2 things that are making me Happy; not Sneezy or Grumpy

allergies

Let me tell you about last year: Last year, after a month straight of sneezing, choking, coughing, crying and otherwise having things come out of my face, I finally dragged myself to the doctor.

“I want drugs,” I said.

My doctor looked at me with wide eyes. She knows me as Miss Not-Drugs, even when people are coming out of me. I don’t even love taking Advil when I have a headache.

I had tried Benedryl for my allergies, but here’s something that should surprise no one who knows me — a child’s dose of Benedryl is enough to send me to the couch with a blankie for an accidental 12-hour snooze; the kind that if it happened in college would mean I’d wake to dirty words written on my forehead.

She gladly wrote me out a prescription, and I gladly took a pill a day in order to keep from being disgusting.

Fast forward to this year: I had read in several places about an allergy blend of essential oils that people were using on everything from seasonal allergies to mosquito bites.

I blended myself up a mix using grapeseed oil as a carrier oil and a few drops each of lemon, peppermint and lavender essential oils. I also started diffusing the oils in water every morning upon waking.

And guess what — no allergies. (Maybe an occasional sneeze, quickly abated by applying drops of the oil blend to my forehead and under my nose.)

In fact, using essential oils worked so well, I decided to try a headache/tension blend. Again using grapeseed oil, I mixed in lavender, peppermint and rosemary.

I smell a little like Christmas when I use it, but it’s worth it to stop a headache in its tracks.

I am sort of surprised that these two remedies are working so well, but I’ve decided not to question it, because it’s just been so great.

Do you use essential oils in your home? What’s your favorite tip or trick?

Shortcake.

I was born the day after my grandfather. A day and 67 years.

And for a while, these people who loved us tried to cram birthday cake down our birthday throats. There’s a picture somewhere of a cake: “Happy Birthday Pop and Kari.” That’s what they all called us, when they gave us the cake. I suspect we ate it. We were nothing if not polite.

But at some point my grandfather put his giant foot down and said on his birthday, he would prefer strawberry shortcake. He was a Michigan farm boy, and strawberries were his favorite thing, and he was 70, so people gave in.

They still got me a cake. It got incrementally smaller during a period of about 4 years until it vanished completely. Because who really wants grocery store green frosting flowers and artificial raspberry filling when you can have strawberry shortcake?

(Nobody, that’s who.)

My grandpa and I had 24 birthdays together, and he died not long after that last one — he had gotten his shortcake and it was time to go.

But I can’t celebrate my birthday each year without thinking of him and our tradition. My mom often makes me biscuits and mashed strawberries for my birthday, and I take them home and try to get really into it, but usually I just eat a bowful standing over the sink because strawberry shortcake requires some pomp, you know? It’s a celebration food. It’s not buttered noodles. It needs a parade, but the most I can muster on my own is the procession from the bowl to my face.

If you’re wondering where this is going, it’s headed toward a strawberry field yesterday, where we picked berries with friends. My grandpa would have enjoyed the place. He was a farm-stand kind of guy, and when we would visit his native Michigan each summer, he could barely wait until we passed the border to load up on cherries and peaches. He truly believed they were far superior, and so they were.

But in that field, attached to a little market with signs about returns being available only if you are “over 80 and bring your parents,” and a sign that might explain why they don’t open until noon on Sundays, “any earlier, and we’ll see you in church,” we picked four giant baskets of berries, which like all fresh berries raised for flavor instead of transport, started disintegrating the moment we cut their little umbilical cords.

We barely had time to get home before the jam assembly line began, and as I stood there, hulling 9 bar-jillion berries,  I thought of my grandpa again. Man, he would just love this, I was thinking. He would love that I make strawberry jam … he would just be so proudohwaitmaybethat’swhyIdoit?

I mean really — you can buy jam in any grocery or farmer’s market. There truly isn’t any logical reason to stand over a hot stove at the very end of June boiling vats of molten strawberries, is there?

