Here’s the story…

of a 55 year old lady, who found visiting her favorite childhood tv show home’s exterior…completely overwheming.

The Brady Bunch.

Every day after school I watched reruns. I prided myself on being able to tell which episode was running based on the first 15 seconds. A million years later (10 years or so) I bought the complete series DVD set…it came in a green shag carpeted box. Brilliant. It was like $50, an extravagant purchase but I went for it…Merry Christmas to me. It is now selling for $175 on Amazon. A nice little investment!

Rewatching the series I found it a bit dated to say the least. Like eating a favorite breakfast cereal from childhood, way too sweet and completely over the top. Something that you might just want in small bits. 21 disks of Brady shenanigans is a LOT, but man, I still love it.

I identified with Jan…not as cute or clueless as Cindy, not as beautiful or talented as Marcia…just Jan. My personality was more of a Peter, more easygoing, not as bitter. I was not wise enough to realize the downside of being a middle until Alice pointed it all out…it hit me like a brick. Sigh, thanks Alice for noticing us middles.

I never considered the Bradys perfect…they looked perfect, had the grooviest clothes and the Astroturf lawn of excellence…but they had squabbles, made mistakes, and learned lessons. I loved the commotion that ended in peace…there was always hope for a good solution if everyone just put their heads together. Team work kids!

Yesterday we had spent the day sightseeing…a drive up to the farmland and mountains, over to the Pacific, winding down the highway, stopping to climb rocks, put our feet in the ocean, ogle at the Malibu houses (my neighbors should be glad we did not come to California earlier, we might have a pink house if we did, I am LOVING the pink houses), Santa Monica Pier, Venice, and back to Los Angeles for a “Jacob Tour”. I had in my head we were going to some vintage and Halloween stores in Burbank, I drove, we twisted and turned. I was told that I drive WAY too slowly, that NOBODY in Los Angeles drives as slow as I do…clearly payback for the backseat driving tips I had given him…I was going 75. Neighborhoods in Los Angeles change on a dime, it did not seem odd to me that a vintage shop might be next to a suburban ranch. Mom, stop, we are here. I looked up, and squeaked…literally…I squeaked in glee. There it was. I was in heaven.

To be clear, we did not go in. I could not even stand at the front door…there was a security guard there watching our every move. The whole experience took 3 minutes. Three emotional minutes.

Sigh, there is no real reason the exterior of a house should bring me such joy, but it did. For a few minutes I was completely filled with only things good. No sick friends, no death, no pandemic, no worry.

Thank you Brady Bunch. You connected us all as we watched you after school…that’s the way we all became the Brady Bunch.

Christmas

Christmas is complicated for my family… loud, joyous, infuriating, and completely delicious. It is also the night my dad passed away. It is a time of amazing memories and lots of tears. We might be fine one minute then crying and hugging the next. A time of toasts, eating his favorite foods, and remembering.

I was trying to find a great Christmas picture of my dad, a new one, a great one. I know there is one of him with my mom in front of their tinsel filled tree, him in an amazing slim suit, her in a white toga-style floor length dress and stunning pixie haircut. People used to know how to dress for a night out. I couldn’t find it though. There are others with my siblings in front of the tree, always with my dad, my mom forever the photographer, funny how moms are always the ones taking the pictures. I couldn’t find those albums either. I finally pulled out the green album, the one with pictures of my dad as a kid and young adult…and there they were…my Christmas swoon pictures. Christmas in Korea. The impromptu tree decorated with burlap rags, the little girl proudly holding her gift from the soldiers…and my dad, so very young and so far from home. Super cute, super stoic, and from the look in his eyes…super sad.

This Christmas I have a few friends experiencing their first Christmas since their parents passed away, another friend in the hospital in a touch and go situation, others who have lost their spouses, and the world is back in a state of unease. I think how much of this can we take, then I look at the pictures of this young man, my daddy, and I realize we can handle a lot more than we think we can. We stand up tall and we work for a better tomorrow. My dad was not a complainer, he was a doer, a roll up his sleeves and get it done kind of guy…what a gift it was to find these pictures of him experiencing his Korean War Christmas. I miss him to this day.

Thoughts on Succession

Succession…what an exhausting group of people. Holy smokes. If this is a more realistic version of the uber-rich than Schitt’s Creek…they can keep their money. I am enjoying watching the backstabbing, beautiful locations, family drama, and pretty stellar acting…but it makes me appreciate not having to live life as a constant chess game.

