Pink Shoes

pink pumps

I just purchased my daughter her first pair of pink dress up shoes.  They were supposed to be saved as a reward for going potty (she’s only 2 years old)…but the moment she saw them she wanted those suckers on her feet.  I tried telling her the concept of our new potty reward system, but she either didn’t get it or didn’t care, because she cried for over 40 minutes for those darned plastic, ill-fitting shoes.  I attempted the old Bate n Switch, offering up M&Ms, then a movie, but both were a no go.  In my busy evening of dinner-making and back-pack-packing, I finally could take the sobs coming from the bathroom where my little girly girl sat on her froggy potty no longer, and gave in.  (I know, I know…I broke rule #1 of good parenting, “Don’t give in”…but Rule #2 is “Ya gotta pick your battles,” as all of you parents are aware.)

The thing is, my daughter is still in “instant gratification” mode.  Some kids never do get out of that phase, but I can only keep trying to instill in my children a knowledge of the old saying, “Good things come to those who wait.”  My dear ol’ hubby just told me about an article he read on this very subject.  Psychologists brought children into a room, put a cookie down on the table, and told them not to eat it.  The adult in the testing area said she would be back in a bit, and if they waited and did not eat the cookie, they could have two cookies.  As you can imagine, most of the test group ended up breaking down and eating the cookie.  The company conducting the test followed this group of kids up through college, and found that those who were able to wait and delay their gratification did much better in life and school activities.

Based on that study, my mother should have been a multi-bazillionaire. Talk about waiting for good things to come!  She was definitely a save-for-a-rainy-day kind of gal.  I have recently had the task of cleaning out her apartment full of 50 years of memories.  While dementia takes over her brain and she believes she is living with her parents and giving piano lessons and working in her father’s grocery store, I’m donating most of her precious belongings (not because I want to, but because we have no space to host 50 years worth of her things).  One treasure I’ve come across, among all her others, is her pair of pink stilletos.  She purchased these in 1959.  And never wore them.  They remained in the box, the bill of sale on top, destined to never be seen by the public.

Mom always took exemplary care of all she owned, whether it be her stemware or a hand towel.  She grew up in the post-depression era, when families were still recovering from being in terrible financial crisis, and where every item was used, re-purposed, and cherished.  Luxuries were either non-existent or saved for special occasions.

Her life in that time period must have been so focused on saving that she still did so in most of her daily living decades later.  So while the frivolous side of her talked her into buying those darling pink shoes, the practical side made her keep them tucked away to be used only for the ultimate special occasion…which never came.

And this is wear my mother and my daughter differ in their view of delayed gratification.  Between the two ways of living, I will side with my daughter. Do not be so consumed with saving everything precious for a rainy day that you never get to enjoy your most adored belongings. Use the good china every once in awhile, just for kicks.  Wear the cashmere sweater that cost you two week’s worth of lunches to the office one day.  Let your oldest daughter borrow your diamond earrings for a night out with the family.  No material possession should be placed so high on a pedestal that you can’t easily get it down.  After all, they are just “things.”  Make memories with them.  They may be the memories you re-live over and over again when your life is nearing it’s end.

 

The Law of Attraction

Image

Remember when you were a kid and someone would say something mean to you or call you a nasty name?  The standard comeback for anyone between the ages of 6 to 12 was “I’m rubber, you’re glue –  whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you!”

I believe, much like that juvenile saying, that whatever we say or do comes back to us.  Most call it Karma, or spiritual influence or the like.  Whatever the term, Universe is always listening to our thoughts and viewing our actions.  She does not judge or discriminate.  She just sends back to us whatever it is we put out there.

