Facebook Fights Are No Walk in the Park

OK…there wasn’t really a fight, per se.

But it’s been a week and it’s bugging the crap outta me, so instead of actually sitting the hubs down and TALKING about it, I’m gonna chuck it out to the interwebz for everyone to look at.  Because I’m a mature grownup and all that shiz.

So anyway.  I was trapped on a hella boring conference call and “multi-tasking” (read:  paying ZERO attention, because social media is WAY more entertaining than the nuances of OSHA’s Final Rule on accident reporting) when I saw this post from a cousin-in-law on Facebook:

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OK.  I know this relative pretty well.  She’s an absolute sweetheart.  I like her a lot.  And for the record, she hosts barbecues, swears, and drinks beer, and she’s never shoved anything down anyone’s throat regarding what they should or should not believe.   In other words – she’s pretty cool.

I’m not put off by this post, even though I generally don’t do the whole “like if you agree” or “copy and paste or a unicorn dies” thing on social media.  Of course, on occasion I’ll make a sarcastic play on a Facebook fad just for funsies.  Like the recent wave of “post ten concerts you’ve seen but one is a lie” – I really wanted to play, but the list of artists I’ve seen live is woefully underpopulated, save some middle-school band performances and cantatas we do at church.  So:

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Anyway.  The point is, post whatever you want on YOUR page.  In my cousin-in-law’s case, she was sharing her views and NOT HURTING ANYONE.  Social construct dictates that the appropriate response is to either click “Like”, or shrug/roll your eyes and keep scrolling for videos of baby goats having a pajama party.

Right?

Well.  Maybe not, as I saw this reply from the hubs….

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Ugh.  Ugh???

Really?  Was that…necessary?

Some background:  the hubs kind of grew up with this cousin and her brother.  The hubs is about ten years older, but he was firmly locked in the “kid” role at family gatherings, so they spent a lot of time together at holidays and reunions and stuff.  Essentially, he was the cousin she always looked up to – which probably means she took these three little letters to heart.  Incidentally, she also has bouts of anxiety, and comments like this surely don’t help.

As you probably recall, the hubs is militantly anti-religion, and likes to be absolutely certain everyone knows it by expressing these thoughts on his bumper stickers, his T-shirts, to strangers at the grocery store wearing religious garb…at which point I walk away and hide behind the produce, praying I don’t knock it over.

To his credit, he’s toned down significantly…at least around me.  But now we have this not-so-subtle Facebook jab.  I felt compelled to respond – partially because his Facebook profile pic is a photo of the TWO of us, and I don’t want people to assume I’m on Team Teardown.

So.

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<mic drop>

OK, immature or not, that right there is freakin’ hilarious, amiright?  I was a little hesitant to come home from work that day <nervous chuckle> but sometimes, a good stinger is sooooooooooo worth it.

And what happened when I did arrive home?

Nothing.

Nada. Zip.

He didn’t even mention it.

Which got me totally overthinking (because I’m female, and this is what we do, yo.)  Is he waiting for me to bring it up?  Is he plotting his revenge?  Did he even SEE it yet?  (Side note:  The hubs has the impressive superpower of NOT being obsessed with social media; he doesn’t automatically jump at the <ping> of a new notification.  This makes texting him urgent messages a frustrating exercise in futility – if you need something at the store, for example, you have to reach out caveman-style and actually call him.  He doesn’t even read all his emails the same day he gets them.  So it’s entirely feasible that he hadn’t even READ Facebook since he posted.  Weird, huh?)

So I dutifully play the role of a socially-stunted preteen and also say nothing.

But, the next day, I noticed a response:

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Okay, some thoughts.

First – I read too much into “Ugh”?  Well, then, what the hell was it SUPPOSED to mean??!  (As one of my dear friends put it: “It means exactly what you think it means.”)  Nice backpedal, honey. 

Second – I suppose it’s progress that he admits we have to put some work into loving him around his <cough> outspokenness.  It’s somewhat encouraging.  Maybe some of our conversations have actually…gotten through to him?

Third – Aw, he loves me, even though I’m apparently misguided.  (I must be really hot. HAHAHAHAHA)

Fourth – I’ve read some of that book, and…no.  The reviews site helpful feedback such as “use of crude street language” and “meant to be a sarcastic rant” – tell me if this is something you’d hand to a conservative person to convince them of the error of their ways.  I figured there HAD to be a more balanced tome out there, plus I find it amusing to throw kerosene on a blazing dumpster fire, so I responded one more time:

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So how did the hubs react?

He didn’t.

But this probably isn’t because the hubs is as emotionally immature as I am, passively-aggressively ignoring the mental hippo poo in the middle of the living room.  More likely, it could be because when I saw that he had written himself a reminder on a hot-pink Post-it note, which said “check FB post”, I may or may not have given it the equivalent of cement shoes and a dirt nap in the recycling bin.  YOU CAN PROVE NOTHING.

In the spirit of self-education, I did ask a pastor friend for some recommendations for books that might appeal better to all sides of this complex equation.  Here were his suggestions:

There Is a God:  How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind Might be an interesting read, but I can tell the title will be off-putting.  And honestly, I’m not interested in converting anyone – heck, I’m still traipsing along my spiritual journey and believe a lot of things both inside and out of the bounds of traditional Christianity.

Fool’s Talk:  Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion.  This might be OK for me to review, but again, not a label that the hubs will find compelling.  So…maybe later.

The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.   Ooh, it mentions science.  This has potential.  The reviews make it sound like it kind of morphs away from a literal Bible interpretation…but that might make it palatable for someone who wants to reconcile science with faith.

Anyway.  The subject seems to be forgotten at the moment, so perhaps letting sleeping rabid wolfhounds lie is the best course of action at the moment.  Still, one day I’m certain it will resurface, so I’ll at least have some suggestions for ways he and I can learn together.

And, honestly, there’s no rush.  We’ve been getting along swimmingly as of late.  Yes, we’re avoiding some of the more tender spots, but we’ve had the opportunity to reconnect in areas where we DO fit together.  Today we enjoyed a long hike (six miles, thankyouverymuch) through a local wildlife refuge, and the spring rains got all the flowers to yawn and stretch while the trees and mosses turned green.

There were violets in every shade of purple, alongside white and yellow:

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And in celebration of diversity, some other flowers joined the festival:

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It was a gathering of all things, great…

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(It just barged in… <snort>)

…and small.

There was nothing about today that wasn’t beautiful.  It was a gift wrapped in sunshine and adorned with a violet bow, delivering a message directly on the path in front of us:

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UNDERSTAND.

Not a bad goal.

I’m trying.  And I hope he’ll continue to try, too.

Wearing the Stigma Scarf

I love scarves.

I have an entire drawer full of them, in all textures and colors. They’ve been inherited from relatives who’ve passed on, unearthed in thrift stores, discovered on clearance racks, and joyfully received in wrapped boxes at Christmas.

My favorites, though, are the ones that were hand-knit for me. I’m blessed to have people in my life who want to make me pretty things, and I wear these gifts with pride. I have two scarves in particular where I know the crafter saw the yarn and thought of me – primarily because the colors were…um…rather bold. They were materials that you really wouldn’t buy unless you distinctly had someone in mind who would actually WEAR something that obnoxious bright and colorful.

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And that someone is, apparently, moi.

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I’ve wondered on occasion if these scarves were perhaps a backhanded compliment of sorts.  Did they pick up the skeins and think, “Wow. Who on earth would wear THAT?” Did they twist the strands in their fingers, mildly horrified, and realize, “I bet Kate would. Yep. She would TOTALLY wear this”?  Did they giddily race home to half-jokingly create a monstrosity just to see if I’d dare sport it in public?

