“From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli…” Marine’s Hymn

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

Yes I know… I seem to keep starting my blogs with “What a great weekend I had.” But luckily, and truly, I have had the best weekends! Each and every weekend. And this past weekend did not let me down. It started Friday. It was a beautiful sunny, warm day. One NOT to be spent inside. Not your typical late October weather. Met a friend and tried a new place for lunch, the Market at Grelen, which is actually a nursery with the coolest shop and cafe. I went for lunch but left with a few plants! After that, we visited Barboursville Vineyard for a wine tasting. It was wonderful! There were 18 wines on the tasting. Wanting to enjoy the weather, we went to their Library as well to split a flight of their “special” wines – 6 more. Lovely. Sat out on their patio and enjoyed the view of the vineyard and mountains. Left with 2 bottles and 2 glasses. (I have started a collection of winery glasses.) As if I hadn’t tried enough wines, we made one more stop at a small vineyard, Chestnut Oak Vineyards, since it was still open and on our way back to Charlottesville. It did not disappoint! Another wonderful tasting and beautiful scenery.

Saturday morning my younger daughter and I headed to DC for the weekend. We checked into our hotel, and headed out to meet her DC friends for lunch on the rooftop of Bar Deco. It was a gorgeous day and my daughter’s friends are wonderful. (All of my kids have the best friends!) After lunch we visited the Renwick Gallery (part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum) for an interesting exhibit “Murder is her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death.” From 1943-1953, Lee, considered to be the “Mother of Forensic Science”, built very detailed miniatures of actual crime scenes (like little doll houses) to train homicide detectives in the determination of cause of death. Each piece was so detailed that she knitted stockings with straight pins, used real tobacco to roll tiny cigarettes, and wrote tiny letters with a single hair paint brush. Incredible. After we finished the exhibit it was too late to visit any other museums, so we walked to the monuments. Always memorable.

But, as memorable as the monuments were, they were not the reason for the trip. The main focus of my weekend was the MARINE CORPS MARATHON. NO, I was not running it! My younger daughter was running it. We took the metro before sunrise to the marathon. She went to the starting line and I found my way to the best viewing spot. I must admit, I was totally out of my comfort zone navigating the unknown area alone. However, now that I am SOLO, I find myself much more confident, independent, and willing to go outside my comfort zone. Saw her run by in the beginning of the race and she saw me and waved, and the spectator beside me said, “Oh I am going to cry – I just saw your face when you saw your runner.” I was crying! It is very emotional. The race first began with the wheelchair and duo racers. I watched people in wheelchairs with no legs – their arms pedaling as fast as they could, and duos –  people pushing others who were unable to run for many reasons. Then there were runners carrying large American flags, even blind runners with guides. But mostly, I was emotional for my daughter starting out on a 26.2 mile journey. I headed to the next good viewing spot around mile 11, at the Lincoln Memorial. While waiting to see her, I felt as if I was in an episode of “Gomer Pyle USMC” as the Marine Corps Pep band continuously played the Marine’s Hymn (“From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli…).  Shazaam! Truly the Marine Corps Marathon is a great spectator race.

“Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid, courage means you don’t let fear stop you.” Bethany Hamilton

However, just as life is unpredictable, so was her marathon. She was running very well until about mile 9. Then her hips locked up. She made it to mile 10 and felt she could not continue. I met her at mile 10 and she stopped. She was so upset to not finish. Felt like a failure. But she is NOT a failure. How many people are even brave enough to attempt a marathon? 26.2 miles. Running a half marathon of 13.1 miles and turning around and running it again. I could not do it. Not many runners I know could or would do it. But she tried and I am so proud of her for that. It was on her bucket list that she makes every birthday. She has run 4 half marathons plus the Charlottesville 10-miler and the Women’s 4-miler many times, but this was her first marathon. She kept it fairly quiet, telling only her siblings and closest friends. And hated to tell them she did not finish. Life doesn’t always go like we plan. It rarely does.

“I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”  Michael Jordan

Once my daughter realized she physically could not continue, and was able to wrap her mind around it, she was okay. Disappointed. But okay. Her siblings and I are so very proud of her for attempting this feat. She is a trooper. And I am so impressed by the love and support she received from her siblings and friends when she told them she did not make it. One friend texted her ‘Your race today has no impact on what you choose to do next! If you are done with long distance running – that is a great realization. If you are more motivated to improve as a distance runner now and try another marathon, that is also great.’  How true is that!?! We should never let any one event define us or deter us from anything we want to do. We are all so much more than that.

“Like the marathon, life can sometimes be difficult, challenging and present obstacles, however if you believe in your dreams and never give up, things will turn out for the best.”  MEB

When life does not go as we plan or think it should, we must try a different path. Never give up. When I became SOLO, so much changed in my life. But the important things remained constant. What did not change? The love and support of my children, family, friends and co-workers. I found a way to forge ahead on a new path. I went out of my comfort zone and found life is truly fun and exciting. And I am very happy. Try something out of your comfort zone. Be brave. Be strong. Take a chance. Don’t be afraid to fail. Not all failures are really failures. Some are just stumbling blocks that build character and make us stronger. It’s how you react after a failure that counts.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill.

Spend some time this week with those you love, because as we all know, tomorrow is not promised to any of us. And don’t forget – Hallmark Christmas movies start this weekend – October 27th ! OH YES!

See you next week.

Best,

Leslie

PINK AND BLUE…

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

Ok… It’s not what you‘re thinking!

