“It’s Just Another New Year’s Eve…” Barry Manilow 1977

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

Hope all y’all had a wonderful Christmas and that you were able to spend it with loved ones, be it family or friends. My whole Christmas season was such a blessing this year. Best one ever! If you have been following my blog, you know that November and December found me spending a lot of meaningful time with my family – kids, sisters, and mom. I have had so much fun. But the best part was having all of my kids under the same roof (my roof!) for Christmas. Cannot ask for more than that. As I have said before, as much as I love one-on-one time with my kids, I truly love watching them with each other laughing, joking, talking, loving. Does a momma’s heart good – my best present.

“The best gifts can’t often be packed inside a box. How can you wrap shared laughter and tears or talks that run into hours? They can only be wrapped and treasured inside my heart.”

I cannot believe Christmas is already over. My poor tree can though! It is so dry – it stopped “drinking water” last week. I guess that’s what happens when you put a tree up before Thanksgiving (which was early this year!). Since it is in my family room, I have enjoyed its Christmas spirit and beauty every night. This boosted my spirits as well.  As I look back on this past week, I realize there is nothing I would change about Christmas this year. It was our best yet. My kids and I followed a lot of our traditions and added some new fun events too.

Sunday was such a beautiful day, not at all like a wintry December 23rd. My kids went to church with me. I loved showing them off to my pew neighbors. It was the 4th Sunday in Advent, which meant the Hope, Peace, Love, and finally the Joy candles were all lit. So appropriate as it was such a joy having my kids with me in church! Not to mention that my “Day 23 Christmas Sweater” represented 3 of the 4 Advent candles, it was just missing Hope. And I felt all of these emotions Sunday. Hope for my family and friends that 2019 will be a wonderful year. Hope that all pain and suffering, physical and emotional, all disease, illness, and cancer will disappear from the lives of all afflicted. Peace, as I am at a very good place in my SOLO life and thankful my life is just the way it is. Love having my kids close to me. I love that they love me and each other, and that they are very good people. I love that they are celebrating Christmas with their momma who loves them more than anything. Joy, oh I have so much joy in my heart and life, especially this Christmas season. I looked in the face of my great-nephew at our family’s Christmas celebration, and each time he facetimes me, and feel his constant joy. Isn’t that wonderful about kids and joy – theirs is so obvious. I felt such joy having my kids with me this Christmas.

“The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.” Burton Hills

After church Sunday, we decided to visit several area wineries since it was such a beautiful day. We always leave the “which ones to visit” decision up to my younger daughter, our wine connoisseur, who picks perfectly, and Sunday was no exception. We had so much fun all afternoon together and ended up at my house for a lasagna family dinner. Again, more fun just sitting around the table talking, before watching Christmas movies (non-Hallmark!).

We followed a tradition we started several years ago on Christmas Eve, going downtown to a brewery we love for lunch. But first, my older daughter and I went to an early cycle class (I am not running right now or we would have gone for a good run!), and leisurely shopped at a few stores for nothing in particular, which was more fun. Our traditional Christmas Eve dinner was later at my house before church, followed by a late night of fun and more silly movies until we all fell asleep on couches and recliners. Poor Santa had to wait until the wee hours for us to move to our beds!

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

We changed up our tradition a bit Christmas morning and had a waffle bar! Oh, and eggs, grits, bacon, turkey sausage links, and fruit! Opened presents and had a late lunch before everyone headed back to their homes. My younger daughter and I started a new tradition this year: going to a movie Christmas afternoon! We decided to see Welcome to Marwen, and it was wonderful. So happy to do this as I always feel a bit of a let down after my kids leave.

With Christmas over and my tree so dry, I am ready for it to come down. I always like to start the new year with a clean house – all decorations back in their boxes, Christmas sweaters cleaned and  packed away for next Christmas. I plan to have this accomplished before the weekend is over.

“Start every day with a new hope. Leave bad memories behind and have faith for a better tomorrow.”

I started thinking about 2019 while I was in church with my kids last Sunday, as the Advent season wrapped up. Honestly, I am not sure how in my 61 years of life, I never thought so much about the specific Advent candles before. Just something I took for granted. Advent came to an end on Christmas morning, and the Christ candle representing the light of the world was lit. Let’s carry these themes of HOPE, PEACE, LOVE, and JOY right into the new year.

Speaking of the new year… do you have any big plans for New Year’s? Will you be awake to sing Auld Lang Syne? Any resolutions to share? I started 2018 telling myself that I did not want to end the year with any regrets. I would see my “out of town” kids more, go to the beach as often as possible, read more books, and learn to knit. Success in many of these resolutions – I have NO regrets for 2018. Well, I wanted to read more books and I did not learn to knit, but there is always 2019. Since this past year was a good one for me, I plan to continue on this same course.

