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Chicken Salad Relationship Status: It’s Complicated

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From an early age, I was taught to eat the food that was put in front of me. No matter what it was. My mother was determined to raise polite girls who showed appreciation as dinner guests. We would roll up to a friend or relative's house only to be gently reminded by my mother that, “Even if you are served dog food, eat it, smile and ask for seconds.”

My mother was not someone I wanted to challenge. So for years, I ate whatever was served without questioning it, my mom, or the person serving it...no one.

Until one day, I met chicken salad.

Chicken salad would become my lifelong nemesis. As far as I was concerned, and with the deviled egg running a distant second, chicken salad was the very worst thing to have to put into my mouth and feign flavor bliss. It was the official food of my very worst nightmares and if I was going to stay in the South, I needed an avoidance plan.

Many of you have likely gasped at me mentioning my distaste for not one, but two traditional southern dishes. I get it. It’s a shock to find out that the people you thought you knew have dark secrets. What’s next, you might be thinking? Sweet tea? Fried chicken? GRITS!!!???

I swear on the Bill Gaither choir that I mostly don’t have any more southern confessions. Mostly.

Why do I have a lifelong dislike of chicken salad? Of course, it must be some offensive ingredient.

Was it the chicken? 
“Her grandma probably didn’t know how to season it. Gotta season the chicken.”
The mayonnaise? 
Shaking head, “Didn’t use Dukes.”
The other random (and always different) ingredients?
“Well, she hasn’t tried my chicken salad yet.” 

The answer is...I don’t know why I don’t like it. It smells funny. Also, there is something about the combination of cold meat, mixed with an ever-changing combination of other things swirled together and doled out with an ICE CREAM SCOOP (desecration) and then sculpted (Jesus take the wheel, they sculpted it). Plus, people that like chicken salad, LOVE chicken salad. I’m sorry, but it’s a cult. I love you, but. you. are. in. a. cult.  (and Molly, you in danger, girl).

And even though my great grandmother Anna Mae is probably turning over in her grave as we speak, I just could never bring myself to fake liking chicken salad. Stick it in a thousand pastry swans, I will never like it. Go away, Sam I Am...I'm not your project.

When I was young, it wasn’t the most difficult thing to get around. Chicken salad was a ladies lunch type of food or it made its appearance on the potluck table among a cast of thousands. The southern food competition was fierce and with the main ingredient being mayonnaise, everyone understood you avoiding it if you even hinted at a war story involving room temperature mayonnaise and your insides.

But as I got older and my friends were all getting married, it became very clear where chicken salad chose to make its mark in our civilized society. Chicken salad craftily played itself to the adult female crowd. All this time, I thought I was dodging these to-add-grapes-or-not-to-add-grapes landmines so that I could hit adulthood and declare my disgust for the food openly. And live authentically for once - unless living authentically was bad manners.

But she was waiting. On the table of every graduation party, every bridesmaid luncheon,
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every time someone busted out pastel streamers, chicken salad was there, making her promises about being universally loved by all women. She clung to her self-proclaimed “crowd pleaser” title and became the food anti-mascot of my twenties.

I truly believe I was the skinniest I’ve ever been in my twenties because I spent an impressive portion of the decade side stepping chicken salad.

No disrespect to our fair maiden, Atlanta’s Swan House. She is majestic and regal, but when you are anti-chicken salad, there are only so many lunches where you can sustain yourself on a frozen fruit salad and two cheese straws. I attended every single event, searching for an ally plate to slip my chicken salad timbales fashioned into a swan onto. It was always a covert operation that could only be done with very specific, and forgiving friends. Or even better, if I was sat among a group of strangers, I could build a quick rapport and guiltlessly offload the item with the knowledge I’d never see these people again, and if it was the black sheep aunt from Wisconsin who was chicken salad neutral, even better.

If I found the crowd to be particularly pro-chicken salad, those hostiles who perceived negative chicken salad sentiments as blasphemous, my tactics would have to be taken up a notch.

I’d have to stage my plate.

Moving food around a plate in an attempt to make it look “enjoyed” is a fine art. Southern kids raised in the world of “eat what you are served,” have this skill as fine-tuned as our ability to play in trace amounts of snow every 2-3 years.

