Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hairy Cake Batter

I'm a fraud.

Those three words, or a version of them, go through my head almost every time I sit down to write. Because the honest truth is that 99% of the time, I don't know what I'm doing. When I manage to write something good, it seems like the most fortunate of accidents, as if I put a cake in the oven and out came a new handbag full of cash and fancy hand lotion. I look around suspiciously, scratch my head, and think well, that was... strange. But, YAHOO! A HANDBAG FULL OF CASH AND FANCY HAND LOTION!

I guess that's why I continue to take great comfort in my self-proclaimed title as a would-be writer. I invoke that word, would-be, because it excuses all manner of writerly sins--run-on sentences, missing words, misspelled words, excessive comma use, and extreme avoidance of semi-colons. You know, those mistakes that "real writers" never make.

To be perfectly honest, I've forgotten so many of the grammar rules I used to know, and some I blatantly ignore because they make me feel backed into a corner. Several years ago, when I really fell in love with writing, I threw caution and grammar to the wind and just wrote. And I liked how it felt. I adopted the term "would-be writer" and gave myself permission to enjoy the process without any stress over the rules. I imagined that as a would-be writer, I could enjoy the thrill of standing over a rocky cliff, dangling my participles, feeling the wind rush through my hair without penalty. If only I could remember what participles are.

Years later, I get nervous when someone says something nice about my writing because I feel like they should know the truth, that I'm a fraud. I'd hate to gain a reputation as a writer, because sooner or later everyone is bound to find out that I'm only impersonating a writer. There are strict laws against this. What if the real writers found out and ganged up on me, beat me up, and took away my new handbag with the cash and fancy lotions? What if Nancy Grace caught wind of my sham? She scares the hell out of me. Better to lay low, that's what I say.

See? Writing makes me crazy.

But it also makes me sane. Which is why I spent all day wrestling to write this, because I have to get this schloppy cake batter out of my hair and into the oven.

I know I'm not alone. Do you feel like a fraud sometimes? How do you fight it?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Let's Get Ready to Rrrrrrrrandom!

  • I can't explain it, but I think one of my toes has grown longer.
  • Suddenly, my walking shoe feels too tight.
  • But only on one toe.
  • Can this happen?
  • Last night I dreamt about blogging, all night long.
  • I have never done that before.
  • It was kind of stressful, and I don't even have a blog post to show for it.
  • In other news, my fingers are all still the same size.
  • (Slow news day.)
  • Don't you think it's funny when you're watching the news and they report on something really meaningless and random?
  • I always say, "Slow news day."
  • Because I find great pleasure in pointing out the obvious.
  • There's something kind of comforting about a slow news day.
  • Robbers, murderers, rapists, and politicians are all laying low, at least for a day.
  • And in their place, we watch coverage of the senior citizen Scrabble festival.
  • Speaking of senior citizens, I have a confession to make.
  • A large percentage of my friends are......older.
  • Not senior citizens, per se (though there are a few), but older than me.
  • By 10, 15, 20, 30 years.
  • Several of my friends could be my mother.
  • What can I say? I like old people.
  • They drive slow and appreciate buffets.
  • Just kidding! My older friends are very cool.
  • Much cooler than I.
  • That's why they have their thermostats turned up so high.
  • Just kidding! That's not even true!
  • Sorry. The senior citizen jokes are just spilling out.
  • Sometimes I wonder what my older friends think of me.
  • Do they think it's odd that I want to be friends with them?
  • It probably is.
  • There's probably a deep psychological meaning behind it.
  • My mom says I have an old soul.
  • I think my soul is in my knee, because it is always aching.
  • It is creaky and poppy and can't stop talking about the "good old days."
  • And it always seems to sprout a few stray hairs.
  • Even though I take a full 12 seconds to shave it.
  • But guess what?
  • It's my favorite knee.
  • And I think that explains everything.
  • Are you confused yet?
  • I am.
  • (Slow news day.)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Open Enrollment

Are you a would-be writer like me? Have you been searching for a community of others like you? Well, search no further, my friend.

More affordable than a membership to Costco, you can now become an honorary member of the WBWG (that's the Would-Be Writers Guild) for FREE! Grab a button and display it proudly. The code is over there in the right-hand column. Just copy and paste it into your own layout and let the world know that you're kind of a writer, like me!

And if you're not into shamelessly promoting my blog, you can grab one of my invisible buttons to display on your blog. It took me forever to figure out the code, but I finally nailed it. Here it is, written in special, invisible computer ink:

P.S. Thanks to this post and this one for helping me to create my sophisticated, prestigious button. You can make one too!

