Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot….

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

I hope all y’all had a wonderful, blessed Christmas holiday. I can honestly say this was one of my best, if not the best! Surrounded by my kids. Followed some of our old traditions, started some new ones, and created some lasting memories. This Christmas was about the moments… our time together. Love, laughter, fun. My younger daughter and I made gingerbread houses with the some very special children who are finding their way through their first Christmas without their Momma. They are so loving to each other, and are loved by so many. They are blessed, and were a blessing to us.

Since my younger daughter was working at the vineyard Saturday, we decided to go visit her and have a wine tasting before watching the Carolina game back at my house (thank heavens we won!). Christmas Eve my older daughter and I got up early for a run. It was COLD y’all, but as I have said before, this child is the only one who can get me out running in bitterly cold weather. It was a great start to the day. I love running with her! We all went to a couple of breweries and ended up at one for lunch. Had our traditional Christmas Eve dinner followed by communion and a candlelight service at church, and ended with a late night of watching Christmas movies. Christmas morning started with another COLD but sunny run (to counteract all the eating!), brunch, and presents. Santa was very good to us this year. We spent Christmas afternoon in front of the fire, watching Christmas movies and working a puzzle, a BIG puzzle. Finished with a wonderful Christmas dinner. The best part of Christmas was being surrounded by my kids and watching them with each other – they have so much fun together. My heart is full and I am so very thankful for all the blessings in my life. There are many.

“The love of a family is life’s greatest blessing.”

Once my children left the day after Christmas, I was ready to move on in preparation for the new year. Remember, I start celebrating Christmas early, before Thanksgiving, so as soon as my children said goodbye, I was ready to say goodbye to this wonderful season. I packed up my Christmas sweaters (sadly) and put my house back in order. There was so much food to freeze! Recently, my sister looked in my fridge and said “this is so empty!” Well, it is packed to the gills now. I won’t cook for weeks!  I’ll take down my tree and put all my decorations back in their bins this weekend. I like to start the new year clean and clear!

“Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new beginning.” Carl Bard

And here are the final 5 days of the 25 Days of Christmas Sweaters. I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did.

Speaking of which, next Monday brings in the New Year – 2018! WOW! Do you feel as if the years are flying by!?!? Are you ready to say goodbye to 2017?  The older I get, the quicker the years pass. Actually, I was anxious to say goodbye to 2016 and was happy to see it go. But not now. 2017 was a pretty good year for me. I am so much better off today than I was one year ago. Are you? I have come a L-O-N-G way this year. Now I am ready to enjoy each day to its fullest, to see what is in store for me. I am not going into 2018 with any baggage from 2017. Truly, I believe the best is yet to come! So, COME ON BEST! (Remember I am not patient!)

What does the new year mean to you? What are you looking forward to in 2018? What do you think 2018 will hold for you? I always see a new year as a new start. I am looking forward to much happiness in 2018. Trips to the beach (my favorite place) as often as I can. Special times spent with my kids and family. I want to read more books, one of my favorite past times. I want to learn to knit. I am going to take even better care of myself, because I am responsible for ME. Plus I am not getting any younger! I am going to remember all the lessons I learned from becoming SOLO, but plan to leave all the heartache behind. Truly, I am looking so forward to 2018 and hope you are as well. Remember, you have yet to see your best days!

“What the new year brings to you will greatly depend on what you bring to the new year.”

What are your plans for celebrating New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day? Can you stay up and usher in the new year? Have you ever celebrated in NYC, watching the ball drop? I have not and really have never had the desire to! I have to admit, I prefer a quiet New Year’s Eve. Remember, it is just a day and tomorrow you will wake up and start a new day. And a new year!

“And suddenly you know…It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.”

My advice to my kids for 2018, which I will share with you:

  1. Be thankful for all you have. “There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.” Sometimes it is harder to find, but it is there. Look for it every day.
  2. Be kind. Practice one random act of kindness every day. Every day.
  3. Be honest. Tell the truth. “You never have to remember anything if you tell the truth.”
  4. Don’t wait for life to happen. Go out there and find/make your own happiness. You are solely responsible for your happiness, only you.
  5. Take responsibility for your actions. When you have done something wrong, admit it and make it right.
  6. Stop worrying about what might go wrong and think positively about what will go right.
  7. Let go of negativity. No one wants to be around someone who is negative. Look for the sunshine!
  8. Do something new. Learn something new. Try something new. It is a NEW year after all!
  9. Trust that God’s plan for you is wonderful. Have faith.
  10. Spend time with your loved ones, because as we all know, none of us is promised tomorrow.

