Tuesday, November 30, 2010

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Okay, so I'm no Oprah, but I'd love to do what a lot of other bloggers are doing and share some of my FAVORITE things with you.

1. Gummy Vitamins for Adults

All that throwing up I did while pregnant may not have been morning sickness. It could have been my prenatals. Vitamins make me barf. These don't. Yay.

2 Spray Paint. Oil Rubbed Bronze, Heirloom White, Blue Ocean Breeze

I just want to kiss my spray paint. Is that weird?

3. Frozen Chopped Onions

Did you know you can buy frozen chopped onions at the grocery store for about $1 a bag? I haven't chopped an onion in 10 years. They are always on hand and you don't have to worry about them getting all sprouty and weird in the pantry. Or are those potatoes? Whatev.

4. Clairol Root touch up.

It's cheap, it blends perfectly, and it saves me big bucks. Tom did if for me last night, oh yes he did, and it looks fabulous!

5. Melatonin.

I have a child who has a lot of trouble falling asleep at night. A friend who has a child with ADHD recommended melatonin and my child loves it. 3 mgs a night and it's so much easier to drift off. Please check with your doctor if you want to try this.

6. Moroccan Miracle Oil. My hairdresser calls my "hair coarse and unruly." Waaaah. This oil helps smooth things down. The oilier the better.

7. Modern Family. What's not to love? Cameron in bike shorts? Gloria's accent? There's something for everyone on this show. Anyone have a spare Season One DVD sitting around?

8. Jane Austen. My fave author by far. Strong heroines, witty banter, idiotic relatives-- kind of like Modern Family without the modern. Great movie adaptations, too!

9. Craigslist. I don't think I'm smart enough to do eBay, but I have been trying to earn some Christmas money by selling things on Craigslist. Purging makes me happy.

I'm excited to try Craigs Easy, a new bookmark that organizes photos of what you have searched.

10. Used Clothes. Inexpensive AND good for the environment (especially since I've been depleting the ozone with all that spray paint). And if I start to look out of style or shabby you will tell me, right? RIGHT?
I hope you've enjoyed my list.

What are a few of YOUR favorite things?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

You're So Vain, You Probably Think This Car is About You

Okay, so I did something wild and wacky... and got personalized license plates. I put them on today but haven't driven anywhere yet.

Vanity plates amuse and delight me on other cars, but I've never imagined having them on mine. And instead of choosing something clever or cryptic, I've just identified myself in a semi-cute way on mine. Eeek.

Short of telling the blogosphere exactly what's on my plates, let's just say I'm readily identifiable. Sooo, if I ever want to do any on-the-go nasal excavation, run red lights, or yell at my kids, there will be people in my town who will know it's me. Eeek.

I've never been one for flashy displays. Perhaps this stemmed from my utter misery when my boyfriend Steve brought back a heart-shaped lapel pin for me from the high school church choir trip. I really liked Steve, who was a hot-tamale senior to my awkward sophomore self. Alas, we never kissed. You can read more about my thrilling teen dating history here.

Oh how I missed him during those 3 days while he strummed his guitar and sang with the church girls who could actually carry a tune. But even my ardor for Steve could NOT compel me to wear a "Steve's Girl" pin on my jean jacket. No sirree. I guess I didn't want to be labeled. You know,"Nobody puts Baby in a corner," or on a lapel for that matter.

But maybe I've been looking for a little flash. After all, my beloved red car was out of stock when I went car shopping. Maybe personalized plates are my version of red.

In truth, I did not care for my old plates and couldn't bear to keep them for the next dozen years. They prominently displayed the letters "MF" on them. I may be a "M" but I've never considered myself to be an "MF."

I just hope I can get up the nerve to leave the house at some point.

If I do, you can bet I'll be on my best behavior.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Merry Christmas and I Hate You Mom

Okay, I know I’ve written a lot about my mother on this blog.

In short, she rocked.

