“Love Rollercoaster” – the Ohio Players 1975

Do you like rollercoasters? The climb to the highest point and then the immediate drop that causes your stomach to move up in your throat? I used to love rollercoasters. (“Used to” being the operative words here.) Used to love the thrill of that nosedive. Now I feel total terror thinking about rollercoasters and I don’t enjoy that feeling of my stomach in my throat. I remember the last time I rode a rollercoaster. I was in my 40’s with my family at Busch Gardens (or was it Kings Dominion?) and I thought I might die. I did not breathe the entire ride, my teeth were clenched, and my stomach was definitely up in my throat! Have not ridden one since. I know my limit, and I reached it on rollercoasters.

“Life is like a roller coaster. It has its ups and downs. It’s your choice whether to scream or enjoy the ride.”

My life has been a rollercoaster of highs and lows these past 2 ½ years of being SOLO, and I have both enjoyed the ride and wanted to scream. Even more so this past month. If you read my recent blogs, you know that I have been in a rental “mom van” (a truly nice one!) since September 25th, when my car was flooded due to Hurricane Florence and my stupidity. It sat at Myrtle Beach Volvo waiting to be diagnosed for 3 weeks with the windows down and rain pouring in, adding insult to injury. This news pushed my stomach up into my throat! Due to the hurricane, they were so backed up with flooded cars that I asked the insurance company to move my “baby” to the Volvo dealership in Charleston, SC. Last Friday, the verdict was finally in. My car was totaled. The news was sad, but at the same time a relief, especially after the insurance adjuster told me that the “blonde” interior of my car was now green with mold and held a foot of water. Totaled. What to do now? I wanted the same car. Looked in VA and NC. No luck. Decided to expand my search to SC, and lo and behold, there were two cars identical to mine at the Volvo dealership where my totaled car was now residing. Things were looking up. The stars seemed to be aligning in my favor. I reached out to this southern Volvo dealership, and luckily, I was able to work out a great deal on the new car. And my insurance company truly came through for me (shout out to Nationwide!). So now, after a trip to Charleston, I am in the same, yet brand new Volvo. Thankfully. When I walked into the dealership and the salesman walked up and said “Leslie?”, I just hugged him (remember I am a big hugger!). I was so thankful for all he had done for me. He even followed me to return my rental car and brought me back to the dealership. Goodbye, mom van! But it gets better. We talked (can you imagine me NOT talking?) on the way back and discovered that he is from Charlottesville and went to high school and ran track with my son (the one year my son ran track!). What a small and wonderful world. Plus, I got a beach trip as a bonus. I mean, I could not come this far and not go to my beach house for a couple of days! Life is good.

 

“All of life is peaks and valleys. Don’t let the peaks get too high and the valleys too low.”  John Wooden

My previous funk has dissipated. Vanished. Replaced with a happiness even greater than before. Fueled by many recent fun and happy times. This past weekend was no exception. It was filled with my kids. All of them. We treasure these times now because it is so hard to get everyone together with all of our work and social schedules. But we try. We all met in Chapel Hill early Saturday morning for breakfast at the iconic Carolina Coffee Shop. A mainstay on Franklin Street (“the Corner” to you UVA folks). It was wonderful to have all of my kids together and watch them interact with each other. They too have missed being together. And as soon as we sat down at our table, I looked over and saw an old friend I have known since elementary school and the reason I am a Carolina fan. Could not believe my eyes! It was Jeff Whitney. We could not have timed meeting up any better if we had tried. I knew he was going to be in Chapel Hill but had not yet reached out to him. And there he was. When we were in the 5th grade, Jeff wrote a poem about Charlie Scott and UNC basketball. I was hooked on UNC and never looked back. Did you know I didn’t even apply to any other college? And yet, I never visited the campus before the day I moved in! So hard for my kids to understand, but that was the way it was “back in the day.” Jeff is also the reason we have a high school reunion every year, and every year I get a present from him! One year was a signed picture of Charlie Scott, the next year was the Sports Illustrated with Charlie Scott on the cover, and this year a special UNC basketball history book! I introduced him to my kids and we visited with him a bit before he headed back to Winston-Salem. On the other hand, my kids and I were looking forward to a full fun day in Chapel Hill!

After breakfast we had a shopping spree on Franklin Street and the student store, where I bought some Carolina swag for the new car and my kids talked me into a special early birthday present. We headed back to the tailgate, played cornhole, watched other football games on tv, walked around and visited with other fans, imbibed special concoctions, and had lunch. It was a gorgeous day! This was definitely a high for me! And my son, his girlfriend, and I climbed the 128 steps of the Bell Tower, something we have wanted to do each game day. The bell tolls every 15 minutes and every now and then plays “Hark the Sound” and “Carolina Victory.” Mark this off my bucket list!

Since the game wasn’t until 7 pm, we also had dinner at the tailgate. As I have said before, my daughter and son-in-law throw an amazing tailgate! This time, in addition to our family, several of my son’s friends, and my son-in-law’s friends came as well. The more the merrier! We broke camp, packed up the truck, and headed to the game. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful evening. On our walk to the stadium, I asked my kids if we had a chance to win… Nope, not a chance, they said. So when we found ourselves leading for the most part of the game, we were on a big high…only to drop down to the lowest low when VT ran over our defense converting three 3rd downs and one 4th down en route to putting the game out of reach with no time left. Talk about a low. A dagger to our hearts. However, it was truly a fun game (until the end) and a wonderful day. First time the student section in the stadium was full and they had to turn students away.

“Hanging out with your grown-up kids is like visiting the best parts of your life.”

Sunday found us all at breakfast again. Did not want the weekend to end so we sat around and visited until it was time for us all to hit the road. I love the sight of my children laughing with and teasing each other. Biggest high for me. We’ll all be together again soon. I am thankful for these times and never take them for granted.

