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.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Simplicity, Life at its Best

Years ago I came across a book called Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach which contains daily meditations on the principles of order, simplicity, beauty, and gratitude.  I have read and re-read this book many times, frequently starting it in the middle of the year, reading ahead or catching up, but always finishing it feeling rejuvenated.  Refreshed.  Revived.

I have been thinking a lot about simplicity lately as I have been reviewing some of my favorite feng shui books, visiting one of my favorite blogs Strictly Simple Style, reading back issues of Guideposts magazine (from the library, of course!) about simplifying life, and gearing up for a new year.

One of my goals this year is to simplify.  I want to simplify my body: simplifying what I eat, smoothing and toning so that my appearance is uncluttered, slender, and healthy.  I want to simplify my home: take all those boxes to the Salvation Army that I have been putting in my storage room "to take later", get in the habit of addressing paperwork immediately rather than putting it on my desk "for later", and organizing closets and drawers rather than tossing items in "to deal with later."  Later appears to be cluttering my life.

I found it interesting that when I search Google Images for Simplicity a lot of the images returned were of nature.  I agree.  Even a forest strewn with leaves, branches, stones, flora and fauna appears simple.  Soothing.  Uncomplicated.  I notice the same thing about my daughter: she is still young enough that her body is simple, her attitude is straight forward.  Her life, while certainly becoming busy and more complicated, is still uncluttered.

Being a huge admirer of (anything) Pottery Barn I always tend to picture one the rooms they feature online, in their catalog, or in their stores as the image of simplicity.  Like if I lived in a room like that: flooded with natural light, adorned with furnishings and fabrics that have clean lines, beautiful textures, soft colors, and sturdy construction,  that I too would become a person with clean lines, enough texture to be interesting,  a soft forgiving heart, and a sturdy character.

Image from

Luckily I don't believe for a minute that I have to invest in a $10,000 room makeover (as enticing as that would be!) to achieve those qualities.  I simply need to simplify.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Smells Like Home

I always find it amazing how powerful a 'scent memory' can be.  Every December I make Chex Mix for my family.  My mother always made it during the holidays and I guess the tradition just stuck.  Everytime I smell that mixture of Worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt, butter, and garlic it transports me back 30 years to childhood and smelling that same smell.

It happened last night when I opened a tube of AIM toothpaste.  My mom was a Crest-woman and only very, very occasionally did she buy anything else.  My brothers and I were always clamoring for her to buy AIM because we thought it tasted soooooo good.  Trying to bring a little more enthusiasm to my daughter's lackluster brushing I bought some AIM toothpaste, convinced I had hit upon the magic solution.  She didn't like the taste (!) but last night I used some, just feeling nostalgic.  The moment I took the cap off the tube I smelled that AIM toothpaste smell.  I could almost feel the scratchy lace of my old flannel nightgowns; almost hear my brothers arguing in the background; almost see my old brown and yellow bathroom of childhood.

I use vinegar a lot for cleaning (more on that next Tuesday!) and everytime I open the bottle I think of dying Easter eggs.   I had graham crackers and milk almost every day for after school snack for 12 years, so the smell of graham crackers makes me feel a little uptight - like maybe I have homework still to do...

And finally Bubble Gum Lip Smackers Gloss.  Junior High my friends, Junior High.

What scent memories do you have?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The January Doldrums

Our household is feeling the January doldrums.  The blahs.  Steve is home sick from work.  I am having to talk myself into going to the gym, folding that last load of laundry, and/or cooking dinner.  Our daughter is trying to fry her brain with too many The Suite Life of Zach and Cody reruns.

Yep, it's the end of January all right.

I read a feng shui book that had a lot of information about stale energy.  If I have any energy at all right now it is certainly stale, so I thought I'd get the book out again and brush up on the cures.  It turns out the cure to stale energy is to get moving.  sigh.  I don't want to get moving, but okay, I'll play along.  The book said to move 21 items in your home.  Unfortunately cleaning up, while extremely good, doesn't count as moving items.  I think I'll give it a try.  That candle on the mantle that has been collecting dust could be (dusted) moved upstairs to my bedroom.  The picture frames that I keep meaning to fill could be filled and hung up.  Maybe the throw pillows on the couch in the living room could be switched with the ones on the couch in the basement?  Perhaps I can recycle a pretty glass jar I received at Christmas as a new pen holder on my desk.  Maybe I'll even add a ribbon to it.  Or add a fun label to the jar.  Heck maybe I'll print out a collection of black & white toile labels and give my desk a coordinated French country look.

