You’ve Got to Have Friends!

It’s the friends you can call up at 4am that matter.”

-Marlene Dietrich

 

Dear Reader:

I’ve been very quiet lately and the friends who know me best have guessed why. Nearly four months ago, my husband and I moved from Carmel to Sacramento and I still haven’t quite caught my breath. Despite the fact that I love my new home and neighbors, I’ve felt overwhelmed, disoriented and sad. So, I’ve retreated …which is my way. It’s particularly easy to do that in the darkness of winter.

I haven’t wanted to share my unhappiness with others because it seems incredibly unwarranted. But, I began reaching out to my friends this week and they’ve reminded me of some basic truths.

Change, even positive change, is difficult.

My lovely friend waited until she was 50 years old for the right man to appear and she married him less than a year ago. Now she’s adjusting to her new home, role and life. She’s lost her desire to create and, as she put it, entered a period of “hibernation.” She wrote: “No doubt you and I will move through this season ( it’s just a season, after all) and blossom with new insights and greater creativity …in time.”

Your problems may not be BIG problems, but you’re entitled to them!

One of my friends lost her home several months ago. Just as wildfires were gobbling up California, her home was destroyed when a chemical fire spontaneously combusted in her garage. She was on vacation and got the news while she floated on a boat beside her husband. She’s negotiating with the insurance company who insists the value of her lost home is $80,000 less than the construction company does.

I felt guilty complaining that the carpet we had installed the week before we moved in was going to have to be ripped out and replaced due to an incredibly poor install. And yet, all she had to offer was compassion. “How frustrating!” she said after agreeing that moving was a major upset.

Each stage of life offers rewards and challenges.

One of my dearest friends is feeling the loneliness that comes from having grown children and a husband with a demanding career. She is truly one of the kindest people I’ve ever known and so it pains me greatly to hear her express doubt about her purpose. I wonder silently if it isn’t enough that she is such a generous person.

And finally, we’ve all got problems! Friends are there to remind us that we’re not alone.

May you all be blessed with friends as good as mine!

xo,

Michele

 

Merry Memories from My First Christmas in Sacramento, California

 

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My kitchen chalkboard says it all!
Christmas Lights
Our new neighborhood is decked out! 
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Our home is decked out!
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The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament is 130 years old and beautiful.
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I love It’s a Small World in Disneyland; my daughter made sure I’m ready for my next visit!
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Chanel No. 5’s red edition was a thoughtful gift from my husband.

Hope you’ve made some lovely memories, too!

 

 

The $1,400 Gingerbread House

“Oh, life is like that. Sometimes, at the height of our revelries, when our joy is at its zenith, when all is most right with the world, the most unthinkable disasters descend upon us.”

From the 1983 classic A Christmas Story

Dear Reader:

I absolutely LOVE Christmas. I love it all…the carols, the movies, the trees, the egg nog, the presents and most especially the fun of assembling and decorating a gingerbread house with my daughter. We’ve been creating in candy and frosting since Natalie was four years old.

This year within days of her return from college, we set up our decorating station at the kitchen table in our new home. It was such fun. Truth be told, I’ve been having a hard time adjusting to the move. But, as soon as my girl arrived, my mood improved. We simply need to make memories in our new home…I thought. And, a gingerbread house was the perfect start.

Two days later, it was time to celebrate Natalie’s 22nd birthday. We’d do whatever she wanted. Turns out it was a simple request. Pizza on the couch while watching one of our favorite seasonal movies: A Christmas Story.

We’ve got a bigger house this year so I placed Nat’s birthday gifts in our living room under the tree. As we left the family room, I checked to make sure all the plates and pizza scraps were removed from the coffee table and shut the adjoining door as our three doxies are not welcome in our formal living room.

It’s funny how you develop a sixth sense about these things when you own dachshunds, but I knew something was wrong the second we returned to the family room.

Where’s Winnie?! I quickly answered my own question when I discovered her on top of the kitchen table gorging on our gingerbread house. The next thing I knew I was slipping on my boots and throwing a coat over my p.j.’s while my husband googled emergency veterinary services. Luckily I thought to toss the half empty bag of Navitas cocoa nibs into my purse.

The veterinarian was not particularly concerned that Winnie had consumed about 10-15 milk chocolate chips (see the empty bowl up top) or large quantities of coconut and frosting. But the cocoa nibs that we surrounded our house with, because they so resembled dirt or gravel, necessitated a call to the Animal Poison Control Center .

About an hour and a half after we checked in, we were called into a room to consult with a vet who looked too concerned for me to be comfortable.

“We’ll need to keep her tonight,” she began. “She’ll be put on an i.v. and her heart rate and vitals will be monitored.”

There was more rather serious conversation until I finally asked if her life was in danger.

“Well, the experts at the ASPCA are very concerned about the cocoa nibs. That’s straight chocolate and she had a large dose for an 11 pound dog.”

