If you can't say something nice, at least make it funny!

Thanks for visiting Tinfoil Magnolia, a blog about my life, times, marriage, friendships and all the strange things that happen to me and with me. I hope you find something here that will encourage you, inspire you or at the least entertain you. And if it doesn't today, check back tomorrow because, my life? honestly...

Friday, December 31

Thorns, Roses & Rosebuds

This post is in response to another blog I read yesterday. My tweepie @jana0926 posted on her blog something that she does daily with her little boy that I think is an awesome idea. You can read her full story of where it comes from at jana's thinking place. She challenged her readers to do a similar post, so this is mine.

Thorn = a not-so-fun/bad/sad thing that happened
Rose = the highlight, a wonderful thing that happened
Rosebud = something you are looking forward to

Thorn- I really, truly only have one thorn this year, our financial situation. Unlike a lot of people I don't blame the government, I don't blame anyone but us. I know looking back at choices we made exactly why we are here right now. Some days it makes it easier, but most days it is still just hard.

I attended school full time from 07-09 and worked only a few hours per week during those two years. We burned through our rather generous savings account during this time. We sold not one, but two houses in 2009, one at the beginning of the recession and the other smack in the worst part of the fall of 2009. We had put a lot of time and money into rehabbing the second, and didn't recoup it during the sale. Why did we sell when we did? Well, my husband lost his job in Pennsylvania and we decided we wanted to move back to the south. When he landed a job, it was at a fraction of his former salary. But it helped us get back home. So, 2010 has been a year like the two of us have never seen, financially, since the early days of our marriage 16 years ago. Our life right now is literally paycheck to paycheck for the first time in probably 14 years. We have nothing in our savings account for the first time in 10 years. I haven't found a job here. It is hard. But we'll make it through, with lots of hard work. I know we will.

Roses- My first rose for 2010 is my weight loss. It has been about so much more than just being a smaller person, it has let me be the person I used to be. It has changed me physically, mentally, and emotionally. I am not done, but I have lost about 80% of what I wanted to lose, and I feel like a real person again. It wasn't easy, and keeping it off will be even harder, but it has pushed me into wanting to be fit and knowing that the only way I can keep feeling good is to continue to exercise and eat healthy.

My second rose for 2010 is the flash of realization I had last April, and all that it encompasses. Turning my life around, figuring out a life plan, knowing I want to write, writing 50,000 words toward a novel during National Novel Writing Month, seeing my first published pieces in the local paper and receiving seeing my first paycheck from writing. Wow! What a year. Just goes to show that when you KNOW what you want, you have more confidence and things just fall into place. I heard people say this for more years than I care to count, and I was always so jealous and resentful that they found their true passion. I know now that getting there takes a tough journey and a lot of introspection, and sometimes seeking out something way beyond your comfort level.

Rosebuds- My first rosebud for 2011 is that I am enrolled at WKU to finish up a bachelor's degree. I am so excited about taking my first ever writing classes that I can't stand it. I know it will be hard, and possibly soul-crushing at times, but I am really looking forward to it, and feel so fortunate to have received a small scholarship this year to assist me in returning.

My second rosebud is that I have 3 big design projects to finish up in 2011 and I am looking forward to getting more design work once those are completed and out in the world. I am looking forward to being paid for all the hard work I put in this year, of course, but I also think I will get more leads from these three clients than I had all year last year.

My third rosebud is that I am looking forward to getting back to exercising and getting my body firmed up from my weight loss. I can't wait to be back in shape. Losing so much weight so quickly leaves your body in such a state, I don't even want to go into it. But I am looking forward to continuing yoga, water aerobics, walking and maybe adding Zumba in there somewhere.

This year has been pretty amazing, really. It has been more financially difficult than I could have ever imagined facing in my 40's, but I think in the end we are going to learn spending restraint and many other valuable lessons from our horrible 2010. I can't complain, they are probably lessons we needed to learn anyway. I am looking forward to some great things happening in 2011 and have been spending my week mapping out all the goodness that will go on to get me where I want to be in 2012.

I want to add another rose actually, for which I am so very thankful this year. It is something wrapped up in my realization, but deserves mentioning on its own. I am so happy to be making writer friends in the virtual world, simpatico people who are like me and who are better than me. Who make me laugh and inspire me, who challenge me and who make me think. I love all of you shiny new friends.

If you want to meet some of my bloggie friends and participate in Jana's challenge here's what ya' do:

1. Grab the button (should be able to cut/paste this into your post):
2. Write your post and link back to me in it!! Let’s do ONE thorn, TWO roses and THREE rosebuds. Or, whatever you want to do!
3. Come back here and leave a comment with your link to your blog’s post!
4. Have a WONDERFUL 2011!
PS from Ms. Marsha:
Take time to plan your life for 2011! I know you can do it, don't just let life be something that happens to you, LIVE IT!!!!

Tuesday, December 28

Nuts and Bolts

Earlier this year I asked an old acquaintance of mine, who is also a published author, for some advice on learning how to write and how to get published. He told me one thing he always advises students in his workshops is that they need to read more and to write more. A year after delving into my passion for writing, I realize he wasn't letting me in on some big secret. I mean, thanks, really, but don't you see this advice everywhere? Well, there's a reason for that though, isn't there?

This thing of writing is nothing new to me. I have written since I was in about 3rd grade, endlessly, writing poetry mostly. Bad, bad poetry. In high school I had a senior English class in which we had to not only journal but also write one original short story each week. My friend was always coming into class not knowing what to write about and I would say "Well, gee, what have you done today? You told me you saw a dead bird on the sidewalk, write it about that." She would look at me like I was crazy. She ended up being a photojournalist. I ended up being an accountant. Go figure.

