Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dear Friends and Family (Or, How to Write a Holiday Letter Without Really Trying)

“On a busy day twenty-two thousand people come to visit Santa, and I was told that it is an elf's lot to remain merry in the face of torment and adversity. I promised to keep that in mind.”
― David Sedaris

Dear Friends and Family,

I know it's been several years since I've actually forced my hoodlums to smile for the camera and then submitted their tortured grins to my local photo shop for a holiday card festooned with ribbons and trees and snowmen.  I haven't purchased Christmas stamps in at least three years.  And I've haphazardly attempted my annual "here's what went wrong in our lives this year" letter because I posted it on Facebook but (and I'll be honest here) I've been lazy.  

We're swingers.  Wait, is that appropriate?
I did RECEIVE Christmas cards this year from the few faithful friends who steadfastly refuse to drop my lazy, ingrate self from THEIR Christmas card lists.  You must love me.  Or maybe you're too lazy to drop me from your painstakingly and lovingly created lists.  Or maybe you're just trying to spur me to action in the hopes that the guilt you've inspired will FINALLY bring me to my senses and I'll get back on the Christmas card bandwagon.  Alas, it hasn't worked.  Yet.  There's always 2014.  Maybe if I get started NOW, I can do it.  

I love Christmas cards.  I do.  I open them with delight.  And I post the pictures of your smiling kids and adorable pets on my fridge and hope that may be ONE day ALL of us can get together.  And then I think about how much work that would be.  And I go back to reading my books.  Or writing my blog.  Or staring off blankly into space wondering if my toes are still growing because, seriously, they SEEM longer.  

So, here it is friends and family.  Here's my holiday letter.  It didn't come to you with a stamp. But it comes from as deep in my heart as I can muster: 

Life is never an easy proposition in this family household.  We stumble through it not with those delightfully laid plans of a mother in charge of her family's destiny but, instead, rather haphazardly.  Any really good things that occur seem accidental or, at best, like living life fortune-cookie-style.  "Today the sun will shine on you and you'll make wise choices."  Well, OK.  Let's have at it then.  

We adopted another family member this year.  No, don't get all ruffled up...it wasn't an actual CHILD but instead a delightfully compact Scottish terrier named Mr. McDougal.  Mr. McDougal is a brilliant name for a Scottish terrier and I can only wish I had thought of it.  No, dogs who are adopted EARLY into my household get names like "Sparky" or maybe the classic "Fido."  We're apparently just either a) not that creative or b) put our genius to evil instead of good.  Mr. McDougal LOOKS depressed much of the time.  I mean, he walks around with his little ears perked up and his tail wagging but I think he must grow tired of staring at everyone's ankles.  Living amongst feet can't be an easy or pleasant thing.  Regardless, he's been swept along in the ordinary chaos of our day to day lives and, so far at least, no one has forgotten to feed him.

Thing 1 has sprouted and is no longer the shortest kid in his class, for which I am eternally grateful.  All I need would be to raise a man with Napoleon syndrome.  No, the neuroses he develops after the first 18 years with me will be far more interesting for a psychologist to unwind and I rest assured every night that he will have plenty of fodder to hold against me when he's grown.  He's now in the 8th grade and has uncovered a natural flair for sarcasm.  I foster that when I can. Usually when we're talking about his grades or his future.

Thing 2 started middle school this past year and has developed his more social side.  He spends hours locked behind closed doors playing video games while talking with his friends on a headset.  I'm pretty sure he's shooting them while doing so.  Not that I'm worried, dear friends and family.   I've been told that they're "ONLY video games, Mom."  I have to be honest with him: I'm not a fan of those games.  He told me that he's growing up just fine, though.  I guess I'll believe him until he's 24 and living on my couch in sweat-stained undershirts and boxer shorts.  

I'm not yet addicted to any drugs (prescription or otherwise) and I've managed not to add excessive weight to my sturdy frame this year.  I seem to be hobbling along fine and if you'd call me every now and again you'd figure that out for yourself.  Not that I'm complaining.  And I do realize the phone lines work both ways...it's just that we've established how lazy I am earlier in this letter.  Do you honestly think I can be bothered to pick up the phone?  

The new year begins tomorrow at midnight.  2014 is sure to hold some pretty amazing things for this little family.  Or not.  Where's that fortune cookie again?  And, hey, I'll send out your REAL Christmas cards NEXT year.  Maybe. 

Much love,

Kelly (and the boys and the dogs and the geriatric cat)

P.S. In all seriousness, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our little corner of the world to yours.  We love you muchly.  

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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Working Through Life

“In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.”
― Leo Tolstoy

Remember when I said I don't blog about work?  OMG.  I lied.  I have to stop for a moment and blog about work.  Apparently, I didn't blog about work before because it just brought me DOWN so much.  But now that I work for company where we have bean bag chairs and write-on-walls in the conference room (which is called the IDEA ROOM), all I want to do is talk about work.  And write about work.

This morning as I sat down to do some work for a big client meeting we have tomorrow morning, I was smiling.  I have truly a LOT of work to get done today but I don't even seem to mind.  Yeah, my Christmas tree is still up (it's never up more than two days after Christmas...I like to see Christmas clutter come and I do love to see it go).  Yeah, my house is a bit of a wreck.  I need to do laundry.  And I need to shower for church.  And, yet, what I do is sit down to do a bit more work.

This thought bowled me over this morning as I sat down to work:  I am a happy person.

I have been an unhappy person...a miserable wretch who ended up making other people miserable in my wake.  I have focused on and fed my misery by turning things over and over in my mind.  The pain of life has festered in me.  But today...in this moment (and, trust me, THIS moment is ALL WE truly have)...I am joyful.

Meaningful work is a huge part of that.

Letting things go is, perhaps, an even bigger part.

I am contemplating life a lot less these days.  I analyze less.  I understand that the lives of others (even those really close to me) do not revolve around me.  I drink more hot tea.  I listen to more music.  I sing more and cry less.  I live in THIS moment so much more.   And those things have made all the difference.

Work on, sister friend.  Work on.  

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Dear Santa, We Have To Talk

“So I've started wearing sweatpants to bed because I really don't need Santa seeing me in my underwear.”
― Jeff Kinney

Dear Santa,

I know we haven't been terribly close since my entire third-grade class launched an attack on you.  I mean,  I didn't really believe the lies they were spewing but I figured my all-out adoration of you might best be cloaked under a fine veil of pre-teen scorn.

Your presence in shopping malls and holiday parades always made me shiver a little and I often fought the urge to come and sit on your lap and breathe in your cookies-and-hot-chocolate scent.  But I refrained.  I'm sorry.  I realize we lost a lot of years.

And I know you were probably disappointed when my kids were slightly terrified of you.  But, come on, Santa, you might want to get with the times and take that full beard down a notch or two.  Kids these days aren't accustomed to voluminous fluffy white facial hair.

But here's the thing, Santa:  I need you to show up.  This year, I am ready for you to show up.  And, like Mariah, I have a grown-up Christmas list that needs your attention.  Forget the smushy, oogie, lovey dovey stuff.  I have some real requests. 

  1.  Sprinkle some magic fairy dust to keep people from lying to each other.  I know, I know.  Honesty can hurt.  But you know what hurts more?  Deception and the eradication of trust.  That hurts people way more than honesty ever could.  And I'm not talking about cruel honesty...there's no need to tell Aunt Ethel that her butt is bigger than the side of a barn.  But we shouldn't just lie because it's more convenient for us, should we?
  2. Help people understand that tolerance is a two-way street.  People have beliefs.  My neighbor may have a different belief than I have.  But my neighbor has EVERY RIGHT to believe what he believes.  I may think he's wrong.  He may think I'm wrong.  But you know what?  I support his right to state his beliefs.  And I have to respect our differences.  
  3. Get rid of child abuse.  Santa, I don't need diamonds.  I don't need more stuff.  What I need is for adults to stop hurting kids.  Period.  It's not hard, Santa.  You know what?  Sometimes I get REALLY MAD at my kids.  I do.  But I don't call them names.  I don't hit them.  Can you make that happen, Santa?  'Cause I really, really want that for Christmas.  I've been good (mostly).  
  4. Pull some money out of that sack, Santa, and give it to people who need it.  Some people can't pay their power bill.  It's Christmas, Santa.  Turn on their lights.  Some people need food.  Let's get them to the grocery store.  Inspire people to give to others.  
  5. Make people laugh.  You're a fat, jolly old elf, Santa.  If people can't laugh with you, then there is little to no hope.  Laughter heals.  Laughter helps.  And, quite honestly, sometimes it's all you can do.
 Maybe you can't help me, Santa.  Maybe my list is more suitable for prayers than wishes.   But, Santa, I have to tell you...I am praying about all those things.  And I don't see any answers yet.  But I realize that life is far bigger than I am and that I don't see the larger picture.  

