Thursday, December 23, 2010

What's the best kind of gift to receive?


I don't spend a lot of time deciding what to wear in the morning. I usually already know what I want to eat when the waiter asks for my drink order. I've been known to purchase shoes and even furniture on impulse. All in all, I'm a pretty quick decision-maker. But when it comes to buying gifts for others...I'm p-a-i-n-s-t-a-k-i-n-g-l-y...s-l-o-w.

I can't help it. I love to give gifts. But just any gift won't do. I have to find THE gift. I envy people like my mother, who picks up random items all year long whenever she comes across a bargain. She has drawers full of gloves, sheet sets, baby blankets, etc. So, whenever an occasion arises...BAM! She's ready at a moment's notice. I've tried her philosophy. I really have. Even this year. Finding myself in IKEA a few months ago I loaded up on candles, linens, and other versatile items...in the hopes that, come Christmas, I could match them up with an appropriate recipient. No such luck. I have a hard time giving someone something while at the same time knowing in my heart that I didn't buy it specifically FOR them.

Don't get me wrong. Sometimes I have no choice but to resort to the more generic gift options. For instance, this year the majority of my husband's and my grandmothers are getting scarves, and...drumroll, please...SOCKS for the granddads! What's not to love about socks?! Everything. That's what. Socks aren't fun. They aren't personal. They reflect a failure on my part to know what the person needs or cares about, as well as possibly a deeper seated need for approval. But that's another post.

So, what DOES make for a good gift?!
I wish I knew. I just want it to be what the person WANTS.

Ask someone like my husband what he wants for Christmas/birthday/anniversary/etc. He'll answer..."nothing." When I'm insistent for him to tell me something, ANYTHING, he then replies..."less debt." Joking aside, though, what he really wants in a gift is something that he would have ended up having to buy for himself eventually, but would rather just get as a gift in order to eliminate the extra cost associated with him buying both the needed thing AND me buying him a gift (e.g. boots to replace the ones he's worn out, a bedliner for his new truck, or a pressure washer).

I, on the other hand, am just the opposite. What I'm seeking is something I would NEVER have considered buying for myself. Frivolous little things (not necessarily expensive, just unnecessary) that I'll probably keep a long time and that I will never forget the occasion for which they were given. What I should receive this year (if the hints have worked): cowboy boots, a tambourine, and tickets to the National Championship game (ok, so maybe I've given up on the last one).

One of my favorite gift-giving tales is a story by one of my favorite authors, O. Henry, called "The Gift of the Magi." It's about a young couple, scrounging to make ends meet, who desperately want to buy each other something grand for Christmas. The wife, with no other available options for raising funds, sells her gorgeous long hair in order to buy her husband a chain for his watch, his prized possession. She does so only to have him come home to surprise her with beautiful combs for her hair, which she'd been eyeing for some time in a store window, but of course could no longer use. How did he afford such an extravagance? You guessed it...sold his watch!

The Magi referenced in the title are actually the wise men who brought gifts to the newborn baby Jesus. They appear (perhaps erroneously, as it would have taken them years to travel to where Jesus was) in Christmas pageants, nativities, and stories we tell as we reflect on the true meaning of this season. So, technically speaking, I submit that they could indeed be the first-ever givers of a Christmas gift. Or are they?

Back up a few years. A few thousand years. (As it were, the first Christmas was a long time in coming.) And, if necessity is a factor in determining the worth of a Christmas gift...then, MAN, were those Israelites needy! Because, while focusing on the real story of Christmas and the baby in the manger, it's also important to remember...the story didn't start there.

It started in the Garden of Eden when man gave in to temptation. It continued as God's people were overwhelmed by their inability to atone for their own sins. It escalated as they cried out for the Savior who had been promised, who would deliver them once and for all from sin and death. It was fulfilled in a stable, by a simple girl, giving birth on an ordinary night.

So, why the wise men? Why the gifts? Was it because a King had been born into royalty? No. He wasn't. Was it because there was a great banquet at the palace to celebrate His birth? No. There was none. So, why then?

It was because the prophecies of thousands of years had been fulfilled! The answer they'd prayed for had come! Their most desperate need had been met! Talk about gratitude! (Oh, how it shallows my request for boots.)

I said the story didn't start in the manger, but more importantly...it doesn't end there.

Jesus was sent for a singular purpose. Not to be born into a brief life on earth, but to die for something eternal. This baby would take on the sins of the world (past and future), endure the wrath of a loving yet just God, and forever atone for a people who could never do enough to achieve holiness.

Merry Christmas to all, as we celebrate the birth of the One who satisfies every needs for those who believe and follow Him.

Q: What's the best kind of gift to receive?
A: A sacrificial One.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What is the Music Genome Project?

Anyone who's used Pandora is probably familiar with this term. It's part of the explanation given when you try to dig down into the deeper reasoning behind why Pandora chose a particular song to be a part of your station. For anyone who isn't familiar with the Music Genome Project, or Pandora for that matter, here's a crash course. Pandora is an internet radio station that selects music that it thinks you'll enjoy based on a favorite song or artist that you have provided. The Music Genome Project is the tool that it uses to accomplish this feat. Similar to the study of genetics in plants and animals, the project identified 400 "genes" or characteristics of songs. Any given song is analyzed by one, or sometimes more, musicians to identify the genes present in the song and assign them a value between 1 and 5. Based on the set of genes/values identified in a song (its "vector") a distance function creates a list of similar songs. Pretty complicated, huh?

I must say it's fairly effective. When I plug my iPhone into my car stereo, fire up my Pandora app, and tap Matt Nathanson Radio...I get a pretty good playlist of songs that I enjoy. Their explanation, when I tap the Song button, usually tells me they chose a song based on characteristics such as "a vocal-centric aesthetic, mellow rock instrumentation, folk influences, a good dose of guitar pickin', a breathy male lead vocalist, etc." Sure, all traits that I enjoy. But there are still a lot more factors that cause a song to make it onto my personal playlist. I mean, sure I like songs that fit those criteria, but that list isn't exhaustive. Where are the characteristics like "songs I like to sing at the top of my lungs in my car," "songs I'd love to pretend were written about me," and "songs that have that one perfect line that fits so well with that haunting cord progression"? Show me the musician who's going to sit down and quantify THOSE things. (Some good examples of those, respectively, are "High Enough" by Damn Yankees, "Endlessly" by Green River Ordinance, and "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables...none of which will ever make an appearance on Matt Nathanson radio.)

Now, I'll address another entity that parades itself as being an expert on what it is that I might like to listen to...the iTunes Genius feature. If the genome project could be defined as complex, then I'd have to say that Genius is nothing short of...creepy. Genius anonymously sends your iTunes library to Apple's database and uses algorithms to determine which songs to play, based on similar findings in other users' libraries. However, now that the Genius sidebar has been replaced with the Ping sidebar, Genius no longer recommends songs for you to download. So its suggestions are all based on the songs that are already in your library. This helps me ZERO. Also, seeing as how I'm generally embarrassed for anyone to see what all is in my music library (OK, so I like John Denver and ABBA?!), it pains me to think my eclectic song choices are being sent out into cyberspace.

Contrast this with another music persona who, until recently*, had fallen silent on Birmingham airwaves...Scott Register, or "Reg" as he was known to listeners of his shows Reg's Coffee House and The Morning Blend. Reg built quite the name for himself by identifying musical talent and introducing it to the masses. I can honestly say I have him to thank for so many of the artists I've grown to love today...artists I would likely have never heard in the absence of his show (The Airborne Toxic Event, Benjy Davis Project, The Civil Wars). I first came to "know" Reg when he appeared on 107.7 during my late high school/early college years and then later on the breath of fresh air that I like to call Live 100.5...which [scary bagpipes...then...dun, dun, dun...] met its demise earlier this year.

To this DAY I can't understand how a city this size can sustain, like, 10 country music stations (no, THAT part I get...keep reading)...yet not even ONE decent alternative/indie/folk radio station that was hands-down the best thing to happen to Birmingham radio in a decade! Or longer! Anyway, I digress.

So, in the absence of a hard-working, well-rounded, forward-thinking, talent-recognizing entity to single-handedly build my iTunes library on my behalf...I'm instead forced to do so myself. What has resulted is a tireless array of Pandora bookmarking, Shazam tagging, friend polling, and iTunes searching. All in search of my "new favorite song/artist." Why should I have to go to all this trouble?! I need an app that can do it for me! I need Reg! Better yet...a PERSONAL Reg! A music shopping assistant who can read my mind, interpret my tastes, and go out and download the perfect selection of music to serve as the soundtrack for my morning commutes, my jogs, my cooking frenzies, and my wistful evenings alone.

Until then...has anyone heard any good music lately?!

Q: What is the Music Genome Project?
A: A good start!