As the mom of twenty-plusers, watching our kids learn my special somethings is a joy. Who is making sure they have the right tablecloths for a holiday meal, which one wants to make extra cookie boxes so nobody feels left out. I observe as they plan and do…their minds considering all options. I witness them hit roadblocks, the same roadblocks I have hit many times, and stand by to see how they will get around them. It is beautiful.

I feel very fortunate that those who will be succeeding me do not want to slit my throat to take down the Queen of Thanksgiving before I am ready to go. I guess not being worth billions has its perks. I hope to be gracious and appreciate the day when the torch is passed. There is something beautiful about aging…especially when there is no need for a bodyguard between you and your loved ones.

On to season two… what a sh*t show of greed. Ho ho ho.

Russian Tea Cakes, Chocolate Dipped Spice Cookies, Chocolate Ginger Bites, Lemon Meltaways, Magic Bars, Peppermint Brownies, Peppermint Chocolate Drops, and a Candy Cane Sugar Cookie. The Hot Chocolate Bombs were left out, we did a test and they were as big as the box, a true explosion. Joy.

Reach for the Sky

‘Tis the season… for some the giving is everything, to others the getting is what it’s all about. Another season of doing what makes you happy. If you are a giver, bless your soul, go for it and enjoy. If you like to receive, I hope you do, and if you don’t…go treat yourself…you deserve it!

When we were little, Christmas involved lists to Santa, and the obligatory wait to see what was picked off the list by…the big man at the North Pole and the best uncle ever…my Uncle Bill. Sigh. To be fair, I am sure my Aunt Jean did the work, but it was Uncle Bill who walked in the front door with huge boxes announcing himself with a HO HO HO the always late Drewes are here! Katharine, where is my Katharine, were you waiting for me? Of course I was, we all were. When the Drewes family walked in the party started, we had been up since 6am, waiting 14 hours for them to arrive…and it was always grand. Once my way cool older cousin showed up in her pajamas, teenage angst in full bloom, dramatic and gorgeous with her long blonde hair and sock feet. Her brother would appear with a posse of friends to “help finish off” the dessert table and grab a beer…it was the 70s. My parents always welcomed everyone with open arms. We would unwrap doll bunkbeds, TossAcross, or U-Drive It…older cousins helping us put together the outrageous goodness we had seen on our Saturday morning tv marathons, now gracing our living room. To say it was joyous is an understatement, there were not obscene amounts of toys, but the ones we got were perfect.

The perfect gift.

I love finding it, keeping it a secret, and the look on people’s faces when opened. As a parent of twenty-somethings, watching my kids discover the gift of giving is a treat in itself. My Olivia is like her mama, she shops starting the day after Christmas, tucking away her finds in her closet, not resting until each person has a personal bit of goodness. Jacob is more of a last minute guy, more of a bullseye or a hmmm? He just gave a bullseye gift to the lady he loves, and oh my gosh, chills…there is nothing in the world better than that.

Miss Ella is loved by all who know her, she expects little and gives all she has…what do you give a person who isn’t into stuff, who finds joy in a seashell? What do you do for a 25th birthday in the middle of a pandemic?

You give…the lover of birds, the girl who wants experience it all, the one who sees the world so much more magnified and brilliant than others…a chance to fly.

This past weekend Jacob gave Ella a flying lesson…in the same type of plane her dad learned to fly at 15, the kind of plane he took her older brothers up for a spin in, a plane like the one she never got to experience…because her daddy passed way too soon.

So Ella did Ella…she dressed up like her dad, in a Hawaiian shirt, hat, and megawatt smile, she swallowed some great big fears…and she flew the plane. With Jacob as her passenger and a seasoned copilot beside her, she flew. And as only Ella can do, she described it as… like discovering another color…so new…indescribable.

He gave her perfection.

Sigh, my holiday season is fulfilled, nothing else needed, the rest is the cherry on top. To listen to these two kids describe their day together was magic. How I love a great gift story.

The Spins

Spin and swirl…preparing for gatherings, visits, holidays…fun spins. Singing, cooking, decorating, working, buying the perfect little something for someone special, baking, moving furniture…spectacular spins.

Then it’s over…and the backward, uncomfortable and wobbly, what do I do now spin begins. It is dark. I never know if it will last a day or a month. I am off, a bit blue…it just is…it will end when ends. I try and find joy in the holiday cards and the plans ahead, but I know to just go on with life…and wait.

