Monday, November 30, 2009

I closed my eyes.

waiting room I’m usually not concerned about germs when I visit a doctor’s office.  Call it blissful ignorance or denial, but it isn’t usually something I worry about too much. 

At recent visits to my girlies’ pediatrician, I’ve noticed the ginormous bottle of hand sanitizer sitting out at the sign-in sheet and again at the checkout window.  I’ve taken advantage of those opportunities for added precaution.  But, I didn’t really worry.  Until today.

I visited my own doctor’s office for a back “injury”.  (I say “injury” because, yet again, I have no idea what I’ve done to myself.  When I think more about why I don’t know or remember anything I’ve done to hurt myself, I conclude that I injure myself so frequently that I just don’t even pay attention to them for long anymore.  Except for when I cut off the top of my thumb…but that’s another post.) 

I noticed the lady behind the glass window handing the little old lady signing in before me a mask.  A mask.  Then, my eyes caught sight of the sign sitting on the counter, “Our masks are for your protection.”


Eww!  OK.  Now, I’m completely creeped out.

As I step up to the clipboard, I glance down at the two pens on the counter.  One attached by a short chain to the clipboard, the other, a black Paper Mate that has long ago lost its cap, lying nearby.  A little voice in my head reminded me of a warning I’d heard on television, or from a friend, or passing someone in the hall…”Always use your own pens.  Do you know how many people touch those pens?”  

Then I heard my own voice reminding me to calm down.  “I have a killer teacher/mom immune system and this is all just paranoid thinking.”  Plus, I didn’t want to look like a jerk/idiot rifling through my purse that desperately needs to be cleaned out and reorganized looking for a black pen.  Well, looking for any pen that isn’t pink, purple, lime green, or orange.  Or a highlighter.  Or a marker.  (I’m always prepared.)  So, I took a deep breath (and held it), chose a pen, and signed the board.  It was like the office supply version of Russian Roulette. 


As I took my place in the waiting crowd, strategically chosen to be equidistant from all the other waiters, I sank four inches into the seat of a chair that had obviously been a popular choice for a while.  I scoped out my fellow waiters…and began to feel very young and very healthy.  Every other person in there was well over 70, frail,…and wearing a mask.  Well, with the exception of their caregivers.  They might pass for mid-40s or greater.  My eyes darted from mask to mask, sizing up the wearers.  Were they sick?  Did they think I was sick?  Should I be worried about catching something, or should I stand up and announce, “Don’t worry.  No germs on me!  I’m just here for a bad back.  You know how it is when you pass 30…it’s all downhill from there, right??  Ha, ha!” 

I needed to consult an expert. 

I texted FireDaddy.


Me: they have masks for u to wear in waiting room. it’s creepy.

FireDaddy: it’s going around.

Me: should i wear 1?

FireDaddy: it’s up 2 u

Me: what would u do?

FireDaddy: i’ve been vaccinated


And just like that, he left me high and dry.  It was like the dream where you show up somewhere naked, or arrive at an event or work an hour early because you forgot to change your clocks, or when your friend gives you a gift even though you both agreed you wouldn’t exchange gifts!  How could he do that to me?  He scoffs at me for getting the flu shot every year – and then he goes and gets vaccinated for the swine flu?  How selfish is he???  Doesn’t he care about his own wife?  The mother of his children?  THE LOVE OF HIS LIFE AND THE BEST FRIEND HE’S EVER HAD???


The blonde lady behind the glass called my name again.  It was time for me to update my forms, so she handed me a *gasp!* clipboard and form to complete.  This time, I dug into my purse and found my own germ-infested pen to use.  (Let’s face it.  Those pens are used frequently by my own nose-picking, finger-licking, germ-carrying kiddos.)  After all, the germ you know is better than the germ you don’t know, right?  I busied my mind as I completed the redundant form.  Unfortunately, it was an unusually short form - front side only with only two signatures on the back.  That’s it?  When I don’t want to do this kind of stupid paperwork, there’s like five pages of it – asking me questions I practically have to call my mother’s mother to find out the answers to!  Today I get one stinkin’ page – and like a third of the page was “N/A”!!!

I crossed the room carefully, holding my breath, to return my assignment.  As I turned back towards the sinking chair, I noticed the end table with magazines.  Ha!  Not on your life, germie-poos!  I’m not falling for THAT old trick!  (Today…)

And so, I sat.  I brought a book, but couldn’t bring myself to read it in that moment.  I sat and held my purse in my lap, looking like a frightened little ol’woman, I’m sure.  “Please call my name. Please call my name. Please call my name.”

Finally, they called my name.  I moved as quickly as I could with this darn aching back.  (Getting up is really hard these days.)  As I came close to the door to the back of the office, I silently wished the nurse would open the door wider so I didn’t have to get so close to her to pass through the threshold.  I followed her to the scale.

