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Quality of Life

Advance apologies: this might be difficult for you to read, but I had to get it out, for myself.

Roxie

This dog.

Twelve days ago I was walking her down the street, both of us happy as could be.

Today, we said goodbye to her.

She was happiest when she was outside, running down the sidewalk.
Actually, she was happiest when she was eating any kind of food: hers or ours. (Beagles, man.) But getting out on the leash was a close second.

She was only eleven, one month short of twelve.
Our beloved vet, Dr. Withers–who has seen Roxie ever since she was getting puppy shots–has been telling me for the last couple of years that with her great health, spirited personality, and penchant for shenanigans even now as an older dog, he could see her as “one of those beagles that lives to be fourteen or fifteen years old”.
Obviously that was just a prediction based on observation and not a guarantee, but I agreed with him. I believed it myself, and I truly feel cheated.
This was too soon, and so damn unexpected.

A week and a half ago we discovered a problem with her eye, and that same day she started losing her balance. After vet visits and an eye specialist and steroids and painkillers and antibiotics and blood tests and eliminating certain theories before moving onto the next step and then a very steep decline in her state of being, we arrived at the neurologist, yesterday. She ruled out the illnesses that would’ve started improving with the meds and then ruled out a stroke (which was Jim’s and my theory) and concluded that–although more tests would be needed to absolutely confirm–considering her expertise and what she was seeing in the dog in front of her, she was worried that there was a brain tumor and/or a problem at the brain stem. And so we found peace in the decision we had told the neurologist we were strongly leaning into, because our girl’s quality of life had gone from probably 95% two weeks ago to nearly zero as of yesterday, when she needed assistance even to stand up.

I received the email containing the neurologist’s full report of our visit only two hours after we returned home. I read it several times and kept hanging on the one line near the end:

“The Wells Family is very concerned about Roxie’s quality of life and do not wish to pursue extensive testing; they would like to spend some time with her and will likely elect for humane euthanasia with Dr. Withers tomorrow.”

That.

While agonizing and heart-shattering, we have done right by her.

I completely knew she was going to be Trouble with a Capital T from Day One; all the signs were there. On our way home from picking her up at eight weeks old, she bit into one of the glass beads on the bracelet I was wearing and broke it. We hadn’t even gotten her home for the first time yet.

She electrocuted herself before she was even a year old. I was playing with her, tossing the ball around in the basement. When I wasn’t looking, she forgot about the ball and bit right through a wire. I did everything you’re not supposed to do: I basically grabbed her and pried her mouth off of the live wire. It was terrifying, as was the visit to the emergency vet. She survived that, though.

She has been extremely annoying (and, on occasion, cheated death) by finding and consuming baking cocoa, assorted chocolates including Hanukkah gelt WITH the foil wrappers, candy canes, entire packs of gum, whole loaves of wheat bread, whole loaves of chocolate chip banana bread, glasses of milk and Coca Cola, unattended sandwiches, and many more things I can’t recall at the moment because my mind keeps going back to last year’s Valentine’s Day Massacre, in which she ate a little bit of every treat I put into gift bags for the boys EXCEPT for the Flaming Hot Cheetos and then got sick all over the house, leaving a mess that took Jim and me nearly an hour to clean up.

She also survived two adventures away from home (she snuck out by squeezing under the fence somehow), one of them ending up at the office of an apartment complex behind our subdivision. The handyman called my number and told me that he saw her running down the golf course, ears flapping in the wind. When she arrived at the office she had a great time saying hello to everyone there, and when I rushed over to pick her up, she didn’t care that I had arrived at all, soaking up the attention from everyone else.

Typical.

I was never her true favorite, which was a little frustrating considering that I was the one who wanted her the most. I was the one who was her primary caregiver. I spoiled her. I was the one who constantly humanized her but then when she got into trouble, rationalized that it was because she was “just a dog, after all.” She was not a cuddler like our Late, Great Bijoux. She loved, like she did everything else, on her own terms. Her love language where I was concerned consisted of following me everywhere, being in my general area but very rarely in my personal space. I couldn’t get up from the family room couch to go use the bathroom fifteen feet away without hearing her nose poke at the door. But there was no snuggling up to me on that couch: she usually sprawled out on the other end. Even when I let her sleep in our bed when Jim was on business trips, she stayed on his side of the bed, usually under the covers up to her neck with her head on his pillow.

