Mega-play, baby!

Dear friends,

Did you buy a lottery ticket last night?

For the record, that's Mr. Mom's thumb, not mine.

Did you win, because if you did, it’s customary to pay a generous dividend to your favorite blogger. And I know I’m your favorite, so the matter is settled isn’t it?

You know how I found out about the Mega-Millions? Facebook. (Probably like everybody else. Or everybody else who wasn’t reading the Huff Post.) There was so much chatter, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to become fabulously wealthy — even if the opportunity was only one in a Mega-Million.

My friend Doug posted this: I sometimes buy lottery tickets when the jackpot hits $175 million, because at that point, at least, my $1 pick is statistically justifiable, leaving the entertainment value as a “free” benefit.

Mr. Mom and I don’t play often, but when we do, we have lots of fun with our “free benefit,” imagining the great things we would do with our millions — like pay off the mortgages of our family and friends.We always say for the average person (and we are totally average), paying off a mortgage would be life changing. While we’re on the topic, anybody want to change my life? I have two mortgages since our home in Oklahoma hasn’t sold yet. Paying off even one of them would sure change things around here.

My friend Elizabeth posted this: In line at Safeway Customer Service, the man in front of me, who was sucking down deep fried chicken blobs, purchased $500.00 of Powerball tickets. For real. FIVE hundred. #somethingaintright.

I felt a little guilty about spending $10 on our tickets. I can’t imagine laying down $500 on a fantasy. My dad’s a gambler from way back, but I sure didn’t inherit that gene. Go big or go home, they say. Guess who’s at home?

The best comment all night was from my friend Caroline, who posted this: (Caroline) amuses herself reading “what I would do if I won the MegaMillions lottery” posts, knowing that she would spend a substantial amount on math enrichment classes for everyone — and emphasize statistics and probability.

She’s always the voice of reason among my Facebook friends. (And lord knows, every Facebook circle needs a voice of reason.)

Since Mr. Mom and I didn’t win, I’ll have to spend today grateful for the money in our pockets provided by our own hands — which in this economy or any other is surely a blessing.

With gratitude {for something less than mega money, but which sustains us nonetheless},

Joan, who at age 18 pocketed the $40 her father gave her to spend at the track because, you know, that’s a pair of new shoes and who cares about horse races with $40 in your purse?

The gardeners.

Dear friends,

Spring break has been gorgeous — almost beyond description. I couldn’t have picked a better week to be off and I’m a little sad today is my final weekday of vacation.

I might have gotten ahead of Mother Nature because I not only moved many of my plants outside to the deck, I also bought a flat of herbs and three hanging baskets of flowers on impulse while shopping at K-Mart yesterday.

Photo by Instagram, Lomo-fi filter

There’s practically nothing that moves my happiness meter up more than potted flowers. Buying flowers before April 1 is dangerous in our neck of the woods, but I couldn’t resist. I figured if we get a hard freeze in the forecast, I can always move the three baskets indoors for a night or two. The herbs — they’re on their own.

Last year, we didn’t get our new household established until Memorial Day. There was so much to do at that point I had no energy left for potting flowers. Typically, I fill a dozen or more pots with all varieties, so I’m itching to get started on filling my expansive back deck with all my favorite kinds.

Folks who see my many pots of flowers often ask why I prefer a potted garden. “Isn’t a lot of work?” is a frequent question. I always say no because 1) Mr. Mom is kind enough to help me pot them, 2) There are no weeds to pull, and 3) Parker is and always has been my water boy. So, I literally have no upkeep. I’m kind of like the fancy rich lady who has a staff of gardeners, except I’m not rich. Or fancy.

With gratitude {for the unpaid gardeners who indulge my passion},

Joan, whose favorite flower is the peony, which she will definitely plant in her yard just as soon as her nearby nursery opens and the weatherman gives her the thumbs up

Simple pleasure.

Dear friends,

I have a new love.

And its name is milk.

Organic. Hormone free. Local.

I never knew milk could be this good. Parker did, s0 he spoke up and urged us to give it a try. (I have learned so many new things from that boy since he joined FFA. I heart FFA. And I heart the sight of my tall boy in his cordurory blue FFA jacket.)

Normally, I’m not a big milk fan. So when Parker told all of us that this is the best milk he’d ever tasted, I was skeptical. I mean, it’s not Chardonnay. What’s there to be “best” about it? Milk is milk, right?

Not even close.

This milk has a texture and a taste I’ve never experienced. It reminds me of a great wine that is considered to have a fine palate — its sweetness lingers in your mouth after you swallow and makes you want to take another drink immediately. And it is absolutely the freshest-tasting milk I’ve ever drank.

