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Taylor Swift, Get Out of My Brain!

I’ll get to Taylor Swift in a minute.

One of my favorite tasks in my job at BlogHer is growing and maintaining the Instagram account. I’ve worked really hard over the past couple of years to find good content that inspires people to become engaged. I always get pretty good results when I share an interesting quote, and so I try to post one almost every weekday. That’s where Miss Swift comes in.

Today I searched for quotes about “preparation” because everyone I know is in full-on holiday prep. I found this one by Taylor Swift:

Taylor Swift

The funny thing is, I had to read that quote to myself multiple times because I wasn’t sure if it made sense. I’m still not sure if it makes sense. (No offense, Taylor Swift. Honestly.) It was the “beyond the extent of…” that threw me. I kept repeating it though, and as it happens sometimes when you say something over and over again, things fell into place and suddenly it hit me…

This quote goes along completely with my Type A, overthinking, attention-to-detail self. This is basically Taylor Swift saying she likes to “go big or go home”, which we have all seen from her. It’s also relevant to my interests.

Or I THINK it is. If I’m interpreting it incorrectly, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.

NaBloPoMo 2015

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Fun Facts About Me

Today’s post was inspired by my friend Leigh Ann, who did a “Fun Facts About Me” post on her own blog a couple of days ago. (Thanks, Leigh Ann!)

Before LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER CHICAGO, the last time I had any substantial stage time was in elementary school. I was in a couple of productions; my favorite was when I played Earth.

Chris and Melisa Neptune and Earth2

Even when I was a kid, I could never do a proper, straight-legged cartwheel. This has always bugged me.

When I was a teenager I had three main career aspirations: journalist, travel agent, and housewife/mom. I later earned a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education.

The movies I have watched the most over the course of my life are “Footloose”, “Dirty Dancing”, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, and “The Breakfast Club”. “Sixteen Candles” is probably up there, too.

While I claim quite loudly that I despise country music, I am very fond of “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” (Big & Rich), “Before He Cheats” (Carrie Underwood), “Need You Now” (Lady Antebellum), “Jolene” (Dolly Parton), “Friends in Low Places” (Garth Brooks), and anything by Shania Twain.

One city I’ve never visited but am dying to? London. That said, I would be happy visiting any city in any country in Europe.

I have never once thought, “I’d like to go to Asia.”

I am really good with numbers and am always solving problems in my head, even if someone has a calculator and is doing the same thing, because I like to see if I can do it on my own. More often than not, I do. I will only tell someone who knows me really well that I figured it out; otherwise I keep my mouth shut.

I prefer being barefoot whenever possible, even when I go out to grab the mail in wintertime. (Unless there’s snow on the ground; in that case I’ll slip boots on.)

I have never seen “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” in its entirety.

I have always loved Germany, and when I was younger I hoped to grow up and drive a Mercedes. When I took Spanish class in 12th grade and had to pick a Spanish name, I chose “Mercedes”. In German class, that was not an option so I chose “Petra”.

I took German in eighth grade and through high school, and took both Spanish and Russian in the 12th grade.

I never played any sports as a kid, other than the mini sport units in gym class.

I get very annoyed (in my own head) at anyone who provides poor customer service or seems to be doing their job in the wrong way, but most especially when it happens at McDonald’s because I worked there for 2.5 years as a teenager and took great pride in being a top-notch crew member.

My first attempt at writing a book was when I was eleven. It was called “Patricia” and was semi-autobiographical.

NaBloPoMo 2015

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Lazy Saturday

The plan for today was to enjoy a gloriously Lazy Saturday, and although I achieved that, I had the added bonuses of a headache and nausea.

We slept until nine, which is totally unheard of around here. Jim and I both had a mentally intense week and the exhaustion won out over our typically early body clocks. I woke up feeling pretty awful but pushed through (typical!) and made breakfast anyway, watched some television, and made oatmeal raisin cookies. Then I took Jim’s recliner over, grabbed two blankets, and slept off and on for an hour while half-watching reruns of “The Office”.

