When the Value of Membership is Priceless

When my almost 24-year-old son texted me a couple weeks ago and asked to go to Ikea, I was thrilled. It’s not that either of us needed anything, he just wanted to walk around, and I quote, “talk about his feelings.” 

There isn’t a mother in the world wouldn’t jump on that request. Not because it’s Ikea, although that’s awesome, but because her baby wanted to share some deep thoughts, which he hasn’t done for years.

The “years” haven’t been easy on the boy, especially this last one, when circumstances got the best of him, and he wanted to talk about it. Out loud. With his mom. And his stepdad. Over cinnamon rolls at Ikea.IMG_5326

If you have never had an Ikea cinnamon roll with a cup of mediocre Swedish coffee, I recommend it. And if you have an Ikea family membership card, the coffee is actually free.

I tossed most of my membership-rewards cards years ago after they IMG_5187accumulated in such numbers that I couldn’t carry them around. But I kept the two you truly do need for your shopping to really work — Ikea and BJs Wholesale Club. We had gotten our son a BJs club card last year, but for Ikea he still needed me. 

We met at the entrance then headed to the showroom. Getting through Ikea on a Saturday is no small feat – dodging zillions of zealous shoppers and maneuvering through the mega-maze-like layout requires determination, even skill. It can take years to master, but my family has it down after more practice than they ever desired.

Ikea mapOnly this particular Saturday, in spite of the crowds we took our time strolling and talking as if we were in the park. And, like a dog without a leash, or more like a scurrying rat, I got sidetracked, looking at this or that, wondering what I might need, it’s cheap after all. But my unhurried son and husband lagged far behind, and every time I turned around they were head-to-head, deep in conversation, oblivious to where I was, or what was even going on around them. I couldn’t interfere. 

This was what…and who…my son needed. His “dad.” 

Last fall my boys’ birth-certificate father went to court to emancipate them. There are no words to even type here, except they felt it. My boys once and for all lost the father they never really had – certainly not one they wanted – the man chose to put gambling first. 

But they have a step dad who loves them like a father can. And they know it. 

So I left the two to walk and talk through 415,575 square feet of Ikea retail love. I watched them from afar trusting that life was unfolding for both of them, just as it needed to.

When we eventually made it to the cafe where the unmistakable smell of cinnamon rolls and Swedish meatballs permeated the air, we sat down with our coffee and my son looked at his step dad and said, 

“Will you take membership of me?”  

In his soft, special way his stepdad answered, “I already did.” 

There’s not a reward in the world that beats that.  

 

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When Life Calls Just Answer

My friend Lulu called me this morning. It was 8 a.m. and I had barely opened my eyes after a night of sinus mucosal misery from the latest winter plague. I had turned off the alarm an hour earlier deciding that staying in bed would be the most I could manage. 

I peered at the phone without my glasses. Should I answer? Ugh. I love Lulu but I just needed to pee. She must want something, I thought. She’s also my copy editor and usually only calls that early when she’s rewriting my story lede or has a question about a quote. 

LuluBut today was different for Lulu. When I finally answered after four rings (because I do adore her,) she was trying to stave off a cigarette…and she doesn’t even smoke. She did, decades ago, while roaming around newspaper newsrooms or tents in Afghanistan as a reporter covering her assignments. 

Lulu is an amazing, world-travelled woman, a journalist-turned-copy editor, who like the rest of us, is trying to stay sane in a scary world. But she refuses to turn away from the news — perhaps the only self-survival mechanism available to any of us right now. 

The news seems meaningless — fake news, contradictory news, breaking news, snooze news — there is no real ability to grasp our global reality without a cigarette. For Lulu anyway. I don’t smoke, and other than the daily glass or three of wine, have pretty much just gone numb. 

Sometimes, and a lot lately, things feel so meaningless. 

Which reminds me, it’s Super Bowl weekend and the good ole New England Patriots are at it again for the fourth year in a row. The joy for many of us home team locals is muted because of the tainted history — cheating, Deflategate, the Trump connections, and how about they just refuse to lose? Every…single…year. Rote, and dare I say, meaningless. 

meowThere isn’t much “out there” bringing joy to the world right now, so I suppose we have to do it ourselves. Whatever it takes to add some meaning to life in a way that resonates for us, and even for those around us. For Lulu, that’s a morning smoke with her hot coffee and a paper newspaper. For me, it was her wake-up call.

I didn’t roll out of bed haggard, fever-sweaty, with a fuzzy mouth and fluid-filled nose. I curled back up and talked to Lulu about the present moment, old habits, new routines, and simply about life. We traded stories, gossiped, bitched, moaned, laughed…and found meaning.

