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Netflix #StreamTeam Celebrates Pets, Sigh.

Netflix Stream Team

I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team 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!

I’m getting in just under the wire with my January Netflix Stream Team post, shew! I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to lead into the “Pets” theme this month. There are so many angles I could take, as a beagle owner.

“Luckily”, Roxie did me a favor and got into one of the two bags full of Valentine’s Day treats I had put together for my kids. Insert heavy sigh here.

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It probably won’t surprise you to learn that I was not a troublemaker in high school.

To this day, my sister (who is five years younger) still teases me about how I once told her that I never went to any wild parties in high school because I was never invited to one. “You don’t get invited to those!” she told me, shaking her head.

I did, however, know how to work “the system”. Although I never planned on revealing this specific part of my past to my kids, a conversation over dinner a couple of weeks ago led to my telling J about my biggest high school offense, which happened over the course of about four months at the end of my junior year.

The Tennessee high school that Jim and I attended had a fourth (or fifth?) period that was divided into thirds, and students went to class for two of those thirds and lunch for the third, uh, third.

I had first lunch (in the first third. Follow me?), but I spent my lunch period volunteering in the Counselor’s Office. Spanish class was where I went after that, except on days (many days) when I made a detour, and that’s where the trouble begins.

Jim had second lunch.

I used to go see him “on my way” to Spanish (as long as “on the way” means going downstairs from the Counselor’s Office to the cafeteria and then back up the stairs to class) for five or ten minutes. I was chronically late.

At dinner a couple of weeks ago I got all the way to that part of the story before I realized that my nineteen-year-old would likely ask the question. And he did.

“How did you get away with being late to class all the time?”

I lowered my voice a little bit and said, “I lifted some late-excuse pads from the Counselor’s Office and forged signatures so my Spanish teacher just thought I was finishing up loose ends. BUT I HAD AN ‘A’ AVERAGE IN SPANISH SO SHE WAS FINE WITH IT.”

Once he picked up his chin from the floor, he spent a few minutes nervously laughing and shaking his head while clearly in shock over this revelation.

“So…you just FORGED their signatures????”

“And you had PADS of those excuse sheets????”

“And your teacher never got you in trouble?????”

“How often did you do that???”

Three or four days each week.

And hey, it all worked out okay, didn’t it?

Jim and Melisa, second lunch at FHS

Jim and Melisa, second lunch at FHS, 1985


Even though we have never experienced communication issues, some of the most difficult-to-begin conversations with our boys were the ones about substance abuse. As parents, the idea of our kids—actually our whole family—dealing with substance abuse was always one of our biggest fears as they got older and became more independent. The fact is, drug abuse–prescriptions and illegal substances–is rampant no matter where you are. Here in Naperville specifically, there’s a huge, scary heroin problem in addition to the “usual” stuff.

Recently I was asked by the folks at Rosecrance, one of the country’s leading teen substance abuse treatment centers, to do some sponsored work in helping them spread the word about a traveling art exhibit that brings awareness about teen peer pressure when it comes to substance use and abuse. This is one of those times when I thought, as a parent of now-grown boys, I could be of some value and, frankly, I was also interested in the conversation. So…I was all in.

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Making it through last week felt like a huge victory for me because, well, you probably read all about it already. Besides the moving parts of my life over which I have no control that I ever-so-vaguely mentioned, the other main source of my internal crisis was a repeat offender: hormones.



I took some action over the weekend and reached out to a friend who is a wellness coach and so smart about and active in treating things holistically that one of her nicknames is “Witch Doctor”.

This is NOT my thing. I’ve always been skeptical of the healing properties of oils and other natural—what shall I call them?—elements?

I have been known to cringe when I’m in a room with people who talk at length about chakras and such.

(I’M NOT JUDGING: I’m just telling you where I’m coming from.)

With my hormones (and the anxiety and mood swings they induce) taking up more and more of my valuable time these days, however, I needed to open up my mind a little bit.

I called my friend the Witch Doctor on Friday evening and she invited me to come over on Saturday after my workout so we could explore some ideas she had for me. Oil-wise, you know.

I left with some samples and, after a day and a half of using them I ordered regular sized bottles. Although it’s too soon for me to tell if I’m going to end up achieving the goal of becoming “rebalanced”, this new ritual is a comfort to me and my mind is open. Also, people are telling me that I smell really good, which has always been a goal of mine. (Honestly. Ask Liz. She’ll vouch for me on that.) I keep taking deep breaths into my hands, which makes me feel a little like Mary Katherine Gallagher but on the other end of the scent spectrum and not nearly as offensive-looking in action.

