Monday, December 31, 2012

Cooking Frenzy

I love to cook. I love reading food magazines, I love trying new recipes, I love cooking old favorites, I love planning my weekly menu...I just plain love to cook. In the winter on Sundays, when I can take the time, I usually cook for a few hours to prep food for the next week and make a big Sunday dinner. Growing up, Friday night was pizza night and Sunday night was big dinner night. I can honestly say that we have pretty much stuck to that. Not by conscious choice...I think it was what I was used to and just kind of happened when we had our family.

Unfortunately, it has been a sick ward here all week...and most of us were in our pj's for days, unable to get off the couch for more than an hour. Yesterday, though, I finally felt better and I spent 4 hours cooking. It was a cooking frenzy in here! I decided to make a bunch of stuff to freeze so that we can easily pull healthy stuff out of the freezer for each week.

I made homemade sauce, Auntie's Karen's sauce to be exact. Technically she is my cousin but the kids call her Auntie. She came to visit 2 years ago and spent the week whipping up covers for my screen porch cushions, covering two hassocks for my bedroom, and then whipping up living room & dining room curtains. In between sewing her fingers into nubs, she taught Mimi how to sew, spend time cuddling with our then newborn bunny Ivy, and taught me how to make her sauce. Everytime we have pasta the kids look hopefully at me and and ask "Is it with Auntie Karen's sauce?"  Well, now I can say yes. This week we will have Auntie Karen's sauce & pasta and Friday night we will have homemade pizza with Auntie Karen's sauce. And I have 4 more servings of sauce on deck in the freezer.

Also hanging out in the freezer at the ready is chili - both individual servings for lunch for Tim and I but also a big batch for either dinner or lunches on an upcoming weekend. In addition, I made 2 butternut squash lasagnas...likely the kids won't eat them but Tim and I can have them for dinner one night when the kids just want cereal. I also made butternut squash puree so I can easily make butternut squash risotto, one of our favorites. So. Stupid. Good.

I cooked a whole chicken in the crockpot (it comes out unbelievable) and then shredded the chicken and bagged it into a few week's worth of chicken caeser salad for lunches for Mimi and I. I also made a chipolte pork and shredded up for nachos for a few dinners.

Finally I made the Pioneer Woman's broccoli cheddar cheese soup which is ridiculously good. We had that for lunch today....my kids don't even really like broccoli yet they gobbled it up.

And then when everything was cooked and everything was washed, we ordered out for dinner! I couldn't cook anymore...yet think about cleaning another dish or spatula. Kind of ironic, huh?

I'll be giddy for a few weeks now when I can just pull something out of the freezer and have an awesome meal already made.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Family Feud

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. I love finding just the right gifts for people. I love seeing the surprise on their faces when they open that gift and absolutely love it. I love the Christmas carols. I love when it snows at Christmas (yeah to a white Christmas this year!). I love Christmas parties. And I love a good swap.

Now, my family has an adult swap that we started a few years ago. But, traditionally it has been a bummer because no one swaps. They just open the gifts they pick and keep them....even if they want another gift...they won't do it to each other. Two years ago I took something my mother said she loved. I don't think she talked to me for a week. Could she have swapped for it in the end....sure...but did she...no. Makes no sense to me. This year, Tim and I had to again, explain the rules and tell everyone that we weren't going to put up with everyone being polite. I will say, almost everyone did swap this year, and I ended up with my own gift,. Which leads me to one of the key rules in a swap: Don't buy anything you don't want to end up with. Although, in all honesty, we typically buy one funny gift and one that I wouldn't mind ending up with.

I was first introduced to a "real" swap when I got serious with Tim and was invited to the family Christmas party. Back then, there were about 20-25 people in the swap. Although they say there are no rules, the "guidelines" are simple. First, number 1 is the best number to get because you go first and then again, last after all the gifts are opened. Number 2 then selects & opens their gift and then can choose to keep it or swap with #1...and it continues that way until the end. There have been some "enhancements" to the rules since I began going....such as, you can shake but you can't put your hand in and feel the gift inside a gift bag. I can neither confirm nor deny that this rule was created because of me. I am known to be a shaker...and I openly admit that I man-handle all the gifts before I make my initial selection. Buyer beware, right?

Apparently my first swap was ground breaking for several reasons. First, I guess that people generally approached the swap like my family. There wasn't a ton of swapping and everyone was polite. If you showed a lot of interest in a gift, no one would take it from you. It was the right thing to do. Well, no one had explained that nuance to me. Instead they said one of the "guidelines" was to take whatever you wanted. I apparently missed the unspoken rule of "except if that person is your future mother in law"....who, by the way, was a bit of a swap aficiando. No one explained this to me either. I honestly don't think it had ever come up before so there was no need to discuss that. That was when things changed in the swap.

I don't even remember what the gift was, but I remember that I wanted it, and my mother in law had it. I had a higher number from her...so I swapped with her. She shrieked and yelled "No!". The entire family applauded. It all seemed like fun. Little did I know I was 1) taking something that someone loved which really wasn't done in the past, 2) it was from my future mother in law and that was a no-no and 3) she is known as Mean Jeanne....that should have been enough of a warning for me....but it all seemed like good fun at the time. Especially when I got applause...who doesn't think things are going well when people applaud them??

This year, the swap was started by Uncle Johnny reviewing the rules, of which #1 is "there are no rules". Throughout the swap people break into song, have hysterical side conversations with their neighbors, engage in "after hours" swapping when all is said and done, and occasionally share their favorite swap memories. Twice this year, people mentioned their favorite swap memory was the year I had the "balls" to take Mean Jeanne's gift and forever change the course of the swap. I wouldn't say it was balls...just naivity and stupidity. Little did I know that for years people had wanted to take her gift away but hadn't dared. I had NO idea what I was doing. Although I'm always happy to advance a good cause

Turns out this year was payback, Baby. I have had the extreme pleasure of having been #1 twice throughout the lifetime of my Nealon swap history. It is a HUGE deal when you get #1. Especially this year when we had a record breaking 54 people participating in the swap. This, however, was my WORST year ever. Well, technically the worst number to get is #2. This year I was #3. It might as well have been #2. It felt that bad.

I love this swap. I love so much about it. I love this big family that is full of loud, singing, loving, hugging people. I love getting together at Uncle Tommy & Auntie Anne's house, inevitably ending up in the Foul Line, their downstairs pub, looking for nothing but trouble. I love that every time you go, you have such great conversation with so many different people. I love how the relationships change over the years. I remember when Dave's fiancee first came as a shy, quiet, non gift taking lady and ended up doing a somersault into the gift pile last year...with a skirt on. Yep, she is going to do just fine in this family. I remember when Andy was just a quiet college kid and now we are usually separated because we cause too much trouble together. I love the hugs you get from Uncle Tommy all night long and I love my life lesson conversations with Auntie Lo. I love the digs people give each other - from their hair gel choices to their clothing picks. It's all in good fun and only based on the love we have for each other. I am truly blessed to be a part of this family.

Except for maybe this year. First, I'm number 3. Second, number 1 is a relative newbie. If it were a veteran I would have been more accepting but the fact that I had a crappy number AND number 1 went to a newbie didn't sit well with me. Then, we are asked to speed things up because we had so many people, which meant, no man handling for excessive periods of time. So, I gave into pressure and went for the big gift. And here is where everything just went horribly wrong. Are you sitting?? I ended up with a handicap toilet seat. Yep, someone bought that. And yep, I picked it. I love this G. D. swap and this is how things roll for me?! It was not my best year by a long shot. Well, actually ever. Oh, and did I mention that the gift was from my partner in crime, Andy? Earlier in the night he said "Wait until you see what I got! Some sucker is going to be very unhappy!" Insert picture of my face with the word sucker on my forehead.

Was I a sore loser? A little bit. I did pout, I'll admit it.  But I know it's all part of the fun. Will the toilet seat come back in a future year? Oh yes, it will. And one day someone will be shaking their head, trying to comprehend how they ended up with a handicap toilet seat, just like I am this year.

But more than anything, I take away the same things I do each year, regardless of the swap number I get. Great memories. I wouldn't trade them for the amount of love, fun, and camradarie that is had this night each year for anything...not even a toilet seat.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Homemade Christmas 2012

As you know, one of my most favorite things about Christmas is our tradition of making each other a homemade gift. Getting to this point this year was a little more difficult than in years past. Apparently the kids told a few people that they don't like doing it....which was surprising to me because they have always seemed to love it. Maybe they haven't always enjoyed trying to think up things to make but the items they come up with have been so creative over the years.

When I heard that they didn't want to do it, I called a family meeting. I told them I had heard the rumors and asked if they wanted to stop doing it. They said they still wanted to....but likely only said that after I explained how it was one of my favorite things about Christmas. A little peer pressure never hurt anyone. I then went on to say that I wasn't going to keep reminding everyone to make their gifts and then I gave them a deadline to ask for supplies. Let's just say that this Sunday was like Santa's workshop....saws were buzzing, mod podge was drying, and the hammer and nails were in full swing.

