To Love and Funny Moments: A Toast for All Occasions

In all our years of being married, I don’t think Stanton has ever written a grocery list. Never started one, rarely contributed to one. This isn’t a criticism, friends, just a fact.

Food: In our relationship, it’s my thing, I guess. Kind of like how, say, pest control is his. We all have our interests and skill sets.

The other day, I started a grocery list. Mayonnaise, wine/beer, I wrote. Then I put it aside.

Later, when I returned to add to the list, I blinked. Now there was a third bullet point, featuring handwriting not my own, stating hot sauce.

I started laughing, somewhat maniacally (this is what weeks of social distancing can do to a person). Nearby, Grace smiled and said, “What, Mom?”

I held up the list. “Dad.”

Grace squinted at Stanton’s neat, precise penmanship. “Hot sauce?”

“Dad never writes grocery lists,” I explained. “So for him to do this, he really wanted hot sauce. If, God forbid, we had to be quarantined…Dad didn’t want to do it without hot sauce.”

Canned goods? Tylenol? People-can’t-get-enough-of-it toilet paper?

Uh-uh. Not even in the ballpark, friends. If the Leddy family finds itself quarantined, what we’ll have stockpiled is, that’s right, hot sauce.

As well as mayonnaise, wine and beer. #prepared 😉

I started laughing, somewhat maniacally (this is what weeks of social distancing can do to a person).

Stanton and I celebrated our 12th anniversary earlier this week. Grace and Anna very sweetly surprised us with decorations and party hats for breakfast. (If we’re connected on Facebook, then you might know this because of the picture I posted. 🙂 ) We had a different celebration than originally planned, due to the coronavirus pandemic of course. It was a very sweet anniversary, though, and I genuinely loved it.

For dinner that evening, Stanton and I ordered takeout from a local Thai restaurant we’d been meaning to try for a while. We ate in the breakfast nook with the girls. It was, simply, very sweet.

I asked Stanton to make a toast. The four of us raised our glasses.

“To love,” Stanton said. “And happy moments—we’ve had lots of those. And you know…” He paused, smiled. “We’ve had some funny ones too.”

The girls laughed. I thought about the hot sauce (and a few other things) and laughed too.

“To love and funny moments,” I said, clinking my glass with the three others surrounding it.

A good anniversary toast, and everyday-family-dinner toast too.

wine-1952051_1920

A couple of days ago, my sister emailed me the link to John Krasinski’s new “Some Good News” YouTube show. Stanton and I watched it together. Totally loved it.

If you’ve been reading my writing for any length of time, then you probably know I’m also all about “some good news.” Thus, a disclaimer: This post is, like all my others, fairly light. There’s positive energy, even during difficult times.

I understand that this brand of creative nonfiction doesn’t jibe with everyone, especially now. I get that. So if, like John Krasinski’s, my glass-half-full perspective causes your eyes to instinctively roll and your index finger to automatically reload the CDC or NPR website for the latest COVID-19 updates…I get that, I do.

If, on the other hand, you’d like to take a moment, take a breath…then maybe keep reading here.

There’s positive energy, even during difficult times.

Something I’ve started to do, which I haven’t done since becoming a mom, is…locking the bathroom door. Yes, this is my new normal. Why, you may ask?

Here’s why, friends: Zoom meetings.

Toilet paper shortages and Zoom: These are two of the things we’ll most clearly remember, years from now. I’m convinced of this.

Both Grace and Anna have been “meeting” with their classes through Zoom. Also, Google Meet. Whatever the platform, however, there often are technical difficulties.

“Mom!” Grace will jump up from the couch, laptop in hand, looking for me. “I can’t un-mute my microphone! People can SEE me, but they can’t HEAR me!”

A few times (for instance, yesterday morning), I’ve been in the process of finishing getting dressed. Exactly: not yet fully clothed. A few times, then, I’ve had a mini panic attack. My daughters’ classmates—and their parents, who are un-muting their microphones—are going to get to know me on a whole other level. Aaagghhh.

Thus, after an eight-year hiatus, I once again lock the bathroom door.

Toilet paper shortages and Zoom: These are two of the things we’ll most clearly remember…

This past weekend, Stanton and I converted our guest bedroom into a home office. Previously, Stanton would catch up on work at the desk in our room. His “work at home” has increased, though, and I wanted our room to feel more like a personal, peaceful space again, and less like a corporate headquarters.

Stanton disassembled the guest bed. He moved all the pieces, plus the mattress and box spring, to the basement. Then he moved the desk into the former guest bedroom/current home office (after also disassembling and then reassembling the desk, once realizing it was too wide to fit through various doorways).

The furniture rearranging revealed dust bunnies galore, as well as dusty flooring that the girls immediately wrote their names across and drew smiley faces into.

“Please let me just clean this up,” I said, in between dust-bunny-triggered sneezes.

Fun times, friends. Fun times.

The desk Stanton’s using now, actually, is my desk. It literally is called a writing desk, designed for writing, and resembles this one. I found my desk not at Pottery Barn, though, but a used furniture shop. Vintage, you know. 😉 What can I say, I love a good bargain.

Although I love my (writing) desk, I usually write and work in our family room, at the rectangular table in the dining space. I like to be in the mix of things; I get good energy here. So it made perfect sense to furnish Stanton’s new home office with my desk.

But that day, I looked at my desk…and I felt a twinge in my heart. The majority of my work and writing projects are on hold for the moment, and I understand why, 100 percent. I understand, and it’s OK. Looking at my writing desk, though, it was as if I were seeing, physically, another pause in my path as a writer.

When this global pause passes, one thing I’ll welcome back, happily, is the ability to tell more stories again.

…dusty flooring that the girls immediately wrote their names across and drew smiley faces into.

Like many others, our family is spending lots more time at home now. Lots. The girls have been riding their bikes and scooters around the neighborhood, on the nearby Rail Trail, all over.

“I hope we’re not making too much noise,” I recently called over to my next-door neighbor on the right, a retired gentleman.

He smiled. “No, it’s nice to hear some noise.”

I’ve seen and chatted with so many of my neighbors so much these past few weeks, and it’s been really nice. It’s also been really funny at times.

My other next-door neighbor, on the left, celebrated her birthday yesterday. “Happy birthday!” I said, and then mentioned my birthday was soon too. Her wife’s birthday was the day after mine, she replied.

“So many April birthdays! Wait a minute.” I shook my head, remembering. “That’s right—we had this conversation last year.” And I kind of think we had the same conversation the year before that too.

All good, friends, all good. My oldest friends and I joke that we, too, have been having the same handful of conversations over and over again, across 30+ years. Some things don’t change, and they don’t get old either.

“…it’s nice to hear some noise.”

I’m no John Krasinski, but I am curious: What’s your good news? What’s going on in your life that’s made you smile lately?

