Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Good Gravy!

It's been how long since I've posted?

I can't even remember all that's happened to me since August. I thought about spending time writing a wonderfully witty comeback post, but let's be real. It would be another six weeks before I got that post done. So I'm going kick off my return with the following list of updates:

1. Writing: Clearly, I haven't been writing as I should, but I did enter an essay contest for Real Simple. They announce the winner in January. Keep your fingers crossed!

2. Parenting: E is growing up to be quite the sassy young lady. After spending Halloween evening as an angel, complete with a Marabou halo and wings, she remarked: "I think I was the cutest little thing people saw tonight."

3. Marriage: Hubby and I are still going strong. And yes, we are still sharing one car. One day, though, it will get better.

4. Me: I actually had to write "relax" on my to do list last week. Sad, but true.

More soon!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I can't count how many times I saw Revenge of the Nerds as a kid. Now that I think about it, I really didn't have any business watching that, but every now and then, my parents let something sneak through. The alcohol-induced antics of the Tri-Lambs and the Alpha Betas gave me a skewed sense of collegiate reality.

By the time I was old enough to go to college, I knew that 99% of that film was far-fetched. Still, a teeny part of me was nervous when I applied to join my sorority. I needn't have worried. A combination of university and sorority policies prohibited a good deal of nonsense, including riding a tricycle while guzzling cans of beer.

Even though there were no arm-wrestling and burping contests (Thank goodness!), we still had our share of good times. And one of my sorority sisters was there to document most of them with her camera. D would say the same thing every time she looked at pictures from our new-member phase:

"We hazed ourselves."

D's comment came to mind this weekend when my friends and I took our daughters for a girls day out. A local salon offers a "Princess Party," a spa experience for girls ages 6 and up. Our kids ate pizza, danced to Kid's Bop CDs, and got manis and pedis, all while wearing little pink robes, tiaras and feather boas. Meanwhile, we sat in a waiting room with bottles of water.

Oh, wait, I take that back. The salon was out of bottled water. We just sat there. Venting.

About how we need more hours in the day. And how hard it is to be a mom. And how sometimes we want to just pull the covers over our heads and sleep the day away. We could hear our girls singing along to Justin Bieber and Willow Smith.

We hazed ourselves.

There we were, four stressed out mamas, lamenting while our daughters were being pampered. We should have given ourselves a little love while we were treating our girls.

Mama's Day Out is in the works for September. A massage is definitely in order.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, August 11, 2011

First Day of School

I've known for weeks that school started today. GI Joe says that "knowing is half the battle," but I'm not sure how much good it did me this time.

The school sent a newsletter that I scanned, then promptly lost. "Meet the Teacher" night, I noted, was at a time when I couldn't attend. School supplies were the teacher's responsibility. My job was to send $20 and a donation of tissue and disinfecting wipes. Thanks to my coupon clipping, I have a stockpile of household supplies, so this was no problem.

E spent Sunday afternoon arranging outfits; I stuffed wipes, tissue, cash into her book bag. We were ready, or so I thought.

"Mom," my girl asked Tuesday night. "Who is my teacher?"

(Insert "Price Is Right" loser music here.)

I had no idea.

I spent all day Wednesday calling the school. No answer. I scanned the Web site for clues. Nothing.

I tried to make light of the situation. "It will be a surprise!" I declared. "You'll find out when you get there." My daughter was not convinced. While clearing out a stack of newspaper, I found the school newsletter.

"Class listings will be posted in the gym on Meet the Teacher Night."

"Meet the Teacher Night" was that very day, from 4 - 6. I looked at the clock. It was 6:05.

(Re-insert "Price Is Right" loser music.)

I woke up this am at 5:45, determined to find the elusive name. I called the school every 15 minutes to no avail. I got my kid dressed, handed her a Pop-Tart, and said we'd go to school early to find the identity of her teacher. I'd then have to take her to daycare, because the school didn't officially open for another hour.

We hurry to a the car, and I hit the garage door opener. No response. By the time Hubby got the door up, we had run out of time. I wouldn't be able go take her to school, then to daycare, and make it to work on time.

(You know what to do.)

I dropped the kid off at daycare, drove to school, and ran into the gym to read the school listings. I called daycare and asked the director to tell my kid to go to Mr. K's class.

