Rummage Sale Treasures

veThN3II am a chronically late, flighty, completely disorganized, unprofessional but very caring and easy to get along with person.  I love meeting new people.  I enjoy the “glamour” of shopping.  And I love the men and women I have gotten to know over the years at my church, which hosts an annual rummage sale that serves mostly homeless and working poor people.  When someone tapped me on the shoulder at church and asked if I’d consider heading up this year’s “Main Street Marketplace,” it sounded fun to me and not terribly difficult.  I’d figure it out the week before – like everything else – I told myself.  Pulling-Cart celebrate-father-s-day-with-these-20-awesome-tv-dads7 Little did I know the “Main Street Marketplace” would become a lively 3-ring circus that really just required some steady, loving guidance – which really suited me perfectly.  I am so grateful to the many kind and wise people at my church for choosing me to be involved with this ministry – because, like many ministries, I discovered that I was being changed and “ministered to” by the steady roll of “street people” who shopped our sale those busy 4 days.  Here is what I learned:

  • There is DIGNITY in selling used and gently worn items to a very appreciative public.  Much more than a simple exchange of goods for dollars, I discovered that overseeing the transactions occurring at my church’s rummage sale were celebrations of humanity and the roads we must sometimes take to nurture our bodies and care for loved ones.  I don’t know where I ever got the idea that to buy something from a rummage sale should feel “shameful” because, if anything, my experience at Main Street Marketplace was the complete opposite:  resounding JOY and ABUNDANCE were the equalizing themes at our sale.  Everyone who walked through the door was greeted warmly and treated with dignity – you did not need a “VIP” pass to experience our exclusive shopping experience.
  • There is VALUE in everything.  We humans are so very clever and industrious.  There were people digging around our tables looking for specific articles of clothing or kitchen utensils – to be put to use again in the service of their households.  If anything could be considered “repurposed spirituality,” I would argue that the transactions taking place between purchasers and sellers at the church rummage sale are such.  From the hands of Christians unto the households of other Christians, Jews, Protestants, Muslims, agnostics – what have you – our sale put otherwise discarded items to good use for the greater good of other souls.  What higher purpose is there?

Never before have I witnessed such courtesy and exquisite manners as I did those 4 days from the patrons of our community rummage sale.  I expected Walmart nation – rude, careless, thoughtless behavior – and I was astonished to experience the opposite.  One family with 5 children under the age of 10 came to the sale and stayed for more than 2 hours.  The children were clean, quiet, sweet and very attentive to the needs of their youngest sister, the baby in the carseat.  An elderly woman from the neighborhood insisted on carrying her own items – no matter how many trips it took – back to her apartment, and thanked us profusely for holding her treasures for safekeeping until she could manage to return for the remaining items.  Each time she greeted me with hugs and “thank you’s” – enough to last a lifetime.  Finally, there was the homeless man with the cart who requested we roll his winter clothes he purchased in such a way that they would fit snugly into the saddle bags he had attached to the sides of his cart.  After all, he had a 10-mile walk back to Wyandotte County that night, and securing his $11.00 worth of purchases was extremely important.  He smiled graciously with bright and happy eyes – and told me he loved me when I gave him the “grand total” for his purchases!  How can this experience not forever change one’s idea of what is valuable and meaningful in life? My takeaway thought:  If I am not asked to head of the Main Street Marketplace again next year I shall INSIST that I do so!  The time spent in service to our community with fellow church members was invaluable to me.  I think it is one of the MOST IMPORTANT ministries of our church.

Dear Snarky – My Sister-In-Law Screwed Me Over

Snarky in the Suburbs

Dedear_snarky_logo-1ar Snarky,

Recently my sister-in-law volunteered to make, what I would call, a coffee table photo book for my mother-in-law’s birthday. The book was supposed to be photos of ALL the grandkids. I thought it was a great idea so I submitted pictures of my kids and paid for half of the book. Fast-forward to my mother-in-law’s birthday party and when she gets the book it’s all pictures of my sister-in-law’s kids with only ONE photo of my three children. WTH?

Do I ask my sister-in-law for my money back as a way of showing that I’m super ticked off and do I need to tell my mother-in-law the back-story? Because, as of right, now it looks like I didn’t get my mother-in-law a present since the book contains 53 pictures of just my sister-in-laws kids!