First, you have to show that you enjoyed the food. Your plate scene can’t be viewed as someone who “tried” the chicken salad and did not like it. No, it is much more complicated than that. It must look like you very much “enjoyed” the scrumptious ladies luncheon staple (lies), but are such a wispy girl with a dainty appetite that you simply couldn’t finish it all (still more lies).

Such intricate plate staging, while never allowing for a conversation lull, is a fine art. The talent for which is sharpened through motivation by the deeply rooted and, oh by the way, irrational southern fear of sharing with someone that you actually don’t like something. Wait a minute, to their face?

Feigning one’s love for chicken salad while never allowing it to pass your lips is so much harder than avoiding something like deviled eggs...and here are some reasons for this - all rooted in science.

Deviled eggs are a side item. Different rules apply entirely. Most notably, never in the history of a potluck has someone managed to get every offered dish on their Dixie Paper Plate. You can skip it with promises to add it to your “second round” and no one will ever know.

Also, if you skip side items, you are once again seen as a dainty, wispy girl with a bird-like appetite.

An early coven of Southern grandma witches (all named Mildred) decided a long time ago to classify chicken salad as a main dish. Chicken salad is the centerpiece and you can’t have a plate with no centerpiece - even I know that that’s problematic as the side dishes would clearly be lost.

Side dishes are meant to surround the main dish and sort of do jazz hands around it, blessing its faultlessness. With no focal point for the side dishes to do jazz hands, chaos ensues.

The congealed salad would jiggle aimlessly.

The coleslaw already suffering from a crippling inferiority complex would think it needed to rise up to the centerpiece occasion but would ultimately crack under the pressure - coleslaw will never be as great as potato salad, after all, much less match the fame of this southern icon.

The random cheese cubes would wander the perimeter of the floral plate with no purpose

Don’t get me started on the morale of the deviled eggs I’d have to put on my plate to throw off suspicion - after all, they already know I don’t like them.

Even the sweet tea would pucker and lose its flavor. Oh sure, we’d all take polite sips and try to act like it was sweet enough, but we’d secretly be blaming the failure on that one lady from joy club who always waits to add sugar once the tea is cooled.

See. It’s a dilemma. A delicate balance. The balance of the entire ladies luncheon gets thrown off when one person can’t handle the chicken salad. It would be a blessed hot mess.

So why don't I just have the courage to proudly declare my personal distaste when asked instead of this complicated long con I'm playing?  

I wasn't drug up. That would be rude.

So, for now, I’ll continue scooping the offending salad-you-can-sculpt onto my plate and comment on how wonderful it is while I secretly stage my plate accordingly. Side note: don’t look my way while gifts are being opened.

No balance to restore, I won’t rock the boat, but my relationship to chicken salad will remain, for now and forevermore, complicated.



Hometown Blues

I've never really left the area where I grew up. So many people I meet are geographically nowhere near where they started. Sometimes I envy their new adventures. I never intentionally decided to stay, but I guess I just never really left - there was never a reason to go, so I didn't.  I spent one year of college in Tennessee (my first freshman year - there were 2.5 freshman years if you're counting - my parents were). Also, I'm technically raising my family in an adjacent county.

But for the most part, I still navigate the same curves, hills, and streets where I learned to drive.  I didn't leave and yet sometimes, it feels like a completely different place. A few of those curves have been improved. One bridge in particular that used to terrify my mother has now been made safer and easier to navigate and I do miss the adrenaline I would get taking that curve in the dark woods, over the creek at night. Kids these days - they'll never know.

When my parents and grandparents would talk about the changing landscape of their hometowns, it was because land and trees and forests were overtaken by suburban sprawl. Perfectly good green spaces were sacrificed for businesses and tract homes. My own family built our home in a brand new development, sacrificing "family land" for stucco, fancy brick designs and incredibly clever mailboxes that totally lacked functionality, not to mention they would fall over even if you BARELY touched it with the car. It was 1988 and the Atlanta suburbs were beginning to burst. Homes were being designed and built everywhere it seems. Homesteads and farms were sold off to developers for homes left and right...and why not...the Baby Boomers were raising families - times were good.

