The Lessons of a Legacy

What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others. ~Pericles

One week ago, I received the message I’d been anticipating and dreading for months.  Dad passed away, peacefully and quietly, on August 3.

funeralbig

As you’d expect, we’ve spent the last several days with family and friends, making preparations and reminiscing over old photos.  While there were certainly tears, it truly was a time of remembering and honoring the man my Dad was.

I am what survives of me. ~Erik Erikson

“Legacy” is a pretty hefty word, isn’t it?

It outlines your responsibility to pass on something of value to the next generation.

My dad was a hard-working, down-to-earth guy.  Stable and solid.  He led by example, not by force.

As a child – and later as a rebellious, moody teenager – I certainly didn’t appreciate much of what my parents did, nor who they were. But Dad just kept on being exactly who he was, because that was all he knew how to be.

And as it turns out, he ended up teaching us many, many lessons just by living his life.  As the mourners came to the viewing, one by one they shared with us how much they appreciated Dad – his honesty, his spirit, his loyalty, his skill, his sense of fairness, and his willingness to help everyone.

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Dad left us an admirable legacy.  And as a tribute to my dad, I’d like to share this legacy with you.

Things My Dad Taught Me

1. Use the talents you have. You may be differently talented than the person next to you, but if you use your skills and work hard, you’ll be OK.

Dad was always working.  He had a full-time job as an HVAC supervisor at a local hospital, and he had a lawn and garden tractor business at home.  Mom ran the shop during the day, and Dad fixed mowers and weed whackers during the evenings and on weekends.

When he’d finished a repair, Dad would drive to customers’ houses to deliver the fixed tractors, and he’d often take me along (probably to give Mom a break from the frequent sibling spats.)

Once the restored equipment was off the trailer, he’d hang out for a while for some chit-chat.  And often, he’d want to show off my skills:  I learned to read at a really young age, so he’d hand me something to read aloud – a newspaper, an instruction manual – and stand there proudly as his four-year-old explained how to start the trimmer and revealed the day’s horoscope.

Dad didn’t read well, so he was especially proud of the grades his kids earned.  I strongly suspect he was dyslexic to some degree, but back in the day, no one checked for that – they just whacked your knuckles with a ruler and told you to sit up straight.  (Catholic school flashback, anyone?)

I distinctly remember one time where he went to get ice cream for us, and came back with a large tub:

Dad:  <covering the flavor with his hand> Guess what kind I bought? 

Kids:  Chocolate?  Rocky Road?

Dad:  Peanut Butter!  <reveals flavor>

Kids:  Um…Dad…that says “Butter Pecan.” 

Not wanting Dad to feel bad, we enthusiastically dug in to the Butter Pecan ice cream.  (It WAS ice cream, after all.) But this memory still hurts my heart.  Dad loved us and wanted to provide for us, and he worked incredibly hard to do so, despite these struggles.

How?  Dad was an ace mechanic.  He spoke the secret language of engines – if it had a motor, he could get it running.

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I suspect I get my verbosity from Dad, too.

As a teenager, I didn’t really appreciate this talent.  I had a conversation with my mom about this once:  I noted that she was really intelligent, had graduated second in her class, after all, so why didn’t she marry someone smart, like a doctor?  Couldn’t she have done…better?  (Yeah, ouch.)

But Mom responded – undoubtedly more gracefully than I deserved – that Dad works really hard, he’s really handy around the house, and he faithfully comes home every night to spend time with his family.  In other words, he possessed the qualities that mattered, and was a real catch that most women would be thrilled to have.

Dad worked two jobs for most of his life, and he raised three (mostly) decent human beings in a huge house.  We had enough to wear, plenty to eat, and we were safe and loved.

I get it now, Mom.  I truly do.

2. Not everything can be fixed. But most things can be if you take them apart and really look at them.

Like I said, Dad was a champion mechanic.  There wasn’t a trimmer or tractor that could outsmart him.  And this talent expanded to household appliances, too.  Broken record player?  (Kids, ask your grandparents.)  Dad to the rescue!  Fridge starting to sound like it’s attempting to contact an alien species?  Drag it away from the wall and let Dad work his magic.

Because he could bring discarded, abandoned devices back to life, we had some unique appliances in the household.  We were the first kids on the block to have a paper shredder, and the only ones I knew of who had a trash compactor.  (And how much fun is that?  Who needs cable TV when you can squish several takeout boxes into a cardboard pancake?)

Dad was the Engine Whisperer who revived many a mechanical Lazarus.  Ya gotta respect those mad skills.  Heck, he kept his own ticker going for over a year and a half, despite the puzzled wonder of several cardiologists.

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There can be a lot of life left in things you think are broken.  I’m trying to remember that with my marriage right now.  We’re taking it apart, replacing the gaskets, and cleaning the little pieces in an attempt to put it all back together.  Once we flush all the gunk out, it just might work.

It’s worth a shot.

3. It’s OK to cry if you’re sad.

Dad came from a family that didn’t talk much about feelings.  But when we left home – for boot camp or college – he’d stand at the window, quietly watching the car pull away, a tear or two silently falling.

We’d witness this scene every time we came home for a visit.  As soon as we packed up the car and left, we’d see him standing there, at the window or in the driveway, showing us without words how much we were loved.

4. Let your inner child come out and play once in a while. (Even in church sometimes.)

Dad had a bit of a mischievous streak.  (I suppose I come by mine honestly.)

My cousin’s kids called Dad The Tickle Man, because at family gatherings, no child could walk past him without being grabbed for a tickle.

At Mass, we’d often be standing silently in prayer, hands folded serenely in front of us…when, without warning, he’d unclasp his hands, pull back his left arm, and gently shove his right fist backwards – smack into the elbow or ribs of whichever child was standing next to him.  This inevitably resulted in a giggle, which snowballed into chuckles (from everyone except Mom, who shot us The Look.  Lord help you if you dropped a hymnal.)

So, in Dad’s honor, here’s some wildly inappropriate funeral humor.  (You’ve been warned.)  

As we traveled to the funeral, my siblings and I were trying to make arrangements via text, picking out songs, Bible verses, flowers, and what shirt to bury Dad in.

Me:  Oh, your uncle says that the grandkids need to provide a bouquet for the viewing.

Daughter:  A bouquet?  Like you do at weddings?  Do we toss it at the end to see who’s next?

(She’s my kid, alright.) 

Later, at the viewing:

Neighbor:  <speaking to Mom>  Dick was a great man with a great business.  Now you should take his place.

Me:  <eyeing casket, horrified>  Uh…not right now!

We laughed until we cried.  (The neighbor man was slightly mortified.)

And at the funeral service:

Priest:  God loves us and wants us to be closer to Him.  He wants us to be with Him.  He wants you.  <dramatic pause> And right now, God wants Dick.

<insert two beats of stunned silence>

My daughter snorted.  Audibly.  And the shoulder-shaking that followed was surely captured as an abnormality on the global seismic monitor.

Dad would heartily approve. :)

And, most importantly…last, but not least:

5. There’s always room for ice cream. (And you don’t always have to tell your mother.)

This one hardly needs explanation. Because ice cream. 

I can’t stop for ice cream without thinking about Dad.  Frequently, when we were out on a service call for the tractor shop, we’d sneak off to the local Quickie Mart for a small treat – a Scooter Crunch, Strawberry or Chocolate Eclair:

Are you a Strawberry Shortcake fan or Chocolate Éclair junkie? Whatever the…:

And, some evenings, the whole family would pile in the car and head to the ice cream shop just up the road.  Dad would invariably get a soft-serve vanilla cone dipped in a chocolate concoction that hardened the instant it hit the ice cream.  (This was back before Magic Shell was a thing you could buy in the store and have any time you wanted, like for breakfast or something.)

Dad ordered this primarily so he could tease the wait staff while they dipped the cone – the ice cream had to be turned upside-down in order to be dipped, and once in a while, the entire wad would schplop right off into the vat of chocolate topping.  This proved so tremendously amusing (even though it only actually happened twice that I can remember) that he ordered this – and we watched for the ice-cream avalanche – every single time.

Sadly, that shop closed long ago – but there are plenty of mom-and-pop ice cream stands between my childhood home and the airport where I could honor my dad appropriately.

icecream1

My pick as a kid.  Couldn’t take a picture until I had a lick.

And when I got home, I tried a new place here in the Midwest – you know, for Dad.  Check out the size of this bad boy.

icecream2

Nelson’s did not disappoint.  Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl on top; Monster on the bottom, jam-packed tightly into the cup.

I indulged without guilt, self-judgment, or fretting about how many marathons I’d have to run to burn that off.   I ate enthusiastically, heartily, and with joy.  And I almost finished it all.  Even though I did leave just a little, I think Dad would be proud of my efforts:

icecream3

I didn’t bother taking the rest home. <burp>

I love you, daddy, and I miss you already.  Get some rest.  Give Grandma a hug for me and save me a seat next to you on the organ bench.  I’ll be ready to sing with you when I get there.

You can’t change your fingerprints. You have only ten of them. And you leave them on everything you touch; they are definitely not a secret. ~Al Franken

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Analyzing the Angry

Dear Family, Friends, Coworkers, and Random Drivers Going 58 in the F*(#!&@ Fast Lane:

I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge my state of mind this past week.

You’ve noticed that I’ve been on edge.  Stressed out.  Tense.  I’ve given curt, overly blunt responses to innocent, honest questions.  My personal volume’s been elevated by at least two clicks, and if I had this ability, there’s be a ton of ashes to scatter right now:

As much as I try to be an easygoing, stretch your wings and fly type, I just can't stop trying to burst people into flames with my mind:

I’ve been…prickly?  No.  More like…stabby.  Yeah.  Slightly stabby.  And while you may be feeling a bit put out by my abrasiveness, all the $#!ts I give about that are right here in this basket I’m not holding:

emptyhands

Side note:  It’s not easy to take a picture of your own hands.  Seriously – try it.

After much analysis – you know, dissecting those feelings, sitting with ’em, letting the thoughts marinate while I take long-distance bike rides and rip the life out of unwelcome weeds in my garden – I’ve identified what’s going on.

I’m angry.

So I’ve been working to understand WHY I’m feeling this way.  Because if I have a REASON, I can FIX it, and subsequently feel better, right?

Generally, life has been good to me, I know.  But there are a couple of things lately that are making me feel like a cat you’ve pet backwards from tail to head.  And it’s not for things like Words with Friends disqualifying PERFECTLY LEGIT words (though admittedly, that’s mildly irritating):

yesitis aword

George Lucas begs to differ.

