Friday Five: Ways to Change Your Life

Happy Friday, loves!

I did something recently that took me so far outside my comfort zone.

I opened my new laptop and committed myself to it.

I know. I know. That’s like, nothing, really, to some people.

To me, it is a big deal. I don’t love technology. I really don’t. I’ve driven vehicles I can control from an app on my phone for like six years now, and I only really began allowing myself to use that app to turn the car on from inside the kids’ school to cool it off on a hot day or warm it up on a cool day, or to lock the doors with my keys inside so I can go run without carrying them, or whatever, about a year ago. I knew I had this app. I just couldn’t commit.

We’ve had a Nest thermostat and Google Home for years, and I’ve had an app to control the Nest since we installed it – and I’ve never used it. I still get up and manually turn the air on or off or up or down. Well, just last week I actually asked Google if she would do it for me. I’ve never used the app.

I have an app for our ADT alarm system, and I’ve never used the app.

I don’t love technology. It confuses me. I’m a 75-year-old woman in a 35-year-old body.

So, every year or 18 months or so…I have to replace my laptop. I write millions of words a year on my laptop for my clients – and I usually end up rubbing the letters off my keys inside of six months. By a year, some of my keys are stuck. By 18 months, I’m banging on the screen because it flickers when it’s not in the exact right position, and I can no longer use at a laptop because it must remain stationery and immobile to ensure it works the next time I need it.

But, you guys, I don’t love change.

I’ve had my new laptop in my office for four months.

I just opened it.

Okay, okay. I opened it a month ago. And I didn’t turn it on. I put it on a shelf in my office. But, I opened it. So, that was a total win.

A week and-a-half ago, I turned it on. I let my husband install all the stuff I need. And then I began the tedious, awful, horrible, no-good, very bad process of logging into things. Except I don’t know my passwords. Or my logins. I know nothing.

It took me four days to go through the process of logging into everything, asking it to send me my login information, and asking to reset my password, and then saving my new information to the computer so I never, ever, ever, ever have to login by myself again.

And then I went through the process of resetting all my passwords again – because I don’t remember them even though I just set them up – when nothing on my phone or iPad opened up for me because it changed it all and the passwords were wrong. Again.

There’s a small chance I cried.

There’s a large chance I yelled the “f” word a lot.

There’s a larger chance I swore up and down I despise technology and will never use it again.

Then I put it back down on my shelf and continued to use my sad shell of an 18-month-old laptop again.

But, you guys, today I am three solid days into exclusively using my new laptop. I am officially one day into not yelling at it for not being my safe place, my comfortable place, my familiar place. Today is the first day I’ve felt “comfortable” with it.

I’m growing up.

Where are the tissues?

So, I did something scary this week. And that lead me into my Friday post.

I get a lot of questions about doing scary things about being comfortable and confident with change.

I don’t like change. I appreciate change in the end, but I never like it in the moment. Change is scary, but guys, scary is good. Scary means you’re doing things with your life (even if it’s just using a new laptop or giving birth to twins – I’ve done both and I personally recommend having twins. It’s easier than using a new laptop. A lot less stressful). If you want to change your life, you have to be okay with making change. And you have to remind yourself that change is always good when you look back. Is it terrifying? Hell yes. Is it comfortable? Hell no. Is it always something you look back on and thank God for because it was the best thing that ever happened to you? YES! And guess what…I have some advice for you! You’re welcome.

Learn Self-Care

If you want to change your life for the better this year, learn to take care of yourself. Say no, put down the phone and pick up a book. Spend time with people you love. Get outside. Take a break. Do something you enjoy. Get rid of toxic people. If you care about yourself and practice that, your life will care about you a lot more.

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Stop Glorifying the Word Busy

What does this even accomplish? We brag about how busy we are like it’s a trophy or something to be polished and placed next to an Oscar. What? WHY?

Busy is not glamorous. Y’all, busy sucks. I get that we all are. I’m not saying that I’m not. But I’m saying that I know being busy is a pain in the ass, and it’s nothing to be proud of. When we’re so busy we can’t do what we want to do, we aren’t living our lives. My husband and I have a business, he has a career, we have four kids, church, friends, family, volunteer activities, exercise, date nights, extracurricular activities. We get ONE freaking weekend at home to sleep in our own beds between January and March because of our daughter’s competitive cheer schedule, and then we get one more weekend at home in March before we’re gone through April.

