Eye of the Beholder

This blog chronicles my life as I try to balance healthy lifestyle habits with my husband's penchant for pizza rolls and my daughter's desire to watch iCarly 8 hours a day. It contains a mostly humorous, kind, and somewhat spiritual look at everyday life and the people who live it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I'm not procrastinating, I'm simply taking my time...

Why do I still have a stuffed Santa sitting on the bench in the basement?

Why does my voicemail message still say "Happy New Year!"?

Why is the box of photographs I was going to "organize" over Christmas break sitting unopened and (now) dusty?

Why is my enthusiastic post about doing one room at a time for under a $100 still awaiting me to finish the first room?

Why are the snow pants I bought from LL Bean for our February ski trip but ended up not taking still waiting (with tags on and receipt attached to box) to be returned?

I would love to claim that great thoughts are being thunk and great deeds are being done and the unfortunate result is my current tendency toward procrastination, but I can't. 

I couldn't really tell you what I've been doing lately.  I just know it seems to be taking up all my time.

Does this ever happen to you?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wallpaper: Just Say No!

I spell good taste S-A-R-A-H

Yesterday I was watching one of my most-favorite-in-the-whole-wide-world decorating shows: Sarah's House.  I heart you, Sarah Richardson!  You and Tommy can come decorate any room in my house!  Just don't bring the wallpaper...

See the latest design trend (again!) is to create a feature wall.  This time instead of putting a bold paint choice on the wall, it's everything old is new again: wallpaper. 

This dining room in muted grays and creams is gorgeous, especially the feature wall

I beg you, don't do it.

I have spent so many hours with steam burning my arms, sweat dripping down my face, and sticky, gluey scraps of paper stuck to my arms, legs, the floor, and everything else.  Then finally, after hours of scraping, gouging the wall, burning myself, cursing the previous homeowners, and scraping some more the wallpaper would finally be gone.  The mess left behind was mind boggling.  Gouged walls.  Glue residue.  It's misery folks.

I have a 2 part arguement on why, no matter how well you prep your walls, wallpaper will never be a good idea:

1.  No matter how you look at it, you are glueing paper to your drywall.  In order to get that paper unstuck you are going to have to use something wet: steam, chemicals, fabric softener, vinegar...something.  Please note that the first part of drywall is DRY and it is NOT MEANT TO GET WET.  Bad things happen to drywall when it gets wet and there is no way to remove wallpaper without really soaking the wall.

2.  No matter how much you adore that wallpaper today, you will come to loathe it in 5 years.  What?  5 Years?  I must be crazy!  Be honest, is there really any pattern that you can look at all over your walls, day in and day out, exposed to sunlight, dust, dirty fingerprints, scuff marks, nicks, and scratches that you can truly say you'll still love after 5 years?  You may not hate the color, but you won't be able to stop staring at the small tear.  You may still like the pattern, but that faded patch around the picture you moved will drive you to drink.  Wallpaper is a decorating commitment my friend, and it's a commitment that designers don't have to make.  They install it, it looks beautiful for the cameras, then they leave.  Do they stare at it for 5 years?  Nope.  And if they decide to "freshen the look of the room" is it the designer who has to remove that wallpaper?  Nope, that's what the crew is for.

Do you have a crew?  Or will it be you, a scraper, a steamer, and a whole lot of elbow grease?  That's what I thought.

But what if, even after everything I've said you still love a particular wallpaper?  Here are 10 ideas of what you CAN do with wallpaper:

1.  Cover an old picture, canvas, piece of plywood, or even cardboard with wallpaper and hang it on the wall.
2.  Cover picture frames with it.
3.  Cover boxes with it.
4.  Make coasters, mattes, serving trays. 
5.  Matte it, frame it, and hang it artistically.
6.  Cover photo albums, journals, and notebooks with it.
7.  Wrap all your Christmas gifts in it.
8.  Use it under your glass coffee table, desktop, or tabletop.
9.  Cover your mousepad with it.
10.  Cut it into strips and create napkin rings, candle holders, egg cups, and weave placemats with it.

Just don't glue it to your wall.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

5 Things About Decorating I Learned the Hard Way

If you've been spending much time on the decorating planets in this here blog universe, chances are good you've run across Autumn from http://www.mydesigndump.blogspot.com/.  I really, really L-O-V-E love everything that Autumn decorates.  It's not just her decor that's inspiring me though, her blog post about the 5 things she's learned as a decorator inspired me to write a post about some of the things I've learned too.  My advice is nowhere near as high rent as Autumn's, but you may find it helpful...

1.  Live in a space for a year before committing to changes.
Though I have held true to a fantasy with every one of the past 5 houses we've lived in that I wouldn't move one stick of furniture into that dwelling until it had been painted and re-floored where necessary, that has never been my reality and I'm actually glad my wishes didn't come true.  I have learned that for me, it takes about a year before I really figure out the natural light, times of use, and degree of usage for the rooms in my house.  You'd like an example, you say?  Well when we moved into our current house the half bath off the foyer was painted mauve with a cabbage rose border.  My teeth hurt everytime I looked at it so I decided that I would repaint the half bath the same color as the entryway, a color called Tree Moss by Benjamin Moore.

This gray-green is lovely in well-lit spaces

This gray-green color is absolutely beautiful in spaces that receive a lot of natural light or have good lighting.  My half bath has neither and the color simply looks dull and a little muddy.  After living in the house through the first winter I realized that the Tree Moss color didn't really look all that good in the entryway either because during the winter I don't have my front door open and therefore the entry gets almost no natural light.  I have recently repainted the entryway but now I want to repaint the half bath too, a mere 12 months after painting it Tree Moss.  Since I hate painting bathrooms I am particularly bummed about learning this lesson.

2.  If you prime first, tint your primer!
I am always so excited to start a decorating project that I like to pop open that gallon of paint and get to work, but when I am making a  major color change I have disciplined myself to prime first.  Since I rarely buy my primer from the same place I buy my paint I always forget to ask to have the primer tinted.  I have finally learned to make it a priority to tint the primer because I realized that I was doing a lot of extra work and spending a lot of extra money just because the primer wasn't tinted.  Since I usually buy a sample of the color I'm going to paint before committing to the full gallon, I almost always have some color around that I can mix with the primer to give it a tint.  Instead of painting a coat of primer and 2 coats of base color, I can usually paint one coat of tinted primer and one coat of base color.  The savings in time and money is huge 'cause let me tell you, that Benjamin Moore Aura paint isn't cheap!

At $60 a gallon this paint is definitely a commitment!

3.  Make everything neutral but your accessories.
I'm sure this flies in the face of many a good design principle but here's the thing:  my decorating budget can usually be measured by tens, not hundreds or thousands, of dollars, and that means that I need every single major piece to have longevity.   I have found the best way to achieve a timeless look is to keep my major pieces of furniture, curtains, and flooring neutral.  I even extend this to the wall color because I'm the one who does the painting in my house and I like to do it once and then love it for 5 years (even though I've never actually lived in a house for 5 years, I like to imagine that I would still love it...) rather than having to repaint (see the half bath issue in Lesson 1!).  After living with a hunter green and red plaid couch and love seat for 15 years because they seemed like a good idea in 1992 and then I didn't have the money to replace them until 2007, I have learned this lesson well enough to never forget it.

