Beds

As I began to write this blog, I knew the subject was beds and I knew the reason why.  Read on.

I began by asking the simple question, what is a bed?

Mine is many things, a haven, a retreat, a cozy gathering place for family. It’s old and beaten down and treasured. It’s my favorite spot in my house. Laying in bed and watching TV is exquisite. That’s the noun version.

But when used as a verb it takes on an entirely different meaning.  “settle down and sleep or rest for the night, typically in an improvised place” So in essence your bed is where you make it and it’s design is what fits you. It doesn’t have to have a frame. Maybe it is a hammock, or a sectional couch or a mattress on the floor. Wherever you rest for the night and sleep well is your bed.

In the last few months, I watched a couple of young men experience bedding with a flexibility and charm that I admire greatly.  These boys 7 and 9 slept on the floor, the couch, the sectional, the chair. They were versatile and never complained. I would have complained, loudly, but I am an adult, right?

We should all have the flexibility and resilience of children. Go with the flow or the waves.. even if they seem like a tsunami at times. Ride it out, there is goodness at the end.

When they moved to their own home, one of the boys commented that it was okay that the mattresses were on the floor, but it was “our” room.

Somewhere in the middle of the giant extended sleepover, there was this older woman who kept offering these beds in her attic. I didn’t really listen and then one day I did. Money was tight and she was offering 2 free beds, the only catch was they were in her attic and needed to be retrieved.

She had no idea what condition they might be in after 20 years in an attic, they were a little dusty and white with stenciled hearts, not exactly boys beds, but solid in build and they held promise. So the transformation began from white girls beds into deep blue boys beds.

The beds were painted and distressed with love. During the process, the youngest asked me if I missed a spot in the painting and I explained they were going to be distressed.

You want it to look old on purpose? Yes.

I was there on the day the beds reached their home, and the genuine joy that those boys showed  brought tears to my eyes. They exclaimed excitedly, “tonight we can sleep in our beds” and “I am putting my secret stuff underneath”. These are the words of true gratitude and thankfulness from the mouths of boys.

As I look back now that they are snoozing each night in their own beds, I realize that it took a village to build a bed, or two in this case. Had it not been for the persistent voice of a kind woman who never forgot she had some beds, and a grandma who thinks all furniture can be saved, a man who climbed into the unknown attic to search for the beds and two small very patient boys this may not have happened.

Open your eyes to everyday miracles, and you will find them, maybe under the bed or in the attic.

Until Next Time,

Lj

Mercedes Morning

To the man in the black Mercedes, you made my morning.

Not because you looked so very hot driving your black Mercedes, I couldn’t see through the tinted windows, but because you overestimate your importance on the highway.

Let me explain. It was around 645 and I was tooling along, listening to music and sipping my early morning smoothie, enjoying my morning drive. This morning’s smoothie was pineapple, strawberry and papaya with a few chia seeds for good measure.  I could see you behind me jockeying back and forth, waiting for your moment to unleash the power of your vehicle.  A grownup game of frogger comes to mind. Yes, sometimes the frog gets the bad end of the game. The speed limit is merely a suggestion and your vehicle was meant to go fast.. real fast. Oh yeah, we are in a 45 mph zone, I was traveling 50.  But again, not fast enough for black Mercedes. So after a nano second of riding my ass ( yes, I wanted to slam on the brakes) you put the pedal to the metal and zip that race car around and cut me off. Boy you really showed me.

And then all the cosmic tumblers fell into place and you slide that shiny Mercedes right in behind a Honda Van, moving even slower than I was, probably going the actual speed limit. Now, as I laughed and relished the sweet revenge of the universe, the cosmos decided to push it up a notch…

Not only were you wedged behind a van going slower than your patience, but  it was matched on the left by a black VW convertible moving with just enough speed that you couldn’t pull out and swerve around them both. This was the cherry on top..