My Family!

“Remember that life is full of ups and downs. Without the downs, the ups would mean nothing.”

Do you sometimes feel as if you are on a rollercoaster in your life? I am sure you must… it is the way of life. We have to learn to be patient and strong during the lows and know that life will soon rebound back up. Try not to live in the lows, because as we all know, none of us is promised tomorrow.

Best,

Leslie

 

“Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters…” White Christmas, Irvin Berlin 1954

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

What a wonderful weekend I had filled with family, fun, happiness, celebrations, and lots of love. Oh and wine, lots of wine! My sisters and brother-in-law came to visit so we could celebrate my (older) sister’s 65th birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MELINDA!! For one month, my sisters and I are 65, 60, and 55… until I turn 61 in November. When we were MUCH younger, my sisters and I would have our picture taken professionally (if you consider Sears and Kmart Portrait Centers professional) every 5 years for our Mom. We missed the last several photo ops, but made up for it this weekend!

“Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters!”

“A sister is one of the nicest things you can have, and one of the best things you can be.”

My sisters and I have not always had the perfect relationship. There have been arguments, struggles, and conflicts. But deep down we always knew we would be there for each other. And we have. I cannot imagine what I would have done without my sisters in my life, especially these last 2 ½ years. Admittedly, I always wanted an older brother, especially when I was in high school (you know with cute older friends?!?!?!), but that did not happen. I am now ok with that. (Like I have a choice?) Besides, my brother-in-law is a brother to me, and believe me, I am very thankful for him, and thankful he loves my sister. And HAPPY BIRTHDAY DENNIS as tomorrow (Oct. 12) is his birthday!

“Sister is probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship.” Margaret Mead

My sisters and brother-in-law arrived Saturday and we spent the afternoon visiting a very busy and very good winery – Pollak. My younger daughter, the wine professional in our family, is a wine club member here and joined us. We chose a couple bottles of wine, sat outside enjoying the scenery and the wine, and visited for the better part of the beautiful afternoon. We laughed over childhood pranks, memories, and old secrets. Reminded each other of things we might have wanted to just forget! Remember, there is basically a 5 year separation in our ages that was HUGE when we were growing up, but now makes no difference.


 

“When I say I won’t tell anyone, my sister doesn’t count.”

Several of my daughter’s out of town friends were in Charlottesville for the day, so we went with her to a brewery downtown to see them. It was a perfect evening, and we decided to walk to our downtown mall and have a wonderful dinner outside. Our fun day had come to an end. But we still had Sunday!

Post dinner stroll!

“Having a sister is like having a best friend you can never get rid of. You know whatever you do, they’ll still be there.”

After brunch at my house Sunday morning, we headed to King Family Vineyards to celebrate my older sister’s birthday. My daughters and son-in-law came, as well as some of my friends who know my sister. Unfortunately, my son wasn’t able to join us. And unfortunately, the polo match was cancelled for the day, but we found a table in the shade and set up our “tailgate”. It was a beautiful, but hot (87 but felt like 92), afternoon. So much for any fall weather! Most of my sister’s birthdays have been celebrated in much chillier temperatures, which she loves, but I like the heat!

“Birthdays are made for celebrating the love you share with family and friends.”

It was so much fun sharing the weekend and celebrating with my sisters. Though we talk or text daily, it’s more special to actually be together. And we try to as often as possible. Once I found myself SOLO, I made every effort to become more involved in my family. And I cannot tell you how happy it has made me. So thankful to NOT be missing out on so much with my siblings and my kids.

“A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost.”  Marion Garretty

With Mom in her current state of mind, my older sister has become the glue that holds our family together. My younger sister is full of fun and has grandbaby Jack to share with us, and me? I am the middle child, who can now appreciate being the middle. We all “miss” mom. Yes she is still living and knows us and loves us, and enjoys being with us, but is not quite able to be the parent anymore. She now asks us if we have seen her Momma lately and do we think she is still in Greensboro. Our answer? Well, she is not moving anywhere any time soon! (Our grandmother is buried in Greensboro.) And as I have said before, no matter how old you are, you always need and want your momma. To listen to you, give you advice, and love on you with a “Mom hug” that is so comforting. Even our mom is looking for her momma. But that is what siblings are for. We never leave each other without big hugs!

After my family and friends left the vineyard Sunday, my younger daughter and I cleaned up and decided to get one more bottle of wine and sit for a bit, catch up with each other, and enjoy the late afternoon. We covered lots of topics, and of course talked about the blog (she is my editor). When I was telling her my thoughts that included the part of missing my mom, she said the sweetest thing to me. “Mom I cannot imagine not being able to talk to you.” Be still my heart. You know I adore my kids.

s17-e1539186005596.jpg
Late afternoon…

I am thankful for the close relationship my kids share with me and with each other. I have always tried to foster a mutual respect, love, and friendship between my kids. I truly wanted them to like each other and be friends as well as siblings. And they do. They stay in close touch with each other, and support each other as well. I know it was hard for them when their parents’ marriage ended. As much as my life changed, and I realized that my future as I had always imagined was not going to happen, the same thing happened to my kids. Their family “broke up” as well – no longer was it mom AND dad. Now it is mom OR dad. That breaks my heart for my kids. But life goes on and we adjusted. And I try to keep things as normal as possible for them.

If you have a sibling, make every effort to keep in close touch. Support each other. Never take that relationship for granted. One thing you should always be able to count on, is your family. Luckily for me, I know without a doubt that if I need them, my kids, my siblings, and my brother-in-law would be there in an instant. Just look how they have supported me and come to my rescue so many times. Can you say that? If not, you need to work on that relationship now, because as we all know, none of us is promised tomorrow.