Busy. Sucks. A. Lot.

I love my home. I love my bed. I love my family. I love my stuff. I love my home. I want to be here. I don’t want to be so busy I can’t even enjoy sitting down on my own lanai with a cup of coffee on a gorgeous morning.

If you’re glorifying busy and trying to keep yourself so busy you have no space on your social calendar and spend no time at home, ask yourself what it is about your home, your life, and your situation that’s worth running from. Then fix it. And then slow the hell down. Life is not fun when you’re exhausted and you can’t remember the color of your own walls.

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Don’t Be Afraid to Be Yourself

If you’re going to make some positive changes in your life, start by being yourself. Who cares what anyone else thinks of you? Are you a Girl Scout Cookie? No? Then guess what? Not everyone likes you.

Now, be yourself at least find people who don’t like you for real.

Geez. If you can’t be yourself and stop worrying about how people feel, you’re not living your best life. Be you, boo. You’re a badass motherfucker.

Move Your Ass

You’re not getting anywhere in life sitting still. Get up and make things happen. Take action. As a matter of fact, stop talking about all that you’re going to do, and just do it. You’re wasting time talking about it that you could be using to just do it. Make like Nike. Even if you’re mad at them for supporting that one guy with the bad hair who sits down for the national anthem. They still make great stuff.

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Embrace Change

The best you can, anyway. No one likes change until we see how it’s paid off for us. Pray about it. Work on it. Pray about it again. And learn to embrace it. Every season is different, and they can’t all be the best season (for example, summer in Florida is the worst season ever, but gimme all the fall, spring, and winter vibes. Which are basically like mini-summer vibes. Or summer everywhere but Florida vibes. Normal summer for everyone else, perhaps, rather than our die a slow death by melting summer? What am I even talking about at this point?)

My point is this. If you’re going to make your life the best life ever, you have to do some things you don’t want to do. You never regret those decisions. You always regret being lazy and insecure, though, don’t you?

Good luck my loves. Enjoy your weekend, have fun, and kick ass. You have three whole days to do it.

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Last-Minute Valentine Gift Ideas For Your Sweet Littles

Happy Wednesday, loves!

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, but doesn’t it feel like it snuck right up on us? I can’t even believe it’s here already, yet here it is in all its glory. I mean, we have a whole year’s notice, and here I am the day before scrambling to put together class gifts and cheer sister gifts for 100 kids – and kicking myself for waiting until the last minute.

Okay, so I remembered on Sunday, ordered a quick Hershey Bar Valentine’s Wrapper for $4 on Etsy to personalize, and thought I was winning at life. Until yesterday, when I remembered that PDF has to have all the kids’ names added to the wrappers so I can send them to Office Max to have them printed. And then I promptly forgot to have them cut for me. So I’m looking forward to a late night of all that with my husband tonight – because hot dates and who has time for that stuff?

We get to cut 100 wrappers, and then we get to affix them to 100 Hershey bars.

Wrapper PDF from Etsy – $4

Printing 100 Wrappers at Office Max – $25

100 full-size Hershey Bars – $60

Mom-failing until the last minute – priceless. Or maybe like $6,000 in therapy costs that I’ll eventually need one day. It could go either way.

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In the Raiford household, we don’t really celebrate Valentine’s a romantic holiday. My husband and I use any excuse to be romantic – which means celebrating our romance on Tuesday, or Friday, or Sunday afternoon. Whatever – we really like each other, so we are all about romance on the daily, and we have been the past 17 years.

Now that we have kids, it seems like Valentine’s is all about them and their lives. Their class parties and something sweet for them, and we kind of love that. We love celebrating our love for them on a day that’s special to them, and that’s what it’s all about for us. And that brings me to the point of this post – a couple of cute, last-minute Valentine gift ideas for your littlest loves if you didn’t think to celebrate them or you simply didn’t realize tomorrow is the big day.

Valentine’s Shirts

Our kids love a cute Valentine’s shirt, and we always make sure we have one for them when they wake up. It’s a fun idea for them to wear to school for the day – not that they will all wear them in the morning. Some will wait until Friday. Or never. Or Christmas. But, the point is that they love them.

Valentine Pajamas

Our kids also love some cute Valentine Pajamas, which always make them happy. They are weirdly obsessed with pajamas, and I dig it. It’s a total bonus if you can find coordinating jammies for all the kids. They especially love that in our house.

