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My Mother’s Hair

 

daughter and mom smiling at camera

Her wavy silver hair flipped up at the ends as she ran her hand through the top of her hair.

“How’s that?” she asked me before we took another selfie.

“Better,” I replied with a smile.

Her hair had always been an issue for her, and finally she was figuring it out after 77 years. I remember telling her on more than one occasion not to cut it so short, but then I would see her and she had cut it down to the quick. Oh, for crying out loud, I would think. She had amazing hair and she was always chopping it off! Until now, she finally convinced a beautician to just trim the ends.

I can still recall my mother when she was young, and how her jet-black hair fell across her shoulders. There were no barrettes to hold it out of her eyes, just maybe a headband occasionally. Thick as a down-filled coat, her heavy curls pulled down upon her back. I loved the smell of it and her.

When we lived in Spain, in the sixties, she had it made up by a hairdresser who came to our house. I couldn’t imagine how so much hair could stay piled up on top of her head. It was brushed and sectioned, teased and bobby-pinned. There must have been ten pounds of hairspray holding it all in place. But gosh, was she beautiful. At night, she wrapped it in layers of toilet paper, like the wrapping of an ancient queen upon her death. Then she would sleep half-sitting up trying to keep herself from crushing it. In the morning, I was always amazed as she unwound the crushed tissue, and there without a hair out of place was my mother’s beautiful hairdo.

As I grew older, so did she. Her hair took on a special accent of its own that always intrigued my friends. From her temple, a stripe of silver began to grow. I often wondered how she felt about that stripe that mimicked the tail of a skunk. I thought it was the coolest thing ever, but she was only in her twenties when it appeared. She never said anything about it. But ironically, it became her and would represent the dynamic person she would become over the years.

I’m not sure when it happened, which came first, but she dyed and cut her hair all off. It was a shock. I suppose she didn’t want that gray strip spreading since she was only in her thirties. She had always had young looking skin, and to have a head of silver would clearly age her beyond her years. So rightly so, she dyed her hair. But to cut it? Oh heavens! Her beautiful curly hair was butchered, leaving her with a type of pixie that was easier to manage for a mother of five. By then I was a teenager and having my mom cut her hair was just something that happened.

I suppose her short hair fit her. With a thin face, hazel eyes and thin bones, she had more energy than six moms combined. She was the ultimate mother, running here and there for every child and every event. I never saw her worry about her hair, it IMG_7831was as if it was just there like her eyebrows or mouth. But still when she kissed me good night, she smelled like my mom.

Then it happened. I was departing the plane in Hawaii, coming home from college for Christmas, when I saw my mother. With arms stretched out and a smile on her face, she ran to greet me. But I had to stop a second to take her in. She had a whole head of silver hair! How could this be? Wasn’t it only six months since I left? I tried to smile, but I was confused. Her soft loving arms wrapped around me and she whispered how she had missed me. Submitting to her, I could smell the sweet scent of home upon her skin and I knew it didn’t matter what color her hair was. She was my mom.

When I got married, my mother was not even forty-five years old. Unlike her, I wore my hair long, determined never to cut it. So, when years had gone by and my mother aged gracefully with time, she grew into her grandmotherly silver hair. And, oh boy, did she have beautiful silver hair. My children loved it along with strangers who marveled at its brilliance. But still, she wore it shorter than she needed to.

Then one year she decided she needed a change. She let it grow like she had never before. She struggled to tame her curls that now had a life of their own. She plastered barrettes above her ears to hold down the heavy strands that threatened to    

lady with long silver curly hairblind her while she cooked or read. And when she arrived at her granddaughter’s wedding, her long beautiful locks were the talk of the town. How lovely her hair looked against her matching top of silver and blue.

But it wasn’t long before she was letting some crazy beautician chop it all off! I wasn’t happy. It was so gorgeous and free.

To me, her long hair was everything she was as a woman. She was wild and funny, soft and edgy, creative and opinionated, everything I loved about her. Oh, it didn’t say how smart she was or how loyal, but it did say she was a lioness amongst her pride.