Blue first. CAROLINA BLUE! Once again, what a fun weekend I had. I met my kids in Chapel Hill Friday night for LATE NIGHT WITH ROY, and it did not disappoint. What is LATE NIGHT all about? It is a night of entertainment by the Carolina Men’s and Women’s basketball teams complete with skits, dancing, and eventually an exhibition of basketball. This year’s LNWR was very special as the 2017 MEN’S NCAA BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP banner was hung in the rafters alongside the ones from 1924, 1957, 1982, 1993, 2005, and 2009. Honestly, it was incredible! The Dean Dome was PACKED. When my older daughter was at Carolina, she was the student sports marketing director for the Carolina Athletic Association and worked on Late Night with Roy for 3 years. I have not been to one since she graduated. My son loved LNWR as he was in Chapel Hill April 3rd for the championship game, celebrated the win on Franklin Street, saw the team receive their championship rings several weeks ago, and now, full circle, saw the banner!

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.”  Michael Jordan (GOAT – Greatest Of All Time!)

“Talent is a gift. But character is a choice.”  John Maxwell

Of course, we tailgated Saturday before the game. It was a beautiful summer- I mean fall- day and we enjoyed the sunshine playing corn hole, watching other games on TV, eating, drinking, and visiting with other tailgaters. We visited one tailgate whose theme was Breast Cancer Awareness. They gave out pink ribbons and had bras flying up their flagpole! Creative!

“You learn more from failure than success. Don’t let it stop you. Failure builds character.”

And yes, we suffered another loss. This is a character building year for all Carolina Football fans. (Bring on BASKETBALL!) We stayed until the last second ticked off the clock, then walked to HE’S NOT HERE to drown our sorrows and get a PINK cup. This is Breast Cancer Awareness month and everything is pink, from the football players’ compression sleeves to UNC t-shirts to HE’S NOT HERE cups. By the way, these cups can hold a bottle of wine or a couple of beers – needless to say, I did not finish mine! But I wanted that pink cup. We all did. And we got ‘em.

Is there anyone out there who does not know someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer? No, I did not think so. Currently, I know 18 women, including my mother, who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Did you know that, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, 1 in 8 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her life? Every 2 minutes a woman in the US is diagnosed with breast cancer and every 13 minutes, 1 woman dies of breast cancer.

“When life kicks you, let it kick you forward.”  Kay Yow (NCSU women’s basketball coach)

One of my dearest friends stayed with me last week as she was in town for her annual breast MRI and oncology appointment. She was diagnosed with breast cancer 6 years ago. Her family history with breast cancer is stronger than most – her mother died of it at the young age of 30, her aunts, cousin, and grandmother in their 40’s and 50’s. She had genetic testing to see if she had the gene for breast cancer. She did not, and she let her guard down. Skipped a Mammogram. Luckily, her breast cancer was found very early and after lumpectomies and radiation, her outcome was successful. Yet every year when it is time for her MRI, the fear of the unknown is forefront. Actually, it is always there, yet she does not live her life in fear; she lives in gratefulness. Though it is a big part of her life, she does not want breast cancer to be her identity nor does she want to be defined by it. Every woman’s journey is different. My sweet friend wants to tell all women not to skip their mammogram. And don’t take life for granted.

This week another friend shared with me that she has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. The mere word “cancer” struck fear in her like nothing else. It was caught early through her annual mammogram. She is a fighter. And she does not fall into any of the categories you would expect for this diagnosis – doesn’t smoke, is not overweight, works out all the time – except she is a woman. A cancer diagnosis is life changing – it can be life threatening. On a more positive note, there are 3.3 million breast cancer survivors in the US.

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop and look fear in the face.” Eleanor Roosevelt

So ladies, grab that courage and make an appointment today to get your mammogram. Mine is next month – I always schedule it in my birthday month. At my first mammogram, the technician had a heating pad on the metal plates. Ahhh… much more bearable. Of course that ended when the Fire Marshall squashed that plan (yes a pun intended!). Mammograms are not the most enjoyable experiences, but are vital. Don’t underestimate the importance of a breast self exam – no one knows your ta-tas like you do! And if someone else knows them better, make sure they tell you if there is a change! Be proactive with your health. Aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. Limit your alcohol to 1 glass of wine or beer a day (or less). But most importantly, don’t let what happens to you, define you. It is how you react to what happens to you that defines you and your character. We all face obstacles in our lives, be it an illness, death, or loss, but life goes on. If there is one thing I have learned being SOLO, it is that life goes on and I am stronger and better for it.

UNC my bud
My Best Guy…

Spend time with those you love, because as we all know, tomorrow is not promised to any of us.

See you next week,

Best,

Leslie
Continue reading “PINK AND BLUE…”

Georgia… Georgia…

O’Keeffe that is!

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

What a fun weekend I had! My younger daughter and I traveled to Winston-Salem, NC (our hometown) Friday evening to celebrate my sister’s birthday and to experience Gallery Hop. What is Gallery Hop? Well, Winston’s downtown area has revitalized and there are many wonderful restaurants, shops, and art galleries. On the first Friday of each month, several downtown streets are closed to traffic, and the artisan galleries open their doors to the public, displaying their works. My sister is a talented artist. She shares a studio, “Art Cellar Studio”,  with 2 other artists. Their studio and the other artists in their building participated in Gallery Hop. It was a lovely night – the weather was perfect! We met my sister and brother-in-law downtown at Sweet Potatoes for a wonderful dinner and were able to eat outside. Then we visited her studio and the others in her building, where I got to see a high school friend whose career is that of a truly accomplished, professional artist. We spent the evening strolling downtown, going in and out of other galleries and shops. By the way, my sister sold 2 paintings Friday night!

“Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.”

“To create one’s own world takes courage.” Georgia O’Keeffe

Saturday morning we toured Reynolda House Museum of American Art. Their featured exhibition, “Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern” is wonderful! I thought I knew who Georgia O’Keeffe was – I mean everyone recognizes her red poppy picture, right? But that one was not even included in the exhibition. After viewing the exhibit, I realized that I truly had no idea who Georgia O’Keeffe was. She was a modernistic artist whose dominant colors were black and white in both her art and her clothing. She was discovered and made famous by her well-known photographer husband who loved photographing her. Honestly, looking at some of her art, you wonder if someone else had painted and presented these pieces, would they have been considered valuable art? Then there are others that take your breath away. What dynamics. By the way, O’Keeffe spent time in VA, specifically in Charlottesville and studied art at UVA!