“Make this year a year of finding, of fulfillment, of joy, peace, and purpose.”

Here is my advice to my kids for 2019 – maybe some will resonate with you:

  1. Be kind. Every day.
  2. Be honest with yourself and others. Every day.
  3. Work hard. Every day.
  4. Have fun. Every day.
  5. Exercise. Every day.
  6. Pray. Every day.
  7. Be thankful. Every day.

“A new year. A fresh start. Same dreams. New challenges. Feel the fear and do it anyway. 365 new days. 365 new challenges.”

This year is almost over and sadly, not all of our family & friends made it. Never take for granted those you love, and make sure they know how you feel, because as we all know, none of us is promised tomorrow.

And for the final time this year, the last days of 25 Days of Christmas Sweaters:

See y’all next year!

Best,

Leslie

PS: Remember in a previous blog I said I thought the Carolina Frats must have hired a company to put up all of their lights. Well, according to my son, that is NOT the case. Pledges are responsible for the lights. So glad I never knew my son was on the roof of his fraternity house hanging lights!

ATO Chapel Hill…my son’s decorations!

 

 

Love Actually… 2003

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

Monday night, my sister texted that “Love Actually” was on TV. Second time this season. What a great movie! All about LOVE. And it includes the song “All I Want for Christmas” in the soundtrack. I cannot believe this is the first year I have seen this movie. Where have I been all these years? I have now seen it twice and will watch it again if possible. Definitely recommend it.

I have been tearing up the road lately! And loving the lower gas prices. Last week, I spent Tuesday and Wednesday in Maryland, Thursday in NC, came back to Virginia on Friday just to head back to NC on Sunday.  But I am loving every minute of each special trip. Speaking of love, this past Sunday was the 3rd Sunday in Advent, in which the Hope (1st Sunday), Peace (2nd Sunday), and the Love (3rd Sunday) candles were lit. Love… doesn’t this word give you a warm fuzzy feeling? I LOVED this past Sunday and felt that warm fuzzy feeling! All of the people I love most in this world, except for my son-in-law who had dawg duty, were together at my older sister’s house – Mom, my sisters, my brother-in-law, my nephew and his family, my 3 kids, and my son’s girlfriend. We celebrated our Holcomb family Christmas, laughing, eating, spending time together, and being entertained by Jack. So much fun and so much love! Next year Jack’s little sister will be with us! What a wonderful afternoon followed by the most special church service of the season – the Moravian Candlelight Lovefeast. Lovefeast, you ask? Oh yes. The service begins with Christmas hymns, then they serve a Moravian bun and Moravian coffee (brewed with cream and sugar – only time I drink coffee all year!). We all say the Moravian blessing together and enjoy the bun and coffee while the choirs sing, followed by the most special part of the service – the lighting of the candles. Our church makes all of the candles out of beeswax (representing the purity of Christ) and trim them in red crepe paper (representing the blood of Christ). Of course, the lighted candle represents Christ as the “Light of the World,” and during the last verse of the last hymn, we all stand and raise our lighted candles. What a beautiful sight to behold! Talk about a warm fuzzy feeling… Oh how I love this service – it would not be Christmas without it. I loved being a Moravian again (I’m a Presbyterian in VA). And it was worth getting home after midnight, especially having so much time in the car with my daughters. And I’m thankful for that Moravian coffee to keep me awake!

“May the light that entered the world that night cast its brilliance into the deepest corners of our souls this Christmas, giving us peace on earth of which the angels spoke so long ago.” Randy Kilgore

As I ended my last blog, I was setting off on another fun adventure, and what fun it was! Last Thursday I drove to Charlotte and met my son and his roommate (whose birthday it was) at their apartment. We walked several blocks to the Charlotte Panthers’ Stadium where my son’s girlfriend met us so that we could take a tour of the stadium, an event offered by one of our large vendors. Because my son lives in Charlotte and we are all Panthers’ fans, I immediately took advantage of this offer. Oh my gosh what fun that was! Toured and learned so much about the Panthers, the 75,525-seat stadium, the locker rooms, the press boxes, the field, the “TopCats” locker room, everything Panther! The concourse is half a mile. The 2 video boards are each 55 feet tall and 198 feet wide! Imagine being on that Jumbotron! Loved every minute of it! And afterwards we walked to a local bar where we were treated to cocktails and appetizers. SO. MUCH. FUN. Loved spending time with my son (my favorite guy), his girlfriend, and his roommate.

“Family… today’s little moments become tomorrow’s precious memories.”