Each of us have a little tree in our bedrooms. Admittedly, mine is the cutest one around. It's a driftwood Christmas tree decorated with Lilly Pulitzer decorations. We then put the homemade gifts under our trees and on Christmas morning the kids come in and we open our homemade gifts before anything else. And once again, I was not disappointed in our tradition. Everyone was so clever!

Here is what we all made for each other:

Jack made Mimi homemade bath salts in a little jar. He then wrote her initials on the top and then the date he gave it to her on the bottom. He made me a new camping log since I'm almost at the end of our current one. It's pink, of course, and he wrote inside "Each sticker represents a trip that we have been on. And we are excited to add some more stickers to the list!" For Timothy, Jack made jeep coasters. The funniest thing was that he asked Tim for all the supplies for them but he had no idea he was buying parts of his own gift.

Mimi made Jack a sports ornament. She hand painted all types of sports equipment from the sports he loves on a clear glass ball. She made Timothy lemon foot scrub...she found the idea on Pinterest, of course. She then attached some loofah gloves to go with it. Then she made me a pink and green polka dot fabric covered light switch for my closet.

I made Jack a board for his running numbers and medals. It has hooks for the numbers, an old spool as a hook for the medals, and there is a quote in a frame that says "Every day you run is a good day". Thanks for that idea Pinterest! For Mimi, I made a piece of artwork/nail polish holder. I got 4 white frames and hung them on her wall and then placed all of her nailpolish inside and on top of them. It's like her own little salon. And for Timothy, I took some of his favorite matchbox cars from when he was a kid and attached magnets so he can display/use them on the fridge.

Timothy made Mimi a Jeepster log. He bought her a light yellow Jeepster last year (because every twelve year old needs a car....) that they are going to restore together. So, the log is a picture book of the progress of their restoration. The first few pictures are of the Jeepster filled with its own parts...good thing he gave himself four years to complete this project. For Jack, who loves to decorate his room for Christmas, he made a sports themed wreath. First, he went out and cut down the grapevine and then he fashioned it into a wreath. He then attached all kinds of sports things like little baseballs, etc. Then for me he found a little driftwood frame at a yard sale this summer so he put in a picture of me and two of my good friends....at my favorite place...Race Point Beach in Truro. Then he glued a starfish on it that we found on that exact beach last Memorial Day Weekend.

Now you understand why I love this so much, right? Everyone puts so much thought into coming up with the ideas and it is always so exciting to see what everyone made for you. I'm glad we continued the tradition and I hope we never stop doing it.

I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas today!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Don't Be Like Putty...You Need a List

Recently we were out to dinner with some friends and the topic turned to our "lists". No one loves a good conversation about lists better than me. I have a lot of lists. I have daily personal and work lists, weekend lists, a list of things I want to look for the next time I go to Brimfield, a list of music I want to put on my iPod, a list of books I want to read...the list of my lists could go on forever. I'll be honest...some of my lists have sub-lists.

I need my lists, otherwise, I wouldn't remember what I needed to do. Have you ever met someone and the minute they say their name it goes out of your head? That happens to me with everything. I'll think "Oh, I have to remember to do that..." and then 2 minutes later I can't remember what that was. Some people don't need lists because they have a good memory. And apparently some people don't need lists because they don't plan on doing anything. Case in point, our friend who we went out to dinner with.

His wife asked what was on our lists for the weekend. Tim and I both rattled off a dozen things that were still on our lists that needed to get done. My friend said "On my list is to have him finally take out the air conditioner" ...and she motioned to her husband. I should note that it was November when we went out. I'm just sayin'...."So, when I asked him if he could do that he said, 'That wasn't on my list of what I wanted to get done this weekend'. She then asked him what was on his list and he said "Well, nothing. I don't have a list." Let me clarify. It wasn't that he didn't have a list that weekend. He just NEVER has a list.

Who doesn't have a list?! This was essentially our entire dinner conversation. Did you ever see the Seinfeld episode where Elaine and Putty are going on a trip and Putty is literally staring at the back of the airplane seat in front of him. When Elaine asks him what he is doing he says "Nothing" and she gets completely annoyed and yells "You are just going to sit there and stare at that seat?!" This is what I imagine people look like when they don't have a list. They just stare straight ahead with nothing going on.

When we dug deeper my friend said that he doesn't have a list on the weekend because he does so much during the week at work that he just wants to relax and not be constrained by a list. I wanted to pat him on the head and say "It's okay...lie to yourself however you need to, Buddy." Cut. It. Out. I don't want to be constrained by a list either but the fajizzle has got to get done, people. The Christmas tree isn't going to put itself up...my car isn't going to drive itself over to an oil change....and I am 100% positive that  no one in my family is going to start raking leaves on their own.

Here's part deux to this....if you don't have a list, at least do the things that your spouse asks you to do. You can't be selective with the things you are asked to do if you don't have a list. It's one thing if you don't have time because you have other things on your list that are a higher priority. Again, I'll pause here a minute and just say that you can't have "cleaning the garage" as a priority on your list every weekend....and spend all your time out there...moving piles of garage stuff from here to there. That does not count. I'm just sayin'.

I know I'll never convert my friend to be a list maker...it's not for everyone. I'm just sayin'...if you don't have your own list, by default, you are going to have to do the things on your spouses' list that need to get done. My suggestion, Buddy, is start coming up with your own list and "prioritizing".

What's on your list these days?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Freckles, Sharpies, and Cameras

I have always been a freckly kind of gal. And, I have loved my freckles from day one...and I have a lot of them to love. My kids, on the other hand, hate their freckles. If Jan Brady's trick had worked, I'm sure they would be scrubbing their face daily with lemon juice to get rid of them.

But when you have as many freckles as I do, you have to keep an eye on them. Years ago I had one removed...and it turned out to be fine...although the appointment was anything but fine. The dermatologist I went to was Russian, and pretty much man handled me like it was still the cold war. Here I was, in the examining room, in my skivvys and she marches in "You take johnny off now!" Ah, okay, settle down. We don't even know each other and I have to stand in front of you in my underwear. What do you say we at least shake first? Then she puts this headlamp/magnifyer on her forehead and grabs a sharpie. "Stand." So much for bedside manner. And why the sharpie?

She put the magnifier over her eye, took a strong hold of my head in her not at all dainty hands, and came right up in my grill. She would use her magnifier to take a closer look at a few freckles here and there and occasionally would make a tsk'ing sound. She proceeded to invade my personal space and DRAW CIRCLES around my freckles WITH A SHARPIE for about 15 minutes. All of a sudden she takes out a camera and starts taking pictures of me...wearing my underwear and connect the dots. Seriously, seriously degrading moment. I left there wondering if she was going to be yucking it up with her friends that night over drinks as she showed them my pictures. "Look what I did today to girl...drew on her and then she let me take pictures! What a fool!"

"Vell..." she says "you have lots of freckles. One needs to come out!" So, I made an appointment and a few weeks later went under some local anestetic and had it cut out. They stuck the freckle, skin, and what appeared to be a freckle root system into a jar and asked if I wanted it after they tested it. WHAT?! What in the world would I do with that?? I guess the bigger question was did anyone ever say "Yes, I will take that with me, thanks!"

Fast forward about 15 years and here I was back in a different dermatologist office because my primary care doctor felt a few of my freckles needed to be checked out. At least I was prepared for the Sharpie Experience this time. So, there I am...in my johnnie and skivvys...and black socks waiting for the doctor. Seriously, why did I choose to wear black socks today? So embarrassing.

In walks my doctor, Snow White, but with Cinderella hair. The woman's skin was flawless and practically see through. It was a little unnerving. She grabbed her ruler, magnifying light, and got to work. Note that she did not draw on me with anything. Instead, she said sweet things like "Your body just likes to make unusual shaped freckles." Then she had me flip over. I was feeling relaxed and knew in about 10 minutes I'd be waltzing out of there.

That was until she said, "So, you have 2 freckles on your back that I don't like the look of....those are going to need to come out." Okay, no problem, I will just make appointment on my way out. But then she said "And let me just get two shots and we'll get them right out now..." WHAT?!?! Did she say NOW? No, I was not prepared for that. She stopped and said "You seem a little tense...is everything ok?" Ahhh...no....I thought you were just going to draw on me and take pictures. When did the idea of you giving me novacaine and cutting out freckles become an option?! I need to mentally prepare for this stuff! She went on to explain that she would numb me up and then SCRAPE out my freckles. I would then have two "little" open wounds that would heal themselves in two weeks. Awesome. And what a treat for Timmy to have to put medicine and bandaids on them every morning. Way to put some romance back into the morning routine.

So, she numbed me up and scraped out my freckles that I didn't even get to say goodbye to. Well, let's be honest, I didn't even know they were there on my back but I would have liked to say a fond farewell anyways. The nurse had me sign something and when she handed me the pen I noticed there was dried blood on her hand. I almost passed out. I think we've already discussed how I feel about blood....

