Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

A mom and her son just walked past my house on their way home from school. He was dressed as a ninja; she was dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. I love my neighborhood.

Tonight we will be taking Liam trick-or-treating for the first time. It was his idea. We are going as a Mariachi Band.

There's video of him practicing here. It's dang cute.

I am really, really hoping we can get a photo of all three of us in our costumes. If there are moms who will dress up in costume to pick their kids up from school, surely there is one who will take a quick picture of my family, right? The self-timer doesn't really work when there's a two year old involved. Ten seconds? It may as well be ten minutes. Keep your fingers crossed for me and have a safe, happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I'm a wiener.

That title reminds me of my friend Alisa who owns and runs our neighborhood hot dog stand, I Dream of Wienie. Every time I see her and ask her what she's been up to she says the same thing, "Oh, you know, just slingin' wienies!" It always makes me blush and burst into a fit of embarrassed giggles. I suspect she knows this about me...

Where was I? Ah, yes - I won an award! And not just any award, either. Noooosiree. This award is special. Why? Because it was awarded by a stranger. A stalker if you will. Someone I didn't even know was reading my blog. How cool is that?

Also? Her blog is really great. It's like I got an award and a prize all in one. I don't think it gets much better than that.

I'm supposed to nominate 7 blogs that I love in order to accept the award. Doesn't that seem like a lot? For someone like me with time management issues it sure does. How am I supposed to write and read while keeping up with the dishes, the laundry, The Daily Show, the grocery shopping, the insatiable pets, the husband, and the two year old who recently realized naps are for wussies? I don't think it's possible. There just aren't enough hours in the day.

And yet...

I checked out my bookmarks and found that, by gum!, I do read and love seven blogs. Maybe that's why I never have time to make dinner...

Here they are, in no particular order:

Moms Are For Everyone! Emery is a girl I used to coach in Pop Warner cheer leading. OK, technically she is now a woman but to me she is still the teeny little gymnast we could use to turn an ordinary routine into something gasp-worthy. Do a bunch of flips right here, in front of these girls! Get way up here on top of everyone and pull your leg back and over your head! What a trooper. In my mind she can still do these things. The girl is good at everything: writing, momming, wifing, shopping, looking adorable...why not back handsprings?

Trying This is my friend, Linnet's, new blog. It's all smart and political but just when I think it's over my head she throws in an SNL clip or something equally on my level. Love it! She is in graduate school for social work after working in real estate for waaaay too long. If she were to write a book about it, it would be called How Real Estate Drove Me to Therapy. Brilliant.

Bite My Cookie I found this blog recently and upon reading the very first post couldn't stop myself from leaving a comment that was along the lines of, "OMG, I freaking LOVE you!" Creepy, right? I seriously could not help myself. She is a great writer and she posts videos of her kid rocking out to classics like Wheels in the Sky by Journey. Just try to watch something like that without leaving an embarrassing comment. Impossible. I found her blog when she posted something on Girl's Gone Child, another great blog I love to read.

Rockin Babies Whenever the stay-at-home-mom thing is really wearing me out and I can no longer see the upside of spending 35 minutes coaxing my child to taste just a little bit of soup, and the pretend shower we made with White Bi got boring, like, the second we made it, this blog reminds me that these are the things at the core of motherhood. The glory isn't in the monumental milestones, it's in the moments in between. She is a master of cherishing and preserving what might be overlooked if you were busy or not paying close enough attention. She inspires me to slow down, look a little closer and appreciate the amazing little man I get to call my son. (PS - I met her at this party. Before the nonsense happened.)

Girl Healthy A great blog full of helpful tidbits for making healthy choices. Check out her bio - it's totally inspiring. Way better than those reader success stories in Shape magazine. I cut out soda, stopped eating fast food and started to exercise. Well, duh. Like anyone reading Shape magazine doesn't already know that. Please. Tell me something I don't know. Thanks, Girl Healthy, for doing just that.

Is that still not seven? Whew. You would not believe how long this is taking me. Seriously, it's more than a little embarrassing. For my household's sake I am going to have to just sum this up and move on. So, with that, I leave you with Anna's blog, Trisha's blog, Courtney's blog, Callie's blog, and Halie's blog. Inspiring, the lot of you.

Now, about those dishes...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Chocolate fountain.

This morning, I was getting my stuff together for a quick trip to Target when I realized I was tossing graham crackers and a banana into my purse instead of my diaper bag. I thought about it for a moment and realized I've been carrying a purse a lot lately. In fact, I couldn't even remember the last time I used my diaper bag.

I should write about that, I thought. Not using a diaper bag is like a really big milestone.