*I learned today that Reg and his show are back as a part of "The Mountain," a new internet radio station. I'll be curious to see how this venture fares.

Friday, November 26, 2010

How much sugar and butter does it take to turn a sweet potato into a yam?


Thanksgiving has again come and gone. I'm enjoying a long weekend away from work. I've done a lot of baking. I've eaten a lot of dressing. I've gained three pounds. As I do year after year, I've again dealt with the dilemma that occurs at the intersection where my love of cooking crosses my families' stubborn, picky appetites.

The past few holidays have not gone particularly well. Two years ago there was the pecan pie that would never set (can't blame anyone but myself for that one...although I'm still trying to figure out what went wrong...). Also the squash casserole that no one seemed to eat. Still don't understand that one. My family all loves squash. Or so I thought. I made what I considered to be a delicious squash casserole. It was yummy! My aunt and grandmother liked it. My mother said she did, but I'm pretty sure she lied to preserve my feelings. At the end of the night I took home an almost untouched squash casserole! The explanation: they just prefer their squash fried! Oh, for the LOVE...

Last year there was the sweet potato debacle. I, myself, am not a fan, but my family seems to like them...so I volunteered to make them for both family functions. I peeled about a dozen and shoved the peels into the garbage disposal in what I thought was reasonable intervals. Fast forward to an hour later when my husband was disassembling the disposal and wet sweet potato mush was pouring out onto my kitchen floor! Looking back this was, while humorous, not one of my favorite moments in our marriage. And again, at the end of the Thanksgiving festivities, I was coming home with much fuller dishes than I would have liked. This year's excuses: Granddad doesn't like cinnamon, and there were too many competing sweets.

Now on to this year's Thanksgiving festivities. For my dad's family's get-together, my food assignments had been doled out weeks ago. I was instructed to make their favorite Texas sheet cake and a peach cobbler that everyone seems to love. Done. My mom's family was much more difficult. Determined to cook something to impress (fueled by my past failures), I analyzed the entire Thanksgiving lunch menu and finally found the obvious gap in the mealtime offerings...(drum roll, please)...sweet potatoes. And so I volunteered.

Follow this up with a desperate phone call to my mother, as I tried to figure out how to prepare them in such a way that my family would not turn their noses up at them. What followed was a vague overview of how my Grandmother used to prepare candied yams. A. very. vague. overview. I searched online and finally found a recipe that resembled what my mom described. It involved only 5 ingredients (a plus in my family's book!)...sweet potatoes, butter, sugar, water, and time.

Please note what ingredient was NOT a part of said recipe: yams*. There are none in there. Nevertheless the recipe proudly proclaims itself as "Yummy Candied Yams." And they were! Accordingly to my family, that is. I ate one bite to test them as I was removing them from the stove. I might as well have been eating a sugar packet. But, hey, whatever floats your boat. It is, after all, Thanksgiving! The "yams" were a hit! Even with my picky Grandfather! I let him keep all the leftovers and came home with nothing but my clean, empty dish! And still no yams were harmed in the process!

Q: How much sugar and butter does it take to turn a sweet potato into a yam?
A: No amount of sugar and butter can accomplish this, but if my family will eat them...WHO CARES?!

*Yams and sweet potatoes are not the same vegetable. They're not even close. While both are tubers, they aren't even related. Sweet potatoes come in both hard and soft varieties. When the soft variety was first sold commercially in the US, there was a need to differentiate them. They were referred to as "yams" because of their similarity to the African vegetable they resembled. However, unless you've ever specifically sought one out in an international market, you've probably never actually eaten a yam.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Are there any actual benefits to two-a-days?

I realized, too late, at work this afternoon that I had drank entirely too much water to be able to successfully complete the 2-mile run I had planned for this afternoon. But this is not actually where this story begins. Back up a few days...

I decided, again too late, this past weekend that I would run my second 5k...leaving myself a very short 2 weeks to prepare for the Jingle Bell Run on December 4th. Still, though, a little more background is needed. Let's back up to this past spring...

That's when I decided to run my first ever 5k. By "first ever" I don't just mean my first organized running event. What I actually mean is the first time I've ever worked towards any physical goal. Ever. In the history of me.

Luckily, I coerced two of my coworkers into joining me in this venture. We worked hard. We trained. We followed a plan that required us to run almost every day of the week. We sweated. Sometimes we missed a few days. We contemplated running twice in one day to make up for it (but, really, who were we kidding?!). A few times we almost vomited. But...WE DID IT! We all ran the entire 3.1 miles without falling, fainting, or just generally having to lie down. And...then we stopped. Well, for the most part. I myself have run sporadically since our race in June. By sporadic, I mean maybe once per week. That is, until this past weekend...

Propelled by an increasing desire to shed the few pounds I gained during our trip to Chicago, as well as a desperate urgency to run another race before 1.) I lose any endurance I have built up from preparing for my first 5k, 2.) it gets entirely too cold for me to run and/or set foot outside at all, 3.) my running buddies also lose enthusiasm, leaving me to sit my butt at home all the time watching HGTV and eating potato chips.

Anyway, back to today. From my [limited] experience, very few things cause me to suffer from the dreaded stitch in my side so much as eating/drinking too soon prior to running. At 3:15 this afternoon (prior to my 4:00 p.m. run) this realization came too little too late, as I chugged down cup number 2 or 3 since lunch! But what could I do at that point? I drove from work over to the trail, warmed myself up with a pep talk, and gave it my best. Which was NOT good enough.

The pain in my side (along with all the water I could feel sloshing in my stomach) began at the 3/4 mile mark. I had to slow to a walk for a few seconds as we turned around at the one mile line. Aaaaaand then again a few minutes later. Thoroughly disappointed in myself (given the short amount of time I have to work up to 3.1 miles), I scolded myself under my breath all the way back to the car. FAIL.

I recharged on the way home with my iPod playing and the sunroof open, on the scenic route, and made a quick run through the grocery store to pick up the things I needed for the Thanksgiving dishes I've been assigned for my various family gatherings. When I finally got home the full moon was bright, the temperature was still 71 degrees, and I felt like a new person. Soooo...I ran again! Not far, mind you. But still...it made me feel better about my poor performance earlier this afternoon.

I have no idea what this will mean for me tomorrow. One struggling run + another shorter, yet more successful one could = soreness and disaster. Of course, the internet is full of a variety of opinions on this topic. Some say two-a-days are the ultimate way to mix-up your routine. Supposedly you burn more calories taking the same workout and breaking it into two segments. Other sources say two-a-days can lead to burnout and overexertion. I seriously doubt that the minimal effort I put into a second run this evening could do much to help or harm me. But, if nothing else, it certainly helped my feelings! I just hope I can walk [and run again] tomorrow!

Q: Are there any actual benefits to two-a-days?
A: I'll let you know tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

quirk [kwurk] (noun): a peculiarity of action, behavior, or personality; mannerism

I just returned from a girls' weekend in Chicago. Two of my best friends and I spent 3 fun-filled nights in the Windy City. We did a lot of eating, shopping, walking, and most of all...laughing! Mostly at each other.
We agreed after this trip that you don't really know someone...I mean REALLY KNOW them...until you go on vacation together. For example, my travel companions and I work together in the same office. We've known each other for multiple years now. My desk is an approximate 45 second walk from one of their desks and about 7 feet away from the other's. The three of us eat lunch together practically every day. We talk all the time and frequently hang out outside of work. But I gained a deeper understanding of both of them after this trip. I would have never dreamed I had so many things yet to learn about them. And about myself.
Although unplanned, this was not however a difficult feat. It seems that one's oddities become much more clear and more evident when reflected in the eyes of friends. I know ours were!

Let's start with Harmony:




Many of her odd behaviors revolve around her nighttime routine. She beds down like a dog for several minutes before she actually lies still and goes to sleep. This activity combined with the crispness of fresh hotel linens results in what sounds like someone crumpling a paper bag repeatedly in the bed next to you. This noise, however, does not in fact offend the offender as...alas, she happens to sleep in earplugs. Among her other faux pas...she loses all decorum when trying to hail a cab, lacks the ability to avoid looking like a tourist, and is incapable of maintaining her balance while standing in a moving subway train.

Now on to Anna...

This chick wakes up freakishly early in the morning. Even on vacation! She also lacks the capability to go back to sleep! Finding herself subject to her own pre-trip rule (that the first person who wakes up is NOT to awaken the others), she consequently lined the bathtub with pillows and read a book until we decided to get up. Which is probably the main contributor to her next quirk: an intense desire for all things breakfast! Among her more impressive traits is her uncanny knack for using her love of Auburn football to make fast friends (or enemies if the case may be) of any group of fellow sports enthusiasts.