I loved this look for about 5 years...by the 15 year mark, I hated it!

4.  Beware of scented candles, potpourri, aromatic oils, and room fresheners
I love walking into my in-laws' house because it smells like soap and mashed potatoes.  I know that sounds weird and like it somehow it wouldn't go together, but it creates the most warm, welcoming, homey scent I have ever smelled.   Perhaps the scent is so comforting because it's reminiscent of family dinners and holidays, but perhaps it's because the scent is so natural.  I have embraced every form of scented candle and potpourri ever sold but have found that I feel most comfortable in my home when it is scented naturally: a bowl of lemons on the table, coffee beans in the candle holders, and a hint of lavendar from the fabric softener I use.  Using artificial scents can create a, well, artificial smell and I find that I suffer from more headaches, allergies, or upper respiratory infections when I have those things around.

5.  Fewer, bigger pieces always look better than many small pieces
I remember the first time I ever saw a Mary Engelbreit decorating book.  It was the early '90s and I was fully into my sunflower/country cottage/more is more phase.  I remember thinking that if I could just have the money to buy all those accessories life would be perfect.  I had cut-out-heart-wooden shelves, quilt racks, and a passion for "vignettes."

Stuff layered with more stuff is Mary Engelbreit's hallmark

 Shiver.  I look back now and just cringe.  Not only is my current style cheaper, it's so much easier to dust, creates a lot less waste, and is much more restful.  If only I had a penny now for every dollar I spent on little signs, baskets, knickknacks, tchotchkes, baskets, whatnots, doodads, baskets, and cheap, imitation "antiques."  I'm sure I'd be able to afford that large beveled mirror I've been wanting from Pottery Barn....  Now I take a note from feng shui and ask myself  "is it useful or beautiful" before even considering bringing it home.  Simplify, simplify, simplify.

This mirror is simplicity at its best but the price?  Ooo-la-la!

What about you?  Any tips, tricks, or techniques you've picked up along this life journey?  I'd love to hear about them!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Beth vs. The Snowmobile

Are you still out there?  I can't believe it!  Life has been kicking me around lately, what with my (quasi) new job, endless snow days and delays, the new stress of trying to figure out childcare on these endless snow days and delays...sigh.  All of it added up to a complete blogger block. 

But I'm back now, baby! 

After a ....um...relaxing vacation spent in the White Mountains of New Hampshire the Blogger Block was broken, I now have plenty to say.

It all started when we decided to go away for February break.  Now for those of you not familiar with the concept of February break, this is a week off from school a mere six weeks after returning from Winter Break and just six weeks to go til April Break.  It is a time designed to tax even the most careful-vacation-day-saving working parent.  It is a time created to ensure that kids never do really get back into the swing of school.  It is a break for the sole purpose of letting people ski.

Look at this scenic beauty.  Who wouldn't want a guided tour on these trails?

Never one to buck the system, our family decided it was time to learn to ski.  So we packed up the family truckster and headed for the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  Learning to ski was fun, exhausting, exciting, nerve-wracking, and exhilerating.  It wasn't relaxing.  But I wasn't terrified.  But that's not really a good story, is it?  Oh no, the story you want to hear is about our 2 hour snowmobile tour...

The brochure spoke of "family fun" and "scenic views"

For the record I had never been on a snowmobile before.  I had only once been on a motorcycle.  I am what you would call a complete novice.  So with the brave naivete of someone sure that nothing bad can happen to you on a commercial snowmobile tour, I signed up, suited up, and hopped on.  I figured it couldn't be too hard because after all the only instruction I received prior to being turned loose with this expensive toy was "throttle on the right, brake on the left, don't push them both at the same time or you'll stall the engine."

Well heck, even I can keep that straight.

So off we went: guide in the lead followed by my husband and daughter on a double sled, followed by me, with 4 others trailing behind.  The first problem occurred about 1 minute into our adventure.  We had to cross the road.  It would have been helpful for someone to mention that snowmobiles don't really have good steering when they're not on snow.  In fact if your snowmobile isn't already pointed in the direction you want to go, there's little you're going to be able to do to rectify that situation once you're on the road.  Yep, that would have been real helpful information.  Lacking that information, I was more concerned about the oncoming traffic than I was about lining up my 'mobile with the trail on the other side.  So, once again with the bravado that only true ignorance can create, I gave it some gas and shot out onto the road where I proceeded to slide precariously sideways as I desperately tried to steer my snowmobile toward the path.  No dice.  I ended up ramming the 3 feet of dirty snow plowed up on the side of the road.  My snowmobile slid back down into the road.  The traffic is coming closer.  I give it some gas.  I try again.  Same result.  The traffic is right on me now.  I am stuck.  I am terrified.  I am embarrassed.  A passing motorist yells "give it some gas!"  So I do.  I squeeze that throttle as hard as I can and I fly and I do mean FLY over the embankment.  I am completely out of control, I am shrieking in terror, and I am leaning heavily to the left.  I wildly overcorrect, slam the snowmobile down on the right side, overshoot the path, and end up on the wrong side of the path, panting, crying, and still terrified.

That's when I began to get a bad feeling about this adventure.

The reality is that snowmobiling takes skill and can be dangerous

Luckily the guide, followed by my husband, were completely disinterested in my health and safety and had already moved on.  This was the pattern for the entire 2 HOUR tour.  I try to keep up with the others so I don't get lost in the woods and get eaten by bears.  The others go faster than I feel comfortable going so I am out of control through every turn, bump, and over every bridge.  I am hanging on to the handle bars for dear life as I see the sheer drop off the mountain on my right side.  I am crying as I near-miss every tree in every turn.  We finally stop in a clearing.  The woman on the snowmobile behind me loudly complains about me to my husband and shoots me nasty looks as she passes me.  My hands are cramping from squeezing the throttle.  My nose is running inside my helmet.  I have fogged up the inside of my helmet with my hyperventilating.  I am terrified to keep going and terrified to stop.

When the tour was finally over I was half-deaf from the roar of the engine, half blind from my teary-stuck-together-eyelashes, half grateful to be alive, miserable, and shaking.  I hadn't seen nor appreciated one speck of the natural beauty of the mountain.  I felt badly for disturbing any hibernating animals, and I was all-out-of-proportion mad at my husband for not sharing any of my bad feelings.

Ahhh, vacation.  A perfect time to relax.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Green House Transformation

The exterior color of my house happens to be green.  Believe me, this was not arrived at by easy decision (remember the TMPP???), nor is it coincidental that for someone who loves things to be "green" the exterior of my house reflects that love.  But we'll get to the exterior later.  Right now, we're going to the kitchen.

Yep, the kitchen.  This year I am going to redecorate each room in my house using only paint, fabric, and perhaps an accessory or two.  Each transformation has to occur for around $100 (my self-imposed budget restriction) and has to be as "green" as possible.

I'm starting with the kitchen.

Here is my kitchen now:

My kitchen is very large and very monochromatic because while the previous owner did a great job choosing quality cabinetry, beautiful hardwood floors, and gorgeous granite, she also chose them in all the same color.

