Friday, April 29, 2011

What I Learn From You, My Readers

Last week when I saw that the SITS girls chose me as part of their Comment Hour on Twitter, I was both happy and freaked out. I was happy of course to get new traffic to my blog and to meet other new bloggers. But freaked out because my post on constant mommy talk was sort of a departure for me.

I worried when I wrote it that it was kind of a downer, or whiny, or just a result of a few awkward weeks. I was unsure of what the response would be given that for many this would be the first impression.

I’m still sort of wrapping my head around all the amazing responses I got.

I really appreciate people giving their honest opinions on the topic, and it really put it in perspective for me. I think, for me, what I am concerned about is losing myself.

When we had our baby, Scott and I made a sincere effort to keep some things normal. He and I each take one night a week with our individual friends. We always make sure we allow each other time to work out, which often means switching off baby duties during the week and weekends.

I’m just not sure if that’s enough, really? Do you have to do more to retain your self-ness when you’re a parent?

Maybe it’s more of an effort because you’re giving something up. I mean, sure I was giving up time with Scott when we were married without children and I went out separate from him. But I looked at that as a good thing. And while I know going out now is a good thing for Wee ‘Burb, it’s a more difficult and delicate balance now.

I just envisioned, I guess, a network of people when I had a baby. A village and all that, right? I blogged here a lot about struggling finding mommy friends and that struggle continues. I remember my mom trying to comfort me and said “oh when she goes to school, you’ll meet tons of other moms.”

School? She just cut her molars! I can’t wait that long.

I just thought I would have my mommy friends to help me through those phases and then my non-mommy friends who would keep me grounded and remind me there’s life beyond diapers and drool.

And I think a lot of you had very valid points about there being times in your life when you are at a phase where you need to be sort of absorbed in your child. Wee ‘Burb is developing so quickly and I’m so conflicted on loving her growth and being scared of it, being aware of how formative this little person is and wanting to do it right.

And it sounds like those of you who are not in this phase are extremely understanding women who frankly, I want to be besties with right now.

And then there are times when you just need to be a girl. Talk clothes and food and pop culture. Where you want nothing more than to FORGET you’re a mom for as long as possible. And so we cling then to our single friends, or friends without children.

I seriously hope I am half as good of a friend as most of you seem to be.

Here were a few of my favorite comments:
Amanda at It’s Blogworthy: It's Blogworthy
I think that it's a season. Someday when Wee Burb is grown up, you're going to reconnect with your husband and talk about other things, but right now she's the center of your world and not only is that OK, it's NORMAL. So what if you become that couple for a little while? I know that someday (with us at least) it will pass or at least lessen.

Sparkling at  Lia Sophia Tomgirl
It's the mother who cannot be separated from their kids that bother me the most. Those who vehemently refuse to even try to have a normal life because they now have kids. I think it's extremely unrealistic.
At least no one has ever said to me "well, you wouldn't understand because you don't have kids." That would really annoy me.

Laurie from  Consultant Calamities
Heck, I'm a mom, but *I* get tired of hearing about some people's kids, if it gets to be too much after a while...I have all kinds of friends: some with kids, some with no kids. some with babies, some with adult kids. I have friends of all ages, when I think about it. there's SO much else to talk about !! I do talk about the little man, but I want to talk about other things, too!

The Mays writing at It Builds Character
Oooh, I'm with you. I'm losing my single/childless friends - and I need them. Much more than they need me these days. It's a difficult thing - our little people are our biggest "project", "achievement", or whatever you want to call it... And they're stinkin' cute!

Gin from Life as Topher's Mama
I have been clinging to my single and or childless girlfriends since having my baby. I also have to make a constant effor to not say, "man, I remember those days..." when they talk about taking an impromptu trip or sleeping in. I honestly have dug my claws into them and made a conscious effort to hang with them; with and without my son. They're totally cool with and without him, which is a blessing.

Kat from Tenaciously Yours
I would have to say that I'm rarely offended by baby talk as long as mommies make it a point to include me in the conversation. Like, we all go through different life stages/phases and sometimes it's important to be the talker. Other times it's important to be the listener. If you have that balance, you're golden.

Jessica B from  Sugar in My Grits
Having only had him 20 months ago, & expecting our daughter this June- I find that I have lost myself. Only, I am hoping that once she is here, I'm done being pregnant, & once things are balanced I can find myself once again. More than likely a new version of myself but hopefully there is a part of me left that doesn't have to revolve around my kids.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I Think I Can...I Think I Can

You guys, this week is testing me. It's not even that anything that bad has happened, but it's just been so exhausting and it's only Wednesday!

First of all, thanks to those of you who commented on the walking and food issues we're having with Wee 'Burb. While the problem of the walking wasn't solved overnight (dammit), we have made some headway with getting some help.

It turns out the county has a free program through the schools! They'll come out to our house and evaluate Wee 'Burb and just be sure there's nothing wrong. I'm happy for two reasons: 1. Duh, it's free and 2. I'm happy to have them work on Wee 'Burb's home turf because then they can see her whole environment.

Wee 'Burb says "MWAH" for all the support. She also says she'll walk when she damn well feels like it. Kiss off!

The food is going better. So far she's really only skipped two meals, and she's eaten everything she skipped the first time at the next meal. So I feel really positive about it. I think Wee 'Burb is fairly adaptable on this front. I know we'll have good and bad days on this, but I'm pleased by the progress.