And then I realized, after the initial shock, that again, her hair did not make her. She would remain the vivacious woman everyone has known her to be. She is going to continue to be the out-going, full of life person her children and grandchildren know her to be no matter how short she cuts her hair. She’s still going to love her husband. She’s still going to love her children. She’s still going to bebop around town, piddle in her kitchen and babysit grand-dogs. And she is still going to smell like my mom… even when she is putting the peace sign above my head in a perfectly great selfie shot. Because she is and always will be the best mom a girl could ever have…. Hair or no hair.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom…. I love you!

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The Chocolate Chip Monster

FullSizeRender-2When I was little I lived in a house with four boys. Life was always an adventure…even when it was quiet. And on days like today, when the house creaks in its stillness, I can’t help but think of one of my brothers who’d undoubtedly snicker at me if he saw what I was doing.

He was the second oldest child and probably the sneakiest. I’m sure he would disagree with me, but the truth be told, he was so charming that he could get away with murder and no one would ever know or care. So it should be no surprise when I say that he was notorious for raiding the kitchen when no one was around. Oh, he wasn’t one of those kids that were obsessed with food… he just had a craving for a particular item that would vanish in the night. He was clever. No one ever saw him taking the item out of the cabinet, nor eating it for that matter. But sure enough, whenever my mother reached for this sweet delectable, it was GONE. You could only imagine the horror on my mother’s face when a bake sale was looming and her chocolate chips were missing!!

Talk about an inquisition! Every child would be summoned to the living room where my father threatened groundings if whomever took the chips didn’t step forward. My oldest brother stood with his arms crossed glowering at each of us, as if to say, fess up or I’ll take you out. My youngest brother always piped up saying he wished he had taken them. And of course, I was the princess and we all know that princesses never take anything without asking. So that left child number one and two to battle it out as to who took the coveted chocolate chips.

FullSizeRender-1 Oh, I know what you are thinking right now… You’re probably wondering why chocolate chips were such a big deal. First, have you  seen the price of chocolate chips? Crazy, I know. You’d think they were produced in the Swiss Alps or something. Have you ever lived  in a house where dessert was a rare and unique thing? It was in my house. Can you imagine how many bake sales and classroom  parties my mother had to do with five children? Chocolate Chips were a BIG thing.

So back to my two brothers, sixteen months apart, standing in front of us denying any association to the chocolate delight.

“Just tell the truth,” my dad would plead. But both would stand their ground.

To this day I’m not sure what it really mattered. The chips were gone. It’s not like they were going to upchuck the little morsels and my mom could get back to her baking. The inquisition would usually end with my dad grounding all of us until someone came forward to tell the truth. Which, quite frankly, never worked. The reality of it was… we would drive our mother crazy grounded to the house, and she would finally kick us all outside and lock the door! (I don’t blame her.)

Then one day my brother got caught red handed. I’m not sure how it happened, but it did. He obviously was not on his game. He had to be seventeen years old and he stood in the kitchen with the bag dangling from his fingers. You’d think after years of taking them on the sly that he would have a better response then, “I felt like something sweet.” But no, he just stood there with his charming smile throwing my mom off her game. She laughed, he laughed and the gig was up.2015-01-26_1723

Fast forward to today…. You know, the quiet house and me? I had finished my workout and did my chores when a craving for something sweet took over me. What did I want? What could be left in my house of low carbs, vegetables and fruit? Ahh… You guessed it. CHOCOLATE CHIPS! Sweet little morsels of chocolate just calling my name. Why were they still here? Don’t laugh… but I’ve always bought more than I needed incase someone should become a Chocolate Chip Monster like my brother. So I paused inside the pantry as I argued with myself whether to raid the bag or not. And then a sly smile crossed my face as I thought of my brother and I said out loud, “I just feel like something sweet!”

Oh My Gosh… like brother, like sister… a Chocolate Chip Monster rises again!

If Jesus had Army Men

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“Bang.” I heard his little voice say from the other room. “Step away from the manger.” My daughter asked a question and I was briefly distracted.

“ Move to the top of the hill and secure the area.” His five-year-old voice demanded again.

Turning to my husband I asked, “What is he doing in there?”

“He’s playing with his Army set.”

“Ahhh,” I said nodding my head with understanding.

My son continued to play well into the evening, entertaining himself with his little green Army men, and whatever he could find in the dining room, until he was ushered off to bed. It wasn’t until I was ready to go to be myself, and turning out the dinning room lights that I saw it.