Here are some of my things:

1.) I started playing the piano again. I took lessons when I was younger, but stopped sometime in high school and haven’t played much since. Grace has been taking piano lessons for two years now, but we’re taking a break because her music studio is closed, currently.

So I’ve been helping Grace with the songs from her lesson book, and enjoying playing them myself too. The girls get a kick out of hearing me tap out single notes at a time, with a chord thrown in every now and then. I’m not breaking out the “Moonlight Sonata” or anything like that, but it’s been fun.

2.) A very sweet friend kindly dropped off a six-pack of cupcakes from my favorite local coffee shop/bakery. It was the sweetest surprise. Ironically, I had driven past Perfect Blend the night before, on my way home from grocery shopping, and thought to myself, Man, I really miss going there. This gesture, then, truly touched my heart.

3.) Around the same time as this cupcake surprise, another sweet friend texted me with a question regarding a technical difficulty. Amazingly, I knew how to help answer this question. I believe this was the first time in my life I’ve ever known the answer to an IT-related question, so…not only is that some good news, it’s also record-breaking.

To sum it all up… We have answers to questions (as well as technical difficulties). We have cupcakes. We don’t have the “Moonlight Sonata,” but we have music nonetheless.

And we have hot sauce. We will, in fact, always have hot sauce.

Cheers. ❤

Photo credit: Pixabay

+

Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s e-books on Amazon.com. Short fiction and creative nonfiction writing that’s engaging, witty and from the heart.

Fast Food, Slow Walks and the Kindness of Strangers

On New Year’s Day, the girls wanted to go for a walk. What they really wanted, actually, was to walk to the nearby Stewart’s for ice cream. Ice cream on January 1—sure, sounds good.

Stanton decided to stay home, so Grace, Anna and I bundled up and headed out. It was about 40 degrees and sunny, a beautiful day for winter. The girls ended up riding their bikes, myself walking a bit behind.

Quite a few people were out on the Rail Trail too, and we all exchanged “Happy New Year’s.” Where I was in the world felt fresh, and crisp, and kind.

Stewart’s is locals’ go-to convenience store in upstate New York, similar to Wawa in the Philadelphia region. The girls left their bikes and helmets in the park next door; we walked inside.

We bumped into some people we knew. Everyone’s wardrobe of choice on New Year’s afternoon seemed to fall into the ever-popular “athleisure” category, and I fit right in with my fleece sweatpants and oversized tunic. #winning 😉

The girls ordered kiddie cones of chocolate-chip cookie dough (Grace) and rainbow sherbet (Anna), and I got coffee, of course.

The three of us sat at a table alongside a window. Not long after, an elderly woman sat nearby. We smiled at each other, chitchatted a bit. “Nice the coffee’s free today, for New Year’s,” she said.

I smiled again and nodded.

Grace tugged at my arm. “Was your coffee free, Mom?”

“I’ll tell you later, honey.”

When we were back outside, my older daughter reminded me that it was “later.” I explained to her that no, the coffee wasn’t free, but I thought the folks working at Stewart’s hadn’t charged the white-haired woman for it.

“Why?” Grace wondered.

“I think they could tell she was older and probably didn’t have as much money as she used to.”

Grace smiled. “That was kind.”

I agreed. Stewart’s had been kind. It hadn’t cost them much at all, but it had made a difference to someone.

Where I was in the world felt fresh, and crisp, and kind.

Bearing witness to acts of kindness, no matter how small, is always encouraging—to me, at least. In this week alone, I’ve seen so many acts of kindness. For example, the girls and I were at Hannaford on Monday before dinnertime, and it started to sleet just as we walked back outside to the parking lot with our groceries.

A manager whom I know appeared out of nowhere and asked, “Do you need help getting to your car?” He was very kind, and I thanked him. Although I didn’t take him up on his offer because I knew we’d be OK.

After loading up the car, I maneuvered to exit the parking lot. I was waiting to make a left-hand turn to get in one of the lanes to turn onto the street, when the car opposite me gestured for me to go ahead. Now, I know this is a little thing, but I so appreciate when other drivers do this because making a left can be tricky.

Within five minutes, two acts of kindness. Kindness is there in the world, if we open ourselves to see it. This is my perspective, anyway.

My whole life, I’ve experienced beautiful acts of kindness. I’ve also experienced ugly acts of unkindness. I try to pay forward the kindnesses and focus on the good things, with the belief (however naive it may be) that everything happens for a reason, and comes full circle in the end.

sparkler-677774_1920

One of my favorite parts of my Christmas vacation was sitting with my grandmother the Saturday after Christmas. My Grandma resides in a nursing home. She has a cozy room that my mom has decorated with pictures of our family—mostly my girls.

Half a wall is covered in full-color printouts of Grace and Anna, with a sprinkling of my brothers, sister, our cousins and me thrown in.

To the right of all these pictures, a TV is mounted on the wall. That Saturday, Grandma had the Penn State/Memphis football game turned on when my mom and I arrived. I would never choose to watch sports on TV, but if Stanton or, in this case, Grandma has a game on, I don’t mind sitting there and watching it too. I enjoy simply being there.

I totally enjoyed doing just that, being there, with my Grandma that day. She reclined on her bed; I sat in an armchair to her right. To my right was a table displaying the Christmas cards she had received, as well as a box of chocolates—yum.

“Could I have one of these, Grandma?”

“Oh, sure, have as many as you want. Your mother’s been eating them.”

I laughed and looked at my mom, who may or may not have rolled her eyes. “Thanks, Grandma.”

My grandmother was delighted to share her candy with me, and I loved her for it because she doesn’t have very much at this time in her life. What she has, pretty much, fits in her comfy yet small nursing-home room.

After I hugged Grandma good-bye, I reached over to give her another hug. These days, I’m very conscious that I never know when a good-bye might be the last one.  

My grandmother was delighted to share her candy with me, and I loved her for it…

Stanton, the girls and I cherish the time we spend with both our families during the holidays—Thanksgiving with his, Christmas with mine. The past couple of years, we’ve made New Year’s ours—just him, me and the girls—and we’ve especially appreciated this time together too, just the four of us.

On New Year’s Eve, the girls and I stopped by the library to pick out a DVD to watch later that evening. While we were there, we also got some books.

“This is the nonfiction section,” Grace told Anna, pointing to a stack of shelves. “These are the true stories.”

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been drawn to true stories. Listening to them, reading them and—later—writing them. Discovering meaning in things that really happened.

In telling any true story, though, we need to start somewhere. So we pick a beginning, whether in relaying an anecdote to a friend or drafting an article for a magazine. Beginnings can be arbitrary.

Memory isn’t an exact science either. But we do the best we can with our true stories, in the remembering and the telling.

When I write for my website here, I have two main goals. First, I want to tell a good true story. I want to represent life, combining equal parts honesty, humor and inspiration. If my story makes someone reading it smile or laugh out loud or simply feel, then that’s my biggest joy.

