Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Things that Make You "Hmmm"

In my capacity as marketing/promotions/sales/publicity director for Judson Press I seek out and pursue media opportunities for our authors. One of the services I utilize to make this easier is HARO -- "Help a Reporter Out." HARO emails hit my in-box three times a day and feature requests from reporters, writers, producers, bloggers, and others looking for experts on a variety of topics.

Most of the time these requests are pretty ordinary. Sometimes they're unique. Occasionally they are downright bizarre. It occurred to me that these strange requests would be fun to share, so voila! Here are 12 HARO requests that made me go hmmm...

1.  Is it ever OK to drink your own urine? (Popular Science): Here's hoping I'm never that thirsty, and if I am, that I haven't just eaten asparagus.

 2.  Looking for real stories about couples working together as a team to plan their wedding ( I may be off base here, but if your husband-to-be wants to help you plan the wedding, he's either my brother-in-law (who is already married) or probably gay. Which is fine if you are also gay, but possibly a red flag if you're not.

3.  Is Hugh Hefner A Cradle Robber? Seriously? Whatever gave you that idea?

4.  Are you getting married and don’t know how to cook? (Talk Show): So what's the problem?

5.  Your Va Jay Jay And You: Women's Health Sources Needed: I didn't even know what a Va Jay Jay was until my friend Em explained it. If you're really an expert in women's health, shouldn't you be comfortable with the the biologically correct terminology? (Right now my parents are asking each other "what's a va jay jay?")

6.  Population boom in porcupines: It's a prickly topic... 

7.  How To Get a Teenager to Clean His Room (knxv-tv): This request is clearly for one of those entertainment/tabloid TV programs. The same ones that sight aliens and claim Tom Cruise is totally normal.

8.  20- or 30-something Tasmanians who preserve fruit (Tasmanian Life magazine): Really? There's life in Tasmania outside of the Devil?

9.  How do you save a drowning friend? (COSMOPOLITAN magazine): Because, let's face it, who would save a non-friend from drowning? 

10.  Leopard Manicures (FabFitFun): Sounds dangerous. And how do you know what color a leopard likes on her nails?

11.  Why won't adolescent boys dress right for winter? (Associated Press): For the same reason they won't clean their rooms. They're adolescent boys. 'Nuf said.
12.  A man or women born with a tail (Alley einstein ltd - uk magazine agency): Can't say I've ever known anyone born with a tail. Known a few people born without a brain though...

Hope these gave you a chuckle or two. Now get over here and shovel my driveway. Love, Kim

    Monday, January 24, 2011

    Basking in the Glow

    This weekend I saw something I've only seen once before. And I saw it not once, but twice within 48-hours. It wasn't a falling meteor. It wasn't a rare species of bird. It wasn't even my children getting along (which I'm still waiting for). It was even better than all those things. This weekend I was blessed by the sight of my son's pure joy and pride.

    I've shared about my son Ian before. The almost-13-year-old kid with the heart of gold who still tells me he loves me and hugs me whether anyone is watching or not. The kid who gets straight As in school. The kid who despite his heart and brains seems to aspire to nothing more than double-digit daily hours in front of a screen, connected by a mouse, remote, or Wii gadget. I tenderly think of Ian as my bright and lovable slug.

    My fencer!
    This weekend my bright and lovable slug found satisfaction, accomplishment, and sheer delight away from the glow of a computer or television screen. It started on Saturday at his first fencing tournament. Ian began fencing at the beginning of this school year and Saturday was the "test" to rank the new students and determine whether they are ready to compete. Seeing Ian in his fencing mask and jacket was a treat for me. Before he even competed I saw that he had a certain confidence about him, that look you get when you're in your element. I was there for his first bout, which he won, and when that fencing mask came off, my son's face was red from exertion and glowing from his accomplishment. It was a look I'd seen on his face only once before and that was following his concert performance as part of the 6th grade's select chorus last year. It was a look every parent craves, the look that says "I did it! I worked hard for this and I proved myself and this is where I belong."

    But Ian's glorious weekend didn't end with his four hours of fencing on Saturday. Sunday held its own surprises when Ian headed out at 6:30 a.m. to compete with the Science Olympiad team for the first time. Quite frankly, I expected Science Olympiad to be a bust. A super-long day with a great deal of down time combined with Ian's participation in one category he wasn't prepared for didn't bode well for his continued interest. But what does mom know? Ian came home 11 hours after he'd left, looking tired and telling me that he needs to study more. At that point the grin broke out and he pulled a gold medal from inside his jacket. He and his partner had won the gold in the category that Ian had been prepared for. Again, that glow! I swear you could light a room just from that proud smile.