“Honey,” I called out to my husband. “Can you come here for a minute?” As he entered the room a small smile crept upon his face as I held back a giggle.

“Have you ever seen anything like this?”

“No,” he chuckled, lowering his face to see more closely at our son’s strategic battlefield of Army men.

Before us sat the family Italian Nativity set that we placed in the house every year at Christmas. The kids had come to love the story of Baby Jesus, and couldn’t wait every day to move the nativity pieces closer to the manger. It was tradition to hide Jesus until he was born and on his birthday place him before Mary and Joseph. We talked about it every day.

But today ARMY MEN surrounded the nativity! They were atop the manger, lying before the shepherds and Kings, and hiding behind nearby candles.

The following morning I asked my son why he decided to place his Army men around the nativity… boy was I surprised.

“Mom, everyone knows that Baby Jesus is going to need protection. If he’d had an Army along time ago things would be different today.”

I stared at him for a minute and gave him a smile. Five years old and so smart…

“Well,” I said. “He had a different kind of Army… and they’re still around.”

His eyes grew wide. “Really?”

“Uh huh. They’re all the people who believe in Him.”

“Oh,” he said confused.

“Someday when you’re older you will understand,” I said, as I hugged his shoulder and we headed out to kindergarten.

But as I drove to school that day, I couldn’t help but think about all the countries that have gone to war over religion. I wondered what would have happened if Jesus had had Army men…

Author’s note: Each year when we put the nativity set out, I think of this particular Christmas and wonder, will the world ever stop fighting over religion?

Finding The Real Santa Claus….

It’s that time of year when everywhere you look there’s a Santa in a store, mall or town. Each looks a little different, but most have a red suit and white beard and seem happy to see children. But which one is the REAL Santa Claus? Oh, we know he’s out there. We’ve seen the movie Santa Claus and we know how it works. Santa’s not afraid to ask for help…after all, he is a man…a magical man, yes…but none the less…a mere mortal. So out of all these “helpers”, which is the real Santa Claus my children asked me one year.

They were both at the age where their friends were beginning to question the reality of St. Nick. I thought long and hard before I gave them an answer. I’ll be honest…it wasn’t the greatest answer but it seemed to satsify them for the moment. What did I say? I said in my most authoritative and knowledgable manner, “That the real Santa Claus will know things about you that only you will know. He will remember your last year’s gift and can tell straight off if you have been bad or good. He won’t even have to ask you like his helpers do. And yes, he will have a real beard and rosy cheeks and a tummy that will jiggle like a bowl full of jelly. But he might not wear a red suit because Santa is a person and he likes to change things up abit. I thought I did a pretty good job telling them about the real Santa…especially since I myself had not had the pleasure of meeting him all these years.

“Have you ever met him mommy?” my daughter asked all excited?

“Oh no, not me. I’ve tried to find him…but I think I only met his helpers.” My daughter smiled and seemed to have sympathy for me. Of course I laughed, but deep down inside I felt a little sad that I hadn’t met him in all my forty plus years.

The following year we planned a trip to Oklahoma to visit my parents for Christmas. It was an usual occasion, as we rarely left our home during the holidays. The kids were excited to see their grandparents, and the drive from Key West, Florida to Edmond, Oklahoma was long. When we arrived at my parent’s home we found it quite festive. The house was lit from the yard up to the top of the roof. Every inch of the house was decked out in Christmas decorations.The kids were so excited that it made my husband and I laugh.

It wasn’t long before we were sitting around the table talking about our plans for Christmas Eve and Day when the topic of Santa came up. I’ll never forget it, the look on my children’s face when my mom shared a secret.

She said, “I’m going to take you to see the real Santa Claus!” Oh boy, I thought. I sure hope he wasn’t one of Santa’s helpers because I’m sure my children would tell their grandmother the truth!

“Are you sure he’s real?” my son asked eagerly.

“Oh yes, I’m certain. He comes every year around this time at this one particular mall. Then he leaves and his helpers fill in.” I gave my mother a look of caution, but she ignored me and smiled at the kids.

“Can we go tomorrow?” my daughter asked.