My body doesn’t like intentional slow-downs. My body doesn’t like being lazy. I’m accustomed to living life at full throttle, and a lazy day off feels bizarre. Almost every single time, my body rebels. I almost always have a couple of sickly days after a conference or after Chicago’s LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER show, when I’m trying to be a little lazy for a change. Relaxing feels foreign to me; doing one thing at a time doesn’t feel right. I usually don’t even watch TV without doing something at the same time. I know this isn’t normal behavior; trust me, I annoy myself. (My friends will vouch for me on that because I tell them all the time how annoying I am.) I know all of this means I need to weave more off-time into my days, to MAKE it feel normal, but that’s hard for me. Today I’m promising myself–again–that I’ll try harder.

At any rate, headache and nausea notwithstanding, I really have enjoyed today. I’m going to try it again tomorrow, right after I come home from my 9:45 workout. Two days of nothing in a row? I can’t remember the last time that happened. Progress.

NaBloPoMo 2015

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The Plan

Being an empty nester is weird.

Full disclosure: while our 23-year-old is currently living with us while he works and saves up some money for his next move, I still consider us empty nesters. Maybe THAT’S weird.

Anyway, being an empty nester is weird.

It’s weird because once the kids grow up and move out, it’s awesome because you’re thrilled that they are starting a new chapter in their lives and you can start a new chapter in your life, but it’s also sad because they are starting a new chapter in their lives that doesn’t include you on a constant basis, and you’re starting a new chapter in your life that doesn’t include them on a constant basis.

Get it?

Anyway, while it is a glorious thing to be “on our own” as empty nesters, there’s just something about having both of the “kids” back in the house.

Today J came home for an extended Thanksgiving break and we just hung out, chatting, in the kitchen for the first hour he was home. He went to see his girlfriend and when he came back, Jim was being dropped off after being on a business trip all week and D arrived home from work shortly after that. The kitchen was bustling again, but I felt completely peaceful.

It’s snowing tonight and we’re expecting anywhere from one to nine inches by tomorrow afternoon (an eight-inch range? I know. Sigh.) and the falling snow is peaceful too. I was going to take a class first thing in the morning but thinking about getting up and leaving the house to drive across town in what could potentially be poor road conditions while the rest of the family sleeps in and experiences a Lazy Saturday Morning without me caused me to change my mind completely about the workout, and I canceled my reservation.

I don’t know what time everyone is getting up or what they’re planning for themselves tomorrow. What I DO know is that I’m going to take this rare opportunity to make the most of a day on which it’s possible to have absolutely no plans and try to relax with my loved ones.

At least, that’s the plan.

NaBloPoMo 2015

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To Infinity and Beyond

I cannot think of a movie franchise that has meant more to our family over the years than Disney’s “Toy Story”. The adventures of Andy’s toys (Buzz Lightyear, Woody, and friends) were on repeat in our VCR (and later, DVD player) for years and years.

In fact, here’s something that might make you feel old like I do: on this day twenty years ago, the first “Toy Story” installment, starring Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, premiered in Hollywood at the El Capitan Theatre, with nationwide release three days later. When I learned that, I had another bittersweet moment of “Wow, time really does fly, doesn’t it?”

Toy Story is 20.

When the movie premiered, D was three and J was not yet a year old. We had been excitedly anticipating this Pixar/Disney creation and I’m pretty sure we took D to see it that first weekend. And again. And likely again. As soon as it was available on videotape we bought it. By that time D had the talking Buzz Lightyear action figure, “Toy Story” pajamas, and all kinds of other stuff. For his fourth birthday the following June, I gave him a space-themed birthday party and made him and all of his friends personalized jet packs out of cardboard boxes, silver spray paint, and red, yellow, and orange streamers (for the fire!) to wear on their backs in our yard.

As J got a little older, he too became attached to the movie and its characters. He was our little cowboy fan, carrying around a pull-string Woody doll (“Reach for the skyyyyy!”) so much that I had professional portraits taken of him with Woody.

In 1996 we took a family trip to Walt Disney World, further cementing their addiction.

Buzz & D

Toy Story MGM

(Yes, if you’re wondering, these pictures are a part of my “ABC Disney World scrapbook” that I described in my 2014 LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER reading.)