It may not be a big milestone for most moms but it is for me. My son is a little, um, how should I say this...? Spoiled. There, I said it. My son is spoiled. I have trained him to think that whatever he wants will just magically appear the moment he asks for it. Oh, you want to eat a strawberry fruit leather while reading Pinky the Pig and drawing in your striped notebook (the small striped notebook, not the big one) with a blue crayon? Done.

I prided myself on being able to predict his wants and needs better than he could. I thought I was being a good mom. Now I'm afraid all this catering to him business has created a needy little monster. I'm determined to unspoil him and get him to go with the flow a little bit more. Perhaps that's why I've been leaving the diaper bag at home.

At any rate, I was feeling foot loose and fancy free as we stepped out of the house this morning. I was pointing out upcoming bridges and then counting down until we were underneath and screaming, "Wheeeeee!" I was waving at school buses, counting to diez in Spanish, pointing out big trucks and the city and the river. I was totally on top of my game.

"Mama, I'm kinda thirsty," Liam said from the backseat.

"How about some chocolate milk?" I asked in a super fun sing songy voice, revealing the sippy cup I snuck into the car and flashing him a smile. I was nailing this trip to Target!

I waited for a red light and then flipped the straw cover back before handing him his drink. As soon as the straw popped out, a fountain of chocolate milk shot out of the cup and all over the steering wheel and, of course, my lap. There was so much milk gushing from the straw I had time to turn around to see if Liam was catching the show and turn back to see still more chocolate milk splashing onto my jeans. I finally had to stick the straw in my mouth (gross) and drink until it stopped.

My first instinct was to wipe down the cup so I could hand it to Liam and take stock of the situation at hand. Wanna guess what didn't make it from my diaper bag to my purse? That's right, my wipes. I don't think this was the first time I needed a wipe and didn't have one because the stash of napkins that comes standard with every car's glove compartment was totally depleted as well.

The light turned green as I blotted and wiped the best I could with ATM receipts and gum wrappers. Liam was still a little in shock at what had happened. "Mama, you're all chocolatey. You are covered in chocolate milk!" Then he started saying something about throwing pennies in the fountain to make some wishes. "Buddy, do you want to make a wish that Mama wasn't so chocolatey?" He was drinking the milk by now and simply replied, "mmm-hmm." He may have thought we were on our way to the fountain at the library, but if I know my boy he was probably trying to figure out how to help. He may be spoiled but he's certainly no brat.

At Target, I tried to stay close to the cart to hide my wet lap but couldn't resist letting Liam get down and explore. Soon the milk was dry and I had all but forgotten about the incident. I was abandoning the cart altogether to chase Liam down aisles and help him see the Halloween decorations he couldn't reach. I got a few strange looks but it probably had more to do with my curious toddler blocking the aisles than it did my stained jeans.

When we got back in the car I reached into the bag of Halloween candy and pulled out the York Peppermint Pattie I had promised Liam for being such a good boy at the store. I had already gotten him all pumped up for the chocolate mint (A treat? For me? Really?) when I realized it was a little bit melted. I considered trying to pull the ol' switcheroo with a graham cracker but figured, what's one more mess?

As soon as the candy was out of the wrapper it was a complete disaster. Not two seconds after I handed the melty, chocolately mess to Liam, he asked for a wipe. I just laughed and explained that we'd have to wait until we got home. I expected a fight but it never came. He just ate his melted chocolate and licked his messy fingers. How's that for going with the flow?

He's a chocolate covered sweetheart.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Just in time for Halloween.

There's a reason scary movies are scarier when little kids are in them: Kids are creepy. Think about Danny or those bloody twins in The Shining. They were by far the most terrifying part. At night when you're laying in bed and suddenly think of the Overlook Hotel, it's not Jack axing down the door and saying, "Here's Johnny!" that freaks you out; it's those kid voices saying, "Danny, come plaaaaay with us..." I'm freaked out just thinking about them!

Liam's not a particularly freaky kid but on more than one occasion he's scared the bejezzus out of us.

One night I was in the bath when Bill busted through the bathroom door. "Liam just woke up crying and saying, Mama is all wet cause she's in the bath." I smiled. "Maybe he heard the water running?" Bill just looked at me. "Yeah," he scoffed. "Or maybe he has the shining."

Another time, Liam woke up from a nap crying and when I went in to get him he was just standing in the corner of his crib with his eyes closed. Nothing I did seemed to matter; he just stood there, silently staring at me through his closed eyelids. Finally I backed out of his room and shut the door behind me. Whatever that was needed to be worked out on his own.

At bedtime, after we've read our books and sang our songs, I sometimes rock him in the dark for a little bit to settle him down. Once in a while he will go from quietly resting against me to sitting up straight as an arrow and staring at me. Our faces are close together and I can see the shimmer of his eyes even in the dark. Sometimes he'll grab my hair or touch my face. These things would probably be sweet during the day but in the dark they totally creep me out.