But I have to believe that one day...that, maybe, one Christmas...there won't be trinkets under my tree.  

I have hope.  

I believe.


P.S.  Thanks for that bicycle when I was six.  The one with the basket and the horn?  That was pretty awesome. 

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Nutcracker for the Uninitiated: 5 Easy Ways to Understand Ballet

“Real men don't lift weights, they lift women.”
― Every male ballet dancer

I am what you might call a novice when it comes to understanding and appreciating ballet.  I was never the cute little girl in pink tights and a tight bun.  I didn't carry one of those little pink ballet bags to school and I was never asked the question (by anyone):  "So, where are you 'taking?"  ("Taking" is that term for the ones who belong.  They take a class at Miss Suzy Q's Elite Ballet School for Tiny Princesses and, therefore, are "taking."  The "ballet" at the end is not required. Duh.) I don't know if they never asked me because of the obvious absence of the pink bag or because of the fact that I had a tendency to fall down and/or knock things over on a regular basis.  Girls who "take" aren't generally walking disasters.  They glide.  Gracefully.  With long necks.  Like giraffes with leg warmers.

So, I had the "opportunity" to see my second ever Nutcracker performance over the weekend.  Don't get me wrong, I was THRILLED to see my beautiful (and graceful...because, you see, she "takes") goddaughter fulfill a lifelong dream of performing the role of Clara and my other gorgeous firecracker of a goddaughter play the role of a mischievous little mouse.  I really was thrilled to watch the two of them.  But, you see, this performance lasts a couple of hours.  Hours.  Of people dancing.

All I can think of when I see people balancing on the tips of their toes is "ouch, that must HURT" and "Good Lord, that's completely unnatural what they're doing up there" and "WHY is that guy wearing WHITE TIGHTS?"

I realize that if I ever want to become a cultured and somewhat respectable human being I should enjoy attending The Ballet and The Opera and The Plastic Surgeon.  But, I just...don't.  It's mostly because I don't GET it and, quite honestly, I think it just LOOKS a little funny.   When I watched one of the fairies (I don't know if was Sugar Plum or Diamond or Tooth) tiptoe across the stage in these tiny stutter steps with the skin on her arms jiggling (and, trust me on this, it was NOT fat...it's just that human beings shouldn't MOVE like that), I just thought it was...weird.

But, I think I finally have the storyline down.  AND, if there are any people like me left out there who just don't quite "get" the whole ballet thing, I have a checklist here of things to do PRIOR to attending a Nutcracker performance this Christmas season:

  1. Have a drink beforehand.  Or, if you're into it, possibly some hallucinogenic drugs.  I'll bet you could have an amazing experience tripping through the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.  Of course, when the Giant Rat King comes out, your horrified screaming of "OH, THE HUMANITY!" might get you thrown out on your kiester.  So, careful on that one.
  2. Understand the story BEFORE you go.  I had no idea what was happening on the stage because THEY DON'T SPEAK.  I didn't know until three hours AFTER the performance that Clara spent all of Act II dancing with the Nutcracker COME TO LIFE!  WTF?  The wooden nutcracker became a Real Boy?  Did someone tell Pinocchio about this?  
  3.  Prepare yourself to not laugh at the men/boys in white tights.  It's inappropriate.  And juvenile.  (But I totally have the giggles right now just thinking about it.  I mean, seriously, have they LOOKED in the mirror?  Are white tights really necessary?)
  4. Understand that the second act is all about the dancing.  The exciting stuff happens in the first act.  There's some magic.  And some ballroom stuff.  And some little kids.  And someone dressed as a fancy cat.  And a sword fight.  So, you're sitting there (falsely) lulled into thinking that you might could get into this ballet thing.  And then the second act opens and they start dancing.  Like, "We Are the World" dancing.  You have dancers who are...well...like maybe the Ukrainian Dancer, the Norwegian Dancer, the Nicaraguan Dancer or something like that.  I don't know if they change countries all the time or if they always stay the same.  There may have been some sort of dedication to Imelda Marcos in there somewhere but I lost count at some point. In between, they sprinkle fairy dust.  
  5. Spoiler: Know that, at the end, it's all a dream.  I think.  I really wasn't following it.  But Clara was great.  And the mouse was pretty terrific, too.  That's all that really mattered to me to begin with.
Go to the Nutcracker.  I'm sure you'll love it.  Most people are a lot more refined than I.  Or less honest.  :)

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

5 Things To Do When You Can't Get Back to Sleep

"I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?”
― Ernest Hemingway

I woke up this morning at 2:21 a.m. after dreaming that a man knocked on the back door of my house.  Even though I couldn't really see his face, I figured I should open the door because he must NEED something if he came to the back door instead of the front like a normal person.  And so, like the chick in horror movies who makes stupid decisions that will get her killed, I opened my back door.  In the dream, the man rushed in and asked me for a piece of paper.  I was confused and backed away.  He was obviously a close talker and came rushing at me through the living room.  I whimpered because he seemed kind of odd and threatening (I don't know where I GOT that because he did come in through my back door in the middle of the night).  Anyway, within 30 seconds of entering my house, he had put his hand over my mouth and told me not to scream.

That's when I woke up.

I immediately determined that I had been dreaming (sometimes I'm not sure if I'm experiencing real life or dreaming...my life is JUST THAT WACKY) and tried to snuggle back into my covers.  That's when my brilliant mind took over.

I'm hot.  I wonder where the thermostat is set.  Heat rises in the winter.  Blurred lines.  You know you want it.  I wonder if that's where the dream came from?  Gosh, I'm glad the Dream Man didn't say that because then it would be obvious, wouldn't it?  So, if someone broke in, would I be able to yell to the boys to call 911?  I wonder if they would lock their doors.  How strong are their doors anyway.  If the Bad Man knew that the kids were locked up in their rooms, would he try to break the door down?  If he was distracted trying to get to THEM, I could push him down the stairs.  Maybe he'd break his neck.  Do people break their necks falling down the stairs?  I wonder what the statistical probability of that is?....

You see where that went.  And so, here I am. Once again.  In the middle of the night.  Wide awake. I decided to figure out a few solutions for myself. 
  1.  Drink milk.  Did you know that milk contains tryptophan?  Yep, it's that same stuff that makes Uncle Joe snooze off in the recliner after a big turkey dinner on Thanksgiving.  Granted, it has tryptophan in very, very small amounts, but it still has it.  And if you think something works, honestly, it is more likely to work.  Personally, the idea of warm milk makes me want to hurl but...whatever floats your boat. I like my milk with a little chocolate syrup for delicious goodness.
  2. Do NOT lay in bed for hours.  There is nothing more frustrating than tossing and turning in bed.  You have to train your mind to SLEEP when you're in bed.  If you're not sleeping, you're training your mind that bed is just a place to be frustrated.  (And I'm not touching THAT last sentence with a ten-foot pole.)
  3. Do something mundane.  You probably shouldn't do as I do and blog.  That just gets me fired up.  There is a little something to be said for counting sheep.  It's boring.  Sheep are boring.  Counting is boring.  My challenge with that was always "OOH! Let's see how high I can count!"
  4. Make a list.  A lot of times we can't sleep because our minds are so engaged with reality that dreaming ends up getting shoved aside.  Write down all the things that are bugging you...and let them go.
  5. Call a fellow insomniac.  Because if you can't beat 'em...join 'em.  
At some point, I'll probably follow my doctor's advice and ingest less caffeine which will, in turn, probably help me stay asleep at night.  But becoming a decaf coffee drinker is going to have to wait....I'm brewing a pot right now.

