Kindness

I had to see one of my doctors today and I told him that I wanted to thank him because I referred a friend to him and she told me that he was the first doctor to actually listen to her and what a difference it made to her. And when I said that he put his hand on his heart and listened to the story and when I was done he said, “Oh my God, thank you. You know, sometimes things are hard, in any job, and you think, “Why am I doing this?” But hearing that and knowing I made a difference to someone, that gives me what I need to keep going.” And then he hugged me.

And this is a DOCTOR people. Whom we assume has the best job, right? I’m just sharing this to remind you that you can 100% make all the difference for someone, anyone, even a stranger, and you have that opportunity every single day.

I stumbled upon a Twitter feed as well today, where writer Nicole Cliffe asked the question, “What is the kindest thing a stranger has done or said to you?” The responses had me sobbing in minutes. I added 3 stories myself, but feel free to read the responses here:

Stories like this restore our faith in humanity, am I right? Whenever the horror in the “news” gets to me, I remind myself of one simple, clear and unavoidable truth. People, for the most part, are good. When I feel like the world is a big bad place, I remind myself that for every unspeakably awful thing we hear about, for every person we feel has done horrifying things, there are 100 people – hell, maybe 1,000 – who are not that way. Who will help. Who will show kindness, or compassion, or a smile.

sunset hands love woman
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

The Kindness Factory helps me to remember this as well. If you’ve never heard of it, The Kindness Factory is looking to log a million acts of kindness. You can go there to log your acts, or log acts that have happened to you, or – if you’re like me – go there to read the acts that others have logged, in case you need some help smiling today. Check it out here.

http://kindnessfactory.com/

Remember these things when you are losing hope in the world. Remember that it literally takes one single act of kindness to change someone’s day, someone’s week, someone’s life. And the most incredible thing about that is that every single one of us already has the power to make that change happen, every day, multiple times a day, just by being kind. How incredible is that?

For the Love of Copper

For awhile now, I have been obsessed with copper. Anything copper, or rose gold, immediately gets my attention. When we first saw our house, I immediately fell in love with the home. There were many reasons to love it. But one of the major reasons was the ceiling in the kitchen. The woman who lived here before us, rest her soul, put that ceiling in and we are told that she adored it. It was the one thing we didn’t change when we renovated the kitchen. At the time I thought it was awesome, but I didn’t have my copper obsession back then. Imagine how exciting it is for me now that I do! We named it after her, and whenever people see it for the first time and marvel at it, we say, “Yes, that’s Holly’s ceiling.”

As it turns out, I’ve fallen for a very expensive metal. This is not a surprise – for reference, please see my earlier blog!

https://berkanalynx.com/2017/09/02/champagne-taste-and-a-beer-budget/

All of the things I fall for tend to be the most expensive. I tease my husband that he must have the same problem, because he fell for me – HAHA! But seriously, I have to find ways to get this stuff for far less than its typical retail value. For example, I recently became obsessed with these mugs. Everywhere I find them they are at LEAST $10 each – typically more. And I can’t stand having one or two of something. What if we are having a get-together? I typically want everything in a set of 12. But for things like this, I’ll settle for a set of 8. Recently, I’ve cut that back to 6. So we’re talking $60 for 6 cups. Not going to happen. But my patience paid off, and over the weekend I found them in a Tuesday Morning for $4.99 each. I had to pick through because several had defects – but I manage to scrape together 6 perfect mugs, and got them for $30! I have to seriously restrain myself from going back for 2 more so that I have my 8 – my self-control is at an all-time high!

To curb my spending I set budgets and limits. When I see something I love, I’ll think to myself – what am I willing to pay for that? If I then look and the price is higher, I don’t buy it. When it comes to great sales on beauty and home products, I set a budget prior to the sale. Then I do not buy items that I don’t actually need. This is oftentimes hard to do because sometimes the deals are AMAZING. But I make my rules, and I stick to them.

When it comes to copper, I’ve made another rule to curb my spending. That rule is: Kitchen Only. I do not allow myself to buy copper items for any other room in my house. This way, I breeze right past a LOT of beautiful copper things, because they wouldn’t belong in my kitchen.