“Of course! We don’t want to miss him!” Grandma said excitedly.

That night as the kids went to bed all they could do was to talk about Santa…finding the real Santa.

The mall was huge…but the kids didn’t seem to mind that we walked seventeen football fields to find the “real” Santa Claus. We found him in the dead center of the mall in a mock Christmas Village all set up for photos and visits. The line was not long and so we quietly waited until it was our turn. I could see it in their eyes…the excitement and pure joy of meeting St. Nick in person. My son tugged on my sleeve, and so I lowered myself down to hear his whisper.

“He’s wearing different clothes…”

I looked up and took note of my son’s observation. “You’re right!” I replied with a smile on my face.

The children in front of us did not take long talking with Santa. They posed for a picture, told him what they wanted, took their candy cane and off they went. But when my children eagerly approached the jolly man something magical happened. Instead of taking one child at a time, he asked them both to sit upon his lap. Now I will say that what happened next was perhaps hard to believe…I’ve tried to rationalize it all but still…. well… let me tell you what happened…

The children gingerly sat upon the old man’s lap as he gleefully said he was so happy that they had traveled so far to see him. He asked my son how long it had taken.

“Two days,” my son piped up.

“All the way from Key West!” my daughter beamed.

“Well, I’ll be. I thought that was you standing in line…but I thought how could it be when you live so far away. I bet you are here visiting your grandparents!” Santa said smiling.

The kids were stunned. “Did you like the Barbie I brought you last year?” he asked my daughter.

“Uh huh!” she answered.

“I hope you don’t mind that it was one of Barbie’s friends.”

“No… I love her. She was different than all my friends,” my little girl giggled.

“And you,” he said to my son.”How’s the sports coming along?” My third grader’s eye grew huge.

“Great sir. Thanks for the new bat last year.”

I stood off to the side as I watched and listened to Santa talk with my children a good ten minutes. The line grew but he didn’t seem to notice. They talked about how they had always wanted to find him…that who knew that Oklahoma would have the real Santa. They thanked him for always finding them since they moved every two years. If ever there was a time to have a camcorder…it was then. Finally realizing they were taking too much of Santa’s time, they took a picture, gave him a hug and promised to leave out apple juice and cookies for him…since milk was just too heavy to drink in Key West.

OH MY GOSH….the excitement was just too much…too much for all of us. We could hardly get through the little bit of shopping we had to do without talking about finding the real Santa. After several hours we managed to work our way back to our car, passing above Santa on the second floor. That’s when we heard him…

“Samantha and Tanner!” he bellowed.

The children ran to the rail of the second floor and waved down to him.

“Don’t forget to leave me some apple juice and some fresh water for my reindeer next year…they will be hot down in Key West!”

“We will!” They both hollered back with excitement.

His eyes twinkle up at them as he waved so long. WE had found the real Santa Claus… Oh my Gosh!!! Oh My Gosh!

That night as I and my husband said good night to the kids, my son hugged me hard and thanked me for bringing them to Oklahoma.

“Mom,” he said. “He really was everything you said he would be.”

I really didn’t know what to say.

“Mommy,” my little girl’s voice excitedly said. “He knew what Barbie I got and knew about Tanner and sports.”

“He knew we traveled far to find him,” my son added.

“And…He already knew you were both good children!” I said smiling. “Now go to bed. He’s watching and will be here in a few days.” They quickly closed their eyes and pretended to sleep. But they were too excited to sleep and we heard them whispering to each other long after we had left their room.

On Christmas morning the children arose to find that their favorite man in red had come and gone. They had left Santa a note with apple juice and cookies and he left them one back… 

See you next year in Key West or wherever your daddy takes you next…I promise! Santa

Lying next to his note was the picture of the three of them… They had done the impossible… they had found the real Santa Claus and would never forget that very special day.

Short-Term Memory Novel Writing… Really???

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I had been typing for six hours and my hands were just flying off the keyboard. The story was easy, the chair comfortable and the music calming throughout the room… but ahead of me was danger. I just didn’t know it yet. By the time I had pulled myself from my desk chair two hours later, my back ached slightly and I was giddy with excitement. I had just written the first several chapters of my first novel and I couldn’t wait to tell my husband all about it. When he arrived home I bounced down the stairs and without missing a beat launched into how fantastic my first writing day was. He laughed and said it was so nice to see me excited about something that I was so passionate about. It was true. I was passionate about writing and had been ever since I was a child. But now I had all the time in the world to write and I couldn’t wait for the next day to arrive… and it did just like it always does with the sun.