The original film will always be my favorite because it represents such an innocent and pure time in the history of our family. The boys were still little, I was working part-time in the nursery of a health club (so they went with me), and technology played such a minor part in our lives that when I think about it I long to go back there just for a couple of days. Memories of my boys running around the house with Buzz and Woody, screaming “To infinity and beyond!” and “There’s a snake in my boot!”, though filtered softly over time, will never be completely forgotten.

“Toy Story 2”, which introduced Jessie the cowgirl (Joan Cusack), was released in 1999 and our life was starting to pick up speed. D was in second grade, J was in preschool, and I was working in a different department at the health club. As it happens when kids become school-aged, our evenings became busy with homework and other activities, and we didn’t have Buzz and Woody on the television as much as we had before. Still, they were always there in the background.

The cruelest of jokes was played on us when “Toy Story 3”, the premise of which is Andy’s preparation for his freshman year at college, was released in the summer of 2010, when D was also preparing for his freshman year at college. I will never forget sitting there in the theater, crying my eyes out at the end because the feeling of the previous fifteen years of family life whooshing through my brain over the course of the film was crushing. I’m pretty sure we all were in need of tissues as the credits rolled.

Twenty years, you guys. Twenty years.
I think it’s been a while since I’ve reminded you of how time flies. It really does.
In this case though, I’m celebrating good memories of a happy family and two sweet, imaginative little boys who grew up to be pretty awesome young men. You can’t ask for much more than that.

Happy 20th, Buzz and Woody.

NaBloPoMo 2015

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A (Fred) Savage Study. #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!

I have recently become addicted to a new show on FOX called “The Grinder”, about an actor who played a lawyer on a television show (Rob Lowe) who, after the series ends, goes to join his brother (Fred Savage) in his hometown law practice. I find the show impossibly adorable.

Tonight after I watched the latest episode, I started thinking about how long I’ve been watching Fred Savage. He’s been on television since the 1980’s and I first became a fan of his when “The Wonder Years” was on. In that show, Savage played Kevin Arnold, a young boy growing up in the late 1960’s. Kevin lived with his parents, brother Wayne, and sister Karen, and spent most of his time with his best friend Paul and the “girl next door”, Winnie. It was an amazing show and is a real classic. I started watching it from the very beginning on Netflix over the summer.

Perhaps the best movie Savage has acted in is “The Princess Bride” (not available on Netflix yet but I’m hoping someday soon!). He is in “The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story” (streaming on Netflix!) as the Narrator, which makes me laugh a little bit because a big part of “The Wonder Years” is the narration by Daniel Stern. I’m pretty sure that makes up some kind of Fred Savage vicious circle. Or something.

He’s not just an actor, either. He’s been very successful as a director too, In fact, he has more director credits than acting credits at this point, on shows like “Boy Meets World” (starring his younger brother Ben), “Phil of the Future”, “Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide”, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, “Party Down”, “Modern Family”, “2 Broke Girls”, and many, many more. One of his latest as a director? IFC’s 2014 show “Garfunkel and Oats”, about “two hapless twentysomething single women who try to make it as a duo performing satirical songs about their personal and professional lives.” You’d better believe that’s the newest addition to my Netflix streaming list. I’ll be binge-watching all eight episodes, likely this weekend.

Want to do a Fred Savage study on your own? Here are a few of his best, available on Netflix streaming:

The Wonder Years
The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Garfunkel and Oates

Perhaps I’ll study Rob Lowe in December. Hmmm.

Still counts.

Still counts.

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Just Breathe.

I’m just going to leave this here in case you need it.

Breathe

Still counts.

Still counts.

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Lean On Me.

For some reason, whether it’s Mercury being in retrograde (is it still? I don’t really keep track) or just a massive coincidence in time and space, I have a bunch of really good friends who are currently hurting and stressed. They have recently lost loved ones, have loved ones in the hospital, have financial issues, or are experiencing a personal health crisis or marital strife. It’s awful. There’s a lot of heartache out there.

Being someone who throws her whole heart into relationships, I carry around a feeling of helplessness in regards to the struggles of my beloved friends. It simmers gently, just under the surface, bubbling up when I’m getting updates or desperately trying to make someone who is having a particularly bad day feel a little better. I’m a fixer and a control freak, so it pains me to no end when I can’t take away the heartache that is being experienced by someone I love.

