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Just Give Me A Second And I’ll Figure It Out.

Unfortunately, all of the answers can’t be found on Google.

I mean, LOTS of them can…but often there are questions or problems that can’t be resolved by typing in a query.

Here’s what I do when I have a dilemma: I call someone to talk it out.

Wall phone

This phone, hanging on my kitchen wall, is not the phone I use to call people in the 21st century, ever. I should take that thing down.

Now, you might think that when I say “talk it out”, I mean that I’m calling that person to have a two-person exchange about my issue and then hang up feeling triumphant because we have figured it out together. Good job. That’s what I thought I was doing too, for a while. Not so. I mean, that’s my INTENTION, but that’s not exactly how it all plays out.

You know what they say about how, if you want someone to talk, you just leave a little bit of silence in the conversation from your end and then the person with whom you’re speaking will get uncomfortable and start blathering?

This is nothing like that. Except the blathering.

Confession time.

First of all, I didn’t even really realize that I was doing what I’m about to tell you until Momo, one of my closest friends who ONLY speaks the honest truth, put a pin in my balloon and told me, and now I’m self-conscious about it. That said, there are way worse faults I think? Yes, there are. There are definitely worse faults to have, so I don’t feel as bad as I did a minute ago. Shew!

See? I just did it.

What I do is, I make the call and explain my dilemma, and then…I solve it. Usually by myself, apparently. When I called Momo a couple of weeks ago with the problem-du-jour, I started talking about it without even giving her a chance to insert some silence so I could get uncomfortable (like THAT would ever happen with a close friend!) and when I stopped to get validation by saying, “Don’t you think?”, she replied “Well maybe; I’m just waiting for you to finish talking it out like you always do.”

And then we both laughed, only I think it was just me, laughing alone.

Thank God for good friends who love me anyway, in spite of things like this.

The good news is, I’m an excellent listener and when my friends call me with their own issues, I actually do know when to shut up and hear them out until they’re ready for me to pipe in. I mean, what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t take my turn to listen? Not a very good one in my opinion. Don’t you agree? Of course you do. That’s what I thought.

There I go again.

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Google Is My Middle Name.

I am a curious person by nature. I ask lots of questions, all the time. I usually come up with more questions too, depending on the answers. It’s the main frustration Jim always has when he takes care of any calls that need to be made regarding our house or family (contractors, doctors, in-laws, etc.). He hangs up his phone and my interrogation starts immediately. Usually the conversation ends with Jim sighing and saying, “I didn’t ask THAT…” I ask so many questions that I annoy myself, truly. (Really Jim, I do!!)

When it comes to facts and figures, I am constantly feeling ever so grateful that I live in the age of Google because I use it ALL. THE. TIME.

Like three hours ago, I had to look up “How to remove a GE Profile Microwave” because Jim and I had to do that before installing the new one (duh), and we just couldn’t figure out how to get that thing off the wall. Google to the rescue: I found the answer immediately.

Thank goodness too, because that kept a smile on his face, which kept a smile on my face, all the way until we were done with the installation.

Installing the microwave

Smile not pictured, but it’s there. Trust me.

I probably use Google more than ten times on any given day. I love to learn new tidbits of information about anything that crosses my path. Just like my questions often lead to more questions, my Google searches can lead to more Google searches and I can get lost for hours. Knowledge is power! Let’s look up ALL THE STUFF! I wish Google had been in existence when I was in college. Kids today don’t know how good they have it. Related: get off my lawn!

One of my very favorite things is when someone wonders about something out loud and I can drop whatever I’m doing and look it up. Seriously. Is that sad? (Don’t answer that.) This happens often when I’m working out (which is so convenient for me, especially if it’s a tough class); the instructor will wonder about a musician or something from pop culture and I’ll say, “I’LL GOOGLE IT!” and after I finish whatever set we’re working on (honest!), I grab my phone and find that answer. I can’t tell you how triumphant I feel when I can provide answers. Simple pleasures, you know? This is not an invitation, by the way, to send me questions. It has to happen ORGANICALLY, you know?

An aside: One of my least favorite things is when people ask questions on Facebook and Twitter that can easily be answered by Googling. I mean, it seems easier to type the question into Google and get answers immediately rather than crowd-sourcing, right? Grumble grumble grumble. Jim tells me I shouldn’t get so annoyed by it because not everybody has the same thought process as I do, so I’m working on my patience with that because he’s right. Probably.

Anyway, I seem to have forgotten where I was going with this. I just Googled, “How should I end this blog post?” and I found a great article that suggested, among other ideas, that I ask a question to encourage comments. So here goes.

