“My mama told me…you’d better shop around.” ~ Captain and Tennille

From the Dallas Morning News

So, when I go to the great heavenly crafting area in the sky, I’m hoping my last conscious act will be buying something at IKEA. Preferably, I’ll be buying yet another organizing system while shoving Swedish meatballs down my gullet. Awwww…what more could I want? Well…that my son and my 15 grandbabies are there with me…but…that may be too much to ask. 🙄

Anyhoot, I had never heard of IKEA (except in a King of Queens episode and I didn’t understand the reference) until Oliver moved to Texas and we went to one in Dallas. Before we left he said: “Ma. This is a really cool store and we will be there most of the day. Be sure to pee before we leave and have an appetite.” I said: “Oliver. We won’t be there most of the day because you are not a ‘browser’. I always have an appetite and the next time you tell me to pee as if I’m an elderly aunt, I’ll ‘forget’ all about your next birthday. Kapeesh?” So I peed, had an appetite and made sure my debit card was handy.

Everywhere you drive in Texas takes forever since it’s so freaking big (I LOVE Texas…I’d live there in a heartbeat! 🤠) but I knew we were getting close when the hairs on the back of my neck started to prickle and the smell of furniture was in the air. We found a parking spot so far away that we could barely see the store on the horizon, but after a nice trek over the macadam, we entered the doors.

My IKEA living room!

My first thought was “What the hell? This sucks balls. It’s a concrete warehouse.” I rolled my eyes at Oliver and he pointed to the escalator. We got off and I swear I heard some angels singing while I took in the sights: furniture, dishes, lights, full decorated rooms, linens, rugs…it was like every single store I had ever dreamed about was rolled into 1. I had found my utopia.

I started, manically I might add 🙄, running around and exclaiming over everything with glee. Oliver reigned me in (which is never an easy thing to do) and said: “Ma. You have to follow the arrows. We walk through the entire thing.” WHAT? OMG! Not only did this store have everything my little heart desired in life, but directions? That was super fine for my OCD tendencies. Could it get any better? 🤔

Yes, it could. We started in living rooms and I took pics of EVERY single one (to Oliver’s obvious embarrassment 😐) exclaiming in my LOUD professor-teaching voice: “I want my house to look just like this!” If I had my way, my dream home would consist of a humongous structure that had as many living rooms, kitchens, and offices as IKEA does. I’ve already started saving.

Plants at IKEA? Yes!

I was amazed by all the colors and design ideas and funky looks but said to Oliver: “But what can you buy?” Dumfounded he said: “Ma. You can buy everything. Just don’t go overboard like you usually do.” Apparently my eyes rolled back in my head and I started having heart palpitations…I was able to squeak out “GET A CART” before I had to lean against a wall and catch my breath. It was a moment of pure elation.

Now, for those of you who may not know, IKEA is a Swedish company and all of their products are priced low but are quite chic. For example, my sofa cost $1300 at a furniture store in town…I could have bought one at IKEA for a couple hundred. And, believe it or not, the quality is really good for the price. They specialize in affordable products that are decorative and sturdy. And yes, that’s all well and good. But I’m going for looks, peeps! And they got ’em.

Our First Trip!

So I began pushing my cart around the maze of rooms and started coming across the bins of items and tags you snap a pic of to pick up later. Within 5 minutes, the cart was full and Oliver was saying: “Ma. You flew here. What the hell?” And I said: “Oliver. I’m your mother. Hush it up. I’ll figure it out.” Which, by the way, I did. Sort of. Oliver had to ‘store’ some of my things for future trips when I only packed a few pairs of undies and 1 extra shirt so my suitcase was empty for more goodies to lug home.