Maybe.  But it’s totally OK if they did. Because I love these scarves. They’re cheery, soft, warm, and they bring me joy. And someone created them just for me. Who cares if they don’t meet someone else’s taste? That’s fine. They can wear whatever makes THEM feel beautiful, and I won’t be offended if they don’t want to borrow anything from my closet.

We’re all unique, right? And the things that make us individuals don’t make us better or worse than anyone else.  They just make us…us.

But….

In my last post, I mentioned that things were going much better with the hubs, and that I was taking a more active role in my recovery.

But I didn’t tell the whole story.

Yes, the hubs has mellowed considerably on the subjects of religion and politics. Not, unfortunately, due to any spiritual shift, but because he’s got a new focal point: his sons. My stepsons, 12 and 14, are just starting the challenging transition from boy to man, with voices deepening and pants shrinking and sneakers no longer fitting on suddenly-larger feet. And with this hormonal tsunami, they’re pushing for other changes – primarily, to spend more time with their father, in the form of 50/50 custody.

Those of you with exes can probably guess how THAT’S been going.  Lead balloon?  Fart at a funeral?  (The latter of which may or may not <cough> have happened at my dad’s wake, and I might be acquainted with two stubborn, thoughtless children who will never let me forget it.  Kids can be jerks that way.  They must get that from their mother.)

Anyway.  For most of my stepsons’ lives, their mother has held primary physical custody, and with it has maintained tight reigns of control. Admittedly, while the hubs has been absolutely reliable in seeing the boys and paying support, he hasn’t been as involved in some of the “mom minutiae” that sucks so much mental energy, like scheduling immunizations or staying on top of what homework is due tomorrow. But he’s trying to take on his share, and while he’s made a huge effort in getting to know teachers, packing lunches, and slogging through the mental labyrinth of 8th grade algebra and Spanish, he’s getting shut out of what should be joint decisions, such as medical care and high school selection.

And the two of them have a long-standing inability to communicate effectively (read: without fighting.)  It’s epically horrific, to the point where I have absolutely ZERO idea how they stayed together in a room for long enough to make ONE baby, never mind TWO.  (Like how the praying mantis literally gets his head bitten off if he spends too much time thinking about baseball or didn’t feed her first.  Really.  Click here.  You’re welcome.)

As you’d expect, the custody battle barely tapped the border of negotiating “what’s best for the boys.” Since the parents despise each other, they were completely unable to focus on working out when the boys would live where. Instead, they hung verbal clotheslines and pinned up years and years of dirty laundry, finding faults and flaws in everything from nutrition to hygiene to spirituality to what cars they each drove and how long their emails and texts were.

The judge, of course, didn’t have time to be bothered with the parental equivalent of an alley cat fight, so he hosed them down by ordering them to attend…wait for it…marital counseling.  Yeah.  MARITAL COUNSELING.  They’ve been divorced for eleven years, and NOW they’re in marital counseling. Part of me wants to find this hilarious, but since the kids are the tragic punch line, I can barely manage a smirk.

So start with that constantly-roaring fire, and douse it with the kerosene of “Mom, I want to live with Dad half the time from now on” and “Why are you putting ideas in the boys’ heads/turning them against me/NOT LISTENING to me/diminishing my contributions/STILL EXISTING? Sprinkle on some grain dust in the form of autism spectrum disorder (both boys are officially diagnosed; Dad isn’t, but it doesn’t take much to see where they got it) and depression and anxiety (both boys; just depression for Mom and Dad, with medication all around) and you can probably see the pending mushroom cloud from the demoted non-planet Pluto.

The detonation occurred two Saturdays ago, when we received a 4 AM text that my older stepson was being taken to the local university hospital because he said that once everyone was asleep, he was fairly certain he was going to kill himself.

Boom.

It’s eerily quiet after an explosion. The silence is unnerving. Haunting.

The next day, the treating doctor ordered counseling for the “family unit.” The hubs texted his ex to clarify: biological parents only, or should the step-parents attend? She replied: “this is for guardians only.” So off the hubs went, while I waited at home for a report. After he arrived, it was clarified that he was expected to arrive alone, but she and the stepdad would both be in attendance since she had primary physical custody.

I was the odd man out. Not considered significant enough to participate in this very critical healing process.

Well, you can imagine how THAT felt.  But this isn’t about me.  (And, on the bright side, I suppose my exclusion proves that no one thinks I contributed to the “problem.”)

After a week of comprehensive inpatient therapy, my stepson was released, complete with tools, reminders, and a “safety plan” that included his wellness strategy.

This included a very specific note to his parents: “Quit fighting about custody.”

Gut-punches ya right in the feels, don’t it?

And you are the only people I’ve shared this with, except for my siblings and my mother.  Even then, I danced around what really took place, using words like “he’s safe now” and “getting the help he needs.”

No one else in my life knows that we had this crisis.

Why not?

Why did I hesitate to say that my stepson is struggling with a mental health issue, and it’d reached a critical point where he needed more intensive treatment for awhile?

When my dad had his pulmonary issues, I had no problem telling people the full medical situation in full detail.  See, heart issues aren’t loaded with connotations and bias.  They just happen, to good people and bad people and people who are…normal.

If heart issues were a scarf, they’d be a neutral color, like navy or black, which goes with many things and can be tossed atop nearly any outfit.

This was different.

For some reason, I didn’t want anyone to see the mental health scarf we had stuffed in the back of the closet.  After looking at it, I decided that it simply doesn’t match my outfit.

Suffice it to say it’s been a stressful time in our household.  Thank goodness I started that medication when I did!

Oh, yeah.  About that….

I haven’t quite gotten around to telling the hubs this little detail.

I didn’t intend to keep it a secret.  But when I went to the doctor, I was pretty convinced that nothing would work, and I didn’t want to get his hopes up that there might be something that could “fix” me.  I didn’t want my moods and actions analyzed, and I didn’t want a layman’s opinion of whether it was working or not.  I didn’t want a magnifying glass aimed at my cracks and fissures.

What the hubs does know is that he’s starting to get his wife back.

Isn’t that enough?

It’s not that he wouldn’t be supportive – heck, he takes meds himself.  If it had a chance of helping, he’d be heartily in favor of it. He wouldn’t criticize or judge.  He understands mental health issues as well as any non-medical person possibly could.

But the bottle is hidden.

It isn’t a scarf I’m ready to show him just yet.

Hmm…now that I think about it….maybe it’s NOT a scarf.  Maybe it’s Spanx. Or a Wonderbra.  YES!  That’s EXACTLY it.  It pushes everything around so that I can present my very best self to society.  It tucks and sucks the floppy bits that pollute my put-together look.

And no one has to know.  All they’ll see is fabulous.

I’m aware that mental health issues aren’t within my control. I know without a shadow of a doubt that hormones shoot holes in my stability.  I understand that I’m managing what is largely a chemical imbalance.

Yet often the scarf of anxiety is itchy and uncomfortable, and I don’t want to wear it at all.  I don’t want people to start judging my job performance through the lens of mental illness.  I don’t want my weight to be scrutinized by coworkers and friends:  Is she thinner today? Is she in trouble?  She seems so scattered…do we need to intervene?  Or worse:  She’s put on weight; she can’t be THAT broken if she’s able to eat all that food.  She must be exaggerating her so-called anxiety since she completed the 1095c forms on time. 