Liam isn't afraid of the dark at all. In fact, he sometimes likes to play in his room with the light off. I think it started when Bill gave him a flashlight and showed him how to make shadows but I'm not sure. The other night, the two of them were in Liam's room when Bill yelled for me to come play with them. I opened the door and the light from the hall spilled into his pitch black room making them both squint.

"Mama, shut the door! We're playing in the dark."

Bill kind of giggled like you do when you're scared but want to act tough. "Yeah, Liam's camping and White Bi is his tent. So, you know, he's just sitting in the middle of a dark room under a white blanket..."

" that creepy movie where Nicole Kidman's kids are ghosts and the one is under a blanket like all, I am your daughter, but she's not? Gross."


We know Liam is not a creepy ghost but still. Still...

Monday, October 20, 2008

We voted!

Tonight was our second attempt at early voting and we came out victorious. Woo hoo!

Liam and I tried to vote on the first day of early voting but ended up in the story room with a couple of box turtles and a baby screech owl instead. The line to vote spanned the entire length of the library and neither of us had enough snacks or patience to give it a go. Tonight the line was much more doable, although still surprisingly long for early voting.

Bill and I tried to take turns holding Liam so neither of us would have to vote with him on our hip but it didn't quite work out. As I was waiting for my ID to be verified, I noticed Bill getting his ID verified. Without Liam. He didn't look worried so I figured he had it under control.

Suddenly Liam burst into the room saying, "I gotcha, Dada!" Then he saw me and ran over to get me, too. "Gotcha, Mama!" I told him it was my turn to vote and we held hands and walked to the booth together. As the volunteer set up my machine and showed me how to use it, I scooped Liam up and tried to quickly explain the importance of what we were doing.

"We're going to vote?"

"Yes, Liam! We're going to vote!"

"Um, Mama? I'm hungry and thirsty."

Fortunately it only took a moment to press the touch screen and hit the red VOTE button. I gave Liam a little squeeze and a high five. "Buddy, we did it. We voted!" And just like that, as if on cue, he burst out chanting, "Yes, we can! Yes, we can!" He continued chanting as Bill and I smiled at each other proudly across the room. He chanted all the way through the library and out into the parking lot. "Yes, we can! Yes, we can!"

Yes, we can.

Tag, you're it.

Or I guess, technically, I'm it. My friend Anna tagged me and since I'm just sitting around down here in the dumps not coming up with anything clever to say, I figured sure. Why not? Let's do a little tag and see if that gets things flowing. So here we go...
Open your pictures folder, go to the SIXTH folder and publish the SIXTH picture.
Oh, cool. I like this one. It's a picture I took one night in my photography class. The folder said April 2008 but I seem to remember freezing my butt off that night so it might have been filed wrong.

We were practicing night photography, specifically how to make pictures look like they were taken at night without really taking them at night (you know, cause when it's really night you just have to use the flash and that's what we were trying to avoid).

I didn't have a tripod but a guy in my class let me use one of his. It wasn't a tripod so much as a tripod with one leg - a one pod? It was like a plastic pirate's peg leg I screwed onto my camera. It felt very unstable. Like if I got sidetracked even for a second the whole kit and caboodle would go crashing to the ground. I am way to clumsy for a tripod with one leg. I need at least three times that much stability. Especially when the camera and the one pod are borrowed.

I white knuckled it for about 3 minutes before thanking the guy and getting the heck out of there. I didn't want to insult his generosity but knew myself way better than to actually use unstable equipment. Besides, I was freezing and that whole Be careful not to drop the camera in the parking lot! business had made me a little uneasy. I think this is the only picture I took that night that I liked. Lucky number six, I guess.

Well, OK, that made me feel a little better. Thanks, Anna.

You'll never believe what happened today. Bill called from work and asked, "How you livin?" to which I obviously replied, "In mansions and Benzes, givin' ends to my friends and it feels stupendous." How often do you get set up to quote Notorious BIG? Not often enough, I tell you. Not often enough.


I am two-thirds of the way done making our Halloween costumes and have not spent a single dime. Not one cent! Would you like to see a couple teaser photos now or should we wait for Halloween? Well? Are you a shake the presents kind of kid or do you like to wait for Christmas morning?

Me, I hate surprises.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Giving is the greatest gift of all.

Once again I have found inspiration at Digging to China. Courtney just signed up for a 29-Day Giving Challenge, committing to give something every day for 29 days. When my initial reaction was, "I wish I had something to give," I knew I had stumbled across this challenge for a reason.

