Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bridal Tea

Today I helped friends throw a bridal tea.  While a tea normally conjures up visions of us sitting around sipping a hot beverage while balancing a cup and saucer...I can assure you that this is not the modern interpretation.  Where showers tend to have a limited number of guests that sit around and play games before food is consumed and the bride-to-be opens her gifts, a tea means that a crowd is expected, that people don't have to stay the entire time and that we don't have to count the number of bows she breaks to determine how many children she's going to have.  Personally, I prefer this arrangement, except that I don't get to see the bride's face as she opens her gifts.  There are hostesses assigned to manage this so that she has time to mingle with her guests.

At the tea today, everyone that should have been there was...with the notable exception of the photographer and features writer for Southern Living.  They totally missed an opportunity to be dazzled.  I doubt that they were asked...but in retrospect...they should have been.  I would have loved to have been in the hostess picture...except that this one is the one that they would have used.

I was standing in the back.  I was standing directly beside the second person on the left and directly behind the third person on the left.  No, I was not employing my super power of invisibility.  I just didn't have on heels.

There were a lot of people there, but not so many that the local Fire Department needed to come by and tell us that we'd exceeded the maximum occupancy.  All came bearing bright smiles and lovely gifts.   

The house was perfect.  It is stunningly beautiful even on its worst day, and its owner will not rest until it lives up to her standards.  There are a lot of things that I know to be true in life...and this is certainly one of them.  We arrived an hour early like an army of ants to arrange food and get to our assigned jobs. 

Our first stop was into the room where the food was to be presented.  On the table were two of the most gorgeous flower arrangements I've seen in some time.  The colors were white and green and that was echoed in every detail on that table. 

But the flowers...OH! the flowers.  I'm not even going to try to describe them.  I'm going to let you see them instead.  Let's just say that there's beautiful and there's scary-over-the-top-unbelievably-ridiculously gorgeous. 

That's me in the middle to help you get some scale as to how big these arrangements were. 

Here's the view that Southern Living would have taken.  I'm so serious.
Did I happen to mention that there was another massive arrangement in the other room?  No?  Well, here it is...

This display of amazingness is in direct contrast to anything I've been able to throw together using clippings off of my own bushes or crepe myrtles outside.  I'm not completely comfortable with even that, although I did learn that it was okay to at least try when I was in "Apples of Gold" at church. 

(If you'd like to relive that whole "Apples of Gold" experience, you can read about in its entirety here:

The food was pretty awesome as well.  I contributed cheesecake bites and chocolate dipped strawberries.  However, there wasn't one thing on that table that I was apathetic about...which is both wonderful and terrible at the same time.  The terrible being wanting to partake more than one should.

Finger sandwiches...chicken salad and cucumber (that's paprika on top of the cucumber sandwiches.)

There are my strawberries and cheesecake bites (and chocolate covered pretzel rods.)  There were mini-cupcakes (strawberry with white icing) in the back and lemon squares in the front.  All excellent. 

The white tulle with ribbon has Hershey's kisses wrapped up inside them.  And look at that fruit platter!  What you may not be able to see is that the grapes on the left were rolled in orange juice and then sugar.  Those went quickly...

Monogrammed nuts holders.  Cute, yes?

This was the actual tea.  Okay, it was fruit tea...but whatever.

I made enough for guests to partake.  While I admire and appreciate people who are worried about how everything looks...I'm more concerned with how everything tastes.   I was told not to overprepare because nobody will eat the food.  And for the most part, that is probably somewhat true.  People are more weight conscious than they used to be, and I'm not in the full blown throes of frequent party-giving what do I know?

Maybe my view is just shockingly different because I look at the table not as a prop...but as a bountiful expression of food as a gift to the guests.  A celebration of the upcoming nuptuals...getting to see people we don't get to see nearly often enough...and the chance for the "girls" to get together.   I want the food to be inviting enough that someone is willing to blow her allotment of calories for the week.  I mean, to me, that's the whole point.  Why bother putting something out there that one can pick up at Publix and eat in the privacy of her own home wearing a pair of sweatpants and no makeup?

I say...make that table a gastric den of inequity!

Perhaps I just have an appreciation for party food that is like people tell me that wine lovers have.  To me, wine is something that you tolerate or put in certain dishes like shrimp scampi or chicken tetrazzini.  I know that it has different names and that you serve them with different dishes.  My brother-in-law, a Frenchman, tells me that the French view wine with the same reverence that we have for the National Anthem.  To is "life" and it is respected as such.  I suppose in a place where it was safer to drink the wine than the water at one time...I can absolutely appreciate that.

And although there was no wine there this afternoon, with sixteen might have been one of those occasions where partaking for medicinal purposes might have been acceptable.

Yes, sixteen y'all.

Sixteen capable, wonderful, talented, experienced hostesses.

But was really quite lovely.  No issues at all.

I know that there were sixteen hostesses because I just counted from the back of the 8 x 8" ivory invitation with cocoa embossed printing and a cappachino colored silky bow tied at the top.  The bride-to-be's name is in larger font with her groom-to-be's name underneath.  She is shown as his "bride-elect" a term that we Southerners use so that the ladies that only know his family will understand why they are unlikely occurrence since both of them were raised here.  But it does look fancy and beautiful.  The hostesses are listed on the back along with where she is registered.

Speaking of gifts...the one below is from my friend, Nedra.  I have absolute gift envy over this one.  Yes, she painted this specifically for the bride.

Here were some of the gifts.  I won't put all of the pictures on here...but wow...just wow. 

So, the afternoon moved along with people coming and going with food replenished, conversations enjoyed, and audible "oohs" and "ahhhs" were heard in the gift room. 

After everyone had come and gone, the hostesses gathered with the bride and her family (and family-elect) in the living room.  Several women spoke about what marriage meant to them...and they added encouraging words that they hoped would bless the bride-to-be. 

Although many kind, wise, and loving words and thoughts were shared...the most poignant were the words that came from her mother...who is a friend of mine.  Her love for her daughter was shown with perfect clarity to all of us through her words...her expression...and her sweet voice.

(Of course there was a box of Kleenex nearby.)

I love the concept of blessing the bride.  Of telling her that planning the wedding is stressful but also fun...but that marriage isn't always a cakewalk.  It has its moments of wonder and beauty...but it also has its moments of difficulty.  That two families are presenting the best that they have to offer to each other and will ultimately create something entirely new.  But in spite of that...there isn't so much gain.  Each family is gaining a new child.  My friend and her husband are gaining a son...and the groom's family is gaining a daughter.

Which is exactly as it should be.

The other recurring theme reflected the beliefs of the women gathered there...a reminder that there aren't just two in a marriage...but three...when God is at the center of it.

Wise words.  Wonderful women.  Amazing.

I did not speak up in the room today.  I did not feel led to do.  But I will share what I would have said right here:

Love each other strongly.   

Remember that even when you were unaware of it...people have been intervening in your life through coaching, loving, praying, teaching, or just being interested in you as you grew up.  Return the favor and pass it on.  Appreciate that investment in you.  Honor it. 

Look to each other and find out how to best leave your mark as a couple in this world.  But as you do...don't forget to look up as well.  Figure out what God has planned for you...and do that.  Your dreams will pale in comparison to His dreams for you.

And finally, check out that "Song of Solomon" book in the Bible.  Live it. 

I had a wonderful time today.  It was a little bit stressful at times with the anticipation of getting it just right...but anything that is worth doing generally is.  I was honored to be able to play a small part in making it happen.

I wish Haley and Peter all of the best...and hope that they will have every happiness.  Every happiness.

Friday, March 25, 2011

On Freaking Out

Sometimes I absolutely scare myself with the ability I’ve adopted to finish tasks and put them out of my mind. This is necessary at work because I have so many deals that they start getting jumbled together if I don’t hit the mental “erase” button. But in my personal life? This obviously is not good. Not good at all.

Yesterday, after looking forward to morphing from the "awkward 7th grader growing out her bangs" look I had going on to something that actually looked like the adult that I profess to be, I finally got to the shop, sat down and started flipping through magazines while some guy in his 20's got a serious beard (think ZZ Top without the scraggly stuff at the bottom...or Grizzly Adams) and haircut. 

So, young Kris Kringle got out of the way and I jumped in the chair.  There I was…sitting there when Greg – the Miracle Worker - started making small talk with me by asking me what I’d been up to (other than growing hair and gaining weight) since he’d seen me last. He asked about what events I had coming up…because we tend to schedule my hair colorings at times when I have a higher probability than normal of being photographed so that I can look my best, bless my heart.