I know I shouldn’t feel this way.  I mean, okay, YES.  I’ll say it:  I have mental health issues. 

But they’re part of what makes me…ME.  They’re powerful spices in the Kate stew.  My anxiety and my food issues are colorful threads woven in the tapestry of the personality that is exclusively MINE.

No one else has a scarf quite like this one.

Perhaps I should embrace my individuality and be proud of the quirks I have.  They add some glitter to an otherwise flat surface.  Like any hand-crafted creation, they should be worn proudly.  Right?

“Normal” is kind of dull, anyway.

With a little elbow grease and a dash of confidence, maybe I can sparkle and shine.

The Effects of Effexor

I know I haven’t been writing as much lately.

I’d like to say there’s a good reason for that…but actually, there’s been NO reason. Life has been tooling along steadily and uneventfully. After the last eighteen months, the calmer pace of “normal” is a blessing. (Although I’m writing this from 30,000 feet and I literally JUST saw another plane hurtling through the sky in the opposite direction uncomfortably close to the right wing. So maybe chaos hasn’t left, but is lurking around the corner, waiting to pull the ultimate “Gotcha!”)

So…some updates:

The hubs and I were going through what one might say is a “rough patch.” (These are probably the same people who say that childbirth is “uncomfortable.”)

By some miracle, things are actually better. MUCH better.

What’s changed? He’s toned down the hate speech. He’s told me every day how much he loves me, that he sincerely appreciates me, that he’s thankful to be married to me. He gives me the space I need.

And we talk. Truly COMMUNICATE. Where he says a thing, and I respond, and there’s a sharing of ideas and thoughts and opinions that’s respectful and intelligent. When we disagree, we do it with love. We seek to understand. And we hold hands.

I’ve been working on myself, as well.  Because I firmly believe that when a marriage fractures, you have to cast both bones. You cannot dance as a couple and only blame one person for the fall. If you want long-term healing, you absolutely have to be able to step back and understand your role in ending up where you landed, or you’re doomed to repeat the injury when you tango with someone else.

To be fair, the blame split isn’t usually 50/50:  My ex was abusive. Or she cheated.  In no way am I saying that people who have affairs or personality disorders can shift the blame…but it’s worth analyzing the events that lead up to falling in the pit.

I mean, most spouses don’t go seeking an affair because the relationship at home is amazeballs, right?

NOT THAT THIS MAKES IT EVEN REMOTELY OK OR IN ANY WAY EXCUSES THE BEHAVIOR.

But we can learn from pain, even if all we gain is a better awareness of how to spot the beginnings of cracks in the dam.

An example:  In my first marriage, my ex was mentally abusive. Clearly NOT my fault.  But it did me quite a bit of good to study the vulnerabilities in myself that drew me to this person.  It enabled me to shore myself up so I’d better identify the warning signs and avoid falling back down the rabbit hole. I practiced standing up for myself a little more often. Slowly, tentatively at first, I found my voice and a spare backbone.

In other words:  you need to master the difference between a surprise treat and a baited trap.  Or you’re doomed to wonder how you YET AGAIN got stuck in this cold, metal cage.

I’d been trying to do some healing through this blog, and occasionally I’d take a swing at therapy.  But in the spirit of really fixing myself and my marriage, I thought perhaps it was time to get more aggressive with the Care and Feeding of Kate.

So I went to the doctor and asked to try medication again.

Now, I’ve tried prescriptions in the past. Zoloft. Wellbutrin. Great antidepressants for many people.  However, my issue really is more anxiety.  Depression meds may or may not work when it comes to treating anxiety, and finding the right cocktail can feel as randomly impossible as picking the winning Powerball numbers.

And then there was the Lorazapam Incident. Yes…”incident.”  Which SHOULD be a great story, but unfortunately, I cannot remember ANY of it. What I do know is that sometime within the first week of taking this drug, I suddenly found myself home completely confused about how I had gotten there at 1 PM on a work day. The next morning, when I went to the office, I got a ton of concerned looks and questions: “Are you OK? No, really…are you?” No one would tell me what I did or what I said, other than, “you just didn’t look…right.” I also have NO CLUE HOW I DROVE HOME. Yikes. (And thanks, everyone, for letting me operate heavy machinery. Love you all.) Suffice it to say I got rid of that Rx in a hurry, and it’s notated in my medical chart as an “allergy”, right next to penicillin. (I’m also allergic to cockroaches. But they won’t add that in there, for some reason, even though I think it’s super interesting and a GREAT icebreaker for those awkward silences at parties. I guess it’s a good indicator that they won’t be using cockroaches in medicine in the foreseeable future, right? Because yuck.)

I’ve also tried sleeping aids, thinking that if I could get quality rest, it’d help. On some nights, plain old melatonin helped a little, but melatonin is like a Band-aid – fine for minor cuts, not so good for gaping sleep wounds.

So, a few years ago, I tried to find something stronger. Ambien, anyone? All of my friends* swore by it: “It’s a miracle drug. Best shuteye I’ve had in years. You might eat the entire contents of your fridge at 3 AM, but you’ll sleep right through it.”

*Yes, all. Why does it seem like most people I know are on some type of medication? Is this true in your circle, too? Maybe we all send off invisible signals to one another, an unlisted side effect attracting us together like magnets.

What did Ambien – the miracle siesta drug – do for me?

NOTHING.

Nada, zip, zero.

No drowsiness, no restorative REMs, no sleepdriving across town at 2AM to buy donuts at the 7-11. It was like all my buddies were ripping open presents while Sandman Santa had missed my house completely.

I switched over to Trazodone, which actually unwound me enough to help me sleep. Problem was, I wanted to KEEP sleeping.  Since my job expected me to show up before the socially accepted lunch hour, I had to give it up. Plus, when you sleep until noon, it’s impossible to fall BACK asleep anytime before 2 AM. It’s like getting jet lag without the tropical vacation and enviable tan.

So I gave up.

It had been about ten years since I attempted medication.  Honestly, I wasn’t terribly optimistic that there was an appropriate cocktail* out there that would help.    But in the spirit of shoring up myself so I could better focus on my marriage, about six weeks ago I put on my adulting shoes and headed to the doctor and asked for help.

*Yeah…wine helps too.  But that’s not a crutch I want to depend on.  Because addiction.  And calories. 

I wasn’t sure there was much left that I hadn’t tried. But there was. “It shows here that we  prescribed you Effexor a few years ago, but you never filled the script because it was too expensive.” (They wrote THAT in my chart, but not the part about cockroaches?) “There’s a generic available now. Let’s give that a whirl.”

So off to the pharmacy I went.

I got my caplets, took them as instructed, and waited.

The good news? They worked. THEY ACTUALLY WORKED. I started to sleep. The racing thoughts subsided.

The biggest change?

I no longer felt compelled to weigh and measure my food.

Lemme let that sink in for a sec.

After spending years of my life counting olives and weighing salsa, I put my food scale away.

This. Was. Huge. Miraculous. Life-changing.  I stole bites of whatever treat the hubs was enjoying.  If I wanted ketchup and mustard on my burger, I just slopped it on willy-nilly without really caring whether I had 1.5 tablespoons or two.

I was more relaxed everywhere, including the dinner table.

But….now the bad news:  the side effects.

First, there were the headaches.  Constant, nagging, aching.  Half my daily caloric intake was analgesics.  I rapidly depleted my Costco-sized bottle of ibuprofen, which didn’t do anything positive for the other problematic issue:  nausea.

