Surviving Social Distancing

So we have been told to stay at home, and some of us are having a hard time while others have found new callings, and our new wardrobe. Why is it so hard for some of us to be alone when really in todays world we are never alone? You know with all the social media there is always someone there.

I actually don’t remember my first few days of social distancing since I was frantically converting my face-to-face classes to online classes. It had to be done, and done quickly. After working furiously and relentlessly it was time to rest. So my next few days of social distancing were spent in pajamas. It was time to catch up on rest (you can catch up).

My first days were spent going from the bed to my favorite chair(s). There was a lot of looking at magazines, trying to find something to watch on television–I can’t binge watch. It helped that it was raining all day and night.

I kept in touch with friends and family by calling, texting, social media and more. My kids and I could see each other over the phone/computer. So all in all it wasn’t that bad. My husband was still going to court for a few hours a day, and that helped.

When you can’t go anywhere it makes you want to go more, and it was beginning to happen to my friends and me. Then we all decided that there was things that we could do.

Here are some of the things that we did:

  • Got up and moved. There were those that could do an exercise program via the internet, social media, television and more. You can do a different one every day. I have found out that I have no rhythm–Latin Zumba and I do not see eye to eye. I did however keep moving. There are some people who took walks around the block or on the track. Some that finally used that stationary bike and other equipment that was collecting dust.
  • When the sun finally came out there was yard work to be done, mowing the lawn, trimming the hedges, repotting plants and even planting flowers and that vegetable garden. I repotted plants, planted a vegetable garden, but then ran into a snake so no flowers were planted in the front flower boxes (and they may not get planted this season).
  • Many of us were a little bit more culinary inclined. Instead of preparing what we always prepared, we tried different things. We took out those gadgets, you know the Instant Pot, the airfryer, the electric skillet–we finally figured out what the convection button was on the oven.
  • Some of us even briefly went out. My sister and I went to the location of Hardie’s Fresh Foods truck, and got fruits and vegetables. They did social distancing. You never got out of the car–they bought everything to your car and loaded it.
  • We held our first Meet and Greet–Girl Talk via Zoom. Our next one is April 3 at 8 pm CST via Zoom. (Use the ID 843-171-852).
  • Deep cleaning your house is always an option. My shutters and blinds are getting deeped cleaned, and are now their original bright white.
  • Hopefully creative juices will start to flow like a river and not a slow moving one.
  • Read just for pleasure. I’m reading another Robert Parker book. It helps that I imagine Tom Selleck as Jesse Stone.
  • Prayers..no need to say anything else.

There are so many other things that people are doing and dealing with during this pandemic. Reach out to those that are truly alone, give them a call, send them a quick note. There are a large group of people who do not do social media. Remember “thisisyourbestyear“, please be safe.

Our next Zoom “Girl Talk” will be on Friday, April 3 at 8 PM CST. Please use the ID 843-171-852. See you soon.

Holiday Magic At The Biltmore

Guest blogger CY Cooper

Happy Holidays, one and all.  My family and friends know that yours truly is a history enthusiast.  So, in the spirit of the season I began my celebrating the holidays by traveling to Asheville, North Carolina the first week of December and visiting the magnificent Biltmore Estate.  It’s simply known as the Biltmore or as I like to call it, America’s Downton Abbey. No matter what time of year you go to see this incredible structure, it is breathtaking BUT during Christmas it’s even more amazing.  


Biltmore was the family home of George Vanderbilt, his wife Edith and their daughter Cornelia.  The house, over 175,000 square feet and 250 plus rooms, was under construction for over five (5) years.  On Christmas Eve in 1895, George Vanderbilt officially opened the doors of the grand house to family and friends.  At the time it was constructed Biltmore had all the latest conveniences for a home in the late 1800’s.  