An hour passed before I decided to finally hang up, get up, and go pee. I needed a shower and still couldn’t breathe, but I smiled because I remembered it was Super Bowl weekend. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll win.

 

 

The Perfection of Perception

There seems to be some confusion in my house about what “clean” is. I am a bit fanatic when it comes to cleaning the nest. But the rest of my family? Forget it. They perceive clean to include things like crusty dishes the sink, clothes dropped wherever they were standing when they took them off, and beard trimmings as bathroom decoration.

But they live with someone who washes her dishes before they go into the dishwasher, has two accessible (and decorative) laundry baskets, one for darks, one for lights, and of course a bathroom free of hair. Of any kind.

I grew up in pretty sterile environment, immaculately cleaned on a regular basis, we weren’t even really allowed to use the strategically placed wastebaskets. Well, that’s partially not true. We could use them, but they were assuredly emptied by the clean-can fairy every, single day. Problem is, I sort of do that now too, which made me start to question perception.

catnewsPerception: a result of perceiving. Observation. A mental image. Concept. Cognition. Consciousness.

Consciousness. Now there’s a term the world throws around a lot lately. Spiritual consciousness. Ethical consciousness. Moral consciousness. We’ve all got a lot to think about at the moment.

I have drawn an appreciation for perception, especially since the last presidential election. For many years of my life I thought most of us were on the same page. Turns out we weren’t. Everybody has their own idea of what will most comfortably make their own little world go around. And it’s not working out too well. Why does everybody think everybody else is wrong?

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Sometimes they are. Moral consciousness is a big deal. The Me Too movement is helping lock down that one person’s perception of what’s ok when another’s isn’t, isn’t ok. There’s really not a lot of room for perception here.

Ethical consciousness, is similar, but a little different. This is where our personal thoughts reflect our social behaviors, like not eating chickens that were treated really badly by a corporate processing house during the birds’ short lives. I personally do not eat certain brands of chicken because I perceive the treatment of their slaughterhouse chickens to be inappropriate.

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Spiritual consciousness is such a hot topic. We are part of a humanity that is slowly but desperately waking up. This one is about our connection to the unseen, to the Divine, to the concept that we are all part of one Infinite Consciousness, one Source, not separate from God, but part of God. Too much?  Ok.

Environment matters. People matter. Self and self-care matters. Not being judgmental matters. A completely unselfish, tender, loving caring attitude matters. Better?  Spiritual consciousness.

But let’s get back to perception. It’s the basis of all of these things called consciousness. It’s how we view situations and life and therefore respond to it. No two people really have the same perception. What one person thinks and feels is unique, no matter what, even when we try to walk in another’s shoes. Empathy helps, but it’s not the definer.

Which brings me back to the crusty dishes in the sink and a bathroom floor covered in beard trimmings. Does it really matter? Maybe not. But paying attention to somebody else’s perception – and giving it some serious thought – does. And it’s applicable to just about everything in life.   Perfect.     perfect

 

Just Joy

I’m recycling an old mantra for the new year, one I made up a while back. Just joy.

Just joy comes in really handy for what I like to call those “situations of the moment.”

Like when your cat pukes on the carpet and you step in it on your way out the door…IMG_1517 copyyour to-go coffee lid pops off and spills all over you and the driver’s seat…and you miss your train to work by a millisecond. Take a deep breath. Just joy.

Sometimes they pile up – those little or not-so-little things that make life seem difficult, annoying, or even occasionally unbearable. Some of us have the ability to look at the bright side no matter what, and others of us need a reminder. Just joy.

It’s been a whopping three degrees for a week now, with no end in sight. Climate change or cruel joke from the weather gods, doesn’t matter. It’s absolutely painful to go outside. Just joyIMG_7822

You’re just sitting down to open presents on Christmas Day with your family, and your ex-husband and his wife show up unannounced…and stay for brunch. Surprise! Just joy.

IMG_3654When you have a fire in the fireplace, are pajama’d up and hunkered down to watch a movie and that feeling of dread sets in because Internet TV options are overwhelming. There’s too much to choose from.

And, despite the “turbo blast” internet you pay for, your TV can’t keep up with your scrolling.    Click click click, lag lag lag, ugh ugh ugh.    So you give up and go to bed. Just joy.

When you wake up in the middle of the night with social justice anxiety because you feel like America has become a corporate dictatorship, run by the cable company and a crazy government, and you realize you are whining about First World problems but don’t really care because in that moment it’s all relative. No guilt! Just joy.