Once I was in the working world, and married, busy, traveling, trying to make a living, I sort of stopped writing completely. Except for letters for business purposes or my resume, I didn't write at all. The way in which I came back to writing was a circuitous route, but it got me here nonetheless. I was in Pennsylvania, working for another real estate agent after moving away from everyone I knew and the city I had called home since 17. I joined a Toastmasters group in 2006. I competed in public speaking in Jr. High and High School and really enjoyed it, so I thought I would like Toastmasters. And, I did. I loved it.

Toastmasters was about public speaking and your delivery, but you also had to write a speech to deliver. My speeches became quite the hit, peppered with my self deprecating humor and a southern accent. They were almost like very short short stories. Even when I had to stop attending my Toastmasters group because of my school schedule I kept on writing. I had papers to write for every class I took, even my drawing and photography classes, and I usually always got A's on them. I started writing short stories, and daily journaling got me through some of the worst days of my depression.

But this year I really turned it up a notch. I did something I never did before. I put my work out there. I remember the first week I decided to post to the 100 Word Challenge. I sat there forever deciding if I wanted to put myself out there or not. I almost got sick once I had posted the link. "What if they say it sucks? What if people laugh? What if it does suck?" Well, one thing I have learned this year is that it may very well suck, but at least I am getting it out there. The feedback I received gave me confidence to take some of my writing to the editor of the local paper, where said photojournalist friend works. Now, I can say that I've had my work published as feature articles in our local paper. Ten stories over the last two months. And? I've been paid. To write.

This year I have returned to my former love, reading. When I was a kid I devoured books, tearing through one almost daily when I was out of school. I read and reread most of the classic Whitman books. Mom couldn't buy them fast enough to keep up with me. I had given up reading almost entirely when I was busy with work. I would pick up a paperback here and there to read on the plane or when I was on vacation, but I didn't make it a part of my daily routine. This year I set a goal to read 50 books, and I have far surpassed that goal. I have read great books, and I have read total crap books. I had two that I started and put down without finishing because I just didn't care. I read a series of four by the same author that I loved but still don't know why she is so popular. I read books by new authors whom I met at a book festival this spring.

Somewhere along the line I lost count of exactly how many I have read. The book I am currently reading  has me really excited. I was hooked from the first 2 pages. I love her writing style, and I am trying to figure out where the difference is between the way she writes and some of the books I read that are clunky or don't keep my attention. I don't want to put the book down. Someday hopefully, with enough reading and writing it will come to me. That ebb and flow, that beautiful prose, that perfect composition. Until then, I will just keep trudging on, keep writing, keep reading.

What do you writers think? How do you work on crafting a style all your own? When you recognize a style you like, how do you know what makes you like it?

Monday, December 27

My Holly-daze

Woke up before day break yesterday and wrote this:
It is a cold and snowy morning. The day after Christmas. I have been awake since 4am, lying in bed. I made a serious attempt to return to sleep, but eventually tired of fighting it. I got up, started coffee and stood at the front window, looking out over the moonlit snow. It is so beautiful and peaceful out there. Snow laden shrubbery and and trees glisten in the lamplight, there are still white Christmas lights on at the house across the street. Yesterday, though our yards remained covered, the roads were clear. This morning, however, they are covered over with a fresh layer of snow.

I have a lot to think about this morning, not the least of which is how to be a better person. I have a strange temperament, subject to wild swings with no warning whatsoever. Not everyone gets me. Probably at 40 I should have learned to mask this somewhat but I like who I like and protect my friends and family with a fierce loyalty. If you mess with my family or friends, I am likely to write you off forever.

I am not perfect. I'm complicated. Not because I try to be, just because I am. I don't know who I am, I never figured it out. I grew up in a household full of contradictions. I grew up not knowing much about myself and my origins. For most of my life, I have tried to just fit in. I feel like I am always on the fringes looking in, watching everyone else as they live a more normal life. I never took the time to know myself, really think about who I am or what I want until recently.

My problem has always been in the decision making. But when I decide I want something, I go after it with gusto. I have little tolerance for people who wish and want all day but do nothing to make their wishes happen. I believe anything is possible and nothing is unreachable. But nothing worth having in this world is handed to you ever.

So I decided that today is as good as any other to go through the year in review and see how my goals have gone, and what's on the plate for next year. I tend not to keep a constant eye on my big picture goals. I focus on them for a while, a month or so, read them every day and then don't look at them again. It is always surprising to me to sit down at the end of the year and see how many I accomplished without really being aware of it. Today I am going to pull out my 2010 goals and see how close I came to the mark. Then, start writing out what 2011 will hold for me.

I actually have to admit that I really did enjoy our holiday events tremendously, which surprised even me. I had hubby's family over for our normal Christmas Eve get-together and we had appetizers and drinks and Christmas music. It was a fun and relaxing evening with only one small near-meltdown from the nephews. Christmas Day, because my mom doesn't cook anymore, we drove to a hotel in Nashville and ate lunch. It was all wonderful. We visited for a while that afternoon and returned to our cozy cocoon to don our lounging clothes and sit around in full content. Literally, full. And content.

Sunday we didn't leave the house at all.  Despite the fact that my parents called no less than 4 times during the day, each time saying "I know you're trying to rest but...." a) come to lunch with us (no)  b) missed you at lunch and we have a problem with the fax machine (oh, sorry) c) will you come tomorrow and fix the fax machine? (sure, tomorrow) and finally d) never mind, the fax machine works now (oh, good). My life, honestly...

Saturday, December 25

It's Christmas, Y'all. Now lets move on.

Merry, Happy, Cheer!

The only great thing I got done for the holidays this year was that hubby and I got together with my photographer friend, Amybestfriendsince8thgrade, and we took each others' holiday card pictures. Hubby and I always do a silly card, and I really love this year's result. Like everything else involved with Christmas, it isn't what I envisioned in my head, but I love how it turned out.