(Did I actually write colorings? Um. Wait. Actually, we call it “highlighting.” Yeah. That).

Greg has a memory for detail that is impressive, and he seems to enjoy picking up the strings of conversation that we laid down seven or eight weeks earlier and moving them forward a bit. I don't know if he makes notes or what...but he always seems to remember something I told him that I was about to do the last time that I was in.  Which is quite excellent if you think about it.  I told him that all was well, and that we’d just survived Spring Break and were all fired up about putting in the new pool liner.

(You know…it’s sad when the best news you have to offer someone is your new pool liner. Even if it is totally awesome, scary blue, and rocking my backyard right now as I write this.)

I was telling him about Brian’s upcoming trip to France after graduation in May, and how excited I was that he was going to be having this opportunity…blah…blah…and then it hit me.  "It" meaning something that can only be described as OMG with shallow breathing where those beads of sweat pop out on your upper lip because you have just realized that something could be going horribly wrong.

In slow May...graduation trip...France...O...M...G...


Didn’t he need to have a new passport? Wasn’t that something that the French teacher braving this trip pointed out to us...that we needed to check to see if his would be expired?  It was at that point that I went into full fledged freak out mode. Here’s the narrative that was running through my head…

What year is this?


Didn’t I get his passport for a trip in 2006? Wait...that was five years ago...a passport for a child under 18 is only good for five years...

Oh no! Haven't I done this? Why haven't I already gotten this updated?  Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
How many weeks is it until he leaves? Seven? We can totally pay extra to have it expedited. 

Wait! Did I even bother to pick up a form to renew this thing at the post office? I am so totally screwed on this one.

 What were you thinking? Get your head out, girl!. I know that you put a note on your May calendar to get it out of the safe deposit box but HELLO! Did you bother to update the actual passport?

Did you?  Did you?  Think.  Think.  Think...

And on and on and on...

So, my internal conversation with myself means that I’m tuning out Greg…who asks “Are you okay?” I don’t know if he noticed that I’d gone pale or if I just shut up and that was unusual in itself.

I told him what I thought I might have done...or more correctly what I may have failed to do...and he said…”Ah, don’t worry about it. You’ll figure it out.”

Okay. Whatever...Mr. "So Glad It's You and Not Me".  (I can totally read your mind.)

The other sad news is that I didn't even get to fully enjoy my shampooing.  I love having my hair washed.  Oh but NO.  I was too busy hyperventilating at the time.

I grasped mentally for any remembrance of the post office…of filling out a form…paying money…having Brian with me to do all of this.  Surely I would have gotten some crappy service at the post office like I did in 2006 when the lady with the post nasal drip kept our family of four in line for 45 minutes while she went through 63 Kleenex and coughing fits every 3.5 minutes.  It was a "fun day" in the third circle of Hades otherwise known as the "passport line."  See, I can remember THAT.  Anytime after that?  Nope.

After about ten minutes of stressing, I vaguely remembered being in the post office with him and the extra little pictures that they returned to me. Surely I didn’t dream this?

Or did I?  Was my brain trying to fool my body into lowering my blood pressure by giving me a grain of hope that all was well?  I honestly did not know.

I had that Ye Olde Unsettled Feeling all last night. Man, I hate that.  I put it out of my mind by writing and watching mindless crap on television.  Self-medicating, you know?

I thought today's post might be titled: "You Might Be a Moron IF You Pay a Ridiculous Amount Of Money To Send Your Kid To France For His Senior Trip But He Can't Go Because His Blonde Mother Couldn't Remember To Update His Passport"  or something equally tragic.  I figured that the chances of this were about 50/50.  I was too scared to ask Brian for fear that it might actually be true.

So, this morning, I went to work, went straight to the safe deposit box and found the passport that we’d renewed last summer – in June to be exact. It all came flooding back…we were waiting until June so that Brian would be 18 and we could get a ten year passport instead of a five year one.  The reason that I couldn't remember it was because it was nearly a year ago.  I can't remember what I had for dinner last this is totally understandable.

There are no words to express my appreciation for the fact that this is a non-issue.  Yes, I am all into early preparation and stuff. That's pretty much my modus operandi.  I know this...but there's always that fear that I'll go blonde when it really matters...Now, if I can get my blood pressure off of DEFCOM5…that would totally rock.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

More Whitetrashness...In Living Color

Yesterday I wrote about my fear that I was crossing the line into "whitetrashness."  I realize that being from the South, there's a certain amount of it that just goes with the territory.  Much like the fact that I know how to "put up" jelly and pickles, that you are supposed to take homemade food to baby showers, funerals, and other social functions, and that folks are going to ask who your "people" are before they fully make up their mind about you.

I grew up in a small town, but in a residential area.  We never had a garden, and aside from having two cats that had kittens on the same day once...we didn't have many pets and certainly didn't have them in the house.  I didn't grow up with snakes (other than one encounter picking blackberries once), rodents (other than a stint with a hamster or two), or bugs (except lightning bugs that we caught on summer nights outside playing with friends.)  Since I've been living out here...I've run up on all sorts of critters.

And dogs live in the house.

About twelve years ago, we were living in town and had decided that we wanted to find some land in Pike Road.  Pike Road is just outside of Montgomery and is just starting to organize itself properly as a town.  Our population is about 5,000 people and there's a lot of land out here.  Big Dave grew up in Greenville and wasn't used to having neighbors other than a church that met once a month or so next door.  Living in town was nice...and certainly convenient...but he didn't have room to breathe.  Big Dave likes to an early riser, and doesn't mind doing all of those things that I don't particularly care for like cleaning the pool or mowing the lawn.  He generally keeps those things taken care of without any intervention on my part.  This totally rocks...because heaven knows...I have to stay after him about just about everything else.

Or so I think, anyway. (Although Exhibits A, B, C, D, E & F are enough evidence for me.)

We live on a five acre lot.  We designed the house from our heads and took a napkin to an architect.  Never mind that neither of us have A) any spacial ability whatsoever, B) a clue about how this house should have flowed.  He did a nice job...but I wish he had told us that we were out of our minds about a few things.  But honestly?  It's okay.  So our master bath isn't big?  So what if we don't have a separate dining room?  We wanted a house where people felt comfortable.  A place that would be big enough to raise our kids...but wouldn't be too big when they moved out on their own.  A home where it wasn't the end of the world if someone tracked water from the pool on the way to the bathroom or folks wanted to eat popcorn on the couch.  And that's what we have.  For better or worse.

Here are a few photos that I mentioned in last night's blogpost.  Are we crossing the line to "whitetrashness"?  You be the judge...
This is "Big Blue."  Okay, you might be, Karen, that looks like a pool.  True, true.  However, think "Boise State" when you look at this...I know I do!  This is SO much brighter than the last pool liner we had.  The other one - granted - had been with us for nine years. But now I look outside and it is BLUE!  . 
Here's another view.  At the rate that this water is flowing in the pool, it ought to be full sometime within the next three days.  Our water bill for April will not be Duh! Winning!  So not.

Here's the pattern.  See the "faux tile" look that Big Dave was so enamored with?  Actually, it looks better in the pool than in this piece that they gave us in case we need to patch something.  I really don't want to think about that "patching" eventuality right now.  I want to live in my NEW LINER! bubble for the next ten years or so.
No, we aren't having a party...and there are only three of us living here right now.  Here's a photo of some of the cars currently in the driveway.  The white Explorer in the back hasn't moved in two years.  It isn't on blocks...but since its axle is isn't going anywhere without Mr. Tow Truck.  There's the Accord (running), the Tiburon (new to us), and Brian's old Explorer (running...and needs to be sold).  Parking on the grass?  Oh yeah.  That's crossing the line to "whitetrashness", don't you think?

Here's all seven of the cars.  In addition to the four cars in the other photo, we have my in-laws' truck that we are temporarily babysitting, Big Dave's truck and Jill's old Miata (that was my sister Linda's old Miata before that).  I was so not kidding about that "Hotel California" of cars thing.

Bear in mind that I took this picture from the road at 7:00 a.m. wearing my hot pink moumou...barefooted...and was running behind the cars every time one of my neighbors passed (which was at least four times.)  I counted it as my aerobic activity for the day.  The neighbors to my left know us and would probably just laugh and wave.  They've seen worse.  The ones to the right never come out of their I figured that they probably couldn't care less what I was doing.  Our neighbors across the street just built a gorgeous house...and I'm sure that if they saw me that it is just further confirmation that we're out of our minds and are intent on running down their property value. 