You were stuck, aggravated and “all revved up with no place to go” (thank you Meatloaf)

So I laughed as I watched your anxiety escalate, I watched you slam on the brakes and nearly hit the van,  and inching ever so slightly forward waiting for that little space between the back bumper of the van and the front bumper of the VW. Sizing it up in your pea sized brain, and nearly convincing yourself, “I can fit, I am a Mercedes”

As we continued down the road you were looking for a way out, I actually thought you were going to hit one of them in your hurry. Thankfully, you saw your opportunity to escape the madness and you darted to the left and nearly lost control but whew… you made it to the red light at exactly the same moment as all of us.

As the light turned green we all moved forward to our destinations, the elderly gentlemen in his VW convertible, the mom in her van full of kids and me.  You sped off like you had somewhere to go..  and we bid you adieu..

You the man in the Mercedes with zero patience. And you gave me a laugh to last me all the way to work.  And for that I thank you and the cosmic tumblers.

Sometimes we need to embrace the lateness, go with it. Maybe there is a reason, other than your need to act out behind the wheel of a Mercedes.  In the end it got you nowhere any sooner than us. It raised your blood pressure a bit, made you swear.. and definitely made me laugh.

Until Next Time,

Lj

Theater People

This last weekend I had the distinct pleasure of reconnecting with my first round of theater people. I was invited to have wine and munchies with some ladies from High School, and it was a wonderful night. To reconnect with that part of me that longs to be called ” Theater People” . What an honor that would be.

My love of theater goes back to high school (or maybe that film version of Cinderella with Leslie Anne Warren) None the less I have spent much of my life admiring those who take the stage and live out their dreams.  I briefly entered the arena in high school where I proudly played an Indian in Peter Pan. Yes, Red headed Indian. I had my ugh, ooh, waah, eee down pat!

That was the humble beginning and end of a career in the lights (maybe I will resume in retirement, you never know. ) My love of acting has never ended, I just kept it under wraps in my heart. I worship these funny , brave warriors of art from the balcony. I still do.

I remained mesmerized by talent and the fearless courage it takes to get on stage and yes I applaud it. Until my hands are raw.

About 3 years ago I met a man who took me to New York, not as a tourist as I previously was, but hanging with the natives. I went to see a musical and it allowed us on stage  (almost) during the preshow. The entire magical experience left me speechless, yes I know hard to imagine, but I think it was the sheer magic of seeing live actors on stage.

Watching them before my eyes, become the characters on the paper. It was breathtaking.

Since that time I have had the honor of meeting a few wonderful actors, actresses, and directors and I continue to live vicariously through each and every one. I try very hard to not look like a deer in the headlights when I meet people, but am not always successful. They live a life I wish I had the courage to take on. I watch as they exhaust themselves for a character and marvel at the changes in emotion they toil through scene after scene, my heart hurts when they publicly lose members of their extended family and how it tears at their souls while they are being resilient in the face of the public. Theater people band together when tragedy strikes and when victory arises. It happens at all levels, community theater, Broadway, Chicago, and more.

They constantly reinvent themselves. They are actors who become photographers,  who become dancers, who become musicians. I know my view is rose colored and success is not an easy trail. But perhaps, it is in the viewing of success that we fail.

As an outsider to the actors life, I think success is in every performance, every time someone laughs or cries is a success, sharing your creativity is a gift.  Every bit of applause is appreciation of your struggle to live the life you have chosen no matter how hard or unforgiving. You want it, you take a chance. The ones I have been honored to meet are hard working, real people. Unconventional yes, but warm, caring and welcoming.

I say thank you and bless you for having the fortitude to be an actor. As for me, I live out mine at the occasional karaoke night, acting as though I can sing and sometimes I even get applause.

Until Next Time,

LJ

 

 

a boy

Today is Mother’s Day, I slept in until 8. Yes, that is sleeping in for me. I got up, took out my dog, said Happy Mother’s Day to my oldest daughter and grabbed a cup of coffee. As I sat down the boys began to arise.  The youngest came to the breakfast bar with his blanket wrapped around him. I reached over and gave his curly locks a stroke and whispered good morning, “Do you know it’s Mother’s Day ? ” “Did you tell Mommy happy Mother’s Day?” He looked up with excitement and said “wait, I have a present for you ”

We watched as he got down off the stool and grabbed his backpack and fished out a tissue paper wrapped present, and presented it to his mom. From that moment on he was grinning from ear to ear. He was so excited to give his mother a gift, and his dancing eyes were filled with anticipation. She unwrapped it and when she saw it was a bound blue notebook, she asked “Did you write a book about me?” He responded “yes”.

