Confessions of a Professional Mom

Confessions of a Professional Mom

Professional mom seeking clarity, balance and a well deserved glass of wine.

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What Doesn’t Kill You, Makes You Stronger

February 26, 2018 2 Comments

shutterstock_453926791I confess: I call bullshit on this quote. While raising your kids (especially teenagers), what doesn’t kill you makes you crazier, or drink too much. Or, am I just doing it wrong?!

As a mom, this saying is that little gift that keeps on giving. Shared by caring girlfriends, helpful mothers-in-law, and your gynecologist when you ask her for a cure for hot flashes and mood swings that accompany menopause. I’m embarrassed to admit that these words have passed over my lips on more than one occasion while trying to console a friend or my sister. (sorry sorry sorry)

I couldn’t remember exactly who it was that I needed to thank for penning this lovely inspiring quote, so I looked it up. It was Friedrich Nietzsche who said it much more eloquently: “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” Go figure, it was a man.

You Might Have PTG
Studies have shown that some trauma survivors report positive changes and enhanced personal development, called post-traumatic growth (PTG).

PTG refers to any beneficial change resulting from a major life crisis or traumatic event, but people most commonly experience a positive shift by having a renewed appreciation for life; adopting a new world view with new possibilities for themselves; feeling more personal strength; feeling more satisfied spiritually, and/or their relationships improve.

Ok, so I admit feelings of positive change and enhanced personal development following a traumatic event. I get it. What I’m struggling with is the crazy I feel “while it’s happening.” It doesn’t even have to be traumatic, per se. Just everyday life.

Like, juggling the day to day schedules, needs, life crises’ and mood swings of my entire family, not to mention my own. Trying so damned hard to anticipate, be aware, in tune, understanding, prepared, on-time, flexible and enough. If I can just keep my head above the vortex that is sucking me under, I’ll be stronger.

Feeling “lost in translation” much of the time when my kids ask me ‘trick questions’ like, “What are we doing today?” And, I foolishly respond with, “I’m not really sure…nothing planned.” Apparently, what I actually said was, “I’ve got my own agenda and I have no time to spend with you.” (wait, what?)

Volunteering, contributing and showing up to support as many school activities, sports and social events as humanly possible while balancing a full-time job, marriage, and personal enlightenment and having words like NEVER, EVER AND ALWAYS used to describe your kids’ perception of your participation level.

Filling the fridge and cupboards with healthy options and more snacks than I ever had as a kid, only to hear, “There’s nothing to eat!” Spending my time looking up recipes, preparing the meals and finally sitting down to eat after a long day to hear, “Can I just have chicken nuggets?!” (open that bag and you’ll wish you were a chicken nugget, so help me!)

Trying to be an “involved” parent and ask way too many ‘stupid’ questions. ie: How was your day, honey? Did you get the grade you wanted in Chem? Who is that girl that dropped you off? (so dumb! what was I thinking?!)

And, there’s the inability to read minds. Epic fail! How on earth did I not know that the red sweatshirt was buried at the bottom of the hamper and needed to be washed for Tuesday?! WTH

Strength Comes in All Shapes and Sizes
Thank God for other moms (and dads) that confirm that 1) my children are currently possessed and will be normal and grateful again in their twenties 2) I am not completely failing as a mother and 3) there is no manual, this is hard for everyone and I’m not alone.

You may be a freak of nature and have zero challenges with your kids. Maybe your challenge is at work or caring for an ailing parent or a battling an illness yourself (to which my first-world neuroses makes you want to punch me in the neck). Maybe what ‘they’ say is true, we most commonly experience a positive shift by having a renewed appreciation for life; adopting a new worldview with new possibilities for ourselves. Let’s get right on that. 😉

Sure, Nietzsche got it right and there are moments when I feel triumphant, balanced, capable and STRONGER because of all the hard stuff. And, for those five seconds each day, I am profoundly grateful. It’s the other 86,395 seconds that may kill me.

What is trying to kill you that, deep down, you know will ultimately make you stronger? Don’t give up. You’re not alone.