Good night, Gracie.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Transitioning into Transformation

“Author says change emphasizes what is happening TO us while transition emphasizes opportunity for growth within.”
― William Bridges

When I started this blog in March, I was on the cusp of my very own personal revolution.  I was a broken person who was just starting to not only put myself back together (although, unlike Humpty Dumpty, I don't think I'd ever really been whole to start with) but also realizing that true metamorphosis happens only from the inside.

I was coming from a place of complete loss of direction:  I had no idea what to do about truly unhealthy relationships with my boyfriend (OK, give me a break.  I KNOW it sounds SO Breakfast Club but, listen, I grew up with John Hughes' movies), my career and, ultimately, myself.

Turns out it was me I had to fix first.  WHO KNEW?

Yesterday,  I started a new life.  I could say that I began a new job...but, boy, it FELT like a WHOLE NEW LIFE.  Because I had been a defeated and broken person, I had been toiling away in a job and in an environment that didn't work for me.  I had come into that place feeling like a fairly intelligent, reasonably knowledge professional.  My spark died a little bit every single day for over nine years and I came out feeling somehow "less than."  Don't get me wrong, that was NOT my employer's fault.  I just didn't know that the place wasn't a good fit for me until I had already been defeated (I have a tendency to do that kind of thing).

At the beginning of this year, I wrote down some professional goals.  Well, I wrote down one goal:  I wanted to work for a creative place where I could write more and travel more. I didn't think that was too much to ask. 

Because I've spent the last year (OK, fine, maybe it took longer than that) working on becoming an actual adult, I was able to emerge yesterday into the light.

I felt professional.

I felt reasonably intelligent.

I felt competent.

I felt energized.

I felt creative.

Oh my.  I'm working with an amazing marketing agency as an account manager.  They are on a cusp of marketing that I didn't know existed until I interviewed with these guys.  They are doing some extremely cool things that are taxing my brain to its limit...I don't even think I fully grasp yet how cool it is.  I am thrilled to be working with them and even more thrilled that they see me as a valuable asset to the company.  WHAT?  WHO KNEW? 

And, guess what else?  I get to write more.  And travel more.  Part of my job includes blogging about marketing.  WHAT?  And writing e-books when they're relevant.  WHAT?

I'm thrilled.  And I am professional, reasonably intelligent, competent, energized and creative.  I walked a little taller at the end of the day.  And I looked up at the sky and said, "Thank you."

Transformation does not happen overnight but, after you've slogged through the mess, it certainly can make life seem a lot less messy and a lot more beautiful.  And even though I am STILL up at some horribly unreasonable hour, I am awake not because I'm stressed or worried but because I'm EXCITED.  I'm actually going to do a little work now. 

The only real problem I have left is this:  what do I blog about from My Rockin' Chair NOW since I'm all mentally and emotionally healthy?  Crap.  Guess I'll have to start telling corny jokes.  (I know...you can't WAIT FOR THAT, RIGHT?)

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

Monday, November 25, 2013

How Hope Springs Eternal in the Mind of a True Optimist

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
― Oscar Wilde

I don't write about my work in my blog.  Have you noticed?  I spew on and on about everything under the sun but I don't refer to my workplace at all.   I think it's unprofessional to write (a.k.a. "complain") about your work in a personal blog.  I am not going to write about it today (much) other than to say I am starting a NEW job on Monday...a job I am well-suited for and ridiculously excited about. 

But I have to tell you the story about how I GOT there.

I had been looking for other work for some time.  I had been interviewing here and there and came close to snagging a few positions but never quite got there.  It was befuddling to me because I have always been a person who could secure a new job in just a couple of months.  The economy has shifted, however, and I am at a different place in my career. Times are hard for a mid-level marketer.

I grew more and more frustrated in my work but just couldn't seem to move anywhere.  Finally, one day several weeks ago, I threw up my hands in disgust and said, "OK, God, obviously I am not getting anywhere on my own.  Put me where you want me. I am letting this go."  The phone rang the next day.  (I'm not kidding.)

I began interviewing in earnest.  People were e-mailing me for interviews and calling me for interviews.  I've not seen anything like it in the two years I've been dabbling with finding a new position.  It was like God was saying, "See, kid?  All you had to do was ask for help...and trust Me."

One day, I received an e-mail from someone who had an editor job open at a local magazine.  WHAT?  That was a WRITING JOB!  I had sent in my resume on the off-chance that someone might make a mistake and call me because I didn't have ANY experience for the position other than my own desire to write and my years of toiling away in the business world.  We set up a phone interview.

The interview was brief and I hung up, discouraged.  She reiterated several times that they were looking for a "seasoned editor."  Well, obviously I had zero experience so they'd have to look elsewhere for a little salt-and-pepper.

A couple of days later,  I received an e-mail inviting me in to interview with the editor-in-chief.  WHAT??  That guy is a REAL WRITER.  He's a REAL GOOD WRITER.  I read everything he'd written in the past...oh...three years and I put on a jacket and I went to talk with him.

He questioned me about my ability to be a journalist.  We talked back and forth for a while and I told him earnestly that I could DO IT.  I could be a writer.  I AM a writer.  I have the business card, for goodness sake.

I asked him to give me a chance to show him that I could write.  He let me interview him for a "real" story, coaching me a little along the way about what questions to ask.  After a bit, he told me that NOW it was time for the REAL interview.  He was SUPER NICE.  And he was a REAL WRITER.  I was in awe, honestly.

I walked into the president's office and took a seat.  The conversation as follows is not verbatim, but it's pretty darn close.

President:  "I haven't really had a chance to look over your resume, but I'm wondering how on EARTH you got through two levels of interviews to be sitting here.  You have NO EXPERIENCE."

Me:  "But I DO have experience.  I just don't have experience in this PARTICULAR area.  I am a non-traditional candidate, see?  In my heart, I am a writer."

President: "You seem like a SALESPERSON.  Why aren't you in sales? Salespeople make money.  Writers don't make money."

Me:  "I could be a salesperson.  Do you have a job in sales?"

President:  "Are you going through some sort of mid-life CRISIS?  Why are you sitting here?"

Me:  "Because I CAN WRITE.  I can do it.  I can be a GOOD writer.  In my heart, I am a writer."

President: "In your heart...if I told you that I had a job washing cars, would you want to do that, too?"

Me:  "No.  I don't want to wash cars.  But sales I could do.  Writing I could REALLY do."

It went back and forth for quite some time.  It was the toughest interview I ever sat through.  He asked me questions designed to dig out pieces of my character.  It was fascinating.  And exhilarating.  And I loved it.  I didn't know what to think about it when it was over but I loved that I was able to have the experience of interviewing for a REAL WRITING JOB. 

The next Monday, I received my first job offer from a small company looking for a marketing director.

I emailed the magazine and told them I had an offer.  I needed to know if they were at ALL interested in moving me through the next phase before I accepted any other offer.  

And I kept interviewing.

I received an email from the magazine.  I WAS STILL IN THE RUNNING.  I was scheduled for the final leg:  a writing test. (Holy crap.  Did they KNOW that I had no experience?  Yes, they told me that they KNEW I had no experience.  Why on earth was I still in the running?  I was BEYOND thrilled.)

I kept interviewing.

I went into the writing test, nervous but beyond excited.  I sat down and "interviewed" a senior editor playing a role.  I then wrote my very first article in my very first newsroom and handed it in.  I was thrilled.

I received another job offer...and, much like Godfather lore, it was something I simply couldn't refuse.  I will be able to write in my new position...not like the REAL WRITER job, but enough to make me grow.  I emailed the folks at the magazine and told them I was taking the other job.

It was a great ride.  For just a moment in time, I was there in a newsroom, tapping away on the keys like a Real Writer.  I sat there through those interviews believing enough in myself and my abilities to convince other people that MAYBE, just MAYBE, I could do something I had never done before.  It was glorious.  I will never, ever forget it. 

And along the way, I learned a valuable lesson:  sometimes it's a good thing to let go of the reins in life.  I hope it's a lesson that stays with me.

Time to get ready for my last few days of my old job. 

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dear College Admissions Counselor

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

My extremely talented, super gorgeous, amazingly intelligent goddaughter has requested that I write a recommendation letter for her Common Application to a variety of prestigious universities (I am just a TEENSY bit proud of her as if I had anything at all to do with her wonderful-ness).  I am not going to write that letter here, but I'm TOTALLY going to use the blog as a warm up for the REAL letter I will write for her a little later.  These are the words I REALLY want to use but I will behave and write a fine, upstanding recommendation so as not to screw up her chances of securing a spot in the freshman class of (insert name of the most prestigious university you can think of here). 