During my visit, I stayed at one of the two hotels located on the grounds of the estate.  The Village Hotel and the The Inn are not far from the main house.  When you stay at either one of the hotels there’s a shuttle that takes you back and forth from the house, to the winery, gardens, conservatory, equestrian center, shopping areas and restaurants.  In fact, you don’t have to leave the estate grounds unless you want to explore Asheville.  There are several tours available pertaining to the estate, including a guided house tour, roof top tour, a tour of what went on through the eyes of the servants’ garden tours and my favorite, legacy of the land tour.  Biltmore is not just a large home with beautiful gardens, it’s a brief but fun and fascinating glimpse into the past of America.  


Thousands of people visit the estate during the holidays to view this spectacular home with its beautiful decorations during the day and also in the evenings where the house is illuminated by candlelight.  There is so much to talk about regarding my visit that I can’t put it all in one post.  Look for upcoming posts regarding reviews of the restaurants on the estate as well as a recap of The Downton Abbey Exhibition currently running at the Biltmore.

My stay at the Biltmore was wonderful, but there is no place like home for the holidays. Have a wonderful holiday season, and remember “thisisyourbestyear”. Merry Christmas!

Thankful For 4 Generations

Just wanted to share some of the fun we had at Thanksgiving this year with four generations under one roof. It was our daughters idea to gather the family together which we do every Thanksgiving, but this time to do it under one roof. So we had family from the age of 10 to soon to be 97 for Thanksgiving.

We all decided that an airbnb would be the best way to go, and it was my assignment to find the perfect one that was not too far from home, but far enough. Our selection was Shepherd Lodge in Kingston, Oklahoma. From the pictures we were in love with it, and had our fingers crossed that it would live up to expectations–it did and more.

There were four generations that would be staying under the same roof for three nights. Like most people we were hoping there would be enough to entertain everyone, enough space so that we wouldn’t feel crowded and other things. There was nothing to worry about, our airbnb had everything we wanted and needed from board games, card games, pool table, ping pong, three fireplaces with two being outside, televisions in each bedroom and one in the great room plus so much more including a piano. Everything for preparing Thanksgiving dinner was there–there was even fresh ground coffee in the kitchen.

If someone had wanted to gamble there was a casino down the road, and a lake that my grandson did get to see. Take a look at a few more pictures of our four generation Thanksgiving.

Enjoy family because there is nothing better. Remember “thisisyourbestyear” and give thanks every day.

Grandparents As Parents

Being a grandparent is one of the best things this side of heaven. Each grandparent thinks their grandchildren are the cutest in the world. Their grandchildren are the smartest, so much smarter than their children were at that age. When grandchildren come to visit, grandparents give them almost anything they desire. They let them do whatever their hearts can imagine and more. This is so true for the preteen grandchildren. As they grow into teenage years it’s another story. Grandparents love grandchildren because after all the fun they have, the food they have eaten, the playing they have done and much more they are packed up and sent home to their parents. Grandparents can then go back to whatever they want to do–they’ve earned it.

Some grandparents can’t send their grandchildren home to their parents because they have become the parents. There have always been grandparents that raised their grandchildren for some reason. There was always Big Mama Susie, Granny Louise, Paw Paw, Daddy James and more who took on the role of raising a grandchild.

In the state of Texas alone there are approximately 823,750 children under the age of 18 living in homes where the householders are grandparents or other relatives with the majority living with grandparents.

According to the Grandfacts State Fact Sheets there are over 315,000 grandparents that are raising grandchildren. Of those:

  • 67% are under the age 60
  • 62% are still in the workforce
  • 23% live in poverty
  • 23% have a disability
  • 26% are unmarried (grandchildren are living with a single parent)

These grandparents having raised their children have once again taken on the responsibility for the day-to-day maintenance of a home, schedules, meals, homework, play dates and more. These items may seem simple, but homework is not the same as it was a generation ago. Years ago play dates consisted of going outside and playing with the kids in the neighborhood. There was no scheduling of activities. Birthday parties consisted of cake, punch and a few games in the backyard or den. There was no social media, cell phones and internet. In addition to time, the majority of these things carry a monetary component.