Have you ever dealt with chronic nausea?  It’s debilitating.  Exhausting.  You feel awful all the time.  You’d think this would be an absolute dream for someone with an eating disorder, wouldn’t you?  But it’s not.  It’s the kind of nausea that can only be relieved (ironically) by eating.  It was a cruel need for constant calories, and I was too ill to care.  From the couch, I kept up with a steady stream of carbs (mostly tortilla chips and pizza*) and focused on trying to function.

*No matter how sick I am, I can pretty much always eat pizza.  This was also the case when I was pregnancy-puking.  Most people gravitate towards ginger ale and saltines.  Me?  If I’m refusing pizza, take me to the hospital STAT.

It was maddening.  I’d found something that relieved the constant barrage of negativity in my head – yet made me as sick as my bulimic cat.  I debated toughing it out, but after missing two days of work, I decided it was far too high a price to pay for relative mental stability.  Reluctantly, I messaged my doctor.  Thankfully, there was a different formulation I could try – a fast-acting, smaller dose, taken twice a day.

One more. 

Just try.

What did I have to lose?

I picked up my prescription and I held my breath.

And, in a few days, I was able to step outside of myself and enjoy the view.

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The view from my vet’s office.

Am I 100% cured?  Of course not.  But someone’s come and cleaned the film from my internal windows.  The voices in my head are quieter.  More subtle.  Suggestions, not commands.  I can diagnose irrational thoughts and tamp them down with reassurances that my brain is attempting to mislead me.

And there are still some side effects – namely, REALLY detailed and vivid dreams. (Which I should totally write about.  Except for the one that starred Will Smith.  Hubba hubba.)

Will Smith completes his gray #Tuxedo with a tailored black #TuxedoVest.:

I love Pinterest.

The queasiness is minor and fleeting.  I’m getting some headaches, but they’re manageable and treatable.  And I’m a bit tired, so it’s not exactly easy to get out of bed.  (Not that it ever was.  Mornings and I aren’t exactly BFFs.)

So I have a slightly longer climb most days.  But so far, it’s been worth it to enjoy the view.

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The sights as I left the office.  Working in BFE has some advantages.

What’s worked for you?  What didn’t help at all?  Medication?  Therapy?  A combination?  Share your triumphs and tribulations in the comments!

 

Furnishing an (Im)Perfect Holiday

Hey!

Long time no see!  Come in, have a seat. <pours coffee>

And how was your holiday?

Yeah, I know the holidays were more than a few days weeks ago.  But since my tree is still up, it can’t possibly be too late to talk about them.  Right?

OK, OK.  I confess that I don’t exactly take a traditional approach to holidays.  I did absolutely nothing for Turkey Day, and didn’t get around to decorating my Halloween pumpkin until early December.

But there are some reasons for that.

I wasn’t always like this.  When I was a kid, we celebrated holidays in the expected fashion.  The extended family would get together for the Big Three – Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, where we’d gather ’round a seasonally-appropriate roasted animal and stuff our faces.  Pretty normal.

After dinner, the family would split into two groups:  One set would schlep the dirty dishes and the decimated carcass off to the kitchen, where they’d begin the seemingly endless work of cleaning and putting away.  The others would lazily saunter off to the living room and either watch football or play video games.

Don’t look so surprised.  Yes, we had video games in the 80s, when most families were either Team Atari or Team Intellivision.  Atari’s user interface was a little simpler, consisting of a joystick and one FIRE button, but it was Intellivision that possessed CLEARLY superior graphics and more complex game play.

Have a look.  Atari:

Atari console.  Simple, right?

The “smash” hit Asteroids.  Meh.  You can still buy this one, kids.

And the highly sophisticated Intellivision:

Not impressed?  Rest assured that this was top-of-the-line gaming back in the day.  Plus it got me out of doing the dishes.  So I got really good at Burger Time (a food game…the irony is not lost on me) while my brother whipped my butt at Football.  Mom was KILLER at any and all space games – she’d routinely score a million points or more on the one above.  (I should also mention that your parents’ generation didn’t have any of this overcoddled candy-a$$ “beating” of a game.  It just kept repeating the action faster and faster until you perished.  You never, EVER won.  Nowadays kids get a freaking parade for managing to wear shoes on the right feet for three days in a row.  Gaaaaaah.)

Anyway.  It wasn’t until I was quite a few years older that I realized that it was the WOMEN who did the dishes and the MEN who retreated to the sofa.  I was the sole female exception.  I remember commenting to my mother that this seemed like kind of a raw deal – to which my mother said, “but we women had such great conversations and bonding time.”  That’s…nice, but I have ESPN and a dishwasher, and I’m quite certain I’d bond just fine with Tom Brady and Donovan McNabb if you left me alone in a room with them.  Hubba hubba.

Plus, after the kitchen was clean, the ladies would sit down to play “cards.”  This game consisted of about eight decks of cards, and looked like a group game of solitaire, but the object appeared to be to fling cards in the middle of the table while yelling, jumping out of your seat, and slapping everyone blocking your path to victory.  (Good thing they started this AFTER the knives were put away.  If that’s “bonding,” then you have no right to mock my dad’s love of WWE.  I mean, they play with chairs, too, right?)

So holidays were pretty nice for me.

Until I got married.

I wed into a family with “traditional values” – and the unspoken expectation was that if you needed anything, you as the wife would be obligated to make it yourself.  The paradigm shift surrounding the holidays was absolutely jarring.  If I reminded my spouse of an upcoming birthday, I’d sometimes get a card, usually late and not particularly heartfelt.  Bake your own cake if you feel like you need one; but you’ve been putting on weight since we got married, so….

Valentine’s Day?  Well, the candy’s half-price the next day, so here’s something grabbed from what was left in the clearance aisle at Wal-Mart on the 15th.

Christmas?  You, the wife, plan the getting of the tree, and while the MAN would set it up, it’s up to you to decorate and water it, and it’s STAYING there until YOU figure out how to get it to the curb.  You, as the house matriarch, buy all the presents for the kids and BOTH sets of parents, and do all the prepping, cooking, and wrapping.  If you’re lucky, you might get a present.  My favorite “surprise” gift:

We already HAD a waffle iron, of course.  His logic was that now “we” could make waffles TWICE AS FAST.  The saddest part about this gift was that it didn’t contain the letters I needed to spell out my true feelings.  (Well played, Black & Decker.)

The tipping point on my anti-holiday stance came on my second official Mother’s Day.

It was a sunny, beautiful Sunday.  We had just come home from church, and my two-month-old son was down for his post-drive nap.  I was exhausted, and desperately wanted to join him.  But my daughter, nearly two, wanted to go outside and play.  I happened to glance out the back window, and saw something that turned my stomach:  a wild rabbit had apparently been chased by a neighborhood cat or dog, and had horrifically and painfully lost the battle.  The poor bunny was completely destroyed in our backyard.  It was a gruesome scene that I absolutely did not want my daughter to see.

Tearfully, I asked my husband to please go outside and take care of it so our little girl could play.

He sighed heavily.  “Maybe after my nap.”

He went to bed, and broke my heart.

Resolutely, I plopped my baby in front of Elmo and told her we’d go outside in just a few minutes.  She happily waited while I found a large coal shovel and marched to the backyard.  I did my best to heave the rabbit innards over the embankment, and raked the soiled leaves into the runoff creek so she wouldn’t see them.

Happy Mother’s Day to me.

It was the finishing touch on a valuable life lesson:  If you have no expectations, you don’t get disappointed. 

