Monthly Archives: May 2011

Mayday

shiver me timbers

One would expect to fork out money in December. The holidays, gifts, the holidays, taxes, the holidays, winter coats. It adds up. But you too, May?

First there were new shoes for my son. He’s outgrown his old ones by nearly two sizes and can no longer wear Stride Rites. Now his shoes cost as much as mine. One of us is going to have to get a paying job.

Then came a dress for me. Bathing suits for the pool. T-shirts for the child like this one that reads Shiver Me Timbers. Too cute and, at less than $6 on clearance at crewcuts, too big a bargain to leave in the store.

Next came fees for summer camp, dues for the pool, Frontline for the dog—the vet tech reminded me flea extermination would cost more—graduation gifts, teacher gifts, hotel deposits for vacation.

Gas and groceries, groceries and gas. Astronomical.

Then our dryer stopped working. A few cool Ben Franklins to replace it. Now that is one fun shopping trip.

And to top it all off, another house refinance. Since we have so far been unable to sell the house, at least we can roll the debt into one abominable snowball.

I was beginning to feel ill. Our budget was tanking.

A reality check with friends on Facebook brought validation and consensus: May spending rivals that of December. The expenses come out of nowhere like mosquitoes, and we all feel it.

For those of you whose budgets are perfectly balanced year round, congratulations. Mine used to be. And it will be again, so help me, God.

The sun will come out tomorrow. Or the next day. Or someday soon, I hope. The monster recession will end. It will be safe to go back in the water.

Take a deep breath with me now. Brave the tempests of Target and the wiles of Walmart. Sail past the sirens stationed on the endcaps to buy the staples—Cheerios, milk, bread.

Traverse the bakery section. Imagine a voice on the intercom, “MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY: Ma’am, step away from the expensive, over-processed baked goods.”

Turn starboard and spot a box of doughnuts on closeout. A rare treat, and $1.50 is such a small price to pay for relief. “MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY: Mom overboard! She’s going down!”

as seen at J Crew

The budget never works on paper. But somehow it all works out in real life.

Keep living. Trust His hand. Full speed ahead.

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. Matthew 6:31-32 NIV

The search for a song lead to Gwen Stefani’s Rich Girl. I like Stefani and the pirate theme of the video made it a shoo-in for the link. The video may offend some, but get a load of the lyrics: All the riches, baby, won’t mean anything. All the riches, baby, won’t bring what your love can bring…

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The Great Clinique Heist of 2011

as seen on a Hallmark card

If you’re just tuning in, we’re trying to sell our house. One evening following our 500th open house event, I went to remove the remains of the day, also known as my makeup.

My routine is simple. Step one, cleanse. Step two, moisturize. That’s it. Every now and then I add exfoliation between steps one and two. We’ll refer to it as step 1.5.

That evening, step one went off without a hitch. I reached for my jumbo size bottle of Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion, the linchpin of the Clinique skincare regimen.

It wasn’t in its place on the shelf. In the rush to prepare for the open house, where did I stash it? Hamper? Drawer? Basket?

Checked the other bathroom. Checked the trash. Looked everywhere, but it was nowhere to be found. Then it dawned on me: someone had stolen my Clinique during the open house!

The scoundrel walked into my bathroom, opened my medicine cabinet, plucked out my jumbo bottle, dropped it into her purse, and slipped out the door making a clean getaway. A smooth criminal with a silky complexion.

My real estate agent was devastated. The princess part of me felt like crying too. That bottle—the jumbo size offered only once a year, set me back $35!

All I could do was laugh. You can smile too, people. This is progress.

“How could you take someone else’s moisturizer?” I said to my BFF. “It’s a personal product. That’s just gross.”

“I’m sure,” she said, “the person who took it was thinking, ‘Oh, what a lovely house. What a clean bathroom. This moisturizer is so well taken care of. How nice it will be for my skin!'”

This is why she’s one of my BFFs. Extreme optimism with delicate peaches and cream skin to boot.

The thief was probably thinking more like, “This rich lady won’t miss a thing. And who cares if she does?”

First of all, we’re not rich. Did I mention we’re trying to unload our house?

liquid gold

Second, I did miss my Clinique and I do care. But I am no longer a princess. I am now the Queen and I will not die on a hill of department store cosmetics. It’s just a bottle of moisturizer. As my good friend Greg’s mother would say, God rest her soul, it’s not fatal.

Assuming a thief will return to the scene of the crime and our villain is a stylista, friends suggested we offer fragrance samples at our next open house. Do skin consultations at the door. Maybe set up a manicurist in the dining room.