I had a conversation with one of my oldest and dearest friends last week and she was saying how when we were growing up our friends loved my mother and were envious of how great our relationship was. This is a balm to my soul, because as you know, I only got to have her around for 18 years. My friends and their mothers got to develop rich adult relationships that are still evolving today.

My friend suggested that maybe my mother’s and my great relationship was a GIFT, since we wouldn’t have the chance to grow apart and then grow back together the way most of our friends and their mothers would. Makes sense, but there is more to the story.

Not 24 hours after that conversation, I found this lovely note I had written my mom. I’m guessing I was 12 or 13 in 8th grade. Please don’t confuse this with my first grade hate note (preserved in my mother’s jewelry box) or the 16-year-old’s diatribe when I go off on her for not buying me a car.

Good times.

Scrawled on notebook paper with permanent marker and poor spelling we have:

"You always feel the need to irratate (sp) and to fight and dampen people’s hopes. John will say, “Can I go here can I go here and of course you say “sure” me (double underline) no way and I wait all week for tonight and you have to either say I cant (sp) watch something because they want to watch something else or to start a fight over nothing!

And when I have a new room planned you say “sure” with till Jan—sure wait till Feb—What next? You put in a yellow rug without asking about all the hours I’ve spent planning and paint the woodwork your color and there go my plans… think about it!

You don’t delay (underline) to get John something for sports—talk about 2 pair of cleats in 2 weeks?? But when we do go shopping you act like were (sp) being mean if we don’t like something OR YOU SAY before I get a chance to comment you say: YOU HATE IT!!

You are a great mother but have a lot to learn to be a friend.

And for Christmas, sure you read my list…


Sheesh. There are a lot of directions we could go in when analyzing this letter. You may be wondering why you even read the blog of such an ungrateful wench. I know. Me too.

You may be pitying my mom who only got to live for 46 years on this earth, yet had to deal with this kind of shit with surprising regularity.

If you haven’t already unfollowed or de-friended me, let’s ask what can be gleaned from this letter.

That a caring mother surprised her daughter by installing new wall to wall yellow carpet (shag, even??) and spent hours painting the room for her, only to be berated for not consulting her daughter’s color palette (seafoam green and dusty rose, natch?)

That this daughter is so jealous of her siblings she even begrudges her brother’s necessary sports equipment purchases?

That a dateless, awkward, hormonal Friday night was “ruined” by the daughter not getting to watch Falcon Crest?

And as a mom myself who knows how much effort women put into making Christmas special, I can barely read the part about the Christmas list.


I share this letter for several reasons:

One is to tell you that even though I know I acted like a loser and I really miss my mom, this letter does not kill me. Why? Because of the kind of person she was. She wouldn’t want it to kill me. She would want me to get a grip and move on from a bad day, which is probably what ended up happening.

Another is a heads-up that THIS relationship, that looked enviable to outsiders, must have had its rocky points. Rocky points need not define or destroy a relationship.

Another is to help me brace myself for this kind of thing with my own kids. And if you have read the rest of this blog, you know I need to brace myself. While I’ve been typing this post my daughter tried to cut a tag off her shirt but cut a hole in the shirt instead. This was somehow my fault even though I never left this spot.

In dealing with my kids, I want to think about what my own response could be/can be.

This note helps me remember that how my kids feel about me on a given moment or day does not define my self worth. Neither does a note from the principal or a snippy remark from a friend, or my husband not wanting to discuss remodeling ideas.

It helps me remember that even though I said I hated her, I loved her. More than anyone or anything. I loved her so much that this insecure wreck of people pleaser and honor student felt safe enough to be a truly hateful and miserable wretch to her. Makes sense, right?

And her reaction, or lack thereof, made me feel even safer and more secure and even more wretched but less wretched at the same time.