My turn. Although I'd love to be able to say that my performance on this trip was nothing short of flawless...I, too, was ridiculed for my eccentricities. Those who know me realize this isn't easy for me. I'm pretty uptight and don't generally enjoy being the butt of a joke. However, on this trip, it's safe to say that I found myself on the tail end of quite a few of them.

Here goes...




My biggest overshadowing quirk is my inability to just let loose, cut up, and have fun. I overcame this inhibition as best I could over the past weekend, as evidenced by my posing for this photo with a piece of sushi hanging out of my mouth. I was teased for my general obsessive compulsive behaviors...a major one being my need to begin on the right-hand side of a store and work my way back around systematically in a counter-clockwise direction...rather than just meander through. My secret fear of revolving doors was brought to light. And my religious dependence on my iPhone Maps app, while well-intentioned, sent us in the wrong direction more than once. You can also imagine the skeptic looks my friends gave me as I covertly used it to run checks and balances on our cab driver to make sure he wasn't ripping us off with his little detour through Wrigleyville.


While it may sound like these quirky behaviors were the annoyances of our trip, the opposite is in fact true. They were the highlights! The things that made us laugh so hard we cried and that caused us to be so loud in the cab that I actually apologized to the driver for having to put up with us! And in reality I couldn't have been any less embarrassed. We. Had. Fun. Just being who we are and doing what we do...which, when you really break it down...is dang funny.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The "Ho" Code

On my way home from work today, a local talk radio show was recapping some highlights of something they referred to as the "bro code." I missed the beginning of the segment, but the limited research I've done since arriving home suggests they could have been referring to the list of rules popularized by Barney Stinson, Neil Patrick Harris' character on the sitcom "How I Met Your Mother." The various rules discussed related to everything from not dating your Bro's sister, to the appropriate urinal choice when there's another bro in the bathroom, and even...of course...the number one rule of bro-dom: Bros before Hos*.

As a Ho, I must admit I'm a bit jealous. Relationships with others of your same gender are incredibly simplified when there's a list of rules. We Hos aren't so lucky. There are a lot of assumptions, uncertainties, and guesswork involved. And often times we get it wrong. So, to assist my sister Hos...I've begun a list of rules for us.

I submit to you...The "Ho" Code. It's by no means exhaustive. Nor could it ever be. We Hos are a complex species. Not only would an all-inclusive list of rules to help us live together peaceably require years of research, focus groups, and careful study of the species in its natural habitat (the shopping mall)...it could neither be performed by a man (because he's too simple-minded) or a woman (because she'd be too busy shopping). But it's a start!

1.) When a group of three Hos eat in a restaurant at a booth, the Ho who is sitting alone shalt offer to share her bench with the other two Hos' purses.

2.) A Ho shalt not steal the look of another Ho.** An outfit another Ho pointed out to you in the mall the day before payday is off limits to you. Thou shalt not rush to beat her to the store to buy it after work the next day. As a side note, a Ho who has borrowed an article of clothing or an accessory from another Ho may accept a compliment on said item only after giving appropriate credit to its rightful Ho.

3.) A Ho shalt not upstage another Ho. Another Ho's wedding is not the place to announce to everyone that you're expecting. After hearing about another Ho's child's milestone, no Ho should mention that her own child just got accepted to Harvard...at age 7.

4.) A Ho is obligated to tell her Ho if she overhears another Ho (or group of Hos) talking negatively about her Ho. After doing so, the Ho should be prepared to engage in one of the following: a.) convincing her Ho that the gossip is completely incongruous, b.) watching her Ho commence to sobbing, c.) aid her Ho in beating down the other Ho (or group of Hos).

5.) All Hos are commanded to advise another Ho immediately upon realizing that their Ho's prospective man is cheating, wrong for them, or a registered sex offender. This responsibility is not to be taken lightly. Love is blind. We see things they miss.

6.) The failure of a Ho to notify her Ho of food in her teeth, a crazy fly-away hair, or a dress tucked into her panties (when it can be proven that the Ho could have or should have had constructive knowledge of said anomaly, as well as an opportunity to make the Ho aware of the condition in a way that does not further call it to the attention of those around the Ho) is a serious offense punishable by varying degrees of torture beginning with a mere reprimand and escalating up to and including termination of the friendship, depending on the severity.

7.) Hos shall not bear false witness.*** Period. Casual evasion is permitted (i.e. Well, it's not my favorite hairstyle you've had.) Lying is not (i.e. It looks great! Mullets are totally IN!)

8.) Hos shall not take offense to their Hos who offer sincere constructive criticism, when it is offered out of love. Concur with their critique? Thank them. Their actions took courage. If not, agree to disagree. And move on.

9.) Hos may only refer to their very closest friends as "Hos." That is, to their face.

10.) (and this one is key) A pact exists between all Hos that we will maintain a position of shock and disdain when being referred to as "Hos" by any member of the "Bros"!

*This rule was suggested by my friend Harmony so, if you were entertained or enlightened by it, you/I have her to thank.
**The journalist in me has resorted to using the same plural form of "ho" that the Associated Press used when quoting Don Imus.***
***OK, I copied that one too. Credit goes to God himself. He was on to something.
****The nerd in me feels the need to explain why I chose "Hos" over "Hoes" or "Ho's."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Are the grocery store chains conspiring together to ruin my life?


I live in a rather remote suburb of Birmingham. I also appreciate good, fresh food. The combination of these two facts should not, one would think, present THAT much of a problem. Wrong.

When my husband and I married, I moved from the Trussville area (read: seconds from a Publix and a Winn-Dixie...minutes from a Food World and a Target) to Moody (read: Grocery Store Hell). The city of Moody itself boasted only a Food World (meager, but acceptable...also very convenient to home). Nearby Leeds had a Food Giant and a Wal-mart. My grocery store situation has been the bane of my existence for the past 3 and a half years.

Food World was fine. It served my needs. While it sometimes lacked the specific brand name I was looking for or the bizarre, uncommon ingredient for which my recipe called...it was generally okay. It was also less than half a mile from my house. Alas, this relationship could not last. When the Bruno's/Food World conglomerate began to dissolve and store closings were rumored, I remember commenting to my husband, "They can't close ours! There's no way! It will NEVER shut down! It's ALL WE HAVE!"

*sigh*

Food World's closing left me with only two options...Food Giant and Wal-mart. That is to say, those are the only grocery stores within a reasonable driving distance from my house. I would also like it noted that the closing of my Food World corresponded with the closing of the Bruno's next to my office...my only other source of acceptable grocery shopping that didn't require me to veer off my normal course on my drive home from work. Hello, injury...meet insult!

Since the onset of my plight, I've given my two remaining establishments equal opportunity to prove me wrong. Fail. Let's begin with Wal-mart. It's too crowded. The brands are too limited. The meat is awful...and expensive. The people are just weird...did I mention I'm positive that 99% of the "People of Wal-mart" were photographed in my very own Wal-mart?! Its redeeming qualities? Wal-mart is often cheaper on most packaged products. Also their Great Value brand has really stepped up its game here lately.

Now on to Food Giant...oh, my, my, my...where to begin. How about a list of some of this store's more major offenses that I've encountered over the course of several months...?

*no limes...none...zero
*gnats swarming the red onions
*fresh salmon is gray in color?
*no couscous whatsoever
*zucchini sold only in cellophane-wrapped packs of three
*every single half-gallon of skim milk expires tomorrow
*only TWO...count 'em...one, two...different varieties of frozen pizzas
*no fresh snow peas...not even in a bag
*lady fingers?!?!?!...what are THOSE?!

Food Giant's perks? Pretty much all I can say is that I have gotten some decent meat for a reasonable price (excluding the above-mentioned salmon). Each time I patronize this store, I come home with high blood pressure and swearing that I'll never return. Then again, what choice do I have?

We're currently getting ready to put our house on the market. So we've been visiting open houses and scoping out homes online. We're fairly educated buyers. Which means we know the three important characteristics for good real estate: Location, Location, Location (read: Near a Publix, Near a Publix, Near a Publix)! Because honestly that is all I care about on this next go-around. Forget the hideousness of the seafoam green tile in the bathroom, the outdated paisley dining room wallpaper, or even the shag carpet in the half-finished basement...JUST GIVE ME A DECENT GROCERY STORE!!!!