We laughed. I bought more moisturizer. All was well with the world.

Until a few days later. As I progressed through my routine, I realized my Clinique 7-Day Scrub was missing too! Exfoliation step 1.5 down the drain.

I stared at myself in the mirror with my freshly washed, squeaky clean face. People are unbelievable, I thought. Just as depraved as I am.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23 NIV

Did you like the link to Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal? Then you must see this version by Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser. Amazing. And on cellos! Thanks to my friend Jared for the lead to catch these guys.

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DWM: Driving While Married

share the road

A smartphone catapults the navigational differences between men and women to a new level.

“Should we use our current location?” I ask my husband as we drive in a strange city on our way to visit friends at their new home for the first time. “Maybe I should use the city we just left as our starting location.”

“We’re on Ronald Reagan Highway,” he says. “Use that.

“That won’t work,” I say. “I’ll use the city we left. I-N-D-I-A-N-A-P-O-”

“Do I take this exit?” he says.

“Just a minute,” I say. “-L-I-S.”

“It’s exit 10 for 75 North,” he says.

“Wait a sec. It’s thinking,” I say.

“I’ll just take the next exit north,” he says. We zoom by exit 10 at 70 mph.

“Stay on this road until we get to the fork,” I say, “then veer left.”

“We’re taking the next exit.”

“At the fork?”

“No, the next exit north,” he says.

“It says, Continue on Ronald Reagan until the fork. Veer left.”

“Does it say north or south?”

“It says, Veer left.”

“North or south?”

“IS THE VEER LEFT AT THE FORK NORTH OR SOUTH?” I say to the iPhone.

My husband grew up on an 850 acre farm where every parcel of land, every watering hole, every homestead, every wayward blade of grass is due east, west, north or south as the crow flies. I grew up in the suburbs where every destination is triangulated in relation to the mall.

“Just pull up a map!” he says.

“Okay,” I say.

“Well?”

“Wait a sec. It’s thinking.” We zoom by exit 11 clocking 80 mph.

“The map’s not coming up,” I say. “Maybe we should stop and ask for directions.”

Exits 12 through 14 disappear in a blur.

“Give me the phone,” he says.

“Not while you’re driving!”

“We’re taking the next exit north,” he says.

Suddenly the speed limit slows to a 45 mph crawl. We enter a residential area.

“Hey, I think that’s the fork!” I say. We veer left-north at about 50 mph.

Soon, by the grace of God, we come to our friends’ subdivision. “What’s their address again?” he says.

“Um, I think it’s 7911 or something,” I say. “Wait a sec and I’ll pull it up. Oh, look, there’s a house for sale! Cheryl didn’t tell me they have a house waiting for us next door to theirs. It’s beautiful. It’s 7909, so I’m sure the one next door must be theirs. Pull in here.”

We pull in the driveway. We smile at each other. Love fills the cab where tension once stifled our patience. We’ve arrived. My husband unlocks the doors with a sweet click. A woman steps out from behind the house.

“That’s not Cheryl!”

My husband revs the engine and engages reverse thrusters. We escape by the hair of our chinny-chin-chins to our friends’ house across the street.

“How could 7911 be on this side of the street?” I say.

“Their address is 7912,” he says.

A minor detail. This time, we really have arrived. Next time, I’m driving.

Love is patient, love is kind… 1 Corinthians 13:4 NIV

two directions

What to say here? What else, but I Drove All Night by the unimitable Cyndi Lauper? While researching this song, I discovered this music video was the first to be closed captioned for the hearing impaired. Warning: it’s a little risqué and Lauper’s sporting Cruella de Vil hair, but oh, that voice…

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An Unexpected Post

single pink peony

Today’s post was supposed to be funny. It’s all finished and ready to go. You’ll see it next week, I promise. But something’s happened that takes precedence now.

Late Wednesday afternoon, I got word that the mother of one of my son’s schoolmates died Tuesday evening.

She was the picture of health, yet her body failed her. Unexpectedly. Tragically. And less than three weeks before her only child graduates from our little pre-kindergarten through sixth grade school.

Her son was the reason we considered the school in the first place. I’m not sure she knew that. When my son was two, we saw her son and his friends at a neighborhood playground.

My son was and still is fearless, climbing and running underfoot of the big kids. Before I could get to him to protect him that day, this woman’s son shielded him. He was only in second grade himself.

