Friday, August 30, 2013

Ten Things I Know About Fancy Hotels

I have been fortunate to have traveled a little, and have stayed in all sorts of hotels.  I have stopped at roadside motels which have dirty towels hanging on the back of the bathroom door, and I have stayed in hotels where the bedding is spun from actual angel hair.

Now, look.  I know there are fancier hotels in the world than the ones I’ve seen, with amenities that I would never even have thought I’d need nor imagine.  This is why I am not a hotel manager; I do not think that people might need something like a Rolls Royce with their room, nor a private butler.

But fancy hotels are different than the average nicer hotel you might stay in on vacation with your spouse or on a girls’ weekend, and much different than the suite-style hotel I stayed in earlier this month with my family, which was lovely and convenient but lacked certain luxuries, like not seeing cockroaches in the kitchen area. 

And the following items are the differences.

1) In fancy hotels, the toiletries are fancy.  I’ve stayed at places where the toiletries gave me feelings of such bliss that, once home, I promptly went online to order a bottle of the same stuff, only to find that there is no way I can afford to sustain this habit.  My husband recently returned from a business trip with three hotel-sized bottles of L’Occitane toiletries (one of my favorites) and joked with me that he found out, on his last night there, how coveted they were among the ladies who were also staying there that they had hoarded their own supply so they could bring home a sizeable stash of the stuff.  One of the bottles he brought to me was half used up.  I was not amused. 

2) Beds are better.  The beds in fancy hotels are designed to make you want to stay there forever.  There is something to say about a place that will actually sell you their own bedding so you can replicate the experience at home, for several thousand dollars.  And the beds are made out of actual massage therapists.

3) Clientele is snobby, even if they shop alongside you at Target.  One of the better things about staying in fancy hotels for me is the people watching.  I’ve seen fancy people with fancy dogs and fancy children get out of fancy cars and stand in line with me at the fancy front desk to check into their fancy hotel rooms.  Then I’ve seen regular people acting fancy just because they’re staying there.  This is actually an easy trap to fall into, but don’t do it.  You do not have a British accent.  Remember that you bought most of your vacation clothing at Target.

4) You will be treated like royalty.  When you arrive at your fancy hotel, a large team of people will swarm your vehicle to help you open the door, remove your luggage, take care of your car, and usher you into the lobby, where another team of people is waiting to show you the front desk, provide you with a pen, remove your sunglasses, and take all your money that is surely weighing you down.  All of them will be asking you how you are doing and will wish you a marvelous stay and will be at your disposal for anything at all.  You will feel like a queen in your shorts from Target.

5) You might sleep there, but you can’t afford to also eat thereHamburgers are $30, breakfast is $60, and a day at the pool drinking margaritas will blow your food budget for the rest of the trip, during which you will convince yourself that you can live on one meal a day and will regret that you took that box of granola bars out of your carry-on right before you left home.

6) You will not be allowed to carry your own baggage.  Though you packed it yourself and likely dragged it through an airport and into the trunk of a rental car, when you arrive at a fancy hotel, give up the right to carry your own bags.  You might think this is similar to #4, but it isn’t.  When you walk through the door, assume that you’ve lost all ability to lift anything other than your own arms.  It’s easier than telling fifteen smiling men in uniforms that you really don’t need help carrying your overnight bag that contains pajamas, a dress, and a couple pairs of underwear.

7) Bring small bills.  All the personal attention means All. The. Tipping.

8) You might be staying in the hotel with famous people This does not mean that you are famous.  BeyoncĂ© might be staying there with you, but she is not really staying there with you.  She is just in the building.  You may not ride the elevator for hours hoping to catch her on the way to the pool.  Likely her room has a pool in it, and you are not invited to her pool party.

9) You cannot hide in the hotel after checkout, hoping to get an extra day for free. Fancy hotels are remarkably open structures.  There are very few places in which you will not be found.  Do not joke loudly about hiding in a fancy hotel to get an extra day for free.  Trust. 

10) It is not reality.  Look.  This is vacation.  You are not actually the queen.  When you come home, you will be wondering for a time why no one is waiting on you, why no one is smiling or wishing you a marvelous day.  Make it easy on your family and do all your crying in the shower.  Take some time upon returning to take to your (lumpy, neck-wrenching) bed for a few days.  I recommend a week for deprogramming.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

No Milky Ways

We were visiting them, one of our few annual trips back home.  My family only lives several hours away, but it might as well be across the country.  We don’t get home very often.

