Down the IKEA Rabbit Hole

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Miles run today: 3

Unnecessary items purchased at IKEA: 4

Scary moments we were sure we were lost in IKEA forever: 12

“I’m just telling you right now that I don’t approve of this kind of furniture,” my husband said as we approached IKEA yesterday for the very first time. 

“Got it.”

“Really. I’m not interested in expensive things we feel pressured to buy.”

“OK. I completely understand.”

I didn’t mention that IKEA is known for being low-cost or that I wasn’t looking to purchase any furniture. We had dropped the kids off with my mom a couple of hours earlier and were making the drive back home. We now had wide swaths of free time at our disposal. We could wander around the side of the road for hours. Or peruse convenience store shelves without hurrying back to the car. The free time was problematic. Had there been a time when we did stuff and had free time? I couldn’t remember. Back when we may have had free time, I wore black a lot and went out for coffee to talk about Big Things. But what those things were, I’m not really sure.

Now, heading towards IKEA, I was looking for An Adventure. And come on, people: IKEA has an entire boulevard named after it. A boulevard!

We followed large groups upstairs, a route we were directed to follow without question. There were yellow bags and carts at the start of the route, but my husband walked past them with his nose in the air. “Ha. They think they can make us buy something,” he said. Two seconds later: “Oooh. Yes. We need a vase like this. Seventy-nine cents? What? I thought this place was expensive. Think about all the flowers we could put in a vase like this.”

IKEA is like a grown-up, pre-fab Disney World of home stores. There are bright lights and circuitous pathways and maps and things for sale everywhere. Everywhere.

And they have all these nifty things that I am sure would make my life better. I wasn’t even sure I needed a pasta serving scoopy thingie. But I became convinced. It was so shiny, and just the right length, and I’m positive I had been thinking I needed one for the past 15 years.

We became mesmerized by a giant canvas world map that had lots of countries that didn’t exist when we were learning geography back in high school. Azerbaijan! Turkmenistan! Slovenia! 

We picked up 100 tea lights for our dining room table and carried them all over the massive second floor, though every twist and turn, past every corner that did not contain a bathroom, which was what my husband was seeking… desperately. The route through the upstairs became daunting. With every new vase, every granite countertop, every metal chair, my husband became increasingly concerned.

“Are you sure we haven’t already been here?”

“Well, there’s new stuff,” I said, dubiously. “I mean, we haven’t seen outdoor chairs before. Or desks and filing cabinets.”

“But we haven’t gone upstairs or downstairs. How big is this place? Is there an exit? Can you imagine if I had to drop you off at the front door to run in for one little thing? I’d never see you again! I would have to… skip dinner.”

Skipping dinner is my husband’s worst nightmare.

I was becoming certain that I should throw away everything in our house and start from scratch only with items from IKEA. Our chipped plates? Replace them with white plates from IKEA that come in packages of four for roughly 33 cents each, or something equally ridiculous. I now needed a water pitcher and large packages of Swedish faux Tupperware and even mangy-looking faux Tempur-Pedic pillows. It would be so easy to haul it all out to my car and send all of our current items to Goodwill so Mackelmore and his friends could pop some more tags.

As we emerged into the cafe area after what felt like an entire day of following twisty paths, my husband dashed for the restroom as I pondered a birdie-patterned plastic tray. I knew I could use a birdie plastic tray like nobody’s business.

We wandered some more, through aisles piled high with self-serve furniture, whatever that was. At the checkout, my husband wandered off again, and I discovered Lingonberry Preserves. I had been waiting my entire life for Lingonberry Preserves. Lingonberries have not even been invented where I live, and they are probably the best thing I’ve ever tasted.

So I bought two jars, along with the tea lights and pasta scoopy thingie. My husband raised his eyebrow at me, but I’m sure he’ll soon discover that lingonberries are the thing he has been missing his entire life. 

Our adventure did two things: it made me realize that there was a time when we used to spend time together, just wandering, and that we have probably managed to stay financially solvent because our children have prevented us from visiting IKEA. Thanks, kids. 

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Sitting Under a Single, Exposed Bulb

I love beachy foliage.

Miles run yesterday: 10 (apologies: I started this post yesterday)

Words written in my novel so far: 36,059

Forms I have filled out for school in the past three days: 13

Update: The Powers That Be have taken down the odd, middle-of-the-road stop sign from our wacky intersection and made the whole thing a three-way-stop. In the end, the poor sign was hit or the reason for at least four accidents.

