Category Archives: Memories

There’s No Place Like Home?

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Wizard of Oz

Unless you grew up in a cave (or are my kids), the statement “There’s no place like home” immediately brings to mind a young girl, three strange and oddly familiar companions on a seemingly impossible quest to be granted their own heart’s one desire – in Dorothy’s case, to go home.

This summer, I performed in my fourth stage production of The Wizard of Oz.  The first time – at 6 years of age – I was cast as a munchkin (‘cause, well, I was short).  The second time – at 9 – I played Dorothy (with some bizarre glow-in-the-dark, dancing skeletons).  The third time – now 12 – I was the Scarecrow (because I could do the splits, of course).  And the fourth time, this summer – at the age-which-shall-not-be-named, I filled a variety of roles including dance captain, flying witch double, jitterbugger and Ozian.

All this really means is I have spent the summer, and possibly, a lifetime contemplating the whole idea of “there’s no place like home”. I guess you could say, since the age of 6, I have been trying to make sense of the concept – if you ever go searching for your heart’s desire, you shouldn’t look any further than your own backyard, because if it isn’t there, you never lost it in the first place.

This whole backyard idea is a problem for me. You see, I have always had the sense that searching in someone else’s backyard would garner better and more exciting results.  Clearly, the writer of this classic just could not have had my backyard in mind.  Nobody could possibly find anything in my backyard.  My backyard is always in some state of needing to be mowed.  It is filled with biting and blood sucking bugs, and the occasional snake.  It looks back on a house that is in bad need of a paint job and a back room addition that is 8 years in the making.   My backyard is perpetually messy, chaotic, and often flat out wild- weeds discernible from actual plants, big mole hole pit falls, branches falling on you when you least expect it, and dead squirrels hanging from trees (ok, this just happened once, but still…).

In someone else’s yard the pickings seem greener, lusher, much better groomed.   In someone else’s yard, I might not get bit, scratched, hit by unexpected objects or fall into holes.  In someone else’s backyard, maybe my heart’s desire wouldn’t be masked by an exploding termite nest and I might just stumble upon it instead of a fallen tree limb.

But just at the moment when I have had enough of my backyard and am ready to madly run into someone else’s and begin frantically rummage through their shrubs – hang the strange looks and possible police escort – something always happens…

I make the most perfect cup of coffee ever.

My cat, who usually denies my existence, comes to sit with me.

A random guy, holds the door open for an eternity waiting for me to enter.

Or best of all, my husband finally figures out a way we can get away for a few days before the dog days of summer are completely gone.

When this last one happens, I know then what is sure to come.  I will at last be allowed (welcomed even) to hang out in someone else’s backyard for a while. I will be able to look under a few of their rocks, contemplate their view, and dig around in their shrubs.   I will swat at their bugs, peer into their mole holes and dodge their flying greenery.

And when I return home my backyard will magically look a little bit greener, seem a little lusher,

and at the very least…feel freshly mowed.

Then, I will be ready to start searching in my own backyard again.

There’s no place like home.

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Thanks For the Memories, Mexico

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Taxco

Taxco, Mexico

I love Mexico.  Not for the obvious reasons, the beautiful beaches and coastal resorts, but rather for the fact that if it wasn’t for Mexico, our future family traveling experiences would have been vastly different.  You see, my kids cut their teeth, in a travel sort of way, by experiencing the historic, rustic and colorful country that is Mexico.

Starting when our kids were 4 and 6, between the years of 2004 and 2007, we took several trips to Mexico.  On each trip, we would map out a section of the country we had not seen before, fly in & rent a car, have on hand a slush fund for “extras” (aka payments-for-tickets-while-traveling- in-and-out-of-Mexico City-that-made-no-sense-whatsoever-but-satisfy-police-officer-so-could-proceed-on-our-way), and start driving.

We would go on the cheap – staying mostly in rustic and often historic little hotels as opposed to chain options and eating at the home cooked local street stands (we were never revenged upon by Montezuma).  We would carry throw-away clothes that could be left behind in order to make room for all the cool hand-made swag we would accumulate at markets along the way.  We would seek out colonial towns and cities, ruins, eco adventures, beaches, waterfalls, cathedrals and oddities of any kind (the mummy museum in Guanajuato filled with actual mummies excavated from a nearby cemetery a long remembered fave).  We looked for local festivities and parades (they can carry a saint through town like nobody’s business). And we would travel for as many days as we could afford to be away– usually between 14 and 16 days.

After several years of experiencing Mexico’s culture, sites, language, people,  colors, my kids (and myself) were officially hooked on the whole idea of foreign travel and discovery.

For this reason alone, Mexico will always hold a special place in my heart.

But honestly,  it is so much more than that. For when I go back and look at all the pictures from those trips, it is as if my kids at 4 and 6 (ish) are somehow mysteriously still there, forever fixed in time at that age and in that place.

