Wednesday, November 30, 2016

TV Temptations: A Different Kind of Shopping Guide

You already know that I'm a sucker for "As Seen on TV" products.

Of course there is my ardent affection for the Scrub Daddy, which is Shark Tank's biggest success story ever. That little scrubber is amazing AND cheerful. I love to give them to friends in my modest imitation of Oprah: "YOU get a Scrub Daddy!" "And YOU get a Scrub Daddy!" I love how it never gets smelly, and it works differently in hot and cold water.

But did you know that we used another Shark Tank product to transition Baby Andrew out of his beloved swaddle? The Zippadee Zip makes him look like a cute little starfish, and it gives him that extra security and snugness he craves.

Today I was in my happy place, Bed Bath and Beyond, and when I looked in my cart, I realized just how many products I use are from infomercials, shopping networks, or Shark Tank. There was this potato pocket thing Margaret got me last Christmas, knowing my love for fun gadgets and of course POTATOES. Who wouldn't love a perfectly baked potato in 3 minutes? It works so well and it's easy for her to use.

Then there was the Veggetti Spiralizer  I bought for myself and as a gift. Margaret has so much fun turning zucchini into noodles, and at only $20, how could I resist? No one is going to make me think zucchini tastes like pasta, but I love to saute a bit of garlic, onion, plus "zoodles" and serve with pasta sauce. I also use it to slice potatoes for soups.

Today I bought Tim a My Pillow, because he is always stealing mine. I say to him, "Did you take My Pillow" and stage whisper "trademark" because he is a patent lawyer and I think that's pretty funny. He's getting his own for Christmas so he will leave mine alone.

A lot of these products I learn about on TV but then order online at Amazon or buy in stores like Bed, Bath and Beyond.

I remember my first TV purchase, way back in the 80's. I hesitate to tell you, but it was the Gut Buster, a spring loaded contraption guaranteed to bust my "gut." We didn't even call them abs back then. I don't know whether it worked or not, because I never tried it. A few years later, I unloaded it at a garage sale. I'm happy to report I'm one of the few who never ordered a Thigh Master, courtesy of Suzanne Somers. They are always springing up on the thrift store shelves, but I've resisted thus far.

What about Huggable Hangers? Total game changer in my closet, and the generic ones work just as well as the name brand ones do. And Joy Mangano's My Little Steamer means I'll raise yet another child who doesn't know what an iron is.

During times of pregnancy insomnia I learned all you would want to know about the Shark vacuum, and I'm very happy with mine.

The list goes on to skincare, jewelry, even flip flops.

I've been beyond thrilled with 90% of the products I've purchased that I first saw on TV. I couldn't tell you about the Ped Egg, though, because as soon as I bought it, I became too hesitant to use it on my callous-y feet. I was nervous I'd cut myself. I told Jack, "I think I'm afraid of my Ped Egg" and he fell on the floor laughing, and said, "Mom! I love you!" Oh, and remember the post when he also thought it was pretty lame when I bought a $5 knock-off of the As Seen on TV Shake Weight? Never used that one, either.

Which brings me to the 10% of products that have been an utter failure for me. Almost all of them, like the Gut Buster and the Shake Weight, are exercise-related. I try to avoid buying these products because I know they will just gather dust until I get rid of them, amid shame and self-flaggelation, which appears to be the only kind of exercise I engage in on a regular basis.

But today, when I was at Bed Bath an Beyond, there was something tempting right up front at the register. For only $39.99 I could purchase the Simply Fit Board I've been eying it ever since I saw the cutest, fittest, grandma inventor demonstrating it on Shark Tank. After all, I want to be cute and fit, and I already feel like a grandma.

At the last second I hoisted it into my cart and handed over my 20% off coupon. It was heavier than I thought, so perhaps THAT was my workout for the day.

SOOOOO, do you think I should return it NOW, or wait until I wrap it and unwrap it on Christmas morning?

--affiliate links are above for your convenience, just don't tell me if you buy a gut buster--

Monday, November 28, 2016

A Cozy Blanket: Giving Tuesday!

As I've mentioned before, having a new baby makes me feel connected to other mothers around the world.

It is impossible for me to ignore that while Andrew has so much, there are so many babies who have so little.  Recently, as I gathered up his outgrown onesies and cozy, extra baby blankets, I looked into mailing them to some of the Armenian women I met on my trip with World Vision.

In the process, I was reminded of something I've learned when it comes to charitable giving: it is often best to let local organizations choose what best suits the needs of local people, because they can help in strategic, cost effective ways. For instance, I discovered it would cost me over $45 to mail a small receiving blanket and onesie to Armenia, far more than the items were worth. Yet if I made a monetary donation, local World Vision workers could ensure that just the right help finds those who need it.

In my research about baby blankets, I read several touching stories about how something a simple as a blanket can make a difference to a mother and child, like Seida and Joyce in Zambia.

Because of the cold, Seida worried about the well-being of her children, especially for her seven-month-old Joyce. “My worry was how my children will survive the cold, especially for Joyce who doesn’t have anything better to keep her warm.” 