As I’ve said before, I find incredible deals on high-quality items at TJ Maxx, Home Goods, Marshalls, Tuesday Morning, Burlington Coat Factory, and Amazon. And for beauty, skin and home items that are super good deals, I try to stick to the sales in FabFitFun. Here’s a link to my blog if you want to know more about that:

https://berkanalynx.com/2018/08/10/why-i-love-fabfitfun-so-damn-much/

My rules for spending sometimes mean that I pass up things that I genuinely love and desperately want – but they are not things that I need. I’m not perfect, and I bend my rules from time to time. But I really, really try not to. And sometimes those things that I refuse to purchase because of their high sticker price manage to find their way to me through a very generous, handsome, loving man who happens to pay attention to the things that I love. My husband.

The Grove Collaborative

For years now I’ve seen these brands on store shelves and didn’t get why someone would pay for cleaning supplies what they were marked. I was using my usual cleaning supplies. The stuff I’d just always used, either because it was what I had become accustomed to, or because it was the most affordable at the time.

Then I saw an article on The Grove Collaborative and, wanting to know more, I checked out the website. I was honestly moved. Their dedication to the environment is something that inspired me. And the prices on their site were far cheaper than what I was seeing in the store. I had an offer for a free set of supplies, so I decided to give it a try and placed my first order. (If you want to see it before reading the rest of this, here is my referral link. If you use it you will get the 5 free items that I also received when I placed my first order, and I will receive a discount. Please note, however, that all opinions are my own, and I have paid for all of the items I have ordered from them at full price, with no sponsorship from TGC. This review, like all of my reviews, is 100% my honest opinion.)

Get your 5-piece set for FREE here:

https://www.grove.co/referrer/31644675/

Some of these items have become my new ride-or-dies, and some of them I will pass on. I’ll tell you why below. But to start, here is a picture of my first order, including the items I received for free:

gc2

Whomever had packaged my order hand-wrote a little message on the order slip inside the box. It said, “Megan, you’re beautiful. Never let anyone tell you differently.” I was surprised that they were allowed to do things like that. It was lovely. Not all of my shipments have contained a little note like that. My last one did, it said, “Thank You” – you can see it in my video at the end of this blog.

Anyway, I went on to try the items and, as I stated, love some, didn’t love others. Before I break it down, let me explain TGC to you. They are a company very focused on lowering their carbon footprint, and helping us to lower ours as well. Here’s the exact wording on their website:

“Doing no harm

As a Certified B Corporation, we are recognized as a business doing good for people, animals, communities, and the planet.

Treating the planet with care

We offer products that are gentler on the earth, prioritize post-consumer materials for packaging, and carbon offset every shipment that goes out our door.

Planting tomorrow’s forest

A portion of every Grove shipment goes to the Arbor Day Foundation to plant trees across the United States. We’re aiming to plant one million new trees over the next three years.” – The Grove Collaborative Website

So how does it work? Technically, you become a member of TGC. That worried me at first, but it’s actually really flexible. To be a VIP it costs $20 per year. That’s it. You can order what you want, when you want. Right now I have mine set up to send me things every 2 months. They put suggestions in my cart and I just go in and take out what I don’t want and add in what I do. You get free shipping on your orders with your membership as well. They also send you free stuff with your orders. In my last order they sent me a full-sized GC hand lotion. In the one before that, they sent me a great lip balm. In addition, if you order a certain amount in your order, they will send a free gift (which you can opt out of if you don’t want it – but why? IT’S FREE! LOL)

All of that is fun and great but it’s not why I switched. Ultimately, I switched because I have 3 children aged 5, 3 and 1 – and I am scared to have toxic, caustic chemicals in the house. I like this site because they make these healthier products more affordable, and I don’t have to be scared if my kids grab the window cleaner when I turn around to answer the phone. It’s plant-based and non-toxic – and a relief. Obviously you don’t want to spray it in your eyes or drink it, but it is so much safer than the stuff I’ve been using up until now. So here’s a breakdown of my first order and what I thought of each product. You can also watch my video at the end to see the order I received the other day. And again, if you want to try it and get the 5-piece set for free, here’s my referral link:

https://www.grove.co/referrer/31644675/

20181016_161634

The GC Cleaning Caddy. This came free and it’s adorable. It’s metal and can be used to store and/or carry your cleaning supplies. But it can also be used as a decoration. Which is probably what I’ll end up doing with it because it’s freaking adorable.

The first item here is the Meyer’s multi-surface cleaner. It comes in a ridiculous number of scents. It’s literally like 10 or more. So far I’ve purchased the Pumpkin (smells more like those candles that are supposed to smell like baking sweets – not bad, but not my jam), Basil (my favorite so far) and Iowa Pine, which I just got and haven’t smelled yet. I love this for spraying and wiping down my counters, kitchen table and chairs. I’m obsessed.

