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Partying Like It’s 1986.

Since Jim and I had a pretty relaxing morning and afternoon—including going to see “Joy”, starring Jennifer Lawrence and by the way you should go see it right after you finish reading this post—I’m trying to get some work stuff checked off my list this evening.

I can get into a zone and mostly ignore what he’s watching on television as long as it’s something I don’t care about or something I’ve seen before, so he put on “Top Gun” and that pleased me. It was released in 1986, the year we were married. Jim was in the Navy back then, which made the movie doubly interesting. I think I’ve seen it about five hundred times.

1988, close enough.

1988, close enough.

A few observations:

1. “Talk to me, Goose” is one of my most-used movie quotes in life. TALK TO ME, GOOSE. Gold.
2. I love “Top Gun” because it was made before Tom Cruise jumped on the couch. Most people still thought he was a promising young actor and not yet a nutjob.
3. As a die-hard fan of the group Berlin, I do experience a little rage during the love scene when “Take My Breath Away” comes on, for two reasons. First, I read an interview with Terri Nunn (lead singer) and John Crawford (bass player who caused me to swoon uncontrollably for a few years as a teen) in which they said that they hated that song and didn’t want to record it because they didn’t write it and it sounds nothing like them. Second, it’s my least-favorite Berlin song from their entire catalog: I totally agree with them.
4. I like watching this movie with Jim because he talks about the minor inconsistencies, Navy-wise.
5. Meg Ryan was adorable in this film, but it wasn’t her hair’s best.

Wait, I’m supposed to be working so I guess I’m done making lists about “Top Gun”. Tell me: what movies have you watched hundreds of times but could still watch again and again?


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So Long, 2015!

Another year is gone (I think I have whiplash!) and Jim and I will be spending another New Year’s Eve like boring older people. In fact, last night as we were discussing our exciting plans (basically watching movies on Netflix), our older son, who is headed to Wisconsin to do a bar crawl with friends, was sitting there thinking, “That is such a LAME New Year’s Eve.”

No, I’m not a mind reader but his eye roll and head shake told me all I needed to know to make a good guess regarding his thoughts.

Good thing he won’t be around, I guess. I mean, Netflixing IS a really good way to spend the last evening of 2015, for us. It’s peaceful. It’s exactly what we want to do. Right before 11:00 we’ll turn on Ryan Seacrest in New York’s Times Square so we can ring in the New Year on Eastern time, and then we’ll be going to bed.

Speaking of the Big Apple, we’ll be enjoying another kind of apple, too.

Cashier: "Any big plans for New Year's Eve?" Me: "Just this apple."

Cashier: “Any big plans for New Year’s Eve?”
Me: “Just this apple.”

(By the way, in case you have little ones at home and want to trick them into an earlier New Year’s Eve bedtime, Netflix has six themed New Year’s Eve countdowns available to stream whenever the heck you want. 6:30, right after dinner? GO FOR IT. Check them out here.)

If you’d like some reading material, I have curated my favorite posts from this year. It’s interesting to me that my favorites fall into three main categories:

1. Inspirational/Go get ’em
Invest in Yourself Because Life is Too Short
Invest in Others! Here’s Why.
Enthusiasm is Contagious. Let’s Spread it Around.
Lean on Me.

2. Bittersweet/How quickly they grow
Back in Time, If Only For A Moment
They Come Back.
To Infinity and Beyond
I Let Go.

3. Rants, Melisa-style
Control Freaks Shouldn’t Take Train Trips.
When Better Late Than Never is Not Okay

I am looking forward to 2016 because of all of its potential. We’ll be experiencing some changes in this house as the year goes on (including J’s college graduation at the end of the year, woo hoo!), and those who are nearest and dearest to me could also use some fresh starts and gorgeous, wide-open potential. However you decide to spend the last hours of 2015, whether it’s Netflixing like Jim and me or bar crawling like D or taking in once-in-a-lifetime experiences like J in Israel, I hope you enjoy yourself. I also hope you and your loved ones have an abundance of love, health, fun, and prosperity in the new year. XOXO!

Happy New Year 2016!

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It’s Like Groundhog Day, But On Christmas.

Same thing, different year!

The Wells family will continue our Christmas tradition of going to see a movie and dinner prepared by Jim. (We’re having Green Curry Chicken, which is Thai and not Chinese, but still Asian. Close enough.)

Our movie? The new “Star Wars” flick. FINALLY.
Thank YOU, internet, for not posting any spoilers. This has to be a new record because I totally expected to know what I was getting into more than a week ago. I can’t wait to see this movie, spoiler-free!

Besides that? Well, you know:

Merry Christmas to all of you who are celebrating!


I Let Go.

I just dropped off a piece of my heart at the International Terminal for a once-in-a-lifetime Israel excursion. Sending my kid halfway around the world while I stay home is a completely nerve wracking experience but I did my best to keep it in check. My biggest hope is that he has a safe, fun, life-enriching trip. Now hold me.

That was the caption on a picture I posted last night, right before I drove my car away from Parking Lot D at O’Hare airport.

J just began the experience of a lifetime, a Birthright trip. This amazing organization provides Jewish young people aged 18-25 with a ten-day excursion that is meant to “strengthen Jewish identity, Jewish communities and solidarity with Israel.” Birthright wasn’t around when I was his age; if it had been, I would’ve jumped on the opportunity as well. His itinerary is jam-packed, featuring activities like visiting the Western Wall, spending the night in a Bedouin tent, floating in the Dead Sea (FLOATING IN THE DEAD SEA, I MEAN TAKE ME THERE RIGHT NOW), just to mention three of his action items.

Without me. Without Jim.

