Friday, May 1, 2020

Mother's Day Gift Guide 2020 By: Candice Smith

Mother’s Day is approaching. It is May 10th this year. This means I’m giving you a head’s up and enough time to do more than give your mom a perfunctory card, a last minute phone call, or a hug. In these times of social distancing, uncertainty, and stress, Mom deserves some happiness.

Moms are special, and, as flawed as they may be (I speak from experience, I have three children and am flawed to the max) they tend to love their children wholly and completely.

So, in honor of Moms’ special day that arrives only once per year, why not take a few extra minutes, the money you were saving for a new video game or concert ticket, and splurge on your mom. I’m giving you notice and I don’t believe you’ll find a bigger return on your investment.

Guys, your wife who is the mother of your child(ren) may not be your mother, but she is the mother of your child(ren). She’s more than worthy of a nice gift just like your mom is. Remember, Father’s Day is next month and a good turn this month most certainly will yield a great one for your special day!

So, here’s my gift guide for Mother’s Day. Yes, it’s skewed to my tastes and desires. What do you expect, my name is on the title?! But, I am a woman, a mother, and think I have an insight into what other mothers may enjoy receiving.

Mother's Day Gift Guide 2020

Jewelry – This can’t be a surprise for any of you. Most women I know, albeit not all, love jewelry of some kind. Diamonds may be out of the price range (but if they’re not, go that route), but jewelry doesn’t have to be. Mother’s pieces, birthstone styles, initials, or anything she admires is appropriate. Although I adore fine jewelry our budget does not always have room for that. Costume jewelry is a lovely way to commemorate Mom, too. Even Rainbow loom bracelets or friendship bracelets made by the children is a lovely gesture. Find something that suits her taste and shows her you were thinking about her.

Framed Art – If you have children like I do your house is overrun with art projects from school. They hang from the refrigerator, the wall, sit in piles on the counter tops, and fill up storage bins in the basement. Sometimes I purge after taking digital pictures of the masterpieces, but mostly I have them saved. But there are a couple from each child that are so beautiful, meaningful, and sentimental to me that I have had them framed. Make or pick one of the children’s best works of art to be professionally framed and present it to Mom.

Spa day/1/2 day/hour – It is very sweet when my family gives me a scented lotion, bottle of nail polish, or a back scratcher, but I rarely have the time to scratch my back or the other more time-consuming tasks. Having me luxuriate for as little as one hour or up to a full day would be a truly sensational. Spas and salons will need business (EVERY business will need business) so pick up a gift certificate now and when life resumes normalcy, Mom has something to  look forward to and you have helped keep a business afloat.

A chaise lounge, a book, and some peace and quiet – I actually received this gift many years ago when I was pregnant with my last child. It was, and, to this day, still is my favorite (non-jewelry) gift. I still have the chaise lounge, books needing reading, but somehow, with three kids in the house, have lost track of the peace. One day I’ll find it! As for books to gift, I have three great titles to offer: Christmas Candi: A Guide to Year-round Holiday Bliss, The Man Behind the Beard, and Drafting the Culinary Circuits. All are available on Amazon.

Plants/trees – Cut flowers are very nice and pretty, but they are dead and fade quickly. But a flowering plant or tree is a gift that gives joy for years on end. Make planting part of the gift unless Mom loves to get her hands dirty in this way.

Tickets to something and a babysitter – When social distancing gets faded out, plan to take her out. Theater her thing, find a local production. Concerts turn her on, take Mom to hear her favorite band/singer. Does she love racing (and what woman doesn’t)? Find a local track and enjoy! Depending on the activity, arrange in advance to get Mom a sitter and let her have grown-ups only night. But, if it is something the whole family might enjoy, then get them involved, too! There is so much to do in most communities, from minor league baseball games to fantastic productions that going out need not be expensive, difficult, or far. And, as mentioned above, plan now to anticipate the fun later when the world reopens for business.