Which couldn't have come at a better time because I got some downer news today. Initially, our daycare provider had put her daughter on her license so that when she was out of town, she wouldn't have to close daycare down (a real problem because she had 10 paid days off in addition to holidays last year). So she's out of town on Thursday and Friday and the plan was the daughter would cover those two days.

Got an e-mail YESTERDAY at noon saying they were going to close instead, because apparently the daughter can't handle this on her own.

Now, these are my neighbors. They're good people. I actually like the daughter and I understand that she's 18 and 6 children under 4 is a lot to handle. Frankly, I go out of my gourd with the one half the time!

But couldn't that decision have been made...oh, I don't know...earlier than two days before the planned vacation??!!

I got this e-mail when I was in the parking lot of my dietitian, so I wasn't in a good place mentally. I've been sort of dreading this visit. I even put it off a few weeks because initially I wanted to lose more weight after San Francisco.

Yeah, didn't happen.

Anyway, I was feeling very discouraged. So we talked it out. We talked about how I sabotage myself during the weekends. We talked about pre-planning more weekend meals and planning to work out the days I know I'm going to go out. We talked about integrating vegetables and other filling fibers during the day so I'm less likely to pick at food when I go out. We talked about alternating a glass of wine with a glass of seltzer water to ease up on the alcohol when I'm out with my friends or the hubs.

I left feeling hopeful. It's unlikely I will meet the goals I had originally set in the timeframe I set. And she convinced me that's okay. We have strategies and I have renewed accountability. And license from a professional to! In the past month my little brother got married, my friend passed the bar, and I took my first vacation without a baby. She assured me these are things to celebrate, and with just a little more preparation and some willpower, those celebrations don't have to derail me.

Seriously, if you have insurance or employee assistance programs, you should check into a nutritionist or dietitian. I thought I knew EVERYTHING about weight loss. I've been at it for a bazillion years, people. I know how to read a label, I know tracking food is important.

But WHAT should I EAT?? And when? And how much? It can change depending on where you are in your dieting (are you at a plateau, have you just started?). It can change depending on hormones and environment and time of year.

And that's what she told me. And told me again.

So we set a goal of losing 6-8 pounds before my next visit in a month. I'm armed with a ton of new nutritional data I'll share with you along the way. Hopefully we can all get motivated together, yes??!!

Have you seen a nutritionist or dietitian? What's the best food advice you've gotten recently? What gets you motivated when you get off the diet wagon?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Walk This Way...PLEASE!

We had a long week last week in these here parts. Scott had to be gone for a week, and every time this happens, I have a mini meltdown. Single moms out there: you guys are just awesome. I have nothing more to say.

So Scott comes home and I welcome him with another meltdown. Once again about Wee ‘Burb’s walking. Guys? I want to be the enlightened Mom here that echoes what EVERYONE tells us, which is “she will do it on her own time.”

But now that we’re at 17 months, I’m not so cool with her calling the shots timing-wise. So Thursday she ripped holes in her jeans because she refused to walk even with her little car outside at daycare. She just crawled around…on the asphalt.

And the truth is, our doctor asked us to take her in at 17 months if she wasn’t walking. That was two weeks ago. Before we left for San Francisco, we were sure she would walk. When we got back from San Franciso, we were SURE she would walk. So we didn’t call.

Nothing. In fact, she’s actually less interested in walking, which was what finally led me to my meltdown and the call to the doctor. Or, well it was that and the fact that I picked her up at daycare and a 10-month-old met me at the door and pulled himself up on the baby gate (yes, yes, I know you’re not supposed to compare, use the ruler and rap my bad mom knuckles, I’ll wait).

So Friday, I took Wee ‘Burb to our awesome pediatrician, who we call Mother Goose. I told her everything that Wee ‘Burb does on her feet and Mother Goose laughed. She said “ain’t nothing wrong with that kid.” That's medical jargon for "she's a stubborn donkey."

I got Wee ‘Burb to take a few steps with me holding her hands, and then she flung herself on the floor. I pointed at her like “SEE? SEE WHAT I HAVE TO DEAL WITH?”

Because I’m mature and rational like that.

Mother Goose told us that basically she saw nothing wrong, but did see that Wee ‘Burb had a wide stance and may benefit from physical therapy evaluation in terms of the strength of her hips.

I thought I would feel better, somehow. Like, okay, this isn’t catastrophic and I didn’t ruin her by not taking her in before. But I somehow felt worse because I want answers beyond the usual diagnosis we hear, which is my baby is a bit of a jerk. Oh, like you’re not thinking it!

Anyway, in the midst of this discussion the doctor asked if Wee ‘Burb had any sensitivity to textures to determine if there was any issue with certain walking surfaces. I laughed and said “only with her food.”


Mother Goose got me to confess that I was still occasionally feeding Wee ‘Burb purees so she’d get the protein from the meat she refused to eat.

Mother Goose lovingly pokes Wee ‘Burb in the tummy and goes “you’re not a baby anymore!” And then looks me in the eyes and goes “you’re getting played, girlfriend!”

So the new rule is that we have to give her what we eat. And if she doesn’t eat it, she doesn’t eat. This has been met with mixed results in our very limited experience, though I can see the theory and how it works. When she’s hungry enough, she’ll eat what I put in front of her.