Stay sane, my friends.

Allison DeFord






Everywhere Everything Everyone

August 24, 2017

shutterstock_274626524“No one can be everywhere and everything to everyone.”
-Grace Bonney

I confess: I get caught up in trying to be so helpful and “balanced” so that I never let anyone down. What I’ve learned is that it’s impossible to be everywhere and do everything for everyone all the time. Period.

Sometimes I wake up feeling overwhelmed. Like, open my eyes, take a deep breath and it feels like there’s a weight on my chest first thing in the morning. I jump on the proverbial treadmill and off I go to be mom, wife, marketer, leader, friend and helper with my super cape waving behind me. By the end of the day, it can feel like I got all tripped up and the cape has wrapped itself around me so tight I can’t breathe. I feel defeated. I feel like I just couldn’t do enough. I feel like a failure.

I’ve come to believe that work/life/balance is more like a seesaw than a set of perfectly balanced scales. Some days you accomplish everything on your list, including turning Kool-Aid into wine, and other days you just get by without drowning yourself or your kids. It’s real life. It’s ok.

As women, we put a huge amount of pressure on ourselves to be a super woman all the time. It’s unrealistic. It’s unnecessary. There will be soccer games missed or volunteer shifts you couldn’t sign up for or meetings where you phoned it in and that’s ok. The really important things get done. Sometimes, you hand sew that award-winning Halloween costume and sometimes you cut holes in a sheet and call it a day.

One thing I’ve learned is how you start your day has a monumental impact on the rest of your day. Instead of rolling over and grabbing my phone i.e. start reacting to whatever has popped up overnight, I take a deep breath and say thank you. Starting the day with gratitude is life-changing. And, when I have some “bathroom time,” again, instead of pouring over my phone, I read something inspirational to jumpstart the day, setting it off on a positive trajectory.

If you haven’t read it yet, there’s a gorgeous book that I love by Grace Bonney. In the Company of Women is inspiration and advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs. You can also watch Grace here on (aka: Marie TV). Her honesty and style are refreshing. Earlier this year, a surprising health diagnosis stopped her in her tracks and she realized she couldn’t be everywhere and do everything for everyone all the time. Scary and immobilizing!

The beautiful and inspiring part is how she overcame it and kept moving forward. The best part of ourselves is not our beauty or our body or our clean house. It’s our essence. It’s that part of you that’s deep inside and, since birth, has matured (for most) and transformed you into the wonderful human you are today. It’s the reason people are drawn to you. The reason you’re loved. It’s why you’re so groovy.

Have you aced the whole everywhere for everything for everyone or are you normal and challenged like the rest of us? If you’ve achieved balance, how did you do it? Let me know in the comments below. Have a friend who is struggling and could use a brick to the head and get in touch with their essence? Consider sharing this with them, as a reminder that they have permission to slow down, take a breath and stop the madness. Look inward and realize they’re enough—as is, without all the doing!

I find myself in the company of amazing women, like you, and for that, I am most grateful!

Stay sane, my friends.

allison deford



May 13, 2017 1 Comment

Hardest job I’ve ever had

Worth losing sleep over

A daily test of wills, creativity and patience

Often thankless — always worth it

Teaches self-sacrifice

Randon moments of insanity, bliss and gratitude

A juggling act

Simultaneously draining and fulfilling

MacGuyvering a costume out of dental floss, toilet paper and scotch tape

The chance to see with new eyes

Finding out what you’re made of

Getting really good at counting to 10

Saying fuck under your breath in seven languages

Learning that what is yours is now theirs


Playing the role of Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and Santa

Character building

Finding out just how far a dollar can really stretch

Second chance at getting an A on all those school projects

Finally understanding the phrase “This is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you”

Realizing your own mother is a damn saint

Regretting all those times you gave your mom a hard time

Confirmation that your mother is laughing her ass off somewhere, repeatedly stabbing a voodoo doll of you

Having to say I’m sorry, I screwed up

A miraculous feat

Cause for daily celebration

Takes multi-tasking to an entirely new level

Understanding that sixth sense they talk about

Refining the art of fake listening

Reversing your childhood proclamation to never spank your kids

Finding great joy in moments of silence

Never being bored again for the rest of your life

Over-utilizing the 5-second rule

Becoming the world’s greatest athletic supporter

Appreciating pooping solo

Undoubtedly, the most important title you’ll ever have

Monumentally rewarding

Trusting your instincts

Creating a 3-course meal out of corn flakes, half and half and an over ripe banana

Developing a thicker skin

Mastering the art of involuntary head turning every time you hear the word “Mom!”