Dear Prestigious University Admissions People:

In life, we rarely have the opportunity to encounter people who are exactly the people we would like to be if we were smarter, kinder and more attractive.  My Gorgeous Goddaughter is one of those people for me.  OK, smarty-pants admissions people, it is NOT because she's a total hottie and I would like to recapture the days of my own firm-fleshed youth.  But I want to tell you a little bit about why you need to let her into your snooty-patootie academic world:

  • She is ACTUALLY nice to people.  Don't get me wrong, Academia World Granters, she's not one of those people who HAS to be nice.  You know who I'm talking about, right?  No, but she is one of those people who champions the underdog.  If there's a kid who looks lonely sitting under one of the storied trees on your campus, this girl will go over and smile at them and make them forget about torturing cats.  She will most likely attract a stalker or two at some point BECAUSE she's so nice to people but I think your security team can handle it.
  • She's WAY funnier than you would expect (and funnier than I think even she knows).  I think this mostly because she laughs at my wisecracks.  But here's the thing about truly funny people:  they're the SMART ONES.  And, believe me when I tell you this O Wise Ones, you NEED some funny people in your classrooms.  I've seen some of the folks who alum from your hallowed halls and I am here to tell you that funny is definitely something you could use.
  • She is humble.  OK, she's not an idiot so she does KNOW she's smart.  But she goes about her intelligence quietly.  She doesn't need everyone to know she's the smartest kid in the room (and I would brag openly about her test scores, but she's not my kid so I can't).  She just does what she does like a Woman Behind the Curtain and, BAM, before you know she's given you a heart.
  • She takes advantage of every opportunity.  Riddle me this, University Gatekeepers, how many kids do you know who are brilliant AND who can rappel down a huge rock face?  This kid is a ballerina AND a math nerd.  She's a cheerleader AND has taught Sunday school in El Salvador.  She can canoe AND organize a charity event for Locks of Love.  This girl is a-mazing.  No, make that A-Mazing.  Capital A.  
 So, I realize that all you people take, like, what?  6 people?  every year.  I realize that your world is narrow and elite.   But I want you to know that no matter WHERE my Gorgeous Goddaughter chooses to attend (and, don't get me wrong, she will have MANY CHOICES, Illustrious University Peeps), she will excel and achieve more things before breakfast than you and I will do in a week. This kid is going places where most of us don't even live in daydreams.  She's the Real Deal.  She is a rare and dazzling gem and I hope you see her shine from the depths of the papers you have in her very thick admission files.  And she is more than her ridiculously high test scores and excellent grades. She is the Total Package. She's the kid who will walk out of your doors and you will stand there, blinking, because you know you've just witnessed history in the making. 

So, don't embarrass yourselves like the coach who kicked Michael Jordan off the basketball team wayyy back in his early days.  You don't want to be the university who turned my Gorgeous Goddaughter down when she's running the Show.  And I do mean RUNNING THE SHOW.  Don't be that place who turned her away.  Give her your stamp of approval so she can move on with her life and make her choices.  (I'm just saying that she may not choose YOU but don't let that hinder you from rubberstamping her passage through.)  

She's better at being a human being than I'll ever hope to be.  And I cannot wait to watch her soar.  

Go on.  Stamp "Admitted" on that app.  I'll wait.  

Her Biggest Fan

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Blood and Cookies (Or, How I Triumphed Over Adversity Already Today)

“No matter how bad things are, you can always make things worse.”
― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

Today, I feel like a Disney princess.

I don't feel like a Disney princess (please note that there is a marked difference between a DISNEY princess and a REGULAR princess...Disney princesses are way cooler, more diverse and have much more magnificent party dresses) because I have a teensy tiny waist or because my facial features are delicate or even because woodland creatures live in my house and scamper around while I sing. While all these things MAY be true (I said "MAY," I didn't say "ARE"), the real reason I feel like a Disney princess today is because I have triumphed over adversity this morning.

Because I was able to "sleep in" until 6 a.m. yesterday, my mind was cranked up and ready to go this morning at 3:30 a.m.  Because my mind and my body are continually at war, I stayed in bed until 4:00 a.m. until I finally gave up and headed downstairs to make coffee and cookies.

Yes, cookies.

Who, you may ask, gets up at 4 o'clock in the morning and thinks it's a great idea to MAKE COOKIES?

Well, I did.  This morning.  Sometimes, I think it's a great thing for people to wake up in the morning to the smell of freshly baked goods.  I want the boys to leave my house someday and be reminded of home every time they smell freshly baked bread or cookies or cakes or clean laundry.  And then, I want them to get into their chariots and coax their horses through the wooded kingdom to visit me in my castle.  But I digress...as usual.

So, my PLAN was to come downstairs, brew some java and whip up some Tollhouse deliciousness to fill the air with the aroma of love and bustling motherly activity.

But first, I needed to feed the loudly mewling cat who weaved around my feet while I let the dogs outside.  I picked up a fresh can of cat food from the pantry and paused.

Yesterday, I did SOMETHING to my second finger on my right hand.  I picked up a splinter or SOMETHING but it's swollen to about twice its normal size and very stiff.  It hurts but, like all hurts,  I assume it will go away sooner or later.  For the time being, I am simply trying to avoid using that finger or even really touching it.  'Cause ouch.  BUT, it's the finger I normally use to stabilize the can of cat food while I pop open the tab with my index finger. 

Dilemmas like this are not uncommon in my world.

So, my brain kicked into high gear and came up with the brilliant solution to simply use ANOTHER FINGER to steady the can and I stood over the trash can with the lid open poised to drop the discarded tab directly into the trash when.....OUCHY MAMA WOWIE!!!   I sliced open the THIRD finger on my right hand with the sharp edge of the can top.

Mother of PEARL that was a lot of blood.  Blood spurted out from the gash all over the lid of the trash can and my white kitchen floor.  I didn't curse but moved quickly to the roll of paper towels next to the sink and sprayed THOSE with festive red patches while I tried to gather enough towels to stave the flow of blood.  I lifted my hand above my head with pressure firmly applied and contemplated the cat.

Hmm...the cat STILL hadn't been fed.  But my right hand was now rendered virtually useless and, not to mention, THROBBING with pain.  Just so you know, the fresh pain did make me forget about the pain in my other finger.  So, yeah, that theory DOES hold some water.

Eventually, the heavy bleeding stopped and I fumbled with feeding the cat with the remaining useful thumb and fingers on my right hand.  I fed the dogs and let THEM in and then carefully eased the coffee into its filter without splashing any blood into THAT.

I stood there in my kitchen for a moment and surveyed the damage.  Not too bad.  I cleaned up quickly and then applied some handy Bactine (because the bottle stated VERY CLEARLY that it would stop the pain) and a Band Aid with Neosporin built right in which is ALMOST as good as a 64 box of Crayolas with the handy sharpener.

I ALMOST didn't make the cookies.

But I am a Disney princess today.  I persevered.  I triumphed over carnage and my children will be blissfully unaware of my continued sacrifices for them.  Until I tell them.

My two useless fingers.  I guess it's time for another BandAid...

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Monday, November 18, 2013

A "Listful" Morning

When I cannot bear outer pressures any more, I begin to put order in my belongings… As if unable to organize and control my life, I seek to exert this on the world of objects.  - Anais Nin - See more at: http://simpleworksorganizing.com/blog/2013/4/29/quotes-for-organizing#sthash.H9ftn4aS.dpuf
When I cannot bear outer pressures any more, I begin to put order in my belongings… As if unable to organize and control my life, I seek to exert this on the world of objects.  - Anais Nin - See more at: http://simpleworksorganizing.com/blog/2013/4/29/quotes-for-organizing#sthash.H9ftn4aS.dpuf
Early in my career I felt that organization would destroy my creativity. Whereas now, I feel the opposite. Discipline is he concrete that allows you to be creative.  - Verna Gibson - See more at: http://simpleworksorganizing.com/blog/2013/4/29/quotes-for-organizing#sthash.H9ftn4aS.dpuf
Discipline is doing what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, when we don't want to do it.  --Bobbi Porter

This morning, I woke from yet another terrible dream at 2:34 a.m.  This one began, as they almost always do, with a Very Bad Man attempting to do me harm.  As I (almost) always do, I ran [note:  there have been a couple times when I've turned around and punched and kicked the Very Bad Man...those awesome dreams did NOT wake me up].  But, running in these dreams is never easy.  My path is almost always treacherous or difficult.  This morning's iteration had me jumping over shrubbery and enormous tree roots on a steep uphill slope.  Don't worry, this blog will not focus on dream interpretation...I just thought it important to begin at the beginning this morning.  I just want to be clear about how I got where I am this morning.