I miraculously made it to work on time. And my kid had a great first day. What's not so great is all this homework. Her workload has tripled since kindergarten. Last year, we had a worksheet or two. Now there's reading, spelling, and math. Not to mention I had to fill out about 20 forms, all which seemed to ask for emergency contact information. Couldn't they just copy the one form and circulate it?

- Posted using BlogPress

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Shoulders Down

I've started doing yoga every morning before I get ready for work.

Yeah, I've been here before.

I love yoga. I know it's hard to believe because I do it so infrequently. But there's something very calming about moving through a sun salutation. I feel more at peace, more ready to face the nonsense better known as "a day's work."

On Wednesdays, I attend a lunch-hour class sponsored by my company. As we move through postures, Steve, our yogi, walks by and places a gentle hand on my shoulder.

"Shoulders down," he reminds the class.

Even though I believe my shoulders are exactly where they should be, Steve always is able to move them by an inch or two. So this week, I started paying attention, and I learned something:

I hunch my shoulders. A lot. Stress, I've discovered, is a major cause of my shrugged shoulders.

I also learned it's a painful habit to break. I didn't know putting something back where it belongs could hurt so much. My shoulders have been aching for days.

Forcing me to put my shoulders down has also encouraged me to deal with my stress, instead of letting it build. Sort of like my "Jesus, be a fence" mantra.

I made it back to yoga last week, ready to see how my poses improved with lowered shoulders. Our substitute yogi, Becky, mentioned she was a "hands-on" teacher. She corrected my leg positions, adjusted my back's alignment, and encouraged me to stretch a little further while in cobbler's pose. Not once, did she touch my shoulders.

I thought I was home free as our hour came to an end. I happily stretched onto my mat for corpse pose, a position where you lie flat on your back. Becky came by and made one last adjustment. She pressed my shoulders away from my ears. Damn.

I guess I'm a work in progress.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Jesus, Be A Fence

I believe the last two months can best be described as insane.

I signed up to teach more night classes, but I didn't pay attention to the dates when I did so. The beginnings of some classes overlapped with ends of others, which meant there were a few weeks where I taught two to three classes on top of working a full time job.

During an eight-week stretch, I heard more "Can-you-cover-for-xyz-employee-my-grade's-not fair-because-I-was-sick-oh-we-know-you're-busy-but-would-you-take-this-project-my-last-instructor-was-nicer-than-you-can-you-squeeze-in-this-new-biz-thing-this-class-isn't-even-in-my-major-I'm-going-to-my-academic-advisors" than I ever wanted to hear in my lifetime.

Yep. Insanity is the perfect description.

A friend who often teaches dual classes said I would feel better after I saw my paycheck. She was right, but the the good feeling lasted for about two minutes.

Most of the time, I was overwhelmed and tired. Add to that the fact that we're once again a one-car family (a story for another day), and you've got a recipe for a nervous breakdown.

There was a phrase, however, that helped me whenever I was about to scream:

"Jesus, be a fence."

I don't think there's a gospel singer out there that hasn't done a rendition of this song. My favorite is by a group called the Meditation Singers. These ladies brought it.

The words were my battle cry. They populated my Facebook status and Twitter timeline whenever I felt frustration mounting. And on days when it was really rough, I took it farther:

"Jesus, could you throw in a moat?"

"How about an electric fence?"

"What about attack dogs?" (Not to be confused with guard dogs.) I'm certain Jesus wasn't on board with this request, but I felt better after saying it.

In the beginning, I said the words whenever I wanted a fence to keep people from angering me. But over time, I learned I needed a fence to keep my anger from them. The phrase went from battle cry to mantra, encouraging me to deal with my frustrations rather than waiting for the breaking point.

I realized this during my first night with a high-strung group of students. After arguing with me about the terms of the syllabus, a student stormed out of class to contact her "prayer warriors." Instead of telling the entire class to go to hell, I called for a break. When we returned, I asked them why they were so on edge. I listened, with fences down. I addressed their concerns calmly, and I didn't change a thing in the syllabus. At the end of our five-week session, the prayer warrior told me how much she enjoyed the class.

The Lord's standard-issue fence handled my nonsense without a spark of electricity or a snarling canine.

