Life. Wow.

in What About Me

So, if you have been following my blog (or not following, as it has been) you will see that I haven’t blogged since Christmas.   Life caught up with me in a big way and I was doing well to just keep breathing.  But with the big kid back in college and the not-so-little-kid back in school (Junior high!  How did that happen?), I’m determined to get back to blogging on a regular basis.  Please extend me a bit of grace while I clear out the cobwebs.

I moved.  Not far, just a block from my own house, but moving is a bitch always.  But then I redecorate, which was sort of, kind of fun (in a creative, yet tortuous way).  I promise to blog about that because I did some pretty cool stuff, even a few DIYs which is so out my comfort zone that I must invite you all over (through my blog) and show off my fabulous projects.

I took my daughter to France, a week after we moved – just because I wanted to push the crazy lever up as far as it could go.  I will blog about that trip because we really had a good time and I will take any excuse to talk or write about France.

I had some personal challenges as well that sucked the life out of me.   I sure that I am personally financing the redecorating of my therapist’s beach house.

I started meditating.  It’s been good for me.   And it’s free.

I had a birthday.   Actually it was a very nice birthday with lots of celebrating with family and friends, but birthdays always get me in a reflective mood.  Anne Lamott is always good for a life-check.  This quote by Mary Oliver especially struck a cord with me: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

What indeed?  What am I going to do with my one wild and precious life?  I thought about it and on the eve of my birthday I wrote this response:

Time is passing swiftly.   I could die tomorrow of course.   But even if I don’t, I am aware of how much I want to live.  I have been on a mission for the last few years to live LOUD and I want to turn it up even more.  This does not mean I want a fast car and no responsibilities.  On the contrary I want to be responsibly aware of all the gifts and blessings in my life.

I want my faith to be LOUD: in constant communication with and worship of God, living to glorify him in all that I do.

I want to be LOUD with people: authentic, helpful and kind.

I want to travel through the world LOUD: being fully present and immersed wherever I am.

I want to take care of my body LOUD: feeding it the best food, giving it both proper rest and exercise, being mindful of how it changes and feels daily and treating it kindly.

I want to notice everything in my path with LOUD awareness from the way that a hawk circling the sky is both scary and awesome to the emerging beauty of my daughter.   Like Alice Walker said in The Color Purple: “I think it pisses God off when you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”  I want to always notice the color purple.

My friend is dying.   She’s my age.   This is not a dress rehearsal.

Life. Wow.


© 2014, All rights reserved. Republished only with permission.

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Christmas Countdown

in Christmas

So this is basically how Christmas is going for me this year:


It’s funny, but also true.  I’m not a Strooge – Christmas is my favorite holiday – but after 20 years of being the sole  Magical Elf in my family, I’m just burnt.   But since  I have this little girl at home who wants a Christmas tree and homemade gingerbread cookies, making her happy and giving her the Christmas she wants trumps my desire to get on a jet plane bound for the Caribbean and chuck the whole thing.

So in the spirit of Christmas, I’m answering a couple of Mama Kat’s writing prompts:  1. Write a blog post inspired by the word pajamas. 2. A favorite holiday tradition.

Everyone gets new pajamas in my house to wear on Christmas Eve; it’s a holiday tradition born out of my desire to have good-looking people in my Christmas morning photos.

I usually buy PJ Savage pajamas for myself; this is the pair that I chose this year:


My daughter wanted a “onesie” and we found the perfect one at Gapkids:


My husband decided that he too wanted to wear a onesie.  Dear God, NO!  Although there are plenty of onesies available online for adults (why, God, why?), we are all discouraging this sure to be horrifying look.  So far he hasn’t gotten around to buying one.  Let’s hope he doesn’t.

Another tradition that we continue each year is buying new ornaments for the family; we have amassed quite a collection.   We buy ornaments on every trip that we take and try to buy an ornament for each family member to reflect something that they did that year.   These are ornaments from our travels to Washington DC, New Orleans, Nashville, Hilton Head, Montreal and Québec City.

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If you have ever read my Christmas blog posts before, you know that I change my color scheme for Christmas decorations every year.  Recently I’ve narrowed it done to 4 rotating color schemes because it was too stressful thinking of new colors each year.  This year the color scheme is “colorful.”  I found some beautiful color bulbs at Michael’s (on sale too!), and used colored lights, some colorful spangly sticks and funky Whooville-like present sticks to decorate the Christmas tree.   Most of the tree is covered with our family ornaments.  My daughter says that one day soon we will need two trees to hold them all.  As if I would decorate two trees!

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So that’s how I’m surviving enjoying this Christmas season.  What about you?


Are you one of those Christmas crafty types?  I am not, but my daughter loves crafting; she made this cute snowman cocoa kit for her classroom Secret Santa gift.   She got the idea from Anne or Shine.  If you want to be crafty this Christmas, my daughter highly recommends Ann’s DIY projects.


(I think that she really wants to keep this for herself.)

© 2013, All rights reserved. Republished only with permission.