Okay, maybe there is something to moving 21 items.  Just thinking about moving the items I feel more energetic.  I'll start with moving the biggest item: myself, and then see where it goes from there.

Happy January!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Green Tip Tuesday: Digital Music

I am married to a techie.  Not only is it Steve's job to be on the technical cutting edge, it is his passion.  We had mp3s, iPods, and iPhones in their first generations while they still had some "bugs" but lots of potential.    As a teen I loved music and spent hours listening to records and the radio.  Then tapes.  Then CDs.  Then my mp3 player.  Now my iPod and iPhone.

The advent of digitized music has made it possible to carry thousands of motivating, uplifting, encouraging, and happy songs with you everywhere you go without creating a lot of waste or toting heavy equipment (remember the 'boom boxes' of the '80s?).

Having music in your life is good for your body because it gets you moving.  It's good for your mind because listening to music is proven to increase intelligence.  It's good for your soul because (depending upon your song choices) music can be so uplifting.

Go green.  Digitize your current CDs then donate them to the library.  Commit to buying your music online thus eliminating packaging and shipping impacts on the environment.  Reduce the electro-magnetic footprint in your home, and your carbon footprint by unplugging those CD and tape players.  Donate them to charity and happily take the deduction on your taxes.

Dance.  Sing in your car.  In the shower.  Everywhere you go.  You'll be healthier.  So will the planet.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What month is it?

Today is Monday, January 25.  I know this for sure because my computer tells me so and my computer never lies.  My daughter has a dentist appointment on Monday.  In January.  On the 25th.  I know this because the dentist sent me a reminder card with the date clearly printed on it.

So I take my daughter to the dentist.  It is raining so hard it's like being in the shower.  The wind blows my umbrella inside out as I attempt to walk from her school to the car.  It actually hails a little bit at some point in the short 15 minute trip between my daughter's school and the dentist's office.  But we make it.  Wet.  Glasses fogged.  Umbrella broken.  But safe. And on time.

The receptionist looked a little surprised when we walked in but was very professional: asking my name.  Asking my daughter's name.  Flipping through her appointment book (book?  They are still using a book?) with a small, professional smile on her face.  Flipping.  Still flipping.  Why is she flipping through so many pages?  How many pages does it take to show an appointment that starts in 5 minutes.  I decide to make a little small talk: chatting about how awful it is outside and how I wouldn't be out at all on such a nasty day if we didn't have this appointment.  The receptionist looks up, raises her eyebrows, smiles and says:

"Ummm, ma'am?  I think you may be a little early for your appointment..."
"Oh, I thought it was 1:30.  Did I look at it wrong, is it at 4:30?"
"No ma'am, it's at 1:30.  It's at 1:30 on Monday, February 22." (smirk, small giggle)
"You're kidding!  But I have an appointment confirmation card right here!  It clearly states my appointment is on January 25!"  (I pull out card to wave my proof under her smirking nose.)
"Yes ma'am, I see where you may have gotten confused.  You were looking at the 'Mail by' date.  The appointment date is down here.  Highlighted." (lots more smirking, patient and hygenist in first room off reception are openly laughing but I'm sure they're laughing about something else.)

I admit I am completely deflated.  She's right, the date is clearly written and highlighted.  It's embarrassing!  I took my daughter out of school early!  I broke a perfectly good umbrella!  Even my socks are wet!  And why did I have to sound so indignant and actually wave the appointment card at the receptionist? 

Does this kind of thing ever happen to you?

Friday, January 22, 2010

You Fed Her What????

My daughter's tuition bill came in the mail yesterday.  No sticker shock, the tuition has gone up but I expected that.  I like her school, I believe she is receiving a quality education with enough extras to make the tuition money worthwhile.  I picked her up from school feeling like such a good mommy making the budgetary prioritzations necesssary to pay for her education.  "How was your day sweetie?" I ask, still basking a bit in my aren't-I-just-a-Nobel-prize-winning-self-sacrificer glory.  "Fine."  (I was reduced to one-word answers a few months ago..the tween years are fully upon us).  "What did you have for lunch?" I ask, not at all dissuaded by her monosyllable.  Her face lights up a bit, I smile in anticipatory see-even-the-lunches-are-worth-the-money joy..."Mozzarella sticks!" she answers.  "Mozzarella sticks, canned peaches, and carrot sticks!" My child is overjoyed at what she considers to be a culinary masterpiece. 

Mozzarella sticks as an entree?  At my pricey-little-bastion-of-education?

