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.

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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:

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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:

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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:

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

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Cue “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”

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

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Versus…hello, home sweet home:

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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

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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.

So Everybody Knows You Here, Right?

The other day, my hubby and I stopped by the coffee shop across the street. He’d been there a few times before. I, on the other hand, head over with the girls a few times a week.

“So everybody knows you here, right?” Stanton said.

“They do.” Then I noted, “That’s a good quote.”

“It’s the song from that show. You know.”

“Well…not exactly.” 🙂

How wonderful, though, to be somewhere “where everybody knows your name.” What a comfort to walk through the door and feel at home.

Besides your home, what are the “places” in your life? The spots that are like second nature to you? Your hangouts, or your kids’?

I remember moving here to San Antonio in 2009. The only people I knew then were Stanton, his parents, and his two best friends. I remember feeling small in a big place.

I had a similar feeling a couple of weeks into my freshman year of college. One evening, I walked outside. I found myself at the Greek Theater, one of many beautiful spots at the University of Richmond. And among all that beauty, I began to cry. I just didn’t feel as if I belonged there.

Until I did. Until I found my “people,” and my places.

Writing connected me, both times, to my two new worlds. In college, I found a home in the English Department. I was a proud bookworm, working on creative writing projects and later spearheading the literary magazine. And in San Antonio, I started a blog about being “Not From Here.” “Not From Here” put me in touch with other writers and, ultimately, a full-time writing job. I loved that job as much as I loved the new colleagues I got to know there.

My people, and my places.

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Beginnings are hard, usually. The beginning of something new.

College. A new city. Any transition in your life.

In every transition, finding your new routine can be helpful. Life-saving, even. And finding your new people—that’s life-saving for sure.

I transitioned from working part-time, and having routine conversations with various writing clients, to staying home with my daughters earlier this year. I said indefinite good-byes to those clients, those conversations. I never expected that for this season of my life, I’d find my new people at the coffee shop across the street.

But then again, I never expected I’d meet my standing coffee date in college either, a few months after that night in the Greek Theater.

“What’s that saying, God laughs at man’s plans?”

I looked across the table at Stanton. “Something like that.”

“Well…you know.”

Yes. I did.

“OK, chai tea latte and coffee.” Tricia set our drinks down. “Enjoy, guys.”

I took a sip of my chai.

“Good?”

“Always is,” I told him.

What are the places in your life? And who’s been there with you?

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s e-books, available on Amazon.com. Writing at its most heartfelt.

No Back-to-Preschool Pictures This Fall

The summer vacation status updates in my Facebook news feed are beginning to get replaced with back-to-preschool pictures. And just the other day, Little G asked when she was going back to school.

We were driving home from a preschool friend’s birthday party. Little G had so much fun playing with all of her school friends who were there, some of whom she hadn’t seen since the Pre-K3 class ended in May. My hubby and I looked at each other.

“Maybe we should just have her go,” Stanton said under his breath.

“What?” Little G from her car seat in the back. She doesn’t miss a beat.

Stanton and I smiled at each other. And then, feeling a twinge of uncertainty, I said, “No, let’s stick with our plan.”

“What’s our plan?”

So I filled in our 4-year-old daughter. “We’re taking a break from preschool. You know how you stayed home with Mommy and Anna all summer? And we had girl time … we played together and took you to dance class …”

“And went to the coffee shop?”

Stanton laughed. Yes, dance class and the coffee shop: an accurate summary of the past three months with Little G and her baby sister. I nodded.

“We’re going to do girl time for a little longer,” I said.

Next fall, Little G will start either kindergarten or (because of her late-summer birthday) attend a final year of preschool. I hope to be writing and working more by that time, too. The sentimental side of me views this time until then as a special season for my two girls to simply be together and enjoy together, before recommitting to a busier family schedule.

“Play, dance class, and the coffee shop—OK,” Little G said.

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For two years, Little G’s preschool experience was wonderful—socially, educationally, and spiritually. And it was meaningful for me, too. Most importantly, her preschool provided quality child care for when I was working and, later, attending lots of prenatal appointments while awaiting Baby G’s arrival. And perhaps just as importantly, her school offered us a warm, loving community in which to connect with other families in similar stages of life.

I’ll miss seeing all our preschool friends on a regular basis—at drop-off, pick-up, and school events—as Little G will. At the same time, it’s fun to keep in touch and make the time to get together, just as we do with the other good friends in our life from our neighborhood, church, and library story time.

Ultimately, I think my girls will treasure this “year off” together. Of course, I could always be wrong. As Pam Brown once said, “Sisters never quite forgive each other for what happened when they were five”—or in the case of my daughters, 4 years old and 6 months. 🙂

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s e-books, available on Amazon.com. Writing at its most heartfelt.