“I often painted fragments of things because it seemed to make my statement as well as or better than the whole could.” Georgia O’Keeffe

More than O’Keeffe’s art was on exhibit. Photographs of her taken by Alfred Stieglitz (her husband), Ansel Adams and others, as well as many of her garments were displayed. She was known for wearing black and white and nothing was ever “fitted”. She made her early clothes and the detail of the garments was astounding. To this end, O’Keeffe reminds me of my grandmother Isabel, also an artist, who also made her clothes in such a detailed way. Both women were widowed at an early age, and both were extremely independent and strong women. But my grandmother loved colors in her clothing and in her art. O’Keeffe did not venture away from black and white until later in life when she moved from New York to New Mexico and the natural colors of the landscape and sky inspired her. Still, in most of the photographs and portraits she is clothed in black. And truly, you cannot tell if she is male or female, an example of her beliefs relating to “modern art, women’s culture, and identity formation.”

“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” Georgia O’Keeffe

O’Keeffe lived to the age of 98. She suffered from macular degeneration – how tragic for an artist.

Besides the O’Keeffe exhibit, we also toured the house and enjoyed the history surrounding this wonderful treasure. My daughter loves history and in the last couple of years I too have developed a greater interest. I cannot believe I lived in Winston-Salem for 40 years and never visited Reynolda House. Why is that? What a treasure it is. It was the country estate of RJ Reynolds (of tobacco fame – you’ve heard of Winston and Salem cigarettes?). Reynolds was credited with the economic development of Winston-Salem and was well known for his charitable contributions. His wife, Katherine, is responsible for the country estate which originally spanned 1,067 acres, and named it Reynolda (the feminine version of Reynolds). It was a model farm, producing all of their food, meat, and milk – the most modern dairy in the country at the time. In addition to the large house (they referred to it as a bungalow, but with 8 bedrooms and 15 bathrooms, is that a bungalow?), there were horses, a swimming pool, tennis courts, a bowling alley, and even a golf course on site. Reading about their lives made me think of “Dynasty”. Remember that show back in the 1980’s? The glamorous and social lives of these people!

Funny story here about my Mom and grandmother: When my grandmother (a history buff) was still living, my mother would bring her up to visit me in Charlottesville and I would always plan a historic tour of Monticello (home of Thomas Jefferson), or Highland (home of James Monroe). The last time we went to Highland, as I was purchasing our tickets, my grandmother said, “Why are we here?” “This is the home of James Monroe.” “Is he gonna be here?” “Lord I hope not – he has been dead for a LONG time.” “Then why are we here?” “Because it is history.” At this point I am paying for our tickets when my proper grandmother replies, “I don’t give a S#%T about history.” To which my also proper mother said, “You do like history Momma!” What she really liked was lunch at Michie’s Tavern on site! I thought the lady giving me our tickets was going to choke trying NOT to laugh. My mother was mortified! Today, this would be my mom and me … we have come full circle. And my poor children are thinking this will soon be their mother and them!

“History has no present – only the past rushing into the future. To try to hold fast is to be swept aside.”  John F. Kennedy

Reynolda House opened as a museum in 1967 and now boasts over 200 pieces of art. Wake Forest University sits on donated land from the Reynolds family. The 650 acres, including Reynolda Gardens, were donated to entice the university to move the campus. It worked.

So to continue celebrating my sister’s birthday, we picked up my brother-in-law and drove out to Jones-Von Drehle Vineyards and Winery in Thurmond, NC (about an hour from Winston). We had a wine tasting which was a lot of fun for my daughter who pours wine a couple weekends a month in Virginia. The owner, who was familiar with our Virginia wineries, poured for us which made it more special. We all got a glass of wine and toasted my sister’s birthday and enjoyed the scenery of the winery. Finished the day meeting my younger sister and mom for a birthday dinner downtown at West End Cafe. Bless her heart, but Mom kept asking “is it my birthday?” What a fun weekend and so special to celebrate my sister’s birthday in person.

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.”

Ken Les winery
Cheers Y’all!

We did miss the Carolina game (another loss) but will be back tailgating when UNC hosts UVA Saturday. Yes, another fun weekend planned! I am so lucky to be able to spend time with my family. Go out and visit a museum or an art gallery. Broaden your horizons like I am as I keep myself busy, discovering new hobbies and embracing who I am in the newest chapter of my life. Like Georgia O’Keeffe when she moved to New Mexico. There’s a wonderful, fun world out there. Take advantage of any opportunity to spend time with those you love, because as we all know, tomorrow is not promised to any of us.

DSC_0744
Little CAROLINA dog at Gallery Hop!

See you next week.

Best,

Leslie

“Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes, nothing remains quite the same.” Jimmy Buffett

It’s a Jimmy Buffet kinda day…yes, I love being in a “lower latitude” aka the BEACH, but today in Charlottesville, VA it is sunny, care-free and easy. I am writing this on Saturday afternoon while sitting outside at King Family Vineyards enjoying the lovely sunshine, gentle breezes, cooler temperatures, a glass of wine, and warm bread and cheese with hundreds of other people seeking fun on a Saturday afternoon. I ran into a couple of friends (former neighbors) who made my day by telling me they are reading my blog. And a former boyfriend of one of my daughters, who told me he, too, is reading it! Imagine that!