Let's face it: as a society we don't prioritize teachers highly enough to pay them well enough to get consistently high quality teaching.  (Especially our substitute kindergarten teachers, but that's another post...)We don't prioritize nutrition enough to make it imperative that under no circumstances would mozzarella sticks be considered anything more than an occasional addition to an otherwise healthy meal.

My daughter's school generally does really well with meal planning.  She has an amazing salad bar available to her every day, fresh fruit and vegetables are always plentiful and fairly varied (especially considering they are catering to an audience of 5-13 year olds), and most of the entrees reflect an attempt to keep lunch interesting as well as nutritious.  And, as in any job, some days the lunch crew drops the ball.

I don't blame the school, per se, I hold our society responsible for letting things get to the lowest common denominator where lunches like this are even considered.  Our children will (eventually) eat what they are given.  If we give them junk, well...what do we expect?  Of course they will want more junk!

Moderation.  Perspective.  I don't think mozzarella sticks for lunch are a great choice but that is one meal one time.  I am in charge of what she eats for breakfast, morning snack, afternoon snack, and dinner.  She is still young enough that I control most of what she eats.  It is my job to ensure that even when the school drops the ball, I don't.

It's my job to be a parent.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Buying Organic: Healthful Choice or Yuppie Trend?

Well, both.  I had never even heard the term "organic food" before 1999.  I'm sure there were a handful of "hippie" commune farmers who had always grown their own vegetables before then.  And I'm sure there were always the "crackpot" environmentalists who believed in using sustainable farming methods.  But until the last decade or so, those people were on the fringe. Well that's all changed now and almost overnight mom-and-pop-organic-farms have become a staple in the pantry of the health-conscious, environmentally aware, and the trendy.

It all started for me when my daughter had a diaper rash that just wouldn't go away.    I had also recently watched Oprah where her guest, Dr. Andrew Weil, had spoken about a wide-spread but mostly unknown allergy to dairy that plagued many children and adults.  He mentioned that for some people it may be the protein lactose which they don't digest very well, but for others it may be the amount of hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides present in the dairy that made them sick.  I decided to go dairy free to see if it would help my constant hay-fever-like-allergies (they went away within 2 weeks) and to buy organic milk for my daughter to see if it helped her rash.  The rash went away.  Completely.  Within days.  A few weeks later I bought regular old milk again (thinking I had cured her and could return to regular habits) and her rash came back immediately.  Curious.  We have had organic dairy products since then.

It's fairly common knowledge nowadays that a lot more than milk  is in our milk.  That's true of many foods.  I am all for buying whatever organic products your budget can accomodate, but if you're like most me, you're going to have to pick and choose what you buy organic because it is so expensive.

I opt for organic dairy products first, followed by organic frozen fruit (because I eat a smoothie every day).  Next I'll go for antibiotic-free, hormone-free meat.  Then organic eggs.  Then organic vegetables.  Finally, if I'm feeling really rich I'll buy organic shampoo and conditioner.  I try to prioritize based upon our consumption, availability, and my ability to make natural substitutions that while not organic, may at least be less processed.  Our family doesn't eat a lot of meat or dairy, but we do eat a lot of fruit, eggs, and veggies.  I can afford to be all-organic on the dairy and meat because I don't have to buy very much.  I make the fruit and eggs a priority because we consume a lot of them.  I can find a lot of veggies at farmers' markets or locally grown so I don't worry about organic as much with them.  Personal care products are a minefield of chemicals but they are also easy to make yourself from stuff in the kitchen (but that's another post...).

Organic is healthy.  It's also very trendy.  Be both:  choose one item you consume a lot and see if you can switch to organic.  There, don't you feel better already? 

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Green Tip Tuesday

It's Green Tip Tuesday!  Most of my friends and all of my family live a thousand miles away.  Due to my "strained" relationship with the US Postal service and my basic procrastination I am notorious for being late, (sometimes very late), sending out cards and gifts.  I have found the answer to my prayers and it's made even better because it's environmentally friendly.

Send e-cards and e-gifts.

I know, e-cards have existed for years, but they weren't always that great.  Recently though, while looking for a way to connect with my 3 year old niece and celebrate her potty victory, I re-examined  Their website has completely changed in the past couple of years.  No longer are you stuck with just a few designs with dicey clip-art that appears on the screen while tinny background music plays too loudly or softly in the background.  Gone are the days of e-cards that look like a 6 year old got hold of PowerPoint.  Now there are many e-cards available, many of them are hilarious, that contain animation, music, and dialogue that will have your recipients laughing and sharing the e-card with others.  I went ahead and bought a subscription for $9.95/year.  I have already sent about 15 e-cards (which would have cost $.99 each) and plan to send many, many more.  I am even considering sending e-cards for Christmas to all my friends and family who have email.  I don't know if I can go quite that "green" yet, but I am considering it.