The grandparents who are raising their grandchildren now have to redo their lives, their dreams and much more. They have to give up their independence and start all over again. Their finances will ultimately take a hit, and retirement may not be in the picture in the near future. That dream of finally starting their own business has again become just a dream.

All of this is not to say that grandparents do not cherish their grandchildren, it’s just that their lives or at least the idea of what their lives should look like at this stage of life will have to change. Their new normal is not the normal they day dreamed about.

There are programs that will assist the grandparents in their new role as primary parents. At my church a senior group meets once a month to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly of raising grandchildren when you thought you would only see them on the weekends. It allows the grandparents to learn from others who are in similar situations, and to give guidance to those that need it .

In every state there are organizations that will assist those that are raising children for the second time. AARP has great information in the Grandfacts sheets for the United States and for your state. There are local programs that can assist also.

Grandparents may need a little help when raising grandchildren. Those that take on this task are indeed “grand”. Remember “thisisyourbestyear”, and just in case you didn’t know my grandchild is the cutest and smartest.

No Money Needed For This Gift

I recently read an article somewhere that talks about how some elderly people can go for weeks without talking to another person. Then it hit me, no wonder they are getting taken in by phone scammers. They are lonely and just want to talk with someone. Most of us if we are honest have sometimes looked at the phone, recognized the number and just let it go to voice mail. Most of us have more than enough human contact.

Last year I got an idea, and it stemmed from an idea that my sister told me about. Her church makes Easter Baskets for the sick and shut in at their church. You know the ones that can’t make it to church because they are ill, don’t drive anymore or for any number of reasons. They even made the decorated baskets a contest–the most creative.

Inside of each basket were things that they thought the people would like such as candy, coffee, even the coffeemaker, a pair of slippers and so much more. It seemed that my sister had so much fun gathering the items, and creating her masterpiece. The church would then deliver the baskets to the members.

So I decided that we would do an Angel Tree for Christmas at my church. We would do it for the sick and shut in. It would be the same as a regular Angel Tree, and similar to my sister’s church Easter Baskets with a few exceptions.

After I gathered all the names, phone numbers and addresses it was announced to the church, and to my great surprise the first Sunday all of the names were taken. The instructions to participate in the Angel Tree were:

  • Select a name
  • Call and talk with the person
  • Ask what they would like for Christmas
  • Ask if you could come over–if they said no which some might for several reasons including a) not looking their best b) house not kept the way they want it to be kept c) just don’t want any company.
  • If they didn’t want any visitors, then ask could you call them from time to time
  • If they agreed a visit was okay you were then to go out and purchase the items
  • You were to take the gift to the person, and sit and talk for a while. Even though you were purchasing a gift, you a were the greatest gift.

It was a great success. I was able to go on two visits, one with a friend. We visited a member in a nursing home. We sat and talked with her. The gift she loved, but she asked for a cold glass of orange juice. The gift basket had wonderful things in it that she had said she wanted, but our conversation and that cold glass of orange juice made her day.

My next stop was the name I had chosen. She wanted magazines and chocolate candy. I decided to give her a sugar high with all the chocolate I bought. After inviting me into her home, we talked about family, church, careers and more. She showed me pictures of her in her younger years, and so many family pictures. Some of the pictures were of her dancing–she said she loved to dance. When others would call her, she would tell them about my visit, not about the candy. My presence was better than candy.

Both of these beautiful people are no longer with us, but they have inspired me to do the Angel Tree again, and expand it a little. This time the names will be on a tree along with the Angel Tree wishes of our adopt a school. So we don’t get them mixed up, we will color code them.

This year I’ve added one more requirement to our Angel Tree. Each gift giver is asked to call and/or send a card to their Angel Tree person at least once or more a month. I’m hoping they will continue to visit the person. Gifts are great, but the gift of conversation and maybe a hug is so much more. Maybe when they visit they will take their children and/or grandchildren with them.

Most of us will be paying for Christmas gifts until Easter, but the gift of conversation and human touch cost nothing. Remember “thisisyourbestyear” and make someones holiday merry because all they want for any holiday is just a little time with you.