You see, instead of telling me how this kind of behavior hurt her, lecturing me about respect, or withholding love, intimacy, or shag carpet, my mother let me get myself worked up into a lather.
This allowed me to keep the focus on ME, which hello, where does any self-loathing yet narcissistic 8th grader want the focus anyway? Before long I would cool down, stew, and realize what an idiot I was while my mother still maintained her dignity. Her lightly pursed lips, quiet humming, quizzical smile and perhaps a raised eyebrow were all it took for me to realize I was an idiot and my mom was still my mom.

I’m sure the “perfect” relationship my friends envisioned wasn’t perfect from either of our perspectives. But you’ve probably already read about how my mother and I think/thought perfection was overrated.

What was special, or notable, was a mom who was a great mom, who loved this ingrate unconditionally, who didn’t stoop to my level, and who did not try too hard to be a “friend” to someone who had plenty of friends, but only one mom.

I guess that’s what I get from this letter.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Gift of Fear


Should I post on how I still can't make or receive calls in my home, or my office, or on the way from my office to the kids' school....which is kind of why I wanted a cell phone in the first place, but how I'm enjoying the texting and apps, and cool stuff like that?

Or should I post on our whirlwind Thanksgiving trip that will include 3 different sleeping locations? Read: schlepping in and out of three different houses, plus lots of driving, plus very little eating on the part of my very picky eater. Unless you count Taco Bell, which isn't very Thanksgiving-y. On the positive side: It'll be much easier to make a Run for the Border using the GPS on my phone-less phone.

What I really want to post about today is EVIL. I just can't get it out of my mind. You see, I've been learning more and more about evil acts that took place in my close-knit community a few years ago and how the repercussions go on and on. I'm thinking about how lives were ruined, families splintered, innocence lost.

And I'm considering how although we can't eradicate evil, we can EXPOSE it. And I'm wondering if, when faced with evil, I'm strong enough to do that, and whether my kids are, too.

You see, although evil is cunning and quite capable of deceiving everyone around it, I wonder how often we ignore subtle signs, still small voices inside us--the hair that pricks up on the back of our necks, and ALLOW evil to prosper in our midst. I'm thinking about how sometimes we choose silence, image, privacy, and propriety when we should choose to get messy and loud and obnoxious.

Let me give you an example. When I taught school a million years ago, a student brought a gun into my classroom. This was pre-Columbine, so it felt like a whole different world than the one we live in today. But two brave students felt fearful enough, and brave enough, to tell me about the gun. Did I shout it from the rooftops, informing the community what had happened-- exposing the evil to its fullest?

No. I turned the kid in to the school, and he was expelled, but I never discussed it with the wider community because I didn't want the school I loved so much to look bad. I'm not even sure I told Tom. A few years later I was at a party and the guy was there, free as a bird, drinking a beer, and I felt sick with myself for not exposing him more than I did.

Another time a dear friend put one of my kids in a very dangerous situation because she was trying to protect her family's image at the expense of my child's safety.

I also wonder about my kids' ability to deal with evil. You see, I've spent a decade telling them to be polite, not make waves, go with the flow-- especially the one to whom little things have always seemed like such HUGE things. I did not want them to turn into the demanding kids I seem to attract like a magnet. The ones who rifle through my cupboards, tell me my house is dirty, and let me know of every injustice, real or perceived, they face.

But now, I've ended up with kids who are so inward they don't want to knock on the neighbors' doors to see if they can play. So inward they don't tell me what's on their minds and hearts unless it's bedtime, in the dark, and I pry. A lot. I fear that this inwardness will be a perfect breeding ground for keeping secrets and hurts that need to be exposed to the light.

I believe there are times to go AGAINST the flow. To stand up. To have a voice and say, "NO! That's NOT okay!" and I wonder if my kids have that in them. I do know one of them is perfectly capable of saying, "NO!" to certain writing assignments, but that is not what I'm talking about.

I've tried hard to get my high-strung kids to go along with authority, but I don't want them to when people in power over them are wrong, or dangerous, or evil.