So, I signed up! It's not totally out of character for me to jump on the bandwagon like that (once at work I signed up to run a marathon not because I was a runner but because someone asked me to) but yet, there was nothing halfhearted about my decision.

Giving at a time when you don't think you have anything to spare is a powerful reminder of how abundant and rich the universe is. There is always enough if we choose to see it that way. I think a 29 day practice of that would do me a world of good right now.

Not only that but I believe that the more you give, the more you receive. With the economy the way it is, it's easy to sit back and think, "poor little me..." But clutching onto your dwindling dollars in fear will only disrupt the flow of prosperity. If you focus on what you don't have, how will you ever have more?

I can talk the talk for days but it's time for me to walk the walk. Anyone want to join me?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bier in the afternoon.

Just on the other side of the river, near the state capital building and farmer's market, is Germantown, a funky little neighborhood known for its renovated factory buildings, modern lofts and townhouses, great views of downtown and amazing restaurants, like Monell's - the best family-style Southern restaurant ever.

Each fall Germantown hosts an Oktoberfest that, I have to say, gives all other local festivals a run for their money. It could be that October is the perfect time of year to be outside in Nashville (not too hot, not too cold and humidity-free enough for blue sky!), but I suspect I like this festival best because it revolves around beer. Walking around outside with a beer in your hand is a luxury here in the bible belt. Especially if you have a child.

We used to take drinking outside for granted. When the weather warmed up we would just go to our nearest bar with a patio and let the kids play outside while we drank beer with our friends (yes, we'd bring our babies to the bar). But recently Nashville enacted a smoking ban that makes restaurants choose if they are going to be non-smoking or 21 and up. If a restaurant allows smoking on the patio (which, I'm pretty sure ALL of them do), the patio is considered 21 and up and no kids are allowed. Drinking outside is fine for smokers but totally unacceptable for people with children. Who would have thought?

Oktoberfest is one of the last places in Nashville where I can drink a pint with my husband without hiring a babysitter. It's a luxury I'd hate to miss.

What I forgot to take into consideration this year is that our child is less put me in the stroller and take me wherever you want me to go and more I'm the boss and what I say goes. Because of this, Oktoberfest was not exactly the way I remembered it.

First of all, there are like a million letters and numbers and shapes that have to be properly identified before you can pass by. You might think you scored a pretty close parking spot but the truth of the matter is 1,208 rectangular water meters stand between you and the Bier Garden. 1,208 water meters that have to be read, letter by letter, accurately but very, very slowly.

"Mama! Look! A rectangle. W-A-T-E-R-M-E-T-E-R. Yay!" I started standing on them or trying to herd him in another direction but that son of mine is one clever boy. The only thing that would keep him from seeing a water meter rectangle on the ground was a square For Sale sign on someone's lawn. "Mama! Look! F-O-R-S-A..."

In addition to the reading, there's the jumping. Lots and lots of jumping. Up the curb, down the curb, up the curb, down the curb. You get the idea. His favorite spots to stop and jump were typically right in front of a church bake sale or a somewhat questionable fish-fry. Politely declining a scrappy kid with a Rice Krispie treat clutched in her hand once is hard enough; politely declining for five minutes while your child jumps up "one more time" and then down "one more time" is excruciating.

By the time we got to the actual festival, Liam thought he owned the place. He marched through the crowd, bobbing and weaving and cutting people off at every turn. I followed him closely and the two of us left a mess of overturned Radio Flyers and strollers, spilled beer and three person pile ups in our wake. Bill hung back and watched, amazed that two small but clueless people could cause so much destruction.

When we worked our way far enough through the festival to see the grassy field that was home to both the bier garden and the kids area (genius), Liam decided he had seen enough. He stopped walking, stretched his arms up and said, "Mama holds you?"

"Oh no, buddy. You need to walk. Mama can hold your hand but I can't hold you. OK?" Right. This was met with immediate tears. We're standing at the edge of a grassy field, surrounded by happy families on a beautiful fall day, this close to a German beer and the Neil Diamond cover band and my son is sitting down in protest and wailing, "Nooooo, Mama! I need to hold you!"

Now, I know what you're probably thinking. Save some face and just pick the kid up already! Yeah, I know. Trust me, that's my usual M.O. Why do you think I'm in this predicament? As much as I'd like to avoid being the mother of the screaming child, I need to stop spoiling and coddling and letting him boss me around. If I think it's embarrassing now, just imagine how I'll feel when the terrible twos are over and he's still acting this way.

Besides, and this is the real reason I had to stick to my guns, the kid is heavy. The constant one sided back pain Bill and I have suffered to avoid Liam's meltdowns are turning our bedroom into a seedy massage parlor that smells of Tiger Balm and hot rice sacks. If we can't draw the line for the sake of our child, we need to do it for the sake of our spines.