“Family is like music, some high notes, some low notes, but always a beautiful song.”

Best,

Leslie

PS – Know what the latest craze in killing bugs is – especially flies and mosquitoes (which are HUGE in NC and SC)? SALT GUNS! Yep… uses table salt and will blast an insect without any mess or smashing guts. And as I learned this week, several of my friends have them and love them. No more fly swatters. Hmmmm… should I get one?

 

Uptown Funk – Bruno Mars 2014

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

Hello October! Fall… I truly am not ready for you.

Ever find yourself in a funk? No, not the hip hop dance kind of funk! I mean a mood you just cannot shake easily? A fog that surrounds you no matter what? I did last week. The weather really affects my mood, and it was not cooperating. Had not for a while. Drizzly, gloomy days. No sunshine. Traveled to our club in PA in the rain. Good trip with fun teammates. Traveled home in the sunshine (finally) thinking I could get back to Charlottesville in time for an early evening run since I had been in the car for over 5 hours. It was sunny on our drive home, until we got closer to Charlottesville… the clouds increased, the drizzle started, and there was a chance of thunderstorms. Went to the office since that is where I always start my runs. Waited and worked an hour or so and decided it was not happening after all. In my mind I needed that run to get me out of my funk. Now my funk was stronger. Woke up the next morning to rain as well. Geez…I heard on the news that our area has had more rain than the Northwest!

“Each new day has a different shape to it. You just roll with it.”

 (Working in our GM’s office at our PA club – she is a Villanova Fan – Just could not look at this any longer! Villanova beat my Heels in the NCAA finals in 2016… Sorry Beth!)

What I really needed, was to get down to the beach house to make sure all was good. And to breathe in that wonderful, healing, salty beach air. So I decided Thursday night I would get up and head to the beach EARLY Friday morning! My sister and brother-in-law were also going to the beach Friday. I called them about 4 hours into my trip only to discover that they were about 2 miles ahead of me. With my heavy foot, I caught up easily and followed them as we took a different route to bypass one possible flooded area into the beach. We couldn’t have planned to meet up any better!

I was so thankful to finally get to the beach and see for myself that all was good and safe. Unlike my last attempt to get to the beach (did you read that blog?), this trip was totally uneventful – thank heavens! Unloaded my rented “Mom Van”, hung all my art and pictures I had taken home in case the house was damaged in the hurricane, and put all of my deck and porch furniture back out. Life returning to normal at the beach. Uncovered the golf cart, blew all the leaves and “trash” from underneath the house, set the grill back out and oops, found a 2 foot friend – a snake! He did not bother me and I certainly did not bother him. But I did turn the blower on him full blast and he slithered away. WHEW! Did not see him again (though I looked every time I came down the stairs!).

Changed and headed straight to the beach. I knew this was what I needed to get out of my funk. It was a beautiful beach day – sunny, lower humidity, good breeze. I was tired, which is not unusual for me. But I also felt so restless, which was unusual for me. Could not settle down for some reason. Could not nap on the beach (never happens). Could not get interested in a book (also never happens). Just stuck in that funk. No point in just sitting there stewing, so I got my red SOLO (haha!) cup out and went in search of shells which is always calming for me. (Remember I am addicted to shells.) Over an hour later, my SOLO cup runneth over! As I bent down to pick up the big shells, I started looking closer and found so many tiny, perfect shells – many more beautiful than the bigger ones. And I realized something. While looking for the bigger flashier shells, I was overlooking the smaller beautiful shells. Made me realize that I need to look more for the smaller but beautiful treasures in life.

Still, that restless feeling would not leave me alone. Could not settle down and just relax. I mean, I was at my special place but could not turn my mind off. Too many things nagging at the back of my mind. Since the afternoon was sunny and warm but not too hot, and I could not settle down, I decided a late afternoon run might do the trick. Surely raising endorphins from a hard run would get me out of my funk. Sweating out that good hard run, going further than I have in a long time, did help, but the fog continued to swirl around in my head. And I was struggling to put my finger on what exactly was really bothering me. Went to dinner with my sister and brother-in-law and talked to them about it bit. That is the thing when you are SOLO. Who do you vent to? What shoulder do you cry on? Sometimes you just want someone to listen, not to judge or give advice, but to listen and agree with you. To sympathize with you. Maybe that was part of the problem? I have had to make some bigger decisions lately without that “other half” to weigh in on the decision. Thankfully, I have a great support team in my family, kids, and friends. But now that I am SOLO, the ultimate decisions have to come from me and me alone. My responsibility.

“You don’t have to have it all figured out to move forward…just take the next step.”

I was so tired that I slept pretty good Friday night and woke up to a cooler Saturday morning with less humidity. Decided another run was in order, though a shorter one. Met my sister on the beach afterwards for a couple of hours until it clouded up and rained. Just what the beach area (and me) needed – more rain! Luckily, the weather cleared up in time for me to go to North Myrtle Beach for a dinner to celebrate the 60th birthday of a girlfriend I have known since elementary school. We were cheerleaders in high school. What a fun night, with special people, at such a wonderful restaurant. My friend has more fun than anyone I know! I live vicariously through her.

Sunday was a perfect beach day with sunny skies, 80 degrees and low humidity. My daughter and son-in-law were down for their last week of “summer” vacation. We spent the day together on the beach. I love having my kids at the beach with me. Got me out of my funk a bit. We talked, napped, searched for shells, and enjoyed our day on the beach. Stayed until we needed to go up and fix our traditional beach dinner of grilled shrimp, corn, and okra all on the grill. Invited my sister and brother-in-law. It was wonderful. The fog seemed to be lifting from my head.