Would you say you use Google as a tool only when you need to look something up, or do you ever use it just for fun and/or to waste time?

I hate that I just asked you that because wow, what a letdown at the end of what started out to be a very promising blog post. Sorry about that. The good news is, I just Googled “What is the worst ending ever?” and I saw A LOT about the series finale of “How I Met Your Mother” but nothing about what I have just written.

Shew.

I guess I’ll just put us all out of our misery and end there.

The end.

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Apparently My Word For 2014 Was “Travel”.

This time last year I noticed many of my friends picking “a word for 2014″, something they would live by or strive for. I didn’t join in but it all worked out. As it turned out my word, “Travel”, found its way to me.

While thinking about what kind of 2014 wrap-up post I wanted to write, what stuck out the most was how much travel I did this year. In fact, without even looking at my calendar to count days properly I figured out off the top of my head that I was away from my home for between six and eight weeks. That’s a lot of time living out of a suitcase, but it’s also a lot of time making some pretty spectacular memories.

Of course, I had some Chicago-based adventures too. (It’s a well known fact that I can make an adventure out of just about anything.) Here are my all-around favorites from 2014:

Not a lot happened around here in January and February other than constant shoveling so I’m just skipping those months.

At the beginning of March I road-tripped to Momo’s house in Columbus. I LOVE solo road-tripping. The post I wrote about my Musings From The Road kind of cracks me up. I loved hanging out with Momo’s family and live-tweeting the Oscars with her, in the same room.

At the end of April, Tracey and I hit the road to support our fellow LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER co-producers in Milwaukee, meeting up with a few other Chicago friends as well as LTYM founder and National Director Ann Imig for the show. It was a great day. I just LOLed all over again when I went back to read the post I wrote about it, because of Tracey’s tweets and the pictures I took, including the group selfie we got with Ann after about thirty tries and Ann saying “I just never know where to look!” about twenty-nine times.

Also in the spring, my trail mix became famous. Or infamous. And it’s actually my mother-in-law’s trail mix. I “revealed” the recipe, “ish”, in this post…even though there’s no set recipe. You’ll get the idea.

May was the biggest, most busy-for-me month of 2014. I was busy at home AND busy on the road. May 2014 is a huge and awesome blur for me. For starters, it was LTYM month. Our third annual Chicago show was beyond amazing and I wrote about my favorite moments from that experience.

Oscar Selfie

I also hit up the Northwest Indiana LTYM show and the Mother of them all, Ann’s Madison show. SO much fun.

There was no resting after LTYM season closed, as BlogHer conference season started with BlogHer Food in Miami. I ADORE working at BlogHer Food, and this year was even more epic than last because I was with Momo AND Liz nearly 24/7. We were mostly working, but we snuck in a few madcap adventures too, of course.

Drinks are larger than they appear.

Right after BlogHer Food I flew directly to New Jersey without passing “Go”, and spent a few days with my east coast family. I didn’t write any blog posts specifically about that trip because Liz and I were fried from the conference and didn’t spend too much time with our computers (not to mention we were busy seeing “Wicked” and eating steak and drinking Raspberry Rosemary Martinis at Crisp’s to celebrate her birthday), but this is one of my favorite pictures because HAPPY PLACE:

Seaside

In June we drove to Tennessee to help my parents celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary. They renewed their vows in a lovely and intimate ceremony at a friend’s home. It was awesome to be present for that; I can’t even express how much.

July brought my first “In Pictures” post, in which I drew pictures of our dinner at Chicago’s “The Purple Pig” instead of capturing them with a camera. At the end of July I flew to San Jose, California for the tenth annual BlogHer conference. I was with Momo and Liz nearly 24/7 again, along with tons of other blog friends from all over the country. The weekend was epic as always, and I’m not only talking about the part where RUN-DMC’s Rev Run DJed the closing party.

Momo, Melisa, Liz

Rev Run

I wrote one of my favorite posts in all of 2014 in August when I took a sabbatical day at a friend’s lake house in Wisconsin.

Sabbatical

At the end of August I wrote another “In Pictures” post, this time about my adventures with Samantha at the Steve Harvey show taping, with featured guest Pitbull. What a day THAT was. What a sunburn THAT was. Totally worth it.