Hersheys and M&Ms

What’s sweet about being someone’s Valentine is getting something sweet to eat. Our kids love Hershey kisses and M&Ms, so we always make sure they have some in their Valentine bag. It might just be their favorite treat.

Donuts for Breakfast

Who doesn’t love to go out and get heart-shaped donuts on Valentine’s? My husband runs out and grabs those in the morning so the kids can have them for breakfast. It’s another favorite tradition from us to them.

Flowers

No matter what we say or do – my sweet husband always sends me flowers on Valentine’s Day, and he always sends the girls their own flowers, too. It’s a sweet treat for them to get their own bouquet of flowers, and he always sends them from both himself and our son.

He’s the absolute sweetest, and that’s why everyday is Valentine’s Day in our house.

This Doesn’t Happen to Families Like Ours: Except When it Does

“Don’t panic. Everyone is fine.”

Cold, hard fear gripped my heart. I’m fairly certain I stopped in my tracks walking out of the restaurant where we just had lunch with our oldest daughter and some of our cheer family. My heart stopped; of that, I am certain.

It was Saturday morning, and it was a cheer weekend. Cheer weekends are long, fun, tiring, and always memorable. We typically do not bring the twins with us because they aren’t down with the early mornings, late nights, and the hours upon hours of sitting on stadium seating watching what feels like a million cheerleaders compete. It’s loud, it’s overwhelming, and they prefer to stay at home. My parents and my mother-in-law, and sometimes our niece and nephew, come to our home those weekends to stay with the twins.

This week, Ava, our beautiful, feisty, sassy 7-year-old wanted to stay with them instead of coming with us for the weekend.

“There was an incident.”

I couldn’t breathe if I wanted to. Things like this don’t happen to us. We aren’t those people. We are a good family. We are happy, and healthy, and we are busy and have fun and we surround ourselves with amazing people we’ve known our entire lives. We aren’t the kind of people who have incidents.

Except, we are those people. Those things do happen to us.

Let me just rewind a moment, so I can preface this with a story that may play into this.

Last weekend, we were in Dallas, Texas for the night because we had to catch a very early flight home after visiting my grandmother for her birthday. It was late when we arrived at our favorite airport hotel – the Hyatt – and I had my husband drop myself and our four kids, and our luggage, off at valet with the bellman so I could check us into our room and get everyone bathed and to bed while he returned our rental car and made his way back to the hotel.

It was well after 10 pm when we checked in. We were tired, we were ready for showers and bed – and we were ready to go home.

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While I stood at the front desk with my four small children to check into our room – looking every bit the harried single mom – the concierge asked if he could give the kids a little gift. I told him that would be lovely. He proceeded to give the kids each an inflatable airplane in the color of their choice (which, while so sweet, is not the best gift to give kids about to get on a plane. Just imagine our family of six walking through security while the twins are using their best outside voices to ask if we “can blow up the plane now,” while we basically screaming, “INFLATE. INFLATE! You want to INFLATE the plane!”}.

He handed the kids each their planes and proceeded to tell me I have a beautiful family. I thanked him. Then he told me I was beautiful. I thanked him again. Then he proceeded to call out my four-year-old daughter about being exceptionally beautiful, and followed that up with, “You want to be careful with your kids in this hotel. It’s a dangerous place.”

The twins ignored him.

I did not. Neither did my 7 and 10-year-old daughters.

My husband could not make it to our room fast enough that night.

Ava did not sleep. Every noise she heard all night long caused instant fear and panic, because someone told her that she’s in danger where she is. It was a long night. It also required us to have a conversation with her that we’ve had more than once.

We see all the Facebook posts from moms and dads walking through the store when they notice people paying too much attention to their kids. We know all about the growing epidemic of child sex trafficking. It’s already got us on high alert when we are with our kids at home, in the yard, traveling, anywhere.

And we always encourage our kids to stay close to us. It’s not a requirement. It’s a must. They must have their hands on us at all times in public. Holding our hands, our arms, our legs, whatever. When we are unloading carts at the store, we make them count so we can hear them in case we have to glance away for a split second.

Because a split second is all it takes.

We usher them into our vehicles before we do anything else when we are out – and we immediately lock the doors behind them while we unload our shopping bags into the back. We are careful. Bad things don’t happen to us.