Oh, and by the way, just ignore those weeds you see.  Big Dave rode around on his lawnmower and squirted weed killer all over the yard.  We have five sod was so not an option.

Here's the driveway.'s a bit skinny on gravel, yes?   Big Dave can't decide whether he wants to have the driveway curve around to a second entrance, or if he wants to build something that looks a little less trashy in front of the house.  We're torn.  I figure by the time I can apply for retirement he may make up his mind.  Please bear in mind that our neighbors on both sides, and the perfect new house across the street all have nice paved driveways.  Paved as in "non-gravel.".
Here's the trailer will all of Big Dave's construction scrap crap on it.  If you look'll notice that the tire is flat.  He'll pump it up and take this load to the dump at some point in time.  I think he's waiting for the perfect moment.  Frankly, he's mighty picky about that moment since I know that we've been waiting at least six months.  But you know what?  This weekend is it!  He's either "toting" it off...or I'm setting fire to it. 

See the basketball goal?  Nobody has shot hoops since 2006.  Yeah.  That bad boy needs to come down.  It will likely not do so voluntarily...which is a good thing and a bad thing.  Good in that we do get storms blowing through here about every other month during hurricane season.  That thing made it through Hurricane it's seriously "installed."  I believe that it will take a jackhammer to get through that concrete.  Great.

Well, that's the outside of our house...or at least some of what I wrote about last night.  Okay, it's not horrible.  But you'll notice that I didn't enclose the photos of the pool before we replaced the liner.  That's because I was far too mortified...and because I didn't think to photograph it.  Some things are best left unphotographed. 

I didn't show you pictures of the flower beds that seriously need weeding, the garden that is on top of the septic tank fill hump or what ever it is called, the untrimmed tea olives that smell awesome but look a wee bit scraggly right now, or the storage building that Big Dave just had to have last year and had excellent intentions of staining. 

But hey, it's home.

I'll clean up a little bit and then show you the inside at some later date.  It isn't horrible, but I have a lot of things out of place right now because David painted the house back in September.  Oh, it's nearly April, you say?  Yep...par for the course around here.

Hopefully, we will be able to use the pool as a springboard to getting everything else around here straightened up.  In the meantime...we're going to enjoy Big Blue if I can ever get past the immense blueness of it.  Oh, why am I whining?  I'm sure that I'll eventually get used to his awesome smurfness soon enough. If not, I can go outside and hang Christmas lights or secretly curse my neighbor (the ones that never leave the house) for not cutting the little strip of land between our houses...for the past EIGHT FLIPPING YEARS!!!

No, I'm not bitter.  Not at all.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

On Whitetrashness

Today two young men came to put in our new pool liner.  Big Dave said that they did an excellent job although one of them was hired just yesterday and was primarily about as useful as I am during any given emergency.  Meaning what?  I have "Prissy from 'Gone With the Wind' Syndrome"...which basically just means that when adult rational thought is needed to deal with someone obviously needing medical care, I "don't know nothing 'bout...(fill in the blank...whatever.)"  Trust me on this.  If you are having personal difficulties and need someone to have your back...I'm there.  But if you hurt your back and are having difficulty...enter Prissy.  I could take CPR until the end of time, and I'd still be about as helpful as gout.

Anyway, the one experienced guy managed to get it done in spite of Mr. Untrained, and according to Big Dave, there isn't a single wrinkle in the liner.  This totally rocks, by the way, because our last liner had a couple that we didn't notice until the pool had been in the ground for six months.  That's because we put the pool in sometime in early December because we could get a better price.  Who knew that the wrinkles were thrown in for free?   

We're currently refilling the pool with a hose...and should have it looking somewhat close to normal by sometime tomorrow.  Well, if your view of "normal" is a huge bright blue hole where a light blue one existed before.  So, in case you swore you heard the Hallelujah Chorus about noon wasn't a flash was spirit anyway.

Getting the pool liner replaced was "Job One" this year.  Last year, Big Dave discovered that we had a leak in the liner because he was having to put water in the pool every day.  We thought we'd get it replaced last year...but with one child in college and one more year of private school tuition ahead of us for the other...we opted to just take our chances with it.  No, those $150 water bills were no problem at all. *sarcasm*

This year, the pool started showing a few obvious "you will replace this liner and you will like it" signs like sagging, a few holes and the LeSeuer pea green color that just screamed...

"You might be a redneck if your cement pond looks like a septic tank."

We ordered the liner the week that we got the tax refund.  Oh, I see some of you out there wanting to tell me that I need to not let the government use my money for a year interest free, but frankly, this has been the first year that the refund has not gone straight to school tuition since 1997.  We figured...why bother changing anything? 

We're pretty excited that we have the pool situation worked out...although the liner Big Dave chose is extremely blue with some nice tan accents to make it look a little more natural.  As if that is even remotely possible.  This shade of blue is the same that that god-awful field at Boise State is painted...and is the color that my 60" Sony TV screen is currently becoming due to some seriously flawed engineering. 

The problems with the set have come on gradually over time but went into overdrive when we replaced the bulb in January.  According to the over 5,000 people on the "I Have a Defective Sony" Facebook page, it is whack because of something blah-blah-blah electronic blah-blah-blah optical block...whatever that is.  The other problem associated with these sets is that the lamp door just melts.  Yeah, that's comforting. 

Fortunately, we don't have that problem...yet.  The blue doesn't really bother me so much as I grew up watching black and white TV pre-cable.  However, I just can't help thinking that this is some kind of bad karma from all of my excessive whining about Boise State last Fall during football season.  I'm totally kidding.  *nervous laughter*

The next project we have is to get the driveway fixed.  We have a gravel driveway because we just thought it would be cool (cheap) to do that.  Over the past ten years, the gravel has receded to such a point that we are now driving on clay (dirt) in some places.  Big Dave keeps telling me that he'll get to it...someday.  And here I sit...the contractor's wife...with no driveway.

On the other hand, nobody can really see the driveway because we currently have seven cars and a trailer full of building materials that Big Dave needs to cart off parked outside.  Just so you know...there are three drivers currently living under this roof.  Apparently, we are the "Hotel California" of cars.  "you can stop running whenever you like...but you can never leave."

I'm so not kidding.

Although I am about to have to get serious about shedding one of the cars very, very soon.  I just got our insurance bill that includes the 2008 Tiburon.  Let's just say that I'd better get busy eBaying or donating plasma.

Once these big jobs are completed, Big Dave wants to turn our garage (home to spiders, the cat, and until last opossum...) into a "man cave."  In our brilliant drawing of the house (on a napkin at 6:00 a.m. sometime back in 1999)...we failed to consider that we might actually one day like to have a dining room (actual room) in our open floor plan.  So, he wants to move the family room into the garage and the dining room table out of the breakfast area into there, and then get the breakfast table out of our bedroom. 

Say what?

Yes...I inherited furniture in 2006 due to multiple downsizing/cleaning out/moving to our camper decisions made by various relatives...and I took it all.  Had I had a clue in 1999 that I would inherit dining room furniture, I assure you I'd have planned better.  But everything fit in the breakfast area (hey, I told you it was an open floor plan)...except the maple table that Big Dave and his brother, Bill, made by hand.  I couldn't part with that!  No, no, no.  So, it had to be moved to the only place large enough to house it...that's bedroom.  I've been using it as a scrapbooking station for the past five years...but of late it has just become the dumping ground for all things random.  Every so often I go in there and clean it off and within 24's worse.  Perhaps it is "pre-'Hoarders' syndrome" or something.  I know that the rest of my family is seriously afflicted with it.

I sound like a total hypochondriac, don't I?

Well, the one affliction that I'd been really worried about because of all of the above was "whitetrashness."  The pool liner, driveway, cars, and bizarre furniture placement were beginning to convince me that I was about halfway to leaving up my Christmas lights year round and looking up recipes for the opossum that Big Dave and Brian shot last night.  Thankfully, the pool liner being replaced feels like I was thrown a lifeline.

Of course, our dogs are named Rebel and Dixie and the twelve puppies they had were all named after country singers. But no, we don't have a confederate flag taped to the garage, and I haven't put a smoking cowboy silhouette in my yard...yet.

Monday, March 21, 2011


This weekend's weather has been glorious.  Blue skies and all of the hot weather that you can stand.  For those of us who are a little bit on the "fluffy" side...we are already whining about what we already know is coming.  Months and months of Hades-lite weather.  Yee haw. 