She loved him, her Alpha, so much. And as much as he’s always been a tough-talker about the “damn dog”, he’s also well known for sweet talking her in funny voices and giving her so much love. I loved watching her nuzzle into his neck when he got home from work, sometimes gently smacking his face with her paws if she didn’t feel like he was being attentive enough. She would let him bite her ears when they were playing, and when he roughhoused with her she came back for more, constantly. I could stand on the back patio and call for her to come in from the yard a hundred times and she would act like she couldn’t hear a thing. Jim could stay seated in his chair and call her one time through the window screen and she’d come running. This loss is every bit as difficult for him as it is for me, I know it is.

And the boys. We had a family meeting on Sunday because we wanted to let J know that she might not still be here when he returns home for spring break. That was tough. I could be wrong but I’m pretty sure the only two times my boys have ever seen me wail desperately were at the end of our two dogs’ lives. It was a rough discussion, and they are so saddened, too. J is at school but D was in the room with us at the end. The drive home was silent except for the crying.

I have cried more than I thought humanly possible this week. I spent a crazy amount of time sobbing into her fur because here at the end, she gave me the enormous gift of her presence in my personal space. I sat for hours with all thirty pounds of her molded against my chest and stomach as I petted her and whispered in her ear. Although the circumstances were highly abnormal and completely awful, I appreciated and will always remember all of the times I was able to hold her close over the past few days.

And even in the end, she was making me laugh. She refused to eat some of her favorite foods yesterday, gingerly sniffing the bowl of chicken and rice I made and then literally spitting out the rice while eating the chicken. Just a few days ago she would have fallen all over herself to get across the room and accept a corner of my PB&J sandwich but yesterday she turned her nose up at that, and seconds later happily munched on the Fritos I offered. She was continuing her tradition of “Her way or the highway”, and I was fine with it.

Sharing her adventures online has been a blessing. Where I felt a weird sense of panic when Bijoux died because I was worried I would forget the details of her life and ended up furiously typing out everything I could remember over the next week or two, it’s different with Roxie because I’ve been doing it all along, right here. I only have to click a few times to see some puppy pictures or relive the time she massacred Bobo the Blue Dog or the time I thought she killed a small animal but she really only killed a tomato or the time she put herself in “danger” by destroying my sister’s special holiday gift from Maker’s Mark or…well, you get the idea. (And she’s all over my Facebook and Instagram accounts, too.) Thanks to blogging and social media in general, today I have a little peace of mind where memories of Roxie are concerned.

She was loved. Well loved. I would give anything to have her back here, being a general pain in my butt, stealthily (and repeatedly) bypassing the cabinet “lock” to get into the kitchen trash, dumping my purse out all over the floor to find some gum when I leave the room for only two minutes, and even barking her fool head off. Since that can’t happen, I’ll just imagine her with a renewed quality of life, running to Bijoux on that Rainbow Bridge, ears flapping in the wind, so they can compare notes.

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Donna Day 2016

Today is the 5th annual Donna Day! Once again I am joining a huge group of bloggers and other supporters in promoting a special event meant to raise money for pediatric cancer research.

Donna Day is named for the daughter of my friend (and 2013 LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER CHICAGO cast member) Sheila Quirke. Sheila blogs under the name Mary Tyler Mom and you can find her blog HERE. Sheila and her husband Jeremy lost Donna to pediatric cancer in 2009. Donna’s Cancer Story is documented in a series of thirty-two posts that Sheila wrote.

Sweet Donna. Photo courtesy of Sheila Quirke

Sweet Donna. Photo courtesy of Sheila Quirke

How is childhood cancer different from cancer in adults? Read THIS.

Pediatric cancer research is TRAGICALLY underfunded. More information on that HERE.

Donna’s Good Things, the org founded in Donna’s name by a friend of the family, is once again hosting a St. Baldrick’s Foundation head shaving event to benefit pediatric cancer research at the Candelite in Chicago. The event will take place on March 19 from 2:00-4:00. Please consider attending if you’re local, and donating! More info on the event is HERE.