I said goodbye to the beach 5:30 Monday morning and drove straight to work – going my normal route with no delays or closures. Arrived at noon. Thankful and sad, realizing my summer may be over. I started the summer saying I wanted no regrets this year. I would go to the beach every opportunity I could. And I did. But I am not yet ready to say goodbye to summer this year. To the serenity I feel at the beach – the sun, the heat, the stifling air at times, the shells, the fresh seafood, the dinners out. I have plans for every weekend in October so I do not know when I will get back down there. But I will. It just won’t be summer…it will be fall. Realized that was part of my funk. I hate goodbyes, even to a season (my favorite season!).

“Maybe it’s not always about trying to fix something broken. Maybe it’s about starting over and creating something better.”

My funk was still present, though not as bad and I realized I needed to rid myself of this feeling. As much as I love the SOLO life, every now and then it is hard. But we have to take the hard times with the good times and realize that the good will always outweigh the hard. I mentioned to my daughter that I was struggling with this, and somehow, just acknowledging it again, bringing it out in the forefront, seemed to help. I ran Monday evening, had some tough conversations with myself, and finally cleared my mind of the funk.

“I’m starting over… a new pattern of thoughts, a new wave of emotions, a new connection to the world, and a new belief system in myself.” Leticia Ray

Is there anything  you need to clear out of your mind? Worries? Concerns? Feelings? Don’t let it simmer too long and take away your happiness, because as we all know, none of us is promised tomorrow.

“I trust the next chapter because I know the Author.”

Best,

Leslie

PS – Did you know that last Friday (9/28) was the last sunset after 7 pm until March 10th? UGH… another reason I was in a funk – shorter days are coming much too quickly!

 

Football & Tailgating – Season of Fall

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

Well… last week was an adventure to say the least. (Did you read last week’s blog?) This week has been much quieter. I’ve had time to digest what happened, remembering the fear of being in a place where I knew no one, nor even where I was, except that I was surrounded by water. Really started me thinking – what if I had not had a cell phone? Or had not been on the phone with my sister? What would I have done? How could I have called for help? Would I have gotten out of my car in that water? Talk about being vulnerable! Even though I am totally responsible for my own well being, and forced to do things SOLO, I sure was thankful for my family and new friends. Like I said last week, there were many good things to come out of that bad situation. And for those I am so thankful.

“Strength and vulnerability are not mutually exclusive. Give yourself permission to experience both.” Tonya Renee

Still no definitive word on my car, but not really surprised. The insurance adjuster, another really nice SC native, called to say they were trying to get my car to the Volvo dealership for diagnostics. And my new friend (tow truck driver’s wife) sent me a picture of my car on the move to the dealership. I am learning the lesson of patience, which for anyone who knows me, knows this is a tough lesson for me. I did go look at new Volvos, just in case. Being prepared. For now, it’s a waiting game… and me back in a minivan. (Not complaining!)

“Patience is not passive waiting. Patience is active acceptance of the process required to attain your goals and dreams.”

Saturday was the first day of Fall… FALL Y’ALL! You could have surprised me! I left home Saturday morning in the dark to get to Chapel Hill in time for our tailgate.  As I have said before, my daughter and son-in-law throw a great tailgate! And this one did not disappoint with chicken, bacon, pineapple kabobs, lots of food and drinks, and of course, Tar Heel cookies. First home game of the season (thanks to Florence) and against an ACC opponent. But Fall? No way! It was 88 degrees at the game, and felt like 95 (more like 105!). Loving our new seats this year – the stadium underwent a renovation and all bleacher seats were replaced with Carolina blue seats, complete with armrests. Very comfortable and looks great! We are on the 40 yard line, but this year, on the side facing the sun. This will be welcomed in a couple of weeks when the temperatures drop (real fall weather!), but last Saturday it was brutally hot and we were all sweating buckets! Not a dry stitch on anyone in the stadium. But did not complain – better heat than rain, trust me. And we WON!  Surprised us all in a wonderful way! The games are so fun, but winning makes them much more fun. Love hearing the announcer say “First Down, Tar HEELS!” Love the 3rd down “Bell Gong” and the start of the 4th quarter wave. Not to mention the fight song and cheers. So happy to be back in the stadium watching football, even though I truly am not ready to say goodbye to Summer.

“The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let things go.”

Left the game and had to change clothes in my rented “Mom Van” because there was no way I could drive anywhere as soaking wet as I was! Luckily, I had planned for this, because I was going to my sister’s art show in Reidsville, NC, on my way home from the game, and did not want to wear my gameday clothes. And lucky for me that the “Mom Van” has shades you can pull down on the windows to protect the kiddos. Don’t have any kiddos but they sure protected me!

My sister is so talented. Many pieces of her art were on display and for sale, and she received so many wonderful compliments. Luckily for me, some of her college friends were there at the same time I was and I got to visit with them too. They had read my blog and knew of my latest water adventure. Still unbelievable to me and to most others! Hated to leave the show and my sister and brother-in-law, but needed to get back to Charlottesville. It had been a long but wonderful day. Unfortunately, I hit torrential rain by the time I got into Virginia. Rained off and on until I pulled into my driveway. And as you might imagine, I am a bit paranoid about driving in the rain, and even in puddles! But what was this SOLO girl gonna do? Drive!

 

Still not sure when I will get back to the beach. Waiting patiently (well, sorta) to see what roads are open this week. Also need to find out about my car. Will it be fixed? If so, I’ll need to pick it up in SC. But I am in VA! Timing is everything and life is not perfect. It’s good, but not perfect.

“Don’t try to be perfect. Life isn’t. No one is. Use mistakes and mishaps as opportunities to grow tolerance and to teach. There is such a thing as happy accidents.” Teri Hatcher

Here’s hoping that Fall will NOT arrive at the beach until I get some more summer-like days down there! And here’s to my lesson of patience reigning successfully. And here’s to all y’all – enjoy the change of the season, because as we all know, none of us is promised tomorrow.