A few weeks ago...when the first daffodils were peeking out of the ground and it was possible to go outside without a coat...everyone in the southeastern United States rescued feet from socks and shoes and put them in flip flops as God intended.  Everyone wanted to be outside judging by the line at the GooGoo Car Wash that was ridiculous, the ballfields that were packed out and the garden centers at Home Depot, Lowe's and WalMart that were in full swing. 

It was also when we got the reminder e-mail about pedicures.  I'm so not kidding.  It used to be the "no white shoes before Easter" memo...but times have changed.  Here in the South, it is apparently some kind of zoning law that every strip center has to have a nail salon.  If not, it sure seems like it.

Just as it is unnatural to walk around with shoes on when it is ridiculously hot, it is equally awful to experience the first viewing of people's feet in their natural state.  All of those months of being shoved into shoes and virtually ignored (along with the leg hair that requires deforestation) is in a word...nasty. 

However, bringing them into the light of day without hiring professional help is like taking something store bought to a covered dish dinner at the church, forgetting to send thank you notes, or wearing white before Easter or after Labor Day.  It's just tacky.

"Tacky"...the ultimate insult for a Southerner to hurl.  It is almost never followed by "bless her heart."  The latter follows something that someone is either unaware is appalling or simply cannot help.   Being "tacky" usually gets tossed out there when someone should know better or refuses to follow generally accepted Southern practice.  Having an unfortunate nose cannot be it cannot be helped, bless her heart.  Wearing a tube top and flip flops to a meeting at the bank or showing too much cleavage at a social tacky.

So are unmanicured toes.  Down here, anyway.

I personally love getting a pedicure.  They sit me in a massage chair and put my feet in warm bubbling water.  Then everything is trimmed, buffed, scraped, oiled, massaged, painted, and dried.  The only part that I don't like is when the little guy who does my feet says:

"You come more often.  You no wait so long next time.  Feet crusty.  Could get more off but take too long.  You wear shoe and feet not be crusty.  I scrape two pound off feet.  You no wait so long next time."

Yeah...yeah.  Okay, I tip well...just for the weight loss alone.

I think that some people who don't live down here might think that we are a little shallow about this.  Well, seeing as we wear sandals or flip flops ten months a year...I don't think so.  To me, getting a pedicure is a public service.  I figure that if I can keep my fellow citizens from gagging over my lack of personal maintenance...then this is the least I can do.

Because, honey, they'll tell you if you cross that line.  Southerners hold a lot in out of politeness or respect...but if your toes look gruesome...someone will sure enough let you know.  Sometimes it might even be in a nice way.  But if they don't know you...they might say, "You ain't from around here, are ya?"

Now that Spring has sprung...get yourself into one of those awesome chairs and just prepare yourself for "the lecture" if it has been awhile. 

Just tip well. 


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Reflections on Life (with Attitude Adjustment)

Last night I went to bed with my phone on the bedside table.  I don't do this all of the time - but I do if I have unaccounted for kids or if someone is out of town.  So, imagine my surprise to wake up to find an e-mail that someone has sent me $5,000 through Western Union!  All I have to do is provide a bunch of personal information and it is all mine mine mine.

Yeah, right.

It would be nice, though.  To be able to just have a few minutes free from worry about money.  To be the recipient of a gift like that for no other reason except that somebody wanted me to have it. 

How would I spend my virtual $5,000?  That's easy. 


I don't know if any of you reading this have actually experienced the joy of paying for twelve years of private school tuition followed by four years of college.  Trying to manuever prom dresses, car insurance, vehicles, gas, highlighting, clothes, books, entertainment, sororites/fraternities, holidays, travel abroad, cotillion, senior trips, debutante ball, Oakley/RayBan/whatever sunglasses, graduation gifts, senior pictures, tuxedos, Rush dresses, makeup, visits to the dermatologist, pedicures, tanning, eyebrow waxing, beach trips, Spring Break, and a surprise computer when the old one fries...and wondering when that whole full sense of appreciation that is supposed to occur in early adulthood is going to kick in.

Are they spoiled?  Probably.  But they are also grounded.  We've tried to be extremely careful to walk that line between enough and too much.  I mean...we said "no" to the Barbie jeep when she was three, week long trips to Disney World, expensive clothes, purses and jewelry, the latest technological wonders, cell phones (until they were 14), semester abroad, 4-wheelers, new car at 16, and some other things I can't recall right now, but we did our best.  They've worked since they were 16.  They consider "shopping" going to purchase something you need rather than "retail therapy."   They understand that we shop from the sale rack and buy whatever's on special at Publix.  Not just because we have to...but because it is stupid not to.  At least in my little world.

At some points in time, today...I think back on the financial decisions we've made - what we've given up - in the name of trying to give them every opportunity to succeed - and it just seems a little silly.  I mean, none of those expenses we've managed is in itself a bad thing...except perhaps the tanning...but somehow it just feels like we got sucked up into the vortex of doing what everyone else was doing.

Except that they probably didn't have to give up vacations, new furniture, travel, and some peace of mind to do it.  Or maybe they did.  I have no idea...and it is really none of my business.  But would I do it differently?  Absolutely not.  Not living where I do.  Oh, we could have moved and things might have been easier.  That's just hard to know.

It is incredibly easy to get all caught up in something.  I should know.  Eating poorly has gotten me into a situation that I am nearly convinced is impossible to extract myself.  Not clearing the decks every day has made the remaining clutter stubbornly difficult to free myself of without spending days and days that I honestly would rather not devote to decluttering.  And knowing that I have another year of college to pay after this one for one child...and another one coming on her heels for his four years is not putting me in my happy place to say the least.

Yes, it would have been nice for that $5,000 to have been fo' reals.

I realize that what I have written sounds a little bit whiny.  Okay, perhaps more than a little.  But I suppose that I was hoping for all of this investing, I might have the opportunity to see without a shadow of a doubt that it was worth it.  Sitting here at 7:27 a.m. on a Saturday morning...with a ton of chores ahead of me...and two days to get them accomplished in is just exhausting to think about.  So, here I am pondering the universe and second-guessing myself.

I don't know why I am worrying about anything.  My faith is bigger than that.  I should do what I can...but should also believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that everything will work out as it should.  I should be believing that the sacrifices that Big Dave and I made to raise our kids will actually pay off.  That they will exceed our expectations and be sources of pride to us...much as they are right now.  That they will marry people that we not only think are perfect for them...but that we are proud and excited to welcome to our family. 

If I get nothing else in this lifetime...I hope that my two marry well...if they choose to marry at all. 

And why is it that I am worried about either of them getting married right now?  I about borrowing trouble.  (Emphasis on borrowing...just thinking about the expense of a future wedding makes me more than a little freaked out.  A rehearsal dinner...I think we can pull off.)

I think that there are times when all of us sit and wonder if our ladder is on the wrong wall.  If there is a reason why we feel like we do.  Often there is.  There's been a turning point...a fork in the road...a decision that has to be made or a choice that by default removes other options.  We sit and ponder if we could have or would have done anything any differently. 

Most of the time, I am very grateful for all of the good things in my life.  And other times...I wonder if I will look back one day and feel like I've wasted a lot of time and effort hoping for an outcome that just isn't meant to be. 

Maybe this is just an aftershock from a midlife crisis.  I suppose it's possible.  Or maybe I'm just trying to accept that some of the dreams I hold for some of the people I love just aren't going to suit me.  Hormones?  I honestly don't know.

But for today, I am going to keep pressing forward.  I'll get some of the things off of my "to do" list and I'll utilize this free time in the best way I can.  Including taking some time to pray for either something to change...or for my perception of it to change. 

Because all I can actually change is my attitude.  Oh, I can change my behavior, too...but that's a long-term fix with a kind of two steps forward one step back dance associated with it. 

What I need to fix today is my attitude toward the fear that all parents have.  The fear that we weren't enough...or that we were too much.  That we said too much...or didn't say enough.  That we expected too little...or expected too much.  I suppose it varies from household to household and child to child.

So, just for today, I am going to be happy that my daughter is home for the next 24 hours, and that my son is coming home today from the beach.  That my husband has jobs lined up for next week, and that I don't have anything on my agenda that is a "must do" except for church tomorrow morning and returning my movie to Redbox today.  Even that rental return isn't that big of a deal...I'll just get stuck paying another dollar or two.