The Donna’s Good Things team has raised more than $373,470 for St. Baldricks in four years, which is completely amazing. Please consider adding to that total. Any donation, no matter the size, can help them reach their goal for this year. You all know that a lot of little things add up, so if you have five dollars to spare, please consider clicking over to the team page and click the green “Donate” button. If you want to get your head shaved as part of “Donna’s Good Things”, you can sign up there, too.

Thank you so much, and Happy Donna Day!

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Like Food, Drinks, Fun, and Shopping? Go To Rosemont!

If you know me at all, you know that I don’t hesitate when offered a chance to travel somewhere and spend a night in a hotel room, even if it’s close to my house. That’s why, when the Village of Rosemont in conjunction with the Loews Chicago O’Hare Hotel, recently invited me to do just that, I responded within seconds of reading the email.

Disclosure: I was provided with complimentary accommodations, food, and drink during our overnighter. I’m sharing my own experience here, and all opinions and photos are mine.

Rosemont, which is only 2.5 square miles in size, is located about twenty-five minutes away from my house (and thirty minutes from Chicago’s city center), right outside of O’Hare airport. Even though it’s tiny in size, Rosemont is jam-packed with all kinds of things to do, places to stay, and things to eat, geared towards locals and travelers alike. The village, which just celebrated its 60th anniversary, is home to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center (which attracts more than 200 million guests to tradeshows, conventions, and public events each year), the Allstate Arena (which hosts concerts, sporting events, and family programming), and the Rosemont Theatre (which hosts more than 100 performances each year).

Rosemont sign

Our first stop was at the Loews Chicago O’Hare Hotel, where we checked in for the night. It was no surprise to me, having stayed at the downtown Loews twice before, that our room was beautiful and luxurious. Staying at a Loews hotel means you’re getting spoiled. Oops, I mean I’M getting spoiled.

Loews Hotel O'Hare Rosemont

The Loews Chicago O’Hare Hotel has 556 guest rooms and its very own art gallery. It is also home to The Ashburn (named for Chicago’s first airport, the Ashburn Flying Field), a gastro-pub that features modern takes on classic dishes, micro brews, and signature cocktails like this Snowbelt, featuring Tito’s Vodka, Di Saronno, apple, and cinnamon. Okay, I admit it: I enjoyed two.

Snowbelt cocktail at the Ashburn

The Ashburn serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and is open until 1:00 a.m.

After hanging out in The Ashburn for a while, we boarded the hotel shuttle to check out MB Financial Park, which is the 200,000 square foot entertainment district in Rosemont. MB Financial Park is home to eight awesome restaurants (soon to be nine with the addition of Lettuce Entertain You’s Bub City), iFLY Indoor Skydiving, and Zanies Comedy Club as well as Big 10 and the Muvico Theater complex. The restaurants surround a 30,000 square foot Great Lawn, on which you’ll find concerts and festivals during the summer and ice skating, hockey, and tubing during the winter (“Frozemont” is going on through February 28).

Jim and I hit up MB Financial Park now and then when one of us is picking up the other at O’Hare. Popping in there for dinner on the way home from the airport (and waiting for rush hour traffic to subside) is a rather delicious idea, don’t you think? Hofbräuhaus Chicago and Fogo de Chao have been our go-to restaurants but after the whirlwind restaurant crawl we experienced, we have plans to change it up with ALL THE RESTAURANTS.

When our group was told that we’d be doing this restaurant crawl and trying food and drink at every single place in MB Financial Park, I was pretty excited. I’m glad I arrived hungry. Should’ve worn comfier pants though.

Our first stop was at Sugar Factory American Brasserie. Sugar Factory has an “MTV meets Willy Wonka” feel to its restaurant, chocolate lounge, retail store, and goblet/daiquiri bar. Those smoking goblets. OMG.

Lollipop Passion Goblet and Ocean Blue Goblet

On the way out we were given little candy buckets to fill. Best goody bag ever!

