Friday, July 29, 2011

Working It Out

So, I had another less than pleasant trip to the nutritionist where ONCE AGAIN I hadn't lost any weight. She tried to silver lining it for me by saying it was good I hadn't gained weight, but it was still beyond frustrating to know that since JANUARY I haven't really maintained a weight loss of more than 2 pounds.

I got depressed and when I get depressed, the only way for me to get out of it is to control my life in some way. So I sat and looked at my options and decided the best thing for me was to join a gym.

I've been working out largely to On Demand Comcast workout videos and walking with the pup. In the past, I've had good luck with gyms. I just haven't belonged to one in awhile because a) they're expensive and b) they require time commitments longer than my marriage.

My neighbor and former daycare lady (yeah, remind me to tell you the story of the new daycare dilemma) works out at one of those 24-hour gyms down the street. Most importantly, she sees a person trainer there she loves. I decided this was the way to go. A personal trainer would NOT let me cheat, and while it would be an expense, it would be worth it to get these last 10 pounds out of the way.

I downloaded a two-week pass. I knew exactly how this would go. And I was right on.

You bring in the pass. A very aggressive, very jacked dude asks you about how committed you REALLY are to fitness. He shows you around the club, he highlights the awesomeness of the facility, and then he tells you he has this awesome deal for you if you will only trade in your two-week pass for a membership.

You guys? I told everyone near me that I was NOT going to fall for it. I was going to use my two-week pass and take my time to make the right decision.

But then the guy told me it's only $30 a month for this gym and I get a free personal training session. And I also get 10% off with a company discount.

I figured I couldn't beat that, until I signed the contract and realized it was for 18 months. I balked. The monthly cost would go up significantly if I did anything less than 18 months. But suddenly I became the 16-year-old dude who needs space.

I mean, I like you. I just don't know if I like you that way.

But I felt pressured and signed. And immediately regretted it.

Have you guys experienced this kind of buyer's remorse? Where you're frantically looking through the loophole in the contract?

In my case, the loophole was I had three days to cancel.

I went back to my research and did another calculation and realized that if I bought a membership to the Community Center, it would be about half the cost. In fact, if I bought a family membership, it was still $100 less than this would be.

So I decided I'd do a test workout at the Community Center and do a pro/con list when I was done.

I present to you, my pro/con list. Also known as "Did I seriously choose the more expensive gym because it has ESPN?"

So I talked it over with Scott and he broke it down for me. Where would I actually go? Which gym would really motivate me to show up? Because even if it's cheaper for a year, if I have trouble parking and get frustrated and can't do the workout I want to because of the crowds, is it worth it?

So I didn't exercise (pun intended) my three-day out option and have been working out quite a bit at the new gym. I'm going to pull the trigger on the personal trainer soon and see if that's something I want to add on for a bit.

Have you experienced buyer's remorse? Do you belong to a gym? Do you actually go? Do you make pro/con lists for things?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What the Quesadilla is a Fajita???

So the other day, the roommate and I are hanging out watching Lifetime movies. As we do. Wee 'Burb was engaged with her blocks and the roommate and I were engaged in our normal movie dialogues that go something like this:

Me: That dude is totally gay. We're to believe he's hanging with Tori Spelling?

Roommate: He's beyond gay. But then, Tori Spelling is built like a guy. Or would be if she didn't have the fake boobies.

From a pile of blocks I hear "GAYYY!" and then a moment later "BOO-BIES!"

Aaaand it's here.

Wee 'Burb has begun to pick up on the words of others.

To say all of us have a potty mouth is rather like saying Kim Kardashian has a slightly large posterior.

Over dinner, we hatched a plan. We would come up with code words to mask our swearing.

What? We're supposed to give up swearing? Please!

So our system was naturally food-related. We determined the answer to our problem was: Mexican Food.

And now our dialogues go something like this:

Me: What the fajita is that quesadilla WEARING??

Roommate: I don't know, but her chimichangas are hanging out of that dress.

Scott: What the frijole are you talking about??

Wee 'Burb is none the wiser and right up until it's Taco Tuesday and daycare and we have some 'splainin to do, it's working for us.

How do you deal with the swearing around little kids? Are you able to just tone it down or do you use code words? My parents used Pig Latin!