We always make sure we see my grandparents.  They live in the country, in the house that Granddad lived in when he was small.  They are in their mid-90s.  Grandma bakes and does laundry and walks up the flight of stairs in their home every day.  Granddad tends his garden which is down a flight of stairs in the other direction.

Their vitality amazes me, but it shouldn’t.  They have a lot of strength and a lot of health in their bodies.

We sat in the living room, chatting about life and the people we all know, and some of the people that they know and I only know through conversations we’ve had over the years.  The kids sat on the floor and rolled around on the carpet like my brothers and cousins and I did when we were young.  They wandered to the dining room where candy sat waiting in covered bowls, to the kitchen where treats are displayed in the open, boxes of cookies and fresh baked cookies and bags of candy and salty snacks and other goodies we don’t have at home.

"Do they want milk?"  Grandma asks.  "We have milk, or if they want soda, I think there’s some out there."

The kids come into the living room chomping on little bite-sized candy bars, each wrapped in silver.  I can’t resist one.  After all, we are at Grandma and Granddad’s house.  You can’t leave without your fill of sugar.

“What’d ya get?”  Granddad asks me.  He’s interested in my candy.  “Milky Way,” I respond through my caramel-fused teeth.

“Ohhhhh, I can’t eat those,” he says, shaking his head. “I had too many of them once.”

“Why not?” we all asked, except for Grandma.  She knows this story.

“We were on a boat in the war, picking up some guys to bring them back from where they were.  There were boxes of Milky Ways on the boat for us to eat.  I ate Milky Ways all day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I got sick on the boat.  I haven’t been able to eat ‘em since.”  He shakes his head again, rubs the top of his scalp and closes his eyes against the memory of being on a boat in the ocean in his 20s, sick as a dog, with only candy bars to settle his stomach.

I had never heard this before.  I knew Granddad was in the war, knew where he went, but over the years my memories had faded.  I definitely had not heard this detail about his life in the 1940s.  My husband and I asked questions: what did you do, where did you go, how long was the boat trip, who were the guys you were picking up, what year was it, did you really only have candy bars to eat?

I hate to admit that some of the details of that story are lost in my mind again.  I should remember them; that day, my family and I said very little as Granddad talked about his experience and answered our questions about his time in American history.  We were in the presence of a national treasure, one of the diminishing group of veterans from World War II.  Probably my husband would remember.  I can certainly call Granddad and ask him to tell me that story again.  I could write it down.  I should write it down.

But one thing is certain: I will never forget that Granddad can’t eat Milky Ways.


This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Post #4: Something your grandfather told you.

Monday, August 26, 2013


Summer still has a solid month to go, but ask any parent or student: it’s over.

School buses will be cruising our neighborhoods, shuttling kids off to another school year.  Community pools will be closing, even though we’ve got a good four – six! – weeks of warm weather ahead.  What’s the point in staying open if your customer base is spending those days sitting behind desks?  College students are away from home, leaving empty rooms in family homes.  Homework will soon become a regular part of life for parents and students alike.

School supplies have been amassed, teacher assignments delivered, new shoes purchased.  What is it about the summer that makes kids’ feet grow a size or two?  It’s only a few months.

Kids advance into a new phase over each summer; it amazes me how much they grow and change from June to August.  Their friendships change, they learn new skills, they have new adventures.  Over summers in the past my kids have learned to ride a bike, saw Mount Rushmore, first walked to their friends’ houses unsupervised.  They’ve mastered a particularly difficult video game, done back flips off a diving board, and learned how to do laundry. By August, my kids are totally different people; they are older, wiser, bigger.

I talk to a lot of moms every day; these are my people, my tribe.  We get each other.  We all agree that summer is wonderful, that our kids grow so much during this time, that even though we will miss the free, unstructured days of summer, we look forward to the first day of school.  We love it and hate it.  Beyond the bravado, the gleeful countdowns, we are wistful.

I always find myself a little bit more emotional during these last few days before the school year starts.  Though my kids may feel like I enjoy the back-to-school season a little too much, it makes me sad.  It may be the knowledge that my calendar will suddenly become important; no more will I forget the date, what the day is.  We will be on stricter schedules; bedtimes and mealtimes will be less flexible.  We will be driven by more than what kind of ice cream to eat tonight.

What I am mostly sad about is that things change so much when summer ends.  The people who were around me all summer long, who I saw grow and learn, will no longer be here every day.  Family dynamics change when a new school year starts.  Things become more serious, faster-paced.  Change is not always bad, but how it makes everything so different is what sort of hits me at the end of summer.