If you walk around thinking, “My job is terrible.  My boss is mean, and the pay isn’t good, and I don’t enjoy the work I do!” then that’s what Universe hears, and she will send those things to you.  BUT, if you are positive, and say, “Some day soon I will have my dream job, with work that I find rewarding, working with kind people, and making a salary I deserve!” then Universe will send that, too.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather have positive things happen to me than negative.  But how do we control our thoughts?  How do we put “the good stuff” out into the atmosphere?  They say it takes 7 days to form a habit.  Well, for me, it’s more like 7 weeks or 7 months.  I’ve tried something new for 7 days before  and it did NOT become a habit, let me tell you.  It’s especially difficult for us to change the way we think, feel, and act if we are in the middle of experiencing something we do not want in our lives.

One way we can control our thoughts is to put them out there on paper.  We humans are very visual people – which is why McDonald’s has their giant golden arches in front of every restaurant, and why every car ad has a pretty girl or handsome guy in it.  A wonderful way to make our wishes visual is to do a Vision Board.  These are also called “Dream Boards” or “Treasure Maps” or “Wish Boards”, but the idea is the same –  to put visuals on paper (or some other medium) of things you’d like to have happen.

One way many people make a Vision Board is by using a piece of poster board, some glue, and lots of pictures cut from various magazines.  You can also write and draw on the board.  You can even create art, putting your wishes in a painting.  But if you aren’t into cutting and pasting, or don’t like your artistic abilities, you can also make a Vision Board online.  I am in the process of making one now that will become my screen saver (which is good because I’m online every day for a good portion of the day and this way I will be staring my dreams in the face).

If you are thinking about making a Vision Board, do not worry if your dreams seem unattainable, far-fetched, or contain a bit of nonsense.  This is YOUR board – no one need see it if you do not want them to, and there’s no need to be practical.  Dream on!  The sky’s the limit.  Think big!  Do you want a new home?  A new car?  Diamond rings and vacations to distant lands?  Put those out there.  Do you want to write a novel?  Find the perfect mate?  Create a new invention that makes everyone’s life easier?  That’s great.  But don’t just think of the material/physical things.  Think spiritually, too.  Do you need to be happier?  More grateful?  Healthier?  In touch with divine guidance?   Make sure to include those, as well.

And as for any nay-sayers, you can be skeptical if you’d like.  There are many skeptics out there.  But there are also a lot of people who believe.  And I, for one, am willing to give it a go.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the skeptics are wrong?  Who knows…maybe you have put the desire for something more out there, and that’s what brought you to read this post.

Universe is listening.  What will you tell her?

My Birthday

 

birthday princess

My mom has always loved birthdays and made a special effort to honor the person who was turning one year older each year.  She would literally take an hour or two pouring over cards at her local Hallmark store, reading verses, narrowing the choices down until she’d found just the right words to express what she wished for the person for whom she was choosing the card (which, let me tell you, drove me nuts as a little kid forced to accompany her to the card store).  She would take months thinking about what the birthday guy or gal didn’t have that s/he might enjoy receiving as a present.  And you could hear the excitement in her voice when she called the person on his or her special day to sing “Happy Birthday” by phone.

I’m sure my mother’s passion for birthdays is why I look forward to mine so much each year.  I try not to be too much of a diva, but what girl isn’t a bit of one, right?  It’s really not my fault after all these years of conditioning that I want to be treated as a princess for the day.  At least that’s what I tell myself.  I don’t need that much to make my birthday great, really.  Just several people saying “Happy Birthday, Jen!”, along with some cards and a few gifts.  The gifts don’t have to be extravagant, either.  As long as they are heart felt.  That’s all I want.  People to remember and take a moment to recognize it’s a special day for me.

I had a feeling long before my big day approached this year that I would be disappointed, even thought it was on a Saturday and I had a hope that there’d be happenings all day.  That’s what comes of expecting too much.  I should know better by now.  After all, I’m a grown up (well, mostly).  The day of my birth this year was pretty uneventful at first, which didn’t help my mood.  The evening before our two-year-old twins had a tummy bug and were puking.  Looking back on it I have to laugh. Trying to get both little people to aim and hit a bucket was a bit comical.  I also have to feel blessed, because for the most part we have very healthy children, and are pretty lucky a big throwup episode with our toddlers had not occurred before now.  But while you are in the midst of it, thinking of your birthday approaching the next day, it isn’t something you can be positive about.  So anyway, after a night of sitting on the bathroom floor directing vomit, I was hoping I’d have some pampering headed my way the following day.