TGC Floursack Towels – These are awesome. Watch my video to see the size.

Method Glass and Surface – I have only used on glass. I bought the Mint scent and OMG I LOVE IT. It literally leaves ZERO streaks. Until now I used Windex and it was decent but I often still had some streaking or foggy areas. The Method leaves my glass so clear and is my new go-to!

Meyer’s Dish Soap – This one I won’t be reordering. I like it well enough, but it’s more expensive than Dawn, which is my old go-to, and it uses essential oils for scent. That’s nice if you like the smell, but I don’t. So this one’s a pass for me.

Method Daily Shower Spray – LOVE this. I have the Eucalyptus Mint scent but it smells like pine to me. Which I love, so that’s the scent I keep ordering lol Just a quick spray down. It says no need to rinse, but I give my shower a quick rinse anyway.

16 oz. Spray Bottle – it’s glass and it’s pretty. I haven’t actually used it yet.

Cleaning Gloves – I love these so much I’ve ordered a second pair. They are perfect for doing dishes. They are soft on the inside and don’t leave my hands smelling bad after I use them.

Meyer’s Hand Soap – (Not Shown) I don’t love this soap. It’s OK, but if I’m going to pay that much for hand soap, I’m going to TJ Maxx and getting some Pecksniff’s hand soap (my fave!)

Walnut Scrubber Sponges (set of 2) – These are good sponges, they do the job and the best part about them is they are pretty, so I don’t mind leaving them out. However, the price is just too high for me. I’ll stick with my Scotch Brites for now.

GC Hand Sanitizer Spray – LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this!! I have it in the Blood Orange, which is one of my favorite flavors, as well as smells. I’ve reordered this little guy as well.

GC Towels – Okay. These are basically my favorite thing in the kitchen. I literally have 5 of them and just put 3 more in my cart today. They are the BEST freaking towels. They are thick and absorbent and I am going to replace all of my kitchen towels with them eventually. Seriously.

Method Squirt and Mop Hard Floor Cleaner – I’ve used this on our hardwood laminate flooring with great success (ours is Pergo Outlast +) without issue. It smells amazing – I have it in the Lemon Ginger (there are 2 other scents) and I also have the Wood Floor cleaner in Almond. Not sure what the difference is between the two. Both smell good. These are the perfect little thing if you want to spot mop. However, if I’m getting down and scrubbing all of my floors (uh, not that I do that often) I wouldn’t use this. I’d dilute something else in a bucket of water. But for a small room like a bathroom or spot mopping, this is perfect.

The Grove Collaborative gives you a free trial VIP membership and they were super clear about it ending for me. I decided to re-up and pay the $20 because I did end up liking it so much. Along with cleaning supplies, they have allllll sorts of other things for pets, home, babies, personal care, etc. So feel free to check it out and, should you decide to order, use this link and get a present for yourself – and for me!

https://www.grove.co/referrer/31644675/

 

The Gifts We Give

The holiday season is a time that brings more emotion to the surface than any other time of year. Sometimes we are reminded of those we have lost. That loss weighs more heavily on us when the holidays are approaching. But it also helps us to be thankful and grateful for what we still have. And while those painful feelings might be magnified during this time of year, it’s important to remember that we have the capability to affect change, and to allow our pain and loss to shape a more promising future for others.

Years ago, when I was pregnant with Max, I worked in an office and I had decorated my desk and office for Christmas and was listening to Christmas music while I worked. A coworker, an older gentleman, stopped in and asked my why I loved Christmas so much. He wondered if it was because I like getting presents. I laughed. Of course, who doesn’t love getting presents?! But actually, no. I do love giving presents. I love the look on peoples’ faces when you give them something they love. I love the lights at Christmas, and the decorations. I love the sentiment of Christmas’ past and I love the music. I love that we gather with the people we love.

But the thing I love about Christmas is actually even more than that. The holidays are a time for reflection, and I truly believe that a miracle happens. This beautiful, incredible thing happens. We open ourselves up to possibility, and to hope, and to generosity. We become the thing that we really want to see in the world. We are more generous, we are more thoughtful, and we are giving of ourselves to others. Even people who aren’t Christians and aren’t celebrating the birth of Christ, participate in that miracle.

