Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Putting My Best Foot Forward

That about sums it up, doesn't it?
What I really want to write about is the Michael Vick salary abomination. $100 million over six years brings out my increasingly liberal Christian tendencies (sorry, dad) as I think about the number of starving children that kind of money could feed. But I won't go there.

Instead, let's talk about a closely related topic...FASHION! A subject near and dear to my heart. My sister can pick herself up off the floor now. I was totally joking. About it being near and dear to my heart. We are, however, going to talk about it.  Fashion simply won't be ignored.

No one has ever, nor will ever, accuse me of being a fashion icon. In fact, one reason I could not continue to work in a NYC ad agency after grad school was my distinct lack of fashion sense. Actually, I just didn't like my boss, but eventually the fashion thing would have caught up with me. It's not so much that I don't "get" what's in style, it's just that I'm too damn cheap sensible to spend the kind of money that being a true fashionista requires. Did you know that not only do clothes have their season, but so does jewelry? How's a girl to keep up?

The good news is that one of the many benefits of working for a religious organization is that no one expects me to look like a fashion model. Maybe if I worked for the Southern Baptists that would be a problem, but here in the American Baptist Churches, no one notes (or at least comments on) my lack of hip, trendy clothing. In fact, when I've attempted to be cutting edge (once or twice in the past 10 years), I've received some looks that said "What the hell are you wearing?" Well, it was probably "What the heck are you wearing?" since we don't swear much here.

So why do I suddenly feel so self-conscious of my fashion sense, or lack thereof?

I'm blaming it on a new season of Project Runway. I confess; I love that show. As someone who doesn't even know how to turn on a sewing machine, it amazes me what those crazy people come up with. The show also leaves me wondering why straight men are apparently incapable of clothing design. And why does Heidi Klum think any woman needs to wear skirts that short? But I digress.

When I say I've become self-conscious about my style, I'm finding my flaws to be especially egregious when it comes to my shoes. Where many/most women have a thing for shoes with dozens (hundreds?) of pairs, I own maybe 20. None of which is less than two years old. If jewelry changes seasonally you can imagine what this says about the age of my shoes. Unlike a fine wine, they haven't improved with time.

In addition to owning a comparably conservative number of shoes, I also possess a limited selection of styles:
  • Four pairs of black heels - 
1) patent leather for the rare dressy occasion
2) plain old leather (which are at least 5 years old)
3) sling backs which bug the heck out of me because they always slip off my heel
4) summer sandals which I'm sure are way out of date since I have no recollection of buying them

The black family
  • Four pair of brown shoes - 
1) dated pumps from the Bass outlet
2) worn out clogs from the Bass outlet (since I'm too cheap to spring for Dansko clogs)
2) small heels with a strap across the front (are they out of style now?)
3) squarish looking flats that are comfy but not current

The brown family
  • Two pairs of blue shoes 
1) stretchy fabric flats that have been described as "Pilgrim shoes" by a coworker
2) a pair of completely dated pumps/heels
The blue family

I also own one pair of mid-calf height black boots - these don't go out of style, do they? And several pairs of summer sandal types which I know are woefully out of date.

The summer family
About the coolest thing I have in my shoe closet are a pair of Converse. And they are so last year. Or two years ago.

So here's the point of this post. I need someone with excellent fashion sense--who doesn't like to spend a lot--to take me shoe shopping. I'm thinking an entire shoe closet upgrade is in order. We already spent the kids' college education on refinishing the basement so what difference does it make if I blow a hundred bucks on shoes. $100 will be enough for several pairs, right?

Call me!

Monday, August 29, 2011

My Sick Pig

This is getting ridiculous. Last week I was heavy-hearted, this week I'm just plain irritated. Finally Rob is out of my hair feeling good enough to go to work, and now I'm stuck with an ailing guinea pig.

Abby's guinea pig Snickers has been under the weather for over a week now. First, his food consumption decreased noticeably. Then, not surprisingly, he was pooping less. And his overall demeanor was off. He's usually a happy, sociable little guy who likes to chew on the bars of his cage. (It sounds like he's banging away on an old fashioned typewriter.) And he has a cute little piggy mouth that seems to be smiling most of the time. Charming fellow, that Snickers.