“The strength for your next season will come from the pain of your past. Yes, your pain has a purpose.” TobyMac

Best,

Leslie

PS – I learned this week that according to the American Tailgater Association, tailgating most likely started with the first college football game in 1869 between Rutgers and Princeton. Since there were no food vendors, fans brought their food,  grilled sausages, and ate together at the “tail” end of their horse. Hence “tail”gating began. It has come a LONG way since then!

 

“Riders on the Storm” The Doors, 1971 (last song Jim Morrison recorded

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

Sit down and get ready to take a ride with me – Hurricane Florence style! Last Tuesday, I cut my vacation short to evacuate the beach before Florence hit. Once the storms passed, I decided to pick up where I left off on that vacation and head to the beach. But what started out as a trip to check out my beach house and finish my vacation ended so incredibly opposite. You can’t make this up!

Backtracking… since I was back home instead of at the beach last Thursday, I decided to surprise my daughter at her 6:15 am cycle class at our Short Pump club. Left home at 5 am to get there. And I’m so glad I did! Gosh, I wish I could take her class every Tuesday and Thursday.

Last Saturday was supposed to be Carolina’s first home football game of the season. We had planned a family celebration for our sweet Momma’s 89th birthday after the game, but when the game was cancelled, we postponed the celebration not knowing how Ole Florence would affect Winston-Salem. It was WET, with flash flooding and power outages. Not wanting to miss seeing my Mom on her 89th birthday, I went to Winston Sunday morning instead, to celebrate in a smaller way with my sisters and brother-in-law. It was a fun afternoon with Mom. “There is no way I am 89! Are you sure I am 89 and this is not a joke?“No Momma, you are 89. Just look at your crown and candles – that is proof!” The women on my mom’s side of the family do live to be in their 90’s.

I also got to visit with a dear friend who happened to have her daughter-in-law and grandchildren visiting due to Florence. Her son is a first responder. Seeing them all made my day even better! And my sister, brother-in-law and I trudged downtown in the pouring rain for dinner on Trade Street. No problem getting a table! Fun day all around, even with Florence making her presence known.

Still, my happy place was on my mind. I had heard from one of my beach neighbors that everything looked okay in our area. No shingles off, just a lot of leaves and debris. But I wanted to see for myself – that house is my special place. So… I headed out early Monday morning in search of a route that would get me to the beach, determined to see my house. My neighbor had found an unflooded road on Saturday coming from Charlotte, but that road was closed on Sunday. Had to reroute. Made it all the way to Bennettsville, SC, safely, thinking, this is a piece of cake.  Then I hit my first road block – a flooded road. So I turned around in search of another route. Zigzagged all over SC searching for unflooded roads for hours with the help of my sister and brother-in-law who were on the phone with me, one on WAZE looking for routes, the other on SCDOT looking for open roads. Went all the way across the state of SC trying roads but always having to turn back. Then, I found it. A road that did not have a closed sign, nor showed up on SCDOT or WAZE as being closed. Could I be so lucky? I was desperate and determined – there were no other options! Saw 2 cars coming towards me, which was a good sign. Saw some water, but those cars had just come through this, right? I started across, telling my sister, “there is a little water but I think these cars just came across this way.”  WRONG! Immediately I knew this was not just a couple of inches of water. I tried to stop and put my car in reverse. No luck… I was moving forward without ANY control. It was a couple of FEET deep, not inches! I was stuck. And scared. Very scared. There was now water all around me. Luckily, I was still on the phone with my sister, who was able to calm me down.

 

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience you stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’”  Eleanor Roosevelt

Now believe me when I say I was in the middle of a very small community. Not a town. Not a city. A community. Green Sea, SC – ever heard of it? Neither had I. But they have wonderful people, and Natasha on the other end of 911 was one of them. Said she would stay on the line with me until rescue arrived. She knew I was scared because the same thing had happened to her, but she had her small children with her and the water went over her car. OK, it could have been much worse for me. “Where are you?” Luckily I had been on WAZE so I could tell her exactly where I was. “Ok, put your window down if the water is not up to your window. This way you can get out if needed. But don’t get out until rescue arrives. They should be there soon- they were close by on another rescue. Do you see them?” “ No but I am waving to a helicopter. Are they rescuing me?!?” (Oh please Lord don’t make me go up a rope to a helicopter!) She did not think that was my means of rescue. It wasn’t.

She said they were having a hard time finding me. The water was slowly increasing around me, making me more nervous. “Hang up and call me right back here so I can ping you,” she said. “What do you see around you?” “Uhhh water? And a forest?” I could hear her telling the crew that they had to be right close. Then, I saw them pulling up in what looked like an army tank. A fireman got out, opened my passenger door and asked if I was hurt. Nothing but my pride… “Ok, I am going to carry you to the truck. Hand me what you want to take.” My backpack with my laptop, athletic bag, and my pocketbook. I was too embarrassed to take more. This guy was so nice, but wouldn’t it have been lovely if he had been a single, 60-year old Calendar Model Fireman?!?! Enough! I was just so thankful to see him. Even being in that big tank was scary, going through all of the rushing water. I rode in the back with other rescuers. Some from Miami who specialized in Water Rescue. We rescued some other people on our way out of the water – there were homes/trailers beyond where I got stuck and they, too, were surrounded by water. Finally, we made it to dry land and they transferred me to their firetruck before heading back out to check on other people living close by. I waited with another fireman who made sure no one else went down that road. This end had cones blocking it, but my end did not.