Have you read the book, "The Gift of Fear?" I haven't, but I have seen the Dateline/20-20 shows about the importance of instinct, and of acting on it even if it seems weird or impolite.

So, I'm not sure where I'm going with this except to challenge us to be vigilant. And brave. And tenacious. And obnoxious if necessary. And to talk to each other, even if it's awkward. To speak up if something seems "off."

Because so much depends on that.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Can You Hear Me Now?

I'm so sorry I've been AWOL the past few days. Between Prince William getting engaged, one of my kids having a not so good week at school, and my trying to get used to a new cell phone, I've been swamped.

Yes, you read that right. I'm not sure if he was shamed into it after my dear readers strongly suggested Tom buy me a new phone-- I do believe Ali even insinuated I still had a "bag phone"-- but Tom finally coughed up my belated birthday present--- an Android! Eeek. It is Fan-cy!

This thing talks and texts and GPS's and Facebooks and everything!

The learning curve is steep.

Day One I carried it around in my pocket, but nothing happened. I fondled it to no avail. Turns out what I thought was the on button....wasn't. It might as well have been a block of wood anyway, because I found out later that it wasn't activated yet.

Day Two I let Molly get her little hands on it and before I knew it, she had uploaded HER contacts to my phone. I know, I didn't realize 9 year olds had contacts either, but before I'd even learned how to turn it on, there was a contact list that included, "Mommy, Daddy, Auntie L., and Natalie R." in my phone. Much as I'd like to call my "Mommy"some days, she's no longer with us and I really need to find a way to get MY contacts off of the defunct phone and onto this one.

Day 3 Molly played some more and said, "Mommy, who is Jimmy P.?" Uhhhhh.... a friend from 9th grade? Turns out somehow all of my Facebook friends are in there now, but what I really want is a way to call the other soccer carpool moms. Now I'm wishing I'd written their names down on like, a piece of paper or something.

Day 4, I was driving and a friend's voice just came into my car! Bluetooth, baby. Bluetooth.

I'm sure before we know it, I'll be Tweeting and texting and who knows what else, but at this point it's Day 5 and I haven't made a phone call yet.

You see, there are two drawbacks of the new phone: no reception in my house or at work. Right. Tom says, "Why would you need a cell phone in the house when we have a land line?" Grrr.

So while I'm trying to get used to my fancy new toy, I'm also trying not to get too attached.

I hope to be in touch soon. Even if it is with a message in a bottle.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why I Need a Camera on My Phone

Yesterday I was in an office building attending a meeting. I stopped in the bathroom (of course!) and saw this sign typed up and taped on the wall:

"Please do not PEE on the toilet seat cover. WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE. We are tired of looking at your PEE. This is a place of business. To pee on the toilet seat cover is very inconsiderate and unprofessional. Why can't you use a disposable paper toilet cover like the rest of us?"


Friday, November 12, 2010

Community Calling!

I’ve been thinking about friendship (again!) and wondering why I feel lonely and out of sync. I am a people person with a lot of friends. Lately, however, I feel more in tune with my car, where I spend so much time shuttling people around, than I do with most people.

Add to that our Facebook culture, with in-your-face reminders that everyone else on the planet is going to a costume party, or a wine tasting, or taking Zumba together, and it’s enough to leave this gray-streaked girl feeling a little blue.

For New Year’s 2010, as in 11 months ago, I decided to be more purposeful in finding and maintaining community. I realized I was relying on my online community so much that I wasn’t putting much effort into other relationships.

As we approach the end of the year what’s the verdict on my New Year’s resolution?


My small group Bible study disbanded, which was painful and left a void. Eight years and two hours a week with women I loved, and then…. it was over.

My declaration that our family would reach out and entertain more hasn’t happened either. Sports and work responsibilities, exhaustion, trips out of town, and the siren song of the DVR meant that weekend after weekend went by and we didn’t initiate social events.

First of all, Tom and I had different ideas of whom to invite. The question of whom we wanted to get to know better took on too great a significance and started to feel like PRESSURE.

