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Hello Summer and New Netflix Releases! #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!

Lots of stuff is going on right now: it’s the end of the school year, which may or may not include a kid or two (or three) graduating or being promoted to the next level of education. Monday is Memorial Day, which means you may have plans to honor those who have made the greatest sacrifice while defending our country and plans to barbecue with loved ones. Memorial Day is also the unofficial start to summer, which means you might be bathing suit shopping because pools are opening, and Oh My Gosh, if you follow antiquated fashion guidelines you can begin wearing white again next week. SO much to look forward to.

Gratuitous picture of Jim, J, and me during graduation/Memorial Day weekend 2013.

Gratuitous picture of Jim, J, and me during graduation/Memorial Day weekend 2013.

In fact, when I was pondering what I would write about for the Netflix Stream Team this month, my thoughts kept getting interrupted by announcements of all the shows and movies that we have to look forward to on Netflix very soon.

So…full circle!

Here are just a FEW of the shows and movies you can stream on Netflix now because they’ve just been released, or fairly soon and you don’t have long to wait:

Lady Dynamite: Comedian Maria Banford stars in this series that is inspired by her own life. It’s the sometimes surreal story of a woman who loses–and then finds–her s**t. Season 1 is streaming now.

Grace and Frankie: Ohhhhh my gosh, I love this Netflix Original show about unlikely friends starring Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda so much. Seasons one and two (brand new!) are available now.

The Do-Over: A Netflix Original film starring David Spade and Adam Sandler. The life of a bank manager is turned upside-down when a friend from his past manipulates him into faking his own death and taking off on an adventure. Available May 27.

Bo Burnham/Make Happy: Symphonic. Honest. Primed for the spotlight. He’s here to spill a bright, comic mess on a dark world in this stand up special. Available June 3.

Orange is the New Black: This runaway hit comedy-drama about a women’s prison is a Netflix Original and the highly anticipated fourth season begins streaming on June 17!

The Little Prince: A little girl lives in a very grown-up world with her mother, who tries to prepare her for it. Her neighbor, the Aviator, introduces the girl to an extraordinary world where anything is possible, the world of the Little Prince. Available August 5.

One final sneak peek of Netflix news: it was just announced this week that, starting in September, Netflix will be the exclusive service streaming Disney, Marvel, Pixar, and Star Wars movies and if that’s not ending this Stream Team update with a bang, I don’t know what is. This is HUGE NEWS, and I’m already dancing around my family room, thinking about the possibilities. IMAGINE IT FOR A MOMENT, why don’t you?

*runs around in circles, singing “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”*

Let’s stream some great stuff this weekend, you guys! After all, you can only eat so many burgers and dogs.

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An Amateur’s Guide to Arranging Flowers

Here’s something you don’t know about me, after two billion years of blogging (I know; I can’t believe I left a stone unturned either): I adore arranging flowers into vases or other containers.

ADORE. As in LOVE.

It dates back to the late 1980’s when I was an eighteen-year-old newlywed, working at LeeWards Craft Store. I worked in the custom frame shop, which was located adjacent to the floral department. Two women who worked in Floral, Judy and Cherry, were much older than me–probably my age NOW–and very maternal towards me. I loved hanging out with them and was fascinated by what they did. They stood at the counter day after day, calmly making magic out of ceramic and glass containers and a wonderland of silk flower and greenery stems. They created wedding bouquets and corsages, huge arrangements meant for the entryway of a home, and everything in between. Where every element of every single project I worked on in the frame shop had to be approved by the customer down to the last detail, Judy and Cherry had occasional cost and color guidelines for custom jobs but were often able to let their imaginations run wild when creating arrangements to put on the shelves for sale. I used to spend half of my lunch breaks hanging out in there, just watching them create something from nothing while they worked, practically zen-like.