No, there’s some marginally less superficial shiz going down here.

First, I was angry because we were at my in-laws last weekend.  And while you should know that I love them dearly, visiting them is a challenge because of the massive amount of temptation everywhere.  And by “temptation,” I mean FOOD.  Cookies (three freshly-baked varieties) and rich desserts and meaty entrees.  Nuts and chocolate in little jars on the table, out in the open for the taking at any time you just want a bite (yeah, right, one bite) of something salty or sweet.  And, because the hubs and his entire family – his teenage boys and his mom and dad in their 70s – are tall and lean, they can all partake heartily in all of this delicious, glorious food, just because they want it.

And I was angry because EVERYONE GETS TO EAT ice cream cake and fried fish and buttered potatoes and I do not.  And it’s HARD sometimes – especially when they have a ginormous meal at noon, WITH dessert portions that contain at least half my daily caloric allowance, and then have another plate FULL OF FREAKING RIBS for a SNACK (a snack!!) at 3:00 and I have to pretend to be happy with a bowl of watermelon.

I was mad. Angry mad. Because life is unfair when it comes to food, and I’m never, ever going to be the kind of person who can walk past an ice cream store, think “hmm, sounds good,” and eat a simple cone and have that be the end of it – no drama, judgement, or guilt.  The scale is my probation officer who commands me to report in almost daily; dalliances are immediately evident and the punishment is severe.  Best not to tick her off.

So why else?

I’m angry because the hubs has been somewhat distant this week.  That’s partly because he’s trying to be respectful of me “needing my space,” and partly because my vibe this week’s been pretty much “touch me and die.”

But he’s also been working on writing me a letter.

What about?  His quest to explore his spirituality.  (Or lack thereof.)  He’s been crafting a letter to me explaining how he feels about the Bible in general.

And I have zero – ZERO – interest in reading this.

Why?  A number of reasons:

1. I already know how he feels about it.  He’s made it abundantly clear – in his choice of T-shirts, his bumper stickers, his inability to refrain from rude comments….I get it.  I know.  You’re not on Team Jesus.  Copy that, loud and clear, bro.

2. I’m not in a good place for this right now.  WE’RE not in a good place for this.  I still can’t hear your opinions on the subject without feeling personally attacked; you’re not in a headspace where you can communicate these issues without a ton of editorial emotion; and frankly, I’m still not over the whole Ashley Madison thing, so giving me more reason to feel like we can’t bond, to realize that we might not ever again be close….Let’s just say now is not the time.  I still feel like I’m being emotionally waterboarded over here.  I need time to breathe.  Our relationship needs time for the glue to stabilize and set a bit before you start using this newly repaired vessel as a cocktail shaker.

3.  It’s hella long.  It just feels like…work.  Like writing-your-Affirmative-Action-Plan work.  Which is somewhere between <snoooooooooooore> and PLEASE SHOOT ME.

In other words, I just don’t have the energy to bring this festering lump to a head and clean up the mess when it ruptures and oozes all over the place.

Not right now.

Because I’m also angry that my Dad started hospice care last week.

We’ve known it was coming.  He’s been slowly withering away for the last nineteen months, losing weight, eating less, getting out of bed less often.  If you haven’t lived through something like this, you likely underestimate the stressful state of limbo this puts you in.

Every morning, you check your phone for news:  Nope.  Not dead yet.  And you get on with your day.  Eventually, you get accustomed to this as the status quo, and you work with it.

But once you call in hospice, you know you’re racing the final lap.  No more pit stops; the checkered flag’s somewhere in front of you.  But the road’s all wavy and bendy, like the heat mirage on the highway in July, and you really don’t know how much further you need to go before the path ends and it’s finally over.  And every day you preface work, kid activities, and other commitments with “…unless something happens to Dad.”  And people nod somberly, and they understand.

And your heart breaks a little more each day.

And the light of your soul just isn’t quite as bright. 

And the steel of your armor rusts, bit by bit, until the things you’re shielding yourself from start to leak through. 

Mom called hospice two weeks ago. Dad isn’t getting out of bed any more.  And he isn’t eating, though he’s still taking fluids.

So it can’t be too much longer.

But, so far, it hasn’t been today.

Not yet.

Dad had a birthday on Friday.  Since I live 1000 miles away, I had to mail a card.  I already hate greeting cards, because most of them are either insipidly saccharine or blatantly insulting:

Syrupy Sentiment:  Cards that rhyme make me want to shove lit cigarettes into my eyeballs – there’s a reason Dr. Seuss isn’t required reading past the first grade, people:

My love for you is like a song

In my ears, where you belong

My heart will sing it night and day

I hope to marry you someday

<BARF>

Ridiculously Ridiculing:  Birthday cards no longer read “Let’s Celebrate” – they’re all about “ha ha, you’re old, and I find that funny.”  Here comes the fire department to put out your cake, isn’t that hilarious?  (No, but if you send me some shirtless firemen, I might forgive you, just a bit, especially if they bring cake.)

And just try to find a Father’s Day card that doesn’t refer to beer, farting, or both.  Unless it’s one from the cotton-candy sticky-sweet category, you won’t find it.  (I’d insert some examples, but yuck.)

So finding a decent card is tough.  Now find one for your Dad when he’s terminally ill.  Remember, this is probably the last card that you will ever buy for him.  So no pressure.

Dad likes funny pictures of animals, so I headed to that section first in an attempt to find something lighthearted that would make him smile.

Here was my first pick:

dogs1

This looks promising….

dogs2

Um…like Mother Theresa and Jesus?  Not yet, Dad.

I put it back and picked up this one:

cats1Seems appropriate – especially when I tell you that Dad had an orange tabby named Blondie before us kids were born.  And every time he sees an orange tabby ANYWHERE, he says, “Looks like Blondie!”  (Yeah…. Every.  Single.  Time.)  So, hey, here’s Blondie in his fifteen minutes of fame, great card, let’s send it!

And then I opened it.  And HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

cats2

<snort> I AM TERRIBLE.

Laugh or cry, right?

OK, highly inappropriate.  If it were my mom, or ME, this might fly. But Dad’s more of a sentimental, emotional guy, so I settled on a fairly innocuous card with a smiling nun on it that simply said “Happy Birthday” inside.  (Because, since he was raised Catholic, nuns are also funny.  We get him the “Nuns Having Fun” calendar every year.)

And he lived long enough to get it.  So there’s that.

So that’s why I’m angry.

Because I’m really…sad.

And I can’t control feelings like sadness.  OK, full disclosure, I’m not really great with taming anger, either, but it feels more powerful to me.

And power means control.

And you know what I can control?

What I eat.

All this stress has been remarkably effective in helping me control my weight.  Today, I stepped on the scale, and saw a number I haven’t seen since high school.  A number lower than when I was unwell a few years ago and lost weight almost by accident.

Not much lower.

Not yet.

But the hubs actually noticed, as witnessed by this random text he sent this week:

text haha no

I can’t control what happens to Dad.  His itinerary is non-refundable; the only variable is the arrival time.

I can’t control how my spouse feels about things.  I can’t make him more accepting of other viewpoints.  I can’t force him into a mindset of “live and let live.”  I can’t make him see that he’s destroying us, comment by comment, shirt by shirt, letter by letter. He’s asked what he can do…but I already told him, and he’s no longer DOING it.  So what’s the point in adding to the bucket of unmet expectations?  It’ll just glop out onto the linoleum and be another mess for me to mop up.

I can’t control the overwhelming sadness.  This emotion is foreign to me; it feels like an unwelcome parasite, sapping my soul, draining my energy.  It trips me up at random times during the day, jumping out from dark corners, startling me into spilling hot coffee onto my hands.  It reminds me that it’s here.  That I can’t get away from it.

I can’t escape, but I can hide. I can duck behind something I know.  Something I can predict and control.

I’ve made myself a disguise:  hunger.

Hunger I expect.  Hunger I understand.

When you eat less, you feel hungry. 

It’s black and white.  Concrete.  Reliable.

Anticipated.

Welcome.

So I’ll wear the anger blanket instead of the sadness scarf.  It goes much better with the hunger hat that I’ve invested so much of myself into buying.

It’s a classic; I’ve worn it for years.  I don’t know what I’d look like if I had to replace it.

And when the temperature rises, and I’m no longer chilled by the icy emotions that threaten to overtake me – when they’ve been replaced by that gnawing, familiar, hollow, empty nothingness of hunger – I can take off the blanket for just a little while.

I can be a few pounds less angry.

I can remain in control.

Creative Games and Cookie Names

My son and I were kicking the yoga ball around in the basement the other day when he suggested we bake cookies.

OK, lemme back up a sec….That might have been somewhat confusing, especially if you don’t have children.

One of the things that no one told me about having kids is their constant need to be entertained.  This is mostly true when they’re little; once they get to the age where they can really participate in the fun adult stuff, they declare you unfleek (or whatever today’s word is for “uncool”) and plug into their electronics, effectively tuning you out until they need money or a ride somewhere.

But let’s take the nostalgia train to the days when they were little and still needed you.  <insert nostalgic sniff>

As parents, you have many choices of methods by which to entertain your children.

Electronic Babysitters.  Obviously, nowadays there are a number of electronic toys that can be used – iPads, laptops, your phone, video games, and good ol’ TV programming will all entertain your kids for days hours at a time.  However, society will deem you an unfit parent if you use any of these in public, and you risk losing your little ones and having them shipped to be raised on a rural farm in Idaho.

Chores.  Interestingly, many older toddlers actually find it FUN to vacuum, dust and mop. (Clearly, they’re too young to know better….)  Unfortunately, in the playacting, they tend to make a bigger mess than what you started with, and by the time they’re old enough to actually be helpful, they’re no longer interested in housekeeping as recreation.  (Further evidence that our Creator loves irony.)

Reading.  Since there are a bunch of writers here, we can’t forget about books.  I LOVED books as a child.  Still do, when I have time to read.  Unfortunately, my son didn’t inherit this gene.  One summer, when he was struggling to learn to read and we were trying to get him to go over his practice readers, he attempted to feed the books to the cat.  At the time, our cat did like to chew on paper on occasion, so the plan isn’t as farfetched as it sounds, even though it failed.  Eventually, when we threatened him with a tutor, he did a complete 180 and suddenly figured it out.  (Literally – within a week he went from barely recognizing letters to plowing through the practice readers.  That tutor must have been a real ogre.  Hey, whatever works, yo.)

