CGME: To My Sixteen Year Old- The Big Ol’ High School Truth Bomb…

Tomorrow is a big day for you. Your first date. Fun! Weird. But fun.

I promise I will try very hard not to imagine the 1,984 things that could go wrong after he picks you up. In his car. That he drives all by his big boy self. When did you get old enough for that? chrissy-the-beautiful

I will now try to stop hyperventilating.

I hope it’s a reprieve from the stress, insecurity and worry you’ve been feeling over these last very long, difficult months. It’s all been a lot to take.  It recently dawned on me that since moving back to Homebase four years ago, the house we will be moving into will be your fourth.

Being the oldest, you’ve carried so much of that weight upon your shoulders, so much sacrifice to support your parents in their careers. Hopefully, this relocation will be our last for a while- at least until you graduate.

In the meantime, high school is awkward enough as it.  The heaviness you carry makes it even harder. It’s difficult to imagine how anyone could possibly relate, but I promise they do.  Here’s the big, earth shattering spoiler: Everyone is insecure right now.  An they’re so busy being worried about their secret heaviness, they barely have time to really consider that anyone else feels it too.

And wanna know something even more surprising? It’s normal and might actually help you be a better grownup.

Besides, loving high school too much may mean you’ve reached your peak…and that’s not usually a good thing when you’re a teenager and have a lot of years ahead of you.

I wish someone would have explained this to me in high school. On second thought, I’m pretty sure they did. But I didn’t listen. And I won’t blame you if you don’t either.

You know what they say about hindsight.

Alas, I join the millions upon millions of mothers who’ve gone before, hoping their words of wisdom somehow ease the burden of that ache of awkwardness you feel so acutely.

If only my adult voice could’ve whispered such wisdom into the ear of that boisterous, sometimes obnoxious teen I used to be.  The one who did everything to hide the curls on her head and acne on her face.

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If only I could instill within in myself the knowledge I wish you had now.  What would I tell me?  I suspect it would be very similar to what I wish I could help you know now.

I’d tell you:

YOU ARE NOT FAT. You do not need to lose weight. Eat right and exercise. Learn how to do it now and it will stay with you and make you beautiful later.

But more than that, I’d tell you to look outside yourself. Recognize you are not the only one…

You know that friend? The one who all the girls in your class are secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) envious of because she was so very beautiful? Be extra kind to her. Hug her. Call her more often, just to talk. She’s dealing with the hurt of neglect by a mom who is always high. You don’t know it now, but that girl will somehow become one of the bravest, kindest mothers you will ever know.

And that one who you are a little intimidated by? The friend who’s pretty much a genius? Stop letting your insecurities keep you from hanging out with her. She’s amazing and she loves you. She will be one of your dearest friends when you get older; the kind you can meet up with after a decade of not seeing each other and talk all night long. Not only that, but she’s about to experience a lifetime of the worst loss you can imagine. Her sister, her mother, she’s going to lose them too soon. She’s going to need your friendship.

And that boy you’ve harbored a bit of a crush on? The one who’s always kind to you. The classmate everybody knows will do great things with his life. Listen to him. He’s pretty darn smart. And while his logic is impeccable and it’s hard to believe there’s room for softness, he is also one of the most compassionate people you will ever know. He also just realized he’s gay. And in a small, very conservative community, that can be a pretty scary realization to have.

How about that one girl you are fully aware gets annoyed by your persistent perkiness? She’s extremely loyal and has a heart full of gentleness even if she doesn’t show it. But she’s also lonely, watching someone she cares desperately for drink themselves to death. Be kind to her. You don’t necessarily need to curb your enthusiasm, just recognize another person’s private hurts sometimes keep them from letting you in. Be patient. You’ll be friends someday.

And you’ll be surprised to know that you’re going stay close friends with that guy (and his wife) who’s pretty much adopted your family. What you don’t know is that his step-father hurts him. His bruises aren’t all that obvious though. When he comes over, do a little more to make him feel welcome. He’s good soul but doesn’t know it yet so he needs to hear it from others.

And your sweet Jamie. Never, ever forget the way she brightens your life. Yes, the things that make her self-conscious are more obvious than the rest of you. But what you don’t know now is that she wakes up everyday knowing her life will be much shorter than yours. You haven’t really considered this yet, but she won’t be able to be a mother in this life even though there are few things she wants more. And she doesn’t think she’ll ever fall in love and get married. But she will. And you will get to see it happen. Just keep being positive and encourage her. You’re luckier than you realize to know her.