I’m sure there will be comments about this. I understand it falls in the dubious category of “crying it out” that some will feel is neglectful or psychologically harmful. But I do trust my doctor, she hasn’t led me astray thus far.

When I was a baby and a picky eater, my parents made the rule that if I didn’t eat what they ate, I had peanut butter and jelly. What they didn’t count on was I NEVER got sick of peanut butter so frankly, I was a picky eater until well into my 20s. I don’t want a food war with Wee ‘Burb, so we’ll see how it goes.

My first experiment with broccoli (I figured we'd start with veggies, which she's less anxious about than meat) hasn’t gone well with her. I’m putting the recipe on the bottom of this post if you’re interested. Even though I got it from a toddler recipe site, I have to say it was a hit with us adults, which was good b/c she didn’t touch them for 2 meals.

Speaking of food, we made our first fresh ham for Easter!

I didn’t get a picture of it actually done because I had quite a few Mimosas before the in-laws arrived. But it was beautiful and our house smells like herbs and meat. How can you beat that?

Do you or did you make your toddler eat what you eat? What was on your Easter plate?

Broccoli Bites

8 oz (1 cup) frozen broccoli florets
4 oz (1 cup) dry breadcrumbs
6 oz (1 1/2 cups) Cheddar, grated
2 1/2 tbsp water
2 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

Heat the oven to 375 deg F, 190 deg C.
Cook the broccoli, then drain and chop well.
Combine with the remaining ingredients and mix well.
Form the mixture into nugget shapes and place on a greased baking tray, about 3in apart.
Bake for 20-25 mins, turning halfway through the cooking time.
Serve warm.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Uh, a Little Busy Here!

I want to seriously thank those of you who stopped by on the Comment Hour. To see 30 comments on a post is such a dream come true for me. And such great comments, too! I'm inspired for about 4 more posts.

After a week away for work and a lot of stuff to do, we're taking a bit of a family weekend.

Cuz who wouldn't want to spend oodles of time with this little creature?

I wish you all the happiest of Passovers, Easters, or April weekend...whatever you celebrate!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Where Do We Go From Here?

The other day with nothing to watch, I found some episodes of the old show Yes Dear on my On Demand. I’ve always had a fondness for Anthony Clarke, ever since I saw him perform at a comedy club in Boston where he was (in my humble opinion) high as a freaking kite and laughing so hard at his own jokes, he could barely get through a set.

Anyway, the episode began with a joke about the main couple played by Clarke and the chick from Uncle Buck trying to shove videotapes and anecdotes of their little boy on a couple friend of theirs who had no children. The couple invited Clarke/Buck to a concert, and they confessed to already having tickets to a concert of their own: Barney and Friends.

You guys, the LOOK that passed between the childless couple…I’ve had that look. Even since I’ve had Wee ‘Burb, I confess I’ve rolled my eyes a time or two having to listen to a couple going on and on about the genius of their little booger-eater.

So imagine my shock and horror when I realized, I’m becoming one.

All joking aside, it’s been bothering me quite a bit. Recently I’ve been in several situations where there have been a few moms and then a single or childless (also, that word? Sounds stupid. It’s the most succinct word I can come up with for someone married with no children, but seems to suggest a barrenness that isn’t accurate) woman in the mix.

The moms, of which I am now a part, talk of development and share charming anecdotes, myself included. But inside, my gut is bursting to say “DO WE NOT HAVE SOMETHING ELSE TO TALK ABOUT??!!”

Again, seriously, I am just as much to blame. Because I don’t.

It’s like when you start dating someone new and you try, you really try to CONSCIOUSLY not mention his name at every turn, but the more you concentrate on it, the more you end up saying “well New Guy says this” and “the New Guy and I did this” and it’s so obnoxious and your head is screaming STOP IT, DUMBO! But you can’t, right? Because at the moment, it’s the all-consuming world you live in.

I keep wondering when did this happen? When did this become IT? When did I become the person who can only talk about her kid?

I’m noticing it with this blog, too. Having set out to eschew the “mommyblog” moniker, I avoided blogging about my pregnancy and kept going for awhile with only mentioning Wee ‘Burb in passing, as an intro or exit to an anecdote.

It’s like I want the option to not blog about being a Mom, and yet…well, I’m not sure where I’d be without that topic. Because that is my world right now.

I plan to do something about this, about it being my world. Scott and I didn't restrict talk of Wee 'Burb on our recent trip without her, but we did try to reconnect on topics outside of that I recently read our Community Ed brochure and found several tempting adventures. One was a Thriller Line Dance class, which, come on, is tempting.

And then even that is stereotypical in some way, right?

Sigh, we’re the couple who can’t do anything but talk and think about our kid, so we’ll just go sign up for wine tasting or cheese making or something as an excuse to have something to talk about. Incidentally, that’s where the episode arc took the characters: they enroll in a wine tasting class and find out they’re just fine with being the couple that only talks about and thinks about their baby.

The truth is, we’re not that couple at the core. Scott and I do have outside interests and discussions. Mostly about work, which is a relatively verboten blog topic and frankly doesn’t make for the best group topic either because it ends up turning into an unhealthy vent session when all the person asked was the equivalent of “still working?”

