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Those Shoes.

I smile a lot.

I know, it can be sickening to the people of the world who aren’t so happy-go-lucky. Sorry/not sorry.

I just try to spend lots of time appreciating the little things as much as the big things.

Here’s one little thing that always always always makes me smile, no matter how many times I’ve seen it–and I’ve seen it hundreds of times:

Jim's shoes

Those are Jim’s shoes (Keen sandals) on the garage floor right behind his car. He wears those shoes from the house out to the garage, where he pulls his bike off of the ceiling hooks and leans it up against the brick wall outside. Then he slips his Keens off and puts his feet right into his cycling shoes, which don’t get to touch the pavement very much if he can help it. He puts his Keens in this exact spot on the floor so they’re waiting for him when he gets back, puts his helmet on, shuts the garage door, and rides away. The process is, of course, reversed when he returns home.

I LOVE when I’m out somewhere and then pull up into the driveway and open the garage door…and see those shoes.

Those shoes are there because he hates being barefoot. (Oddly enough, I love being barefoot.)
Those shoes mean he’s out doing what he loves. (Cycling freak, in the best way.)
Those shoes mean he’s out doing something that is good for his health.
Those shoes mean he’ll be back soon.
Those shoes, for some reason, make me feel all mushy gushy about my husband.

And that makes me smile.

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Record Regret

After lunch on Sunday we walked to the next street corner where we found a record store.

As in vinyl.

As in albumins.

As in “Big CDs”, which was the term I used when trying to explain to my two boys what record albums were, way back in the late 90’s and before they became interested in vinyl themselves.

These days, all three of us are suckers for a cool record store. (Jim’s lukewarm about it but will absolutely spend some time happily browsing if you ask him to.) We’ve all spent time with my sister on Record Store Day, tracking down colored vinyl or special releases or other treasures. D has a wall full of professionally framed record albums and although he spent more money than he needed to on framing vinyl while he was still a college student, his apartment looks damn good and he will carry those with him no matter where he lives for years to come. My plan is to frame some of my favorites someday, perhaps for one of my offices. Anyway, the hunt can be pretty thrilling, especially when it ends with the discovery of old, err, I mean VINTAGE treasures.

Exhibit A: Back in high school I used to collect those little circular band buttons (pins) that were readily available on the check-out counter of record stores. I still have them: Berlin, Duran Duran, Adam Ant, and many others. When I was in Tennessee last month I hit up my favorite record store from the 80’s, which is still completely in business although most of the vinyl has been replaced by more updated media. Still, after a few minutes of digging I found this awesome, vintage Prince button from the Purple Rain days.

Prince Purple Rain

You never know what you’re going to find or what memories you’ll conjure up, which is part of the excitement. At the record store on Sunday, I flipped through the stacks and found lots of things but not much of what I was looking for (Duran Duran, Adam Ant, Bon Jovi…). I DID find lots of what I wasn’t looking for (Beatles, ABBA, Bee Gees, and Beach Boys). Sigh.

I went into the back of the store and discovered their rack full of 45 rpm records.

45 rpms

Now THERE were some memories. Guess which one of these records I do NOT (still) currently own?

45 rpm collage

Something made me return to the racks in front and recheck for Berlin, and suddenly I had this in my hands and as I read it, I laughed. Excellent marketing.

Berlin 12 inches of sex

Berlin’s “Sex (I’m A…)” was raunchy and controversial. Their live performance of it at the 1983 US Festival was somewhat legendary, and it has been one of my favorite songs…since the age of fourteen.

Note: I turned out just fine, by the way, so all of you parents worried about your youngsters and music lyrics? IT’S OKAY.

Finding this record made me really happy. It was hilarious, it was a 12-inch album that was meant to be played at 45 rpm, and for a second I considered buying it until I thought about how something like that wouldn’t really look good in a frame on the wall. I took a picture and put the record back. And then I grabbed it again, because who cares if it doesn’t have pretty album cover art? And then I put it back again. Rinse and repeat.

I walked out of the store without that record and regretted it almost immediately.

Guess where I’m headed next time I visit my son at his school, right after I hug him hello?
I have a feeling it’ll still be there, waiting for me.