Left Charlotte and headed to Winston-Salem. Stopped by Mom’s, hoping she would still be awake and I could surprise her, and luckily, there she was, in her PJ’s with her friends just chatting at the nurses station. “Well look who is here – my daughter! Hey Les!” Oh those sweet words warmed my heart! And funny thing is, the caregiver told me Mom had just said she was not quite ready to go to bed. A mother’s intuition to wait up? I believe! Spent the night at my sister’s and left VERY early Friday morning heading back to Charlottesville and directly to work!

My sweet Momma….

“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” Desmond Tutu

Today I am back in NC, spending the day baking with my Mom and my sisters, using Mom’s Christmas recipes. We are making several traditional Holcomb Christmas sweets – fudge, peanut butter balls, molasses crinkles, and thumbprints cookies. Lots of sisterly love and fun. I know Mom is loving being here, surrounded by her girls, and rolling a thousand peanut butter balls!

“Mothers hold their children’s hands for short while, but their hearts forever.”

This Friday is the Winter Solstice – the shortest day of the year. Did you know that it is 5 hours and 50 minutes shorter than the Summer Solstice in June?!? That is almost 6 fewer hours of sunlight! BUT… I love this day because it means that we will now begin adding 1 minute of light every day! And those minutes add up… quickly. More light… just like the candles in the Candlelight Lovefeast. This is a time we can be a light for others. Share your light with those who need it most. Your light will shine brighter for it.

Let your light so shine…

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

So y’all, this time next week another Christmas will have come and gone. My children, who are spending Christmas with me, will have returned to their homes. Life will settle back down a bit. But in the meantime, I plan to enjoy and love every special minute of this holiday season. Treasure the time spent with my kids, family, and friends, and remember the reason we celebrate Christmas.

“It’s not what’s under the tree that matters, it’s who is around it.”

I wish for each of you a blessed Christmas with much love and happiness. Cherish the love of family and friends, and make sure you share this love and your light, because as we all know, none of us is promised tomorrow.

Merry Christmas,

Leslie

PS Could not end without this past week’s Sweater collection! HO HO HO! Enjoy!

“Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” Bing Crosby and David Bowie 1977

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

This past Sunday was the 2nd Sunday in Advent, meaning the Hope candle for the 1st Sunday and the Peace candle for the 2nd Sunday were lit. PEACE. Such a calming word. It’s lovely when we find peace in our lives. When there is no conflict, worry, or angst. When life is calm, skies are blue, and we have a feeling of contentment. This time of year we tend to get caught up in all the hustle and bustle of the holidays – parties and events, shopping and presents to be bought, and celebrations in addition to our everyday busy lives. So when we do find a moment or two of peace, we must cherish them.

“Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Came out of church Sunday to SNOW! Lots of it. Made life a bit chaotic as everyone was carefully trying to navigate their way first to their cars, and then on the snow covered roads home. And it continued into the night. Our original prediction of 2-4 inches was surpassed within the first couple of hours. I last measured over 9 inches on my deck! But the chaos of the morning lead to a very peaceful Sunday afternoon and evening at home in front of a fire, wrapping presents and watching Hallmark Christmas movies, content to be inside. I went out later to take a picture and just stood listening to the silence of the new fallen snow. So unlike the days when my kids were younger, out sledding and playing in the snow! I remember putting beach towels down in the entrance hall for my kids and their friends to leave their boots, jackets, snow pants, etc. It was a pile taller than ME! Loved those times dearly, but I have to say that Sunday’snight made me think of Silent Night’s “all is calm, all is bright”. I left my outside Christmas lights on all night. They looked so special under the snow.

“A snowflake is one of God’s most fragile creations, but look what they can do when they stick together!”

If you recall, I ended last week’s blog telling you I was off to attend a fun event that night. And I was: my first EVER Carolina basketball game in the Dean Dome. Can you believe that?! My younger daughter and I left Charlottesville late afternoon and headed to Chapel Hill. Had dinner at our favorite restaurant, TOPO (Top of the Hill) and walked (briskly I might add) to the Dean Dome to watch UNC play UNCW, my younger daughter’s alma mater. I got tickets to the game for her birthday (and mine!). When I was at Carolina, basketball games were played in Carmichael Auditorium. I remember camping out for tickets at least once. We set up early and got close enough to an outlet to have an electric blanket! But I digress… I have been in the Dean Dome for several Late Nights with Roy – the last one in 2017 when the Championship banner was hung, but this was my first game and it was exciting! Great seats and great atmosphere. So much Carolina Blue. SO. MUCH. FUN! The UNCW coach is a former UNC assistant coach, so it was a homecoming for him and he was well received. First half was very close, but UNC pulled away in the 2nd half. Still, it was a great game for us and we stayed until the last second ticked off, then trekked back to our car enjoying all the Christmas lights on Frat court (they must have hired a company to put up all their lights!) and the beautifully decorated Carolina Inn. Since it was a 9 pm game, we did not get home until 3 am (thankful for 5-hour energy drinks)! But it was worth every sleep-deprived moment! Oh how I would love to have season tickets to those basketball games…