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Corer Was Our Separator

Before we get started here, I'm looking for some good folks to guest post for me in August. Comment here or shoot me an e-mail if you're interested.

Recently, I've been reliving my wedding planning with Kat from Tenaciously Yours. Go visit her and offer your congrats on her recent wedding, which if the pictures are any judge, was a complete party.

I wasn't much into wedding planning myself. I was probably the worst bride, not in a Bridezilla way, but in whatever the opposite is. I just couldn't bring myself to care what colors the tablecloth were or whether the flowers matched the cake. Just didn't care.

I only really cared that I looked good in my dress, people had fun, and the groom showed up.

Also? I kind of cared about the registry.

Our registry was a challenge, our first real one in wedding planning. We had made most of our other wedding decisions very quickly (a necessity since we got engaged in February and married in October), but the registry was a bit of a stumble for us.

Scott was of the mind that we should go for the big ticket items, as we already had between us some of the best kitchen tools out there. I was of the mind that if we went for big ticket items, we'd get nothing from our registry and people would take to buying us what they THINK we should have, and spending the week after my wedding in return lines was less than appealing to me.

So we compromised and agreed we would do one registry at Target for the more reasonable registry items and Williams-Sonoma for our more extravagant wants and needs.

Scott virtually skipped into Williams-Sonoma on registry day. Under normal circumstances, we do not enter this store because I begin howler monkey screeching: "$25 for a measuring cup?? I could get four of those at Target for half the price!!"

So knowing he had carte blanche to wander and admire and shoot a gun at items in Williams-Sonoma may have made him happier than me saying I would marry him.

I began to dream of wine glasses, mugs, and serving ware when I heard my name shouted across the store.

Scott was standing near a saleswoman whose eyes told me she was getting commission and was about to buy herself a new living room set.

Thank God I was smart enough to keep the gun myself, but I wandered over and indulgently smiled at the saleswoman. She showed us what I like to call the "trinket aisle." You know the one, right? Magnetic conversion charts, mini spatulas, cookie cutters.

And the piece de resistance: a pineapple slicer and corer.

I wish I had taken a picture of Scott's face when he saw this.

Never mind we had never had a pineapple in our time together. Never mind that we had registered for some very expensive knives that would quite easily cut a pineapple.


I could not talk him out of it.

In retaliation, I registered for a cow coffee creamer. The creamer comes out of the cow's mouth in a barf-like manner.

Source: Williams-Sonoma
So we do the gift opening, and I get the cow coffee creamer and everyone who has heard our story dies laughing.

Scott is slightly pouting. We are corer-less.

For Christmas this past year, my parents broke down and bought Scott the pineapple corer and slicer.

Scott, this is the closest you'll get to a "you were right."

I confess, we do buy pineapple once a month or so. I confess, the pineapple corer and slicer is pretty slick. I confess getting a whole pineapple and cutting it is more economical. I confess a grilled pineapple is one of the most amazing summer treats ever.

Allow me to demonstrate:

Cut the top off the pineapple.


Corer goes in. I totally forgot to cut off the bottom of the pineapple. Rookie mistake.

So I had to cut the skin off the sides.

Out comes the core! Easy peasy!

Cut up to put on the grill. Is there ANYTHING better than pineapple on the grill????
So what registry arguments did you have, or what is on your dream registry when you get hitched?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Pay or Play?

Thanks to those of you who voted for Dress Me for Date Night. It's between 2 and 3 for me right now, we'll have to see how I feel. It was fun for me to see the comments, though! Thanks for playing!

Growing up, we had varying rules about allowance and chores. During the summer when we stayed at a guest house in Cape Cod, we got a quarter to make our beds every day. This quarter was then happily spent on getting a total (sugar) high at the local penny candy store.

Sometimes we got $5 a week to do our assigned chores, and then later in life we basically had to do what the parents told us in return for money to go out and access to the car. So there was no set allowance. As I was a total loser in high school and didn't do more than go to a movie on occasion, I feel I was a pretty cheap date as far as allowances went.

But I made up for it by going to a rather expensive college.
Scott and I have loosely talked about what we're going to do for allowances when Wee 'Burb is big enough for these things. My thought was about $10 a week or so with the understanding that $1 of it goes to the church each week, sort of an early lesson in saving and giving to good causes.