I notified the hotel after going back and forth about it.

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I hate ‘telling’ on people in public because I prefer to share the amazing service we have to the negative. I love to tell a manager or whomever is in charge when someone is exceptional. I hate telling them when they are not – I don’t want anything free. I don’t want anything comped. But, I feel that this is always what people think when complaints are issued.

I went back and forth but ultimately decided that it was the right thing to do.

The hotel was exceptionally gracious in their response, reaching out to me personally to apologize and to give me a step-by-step notice of their plan of action, what they’d already done, and the new training requirements they’re implementing to ensure that their guests are treated with kindness and respect, but to also make sure everyone is aware what is kind and respectful and what strikes fear. The assistant manager also asked me to please notify him personally the next time we are in the hotel – I’d mentioned to him we are frequent guests since we do travel to Texas several times a year to visit my grandmother – so he can treat my family. I will not notify him. I don’t want anything but to feel comfortable and to have my kids feel safe.

“We took the kids to the park, and then we took them to McDonalds for lunch and ice cream per their request.”

I still could not breathe. Or move. At this point, everyone with me noticed I wasn’t moving, and they recognized the panic in my voice.

“What happened?” My husband grabbed my hand.

“While sitting down eating her lunch, Ava called me closer to where she was seated at the table, and she told me that the man sitting behind me facing her was creeping her out because he kept taking photos of her with his phone,” said my mother.

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“But everyone is fine. When she said it, we turned around and noticed him holding his phone out around me sitting at the table to get a clear view of her and he was just snapping photo after photo, but Liz jumped up and stood right in front of Ava so he no longer had any view of her. He put his phone away. We notified the manager and called the police, but he got up and ran out of the restaurant when he noticed me talking to the manager and she began pointing in his direction. He picked up his phone, made a call, and quickly ran outside. A white GMC Yukon – older – came racing into the parking lot and he jumped into the passenger side and they took off. I took photos of the tag and the vehicle. I have them. The police have them. Ava is fine,” she said.

This doesn’t happen to people like us.

But it did.

And our girl knew it was wrong.

Someone creeped her out. Someone made her feel uncomfortable. And she spoke up. Loudly. She wasn’t afraid, but she wasn’t standing for it, either. And my 12-year-old nephew took note of his outfit, too.

He was wearing a Dunkin Donuts staff shirt and grabbed a Dunkin Donuts visor from his pocket and put it on while he was running from the restaurant.

They waited and waited with the kids in the restaurant, lingering over dessert, until they felt that he was gone for good and he wasn’t watching their cars or following them back to our home.

They all did the exact right thing.

Addison’s competition could not end quickly enough for me. I could not get home fast enough to give my girl a hug.

A man took photos of my child, and he did not even try to be slick about it. He clearly had a ride that could show up seconds after making a call, and nothing about this is right. NOTHING about this is right. The entire situation is terrifying.

I still couldn’t breathe.

“What did the police say? Can I talk to Ava? Send me the description of the car and the tag number, and I’m sending it to Officer L. He will find out what is going on and who this person is. Are you home? What did the police say?”

By now, our party of 9 was all stopped, looks of concern and fear on their faces.

Ava is all right. Everyone is all right.

She did the right thing.

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And she did the right thing because we talk to her about things that are scary and uncomfortable. As much as we’d like to shelter and shield her from things that are hard and scary, we didn’t – and it may have saved her or another child from something awful.

Was this man working for a child trafficking ring? Was he a pedophile trying to take kids or even just their pictures for his own perverse, disgusting, horrifying pleasure? Was he going to kidnap my baby and take her somewhere and hurt her?

We don’t know. We will probably never know.

But we do know we will never feel comfortable letting our kids go anywhere without us right thing watching them ourselves. We will forever worry when they go anywhere with someone other than us. Cheer weekends will now bring a hint of fear and panic, and I know we will never be entirely comfortable again unless our kids are close enough to touch.

This is no way to live.

Our parents should be able to take their grandchildren to the park and to get ice cream and not worry about things like this. They should be worried about who is spilling ice cream on their shirts or who is behaving in public. They shouldn’t be worried about trafficking and kidnapping and pedophiles.

But now they are.

This is the world we live in, and it sucks. It fucking sucks. There’s just not another word for it.