Second…I want to remember. I want to remember that we watched “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” on New Year’s Eve 2019, after eating homemade French-bread pizza on our good china, which we don’t use enough. Not every detail, and not a vanity project of blog posts…but some of the true stories that meant something to me, that I found meaning in and thought others might enjoy too.

“These are the true stories.”

The girls and I took our time heading back home from Stewart’s. I had some coffee left in my cup; it kept my hands warm as I walked.

The girls would ride their bikes a bit, then stop to examine something on the ground, or chase each other around a bench.

“We’re taking forever,” I finally noted.

“Yep,” Grace and Anna agreed. They were in no rush.

A joy everyone experiences when they’re young—the feeling of having all the time in the world.

No matter how young or old we are, we can appreciate the good things that abound, from hot cups of coffee to slow winter walks and unexpected kindnesses. And our stories—the ones we tell at Christmas dinner tables year after year, where everyone gathered knows the punch lines…the ones we write down, in diaries or online posts…the ones yet to come.

May the best be yet to come.

Happy New Year, friends. ❤

Photo credit: Pixabay

+

Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short story, “Backtrack.” An engaging read that’s can’t-put-it-down good.

Of Course the Noel Sign Lights Up: Merry Everything 2019

The day after we returned home from our Thanksgiving-break trip, I hauled the Leddy family artificial Christmas tree out of the basement. A trail of plastic pine needles followed behind me, from the top of the basement stairs to the front of the family-room bay window.

Clark Griswold would not approve.

“Do you think we’ll ever get a real Christmas tree, Mom?” Grace wondered.

“Yes,” I replied. Not this year…but one year, someday, absolutely.

Stanton searched for a yuletide playlist.

“Yeah, I’m gonna take my horse to the old town road…”

I raised my eyebrows at my husband. He kept searching.

“No, Dad,” protested Anna. “I love that song.”

We both looked at our 4-year-old daughter. How did she know Lil Nas X?

“We listen to it at preschool,” Anna explained. “The clean version.”

Grace laughed; I laugh-cried. Stanton turned up “Jingle Bells.”

Stanton and the girls began hanging ornaments on our tree while I dug more Christmas decorations out of the basement.

Over the years, I scooped up our decorations during various post-Christmas sales. Thus, every December our home radiates a festively hodgepodge theme of Pottery Barn seasonal clearance meets Hallmark Store half-off, with a little Pier 1 last call thrown in for bling-y measure.

Stanton is rarely impressed with my bargain finds. “How awesome that this was 75 percent off,” I said, showing him my newest piece of decor, a wooden sign with “Noel” in capital letters, adorned with faux red berries and glitter galore (a Pier 1 find, obviously).

In a previous life, Stanton worked as a buyer. “The retail price isn’t the real price anyway, Mel,” he said, for probably the thousandth time in our life.

“Honey, please…I practically made money here.”

Grace pointed to the sign. “Mom, there’s a box here where you put batteries. Does this sign light up?”

“Of course it lights up, G.” I found it at Pier 1, didn’t I?

“Do you have any batteries?”

I’d get some on my next trip to Hannaford, I promised.

…every December our home radiates a festively hodgepodge theme of Pottery Barn seasonal clearance meets Hallmark Store half-off, with a little Pier 1 last call thrown in for bling-y measure.

Not long after, I drove to Hannaford. The lights at the intersection outside the grocery store weren’t working. People in their cars were treating this fairly busy intersection like a four-way stop, mostly cautiously, but—nervous Nellie driver that I am—I worried an accident could happen.

Once inside the store, I shared my concern with one of the managers I know, a friendly, hard-working young man. He told me the lights hadn’t been working since the morning before.

“I’m a little surprised no one has called the police or anything,” I said.

The manager said he would do that right now. “I think I have the number.”

I was confused. The number was 911, right?

But no, police departments have non-emergency numbers for situations like this. Within minutes—truly, minutes—two workers arrived and fixed the intersection lights. I was thankful for that.

“You solved the problem, Mom,” my daughters said, when I told this story to them later.

Not really, but a little. Solving problems, though—that’s a lot of what moms do, all day long.

christmas-2947257_1920

Grace and Anna love getting out and about. I do too; I’m all for it, truly. By about 6 p.m. on a cold winter’s Saturday, though, I’m usually 100 percent content to stay in, steep a cup of tea to perfection and engage in cozy indoor activities, such as reading or Family Movie Night.

This past Saturday evening, the girls were having none of that.

“It’s public skate at the Y, Mom! Let’s go ice skating! Come on, Mom!”

O…K.

If I didn’t have kids, I’d probably hibernate until spring. I’d stay in, drink hot beverages, binge-watch the rest of “Shameless” on Netflix. Maybe even write something a little longer, a bit more prestigious, than yet another blog post. 😉

That, however, is an alternate reality, friends, and overall, I’m wholeheartedly grateful for the reality I have.

Ice skating, sledding, snowman-building in winter—hiking year-round—swimming all summer—raking jump-worthy piles of leaves in fall—all right, come on, let’s do it.

“Come on, Mom!”

Yes, overall, I’m living the dream.

During the next few days, our children will be participating in a total of four end-of-year events. One holiday piano concert, two Christmas pageants and one performing arts holiday performance. There’s also a Christmas party following one of the pageants, for which I signed up to bring cookies. “Because no one ate the salad you brought that other time,” Anna reminded me. (That’s true: That other time, no one did.)

I mixed up some of these save-the-dates on the hard-copy calendar in the kitchen (I know, pretty old-fashioned to use a calendar you can actually write on), so our December 2019 page resembles a treasure map of circles, arrows and crossed-out words.

I needed to reschedule Grace’s overdue annual checkup, so circled “G – dr. appt!” and drew an arrow to a following weekday afternoon (making her overdue checkup even later). Anna came along, too, and I asked the receptionist if both my daughters could get (again, overdue) flu shots that day. She said yes, and I reached over to sign some forms.

With my other arm, I was holding Anna. At this point, her ears perked up. She clasped her hands around my neck, physically turned my head back up to face the receptionist, and hissed, “Tell her, ‘Anna does not want a flu shot.'”

The receptionist laughed; Anna frowned.

It’s always a good time, friends.

…our December 2019 page resembles a treasure map of circles, arrows and crossed-out words.

Who’s done with all their holiday shopping? Almost done? Yet to start?

You can put me in the “almost done” category. I ordered some things online during Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, but I still have some gifts to pick out from I Love Books and Perfect Blend, two of my favorite local shops.

Stanton, the girls and I will be spending Christmas at my mom and dad’s house near Scranton, Pa., and when we show up on their doorstep, I always like to have some coffee from Perfect Blend on hand. Many of our moms and dads don’t really need any more stuff, but appreciate consumable gifts—such as my coffee shop’s Frosty’s Favorite and Sugar Cookie seasonal blends. This is my perspective anyway, and I hope I’m right.