I grabbed my water and made my way to my writing room, which I stole from my grown son after he left for his “big boy job” in the city, and found myself sitting in front of the keyboard. I opened up my iPad, yes, I was using an iPad, and opened my document to find my novel. Oh…don’t worry…it was there. That’s when the horror, the  surprising truth came to me. I had no idea what I had written the day before!! I thought perhaps I was tired and just needed to wake my up brain. So I opened my water bottle, took a drink, stretched my arms above my head and closed my eyes… Nothing! Eight hours of work had “slipped my mind!” What the hell, I thought. How could I not remember what I did yesterday?  Well, the truth of the matter is… I had suffered a “vascular brain accident” earlier in the year and with it my short-term memory was affected. I couldn’t remember things I had done days before or hours before. So why I was shocked to find I couldn’t remember my novel  was rather silly of me. I guess I just thought it would be there when I sat down to type…NOPE…not a thing.

What was a poor girl to do? You guessed it…I began reading. Wow, what an interesting story, I thought. I had never read it before and I was quite entertained. This could only be a good thing right? After all, I would certainly know if it was a stinker because I couldn’t remember it, right? I finally made it to the spot where I had left off and I began typing again. But of course, this time it wasn’t as smooth. I found that I couldn’t remember the names of the secondary characters, couldn’t remember where I left off when I jumped back to the past and back to the present. What the hell, I began to think. What could I do so I could remember??? Then it came to me… a small skill I once taught to my elementary students when they were learning to read chapter books. I pulled out my pad of sticky notes and began to write anything and everything I thought I would have to remember later. I wrote down names, connections to people, what setting a character was left in… you name it I wrote it down on my sticky notes as I typed away at my novel. By the time I had finished the day I had a boat load of sticky notes stuck to my desk.

photo of sticky notes on desk

The next day I felt refreshed, and knew that no matter what, I would have to re-read what I had written the day before. Oh my gosh, this was going to be a great editing/revising feature I never knew existed!!! This short-term memory crap wasn’t so bad after all….well at least not at the moment anyhow. And then I realized that the more I wrote the more problems my memory had…finding words that once bounced out of my mouth were strangled in my brain just screaming to be found. So I wrote an insignificant word in its place and highlighted it for revision later… perhaps the real word would find its way out by then. And I just kept writing and reading and loving the new story I read every day.

Oh, I know what you are thinking. It’s kind of like 50 First Dates with Adam Sandler and………? Shoot…can’t remember her name. Well, yep. You’re right. But that’s okay because out of my disability came a great love story…one that made me cry (and still makes me cry) each time I read it for the first time… But soon it will make its way into my long-term memory and I know that it will be with me forever. It was more than a labor of love, it was an unexpected journey that I know I will love  always… which is fitting since it’s call Forever Love.

 

 

Dancing Petunias With Mom

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The sun was lifting high above our heads as we shoveled dirt in quiet peacefulness. My mother was young and vibrant, with a smile that matched. I never knew that weeding a garden was so important at the ripe age of nine. I watched my mother intently while she demonstrated the proper technique to remove the roots and heads of the pesky critters now taking over our lovely flower bed. My four brothers were given other chores around our small pink house in the hills of Montana, and I was please that it was just the two of us working under the warmth of the sun. My little fingers dug deep into the soft cool soil as my mother straightened her lean fit body next to mine. “When we get done, “she whispered, “I have something special I’d like to show you,” she said in my direction. I smiled back, acknowledging her, while wondering what she could possibly be saving to share with me.

My father had been gone all of winter with the military. And as I looked at my mother, I couldn’t help but be proud of her courage to handle five children in his absence.  Unbelievably, she had taken on a job out at a huge ranch in the country; and when we left for school each morning, she would scramble to make her way out to the ranch and clean and take care of a family with six children. I didn’t understand her strength then, but sitting there in the garden bed it really didn’t matter. What mattered was I was with my mom, my very own special mom that loved her only daughter.