See, hubby and I don't have children. And before you give me that sympathetic "awww" it was a conscious choice not to have any. (Yes, people, you can make a choice about procreation, it doesn't have to just happen to you.) Anyway, no one really wants to stick a photo card of two grown adults up, it's just wierd apparently. So, we decided several years ago to use crazy, funny photos for our holiday cards. Our only goal is for them to be fridge-worthy. I think we've succeeded this year.

One person definitely didn't like them, however. My mom. I warned her that we were faux smoking and drinking in them in order to capture that 50's vibe. She is a religious person and despite the fact that she did indeed once smoke and drink, is very anti either one of those things. So she looked at the card. I told her I didn't mail it because I was sure she wouldn't want to display it and I was happy for her to keep this one if she did want it. She didn't get the humor in it and handed it back to me. I went home and had a martini and a cigarette. Just kidding. I don't smoke. And it was 2 martinis.

I think I have this year finally come to a realization that has been brewing for a long time. Christmas is a holiday that is meant to be celebrated by 2 groups of people. Christians, for obvious reasons. And children and those with children. I fit in neither group, so honestly, why do I bother?

Despite the fact that I grew up in a religious, Christian household, I never really got the relationship between what I call commercial Christmas and the religious holiday. Even as a child, I looked at them as two distinctly separate things, and the religious holiday rarely played into our Christmas celebrations. It was minor compared to the gift giving, fudge making, carol singing, and tree trimming. We only went to church on Christmas if it fell on a Sunday. or Wednesday. I honestly wouldn't know how you combine the two appropriately. When you think of it they couldn't be more at odds with each other. Some religions do integrate Christmas much more into the social aspect of Christmas, it just happens that the church I grew up in didn't. However, calling myself a secularist, I don't celebrate or concern myself with the religious holiday anymore.

The commercial aspect has taken over our society to the Nth degree. Gift giving, buying, borrowing and spending have become the touchstones for the holiday in modern society. Kids expect so much more than even when I was little. My friend's 4 year old granddaughter asked her for an iPhone the other day. What??

Every year I kill myself with expectations and dreams of the wonderful holidays of my childhood. But I have to admit, watching the nephs (4 and 5 y/o) open gifts last night was enough to melt even my cold, frozen, grumpy, grinchy heart. This year, we had the family over. I pulled the tree together at the last minute with items I had in storage containers. Hubs set us up with a great Christmas song mix on the stereo. We enjoyed not a traditional dinner, but sausage balls, chicken dip, ham biscuits, chicken tenders and such. Along with coffee and a ton of desserts like sugar cookies and pineapple cake, and yes, cheesecake. I used festive paper plates rather than fancy dishes for the first time, probably ever, so the cleanup would be easier. I looked outside halfway through the evening and the ground was covered with that magical, wet, white stuff that had seemingly come from nowhere. It was pouring down snow. What a wonderful Christmas Eve!

Maybe there's hope for me after all.

Friday, December 24

Christmas Confessions-Christmas Eve Edition

Well, here it is. As I sit here typing it is officially Christmas Eve. Has been for about 8 hours now. And yet, I feel nothing. Nothing, that is, except the heavy weight of all that I need to do. And the inkling of a feeling way, down deep inside me. A feeling that I have been trying to ignore for a long time now. Perhaps now is the time to just get it out there and admit it.

Y'all I don't think I like Christmas. **GASP** I know! Right? I am not ready to admit that I hate it, though there are aspects of it that I do hate. But honestly? If Christmas were a friend, it would be that high maintenance bitch cheerleader high school friend who always wanted to talk only about herself and her problems. Remember her? She prissed around all perfect with her hair and makeup and flippy little cheerleading skirt? She only talked to you when all her other perfect cheerleader friends or boyfriends were unavailable? Or when she needed help with her English or civics homework? That bitch would be Christmas.

You know, we do well most of the year. Some of us struggle to maintain our lifestyle, some of us struggle to just get by. And then, November rolls around. And there she is, staring you right in the face. That bitch, Christmas. On the television, in the mall, on the town square. She's all glittery and perfect and demanding and crap, just waiting for you to hand over your homework. You stand there all schleppy and beaten down from the first 11 months of the year, and for one moment? Usually around Thanksgiving? You think you can be good enough for her.

She tells you that if you can do enough, buy enough, spend enough, bake enough, cook enough, run enough, party enough, dress up enough, do your hair, have sparkly nails, decorate your tree just right, sing carols, make your home look festive enough, if you can do all this? You might, just might, be good enough to be friends with her. But you have to sing carols, visit shut-ins, go into debt, attend all the right parties, buy all the right gifts, and have a patented sympathetic look for all the others who just can't afford to be so perfect in their holiday appreciations.

Every year I do it. Every year she gets me. Despite the fact that in high school I gave a big f-u to anyone who didn't want me around. Despite the fact that I dressed crazy and was not like anyone else in school. Despite the fact that I had a few friends in every social group, yet no one group to really fit into. Despite the fact that I proudly wore my neon colored Culture Club, Duran Duran, and Cyndi Lauper t-shirts into school, having to walk past all the smoker/stoner kids in their black Metallica, and Rush t-shirts who constantly make smart ass comments to me. Despite all this, I want Christmas to be my friend.

All year long I think of the awesome, elaborate, over the top things I am going to do, cook, bake, and decorate. All year long I think of the great, perfect, one of a kind gifts I will bestow upon my family and how they will love them and think I am the best. All year long I think of how beautiful my home will be, all glittery and glistening in the soft lights, beautiful inside and out. I think of the family dinner where everyone is formally dressed and sitting around a long dining room table, toasting with wine and reviewing what a wonderful, fortune filled year they had. All year I say, I am going to do better this year. And I believe it, y'all. I really do. Even when Thanksgiving gets here I still think I can be it all, do it all, afford it all, and make a wonderful, sane, refined, sparkling Christmas for me and everyone around me. And do it with easy. Why? Because that Christmas bitch told me I could.

