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It’s Okay To Be Okay.

The other day I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time when we crossed paths in the parking lot of our local big box store. I remembered that she had just dropped her second child (her daughter) off at college for her freshman year, officially joining the Empty Nester Club.

In asking her how everything went, I wasn’t surprised to hear that on the long drive home she had both happy moments and tearful moments. That’s pretty typical. Overall though, she’s fine. I was glad to hear it.

She told me that her daughter mentioned that her friends were asking if she (my friend) was “going to be okay”. As sweet as the concern was, the two of us laughed about it a little bit. As much of a loving and involved mom my friend has been, she has a full-time career and friends of her own. She has a life outside of her maternal duties, and that’s a big part of why, probably after some random tears, she’s going to be perfectly fine. It was refreshing to talk with her because she was so clear on how great this milestone is and how wonderful it is that her two kids are doing exactly what she raised them to do. Not everybody seems to take it in stride like that.

Everyone has to go through the bittersweet experience of letting their kids go in their own way, of course, but it’s okay to be okay. We can love our kids to the moon and back and still be happy to see them off. We can be excited about having time on our own, having the house to ourselves, having a calendar free of kids’ activities. It doesn’t make us bad parents. Actually, I think it teaches independence, and isn’t that the end goal of raising children, anyway? Sounds like good parenting to me.

So when you get your kids to their next milestone, alternate some happy moments with tearful moments and then call me. I’m free for lunch and it’ll be totally okay if you want to talk about our kids.

Freshman move-in day


If These Walls Could Talk

We’ve lived in this house for nearly fourteen years. Our family room, where we collectively spend the most time (hence the name) is home to an awesome and comfortable sectional couch, a bookshelf, a mission-style recliner, a chest full of quilts, and the television with all of the accessories that go along with it. We “finished” this room back in 2005, right before D became a Bar Mitzvah.

“Finished” isn’t really the best way to describe it, though. It has felt decidedly unfinished to me for a long time.

It’s the walls.

The wall color is great. We painted it a light taupe a while back.

I see too much of the wall color if you know what I’m saying and I think you do.

There are a few things on the walls:

~ my two book covers (which Jim framed for me: so sweet!!)
~ a gorgeous black and white poster print of Mount St. Helens that I framed back in the day when I did custom framing as a job (triple matted with two openings: fancy!)
~ a custom canvas that I gave to Jim for our 25th anniversary that has names of our kids, the dogs, city names, and other pieces of our story
~ a photo canvas that Momo ordered for me a couple of years ago, with a picture of one of my favorite public sculptures in Chicago, Magdalene

(Sidenote: I still crack up when I think about the phone conversation I had with Momo after I received the canvas in the mail. I thanked her profusely for it and after telling her how much I adored it, she said, “OH MY GOSH, YOU TOOK THE PICTURE.” I knew that, of course. As if I can’t love it on a canvas that my friend was so thoughtful to order for me? Hilarious. I guess you had to be there. Never mind.)

The 25th anniversary canvas is all by itself above the couch on the biggest wall and looks like a little island in the middle of a light taupe ocean.


The wall over the television looks like a gaping hole.

I have solutions. Two years ago I bought a set of different sized frames so I could make a photo collage around that 25th anniversary canvas…and they’ve been sitting in my basement ever since. I also intended to have one of my favorite pictures of the boys enlarged and made into a canvas for over the television…and never did.

I’m getting closer, though. I brought the set of frames up from the basement about a month ago and even took them out of the boxes. The only thing I need to do is decide which pictures I want to put in them, and then order prints. That’s it.

I ordered the canvas for over the television last week. I’m glad I waited because custom canvases are way, way, way cheaper than they used to be. (I think I paid thirty bucks for a 22″ X 22″ canvas.)

It occurred to me that the canvas might be lonely on that wall so I bought a set of three small shelves to hang next to it, and I’ll put more framed pictures on the shelves. Pictures are my favorite.

Planning? Totally my forte. I seem to have a problem with execution in this case.

I’m not sure where in the recesses of my mind I have a task blocker in regards to this project. Perhaps the idea of choosing less than ten pictures from thousands and thousands is secretly-not-so-secretly daunting.