I cried myself to sleep that night. I will probably cry myself to sleep a lot of nights. It’s over, and she’s fine, but the kind of fear that gripped my heart when I picked up my mom’s call coming out of lunch that day will never let go of my heart. It’s like a hand, holding onto my heart, ready to squeeze it until it stops unexpectedly. It will never go away.

It’s scary, but you must speak with your children. You must tell them that they have to speak up. They should listen to their little bodies when something feels wrong. When someone ‘creeps them out’ and when someone makes them feel uncomfortable. They should speak up. No one will EVER be mad at them for speaking up when they don’t feel right.

I don’t care that my daughter yelled out that another person is creepy for others to her. I don’t find that embarrassing – I don’t give an actual you-know-what how another person feels. If you make my child feel ‘creepy,’ I don’t care how you feel. Sorry, not sorry.

Talk to your children. Let them know it’s okay to speak up. Let them know that it’s okay to talk to you.

Talk to your kids. It’s the difference between a phone call that begins with, “Don’t panic, everyone is okay,” and “I’m so sorry.”

Valentine Cocktails With Icelandic Glacial

Happy Friday, loves!

I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing I love more than the weekend. We love laidback weekends at home, hosting friends and family the most. My husband loves to cook, and I love to come up with fun new drink ideas on occasion to mix it up a bit. When the awesome team at Icelandic Glacial asked if I’d like to try their sparkling water, I was instantly intrigued. I love sparkling water in my favorite cocktails, and they were kind enough to send me some amazing recipes to share with you.

Since Valentine’s Day is next week, I’m sharing with you a few of my favorite pretty pink drinks that are perfect for your upcoming Valentine or Galentine celebrations. They’re fun, fabulous, and they are delicious. The best part is that you now have three new sparkling water flavors to choose from when you’re mixing your favorite cocktails. Icelandic Glacial now includes Elderflower, Sicilian Lemon, and Tahitian Lime – and if those don’t sound like the perfect segue flavors for summer, what does?

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Midnight Sun

1.5 oz. brennivin

1 oz. fresh grapefruit juice

2 dashes aromatic bitters

1 sprig rosemary

1 slice grapefruit

Icelandic Glacial Sparkling Water

Put your ingredients into a shaker, shake, pour into your favorite highball glass, top it off with your Icelandic Glacial Sparkling Water, and garnish with your sprig of rosemary. Taste, and enjoy.

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The Perfect Aperol Spritz

3 oz. prosecco

2 oz. aperol

1 oz. Icelandic Glacial Sparkling Water

1 orange slice

Pour all your ingredients in a wine glass with a bit of ice, stir, and add your orange.

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Garden Party

2 oz. gin

2 tbs. fresh lemon juice

half ounce crème de violette

half ounce elderflower liqueur

3 cucumber slices

Icelandic Glacial Sparkling Elderflower

Edible flowers

Start by muddling cucumber with lemon juice in a shaker, and add your gin, crème, and elderflower liqueur to the mix. Shake it up with some ice, and then pour it into a glass. Use your edible flowers to garnish this gorgeous cocktail.

What’s your favorite go-to cocktail this time of year?

5 Reasons You Should Keep Fresh Blooms At Home

Happy Wednesday, loves!

When we got home from Texas this weekend, we had to hit the supermarket. Ordinarily, we might order groceries to have delivered when we land so that we can come home to what we need and focus on unpacking, but I needed flowers. I always keep fresh flowers in our home – and the Good Lord knows I cannot grow them without killing them – so I pick them up at Publix and display them throughout my home. However, I never trust someone else to pick out the right flowers – I have to look, touch, smell, and think about where I want them and what I’m trying to say.

So, I went to Publix to shop. While there, one of the gentlemen in the produce department said hello. I see him there a few times a week, and we always exchange pleasantries. This time he said to me, “I hope you’re not buying yourself flowers every time you’re in here. Someone else should be buying you flowers,” to which I responded that my husband both sends and brings me flowers regularly, so we’re all good.

At the register, the woman checking me out commented on them and asked who they were for (I should mention I had four or five dozen, so it probably did seem like a lot of flowers). When I told her they were to display at home, she gave me a look.

You know the look. The look. She was appalled that I’d buy that many flowers to put out at home. She called it a wasteful expense (first, I don’t recall asking for her opinion on how I choose to shop, and second, I mean, I was gone for basically two weeks and home for two days between trips – all of my flowers were dead and gone. I wasn’t replenishing a few here and there – I was replenishing all of them in the entire house).