When you are thinking of New Year’s resolutions your kids might want to make, then you realize resolutions don’t work anyway…either does judging (or hounding) your kids… Just joy.

When the toilet is clogged, your grey roots sprouted too soon, you’re out of milk, and it’s way too cold to go outside…doesn’t even matter! No need to invest in stress.

Because when life seems unsolvable ~ it’s actually really not.

Say it with me.

Just joy.joy

 

 

The Missing Chapter in my “Moms of Millennials” Manual

Where in the Moms of Millennials manual is the chapter, “Your college senior moved home and isn’t leaving?”

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Secretly, I was thrilled this summer when my 22-year-old middle child moved home to finish his senior year of college at a school near us. It wasn’t exactly his choice, but due to some financial fiascos, he’s home. He was only staying a week until he found his own apartment, but it turns out apartments in our metro-locale are too expensive – for pretty much everybody, including the boy.

Sir Husband and I downsized just over a year ago into a sweet two-bedroom townhouse with the youngest child – now a senior in high school. Not that we were counting down to Empty Nest (but we actually were,) and now the nest is overflowing with two man-sized-not-so-sweetly-smelling-video-game-playing-chow-hound-nearly-grown-children.

I didn’t know the return of the grown child to the nest wasn’t just a myth.

Here are a few other things I didn’t know.

1. There’s a fine line between your grown baby as your live-in child and your roommate. That isn’t possibly pot I smell is it? Wait, you are going where? To Hooters?

2. Be sure to have plenty of chips, chicken nuggets and beer on hand. And prepare to replenish frequently.

3. The bathroom has smells it never had before…let’s just leave it at that. And, sharing one full bathroom with two grown man-children requires daily cleaning. We have a limitless investment in Clorox wipes.

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4. Asking too many questions leads to answers you wish you didn’t know. Sure, I’m grateful he shares things about himself as a adult now, but my brain crinkles up when I hear some of it, this is my baby.

5. Witnessing your husband and your college-age son bond is like watching and hearing a couple of frat boys summarize last night’s house party.

6. Skype is open 24/7 for online gaming, and face-to-facing your girlfriend in the wee hours. Hallelujah for headphones. Not to mention we get our money’s worth now on Netflix.

7. The F-word reverberates through the bedroom door down the stairwell like wind chimes swinging in a breeze.

FullSizeRender-28. Mom-instincts die hard…

…So what I get up early every day to make sure he has a peanut butter and jelly sandwich lunch in a brown bag that I hand to him on his way out the door for school (yea I know it’s college,) along with a travel mug of coffee and a muffin.

And I simultaneously ask him what he wants for dinner, or if he will even be home for dinner, so I can be sure to Tupperware-up the leftovers for his long shift at the Apple store after school.

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Nope, this chapter isn’t in the manual.  But he’s still ‘adorbs’ (millennial-speak,) especially when he needs something and slurs the phrase, “Um, Can yew dooooo it?” in full millennial-whine, with a flashy grin.

And having him live here is actually showing me a few things about what happens when we help raise a human to adulthood. I feel pretty fortunate. He’s smart, he’s funny, he works hard (maybe not at cleaning his room,) and most importantly, he’s independent.

My work here, is done.

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Is Your Seasonal Soap Addictive? Say Goodbye to Sound Judgement.

 

Tis almost the season, so I thought I’d do a little early shopping.

My favorite hand soap –  Method Vanilla Chai foaming – only comes out once a year, which I learned last year much to my dismay. This is the absolute best-smelling hand soap ever invented. A little vanilla, a little cinnamon, a little warm tea, and it lingers on your hands just long enough to offer a momentary waft of aromatherapy.

the method handsoapI picked one up last year from a grocery store clearance bin, only to find out it was 99 cents of pure liquid gold. Of course when I went back to get more, it was gone, and wasn’t even available online.

Completely bummed, I ensured that every member of my family who used it, only did a half-pump (totally plenty) so it would last twice as long. When the bottle was almost empty I added water, just to get the spit sip (it works.)

So this year, determined to buy enough to last all year – at full price now – I went online to a famous big-box store, and sure enough, I could order three (the maximum allowed, who knew it would be rationed,) and get free shipping.

Boom. Done. In two days I had three bottles of my favorite foaming hand soap in my hand, one for each bathroom and a spare.

And then… The next day, three more bottles arrived from the same big-box store, left at my front door.