When you wake up with your heart pounding and your adrenalin rushing, it's often pretty difficult to return to a peaceful snooze.  And so, because sometimes deep down I think I hate the idea of a good night's sleep, I began to think about everything that I have to do.  Everything.  I began to focus on the fact that my white kitchen floor never seems to get clean.  I thought about how I need to remember to buy longer black pants for Thing 1's upcoming band concert.  I wondered who came up with the gecko idea for Geico.  After a half an hour of tossing and turning, I had a Grand Epiphany:  MY LIFE WOULD BE BETTER WITH LISTS.

I have a dear friend who crafts the most amazing lists.  She has lists for EVERYTHING from housecleaning to gift giving to "how I need to spend my day."  She shops for groceries with a list instead of using my time-tested method of wandering aimlessly up and down aisles in hopes of remembering to buy toilet paper at the end.  It both amuses and amazes me.  She gets way more done in a day than I do in a week and she doesn't wake up at 2:34 a.m.

My epiphany was substantiated when I opened up the pantry to retrieve the canned cat food.  There wasn't any.  I went to the grocery store (without a list) yesterday and forgot to buy some.  On that SAME trip, I had forgotten to purchase dishwashing detergent...which was one of the two items that had spurred me to MAKE a trip to the store in the FIRST place.

So I sat down to just start a free form list of things that are on my mind this morning.

THIS is why I never get anything done:  nothing but crap ever flows from my head.   

I started again.

Most of my lists revolve around figuring out how to make a list.  Do they teach this skill in school or do you simply have to have a mind that thinks about one thing at a time?

OK.  One more time.

Did I mention that I am a smartass EVEN to myself EVEN on lists?  (Whenever I tell myself I'll think about something tomorrow I ALWAYS add the "at Tara."  Sometimes, I even add "I'll never be hungry again."  And if you don't get those references, you need to read more.  Or, perhaps, watch the classic movie channel.)

Pffft.  I think I'll drink more coffee.  Or start my morning walk early.  Or call my friend and ask her to make a list for me.

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Being Brave

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
― Nelson Mandela

Yesterday, as I was cleaning my house, I set my Pandora station to Anna Kendrick because I love the cup song she sings on Pitch Perfect (my latest guilty pleasure movie that runs in the background at least twice a week while I putter around my house).  A Sara Bareilles song played that I had never heard.  I sat down and let the chills wash over me.  Lyrics are all-powerful to me...and these have haunted me for the last 24 hours:

Everybody’s been there,
Everybody’s been stared down by the enemy
Fallen for the fear
And done some disappearing,
Bow down to the mighty
Don’t run, stop holding your tongue
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is

                           -Sara Bareilles, Brave

So many people in this world hold their tongues in fear.  They are violated in unspeakable ways every day and they cannot speak for fear of their very lives or because they simply do not think they are worthy of protection.  I began to think about how truly blessed I am in this life.  I say what I want.  I have freedom to go where I want to.  Today, no one hurts me....at least not in the ways that are truly, deeply scarring.

I want to speak up for those who cannot speak.  Until they find their voices (and it is my fervent prayer that they WILL), I will speak.

And since your history of silence
Won’t do you any good,
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

                         - Sara Bareilles, Brave

  • For all the children who are beaten, neglected, screamed at and told that they are worthless, stupid and ugly:  I speak for you.  You are precious.  You are a beautiful gift to this world and someday, with a lot of grace and the wonderful reserve of will you will find, you will know this about yourself.  I speak for you.
  •  For all of the kids who are shoved around and taunted because you are different:  I speak for you.  People are frightened of those who are different.  The hate that is in them is not for you.  You are precious.  You are loved.  You were designed perfectly just exactly as you are. Don't fall for their lies. I speak for you.
  • For all the women in the United States who are humiliated and scarred, physically and emotionally, by the actions of those who supposedly love you:  I speak for you.  You deserve a life of safety and protection.  You are precious.  Priceless.  Abuse is not love.  You have worth and gifts....and there is only one you.  Please do not let yourselves be destroyed.  I speak for you.
  • For all the women around the world in poverty, slavery and in war-torn countries whose bodies are violated in unspeakable ways by strangers: I speak for you.  You are precious.  I pray that you are freed.  Your rescue is possible.  There is hope.  They cannot touch your heart.  I speak for you.  
My deepest, most heartfelt desire is that people who have no voice will find their voices.  Speaking out is the most powerful antidote against fear.  Living in silence will never be the ultimate answer.  It is only through digging deep down and telling the truth with your own voice that you will finally be free.  You can speak.

I am grateful that I found my voice.

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

Saturday, November 9, 2013


“Constantly talking isn't necessarily communicating.”
― Charlie Kaufman

Communication with your kids is important.  Everyone knows how vital communication is to the success of every relationship.  How many articles have been written about how to talk to your spouse, your parents, your friends, your boss and your dog?  For many years, even though I earned a bachelor's degree in communication, I thought it was all about talking.  But communication is about an entire environment of verbal and non-verbal cues.


 In my home, I have an intentional atmosphere for my kids. In that atmosphere there is no yelling (OK, EVERY now and again I say "GET YOUR JACKETS!").  There are outlawed words:  "stupid," "dumb," and "shut up" are a few examples.  Most of our time is spent together downstairs.  We may be in different rooms, but my house isn't terribly large so we can talk with each other or, if we're not in the mood for talking, we can at least SEE each other.  My home is intentionally SAFE for my kids.  While I try not to over-praise them (kids totally see through that stuff...they know they can't be great at EVERYTHING), I do consistently honor them by respecting them with my words and my actions in our home.  I hope they feel loved and cherished.  I have intentionally set up an environment where they can feel safe enough to say ANYTHING they want to...within reason.

That is not to say that we don't joke around.  A lot.  They have the misfortune of having a mother who relishes sarcasm and who appreciates their growing senses of humor so much that I allow boundaries to be pushed PROBABLY a little further than they should be.  As they ease more into the adults they will become, I enjoy bantering with them back and forth. 

This morning, Thing 2 and I were exchanging texts.  He used the phrase "U r busy" and then proceeded to regale me with ALL the various text acronyms he's picked up.  I responded back with my own text talk just to show him that I'm TOTALLY still hip and with it.

And then...

Thing 2 will not get into trouble for testing (or texting) his boundaries by using WTF.  I was actually fairly amused by it.  But he KNOWS that he was testing a boundary and will, most likely, not use it again for a while.  Until he decides to test me a liittttle bit more.

But the beautiful thing about it is that he feels SAFE to test those boundaries.  He communicates with me easily and often.  Thing 1 is slightly different because he communicates far less (both verbally and non-verbally).  But I know that he feels safe to talk with me because we've had some jaw-dropping conversations over the past year or so.  (I did a good job on the outside but on the INSIDE my eyeballs were rolling back in my head and my jaw was on the floor.)

And now I'm going to go bone up on my text talk.  Apparently, THIS is how we'll roll. BRB.

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

It's About Time

“Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.”
― Kurt Vonnegut

This is the day of the year when people happily exclaim that they get an EXTRA hour of sleep.  All it means for us reverse insomniacs is that we are miserably aware of exactly how early we're getting up.  For me, today it was the "new" 3:20 a.m.  Yesterday I was up at 4:30...which is only 10 minutes later than I was up today BUT, because of the time change, it FEELS (and looks on the clock) like I'm up a whole extra hour early.  Sigh.

What TIME is it?
This whole reverse insomnia thing is a vicious cycle.  The earlier I get up the earlier I want to go to bed.  The earlier I go to bed, the earlier I seem to get up.  Actually, that's not even true.  There is no predicting what time I'll get up.  Since it's the weekend, I seem to be up EXTRA early.  But tomorrow when my alarm is telling me how I should try defying gravity, I will hit the snooze button until about 6:30 a.m. because nothing makes me sleepier than facing a Monday at work.