The most underrated profession

Trusting your Spidy senses

Loving someone else so much it hurts

Happy Mother’s Day

Allison DeFord


You’re Not a Mother, You’re a Monster

April 27, 2017

mother monsterI CONFESS: There are times, as a mother, when I should go directly to the back of the Mother of the Year line ’cause they ain’t callin’ my name anytime soon.

I know you can relate. You’re nodding your head up and down right now.

In the scheme of life, however, I think we’re too hard on ourselves. Being a mother is messy. As far as I know there’s no course or manual that fully prepares you or teaches you how to breeze through the adventure unscathed and without fault or regret. There’s no RIGHT way to parent. There’s your way.

Most likely, you learned how to be a mother from your own mom. This has definitely been my path. I have vivid memories of lessons learned, conversations had, punishments given and many many hugs and kisses and looks of assurance and pride. I speak, now to my kids, and it’s my mother coming out. Again, you’re nodding.

Mostly, I think we get it right. We put our kids first. We make sure they have good food, clothes, a nice home, education and social graces. Hell, some days it feels like every moment of head space and daylight is focused on our kids and what they need. (while working a full-time job) We put all this effort into parenting because we love our kids. We love them so much it hurts. Often, our duties and contributions go unnoticed and unappreciated and, well, at the end of the day, that’s what wine is for. We take a breath and know that we did our best and they’re safe and healthy and not complete brats.

To hear them tell it, however, can be a completely different story. During a family discussion, recently, 9 Going on 19 painted a very different picture of her view of life as my child. According to her, I work ALL the time, NEVER go on any field trips, RARELY talk with her and listen to her, favor her sister over her, RARELY fix anything she likes for dinner, ALWAYS pick places to eat at that she doesn’t like, and on and on. Eyes wide, I was stunned! Seriously, none of those things is true. But, in her mind, apparently, they are.

Ouch! Not a mention of ALL the things I have done and still do for her, with her and because of her on a daily basis. Amazing! I’m sure her teacher thinks I’m not a mother, I’m a monster. To hear her tell it, I’m pretty awful.

Here’s my take: at every age, in every situation, we have varying opinions about our parents. I know I did. Shoot, when I moved away at 18 and drove across the country to live in California, all I could think of was, “So long Mom, you annoy the hell out of me!” Now, at 49, I have never been more grateful for the wonderful mother she has been and the gifts and guidance she instilled in me. I’m the mother I am today, because of her.

Here’s a little list of the ways we mothers are monsters, in the eyes of our kids:

…Please take a shower and brush your teeth (don’t forget to floss).

…Go to bed now, so you’ll get up on time tomorrow.

…No sleepovers, it’s a school night.

…Do your homework, then you can watch TV.

…You are grounded.

…Save some of that money.

…Don’t chew with your mouth open.

…Stop talking and listen.

…Stop complaining and be grateful.

…Help out, you’re a part of this family.

…I don’t care if you didn’t do it. You didn’t do it can still clean it up.

…Respect your grandparents.

…Turn your phone off and be present.

…You may not understand my decision now. You’ll thank me later.

…What was your part? What did you do?

…It’s not the end of the world. Get over it.

…Are you bleeding? Put a BandAid on it and go play.

…Five-second rule. It won’t kill you.

…It’s good for you, eat it.

…I have to work. Do you like food and clothes and vacations and lessons?!

…No. Because I said so and I’m your mom.

Here’s to all you monsters! 