Cooking is something Scott and I talk a lot about. We’ve taken classes in the past, but (not to sound snotty) a bulk of them were a bit below our level, geared more toward people who needed to learn the basics like cutting veggies while your pasta cooks. And a few of my friends have this topic in common, so I am lucky there.

I feel like so much of my life and blog is centered around this one person. And I’m just not sure there’s an escape. And I am wondering if I am destined to not only never make new single or childless friends, but to lose the few I do have now. And that? Scares the crap out of me.

Okay, so weigh in! If you’re single or don’t have kids, do you get annoyed when you’re out with mommies who clique it up about their kids? Or as moms, do you gravitate toward women with kids? Do you slowly only end up with other parent friends, or is there a point at which you begin to develop other interests, too?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cut it Out!

So while watching a marathon of jail shows on TLC, I saw an ad for their new show Extreme Couponing and I audibly gasped. And the people around me audibly laughed at me.

In case you’re new here, I am obsessed with coupons. I actually have a bit of love affair with coupons.

This show couldn’t have come at a better time for me, because we just got back from a trip to San Francisco.

Did I mention San Francisco is expensive? I mean, I totally expected that. Now they have some new initiative to provide healthcare for all its citizens and the food bills were taxed at 13%. Um, that’s almost two tips if you’re keeping track. I’m not going to get into this because that’s not what this is about. I’ll leave it at this: I think it’s total B.S. and while San Francisco was lovely, I have no plans to go back.

Anyway, so we spent a lot of money and we did not get what we wanted back from taxes, so the combination meant a seriously frugal future. In my life, that always involves coupons.

This show? Hilarious. Seriously, off-the-charts insane people. People who have turned “couponing” (it hurts every bone in my body to use this as a verb…also? It’s coop-oning, not cue-poning. Do not argue with me on this point) into their life’s work. Literally devoting 70 hours a week and half their house to coupons.

I love coupons. But perhaps I am not IN LOVE with coupons, if that were the prevailing definition.

So I did learn a few things that I will do, and a few things I could/would NEVER do.

Brand Loyalty.

This is a problem area for me. I like Charmin toilet paper. I like Bounty paper towels. Whether it’s because these are what I grew up with or because I’ve somehow been brainwashed by the marketing machine, these are what I like.

The Extreme Couponers in this show had barrels full of Right Guard deodorant, a bunch of different types of paper towels and shampoos and hand soaps. They buy what is on sale when it’s on sale, and when it’s a good deal. Now I’m not likely to go out and buy baking soda toothpaste or asbestos tampons, but I could be slightly more flexible than I am.


These folks have entire rooms dedicated to their coupon items. I don’t think my husband would be cool with me taking over his mancave or our basement with buckets of Mitchum deodorant and Mountain Dew. At the moment, the only space I have dedicated to stocking up on sale items is a medium size basket in our bathroom. We have several shelves in our laundry room, as well as almost an entire bathroom closet in our downstairs bathroom. I’m eyeing those as storage areas for coupon and Costco items so I can keep a little more on hand.

Sodium Ahoy!

One thing that really bothered me about the show was the amount of total CRAP these people bought. My roommate actually had to walk out of the room because she couldn’t take one couple who bought 50 Butterfingers. I mean, there’s no deal there when you factor in the cost of insurance when you get Diabetes.

I also saw another couple buy approximately 20 bottles of Mountain Dew. Not cool, people. Granted, they’re not going to provide a bunch of coupons for fresh produce, but one woman did buy a whole turkey and a whole chicken that she used in multiple healthy recipes. She also calls companies that produce healthier foods and asks them for coupons. I guess the bottom line for me is the high of saving $100 wouldn’t make me feel ok about buying that many Butterfinger bars. And I haven’t seen too many coupons for liposuction out there.

So overall, I’m learning a lot, actually. In the next month or so I plan to: start really comparing grocery stores and determining if items I have a coupon for are on sale there so I get a better discount; opening my mind to new brands; holding some meal planning for coupons to make sure our meals for the week are the best deals, while still being healthy.

What do you think? Have you seen the show? If you were a non-couponer on my last post, have you come around?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Finding Fashion: Why I'm Still Looking

I recently read this article on Shine titled “The Surprising Reason Wearing Designer Clothes Can Help You Succeed At Work” and it brought me back to an unpleasant work time when I was in my early 20s.

While I am away from this world and this industry, I’ll keep the identifiable details to a minimum. Suffice it to say, it was a small company and the president was a woman. A trainwreck of a woman. Let’s just say she was 40 and repeatedly cried in her office and used the phrase “doing the deed.”

She was well-known for flirting with the men in the office, showing up late to meetings because she was talking with her long-distance boyfriend, and getting all up in everyone’s personal lives. She’s also famous for telling a woman who had come in from maternity leave with her baby: “that THING is disrupting this environment. We WORK here, you know.”

While she was well-known for being a total cuckoo bird, she expected fanatical togetherness of her mostly female staff. My co-workers were predominantly blond, thin and clad in trendy designer clothes. I had put on some weight before I started the job, and also gotten a new apartment with significantly higher rent. I did not have time with the new job to work out, and I did not have money with the new apartment to really get new clothes.

I had a 30-day probation period and I thought things were going well. I was learning my new role quickly, my direct boss liked me very much. I thought my co-workers were nice and helpful. And then my boss dropped a bomb on me.