But the wave of change that crashed over my childhood and teenage years was on land already developed. Now as I drive the same path that I used to take to my best friend Jenny's house in my mom's old Audi 5000, I strain to remember the original houses that existed before they were torn down and small mansions erected in their stead. As the homes are being upgraded, the businesses for which buildings were built are long gone and have since either fallen too far from code or have been five other "concepts" since the 90's. The family-owned video store I used to work at is a restaurant, but it was three other things in between. I vaguely remember the gas station that is now a Zaxby's and an old Blockbuster became a gold exchange before settling on a dental practice. Only, one of the three dry cleaners we owned is still a dry cleaners. One is a sub sandwich chain that I recently went into and bored the teenager behind the counter to tears with my stories of the "good old days."

Even the old skating rink where I spent MANY weekends turning circles to pop music, wearing blue eye shadow, a Forenza shirt with rolled sleeves and Exclamation! perfume in the hopes that some boy would notice me...even that place has had a few iterations, one as a restaurant, before becoming a Goodwill.  To me, it will always be Sparkles.

Most days I don't really think about how much the "old town" has changed. It definitely feels more crowded. Less people that grew up here going about their day with no appreciation for it's past - and why should they care really? Most days I am too busy to look up and be nostalgic. I'm in that time in my life where full days fly by. I follow children, keep a house, a job and crawl into bed a little later than I should each night with nothing significant to show for my day except the fact that we made it. But other days, I notice it. I try to remember what everything looked like. I try to remember being 16 (minus the horrible bangs and angst) and heading out with $20 that would more than cover an entire evening of fun which might include an arcade (you see, kids, an arcade is when your screentime was managed by quarters and whether or not you had a ride).

Today we cleaned out my dad's closet. We took a lot of his things to MUST Ministries, but we took other bags down the street to Goodwill. It was overwhelming to think that almost 30 years ago, a carefree pre-teen zipped around in that very building with big dreams, bigger hair and so many ideas...and today, that woman left a piece of her dad there in that very same place. It was a sad full circle moment that I've been trying to shake all night.  Maybe it was the collision of the happiest times with one of the saddest. I think my dad would have gotten a kick out of it actually - there was a moment when the building was sort of the new Houcks - and my dad loved Houcks.

The old town has changed a lot. That girl has changed a lot. The sadness I feel is because those times were good ones. The heartbreak I have is because my dad was SO amazing. On these days when I feel the weight of grief crashing in on me, I force myself to stop looking back...instead I look down, at the two children I am eternally grateful to be able to raise. It feels like a circle, because life is a circle.

I hope, now that it's my turn to be the parent, that I'm doing a good job. I hope I'm creating a life in a place that they are not hurried to escape. I hope they feel the freedom to leave if they must, and though the landscape will most certainly change, I hope they drive through the streets of their childhood one day smiling about all the good times.  And, one day, if they have to leave my things at a Sparkles - I hope they know that it's okay to let go a little - and that THAT is where I'd want to be anyway.

Just don't forget to bring my blue eye shadow and hair crimper.


Healthy Living for Six-Year-Olds

I am having the most difficult time trying to keep my six-year-old on a diet.

I know this is for his own good and I have tried to explain this to him several times, but he refuses to adhere to the aforementioned (and simple) eating plan that I have laid out for him for this particular weekend. It's absolutely the most frustrating journey to healthy living I've ever been on. This includes the healthy living journeys I start every Monday.

You see, for two days, my son has been up sick all night only to then stay awake all day sneaking food out of my pantry with the stealth and skill that would school Oliver Twist. He’s a food stealing prodigy and he has absolutely no concern whatsoever for his current lack of gastrointestinal fortitude.

Seemed Simple.  Bananas. Rice. Applesauce. Toast. I’ve seen worse diets. I’ve been on worse diets. You know what I would give for someone to insist I eat a pile of toast? With gluten? Without all seven grains sprouting? Bread that looks like Tom Sawyer whitewashed it to the color that God our Lord and Savior MEANT for bread to have. A couple of slices of America’s favorite Wonder Bread and an exercise regime that includes deep diving into a pile of blankets on the sofa with complete clicker control? That is some cardio I can get behind.

If that were a real diet, cheat days begone.

But the reaction around here has made me realize one thing.  Hell hath no fury like a kid foodie on the BRAT Diet.