The sun is shining and every weather report I've heard says that it is going to be a glorious day.  Our pool liner should be intalled within the next two weeks so that the sad gaping hole in our backyard will not look like its contents were raptured and Armageddon was fought there.  Actually, the sad little liner and empty pool look better than the LeSeuer pea colored pond that was living in there prior to them having to pump it out to take measurements.

The replacement TV from SONY will be with us within the next two weeks as well.  Although I have gotten used to seeing everyone with a bluish tint, I will admit that I'm kind of pumped about seeing TV as it is intended to be viewed.  If I can scrape together $150 (see...that $5,000 would have SO come in handy...) I'll buy Big Dave some 3-D glasses so that he can enjoy the upgraded set in all of its much anticipated awesomeness.  Yes, we are having to pay for the replacement set...but only about a third of what we'd have to pay if SONY hadn't realized that they produced a product that sue-happy America was grabbing torches and pitchforks to rail about and decided to settle on a Facebook page aptly titled "I Have A Defective SONY TV."  Our set is five years old.  Our last SONY was put down after 23 years of service.  I think I have a right to my pitchfork.

I'm expecting a book in the mail from an author (Kate Ledger - book "Passages") who is kindly sending me a copy of her book just because my birthday happened to be this week.  I won another book from a website ( and look forward to it coming in as well.  I'm still entering a contest through one website ( that goes on all month), so hopefully, my book winnings will come in threes (or I could win every book that she has had on there all month and be set through the summer for reading material).  Yes, that would totally rock. 

I'm also reflecting on how wonderful this week has been.  People have been extraordinarily kind to me.  Yes, primarily because it was my birthday...but I'll take it.  I have a lot to look forward to and a whole lot to be grateful for.

Okay...attitude adjustment made.  Now on to those chores...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

On Obsessions and Books

For the past several weeks, I have been expanding my horizons.  Normally, this shows up as me wanting to learn how to do something or doing research for something that I need to be up on for one reason or another.  At some point in time, this innocent diversion morphs into a full scale obsession...with me reading every book I can get my hands on about the subject or trying to put my hand to something that I delude myself into thinking I can do.  Sometimes, I find that these obsessions to be fairly fun or at least educational.  Other times, I get so tied up with something that everything else pretty much gets put on a back burner until it runs its course. 

To put it in perspective...I go into "stalker mode" on a subject or activity instead of a person.  Which is obviously the lesser of the two evils.

Big Dave has gotten fairly used to this phenomenon and rarely says a whole lot about it unless it is clear that an intervention is not only might be downright necessary.  A few years ago, I got interested in growing African violets.  An innocent diversion, you might say.  I joined the local African violet club so that I could learn the proper care and maintenance of violets, bought books, and of course...bought violets.

I bought 48 of them to be exact.  We were living in a 1,600 square foot house at the time. 

And just so you is virtually impossible to maintain 48 violets when you are working full time, raising children aged 6 and 8, have a husband, a dog, two part time jobs, and wish to retain your sanity. 

I'd rescue the sad little plants from the clearance bins in grocery stores, and I'd buy the gorgeous ones that my violet club members grew.  These ladies had plenty of time and experience to handle growing multiple violets.  Average age of the membership before I joined?  About 65.  Funny thing was...Jill enjoyed going with me to the meetings because they made over her because they were pretty awed to see the little thing just sitting there being good.  Frankly, so was I.  I eventually had to drop out because life intervened, but I do actually know how to take care of violets...a dozen or so, that is.

Another obsession was weight lifting.  I read every conceivable book on exercises I could find and a couple of biographies...including Arnold Schwarzenegger's.  I have no idea why.  It just seemed like a good idea at the time.  I kept a little book outlining my program, owned a weightlifting belt and gloves, and I was definitely making progress.  Actually...this is one obsession that I kind of wish had stuck.  Oh well.

I've been hung up on the bands "Collective Soul" and "Foo Fighters" for the past several years.  I'm still pretty enamored with both...especially the Foo.  I got disappointed in Collective Soul's last album...and hope that history won't repeat itself with the new one from Foo Fighters.  The first two cuts are like - ah - this may be following suit.  Hope not. 

Lately, it has been books.  Actually, I've been a huge fan of reading since I was a kid.  Not that I was a steady reader...I was always more of the kid who just took it in fits and starts.  I blew off all of the books that I was required to read in high school because I apparently had better things to watch Dallas or Magnum P.I.  I did go back and read all of them in my twenties - including "The House of the Seven Gables" - when WalMart had a sale on classic books for something like two for a dollar. 

I needed closure.  The teachers really did try to get us fired up about the books.  To this day, I don't know why I was so determined to avoid this.

However, in the process of reading those WalMart books...I fell in love with Jane Austen's books.  I now reread "Pride and Prejudice" about once a year (and watch the Keira Knightly version of the movie about a dozen times).  I am currently in the middle of "Emma" on my Nook. 

I went through a John Grisham phase and then moved on to C.S. Lewis, Charles Spurgeon, and Max Lucado.  I quit reading fiction and started reading every Christian living book I could find.  It was as if I was trying to figure out how to fix myself through all of this searching until I finally realized that some things are just what they are.  So, to take a break from the self-improvement...I've been back to reading fiction.

I found Jen Lancaster's books through a friend several years ago.  She's hilarious.  She doesn't censor what she if you can't deal with may want to move along...but I just crack up reading what she writes.  She has a blog called "Jennsylvania" that I check every week or so and am never disappointed.  How can you not like someone who owns pit bulls and a plethora of other animals, finds the humor in everything, and is just naturally hysterical?  I also like Celia Rivenbark for the same reason.

Lately, Jen has taken to referring other websites that she likes...which led me to "Young House Love" - a blog about two young marrieds with a baby who are big-time do-it-yourselfers.  Love the way they name their furniture and how their wedding with 75 guests cost $5,000.  They rock...and they post fairly frequently.  They also have giveaways all of the time...which I love.

Another site Jen recommended was "Manic Mommy" who does a book-a-day-giveaway during "March madness."  I keep hoping I'll win...and I enter religiously every day...but I have to get off of being one of the first entries of the day to have a chance on the random number generator.  Ah, I just check out the book she's reviewing in the morning and hope for the best.  So far, I'm thoroughly pumped about the variety of the books she has posted.  It's like a giant "cheat sheet" of great books/authors for me to check out.

I have a feeling this "book" obsession is going to be around awhile.  After all, Charlaine Harris (who writes the Sookie Stackhouse books that the HBO serial "True Blood" is based on) and Jen Lancaster both have books coming out in May.  I'm sure it is time for Max Lucado to come out with another offering...and I'm enjoying learning about the books and authors on Manic Mommy's site.  I've also looked at "Chick Lit Is Not Dead" - a website that I heard about from Manic Mommy's site (and from which I won a book last week - rock on).  It also has a lot of great book reviews.

I have also checked out the Facebook page "I Bet We Can Make These Books Best Sellers" and had a lovely e-mail conversation with one of the authors, Kate Ledger, who just wrote a book called "Passages."  She has offered me a copy of the book and I am SO excited to know that it is in the mail!  It is lovely to be able to actually interact with people who are "living the dream" so to speak.

Obsessions that I've had have always appeared for a reason.  The violets were because my grandmother always had them in her home.  The weightlifting was because I loved the way I could see changes in my body that made me feel good about myself.  The scrapbooking I do was for fellowship and to invest my time into something that would be special to my children someday. 

The books are because I know in my heart that I want to eventually write a book of my own.  Here's hoping I do...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Today is my birthday.  I am 48 years old.  Which is actually quite hilarious if you think about it...since my mother is currently 39.  Truth be told, though...she my mind, anyway.  How is that possible, you ask?  Well, I believe this because she's been with me for 39 years after a breast cancer diagnosis in 1972 (thank you, Dr. Mac Dallas).  I like thinking of the years I've had her since then as opposed to the age that her birth certificate says she is.  Of course, those of you who know also know that she is amazingly young at heart.  Younger than I am, actually.  Thirty-nine it is! 

Today was a day like any other day for the most part.  I got up, I poured my decaf coffee, and sat down at the computer to check in with the world.  My world as I know it now as opposed to the world I knew in the pre-Facebook era.  Before Facebook, I had slices of life with people who fit into nice little folders...growing up...junior high...Thomaston...Wesleyan...Troy...Frazer Memorial United Methodist  Life was linear...past...present...future. 