While other children ran wild and oblivious, he and his friends gently steered my precocious cub out of harm’s way. My heart melted as I heard him tenderly speak to my baby, “Be careful, little guy.”

“Thank you,” I said. “Where do you go to school?”

I tucked his answer away. That’s what I want for my son, I thought. That’s what I want him to be.

School may have a lot to do with it. Family has more. His family is noble, kind, gentle, handsome, generous. You could see it in this woman and her husband. You can see it in their son.

two pink peonies

Now is a time for stillness. A time to hold my own husband and son.

Now is a time to be shaken. To be reminded we were not made for death.

It’s a time to watch clouds and notice peonies. See a friend. Eat dessert. Walk the dog. Go to church. Open the Bible. Wrestle with God and be held by Him.

A time to pray for courage for this family, for this husband and son. Courage for them to carry on, and then for the rest of us as well.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4 NIV

God is not silent, apathetic or cruel, but in situations like this it can seem so. Face the feeling that God Says Nothing Back and bring it to Him.

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Nice is the New Mean

Be Nice of Leave pillow from Alexandra Ferguson

image with permission from alexandraferguson.com

My writing makes some people uncomfortable.

I imagine them thinking: There she goes again, writing about bitter pants. Why can’t she write something nice? Just show us some innocuous pictures of your sweet husband, your cute child, and your little dog too, my pretty!

My husband is sweet. My child is cute. My dog is little. There are days I am pretty. I’ll throw in a few pictures, but in case you missed it, I turned 40 this year.

With the fourth decade comes several startling revelations. Among them this: Nice is the new mean.

Clarification: Nice is nice when it’s kind. Nice is mean when it’s superficial.

There are no scientific studies I know of to back this up, but here’s an anecdotal theory. It seems as women age they lose their edit function. No more worrying about what the nice thing to say would be. Not enough time for that nonsense.

In the words of my cousin’s beautiful wife Sue, the can of worms is already open. Might as well let ’em fly.

Some of the flying worms are nice, some are not. The un-nice worms aren’t rude. But they’re not sugar-coated in shallow diplomacy, political correctness or Christianese either. They are direct little boogers because remember, we’re not getting any younger.

I’m not advocating bad manners or speaking the truth without love or sniping at folks with petty, evil comments. However, I spent years going out of my way to keep my opinions and the truth to myself so no one would be offended.

And I wasted a lot of energy in self-reproach because, another fourth decade gem, I can’t please everyone. Neither can you. Surprise!

nice picture of my pretty and her little dog too

nice picture of my pretty and her little dog too

With these conclusions, a sad observation. Some people would very much like me to be someone else. It would make them more comfortable.

You may know them too. They sound like this: Keep your emotions to yourself. You need to do God’s work. What’s with you and the truth? Just be content. Write something nice.

Is this the example I want to set for my child? It’s best to go along and get along? We should be nice at all costs even if the greatest cost is to one’s integrity?

No way, José. My life is imperfect, a work in progress. But I hope what’s important to me shines through now and then.

Be honest. Be kind. Address what’s wrong.

Be who God created you to be even if it is different than the people around you. Even if it makes some of them uncomfortable.

And by the way, when you belong to God, it’s all His work.

Godspeed, son. Let ’em fly.

An honest answer is like a kiss of friendship. Proverbs 24:26 NLT

King of Anything by Sara Bareilles makes a fitting song. Perhaps we’re related.

Yes I Can pillow from Alexandra Ferguson

image with permission from alexandraferguson.com

Alexandra Ferguson

Alexandra Ferguson started a “sassy little pillow company” on Etsy in 2009. Her pillows, featured in this post, are “American-made manufacturing from recycled materials that any side of the aisle can be excited about.” Check out more of her fun and gutsy designs at www.alexandraferguson.com, like this one with a super hero’s silhouette. Love it!

Disclaimer: I’m not being compensated to promote Alexandra Ferguson.

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Bitter Pants

bitter pants

as seen at The Limited

Just put my bitter pants on. Hmm. Looks like they still fit.

So read my friend’s Facebook status. Splendid term, bitter pants. I promptly commented: What are you doing with my pants?

I wondered. Did she steal my pants last time she visited my house? Thought they were hidden away where no one could find them. Deep in my closet, behind my collection of silent, toothy skeletons.

See them there? Hanging next to my pink pity party panties and my emerald encrusted envy glasses. Pink and green. A preppy girl at heart. Where did I put those Tretorns?

My yellow slicker o’ slander hangs there too. Covers me well when the rains of gossip fall in fluid torrents.