As she began to read the book out loud, he danced and grinned with joy. He had written the Pulitzer prize of Mother’s Day. As she read each page he had written, I felt like I was watching a love story unfold. I was, he loves his mom. He had written each page with honesty and seen through only his eyes.  Each page was dedicated to a different reason he loves his mom. My favorite was  “She makes the best PB&J, she puts peanut butter and one side and jelly on the other and makes it taste like candy.” Now that is love.

As this was unfolding before me, the older boy said “I didn’t get you anything, sometimes I forget” and she calmly replied “me too buddy.”

Mothering is not reserved for birth, anyone can mother, a man, a woman, the paperboy, a librarian, a teacher, a stranger. It is the acts and the art of mothering that make you a mother.

As mother’s we get so many daily gifts, kisses, hugs, laughs, questions and smiles. I think the perfect Mother’s Day gift is words. you can never go wrong with words.  The right words, can change a life, mend a heart and build a smile.

Spread some words today.

Until Next Time,

LJ

 

 

The Sandbox

As I made my journey from Rock Island to Hampton today I drove along the river, as I have done for most of my life. I have always been near or lived near water. As I drive this route frequently, I try to notice something different each time. This time it was Consumers. For those of you who don’t know, Consumers is a company that fills sandboxes, yes they do other things, but for me it’s the sand. I think that Consumers made me fall in love with the beach.

When I was growing up we had a sandbox in our backyard, it was fairly rustic, made from pieces of leftover wood nailed together in a square. It was painted green and had triangular pieces of wood in each corner , those were the seats. I shared the sandbox, like most of my toys with my brother Steve. I remember in the Spring we would refill  the sandbox, because it disappears somehow over the seasons. We would go to consumers and fill buckets or something with the sand and put it in the trunk of our car. The trunk would be weighed down and Dad would painstakingly move the sand from the car to our sandbox.

After it was filled with pure new sand, we were free to play. I don’t remember how much I played but to this day, I remember the feeling of my toes in the sand. Putting my toes in and digging down to the coolest part of the sand, the level of near mud, where the sand meets the grass. The cold sand on top of my feet and slowly bringing my feet up through the sand like a foot volcano of sand and begin again. It was a glorious feeling. The sand was soft and heavy across your feet and tumbled as you pushed your way through it. Sure some got in your mouth or hair in the course of play, but what a fun afternoon sitting in the sandbox.

That joy has never left me, when I see a beach, whether New York, South Carolina, Florida or anywhere else, I am transported back to my sandbox and I cannot wait to put my feet in the sand. It is where I most feel at peace, sitting on a beach inhaling the sea spray and pondering the wonders of the ocean.

We all need our own sandbox, that place or thing that takes you back and gives you a warm fuzzy that no one can take from you.

Find your sandbox.

Until next time,

LJ

No, this isn’t me.. but it could be.

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Old furniture love

It’s Spring! Time for checking curbs for discarded furniture. Anyone who knows me understands my love of old furniture. There is something about discarded furniture that makes me want to rescue it and give it a home. As if nothing can be thrown away.

It started long ago, my first piece that I can recall was an old dresser, A tall boy with scrolling etched into the wood. I always thought the drawers should match up and form some weird flower pattern. I would spend many days staring at the pattern on the front of the dresser trying to decipher what I thought it was and what it should become.

The dresser became part of my oldest daughters bedroom set , a bed and a dresser. Her color of choice was purple and gold. We settled on a purple base and splash painted  all over. That was the fun of it, throwing that paint all over it and making it “cool” something out of nothing!