There's nothing especially wrong with that, by the way.  I just lost touch with so many people.  Some of it was because I thought they'd think I was still the same person that I wasn't especially proud of.  For others, it was due to geography, busyness, or just what happens when you get married, raise a family, and work full-time.  Life gets ridiculous that way.

Today those neat little folders of the people I know and care for were all open.  People who knew me as a child wished me "happy birthday!" today.  Family from all around the country (and overseas) sent birthday greetings.  Folks that saw me in junior high in braces and with those gosh-awful "wings" sent me "happy birthday!" wishes, too.  People I see every day - or at least occasionally at Publix - were comingled with people who "knew me back in the day."   The most amazing "birthday party" happened when everyone came together today on my Facebook Wall.

Thank you Mark Zuckerburg.  This Facebook thing totally rocks.

Today is one of those days where I've been amazed at how wonderfully I've been blessed by the people who cared enough to send me good tidings.  For folks who mailed a card, delivered a gorgeous orchid to my office, purchased flowers and arranged a beautiful bouquet, bought gifts and a Peggy McKinney peanut butter fudge cake.  Who sang to me, tried to make me laugh, and left messages on my phone.  And for those wonderful Facebook friends who took the time to check in.

And yes, I do know that it is hilarious that I was born on the Ides of March.  At least I knew one question on the Julius Caesar test in high school English.  That and the "et tu Brutus" thingy.

As I read the messages from people that I have spent time with and shared these 48 years with in some capacity or another made me smile.  It seems like it has gone so fast.  I can still remember my 12th birthday in St. Augustine, Florida as my Uncle David was getting ready to marry Aunt Molly.  They have grandchildren now.  Or my 23rd birthday with Big Dave photographed with a foam lobster on my head (yes, Red Lobster was tres chic for us).  There was my 27th birthday that I spent cuddling my eight week old daughter or the 29th birthday that I spent waiting for my son to make his arrival that June.  My 40th birthday that was spent at work in Prattville, Alabama with my coworkers...who didn't want to offend me by decorating my office in black they chose pink instead.  My birthdays with my parents sending me multiple cards because the dogs have to send me one too.  The gorgeous flower arrangements that one of my friends does.  The rendition of "happy birthday" that I can count on from another (who also makes me go to cantatas...but I love her anyway). 

So, for those of you who stopped by because you always send good wishes to someone on your "friend" list...thank you just the same.  For those of you who I've known since I was young and stupid...and who are relieved that I grew up to be somewhat normal...I appreciate and value you more than you know.  For those who I am still interacting with regularly...know that you are incredibly special to me.  And for those of you who have taken the time to encourage you from my past or present...know that it is not going unnoticed...and will not be wasted, Lord willing.

Yes, today I am 48 years old.  In the Chinese is the "Year of the Rabbit."  I was also born in the "Year of the Rabbit."  I don't know what that means exactly...but I like to think that this will be a special year.  I mean special in a good way. 

A very good way.  If today is any indication...I'm off to a good start. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

On eBay and Being a Good Steward

For the past couple of weeks, I have reentered the world of eBay.  Brian has outgrown the shirts I bought for him a few months I logged on and listed them.  I figured that I'll clear about $30 for the trouble of doing so...and that's enough to pay the Victoria's Secret bill that will inevitably be coming my way because I just got my "birthday coupon" for $10 off. and around here...we don't let that coupon go unspent.  Never mind that I've not been able to buy anything for myself in that store since 1989...if it was even in existence then.  Jill swoops in and takes all of the coupons for the "free panty" and any other privileges that my "Angel card" allows including my "birthday coupon" and "free ruched back panty" (although I have no clue what a "ruched back" is.)

I've also listed children's books that a friend was about to sacrifice to the gods of Goodwill because she couldn't stand them being in her house for another moment.  We were standing in her front yard winding up a yard sale last Fall.  The items were from "the upstairs" - a graveyard of accumulated artifacts of her life over the past twenty years that was enhanced by the addition of "stuff" from her mother-in-law's house that was cleaned out a few years ago.  You know...things that are too good to throw away but that she had no immediate use for at the time...or possibly ever.  Things that turned into boxloads of items that she didn't really have time to go through...but planned to "someday."  Well, "someday" came last summer as she and I trudged through her attic and cleared out a ridiculous amount of stuff.  Yeah, she called me...the  "terminator" of junk...because she was that desperate. 

I love the world of eBay because people in this day and age are tired of paying full price for items that aren't going to be useful forever.  Why scrimp and save to purchase Ralph Lauren polo shirts for your son in the middle of his growth spurt?  Go to eBay and buy someone else's for a third of the cost.  Wear them a few times...and then list them and get your money back out of them. 

Back in the day, most of us received hand-me-downs from someone and were remarkably happy to have them.  We traded dresses and clothes in college.  We rent tuxedos.  It's not that much different, if you think about it.  I realize that most of us prefer to buy "new" and that "retail therapy" is wonderful and all...but so is the thrill of getting a really great deal.

I've found that most of us feel more comfortable sending our items directly to the church's clothes closet or Goodwill than someone to donate to directly.  We think that someone will assume that we think that they are "needy" if we offer them clothes that no longer fit us...or that we've never enjoyed.  Oh, please.  Because of the generosity of two someones who had lost a lot of weight...I had clothes to wear last year.  I cannot tell you how much I appreciated the fact that I was the receipient of those items.  I also learned that I love different styles and more color than I normally purchased for myself.  It was an education of sorts.

Right now, there are four listings for Brian's clothes on there...and three of them have bids.  I'm pretty sure that there will be a little mini bidding war...which really makes it fun for me.  I have four people who are "watching" the items...which means that someone might get all into the thrill of winning...and I might benefit by getting a few dollars more than my listing price.  Rock on.

Oh please, they are getting a bargain with these shirts...he only stayed this size for a few months...and primarily wore them to church.  Granted, I bought them all on sale...but what I'm probably going to get is still only about a third of what I actually paid for them.

I don't know what is in your closet, attic, or storage building today as I read this.  Perhaps you are waiting for something to be able to fit you again, you have too much on your plate to add "spring cleaning" to it, or you just cannot face the agony of dealing with box after box of stuff.  Just remember that everything that is in your possession is something that God has made you a steward of for its management.  Those heinous curtains that you hung in 1987 and won't dispose of because they are still good...need to move along.  So do books that sit on shelves unread.  Donate them to a library or give them to a friend with a beach house so that guests to the house will have something to read while they are on vacation.

Clear your space.  Uncomplicate your life.

Take the clothes out of your closet that don't fit you, flatter you, or make you feel like your best "you."  Put them on eBay, give them to a friend, or bag them up and move them on.  I believe that most of us hold on to things a lot longer than we should because we think that we will one day have the time to sort through everything and move it all to its final destination in some grand purge.  Yeah, right.  That "grand purge" will be done by the people cleaning out your house when you are gone...and they will be muttering, "Can you believe all of this stuff?  What are we going to do with THIS?"

Been there.  Done that. Earned the merit badge.

My stepfather, Ralph, insists that he wants to get rid of so much of his stuff that when we come home from his funeral...all we have to do is drop a paper bag with his worldly possessions into the nearest trashcan.  After all, he got a "twofer" in that he was a part of two back to back grand purges. 


If that doesn't frighten you...the thought that someone might have to sort out your junk...think about this: holding onto things means that you have a closed fist around those items.  Not letting them go when they are no longer of use to you means that your hands are otherwise occupied.  Do you really want to get to heaven someday and have God tell you that He had so much to put in your hands had they been open? 

I don't know about you...but I want my palms outstretched for whatever blessings He has for me.  That means that I have to be a good steward of the things I already have.  And that means that I am responsible for either utilizing something...or moving it on.

The weekend is coming.  Take some time and empty a box, a closet, or a junk drawer.  Get it done.  I'm still in the process...but I'm pretty hooked on the way a space feels when there is no excess "junk" lying all about just waiting for me to suck it up and make a decision.  I'm also pretty pumped about the people duking it out for Brian's old Polo shirts right now. 

Wonder what else I can eBay around here...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

On Life and Scrapbooking

I am a scrapbooker.  I am one of those women who carries a camera around, takes pictures of everything and then takes the photos, memorabilia and the like and condenses it to 12 x 12 pages.  These are decorated with paper, stickers, and the journaling that provides the backstory and identifies the subjects.  It is a pretty good hobby, actually.  I've been at it since January 1996, and have completed enough scrapbooks for myself and for other people that I'm fairly certain that this isn't a phase that I'm going through.  I've done phases that have bordered on obsessions...African violets, an attempt at cardmaking, casserole making, reading biographies of Presidents, calligraphy, and weight lifting. 