Helping others gives us a feeling that is hard to describe. It’s a feeling that I would say is the closest we feel to being a part of something bigger, and better than the things we know. It’s a universal connection, and when we open ourselves up in that way, when we sacrifice or help or heal, we become a part of that connection. And we feel it.

I recently read a great article online about something I could do at my children’s birthday parties. I always tell people that gifts aren’t necessary, but everyone still brings one. Our home is full of toys. And so, I took the idea from this article and applied it to my son’s birthday party and decided that this is what we would do from now on.

Guests were welcome to bring a gift if they wanted to, but they could choose the alternative of bringing money in an amount that was divisible by 3. Then we took the money and divided it among 3 jars. The first went into my son’s piggy bank, which teaches him to save money. The second jar was money he could have and use to buy whatever he wanted to. The third jar would go to charity.

We chose the Humane Society as our charity because the children are so young, we wanted them to physically participate in the act of giving. I think that if the act is more palpable, they will understand a bit better about what it is that we are doing. And as they grow up, this will become a practice in their lives. We called the Humane Society and asked what they needed, and then we went to the store. At this time, we are also participating in a Pay-It-Forward at church. So we took the money from our church, matched it, and then added Bennett’s charity jar money. We purchased the items and went to deliver them and visited the dogs and cats!

It was an incredible day, and while my children might not yet understand it, in time I know they will. And the gift of teaching them to save money and to act charitably is a greater gift than any toy they would have received. As they get older, we will introduce them to other charities and they will be able to decide where that money goes all by themselves. And in this way, we can continue to make the world a better place even more than we have been in the past.

Here’s a video of our experience! Thanks for reading, and Happy Holidays my friends!

It’s Time To Slow Down

In 2006 my husband (who was then my boyfriend) got the opportunity to travel to Switzerland for work and he asked me to go with him. It was my first trip to Europe. After we arrived, we took a little nap and woke up around 7 or 8 pm. I was hungry and searched for a vending machine. I found nothing and then went to the front desk. The concierge laughed when I asked about the vending machines. “You Americans.” He said. “We don’t have machines with old food in them.” I asked if there was a convenience store nearby and he laughed again. “No. We aren’t like you. We don’t have everything 24/7. We end our day at 5 o’clock. We do not go, go, go all of the time. What is it you were looking to find in a vending machine?” I told him I was hoping to find some chocolate, and he said, “Well, you are in Switzerland.” And with a smile produced two handfuls of chocolates for me from under the desk. His tone wasn’t one of condensation, but one almost of pity. And now I understand why.

The ten days I spent in Switzerland are still some of the best days of my life. He wasn’t kidding. Everything closed at 5. With the exception of some bars and a few restaurants, the city essentially shut down. And the people stayed home and relaxed with their families. Or they took to the streets. I remember one wonderful evening where we sat on the steps of a museum with many other people who had brought picnics, or were just talking or playing games. It was so relaxing and fun.

One night we found a little restaurant with only about 8 tables. We were expected to dine with the other people there. We were the highlight of their evening. No one spoke English, only German, and so the woman sitting at our table did charades to help us understand what was on the menu. That meal lasted 5 hours. We simply sat and relaxed and ate. The restaurant was in the downstairs of the owner’s home. We were served course after course while we smoked cigarettes and sipped wine and found ways to communicate with the other patrons.

Another thing I noticed is that they took their dogs everywhere. If they owned a shop, the dog was there all day. Dogs were in stores, on public transport and in bars, relaxing under the tables. And the news was so different there as well. While we were there, a man here in the U.S. went into an Amish schoolhouse and shot 8 girls, killing 5, and then shot himself. It was briefly on the news there, and then they were on to reporting other things. I kid you not, the big stories on their news channel were a debate about which is better, black tea or green tea, and a great story on composting, where they interviewed a family about how they compost. I’m serious.

Imagine living in a place like that. Where the news is informative and helpful, and not focused 24/7 on scaring the ever-loving shit out of you. We get moment-to-moment updates on every horror don’t we? Even when the news stations are only speculating or reporting what they think is going on, only to change the story later once they have actual information. They want to be first, and they don’t care if they are right.

We have a failing mental health system. A society in which we are led to believe that we are broken if we aren’t perfect. We live in constant competition. Feeling the need to be as beautiful, as intelligent, as successful as everyone else. We’re in a constant race. And we’re never winning because there’s always more to obtain. We work long hours. We work different shifts. Our children are bringing home tons of homework. They are in several extra-curricular activities at one time. Each day is a struggle to get through. The stress, the pressure, the frustration…never stops. There’s never a break.