Q: Are the grocery store chains conspiring together to ruin my life?!
A: Yes, in their own unique ways. Food World, by closing. Wal-mart, by constantly attracting hordes of freaks. Food Giant, by consistently managing to suck. Publix, by continuing to elude me...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

get-up (noun), informal: a costume or outfit, especially one that is striking or bizarre

"I fear that I'm sporting a 'get-up'," I typed to two of my co-workers this morning, in response to an email requesting my participation in a trip downstairs to the cafe for coffee. This is a term with which we're all very familiar. We frequently use it to refer to an outfit that we're sporting that seems a little bit thrown together.
The term was first introduced to me as a child. Since we lived so far from "town," my mother often didn't come home on Wednesday nights to get me ready for church when my father was working a shift that allowed him to be home with me and bring me himself. Dad, or in later years even I myself, would be responsible for getting me dressed and presentable for church.
As it were, my father has never been accused of being on the cutting edge of fashion. I, on the other hand, was quite the creative dresser. I loved mixing up a variety of combinations of garments, accessories, shoes, etc. Some personal favorites were suspenders, BIG earrings, and layers of scrunch socks. So, much to my mother's dismay, I often arrived for church wearing God only knows what kind of crazy combination of my (and sometimes even HER) clothing. I vividly remember a telephone conversation with her on one particular Wednesday, where she was giving me instructions for what to do before church, and she said, "Oh, and wear an actual outfit...not some get-up of yours."
Her criticism didn't stop with me either. I laugh when I think of the first time my mother met a co-worker of mine (one who was involved in today's "get-up" or "no get-up" verdict). We were in a store, when suddenly I heard my mother whisper, "Well, my goodness...that girl has jeans on under her dress..." I turned to see who/what she was talking about, and then shocked my mother by catching the fashion offender's attention by yelling, "Harmony...HEY!" My mother stared, bewildered, through the introductions.
I should interject here than I'm NO fashionista, by any stretch of the imagination. I'm generally more comfortable in jeans, a T-shirt, and flip-flops and have little interest in sporting the latest trends. That being said, I do love to shop, love a bargain, and from time-to-time..inspired by my childhood creativity or maybe even peer pressure...I will occasionally go out on a limb. Today was one such day.
Dressed in a short, beige, ruffled baby-doll dress, jeggings (the more modern and acceptable cousin of the jort), and cognac-colored flats...I was definitely the proud wearer of a "get-up," in my opinion. My friends, however, affirmed me as we headed downstairs. They told me my outfit was fine, it looked cute, blah-blah-blah...and then came the true test.
I was making my cup of coffee, and a lady older than my mother came up alongside me. I noticed that she was giving me the infamous up-and-down look. Here we go, I thought. She acknowledge me, smiled, and then said, "Well, you've got the idea haven't you?" I stared back blankly. "That's cute," she said, motioning at my outfit. "Thanks," I said. "I told my friends it's what my mother would call a 'get-up'." She thought on that for a second and then laughed. "Yes. I guess it is," she said. She laughed again. She was still laughing as I walked away.
The lesson here? A get-up will always be...a get-up. There's no changing that. The trick comes in making the right get-up work in the right era and for the right audience. That last party is key. If someone doesn't approve of your get-up, maybe it's not you. It could be them!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Do I suffer from A.D.D.?

Yesterday I had one big thing I needed to get done. One. That's all. I didn't. Get it done, that is. Here's a list of what I DID get done, along with the corresponding photos:

-5 loads of laundry washed

-dishwasher full of dishes loaded/unloaded

-counters wiped down spotlessly clean

-pathetic attempt at a run

-napped

-sorted giant mound of crap that's been hanging in our laundry room

It appears I regressed back to a similar state that I used to experience in college. Perhaps some of you know it. It's the phenomenon where you have something for which you need to prepare. Maybe a test, a big project, or even a final. You need to study. You know you do. But you just don't.
I would surmise that the days leading up to my most complex college finals/projects were also the times that my dorm room or house was the cleanest, most orderly, and free of any and all dirty laundry. I would literally do ANYTHING to avoid studying. Some of the more random things I remember doing as an alternative: playing tennis with my roommate until we both almost died (a.k.a. 20 minutes), spending every waking minute for days putting together a 1000 piece puzzle, watching back-to-back recorded episodes (VHS!) of Dawson's Creek. Ahhhh, those were the days!
I would also like to submit that, in joking about having A.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder), I am not making light of those who actually suffer from this condition. I am not mocking them. I am identifying with them. I, like I assume many others do, always mistakenly thought that people who deal with A.D.D. have trouble focusing. I pictured them to be hyper, spastic, and just all over the place. THAT, I'm not. But then I read an article. (I can't remember where. I rarely do. Another symptom, perhaps? I can't be sure.) While I can't remember when or where, I do remember one quote that really brought everything into perspective for me. Allow me to paraphrase loosely. The gist of the statement was that "people who suffer from A.D.D. don't have a problem with their ability to focus. They're extremely focused. They're just extremely focused...on something else."
That was a defining moment for me. After reading that description, I became convinced. I definitely suffer from some sort of manageable level of A.D.D. I say "manageable" because it doesn't seem to affect, to any noticeable degree, my day-to-day life. I mean, there's the occasional situation where I suddenly realize I've been out of touch for the past 10 minutes of my conference call because I've been intensely studying a hangnail. And then there's the seemingly routine shower where I step out to realize I've been in there 20 minutes and I have NO IDEA where all that time went! Please tell me someone else can identify!
I hate to enable or justify my behavior (because clearly I don't intend to seek any treatment), but...it almost seems like the shoe fits. I'm easily distracted and, once side-tracked, have a hard time refocusing. I can spend ungodly amounts of time focusing on something so unbelievably mundane that it should have bored me after a few minutes. And I complete the most undesirable tasks imaginable, just to avoid the things I really need to be doing. Yep, I'd say the diagnosis is clear.

Q: Do I suffer from A.D.D.?
A: Ohhh, look at the pretty butterfly!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

What makes the leaves change color in the Fall?


I hate Fall. Okay, not so much Fall...just everything it represents. For starters, everything is DYING. I get that the leaves are really pretty for a period of, like, 47 minutes. After that they fall, we rake, and everything is bare. And cold. Dare I mention the cold? Burrrrrrr! Hate. it. I've often said that I begin to get cold sometime in mid-October, reach a hard freeze by Christmas, and don't completely thaw out again until May. My hands and feet honestly stay freezing cold for half of the year!
I guess I can at least somewhat identify with those of you, my husband included, who spend the whole year waiting for Fall to arrive for whatever reason. For him, Fall contains everything that is good...hunting season, football, the colorful foliage, the crisp air, his birthday, football, the crunch of walking through dry leaves, hunting season, etc. Oh, and did I mention football and hunting season? There's also my friend Haley who's obsessed with Halloween (hmmm...I do enjoy myself a good costume party...), and then another friend Harmony who freakishly enjoys dancing on the edge of hypothermia. However for me, myself, I just don't get it. But it's here. So I must accept it.
I must say that Autumn gave me little to no notice this year. I arrived at work last Monday to see that the Bradford pears that line the entrance to my office building had literally changed colors over the weekend! And that was before the temperature dropped!! Which made me question what it is that signals the trees that the time has come to transition into Fall. As, clearly, it was not the arrival of anything that even closely resembled Autumnal weather.
On a related note, though, a similar change has occurred in me. Sensing the onset of cooler temperatures, I've recently been moved with a sudden urge to refresh my Fall/Winter wardrobe. Sweaters, jackets, and scarves grace the pages of every sale paper and magazine I receive. They're on display in store windows and appearing in commercials. I mean, it's still too hot for me to go running outside during the day, but get outta my way, people...I need BOOTS!!!! Seriously, what is up with that?
So, maybe the trees and I aren't so different. We know cooler weather is coming. It always does, no matter what our argument or defense. Might as well give in sooner rather than later. After all, it means I'm able to debut my scarves and leggings that much sooner!

Q: What makes the leaves change color in the Fall?
A: The same indefinable sensation that causes me to run out and buy sweaters and boots!*


P.S. Please revisit this site, once Spring nears, to read a related post entitled "It's April and FREEZING...why am I wearing sandals?!"

[*Well I really was curious about what makes the leaves change color, so I did research it. The answer wasn't all that interesting, but I feel obligated to include it. Basically, when the hours of daylight grow shorter each day the trees do not have enough light to continue photosynthesis (which literally means "putting together with light") and the chlorophyll disappears from their leaves, revealing the other colors (yellow, orange, etc.) which have been there all along but were overpowered by the green color during the warmer months of long days. The deepening of shades (reds, purples, and browns) that occurs in some trees is caused by glucose that remains in the leaves after photosynthesis stops.]

Monday, September 13, 2010

Why does hosting a shower make me feel like such a grown up?