It was, hands down, one of the most awkward situations I have ever been in. Possibly for her, too. She hemmed and hawed a little. She did allude to the good things I was doing and then she started mumbling. You guys, my boss was the picture of cool and class ALWAYS. For her to be this uncomfortable was unsettling. What she said was even more unsettling.

“This industry is…different, probably, than what you’re used to in journalism. You know, because we’re in front…well, you know, we have to go in front of rooms and people and such. And so, you know, the president…well, you know she’s just a little… …but she wanted me to, you know, suggest to you…well, just point out, I guess, that appearance is very important in this job.”

I made it through the discussion and managed to stumble to the bathroom two floors down and I cried like I’d never cried before.

Allow me to tell you something about me: I.DO.NOT.CRY.AT.WORK!

I can count on my hands the number of times I’ve cried in the VICINITY of work.

My dad is in HR and I am well aware of how this appears. I’m also very accustomed to working with men, so I know even more acutely how this appears when it’s a woman doing it. Especially a young woman.

I did the best I could with this information. I went shopping and started my first credit card bill ever that I didn’t pay off right away. I by no means got designer clothes. This was long before I discovered tailors and sales and followed Kat's very important rules of shopping. 

The truth is, this has stuck with me for a long time, long after I gave that job the boot (a decision I made not long after that discussion). I have always compared myself to my co-workers. Always strived to look like other people.

The result? I realized in San Francisco, I have no personal style. I can go into a mall and tell you my best friend will love this shirt because she rocks orange and brown like nobody else. I can tell you my roommate will always be drawn to jewel tones. I can not shop for myself. I’ve seen three personal shoppers in my life, all three have lent their styles to me. I have the most schizo wardrobe you will ever see.

Now some of that is just me. I’m the girl who hangs a Patriots jersey next to my purple jersey dress.

But it’s just hard to face that in my 30s, I don’t know who I am in terms of fashion. I talk a good game. I shop a good game, sometimes. But I think that moment at work really shaped me in the sense that I never again truly trusted how I presented myself to the world.

Thank goodness I work at home now!

Have you ever had someone comment on your appearance negatively? Do you cry at work? Do you have a personal style, and if so was it one you consciously developed or are you just drawn to a certain style?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Judge Not Lest You Shall Be Called to Jury Duty

All my life, my mother has complained about her inability to obtain two things: a Discover card and jury duty. The former had rejected one application when it came out the very first year and she still harbors resentment. The latter? I don’t know, the woman watches a lot of Matlock and Murder She Wrote.

I can personally vouch for the fact that the jury selection process is not nearly as exciting or quick as it appears on television and in movies. Nobody was throwing stones at my house or doing any back-door deals to get me excluded. Not that I know of, anyway.

The week started in a very cramped courtroom where we were forced to watch a video (yup, video, as in VHS) on how jury selection works. We were not picked based on any factors like sex or race. It’s random. You should feel honored. Blahbity blah blah.

Instead of going up and saying our piece about why we didn’t want to be there or couldn’t be there, we were asked to fill out a questionnaire.

Unlike my mother, I have no desire WHATSOEVER to be in a jury. My desire was even less because I was 5 months pregnant and just in general a fairly moody mess to be around. So I answered the questionnaire honestly, but with perhaps a little more prejudice than I actually felt. Cops? I love them, my entire family is full of law enforcement personnel. Only partly true. Church? So what if I mostly attend church to appease my husband and see if I can meet new friends? God bless America and all the little children and…um, all the flowers and the soil that grows them?

I was then told to call again the next morning and see if they needed me. I had to call 5 days in a row, if on the 5th day I wasn’t called in, my tour of duty was concluded.

Day 5 I get called in.

About 50 of us are there in the courtroom again. We are told this is a sexual abuse case and it has to do with an underage teen and a man in his late 20s working in some capacity on or around church grounds.

So we see the defendant, who looks like…I don’t know, a dude in his late 20s. Except he’s wearing a new shirt. I know this because the plastic part? It’s still in his collar. In my hormonal state, this brings a motherly “awww, sad” part of me with a side of “you’re grody, go away.”

Really, guys, would you want me on your jury?

So bottom line is we get another questionnaire, wherein I state (honestly) that I can’t be objective about this case. Given this is my first pregnancy and I attend church and it’s sort of hard to separate this child with the one I’m carrying, well it’s just a bad idea.

Then? Well, then I get to sit on a hard wooden bench for 6.5 hours while they questioned each person individually.

Did I mention I was pregnant? I only got the bench because some nice young man offered it to me. About 20 people were sitting on the floor.

Every hour or so, about 10 men in shackles would get paraded by us. There was no separate entrance into the courthouse for defendants.

Incidentally, there were also no metal detectors.

In addition to the perp walk, I also got treated to multiple out-of-court tete-a-tetes between divorce attorneys and men trying to get custody of their kids. I don’t know if they try them all at once or what was going on, but there were, oh, 10 sad dads on one side of the hall and about the same amount of very pissed-off looking women holding their kids tight, alternately crying, shouting, or pouting.

Did I mention I was pregnant?

You see it was a new courthouse in our area. And they hadn’t exactly built in benches. Or chairs. Or a way to bring in perps without parading them past potential jurors. Or conference rooms where people could speak about their cases without making potential jurors alternately want to cry and hit people.

On day 2 they brought in extra chairs.