When I periodically forget this, and experience minor disappointment at, say, a forgotten birthday, all I have to do is conjure up the mental image of the gutted rabbit, and the day looks a little bit brighter.  How could it not?

Fortunately (?) I married someone who’s perfectly fine with not making a big fuss over the holidays.  We’ve established minimal expectations – a card on your birthday, and one for the anniversary.  If we remember, that is.  Witness our fifth wedding anniversary:

Me:  <arrives at work, quickly logs into Facebook.  Sees message from brother>

Brother <via text>:  Happy Anniversary, Sis! 

Me:  <thinking> Oh $#!t.  Is that today?  <grabs phone, texts the hubs>  Happy anniversary, babe!  I love you!

The Hubs:  <via text>:  Oh $#!t.  Is that today? 

We’re clearly well-matched in that department.  HAHAHAHAHA

For Christmas, we’ve never actually exchanged gifts.  We instead use the opportunity to buy stuff for the home.  This year, we were on a mission to replace our mattress – last year we invested in a really nice bed frame and comforter, and our mattress was as old as our marriage.  So we trekked out to the local furniture warehouse to see what we could find.

While we spent WAY too much money that day, there were several things we didn’t buy.  These end tables, for example:

furn_catcage

The LAST thing I need is an excuse to hoard more clutter.  But I sort of want to trap my cats under them and play zoo.  (And now you do, too, don’t you.)

Sensing danger, the hubs “steered” me in another direction:

furn_steer

Not entirely sure what they’re going for here.  Is Cowboy Bling a thing?  I guess I just do not understand art.  Especially when it looks like something you’re forced to hang on the fridge when little Kate Junior brings it home:

furn_art1

$120.  I’m in the wrong line of work.

Or this disturbing piece….

furn_art2

For $300 you’d think it’d come with thighs.

A little modern for my taste.  And by “modern,” I mean “WTF is this crap?”

So on to something more useful.  A sofa!  For…a hobbit? A spoiled dog?

furn_tinycouch

Serving suggestion only.  Spouse not for sale.

$500? !?  I’m not sure I love my cats enough to spend $500 on their medical care.  Forget frou-frou furniture.  (Besides, they’d just sleep in the box anyway.  Or on my bladder.)

Later, from across the store:

The Hubs:  Hon!  Come QUICK!  I just found chairs with HUGE KNOCKERS!!!!

I scamper across the store, where he proudly shows me:

furn_knockers

<rim shot>

I got even, though, when we encountered this display:

furn_pears

Me:  Look, hon!  Candles!

The Hubs:  Cool.  Are they scented?  <sniffs, looks puzzled>

Me:  Yes…but just PEAR-ly.

<snort>

We did, eventually, find a great mattress.  And, because it was the holidays, we gave our wallets a workout and splurged on a new kitchen table and chairs, to replace the set we bought for $80 from craigslist ten years ago:

tablechairs

Picture taken of the five minutes it was not buried in clutter <sigh>

And a new sofa and loveseat, since our old one’s “genuine leather” was flaking in a weird psofariasis kind of way and I was getting tired of sweeping up cow skin.

sofas

And one more thing, just because it looked cool:

furn_owl1

I figured if I (meaning “the hubs”, of course) sawed off the base, it’d look amazeballs on my kitchen wall.  What do you think?

wallowls

Only $20, and it makes me smile.  Well worth it for the blast of color and joy it brings.

It’s the bow on my gift.  Merry Christmas to me!

I’m so worth it.  Aren’t we all?

We’re not traditional, but I’m (usually) OK with that.  At least I get exactly what I want.  Now bring on Valentine’s Day – Momma needs some new jewelry.  😉

Holiday Craft-up Mash-up

After my rather non-eventful Thanksgiving, I found myself facing the cavernous space of a largely open weekend.  My two little darlings were at their dads, and the hubs was taking my stepsons to see their grandparents.  Except for a brief rehearsal Sunday morning, I had nothing in front of me.

Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh.

OK.  Don’t get me wrong.  I do love my family.  Most of the time.  Usually.  But when you’re a parent, you really come to appreciate having the house all to yourself on the rare occasions it actually happens.

So I grabbed the TV remote and prepped for a long-overdue recliner sesh complete with hot coffee and trashy TV.  But when I headed to the kitchen to score an accompanying nosh, I spotted this:

pump1

Note the coffee mug dwarfed by this monstrosity.

Oh, yeah….the pumpkin.

Maaaayyyyyybe I should be getting around to…doing something with this thing.

I should explain – I never intended to HAVE a pumpkin.  But for years I’ve participated in a crop-share, and sometimes you get some rather unexpected items.  As a result of my weekly veggie boxes, I can use the word kohlrabi in a sentence, I’ve learned how to make pickles, and I’ve discovered several delicious ways to cook turnips. (Really.  Cube them and roast them, then mash with either winter squash, sweet potatoes, or russets.  You’re welcome.)

So I hadn’t gone out and bought this thing on purpose. (Can you imagine lugging that sucker home in a plastic grocery bag?  It’d cut off the circulation in your pinkies faster than a haul of 2-liter sodas and cat litter.)  It just appeared next to my CSA delivery in mid-October.  I rolled it home and shoved it into my pantry, and let Halloween AND Thanksgiving roll by while I largely ignored it.

Pumpkins don’t last forever, though, and I knew that the clock was ticking on this one.  Plus, I hate, hate, HATE throwing food away.  The thought of “wasting” something totally sets off my anxiety (I even addressed it in therapy.  Once.  I can DO it, but I still don’t like it very much.)

So, with an entire day (and no witnesses) in front of me , I decided to tackle my propensity for procrastination AND my deficient crafting gene and get my carve on.

I wash the pumpkin (logical next step, right? I mean, if you’re going to face a project like this, and you’re me, you have good odds of embedding a blade somewhere in a hand, foot, or left buttcheek.  I’m up-to-date on my tetanus shots, but best to scrub off any residual fertilizer just in case.)

I stare at it.  I’ve carved pumpkins, before, of course.  Like, a million years ago when the kids were little.

pastpumpkins

Circa 2003.  Some of you weren’t even born yet, were you.

Literally the last time I attempted a pumpkinectomy was 2005.  ELEVEN YEARS AGO.

pumpkinbabies

They would kill me dead if they knew I posted this…but they’re so damn LITTLE.  (sniff)

What I remember about this process:  pumpkin-carving sounds like a really engaging family activity at the onset…but after about five minutes of wrist-cramping, digit-threatening knife moves, the whole thing deteriorates into a clumsy, slippery, why-on-earth-did-I-think-this-was-fun chore that you just.want.to.be.DONE.with.  (And how exactly did pumpkin entrails get stuck on the ceiling??)

<sigh>  Sounds like a party.

So whatever I decided to do was gonna have to be pretty dang simple.  And it wouldn’t hurt to have something at least quasi-seasonally appropriate.  I did have my tree up, after all:

15135899_1261529543914309_6371334200203993686_n

This “angel” never gets old….

Hey, if my tree topper can sport an MG08/15, then Christmas pumpkin it is.  Why not? 

I called out to the hubs, who was running around packing up the car with all the electronics the boys would need to stay entertained at Grandma’s house.  (They’d be there a full day and a half, ya know, so best to pack up the Xbox AND the Playstation AND a couple of laptops.  Being the stepmom, I don’t get much of a say in that, so whatever.  Not my circus, not my monkeys.)

Anyway, I need some paint.

