Monday, December 2, 2013

Is It Worth It?


You’re strolling on the sidewalks of your neighborhood. You glance down and see a quarter. Do you pick it up?

I would.

Will it make a difference in my life, or yours?

Not mine.

I ran into a friend on Saturday morning. “Did you do the Black Friday shopping?” she asked.

“No, I don’t do it.” I continued my take on it, telling her, “One year, my mom, the kids and I did. Got a few things on sale, but then we got hungry and ate up half the savings on lunch at the mall. It’s not worth it to me unless I’m buying a big ticket item and getting a big saving… which I've never done.”


I don’t go to extreme means for a deal or a discount, but there’s still something about it that gives me a bit of temporary joy. Finding “forgotten about money” produces the same feeling, which is ironic since I didn't take care of the money in the first place.

Throughout the years, I've had sporadic phases of coupon clipping and gathering; and not just for the grocery store. The retailers send coupons in their catalogs or via email, and I dutifully place them in a small envelop with the store’s name scribbled on the front. I must have at least 20 of these envelopes now—held together with a rubber band—easily stored in my purse and ready to pull out at the register as I say to the store clerk, “Wait, I think I have a coupon for that.”

Sounds good… right? I’m saving money… right?

In my case, I think so; only because my shopping excursions are minimal. But how about the masses of you who salivate as you enter brightly lit stores like Home Depot, Sam’s Club, and Nordstrom’s? You've got your coupons or your “personal letter inviting you to the sale” in hand and you’re ready to conquer the economy.

I've often wondered how much we’re really saving. If I use coupons that make me buy three boxes of cereal instead of the one that I need for the week, I've paid less for the cereal (a deal), but my grocery bill is higher. Multiply this by all the other deals, and do this weekly. My grocery bill will always be higher, but I’m paying less for the food items, which do get eaten. Does it balance out? In the long run, am I saving?

Another factor in the money saving chase is time. It takes time to clip coupons, read email advertisements, browse circulars in the newspapers, drive to a store just to catch the sale, and to stand in the grocery store aisle comparing two items where one has a unit price in pounds and the other is in ounces. Sometimes I do it; mostly not. However, I respect those who do; be it from necessity or frugality. But, I’ll never understand the obvious thrill that people who camp in front of stores have.

Something I have taken the time to do recently, is to look at my receipts; especially the grocery receipt. I was charged $16 for sushi because the cashier rung up the man’s treats who was next in line. I caught it, told her, and she deducted it; but, it didn't work. When I got home, I had a feeling that I should look at the receipt and there it was. I called the store and they told me not to make a special trip to come back; just to bring it in on my next shopping trip… and I did.


It happened again. Same store, but his time, I noticed two exact charges for grapes—which have to be weighed for the cost. It’s not likely that I would have had two bunches that weigh exactly the same, so I knew it was an error. Besides, I rarely buy two bunches of grapes.


The point of these last two stories: If you care about $23 or even a dollar, check your receipts. If not… don’t sweat it.

As for shopping in general, I suppose we all handle our money and time in ways that we hope will benefit us.


It's the holiday season. Happy Shopping!

Are you a coupon person or a deal chaser? Were you out shopping on Black Friday or today, Cyber Monday?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Blog Renovation

The research has begun. It’s time to say good-bye to my blog title, Beyond the Diapers and Spills, in favor of another that is yet to be determined. My goal for completion of the name change is January 1, 2014; which will be just over five years since beginning this enjoyable and addictive hobby.

This is not the first time I've wondered about my blog’s name. In January, 2010, I posted, What’s in a name? - a phrase taken from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Much of the post explains its origin which was the title of a manuscript I’d written when my children were younger. After interviewing several “stay-at-home moms,” I began my mission to explain our multifaceted lives to people who asked us what we do all day.

Beyond the Diapers and Spills—the manuscript, labeled me as a mother; specifically, a mother with a brain, a mother with interests that didn't involve children or a husband, blah, blah, blah… You get the point.  It may have seemed a little defensive, but I did my best to stay away from “Mommy War” material.  I simply wanted to answer the question of what I did all day with some expository writing. Also, I thought it would be interesting to women who wanted to have children in the future, and to those who worked the 9 to 5, but thinking about giving it up.

But just as I began to feel that I had something going and worthy of a second draft, I was seduced by the instant gratification of blogging. With no particular theme in mind, I put my fingers to the keyboard and wrote—just random stuff. Some of it includes my beloved husband, children, and dog; most of it does not. Some is trivial, like wanting to know how long you keep your Christmas decorations up; and others serious, like defending my right to not divulge my political opinions or who I’m voting for.

So now I’m twelve years older than when I got the idea for the book and five years older than when I started the blog. My three children are teenagers… waaaayy beyond diapers. I am Mommy for the rest of my life and proud to be so; however, I can take off the badge and let the younger/newer moms wear it.

Just a week ago, a woman at a party (also a mother of teens) was relentless in telling me how important my job as a stay-at-home mom is. B-o-r-i-n-g. I already know. I also know that she is just as important to her children even though she leaves her home daily for her professional job.
Anyway, I digress.

In a nutshell, I like my Beyond the Diapers and Spills title. I appreciated my readers liking or supporting the title back in 2010 and even now, but I’m changing it.

NOW, how do I do that?

You’re part of my research. This is what I’d like:
  • a new blog with a name that does not include “blogspot” as part of it
  • I’d still like for it to be a Blogger blog
  • an email address consistent with the new blog name
  • all of my old posts to be available within the new blog
  • automatic linkage to my new blog when someone goes to the old one, if possible
  • graphic art as a blog header that reflects my new title

(Do I have to hire someone?)

Many of you have really creative sites. Any how-to instructions, advice, warnings, etc. that you’d like to share is greatly appreciated.

11/27/13

Based on your comments, I realize that one of my statements is not clear about what I’m asking for. I should have said that I want a new URL name that does not include “blogspot” as part of it. The techy aspect of the change is the challenge; the blending of the old and new. As for the name that will replace Beyond the Diapers and Spills, I have a idea or two. However, I am open to your thoughts. It doesn’t have to be a title, but your opinion of what my blog conveys.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The World is Changing - Part 2


When I wrote a recent post with this title, I didn't know that there would be another.  Tere, Hhe subject matter is different; however, my thoughts on both posts stem from witnessing life situations that feed my curious nature—the first one, seeing “other” as a third gender selection on a registration card, and now, the rise in egg, embryo, and sperm donations.