So, I was both tagged and honored with another blogging award recently.

Thank you to Ravena Guron, Wonder Teen Writer, for tagging me with questions, and the lovely Poe over at The Poe Log (love that name!) for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.

Ravena posed these questions to fellow bloggers:

1. What did you want to be when you grew up?

I thought for sure I would be an actress, writer or stay-at-home mom. At least I got two of the three in the end!

2. If you could marry a celebrity, which one would it be?

Hmmmm. Wow… hem haw hem haw… Yeah. Daniel Craig. (The hemming and hawing was fake. I had my answer a while ago.)

But I think I’ll keep my hubby. While my husband does not emerge from the ocean wearing tight swim shorts, he fixes things like minivan power doors, and I doubt Daniel Craig knows a single thing about those.

3. Do you think aliens are real?

I live with one. (“I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien, I’m an Englishman in New York.” Ten points for anyone who remembers that song and has heard it sung in concert.)

4. Which season do you like the best and why?

Summer is the best season. Don’t even try to convince me otherwise. I love water, sunshine and being outside. I love milkshakes and sweet tea and eating dinner on our deck. I love vacations and the beach and the mountains and running in the morning before it gets too hot.

5. What sort of books do you read?

I read all kinds of books, including women’s fiction, literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, biographies, memoirs, YA, and some mysteries.

6. What is your favorite book?

What a loaded question! How could I choose? But one of the first books to impact me like I’d been hit in the gut with wonderfulness was T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. Because I read it at such an impressionable time in my life, I’d have to say it rocked my world.

7. Why did you start blogging?

Writers write. And I wanted my writing to get out there in the world. What a fun way to riff on a wide variety of topics and complete short-term writing goals!

8. If I gave you a million pounds (well, dollars for those of us in the U.S.) right now, what would you spend it on?

Travel, clothes and braces for my kids. First up: a trip to Water Country USA. Maybe I would close the park down and invite 100 of our closest friends. No lines!

9. What is your favorite TV show?

We are very opportunistic; we get hooked on whatever is available at the time. Our faves this summer have been So You Think You Can Dance, Psych, Warehouse 13 and Perception. When the new fall shows start, we’ll be watching something completely different.

10. If you gave birth to twins, would you give them rhyming names?

No. I think I might pick a theme and run with it… like Goodberry’s sundaes: Better Butterscotch and Totally Toffee.

11. If you could, would you go back in time and be 17 again?

Hell, no.

I’ll post some great blog links in my next post to pass along the tag and award. Stay tuned.

Treasure Me, Trouble Me

Interconnection.
I love how nature embraces man-made elements.

Miles run today: 10

Words written in novel so far: 19,697 (woo-hoo! Baby steps!)

Blueberry muffins my son made this morning with blueberries we picked: 12

When my husband’s parents left last weekend to head back home to England, his stepmother said, “Thank you so much for making us feel treasured.”

My thoughts?

A.) This is so charming and quaint.

B.) Most everything sounds better with an English accent. Have you noticed that an English voice-over on a TV commercial can (almost) make you think that cleaning toilets is fun?

C.) She also kisses on both cheeks, which, in the 14 1/2 years that my husband and I have been married, I have never mastered. I am afraid I have secretly become known as The Awkward American Wife Who Can’t Double-Kiss.

D.) I realized that that is exactly what I want people to feel when they leave our house: treasured.

When someone captures a concept so perfectly in words, I often puzzle over it and turn it over in my mind for several days afterwards, like a good book or a movie that has an unforgettable defining moment.

Treasured.

My grandmother introduced me to the idea, way back when I was knee-high to a grasshopper. When we went to visit, she would always, always have baked at least four desserts. One time, we counted ten.

She was that excited about our visit. How can you not feel treasured when you show up at someone’s house, and they’ve baked blackberry pie, pound cake, strawberry shortcake, peach cobbler, key lime pie and banana nut bread? For you? Even as ungrateful little kids, my sister and I would hover over our “sampler” platters and try not to drool.

But these days, I find that friends and family are quick to say, “Please don’t go to any trouble” when they are coming to visit. One friend said we could pick up Chick Fil-A so we didn’t concern ourselves with cooking all day.