P.P.S. For the first eight hours this post was up, the opening line said, "Are a would-be writer like me?" Um, yeah. That's pretty telling right there.

Friday, April 23, 2010

In Sickness and In Health

As it turns out, while I was running away from Responsibility the other day, I was running blindly into the arms of Diarrhea. (What? You didn't want to know that?)

EPIC diarrhea.

The kind of diarrhea that has you pulling your hair, shaking your head, moaning, and saying, "There can't possibly be anything left in there to poop out!"

Ryan is really at his best when I'm sick. He came home from work Wednesday to find me on the couch with a look of agony on my face. "Does it help to have that look on your face?" he asked.

Yes, actually, it does.

At my request, he made mashed potatoes for me to eat. He walked into the family room where I was stationed (a short sprint from the bathroom) and held the bowl out to me, leaning with the rest of his body, turning his head away, to keep outside my germ space bubble.

"Thanks," I groaned.

"Don't touch me," he said softly, handing it off and shuddering.

It was a beautiful moment between us.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Responsibility, Gravity, and Other Pesky Ailments of Adulthood

I'm on my way to wasting today. I could feel it coming on yesterday when I spent all day dawdling, sitting sideways in random chairs, welcoming any distraction, before I finally finished the little bit of real work that had to be done. When the work was finally done, I packed my family in the car and drove to a park. I watched Responsibility in the rearview mirror, rushing out to chase us, waving its arms and yelling something about the chicken in the fridge and the plans to clean the kitchen floor. I pretended to not see.

We ate cheap takeout and let the boys ride their bikes and scooters around on a paved path, while Ryan and I sat on a bench and sipped soda. He said parks sometimes make him sad, like when he sees grubby, wandering kids who have nothing else but the neighborhood park for entertainment. I meant to ask him for further explanation, but we got interrupted by our kids who had completed an entire loop around the park and wanted our accolades.

Later at home, after leaving the park and getting an ice cream cone, I laid on the family room carpet and watched one of my recorded shows. I could feel a pull to get up, to clean the kitchen floor, to do something effective, but that pull was no match for the gravity that was holding me softly against the carpet. "I'm sorry, Responsibility," I said, "Gravity got me."

I finally got up and slogged my way through bedtime, refusing to read a chapter to Max out of his favorite book. I said I was too tired; it was too late (it wasn't). I was going to explain to him how Gravity was pushing me around and Responsibility was getting on my nerves, but I figured it would only confuse him. Kids are immune to Gravity and Responsibility.

This morning Responsibility was waiting for me at my bedside, arms folded tight, toe tapping anxiously, throat clearing and eyes glancing at a ticking wristwatch. It submitted a request for breakfast, packed lunch, homework, two recipes, an hour of exercise, and writing time with that pesky unfinished novel. I looked over the request, overwhelmed and annoyed. I stamped "REQUEST DENIED" all over it and gave it a flippant toss as I walked away. Responsibility is wound so tight, I could feel it seething as I secretly made breakfast behind its back and shoved lunch money in Christian's pocket.

I hope Responsibility hasn't noticed, but I cleaned the kitchen, produced a recipe, and even exercised--but only for a half hour. Hah! But that's it. I'm not budging another inch. I'm not going to coordinate homework, and I'm certainly not going to be forced to work on my withering, neglected novel. YOU CAN'T MAKE ME! I can waste today if I want!

I can, can't I?

Responsibility is in the other room now, scribbling furiously on a giant legal pad, writing me a reprimand. No doubt it will include all the regular arguments: the sense of accomplishment I'm missing out on, the obligation to myself and my family, the doubling of work for tomorrow, the obvious reminder that every book is written one word at a time. I've heard it all before. I turn up the stereo, drowning out the sound of the methodical T-crossing and I-dotting going on in the other room. I should get on with my wasted day, but I'm all thrown off now.

Responsibility is so damn smug.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My Philosophies and Other Unsolicited Advice