Growing up we had crazy high ceilings which meant a ridiculously tall tree covered in grandma’s “good” ornaments (swoon), some 70s plastic prism ornaments (hung low as bait for the cats to play, but not break), and plenty of homemade God’s eyes, glitter doves, and painted playdoh painted beauties. A mishmosh. Martha Stewart would have hated it, we loved it, perfection is overrated. Rumor is staff at Martha used to get an extra tree or two…and then with a saw, glue, and twine…make the “perfect” tree by adding branches. Insert eye roll here, I think they completely missed the point of A Charlie Brown Christmas.

We have taken the idea of a mishmosh tree a bit further in our love of quirky…as represented in this cluster of goodness…a COVID-19 (virus? cell? what are they called?), a pussy hat egg, hand-painted fun done with Girl Scouts, a felted robot (purchased), a felted flamingo (made), an action figure with a missing head turned into a gift to dad (perfection), a duck missing one flipper from Grandma and Grandpa, a wooden Dorothy purchased at a sample sale in the toy district for my first tree, and a favorite from my sister-in-law many moons ago…Judy Garland, get it, garland on the tree. Immediately memories of 15 girls giggling doing crafts on my porch, tree-trimming parties, relatives, and neighbors with more creativity than should be allowed in one body come to mind. My brain explodes with joy and longing…the switch is flipped.

I am spinning in the right direction again. My little guy and I danced to the Elf soundtrack this morning…the dog sported her Rudolph sweater making kids smile on their walk to school…I took deep breaths, the smell of snow in the air, smiling the whole way home.

I think this is less of a swoon and more of a public service announcement…and a reminder to myself. The gloriously beautiful family pictures, the perfect trees, the menorahs with smiling kids lighting candles…they are blips…when the spin stops long enough to get the shot…the crazy is not recorded. The spin into darkness so many feel this time of year (hello, winter solstice, the reason for all these bells and whistles) is real, and I think most of us feel it.

Here is a bit of love to those in a dark spin and a reminder to those in a swirly spin to enjoy every moment…you never know how long it will last.

Wishing you peace where ever you are.

Elf on the Shelf…no more

Today I am finding amazing amounts of joy knowing that Elf on the Shelf is no longer a part of my life. I might have a month of thankful Swoons to write…but I will not be hiding an elf around our home. Gone are the days of channeling every bit of creativity in my body to do something fun and original, feeling a bit guilty that I just never really cared enough to work hard at this new custom. We always fell short to the pinterest-insta-fb moms who must have spent a LOT of time coming up with new adorable things to do night after night.

Hanging from the shades like a rock climber, stirring a pot of hot chocolate, sorting the laundry in the basement…not us…we were low key elf stylists, our elves did not drive the car or shave…no accoutrements, they were just hidden around the house.

We failed at Elf on the Shelf and you know what?

Our kids survived.

I am ridiculously thankful that I have no elf hiding in my near future…I wish peace to those that still do.

SLOJ

Sammy, Lionel, Olivia, and Jacob… better known as SLOJ…grabbing the ABBA model of using first initials to create a band name.

I would have forgotten all about the Thanksgiving band SLOJ if it were not for a memory popping up on my husband’s fb account. Unfortunately, unlike ABBA, SLOJ lasted about 2 hours. They broke up due to school commitments…and having the collective attention span of…about 2 hours.

I love these moments. End of a celebration, vacation, reunion…the lovely period when most people have left, and you can just savor those still around. This bit of genius between cousins went like this, as noted in the fb post:

Jacob (orange shirt): We’ll be the biggest band of all time! Bigger than Oasis, who said they were bigger than the Beatles!
Lionel: (red pants) And the Beatles said they were bigger than Jesus!
Sam (hat): So we have to start small, and get bigger than Jesus.

Out of the mouths of babes…babes who have since turned into men…who are able to look back and appreciate the brilliance of an innocent moment. I am thankful for memories from others, things I would have forgotten if they had not found them special enough to save.

SLOJ…Olivia on drums, Sam on base, Jacob lead vocals, Lionel on guitar.

Too tired…

I am too tired to Swoon, which is ridiculous because I have lived 3 days of swoon-worthy experiences. I am thankful this month is almost over and I will once again swoon when I am feeling it…instead of it feeling like a chore. I am thankful for Swoons, I am thankful for you. I am thankful.