I wrote another favorite post in September after Jim and I took a hike with D. I also accompanied Jim on a business trip to Merida, Mexico ABOUT WHICH I ONLY WROTE ONE TEENY POST OMG but I sure did take a bunch of pictures…

Chichen Itza

Cenote

Stairs to the cenote

Merida tree

Coke bottle

Mexican dresses

Crosses

October was another huge travel month. In early October Jim and I went to Tennessee for his sister’s wedding, and a week later I went back to Liz’s to enjoy yet another phenomenal visit with my sistuh-from-anuthuh-muthuh. We had good times at This Full House and all the way down the Jersey coast to Cape May.

Liz and Melisa at Sunset Beach

I also got addicted to tea on that trip. Oops.

I finished out October in a temporary but deep depression brought on by the combination of returning to a completely empty house after my New Jersey trip and, likely, hormones (stupid peri-menopause), and worked it out by writing a post that resulted in my being wrapped in love from my friends (thank you!).

I participated in NaBloPoMo in November, blogging each and every day of the month. They weren’t all gems, of course, but I wrote about my newly-developed tea obsession and let you all in on my crazy. (You’re welcome.) I also turned 46 and got one of the best birthday-gifts-that-wasn’t-meant-to-be-a-birthday-gift ever (because she didn’t know it was my birthday), when my friend, the amazingly wonderful and hugely tremendous Erica, got two members of the Brady Bunch to address me on video. I’m still sweating.

Earlier this month Jim and I left town again, this time to go on a cruise to the Bahamas, with an overnight stop in South Beach. (I highly recommend heading to the islands during December.)

Melisa and Jim at the beach

I also wrote about finding my inner pirate at Neverland, gave you guys a peek into the five hundred millionth reason why I love my husband, and, yesterday, wrote an empty nester post that is actually syndicated on BlogHer today! (Thanks, BlogHer!)

I can’t say I’m in as much of a hurry as most of my friends are for 2014 to be over; it’s been a pretty darn good year for me. That said, I’m in complete favor of moving forward, saying goodbye to it, and welcoming 2015 with open arms because I’ve got some new adventures in the hopper and I can’t wait to get started. So let’s go! I’m wishing you and your loved ones a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

Happy 2015!

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It’s Just A Table…Or Is It?

Something happened last week that made me realize that I’ve spent a whole lot of time reflecting on the changes Jim and I (and this house) have gone through since J left for college (when we officially became empty nesters), but next to no time (okay, no time at all) reflecting on any changes the boys have gone through in regards to the two of us and this house.

Let me try and make some sense.

In my parental mind, I naively assumed that once the boys were settled in at college—or in an apartment, or whatever—that was it; their adjustment was made. That’s not necessarily true, as I just learned. Assimilation into their new lifestyle is only part of it and that comes relatively quickly. Figuring out that their old home can be different in many ways is the other part.

That’s where the table came in last week.

We have this awesome antique gate-leg table that belonged to my grandparents. Their Chicago bungalow had a very small dining room and the table worked well in that house because the two ends folded down to make it more compact. Grandma kept the table pushed up against the dining room wall so it was out of the way except when she had visitors, and sometimes not only unfolded the ends but also added a leaf to the center.

My mom gave Jim and me that table years ago, and I love having it in my own home. The difference is that until recently we always kept it unfolded in the center of the dining room because when the boys were around we always had four or more people seated there.

Table unfolded

In early November we were preparing for our dining room windows to be replaced, so I folded the ends of the table down and repositioned it against the dining room wall (just like Grandma did) so it wouldn’t be in the way of the contractors. After the windows were done, we left the table exactly where it was until Thanksgiving, when we set it back up so seven people could sit there. After everyone went back home after the weekend the table was folded and pushed against the wall again because Jim and I just don’t sit there.

Table folded

Last week the boys asked if I wanted them to get the table unfolded so we could get ready for dinner and I said, “Yes please!” One of them said, “Okay and we’ll put it back in the middle where it belongs, too.”

I said, “No need for that. Just leave it near the wall and unfold the one end.”

I got this from both of them:

*blink, blink*

One of them said something along the lines of “But it goes in the middle. We can put it there!”

Jim then jumped in and said, “No thanks, guys! We’re just going to fold it back down when we’re done with it this week. Mom and I either eat here (patting the kitchen island) or down in the family room. We don’t use that table when it’s just the two of us.”

They seemed stunned for a second but then shrugged and set up the table how we asked.

Usually when kids grow up and leave their home for college or other forms of the real world, the talk is mostly about what the parents are going to do to their bedrooms. A new office? A workout space? New bedding and accessories to make it a guest room? You don’t hear much about how parents prepare their kids for how life changes for those still in the house, other than superficial comments about how we have to purchase less food or might be able to travel more.