At any rate, I expect to receive the photo canvas of the boys next week. Maybe that will give me the push I need to finish this once and for all.


All I know is, if these walls could talk they would say “OMG WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? JUST DO IT.”

Good thing they don’t. I don’t like the idea of bossy walls.


Happy Friday!

Indeed, it is.

Sidenote: I absolutely know that just prior to 5:00 p.m. on a Friday is perhaps the absolute worst time to publish a blog post if you want people to notice and maybe even read it, but I’m throwing caution to the wind and just doing it. I’ve been trying to build back up to posting four to five times each week and I think the “posting” part is more important to me at the moment than the “having it read by actual people” part. (That said, big sloppy kisses to you if you’re reading this.)

I have to say that I have felt an internal change over the past week or so, and I think that part of it is due to the sabbatical I took last Wednesday afternoon and the other part is that my work is naturally starting to slow back down to a normal load as we creep away from the conference. I feel—dare I say it?—more relaxed in general. I mean, sure, I still have some stressed-out moments and wouldn’t expect that I would suddenly start living a life that felt easy-breezy all the time, but I feel calm. It’s nice.

The combination of working normal hours again (still at my kitchen desk, even!) and feeling more relaxed means that I’m doing things like:

That’s right. I’m back to reading more than just a few blogs regularly for the first time in a year. As I suspected would be the case, I am absolutely in love with bloglovin’. I have subscribed to all of the blogs I used to read as well as some that I’ve had on my mental list for a while (including, finally, most of my LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER cohorts). Also, I’m trying to take the time to comment, too. Please don’t pass out from the shock if you see me comment on your blog, especially if I used to read but went MIA for a while. I’M BAAAAAACK!

I am actually on pace to finish the book that I started at the lake last Wednesday, by tomorrow afternoon. I know. I can’t believe it either. And guess what? I might start another one on Sunday. Crazy, right?

I think that’s pretty self-explanatory. Along with Apple Jacks, I consider Lucky Charms to be Happiness in a Bowl.

Happiness in a Bowl

The possibilities are endless from here on out, don’t you think?
Have a great weekend!


What I Learned Last Friday Night

Last Friday night Jim and I, along with Dawn and Scott (our oldest friends, who reside in central Illinois), road-tripped to the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park to see Mötley Crüe perform on the Chicago stop of their final tour (or so they say). This post is not about the concert.

This post is about what I learned that night.

1. I learned that it is really kind of stupid to drive from our home in the western suburbs down to Tinley Park on a Friday night. Traffic was ridiculous. That includes the traffic on the highway, the concert traffic we were in the first time when we got off on southbound Harlem instead of northbound Harlem to do a U-turn (we were meeting our friends at a Cracker Barrel on the north side of the highway so we could drive one car to the concert), the traffic after we turned around to get to the Cracker Barrel, and the concert traffic on the way BACK towards the ampitheatre. I calculated that we spent around five and a half hours in the car before and after the concert and will likely not attend another Friday night concert at that venue.

2. I learned that people in the olden days really did put crackers in barrels. When Jim and I were waiting for Dawn and Scott, Jim wondered out loud where the name of the restaurant originated and I told him that surely Mr. Oleson didn’t put crackers in barrels because of their fragile nature and tendency to turn into crumbs under most circumstances. Then I came home to look it up and found out that apparently late-19th century crackers were made of stronger stuff than 21st century crackers because they apparently did fine in a barrel.

3. I learned that after almost twenty-eight years of marriage in both cases (Dawn and Scott were married eight days before we were), the guys really do know that smiling and shaking their heads as if to say, “She’s just adorable!” is the very best response in situations such as when one of us girls opens the car window to scream, “WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” at the white Hummer limo full of much younger men, one of whom is hanging out the window and more than willing to scream “WOOOOOOOOOO!” back.

4. I learned that there are far fewer women at a Mötley Crüe (with Alice Cooper opening) concert, and therefore our security lines go much, much faster.

Melisa and Dawn

5. I learned that when you purchase lawn seats from Groupon, you should really expect that you will be surrounded by a terrifyingly high amount of people who had the same brilliant idea. See also: they don’t allow beach chairs in on nights like that and it’s either stand for the duration or sit on the grass, behind everyone else who is standing.