“Don’t you think we could just skip this part today?  After all…it’s right after Thanksgiving…which came on the heels of a month or more of gluttony for me.  Don’t you think?   Please?” 

“Ha. No.”

I shed my shoes, dropped my purse, opened my mouth for the thermometer (telling myself those flimsy plastic covers really can protect me from the creepy germs inside other people’s mouths), stepped on the scale, and I closed my eyes.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Weekend in the Kitchen

Having spent virtually my entire long weekend in the kitchen, I have little to share other than the history of a meal.  As I was slaving away over a hot stove, though, I fell in love with capturing the beauty of a working kitchen.  Really, the colors and textures of food and kitchen prep are quite unique. 

I thought I’d share with you a smidgeon of my photo journal from this weekend (because I’m sure you dying to see, right?). Some photos mark beginnings of the meal – dressing that begins with chopping vegetables, pies that are born from raw crusts, the baby white fluff of marshmallows before they’ve been baked to a golden brown.  There are photos of the process. Mushrooms sizzling in a pan for the homemade mushroom gravy in the Best Ever Green Bean Casserole.  Roasted pecans (the second batch – I got distracted and forgot about batch number one…fed them to le garbaage) for the sweet potato casserole.  Wild rice for My Mama’s Dressing steeping on the stove next to the cooling iron skillet in which my sweet corn bread baked.  And, finally, the reward.  There are many more, of course, but I chose not to include faces in this collection. You may insert your own, if you wish.

Oh, yes.  And, if you look closely, you’ll figure out my “oops” that happened on the day of our family meal…and have an idea for a Christmas present for yours truly. 



I hope you all had a fabulous Thanksgiving weekend.  ‘Tis the season for dishpan hands. :)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Things that make me happy

I started a Thanksgiving Day post yesterday. It was filled with sarcasm, but it made me laugh.

Today, I went around my house snapping photos of things that make me happy. My new decorating rule: Surround yourself with things that make you happy. Happiness is completely irrational sometimes. Often, I can’t explain why something makes me happy, but I also can’t deny it. Like this summer when I found a pair of hotpads I just couldn’t resist. They made me happy.

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This handmade bundle of flowers makes me happy. It sits on my desk, always in my line of sight as I look towards my monitor. It’s actually a combination of two Mother’s Day projects from BigGirl’s preschool days…and it’s a little worse for the wear (to say the least). But, when I look at it, I remember the day she presented these little gifts and I smile. She was so little.

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Diet Dr. Pepper makes me happy. It’s sweet, cool, refreshing. I love it. Drinking it in my favorite cup (not seen here) on ice is a special treat I enjoy on “stay at home days”. Yummy. I know this isn’t exactly decorating, but it often graces an end table, bedside table, or counter in my home.

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I love these blue and white canisters and pots. I’ve collected a lot of blue and white over the years. Why? Because it makes me happy. The two larger ones shown here came from my grandmother’s house. I love the combination of the three together, even though they are not intended to be displayed this way.

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I love this little ceramic dog. One of my students gave it to me a few years ago for Christmas. She gave it to me because she and I both had a dog by the same name…a detail I had forgotten. Apparently, that was pretty special to her. The dog makes me smile. I look at it and think of her smiling up at me. This little doggie lives on my breakfast bar where I can see it everyday.

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I love this little corner of my dresser. The lamp is nothing special, just an old Target purchase. But, the flowers are cheery and were a gift from My Mama. The crystal figure belonged to My Daddy’s Mama. You can’t really tell what it is, other than a person. It is a flower frog, intended to be used in the center of a crystal platter. However, I like looking at it on my dresser each morning as I dig for that favorite pair of underwear or bra.

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I love this man. He’s a Greek fisherman. A few summers ago, I rescued him from a broken frame, buried deep within a closet at my grandmother’s house. (She’s very generous.) When I look at him, I wonder about his story. I would love to sit with him and hear his tales of the ocean and how he met his wife. I’d love to visit his home and enjoy a meal of fresh seafood that was prepared in his kitchen. I would take lots of pictures and they would be lovely. Like something from a movie.

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Books make me happy. As “tech savvy” as I’d like to think I am, I cannot get into the thought of a Kindle. I love books. I love pages. I love book covers. I love books in stacks, in baskets, on shelves, in corners, on tables, everywhere. I love books. They make me happy.

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I love this birdie. Pier 1. Love it. Wish I had bought more.

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I love handing things down to my girlies. This little music box used to be mine. It was a gift from FireDaddy. He gave it to me as part of a birthday present the first year we were dating. It’s sweet, but it’s sweeter knowing it’s theirs now.