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The Very Best Sundays.

Sometimes the very best Sundays involve skipping your workout, jumping in the car with your husband, driving ninety minutes to pick up your older son, continuing to drive for another forty-five minutes to pick up your younger son, making your way over to a pizza place that your younger son recommends but finding it closed for lunch and instead eating at a place called People’s Park which isn’t a park at all but serves really yummy burgers on brioche buns, and while you eat you’re all ribbing each other but in the most laughter-filled, fun way, and then after you eat you go check out some vinyl at the record store and when it’s time to leave you get a bunch of posed pictures but as usual it’s one of the unposed, goofy ones that is your favorite and will represent the spirit of the whole day, which will leave you smiling for a good long time.

J and Melisa and D

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Catching Up.

What I love about NaBloPoMo is that many of my friends are writing way more often than they usually do.

What’s difficult about NaBloPoMo is keeping up with it all. My Bloglovin’ feed is in a constant state of growth and although I try to read from it daily, I don’t have the time to get through everything during the week, especially when I’m trying to leave comments. I use the weekends for catching up.

Sitting here all comfy on the couch with a cup of my favorite tea, I zip through a hundred, maybe a hundred and fifty (I KNOW!) posts, enjoying every second of this ritual.

And the tea, because duh.

Tea, yum.

Some of my very favorite posts that I’ve read in the past week? Glad you asked.

Ashley at Baddest Mother Ever (one of my very favorite new-to-me blogs OMG) wrote about being pushed–in a good way–by her sister. I triple-puffy-heart-love this post. Read it here.

Natasha at Houseful of Nicholes wrote about how Benedict Cumberbatch ruined her morning. I can totally relate, not with Benedict but you know, I have my own. Read it here.

Stephanie at Adventures in Babywearing wrote a sweet post about her sweet son with a surprise ending that says a lot about how our kids learn to manipulate certain situations for their benefit. Read it here.

Heather at Life’s a Disco Ball (another new friend/fave!) wrote about 26 things she’s do if she weren’t afraid and it got me thinking about my own list. Read hers here.

Phyllis at The Napkin Hoarder wrote about doing things by herself. I’ve written about that topic before too because except for when I’m having a loneliness crisis like I did a couple weeks ago, I really love doing things by myself! Read about her experience here, and maybe you’ll decide to take yourself out to lunch!

Have you read anything super great this week? Leave it in comments and I’ll go check it out, right after I get some more tea!

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Get Ready For Listen To Your Mother 2015!

Things are getting exciting all up in here (again!); on Thursday, the LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER 2015 season kicked off with our city announcement. This year we’re bigger and better than ever with twenty-nine returning cities and ten new cities!

We’ve come a long way from that single show in Madison, Wisconsin back in 2010, don’t you think?

(*high fives Ann Imig*)

As the National New Cities Mentor, I’ve been working with our new production teams behind the scenes for the last month or so, all while they were keeping the news of their selection under wraps.

That’s DIFFICULT, you guys. Like, you don’t even know.

Over the past four weeks I’ve told these wonderful women multiple times to enjoy the peace and quiet where their shows are concerned because once that train leaves the station, we all eat, sleep, and breathe LTYM until May. It’s a lot of thinking, a lot of planning, a lot of work.

It’s also a lot of fun, a lot of laughter, a lot of feeling like this is one of the best things we’ve ever done in our lives. Ask any LTYM show-runner and she’ll agree with me.

The connections I’ve made through LTYM, from the Chicago cast members over the past three years (THREE YEARS ALREADY!) to the sponsors who support the show financially each year to the Chicago blogger community who supports the show so enthusiastically each year to my fellow producer/directors in other cities (both returning and new) to the National Team to, of course, Tracey, my platonic lobster and co-producer here in the Windy City, are more valuable to me than gold. Or diamonds. Or other valuable things. LTYM truly IS one of the very best, most fulfilling, fun, rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life.

The funny thing is, I have said this to this year’s newbies several times but now matter how much they might think they get it, they won’t really get it until much later. This I know. I’m not trying to rush the season by any means, but one of the most rewarding parts of my job as New Cities Mentor in my first year was watching the exhilaration ooze out of the ladies I had worked with all season, upon their shows’ end this past spring. I can’t wait (well, you know what I mean) until these new teams feel that, too.