6. I learned that when you buy drinks at a concert, it’s not necessarily smart to buy more than what you need at that very moment in order to save yourself another wait in the endless lines because the vendors have to open cans and throw away bottle caps at point of purchase, leaving you stuck juggling open containers, trying to keep from dropping them.

7. I learned that volunteering to go fight the crowds on the way to get drinks before the main act begins so your claustrophobic husband can stay in place on the lawn is not the best idea because by the time you have obtained the drinks, the crowds on the way back are ten times worse, not moving, and rude. You also may end up being completely freaked out and decide, when people start pushing even though there’s nowhere to go, that going back down the hill to where the vendors are and settling in either until the crowds dissipate OR for the duration of the concert is the prudent thing to do.

8. I learned that by the time you get through the crowds on your second attempt back up to the lawn, the location where you and your friend thought you left your husbands isn’t necessarily where you are looking, and even though it seems like a genius idea to turn your phone flashlight on so they can see you looking for them, it’s just…not.

Dawn and the flashlight

9. I learned that Mötley Crüe is still kicking ass after all these years.

10. I learned that sometimes, less-than-desirable conditions can make for the best, most fun forever memories with old friends.


Buckle Up!

My nineteen-year-old son J is very good with money. He has a job during the school year when he’s away at college, and this is the second consecutive summer he’s worked his tail off at his job here in town for the express purpose of making a maximum contribution towards the cost of his tuition.

I think it’s all that squirreling away he does with his money that doesn’t make me blink an eye when he tells me he’s spending what I might think is a crazy amount of money on something. He works hard, covers his tuition commitment to us, and is otherwise responsible with his finances (all good qualities in a business major, don’t you think?), so the occasional treat is well-deserved, in my opinion.

The latest thing? A belt buckle.

I’m not telling you how much it cost him, except to say “A LOT”. The shipping cost almost as much as the belt buckle itself, but apparently this belt buckle is special because the design on it is from a video game or something and it’s hard-to-find, maybe? I’m not sure. All I know is that after I gave him the required comical motherly chin drop at the cost, I proceeded to give him a hard time about this acquisition. I mean, he’s already got fourteen belt buckles. How many belt buckles does one person need? I think his answer would be “A LOT.”

He started collecting them a couple years back after his girlfriend bought him a mustache belt buckle and then his brother bought him one from the Philmont Scout Ranch, where he worked for the summer. After that his collection took off.

Belt buckles

This belt buckle that’s in transit to our house as I type this is probably not the last one, if I had to guess. There are worse collections, anyway. I think this is sort of fun.

Here’s the surprise twist to the story, and something J didn’t know until reading this (Hi, J!): sometimes it’s the smallest, most unexpected characteristic or habit that just may have a root in genetics.

Observe if you will, two of my very most-prized possessions that I’ve been carrying around since my teen years:

Melisa's belt buckles

That’s right, belt buckles.

And no J, you can’t have them.


Slow No Wake

I went on sabbatical yesterday afternoon.

It was extremely out of character for me, but I have been out of character for a while now. I’ve been working even more than usual, sleeping less than usual, and feeling more drained than usual. Last week it all seemed to hit me at once and I walked around on the verge of stress- and exhaustion-induced tears for days. I had the strong desire to take a road trip somewhere, anywhere. Just…away.

That’s why, when I ran into a friend of mine while running errands and she noticed that I was so tightly-wound and subsequently offered up her lake house as a possible destination for a mental health day, I jumped on it. That was also out of character, completely. Normally I would say, “Oh no no no…that’s so very kind of you but I’m good!” and then I would soldier on.

Something about that moment—the generous offer, the thought of being by myself in a place I’d never before visited, the peaceful feelings that are conjured up by thinking about being near the water, the idea that it could be exactly what I needed—made me hastily and gratefully accept. I’m so glad I did.

As odd as it sounds, even through I was excited about getting in the car to drive north, I had some trepidation. Being BY myself is no big deal and I enjoy it often as a result of being an empty nester who works at home. Being WITH myself in a foreign place with no other distractions, well, that’s different. I know myself well enough to have thought about the difficulty I would have, putting myself in a somewhat forced position to listen only to the sounds of nature, with the intention of finding peace in that.