And the e-gift-card options are endless.  You no longer have to send a gift card that may get lost in the mail, or not have a proper activation code, or that just ends up in a landfill when the credit has been used.  It is a procrastinating environmentalist's dream, I tell you.

Now if only I could convince my puppy-wanting-daughter to get an e-pet instead...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I love my George Foreman Grill, I hate my George Foreman Grill

Good ol' George Foreman.  I once read that Hulk Hogan had been offered the "grill deal" before George Foreman but that he had turned it down in favor of an energy drink or something that he thought would be more profitable.  Probably not a decision he is proud of today.  I have had my George Foreman Grill for about 9 years.   At first heralded as the answer to the 'we have no grill but that's okay because we have no backyard area in which to grill' dilemma, the grill has been both one of my biggest culinary blessings and also responsible for some of my biggest culinary disasters.

On the plus side: the grill works as advertised.  It evenly grills foods on both sides and does it more quickly than conventional grills.  I use my grill a lot.  I probably wouldn't grill mushrooms, peppers, onions, and other veggies nearly so frequently if it weren't for my George Foreman.  When we lived in a rental when we first moved to Massachusetts my GF was in use almost every night because I only had 2 burners and an 18" wide oven.  I even made (flat) grilled cheese sandwiches on it!  The angled design truly does cut down on grease and fat and the recipe book that comes with it has some truly handy and healthy recipes.  It's all good, right?  Well....

...On the negative side: you have to be very careful about how you prepare the outside of whatever you are grilling.  A thick chicken breast will be char-broiled on the outside before you can get the inside done because, at least on my model, I can't control the temp.  You must never ever forget to spray (heavily) the grill with non-stick spray or whatever you are grilling will become one with the alleged non-stick surface and look like hash by the time you scrape it off.  Even with heavy non-stick spray usage clean-up is not for the faint of heart.  I even have specially designed contact grill scrubbies that aren't supposed to damage the non-stick surface because cleaning the grill can be so difficult.  Which of course brings me to the non-stick coating.  I, who once spent $300 on non-stick Calphalon, have become a stainless steel cookware advocate.  I still use my grill, but with trepidation about what unintended coatings my food may be receiving.  And finally, every time I preheat the grill I am treated to the smell of the fish that I cooked on it, oh say 8 years ago.  I have scrubbed the grill, rubbed it with lemon juice, grilled hundreds of bulbs of garlic on it, and yet I still smell fish!

And yet, when my daughter wanted hamburgers for dinner on a cold January night, it's the first tool for which I reached.

(And I'll admit, I may have just a tad bit of envy for George's snappy apron, though I can't tell if it has the appropriately big center pocket or not...)

Friday, January 15, 2010

How did I go from JailBait to Cougar?

I was checking out a fun blog about turning 40.  Then I was chatting with Debbie this morning and she mentions a fun new show on ABC called Cougar Town starring Courtney Cox.  Courtney Cox is a Cougar?  No way!  Courtney Cox is that adorable girl from the Bruce Springsteen video.  Courtney Cox is the super-hip young urbanite on Friends.  If Courtney Cox is a Cougar, then am I!  I turn 40 in less than 5 months!

I have achieved Cougar status.

You know I have noticed lately that many of the women in the gym are younger than me.  And come to think of it, that woman on the Pilates mat next to me yesterday may not have wanted to strike up a conversation with me because she may have looked at it as talking to someone who could be her mom.  Just because my daughter happens to be 10 doesn't mean I couldn't easily have a child who is 20.  When did this happen?  I'm still buying acne cream and yet I really do need some wrinkle cream (especially under my eyes, dear Lord it's not pretty).  I remember being in my 20s.  And in my 30s.  But I don't remember aging!

I am looking forward to 40.  I don't feel it's old, though it continually surprises me when other people do.  I have made a commitment to myself to be in the best shape of my life at 40.  (Thus the Pilates, sigh)  As Steve and I celebrate our 19th Anniversary this year (child bride, what can I say?) I certainly feel like our marriage is better than ever.  I'm certainly better equipped to handle my verging-on-teenage-hood-daughter than I would have been 10 years ago.  I'm even better at making (and most importantly, keeping) friends than I was 10 years ago.