I wasn’t just standing there chatting, sharing candy bars, and being a generally bothersome co-worker with Judy and Cherry, though: they were accidentally teaching me about how to arrange flowers because I was paying close attention. I hardly ever put those lessons into practice back then because flowers weren’t in my house due to our needing to eat and pay rent, but almost thirty years later I am using what they taught me, and if they could see me I know they’d be proud. These days, I love standing in my kitchen, casually putting together a beautiful arrangement: it’s a creative outlet that’s also practically zen-like for me.

Here’s one thing I DON’T DO when someone gives me a plastic-wrapped mixed bouquet of flowers: take off the plastic and shove them as-is in a vase full of water. No. Just no.

Here’s what I DO when someone gives me (or I buy) a plastic-wrapped mixed bouquet of flowers:
1. I lay the bouquet on the counter and carefully take off the plastic wrapper.
2. I pick a container from the variety I have in the kitchen cabinets, my favorite being a tall copper vase, and fill it with water and the packet of floral preservative that comes with the bouquet.
3. I fill a medium-sized bowl with water.
4. Starting with the biggest flowers, I pull from the bouquet and cut a fresh edge on the bottom of each stem while it’s submerged in my bowl of water, to keep air bubbles from getting in the stem by cutting it “dry”.
5. I pull off any leaves that would be sitting in the water once the flower is in the vase, to keep the water clean longer.
6. I place the flowers into the vase, checking the stem heights as I go, making sure that I’m not cutting them all at the same length.
7. Working from the biggest flowers to smallest, I continue trimming flower stems and arranging them in the vase, turning the vase as I go to make sure that the arrangement looks pretty and interesting from all angles.
8. After all of the flowers are placed, I fill in with any greenery that was included in the bouquet, usually throwing away some of it (or using it in another arrangement if I happen to have a wealth of flowers that day).
9. For the duration, I TAKE MY TIME and savor the experience. I can stretch this activity out to about thirty minutes if I’m careful (and lucky).

flowers

Many people figure they’re done when the flowers are arranged in the one vase and when the flowers start dying a week later, they just toss everything. Not me! I re-purpose. I change the water every couple of days and as flowers die off I pull them out and throw them away. When the arrangement still has great-looking flowers in it but doesn’t look pretty anymore because I’ve pulled out too many dead ones, I grab a smaller container and start the process all over again with what’s left. Two years ago I made one bouquet last for nearly six weeks in four consecutively smaller containers. It was a proud era for me. (It doesn’t take much.)

One of our favorite movies around here is “RED”, starring Bruce Willis and my actress crush, Helen Mirren. I loved the scene in which her character—a “retired” CIA assassin—is on screen for the first time, arranging flowers at her country home. (If you’ve seen that, you have an idea of my state of mind when I arrange flowers. I mean, Helen’s character and I are practically twins if you disregard the “killing people” part of her resume.)

And with that, I think you now know everything about me.

Well, maybe.

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Five.

Sunday was a great day.

On Sunday Tracey and I, along with our incredible cast of ten other women and one Pete, brought the fifth annual LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER CHICAGO show to the stage.

Tracey is an excellent director. I love this picture of her and the cast, getting ready for our final walk-through.

Tracey is an excellent director. I love this picture of her and the cast, getting ready for our final walk-through.

I don’t write as much about LTYM here on Suburban Scrawl as I used to. I’m not sure why that is, because it really has become a part of my practically-daily life all year round. Being involved with LTYM on a few different levels is still a life highlight, and it just keeps on getting better.

Like Sunday. Our fifth show? Wow. Time flies when you’re having fun. Five years in and it’s still a mind-blowing experience. Here are some fun LTYM Chicago numbers:

1. In five seasons, we’ve auditioned HUNDREDS of motherhood stories in Chicago.
2. In five seasons, we’ve brought 72 motherhood stories to the Chicago stage.
3. In five seasons, we’ve grown our LTYM Chicago alumni family to 63 members.
4. In five seasons, we’ve worked with five amazing non-profits (in order: Bright Pink, Greater Chicago Food Depository, Recovery on Water, The Red Pump Project, and Mujeres Latinas en Acción) and donated ten percent of our gross ticket proceeds plus monies given to them directly from our audiences on show days.