And that was it. Snowrella said she would call in a few weeks if anything came back "funny" and to be sure to make an appointment for next year. Oh, yeah, like I'm dying to come back and have you SCRAPE out more freckles and leave with open wounds. Sign. Me. Up. (Side note, of course I will go back because I'm not at all interested in skin cancer, but I'll be sweating like a piece of lunch meat the whole time.)



Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pantyhose are not your friends

I had a client event the last two days, which required me to dress "business casual"...aka I had to wear business clothes. A few years ago I was wearing dresses, suits, and heels every day. For the last two years, I have been primarily wearing casual clothes...like jeans and khakis....and loving every minute of it. When I work on client events, I pull out all my work clothes and it's like having a completely new wardrobe.

The bad part of the story is that I also have to wear pantyhose in the winter. Some people can get away having naked legs but once the summer heads south, my legs become see through and glow in the dark...which is not a good look.

First, it took me about 10 minutes of rummaging through my sock drawer to find a pair of pantyhose that didn't have a run in them. And I came up with 3 pairs. Perfect! I threw them all in my bag and took off for my 2 day event. Day one, I threw the control tops on and gave it a go. About halfway through the day, my sausage casing hose were cutting off my circulation. There is always that moment of anticipation and fear when you go to take off your pantyhose.....you can't wait to get them off but you feel your body that has been stuffed inside your hose might pop out like fake snakes from a can once you take them off.

Let's fast forward to day two. It all started so good. Control tops on....check! Cute dress I haven't worn in 2 years on and still fits great....check! I went down to our war room to get ready to start the event, sat at my computer, crossed my legs and (insert sound of screeching tires) that is when I saw the big hole in my nylons. DARN IT! I tried to pull them up a bit to hide it and that just caused 5 mini runs to scream down my leg. AAAHHH! I had 20 minutes before the event started. I immediately formed beads of sweat on my upper lip...but then I remember I had packed an extra pair of nylons.

I ran up to my room, giddy with my ingenuity to pack that extra pair. I ripped the shredded ones off and started to pull on my spare pair. But I could only get them 3/4 of the way up. What?! So, I worked on pulling them up from the heels little by little....until they finally made it to my lower hips. I quickly looked at my watch and decided these were going to have to do.

As I ran back down to the event, I could feel my hose slowly making their way back down. First they rolled down my muffin top...then they began the slow shimmy down my hips. Which caused me to sink down and walk a little lower...and slower. Seriously, as though that would work.

So, here I am trying to casual walk as though I am shrinking so that my pantyhose don't suddenly drop to my knees at a client event with 175 people. Once we got started, I sat down and tried to inconspicuously pull them back up...and I thought it had worked. Until I got up again and they shot back down, literally holding me hostage. "Take one more step and we are going to fall to your ankles..."  I shrunk down like I was doing some sort of curtsy and ran to the bathroom. Once safe in the stall, I pulled them back up from my heels to my armpits. There! And once again, they began their descent the minute I began walking. Curtsy shrink walk...curtsy shrink walk....

I didn't make it more than an hour. I had to run back up to my hotel room, pull the shredded pair out of the trash, hike them up to my armpits and pray the runs wouldn't make it down past the hem of my skirt. I was shocked when I actually made it through the day. It didn't even bother me when I sat down at the end of the event and the entire leg shredded down past my knee. I had made it through the day!! By the time I got home they were shredded from mid thigh to heel. Such a good look.

Maybe I should invent some run proof pantyhose...that hold you in...but are comfortable. Or maybe we should just outlaw pantyhose altogether.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Rollerblading Spiders

Everyone is afraid of something. There is at least one thing that will throw any of us into a tailspin in a nanosecond at just the sight, and sometimes just the thought, of it. For my friend Ann, that would be mice. If you even mention mice her whole body tenses up.

In August, we went on our annual Adult Camping Weekend and I happened to come across a baby critter under the car. And by baby I mean, just born within the last hour and the mother is missing. Ann's husband immediately said "Don't come over here, Ann....it's a mouse!" As you can imagine,that did not go over well. She freaked and ran inside the camper yelling "Get rid of it!" Adam started to move in like he was going to squash it with his shoe and I yelled "Don't touch it! It's just a baby!" Adam's face looked like he had just gotten into trouble for answering "yes" to "Do these pants make my ass look big?" While he stood there trying to figure out what to do, I was taking pictures of my new little pet.

I decided it was not a mouse. I have a boy and I am well versed in construction vehicles, types of snakes (poisonous vs. not), and all types of critters. At first, I was convinced it was a shrew...but it didn't have any glasses so then I decided it was a vole. I assured Ann it wasn't a mouse and ran to show her the picture of it, confirming my critter classification. She ran from me and my camera.

In the end, Adam and I gently moved it to the woods so it could rest up and wait for its Mommy. Unfortunately, a hungry bird found it first.

But back to our fears. I am not afraid of mice, shrews, or voles. But I am deathly afraid of spiders. Ever find a spider in the corner of the shower? I have had it happen to me twice and I froze. In both cases, I immediately jumped out of the shower and ran screaming as though my hair was on fire. Ever find a spider crawling up your leg or arm? I have had that happen on more than one occasion and I usually run screaming while smacking all my extremeties...in case there are others on me. I'm going to be honest. If there was a spider in between me and my child who needed to be saved, I might hesitate...for a second. Just a second. Physically I wouldn't be able to do anything different. I'm just being honest.

A few weeks ago I had an encounter that almost cost me my life. There I was minding my business....driving in my car....and a fast mover came streaking across my windshield and then HOPPED on my steering wheel. I'm not kidding. He was totally staring me down and I knew he was contemplating jumping on me. I FREAKED out! I started smacking at the steering wheel but because he had his roller blades on, he was too quick for me to squash. And then he disappeared. That was almost worse than knowing where he was. Meanwhile, I had forgotten I was driving. I looked up just in time to see myself veering off the road toward some trees. Luckily, I was able to veer back onto the road but it was close. My heart felt like it was about to jump out of my chest and my hands were shaking like I needed detox.

I drove home intermittently looking for the spider and watching the road. When I got home I ran into the house and yelled to my family "DO I HAVE A SPIDER ON ME??!!" They just shook their heads at me. I'll be honest, they have seen this act before. Tim came over and checked me over while I did my "spider dance" which consists of me jumping around like I have to pee. "You're all clear" he said when he was done.For days, I felt like I had a spider crawling on me and I would just suddenly jump up from wherever I was and yell "Is there a spider on me?!" to no one in particular. Tim had to detail my car too...no way I was getting in there with that thing ready to pounce. Tim said he found it but I know he was lying to me.

What's that one thing that makes you run screaming from the room like your hair is on fire?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fall is Like a Bad Break Up

A lot of times when we get together with friends we end up playing The Question Game. Well, okay, we don't end up playing it. I basically make everyone play it. What can I say....I'm a curious gal. I love that no matter how long you have known someone, you can still learn something new about them every day. And believe me, you can really uncover some interesting things about people when you play this game.

So, how does it work? Well, basically one person throws a question out to the group and everyone has to answer it. It's so simple...and yet, when I bring it up, everyone moans "Nooo....no more questions!" But seriously, it's fun.

Recently we were with some friends and I made everyone answer the question "Which season is your favorite?" Interestingly, Fall was the prevelant answer. Not so much for me. My favorite time is the Summer: the sun, the warmth, the beach, lots of camping, longer days, the list goes on and on. My next favorite is Spring, mainly because it is the pre-cursor to summer. The days are getting warmer, the birds are chirping, the leaves are starting to turn green...it literally puts a spring in your step.

The other day when I was walking to work I recalled this conversation at the same time I was thinking "I really don't like Fall." The biting wind was making my eyes tear up and for the third day in a row, I was surprised it was so cold. I had a hard time remembering if I said I disliked Winter or Fall more when we played our game. I think I said Winter because it's so cold. I am not a fan of the cold. At all. Here's the thing about winter, though. You know it's going to be cold. You are ready for it. It's not surprising when it's freezing or snowing. It's all part of the deal with Winter.

Fall confuses me. One day can be 80 and the next 40 degrees. You go from needing shorts to needing a winter coat and mittens. You relish those warm days that linger but when the cold ones smack you in the face, you are just unprepared. Fall is like a bad break up. You are all happy and warm in th summer and things are going so great. Then along comes a 35 degree day and hits you like a ton of bricks. You just don't expect it, especially since things were going so well.

I arrived at work three days last week looking like I had just been broken up with. My nose was red, I was wiping my tears, and my body language was saying "I need a hug."