Still, realizing that to the young men at the gym I'm the scary Cougar is quite an eye-opener.  Don't worry boys, you have nothing to fear from me, I'm old enough to appreciate what I have, live my life in the present, and not create any drama for my future.  Grrrrrrrowl.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I think I need more "latte" in "Pilates"

Today was my second class in a 2 part series of Pilates classes I'm taking.  Yesterday I took the Pilates Reformer class where I was asked to do unspeakable abdominal exercises on a piece of equipment that greatly resembled the Torture Rack from medieval times.  I didn't care much for Reformer because I never really felt in control of my movements and all the time I spent attaching and detaching springs, adding boxes, putting various body parts into and out of harnesses, and trying to make my butt fit onto the tiny SureGrip mat they put down so I wouldn't go flying off the machine meant that there wasn't a lot of flow and there was a lot of frustration.  All that scary equipment and I didn't even really feel my workout.

Today I took the Pilates Mat class.  Ahhh, no scary equipment, just a simple peacock blue mat.

Amazing how much pain can be inflicted upon a person with just one innocent looking mat.  "Resist!" my instructor Kylee would command, "Pull your belly button into the mat!  Drag your legs up from the mat, hold that 45 degree angle and slowly, with control resist all the way back down!"  Sweat was pouring down my forehead, back, and chest.  My legs are shaking.  My abs are weeping.  "Hold it until I tell you to bring your legs down!" Kylee would bark.  Surely she won't notice if I lower my legs just a tiny bit, right?  "Beth!  Bring those legs back up!"  Hmm...she noticed.  Next exercise: the swan.  Well what a pretty image that conjours up!  How hard can something called the swan be, perhaps I can even chat with the woman on the mat next to me?  "Lay down on your stomach.  Pull your stomach up and press your hips down!"  But wait, my stomach kind of flows into my hips - if one is going up the other sure as heck isn't going down.  "Press your palms into the mat on either side of your shoulders.  Now press up to lift your head and chest while pulling your palms back toward your heels.  Press!  Press hard!"  Okay, I cannot even describe the pain of stomach going up, hips going down, palms pressing down and back while head and chest stay lifted for, oh I dunno know, maybe 2 minutes!  Needless to say I was too busy sobbing to chat with the woman next to me.


After an hour I rubber-legged out of the Pilates studio.  I rubber-legged down the stairs.  I hoped I didn't need to stop fast on the way home because I'm not sure that my rubbery-muscled legs would have reacted in time.  Reaching up to get the Cafe Express chai latte for my Keurig was pure pain (and shaking arm muscles).  As I type my left arm feels sore yet numb.  I am wiped.

Pilates, not for the weak minded.  Or for those with a long commute home.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"Green" Tip Tuesday

Every now and again I actually like to post something worthwhile on this blog and I think today will be that day.  I am always looking for ways to be a little more "green", a little more natural, a little more earth-and-people friendly.  I am also kinda lazy.  (See, I am so lazy that I didn't even spell out 'kind of'' I merely used the slang 'kinda' -- laaaa-zy!)  I really don't ever see myself recycling old plastic bags by knitting them into a fun, yet fashionable handbag.  And you won't find me scouring garage sales or second-hand-stores looking for items that I could possibly purchase at Target.  (Mmmmmm, Tarrrrrrrget....) I don't have anything against garage sales, in fact I love the idea, I'm simply too lazy to search them out, peruse, haggle, and purchase.

So why am I posting a "green" tip?  Well I'm glad you asked!  When I was at the library this weekend I noticed what a good selection of magazines they had.  I hadn't ever considered checking out magazines from the library but when I got to thinking about it I realized it made a lot of sense.  I love magazines but I tend to read them really quickly (sometimes within 10 minutes of getting them).  If I borrow the magazines from the library, I can still get all the info, look at all the pictures, and have the satisfaction of having read the magazine without the environmental impact of printing, shipping, and even recycling that a subscription would cause.

(Probably this tip is not a favorite of the magazine industries' subscription departments)

I checked out 6 magazines on Saturday.  It is Tuesday.  I have read all six.  (Well, looked at the pictures).  Usually I would experience a bit of letdown at having whipped through my magazine so quickly but now all I have is anticipation: I'll walk to the library (okay, if it's cold I'll drive), drop off the old magazines, check out new magazines, and be so darn "green" that I may even make myself a little bit sick.  I may even check out magazines where I have to read the articles!  It'll be a whole new green intellectual Beth.  Smarter people are better for the planet, right?

Don't you just love Green Tip Tuesday?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tad bit of payback, hmmmm?

I recently alluded to the fact that I had called American Express and had my statement closing date changed.  I did this because I didn't like my credit card payment coming due at the same time as my house payment and I really didn't like the credit card closing in the middle of the month. 