Short attention span, you say?  Not exactly.  Each of these went on for at least a year.  I know.  Weird.

Scrapbooking for me is a creative outlet much like writing.  Except that scrapbooking came with a whole host of friends who are as crazy as I am about putting our stories on paper.  Or maybe we're just plain crazy in general.  We often wonder. 

I mean, it is true that we refer to our scrapbooking sessions as "therapy."  I'd say that scrapbooking is cheaper than a therapist, but I'm fairly sure that I'd be lying.  At least those of us who are recovering stickerholics and

Some of the scrapbooking ladies I hang with have graduated from lugging bags of stuff around and jumped into the digital age.  No longer are they cutting little pieces of paper or stressing over layouts.  They are so over THAT.  They are now clicking their digital photos into templates that eventually become books with real pages and excellent quality.  I'm still into the whole fifteen pound albums that are slowly overtaking my living room.  I think of myself as an old school scrapbooker.  The truth is...I like the feeling of handling the paper and the photos.  Much like some people refuse to purchase a Kindle because they like to manually flip the pages of a book.

However, after fifteen years of creating albums, I'm currently planning a new piece of furniture to house these bad boys out of necessity.  I'm so serious.

The kids seem to enjoy the albums, and I've found it is a reference of sorts to remember certain passages in their lives.  Never mind that they'd prefer that they not relive some of them.

Like the "Connect the dots...NO! Chicken pox!" page starring Brian.  He was dotted from head to toe, but he was also photographed shirtless so that I could document this passage because I had chicken stickers and thought it would be "cute."  He'll probably be on some future version of "Oprah" talking about how he was traumatized by his mother's overbearing obsession with documentation of every facet of his life through photography.  Sad thing is...he'll have proof.

He wasn't the only victim, though.  I photographed Jill's old boyfriends and put their photos in the albums before I realized (years later) that it was conceivable that this might be a really bad plan.  Now I only put the occasional photo of a "significant other" in the family album.  I'm not going to rip the boyfriend graveyard out or act like they didn't exist...but I do restrain myself from actually letting them make it into the album except for the occasional cameo appearance.  I take pictures of them just in case I'll need them for a rehearsal dinner video one day...but for now they live in a box along with any picture that shows my hips, bad hair, ungroomed dogs, or the house looking like it actually does most of the time.

I started thinking of how this scrapbooking hobby/habit/obsession grew from one page to what it is now.  And how much scrapbooking is like life.

Like life, I've learned how to scrapbook more efficiently the longer I've been at it.  I've learned that a lot of what I used to deem important - almost necessary - really isn't.  I've come to value simplicity although I do occasionally like to go all out.  I have all of the tools, supplies, and knowledge that I need to put together the albums, and I am amazed at how quickly I can put them together if I put my mind to it.  However, I'm always thrilled to learn something new.  Just like life.

We start out enthusiastic in our lives at 18 or 22 or whenever and feel that we are ready to tackle this project called "life."  To put it in perspective...think about where your photos are right now.  On the wall?  In a box?  Pretty much everywhere, yes?  Maybe they are on your refrigerator or in neat carefully labeled boxes in chronological order (if they are, you are truly retentive.)  Perhaps they are sitting in your computer just waiting for the day your hard drive crashes or the camera card that is currently in your camera gets full...if you can actually remember where you put it last.

Life offers us a lot of choices, and we usually agree about the importance of the choices - just like our pictures are important.  We just don't always prepare adequately.  We value the idea of doing something amazing with our lives...but the actual doing it gets lost in busyness and inattention and the unimportant much like scrapbooks get complicated by trying to make everything perfect.  Perfect is highly overrated.

You can learn how to do a better job with your project called "life" if you have a basic understanding that there are people who have done it longer and learned from the mistakes they made along the way.  

You learn that you don't have to own every tool in the just need to make the most of what you have.  Sometimes, you'll have friends who'll share their tools or skills with you.  Other times, you'll get better by working at it and modifying it to suit you.  The secret is understanding that we aren't meant to possess every skill we need to get through life.  If we did, why would we need friends or our faith?

There are always going to be people that are better than you are at something, and people who are going to look to you as if you are the expert.  Enjoy both.  I have a friend who is excelling in the realm of paint...which is foreign to me.  I excel in the realm of paper.  This pretty much works for us.  I have found that most of my friends have something to teach me, and I have something to offer them in return.  I'm completely over that aggravating girl-competition thing that I hated when I was younger and now cannot tolerate in grown women.  I mean, get over the fact that someone is better than you at something.  Applaud them for it.  Don't freak out or feel inferior...or cause anyone else to feel that way either.  After all, your gifts are actually a gift to you...and to everyone you know...from God. 

I learned in making my scrapbooks that there were certain things that were available to decorate them that didn't appeal to me particularly, but were lovely for someone else.  Some of them require more skill, aptitude, or patience than I currently possess.  Sometimes I try something new these days and find it to be an extraordinarily humbling experience.  I think that everyone needs to do this from time to time.  It makes us appreciate the gifts of others all the more.  Don't roll your eyes if they tell you how easy it is for them.  Most true gifts are effortless to the person that possesses them.

I realized in scrapbooking - and in life - that my talent level was greater than some and not as great as others.  I grew by being around people that could teach me, and I helped others grow in return.  Some of my best times in life have been sitting at someone's feet learning something new or guiding the hands of someone learning from me.

Yes, life and scrapbooking have a lot in common.  Every page is a series of choices...which photos to use, which colors will highlight the photos best, and what words will convey the spirit of what was happening at the time.  Life is the same way...choices that lead to other choices...that weave together to somehow make something beautiful...called a life.  Sometimes it is art...and sometimes it is fun.

But it is always an experience to be treasured.  Always.

Friday, March 4, 2011


I don't know about you, but every so often I just want to stop, breathe, and resume my life in a completely different manner.  Not that there is anything specifically wrong with my life...there isn't.  It is just that I want to see it with fresh eyes and respond accordingly.  Maybe it is the warmer weather that wafted through here this week, and the sweet little yellow daffodils are just starting to peek up out of the ground signaling that spring is indeed on her way. Hard to say.

Of course, I personally think that Spring is a little too high maintenance for my taste.  Some days it has an attitude problem of major proportions...and is like that bat crazy someone in your life that is just going to come around every so often, blow hot (summer, yay!) and cold (snow? April?), and drop a huge mess to be cleaned up.  It's that indecisive, mess-with-your-head, drama queen thing that drives me nuts.  The "drama" for most of us is otherwise known as "pollen"...that yellow headache inducing substance that causes shares of Kimberly-Clark to rise every Spring as everyone uses eight thousand Kleenex a day trying desperately to survive it.  Not surviving it means that you have to resort to filling out paperwork for an antihistimine at the local that Big Brother can make sure you're not mething it up.

Or perhaps I want my life to be a little different because it has been one of those "is it a full moon?" weeks for me.  Today I was at two grocery stores (both Publix...for the one cent sandwich cookies...sue me) because I was out of kibble for the dogs and creamer for me.  These are two purchases that cannot be substituted without a whole lot of growling or whining.  After getting through the two hundred senior citizens  there for 5% off day that prefer walking directly down the center of the aisle instead of one one side of the other...the boxboys who are stocking...and a really crabby lady in produce in an electric cart...I realized that everybody was acting like it was a real imposition to move to the side or they'd just stand there oblivious to my presence before turning to glower at me.  Mean people in Publix.  Must have been a convention.  Maybe they were ticked at the one cent deal.  I know not.

So, later I go in the other store.  Again nobody smiles.  People blocked me in the aisles like they are trying to keep me from getting past them like they are standing at the gates of heaven or something and I'm trying to beat them in.  I finally complimented a lady pushing one of those car-buggies loaded to the max while her little (probably) one year old was fastened to her hip for being the first person in the store that day who didn't look like they wanted to hurt me.  She kept smiling and her little boy smiled at me as well.  He was blond and blue-eyed and extremely cute.  I told her that my "baby" was almost 19 and she said, "Oh, but you'll be getting some of these in a few years!  And they'll probably be blond and blue-eyed like he is because you are!"  Yeah, well I do appear to be blonde...there's that.  Thanks to Greg, my hairdresser.  Little does she know that the promise of getting grandchildren someday is what keeps me going through paying tuition, replacing things that break, the eyerolling, and finding dust in my billfold instead of cash. 