I would like to change my answer. I like Fall the least. It's too unpredictable. How about we just ease into it and every two weeks we just decrease the temperature by a few degrees? If only Mother Nature could ease us into the cold bath water. Then I might make Fall my 3rd favorite season.  What's your favorite season?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Montauk Steve

2012 is apparently the year of the weddings. We have 4 weddings to go to this year. For years we haven’t had any weddings go to. It’s so funny how the cycle goes….when you are in your late 20’s/early 30’s it seems like everyone and their brother is inviting you to their weddings. Then come the baby showers….and then the drought. Then suddenly, more weddings…and this year, we have to travel to all of them. We had our first one in July at the Cape, then came Montauk in September, and coming up in November we’ll head to DC, and finally Princeton in December. So far, they have all been unique and a blast and we can’t wait for the others.

The wedding in September in Montauk was for Tim’s college roommate. We had never been to Montauk and were really looking forward to it. I will say though…it is not easy to get from here to there. It requires driving, ferry riding, and much more driving. Once there though our late afternoon/evening was filled with a walk on the beach, cocktails at the Sloppy Tuna, and a bonfire with the wedding party. Great night!
On Saturday morning, Lyn and I headed out for a walk on the beach with the boys joining us. We just rambled along for a good hour. It was so relaxing, great conversation, and it felt good to get some exercise in after all those “good times” Friday night. About 30 minutes into our walk I saw something sticking out of the sand and literally almost passed it by but the color turquoise caught my eye. Turns out it was a man’s turquoise stone money clip – with money, id, and credit cards. Steve, from Arlington Virginia’s money clip, to be exact. It was buried pretty deep and caked with sand so we weren’t sure if it had been there awhile or what the story was.

I brought it back with us and we decided to find the police station after breakfast. On the way there we saw a police cruiser so we flagged it down and explained the circumstances. When asked where the nearest police station was, the policeman seemed a bit unsure gave us vague directions.  Hmm…weird.
We did some research on Steve while we ate. We googled him, looked him up on Facebook, and tried calling the hotel to see if he was a guest. Every search turned up a dead end. We commented on how hard it was to return Steve’s wallet to him so we joked that breakfast was on Steve. This turned into us thanking Steve for everything throughout the day….”Thanks for the t-shirt, Steve!”…” Thanks for the ice coffee, Steve!” and “Thanks for the round of beers, Steve!” After breakfast we made our way to the police station and the door was locked. Even though there were 3 cruisers out front, knocking on the door didn’t work. Nobody there. Nada.  Apparently Steve didn’t want his wallet back.

We brought Steve to the church with us. How funny would it be if Steve was AT the wedding?! We all studied his face on the id and looked at everyone that came through. We even coughed “Steve” at one point when we saw someone that might be him. No luck. But we tried again after the wedding and still there was no one at the police station.
This was one of those “unfortunate” weddings when there is a 3 hour lull in between the wedding and the reception. I say unfortunate because Let’s be honest…as much as we wanted to behave it was just enough time to get into trouble. And that we did. We all ended up at the pool with coolers and snacks…and Steve. I told the larger group the Story of Steve and I have to admit, I can’t believe the amount of people that said “Just keep the money and throw the rest out”. What?? Up to this point, our group of 5 wanted to find Steve. Honestly, we wanted to bump into Steve and say “Dude, we found your wallet!!” and give him a hug. But now, here was the larger group saying “Keep the money!” and it was feeling difficult to return it. Then the group started saying “The cops are just going to take the money and send the id and cards back anyways so why bother?” I had never even thought that was a possibility and I didn’t like the thought of it one bit. I was just completely dismayed that so many people thought it was fine to just take the money and run. $176 dollars to be exact. Yeah, I counted it after the third attempt to return it. We were all curious. I just kept thinking how horrible it would be if I lost my id, my credit cards, and my money. I would be freaking out…and what a pain to have to cancel everything. I would want someone to return it to me.

I would also be calling the nearest police station to see if anyone turned it in. But that wasn’t the case with Steve. Who doesn’t call the police when they lose their wallet? “Someone that wants you to take the money”, the group said. On our last attempt to do the right thing, I sat in the car and called the police station while the boys went on a beer run during the “lull time”. First, we stopped by the police station again…and no luck. A bored policeman did pick up when I called the main number. I explained my situation and he said “Well, I guess I could send someone over to meet you…if you want?” He didn’t seem all that concerned. We had decided if this last ditch effort didn’t work, we would bring the money clip home to our friend who is a police officer, and someone we trust, and ask him to contact Steve. But, I gave it one last college try and I said “Sure, I can be there in 5 minutes.”
When we get there a policeman is out front talking to someone in a car. I approached and he asked “Can I help you?” Finally. “Yes, are you the one meeting me about the wallet?” He seemed confused, said no, and when I explained the situation he ACTUALLY said to me “Sorry, I can’t help you with that.” What?? You can’t help me return a wallet to the rightful owner?? What the heck! I walked back to the car and decided that I’d bring Steve home with me and turn him in to someone I trust.

Just then an officer pulled in and said “Hi…are you the one with the wallet?” Darn it! I started to stress thinking this wasn’t a good idea. But instead I said “Yes…here it is.” He invited me into the station and, for one second, I thought “What if Steve was murdered…or was missing…and here I am with his stuff?!” My heart raced and my palms got sweaty. In the end, the office r was very nice and gave me a receipt for everything in the money clip. He took my name, number, and address and explained that he would get in touch with Steve’s bank and they would contact him directly. He then hesitated, looked me in the eye,  leaned in, and I immediately started sweating. Then he said “I just want to thank you for returning the clip with everything in it. Not a lot of people would have been that honest. I thank you…and I’m sure this gentlemen will thank you too.” Phew! I wasn’t sure where that was going.
Let the reception begin! And what a reception it was – we had a blast! The next day we drove 2 hrs to the ferry, took the 1.5 hr boat ride back to CT, drove Matt to Logan (1.5 hours), and then drove 1.5 hrs to the Cape to get the kids at my parents, drove back home (another 1.5 hours) then hit the grocery store when we got home so we had stuff for lunch for the kids on Monday. Stoopid travel day. Totally, totally stoopid. When we got home, after not showering, and having barely any food all day, there was  gift. Steve was on the answering machine!! “Hi, Kelly, this is Steve. I just wanted to call to say thank you for returning my wallet. You have no idea how excited I was to get the call that someone had returned it! I’d like to thank you personally….” And then he left his number for me to call. I was as giddy as a single girl receiving a call back from a promising blind date. When Tim came back from getting take out for us….did you really think I was going to whip up dinner after this day??....I yelled “Steve called!”

I called him back and was so disappointed that he didn’t pick up. I left a nervous school girl message saying something like “So glad I could return the wallet to its rightful owner. Thanks and have a great day!” It pretty much said, “Don’t ever call me again.”  I sent our group a message that night saying “Great news - Steve was reunited with his wallet!” but for some reason, it didn’t feel that exciting.
4 days went by and I pined for Steve. Why didn’t he call back? I thought he said he wanted to thank me? Despite my panicked, don’t call me, I’ll call you message, he still didn’t call. On Thursday on the way to work I decided I would call him that night when I got home. It felt a little awkward. Obviously, he didn’t want to call me back…but I was dying to hear the story of how the money clip ended up buried in the sand. I deserved to know ,didn’t I?!

When Tim got home that night he had his serious face on. “I’ve been thinking….” Uh oh…what was this all about? “We should call Steve” he said. I was ecstatic! I immediately called him and he answered. I was overjoyed!! The conversation went a little something like this:
Me: Hey Steve…This is Kelly…I was the one who found your wallet…

Steve: OMG! Kelly! I am so glad to hear from you! Thank you SO MUCH for returning my wallet! You have no idea how happy I was to get it back!
Me: So, we were on Montauk for a wedding and all my friends are dying to know the story of how you lost your wallet. Do you mind sharing?

Steve: What wedding where you there for??
Me: We didn’t end up being there for the same wedding but I said “We kept looking for you throughout the wedding thinking maybe you were there.” I went on to explain how we thanked him for everything we bought throughout the weekend and how he came to the wedding with us. Turns out, he was at the wedding after us.

Steve: Well, I feel like you deserve to hear the truth about what happened….considering you returned my wallet and all….
Me (uh oh. Warning bells were going off in my head…) I actually giggled and said…”Let’s hear it”

Throughout the whole conversation, Tim had been leaning on the island listening to a one sided conversation and nodding with a smile as though he was in on it. At one point he suggested I put it on speaker phone but I declined..and good thing because the kids were there. What followed was not speaker-worthy, kid listening conversation.
Steve: Okay…so on Friday night we went to the Beer Garden after the rehearsal dinner. Did you go there?

Me: (ah, no…we were getting sloppy at the Sloppy Tuna) No….
Steve: So, I meet this chick at the bar, right? And we got talking and she says she likes the beach…and I mean she LIKES the beach, you know? So, I say “Let’s go for a ‘walk’ on the beach….”

Me: Uh huh…
Steve: Yeah, so we sit down on the sand and all of a sudden she jumps on me, you know?! And we are going at it…you know?! (Well, this explains why the money clip was smooshed into the sand….)

Me: (OMG)
Steve: All of a sudden she gets up and says “I shouldn’t be so forward..I’m sorry” and she got up and ran away.