Then I read this on the Wall Street Journal:

A rising proportion of parents are adopting the pay-for-work view, based on a new survey. A surprising 71% of parents will pay their kids for doing chores this summer, according to a June 2011 survey of 2,004 consumers. And they’re going beyond pocket change, paying an average $25 a month just for doing laundry, says the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker. No comparable data from previous Tracker surveys is available.

I don't think $25 a month is astronomical on its face, although I do think it is for doing one chore. Growing up I standardly unloaded the dishwasher, cleaned the bathroom, and vacuumed upstairs. I also, as I mentioned, was at the whim of my parents to do additional chores as needed.

Other friends growing up had chore wheels, chore jars, or other ways in which the chores were rotated.

And yet others were never paid for chores. But some were paid for grades, which I found odd. Why, I wonder, do I think paying for chores teaches responsibility and time management, but paying for grades is somehow grandiose? Aren't we paid for performance often at work?

Still others never had to do chores. Their parents felt they were children and should enjoy childhood. Incidentally, these were the kids at college who looked at the washing machine like it was the sphynx.

I feel like it's about expectations, and also about money management and I am just not sure the best way to instill those values. Also, given that Wee 'Burb is only 20 months, who's to say the rules won't change? On $5 a week I could at least go to a movie. Nowadays $5 won't get you in the door!

I'm curious, how did you handle this in your house growing up? How do you do it now, or plan to do it in the future? Do you and your significant other have different views on this issue?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

You Don't Know Me! Death By Chocolate Chip

Since I have doubled my readership in the last few months (thanks for coming to see me!) I've decided to do a little experiment. On Thursdays I'll be posting some items from the first year of blogging under the title You Don't Know Me!
Posted originally in May 2010.

Oh my gosh, I almost experienced ACTUAL death by chocolate! You hear about it, but you don’t think it’s true. And then, it happens to you.

So, my girlfriend and I get together once a week or so and have movie nights. We pick completely random movies at least one of us hasn’t seen and we take turns hosting. It’s all very low key and relaxing: the host provides dinner (usually Chinese) and the guest provides dessert and booze.

So it’s my turn to go to her house and I am having a bad week. Like just record-breaking blahs. And while nothing cures the blahs like a good old-fashioned movie night, the idea of getting in the car and getting there just exhausts. So adding extra stops for booze and dessert? Forget it. So there’s a liquor store nearby that I know keeps champagne cold and I am in a cheap champagne mood.

Next door is a little Mexican gas station/taco stand. Yup, you read that right. In the middle of the country…in a gas station. Anyway, I get the lightbulb that I can just go ahead and buy the “dessert” right there in the gas station. So I go in looking for a bag of cookies. I’ll say this: bless my friend for loving cheap cookies and even cheaper booze. I’ve cooked for her and she’s graciously eaten it all, but I swear nothing makes the girl happier than a bag of Milanos and that’s why we’re friends.

Only this isn’t exactly that kind of gas station/taco stand, know what I mean? They’re selection isn’t exactly vast. But for some reason in my exhaustion, I find this funny and so end up purchasing the rather festive-looking cookie box you see here. Cute, right? She’s making a little Russian dish for me so I figure I’ll bring her a little Spanish dish of my own.

So I pay and leave and go get my champagne. I’ve parked between the liquor store and the gas station/taco stand, so about 20 feet from both. I am in my car, about to shut the door when I hear this little voice call out to me in a thick Mexican accent “hellooooo?” So I turn around and a Mexican man wearing an apron is waving at me. But he’s not moving off the sidewalk by the store. He’s just like yelling to me, which kind of weirds me out.

I start to stress a little because this is a small parking lot and it’s empty. And also, irrationally, I’m freaked out about speaking Spanish. I hate when I do this! The thing is: I know Spanish. And I know in situations like this, where he’s gearing up for a big conversation, I could probably speak Spanish and cut through it all much quicker.

Instead, I panic. I do this totally circular self-fulfilling prophecy when it comes to my fluency in Spanish. I am, in fact, half Puerto Rican. And also, in fact, am fluent in Spanish. But you get me around native speakers and I just melt into my little Irish girl half. I don’t know what it is. Well, that’s not true, I do. I am self-conscious about sounding stupid so I won’t speak it in front of native speakers. Which means I don’t speak it often. Which means when I DO have to speak it, it sounds awkward and I stutter and then that makes me not want to speak it in front of native speakers.