Don’t forget that one boy you made out with on the ski bus. Sometimes, he turns his emotions off. Don’t let that make you think he’s a jerk. It’s because he feels so very much and is afraid of being vulnerable. Be a little gentler with him during your very public breakup. In fact, don’t make it public. Just be cool. That boy will go through hell for you. He’ll jump through just about every hoop and even hold your hair back when you throw up.

Lastly, what about that one friend? Everyone wonders why you like each other so much. You’re completely different people. It seems to everyone else you have nothing in common. But you do. You both love people completely. She’s is a loyal and true friend. What you don’t know is that there is a reason her friends don’t offer you smokes or alcohol. It’s because she’s pretty much threatened them within an inch of their lives if they do. You also don’t know the years of heartache she will endure after outliving two of her three siblings. It’s the kind of ache a person needs lifelong friends to endure. Don’t ever be afraid of your offering to her. She will always appreciate it.

You see, Sunshine?  I wish I could have known all of these things back then. I would have spent A LOT less time worrying about the things that made me insecure.

While the faces and stories might be different from yours, there’s a timeless truth to the struggle of youth. You can not possibly look into the eyes of your friends and see the glorious but intense future that lies ahead for each of them. But what you can do is look into their eyes and recognize the insecurity and awkwardness they feel too. If you close your mouth and open your ears, you will be able to see it. Even more, you’ll know better how to lift them in the ways they need it most.

Never, ever forget, your insecurity isn’t the truth about you. But your ability to look outside of yourself to be a real friend might be.

Posted in Happy Little Accidents

CGME: My Very Real Valentines

My Very Real Valentine’s Day began at 6:00 a.m. It started with the sound of an alarm that wakes me up and makes me want to throw up at the same time.

My very real Valentine is the warm spot on the other side of the bed left by the man I still feel a bit angsty toward because of a stupid fight but who’s nonetheless getting dressed for another 12 hour day-his ninth in a row.

It’s the three year old who persistently manages to somehow end up between the two of us by the time that blasted alarm rings.

My very real Valentines are four barely breathing lumps, buried under blankets scattered on the living room floor, one strategically placed over the heater vent, as we read Philippians 1.

My very real Valentine is a Glad plastic container filled with last night’s spaghetti squash, roasted sweet potatoes, and quinoa and onion meatloaf. It’s also five lunchboxes filled with ham and veggie wraps, slices of red pepper, fig bars and a peanut butter cup.

My very real Valentine is the 12 year old determined to dodge my ‘good luck hug’ every morning before school.

It’s the cookie sheets converted into a race track for Calvin and Hobbes and huge pile of unfolded laundry—no wonder LuLu couldn’t find any underwear. And it’s dozens of stickers haphazardly stuck onto a little brother.img_7968

My very real Valentine is the pile of home goods stacked up against our bedroom wall, awaiting the fast approaching move-in day.  It’s walking into this after I forget to close my door.img_7969

It’s the littlest Valentine who just smashed banana onto a clean tablecloth.

It’s also red cheeks snuggled under fluffy feather blankets in the afternoon.

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My very real Valentines are four girls who can hardly wait to tell me every single detail from their school day…usually all at once.

It’s a party of eight’s stuffed shells and homemade French bread with berries and tapioca pudding.

It’s the belated Valentines I’m sending to three loved ones who’ll be getting them late because I didn’t get my act together soon enough.

My very realest Valentine and I won’t be giving each other gifts this year because it’s not the time for that. Someday, it will be. But for now, our gift to each other is not spending money on something that’s going make us gain weight we’re both trying to lose anyway.

My very real Valentine is the love of my life who does almost everything I ask him to do even if he’d rather pull each and every one of his eyelashes out, one at a time. He’s the one who pulls over for injured animals, the one who says ‘I’m sorry’ first, the one who’ll plant rosemary for me in the spring, put 96 tampons back in the box and let’s me sleep in while he makes ‘Pancake Saturday’.

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This is French toast…but you get the idea.