My younger daughter works here at the vineyard a couple of weekends a month – it has become one of my favorite weekend “go to” places when I am not at the beach. One I am comfortable doing “solo”. First time going out solo was a bit awkward, but I am now very comfortable going many places by myself. Change of attitude. I discovered that if I want to go out to dinner alone, eating at the bar is a lot of fun. There is so much activity at the bar and many fun people to socialize with. Wineries? Take a book or laptop and enjoy a glass of wine and the scenery. Plus I usually run into someone I know. As I write, I am watching them set up for a wedding later today – what a beautiful day for a wedding!

Is real life this easy? Oh HELL no! (sorry for the cuss word, Mom!) If only life were simple. However, think about your track record for surviving what life has thrown at you so far – it’s 100%, right? You are still here – you survived! I am here and I survived. Or as my girlfriends say, I have thrived, through a change of attitude. Look for the positives – they are always there. Sometimes you have to dig deep to find the positives, but trust me, they are there.

“A bad attitude is like a flat tire. You can’t go anywhere until you change it.”

Your outlook on life determines what kind of day, week, or month you are going to have. Ever been stuck in traffic, late for work, or trying to get to that step class and claim YOUR spot, and all you can think of is someone or something is out to get you? Why won’t that light change? Why won’t that car move up closer to the one in front? Why won’t that blasted light change and stay green long enough for me to get through it?!?!  What if instead you stopped, took a deep breath, and said a prayer of thanks that: 1) you have a car, 2) you have a job or place to be, or 3) you are physically able to go to a step class? Just change your outlook. What if by being late you avoided something bad – maybe if you had been 5 minutes earlier you might have been in an accident? Be thankful. There is always something to be thankful for. And remember there is always someone wishing they had what you are taking for granted.

“You may not be able to control every situation and its outcome, but you can control your attitude and how you deal with it.”

Many people have reached out to me asking, “How are you doing? Are you always so positive?” Again, HELL no! I have my days, trust me. Most of the time I am very happy and try to be positive. Then something happens that stabs me in the heart and I have to deal with it. I try to take my own advice, and while I know I can claw my way back up, it isn’t always easy. I have to tell myself that I have made it through these “events” 100% of the time and that, my friends, is SUCCESS! And I know I will survive again. It is ok (and healthy) to have a pity party every now and then – but don’t live there – have it, get over it, and put it behind you. Remember the best place for a good cry is in the shower!

“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.” L R Knost

Truly, if you think about it, more good things happen in life than bad. I am not diminishing the tragedies that befall so many of us. But we have to look for the good. There cannot be a rainbow without rain. One saying that I continue to run across is that “the best is yet to come”. I truly believe this. I know my best has not happened yet. And I have had some really great times.

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” Plato.

Dave Matthews (of DMB fame who got his start right here in Charlottesville) put together an amazing FREE concert of “music and unity” in hopes of changing attitudes and highlighting peace and love in Charlottesville. Our little town is still being referred to in the news, and not in the positive light that we know it should be. So how to get those free tickets – a lottery. My younger daughter and I (and a million other people) entered the lottery, and lo and behold we won tickets! What a fun and beautiful night we had at the concert. Sunday night at Scott Stadium (UVA’s football stadium). First up Dave Matthews, followed by the Roots Band (from the Tonight Show) with Brittany Howard, Pharrell Williams, Ariana Grande, Chris Stapleton, Chris Martin (Coldplay), Justin Timberlake, Dave Matthews again and then the surprise guest – STEVIE WONDER!  WOW you say?  Yes… WOW! Each musician performed for half an hour and all were fantastic! Lucky me – all sang my favorite songs: Pharrell “Happy”, Coldplay “Viva la Vida”, and Justin Timberlake “Can’t stop the Feeling”!  And as the finale, Stevie Wonder sang “Imagine”. Y’all it was powerful. We had great seats and danced and sang along with the performers and stayed until the last note was played. We actually walked from my daughter’s house to Scott Stadium. It was a good walk – about a mile (had to get our steps in) and did NOT have to deal with any traffic.

“Life is like a piano, the white keys represent happiness and black keys show sadness. But as you go through life’s journey, remember that the black keys too make music.”

 

There was one thing my daughter and I forgot. The International Space Station was going to be visible at 8:44 pm and it was a perfectly clear night. We planned to look for it, but got so caught up in the concert that 8:44 pm went by and at 9:00 pm we realized we had missed it. I am a geek for the ISS. I get an email telling me when it can be spotted and I look for it. Spotted it a few nights later. Isn’t it amazing to think that people all over the country are looking up at the same time you are and seeing the ISS? I am also a sucker for starry nights… and mornings! BD (before divorce) I used to run at 5 am and loved looking up at all the stars shining so brightly and lighting my way. Now I run with the sun UP! And I am ok with that. Life goes on.

“You know what music is? God’s little reminder that there’s something else besides us in this universe; harmonic connection between all living beings everywhere, even the stars.”  Robin Williams

Maybe we all need a change of attitude. We need to accept where life has taken us and make the most of every day because every day is a precious gift. Believe that “today will be better than yesterday and tomorrow will be better than today.”

My heart breaks for Las Vegas where my daughter and other friends of mine recently vacationed. I keep thinking about those innocent people enjoying a concert when the unexpected and unbelievable happened. I remember reading once that Mr. Rogers (yes from the “beautiful day in the neighborhood”) said when scary things happen, look around for the helpers. There will always be helpers. There were many brave helpers in Las Vegas.

On a happier note, I have a fun weekend coming up with family. My sister’s birthday is Saturday. Remember to make an effort to spend time with those you love because, as we all know, tomorrow is not promised to any of us.

See you next week,

Best,

Leslie

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?!?

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

Well…. It is officially fall Y’all. Luckily, I was at the beach when I had to say goodbye to my favorite season, summer. It did not feel like fall as the beach temperatures were in the upper 80’s… heavenly for this summer-loving SOLO gal!