And now I have ordered a travel bag for my oils. A TRAVEL BAG. FOR MY OILS.

travel bag for essential oils

My bag (not my oils; those pictured were only for display purposes), on its way to me from The Farmer’s Boutique shop on Etsy.


Hopefully someone who is on her way to feeling more balanced, that’s who.


This Week: 1 Melisa: 1/2

This week has Kicked. My. Butt.

I’m not talking about your average, run-of-the-mill, short-term butt-kicking. I’m talking about nearly a week’s worth of stress-induced, anxiety-laden, sleep-deprived, frustrating, often tearful minutes that crawled by as if they were hours instead of sixty-second increments. To say out loud that it’s “been a tough week” seems ridiculous to me because it’s such a massive understatement.

The cause: too many moving parts in my life, many of which are currently out of my control.

At my lowest point earlier in the week, I sobbed heavily into Jim’s arms, stating rather dramatically that I just don’t know why I can’t be a “normal person who doesn’t enjoy juggling so many things at once.” The sad truth is, I don’t think I know how to live otherwise.

That truth always leads to my eventually digging myself out. This time happened to take days longer than it usually does, but I’m almost there. Throughout it all I count my blessings—my family, my friends, my life—and I repeat to myself that everything always works out just fine. When things aren’t resolved the way I’d like them to be, I happen to be pretty good at making lemons out of lemonade once I have a chance to shift gears.

So that’s what I’m reflecting on today, a Friday that I thought would never arrive but—just like the sun every morning—did. I’m focusing on what’s important, what I can control, and a couple of much-needed victories I had yesterday. Those things are what will carry me through, onward and upward, and right back to my normally optimistic self.

Always Half Full


Create Your Taste At McDonald’s!

If you’ve been reading Suburban Scrawl for a while, you may recall that I have a special place in my heart for the McDonald’s brand. My first job was at McDonald’s and for two years I worked at the brand new location just steps away from my high school, with many of my friends. We had a BLAST.

One of the benefits of working there was the food, obviously. Break time was easy because the food was RIGHT THERE. I have always loved the traditional menu but back then we would create our own custom creations, too, to mix things up. We would make sloppy joes with chopped up burger and barbecue sauce…salads made from the shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and Big Mac special sauce (way before salads were actually sold there!)…cherry pie ala’mode, and all kinds of other crazy combinations.

Knowing that history, I bet you can understand why I was super excited to get an invitation from McDonald’s to check out their brand new Create Your Taste menu. It was like they heard my friends and me all those years ago! We love to creatively customize!

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A Tale of Two Movies.

We are HUGE movie fans in this family. Often, if we have a free weekend day or two, you can find us at one of the two movie theaters that are conveniently located within about six minutes of our house. Checking out a movie is an easy afternoon getaway, and one of our theaters even serves lunch and dinner in addition to popcorn and candy, so it’s a great way to spend date night.

I’m not sure if it’s because we’re just easy to please, because we let ourselves be carried away/entertained by what’s on the big screen rather than analyze every little thing in hopes of discovering plot holes or other mistakes, or because the movies on which we choose to spend our (pocketfuls of, OMG) money are truly wonderful, but we have picked very well in the past couple of months. Last month we enjoyed “Interstellar”, “Wild”, and “Unbroken”.

This weekend we saw two absolutely fantastic movies—one today and one yesterday—both of which I would recommend as required viewing for every American, and each of them having been treated very differently by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

—Don’t worry, there are no spoilers in this post.—

First, “American Sniper”. We saw this amazing film yesterday and it will stick with me for a long time. It stars a super-beefed up Bradley Cooper and a brunette Sienna Miller, and was directed by Clint Eastwood. The film tells the true story of Chris Kyle, the deadlist marksman in the history of the United States military, with 160 confirmed kills. There were impactful moments throughout the more-than-two-hours of this movie, but what stood out the most to me was the portrayal of the sacrifices—physical AND mental—that are made by not only the members of our military but also their spouses.

Image: Warner Bros.

Image: Warner Bros.

Jim was in the Navy for ten years. He was on an aircraft carrier in the Middle East during Operation Desert Storm and was in an extremely safe place compared to those on the front lines. Back in those days there was no email and there were no cell phones; we had to rely on the post office as well as occasional HAM radio calls. I’m not sure what’s better: being mostly ignorant about his daily goings-on as I was, or being able to stay connected as much as today’s military families are. My heart ached for Sienna Miller, who played Chris’ wife Taya, throughout the film.

Watching Chris’ story was heart-wrenching but eye-opening. The people who defend our country’s freedoms every day are superheroes.