“She can’t die,” I said. “Today’s my daughter’s birthday.”

“She probably thinks Nats is eight,” my husband whispered as we left.

“All she had to do is look at me to know our daughter is not eight,” I replied. “But, no one wants their dog to die on their birthday no matter how old they are!”

As you can see, Winnie lives! She spent two days in the ICU at a cost of $1,400. She’s asleep in my lap now. There aren’t too many things nicer than having your daughter home for the holidays and a sweet, small, warm creature to warm your heart and home. And I’d say that we made a memory!

I’d like to challenge anyone to show me a more expensive gingerbread house.

Michele

P.S. The cocoa nibs are excellent in yogurt, but I’ll never buy them again!

So Many Options!

 

Which rug will it be?
Two out of three dachshunds agree on the first rug option…the third could care less as the sun is shining outside!

Dear Reader:

I’ve been in my new home now for exactly 25 days. I always think that I should count the boxes when I move, but I never do. Part of me thinks it would give me a sense of accomplishment to know how many boxes had been packed and unpacked, but the smarter side of me knows that I’d be better off not knowing.

There are a lot of boxes. My husband and I love to collect…art, china, books and all things Christmas! I’ve managed to get through about 3/4 of them.

I’ve only had a washer/dryer for four days now and we are still waiting for California Closets to come and install new master bedroom closets in the empty spaces cleared by our contractor. But, we are almost fully functional here! As you can see, we have the bandwidth to consider rug options for our kitchen nook, so that’s an improvement over the first ten or so days when we were drowning in wrapping paper and trying to find the dust buster.

I am making friends with my new town and feeling confident that life here is going to offer so many opportunities to learn and grow. I’m truly excited to get beyond the “home set-up phase” and onto the “live my best life phase.”

I’ll be doing a reveal of my new pink shed soon. Watch for it!

Michele

 

Home for Thanksgiving

My Neighborhood
The view down the street from my new home on the day we fell in love with it. Today, the Sycamore leaves are golden and crisp and falling like the rain.

Dear Reader:

So much has happened since I last wrote. But, I must start by wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving, if it’s a holiday that you celebrate. If not, well…everyday is a day to be grateful. It goes without saying that I’m most blessed by the people in my life: husband, daughter, friends and neighbors.

But this year, I’m thinking about my home. I moved from Carmel, California to our state’s capital Sacramento on November 7th. I began unpacking boxes just as the fires broke out in Paradise which is a mere 88 miles from my new neighborhood.

As of today, nearly 14,000 people have lost their homes. As I work my way through each box to create a beautiful, functional, relaxing environment, I can’t help but think of those people who have no place to gather today.

I’ve always been a homebody who dreamed of living in beautiful spaces. When I was a teenager, I’d spend my hard-earned babysitting dollars on books and magazines. In addition to Tiger Beat, I’d often purchase a copy of Architectural Digest or House Beautiful. I’ve been blessed to live in several wonderful neighborhoods and my husband and I are poised to begin another adventure in a lovely 100-year-old home in a bustling area of town.

I’m so grateful for the roof over my head and so sorry for the victims of California’s fires. I hope you are happy, warm and snug in your home tonight.

Michele

Marriage is Beautiful

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Dear Reader:

What do you see when you look at this piece from the talented blogger at as much cake as you want? Are you happy for the couple on the street and sad for the one at the table? It’s all about perspective.

As a young woman, I would have looked at that man and woman sitting a million miles apart at the same table and thought: no way, never going to happen to me. I probably would have concluded that if it got that bad, I’d leave.

But, I’m not young any longer. I’ve been married for thirty-four years and I think the drawing perfectly illustrates the reality of long-term marriage. In my mind’s eye, the two couples could very well be one in the same captured at different moments in time.

The man and woman at the table may be poised to forgive one another. Maybe something quite unexpected will happen that will clarify both the beauty and fragility of life. Perhaps they will be drawn closer together in grief or joy. Or maybe the idea of a life without the other will suddenly become too difficult to imagine. Of course, it’s possible they’ll be separated soon, but it’s just as likely that the lovebirds on the street won’t stay together.

It’s hard to know about these two couples, but I do know that my husband and I have looked like both of them through the years. We’ve been close and we’ve been distant. We’ve appreciated each other and we’ve taken each other for granted. We’ve made mistakes and we’ve learned a few things:

  • It’s the tough times that can serve to really cement the union.
  • If you choose wisely in the first place (as I did), marriage is worth the effort.
  • Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful and marriage is never perfect.

Michele

A Hufflepuff, of Course!

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Dear Reader:

It’s not easy being a mother; it seems someone is always at the ready to judge our performance. My daughter is a full-grown 21-year-old college student, and yet, I sometimes still meet with the harsh disapproval of another mother.

It happened over lunch when my friend asked for Natalie’s telephone number.  I could not recite it.