We’ll be recapping the show on our local LTYM site soon (when we get the gorgeous pictures back from our official photographer, Brandi at Balee Images) but I wanted to share a few other pictures here, to mark this important milestone for us.

In our first season, 2012, we discovered a wonderful (for me) and horrible (for Tracey) phenomenon: in the week leading up to the show my normally tense, Type A, Monica-like (from the sitcom “Friends”) personality gently faded into something more like Phoebe, and Tracey’s laid-back, “No problem!”, Phoebe-like personality violently ramped up into something more like Monica. It was like that in our second season, too.

This remains one of my all-time favorite pictures from LTYM Chicago: The One Where Tracey Does a Monica and Melisa Does a Phoebe (2013)

This remains one of my all-time favorite pictures from LTYM Chicago: “The One Where Tracey Does a Monica and Melisa Does a Phoebe” (2013, photo credit Sabrina Persico)

It was like that in our third season, 2014, as well.

Then, in season four, something magical happened.
2015 was the year of Two Phoebes.

Two Phoebes

As was 2016. What a gift.
We were SO Phoebe-like this year that everything snuck up on us. EVERYTHING. Even showtime.

The actual caption I posted with this picture: "HOUSE IS OPEN. HOW IS THIS HAPPENING ALREADY." See what I mean? Snuck. Up.

The actual caption I posted with this picture: “HOUSE IS OPEN. HOW IS THIS HAPPENING ALREADY.” See what I mean? Snuck. Up.

And practically before we could blink, it was over. Again.

Five years is a lot to celebrate.

I am so very proud of what Tracey and I do here in Chicago to carry out the mission of LTYM, which is “giving motherhood a microphone.” I am proud of our cast members, every single one from every single year, for having the courage to share their stories in front of a live audience. I am proud of everyone who has ever submitted a story to us for consideration: that in itself takes bravery. I am appreciative of the support we receive from our friends and family, our LTYM Chicago alumni family, our fellow directors and producers in the LTYM sisterhood, my fellow LTYM National (oops, North American now because Vancouver, holla!) Team members, our sponsors, and our audience members. I am proud, appreciative, and feeling ever so lucky that I get to do this…always.

And I’m ready to do it again…right after I get some sleep.

In another LTYM Chicago strange plot twist, I was curious about the traditional 5th anniversary gift when I was writing this post, so I looked it up. Traditionally, it's wood. But the modern gift is silverware...and we ordered these custom stamped necklaces made from vintage teaspoons for our 2016 cast without even knowing that. We are THAT GOOD. *wink*

In another LTYM Chicago strange plot twist, I was curious about the traditional 5th anniversary gift when I was writing this post, so I looked it up. Traditionally, it’s wood. But the modern gift for a five year celebration is silverware…and we ordered these custom stamped necklaces made from vintage teaspoons for our 2016 cast without even knowing that. We are THAT GOOD. *wink*

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Grief Is a Jerk.

It’s been nine weeks, and depending on when you ask me I’ll tell you either it feels like forever ago or it feels like it was yesterday.

Regardless of how it feels, it wasn’t yesterday. Yesterday I was dreading what I had to do today, spending an hour dicing apples into tiny pieces for the charoset I am taking with me to a Passover seder this afternoon. I wasn’t dreading the task itself; I was dreading completing it without the presence of my kitchen companion.

I think if dogs could claim to have favorite holidays, Passover would have been high on Roxie’s list because of all the apples. Anytime she ever heard the sound of a knife chopping up fruits or vegetables for any reason she would come running because it always meant she’d get some healthy treats tossed her way, but Passover was extra special due to the sheer length of time it takes me to dice twelve to fourteen apples the way I like them diced.

Roxie, Passover 2008

Roxie, Passover 2008

Mourning someone who has a foreverspace in your heart, whether they’re human or canine, takes time. After the initial shock wears off and you get to “fine!” sometimes the feeling of intense loss pops up randomly, feeling like a swift punch in the gut. Or a heart pinch. Either way, it hurts. But it’s all part of the process.