And every year I end up where I am today. Christmas Eve. All the holiday parties are behind me, and some of them were nowhere near as fun as I thought they'd be. Mostly time spent with people I don't really even know or usually make time to be with. I got the outside of the house decorated, but it isn't anywhere near as elaborate as I want it to be. I got my tree up exactly a week ago. I am still working on getting it decorated. I got no baking done, no wonderful elaborate homemade gifts done, few gifts purchased, and feel like a major holiday fail. Once again, Christmas is walking away from me, heading toward another girl who looks like me but has a lot more time and money and focus and talent, enough to make the Christmas of her dreams. As they walk off together into the new year, that bitch Christmas flips me off and calls "better luck next year" over her shoulder. I hate you, Christmas, with the burning fire of a thousand suns.

Next year? Christmas? You're dead to me. Ya' hear me?

***The portrayal of Christmas as a bitchy high school cheerleader is not based on any one person, and really has nothing to do with my experience with cheerleaders or any of those with whom I may or may not have been friends with in high school. I am sure cheerleaders can be as nice and wonderful as all the rest of us once they are all grown up. This story is, obviously, fictional.***

Tuesday, December 21

Holiday Memories

As you may or may not know, I moved around a lot as a child. I call Franklin my hometown because it is where I graduated high school, where I learned to drive, where I marched in band and attended football and basketball games. It is where my parents stayed, and where I met my husband, then met him again. But I attended school in 4 different cities before I finished, and the truth is that I only really lived in Franklin maybe 6 years out of my entire life. I lived in Nashville almost 20 and really consider it to be home.

During my elementary years we lived in a suburb of Nashville that is now a booming metropolis. However, back then in the 70's it was mostly rural and filled with farmers and country music stars. Seriously, Little Jimmy Dickens lived down the road from us, Marty Robbins house was visible from our front yard, and every time we went to Kroger Jeannie C. Riley was there. Tom T. Hall's property adjoined ours and we went to his house on Halloween for trick-or-treats. If you don't know who any of these people are, sorry. But at the time they were a big effing deal, OK?

We lived in a little stone farmhouse that sat way back off the road. We had chickens, horses, cats, and dogs. We had 2 huge gardens in the back that mom took care of and neighbors who let us run around on their property for horse rides up through the mountains. We had a ridge above our house where we'd go to pick blackberries in the summer and mom would make cobblers and jelly. It was pretty great.

Now, I have precious few childhood memories, for whatever reason. My brother can remember every moment of every day with an alarming clarity. But me, not so much. So I just have to take his word for things. People mention things that happened when we were little and I just have to ask what the heck they are talking about because I don't remember anything but short flashes, excerpts of my life or really stellar events.

One of the few really strong memories is of a Christmas we spent in the stone house in Williamson County. It was the most charming little house, and I have fond memories of living there. However, there were only two bedrooms downstairs and a big, open upstairs. Mom and dad gave me the upstairs bedroom as I was the oldest. My brother was still small when we moved there, maybe 2 or 3, so he couldn't navigate the steps. Anyway, I hated it. I was such a scaredy cat it wasn't funny, still am. In retrospect, it was a great room, really cool. It was huge, and had tons of built in bookshelves under the eaves. I had frilly blue curtains and matching twin beds that sat on opposite sides of the room. It was one of those rooms where the stairs come up in the middle of the room, making it sort of a circular layout. But it was huge. But the reason I was so scared?

The attic door was at the far end of the room on the front of the house. I was terrified of the attic and whatever monsters might be living in there. I didn't like being up there during the day much, but at night? It was terrifying. I actually remember many nights sleeping downstairs on the pullout sofa in the living room. So this particular year, I got to sleep in my brother's room with him, as I probably did most of the Christmases in that house. I just don't remember. We were a bit older, I would say I was 8 or so which would make him 5 maybe. So we were both totally wound up for Christmas. However, my brother? He was ULTRA hyper on any given day, much less Christmas Eve. I would imagine these days he would have been diagnosed and put on some type of medication for some condition. But then, you just had to let him run down.

So he was aggravating the tar out of me. I was trying to sleep, really. Always the practical one, I knew the sooner I fell asleep the sooner I would get to see my presents. I was at the age where I was on the verge about the whole Santa thing, just ready for a reason to disbelieve it. However, he always came through for us so I held on to the thought. Anyway, my brother kept kicking me, or pinching me or talking to me about the time I fell asleep. "Get your foot on your side" or "you're hogging the covers" I would imagine. We never got along well at all and were always fussing like that. So mom had to come in and yell at us at least three times that it was time to get to sleep.

I don't remember word for word, so let me just say the next few minutes went something like this: "Do you hear that?" I asked him. "What is it? It sounds like someone walking around!" he said. "Who would be walking around? We are all in bed." Then we got scared. Then more "clomp, clomp, clomping" above us. "It's reindeer!" I suggested. "It is they are up on the roof!!" he agreed, excitedly. "Oh my gosh!" we both said, astonished that we'd really stayed up long enough to witness the arrival of Santa.

"I am going to look." Said my brother, throwing back the covers. "NO!" I said. "If he sees you we won't get anything. Don't you know that? Get back in bed!!!" I exclaimed in the loudest whisper I could muster. Surprisingly he did as I said, probably the only time he ever did. Truthfully I think he was a little bit scared himself. "clomp, clomp, clomp" "They are up there, there are reindeer on the roof." "I want to look out the window!" "NO!" "How do you think they do it? I want to see!" "NO!" "But, I can see them if I look!" "No, do you want to get presents?" "yes" "Then, NO! Don't do it!"