Here is a close up of the wall color and curtains now:

The walls are a gray-green by Benjamin Moore called October Mist.  The fabric has a lot of black in it.  Here is how it looks against the granite counters:

Not bad, right?  But kind of busy for the look I'm going for. 

Here are the new inspiration fabrics:

There is still some black so the counters make sense, but a lot of ivory, cream, gold, and khaki tones too.  This is my plan:

Paint the walls Benjamin Moore's Windham Cream.  This cream has enough yellow in it to pop against the white woodwork and play up the gold:

I know it looks more gray here...but trust me, it's not

Then I'm going to take the polka dot fabric and use it as valances.  The floral will become the seat cushion for the new window seat that I want built here:
Doesn't this cluttered, unused corner cry out for...something?  How about a cute little built-in storage bench?  Can I hear an Amen?

The solid gold fabric I'll use to trim the other two fabrics, as a table runner, and in the throw pillows I'll put on the window seat.

I"m really going to try to pay attention to every detail.  Like making over even the smallest eyesores, like this one:

Could that bottle be any less attractive?  Probably not, but with the help of a great tutorial I found on another blog, I'll show you how it's going to look fabulous!  Are you with me?  I hope so, because I've got a lot of work to do, very little budget, tons of inspiration, but also a lot convincing (nagging) to get my husband to go along with my schemes.

What do you think of the color scheme and ideas thus far?  It's the perfect time to weigh in because I haven't done anything yet!!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Green Tip Tuesday: Green Ways to Get Rid of the Clutter

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

I'm buried here in Massachusetts and not just because of the blizzard.  I'm buried in STUFF.  Christmas is over and now all of those cheerful decorations are reading as *Clutter* to me now.  With the new gifts we received some stuff has to go.

So how to get rid of the clutter and decorations without filling up a landfill or just slinging it all into a box and stuffing it into that subterranean landfill I call "storage"?

It's easy: Donate.

Here's my plan:
First I'm going to take down the Christmas decorations.  There are a lot of items that I put up this year not because I liked them but because I'd always put them up and didn't have a good reason not to do so again.  Well, my good reason has arrived!  After searching a lot of decorating blogs AND reading my new Feng Shui book, I have decided that having anything, even something seasonal, that isn't useful, beautiful, or both is a BAD IDEA.  As I take the items down I am going to give each bobble a good scrutinizing to see if it goes into the 'Storage' box or the 'Donate' box.  No need to give away family heirlooms, but really?  The shiny gold bows I bought at Big Lots 20 years ago?  No, their time has come...and gone. 

My decor wasn't quite this cluttered, but this is how it feels now!

Luckily I also took my own advice and used a lot of natural decorating so the nuts, seeds, cranberries, pinecones, and clove oranges can all be tossed into the woods to become treasures for the woodland creatures.

Now let's talk about gifts.  Anything you received this year that you know, deep in your heart of hearts, just isn't for you and yours?  Don't store it, don't *intend* to do something with it, don't let it sit somewhere until it becomes part of the landscape.  Give it away.  Do it now.  Don't feel guilty.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with moving things that are not useful and/or beautiful to you on to someone who will love them.  What if the gift was given to you by someone who will a) notice it gone; b) be hurt that you don't love it; or c) spent a lot of time/money in the purchase or creation of the gift?  Thank them.  Thank them genuinely, lovingly, and earnestly.  Then load it in your car and take it to the donation station quickly, before you lose your nerve.

As for the rest of my stuff, these last few days of the year are an excellent opportunity to donate those sweaters that I still haven't worn even though the weather has been cold for 2 months.  To get rid of those platters that I still didn't use, even though I hosted a large party on Christmas Eve.  To help my daughter rid herself of unused Wii games, and my husband and I both need to do a good book purge (though I'll confess that of all the items I donate, books are the hardest with which to part). 

And the benefits of my hard work?  HUGE!  Cleaner house, less clutter, items that really reflect my decorating taste NOW not 10 years ago, tax deductions, good example for my daughter, lightening up is good for the mind, body, and soul, less to store, more room to invite into my life those items I would like now (I have a bedroom chair in mind, more on that later), and according to Feng Shui, my Chi'i should be off the charts with all the positive energy flow.

Sorry about the blur, but you get the idea.  Breathing room!

Simplify, simplify, simplify.  I feel lighter already.

How about you?

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Luckiest Man in the World

A picture to warm you during our New England blizzard!

Happy Holidays Everyone!  I hope Santa was good to you.  I hope you recycled all your wrapping paper.  And I hope you stopped eating Christmas cookies, fudge, and eggnog just short of a diabetic coma.  I did.  Stopped, I mean.  Just short of a coma (sigh).

We went to Mass on Christmas Eve and as the choir sang and the lights were dim, and I was all snug between my husband and daughter I took a moment to look around.  I noticed that sitting just two rows in front of me was the Luckiest Man in the World.  I wondered if he knew how lucky he was.  I hope he does.

Why is he the Luckiest Man in the World?  A man I have never even met.  A man who may be dealing with all manner of crisis, financial problems, job worries, tooth decay, and aging parents?  Well, as I watched this Lucky Man, his wife put her arm on the back of the pew and encountered the back of his sweater.  So she took a moment and rubbed his back.  Then his youngest son climbed into his lap a few minutes later and began touching his face and giggling, the way babies do.  After awhile (I know it sounds weird that I've been staring at him this long, but he is right in front of me AND between me and the altar where I'm supposed to be looking and paying attention, not composing blog entries in my head...) we all stood up and his oldest son grabbed his hand and just held it for awhile.

If you have someone, anyone, any living thing at all that wants to sit with you, hold your hand, rub your back, or touch your face, you, my friend are Lucky.  Because also sitting in that church was a man, sitting alone.  No one rubbed his back. No one held his hand.  I hope his house is just filled with people crawling all over him and that church is his one chance for some "alone time" because the alternative is unbearably sad.

Do you know how Lucky you are?

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The cure for the Hectic Holiday

I need some good-for-me-stuff that is free and won't prevent me from buttoning my jeans.  You too?  I have just what the doctor ordered:  The at-home pampering package.   Each of these ideas will take less than 1 minute to create and you already have everything you need in your pantry or linen closet.

Pampering idea #1 The Feet

Find some lotion.  Slather it on, especially on your heels and the cuticles of your toenails.  Really slather it on!  Put on cotton socks.  Let the lotion soften your feet and moisturize your nail beds.  Keep on overnight.  Don't have any lotion?  Use olive oil or almond oil.  Don't have either of those?  Use lip balm - though you probably want to think carefully before you use it on your lips after you've rubbed it on your feet...I'm just sayin'...

Pampering idea #2 The Back, Neck, and Shoulders

Fill a sock with rice, dried beans, oatmeal, buckwheat, or sand.  The sock should be about 3/4 full so there is enough room for the rice to move freely.  Add a few drops of lavendar essential oil, vanilla, grated orange or lemon peel, or peppermint extract.  Tie the end of the sock shut.  Put in your microwave for 30-60 seconds until warmed through.  Now mold your fragrant heating pad into the small of your back, over your shoulders, around your neck, or across your forehead.  Feel the relaxation that comes from applying heat directly to where your muscles/constricted blood vessels need it.  Heat again as necessary.  Don't have a sock to use?  What about the sleeve of an old shirt?  In a pinch you can use a plastic bag but be sure to put a cloth barrier between your skin and the plastic once it's been heated.

