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Six Free Months of Netflix? Enter Here! #StreamTeam

Netflix Stream Team

I am a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam and will be happily sharing monthly tips and stories about how my family uses Netflix on a regular basis. (Okay, that’s an understatement. I should say CONSTANTLY. We use Netflix CONSTANTLY.) This post is sponsored by Netflix, of course!

In another installment of “Wow, how crazy is December???” I just realized that I have a six-month Netflix subscription to give away to a reader! Woo hoo! More on how to enter after I give you a list of ten of my favorite things about Netflix! In no particular order, here we go:

1. The ability for each family member to have their own Netflix profile means that I don’t have to scroll through Jim’s history and science shows (and sci-fi and action flicks) to find my beloved 80’s favorites and RomComs. (No offense, Jim! Also, you’re cute. I love you.)

2. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Grace & Frankie, and Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp—three of my favorite binge-worthy Netflix-exclusive shows in 2015! (The first two have a second season coming up next year!)

3. You and I can connect to Netflix with lots of different devices. We don’t have to be “stuck” on the living room couch to watch all the time; Netflix can go with us! (Not that there’s anything wrong with watching from the living room couch. I rather enjoy it.)

4. Fixer Upper: I’m newly obsessed with Chip and Joanna Gaines and the magic they’re performing on homes in the Waco, Texas area. Watch one episode and you’ll be hooked, too!

5. Netflix gift cards are now available in retail stores all over the United States, making them an easy gift to pick up for Christmas, birthdays, or any day!

6. The Great British Baking Show is another new obsession of mine. Mary Berry and Company judging contestants’ baked creations equals magic.

7. Decades of fun: The Wonder Years, That 70’s Show, Freaks and Geeks, and Friends cover forty years of awesome. I could watch them over and over again.

8. Netflix keeps track of my viewing history. All I have to do to see it is check My Account. There I can also easily rate the titles I’ve experienced, to help Netflix make better viewing suggestions for me.

9. Stand up comedy specials from Tig Notaro, Aziz Ansari, Iliza Schlesinger, Nick Offerman, Russell Brand, Kevin Hart, Louis CK, Jim Gaffigan, and so many more have kept us in stitches.

10. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: Simply put, I could watch this John Hughes masterpiece daily for the rest of my life without getting tired of it.

Now that you know ten of MY favorite things about Netflix, I’d love to know ONE of your favorite things about Netflix! Leave it in a comment and you’ll be entered to win a gift card for six free months of Netflix! (If you don’t have Netflix yet, no problem! Leave me a comment with your favorite movie or tv show!) Only one comment per person, please, and this is a quickie: you have until 6pm Central on Thursday, December 17 to enter! I’ll pick the winner randomly and will contact him or her by email on Thursday evening! Good luck, and happy watching!

EDITED TO ADD: Congratulations, Alison Groen! You won the gift card! Wahoo! (Check your inbox!)

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Holiday Shopping

We’re deep into the Silly Season.
Or the Holidaze.
You might call it by another name. Whatever you call it, it’s crazy out there.

Over the weekend I was at the mall (and at Target and at the grocery store and and and…) taking care of my holiday errands along with two hundred bajillion other people and I had the revelation that dealing with crowds at this time of year could be made easier and more enjoyable by being more mindful of our own actions, since that’s what we can control. Here are a few things we can all do to improve our shopping experience (and likely the experience of others), not only during the holiday season but all year round:

1. Have patience in parking lots. Getting upset because everyone else is at the mall trying to take care of their list isn’t going to help you find a parking space any faster and being angry over a lack of parking spaces isn’t the best way to start a shopping excursion. If you have to park at the very back of the lot (and if you are perfectly able when it comes to walking), take a moment to be happy about getting a few extra steps in. Exercise is good. When you’re trying to get out of the parking lot to go home, let someone merge in front of you. Everyone wants to go home. Letting one person get in line in a nice gesture. Just do it.

2. Use extra caution in parking lots. There are kids escaping the grip of their parent’s hands, there are other drivers who may not be paying attention, there are motorcycles and tiny cars parked in what you thought for a second was an empty parking space and there are all kinds of other obstacles that are easily avoided if you merely slow down and keep your eyes open to what’s around you.