Usually when I call AmEx (which is rare because I really like how much functionality they have online) I have a quite enjoyable calling experience: friendly English speaking person, my request or question answered easily, maybe even a bit of a rapport before the call is ended?  Well everyone has an "off" night now and then and recently I drew the short straw when I called customer service.

AmEx: Thank you for calling American Express how may I help you? (said in thick-but-indeterminate-accent)

Me: Hello, I'd like to change my statement closing date.

AmEx: I can help you with that ma'am.  Is there a reason you need to change it?

Me: Well I'm glad you asked.  I need to change it because I was given incorrect information the last time I called to find out when my statements close.  I was told they close every 30 days but in actuality they closed  31 days in September, October, and November and only this last statement closed at 30 days thus making the payment due one day earlier than I thought it would be due thus making my payment 1 day late a crime for which you charged me $77 in late fees which I thought was very uncool considering how often I whip out my  AmEx card and market for you.

AmEx: Silence

Me: So now I'd like my statements to close on the last day of the month.

AmEx: Silence

Me: Is that possible?

AmEx: Ma'am I guess I'm not sure why you want to change the closing date.

Me: Because I don't like the statement closing in the middle of the month, I find this very confusing especially since it doesn't really close every 30 days it closes whenever you feel like closing it and since I watch this very carefully I got confused and was 1 day late with my payment and I got charged $77 in fees.  If it closes on the last day of the month then I will always know when it closes.

AmEx: Ma'am you can find your closing date online and you can also set up your account to email you when your bill is due.

Me: I know all this!  I am the queen of online bill pay!  I just want my statements to close on the last day of the month!

AmEx: I can do that ma'am.  I can make your closing date the 28th of the month which is the best I can do because not every month has more than 28 days.

Me: Okay.  When will this change take effect?

AmEx: Your statement will close as usual on January 16 but then will not close again until February 28.  Is there anything elseI can do for you today ma'am?

Me: Okay January 16 this month is great because that gives me time to adjust my budget.  Perfect.  Thank you for your help.

AmEx: Thank you ma'am, have a nice day.

Wanna know when my statement closes according to online bill pay?  January 28.  Not January 16.  Apparently my rant about the $77 in charges didn't go over very well (as well as calling the charges "uncool") and indeterminate-accent-man decided to see just how flexible my budget could be.

Well played, AmEx, well played.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Just Because They Make It In Your Size...(Part II)

Yesterday found me braving blustery winds and subzero temperatures to traipse around the Wrentham Outlet Malls in search of the Aeropostale outlet.  My daughter had received 2 gift cards for Christmas and her zeal to spend them was eclipsed only by my adamance that we not shop the week after Christmas!  So she patiently waited 2 full weeks and then insisted we go.

For the record she would have been happy to go to the Aero stores in any mall, it was I who insisted that with a strict budget she would be better served to shop the outlet and the get the most for her money, a strategy that really did pay off as she was able to get 2 pairs of jeans, 1 shirt, and 1 bag for her $50 in gift cards.

But while I was waiting outside the fitting room door... I saw the usual assortment: moms waiting for their kids to model, kids waiting in line for an available fitting room, even a grandmother laden with what looked like 10-12 outfits stood patiently in line.  "Wow, I thought, that poor grandma really has a lot of clothes!  I wonder where her granddaughter is that she makes her poor Nana hold all those clothes."  Our daughter tries on jeans, finds her size ( yippee!  there is an abundance of her size in the outlet!  Apparently 0/0 short wasn't a big seller this year!), my husband goes to search out her requests for bootlegs, flares, and skinny jeans while I continue to wait for the next modelling session.  But wait, why is the staff member unlocking a fitting room door for grandma?  Where is her granddaughter?  Why is grandma going inside?  Hmmmm, this is getting weird. Oh well, she probably got smart and decided to get a fitting room just to sit for a minute until her granddaughter joins her.  I mean surely that woman isn't planning on wearing the clothes, right?  She's easily 70-80 years old!  Oh my, I can see grandma's feet under the door and she is definitely trying on clothes!  Our daughter finishes strutting her runway moves (as much as anyone can strut with easily 25 people waiting in an area designed for 2) and is ready to checkout.  "Hey sweetie, I'm going to look around here at the jewelry"  I say to mask that I must wait to find out what grandma is going to do.  And heeeeeere she coooooomes!  Well, well, well.  Grandma has just exited the fitting room and is jockeying for position at the checkout line.  Worse yet, she hasn't zipped up her jacket and I can see that she is currently right this minute wearing an Aeropostale T-shirt!  It is in fact the same shirt the girl at the checkout is wearing.  Of course the girl at the checkout is maybe 20, so her boobs fill out the AE part of the vertical logo running down the side of the shirt.  Whereas Grandma's boobs are filling out the PO part of the logo!  I get in line behind Grandma.  She is buying these clothes with an AERO gift card!!!!!!  My almost-11-year-old and someone's Nana asked for and received the same Christmas present!!!!