All weekend he’s looked from me to his plate of yellow and white to me again. He starts to cry and tell me how hungry he is. Tells me he’s not sick anymore. Tells me he’s a good boy. Promises to clean his room. Asks if it’s because he’s too young (because in addition to torturing my children with traumatic diets, I’m also a raging ageist) Makes me feel like pretty much the worst.

Excuse me while I pause Mommy Dearest.

“I’m doing this for your own good,” I lie to him. Easing his gastro fussiness is my main concern I testify because that’s part of the long con I’m playing. Parenthood is nothing more than strategic maneuvers to see the long con play out to our advantage.  It’s not for his own good...he’d EVENTUALLY stop throwing up whether he’s on this diet or not.

I’m doing it for me. The BRAT Diet is my luxury. I’ve done enough laundry to last me a lifetime. I have hit my disinfecting limit. This is why I keep Zofran tucked in strategic locations on my property like a prepper would keep firearms.

I don’t do vomit for long. You can lay on my couch for two months with a cold. I’ll suction your nostrils like I’m in training for the upper respiratory olympics. But vomit? Don’t bring that mess in here. I rebuke you in the name of Urgent Care and Tide Pods. Get thee behind me Rotavirus also E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter, Clostridium, Norwalk agent, and all the major parasites.

If paint came with an antibacterial finish option, I’d be at Home Depot tomorrow.

God gave me one kid with a dietary conscience who will listen to my advice and heed it, and the other...THAT kid got the propensity for gastro infections. I mean on a healthy day, I have to hide the six pecan swirls in six secret locations so the pack will last longer than it takes me to unpack the groceries. He eats and he eats. He’ll polish off a bag of chips during a fifteen minute Peppa Pig show, and his body responds by staying in the 50% for weight - because apparently, I’m not resentful enough as a person.  

I’ve pulled empty packages of goldfish out of his closet. I’ve surrendered the second 1/2 of whatever I’ve been enjoying because he’s standing so close to my plate that I’m afraid I’ll pass out from only breathing in his carbon dioxide. This kid’s passion is food. I shouldn’t complain. He eats everything. He has a wonderful palate but also, a tremendous case of hollow leg.

So when the puking flu hits the house and we have to do a palate pullback on all the foods we typically eat in the day (which is all of them), I get some objections from this perpetually starving boy. Already today, though I’ve hired armed guards to watch the pantry, I’ve managed to rescue the Halloween Candy from a serious hostage situation (I did have to shoot the hostage, or in this case, eat the Almond Joys - parenting is about the hard choices) and we’ve had to have a fairly ugly Teddy Graham intervention.

So after a long day of being on sick kid patrol, that did include a few decadent snuggles, I decided to salute all the Pedialyte forcing parents who have to surrender 48-72 hours to the BRAT diet.

Cheers from me, a mom perpetually on the wine diet.



Is It Too Much?

Not too long ago I was chaperoning a field trip for my son's class. We went to a museum that had this authentic living exhibit about everyday life in Colonial days.  For those people who aren't history buffs, this is a time before Cheez-its. People didn't have cars. Couples didn't get in fights over the thermostat because you either had a fire or you didn't. Also, dinner was whatever had been killed alongside whatever was in the spooky root cellar with the spiders and possibly snakes. It was a dark, dark period. One plus, kids ate everything because they literally didn't know when they would eat again.

I love history. I'm fascinated by how people lived in different time periods, what they wore, how they cooked. It's all very interesting to me. I wish I had a Bill and Ted's phone booth just to go back and see how people lived...and then jump back in and get home in time for The Walking Dead. Just a glimpse now...I don't want to actually do any hard labor. 

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Knowing how rough people had it though, makes me feel a little useless to be honest. As a kid, Laura Ingalls books were magical - but as an adult, the fact that Ma Ingalls never sat down unless she was darning socks, produces a little Stouffer's Lasagna guilt. I make myself feel less guilty by believing that Ma Ingalls would have made a frozen pizza at least once a week if she had had the option. 

On this field trip, I was pretty mesmerized by the authentic cabins we toured and the different stations where they showed us a blacksmith shop, how to wash clothes with no Tide and how to make Pumpkin Spice Lattes from their garden. 