“The purpose of our lives is to be happy.” Dalai Lama

Though I was dragging a bit Thursday after only 3 hours of sleep, I did not want to miss the member’s Candlelight Christmas House Tour at Montpelier (home of President James Madison) that evening. This was my third house tour and I am always in awe of what I learn, see, and feel each time. My younger daughter was there photographing the event and as we walked from the Visitors Center where there was wine, food, and music, to the house, we found ourselves whispering. Then we both said, why are we whispering? Because it was so peaceful, beautiful, and quiet along the candlelit path. I love visiting with “James and Dolley” as well – it is amazing to me how they are always perfectly in period time, but I would never have made it in Madison’s time – they barely decorated for the holidays back then!

My original plans for the weekend included a peaceful trip to the beach to recharge and catch up on sleep, but the impending weather changed my plans. So instead, I went to Richmond on Saturday to see my granddawg and celebrate her birthday a few days early. She will be 2 years old tomorrow (Thursday). You may think that makes her 14 in human years (I did!), but according to WebMD that is not the case. She is 24 human years old, 15 years for her first year and 9 years for her second. That makes me feel old! She’s almost as old as my son and has only been in our lives for 2 years. To say she was excited to see me is an understatement. Of course, she is always excited to see visitors, but I like to think she felt something special for me. She loved the birthday presents I brought from my son, daughter, and me. (That dawg loves presents, and the bags presents come in!) Went out to lunch with my daughter and son-in-law, but with the chilly weather, we did not take Paige and eat outside. Love spending time with my kids.

“We should live every day like it is a holiday, being thankful and spending time with family, and looking hopefully to the future.”

I cannot end without a summary of this week’s 25 Days of Christmas Sweaters. What fun I have had with this! Love your comments on facebook each day. Still having a hard time deciding which ones will not make the cut this year. It is causing me angst when I need peace!

This Christmas season, and every other day of the year, strive to find peace in your life, in your family, in our world. What a wonderful world it would be if only we had peace in our daily lives. And live each day as if it could be your last, because as we all know, none of us is promised tomorrow.

“Peace…It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”

Peacefully,

Leslie

PS I am off on another FUN adventure tomorrow. And looking forward to being a Moravian again this Sunday! More on all of that next week!

 

“O Little Town of Bethlehem…” 1868

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

My tree was up before Thanksgiving (yes I know that is early) and my house was decorated, but I was missing one piece – my front door wreath! For several years my younger daughter and I have talked about going to a wreath-making class and this year, we did. We had so much fun! Learned a lot as well – all of the greenery came from the property at Grelen, a quaint nursery and shop in the nearby town of Orange. There were so many different and beautiful types of evergreens and greenery for us to use from white pine to magnolia leaves, including one in particular we loved – Carolina sapphire. The process was nothing like I had imagined – thought we would just use green floral wire to secure the greenery around a circular base, but no. Instead, we had a strong metal form with 14 sections. We chose different types of greenery, cut to about 10 inches, and bundled tightly in our hand. Had to be a handful. Then one at a time, we added a bundle and bent the wire (not floral wire!) down on each side to hold it in. Each bundle overlapped the previous bundle. The bundles added up. Little steps to a beautiful wreath. What a beautiful and special day. Definitely on the list for next year.

“Enjoy the little things in life… for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”

Friday night was reserved for my secret crush, not that it is really a secret according to my cousin! But first, I drove to Richmond to see my older daughter’s new office which is wonderful, and then to her house to see her Christmas tree, and to love on my granddawg Paige. Y’all, their tree is a total Carolina tree from the star to the skirt. Nothing red on this tree – red is a banned color in their house (think woof woof – NCSU). And their topper – well, no question they are Tarheels and they bleed blue!