At home, I have music playing almost all the time. I am watched over while I work by my dog, who demands my attention here and there. I’m constantly giving the side-eye to the clutter and piles of laundry that I allow to become slightly out of control. It wasn’t that I couldn’t listen to music at my friend’s lake house. The idea of temporarily removing myself from the distractions of my life, even the good ones, was that I wanted to see how I would feel after a day of surrounding myself with peace.

And peaceful it was.

Bohner Lake

I headed down to the pier where my friend had thoughtfully left a plastic Adirondack chair for me. For a while I sat and actually read a book, something I never have time or make time to do. Every now and then I glanced up from the book to look at my surroundings, close my eyes, bask in the sunshine, and listen. It was perfectly peaceful, except for an occasional bird’s chirp, the sound of water lapping onto the rocks on the lake’s edge, the wind blowing through the trees, my own breathing.

I could hear my own breathing. That’s how quiet it was.

I did a lot of thinking out there on the pier. It is such a foreign concept to me, to drop virtually everything in favor of going to a strange place to do absolutely nothing. This was me putting my oxygen mask on first, as everyone in (and out of) the airline industry recommends these days.

The interesting dilemma that forms when a tightly-wound workaholic puts herself in a “time out” of sorts, even a good kind of time out, is that time, the very thing I always seem to lack, crawls. I found myself checking my phone for the time often in the first part of the afternoon, marveling in total disbelief that it wasn’t later in the day. Conversely, at home when I’m busy working, I don’t think about the clock yet time still flies. I found myself feeling like a small child that was told to sit in the corner for four minutes.

Can I get up now?
Can I get up now?
How about now?

After a while I closed the book and moved to a prone position on the pier. Once again acting completely out of character, I tried some visualizations. I let the weight of my body and all of the mental baggage-slash-exhaustion I’ve been carrying around for the past few weeks sink deeply into that pier. I imagined the stress seeping through the cracks between the boards and just…away.

I’ve attempted visualizing before in other situations and have always felt ridiculous, but for some reason the mental work I did all by myself in the lake’s peaceful surroundings just clicked. I can’t remember the last time I felt as relaxed as I did when I was lying face down on that pier. I jotted some words down in the notebook I brought, and then enjoyed a glass of wine and a coconut cupcake.

Wine and cupcake

By this time, a boat was cruising down the center of the lake. The people on board waved to me and I waved back, laughing as I noticed their dog standing at attention at the aft end. The dog was barking at the teenager who was being pulled through the water on an inflatable raft and screaming joyfully all the way.

Feeling sleepy, I headed back up to the deck (and out of the sun for a while!) where I opened my book and read for a few more minutes before allowing myself to take a nap right there, sitting upright in my chair. I think I slept for about thirty minutes but can’t say for sure since by then I had banned myself from looking at the time.

Sun over Bohner Lake

I can’t adequately express how calm my mental state was at the end of the day, and to be completely honest if you had told me a couple of weeks ago that being with myself for an afternoon at someone else’s lake house would do wonders for me, I wouldn’t have believed you. It did, though; it was wonderful. I learned a lot about myself in just one short afternoon, the most important thing being that listening to the cues my body is giving me, especially when fight-or-flight comes into play, is crucial.


The icing on the (cup)cake was when I got back into the car for the long drive home and was rewarded with ninety straight minutes of my favorite, sing-along-at-the-top-of-my-lungs-with-the-sunroof-open songs. It was like the universe was ensuring that I would absorb the depth of good this experience did for my whole self, and remember that feeling for a long time to come. I know I will.

Slow No Wake


I Still Miss Google Reader But…

Back in the day, I used to keep up with my favorite blogs (all 150+ of them) on Google Reader.

Come to think of it, back in the day I had time to read all 150+ of my favorite blogs. Wow.


I loved opening up my reader every day and catching up with everybody. If I had a busy streak and was unable to read blogs, it was fine because they were all there waiting for me when I returned.

In what can perhaps over-dramatically be described as a crushing blow to me, Google Reader went away for some strange reason last summer and left me flailing. There was much discussion on what the best substitute could possibly be. I tried Feedly but didn’t care for it. We all know that Facebook doesn’t show us everything, and there’s no storage factor there, so that option was out.