Locally, Tracey and I are working on early season tasks for our FOURTH Chicago show. We’re not even thinking about casting yet (that starts after the new year!) but as we make our lists and send preliminary emails, I look at the “iconic” pictures from each of our shows and am inspired to once again do my best work.

LTYM Chicago 2012 (Photo credit: Rob Krueger Photography):

LTYM Chicago 2012

LTYM Chicago 2013 (Photo credit: Sabrina Persico):

LTYM Chicago Roar 2013

LTYM Chicago 2014 (Photo credit: Balee Images):

LTYM Chicago 2014

It’s in looking at those pictures and appreciating the forty-two women (and man!) who have made the LTYM Chicago experience what it is for Tracey and me that fuels me for the hard work to come.

Let’s not even talk about how impactful it was to gather many of them on our stage in May for an alumni picture. I get teary-eyed all over again whenever I look at this one (Photo credit: Balee Images):
LTYM Chicago Alumni

Okay wait, let’s talk about it. That was a huge heart moment. Tracey and I brought those people together, heard their stories, coached them through telling their stories to a live audience of hundreds of people, basked with them as they enjoyed their “Me too!” moments post-show, and now enjoy being a part of a forever family that is supportive and loving and fun. We’ve even already scheduled our alumni picnic for next August. (Waves to Stephanie K, our hostess with the mostess!) No sappiness intended, but that is what Tracey and I set out to create from the very beginning. To see them en masse was an experience I won’t soon forget. Forty-two people so far have joined Tracey and me as a part of the LTYM Chicago family, and as we plan to welcome another ten or eleven into the fold, I am just so excited and inspired.

THIS is what I want the new production teams to understand: beyond the small details (SO MANY DETAILS) that go into planning the perfect show for their city (and each one will be perfect–or nearly so!–in its own way) are the people and the lives that are touched forever by the sharing of these important stories. The bonds that form over the season have the potential to be very strong, and I encourage my new 2015 production teams to embrace the heart of it all, and make it an outstanding experience as a whole not only for their cast members but also for themselves.

It’s all starting to unfold…are you ready? I am!

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Brilliance In Advertising

I bought a new car, a Buick Regal GS, in the spring. (I still laugh when I think about how J put his girlfriend in the trunk to test out one of the safety features.)

I LOVE THIS CAR.

Note: this is not a sponsored post. It’s going to seem like it IS a sponsored post, but I swear that it is not. Trust me, I’m making that car payment every single month.

Anyway, I have never loved a car as much as I love this car. In fact, I have kept the interior of this car clean since the day of purchase, and I have NEVER! EVER! done that. Ever.

EVER.

Since I do mostly city driving, I love when I get an opportunity to take my car out on the highway and open it up, you know, go REALLY, REALLY fast but entirely within the speed limit, in case there are any police officers reading this.

I get comments from total strangers about this car, and about how it doesn’t “look like a Buick”. You know, just like in the commercials.

TOTAL STRANGERS.

And the guys who work at my car wash LOVE ME. Err, my car.

It hasn’t always (ever?) been that way for Buick.

The brand has had some bouncing back to do, some reputation-alterations, since in the past Buick was thought of as a brand for the older/elder set. They’ve been working so hard on it, and I think they’re doing a great job. First there was that commercial (above).

Then, last week I was flipping through one of my magazines and I saw a new Buick ad that I thought was complete and total genius:

Buick blue hair ad

GENIUS. I think this satisfies all requirements of their image change, don’t you? It’s timely, brings the brand forward without trying to deny its past, it makes you look/think twice, and it’s fun.

Not to mention the fact that it makes me think happy thoughts about a couple of friends who rather enjoy sporting multicolored hair. (waves to Tabatha and Kendra)

We are overloaded on a daily basis with images and video, all trying to grab our attention for just a few seconds. I saw that ad last week and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. If that’s not a sign of brilliance in advertising, I don’t know what is. I’m really proud to be a card-carrying (car-driving!) member of the Buick family.

Here’s a question for you: have you seen any ads that have stuck in your brain lately because they were so well done? I want to see!