3. Say sorry. If you bump into someone, say “I’m sorry” or “Excuse me”, even if you think you barely tapped them. It’s just the right thing to do. You may not care about ruffling the feathers of someone you’ll never see again, but why not? Wouldn’t you want an apology? I thought so.

4. Help others. Hold doors open or picked up dropped items for pregnant women, people with small kids (in strollers or out), elderly people, people in wheelchairs, or any other type of person who might have special needs. It takes two extra seconds and it could make a huge difference to those you’re helping.

5. Show compassion. If you come across a parent who is dealing with a crying kid, give a reassuring smile as you walk by, especially if you’ve been a parent yourself because you personally know hard that can be, but even if you’re child-free just because we’re all human. When we see someone having a hard time it’s nice to show them some empathy.

6. Be nice to store employees. You are not the only customer they have that day; you are one of hundreds and maybe thousands. Working retail is one of the hardest jobs out there, made a hundred times worse in November and December. It is not a store employee’s fault that they are out of the one item you wanted, that it’s really hot in the store, that they have to run the register and answer the phone while helping you with whatever you need, that they may not be moving as quickly as you would like, or that they may seem to have low energy. Keep in mind that lots of employees are hired specifically for the holiday season and there can be a learning curve, and even if they’re not newbies it’s likely they have been working lots of extra hours and they’re extra exhausted. Just be nice. It’s almost a guarantee that if you’re nice to them, they’ll be extra nice back.

7. Keep moving or step aside. Traffic jams are caused when cars slam on the brakes. The same thing happens with people in a crowded mall. If you’re walking with the crowd and suddenly stop for any reason (to check a list, to talk to someone, to return a text message, etc.), you’re going to infuriate a bunch of people and you might even get mowed down if those behind you aren’t expecting your stop or change in direction. Instead of stopping in the middle of the walkway, step out to the side so traffic continues to flow. Take care of your business, and then hop back in. Everyone will appreciate it.

8. Give people a break. Be patient with people who are moving slower than you are, especially if they are older, if they have a disability, or they are the companion to someone who needs assistance. Getting irritated about something that can’t be helped doesn’t do anyone any good. Imagine if you were in their place. Wouldn’t you want others to be extra tolerant? Pass them when you can and go on with your day.

9. Don’t forget to snack. If you’re walking around thirsty with a growling stomach, you’re likely to lose your patience more quickly. Drink water along the way and either enjoy a snack you brought from home or stop at one of the mall shops to grab something to eat.

10. Smile. Multiple studies have shown that smiling can create happiness, lower stress, and generally increase positivity, all desirable conditions while dealing with holiday crowds. An added bonus? You might cause others to smile, too.

I know firsthand what it’s like to try and buzz through the mall at top speed, focused only on checking things off of my holiday shopping list so I can get onto the next errand and maybe get home at a decent time to put on my pajamas and relax on the couch because I’m tired from doing all the things. You probably do, too. The problem with operating that way is that we tend to forget we’re not the only people in the world and our bad habits can ruin the day for everyone. Next time you’re at the mall, try some of these strategies. Focusing on what you can control as opposed to being upset and annoyed about what you cannot might not only create the perfect shopping day, but also earn you some karma points! You don’t need to celebrate a certain holiday or be of a certain faith to just be human. Let’s go out there and do it.

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A Streaming Wish List

Today has been an Adam Sandler kind of a day. We watched “Don’t Mess With the Zohan” (a family fave) and then “Grown Ups”. I decided to search for MTV’s “Remote Control” so we could show D how Adam Sandler got started, and I was thrilled to find full episodes on YouTube. The one we watched didn’t have Adam Sandler in it (of course not because MY LUCK), but it DID have the original commercials that aired in 1989 so we got a good laugh about that.

It got me thinking about three shows from back in the day that I would love to see on Netflix or Hulu at some point (so I can watch them in order and don’t have to piece the seasons together on YouTube):

Soap. This parody of daytime soap operas only ran for four years (1977-1981) but it seems to me like it was around for much longer. The writing was fantastic, and the show featured Billy Crystal, Katherine Helmond, Robert Urich, and lots of other 80’s stars that my younger readers would be all, “I have no idea who you’re talking about.” (In fact, they might be like that regarding the ones I named.)