What really stood out was the description of what kids my son's age (roughly 8 at the time) did to help around the house - excuse me, homestead. Things like staying up all night to keep the fire lit, predator lookout (this involved unsupervised rifle handling), intensive field labor and lastly, let's not forget the 10-mile marches, sometimes in the dark, to retrieve fire from the closest neighbor in the event that the family let theirs die out (also involved unsupervised rifle handling - in the dark). 

And I'm standing there taking all of this in while holding a giant bottle of filtered spring water and a can of SPF 155 sunblock spray in the event that my own 8-year-old began to show signs of dehydration or was unintentionally confronted by the sun while on an overly chaperoned field trip. I have to admit, as a mother, I felt like a failure. What would my foremothers say about the fact that my little family is equipped to do nothing?

Our society just isn't about survival anymore. We don't have a lot of natural predators in these parts.

It's true though. A few years ago, parents were arrested for letting their kids walk to a park, unsupervised, in broad daylight. It's called free-range parenting and it's apparently illegal? Not that long ago, it was called, "you're 3 and 1/2 Phineas, time to go get a job three towns over, here's a lunch pail with a half a sandwich and a still twitching hog tail. You'll find some water along the way."
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I mean, let's put all the life-risking stuff aside. I was born in the 1970's and I don't remember ANYONE caring about my water intake as a kid. My mother didn't know the signs of dehydration. If she had, she probably would have handed me a Tab. I would hit the door at 8am on a summer day in Georgia, play all day, never take a sip of anything except a half a glass of Five Alive at my friend's house midday out of her Smurf glasses courtesy of McDonald's' Happy Meals. 

Nobody cared if I had had enough water. There was a garden hose, everyone assumed the kids would drink something BEFORE they passed out. And if you didn't - well - that's what you get. I had large water bottle for tennis matches, but other than that, I was the Phineas of the 1980's...except without a rifle...or imminent life danger. 

And yet, I feel like, we are supposed to be SO cautious of everything these days with our own children: 


Dear Colonial Parents,

Coyotes have surrounded the school, please send your kids to class with their loaded rifles to help protect our building. 


Dear 2018 Parents

Tomorrow, Mrs. Smith's class will be heading to lunch via Hallway B instead of the usual Hallway A. This will route us past a fairly large window. We'd like you to make sure your child is prepared for all possibilities by making sure he/she has:

1. Light-colored breathable clothing as the window lets in a lot of light and heat
2. Layers in case it's chilly
3. A light jacket in case it's windy
4. A heavy jacket in case there's an ice storm
5. An umbrella and rain boots in case the window is leaking
6. A comfort item for emotional support during the change in route
7. A snack for hallway congestion which would keep us there longer than expected
8. Two forms of ID
9. Sunblock to avoid skin cancer.
10. A bottle of filtered spring water so no one DEHYDRATES
11. Will be sending a sign-up list for volunteers to chaperone the hallway change. 

Now hear me well - I am NOT making fun of teachers. Most teachers are parents and EVERY parent I know wants to turn to their own kid at least once a week and say FIGURE OUT HOW TO DEAL WITH IT YOURSELF. So I KNOW that when someone else's child is whining about how they can't figure out how to tie their shoe, they are NOT coddling them.

But two years ago a well-meaning nurse scared my son into a summer of water terror with her drowning statistics. 

This is just the life we live in. I think it's ridiculous but I'm STILL worried about my son's electrolytes and his back-to-school ability to communicate with the three-dimensional people after a summer of video games. I still don't like for him to walk to our mailbox in the middle of the day. I tell him to not talk to ANYONE he knows or doesn't know that's in a car or a van, talking about puppies, offering candy, AND YET I also tell him to look new people in the eye and give a firm handshake. I want him to eat more carrots. I'm sometimes afraid he'll get scurvy, even though I've never actually Googled how you get scurvy. You know...all the normal mom stuff.

But it STILL seems ridiculous sometimes.

I just think there has to be a middle ground. A place where we continue to encourage kids to be brave and independent but with...like fewer black bears and dysentery. 


Kiefer, Sorry We Keep Missing Each Other. Call Me.

Is this a midlife crisis? It feels like a midlife crisis.

I keep realizing over and over again that I'm four decades into this life and there are so many things I have not accomplished.