We talked about whether our kids liked their kids. Whether their kids liked our kids. Whether our house was too small for a larger group. Whether we’d be leaving anyone out, which is my greatest fear. In the end, it all just seemed so exhausting and it was easier to say, “Let’s just forget it and watch Burn Notice.”

Lather, rinse, repeat.

I’ve written before about how when the kids were babies, what could have been a lonely time for me was actually rich with friendship and personal growth. There were many opportunities to bond with other women through play-dates and moms’ groups and just sitting around breastfeeding. Having babies and toddlers was TOUGH, so we relied on each other for support.

Now, a lot of those moms have moved out of my immediate vicinity. Schools and sports teams have created mini communities which take time and attention. Women have gone back to work. Couples are splitting up. People are busy. My friendship style has become more "drive-by" than deep.

Forming relationships means moving beyond chance encounters, but for me, going that extra step rarely happens.

I've had better luck keeping in touch with some high school and college friends, and I believe that's because there is usually an instigator who makes things happen (you know who you are Lisa G. and E.G.)

But in day-to-day friendships, I'm kind of suck-ish. I know I need to become an instigator rather than wait for someone else to do it.

It's just that there seems to be a finite number of people you can be in close relationship with, and I’ve realized if I’m not even putting in the time with my husband, my sister and my brother, I’m probably not going to be able to do it very well with friends, either.

So I’m wondering, how do YOU build community when you know and truly like a lot of people, but you feel overwhelmed with the concept of reaching out and making it happen?

How do you make sure the people you do spend time with are the people you want to spend time with?

What works for you?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Ride on the Crazy Train

So, today I had two interesting things happen to me-- if you don't count forgetting to provide the snack for the final soccer game of the season (aargh). That was more more predictable than interesting.

Incident Number 1:

This morning, when Molly pointed out what she called "Your Secret Freckle," located on my ample backside, I was caught off guard because she's usually yapping about my cellulite. "Has Daddy ever seen that?" she asked. I said, "He probably has, but he doesn't really notice details as much as you do."

She continued, "Well, when would he have seen it?"

Instead of mumbling something about his sometimes needing to shave while I shower, I went into a chirpy, enthusiastic discussion about mommies and daddies being naked while they make babies, AKA make love, AKA "have sex."

Her brow furrowed and she asked the predictable but nevertheless nervous-making question, "Does that mean you and Daddy have done it TWO times?!" Why oh why oh why did I not just say yes and move on?

Let's just say she got even more family life education today than she did at the Pumpkin House. It's all a bit of a blur, but I do remember saying something about "it" being "lots of fun." Oh my. Am thinking I'll regret that later. I was just trying to be all open and "free to be you and me-y."

The conversation ended abruptly with her covering her ears and telling me I was freaking her out.

Incident Number 2:

While I was clipping my fingernails, one shot into the air and flew right into my nostril. Then it ricocheted off of something (my brain?) and plunged down my throat. Neat-o.

I ask you, which of these two events was more alarming and awkward?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Them's Fighting Words!

I can forgive the teenage checker at Michael's for a lot of things, including being incredibly slow to sort rolls of change into the register.

What I cannot forgive her for is this:

As we waited, I handed Molly a painting we were going to get framed.

Me to Molly:

"Be careful with that painting. It's over 50 years old."

Cashier to me:

Oh, did you paint it?


Saving Money in a Bind

In what could be the world's most boring post, I would LOVE to tell you how to save at least 30 bucks this year.

And if I'm stating the obvious, please bear with me. It's like when I read "Hints from Heloise" and someone sends in a brilliant hint like, "use extra plastic grocery or newspaper bags to pick up dog poop," and I'm like, "Really? Thanks for bestowing such wisdom upon me."

But I digress...

This would be a better post at Back to School time, but I obviously forgot to share it with you this year, and all bets are off for next.