Then it was MY time… drove across town to spend an hour with my favorite author and secret crush, David Baldacci. Even though I was early, the place was packed. Only time I don’t mind standing (and waiting), and I did so for over an hour, listening to him entertain everyone with stories and background on the new character in his latest thriller. This new book is already a best-seller and looks to be another great read. When it was my turn to get my books signed, he graciously greeted me and signed all 12 of my books! I keep my kids’, family’s, and friends’ home libraries up to date with all of his novels – personally signed with a “Happy Birthday” or “Merry Christmas.” But for my book, I just asked him to sign and date it. But what did he write? “To Leslie, Always great to see you!” Be still my heart! Such a little thing, but honestly, made me feel special, made my day. Maybe he doesn’t “know” me, but he does remember me, I mean who wouldn’t!?! I have been coming to his book signings for over 20 years and I always have more books than anyone else for him to sign. I do feel badly for the people behind me in line, but these books are perfect presents! He releases a new best-seller twice a year, which means I get to see him twice a year. Many people say that if they could have lunch with anyone in the world they would choose a professional athlete or famous actor. Me? I would choose an author.

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

Sometimes it’s the little things in life that truly touch us. My teammates at work knew that December 1st was the beginning of my famous Christmas Sweater exhibition, and they showed up Monday decked to the nines in their cheeriest (and only) Christmas Sweaters to join me! So fun for me! Come Tuesday, I was the only one sporting holiday attire, but that is ok! (Wonder if they will be borrowing a sweater from me for later in the season!)

Let’s sparkle!

 

“Christmas it too sparkly, said no one ever!”

If you know me, you know I have been collecting Christmas sweaters for YEARS! Some are 35+ years old (many with shoulder pads). Since my birthday is in November, my mother would often give me a Christmas sweater for my birthday (back when they were in style). And when my kids were in school, I loved sporting them when I volunteered in their classrooms. I have bins of them, and usually add to my collection each year. Still don’t understand why my kids raid them for Ugly Christmas Sweater parties! I plan to wear a different Christmas sweater (or 2) every day until Christmas. Little thing, but it tends to make people smile and truly puts me in the Christmas spirit. It is difficult deciding which jewels won’t make the cut this year. Christmas spirit lives on!

“And we are better throughout the year for having in spirit, become a child again at Christmas time.” Laura Ingalls Wilder

This past Sunday was the first Sunday in Advent. The Hope candle was lit. HOPE. Such a strong and yet wistful word. We all hope. We must hope or we are mired in despair. We hope for our families and friends to be safe, happy, and healthy. We hope that tomorrow will be better than today. We hope for a bright future.

“Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.”

What hopes do you have for this holiday season? I am hoping all of our dreams come true. I am hoping prayers are answered for my family and friends. I am hoping the Christmas spirit touches each and every one of you. Remember to BE present this holiday season, enjoy the little things that touch your heart, and spread joy wherever you go, because as we all know, none of us is promised tomorrow.

Best,

Leslie

PS Cheers and Happy 100th birthday to an “old” friend from New Philadelphia Moravian Church who has also found himself a transplant in Virginia. This dear man writes with such spirit, heart, and humor. What an example he is to all of us. Happy Birthday Ed! You inspire me!

AND I am doing something SO FUN tonight! Check out next week’s blog to see what it is!

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…. Everywhere you go….” Bing Crosby 1951 (before I was born!)

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

Gobble Gobble! Did you get your fill of turkey last week?  I volunteered to bring the big bird for our family’s Thanksgiving meal at my older sister’s house. My sisters provided the rest – mashed potatoes, fresh green beans (cooked the Southern way – for hours!), sweet potatoes, roasted beet salad, cranberry relish, stuffing, and rolls. Oh, and a pumpkin pie and a fresh apple cake. Delicious! Thanksgiving is such a special holiday with great food and great family time. My sister’s beautiful table hosted our sweet momma, my sisters, brother-in-law, and 2 of my 3 children. We said the Moravian blessing, ending with our ritual “Amen, dig in!” And we did. We talked, reminisced, shared stories, and laughed till we cried. I enjoyed every minute of it. My nephew and his wife came for dessert and brought Jack who we all adore! And what entertainment Jack provided! He had us in stitches – his favorite song now is “Baby Shark”. And the way Jack sings it, well it is just hilarious! He loved on all of us and needless to say, we all loved on him.

“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”  Willie Nelson

Thanksgiving day was even more special this year as it was the 43rd wedding anniversary of my sister and brother-in-law. 43 years y’all! We are all so proud of them and thankful for their wedding success – I mean, let’s face it, they are the only non-divorced members of my original family. My sweet and very patient brother-in-law has to deal with 4 Holcomb women and he does so in a wonderful way. And being the thoughtful husband, instead of getting “just flowers” for my sister, he got the most beautiful centerpiece (shown below) that I have ever seen. My sister and brother-in-law understand what it takes to be married for a LONG time! Here’s to happily ever after!

Thanksgiving table and flowers…
43 years of marriage!

“Couples who make it aren’t the ones who never had a reason to get divorced; they are simply the ones who decide that their commitment to each other is always more important than their differences and flaws.”