That dresser lived in 3 different houses and the day I put it out front in a yard sale, it was intended to simply be a decoration to lure people in. I could have sold it 10 times that day.

My love of wayward furniture is a little reminiscent of the island of misfit toys from the Christmas Classic.  I want them all to have a good home. I even take them back when they have outgrown your house. I will revive them one more time, call me Dr. Frankenfurniture, it’s alive.

I have spent many a Saturday scouring flea markets and thrift stores for the next “find”. I collect pieces like others collect shoes.. oh wait I have a shoe issue too.  I seriously do not plan well, like the time I brought home a rocking chair and my youngest daughter had to share her space in the back of my cramped car with a rocking chair for 90 miles of excitement. Thank you Chelsea.

Or the numerous times I have purchased an item and then beg and plead with a  friend with a truck to bring it home, or prayed it would somehow fit in my vehicle. I am a wizard at logistics. And yes everything fits in a KIA Soul.

I have painted furniture, stripped furniture, hand painted designs, splash painted, stenciled and distressed my way through life. I currently have a 1940’s bed and dresser that is held together with brackets and screws. It is split, worn, rickety and chewed on by my beloved dog, but I keep repairing it. It is simply like an old friend, one that matches me and my life experiences.

My current projects in waiting are a swing arm vanity for my granddaughter’s new room and a potbelly table that will reside somewhere, not to mention a lovely bed and dresser given to me by another furniture lover. It now has a good home.

My oldest daughter used to cringe at my mismatched furniture, and then one day she proclaimed my room soo friggin cute. And it is apparently the favorite room in the house, my family has always congregated on my bed and still do. My comfortable beaten down furniture feels like home. We drag it around and it tells my story. A much more colorful story than if I bought it new.

It’s my history and hopefully one of my children will inherit my love of furniture and start a home for discarded and forgotten pieces and make them their own. I can get lost in the beauty of the grain, the treasures waiting beneath a coat of thick paint and beauty in creativity.

I recommend looking for the saddest piece you can find and use your creative eyes to see what it can be. Unleash yourself!

Until next time,

LJ

Pickled Eggs

Awhile back my grandaughter asked me to make her pickled eggs with beets. As I researched the recipe it took me back.. about 30 +years, to Williamsport, PA. I moved to there when I was pregnant with my oldest daughter. I arrived in a snowstorm right before Christmas in 1984. Newly discharged from the USMC and beginning a new chapter. Little did I know it would be an introduction to new culinary delights, beginning with Pickled Eggs. I had never seen a pickled egg ( except the nasty ones floating in a jar at the local watering hole) and certainly never ate one. So, when they appeared in the big bowl at one of the first meals I ate in Pennsylvania, I vehemently said “No thank you, purple eggs are unnatural” ( except dyed ones but that’s a different column) . But they kept reappearing.. at cookouts, family meals.. just taunting me.. poking  and provoking me to try one. I stood fast.. and kept refusing.. like a good 10 year old. I didn’t actually stick my tongue out, but I made a face. And then one day, it was just me and the egg.. and I decided to try one.. it was not as expected.. It was delicious, still somewhat odd but delicious. I didn’t even know I liked beets.  but the combination of the slightly sweet beets and the juice working it’s way into the outer rim of the egg is nothing short of perfection. ( in the beet and egg world) . I became a beetliever on that day.

It was just the beginning of my culinary expansion. Think like Lewis & Clark only food. I embarked on ham loaf next.. a meatloafy shaped ham substance, uncertain of the origin ..perhaps chopped ham steak, glazed with a reddish delight that is sweetly succulent.  followed by Sticky buns, discovered at Country Cupboard in nearby Harrisburg, (They never made it home.. I ate them in the car) the cinnamonish roll coated in dark sweet syrup.. and then came the oddly interesting scrapple. Scrapple was served with breakfast, it resembled spam and looked (according to my oldest daughter) like dryer lint.