Pampering idea #3 The Face

Take 2 washcloths and get them wet.  Place one in the freezer and the second in the microwave for 20 seconds.  You can heat the washcloth for an additional 20 seconds if it's not warm enough but be careful not to make it hot.  Set a timer for 10 minutes.  Sit down.  Place the warm cloth over your face and breathe.  When the timer goes off get the other washcloth out of the freezer.  Set the timer for 10 minutes.  Sit down.  Place the cool cloth over your face and breathe.  Alternating warm and cold temperatures on the skin stimulates the immune system, rejuvenates the skin, increases blood flow, and encourages neural healing.  Always end with a cool cloth to close the pores and "rest" the skin.  This also is great for clogged sinuses.

Pampering idea #4 The Eyes

You've probably heard of using steeped, cooled tea bags over your eyes to rest them, chilled cucumber slices to reduce puffiness, and all manner of creams and unguents to reduce the appearance of fine lines...BUT... I have something even simpler.  Blinking.  Long, slow breaths coordinated with long, slow blinks.  Do it with me:  inhale for 5 seconds while opening your eyes as wide as you can.  Now exhale for 5 seconds while closing your eyes gently.  Inhale and open wide.  Exhale and close.  Are you starting to feel the moisture return to your eyes?  If not, repeat again.  And again.  Until your eyes feel moist when you close them.  A total eye rejuvenation in 15-20 seconds.  It doesn't get much cheaper than blinking.

Are you listening to music?  Drinking water?  Breathing?  Are you (occasionally) shaving your legs, wearing pretty underwear, and putting on lipstick?   If not, why not?  What could possibly be more important than your sanity and before you answer that: what can you possibly hope to get done if you are frantic, frazzled, and itching like crazy from dry skin and cracked heels?

I'm teetering on the sugar edge but not yet over, remembering to enjoy the Christmas lights we have lit both inside and out, wearing a lot of no-waist yoga pants, and cranking up the uplifting Christmas music.  I'm not stress free, but I'm not stressed out.

How about you?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Green Tip Tuesday: Are you dreaming of a Green Christmas?

The greatest thing about going "green" during the holidays is that you can completely simplify your life, get out of doing a ton of work, save money, and blame it all on being a good steward of the planet.  Here are a few green tips that will free up your time for important things, like baking (eating) cookies, and help the planet.

1.  "Green" gift wrapping.  The best way to green up your gift wrapping is by not wrapping at all.  This is a completely new concept to me who has been weaned on a steady diet of Martha Stewart bow tutorials and the belief that the more elaborate, the better when it comes to wrapping paper.  I'm converted though.  For young children, how about setting up their gifts in fun and inviting groups?  For older children, like mine, I'm going for the Christmas morning scavenger hunt.  Instead of wrapping most of my daughter's gifts, I'm going to have them hidden around the house.  I'm spending the time I would ordinarily be wrapping making up clues for her to follow to find her gifts.  I'll still wrap a gift or two in recycled wrapping paper, but only a few instead of all of them.

2.  Green decorating means using natural items like pine garland, pine cones, acorns, strung popcorn, dried apples, cranberries, nuts, and colored candies.  Take a glass bowl, fill it with red hot candies, add in a white candle: instant candle scape and the candies will break down naturally when thrown away.   Fill a vase with candy canes (unwrapped).  Let fewer items have greater impact by using lush greens and lots of ribbon, which can be used again and again each year.

3.  E-cards.  Forget the addressing, the postage, the work, the money, and the huge carbon footprint.  Go green, send e-cards, and sit back and relax.  Think you'll miss seeing a bunch of cards hanging on the wall?  Well, me too so I'm just going to try it this year and see if I really do feel deprived.  I'm betting I won't.  Feel like you need to send a holiday letter?  Email it!  Want to give family/friends pictures of your kids?  Make an online photo album like the ones available from snapfish.com.  You can password protect them so only your family/friends can see the photos, they can order any prints they would like while still viewing the entire album.  Green, green, green.

4.  Green gift giving is easy when you make use of the online gift cards available from places like Amazon.com, and eBay.com.  You can procrastinate until the very last minute, they're always the right size, they're never out of stock, and your gift recipient is guaranteed to get something they'll want.

5.  Finally, the greenest thing we can do this year is resist the temptation to fill our families' stockings with ...junk.  I'm guilty, I have certainly picked up all sorts of little tchotchkes for my daughter, especially on impulse: tiny pads of paper with kittens on the front, cheap, chemical-infused lip glosses in 10 different flavors, plastic jewelry she's never worn, sugar-filled gum in kind of gross flavors, cheap plastic toys - I've bought it all just to "fill" the stocking.  This year I'm resisting.  I know, I know, it's easier for me because my child is almost 12 and I'm certainly not judging anyone's choices, I'm just suggesting.

I'm trying all these things this year, just to see how it goes.  I love a white Christmas, but I'm really hoping for a green one.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

What do you need this holiday season?

A lot of people may ask you what you want, but I'm asking you: What do you need?  Is it more time?  Better health?  A new haircut?  More money?  A wardrobe makeover?  A professional chef?

A new attitude?

That's what I've been needing.  Lately I've been having a pretty bad case of the Gimmes.  Oooh, gimme that new sweater!  Yes, I really need that book, gimme two.  Chocolate chip cookies?  Gimme 3 of those.  Okay, 4.

It struck me last night as I was perusing online all of the neat decorating sites, the clothing sites, the furniture sites, and the cooking sites that I hadn't stopped by one single natural health site.  Not one.  Usually my fingers can't type fast enough to google new ways to make products at home or inventive uses for baking soda.  This month's issue of Natural Health magazine has sat, unread, by my bedside covered with Pottery Barn, West Elm, Crate&Barrel, and The Sharper Image catalogs.  I had to excavate it just to see what this month's issue is about.  Must be time for a reality check.  I already have all I need to create a beautiful, healthy, balanced life for myself and my family.  I merely need to remember what is really important.  Now y'all know I'm not about to preach that perhaps this Christmas should be the year when your family donates all their gifts to a shelter and experiences the true joy of giving, perhaps that is you, but that is not me.  My daughter will happily unwrap many a gift on Christmas morn, I am however suggesting a certain detachment is needed. 

This is me now.  This is not how I want to look at Christmas.

Can balance be found during the holidays?  Can the Natural Living magazine get at least equal read-time to the Pottery Barn Catalog Holiday 2010?  I believe so and here's my plan:

When I start to feel like I need some material thing that means I need to take a break from shopping or browsing.  Time for a glass of water and some Christmas music.

If things start to feel hectic my mantra is simplify, simplify, simplify.  One or two kinds of cookies, instead of 5 or 6.  Gift cards instead of shipping presents.  Limiting holiday commitments to ensure plenty of time for sitting in front of the fire and watching Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer on ABC Family's 25 Days of Christmas specials.