  • Aim for average--it will get you further than perfectionism ever will.
  • Good moms work themselves out of a job.
  • You might as well look on the bright side.
  • Don't burn bridges.
  • The house doesn't have to be spotless.
  • Take good care of your skin.
  • If you haven't learned to enjoy sitting by a pool, you need to practice until you do.
  • Don't buy it just because it's on sale.
  • The salon hair products are worth it.
  • Laughing is the best.
  • Avoid regret.
  • Marry your best friend.
  • Let people be who they are.
  • A good education is worth the cost.
  • Let the kids stay up a little later.
  • Make cookies and give them to people.
  • You're never too good for fast food.
  • Go to new places.
  • Say yes to things that scare you.
  • Say no sometimes so that people know you have boundaries.
  • Have boundaries.
  • If you accidentally use someone else's toothbrush, just put it back and try to forget about it.
  • Give people the benefit of the doubt.
  • Everybody is a product of their own experience.
  • Holding on to the past feels right, but it isn't.
  • Never forget the beauty of a grilled cheese sandwich.
  • Always look for online coupons before you order anything.
  • Question everything, and don't be afraid of the answers.
  • Be patient with yourself.
  • Avoid being part of a majority.
  • Tip 20% unless it's bad service.
  • Don't judge.
  • If you can't help but judge, keep it to yourself or your spouse. Don't blab.
  • Ask people about themselves and then listen.
  • Don't leave your underwear on the floor. The dog will eat it.
  • Give funny greeting cards.
  • Avoid pointing out the positives to someone who is sad or mad. Listen and let them be.
  • Play music in your house.
  • Tuck your kids in at night.
  • If someone has hurt you, and you want a relationship with them, talk it out.
  • If someone has hurt you, and you don't want a relationship with them, let it go.
  • Letting it go is easier said than done.
  • Be a friend to yourself.
  • Say, "I love you."
  • Make friends with smart, interesting people.
  • Your kids should be a teensy bit afraid of you.
  • Be true to yourself.
  • Do what you think is right.
  • Work hard, but have a lot of fun.
  • Buy from small businesses.
  • Fight fair. 
  • Don't go to stuffy parties.
  • Give stuff away.
  • Be their parent, not their friend.
  • Use Priceline to book your hotel rooms.
  • There is always another solution. There is always another way.
  • Don't waste your money on stupid movies.
  • Don't waste your money on team sports pictures for your six-year-old.
  • Give sincere compliments.
  • Don't use boring paint colors.
  • Sing in the shower, the kitchen, and the car.
  • Swear sometimes; it makes you feel better.
  • Speed up on the freeway on-ramp.
  • Let people know the real you.
  • Buy two gallons of milk. Running out of milk sucks.
  • Write, write, write. Then write some more.
  • Order dressing on the side.
  • Avoid home-hosted selling parties if you're a pansy (like me) and feel obligated to buy stuff.
  • Don't give unsolicited advice, unless it's on your blog.

That's my list. What's on yours?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Wardrobe MVP

I bought this shirt last summer. Technically, it is called a dress, but in the interest of not embarrassing my children I wore it as a shirt with shorts. I wore it and wore it and wore it and wore it. And when summer turned to fall, I wore it some more, with jeans. And when fall turned to winter, I put a sweater over it and wore it some more. I love this shirt. It's breezy, flattering, and hides all manner of sins. It is my 2009 Wardrobe MVP and is making a run for the 2010 title. It still enjoys regular rotation in the laundry basket, and is first string in the vacation packing lineup.
I'm afraid the other clothes are jealous. Each time I toss my shirt into the hamper, the other clothes roll their googly eyes and say, "Hmph. You again?" The shirt blushes red, which only makes it look more vibrant.

It's lonely at the top.

What is your Wardrobe MVP?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Imagine This on Really Beautiful Stationery

Time out for a second. I interrupt my irregular blogging schedule because I need to say a few things to you. Yes, you. Some of you I know, some of you I don't, but to all of you I want to say thanks. 

Thanks for reading. 
Thanks for commenting. 
Thanks for joining the conversation. 
Thanks for being thoughtful. 
Thanks for emails you have sent. 
Thanks for sharing your own blogs with me. 
Thanks for laughing at my jokes.
Thanks for getting my jokes.
Thanks for being so encouraging about my writing.
Thanks for keeping in touch.
Thanks for coming back.

I don't say it enough, but I feel it every time I click "publish." Please know that you are appreciated, because you are. If it were possible, I'd make you a giant platter of burritos to prove it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Time Warp

The picture on the left is me,  four years ago on my twenty-ninth birthday. The one on the right is me, today. I'm sort of freaked out as I look at them side by side. Very little looks the same to me, aside from that funny upper lip shape.

In fact, they don't even look like the same person to me; definitely related, but not the same person. And I guess, in a way, that's the reality. Aren't we ever-evolving?

The girl on the left has no idea that she's going to move across the country. In fact, she can't even imagine her husband finishing school. She's obsessed with her new blog. She dreams of writing for a living. She is deathly afraid of dogs. She tucks her kids into bed each night.

The girl on the right writes for a living, struggles to maintain her blog, is in love with the east coast, and dreams of finishing a novel. Not only does she own a dog, she frequently talks in sugary, baby talk to larger dogs. She keeps losing the same five pounds over and over again, but needs to lose 15. She tucks her kids into bed each night.