Breakfast/brunch out – Breakfast in bed may sound nice, but crumbs get everywhere and usually Mom ends up doing all of the dishes. This time, give Mom ample time to take a shower and beautify, and order the family takeout from a great place for breakfast/brunch. This meal is typically far less expensive than dinner and starts the day on the right foot. Then make sure to have the children do the dishes (with supervision if they aren't old enough to handle the job alone).

Romance her – Obviously a tip for the husbands of the Mom. Moms are so mired in raising the children, managing the home, work, and all the other details she is in charge, that making time for romance is scarcely done. But it is so vastly important. Once the children have given their crepe paper corsages, “spoiled mom” and gone to bed, Dad/husband/boyfriend/significant other/lover can swoop in and make Mom feel like a woman and nothing like a mom. Read up on it people, there are a lot of ways to go about it!

Mostly Mother’s Day is a day to make Moms feel completely and utterly appreciated, respected, and loved.

I’m wishing my mother, my mother-in-law, and all of the mothers out there a very Happy Mother’s Day on May 10th.

In the meantime, I hope y’all got some ideas and will implement the ones that work for you and Mom in time for her special day.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Historical Significance of NASCAR and Dale Earnhardt By: Candice Smith

After earth-shattering events, NASCAR has always been there in modern history to provide normalcy and a beacon of hope for America.

Leading the pack of NASCAR drivers who brought a feeling of hope, optimism, and victory to America was none other than Dale Earnhardt. On what would have been his 69th birthday, I have gathered historical events that rocked America and how watching Earnhardt’s stellar career unfold made those stressful times in America a bit more bearable. In no way am I implying the tragedies and Earnhardt’s success were related or had anything to do with one another, simply Earnhardt’s victories and Cup championships continued to occur despite national tragedies.

In Dale Earnhardt’s storied career with 76 NASCAR Cup Series race victories and seven NASCAR Cups, he had been a part of the fabric of America from the late 1970s until his death in 2001. 

As he was racing for his first career Cup in 1980, the country dealt in May with the eruption of long-dormant Mount St. Helens in Washington state. Although certainly not related in any way, it is part of a pattern that Americans looked to their passion for NASCAR and its heroes to make it through.

As 1986 dawned, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster rocked the American space program and the country when all eyes watched live as the explosion occurred. That same year Earnhardt had a remarkable season in NASCAR winning five races and tying up the Cup one week before the season’s end.

In May of 1987, the USS Stark was fired upon during the Iran-Iraq war. That year Dale Earnhardt showed brilliance by winning 11 races his third NASCAR Cup championship, and a back-to-back one at that!

The year 1990 saw the mobilization of American troops after Iraq invaded Kuwait. Earnhardt once again had a dominate season in NASCAR and won his fourth Cup after winning nine races.

By 1991 American soldiers were participating in Operation Desert Storm to liberate Kuwait. Airstrikes began against Iraq and military families were put under enormous strains. Earnhardt raced hard, acquired four victories and another back-to-back Cup that totaled five for The Intimidator.

The first bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City occurred in January 1993. By spring of that year people tuned in daily to learn evermore about the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas while a massive snowstorm labeled “The Storm of the Century” blanketed the eastern United States “from Canada to Mexico” for three days in late March. Meanwhile, Earnhardt won six races and captured his sixth championship in NASCAR’s top series.

In 1994 the country was mesmerized and horrified by the OJ Simpson arrest for the murder of his wife. In addition, America’s favorite pastime, Major League Baseball, struck a sour note with its fans that still reverberates to the present when they went on strike. NASCAR kept powering on, collecting more fans. Earnhardt, in yet another back-to-back Cup, earned his seventh championship, tying him with the sport’s King, Richard Petty.

The loss of Dale Earnhardt, on February 18, 2001, left the sport and the country reeling. A seemingly indestructible sports hero was fallen in what looked like a benign accident at first. The news of Earnhardt’s death sent a tremor felt within NASCAR, the country, and around the globe.