My kids and I were together again all day Saturday. My younger daughter and I left Charlottesville at 6:00 am for our last home football game in Chapel Hill. We were a bit leery as the weather was NOT perfect this Saturday. As a matter of fact, we had a bit of sleet and freezing rain leaving town. Our crew decided not to tailgate this game due to the weather and the fact that it was a noon game. Good decision! When we got to our parking spots, there was only 1 tailgate going on – NC State fans, huddled under a tent trying to stay dry, but not succeeding. My daughters, son-in-law, and I piled into my son’s car and drove to Franklin Street for a pre-game brunch/lunch at Top of the Hill (my favorite spot in Chapel Hill)! Luckily, we were one of the first to arrive and got a prime table. Within half an hour the place was PACKED (pun intended as there were a lot of Wolfpack fans there too). We took our time and enjoyed being together for our last game of the season. Then headed out in the misty rain for the stadium. We had hats and coats to keep us dry and kinda warm. It was a bit chilly – thank heavens for blankets and hand warmers that I buy in BULK.

“What good is the warmth of summer without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” John Steinbeck

I kept telling my kids “it’s burning off”… famous words of Mom – we would be driving to the beach in pouring rain and she would say, “you know, I think it is burning off.” Positive thinking. But you know what? It did clear up and we all said we might could have used our sunglasses that of course none of us brought. But not for too long. The sun never truly came out, but it did stop raining. Thankfully. And oh my gosh, we almost won. Yes, I know…almost doesn’t count, but once again, we got our hopes up as we WERE leading, and it never occurred to us that we would be in that position. It was an exciting and fun game, until OT.  Woof Woof. And as it turns out, it was the farewell game for the coach. Oh well, here’s to next season! Life goes on and it has to get better, right?!?! Hard to believe our Saturday tailgates are over.

Though it was cold and rainy on Saturday, Sunday was absolutely beautiful. Sunny and 62 warm degrees. What a gift. Perfect day for an outdoor run and visiting wineries. My younger daughter suggested going to a couple of new wineries for me – Septenary and Grace Estate. Both were wonderful. I had not eaten lunch, and that does not bode well for me, especially when wine is involved, so we got a baguette and cheese at Grace Estate, sat and visited (even though we had been together all day Saturday). While we were having a glass of wine, Santa walked in with Mrs Claus, dressed in street clothes. I kid you not. Yes, I spoke to him as he walked by and told him I thought he was Santa. He stopped and visited with us, sharing some artifacts he had recovered at Yorktown. Told him my Christmas wish!

So, has anybody decorated for Christmas yet? ME! Yes, my tree is up and decorated (as are all of my kids’ trees!) and my house is Christmas ready. Now I can enjoy my tree and the holidays. Plus, I have almost checked off all the presents on my list. It helps that my sisters and I decided that this year we would not exchange gifts, instead we would make a donation to support those who suffered from Hurricane Florence. (Remember that hurricane with all the flooding that caused a crazy lady to total her 5-month-old car by driving it into deep water? Yes, that hurricane!) So I am feeling very good about this holiday season. Plus I have many, many fun things planned each week between now and December 26th (including my famous Christmas Sweaters) which is why I wanted to get my decorations up early. Besides, I LOVE Christmas! “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”

“I like to compare the holiday season with the way a child listens to a favorite story. The pleasure is in the familiar way the story begins, the anticipation of familiar turns it takes, the familiar moments of suspense, and the familiar climax and ending.”  Fred Rogers

While I love my traditional holidays, I have been wanting to add some new, fun traditions for myself and my family. We still make a trip Winston-Salem for the Moravian Christmas Candlelight Lovefeast (offered mid-December for families traveling), and we go to my church in Charlottesville on Christmas Eve. The kids spend the night and last year we stayed up late watching Christmas movies (non-Hallmark!). They asked for all of our traditional Christmas meals which I loved to provide! And we opened presents Christmas morning after our traditional brunch. This year I am adding something new – I am going to a wreath making event. I normally buy a beautiful homemade wreath from a local school, but have always wanted to make my own. So this year I am! Holiday memories.

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

The Christmas spirit is all around us this time of the year. But for some people, especially this year, the holidays are not the most wonderful time of the year. This year I know families struggling with new diagnoses of alzheimer’s and cancer, battling diseases and major life changes, fresh losses of beloved parents and children and friends, jobs lost, hearts broken, and marriages that are trying to find their way. So remember to be extra kind and share your joy with others, especially those you know are struggling, because as we all know, none of us is promised tomorrow.