Sugar Factory

We enjoyed caipirhinas and mini sliders at Fogo de Chao, fish and chips (and some of us, beer) at Five Roses Pub, pretzels (and some of us, beer) at Hofbräuhaus Chicago, flatbreads, mac and cheese, and cocktails at King’s Bowl, Irish Soda and Peach Sangria at Park Tavern, guacamole made tableside and drinks at Adobe Gila’s, something else at Muvico Theater’s Bogart’s Bar and Grill…I mean, I can’t remember it all. I blame all the cocktail samples and my neglect in taking good notes.

Hofbrauhaus Chicago

Summary: EVERYTHING we ate and drank was delicious, no joke. I thought I’d never be hungry again…and then it was time for us to choose our evening entertainment. The choices? iFLY Indoor Parachuting, bowling at King’s, or a stand-up comedy show at Zanies. Jim and I choose stand-up comedy over just about anything, all the time, so Zanies was it!

Zanies Chicago

Every seat in the house at Rosemont’s Zanies is great, and the room was jam-packed when we were there. The headliner that night was James Davis, and he was a riot: we’d love to see him again! There is a two-item minimum for all guests, so I checked out the drink menu. I love a drink menu whose items are all named after people. By the way, I thoroughly enjoyed the drink named for Kathy Griffin. Twice. Ahem.

After all of that fun, we waddled (funny visual but SERIOUSLY) back to the hotel shuttle so we could get a good night’s sleep. And sleep we did! Did I mention how cozy the beds are at Loews hotels?

In the morning we enjoyed a superb breakfast buffet back at The Ashburn before heading out to the shuttle again, for the short ride to the Fashion Outlets of Chicago.

Breakfast Buffet at the Ashburn

The Fashion Outlets of Chicago is a two-level indoor shopping center that has more than 130 designer outlets. It’s anchored by Bloomingdales’s The Outlet Store, Forever 21, Last Call by Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th. You can find world-class brands like Tory Burch, Michael Kors, Prada, Gucci, Swarovski, and so many others (Banana Republic, The Art of Shaving, J. Crew, Burberry…I could name names all day!).

Fashion Outlets of Chicago

Full disclosure: I’m not a clothing designer brand person, so Jim and I “skimmed” the clothing stores and mostly visited other categories while at the Fashion Outlets of Chicago. Lolli & Pops is a neat candy store that carries a good variety of international brands, and my day was made when we found REAL Caramello bars made by the REAL Cadbury company, in England.

Lolli & Pops at Fashion Outlets of Chicago

Le Creuset is a top-notch kitchen brand and I could swoon over their products all day long. We watched a stir fry demo that caused me to put their wok on my wish list.

Le Creuset at Fashion Outlets of Chicago

Something I found extremely unique about the Fashion Outlets of Chicago is their Concierge Services, which is like a regular mall’s Information Booth on steroids. Here, the Concierge Services will answer questions of course, but also make restaurant reservations, check coats (and LUGGAGE for travelers who are burning up a long layover by shopping; by the way, there’s a Go Airport express shuttle running between this shopping center and the terminals at O’Hare!), and assist with other assorted needs to enhance the shopping experience of their visitors. Other travel services include printing boarding passes, exchange of currency, and translation services. Shoppers can even text their questions to 847-957-4600.

After a full evening of eating and drinking, a night of great sleep, and a morning of shopping, we left Rosemont rested but energized and planning our next visit with intention. I definitely recommend that you check out the village for yourself: there’s something for everyone!

Many, many thanks to the Village of Rosemont, MB Financial Park (and all the venues there), and The Fashion Outlets of Chicago for an incredible experience and honestly, one of the most well-planned media tours I’ve ever enjoyed.

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Chelsea Does…Netflix #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 been a fan of Chelsea Handler’s for years. She’s known for being a “shock jock”-style comedian, host of “Chelsea Lately”, E! network’s late night talk show (2007-2014) and author of several books including Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea. She’s sarcastic, inappropriate, and completely hilarious.

When I read that Chelsea was going to do a Netflix Original Documentary Series, I was intrigued and excited to watch. “Chelsea Does…” is a series of four documentaries in which she immerses herself in learning about Marriage, Silicon Valley, Racism, and Drugs.