Totally Random Thoughts for December 12th

in Totally Random

I’m back – two weeks in a row!  I’m answering a couple of Mama Kat’s writing prompts this week, 1. Something you love about December 2. A favorite Christmas ornament, and just riffing on other totally random thoughts.

So far I’m not loving December.   While I do have my Christmas shopping done, I’m just not feeling the Christmas spirit.  We finally got our Christmas tree, but this is what it looks like

christmas tree

Undecorated.  And it will remain that way until I decide to decorate it, hopefully by next week.  Notice that I didn’t say “the family will decorate” because that’s not happening.  I decorate and undecorate it alone.  I’m so over having a Christmas tree.

This weekend I will take my daughter to see Atlanta Botanical Gardens Lights Holiday Nights and to the Holiday Tea at St. Regis Hotel, so maybe that will get me into the Christmas spirit.  And I’m sure my family’s annual trip to the Ritz Carlton Lake Oconee Reynold’s Plantation property will help as well – ice skating, decorating a gingerbread house, eating cookies with Mrs. Claus and sitting in the lobby by the huge roaring fire are on the agenda.  There are 16 families going with us this year – 69 people – so we are sure to have a ball.

I do like drinking hot chocolate, something I only do in the month of December.  It’s worth my occasional indulgence of dairy.   It’s made with premium chocolate and whipped cream and mixed with this handy gadget that I bought from Williams-Sonoma.   I even add a bit of  Trader Joe’s Caramel Fleur de Sel Sauce to make it even more decadent.


hot chocolate

My tree may not be decorated, but as I do every year, I bought Christmas ornaments for everyone in my family.  This year’s Favorite Ornament is for my son, to represent his first year in college.


Speaking of my son, when I talked to him recently all he could talk about was Art Basel and what an incredible time he had hanging out at the galleries and concerts.   Yeah well, he had better be hitting the books as well because it’s time for final exams.   Good mom that I am, I made these Toffee Bars from Real Simple and packed them along with healthy snacks in a care package.


I’m done studying now that my French class is over for this session and while I wish I can say that I am more fluent, I would be lying.  In fact I am more confused than ever.  I think it’s easy to know a few phrases to get you around Paris on a week long trip, but it’s quite another thing to study French grammar with all it’s “this is the rule-except when it’s not the rule” idiosyncrasies.  I am in awe of non-native English speakers who have mastered English because learning a new language is hard.   But I will keep studying and hope that one day it will all click and I will be able to carry on a full conversation in French.   I have gotten a few levels past this


I may be struggling in French, but I’ve had a personal revelation while listening to Oprah Radio on Sirius XM.   Oprah was complaining to Stedman about something or another and said, “but I just want to be seen as nice.”  And he replied, “But you are not nice; you are kind, you are generous, but you are not nice.  Gayle is nice.”   And after some thought, she had to agree and it freed her from trying to be someone that she isn’t.   Stedman’s statement was an “ah-ha” moment because it describes me so well.  That may sound awful – who doesn’t want to be thought of as nice? – but if you substitute the word “nice” for “sweet” then I think you can relate.   Not everyone is nice (sweet).  I am fun, supportive, kind, thoughtful, generous and loyal – all great qualities to have in a friend – but I’m not nice.   I think others who know me well would agree.

That’s it for me on a totally random December 12th.  Maybe the next time I blog I will have my Christmas tree decorated and some holiday spirit.   How about you; how are you faring this December?

© 2013, All rights reserved. Republished only with permission.

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Totally Random Thoughts For December 5th

in Totally Random

So….yes, it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged, but I’m here now and let’s just concentrate on the positive, okay?   Last week my son was home from college, I saw The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (an awesome movie), I celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary and I saw Kim and Kayne at the mall (check the Instagram pics), so it was a pretty rocking week.  Today it’s December 5th, a random day, and there’s not much going on in my world.  I haven’t even started with Christmas.  It’s a perfect day to answer a few random prompts from Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop.

What were you blogging about a year ago today?  What has changed?  A year ago today I was answering another Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop prompt “What was the last thing you bought.”  I wrote about buying my Louis Vuitton Kusama Speedy while in France.  I’m not in France anymore (boo-boo), but I still have the purse.  In fact I have since learned that in just one year my purse has tripled in value -not that I ever intend on selling it!  It’s an awesome purse, but an even funnier story about how I bought it; if you haven’t read it, you should.

Louis Vuitton Kusama Speedy


A hobby that you would pursue, if you were the type to pursue hobbies. I would learn how to knit so that I could make clothes for Chili Dawg.  He already has a snazzy tie, but he could use a nice sweater to go with it.  And I guess that I could knit for people too.  People who wore snazzy ties.



A trend you’re not much a fan of.   This list could go on forever because I’m very opinionated, but just off the top of my head….

Brussel sprouts.  Aren’t these the same vegetables that our parents used to make us eat and we hated them for it?  Now they are on every restaurant menu and splattered across every Pinterest board.  Even roasted and glazed in a balsamic reduction and tossed with bacon, they are still brussel spouts.  They were yucky then and they are yucky now.