Yeah, day 2. Because they didn’t get to all of us on day one. They didn’t even tell the people from Day one who had been interviewed if they were in or not.

So we all show up. We all sit quietly.

I should also note this is before I had cell phone with Internet and free texting.

Finally it’s my turn to go in. I immediately want to throw up, and not for the usual “wow, I just crammed 4 McDonald’s hamburgers in my mouth with a fry and shake chaser, happy eating, Baby” way.

For any long-time readers, my fear of authority may now be legend. But to recap: me no likey. I’m just quite positive my life will turn into the next edition of Brokedown Palace and nobody as cute as Kate Beckinsale will play me.

So it’s the judge, the defendant, the lawyers. The judge is a nice middle-aged lady who actually seems rather sympathetic. She asks if I am far enough along where sitting for a long time bothers me. I blushed and said it required fairly frequent trips to the restroom (yup, just entered my pee-pee into the record). She said I had noted a bias in the case. I explained my reasoning. I even, for good measure, put my hand on my belly and said “I have kind of a mama bear protecting her cub mentality.”

I won’t even pretend I’m not proud of that one, guys.

I think I saw the defense lawyer snicker. Then he kind of turns on me and goes: “so you’re not just, you know, trying to get out of jury duty here.”

Why, the VERY idea!

The thing is, I was totally trying to get out of jury duty. But also? I was totally honest. I don’t know what became of the case, but I know at the end of Day 2 I was dismissed, and that was the best thing to happen to that defendant all year.

And then informed since I did not serve on the jury, I could be called AGAIN!

So I’m saving a spot for Wee ‘Burb’s sibling should I need another excuse to dodge.

Have you ever had jury duty or managed to get out of it? Would you want to?

Monday, April 11, 2011

I See San Fran, I see France!

I’m baaack! Pretend you all missed me for a moment. Done? Thanks. And special thanks to Kat, Amanda and Lola for filling in for me while I was gone.

So, there were a lot of interesting things that went down while I was in San Fran. There was a gay bar where heteros like Scott and I were extremely unwelcome. Seriously, I think the bartender used sanitizer after we left, not wanting to be affiliated with our straight-people money. There was the homeless man outside said bar who tried to convince me that they tried to use pigeons for military tactical missions, because of their “visual acuity.” It failed because “they weren’t very focused.”

But, by far, the most interesting thing that happened to us in San Francisco was the naked lady on the tour bus.

Allow me to set the scene. When we arrived on Saturday we walked eeeeverywhere. And seriously, guys? San Francisco is the only place in the world where you actually CAN walk uphill both ways. So by Sunday morning I insisted we take the tour bus that allowed us to get on and off as we saw fit. Sunday we spent the whole day going from town to town.

Monday we slept in, in homage to the fact that we could. We both woke up at our normal work time and kind of contentedly sighed and went back to sleep. Because we COULD, people! No baby, no dog, no work.

We got some coffee and some breakfast and we’re feeling pretty giddy. As we are turning the corner to the bus area, we see a cop car. Then we see three cops on top of the double-decker tour bus. It wasn’t our tour bus, it was a different company. We stretched our necks to see our bus, but no luck. So we sat back and watched the show.

So of course we watched the cops. We couldn’t see who was in the bus, but that person was clearly not leaving. And the cops didn’t seem overly anxious to get that person off, which seemed odd because this particular tour bus wasn’t touring. It was actually where people bought tickets, and the company reps were sort of wandering around looking oddly frantic.

Based on what we saw, and what we overheard, here’s what happened.

A homeless woman who, let’s say, had been more sober in her life than she was that day, climbed on to the top deck of the bus. The tour guides asked her to leave. She refused.

I am not sure in which order this happened, but two things occurred: the police were called and the homeless lady took her clothes off and threw them over the side of the bus.

So when we had arrived, the lady was bare-ass naked sitting in the seat with three cops pulling on gloves, but each refusing to touch her.

Why the wait? Well, you see, they couldn’t very well take her down all naked, right? Only they didn’t have on them a tarp big enough for this lady.

So they called the fire department.

You guys, TWO fire trucks and an ambulance turned up.

So now there is a cop car, an ambulance, two fire trucks, and one very naked lady with three very uncomfortable cops.

One fire truck? Had a cherry-picker attachment.

All we saw was the woman stand up with a huge blue tarp around her. How she got off was a bit of a mystery because our bus pulled up and there were so many people getting on and off and telling the story that all we saw was the cop closing the door to the ambulance.

I won't lie, I want to believe so very much that she had to be forklifted off. If only because then someone else lived my own nightmare, and what are the odds these things repeat?

So there you go. What was the most interesting thing that happened to you on vacation? If you’re a parent, did you do a baby-free vacay? I have to say, by day 5 I was missing her like crazy. But the first few days? Total recharge.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Guest Post: Lola Says Don't Undress Me With Your Sandwich

I convinced my friend Lola to guest post for me while I'm hanging out in Napa. And between us, friends, I am trying to convince her to do a monthly guest post. Join me in my pleas, won't you, Internet? Anyway, I encouraged her to write this post after she was actually FORCED to switch coffee shops due to overzealous barista syndrome. It's a thing!