 

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”  Mark Twain

Reality hit me as I waited:  My unlocked car was sitting out in the middle of a road, one window down, water up above the bottom of my doors, and lots of my stuff in there. I mean, I had packed to be gone for a week at the beach and a football game in Chapel Hill. Plus all the special pictures and things I had taken from the beach house when I evacuated in case the house was damaged. Ironically, I was trying to save them but now they may be gone – either drowned in water or stolen. I was very mad at myself. I mean, I knew better! I have preached to my kids about never driving through water. And yet, I did.

So what was this SOLO girl going to do? My sisters and brother-in-law kept close tabs on me and made calls looking for a rental car, but the closest place was Conway or North Myrtle Beach and there was NO way to get there – no open roads. Remember, I was in a small community full of nice, friendly, good people, but no hotels, no car rental agencies, and no restaurants. Waited in the firetruck while the rescuers continued checking on the people on that road. Called my insurance company and started a claim… a big one. They said they would make arrangements to have my car towed but it may be days later after the water receded. So I pulled out my notebook and started writing. I joked with my sister, “this is blog-worthy.”  

Two hours later, the 2 rescue firemen and I headed to the fire station. My first, and hopefully last, ride in a fire truck (but it was cool!). There were so many exhausted fire and rescue personnel at the station. They were working 30 hour shifts, and most had not been able to check on their homes. They kindly asked around to see if there were any rescue vehicles or good Samaritans going to the beach area who could take me. No luck. Decision time. How would I get anywhere? Where would I go? My sweet brother-in-law solved that problem, telling me he was on the way to get me and would be there in 3 hours. I wanted to cry several times, but didn’t. Dug deep for strength and grace. It was now time to tell my kids. I did not want to tell them earlier – did not want them to worry, or think it was time to put me in a home! Just told them the whole story in our group text. They each called to make sure I was ok and to see if they could come get me there or back in WS. (I have the best kids!) Thanked them and said I was ok. Their momma is a tough bird. Has to be. No choice. That’s what happens when you find yourself SOLO, but we always need to remember that at times, we need help. We cannot go this road alone all the time. (Especially if it is flooded!)

“A person’s own family is, without doubt, the greatest wealth that we will ever possess.”

While waiting at the station, I received a welcome phone call from the towing agency that they would be there in 30-45 minutes, coming from another town that I go through on my way to the beach! Was I at the car with the key?  Uh… no. I was at the fire station. So we made plans for them to come and get me and the key. I admit, I was nervous again, thinking of riding back to that flooded area with someone I had never met. But once I met the tow truck driver and his beautiful wife, who made the trip with him, I felt very safe. Talk about kind, good people. He is a young minister who works emergencies on the side, she’s a school teacher. Four beautiful kids. And yes, we are now FB friends! Speaking of good people, as we were trying to find a way to get to my car, someone rode up on a 4-wheeler (there were lots of people getting around in the water on 4-wheelers!). Low and behold, he knew the couple driving the tow truck, but none of them had seen each other in over 10 years! I told you it was a small town! This guy knew where my car was and told us how to get there, saying he would meet us and help. And he did. It was a huge process just getting to my car, and getting it OUT of the water was not easy either. Amazing the people who show up when needed. Angels.

Meanwhile, my brother-in-law (another angel)  was en route to us and we set up a meeting place where my new friends would drop me off. We got there first and as my brother-in-law arrived, I noticed about 5 cars following him, the Pied Piper of Florence! All lost people he met at a gas station, looking for help and direction. They thought they might be able to follow our tow truck to the beach (us too), but it turns out they were going back through water that was too deep for cars. So we transferred everything, and I mean everything, from my car on the tow truck, to my brother-in-law’s car, said goodbye to my new friends (and my car), and the convoy followed my brother-in-law and me as we zigzagged back to Dillon to try and find them a hotel for the night. It took quite a while, with many turnarounds due to closed roads, but we ended up at…SOUTH OF THE BORDER – Pedro’s Place, which was lit up like Christmas. Parted company there and we headed back to Winston-Salem, arriving after 11:30 pm, 17 hours after I had left that morning.

“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”  Ronald Reagan

In case that wasn’t enough, Tuesday brought just a little more excitement. I was able to get a rental car in Winston-Salem, and I was finally heading back to Charlottesville in a nice, smoking Jeep Cherokee. Literally. I arrived home and noticed smoke coming out from under the hood! What now?!?! For the second time in two days, I was riding in a big, flatbed tow truck. I am now in a Chrysler mini van – a nice one that takes me back to my days of taking my kids around to practices and games. My daughter told me not to get used to it. I won’t. What’s next? I’m not sure. It’s a waiting game for now. And believe it or not, I found patience. In the end, it was just a car. This experience pales in comparison to what so many people I know are experiencing right now due to Florence.

 

 

“When you think positive, good things will happen.”

So what did I learn this week? DO NOT DRIVE INTO WATER! Not even if you think you can make it. TURN AROUND! I knew better and yet, I still thought I could drive through it in my SUV.

Also, ever heard of The Waffle House Index? It’s a Southern thing, but it’s for real, folks. I learned that the government uses this to determine how bad a storm will be or was. This is how it works: The Waffle House is open 24/7, every day of the year. If they are open and serving a full menu, FEMA determines the index is green. If serving limited items, index is yellow. And if it is closed, FEMA classifies the index as RED and you better get out. On a par with the sighting of Jim Cantore of the Weather Channel. If he shows up, get the heck out!

Hoping our future will be full of sunshiny days and the flood waters recede. Remember all of the people who lost so much in this hurricane. Many were just recovering from Hurricane Matthew that hit 2 years ago. If you can, do something to help them and to help our first responders. Remember, you can make a difference. And make sure you always tell those you love that you love them, because as we all know, none of us is promised tomorrow.