On and on it went until the noises stopped. After all this, we were so wound up. I know we slept some, but at one point, well before the sun came up, I remember slipping out into the hallway and peeking around the corner into the living room where the tree was. We were both afraid to cross the threshold into the room, so we just stood there, feet in the hallway, heads poking through the doorway, squinting and trying to figure out what all the big, shadowy shapes under the tree might contain. We finally crawled back into bed, feet frozen, and discussed what we might have waiting for us. We also discussed Santa, the reindeer, and how we couldn't wait to tell mom and dad in the morning that we HEARD the reindeer on the roof.

Of course I now realize that the scary attic was situated directly above my brother's room and the living room. And I know that since I was terrified of the attic it was the perfect hiding place. But that night cemented a belief in Santa that I held on to way longer than I should have. (yeah. other kids made fun of me.)

But I will say, even as an adult, I still believe in Santa. If you don't, shame on you. Santa is a spirit that is real and has the chance to inhabit each of us, even for a moment each year. If we could all just focus on the spirit of giving, not getting. On helping others without expecting a return. On spending time on people who don't have anyone.

If you want to witness this spirit in action, check out what fellow blogger, The Bloggess is doing. It warms even my frosty heart. This? Well, I think the word miracle is one of the most ridiculously overused words in our society today. But what she's done over there? It is simply. Amazing.

Monday, December 20

Christmas Confessions Part 2

My bedroom? Is a mess. And pretty much 365 days a year it stays that way. Until we get ready to move or sell a house at which point it gets cleaned, organized and looking like something from a model home. Now ordinarily this wouldn't be a problem except for one small fact. It isn't MY bedroom, it is OUR bedroom. Mine and hubby's.

We've been married for 16.5 years and every year, I honestly resolve to do better about keeping the bedroom cleaned up. Really I do. It is just something in my DNA I guess, I really don't know. I keep clean sheets on the bed, clean towels in the bathroom, toilet paper on the roll (usually, shut up, m) but as far as keeping things picked up and put away I fail miserably. I know there are people who will be aghast at this post, but it is what it is. A confession. One of my girlfriends has told me she "wouldn't be able to sleep at night" if her bed hadn't been made that day. O...K.... I sleep fine, thanks.

During my younger years my mom went around and made the beds every day. When we got older she worked outside the home, and left it up to my brother and me to make our beds every day. Since I was always and forever running late for school, and everything else in life apparently, mine never got made. I usually pull up the covers and just go. But an unmade bed is the very least of my worries. The real culprit? Clothes.

I leave my home every day having made no less than 3 wardrobe changes. And that's a very conservative number. Ask hubby. So when I come home at night, there is usually a pile of clothing stacked up from everything that fit wrong, looked wrong, didn't match or just didn't suit me. On the bed, on the bench at the end of the bed, flung every which way. Now, most of the time I will be good and put the clothing back on hangers or in the drawers. But the problem starts when we get home late, or I am too tired, and I think "I will just sit these here until tomorrow and put them away then." And that is how the stacking starts. Then I forget. And it's bedtime again. And there may be clothes from that day that got cast off. Add them to the pile....you get the idea.

Later in the week, I find myself needing a certain pair of pants or a shirt that I love and I have to hunt through those piles of clothing that are by now taking up not only the bench, but the entire top of the dresser (which I haven't seen once in the year we've been in this house), and sometimes on top of the basket on the floor beside my bed when there's overflow from the dresser.

Then there's the laundry. I don't mind doing laundry, sometimes I hate to fold. And I always hate to put it away. So on weekend nights at bedtime, take last night for instance, there could be a mountain of laundry on the bed that will take both of us 30 minutes to fold and put away. Why does that get put away? Well, obviously because the dresser, bench, and basket are already full, silly!

Add to this problem the fact that I always, always, always have a stack of books beside my bed to be read, or finished reading, or didn't like it and I am not going to finish I will donate. Then add to that the fact that hubby and I both have stacks of magazines that we read each month and toss on the floor. Bedside tables have kleenex, reading glasses, alarm clocks, lamps, medication, hand lotion, books, notebooks and pens...well, you get the idea.

I usually try to clean and organize the bedroom when we have company, but since moving to this house I haven't really gotten it done yet. We've had people over and I just shut the bedroom door. Sometimes people wander in there and I just yell "careful in there, it's a mess!" (understatement of the year) I figure if they are that nosey, then they can take their chances with the threat of avalanche.

Now, I am taking the majority of the blame for this messy room. Don't get me wrong. There is plenty of room for blame with the hubby too. He has clothes lying around, shoes kicked off, bathroom stuff out on the counters, and books and magazines, too. But neither of us seem to mind it when it's time to go to bed. At least not enough to do something about it.

I am reading a book right now that says your bedroom should be a beautiful, peaceful haven of rest. That makes me laugh. Seriously, y'all. I wish.

So what is your secret, or not so secret, housekeeping confession?

Saturday, December 18

The Act

Today's post is my entry into this week's 100 Word Challengehosted by Velvet Verbosity. The 100 Word Challenge is an exercise in which we write exactly 100 words in response to the weekly prompt word. Click the link to read the other entries–good stuff over there! 
This week's prompt was "act"

I remember those brown eyes staring back at me from the mirror above the sink. “Who is she?” I wondered, looking at the girl with the round, freckled face and pigtail braids. I was seven, a third grader, and already capable of such existential thinking. In that moment I realized that I didn't fit, even inside myself and my own life. I didn't know who I was or where I belonged.

My whole life became an act, an attempt to fit in. Every move brought a new situation, a new social group and I became adept at changing myself. 