As if they are forever standing underneath the colorful hand crafted banners

Puebla

Puebla

Forever chasing pigeons in the historic squares

Guanajuato

Guanajuato, Mexico

Forever climbing the pyramids

The pyramids of Ek Balem

The pyramids of Ek Balem, Mexico

Forever exploring the wilds of Mexico

Casa de Cortez

Casa de Cortez, Mexico

And when I want to find them,  laugh with them,  be with them…

Bernal, Mexico

Bernal, Mexico

I  always know just where to look.

For more Sweet Spot Travels: Go Here!

I Used to Be Cool Like That – Then I Needed Groceries

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Last weekend, I had a “moment” – one of those times when you are standing somewhere random, like say in this case, the grocery store, and you all of a sudden wonder how the heck you got there.  I don’t mean physically, because of course I drove there in my not-so-cool-but-can-still-peel-out-in soccer mom van.  But rather, “got there” in the metaphysical sense.

You see, at the moment of my epiphany, I was pushing my huge, over -flowing cart around the grocery store…on a Saturday(wait it gets worse)…on a Saturday night… thinking nothing of it until that very moment.

It suddenly dawned on me, how and when exactly did this happen?  I mean really, I think there was a time when my life was way cooler than that!  A time when I would not have been caught dead in the grocery store with a full cart of groceries, on a Saturday night! There was a time when I actually did stuff on Saturday night.

Back in the day on a Saturday night, I actually saw movies in a movie theater – you know, with a big screen, other people, and without animation or battling robots.

If I was awake when the sun came up it was because I never went to sleep.

I wore mini-skirts with abandon and leggings as pants (not necessarily together) and played beach volleyball on the weekend (not in the mini-skirt or leggings…usually) after those late Saturday nights.

I drove a car with a turbo engine (that is, until it caught fire and burned up, which wasn’t so cool).

I had red leather pants, and wore them…with a matching red jacket. (picture it, I dare you).

I did photo shoots like this…

That there is some awesome big hair!

That there is some awesome big hair!
Mystery City: Rod Boyum, Brad Wilson, Paula Benedetti (Danner), John Pagano, Paul Franks

And then rocked out on the Sunset Strip.

Mystery City at Gazzarris, Sunset strip, Los Angeles.Paula Benedetti (Danner) and Brad Wilson

Mystery City at Gazzarris, Sunset strip, Los Angeles.
Paula Benedetti (Danner) and Brad Wilson

All the way home in the car I thought about this life change and how it seemed to happen overnight – even though it has been way, way, way longer (did I mention, way longer)

When I arrived home, the first thing I noticed was that while I was gone, my husband had moved his car so I could have the best spot in the driveway.

Then, my dog ran out into the freezing cold and onto the snow covered ground to enthusiastically welcome me home (the cat at least came to the window to observe, I am sure she was happy to see me… I buy the treats).

Inside, Pre-teen gave me a huge hug hello as if I had been gone 24 hours instead of just 3.

Kids and husband brought in all the groceries and while I was putting them away, Teen informed me a movie we wanted to watch together was coming on pay-per-view in 25 minutes.

Teen made the popcorn for everyone and helped me quickly finish putting away the groceries so we could all watch the movie.

So I am thinking, maybe I am still just a little bit cool like that.  At least they seem to think so.  And probably, hopefully, most definitely, theirs is the only opinion that matters.

And anyway, I think I could still rock out,  wearing mini-skirt or leggings, while playing beach volleyball…

That is, if I really wanted to.

Related post:  Fear of Full Disclosure

Spring Break at The Devil’s Bridge

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Along the hike to The Devil's Bridge

Along the hike to The Devil’s Bridge

Around this time last year, I shared some of my favorite pictures and moments from our Spring Break trip to Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and Sedona, Arizona – more particularly, the highlight of The Devil’s Bridge!

However, I never really got around to telling the story of how we actually got to the Devil’s Bridge – or rather almost didn’t get there – until now!

Thanks to my fabulous writer friend Sherri Kuhn (whom I have known since the dark ages – i.e. when I still had braces) I am sharing the story over at SheKnows.com as part of a multi-writer contribution article about most memorable Spring Break vacation trips!

Find out what turning 50 (please, NOT ME – my husband) and a quest for The Devil’s Bridge have in common.

Go here to jump right to my story of how we strayed off the beaten path!

Go here to start at the beginning and read all contributing articles!

Really, it’s all good!

For more Sweet Spot Travels: Go Here!

Resolutions for 2013 – Sweet Spot Style

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Yes, it is that time again – Resolution time.  Truthfully, I hold with the Non-Resolution style of ringing in the New Year.  That being said, there is always something of value to be learned from history – ones own adventures and, well, misadventures.