“With the changing seasons comes new beginnings…”

Fall means FOOTBALL and TAILGATING to me. My kids are master tailgaters! We get season tickets and a parking pass to UNC football games and hope for 3:30 games – best for tailgating. Last week against Duke, we lucked up with a 3:30 game. I left the beach and arrived in Chapel Hill by 10:00am. Of course the tailgate tent was already set up and jamming with music, beer, TV – ESPN Game Day (with satellite DISH), generator, beer, food, grill, cooler, beer, food, Corn Holes, beer, chairs, and food. Not to mention the flag pole with the Carolina and American flags proudly blowing in the wind. And did I mention beer and food? My daughter has a wonderful spread of food complete with homemade Tar Heel cookies. Meanwhile, my son-in-law fires up the grill and lunch is on the way. Gosh, I love the smell of grilling. And the people behind us were smoking a pig!

“A Champion is simply someone who did NOT give up when they wanted to.” Tom Landry (My Momma always loved Tom Landry and the Dallas Cowboys)

Tailgating in that beautiful sea of Carolina blue in the Skipper Bowles’ lot is the best way to spend a Saturday. Other tailgaters come around to see what the score is on the game we might be watching on TV, visit a bit, and admire our setup. Especially the corn hole boards my son-in-law made, complete with beer holders, a bottle cap opener, and lights around the hole in case we ever get a night game! Honestly, there is nothing else that could be added to our tailgate – my daughter and son-in-law have thought of everything. Even a turf carpet. Well, I did tell my daughter that I saw fresh flowers and mums at one of the other tailgates – she said I could provide those! Maybe next game. I did venture over to the RV tailgating lot. WHOA, what a setup those fans have.

Tailgate breakdown takes about 15 minutes. My daughter and son-in-law have this down to a science. Then off on our trek to the stadium (gotta get our steps in). Luckily, last Saturday was a beautiful day. Not so lucky was the result of the game. Our seats are really good this year – 45-yard line. We are on the home side and therefore not suffering from the sun blazing in our eyes. However, I bet that sun will feel good in a couple of weeks when the temperatures drop! I love Carolina football games. The chants of TAR (on one side) … HEELS (on the other), third down bell gongs, the 4th quarter waves, and hearing the announcer say “First down… Tar HEELS!” Heard that a lot Saturday, just not enough. Yes, we lost. There were so many highs and lows to the game, but overall, it was such a fun, beautiful day. One spent with my favorite people. This could be a long season for my Heels… but I do have faith!

“It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get back up.”  Vince Lombardi

Sundays often find my son and his friends in Charlotte tailgating for the Carolina Panther games. They don’t actually go IN the game – tickets are too $$$. But they do enjoy a good Panther tailgate!

By the way, “Lovely Leslie” is doing VERY well in the weekly football contest of the Clemmons Courier! Remember I won the Football Bowl contest back in January? Well, there have been 4 weeks of the football contest this season. I came in 2nd (due to tiebreaker) once, and last week I WON (again on a tiebreaker!)!  Yes I won my 4th CAP of CAPS (still waiting on a Carolina blue hat) plus $20 (maybe I should donate my winnings to my son for Panther tickets)! I only missed 1 game. ONE GAME! WOOHOO! I entered this one while in NYC, very quickly making my picks. And yes, I did pick Duke to win their game over Baylor, only because I did not want them to lose right before playing us. Hmmm… that strategy did not work out like I had hoped.

“Virtually nothing is impossible in this world if you just put your mind to it and maintain a positive attitude.”  Lou Holtz (anyone who knows me knows I love Lou Holtz!)

So what else happens in the Fall?

Pumpkins. I LOVE pumpkin. Anything pumpkin. Pumpkin smoothies, ice cream, bread, but especially pumpkin pie – my favorite (and my son-in-law’s too). I put pumpkin in my smoothies and in my oatmeal for breakfast. Right out of the can. Heavenly. And good for you! Did you know that pumpkin is a superfood? Just one cup provides 100% of needed Vitamin A, plus antioxidants and other important vitamins.

Fall also changes my running. Remember how I love summer because there is no decision on what to wear – tank top and shorts. (You can’t go less – well, I can’t go less.) With fall, I have to think. Short sleeves? Long sleeves? Shorts? Capris? Jacket? Gloves? Ear thingies? Too many decisions. Plus the days are shorter – the sun rises later and sets earlier. But I do enjoy fall on my back porch. I can wrap up in a blanket and enjoy my time out there!

“It’s a new season. A perfect opportunity to do something NEW, something BOLD, something BEAUTIFUL.”

Oh… and of course fall is my birthday season! (BIG one this year!) And Halloween, Thanksgiving, AND October 28th starts the new Christmas Movies on the Hallmark Channel! Y’all, life in the fall is good. Maybe not as good as summer, but still good.

“Life starts over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”  The Great Gatsby    F. Scott Fitzgerald

So enjoy fall. Make an effort to spend time this fall with those you love and cherish, because as we all know, tomorrow is not promised to any of us.

See you next week!

Best,

Leslie

NEW YORK, NEW YORK! It’s a Helluva Town!

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY

Last week, my 3 kids, son-in-law, and I were in NYC for the beautiful and fun wedding of a special couple. Friends (former neighbors) we have known for over 20 years. What a blast we had! Four of us took the train, and my son flew. We decided to make a special family vacation out of this opportunity.

Before the trip we were worried about Old Irma spoiling our time in NYC. And worried that she might do harm to our special home in Surfside Beach. We were spared. We had perfect weather the whole time. Thankfully.

“It doesn’t matter where you’re going, it’s who you have beside you.”

Have you taken a train lately? NO? Oh my…well it is different from what you might expect. You don’t go through any TSA or metal detectors. And you don’t have to get to the train station an hour and a half early – just 5 minutes! Hop on the train, find a big comfy seat, plug in your laptop if you have it and log in using their wireless. Take snacks – it’s a long trip to NYC – 6 hours. But it beats driving! We arrived Wednesday midday at Penn Station, found our way out (no small feat) and took a taxi to our hotel. Met my son, started out exploring the city and found a great place for lunch.