Well, being that I was busy playing Florence Nightingale to my better half and had more important things to deal with, I didn't make too much out of Snickers self-imposed diet and lack of interest in us. Figured maybe the Funkapotomus had paid a visit to him too. But over the weekend, our piggy gave us more cause for concern:
  • General lethargy; he just laid there and looked at us with sad, crusty eyes
  • Sneezing and coughing
  • Heavy breathing (particularly noticeable while we were all sleeping as one big cozy family in the basement during Irene)
Abby was terribly upset by Snickers decline, and since it takes a lot to upset Abby (she's the stoic one in this family), I decided it was time for action.  Before going to bed last night I made the mistake of researching guinea pig illnesses online, and it was dismal as hell wasn't encouraging. Based on his symptoms, I diagnosed Snickers with an Upper Respiratory Infection, but the website noted that a sick guinea pig rarely gets well. I slept lousy, dreaming of guinea pig funerals, got up this morning and was on the phone by 8 a.m. making a most likely futile appointment with the vet.

Two hours (1.5 of which were spent in the waiting room), a massive allergy attack, and $115 later, I'm here with a hopefully recovering Snickers who endured a force feeding of baby food, a thermometer you-know-where, a front teeth trimming (?), a nail clipping, and a fluid injection into his side. I came home equipped with a small mammal pharmacy, including:
  • Antibiotics and a dropper to dispense it 
  • Yogurt (with dropper) to feed him after the antibiotics so he doesn't get diarrhea
  • Jars of carrot baby food and a dropper to use for feedings every six hours
  • A tube of nutrient gel to mix into the carrots
  • Eye drops
  • Broccoli (which he'll have to share with us)
I drew the line at the Vitamin C tablets she wanted me to crush up and mix into his food. Vitamins are expensive. 

Let's just say this is more than I would do for most of my family members people I know.

The bottom line is this. If in a few short days Snickers is not recovered, chances are slim that he will get well. And to be honest, I'd really miss him. And more than that, I hate to see Abby cry. So let's all say a prayer for the little guy, okay? 

Our friend, Snickers, pretending to eat for the camera

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Joy and Pain

Despite frequent personal visits from the Funkapotomus, my overall outlook on the world is relatively sunny. Or at least partly sunny with just a small chance of showers. However, for the past several days, I've had an unusually heavy heart, burdened by the pain and suffering of others. Generally my mood is all about me, so this empathetic feeling is noteworthy.

I believe it started with concern for a dear friend who's closing a particularly painful chapter of her life, culminating in the move to a new home. Even though new beginnings can be a wonderful thing, they're stressful nonetheless. My heart is also heavy for her parents who only recently brought their disabled adult son home after six weeks in the hospital. In what are supposed to be their golden years they're learning how to attend to his challenging medical needs, leaving them physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually spent. There's only so much that meals from friends can do to ease their troubles.

For the past four days I've had my own experiences with care-giving and I can tell you it's no picnic. Rob's been laid up with severe back pain and I've tried to play nurse, a role for which I'm not particularly well suited. Nor is the skimpy nurse's outfit my style, but apparently it cheers him up. Anyway, Rob is hurting in a big way and it hurts me to see him in this condition.

As bad as Rob's feeling, I expect it's nothing compared to the incomprehensible emotional suffering of several local families who've experienced tragic losses in the past week. In South Jersey, four high school football players were killed in a car accident, and much closer to home (in our own school family), a financially distraught father took his own life. On top of that, a work colleague's 67-year-old mother is on life support after being hit by a car while riding her bike two days ago. And in just a couple weeks, the whole nation will mourn on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

How do we survive such pain?

It's life experiences like these that cause many to doubt the existence of God. We've heard kids ask that direct yet impossibly difficult question: "If there's a God, why do bad things happen?" They voice it aloud, while we grown ups struggle with it in silence. And while I'm certainly not about to try to answer that question myself, in my heart and soul I still believe that God is good.

I think that's one of the blessings of Vacation Bible School.

This past Sunday during worship at Media Presbyterian Church we celebrated last week's VBS. (You may recall me modestly mentioning my role as Holly Huckleberry in our Avalanche Ranch production.) The worship service included singing VBS songs, children sharing their testimonies from the experience, and a video recap of the week. Regardless of how worn down I feel after five-days worth of 2 1/2 hour evenings with more than 100 kids, regardless of whether I'm wondering if I've reached a single one of them, this service is always an uplifting and emotional culmination of the time we spent together. And the lessons learned this week were timely given the challenges that life has recently presented:
  • God is Always With Us
  • God is Real
  • God is Strong
  • God is Awesome
  • God is in Charge
Perhaps the very best thing about this Sunday's service was my view from the back of the sanctuary. From there I witnessed dozens of kids, standing, doing the motions, singing their hearts out to VBS songs. I heard little ones share lessons learned and happy memories of time together. And I was particularly touched by a young girl with Down's Syndrome who joyfully participated in it all, shared kisses with her mom, and in sign language "sang" along to a special performance of Jesus Loves Me. 