Although a big part of the appeal of Back to School shopping is the smell of fresh erasers, the reams of brand new paper, etc, there is one item you MUST buy used.


Each of my kids needed 4-6 binders this year, from 1 inches to big honking 3 inches wide. The cheapest ones at Walmart were about $3.00 each, while most at Staples were in the $8.00 range. Instead of spending $60 on binders, I bought them at the thrift store for a total of $6.90. They were all in pristine condition because apparently, like hangars, binders breed. I'm thinking we'll never have a binder shortage.

Since September I've stocked up on additional binders in various sizes for next year, all at .50-.70 each.

And if you really just love to buy new things, I'm sure those teacher-provided lists will give you plenty of opportunities. Dry erase markers? Hand sanitizer? Toilet paper?

Guess how many glue sticks my friend had to buy for her second grader? 3? 5? Try 60. Sheesh!

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Furniture Transformations

I have two projects to share today.

Found this little table on a trash heap on a very rainy day. The top is still a little ripply because of all that rain. Primed it, spray painted it Winter Gray, and tried a little distressing with sand paper. I think it's super cute. It needs a little more gluing of the bottom shelf before it hits Craigslist. What do you think? Bedside table? I hope I can find someone to love it.

I bought this desk for $11.00 at the thrift store. What a deal! It's almost 6 feet long and oh sooo heavy. The top was pretty scratched up, but the handy little sander I bought for with birthday money (Thanks, Aunt Betty!) worked like a charm.

Tom primed and painted it for me with a semi-gloss latex we bought to match Heirloom White. The hardware got a coat of Oil Rubbed Bronze spray paint.

I promised Tom I'd try to sell it, but I lied. I don't think he minded. Now it sits happily in my office where all the "blog-magic" takes place. Hee. Hee. I need to get metal frames to hang files inside the drawers. My desk chair is the suede one I found in the trash last year and spray painted. Yep, the suede and all. It sure is easier to take risks with things when they were headed to the dump anyway.

My old desk, which I've had since I was twelve, will have to be the one to find a new home, maybe after a fresh coat of black paint.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pumpkin Porn?

Each Halloween we visit “The Pumpkin House” in our town. Hundreds of HUMONGOUS pumpkins perch on scaffolding up and down the driveway, and the line of spectators snakes down the block.

Carvings range from cartoon characters and political figures to pop culture icons. It’s not unusual to see the gang from Twilight sitting next to Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party. I am amazed how elaborate the carvings are each year.

Molly takes pictures of nearly every one.
When she saw one of a BULL with a piece of dooky coming out of its rear, and a big slash through it indicating, “NO,” Molly said, “Look, NO BUFFALO POOP! That’s so cool!” Cracked me up.

So we had presidents, Scooby Doo, the Mona Lisa, and even God’s hand reaching across the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to touch a Jack-o-Lantern. Very neat.

This year’s theme was “optical illusions,” so the line went slowly as people tried to see hidden pictures within pictures.

Check this one out! See the old people? See the vase? See the people playing instruments?

The thing is, hidden or not, there was an awful lot of nudity this year. Seriously. I’m used to a Venus de Milo here or there. Fine. But several of this year’s pumpkins looked like they were ripped straight out of the K*ama Sutra.

I feared my 11 year old boy would encounter porn at some point, but I had no inkling it would be of the Pumpkin variety.

In fact, one pumpkin looked a lot like page 37 of a certain book my well-intentioned friend gave me years ago in an attempt to "loosen me up." When I found the book too hot to handle, I placed it high on my closet shelf. A couple years later, when my father in law was helping with a home improvement project in my closet, he found it and said to Tom, “Heh, Heh… I found your Instruction Manual.” Good times.

Anyhoo, I’m still a fan of the Pumpkin House. And I guess I don’t have to worry about teaching my kids “family life education,” something that is absent from our school’s curriculum. When they ask questions, I can just say, “Wait until next Halloween.”

And that’s no Buffalo Poop.