Stay sane, my friends.

Allison DeFord


Lose the Tude and Get Back to Happy

March 29, 2017 1 Comment

walk-off-the-tudeI confess…sometimes I can diligently and mindfully “self-help” myself all day long and my state of happiness goes to hell in a hand-basket by the time I walk through the door at night. WTH

I can wake up in the morning, workout, meditate, throw in a load of laundry for later, drop the petite ya-ya off at school without meltdown or incident, and have a phenomenal day at work. And after all that zenful goodness, it all goes to shit in a text. Ok, more like a mad string of texts from one or both of my kids:

…when will you be home?
…?????? (if I don’t answer fast enough)
…what’s for dinner? Ew, I don’t like that!
…remember, I need that super rare artifact that we’ll never be able to find on Amazon prime in time for Thursdays presentation at school?
…is my gymnastics leotard clean?
…remember you said you’d help me with my speech?
…are you almost home?

You get the picture. I know they are precious children and I’m grateful to have them. Truly!

I’ve talked about it with them and explained that when I’m at work, I’m concentrating and working hard so I don’t have to bring my work home. Unless you’re bleeding or need something more serious than a laundry question answered, don’t call or text me when I’ve got my work hat on.

My brain spins into a whirling dervish and the pity-me loop starts rolling. Why don’t they respect my time? Why can’t they look and see if their laundry is clean? Why can’t they call and ask me how my day is and if I’m doing ok? And, what I’d like for dinner and can they start fixing it? Why can’t I do anything right for them? I try so damned hard.

Now, this is not a pity me post, to be certain!

I have found a remedy for this problem, that I’ve tested and want to share. It’s a free, immediate, healthy attitude adjustment and it’s even “wine-free!” I know, you’re shocked!


I’ve learned that if I throw on my tennis shoes and take a brisk ten-minute walk (or seventy, depending on the mood) I can “lose the tude and get back to happy!” (now, that’s a tweetable). And the only rule is NO THINKING! Gotta turn the mind off and just walk and breathe. Listen to nature or music, but zero thinking. Plenty of time for that later.

By the time you get back, the loop is on pause, the mind is right and you may even be able to consider three things you’re grateful for as you enter the house. The house, for one. Your beautiful healthy kids. Your own health. The walk. I could go on and on.

It doesn’t have to be a thick, Chicago slice of happy; a thin, New York slice will do!

Stay sane, my friends.

Allison DeFord


The Queen of Boredom Finds Joy in One Breath

March 24, 2017

I’m bored! Said no mom ever.

Isn’t it ironic, when you’re a kid you effortlessly and frequently fall into a state of boredom? Any of these sounds familiar?

There’s nothing to watch on TV, I’m bored!
None of my friends can hang out, I’m bored!
This homework is boring!
Why do we have to wait in this line, I’m bored!
Why hasn’t the plane taken off yet? I’m bored!
What’s for dinner? That’s boring!
Why do you have to order another cocktail? Can’t we just go? I’m bored!
There’s nothing to do, I’m bored!

I was the queen of boredom. If I wasn’t being entertained or playing with a friend or had some big plans, I felt bored. Most of us have lived through all of these moments of horrendous boredom and, fortunately, are now reliving it with our kids. I don’t know about you, but I can honestly say at this point in my life, I am never bored! Ever!

This might sound crazy, but I’m actually grateful for driving in traffic (most of the time) and waiting in line or sitting at home with absolutely nothing to do (oh, wait that last one never happens). In these moments of waiting, I can choose to enjoy the quiet, the time to think or create in my head or ponder a new client project. I can use the time to “not think” and just be quiet. I could choose boredom, instead, but why?

Recently, a retired Google engineer, of all people, (Chade-Meng Tan) has had a profound effect on me and reinforces the way I feel about boredom. In his wonderfully funny and insightful book, Joy on Demand, he suggests that boredom is actually a state of mind. I’d like to add to that…it’s also an excuse.

As a kid, this idea would have been hard to wrap my head around. As an adult, it makes so much sense. However, all adults are not created equal or think alike, so you may completely disagree with me. What does boredom get you?