And perhaps Jesus loves me is exactly what we need to cling to during times like these. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Legs, Nail Polish, and Guinea Pigs

Yesterday I saw something on Facebook that made me feel a bit better about myself. And it wasn't related to weight loss, hot singles in my area, or the average salary for soldiers and teachers versus government employees. Surprisingly enough, I found comfort in a post by my dearest high school friend Kelly, whom I wouldn't typically look to for solace. (Our lives are quite different these days.)

During back to school shopping with her 7th grader, Kelly noted that she was jealous of how great her daughter looked in skinny jeans. If you knew Kelly, this would be laughable given that Barbie and Pamela Anderson have nothing on her where shapeliness is concerned. But anyway, it made me feel better that I'm not the only one envious of my little girl.

In the past year I've noticed with increasing alarm how grown up and pretty my daughter is becoming. And while I am embarrassed to admit it, I envy admire her strong, athletic legs and wish they were mine. Given that she's only 10, I'm afraid I may have to kick her out of the house when she's 15 just to avoid being reminded on a daily basis of my increasing age and her teenage beauty. Do all moms go through this?

There is additional evidence of Abby's unwelcome transition into young girlhood:
  • She requested our college-age babysitter accompany her back-to-school shopping instead of yours truly
  • Her bottles of nail polish now outnumber her stuffed animals
  • Monetary loans donations are no longer being spent on American Girl doll clothes, rather they are being used to establish her already popular Sticky Ducks business.
  • She no longer thinks it's neat having a funny, vivacious, and charismatic mom who will do anything for attention. Case in point, she's mortified embarrassed that I'm playing Holly Huckleberry in our church VBS production of Avalanche Ranch. This is despite all the critical acclaim and Oscar talk.
On a positive note, she still seems oblivious to boys however, there are still occasional sightings of my little girl. Last night, for instance, she fell asleep with me after shedding tears because her guinea pig Snickers is not eating well these days. Looks like I'm going to have to hold on to those precious mommy moments. I have a feeling they will become fewer and farther between.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mr. Demille, I'm ready for my close up!

Tonight I make my big screen debut. I mean stage debut. Okay, it's actually more like a small platform, but still, it's mine, all mine. After years of being the bridesmaid and never the bride, I'm finally about to get my big break. Tonight, yours truly is starring in the role of Holly Huckleberry in Avalanche Ranch!

Growing up I wanted to be Connie Chung, a photojournalist for National Geographic, or a Broadway star. I never took this Broadway ambition very seriously given my two left feet and lack of transportation to theater rehearsals, but I've never forgotten my dreams of the Great White Way. My teen years were a blur of barely worth mentioning theater appearances. Guys & Dolls. Leader of the Pack. Cinderella. And I would have nailed the role of Glinda the Good Witch in Wizard of Oz if I'd been able to accept the part. (I had tried out without parental approval. Some kids sneak smokes or drinks; I sneaked a musical audition.) But the past is behind me and I'm ready to make my mark!

Signs of my future stardom were evident most recently when I stole the show as the Evergreen Tree in the children's Christmas Eve service at Media Presbyterian Church. From there, it was only a matter of time until the powers that be recognized my potential and asked me to take on an even greater role in Vacation Bible School. See, each day of our week-long summer VBS program features an impressively high caliber opening and closing skit. To date, the best roles have always gone to the boys (the Presbyterian Church is very male-centric). They've played alligators, mad scientists, pirates, and a masked cheese bandit. This year, however, estrogen will take its place on center stage as I, Holly Huckleberry, blaze a new trail for drama queens everywhere.

Let me quickly introduce you to Holly (so she can get back to practicing her lines). Holly is a lonely little cowgirl with a sad smile, boots that are too big, and hair that's not quite long enough to braid. She's a newcomer at Avalanche Ranch and on her first night in town shows up at the Founder's Party without a gift. She's feeling just awful but as luck would have it, she's about to learn a valuable lesson at VBS that will turn her frown upside down! The rest of the week finds Holly fishing with the boys on Founder's Lake, dodging a mud storm at the Ranch, and ultimately committing a grave sin in the name of s'mores (yes, you read that right). It's an action-packed week, full of drama and suspense.