Wait. What? I checked my credit card and was only charged once. Lottery win! Or…ethical dilemma? Do I return the three “freebies,” or do I keep them as some kind of gift from the Cosmos? Maybe there is a Santa Claus, disguised as the UPS guy?

IMG_3581I haven’t really ever won anything, well, I did win a book after commenting on a Facebook Live feed last summer. I was “randomly chosen,” and got a signed, first-release hardcover. So it’s possible three more soaps were a total win. Maybe I was “randomly chosen” in the warehouse to get a bonus box.

I wrestled with it all day. I asked Sir Husband what to do. It haunted me a bit (which is good perhaps? I’d be a fail as a thief.) I could donate the three free ones… or, I could put the bottles away in the closet because hey, there’s still time to decide, the holidays are just getting started. When in doubt, wait it out.

So I did. And then, as if it was the movie Groundhog Day – when every day repeats itself over and over – ANOTHER box of three arrived 24 hours later. Not kidding. Now what?

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Luckily Thanksgiving is here, so when we go around the table before we eat and say what we’re grateful for — an uncomfortable tradition because for some reason it elicits guilt — I’ll know just what to say.

But wait! Before you sit down to eat – everybody wash your hands.

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Hooray! My Boy Is Coming Home (If only for a minute)

This is my baby.

Actually, these are my babies.

My baby is coming home to visit for a few days starting tonight. We are so excited! He rarely comes home because of …

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This.

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And this.

While he is here we will be busy…

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Visiting his step-dad at his job.

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Shopping for his new apartment.

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Eating burgers and fries at Wahlburgers.

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And of course drinking beer.

It will go too fast, and then he will have to leave. We will be sad.

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I’ll be back next week to write about it. All the adventures…experiences…and emotions that we have with special people in our life.

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Until then…

Who Cares If The Bed Isn’t Made. I Wish It Wasn’t Me

hospital cornersOld habits die hard for sure. It took me until my third son was 16 years old – which just happened a month ago – to stop making his bed. I know, I know. But there’s something about having all the beds made in the morning that I find appealing, even soothing.  Maybe it’s because when I grew up the beds were always made, and I had to make my own. My mother taught me early, and taught me well. I had hospital corners down like an army sergeant.

But that’s not necessarily a good thing. Because in addition to growing up learning how to make my bed without wrinkles, empty the trash every day, clean the house to pass a white glove test, do the laundry being sure whites were separate, and whatever other chores I was enlisted to do – I also became fairly OCD. To the point that my house until recently was ridiculously neat – everything has its place.

unmade bedThat’s why I’m a little proud of myself for looking at my son’s bed and not making it. I’m not going to lie, it hasn’t been easy. I get that pull to pull it together in no time flat, ensuring it’s fluffed and neat. I ask him to do it and he knows how, he just doesn’t do it like me, if he does it at all.

It’s ironic, all three of my boys are not neatniks, in fact much to my dismay, they’re sort of all big slobs. I guess I get that – they swung the other way after watching their mother toil daily over her version of house-perfection. Which in the great scheme of things is stupid, but it’s engrained all the way to my bones.

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So I’m trying to change that, I just don’t know to what degree. I can’t go cold turkey and be a slob, and that’s not even necessary. I just want to ease up on a few things, so I’m starting with my son’s room.

Most people know OCD is a control issue – when we feel out of control we have these rigid ideas about how things need to be, so our actions, reactions and thoughts all steer us toward that sensation that everything is ok. It’s a relief to me when I look around my house and things are in their place. The beds are made, the laundry is done, there aren’t any hairs in the sink. But I really don’t like that about myself, I’m tired of being uptight.

I told Sir Husband I was going to try to lighten up on my incessant need for neatness as I ponder getting a job that wouldn’t be working from home, where I can work and still clean up.

He said to me, “Yes, things would definitely change and you’d have to let a lot go, but truthfully I like your neatness and how organized the house is, it’s nice to come home to the clean.”

Say no more. He doesn’t know this, but he sort of let me off the hook from breaking my habits too fast. Not sure I can go from hospital corners to leaving dishes in the sink, although I guess anything is possible. But for now, baby steps are okay.

small steps

 

 

 

Partaking In Joy Is Part Of Our Daily Grind

Wisdom food for thought:

Do we define joy by achieving a desired outcome? Or is the joy on the path itself?

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I don’t really feel like chewing on that, because like the rest of the human race, I just want to feel the joy whenever I want, which of course, is always. But it doesn’t work that way for the majority of us, so I’m trying to figure it out.