True to form, NASCAR went on with the next scheduled race a week later held at the North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham. The winner of that race was Dale Earnhardt Inc. driver Steve Parks.

In July of 2001 Dale Earnhardt Jr. drove his DEI-backed No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo to victory at the track his father had perished five months before.

Then the unthinkable happened on September 11, 2001. And the world changed.

But NASCAR was there for America. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. drove his No. 8 to victory lane at Dover Downs International Speedway and then drove his victory laps waving an enormous American flag. The crowd wept with every emotion they had been feeling since the attacks had occurred, and since Earnhardt's death. It was a form of healing. It offered hope.

Another victory awaited Earnhardt Jr. in October 2001 at Talladega.

Fast forward to 2020. Now there is a global pandemic that has kept NASCAR’s engines silent for six weeks and counting. The iRacing with Earnhardt, Jr. and other NASCAR drivers and drivers from other series is filling a void, but unable to quench the thirst of America’s collective need of live NASCAR racing.

It has been nearly two decades since we lost Dale. For many it still feels like yesterday. And Dale Earnhardt, Jr. retired from NASCAR’s Cup series at the end of the 2017 season, yet there are still many heroes on the track.

As we remember Dale Earnhardt on his birthday, let us honor him and his greatness by bringing the engines roaring back to life! If history has taught us anything, it is that healing begins with the normalcy, excitement, and greatness that NASCAR provides.

Let’s do it for Dale.  

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Happy Birthday, Davey Allison

If you are a longtime NASCAR fan you undoubtedly know the name Allison. Bobby Allison was inducted to the second class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011 and he and brother Donnie were two of the original “Alabama Gang”. 

Bobby had two sons, Davey and Clifford, who were following in their dad’s tire tracks. Unfortunately, tragedy struck twice in the Allison family. First, fate claimed Clifford on August 13, 1992 at Michigan International Speedway during practice for the Detroit Gasket 200 in the NASCAR Busch Series. Injuries sustained on the track took the young Allison’s life. Within a year, on July 12, 1993, while piloting his helicopter to Talladega to take part in the race, Davey Allison crashed and perished.

As a mother, I cannot imagine the unbreakable sadness that would grip me losing not just one but also two of my sons. The enormity would be too much for me to bear. And then, as an extra cruel twist of fate, having the death dates less than a year apart and at the same time of the month would simply do me in. Bobby, having dealt with his own tragic career-ending crash, was dealt the most unfair of hands, and yet, to this day, is still a great ambassador for NASCAR. He does what most of us take for granted; he gets up each morning and breathes. For those of you who have lived through tragedy and adversity, you know how difficult that one activity can be.

The Allisons were a dynasty in NASCAR; a racing family that was supposed to endure through the generations. Davey and younger brother Clifford were talented and good and primed to be the next generation of the “Alabama Gang”. Davey, several times, was a breath away from sitting at the lead table at the Waldorf Astoria. Many have pondered, “What if Davey lived” scenarios that include “would Dale Earnhardt have won as many Cups?” No one will ever know.

February 25, 2020 marks what would have been Davey Allison’s fifty-ninth birthday.  As a fan in Davey’s heyday, it is hard for me to wrap my brain around that.  It was important for me to bring Davey’s name back to the forefront for a moment. I’m sure Bobby hasn’t forgotten; I just wanted him to know, I haven’t forgotten either.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

The Marriage Story By: Candice Smith

While recovering from a New Year’s illness last week, I had a block of time to watch something on Netflix. With no children around to curb what I’d watch, I chose a drama that seemed riveting to me. A Marriage Story was the name and it stars Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, and Alan Alda among others. I felt I couldn’t go wrong. I knew the premise of the movie – a couple was in the process of a divorce – but felt certain there would be a happier ending as the title is A Marriage Story.

I was wrong.

Spoiler Alert, but you probably don’t need one like I did. The couple DO divorce. I was incensed.