Summer is a sentimental season, and I’d like to stay in it for a while longer. I like knowing that we are making memories that will stay with us for the rest of our lives, like knowing that my kids will remember that they learned how to ride a bike, saw Mount Rushmore, and learned back-flips during summer. 

When I look at it this way, I guess I do want them to grow up, no matter how hard that may be on me.


Friday, August 23, 2013

DIY Photo Album

Before Pinterest, I didn't know there were so many talented people in the world.  Pinterest is loaded with good ideas to do just about everything, and although I have yet to make it an everyday obsession like red licorice or plucking white hairs from my scalp, it inspires me to try anything!

My husband is a photoholic, which is cheaper than being an alcoholic, I can tell you that.  In other words, the man lives to take photographs, save them to his computer, crop them, and print them out in stacks to put into albums.

I am not a photoholic, which means that this job is usually solely his.  I washed my hands of this thankless task long ago, when I realized that no one is interested in looking at our family photos, including me.  Also, I hate taking pictures.  Why take pictures at all? I once asked.  You can relive the memory over and over in your head.  He cocked his head at me like a dog when you ask it if it wants to go outside for a walk or go to the vet for neutering, and replied with an exasperated sigh, his go-to reaction to everything I say.

Because of his need to save and file photos away in dusty bins that never see the light of day, we seem to buy a lot of photo albums, which I find annoying, because photo albums are expensive yet never seem to fit our pictures perfectly, and they are bulky.  And ugly.  And we never have enough of them.

Today, I had on hand a stack of photo album sleeves that came from who-knows-where, the deepest pit of hell perhaps.  And then a Pinterest-worthy idea hit me, about the time I was cruising the aisles at Target looking for the perfect object to fill the gaping void in my life:

I am going to make my own photo albums.

This idea gave me a rush of adrenalin; I knew it was Pin-worthy right away.  In my giddiness, I have decided to share my process with you.  It can be tricky, so steel yourself and don’t give up!  Practice makes perfect photo albums.  Here I come, Pinterest!  

Allow adequate time to complete the task from start to finish.  With no planning you could spend up to ten minutes doing this project, but if you put a little care and thought into it, you will be stylishly filing your photos in record time!  You will need:

  • A stack of 2- or 3-holed photo album sleeves that will not fit into any three-ring binder you have in your home
2 and 3-holed sleeves?  No way!  No problem!

  • A plastic binder that looks like it might fit those holes

I found this little beauty thrown into an end-cap in the small appliances department. 
 Look for one in your local Target or office-supply store.  
Be sure to check the floor; someone might have kicked it under the shelving.

  • Hole punch, in case you have some 3-hole and 2-hole sleeves like we do.  This is where the art of the project really comes into play.  Use some artistic license here.  Stay confident, and you will be a success. 
Use a three-hole punch if you possess confidence 
in your ability to punch accurately.  
Or if you don’t possess a one-holer.

  • Pictures, in chronological order.  Or not, if you’re a total rebel.  Punk rock!
Memories! Good times! 
Get those suckers into a book and off of the desk!  
OMG they’ve been there for three months

  • Piece of paper and something to write with.  I prefer dried-out Sharpies for projects like this.

Gathered all your materials?  Good!  You’re ready to go!

Step 1: Sort all your like-holed sleeves into separate piles.  Threes with threes and twos with twos is a good start.  Over-thinking may cause panic; try to stay calm.

Step 2: Place the sleeves that fit in your binder into the binder.  We had a 3-ring binder with some 3-holed sleeves, so we put them in first so we wouldn’t get confused.

Step 3: If you have a 3-ring binder with some 2-holed sleeves, the middle binder ring won’t accommodate the 2-holed sleeves and you must punch holes in the middle of each 2-hole sleeve.  Measure carefully so the middle ring fits the middle hole in your sleeve.  Or just eyeball it.  Great art is always subjective.

If you have a 2-ring binder and 2-holed and 3-holed sleeves, you may proceed to Step 6. 
Please tell me where you found a 2-ring binder.

Step 4: Punch. The. Holes. 

It’s okay if you make a mistake.  Even pros do sometimes.

Step 5: Fit the newly punched sleeves into the binder with the others, and click it shut.


Step 6: Put the pictures in the albums.  Take your time.  You’ve come this far.  Don’t get frustrated because the photo sleeve openings are a millimeter smaller than the photos - you'll bend your photos and ruin all your hard work.  Try not to notice that the sleeves are bigger than the binder itself.  Remember: Art!