Maybe it’s the nature of organic milk to be so good — I don’t know because I’ve never purchased it before. Maybe it’s the fact that the milk is locally produced and bottled, meaning it ends up in my glass while other milk is still being trucked across the US. Maybe it’s the “vat pasteurization” process, which the company website says is a slower method that preserves the natural flavor. I don’t know the reasons — I just know it’s good. Good like no milk I’ve ever tasted. Who knew such a simple pleasure could make me so happy?

The fact that the milk is packaged in vintage-looking glass bottles that are returnable (and don’t end up in landfills) is all the better.

I wish I could buy a bottle for all of you. Since I can’t, all I can say is you should search for a source for local milk in your area. And if you can find organic, hormone-free, and vat-pasteurized milk, you’ll be a happy camper. You can thank Parker later.

With gratitude (for my new town where local produce, local meat, local dairy, and local honey are abundant},

Joan, who didn’t return her milk bottle for the deposit because she thinks it will make an adorable vase for wildflowers

I can see clearly now.

Dear friends,

Holy cow . . . is this week vacation or work camp?

I burned more than few calories yesterday tackling projects. First I unloaded the bookshelves. (Read this post from yesterday if you missed the reason why.)

Then I finished my part of the painting.

Then I washed windows. Inside and out. All 45 of them.

My view is spectacular now.

I’ve decided there’s no household chore as satisfying as window-washing. No matter how messy or dirty my house is, as long as the windows are clean, I’m a happy girl.

Kate and Parker helped me. With three pairs of hands working, it took less than two hours. I’m kind of a stickler about window-washing. There are rules, you know. Six of them.

  1. You must use a proper solution. Vinegar and water make a fine one, or we have a special cleaner we bought from a door-to-door salesman. Never, but never, use Windex, or anything soapy that would require rinsing.
  2. Use a cloth soaked in the solution and lightly wrung out to clean the windows. Sponges don’t work as well. (Less surface area.)
  3. You must rinse your cloth between every window, and you must refresh your solution every few windows. No using a dirty cloth or the same dirty water all the way through.
  4. You must use a squeegee.
  5. You must wipe your squeegee on a dry cloth after every swipe.
  6. And while you’re cleaning windows, you must wipe down the frames and window wells, too, even outside.

Oh, and you should do this every six months, though if you don’t have teenagers helping you, I wouldn’t blame you if you only did it once a year.

Or never.

With deep and abiding gratitude {for teenagers who help their mother do chores, if not happily, at least without fussing too much},

Joan, who wants you to know it was Mr. Mom, not her, who succumbed to the door-to-door salesman, though the magic orange cleaner really kicks butt

Cleaning up old mistakes.

Dear friends,

Photo by Instagram, Lomo-fi filter

I’ve been a busy bee. Mr. Mom and I spent the day prepping and painting. By 10:00 pm Monday night, we had a coat of primer and a coat of paint on the cabinet boxes in three bathrooms. Our painter didn’t show up until almost 4:00 pm after promising he’d arrive at noon (running late seems to be the stock and trade of painters), so he only had time for a coat of primer on the doors and drawers. It won’t hurt my feelings one bit if we finish before he does.

This same workman painted my kitchen last spring. And, unfortunately, he made a big mistake on that job. I selected a creamy white paint for my outer cabinets and a Jadite green for my island. Somehow, the painter got the doors mixed up and — when the handyman came to install hardware and hang the cabinet doors — I ended up with a green door on a bank of white cabinets and a white door on a bank of green cabinets. The doors are not interchangeable so I’ve been stuck with two sore thumbs for 11 months.  Somehow, the painter has never had time to come back and fix it.

So, of course, when I hired him for this new job, I removed the mixed up doors and had them waiting on him in the garage with all the others. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, you know.

I’m not mad at him. He’s a good guy and we all make mistakes. And on that front, I’ve got him beat by more than a decade.

About 15 years ago — on another spring break when I took off work for a DIY project — I painted a set of bookcases.  It was cold and rainy that year and I was holed up in my garage for hours painting those dang bookcases, shivering to death and watching the paint dry at a glacial pace. My kids were little back then and I kept having to stop working to run in the house and do things like feed and diaper my children. Toward the end of the project, I got tired and decided to take a shortcut by not painting the underneath sides of several of the shelves.