Arts and Crafts.  Oh, I nearly forgot “crafts.”

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

<wipes tears from eyes>

Have you tried crafts with little kids?  If not…well, really, it’d be more contained of a mess if you just opened fire with a paintball gun in your living room.  And if you’re stupid brave enough to open the glitter, know that this is a decision more permanent than a tattoo, and you WILL be finding random sparkle EVERYWHERE IN THE HOUSE FOREVER AND EVER.  On the ceiling.  In the carpet.  Behind the fridge.  IN the fridge.  You could burn down your house and rebuild and I guarantee you that you’ll STILL find glitter somewhere, right along with cat or dog hair, even though Sir Shedsalot died well over fifteen years ago.

Anyway. My son hates crafts.  But we’ve tried.  I do have evidence of a couple of attempts.

Exhibit 1.  Ice Cream Pie.  I’ve shared this one before….but it’s worth another look.

When my son was in kindergarten, his class made a recipe book.  He needed to illustrate a favorite recipe from home. I present his interpretation of “Ice Cream Pie”:

pieno

It’s worth noting that I have never, EVER, made Ice Cream Pie.  Ever.  I asked him later why he chose this recipe.  “Mom.  It’s pie.  Anyone can draw a circle.”  Well, kiddo, clearly not EVERYONE.  Love you.

Exhibit 2.  Turkey Disguise.  In this traditional Thanksgiving exercise, children were sent home with a paper drawing of a turkey, and were told to make a “costume” for it so that it would not be recognized, therefore escaping the seasonal fate of ending up on someone’s dinner table.

So…here’s the one he made, next to the one his sister did:

Turkey I think

Now, to be completely fair, since he turned it upside down and cut all the feathers off, he really DID disguise the bird beyond all recognition.  So, super effective, but kind of missing the point.  I think.  Either that, or it’s genius.

Athletic Activities.  Since we’ve exhausted the other options, it seems that the only thing left is sports.  Unfortunately, physical activity is not my forte.  But my son is quite athletic.  First, he’s super-strong, like Bamm-Bamm from the Flinstones.  Here he is at age 7 1/2, carrying his cousin:

strongkid1.jpg

Note that the older cousin was about NINETY pounds at the time.  Hell, I can’t lift 90 pounds.  I can barely get off the couch some days, ya know?

He also loved baseball. He had a wicked arm back in the day, and loved to play in ANY weather:

baseball snow

I don’t remember being quite that heavy here.  I think I was just dressed in 14 layers.

But now that I’m in the Midwest, there are days where it’s truly too cold to be outdoors.  (Or too hot, so they tell me, although I have yet to find a day where it’s too warm for me to sit outside.  Clearly, I’m an orchid in a family of crocuses.)  So we have to get creative with the indoor games.  Fortunately, we have a mostly-finished basement that gives us a 25×20 space in which to roughhouse.  We have a dartboard and a foosball table, but you can only play those for so long, so we supplement with pool noodles and a variety of inflatable beach balls and Nerf guns to create a variety of indoor sports.

Side note:  Pool  noodles are awesome cheap indoor entertainment.  You can get ’em at the dollar store, and they’re quite versatile:  Lay it flat and it’s a border/line for dodgeball, fold it in half and it’s a baseball bat, or hold one end in each hand in front of you and you’re a human basketball hoop.  And, of course, they’re naturals for sword play.  (Well, until someone gets whacked in the face, at least.  But you normally get about ten minutes of uninterrupted time first, so balance that risk/reward portfolio for yourself.)

This summer we’re more into playing darts with the Nerf Gun (which, surprisingly, seems to work with the electronic board) and playing some version of two-square with the yoga ball.  (Yeah…this is the most use my yoga ball has had since I bought it.  Don’t judge; I know you probably have some piece of exercise equipment in your personal Graveyard of Good Intentions, too.)  Basically, you have to keep the yoga ball moving – but you can’t use your hands.  And it’s more fun to kick when it bounces, because you can lob it off your knees and make it ricochet off the ceiling.  (Am I not the coolest mom on the planet?) You get bonus points for keeping the ball airborne, even though we don’t seem to quite know how to keep score.  Second bonus is that it seems to be a pretty decent thigh workout, but don’t tell my kid that, because he’ll probably quit playing if he discovers it’s actually GOOD for you.

So the other day we’re in the two-square zone, on a wicked streak, with the score Q to ketchup or some such, when we have this conversation:

Son:  We should make cookies.

Me:  We can do that….I’ll need to buy stuff.  What kind are we making?

Son:  The kind you made last year with M.  (his sister) 

Me:  Which ones?  We made a few.

Son:  The oatmeal raisin ones.  Except without the raisins.  Like, with cinnamon and stuff.

Me:  …we never made those without raisins.  Do you mean the peanut butter ones with the chick peas?  (We made these – and they were DELICIOUS.)  We’d have to get chocolate chips.

Son:  No, they didn’t have chips.  But they were chocolate. 

Me:  You don’t mean the black bean brownies, do you?  (Yes, we tried those too.  Also two thumbs up, as long as you don’t tell anyone what’s in them.) 

Son <with eyroll>:  Mom.  I know what brownies are.  No.  These were, like, flat on the bottom.  (Super helpful clue there.)  What shape are peanut butter cookies?

Me:  They’re…like, cookies.  You drop a blob and smoosh ’em and bake them….

Son:  No…wait.  We didn’t bake them.  And they looked like no-bakes.

<insert light bulb flash of recognition> 

No-bakes it is.

So we made a batch.  And then another, because I can’t be trusted around no-bakes.  The recipe I use is pretty close to this one, except I use brown sugar, and I omit the butter and use more peanut butter instead.  (Because butter is narsty.)  Also, I seem to need more oats than the recipe calls for – it might be because I use the hippie-dippie gluten-free oats, which apparently have superpowers and repel sugar and chocolate, or something.

Anyway.  While we were stirring, I asked him what he thought of my new Dr. Martens.

boots

Yes, posting these again.  Because LOVE.

Me:  So…do you think your sister will like them, or will she totally be annoyed by them?

Son:  Wait.  What?  They’re shoes?

 Me:  Yeah…they’re boots.  <nervous pause>  What did you think they were?

Son:  Pants.  Like, cheetah-print pants.  Or something.

I’m not sure which is more disturbing:  the fact that my kid didn’t know what Dr. Martens are, or that he thought I would actually buy cheetah-print pants.

Clearly, this parent’s work isn’t done yet.  But hey, he still talks to me, and still wants to kick a yoga ball around with his mom, so I’ve gotta be doing something right, right?

Since this recipe seems to be working, I’ll just keep stirring.  No baking required.  🙂

Navigating a New Novel

So, if you haven’t heard…there’s a new book out that was just released over the July 4 weekend.  In case you missed it behind the fireworks and grilled burgers, here it is:

TheNavigatorsFinal.jpg

This book was written by this dude:

headshot bw

This is Dan Alatorre.

I’ll admit that I hadn’t heard of Dan before I started writing this blog.  But I stumbled on his writings through the magic of the interwebz, and you should follow him for a couple of reasons:

1.  If you’re a writer, or want to be one when you grow up, you can get free advice.  And, unlike most guidance that one would get from, say, relatives on Facebook, he’s legit, because he’s, like, published, and has sold actual books in real life to real people.  Good advice for free – can’t get anything better than that, except maybe the samples at Costco on Saturday.  But you have to actually get dressed for that free shot glass of popcorn, as pantsless sampling is frowned upon.  And there are no people elbowing you out of the way to get that 1/8″ piece of bacon when you’re online.

2.  He’s pretty damn funny. (Most of my imaginary internet friends are.)

Anyway.  Back to this new book.  I happened to be in the right place at the right time when Dan was asking for beta readers.  Because I like to be in on stuff (which is part of the reason I work in HR, so I can know the dirt ahead of time), I raised my hand and scored a copy.

And I devoured it.

This book was like a mental bag of Chicago mix popcorn.  Full disclosure here – I didn’t expect to like it that much; it’s not a flavor I generally go for.  But once I opened the bag, I kept reaching in for more handfuls of it.  I believe it’s listed as a sci-fi thriller – but honestly, it’s not violent, or too “out there” – it’s just a really fun, adventurous read.  If you’re one of those who’s maybe not so much into, say, zombies, and liked Dr. Who primarily for David Tennant (Team Tenth Doctor!) you’ll enjoy this.

Here’s my review of the thing:

OK, if you’re reading the description and thinking, “meh, not my genre” – think again. You need to try this book. I swear, I’m not trying to sell you on something you obviously won’t like, like beets in a smoothie.

I do most of my reading on airplanes, since I travel a couple of times a month, and this story was so engaging, I was actually looking forward to getting back on the plane so I could finish it. If you fly a lot, you’ll appreciate how unusual that is.

Anyway – there are unexpected layers to this story – things wrap largely as they should, but not as you’d expect. There are characters you’ll like, and those you’ll love to despise. And you’ll find yourself truly just ENJOYING a darn good story.

Read this, and share it with your older teens, too. (They need to get off the Xbox anyway, right?) This is actually a story my son would like, and that’s as rare as him eating a vegetable.

You can buy this book here.  For, like, $3.  Which is less than that pretentious cup of crappity coffee you really were trying to quit buying every single morning…right?

Anyway.  Because Dan is a sharing kinda guy, I thought it’d be fun to share a few nosy provoking and insightful questions regarding the writing process.

1. What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book? Weather, sticky children, research? What motivated you to plow through it?

Just one? Hmm… well, I was used to writing humor like Savvy Stories in first person but my early chapters of The Navigators had a lot of head hopping – Point Of View issues. That doesn’t fly with a lot of readers, so I had to go back and learn fix that. It’s simple to spot and tricky to fix because we need information conveyed, so we write it; then some critique partner says, “Fred can’t know what Ethel is thinking.” Oops. What motivated me to plow through it was I was getting amazing feedback from my critique partners as I wrote the story. They were so enthusiastic about what I was writing, my energy level soared and I was banging out two and three chapters a week, creating this amazing rollercoaster ride for readers. That excitement shows, too. Readers have found The Navigators to be full of great surprises.

2. Sometimes we write stories in a “wishful thinking” attempt to rewrite our own histories. Was there any aspect of this book that was sprung from a personal experience, and what happened in “real life” that differed from the book’s version? (This could be anything from a small exchange with a character to a larger wish to turn back time.)