We finished weeding and my mom raced into the house after instructing me to stay put. On her return she carried a tray with lemonade, cookies and toothpicks. How odd, I thought, as I spied the toothpicks. Surely she didn’t expect me to eat the cookies with a toothpick? She set the tray upon the sidewalk and handed me a glass and a cookie, as she gave herself the same. Without a word she downed both quicky as I relished mine, eating it slowly and deliberately.  I watched as my mother without a word snapped off two soft purple and pink petunias from their stem, then clipped two unopened blossoms as well. She then turned towards the tray. “What are you doing mom?” I asked with curiosity.  But my mom only smiled as she picked up a toothpick and began to work her magic. To my astonishment, my mother created a beautiful petunia dancing doll.

“When I was a little girl,”  my mother began, “my mother used to make dolls for us to play with out of flowers. My favorite was the petunia because it had the prettiest flowing gown.” She handed me the purple petunia doll and I spied it carefully. What had been the unopened blossom was now the doll’s soft head attached to the toothpick as a body, flowing below was the overturned flower blossom that acted as the gown.

“It’s beautiful” I said with wonder and joy in my voice. I looked up into my mother’s face and smiled as she began to hum and move her doll about…dancing to the tune of her voice. My little hand joined hers as our dolls danced together at a Garden Party made just for me…me and my mom.

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images courtesy of google images

 

The “Simple” pleasures in life!

He stood in the doorway shaking his head at me. “You really are something” he said. I really didn’t know what he was talking about. We’d been married for thirty-one years and so him deciding I was “really something” wasn’t big news…at least I thought. “Are you happy?”he asked as his blue eyes smiled down at me.

“I am! This is so exciting!” I glanced around the room at our work and couldn’t help but turn to hug my husband. “Thanks!” I said with complete joy in my voice. It didn’t take much to make me happy, but this…this was big! After a life-time of marriage, we finally had our very own beautiful master bedroom! WHAT? Did I say BEDROOM? You heard me right…before me stood a room I had designed in my head, and put together with my own hands…and my husbands. But a bedroom? I know, weird. But being happy over this made me “really something” in the eyes of my husband.      

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You see, when we were first married we lived in Alaska and arrived there young and broke. By the time we scrapped up enough money to buy a dresser, we could only afford a plain pine set by Sears and Roebuck sent by way of barge. You couldn’t really call it a bedroom set made for a king and queen…but we weren’t picky. We took pride in staining it, and the set would be our furniture until our children came along. I’m not sure how it happened, but our daughter ended up with the pine, all painted white and pink… and we ended up with…an antique dresser from my husband’s grandparents (I don’t like antiques…) a bed with no headboard, and two round cheap screw-in legged tables for our bedstands. When we finally moved into our current house ten years ago, we took our son’s armoir and two night stands and bought him a full bedroom set with the thought that he’d take them with him when he left college. You might ask, where were our clothes? They were piled up in our closets. Let’s get real here…it sucked! Half the time I couldn’t even reach my clothes, all five feet of me. And my husband? Just one shelf could barely hold three of his long 6’3 jeans. But we persevered because we thought we would only be in the house two years. You heard me…we thought two years. We are now on our tenth year and I finally said to my husband, “Can we just do it…let’s do something for us. Forget the kids…let’s get something new just for us.” AND WE DID! Holy Cannoli!

Being me, I refused to spend a fortune on the furniture…not that I’m cheap, but we still don’t know if we might be moving in a year. The military is kind of weird in that way… So we found what I was looking for at Ikea, and I set out to build my furniture and design the room. Every day my husband would arrive home and I would update him on my progress. I painted the whole room (think two and half car garage size!) My husband put in crown molding, and then we proceeded to buy accent pieces for our retreat. How it all came together I will never know since I did everything backwards from the way it should have been done. (Not my normal MO.) But now I stood here with my husband thrilled at what we finally had…a true master bedroom like the rest of the world. Am I happy? You know it! Will we move next year…probably…all because I finally got my master bedroom!

I’m sure my husband thinks I’m nuts that a bedroom could make me happy…but I’ve lived the life of a military child and wife and this is something to smile about….really…it is! It’s the simple things in life that bring me joy.