Thus this year, I decided to scour the Sweet Spot Archives of 2012 in search of some well earned Resolutions for 2013.
I think I found some pretty powerful nuggets of advice for the New Year…

1.  I will be sure to check my pants zipper (Life, the Ego-Sucking Siege) before entering any and all public establishments.

2. I will struggle on in my war against electronics (I Am Woman – Ode to Chris the Caveman) in the never ending battle for influence over my kids’ brain.

3.  I will try to have a kindler, gentler approach to my vacuum (The Day I Killed the Vacuum) and well, for that matter all machines in general (Woman vs. Machine).

4.  I will try to take Teens advice to drink water and recycle – preferably at the same time – (Teen Talk: Episode #3) and, of course, Pre-Teens advice to Never Sit on a Couch at a Nudest Colony.

5.  I swear never to utter the chant “Party at home plate” at my kids’ baseball games (Take Us To Warp Speed, Scotty), or do any of those other things that would qualify me for “bulldog” status as a  Sports Mom (Bulldogs Don’t Wear Lipstick).

6.  I promise, for Teen and Pre-Teen’s sake, to work in the words “Balls”  (Word-Up: We’ve Got Big Balls) and “Weenus” (Word-Up: Show Me Your Weenus) into every conversation where possible but not necessarily appropriate.

7.  In true Mid-West fashion, I promise to generously give the “no problem” wave, the “thanks for not honking at me even though I deserve it” wave, and possibly throw in the “I’m cool” head wave.  (You Deserve the Wave Today).

8.  I will seek out adventure every chance I get (Sweet Spot Travels), even the scary kind (Today’s Best Moment Thursday April 5.)

9.  I will try to make someones day as often as possible  simply by donning a pen and piece of rainbow stationary. (Go Ahead, Make My Day).

10.  I will be sure to have plenty of stockings/pantyhose and pet hair removal devices on hand for whatever occasion may arise. (Bag Lady Goes a Job Hunting).

11.  I will try to never, ever forget how good it feels to laugh (Destroy This Note After Reading).

And lastly, two lessons –  clearly resolution worthy – from some recent experiences:

I will try to not take as a personal commentary the worker-monogrammed cups received at Starbucks:

Starbucks cup

And, I will remember to pee prior to attending a D-Box movie.

Happy New Year from Looking for the Sweet Spot.

Go get ’em!

Travel Magic

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No matter how much I travel, it always seems like pure magic  you can get on a plane, sit there for some hours, and arrive at a place like this:

VeniceVenice, Italy

Or this:

RomeSt. Angelo Bridge, Rome, Italy

And even though I may get cheated by a taxi driver (hey, I can now say I have been cheated on two continents!), have to sit by a guy who snores (I sleep next to one on a daily basis, so no biggie), get practically run over by a scooter (it is Italy after all, maybe he was hoping for more than a brush of the elbow?), or have to beg a waiter on bended knee for a few pieces of precious ice… I will continue to test the magic – time and time again.

For more Sweet Spot Travels: Go Here!

How to Grow Old Gracefully

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See that cool lady in the photo?  That is my Grandmother, on her 80th birthday, riding the pink bicycle she requested as a gift.  The picture was taken shortly before she passed away. I love this picture because it will always remind me to…

Well, if you want to know the answer to that dangling statement you will have to hop on over to my recent post on ParentSociety.com,  “How to Grow Old Gracefully”.

Here is a little excerpt to tempt you:

Here is the thing; mostly I picture my personal aging journey being more like “Sunset Boulevard” than to “Driving Miss Daisy.” And what’s more, I fear I will be taken through my golden years chained and shackled like Hannibal Lector in “Silence of the Lambs.”

However… bear with me here because I think I may actually have figured something out for once about How to Grow Old Gracefully!

Go here to find out what I think I may have, with the help of my beautiful Grandma, figured out about how to grow old gracefully!  You might be glad you did…

“How to Grow Old Gracefully”

Other musings on age: “Is There Life After 40?”

Today’s Best Moment: Friday, 6/29

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Today, actually a few minutes ago, I asked my son to climb one of his favorite trees so I could take a picture for an upcoming blog post.  He quickly scaled his tree like no monkey ever could.  I was suddenly reminded of a moment when he was around 6 years old. My Mom, Grandma,  was visiting.  Grandma went outside to see what he was doing and found him as high up in his tree as was possible to get.

Grandma called up to him:

 “You are so high, could you come down, I am afraid for you”

To which my son, without missing a beat, replied:

“Grandma, you will just have to conquer your fears.”

My Mom and I still laugh about it.

I hope his tree lives forever.

Go Ahead, Make My Day

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The letter.  Do you remember that dinosaur?  No, no, no, it is not something you type out onto an email, or text from your phone or even message on Facebook.  It is not the same as commenting, liking, tweeting, repining, stumbling, joining or even following (did I miss any?).  Need a memory jog…or maybe, marathon?