At the time, I wasn’t a very experienced painter so I didn’t know about tricks like tinted primer. I had primed the shelves with white paint and finished them with black paint. That the shelves were painted black on top and white underneath didn’t seem like a big deal as long as I stood up. But once everything dried and I moved the shelves into the house and loaded them down with books — and then sat down in the room — I realized my short-cut was glaring. (You saw the bookcases in this post. From the angle where I stood to the take the photo, you can’t tell the underneath sides of the shelves are white. But trust me, everyone who sits on my new furniture sees my rookie mistake.)

Believe it or not, this is the first time since then I’ve painted anything black. So as much as I hate to unload those dang shelves of dozens of volumes, I’m doing it so that I can clean up a very old mistake. My painter will feel right at home when I drag my shelves into the garage for a corrective coat of paint.

But I think we’ll both feel good to right an old wrong. It’s not often you get to fix an old mistake in the course of doing something new and productive — and we’d be foolish, I think, not to take advantage of the opportunity.

With gratitude {for having learned a thing or two about painting and life in the last few years},

Joan, who’s also learned never to cut corners by buying cheap paint because, yeah, she’s been down that road, too

Going all DIY on myself.

Dear friends,

I’m tackling a big project this week while I’m home for spring break and it involves paint and elbow grease.

With the help of Mr. Mom and a professional painter, I’m finally going all DIY on my ugly bathroom cabinets.

If you read this post, you saw the before and after of my kitchen renovation. When we bought our current home almost a year ago, we loved everything about it except the golden oak cabinets and a few cheesy light fixtures. Before we ever moved in, I hired a professional to paint our kitchen.  But I blew my renovation budget on the kitchen and on marble counter tops for the bathrooms — and then I pretty much petered out for several months.

Like the kitchen before its rehab, all the bathrooms in our home had blue Formica counter tops and golden oak cabinets. What made the bathrooms even worse was unframed mirrors screwed to the walls and ugly and very cheap light fixtures and faucets. I replaced several of the counter tops (though not all — I’ll tell you more about that when everything is complete), bought new sinks and faucets and light fixtures, and hired a carpenter to frame in the mirrors. The last step is painting the cabinets and I’ll finally finish that up this week.

To save money, I hired the painter to professionally spray the doors and drawers. Mr. Mom and I will do all the prep work and paint the cabinet boxes, then we’ll replace all the hardware (just as soon as I find something I like).

To coordinate with the Carrara marble, I’m painting the cabinets black.  Think this:

Once I finish the bathrooms this week, my remaining projects on this home are pretty minimal. I’m still searching for a couple of light fixtures and I want to add some wallpaper to parts of the master suite, but I’m getting close.

So now I’m off to paint and to shop for cabinet hardware! Wish me a steady hand and the luck to find just the right handles.

With gratitude {for a live-in handyman who usually indulges my DIY dreams},

Joan, who is an excellent painter (having perfected her technique back when she had no money but lots of inspiration)

Spring break and a fresh start.

Dear friends,

I’m blessed to have a multitude of friends — some lifelong ones back home, some new ones who I’m enjoying getting to know here, and some virtual ones I’ve met through blogging and who, despite their geographic distance, feel like “real” friends to me.

I introduced you to Annie in this post. She’s the talented cook, writer and photographer behind the blog Phoo-D. I’ve been following her for as long as I’ve been blogging and I always enjoy checking in on what’s new in her world.

And I learned yesterday, there’s a lot new in her world.  Click here to read about her amazing journey and transformation.

I found her post so inspiring, I’m off to the grocery store to buy the ingredients for her Kitchen Sink Soup. I haven’t been following my own advice for healthy living for a while now, running less and less, and eating more and more packaged and snack foods. It’s spring break in our world and I’m fortunate to have next week off. (It’s my last spring break, sniff sniff, while both my children live with me.) So with both the inspiration and the time to get myself back on track, I’m off to stock up on healthy and fresh foods.

With gratitude {for good friends, good food, and a glorious week of vacation ahead of me},

Joan, who’ll be eating her Kitchen Sink Soup in front of Netflix this afternoon in a last-ditch attempt to catch up on Mad Men before the Season Five premiere airs tonight

Belle of the ball.

Dear friends,

We’re headed out today — Kate and I and her best friend, S. We are going to St. Louis to shop for dresses, the fancy kind, because it’s Prom season.

Last year, when we were still living in Oklahoma, Kate and I drove across state lines to find this dress. It was worth the mileage.

I missed Prom night last year because I had already moved to our new place. A friend of ours took photos for me and Mr. Mom gave me the low-down, but it wasn’t the same as being there, of course. So this year, Kate’s senior year, I’ll be relishing every detail, including the best part — shopping for the dress.