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It’s A Very Brady Birthday

It’s my birthday today, and over the past couple of days I’ve put some thought into what I might want to write about this year…and came up completely empty. This is my eighth birthday blog post, and I feel like I’ve covered all of the angles already. I mean, how much can a person really write about her own birthday?

Then a friend, Erica, who I will now call “the Amazingly Wonderful and Hugely Tremendous Erica” whenever her name crosses my lips to infinity and beyond, did something really nice last night and unknowingly gave me the perfect gift. Make that two gifts; she gave me a gift AND the gift of something awesome to write about.

I was on Facebook when I noticed that the Amazingly Wonderful and Hugely Tremendous Erica was a guest at an event on the newest Princess Cruises ship, the Regal Princess. With Charo. And Christopher Knight, television’s Peter Brady.

When I saw the selfie that she took with Charo, I was, to quote the Facebook status I wrote about it, distracted. I was completely jealous. Happy for her OF COURSE, but totally insane with jealousy. “The Love Boat” was one of my very favorite shows when I was a kid. It’s why I (and probably most of television-watching America) wanted to go on a cruise. The thought of an event going on that included Charo and her “cuchi-cuchi” ON a cruise ship and my not being there killed me a little bit.

And then, Christopher Knight. I asked Erica to tell him that I love him. “The Brady Bunch” was probably my very first favorite show. In fact, it is STILL one of my favorite shows. I wrote about it a couple of years ago when I had the chance to see Susan Olsen and Mike Lookinland (Cindy and Bobby) in person at my local movie theater, but let me just recap how much I love those Bradys:

I have seen every episode multiple times and could probably perform them for you if you asked me nicely (and provided adult beverages).

I watched ALL of their other spin-off shows, including the variety hours, the animated “Brady Kids”, “The Brady Girls Get Married”, “The Brady Brides”, and “A Very Brady Christmas”. I EVEN watched the six-episode, 1990 dramedy series “The Bradys”, in which Marcia battled alcoholism (played by Leah Ayers because Maureen McCormick likely wasn’t all in on the storyline, and I have also always suspected that Eve Plumb–Jan–was in on the writing because that would’ve been great redemption for all that “Marcia Marcia Marcia” business) and Bobby, a race car driver, crashed and became a paraplegic but was cared for by his wife Tracey, played by MTV original VJ Martha Quinn.

(Yes, that really happened.)

I watched Maureen McCormick on “Celebrity Fit Club”, and I watched Christopher Knight’s reality show “My Fair Brady”, during which I (and probably most of television-watching America) predicted that his marriage to “America’s Next Top Model’s” Adrienne Curry would never last in a million years. (Sorry Chris. You were blinded.)

Currently on my bookshelf: Maureen McCormick’s “Here’s the Story” and Barry Williams’ “Growing Up Brady”.

Currently in my Hulu Plus queue: “The Brady Bunch”.

Currently in my Netflix queue: “The Brady Bunch Movie” and “The Brady Bunch in the White House”.

Need I say more?

So when I was pestering the Amazingly Wonderful and Hugely Tremendous Erica for details about who else was there and what she was doing, she was busy filming something that would make me lose my ever-loving mind:

My one hundred percent genuine-and-not-made-up-just-to-be-funny reaction was to start shrieking and crying. And sweating. On Facebook:

STFU!!! OMG *faints*

I JUST DIED.

DIED.

I’M DEAD.

Wait, before I die, I LOVE YOU ERICA.

Okay, NOW I’m dead.

Do dead people cry? Because I’m crying.

Pass the tissues to this dead person.

I’m crying AND sweating.

And dead.

But still sweating. And crying.

I had heart palpitations until bedtime, and in fact I’m surprised I was able to sleep at all. I’m still sweating this morning, by the way, which will probably help me have a better workout.

Anyway, my life is pretty much made now that Chris Knight and Florence Henderson have been informed of my existence, and I’ll be riding this high (and wearing this idiotic, slightly scary grin) for a long time to come. Thank you so much, Amazingly Wonderful and Hugely Tremendous Erica! I love you!

It’s going to be a great birthday.

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Tea Obsessed.