Chelsea Does

Each of the four documentaries can easily stand on its own; for the purposes of writing this post I went ahead and binged all four at once.

What all four installments of “Chelsea Does…” have in common:
1. Footage of a conversation she has about the given topic with a few of her friends (comedians and actors; the group is different in all four)
2. Footage of Chelsea talking to her psychologist about each topic
3. Chelsea travels to further investigate each topic (Marriage–Las Vegas, Silicon Valley–Silicon Valley, Racism–the Deep South, Drugs–Peru)
4. Chelsea’s dog, Chunk

I found all four fascinating, and had some laughs watching Chelsea ask questions that many wouldn’t ask themselves. The footage of Chelsea asking children about their thoughts on marriage was priceless, and the app idea (“Gotta Go”) she pitched a Silicon Valley company had me in stitches. The Racism installment brought me to tears and the Drug installment made me a little uncomfortable, but I learned so much while being entertained at the same time.

Chelsea’s not for everybody (and I don’t think she gives a &#$*, either!), but “Chelsea Does…” is definitely a must-see, especially if you like your documentaries on the unique and funny side. By the way, like anything else Chelsea Handler produces, “Chelsea Does…” is not recommended for children. Not by a long shot.

Have you watched yet? What did you think?

I’ll end with this programming note: just a little more than two weeks until “Fuller House” hits Netflix! The new trailer is HERE…Mark your calendar for February 26 and let’s binge-watch together!

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Missy.

In case you didn’t hear me shrieking yesterday during Super Bowl 50, Missy Elliott followed me on Twitter.

Yes, THE Missy Elliott.

One minute I was tweeting a reply (“I’d like to see Missy Elliott back up there!”) to Sirius XM’s question about who else I’d like to see on stage with Coldplay, Bruno Mars, and Beyonce, and the next minute, Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott herself was following me.

Missy Elliott followed you

And that’s when the evening took on an ALL CAPS flavor. (Apologies to my friends. I know how annoying that is, but MISSY ELLIOTT, YOU GUYS.)

I was so excited about it that I was doing a little bit of tearing up and sweating, very much like when Christopher Knight and Florence Henderson spoke directly to me the day before my birthday a couple of years ago.

I mean, MY LIFE.

I fully realize these people put their pants on one leg at a time just like I do. And heck, I have lots and lots of friends who are also doing spectacular things professionally just like celebrities: they just aren’t in industries that shine a bright spotlight. (A bunch of them should be, though!) I shouldn’t go weak in the knees at being noticed for a fraction of a split-second by somebody famous. But I do. I have. I did. Not sorry at all.

It only took a few minutes for my sass to kick in and tag Missy:

My new follower Missy

And then after I recovered a little bit, I started thinking about those marionettes in the “WTF” video.

Missy Elliott

By the way, I do believe I am responsible for approximately 2,435,821 of the 33,000,000+ views this video currently has on YouTube. (I wrote about it in November, here.) Make that 2,435,822.

Twenty-three-year-old D returned home from the Super Bowl party he attended and was more impressed by my new Twitter follower than perhaps anything else I’ve done in the last ten years (even though I didn’t “do” this). I had to show it to him so he would truly believe me, and then he started screaming too, and then he said, “WAIT, you can send her a direct message now??” and I said, “Yep!” Then he suddently started barking out messages that he wanted me to send to Missy Elliott on his behalf even though as far as I know the only time he’s ever listened to her music was when he used to ride in my car and I put him through listening to her album “Under Construction” on repeat for months and months. It’s okay, though. That prepared him for this day.

Anyway, I may not always remember that the Broncos won Super Bowl 50, but I will always remember that it was on this Super Bowl Sunday that one of my favorite artists in the whole wide world, of all time, followed me on Twitter. It was a good day.

Now…Monday, whatchu got?

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Candy Girl

Over the weekend while at a candy store I came across some Spree candy in a bulk container and paused for a moment. I hadn’t enjoyed Sprees in years, as in “I can’t REMEMBER the last time I enjoyed Sprees but I think it may have been the early eighties”. Honestly, I couldn’t even remember what they tasted like other than my childhood. After standing there for a moment staring at the colorful disks, I reached for the scoop to put some in one of those “fill-your-own” buckets.