Friday, December 17

Christmas Confessions Part 1

OK, I will admit it. I have a bit of a crush on Brian Williams. You know, the news guy? On NBC nightly news? Yeah, him.

For years, when it came to news, Dan Rather was my man. He had anchored the CBS evening news for years, since my childhood really, prior to his unceremonious early “retirement” (ie “dumping”) and complete journalistic disgrace. I loved Dan Rather, not in a puppy love kind of way, but in a comforting, he-knows-what-he's-talking-about kind of way. Like a dad who always knows the right thing to say and the right way to say it. His voice even comforted me, so sure and steady in the worst of environments, and the way that Texas accent, ever so slight, would get stronger after he'd been on the air for long periods of time. Like during the 2000 election coverage.

I remember his coverage of pivital events during my life. Like seeing him in that khaki jacket in Tiananmen Square covering the protest or interviewing Saddam Hussein. Or the shouting match with Bush 1, which I must admit only made me love him more. Dan Rather was a real, true reporter's reporter. Which is, perhaps, what finally was his undoing behind the anchor desk. But I digress.

When Katie Couric was chosen to replace Rather behind the anchor desk, I was extremely torn. Torn between what I feel is my responsibility as a woman to be happy for women who break barriers, and my all consuming dislike of Katie Couric. I can't stand that perky b*tch. If we lived in a world where I had an arch enemy? She would be mine.

I wanted a female anchor, don't get me wrong. But I wanted one who was actually, I don't know, a hard core news reporter. Like Diane Sawyer for instance. Or maybe Ann Curry? What's wrong with Ann? Just because she has dark hair shouldn't disqualify her. Once I heard that Katie Couric had the job, even my hopes of looking at John Roberts or Russ Mitchell every night dashed, I gave up.

I have honestly never understood the country's fascination with Katie, or Matt Lauer for that matter. It didn't help that in my early 20's I was compared to Couric. A lot. Which is strange since I look nothing like her, and wasn't especially perky. But I had a short haircut similar to hers which always seemed to invite the comparison. And I liked to laugh which make some people think you're perky, I guess. (I'm laughing at you NOT with you) But I still don't like her. (Yeah, yeah, I know. Her husband died. So did a lot of other women's husbands that year. Yeah, yeah, she's a single mom. So what? So are a lot of other women. And they don't make millions of dollars every year.) So when she took over the anchor desk at CBS, with that grating, annoying voice and those freakish chiclet teeth, I just had to find an alternative news source.

But everything changed one fateful Saturday when I saw an appearance that Brian Williams made on Saturday Night Live. I really hadn't thought anything of him other than being a button down news man. But I watched anyway, fully realizing this was intended to boost their ratings. I was charmed by Williams' affability, his normalcy, his apparent ability to make fun of himself and just go out there to have fun. I was a gonner, I couldn't not like him, he was so likeable. He actually made me laugh. And he was so cute in those skits. And he looks good in jeans. Today I saw him in a Today Show viral video that they did to a Black Eyed Peas song, and I can't imagine Dan Rather dancing around in jeans and a sweater wearing an “Anchor” sign on his shirt.

Who wouldn't have a crush on Brian Williams? I just heart him. But don't tell my husband. 

Wednesday, December 15

But then, what do I know?

So I wake up this morning and scuffle into the kitchen to get a cup of coffee. On the kitchen cabinet above the coffee maker I see this:

In case you can't read it, it says "Good Morning! I love you Sweet Pea! 
So I am still smiling from that when I fix my coffee and scuffle on into the office, still wearing my flannel pj's. When I touch the mouse to clear away the screen saver, this comes up on the screen in a word document:

Good Morning Wonderfulness!!

My husband, he makes me laugh. I love that he was thinking about me and took the time to write a note in the first two places I'd be. I love that he knew the first two places I'd be. I really love that guy!

So, in a good mood and no projects immediately pending, I decided to catch up on my blogs. There are a few that I follow regularly and I decided to start with my favorite, the blog of a Twitter buddy @jdistraction called Zebra Sounds. Today she had a new post called Things I Believe. Check it out. The thing I love about Zebra Sounds is that her blog is so interactive. She comments along with her readers and asks them to answer her, or make lists of their own. 

I absolutely LOVED her Things I Believe list and agreed with each and every one of them. When I started posting my own things, I found my comments to be so much more than what might be appropriate. So, I cut them down to one sentence each and stole her idea for a blog post of my own. 

So, below are 10 Things I Believe. Read them and post your own list of Things I Believe in the comments. I want to see what everyone believes to be true in this life!

1. There really is that ONE thing in us all. The thing that makes our life worth living. Our true talent. Our passion. However, it is tricky and doesn't always reveal itself like we think it should. Sometimes we don't listen when it does, and sometimes it can take a lifetime to find it.

2. Love does exist. Real, true, love. Honest take the good with the bad day to day love does exist. But it isn't prettty. It isn't like infatuation or passion. It isn't roses, Champagne, and ocean view love all the time. It takes work. Real, true, love has to get down and dirty in the trenches every day to fight to stay alive. Real, true, love doesn't wear a tux and have a million dollar smile. It wears jeans and a hardhat and has dirt and grease all over it. Probably missing a tooth.

3. That being said, when you think you find it you have to remember, if it isn't reciprocated it isn't real, true, love. And you need to keep moving. You are only hurting yourself by accepting anything less. 

4. The world, our world, is open to any possibility. You just have to trust it enough to take the leap. You can't rely on someone else to do it for you because, in the end, no one looks out for you like you.

5. The way you view the universe, the world, your family, whatever? It becomes your reality. If you consistently remark on bad or negative things are? Or criticize people and expect the worst from every one and every situation? You are creating a bad place in which to live. And there's no one to blame but yourself.