My very real Valentine makes me the dreamy farm table I committed to making only to realize the needed skill level was far greater than my own. And sometimes, he snores. But it’s because he’s exhausted. He’s a small business owner and he’s determined to make it successful…which makes the rage of being awakened mid-REM a smidgen less.snore

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So there you have it. For us this year, Valentine’s Day isn’t about candlelight and roses. It’s about realizing I’m lucky to be dancing the dance I dance and recognizing the everyday Valentines.

It’s about being in one of those challenging seasons life brings to all of us but taking a moment to marvel. For me, it’s realizing how unbelievably blessed I am to be alive, to be the wife of the man who loves me the most and to be the mother to these incredible people. It reminds that it shouldn’t take a holiday to remember this.

SO…..

Happy Valentine’s Day to you, dear reader. I hope it’s a good day. Not just because it’s Valentine’s, but because I just generally want you to have a good day.

BUT since this day is for lovers, I double dog dare you to kiss someone on the lips.

Cheers!

Trish

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CGME: When A Trip to the Lingerie Shop Doesn’t Go Quite As Planned…

Today my neurologist’s office informed me of their intention to put me on anti-seizure meds for the rest of my life.

This was not the news I was hoping for.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet.

For the time being, I’ve decided to reminisce about a memory that has made me laugh today. Hopefully, it will give you a chuckle too. Either that, or make you squirm uncomfortably in your seat because this story is a bit sexy.

(Sunshine, stop reading this. I’ll tell you when you’re older.)

He-Man had been gone for months. I missed him terribly and while I was surrounded by people, I was the loneliest I’d ever been. For weeks I’d been puked on, pooped on, sleep deprived and dewomanized by several cases of strep throat (at one point there were 5 different prescriptions of antibiotics in the fridge). And lice ravaging a family with 5 heads of long girl hair was a distinct possibility…which we narrowly dodged.

There were days I didn’t leave the house (hmmm…sounds familiar). I was too tired to shower and all I wanted to do was eat chocolate.

Other days, I was ON it. I’d have the kids up and out of the house by 8:00 am. I’d actually put on bra. I’d be dressed in my workout gear, ready to run off the obscene amounts of coping chocolate I’d consumed in the days before.

Gratefully, after a long while, I had enough of those sort of days that I was starting to see results of my post-baby workouts…just in time for He-Man to be finishing his work assignments and begin making plans to come home.

Naturally, I did what any self-respecting, newly vamped momma, ready to strut her stuff in her underwear would do…I headed to a lingerie store.

This wasn’t your average Victoria’s Secret. This was a locally owned shop filled with all sorts of goodies for the lovey-dovey, embarrass-the-kids kind of couple who really, really like each other. We’re not talking about lotions that smell good. We’re talking about lotions that taste good.

(Seriously, Sunshine. STOP READING.)

I arrived there with my local coupon in hand because if there’s anything sexier to He-Man than his girl in lingerie, it’s his girl in lingerie purchased with a 40% off coupon.

I walked through the door and suddenly became a blushy, giggly seventh grade girl looking to buy her first pair of underwear that wasn’t white.

It was a little embarrassing.

But, I rallied, reminded myself I was no rookie (having birthed 5 of He-Man’s babies and all) and approached a sales associate. I peppered her with questions. She was professional, dignified and answered each question as tastefully as possible. She endorsed a few products and even shared which were her favorites as a newlywed bride.

You’d think it would be a pretty easy-going, mostly anonymous interaction. But that’s not how these things work out sometimes.

After spending several minutes planning intimate details of a soon-to-be romantic interlude with my husband, I began to notice something about her. She looked awfully familiar…

Pausing for a moment, a flash of recognition expanded in my mind. It was Kylie! I had been asking sex questions to one of my students from my job 15 years earlier. And not just any student. She was hands-down one of my favorites. Kylie was one of the first I would pick up from school. She usually sat in the front seat of the van I was driving and she was my trusty sidekick, gathering the rest of the kids before heading to our after-school program. She was spunky, fun and made me laugh.

My favorite memory was the afternoon her mom was running late so we arranged to meet up at the preschool I was employed by. As we drove toward the meeting point she and I rocked out to Goo Goo Dolls’ ‘Slide’. We laughed and sang along. It was a fun memory…

And there I was, discussing my sex life with her.

In that moment, I kinda wanted to die.