Years ago, it didn't seem strange because I viewed it, simply, as a married couple needing sperm to make a baby when the husband’s sperm count was too low. It was actually a while longer before I realized that women were donating eggs. In either case, I thought of it as charitable; helping others to have long awaited children.

But since I’ve had my children (almost 18 years), I don’t gloss over these stories like I use to. My innate sense of fascination with the making of a baby has been heightened by constant media attention. A couple weeks ago, I saw a news story about a woman donating her eggs for a substantial fee. Young, smart, and attractive, she seemed so nonchalant about it; though she said she was happy to help couples have babies. As a repeat donor, I wonder how many children will carry her DNA. The same for men—how many children are created by their donations.

There’s a movie titled Delivery Man that is being released this month. The adult male character finds out that he has unknowingly and biologically fathered 533 children. Based on a trailer I've seen, he ends up having relationships with many of them.

Maybe 533 is far-fetched, but how about 100, or even 25? This is big business. Do egg and sperm donors truly know how much of themselves proprietors are selling? It’s a little unsettling to me; however, I am not against it for certain people. I actually know someone who has a child via artificial insemination. Hers is a common story—single woman without a boyfriend and who does not see marriage around the corner, but really wants to be a mother. She told me and a friend (Donna) her story and that she is honest with her son about his beginnings. He is in elementary school, living a typical childhood, but is experiencing a little moodiness here and there; all kids do. But Donna (who was adopted as a baby) and I read each other’s minds and wondered if he’s starting to want to know his other genetic side, or for that matter, the other person—the biological father. A grandmother of two, Donna just found her biological father earlier this year.

As I was surfing the web for this post, I found a diatribe of a sperm donor detailing the awkward donor application process (just short of humiliating), the embarrassing creation process, and the life altering effect that it has had on his life; the latter causing women not to date him when he tells them his story. Can’t say that I blame them.

The donor guy also wondered about the possibility of accidental incest among the numerous children he has probably sired since the parents of these children are likely to be living in the same city or state. Hmmm…

And then there are the frozen embryos that are not carried by the natural mother. I suppose their implantation into carrier moms is more controlled than the distribution of eggs and sperm, but who really knows? Based on loose regulation in all these cases , I don’t think we know neither the full and overall extent, nor the future impact—health wise, legally, etc.

However, so many people find these processes necessary and consider the outcome, their children, very worthwhile. I know a couple who have a child created by another couple then carried by a surrogate. Five hearts have given a little girl life and she in turn, is giving her parents much joy.

Thoughts?

Cynthia Wilson James, the founder of InSeason Mom, has featured me on her blog as the November InSeason Mom. Her organization supports "older" women who wish to become pregnant, are pregnant, and new moms. This is a re-run of my story, but to those of you who did not read it when she initially posted it, you can click here to find it. No anonymous contributions in my case, but Cynthia did feature a woman on her September 6, 2013 post who has a child from a 19 year old frozen embryo.

image found at www.thegloss.com

Monday, November 11, 2013

Evolution of a Wardrobe


Our coats were made by Mom

Mom made a few items of clothing for my brother and me when we were preschoolers. Because she wasn't employed, and our two bedroom house was small, and Dad wrote the household checks for the mortgage, utilities, and insurance; she had time. Life wasn't easier for her as a wife and new mother, but certainly simpler in comparison to the lives of many women today.

Judging from childhood pictures, Mom had taste in clothing. The holiday and birthday photos show us fashionably dressed, yet still ordinary. She was very practical, though, believing it was a waste to buy so many clothes that we would quickly grow out of; plus, the funds were limited. So each season, she bought a small amount of clothing for us. In the summer, I got 5 or 6 shorts and top sets, Keds tennis shoes and sandals. Two or three dresses were rotated for church, and that was it.

During the school season, it was even less because I wore uniforms to the Catholic school I attended. Shoes were our major challenge due to my hard-to-fit, long, narrow feet that seemed to grow fast and require new shoes often. I was told that I had expensive feet because only the expensive store carried narrow shoes. Mom was happy to see them stop growing when I was in 6th grade. (I still like well-made shoes.)

The stage was set for my lifelong attitude toward clothes. I've always liked stylish clothes, but I've never been over the top trendy or adorned with accessories on every member of my body. During my teens, my cousins used to call me, “plain.” They didn't leave the house without hair and makeup done, a ring, bracelet, and necklace, toe and finger nails painted, and dazzling footwear. The cousins were not plain.

Me… I managed some of those accoutrements when I felt the need to spruce up. On a few occasions, I’d actually do the “works” and present an impressive package.

My twenties were my clothes crazy days—if you can call it that. The career had me excited about suits and high heel shoes until the corporations began “Casual Fridays” that put me back in my jeans and khakis. As employees who worked behind the scene, my coworkers and I had a revelation: we didn't need to dress up, therefore, eventually we made every day a “casual” day.

So much for my stint as a fashion girl.  Evolution came to a halt.

Children took my wardrobe downhill. Wearing a necklace—what was that? Something for my kids to yank off as they hung on to me for dear life saying, “Don’t put me down Mommy. I don’t want to walk!”

A nice blouse? Somehow it always ended up with a grease stain; the culprit possibly a chicken nugget or a french fry from a Happy Meal.

Sooo… I settled into my “Mom Uniform,” composed of shorts, tee shirts, athletic wear, jeans, simple shirts, tennis shoes, and clogs/mules. Nice and comfy.

During that time, a friend of mine stopped by my house wearing her career-wear that included a scarf. It was an aha moment for me; that I’m looking a bit, uhh, plain. I was even inspired to write a blog post about it; however, I still stuck with my nice and comfy attire.

But NOW… I've had another revelation! After exercising with a couple friends at one of their homes, Pam shows Katie and me some of her latest shopping finds—a studded belt, shirts that have the wrap-around look, and a bold necklace. As we’re oooing and aahing, my thoughts travel to how Pam and Katie (a decade younger than me, give or take) look when I see them out and about. They are stylish, but not overdone.