Because I’m absolutely tired, fed up, and over movies where the couple disintegrates. Where love is lost – obliterated even – and dies. Where the couple most move on from one another to find happiness.


Listen, I’m NOT a Pollyanna, but I’m a sucker for a Happy Ending.

In the decade or two (three?), I cannot think of many or ANY movies where a couple falls in love, struggles, and then STAYS TOGETHER better for the journey.

Ryan and Candice Smith
January 9, 1993

Let me offer a personal backstory:  my husband and I are celebrating our 27th wedding anniversary on January 9th. It’s a big number for any couple, but especially since I am 47 and he 50. In fact, we’ve actually been together since I was 14 and he 17. So, Happy Endings mean a lot to him and me.

Realizing that many marriages end in divorce is a fact I’ve lived with my entire life. My husband and I have had great marriage models in our parents and grandparents – all married for over fifty years. But my brothers are both divorced, friends from all parts of our lives are divorced. It’s an epidemic.

Whereas I understand Art has a duty to show divorce for those going through it to understand they are not alone, where is that for couples who want to sustain?

Disney has even done away with “classic” fairy tale endings. Apparently having our daughters believe being a Princess is fine, but in no way should she ever love or have faith in a Prince.

Great, what message does that send our sons?

I am a mother of two sons and one daughter. I have a vested interest in raising both sexes to the light. To show them a world that allows them to be the best they can be, AND to learn to love unabashedly so when they choose a mate, they can defy the odds and collect years upon years of wedding anniversaries like their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.

But what if their future-spouses aren’t raised that way? Then what?

Perhaps an over-simplification, but I think today’s youth – Hell, today’s Society – NEEDS romantic movies, books, and media where the couple STICKS TOGETHER. Where the relationship is held in high esteem, is WORTH WORKING ON, and is a source of COMFORT, not a death knell to happiness.

Marriage is worth the time, the commitment, and the work. Yes, work. It is HARD WORK to make a marriage last. It’s NOT easy. But it can be so worthwhile.

Should every marriage last? No, not in my opinion. Surprised? Don’t be. I know some marriages are toxic, unhealthy to both. Sometimes addiction, abuse, and culture are insurmountable. I believe those people need to be let go of their vows and find health and happiness apart.

But, for most of us, if marriage is entered, it should be the priority for a lifetime. With children, it is a necessity.

My cousin married her love yesterday. She was a beautiful bride and he a handsome groom. They are educated, are gainfully employed, and seem to be blissfully in love. The bride’s parents have been happily married for over thirty years.

But I worry. Is she equipped with the tools to stick with the marriage when it doesn’t seem fun? When romance wains, financial crisis hits, or children invade the status quo, will they dig in and work hard, or secure lawyers to get out? Does he have a marriage model or are his folks apart?

I am an optimistic person who, frankly, loves love, but this movie A Marriage Story truly rattled me. I wish the beautiful couple well and pray they make it.

As for my husband and me, our lives are NOT perfect. Far from it. We fight, we argue, we face uncertainties, we are living a fast-paced life. We bring insecurities to the table daily, and we continue to evolve. The marriage has taken a beating in the nearly three decades since we said our vows. But it still has a strong heartbeat. There is love, passion, and compassion.

A few days ago I worried about what to gift my husband for our 27th Anniversary. Money is tight. He likes experiences more than things in this stage in his life. I’m not so creative that way.

What I’m giving him is this, my staunch defense of Marriage. The knowledge that no matter how badly he screws up, I love him and will stand by him. And, conversely, that no matter how badly I screw up, I hope he will continue to love me as fervently as he has for these last 33 years.

I love my husband and cannot imagine a world without him. This is our Marriage Story. It stars Ryan and Candice Smith, not Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson. It ends with a marriage intact, not another couple divorced.

We may not be headliners, superstars, or in the majority, but we’ll stay married against the odds.

Happy Anniversary, Honey. I love you always and forever. I hope you liked the experience so far.