If you're in Delaware County, PA, I encourage you to bring your young 'uns out to Media Presbyterian Church at 6:00 p.m. tonight for the kick off of Avalanche Ranch and the debut of moi as Holly Huckleberry. Oh, and the kids will probably learn some stuff about God and Jesus, too. Bonus!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

We may have already talked about this (and a heck of a lot of good it did)

Dear Ian and Abby –

Back in April, when we returned from Spring Break, we had "the talk," a family discussion in which I expressed my need for more assistance around the house. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened quite like I hoped it would. For the most part, you still don't do shit around here your work detail has included emptying the dishwasher and putting away your clothes. And even those small tasks require me to nag ad nauseam multiple reminders.
The additional jobs I asked you to help with have been basically forgotten:
  • Wiping the table after meals
  • Rinsing dishes and put them in the dishwasher
  • Picking up after yourselves (when you get something out, put it back where it belongs)
  • Bringing in the empty garbage cans on trash day (without being asked)
You can see how short that list is; I really don’t think I’m asking too much, particularly when I add up the value of the freakin' electronics in this household. The electronics that I don't play with, by the way. I won’t go into the whole bit about how I never would have told my parents to “wait” or even boldly said "no" when asked to do something. I won't mention that I never would have gotten away with the consistent whining or blatant ignoring of requests directives, from my parents. But I realize that’s my fault. I’ve allowed you both to get away with that insubordinate crap for years, and now I’m finding it difficult to change your behavior. Only when I show signs of mental or emotional collapse do I get the support I'm looking for around here.
Given that I have done the bulk of the work I requested of you this summer, I am now going to issue this assignment: On Friday, after we have returned from another special outing for you both (Globetrotters, boardwalk rides, and beach), you are going to spend as long as it takes (in other words, all day if necessary) to thoroughly clean your bedrooms. “Thoroughly” is defined as the following:
  • Picking up everything that doesn’t belong on the floor (ex: clothes, nail polish, baseball cards, video games, shopping bags, duffel bags, backpacks, books, posters, water bottles, food items, etc.) and disposing of it properly or putting it where it belongs.
  • Clearing out what doesn’t belong under your bed or between the wall and your bed; see list above. The only things that belong there are large items like artwork, chalkboards, plastic bins, and dust bunnies.
  • Removing everything other than knick knacks (decorative items) from the tops of your tables, nightstands, and dressers. This includes clothes, dirty tissues, water bottles, food wrappers, paper, books you aren’t reading, etc.
  • Emptying suitcases, duffel bags, backpacks, etc. that probably still contain items from summer trips. Check out the ones thrown in your closets as well. Any that are filled with rotted food, moldy bathing suits, or dead animals, should be immediately taken to the trash. And I mean the big trash can outside.
Under no circumstances will “cleaning” take the form of shoving miscellaneous items into already over-flowing drawers in which they don’t belong, or throwing them into your closet so they’re out of view. Such attempts at cleaning will result in beatings until morale improves beatings until shit gets done right additional unpleasant assignments like scrubbing the driveway, cleaning the oven, and using a toothbrush to clean the grout between the bathroom tiles.

Until your bedrooms are cleaned to my satisfaction, there will be no duct tape projects, nail painting, play dates, trips to the pool, hula hooping, or television for Abby, and no Xbox, computer, or television for Ian. Oh, and my iPad is off limits for both of you.
From this point forward, each Saturday will begin with a time of general bedroom clean up. The neater you keep things during the week, the less you will have to do on Saturdays. You are both exceptionally bright children so it may occur to you that simply putting away what you get out should do the trick. If you choose to make no effort during the week, Saturdays may end up being your least favorite day of the week.

Given the vastness of the project before you, if you would like to get a head start today, feel free. Otherwise, plan on spending much of the day Friday in clean up mode (and note that the weather is supposed to be spectacular).
Any questions regarding this directive can be addressed to your father because I don't want to hear it. He will enforce these instructions or risk being banished to the couch for the unforeseeable future. And please note that whining and complaining about this assignment will not be tolerated.

Love, your PMS-ing pissed off Mom

Monday, August 8, 2011

Don't Mean to Be Dissing Swift, but...

In what can only be described as a suspicious set of circumstances, I ended up at the Taylor Swift concert on Saturday night. My plans for the evening had included a Drum Corp International competition with Ian while Rob took Abby to see Tae Tae in a Phillies client-entertaining outing. As it happened, however:
  • My drum corp show was rained on
  • Rob's client decided to send his kids to the concert without him
  • Rob's back just happened to be killing him
So yours truly got drafted into seeing TS.

I didn't think I minded; I like those "Love Story" and "You Belong to Me" songs, after all. But then I sat in stupid traffic trying to get there. And they took my umbrella at the security checkpoint (???). And I saw throngs of young girls with their super short jean shorts and their cowboy boots and they made me feel old. And I sat through one boy band followed by some rockabilly band. And I waited another 30 minutes after they finished for the main attraction to appear.