As we talk, I tell them that I like shirts with prints and that I have a hard time finding ones that are not old-ladyish. Of course, they jump right in and tell me that solids are more available and that I need to wear scarves.

A scarf… there it is again… the savior… the essential outfit enhancer.

I know this. It does make an outfit look good. My daughters wear them. They've even stolen one from me that I bought last year. It’s time to give in. I can endure the extra warmth around my neck.

So what did I do while in Macy’s returning an unwanted jacket for my daughter? I bought a scarf. (On sale of course, and with a coupon.)

I like it.


My New Scarf

The dress form belongs to my daughter, Girl #1. It’s what she wanted for Christmas, so Voila!
She named it Charlotte.

Epilogue: My style of dress has never dramatically changed; however, each phase of my life that presents a different look correlates to my lifestyle and age. My life as a series of pie graphs would show the 1995–2006 pie with the “Mom” slice holding strong at 75%, “Wife” at 20%, and “Anita” at 5%. On my 2013 pie, “Anita” has cruised up to 25%--which is why I might buy a few scarves and some fun jewelry for every day wear and not just for times when I have to dress up.

How do you like to dress? Are stylish clothes in your closet? What do your clothes say about you and do they reflect who you truly are?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The World is Changing

It’s National Portfolio Day at a local university. My daughter (Girl #1) and I brave the crowd to attend. She’s a high school senior and interested in areas more along the creative side of life, so we’re here… learning and exploring her options.


One of the participating schools is Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). Girl #1 barely knows what to do with a needle and thread and is not applying there; however, why not talk to them… their waiting line is short… and this is an opportunity for Girl #1 to have her photography critiqued by a professional.


While in line, she’s given an information card to fill out. I look at it and my eyes land on the gender boxes. And there it is, “Female,” “Male,” and “Other.”

click to enlarge

(I didn't have whiteout, so I had to use acrylic paint to cover my daughter's info.)


“Oh. Interesting,” are the words going through my mind. “I’ve never seen this before. Is “Other” a box for transgender people? Will all forms begin to have a third gender category?”

Last year, I was at my other daughter’s high school for their fall festival. A friend of mine was there, too. She had a square, rainbow colored sticker on her jacket that had “Ally” written on it, and so did other people who were walking around.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“It represents the Gay/Straight Alliance, which is also a school club here,” she answered.

I don’t remember how I responded, but we continued the conversation on the subject. Somewhere in the midst of it, she asked if my readers (as in, blog readers) could handle the topic. In other words, would they talk about it? She strongly supports LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) students.

“I don’t know, Judy,” I said, “I don’t know.”

So here I am, talking about the sexual preference/identification subject that should be added to the non-safe subjects of race, religion, and politics. However, as you read on, you will notice that I’m really not delving deep into it. Maybe I should have named this post My Lips are Sealed—Part 2. In my previous post named so, I attempted to explain why I would not divulge my presidential choice in the last election.

Currently, I shy away from voicing my feelings on homosexuality on this worldwide accessible blog because of how people react to it in small circles; i.e., friends, acquaintances, family, church members, exercise class, walking group, etc. For example, the same sex marriage agenda conversations can be tense! But… don’t let that stop “you.” Feel free to respectfully comment whatever comes to your mind.

Regardless of what side of the coin you’re on, or if you have mixed emotions about homosexuality, it is not going back into the closet. My goddaughter is lesbian. My friend’s son is gay. I think a few of my relatives are closet gays. You can probably say the same.

In addition to whatever you may want to say about homosexual issues, how do you decide where to draw the line when blogging? Are there subjects that you “don’t touch?”

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What is Feminism?

My daughter has been baking desserts lately—nothing fancy, just the ready-to-bake cookies and brownies that can be mixed in five minutes. The treats are for Jack, a football player at her high school. One of the team's coaches thought it would give the guys a mental boost for the game if they received these motivation-filled goodies laced with the feminine touch.

One evening as my daughter (Girl #1) was putting frosting on the cookies, I said to her, “You know that’s sexist, right?”

“Huh,” she answered, caught off guard at my remark.

“It’s sexist—baking cookies for the football players. They don’t bake cookies for your field hockey team, do they?”

Before she could answer, I added with a smile, “It’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with what you and the other girls are doing. It’s actually nice—but it’s still sexist.”

Sometimes I wonder if I’m setting my daughters up for possible difficulties when they settle into a committed adult relationship and marriage. During their short lives, I've pointed out to them numerous acts of male dominance and female docility; many involving traditional roles. Hopefully, they understand that I’m not always telling them what or what not to do, but to know why they are doing it; not to fall into a pattern of life just because Mom, Grandma, or all the other girls do it that way.

Continuing to ponder the seeds that I’m planting in my three daughters, I recalled a few blog posts that I've written that question “the role of the woman,” which is also the name of one of the posts. It’s about the things we do for our spouses and partners based on love, traditional female duty, and/or practicality. Other posts (Cheerleading and Athletic Uniforms) touched on women and girls performing in clothes that add to the male entertainment factor.  And the Two Shall Become One asks if the woman in the relationship or marriage loses some of herself as a result of letting the man rule the roost. And then there is my Cooking post where I wonder if I’m missing a gene that would make me enjoy cooking. The last straw: Mr. and Mrs. Etiquette – me hating to get mail addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Michael Jones. What happened to my name—Anita! My name is not Mrs. Michael Jones.

Hmmm… Could I be… uh… a feminist? I don’t know. I don’t think so. What exactly is a feminist anyway?

Dictionary.com defines the adjective usage as: advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men, and the noun usage as: an advocate of such rights.

Surfing the web for thoughts on feminism produced myriad interpretations. The site, Who Needs Feminism? listed reasons for feminism from 15 young people. One says, “I need feminism because the first time I met my friend’s parents, I was SURPRISED and CONFUSED that her dad stayed at home and her mom is an executive with a six-figure salary. I was raised in a relatively traditional family—dad works, mom stays at home (though she has a job teaching now)—but this shouldn't be startling to anyone.”