Most of the time, all I can do is be there. And I am. I always always always have time for friends in need, even when it seems like I don’t. I do. I repeat: I DO. If my schedule has no holes for a phone call or some other need, I make time. Relationships are important to me.

And so, right now when I have so many friends scattered all over the country who are in desperate need of support, I’m sending out all my love and virtual hugs and strength. You’ll get through this rough time. I can’t say how long it’ll take, but you will get through it. I’m here with you, even though I’m not there with you, and please remember the 1972 words of Bill Withers, sung in the style of the 1987 Club Nouveau remake because that one is way more my style, “Call me (when you need a friend)”. Call me. Call me. Call me.

Love you, my friends. I want to help. Let me be there. (But that’s a whole other song.)

NaBloPoMo 2015

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I happened to be on Facebook Thursday morning when…

Okay wait, I’m almost always on Facebook so that’s nothing new. WORK, you know. Heh.

Anyway, I happened to scroll my newsfeed just minutes after Missy Elliott posted that her new single, “WTF (Where They From)” featuring Pharrell Williams, was live. I actually screamed. And then I screamed again when I clicked on the video and found that I was in the first 12,000 people to see it. I mean, that’s exciting.

Missy Elliott has been a favorite of mine for years. I listen to her album “Under Construction” ALL. THE. TIME.

“Get Ur Freak On” and “Lose Control” and “Lady Marmalade” and lots of other songs that are either hers or that she has produced for others stay in rotation for me because they make me so happy.

Speaking of happiness, Missy has been mostly missing in action for the last couple of years, so when she hit the stage with Katy Perry at the Super Bowl early this year, I lost my mind.

When I discovered that she was going to be a mentor on “The Voice” this season (working with Coach Pharrell Williams), I should’ve guessed she had something in the kitchen. (Other than “The Cookbook”, which happens to be the name of her sixth album. Do you see what I did there??)

So Thursday blew my mind. This new song? I can’t even adequately express how much I love it. (You would think this post would do that but no, I love it way more than this post seems to describe.)

That day I literally listened to it around forty times, including keeping it on repeat when I walked Roxie, which led to what I think is one of the greatest things I’ve ever posted on Facebook:

Missy Elliott

via GIPHY

By the way, the song sounds great in the shower too.

I’m obsessed with the Pharrell and Missy marionettes in the video too; not only are they identical to their real-life counterparts, but they can dance in a very un-marionette-like way, which is pretty amazing. I (and many of my friends) want those marionettes. They make us happy. For now, I’ll just have to watch the video over and over again like I’ve been doing.

So if you need me, I’ll just be over here wishing I could become one of Missy’s backup dancers, as well as figuring out when I’ll be able to say “lyrically I’m Optimus Prime” organically in a conversation. Oh, and listening to this song. Again.

NaBloPoMo 2015

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Money Battles

Things you don’t necessarily want to hear from your 23-year-old, who just picked up two friends from O’Hare airport in their car, the one that had been parked at our house all week while they were gone:

“So I told them that I bought them a tire gauge this week and they asked me how much it was and I wouldn’t tell them so they left a $5 bill under my windshield on my car and drove away. Then I chased them down the street because I didn’t want them to pay me back for it and I jumped on the trunk of their car and they kept driving through the neighborhood for another block and a half with me on the trunk before they pulled over. Then when they stopped I tossed the money back into their car through the window and ran home. By the time I got here, they had put the money back under my windshield and were long gone.”

And then after cringing about your precious “baby” risking his life riding around on the trunk of a car because DOESN’T HE KNOW HE COULD GET HURT you realize that you’ve had some epic money battles with friends yourself, because you’re always arguing about who is going to treat the other one. And then, thinking back, you realize the sneakiest you’ve ever been is stealthily shoving money into purses and wallets, and you decide that perhaps it’s time to step up your game. Suddenly you can TOTALLY see yourself having this exact trunk-riding, money battling adventure with a couple of your friends, and maybe your 23-year-old is onto something.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, after all.

NaBloPoMo 2015

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