So remember… next Monday is the first day of a new year. As Brad Paisley says it “is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.”

Happy New Year Y’all!  See you next year!

Best,

Leslie

 

Morning Star, thy glory bright… (Morning Star, A Moravian Carol 1657)

Morning Star, thy glory bright, far excels the sun’s clear light.

Jesus be, constantly,

More than thousand suns to me. (Morning Star, verse 2)

Welcome Back to SOLO at SIXTY

“Morning Star” is a hymn that is sung by the Youth Choir at the Moravian Church Christmas Candlelight Lovefeast Service while flickering, lighted beeswax candles are passed around to everyone in the congregation. For me, Christmas is not complete without this service, which is why we plan our family Christmas celebration in Winston-Salem, so that we can attend this special service. The Christmas music, the Lovefeast buns (no beef included!), the Moravian coffee (brewed with cream and sugar – only coffee I drink all year!), and the lighted beeswax candles, trimmed in red crepe paper make this service the epitome of the Christmas season. The New Philadelphia Moravian Church women make and trim our beeswax candles. The beeswax represents the purity of Christ, the red crepe paper wrapped around the candle (to prevent dripping wax) represents the blood of Christ, and the lighted candle represents the Light of Christ. While the Youth Choir sings “Morning Star”, the church lights are dimmed and lighted candles are passed out to everyone. During the last verse of the final hymn, the congregation stands and raises the lighted candles to signify our faith and love for one another.

My family has attended this service at Christmas for as long as I can remember. This year was no different. I’ll never forget the time my very stylish grandmother Isabel was with us for Lovefeast and had her Moravian bun sitting daintily on her knee while drinking her coffee and listening to the choir sing. Well, she crossed her legs and OOPS, there goes her bun, rolling down the aisle to the front of the church until it hit the wall and fell over. My sisters and I about died laughing but my grandmother and mother were mortified! There was also the year my daughter was Baby Jesus in the nativity, as she was the youngest baby in the church that year – 1 month old. We don’t let her forget that! Oh how wonderful Christmas is!

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”  Edith Wharton

When I think of Christmas, I think of lights. I love all the Christmas lights not only on my tree and in my house, but also in my neighbor’s windows, on their trees, in every church and business, along the roadways, on the downtown mall, everywhere you look. Christmas lights up our lives, giving us hope. Two weeks ago, my lovely neighborhood had its Luminary night. We placed luminaries along our sidewalks (3 feet apart) throughout the neighborhood. It was a beautiful and breath-taking sight gazing down our street and seeing all the lights. What a feeling of comfort and joy.

Before I moved to Charlottesville 20 years ago, a group of neighborhood friends and I would meet and walk and talk (imagine that!) in our neighborhood every evening at 8:30 after getting our kids to bed. We loved walking in December because our neighborhood, which had no street lights, was illuminated by all the Christmas lights. We did not need our flashlights. Light flooded our path. OH I loved those walks. We solved many worldly problems on those walks!

“Simply shine your light on the road ahead, and you are helping others to see their way out of darkness.”  Katrina Mayer

Don’t you love that feeling when you’ve put all the Christmas lights on your tree and you plug them in? “Let there be light!” You look in wonderment and excitement at your beautiful Christmas tree. The lights transform the tree. I use many strands of miniature lights, but also add 4 strands of the BIG clear bulbs which really make my tree sparkle. I love the effect of the combination of smaller and bigger lights. There is no such thing as too many lights!

light 25
My tree of lights!

Speaking of candlelight, I recently visited Montpelier (Home of James and Dolley Madison) for their candlelight Christmas tour. Though the period decorations were very simple and sparse, the house was beautiful in its Christmas glory, illuminated by candlelight. And what fun it was visiting with the hosts, James and Dolley, in their period clothing talking with us as if we were in the year 1794, their first Christmas in their first year of marriage. Candlelight and firelight was their source of light. And it was enough.

“Let your light shine so brightly that others can see their way out of the dark.”

Tomorrow is the shortest day of the year… remember back on June 21st when I wrote about that being my favorite day as it is the longest day, but sad in that the following days begin to shorten. Well, December 21st is a happy day for me as well, because, not only is Christmas only 4 days away, but each day we will be gaining 1 minute of light. And as of January 7th, we’ll be treated to 2 more minutes of light daily! Why do we love and need the light so much? No one wants to be in darkness. Everything and everyone is drawn towards light, just like a moth.