A second says, “I need feminism so I can get tattoos in places that are considered ‘for tramps.’ Like my hips, breasts, and lower back. My body should be mine to ink as I please.”

Another source is an NPR interview in which Debora L. Spar, president of Barnard College, talks about her book, Wonder Woman: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection. NPR describes the book as Spar’s call for a new feminine agenda.

“I think we need to continue some of feminism's earlier fights,” Spar said. “We still don't have good child care in this country. We know we still don't have pay equity. ... We still don't have support networks for working families.”

On beauty and brains, she said, “Just pick up any magazine off the shelves: Women are expected to be beautiful and sexy and to revel in those things really from the time they're quite young to the time they're quite old. That expectation is just out there. It's in the ether; it's in the music we listen to; it's in the books we read. I think it's unrealistic to assume that just because a woman shows up in a business school or on a trading floor or for an internship that somehow those other pressures are going to go away. So women really are feeling the pressure to be hugely successful professionally, and really sexy and attractive, in addition to being good mothers and everything else.”

I went from one site, to the next, to the next, and I still can’t answer the “feminist” question. Maybe I just don’t want to answer it.

I was a girl when the “bra burning” stories were in the media, and as I got older, I’d hear about those “Women Libbers,” often in a negative tone; one that implied that “those women” were all man-haters, manly, or wild and loose.  Also, I was told that it was impossible for black women to be feminists because they didn't have all the choices and options that white women had.

So as I grew up, I stayed away from the label.

My feelings on women’s issues and roles, via my blog posts, are mostly related to domesticity; however, I am fully aware of the plight of women all over the world, and things need to change. While many of us in the good ol’ U. S. of A, and some other countries, are free to educate ourselves, hold political office, dress as we please, etc., don’t feel as much of the brunt of inequality as women in a country like Afghanistan, we opt not to make a huge issue over working all day, coming home to cook, do laundry, and take care of the kids, for example.

And women who are older and maybe retired, are not about to shock their men by going out with a girlfriend and leaving dinner in the fridge for him to microwave on his own—and that’s okay.Why change things now? *smile* Younger women might be the same, or more likely, not.

In a nutshell, whatever feminism is, the scales will continue to be tipped back and forth in an attempt to form a balance between women and men. Life goes on.

Do you have a definition for “feminism?” Other thoughts?

Mention of web sites, articles and books are not intended as an endorsement.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Wannabe Entrepreneur

Waking up one morning in the winter of 1985, fear consuming my body, I thought, “How can I continue to do this for another 35 years?” Normally a hard worker, conscientious of my responsibility to those who rely on me, especially when getting paid, perhaps that dreadful morning was the result of not fulfilling my commitment.

I was working for a major corporation, one whose acronym is recognizable to millions of people. It was considered a privilege to land a job there, like being accepted into an Ivy League college, yet I couldn’t make it work for me. As a software developer for a ginormous project that was going nowhere, I found that I couldn’t connect to it. Bored and frustrated, I did the unthinkable—I left. But before I did, I began to think of my backup plan.

“Income?… Hmmm… What if I can’t resume my desire to continue with computer programming?”

“Real estate investing. Aha! I can do that.”

Sooo… I took a course (the ones that people take when preparing to get a real estate license) and began my search for a rental property when it occurred to me to buy my own house first; and I did. My closing date was a month after turning 27 years old, which was relatively young in the high market Washington/Baltimore area—a sign of my wannabe entrepreneur tendency.

Still interested in investing in real estate, I continued the search for a second house and convinced my brother to try the “land lording” business, too. He would get on board and take off; me—I got happy with my new job at my new company and my real estate excitement dwindled. But there was still this feeling of wanting to do something that would provide income based on my own creativity (which I thought I had.)

I will spare you the details of the two businesses that I tried and never managed to get going; but I will say that neither involved multi-level marketing, i.e. Amway, Mary Kay, etc.

So after discovering that working a 9 to 5 job (with occasional overtime, stress, and traffic issues) and simultaneously launching a business is not for the faint of heart, visions of a career change began to occupy my mind. “Can I teach kids at a school? Or maaaybe I’ll pack up for an adventure in another country!” Funny, just when I began to give serious thought to the “move-to-another-country thing,” Darling Husband appeared on the scene and the ultimate adventure began. (Mom’s prayers were answered.)

Yes, marriage and children changed my course again. The 9 to 5 was replaced with the 24/7. There would be no more business experiments, unless you count my brief interest in eBay.

In an article for PsychologyToday, Art Markman, Ph.D., said, “Starting your own business is difficult. You have to put in long hours. You have to be prepared to fail.  A high percentage of new ventures do not succeed.  You have to be willing to change course if things are not working out as expected.”

He also said, “Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur.  For decades, psychologists and business researchers have explored whether there is a collection of personality traits that is associated with starting a business.”

I’ve wondered about that, too—who’s cut out to be an entrepreneur? There are the obvious people—the Oprahs and Bill Gates’ of the world, but what about the average Joes and Marys who run small businesses. My neighbor owns an occupational therapy business with several employees, plus she has a small eatery franchise. Did she want to “be her own boss,” feel that she had to “do what she loved doing,” or want to “make more money?” Tons of people have these desires, yet only a small percentage of the wannabes pursue it, and of those who do, an even smaller percentage are successful.

Entreprenuers have always fascinated me. I used to read their books, but now watch shows like Shark Tank. I even enjoy The Antique Road Show which is indirectly entrepreneurial, as people dig through their stuff hoping to find something valuable.

So is it mainly about money? Or are entrepreneurs satisfying a need for independence and/or creativity? Is it the thrill of the chase? Hmmm…

I don’t know if I’ll ever invest time in another business idea, though it’s possible. What I’ve learned is that goals of other sorts can be just as rewarding—although you’re more likely to be spending money than making it.

Now I’m on the 5 year plan of learning something that satisfies the wannabe entrepreneur, dreamer, and adventurer spirit in me. I just reached five years of horseback riding lessons, so on to learning Spanish. Check with me in 2018.

Oh, by the way, I have the utmost respect for all people who are hardworking and loyal to their jobs; not just entrepreneurs.