Me:  “Hey hon…do we have any Christmas-appropriate paint?”  He had to have something – in addition to collecting cardboard boxes, he also keeps a variety of paints around, just in case he gets a hankering to play with his airbrushing tools or his 3D printer.  (Aaaaand now we see where his boys get it.)  I’d complain, but I have to admit it does come in handy when you suddenly have to do a project like RIGHT NOW.

Hubs:  “I’m sure I do.  What kind of paint?”

Me (confused.  Kind?  The colored kind. ???):  “Um…the kind that…goes on, like, walls and crafts and stuff.”

Hubs:  (gamely trying again):  “Well, what are you using it for?”

Me:  “To carve this pumpkin.” (Obviously.)

Fortunately, the hubs is used to me pretty much not making sense, so he rummages around in the basement and unearths two cans of spray paint – one red and one green.  That’ll do! 

I hop on the interwebs to find a simple Christmas design.  I know I can’t draw, but I can trace.  Maybe a stencil?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA no.  Pretty, but no.  This is more my speed:

And then I found this:

It’s pretty much one long line.  And not even a straight line, which I can’t cut anyway.  PERFECT.

But I wasn’t happy with the star, so I found this one to use instead:

I printed these out, and traced them onto coffee filters.  (Which are perfect for not only tracing crap, but ALSO for making snowflakes, because in addition to being really thin paper that’s easy to cut, they’re also ALREADY ROUND.  Try it.)

I dig some double-sided tape out of the junk drawer.  Pro tip:  double-sided tape + coffee filters = not very forgiving.  But, after some colorful language, I got there:

pump2

You can see on the left where I ran out of filter before I ran out of stencil.  Whoops

Okay.  Looks doable.

<deep breath> Knife time!

pump3

Eeeeewwwww

In case you’ve forgotten how slimy pumpkin guts are….let me remind you.  Each of the eleventy-kajillion seeds are attached to what looks like internal pumpkin hair.  <shudder> I grab an ice-cream scoop, and, after some vigorous scooping, use a razor blade to “shave” the insides a bit.  It helps:

pump4

Still gross.  But better.

Now for the fun part.  I trace the entire stencil with a razor blade, and follow it with a marker so I can see where to hack.  This leaves me feeling like some sort of odd-duck vegetation tattoo artist.  Empowering, in a basement-creeper sort of way.

I begin work on the star, which because of the intricate, teeny tiny points, takes me approximately fifteen @#$(@#$@ years to complete.  (Give or take.)  I find, in the hubs’ stash, a surgical scalpel (because doesn’t every hoarder have one?) and channel my inner Dexter as I scrape and pick out every fussy little corner.

Whose idea was this again?

Thankfully, once I start on the tree part, it goes much faster.

pump5

Progress!

I keep plugging away.  After the tree is cut, I grab a screw hook and drive several holes into the gourd to make stars:

pump6

Hey.  That’s not half bad. 

Now for spray paint.  I take the whole mess outside and, after a few tentative squirts, go to town:

pump7

Look Ma, more cardboard!

YAY!  Let’s light it!!!

Oh…wait.  I read the label on the can (because it would have been really amateurish to do that BEFORE I started shooting paint everywhere):

Dries to touch in 15-30 minutes; 60 minutes to handle

SIXTY MINUTES?!?!  I have to wait AN HOUR???  @#($@#$#@$

Reluctantly, I go inside and clean my kitchen.  Most of the squash innards are confined to the kitchen table and floor (and yeah, the walls, but just two and just a little.)

Oh, and I’d better deal with these, I guess.

pump9

One pumpkin = one metric f*%&ton of seeds.

I read somewhere that pumpkin seeds float, so I filled the bowl with water and just sort of mushed the sludge to the bottom, which made fairly short work of the mess.  Make no mistake – it was still work.  But after an hour, I had a clean(ish) kitchen and a lifetime supply of pumpkin seeds for roasting later:

pump10

Seeds for DAYS, yo.

<BEEP BEEP BEEP> That’s the timer.  We’re ready to light this shiz UP!

pump8

Still decidedly not terrible.

I can’t wait to see it at night.  But dark is TWO LONG HOURS AWAY.

What to do…what to do….

I go shopping.  (Of course.  Because Christmas.  Ha, who am I kidding.  ‘Tis the season ME ME ME.)

Three hours and two new sweaters later:

pump12

Wait. Shut off the porch light, dummy.pump13

Well, whaddya know.  I CAN CRAFT!!!! 

Sometimes, procrastination pays.

Martha Stewart, eat your heart out. 

Dipping into Fall and Falling into Dip

So I’ve been tooling along, happily enjoying summer (and being warm instead of ABSOLUTELY FREEZING COLD every second of the day) when I noticed that somehow, somewhere, things had changed.  At some point, the foliage had surreptitiously begun to autumnize – the leaves had started to blush as they helped the trees disrobe, and I couldn’t enjoy the show without throwing on a jacket.

Apparently, fall is here.

And while I’m not entirely jazzed about the weather getting colder, or Nature’s naughty children leaving huge piles in the yard for me to rake up, there are some good things about autumn:

  • Football (GO EAGLES!)
  • Boots.  New season, new shoes, yo:
bdd15f2b64f7230d76dfc356de432b40

Available on amazon.com

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Also on amazon.com

  • Winter squash.  Yes, I know it’s kind of odd to be excited about a vegetable.  But squash is a side dish of convenience.  Unlike its more delicate summer cousins, who shrivel up about fifteen minutes after you get them home from the farmer’s market, winter squash will politely sit on a shelf and wait until you’re ready to give it the Gremlin Spa Treatment with a knife, a microwave, and perhaps a bit of curry*.
  • Thicker sweaters, which oh-so-kindly cover the lumps and bumps of summer’s ice cream obsession and, paired with long pants (read: no need to shave) and boots, drastically cut down on your required morning hygiene time. (Unless you’re into open-toed boots.  Which, frankly, are stupid.  The ENTIRE POINT of boots is to forgo the pedicure, people.  And to keep the snow off your foot.  Neither of which is achieved when you hack a big hole in the front of an otherwise perfectly good boot.  Weirdos.)

It’s also the time of year for the second-biggest commercial holiday in the United States – Halloween.

Now historically, I haven’t been a huge participant in the costume-and-candy cattle call.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s super cute to see all the children in their little character impersonations, and I love the neighborhood camaraderie when everyone is walking around knocking on doors begging for treats.  (Which, interestingly, we parents caution against for the other 364 days a year. Don’t take candy from strangers, kids, unless you’re dressed up as your favorite Disney character and all the other kids are doing it, too.  Have fun running around in the dark with all the masked miscreants covered in fake blood!)

The problem (in addition to the blatantly mixed parenting message) is the requirement to stockpile big bags of candy in anticipation of this event.

Candy simply cannot live in my house.  It’s not safe.  I will eat it.  All of it.  Well, except these:

Mary Jane PBK

8f5f0cbbd0ed1a3c2e54447948f8f731

Ah, Necco.  Disappointing children of all ages since 1847.

 

So my choices are either to hand out the sort of candy that moves your house right to the top of the egg-and-TP hit list, or to shut off the porch lights and hide in the basement.  Since the only candy I won’t eat does the former, I’ll be lurking in the dark.

The neighbors, however, do this time of year up right.  Here’s their spooky display, currently under construction:

neighbors

Before the big day, they’ll add a few more ghosts, lights, a fog machine, sound effects….clearly, they’re the cool parents on the block.  I bet they hand out full-sized candy bars, too.  (And yes, they’re both marathon-runner thin, and if they weren’t so nice I might hate them a little.)