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I love making things for my girlies. This is a Kitty Bank I made for BabyGirl. She wanted a Bunny Bank like the one her uncle gifted to her big sister, but I had no plans to return to Boston anytime soon to hunt down that cutie-patootie little toy shop in Harvard Square. So, I improvised…and spent an afternoon with BigGirl at the paint your own pottery place. It turned out OK, and BabyGirl absolutely adores it. She’s just like Sissy.
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I love walking into a quiet room of the house and finding this. Having girls who love reading – and writing - is like a dream come true.
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These are the little things that slowly, with time and love, turn a house into a home.

What makes your house a place you love to be?

UPDATED 12/1/09: Woo-hoo! Barking Mad is giving away a $300 Target Gift Card! (You know I need it!) Go see for yourself and get your bloggy all linked up, too!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Projects: Past, Present, and Future

As a teacher, I totally "get" the idealistic thinking behind assigning projects to students. I completely understand the lofty goals that accompany the standard "Dear Parents" letter, detailing the project guidelines, due date, and scoring information.  After all, projects are authentic learning.  They give students choices.  They close the gap between home and school.  They are directly linked to standards.  The possibilities are endless when you truly unleash your little learners and say, "Go!  Be free and LEARN!!!"

As a student, I often shared my teachers' glorified visions of excellence.  I'm sure I secretly (or perhaps not so secretly) strived at times to be the best:  turn in the fanciest diorama, write the longest report, or build the biggest balsa wood Aztec dwelling.  I do not doubt that I (at least internally) wanted my speech to get the most laughs, my science fair project to win the blue ribbon, and my work to receive the highest honor.  I WANTED that 100/A+!

Now, enter phase two of my life...parenthood.  In many ways, projects are a curse.  They take over my life.  They cost money - money for which I had plans.  Plans that didn't include buying jiggly eyes and felt.  My evenings are quickly consumed by cracking the whip over BigGirl while repeatedly turning BabyGirl away.  Trips to libraries to hunt down juvenile nonfiction books.  Hours pouring over the internet researching the topic and sifting through websites looking for age-appropriate and applicable content.

However, projects as a parent aren't all bad.  With each project, I fall in love with BigGirl's love of learning all over again.  I am continually amazed by the wheels in her head.  Her inquisitive nature and knack for piecing together random knowledge with memories is unbelievable.  I love the time we spend together and, inevitably, I learn something new.  And, for that, I'm always a better person in the end.  It is during the hours of toiling away over these school projects that I am reassured - she will be OK.  She will succeed in this rat race of a world.  She will rise to the top like cream in milk.   This girl of mine, she's going somewhere.

I also am reminded by my friend that these moments are memories in the making.  Just as I will never forget the night I stayed up till "the middle of the night" (probably 10:00!) with my parents creating the greatest solar system model of all time, she will never forget the hour we spent interviewing a couple in Scotland via Skype.  I will never forget how cool it was to use that awesome leftover silver metallic wallpaper (No, it was not from my own home. Daddy was a custom homebuilder.) to cover the outside of the moving box that housed my painted styrofoam planets suspended by fishing line.  And BigGirl will never forget painting paper plaid and pleating it into a miniature kilt.  Just as I will remember with a smile the pride I felt walking down the fourth grade hallway and seeing my solar system stand out in the row of models, I'm sure she will never forget the awkward pride she felt as her class watched her VoiceThread, and listened to her own voice teach her classmates about her heritage.

This project is not the first we've done together, nor will it be the last, I'm sure.  We've made a gingerbread girl, a leprechaun trap, costumes for literary parades, a Hopi doll, and - the first projects ever - family books.  (A tradition at our preschool.)

My heart swells as I compare these moments with my budding student to the moments from my own childhood.  My diagram of a flower received special praise from my fifth grade teacher (the meanest teacher in the world) because I outlined everything in black to make the edges stand out.  (I'm 99% sure she hated me and that was the only praise I received from her all year.  That's why I'll never forget it.)  That was also the year My Daddy helped me build the balsa wood Aztec dwelling.  The next year, my mother drove me around to shoe stores searching for the perfect pair of lace-up ankle boots to accompany my Laura Ingall's Wilder era project.  To be honest, I really don't remember that presentation, but I'll never forget the costume or the time spent preparing it with my mother.  And I'm pretty sure she returned the boots immediately afterwards.  We didn't have the money to be spending on those boots right then.  Believe me.  My mother helped me again soon.  She helped me write an "award winning" speech in sixth grade, just after we moved to Florida.  I even went on to the semi-finals - which was a big deal for "the new girl", who, prior to that point, was mostly known for talking with a Texas Twang.