Signed, Bummed

 Dear Bummed,

Yes, I would ask your sister-in-law for your money back…

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I’m Riding the Imperfectionism Wave!

me at 31018141059 Momma Bloggers like Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery are giving me the courage to pursue my original dream for Cheeky Street:  by sharing my quirky worldview, give other Moms (and people in general) “permission” to be themselves and enjoy the many facets of imperfection.  Brene Brown and Martha Beck also publish widely about how to free oneself from the shackles of perfectionism.

We all intuitively know this as children but the world beats our colorful souls into humdrum submission….and only a lucky few awaken soon enough to learn how to nurture their individuality back into their personalities and enjoy life!

So here’s my REAL-LIFE CONFESSION (my daughter and a few of her friends know this):  I want to sell muffins under the brand “Yes Ma’am!” and share with the world this joy I experience from my love of bread, baking, and all things breakfast-related in one big glob of LOVE known as the MUFFIN.  I even had a venue picked out in our cute little community:  it become a bank!  Drive-throughs are essential, you see, because when you have a craving for a muffin, you don’t want to mess with parking and going inside an establishment.

So, this morning, in my humble little kitchen, I am enjoying a part of that imperfect side of my baking self and making an Autumnal concoction known as the “Pumpkin Oat Muffin.”  Except I had to substitute apple juice for lemonade in the recipe so it may be too tangy for the uninitiated muffin palate.

So this is what I think I will be doing:  Once a week, right here on Cheeky Street, I will feature a different muffin recipe and photo and share with you my “Testing Panel’s” opinions (be prepared to be selected as an esteemed member of this exclusive group).  This endeavor will, hopefully, bring me closer to my “Yes Ma’am!” ambitions, and you, dear Readers, more thoroughly convinced that IMPERFECTIONISM is fun and worth pursuing!!!!

The Things You Find When You’re Not Looking

my wedding I am a person that LOVES love letters.  I just remembered why:  My Dad was the world’s GREATEST writer of them.  Imagine my surprise, 30 years later, to stumble upon the sweetest, most tender love letter of my life, beautifully hand written and mailed to me (even though we lived under the same roof!), on the evening of our LAST Father-Daughter dance together?1984 father daughter

I have a wonderful friend who asked me about 22 years ago what my “wish list” of characteristics was for my husband.  She laughed for days when I readily spouted off that my future husband MUST be the following:

  • Intelligent
  • Funny
  • Great with words
  • Good dancer
  • Handsome
  • Successful
  • ADORING of me (I think I ended the list by saying, “Oh, and he MUST cherish me!).

Imagine the stabbing pain in my heart as I held this beautiful letter, 30 years later, and realized DAD WAS MY FIRST LOVE!!!!!  Lucky, lucky girl.

How My Sobriety Is Like “Fuck You” Money!

Cheeky in 1988 - when I could chug a beer and feel good the next day!
Cheeky in 1988 – when I could chug a beer and feel good the next day!

September 13 will mark my 4-Month Sobriety Anniversary.  I am pretty excited.  I have done it all on my own – not even a single AA meeting, no sponsor, nothing but GRIT and DETERMINATION.  I have managed to turn around in my head all the old assumptions about why/how drinking made me a better person.  For instance:

1. “I cannot get through another “Back to School Night” without a nip of the old sauce” has changed to “I can go and enjoy noticing the OTHER parents who have had a nip or 2.”

2.  “I am just not fun anymore now that I cannot drink” has changed to “I am giving myself and my family a wonderful sense of stability and security knowing that I am fully present, alert and sober 24/7.”  That is KIND OF fun, right?

I have also learned a thing or two about how other people react when you tell them you are no longer drinking.  Many of them appear supportive – how can they NOT be, right – but there is always a little question at the end of their interactions that says, “Maybe in a few months you’ll be able to be like me again.”

The most amazing support I have received since admitting to myself and my friends and family that I am an alcoholic has come from the most astonishingly surprising places.  People in my midst that I  really did not think I had much of a connection with have continuously expressed positive, affirming, loving praise and kindness.  It helps a lot.  Especially when I feel my head exploding and would love to have a drink and a smoke!