When I became SOLO, I went through a very dark time. But the light re-entered my life through the love and support of my children, family, friends and co-workers. I discovered that I have a lot of light to share with others. We all do. And we need to share that light.

“Believe in your own light, your own strength, and you will be the light and inspiration for others to do the same.”

Before I end, I want to tell you what a wonderful weekend I had! Saturday was my Granddawg Paige’s first birthday pawty in Richmond. My younger daughter and I went to the pawty and from there to Newport News to see our friends from KY and their newest grandbaby. What a blessing! Babies (and dogs) bring such light into our lives. Just look at the glow of a new mom. Sunday my daughters and I traveled to NC and met my son to share Christmas with Mom and my entire family. It was so much fun and ended with the Christmas Candlelight Lovefeast. Even though we did not get back to VA until very late (or early you might say), it was so worth it. Spending time with those we love and cherish cannot be replaced.

light 17
My family… Oh how I love these people! Merry Christmas!

I also want to share with you Days 14-20 of my 25 Days of Christmas Sweaters. I hope to put a smile on your face with my treasured collection of beautiful (NOT tacky) Christmas Sweaters! I am looking so forward to spending this Christmas with my kids and hope you too are celebrating with those most precious in your life.

Let your light shine for others to see and experience. Cherish the time with those you love, because as we all know, none of us is promised tomorrow.

I wish for you all a Happy Hanukkah today, and a blessed and Merry Christmas next Monday,

-Leslie

“I’ll be home for Christmas… You can plan on me…” (Bing Crosby, 1943)

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

Don’t you love those old Christmas songs? I do! Remember Christmas when you were a kid? The magic of the season? Looking through the Sears catalog (or Toys”R”Us for you younger folks) and dreaming of having all the special toys in the pictures. The anticipation of Santa’s arrival. On Christmas morning my kids would wake up and wait at the top of the stairs together before coming down to see what Santa left for them. They waited so that Mom (me) could get the video camera set up and record their first sight of Christmas. I treasured those moments and wanted to capture them forever. My Christmas joy. Santa did not wrap presents at our house, but left them by the hearth in line with each kid’s stocking, just like he did for my sisters and me when we were kids. However, I had some explaining to do since Santa DID wrap all the presents at our next-door neighbor’s house, where my son’s best friend lived. I told him our neighbor requested that of Santa, and somehow he believed it!

One year, my son and my next door neighbor’s son (both named Michael!) left Santa matching letters that all they wanted for Christmas was a tunnel between our houses so they could go back and forth all the time. (Like they didn’t do that already?!?!) So my neighbor and I wrote letters from Santa to the boys explaining why Santa could not build the tunnel that year. We used the same ink pen, paper, and I think only one of us wrote both letters – same handwriting. They fell for it hook, line and sinker! I loved playing Santa for my kids, keeping the Christmas magic alive for them.

“The love in our family flows strong and deep, leaving us memories to treasure and keep.”

Life is so simple for children who find Christmas joy easily. But we grow up and life happens. We become parents, have stressful jobs, and try to make it through each day, thinking, “if only there were more hours in the day.” And sometimes life throws us curve balls. As adults, we have to try a little harder than children to find that joy. But it is definitely there! I have always found joy in my Christmas traditions. As you know, I am not a big fan of change, so traditions followed us each year, especially at Christmas. But they were all fun and meaningful.

“The most treasured heirlooms are the sweet memories of our family that we pass down to our children.”

I went to a Christmas party 25 years ago in NC where the host family had decorated gingerbread houses. I saw how much fun this could be and decided I would do this with my family. I went home and made gingerbread houses for my kids to decorate and it soon became one of our most fun traditions at Christmas. All the kids decorated one, even the youngest in a high chair. Many years we invited friends and neighbors to join in. My children were very creative  and competitive in decorating their houses with ponds, sleighs, fire logs, wreaths, Christmas trees, snowmen… you name it! We used all sorts of candies (saved their Halloween candy every year) and always looked at candy as possible decorating material. Once their masterpiece was complete, I would sift powdered sugar over their creation as we all sang “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…” We decorated gingerbread houses through their college years. Last year, I continued this tradition with a very special group of children who were also experiencing a shake up in their family during the holiday season. What fun we had! We are going to do it again this year, and for many years to come.

GB Houses
Masterpiece Gingerbread houses with our neighbors…1997.

It was tradition that I got a new Christmas sweater each year. Many for my birthday (in November) and always one for the Christmas party my neighbor and I hosted for 15 years to kick off the Christmas season, get the ladies in our neighborhood together, and benefit a charity. I have quite a collection! And I have been sporting my collection each day since December 1st: “The 25 Days of Christmas Sweaters.” Here are this past week’s joyous sweaters!