Effectively, it removes you from any action at all. It freezes you in a holding pattern of numbness, inaction, and unhappiness. Are your kids smiling and laughing and joyful when they’re “bored?” No! They’re sulking, moping about and whipping themselves into a state of “whoa is me!” I get it, though. Their brains are still developing. Their neural pathways are still grooving. They equate not being entertained with boredom. What about adults?

We have so much to do. To think about. To be grateful for. How on earth could we ever feel bored? Are we making an excuse when we feel bored? Are we holding ourselves back from trying something new or appreciating the moment in time that’s right in front of us? Are we avoiding being present? Do we not have enough going on and maybe that’s the problem? Are we whining simply because WE’RE not being entertained?

Meng’s suggestion is this: in those moments of “boredom” (aka—nothing immediate to do because you’re waiting or in between tasks or appointments or plans changed) consider one deep breath of gratitude. He actually suggests a mini meditation, but I don’t want to scare you off completely.

One long deep breath of gratitude can shift your whole state of mind. From boredom and frustration to joy and freedom.

Ironically, no one controls our headspace (a fantastic meditation app BTW) except us. We are in charge of what we think and how we use our mind powers and our thoughts. We can either blow people up with them or wish them happiness and good fortune. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I forget this. I let social media or the radio or “jumping into the way-back machine” to replay that stupid loop take over my headspace and it does nothing but clutter it all up. I feel overwhelmed and unproductive and stuck.

I’m curious — do you find that you’re bored sometimes? All the time? How do you fill that space instead? With activities and productivity or quiet and joy? Or, both?!

Love to hear your thought in the comments below. Is boredom really just a state of mind?

Always in pursuit of sanity, balance and a well-deserved glass of wine.

Stay sane, my friends.

Allison DeFord


Mobile Mom

March 17, 2017

mobile-momHer car doubles as an office, reading room, cone of silence, diaper-changing station, breakfast nook and therapist’s office.

She completes twenty errands in a single bound.

Believes everyone has a mini-bar in their console.

On the way to school, she pretends to listen to every word her kids say when she’s really laying on a tropical island drinking a mai tai “in her mind.”

Thinks nothing of stopping in the middle of writing a million-dollar proposal to rush to school to fetch a sick kid.

While barreling down the freeway, she makes a sales pitch into her Bluetooth, eats a hamburger and shushes a noisy kid without skipping a beat.

She says “hurry the fuck up” with her car horn.

She may or may not have used her car as a lethal weapon. (V, you know who you are)

Starbuck’s drive-thru baristas know her by name (within a 30-mile radius).

She blows bad drivers up with her mind powers.

She’s got every local dinner place on speed dial.

Has considered having an affair with Siri.

She’s not afraid to have the A/C cranking with all the windows down.

She has seriously considered painting her car taxi-cab yellow.

Her tires never last for 40,000 miles.

She’s listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for visiting every damn sports field from here to the Mississippi.

She has most of her important conversations via text on the family thread.

Is positive her rearview mirror is possessed

Can’t be certain she did or did not see that do not park here sign.

Never lets the tank fall below a quarter tank…in case she needs to make a get-away

Knows it’s illegal to put kids in the trunk…

Rarely knows whether she’s coming or going.

Her version of goodbye is her super-cape waving out of her sunroof.


10-4 good Mama!
Stay sane, my friends.



She Believed She Could, So She Did

March 10, 2017

She believed she was worthy of love, so she married.

She believed she had love to share, so she became a mother.

She believed she could commute three hours a day and be the breadwinner, so she did.

She believed she could bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan, so she did.

She believed she could start her own agency, so she did.

She believed she could buy a million-dollar building, so she did.

She believed she could win over George Lucas, so she did.

She believed she could salvage her marriage, so she did.

She believed she could learn to dance, so she did.

She believed she could teach design, so she did.

She believed she could meet and love the mother who gave her away, so she did.

She believed she could save her own mother from abuse, so she did.