Ladies, I beg you, have some self respect.  You have a cute figure that fits into teeny-bopper sizes?  Great, take that figure to Ann Taylor Loft and you'll be in size 2 heaven.  Wear the tiniest-most-slim-cut T-shirts you can find from Talbots.  Go skinny-jeans crazy at Coldwater Creek online.  Just please, please, respect the age limit clearly defined by the music, posters, and staff at certain stores.

And for God's sake, please don't use a gift card!

Friday, January 8, 2010

No need to get the police involved ma'am, it was just a question

There are some stereotypes that exist about the friendliness of people who live in different parts of our country.  East Coast people allegedly would cut you rather than say hello; Midwestern folks are portrayed as friendly and open; Southern hospitality is legendary; and the dudes on the West Coast are rumored to live and let live (so long as you don't live off the West Coast, that is).

I live on the East Coast. 

But I was raised in the Midwest.

I think absolutely nothing of striking up conversations with people I meet in public.  We're all here sharing some planetary space, right?  Don't you want to discuss with me the merits of the book you just selected versus the one I'm holding?   Why wouldn't you want to share with me how well you like the one-pump-sugar-free-caramel in your chai latte versus the plain old latte?  And aren't we all annoyed in line at the post office?  Shouldn't we be bonding, as a species, over these shared experiences?

Maybe not so much on the East Coast.  Recently I was in Michaels craft store.  I was in the yarn aisle.  A woman who looked to be about my age was in the yarn aisle.  We are standing no more than 18 inches apart.  I am breathing her exhaled molecules, for goodness sake.  So when I ask her, quite pleasantly with my slight Midwestern twang that should communicate friendliness and openness, if she knits or crochets, should she abruptly turn and glare at me as if I'd just asked her for a tampon?  No she should not!  And was it necessary for her to hiss "My son has a project!" and then run from the aisle?  Again, no it was not!  I'm not a stalker.  I'm not even (that) weird looking.  (And since we're now discussing my looks I should really mention that new-stylist Lisa outdid herself on my latest cut and it is super cute, not stalker crazy). 

I frequently hear people, well mostly me, complain about how hard it is to meet and make friends as an adult.  No wonder ladies!  If you are guilty of the glare-and-run when a stranger with nice hair asks a simple friendly question then you have no one to blame but yourself if you outlive your spouse and are a lonely old cat lady (no offense to my sister-in-law who now has..5..maybe 7..cats).

As for me, I'll be hanging out in the yarn aisle at Michaels.  Perusing the book selection at BJs.  Sifting through picture frames at Target.  Reading the recipe cards at the end of the meat aisle at Hannafords.  Say hi, I promise not to run.  You can even borrow a tampon.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Things are bad and It's Deb and Chellie's fault

My house is in chaos. I have mostly taken down the Christmas decorations (though there is one big box in the living room that is too heavy for me to carry...hint hint Steve) and a few miscellaneous items that I forgot about when I did the major taking down. My laundry still needs to be folded. My bathroom still needs to be cleaned. My bed is unmade.

Basically my chores aren't done.

Hey, don't blame me, blame Deb and Chellie. You see I do my chores while talking on the phone. Housework is boring and lonely so I depend on my girls to get me through. Frankly they haven't been holding up their end of the deal lately, citing things like work, studying, work, hair appointments, and work as excuses to not distract me from the drudgery, the work, the sheer annoyingness of making the dirty clean over and over again.

Usually when Deb or Chellie are not available I listen to my iPod or a book on CD. However, it is Deb's fault that I can't listen to a book on CD because she got me into this Jen Lancaster fixation and my local library didn't have any Jen on CD and I can't contaminate Jen's musings with another author, now can I? It's Chellie's fault I can't listen to my iPod because after years of listening to Chellie's devotion to the Bare Naked Ladies (and other adult bands) I actually listened to them and now I'm finding my musical tastes are perhaps moving beyond Wham!, Madonna, and the soundtrack to the Lion King so my iPod songs don't really feel like a fit right now. (Though I am still preeeetty happy with Abba selection).