Step 7: Stop and admire all the most wonderful memories of that vacation you took where your hair looked amazing every single day.  This is probably the last time you look at these photos.

Good times.  Great hair.

Step 8: Write the dates or subjects of the photos on a piece of paper.  Slide it into the clear pocket on the front of your new photo album.  If the binder you used doesn’t have a clear pocket, then I don’t know - use markers or something.  Or don't bother to label them at all, if that works for you, crazy.

You are finished!  Flip through your photos in style, knowing that you have created a unique work of art.  You are a gifted artist now; sit back and enjoy the admiration that this project is sure to bring.

Happy Photo-Albuming, and be sure to Pin this idea to your Art Boards!

See you on Pinterest!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Mrs. Quinn

I grew up in a small town. 

Like, small.

Like, small in that the junior high and senior high in our town were in one school building, and the elementary school was also attached to that building.  When I was in 7th grade, the first day of junior high, I was assigned a seat in the back of the bus with a senior girl who was probably the most beautiful girl in the whole small school.

Maybe even in the whole town.

But let’s back up.

There were two 6th grade teachers in our small town school.  I had Mrs. Quinn.  So did most of my friends, but it didn’t matter; we were all friends back then.  There were not that many of us.

Mrs. Quinn and her husband, Mr. Quinn, went to our church.  My parents and aunts and uncles went to school with their children.  In fact, one of their daughters was my aunt’s best friend.  Mr. and Mrs. Quinn’s grandchildren were only a year or two younger than me.  Mr. Quinn taught gym class in high school; my mom and dad and aunts and uncles all had him when they were in high school.

Mrs. Quinn was nice and smiled a lot.  We all liked her.  She was old to us then, but she wasn’t, not really.  She was a sweet woman who made me feel like she loved our class, like she loved me. 

She probably really did.  After all, she practically knew my whole history, had seen me grow up.

Mrs. Quinn assigned the same science project every year, early in the fall: a leaf collection.  We were to collect leaves from the trees around our small town and identify them, press them onto pages along with a description of each, creating a mini-encyclopedia of leaves.  We didn’t have the internet back then.  Back then, we looked each leaf up in the set of encyclopedias or other reference books that Mrs. Quinn kept in her classroom or in the school library.  I used the same autumn-themed binder that my older brother had used for his own leaf collection two years before.  I didn’t have enough room on the page of my book for the giant tulip tree leaf and its seed pod; it took up two pages.

Mrs. Quinn gave me an A on that leaf project, as she did most other projects that year.  I was a good student back then, and I loved my teacher.

Mrs. Quinn still lives in that small town where I grew up.  She retired from teaching years ago, and buried Mr. Quinn just this year.  The last several years of her life were spent taking care of him.  I haven’t seen Mrs. Quinn in many years; I don’t go home very often.  Likely she wouldn’t remember me if we met today.

But then again, she just might.  After all, she practically knew my whole history, had seen me grow up.


This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt 1: Your sixth grade teacher.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Desperate Drinks

We were at a chain bar/restaurant with friends.  The place was hopping because we were in a smallish Pennsylvania town that was hosting a largish pop/rap concert. 

Everyone was there.  Okay, mostly middle-aged couples and groups of lady friends were there.  All the ladies wore sparkles, Capri pants or skirts, and mascara.  Most looked like they had spent some time on their hair, just like I had.  Blow out, flat iron.  This is the look I’m going for when I want to look fancy these days.

After all, it was a date night, and even though we were on a double date with friends and some several thousand other people, I wanted to look fancy.  I don’t often get opportunities to look fancy.

Although If I’m being honest, my fancy is also my Sunday morning church look, further proof that we were probably out of the age demographic for the concert.  Those people certainly weren’t dining around us; most likely they were in the parking lot of the arena chugging beers and checking out potential hook-ups before the big show.

We waited for several minutes and our waitress came over.  She was cute and bubbly; I could see why she was employed as a waitress.  I wanted to be her best friend, or at least wanted her to think I was cool.  She gushed over our choice of drinks and widened her eyes as she smiled over us like a beneficent fairy sanctioning the libations we would imbibe.  We bathed in her cosmic approval and I might have clapped my hands in anticipation, feeling duly blessed and ready to get our night on.

Along with a few appetizers, our friends ordered a beer and flight of small martinis and my husband and I ordered a pitcher of Long Island Iced Tea to share.  Yeah, we did.

We waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Still the waitress didn’t come.  Our conversation, laden with laughs and excitement over the concert and the magnificent people-watching in the restaurant and general adult-only outing giddiness, turned into swiveling heads and craning necks as we searched the teeming room for our fairy waitress, our harbringer of joy.

The minutes ticked by.  We looked at our watches, the clocks on our phones.  We talked about when – IF – she would return.  Did she get fired?  Quit?  Take a smoke or bathroom break?  We hoped she washed her hands.

After twenty or thirty minutes our waitress returned with our drinks, clearly harried.  Wiping her brow, she gracelessly plunked down the beer and martinis for our friends, then proceeded to noisily add our pitcher and two mismatched glasses to the table, explaining that the Long Islands were popular and she had to wait for a pitcher to serve it in.  We eyed each other in awe as the reality that a restaurant could use up all their glassware in an hour sunk in.  We quickly ordered another round.  After all, we weren’t sure when we’d see her again.

Quickly my husband and I discovered that the pitcher was filled with ice.  The glasses she gave us filled up quickly and the drink was watery.  No matter; we’d already ordered another one; we drank it down in record time.  After one and a half glasses each our pitcher was just a pitcher of ice.  I joked that I would just stick in my straw and suck the rest of the juice off the ice cubes.

I was only halfway joking, but I have better manners than that.

Soon our appetizers came, and we seized the chance to order dinner and ask about our second round of drinks.  The server assured us that they were coming.  We eyeballed her suspiciously and considered her an enemy, at least someone not to be trusted.

Another twenty minutes or a billion years later, a different server arrived with our round of drinks.  This time we didn’t even concern ourselves with the whereabouts of our malicious fairy server; she obviously worked for the other side and was plotting our slow demise.  This time, our pitcher of drinks came in a large glass only half-filled with ice this time.  We questioned the delivery method of our second round as our compatriots lowered their eyes and greedily gulped their full glasses as if they had just survived a desert wasteland ordeal.

Forgetting our treasonous friends, we turned our attention to this new server, who assured us that this was, in fact, our pitcher of drinks which contained the same amount as the pitcher, only with less ice.  My husband and I looked at the glass, then each other.  It was clear that none of us at the table would be able to pour an almost-overflowing glass of floating ice and watery drink into any of our ice-filled glasses without spilling it all over the table, so we did what mildly desperate people in our situation would do.

We each stuck a straw in and sucked, racing each other to the bottom.

As the server left the table, we cried out, “Can we have another?” 
Thank you to my traitor friend Kristin for 
providing me with this picture of abject desperation.  
It looks like we're trying to be cute, 
but this was war. 

Postscript: Our waitress returned with another real pitcher of watered-down drinks within minutes of the second round, along with our food.  She was more agitated than ever before.  We never saw her again for the rest of the evening.  We had been there for two and a half hours.

Post-postscript: The concert was amazing.


This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt #4:  Share the story behind your current Facebook and/or Twitter profile photo.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Look, Listen, Understand

It was Thursday, otherwise known as the day we wash the bed linens.  Ha ha, just kidding.  It was totally a wait-a-minute-I-think-it’s-been-several-weeks-since-I-washed-the-sheets kind of day.  Quickly, I called out to enlist some help.

“Okay, guys, I’m doing sheets today.  Take the sheets off of your beds and throw them in the laundry area so I can wash them.”

“Okay, Mom,” yells my daughter, the agreeable child, the one who never hides when she hears my voice take on that tone that suggests I’m about to ask for something other than a response to “Who wants ice cream?”

“Do you want the thin pink fluffy thing?”

“Do you mean the blanket?”

“Yes. Do you want the blanket?”

“No. Just the sheets and your pillowcases.”

“Do you want the big fluffy thing?”


“The big fluffy thing on top of my bed.”

“Do you mean the comforter?” I make a mental note to work on vocabulary with my daughter before the school year starts in the fall.

"Yeah.  The comfo'ter."

“No. Just the sheets.  The pink sheets.  The fitted sheet with the elastic around it that you sleep on, the flat sheet that you cover with, and your two pillowcases.”  There.  That should do it.


I go into my room to strip my bed.  A minute later, I see her sheets on the floor in front of the washer, plus the mattress pad.  My shoulders slump.  Any other laundress worth her weight in dryer sheets would shrug and take this as an opportunity to wash the mattress pad along with the other bed linens.  But since I am a slight OCD mother with a teach-‘em-at-every-opportunity mentality, I called my daughter over to explain to her – again – the various pieces of a bed’s make-up, and to gently admonish her for not listening.