But for now, I'm still trying not to freak out as I figure out how the two that I birthed in 1990 and 1992 off my payroll.  As I see it, I am two car payment books, five (collective) more years of college, a wedding, and a rehearsal dinner away from having them paid off.

(Note: Please let me live in my bubble.  Do not enter "but honey, it NEVER ends with kids..." here.  I've already heard and have stuck my fingers in my ears, shut my eyes and repeated "lalalalalala" over and over.  I've essentially elected to be in denial.)

For the past month, I've come home to an empty house.  The play at school has monopolized my guys and the girl is slaving away up at the University of Alabama which is another way of saying "having the time of her life" so that I feel better about it.  I've been trying to get my house clean so that I can get a friend to give me an honest assessment of some things that can be done that will make it look better than it does.  My knowledge of home decorating is could be written on a cricket's underbelly.  It is essentially..."I don't like buying furniture so I make do with what I have.  I like photos, so they are everywhere.  I love Pottery Barn.  I can't have rugs because my dogs consider them portapotties."  See? 

I suppose that if I had what they call a "budget" might not be so hit or miss.  Hard to put together something fabulous when you don't know what the whims of the clearance aisle might be.

I'm hopeful just the same.

Or perhaps the desire for a new view of life is because I've been inspired by a friend of mine.  She had an unplanned job situation that has given her time she needs to use the talents she was blessed with to begin walking toward her dream.  She isn't entirely sure what her dream will eventually encompass...but it is inspiring to go by her home every few days and see what has changed since my last visit.  Maybe I want to see my life different because she is living it in hers.  I hardly know.

What I do know is that I don't expect perfection.  But I do expect some joy.  Other than that...I'm not particularly picky. 

Recently, I've had some people come into my life that I just know are here to teach me something.  I firmly believe that this will prove to be immensely important.  I've just come out of a season of clearing the decks so to up...and while I'm not done...I've made definite progress. 

So, as the days creep toward spring I suppose I want a bit of a makeover myself.  I want beauty to come out of ashes and peace to come out of turmoil.  I want to laugh and truly enjoy just being in the moment.  I want to worry less and praise more.  I want to stop doing things that I don't want to do and focus more intensely on following my dreams.  To grow closer to God and to quit getting in my own way.

Every day, I've been trying to accomplish at least one thing that brings me closer to this.  It may be eating well, donating something, catching up with someone, paying off something, or just finishing a chore that I haven't been in the mood to do.  Instead of being a pain...I've actually found it quite liberating.

Off to a new day and the continuation of Spring weather.  My first bearded iris bloomed today and it won't be long until I plant my vincas by the pool and see the gardenias bloom in May.  I'll get through the initial onslaught of pollen that turns my black car to yellow and my sinuses into raging infernos with built-in sprinkler systems. 

Yet, each day that something gets better is just one more stone in the mosaic.  Occasionally, I have to rip out a section and rework it...but if I am deliberate about shouldn't be too awful.  After all, in the mosiac of my life...I'm certainly on the creative design team, but am not the head designer.

And I'm really okay with that.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sorry, Love, and Like

I love people who know when to apologize.  Now, I don't mean the garden variety heartfelt condolences for doing something awful.  We've all been taught how to do that even if we don't actually put it into practice.  On any given day, I probably owe at least fifteen people an apology that don't get it.  It isn't because I don't know better.  It's because I'm driving, I've made some kind of judgement in my mind that I obviously cannot apologize for without actually letting them into my head, or I don't know I've messed up until the moment has passed.  Most of the time I totally get over it...and assume that the lady I called a moron for pulling out in front of me while she was juggling her cell phone and her Labradoodle isn't obsessing over the fact that I blew my horn at her.

What I mean are people who just are who they are without apologizing for not living up to your expectations.  They don't say "oh, I'm sorry" every fifteen seconds instead of saying "excuse me."  They just carry on being who they are and assume that you are going to deal with it or move along.  It is actually quite refreshing.

I've worked with people in the past that are not morning people.  They just aren't.  There was one lady who wouldn't speak until noon.  If she was required to interact with you, it was not going to be pleasant.  I just learned that we could carry on a conversation at 2 p.m. and if I didn't press it...we'd be fine.  At first, I found working around this quirk of her personality unbelievably annoying.  But I also found that she was there every day when she wasn't on vacation, she never complained, and she got her work done.

And then I've been around people who apologize for possibly offending me for mentioning certain words (like "weight") or who are so concerned about everybody's feelings that I want to apologize to THEM for being boneheaded enough to engage them in conversation in the first place.  I'm seriously not that much of a "pleaser."

You see, I believe that the words "I'm sorry" should be reserved for those times when you actually are.  For all other times, their close cousins "pardon me" and "excuse me" work just fine. 

Of course, here in the South, we have a little skew on the word "sorry."  We'll use it as an adjective as in "he's a sorry excuse for a _____ (fill in the blank)" or "that is just sorry" meaning...trashy or unworthy.  Being called "sorry" is pretty in the same realm as "tacky" except that being "sorry" means that you don't do what you are supposed to do and "tacky" means that you did something in a way you weren't supposed to do it.  Subtle nuances, yes, but I guess not so subtle if you live in it all the time.  Which we do down here in the heart of Dixie.

So, the other definition of "sorry" notwithstanding, it is probably appropriate for us to limit our usage of the word "sorry" like we should limit our use of the word "love."  We throw these words around like because we are too lazy to choose the right one.  So, here are a few suggestions:

You don't love anything that can't love you back...certain humans notwithstanding.  Most women "love" chocolate, but let me assure you, it doesn't love you back.  Oh, it may stick to your hips for a decade or four, but that's not love...that's codependency.

You shouldn't say "sorry" for bumping into someone unless you want to stick around long enough to engage them in conversation as in "I'm sorry that you were inconvenienced that I was taking up the space that you wished to occupy."  Not going to say that?  Then try "pardon me" instead.  As in "pardon me for being in your sorry sack of ..." See?  "Sorry" used properly. 

You cannot be "in love" with something and then be "in love" with something totally different fifteen minutes later.  Especially if it is "Auntie Anne pretzels" one minute and "Ozzy Osborne" the next.  It's just tacky.

I am a big believer in calling people out on this the person who says "I'msorryI'msorryI'msorry!" fifteen thousand times a day.  She's sorry for interrupting and she's sorry for repeating herself.  Sorry for barging in and sorry that her pen doesn't work.  Sorry that she just repeated herself again and sorry that you were disappointed.  Sorry.  Sorry.  I'm so sorry!  Really?  I think not.  I think that you are hyperactive, can't stand the existence of silence, and can't think like a rational adult.  But that's just my take on it.

Or the people who "love love love" something!  I'm kind of guilty of this one from time to time...especially if we are talking about Foo Fighters, the beach, or peanut butter fudge cake.  I suppose I could use "adore" or "exceedingly fond of" but it just sounds so Jane Austen.

Maybe if we stopped the overuse of "sorry" and "love" then they would mean so much more to us when we actually heard them.  It would be more like hearing things like "I have a present for you" or "someone sent you flowers" because, quite frankly, I can never hear those words often enough.

To hear "I love you" and to know that the person saying it really does is amazing.  Not as in "love ya, honey!" but more like "you are precious to me."  Or to hear "I'm sorry that I hurt you" instead of "sorry that I keep saying 'sorry'. Oops, I just did it again!" 

I'm over all of that like I'm over Britney Spears, McDonald's chicken nuggets, and Seventeen magazine.  Which is like...totally.

Don't get me started on the word "like."  If you are a female between the ages of 14 and 22, you like use the word "like" like every other breath.  Doubt me?  Listen up.  They use "like" instead of "um" for pausing between words.  It is like totally annoying.
I read an exchange the other day where someone kept saying "sorry" for various inexplicably rude things he kept saying.  The person who received the message was even more offended because of the flippant use of the word "sorry" in their exchange.  I wanted to say "you'll be sorry when she's no longer speaking to your sorry self."  Frankly, I hope she won't and that he is. 

I suppose that I should say that I hope that none of you are offended here, but if you are...I beg your pardon.  I'm not sorry, though, in either sense of the word.  I just think that we should be a little bit more careful with some of what comes flying out of our mouths that we are too - like - lazy to actually think about.  I just know that I want people to trust my I want to hold some of them for occasional use so that they retain their power.

And I'm not talking about what I almost called that lady in the drive-thru who couldn't decide between combo #1 and a salad, either...or maybe I am...