 

Our family always sponsored children from an Angel tree at Christmas. This was a fun project for the kids when they were young, to shop for gifts for our “Angels”. I tried to choose children close to the ages of my kids. They got to “help” Santa and provide Christmas magic for someone else. It was a good reminder to them that there are many people less fortunate than they were. I continue this tradition each year.

When we were living in NC, Christmas breakfast at my sister’s house was the main event on Christmas day. Country ham, eggs, grits, pancakes, Moravian sugarcake, and fruit. And presents! (Does it get any better than that?!) I hosted Christmas dinner. Also fun! Once we moved to VA and stopped traveling for Christmas, we continued with a big traditional breakfast and Christmas dinner, all on Christmas china.

“Family, like branches on a tree, grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.”

Last year, my first Christmas SOLO, my kids and I found ourselves looking to our traditions and each other for stability in our changing family life. So we had our traditional Christmas Eve dinner followed by church. We watched old Christmas movies till very late. But Christmas morning, they did not wait at the top of the stairs and let me videotape them! No, my older daughter and I went for a very early morning run and returned to wake up the others and have our traditional breakfast and open presents. My daughter and son-in- law went to his family for lunch and we all met back at my house for our traditional Christmas dinner. It was a wonderful Christmas with lots of fun, laughter, and love. No tears.

Today is my Granddawg Paige’s first birthday!  Happy Birthday sweet Paige! (Named after the great UNC basketball player, Marcus Paige!) Looking forward to her birthday pawty this weekend!

Granddawg Paige
My Granddawg Paige on her First Birthday!

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…”

As we head into the final weeks before Christmas, look for traditions to rediscover or start in your family. Find your Christmas magic and share it. I plan to continue my traditions with my children. And I am thankful to be able to spend this weekend with my whole family, the people most important in my life, as we celebrate Christmas early and attend the candlelight Lovefeast at our home church, following our family traditions and making special memories. Try to spend time with those you love this Christmas season, because as we all know, none of us is promised tomorrow.

Merrily,

Leslie

 

“Christmas time is here… “(A Charlie Brown Christmas, 1965)

“Happiness and cheer, fun for all, that children call, their favorite time of year…”

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

Christmas is definitely in the air. It is my favorite time of year. Yes, I love summer, but the excitement of Christmas is unparalleled. The smell of fresh Christmas trees, the beautiful decorations and lights, 25 days of Christmas sweaters (I began sporting my Christmas sweaters on December 1st and will continue until Christmas – see below), the holiday music, the wonderment on the faces of children seeing Santa, the frenzy of shoppers searching for that perfect gift. The panic of parents getting to the gym first thing and remembering “Oh Heck! Elfie needs to be moved before the kids wake up!”  (Elf on the Shelf)

“We miss something if we don’t see Christmas through a child’s eyes.”  Rosemary M. Wixom

Did you hear there is a new Elf on the market? No joking, it is the Kindness Elf. Unlike Elf on the Shelf, this Elf makes an appearance each morning with a kindness mission for kids and families. For example: today open the door for someone, make cookies for an elderly neighbor, sing Christmas carols at a nursing home. What better way to raise children in kindness? Also, Kindness Elf suggests fun things for families to do together such as piling in the car in your jammies to go look at Christmas Lights, dinner at a fun restaurant (no, not that fast food one again!), hot chocolate and ice skating. All to spotlight kindness and magic at Christmas time.

“Just remember, the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart.”  Santa Clause, Polar Express

I was at the mall this week and stopped to watch the children with Santa. There was a LONG line. I remembered standing in those lines. The Santa was a decent one, but geez, I have seen some Santas that I thought might have been pulled right off the street! Once I changed my mind about having my kids visit Santa at the mall after taking one look at him! Have you seen any like that? However, I loved taking my kids to see Santa when they were little, hoping to get that perfect picture for the grandparents. Most of the time, this was done at our church’s preschool where the REAL SANTA made an appearance. (Just look at Santa in the pictures below.) Depending on their age, the kids were either terrified of Santa or not interested in him at all, or they loved him and hammed it up for a great picture (and a candy cane).

My adorable great-nephew went to see Santa last weekend and was not impressed. My friend’s beautiful and spunky daughter also visited Santa and again, she was not buying it. I remember my son reacting the same way his first time. Now mind you, both of these precious children are only a year old and have not even made their Christmas lists yet! Just give them time. Soon they’ll run to see Santa with their lists and will be on their best behavior all of December (especially if Elf on the Shelf is watching!).