Me: Oh no!
Steve: Yeah….so , I’m sitting there all excited you know…so I have to sit there a bit and wait…if you know what I mean…and my hair was all messed up and stuff. I had to wait to head back to the bar.

Tim: What’s he saying?? I mouth “OMG”.
Me: Oh….yeah…that must have been rough

What?? Rough?? Who says this to someone they don’t know?!
Steve: So, I go back to the bar and go to get a beer to cool down and realize I don’t have my wallet. So , I think , either I lost my wallet or that chick stole it. But my friends were there so I was able to get some beer.

Me: Oh good…good.
Steve: Yeah, so the next day I’m taking pictures…cuz I was in the wedding party…and the bank calls to say that someone found my wallet. The whole group let out a cheer! It was awesome! You have no idea how happy I was!

Me: I am so glad Steve! I kept thinking how I would feel about it if I lost my wallet. It would be horrible!
Steve: I feel like the money I had with me is yours. I’d like to send it to you .

Me: OMG no….that’s crazy! That is your money. I am just so excited we got your wallet back to you.
I went on to tell Steve how difficult it was to get his wallet back to him and how it felt good to return it to him because it was the right thing.

Steve: I hear you live in Massachusetts…the next time I’m up there we should get together.
Me: (omg…) Oh yeah…well, listen, that was a great story and my friends are going to love it! Thanks for sharing!

That was quite a story. And we got our closure with Steve. We don’t think about him anymore. Although I’m a little afraid he might show up at my house someday.
The moral of the story though is Do the Right Thing. It will make you feel so good. And you will always have a good story to tell in the end.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Ooohhhmmmm....

I started taking a yoga class this week. A few years ago, when I was Stressed Out Kelly, I took a yoga class with my friend Ann. She convinced me it would be so relaxing and just what I needed. She was right, I did need it, but I just couldn’t relax. The whole time the teacher was telling us to clear our mind or just feel that stretch for one more minute, I would hear the sound of my fingers snapping in my head and think “C’mon…c’mon….let’s go!” and then I would think of all the things left on my long to-do list that still had to be done that day. On Class 3, Ann and I went out for a glass of wine after yoga….to relax from yoga….and she said “This isn’t working out for you, is it?” I really wanted it to but I could never free my mind for an hour a day. All I could think of “do you know what I could be crossing off my list right now?!”

Fast forward a few years and I’m back at yoga again. On one hand it is a totally different experience and on the other hand, I still haven’t found the ability to shut myself up.  I am a much different person now, I recognize the importance of taking time for yourself, and I WANT to take that time. I am also much more relaxed in general so I had no doubt this attempt at yoga would be different.
When we walked in I immediately loved the teacher and was lulled into a yoga trance by her quiet, soothing voice. I did spend most of the class looking up from poses to see what she was doing, though. Here we are in downward dog and she is explaining the transition to the next move and I’m thinking “put my leg where?!” so I would look up and then be a few steps behind. What can I say? I’m a visual learner.  I’ll get the hang of it eventually but I did end up with a strained neck from craning to see what she was doing.

Recently, we were with some friends and I “threatened” to not say anything for a week. They all bust out laughing saying “you couldn’t last 10 minutes!” What?! I tried it right then and you know what, they were right. Can I be quiet in yoga for an hour? Yes, I can….right? Turns out, not so much. My external voice just keeps rambling on inside my head. There is no way to shut me off. Here are some excerpts of the “conversations” from yoga:
Instructor: Let’s just start with clearing our mind….clear away the stresses….stop thinking about the things you need to get done….just let your mind be blank…

Me: Okay, clearing my mind….I can’t clear my mind…are other people literally thinking of nothing? (insert me peeking at other people….they have their eyes closed and seem to be thinking of nothing)…what night is it tonight…Tuesday….okay, when I get home I have to…wait, stop…I need to clear my mind. Seriously, can you really think of nothing?
Instructor: look over your other shoulder and just feel the stretch. Connect with the muscle and just think about releasing it….

Me: ow…that hurts. Ok, shush….just connect with the muscle. What if my neck tendon just snapped right now….that would really hurt. Okay, stop….just imagine your mind as all black….hhmm…maybe I’ll wear my black pants tomorrow…
Instructor: just roll your head round, using your nose as a pencil…imagine yourself making a big circle on a piece of paper.

Me: giggle. That would be funny if my nose was a pencil. Okay, stop, focus. Oh boy…here comes the spaghetti I just had…it’s coming up…and I’m burping sauce. Mental note: don’t whoof down dinner 20 minutes before class…especially pasta and meatballs.
Instructor: okay, now just stretch as long as you can….lengthen your arms and legs…now start crawling your fingers out…..

Me: This feels like I’m trying to save myself from something….should I pretend this is life and death and with just one more stretch I’ll be home free…..oh, this reminds me of when the kids used to do itsy bitsy spider…it was so cute…Stop…just lengthen your arms…
Instructor: With your left leg behind you and your right leg bent and in between your hands you are going to lift your arms up to the sky…

Me: Am I the only one falling over?! Why can’t I balance myself? Oh boy, here comes the sauce again…
Instructor: okay, now it’s time for… (I admit, I have no idea what she called this part of the session but essentially you just lay down and completely relax and no one talks.)

Everyone got crazy giddy all of a sudden for this end part of the class. People were asking for blankets, neck rolls, eye pillows…I had NO idea what was going on. Apparently it signals the end of class. I did not take a blanket. I was afraid I would fall asleep and snore.
Me: Are people really about to fall asleep right now? Did I just hear someone snore? Do they have “clear” minds? This is relaxing. It really is. I just need to shush myself. Shhhh….just think about nothing….what happens after this? Is there more….?

Me: This is going to make a great blog post….

Monday, October 8, 2012

Those Stuffed Animals Have Feelings!

During our beach vacations we always take a stroll along the beach searching for treasures from the sea. It’s one of our favorite things to do.

We visiting Cape May a few years ago and after a long, stuffy ride in the car, we immediately headed to the beach once we checked into our hotel. We didn’t bother to take our long pants off. We just ran to the beach. And the ocean greeted us by throwing a giant piece of aqua blue sea glass at us. It was such a beautiful color and I have never seen one since.  Another time we were strolling along a new beach in Truro on a misty, foggy morning and I found a giant piece of lilac purple sea glass. I was giddy with excitement.
Just this past Memorial Day weekend, we took our inaugural first of the season drive out onto the National Seashore in Truro. The sea gave us 16 starfish! In my whole life, I think I have only found 2-3 starfish in the “wild”! They were already washed up and dry so I knew they were too late to be saved. Later that day as we were collecting shells, I found myself a little panicked at the amount in Mimi’s hand and I told her to put some back…that their friends might miss them if she took them all. She thought about it for a minute and it seemed to make sense to her. She sifted through and put a few back. I think I was feeling sad for all the starfish that had died so I was transferring those feelings to shells.

When the kids were little and we were shopping, they had a weakness for stuffed animals. They would inevitably ask for one and I would let them carry it around in the cart but would tell them that we couldn’t buy them because I would feel badly if we took them from their friends. “Don’t you think their friends will be sad if we take the baby hippo away from them?” I know….it was so bad. But look, I didn’t need one more stuffed animal in my house. And quite honestly, there was a little part of me that thought the other stuffed animals might miss them.  As a side note, I did switch tactics not long after this and tell them that “Yes, that stuffed puppy is really cute but they don’t actually sell the puppies on Tuesdays”.  For several years, my kids thought that even though the store had a lot of things, only certain things were for sale on certain days. Let's be honest...that was genius. It didn't work for long but you have to take what you can get when the kids are little.
Have you ever seen the episode of The Middle where Sue Heck can’t get rid of her old hot curlers, even though they don’t work, because she thinks it will hurt their feelings to throw them away? Yep, that’s me. I will say I am pretty good at throwing things out. Well, I’m going at throwing everyone else’s stuff out but occasionally I come across things I just can’t part with because I think they might be sad or mad if I throw them out. It doesn’t happen very often but sometimes I find myself putting something back that I was going to give away just to spare its feelings.  

I have to be strong though because I live with three pack rats. Well, let me clarify. Tim is a wanna be pack rat. It’s as if he grew up in the Great Depression. “We need to save those boxes. You never know when you are going to need a good box.” Yeah, but we don’t need 20 of them…
It was only recently that I realized that the kids probably don’t throw things out because they think things have feelings. Just the other day I suggested we throw out an old blanket that we used to hold the bunny when she was a baby. Mimi yelled “No, we can’t! The blanket will miss her!” Uh oh.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Whales Like the Rain

It has rained for a week straight. A whole week of dreary, drizzly, cold, rainy weather. It just makes you want to crawl back into bed and sleep for a week.