I thought I was working to get somewhere, but I think I passed it. And therefore totally missed it (whatever it was).

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It was probably because I was talking. I miss a lot of things due to talking. Or maybe I mistook it for another stat update from my Fortnite obsessed 10 year old and did that thing where I zone out and say "that's great" as he recaps his skin collection and dance move arsenal. Ahhh Summer.

What started out as two months of hopeful structure, learning opportunities and chore lists has quickly melted down into 1 AM bedtimes and I-don't-care-what-you-do-just-do-it-quietly orders. Year round school, you say? *checking the "maybe" box*

So anyway...as it turns out, I've had some time to contemplate, you know on those nights I'm sitting in the upstairs hallway policing room escapes and going over all the numbers for the week with my math-y five-year-old, and I've decided that I'm a complete and utter failure, which is a day ruin-er. Let's analyze all the things I planned for my life that I have thus far failed to do.

  • I am not an oceanographer. 
  • I cannot hula hoop.
  • I am not a veterinarian with my best childhood friend, Katie and we don't live in a mansion with dozens of wild animals that run free. 
  • Likewise, we didn't become best friend actresses with our own t.v. show. 
  • I didn't become a Black Eyed Pea, which means...
  • I haven't won an MTV Music Award
  • I didn't meet a vampire on a pier in Santa Carla that looked a lot like Kiefer Sutherland
  • I didn't meet a cowboy who rode in a gang with Billy the Kid and who also looked a lot like Kiefer Sutherland. 
  • I did not win the dance-off to become the new DTV regular much to my strict military father's disapproval. 
  • I never accidentally randomly encountered a New Kid on the Block where I impressed him with my singing, acting, beauty, CPR skills, car maintenance knowledge or by saving him from a rattlesnake.
  • I was never featured on the cover of seventeen magazine on a surfboard with the caption "Surfing the World Wide Webb" with a feature story on the inside where they ask me questions and I give them disinterested bada$$ answers because I'm too famous to care. - (yes, I gave my fake media trajectory some real thought.)
  • Kiefer Sutherland, due to the unfortunate missteps listed above, has not fallen in love with me, which is really his loss and it's too late for him because I am QUITE married (I mean like, we JUST bought our second set of furniture together so...it's serious). 

Hold on. I've had to pour some wine to cope with my downward spiral.

I spent a LOT of the last few years feeling like I missed some boat that everyone else got on *waves from the shore while muttering resentful comments* Wasn't I supposed to have accomplished...something?  I mean, like a GRAND goal of some sort that everyone could see and that would some how justify my entire existence? Was I standing at the $1 bins at Target with my $6 coffee when opportunity knocked on my door?

I've recently realized though that one of the gifts you get when you lose someone close is perspective. I didn't ask for it and would give it back in a nano-second, but since I didn't get the choice, I look at it as one of God's jewels for the brokenhearted and hurting. Perspective. Sometimes you need something or someone to flip the lens of your perspective so you can really get a better look at all you seem to be dissatisfied with.

And my perspective shifted to see all the things I've done in my life that no one would ever really
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notice. The things that I've always wanted and I've gotten. There was no mountaintop experience for the things I value most. And thank goodness - because though amazing to behold, a mountaintop moment is fleeting and once-in-a-lifetime-ish. It's all those little moments in my day and week when I was experiencing deep, exhaling joy and satisfaction. I think it's just a general appreciation of the journey...yes even though Kiefer and I have chosen different paths.

Here is what I've come to value about my life recently.

  • When my boys are laughing and playing together - I mean, like really laughing - not fighting, not arguing, not manipulating - but really and truly enjoying the brother relationship. I feel such deep joy watching my kids that it makes me want to burst. 
  • When I start to miss being younger but then I remember how full of angst and doubt and fear I really was and I realize that from this point on, I get to enjoy life confidently and with the deep contentment that only those with war wounds (and a few wrinkles) get to experience. 
  • That first cup of coffee in the morning - it's the BEST. 
  • When your spouse catches you off guard with a joke and you find yourself laughing as hard as you did when you were first dating. 
  • Quality time with my sister and mother. Mom has always said, "You get one turn on this earth." She and my dad squeezed every drop of experience out of their years together and true to form, she's continuing to pursue life even when it's emotionally hard. 
  • Girlfriends - I think in your 30's you are in this underground bunker of child rearing and it's rare to have the trifecta of time, energy and money to spend on quality friendships, but when your kids get a little older, you begin to see the possibilities again and I LOVE the support and laughter and reality checks I get when I spend an evening with girlfriends.