    Ian has stumbled his way through a number of ill-fitting activities (baseball, soccer, viola) to get to this place of joy and pride and that makes his successes all the sweeter. As a mom, is there anything more I can wish for my children than for them to find that which brings them true satisfaction and happiness? I'm starting my week feeling incredibly blessed!

    Thursday, January 20, 2011

    Is it Time for an Intervention?

    I think I may be stagnating. I'm not sure if it's just a winter thing or if it's a getting older thing, but I definitely sense that I am in imminent danger of rotting away both physically and mentally.

    If I think about the physical slump I'm in, I may be able to trace it all the way back to February 2010 when I got my 2nd degree black belt. That damn test nearly killed me. Alright, I'm exaggerating, but it was definitely three-plus hours of hell. Three-plus hours of hell that I swore I would never go through again. "I'm too old for this shit" is all that kept going through my mind on that memorable occasion. I decided I would keep training for the fitness aspect, stress relief, and camaraderie, but I had no interest in being tested further (literally and figuratively).

    This probably would have worked out okay except that my master instructor decided we needed to kick it up a notch (again, literally and figuratively) in our black belt classes on Friday nights. I wasn't feeling up for that extra level of effort so I made the decision to stop going to black belt classes. I would just go to regular adult classes to get what I needed. This probably would have worked out okay except that my master instructor decided we needed to kick it up a notch in our every day classes. Damn.

    Have you ever reached a point where you just don't feel like making an effort? You think to yourself (or say to anyone who will listen),
    Life is hard enough. Parenting is work. Maintaining a home is work. Marriage is work. My job is work. Do I want to work in my free time, too?
    Have you ever reached the point where physically you just need a break or at least want nothing more than to maintain the status quo and your dress/pants size? I'm ashamed to say it, but that's where I am. And the timing of this stagnate stage of my life is not ideal given that my husband has decided to forge new territory by training for a triathlon. For ten plus years I was the one regularly working out, training for a couple black belts. Now I slip into an ultra funk and he's got his act together. My township seems to be a hotbed of triathletes. This makes me feel even worse about being a lazy ass.Though not bad enough to actually start running, swimming, or cycling.

    If my physical stagnation weren't bad enough, I also seem to be in a mental holding pattern. The proof? I've rediscovered television. I never had anything against television per se, I just had better things to do with my time. Reading, writing, and nagging my kids and husband were preferable to flipping through 200 channels of nothing worth watching. But then I made the mistake of asking my all-knowledgeable television friend Rebecca to recommend a program I might enjoy. And she handed over four DVDs covering the first season of White Collar.

    "White Collar" is not BBC programming. It is not PBS. It is not even the history channel. It can probably be best categorized as amusing "dramatic" television, but in reality, it is eye candy. Matt Bomer is my new television crush.

    Move over Dean Cain, there's a new super man in my life!   
    Catching up on season one of "White Collar" so that I could be ready for the new season (which started two nights ago) has taken up all my time. No reading. No writing. No family tree researching. I barely have time to nag. Clearly I'm stagnating.

    The interesting thing about this stage I'm in is that, aside from feeling guilty, I'm actually in a better mood than I've been in in quite some time. Interesting, huh? So tell me, have you been here, done this? Any recommendations for me? I look forward to hearing from you!

    Tuesday, January 18, 2011

    Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

    There's something about a woman and her hair that men will never understand. For men, the biggest issue with their hair is having it. They may freak out if they think they're losing their hair, but as long as they still have it they're content to cut it once in a while and leave it go at that. Women, on the other hand, take their hair very seriously. Consider all the conversations we have about it:
    I'm having a bad hair day.
    I can't do a thing with my hair.
    Where do you get your hair cut?
    Should I cut my hair short or let it grow?
    Do you see how gray my hair is getting?
    What color highlights should I get in my hair?
    Decorating the living room is easier for some women than figuring out what to do about their hair. And as a Leo, this makes complete sense to me. After all, not everyone sees your living room, but everyday your hair is on display for the whole world to see. There's a lot of pressure there.

    I had my hair cut this past Friday. I went all the way to Easton for it, more than an hour from my home. Now granted, my parents still live there so it's easy to justify the long-distance stylist by using the hair cut as an excuse to see mom and dad (or vice versa), but still, I've been going to the same salon for twenty-plus years. That's a bigger commitment lots of people make to their spouses. That's how serious this hair thing is.