Have you ever owned a business or do you own one now? What was/is your experience? If not, would you like to start a business?

video
Yeeeee Hawwww  Amigos!


10/3/13 addendum:

Tabor’s comment had a good question about horseback riding, one that I hear sometimes, regarding the length of time it takes to learn to ride a horse. Learning how to relax into the saddle (not bouncing), posting, trotting, riding on a diagonal, and riding in a two-point position are all things I learned within ten or so lessons. Trotting in a figure 8 and cantering would soon follow, and within the year, jumping.

The learning continues because so many factors are involved. The size of the horse makes a difference. I do better on the larger horses. The speed makes a big difference. The horse in the jump on the video can be very fast, therefore, I had to control her speed and keep my head up, otherwise, I’d have been likely to get thrown off. Other things, like trail rides, pose different challenges: what to do when your horse decides not to go over the creek, hanging on (but giving free rein) when your horse is running up a hill (fun!), how not to let your horse run down a hill, handling a spooked horse, and so on. It seems that every lesson presents a surprise move by the horse that challenges the mental aspect of riding; in other words, knowing how to react quickly.

So as long as you’re dealing with an animal, the learning never stops. Thanks for bringing this up Tabor.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Housework and Cleaning Help


Housework, if you do it right, will kill you. Erma Bombeck, American Humorist (1926-1996)

I live in a big house. My husband and I didn’t need it and didn’t have to buy it, but because of his interest in architecture and cruising neighborhoods to look at houses, his decent income, assets from my unmarried miser days, my inheritance, and a low interest rate, we woke up one day in a new house waaaay bigger than the one we left. All it took was asking the salesperson one question and the snowball began.

Yes, there is much more house to clean, but I’d be lying if I say size is the reason for lacking a thorough cleaning process. Truth is, house cleaning has never been up there among my list of favorite things to do. Bending over a bathtub… how hard is that! I twisted my back when I was pregnant fourteen years ago cleaning it (or was I bathing the kids?) and I am reminded at least once a year of that incident with a shot of pain.

Cleaning the toilets—that’s Girl #3’s job. She goes from toilet to toilet with her cleanser and a brush that has an additional thumb-like brush attached for cleaning under the rim (that doesn’t work). I’ve got to teach that girl how to get down and dirty with a sponge!

Changing the sheets of a king sized bed that includes a blanket—mindless walking from one side to the other and back, over and over.

Mopping floors—another back bending, back breaking job.

Does this sound like fun?

Speaking of pregnancy… After Girl #2 was born, Darling Husband suggested a cleaning lady to help while I was getting adjusted to having two children. We were in our previous house then, but it wouldn’t have mattered where or what we lived in—I needed help. Taking care of the demanding babies (that included breastfeeding), minor cleaning, paying bills, going to appointments and play dates, minor cooking, and taking my occasional shower, something had to give.

The cleaning lady was my gift, I suppose, for having the kids—at a very advanced age, by the way. She was supposed to be temporary—and she was—for ten years. Every two weeks, Sharon came to my home for three hours. In that time, she cleaned bathrooms, vacuumed carpets, and mopped the kitchen floor. Sometimes she dusted blinds and shutters and did other small jobs that needed attention.

It was odd at first, having someone cleaning for me; but with all my other responsibilities, I never got to revel in the fictional, so-called, lady of leisure role. Instead, I’d wake up on Sharon’s Day, announce to DH and the kids (when they were older), “Miss Sharon is coming today! Let’s pick up our things. Clean up!” My mother and friends without help, would ask, jokingly, “Why are you cleaning? Isn’t your maid coming today?”

“She’s NOT a live-in, 8 hour a day maid! She’s a cleaning lady! And if we don’t get these toys off the floor, she can’t vacuum.  And if our laundry is still in the bathroom, it might be a little embarrassing.” Blah blah blah…

Sooo… for ten years, minus about ten months without Sharon and me ultimately begging her back, the cleaning routine was: rolling up my sleeves every other week to work with Sharon (me, in another room) to clean a house that stayed reasonably clean (maybe a half day) until someone started the downhill cycle again by flossing and brushing their teeth; hence, getting plaque on the mirror and toothpaste in the sink.

I’ve heard a lot of opinions on cleaning help, i.e. maids, cleaning ladies, cleaning services, housekeepers, domestics, etc. What I have gathered from it, is that people think: 1) you are lucky to be able to afford help 2) you are lazy and/or spoiled if you hire help 3) you shouldn’t have a house too big to clean yourself 4) some women take pride in how clean their home is and make it a priority to keep it as so by cleaning it themselves  5) some women want help but feel guilty about spending the money and/or by admitting that it’s a hard job that depresses them 6) some women feel that it is their job to clean and a reflection on them as a woman, especially if they are “stay at home moms” 7) some women have husbands who insist on cleaning help because they don’t like seeing their wives working hard and/or because Wifey is doing a lousy job 8) a miniscule amount of women say they don’t need help because their husbands do the cleaning 9) someone told me that the bible book of Proverbs tells of a woman who has maid servants, so why not have help 10) some families ALL pitch in and don’t need help 11) some people feel: to each his/her own.

Sharon left us about five years ago and I never sought a replacement. It was time for the kids to clean their own bathrooms and vacuum their own bedroom rugs. Also, I was tired of the scheduled routine; cleaning in a flurry. Another reality is that someone is in your home-- sometimes when you are there and not in the mood for a “visitor.” Of my friends and neighbors who have help, some treat the relationship in a total business sense. The woman or crew comes in, works, and leaves. There is no personal conversation.

My situation was different. Sharon and I became friends; not hanging out friends, but friends who had personal conversations and who gave each other gifts and did things for each other’s children. If I ever feel the need for help again, I’d skip the personal relationship… but who knows?

And lastly, I should say that this is not about having a big house. Cleaning is an ongoing job, regardless of square footage. Small apartments, trailers, ranchers, mansions—it doesn’t matter. Some people enjoy it; seeing their home transform into a dustless wonder. Others *sigh* are a bit challenged. That would be me; although, I’m superwoman when cleaning the kitchen. And DH and I are great at managing to keep a tidy downstairs, sometimes resorting to putting things in bags and pushing them into the closet when company is coming.