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Moustaches. Besides during the month of Movember, why are moustaches on every tee shirt, coffee mug and key chain?  Who decided that this was “a thing?”


Harem pants.  Please Hammer, don’t.


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 Cropped shirts.  Presumably to go with the Harem Pants?


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And that is what I think about on a random December 5th.


© 2013, All rights reserved. Republished only with permission.


This is part 3 in a three part series for high school students and parents.  If you missed it before, please read Part 1 – Getting Started  and Part 2 – College Visits.  




1. Work on the college essay over the summer.  As our college counselor explained it, this is best done the summer between the junior and senior year of high school because by then you have something of interest to say.  If your high school offers it, take an essay-writing workshop.  You should save all essays that you write because sometimes the same essay can be tweaked for use with different college or scholarship applications.  Oh, and college admission personnel are sick of the “I went on a mission trip and it it changed my life” essay, so write about something else.

2. Start the Common Application as soon as possible.  Although more and more colleges are using the Common Application exclusively, most will still require their own supplement application as well.  Nevertheless, as soon as you can fill out the general parts of the Common Application, the sooner you can start to work on the individual supplements for each school.

3. Ask for teacher recommendations early.   I’m sure that every year teachers get last minute desperate requests from students asking for recommendations, but don’t let this be you.   If you want the recommendation given to the college in a timely manner, it is only fair to give the teacher ample time to write one.  If needed, provide an addressed and stamped envelope for the recommendation to be sent by postal mail.

My son gave hand-written thank you cards and a small gift of gourmet chocolate to each teacher who wrote a recommendation for him.  He also used that opportunity to thank each teacher for supporting and encouraging him during his high school years.

4. Does the college conduct admission interviews?  Inquire early.   This information will not always be readily found on the college website, but a phone call the to admissions office will quickly give an answer.  Interviews can be conducted by university staff or local alumni and may or may not have any bearing on the admission decision.  Either way, it can’t hurt and it is another way to ask questions.  My son had 3 or 4 interviews at a local Starbucks and found them to be a positive experience.

5. Email or call the school if you are unsure about anything.   The schools prefer to hear directly from the student, so that is ideal, but if as a parent you are concerned or confused about any part of the application process, call.   Most contact numbers and names can be found on the school’s website, but students this is also a good opportunity to keep in touch with that college admissions rep that you met on a school visit.

6. Set aside a specific time to discuss college applications.  Don’t discuss college all day, every day in your house.  This will only stress out your family.  Do not make it the topic of dinner conversation.   My family scheduled meetings on Sunday evenings.  During that meeting time we reviewed anything that still needed to be done and updated our spreadsheets.   Parents: remember that the colleges will communicate with your child, not you.  It’s frustrating – especially if your child is one to let things fall through the cracks – but you’re not really in control anymore, so get used to it.

7. Stay organized.   Although this was a tip in my first blog post, it’s so important that I will say it again.   You must have a systematic way of keeping track of all the moving parts to this college application process or you will quickly become overwhelmed.  This could be in a dedicated notebook or in a computer document.   I made several Excel spreadsheets and put them in Google Docs so that my son could update and add to them as needed.

My Excel Spreadsheets:

College Search:  We used this spreadsheet for general research information.

College Application Checklist:  This spreadsheet helped us keep track of the information sent to each school.   We also used this spreadsheet to record each school’s admission decision and orientation dates.

College Recommendations: Sometimes the colleges wanted different formats of recommendations (electronic or paper, sent by email or thru the postal mail) and different kinds of recommendations (music teacher, academic teacher or school counselor) and this spreadsheet helped us keep track of it all.  This spreadsheet might not be necessary for everyone, but since my son was applying to music schools, which is an entirely separate application process from the larger university, it was needed in our house.

 Decide on Accepted Schools: Yay! –  All that hard work has paid off; you are going to college!  Mostly likely you have been accepted to a few schools and now a decision has to be made to attend just one.   Sometimes that is not an easy choice.  This spreadsheet helped us look at all the factors in an objective way.

8.  Parents: if your child rejects your help, let it go.  Students: if you don’t want your parents to help you, find someone else.  While my son enjoyed our family college tours and welcomed my organizational help, he did not want my help proof-reading his essay and his father’s help with his music resume.  So we encouraged him to ask his favorite English teacher for help with the essay and an older friend helped him craft his music resume.   I never saw any parts of his applications until recently; I found his college essay while cleaning out an office drawer.  (It is brilliant.)

So that’s it; I have shared everything that we have learned over the last grueling year.  I hope that my tips in these three blog posts will make it a little bit easier for your family to successfully navigate the college admission experience.  Good luck, God bless and Go Canes!

It's All About The U

If you leave a comment and subscribe to my blog or Facebook page I will send you my excel spreadsheets for your own use.  Just shoot me an email at

© 2013, All rights reserved. Republished only with permission.

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