I got it done. I diced up those apples and picked up the pieces that landed on the floor along the way (the ones that she would have sucked up like a vacuum, her tail wagging like crazy). I tried not to gaze over at her favorite spot on the floor between me and the stove and I played my music loud enough that the absence of her periodic, understated “woof”, the one that she quietly huffed out as a reminder that she was there (as if I could ever forget) and to say “oh, are you giving me more apples please?”, wasn’t quite so glaring.

I really am fine. Grief is a process that runs its own course and I know there will be many other times in the foreseeable future when I will miss her desperately, get through it, and move on. It’s part of life.

Today’s grief moment is over now and I’m back to smiling at the thought of her, being ever so thankful that I got to spend nearly twelve years with that crazy, trouble-making, smart, and annoyingly loud beagle.

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Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time.

Today I’m participating in an old school Blog Hop, organized by my friend Nancy over at Midlife Mixtape. (Thanks for inviting me, Nancy!) The theme, as you may have guessed by reading my post title, is “Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time.”

Way (way) back in the summer of 1979, my family was preparing to move away from the Chicago area for the very first time. My dad was hired to manage a Holiday Inn outside of Ft. Worth, Texas. I was very upset about the move, specifically because I was scared to leave the the home I knew and loved and my friends and everything that was familiar, and generally because enjoying change has never been my thing.

I don’t remember much about that summer; in fact, just three events from that season have stuck with me in the nearly thirty-seven years that have gone by:

1. I went away to summer camp at OSRUI, a camp for young Reform Jews, after winning a two-week scholarship from my temple by writing an essay about Hanukkah. (The year prior I had lost the scholarship by writing about bacon, so the 1979 win was huge.)
2. My parents and sister moved to Texas while I was at camp and so I stayed with my aunt and uncle for a few days before I eventually rejoined my family in the Lone Star State.
3. The thing that happened right before camp, which you’ll read about right now.

At my young age, I didn’t have many responsibilities to fulfill as we prepared to move to a whole other state. (Neither did my sister, who was five.) I remember my mom was very busy going through household items, deciding what to keep and what to get rid of, planning a garage sale, and packing up the things that she wanted to take care of by herself before the professional movers arrived. Trying to prepare a household for a move with two young kids while your husband is already working in another state isn’t easy. It’s the opposite of easy. As a ten-year-old I had no idea and honestly, like most kids who had been on earth for just one decade, didn’t even consider that my mom could have been stressed beyond belief.

It’s for that very reason–the I-am-the-center-of-my-universe attitude that is very common in tweens–that I got into terrible trouble one day. I got a thought into my head and executed it, without considering the consequences.

You see, I was on a mission.

I had been hearing a lot of a certain song on the radio and on television, and I decided that I needed the record.

The song? The disco classic and one-hit-wonder, “Makin’ It” by David Naughton. Yes, you read that correctly. At the time, it was my anthem.

I’m makin’ it,
I’ve got the chance, I’m takin’ it
No more, no more fakin’ it
This time in life, I’m makin’ it (ooo)
Makin’ it, makin’ it
We lived fairly close to a shopping center. It was one of those plaza-type shopping centers that preceded the malls we know today with all of the stores being under one roof, in one building with endless indoor space and food courts and always always always, a Spencer’s.

The stores in old-style plaza shopping centers had entrances that were outside and not under a roof. Often there would be awnings and canopies along the walkways, but nothing was closed in with actual walls except the stores themselves. Like malls of today these shopping centers were anchored by department stores but instead of today’s crazy, colorful mall boutiques in overlapping categories that cater to every walk of life, those shopping centers had one each of basic shops that sold basic things like jewelry, shoes, hardware, liquor…and records.

My shopping center, Park Forest Plaza, was a ten or fifteen minute walk from my house. I knew exactly how to get there because we took that walk on a fairly regular basis.

