a flip-open magnetic board inside, and my favorite Raggedy Ann doll that I carried everywhere until about three years later when my dog ate her head.

Three days after I turned eight was also terrific, because that year, I got two baby dolls instead of just one!  I wasn’t much of a Barbie girl, but I loved playing babies.  However, I never kept their names that came on the boxes.  I don’t know if you can read these dolls’ boxes or not, but the big one’s name was Fran, and the little one’s name was Agatha!  YIKES!  Those sounded more like grandmother dolls than baby dolls.  Their names were immediately changed to Heidi (from the book by the sane name), and – get this – Phronsie (from the book Five Little Peppers and How They Grew)!  Yes, really!  What was I thinking?

These days, the best Christmases are the ones where I can afford to get my kids tons of gifts, get my friends something nice, actually pull off all the surprises I have planned, and have the rest of the day to do something relaxing.

So why did I choose to talk about Christmas today?  Because today, I’m actually busy directing and producing six commercials that I wrote for my boss, and one of them is a Christmas ad.  That means that despite the 90° that feels like 113° (UGH!), last weekend, I spent both days actually shopping for Christmas items to use (Yes, Hobby Lobby actually has a lot of their Christmas stuff out already!) and putting up two Christmas trees.

We’re also filming a Thanksgiving commercial, so my sister Michelle has been doing tons of holiday baking this week.  And we’re filming Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day commercials, so I got to make a “Memory Wall” which I can’t wait to photograph and share with you.  And the two remaining commercials are not for holidays.

So, tell me, how are you spending your day?  What’s the earliest you’ve ever cooked a Thanksgiving meal or put up and decorated a Christmas tree?  What’s the earliest you’ve ever shopped for holiday decorations?

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…  No, wait; that’s Star Wars.  For today’s Throwback Thursday, I’m not going that far away… or that far back in time.

Back in January, I showed you the photos of my new couches.  Since then, my sister Michelle and I have been redecorating the entire house.  In the living room, we’re going for a late 1950s/early 1960s inspired theme, so we got a couple of funky rugs with wavy lines for the living room and foyer.

I’ve also been going through my Grandma’s old 50s/60s vases to sit around the room.  What’s so frustrating to me is that even though her favorite color was green, and my living room’s main color is green, she apparently had every other color vase but green!  This is so aggravating!

So, I’ve now amassed a nice collection of vases to store in my closet, and still have nothing for the living room.  Grrr!   I’ll keep you posted as we go along…

Time to talk:  Have you ever redecorated a whole house at once, or do you take it one room at a time?  How often do you redecorate?

Olé!

Since yesterday was my sister Michelle’s birthday, for today’s Throwback Thursday, I’ll tell you what happened a few years ago on a different birthday of hers.  Michelle lived in Virginia at the time, and drove to Florida with a friend who dropped her off with me, so the two of us could travel to New Orleans for some concerts that we were photographing.

The day her friend dropped her off was also her birthday, so I made arrangements for them to meet me at our favorite Mexican restaurant where I had several people on hand for a little surprise party.

We pulled off the surprise just fine, and Michelle was even more surprised when the restaurant wait staff brought her a huge sombrero to wear while they sang “Happy Birthday” then left the hat with her so we could all get photos.

But the surprise was on them when afterward, Michelle walked out to my car wearing the expensive sombrero!  I was mortified!  “Why’d you take that?” I asked her as I hid my face in embarrassment.

She shrugged her shoulders.  “I dunno.  They gave it to me for my birthday.”

When I explained that it was not a gift from the restaurant, she was equally as embarrassed!

—–

Michelle & Me

Speaking of embarrassing restaurant birthday traditions, last night, I arranged for a bunch of friends to meet us at the Roadhouse where, unbeknownst to any of us, the staff brought a saddle mounted on a sawhorse to the table, made Michelle mount it while they sang, and forced her to swing a napkin in a circle over her head while the whole restaurant gave her a rousingly loud, “Yee Haw!”

Now THAT was funny!  (And no, she didn’t try to keep the saddle… or the napkin.)