    This particular cut should have been routine. "Just a trim" is what I had in mind. A trim is a big deal for me. It means I'm letting my hair grow. I never seem to let my hair grow for very long. I get bored too quickly. I think I look better with longer hair but then I see some cute young thing with a super hip, super short, trendy cut and I think I want to chop mine off again and go that route instead. Despite being pretty conservative and set in my ways in most things, I do like to change things up with my hair. And my socks. But that' a different story.

    Anyway, I went in for a trim and then I saw the picture hanging on the wall. The picture of the cute young thing with a super hip, cool cut. That's when, on a whim, I told Tim, my stylist, "I like that." He suggested we go for a longer version of "that" and I came out with this:

    Okay, it isn't that bad, but you get the idea. I'm not happy with my latest cut. And an unflattering haircut is just about the worst thing that can happen to a woman on a short term basis. No, it's not a terminal illness, it's not giving birth, it's not losing your job, but it's worse than the stomach flu (which is generally only 24 hours and can help you lose weight) or wearing the wrong outfit to a party. Yes, hair grows back, but it could be weeks until you can make yourself presentable again.

    In the meantime, you may find me frequently sporting my Phillies baseball cap. The good news is that with this new cut, I no longer look like Tim Lincecum when I wear it.

    And smack me around if you ever see me making this face, regardless of the quality of my haircut.

    Thursday, January 13, 2011

    A Tribute to Angels

    The face of my beloved Media Presbyterian Church is changing yet again. A few months ago we lost my arch nemesis and dear friend Mark Boyd to a pastorate in western PA, and this past weekend we learned that Christian education director extraordinaire Cara Cavicchia will be leaving us to attend seminary. Clearly these two people have their priorities all messed up. I for one cannot understand how any sane person could leave the home base of the Freakin' Angels.

    Aside from the bad/sad news of Cara's springtime departure, this past weekend was a glorious hotbed of happy FA activity. On Saturday afternoon a few of us celebrated our dear friend Cathie's 40th birthday, and on Sunday evening, in lieu of watching the Eagles crumble in the face of another post season, a large group of FAs got together for dinner, drinks, and lots of laughter. I returned home from that evening with my heart (and belly) full, wondering what I did to deserve the blessing of having these ladies in my life. Taking myself out of the equation, I don't believe I'm exaggerating when I say you've never met a more amazing group of women.

    I'm not defining these women as amazing because of their resumes, civic accomplishments, income levels, wardrobes, educations, IQs, or job titles. I'm not using the word amazing because they're perfect specimens of woman, wife, or mom. These women are amazing because their hearts are bigger than you would think humanly possible. I swear if we physically compared their heart sizes to the average human being, theirs would be significantly above average. (Since we would have to cut their chests open to do prove this, we'll just take my word for it.)

    Women are often stereotyped as competitive, jealous, gossipy, catty, and petty creatures who like to shop and talk on the phone all day. The women I know couldn't be less deserving of such a reputation. The women of Media Presbyterian Church are better described as:
    • Loving
    • Faithful
    • Witty
    • Committed
    • Dependable
    • Kind
    • Bright
    • Honest
    • Real
    • Forgiving
    • Grace-full
    Rather than spending their days shopping and chatting, you will find them teaching, raising children, leading cultural institutions and law firms, working in the healthcare field, and sharing their talents in the business world. 

    And that's just when they're doing their day jobs. When the call goes out that another woman (or man, for that matter) is in need (a bright FA light flashes through the sky), these women spring into action more quickly than any superhero. They've responded to cancer treatments, cancer scares, marriage collapses, health crises, financial difficulties, new mommy challenges, childcare dilemmas, and more. Sometimes a helping hand is in order, more often a shoulder, prayer, or loving heart is all that's required.

    The very best thing about these Freakin' Angels is that their circle of friendship is not closed, but rather continues to grow with each woman who responds to the invitation that they extend through everyday kindness. If you're seeking warm, welcoming, genuine friendship, our circle is always open.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011

    You Say It's Your Birthday? Tell Us about the Party!

    Birthday parties have evolved since I was a kid. Granted, I wasn't invited to many, but still, I'm pretty certain things have changed dramatically in the last 30 years.While I can't recall anything more than a no-frills get-together or sleepover at the party girl's house, my children have attended a fascinating variety of soirees which I have sorted into these four main categories:
    • Basic and traditional home-based parties (occasionally involving a sleepover)
    • Home-based theme parties
    • "Anywhere but my house" parties 
    • Cool venue, spare no expense parties
    The traditional home-based party is what I imagine I would have had as a child if I had been allowed to have parties at all. My parents, however, were of the mindset that inviting your friends for a party was really nothing more than a shout-out for loot. Today, high-minded parents who think their children have more than enough stuff have taken to throwing parties where items for charity are requested in lieu of gifts. This is nice in theory, though I highly doubt the birthday child him/herself thinks this is a good idea. Anyway, I find it easier to throw this type of party for boys than for girls, and thus Ian has had a couple of these basic get-togethers. Still, the no-frills, "leave the kids to their own devices" party is a relic rarely seen in the 21st century.