Sometimes, it’s nice to feel troubled. Sure, there can be stress involved, like when I left cooked spinach with garlic in the oven for four days while we went to the beach because I forgot it was there, and it created the most unholy smell you’ve ever experienced, ever. Do not try this at home, folks. Our oven is only just now recovering from my cooking felony.

The whole visit and our guests over the years remind me of the 10,000 Maniacs song, “Trouble Me.”

Trouble me

Disturb me

With all your cares and your worries

Trouble me

On the days that you feel spent.

I’m always grateful for the friends and family who have helped me over the rough patches. But it occurs to me that “Treasure Me” is the positive, upbeat side of things.

My thoughts:

A.) Why can’t I think of something charming and quaint to say to let people know how much I care about them?

B.) Why does no one use my accent to make toilet cleaning look appealing?

C.) Why can’t I invent something that’s as cool as the Double Cheek Kiss but doesn’t require the same cosmopolitan flair?

D.) I hope everyone who is invited to our home leaves feeling treasured.

What about you? Are you afraid that you cause stress for your hosts? Are you glad to host others?

Performance Anxiety and Redemption

Should an upcoming race require therapy?

Time on yesteray’s half-marathon: 1:56 (a PR by one minute!)

Years ago I ran a half-marathon: 6

Years I can now subtract from my age: 6 (I am not growing old, just improving like a fine wine)

Hello, darkness, my old friend.

I am not a person who thrives on racing. I love to run, but (don’t tell anyone)… races stress me out.

No one cares whether I do well. If I didn’t finish a race or bombed or peeled off down another street to IHOP for a pit stop, I am not an elite racer; no one would notice. My mom would probably be very excited that I had come to my senses and given up a silly hobby that will inevitably wreck my knees or hips. (Never mind that she has several friends who are lifelong non-exercisers who are having their hips replaced.)

Although I love running, races tend to bring out my dark side, like if I were crashed out in the wilderness somewhere, and cannibalism suddenly seemed like a nifty idea.

Before last year’s marathon, we did all of our miles; we followed the training plan to a “T.” I still arrived at race day with an overwhelming sense of dread. Maybe I wouldn’t finish. Maybe I would be one of those people they carried away on a stretcher. Maybe I would cry and have to walk and get annoyed at my running partner for her boundless energy at mile 23.

Yeah. That happened.

They say that you should do things that scare you. I agree… but you may not like what you find.

Underneath the positive mask you wear for your adoring public, there may be an evil beast that says mean things to you like when you are trying on bathing suits in bad lighting in the springtime. Things like, “You look like a pile of Pillsbury crescent roll dough.” Or when you are about to speak in front of a crowded roomful of people: “There is an accounting seminar on H143 quarterly closing, and the people in this room would rather hear about that than what you are about to say.”

You might think I’m a coward. But this year, I went for a more reasonable goal: the half-marathon. Yes, I’ve run them before. Yes, I know I can finish one. Yes, we were as trained as we could be. We ran 11, 12 and 13-milers for fun… for weeks before our race. We talked and laughed and didn’t get nervous.

When the evening before race day arrived, I was nervous. But only in the way that made me lay out each item, set the alarm clock and maybe keep waking up to make sure I didn’t miss it.

Race morning dawned, and the weather was cool but not cold. Parking was easy. Bathrooms were inside an arena, not port-a-johns sitting in mud. I wasn’t nursing any injury, and my stomach was fine.

I jogged over the start line and loved the way the day felt. I ran–fast for me–and even tried to hold back so I didn’t run out of steam. The memory of bonking in the marathon was still fresh enough to leave a bad taste in my mouth. By mile 11, I was still wondering how much I should hold back. And then I realized: I was almost there.

No cannibalism thoughts (the guy in front of me with change jingling in his fanny pack was a little annoying, though), no growing awareness of my own mortality, no hateful thoughts about the limitations of my aging body.

How refreshing.

Maybe I’m a coward, but I would run 20 more races like yesterday’s before I’d run another horrible, disappointing marathon. I’ve seen the evil beast lurking deep down inside, and I am not fond of her. I’ll take the sunny-side-up version, the one who smiles in the face of slight discomfort. The one who looks like she’s having the time of her life as she crosses the line at mile 13.1.

Me. Having fun.