My "Jesus-be-a-fence" tweets are much less frequent now. Partly because I'm down to once class a month, but mostly because I'm learning day-by-day not to sweat the small stuff.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Extreme Couponing (or) How Do I Pay for the Cleaning Lady?

It's been a busy few months, my friends.

Taking on different responsibilities at work required more time at the office and added travel. I think I spent the entire month of March on the road, but it all happened so fast that I'd have to check old boarding passes to be sure.

During that time, I made a very important decision: I need a cleaning person. Someone who can dust, vacuum, and mop -- In other words, someone who can keep my place looking decent so I don't have to. I figured once a month should do the trick.

Hubby didn't agree. Especially when my first hire was for two guys to clear out the garage.

"We don't need to spend the money," he reasoned. "I was going to do it."

We all know what this means. He was going to do it only after I raised hell, waited six months, and then raised hell again. But enough, I decided, was enough. The guys did a great job, and I drove my car into the garage without sideswiping a mound of junk for the first time in five years. My marriage, I believe, is better for it.

The garage guys were a one-time charge, so how was I to justify a monthly charge for a cleaning person? The boost to my sanity should be enough, but I wanted to be sure the expense was painless.

After hearing about people getting $481 of groceries for $3.19, I decided to give couponing a try. I knew that I wouldn't be able to rack up these types of savings on the first few tries, but I had no idea how much work this involves. People spend more time couponing than they do working full-time jobs.

It's been less than a month since I made my declaration to become an extreme couponer, and here's what I've learned so far:

1. I will NEVER get $481 worth of anything for $3.19. It takes way too much time. The most I've had is $89 on a $150 bill, and that was good enough for me.

2. I should leave my daughter at home. There's nothing like a six-year-old asking for candy and what-not while you are trying to calculate coupon savings. Now I see why the people on TV usually go alone.

3. Always smile at the cashier. Check-out already sucks; it only gets worse when you have 50 coupons and a clerk who thinks you're rude.

4. I will not stockpile. It seems like a good idea, but do I really need 65 bottles of mustard? Plus, I don't have the space.

The cleaning lady comes for the first time this Monday, and my coupon savings have covered her fees for the next couple of months. So, all in all, I guess it was worth it.

Stay tuned!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Tea Party

Every year when the weather gets warm, I make myself promises.

I will go outside more this year. I will plant more flowers. I will take advantage of what the city has to offer.

I fail miserably every time. I proclaim it's too hot-humid-rainy-cloudy-or-you-name-it to go outside. The few flowers in the front yard shrivel from neglect and slug damage. And the city? I don't see any more of it than I did the year before.

This year, I decided to do better. I've made no promises other than I will honor the inspiration to enjoy the season when it comes. So far, that's meant a trip to the zoo, where I purchased a one-year membership, and a Sunday tea party in the park.

My cousin, who was on the event's planning committee, said this was a chance for little girls to put on frilly dresses and drink apple juice from tea cups. It was indoors, so that was right up my alley, and it was for a good cause. The proceeds were for the park's upkeep. This year's theme was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

When E and I arrived, we followed a path of cardboard circles painted to look like lollypops and peppermints to a room swimming in polka-dotted balloons and multicolored tablecloths. There was candy as far as the eye could see.

E ate two candy rings, two chocolate-covered marshmallows, and three Hershey's kisses in the blink of an eye. Just as she was feeling the effects of her sugar intake, the hostess announced a scavenger hunt.

We went to the registration table for an instruction sheet. The woman explained that we were to find 20 golden tickets, read the question on the back of each ticket, and mark the answers on our sheet.

"There are 10 tickets in this building and 10 tickets outside," she said.

"Did you say outside?" I asked as I squinted at the yellow piece of paper. I looked out the window at a passerby in a tank top and shorts. It was 86 degrees.

"Oh yes," she smiled. "They are in the garden out back and in the front yard, but there won't be any across the street."

It took us an hour to find 19 tickets. We wandered the yard in circles, taking a brief detour to the parking lot so I could change out of my four inch heels, which kept sinking into the ground. I couldn't do anything about the wind blowing up my dress. I hope no one was offended.