Sure, I use my real life in books all the time. Why not? I encourage all new writers to be as real as they can and bring pure emotion to the page, and I do it, too. There are definitely parts of my personal experience that are explored in The Navigators. For example, one of the characters talks about using a time machine to go back and let his daughter see her grandmother. And he makes it more personal by saying “when she was healthy and beautiful and full of life” – indicating that when she died it was from an illness. I have gotten notes from readers indicating they teared up at that passage, and there’s a lot of emotional depth in that part of the book. That is definitely something I would wish in my own life, too, that my daughter would have been able to meet her grandmother.

I use my real life in other places, too, like the dad of the heroine is a pretty strict and powerful type guy, but as soon as his daughter walks in he smiles from ear to ear and gives her a big bear hug and asks if she had breakfast. It’s just very obvious to everybody that the dad really, really loves his daughter – and of course that’s absolutely true of my own life, too. Writers need to do that stuff. Readers sense the humanity and are right there with you. They love it.

3. When your kids get older, what do you hope they’ll say about your works?

In my bestselling series, Savvy Stories, I wrote in the dedication that I hope one day I can hand my daughter a stack of books and say, “Here, this is all about how much fun it was to hang out with you when you were a baby/little kid.” For my novels, I hope she sees that some of the characters are people she knows. The Navigators is a sci-fi thriller but it has a elements that everyone will enjoy, like the dad who loves his daughter very much. I hope my daughter sees the love for her expressed on the page. Readers love their relationship.

4. What was the one food or beverage that made this book possible? BE SPECIFIC.

I’m sure most authors feel as though they are fueled by coffee. Others might cop to imbibing in and adult beverage on occasion. I really don’t do either of those but not for any good reason; I just don’t like the taste of coffee and I don’t drink alcohol very much. However, there is a particular brand of peach mango green tea that I drink by the gallon and if they ever want a product placement endorsement, I am completely open to it because I chug that stuff. Also chocolate. Very good for the creative spirit.

So, there you have it, folks.  Everything you didn’t realize you HAD to know about Dan Alatorre.  So, even though he’s clearly partially broken (no coffee?  seriously?) you should look up his stuff.

Dan’s Amazon Author Page

Dan’s Helpful Blog

Dan’s Most Excellent Books

Where to score YOUR copy of The Navigators

Thanks for playing along, Dan.  (He’s a good sport.)  Can’t wait to read Poggibonsi!

Love in Limbo

A few months ago, this popped up in my reader, from Soul in Surreal’s blog:

“You can’t fall back in love with someone. Because you can’t love the same person twice. Because they’re not the same person. They were changed by the first time you loved them. And they were changed by the first time you left them too. So when you lean in close and whisper that you’re falling in love with me again, after all this time, make sure you’re in love with me, and not the memories.” – Danielle via Scribblingsanddust

(The post was here; it references this Facebook post.)

I had bookmarked the link back in January because with all the stuff going on with the hubs, it hit pretty close to the heart.

Fast forward to July, and I’ve been spinning my wheels in the mud, investing a lot of head energy to this whole mess, and getting nowhere.

evjb8

Source: Imgflip

So how’s that there marriage goin’, Katie? 

Well….

We’re certainly pleasant and courteous to each other.    He’s kind and attentive.  He’s as affectionate as I allow him to be, giving me hugs often, and respecting my space when I circle back into myself and withdraw.  He’s willing to do whatever it takes to rebuild my trust, and is completely open to my inquiries about where he’s been, who he’s seen, what his email is about, and where he’s off to next.  And I should add that he’s more than helpful around the house – he gasses up the mower and puts the dishes away without me having to ask him.

So…it’s quiet, for the most part…as long as neither religion nor politics comes up as a subject.  When they do, the water begins to seep out between the carefully mended cracks in the vase, highlighting its weaknesses through the imperfect repairs and uneven layer of glue.

And before I get into this, let me state again that I 100% support varying religious, spiritual, and secular belief systems. I’m all about Team Coexist.  What I’m not a fan of is dissing the sincerely held beliefs of others.  Express what YOU believe, and let’s talk about it over whiskey coffee respectfully, like grownups.  But let’s not use it as a platform from which to spew hate, okay Skippy?  I’m not playing if you want to sling mud at the heartfelt beliefs of others.  Tell me what YOU believe for YOU; don’t sully the landscape by flinging verbal flaming poo bags around highlighting why you think everybody else is wrong.  All that does is add big brown spots to your lawn. It doesn’t help anything good grow.

So the other day, I surprised the hubs by coming home early.  (Spoiler:  this never ends well, does it?) He was corralling his boys to drop them off somewhere, and as he saw me, his hands went to cover the front of his shirt.

He was wearing…this:

easter_bunny_jesus_santa_cl_tshirt

Source:  Cafepress

His rationale, which he threw at me while boys were flying out the door, was “I thought I wouldn’t see you today.”  I guess in his mind, that makes it okay.

In my mind…notsomuch.

And yesterday, we were outside lighting sparklers, when I noticed that his car was sporting a new bumper sticker:

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Source:  Zazzle

He was standing a little awkwardly behind his vehicle, blocking it with his body.  (Exactly how long did you think that plan would be effective?)  It’s like shielding the shirt design.  Why have it, then?  You want to tell the world something you don’t want your wife to know?

Why should that be okay?

And what do I do now?

I already don’t touch the shirts.  If they’re in the laundry, they stay there until he washes them himself.  It’s a bit passive-aggressive, to be sure.  But since he’s a grownup, I have zero obligation to do ANY of his laundry, so while I’ll happily chuck in boxers and socks if I’m doing a load anyway, I’m not enabling your hate for you.  (And yes, I could easily stage a horrific bleach accident.  I’ve considered it.  But destroying his property won’t resolve the issue; it’ll just escalate it.  I mean, I have a lot of really nice shoes.  Plus, he’ll just buy more shirts, right?  And the whole point isn’t the laundry, it’s why he feels the need to HAVE these shirts in the first place.  So.)

I don’t want to ride in his car any more.  He has a few other stickers on there that I don’t like.  In the past I’ve bitten my tongue for the sake of convenience.  And, admittedly, I’ll probably do that again.  But for now, I ain’t setting foot in it.  Because when I get out of that car, everyone will assume that the language on it represents me.  And while I shouldn’t care what others think, I’m just not okay being associated with that.

The hurtful part of this is that we already had this discussion fifteen months ago.  I told him that his need to rip apart the beliefs of others was spending a lot of my emotional currency…and I was going broke.

At the time, he cared enough to throw out the really offensive shirts.  Back then, I meant enough to him that my beliefs were worthy of some respect – at least in my own home.

Now, though, either he’s forgotten what I said, or his needs are screaming so loudly that mine can no longer be heard.  And I’m dangerously close to filing a mental Chapter 11 on it all.

He did suggest a couple of weeks ago that we try counseling again.  Would it help with this spiritual disconnect?  I can’t say until I try it, right?

It is a good sign…but these days, I’m not sure a sign is enough.

One of the questions we’re told to ask ourselves when questioning a relationship is “is your life better/easier with him or without him?”  And I’ll readily admit that he makes my life much easier.  He shares the household chores – and the bills.  It’s super handy to have someone around who can open stubborn jars of salsa and stop your bike pedal from making that weird noise, and it’s awesome to find that sometimes the Clean Dish Fairy has visited your kitchen AND put all the silverware away.

But are convenience and apathy a solid reason to stay married?

Or are they just enough reason to try?

The bottom line here is that the hubs and I are just very different people.  We’ve known that from the get-go, but it wasn’t challenging the relationship until about a year and a half ago, when he changed the dynamic; he changed the rules and started blowing whistles and I no longer understand who’s on my team or where the ball needs to go.

I no longer know who I married, exactly.  Was it this guy? The one I’m with now?  Because I would never marry a man who had this car and those shirts and this…hate.  Yet…I did marry him.  Was he just pretending before, suppressing who he is for the sake of winning my heart?   And if so, I don’t want to be with someone who has to pretend to be someone he is not, do I?

I’m still in love with the man I married.  Or the man I thought I married.  I’m just not sure I’m married to him anymore.  I don’t know if I ever was.

You can’t lose something you’ve never had, can you?

But…we had something great once.  We had that once-in-a-lifetime BOND.  The stuff of fairytales.

Didn’t we?

I’m hoping it’s like one of those times where you think you lost your car keys, and after looking frantically all over the house, emptying every purse, pocket, and hook searching for them, you look down to discover they’ve been in your hand the whole time.

Then again, the car keys I have didn’t ever go around trying to start other cars.  So there’s that, too.

A while ago, I bookmarked this quote from the book Full Circle by Tamra Price:

“We liked the idea of each other much more than the day-to-day reality of each other.” 

Maybe this relationship isn’t misplaced keys.  Maybe it’s more like a misguided art purchase – a bold sculpture in the center of the living area that we’re trying to decorate around in a way that makes it “work,” because we’ve invested a lot into not just the statue, but the furniture and the pets and the way we watch TV at night, and none of it really makes much sense together, but it’s a lot of work to disassemble it all and start over.

And then there’s the whole bit about…well, passion.

The other night, smack-dab in the middle of band rehearsal, we started working on this song:

I don’t sing lead on this one, so I got to sit back and listen.  And it gut-punched me right in the feels how much I miss being sung to.

See, when you make music with someone, you can really connect on a deep spiritual level.  There’s a fire fueled by the passion of doing what your soul is meant to do that spreads by doing it WITH someone.

This connection doesn’t have to come from music.  The hubs doesn’t sing – at all.  But there was fire at one time.  I know there was.  We had it.  We had it in spades, yo.  We had more passion than I had mint in the garden.  We were solidly, madly, and completely in love.

And now I’m looking at a pile of graying charcoal, poking it with a stick to see if there are any sparks left in the embers.  Because I’m just not attracted to the message of the shirts and the stickers.  Honestly, I’m completely turned off.  A campfire doused with an ice bucket.

But then rehearsal ran late, and I came home exhausted and spent, to find that the trash had been taken out, and the garbage cans were already out at the curb, ready for pickup.

Because he’s that kind of guy.

Crossroads, will you ever let him go?
Will you hide the dead man’s ghost,
Or will he lie, beneath the clay,
or will his spirit float away?

But I know that he won’t stay without Melissa.

Limbo, party of one, your table is waiting.

Save

There Oughta Be a Law…or Not.

I’ve mentioned a number of times that the hubs and I disagree on many major issues – religion and politics being the top two.