Best,

Leslie

“Memories, pressed between the pages of my mind… Memories, sweetened through the ages just like wine…” Elvis Presley December 1968

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

Ever pulled out an old photo album, flipped through the pages and just relished those old memories? Re-lived the good old days? Did it make you happy or sad? For each of my children’s birthdays, I post pictures on Facebook of their “younger selves” and try not to embarrass them too much. Last week I was going through my photo bins (I have MANY large bins of old photographs) to find special baby pictures of my sweet middle daughter for her birthday on Saturday. I have been doing this for years for each child. But for the last 3 birthdays of each of my kids, this has been both a delightful and a painful task. Delightful in that I get to “relive” all of the memories of their precious childhoods, looking at the sweet pictures. Painful, as I am reminded of the way my family “was”, when my “wasband” was still part of my life. I have to say though, it was a bit easier this year. Time does begin to ease our hurt. Thankfully.

“Life brings tears, smiles, and memories. The tears dry, the smiles fade, but the memories last forever.”

My beautiful family….

My kids and I celebrated my younger daughter’s birthday all day Saturday. She and I left Charlottesville at 6 am for Chapel Hill and returned at 10:30 pm. It was a full fun day! We met the Tailgate Crew (my older daughter and son-in-law) at our spot, where everything was set up and ready for our arrival: breakfast (thank you Chick-fil-A), Mimosas, and Sports Center on TV. My son came up from Charlotte to spend the day with us and celebrate his sister’s birthday, even though he had to get back to Charlotte that night for a “Friendsgiving”. I truly have great kids. We spent the day playing cornhole, watching other games on TV, visiting with each other and other tailgaters, walking through campus, and shopping on Franklin Street. Grilled burgers for a late lunch (game was at 3 pm) and celebrated my daughter’s birthday with mini cupcakes, balloons, and presents. Gosh it was a beautiful day – sunny and cool.  And to top it all off, Carolina won! YEA! We are now 2-8! Wasn’t pretty, but it was a win for my daughter’s birthday. The icing on the cake (pun intended) was that my daughter’s birthday picture made the Jumbotron at the game! I had taken a picture of her at our tailgate and tagged it #goheels on Instagram and lo and behold we looked up during one of the time outs and there she was!  What a perfect day! Good memories made Saturday and all season long… only one more home game to go!

“In the end it is not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.” Abraham Lincoln

Sunday morning, my sweet older daughter and son-in-law, and of course my granddawg Paige, took me to get my Christmas tree. Yes, it is early in the Christmas season, but the trees were in and I was ready! I used to agonize over getting my tree, going from lot to lot and tree to tree looking for that perfect tree, but for the last 3 SOLO Christmases, I have been able to pick out my tree immediately and successfully. This year my son-in-law found the perfect tree for me. It is up and my house smells like Christmas. Planning to decorate it tonight while watching Hallmark Christmas movies! Time to celebrate “the most wonderful time of the year!”

Sunday was such a beautiful day that after getting my tree, I decided to visit King Family Vineyards, see my younger daughter who was working, and just sit outside with a glass of wine, bread and cheese, and enjoy the afternoon. I watched as a fall wedding was being set up and pre-wedding pictures were being taken. A celebration. Loving memories being made.

Cheers to a lovely Sunday afternoon!

As I told y’all last week, yesterday was my birthday – #61. And I have been making the most of it! My celebration started last Friday when I met a dear friend who also shares a November birthday for dinner. Saturday, I shared cupcakes with my daughter at our tailgate. Monday I met some friends for a glass of wine and ended up staying for dinner. Then yesterday morning, on my birthday, I drove to Richmond to take my older daughter’s 6:15 am cycle class in the newly redesigned cycle studio. And my younger daughter showed up as well! What a great start to my birthday – my daughters, a hard cycle class, flowers, and a balloon! And arrived at my office to find it decorated for my birthday with cards and presents and cupcakes. I work with a wonderful team! We are a family and I am so thankful for them.

“What if we lived each day like it was our birthday?”

And to celebrate both of our birthdays, my younger daughter and I dressed up and had dinner at a fun, wonderful new restaurant on our downtown mall, Prime109. What a dinner! And as is our tradition, we followed dinner with a trip to Splendora’s for gelato. I am so thankful for my children and for my birthday!

“Do not regret growing older. It’s a privilege denied to many.”

So what am I saying here? I am one very lucky, blessed lady, SOLO and 61. There is so much to celebrate and be thankful for. I have wonderful children, family, friends, and teammates. And those times when my memories get the best of me, I remind myself of this and that life is good. My life is good. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. A time for all of us to reflect on and be thankful for all of the blessings in our lives – the BIG ones and the small ones. They all matter.

“Memories take us back, but dreams take us forward.”