With gratitude {for a girl who loves beautiful dresses as much as I  do and is always up for a shopping adventure},

Joan, whose favorite Prom dress was a pink floral Gunne Sax (remember those?) she wore in 1979, back before sparkly/shiny was the rage

Old school.

Dear friends,

It was a beautiful day yesterday. Sunny, blue skies, 68 degrees.

SweetPea loves tennis as much as I do.

SweetPea and I spent the afternoon and evening at the tennis courts watching Parker play. No dogs are allowed at the courts. I guess nobody told SweetPea and she couldn’t read the sign.

We had a great time eating the finger sandwiches I made and chatting with the parents and rooting for our team, who lost by the way. But Parker and his partner won their doubles match in a tie-break — the last match and only win of the day. They were heros at the very last moment.

Parker got two “Gatorades.” (It’s a tradition with the team. If you hit an overhead hard enough for it to bounce over the fence, which is kind of humiliating to the opponent, the fans yell “Gatorade!” and the coach owes you a bottle.)

The opposing coach was an interesting fellow. He was, shall we say, a little high strung. A squat man in shorts and a windbreaker, he was fond of screaming at his players about things like scorecards and the number of balls being used during warm-up. He also got a little wound up about how the players were announcing their scores and, at one point, he stormed on the court during Parker’s match to yell at his kid about it. (A real no-no, but our coach was a gentleman.) I was a little annoyed but I kept my cool and simply shouted “Way to keep score Parker!” after every point he won thereafter.

On another point, Parker aced his opponent on a low-skidding serve that flew wide. It was a beautiful first serve, and there was no shame in missing the return, but the coach yelled at his kid “You could have gotten it if you’d lunged!”

It  was so ludicrous it made me laugh out loud. Mr. Mom just called the coach “old school.” I’ll have to get used to that approach, I think, because  Mr. Mom said the same thing about the college tennis coach who’ll be welcoming Kate in the fall.

Until then, here’s to a beautiful spring and summer chock full of afternoons at the tennis court.

With gratitude {for spirited competition and fun all around, win or lose},

Joan, who, at 6-ft. tall, is a monster at the net


Dear friends,

Source: Say it Sweet

I had a dispiriting day yesterday.

The reason isn’t important because we all experience them, don’t we? Sometimes it’s a work issue. Other times it’s a family problem. Or the dishwasher stops working. Or the dog gets sick. Whatever the reason, we sometimes have days that disappoint us, make us lose confidence, cause us to question what we believe about ourselves and our abilities.

Lately, when I have that kind of day, I go looking for words of inspiration and encouragement. Sometimes I find them as posters on Pinterest. Etsy is another good place. And my favorite Buddhist books and websites usually give me a lift, too. I’ve even been known to Google my particular disappointment and see what pops up — and like an encouragement lottery, I sometimes find a winning ticket or at least an interesting path to follow.

Yesterday, I tripped across the canvas above on an Etsy shop.  God bless Victor Hugo, because I really needed the reminder that sometimes, you just need to let the sun go down on your disappointment.

You’ve likely figured out by now I have a tendency to over-analyze. I mean, who else but a hopelessly introspective individual would publish a gratitude journal for all to see? And like most traits, my tendency toward self-analysis can be both a strength and a frailty, depending on the day.

Self-reflection has at times given me more empathy, more humility, more patience. And it has also driven those closest to me to distraction with my tendency to “talk it all out.” Really, you can’t just argue with me. Because then you have to dissect the argument. Discuss the motivations of the participants. Reflect on the outcome and opportunities for improvement. Have a meta-argument. (Did I mention my graduate degree is in Psychology? Top that with an interest in self-help techniques and an endless curiosity about spiritual beliefs of all faith traditions and . . . yeah, I’m one of those people. I suspect some folks wish I would just curse at them and storm out of the room. It’s certainly more efficient.)

Anyway, I spent the better part of yesterday obsessing about this particular setback until I decided some time around 8:00 pm that I was done with it. I turned my attention elsewhere and let the sun go down on it.

I’m not fooling myself. The matter is messy and unresolved and I have to pick it back up again at another time or it will continue to fester. But on Wednesday night, I bid it bon nuit and released myself from the responsibility of absorbing it any longer.

And Thursday morning . . . well, the sunrise looks a little brighter today.

With gratitude {for words of wisdom sprinkled throughout the universe},

Joan, who once took an aptitude test and was told she should be a writer or a psychologist and can’t figure out how in the world she ended up as neither