Our USA Today Best Years Magazine Interview

We were interviewed by the award winning journalist Jennifer E. Mabry for the USA Today Best Years (Fabulous Living at 50+) 2019 Fall/Winter edition. The topic of the discussion was “50–Embracing Midlife”. It is a topic that “thisisyourbestyear” is very familiar with.

Adding to the conversation were three other women of a certain age. They were Amy Yontef-McCrath who is a volunteer extraordinaire who sat a goal of volunteering to at least 50 projects between birthday 49 and 50. She completed it with time to spare, and is now deciding upon the next goal for this part of her life.

Also included in the conversation was relationship expert and therapist Dr. Audrey Chapman. She gave insight into being mentally and physically healthy as we mature. Brigid Schulte who is an author and journalist discussed work-life balance as we enter different phases of our life.

It was our honor to be included in this conversation. The link to the article is below. You can purchase the magazine at your local news stands or on line on the USA Today Magazines site.

Embracing Midlife

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”. You are never too old to live your best life and do the “happy dance”–we are proof. Just go for it.

Have Luggage Will Travel

Many of you have cards that give you frequent flier miles on the airline of your choice. Most of us now select our cards by what they can give us. So I want to see how many miles my cousin and I have accumulated or at least our luggage has.

When I purchased my Samsonite luggage many years ago I was told that it would travel the world. Little did I know that it would, but it would go without me.

On June 9, 2019 with our perfectly packed luggage we arrived at DFW International Airport at the appropriate time to catch our 2:30 pm flight to Atlanta, Georgia with a connecting flight to Rome, Italy on Delta Airlines. Did I say our luggage was perfectly packed? It was.

At about 5 pm we were still waiting in the lounge at DFW International when this very nice person by the name of Mr. Okello who worked at Delta Airlines found us a flight on American Airlines that would be leaving soon. We would then fly to Paris, France and then onto Rome, Italy. We gladly accepted. He assured us that our luggage would be put on the American Airlines flight.

The American Airlines flight boarded at the stated time, but decided to try and wait on others who would miss their connecting flights. We all understood this. After almost an hour wait and no other passengers boarding we were on our way to Paris. Since no other passengers boarded we had room to spread out. I hit the mother lode with an entire row to myself–first class at coach prices.

Since we were about an hour late leaving, we arrived in Paris late. Then we taxied for what seemed like forever. We got off the plane and promptly boarded a bus that dropped us at customs with a long line. According to our watches, there was no way we were going to make our connecting flight so after clearing customs we walked (fast) to our terminal and gate and asked to catch the next flight on Air France to Rome.

We were lucky they had just closed the door and opened it for us. At that time my cousin, sister and I all said together, “our luggage will not make this flight”. Sure enough, we were correct.

Air France was given the information about our missing luggage by all three of us. My sisters’ luggage arrived on day 3 of our trip. Seems kind of strange since we all started out together.

There were exploits with not having luggage as you can imagine. Since we are from East Texas, Longview and Tyler we knew to pack extras in our carry on, and we did. We may have had a detour with lost luggage, but we were determined to get back on the road of vacationing.

After a wonderful trip to Italy where we were in Rome, Florence, Tuscany, Pisa, and Venice we were waiting at the Venice airport when they called and said our luggage was located, and it was waiting for us in Rome. After a good laugh, we informed them that we were on our way back to the states, and they said they would send our luggage to us. We should get it in about a day. The three of us arrived back in Texas on Monday, June 17, 2019. Our luggage arrived June 22 courtesy of Mr. Humphrey.

Since I wanted to see my cousin I decided to take her luggage to her, but life got in the way so on July 3, 2019 I sent her luggage by FedEx which meant it would arrive on Friday, July 5, 2019–but they were closed that day. So hopefully, she will have her luggage on Monday, July 8 almost a month to the date.**

Upon looking at the tags, our luggage was expedited–not sure what they meant by that. It also went to JFK Airport in New York. To top it all off Air France says it will have to review our case which may take up to three months because of the complexity of our case. Complexity??