Hello, kids! While Stephanie cavorts through sunny California, Lola’s here to hold down the fort – the snow fort, that is. Yes, I know it’s April. That doesn’t change the fact that still I see a snow-covered Arctic tundra when I look out my window. The white stuff (I guess crusty gray stuff at this point) is just refusing to go! I’m thinking that maybe in May, I’ll finally be able to put that parka away. That’s the dream, anyway.

So happy travels to Stephanie (no, I’m not jealous…really) and let’s get down to business. What I’d like to discuss today is customer service. Too much customer service. Particularly, the add-on. I think we’ve all been there, yawning and politely smiling our way through endless “would you like fries with that?” “the medium is only five cents more,” and “sign up for an updated version and get two months (practically) free!” I guess paying our hard-earned dollar just for the product/service/commodity we want is not doing it these days. The salesgirl who’ll be accosting you has been instructed to push the add-on.

Now, I know that most of these people mean no harm – they’re probably cringing just as hard as I am and possibly crying on the inside for having to force a product on an unsuspecting customer. Which is why I try to be polite. But some places just go too far.

Like the Caribou Coffee I usually frequent on the way to work. It’s barely 8 a.m., it’s cold out and I’m about to face a grueling day at the office – all I want is a cup of java. That’s ALL I want.

Alas, the Caribou I have the misfortune of frequenting is run by the Add-On Nazi. First of all, he’s not a high school student trying to earn enough to splurge on a new pair of jeans, a college student earning his tuition or even a grad student who’s probably regretting that philosophy degree. He’s the manager. Maybe even the franchise owner. You can tell by the way he orders his underlings around. So really, no one’s holding a gun to his head, yelling “Sell! Sell! Sell!!”

And yet, each time he waits on me, we go through the same tiring routine – he interrupts me while I’m in the middle of my order to see if he got my name right (“Lulu? Did I get that right?”). He then gets my order wrong, and he always PUSHES THE BREAKFAST SANDWICH! Oh, the breakfast sandwich! The “Start Your Mornin’ Right With Some Deepfried Mystery Meat” sandwich. Would I LIKE a breakfast sandwich? Am I SURE I wouldn’t like a breakfast sandwich? Do I know that the breakfast sandwich comes with three slices of CHEESE?

Usually, I try to grin and bear it. But the last time, he crossed a line. After my polite “no, thanks,” he actually went “and what’s stopping you from getting the breakfast sandwich today?” Um, excuse me? Is this some clever new way of conducting the Census? Am I on TV? Did you really just demand to know WHY I don’t want the sandwich? Maybe it was the lack of caffeine talking (he was still holding my medium dark roast hostage!), but I felt violated. Actually violated. And weirded out. It’s one thing to offer and another thing to demand why that offer wasn’t accepted. Is he the godfather of breakfast sandwiches now? Was this an offer that I couldn’t refuse? If they pull me out of the Mississippi River wearing cement shoes in two weeks, I guess we’ll know.

This is where I wanted to point out that the right to privacy is still protected by the Supreme Court. At least I think it is – I haven’t read the paper in a while. Maybe Caribou Coffee bought out the rights to privacy. I also wanted to say that it was none of his business why I didn’t want to get the sandwich. And that customer service shouldn’t sound like a police interview.

Instead, I got my coffee and walked out without saying a word. And I don’t think I’ll go back – really, enough is enough! What’s he going to ask me next time? What color socks I have on and whether my great-aunt was a Libra, that being crucial information for my breakfast sandwich profile? TSA scanners are less invasive.

So the next time you’re offered the newest flavor of the month – a triple-berry tuna-flavored frappuccino – just say no to the add-on! We can do it, people! We can reclaim customer service in the name of good, not evil! And as for me, I can go to that other Caribou Coffee six blocks away. God knows there’s no shortage of places that will pour you a cup.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Guest Post: It's Blogworthy Explains Why I Got a B.S. in Communications

I discovered Amanda at It's Blogworthy and fell in love with her pie charts and goofy work stories. Since then she's had little Baby Blogworthy and, if possible, gotten even funnier. She's also the one who convinced me to join thank her or punish her as you see fit. If you learn nothing else from this post besides why Stephanie got a B.S. in Communications (true story), please remember text books don't speak. And forgiveness is a tree. Thank you. And thank YOU, Amanda, for helping me out while I visit Alcatraz.

Not long ago, I wrote a post about grad school and found out Stephanie was also a communication studies graduate, which is akin to getting a degree in making stuff up. Sure, I learned stuff, but what other major allows you to take classes about things like non-verbal communication?

One of the more ridiculous classes I took in graduate school was conflict communications. That’s right, folks, a class about how to fight with your significant other, friends and family in an effective way. The professor was the least qualified person to teach a conflict communications class, as he had recently been involved in a scandal in which his wife was cheating on him and instead of communicating with her about it, he took out all his pain on his female students.

The class met on Wednesdays from 6:30 to 9 in a small auditorium in a building on campus. No one could understand why we met in this particular place the first day of class, but as we gathered it became clear that we’d be participating in some role playing. Listen, people, I’m more of a backstage, behind the scenes, standing-up-in-front-of-people-gives-me-anxiety kind of girl, so role playing in a class of 35 people wasn’t what I signed up to do. But knowing that I was already starting out with a less than stellar grade from Professor Misogynist, I took my chances.