Lately, he’s been using his Facebook feed to promote some of his beliefs, largely in the form of petition requests and YouTube clips.  Which is fine, of course.  It’s his feed, after all.  Plus, to be fair, it’s really presenting as more information-sharing, not inflammatory faux-news articles with no substance.  (We all have THAT Facebook friend, don’t we?  The one who we have to hide or unfollow during politics season because all that’s on his feed is a sewage-filled waterfall of grammatically and factually incorrect drivel?)

So the other night, the hubs posts this:

Now, before we get rolling too deeply here, please understand that I like holidays.  A lot.   Because that’s when all the good sales happen.  Let’s have a look at the calendar:

January:  Happy New Year!  Go buy yourself a winter coat, at 50% off.

February:  Presidents’ Day.  Honor the dead guys printed on money by pulling out your cash, waving it around, and exchanging it for new bed sheets!  Not to mention, it’s the week after National Being Single Sucks Day Valentine’s Day, so you can stock up on an eight-pound box of loneliness truffles to christen your linens.

(Side note:  When I die, y’all best formally designate the day as something to do with buying new shoes.  If you fail to honor my passing in this HIGHLY appropriate manner, I will TOTALLY come back and haunt your sorry @$$ by belching in your ear at completely random and inopportune times, like at funerals, during work meetings, and intimate moments with your boo.   So.  Kate + Death = National New Shoes Day.  Got it?)

March/April: EASTER!  Resurrect your wardrobe with a new dress!  And if you truly love Jesus, you’ll honor His sacrifice by buying your toddler an insanely expensive, elaborate frock, complete with ruffles and bows, which will be worn for exactly sixty-five minutes while she squirms incessantly, whines about it being itchy, spills Communion juice down the front of it, and promptly proceeds to outgrow it as soon as you exit the pews.  (Depressed about this?  No worries, the candy’s all on sale tomorrow.  Stock up on chocolate-covered therapy and gnaw the shiz outta those bunny ears.)

May:  Memorial Day!  Time to honor those who died while they served by grilling processed meat tubes in your new summer duds!  Never mind that they were all made in China.  (The clothes.  Not the hot dogs.  Although I make no guarantees if you bought your pseudo-food at Discount Dollar Dump.)

July:  Independence Day!  The US emancipated itself from Mom and Dad and celebrated by throwing a kicka$$ party and lighting things on fire.  (Come on, when YOU were sixteen, you’d have treated newfound freedom exactly the same way.)  Oddly, this seems to be the time of year for appliance and mattress sales.  While I could insert a few too-easy-and-tasteless jokes about fireworks and mattresses, I’m still scratching my head over appliances.  So I Googled, and found a few examples of why one might need something like a new microwave after the holiday:

September:  Labor Day.  We celebrate working Americans by kicking the kids off the Xbox and shipping them back to school – in new clothes, of course, as well as new backpacks and new shoes (And you know how THAT goes.  One for you, two for me….)

Christmas:  Ah…the season of greed and debauchery, where we all get sucked into the annual quagmire of buffets, potlucks, stilettos, and family obligations.  We cram an entire year’s worth of guilt and unmet expectations into this six-week period, eating and buying pretty much everything that isn’t Gorilla Glued to the floor.  The shopping season used to start on the day after Thanksgiving; now it pretty much starts on Thanksgiving Day and runs through January 2, at which point we start the year over again.

But we were talking about voting, not shopping.

I can certainly agree that not enough people exercise their right to vote.  A pathetic 57.5% of eligible voters showed up for our last big election in 2012.

And one might sit and wonder why.

And that same person might think, “Hey!  I’ll bet it’s because people are too busy.  So let’s give everyone the day off so more people vote!”

And this right here is a prime example of one of those things that SOUNDS simple…but once you look at execution, is WAY more complicated than you’d think.

First, declaring a “national holiday” only means that banks and the government will be closed. And your mail won’t be delivered.  (Which is super annoying, because you’ll invariably forget that there’s no mail that day, and check anyway.  Even though there’s never anything you really WANT in the mail.  Unless it’s your birthday or something, 99% of mail goes right in the recycle bin.  Yet, most of us are still looking in there every day, regardless, as if one day the Mail Genie will appear and grant us three winning entries to Publisher’s Clearing House.) 

Think about it…who stays open on holidays?  Well, there’s nursing homes and hospitals, of course.   Then you’ve got the service industries, like restaurants.  Don’t think for a moment that Taco Bell and Mickey D’s will lose a day of revenue over this – I mean, you gotta eat more than ya gotta vote.  Transportation will be running, as well.  Cab drivers will work. Buses will run (they HAVE to, or how will people GET to the polling station?)  Planes won’t be grounded, either.  They fly every day, Christmas and Thanksgiving included.  And, because everyone gets along so well when discussing the merits of their candidates, I sure hope the police station stays open, too.

And let’s ask ourselves something:  If you find yourself with a day off mid-week, how many of you are really going to spend it voting?  In the US, we get so few days off from work – with no mandatory leave whatsoever – will we be motivated to spend those precious, cherished free hours waiting in line to cast a vote for one of two blowhards we’re not terrifically enthused about?  Oh, and remember, because it’s a holiday, daycare’s closed, so you’ve got your kids in tow.  But don’t worry, everyone else’s sticky, rambunctious offspring will be there, too.  THAT can only end well.  <eyeroll>  I suspect, though, if we’re completely honest with ourselves, many of us will use the day to recharge – we’ll sleep in, get a pedicure, have a late lunch, and yes, go shopping – instead of “wasting” half of it at the polling station.

Another thing to remember:   just because a day is a holiday doesn’t mean anyone has to be paid for that day.  No employer is obligated to pay for hours not worked.  There are some limited exceptions, of course, like jury duty pay in some states, paid leave for bone marrow donation in Minnesota , and the many states and cities providing for paid sick leave.  (Note that this shiz is pretty much changing daily, so if you’re trying to find the current law for your location, Google it.) 

Now, let’s say that you work for an employer who DOES decide add this new holiday to the list of paid holidays.  Even if an employer added this as a paid holiday, most of their part-time workers wouldn’t be eligible, because part-time employees usually don’t get benefits. So you lose a day of pay if you’re a part-time person and your employer closes, generally.  And who’s working part-time hours?  Well, a lot of people:

OK, full disclosure:  I have no clue what this graph means.  But it looks rather patriotic, dontcha think?  Anyway, as an example, Wal-Mart has a ton of part-time employees who theoretically wouldn’t be eligible for holiday pay…but they’re also not likely to be closed on Election Day, either.  Heck, they were open on Thanksgiving Day last year.  I know because I went.  (Yes, I recognize that this makes me part of the problem.)  They had cops there at the ready to break up the anticipated brawls over crappy TVs, but sadly, it was a complete snoozefest.  I was sorely disappointed at the general civility and lack of WWE antics.  Come ON, America.  HAVE WE LOST ALL SENSE OF TRADITION?

Ah, well.

Another thing to consider here is that many states already have laws in place allowing time off to vote. Some states even require that you get paid time off to vote.  So what happens to those laws if the President declares a national holiday?  I imagine they won’t be officially repealed, but they certainly could be.  At the least, they’d be largely redundant.  And it might be cheaper for an employer to close – and pay no one for the day, because they don’t have to – than to try to stay open and schedule everyone around their voting activities.

With all that said, employees DO need to understand their rights around voting, and pursue remedies if they’re discouraged from doing so.  A lot was sacrificed to GIVE you this right, and the best way to honor those efforts is to cast your ballot.

Source:  Truthdig

But if we DO get a holiday out of the deal, I promise I won’t judge you for exercising your rights in your new Dr. Martens.     (Because I only judge Crocs.  But don’t let that keep you from voting.)

boots

These boots were made for votin’….

Have a great 4th, peeps! <insert fireworks and sparklers>

June Was Blingin’ out All Over

Since you’re all quite figuratively dying for an update….

No.  The landscaping isn’t done yet.

But it’s not due to lack of effort…if by “effort” you mean I glance at the stack of edging rocks collecting pollen beside my driveway every day when I’m tooling into the garage after work wondering what’s for supper.

In my defense, there’s been a bunch of other shiz going on this past month, too.

First up – I had a birthday.  (Shout out to my fellow Gemini peeps.)  Now, normally, this would be largely a non-event.  I’m not one who needs a huge fuss on her birthday.  I mean, first of all, I’m probably dieting, so it’s not like I’m getting any actual cake, right?  For the most part, I’m happy just getting a few cards, and having one day with a steady stream of Facebook notifications from folks who but for the gift of technology would neither know (nor care) about your special day.

And if you remember, last year’s birthday was kind of a bust.  I didn’t get even a mention of the day from the hubs.

(Side note:  This year, he did remember to at least wish me a happy birthday.  Still waiting for that card.  So much for managing my own expectations, I guess.)

This year, I decided to proactively treat myself.  BY SHOPPING. Because obviously, I am worth it.

Without further ado, I bring you the 2016 Birthday Loot Review.

**NOTE:  Men and non-shoppers can scroll down to the next bold green words.**

Since I shop a lot (A hella lot.  Hello, my name is Kate, I have A Problem) I have quite a few store-branded credit cards.  Now, if you use these cards, you absolutely HAVE to pay them off in full every month, because they charge an astronomical interest rate that will make your $50 sweater purchase rival the national debt in a matter of months.  But, as a token of gratitude for your money patronage, many of them send you “Free Gift on Your Birthday” coupons.  Usually it’s $10-15 off any purchase – no minimum.  So, at that point, it’s Game On! to see how much you can bag for essentially free.

Here’s my $15 Free Loot from The Limited.  (Total for both:  $14.71.  Yes, I did leave 29 cents on the table.  I promise I’ll try harder next year.)

bdayshop2bdayshop3

I still have $15 at NY & Company and Ann Taylor to use before the end of the month.  CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.  Yay free stuff! 

I also spent a day at one of the regional art (read: jewelry) fairs.  We happened to have three local shows going on at the same time (because we hippies are into crafts, yo) so we opted for the slightly more rural locale in a nearby quaint river town.

And by “quaint,” I mean:

SWsign1

That’s…a little TOO quaint. DOWN WITH OVERAPOSTROPHICATION!

SWsign2

I didn’t eat here. But HAHAHAHA <snort>

Bonus:  It was cloudy and threatening rain, so it wasn’t too crowded.  Makes it MUCH easier to paw through everything when you’re not elbowing other shoppers out of the way and stroller-dodging the strapped-down rug rats.

SWart

With the weather on my side, it didn’t take me long to walk away with some new bling.