And what do I want for Christmas, you ask? Just what every other parent of small children asks of Kris Kringle, of course: a live-in housekeeper and/or personal chef, someone whose skill set includes handing out snacks every 15 minutes from 4 p.m. until dinner is ready.

“Mom, will you open the healthy drawer?” Anna recently asked as I was making dinner.

Grace sighed. “We don’t have a healthy drawer, boo.”

“Yes, we do.” Anna pointed to the cupboard above the coffeemaker.

Grace and I both shook our heads. “Honey, you know that’s the snack drawer,” I told Anna. “Just because you call it the healthy drawer doesn’t make it something different.” It didn’t change the fact that that part of the kitchen cabinetry was stuffed full of popcorn, chocolate and chips of all kinds (potato, tortilla and masquerading-as-not-junk-food veggie).

“Please can I just have the box of cheddar bunnies?”

All I want for Christmas is someone to manage early-evening snack requests.

Just what every other parent of small children asks of Kris Kringle, of course: a live-in housekeeper and/or personal chef…

As cliché and corny as it sounds, what I most appreciate at Christmastime is time with my loved ones. Time is such a gift, I think.

I’m looking forward to driving from New York to Pennsylvania with Stanton and the girls, listening to Christmas music on the radio. Once we get there, I’m excited to catch up with my brothers and sister. Jenna and I want to watch some favorite movies together (“Love Actually” and “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” here’s looking at you—and yes, Hugh Grant, the Minetola sisters adore you).

Riding shotgun, chitchatting, watching movies—these are such little things, yet they’ll be my biggest Christmas wishes-come-true.

What about you?

Whatever yours are and wherever you’ll be, I hope this time of year finds your heart happy too.

Merry everything, friends. ❤

Photo credit: Pixabay

+

Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short story, “Backtrack.” An engaging read that’s can’t-put-it-down good.

Tuesday Is Frozen Pizza Night

When I was growing up, my Italian-American family and I had a slew of favorite local pizzerias. They were plentiful in our part of the Northeast: Sal’s, Sabatini’s, the multiple locations of Grotto.

My very favorite pizza place was Revello’s in Old Forge, Pa., about a 25-minute drive from my parents’ house. As a child, 25 minutes felt like forever, and during the drive, I sat in the middle of the backseat of my mom’s silver-colored Buick, scrunched between my two brothers, impatiently awaiting the moment I could take a bite of a Revello’s slice.

For me, the sauce is what made Revello’s pizza so good. It was a red sauce, marinara, and it was peppery. It definitely had a kick.

My family and I—my mom, my dad, my two brothers, my sister and I—usually sat at a table in the rear of the restaurant, by the back door. We often came in through that door, because my dad parked on one of the back roads.

An older woman named Mary was our regular server through the years. I remember her as skinny with short, curly hair; round glasses; and a quick, friendly smile.

Old Forge says it’s the “pizza capital of the world.”  This may even be true; I’ve certainly enjoyed my fair share of delicious pizza here, and so did two L.A.-based foodies on a “pizza crawl” through Old Forge this past fall.

When I go “home” to Northeastern Pennsylvania now, I love to stop by AmberDonia in Kingston and share a Romeo & Juliet pizza with my husband. We both love the flavor combination of prosciutto and basil atop the olive oil, crushed tomatoes and blend of cheeses. Heaven served wood-fired.

As a child, 25 minutes felt like forever…

As an adult, I’ve also been lucky to live in Richmond, Va., San Antonio, and Delmar, N.Y., and get to experience the (literal) local flavor of these three uniquely beautiful places.

In RVA, you can’t go wrong at Bottoms Up (downtown) or Mary Angela’s (Carytown). San Antonio may be better known for its tacos, but Luciano was a neighborhood favorite for pizza and calzones. And here in New York, Stanton, the girls and I enjoy many a Friday night at Romo’s (impossible to leave without ordering the fried dough knots for dessert).

All these years, all this time eating all kinds of pizza…certainly I can appreciate the art of freshly baked dough, tomatoes and cheese. Certainly I can. And yet in my house, today, we almost always eat frozen pizza on Tuesday.

That’s right, friends: Tuesday is frozen pizza night.

background-1442944_1920

Having a weekly frozen pizza night isn’t something to brag about, especially when you have a regular going-out-to-eat-pizza night too. But this is life as we know it, for the moment at least.

My older daughter, Grace, has an after-school activity on Tuesdays. My younger daughter, Anna, gets hungry right before this activity starts. Thus, I got into the habit of heating up frozen pizza before we left the house for Grace’s activity. Then I’d pack it up in two travel food-storage containers, and off we’d go.

“You make the best pizza, Mom!” the girls often say. “And the best macaroni and cheese, and Helper!”

“Helper,” just FYI, is our family’s shorthand for “Hamburger Helper.”

Frozen pizza, macaroni and cheese, and Helper—welcome to our home, friends.

…this is life as we know it…

There are two brands of frozen pizza that we like. The first is Against the Grain Gourmet. It’s made in Vermont, a relatively short drive away, so is considered “local” at our Hannaford grocery store. We alternate between the three-cheese and pepperoni varieties. Against the Grain Gourmet is delicious and filling. It tastes like real food. As a frozen pizza connoisseur of sorts (again, not something I’m bragging about 😉 ), what more could I ask for?

Our other tried-and-true brand is Caulipower. This frozen pizza has a cauliflower crust. I was talking up Caulipower to someone recently, and they noted that cauliflower crust is trendy now. I am rarely on trend, so I didn’t know this.

(Another friend told me he finds cauliflower crust offensive, which made me laugh. I can certainly empathize with the perspective of, why mess with a good thing?)

I have always loved cauliflower, and the reason is because when I was little, my Poppy made fried cauliflower. This is one of my strongest memories of him—walking in the front door of my parents’ house on holidays, carrying a bowl of fried cauliflower.

The bowl was white with a light blue rim.

If Poppy were here today, he’d probably laugh if I told him he was being trendy with his favorite side dish.

So I’ve loved cauliflower forever, and when I noticed Caulipower in the frozen pizza aisle for the first time, I had to try it. We really like the cauliflower crust, but if you’re more of a classic pizza lover, then this may not be the top pick for you (or my friend).

This is one of my strongest memories of him—walking in the front door of my parents’ house on holidays, carrying a bowl of fried cauliflower.

Chefs and home cooks alike enjoy building on the classics, having fun with new ideas, trying different things. For example, “flatbread” is a word I’ve been seeing more and more. Kind of like pizza, kind of not.

And now you can get gluten-free or dairy-free pizza (or flatbread). The toppings seem endless too, whether you’re in the frozen food section of the grocery store or your favorite pizzeria: pepperoni, pineapple, roasted beets, truffle oil drizzle, fried eggs.