When I was six or seven, I attended the birthday party of my cousin, who’s just a year older. My aunt came up with a scavenger hunt game to keep the party guests busy in the basement—now that I’m a mom, I really want to know what the adults were doing upstairs, by the way—and we were very excited because we were told that we would be searching for candy.

Okay, now that I think about it, it couldn’t have been THAT extensive of a scavenger hunt. Like me, my cousin lived in a small townhouse. The basement was fairly tiny.

ANYWAY, I vividly remember that guest after guest found candy bar after candy bar, and I was becoming frustrated. Finally, I opened the washing machine and—WAHOO! I had to climb up onto the washer in order to reach inside, but I claimed the brand-new roll of Sprees and then did a little victory dance. Although we lived only a couple of miles apart and visited frequently, I wouldn’t be able to tell you anything about what my cousin’s bedroom looked like, but I remember finding those Sprees in the washing machine like it happened yesterday.

Candy is just like music for me, in that it has the power to take me to another place. (Sentimental much?) It may stem from the fact that, ever since I can remember, my mom has always checked dessert menus before the dinner menus when eating out. This way she can plan how much (or how little) she wants to eat for the main course. She doesn’t like to eat too much, should there be some amazing chocolate creation available afterwards. SWEETS ARE IMPORTANT TO MY FAMILY.

Take Heath bars, for example. Those chocolate-covered bars of toffee goodness were my late Grandpa’s favorite. I will grab a Heath bar on a road trip or anytime I’m feeling a little sentimental about that amazing man. Heath ICE CREAM bars? Oh my gosh. Love those.

When I was a kid, $100,000 Bars were my favorite, in taste and name. (I’m still angry that Nestlé got lazy and changed the name to 100 Grand.) I usually buy a bag of these along with all of the other kinds of Halloween candy I plan to hand out to trick-or-treaters but then hide the 100 Grands in the back of the kitchen cabinet because “Oopsie, how did we miss THAT bag? Oh well. Guess we’ll have to eat them.”

Traditional Caramello bars (as in, from the eighties, and they don’t make ’em like that anymore) remind me of Jim because every single time we would stop in a gas station to pick up candy when we were dating, he would grab a Caramello. We found the ones made by (Real) Cadbury in (Real) England over the weekend and scooped up a few, for old times’ sake.

Almond Joy has been my favorite candy bar for years. It happens to be Liz’s too. (#Twinsies) Ever since we had that moment that went, “What? You love Almond Joys? I LOVE ALMOND JOYS TOO!” we’ve been ritually snarfing down Almond Joys late at night when we travel together, and taking occasional “Look at me, I’m eating an Almond Joy. Jealous?” selfies, which we immediately text to the other. Yesterday on her train ride home she found a forgotten one in her bag that was leftover from the Los Angeles trip and she sent me a picture of it.

Sometimes you feel like a nut; sometimes you don't.

Sometimes you feel like a nut; sometimes you don’t.

Indeed I was immediately jealous and actually went to my kitchen to see if I had one stashed somewhere, but my search was fruitless. Or Almond Joy-less. Sigh.

Now that I’ve reminisced about my favorite candies, I need to go grab the rest of those Sprees. What are your favorites, and why?

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The Netflix #StreamTeam: Taking It Back. Way Back.

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!

One of my favorite things about Netflix is the ability to go back and rewatch television shows from when I was much younger. Or just a little younger. (or to watch television shows that I missed the first time around, frankly.) I’ve written about this before: some of my best TV memories are right THERE waiting for me, and I can access any episodes I’d like to watch at any given moment with just a couple of clicks. Since Netflix is adding new (and old) stuff all the time, I check regularly and am constantly updating My List.

A few that reside on My List right now?

The Munsters
A Different World
Emergency! (OMG YES! Randolph Mantoooooooth)
The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries
The Wonder Years
Cheers
Friends (of course)

Also, Mad Men will forever and ever be on My List as long as Netflix carries it, amen. In fact, I was texting with a couple of friends the other day about Don Draper’s adventures; one of those friends had just finally finished the series. It made me long to watch the entire thing all over again. Fun fact: when the second half of Season 7 was originally broadcast last spring, we hadn’t yet gotten our cable channels back and I ended up buying all of those episodes as soon as they were available even though I knew Netflix would get them eventually. I was impatient. No regrets. That said, the second half of Season 7 will be on Netflix starting February 5, so if you need to see (almost all of) those storylines wrapped up into a neat little bow, mark your calendar.