Don’t you wish you had created Elf on the Shelf?!? $$$ This was not around when my kids were young, but everyone I know with young children has one (or more!). Maybe adults need the Elf. Both the Kindness Elf and the “behavior” Elf. Actually, Elf is at my office. Yes, “Jingles the Elf” is hidden daily and the team member who finds him wins a prize for the day (we are all searching feverishly for it now!). Mind you, prizes are not behavior based (thank heavens!), and they sure are fun! Honestly, I don’t think most adults need the Elf at Christmas. This is the one time of year when people seem to be the most generous – volunteering and donating to more causes, attending church (you know the C&E attendees, Christmas and Easter, but hey, they are there!), going out of their way to brighten the holidays for those less fortunate. And people seem to generally be merry. Yet it is also a chaotic and stressful time with so many parties, baking, searching for presents, wrapping those presents, worrying about paying for those presents come January, and trying to do too much each day. With my new SOLO status and lifestyle, my life has become much less stressful during the holidays. There are less presents to search for, less family functions to attend. I discovered that stress is mostly self-created and I decided I would change direction and make the holidays more meaningful and joyful and less stressful. How? Less decorating for one. Two years ago I had 36 bins of Christmas decorations that I put out, this year only 8 bins, 2 which are my famous Christmas sweaters! I purchase fewer presents, instead concentrating on 3 gifts for each of my children and gifts for my family that are fun and more meaningful. And I am finding more time to enjoy the season by attending special events – tomorrow night I am going to a holiday candlelight tour of James Madison’s Montpelier, this weekend is my neighborhood’s Luminary and holiday party night.  I have my kids, my family, and friends, and am truly blessed.

Christmas bins 2015
2015’s 36 Christmas bins! No longer…

“The holiday season is a perfect time to reflect on our blessings and seek out ways to make life better for those around us.” Terri Marshall

Christmas is not easy nor happy for everyone. It is a difficult time for those who have suffered losses. Grief doesn’t recognize holidays. And there is no time limit on grief. I know several families who will be spending this Christmas as the first without their loved ones. How can we help them through this holiday season? Remember their loved ones, share memories of them, cry with them, laugh with them, listen to them. Grief is real.

“Christmas… A season of blessing from heaven above, a season of sharing with all those we love, a season of caring, warmth and good cheer, a season of hope for the coming new year.”

It is also time to begin thinking about 2018. It will be here in 26 days y’all! Did you experience disappointment in 2017? Joy? Are you happy to say goodbye to 2017 and hello to 2018? What will you change in your life in 2018? What would make 2018 the happiest year for you so far? What challenges will you face in 2018? Start thinking about 2018… I am!

Santa Les
Anyone else have a Santa picture from Sears? 1961… me 4 years old!

Take time to enjoy the Christmas season each and every day. Choose events and functions that are truly meaningful to you. Look for blessings daily. And share this season with those you love, because as we all know, tomorrow is not promised to any of us.

Merrily,

Leslie

 

Oh Tannenbaum, Oh Tannenbaum…

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

I hope y’all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I did. I spent it with my family at the beach. Thanksgiving day was the first time I had seen my mom as a 60-year-old and her response was exactly as I had predicted. “Did you have a nice birthday?” “Yes, it was wonderful!” “How old are you now, 30’s?” (in all seriousness) “60.” “60?!? How can you be 60? How old am I?” “88.” “88?!? Are you sure? My hair is not white and I don’t have wrinkles. That smells bad (holding her nose for emphasis).” At this point, my son lost it with a mouthful of turkey. But that wasn’t all. Mom asked what we were going to do for the rest of the afternoon. “Well, we are taping the Carolina basketball game and going to watch it and probably take a nap. All this turkey is making me sleepy. It’s that Tryptophan.” “A trip to Japan?” I kid you not. We all lost it then. Mom is so entertaining! Bless her heart! (By the way, it is a myth that tryptophan, an amino acid found in turkey, makes you sleepy. However, is there anyone who is not sleepy after their Thanksgiving meal?!?)