Four Hours, One Weekday Morning

Mornings with young children can be hectic, especially if everyone has somewhere to go. This past Friday morning was one such scramble …

5:45 a.m.: “Mom!” I can’t believe Little G has woken up this early—she didn’t nap yesterday, and I thought (optimistic as always) that she’d sleep until at least 6:30. I try to snuggle her back to sleep. No such luck because, “My belly’s hungry, Mom.”

5:50 a.m.: Downstairs, in the kitchen. “Island Vanilla or Rice Krispies?” I ask Little G. “My belly’s hungry for Hershey’s kisses,” she informs me. I shake my head; we settle on Island Vanilla.

5:52 a.m.: My nine-months-pregnant belly is hungry, too. I also have some cereal. Then Little G and I snuggle on the living room couch; I can tell she’s still sleepy.

6:15 a.m.: My hubby joins us, showered. “Daddy! Let’s play.” He makes coffee and then pulls out Little G’s Little People while I shower and get dressed.

6:50 a.m.: Back downstairs (all these stairs!), I tell Little G it’s a special day at preschool: Pajama Day. “Yay!” Little G is excited to wear pajamas to preschool. We hug and kiss my hubby good-bye.

6:55 a.m.: Problem: The last pair of clean pajamas is, in fact, not clean. There’s a bit of food stuck on the top. How did I not notice this before? I try to get it off with a wipe, but the food-stuck-ness appears permanent. “Why didn’t you do my laundry, Mom?” I need some coffee.

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6:59 a.m.: I help Little G into the (clean) pajama bottoms and a clean shirt that, while not the matching pajama top, still matches. “Mom!” A tear rolls down Little G’s cheek. “This is a play shirt! I need a pajama shirt! It’s Pajama Day!”

7 a.m.: I lug myself and my big belly back upstairs (all these stairs!!!) to Little G’s bedroom. There’s a saying, “Life is my cardio.” This is true for me. I find a gray “play shirt” that Little G has never worn before, with “Dream Big!” in pink on the front. It has a sleep theme and matches her pajama bottoms. Hopefully, this will work.

7:08 a.m.: “Ooh, I love it!” Problem solved.

7:15 a.m.: I finish dressing Little G in the “Dream Big!” shirt, socks, and shoes. Comb her hair. Help her brush her teeth. Make sure her backpack is packed up with her coat, water bottle, and the two books that our family has been asked to donate to the school’s upcoming fundraiser.

7:20 a.m.: “Let’s read these books, Mom!” No, honey, we need to go. “Mom! I love Curious George! Just the George one!” I’m a book lover myself, a writer … how can I not read my daughter just one book?

7:32 a.m.: We finish reading just one book.

7:35 a.m.: Little G is buckled into her car seat, I’ve got her backpack alongside my bag in the passenger seat … man, I forgot my coffee. Just half a cup daily because I’m pregnant … don’t judge me too harshly, friends! 🙂 I hustle from the garage back to the kitchen and pour my daily four ounces into my travel mug. “Mom! Where are you?”

7:42 a.m.: I get the green arrow to make a left out of our neighborhood. It’s a rainy morning, and I drive extra carefully. “Mom, come on! It’s Pajama Day!” (You can probably imagine what I’m thinking about Pajama Day right now.)

7:56 a.m.: We arrive one minute too late for me to drop Little G off in the carpool lane out front. So with the rain pouring down, we run around the school building and into her classroom (what a sight I am, nine months pregnant and running). “It’s Pajama Day!” Little G’s teachers and classmates exclaim when we see them. Little G grins. I’m happy she’s happy. I hug and kiss her good-bye.

8:15 a.m.: Back at home, I finish writing this blog post. The only “work” I’m doing right now is updating my website with new blog posts … for your reading pleasure, of course, and also for marketing my past writing, especially my e-books. (If you haven’t checked them out yet, please do! 🙂 )

9 a.m.: I leave for my now-weekly doctor’s appointment at the South Texas Medical Center, where traffic can be crazy. But today’s my lucky day: green lights all the way!

9:18 a.m.: I’m 12 minutes early. Unbelievable.

9:22 a.m.: I begin reading last month’s issue of Food & Wine magazine. The desserts on the opening pages look good! My stomach growls; aha, I’m hungry.

9:25 a.m.: The “No Food or Drink” sign on a nearby table stares at me. I wonder if it’s serious.

9:26 a.m.: I decide it’s not. I sneak a few bites of a peanut butter granola bar—Little G’s favorite snack, so I always have some in my bag.

9:35 a.m.: Doctor’s appointment, just a smidge behind schedule—rare. Who knew reclining in medical-grade stirrups for a pelvic exam would be the most tranquil part of my Friday morning?

And that’s four hours, friends. What’s a typical weekday morning like in your home? Looking forward to hearing from you! 🙂

Grocery Cart Psychology: What Does Yours Reveal?