Probably not. And yet …

I get a little nuts — everyone knows there are moments when if you walk into the kitchen (which has temporarily become MY kitchen) I will act as if I am performing an emergency appendectomy on the counter-top. I will spread out my arms like the police chief at the scene of a nothing-to-see-here-folks movie moment and I will say, quite impolitely really, “don’t touch ANYTHING!”

I suspect if I did this more, I would get more Zen about it, but in order to do it more often, I might need a prescription.

And so, I do the best I can and when I hear the little pings of the jars, I start recognizing that my previous behavior may have been a little … extreme, and so I start some biscuits.

The biscuits calm me right back down again because they are simple. Anything is simple compared to the science of canning: getting your MBA, discovering electricity, delivering your own triplets …

(Again, “extreme.”)

But biscuits are pretty handy when you have a strawberry surplus. You can both test out some of your jam on them and make the foundation of a shortcake.

I suggest that last one. I think my grandpa would too. If he were still here, he would take a big China bowl and top the biscuits with sweetened mashed berries, whipped cream, another layer of berries and another layer of whipped cream until the tower threatened to slide right out of the bowl, at which time he would gobble it down. He would declare it the best dessert he’d ever eaten and the best birthday of his life (assuming this occurred anywhere near May 6).

I thought of that image last night as I took my first bite of strawberry shortcake, and I realized how lucky I was to be born so close to him, to have been able to enjoy so many birthdays together, to have so many memories to share with my own little family.

And then … well then I went to get seconds.

That’s not your thing.

planning

This is probably not new information, but you are not your best friend.

You’re not your sister, your husband, your know-it-all cousin or that lady at co-op who told you that kids who don’t read by age 4 are usually dyslexic.

And so, you don’t have to be their things, either.

What I am talking about? I’m talking about how everyone has their “things” — the things they love, the things they hate, the things that control them and define them.

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Let me share a few of mine:

I love books and tea and my big, comfy bed. I love growing tomatoes and playing fetch with my cat and meals I don’t have to cook. I love travel and crushed ice and reading to my kids. I love really old men in blacks socks who buy one pear at the grocery store, salted chocolate, paper letters, small acts of kindness, warm hugs from loved ones and the way my husband’s hand feels in mine after all these years.

I hate cased meats and when the doorbell rings unexpectedly and listening to music that I’m not in the mood for. I hate milk and that poofy thing they do at the eye doctor and confrontation and artificial sweeteners. I HATE the sound of folding paper. And I hate “project toys” that never work the way they said they would and frustrate me and my child.

I don’t trust mayonnaise. I BELIEVE in butter.

I avoid using hand sanitizer, even when my kids have touched a turtle.

And yet, I can’t go to a waterpark with them without doing breathing exercises.

These are my things. They make me me.

But plenty of times, I have tried adopting other people’s things, because they were passionate or loud about those things, and they seemed to make sense.

I tried giving up paper towels like a friend who is incredibly passionate about the environment. I beat myself up when I would buy a roll, but I also had panic attacks when a pet would explode, because which is really worse, one roll of recycled paper towels, or a box of rubber gloves and a new washing machine when I have to burn the old one?

I’ve tried making all our bread products from scratch like another friend, and found us living on Amy’s enchiladas while I waited for dough to rise.

And I have tried being another kind of homeschool mom. I’ve tried doing what the fancy, organized lady on the Internet says. I’ve forced circle times and banned computer time and spent too much money on curriculum that made me, the kids, or both miserable.

I took other people’s things — what they loved or what they hated — and I tried to make them mine. And it didn’t work.

It rarely does. Because they are not me.

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So this year, as you sit down to plan your school year, factor in your things. Think about what makes you happy, what scares you, what makes you want to throw your shoes, what makes you feel soft and safe on the inside.

Think about the power you have to make the year ahead good and positive.

Don’t worry about what other people are doing. Who knows — maybe their thing is being miserable?

But yours doesn’t have to be.

Only you really know your things. But I will say that every person I have ever met has them — the most stable people, the most boring ones, the crazies and the ones who seem to always have it together.

But you don’t have to worry about any of that anymore.

You have your things, and it’s time to start living more of the ones you love.