Best,

Leslie

 

“Do you remember… the 21st night of September?” Earth, Wind, & Fire 1990 (one of my favorite songs!)

No… but I do remember the 12th day of September, 2015. One of the happiest days of my life, when my beautiful daughter said “I do” to my now son-in-law. And here they are today, celebrating their 3rd wedding anniversary. You cannot ask for more for your child than a life with a wonderful person they love, who cherishes them, and who fits right into your family. We are so blessed to join families with my son-in-law’s. Remember how his grandpa has helped me get my Christmas tree these last 2 years (impossible task for a SOLO gal)? Plus we get to enjoy sweet baby Lily!

“Marriage is about becoming a team. You’re going to spend the rest of your life learning about each other, and every now and then, things blow up. But the beauty of marriage is that if you picked the right person and you both love each other, you’ll always figure out a way to get through it.”  ― Nicholas Sparks

Their wedding was everything they hoped it would be. (ME TOO!) The venue was beautiful, the wedding party was wonderful, the ceremony was touching, all of our family and friends were there, and the reception was FUN, which is what they wanted. We could not have asked for anything more. Happy anniversary to this beautiful couple!

My beautiful daughter and handsome son-in-law on their wedding day! Such happiness!

This time last year, my kids and I were in NYC enjoying a couple of days in the city before attending the wedding of our neighbor who my kids grew up with. This beautiful couple is celebrating their first anniversary this weekend. What a fun trip and wonderful wedding that was! I was so thankful to be able to spend that time and share the experience with my kids and my friends. Happy anniversary to this beautiful couple too!

“A great relationship doesn’t happen because of the love you had in the beginning but how well you continue building love until the end.”

Looking back on last year’s blog, this date included lots of marriage advice. I know… marriage advice from a SOLO girl? Yes. Believe me, I have learned A LOT! So this year I will give only one piece of advice, especially to these young couples who have been in the honeymoon stage and are now moving to the real world of marriage. Marriage is not all sunshine, but if you realize this and work together, you can weather the storms that will rise up in your marriage. And trust me, there will be storms. I wish someone had told me long ago that marriage is not perfect. I lived in a fairy tale world where I thought life was perfect, including marriage. Little did I know what storms were ahead for me.

“No relationship is all sunshine, but two people can share one umbrella and survive the storm together.”

Speaking of storms, I headed to my happy place last Friday for a glorious week, until it was interrupted by another woman (imagine that!). A real B&$#H named Florence. The weather at the beach was perfect – sunny and beautiful every day. I caught up on lost sleep by sleeping in and sleeping on the beach in between reading (read 2 books) and looking for shells. But there was a lot of concern as Hurricane Florence was getting her name in the news, constantly. There is still a bit of uncertainty where Flo will land as she has not totally decided yet which Carolina coast to invade. No matter which coast, we will all be affected by this hurricane. She’s a BIG ‘UN (as my Dad would say). I was going to leave Tuesday night until the Beach Popo told me if I waited it could take me 3 hours just to get out of the beach area, normally a 25 minute drive. The heck with that! I readied my house Monday night, said goodbye to it and the beach Tuesday morning before sunrise, and hit the road home. Wanted to beat the traffic before the mandatory evacuation went into effect.

“Not all storms come to disrupt your life. Some come to clear your path.”

It was truly hard to believe this hurricane was coming when it was so beautiful at the beach. The calm before the storm. September is my favorite time of the year at the beach because the temperature and humidity are lower, the crowds are gone, beaches are uncluttered, traffic is lighter, and there is no waiting for a table at dinner. Got down Friday in time to meet my sister and her husband for dinner at a little restaurant/bar we have been wanting to try. Had lots of CAROLINA signs, just the wrong color – RED (SC)! But the food and atmosphere were great! And Saturday we went to Franks – again, no wait for a great table.

While I was really looking forward to this week at the beach, I feel worse for the people who were down there on vacation and had to evacuate. I also have friends on the coast of NC who are concerned as well. And as if that is not enough, my home towns of Charlottesville and Winston-Salem are in the path of Flo’s torrential rain. Carolina’s first home football game has even been cancelled, which might be in their favor this year (one less loss)! And at least I had 3 glorious days at the beach, and I know I’ll be back soon, as long as my house is still standing!

“Without rain nothing grows, learn to embrace the storms in your life.”

Honestly, this storm’s breadth surprised me. Storms in our lives are like that too. How do you prepare for something you don’t know is going to happen? And even with some warning, how do you prepare? You deal with it, accept it, get your chin up, stay strong, and move on. Life is good – remember that. The forecast for the days after the hurricane (Saturday/Sunday) looks beautiful. Proof that the sun will shine again, no matter how bad things are. No storm lasts forever.

“If you want the rainbow, you’ve got to put up with the rain.”  -Dolly Parton

If you haven’t heard, the upcoming hurricanes will be named “Leslie” and “Michael”. Though it looks like we might, I am hoping we don’t get to our family names, and I hope they do NOT invade my happy place! How embarrassing that would be!

Please say a prayer for all those in the path of Hurricane Florence. And remember that you are strong enough to weather any storms that come into your life. Don’t let the storms ruin your happiness, because as we all know, none of us is promised tomorrow.

Best,

Leslie

PS – What I learned this week – I always thought that the reason wedding rings are worn on the left fourth finger is because that finger has a “vein of love” that runs from the finger directly to the heart. I learned this week that this is a MYTH, a legend. Bummer. I loved that idea! (Even if I am NOT wearing any rings on that finger!) The legend dates back to the Romans, who did not really understand biology! All fingers have veins that connect to the heart in a roundabout way.