Now, I’m an adventurous eater. If my friend Megan from Richmond happens to read this, then she can attest to my appreciation for all kinds of cuisines, from Cuban to French to Vietnamese. (What I would give for another weekday lunch at Mekong!)

I’m an adventurous eater…and I appreciate the classics too. Truffle oil drizzle is delightful, but plain cheese makes me happy any day.

I read once that pizza is the perfect food. It’s circular (we like circles). It’s easily shareable. It covers a variety of food groups, and it’s not expensive.

I’m not an expert on any of these points, so I can’t say for sure if all of this is true.

I am a writer, though. And I’ve dabbled in poetry.

Truffle oil drizzle is delightful, but plain cheese makes me happy any day.

The poet in me believes that pizza is the perfect food. Because it brings people together.

A hot summer day, or a cold winter’s night. A party for more people than you expected (everyone RSVP-ed yes!). En route to an after-school activity.

I realized, as I was writing this, that pizza often is the first meal we eat when we move into a new home, sitting cross-legged on the floor amid boxes and memories waiting to be unpacked.

Often too, it’s the last thing we eat when we leave. Steadfast, when other things are in flux.

Whether frozen, takeout or homemade, pizza is the food we count on. It’s the food that’s with us through all the moments of our life, ranging from joy-filled to sorrowful to mundane. All the moments—good, bad and indifferent—that make up the full human experience.

The human experience varies cross-culturally, I know. Possibly I speak too much from my American perspective, or Italian-American perspective…and if so, my apologies.

The desire to share a meal together seems universal, though. To break bread together—whether the bread appears as pizza, baguettes, churros, dosas, tacos or any other carb-based specialty.

In my experience, the bread has been pizza. The people I’ve shared it with the most have been those closest to my heart.

Today is Tuesday, and you know what that means.

But you could do worse than break out one of your favorite frozen pizzas for dinner.

Photo credit: Pixabay

+

Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short story, “Backtrack.” An engaging read that’s can’t-put-it-down good.

Remember the Time? On Family, Memory and Where You Keep Your Shoes

My sister mailed me a card for my birthday, a couple of weeks ago. The front said, “‘Remember the time…?'” followed by, “There are about a thousand different ways to end that story!” in multicolored font. I loved everything about it, from the sentiment to, especially, Jenna’s heartwarming note inside.

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, so I took one (excuse my amateur photography skills!) to illustrate my message here. I put my sister’s card in the last remaining spot, on the bottom, of the hanging card holder in the kitchen. See it there? You can also see our family’s kaleidoscopic collection of other well wishes for assorted birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, special occasions… Yeah, Marie Kondo probably wouldn’t approve. 😉

So—”‘Remember the time…?'”

IMG_8863

Inside the card, Jenna wrote about how she always enjoys our adventures and conversations. Over the course of our life together, there have been a lot of them—not “about a thousand,” but thousands upon thousands. Jenna, along with both my brothers, were there, and continue to be there, for…well, my life.

Last night, I was lying beside Anna as she drifted off to sleep, and all of a sudden, a long-ago memory came to mind. I don’t know why, but I thought about the refrigerator in my grandparents’ old house. Before I left for college, I put pictures all over it. I joked that I didn’t want Grandma and Poppy to forget me, so I transformed their fridge into a collage of photos and magnets.

After Anna fell asleep, I called Jenna to share this memory with her. Because your sister will always answer the phone, even if you’re calling about your grandparents’ not-sure-if-it-even-exists-anymore refrigerator. “Awww,” Jenna said when I told her.

“I also remember—I mean, I can almost see this—Poppy sitting in the sunroom, just smiling, his arms crossed, watching TV. And,” I added, “he’s wearing that blue polo shirt he always wore. You know the one…?”

“Yeah, with the pink on the collar.” I knew Jenna was smiling on the other end of the line.

“Yeah, so, I just wanted to tell you about that…”

“Do you remember,” Jenna said—she really did send me the perfect birthday card—”every New Year’s, we would all go outside and bang on pots and pans? And set off Mom’s car alarm?” We laughed.

Maybe a little corny at times, and certainly loud a lot of the time, but this was/is our family…and I love them.

I knew Jenna was smiling on the other end of the line.

I have been truly lucky with my husband’s family too. After I talked with Jenna, I called Stanton’s mom to say hello. Charlotte was exercising, and I apologized for interrupting her. She asked me how I was doing.

“Honestly,” I replied, “I just poured myself a glass of milk and am about to eat a cookie. I’m doing the exact opposite of what you’re doing.” (You simply can’t make this stuff up, friends.) Like with my sister, my mother-in-law and I shared a good laugh.

Stanton had just been in San Antonio for a conference, and I was glad he got to spend some time with his family while he was there too. It’s a busy season of business travel for him, and he told the girls about a few other upcoming trips.

I made the joke (in retrospect, not a funny one) to the girls, “What’s Dad doing home now, girls? Does he live here too?”

Anna gave Stanton one of her wonderful bear hugs. “Of course he lives here,” she said. “This is where his shoes are.”

Sometimes life lends itself to quotable moments.

Home is where you keep your shoes. It’s where you hang up your cards, and pictures. It’s where, at the end of the day, you call the people you love. You call them to share a memory, or just to say hello.

Home is where you get the best bear hugs too.

Remember the time?

+

Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short story, “Backtrack.” An engaging read that’s can’t-put-it-down good.

 

Favorite Family Movies (or, Why We Just Watched Fletch for the 20th Time)

The week of Christmas, my parents’ house. Both girls had fallen asleep. Stanton and I sat with my two brothers and sister in the family room. The conversation topic at hand: what movie to watch.

We scrolled through the options on Netflix. I had read good things about “Bird Box,” and “Carol.” Jenna and I, halfheartedly, suggested “Love Actually” (predictably, Stanton, Josh and Jared groaned their dissent). None of these options, however, was ever a serious contender. We all knew—all five of us—that we would, in the end, settle on something we’d seen many times before.

That night, we watched “Fletch,” the ’80s cult classic starring Chevy Chase as investigative journalist Irwin M. Fletcher (and multiple aliases).

Chevy Chase once said Fletch was his favorite role. Personally, I prefer him as Clark Griswold. “Christmas Vacation” is another favorite in my family’s (admittedly short) list of beloved motion pictures. Sometimes, my dad and I even have text conversations consisting entirely of “Christmas Vacation” quotes. (“If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn’t be more surprised than I am now.”)

I loved watching “Fletch” once again too, though. I enjoyed seeing Tim Matheson as Alan Stanwyck, before he was John Hoynes. His back-and-forth with Fletch still made me laugh. (“Do you own rubber gloves?” “I rent. I have a lease, with an option to buy.”) And still, I’m not entirely clear on the LAPD/drug trafficking story line, but that doesn’t impede my enjoyment of the film. It doesn’t matter, to me.