The letter is that archaic form of communication where you actually pick up a pen (if you can find one that works), select a stationary or card (my favorite often had bunnies or rainbows), write by hand sentiments and thoughts (which requires you have some), write the address (that street-city-state-zip thingy), stamp it (the little.44 sticker) and send by (gasp) the US Post – heretofore to be referred to as “snail-mail”.  Coming back to you now?

Well, recently I have been thinking about letters a lot.  I have been remembering the stationary kits I had as a kid, complete with matching paper, envelopes and stickers.  I have been reminiscing over the times when I lived away from home and became closer to friends and family through this antiquated form of communication. I have been cherishing all the letter responses I stored away and saved. I have been laughing hysterically over letters written by my teen self to my Grandmother that were returned to me upon her death. I have been recalling how, when you receive a physical letter, it feels like obtaining a piece of the person who penned it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the electronic mediums as much as the next girl. You just can’t beat the convenience of texting/emailing while driving, the divides bridged (and marriages compromised) by social networks, and the home created for otherwise completely useless information.

But, here is the thing, I have a friend (yep, true stuff there). She is a special kind of friend. She is the kind of friend I have known since before puberty.  The kind of friend who remembers the leopard patched ripped-up Levis I wore with pride and will still call me out on if need be. The kind of friend with whom I have, fought, laughed, cried, and survived over the years. The ‘til death do us part kind of friend.

This friend, well, she still on occasion writes letters.  When I least expect it and sometimes most need it, a letter will arrive in my mailbox from her.  It will be filled with words of encouragement, sentiment, and love.  It will be decorated with stickers or sayings.  It will have taken her time, attention and effort to accomplish. Sometimes, the stationary will be hand crafted; sometimes the letter will be written all helter skelter; and sometimes the contents will cause me to smile, laugh or even cry a little.

But, no matter what is inside, the letter always makes my day – in that warm, cared about, loved and appreciated kind of way. In a manner that no email, text, IM, tweet, like or follow ever could, or honestly, ever will.

So today, I am going to write my friend a letter. I am going to enclose some words of love, encouragement and appreciation. Maybe, I will decorate it with stickers.  Probably, I will try to write something funny. Definitely, I will pen into the words a piece of myself. Then, I am going to address it, stamp it and send it via snail-mail.

And when the letter arrives in my friend’s mailbox,

I hope, it makes her day.

Is There Life After 40?

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Well, duh, I’m  not dead yet.  However, the term “It’s now or never” sure takes on a whole new meaning.  What do I mean?  Well, head on over to ParentSociety.com and read my latest article,  Is There Life After 40?,  to get  ‘the rest of the story’.

As a kid, I was once asked what age I considered old. I promptly replied, “40.” In my teenaged, eye-rolling mind, there was clearly no life after 40. I’ll just bet the adult who asked the question wanted to drop kick me into the next week…

You might just find out what Patrick Dempsey, hair dye and mini-vans have to do with turning 40.  Now how can you pass that up? Go here!

Is There Life After 40?

If You Give a Chick a Shopping Trip

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An intermingled ode to a favorite bedtime story my Grandma Ruth used to tell, some of my fondest ‘chick’ memories with my Mom, and loved children’s book author, Laura Numeroff of the If You Give a Moose a Muffin fame.

If you give a Chick a Shopping Trip, she will want to go right away.

She will want to go to the mall.

When she gets there, she will decide she needs to buy something.

She will want to go to her favorite department store.

At the department store, she will see a beautiful dress in the window.  When she sees the beautiful dress, she will decide she needs beautiful shoes to go with it.

On her way to the register to buy the beautiful dress and the beautiful shoes to go with it, she will try all the perfume samples.  She will probably smell funny.

Before she reaches the register, it is entirely possible she will see a beautiful coat to match the beautiful dress and beautiful shoes.

She will buy the beautiful dress, the beautiful shoes and the beautiful coat to match.

Shopping will make her hungry and she will want to go to lunch.  When she gets to the café, she will order a Vanilla Coke.

Drinking the Vanilla Coke at the café will remind her of her Mom and all the shopping trips they have taken together.  Thinking of her Mom will make her homesick and she will want to go home for a visit.

When she gets home, she will want to give her Mom a present. She will give her Mom the beautiful dress, the beautiful shoes and the beautiful coat to match. She will insist her Mom try them on right away.

Seeing her Mom in the beautiful dress, the beautiful shoes and the beautiful coat, will remind her of their shopping trips.

She will want to go on one right away. She will want her Mom to come.

When she and her Mom go on the shopping trip they will see a beautiful dress in the window.

And chances are, when they see the beautiful dress in the window, they will need beautiful shoes to go with it, and a beautiful coat to match.

Happy Birthday, Mom