At some point, probably high school, the time working with parents began to it rightly should.  Projects became my own procrastination, and the memories changed.  I can recall sitting in my bedroom for hours memorizing poems in French for Le Congr├ęs, building my repetoire, line after line after line.  My senior year, I remember sitting at my desk, staring at my bulletin board, searching for the inspiration for yet another speech. This one was about my great grandmother.  I remember clearly the moment my eyes stumbled across the words from this Nike ad* (circa 1990) hanging there.  It all fell into place.

"You don't have to be your mother unless she is who you want to be.  You don't have to be your mother's mother, or your mother's mother's mother, or even your grandmother's mother on your father's side.  You may inherit their chins, their hips, or their eyes, but you are not destined to become the woman who came before you, you are not destined to live their lives.  So if you inherit something, inherit their strength.  If you inherit something, inherit their resilience. Because the only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be."

And tonight, as I enjoy the relative calm in my home before the next project is assigned, I will remember that those moments spent on projects with my girls are irreplaceable.  Those moments are a gift I give my BigGirl - and one day, my BabyGirl.  It is in those moments that they will inherit from me, just as I inherited from my parents.  It is on those moments that she will one day look back and smile.

Pssst! If you haven't seen it yet - you have to give my girl props. :)

And just for fun, check this out from last spring**.  Heh, heh, heh.....

* I still love that ad, even today.  Probably more than ever.  
** Just so you know, I couldn't let BigGirl turn the project in since FireDaddy did it completely without her help/involvement.  Her finished project was a shoebox with a trap door that had tissue paper grass covering the top and a shiny coin glued on top of the trap door.  (Equally as ingenius, I thought...) 

Friday, November 20, 2009

Catching Up

I found this draft sitting, unfinished, on my Blogger dashboard today.  Let's give it a whirl, shall we?
November 7, 2009

As I blow the dust off my blog and reacquaint myself with my Blogger dashboard, I reflect on my life as of late. It would be very easy for me to rant and whine here...but that is not what I want my blog to become. So, I've been silent. I've been mothering my babies, problem-solving, and working my tail off. I've been turning over new leaves and looking into the future with fear-tinged hope. I've been reflecting on what is important in life, much like my fellow blogger and Tweep, Jenn.

Like many families recently, Jenn's family has been making changes. So has mine. Sometimes, life blows up in your face, you know? So, what do you do about it? The way I see it, like anything in life, you have two things to do: (1) deal with it, and (2) move on. I try not to get mad in life. I'm learning as I age that anger really doesn't do much for me....or you....or anyone. This is not to say, though, that if you hurt my baby or my doggie that I won't go all raging maniacal mother hen on you. Because I will. Hide and watch. But,what anger does do is waste energy and bring pain and suffering, mostly to the bearer. But that' s another post...

So, while FireDaddy and I try to catch up financially, and I try to get caught up mentally, and my girls try to get caught up physically (they've both been sick), and we as a family try to get caught up with our priorities, we're making changes. We're eating at home. We're playing in our yard and our park. We're using Netflix every week. And, I'm avoiding Target like the plague.

The holidays are quickly approaching, though. And the money just isn't going to be there. So, we're getting creative.

Yesterday, my girls and I spent the entire morning making Christmas cards. And, quite frankly, I think they're the best ever. They aren't finished yet (typical Mommy - I forgot some supplies at school), but I love them. No two are alike and many were made by the innocent hands of my babies. Even many of the ones from my hands alone, though, have a special meaning.


Since that weekend, I've been busy stitching and gluing and clipping Joann's and Michael's coupons like a mad woman.  As with most things in my life, it's become a bit of an obsession.  Etsy is an evil, evil place. ;) Its creativity haunts my mind and compels me to do, make, sew, create.  

Have you ever realized that you - who you are - is really a lot of people rolled into one?  There's the Main You - the one you take to work and the grocery store on a day-to-day basis, but there's also the Little You from your childhood that wants your mama when you're sick and misses home at the holidays.  Inside ourselves, though, we all carry a rainbow of other "selves".  I, for instance, have the Fashion Designer - a former fashion major who cringes at wearing the same outfit twice.  The Interior Decorator who aspires to possess and wield my grandmother's flare for bold, courageous design, tempered by my mother's eye for designing with function, practicality and mass appeal in mind.  The Starlette, who dreams still of soaking up the hot lights of the stage "when I grow up".  The Girlie Girl, who looks forward to playing dress-up and turning cartwheels in the backyard with my girls.  I love sharing my inner Auntie Mame each year as I dawn my glorious, glamorous black and white large-brimmed hat to watch the derbies in my den.  And, of course, you know there's more...the Writer, the Artist, the Activist and Advocate.  I am a Southern Belle, a Baby Mommy, and a Clutz.

The bottom line is, I guess my Blogger has taken a step to the side to allow my other selves a chance to see the light of day for a while.  And it's been kind of nice.  But, she's still here...and so am I.
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