Mustering up my last shreds of dignity, I acknowledged remembering her. She, in reply, mentioned wondering if I would.

Some people reconnect with old friends at lunch, eating avocado turkey sandwiches on rye with fruity drinks and artisan desserts. Me? I like reestablishing friendships in the aisle where they sell lubricants and dice with dodgy words on each side. It’s how I roll, I guess.

That was not meant to be punny.

Gratefully, Kylie has a much better poker face than I do. She’s also exponentially more dignified. Somehow together we managed to pretend that it wasn’t the most awkward place to reconnect EVER and even exchanged pleasantries…almost like we were sharing a turkey sandwich.

Needless to say, I didn’t leave the shop with much merchandise that evening. BUT I did get to renew an old friendship. Turns out, that sort of conversation tends to be the ultimate ice breaker. After that, pretty much anything is easy to talk about. I discovered that little girl I once knew is an incredible grown-up. She’s a fantastic wife and mother. She’s smart and funny and just as spunky as ever…everything an educator hopes for their students to be someday.

Ever since then, we’ve stayed connected. And tonight while asking her for permission to share this particular story, we decided to get together to catch up again.

This time, we’re meeting at Kneaders.

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CGME: The Good News, the Better News and Probably TMI…

Chronicling this particular experience has proven more difficult than I thought.  The emotion involved with putting such a thing out there is pretty intense.  Since I’ve made it my life’s mission to keep on the Sunny Side, it’s hard to admit it when I can’t.

BUT

I do have some good news.

Firstly, THANK YOU for all the kind words, emails, private messages and prayers.  I am so SO sorry for leaving those concerned hanging after my last post.  When I do experience those freaky auras, there is a bit of a recovery involved.  I tend to lose my ability to spell properly.  And oddly enough, I also lose words when I form sentences both when I write and as I speak.  It’s weird but fairly normal, apparently.  Add to that a crazy week and before I knew it, 9 days passed!  So please forgive me for the lapse.

Now, the good news…

NO SEIZURE!

This means I haven’t established a pattern of seizures AND if I continue to recover from the last one, I’ll be driving with wild abandon in no time at all.

The better news?  (This is where the TMI comes in..)

After having about a dozen auras on those particular days there is little doubt in my mind these episodes aren’t related to hormones.

Oddly enough, there is actually a particular type of epilepsy that goes with these symptoms.  It’s called Catamenial epilepsy.  And while the mystery is far from solved we have something to go on.

Which led to more tests and the assurance that my uterus and ovaries look like a uterus and ovaries should look…even if they are a little old and fairly pulverized by babies.  7 pregnancies will do that.

Waaaaaaaay worth it though.  (Thanks for the perspective, guys.)

Now, we have options.  And there is a possibility of going with a medication that’s less intense that may fix the problem without anti-seizure meds.  (because they’re kind of scary.)

So there’s that.  We have some direction and that’s pretty good news.

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CGME: This is not good…

Committing to write the good, the bad AND the ugly means documenting the stuff I really, REALLY don’t want to admit might be happening…

In the middle of the night last night I had the strangest dream.  It had something to do with lots of ocean…and bright yellow outlines around the aerial view of continents…one in the shape of Australia.

This in itself is terrifying because I have sworn never to go there because (in my mind) it’s overrun with the world’s deadliest creatures like two headed cobra snakes, crocodiles the size of Volkswagens and enormous, highly venomous spiders ready to bite your hand off…and they are all waiting for me to hop off the plane so they can feast upon my flesh.

I know, I know.  Over dramatic much?

I digress.

Weird dream, right?

That’s what I thought.

This afternoon as I was snuggling Calvin, I had another weird dream/memory…then the wave of heat washed over and I realized.

These were not dreams.

The only times I’ve ever experienced such oddities were right before my ‘seizures events’.

I’m not sure why they call them ‘events’.  Normally, before ‘events’ you dress up, wear darker eye shadow and begin aggressive negotiations with the high heels in your closet.

Not this time.

This time, I know enough to be scared.  So naturally, I threw my mop of hair into a scrunchie, took off my bra, got into my jammies and now I think I’ll set up a bed on the floor.

I’d rather negotiate with the heels.

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CGME: The Juggle of Mourning an Addict

Saturday morning the phone rang. The moment I answered and heard the quivering in my mother’s voice, I knew.

She was gone.