Anything would have been nice…breakfast in bed, a kiss and hug and birthday wish from my two older children and husband, an order to take it easy while the rest of the fam did the morning chores of getting the little ones up and changed and fed.  But it was like any other day.  The babies did let me sleep in a bit due to their exhaustion from the evening before, for which I was grateful.  But then it was business as usual.  I got them up.  I changed their diapers.  I made every child in the house breakfast.  All while my husband sat at the table scrolling through Facebook.  My husband finally said two hours later “We need to figure out what we are doing for Mom’s birthday” to whoever was listening.  No response.  “Geez, guys,” I thought…”you don’t have a plan already in place?  You haven’t been thinking about this for days or weeks?  Don’t you care that it’s MY day?”  Somehow it was decided that we needed to wait and make sure the twins were done upchucking before going anywhere.  So instead of the day full of fun I anticipated, I puttered around the house doing chores and for a couple more hours.  After putting the babies down for a nap I couldn’t take it anymore and began to cry while I was folding a load of laundry.  “What is wrong with me?  I’m such a baby,” I thought.  But I couldn’t help it.  And then I realized why all the tears had come on despite my best efforts to stop them.

This year, for the first time in all my 47 years, my mother did not remember my birthday.  And by saying she forgot I don’t mean she momentarily spaced it and then remembered later in the day, calling to apologize.  I mean she didn’t even realize I was having a birthday.  Or that it was even the month in which I was born.  She didn’t even remember eating the piece of birthday cake I brought her the next day from our family party.  And, if I knew her bad memory were just a temporary thing, and my birthday would be a day she remembers well from here on out, I would probably be a little sad but would be ok with it.  After all, not every birthday can be special.  Some are better than others.  That’s just the way it is.  But my real sadness comes from knowing my mother will never remember my birthday again.  Nor be able to pick out just the right card for me, or call to sing “Happy Birthday.”  She’ll probably not remember having a slice of cake with me, either.  My mother now has dementia, and this horrible ailment has turned my dear, sweet mommy into someone who’s got a wonderful long-term memory but no short-term.  She can describe in detail events that happened when she was five, but doesn’t know where she is currently. She can recall every word to hundreds of songs she’s known for decades, but cannot tell you the name of a person she just met.  She can tell you where every guest at her wedding sat, but will never remember her grandchildren’s weddings, if she’s even able to attend them. All of this was running through my mind and I suddenly, selfishly, became a blubbering mess.

Just then my eight-year-old came into the laundry room with surprises for me.  At first I wanted him to go away and give me the gifts later, when I had pulled myself together.  But I could see the excitement in his face, and hear in his voice how happy he was to be able to give me these little heart felt gifts.  And I realized that this is exactly what I wish for, every year.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  My hubby did come through for my b-day (he always does, by the way).  He had taken our middle child to pick out a cake and gifts and cards from the kiddos while the oldest watched the youngest, and they did a stellar job.  The cake was very cool-looking and tasted delicious (all chocolate, which he knows I love).  The gifts were perfect – tokens of love in my favorite character, Hello Kitty.  And the cards made me laugh (the kids had accidentally signed the romantic one meant to be from my man).  He then took me to an antique mall (he knows I am happiest when shopping for treasures), and I found a great pair of new sunglasses at our second stop, Good Will.  See?  I told you the gifts didn’t have to be extravagant.  We finished the evening by ordering take out Chinese and bringing home a Redbox video.  Which was perfect.