“What we’re really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean why else would they call it Thanksgiving.” Erma Bombeck

Friday night was so much fun y’all! We all went down to the Marshwalk in Murrells Inlet for dinner. The Marshwalk, similar to a boardwalk at the beach, was covered with Christmas lights. It was so beautiful! We walked the length of the Marshwalk while waiting for our table. Last year we ate outside and though it was mild, it was not quite as warm this year. Our restaurant has a live band every weekend but we never know what kind of music they will play. We were seated on the porch where the band was setting up. I looked at my sister and said  “maybe they will play some oldies.” She was doubtful. We decided to stay and listen to a couple of songs.  Well… they opened up with songs from the Doobie Brothers, Al Green, Four Tops, Bruno Mars, Commodores, and yes the Temptations, but it was “September” by Earth Wind and Fire that got my daughter and me up dancing. And dancing we did until we left an hour and a half later. The band was GREAT! Painted Man Band, a local band from the beach.

“Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone.” Charles Schultz

On our way home, we stopped by a house in my sister’s neighborhood that goes WAY overboard with outdoor lights, but for a good cause. They take donations for their church. It is unbelievable! There is a combination of Frosty, Santa, Baby Jesus, and even a singing Bass fish! Over 30,000 lights and 500 man hours to set it up. Priceless.

It was hard leaving the beach – that sweet salty air. But I wanted to get home so I could decorate my house for Christmas. It’s going to be a busy December and this was my best opportunity. Besides, I always decorate right after Thanksgiving – I just cannot wait! My son-in-law’s Grandpa helped me get my tree. Remember last year when I called him to see if he would help me? And I failed to identify myself, but he said, “Sure! I am happy to help. Where should I meet you?”  Met him at Whole Foods (again this year) and he was happy to see what lady he was helping. Same thing this year except he knew it was me. Got a pretty tree and it is up and decorated in my den instead of the living room. Decided to put it where I can enjoy it every day. There’s nothing like that smell of a fresh Fraser Fir (except the beach air!).

I remember once when my neighbor was decorating her Christmas tree. It was the biggest tree I had seen! And it had toppled over a time or two. So her “fix”? She hung pocketbooks on the backside of the tree in the corner of her living room. Tree never fell over again! Pretty ingenious!

We can all learn something from gazing at our beautiful Christmas trees. Here are some lessons from my Christmas Tree (borrowed some):

  1. Always be a light in the darkness.
  2. Brighten someone’s day every day.
  3. You were born to Sparkle.
  4. We all fall over sometimes.
  5. It’s ok to be a little tilted.

“Christmas waves a wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” Norman Vincent Peale.

This is my 2nd Christmas SOLO. Thankful to be where I am this year. Last year, I bought a lot of new decorations for my tree and my house. I added some new ones this year. I still have my starfish as my tree topper and saved all the ornaments that involved my kids, but discarded the others that were acquired over so many years, with so many memories that no longer hold special meaning. My tree decorations follow a different color scheme and center on family, love, friendship, the beach, and Carolina! When Mom moved to Assisted Living, we divided her special Christmas Village between my sisters and me, and gave one piece to each grandchild. My part of Mom’s Christmas Village occupies a special table near my tree. Christmas is so special to me. As I look around my decorated house, I am reminded of what is truly important in life – family and friends. The Christmas spirit.

“Home is where love resides, memories are created, friends and family belong, and laughter never ends.”

We are at the end of November, our thankful month. Remember to take the time to think of something you are thankful for each day this week. Find the Christmas Spirit. And make an effort to reach out to those you love, because as we all know, none of us is promised tomorrow.

Best,

Leslie

 

Go Go Go Go Go Shorty…It’s my birthday… (50 Cent 2003)

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

I am 60. Sixty years old! Finally, legally SOLO at SIXTY! And happy about it! But geez…how did I get to be 60? I certainly don’t feel 60. Nor do I act 60. And I sure hope I don’t look 60! But 60 is the new middle-age, right?!?! And 6 and 0 is better than 5 and 9 any day in the sports world! (Just ask my Tar Heels!)

“I will never regret getting old. I know too many people who never had that privilege.”

Remember when 60 seemed so old?!? Back when we were 20? I don’t really remember my 20th birthday, though I do remember my 18th birthday when I thought it was going to be all about me since that was a biggie – back then 18 was a BIG deal! But my birthday was all about my older sister because she was getting married! They are celebrating 42 years of marriage TODAY! I am so proud of them. Thankfully, my cheerleader friends made my 18th birthday very fun at our Fall Sports Banquet that year. I remember how special my 30th birthday was – I brought my younger daughter home from the hospital on my 30th birthday. Best birthday present ever! I worried over my 40th birthday – we had just moved to Charlottesville several months earlier and I thought I would have no one to celebrate my 40th with me. I had celebrated all of my girlfriends’ 40th birthdays in NC because I was the youngest. But up here I was one of the oldest! Low and behold, my dear neighbor (yes the one who moved to KY) and my girlfriends decorated my yard with lovely pink flamingoes, signs, and toilet paper. It was wonderful! My mom and her sister, my Aunt Jewelle, drove up to surprise me at a birthday lunch my neighbor had planned for me. Love my girlfriends! And my 50th? My sweet older daughter planned a surprise party for me with my girlfriends at my sister’s house when she still lived up here. So I have celebrated all my “BIG ZERO” birthdays in grand fashion. And I have never fretted over aging. Thankful for it actually.