Park Forest Plaza (source: aliciapatterson.org)

Park Forest Plaza (source: aliciapatterson.org)

It was just a couple of days before I was leaving for camp, as I recall, that I developed a one-track mind about going to pick up that 45 RPM record. It was going to cost me less than a dollar and I didn’t think I could live much longer without it. Looking back, I’m certain that deep down I believed the blow of my moving away would be softened by the acquisition.

One day I grabbed my coin purse and went to find my mom, who was busily packing.

“Can I go for a walk?” I asked.
She asked where I was going and I told her, “Just for a walk.”
After she absentmindedly gave me the okay, I took off feeling like I was living every single movie scene that’s ever portrayed a high school graduating class busting out the front doors on the last day of school.

I. WAS. FREE.

I carefully crossed Western Avenue, a major thoroughfare that was busy all the time no matter what the hour, and found myself at the shopping center. I was high on freedom and decided that before I went to the record store I should definitely stop at the department store candy counter for a small bag of Swedish Fish. Savoring a couple of those colorful candies on a bench outside the record store, it occurred to me that I might be enjoying the best day of my life.

Feeling like a boss, I strolled into the record store and made my purchase, and then walked home about ten feet above the sidewalk.

Upon casually entering my front door, my bubble was not just burst; it was decimated. Apparently I had been gone for a really long time, and apparently my mom was not pleased that I left the neighborhood without getting permission. In all fairness, at the time I rationalized that had I told her all of the details about where I was going, she would have said no. That’s why I only told her half the story.

I can still see her sitting on the floor in the middle of piles of stuff and boxes, yelling at me as I clutched my Swedish Fish and the bag from the record store. She had been out of her mind with worry.

“WHAT WAS IT THAT WAS SO IMPORTANT??” she screamed.

Gingerly I pulled the record out of the bag and showed it to her. It had no effect on her mood, of course.

She sent me to my room, and I felt terrible…but not so terrible that I didn’t enjoy the heck out of that record if I’m being completely honest.

Of course, now that I’m an adult and a mother myself I can see this memory from my mom’s perspective and I have a lot of remorse for what I did to her that day, when she was preparing–at the age of thirty-five, to move away from the Chicago area for the very first time. I’m certain, knowing what I know now about how similar our personalities are, that she was scared to leave the the home she knew and loved and her friends and everything that was familiar. Also? Enjoying change has never been her thing, either.

So I get it now.
And while it seemed like a good idea at the time, it really wasn’t.

But it makes a great story, don’t you think?
(Sorry, mom.)

Please go visit the other blog hoppers and read about what they thought was a good idea at the time. I’ll be reading every single one!

Elizabeth McGuire

Two Cannoli

Genie in a Blog

Smacksy

Good Day Regular People

My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog

The Mama Bird Diaries

When Did I Get Like This?

Arnebya

Up Popped A Fox

The Flying Chalupa

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Childhood, Revisited

When I was a kid my family lived in Park Forest, one of Chicago’s south suburbs. We occupied one half of a duplex in a neighborhood that was quintessentially 1970’s, with mostly stay-at-home moms and mostly dads that left for work every day and mostly kids that goofed off outside in everybody’s yards until they got called in at dinnertime. It was a happy childhood for me and I wrote about it three years ago.

I have always wanted to go back to see that neighborhood as an adult, and two years ago I finally did. It was more emotional for me than I thought it would be.

Oddly enough I didn’t write about it then. I set those pictures aside and, after a while, forgot about them entirely until recently when I reconnected with my childhood best friend on Facebook. We were practically inseparable as kids, sharing teachers and educational experiences at school and hanging out at each others’ homes the rest of the time.

Planets Neptune and Earth

Planets Neptune and Earth

After messaging back and forth with Chris last week (about thirty-four years after we last saw each other in person), I remembered that day I visited our old stomping grounds and pulled up the pictures.