Winter White

I’m writing this post while sitting next to our library window watching the snow fall slowly down.  It’s the Charlie Brown kind of snow – you know…the kind in the Charlie Brown Christmas special that falls slowly down while the piano music plays.  We already have at least 12 inches of snow on the ground, with temps hitting the -40 degree mark with the wind chill these last several days.  After two weeks of holiday break, we are going on our 5th additional day off thanks to school cancelations.

You would think with all the snow we’ve been having and the cabin fever the children and I have been experiencing I’d be sick of white, but just the opposite is happening (maybe I’m trying to rid the out of doors of its blanket of white by bringing it inside).  I’ve always loved white, and have found some really great rooms sporting various shades of this color thanks to Pinterest and Etsy (both of which I’m addicted to but do not visit as often as I’d like).

Here’s one with white and touches of aqua (my other fave color).

dreamy dining room

Or how about with a pop of pink?

pop of pink

Or minty green.

Totally girly dream kitchen

An all-white bath with the perfect vintage touches is always enticing.

pipes

A touch of black helps ground an all-white space like this one.

every room needs black

If you can’t have an all-white room perhaps a corner vignette would do.

warm shade

Or opt for a few shelves of white and cream.

Chic Books

Or shelves with various textures. 

texture

I could post pix all day!  The more I look for white rooms the more I am Jonesin’ for them in my house.  While I would love to have at least one room with white on white, I realize it is far from practical, especially when you have four children (two of whom are two years old), plus the neighbor children, a dog, and a cat, all running amuck through our humble abode.  So for now I’ll be content with my brown leather, easy-to-clean sofa and indoor/outdoor sisal rug, both of which hide the leftovers from my attempts to clean up peanut butter and jelly and mud quite well.  I know that if given the choice, I’d rather have a houseful of my loved ones than a roomful of nothingness (although those white rooms are so pretty, dang it).  Maybe one day, when I’m all grown up…

The Spirit of Christmas

all the year

Christmas is fun…but it is also a bit crazy, isn’t it?   When I’m in the middle of it all, cleaning the house for parties and trying to make sure my children are entertained over break, I wish it were all over.  But now that it is, I’m blue.  I always hate the rushing around, but I do love the feeling of Christmas.  The wonderfully corny Christmas carols playing over and over again, the cold days spent tucked away inside with my children as we watch the snow falling, and the fun I have finding little gifts that I think would make my loved ones happy.

As each Christmas approaches I remember those of my childhood.  My fondest holiday memories were those spent at my great aunt’s house in a tiny town in Ohio.  We called her Glady (her real name was Gladys, but one family member forgot the ‘s’ when addressing her presents one year, and the name stuck).  Aunt Glady lived in the same cottage she had purchased as a new construction model back in 1921.  Everything in Aunt Glady’s house was original, including the furnishings, dishes, and all her décor.  And everything about her entertaining was just as old-fashioned (in a good way).

Aunt Glady’s home was situated on the top of a hill overlooking two acres of her back yard.  In the center of the back yard was a stone wall with a huge glistening rock of some sort at the top.  The fish pond at the south end of the wall had long since been filled up, and the rose bushes that used to border the yard all gone, but the view was still grand, especially when fresh snow had just fallen.  Just like almost everything else, her home still had all the original windows, too.  In the winter, a thin layer of frost would form in a small semi-circle at the bottom of each window pane of the little house, making the holiday lights strung up on the neighboring  homes glow even more as I stared at them through the tiny ice crystals at night.

Aunt Glady’s Christmas tree donned tons of tinsel and bubble lights, which, for those who aren’t familiar, are tiny globes made of plastic or tin with a glass tube on top filled with colored water.  When the lights were plugged in and became hot enough the water would bubble.  They were the most magical thing I’d ever seen, and I remember laying on the itchy mohair rug on her floor near the tree watching the bubbles and being transfixed.