Did Jim and I ever have a real conversation with our boys about how our day-to-day lives were going to change? No. I don’t think anyone thought it was necessary…and maybe it isn’t.

Speaking as one of the parents, we likely didn’t think about having that conversation because it never occurred to us that on some level it might matter to them. (To be clear, I’m not saying that I think our sons don’t care, but who thinks about these things?? That’s why I’m writing this.) I can’t speak for my kids but my guess is that they just assumed that it would, for the most part, be business as usual around here because why would they imagine otherwise? “Business as usual” is all they’ve known.

I don’t know if a quick conversation is or was ever necessary to prepare our kids for how things at home might really change. I don’t even think we knew, ourselves. What I do know is that, as a parent, seeing that unexpected flash of *blink blink* in my kids’ faces like I did last week made me feel like I was watching one of those split-second “here’s another way I am growing up” milestones and, for that split-second, it made me a little sad. Just for a split second. Then, just like that flash of *blink blink*, the sadness was gone.

Because in the end, the more things change, the more they stay the same. They’ll always be a part of us and our home, and we’re happy to unfold that table for them anytime, any day of the week.

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And The Winners Are…

I just posted a video of J doing the drawing for the year of Netflix and the $75 Target gift card, which were won by Kizz R. and Ruth, respectively. You can check out the video on Facebook HERE.

Thanks to everyone who entered; I wish I could send you all something, other than hugs…which are on the way for sure.

Happy Friday!

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Just A Traditional Christmas Around Here…

December 25th already? Wow! This year has flown!

Today, in honor of it being Christmas and all, the Wells family is planning to—as tradition indicates—see a movie (“Unbroken”) and then, of course, enjoy the Chinese food that Jim will make for dinner. Same fun stuff, different fun year.

Besides that? Well, you know:

Merry Christmas to all of you who are celebrating!

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Passing My Gifts On To The Next Generation

Presenting the special people in my life with gifts is one of my very favorite things to do in the entire world. I mean, you have no idea.

Last year I wrote about the method behind my gift-giving madness:

“I’m the type of person that will remember something you casually mention you like for ten full months until your birthday so I can get it, wrap it in pretty paper, and present it to you as if I bought it on a whim. I have bookmarked things online that family and friends share because they think they’re cool, pretty, awesome, or whatever, for later gift consideration. I will buy something at the store if it reminds me of you, and sometimes I’ll save it for your birthday or Hanukkah or Christmas but sometimes I’ll just box it up and put it in the mail (or bring it to you personally) because I know it will make your day.”

Oh, and the “saving for later” part? Sometimes nearly kills me. The waiting really IS the hardest part. You hit the nail right on the head, Tom Petty.

Obviously it’s also very fun to be on the other end of the gift-giving process, especially when the giver uses the same methodology. I was reminded of that last night when J handed me a Hanukkah gift bag and said, “This one’s for you, Mom.”

I pulled three items out of the bag: my favorite tea, an infuser, and a huge skein of yarn:

Hanukkah gifts

Now, at first glance, you already know this is a great gift because it includes my favorite tea. Good job, you. (and him.)

What you wouldn’t be able to pick up is that this is a perfectly thoughtful and perfectly perfect gift for another reason, because it also includes the yarn. I do not knit or crochet, but the yarn in combination with the tea and the infuser allude to a particularly hilarious exchange that J and I had last month after dealing with an extremely passionate/aggressive saleswoman at our local Teavana store. The specifics don’t matter here; it’s one of those things that you would probably only find hysterical if you had been there with us. Oh, how I laughed when I opened that gift! I love that guy.

The tea? Yummy. It won’t last long. For real.
The infuser? Awesome. I can always use another infuser; putting this one into my travel bag because you never know.
The yarn? Pretty. I just might learn to knit or crochet one of these days.
The knowledge that I have a kid who is carrying on my gift-giving traditions? Well, that’s perhaps the best gift of all.

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Keepers

This past weekend I spent a few hours filing approximately 1300 emails that were just sitting in my inbox, driving me insane. A cluttered inbox equals a cluttered mind, and I’ve been all cluttery since about April.

Many of the 1300 emails were LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER-related, of course, in ALL! THE! CATEGORIES! My extensive collection of not-really-used-since-April email file folders includes a LTYM folder as well as sub-folders for the Chicago show, the national team, and all twelve of the new cities I’m working with this season.