We all had things we wanted to do on this trip from a Soul Cycle class to The American Girl Store to The Today Show to Ground Zero. First up we had to see a Broadway show. I let the kids pick – Lion King! They all loved the movie as kids and the Broadway Show did not disappoint. It was awesome! Made me cry at the end (imagine that!). As much as the kids loved the movie, they loved the Broadway Show more. The costumes were amazing. My favorite? The giraffes. I cannot begin to describe how great the giraffes were. And the Elephant. And the birds. And the hyenas. Get the picture?

NY Lion King
Lion King was GREAT!

“The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Thursday started off with an appearance on the TODAY SHOW – look out Matt and Savannah! Or maybe look over your shoulder as my son-in-law figured out the perfect spot right behind the anchors. He was on camera more than they were. What fun we had with our “appearances” as we received texts from friends asking if we were in NYC and at the Today Show. It helped that my son-in-law had on his CAROLINA blue shirt. Not only did he stand out, he made friends with the security guards. Then a trip to the NY Library (you know I love libraries), the huge NIKE store, Lululemon (largest in the country), the LEGO Store, and the American Girl Store where my oldest daughter found her doll, Samantha, still in action, but sadly, Molly, the precious doll of my younger daughter, has been archived. (Sidebar: My oldest daughter’s Samantha doll could pass for brand new with every accessory, piece of clothing, etc. packed away for “future use”, while my younger daughter’s Molly doll could use a visit to the American Girl Doll hospital to fix her hair! Different kids, same mother.)

The NY Historical Society currently has a wonderful JFK and Jackie exhibit which we visited. My younger daughter is enamoured with JFK and Jackie. She and I saw the movie “Jackie”, and to see all the pictures in this exhibit was wonderful. We walked all over NYC and spent a lot of time in Central Park, even had lunch there at the Boat House. Okay, seriously, how do people live in NYC? How do they afford it? Where do the kids play soccer or football? Where are the schools? Where do they catch the bus? Where is Harris Teeter or Kroger? Or any big grocery store? And if you go to the grocery store, how do you get your groceries home? Inquiring minds want to know. Every second a car horn is blowing. Traffic is horrendous. There are so many people everywhere! Tough for a claustrophobic 5’2” gal. But we did meet a lot of nice New Yorkers. They guessed that we were not from NY!

We had planned to go to the Yankees – Orioles game, but after walking all day (25,000+ steps), we decided instead to have drinks and dinner at a fun restaurant, The Smith. The food was excellent as was my Moscow Mule (my new favorite drink!). My younger 2 kids met up with friends for “late night fun” in NYC and my oldest and her husband and I walked uptown to a rooftop bar. Beautiful weather and fun times!

Friday morning came early as my daughters and I walked several blocks to Soul Cycle. What is Soul Cycle? It is a total body cycle class where you work hard not only spinning, but using weights, doing push ups, dips, everything while on the bike. But it is also an inspirational experience (the “soul” part) that stays with you long after you leave class. We got our sweat on and loved this boutique class experience.

Soul Cycle 1
Girls on a mission!

“Until you spread your wings you will have no idea how far you can fly.”

Met the “men” back at the hotel and left for Ground Zero where we spent several hours. An experience not to be missed. Especially last week – the 16th anniversary. I cannot tell you how affected we all were by this exhibit. My daughter and her husband had been through it last March, but wanted to see it again. That is how powerful it is. None of us left there dry-eyed. It was so emotional looking at the pictures of each person who lost their life that day. Then to listen to the voice mails saved from those on the planes and in the Towers telling their families how much they loved them, knowing they were not going to survive, touched me like nothing else. “Honey, pick up the phone…there’s a problem on our plane… I just want to tell you I love you...” Thank heavens there were Kleenexes all around. It is still hard to believe this happened. I remember that day well…I was working at acac and we all gathered in our café to watch the horror on the TV. It was my dear friend’s birthday and we were to go out to lunch to celebrate. Plans cancelled. I bet you remember where you were that day too. New York is truly a strong city and how it has rebounded and rebuilt is an amazing testament to the character of the city.

“On that terrible day, a nation became a neighborhood, all Americans became New Yorkers.”  Governor George Pataki

I thought we had walked a lot the day before, but we racked up the steps again even though we did take an Uber to Ground Zero. We walked to Soho for lunch at a place where they brew their beer on site and have 21 different gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. Guess what we had? The best grilled cheese sandwiches! Mine even had apple slices in it. Also saw the Statue of Liberty. That evening we had drinks and dinner at another wonderful restaurant with a rooftop bar – the Refinery Hotel. Yes, we ate well and drank a lot. How did we find all these great places? Again, kids’ friends – one sent her “Guide to NYC Awesomeness” listing everything to do in each part of NYC!

Our last morning in the city was spent walking around (gotta get those steps in) and ending up at a great sports bar where we had lunch and watched the UVA game before heading to NJ for the wedding. (UVA crushed it for all you Wahoos – many who were with us at the wedding!) But the problem was the Carolina game… my son-in-law was concerned about missing that game. Not to worry, he found an app to watch it from the shuttle to the wedding, and kept us apprised of the score during the afternoon. HEELS won!