Ok, so all of this is going through my mind as I stare blankly at him. So he asks “how much did you pay for those cookies?”

So, remember I’m tired, right? Bad week? A million things are going through my mind like “did I overpay? Underpay? Is he going to tell me I got ripped off? Does he have some sort of cheap cookie connection he wants to introduce me to?

Side note: this is why I can’t do yoga anymore. My brain REFUSES to slow down and make sense. And it for sure won’t stop to concentrate on my breathing. The classes were TORTURE for me. The whole time, my mind would be going a mile a minute: “that girl shouldn’t wear such short shorts; I hope nobody is behind me, if they’re behind me they’ll see how fat my ass is; I wonder what would happen if I fell over right now? Would they laugh or are they too zen for that? Because I would laugh, but I also can’t do a perfect tree pose without falling over, so they’re all better than me.” And then the worst part is the end when you’re just supposed to lay there and like reflect on the beauty of a dewdrop on the water or whatever? Yeah, then I go into overdrive: “Okay, so just turn off, brain. We won’t think about anything. Is thinking about not thinking about something thinking about it? I should stop. The person next to me looks very serene. Crap! I’m supposed to have my eyes closed. But so is the instructor so if she calls me out, then she’s just a phony, right?” And then all of a sudden it’s like “Namaste” and I feel totally gypped.

Anyway, so I told the man I paid $3.99 for the cookies. And he says “too much, they’re really bad, you should get your money back.” And I’m like, wow, there are lots of things in life I don’t like, but I can’t think of a time that I’ve actually stood outside to persuade someone not to do it. I mean that’s ballsy! So I shout back “well, I don’t mind giving them a try” because I can’t imagine going back in and explaining to the man behind the counter that the other dude who sells tacos told me these cookies sucked and could you please return my $3.99, thank you? It’s just too awkward.

So I see him turn and look at someone, who I later realize is the dude who sold me the cookies, and then he says “they’re old!” And again, stupid brain goes, old, like old school? And I start thinking about pop rocks and other candy I haven’t seen in awhile and maybe he’s just letting me know that his generation is smarter about these things and therefore knows that they’re total crap cookies.

And he’s getting more and more riled up. And I’m getting more and more weirded out because, dude, no matter what you say, I’m not getting out of my car to return the cookies. The whole reason I got them at your gas station/taco stand was because I was too lazy to go down the street to the multiple grocery stores or gas stations I could encounter that would have had Milanos instead of your, apparently, crap cookies.

And for some reason this like rebellious teenager in me comes out and I’m thinking: “well, now I will try the damn cookies and I will love them. Who tells me not to like cookies?” The gall! And again while I am doing this he is frantically whispering to the dude who sold me the cookies and finally as I am putting my seat belt on yells “expired! They expired! It would be better for you to return.”

And now I’m just embarrassed. And guilty because maybe if I had just spoken Spanish to the guy we would have been on the same page. Only I don’t know the Spanish word for expired. Crap, my fluency is fading.

So I’m feeling bad in general because I was all “I should speak English, it’s better” and made him struggle to explain to me the cookies I purchased were bad. And also feeling bad because first I’ve pegged this guy as some sort of back-alley cookie connection, then as some sort of anti-cookie crank, when in reality all he’s doing is trying not to poison me. I’m too embarrassed to reply so I just wave and take off.

I stop a ways down the road. And sure as hell: expired June 2009. Think about that. Think about the shelf life of a crappy generic cookie. I think that cookie could have been made while I still had braces on!

But don’t think for a second I wasn’t still tempted to try the cookies. Instead, $3.99 down the tubes.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Guest Post: Lola's Fear of (Not) Flying

It's that time again! My good buddy Lola is taking over my blog. I have a month until my vacation when I get to fly with a toddler, so this is not the feel-good story of the year. And yet, totally relatable.

Hands up, who here has gotten seriously drunk on an airplane? Two weeks ago, I would have gasped in ladylike horror at such a notion. Maybe even clutched my pearls.

But not anymore.