Why? Because “Fletch” is familiar—comfort food, in a way. And I would never think to watch it on my own, without my family. It wouldn’t be as fun: no one to quote punch lines with, no one to laugh with. No shared history, or memories, or paper plates of Doritos (a guilty pleasure, a few times a year).

Favorite family movies. We all have them. (What are yours?)

vintage-tv-1116587_1920

While we were all together (in addition to rewatching “Fletch”), Stanton, my siblings and I took part in a local pizza place’s Trivia Night. Our team name? I Don’t Know, Margo, in reference to a “Christmas Vacation” quote (and Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s character, pre-“Seinfeld”). Of course our team name referenced a favorite family movie quote.

Trivia Night together was a lot of fun. Mostly because we had my brother Josh on our team, I Don’t Know, Margo, won. As we walked to our car afterward, Jenna led us in singing, “We Are the Champions.”

Yes, we were that family. 😉

That family, friends, similar to so many others. All with their share of joys, disappointments and inside jokes. And still coming together again, holiday after holiday, year after year, despite any distances or differences.

After our own Christmas vacation, Stanton, the girls and I got ready to head home. We all hugged one another goodbye. My sister told Anna, “I’ll miss you so much!”

Anna, 3 years old, smiled, shouted, “I’ll be back!” and ran out the front door. Anna makes me smile all the time, and I smiled then too.

“I’ll be back!”—this sentiment sums up why we watch the same old movies again and again. They take us back. Back in time, to a younger, more innocent, less complicated time. When everyone with whom we started out shared the same family room, the same TV.

Favorite family movies bring us forward and keep us together too. We look forward to the special-occasion and everyday reunions that encourage gathering, reminiscing…and cherished-movie rewatching (critics’ reviews, Rotten Tomatoes ratings and actors’ real lives notwithstanding).

“I’ll be back!”—this sentiment sums up why we watch the same old movies again and again. They take us back.

For all our movie watching (and rewatching), Stanton, the girls and I never actually watched a movie together, as a family of four. Kind of crazy, right? When the girls are watching TV, though, we try to get other things done.

We decided to have a super lazy, super cozy New Year’s Eve at home, doing something we’d never done: finally watch a movie together. I made French bread pizza beforehand, and Stanton built a fire in the fireplace. The four of us got comfy on the couch and watched “Beauty and the Beast” (the animated version). The girls had never seen it before and loved it, and Stanton and I enjoyed seeing it again. It was a really simple, really sweet time together, and maybe the start of our own tradition.

Later, after we tucked the girls into bed, Stanton and I tuned in to some of the Times Square Ball Drop news. The New Year’s Eve countdown was on, and winding down. In that moment, I felt an incredible sense of gratitude for my family.

For Stanton, there with me, and our daughters, upstairs. Both our sets of parents and grandmas, our siblings and their families, and our friends who are like family. We’re so lucky for all this love in our life.

When I think about life, and what it is and what it means, the first thing I think is beautiful. And the second thing is fragile.

I try to take care, then, with life and the people in it. I’ve made lots of mistakes, could always be a better person. I do try, though, to seek good, to give love.

Love is the little things. Watching (or rewatching) a movie with family. Speaking kindly to grocery-store cashiers, rather than checking our phones. Basically, being there for people…those we know and those we don’t. Being present.

Why not be present this New Year? Even if we already know all the punch lines.

“Those are three names I enjoy: Marvin, Velma and Provo.”

Photo credit: Pixabay

+

Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short story, “Backtrack.” An engaging read that’s can’t-put-it-down good.

(Most of) the Boxes Are Unpacked Now: At Home One Year Later

A few days ago, Stanton, the girls and I marked the one-year anniversary of moving into our “new” home here in New York. I’ve heard people say it can take up to a year to feel moved in somewhere, whether physically as in a house or emotionally as in a season of life. In my experience, this one-year guidepost rings true.

As I’ve shared before, it took us three tries, over the course of six months, to figure out the best setup for the living room furniture. It took almost this whole past year to unpack all our boxes. Most of them are unpacked now, friends. Although a couple of them will remain in the basement, purposefully, for years to come…possibly forever. (Yes, I’m talking about the ones that contain Stanton’s college fraternity and general life-before-wife memorabilia. 😉 )

I felt an odd mix of comfort and accomplishment when I lugged my favorite cookbooks up the basement stairs, from a box, and nestled them into a bookshelf in the kitchen. (You might notice that Anna also likes to store one of her sticker books on this bookshelf, under “Jack’s Wife Freda.” This is life with kids.)

1_Cookbooks

It takes time to get a feel for a space (and a place)—to move in and settle in—to feel at home.

Something Stanton and I thought about, when we closed on this house, was converting the three-season back porch into an actual part of the house—hiring some help to put in installation, do whatever was needed to turn the porch into a den.

IMG_4329

We still might do this down the road. As the girls get older, they might appreciate having their own hangout, with a comfy couch and TV to spend time with friends. For the moment, though, we love this back porch as it is, especially now that it’s spring again—a pleasant space for after-school snacks and not-in-a-hurry weekend cups of coffee.

I’m thankful we followed the advice of our smart and kind Realtor, which was to move in and live in our house first, see how everything worked for us, and then commit to which projects might make the most sense. We wouldn’t have been able to experience the back porch as we have, if we changed it up right away.

We did take care of two projects within months of moving in. 1) We love the original fireplace in the living room, and on the recommendation of our home inspector, we had a masonry and chimney company rebuild parts of it so that it meets current safety standards. This was an important, non-cosmetic priority.

We wouldn’t have been able to experience the back porch as we have, if we changed it up right away.

2) Sadly, we needed to hire a company to remove the beautiful 100+-year-old Northern maple tree in the front yard.

A couple of months after moving in, we noticed that a woodpecker—the same woodpecker, every few days, it seemed—liked to get comfortable in this tree and peck at the wood. The girls loved looking for him, and watching him when he came. But we soon learned that when a woodpecker likes a tree, it’s a sign the tree is diseased. In our case, the bark had gotten sick and soft, and the tree was in danger of falling.

A bittersweet goodbye, for sure.

I spend a lot of time in the kitchen (trying to do a hundred things simultaneously—you too, right?!). Another future project might be to replace the current countertops with natural stone. Right now, though, what we have functions well.

I created a mini workspace for myself at the end of this counter, with a lamp, stool, and spot for my writing books and laptop. This is also where I look through the girls’ school folders at the end of each weekday, and try to hide and drink my coffee every morning. (For better or worse, my family usually finds me. ;) )

IMG_4261

After figuring out furniture arrangements and tackling essentials, it’s fun to decorate. I am not an interior designer, not by a long shot. But I do love great finds, especially when they’re cool and when they’re local.

One of my favorite finds has been this painting of a scene in Paris, which I came across at our church’s annual yard sale. I paid a small donation for it, and now enjoy it every day when I see it in the little hallway outside the guest bedroom.