It made me think.

I might be the only person I know who always has fresh flowers at home. Maybe it is a wasted and continuous expense. But, then again, they’re only $15 a dozen. That’s nothing, right?

And then I thought, you know what? I don’t give an actual you-know-what. I love flowers. What does it matter if anyone else approves of them? It does not. And, for that matter, they’re actually beneficial to have at home.

So, if you’re on the fence about whether you want to spring for flowers to keep at home, let me share some of the benefits of them with you.

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They Make You Happy

Do you really need another reason to keep fresh blooms at home? You do not, but I’ll elaborate because I’m chatty and all that. Fresh blooms make you smile. Smiling releases endorphins. Endorphins minimize stress. Smiling is pretty. Happy people are pretty people. Need I go on?

Fresh Flowers Create Fresh Air

Okay, okay…not all of them. But, did you know that some of my own personal favorites (Gerbers and lilies) clean the air? That’s right. They do something plant-y and magical that somehow removes toxins from the air. Clean air is the best air, and who doesn’t love the smell of fresh flowers?

Fresh Flowers Help You Sleep Better

Do you remember that one time I told you that fresh flowers clean the air by removing toxins? Right, well, those same flowers also allow you to get a better night of sleep because you’re breathing better while you get a little shut-eye. We talked about happy people being pretty people, but what about well-rested people without all the bags and the moodiness?

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Color Brightens Your Mood

It goes without saying that a little color goes a long way. Why do you think those of us who basically live in Lilly Pulitzer are so positive all the time? It’s all that color! It makes us happy! So, get some flowers, be happy, be beautiful, and be all the things you want to be. Who knew it was that easy?

Bye-Bye Anxiety

Here’s a deep thought for a Wednesday. Did you ever wonder why giving flowers to those who are ill or suffering or who recently lost someone is a thing? Someone passed? Send flowers. Someone is ill? Send flowers. Someone is having a birthday? Send flowers.

It’s because flowers create a physiological effect on your brain. It helps you feel less anxious. When you’re able to reduce your feelings of anxiety, you’re just a better, happier, more positive person. And all because of flowers. That’s why you send them to the ill. It helps them feel better because they lose some of that anxiety that’s got them even further down than their illness.

Basically, if you’re not living with fresh flowers at home, you’re a tired, cranky, moody, mean, anxious, stressed-out, fatigued, toxin-breathing mess. *insert shrug emoji here*

Well, maybe you’re not that bad. Maybe you are. What do I know? But, it can’t hurt to have a little color and a little freshness in the house, right?

And may I add one additional perk? If you know me at all, you know my thumb is brown. Y’all, I kill succulents. Fake succulents. I know, I know…but what I’m saying is that when you purchase fresh flowers to keep at home, there’s no let down. It’s like you buy them and you are both in agreement – they know their time on earth is short, and you know their time on earth is short. No one is worried that their time on earth is dependent solely on you remembering to do things like water them or whatever. It’s a mutual fling with zero expectation.

Celebrating in Texas: A Weekend Recap

Happy Monday, Loves!

What. A. Weekend.

I cannot even begin to tell you how tired the Raiford family is this morning. We had the most amazing weekend – but it was tiring. We took the kids to Texas to visit my grandmother for her birthday, and it was such a wonderful trip. But, it wasn’t a trip that included a lot of sleep.

Let’s see…I think the most we slept was Thursday night in our hotel room in Amarillo. We went to bed around 10:30 and woke up at 7 am. Other than that, we are talking very little sleep. We had a late flight into Dallas on Wednesday night that put us in our hotel room at 11:30. We all needed showers and baths – I will not let anyone go to bed after being in an airport or on a plane, ever – and it was later than that when we went to bed. We woke up at 5:30 am so we could get on the road to my grandmother’s. It’s an almost 6 hour drive, which is a lot.

But, we were able to spend the entire afternoon and evening with her, then we took the kids to dinner. Then we checked into our hotel and my cousin, Lesly, and her daughter, Tamia, checked in after their flight from California. We got to spend a few hours visiting with them, and that was amazing! Despite living on opposite coasts our entire lives – Lesly in California and me in Florida – we spent a LOT of time together growing up. Our dad’s are brothers, and my grandmother lived near us in Florida until I was 18. So, they visited at least once a year, and we spent so much time together.