So while Bill went to get in line for beer, I squatted down to Liam's level to explain, once again, how we behave in public. When a warning and an explanation didn't cut it, I had no choice but to give him a time out. I think it was harder for me than it was for him. I mean, how awkward can you get? Standing next to your wailing child and ignoring him in public? I could have died.

Disclaimer: This is NOT the actual timeout.

I think it was the shortest time out in the history of the world but it worked. At least, it kind of worked. He stopped crying and started listening but stayed in a bit of a mood the rest of the afternoon. If I'd ask him to hold my hand he'd balk momentarily before pouting, "No. Not that hand. That hand." Well, excuuuuse me, mister.

Despite our 30 pound, iron willed dictator, we still enjoyed the heck out of Oktoberfest. Nothing an ice cold beer and a couple rounds of Sweet Caroline can't fix. (So good, so good!) It was an (almost) perfect Saturday.

If he looks happy it's because the picture was HIS idea.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Looks may be deceiving.

In my Photoshop class the other night, we restored old snapshots, fixing the cracks and tears and discoloration that time and carelessness had allowed. The picture we worked on was a black and white of an adorable little girl, maybe 3 years old, that was covered with scratches, tears and splotches. Half of her arm was destroyed as well as her right cheek, her chin and part of her forehead.

The girl had a serious look about her, like she was an old soul or someone who had seen more than her time on earth should have allowed. She stared out at me with intensity, like she was trying to communicate something I would never believe. The picture reminded me of a war relic. Like it had been discovered trampled in the dirt of an abandoned Vietnamese village by a soldier who kept it because it reminded him of his kid back home, or printed in a left wing newspaper under the headline, "Children: The real casualty of war."

If you looked really closely though, you could see that her dress had a Winnie the Pooh stitched on the front and her traditional wooden sandals were actually just rubber and velcro Teva knockoffs. That kinda killed it for me. I liked thinking I was working on something important.

So, I decided to make her dress plain white, disguise her shoes and pretend.

But first, I had to fix the photo. I started with the background, of course, testing my skills and trying to hit my stride before patching and cloning and painting a child. As my background slowly came together, my classmates moaned and groaned all around me. Aurgh! Her arm looks worse now than before I started. She looks like a burn victim! How much of this can I undo?

By the time I was ready to work on her flesh, I was starting to sweat. Not only was everyone around me struggling, I had been clicking and double clicking for over an hour already and my hand, arm and shoulder were really feeling the burn (I have problems with my "mouse muscles" or "carpal tunnel" or whatever). I had finally figured out how to adjust my chair (it only took me 3 weeks!) but every time I raised it up to a comfortable position, it would sloooowly lower back down as I sat there working. I coudn't feel it happening so I would just notice, suddenly, that I was sitting on the floor with my knees in my throat and my arm up over my head, clutching onto the mouse for dear life.

Despite all this, I actually made the little girl look better, not worse. When I was finished with her arm, it didn't look like a burn, it looked like an arm. A real arm. That I made! I was so proud of myself. I couldn't wait to see what I could do with her full, soft cheek that still looked like a baby even though the rest of her had grown. Would I be able to fix that, too?

I didn't have time to find out before class ended but was pleased with what I had accomplished. I was walking to my car thinking, Burn victim? Ha! when I came around the corner by the men's room and found myself face-to-faceless with one of those partial mannequins in nothing but a Watkins College t-shirt. I couldn't tell if it was meant to advertise new school merchandise or if it was part of an avant-garde exhibit I was too mainstream to understand. It didn't matter either way. All I was looking at were the mannequin's boobs.

OK, not her boobs so much as her nipples. Her hugely erect, sharp and pointy, someone has got to be joking, nipples. If I had been alone in the hall, I would have had to have touched one to see what it was all about. What was going on under there? Two tiny teepees? Crumpled up gum wrappers? A couple of misplaced protractors? Surely that wasn't just the way mannequins were made.

And then I remembered something that made me laugh out loud. That is the way mannequins are made.

When I was a copywriter/buyer at an outdoorsy clothing company many years ago, one of my jobs was to put together looks each season for the mannequins that hung on the walls all around the office. I would dress them in stretch denim cargo pants and plaid flannel shirts in the fall, layers of moisture wicking cotton and water resistant Goretex in the winter, and multi-pocketed fishing shirts and ripstop nylon convertible pants in the spring. In the summer, I liked to keep them as cool and comfortable as possible, dressing the men in Hawaiian shirts and stretchy cotton/polyester cargo shorts with a 4" inseam (our #1 bestseller!), and the women in skorts or wrap skirts and casual tanks.