My grandmother succumbed to the cancer that ravaged her body for nearly a year. The woman my momma described as the one who had ‘the constitution of a horse’, drifted into eternity a few hours before.

This was the same morning our family was preparing to assist in the memorial services for a beloved friend. He was adored by thousands because he spent his life serving and blessing others. I found that to be a very stark contrast to the end met by our matriarch. She died alone in a care facility. I promise, our family isn’t heartless…we’re just weary.

You see, my grandmother was an addict and an alcoholic. Perhaps one of the most tragic parts of all of this is that she is not the first or second or even the third member of her immediate family to lose his/her life to addiction. This is not a new scenario for us. Perhaps that is why we’re so weary.

Throughout the last few days I’ve been flooded with a gamut of emotions. Anger. Grief. Remorse for the things left undone. Love in spite of it all.

And strangely, relief. As a family member recently said, ‘We lost her a long time ago.’ When I visited with her last April, I felt this.

Now, maybe she can finally rest.

As expected, I’ve spent the week recalling many of the memories. I remember as a child, adoring her, loving the way she laughed and marveling at the way her face always lit up when she smiled. I recalled the countless visits to SoCal, and how, just about every visit was to a new apartment…and how almost every picture I remember included a cigarette or alcohol of some sort.

(She and my granddaddy were young at a time when doctors prescribed smoking as a way to ‘calm the nerves’; uppers were readily available for the express purpose of losing weight; and ‘bennies’ were considered an effective way to get a sailor though nightwatch —few really understood how addictive these substances were.)

I remember her moving in with us for a while. I also remember that awful night when I finally snapped. I can look back and laugh a little now. But it was on that night I was just about as angry as I ever remember being. I refused be manipulated any longer. I told her so. That’s when the cream cheese frosting on the pineapple upside down cake she was preparing FLEW. There was screaming…and a food fight…not the fun kind. I even remember noticing frosting on the ceiling 6 months later.

She moved out shortly after, finding a place of her own in the tiny town where we lived.

For a long time afterward, I harbored hurt and anger. I often wondered why I couldn’t have the traditional-bake-cookies-in-her-kitchen relationship with my grandmother.

It wasn’t until I became a mom myself that I started to see why it wasn’t all that simple.

Grandma Shirley wasn’t just an addict. She was, at one time, a little girl raised by a mother whose family was impoverished by the Great Depression in the heart of the Dust Bowl. It was a time when ‘What happens behind closed doors…’ was an acceptable way to react to the way neglected or abused children were raised. Boys were usually preferred. Addiction and alcoholism were rampant, as was the self-loathing that came with it.

Added to that, the history of her side of the family is sketchy. We know extreme poverty was involved, as was the changing of some names either to escape some sort of public shame or to otherwise meet those family members’ own purposes.

She was raised by parents who struggled with their own addictions, in the shadow of her brother. A college football star, (his mother, insanely proud) he eventually suffered a devastating injury that left him in excruciating pain. And the only way mainstream medicine dealt with that? More drugs. More addiction.

Grandma married young and divorced young. She married again and did her best to raise her five children with a man who came back from war broken. Today we know it as ‘PTSD’. However you regard it, he had demons that followed him home. And in his desperate need to escape reality, they reared their ugly heads often.

Divorce again. Reconciliation. Separation. Divorce.

It was an odd sort of dance.

But then, years before my grandpa died, she encouraged him as he sought redemption for the horrible things he did while under the influence. I didn’t know that until recently. There is something respectable in that.

The anger and (whether justified or not) righteous indignation in recalling all of this, surrendered to grief as I remembered: it wasn’t all bad. It truly wasn’t. In fact, there was plenty of good.

Grandma loved Elvis, Roy Orbison and cooking for others. She had the gift of gab and was very charismatic.

I remember the way she laughed at my dead-grandma jokes when she brought her mother’s ashes to the dinner table. I remember how she hired me to clean her house…so I could make the money needed to pay for my cheerleading uniform. This, even after our infamous food fight.

She knitted me a blanket in the official colors of my high school to take with me on ‘away’ games.

And eventually, I came to appreciate the warm way she greeted my own children. The kindness she showed them reminded me of how she greeted me when I was young.

That grief surrendered to love and appreciation.