“Let’s get it started in here…” The Black Eyed Peas 2003

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

The alarm went off EARLY last Saturday morning. It was dark and foggy when my younger daughter and I left my house. This sounded like such a good idea several months ago, but now? I have been worrying about this all week. Gave up 2 days of working out to be rested, but am I? Had another session of dry needling for my hamstring so I would be ready, but am I? Am I ever ready for this?

We arrive as the sun is rising, surrounded by 3,000 other women, their families and friends there to cheer them on. Stand shoulder-to-shoulder for half an hour as we line up in pace groups and work our way to the starting line. And then… BOOM! We’re off. I am zig-zagging between people looking for an open space (have I mentioned I am a bit claustrophobic?). Eyes on the ground in front of me for any obstacles – when did they put a bumble strip down the middle of this road? Did I start out too fast? I normally do. Can I finish? I love running. I hate races. Why do I always sign up for them?

Pre-Race… my running partner. Why are we doing this again?

“Racing teaches us to challenge ourselves. It teaches us to push beyond where we thought we could go.  It helps us to find out what we are made of.”  Patti Sue Plummer, US Olympian

Three miles down… if this was a 5K we would be finished. One more mile to go. Can I finish and finish strong? That’s when I see it – the first banner of the Motivational Mile. “Where the names of loved ones and friends who have battled cancer are posted.” There are so many banners lining this last mile. What is the first banner everyone sees this year?  #MoveforJenn . Yes, I will finish. And I will run as hard as I can knowing this young mother of 2 would give anything to literally be in my shoes right now. Half a mile to go and I see the other banner I have been searching for: Luanne Mahannah Hinshaw. I don’t give up because I know Luanne (my childhood friend) would also give anything to be in my shoes. I cross the finish line of the 36th Annual Charlottesville Women’s 4-Miler for these brave and wonderful women, and for all the others, who exemplify Grit and Grace in their battles with cancer. My friend Luanne battled cancer bravely but had to say goodbye to her family and friends in the end. Her beautiful daughter-in-law, Jenn, courageously stared cancer in the face and said you can have my foot, but not my spirit nor my life. And on September 29th, this brave young woman will show us what being a survivor is truly all about when she runs her first 5K after losing her foot to cancer. Jenn is a daily dose of inspiration to everyone.

“When life gives you every reason to be negative, think of all the reasons to be positive. There’s always someone who has it worse.”

When I find myself having a pity party, which I do at times (don’t we all?), I remind myself to  stop and think about all that I have to be thankful for. Honestly, I try to stay so busy that I don’t have time for that kind of party. And I have learned that no matter what, life goes on. I mean, look at me. I am happy (most of the time). I am enjoying my life more than ever. I have done more in the past 2 ½ years than in the past 30. Just last week I spent time with 2 of my kids, saw 3 movies – Mama Mia (loved it!), Black Klansman (left me shaken to the core), Crazy Rich Asians (LOVED this – made me laugh and cry) – ran a race, spent an afternoon at a vineyard, met friends for dinner, and went to a cookout. These are the kinds of parties I like! And as Jamie Lee Curtis said on the Today Show about turning 60, “Sixty feels like I have no time to waste…and I am happy!”

“You have within you right now, everything you need to deal with whatever the world can throw at you.”

After the Charlottesville Women’s 4 miler Saturday, I went to work for a bit to make some headway on our financials, and then out to King Family Vineyards to work on my blog, relax, have a glass of wine, and celebrate another race in the books with my younger daughter and race partner. Well, I got to relax. She was working. Sunday found me back at the club for cycle, church, work, and then to Richmond to my older daughter’s for a cookout with my son-in-law’s family, including Sweet Baby Lily! Oh, what a blessing Lily is!

“Sometimes happiness is a feeling, sometimes it’s a decision.”

Life is good for me and can be good for all of us. Are there hard days? Absolutely. As all of my friends celebrate their wedding anniversaries, I hurt. Thinking I should be on year 38, but happy I am not at the same time. Both emotions battling for top spot. Luckily for me, feeling thankful wins out every time.

Post race relaxation!

“Always turn a negative situation into a positive situation.”  Michael Jordan

I read this week that the top 4 habits to make you feel happier are:

  • Smile at 3 different people every day
  • Write down or say 3 new things every day that you are thankful for
  • Compliment 3 different people every day
  • Perform 1 random act of kindness every day

Couldn’t hurt to try at least one of these each day. I always smile at everyone I pass when I am running and say good morning. Most of the time they smile back and say good morning to me as well. And it does make me feel good. And when I am running and someone I know blows their car horn or yells hello to me, that also makes me happy and gives me such a boost. One of our club members drives a city bus and he always blows the bus horn and waves at me since I run on his route.

So why do I keep running races? For that wonderful euphoric feeling I get when I cross the finish line. That feeling of conquering something that takes great effort. And why do I keep picking myself up when life tries to bring me down? Because life goes on, and tomorrow is another day. And life is good. Everyday there is something to be thankful for, even if I have to search a bit harder some days.

This week make an effort to be happier. Smile at 3 people and perform one random act of kindness every day this week and see what happens in YOUR life. Be thankful for the little things, and don’t waste your time being upset because as we all know, none of us is promised tomorrow.

Best,

Leslie

PS – last week I said I would share with you something I learned each week. So… I learned this week that, meteorologically speaking, fall began Saturday, September 1 (race day!), but astronomically speaking, fall doesn’t actually arrive until September 22nd. What’s the difference? According to my favorite Beach weatherman Ed Piotrowski, “Astronomical seasons are based on the position of Earth in relation to the sun, whereas the meteorological seasons are based on the annual temperature cycle. Meteorologically, winter is defined as the three coldest months of the year (DEC-FEB), summer the three hottest months (JUN-AUG), spring (MAR-MAY) and fall (SEP-NOV) the transition months.” Makes sense to me! But still… I am NOT ready to say goodbye to SUMMER!