One morning, right after we dropped the late summer catalog, I was on the way to the break room to fill up my Nalgene when one of the female mannequins caught my eye. I stopped, turned around and walked up to her for further inspection. Her outfit was intact, an Island Dreams Wrap Skirt and Sassafras Knit Tank (in coral), but there was something strange about her top.

Her chest was all bumpy and there was a rippled circle around the circumference of each boob. Since I had already seen her naked, I felt OK about sticking my hand up her shirt to investigate. There was something paper or fabric or...I couldn't quite tell. What the heck? I yanked her shirt up over her neck and two coffee filters floated slowly to the ground and landed at my feet.

I laughed and then made a big production of crumpling up the coffee filters and throwing them away in the break room like, OK, you got me. Coffee filter bra - good one! I went back upstairs and when my friend Karen (or Kevin as I called her) denied the prank, we spent the next hour or so talking about how lame the people we worked with were.

We had no idea.

When we passed the mannequin on the way into the break room for lunch, the coffee filters were back. I ripped them out only to find them back again when I ran downstairs to get a post-lunch Diet Coke. This went back and forth several times before I realized I would just have to buckle down and solve this mystery once and for all.

I confronted all of the obvious suspects first. The weirdo I used to sit across from who got so drunk at the Christmas party that his wife had to wipe the drool from his gaping maw as he tried to form a sentence. The frat boy executives who were not above a little hazing now and then. My friends (once they Photoshopped a bunch of my handwriting together to look like I stuck a post-it on a co-worker's monitor that read, "I hate your ass face. Love, Maggie"). Everyone I suspected checked out. I was stumped.

When I had wrongly accused everyone except the perpetrator of the crime, the mystery solved itself. The mousy, middle aged lady in customer service was guilty by process of elimination. But why? Why would she stuff my mannequin's shirt with coffee filters several times a day? It just didn't add up. I had to call her in for questioning.

She broke under the pressure and told me she just couldn't walk down the hall to the break room with those nipples (she whispered the word nipples) sticking out at her like that. "It's so offensive," she said to me, like I was on her side and would totally understand. "How is it offensive?" I snapped, looking at her like she had just insulted my hard, plastic nipples. "I mean, they're not real you know. It's a plastic torso with no head, arms or legs. What's there to be offended by?"

She looked at me like I had betrayed and insulted her in one foul swoop. "I'm not trying to offend anyone," I offered, backpedaling the best I could. "I'm just doing my job. If we sold bras, I would gladly strap one on her. OK? Just don't put any more coffee filters in her shirt. It's tacky."

Although my boss agreed that the coffee filters were tacky, he still made me come up with a solution for her high beam situation. "But it's a mannequin," I protested. "Yeah, but Cathy's offended," he said, nodding at the word and making air quotes like I couldn't recognize a sexual harassment threat when I saw one. So I spent the remainder of the day cursing the mousy woman under my breath while sorting through samples and accessories, looking for something tasteful to layer or drape over the mannequin's offensive nipples.

I settled on a matching Sassafras Cardigan in coral and threw on a slightly loud but color coordinated scarf for good measure. I was careful to position everything just right so all the offensive bits were disguised. I hung her back on the wall and stood back to look at my work. My carefree summertime mannequin was gone and in her place hung a 60 year old retiree waiting for an iced tea at the Club (not too much ice, dear). Oh well. At least she would no longer haunt Cathy as she hurried into the break room for an egg salad sandwich and some cottage cheese with fruit. And she would offer a daily reminder of what an up-sell should look like. My work here was done.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Friends forever.

My mom and her friend from high school, Gail, are still hanging out at the resort where my sister's wedding was. They'll be there all week indulging in the hot springs, taking in the glorious mountain views, going for walks and reminiscing about old times. If I'm lucky, they won't get themselves into too much trouble.

They called the other night to tell me to watch the news. "Turn on the TV right now," my mom said as soon as Bill picked up the phone. "It looks like there are some doubts about Sarah Palin. They might drop her from the ticket! It's Gail what channel is this? CNN? CNN. Turn it on and tell Mag to watch, too. You guys have to see this. Mmm, buh-bye."

Bill never said anything except for, "Hello?" He pulled the receiver away from his face and looked at it, more than a little confused.

"What'd my mom have to say?" I asked, not looking up from my book. "Anything important?"

"Uhhh...evidently there are some doubts about Sarah Palin?"

"Well, duh. Anything else?"

"Nooo...I think that's it."

A few minutes later the phone rang and Bill tossed it to me without so much as a glance at caller ID. "Hello? Mom? Hellooo?" I looked over at Bill and shrugged. "I don't think she knows she called me."

"Maybe she's holding the phone up to the TV?"

I hung up and two minutes later the phone rang again. This time she was there. "Did you see that?"