Moonlighting. Also on for only four years (WHUT), this show was a dramedy that revolved around the Blue Moon Detective Agency and the chemistry between its owners Maddie Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) and David Addison (Bruce Willis). I LOVED THIS SHOW.

Benson. Robert Guillaume starred in this sitcom (a spinoff of “Soap”) about the “head of household affairs” for the governor of a state they never identified. Benson eventually became Lieutenant Governor, something that was highly unlikely in real life for someone starting out as “head of household affairs” but for a sitcom, it worked. “Benson” was on for seven years.

Maybe I’ll be able to stream these shows someday. What shows would you love to stream?

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When Better Late Than Never Is Not Okay

late

I had a meeting at 6:00 p.m. in the city last night. It was an parent orientation for a trip J will be taking in a few weeks, and according to the reminder email we were to arrive early because there was a security protocol through which we had to pass on the way into the building.

In order for me to have enough time to (potentially) sit in rush hour traffic and then park and then arrive a few minutes early to an activity in the city that begins at 6:00, I know I need to leave my western suburban driveway no later than 4:00.

I did that yesterday, and I arrived before 5:45. I checked in downstairs and took the elevator up to the conference room where the meeting would be held. I had no clue how many people were expected but by 6:00 the room seemed to be filling up pretty well.

At 6:00 the orientation leader said that we were going to wait ten minutes or so before starting because people were still arriving downstairs and going through security. She didn’t begin until 6:15.

This kind of thing infuriates me.

It seems to be how things go these days. People are late all the time. It happened even after we received that email asking that we arrive early. I realize that she was trying to be nice and give the latecomers every opportunity to catch as much information as they could. But what about those of us who planned our evening around arriving when we were asked to arrive? She should have started on time.

Whenever this happens, I feel like I’m being punished. My issue with others’ lateness is two-fold. First, time is very important to me. Ask those who know me the best: I am capable of scheduling just about anything down to the minute because I hate wasting time. Actually, it’s both that I hate wasting time and I love making the most of time. Second, when someone’s tardiness affects others it’s just plain rude and disrespectful, full stop.

(I know that in the case of a city activity, working until a certain time and then having to experience rush hour traffic is a bad combination, but there were more than just a few people casually rolling in late.)

One woman who came in late took some time during the Q & A session at the end of the meeting to ask about two things that had been covered in depth before she arrived, so not only did those of us who were on time have to sit and wait fifteen minutes longer for the meeting to begin, but we also had to hear some information twice. So annoying.

I will pause for a moment to say that obviously this is my blog and this is my opinion. I’m certainly not perfect (not by a long shot!) and I know for a fact that I do things all the time that make others want to scratch my eyes out. That said, lateness is one of my biggest pet peeves in life, so I’m writing about it.

There was a little discussion on Facebook last night when I posted about the late start. I have a couple of friends who explained that they’re always late and described their routines. (By the way, I have no personal beef with these friends and I’m laughing thinking about their faces as they read this but I’m only using them as an example.)

I still don’t get it. I believe that people who are chronically late somehow rationalize that they’re actually on time by their own standards, like, “Whew, usually I’m twenty minutes late but today I was only fifteen minutes late so I did really well!” If that lateness affected someone else, it’s rude. If it only affected you—I don’t know, late for a workout? Late for something that starts whether you’re there or not?—I have no problem with it.

I also realize that sometimes things that are out of our control happen to cause us to be late. I’m not talking about those circumstances.

I believe that in this digital age when we have more tools available than ever whose primary existence is to help us stay organized (and on time), lateness shouldn’t be as much of a problem as it is. I realize I’m taking a hard line here. What do you think about tardiness? Let’s discuss it.

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#NaBloPoMo 2016: Complete!

Thirty posts in thirty days. I did it!

They weren’t all gems. In fact, most of them couldn’t even pass for polished rocks. That said, I achieved my personal goal of being intentional about posting daily and inspiring myself to continue regular posting here beyond November, even if it’s not every single day. It wasn’t pretty but I’ll take it!

In case you were a busy writer (or a busy anything!) this month and didn’t get here to read much, here are my favorite Suburban Scrawl posts from NaBloPoMo 2016:

Money Battles
This Week’s Obsession Is Brought To You By Missy Elliott
Lean On Me.
To Infinity and Beyond
Fun Facts About Me
What Happens In High School…

Thanks for sticking with me through this annual challenge, and thanks for reading! (And if you participated this year? HIGH FIVE!)