“American Sniper” received six Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor (Cooper), and Best Adapted Screenplay. Surprisingly, Clint Eastwood was snubbed in the Best Director category.

Today Jim and I saw “Selma”, the film about the fight FOR freedoms which begins with the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and tells the story of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery (Alabama) voting rights marches, led by Martin Luther King Jr. and other members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, along with John Lewis of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Image: Paramount PIctures

Image: Paramount Pictures

Watching the film was very emotional for many reasons, especially in light of the recent events in Ferguson. It’s amazing to me that, as recently as fifty years ago, Black Americans did not have the right to vote. We have come so far in fifty years but at the same time we have so much further to go in order for everyone to be truly treated equally in this country. I believe that in order to move forward, we do need to take the time to look back at what once was.

My friend Alexandra wrote a much better summary of why you and your over-aged-thirteen kids should see this movie than I could have, so I’m linking it here. My favorite line? “These films are needed to capture and cast open the cost, which was high, of the story of Americans wanting to be accepted as Americans.” They are NEEDED. You NEED to go see this movie.

The movie, directed by Ava DuVernay and starring David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, and Oprah Winfrey (with appearances by the likes of Common, Martin Sheen, Cuba Gooding Jr. and many more!) was not looked on as favorably by the members of the Academy, who are 94% white and 76% men; it was only nominated for Best Picture and Best Song. That’s it. Deb Rox wrote a great call-to-action post over on BlogHer in which she implores you to support this movie by buying tickets to see it, especially this weekend as we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. (I know that my theater has plenty of matinee showings tomorrow, with it being a national holiday. I bet yours does, too.)

Two great films, two important historical tales. It’s time for popcorn, you guys. Go see them.


Mr. Sandman, Bring Me A Dream. PLEASE.

Take a look at this, an arrangement of just a few of the products that are involved in my pre-bedtime routine.

All the Lavender

It wasn’t always this way, my having to bring in reinforcements. Way, way back when I was in my twenties, I could brush my teeth, use the bathroom, get into bed, snuggle up to Jim, pull the covers up to my chin (I always loved being cozy under the blankets!) and fall asleep nearly immediately. I’d stay asleep until morning and even if I “only” got seven hours, I felt so well rested!

These days, in my midtolate forties (to me, forty-six is not mid- and not late-; it’s midtolate) things are way different because somewhere along the way, I stopped being able to sleep well. My pre-bedtime routine involves the following, not necessarily in this order:

1. washing my face
2. brushing my teeth
3. using the bathroom
4. spraying my pillow with lavender mist
5. applying lotion to the bottoms of my feet and then pulling on socks
6. applying lotion over most of my body
7. occasionally taking something to help me sleep
8. taking my high blood pressure meds
9. putting on a lavender-scented nasal strip because snoring
10. getting into bed
11. pulling the covers up to my chin and snuggling with Jim for about five minutes until it’s hot as blazes (thanks, peri-menopause!) and I have to scoot over and swing at least one leg out from under everything

An aside: I do not moisturize my face at night because the nasal strip will go “Fwing!” and if you want a hilarious explanation of that kind of situation that will leave you in stitches, go watch Liz’s vlog from two years ago. It’s one of my favorite things ever, and not just because it ends with, “So, Melisa was right.” I truly love it from start to finish.

Even after all of that (SO MANY LAVENDER PRODUCTS BECAUSE RELAXING!), I do not sleep much. Seven hours of sleep would be great. Eight would be like winning the lottery. Nine? Well, nine isn’t even within the realm of my imagination.

I would KILL to consistently get seven hours of solid sleep and feel well-rested in the morning. Okay, maybe I wouldn’t KILL for it. (Maybe.) I’ve always been a light sleeper but the last few years between my advancing age, my increasing core body temperature, my bladder, and my inability to shut my brain down at bedtime, I’m a member of the “often awake at night club”, otherwise known as an insomniac. I lie there deep breathing all of the lavender around me and trying to think about slow-moving things that don’t cause me a care in the world, but it’s no use. Sometimes I lie there on top of all the covers (even in the middle of winter), wondering if I should turn the ceiling fan on “medium” while I let my mind run off to the destinations my body has visited over the past few months: the Bahamas, Tennessee, Mexico, New Jersey…still nothing. Sometimes I’ll put my earbuds in and listen to my “Beach Sounds” playlist on Spotify, imagining I’m either relaxing on the sand or floating in the water while the waves lap the shore. On the worst nights, that is a total fail. Sometimes I’ll even go downstairs and try to sleep on the couch or, worse, I’m so wide awake that I’ll start working at 3:00 a.m. and make plans to power nap later in the day. It’s so completely frustrating. A typical “good” night’s sleep for me is four or five solid hours and a “bad” night’s sleep can mean all kinds of things: one night last week I slept for a grand total of twenty minutes, all night.