I was sweaty and tired when we returned to the tea room to hear the winners. We took second place, which earned E a princess PEZ dispenser.

It was a good day, even though my daughter ate way too much candy and cried because I wouldn't let her have a cupcake. I convinced the wait staff to find a roll of paper towels so I could wrap one up and take it home. She ate it today.

I'm not sure if this is the end of my outdoor adventures or just the beginning. The only thing I do know is that if I plant anymore flowers, I'm putting out some Sluggo first.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Whatever Happened to Customer Service? (or, Pastor Craig, Part 2)

In case you were wondering, I still haven't heard from Pastor Craig. Nevertheless, K's dinner is shaping up nicely. We're up to 12 people, which is a blow-out for someone once who cancelled her own surprise party.

When I checked in with a friend whom E-vite listed as "not-yet-replied," I learned that I mistyped her e-mail address.

It got me to thinking. What if I had the wrong address for Pastor Craig? I've embarrassed myself enough to invite him, so I would be peeved if a missed keystroke kept him from coming.

After confirming online I had the right Pastor Craig, I made another call.

I was greeted by Sally, the mechanical voice of all things automated.

I'm sorry, but the number you reached is no longer in service.

I tried 411 next.

This time, Sally seemed impatient.

What city?

Is this a business or residence?

Please state the name of the business.

I'm sorry, I didn't get that. Please restate the name of the business.

Please restate the name of the business. (By now, Sally was getting really pissed.)

Please hold while I transfer you to the next available operator.

The operator's voice was high-pitched and twangy.

"Do you have an address for this church?"

"Sure." I read her the address from online.


"Say what?" My head was starting to hurt.

"I don't have a listing, ma'am." She sounded more annoyed with me than Sally was.

"Ok, thank you."

Instead of saying "thank you" in return, the operator transferred me back to Sally.

Thank you for using 411 connect.

Really? Are we so busy now that we can't say thank you anymore? We need an automated voice to do it for us?

And, I still didn't find Pastor Craig!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pastor Craig

A friend of mine is leaving our shared place of employment to follow her passion. It's a move that's both gutsy and admirable, and during the company's peak period of 50-plus hour work weeks, I'd say it's a pretty smart move as well.

K's not big on parties and hoopla, but I figured an event like this deserved a celebration. After a well-crafted pitch and three weeks of begging for a guest list, I got K to agree to a simple dinner with those who know her best.

The list was short, and it was missing contact information for most of the guests, but one name stood out. Pastor Craig.

Next to his e-mail address was a short notation. "Highly unlikely that he could make it."

I didn't see the point in inviting someone who had little-to-no shot at coming. So I thought I'd increase the odds of an affirmative R.S.V.P. by calling the Pastor and getting the date on his calendar right away. A quick trip to Google was all I needed.

"Good afternoon, Pastor Craig's office."

This should have been a red flag right here. K mentioned he was the pastor of small ministry. Too small for an office, and way too small for a secretary.

"Is Pastor Craig available?"

"No, may I take a message?"

"Sure." I gave my name and phone number.

"What is this regarding?" Something in her tone of voice wasn't quite right.

"I'm calling to extend an invitation to an event."

"Are you friend of Pastor's?"

"Um, no, not exactly." This was going downhill fast. I dodged a few more questions and hung up the phone.

A few days went by, and I didn't get a return call. When I went back to the Web site, the Pastor's bio and photo popped up. This man was about 20 years older than I expected.

I called the wrong Pastor Craig.

So, somewhere in Chicago, there likely is a man who has to explain why some woman called to invite him to a dinner. I just pray his church isn't one that is full of drama.

Who am I kidding? That woman's tone of voice told me all I need to know.

Pastor Craig, I'm really really sorry.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Crocheting Divas

Happy New Year!

I know. I'm really, really late.

I won't bore you with a long list of whys and why nots. Let's just say that life got in the way again.

Tonight, though, I took a break from the craziness.

E and I tried crochet lessons weeks ago. I thought it would be nice if I could pass on the tradition from my great aunt, but the initial efforts didn't go so well. E's short on attention span, and I'm short on patience. That's not a good combination.

So I was surprised when E asked me about it tonight. After a few stops and starts, my little girl was able to make a foundation chain all by herself. Next stop: Potholders!