Tea with Liz and Doofy

Here’s something that tends to shock people when they learn it:

I don’t drink coffee. Never have.

I love love love the smell of coffee. I despise despise despise the taste of coffee.

All of THIS? *makes swooping hand motions around my effervescent self* Totally natural.

That’s right: I’m a morning person who can jump up from my bed at o’dark thirty and sing happy songs before my feet actually hit the floor, with no external aids.

My husband, who has been drinking coffee (no cream, no sugar) in copious amounts since his days as a Machinists’ Mate in the Navy, has tried to get me to start drinking it by suggesting that I add tons of cream and sugar to make it taste better.

That makes no sense to me at all. I’m good, thanks.

I’ve dallied with tea over the years, but just, you know, the kind that comes in little paper envelopes from the grocery store. Boring. It never occurred to me to try tea from an actual tea shop because, well, I had never tried tea from an actual tea shop. Vicious circle.

Then, on my most recent visit to New Jersey, Liz and I went to the mall. “I want to stop in at Teavana,” she said. I followed her in, and, well, it was all over after that. We ended up trying the Raspberry Limeade blend and, with the assistance of a hilarious and friendly sales woman, suddenly I was at the register with thirty dollars’ worth of tea that I never would have imagined I’d end up with in a million years. (That is the sign of an amazing salesperson.)

Also, this post is not sponsored. In fact, for as much as I’ve been talking about Teavana both on social media and on the phone in the last two weeks, they really should be paying me.

Anyway.

Back at Liz’s house later that day, we enjoyed a rainy, movie-watching, tea-drinking afternoon (see picture at the top of this post). We were all, “OMG THIS TEA IS DELICIOUS, ISN’T IT?” We were hooked.

I didn’t buy an infuser in New Jersey because I thought I had one at home. In retrospect I have no idea why I would have thought that, because I didn’t. Desperate to drink that tea the day after returning home but not wanting to leave the house just to buy a tea infuser, I complained on Facebook for a while and then sought out alternatives to tea infusers on the good ole’ internet. I was overjoyed when I found directions for making my own infuser out of aluminum foil.

tin foil tea infuser

I didn’t actually follow the specific instructions in the post except for the parts about using foil and poking holes in it, but I want to give proper credit to the genius who saved my sanity that day, so check out that post here. It worked like a charm. In fact, I made my own tea infusers out of foil for the next three days, maybe four.

Roxie tea

When I finally visited my own Teavana store, the excellent saleswoman talked me into a better infuser than the basic model, and I ended up leaving there with MORE tea (ALL! THE! TEA!) as well as a tea tin and rock sugar. She was GOOD, but I put the brakes on before she talked me into buying a teaspoon. A TEASPOON. I have lots of those. Pfft. I mean, really. I should probably limit my mall trips.

Teavana visit

Since then, I have had ridiculously detailed conversations about tea. I would be annoying myself if I didn’t know that I am speaking the total truth about this tea. It changed my life. Wait, too much?

Liz and I actually discussed tea for a full eight minutes on the phone yesterday. EIGHT MINUTES. We talked about buying the tea. We talked about how I blame her for my addiction but she blames Heather and Holly (her two oldest kids) for introducing her to Teavana, and so by default I will blame them too. We talked about how nice that rainy, movie-watching, tea-drinking afternoon at her house was. We talked about the benefits of just adding the rock sugar to the infuser with the tea and letting it melt in that way. I told her that we sound like total addicts and we laughed, but in all seriousness there are worse things a person can be addicted to than awesome tea and happy memories, don’t you think?

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The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

Roxie

This girl. Sigh.

At the time this post goes up, I’ll be delivering her to our vet for another procedure: today she’s having a cyst removed from her front leg. We’ve visited our vet more frequently in the past eighteen months; that happens as a dog (or anything, really) gets older. It’s hard. She’s ten and a half.

My other beagle (the late, great Bijoux) lived to be thirteen. She was my first baby: we brought her home two years before D was born. I spent the last three years of her life panicking over each and every health incident (and in between them!) because I was worried that, each time, THAT would be it. It’s a terrible way to live and I swore I wouldn’t do that again, and I haven’t…so far.