Being overlooked is one of the most annoying daily issues that people face.  We all want to be seen and heard and ultimately understood.  This makes us see worth in ourselves, allows us to feel loved and respected.  It helps us get up in the morning,

It’s bad enough when strangers don’t acknowledge us, but when our loved ones ignore us, it’s enough to send the most confident person spinning into a “what’s wrong with me?” pity party.

My husband has this habit that I find mildly problematic – he asks for confirmation when speaking.  His use of the question “Right?” after a statement has irritated me to the point at which I respond “I don’t know, you’re telling the story” almost every time.  After regaling me with a tale from the office after a particularly dramatic day of work, he punctuated his point with “Right?” after which I gave him my usual “I don’t know, jeez, man, get to the punchline already.”

Exasperated, he sputtered, “Well, you never respond!  I never know if you’re listening, or not!  If you would give me a nod, an ‘uh-huh,’ ANYTHING, then I wouldn’t have to ask for your agreement after every sentence!”

His complaint stung.  For years I harped on his lack of response when I wanted to talk; now I was doing the same to him?  I couldn’t believe that I had fallen so far from perfection in our relationship; surely his habits were rubbing off on me?

Not likely.  I am not a good listener.  The details of life, the names of faces I met once, the birthdays and anniversaries that my friends and families celebrate, the family deaths that have occurred, sick relatives and friends, upcoming surgeries, all those things go in and out of my brain because I’m not really listening.  I have failed to find important the things that others do, because when my friend talks about her sick mother I’m thinking about how I love her shirt, or when my husband tells me about his next work trip, I’m thinking about a second glass of wine.

I’ve failed to understand them.

I’m a believer in the Golden Rule, the “treat others as you want to be treated” saying that everyone learns when they are small.  It is so simple, yet we fall so short of it each day.  Our selfish world allows for seven billion individual worlds, each one of us being concerned with only ourselves.  The message is clear: if you want to be listened to and understood, then you must listen to and understand others.  It might mean that you ask someone to repeat themselves.  It might mean that you make the extra effort to reach out to another if it’s not your natural impulse.  Introverted people may have to try extra hard to find interest in others.  Extroverts may have to exercise more effort into focusing and to keep from being distracted.

Whichever way you turn, we all have to try harder to look at the person who is talking to us, listen to what they have to say, and understand what they are saying and where they are coming from.  We can do this with our children and spouses, friends and family members and strangers alike.  We all reap the benefits of listening better and understanding each other.  The favor will be returned to us.

Even if it is just that your ten-year-old now knows the difference between a sheet and a mattress pad.  A win is a win.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Bad Timing

If there is an award out there for having the worst timing of all the people, I’m in the running.  Strike that.  Maybe top five percent.  May as well be the top five in something, right?

Wrong.  Having bad timing is the worst.  I’ve written about this before, but the frequency with which my timing has proved bad is mind-boggling, you guys.  Seriously.  My mind is boggling.  It’s so… boggly. 

Because I am a stay-at-home mom, the cosmos considers me to be more flexible than an obstetrician on Christmas Day or a plumber on Sunday morning, and I regularly find myself being interrupted at the most inopportune times by everything that I don’t plan to do.

That's what I tell myself, anyway.

Occasionally, I will waste an entire day away doing nothing – we’re talking TV and YouTube and reading magazines between naps level of nothing here – and the minute I step into the shower, fetch the mail, or decide that now would be a good time to use the bathroom, the phone rings, the only time all day.  And there are two children and another adult in the house and all these people are yelling to me that the phone is ringing, and there I am considering if I should shave something or stretch it another day, the only person including my neighbors within 50 yards unable to answer the phone.

I shut my eyes against the indignity of knowing that the person on the other line just clearly heard me yell DON’T COME IN I’M NAKED because here is my son standing in the doorway with the phone in his hand.  It could be my mother, my doctor, my pastor. None of whom need to know my current state of undress.

Writing ideas only come to me when I’ve got dinner going and my husband’s coming home, and he knows I’ve sat at the computer today since 9 am doing who-knows-what, he doesn’t ask, bless his heart.  What I know is that he is most certainly not going to be happy-facing it if I write before and after dinner and during our quality TV family time all evening and well past bedtime, when all the magic happens.  “Bad timing, honey,” he would never say, because he rarely says anything mean on purpose.