All in all, I think the most exciting thing about life is always the possibility ahead.

So maybe we'll look different,
a little older,
a little worn.
Maybe we'll feel a little stiffer,
resent the 20 year old on the elliptical next to us at the gym,
go up a size or three,
start eating for fiber, instead of taste,
pick a smaller beverage on a road trip because when did I start having to pee so much?

Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash
But all that means is we have no more excuses to see life for what it really is...these amazing, heart-
singing moments that sometimes catch us off guard and give us incredible emotional experiences that are the direct result from our desire to create a life of connection rather than just accomplishment. It isn't groundbreaking but we all fail to see the beauty in front of us sometimes because we have heaped a disproportionate amount of expectations about what life should look like instead of enjoying what it actually does look like.


Make it a Mystery!

Since firing back up the murder mystery party business, I have had several inquiries into it. I thought I'd just do a quick post and let you know what they are and you can see if it's a good fit for your event.

A little history as to why I travel around with a portable crime scene in my car
In high school, I was very involved in the drama club and I was also just very involved in any kind of drama in general. I love performing and I really miss walking into an empty theater, making my way back to the dressing room and putting my train case full of makeup in front of a large mirror.  I miss the nerves. I miss the energy of the audience. I am totally getting off track, but I wanted to throw a warm fuzzy reunion in this paragraph for all of my former and current theater nerds out there. The theater is magic. Being a part of it is special and it has given so many of us some sense of satisfaction in the uncertain and stressful formative years of high school.

The theater is where I fell in love with creating experiences for people. This is what I love about hosting murder mystery parties. Creating experiences.

Before I belt out a show tune, let me move on. When I was 19, my church singles group wanted to host a murder mystery party for like 30 or 40 people. The boxed games that you could buy were made for 8 people. The internet and all it's wonderment was not really around as it is now so everyone was trying to figure out how to pull it off. I volunteered myself as tribute. I believe my exact words were, "I can write one of those."

And everyone believed me.

And actually I had no idea how to write "one of those."

I wrote that first murder mystery party, a 1940's themed Hollywood party called "What Happened to Roxy Lamour?" I, of course, procrastinated and cried through about 10 hours straight of sitting at the computer at my job on a Saturday while my family kept calling me asking if I was going to come home in time for the party.

Somehow I pulled it off. But it was NOT pretty.

Over the years I tested different themes and party sizes. Some performances were hits and some just weren't. It's how it goes. Experiencing both success and failure, while a rollercoaster, was really the only way to learn.  I did all kinds of events from church functions to corporate retreats, private parties to team building events. I've had a lot of amazing people who believed in me and supported me and didn't question the roll of crime scene tape or the rolled up chalk body outline when getting in my car.

Those are good friends to have.

And then I had kids. And kids are a commitment (they like eat EVERY day) and I put it away entirely to start writing a blog - because I didn't have to get a babysitter to write a blog.

Over the last three years, much to my surprise, I have begun to host them once again. My current niche is the civic groups and women's organizations who need monthly programming at their luncheons. I have had an amazing time working with these organizations to bring them a fun event.

I have recently been requested for "take-a-long" versions of my game and those are also available.

So to FINALLY get to the point.

I customize murder mystery parties for any event. I work with most sizes, themes and venues. If you are interested, then let's talk. No strings.

My prices for events where I attend as the facilitator start at $250.  I can work with you at times because I love what I do, but babysitters are expensive and I don't own my own Starbucks yet. To buy a take home version that needs no alterations - as is, it is $50. To customize a take home game, I charge between $100-$200 depending on the group size and request.

How does it work?
A certain number of guests at your event will become suspects in a crime. They will get their character info, event theme and costume suggestions in advance. Everything else will be given to them the night of the event. No line preparation is required. You just show up and perform. They are really fun and people tend to really enjoy themselves. I have a lot of repeat customers.