Drink water.  Drink more water.  Having to pee a lot ensures that I sit down and take a break for a moment, right?

Start out every day with a smoothie.  No matter what else happens I can load up my smoothie with lots of fruits, Omega 3s and fiber.  All that fiber will ensure more "sitting down breaks"  (I know, I know, too much information....)

Keep inspirational and/or healthy lifestyle focused reading materials in my purse and car.  That way when I have a few moments before picking up my daughter or during basketball practice I have something to read that isn't an ad circular.  Same with podcasts, I'm keeping them inspirational like The Moth Podcast, or healthy like The Nutrition Diva Podcast.  Or fun like Under Cover with Deb and Beth, one of the finest book review podcasts I've yet come across.  Not that I'm biased.

That's my plan and with three weeks left until Christmas I'm glad to have one.  What about you, what are you doing to keep yourself balanced during the holiday season?

Friday, December 3, 2010

We're living in a society here, folks...

Walking around the college campus where I work is usually quite safe.  There are many crosswalks and signs are posted absolutely everywhere letting drivers know that pedestrians have the right of way.  Cars stop, people cross, we all move on safely, it's a beautiful thing.

A couple of days ago that beautiful system broke down.  Imagine if you will a very rainy day.  I was looking adorable in my brand new trouser-cut jeans and way-too-high-and-so-uncomfortable high heeled black boots.  As I tap-tap-tapped up to the crosswalk I saw a car approaching.  The car was a fair distance away so I stepped into the street with confidence. 

I hear the car approaching.  I keep walking.  I hear the car still approaching.  Some small, very important, part of my brain registers that the car is not slowing down.  I glance over.  The car.  Is.  Coming.  I freeze for just a second before my legs remember to run.  Tap, tap, tap, tap!  My stupid-way-too-high-and-so-uncomfortable high heeled black boots are not helping me now!  The driver of the car finally registers that she is about to hit me and slams on the brakes.  She fishtails on the wet pavement and the front of the car hits me with just enough force to knock me off balance but not enough force to hurt me.  I fall to hands and knees.  My gigantic purse goes flying one way.  My gigantic bag filled with 4-inch budget binders goes flying the other.  My umbrella slips from my hand and lands on the wet pavement.

I crouch there for a moment on the ground.  Stunned.  I look up and make eye contact with the driver.  Her face registers nothing: not surprise, anxiety, guilt, regret, anger, just blankness.  Then, without exchanging a word, she drives off.


There I was, kneeling in the middle of the street getting soaked. My heart was pounding so hard I could feel it through my coat.  I couldn't believe she just left me there!  We're living in a society here, folks, and as members we are all required to enquire about the health and wellbeing of any living creature we may hit with our old, rusty, no-anti-lock-brakes-having cars!  This is not optional! 

I didn't get a license plate number.  I don't know the make and model of the car.  I didn't file a police report and I 'm not hurt.  But I am curious: who is this woman?  What standards of behavior is she following?  And why, why for the love of mike did she not even acknowledge me? 

The good news is that I didn't even tear the knees in my new trouser cut jeans...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?

How many times did someone ask you that when you were a child?  When I was 5 I lived next door to a doctor.  I decided I wanted to be a doctor.  My parents were so excited when I announced my intention that for years I answered "I want to be a doctor" just to see the delighted smiles on their faces.  With no particular talent for biology or chemistry, no money, and no clear idea of how I would go about becoming a doctor, that dream didn't materialize, but since I'm not sure if I wanted to be a doctor or simply to please my parents, it's probably a good thing I didn't invest in medical school.  I then decided I wanted to be a lawyer because I thought Susan Day looked so great on L.A. Law.  Senior burnout, marriage, and sheer apathy ensured that I never pursued law school.  After I graduated from college I simply "fell" into a job that paid well, was fairly interesting, and was reasonably satisfying.  After 9 years I had a child, quit work, and had no more sense of what I wanted to be when I grew up than I did when I was 5!

After a year of searching for the "right fit" job for me, I have finally landed in a position that appeals to my clerical sense of order (filing, stapling, collating) and my need to imbue my days with meaning beyond the satisfaction of clean bathrooms and folded laundry -- though now that I am working every day a clean bathroom or  folded laundry would definitely be welcomed!

I knew I was ready to go back to work..but to do what?

In the past year I have taught kindergarten, been a substitute first grade teacher, worked in a college bookstore, and am currently working with an at-risk group of college kids helping them navigate the tricky waters to graduation.  I help them with paperwork, make sure they are connected with the right Student Services programs, and listen to them.  Just listen.

It's been quite a winding road to figuring out what I want to be when I grow up, but, for now, I have found the right balance.  With the Big Question of What Will I Do With My Life currently answered I have had time to to focus on some of the other Big Questions:

1.  What are my financial priorities?
2.  What kinds of experiences do I want to create with my family?
3.  What traditions do I want to preserve, create, or change?
4.  How do I appropriately prioritize my friends in a life containing work and family?
5.  What am I going to wear to work tomorrow?

Rather than feeling overwhelmed by all these questions I feel rejuvenated.  I am excited to see how I will navigate the tricky waters of my life.  Some of my life is handled clerically: papers to sign, taxes to file, bills to pay, documents to file.  Other parts involve connecting my husband and daughter with the right people.  But if I'm really doing my job as a wife, mother, and friend a lot of my time is spent listening.  Just listening.

I hope you'll stay with me on this journey.  If you're feeling in the mood to listen, I've got plenty to say.  If you're feeling in the mood to entertain for the holidays, well, I've got some tips for that too on my latest podcast.

Thanks for listening.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things

I've been recently inspired by a post from Deb to think about a few of my own favorite things of the season.  I've not been in a terribly "grateful" space lately as our exterior paint project (The Monster Paint Project) turned into the The Monster Contractor Search, which, when a contractor was finally secured, morphed into its current state: The Monster Rebuild Project.  The back of our house was discovered to be severely water damaged and the wood was, well, mostly gone.  Rotted away.  Underneath the wood siding was just a mess of rotted wood, wet insulation, and shredded paper.  It can be fixed.  But it ain't cheap.

So in order not to dwell on what cannot be changed I decided to turn my thoughts to all of the great stuff going on around me this season.  I no longer have a pumpkin-patch-aged-child but I went anyway.  I love pumpkin patches, nurseries, and garden centers at this particular time of year because there is just something about a fall arrangement of mums, pumpkins, gourds, maybe a scarecrow or two, that is so appealing to me.

This image from front-porch-ideas-and-more.com is stunning

I love the abundance and simplicity of this arrangement

And while I love candles all year long, the shorter days of fall seem to invite candlelight and candlescapes.  Of course I want all things to be as natural and recyclable as possible, so check out these ideas:

Mother Nature will provide you with plenty of acorns, just look down

What could be simpler or more beautiful?

I think this will be on my Thanksgiving table this year.

I am completely inspired for the front of my house, excited and confident for my tablescape.  There is only one place left to have warmth, softness, and seasonal comfort: the bedroom.  Think down and flannel and you can't go wrong.  Fluffy down, soft flannel, perhaps a chenille throw in case you want to nap on a Sunday afternoon?  Pure seasonal decadence.