After we shopped for about 4 hours, I was exhausted…both mentally and physically and Oliver told me I just had to eat IKEA’s famous meatballs. Sure! So, we chowed down on a couple plates of meatballs and I told myself I will never eat another type of meatball in all my life. And actually, that ended up being a lie. Not 2 days later I was gorging on Olive Garden’s spaghetti and meatballs, but that doesn’t really count. Different countries…different balls. 😉

Anyhoot, the other day, Oliver, his girlfriend (K) and I went to the IKEA in St. Louis to get some things for their new house. I sternly told myself: “Kristi, this trip is for Oliver and K. Not you. You don’t need to buy anything…you have enough ‘stuff’. Focus on your son and save your money.” So, I ended up only spending around $700. I was quite proud of my restraint. However, Oliver and K bought about the same amount of stuff too…and as stoked as were were about our finds, we started to worry as we pushed out a furniture cart, 2 regular carts, all while carrying 3 huge IKEA bags to the loading zone. We drove my Jeep Renegade and it’s not a huge SUV. In fact, it’s a bit small. But my son is a complete rock star…he was able to get everything packed in with ‘justenoughroom’ for the 3 of us. You couldn’t have added a pack of gum to the Jeep…it was that tight.

Oliver and K trying to figure out how to load the Jeep!

My big find was a cabinet I’ve been wanting that I saw people on Pinterest using for plants. I got it put together and ta-da…I loved it…but a bit too much. The next day, I ‘had’ to drive all the way back down to St. Louis (5 hours round-trip 😳) just to buy another one. That’s all I wanted and all I ‘basically’ got. Well…I did buy some artwork. And storage bins. And towels. And plants. And a couple cute garbage cans. But that was all. I ate my meatballs and headed home.

When ma visited Texas with me, we took her and she had the same reaction…she was gobsmacked. It was so much fun showing her around and seeing her get excited about $.99 potholders. Sissy, ma and I are going down for a girls day this summer, and I have a feeling we’ll buy out most of the store. I can’t wait.

Anyhoot, now you know why I want IKEA as a final resting place. It’s always fun…there’s so much to see…there’s so much to buy…there’s so much to eat…and for a manic gal like me, the space, colors, and ideas satisfy my need for stimulation. Win win. So…if you ever come to IL, look me up and I’ll take you down there. Not for me, mind you…but for you. I won’t buy a thing. Except maybe another cabinet. And a new rug. And maybe a few knick-knacks. I guess we’ll just have to see.

Kristi xoxo

He’s Not Heavy. He’s My Son.

So, my son has been living with me for about a year and half (or if you ask him, it’s been forever) in order to save up money and invest it in the equipment needed for his professional photography business.  Now that he’s on track, he’s going to be moving out this week for his own place, and I’m feeling such mixed emotions about it.

O was always my little buddy and we did so much together when he was a kid.  I had summers off, and we always swam, fished, rode bikes, played basketball, and went to the library, children’s museum, and zoo.

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O always had his buddy Barney with him.

During the school year, I was always room mom, and since I taught at the college level and could pretty much make my own schedule, I always was able to get him off to school in the morning and be there when he got home.  It was a perfect set-up.  As room mom, I was known far and wide (in a small school) as the “Goodie Bag Queen”, a title that had no sash, but a lot of respect to those under 4 foot tall.

When O was in Kindergarten, I subbed one day and O couldn’t contain his enthusiasm.  While the other kids were calling me “Mrs. Palmer”, O would say “MOM” very LOUDLY just so everyone would know he was the teacher’s pet!  Years later, when I volunteered as ‘lunch lady’, the most God awful job one can have for the Jr. High crowd, I came in the first day and my precious son said this:  “Look everyone…it’s the friendly neighborhood volun-turd.”  So, I responded:  “Look everyone…it’s the kid that won’t get any Christmas presents this year.”  ‘Nuff said.

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O in Kindergarten…My little Harry Potter!

During the summer when O was going to be a 5th grader, he had worked his way up by having short sleepovers at a local Christian camp, and was ready to spend 5 days there…overnight!  I was a nervous wreck, but his dad most lovingly said, “Get over it.  We’ve paid the fee.”  Quite comforting.  Anyhoot, we arrived, got him settled in,  and after a sobbing goodbye (on my part), drove away.

