Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mi la ropa es su la ropa!

Occasionally I feel the need to entertain:
  1. It forces me to clean the house.
  2. I can restock my supply of wine from bottles the guests bring.
  3. It allows me to remain a Leo in good standing.
Last Friday night I had a few Freakin' Angels over for a party with a purpose. The name of the game was "Clothing Swap." If you and your friends have never held a clothing swap party, I highly recommend it. Clothing swaps have all the fun of those Silpada, Jockey, and Pampered Chef parties with none of the expense.
A clothing swap is just what the name suggests. Your friends come over with clothing they no longer wear and you basically shop through each others hand me downs. When hosting the swap party, there are just a few guidelines you'll want to follow if you want to personally hit the mother load:
  • Invite mostly women who wear the same size you do
  • Invite those with more expensive taste than you
  • Invite women who have a tendency to purchase clothing they never wear...and never return (you know who you are, Emily)
  • Invite at least one Imelda Marcos who wears the same size shoe as you
  • Invite the woman with the best jewelry collection
  • Tell women with the least "good stuff" to bring no more than five items.
  • Tell women with the most "good stuff" to bring a minimum of ten items.
The above guidelines trump inviting friends or people whose company you truly enjoy. This is about scoring good stuff for nothing. Remember to keep your priorities in order.

Now you may have concerns that women thrown together in a relatively small space (a home versus a shopping mall) with lots of clothing, shoes, and jewelry could result in a melee of epic proportions. And you would be correct. That is why it is important to have a plan in place for the shopping process. I have found that drawing numbers and shopping in order is a simple and generally successful approach. You do this for as many rounds as the particularly good stuff lasts. Three rounds seems to be the average. After that, a mad grab is acceptable. You can keep the free-for-all  part of the evening somewhat under control if you have been plying the women with alcoholic beverages from the start, as it tends to dull the senses and slow reaction time. Should you sense that the women you've invited are a high strung, highly competitive bunch, you may want to hire a hunky security guard with taser who's prepared to stun those who get out of line. Tasers are all the rage these days anyway.

When the party is over and everyone has filled their shopping bags, you may find yourself with a house full of leftovers. I encourage keeping the wine and baked goods, and donating the clothes to charity. Unclaimed jewelry should be carefully evaluated to determine possible worth. You know gold and silver prices are at an all-time high, right?

If you've had your own clothing swap party and want to compare notes, or can recommend an equally fabulous idea for getting the girls (or guys!) together, let's hear it!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

When Dropping the Ball

Spring training is in full swing. For some reason, I'm more excited about this Phillies season than any other, possibly because I'm seeking redemption for the abrupt and heartbreaking end of 2011. That spectacular collapse, along with the game-costing blunders of the more recent NFL playoffs and Super Bowl, have caused me to wonder:
  • When a team doesn't meet expectations, does the blame gets passed around?
  • And how does the individual player handle their mistakes?
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We all know Giselle Bundchen was happy to give the finger point the finger at Wes Welker when he dropped that perfectly thrown pass from her man, effectively losing the Super Bowl for the Patriots. But how did Wes feel? (Besides generally shitty?) Do professional athletes take it as hard or harder than the rest of us when we let down our friends or team? I know fear of disappointing teammates is a major stumbling block for Abby, and it basically squelched any desire Ian ever had to play sports (along with his general lack of athleticism). So how do you deal with it as a professional when your salary and the stakes are so high?

I'm sure it's bad enough to literally or figuratively drop the ball, but there also must be unwritten rules for how you respond. I'm assuming your teammates want to know you're sufficiently crestfallen and heartbroken, but I imagine collapsing into a heap of sobs is not particularly appropriate. I wonder, too, does one apologize at the professional level? And if you do apologize, how do you expect your teammates to react? Do they tell you that you suck and that you totally let them down or is that just what they're thinking? Do they pretend they don't know you? Is there some form of retaliation involving shaving cream or tire slashing, or could they possibly pat you on the back and say, "You'll get 'em next time, Tiger."?

Without question, it takes a certain kind of person to play the role of prospective hero or fall guy. I, for one, cannot imagine being in a less desirable position. The game is on the line and my kick, catch, pitch, or hit may make the difference between victory or defeat? Um, no thanks. Clearly these pros are much stronger than we mere mortals.

Having never played team sports in my life, I'd love some feedback from those of you who have.
  • What are the unwritten reaction rules for messing up?
  • Does someone teach you how to respond when a teammate lets you down? If so, what do you learn?
  • Do you think the rules change as you progress from Little League and Pee Wee to high school, college, and the pros, or does sportsmanship remain the same regardless of how high the stakes?
Weigh in!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Kid Fears

"What would you give for your kid fears?" is one of the lines in one of my favorites songs by the Indigo Girls. It almost sounds like we're supposed to give something to get those fears back, but that makes no sense to me. I have no interest in returning to my childhood fear, yet today it tapped me on the shoulder and said "Hey, I've missed you. Think of me once in a while, won't you?"