First score:  two necklaces.

On this one, the artist made all the beads by hand.  Some were forged, some were polished, some were hand-twisted, others were…uh…baked?  X-rayed?  Spelunked?  Anyway, it’s super cute and goes with everything:

SWshop2

This one was probably made in China, but I don’t give a rip because PRETTY (and goes with everything ELSE):SWshop3

This hand-drawn sketch is for my daughter’s room, because she has a thing for pie:

And this shawl was on the clearance rack in a tourist shop…not a bad $12 find, especially if your favorite color’s orange!

SWshop4

Wanna place bets on how long my cats take to demolish the fringe on this baby?

BUT WAIT!  THERE’S MORE!  (Guys, don’t come back yet.  Keep scrolling.)

I also treated myself to some new nose bling.  And I NEED to share this jeweler with you, because her stuff is FABULOUS.  I was hunting around Etsy looking for pieces that don’t look like every other boring, jewel-dot nose stud on the planet, and I stumbled upon a shop called RockYourNose.

And I am SO IN LOVE with this lady’s stuff.

I had previously acquired these:

bdayshop1

Clockwise, from top:  Sterling flower with garnet; lotus flower with amethyst; rose gold triangle; malachite stud in sterling

I was so pleased with them – the quality, the size, the service – everything – that I decided I needed some more:

bdayshop4

From left:  14k butterfly; Mexican fire opal in sterling; moonstone in antiqued silver daisy

If you need nose jewelry that makes a statement, go visit RockYourNose right this minute.  Seriously, her pieces are beautiful, bold, and comfortable to boot.   I WANT THEM ALL.  (Well, maybe not the rat, but I totally appreciate that there’s an audience for it.)

While I was scouring Etsy, I did find a couple other pieces that I JUST HAD TO HAVE.  This one arrived today:

bdayshop5

He sent it with a penny from his home country!  Etsy shop: PicoNosePiercing

And this one is waiting for my signature at the post office:

This one was a real find.  I collect frogs, so OF COURSE I should have a frog nose stud.  But do you think anyone actually MAKES one?  Well, apparently, only ONE person does, and they live in Israel, but thanks to the Interwebs, I CAN HAZ NOSE FROGGIE. 

**End shopping montage.  Men and non-shoppers can resume reading here.**

So…another thing I did this month:  I wrote my first article for xoJane.

Now, before I share the article, let me just state that I’m…not proud of the subject matter.  I’ve written about this subject before, and I’m not sure why I decided to bring it up again.  Perhaps it has to do with my attempts at healing.  Or maybe even though it was a long time ago, and I have no way to undo it, I haven’t completely forgiven myself.  Either way, it’s a very real part of my past from a very dark, confusing, overwhelming time.  While it certainly doesn’t mean I’m glad it happened, you can’t exactly unbake a cake, and I got several life lessons out of it.

So I put myself out there, and <deep breath> here it is:  Kate’s First xoJane Article

I’ll admit that the comments were pretty rough – but that’s to be expected.  I mean, you don’t go writing about that sort of thing and expect the internet to throw you a ticker-tape parade screaming your accolades, right?  It’s more self-righteous indignation and flaming torches (and not completely unjustified, either.)  People reacted pretty much how you’d expect, and I’m (mostly) OK with that.

What really DID sting, though, were the criticisms of my actual writing.  (And NOW I sound kind of narcissistic and whiny.)  But…I don’t think I’m an awful writer.  Juvenile?  Sure.  Immature?  DUH.  But…not terrible.  (And come ON – Sick of CAKE?! That is SO NOT A THING.)  I’m trying to console myself with chips and dip the realization that 1) sometimes, people on the Interwebz are randomly mean because they CAN be and 2) perhaps my writing isn’t a style they care for.  And that’s OK…but, like a hangnail that you’ve caught on an afghan, it pulls and smarts all the same.

(Side note:  xoJane was wonderful to work with.  They made it really easy by outlining the process thoroughly, patiently suggesting edits to this complete noob.  Despite the icky feelings I got in my gut from the Mean Girls (and, to be fair, the honest ones), I might actually be tempted to try again.  Besides…I made $50.  Which is TOTALLY AWESOME, because I have a lot of bling to finance, as referenced above.  So there’s that.)

Oddly, the article was published on the same night that my daughter graduated high school.  (Which is the OTHER Big Time Eater I had this month.)

I was scrolling through Facebook while I was waiting for commencement to start, and saw the article link just as the lights were dimming in the auditorium.  I skimmed a few of the comments, and shut off my phone to deal with the virtual wrath later.  I’m somewhat proud of myself for that one – normally, I’d be obsessively refreshing to see every last post the moment the user clicks “send.”

But this night was about my daughter, not me.

So off the phone went, and I stuffed it and the accompanying anxiety deep into my purse.

In addition to ordering invitations, sending announcements, and taking TONS of pictures, I also planned a party for her – meaning, I co-hosted a huge shindig with her dad.  Which is monumental because we had a pretty ugly divorce in 2006 (that started in 2003!) and it’s only been maybe the last 18 months where he and I could go beyond stiff politeness and overwhelming mistrust to being kinda cordial once in a while.

But all the families, on both sides, who hadn’t seen each other in over ten years, ACTUALLY GOT ALONG.  There was small talk, there was hand-shaking, there was the exchange of genuine “how have you beens”and “what are you up tos”.

Everyone set aside the old hurts and haunts and just…celebrated.

Together.  For her.

And we had a lot to celebrate – namely, the achievements of this terrific kid of mine who <shameless brag> graduated third in her class and earned a full scholarship to college.

And afterwards, this amazing young woman pulled me aside and thanked me profusely for making the day run so smoothly.

It was a beautiful celebration of a milestone – a marker in time. A crown on the ability of her parents to work together and co-parent, and, despite being a little too human, have it turn out FABULOUSLY.

gradcap

So, now that June is pretty much over, I’m hoping things settle down a bit and I can get back to the very hard, back-breaking, gritty work that is my marriage.

<sigh>

Or maybe I’ll address the landscaping first.  That might be easier.

 

 

No Escaping the Landscaping

Sorry for being AWOL for a bit.

I’ll offer up the sad, half-deflated balloon excuse “I’ve been busy,” which, although true, is kinda overdone. But it’s finally summer in the Midwest (well, for this week, anyway) and in addition to all the other things going on right now (which I’ll write about later), I’ve been trying to take advantage of the super-warm (read:  not snowing) weather by tackling a landscaping project:

mintfromhell

Obviously, this is the “before” picture.  I’d post a “during” but it’s downright depressing.  And looks pretty much the same.

Essentially, we have a 47′ X 3′ strip of land by the fence that has transmogrified* into a freakin’ mint colony.  And if you’re sitting there thinking, “hey, some mint would be nice to have” – please, for the love of all that is green and flowering, back away from the trowel. Mint is to gardens like fat is to thighs: Once it gets settled in there, all it does is expand, and it’s dang near impossible to get rid of, no matter how much time you spend attempting to whittle it out.  If you don’t believe me, believe the THREE JAM-PACKED yard waste bags I filled with the stuff.

*Side note:  “Transmogrified” is my favorite Calvin and Hobbes word ever. 

We declared war on the Mintvasion about a month ago, when we dug out every last mint plant (and much of the surrounding dirt, because guilt by association.)  We re-dug it out three weeks ago, and re-RE-dug it out AGAIN last weekend.  The next step in the Mint Massacre is to head out there with kerosene and a blow torch.

burntsienna

Site of most recently documented successful mint removal.

This is one seriously TENACIOUS herb, folks. Despite our sub-zero winters, it comes back stronger and fuller every year.  To say this crap is “hearty” is an understatement – it’s practically indestructible.  If Comcast or Verizon had this level of technology, your FIOS would stay connected well past the apocalypse.

As part of mint’s world domination plan, it sends out underground runners that are several feet long and majorly aggressive.  I actually unearthed one that had grown RIGHT THROUGH THE TUBER of one of my peonies. Pierced that puppy clean through like a perennial Prince Albert. (And if you don’t know what that is, I suggest you not click this link at work. I didn’t know plants were into body modification, but that’s some hard-core shiz right there, yo.) Seriously, when the next Ice Age or Nuclear Fallout or Misguided Social Media Laughingstock Presidency wipes out the human race, the cockroaches (and remaining politicians) will be channeling top-secret communications and creepy beetle pornography through mint-root cable systems long after the rest of us are worm (and cockroach/surviving politician) food.

Pro Tip: If you want mint, plant it in a container. Not in your garden, or in the neighbor’s yard (hey, they started it with their noisy dogs, I know. But despite the incessant barking, you truly do not hate your neighbors, your ex-husbands, or door-to-door solicitors nearly enough to plant this herbal hellion. Neither do you live far enough away from them to do so. Trust me, the mint will find you.)  Learn from my pain and keep that botanical bully on lockdown in a solid pot on a deck or stoop.

Anyway.

Once we’re sure the mint is gone, we’re planning to lay some contractor-grade landscaping fabric down to smother any zombie survivors. (Incidentally, did you know that “contractor grade” is higher than “professional grade”? Not entirely certain of the logic there – I’m guessing it was the brainchild of the same folks who created denim sizing.) We got a 20-pound roll of it, which is enough for a double layer barrier. (Mint insurance.) As we were buying this, I found these big honkin’ staples that help hold the fabric on the ground:

In case you’re in the market for these, you should be aware that these have a special name….

Fabric fasteners? Landstaples? Barrier Bonders?

Nope.

CRAMPONS. 

I sh!t you not.  Witness:

crampons1

Pardon my blur.  Hard to focus when giggling maniacally.

I bought these over a month ago, and I AM STILL LAUGHING. #perpetuallytwelve

crampons2

And no, I do not live near France.  Or Canada.

Because we think it wise to have backup protection beyond just a single box of industrial-strength crampons (you know, for unplanned mint overflow or minor weed leakage), we’re planning to secure the fabric further by tucking it under over 100 feet of stone edging. Because, while we’re at it, we’re replacing that, too.  We ripped out that black plastic edging strip that the previous owners installed – I just don’t care for the look of it; it mimics the vibe of pairing cheap flip-flops with a business suit.  Plus, I’m hoping that since the stone edgers are flat on top, mowing will be easier – we should be able to avoid whipping out the weed whacker and just run the mower wheel right over the edging to trim. (By the way, if you garden, and you KNOW this won’t work, please do NOT tell me. I desperately need to cling to this one last dream I still have. Thank you.)