“Age is an attitude, not a number.”

But seriously, I am so happy to be 60. To be where I am in my life’s journey. I have been through and learned a lot in my 60 years. I have loved and lost, endured heartache and survived, built a wonderful life for my family and now for me SOLO. And I have grown. I have discovered who I am beyond being someone’s wife (ex), mother, daughter, sister, aunt, cousin. I am me and I love who I am today. Although I loved being in all of those “roles”, I have truly enjoyed discovering who Leslie is. I learned how strong I can be when needed. I learned to turn heartache into happiness, devastation into opportunity, and everyday life into fun and adventure. And I also know the best is yet to come.

“Know that you are the perfect age. Each year is special and precious, for you shall only live it once.” Louise Hay

So what have I learned in my 60 years? Well I am still learning, but here is my TOP 12:

  1. Change happens and it is ok. What seems like the end of the world may be the beginning of the best part of your life.
  2. It is ok to splurge on yourself. Have your nails done. Have someone else clean your house. Buy those running shoes in every color and plenty of Lululemon pants!
  3. You can live without a man in your life, but not without your sisters and girlfriends. Sisters and girlfriends are there for you and support you no matter what.
  4. Most people would rather have your time than a gift. I always tell my children that I don’t want a gift; I want them to write a letter to me. And I save and treasure every one.
  5. Forgive those who have wronged you. You don’t have to forget, but do forgive. Not for them, but for you! You only hurt yourself if you concentrate on who has done you wrong because honestly, they do not care, or they would not have hurt you in the first place.
  6. You slow down when you age. And it is ok. Not running those 7 minute miles anymore! (Did I ever?) But I am still running and active and that is the important thing.
  7. Always be kind. You never know what the other person is going through. Just always be kind. We need more kindness in this world.
  8. Senior Discounts are GREAT! “Are you a senior?” “Depends on how much the discount is!” “Oh, yes, I am a senior!”
  9. Always use sunscreen. And wear a hat in the sun. And if you can’t reach that spot in the middle of your back, get a Bendable Body Wand!
  10. Be truthful. The truth ALWAYS comes out. Own up to your mistakes immediately. It makes life easier.
  11. Look forward in life, not backwards. Your future is so much more important than your past. “There’s a reason the windshield is so big and the rear view mirror so small.”
  12. “There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.” Look for it.

“Birthdays are good for you. Statistics show that people who have the most, live the longest.”

My 60th birthday has been the best yet! And like a broken record, I have to repeat myself with “what a great weekend I had”. My sister and brother-in-law came for the weekend. My daughter’s 30th birthday was Friday, my 60th Monday. Saturday we celebrated together at King Family Vineyard with a “Cheers to 30 Years Plus 30 More” party! What fun to share the afternoon with our friends and family! And what a beautiful November afternoon it was. We set up outside and celebrated with wine, appetizers, and cake for hours! It was lovely to have my friends, who all know my daughter, and my daughter’s friends, who all know me, celebrating together. Like I said before, my kids have the nicest friends! And so do I!

And then there was Monday… my actual birthday. OH MY GOODNESS I cannot begin to tell you how special I felt! My team decorated not only my office, but our floor for my birthday. (I posted a video on SOLO at SIXTY’S facebook page). The time they spent getting pictures chronicling parts of my life, mounting and hanging them, not to mention all the “60” decorations, meant the world to me. Yes I cried. Because, not only did they get pictures, but they all know how much I love inspirational quotes and they found very special ones for me and posted them on my windows and hung them from the ceilings. And all were two-sided with separate sayings. This took a lot of thought, preparation, and effort and I appreciate it more than they will ever know. I continue to brag about the team I work with. I am so thankful for and love them!

My birthday was topped off with dinner out with my younger daughter to celebrate our birthdays followed by our tradition of getting Gelato (pumpkin for me, hazelnut for her). Perfect ending to a perfect birthday.

“A birthday is just the beginning of another 365 journey around the sun. Enjoy.”