When Sir Husband received the news that he was getting his dream job a couple of months ago and we would be moving back home, we felt this burst of joy coming through us at light speed. Ironically, it was exhausting and we experienced some weird physical symptoms that are typically signs of distress. Bathroom issues…GERD…headaches…and both of us stopped sleeping.

It was weird because we were so excited that our path was finally changing for the better, so why were we so wiped out? Years of heavy stress finally lifting, and cloud nine was wearing us down. Oh we were definitely happy, we just didn’t expect the process of executing the joy to feel different than how we defined joy itself. It didn’t seem to make sense. Joy after all, is a feeling. Or is it?

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When I mentioned this to local guru Dr. Christiane Northrup, she laughed and said, “Correct – your body and mind don’t know what to do with all the toxic overload from the past now that it’s over.” As we know, emotional toxicity can cause physical symptoms from stress, and we’ve had plenty of that. So turns out feeling joy is actually a process. Who knew?

pathAfter a few weeks on our new path of joy we noticed something else. That joy doesn’t always override the daily stressors. Life still happens in all of its grit and glory no matter what. That also tripped us up. Hold on – we have joy now, why is sh*t still happening that feels stressful? First we’re joyful and tired, then we’re joyful, stressed and tired, doesn’t joy win out and erase life’s other junk? Easy answer, no.

Intellectually I guess we knew this, but when you get a taste of pure joy, you don’t want it to leave. So things had to become a matter of perspective.

We habitually went to feeling sad or bad when anything went “wrong,” but interestingly yin yangthe joy of our new path was still happening. Is it possible to experience both things at once?  Stress and joy linked in a yin yang circle bouncing like a super ball through our daily existence?

The goal I’m told, is to experience joy as the constant undercurrent that rises to the surface – and here’s the key – when we let it. So that begs the wisdom question again, is joy in the desired outcome or is it on the path? Only we can know.

 

no guts no glory

(Notes from the Universe)

What’s Beyond Our Comfort Zone? Maybe A Welcome Surprise

Comfort zones for most people extend well beyond billowy soft cotton tees or bed linens. Well beyond our physical body. And well beyond the walls we call home. As I ventured out for my first visit to a new hair salon – which demands that comfort is key – I got more and more prickly as I drove the six short miles. The scenery drastically changed, so did, well, everything.

But let’s back up. I love the city and proclaim to be an urban girl. I am, within limits. But I stepped outside my comfort zone when I got out of the car at this center city salon. It’s Aveda – a well known, upscale, organic, chi chi international chain that is fairly overpriced yet interestingly desirable.aveda

I started going to an Aveda salon by mistake, when I lived in the ‘burbs about 50 miles from our new digs. Back in the day, Aveda was just coming on the scene and everybody wanted its botanically-based products, especially those of us with an aversion to chemicals. While I welcomed that, when my longtime stylist said she was switching to Aveda I was naturally a bit hesitant. I’m a creature of habit and worry about change. But I trusted her, and after the first round I was hooked. It smelled better, looked better, even felt better. So I sucked up the cost every few weeks to ensure I didn’t sport any gray.  (And a quick side note – I feel very fortunate, this is a first-world situation I know.)you smell like aveda

Through the years and several moves I frequented the local Aveda salons nearest me, and grew accustomed to the the familiarity. My color formula transferred easily from place to place, I never really missed a beat. I was comfortable.

But now, out of the burbs – I’m actually embarrassed and ashamed to say – I had a little hesitancy as I drove through some unfamiliar-looking territory. I don’t pay much attention to lifestyle but sometimes it catches my eye. We live in such a different world now, pretty much nowhere is technically “safe.”

Whatever it is that knocks us out of our comfort zone – and it can be anything really – we notice. Our senses heighten, our posture straightens, our mind and heart may start racing, it’s really only natural, and admittedly happens to everyone.

perfet hairI drove around the block in circles at least four times looking for a parking space outside this new salon. I parked the car with hesitancy, went inside, and decided at that moment this place was not for me. Sure it was Aveda, but it didn’t feel the same. I couldn’t leave though, I would be charged for missing an appointment.

And here’s the crazy part. As the experience unfolded, much to my surprise, it was simply wonderful. The stylist and I were totally compatible and chatted as if we had known each other for years. The crew was just my speed, the expertise beyond compare. I felt completely at home in that Aveda salon. That’s a pretty big endorsement coming from a new but seasoned color client.

Life has a learning curve, and for some it may take years. When it comes to comfort we need to learn to stretch, because it may reveal something we never knew was there. Growth is pretty amazing. And good hair color definitely is too.

comfort zone is a beautiful place