Yesterday as I was walking from the train to my car I realized I forgot my umbrella. Total panic overtook me. Now, if this was just a plain old black umbrella I would have left it. But this was my $40 JCrew navy blue with green whales umbrella that I have had for 5 years and love like crazy. It is so darn cute. It has a bright green handle that matches the whales and as soon as I put the umbrella up I smile a little, despite the rain. For a split second I told myself it was too late, just forget it. But then I said to myself, “Are you crazy, girl?!”
It was like a romantic novel. Cue up the dramatic music. I ran back to the train and grabbed the eye of the conductor. “Wait!” I yelled. “Going to Worcester, Miss?” he asked. “No, I forgot my umbrella on the train! Can I come back on?” I yelled in a panicked voice. He hesitated for a minute and then said with a disappointing shake of his head “Ok, go ahead.” Then he radioed to the train conductor “Hold on…we got a lady who needs her umbrella.” If I wasn’t feeling so desperate to find my baby I would have taken a minute to make a snide comment.

I was immediately faced with a wall twenty people deep waiting on the stairs, on two levels, for the next stop. “Excuse me…Excuse me!” I pushed my way through up the stairs only to remember I was actually sitting one car over. Crap! I ran through the car, down the stairs, up the stairs, and with wobbly legs, I finally retrieved my umbrella. You would have thought I forgot my child with how I felt at that moment.
I turned and began to run back…only to be faced with those same 20 people lining the aisle, wondering what the hold up could be. “Excuse me…Excuse me!” Some people didn’t even move and I had to give them a push to get them to move. Seriously? Can you not just move over a hair?!

When I got to the door I wanted to say thank you to the conductor but he wasn’t there so I just jumped off. I kept looking behind to see if I would see him and at the last second I spotted him from the car I had been in. He had made his way through to let me out a different door but I hadn’t seen him. “Did you find it?!” he yelled. “I did! Thank you so much!!” I yelled back. I would have hugged him if I could.
It’s a totally stupid thing. I was reunited with my umbrella. But it totally made my day. It’s funny the little things that make your day.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

5 in 5

I have officially entered my end of season travel funk. Our last camping trip was last weekend to Lake George, NY….our usual fall destination. We love it there. It’s a place where time seems to have stood still. There are old time motels that have obviously not changed in decades and are undoubtedly filled with the same people year after year. Each year we always build in time to go on a hike, get some warm apple cider donuts, and bike ride through the changing leaves. 

When I get home I am always filled with mixed emotions – happy to have gone on so many great adventures throughout the year, happy to have had such a great last camping trip and sad that the camping season is over.
As I looked back on the trips we took this year, I thought about our July family vacation. The drive to the Outerbanks this summer took forever, or at least it felt like it. Don’t get me wrong…I love a good road trip. It was an interesting ride though – through cities, run down little towns, over farmland, and through beach towns with sandy roads. When we take road trips the kids are usually absorbed in watching DVD’s and we ride in silence. Sometimes we talk, especially when Tim wants to drive late into the night and I fear he will fall asleep at the wheel. So, I chirp along like a bird talking about the most inane topics. Other times we drive in silence for hours, just lost in our own thoughts, with the occasionally smattering of laughter from the kids slicing through the quiet.

My love of travel sometimes translates into the desire to live in different places. I would love to just pick up and go live someplace for a year and then move someplace completely different and start all over again. Technically, I probably wouldn’t like it….all that packing and unpacking, trying to find a new job, etc.  But the idea of it is exciting to me. Of course I would never do that with my kids. Tim and I tell them all the time that once they are done with college we are going to pack it up and go for a cross country RV trip like no other….just roaming around the country checking new places out. They are horrified, of course. “What about the cats, the bunny, and the turtle?!” and “What about our house?! You can’t sell it!” they cry. God help me if that turtle is still with us once Jack graduates college. It was his 5th birthday gift from my sister. This is another story entirely but yes, her son is getting a turtle for his 5th birthday.
Passing through so many diverse environments, I asked Tim to pick the top 5 places he would live if it wasn’t for where we are now. Turns out we had very similar ideas. It got me thinking….it would be great to do an experiment and live in 5 different places in 5 years and write about the experiences. What would it be like to live in NYC for a year vs. living on a farm in the middle of the US someplace? Then, what if you moved to a Caribbean island after that and then moved to Nantucket for a year? How would those “beach communities” differ? What similarities would you find? Then, how about ending your five year stint in the mountains? Colorado, Montana, or someplace like that? I would read a book about someone’s perspectives after that adventure, wouldn’t you?

I bet there would be universal things that would always be the same, regardless of where you lived. Things like… you missed your family and friends or that the core values and essence of who you are travel with you no matter where you go. But, I’m sure the types of people you would encounter in each place would be different, yet similar within that environment. The pace of life in each place would be different, with each place having its own energy and life to it. The things that people spent their time on and the way they lived their life would likely be very different as well. For me, seeing how I reacted to each environment and the life within it would interest me the most. How would I change my behavior to adapt? Or would I? How would each experience change me and shape my future self?  You can tell I was a psychology major, can’t you?
It would be fun though, wouldn’t it?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness

The other day someone pinned a blog on Pinterest that I loved: http://mixmingleglow.com/blog/?p=1358. Essentially this woman decided on her birthday to spend the day with her family doing 38 random acts of kindness…one for each year she has been alive. She lists all the things she did and the reactions from people. Things like buying coffee for the person behind her in line to helping an older gentleman with his groceries. Great stuff!

I had a situation a few weeks ago where I was buying lunch from a food truck in downtown Boston and the guy taking my order said he’d like to give me a free drink…I just had to select what I wanted. I literally had no words. My immediate thoughts were “What does he want” and “Why is he giving me a free drink?” I almost said no because it was so weird. And it’s sad that it’s weird. Why is it so strange when people do nice things? Ultimately, the free drink guy was just trying to get me to try their ice teas so hopefully when I come back I’ll order one next time. But to me, it felt like a little gift that day when he randomly selected me.
Whether you have done a little act of kindness or been the recipient of one, it puts you in a totally different frame of mind. And you start paying it forward and doing more for others. I guess the question is, why don’t we do it more often?

After reading the blog, I decided I would try and do one little “RAOK” a day. How hard could it be, I thought? Well, last week was week one -  I thought I would give it a shot and I quickly realized I need to be more aware of what is going on around me. I certainly have time to commit an act of kindness especially with the amount of time I spend commuting, but I haven’t found any opportunities. I think we get so caught up in routines and being absorbed in our thoughts,  that it takes effort to see outside ourselves. At least that’s the excuse I’m going with for now.
Finally! Last Thursday, a guy was coming out of my work elevator with a bike. Well, he was fumbling to get his bike out of the elevator while the door kept trying to shut on him. So, I waited and then held the front door of the building open for him. He was so surprised that I waited and held the door that he said thank you three times. It made me feel good to be able to help him.

Riding my random act of kindness high, when I was at the grocery store last Sunday I found another opportunity. I heard a mother saying to her child “Hurry up! Just find someone that works here and tell him what is going on!” I looked over and found a mom holding a jug of apple cider while it dripped all over the floor. And here is where an awkward random act of kindness comes in. I went over to help her. First I took her cell phone out of her hand because it was getting wet. That was good. But, then I attempted to wrap a plastic grocery bag around the jug while she said “Ah…if I move my finger, it will squirt out all over the place”. I kept going at it with the bag until her finger came off and then the cider squirted her in the face. Okay, not helpful. Thankfully the worker from the grocery store appeared and took care of it. In hindsight this was more just an act of trying to be helpful so don't think it really counts. That and...I wasn't even very helpful.
Bottom line, this is harder than I thought. But, I’m going to keep at it. What was the last random act of kindness you did or someone did to you?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Grass is Always Greener

My kids are getting older and it makes me feel so old. I remember my reaction when people would say “Oh, my son is in high school” and I would think “Wow, they are older than I thought.” Now I suspect people are saying that about me. I hope that’s the case rather than “Well, that’s not surprising”.

As the kids get older, they are not home as much, which, let’s be honest, as parents we have been looking forward to this moment for what feels like a lifetime. However, once it arrives, it’s a little off-putting. You aren’t quite sure what to do with yourself.
Recently I found myself looking for a dog to adopt. Not a crazy young puppy, but an older dog that just needed some love. The puppies are the first to be adopted but there are so many wonderful older dogs out there looking for love. Growing up we always had a ton of animals. My uncle managed an animal shelter and he was always bringing home some crazy dog, little kitten, or one day, even a duckling (which unfortunately was eaten by a neighbor’s dog after I spent 4 hours making a pen and pond for it. Scarred for life? You betcha.) My point being that I love animals. We have a regular barn going on at the house with a turtle, 2 fish, a bunny, and 2 cats. Tim is not down with adding any more animal cages/tanks to clean or listening to me constantly say to the kids “Has anyone fed the (insert type of pet) today?!”