So let’s revisit costumes for a bit.  This is the fun part of Halloween.  For one day, you can shed all the expectations society has for you and be someone else entirely.  It doesn’t have to be something attainable or realistic – you can be anything that you invent in your mind.  Astronaut mermaid princess?  Yes please. 

Halloween is an opportunity to “try on” the thing you want to be…and a chance to disguise what you don’t want others to see.  You literally put a mask on all that and just enjoy stepping into the role.

And speaking of disguises…don’t forget to put a costume on your food.

We’re getting ready to kick off the holiday season, folks – and that means we’re about to be surrounded by food.  You know how this goes:  It starts with the aforementioned candy, rolls into stuffing and potatoes with gravy, and the next thing you know, the cookies and treats have piled up faster than the snow at the end of the driveway.  And the duration of the frenzied feast is punctuated with eggnog at cocktail parties and the beer, nachos, and wings that show up at your tailgate.

Since it’s not entirely practical to spend the next three months incognito in your basement, you might want to find a way to navigate the holiday spread…before YOU spread for the holidays.

My go-to?  Dip.

But…wait a second.  Dip is sour cream, cheese, and mayo, loaded onto delicious, carby, crunchy things.  How exactly is this helping the annual belt-busting here?

Shh…it’s a disguise.

We’re pretending we’re indulging in fatty food when we’re actually not.

Let’s start with WHAT we dip.  Sure, you can use chips…but since this is a costume party, let’s do something a little more dolled-up and dress it like a rainbow.  Just look at this gorgeous plate that Chobani assembled:

meze_dips_pinterest_diphealthierv3_hires

OK, maybe eggplant is a stretch, but LOOK AT THE PRETTY.

Now it’s time to trick out your dip.

We want something smooth and creamy to fool our palate into thinking we’re eating something decadent.  There are lots of options here, and if you have a halfway-decent food processor, you can make a decent dip out of chickpeas, avocado, or beans.

But if you’re looking to cut calories, there’s really no better base than fat-free Greek yogurt.  It’s high in protein, tastes a lot like sour cream (especially when you add other dip flavors like caramelized onions or roasted red peppers) and you can eat quite a lot of it without blowing your calorie bank for the entire season.

And because we live in America, we don’t even have to get all fancy in the kitchen.  We can head to our local Target and buy one of the concoctions dreamed up by the geniuses at Chobani.  Take a look at these rich, creamy, delicious beauties:

story-table-shot

I stumbled upon these yum cups a couple of months ago.  Full disclosure:  I was looking for binge food – a.k.a. something “bad.”  And I walked away with the Roasted Red Pepper and the Smoked Onion and Parmesan.

ZOMG.  Sooooooooooooooo good.

And the best part?  Even if you just sit and eat the dip with a spoon (don’t judge, I REALLY need to buy groceries) the entire tub is only 250 calories.

By the way, this stuff also makes an amazing sandwich spread.  Try the Roasted Red Pepper with some fabulous grilled chicken breast, the Chili Lime in tuna salad, or the Smoked Onion and Parmesan on a turkey burger.  Adios, mayonnaise, I’m dating your hotter brother with the good hair and the washboard abs. 

So while you’re strutting around in your goth-tooth fairy-unicorn getup, remember to reach for the Greek yogurt instead of the guilt and dip away, dip away, dip away all!**

What’s your costume this year?  Do you “do up” Halloween?  And what’s your favorite dip?  Share in the comments!

__________________________________________

*Recipe time! 

Stupid good squash:  Nuke 1 acorn squash (or whatever you have.  Squash can’t read, so feel free to use one of those baby pumpkin-looking ones) until tender.  Scrape the flesh out of the skin and mash it in a bowl with 1/2 T garlic and ginger, 1/2 tsp coriander, and 1/4 tsp turmeric, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Stir in 1/2 non-fat plain Chobani Greek yogurt and chow down on your bowl of comfort-food goodness.

And while you’re staring down the squash guts, you might as well save the seeds.  You can roast ’em just like you would pumpkin seeds.  Rinse them well and let them dry (I just put them on a plate and stir daily until they dry completely, then transfer to an airtight container.)  To roast, set your oven to 275F.  Spray a sheet with cooking spray.  Toss the dry seeds with a few good splashes of Frank’s Red Hot (trust me – they’ll be seasoned, but not unbearably spicy) and a sprinkle of salt.  Bake them in a single layer for 10-15 minutes, and watch them disappear like peanut butter cups from your kid’s trick-or-treat stash.

__________________________________________

**Only 69 days until Christmas.  Which means 75 days and 12 hours until your New Years’ diet resolution begins.  Holly Jolly, my ever-spreading @$$. 

 

Searching for Butterflies

<clears throat, approaches microphone>

<tap tap tap>

Is this thing still on?

<jumps back as ear-splitting SCREEEEEEEEEEEEE builds to a rapid crescendo>

<hurriedly unplugs mic>

<turns speaker ten degrees to the right, reconnects wires>

Hello?  Test test test.

OK.  We’re back. 

Hi, this is Kate.  Remember me?

I’d throw up the usual, tired excuses about why I haven’t had time to write lately, but frankly, those are sounding pretty lame.  Maybe I should make up something fantastical, like “the dog ate my laptop.” Not that I HAVE a dog, mind you, but all of my neighbors do, so that could totally happen.  They’re humongous beasts that could easily take down a moose and run away with the carcass in their mouths, dragging the antlers on the ground.  A laptop would be about as significant a meal as a Communion wafer.

Communion Wafer.  Sacramental bread - Wikipedia:

Anyone else have fond memories of how well these stuck to the roof of your mouth? (Source:  Wikipedia)

Or maybe something about aliens?  THAT would be super cool.  Once they landed, I’d totally take them over to the Mall of America and either we’d shop ’til we dropped, or they’d be so confused by the juxtaposition of an amusement park, several chapels, Hooters, Kate Spade, and giant Lego characters all under one roof that they’d immediately pull up their space wheels and make a beeline for the Galaxy Beyond.  (And if MOA doesn’t chase ’em off, TV will.  Just put on truTV or The Learning Channel for a day and they’ll declare our species hopeless and seek intelligent life elsewhere.  And full disclosure here – I big-puffy-glitter-heart BOTH of these channels, so I suppose I’m part of the problem  But where else can you sit in bed all day eating cheese popcorn and peanut butter cups in your pajamas and feel BETTER about your life choices?  It’s a service to society, I tells ya, and I’m a better person for it.  Or, at least, not THAT bad <gesturing towards reality trainwreck on Love at First Kiss>  a person.  Whatevs.  When is that pizza getting here?)

OK.  The truth is, I haven’t been writing, because by writing, I give my feelings words.  And when I do that – once I’ve identified them with phylum, class, and species –  I have to 1) acknowledge what I’m feeling and 2) attempt to deal with it.

And I don’t wanna deal with any of the feelings right now.

<stamps feet and waves fists>

I just don’t have the energy, ya know?  Even though I know that I’ll feel better once I air out the mental bedsheets a bit, I’m resisting.  I’d rather just pull a quilt over the whole mess and hope no one notices how badly it’s rumpled underneath.

I could blame some of this on my dad’s recent passing, but – again, being fully honest here – that was just a distraction from the shiz I REALLY need to handle.  It’s not unlike a lit candle  with a crack in the glass.  As the candle burns, the voice in your head is nagging you:

“You know…you probably need to do something about that before it slowly drips wax all over the carpet, right?    Right?!”

OK.  <sigh>  I’ll get to it.