NaBloPoMo 2015

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Blogging Like Nobody’s Reading.

Blogging like nobody’s reading.

I just posted it as my current status on Facebook and the “likes” are rolling in from all of my blogger friends. We’re closing out 2015’s NaBloPoMo tomorrow and, more than ever, this one has been truly about blogging for one’s self. Besides the fact that many people don’t blog as much as they used to, many people (including me!) also aren’t reading as much as they used to. We’re busy!

Or is it just my community?
Or is it just me?
Hmmm.

We returned home late this afternoon from our Thanksgiving trip to Tennessee and as I was thinking about what to write this evening, I came up with the totally brilliant plan of trying to play catch up with some of my favorite blogs, and sharing my favorite posts with you here.

NaBloPoMo? I’VE GOT THIS.

Spoiler alert: tomorrow I’m going to recap what *I* wrote this month that might be worth reading, if you’ve been busy like me and need some Cliff Notes (SparkNotes for you youngsters) or hand-holding right here on Suburban Scrawl.

Here are some fabulous posts (in no particular order) that you should go read immediately, and please leave comments for them if you have a couple of minutes:

1. My friend Jen (@thenextmartha) is sharing the story of growing up with a bipolar mom over on Medium. Her post called “Jelly Not Jam” was gripping and, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful posts she’s ever written. Read it here, and follow her on Medium to easily keep up.

2. Arnebya wrote a post called “The Magic of NaBloPoMo” and I liked it a lot because she wrote about doing it for your own reasons. Whatever the commitment means to you, stick with it. Keep writing. It’s great food for thought as we wind down and figure out where to go from here.

3. Casey actually lived NaBloPoLi (National Blog Posting Life), blogging daily for about fifty-three years (or something like that), until they stopped putting the pressure on themself and started skipping days now and then. The post I’m sharing is their most recent one, and they’re going to be all, “BUT I ONLY WROTE ONE SENTENCE! WHY WOULD YOU SHARE THAT???” The thing is, while Casey is a great writer, I love these compact peeks into their (and Roozle’s) day. They make me smile. Check out “Tree Pose, Like Literally”.

4. Alexandra wrote “In The Quiet”, about the relationship she had with her next-door neighbor. My heart squished and tears came to my eyes as I read this gorgeous tribute in the car on the way home today. Read it here.

5. Ann always makes me laugh. (Okay, not always. But she always makes me laugh when she’s trying to be funny! Wait, that didn’t come out right. Sometimes she makes me laugh without trying to. Wait. NEVER MIND.) She recently wrote about a really cool idea she got from the internet and it happens to be something I tried with J. It had the same results in this house, only not as funny. Read about how her boys don’t want to be her pen pal here.

6. Last but not least, my friend Weaselmomma has returned to blogging after a three-year hiatus. I’m looking forward to catching up with her again, and wondering if she’s going to get some of our other long-lost blogging friends to dust off the cobwebs. Weaselmomma always told the best stories about her kids. Read her comeback post here, and then click around over there; she’s funny!

I think I’ve given you enough homework for now, but if you’ve read (or written) something that you don’t think I should miss, leave it in the comments!

NaBloPoMo 2015

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What Happens In High School…

I attended high school in Knoxville, Tennessee so when we come here to visit our parents (both sets still live here), I always try to make time to get together with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Kate. We went to high school together and were extremely close in our junior and senior years. While we lost touch for nearly eight years after graduation, I sent a letter to her parents’ address when I was pregnant with J and we reconnected.

I love our relationship; it’s really stood the test of time. In addition to our high school adventures, she flew to Chicago to be the decoy surprise when Jim and my sister threw me a surprise party for my 30th birthday, I accompanied her and her husband (and toddler) to Europe a few years back, and I lived with them in Knoxville for a week after their second baby came along, to help around the house. We are polar opposites in so many ways (for example, while she says that I am good at “creating my own party”, she is “not a joiner”), but I think that’s part of why it works. She is one of my very favorite people.

Melisa and Kate

I was fortunate enough to be able to snag some time away from family activities to go to her house and visit with her, her husband, and the kids (I’ve called them Bean and Squeaks on the blog) this morning. (The kids are growing up as kids tend to do. Yikes! Stahhhhp!)