Then, just when I’m at my wit’s end and I believe I’ll never get a good night’s sleep ever again, the worst possible thing happens: all of the parts of my pre-bedtime routine actually work the way they’re supposed to, and I sleep for seven hours, uninterrupted. Yes, I said “the worst”. Here’s why:

I get excited about it.
Jim gets excited about it.
I wonder if I can get two nights like that in a row.
I don’t.

The silver lining to all of this is that, during the day, I can sleep anywhere, anytime. In fact, all I have to do to fall asleep during the day is stop moving. It’s one of the reasons why I am ALWAYS doing something while watching TV, because if I don’t, I’m out. I’m an expert Power Napper: if I allow myself to sprawl out on my couch and close my eyes, I can feel completely refreshed after twenty minutes of sleep. If Jim drives us to Wisconsin to see the boys or on other long-distance road trips, I fall asleep as quickly as a baby in a carseat. I’m convinced that this kind of lifestyle is the gateway drug to Early Bird Specials and other Senior Citizen routines and I suddenly feel like I understand the elder generations a little better now, so there’s that.

Still, I’d love some sleep. Maybe it’s time to plan a roadtrip. Who’s driving?


To Grandma’s House I Go

I’ve been thinking about my grandmother a lot lately, especially as I toss around ideas for the essay I will write for this year’s Listen To Your Mother show in Chicago. Memories of her come and go, and sometimes she hangs around in my brain for an extended period of time. I don’t mind at all; in fact, I rather enjoy it. My Grandma was a huge presence in my young life. We visited her house all the time, and she spoiled her grandkids like crazy. She was one of the kindest, most generous people I’ve ever met in my life. I’m often in awe of the fact that she died when I was only ten years old but has continued to affect my life in so many ways.

Since she’s been on my mind, it didn’t surprise me at all that, when I was looking for a picture of my boys earlier today, I came across this, a picture I haven’t seen in ages.

This picture is worth way more than a thousand words.

This picture is worth way more than a thousand words.

I noticed so many things at first glance. The glasses, for one thing. How awesome are those?

I see my mom in my Grandma’s face so much more than I ever have before. I see my younger son, J, in my face.

My side curls. WHAT???

The picture was taken in October of 1973, when I was nearly five, and it’s a perfect representation of the love that was between us. I still miss her after all these years, and when I catch myself wondering what she would think about the person I am today, I laugh because I already know.


Just Give Me A Second And I’ll Figure It Out.

Unfortunately, all of the answers can’t be found on Google.

I mean, LOTS of them can…but often there are questions or problems that can’t be resolved by typing in a query.

Here’s what I do when I have a dilemma: I call someone to talk it out.

Wall phone

This phone, hanging on my kitchen wall, is not the phone I use to call people in the 21st century, ever. I should take that thing down.

Now, you might think that when I say “talk it out”, I mean that I’m calling that person to have a two-person exchange about my issue and then hang up feeling triumphant because we have figured it out together. Good job. That’s what I thought I was doing too, for a while. Not so. I mean, that’s my INTENTION, but that’s not exactly how it all plays out.

You know what they say about how, if you want someone to talk, you just leave a little bit of silence in the conversation from your end and then the person with whom you’re speaking will get uncomfortable and start blathering?

This is nothing like that. Except the blathering.

Confession time.

First of all, I didn’t even really realize that I was doing what I’m about to tell you until Momo, one of my closest friends who ONLY speaks the honest truth, put a pin in my balloon and told me, and now I’m self-conscious about it. That said, there are way worse faults I think? Yes, there are. There are definitely worse faults to have, so I don’t feel as bad as I did a minute ago. Shew!

See? I just did it.

What I do is, I make the call and explain my dilemma, and then…I solve it. Usually by myself, apparently. When I called Momo a couple of weeks ago with the problem-du-jour, I started talking about it without even giving her a chance to insert some silence so I could get uncomfortable (like THAT would ever happen with a close friend!) and when I stopped to get validation by saying, “Don’t you think?”, she replied “Well maybe; I’m just waiting for you to finish talking it out like you always do.”

And then we both laughed, only I think it was just me, laughing alone.

Thank God for good friends who love me anyway, in spite of things like this.

The good news is, I’m an excellent listener and when my friends call me with their own issues, I actually do know when to shut up and hear them out until they’re ready for me to pipe in. I mean, what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t take my turn to listen? Not a very good one in my opinion. Don’t you agree? Of course you do. That’s what I thought.

There I go again.