Eventually, though, we’ll get the fabric down and the edging (50 pieces, 22 pounds apiece) set around the border. Then, we “just” have to cover it with some trap rock.

I did the calculations, and it turns out we need approximately…uh…

<head scratch>

<math>

Apparently, we’re back to that weird mystery sizing I don’t get.

I think I need roughly 1.5 metric cubits. Or tons. Or one whole effin’ sh!tload. Essentially, one ground-up failed planet’s worth. (Sorry, Pluto, you should’ve studied harder.)

I’m exhausted already.

Good thing I’ve continued to work these wicked guns of mine:

bicepsodeath

Fear the fierce, yo.

Fortunately, I do have a 16-year-old boy who 1) has no job (Xbox is NOT A JOB, kid) and 2) likes expensive electronic toys. I smell an epic deal…. I mean, this is why one HAS kids, right? To hold in front of yourself in pictures so no one sees your thighs, and to do yard work? Time to cash in on #2. <rubs hands together in glee>

Hey…you know that Grand Theft Undead Bloodbath Call of Halo Duty VII game you ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO HAVE? Here’s your crampons, kid, get to work.”

I’d offer to pay him in pizza, but seeing as he’s a teenage boy, video games are cheaper. Even though his fave is Papa John’s, which is super cheap, and…not delicious.  We have all these great wood-fired oven pizza joints around us, and my offspring prefers what the hubs not-so-affectionately calls “Republican Pizza.” I suppose I should be thankful that my son’s champagne tastes only extend to electronics, right?  I mean, he COULD be asking for crab legs and a car here.

I’ll share pics of the completed project, of course.  Someday.  We’re just waiting for the next weekend with the right weather – warm enough for me to be outside without gloves, yet not so warm that the hubs starts to wilt. In other words, the weekend where it is exactly 74.245 degrees. And cloudy, so it stays cool, but not raining, of course, because mud, and not sunny, because hot.

I think we had one of those days in May of 2008.

Suffice it to say that my pile of supplies might BE the landscaping for awhile.

Especially since it’s only recently been nice enough for me to get my bike out again. My apologies for the math here, but Biking < Landscaping.  (This formula was, in fact, in your high school algebra book.  You’ve just forgotten.) I took my first ride of the season last weekend, thinking, “hey, I’ll just zip around the lake.” Yeah…no. The hubs was done after one loop, but I needed to keep going. I clocked just over sixteen miles, baby. BOOYAH. I am a stud.  A stud with unfinished landscaping.

By the time we finish this project, it just might be covered in snow.

So, until next time, here’s some gratuitous pictures of what’s been blooming:

peony1

peony2

rose1

Fire hydrant photobomb.

 

rose2

Yeah, I totally need to mow.  Or gather the hay, or something.

How’s your garden growing this year?  Are you a horticultural hero?  Who’s your floral foe?  Gimme the agricultural gossip in the comments!

Assumptive Presentment Resentment

So how many of you thought the full moon was last Friday the 13th?

If you’re on Facebook, you might have – because, if you have more than three friends, you probably saw this:

internetlies

It was on the walls of several of my friends’ pages, and was spreading like virtual mono at band camp. (If you’ve been, you know.)

But if you’re reading this any time near May 21, and it happens to be dark, go look outside.

Yep, the full moon wasn’t last week. It’s actually Saturday.

Now, I already knew this because I work in HR, and…well…people are nuts.  And we know that the most disruptive, unpredictable, off-the-wall things happen right before and during the full moon.  We track it within our department so we can ensure we’re well-stocked with survival tools (chocolate and wine, obvs) in advance.

But last week, pretty much everyone was thinking the full moon was Friday the 13th.  If you’d looked outside to verify this, though, you’d have seen the First Quarter Moon instead. (Which looks like a half-moon.  Because geometry* is stupid.)

However, nobody actually goes outside anymore, especially when what you need can be obtained on the interwebs quickly, easily, and without needing to wear pants. So if you hopped on Google, you’d quickly come up with a most excellent – and reliable – link like the Farmers’ Almanac.  Or this handy site that has more information on the Moon’s phases than most of us will ever need.  (Trust me.  I’m over 40 35 and have never needed 98% of this, nor has it mattered whether Pluto was a planet, a dog, or…wait, what IS Pluto, anyway?  A pet rock?)

Anyway, the point here is that the moon phases are EASILY verified.  Yet it was super-simple for the social media Pied Piper to blow a tune and make us dance.  Even one of my team members questioned me when I reminded her that the full moon was coming up. “Wasn’t it last week?  Facebook said…”

<facepalm>

Why were we so quick to believe a cartoon?

Because…it was there.

This face-value acceptance happens with email, too.

Back story:  I actually have a very simple email address – my Gmail addy doesn’t have any funky letters after my name.  This is because I got on the Gmail train when there were only a couple hundred people trying it out.  See, years ago, I was networking with an HR professional at Google.  She was hitting up her peers looking for some folks to try this new beta email program they were testing called “Gmail.” So I got on THAT plane early, before all the aisle seats were taken.

It’s kind of cool. I’m, like, an email hipster, yo.  <dons dark glasses and on-point denim>

But now that there are over 900 million Gmail users, it’s become a lot harder to create a unique Gmail address.  Consequently, a lot of folks accidentally “forget” those extra letters when signing up for online offers, applying for jobs, and emailing long-lost relatives.  The result is that I get a lot of misdirected emails.  Like this one:

giraffe1

???

Now, the only Jason I know is the first guy I held hands with back in 8th grade, while we were watching one of the Hellraiser movies.

960

 A man who always makes a point.  Source

I was pretty sure it wasn’t him…so I decided to play along.

giraffe2

Keeping it surreal, folks.  Keeping.  It.  Surreal.

I don’t toy with all the misdirects – there are simply too many – so I usually just tell them they need to check their work.  Like this one from earlier this week:

email1

Do I LOOK like a Sr. Ortiz? (The answer is no.  Smarta$$.)

So I wrote back – politely, this time, sans zoo animals, informing her that she had the wrong email.

She wrote back:

email2

Okay.  Word’s clearly out that I’ve been visiting psychics…but sadly, I couldn’t pick Sr. Ortiz out of a crowd of two unless one was my daddy.

I try again:

email3

First day on the Internet, huh?

Time to shut this one down.

email4

She seems to be gone now.  But she was SO CERTAIN that this email address (which in zero way resembles anything that sounds like Ortiz whatsoever) belonged to Sr. Ortiz.  Nothing I said, or wrote, was gonna convince her otherwise.

Her mind was made up.

Speaking of which….this actually happened just a couple of nights ago:

I was sitting on the sofa, attempting a conversation with the hubs, when suddenly he changed the subject entirely to share this riveting news story:

Him:  So I hear there’s this sheriff in Tennessee who’s being sued – he was using his position as sheriff to push his religious beliefs on his department.

Me:  …oh?

Him:  He posted religious messages on social media, too…and actually SELECTIVELY DELETED messages from people who disagreed with him.  You can’t do that!

Me:  <furrows brow, waits for more>

Him:  And now he’s actually COUNTER-SUING, claiming he’s being persecuted.

Me:  <cocks head>

Him:  That’s just ridiculous.  You can’t use your job as sheriff to blast your religion!

Me:  Um…<thinking I missed something>  What…did he actually…do?

Him:  <looks at me for clarification>

Me:  What did he post?  What did he delete?  What actually…happened here?

Him:  <blink>

Him:  <pause>

Him:  I…don’t actually know.

Me:  <sigh>

The hubs had received a notice of this lawsuit via email from American Atheists.  The email, which he shared with me, listed the allegations, and was essentially asking for contributions to support the lawsuit.  And yes, there were links connecting to more information.  As one might expect, they weren’t exactly neutral.

The least slanted link is here, and it does provide examples of what the sheriff posted.  There are some definitively Christian posts.  Do I think these are appropriate for a public officer to make on what appears to be a public page?  Not all of them, no.  There’s a post about Easter that references Bible verses and the “He Is Risen”message – that does feel exclusionary to me.  (I celebrate the Christian Easter, but certainly recognize that it’s mostly candy and bunnies for a lot of folks.  And if candy didn’t make me fat, it would be SO about the candy up in my pie hole.  Mmm….candy….)

<ahem>

Anyway.  Some of the posts I’m cool with.  There are references to more generic prayer, and the phrase “God bless you.” I generally don’t take offense to stuff like this.  Even if you don’t believe in that particular entity, it’s a well-wish, like “Blessed Be” or “Shalom” – it’s not like he’s saying “God smite you.”  (I am totally gonna start using that, though.)  And if you tell a kid that you hope Santa is good to him this year, you’re not saying YOU believe in the fat man dropping down your chimney, right?  (Which, when I put it that way, sounds like one of those horrible IBS commercials, and now I have ruined the image of “leaving presents under the tree” for everybody.) On that note – is wishing someone a Merry Christmas exclusionary?  Not to a shopping mall. Sure, there CAN be a Christian component to it, but our credit card bills testify to the big sack o’secular in Christmas.

Note, though, that there’s a lot of information missing from these links.  While I do think the sheriff crossed a line, I haven’t seen what he felt he needed to delete from the page.  According to this link, the sheriff says he removed those posts that weren’t “family-friendly”.  What does that mean, exactly?  Were they posts simply pointing out the desire to see more diverse viewpoints represented?  Or were they filled with F-bombs?

Unfortunately, we don’t know, because neither team is serving up those posts for us to swing at.

We don’t have the whole story.

Now, I don’t want to get into a big religious debate here.  I’m all about Team Coexist, and I think that intelligent people can have VERY different beliefs and can make the best choices for THEM.

coexist

Then again, I have purple hair, a nose ring, and I drink wine and swear a lot.

purplereign

HR approved.

So I might not be the example you wanna follow. Or maybe I am.  I’m cool either way, bro.

I’m also cool if you disagree with some of my thoughts on the subject.  I respect that you’ve had different life experiences and will offer a different perspective.  I hope you share your thoughts with me so we can have some intelligent, respectful dialogue.

Bottom line:  We can’t coexist if we can’t listen to each other.  We can’t hear anything if our personal biases work like noise-cancelling headphones to filter out different opinions.

And, most importantly, we won’t learn anything if we don’t attempt to objectively approach information.  Especially opinions that are presented to us as – or in the absence of – facts.

And this is where the hubs took his bias bus and drove it solidly into the curb.

He got the email, saw “Christianity”, and reacted. 