After 4 months without drinking, I definitely feel more like my “old self” and am so happy to be embracing a life of acknowledging and avoiding addiction.  It is much more pure – it liberates me.  And it gives me the security that other people feel when they have “FUCK YOU MONEY” in the bank!  I have MYSELF in the bank.  I have MY ESSENCE.

Guess what else?  I am thinking about the future for the first time in many years.  I don’t feel trapped in a life I did not choose anymore.  No more self-pity.  It went away with the Malbec someplace far, far away!  I am back in college and pursuing a career in the allied health professions – and this goal I will ACTUALLY achieve and celebrate with CAKE and my FAMILY – not a bottle of Malbec in the darkness.  I am stronger, better, happier, and have that “Fuck You” attitude back that is healthy.

If you find yourself battling addiction – don’t hesitate to think about what I am saying and reach out for the support you need to move forward in your future.  It feels good to have SOBRIETY at my side….at all times…..covering me like Linus’ security blanket.Lucy-and-Linus

Why Do We Ignore Hurting Souls?

Like many people, I am deeply saddened by the death of Robin Williams.  In retrospect, his unimaginable act of courage that led to his death says more about our culture of blindness than it does anything else.  We prefer to remember “the funny man” who gave so much to others than the human being suffering from depression and addiction.  We will talk about it for awhile at parties but nothing will change in the end – people who are hiding in places of extreme darkness will continue to end their lives and we will say later what a shame it is.

You see, Robin Williams’ death has struck a personal chord with me.  I, too, suffer from major depressive disorder and addiction.  I will take antidepressants the rest of my life but there is no guarantee I won’t experience lapses into frightening voids where nobody can reach me.  Mental illness does trick our minds into believing ridiculous lies about ourselves and reality.  I watched my own Dad suffer and struggle with depression and addiction my whole life.  He was so brave to have weathered what must have felt like insurmountable pain and conflict to protect his wife and 7 children.  Of course, there were happy times.  Like Robin Williams, my Dad was extremely intelligent and most often the funniest person in the room when he chose to socialize, which was not often.

I dream of this image over and over.....
I dream of this image over and over…..

Like Robin Williams, people sought my reclusive Dad out – they were uplifted by his company when, all the while, he believed himself to be a weak and unworthy person.  It was the trap of depression and addiction.  He did not talk about it, we just knew, as kids, when Dad was not feeling well.  We hugged him and he hugged us back even harder.  But it was only a temporary fix for his pain.  Ultimately, he felt alone.

"I apologize for superfluous!"
“I apologize for superfluous!”

My Dad was the first person to admit he had made a mistake.  Among other traits, this was one of his most endearing.  He was humble and honest and kind even though, most of the time, he just plain wanted out – out of pain, out of suffering, out of this life.  He visited me once when I was single and dating a hot-shot young lawyer and I was embarrassed during a conversation in which my “super lawyer” boyfriend corrected my use of language at the breakfast table in front of my Dad, the DICTIONARY NAZI!!!!  I was shocked when my Dad took “super lawyer’s” side but, as expected, the minute he got back home Dad pulled out his dictionary to see if he had been correct – and discovered he was wrong.  I received a beautiful note of apology from the MAN WITH THE DICTIONARY himself.  And he even took a moment away from his own pain to comment on the pain of a colleague whose daughter was dying from cancer – wishing her well.

Instead of burying his greatness, somehow the struggle with depression and addiction made my Dad even more brilliant and beautiful to me.  He felt broken, for sure, but that is what we all saw and loved and admired about him.  On the morning he passed away, our Mother had a look of absolute serenity and relief on her face.  She said, “I’m glad – your Dad is free and happy for the first time in his life.”  And so is Robin Williams.

I don’t know why some of us are dealt the shitty hand of depression and addiction in this life.  But I do know we are all capable of comforting one another and touching each other’s wounded souls even from the unreachable depths of darkness.  I am proud of my Dad and Robin Williams and everyone else who admits, in this culture of shame, silence and blindness, that things are NOT okay with us most of the time.  Maybe, little by little, the world will come to recognize that people who have been marginalized by the pain of depression and addiction aren’t weak or pitiful at all – but really “special angels” sent to us so we can practice compassion and empathy.  That’s how I choose to view it, anyway.