And I'm feeling pretty grown up these days after recently hosting 2 showers within 4 days. I pondered this question last Sunday as I prepared for my second one of the week. I'd made grape salad, washed and prepared fresh vegetables, changed into a dress and out of the jeans I'd hastily worn to church that morning, and donned several things I rarely wear: pearls, lipstick, perfume, and Spanx to name a few. I had also loaded up a market tote full of serveware that I've scarcely used since receiving it as a wedding gift over 3 years ago. I glimpsed myself, my market tote, and my lipstick and pearls as I headed out the door. I sighed. And thought to myself, "When did I become such a grown up?"
It's only natural that a baby shower should make me feel that way. I grew up watching my mother do the very same. Except in a very different way than we do today. First of all, I would have never gone to church in anything other than a dress. Wearing lipstick would have been more of a regular occurrence than the SPF 15 chapstick I usually sport. Back then, all the ladies from church pooled together all of their glass plates, punch glasses, tablecloths, etc. Today, we just run to Target or Hobby Lobby, and everything's disposable! But the overall concept really hasn't changed. We plan for months. We dress our best. We cook and clean. We don pearls.
A few things definitely HAVE changed greatly, though. Their shower menus consisted of the following: cake, punch (usually seafoam green in color and containing sherbert), nuts, mints, and maybe a cheese ball if you were lucky. Ours have progressed to strawberry lemonade, petit fours, a wide enough variety of dips to blow your mind, and fruit trays containing whole watermelons carved into the shape of a baby carriage! Quite a stretch from my mother's day. I actually called her last Saturday night as I prepared one of my dishes for the shower. "Mom," I yelled into the phone. "I'm afraid I don't have enough grape salad!" Her reply? "Well, honey, that's okay. They'll just eat it 'til it's gone." Bless. Her.
I, on the other hand, could never be so cool about such a majorly important issue. If it were up to me, there would be enough of each dish at the shower so that if every guest in attendance heaped an entire serving of every single item on the table onto their plate...there would still be plenty left over. Taking home half of whatever foods I brought is more than acceptable to me if it means that my dish was eaten, enjoyed, and remained looking plentiful throughout the event!
Also of concern to me is the presentation of the foods, gifts, and decor involved. A few weeks prior to Sunday's shower, I received a gift in the mail from one of the invitees who wasn't going to be able to attend. It contained several loose items that were gift-wrapped and shipped in a FedEx envelope...only to become demolished during shipping. I couldn't bear to show up with a such a tattered present, even if it wasn't from me...so, in a particularly violent attack of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I bought a gift bag and tissue paper and rewrapped it. And mocked myself, all the while.
Also concerned with keeping my own attitude in check at the day's events, I listened to praise and worship music on the long drive from my house to the site of the shower. Why? Because I operate on the concept of Put Good In...Get Good Out! Too many women in one room can have a tendency to become critical or catty, and...althouth I have a long way to go in this department...I can honestly say, from my heart, that I want no part of it. So I sang and worshipped at the top of my lungs throughout the entire drive. (Much, I'm sure, to the amusement of my fellow motorists.)
This, of all areas, is where I most long to be like my mother. And, for that matter, HER mother. Both shudder(ed) at the thought of offending anyone, or speaking ill of them. In that regard, and by the grace of God, I have a lot to learn. And always will. Until then, my cynicism will probably continue to triumph. (Much, I'm sure, to the enjoyment of any of my blog followers.)
This trait is not one of which I'm proud. Lucky for me, pearls dress it up a bit. Lipstick helps to cover. Perfume masks. And Spanx contains.

Q: Why does hosting a shower make me feel like such a grown up?
A: I have no idea...because I have SO FAR to go...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Do Stacy and Clinton have it right?

So, hopefully everyone is familiar with the TLC show "What Not to Wear." I'm a big fan. Mainly because watching it makes me SO okay with my own fashion debacles. Side note: if anyone would like to nominate me for this show, feel free. Just let me know so I can make sure to wear my absolute WORST outfits for the next two weeks while you videotape me. I promise you that being mocked on network television and letting go of my entire wardrobe are TOTALLY worth a $5000 shopping spree in New York City. Pretty sure I have an old pair of jorts and some white sandals that I would gladly don for the occasion.

I'm pondering this question because a co-worker informed me that she was called out by a stranger in our office today for wearing leggings before Labor Day. My question to you is...when did this become a rule?! I'm familiar with the no-white-before-Easter-or-after-Labor-Day regulation. (I actually believe this also originally expanded to a no-opened-toed-shoes-before...after rule, but geez, people, this is Alabama!) Outside of that, I really don't know of any hard and fast rules for dressing.

Interestingly enough...Stacy and Clinton--fashion police, hosts of the popular show that critiques people's inability to dress themselves and helps them learn to look presentable--say there are no rules when it comes to fashion. They say to disregard trends, what's in style, etc. and wear what works for you. Street signs displayed in the show's opening sequence proclaim that bag/shoe matching is not required, that white is permitted after Labor Day, etc. But does that actually work in the real world?

Apparently not, as my friend was cited on the escalator today for wearing leggings. I applaud her. She managed to keep her cool, while the offender rattled on about how she noticed that my friend was wearing leggings...and how she's just DYING to wear hers, but you're just not supposed to wear them until after Labor Day. I didn't witness this whole encounter, but I can imagine that the above statements were probably followed up with a "Clueless"-esque giggle. For which I applaud my friend again for not slapping the broad across her spray-tanned face. From what I understand, the offender was really quite the fashionista herself...what, with her ankle-length pants, noticeable dark roots, and teased bangs. Um, hello, pot. This is the kettle. You're black!

So, are we really safe wearing whatever the heck we want whenever the heck we want to wear it? I can honestly say that I don't know. I must say that my sandals will be making appearances well into the end of September...probably until my toes start turning blue from the cold. I'm sorry. If this is a fashion faux pas, then so be it. It's hot here. I sweat.

As for white, I don't' know what to say here. My white pants will probably be retired for the season after my upcoming Labor Day beach trip. As for white shoes...I'll defer to the mother of one of my sorority sisters, who once put on a seminar for our entire chapter regarding dressing/interview tips. When asked whether it was okay to wear white shoes after Labor Day, she replied, "In my opinion, it's never okay to wear white shoes EVER."

So, if there's nothing valuable to be said about my four years in a sorority, or the countless hours I've wasted watching TLC to affirm myself based on others' stupidity...at least I've learned I'm not the most unfashionable one out there.

Q: Do Stacy and Clinton have it right?
A: Probably. But this is the Deep South, so I'm not going to risk it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Why don't my biscuits taste like my grandmother's?


I'm currently making a dessert. It's a recipe I got from my grandmother, Carolyn. Wait, let me rephrase. It's not a "recipe." It's a bunch of vague scribblings that I jotted down while trying to make sense of what my grandmother was saying as she explained how to make this dessert. You see, I have the same problem that I feel most women my age have when it comes to trying to recreate dishes that their grandmothers have been making for years. They. just. don't. know. how. they. do. it.

I must admit that I find this mind-boggling. I have several things that I make quite often. My signature Caesar salad, Paula Deen's gooey butter cake, chicken scallopini...to name a few. I. use. the. recipe. every. time. Furthermore, I insist on measuring every ingredient. All of them. Kiss that, Rachael Ray! You won't catch me "eyeballing" it! It's really quite inexcusable, I realize. I could make any one of these dishes in my sleep. But still I refuse. Call it paranoid. Call it OCD. I'm just so afraid of messing something up!

One of my biggest, most epic failures as a grown-up, domestic woman was the time that I tried to recreate my grandmother's biscuits. I should back up and explain that some of my favorite memories, growing up, were the times I would stay with my Grandmother Carolyn while my mother worked. Granddaddy would already be gone to work. Grandmother would be waiting outside on the porch swing when we pulled up. We'd sit on the porch for a while, swat mosquitos, talk or sing, and then go inside for...BISCUITS!

My grandmother makes the absolute, hands-down, BEST biscuits I have ever tasted in my life. They're small (read: you can eat three!), the perfect consistency, and have the best flavor...even without butter or jelly. She's made them for as long as I can remember, as long as my father can remember, and heck probably as long as SHE can remember. She mixes them up and cuts them out once a week and freezes them. Then she takes out enough for my grandfather and her to eat each morning and cooks them. Repeat. I always loved to help her when I was there. She'd let me use the rolling pin or cut the biscuits out with the small jar she uses...oh, how I wish I'd paid better attention to how she does it.

As I grew up, I always asked her for the recipe. She never would give it to me. It became a running joke between my cousin and me...how Gran was so desperately trying to keep her famous biscuits from being replicated. It was only years later that I realized the true reason. It wasn't that she wouldn't give out her recipe. It was that she COULDN'T! There WAS no recipe!

I'll never forget the day I came to this realization. My husband and I were out of town on vacation. My grandmother had called to say 'hello.' I jokingly kidded her about how she'll never give out her recipe, and the next thing I knew she was blabbing out ingredients. I quickly scrounged for pen and paper. (Luckily our hotel had provided a pad of stationery.) She started giving amounts of flour, Crisco, and buttermilk. At one point I stopped her and said, "Gran, I need to know the actual quantity." She replied, "Well, I have this little scooper that I use. It's probably about a cup, so, say, three cups?" Then she told me to add a certain number of cups of flour...and then a little more. "How much is a little more?" I asked. She couldn't really say. "Just enough until the dough is the right consistency."