“I am grateful to World Vision for giving me such a precious gift which I never expected. Who else could have given it to me here?” she asked further. “I have four children but none of them has ever had a privilege to feel the warmth of a blanket like this one.” 

“As you can see I am not the only one who is happy; my daughter is happy, too. We never expected this,” Seida said joyfully.

She adds, “Although at the clinic we are advised to have such blankets at the time of delivery and after to keep the babies warm, I have never afforded any.”  

“Now that I have this blanket, I’ll use it well so that the next child can also use it and benefit. As a mother, wrapping my child in such a blanket brings me honor and pride,” Seida says further.

Seida’s fear about exposing her daughter to the cold had been that the baby could get sick and die. “At the clinic we are advised to keep our babies warm always because they can suffer from pneumonia, a very dangerous disease which does not cure easily. So the blanket will help my child a lot.”

Seida is a small-scale farmer who cannot afford to buy such a blanket because they are expensive and cannot be accessed anywhere in rural areas.

Wow. That humbles me, big-time, and makes me want to give that kind of joy and warmth to other mothers in need this Christmas.

TODAY is Giving Tuesday! 

I absolutely LOVE Giving Tuesday! Any gift given to World Vision today will be generously matched with a product donation from Thirty-One Gifts up to $2,000,000, so any donation you make will have twice the impact for helping families in need around the world.

The Thirty-One Gifts donation of product includes items like apparel, thermals, and totes. Last year, the Thirty-One Gifts blankets that were included in their Giving Tuesday match were used in World Vision programs around the world to keep infants warm and healthy. 

You can choose ANY item to donate through World Vision today, such as the variety of items offered in the World Vision Gift Catalog, but if you want to make a direct donation to support new mothers and their infants, I recommend the New Mother and Baby Kit!  

And no need to worry about all of Andrew's extra clothes and blankets. I gave them to a friend who is going to hand deliver them to her new great grandson in Hondurus! 

Micah 6:8

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Hardcover Copies of Rare Bird

I'd love to sign and mail a hardcover copy of Rare Bird for your friends and loved ones this holiday season. Each book is $15 shipped. 

Email to order!

Friday, November 18, 2016

True Colors

Yesterday we put Jack's old surfboard sheets on the extra bed in the baby's room, where I sleep from about 3-6 most mornings after I've tended to Andrew. We haven't used those sheets in the three years we've lived in this house, but yesterday the other set was in the wash and our cleaning lady, who helps out twice a month, offered to change the beds for me. I couldn't say no. What a treat it is to have a bed made up nicely rather than in the haphazard way I do it! (Remember when Jack used to make Tim's and my bed every morning for a dollar?)

When our cleaning lady saw the colorful surfboards, she immediately recognized them as Jack's. I didn't think much of it until this morning at three when I crawled under the navy blue comforter and between the familiar sheets. It took me right back to snuggle time with Jack.

Gosh, he loved his old bedroom, the largest in the house, with its built-in bookshelves and big windows. He loved the lime green walls (he called them chartreuse) and the navy and white stripes that Tim and I somehow painted without messing up or even arguing. But Jack was a little concerned about the surfer theme that I "dove" into wholeheartedly as I planned his big boy room.  Surfboard sheets, beach shack signs, little shark and surfboard lights around his windows. "Is it okay to have a surfer room if I don't surf?" he asked. Sure it was. Plus, I thought there would be plenty of times Jack would go in the ocean, at his own pace, even if he never became a surfer. I couldn't know he wouldn't ever leave the sand.

His concerns seemed so cute to me, but not surprising.

Jack always wanted to be authentic.

A few years later, when I bought him a Mountain Dew shirt at Five Below, it sat unworn in his dresser for months. Finally I asked, "Are you ever going to wear that shirt, or should I donate it?" He answered that he didn't feel right wearing it if he'd never tasted Mountain Dew. He said it was kind of like false advertising, since he didn't know whether Mountain Dew was good or not. I replied, "You know you could have asked me, right? We can get you a Mountain Dew to see what you think." He was surprised, but delighted, and it became one of favorite shirts that last year.

I try to be authentic, too.

I want my inner and outer selves to match. I want to live out my values even if inertia, laziness, and  too much comfort try to entice me to do otherwise.

And I want to offer no shocking surprises should Dateline rig up the house with hidden cameras, or record my interactions with anyone from family members to strangers. Sometimes my intentions are really good, but my actions don't show evidence of it. Instead of being loving, generous and expansive, I am cranky, insular, and selfish.

The things that I think about, and how I spend my time and my money do not always reflect what I tell myself my true priorities are.

Plus, there is the risk that if I show my authentic self and people don't like it, I've made a mistake in being vulnerable.

Just some thoughts I have today, sparked by memories of a young boy who made sure his insides and outside matched.

Monday, November 14, 2016

When has Saying "Calm Down" ever Calmed Anyone Down in the History of Calming Down?

I was honored to give a talk on Friday to a Christian networking group. I spoke about finding hope in grief, and I used my personal experiences to illustrate strategies that I have found helpful in the midst of great pain.