Why a 60-year-old Big Brother is even Cooler than a Teenaged One

I am 12 years younger than my oldest sibling, my big brother, Jim. He was born in 1954 and I was born in 1966, so we are literally a generation apart. He is one of the last hippies and I am one of the first Gen Xers. When I was 4, he went away to the Seminary for boarding school, so I don’t remember living with him all too well. My childhood was marked by the larger-than-life, highly anticipated homecoming visits of my big brother. He drove a brown 1974 Ford LTD and wore blue jean cutoff shorts. He played guitar and sang songs like “A Horse With No Name” by America. He was cool and everybody liked him. He could blow smoke rings and even wrote a song of the same name. When he was home, my Mom baked custard pie and cherry pie and seemed more content because her “Jimmy Dick” was nearby. He made my sister laugh so hard at the supper table milk would run through her nose and she’d get whacked on the top of the head by my Dad’s wedding ring.

Even though I had 4 beautiful and extremely popular older sisters, I most wanted to be like my big brother because he just emanated “cool,” kind of like Snoopy.

One Easter, Mom had us all lined up in front of the house dressed in our matching outfits so she could make a “home movie” to mark the day. 15-year-old Jim decided to walk like a hunchback so 3-year-old me followed suit dragging my bunny and basket in tow and wearing a bonnet, too. He elevated all the everyday, mundane things to the level of super cosmic. Every evening when he was home, Dad would watch “Batman” and “Get Smart” with him on tv while Mom made supper and the girls set the table. His laughter and quick wit filled the house with energy that lightened the pervasive “girl drama.” My Dad was happy and at his best when Jim was home, too. We all were.

The summer of 1972 my brother had a “far out” garage band. They played “Jumping Jack Flash” and “In A Godda Da Vida.” The kids from town would flock to our house to listen while my parents, glued to the Watergate hearings on tv, sat just inside in their recliners. I pretended to be Tracy Partridge and played tambourine in the background. Even though there was something awfully serious going on in the world that all the grownups seemed to be worried about, I felt safe, happy and most importantly, extra special, because my cool older brother’s band was the hottest thing going in our little town that summer.

So it is no surprise that it was exciting for me to take my 13- and 15-year olds across the country this summer to visit their Cool Uncle Jim, now 60 years old.

To me, having my kids connect with my oldest sibling was like watching 502996_16840263_1972_Ford_LTD200px-tracysingthem unlock a sacred vault into my past and experience the same exhilaration I did as a kid when Jim brought “funny” back to town. They loved him and who wouldn’t??Big Bro Oogling

3 Ways Downsizing Made Our Family Stronger




4 years ago this week, our family experienced a massive downsizing and relocation from 34 acres in the middle of the country to a quaint corner lot in an established urban neighborhood 200 miles away.  For my husband and me, the move was a relief and felt like returning “home.”  But for our children, then 11 and 9 years old, it was the most horrible, frightening thing that could ever happen in their lives!

Other happily downsized families told me de-cluttering the “stuff” from their households and paring down to the bare essentials was a psychologically and spiritually liberating experience.  For me, “purging” just felt like flushing a dream down the toilet.

While life in South Central Kansas was not easy for me, a huge consolation had been the amazing life my husband and I had been able to give our children.  An enchanted, carefree childhood with land to roam on and critters to enjoy – not to mention countless bonfires, campouts and many loving friends we would have never met in a typical suburban neighborhood.  But our dream had to end because my husband’s job ended.  And rather quickly, we were going to have to come up with some pretty convincing reasons for the kids to want to move with us!

The transition took much longer than I expected but it is complete, thank goodness.  Looking back I can pinpoint 3 distinct parenting approaches we took to help our children move through each phase of their journey from country kids to city kids:  Reassurance, Respect and Reinforcement.

Of course, any parent with any nurturing instincts at all will understand that the first thing you have to do is reassure your children that, even though many things will be changing, the fundamental things about your family will always remain the same and they will feel happy and strong.  It was reassuring to our children to know that we were all going through changes together and we would all find comfort in one another.  Our family, like many that face job and location changes in the middle of a school year, decided that my husband should move to Kansas City and start his new job at the beginning of the year and the children and I would follow after school was out.  This gave us all time to prepare for the change and when we saw each other on weekends, the reassurance that our family was intact and in sync lifted our spirits enough to face the coming weeks and months until the move.