I literally couldn't WAIT to get home. I had hit the culinary JACKPOT! I got up early the following Saturday to make what would soon be MY famous biscuits. Into the oven they went. My emotions were running high. I pulled out the pan. Success, I thought! They looked just like hers! I made a plate for my husband and one for me. I'm quite sure I was beaming.

(Cue the drumroll.)

They were awful.

(Insert clanking cymbal.) AWFUL! An outright disaster. My husband said they tasted like manna. I have to agree. Or at the very least, they tasted like the little squares of bread that we eat during Communion. The flat, stale crackers. Sustenance, yes. Flavorful...no. On a slightly more positive note...I did discover that, if I gave each individual bite approximately 3 squirts of Parkay, they weren't half bad. So, consequently, I'm quite sure the problem was too little Crisco. The truth is...I'll never know. I don't believe there will ever be an Attempt Number Two. Some things, I believe, are just better left to the experts.

I've since convinced myself that my failure is not an indication that I'm not a good cook. It doesn't mean I'll never be a domestic goddess. And it certainly doesn't mean my grandchildren will never envy my culinary skills. It just means that I, currently, do not have the qualifications required to bake an exquisite biscuit...Carolyn-style.

My grandmother was born September 11, 1934. Next month she will have been married to my grandfather, Bill, for 57 years. She's raised 2 children, and helped raise 3 grandchildren. She is now a proud great-grandmother. Good biscuits don't just happen overnight. Besides, she doesn't measure in cups and ounces. She's been using the same utensils to make her phenomenal biscuits for longer than my parents have been alive. It's not a matter of 1 teaspoon of salt or 1 cup of buttermilk. It's that orange scooper full of flour and a LARGE dollop of Crisco plus a "little more" flour until the consistency's right.

Going beyond that, it's a gigantic accumulation of love that's missing. My gran has been making the same breakfast for my grandfather (and whomever else decided to stop in) for over 50 years. Through thick and thin, 2 heart attacks (one apiece), and God-only-knows-what-else. Until I've experienced even half as much "life," I'm pretty sure it's arrogant of me to even begin to think that I could ever aspire to anything close to her flawless biscuits.

Until then, I will continue to carry out my recipe-guided, pales-in-comparison, trite little dishes. And when, on the offshoot, I try to recreate one of her masterpieces that I've scrawled down in a flurry...I will re-read my scribbled "bake crust until brown and flaky," shake my head, and make a mental note to go back and update the recipe with the ACTUAL bake time...lest my grandchildren think I'm conspiring against them.

Q: Why don't my biscuits taste like my grandmother's?
A: Because I took them out of the oven 57 years too early.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Things I would LOVE to see on facebook!

Gathering my thoughts about my prior post made me think about some valuable untapped resources in the world of facebook. So, here are a few things I would like to see replace some of the nonsense I mentioned in my prior post...

Things I would LOVE to see on facebook:

*Traffic/weather/sale updates. Of all the useless info that people post on fb, how is it that I never see any of the following...? "Nasty traffic jam on I-20 W this morning. Avoid at all costs!", "Torrential downpour coming down in Trussville, headed East. Not a good time to go running.", "Publix has Fiber One bars for $1.75. Stock up!"

*Freaks on the streets. We (most of you reading this) live in Alabama. There are some SERIOUS characters here. I can speak from personal experience. I live in Moody, Alabama. I am confident that most of the individuals in the "People of Wal-mart" photos were captured, in fact, in MY Wal-mart. We REALLY need to do a better job of documenting the ignorance/inappropriateness of those around us. I guess I, myself, am also guilty of this. I am usually so dumbfounded by the unspeakable things that I witness, that I don't even know how to go about broadcasting it. This is an injustice. So, to make up for it...here are some noteworthy moments I recently observed...

-personalized tag I saw leaving work recently:
"SH4RTR"
(Yes, I realize this is someone's first and last initial, followed by "for" and then an indication of their support of the University of Alabama football program. However, from a distance...it looks like it says "SHARTR", or in other words "sharter." I don't care who you are...that crap's funny. Pun completely intended.)

-name I saw painted (in puffy paint, nonetheless) on the back of a preteen girl's shirt in a department store:
"Say-ruh"
(That's right. Her parent's took it one step further. They didn't just resort to addressing their daughter Sarah by our redneck mispronunciation. They actually made it official and NAMED her that.)

*Yeah, that's about it. I'm sure there are other useful purposes for facebook, but other than putting yourself out there via status updates, just to see if anyone responds...I can't think of many. But, as always...I'm open to suggestions!

Things I don't need to see in my facebook news feed:

My first list! I always think of lists I'd like to post, but hate to break away from my usual Q&A format. However, this topic is timely and relative enough to make me deviate a bit. This list is sparked by what I feel is a pretty common frustration among fb users. Personally, I consider myself a recreational user. I check fb at least once every 2 days, update my status maybe once a week, check on my close friends fairly often... Having an iphone makes participating in fb much easier. Especially since I see it as somewhat of an obligation. I have this fear that something major will happen to one of my friends, and that'll be the one week that I don't check facebook at all. I'll then talk to the friend, having no idea of this major event, and of course NOT MENTION IT AT ALL. Consequently, I try to at least scroll through all of my news feed or status updates daily. Just to make sure nothing gets by me. However, it's usually the opposite that happens. Because when you're on fb daily...trust me...NOTHING will get by you. Some people really have a lot to learn. So, on with the list!

Warning: I do not aim to offend. This post is meant relieve myself of a little frustration. However, it's also meant to be educational for anyone who doesn't have quite the firm grasp on facebook etiquette. For the rest of you, here's a good laugh...

Oh, and these are in no particular order. The numbers are arbitrary, so...hmmm, I'll just make up numbers.

Things I don't need to see in my facebook news feed:

1.) A play-by-play of your day. Sure. I realize that many fb users lead fascinating lives. However, not ALL fb users have anything interesting to report. So, here's a good rule of thumb: if you, yourself, would not be impressed, entertained, or at the very least...slightly amused by your own post, DON'T POST IT! I don't need to know every. single. thing. you. did. today. Go join Twitter! Some examples of this offense (names changed to protect the...guilty?): "Jimmy is eating pizza.", "Jimmy is so full...ate too much.", "Jimmy just wants to lie around.", "Jimmy is going to bed." Enough already!

14.) A play-by-play of your child's day. I am more than happy to share in the excitement of my fb friends' children's milestones. However, we probably need to work on our definition of that term. See rule of thumb above. More examples: "Carson just had a stinky diaper.", "Carson just went down for a nap.", "Uh, oh. Carson's waking up already.", "Carson's fussy because he didn't nap long enough."

47.) That you're tired, sick (especially if you're really only building your case to your co-workers and/or boss for calling in tomorrow), sick and tired, sick and tired of being sick and tired, glad it's Friday, bummed that it's Monday, etc. We all get sick and tired. We all love Fridays and hate Mondays. It's not really newsworthy or statusworthy. Move on. Not to mention, the LAST thing I need in my day is someone else's negativity messing up my chi. Some typical offenses: "Katie is not feeling it this morning.", "Katie is TGIF!", "Katie wishes this headache would go away."

63.) Details about your escapades. Reading about how late you were out last night, how many hotties you ran into, or how much you wish you had a man/woman really annoys me. Please reserve that junk for MySpace. Particularly revolting specimens: "Ben wishes he could get lucky.", "Ben got in from the club at 2 a.m.! Not gonna make it to work today.", "Ben had a heck of a night last night with some foxy ladies!"

64.) Your vague, inquiry-provoking status. Not many things annoy me more than reading a status posted by someone who desperately wants people to post comments asking what they're talking about. This is narcissism to the nth degree. My personal faves: "Candy is waiting...", "Candy wishes things were different.", "Candy is wondering..."

104.) Your farm, mafia, sorority, etc. There, I said it. I understand that some people find these games amusing. More power to you. That doesn't mean that I want to read about them. From what I understand, it's optional for you to actually publish these activities. So, you need more panels for your greenhouse...fine. Go ahead and ask. But posting the mere fact that you're just playing these games?! No. Not okay. No examples. You all get what I'm saying.

157.) Your dirty laundry. Ok, no, wait. I actually love this. Forget I mentioned it. When people have marital spats, family feuds, and other various disputes via facebook...I'm all over it. Do me a favor. Please, don't anyone tell these people that you can delete that stuff. I need fb drama ON DEMAND! Awesomeness: "SOME PEOPLE just don't know how to act.", "I hate when people say one thing to your face and then something else behind your back...", "I'm glad I at least have a few TRUE friends."