    Home-based theme parties have been my default mode of birthday celebration for Ian and Abby. They are a step up from "come over for pizza and ice cream" and yet cost considerably less than the next two options. We've personally thrown Pokemon, Wii, and manicure/pedicure parties, and my kids have been invited to everything from a Greek Mythology party to a musical instrument party. Theme parties are fine if the parent(s) is creative and patient, neither of which I consider myself to be. Every year I swear it's my last time inviting these urchins into my home and that's why Abby's birthday this February is likely to be an...

    ..."Anywhere but my house party" (ABMHP). This is probably the most popular type of party today. I've thrown one of these at a dumpy miniature golf course and half a party at a local bowling alley (rather than pay for their "party" with food, I just paid for two lanes of bowling, and took the kids home to feed them). Other typical locations for ABMHP include ice skating rinks, indoor play centers, gyms, and community pools. On the unique end of the ABMHP spectrum, Ian has been to a canoing and scavenger hunt in the woods party and Abby has been to a scavenger hunt party at the mall.

    Finally, the most devoted and ambitious parents take birthday parties to the streets and hit the coolest venues in the city. My children have been to soirees at the Melting Pot, Hibachi's, a hip and trendy Mexican restaurant in Philadelphia (in a private room complete with karaoke), on the Duck Boats (pre-drownings), and at Margaret Kuo's, the best Chinese restaurant in the area. It goes without saying that I am too cheap to ever throw one of these super cool parties. After attending my niece Jordan's "Sweet 16" in December, I'm already trying to figure out how I can throw Abby a 16th birthday party that costs no more than $5.00 per guest. Okay, $10. Tops. It's a good thing we're not Jewish because I would have told the kids they had to choose between the Bar/Bat Mitzvah and going to college.

    For fun, share with FA readers the coolest birthday party your child was ever invited to and/or the coolest party you ever hosted. Let's see who wins!

      Friday, January 7, 2011

      16 Surefire Steps to a Winter Morning Adventure

      Looking to spice things up in the new year? Here's a 16-step adventure-ensured process that will work particularly well for the everyday domestic diva or suburban soccer mom. All it requires is a Honda Odyssey mini-van (which we all have) and a series of bad decisions:
      1. Wait for a snowy morning. Snow does not have to be particularly deep. An inch or two will suffice. Ideally snow should still be falling at a rapid rate.
      2. Take shower. Wash hair. Do not dry hair.
      3. Put on threadbare socks and ankle high LL Bean boots.
      4. Have child wear sneakers, no gloves, no hat.
      5. Wait till last possible moment to jump in snow-covered mini-van to take daughter to school for 8:00 a.m. orchestra rehearsal.
      6. Bring dog along for ride. Don't bother with leash.
      7. Leave cell phone at home because you're running late and don't have time to go back for it.
      8. Take side road daughter suggests so you don't run risk of waiting at train crossing, thereby causing her to be late for practice.
      9. On side road, come to a complete stop at small incline while waiting for traffic to clear to make left turn. 
      10. Discover you have no traction whatsoever and put car in reverse to slide sideways to side of road. 
      11. Repeat.
      12. Try to use small ribbon found in car as leash for dog. Lose leash; lose dog.
      13. Capture dog. Stick in van. Turn on flashers. Open window a crack for air. Lock doors.
      14. Start walking daughter to school on busiest road in town, facing into snow. 
      15. Consider putting out thumb and hitching a ride.
      16. One block to school, see neighbor who offers ride back to van. Ditch daughter for remainder of walk. Hope she makes it okay.
       Here are some optional steps if  you want to make your adventure even more memorable:
      • After showering, do not get dressed. Put pajamas back on, skip bra, and wear fuzzy slippers.
      • Put the cat in the car as well as the dog.
      • Pour salt in gaping blister when you return home.
      This process can be repeated throughout the winter months.

      This blog post has been brought to you by Subaru.