While I was there she gave me a birthday present, and it was one of the best gifts ever. She made a CD for me (a mixCD?) that includes songs that are associated with a certain memory from our friendship. She wanted to see if I had the same memories with each song and my gosh, was it fun (and funny) to sit there and guess what she was thinking regarding each song. Her husband was sitting with us and so there was one memory which we had to practically speak in code about and one that I had to whisper in her ear because I didn’t want to say it out loud and we just giggled. I only missed two, and she reminded me of a bright (BRIGHT) yellow and white striped shirt and sweater vest I used to wear (mid 80s, you know), that I had forgotten all about.

I have actually spent a lot of time wondering in general if my friends from all parts of my life have the same memories as I do; and of course they do and they don’t because we’re all different and we all put different levels of importance on things. It was so much fun to sit with one of my oldest friends today and laugh over the history we share; in the end we both reminded each other of a couple of things that the other had forgotten.

The CD and our little guessing game today was one of the most special gifts I’ve ever received because of the thought behind it. Many of the songs already brought memories of her into my head upon listening; now the rest will do the same. I can’t share the memories here, but I will share song number one.

Thanks for the memories, Kate. xoxo

NaBloPoMo 2015

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Jell-O Times Two.

Until the last six months or so since my mom started trying to minimize, we have always known that if we’re looking for something from our growing-up years, she’s likely got it. It’s for that reason that when we come for a visit, we usually find long-forgotten things either by accident or, if mom finds something she wants us to take home, left on the dresser of the room in which we sleep.

I was tickled on this visit to find a short stack of old report cards, a program from an elementary school play, and a collaborative recipe book made by my kindergarten class on that dresser.

The recipe book is called “Try ’em Recipes”, and if that doesn’t make you want to try what’s inside, I don’t know what would.

Try 'em Recipes

I flipped through the book, skimming the recipes provided by all of my classmates until I got to mine. It was a recipe for “Iceleo”, and while I wrote it in such a way to make it look like it’s something I whipped up all the time, I can’t remember making it once. Anyway, it’s cute.

Iceleo Jell-O

This visit seems to have a Jell-O theme, because my sister pulled this book out of my mom’s collection to put into a box as a gag gift for my dad. When he opened the box and held up the book I correctly guessed that it was published in 1973 because come on, that was when Jell-O was super cool and also totally a normal side dish to bring to a party. I felt old for a second after I guessed the year but then my sense of feeling super smart made that yucky old feeling go away. I mean, I guessed correctly!!

The New Joys of Jell-O

I promptly called dibs on that cookbook because I figured my mom probably hadn’t used it either since the 70s or possibly ever.

I mean, just look at these “appetizing” Jell-O dishes.

Jell-O

But don’t look at them too long, because if you’re anything like me (still full from Thanksgiving), you might feel a little icky about it.

Maybe you should come back tomorrow. The Jell-O will still be here.

NaBloPoMo 2015

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Food Coma.

It’s Thanksgiving, and my title says it all.

I’ll be back tomorrow; I’m taking a Free Pass today for NaBloPoMo because I don’t think I can stay awake long enough to

NaBloPoMo 2015

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Happy To Help.

On Sunday I received an unusual answer from my mom when I asked her if she needed me to do anything before heading down to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving.

Happy to Help

Naturally, “Happy to help” is an understatement.
She had already talked to my sister about it, who was completely on board (of course) with the plan. I’m pretty sure she’s been researching specialty drinks to prepare for this very important task.

When we arrived today it was only a matter of minutes before we opened up that cabinet to see what we were up against. I spotted a bottle of Green Label Jack Daniels in the back and immediately called dibs, but then my mom started talking about “using up bottles that are already open” first. Yeah yeah, it makes sense but I still asked my dad if he minded my opening it.

His response: “Sure, go ahead. But I want to keep that bottle.”
I asked, “So I can’t even take it home with me?”

“Nope.”

So forget it. It’s okay, though. I’m sitting here with a “Gentleman Jack and Coke”, watching the “Dancing With the Stars” finale and acting like I don’t know who won already so my mom can experience it for herself. Oh, and there’s candy. It’s looking like a pretty great start to the Thanksgiving weekend.

Happy to Help

NaBloPoMo 2015

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