When I was in graduate school I prided myself on managing my time efficiently so that I worked/attended classes during a ten-hour day five days a week, leaving my weekends free so that I could smugly visit my boyfriend in a city five hours away, while my colleagues were reading journals, grading papers, and cramming for tests on the weekends because they spent all their daylight hours reading bridal magazines or playing Sims on the computer.

Today that boyfriend’s the one getting annoyed at me for writing in the evening when I had all day to do it. Yet even back then I had students at my office door after hours or when I was in the bathroom in a semi-emergency situation.

Today, in middle-adulthood, my timing is getting worse by the day.  I’m still caught in the bathroom during important times, still missing the well-timed good times because inspiration hits me at the wrong times.

Can good timing be taught?  I don’t know.  But if it can be, sign me up.

Though I’m sure I missed the deadline.  I was probably in the bathroom.


Friday, August 9, 2013

On the Fridge

Linking up with the awesome Katie from Sluiter Nation and the wonderful Elaine from The Miss Elaine-ous Life for August’s Old School Blogging meme - What's on your Refrigerator?  Click on over and check out what everyone else has contributed this month!  Link yourself up for twice the fun!


Ahhh, the refrigerator.  That ubiquitous kitchen appliance, that storage unit of fresh food and leftovers and mystery tin-foiled portions of something formerly edible and WHOSE GLASS OF MILK IS THIS?

We’ve had the same fridge for years, even moved it across several states – it is probably on its last legs as of this writing.  I eye it with suspicion each time I tiptoe around it, for fear that I might jar it and cause it to malfunction, several shelves of items like half-full bottles of salad dressing, jars of pickles, containers of ricotta cheese and an as-yet unopened can of spray whipped cream (to be used only in emergencies) lost.  Our cold foods are sitting ducks, living in there on borrowed time.  Isn’t it cute how refrigerators only break down just after a huge grocery run?  I mean, they are related to appliances like hot water heaters and air-conditioning units, which only seem to break down at the worst times like when you go away on vacation.  Jerks.

Everybody knows that the inside of the refrigerator is important, but the outside, gateway to every home's Arctic Circle, is just as important.  Its expanse is the focal point of many kitchens, a conversation piece that early guests gape at while they pretend to help you get ready for a dinner party, where seldom-invited family members scrutinize to see if their picture is present.  It can be a place to stash important coupons, reminders, schedules, and can serve as a bragging spot for families with children.  Through the years, the outside of our fridge has seen hundreds of items: pictures and magnets, school schedules and coupons, newspaper clippings and cartoons, calendars and kid artwork, magnetic baby toys and always, always grubby fingerprints.

And I am going to share with you what it looks like today.

1:  This is a picture of the sky with a cloud in it that looks JUST LIKE AN ANGEL.  We went out to dinner one night and there was a couple at the restaurant who had a zillion copies of this picture.  They even had one framed.  They had set up a display at their table and as people walked by in curiosity they told the story of the snapshot and what it meant to them.  They gave a copy to everyone.  It’s what they did – go out to eat and tell their story.  It was a unique experience and the picture is completely amazing.  We’ve had it up there for over ten years.  People are weird.  In a good way, lots of times.

2:  Sunday School crosses and magnets and index cards with Bible verses on them.  We are Christians, yay!

3:  A little foamie sticker that I fished out of a tub we had when I did crafts with my little kids, which meant that I gave them a piece of printer paper and told them to cover it with foamies.  It was a Spongebob Squarepants themed tub and this foamie on my fridge says “This is the best day of my week.”  I need to be reminded to have a positive outlook, all the time.

4:  Our weekly menu on a post-it.  I do this every week to avoid having to answer “What are we going to have for dinner?” a hundred times a week.  When they ask, I respond, “Post-it.”

5:  A bumper sticker from my sister-in-law that says “I’d Rather Be Wasting Time On The Internet Looking Up Answers To Questions Like ‘Do Squirrels Vomit?’” She made it for me after I posted this as a status update on Facebook.  It was my version of the “I’d Rather Be Fishing/Shopping/Playing Bingo” bumper stickers that you used to see all the time.  It still rings true for me.  I would rather be doing that than most anything else.  And for the record, I never really found a straight answer to this question.  Any squirrel experts out there?  Please advise.

6:  A plaque that my girlfriend got me that says “Work fascinates me… I could sit and watch it for hours!” My girlfriends think that I am lazy. They’re correct.