Finally I just subscribed to a bunch of blogs via email and relied on Facebook to see the rest. It’s a terrible system. TERRIBLE. I have missed out on so much.

Yesterday I noticed that Jill Smokler (Scary Mommy) was asking her Facebook friends how they keep up with blogs, and it seemed like lots of people are using bloglovin’ these days. I decided to give it a shot and loaded my brand new bloglovin’ feed with blogs, starting with the ones in my blogroll and expanding out from there.

So far, I like it. It’s got some of the features I loved on Google Reader, and it’s got an app for iPhone so I can do some reading from my phone with hardly any effort at all. It seems like a good way to discover new blogs too, because I can see what my bloglovin’ friends are marking “liked”. That seems to be the biggest difference from Google Reader: the social aspect. I like it. (By the way, look over there to the right and you’ll find my bloglovin’ button. Follow me there!)

I don’t know…I still miss Google Reader but maybe Bloglovin will make me forget? Fingers crossed.

Now I just need to make some time to read! Starting…NOW.


Calling In The Expert

You may or may not have noticed that I am outnumbered in my house, gender-wise.

I’m fine with it, though. I may not have a daughter of my own but I have lots of friends who have girls and I totally glom onto them whether they like it or not. (I think they do: I’m a pretty awesome pseudo-aunt if I do say so myself.) I treasure the relationships that I have with my friends’ kids (girls and boys!) and love to create opportunities to interact with them as the spectacular individuals they are and not just because they happen to be the offspring of my friends.

When I was preparing for this year’s LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER show here in Chicago, I needed to find some accessories to go with my dress. I had three major problems with that:

1. With very rare exceptions, I am not the type of shopper who browses. I like to have a mission (i.e. know exactly what I’m looking for) so I can get in and get out.
2. I don’t think of myself as someone who has fashion sense, especially when it comes to accessories.
3. I didn’t want to ask any of my local friends to go with me because A) See number one; I’m not usually a fun shopping companion and B) Most of my local friends are fairly busy with their own stuff

It occurred to me that I was very well-acquainted with the perfect person to help style me for the show, even though it would have to be long-distance: Liz’s daughter Hope.

Sidenote: we sometimes refer to Hope as MY daughter because she has some Type A tendencies and other personality traits that align with mine. (Exhibit A, your honor: click here.) She’s amazing, and that has nothing to do with me.

Melisa and Hope May 2014

Anyway, Hope has more fashion sense in her thirteen-year-old pinky finger than I have in my forty-five-year-old entire body. I decided to text her one day and ask if she would help me pick some jewelry for the show, and she was more than happy to do just that. Shortly after I sent her a full-length picture of me wearing the dress I chose, I headed off to the mall. From there I sent her pictures of various necklaces I tried on so she could advise me on what to do. We whittled down my choices to two, and I bought both so I could try them on with my dress at home and send her more pictures. Soon, we had a winner:

M necklace

The necklace got lots of compliments, and naturally I had fun telling people that I was styled long-distance by Hope.

Yesterday I had to go out and pick up a gift for another friend’s daughter, Bean, who is turning ten this week (OMG!). With the crazed conference season I’ve had, I did not plan ahead for the gift (ahem, research what she might like) and I needed to call in some reinforcements so I could pick up something that had a great chance of success, as birthday gifts go.

I decided to call in the expert once again and grabbed my phone to text Hope.

Me, via text: “Hi Hope! Question. I have to find a birthday present for a ten-year-old girl. I know you’re way beyond that but…any ideas? I’m at Target. Please and thank you?”

Hope, via text: “Uh I guess there’s these things called janimals.”

Me, via text: “Janimals? What department? LOL”

Hope, via text: “I have no idea LOL”

Me, via text: “What are they?? Toys? Clothing?”

And that’s when I had to call her because she didn’t respond and totally left me hanging out to dry in the middle of Target.

*calling Hope’s number…ring ring…*

Hope: *laughing* “Hello?”


Hope: “I saw them on TV and they’re kind of stuffed animals that turn into those onesie things…”

Me: “Onesie things? I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Hope: “You know, like the pajamas with the feet. They come in three sizes, according to the height of the person.”

Me: “Ohhhhhhh! Okay. Thanks, Hope! I’ll look for those and check them out.”