      Wednesday, January 5, 2011

      I'm a Rule Breaker, Dream Taker

      Obviously I'm not setting a good example for my children if I can't follow my own rules. I even shared them with you back on November 22. Number three of my "5 Essential Children's Gift Giving Guidelines" clearly stated, "Carefully consider your purchase if this toy, craft, or gadget requires parental supervision or assistance." But did I listen? Noooo. Not even close. Now I'm burdened with the unpleasant task of returning one of Abby's Christmas gifts, incurring the return shipping charge in addition to the shipping I already paid to receive it in the first place.

      So you're probably wondering what the offending gift is/was, right? Hold on to your hats.
      It is/was a sewing machine.

      Dear Lord, what was I thinking? Not only did this gift require parental supervision and assistance, but it required it from someone who actually knows how to work a sewing machine. This is not me. I don't know if I've ever used a sewing machine in my life. Abby pulled it out of the box at my insistence (she seemed to be avoiding it, probably knowing the fun we weren't going to have with it), and within ten minutes I asked her if she'd mind if I returned it. She agreed it wasn't worth the hassle and informed me that "sewing by hand is easier anyway." I don't know how to sew by hand either, so I'm not sure where she developed her skills. Anyway, today the sewing machine is being returned to Back to Basics Toys.

      Unfortunately, the sewing machine was not the only toy I bought which broke rule #3. I also purchased for Abby the American Girl Pom Pom Scarves Kit which requires parental help in measuring 42' strands of yarn, and multiple hands to untangle balls of said yarn that become completely knotted if you look at them wrong. We finally finished this darn scarf and she hasn't even worn it.

      And then there is Ductigami: The Art of the Tape, a book of crafts one can make with duct tape. Ian has showed no interest in it whatsoever, and Abby is finding it more challenging than anticipated. This means she wants Rob or me to help. This is highly undesirable as noted in rule #3. 

      On a positive note (you know I'm always looking for the positive in every situation), Abby did receive one gift requiring participation that I actually am enjoying. Her Aunt Andi bought her Pictureka, a fun game of visual hide and seek. Best thing about this game is that being the little observational savant that she is, Abby always wins. That means I don't have to listen to her cry about losing.

      Time to confess, who else broke rule #3 on the gift giving guidelines? Or did you blow it on:
      1. A toy that can be used to inflict bodily harm on siblings, pets, or parents
      2. An item with multiple parts
      3. A gift requiring batteries which you forgot to have available on Christmas morning
      4. An item requiring considerable assembly which you left to assemble until midnight on Christmas Eve
      Do tell!

      Monday, January 3, 2011

      Puzzles, Coloring, and Bonding, Oh My!

      Over the holidays I decided I needed a new way to relax. My penchant for reading and watching movies feels just too sedentary and unproductive. I like to at least seem active while relaxing (fellow multi-taskers can relate). With this in mind, I went old school and tapped into a jigsaw puzzle and coloring.

      Jigsaw puzzles used to be a source of enjoyment for me. Unfortunately, I've discovered that for some puzzling reason, they no longer are. I feel like a hardcore gambler or crack addict when I work on a puzzle. I tell myself (and the puzzle) that if I can just get one little piece to fit I'll walk away for the night. My frustration mounts when Abby leisurely strolls by, detects one of the 400+ pieces she "thinks" will work, and easily inserts it in its proper place. Several of my friends and family members take great delight in solving a puzzle. I take great delight in removing it from my sight when it's been on the table for more than three days. Perhaps it's a sign of the times, my need for immediate gratification. Call it what you will, I call it maddening.

      Last night I had more success with a little thing I like to call coloring. This isn't the first time in my adult life that I turned to the crayons and colored pencils in a time of need. I recall one night during college when nothing would do but a few hours of artistic bliss. I persuaded the boy I liked at the time to take us shopping for a proper coloring book and crayons. The excitement in the air was palpable. Though now that I think about it, this may be the reason I never heard from him again.

      Anyway, last night the kids and I were going stir crazy so I asked Abby to fetch her art set. We set up shop on my bed and she and I proceeded to indulge in a few hours of coloring and shading (Ian only lasted a couple minutes). I think what I most enjoy about coloring is the simplicity of it. The lines are there, all you need to do is stay within them. Unlike life which is messy and unpredictable, coloring is clear cut and easily managed. It provides me with that feeling of accomplishment which I so desperately crave, and it provided a nice opportunity for mother-daughter bonding time.

      While I actually hope to relax less and accomplish more in 2011 (apparently many of you think I live a life of leisure with all my book reading, facebook updating, blogging, movie viewing, celebrity hobnobbing, and the like), I would welcome your suggestions for other means of looking busy while actually chilling out. What works for you?