249.) What shoe/historic figure/80's song most fits your personality. See #104. If you have the time to take these quizzes, be my guest. I don't really need to know.

274.) Rrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaalllllllllyyyyyyyyy llllllllllloooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnggggggggggggggg status updates that make me click "more" just because I'm wondering what on earth could have been so detailed that you couldn't possibly fit it into one entry. Geez. Brevity, people!

318.) "Goodnight, facebook!" Enough said.

Alright, I'm out. Goodnight, blogosphere!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Why do we continue to ask rhetorical questions?

I work in an office building that contains roughly 1,300 people who work for the same company. If I had to make a rough guess, I'd say I know approximately 200 of them by name. On any given day, I have the following conversation at least twice a day as I'm passing someone in the hallway:

Them: Hi, there. How are you?
Me: I'm good. And you?
Them: Oh, I'm good.

Or, because I'm always in such a hurry and am walking so freakin' fast, it often goes really more like this:

Me: (offering a dismissing wave because I know I'm about to blow by them in a flurry)
Them: Hi, how are you?
Me: Good...(followed by a pang of guilt because I realize that I haven't asked them the same in return)

Then again, should I really feel sorry about this? I mean, are these conversations really valuable to anyone involved? Does it benefit anyone to volley the same rhetorical questions back and forth when neither party really (honestly) cares about the answer? I'm not sure people even listen to the question sometimes, much less care about the answer they give/receive.

My favorite is always the dialogue that ensues as I'm leaving a grocery store check-out line (and not thoroughly listening to what the cashier is saying to me):

Me (gathering my bags): Thank you!
Cashier: Thank you, ma'am. You come back to see us.
Me: You too! (then to myself) Dang it! She said 'come back'! I was totally expecting 'have a nice evening'! OMG, I'm so stupid...of COURSE she's coming back...she WORKS HERE!

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I don't care about people. It's not at all uncommon for me to strike up a conversation with someone in a 1.) waiting room, 2.) elevator, 3.) checkout line. I LOVE talking to people, asking them questions, learning about people, etc. I'm just not much for the fake-friendly encounters every time I run into someone. I mean, what if I'm in a bad mood, and am making a desperate run for coffee before the cafeteria closes at 10:00 a.m.? What if I'm headed out of the office for a week's vacation and can't. get. outta. here. fast. enough?!?!?!

I often find myself wondering if the people I pass in the hallway at work ever 1.) notice that I cut my conversations with them short, or 2.) even care. It's not that I don't have friends at work or WANT to have friends at work. I DO! It's just that I don't enjoy FAKING these relationships.

There should probably be some ground rules/expectations for office interaction. How about this...? If I've never seen you before (entirely possible with such a large company), you get the half-smile and then look-away. If I know who you are, but am not sure you know who I am, you get a smile/wave. If I know you by name, you get a "Hi, so-and-so." That's it. If I know you fairly well, but don't see you often, you get a "Hey, so-and-so. What's been going on?" At this level, I will slow down to get an update on anything that you're willing to share with me about any recent developments in your life. If I know you better, you'll probably get a "So, how's ___(fill in the blank with any non-work related activity we've discussed before or some work-related situation I know you're dealing with)___ going for you?" If we're good friends, I'll probably stop and carry on a conversation for a while. Are these criteria too unreasonable?!?! I dont' think so!!!!

That being said, I'm still not sure if I can pass someone I know in the hall, say 'hello', and not immediately follow it up with a 'how are you?'. It may be innately impossible for me. I am, after all, 1.) Southern, 2.) my mother's daughter, and 3.) a struggling, borderline extrovert. However, I shall try.

In the situations where I really don't have anything to discuss with unknown passers by, or the cases where I'm literally just walking so fast that, by the time I could get around to returning the favor and asking how someone's doing, I would be having to literally walk backwards and talk to their rear end...I think I'll just maintain my forward motion, offer a smile, maybe a wave, and at the very least a nod. If they ask how I am, I'll proably just say "good." I hope no one takes it personally. It's not a lack of concern or care or consideration. It's just my refusal to be fake and continue in the rhetorical nonsense.

On the same token, don't be surprised if I stop you and ask how your kids/new job/favorite team/etc. are these days. I promise I do care.

Q: Why do we continue to ask rhetorical questions?

A: Fine. How are you?

Monday, July 12, 2010

What makes someone a good wife?

I would like to begin by emphasizing the fact that I am FAR from being an expert on this topic. Most days I feel like a complete and total failure as a wife. Then again, sometimes I'll finally start to think that maybe I've gotten it right...only to come crashing back down to reality when I go to fold a pair of David's khakis only to realize that they're still missing the button that he asked me to sew back on YEARS AGO!

So what exactly are the criteria?

My first source would of course be the Bible. Ephesians Chapter 5 tells us to respect our husbands and to submit to them, as to the Lord. Proverbs 31 give us another outline. In regards to the literal comparison, I have yet to consider a field and buy it, to plant a vineyard, to clothe my chidren in scarlet and myself in fine linen and purple, and what on EARTH is a distaff?! By analogy, I get that a good wife is hard-working, diligent, prudent, virtuous, selfless, etc.

But what does that mean in today's terms?! THIS is what I'm constantly trying to figure out.

Just for context...David and I have been working like crazy the past few weeks, getting our rental property ready for new tenants. We've been leaving our real jobs every day only to go straight to our townhouse to work several MORE hours, just to come home in time for bed...or sometimes even go upstairs at the townhouse and crash on an air mattress!

Tonight I came home early to wash, not only the pile of dirty clothes we'd accumulated at the townhouse, but also the mounds of laundry we have at our own house! While doing my tidying up, I went to unload the dishwasher. What I found there disturbed me to my core. I began putting away drinking glasses, a few salad bowls, some cookie sheets and a baking pan (where I cooked some treats to take to Mississippi for our July 4th weekend with his family), two pans where I cooked myself a meal while he was out of town for work. That's when it occurred to me...

I have not cooked dinner for my husband THIS ENTIRE MONTH!!!!!!!!!

Granted, I HAVE painted, installed tile, used power tools, and done lots of other things that a lot of wives probably wouldn't do...but still...what's most important?!

Is it keeping your mouth shut and just smiling and nodding at everything your spouse does or says?

Is it working hard at your career and contributing to the family finances?

Is it staying home to care for your children and your household?

Is it waiting on your husband hand and foot and dropping everything whenever he calls, in order to entertain his every whim?

Is it working alongside him to meet a common goal, even if that means neglecting other duties that might typically be considered your wifely duties?

Or is it something else entirely?

Well, my husband just called. He's on his way home. I still feel guilty for skipping out on the project early tonight. But I've washed several loads of clothes (something he often does), folded several more, unloaded the dishwasher, straightened up the house, all while catching up on my reality TV (just being honest!). The good news is that I'll be ready to focus on him when he arrives.

Q: What makes someone a good wife?
A: When my husband gets home, I'll ask him.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

And how about afterwards?

On Sunday we slept in, shopped in the rain, and then grabbed a quick bite to eat on Stone Street. Then I dressed up in my new outfit (Happy Birthday to Me, From Me!), and David and I went to see the musical Rock of Ages, starring Constantine from American Idol, Season 4. However, his understudy stood in on the night of our performance, since the Tony Awards were on the same night. We were shocked at the huge crowd that had gathered in Times Square to watch the awards show that night.
After the play, David and I decided to take the Staten Island Ferry (which is a good way to see the Statue and the Manhattan skyline for free).
It was there on the ferry that I had my breakdown...the realization that I was no longer celebrating my special day where I just so happened, this time, to turn three decades old. Instead, I realized that I, on that particular day, was just a mere, boring, and OLD thirty years and one day...nothing special about that! There were a few tears while I pondered the fleeting passage of time and the relative insignificane of my days on earth so far.
I dried the tears up quickly. (There were some very odd Staten Islanders on the ferry who were looking at me strangely.) After all, I may have forgotten many details of my first 30 years, wasted some others on insignificant activities, and probably used up countless more napping, but...THERE'S STILL TIME!!!! My next 30 years will look quite different!

Q: And how about afterwards?
A: Look out, world!

How am I going to take turning THIRTY?!