7:  This beautiful poem, written by Medard Laz.  It reads like a parent’s love letter to a child. I meant to type it up and make it look pretty, since it is a terrible copy from a book.  But I never did.  See #6 above.

8:  Sassy magnets.  One says “Gee, he went well with her drapes” and one says “Don’t let this happen to you.”  My favorite:  “I’m sorry… I just please need you to shut up for one minute.”  A gift from my brother.  It’s sometimes scary how well my loved ones know me.

9:  Crafts and pictures.  Butterfly and Loveburst by my ten-year-old.

10:  Lizard magnets.  Lizards are probably right up there with snakes and frogs as my most hated animals but somehow we display two lizard magnets on our fridge.

11:  Whiteboard calendar.  My daughter brought this home at the end of the school year last year.  WHY do teachers send this crap home with their students?  I do not want a whiteboard calendar. 

12:  Pictures of loved ones.  My nephew and our neighbor are the superstars of our fridge these days.

13:  A schedule of all the outdoor movies in our area this summer, which is stupid, since we don’t go to outdoor movies and are not planning on doing so.

14:  An OCNJ magnet from our recent family trip.  I intend to keep it there so when it’s thirty five degrees and rainy outside for seven months this fall/winter, I can remember lying on the beach in the warm, warm sand for a minute in the summertime.


If you link up, don’t forget the button for your post at The Miss Elaine-ous Life!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Tough Decisions

I made a lame joke to the piano teacher that my son’s decision to not continue with his lessons is dashing my dreams of him being the next Liberace, but inside I felt like a failure.  The kid can plunk out nearly any song he hears on a keyboard.  He taught himself the Axel F intro when he was seven and banged out Viva la Vida after a month of lessons.  He is indifferent to the clarinet yet he sits second chair in the band.  He matches pitch with every singer on the radio but the suggestion of performing elicits eye rolls and adamant shakes of the head.  What kind of loser parent raises a musically talented kid to not love music?

I tried to reassure myself that he is not making the decision to smoke cigarettes or sell his body for heroin or trade state secrets for amnesty.  He is deciding not to take piano lessons this year.  He can always decide to return to it.  He will probably not be a rock star, nor write a symphony, nor start a jazz band.  He will be okay.

But still.  I am certain he will regret it.

I fatalistically consider that his decision to eschew piano lessons will lead to a path littered with obstacles: failing grades, underage drinking citations, teen parenthood, and dropping out of college.  This will lead to homelessness, drug addiction, severe mental illness, and worse. His life will be marked by crime and end as a mob target, probably. 

This is not the life I envision for my child.  How can I let him make this terrible decision?

When children are little, no is frustratingly one of the first words they learn and decisions that they make.  They learn the power of no early, and they use it often.  Eat your veggies.  No.  It's bedtime.  No.  Give me a hug.  NoNo breaks a parent’s heart, instills flashes of anger and irritation, and dampens a happy moment.  Their decisions are swift and unfiltered, snappy declarations that cut us to the core while amusing a whole roomful of adults tickled by a toddler’s sass.

As children mature, we manage their decisions with our own knowing rationality and become sensible adults who bolster a smaller-than-most child’s decision to play basketball with reassurance and projected confidence in his strengths (“You are the fastest runner on the team, honey!”).  We turn a budding film director’s decision to spend all her birthday money on a camera that is used only to make numerous versions of the same movie using only stuffed animals as actors into an opportunity for encouragement (“I love how they all have such different voices!”).  In short, we support our children's decisions, as long as those decisions seem like they could pave the way for healthy future decisions that lead to success and money and fulfillment, but mostly success and money.  Mostly money.

How does a parent sanction what we think is the wrong decision?  Barring the morally wrong and/or dangerous, when we consider that their decisions impact the future, how can we stand by and let them make the wrong choices?  How hard do we bite our tongues and let them make decisions that we are certain will derail their lives, at least put them off the track that we have been pushing them along?

We worry, stealthily try to guide their thought processes to realign, pray for wisdom and a change of heart.

Or we relax, and let our children make the tough decisions, even if we think they are the wrong ones. 

After all, we must consider who they are becoming and trust that we’ve taught them well. 

Because ultimately, my child is living his life, not mine.

And probably not Liberace’s.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Post of Our Recent Family Vacation in 9 Pictures, Using Only 9 Words. Except My Words Are #prettylongbecauseIliketouselotsofwords











This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop
Prompt 2: 9 pictures. 9 words. (inspired by Bits of Bee)