The luggage looks like it had a good time and should have a lot of frequent flier miles. Everything is still perfectly packed. Since I have another trip in a few weeks, I just put the luggage in the closet until needed. Samsonite was correct–their luggage will travel the world. Remember “thisisyourbestyear”. Even with lost luggage, we had a great time exploring Italy with new friends and family.

**My cousin’s luggage is finally home in Tyler, Texas. It should have a few more frequent flier miles than mine. The picture says it all.

First Stop Rome

Going to Italy has always been on my “to do” list, and this year I was able to visit and had an amazing time with my cousin, sister and new friends. We did five stops with the first one being Rome.

We won’t talk about my lost baggage–that’s a post in itself. But I will tell you that nothing was going to stop me from enjoying this trip–even the weather cooperated.

The cab ride through the streets of Rome actually took my breath away. It was not as pretty as a picture, it was better. Sure there was graffiti, but even that had an artistic look to it. The cab driver in his comfortable BMW taxi, nice suit and wonderful accent was a tour guide all by himself. He pointed out historical sites as we traveled to our hotel. It’s one of the times the cab ride could have been longer.

Our hotel was situated on top of a hill. The Hotel Barberini did offer a spa, but I don’t know of anyone in our group that took advantages of these services. The hotel itself was very nice. Every morning we gathered there to talk and have breakfast. The dining room was covered with windows that allowed you to have amazing views of the city below. There was a great balcony that we sat for cocktails in the evening while music flowed from below. The one thing that got me was that beds in Italy are very low to floor, and hotel rooms are small. But who goes to Italy to stay in a hotel room?

Rome reminded me of San Francisco with its hills, and shops everywhere. Our hotel was in walking distance to the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, high end shopping–even discount shopping, and great restaurants. We were in the perfect location. Since I went with a tour group, when we went to places like the Colosseum we had transportation. All of our tours were scheduled. We had the best tour guide in Eladia. She was informative, funny and oh so helpful.

Our tours included the Roman Forum which included many structures that were still standing. Through the words of our tour guide, we could picture how it looked during the time of Julius Caesar.

As we continued to learn the history of Rome, we were on our way to the Colosseum which was not to far from the Forum. We were able to skip the long lines and go directly in to start our tour. At this time, they are still excavating at the Colosseum. As Eladia pointed out that there had been a covering at the Colosseum we all thought of old Texas Stadium with the hole in the middle–at least I did. Even though it is only a shell of it’s once grandiose self it is still something to see.

Vatican City is something to behold. Once again we were able to skip the long lines and go directly in. You need days to see everything that is in Vatican City. Again we were lucky to have Eladia as our guide. She showed us what she considered the “must see” items. You are not to touch the sculptures, but Eladia had permission to allow a member of our group that was visually impaired to touch them as she discussed them. Be prepared for a lot of people, but it is well worth it.

When you enter the masterpiece–the Sistine Chapel there are no words. The artwork before in other parts of Vatican City was amazing, but Michelangelo’s work is something to behold. Eladia had informed us on how to look at it chronologically.The only thing that could have made it better was if there were no crowds, and we could have sat and enjoyed the sheer splendor of the chapel. Even though you could take pictures without flash throughout Vatican City, you could not take pictures/videos of the Sistine Chapel.

Upon leaving the Sistine Chapel our guide Eladia left us, and our overall tour guide Marco took over. He took us to St. Peter’s Basilica. Be aware there is an enforced dress code. Women must cover their shoulders and everyone including men must wear clothing that covers the knees. When entering and going through men must remove their hats/caps.

This place is enormous and so ornate–again you need a while to go through it. One of my favorite places at Vatican City was St. Peter’s Square. I could just imagine the Pope coming out on the balcony.

After catching a little rest most of my group went off on their own to explore more of the city. Many walked since the hotel was centrally located, but others took taxis to places of interest. We decided to go to the balcony, sip a glass of wine and listen to the music.