She believed she could live through a divorce, so she did.

She believed she could let go of everything, so she did.

She believed she could make a new home for herself and her children, so she did.

She believed she could find love again, so she did.

She believed she could travel across the globe, so she did.

She believed she could adopt a new family, so she did.

She believed she could live through her mother’s death(s), so she did.

She believed she could turn words into art, so she did.

She believed she could write a memoir (or 3), so she did.

She believed she could get published, so she did.

She believed she could learn to love herself, so she did.

She believed she could live the fairy tale, so she did.

She believed she could, so she did.

With love and gratitude for always inspiring me to believe and do, Cheryl!

Stay sane, my friends.

Allison DeFord


Strength Becomes Her…For Generations

March 9, 2017 1 Comment

Pretty sure it’s no secret that I am a strong woman. Not always completely confident or fully sane, but equipped and capable of weathering any storm and forever learning something in the process. These skills I attribute to my upbringing. Specifically, my amazing mama.

Recently, I was asked to contribute to a new book that focuses on the strength and wisdom passed on from generation to generation. The first person I thought of was my mom and when I sat down to write, the words poured out of me and onto my laptop screen so fast my fingers could scarcely keep up.

Growing up, I didn’t always appreciate her like I should have. Age and hindsight are wonderful gifts. My intention is to honor her with this essay and share her beauty and love and resilience with future generations. Below is an excerpt:

“Strength Becomes Her – Eight Essays of Resilience, Perseverance & Self-Love” is a colorful collection of 8 essays that shares the timeless wisdom which has passed from mother to daughter for generations. These are true stories of women who, in the midst of life’s toughest decisions, push fear out of the way and face the never-ending challenge of raising a family and forging a career. Then, when the seasons of life transform, they prove that it takes much more strength to let go than it does to hang on. These eight authors celebrate both the femininity and the fortitude of women who not only take a stand, they also rise up, dig deep and live out loud. All proceeds to benefit Women’s Wellness non-profit organizations selected by the publisher and authors. #strengthbecomesher

Like Mother, Like Daughter

My earliest memory of you is from high-chair view in our kitchen on Cornbread Road. A country kitchen lined with blue cabinets (what were you and dad thinking), framed with homemade curtains covered in blue and green grapes and you, moving about the kitchen and humming a tune. I remember feeling happy and content.

I also remember feeling creative in our home— playing make-believe, school or office (I was always in charge), finger-painting, Christmas ball making, coloring on my bedroom walls or putting a new spin on my sisters bangs with those “harmless” dull school scissors. (oops) A different memory is of you putting the fear of God in me and pulling me aside every time we entered a store, filled with breakables, and saying, “Don’t touch anything! If you break it, we have to pay for it.”  These memories have proven significant in the evolution of my life—as your daughter, as a mom, and as a strong woman. You’ve schooled me in the art of contentment, creativity, and resilience—no matter what life serves up.

Lucky for me, you (and Dad) created a childhood and overall family dynamic free of turmoil, abuse, and drama. In this media-filled world of chaos and dysfunctional Kardashian-type families, I am incredibly grateful that my childhood was, dare I say it, wholesome and pretty darn “normal.” Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to call us the Cleavers. Sure, there was the whole Dad “coming out” thing in 8th grade, but I’ll touch on that in a minute. All in all, I am the woman (wife and mother) I am today because of you. You shaped my life with the perfect blend of discipline, empathy, love, laughter, creativity, and a grand vision. To say you believed in me would be an understatement. From the time I pretended to speak in a foreign language or created 17 letter words (passimalavitation), you were convinced that someday I would work at the United Nations or become the President of the United States. You, dearest Mother, equipped me to believe in myself…

Like Mother, Like Daughter

P.S. The opening photo has always been one of my favorites of mom and me. She still looks at me the same way. It feels like pride and love and amazement and it fills me with confidence and joy and contentment. I only hope I can have the same affect on my daughters. xo



Smell My Finger

March 5, 2017

smell-my-fingerYou know that moment when you’re cruising down the freeway with a thousand thoughts racing through your brain and, suddenly, a song comes on the radio that instantly transports you to a different place and time. Those thousand of thoughts turn into one memory or one specific moment in time. Any Carpenter’s song takes me right back to the 70’s, when I was a kid, and my parents would harmonize with Karen and Richard Carpenter, whenever their songs came on the car radio. Or when I hear the Doobie Brothers I’m whisked back to elementary school and a time when life felt simple and carefree.