I haven’t been shy about sharing the fact that I am on an anti-anxiety medication. What might shock you is to know that I have 6 best friends and 4 of them also take anti-anxiety medication. And a 5th is asking her doctor about getting on something. We have so much stress we don’t know how to manage it, and even if we did, we don’t have time to.

Society needs to change. The acts of horror being committed, the number of suicides, the divorce statistics, the number of children in foster care, the mentally ill without access to help…it’s all a syndrome of a society that has lost some core values: self care, relaxation, enjoyment. The list can go on.

So what do we do? Well, it’s hard to control the outside world. So all we can do is try to control our own.  The first thing I do is set limits. My anxiety recently spiraled out of control and my doctor made me realize that I never take a break from my kids, or for myself. So now, once the kids are in bed, I do whatever I want to. I used to clean, but now I watch TV, do my nails, read, or take a bubble bath. I practice self care. I also ensure that my husband and I go out at least twice a month without our children. That time is just for us to relax and enjoy one another. I also limit my kids’ extra curricular activities. They are allowed only one thing at a time. And if they overlap, it’s a no. I have family members who never attend family functions because their kids have games/practices/recitals all the time. They are so entrenched in that world that they don’t even make exception for family events. To me, that is an issue because it’s another example of moving us away from our roots, our core.

Don’t misunderstand, I see the value in extra curricular activities.  The life lessons our children learn are invaluable. But I believe that those lessons can be learned without being in 6 things at a time. It’s important for our children to have down time as well, and not only on breaks. They are developing and need time to be creative without structure. To be with friends. To relax and figure out what they like and who they are.

The last, and perhaps most important thing that I do, is turn off the news. It’s not helpful. It’s a horror show filled with scare tactics and misinformation. That doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s going on or keep up on current events, but I find ways to keep up that don’t involve mass hysteria. And I think it’s important that we continue to stress these ideals. To slow down and not contribute to the mess. To show that we want a new way, a different world to raise our children in, where we aren’t terrified to let them walk outside and where we aren’t pulled in so many directions that we lose focus on what is truly important: being happy, enjoying life, and making the world a better place for all of us.

swiss
The people of the city on the museum stairs.
swiss1
Exploring!
swiss2
The owner of that little restaurant.
swiss3
The beauty of Basel
swiss4
Le Rhine et moi

 

Let’s Decorate For Halloween!

Yay October! My favorite month of the year is finally here! I LOVE October because it’s officially fall! And it’s also the month of Halloween, which we decorate for immediately. We decorate inside and out. Click the video below to spend some time with us, and look through the pictures to see the finished product!

 

 

 

Loose Leaf Tea!

t3

This blog is in no way sponsored. This is my first visit to the shop and I paid full price for all the items I purchased and wasn’t given anything by them.

We visited the Ohio Tea Company last week and learned so much about tea. There are more kinds of tea than I ever could have imagined! The people who own the company are so incredibly sweet. They allowed my to film inside for my blog and they couldn’t have been more helpful!

The video below will show you inside the shop, as well as Max and me trying different types of tea. I purchased several different flavors while there, and they were all delicious. I had no idea that different types of teas should be brewed at different temperatures and for different periods of time! That was another interesting thing I learned while there! And the cool thing about their packaging is that it tells you right on the front of the tea the ideal time, temperature and measurement for your tea!

While I was there I bought this adorable tea timer!

The prices are great as well. Beginning at 4 oz. you get a 20% discount, so I purchased 4 oz. of several flavors to save money. If you want to try their teas, you can order from the website. If you order only tea (no accouterments) then shipping is free! You can order here: https://www.ohioteaco.com

Ordering through them will support a small, local business, and some genuine, kind and wonderful people!

Here are my tea choices for my first visit, and I love them all!

And here is my vlog of my visit! Again, if you’d like to order, just go to https://www.ohioteaco.com

 

It’s Fall Ya’ll!

It’s still 90 freaking degrees out, but that won’t stop this pumpkin party! It’s September, and for me, that’s go time! I don’t go crazy overboard with my decorations, but I do get excited and I do put them out as soon as September begins. When I originally fell in love with our home, one of the things I wanted was this big front porch. I could envision decorating it each season and spending time on it, talking and laughing with those I love. It’s truly a joy for me!