I hope you will not judge me too harshly, I had a good excuse (old Lola: sure, that’s what they all say!). And in my defense, I did not start any arguments with the flight attendant, didn’t get the federal marshals involved, nor did I activate the inflatable escape slide, as giddy with drunken delight as I was. Come on, those things look like fun! Totally just one of those backyard slides, only with a freezing ocean at the end…

Really, Delta is to blame. Things started out innocently enough with my first flight landing on time. I casually strolled out, determined to hit a few duty-free shops during the four-hour layover. But first, I needed my boarding pass (for some stupid reason, I was only issued one for the first half of my trip).

So I casually moseyed up to the counter, even letting a nice elderly couple ahead of me, that’s how good of a mood I was in. Finally, it’s my turn. The check-in lady fiddles with my itinerary. But instead of handing me a boarding pass with a beaming smile and sending me on my way, she furrows her brow.


But I’m telling myself to stay positive. Maybe all this means is that I won’t get a window seat. She keeps at the keyboard. Clickety-clack. Okay, now I’m getting REALLY nervous. Finally, she looks up and tells me with a nice Dutch accent that my flight is almost done boarding.

Um, excuse me?? I have four hours! Oh no, no, she tells me. My flight leaves in 20 minutes! Oh, and my bag is already on board.

I think I am going to throw up on her nice counter. She picks up the phone and starts chatting away to someone in Dutch, which is when I hear the following message over the PA system: “Lola, you are delaying the flight. Please board immediately, or we will proceed to offload your luggage.”

Dear God, this harkened me back to the time I was paged to the principle’s office over the intercom in sixth grade. Only now, my precious luggage is in just as much trouble, is probably getting suspected of containing a bomb, possibly getting sniffed by police dogs and getting rudely kicked off the plane. A plane it wasn’t even supposed to be on because THIS IS NOT MY FLIGHT!!

And the Check-in Lady of Doom? Still chatting. In Dutch.

Finally, FINALLY she hangs up after what felt like three hours. “Well, I managed to move you to the five o’clock flight,” she tells me wearily. Chatting in Dutch can wear one out, I hear. “It leaves in four hours.”

Yes, the flight I was SUPPOSED TO BE ON!

Of course now, my thoughts turn back to my bag. She assures me the bag was taken off the departing flight and will make it to the later one. I remain skeptical. I mean, if Delta can’t even keep their passengers on the right flights, what chance is there for humble luggage?! Even for pretty, dark burgundy luggage that’s probably getting abused by luggage handlers as we speak.

Still, I clutch onto my hard-earned boarding pass and walk away. The whole time, I feel like it’s going to get snatched away. I keep checking the boarding time over and over, afraid that I didn’t read it right or something. I even show up at the gate an hour early just to make sure I’m going to be on the right flight.

Finally, it’s time to board. The flight is, of course, full. And one row down from me, something ain’t right – an older woman in a cardigan is arguing about something with a young Asian guy. Then flight attendants get involved.

Apparently, both of them have a boarding pass for the exact same seat! Gulp.

A little while later, poor Cardigan Woman gets loaded off into nowhere – as much as I’m straining to hear the conversation, I can’t quite tell how they managed to mess up the flight manifest this time.

Of course, this throws me into total panic mode for a second time. I keep waiting for someone to show up and claim my seat.

Somehow, I don’t think “I was here first!” is going to cut it. So I eye each passenger walking up the aisle with psycho suspicion, chanting to myself: “keep walking, keep walking, keep walking.” The nice German gentleman next to me is probably thinking about switching seats. I can’t blame him.

And then, they finally close the doors.

Thank you, sweet Jesus! I’m GOING HOME! So yes, in celebration, I proceeded to get exceedingly tipsy. Can you blame a girl?

How about you, what’s your awful travel story?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dress Me For Date Night

So last week we covered that I had zero wardrobe staples and was a hot mess in the clothing department.

I've since done some shopping. I was going to present an array of options for you, but as it is 117 degrees here today and the rest of the week, we'll be wearing the only cute skirt I own, which was purchased for $11 on eBay.

I'll show you the other stuff I bought on my next date night.

So some of may recall for Christmas, I bought Scott The 12 Dates of Christmas. Basically once a month we go to a different spot we've always wanted to go. This month we are going to The Nicollet Island Inn.