We hadn’t seen her in a few years, and it was SO good to spend some time with her this weekend, too! Friday was my grandmother’s birthday, so we went birthday shopping, picked out a cake, bought her favorite beer for her, and we had the best time with her. She is so much fun – and our kids are so fortunate to get to know her like they do.

She spent the weekend sharing her life with us, and it was so much fun. Our kids are so excited to go back to school and share some of the things she told them, and who can blame them? They had no idea that their grandmother had tea with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in the White House many year ago (she was invited because of the work she did for the government following the terrible Pearl Harbor tragedy and all that came from that). They had no idea she’s been to the Super Bowl. They had no idea that following her work for the federal government in her early 20s, she decided to get into a car with three girlfriends and drive for 10 days clear across the country to live in California.

It took them 10 days. They had to get an oil change every 1,000 miles. They went through 8 new tires, and they slept during the day and drove at night when the reached the desert so they would not overheat the car. She then landed in LA, where she spent several more years of her life. She traveled by train to see her family – and my grandfather would visit her at the train station where she had a 2-hour stop in New Mexico – so they could spend time together every few months.

They had no idea that they have a very famous cousin – well, she’s my dad’s cousin. My grandmother’s sister Alice’s daughter. So, my dad’s first cousin, June Lindemann. Grandma showed them the book that June – who was not just my grandmother’s niece but also her godmother – wrote about her life as a beauty pageant queen. She was Miss California when she met and became engaged to the son of a wealthy South American Ambassador. She moved to Chile to live with them when they got married, and then they had a baby. Unfortunately, she had to flee the country on the very last plane that left before the Communist state took over and lives changed. Her husband decided that rather than go against the communists, he’d join them so that they would not target his famous, prominent family. And she took the very last flight authorized to leave Chile to escape with her newborn son.

Her story is in her book – Pageants, Politics, and Promises. And it’s unbelievable. Read it.

My kids had no idea that their great-grandmother had so many stores to tell, and they are in disbelief that their grandmother lived this life.

We had the most fantastic weekend. We met new people. We had a lot of cake. We painted rocks and hid them in my grandmother’s neighborhood for people to find. We had fun. We really, really, really had a great time.

We are tired, but our hearts are full.

Now that we are home and everyone is back to their normal routine, we are still exhausted, and that’s all right. It probably doesn’t help we were gone the entire weekend before and only home for two days before we took off for Texas, but we will get over being so tired.

We will never, ever get over how much fun we have with my grandmother. We will make that long ass trip several times a year to spend time with her. This was our 3rd weekend in Texas in the past six months, and we are so overwhelmingly fortunate and blessed to be able to make the trip so often to spend this time with her. I won’t lie – I strongly dislike where she lives, but she’s happy there and she’s got all the farmland in the world to look at every morning when she drinks her coffee. It might smell like cows and the entire place is orange – orange – and colorless, but I will tell you that those Northern Texas sunsets and sunrises are spectacular. In fact, they are unlike anything you’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen some spectacular sunrises and sunsets in California and Hawaii – and even the sun setting between the buildings on Fifth Avenue in New York City. You can’t beat a Texas sunrise/sunset.

And you cannot hate a place where the world’s coolest woman lives.

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday, loves!

This is a beautiful day! First, it’s Friday. And that’s always something I love, but it’s also my grandmother’s birthday, and I’m celebrating with her. In person. How many people get to say they’re hanging out with their grandmother on her birthday approximately a century after her birth. I have my husband with me. I have my four sweet babes with me.

My heart is FULL.

The only thing that would make this 5-day weekend better would be coming home to find out that our parents finished up the final details in the upstairs bathroom while we were away (they are so sweet to stay in our home for us when we travel…and they’re always doing little things for us…and since we are finishing up the remodel, I’m just throwing it out there…in case they’re reading. Just saying. No biggie.)

{These were taken when Craig and I visited in November without the kids…she is always making funny faces in photos and cracking up. Maybe that’s why she and our sweet Carter-man are the very best of friends!)

Really, though, what an amazing trip.

And it is a trip. The kids are here. It’s not a vacation with little people.

But, I won’t complain because they are excellent little travelers. They always fly well. We always receive so many compliments in the airport about their excellent behavior. We always know they’ll behave in hotels and restaurants. They’re a little judgmental about rental cars – but that’s probably my fault. I’m a neat freak and rental cars are never up to my standard of clean.