So, it's finally here. The Big 3-0. Being someone who LOVES birthdays in general, I really hadn't been dreading this milestone like so many of my acquaintances seem to have done. Historically, I always look forward to June 12th for weeks in advance, even to the extent that my husband jokes that I don't actually celebrate a birthDAY...mine is a birthWEEK! I just can't help it, though. I love having an excuse to go out to my favorite restaurant(s), hang out with my favorite people, cook my favorite dishes at home, and eat desserts on a daily basis without feeling guilty! I also seem to manage to buy MYSELF a birthday gift every year.
Even so, as much as I love celebrating my birthday each year, I had suspected that this one might be marked with a little bit more emotion and introspection than usual. I combated this apprehension by booking flights for David and me to New York City to visit our bestest friends Adam and Sara and celebrate this monumental occasion in style! And we did!
We arrived late on Thursday, took a cab from the airport, and arrived at the Jonases apartment across from Battery Park in the wee hours of the morning. We greeted them and their girls (pups Lola and Lucy), chatted for a while, inflated our air mattress, and crashed in their studio apartment which was absolutely AWESOME!
On Friday, David and I split a ginormous sandwich at Carnegie Deli, hopped a double-decker bus (like all good tourists should) and toured upper Manhattan, went to MOMA, and then finally to watch the Yankees play the Astros at the new Yankee Stadium!
Then on Saturday, my birthday, Sara and I went for a jog along the Hudson River, which was much, MUCH cooler (in so many ways) than jogging ANYWHERE in Birmingham right about now. We came back to the little shop in the bottom of their apartment building and got breakfast...chocolate chip pancakes, fruit, and coffee for me... ...which we enjoyed on Sara and Adam's roof-top deck, which boasts an AMAZING view of the entire Southern tip of Manhattan, including the Statue of Liberty!
Thus began my 30th birthday. The rest of the day was spent on another double-decker bus (lower Manhattan), at Top of the Rock, and then out to dinner at Sushi Samba!
All in all...a good day! Most of all, though, I will never forget that I spent that morning enjoying my coffee while relaxing in a lounge chair on the roof of a building in New York City!
Q: How am I going to take turning THIRTY?!
A: Lying down!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Q: What is the most beautiful color on the face of the earth?

A:

Where have I been all month?!

Wow, I can't believe I haven't posted in a whole month! I'm a bad blogger. In my defense, I've been busy! Work is crazy. I've been trying to stay on top of my running/workout regimen. We've had guests in and out. We also went on the LONGEST VACATION OF MY LIFE to...

Key West...


















...the Bahamas...


...and Miami.


















Our eight day trip was just long enough to make me forget all of the various passwords I have to use at work...yet short enough to cause me to come home and do some SERIOUS research to find out whether there are any jobs out there that would pay me to travel. Just fyi...there aren't. Well, no immediately profitable ones, anyway. I could basically work on a cruise line, lead guided tours, teach English abroad, or be a travel writer. The latter, by the way, is quite tempting. Rest assured that if it involved any form of guaranteed income...I would have already sent my resume!

So, unless I can find an organization that's willing to PAY me to ride in a convertible, lounge on the beach, explore exotic places, try new foods, meet interesting people, and embark on a myriad of adventures...I guess I'll just be here in Alabama. Waiting. In my recliner. Or my cubicle. *Sigh*

Q: Where have I been all month?!
A: Here. There! And then here again...wishing I was still there. =(

Monday, May 3, 2010

Why do my orchids always end up looking like this?



















Sometimes I ask myself why I even bother. As much as I love them, orchids are my nemesis. It's cruelly ironic that, being someone who can't grow ANYTHING, they are in fact my favorite flower. So beautiful and delicate. Ahhh, yes, delicate. Hence the reason I've found myself to be quite the serial killer of orchids. The one above is my latest victim. It's really a very vicious cycle that I'm on. It goes something like this:

1. Buy an orchid.
2. Admire the orchid.
3. Forget to water the orchid.
4. Notice that the orchid looks droopy.
5. Over water the orchid.
6. Try to lift the orchid's spirits with words of encouragement. Apologize.
7. Watch the orchid's blooms drop.
8. Still dropping...
9. Over water again.
10. Incessantly remind the 2 remaining blooms how pretty they are.
11. Plead with the last lonely bloom and beg it not to drop.
12. Over water what is now actually just a flower-less stick.
13. Stop watering.
14. Throw away the pot containing the flower-less stick after tiring of it taunting me about my poor gardening skills.
15. Buy an orchid...

And the saga continues. Sad, I know. No, really. The orchid. It actually LOOKS sad to me! Well, at least mine does, anyway. I generally find flowers to be quite expressive. To me most of them look like they have faces, and I believe that I unknowingly assign personalities to them according to the expression that I perceive they are making. Take Gerbera daisies for instance (or for that matter any daisy).











They're bold, sunny, always have a positive outlook. Compared to this:











Doesn't that face just SCREAM Drama Queen!






They just look so high-maintenance! So needy and fickle. To me this capriciousness has become even more characteristic of orchids than their daintiness. I truly believe that they are spoiled, bratty, little prima donnas that know how beautiful they are and how much you want them to thrive. They'd just rather DIE than give you the satisfaction of having successfully grown them! In fact, the only way you can ever gain their favor is by existing solely to entertain their every whim. By caring for them on their own terms. By watering them precisely every 7 days:3 hours:47 minutes, by talking sweetly to them for hours on end, by misting their leaves every morning, by moving them from one sunny windowsill to another so that they might enjoy a different view, and by constantly providing them with whatever else their little hearts desire!
And I refuse. I won't concede that easily. And so the orchids and I continue our silent war. I suspect that, somewhere deep in my subconscious mind, despite my love and awe of orchids, I secretly despise them. And the feeling is mutual.

Q: Why do my orchids always end up looking like this?
A: Because we're both too stubborn to make the relationship work!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Why do we refuse to get rid of our junk?

So, I'm a pack rat. Ok, a hoarder, if you want to be really offensive about it. I mean, I'm not one of those who refuses to throw away ANYTHING WHATSOEVER. I just have certain things that I have trouble getting rid of. But, then again, don't we all? I mean, for me it's things like clothing that may not exactly...um, fit...I mean, um...currently. Or maybe accessories that aren't in syle right now, but probably will be again at some point in the next 20 years...at which point I'll wish I still had them. And then there are the sentimental things. I have every birthday, anniversary, Valentine's Day, graduation, thinking of you, and random greeting card I've ever received. Why? I have no idea. I just love cards and refuse to get rid of them.
For my husband hoarding is more of an issue of utility. Our attic is stacked with boxes for every electronic item we've acquired since we've been married. He also can't seem to let go of things that he's used for years and considers to still be good, even long after I've bought a new one to replace it...i.e. his travel shaving kit, 3 mismatched dining chairs, and his white Polo shirt that has a salsa stain.
My sensitivity to these traits in us was heightened recently when we helped my parents move. Since they're transitioning to a smaller house with less storage, for now, it was imperative for me to officially take ownership of many Rubbermaid tubs full of memories of my childhood, teenage, and college years, in order to free up more space for my parents' junk. The sheer volume of things my mother, and to some extent myself, had accumulated over the years was quite sobering.
I must admit I have mixed emotions about accumulating "stuff." On the one hand, I see the futility of it all. Having so much "stuff" weighs you down. It requires more space to accomodate its mass. It adds to your "baggage" on so many levels. The mere presence of it limits your mobility. How can we abandon self and leave it all when there's just SO MUCH stuff involved?!
On the flip side, I can easily see how we become so attached. I saw the tears that glimmered in my mother's eyes as we sorted through bin after bin that contained things like my childhood stuffed animals, recipes her mother (my grandmother) had scrawled on index cards, the dress I wore when I was baptized, notes from my piano teacher, and even (surprisingly) the one thing that seemed to have the most emotional attachment of them all...the tweezers and small mirror that had always enjoyed a permanent residence in the sill of my grandparents' bay window...where my grandmother, Helen, could at any time pluck her eyebrows in the natural light. Funny, isn't it? The things we think will serve as reminders of our lives vs. the things that actually do.
On a lighter note, I was able to take advantage of my parents' down-sizing and managed to repurpose several of the items below:

Many years' worth of seashells I collected as a child








A pair of butterfly prints I've always admired













And...my favorite treasure...my mother's luggage from the 70's













Who knows if I'll ever carry the luggage? In reality I probably won't. It doesn't have rollers, so it's not that practical. Not to mention, I would hate to see it ruined or damaged by being mishandled by a skycap. Why? I'm not sure. After all, it's been packed away for years. It's not as if its being damaged would be somehow detrimental, since it hasn't been used in quite some time.
That being said, I still can't imagine anything happening to it. The same way I don't want to see anything happen to the large tubs of Cabbage Patch Kids, Care Bears, Little Golden Books, and other memorabilia that my children (if the Lord has enough of a sense of humor to bless me with any) will probably care nothing about. I can foresee a day in the distant future when I will force my children to make the decision whether to save or toss their childhood toys, books, and keepsakes so I can easily transition into my hassle-free retirement. Like my mother, I'll probably realize that my attachment to these items run far deeper than my childrens' ever will...and just keep them myself. I still won't know why. But, then again, does it really matter?
Q: Why do we refuse to get rid of our junk?
A: Because we just can't bear to let go...