It's the layering that makes this bed appear so cozy

Perhaps a few tea lights placed in hollowed-out mini pumpkins on the bedside table?  Imagine the mild, comforting smell of roasting pumpkin you will get when the candles are lit.  This is affordable luxury.  This is you connecting with the season and the passage of time.  Honoring the rhythms of the Earth.

These are a few of my favorite things.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Green Tip Tuesday: How Green is your Car?

Can you believe it?  Another Green Tip Tuesday?  And just when you'd given up hope forever...

Today let's talk about cars.  Over the summer we traded in my big ol' gas guzzling Saturn Outlook (16.9 mpg)

I loved this car, but the gas mileage was awful

for an itty bitty Honda Insight Hybrid (45.6 mpg). 

Obviously no 7 passenger seating here, it was a trade-off

We made the trade because the lease on the Saturn was up anyway and we were looking to buy something less expensive, smaller, and great on gas mileage.  Fortunately you don't have to trade in your old vehicle to "green up" your car.  There are actually lots of little things we can all do that make a big impact.  Most of them involve unlearning what we were taught about cars.

According to a post from Consumer's Report there were two mistakes I was making with my cars:

1.  Oil should be changed about every 3000 miles?  Nope.  That was true for cars 15 years ago, but most cars now are designed to go about 7500 miles between oil changes.  While changing the oil unnecessarily won't hurt the car, it certainly impacts the environment by adding a lot of hazardous waste (oil).  Save yourself some money and change your oil less often.

2.  You should let your engine warm up a few minutes before driving?  Absolutely not.  While my grandfather was right when he told me that, it's no longer true.  Now you are just wasting gas and adding unnecessary carbon monoxide into the air.

I further researched and found an interesting article on a government webpage (so it must be true) about keeping tires properly inflated as a way to save on gas and ensure proper braking.  Less gas = less dependance on petroleum = better for all of us.

Finally I have to mention washing your car.  My husband is a tiny bit fanatical about keeping our cars clean and he usually wants to wash them himself, by hand, in the driveway, regardless of the temperature.  Believe it or not, this is the least green way to go.

I prefer touchless so I don't have to worry about my paint being scratched

 Many car washes now recycle their water but even for those who don't most states require a proper drainage system so the dirty, soapy water doesn't go directly into the groundwater supply.  You can save a lot of water by going to a car wash instead of washing your car yourself.

Frequently I hear people say that they would love to be greener but it is so expensive.  Not true, I say!  You can use all the money you are saving on oil changes and extra gas from not idling your car to pay for your car wash and you'll still come out ahead.

My new car is silver, but it's a lot greener.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

This is Real Life, folks

I know that today is Green Tip Tuesday and I will definitely provide a Green Tip in another post, but I just had to tell you about my Real Life incident.

Today I went for my well woman exam.  Like many women, I carefully groomed and prepared for this exam.  I shaved.  I lotioned.  I exfoliated.  I dressed carefully, even knowing as I did that the midwife would never even see my clothes, I couldn't help myself.  I still dressed carefully.  Upon arrival I checked in with the receptionist.  She was friendly, outgoing, and LOUD.  The entire waiting room now knows that I was there for my well woman exam, that yes, I am still at my current address [insert address here] and yes [insert phone number] is still my current phone number.  No, I haven't had any changes to my health, and yes my husband is still the insured and yes his name is still Steve. 

Hipaa laws be damned, a medical receptionist with a loud voice will out you every time.  People talk.  That's real life.

In the examining room I undressed completely, hid my underwear inside my carefully folded clothes, put on the backless robe and covered myself with the sheet.  I was ready.  The midwife enters.  We chitchat a bit.  She does a breast exam, we talk about my favorite authors, she prepares for the pelvic exam, we talk about the book I am currently reading.  Finally it's showtime (so to speak).  I'm in stirrups, she's in gloves, in goes the speculum and out comes the gas.  What????  Where did that come from?  How could my body let me down like this?  How could my intestines provide this much humiliation???  Yep, I farted.  Broke wind.  Stepped on a duck.  Cut the cheese.  Flatulated.  Ripped one, as Steve would say.  With that many names it's obviously part of our human experience, but I was sure this had never happened to me before.  With each continued press of the speculum I pass more gas.  It's completely silent (I think...) but now I am worried that it's dreadfully smelly and I just don't know it.  I'm too far away!  The midwife's face, oh help me Rhonda, her nose, is right there!  She continues to chat.  I'm at a loss for what to do: do I acknowledge the gas?  Do I excuse myself?  What if she can't tell?  Do I act as if I don't know what's happening?  Is she in danger of passing out?  Blessedly the exam ends.  The midwife's eyebrows don't appear scorched so I suppose that's a plus.  She leaves.  I dress.  I leave.

Preparation be damned, a speculum providing pressure on your intestines will out you everytime.  People have gas.  That's real life.

I still feel embarrassed.  I'd like to think I'm not the topic of much hilarity and disgust in the staff lunchroom, but I think we all know better.  And I think we can all agree that somewhere on my chart the words 'Beware of patient's flaming gas' appear.  People embarrass themselves.  That's real life.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

You can't die laughing

Laughter is essential for life

Oh I'm sure there are a whole host of emergency room doctors who right now are saying "Well, actually...." but you know what I mean.  Are you laughing enough?  Have you laughed today?  I don't mean a sardonic grimace or a sarcastic chuckle, I mean true laughter.

If not, why not?

You may have to deliberately seek out sources of humor.  Unfortunately life doesn't always mimic the sitcom where fashionably messy homes are inhabited by quick-witted and adorable members.  Sometimes life has dirty laundry, grumpy spouses, overtired children, and hormonal teenagers.

That's okay.  You can still laugh.

Books, movies, people, whatever makes you laugh is good

Yesterday, on a whim I picked up a copy of Jill Conner Browne's Sweet Potato Queen's Guide to Raising Children for Fun and Profit.   Now Jill has a whole bunch of these books and each one is funnier than the last.  I like to read them in small doses because I find that I become a bit immune to comedy if I binge on it.  It turned out to be the best thing I've done for myself in 2 weeks.  I am finding myself laughing out loud and to my surprise laughter is exactly what I needed.  The past 2 weeks have been crazy: school started, I went back to work, field hockey started and who knew field hockey would be every afternoon all afternoon ending only right smack dab in the middle of dinner time?  Certainly not me.  The laundry has been piling up, I wake at 5:30 to work out but am too keyed up with stress to go to bed before 11.  Lack of sleep and too many meals-on-the-go had me feeling off balance, short tempered, and wondering how I was going to balance it all. 

Then I picked up a book, on a whim, and started to laugh.  I forgot that I need to laugh!

Suddenly everything is okay again in my world.  I have perspective.  I feel more relaxed after laughing for a few minutes than I have after the past 2 weeks of yoga. I need to laugh.  Every day.  And I'm willing to bet, so do you.