Tomorrow, give thanks for all of the special people and blessings in your life. Memories, whether happy or sad are a part of YOU. And even when bad things happen in our lives, which will happen, look for the positives, no matter how small they may be. Remember that life IS good. Celebrate your life and be thankful for it. Tell your loved ones how thankful you are for them, because as we all know, none of us is promised tomorrow.

Best,

Leslie

 

“Baby, What a Big Surprise…” Chicago 1977

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

Could this be the “last” SOLO at SIXTY?  I mean, I am going to be 61 next Tuesday. SURPRISE! Remember when 60 (and 61) seemed so old?!?! When I was younger picturing my life at 60, I never pictured it like this. Y’all know I got a big surprise in my life: the end of my 35-year marriage. Changed everything. But that surprise taught me that we are all stronger than we can ever imagine, and life does go on and can be much better than ever expected. And surprise: 60 isn’t that old at all! I have a new outlook on life. Ready to embrace these “golden years” with grace and gusto!

“Life is full of surprises, but the biggest one of all is learning what it takes to handle them.” Deborah Wiles

I am surprised at how much I am enjoying being 60 and have no shame in telling anyone my age. I feel good, I am having fun, I am still able to go out and run 5+ miles if I want to. As I have said before, 60 is the new 40, but without all the responsibilities that are there in your 40’s. Yep, 60’s are good y’all! And no surprise here – like me, SOLO at SIXTY lives on!

“Embrace life’s surprises. Enjoy and relish the good ones and accept the bad ones.”

Do you like surprises? Good ones, I mean. I love surprises!  (Hate bad ones – doesn’t everyone?!?!) Love surprising my kids, like when I show up at my older daughter’s cycle class an hour away at 6:15 am. Or taking a smoothie to my younger daughter when she meets me at the gym. Or stopping by Charlotte to see my son on the way home from the beach. And of course I love surprising my mom – any time I show up there it is a surprise to her! I mean, every day is a surprise in her world.

Last week was full of surprises. I was in Williamsburg, VA on business. Arrived early, pleasantly surprised to find that my room looked out over the James River. Not the ocean, but water is water and the view was beautiful. Getting there early meant I had time to go for a run on the beautiful property before dinner. In shorts and a tank top no less! (Yes, what a difference a week makes – shorts last week, bundled up this week!) But while I was running, a cold front came through. The wind picked up, and rain pelted me. Thank heavens I had a hat on that kept the rain out of my face (wear one every run). Yes, the rain surprised me, right in the middle of my run. Still, I was outside, running in shorts in November, and surprisingly, the rain felt pretty good! Thankfully, the weather cleared up before dinner.

“The voice of the sea speaks to the soul.”

Perhaps to no one’s surprise, after my last meeting on Thursday, I headed to the beach. The weather was surprisingly nice. Sunny and 70’s Friday, sunny and 60’s on Saturday. Even the water was surprisingly warm. I spent hours on the beach, walking the shoreline, looking for shells and renewing my soul. However, it began getting dark around 4:45… Gosh I hate the shorter days. Saturday night I met an old high school (cheerleader) friend for dinner. What fun we always have! (No surprise here!) Love catching up with this girl who leads a most interesting and fun life. Plus there’s just something about being with someone who has known you forever.

“Life will surprise you in the most unbelievable way if you let it.”  Roxana Jones

It should be no surprise to anyone that I am an extrovert (ESFJ to anyone who has taken Myers Briggs tests!). But what has surprised me most is learning that I love living alone. Wondered if I would be scared living alone in a new house – solved with a security system. Worried it be too quiet – never with Hallmark movies on! Would I be lonely? That was the biggest surprise. I don’t find it lonely in the least. So it was nice coming home alone midday Sunday, but even nicer coming home to find even more SURPRISES! A friend had been in town and dropped birthday and Christmas presents by my house. (Haven’t looked in the bags yet – want to be surprised on my birthday!) AND I had another gift in the mail from my sweet old friend Jeff (the one who introduced me to Carolina basketball in the 5th grade). I did open this surprise – a great book on the unrivaled rivalry between UNC and Duke, “To Hate Like This Is To Be Happy Forever”. I cannot wait to read this one! OH I love surprises!

SURPRISE! Presents!

“What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be.”  Ellen Burstyn

Everyday is full of surprises. Take time to realize that surprises can be wonderful gifts. Look for them everyday, and be thankful for them. As I tell my kids, the best things in life tend to happen when we least expect them. Surprises. And surprise those you love, because as we all know, none of us is promised tomorrow.

“When you least expect it, life may surprise you. It might turn out even better than you’d hoped.”

Best,

Leslie

PS Heading back to Carolina Saturday to tailgate and celebrate my younger daughter’s birthday. What a great surprise it would be if Carolina won a football game!