I am afraid of fire. I used to be terrified of fire to the degree where I couldn't even light a candle or strike a match. Now I'm merely anxiety-ridden extra cautious around anything that has the potential to burn. I've made progress. Or I had made progress. But last night a home in our friends' neighborhood caught fire and sustained considerable damage. Now I'm anxious all over again.

My fear of fire probably has something to do with almost burning down my house as a child. No, I wasn't playing with matches like some pyromaniac in training. I was merely warming up my baby doll because it was cold outside. You know those bedroom lamps that have a hole in the shade where the bulb shines through the top? When I was little (little enough to be playing with dolls), I decided to warm up my baby's blanket by setting it on top of one of those lamps. When I removed it, it was hot to the touch and I didn't want to burn my baby doll so I laid it on my bed to cool off and went to the living room to watch cartoons.

And then I smelled something burning.

Turns out that blanket was so hot it actually started smoldering and was burning a hole in my mattress. Not good. Because I was afraid of getting in trouble, I waited awhile before telling my parents. Not smart. Once common sense kicked in, I woke them, and the day, and my bedroom, was saved. The mattress, however, had to be replaced.

One small smoldering blanket set me on edge about fire for the next 20 years. I guess time alone allowed me to get to where I am today. Or where I was yesterday. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to check the fire detectors. And the chimney. And the electrical outlets. And the fuse box. And the furnace. And the clothes dryer vent...

(It would be entirely appropriate for you to share your kid fears so I don't feel so alone here...)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lord, It's Hard to Be Humble

If we're honest, we'd all like to have a child born with musical talent, physical prowess, or intellectual advantages. The qualities we tend to give less consideration to are those related to their character. Our child's moral and ethical qualities become increasingly important -- and apparent -- as they grow. Are they kind, sincere, honest, fair, compassionate, or grateful? Ambitious, courageous, loving, adventurous, or curious? And how about modest or humble?

Last week, my daughter Abby turned eleven. As I reflect on who she is and who she's becoming, I am proud of her many strong qualities, including diligence, dependability, confidence, studiousness, and persistence. Where she just might be lacking, however, is in the areas of modesty and humilty. Abby is one of those fortunate people for whom much comes easily. What she fails to take into account is that not everyone is so lucky. She hasn't learned to dial down her displays of enthusiasm and pride in a job well done, and I'm afraid it has hurt and alienated friends and classmates.

As I try to teach Abby humilty and modesty, I'm increasingly aware of how many others are equally lacking in this regard. This past weekend I attended a performance of the Philly Pops. I'm a fan of their concerts and admire the talent of the orchestra. What I don't enjoy, however, is the ego fest that is their maestro, Peter Nero. Each performance includes a mention of awards won, composers met, and a reference to his network of "who's who." I believe the audience spent as much time clapping in recognition of his amazingness as we did applauding the music.

For one of America's greatest examples of a deficiency in humility, simply watch any professional football game and note the receiver's or quarterback's display of celebration in the end zone. These superstars have their own signature dances designed to call extra attention to their impressive feats. God forbid we let our actions speak for themselves. Regardless of what you think of Tim Tebow and his "Tebowing," at the least the guy gives credit to someone other than himself.

And speaking of the Christian community, when looking for a modesty role model, those in ministry may come to mind. You might figure those who put Christ and community first would have their egos in check. I do know clergy who fit that description, but I also know others who utterly fail to practice what they preach. I will always remember being scolded by a nationally known Christian author and speaker for forgetting to include his name on a press release about a Judson Press book he had contributed to. He actually threatened to pull his material if I didn't rectify the situation.

Clearly, if I want Abby to develop these important aspects of her character, I'm going to have to look elsewhere for role models. I would volunteer for the job myself, but given the many important things I'm responsible for because of my awesomeness, I'm afraid I just won't have the time. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Hell's Bells

It's been a long time little while since I bared my soul and shared my heartfelt sentiments whined about things of little importance, but you're in luck because today is the day. I was going to write about the importance of developing strong character in children, but that trivial stuff can wait. See today I went to the gym at 6 a.m. and I'm not at all happy about it. In fact, this early morning workout was the key ingredient in what I believe is a recipe for irritability, one that doesn't require even a pinch of PMS.