Seek out sources of laughter everyday.  A book, a show on TV, a website, a blog, maybe even a friend who never fails to entertain.  Whatever the source, guard it well and visit it often.  If you're laughing, you're alive.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Green Tip Tuesday: Planning a "greener" yard next spring

Believe it or not now is the perfect time to begin planning for a more earth friendly yard next spring.  Have you ever heard of xeriscaping?  Xeriscaping is landscaping in a way that reduces your dependance upon watering.  While the use of native and drought tolerant plants is nothing new, the idea of planning my yard to make the most of those plants, while still attracting butterflies and bees, was a foreign concept to me.  I thought landscaping occurred by looking at what was already in my yard, adding some stuff to it that looked good, trying not to have too many planting beds so I didn't have to mulch a lot, and calling it a day.

I didn't know I was supposed to plan.

Well now I do and here are some tips I've learned:

1.  No matter where you live many drought-resistant plants have some characteristics in common: they have leaves which are small, thick, glossy, silver gray or fuzzy.  Look for these plants at your local nursery and be sure to ask the nursery attendant for more drought resistant plants.

Creeping phlox is perennial, gorgeous, and drought resistant

2.  Use native plants.  Trying to keep a tropical plant alive in my northeastern climate would require not only a tremendous amount of work, but also a tremendous amount of water.  Forget the exotic palm trees, I'm sticking with silver dogwoods which are, you guessed it, native to the northeast.

3.  Mulch.  Me and my black thumb thought that mulch was just to make the dirt look good for the neighbors.  I didn't realize how important mulch is to retaining soil moisture, insulating plants' roots, and regulating soil temperature.  Mulch layers should be several inches thick.  Beware: colored mulch is dyed mulch so many of the benefits of the mulch are reduced by the negatives of the dye.

4.  Weed your landscape beds.  Having a lot of weeds competing for water may pull water away from your landscape plants causing you to have to water more often.

5.  Use perennials when possible.  Perennials tend to be more drought resistant by their very nature.  Use annuals sparingly because in addition to requiring more water they frequently are not as hearty and require more fertilizer, pesticides, or plant food.

6.  Consider some hardscape:  landscape walls, rocks, gravel, benches, etc., can all be beautiful additions to your planting beds and require no water at all.  I'm not saying you should fill your lawn with garden gnomes (though you'll never hear me besmirch the gnome!), just a few well chosen implements can replace plants quite nicely.

The differing sizes of rocks and mulch fill in this area nicely

If you're lucky enough to have an irrigation system it's a great idea to install a moisture-sensitive monitor so the sprinklers only run when necessary.  If you're lucky enough to have a gardener then thank your lucky stars, give him or her a refreshing glass of lemonade, and go relax.  If you're me then you'll be out there this fall digging up the poorly-placed-too-big-for-the-bed-and-in-the-wrong-place-for-sun-requirements plants and finding new homes for them.

Now go play in the dirt!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The All American Past Time

Picture courtesy of Steve's iPhone

Well, I did it.  It took me 40 years to watch the Red Sox play live at Fenway Park, but yesterday I did it.  I'm not sure I would have put this particular item on my Bucket List had I not moved to Massachusetts, but move I did, and everyone and I mean everyone here knows that you can't really call yourself a New Englander if you haven't been to Fenway.

I didn't grow up attending baseball games.  I wasn't a fan.  When we lived in Cincinnati Steve introduced me to baseball by getting us tickets a few times each year to watch  the Reds.  I didn't fall in love with baseball per se, but I fell in love with attending games.  A TV, no matter how large, cannot convey the energy, the excitement, the sheer camaraderie of being there, with the crowd, singing the silly songs, doing the 7th inning stretch, and cheering and jeering the calls of the umpire.  It's quite magical.

So after a few years of attending Reds' games we moved to Toledo, Ohio.  There I learned what it was like to attend minor league games when we went to watch the Toledo Mud Hens play.  The Mud Hens' stadium is small, the price per ticket is pretty cheap, and the there's not a bad seat in the house.  I liked it.  There wasn't quite the same energy as there had been in Cincinnati, but it was still fun.

Nothing I had experienced before quite prepared me for Fenway.  At Fenway the excitement starts about 3 blocks away from the stadium where the crowds start to gather in pubs and restaurants.  They spill out the doors onto the streets wearing Boston Red Sox caps, shirts, jackets, pants, even carrying purses and backpacks with the Red Sox logo.  As you get closer to the stadium the street vendors increase along with the crowds.  It's impossible to walk without bumping into someone, dodging a ticket scalper, or being blasted by the cries of "Game Programs!  $2 outside the park, $5 inside!  Get your programs!"  The bagpipes begin to play, security works overtime to search bags and get everybody inside, and the smell of hot dogs permeates the air.

Inside Fenway is a tribute to the old meeting the new.  Fenway Park, America's oldest ballpark, is 98 years old.  Old photos and pennants share space with new ads for Comcast Xfinity and Microsoft.  Fenway Franks, Fenway Park's official hot dogs, are sold everywhere and in mass quantities.  Dunkin' Donuts brews gallons of coffee and the beer vendors just keep 'em coming.  The seats are small and the aisles are narrow.  The stadium vendors walk up and down, up and down calling "Hot dogs, get your hot dogs!" and "Peanuts!  Salted Peanuts!"  The cotton candy, popcorn, pizza, and ice cream vendors all add their cries creating a cacophony of sounds, a heady aroma, and a dazzling display of balance and strength as they navigate the steep, crowded stairs.

If you haven't ever attended a major league sporting event, I highly recommend that you do, just once, for the experience.  40,000 people all cheering at the same time, working together to do the 'the wave', singing 'Take me out to the ballpark' during the 7th inning stretch, and clapping whenever a kid catches a foul ball is an invigorating experience. 

It's a great way to spend a day.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

She was the picture of class...

This is not the example I wish to set for my daughter

In my entire adult life I have only been in two fights that weren't with Steve.  (Fights with Steve don't count because after 19 years of marriage, numerous home improvement projects, and 8 moves tensions can run a little high...)  I am a huge confrontation wimp.  I will concede the point, back down, wimp out, tell a lie, or feign stupidity to avoid confrontation.  The only exception would be if the necessary confrontation involved defending my daughter but luckily that situation has not yet arisen.  I say all of this to paint a picture of a person who does not like to be at odds with the rest of the human population.

The first fight was 5 years ago.  It actually took place on a Catholic school playground, which makes it all the more pathetic.  I was co-leading a Girl Scout troop and was accused by the mother of a girl on another troop, let's call her Mad Mom,  of placing the "rich" girls on my troop and leaving the "poor" girls for her troop.  Since I was brand new to the area, had no friends, had no idea where most of these girls lived, what their parents made, or even who their parents were, I felt the accusation was a little unfair.  Side note: I actually was seeking out Mad Mom because I had heard she was upset with me.  I didn't know who she was so I had to ask another parent on the playground if he knew her.  Just my luck the parent I asked was Mad Mom's husband!)  It got a little heated with Mad Mom calling me a snobby b*****.  Our kids are playing just a few feet away and Mad Mom is calling me names!   The sun beat down, sweat beaded on her forehead and pooled in her impressive cleavage.  She glared down at me from her 6 inch height advantage and moved toward me to intimidate.  Her face was red with anger and her words were harsh and bitter.  Mad Mom said that she knew my "type" and that I disgusted her that I would use kids to play my snobby games.  She said "don't worry, I know what you are and I'll make sure everyone else does too."  She practically spit in my face.