And what about the girl four years from now? What is she doing? Where has she been? Is she still tucking those kids in? Did she finish that novel? And most importantly, what does her hair look like?

Who were you four years ago?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Unfortunate Cookies

Wouldn't it be awful to crack open your fortune cookie at the end of your dinner and read something truly unfortunate? My friend Angie introduced the idea of Unfortunate Cookies to me, and I'm going to run with it. Here are my ideas for unfortunate fortunes:

  • Itching, swelling, shortness of breath: expect them all. Soon.
  • You always tell the dumbest stories.
  • That wasn't lemonade.
  • That thing you've been worried about for a long time? It's getting worse.
  • Everybody is looking at you (and not in the good way).
  • It's hopeless.
  • Your reputation is horrible.
  • Everybody would vote you off the island first.
  • It's sad the way you always look heavier than you are.
  • Your farts smell worse than other peoples'.
  • People laugh about your taste in music.
  • You have a long history of mediocrity.
  • In your case, it won't matter if you aim higher. So, save your energy.
  • Your parents argue about who has to call you.
  • It's not that you're unlucky, it's that you make a lot of mistakes.
  • A life-altering case of diarrhea is in your immediate future.
  • Your most embarrassing moment will be EPIC.
  • Wow, that is not your color.
  • Finding a good lawyer should be a top priority right now.
  • Now is the time to give up.
  • Your dog prefers the neighbors.
  • You are WAY too easy on yourself.
  • Your elbows are ghastly.
  • You will soon be berated on Dr. Phil's couch.
Alright, enough from me; now it's your turn. Give me your Unfortunate Cookie ideas. I'll select a random winner and send you a mix CD. (Even though people laugh at my taste in music.)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Baker's Dozen

I have been married for thirteen years today. My wedding day was sunny, though insanely cold and windy. It was a jam-packed day--the ceremony followed by a wedding breakfast followed by an evening reception with photo shoots interspersed. Ryan and I left our wedding reception and drove directly to McDonald's for cheeseburgers; we were starving, not having eaten a bite all evening. Then we drove to our apartment, counted the money that had been shoved in Ryan's tuxedo pockets all evening, and fell into an exhausted sleep.

Thirteen years later, we still fall into an exhausted sleep most nights, though we've given up McDonald's cheeseburgers for their slightly lower-calorie sister, the hamburger. We've created a life together that continually amazes, entertains me, and leaves me indebted to my younger self for trusting my inexperienced gut. I never could have imagined all that has taken place in the years in between then and now, the ups and downs, the victories and losses. He is still my closest and dearest friend. He still makes me laugh. He still makes me feel beautiful. He still doesn't clean the toilets.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Would You Like to Come Over for Meatloaf and Four Hours of Vacation Photos?

Guess what? This one time Ryan and I went out to dinner with a couple and afterward they invited us to their house. When we got to their house, we toured it (very nice) and ended up in their home office where we somehow ended up looking through two (TWO!) of their tropical, exotic vacation photos.

At first, I didn't realize what was happening because I was genuinely interested, but a half-hour in I felt pure fight-or-flight panic. I can only handle so many photos of palm trees and exotic flowers from places I've never been. Not to mention all the swimsuit shots. Want to make things instantly awkward? Whip out photos of you and your spouse without real clothes on and show them to friendly acquaintances. do you respond to that? "Wow!" "Neato." "Huh." "Are you on steroids?"

The situation had snuck up on us. I realized that we were really in for it, AND WE WERE. I think it took two hours, but luckily it only felt like thirteen.

Hey! All this talk of vacation photos reminds me--I recently took a vacation! And it was wonderful! And wouldn't you like to see some photos?

Oh good!

Here are my parents at Valley Forge. Aren't they magnificent?

Here is a door at Valley Forge, at the George Washington Memorial Chapel. I really like this door. (Oh my gosh, she's showing us photos of DOORS! We're in for trouble!)

And here are my parents inside of a door. See? We've come full circle.

This is a little hut at Valley Forge. I wanted to go inside and ask Hansel and Gretel to come out and play with me.

This is during our private tour of the nation's capitol building. That's my nephew Alex in the middle leading the tour.

The cherry blossoms were in full splendor. Here's my mom and the boys in what was supposed to be a "silly" photo. For some reason, Max is uncooperative in photos these days. He's posing as the Statue of Liberty, which is not silly at all.

I thought it would be a good opportunity for a family photo, but again, Max was non-compliant and refused to smile at the camera. I'm emitting verbal threats through that gritted, half-smile.

He still didn't want to cooperate, so I vetoed him from the photo.

Hey, do you recognize this? It's Julia Child's kitchen! (Which is so strange. I had no idea she lived in a Smithsonian museum.)