“Shhh… don’t tell.”

How to you feel about cleaning? What about cleaning help? (It’s okay if you think I was lazy. I can handle it. J)

Image from Microsoft clipart

Monday, September 2, 2013

Humor


When humor goes, there goes civilization. Erma Bombeck, American Humorist (1927-1996)

Erma Bombeck became a big favorite of mine when I discovered her newspaper column in the 1980s. I also read some of her books which I found to be very funny; but as funny as I think her work is, there are others who may not.  I suppose if all humans had the same personality, including sense of humor, we’d be virtual robots.

In my family, there are times when we all laugh together and of course, times when we don’t. For example: Most people who’ve seen the long running TV show from the 1950s, I Love Lucy, laugh a lot when watching it. On a marathon Saturday, when one episode after another is aired, my husband and children sit, watch a couple shows, and have the best fun. Me… no. It wasn’t one of my favorites as a child and has never been a “gotta stop and watch” show for me. I recognize that Lucille Ball was a comedic genius and I’ve had many laughs from the show, however, it’s not high on my list of best comedies. Interestingly, I’d do better watching a Carol Burnett rerun, someone who also does physical comedy.

The sense of humor factor gave me cause for thought after reading an article in the Huffington Post about a woman who does the happy dance at the bus stop on the first day of school. This year as the bus rolled away with her two sons in tow, Mom (Tracy Moutafis) danced to Bye, Bye, Bye by NSYNC. I totally “got it.” Years ago when most of my neighbors (on the street of my previous house) had small kids, one of the moms let out a yell that could probably be heard a couple blocks away as the bus became a yellow speck down the street. Even I got caught up in the dance thing when my last one went to kindergarten, though I limited it to 3 seconds and had no music accoutrement.

After laughing at the video and smiling while reminiscing, I read some of the comments. While many felt as I did, the other half commented with these responses and more that are worse: “She might not be embarrassed, but her kids will be!,” “One day her children will dance as they bring her to the old age home, ever close to that life insurance money,” “God forbid but how proud of this video is this lady gonna be if something bad happened at school and that child did not come home off that bus that she was publicly celebrating him getting on,” and “What a shameless cow.”

Did I miss something?

Okay, I realize that the dance celebration would not be funny to everyone—especially new moms; but to get so worked up?

So you might say that a bit of pushing the envelope makes me laugh. Raunchiness – No. Other people like corny jokes and acts. I like that, too, but it might not give me a gut busting laugh. And jokes that are too long tend to lose me. Physical comedy is good when paired with a good line or two, like seeing someone demonstrate how they used the squat toilet in India for the first time—funny!

It’s not just professional comedy that I’m speaking of.  It’s the unplanned conversations with family and friends that elicit some of the best laughs, because we all know that the quasi ridiculousness of life provides us with some very good material.

What makes you laugh? What’s your brand of humor?

image from Microsoft clipart

Monday, August 26, 2013

Who "Are" You?


I really need my eyes examined again, though I can’t blame less-than-perfect vision for what happened the other morning.


It’s early—sometime between 6:30 and 7 a.m. As I’m walking down my driveway, a young woman is walking on the other side of the street. Outfitted in workout clothes with earbuds traveling up to her head, it’s obvious she’s exercising.

“Hello!” she says with a cheery smile.

“Good morning!” I respond, trying to widen my squinted eyes as they meet sunlight.

“How far are you running?” she asks.

“About three and a half or four miles. What about you?”

Still smiling, she says, “Wow! I’m only walking about a half mile.”

“That’s good,” which I sincerely mean.

During this exchange and our good-byes, internally, I’m asking myself, “Who ‘is’ she? She seems to know who I am; not just being friendly. Is she my neighbor on the corner? Her hair is in a ponytail. Am I thrown off by that? She’s only 30 feet away from me. Hmmm…”

Sooo, I just say to myself, “Don’t say anything dumb to reveal my probable senior moment, like asking her how her boys are and then finding out that she doesn’t have any.”


I had another of these senior moments, recently, in the restroom at church. Charging in, I run into the co-pastor.

“Heyyy!”

“Hiiii!”

“How arrre you?

Chit chat chit chat chit chat…

A stall door opens and out comes a friend who I’ve known more than 15 years.

“Hi, uh…” (Why didn’t I just leave it at Hi?)

The pastor quickly recognizes my senior moment, spares me further awkwardness, and says, “Natalie.”

“Natalie. You know I’ve always wanted to give you another name. blah blah blah …digging myself deeper.

“It's usually Valerie,” she says in a forgiving voice.”

The pastor helps me again by changing the subject. She knows when to end something, even though I don’t.


Do you ever have the “I remember faces, but not names” conversation with your friends or relatives? Or the other way around—names, but not faces. Or maybe you don’t have a problem with either. Well I’ve had this conversation and I usually say that I’m good with faces, but apparently, based on recent tests, I’m not; and not good with names either.

Am I worried?

No.

I’d like to think that in my 50++ years of living, I’ve known SO many people, that my brain…

Scratch that. That’s leading to the old age factor that I’m avoiding.

How about: My life is so full of events, people, responsibilities, interests, etc. that I’m always multitasking and concentrating on something important, therefore, experiencing an occasional lapse in memory.

How’s that?

One thing about this little condition is that it is shared by many, Darling Husband being one of them. (Shhh… don’t tell him I said so.) We have an agreement—When we’re out socializing and he doesn’t introduce me, that means he doesn’t recognize the person or has forgotten the person’s name. I am to quickly introduce myself which usually prompts the person to introduce him or herself. Not part of the plan, but DH will always say, after he gets the name, “Oh, I’m sorry John, yes, this is my wife, Anita.

And I do the same if I am the “forgetter.”

Now that this has happened to me twice in one week, I’m going to have to work harder in ID-ing all the people I know; like paying attention to their vehicle license tags, or pets, or by honing in on a physical trait. Or, I can just say “Hi,” keep the conversation very general (the weather… I like your shoes…), and hope that it will click.

How are you doing with forgetfulness (people, tasks, objects, etc.)?