IMG_4204

We love when family and friends visit us. Some of our visitors thus far (I won’t give them away 😉 ) have dared to sleep past the girls’ 6:30 a.m. wake-up. On these mornings, Grace and Anna have slipped notes under the guest room door with a simple, pointed message: “When will you wake up??? We want to play!”

The girls spend most of their time in the breakfast nook/sunroom, and I think I finally found the right piece to complete this space: this “cottage window” mirror from Pier 1. What I love most about this piece is how it reflects the sunset from the facing window at the end of each day, bringing the outside in (to quote many an HGTV interior designer I’ve heard over the years!).

IMG_4340

Something that took a much longer time than I ever thought it would was picking out window valances for the bedrooms. Possibly at some point we’ll get plantation shutters, my personal favorite window treatment, for the windows. We’re currently committed to valances, however (all the rods were installed when we moved in—we took the easy way out and just rolled with them). For example, Grace’s room…

IMG_4241

In another year or so, we need to repaint the living room/dining room—the current paint shows wear. We’ve decided to wait until Anna’s old enough to stop adorning the walls with her after-dinner handprints. 🙂

One last bit of home improvement, now that the boxes are mostly unpacked… This past weekend, Stanton and the girls planted flower and vegetable seeds in the back yard. We are all eagerly awaiting the first blooms and buds.

In true 3-year-old fashion, Anna asked, the very next day, “Why didn’t anything grow yet?”

It takes time, we told her. But just wait.

This is something I’ve learned, again and again, in my life, maybe beginning from the time I was little like my daughter. And it’s a worthwhile lesson, a good reminder for anyone in a not-quite-there-yet season of life: It takes time. But just wait.

Things will grow, will bloom, will fall into place.

IMG_4276

+

Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

3 Tries to Get the Furniture Right

I almost didn’t write this post. Would anyone (besides my sister) care about the evolution of the furniture arrangement in my family room?

Then I remembered my surprise at how many people read and shared a previous post, “My Life Is Not a Pottery Barn Catalog,” in which I divulged pictures of my messy house back in Texas. Lesson learned: We like to peek inside people’s lives.

We especially like to peek inside their junk drawers. (I’ll show you ours next time.) 😉

So, friends, here’s another peek, in case you might still be interested.

Stanton, the girls and I moved into our “new” home in April, about seven months ago. Our Cape Cod-style house was built in the 1930s, and we love its old-school craftsmanship. We especially love the walkable neighborhood that surrounds it. Like many older homes, though, ours has smaller, contained spaces. A challenge has been making some of these spaces work, particularly the family room.

Our favorite feature of the family room is the fireplace. When we first moved in, we put the couch adjacent to the fireplace. We thought this arrangement would allow us to enjoy the coziness of the fireplace, while separating the family room from the dining space in the back.

1_Family Room 1st

The problem with this plan was that it limited seating. We had a settee under the bay window across from the couch, but nobody sat there much. Mostly, the girls used the settee as an operating table for their toys when they played “Hospital.” (This is real life with kids, right?)

Several months later, we moved the couch so that it faced the fireplace, with space behind the couch as a separate entrance/walkway. I scrolled through the thousands of photos on my phone, and the best depiction of this layout that I could come up with is this one:

2_Family Room 2nd

Yes, this picture also reveals Stanton partaking in a Sunday Night Football game while Grace watches with shared interest, and Anna (not interested) peruses an issue of High Five. Before I snapped this memory, I was hiding in the kitchen, eating my dinner in peace. Yes, friends, we know: We won’t be winning any parenting awards anytime soon. 🙂

This second furniture arrangement worked well, for a while. Then on Sunday, we put up our Christmas tree, near the fireplace. And suddenly, we had limited seating again (the tree replaced a chair we had nestled there).

On Wednesday evening, I told the girls I was going to try one last interior design idea for the family room. I began moving the couch. Anna started crying.

“I love the couch!” she yelled. “Put it back!”

“I’m just putting it over here,” I tried to explain. As Anna watched with suspicion, I rearranged the coffee table and two end tables too.

Grace crossed her arms at my vision. “This doesn’t feel like home,” she announced.

Anna crossed her arms too. Her assessment: “I don’t like it, Mom.”

Lord. Help. Me.

“Girls, come on now.”

Grace tried to reason with me. “Mom, what happens when Dad comes home? He’s not going to have any idea what’s going on.”

I had to smile, friends. Because it wouldn’t be the first time…

“Dad be lost,” Anna worried.

I gestured around the family room. “Girls, I think this is good. I think this is it. Why don’t we give it a try?”

My daughters looked at each other. Sighed. “OK, we’ll try,” Grace said.

Here’s the family room, currently. (Like all aspiring lifestyle bloggers, I swept up the Cocoa Krispies crumbs and shoved the girls’ toys out of sight before grabbing my camera!)

3_Family Room 3rd

In this case, I feel as though the third time was the charm. After the holidays, I’d like to get an arm chair to go where the Christmas tree is. It would be a cozy spot, I think, for one of us to read (or watch Sunday Night Football), and for guests to get comfortable at the end of the day. And one day, I’d like to get a big piece of local artwork to hang above the couch. For the moment, though, everything feels good.

Your thoughts, friends?

Through the years, in the various homes I’ve lived in, I’ve found it takes a little time to find “the right spot” for everything. Everything doesn’t fall into place at once.

It can be hard to be patient. And it can be discouraging to fumble through imperfect furniture arrangements, specifically, and wrong turns, generally. Missteps, and mistakes.

But eventually, you find your way. You see the light at the end of the tunnel—you get there. You arrive. You figure it out, and you feel peace.

I love this quote from the writer Neil Gaiman, and it’s fitting for this time of the year: “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.”

Do something—an energizing New Year’s resolution, perhaps.

Thanks so much for checking in with me today, friends. Have a great day.

+

Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

At Home in New York: One Year Later

Stanton, the girls and I have called New York home for about a year now. I feel as though I spent the beginning of our time here—summer through spring—in a slightly frazzled state. Moving, getting to know another city, enrolling the girls in school and activities, trying to write as much as possible, finding our house—there were a lot of, um, moving parts. 🙂

But summer is upon us once again, and things feel as though they’re in a good place. We love the sweet town we’re in. We especially appreciate its walkability. It’s so nice to simply go outside and enjoy the nearby nature trail, or walk (Stanton and me), bike (Grace) and stroller over (Anna) to local shops and restaurants. One morning recently, the girls and I had such a good time just walking over to this local park, and hanging out.

Of course, that was right after we stopped by Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee (me) and donuts (all of us)… #healthylivingfail

1_Park

The girls have been asking Stanton and me for a pet—specifically, a puppy. Their pleas haven’t yet persuaded us, but our next-door neighbors offered up a great middle-ground solution: babysitting their puppy from time to time. We’ll see how that goes, friends.