Bigelow

My old house looks smaller now, which seems normal since I’m so much bigger. It looks pretty well cared for, and I love that it’s neutral in color. When we lived there, all of the duplexes were re-sided in what I thought were the most awful shades of pastel yellow, pink, blue, and green. The driveway, which I thought was so terribly steep as I rode down it on my yellow bike with the pink flowered banana seat, isn’t steep at all. It’s funny how the tiniest details from childhood can stick with us for decades, even incorrectly by perception.

That last post I wrote about our neighborhood contained this passage about the meadow created by all of our unfenced backyards meshing together:

“I remember that lawn as being huge and going on between the houses as far as the eye could see. In my memory, it’s as big as the grassy area (but without the hills) on which Melissa Gilbert and her TV sisters ran, in the opening theme for ‘Little House on the Prairie’…”

Now that I’m an adult, it doesn’t look quite that large.

Park Forest meadow

Back then, we all walked to our little school together, cutting through backyards along the way until we arrived at the school’s blacktop.

path to Dogwood

I loved our school. I have carried so many happy memories from that school over the course of my life. I heard that the building caught fire years ago and thought that it burned to the ground, but it didn’t. It’s still there but it’s no longer an elementary school.

Old Dogwood school

In truth when I took that picture two years ago it felt crushing for a moment to see that the “body” of my school was still intact but the “soul” was gone, as if a part of my childhood had been stolen. Then I remembered that I’m a sentimental creature of habit and perhaps the idea that every element of every experience I’ve enjoyed over the past forty-seven years should still be in exactly the same place and condition as it was back then is ridiculous at best. That’s what memories are for, after all.

So Chris and I, who spent so much time together as young girls living a typical 1970’s life in that Park Forest neighborhood, spent three decades taking very different paths but now are both doing the same thing: writing. Further, we both specialize in non-fiction writing. She’s written for many magazines and currently edits one. I’ve written for magazines and well, you know the rest of what I do. She has always loved traveling and well, you know how much I love it.

She commented that it was so strange that we’re both writers and I said that maybe not, considering how close we were in our formative years, back in that old neighborhood. We’ll never know, but I think it makes a great story somehow, don’t you?

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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!

Our family members run together for the most part when it comes to television and movies. Sure, there are slight differences here and there, but we are mostly on the same page when it comes to viewing preferences.

That’s why I was trying to get D, our 23-year-old, to watch “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”. I knew he would like it. He wasn’t living here when it was first released but in light of Season 2 coming out soon (April 15!), I wanted to binge watch it all over again with him and he was, for lack of a better word, “meh”: completely unenthused about getting started.

I had to apply a little pressure, because that’s what he does. We’ve been saying since the time he spoke his first words that he was destined to be an attorney. He has mad skills in persuasion, and we seriously cannot figure out where he got them because Jim and I are not the slightest bit pushy. Okay, maybe I am. A little. Wait, maybe that’s where he got it.

ANYWAY, I kept telling him that he was going to love Kimmy and Titus and Company. He still wasn’t overly thrilled to watch, so I pulled a trick out of my parenting bag and decided to start the series again when he happened to be in the room. Just as I suspected, I was right. His laughter was loud and plentiful, and we kept watching.

I even—hold onto your hat—got a “thanks for making me watch Kimmy, Mom.”

*wipes tears*

I mean, isn’t that what all parents want? To be thanked by their children for pressuring them into watching awesome television shows?? But I digress.

Now we’re super psyched and all up-to-date on Kimmy and friends, and we’re ready for them to return to Netflix on April 15.

Speaking of super-psyched, I JUST found out that another awesome source of family viewing togetherness is now available on Netflix: “The Animaniacs”.

Animaniacs

THIS thrills me to no end. My boys learned the state capitols and so many other things just by watching siblings Yakko, Wakko, Dot, and the rest of those crazy characters when they originally aired in the 90’s. On repeat. As much as possible. And then on VHS. All the time. Forever. Amen. OMG.

One of the many awesome things about “The Animaniacs” was that there were adult jokes woven in, too. That’s a common method in the animated movies and shows that are coming out these days, but twenty years ago it was revolutionary. I don’t know for sure if that element alone kept me watching with interest and laughing my head off, but I know it sure helped!