Checking in on my mother once again, she made the comment, “After everything, she is still my mother.” She’s right and gratefully, I will never know the struggle of watching a parent battle alcoholism and prescription/OC drug addiction. For mom, my aunts and my uncle, these emotions are magnified many fold because they have.

I heard a professional once explain it takes three generations for a family to purge itself of abuse. Grandma Shirley taught me something very important about this.

We may never know how many generations of our family were affected by dysfunctional, abusive behavior and addiction. Children have borne the brunt of this for decades before my grandmother.

She was the first generation when the spark of change began. She tried. She really did. Aching for meaningful, healthy affection, it makes sense that she couldn’t identify it.

By the time my own mother came of age, she was at a crossroads. After a string of boyfriends in her youth, she made a choice to change from her grandmother’s (I never met several of her husbands) or her mother’s paths.

She faced another crossroads again dealing with a rambunctious toddler, a baby in arms (me) and another on the way. She could have used the only discipline she ever knew- but she didn’t. She did everything in her power to change that trajectory. My mother was the second generation.

Recognizing that I, myself, and my brothers are the third generation reminds me this story is not all about ‘me’. In fact, I’m only a small part of it. Looking at the bigger picture, I’ve come to that sense of relief. Relief in knowing my grandmother’s struggle is over. She’s no longer suffering. She no longer feels a lifetime of loneliness or aching for real, meaningful love. The God I’ve come to know loves her and will consider everything in the compassion He will surely show her.

That angst I’ve felt all these years now feels a bit shortsighted. Yes, my grandmother was an addict. I know of few others who can say theirs chewed tobacco or have memories of going to hazy casinos where grandma dealt cards. I recognize there are going to be moments when we, the family who loves her, will hurt. We’ll hurt for the ‘What Could Have Been’ and the opportunities wasted. There’s still likely to be moments of anger. But I imagine there will be many moments of compassion too.

Addiction is a funny thing. And by ‘funny’ I mean, well, I’m not sure what I mean. But if grandma taught me anything it’s that addiction is very complex. There are many angles to it. There are still so many unknowns. Science now supports the idea that it weaves into our DNA. Considering this possibility, it’s amazing she was able to come as far as she did. It’s amazing my mother and her equally incredible sisters have been able to live happy, healthy lives and raise well adjusted children. It’s amazing my cousins, brothers and I aren’t raging alcoholics.

That seems like reason enough for compassion. Her efforts to break the chains which bound our family for generations ensured that this generation has been able to  rise above it all.

Perhaps this is a strange sort of memorial. It may even be considered callous. Trust me, I’ve weighed these emotions heavily throughout this week. BUT I had to say something. I have to believe she will have another chance to experience healthy relationships with others, relationships her addiction robbed her of in this life. I have to believe her failings as the doomed ‘first generation’ allowed me to have a healthy relationship with my own mom; an amazing woman who quietly mourns her mother, whose hushed passing after a life in chains is somehow merciful .

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My brave, beautiful Momma and Calvin on the beach in Neverland last year

I write this for her, my aunts but also the other part of our family that hasn’t been so fortunate. I write this to acknowledge, that yes, we still love our matriarch. We hate addiction. It’s been a particularly vicious demon to our family.

But when it all comes together, we love our grandma more.

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CGME: New Fears and Hateful Kitchen Gadgets…

One of the (mostly) great things about being grounded is that I spend more time in the kitchen.  And once we move into our own home, I have even more glorious plans.  I will do marvelous things with the almost useless kitchen gadgets meant for one particular thing.  I’ll use my pretty plates and fruit bowls, goblets for sparkly drinks and anything with polka dots.

And I will never, not ever, no, never again take my very own can opener for granted.

THIS particular one, lurking in the shadows of our brother’s luscious green apple colored Kitchenade, HATES me.  I can almost hear it laughing maniacally when I scream at the mess it makes and the hazardous shards of metal it leaves behind.

Pampered Chef, my eye!  More like, Exasperated Chef.

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The culprit

In other news, I’ve realized with a possible Epilepsy diagnosis, I have developed a couple of new fears.  Spiders aren’t so high on the list anymore-maybe because it’s winter and I haven’t seen them hanging around.

Anyway,

I’m adding the floor, crosswalks and bubble baths to the list.

Then again, come spring, arachnids might make a comeback.

It’s the simple things, right?

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