Some of the things that are in the pictures that I didn’t talk about in the video are the mums you see in the picture – they are fake. I LOVE mums, but for the life of me I cannot remember to water flowers. So I bought fake ones. It works out though, because then I can keep them completely out of the sun and they don’t care! If you want to make a similar project, get a flower pot and then go to the craft store. Buy styrofoam that will fit your pot and insert it (it’s best if it’s a few inches thick – too thin and it won’t be as sturdy). Then choose your flowers and push them into the styrofoam! The only thing I’ve purchased recently is the “Gather” pillow on the rocking chair (rocking chair from Cracker Barrel). I bought that pillow a couple of days ago at JoAnn Fabrics, Etc.

Here’s my video where I discuss my decorations, and below that you will find my pictures! Click on them to enlarge. Happy Fall!!!

 

 

 

 

The Joy of Reading

li1
My favorite collection. From the 1800’s

I’ve always loved reading. I’m not sure why, though they do say that children who are read to have a great chance of becoming avid readers. I don’t remember much about my early childhood. My mother died when I was 5, and they say that tragedy can sometimes block memories. Perhaps that’s why I only have a few memories from that time. I do, however, remember being read to. I also come from a long line of readers. My dad and his mother, my grandma (when she was still alive) are adamant readers. I don’t know if my mom read, but my stepmom is an adamant reader as well.

I remember a dear family friend of ours, her name is Amy Carr, reading Bible stories to me. I remember her helping me try to understand my mother’s death. Helping me to be optimistic that she wasn’t truly gone forever. I remember someone, not sure who, reading the book Are You My Mother?, by P.D. Eastman, to me. And I remember being read several Golden Books and Sesame Street books. And my favorite Golden Book, Where Did The Baby Go? by Colleen T. Hayes.My favorites are still here, in my children’s library.

But most of all, I remember being read to by my cousins, Gretchen and Elizabeth. They would read me my favorite books, Haunted House by Jan Pienkowski and Where The Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. These books were later purchased by me, to read to my children. Once my oldest could read, he read Shel Silverstein books until the pages literally fell out and I had to replace them.

As a young girl I still loved to read. My Aunt Toni would send me care packages, and with them, more books. Some of my favorite books came from her. Behind The Attic Wall by Sylvia Cassidy is probably my favorite book of all time, and it’s one that she sent to me. During that time, I also loved the Sweet Valley Twins book series. I can remember my parents taking me to the bookstore (I know I said my mother died, so not to confuse you, my dad did remarry when I was 10 lol) and letting me choose a book to buy. Sometimes we went to used bookstores, and sometimes we went to new ones. When we went to new ones I could get the next Sweet Valley Twins book. I can remember how excited I was. I’d go home and read the book in one sitting! I can remember my dad telling me to pick a longer book because I’d read them so quickly.

As a teenager, I kept reading. I moved on to teen books. I moved from the Sweet Valley Twins to the Sweet Valley High book series. I also read every book by Christopher Pike that I could get my hands on. And once I was old enough, my stepmom let me start reading her books. My favorites were by V.C. Andrews.

As an adult, I just kept reading. My library continued to grow. I read a lot of Stephen King. I love mystery and horror. I love Toni Morrison. I love Charles Dickens. I love reading. In general.

But over the years, as I focused on my career and then building my family, I stopped reading somewhere along the way. I just stopped having time. I would still occasionally buy a book, thinking I’d get to it eventually. But for years, I never did. Until recently.

My daughter’s first birthday party arrived, and all of our loved ones were there. Including several of my friends whom I don’t see regularly. We were talking and one of us said something about starting a book club, and the others remembered the book club we had started many, many years ago. I don’t think it lasted too long, maybe a few months. But it was a great idea. A book club. A reason to get together with my very best friends once a month. A reason to read again.

I wasn’t sure I’d have the time, but I committed – because I wanted to have the time. I get lost in books. It’s like a vacation for me. I love everything about reading. I really do. And it’s not just the stories that I love, it’s the books. I have zero interest in a Kindle. I want to feel the weight of the book. I want to smell the fresh paper. I want to view the cover of it every time I pick it up.

And so, the first month of our bookclub began, and I read that book in record time. I started making time for myself. Time to read. Time that, I may have used to clean out a closet, I instead sat down and read. Instead of rushing through a shower, I took a bath and spent 15 minutes reading. I started giving my kids playtime in their room for half an hour when the baby goes down for a nap. I sit right outside their room, and I read while they play.