“I don’t know her number,” I said. “I’d have to check my phone and I left that at home.”

My response was met with a simple one word reply: “REALLY?!” The disbelief in her voice matched the mortified look on her face. And, I felt absolutely horrible. Many months ago. This was months ago and, mind you, I’m still talking about it.

However, today I’m remembering the event because I felt a slight reprieve come my way when another friend asked a somewhat more personal question about my daughter and I was ready with an authoritative answer.

“I’m visiting the park in Florida and I wonder if you could ask Nats what Hogwarts House she’s in so I could buy her a piece of memorabilia?”

“HUFFLEPUFF,” I responded immediately. “What kind of mother doesn’t know what house their child is in?!”

My mother confidence was restored in that moment!

Michele

P.S. I’m a Ravenclaw…how about you?

I’m Strong, Too!

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Dear Reader:

Since beginning my Journey to Strong last November, I’ve had so many women tell me that I’m an “inspiration.” I have certainly appreciated the support, but I’ve found it difficult to fully embrace the idea that I’ve inspired others to become fitter or stronger.

But, my friend Kristin’s daughter, Julia, gave me an amazing gift that I will forever treasure. She tapped me on the shoulder, halfway through dinner last night, and whispered in my ear.

“I saw you lifting weights on Instagram. I’m strong, too!”

I was filled with emotion. Sometimes it takes a child to remind us that:

  • we don’t need to be anything more than who we are to inspire others
  • it’s important to share the small and large victories present in everyday life
  • social media can be a force for good
  • AND, our daughters are watching!

Dear readers, venture out and do what you do best…and then share it!

Michele

 

Friends and Neighbors

 

Me and Marietta
“If you live in each other’s pockets long enough, you’re related.” —Jodi Picoult
Frank, Marietta and me
Farewell dinner last month
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Celebrating the 1 year anniversary of my blog
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On our way to birthday brunch for me last year
Cheers!
A favorite pic of mine, mimosas in the garden three years ago

Dear Reader:

I had to say goodbye to my favorite neighbors last month and, in between the tears, I got to thinking about what it means to be a good neighbor today vs. when I was growing up.

In 1970 I was an energetic ten-year old who loved roaming the street with my siblings and friends. The doors to nearly every home on my block were always open. Mothers worked in those homes and they (mostly) enjoyed the interruption that a pack of kids provided. I loved particularly the woman who baked cinnamon rolls as heavy as bricks and the one who loved to sew but immediately left her machine to chat with us upon our arrival as if we were her contemporaries.

The neighborhood of my youth is a rare thing nowadays. (Hey, I’m pushing 60 years old and I think I’ve earned the right to use the word nowadays!) Seems to me the definition of a good neighbor today goes something like this: a good neighbor is one who doesn’t bother you, respects boundaries and keeps quiet. Of course, this is dependent upon where you live. I think you’re more likely to find satisfying relationships if you have young children and can bond over play-dates and carpools. But, those days are over for me and my husband and I never expected to have the good luck of becoming attached to someone on our block when we moved to Carmel.

Marietta and Frank’s former home is perched on a hill across the street from our home and it boasts expansive windows at the front. So, they could look down on us and see the daily comings and goings. It was quite easy for them to monitor things when we were on vacation. They saw the mail being delivered and they’d know if someone broke in and tried to take off with our t.v.

Our friendship began immediately with the kindness they offered before even knowing us. We moved into our house slowly and I took several loads of things in my car before the big moving trucks arrived. I made the trips solo as Tom was still employed and Natalie was in school and the drive was an easy hour and one half.

It never failed that shortly after I’d unloaded all of the boxes into my garage, I’d get a call from across the street.

“You are working so hard; don’t work so hard!” Marietta would advise in her rich Chilean accent. “Come eat a sandwich with us!”

I’d frequently receive invitations to take short vino or coffee breaks or to dine on superbly home cooked meals. It was like having a more perfect version of my mom living across the street and it was divine.

For five years, we celebrated birthdays and everyday occurrences like the sighting of a family of quail marching across the driveway or the first blooms of azaleas in both of our gardens. And a couple of days after the election of POTUS, we dined together to bond in our shared horror and grief about the state of our country.

Most recently, Marietta saw me regularly racing to my car decked out in my spandex on my way to Zone Fitness. She never missed the opportunity to provide praise and encouragement. One day I’d see her waving from her window, another day we’d meet in the middle of the street before getting into our cars to head our separate ways. She’d often say the same thing about my fitness goals that she said when I began my blog: Do whatever makes you happy!

I’ve been missing the chance meetings at the mailbox and the shouts out of car windows as we come and go. And, though, it’s not even fall yet, I’m already missing the annual delivery of freshly baked holiday fruit cake. Really, I’m missing the rare, warm and comforting feeling of knowing that there’s someone living so close by who cares so much.

Hope this brings a smile to your face, Marietta!

Love,

Michele