The WEDDING…  Y’all, there is nothing like a New Jersey wedding… NOTHING! I need to back up – there is nothing like a New Jersey RECEPTION! OMG nothing was spared – not one thing. After the beautiful wedding, we arrived at the cocktail party on the rooftop terrace of Biagio’s. It was perfect. The food was unbelievable! We thought this was dinner but it was NOT! There were  8+ food stations from shrimp/oysters/crab (beyond amazing) to pasta to sausages/soft pretzels (heavenly) to beef to veggies to cheeses to so much more plus servers constantly at your side offering more appetizers that were to die for! And of course, there was an open bar. Once we realized this was not dinner, we had to stop eating. Good thing because dinner was amazing. But there is more! There was a dessert room. No, not a dessert bar, it was a dessert ROOM! Filled with the best desserts ever – cakes, ice cream, waffles, funnel cakes, cotton candy, cheese cakes, a chocolate fountain, petit fours – made Chandlers in Charlottesville look like a mini-mart! And this was separate from the wedding cake.

So enough about the food… what was next? After the special Father/Bride and Mother/Groom dances, the DJ had a special dance for all the couples. I was at a great table with all of my friends (couples), but for this SOLO gal, this dance was a bit painful. I looked up as the couples headed to the dance floor and I saw my wonderful, handsome son sprinting over to me saying, “Come on Momma, let’s dance.” Y’all, I adore my son but never loved him more than at that moment. How sweet of him to realize how I must be feeling. My kids are so special! We all danced together (my kids and me) the rest of the night. Never sat down until we got on the shuttle to the hotel. My “dawgs” were barking after dancing in heels all night, but it was worth it. Such a fun reception. I knew it would be. These dear special friends (neighbors we lived next door to for 17+ years before they moved to KY, with kids the same ages as mine, and sons both “Michaels”) cannot be topped in wedding fun. And it was more special having all my kids there to share this with them, their childhood friends.

“I may not be perfect, but when I look at my children I know I got something in my life perfectly right.”

This special wedding couple is blessed. Their Armenian ceremony included the rite of crowning, symbolizing they are King and Queen of their own little kingdom, their home. We witnessed not only their pledge to love and honor one another, but their total devotion to each other. (One funny story here… I was telling a friend about the crowning ritual and she kept saying “They put a crayon on their heads? What color Crayon?” “No, it was a CROWN.” “Why did they put a crayon on?”  After being around so many Northerners, I am not sure why my Southern accent was so rampant that she thought I was saying “crayon” instead of crown. Even though they do sound alike!)

I am thankful my kids and I could share this special day with this couple and their families and friends. It was a reunion of sorts, and you know how I love reunions! I am also thrilled that I had this time with my kids and that they made this vacation possible. Make the effort to spend time with those you love and cherish, because as we all know, tomorrow is not promised to any of us.

See you next week when we talk FOOTBALL and TAILGATING!

Best,

Leslie

(note: special thanks and credit to the Degnan’s for the reception pictures!)

I Do? Thoughts on Marriage…

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

I know I am probably the last person to give advice or write about marriage these days. Two years ago, I thought I was an expert on the subject. After all, I had been married 35+ years. Boy, was I wrong. But, my beautiful daughter and wonderful son-in-law celebrated their 2nd anniversary last night. Two years and still in the honeymoon phase.

Ali and Zach for FB2

“Marriage is not a noun, it’s a verb. It’s something you do. It’s the way you look at your partner every day.” Barbara De Angelis

My “wasband” (WAS the husband) and I met when I transferred to Wake Forest University from UNC. He was the first person I met at Wake. We were both accounting majors and therefore in most of the same classes. I followed him to the parking lot after class one day to see where he parked and saw this beautiful, nice car backing out of a spot. I thought, shallowly I might add, “Ahhh, he drives a nice car.” Nope, not him. Suddenly I hear this loud muffler from an old beat up car, sounding like it was about to explode, and yes, THAT was his car! Still… I started parking my car in that lot! We sat together in class. I remember one class when the professor, Delmer P. Hylton (any Wake accounting majors out there?) asked a question and went all the way around the class looking for the answer. Well my ex gave a pretty good answer and I thought I was safe. Nope! Never safe in that class. Problem was, I was the last one to be asked and there were no other answers for me to even make up! So Hylton said “Miss Holcomb, that smile might get you somewhere outta class, but in class is a different story.” Oh Lord, I thought I was going to die right there!

We were both dating other people, me a baseball player for the Winston-Salem Red Sox (farm team for the Boston Red Sox – now they are the Dash), and he a girl who had graduated. We were friends all of my junior year, but the summer brought about different feelings. First date was 4th of July. One year later, we were married. That was the beginning of a truly beautiful relationship that spanned 35 years and 3 beautiful kids. We were happy, or so I thought. I’ll leave it at that for now.

“Relationships last not because they were destined to last. Relationships last long because two people made a choice to keep it, fight for it, and work for it.”

So my daughter and her husband – how did they meet? At acac of course! After freshman year of college, both were working there one summer. She was a manager at our outdoor waterpark and he was a summer camp counselor who brought his kids to the pool each day (probably to see her!). They were both HUGE Carolina fans and discovered they had that in common immediately. Did they date then? NO! Date during college? NO! After college? Not really. He would go visit friends in Charlotte, where she lived, and my daughter would meet him for dinner. And she would run into him at acac when she came home (he took a job with acac after college). They were great friends. THEN… he moved to Charlotte for graduate school. What a coincidence. Maybe now they would get somewhere. But, in a BIG turn of events, acac offered my daughter a position at our new club in Richmond, VA. My daughter was looking for a change from the public accounting world and had always loved fitness, so she agreed. She left Charlotte a couple of weeks after my future son-in-law moved there. Here comes the BIGGER turn of events. Two months later, acac offered my now-son-in-law the opportunity to be the Director of Fitness and Personal Training at the new club. So he transferred his graduate program to a school near Richmond and moved. Hmmm… now they found themselves working closely together. They had a great friendship that turned into dating. Next thing I know, he tells me he wants to propose! They were going to my beach house for a week and he wanted to propose there. Needless to say, I was thrilled! Because before they started dating, my son-in-law and I were friends at work. And my kids knew him and liked him. When I had ACC tournament tickets for the family and had an extra one, I invited him. He and I took biathlon class together at acac and the instructor used to jokingly say “Oh I see Leslie is next to her future son-in-law!”  And this was way before they thought about dating… or maybe not!