And that’s just LTYM; don’t get me started on all of the other folders. It’s quite a system. When I use it, that is.

My very favorite folder is the one I call “Keepers”, and every now and then I spend some time visiting it. Some of my favorite emails in there came from Jim, back in 2002.

Back then, the company Jim worked for went out of business and I begged my employer, a health club, if I could increase to forty hours (plus the water aerobics classes I was teaching), so that I could help stretch our family budget a little further while we lived on Jim’s severance. I agreed, at my boss’ request, to continue working full-time once Jim found another job (it only took him a couple of months, shew!) and thus began my least satisfying, most frustrating, and darkest career era ever ever ever, which lasted for two years. I liked my job when it was part-time but the perfect storm was going on at work (re-orgs and other drama) when I increased my hours and I was miserable. I used to cry every night and hated to leave the house in the morning.

One day, Jim started sending me funny poems to make me smile. He never liked poetry (reading OR writing) in school but because he is the best and most thoughtful husband ever, he went ahead and tried it. I have fourteen poems in that “Keepers” folder. FOURTEEN!

All fourteen are—though not literary works of art—awesome and funny and sweet, and they are special to me because they were written by the man I love and they helped bring my sunshine back.

That said, I can only share this one because all of the others have, cough cough, an element or two that isn’t for public consumption.

We’ll be having pizza for dinner
That sounds like a winner

How long do you think you’ll be at the pool?
You know I don’t want to look like a fool

By letting the pizza get cold
Hopefully before we grow old

I’m glad you are having a quiet day
Aren’t you glad you’re not working on eBay?

I hope D is feeling better
But, look on the bright side, at least he’s not a bed wetter!

It was a super sucky time back then. I was never as consistently unhappy at work before that and haven’t been as consistently unhappy at work since. I count my lucky stars every day that I am living this life with a guy who is not only there for all of the good stuff but makes extra efforts to lift me up when I’m down (and I try to return the favor when I can). For better or worse: absolutely. I’m definitely keeping him.

Melisa and Jim at the beach

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Holiday Homestretch

I’m not sure about you, but this week has been absolutely insane for me. It’s unusual in my case: I typically slide into Christmas week nearly stress-free with very little on my plate. This year, for some reason, I’m swamped. (I’m sure it has nothing to do with working and having a few major projects in the hopper at the same time.) We’re in the middle of Hanukkah, which is a minor holiday and isn’t causing any issues for me, so at least that part is normal.

Third night of Hanukkah

I will likely feel much better at the end of today. It’s Friday, and after today my work just goes into maintenance mode for the holiday week. I’m looking forward to next week for a few reasons:

1. On Wednesday (otherwise known as Christmas Eve to those who celebrate), it’s the third annual “Jew Help A Christian Day”. I’ll be heading over to Jen’s house again and basically doing her bidding to help her family get ready for their holiday. A little birdie told me that I’ll be decorating cookies and zesting lemons. I haven’t heard anything about pomegranate smacking, which makes me kind of sad because that was so much fun last year, but the cookies and lemons will be fun too, I’m sure. (I have fun with pretty much anything Jen asks me to do on Christmas Eve. But don’t tell her that because it might make her test that theory.)

2. When I go home from Jen’s it’ll be time to get ready for my own family’s dinner: we’re doing our Hanukkah Latkepalooza on Wednesday night. Hanukkah will be over by then but D doesn’t come home until Tuesday evening so the scheduling had to be adjusted. I’ll be making latkes, blintzes, and noodle kugel. The house is going to smell like grease for days, and it’ll be glorious.

3. On Thursday (Christmas Day for most of you), we’ll be catching a movie and eating Chinese food as is required by Jew code. Christmas is always a fun and peaceful family day and I can’t wait.

How’s your week going? Are you feeling stressed? On top of the world? Getting it done or falling dreadfully behind? (I guess if you’re reading this, you’re not doing too badly!)

I’m sending productive and happy thoughts to all of you. Oh and by the way, don’t forget to take a moment to enter my two giveaways:

$75 Target gift card
and
One year of Netflix

Happy Friday, you guys. Let’s make it a good one!

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Celebrating Holiday Traditions With Target

I was thrilled when the folks at Target asked me to write a post about one of my favorite Chicago area holiday traditions. After they provided me with a gift card to purchase items that I thought could enhance the fun, they just turned me loose and let me do my thang. (Thanks, Target! This was fun!) All words and opinions are mine, as usual! Oh, and stick around for the end: I’m giving away a $75 Target gift card to one of you lucky readers!

[click to continue…]

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