It’s going to be a busy month for us around here, thanks to Netflix. (and by “busy”, I mean “sittin’ around the television set, laughing our fool heads off”.) And we’re just getting started, because April “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” brings May “Grace and Frankie”. More on that later!

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

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Spring Cleaning

Back when the boys were younger, spring cleaning happened in all four seasons.
Rather, it was attempted in all four seasons. As a young family we were constantly bringing stuff (and more stuff) into the house, whether we purchased it or it was given as gifts or hand-me-downs. The struggle for extra space was real, all the time.

Coming from a long line of packrats and being a mostly-recovered one myself (long story) it shouldn’t have surprised me when my older son D was traumatized at the mere suggestion of getting rid of, well, anything. It was his opinion that we should keep everything, because we might need it someday. This didn’t just cover his own belongings, by the way. He felt the same way about family items, even if we had outgrown them or they were no longer in working order.

When he was five years old, I ran out of patience with his insistence that the broken television I needed to throw away was still a valuable commodity. It eventually occurred to me that the “Take a picture; it’ll last longer” philosophy might be a great strategy for my Junior Packrat, who had recently received a Fisher Price camera that used real film.

Indeed it was: he took pictures of the television and then deemed it fine to release from our possession. I also have, thanks to our son, pictures of our old charcoal grill, a microwave, and other household items, catalogued in with our Kodak Lab-developed family memories along with photos of birthday parties, summer days running through the sprinkler, and first days of school.

These days, the kids are grown up and the purging of unneeded or broken items isn’t as much of a struggle: Jim and I just head for the donation pile or the trash can when we find something that needs to go. Every now and then there’s a snag: while I can typically overcome my genetic Packrat urges with help from the recent Konmari craze (Does this spark joy? No? Great: throwing it away!), I have a weakness for furniture, specifically when it’s a piece we have created, or something we’ve had for years.

Exhibit A: the table that Jim built from reclaimed wood for our screened-in porch. After he assembled the table, he and I covered the top with Mexican tile.

The table spent a bunch of good years next to the two Adirondack chairs on the back porch, sheltered from the elements and only needing an occasional wipedown to continue looking good. Each time I looked at it I remembered how we picked out each tile individually and how much we enjoyed putting it all together to create the final product. It made me smile. It was a conversation piece when we entertained in the backyard, and I loved telling its story.

Eighteen months ago we got new siding for the house and, unfortunately, the screened-in porch had to be sacrificed. It was built at the same time as the house, and a 45-year-old screened-in porch just doesn’t look very good with brand new siding. What was lost along with the screened-in porch was the shelter for that Mexican tile table, and even though it lived in the shed during the winter months, it quickly deteriorated from rainy summer nights on the newly topless patio.

Two weekends ago Jim and I were doing our spring cleaning routine for the backyard, and when he pulled the table out of the shed he said that he thought it was time to get rid of it. Heartbreaker.

One look at it told me he was right and the decision was reinforced when, as he lifted the table over his head to carry it over to the garbage bins, the tiles slid off like hot butter on a dinner roll. I winced.

As soon as we finished our chores and got cleaned up I rushed to grab my laptop because I thought I had taken pictures of the table at some point. Indeed I did, and the relief I felt from having a picture that will last longer than that table ever would have makes me feel a tiny bit better about moving on and perhaps even embracing the changes that are inevitable in life. Just a tiny bit.

Tile Table

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Oh, Nothing.

I’m good at quite a few things, like accomplishing tasks like a madwoman.
I’m terrible at quite a few things too, like doing nothing at all.

Nothing

To me, a Type A Control Freak Perfectionist Workaholic, the idea of doing nothing seems horrifying, dreamlike, and extremely unattainable in equal parts. I mean, in theory I love the idea. In practice, it feels like a waste of time. Either way, doing nothing at all as a part of my plan (because I always have a plan) is nearly impossible, mentally AND physically.