Image from Microsoft clipart

Monday, August 19, 2013

Restaurant Adventure


It's Sunday afternoon. The family and I are still in our summer groove and decide to treat ourselves to a meal at a nice restaurant—not a break the bank restaurant, but a step or two above Applebee’s.

The room is crowded and waiters are scurrying around, yet the atmosphere is pleasant. Darling Husband is enjoying crab cakes, Girl #1 has parmesan-crusted tilapia, Girl #2 and Girl #3 are playing it safe with lasagna, and I’m eating, for the first time, crab and shrimp cannelloni. It’s fattening rich, cheesy, creamy and delicious!

As we’re savoring the last morsels of our meals, the waiters begin pushing tables together that are located behind my back. Apparently, a large party is expected.

When they parade in, patrons begin to look in their direction and so does my family. Of course, I have to turn around to see what the racket is, too. The ten or so adults and eight or so kids are loudly discussing where everyone should sit. A boy begins to cry. A girl dressed almost entirely in pink feathers can’t find a seat, so the waiter squeezes in a high chair for her that she can barely fit in. Somehow, she falls out… and cries.

The boy cries louder. “Why isn’t someone taking him out,” I wonder. I do another U-turn to see him and realize that he’s probably autistic, so I give him a temporary pass. However, another little missy who is dressed in white feathers (I thought all the ballet recitals were over for the year) begins to whine and cry. The mother says a few useless words as she holds her on her lap. The boy stops crying, but the diva continues and continues and continues.

My daughter, Girl #3 says, “They’re like the Jersey Shore cast.”

“No, more like the Cake Boss family,” Girl #2 corrected.

People are still trying to enjoy their food and dining experience, however I can tell it’s an effort because heads are still diverting to the uncouth bunch; maybe because white feathered diva is still going at it… about 3 minutes now.

My kids have ordered dessert and I’m almost regretting it, because now we have to sit through this longer.

To shut up quiet down white feathered diva, the mom takes her to the booth across the aisle from them where four other family members are sitting. As they squeeze in, the little girl begins to scream. A man in the booth suddenly jumps up from his seat and says, “I’m already stuck with these two (referring to 2 boys in the booth); if she’s comin’, I’m goin’ to the other table! I know I’m the grandpa but I can’t take that!” So Mama, wearing a tight dress and high heels, shuffled back out of the booth with little diva on the hip and left.

It’s now restroom time. Two of my girls and I go, which is a good opportunity to laugh at Grandpa. Still giggling as we enter the restroom, who should be there, but the mom and white feathered diva on the hip.

Oops.


When my kids were smaller, people would look at us as we walked to our table guided by the restaurant host. I didn’t give it much thought beyond assuming that people were saying, “That man has all those girls,” or I’d think, “We must be looking good today.” Sometimes, people would come over to our table as they were leaving and compliment DH and me on our well-behaved children. So it wasn’t that we were looking good or the amazement of our all girl children; it was FEAR! The diners had probably been praying that we wouldn’t get seated anywhere near them.

Which leads me to this question: What do you think about the growing trend in barring children from restaurants?

The Huffington Post reported that a Houston restaurant, La Fisheria, is banning kids under 9 years old after 7 p.m. The executive chef, Aquiles Chavez, told local news station KHOU 11 that “Many customers had complained about ‘noisy and rowdy’ kids overtaking the restaurant. The children… they are crying, some are running under the tables.” The Huffington Post also reported that Chavez “explained that the new policy will help improve business because patrons will now be able to dine in peace from 7 p.m. to the 10 p.m. close.”

While reading the story, I clicked over to the links within and found stories of more restaurants with similar restrictions. The owners, when questioned, seem to have no ambivalence about banning the kids and many patrons are supporting their decision. One of the owners commented on how our kids may be the center of our universe, but they are not the center of everyone else’s.

On the other hand, others have said that “the ban makes it harder on parents of young children who also want a night out, or penalizes parents of well-behaved children.”

A mother was quoted on the restaurant’s facebook page, writing, “Just because I’m a mom doesn’t mean that I’m not entitled to eat out somewhere. I don’t eat fast food and I will not feed that garbage to my children. I am shocked that people think that just because you are out with children you should go to Chuckie  Cheese or some other obnoxious and unhealthy fast food place.”

Well!

Thoughts? 


Monday, August 12, 2013

Growth Should Never End



"She don’t know no better,” I’d hear some of the old people say when referring to an ignorant action by an oblivious person. Ironically, the people who’d say it didn’t know any better either; that good grammar had escaped them. I was a child then and could have picked up that well-intentioned saying had my fair education not intercepted.

When I married Darling Husband, I quickly realized that his family of professionals had similarities to the Cosbys, while my working class family had a few things in common with Rosanne and her family. His parents had dinner parties at their home with the governor as a guest; my stepfather ate at our dinner table without his shirt. (The governor wasn’t there—why not?) He’s a runner and was often half naked.

What DH and I did have in common, though, is our love of family and an adequate amount of fun growing up. However, education and cultural exposure is a barrier that defends against ignorance and lack of etiquette. I’ve committed more than a few faux pas in my younger days because I lacked in both of these areas. (Yes, I do have a college degree, but education comes in many forms.)

I remember throwing a toothpick out of a rolled-down car window and my girlfriend, who was also in the car, was aghast.

“What did I do!” I asked.

“You threw that toothpick out the window!”

“Oh…”

“That’s litter,” she admonished.

“It’s a sliver of wood that will blend right back into nature; not a Burger King bag or an ashtray full of cigarette butts. I didn’t even think about it.”

My friend continued to explain and whereas I didn’t totally get it then, it eventually clicked.

So being the refined lady that I am now, I notice a few bad habits that other people exhibit. For example: I was sitting in my car waiting for my daughter to come out of a building next to the grocery store, when I witnessed Unrefined Shopper Woman pushing her basket (cart) up on the grass instead of walking five seconds to the rack.

“Well that’s lazy,” I murmured.

And then the journalist in me took over as I got out my cell phone to snap a picture. (Always thinking about the blog.)  Of course I waited for Unrefined Shopper Woman to drive off before I snapped.