So, faced with hours in front of me with nothing to do other than laundry, work on a website, cut more bay leaves (that's another blog altogether) or read one of the three books I'm currently NOT reading because I just can't seem to get into any of them, I opted to do a little research on Daylight Savings Time.

Benjamin Franklin (was he a drunk?  Somehow I just picture ol' Ben as a drunk...) first introduced the concept in 1784 while he was in Paris. Probably while he was in a brothel in Paris (did Ben go to brothels?).  He wrote an essay about how people could conserve candles by getting up earlier in the morning to make use of the daylight.  Ben probably didn't consider people like me who rise hours BEFORE dawn.  Ben, I could USE some candles right now.  It's dark, Ben.  It's been dark for the last two hours, trust me.  But since you're in the brothels, you're probably still fast asleep.  [Kelly's note:  OK, please don't think that Ben Franklin was a drunk and a philanderer just because I wrote that.  I have no clue about Benjamin Franklin's pastimes.  I just have this CONCEPT of him as a drunken womanizer.  It may be true.  But maybe not.  I read a lot of fiction.]

The first concept of Daylight Savings Time as we know it today was actually credited to a guy named William Willett in 1905.  His parents called him "Will Will" for short.  I think he may have stuttered uncontrollably.  [Again, I'm just making this up.]  Will Will was pretty messed up, though, because he suggested that the clocks be moved forward twenty minutes four Sundays in April and then doing the same by switching them back 20 minutes four Sundays in September.  Will Will must also have been a drunk because that REALLY sounds confusing to me.  You know that ministers EVERYWHERE were wringing hands and gnashing teeth at that idea because their pews would've been EMPTY for EIGHT SUNDAYS of the year due to the mass confusion over what time it was.

Will Will died in 1915 without ever having to defend his proposal.  I wonder if he just changed his OWN clocks.  "Screw you, people.  This is a GOOD IDEA.  You can think me late/early if you wish, but I'm marching to the hands of my own damn clock."

And so, Daylight Savings Time was FIRST implemented in the U.S. during World War I on April 30, 1916 so that people could save fuel for the war effort.  Many other countries adopted DST as well for the same reason. After the war was over, though, people went back to the same ol' same ol'.

Franklin D. Roosevelt did it again during World War II but called it "War Time" which was much like "Hammer Time" but without the crazy pants and the beat you can dance to.   The law went into effect 40 days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and they went a little crazy with it.  There was "Eastern War Time," "Central War Time," and "Pacific War Time."  After Japan surrendered, they thumbed their noses and relabeled EVERYTHING "Peace Time."  They gave peace a CHANCE, people.

From 1945 until 1966, everything was chaos.  Cats and dogs were actually living together.  Everyone could decide when AND IF they chose to observe daylight savings time.  You could go over to the next town and they'd be having lunch while you were still eating breakfast.  Confusion reigned supreme and I'm sure there was more than one person who just decided to sleep in and blame it on the clocks.

Congress ended the confusion (they actually DECIDED on something and IMPLEMENTED it...those were the days, right?) with the Uniform Time Act of 1966.  States could exempt themselves from it, but most states adopted it.  There have been tweaks here and there and it was revamped (somehow...there is a list of things they did but frankly I'm growing bored with the topic now) in 2005 to be the Energy Policy Act of 2005.  They probably renamed it that because they wanted people to think that Congress actual cares about energy use or, really, the people of this country at all. 

So, in the end, I got to poke fun at Ben Franklin, Will Willett AND Congress.  I think that makes getting up at 3:20 a.m. TOTALLY WORTH IT.

Enjoy your extra hour.

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Waiting for Stella

“Customers are human and humans can view situations in unexpected ways.”
Marilyn Suttle

So I am currently sitting in the "Customer Lounge" of my local friendly Nissan Dealership. I am now aware of how much I've been missing out over the last 42 years.

This is the first time I have EVER taken a car to a dealership for service. Ever. In my whole life.

But Stella is kinda new. Like, less than 7500 miles new. And I want to treat her RIGHT. She DESERVES a little pampering now because, even though she isn't aware of it now, her metal-and-plastic butt is going to carry ME, my KIDS, my DOGS, and ALL MY CRAP for the next twelve years or 300,000 miles...whichever comes first. 

So, for now, Stella's having a little bit of a spa day. At the dealer. 

Things I Didn't Know About Dealer Services and Didn't Know to Ask:

  1. When you go to their super fancy website to make your appointment ONLINE (because even though I am an extrovert, I don't always want to talk to people), they make it sound fairly inexpensive:  "you mean Stella gets ALL THAT for only $50?  DONE!" But when you show up, they tell you ALL that they'll do for your girl and it is "only" twice as much as the price online. "But I thought the 7500 mile service was only $50?" I am here to tell you that if you HAVE to ask that question a) you probably can't afford your "new" (mostly) car and b) you will be met with certain scorn. I learned the difference between tiers today. And I am definitely on the lower tier.
  2. The BIG reason I was STOKED about going to the dealership for Stella's oil change and tire rotation was that I would get a "free" car wash.  Anyone who sees my car on a regular basis can tell you that I will EASILY drive the 3,500 miles needed for an oil change before I will wash my car.  Every now and again I get a wild hair and clean a car...happens about twice a year (OK, fine...ONCE). Today, it does happen to be raining cats and dogs.  Today ALSO happens to be one of their busiest service days of the week. (Listen, I didn't PAY ATTENTION to the fact that it is Friday.  I drove almost 100 miles PAST the mileage that it showed on that little "change my oil" sticker in the window.  I am kinda freaky about making sure it's changed on time.)  On one of the busiest days of the week they CAN give me the "free" car wash but I would have to wait an additional 20-30 minutes on top of the 1.5 hours I was already told I'd be waiting.  Sorry, Stella.  You're going to have to bathe in God's natural shower today.
  3. The "Customer Lounge" is one of the swankiest waiting areas I've ever been in.  It's nicer than many doctor's offices.  They had "free" Krispy Kreme doughnuts for their valued customers (that's ME!  I'M a VALUED CUSTOMER!).  They had family-friendly television with cooking shows and little cult-like messages about how awesome Nissan is.  There was a note on top of the tv that said something like, "Hey, we're not planning to offend our customers and you can't either.  Watch your dirty political shows and murder-soaked newscasts at home.  Don't change our channel." "Free" newspapers were stacked next to the comfy (clean) armchairs.
  4. When Stella was finished with her (low tier) service, I walked out to the covered service area with my friendly service advisor and paid Stella's fee.  He then proffered a choice of two pieces of candy.  (Car dealerships are a little slice of heaven, I think.)  I gasped and exclaimed, "OH!" and picked the Crunch bar.  He said, "For THAT reaction, you get TWO!" and handed me another Crunch bar (which I happily squirreled away in my purse).  
Stella is all set for another 3,500 miles with her non-synthetic oil.  And in a couple more visits, I'll give her the ol' Special Tier treatment and have all her filters goosed and cleaned and whatnot.  I AM glad it's still raining cats and dogs though...she really did need that "free" bath.  

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I'm Flash

The question isn't 'Who's going to let me?' it's "Who's going to stop me?" --Ayn Rand

Tonight I go to a flash mob rehearsal.  It's my very FIRST flash mob and I'm so ridiculously excited.  Like so many others (yes, people, there are OTHERS like me), I have vivid fantasies of spontaneously breaking into song and dance in the grocery store or the movie theater or even my kids' school with a giant stupid grin on my face.  Since it's my fantasy, I also include everyone AROUND me.  All of us, singing and dancing in perfectly choreographed rhythm down hallways, through streets and then back into real life as if nothing had ever happened.

For those of you who don't know what a flash mob is, the standard definition is "a sudden mass gathering, unanticipated except by participants who communicate electronically."  So, basically, it's a bunch of us nerdy types who email or FB each other and say "Hey, let's do THIS fun thing!" We're the folks who plan surprise parties for introverts who think that being surprised is actual torture.  We're the type of people who have to read the books before we go to see the movie.  We're those nutcases who make fools of ourselves in public and think absolutely nothing of it.