The dropping off part on days like these, though. That kills me. Anxiety runs high and the tears are just under the surface as I hand over the leash to one of the vet techs. The great thing is, I adore my vet. Coincidentally, he attended vet school with Bijoux’s vet, who was an angel on earth. I have always loved that connection; it feels cosmic in a way. I love his “bedside manner” and trust him completely. So why the anxiety? It’s that fear of loss. That’s what happens when we open up our hearts to someone, whether it’s a fellow human being or a furry family member.

Logically I know she’s going to be fine today. It’s conveying that idea to my heart that is tougher, and I’ll be working on that every single minute until I get the phone call that says she came through just fine and I can pick her up anytime after 3:00.

Send a good thought her way, would you? (Mine too, if you don’t mind.) Thanks.

Edited at 7:30 p.m.: She’s home and although looking quite pitiful (I would be, too!), she’s going to be just fine. Thank you for keeping her in your thoughts today, everyone!

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Movie Popcorn. We Have a Love/Hate Relationship.

Ah, movie popcorn.

It’s one of my very favorite things to eat in the entire world. And yes, I know it’s horrible for me, especially with extra butter. Let’s just get that out of the way. It’s HORRIBLE for me. Horrible.

But I love it so.

I happen to think that the theaters who have the little “add-your-own-butter” stations did that just for me.

I get a little carried away. In fact, I expect my local theater to take away those stations someday, and it’ll be because of me.

Last summer, I cut way, way back on the movie popcorn and then I gradually started eating it again. But ONLY when I go to the movies.

(Which is a couple times every month.)

I can order a small popcorn with no problem.

small movie popcorn

But the medium is usually only a dollar more.

medium movie popcorn

And the large, bigger-that-my-head bucket? Only a dollar more.

I mean, I don’t HAVE to eat all of the popcorn in the bucket, right?

By the way, that’s terrible logic: to spend a dollar more on something I won’t completely finish.

(Not that I have never completely finished a large bucket of popcorn, alone. Because I have. Several times. Okay, many times.)

That’s the logic I use every time, though. I’m saving money, and can take popcorn home for later. As if I need it for later. Anyway.

On Saturday, Jim and I went to see “The Judge”. Phenomenal movie, by the way.

I ordered my money-saving large bucket of popcorn, ate half, and then threw the rest away on the way out because I had a stomach ache.

“I don’t think I can eat popcorn at the movies anymore,” I said to Jim. “It made me feel really icky.”

He stared at me with a look that said, “After nearly twenty-eight years of marriage I think I know you better than that…”

I responded to his silence by saying, “I’m serious. I’m not eating it anymore. Cold turkey for me. I don’t like the way it makes me feel because I can’t eat just a little bit!”

“Uh-huh,” he said.

I WOULD SHOW HIM.

The chance to prove myself came more quickly than I had anticipated: we took in another movie yesterday, Brad Pitt’s “Fury”. It was playing at our favorite theater, the one that has a full menu. We decided to see the 1:00 show and eat lunch.

“Great,” I said, “we’re eating lunch and no popcorn! I can do this.”

“Uh-huh,” he said.

Once we were seated in the theater, I looked at Jim and said, “I’m getting a burger for lunch. But no popcorn…WAIT. I mean, this is really hard. No popcorn? How can I see a movie and not eat popcorn? Oh my gosh, what was I thinking, no popcorn?? WHO AM I? Well. I mean, I can TOTALLY control myself. I’ll just order a popcorn WITH my burger and, you know, control myself. By only eating a few pieces. Or a handful. I mean, I certainly can stop before I get a stomach ache. I’m a control freak! Control my popcorn intake? TOTALLY. Okay, that decides it. I’m getting popcorn. I know I said I wasn’t going to but I totally am. I don’t know what I was thinking. I’m doing it. You hear me? I’M DOING IT. With extra butter. No regrets. I’m in total control here. Control of my popcorn destiny. Yes, I’d like a burger and a popcorn. Extra butter. Thank you.”

As I sank back into my seat I watched my husband laugh and shake his head, not surprised by my behavior in the slightest.

Man, I’m lucky to have him. And movie popcorn with extra butter.

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