If you are interested, please email me at justpeachy1123@gmail.com and I will send over an introductory client letter that lays it all out. We can set-up an initial call to discuss your event where we can talk details at no obligation.

So that's it. Let me know if you have any specific questions!


Liquids and Solids

My grandfather used to say that there were two kinds of people in the world. Liquids and Solids.

Solids are who they are. They are defined and strong. They are the type of people that you make room for because they know who they are and they aren't afraid to show it. These people are decisive. They KNOW where they want to go for dinner.

Liquids...well liquids take the shape of their containers. Liquids are people who let their circumstances and relationships define who they are a little more than they should. I don't know why THEY do this.  Perhaps liquids are a little too afraid of hurting other people's feelings and so they tell people what they want to hear a lot. I mean. I'm guessing this is what they do. I don't know. Me being all solid and such.

I like these descriptors. It has always bothered me that I'm not a true solid. I'm a solid in certain areas, but a liquid in a whole lot of others.

Stealing (Solid) - Absolutely not.
Cheating (Solid) - Heck No.
Cilantro (Solid) - Get thee behind me Satan.
Lying About Not Wanting to Go Out (Liquid) - "Gosh Jackie, I would love to go - but I have this old war injury that prevents me from eating tapas *mutes phone to open Cheez-Its* "

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash
As I get older, I feel like I get more solid in some areas, but there are a lot of areas in my life that I think I'm just flat out waiting for other people to come tell me who I am.

But I'm 41 so...I feel like those people aren't coming.

But then I got to thinking. When my grandfather spoke of liquids and solids, he was talking about people who are strong versus people who are weak. But he was from a generation without much gray area. There wasn't time for gray area. There were wars to fight and shirts to starch.

But in my pontificate-life-whilst-playing-candy-crush, walmart-grocery-now-delivers-to-my-freaking-house generation, liquids and solids don't describe a full person, in my opinion they describe aspects of people. Thank God for gray area.

We all have deal breakers. Things we can't fathom changing our stance on.

For example, Target is pretty solid on a $.05 discount deeming something a clearance item, yet pretty liquid on the amount of open checkout lines to customer ratio. *side eyeing Target with my $5 coffee*

I was just thinking the other day while I was organizing all of my secret dieting Pinterest Boards (I felt like it was a bit disrespectful to have 'Pontificating Paleo' next to 'Goin' Vegan' so I put 'Weight Watchers' - Smartpoints not freestyle - in between to keep it respectful) that there are so many things I still don't have together.

Now I'm not at all proposing that we are all solids all the time, because someone else should get to pick the movie from time to time. But wait...what movie were you thinking?

I guess my point is that this indecisive side of me for so long has been troubling. Like, why don't I have a solid stance on everything? Why don't I know who I definitively am at this point? Why do I not have a solid system for everything in my life?

And it dawns on me...isn't a little liquid just room for growth?

When I was a little girl, I wanted my grandfather to see me as a solid. And I think that I am in the way he was viewing it, but as I get older, I see the beauty in some liquid in all of our lives.

Sometimes being solid means being closed off. For example, there is no speech, facebook post or 20/20 episode that will convince me that I should eat cilantro. I don't like it. Period. End of discussion.

But who am I to close myself off to issues and discussions that are personal to other people? When do my feelings on something outrank another person's.

Photo by Samara Doole on Unsplash
People are pretty much made up of DNA and life experiences.

And both of those things are very real.

It makes me realize that age isn't making me more solid, it's making me more liquid because life can be hard. And the longer you are in the game, the more your heart softens. The more experiences you used to judge then happen to you and you realize you had no idea what you were talking about before.

Enter motherhood.
Enter a child diagnosed with something.
Enter profound personal loss and grief.

I'm not advocating that we become a wishy washy group of non-decision makers (sorry Congress, you do you, Boo), but we can all stand to forego a little judgement.

Sometimes it's hard to see the bright side of getting older. Seems like a silly process at times because our current culture celebrates youth...but then I remember my dad telling me that the thing he valued the most as an older man was kindness.

And I think of all the ridiculous things that I value. And how they really don't mean much.

Fluidity and kindness. The ability to mold and grow as a person coupled with caring about my fellow man.

With all due respect to my grandfather, I think I won't resist those gushy parts of who I am anymore.