“Um…Kate?  Still dripping here.”

OKAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYY.   FINE!!!!  

Resolutely, you grab some kerosene and a match and proceed to light the entire wall on fire.  Because now, a little wax doesn’t quite matter so much, DOES IT??!

WAX THIS, MOFO.

Hey.  Don’t be giving me the side-eye here.  I KNOW you do this too.  Think about it.  $5 says you’ve got scorched curtains somewhere in that glass house of yours.

What I’ve been avoiding is a final verdict on my marriage.  Specifically, the answer to “now what?”

I’ve been treading water in this relationship for a while now, kneading my arms back and forth in a sea of inertia.  Generally, I can float here for days at a time:  He’s kind.  He takes out the trash and feeds the cats.  He gives lots of hugs.  He asks about my day.  And he tells me all the time that he loves me and that he’ll never leave me.

So I start to relax.  My head’s above water and my arms feel like they could do this all day.  I can chill a bit.  I take a deep breath.  And then another.  But then a sudden, angry wave slaps me in the face, robbing me of air.  It might be a political news article.  Or perhaps a TV character mentions prayer, or God, or faith…and he responds.  Negatively.  Cracks, criticisms, and cynical comments rush in, the roar making my ears uncomfortably full.  And I sputter, gasping, as my arms cramp and my legs kick and my brain races, thinking, “dude, this is never gonna work” while I desperately look for a fallen tree or discarded, broken styrofoam cooler to cling to so I can get my bearings and find a shore to head toward.

Meanwhile, he’s chillaxin’ on a floating raft, ice-cold beer in hand, thinking everything is just dandy.

He tells me that he’s not worried about us. Sure, it’d do us some good to reconnect a bit, but he’s been down for a few weeks with the flu and bronchitis, and that hit right after my dad died, and the kids have JUST now gotten back to school and started a million activities ALL at different times and it’s my busy season at my job and his contract work’s just picked up but don’t worry, we’re fine, hon.  Just give it time; we’ll get there.

But…

I don’t know if…

Wait.

What?

I don’t know…

 

…if I love you anymore.

 

 

This.

This is terrifying.

But…it’s honest.

When I started this post, I was thinking that Today was The Day that I was going to park my butt in my desk chair long enough to get SOMETHING baking in the now-cold blog oven.  Today, finally, I’d get back to writing and quit finding other stuff to do instead.  Like…cleaning out my basement.  Yeah, I even did that, and yes, there was more freaking cardboard down there:

cardboard

Piles and piles. <sobs quietly>

Seriously, people, I JUST DID THIS LAST DECEMBER.  Curse you, Amazon, and your two-day quasi-instant gratification.  And eBay?  You can shove your “Buy it Now” button deep into the darkness of your “Everything Else” category.

When I sat down (after paying some bills, cleaning the litter box, backing up my iPhone, and downloading all my pictures from 2010 to present so I could free up enough storage for the new iOS upgrade, which, by the way, allows HANDWRITTEN TEXTS, meaning that my already frequently-undecipherable messages will be taken to a WHOLE NEW LEVEL, YO)

<cough>

(Let’s try this again.) 

When I sat down today to write, I was cooking up a completely different post.  But when I started beating the eggs and sifting the flour, I somehow ended up making peach cobbler instead of pie crust.  (Neither of which actually have eggs in them.  That might be part of the problem here.  Maybe I was craving something more like custard.)

Anyway.  I knew that I needed to get myself to making a decision on this whole mess, because having a massive life-direction sandbag of limbo swinging precariously over your head, waiting for you to decide whether (or when) to cut the rope, is no way to live.

So what did I decide to do?

Nothing.

For now, at least.

See, here’s the thing.  I know we’ve had some serious challenges this year, what with his spiritual Shock and Awe campaign.   Oh, and let’s not forget the Other Big Deal – it’s not like THAT goes away quietly just because you throw other problems into the mix.

But despite all that…he truly makes my life easier.  He can lift heavy things, open stuck pickle jars, and change filter blades (or whatever the thing is you do on your car periodically.  Tire ratchets?  <rolls eyes and throws down Girl Card>)  And he’s one of those rare males who doesn’t have to be ASKED to put the laundry away or empty the dishwasher – he does those things simply because he’s a grownup and recognizes that they need to be done.

In many ways, he’s simply a good man.  And I genuinely like the guy.  I really do.  He’s super-smart, and witty, and can keep up with my butterfly-with-hiccups trains of thought without me needing to stop and explain, for example, why I start talking about black holes in the same sentence where I’ve outlined why most breakfast cereals are not, in fact, good for you.

He…gets me.  Most of the time, anyway.

And that, along with nine years of marriage, is worth something.

Besides…I’ve been divorced.  It’s exhausting.  It’s like starting a bike ride at the bottom of the mountain; it’s tiring just leaving the bike in the house and staring up at the mound in front of you.  Divorce is like trying to unbake a cake, meticulously and microscopically separating the batter of “ours” into the individual elements of “mine” and “yours.”

So I’m going to give this situation a valuable commodity:  time.  Two years, to be precise.  My younger child has two years of high school left; when he graduates, I’ll have more resources – emotional energy, some financial flexibility, and some more vacation time.  I won’t be tied to THIS job and THIS location.  I’ll be free to stay, if I want…or free to wander and find my next adventure.

Free to choose what’s best for me.

For the first time in my life.

I’ll be free.

Just knowing that I’ll HAVE options makes things a little easier to bear.

power

Artist:  Painted Stuf.  I got this at our State Fair.  Sent my sister one, too, so we both can remind each other what it says now and then.

In the meantime, I’ll do my best to work on the relationship, and we’ll see where that leads us.

For an initial effort, the hubs and I recently went on a date.  Our last outing was underwhelming, but in the spirit of “trying again,” we visited the local conservatory where we got married.

(Side note:  Pretty much all my kids remember about our wedding is this statue.  Guess why.)

nekkidlady

Statue’s got a crack in it….

The date started out a little rough when he went to spit out his gum, and….

gumtree

Whoops.

Yes, he did dispose of it properly.  Because he’s that kind of guy.

From there, though, it was a really, really nice day.

This one had a little surprise on its back:

frogflower

ZOMG TINY FROGGIE

flower1

flower3

flower4

bigface1

This is one of the coolest things ever.

bigface2

Seriously, look at that FACE!

flowera

This one had a guest….

And speaking of guests…we spent some time in the butterfly tent.

eyeballfly

Yeah, technically, it’s a moth.  Whatever. Still awesome.

eyeballfly2

How many can you find on this tree?

butterfly

Stunning.

butterflylove

(insert butterfly porn music) Bow chica wow wow!

There is no better validation that someone is watching over you than to have a butterfly rest on you for awhile…and we both got a visit:

flyonme

The hubs got one first…

flyonme2

…then this dude landed on my skirt.  Front and center.  We affectionately named him “Taco.”  Then he tried to crawl up my shirt.  Perv.

If we can have more days like this, we’ll be OK.  What relationship couldn’t benefit from a booster shot of butterflies?

I know I won’t always be so fortunate as to have an entire tent of them nearby.  Normally, it takes some effort to find them.  Perhaps the hubs can spend the next two years bringing them to me.

I also know that I need to work on me.  I need to be open to accepting whatever life grants me as the “new normal.”  Whether it’s butterflies, flowers, or thunderstorms.

It may not be what I thought I wanted, and it’s certainly not unfolding the way I planned, but it still has the potential to be something beautiful.

I just have to keep looking for it.

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!

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. 🙂