As I continued to wait for Darling Daughter, my thoughts became forgiving. The woman probably thought she was doing a good thing by putting the basket on the grass where it wouldn’t roll away. Maybe?

Maya Angelou has been quoted as saying, “When you know better you do better.”

When you see someone doing something tacky or something that lacks etiquette, are you 100% critical or is there room for a pinch of forgiveness?

What have you been guilty of doing or not doing?

8/14/13 - I talked to my mom today. She thought the post was funny when she read it, but had second thoughts; wondering if the Rosanne comment makes people think that she is like the character on the show. Mom is not. Everyone knows that she is a class act. Just having fun with a little self-deprecating humor, Mom. Sorry.  xoxo


Monday, August 5, 2013

My Mate


My anniversary is this month. Nineteen years. People say things like, “Time flies” and “Where did the years go?” and “It doesn’t seem that long” and “It seems like just yesterday.” Some say, “That’s a long time.” I don’t say any of that. Somehow, I don’t have a great feeling for the amount of time as I tend to live mostly in the present, not concerning myself with how many years have passed by and what I did with those years. Today is what I live for… and tomorrow, and the next day, and so on.

The memories are still treasured, though. Once in a while, it’s fun to have a “Remember when” conversation or to browse through some of the loads of pictures that fill albums and files on the computer. The video is there, too, for those rare times that I sit and watch.  And of course, when I write for my blog, I summon up material from my past to get a story going.

What I find more gratifying than talking about my life is hearing the stories of others. Talking to a friend recently, I found out how she and her husband met, when they married, what jobs they had, and ultimately, how they acquired the business they now have. I’ve read some good stories that my blog friends have written, too, about relationship and marital beginnings—if not the whole story, then pieces of it. So I’ve been thinking—if yours is interesting to me, then my story may be interesting to you.

Here goes:

We met at a private party at a rented club-like venue. It was 1983. “Michael” and his buddies were the hosts. One of the buddies dated my girlfriend who asked me come along that night. It was the usual weekend party common with single twenty-something year olds.

Michael and I talked and danced and exchanged numbers before the evening was over. There were subsequent dates and even an introduction to his mother. We were attracted to each other and a genuine friendship was established, but something was missing. Not long afterward, I left central Virginia for Northern Virginia to work around the beltway in Maryland. Michael visited once or twice and then it fizzled.

After nine months in Northern Virginia, I moved to Maryland. Michael and I spoke to each other on the phone once or twice—me seeking professional advice, him giving it. It was comfortable. Since we were never officially a couple, there wasn’t a breakup that would have left hard feelings. And then nothing; no more communication. He was living his life and I was living mine, until…

In 1992, about 8 years later, he calls me out of the blue. It was great to get a call from “an old friend;” hearing about his life and telling him about mine. He asked if he could come up and visit and I said, “Sure.” We went to the Baltimore Harbor and at some point he told me that he was going to marry me.

After I laughed, I said, “Oh, that’s so sweet.” I honestly didn’t see it or feel it. I simply adored him as a friend.

But the visits kept happening; Michael’s two hour drive to my house and two hours back to his home. How na├»ve I was to not see it coming. He was smitten and I was just enjoying the company of an interesting, funny, and smart man. And then one day it hit me; the love bug had bitten.

On Valentine’s Day in 1994, Michael took me to a restaurant at the harbor and proposed. I accepted with a smile on my face and fear in my gut. (Thankfully, it dissipated within a week or two.) We were now in our thirties and had the “something” that was missing back then—love and maturity. We married 6 months later in August.

A few bumps here and there, but it’s a nice ride.

How did you and your spouse or partner meet and become a family?
Ex-mate stories are welcome, too.

image from Microsoft clipart

Monday, July 29, 2013

Cheerleaders

Once upon a time
competitive
college
professionals

I can hardly remember the cheerleader uniform of my Catholic elementary/middle school other than pleats in the skirt, the colors white and green, and the school’s monogram on the vest. The girls who wore them were short and had muscular legs used to pound the floors of the basketball court as they clapped rhythmically, jumped, and sang or shouted the cheers. For a brief time, I wanted to be one of them, but never “tried out.” Already 5’5” and still growing, I couldn’t picture my long, skinny body fitting in with the blossoming, athletic girls, nor did I, realistically, have the stage presence to perform. My cheerleading aspiration died after that 5th grade year, never to be resurrected.

During my early teens, I began to notice the older version of a cheerleader. Watching football with my stepfather introduced me to the Dallas Cowboys’ cheerleaders. There were no pleated skirts.

At my college, the cheerleaders donned the pleated skirts. With a little bumping here and there between the athletic stunts, the pleats got their share of attention… or that that was under the pleats.

By the time I was well into my adult years, I’d decided that if I ever had a daughter, I would not encourage cheerleading, i.e. dissuade her from it. It seemed like entertainment for the guys; especially the professional sports’ cheerleaders.

Fast forward to the present.

I still see titillating entertainment as the reason for professional cheerleaders, which does not appeal to me; however, I respect the rights of the women who choose to perform; which prompts the question, “Are they cheerleaders?”  In a 2010 New York Times interview, John Mara, co-owner of the NY Giants, said, “Philosophically we have always had issues with sending scantily clad women out on the field to entertain our fans.  It's just not part of our philosophy."

As for young girls basically doing sideline cheering—I think they’re cute. High school and college girls/young women have added more gymnastics to their routines, along with more boys/young men, therefore creating a little interest for me if I just happen to be at a sports event.  The heavy makeup, bare midriffs, and glamorous attire—I’ve become indifferent to it. The look fits in with the clothing that kids wear nowadays.

A newfound opinion, though, stems from competitive cheering. I’ve heard a lot about it and seen bits of it on TV, by chance. I can see myself in the audience at a competition.

The whole cheerleader thought entered my mind when I read Stephanie’s post on competitive cheering. There is a picture of her daughter’s team holding their arms up to catch four girls who are rocketed 15 feet or so in the air, waiting to be caught.  Scary.

Regardless of my opinions on various types of cheerleaders, I give all of them credit for their hard work and their ability to dedicate themselves to their specific talents.

What are your thoughts about cheerleaders and cheerleading?