The next morning, as I was in the process of painting his room to surprise him when he got home in 5 days, the phone rang and it was O, telling me he threw up and needed to come home.  I threw down the paintbrushes, grabbed a bucket, and was on my way…speeding the entire 20 miles along country roads.  He was quite subdued when I picked him up and held the bucket, but didn’t make a peep.  We got home and I plopped him in my bed since his room was torn up.  About an hour later, he came plodding out and said, “Mom?  I LIED TO YOU!”  I asked him what he lied about, and he said, “I wasn’t sick and didn’t throw up…I just wanted to be home with you!”  I told him I was glad he lied in this case, because that was all I wanted too.

Fast forward to when he turned 18.  (Actually, most of his adolescence is a blur…a defense mechanism that serves me well).  One morning before I left for classes, he told me a buddy of his had an apartment and needed a roommate.  I told him I would think about it and we’d have a nice long chat that evening.  When I got home at 1:00 (a mere 4 hours later), he was packed up, guys were carrying boxes out of my house, and O said he took the offer.  Great chat.

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O in High School before a Prom.

After a variety of jobs, O started working for Verizon and when he was 21, told me he had taken a transfer position in Fort Worth…about 780 miles from home.  I was gobsmacked.  How could I be that far away from him?  What if he got sick?  Hurt?  In an accident?  (I’m a very optimistic person).  But, we got him moved down there and I stayed with him for a couple of weeks to help get his apartment fixed up.  When it was time for me to fly home, O drove me to the airport, but dropped me off at the QUICK drop off where they rush you while yelling the entire time.  He hugged me and said he would call me that night, and I trudged into the airport.  I was at the TSA desk where you show your ID and boarding pass and this adorable Texan gal said, in the greatest southern drawl ever:  “Did y’all have a good time in Texas??”  I started bawling.  Wailing might actually be a better word.  She said, “OH MY!” and proceeded to help me through the line as if I was an invalid on my last leg.

And then he was back 3 years later.

Believe me, it has not been all sunshine and rainbows living in the same house together.  It was hard on him to have to move back to a place where he felt like a kid again, and not the independent self he was used to being, and it was hard on me not to turn him back into my ‘kid’.  Plus, he’s messy…I’m tidy.  He’s quiet…I’m loud.  He’s calm…I’m emotional.  He’s a procrastinator…I’m a doer.  We’ve had a couple of arguments, but really, this time has gone quite well, despite the fact that the one trait we do have in common is stubbornness.

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O and I in Texas…I’m getting ready to leave him for the first time there…hence, my VERY forced smile.

I’m excited for him to be on his own again because I know that’s what he wants.  I’m also  so proud of him for building a business in a couple of years that’s already sustaining itself.  His work is amazing.  Plus, he’s only going to be 2 miles away, and I run by his apartment complex almost daily.  He’s still going to be around a lot since my garage is storing his vintage car and Harley, plus, his darkroom will probably stay in my basement.  He knows this is always going to be his home and he’ll never be without a key.

But, I’m going to miss him.  In so many ways, he’s my crutch.  The person I can talk to about everyday things.  The noise in the house.  The shoes on the floor.  He’s the one that can see my moods and ask me how I’m doing.  He’s the one I get a hug from  The one who made me not wake up alone on Christmas.  The one who’d watch a movie with me when his girlfriend worked late.  The one who made me amazing dinners and ‘plated’ them so beautifully.  The one who made me laugh again after J left me.  The one that understood how broken my heart was and encouraged me to do things.