The first day of class, each person wrote on note cards about three different arguments they’d had in the past. The notes were thrown into a hat and each meeting, students volunteered to “act out” the scenarios the way they were written, and then act them out again the way we should act them out if we weren’t all hot headed college students. Most of them were the typical boyfriend/girlfriend arguments. I'm pretty sure none of us actually succeeded in this little educational experiment.

In addition to the role playing, there were lectures and a textbook. I am a note taker, so I wrote down every word, I highlighted, I circled words and bookmarked. I was determined to learn how to be a better person, to learn how to argue in an educated way. I thought I'd wow friends and future boyfriends with my intelligence and honesty. I thought this class would do it for me.

Until the last class of the semester.

That night we learned that forgiveness, she is a tree. The trunk is the transgression or conflict, and one branch leads to forgiveness through "internal processing", while the other branch leads to forgiveness through dialogue. And these two branches can connect to form a reconciled relationship.


The class was also a split level, so we had graduate and undergraduates in the same place. My professor had to lecture the class, which is comprised of undergrads and graduate students, how to properly cite articles in APA format (even though there is site on the MU Library site that DOES IT FOR YOU). He needed to mention that it is not acceptable to write a sentence beginning with "Our text says..." BECAUSE TEXTS ARE INANIMATE OBJECTS THAT CANNOT SPEAK.

Ahh...the joys and sorrows of communications classes.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Guest Post: Tenaciously Yours Demystifies Shopping a Sale

I discovered Kat at Tenaciously Yours when looking for fellow bloggers in Minnesota. I love her frank writing on fashion, cooking, reading, and wedding planning. I got the awesome chance to meet this fellow frugal chica at a brunch recently, and she is just as adorable and fun as she is in writing. Rare. So please join me in thanking Kat for filling in for me while I tour the streets of San Francisco.

Stephanie is a deal-loving diva like myself and given this common bond of Never Paying Full Price For Anything, I feel like it's time to take our show on the road and preach it.

You can find the cutest, nicest clobber for your closet (NOTHING is off limits!), but unless you want sale-shopping to rival one of Dante's rings of hell, it's usually best to have a few guidelines to keep you in-check and on-track.
We move.

Keep a Wishlist
At any given time, there are HUNDREDS of things (srsly) that I would be more than happy to bring home from the store. But obviously that's just not happening. A la The Secret, you have to put it out into The Universe in order to get it back. So, when I'm dying for a certain item, I utilize the law of large numbers and keep hunting until I find The One.

Know the Sale Cycle
Some stores like Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor LOFT have supply chains that mandate that if an item is a poor seller, it gets pulled from the floor and forced onto the sale rack. If you can wait for a week or two, you should have a good idea of whether or not your item is one of them. Unless the garment you're looking at is going to complete a part of your soul or the time/space-continuum, it's really best to sit on your hands.
With J.Crew, there's sale, final sale, discounted final sale, factory online, discounted factory online and factory online final sale. If you have the willpower/patience, all of the above are great options, depending on what you're looking for. Sometimes I use these channels to try and source a very specific item, but more often than not, I have far more luck when I'm looking for something more general.

Price Adjustments
If you're someone who tends to focus your shopping on a few "favorite" stores, it's always good to know whether or not they offer price adjustments. If they do, know what information they're going to require of you (a receipt? original tags? the same card you charged it on?), what the time frame for adjustments is, and whether or not they'll be willing to make more than one adjustment.
The reality is that sometimes it's just not going to be worth it. The store either isn't in-your-way, the timeframe for turnaround is going to be too tight, or you're going to toss a tag that you have no desire to dumpster dive for. And that's okay.

Have a Spending Threshold
I hate paying more than $30 for a sweater. I will basically buy any top that I have any sort of positive gut-reaction towards if it's under $10. Dresses under $50 always warrant a second look. $20 shoes could be wolves in sheep's clothing, but I find that's usually not the case.
Lesson: If you know how much you're comfortable spending, it will keep you focused on actually finding a bargain.

Quality over Quantity
I used to be That Girl who would bring absolutely anything home. Which was fine. Until I had a closet filled with sub-par crap that would either lose its shape in the wash or shrink in a bizarre and completely unpredictable way. If it makes you raise an eyebrow (unless it falls into the less than $10 top category), PUT IT BACK. And start walking.

Final Sale

If you're extremely comfortable with a store/brand, rock the final sale. I've bought more skirts/tanks/sweaters this way than even I'd care to admit. The fact of the matter is, by the time they get to this point, they're el cheapo.
If you know your size, you trust the brand's reputation for quality and there isn't any damage to the item, it's definitely time to dive-in.
If there is damage to the item, consider: Is the damage visible? Is the damage repairable? I've definitely brought home jackets, skirts, etc. that have either been missing buttons or have been plagued with crappy zippers. Both are easy fixes for those who are comfortable with a needle and thread.

Yes, it's a virtue.
In all seriousness, some days you'll walk into a store and it will seem as if the clothing Gods love you and want you to be happy. And on others, you'll enter at your own peril and be completely repulsed.
Repeat after me: There is no method to this madness.
But in the sale-game, the law of large numbers always wins. If what you're looking for is very brand-specific, don't hesitate to check out another location nearby (I learned this tactic from my girl Linds when we were shopping the Victoria's Secret Semi-Annual Sale in college). Their inventory might be completely different or might just be balanced differently (more tops than sweaters, more dresses than skirts and so on and so forth).

What are your sale shopping tips? Spill it.