I’ll be honest, I’m more of a cat person than a dog person. I love dogs. I really do. They are sweet, have tons of personality, and give a lot of love to you. But I don’t love their breath, or how they smell when they get wet, or getting up at 5 am in the freezing cold to take them out….just to name a few things.  And we travel a ton so finding someone to feed the brood we have is challenging enough, never mind finding someone to take the dog because he/she can’t stay home for a long weekend by themselves like the others can. It just adds a level of complexity that I’m not sure I want to undertake.
It hit me the other day that with the kids being more independent and needing me less that maybe this whole sudden dog thing is a result of me wanting someone to need me more not need me less. Ugh. I hate when reality slaps me in the face. I am not a needy person at all. It’s just that after years of being needed so much that it’s hard to move to the next phase. When your self-identity shifts, it’s just hard to get used to. Don’t get me wrong…they still need me…and I know they will need me in different ways throughout life but this first transition part is foreign to me.

I emailed a friend yesterday and she said “Can’t respond right now…holding 2 kids!” I know that if she were to read this right now she would love to be in my position. And in two years, I’ll be wishing my kids needed me as much as they do now. Grass is always greener right?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Confessions of a Bookworm

I typically feel one of three ways when I finish a book – I think “That was pretty good” and I’m ready to move on to the next one, I’m disappointed in the ending and I am mad at the book, or I love it so much that I can’t break up with it.

I love to read. I have been a bookworm since I was little. In one month this summer I read 6 books. I know people that can’t imagine finding time to read one book a month, nevermind  six, but those same people can often recount everything that happened in the last few weeks with Big Brother, Housewives of New York, and the Bachelor.  I’m just sayin’….you make time for the things you want to in life. I happen to choose books.
Mimi has definitely taken after me. Last month she read 4 books and there are times when we have to tell her to put the books down before we take them away. It sounds crazy I know but sometimes the girl has to shower or just look us in the eyes once in awhile.

Due to my commute, I have a lot of time to read each day – at least 2 hours – and I couldn’t be happier.  I have a long list of books that I want to read. Some are recommendations from friends, some come from book reviews I read in magazines, and some come from people on the train who lean over and ask “Have you read this? It’s really good!” I love those kinds of recommendations…when you just can’t keep it to yourself. For me, a few of those books are Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Gone Girl, Defending Jacob, and Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life to name just a few of the ones I have loved.
I have a friend that reads a lot and we recommend and share books back and forth. At least once a week there is an email exchange that looks like this:

Me: Ok, I’m on the part where x happens….just tell me…”does she....?”

My Friend: Do you really want me to tell you?

Me: Of course not…but if she does that it’s going to be stoopid. Just tell me. No, don’t.
For the books that are pretty good (“3 whales” on my Preppy Camper Girl scale), I usually shut the book and then immediately pick up a new one. I don’t feel invested in the characters but feel it was worth a read. I am ready to move on the minute I finish the last line of the book.

Then come the books that I really got into but have a stupid ending. I usually feel mad at the author and have the irresistible urge to call them immediately and complain. “What kind of ending is that?!” Don’t get me wrong….I’m not a huge fan of wrapping everything up in a bow at the end but some sort of closure is good. Reasonable closure. Not like the ending of My Sister’s Keeper when the girl walks out of the courtroom and gets killed by a bus. STOOPID. On a related note, if I haven’t told you the story of going to see this movie with my bookgroup, ask me about it. It’s pretty funny.

Then, come the books that I fall completely in love with and don’t want to put down. I usually finish these books in a few days because I can’t put them down. Have you ever had a book that caused you to set your alarm earlier than normal just to get up and read in quiet? Or have you found yourself making dinner and reading at the same time? These are the kind of books I love. There are times when I read one of these books and think “If one of my children came into the room with their hair on fire right now, I might not notice right away”. C’mon…it’s happened to all of us.

These are also the books that cause me to feel like I ended a relationship when I finish them. I go into a little mini depression and I can’t pick up another one right away because I can’t imagine another book being as good. I am fearful of starting a new book relationship. Or I feel like I’m cheating on the book even though things are technically over. A few books that made me feel this way were The Help, The Kitchen House, and The Red Tent.

I love the journey that books bring you on but I also can’t stand waiting for it all to unfold.  Kind of like a good surprise on your birthday. You are so excited for the surprise… there’s a part of you that wants to know…but you really don’t want to know…because that would ruin it.

I also think reading is a lot like traveling, which I love. Reading books transports you to all kinds of new places. Places you haven’t been to before and may likely have never gone to but you love, nonetheless, when you get there.

I’m always looking for new book recommendations. What are some of your favorites??

Thursday, September 6, 2012

It's Raining - Get Out The Broom

On the way to work yesterday it was raining. In fact, it had been raining for most of the night. And with rain often comes wind which brings leaves and small branches down. That’s how these things go.

I was on my way to the train when I saw something that almost made me drive off the road. Out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of a guy sweeping his driveway. I immediately thought he must be old. Old people with lots of time on their hands tend to do these kinds of things. Not all old people. I don’t mean to generalize. But admit it, this wouldn’t surprise you.
However, a young, seemingly normal guy sweeping his driveway of leaves and debris at 7:45 am in a full suit with a janitor size broom, might make you take notice, right? He must have been at it for awhile…he had a long driveway and it was all clean. Why?! Please, explain why this seems necessary? This screams crazy nut job to me. I can only imagine his wife inside making breakfast, packing lunches, and trying to get the kids out the door to school and there he is sweeping his driveway.

It’s shocking that it wouldn’t appear to be a losing battle to him when he turned around and saw leaves fluttering back onto his driveway. It’s like when I vacuum. The minute I am done and turn around to see random fuzz balls, stray feathers from my living room pillows, and pieces of hay from the bunny already littering the carpet, I want to scream. As a consequence I don’t vacuum as often as I should. I can’t set myself up for that kind of frustration on a regular basis.
Please, file sweeping your driveway under “You Know You Have Gone Crazy When...."

The Joys of Lunch Meat, Cleats, and Paperwork

Ahhh….the smell and feel of lunch meat in the morning. There is nothing like a piece of slimy ham at 6 am to remind you that school is back in session!

I could live in the summer season forever. It is my favorite time of year. I love the heat, I live in my bare feet, and I love the bright mornings and long nights. For someone who craves organization and schedules, it somehow works for me that they are relaxed in the summer. It just feels like the days are endless, everyone is in a good mood, and there is so much more to do.  I think the thing I love most about summer is I love Summer Kelly. Bring on the fall and winter and Summer Kelly can be found under her blankie wishing the days wouldn’t get so dark so quickly. I don’t do cold very well.
So, here we are at the transition point where summer is ending and I have mixed feelings. There is a part of me that is happy to get back to a routine and a schedule. And I love the feel of a new school year. It reminds me of new clothes and fresh school supplies. Nothing like a trapper keeper to put a zip in your step!

Yesterday was the kid’s first day back to school….8th & 9th grade. Mimi’s last year of middle school and Jack’s first year of high school! On Tuesday night, I made homemade egg mcmuffins (much healthier version) for Jack for the week and on Wednesday I got up early and made Mimi homemade blueberry muffins. I felt very June Cleaver-ish, minus the apron. I made lunches and only gagged twice. Clarification, I didn’t make Jack’s sandwich, Tim did, and I still gagged twice. But I gagged with a smile.
I swooshed in the living room with their homemade breakfasts (first day of school…sure, you can eat in the living room) only to be confronted by grunts and eyes barely open. The finally got moving and it seemed like things were going fine until Mimi’s hair wasn’t “perfect” and Jack got distracted by feeding the fish and brushing his teeth at the same time.

In the end, Tim had to drive them out to the bus so they didn’t miss it. I was determined not to yell “You’re going to be late!!” on the first day.
Night one consisted of the usual “I need these forms filled out by tomorrow” and “I need a 1 1/2 “   3-ring binder with a red composition notebook TODAY”….here are your forms and here is a 1” 3-ring binder with a black composition notebook. It will do. Layer on the “I am going to join cross country afterall” and “I’m on the field hockey team now” which translated into finding the shin guards, cleats, running shoes, fill out the forms, and “where is my mouth guard?!”  Boy, I just love the first week of school…..

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Recipe for an Adults Only Weekend

For the past 3 years, on the weekend of my birthday, we have gone to Truro for Adult Camping Weekend...or ACW, as we like to call it. It's us and two other couples. Everyone has their assigned beds, we have our menu pretty set, and yes, there are jeeps involved. These things never change.

By now, we all have our favorite things that we like to do and we try to fit them all in. But, no matter what we do we always have a blast. It just takes a few key ingredients to have a great time:

Start with a Like Minded Vision - It's hard to have a fun time when everyone wants to do different things. There is bound to be disappointment. With our group, we love sitting on the beach. All day. We would never do that at home....sit for that long. But on ACW it is okay to soak up the sun, stare out to sea, be silent, read books, watch whales jump on the horizon, and fall asleep. It's okay because we all do it, all day long.

Bring a Jeep and Add a Dose of the National Seashore - There is nothing like riding around with the top down, cruising over the dunes. It feels like home. It feels less like home when you see signs that say "Recent Shark Sightings". Ignore those.