Let’s not forget that November is our thankful month. I was blessed beyond imagination with so many things to be thankful for this past week. And with Thanksgiving tomorrow, we all need to stop and be thankful for all of our blessings. I wish for all y’all a blessed Thanksgiving. Enjoy your families and friends and let them know how thankful you are for them, because as we all know, tomorrow is not promised to any of us.

Blessings,

Leslie

Strategically Speaking…

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

We are still in the thankful month of November. Did you take time to think of one thing you were thankful for each day? Can you believe how blessed we all are?

I spent last week in Williamsburg, VA – Strategic Planning for work. Fall was in the air as we arrived to cold, rainy weather. Luckily,  the weather cleared and I was so thankful to be able to run on the beautiful property. We do get time to workout because, after all, we are a health club! It is always such fun and very productive to get together with teammates from all of our clubs to plan for the next year, set our goals, and brainstorm on how we can better ourselves and our clubs. I work with great people.

For one of our sessions, we took a “test” on Emotional Intelligence. Supposedly there were NO wrong answers, but somehow I had to repeat my test. Just saying. I scored very high on Happiness and Optimism, but very low on Adaptability – imagine that! Remember? I really do not like change!

“If Plan A didn’t work, remember there are 26 more letters.”

Strategic planning started me thinking about what plans I have for my life. Obviously, Plan A did NOT pan out like I thought! I had to regroup and figure out Plan B and how I was going to live my life in my new status – SOLO.  Luckily for me, the big decisions were already figured out for me: where I was going to live and where I was going to work. I was already moving into a new home (which I love), in a maintenance free neighborhood – perfect for a SOLO lady! Thankfully, I had a good job surrounded by supportive and caring teammates. With the big decisions settled, I had to decide HOW I was going to live my life. Was I going to crawl back in bed, pull the covers over my head and feel sorry for myself? Or was I going to look at this new “status” as an opportunity to discover what life really has to offer? I wanted to live with NO REGRETS. I would try to take the high road in dealing with my situation, as hard as that might be (and trust me, it was difficult at times). I would concentrate on my kids and myself. And I did. I did not want my children to bear the brunt of my new status. I did not want their lives to change. And I did not want them to worry about their Mom. She would be ok. Better than ok. She would THRIVE! So with Plan B I decided I would keep myself busy, especially weekends – working, beach trips as often as possible, fun plans with my kids, friends and family, and writing. Thankfully doing many things I had wanted to do but never seemed able to find the time or opportunity before. Now life would be on my timeline. And honestly, I love Plan B! And if for some reason Plan B fails, there is always Plan C. You see, I am working on that Adaptability trait.

“Today I know that I cannot control the ocean tides. I can only go with the flow of life.”

Plan B, being SOLO, brought about some challenges. Remember how I could never get suntan lotion in the middle of my back? That was solved with the Bendable Body Wand. As there is no longer a strong hand around to open jars/bottles/etc., I needed a new SOLO solution. Found the answer at TJ Maxx for $4.99 (also saw one at Mast General in Winston-Salem for $8.00) – the easi-TWIST. With this I can open anything. Problem solved. Solo! I am adapting well to the SOLO life! (Maybe I need to take that Emotional Intelligence test once more since I am becoming more adaptable!)

EasiTwist
Greatest invention!

“Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.” Carol Burnett

Once again, I had another good and busy weekend (part of Plan B!). My older daughter and son-in-law came for the weekend. Winter was the word of the day Saturday as my daughter and I went out to run in 27 degrees. She is the only one who can get me out in such cold weather. What a difference a week makes! Last Monday I was running in shorts and a tank top, and Saturday I was in 3 layers with gloves and hand warmers. Oh my, I am NOT ready for cold weather. However, I was so thankful to get to run with her. Cold weather or not!

“Your life doesn’t get better by chance, it gets better by change.”

I have to add that I was extremely thankful that my HEELS finally won a pretty big football game! Actually, just the fact that they finally WON a football game. And more thankful that basketball season started with a big win. WOOHOO! Lots to look forward to.

Speaking of looking forward, next Monday is my 60th Birthday Y’all! I am so excited and thankful to turn 60. Finally, legally SOLO AT SIXTY! There will be lots to celebrate as my younger daughter also turns 30. We’re going to celebrate “30 YEARS PLUS 30 MORE” together.

Remember to pause and reflect on all the blessings in your life this week. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how rich you are. And make an effort to spend time with those you love, because as we all know, none of us is promised tomorrow.

See you next week when this SOLO gal is 60!

Thankfully,

Leslie