My grandmother and aunts were all great cooks and bakers, and Christmas Eve dinner at Aunt Glady’s was a grand occasion.  Among the special dishes were loads of homemade Divinity and Sea Foam, stewed tomatoes with macaroni and cheese (which sounds gross but was delicious), and roast beef that would melt in your mouth.  All placed perfectly, along with glass trays of pickles and olives and such on one of Aunt Glady’s hand-crocheted table cloths, along with her best green glass stemware and rose patterned china.  My grandmother insisted on taking a photo every Christmas Eve before anyone was allowed to sit down.  And every year we all cleared the table and did the dishes together in the kitchen after dinner, laughing over stories of my family’s childhood.  Even at the young age of 5 I understood how magical this all was, and miss it terribly now that I can no longer partake.

My aunt and her sisters are long gone now.  I wish my own little family could have been a part of their lives.  The closest thing I have to these special times is to tell my own children the stories (which get strange looks and eye rolling for the most part).  I was being especially nostalgic for some reason and tried recreating some of that magic during Christmas dinner this year.  We had received a smoked turkey as a gift in the mail (one of Oprah’s favorites, the label said).  I prepared the bird by simply heating it and placing it on a pretty platter, and served it with mac n cheese, mashed potatoes, green beans, and a tray of olives, pickles, and cheese.  I lit candles for the table and dimmed the lights (something we never do, so it felt special).  And called everyone to the table.

Ten minutes later all diners had scattered to other parts of the house, leaving behind half-eaten plates of food.  “Merry Christmas to me” I thought, as I cleared the table, put away the left overs, and did the dishes all alone.  But then it occurred to me that my family is “between generations.”  I need to start traditions so they’ll be part of my grandchildren’s and great nieces’ and nephews’ lives some day, and until then just enjoy the spirit of the season as much as possible.  So above all the holiday hubbub, if the tinsel were to be taken down and the carols played no more, what I would love most of all is the spirit of Christmas.  Friends I’ve not heard from in 10 years  reaching out on Facebook to find me and reconnect.  Neighbors leaving homemade surprises in my mail box.  More giving than receiving everywhere I go.  What I must do, now that another season is over, is to keep this spirit alive all year long.  For that’s what really makes me happy.  (That, and those little bubble lights).

 

Holy Cow…I Won!

Baby Beau

Beau on display

I like to win free stuff as much as the next gal, and like it even better when it’s one-of-a-kind and/or hand-made.  My problem is, I never win anything.  Of course I guess my odds of winning could go up if I put more hours into it…but I do have more to do than sit at my laptop entering contests all day.  That said, if the opportunity presents itself, I will partake (if it doesn’t require too much effort or my life savings to enter).  But in all my years of filling out my many entries, I don’t believe I’ve ever won anything…EVER.  Until last week, that is.

I’ve been enjoying this great blog I stumbled upon by accident, My Old Country House, written by a fantabulous gal named Lesli DeVito.  It’s a real “slice-of-life” and I really like her life.  She writes about things girls like me really care about, like decorating, fashion, good bargains found on shopping trips, and the occasional “how to” (with great tips on saving money and still making it look like you spent an obscene amount).  Her home is darling, her taste in sensible-yet-trendy coordinates is fab, and her personality (which I know only online, but still, you can tell) is cute.  But the real talent lies in her artwork.

One of her recent posts mentioned a series of give-aways she was doing…this one was for naming a baby cow she’d recently painted after meeting him on a walk around her property.  The prize was the painting!  How cool, right?  So I immediately thought to myself that I shouldn’t enter because I wouldn’t win, but then stopped myself from that negative thinking and decided why the Heck not?  Maybe the odds are with me this time.  Maybe after knocking on 99 doors and getting a “no” I would get a yes on this one (to use a really annoying sales analogy my old bosses used to endlessly repeat).  I opened the email, saw the painting of the little guy, and immediately thought I heard him say in a tiny cartoonish voice “My name is Vine.  Beau Vine.”  So I entered with that.  And won!  I actually won.  And it wasn’t something lame, which is what I always thought would happen when the odds were with me.