If nothing else is available I will sometimes (in desperation) entertain myself by creating blog posts in my head while doing the mindless task of cleaning. I can't do this anymore because (Deb's fault) Deb suggested I actually write down some of these ideas instead of letting my brilliant posts drift away with the minutia in my mind and I can't possibly write down a blog idea while scrubbing a toilet, right?

Finally when I am absolutely desperate for something to think of while cleaning I mentally re-decorate the room I'm cleaning. This is a last resort because all-too-frequently those kinds of thoughts lead to dissatisfaction with the room, a compelling urge to put my ideas into reality, and an expensive (financially) and conflicted (maritally) result all because I can't make a bed without a buddy. Even this not-perfect solution isn't available to me because (Chellie's fault) Chellie agreed with me when I said I would call American Express and get my statement closing date changed which led American Express to extend this billing cycle by 13 days which threw the budget into meltdown and thus any redecorating on my part would result in us having to eat the cat's food because we couldn't afford groceries.

See? My friends have some 'splainin to do, yes?

Monday, January 4, 2010

I am being driven slowly and inexorably insane... the wind. The snow I can handle, snow is a Grace and I stand by my Graces. But the wind. The constant blowing howling screaming shaking-the-house-and-rattling-the-windows wind. It's become my new decorator: screen doors are blown open, deck furniture rearranged, the outdoor thermometer carried away, Christmas lights swinging madly, and beautifully lit topiaries on either side of the front door thrown down and blown across the front porch. And still it continues to blow. Could there be a downside to living on a mountain?, I used to wonder? Yes, my friends, the flipside to my gorgeous view is tremendous exposure and winds coming down the side of the mountain at a gale-force.

The problem is, I'm afraid of wind.

Crazy right? Well it all began 35 years ago... One of my most pronounced childhood memories is of huddling in the bathtub with my brother, pillows on our heads, breath held, waiting. Waiting. Waiting for the all-clear from my dad to come out as the twister passed overhead or on the next street or wherever it went. I remember the air earlier in the day: it was yellow. Can you see air? Well, I could and it was yellow and heavy and hard to breathe. I remember my mom yelling at me "Where are your shoes? I can't believe you can't find your shoes! We have a tornado coming and you're just going to have to put your sandals on and if your feet get all cut up then it's your own fault!" The next morning my beloved swing set was found in a neighbor's yard and stories of devastation were all over the news: homes gone, families killed, children missing. Good times, good times.

Fast forward 25 years and you have me with my 5 week old baby. Steve is out of town on business and my mother-in-law came to stay the night. There is a bad storm that night with high winds. Wee hours of early morning my father-in-law calls sounding slightly panicked "Are you all right?" "Yeah, Dad, why?" "There's been a tornado about a mile from your home, major damage!" Later that morning it's all over the news: apartment buildings sheered open as if with a giant can opener, cars thrown about, lives destroyed.

Fast forward to December 2008. A major ice storm hits the northeast. I awaken in the wee hours of the morning to what sounds like gun shots. I wake Steve and insist he come downstairs with me. The wind is howling, the storm is raging and the "gunshot" sounds are tree limbs breaking all around us. Our power is out for days and the damage to the area runs into the millions. 100-year-old trees are uprooted and one falls through our garage, just a few feet away from the room in which we'd been sleeping.

Wind. I have to find a way to feel sanguine about this force of nature or I'm not going to be getting a lot of sleep at night or peace during the day. "Why are you so crabby today?" My husband asks, and I don't know what to say. Do I tell him how on edge I feel? Do I yammer on about childhood traumas involving wind? Do I just suck it up and get over this fear?

I keep trying to provide myself a peace filled spiritual outlook on the wind: winds of change, out with the old, in with the new, I am like the willow I bend with the wind I do not break.

But the howling just creeps me out.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

Last night we went to a fantastic New Year's celebration where they had a Resolution Fire. The idea was to write down your intentions for the new year and throw them into the fire. I decided to implement this idea in my own home but take it one step further and write down on one side of the paper something that I don't want to repeat that occurred in 2009 and on the other side of the paper an intention for 2010.

After our New Year's celebratory dinner we all did just that, rolled up our papers with the intention side out and tossed them into our fireplace in the living room. I like the symbolism of this act: the "bad" thing from 2009 is wrapped up, tossed away, burned up and the "good intention" feeds the fire, becomes the ash that nourishes my plants, and a small part of which will always be in the bricks of the fireplace.

I don't know if it's good feng shui or not, but it certainly feels like good chi to me.

I wish you a blessed, abundant, Happy New Year.