She was the picture of class.

The second fight was 3 days ago.  I was at the local warehouse club waiting in line at the U Scan.  Side note: our warehouse club has discovered that if they open only one staffed checkout and then provide 5 U Scans they can herd us all to checkout our own purchases.  On this particular day  four of the U Scans all had the added benefit of their "HELP" lights blinking, something which the warehouse employees were working diligently to ignore.  No surprise here, I was in line at the one working U Scan.  I was next in line.  The woman currently checking out, let's call her Rude Woman, was talking on her cell phone while she unloaded her cart.  Side note: Rude Woman was talking on her cell phone very loudly.  She was speaking Spanish.  I have noticed that when people talk on their cell phones and don't speak English there seems to be no attempt to moderate their voices as they believe that the people around them can't understand what they are saying.  Why is it that we need to hear your conversation, whether we can understand it or not?  I don't mind the public phone use but could you practice a little volume control???  Anyway, as you can imagine, holding a cell phone in one hand and unloading your cart/checking out your purchases with the other is a slow process.  I waited.  The line behind me grew.  I waited.  One of the other U Scans actually received some employee assistance and the HELP light went out.  Some people bailed out of my line.  Others came to replace them.  We waited.  Finally the woman is done checking out.  She has all her purchases at the end of the conveyor and is reloading her cart (one handed, of course).  I step up to the U Scan.  I scan my membership card.  I scan 5 of my 7 items.  It is at this point that Rude Woman has finally finished her conversation.  She looks up.  She notices that I have begun checking out my items.  I have my daughter standing toward the end of the conveyor belt to keep our purchases from getting mixed up with Rude Woman's.  Rude Woman looks at me and says "Um, you're going to wait til I'm finished!"  I looked at the 2 remaining items in my cart.  I looked at the long line of people behind me.  I surprised myself by saying "No.  I'm not."  Rude Woman's eyes got wide.  And she lost her mind.  She began yelling at me.  She was dropping F bombs with a liberal scattering of the B word.  Her overblown lips were parted and her black lined, overly mascara-ed eyes were squinched nearly shut.  She was breathing in gasps.  She.  Was.  Mad.  Well, I was mad too.  I mean she is saying these things in front of my daughter!  I told my daughter to switch places with me (I had checked out the last 2 items while Rude Woman ranted) and to pay while I reloaded the cart.  As soon as I stepped toward her Rude Woman backed away, still spewing expletives like some demented fountain.  I loaded my cart and by the time I looked up again Rude Woman was gone in a cloud of cheap perfume, her spike heels clacking, sheer tunic over black bra swaying while her gold metallic leggings gleamed in the fluorescent lighting.

She was the picture of class.

In neither instance did I fight back.  I simply listened to what was said.  Replied that I was sorry they felt that way.  And walked away.  (Well at the warehouse club I turned away).  I didn't raise my voice.  I didn't lower my standards.  I didn't back down.  I didn't escalate the situation.  No matter the conflict, the reason, who is right or who is wrong.  It is always important to me to be:

The picture of class.  (Plus both women scared the heck out of me and would have beat me to a pulp).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Green Tip Tuesday: Being Green While You Sleep

Image from Gaiam.com

Today the Gaiam sale catalog arrived in the mail.  Now y'all know how inspired I get from my catalogs and Gaiam is my Green inspiration that's for sure.  Looking at the gorgeous organic sheet sets (on sale!) has inspired me to make quality, organic bedding a priority.

Sleeping is meant to be a time for healing, rejuvenation, renewal, and rest.  None of those things feel compatible with inhaling toxins, absorbing chemicals, irritating the immune system, or creating allergies but that's exactly what can happen night after night if we sleep is poorly ventilated rooms with chemical-filled bedding.

Imagine if you will a more peaceful scenario: you climb into bed, a bed softened with 250-thread-count organic cotton percale sheets.  Your skin is not going to absorb any dyes or chemicals from the sheets because none were used.  Your window and your door are both open, just slightly, for proper ventilation.  Your mattress is softened and protected  by a pure wool mattress topper or pad.  Your pajamas, if you choose to wear them, are loose, cotton, and chemical free.  Aren't you feeling more relaxed already?

Wool mattress topper from Gaiam.com

My bedroom is not all organic.  My bed is wood and veneers with plenty of glue, varnish, and other toxins I'm sure.  My blankets aren't organic cotton.  My mattress happens to be organic cotton only because we had to buy a new one last year and it wasn't any more expensive than a regular kind.  I don't have the money to replace all my furniture and bedding with chemical-free options and frankly, I'm not sure I need to.  As long as my room is ventilated throughout the day and while I sleep the toxins leaching from my bed don't have a chance to build up and I don't actually touch my bedframe while sleeping.  The only thing touching my skin at night are my pajamas and my sheets (and Steve against whom a pretty good arguement could be made that with all those pizza rolls in his system he is also a source of toxins, but I digress) and since I really need to buy some new sheets anyway, why not make them organic?

It was my Gaiam catalog with any size sheets set on sale for $39.99 (http://www.gaiam.com/) that inspired me, but I've also noticed places like Target, WalMart, Lands End, LLBean, and Pottery Barn carrying organic sheet sets.  My goal is to replace my sheets with an organic option, wash them in eco-friendly detergent, and perhaps, over time, invest in some organic cotton T-shirts and boxers for sleeping. 

A restful night.  Giving my body the opportunity to rejuvenate.  Less pesticides being used on our planet.  Less dyes and chemicals being put into our drinking water, soil, and bodies.  One small step that if we all take together adds up to one big step.

Now go get a good night's sleep.

Friday, August 13, 2010

What would you do if you weren't afraid to do it?

What would you do if you weren't afraid to do it?  Would you publish a book?  Open a restaurant?  Produce a movie?  Cure a disease?  Invent something?  Did you ever set a goal that seemed like maybe you were reaching a little too high but you couldn't help yourself, you decided to reach anyway?

I did.  I do.  And I did it.  I reached.

I'd like to invite you to come along with me as I embark on my next adventure that combines 2 of my passions: reading books and talking with friends.  I'd like to invite you to listen to my podcast.

That's right, podcast.  Debbie and I have a podcast.  If you are a podcast virgin let me give you a little more information: podcasts are audio or video blogs.  Debbie and I decided to create an audio podcast where we will review books, blogs, authors, basically anything written down.  Our inaugral podcast is now live and can be found on our blog http://www.undercoverwithdebandbeth.blogspot.com/ or downloaded from iTunes.  Just type deb and beth in the search bar.

In our first podcast we review the Stephanie Plum series written by Janet Evanovich.  For our next podcast we're planning to discuss the combined works from author Stacey Ballis.  Our style is casual, the audio mix a bit amateur, the intro music probably a little dated, yet I am so proud of the overall product that I am just about bursting.  I'd love to have you listen along.  Download the podcast (it's free) and even better subscribe so you get our regular updates.

And while you're listening to us, think about your dream.  And then reach.