6. When you accept personal responsibility for your life it is the ultimate freedom, the best gift you could ever give yourself. Realizing that your current situation is the result of choices you made, not something anyone “did to you” takes a lot of guts, but once you accept that you can move forward unencumbered. Not easy to do, not easy to do all the time, but so worth the pain that is inevitable.

7. For me personally, the decision not to have children was absolutely the right one. That doesn't make me any less of a person, it doesn't make me selfish, less powerful, less necessary and it doesn't hinder my journey through life. It simply gives me a different experience than those with children. I don't like it when people judge or tell me I wouldn't “know” about love or life since I don't have children. 

8. Every person in this world, no matter who they are, what age they are, what they do for a living, where they live, every person in this world deserves respect. I show everyone the respect of being a fellow human on this planet until they do something to cause me to realize they don't deserve it. I hate to see people talk down to someone because they clean houses or wait tables or come from a different country, race, religion or background. It hurts my heart for them. Both. And makes me a bit angry.

9. The best compliment I have ever received in my life, bar none, was from a former boss who told me I was “a person of integrity.” I really didn't get it at 30-something, but now, after everything I have been through over the 10 years since I worked with him, and all the life experience I have had, I really think that is the highest praise I could ever aspire to. Look up the definition, really read it and think about it. I am not sure I live up to it, but I do try. Every day.

10. Everything you say and do has an impact on others. All day every day whether you realize it or not. So the question becomes “how do I want to influence others today?” I try to think of this in my words, actions, tone of voice, and how I treat people around me.

So that's it. That's alls I know. How about you? I welcome your comments, questions, snide remarks or a list of your own in the comments section. Oh, and check out j's site at Zebra Sounds. She's got some awesome things on her list.

I just want to add the disclaimer that I know and have seen all of these things to be true enough to make me believe. I do my best to live by them, enact them, and trust these things in my everyday life. But I honestly can't say I always do. I am not posting this list to be preachy or sanctimonious, I just think we all have different core beliefs and when you take time to hear and think about what others believe, maybe it would change what you believe or at least open up a dialogue.

Friday, December 10

About Us

Today's post is my entry into this week's 100 Word Challengehosted by Velvet Verbosity. The 100 Word Challenge is an exercise in which we write exactly 100 words in response to the weekly prompt word. Click the link to read the other entries–good stuff over there! 
This week's prompt was "wild"

I am a daughter,  
a wife, 
a friend, 
and artist.
A former wild girl

now confined by love
to a 16 year marriage
to the boy I met 
at thirteen,
at twenty seven,
almost lost 
at thirty two.

Sometimes, alone,
I get lost 
in thoughts
of what could have been, 
what still may be.
But this, I know:

Alone we are unsure,
and claustrophobic.

English and math,
positive and negative.
Alone we are one.

But together 
we are so much more
than two.
Strong and balanced.
Fearless and

and improbable.
Ourselves, improved.
Together, we are us.

Sunday, December 5

The Power of Bobby Flay

Today's post is my entry into this week's 100 Word Challengehosted by Velvet Verbosity. The 100 Word Challenge is an exercise in which we write exactly 100 words in response to the weekly prompt word. Click the link to read the other entries–good stuff over there! 
This week's prompt was "anchovies"

As late afternoon sun sliced through the blinds, the passing cars cast shadows on the wall. She heard the television blaring, her boyfriend talking, the baby crying. She lay on the sofa unable, unwilling to move. She closed her eyes.

Most people say they don't like them. But if you've ever eaten a Caesar salad, green goddess dressing or worcestershire sauce, then you've eaten anchovies.” said the faceless voice.

I hate goddamn Bobby Flay” her boyfriend said. Letting herself slip back into the blur of light and noise, she stared at the ceiling. “Me, too.” she thought.

Friday, December 3

Holiday Diaries Part 1

So here I am, a week later, blogging about my Thanksgiving. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and is bracing themselves for the madness that is the Christmas season. I finished NanoWrimo, cause I'm a winner like that. (kidding) I have actually rarely in my life set that huge a goal and carried through with it. I have 52000 nonsensical words that now have to be edited and stitched together to tell the story I wanted to tell, but it's there somewhere. I can't wait to get started on it. But that is for January.

I have neglected my blog readers, you poor babies, save for the weekly 100 Word  posts, so even if I have to write from memory, I pledge to post at least 5 days a week something original to keep you tuning in. (Not everyday is a laugh a minute, you know). I love all my blog readers, all dozens of you! If you don't already subscribe, feel free to do so through the link on the right side of the page. Updates will come right to you!

So, I am always amazed at the dichotomy between holiday celebrations with hubby's family and mine. We have been married 16 years and I never fail to be in awe at the energy, noise, laughter and activity carried on with at his family gatherings. The family is bigger now, and louder, but I love them all so much. He has 2 sisters and their husbands, we have a 4 and 5 year old nephew, and our niece (flower girl in our wedding 16 years ago) has two step-sons and a 6 month old daughter. There's always chaos, some craziness, yelling, running, laughing like crazy. Someone always falls down and there's drama. Sweet, wonderful drama. It can still be overwhelming for me at times, but it's nice to be part of a close family like that.

My family? Is mom, dad, brother, me and hubby. No kids. My brother isn't married. It is just the 5 of us, just like growing up it was just the 4 of us. My mom, 76 this year, doesn't even cook holiday meals anymore. We all travel to Nashville to partake in gross overeating at the holiday buffet at a local upscale hotel where my brother and I used to work. We've done this for at least the last 8 years. It is peaceful, relaxing and gets us out of town. However, no leftovers and you feel stuffed the entire day.

Then we come back to mom and dad's and hubby and I play cards with them, brother walks back to his house next door to watch tv. This is how all my holidays were growing up. No other siblings, no extended family, just us. Even now, it is so quiet the tv doesn't even go on, you hear the clocks ticking. We usually sit and play cards just the four of us. This year, however, things almost got out of hand.