As the time of the move drew closer, I became more anxious and focused on the details of the move rather than providing reassurance to my children – so don’t think I am a saint!  In fact, there were a couple of times I did not have the energy to reassure my kids at all.  I just wanted the whole ordeal to be over!

After we got into the new house and started growing used to living in such close quarters (downsizing from 5,550 square feet to 2,400 square feet is noticeable!), it was time to start thinking about the new school and making new friends.  I expected the kids to make friends and be happy again overnight.

 But like adults, my children’s transition would take giant leaps forward – and then there would be setbacks.  I was feeling impatient.  This was a problem that an ice cream cone would not fix.  I needed to find a way to respect each child’s loss while helping them find their future.

When we would hear the kids talking about people or things they missed from their old hometown, my husband and I started talking with them about steps they could take to get invested in their new school and neighborhood.  This gave them the sense of control they needed to establish the path of their own choosing.  In particular, it helped each child find new things to look forward to.  Once we realized how valuable it was to the kids to put things in terms of having things to look forward to, it made respecting their journey seem like less of a monumental task and more like a day-to-day coping strategy.  “What will you do tomorrow to have a better day than today?” gave each kid a tool to empower themselves. They began to thrive.

The best part was getting to reinforce each child’s success by pointing out all the new challenges they had each tackled and overcome independently.  We talked a lot, as a family, about how important it is in life to have to learn how to function outside of your comfort zone.  Some people never get that chance but we reinforced with our children how invaluable to a successful life it is to learn how to adapt to new and different people and situations.  Fun, even!  I will never forget how proud I felt when both of my children reached out to “the new kids” their second year in Kansas City – because they remembered what it felt like to be the outsider.  It proved to me that they had learned something only life and a nurturing environment can teach a person:  you have the power inside of yourself to make a difference to someone else who may be feeling the way you once felt.  Compassion!

4 years later, I think our family is much stronger as a result of the changes downsizing and relocating thrust upon us.  We appreciate what we have and require very little to be content.  There are far fewer disappointments because, in the end, we have all learned that any day you have the strength to meet and overcome life’s challenges can be a good day!  We have choices and we have power.

Motivational Psychology and Marital Bliss

The cactus he would bring me from Arizona
The cactus he would bring me from Arizona

In 1996, I married the adorable man who proved, when we were dating, that he was metaphorically willing to uproot a massive cactus from the desert and bring back to me.  18 years later, sitting across from a tender but completely uncomfortably dressed “Tin Man” in his brand new, trendy yet stiff Baldwin jeans I insisted he wear, I realize that my husband truly is THE SAME MAN I FELL IN LOVE WITH.  I am lucky.  This is a wondrous truth that many women cannot uncover amidst the clutter of annoyances and distractions that make up our lives.


20 years later, trying to walk in stiff jeans
20 years later, trying to walk in stiff jeans

 I had chosen something “trendy and fresh” for him to wear – and “given” it to him for Father’s Day.  Selfish me.  My husband would have preferred  a new pair of cargo shorts from Costco.

I was a little irritated, at first, when the expression of exasperation began creeping onto his face during our anniversary dinner.  But then we began laughing.  This ridiculously confining “millennial outfit” I had forced him to wear became a metaphor for our strange yet powerful union:  over the years, we each asked seemingly impossible things of the other and the marriage grew stronger and more resilient in spite of the war wounds those changes left behind.

If you are reading this and it makes no sense, maybe you haven’t been married long enough to experience the tug-of-war that marriage can be at times.  Or maybe you chose a spouse more like than unlike you.  In any event, I am happy I chose my husband, so completely opposite myself in every way.  I humbly acknowledge his willingness to don stiff pants to make me happy and I will never ask him to wear them again.

Like a circus trainer holding a fiery hoop, I have challenged this sweet man to jump to prove his love and adoration and he has never failed.  I think after 18 years and 2 children, I can put the circus props and stiff jeans to rest and let my spouse be himself!

No more of this!
No more of this!

It’s not a circus act, it is a LIFE.  There are many days when I feel as though the demands of marriage and family are seriously cramping my style.  But then the image of my sweet husband in those stiff pants creeps back into my memory and I laugh out loud:  he has done his fair share of operating outside his comfort zone, too!