There’s my angry red wool scarf and my grudgeful orange leather jacket. One poor, beautiful Guernsey died to make that jacket.

But the bitter pants? Those are silk. Thousands of white mulberry worms sacrificed themselves in Shanghai. Boiled or baked in drying ovens for their spun cocoons, for filaments twisted into strong, continuous threads.

bitter skirt

as seen in Ann Taylor

Wine-soaked artisans in the alleys of Paris caressed and worked the silk, dyeing it a glowing chartreuse. It radiates the ghosts of the caterpillars and Parisians. A matte luster of fogged up windows and lipgloss on glass rims.

The silk was whisked away to the house of Versace or Givenchy, I can’t remember which, and fashioned into the bitter pants. Haute couture, not because of their rarity but for their expense.

Oh, how they fit! No matter when I put them on, they are snug as a bug in a proverbial rug.

Lots of women have them, tucked away like mine for special occasions, or flown daily like a flag. A crisp shock of citron popping in the wind.

Men have them too, though they are harder to spot–usually look sullen or vengeful on men. On women you can see them a mile away. Cool. Sharp. Lean and mean. These girls wear the pants as much as the pants wear them.

I’ve thrown mine out several times. Somehow they keep finding their way home. Magic, homing, bitter pants. Destined to climb back into my closet of tricks. So for now I still own them should I choose to wear them again.

They’ll suffocate me if I do. Squeeze my life like a boa constrictor squeezes prey. Devour me, bury me, render me a useless, angry, forlorn frame of a woman.

bitter sweater

as seen at The Limited

I plead with God for protection, for the will to take off my pride and find something else to wear. Hand me my linen robe. Bring me my coat of arms.

The bitter pants. Magnificent zombie of my sin. Scary but lifeless. Dead with the old woman. Condemned to burn in a hot blue flame and boil in a river of fire. Then I will dance, finally completely free of them.

Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. Hebrews 12:15 NLT

bitter prom dress

as seen at Macys

The music of Paul Simon is an American treasure. Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes. Wish I’d though of that.

 

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Homegirls and BFFs

me & Keno

So I’m in the J Crew dressing room one Saturday, trying on their latest confection. Outside I hear, “Kalie, you in here? It’s Christy, your BFF.”

Kalie and her BFF Christy were promptly reunited. How sweet. Meanwhile in my little stall, I was coming undone.

“Where is my BFF? Why can’t I have a BFF?” I said to myself. “I need a BFF to find me another size and bring me more cute stuff to try on and tell me how good it looks. All I have is…is…is Keno the salesperson!…(whimper)…”

Now I love me some Keno. And I love me some Desiree, Mary, Michael, and the rest of the très chic staff at my local J Crew store. I only learned what BFF means a few months ago when I joined Facebook. Didn’t realize it was the need of the moment until then.

me & K

Truth is I have plenty of BFFs, thank you very much, Kalie and Christy. I don’t limit myself either. There’s enough love to go around.

That particular Saturday, one of my BFFs was at a first grade basketball game, another at a Girl Scout cookie meeting, another busy at work in her home office. Beautiful and responsible, those girls.

Half a dozen or so of my BFFs from high school still live 750 miles away in the place we grew up. Like to think of them as the Homegirls. They make me laugh like no one else on earth can.

My college BFFs are dotted along I-40 in exotic locales like Raleigh, Winston-Salem and Asheville. Two more live on polar opposite coasts with me smack-dab in the middle of the heartland. These women knew me before I knew me.

There’s my Chicago BFF who now lives in Milwaukee. And my sassy St. Louis BFF who moved to Cincinnati last year. Miss them terribly.

Then there are my BFFs who are married to my husband’s best friends–each the epitomy of grace. The guys are swell, too.

me & A & B

Add to that my old church and work BFFs, my BSF BFFs (try saying that fast three times), my new BFFs I’m cultivating offline and online, and my fabulous lifelong BFFs who also happen to be related to me by blood or marriage.

Any of these women would have gone shopping with me that Saturday if it were possible. But life happens.

me & K

Husbands and significant others happen. Divorces happen. Jobs. Kids. Moves and miles. Before you know it, seeing each other becomes a special occasion.

Kalie and Christy, if you’re listening, enjoy your free Saturdays together. They won’t last forever. But your BFFs? They get sweeter with time.

Friends love through all kinds of weather, and families stick together in all kinds of trouble. Proverbs 17:17 The Message 

A little something for all the friends in the house. Go ahead, let your hair down

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