Add Some Music - music is key. From Empire State of Mind to Dancing Queen to The Cure's Pictures of Me....it's all good. We all have our "At Bat" songs....you should definitely play those.

Mix up a signature cocktail - It should be different every year but you shouldn't try to sip your cocktail out of Twizzler Straws. That causes headaches and really doesn't work well. You should also not let boys mix the drinks. For some reason they think you just add a splash of juice to a glass of booze. That can lead to trouble.

Add some great food - Greek feta dip, broccoli salad, sausage & egg burritos, mussels in cream sauce with specks of sausage, or pink and green cupcakes. Just eat your hearts out.

Then add a Dash of Dancing - After all that sitting, we like to dance. In the camper. At the beach at sunset. And again after dark. We aren't picky about the spot. I should mention we are really good dancers. I think that is why people are always looking at us when we dance. In fact, I'm pretty sure of it. I'm also pretty sure that if you turn the music up as loud as it goes in the camper, even with the windows shut, your neighbors will not like it and the campground Po Po will pay a visit.

But don't worry about the weather - You can go to the beach, eat, and dance under sunny or stormy skies. And trust me, you can even have fun with a hurricane bearing down...although it makes you think twice about being in a little metal box tethered only to the car with winds blowing at 50mph.

Give all of that a good mix and you will end up with tons of laughter and lots of great memories. It's perfect everytime!





Monday, August 13, 2012

I Got A Feeling....

While we were on vacation, we stayed at the beach until almost 7 every night. Mind you, it was still in the mid to high 80's at that time so we easily lost track of time. We walked off the beach every night feeling relaxed and wondering why we didn't live someplace like the Outerbanks. Someplace with a mild climate, that was warm 7-8 months out of the year, and where you only had to drive 10 minutes at any given point to get to the beach.

Okay, technically there are alot of reasons why we don't live someplace like this - regular hurricanes, job market, etc. But put that aside for a minute. Wouldn't you love to come home from work, grab the kids, and run off to the beach to catch the sunset? It would totally shift your mood every day.

After discussing it for several days we came to the conclusion that if we lived someplace like that, we probably wouldn't take advantage of it. Life would take over. There would be homework and dinner and nighttime activities. We would be tired or wouldn't get home in time to get it together.Watching the sunset on the beach would fall to the bottom of the list, unfortunately.

Life is so busy, isn't it? It really got us thinking about how we could slow it down. I wrote down a quote once that I loved. It read "You are only as crazy busy as you make yourself." In concept, I think that is true. Oftentimes, there are many things out of your control that make a day crazy but I do believe that we make our lives so much more complicated than they need to be. It's all about choices and what we choose to spend our time on. I have to admit, I have to remind myself of that from time to time. When I feel overwhelmed by all that I have going on, I ask myself "What do I really HAVE to do." Many times, the answer to that question is only a quarter of what I expected of myself that day.

We don't live near the beach so watching the sunset with sand in our toes isn't going to happen unless we are on vacation or visiting family and friends who live near the beach But we realized we don't need the beach to recreate the same feeling. It's all about taking advantage of the time you have with what you have. Instead of rushing in from work and asking the kids about their day while making dinner, we could just sit and relax for a bit and reconnect. After dinner, instead of cuddling up in front of the tv, we could go out and roast s'mores. We could just sit in our backyard and watch the sunset (of course that would be once the mosquitos die down...). But there are lots of things we could all do at least once a week to recreate that vacation feeling. We don't have to wait until those 2 or 3 weeks out of the year when we officially go on vacation to relax.

We can do this at any time. What do you do to capture that vacation feeling when you are home?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Dune Running in the OBX

I had a hard time wearing shoes today, considering I have been in flip flops or barefoot for over a week. Lucky for me, I can wear flip flops to work at times and my first day back, I had to wear them. My feet took one look at the flats I had planned to wear and walked away. I had a client meeting in the afternoon and I had to bring the flats. I literally forced my feet into the shoes against their will. It was ugly.

You know Tim and I love the Outer Cape. It reminds us both of the Cape we knew growing up. Remote, quiet, filled with dunes, and very relaxed. We found that same environment in the OuterBanks last week. Our flip flop wearing feet felt right at home.

I will say there were two bumps in the road during our entire trip. First, the traffic. There is one road in and out and we happened to be near the end of the island so we sat in Saturday change over traffic for 3 hours. It was like going 20 miles an hour from Hopkinton to the Cape on a Saturday. After driving for two days, this was a buzz kill. But, once we crossed into Hatteras and started driving on roads literally in between dunes, we knew it was worth it.

Our campsite at Camp Hatteras faced the dunes. All we had to do was cross the road and climb over a dune to get to the beach. And the beach was beautiful. Fluffy white sand and clear blue warm water. You don't see this every day at a campground. Sign. Me. Up.

We spent pretty much every day at a different beach. First, the campground beach and then later in the week we bought a pass to drive out on the National Seashore and we felt at home. We tried out a new beach every day and they just kept getting better and better.

I spend a lot of time researching every place we go to and type up a tentative itinerary of what we might want to do. We really try to explore every place we visit to the fullest and take advantage of everything going on, whether it's a corn festival or a 50 mile long yard sale. For this trip, I was excited to find a 1 mile "Glow Run" in the dunes at Jockey Ridge State Park in Nags Head. Basically it was a 1 mile run through the dunes at sunset, complete with glow in the dark tshirts and glow necklaces. 1 mile is a piece of cake right? And that was something we could all do as a family.

Before it started I decided that we should run in "teams"...Jack and I together because we are a bit faster and then Tim and Mimi because they work together so well as a team. I told Mimi I couldn't have her "weighing me down"...that I needed to run at my own pace. I had visions of Olympic gold running through my head. There was a prize for the top 3 runners out of a field of 250. Seriously, I had no thoughts of even finishing in a decent time but Jack had his sights held high.

Turns out that running in the sand is like running in a vat of glue. We all took off running, Jack was the gazelle out in front. Mimi quickly passed Tim and I and it wasn't long before I felt like I was going backwards in the sand. Did I mention the sand dunes we were running up were between 100-120 feet high. Yeah, think about how high that is for a minute. I didn't even make it a 1/4 of the way up the first dune before I had to walk. I looked over as I was walking up to see Jack already running down the back side of the first dune. What the heck?!

I am the only one out of the 4 of us that runs and I came in last out of all of us, at 15 minutes. Tim and Mimi stuck together and were able to do about 13 minutes. So much for her slowing me down. Jack came in 10th, out of everyone, and ran it in 8:38. Holy Sand Dunes. Regardless of our times, we were all thrilled to make it, and have such a fun experience together.

Overall we had an incredible week together. We typically spend each night playing games together but on this trip, we stayed at the beach until 6 or 7 every night and were so worn out that after dinner we watched a little of the Olympics and then fell fast asleep.

Side note, we have never brought our t.v. on a camping trip. We try very hard to get away from t.v and electronics on all our trips but who can resist the Olympics? We were so glad we were able to catch a little each night.

Finally, I mentioned earlier that there were 2 bumps in the road. The first bump occured on our way there while the 2nd bump occured on our way home. We discovered our friends happened to be staying at the same campground during a few days that we were there. They were on a two week vacation, with Camp Hatteras being just one stop along the way.

On the last night, their son had gotten sick in the middle of the night. We found this out when they came to say goodbye as we were packing up. We didn't think much of it until about 1 am the next morning. We spent the night in a Cracker Barrel parking lot in Maryland, as we normally do. CB allows campers to stay free of charge in their parking lots, with the unspoken assumption that you will frequent their restaurants for breakfast, lunch, or dinner in return. They are typically in safe spots, have lots of campers staying there, and are free. "We" drive (aka Tim drives) until his eyes are ready to close and then we pull into a Cracker Barrel for a few hours before we get on the road again.

Just like my Barbie camper, our kitchen table doubles as a bed when it is folded down and that is typically where Mimi, Tim, and I sleep. Jack sleeps on the floor in a sleeping bag. So, there we were...the three of us on the table/bed but it was so hot it was hard to fall asleep. I was literally sweating just laying there. It took me 2 hours to fall asleep but I was quickly awoken from Mimi sneezing on me. Oh, turns out, it wasn't a sneeze.

She had woken up to say she wasn't feeling good but instead of speaking, only puke came out. Projectile vomit to be honest. The good news is that it didn't smell. Can you imagine being stuck on a table/bed that reeked of vomit in a camper that was about 95 degrees hot?? Another amazing fact was that she didn't get anything anywhere except us, with the exception of the corner of Tim's pillow. Most of the puke ended up on Tim. There was some on me and even some on Jack's back. I'm not going to lie...it was disgusting.

But I snapped into Mother Mode and got her to the bathroom while I cleaned everything up. It passed quick and within 15 minutes, we were all laughing about it. You had to because it was so unbeliveable. This was not on my itinerary.

All in all, we had a fantastic trip! We swam, boogie boarded, played a few games, met up with friends, went fishing & crabbing, drove on the beach, and RELAXED. It doesn't get much better than that!