I worked for an overhead door factory in those days as a welder ( another day) and I asked my co-worker, an old farmer named Jimmy who used to sit on a stack of Styrofoam at break time and stick a knife into the stack and slowly pull it out to produce that bone chilling noise that Styrofoam makes and sends me up the wall… what is in scrapple. His deadpan response “pig parts” I had heard enough. I did not want to know what parts specifically, it might ruin my enjoyment. I adored scrapple, fried in the pan and eaten with eggs usually, think a northern version of grits. Slightly salty and lumpy there is nothing like scrapple, it’s the cornmeal that  makes it look like dryer lint.  I hope.

Then there was shoofly cake, a molasses dream. Or raisin filled cookies, sweet shortbread cookies filled with an amazing raisin filling and about as big as your fist. Or shrimp and shells or pizza pasta salad ( a secret recipe my daughter heisted from her Gram) the food was endless.

I had never tasted so many delicious meals in my life.

Now if you will excuse me, I need something to eat.

Until Next time,

Lj

Office Space – real life

Greetings Readers, it’s been a while since I have written, I apologize, I have been deep in the throes of house gutting and rebuilding. It takes a little more time than we had estimated, but it is fun none the less. However, all that dedication leaves me no time to write on the things near to my heart… so I am back.

In 1999 I watched a movie called “Office Space” , a funny little movie and very accurately resembles most offices I have ever worked in..Scarily so.  And lately I have been having a difficult time with my “Day Job” and have begun comparing the likenesses between movies and real life. And in my experience some very accurate depictions.

If you don’t remember the film let me refresh your memory. It’s about Rob who is in a job that is sucking out his soul, day by day. Reeling you in? and Rob has a boss that is trying so hard to deliver bad news under the guise of a cool dude..and no he isn’t successful..Every employee in that office is someone you work with. I guarantee it.

So how does life emulate art and can we learn from the movie? I learned to laugh. At the ridiculousness that is working.. in an office or a school or anywhere you must interact with different personalities and human quirks.  That the façade we put on at work is not even close to the real human at times and yes sometimes you just have to suck it up and find something to get you through, in my case it is the humor of it all. I often think that my life is perfect fodder for an award winning play.. If I could just put it on paper..

I have learned from my lifetime of “office Space” that most often, it is not me that is the problem. it’s not… Okay maybe sometimes it is. a bit. Can I help it if they won’t follow my sage strong advice. always.? No, so it must be them.  But I digress.

Success in Office Space takes time and lots of effort. I try to uncover the strength in each person I work with, I believe all have virtues, you just have to take the time to find it. If you listen, they will tell you everything you need to know.

and now for the humor part. I laugh at myself. yesterday I prepared my leftover hot and sour soup in the microwave and after spilling it all over the microwave, I got it to my desk half a cup remains..I open the credenza to get a napkin, I bump the jar of tums in the process, it topples out and hits the edge of the soup bowl, it goes flying.. all over me, the counter and the floor. and all I can think is I couldn’t do that again if I tried. good thing I had a roll of paper towels at the ready. I soak up the mess on the counter, and begin crawling on my hands and knees to clean the floor ,yes I am wearing a suit jacket and a dress.. once I cleanup the mess I sit down to eat the last 3 tablespoons of soup and settle in to smell like hot/sour soup for the remainder of the day when my teammate pops in an says “have you eaten yet”??

Just another day in the office.

Until Next time,

LJ

Fake Spring

Nothing gets a Midwesterner going faster than the first hint of Spring.. In Illinois, we have experienced it for two weekends in a row. I for one will take it!

For those of you who don’t understand fake spring, let me take you along a walk that we shall call the “yahoo it’s Spring” You are watching the weather early one morning, and the meteorologist says “unseasonably warm” your ears perk up.. and you are now laser focused.. Hold the phone.. did he say 60 degrees? In the words of my 13 year old granddaughter, that’s lit.

And so it begins the ritual of pre or fake spring… In my house, the first part of the ritual, is OPEN THE WINDOWS… because we all  know that simply opening the windows banishing all germs from your home. next.. shuck your coat.. come one it’s 60! nearly shorts and flip flops.. oh wait, I do live near a University and yes there are shorts ( but they are issued them aren’t they?) I am sorry I digress.