Her signature smile
And then Taylor over-the-top flirted with the audience (making my flirting look amateurish) with a phony looking smile and Bambi eyes that said "I know I'm insanely beautiful." And she shared a bunch of sensitive, "I love you guys" stuff that I wasn't buying couldn't make out because I'm losing my hearing. And she tossed her hair about a zillion times for God knows what reason. And I decided I'd much rather be listening to Taylor Swift on the radio than watching her there in Lincoln Financial Field.

Given that my idea of a perfect concert is an Indigo Girls performance, I should have known the TS event wasn't going to be my thing. Yes, she's a good singer with decent lyrics (if you think getting the boy to belong to you/marry you is the answer to all your problems), but her show was just that. A show. It was as much about the set and costume changes, the back up dancers, the lighting, and the fireworks as it was about the music. Every tilt of her head, every smile, every bat of her fake lashes seemed choreographed and artificial. Had she been in a Nashville bar, stripped of the spectacle, I probably would have enjoyed listening to her.

So many of today's performers are packaged. Put in their money-making box and dressed up and trotted out as the music executives see fit. There's little that's authentic about them. Little that says they sweated and failed and worked hard in rundown bars to make it to where they are today. Compare that to singers and bands like REM, or Bruce Springsteen or even the Dave Matthews Band. While they put on impressive "shows" it's still about the music.

And then there are my Girls. The Indigo Girls. Their concerts are no more (and no less) than listening to great music, with powerful lyrics, performed in perfect harmony by two incredible guitar-playing singer-songwriters, surrounded by a few thousand of their loyal fans.

I'm sure everyone has an opinion on this topic (particularly you rabid obsessed  big Taylor Swift fans), so let  the debate begin!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Aw, Crap. You Mean I'm 'Sposed to Have Personal Goals?

Thanks to my so-called friend Emily (who is fast becoming a recurring character in this blog and apparently my life), I have discovered yet another personality me, not her. Last week, on my birthday, Emily asked me if I have any goals for the year ahead. That was when I realized that, other than trying to have the house to myself by 2020, I have no goals. No personal mission statement. No long-term or even short-term objectives.

I lack intrinsic motivation.

In other words, I do practically nothing unless there's an external motivator. These outside forces generally include money, approval, or recognition. Rarely if ever do I strive for something just for the sense of personal accomplishment.

Here are just a few sad examples:
  • Getting good grades in school - From elementary school until college graduation, I aimed for A's. First to make mom and dad happy, and eventually because they were paying tuition. And I wanted them to be proud of me.
  • My job - Yes, I work really hard and try to excel in my position, basically because I have an overwhelming need to be patted on the back and told how great I am.
  • Going to the gym - I'm paying for it. It's expensive. To get my money's worth I have to go.
  • Obtaining my black belt - Again, money was part of the equation. And then there was the fact that I had already invested about 8 years of my life in training so I had damn well better come out of it with a black belt or two.
  • Being nice to my husband - Do unto others...
  • Taking care of my home - So the kids' friends think I'm not only exceptionally young and attractive, but also one hell of a housekeeper.
  • Losing weight - On the rare occasions that I've tried to reduce my soda, wine, beer, cheesesteak, Fritos, donuts, soft pretzel and movie theater popcorn intake, I've failed miserably. Until someone pays me to lose weight, or gaining weight starts to cost me money, I will probably never succeed.
This lack of intrinsic motivation is also the reason I have not pursued writing outside of posting on this blog for you easily amused clowns friends and family. And seriously, if you don't start appreciating me telling me how great it is commenting more, I'm not going to do this either. Anyway, as I was saying, I haven't pursued writing for a larger audience because the external drivers aren't there for me. There's no money or recognition involved unless I'm super successful, and working in publishing, I know how difficult it is to be one of those few who really hit it big.

But there's that damn Emily again with her taunting, "What do you hope to achieve in the coming year?" So to shut her up I told her about this book idea I have. Of course she said she thought it was great (just because she wanted a buddy to write with at the coffee shop a couple nights a week), and now I have to figure out how I'm going to motivate myself to do this. Maybe if I pay in advance for a year's worth of hot tea or cocoa at the coffee shop? Or I could pay Emily to pat me on the back and tell me how great I am and how wonderful my material is. That would provide both the financial incentive and the recognition I need.

All I really know is that I'm getting rather tired of these personal "A HA!" moments in which I identify something else that's wrong with me. There should be a limit to these self-discoveries...