"Hey, Mom. Hi. No, we're watching Blue's Clues. Was it anything important?"

"Yeah. It looks like... What's that Gail? No... Yeah. Oh, um, OK. Did I tell you what we did last night?"

"No. What'd you do?"

"We found a blue magic marker and then went all over town looking for MCCAIN/PALIN signs so we could color in the L in PALIN and make the signs say "MCCAIN/PA IN."

"Mom!" I gasped. "That's vandalism!"

"I know. Gail was so nervous. We're going out again as soon as it gets dark."

My mom and her friends are like Grandmas Gone Wild. They've known each other for so long and yet they're still right there as if they haven't missed a beat. I love it. It reminds me of me and my friends. Or at least how we'll be in another 30 years.

When I was in Reno, I got the chance to visit with two girls I've known since 4th grade. That means we've been friends for more than 20 years. 20 years?!? I'm hoping my math is as bad as I think it is because there is no way I'm old enough to say things like that. Keep it up and pretty soon I'll be telling Liam how we did things when I was a kid and asking him if he knows that money doesn't grow on trees.

My friend Summer and I met for lunch on my way home from my sister's bachelorette party. I was unwashed, hungover and right in the middle of my walk of shame when she called. Typically I would ignore a call in that state but when I saw that it was her, I felt like she must have read my mind. "Hiiii," I croaked into the phone. "I need a cheeseburger."

We met up at In and Out and talked for hours over burgers and fries and fountain Cokes. It's always therapeutic for me to talk to Summer. We're similar enough to get each other completely but not so similar that we can't guide and teach one another when needed. We've always been close so there's no room for pretense. Sure, I could go out of my way to make something sound better or worse than it really is but she knows the truth. She was probably there when it happened.

Once, when we were in Girl Scouts, we got into a fight in the back of our Girl Scout leader's van. Not like a typical girl-fight where nothing really happens but you stop talking to each other and force those around you to choose sides. No. Like a real fight with hitting and kicking and pulling hair. I have no idea how it happened or how it stopped happening. All I remember is kicking her hard and being kicked back. I don't recall making up or talking about it afterward either. I mean, we talked about it way later of course, like Remember that time we totally got in a fight? That was weird... but not right away. I guess it was kind of like now. Whether things change between us or not, we always fall right back into step as if we haven't missed a beat.

I cherish this girl. She will be the one I get arrested with for defacing property with magic markers or toilet paper 30 years from now.

My friend Katie and I have a much different relationship than Summer and I do. I have also known her since 4th grade but we have never really hung out together. We didn't have the same teachers in elementary school or the same friends in high school, we never played on the same softball team or participated in the same activities, we never called each other on the phone just to talk. Yet, we've always been a part of each others lives.

I've looked up to Katie ever since we met. As far back as I can remember, she has seemed to know who she is and what she wants. When I was in that perpetual state of embarrassment known as my "awkward stage" (which lasted, like, 10 years), she was cool and confident and herself. To this day I'm still in awe of her.

In sixth grade, I went to her house after school one day (I think her younger sister and I played on the same softball team and were carpooling to practice or something) and was shocked to find the huge I LOVE YOU chocolate she had been given by a boy sitting out on the kitchen counter in plain view where everyone could see it. I saw it and started silently hyperventilating and thinking to myself, "Oh my GOD! The rumors are true. Katie got a chocolate I LOVE YOU from a BOY! And here it is. In her kitchen."

If I had been given something like that (which, by the way, was completely impossible: I was way too shy to talk to boys), I would have hid it in my closet or under my mattress or outside somewhere where no one (especially not my parents!) would ever know it existed. And here she was, flipping on Small Wonder and handing me a chunk of the U like, "Do you want some chocolate?"

In high school when most people were trying on different roles to see what fit and what didn't, Katie had already grown completely accustomed to being herself. She was friendly and sincere and smart and athletic. She had boyfriends and friends who were boys. Once she called the house where I was babysitting (she must have asked my parents for the phone number - who does that?!) to ask if she could give her friend who was a boy my phone number so he could ask me to a dance. I was freaking out thinking, "Don't you like him? What am I supposed to say if he calls?", as she waited patiently and asked, "Do you think you'll say yes?"

Now that I'm 30 I feel like I have finally caught up to her level of maturity. And without classes or cliques or teams to classify us as this way or that I've realized that we're very much the same. We share similar roles - women, wives, mothers, daughters, big sisters - and seem to have a kindred approach to tackling them.

The proof is in our sons.

Liam and Jarrett are just 2 months apart and could easily be best friends forever. Their similarities are staggering. They both talk in full, complete sentences, remember everything that happens, approach situations with thoughtfulness and compassion, and say please, thank you and you're welcome without being reminded. It is beautiful to see them together.