Step outside and begin your ritual, the neighbors emerge from their homes, smiling ( the sun does that) and the transformation begins.  And it’s a wonderful thing to see.

This long weekend ( Thank you President’s Day) I have been deep in the throes of house renovations, and even that has been enjoyable. We put up insulation, broke out walls and prepared to drywall. Yes, I took time off work to work.. but that’s another blog.

Sure we jump the gun sometimes.. It’s not exactly planting weather, but you could clean up the leaves you didn’t get last fall. You hear the familiar command for winter weary parents “get outside ” It’s not an option more like a command, for the safety of your future life and my sanity you must go outdoors.. No negotiations.

And so the doors open and small humans pour into the streets, parents pack them up and off to the park they go, even if the parks aren’t quite prepared. Swings are still in storage, bathrooms, may or may not be unlocked and the pool definitely isn’t open. But we Midwesterners we make due, we climb the monkey bars, we slide, and we stroll through the park, without our coats, basking in the glorious fake spring.

Each day we are blessed with fabulous weather, we are more grateful than the day before, because we are reasonable and we know this can’t last. We hope inside it will and finally that groundhog will be wrong, maybe he is only right because there is a date for the end of winter and it’s March 20, 2017. But the mystery of his wise predictions, encourage us to hope for early spring just to one up a groundhog. Nothing as sweet as proving him fallible.

So unzip that coat, sit on your porch, and watch your tree bloom, they already have buds. Spring is peeking around the corner, teasing, promising all at once. Tonight, we are having a thunderstorm, I am getting out my galoshes.

Until next time,

LJ

 

Migraine and Art

 

As I wrote in a previous column, I am a migraine sufferer. I have been since age 24.. I attribute to  having a spinal when my first daughter was born ( Yes I am a doctor or I play one on the internet).

So recently I joined a FB group called “My Migraine Support Group” we are 2.2K strong and this group of men and women help me every day. Within this group I have learned that I am not alone, and my battle is not as bad as others. It has made me more tolerant, more compassionate and more understanding.

Years ago, as I was struggling to find some understanding of this condition and of course a solution that allowed me to conquer it, living with it was never an option, I just needed it to eradicate it. I was searching for knowledge and I found Oliver Sacks, or should I say he found me. While trolling through the thrift store one day, I came upon a book simply entitled “Migraine”, it opened my eyes and changed my world.

I was relieved to know that while my symptoms were frightening they weren’t a death sentence. The times I thought I was having stroke and lay in my bed resigning myself to death only to awake the next morning, this was normal. Feeling the tingling down my arms wasn’t odd but normal was oddly comforting. The icepick headaches, normal. Wanting to drill a hole through my head, normal and an actual procedure at some treatment centers. Extreme but real.

As I worked my way through the book, I was most intrigued by the section of the book that showcased the artwork created by patients under duress of a migraine. Some the work showcased in the book was scary, some was comforting.

Since joining the migraine group, several of the members have shared their own migraine art, I have included with permission, some of their work. As I look at the art, I wonder if it is a fractured mind at the moment of deepest pain that allows them to create such free flowing work. Or maybe it ‘s because many migraine suffers experience auras or visual disturbances before it hits, and the art captures those moments in art.

Every migraine is different and every piece of art captures those variances and yes even the beauty. It is my personal opinion that migraines definitely stink, but to think that the power of the pain can create magnificent artwork is worth embracing and celebrating.

So this column celebrates that art and the artists who share it with us. it may even be a way to release the toxic pain. Transferring it from your head and body to a canvas.

For those of you who want to experience the beautiful artwork further, please check out the links below. This is an original from one my group members. It is amazing to me, the colors pale and washed out, like I feel after a migraine, the concentrated lines broken, how my vision feels  prior to  an episode. She has captured it perfectly for me.. I hope you see the same.

migraine-art

This is a link to the Migraine art gallery in the UK, over 500 pieces. Check it out!

http://www.migraineart.org.uk/#modal

Until next time,

Lj