I’m not afraid to be alone in the sense of not being able to take of myself.  Nope.  I’ve been working non-stop since I was 16 and everything I have, I bought myself.  I’ve always done everything around the house anyway, and have lots of interests to keep me ‘busy’.  But I think that’s what bothers me the most…the word busy.  It’s like kids’ worksheets in elementary school.  When I was teaching 5th grade, I once had a parent tell me I should give homework.  When I asked her why, she said, “Because that’s just what teachers do.”  I told her I didn’t believe in busy work for the sake of busy work.  After all, once you learn 2 + 2 = 4, you really don’t need to write it out another 100 times (plus, if you forget, for fuck sakes use your fingers). But, if the student actually needed more help on something with additional work, then that was another thing.  She looked at me like I was nuts.  (Hmmm…)

I don’t want the rest of my life to be ‘busy work’.  I don’t want to just fill up my days so I can go to bed and have another day to face again.  I don’t want to look out my window in the afternoon and say ‘What now?’  Instead, I want someone to go down this new path with me.  To be my confidant.  My partner.  My sounding board.  My comfort.  And I want to do the same for them.  I’m one of these people who need to be needed…if that makes any sense.

Maybe I’m just feeling sorry for myself…but hey, I’m a sensitive, feeling bipolar (had to throw that in there, in case you forgot or something) so what do you expect?  I know I’ll be fine.  I know Eddie and Dottie and I will have good days and not so good days.  I know I’ll continue loving my teaching, spending time with O, ma, and sis, doing my art, reading my books, working in my yard, running and all, but I guess I just want to add someone to the mix to enjoy it all with me.

Kristi xoxo

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Living with Me.

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So, my son lives with now.  He’s 26 years old and is a professional photographer (who, by the way, is freaking amazing!) and needs to put his money into his equipment which means living on his own isn’t possible right now.  Previously, he lived in Texas for 3 years, and even though I went down to see him a few times a year, it wasn’t the same as having him close by.  Having him here right now is special to me…it’s like we’re catching up on lost time.

But.  And there’s always a ‘but’, isn’t there?  We are 2 adults, with very different personalities, who are sharing a house, kitchen, shower, food, etc. and there’s bound to be difficulties.

I know I’m not easy to live with.  Sometimes I hate living with myself!  Having bipolar means I’m very unpredictable.  I don’t care how ‘stable’ one is with this illness, there is still ups and downs, and I’m sure it’s very hard for my son to know what ‘ma’ he’s dealing with day to day.  There are days I’m laughing.  There are days I’m crying.  There are days when I’m so tired or crazed or impulsive that figuring me out is probably next to impossible.  I get that.  I really do.  And I admire him for being able to adapt to what woman I happen to be that day.

Yet sometimes my son isn’t easy to live with either.  He’s a 26 year old young man, who has lived on his own since he was 18.  He’s used to his independence and being able to have his home his particular way.  He’s also starting a business that requires so much marketing, web site work, along with mastering the use lighting, film development, and editing.  In addition to all of this, he’s scared.  Scared of taking this chance and making this work.  So much is riding on making this business a success.

I’m so proud of him for doing this though!  Taking this risk and putting everything he has in it – money, time, energy – is stressful, and I tend to forget that.  I forget that this stress affects him, which can make his mood unpredictable as well.  Like me, he has great days when things seem to be in place, and hard days when he questions his work and wonders if he’s made the right decision.

Together, we can be awesome!  There’s no one I’d rather spend time with and his sense of humor, his ideas, the way we can joke about things is so fun!  On the flip side though, we can also be volatile!  Two different adults, with different ways of communicating, different ways of dealing with conflict, different ways of seeing the world.  When this happens, there are hurtful words exchanged with feelings damaged and tears flowing.

But you know.  That’s OK.  We can’t grow as adults without resolving these issues.  Without using conflict as a way to move forward in our relationship as grown ups.  With our contrasting personalities, and my mental illness, conflict is inevitable.  But it doesn’t have to pull us apart.  Conflict can aid in more understanding of one another, more compassion towards one another’s needs, more depth in our connection.  Something I think we both want.  And need.

All I know is this:  my son is my heart.  Truly.  Having this time with him, watching him build something that’s uniquely his using a talent I could see in him when he was only a few years old, and experiencing his growth as a man is worth any arguments we might encounter along the way.

Kristi xoxo