And February 26? Have mercy!! FULLER HOUSE, a Netflix Original Series, will be available for our viewing pleasure. I CANNOT WAIT. The original “Full House” was one of those “warm and fuzzy with a side of cheeseball” sitcoms that I absolutely loved, and I’m thrilled that the entire original cast is back for this update. Well, with one (two) notable exception(s): Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen will not reprise the role of little Michelle. I’m a little bummed that we won’t get to hear either of them exclaim, “You got it, Dude!” as adults, but I think Uncle Joey still feeling the need to exclaim “Cut! It! Out!” in 2016 might make up for that. Will you be watching?

All I know is, I’d better figure out how to make some more time for streaming in my schedule.

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I Love L.A.

I just returned from a visit to the site of the #BlogHer16 conference in Los Angeles. I love L.A.

I. LOVE. IT.

Of course, my rose-colored glasses were deeply tinted on this trip, what with the “late January getaway from Chicago winter” and the “spending three and a half days with the most awesome team ever” elements. Los Angeles was a dream, and I wish I could’ve “slept” a little longer. Literally and figuratively.

On the way out, I got to walk through my favorite corridor at O’Hare airport.

ORD neon

Of course, when I was sitting at the gate in the middle of a flight delay that would last nearly two hours I forgot all about that neon happiness. Glad I took a picture.

Finally we took off and, after meeting Liz at LAX, we made our way over to the JW Marriott at LA Live right in the center of downtown Los Angeles.

The next couple of days were extremely awesome. I love my job. I love my co-workers. Getting to work in the same room is very rare for all of us: it only happens a few times each year. It makes me giddy, quite literally. It was better than ever this time, thanks to the fact that we have a newly-expanded events team, and I will tell you that if you have not purchased a ticket to the conference because you’re on the fence for some reason, just buy it now while Earlybird pricing is still in effect. No, I was not asked to plug the conference. I just happen to have a lot of work pride and having a seat in the meeting room where so many magical ideas were presented, I’m really just doing you a favor. Plan to attend. It’s going to be the best BlogHer annual conference yet. YES WE SAY THAT EVERY YEAR, but we also mean it. (Register here.)

Me, my sistuh from anuthuh muthuh, and my lil Bop Bop

Me, my sistuh from anuthuh muthuh, and my lil Bop Bop

One of the very best things about working behind the scenes on a BlogHer conference is that we have an excellent work/fun balance. We work VERY hard, but there is always always always a lot of laughter plus a few shenanigans sprinkled in there too.

Lori, Jen, Liz, Me, and Kathy  (Mwah!)

Lori, Jen, Liz, Me, and Kathy
(Mwah!)

There’s not a lot of sleep, however. My body happens to HATE the west coast, refusing to reset its clock and thus making me wake up at 3:30 am Pacific, each and every day. I was able to get a couple of short bursts of sleep beyond that but definitely not enough. Anyway, it was totally worth it.

New fave pic of Liz and me.

New fave pic of Liz and me.

Liz and I immensely enjoyed unwinding each evening on the patio that was outside our hotel room. Definitely a favorite part of the trip.

Having a patio outside our hotel room did not suck.

Having a patio outside our hotel room did not suck.

As for the rest of the hotel, it’s also amazing. It’s spacious with lots of places for bloggers to hang out, connect, and laugh together.

JW Marriott at LA Live lobby

The pool area is gorgeous, too. I know it’ll be a popular hang-out spot.

JW Marriott at LA Live pool

We checked out where the sessions, expo, and keynotes will take place. We are super excited for this conference, but I said that already. I hope to see you there.

As for the area surrounding the hotel? Well, it’s Los Angeles. It’s beautiful and spacious and full of palm trees and sunshine.

I love L.A.

Is it August yet?

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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?

top-gun-movie-

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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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