Katie has a great laugh; completely genuine and straight from her gut every time. When she told me several months back that this blog makes her laugh, I couldn't help but cry a little bit. Getting a compliment from a friend who you know would tell you the truth even if it wasn't good is a rare and precious gift.

Both of these girls have given me the kind of support that cannot be matched. Their encouragement makes me open up the laptop and write something, anything!, even when I am totally uninspired or want to sleep in just a little bit longer or don't want to do it at all. You can thank them anytime I post something random that makes you scratch your head and think, "Is she drunk?" I swear, if I did not have such supportive, encouraging friends, I would not bother writing at all on those days! It may not be so good for you, the reader, but I, the writer, am grateful beyond words.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What happens in Reno goes on the Internet.

I have drawn straws to see which will story from my trip to Reno will be told today and the winner is: Molly's Bachelorette Party!

Big surprise, huh?

It was one of those nights that was fun without being too over-the-top. The next morning I woke up and thought, "Why am I so hungover? I didn't even drink that much." Then I looked back at my pictures and realized sometimes quality, not quantity, is what grants a hangover.

Now's as good a time as any to try J├Ąger for the first time.

I yelled, "Jamaica Me Crazy!" at the surly bartender and waited to sign the receipt with a penis pen party favor in my mouth.

Drinking from a bowl usually spells trouble.

I was not the only one with a blurred line of reality the next morning. When we awoke in our free hotel room at the Circus Circus Casino (every bit as classy as it sounds) and dragged ourselves out of bed (Molly in nothing but a g-string, me in the black pajamas trimmed with red pom-poms that were a "Welcome to Reno" gift from my mother-in-law), the first thing she said was, "I don't know what the deal was last night but I could not get drunk!"

"Really? You seemed kinda drunk to me?"

"When?" She asked this accusingly, like I was trying to make her feel bad for something she hadn't even done.

"Oh, I don't know, maybe like the whole night."

"Hmmph. What about my list? Did I do everything I was supposed to do?"

"I don't think you did everything but the one's you did were pretty awesome."

"Like what?"

"Well, the dance off for one. That was amazing."

"What dance off?"

I pulled out my digital camera and filled Molly in on her Oscar-worthy role as bachelorette. We laughed ourselves silly as her faded memory slowly came back into focus. Here are a few shots (and video!) of her not being drunk. Poor thing just couldn't get her buzz on.

The dueling piano players called her up on stage to congratulate her on her upcoming wedding. It was all fun and games until they made her get on the piano doggy style.

Here she is after winning an Irish Car Bomb chugging contest with some guy at the bar. Notice the Guinness running down her chin? Hot.

Yeah, that's me and my sister. Mmm hmm, enough said.


And that, my friends, is a dance off. See how they take turns, spurring each other on to top that? How they communicate without saying a word? This is not the kind of thing that can be planned or rehearsed. No. This is the kind of thing that just happens as you're walking past a casino lounge act and see one man, a super fan if you will, dancing by himself with moves that could only be rivaled by a bride-to-be like my sister. She killed it. (Note her signature Michael Jackson leg kick? She says it's a sign that she's had too much to drink. Her friends have been instructed to watch for it and take her home immediately if it makes an appearance. We chose to ignore it just this once.)

I had to smack her in the head at the club because she was letting some guy dance up on her. She looked at me like, "Wha...?" and then went back to jumping around to 50 Cent. I should have known; the leg kick doesn't lie. If she's told me once, she's told me a hundred times: once the leg is kicked, she is no longer responsible for her actions.

Now this is happening. Oh, what? You think I'm scared because my 3 am breakfast burger came with TWO meat patties and a LOAF of bread? Whatever. I eat burgers like this in my sleep. Give her a challenge and she'll take it on. What can I say? The girl plays to win.

The whole night was fun but I think the highlight for me was when I got my ass grabbed at the piano bar. I was walking from the stage back to our table to refuel with a bowl of liquor when it happened. I spun around to see who the hell was touching me and was met with the sheepish grins of four relatively normal looking people (three guys and a girl). The guy closest to me said, "I'm sorry. I couldn't help it. We've been wanting to do that since you walked in." What could I say? I nodded solemnly and said, "I totally understand."

Thank you to all the lovely ladies who put together such a fun night for my sister! Molly is one lucky girl. Big kisses from Nashville - mmwaahh!

In editing this piece, I found it interesting that "bachelorette" is not actually a word. I mean, it is in the sense that we all use it and have agreed that b-a-c-h-e-l-o-r-e-t-t-e is the correct way to spell it; but it isn't in the sense that it doesn't come up in spell check or on Is it possible we made up a word for the sole purpose of party-planning? How clever is that?