“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, and always with the same person.” Mignon McLaughlin

Their wedding was perfect y’all. Perfect. First the venue. They wanted to get married outside, at a place different from anywhere their friends had married. A note about my son-in-law: he is a master researcher/shopper. So they had a list of venues for us to look at. We started on Friday mid afternoon and after visiting and eliminating 5 venues, we had one more to see. My daughter was feverishly searching online for more venues to see the following day because we were so distressed. And this last venue was in Culpeper, VA, 40 minutes north of Charlottesville. We thought to ourselves that this was probably a lost cause and we were bone tired, but we did not want to hurt my son-in-law’s feelings. However, as we drove into the venue, we knew this was it. PERFECT! Old House Vineyards. The vineyard was beautiful. The “Old House” was perfect. There was an island in the lake for the ceremony where they set up the chairs and truly, no decorations were needed because there was a trellis with a waterfall in the lake and it was so beautiful. And the reception was held in the pavilion right there. Perfect!

The rehearsal was hot and sunny Friday night. BUT Saturday morning my daughter and I went out to run (Bride’s wish and I was complying) and it was pouring rain! We ran anyway and all of a sudden I said “did someone just take a picture of us – 2 crazy women running in the rain?” “No that was lightning.” “Oh My Goodness we cannot run in thunder and lightning!” At this point, the Bride lost it. She wanted to get married outside on the island and NOT in rain. Total meltdown. We stood in the rain (and lightning) hugging and crying and I said, “I promise you, you will get married outside. Trust me. I promise you. Let’s just keep running.” We did. The rain slacked off. It stopped raining by noon. How could I promise this to my child? That she would get married outside when it was pouring rain? I had a “God Moment” a couple of days earlier. I was running an errand, and while stopped at a stoplight and saying a BIG prayer to God asking for good weather for Saturday, I looked at the car in front of me, and there was a sticker “DON’T WORRY, GOD’S GOT THIS!” I took this to heart.

Despite my confidence that they would get married outside on the island, when we got to the venue that morning, we went directly to the pavilion, moved all the reception tables and set the chairs up so that she could walk down an aisle (that is what my son-in-law wanted for her). And truly, it was lovely. Still… the island was beautiful. So after her meltdown, my daughter was fine! My son-in-law paced around the reception hall, and the wedding planner kept asking if they could move the chairs back – to which I said no way until 4:30 (wedding was at 5:30). Even though the weather was clearing up, I did not want to jinx ourselves. They got married outside, on the island. My beautiful daughter walked down the aisle on the island all smiles as if she was Miss America! And my sweet son-in-law cried as she approached him. Having the wedding on the island included a special part with a love lock that the vineyard supplied with their initials and date. They put this lock on the “pier” rope and threw the key in the water. Funny story here – one of the guests had been married and divorced 3 times. He told another guest that he was glad they did not have that ceremony when he got married or he would be digging around the lake for his keys. To which, the other guest replied, “you would have had to use a combination lock!”

Did I mention that the wedding was a CAROLINA wedding? Yes… the bridesmaids wore Carolina blue dresses, the groomsmen Carolina blue ties. But one of the greatest things was my daughter’s shoes. Remember I said my son-in-law was a master shopper? Well as soon as they were engaged he found her Carolina Blue bridal shoes online – last pair and they were in her size. Meant to be. I remember showing them to my sister and her response? “She can’t wear blue shoes to get married in!” (We all wore white linen shoes.) But at the wedding, she said “those shoes were perfect!” And they were… just like the newlywed couple.

“You don’t marry someone you can live with. You marry someone you cannot live without.”

The reception was FUN! So much fun! Great food, wine, beer, music, and dancing. All of our friends and family were there. Everyone was dancing! One of the happiest days of my life, and I am sure the happiest day of my daughter and son-in-law’s lives.

wedding dancing
The Bride and her Brother!

“A strong marriage isn’t magically created when you say ‘I Do’… It’s built on a lifetime of I DO’s: I DO love you, I DO cherish you, and I DO choose you.”

I remember when we went for pre-wedding counseling, our minister, Rev. Iobst, told us he had no advice for us at that moment. Why? Because there is no way we would listen or hear whatever he had to say. All we wanted to do was get married. He was right. He said we should come back a year later. We never did. Does anyone?

So what is my marriage advice?

  1. Remember what brought you together – that pure, innocent, exciting new love. And let that love grow into a mature love. A forever love.
  2. Remember you are each other’s best friend.
  3. Remember that you are a team. And there is no “I” in team.
  4. Remember you will not always like each other and that is ok.
  5. Remember you will not always like the same things, and that too is ok.
  6. Remember to share everything – not only happiness, thoughts, and concerns, but household chores and responsibilities.
  7. Remember to cherish each other. You are each other’s treasure.
  8. Remember to always say “I am sorry” when you have hurt one another.
  9. Remember to never lie to each other. If you have to hide something or lie about it, you know that is wrong.
  10. Remember to be transparent with each other. Once trust is broken, you cannot get it back easily, if ever.
  11. Remember that “No relationship is all sunshine, but two people can share one umbrella and survive the storm together.”
  12. Remember – You’ve got this!

My children and I are in NYC this week for a special (and I am sure a very FUN) wedding Saturday. We have lots of fun things planned. Lots of friends to see, and lots of love to celebrate. I’ll share our NY experience next week!

Cherish your spouse or partner and always make them feel as if they are the greatest treasure in the world. Don’t take them, or tomorrow for granted, because as we all know, tomorrow is not promised to anyone.

See you next week!

Best,

Leslie