Do smells ever trigger the same kinds of flashbacks for you? When you smell a particular aroma or fragrance and it reminds you of someone or some past experience? My good friend, Cheryl, reminded me once how our hands have such a significant role in our lives. How many things our hands do, touch and create in our lifetime. For some reason, these two ideas melded and it occurred to me how many times I smell something on my hands and it triggers a memory, reminds me of a person or experience.

After I’ve worked in the yard and get a whiff of fresh cut grass and gasoline from the lawnmower, memories of my dad rush over me and I smile every time. I loved helping him do yard work or admire the beautiful flower beds he planted. That memory immediately parlays into another experience of riding on the lawnmower with my Pappaw and a cousin or two in tow. For some reason, it was always a thrill “helping” him mow their giant backyard off highway 67.

The smell of Johnson’s baby shampoo or baby oil reminds me of bathtime when I was little. I always called the front of the tub (since I was older, of course). Warmer and deeper! And, my mom toweling us off and running a comb through our hair, followed by cozy pj’s and the feeling of being squeaky clean and relaxed and loved.

Aqua Net reminds me of my mom’s beauty shop that was built on to our home in Yorktown, Indiana. All the shampoos and sets she did for ladies from church, great-aunts, and friends of friends. Layers and layers of Aqua Net to hold them over until next weeks appointment. I always wondered how they could go a whole week without washing their hair. This still makes me shudder. Yuk!

An odd one is the smell of grape juice. Always reminds me of communion at church. Every time the tray passed I just wanted to slurp up about ten of those little plastic cups full of Welch’s grape juice. One was such a tease. And never enough to completely wash down the bit of cracker that always seemed to get stuck in my throat.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Heaven Scent powder and cologne. All through jr. high and high school that was my go-to elixir to cover up the disgusting smells of puberty.

The smell of tobacco reminds me of Dad popping a quarter into the cigarette machine as we exited a restaurant in the 70’s. I always wanted to pull the handle and listen for the pack to drop. He’d peel back the clear plastic wrapper and, before pulling a cigarette out, he’d tap the pack twice on a table top or the dashboard in the car. What purpose this had I’ll never know.

Youth Dew, a popular Estee Lauder cologne back in the day, will forever remind me of my Mom and my Aunt Barb. I can always smell them hugging me or the scent wafting past my nose as they breezed by to chase a kid or dash into the bathroom before someone else beat them to it.

Crayons make me think of my sister. All the mad coloring we did in the back seat of whatever Buick we had. Hours and hours of filling coloring books with layers and layers of Crayola. And that one time we left a pile of them in the back window of my mom’s car on a very hot Indiana day and they all melted together. I thought mom would kill us. Oops!

And, ever since that time I was sitting in an important meeting and brushed my hand across my nose and was greeted by the smell of shit! (eyes wide open) “Oh my Lord! Why do my fingers smell like shit?” I immediately traced my steps from the morning and remembered I changed the baby’s diaper in a mad rush to exit stage left, get her to the sitters and make it to this oh so important meeting to impress the hell out of this client. And there I sat wondering if anyone else could smell it. Would they hold it against me that I’m a mom and spend my mornings changing diapers and breastfeeding while they were, most likely, at the gym at 5am, followed by a breakfast meeting and definitely don’t have breast pockets covered in a milk stain.

Our hands have been through a lot! Holding, hugging, creating and changing. Clearly, our noses too. Breathing in the smells of life.

What smells trigger a memory for you—instantly teleporting you to another time or place?

Stay sane, my friends.
(always sniff your hands before a big meeting)

allison deford

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