We closed on our house a couple of months ago. My friendly yoga instructor recommended her friend, a wonderful Realtor, to us—it is a small world. We’re so thankful to have found our home.

Here are a few pictures.

2_Front Porch

We love our front porch. My mom and dad kindly passed along their not-needed-anymore wrought-iron furniture to us, and it’s allowed us to really enjoy this outdoor living space. Many a morning, I find myself reading “Madeline” or “The Very Busy Spider” to the girls.

3_Family Room

We still need to find (and/or unpack from the many boxes still in the basement) some additional art and décor for the family room. So far, though, we very much appreciate its cozy vibe. Speaking of passed-along furniture, the dining-space set once belonged to Stanton’s grandparents. We are grateful to be stewards of this beautiful family legacy, which traveled amazingly well from Texas to New York.

4_Sunroom

Possibly our favorite part of our home is the sunroom/breakfast nook, nestled behind the kitchen. When family and friends visit, everyone instinctively gathers here. I happened upon the table and benches in a local furniture store, and they’ve become the perfect spot for the girls to eat, color and ask me over and over if we can please get a puppy today.

Lately, the girls have been having so much fun in the backyard. Yesterday after a Fancy Nancy-themed tea party, Anna worked on her T-ball swing. Toddlers: The busiest among us.

5_Backyard

While Stanton was traveling for work soon after we moved in, I enlisted my dad to help with some around-the-house projects. Ever the comedian, he called, “Hey, Melis, look at this!” as he pretended to struggle with hanging curtains. Thanks again, Dad. 🙂

6_Dad Curtains

One of the things I most appreciate about this part of the country, the Capital Region of New York, is the beautiful nature all around us. On our little street alone, there are towering trees; evergreens abound and provide lush color all year. I’ve said to family and friends that being here is a literal breath of fresh air.

We’re lucky that so many loved ones have already come to visit with us. One of my favorite moments from our first year here was this September day, when Stanton’s mom and dad came to be with us. We loved apple picking at Indian Ladder Farms, catching up and simply taking in the splendor of the Helderberg Escarpment.

7_Indian Ladder Farms

The first time I laid eyes on this breathtaking slope—driving upon it from the Hudson Valley—I told Grace, “This is amazing.” Amazing, Grace.

Stanton and I do a fairly good job, I think, of keeping in touch with our families and hometown pals. We do owe our good college friends, though, some quality time. Folks in Virginia—we’re hoping to be your way later this year, or early next. ❤

The longer I’ve lived in the Albany area, the more I’ve learned how easy it is to get to other cool parts of New England and the Northeast from here. For example, Boston, Montreal and New York City are all about a three-hour drive away.

My favorite weekend getaway thus far has been to Manchester, Vermont. I’m not sure if you’ve ever been, friends, but this place is gorgeous. Stanton and I spent some time there for our nine-year anniversary and loved the glorious green mountains, quaint Northshire Bookstore and delicious local restaurants we tried (Thai Basil, Cilantro Taco and The Reluctant Panther).

We can’t wait to go back with the girls.

During this season in our life, it can be difficult to organize formal play dates. What have been so encouraging, though, are all the kind friends we’ve come to know through informal fellowship at our church, Grace’s preschool and the Y. We still miss our church, school and community friends from San Antonio, but love keeping in touch with these special people through Facebook, phone calls and texts.

In the winter, Grace took ice skating lessons at our Y. Then one weekend, she taught me how to ice skate at Empire State Plaza downtown. My 5-year-old daughter was so caring toward me, and patient—it was, friends, one of the best moments of my life.

After living in the South for 11 years, I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy winter again. But it was fun, overall. Rediscovering all four seasons with the girls has been fun.

Many years ago in Virginia, one of the first things Stanton and I bonded over was our love of country music. Sometimes when we’re driving, we hear Tim McGraw’s contemporary classic “Humble and Kind” on the radio. I feel the song’s closing lyrics: “Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you…always stay humble and kind.”

We don’t know what the future holds. In this moment, though, things feel good. I’m very grateful.

I hope to pay that positive energy forward as we continue to get to know our community and surroundings.

8_Soccer Field Sunset

+

Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

My Life Is Not a Pottery Barn Catalog

Every evening after dinner, Stanton usually takes a walk with the girls to our neighborhood mailboxes, just down the street and around the corner. It takes the three of them about fifteen minutes to walk back and forth—check the mail, chat with some neighbors, “find the moon” (Grace loves pointing it out to Anna).

These fifteen minutes give me enough time to run the vacuum cleaner through the kitchen and adjoining family room, the part of our house that is concentrated with crumbs, dirt and random disposable clutter by 7 p.m. I often try to sort a load of laundry into the washing machine too. And I always take a minute to enjoy a square of my favorite dark chocolate bar—guilty pleasures, guilty pleasures.

A few evenings ago, Stanton and the girls returned from their routine walk. “We got the mail, Mom!” Grace announced, depositing it on the freshly vacuumed family room floor. Anna squealed and ran through the pile, ripping some junk-mail flyers and leaving a trail of shredded paper in her wake.

“Thank you, guys,” I said. Then I noticed one of the pieces of mail on the floor: the newest Pottery Barn catalog.

Ah, the Pottery Barn catalog.

WP_20160607_012

Like many suburban moms, I enjoy flipping through the Pottery Barn catalog. Every page, every artfully staged person-less scene offers an escape into a serene space (free of crumbs, dirt and clutter). Simultaneously, all of these picture-perfect settings remind me that I’m far from achieving the aspirational Pottery Barn life.

The Pottery Barn brand is classic, gracious and organized—very organized. If you live a Pottery Barn life, for example, then you come home to this fashionable yet functional storage system:

2

This scene looks so bright and inviting, I’d love to jump right into it. Unfortunately, the mud room entrance to my house looks more like this, especially after the girls and I get back from the pool. Yes, not quite as Instagram-worthy:

3

Please don’t judge me too harshly, friends. 🙂

After an afternoon of swimming, what better way to chill than to hang out in the family room, right? Who wouldn’t want to kick back in this Pottery Barn family room—clean, cozy and wonderfully coordinated:

4

Now let me introduce you to a typical afternoon around here:

5

Cue “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”

Finally, a tale of two dining rooms. First, the Pottery Barn prototype:

6

Versus…hello, home sweet home:

7

For the moment, my beautiful dining room table serves as a landing spot for several loads of laundry. Hopefully these clothes (and other odds and ends) will get put away by the weekend. And hopefully we’ll break out our own candlesticks and wine glasses for a well-appointed family dinner sometime soon.

When you fill the scenes of your life with people, you also open the door to everything that those relationships bring about: beach towels on summer days, picture frames and greeting cards in the family room, and life happening everywhere.

My life is not a Pottery Barn catalog. I am so grateful for the people who make that possible. What about you?

Photo credits: Pottery Barn

+

Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.