How about one more look at those cherry blossoms before we leave this part of the vacation?

Alright, you've reached intermission. How are you feeling? ("Wow." "Neato." "Huh." "Are you on steroids crack?")

Let's begin the second week of vacation, shall we? Travel with me to enchanting Hilton Head Island, off the coast of South Carolina. This is the view that was greeting us from our hotel room.

And this is what we woke to the next morning.

If Ryan's career as a professor ever fails, he should pursue being a travel agent. He hooks us up with the best accommodations. And if you're not already using Priceline to book your hotel rooms, you should take a moment and kick yourself in the shin and/or locate a blunt object to pound your head against.

I'm going to spare you any awkward photos of us on the beach at this point. You're welcome.

One day, we took a day trip into Savannah, Georgia. I have wanted to go there for quite some time. I have a fascination with the South, born of Mark Twain novels, Flannery O'Connor short stories, and the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. I've always thought of the South as that girl you spot on the first day of school who looks completely different from anybody else you've ever met and exudes a coolness and swagger that makes you secretly want to be BFFs with her, even though you're pretty sure she's a little nuts. Or maybe even a lot nuts. But, still.

Savannah is enchanting. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Book lovers, prepare yourself. We happened upon the most amazing used bookstore. Cover your keyboard, lest your drool causes it to short out.

We all walked away with a found treasure, although I managed to find one of the only new, full-priced books to purchase. Some would call that a rare talent. Ryan would call that one of the only things he truly doesn't like about me.

We spent another day back on the beach and then bid farewell to this lovely slice of heaven. Bye, heaven! Love ya! 

We made our way up to sweet, sweet Charleston, South Carolina. Oh my, what a delightful city.

Here's Charleston's old super-creepy prison. Most people died 2-3 months into their sentence because the conditions inside were so poor. I told Max I was going to send him there if he didn't start smiling in photos.

Didn't work.

We wanted to stay and eat more fried green tomatoes, Coca-Cola chicken, coconut cream pie, and banana pudding, but we had to say goodbye.

Congratulations! You've made it to the end of my vacation photos! Thanks for your attention. It really wasn't so painful, was it?


{Ahem} Hello?

Is anybody there?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hello There, Stranger


I didn't mean to be gone quite so long, but you know how it goes... First, my parents come into town and then spring break comes along and before I know it,  I've forgotten how to blog. Be careful, it could happen to you too.

But I'm back. With the remains of a sunburn that are fading into a tan, and a long list of items that have been fixed by my dad around my house. I couldn't be happier.

The problem with being gone for so long is that I feel compelled to write about it all, because it was enchanting, but (lucky for you) I don't have that kind of attention span. So, I will just summarize a few of the truths I discovered spending a week with my parents, and then a week on vacation:

  • Having my parents stay is like having kindly, live-in servants. Rich people are so lucky.
  • If we set our minds to it, we really can eat an entire giant bowl of fruit in one week.
  • Take time to wander in small shops; they could be selling magic pants.
  • A trip to the beach is not the same without the bacon ice cream store.
  • Field of Dreams is actually a very strange story. How did we miss that in 1989?
  • Some gas station food is actually good.
  • Watching your parents with your kids is one of life's treasures.
  • The cherry blossoms in Washington, DC are worthy of every lovely adjective sent their way.
  • Speaking of adjectives, the only ones worth using in Mad Libs are: poopy, chunky, smelly, and pimpled.
  • The best Mad Lib nouns are: poo, poop, turd, diarrhea, armpit, and pee.
  • Taking a tour of the nation's capitol is even more fun when your nephew is leading it.
  • The best Smithsonian cafeteria is in the American Indian museum.
  • If you're a mom or a grandma, a trip to a cool grocery store can feel like a trip to Disneyland.
  • Dropping my parents off at the airport will always make me cry. Always.
  • Packing for vacation can keep your sad heart occupied.
  • A ten-hour road trip seems exponentially shorter when started at 7 am instead of 2 pm.
  • When in doubt, rent the minivan.
  • My oldest child is becoming an adolescent, which means that I am becoming an agnostic.
  • Some Subway employees are not worthy of the title "Sandwich Artist."
  • The sound of the ocean is very good for the soul.
  • Mexican food, as it turns out, is also very good for the soul.
  • There is no shame in eating Mexican food every day.
  • There are no wiggly pigs anywhere in the Piggly Wiggly.
  • If you really concentrate, fried okra is almost as delicious as fried Oprah.
  • Never miss an opportunity to wander a tiny, used bookstore.
  • No matter how long you're gone, the dog will always be happy to see you again.
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