Welcome To My Mid-Life Crisis

9 lives2002_mini_cooper_s-pic-8750964173784534205556964_3969215241468_697743296_nWho ARE these people that become so selfish and self-absorbed in their late 40’s and 50’s?  Pathetic.  Cliche.  So. Not. Me.


I have decided that I need a lobotomy or a conversion experience or both to expel the demons of MID-LIFE CRISIS lurking within!

We have all witnessed the predictable path of men’s mid-life:  the younger woman, the sports car, the sudden interest in physical appearance.  Cliche, right?  I lived through a mid-life crisis, of sorts, with my husband who is 11 years older than me.  His was definitely fraught with personal and financial torment, but it brought us closer instead of farther apart.  It made our family stronger.  Now it’s my turn.  And thank goodness I woke up and recognized it for what it was (is) before it was (is) too late.  True to my character, I’ll refer to my mid-life crisis in one simple phrase:  OVER-INDULGENT.

My life is becoming the metaphor of drinking from a fire hydrant to satisfy one’s thirst.  It’s too big, too much, too fast.  I suspected that navigating my children’s adolescence while walking through my own mid-life might be tricky.  They need guidance, wisdom and support from a SANE adult who is willing and able to step outside of the self and enter the world of the young adult’s psyche without the need for affirmation or adulation.  Let me repeat:  without affirmation or adulation.  That’s the part that stings!  Four years ago, when my daughter began her journey into adolescence and our family was undergoing a massive uprooting from our rural dream life back to the city, I used to joke innocently, I thought, about “Momma’s not getting a lot of love back these days.”

 The unsolicited hugs and flattering emulation had come to a screeching halt.  I was becoming “invisible” and it hurt.


Fast forward four years later with a husband who is turning 59 and a son in the throes of adolescence, too.  I realize my entire identity has been wrapped up in 3 separate individuals for more than a decade – my children and my husband.  And I am angry with myself.  I feel robbed of my youth.  I am going to REBEL!!!!!

Enter “Party Girl” Joanie, living large in the city.  Meeting peeps for drinks.  Sipping on amazing wine while making dinner.  Just being glamorous, right?  WRONG.  Oh, so wrong.  One drink every other day became two drinks every night.  And recently, it became A BOTTLE.  There was never ENOUGH of ANYTHING to affirm that I was ALIVE and SEPARATE FROM MY FAMILY.  My own cool mid-life self – living as though I had 9 lives.  But I only have 1.  Time to re-evaluate.

I thank GOD for the wisdom of my 15-year-old daughter and the unwavering love of my gentle husband who have enlightened me of late about my reckless behavior.  But in a way a rebel can accept and digest – non-threatening.  My daughter simply asked me recently whether I would be willing to remain sober long enough to pick her up at 10:00 PM from a party.  Simple and direct question, right?  It felt like a thunderbolt jarring my brain into a million pieces!  What is WRONG with this picture when your daughter has to ask such a question?

My “aha” moment was brief and we all escaped relatively unscathed.  I am 36 days sober today and plan to stay that way – after all, I am just as “interesting” over-indulging in sugar-free popsicles as I was champagne!  Now to the paradigm shift in my parenting and relating to young adults versus small children.  As tough as it is, I am beginning to accept that I can shift from a total domination decision-making model to a shared one with my kids.

When my daughter was about 3 and struggling with sharing her toys at play group, her adorably honest retort to the nonstop encouragement from adults to “share with others” was:  “I want to share with ME!”.  This is the battle I find waging within my middle-aged heart and soul as it confronts the challenges and responsibilities I have taken on in my life.   But I am not going to express my frustration in ways that drive my family apart and tear at the fabric of my most important relationships any longer.  I am putting my “BIG GIRL” panties on and moving forward towards 50, muffin top and all.

Yes, you heard me right:  I am at that delightful age where I weigh more than my IQ!


So, together with my bruised ego and expanding waistline, I choose to embrace Mid-Life and all the AWKWARDNESS it brings.  Ironically, I am going through a more awkward phase than my adolescents.  But it is THEIR time of discovery, not mine.  I can choose, every day, to “rebel” a little in ways that are harmless and not self-destructive.  I think I will get a Mini-Cooper!