On a recent HEB run, I noticed the young woman in front of Little G and me in the checkout line—as well as what was in her grocery cart. It was like looking at myself and my grocery cart, 10 years and a few stretch marks ago.

First, the lady: She appeared well-rested, toned, and unhurried in yoga pants and a coordinating top. In fact, she probably actually had just come from yoga class. Unlike myself and many other moms I know, whose love of yoga apparel stems from its comfortable, forgiving fit rather than the physical/spiritual exercise itself.

The woman finished unloading the contents of her grocery cart onto the checkout conveyor: a four-pack of bottled Frappuccino; a single serving of General Tso’s chicken from the prepared foods section; several cans of soup (organic, I think); Kind granola bars; and stuffed grape leaves.

Stuffed grape leaves. OK, there you go. I could be wrong, but if I had to guess, I’d guess the following about this early-20s “could have been me 10 years ago”: single; possibly a boyfriend; definitely no kids; lives alone or with a roommate; yuppie; eats out half the time, at least; hobbies include yoga (obvi) and reality TV (just a hunch); says yes to happy hour. (Those were the days. 🙂 )

The thing is—generally speaking—women don’t buy four-ounce containers of stuffed grape leaves if they live with or are married to a man, much less if they have children together. The majority of men, especially Texans, seem to prefer burgers, barbecue, and the like to vegetarian Mediterranean specialties such as stuffed grape leaves. And if you’ve got kids, you’re usually looking for hearty food that, fingers crossed, will last another meal.

Thus, my grocery cart …

Grocery Cart Psychology

You can see Little G up front. So immediately, my grocery cart reveals that I’m a mom. Some other “maternal giveaways” include the opened bags of multigrain pita chips and Goldfish in the back, not to mention the opened box of strawberry yogurt squeezers in the middle (letting your child snack while grocery shopping together makes the whole experience much smoother than not); two boxes of rigatoni (kids would eat pasta for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if you let them, right?); and the three-pack of heavy-duty sponges.

I never bought heavy-duty sponges before giving birth.

My grocery cart also contains a generous amount of nonperishables such as cereal, chicken broth, diced tomatoes, black beans, and marinara sauce, in family-size portions. Because I often make family-size portions of nonexotic but hearty meals like slow cooker chicken and chili. I promise there’s fresh fruit in there, too—wedged under the heavy-duty sponges and ready-to-eat salad kits. And milk. I’m a mom; of course I bought milk.

What does your grocery cart reveal about you? This is just for fun, friends. Grocery cart psychology isn’t an exact science. But I think we can make some generalizations. If your grocery cart contains the following, then possibly …

1. Hot Pockets, frozen pizza, Cap’n Crunch, milk, and beer: You’re a college student or just-graduated-from-college bachelor. You use self-checkout.

2. Hot Pockets, Campbell’s condensed soup, Life Savers, a quart of milk, the store brand of aspirin, tissues, and maybe some bananas: You’re an older bachelor—OK, much older. You use the “15 items or fewer” lane, and you have coupons for the Hot Pockets and soup.

3. Single servings of prepared foods, artisan crackers, gourmet cheese and olive oil, Mighty Leaf tea, lamb chops fresh from the meat market, and a bottle of red and bottle of white: Yuppie, similar to our yoga-practicing friend above. You know the best local restaurants, wine bars, and coffee shops. It’s fun to follow you on Twitter and live vicariously through your hashtags.

4. Strawberries, a value pack of pork chops, multiple boxes of granola bars, apple juice, and frozen chicken nuggets: Mom.

5. Random pieces of fruit, multiple packages of ground coffee or K-Cups, random boxes of frozen dinners, lanolin cream or cans of Enfamil, and diapers: New mom.

6. A grocery cart full of Chobani yogurt and bottled water: You play for the Spurs. (Occasionally, Little G and I catch a glimpse of some of the local NBA team in our HEB. This is all I ever see them buy … they must have personal chefs?)

7. Several packages of all-purpose flour, a few cartons of eggs, and an economy size package of Styrofoam cups: You work at the local bakery around the corner. (The white apron you’re still wearing is a “bakery worker giveaway,” too.) Whoever’s in charge of buying must have underestimated how busy you’d be today.

8. Two boxes of freshly baked muffins and a large container of prewashed, pre-cut fresh fruit: You work at a nearby office, and it’s your turn to bring refreshments for the weekly staff meeting.

9. Taco seasoning mix and children’s Tylenol: You’re my husband. I forgot these things yesterday, and I asked you to pick them up on your way home from work. True to form, you didn’t stray from “the list.” (How long have we known each other now? Did it really not occur to you to surprise me with some dark chocolate? I know, I know … I told you we needed taco seasoning mix and children’s Tylenol, and so that’s what you got. 🙂 )