My friends know me as a Do-er. I have been told more than once that I am envied for my ability to get things done. I appreciate that, but at the same time I envy people who know how to relax because I think that’s a better, more useful life skill in so many ways.

My husband recently told me that one of his greatest wishes is for me to feel carefree, and I’ve thought a lot about that since the words came out of his mouth. I wish that I could feel that way too. Someday maybe I’ll learn to let things go a little bit (or at least loosen the reins); it’s a daily struggle for me.

Typically I “go big or go home”, but when it comes to doing nothing I just don’t think I can go all out in that area. It feels mentally draining and discouraging just to sit around because I can’t stop thinking about the time I’m “wasting”, even though in theory I know that spending time recharging is good for me. I’m willing to try, though. I shut my phone and laptop down completely yesterday, and I didn’t die. I actually read a book for twenty minutes before going to sleep last night. Baby steps. I’ve been analyzing (because that’s how I roll) different ways I can blend a little “nothing” into my life without simultaneously going insane, and I think the trick is to toss a little “nothing” in between getting minor things done around here, even if they’re simple things like dusting the bookcase or folding a load of clothes. I can’t plan to have no plans; that’s just not me.

What it boils down to is that as always, I’m a work in progress. I’m constantly trying to evolve, constantly trying to do better, and constantly trying to find a happy medium between nothing stopping me and nothing at all.

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That Voodoo That You Do (or, Big Bucket of Donuts)

I’m currently in Austin, Texas for work (we’re here to do a site visit for #BlogHerFood16, which happens in October and have you registered yet because Earlybird pricing ends 3/31!). It’s a whirlwind trip and sadly, I had to tell several friends and two relatives that I just couldn’t make any plans to meet up this time (argghhhhh).

Liz and Brandi (my social media team partner, or PARDNER as they say in Texas…don’t they?) and I arrived at the Austin airport within minutes of each other, which was a pretty cool thing considering we were coming from New Jersey, California, and Illinois. We took a cab to the hotel, checked in, and then Liz and I rushed out to grab something to eat before trolling the new Voodoo Doughnuts on 6th Street. The intention was to pick up a box of donuts/doughnuts to bring back for the team.

We walked in and made a beeline for the counter, where we were sidetracked by the display case because LOOK AT THESE:

Voodoo Donuts

I’m not sure how I missed the three enormous white buckets sitting on the countertop while I was perusing the menu board overhead, but I did, at first. Then I saw them. (They would not be ignored.) There was a sign sticking out of one of the buckets that said “Bucket of Doughnuts: $10”.

Naturally my first instinct would be to think there was something wrong with them (apologies to my extreme bargain-hunter mom, who is probably shaking her head at me, totally ashamed). There wasn’t anything wrong with them.

I questioned whether we wanted to actually carry a bucket down 6th Street in Austin (SORRY AGAIN MOM; I KNOW I KNOW THEY WERE TEN DOLLARS AND THAT IS A DEAL YOU CANNOT DENY!).

Liz said to the cashier, “Ten dollars? Really?” The totally blasé cashier confirmed, and I think Liz might have screamed “WE’RE DOING IT!!!”

Or maybe that was me.

Okay, nobody really screamed out loud, but we were very excited. See?

Liz and the bucket of donuts

When we arrived at the restaurant where the rest of the team was gathered, we made a big splash. I mean, how could we not, because BUCKET OF DONUTS. (This photo courtesy of my co-worker Lori A:)

Melisa and the bucket of donuts

Naturally everyone wanted to see them.

Bucket of Donuts

Brandi checked them out up close,

Brandi and the bucket of donuts

and Lucrecer even did a whole Periscope about them. (“Yes everyone, a bucket of donuts!”)

Lucrecer and the bucket of donuts

We barely made a dent in them last night, and will bring them into the office today even though we’ll be served a full breakfast and full lunch, because if you have a bucket of donuts you don’t want to waste them even if you’re totally stuffed on other foods. And with that, I think I have redeemed myself in the eyes of my mom so I’ll end there.

DONUTS.

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