Yes. This is me.
It seemed innocent enough. On Sunday morning, over crumb cake from Carlos Bakery (The Cake Boss), I agreed on a whim to accompany my friend Lori to the gym at 6 a.m. Monday for my first ever kettlebell class. As the day progressed, I wondered what the hell I'd been thinking had moments of hesitation, primarily because I greatly enjoy sleeping; the later, the better. But I decided to be a good friend and stick to my commitment. When I tired out around 10 p.m. on Sunday night, I figured I was in good shape for a 5:30 a.m. wake up call. Of course, I hadn't taken into account the hour that it takes me to actually fall asleep or the time needed to move to the couch when Rob starts snoring. At one point during the night I could have sworn I heard the alarm go off, but when I checked the clock it was 2:00 a.m. Then the cat woke me up at 4:30 a.m. And Rob woke me up at 5:00 a.m. And my conscience woke me up at 5:30 a.m. And the terrifying sight in the mirror jump started my system at 5:40 a.m. I had barely enough time to cover the dark circles and shingle scars before jumping in the mom-mobile and racing to the Healthplex.

Enter Healthplex workout room, 5:55 a.m. All the freakin' reasonable weight kettlebells were already claimed. I was left with either the baby-bell or the too-damn-heavy-for-me-bell. And then the instructor was late. Seriously? I got out of bed and made it here on time and this guy's late? Strike one.

Then I noticed my exposed legs were in serious need of a shave. Strike two.

Then my arm-covering psoriasis began glowing bright red from the exertion. Ah, the heartbreak. Strike three.

Then I thought I was going to throw up so I ran to the bathroom. Strike four.

I was more than "out" at this point.

I returned to class just in time for it to end (impeccible timing) and was asked by friends whether I'd be back to tackle the bells in two days. I suggested they ask me tomorrow when I should have some sense for whether I will ever walk or lift my arms again. Then, I crawled my way to the shower.

I think it's a safe bet that I'm sleeping in on Wednesday.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Say What?

I just returned home from selling Judson Press books at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc.'s "2012 Clergy & Lay Leadership Conference" in Chicago. I met many terrific pastors, preachers, first ladies (the title for the wife of the pastor in the African American church), and seminarians. They ranged in age and experience from first year students to the old guard of black preachers including those well into their 70s and 80s with 50 years of ministry under their belts (or in this case, robes). I never fail to leave one of these events feeling inspired, even if I don't step foot into a worship service.

In honor of my week with these fine folks, I offer you...

The Top 10 Things You'll NEVER Hear
at a Black Clergy Conference

10. The energy level is sorely lacking.
9.   I wish someone was selling clergy robes, dresses, jewelry, or traditional African garb.
8.   How come the men never wear bowties? 
7.   Too bad there aren't any strong, leading black women in ministry.
6.   I can't be bothered with these social justice issues.
5.   That preacher really needs to work on his presence and voice projection.
4.   That girl from Judson Press blends right in.
3.   These worship services are entirely too brief.
2.   What I wouldn't give for some real music.
1.   Where's the Holy Spirit when you need it?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Back to Basics in the Bedroom

It's finally happened. I'm officially a mental slug. It all started with that damn post about the new fall television progamming. I just had to "find something to watch" -- purely for research purposes, of course. " Well, naturally I found several "things" including New Girl, Hart of Dixie, A Gifted Man, Pan Am, Up All Night, and Once Upon a Time. When added to my old standbys--American Idol, Project Runway, Glee, and White Collar--my DVR load is getting a bit heavy. Each evening I rush downstairs to the television like an addict in need of a fix. A guilty pleasure is one thing, but this is ridiculous.

I've had to make sacrifices to keep up with my viewing, namely those overrated activities known as reading and writing. Poor Edgar Sawtelle sits on my nightstand, longing for me to return to his 600-page world. And my blog? Oh, I have ideas for posts on a regular basis, but to sit down and write more often would take time away from the ole "boob tube."

Once upon a time, my bedroom was a safe haven away from the vast wasteland of television, but thanks to freakin' technology, I can now take my viewing with me. While the DVR isn't accessible in our room, a little thing called a laptop, and a littler thing called an iPad, enable me to take my mindless programming to bed with me. It used to be the only mindless thing I took to bed with me was my husband. (Sorry, honey, it was just too good a line to pass up.)
I'm blaming our friends the Andersons for my current problems in the bedroom. Because New Girl, Hart of Dixie, A Gifted Man, Pan Am, Up All Night, Once Upon a Time, American Idol, Project Runway, Glee, and White Collar weren't really enough for my television addled brain, Karen and Dave recommended I check out the newly popular PBS program, Downton Abbey. Karen, like a drug dealer, even provided me with her Netflix password so I could start with season one. It's basically a soap opera for snobs and now I have yet another addiction.

There's only one way to solve this problem, and that's to go cold turkey on TV. But since I'm not ready for that, I'm going to take a more gradual approach, something like the nicorette of television viewing. Here's the plan: I'm going to go to bed without technology. Nothing with a plug or battery is allowed in bed with me (go ahead, giggle). I believe taking this small step will enable me to get back to the things I truly love--my books, my writing, and my husband--though not necessarily in that order.

Wish me luck.