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I’m usually pretty casual about stuff involving my boys. While we love our kids dearly (of course!), Jim and I have never been the type of parents who coddle: we’re the opposite of Helicopter Parents. We have always tried to empower our boys to make educated decisions and choices rather than hovering. We’ve tried to avoid giving them detailed road maps and projecting our own feelings and ideas on them. We’ve often answered their questions with questions. Because of that, they have grown up to be extremely well-adjusted guys who are smart, thoughtful, and productive adult-types.

Unfortunately, that easygoing spirit flies out the window when you’re dropping your “kid” off at the Turkish Airlines ticket counter to check in for a trip he’ll take mostly with strangers, excepting one long-time friend from religious school, to a small country that is rife with conflict and acts of violence.

While I never thought of it until I was going through it myself yesterday, I imagine this must have been similar to what my parents were feeling when they dropped me off at the airport for a month-long stay in Germany when I was fourteen.


If they had less to worry about regarding actual safety, I’m sure my young age more than made up for that. It’s not easy no matter how you slice it.

Dropping him off yesterday was harder than taking him to college for the first time, even though I know he’s going to have fun, I know his life will be enhanced/changed for the better, and I’m reasonably certain that he really will be safe (not only because I have confidence in the organization supporting the trip but I believe in odds, too).

College is right…over there. It’s two hours away. It’s close enough to home that should my presence become needed for any reason, I can grab my purse and go. There’s security in proximity.

Israel is waaaaaay over there. It’s on the other side of the world. While he’ll have the ability to text us and post pictures (THANK YOU, TECHNOLOGY), he’s so far away.

Believe it or not, I have been reversing my anxiety over the possible dangers of my kid traveling through Israel by reminding myself that the United States isn’t exactly the safest place right now either. This is what our world is coming to. It’s ridiculous.

Over the last three days I can’t tell you how many times I talked to him about keeping track of his passport and his camera and his wallet and his phone and his cash and how he should have fun but completely keep his eyes open to his surroundings and the people around him. Being an American in any foreign country is hard enough when you’re a fully grown adult with lots of travel experience. Being a twenty-year-old on a whirlwind tour of Israel with a bunch of other college kids requires a little more diligence and focus, and I can’t do it for him.

All of this thought and anxiety and worry, just from delivering my son to the first stop on what is going to be one of the most amazing trips he will ever take in his life.

After he received his boarding pass and handed over his suitcase, I asked him if he wanted me to wait with him while the rest of his group went through the line. I told him I was happy to stay but I didn’t mind if he wanted me to leave. He said, “I’m fine with you leaving but thanks for taking me this far.” It was all a little poetic. I smiled and sputtered out a couple more reminders about his passport and safety abroad while we were hugging each other goodbye and then, as difficult as it was, I let go.

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City Girl Farming

Way back in the day, before I was spending a good chunk of my waking hours online (blogging and such) I spent a good chunk of my time playing games like “Sim City” and “Roller Coaster Tycoon”. Looking back, I can’t believe I played as much as I did, but I suppose in a few years I’ll be in disbelief about all the time I spend on the internet, too.

Eventually blogging and other social media pursuits took over and I stopped playing computer games.

Over the years I have received countless invitations from friends to play every game under the sun, like “Words With Friends”, “Candy Crush”, and lots of others whose names I can’t recall.

I resisted. Actually, I didn’t only resist. I blocked invites because they were coming fast and furious.

Then, about eighteen months ago I was talking to Liz and she was telling me about this awesome game called “Hay Day” that she was playing, to help her relax after a stressful work day. The game entails building a farm, maintaining it, and filling orders for trucks and boats. It’s a Thinking game but sort of a no-brainer at the same time. I tried it, and naturally I was hooked. I got into the habit of playing it for a little while every evening before bed. Liz and I created our own “subdivision” so we can easily sell items to each other. It’s been ridiculously addictive.

I like to think that Jim is amused by this farm obsession since I’ve always been a city girl in real life. (My dream home would be any condo in a downtown Chicago high rise. Marina City? Totally, but I’d take anything.) See the irony?

Anyway, if Jim is amused he doesn’t show it. I try to drive him a little crazy by telling him about what kind of pies I’m baking, or how great my cows are doing, how awesome it was that Liz sold me a cheese wedge for just one coin (one coin! That’s almost free!), or “LOOK AT ALL OF MY DOGS!”

Wookit those puppies!

Wookit those puppies!

He’s not very amused, as adorable as I am. He thinks the game is ridiculous. Even so, he gets into bed every night, looks at me with my iPad, and says, “FARMIN’?” which cracks me up.

I have been trying to get him to play “Hay Day” for more than a year, and he has resisted, hard core.


Fast forward (or slightly rewind? Depends on how you look at it) to two weeks ago, when he told me that he started playing “Sim City: Build It”. He LOVES this game. I could almost say he’s obsessed with it.

He started telling me about the metals and plastics his factories were making, how great his people are doing, and how he needed to build a Board of Education for his citizens. This all sounded oddly familiar.

I said, “Huh. This sounds an awful lot like ‘Hay Day’. You know what you’re doing, right? FARMIN’.”

“No, I’m not,” he said.


And then he let loose with, “This is the big city, not the farm. I’m a mover and a shaker, Jethro!!”

Jethro. Sigh. And LOL.

It’s still the same game. THE SAME GAME. They may take place in different locales with differently themed tasks and they may be from different companies, but they’re the same game at the core. Exactly.

How do I know for sure? I know because of the play-by-plays he provides, I know because of what I’ve looked at when he shows me what he’s doing, and I know…because I have downloaded it myself.

What?? Yeah, I downloaded it. OKAY?

You can take the girl out of the city but you can’t take the city out of the girl. Virtually, that is.


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!)


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.


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?


When Better Late Than Never Is Not Okay


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.


#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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