It turns out that Janimals are only available online, I wasn’t sure about Bean’s current height, and I wanted to get something I could send with a gift receipt. It doesn’t matter.

THE POINT IS, I think everyone should have a young expert in their life who is willing to be on hand for idea-bouncing.

You can’t have Hope, though. She’s mine. Well, I mean, she’s really Liz’s. But she’s mine, too. I love that girl.

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When Type A + Type A = Type B

In yet another example of how time flies and how surreal it is to have grown children, we moved D into his first solo apartment over the weekend.

He hasn’t lived at home full time for four years now (!!!!), spending the first three years in the dorm and this past year in a house with several of his friends. After graduation they all started to go their separate ways and he needed to find his own place.

Jim and I drove up to Wisconsin to help him move, and we were secretly-not-so-secretly thrilled to find out that he had rented a truck the night before and had friends help him move the heavy stuff. We got the remainder of his belongings moved in two car trips, and made a stop at Target to get some essentials, like a “dining room table” (actually we just got him an inexpensive, foldable-slash-portable table to use for now) and two folding chairs, a set of dishes, cleaning supplies, shower curtain, and all kinds of other things that people never realize they’re going to need until they actually move into their first place. Plus, groceries. (More on that later.)

After we unloaded our cars for the second time, we helped him get a few things assembled and ready-to-use. While he and Jim set up his bed and the television, I was in the kitchen unpacking the Target bags and washing his new dishes and utensils.

I didn’t put anything away—with the exception of shoving paper towel rolls and empty Target bags into one cabinet to get them out of the way—because if there’s anything I’ve learned over the years with him it’s that my Type A is better off staying out of the way of his Type A.

D kitchen

We are very similar in a lot of ways (high-strung at times, perfectionist, attention to detail, having plans for plans, OMG I’m sorry, son!) and in order to cut out some head-butting I have learned to back away slowly before necessary in most situations. I try to follow the advice that Cliff Huxtable gave to Elvin that one time: I just put my hands in the air and zip it. My job is to GET OUT.

Sometimes I slip, but can usually recover with a gentle reminder. We were sitting in the apartment eating lunch and I can’t remember what valuable words of wisdom I was attempting to impart, but it started with “If I were you I’d…” He nodded and said very nicely, “No, I don’t think I’m going to do that. But thanks for your sage advice.” (Yes, he really said that. Sage advice!)

Retreat! Retreat!

He’s twenty-two, an adult. My way isn’t the only way, and even if I have proven for myself that something works or that there’s an efficient way for getting something done, he has the right to test out his own theories.

D bedroom

Coming to that realization over the past few years has been difficult at times (old habits die hard!) but extremely freeing for me. I am a little more relaxed when it comes to matters of his that don’t involve me directly, and I feel his appreciation for this new level we’ve achieved in our mother-son relationship.

D desk

Sidenote: there was one point on which I would not back down. When we took him grocery shopping and the cashier asked if he had the store’s discount card and he said “no”, she asked if he wanted her to use her card and he said, “no.” I piped in, “YES, HE DOES. THANK YOU.” Even the bagger said, “Dude, what do you have against saving money? GEEZ!”

He’ll learn. I mean, MONEY.

D Piggly Wiggly

Soon it was time for us to get back on the road to home. After helping him unpack his groceries we left an extremely happy young adult on his own, ready to enjoy his first evening in his very own apartment, all by himself. I think we all felt pretty amazing about it.

d new apartment


Pet Names

Roxie August 1 2014

Alternate names I have for Roxie, in no particular order:

1. Sissy
2. Mama
3. Mamacita (I don’t know; it just came out one day and stuck)
4. Beebs
5. Baby
6. My Baby
7. Babes
8. Sweets
9. Siouxsie (yes, as in “and the Banshees”)
10. Bougie-Bougie (shut up)
11. Mooshie
12. Mooshie-Booshie

Alternate names Jim has for Roxie, in no particular order:
1. Nothing I can list here because this is a family blog.

He DOES call her those special names with love, which I guess explains why the second he walks in the door, she drops me and my “Bougie-Bougies” like a hot potato and makes a beeline for him.

Leader of the Pack, clearly.

I get it. I think he’s pretty awesome, too.