I read the book so quickly that I felt like something was missing. So I got another book. And that’s the one I’m reading now. It’s a paperback, and when I opened it, it was like I’d stepped back in time. The smell of the book took me back to when I was 9 years old, coming home from the bookstore with a new book my parents had bought for me. Sitting down in my room, excited to read the story. The smell was the same. They don’t all smell the same, but this particular one smelled just like that.

And so, I read. I will continue to make this time for myself and to relax and to do something I love. I will continue to make reading a priority. Sometimes we let life get in the way. It’s not that we aren’t choosing ourselves, but we allow the importance of other things – our jobs, our spouses, our children, our duties and obligations – to take extreme precedence over ourselves. To make some time for yourself is not a bad thing. I am still struggling with that. Even now, as a grown woman who can make her own decisions, I feel guilty. Guilty reading when I could be cleaning. Doing laundry. Planning meals. But at the end of the day, I know that not making time for ourselves, not allowing ourselves to relax and enjoy something, is incredibly unhealthy.

So find something that you love to do. And then do it. And don’t feel guilty about it. Don’t feel like choosing yourself occasionally is a bad thing. Making time for yourself is actually the best thing you can do for yourself, the people you love, and the world. Because someone who never does that isn’t healthy. And is too stressed. And can become short-tempered, have difficulty sleeping, and are unhappy. And if we do only get this one life, I think we should make it a good one.

My library, and some of my favorite collections.

 

The Miracle of Friendship

My father has always given me the best advice. I remember once, when I was in high school, and I had begun a relationship with my first boyfriend. I was on the phone with one of my friends and I was breaking plans with her so that I could be with my boyfriend. My dad overheard my conversation and when I hung up, he said something to me that I’ll never forget. He said, “Don’t ever put your boyfriend before your friends. They’ve been your friends for a long time and they’ll always be there. If you keep blowing them off you’ll ruin your friendships. Then you two will break up, and you’ll be alone. You’ll have no one. Your boyfriends will come and go. Your friends are forever.” He was basically the first Chicks Before Dicks mantra. You’re welcome, world. But seriously, that struck me. And I realized that he was right. And over the years, as my relationships, my first marriage, my jobs, my illnesses, have crumbled, come, and eventually gone, the people still standing there, holding me up, are my friends.

I’ve been lucky. I’ve been blessed with several incredible women who have been by my side for most of my life. My friendships with them have lasted 10, 20, 30 years. Some of these friendships ebb and flow like the tide. They come in and out of my life depending on circumstances. Where we live. What’s happening in our lives. Sometimes we go awhile without seeing one another or talking. We are kept abreast, of course, through Facebook. But even before Facebook, (yes, I am of the age where I existed before the internet), we had an unbreakable bond.

It doesn’t seem to matter how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other. When we are together, it’s as if no time has passed. Our bonds are so strong that it’s more akin to family than friendship. We can read one another’s expression, voice, body language. We say the same things at the same time. I even once had a friend go on a type of birth control that stopped her periods. It also stopped MY period. I was miserable, so she went off of that version for me.

These are the people I know I can call – anytime, any hour, and they will be there. It won’t matter how long it’s been, or what they are doing. They will drop it and be there for me. Just as I will drop everything and be there for them. These friendships are gifts. They are miracles. Finding people who love you, who will put up with you, who will forgive you, who won’t judge you – it’s an incredible thing. And the fact that I’ve found so many women like that? It really does make me feel like I have been given a most precious gift.

These are the type of friendships that even outlast my dad’s advice. Because we know that a new relationship can be all consuming. And we allow one another that time. We know that children are all-consuming, and we allow one another that time. Even my friends who have chosen not to have children are still welcoming of mine and call themselves Auntie and love them as their own. They know I can’t go anywhere or do anything right now, and so, they come to me.

This isn’t to say that your partner or spouse isn’t important or isn’t all of these things as well. They are. Or, at least, they should be. It just means that you can have more than one person to count on.

Recognize when these people enter your life. You will know. You will meet them and somehow just “click.” You will feel as though you’ve always known them. You may feel as though you’ve met them before. And your bond might be instant. It might come in time. But when it happens, acknowledge it. Then grab onto it and nurture it and cherish it. Because those are your people. They are the loves of your life. They will be there to laugh and celebrate with you, to pick you up when you fall, to forgive your mistakes, and to hold your hand when you’re afraid. They will be one of the most incredible gifts of your life.