I am the PERFECT flash mob participant.

Some flash mobs are truly amazing and they will make you grin broadly, bring you to tears and make you believe that maybe (just maybe) humanity isn't going to hell in a handbasket, like this one...

Others are not so impressive (like, I fear, the one I'll be participating in).  But they all pull a group of strangers together to do something FUN and unexpected.  It's like opening a gift a friend brought for you EVEN WHEN IT'S NOT YOUR BIRTHDAY.

I showed the practice video to Things 1 and 2 and asked them if they'd like to participate in my upcoming flash mob event.  They watched in horrified silence for a moment or two before they said "Uhhh, no thanks, Mom."  "Yeah, I think I'll sit this one out, but YOU have fun." 

I'm OK if my kids think I'm an uber-nerd.  I'm OK with them watching me participate in weird activities or talk about dreams that may never come true.  I do know this:  my kids will someday look back upon their time with me and, after they've finished shuddering, they will probably have a deluge of memories of my wacky ideas, schemes and activities and they will smile.  And then they will probably do something wacky for their own kids.  And my gift of laughter and fun will live on.

Now, I'm off to practice my dance steps.

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Forever Young

“I am convinced that most people do not grow up...We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies, and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are innocent and shy as magnolias.”
― Maya Angelou

This morning, I puttered around my kitchen pretending, as I often do, to be a grown-up.  I fed my animals and I started a pot of strong coffee in the coffee machine that is barely limping along due to both overuse and neglect.  As the coffee brewed, MOST of me wanted to go ahead and sit down with a book while eating cereal but, sighing inwardly and embracing my pretend maturity, I unloaded the dishwasher instead.

I LOOK like a grown-up.  Those are READERS.And wrinkles.
I often act as a grown-up would.  I go to work most days.  I do my job to the best of my ability (most days).  I even sometimes create tangible things that go into magazines or that fly through the internet into e-mail inboxes. I write words that last. I pay my bills (usually on-time and SOMETIMES even ahead of time).  I behave responsibly as a parent, monitoring my kids' activity on the internet and (yes, still) even determining what movies are appropriate for their age and maturity level.  I even, within the past year or so, have started to go to bed in time to get a solid seven or even EIGHT hours of sleep every single night. 

I certainly do SOUND like a grown-up, don't I?  But the reality is that I FIGHT maturity every step of the way.

  • When it rains, I STILL want to put on red rain boots and splash through the puddles.  Sometimes I still do.
  • I don't WANT to go to bed at night and get a good night's sleep (so I will be able to THINK the next day and not react emotionally when the check-out clerk at the grocery store asks me if I can take my change in ones).  What I WANT to do is stay up and look up at the stars or read my books into the wee hours of the morning.
  • I forget my vitamins ALMOST every single day.
  • I still get a surge of exhilaration when I get an answer right or when I win a game.  I swear here and now that if I EVER beat Thing 1 at chess I will do a happy dance IN HIS FACE (I am grown-up enough to realize that I will probably never beat him at chess even though I TAUGHT HIM THE DAMN GAME).
  • I laugh like crazy over puns and corny jokes.  And I tell them over and over and over and over. I still laugh. 
  • I sometimes have dessert for dinner.  And I let my kids do the same.  
  • I whine when I don't get my way.  Intentionally.
  • I cry a lot and over things that don't matter even a little bit.  
  • Sometimes I want to run away.  Sometimes, I get a strong urge to get into my grown-up car Stella and ride with her into the night and then abandon her at some airport while I buy my one-way ticket to somewhere warm where I don't have to think so much and where I can go to bed late and wake up late and NOT have a dishwasher to unload.
I keep thinking that someone is going to "out" me and I will get my grown-up card taken away.  Perhaps if I continue to BEHAVE like a grown-up on the outside then I can still eat my dessert for dinner and go to bed whenever I want to without anyone in authority being the wiser.

Or maybe, as I continue to mature, I'll decide that it's not so bad being a kid in a grown-up body.  And I'll make a permanent hopscotch game on my driveway.  

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Dear Better Homes and Gardens

“Home is the nicest word there is.”
― Laura Ingalls Wilder

Dear Better Homes and Gardens,

First of all, I have to tell you how much I love your publication.  Every month, for years, I've opened my mailbox to find you there.  In the summer, your covers are splashed with fun colors and airy spaces and in the winter you never fail me with pictures of inviting spaces in warm hues. 

I look GOOD this morning.  G-O-O-D.
I opened up the November issue this morning with my breakfast.  I always read you cover to cover (You like hearing that, don't you?  I even read the ADS, BH&G.  Even the ads.  I'll bet your advertisers are thrilled to hear it.).  This morning, I was immediately disheartened by the "Age Perfect" ad on the inside cover.  You know your readers, don't you, you sly dog?  You know that our wrinkles are showing up and maybe you even know that some of us read you while we eat our breakfast.  Morning time is an especially vulnerable time for me, you see.  Mornings are when my face looks like a very heavy truck has parked on it overnight.  So, thanks for reminding me that maybe I need a product to iron out the rough spots.  You are a trusted friend, after all.

The next thing I read was the Editor in Chief's introduction.  It's called "Between Friends" and I really like to think of your editor (Gayle...Gayle, can I just CALL you Gayle?  Is that OK?) as a friend.  She's always so upbeat and positive.  And she's always letting me know how wonderful and easy all the ideas contained in your pages are to implement.  I wonder if SHE implements them all.  Do you, Gayle?  Do you run home to check YOUR mailbox just waiting to see what you can change about your house this season?  I'll bet you do, Gayle.  You're just THAT happy.  And capable.  Let's not forget capable.

I set my bowl of Cheerios aside as I pondered the ad on the next page:  Kellogg's to GO.  WTH?  Do you cram cereal in a bottle?  I have to admit I was impressed with the 10g of protein.  Cheerios ain't got NOTHIN' on you, right?  10g of protein.  In a convenient bottle.  I was intrigued.  Oh, yes.  You had me at hello.  But what does it TASTE like?  I just can't fathom the TASTE of Kellogg's in a bottle.

Next you told me about how I could win $10,000 for the holidays.  TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS.  I don't know what you INTENDED me to use it for, BH&G, but I was thinkin' that I could TOTALLY paint my house and maybe buy two new windows for $10,000.   I'm in.  Where do I enter?  Pffft.  THAT looks like a lot of work.  The ten grand would've been nice, though.  

I then found what I always expect in your November issue: the Thanksgiving table setting.  YOUR readers don't just pull out the same ol' tired and chipped china they've had since before little Davie was in diapers.  No, no, no.  They don't use the same faded napkins and the bent tableware.  YOUR readers do clever things like "Say so-long to same old:  Sub fun wood rounds for ordinary place mats or chargers."  Because what I am worried about on Thanksgiving day are the chargers under my plates.  Let me think...do I OWN chargers?  No.  No, I don't.  I've always wanted to be the kind of girl who IS concerned about chargers, though.  Once again, BH&G, you're helping me to see ALL the ways I'm inadequate.  

I did see on that table setting a glass hurricane with a "sprinkling of pinecones, nuts, greenery or cranberries."  Now THAT'S something that I might can do.  I hear they sell glass hurricanes at the dollar store.  Or at the local bar.  If I head THAT way, I probably won't care about my table, BH&G.  You know what I'm sayin'?  

I stopped on the next page where you told me I could "cast a warm holiday glow" by replacing my tired old flatware with BRUSHED-GOLD FLATWARE for the holidays.  Because what I need in my life is TWO sets of flatware cluttering up my already cluttered drawers.  

I figured the next few pages would contain the latest trends in paint and easy ways to re-slipcover furniture.  Honestly, those things just make me tired.  I mean, don't get me wrong, BH&G...I DO love change.  I really do.  But then I start thinking about how I'll have to take everything down from the walls and move the furniture out of the way and clean up about half a dozen paint spills (because, let's be honest, I'm not the NEATEST home-improver on the market). And then I think about having to go to my local home improvement warehouse and PURCHASE all the stuff:  the paint, new roller covers, drop cloths, etc.  It all just makes me tired.  And broke.  Let's not forget broke.  (Speaking of which...where DO your readers come up with the cash for all these fabulous remodels?  I want to have THEIR careers.  Or their husbands.  Or, let's be honest, their husband's MONEY.)