Rome at least to me lived up to my expectations.The food was great, the history was amazing, the wine was good, and we even got our steps in each day. Remember “thisisyourbestyear”. Sometimes things live up to your expectations.

**A special thanks to Ms. Fallon Alford for sharing her photos with us. Fallon is a full time educator in Atlanta and a freelance photographer. You will see more of her work as we travel through Italy.

Girls Trip To The Land Of Enchantment–Santa Fe, New Mexico

Going on a girls trip can be one of the best experiences, or it can be one of the worst ones that you can have. I have been very lucky, each time I have had a great time. Maybe it’s the girls I go with–they pick out amazing places, great hotels, fun activities, wonderful food and much more. Santa Fe, New Mexico did not disappoint even with the chilly rain on the first night there. My youngest daughter planned a great getaway.

We stayed at the Hotel Santa Fe, Hacienda & Spa which we both loved from the moment we arrived. It had that beautiful southwestern look. that I absolutely love. It is not a large hotel which made it a friendly place, from the front desk, to the bartender, hostess and beyond. Our room was comfortable with windows we wanted to be able to open (next time).

We sat in the lounge with its hugh wonderful fireplace which made it easy to talk with others as we all enjoyed the feel and smell of it. Nobody wanted to leave.

Our only full day started early with me going to have coffee and learn about the history of Sante Fe, New Mexico. The talk was given by Tours U Design with Nat Shipman leading the discussion. I am a history buff so this was right up my alley. They offered a tour, but I had other plans to see the city with my daughter.

The hotel runs shuttles on request that take you to the downtown area of Santa Fe where they dropped us at the Niman Gallery and the True West Gallery. There are so many great galleries in Santa Fe that it kind of makes it hard to pay and go into a museum. There were great paintings, sculptures, jewelry and more. Photos were allowed in some, but not others. Almost every weekend there is some sort of show in the downtown area, and this weekend it was the lowriders which my daughter loved. I even got into it. You can purchase native american jewelry from the locals while listening to local bands in the park. Santa Fe can be a walking place.

The choice of restaraunts is outstanding, you name it they have it except seafood. We couldn’t find a recommendation on one. There was a concensus that we try authentic New Mexico Food at Tomasito’s on Friday night. It was amazing, and we got there just in time. As we were leaving the line was out of the door in the rain. Lunch the next day was at this cute place called La Casa Sena that on my only other visit to Santa Fe my husband and I had visited. Since I love to sit outside it was perfect. The salads were yummy. Even with all of the walking we did during the day, our dinner was lite at a quaint Italian place called Andiamo. Everything looked great, but we settled for appetizers and even then we walked back to the hotel trying to walk off calories.

We did not have the opportunity to go to Ten Thousand Waves Spa (I hear they have a restaraunt now). This place is amazing, it is beautiful and the staff in fantastic. I had the opportunity to visit it a couple of years ago. You can even get your own personal hot tub. It has me spoiled, I can’t do the Asian spas anymore–I’ve had the best. Once you have gone to Ten Thousand Waves you can never go back to the chain spas.

On the way to Albuquerque to catch our flight, they even sent us off with a hot air balloon show.

In less than 36 hours Santa Fe, New Mexico proved to be enchanting. It made for a great girls weekend. As women of a certain age, we keep flying high and reaching for the sky because we know “thisisy(our)bestyear”.

Tea and Talk Discussion–Becoming by Michelle Obama

Join “thisisyourbestyear” on Thursday, May 23 at 6:30 pm at Leaves Tea and Book Shop for a sip of tea and great conversation of the Michelle Obama book–“Becoming”.

We will sip tea and have a great discussion of this important and honest story of the the former First Lady of the United States of America. Join us for an intellectual, though-provoking, honest, fun and real conversation about what we can understand, feel, and learn from this powerful book with some great networking too.

Registration is required. Tickets are free for this event. Go to Eventbrite and register.

Leaves Tea and Book Shop @ 120 St. Louis #101, Fort Worth, TX 76104

Remember “thisisyourbestyear” let’s relax and have great conversation while we sip great tasting tea.