To be able to surprise my grandmother for her big birthday is something very special to me. We’ve been making it a point to come to Texas to see her every 2-3 months. It’s a quick flight from Florida, and she is my favorite person in the world. We alternate trips with the kids and just ourselves, but they would never be okay with missing out on cake.

Anyway, I’m just so excited to be here with my amazing, beautiful, special, wonderful, spectacular grandmother on her birthday with all the people I love most in the world – and I’m still bringing you my Friday favorites. As always, I promise they are super random, but still my favorites.

{How blessed are we that my own grandmother gets to spend so much time with our sweet littles even though we live 1,500 miles apart? How blessed are we that they love her so much, and that she gets to see them grow up? And how blessed are we to be able to make this trip so often throughout the year so she doesn’t have to miss out on this time?}

Mornings

My favorite part of the day. I just love the new start, the quiet time with a cup of coffee. Coffee as a whole. A little quiet time alone with my husband to start the day. I love it. It’s my favorite part of the day. Followed very closely by bedtime. Perhaps it’s just the whole thing about quiet that gets to me?! Oh, and I like my coffee black.

The Open Sunroof

Before I was a mom, I always drove a convertible – and then I had a hundred kids. So, the next best thing is a great big sunroof, and it always has to be open. I love the fresh air and the sunshine when I’m driving. Seriously, it’s my favorite.

The Phrase “I love you for no reason”

I have no idea how or when it started, but our sweet Charlotte and our sweet Carter – the twins – like to tell us this. “Mommy, I love you for no reason!” “Daddy, I love you for no reason!” and it melts my heart. Every single time. I cannot even with that saying, especially when it comes with a darling little hug and those sweet little voices.

People Rocking Their Lives

I just have this thing for people who are living their best life and making the most of what they’re doing. I love it. I love to hear the smile in people’s voices when they’re so happy with where they are in life and what they are doing and how things are going. It’s such a beautiful change from all the complaints and the pessimism of the world – and it makes me smile.

Spending Time With My Grandmother 

How truly blessed and fortunate are we that we get to spend this kind of time with a woman who has lived a century? How blessed are with that she is with us – and sharper, wittier, and funnier than ever – to get to know her great-grandchildren. Our kids get to spend time with the woman who has been my favorite person on earth since the day I was born, and the twins are like 95 years younger than she is. That’s amazing. It’s so amazing.

One of the things that make my heart so happy since she moved herself off the farm and into an assisted living facility last summer the staff and their kindness. Anytime we visit, they are always so good about remembering us, and they are always so kind to tell us how lucky our grandmother is to have so many visitors despite how far we all live. She never goes more than six to eight weeks without someone making the trip from California or Florida to see her between myself and my brother, my cousins, my parents, and my uncles.

What breaks my heart is when they also share that some of their residents haven’t had that many visitors all year and their families live in the area. Some have no visitors at all. I am grateful every single day that we are able to book a flight and see her anytime we want.

You guys…if you are so fortunate to have a living grandparent – get up and visit. Don’t make excuses. I cannot tell you how amazing it is. How many stories my grandmother tells us from her own youth and from her own days as a young woman. She’s so hilarious, and she’s such a wonderful storyteller. There is nothing quite like listening to her tell us the stories of her childhood and her life, and to hear her sharing those stories with the kids – or to go into her room and find her watching baseball – she is a huge Orioles fan – or watching Tiger play golf (she’s so disappointed in his performance in recent years) or catching up on football with Craig. She’s an amazing lady – and I wouldn’t trade this time with her for anything.

This is a woman who is so gracious, so elegant, so classy, so beautiful, and so funny. She’s active and loves to be outside, in the garden, on the farm, taking classes, volunteering in her church, leading prayer, taking care of animals, reading a book while she drinks her coffee on her porch – she likes John Grisham novels and such. She’s a woman who calls us to ask if we can bring her some beer when we visit so she can have one in the evening, and who is so impatient with “old people” as she calls them – even though they are probably 20-30 years younger than her. She cannot handle that they don’t take care of themselves.

She’s spectacular. I only wish you could all spend a little time with my grandmother. I promise you that you will never meet a more beautiful person inside or out. And that is my Friday favorite every day.