I have a confession, BH&G.  I USE YOU.  I open your pages and I dream of a different life.  I see the smiling women in your magazine and know that THEY'RE smiling because their homes are uncluttered.  They make fabulous "design decisions" instead of just throwing together whatever they've found on sale at TJ Maxx.  I want to be one of those women.  I do.  But I'm JUST NOT MADE THAT WAY.  I balk at spending more than $20 for any one home item.  And crafty?  I have big aspirations but usually the stuff I put together looks like a "what not to do" ad from Elmer's Glue. But I WANT to be a REAL Better Homes & Gardens reader.  I want to be perfectly coiffed while sipping a cup of hot tea (so much healthier than my muddy coffee) in my "outdoor living space" with lovely rattan furniture and snazzy cushions I've sewn myself.  I WANT TO BE THAT GIRL.

So, BH&G, if you ever have a "home and life makeover" sweepstakes for your readers, pick me.  I've been a good girl.  


An Avid Reader (Not Do-Er)

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Living through my AT hike (part 2)

"Always pack your sense of humor!" (Appalachian Trail quotation. Anonymous.  Probably because someone knifed him.)

McAfee Knob.  We were on our way.  Full packs.  High spirits.  And hiking poles (thank goodness for hiking poles).

The trail was beautiful and, far more than other trails I've hiked, heavily traveled.  I think every student from Virginia Tech goes to McAfee Knob on the weekends.  Every. Single. One.  I was thrilled to see the iconic AT mark on the trees as we moved up.  About 1/4 mile up, we found a kiosk with a trail log next to it.  Thru-hikers will leave messages for one another in these logs or a simple "We're still on the trail" message.  We eagerly looked through it but found mostly entries from dayhikers like us. 

I was still feeling terrific.  We continued on to search for the John's Spring Shelter, which looks like this:

Photo Courtesy http://blog.twoknobbytires.com/2010/11/22/mcafee-knob/
On the AT, wooden shelters are scattered along the way to give thru-hikers and some overnight hikers a place to sleep, especially in case of bad weather.  There are always firepits and they often have picnic tables and (the real luxury) outhouses.

As we hiked, small groups of college students giggled past us, some of them hand-in-hand as they scooted along the path toward the Knob.  Apparently, watching the sunset from McAfee Knob is a dating rite of passage at Virginia Tech.  My sense of humor still intact, I joked with them as they passed and explained that Sparky is a labradoodle and Mr. McDougal is a Scottie to each cooing twentysomething.

We hiked.  And hiked some more.  Our packs were heavy but manageable and we were looking forward to spending the evening outside.

About an hour or so into the hike, we came to John's Spring Shelter where a fairly large group was setting up tents for the evening.  I stayed at the top of the trail with Sparky while my guy and Mr. McDougal ambled down to the shelter to assess if there was room.  He spoke with them for a few minutes while the women oohed and aahed over Mr. McDougal and then he came back to the top of the trail.  The next shelter was about 1.4 miles away and did have a water source so we could get some more water.

OK.  I was game.  We moved on.

The light dimmed and we moved as quickly as we could.  My knees were started to ache a bit but I was still in pretty good spirits.  We were down to a bottle and a half of water but figured we'd be OK since the spring was about an hour's hike away.

We rounded a corner and found the spring...bone dry.  No water.  We assessed the map.  No water available until PAST McAfee Knob which was still about 2 miles away.  Night was falling.  We figured we could make do with the water we had until morning but it would mean no coffee.  (WHAT?) We came to a junction a few minutes later which pointed to a shelter in one direction (which sounded pretty noisy already) and uphill to some campsites.  We chose the latter option and hiked up to the campsites which were....full. 


We had not much water.  The sky was darkening quickly.  And we were all getting pretty tired.  But, hey, what's another couple of miles?

In a gym on a treadmill, I can walk 2 miles in 30 minutes.  Out on the Trail with a full pack after having hiked four miles already (mostly uphill), 2 miles sounded like a trip to the moon.  At that point, I was moving at maybe 1.5 miles per hour when the trail flattened out.  During the steep uphills, I was lucky to get 0.5 miles per hour.   My companion was super supportive and, even though he can move about twice as fast as I can (if not faster), he paused to wait for me and to offer up a joke or two to keep my sense of humor from deflating.

We moved on.  Up, up, up.  My thighs were burning, my glutes were on fire.  We finally came to a junction of the fire road and the McAfee Knob final trail.  The sign indicated 1.3 miles to the Knob.  Which meant we were over 2 miles away from the next campsites.  We faced a decision at that point that neither of us considered:  we could take the fire road OUT of the area and just give up for the evening OR we could continue on and find the campsites and do what we came to do.

We moved on.  Up, up, up.  I found this chart to show the final ascent to the McAfee Knob.  This is what we were doing from 7:30 to about 8:30 p.m. on Saturday night:

Courtesy http://blog.twoknobbytires.com/2010/11/22/mcafee-knob/
See all that up?  That's the last 1.3 miles to McAfee Knob.  HOLY mother of pearl.

Up, up, up.  At one point, I felt like I'd been afflicted with some sort of palsy.  My legs would simply wobble when I tried to move them.  I shuffled upward, using my hiking poles to support much of my weight as I swung my legs up, up, up.  I began giggling.  "Yeah, it's a good thing we didn't stay at that campsite at Apple Orchard Falls earlier today.  That would have SUCKED to have set up camp, taken a NAP, had some wine...this is WAY more fun that THAT."  He apologized much of the way up, taking all of the blame for our predicament.  I protested that I am an adult, too, and that we made the decision together but, honestly, all of us KNOW that I'm no grown-up.  :)

My muscles no longer cooperating, I WILLED myself to keep going, marveling at the very IDEA that AT thru-hikers (the successful ones, anyway) often hike 20 miles EVERY DAY.  Those people must be made of solid steel.

We came to a crest.  A CREST.  FINALLY.  He said, "THIS IS IT.  This is McAfee Knob!"  We leashed the dogs (because it was pitch black by this time and we didn't want one of them to accidentally step over the edge into oblivion) and we saw this:
OK.  NO, this is not my pic.  But this is the view.  And it WAS a full moon.  And we DID NOT sit on the edge.  Photo courtesy jon_beard.

 I forgot about my quivering muscles.  I didn't think about my thirst.  I looked at that view and thanked God for everything I could think of but, most especially, that view in that moment and the fact that I was still alive...mostly.  It was worth it.

Our spirits rejuvenated, we still had to find a campsite.  It was late.  We were tired.  (OK, my hiking companion was tired...I was EXHAUSTED.) We started going down.  Down, down, down.  My knees were screaming with every step.  Down, down, down, down.

At one point, Mr. McDougal walked over the edge of a long downhill slope.  We coaxed and called.  He was so tired we were worried one of us was going to have to go down the steep slope to retrieve him.   We called and begged.  He moved up. Up, up, up.  My hiking companion extended a hiking pole when Mr. McDougal was almost to the top, "Just grab on, Dougal!"  That tiny trail dog propelled himself up and he finally made it back to the trail.  We gave him some of our precious water as a reward.  We still don't know HOW or why he went over that edge but we were so relieved to have our little guy back in action...and without one of us having to break our necks to retrieve him.

After about another hour of downhill in the dark, after over FOUR HOURS on the trail, he called out "This is it!  We're here!"  Water.  And a campsite.  Totally open.  With a picnic table.  I wanted to sob with relief but I was too tired.  We set up the tent quickly and then he hiked out to gather some water.  He came back with three full bottles of water.  The dogs lapped up about half a bottle quickly.  We both drank greedily. 

And then he cooked ribeyes over an open fire, steamed okra and boiled rice.  It was incredible.  Delicious.  And worthy of any four-star restaurant.

And we woke up to this:

And the campsite we set up in the dark turned out OK after all: 

And in the morning, we took the fire road out with its gentle slopes and fairly even terrain.  We hiked out in less than two hours. 

It was beautiful.  But that guy in the guide who said you could do it all in four hours?  No.  No, I don't think so.  At least not with a full pack and one knee-hobbled hiker.  And when I find the guy who wrote it I will....say not very nice things.

I am sore.  I am still bone weary.  But I'm already planning my next Great Hiking Adventure.  Who's with me?

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