She said it was only slightly less embarrassing than the time we took her to Bubba Gump’s for her birthday a few years back and they made her stand on a table and hold sparklers while the staff sang and danced around the table.

Talk to me:  What’s the most embarrassing restaurant birthday tradition you’ve ever witnessed?  What’s your favorite restaurant to visit on your birthday?

The Gator at Sam’s Club

Can you believe how North Carolina had eight (severe) shark attacks in just three short weeks?  I’ve been going to the beach regularly my whole life, but this makes me seriously reconsider my pastime.

I think the thing that is really frightening is that all of these attacks were in shallow water.  I mean, who’d have ever thought that a shark large enough to sever a limb would – or even could – be swimming in three feet of water?

So, with all these shark attacks in the news, it got me thinking about other creatures with big, sharp teeth that lurk in water, and of course, my mind came to alligators.

Today’s Throwback Thursday tale won’t be from the Way-Back Vault, but rather, it’s something that happened not too long ago.  Remember last month when I told you about What Happens in Florida Stays in Florida, and in that post, I mentioned my recent sighting of the alligator at Sam’s Club?  I told you then that that was a story for another day… and today’s the day.

Now, in case you didn’t realize it, Florida is actually a giant swamp.  (Yes, really.)  A lot of the state used to be under water (even in my lifetime), until engineers devised a way to fill in the water holes and build on them.  Unfortunately, that’s one of the reasons we have so many sinkholes here.  So, per our state’s law, when someone builds a structure on what used to be swampland, they must provide a certain square footage of watershed on the property.  As such, we have watersheds in front of just about every commercial property I can think of.  (Some people might refer to a watershed as a retention pond.)

A couple of years ago, I dropped my sister off at Walmart then I drove around the parking lot until she was ready.  During the few minutes she was inside, I drove by a ditch (which was not their official watershed) that had filled with rainwater, and I noticed something moving.  Now, keep in mind that this ditch was three feet away from the parking lot!  Well, if you guessed the thing I saw was a gator, you’d be correct.  A small alligator, about five feet long, crawled out of the ditch and walked in front of my car!

(That’s where my friends up North usually gasp in horror, but it’s actually not that uncommon.)  I sped back to the front of the store to pick up my sister so she could see, but by the time we got back, we just saw his tail as he was going back into the water.  Unfortunately, it was nighttime, so the photo I took didn’t turn out.

Anyway, my point is that when I have friends visit from somewhere other than Florida, if they want to see an alligator, I generally point them to Walmart or Sam’s Club where I see them most often.  Which brings us to today’s story…

Sam’s Club & Watershed

A couple of months ago, Michelle and I were at Sam’s Club.  As we pulled in the parking lot and past the watershed, we spied a large alligator (about 13 feet long).  I thought it would be cool to blog about it if I could get a decent photo, so we parked and started walking to the watershed for a closer look.  (Don’t worry, it was fenced in.)  As we crossed the aisle in the parking lot, the gator was sunning himself on the far bank.  He was quite handsome and regal with the sun glinting off his fangs back.  I was so excited to be able to get a good photo of such a large reptile.

Can you see him in the water?So as we neared the fence, the sun was shining something fierce.  It just so happened that we both looked down for only a split second because it was so blindingly bright, and when we both looked back up, our gator was gone!  Not only had he run quite a distance to get back into the safety of his watery home, but there weren’t even any ripples in the water where he entered!

How about now?Seriously, it wasn’t more than two seconds that we each looked down, and he had to have traveled 30 feet to get to the water’s edge!  I was of course overcome with disappointment that I couldn’t get a good photo, but more than that, I was amazed at how quickly and stealthily he moved!  It sure made me appreciate that chain link fence between us that much more!

So to conclude, I apologize that I didn’t get any good photos of my friend, but so that I don’t leave you empty handed,  I’ll instead share a photo of a creature I took at Blue Springs a couple of years ago:

At Blue Springs

Let’s talk:  Would you be comfortable with only a fence between you and a 13 foot long reptile in the wild?  Do large creatures reside outside your Walmart?  Did you have a clue alligators could move so quickly?