The sheriff is Christian.  Therefore, the sheriff is WRONG.

There were some links included in the email. He didn’t even read them.

As far as he was concerned, that sheriff was tried, judged, and convicted.

The end.

And this – this right here – is why he and I cannot have an honest, intellectual conversation about religion.

Because as soon as you insert religion into the playlist, all he can hear is the familiar tune of his mental Pied Piper, who played the song “Christianity” and watched him pirouette.

To be completely fair, he recognized pretty quickly what he’d done.  He went back to his laptop, pulled up the email, and started to do some homework on the issue.

But once that conclusion cake’s in the oven, it’s really, really difficult to pull it back out and add more sugar or more chocolate.  It only takes a few minutes for batter to chemically transform, and it’s unbelievably messy to convert it back into batter again.

And today, I don’t like the smell of what he’s baking.

Cake makes me fat, anyway.

So, today, as you’re scrolling through your many social media sites, chatting with family, or watching the news, remember your bias.

And if your personal Pied Piper is blatting too loudly, shove some cake up his flute and tell him to choke on it while you rework your playlist.


*P.S.  I used the word “sheriff” TEN times in this post, and if it weren’t for spellcheck, it would’ve been wrong all ten times.  English spelling is also dumb.

Denim, Deciphered

It really wasn’t fair of me to write about a multi-day shopping spree without posting pictures of the hoard.

So, without further ado…the haul.

To start our adventure in spending, I took my sister to this really cool tchotchke shop called General Store.  If you lean quirky, you really need to go here.  They have everything from bath and body to cooking supplies to home decor to local delicacies and treats.  And, of course, clothes and jewelry.

One of the things I love about this place is that there’s a gift at every price point – whether you have $5 or $500, you can pick up some seriously cool shiz.  (I’m filling my coworkers’ Christmas stockings from here.  I usually give ’em alcohol, too, because I am an amazing boss who knows what people want. Or because they have to put up with my quirks and periodically remind me to eat.)

I started our basket with this phone holder for my bike. (So I can use my GPS. Not attempting selfies or texting while the wheels are rollin’.  Although that would likely make for some most excellent viral-quality YouTubes.  But I have a high deductible, so no.)

bikephone

I’m hoping that if I can SEE the map while I ride, I can avoid an accidental extra five miles like what happened last fall.  (I mean, it was a great ride, but…well, I’d rather not revisit that whole scenario in general.)

I also picked up a candle (sage and citrus – I only buy candles that smell like food) and some shower aromatherapy fizzies:

I love these things.  They’re basically “bath bombs,” but don’t have to soak in order to activate. You just get ’em a bit wet and they fizz yummy smells all over your shower.  (Plus, who has time to sit around soaking in skin soup, anyway?)  I got grapefruit and lavender/vanilla, and WOULD have picked up Pumpkin Pie, but can you believe NO ONE HAS INVENTED A PUMPKIN PIE SHOWER FIZZIE YET?  Come on America, step it up already.  Can we AT LEAST get a coffee one?  Or bacon?

I also treated myself to a  few pairs of super cute socks.  (Which do not smell like food.  Or anything else, thankyouverymuch. Even though I totally see the appeal in bacon-scented socks, especially if you have a dog.)

socks

Later, we moved on to our local mega-mall.  I ended up with three great blouses for work (two here, third was in my last post):

twoblouses

Left:  Forever 21.  Right:  H&M

Incidentally, the blouse on the left was $8 on the clearance rack…which was all “buy one, get one free” – so I HAD to pick out something else, right?  Because every time you leave free clothing on the table, an angel has to eat a beet.  And beet stains are forEVER, especially on white feathers and harp strings, so I snagged a groovy pair of leggings:

ivyleggings

They’re so thick, I could almost call them “pants.”  In fact, I think I shall.  And did I mention they were FREE?  Best. Free. Pants. Ever.

For pants like these, you need this mid-calf length cardigan in dark green.  (You’ll have to use your imagination a bit, because I suck at taking pictures.)

cardigan

Clearly, I could use a camera upgrade.  But it (the sweater, not my camera) really is dark green, not black, and is pretty much this one but not blue:

And now for the obligatory bling segment.

I found two new pairs of earrings:

earrings

Left:  Van Heusen.  Right:  The Limited

And a necklace:

necklace

The above came from a store called GreaterGood – you can read about their mission here.  TL; DR: when you buy their stuff, the proceeds go towards fighting hunger, curing breast cancer, and saving animals.  Unfortunately, I only spent $4 on this, so you need to go to their site right now and buy more stuff.  Because THINK OF THE CHILDREN.  And the kittens. <cue sappy melodramatic Sarah McLachlan tune>

As you can see, this was a very successful shopping journey.  But there was still a Moby Dick on my horizon.

I still needed a new pair of jeans.

And ladies?  We need to talk about denim for a sec.

Despite the many distractions documented above, the primary focus of my shopping mission was to find a pair of jeans that I LOVE. And by “love,” I mean “keeps you from doing that nose-scrunching thing whenever you pass a mirror.”  Women everywhere know how challenging this can be.  First of all, we represent a huge variety of shapes:  Some of us have a big difference between hip and waist measurements; in other women, it’s less pronounced.   Some of us pack extra padding in the trunk, while others don’t carry any luggage at all.  And legs are not just long or short – our gams model all animals from chicken to elephant to turkey drumstick.

The array of denim options available reflects this diversity somewhat in that they all fit differently.  Despite the variety, however, jeans are the universal equalizer in that pretty much none of us can find that “perfect” fit.

If that weren’t challenging enough, denim manufactures have created a mysterious sizing matrix that is confusing and largely illogical. Allow me to give you a peek through the secret decoder lens as we review the “system”:

Misses sizes: Even numbers, 0 – 20 or so. The theory here is that these are meant for “women,” so they’re cut a little more generously in the hip to accommodate a post-pubescent figure.

Junior sizes: Odd numbers from 1 – 17. Sometimes, though, you get a 0 or a 00 in there on the smaller end. (Seriously.  00?  What even is that, and why are two 0s smaller than one?)  Generally, these are narrower in the hip than Misses – so a Junior 7 could be tighter than a Misses 6, even though 7 is generally understood to be bigger than 6.

UK sizing: Even numbers, but not the same as US Misses. They tend to run a size or two smaller – so a UK 12 is closer to a US 8.

H&M: They list all the sizes on the tag, but…plot twist!  Everything is a size smaller than you’re used to.  Sometimes, two sizes.  So if you wear a US 8/UK 12, count on needing a US 10/UK 14.

Keeping up?  Wait…it gets better.

Waist sizing: Ah, finally.  Something straightforward. HAHAHAHAHAHA no.  In the US, this is in inches. 24-36, or thereabouts.  Of course, this doesn’t take into account whether you have Junior hips or Misses hips or a Kardashian caboose, so whether something matching your waist size actually fits you will depend on the designer’s interpretation of shape and/or your forearm strength as you hike ’em north of your buttcrack.  (For the record, clearing the cleft counts as “fits”.)

Chico’s: Last I checked, they had their own numbering system of 1 -4, with half sizes in between.  Since most of their tops fit like a scaled-down circus tent,  I have no idea how that actually correlates to anything.  I think a Chico’s 1 is somewhere in the ballpark of a Misses 8?  Juniors 11?  Camp flagpole?

And if THAT doesn’t mentally waterboard you, you can visit Manifesta, They don’t sell jeans – but neither do they stock conventional sizes.  Everyone’s a flower.  Check it out:

We don’t want there to be an inherent order to the sizes, with women striving to fit into the smallest number possible. And we don’t want women to feel bad for ordering a size that society has deemed “unacceptable.” We just want you to get what fits. So to find your size, use your measurements, not society’s idea of what you should be.

(Thanks to Ragen at Dances with Fat for alerting me to this one.)

I do appreciate the spirit of their system – beauty at every size – but in my mental garden, the dandelions are choking out the daisies.

Anyway.  The point here is that trying to find jeans that fit YOU will drive you straight to the donut box.  Partner that with a lifelong battle with food and body image, and you have the ultimate exercise in frustration. (Well, maybe secondmost-ultimate. I haven’t forgotten about swimsuits, even though I’m trying to.)

To further complicate the matter, I really wanted a different style of jeans. (Because learning the second language of size isn’t enough – you need to now take art classes to speak intelligently about the style):

I’ve tried flare and boot-cut before, but invariably, they make the tops of my thighs look really wide – like each leg is an hourglass.  (A great look for an overall shape, notsomuch for each individual leg.  Especially when you’ve invested most of your life trying to camouflage your thighs behind flowerpots, purses, random pieces of furniture, and your children.)

I usually gravitate toward a skinny cut, which tapers at the ankle…but the problem with this shape is that the contrast of the narrow ankle with flatter shoes makes you look like you’re wearing swim flippers.

Formal Flippers:

Not the look I typically aim for.

So I thought I’d try a few brands with a straight leg. BUT DO YOU THINK ANYONE ACTUALLY SELLS THIS CUT ANYMORE?  What the heck – as soon as I decide I MUST have these, the entire style goes underground.

But I persevered.  I searched high and low, trying on every brand in every store, no matter how high the price tag <coughcoughNordstromcoughcough> or how loud the bass (True Religion, I’m looking at you, and covering my ears while I do.)  And I did finally score one pair at Nordstrom’s Rack (I had them on in my last post) and two additional pairs at 7 for all Mankind Outlet, where not only did they have a wide variety of straight-leg styles to choose from, they were also on sale*. Score! 

*Which prolly means I will never, ever find them again.  Ah well.

And they don’t look bad, really. <deep breath as Kate practices this picture posting thing>

Capture

My Bubba Keg and my new denim.

I realize that my sweater is all cattywampus, and clashes horribly with my super-awesome coffee mug, but you will pry that sucker out of my cold, dead hands after I am done clobbering you with it. AND THIS IS ABOUT THE JEANS.  FOCUS, PEOPLE.

And, true to denim anti-logic, the pair I nabbed at Nordie’s is actually a size BIGGER than the ones I found at the outlet – but they’re TIGHTER.  Common Core has infiltrated fashion, folks.

But they fit.  And I don’t hate them.

That’s progress.  Real progress.

This Ahab slayed her denim Moby Dick.  For now.

Until we meet again, whale.

P.S.  My sister ALSO found an amazing pair of jeans…as well as the very last pair of these in the entire state:

Best walking shoes out there.  I know because I have them in blue glitter.

airportshoes

It’s like we’re related or something. 🙂