We came home in our usual food coma, hubby and I remarking how nice it was to just live across town now rather than hours away. My mom and dad immediately got out the cards for a card game. While I fixed us something to drink, mom is talking about how their cards were worn out and she had bought new cards. Now, we play a card game in which you need 2 decks of cards. I've heard it called Shanghai Rummy or Progressive Rummy. It is a sometimes crazy and extremely long card game with at least 10 different hands that you have to get through. It can literally take 2 or 3 hours to play one complete game, depending on how many players.

So we start dealing out the cards and everyone is talking about how great the new cards feel and how nice it is to have new ones. We are playing the game, drinking our soda and having a good time. We're something like 4 hands in and my husband notices something isn't right.

"I just want to ask a question. We play with 2 decks, right?"
"Yes" we all agree.
 "Hang on a minute, something isn't right here." He says.
Oh, lord, I think. What in the world?
Mom and dad look concerned.
"Well, if there are 2 decks, wouldn't there be two of each card? Like the 8 of clubs, there would be 2 of them right? There are 3 of them showing on the board right now." he says, confidently.
I just sit there holding my breath. If there's one thing my parents don't like it's confidence. I just look at the both of them waiting for them to agree.
"No" my dad says, "there would be 4." he's pretty sure about this. Crap, I'm gonna have to weigh in against him.
"No, dad, I think there would only be 2." I say quietly. By "I think" I meant, "c'mon seriously? four? who taught you math?"

Now, I just want to interject that my dad is like the rain man of card games. He is seriously sharp when it comes to not only knowing what he has but where the other cards lie, who has them and how to keep them from getting what they want. That sort of acumen when it comes to cards is astonishing to me. Get him and my uncle together and you got some heavy duty games of Rook. Me, I can barely keep up with what I need, let alone what everyone else is playing.

So, I am shocked at him saying this, needless to say. I look at my mom, then at hubby. I start doubting myself, really are there 4. No, there can't be.
"No, there are 2" hubby says.
"No, there aren't there would be 4 of each." dad says.
This continues back and forth for way longer than was comfortable for me. Mom and I are sitting there looking back and forth like we were at a tennis match.
I try to intervene. "Dad, there is one complete set in every suit. Right? Ace to King, right. So there is only one 8 of clubs in each deck, which means there would only be 2 in this deck. There may be 4 BLACK 8  but there are only 2 8 of clubs, and 2 8 of spades. Right?"
Dad, with his best, "You're Wrong" face, I remember it well from childhood. "NO, there are four. There are four of each. Four."
This goes on for several more minutes "two" "four" "two" "four"
I felt like I was in some new whacked out Quentin Tarantino version of a Bud Light commercial.

Then, hubby does it. He escalates it to epic proportions from which there is no return.
"Jack, I don't mean to be disrespectful, but that is just wrong."
Dead silence at the table. It was like the standoff at OK Corral.

Dad=STAREY FACE @hubby.
Hubby=STAREY FACE @dad
Me=STAREY FACE @the table

Mom, ever the peacemaker, or at least problem solver and practical thinker, breaks the silence and scoops up the cards on the table. "Well, we just need to count these out and see. Here, lets sort them."

Dad was having none of it, he would NOT let go of the cards in his hand. Fifteen minutes later, they were pried away from him and it was indeed revealed that most cards in the first 2 decks were right, but there were 3 or 4 numbers that had 3 of the cards, and another 4 or 5 that only had 1 of each card. Those decks were WHACKED!! Finally he said, like, 5 times, "I don't understand, it was a new deck, I broke the seal on it right over there!" pointing to the living room.

"Mom? Where did you get these cards, they are messed up!" I asked.
She walks over to get the boxes to show the broken seal. "Where did you get these?" I ask again. It is mass chaos at this point, cards all over the table. "Here I have 2 more brand new decks" she says tossing them on the table. "Mom, where did they come from?" I ask again.

"Yard sale, they came from LAS VEGAS though." she said in a reverential tone, finally spilling the beans. As if everything in Las Vegas is exactly as it appears. Picking up the box I see that they are souvenir cards from a casino that had been used, marked, and repackaged.

"Maaauuuuhhhhmmmm, MOM, seriously? These are cards that were used in the casino and they repackage them as a novelty souvenir, you can't play with them." Hubby and I start laughing hysterically. At this point I figure the game is over. But she insists on opening one of the other packs too. I insist on matching them up to be sure all the cards are there. Sure enough, one deck is missing 5 cards and the other is missing 3. "GOOD GOD WOMAN!! What are you trying to do to us?" I bellow, in between laughter.

"Wait, I have more" she says, running back to her hidey hole and coming out, raccoon like, with 2 more decks in hand. "They have different pictures on the back, but I think they'll work." Sure enough, each deck had a different Las Vegas scene, but consensus was that it wouldn't interfere. After matching up cards, the room quieted down and I began to shuffle the 2 decks together. It was my turn to deal, but something wasn't working right.

"Oh, good lord, these aren't even the same size!!!!!" I explained. Sure enough, one deck was at least 1/8" shorter than the other, making it impossible to shuffle. "Mom. Seriously. What kind of low-rent card game is this?" At this point hubby and I are hysterical. "Did you get these at the same yard sale?" I am howling with laughter.

"Yes, I did." she replied, not seeing what was so funny. "I bought a bunch of them, Do you know your father wanted to pay $4 a pack for cards at WalMart."

I exclaimed.

My family. Honestly...

just a note: Y'all my parents are not desperate for money. they can afford $8 for 2 decks of cards, my mom is just a miser. I called her on Tuesday and told her they were $1 a pack at the Dollar store for new Bicycle cards. No word yet on whether she bought them.