I received a sweet email from Lesli announcing me as the winner, and found my cow painting in the mail a few days later, wrapped in darling paper with a pretty pink “Thank You” card attached.  It was like Christmas!  And my new Beau was even better in person than he had appeared on screen.  So, Lesli, thank YOU for offering up your one-of-a-kind.  I’m in love (with the cow, I mean…not that you aren’t great).

Friends, If you are A) A savvy gal who likes to save a buck while making her homestead as lovely as possible, or B) Someone looking to capture your favorite critter on canvas, or C) Both, then check out My Old Country House, http://www.myoldcountryhouse.com.  I see by her blog that Lesli is currently taking orders for pet portraits.  What a great keepsake it would make – and it’s perfect for gift-giving, too (think the upcoming holidays, people)!  As for me, I’m off to find a place to hang my new piece of original artwork. 🙂

Memories of My Love Affair

bug

I had a love affair in college.  Who didn’t, right?  But this affair was different, for my lover was much more loyal than any boyfriend I ever had.  Her name was Duchess.  She was my VW bug.  This car would go where no other would fit, even on the sidewalks of the university (I had to get as close as possible to deliver my friends to class, didn’t I?)  And she’d start in the dead of winter when all others were silent.  Not to mention she stood out in a sea of Fords and Hondas across campus parking lots.  Everyone knew who drove the little cream bug.  I’d get notes from friends on the windshields almost daily no matter where I was parked.  This was exciting stuff (remember, this was in the days when us teenagers had no cell phones or email accounts).

She had style and grace, but was not meant for comfort.  I used to drive the 60 minutes home on the highway, sweating to death with the windows rolled down in summer, or getting aches in my knees from the cold air that rushed in through mysterious cracks in the dead of winter.  My grandmother heard of my plight and even made me a tiny lap blanket to keep over my legs while driving through the wind and snow.

The only bad thing that ever happened to me in that car was that she melted my camera.  I’m not exaggerating.  In case you don’t already know, the heat in the original VW Beetles is generated from the engine, piped in through a tube near the floor.  Since the engine is in the trunk, the heat comes into the back seat first (another reason why my knees were like ice cycles in the winter, and I was perspiring like a whore in church in summer).  I had purchased an expensive camera for my journalism photography class, and used the heck out of the thing, snapping pix of my roommates, campus statues, playful squirrels, and complete strangers.  But alas, a long-term relationship with this camera was not meant to be.  While driving home for Thanksgiving Break I started to smell something hot.  I thought it was my car, of course, and continued to drive, keeping an eye on the temperature gauge.  It wasn’t until I unpacked my duffle bag several hours later that I discovered the corpse.  My poor little Minolta was melted beyond use.  All because I had unknowingly placed him in the path of danger.  Too close to that damned pipe.

But I didn’t hold a grudge.  I still loved that car.  Even when I had to drive an hour to find a mechanic who knew how to work on her and kept spare 1967 VW beetle parts near by.  Or when my arm went numb from hand cranking the moon roof open or closed.  Or when the passenger door began to sag and then stick, forcing all others riding with me to climb in through the driver’s side.

She was my faithful traveling companion for several years.  As with most affairs, I held fast to our relationship longer than I should have.  Her bottom started to rust out.  At first, it was a tiny hole by the driver’s side door.  I ignored it.  Then the hole grew, allowing those who sat behind me to see the color of pavement without looking out the window.  But, after my friends and parents kept imploring me to think rationally when the seat started to rock with me in it, I finally relented and sold her for only $200 to someone who knew how to fix her up and promised to treat her with love and respect.

It’s been a long time since I last saw her.  I couldn’t bare to watch as she was being driven away by her new owner from my rental house.  I still miss her 25 years later, and get a little teary-eyed when I see a classic bug sailing past me on the streets of town (but perhaps that’s partially because now I’m driving a mini-van, which I vowed never to do).   I hope she’s still out there, making magic happen for whoever is lucky enough to have her now.  And I hope she has good memories, like I, of our time together.