One of my greatest hopes in writing so much about grief for the past 5 years, is that I can help grievers and those people who are trying to support/understand them navigate grief in healthy ways. And truly, this kind of understanding is needed for ALL of us, for we will all grieve in this lifetime.

I bring this up today because there are many people in our country grieving what feels like a sudden and unexpected loss, and there are many others saying, "Move on!" "Get over it!" "Let it go!"

Yes, one of the ways in which we do find hope amidst great pain is in letting go of things eventually,  --primarily an expectation for the way we thought things would/should be. This is something that often comes with time, but it is never effective if INFLICTED on someone else.

If we do not let ourselves feel or acknowledge grief, it festers, it rots, it grows. Acknowledging pain and brokenness does the opposite.

I have friends who were not able to be around my pain in losing Jack. It spoke to their deepest fears of losing a child of their own. And perhaps the messiness of my grief made them uncomfortable. I became "other". They wanted me to get better, fast, and maybe not talk/write about it so much. But if I had stuffed my grief, shoved it away, and MOVED ON, not only would I likely be in a much darker place now, I also would not have used my hard-earned (yet unsought) wisdom in service to others.

You see, pain that is tamped down or stifled says, "I've been hurt. This isn't fair! I want to hurt others so they will feel as miserable as I do!" Pain that is let out into the light, into the world, says, "I'm hurting. I will not calm down, sit down, shut up, or pretend that everything's okay. My grief is not on someone else's timetable.  I may not get the time machine I long for, but I will look ahead right now to see how I can help someone else."

That is what is going to happen. Pain that is let out in the air, not tamped down, will effect positive change.

Sure, the "losers" will eventually "let go" of their expectation of victory for their candidate. I don't believe that's the crux of what's going on anyway. But, if given the opportunity and RESPECT to feel their feelings, just as every griever deserves, they will be able to channel this disappointment into not pretending everything is okay, but rather into continuing to work for/fight for what they believe is right in a world that feels upside down to them right now.

That's what I'm thinking today.

But first I need to say I am sorry.

I am sorry for any role I may have had in not understanding pain that has gone unacknowledged or festered for many years and that may have led to an election outcome that I didn't expect.

I am sorry for oversimplifying here when I share my heart with you, and if for any reason you feel carelessly lumped into one category/one motivation/one issue when I write about the election, I am sorry for that, too.

I am sorry if linking election grief to the grief of losing a loved one causes any of you more pain than you are already experiencing. I promise that's not what I'm trying to do.

And I'm sorry if saying I will not pretend everything is okay in our country right now causes anyone to think that I am someone who wants to stir up trouble, or that I am a whiner.

For something is already stirred up in this country we love, that is for sure, and I won't be quiet and I won't calm down if there is ANYTHING I can do to help make it better, whether that makes people uncomfortable or not. My biggest fear is that we will stop paying attention to what's going on, and before we know it, what felt outrageous a year ago, or a month ago, or a day ago, will start to feel normalized. That's one of the greatest risks of calming down.

My trust is in God alone, not in any man/woman or office.

Yet I believe that God calls me to look beyond my own comfort/privilege/security to the needs of others, to not numb myself, to stay engaged with eyes wide open, and to call out prejudice, hatred, and injustice when I see it.

 Calmly or otherwise.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Line of Stupidity: A Tale of Chores Yet Undone

I'd like to show you something that I haven't shown many people.

It's one of our dirty little secrets:

I know my photos are crappy, as usual, but I'm hoping you can see where the lovely, fresh gray paint on the left joins up with the yellow faux plasterwork paint on the right. Do you? Good.


Perhaps you have something similar in your house.

You see, when we had our major kitchen renovation done in Jan/Feb, we had the main level, which isn't a very large space, painted a lovely shade of gray, Moonshine by Benjamin Moore. Our kitchen renovators were pros, and they did a wonderful job. When they were putting on the finishing touches, we told them to stop painting right there, at the LINE OF STUPIDITY, because we wanted to finish the job ourselves to save money.

Now if you have ever renovated a kitchen, you know that you are basically hemorrhaging the big bucks at that point in the game. Would a few hundred dollars more have made much of a difference? I don't know. We didn't even ASK what it would have cost for them to keep painting. But I do know they could have hammered it out in about an hour or two, if that.

In the time since the kitchen was completed, my pregnant belly yielded forth a precious baby, who is on the verge of crawling now, our daughter finished up 9th grade and is well into 10th, yet the yellow remains.

It's not even a lot of yellow. Our upstairs hall is tiny, and is 3/4 white molding and doorways which we do not intend to paint.

 Now before we blame this whole debacle on the the innocent baby in our house, and his never-ending needs, I must confess that it's not as if we could not have seen this coming. Remember when we had french doors installed at the old house, told the handyman we would paint them ourselves, only to call him back ONE YEAR LATER to do the job? Yeah. Me too.

So please, help a girl out. Or at least her husband out, and tell me of any unfinished projects you have staring you in the face.