Without further ado, here are my wardrobe options. As I do not have any technological know-how, I can't do an actual poll so please comment here on what you think I should wear.

Oooh, one last thing! I totally need to do dry cleaning, so forgive the wrinkles on all my clothing. I'll get my act together before date night, I'm not that big of a slob.

Option 1: Cardigan from Banana Republic, Tank from The Gap, and my eBay Ann Taylor Skirt.

Option 2: Tank by Ann Taylor

Option 3: Cardigan: Herbergers, Tank: Ann Taylor

Option 4

 Option 5: Blazer and Top by Kohls

Friday, July 15, 2011

Can Babies Baby-Sit???

A few weeks ago, our neighbor's 11-year-old came over to sell me some cookies. Long-time readers will recall I am a SUCKER for solicitors, so of COURSE I bought some.

This was also around the time we were faced with a big change: our daycare provider announced she would need surgery and would be out for 6 weeks. We were debating whether we wanted to try to find a nanny or whether we wanted to start really looking at other daycares.

We had been seeing a lot of fliers around the area for summer helpers, and it was a consideration. Then this girl came to my door. She didn't even bring up baby-sitting!

So I don't know why my reaction was the way it was.

I just looked at Scott and said "no way."

Now, this girl is awesome. She's smart and sweet, she gets great grades, she's responsible enough to be left at home for a few hours each evening.

She's me at 11 years old.

When I was 11 we moved into a new neighborhood and I papered the area with fliers. Using my mother's very new Print Shop program, I created adorable little diapered-baby covered business cards with my name and address and phone number.

Would you ever allow your kid to do this now?? Of course not! It's like an invitation for a pedophile, right?

It was a simpler time.

Within weeks, I had three different gigs. One was for a 6-month-old infant down the street.

At 11 years old.

You guys? I looked at this neighbor girl and thought "absolutely not." This little person hasn't even gone through puberty, she's going nowhere near my daughter.

And it's not just me.

When Wee 'Burb was in center daycare and I took my dad, he got a little flustered. When we got in the car, he whispered "she's kind of...young, right?"

She was probably 19. At 17 I was working in a daycare center, running an entire kindergarten-age room by myself.

But he was right. She was kind of young.

I can't figure out why this reaction was so visceral. I feel awful about it. I was a great baby-sitter. I took the Red Cross Baby-Sitting Course. My mother was down the street. I was great with kids. They loved me. I wanted to form my own Baby-Sitters Club right then and there.

What are your thoughts? Do you let your older kids baby-sit? What age is your baby-sitter? Am I just being insane?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

You Don't Know Me! The Slap Heard 'Round the Churchyard

Since I have doubled my readership in the last few months (thanks for coming to see me!) I've decided to do a little experiment. On Thursdays I'll be posting some items from the first year of blogging under the title You Don't Know Me!

I hope that's not blog cheating. I'll still be posting my usual three times a week, so stop clutching your pearls and enjoy.

I’ve been on sort of an endless search for new parent friends since we moved to the boonies. Not to replace my existing friends (hi, guys, love you, thanks for being my only readers), but to supplement them so we have local people to talk to about schools, where to get the best deals on soap…or whatever the hell parent friends talk about, I honestly don’t know.

One of the brilliant ideas I came up with is church. I’ve never been much of a church-goer and I could bore you with all my philosophical and political reasons for that, but this isn’t that kind of blog. But religion is important to Scott and knowing he wanted to raise all the Wee ‘Burbs we manage to pop out in the church meant I had to find one I liked. And since the actual message didn’t matter a lot to me (again except for political ones I’ll keep to myself), I set off trying to find a church with a lot of young families.

So we found a great one near us with a 10:45 mass so on the blessed days when I can sleep in, we can still make it. And it happens to be a children’s mass, which means loads of young parents. So I spend most of my time in church scouting for potential friends. I’m aware this makes me both pathetic and a heathen, but there it is. You married me for better or worse, Scott! Love you.

Anyway, so when we officially joined the church to get Wee ‘Burb baptized, we were told they host occasional welcome dinners where they “pair up” veteran parishioners with new ones for a nice dinner at the priest’s house. Once I got over the initial “Oh my GOD…I mean gosh…we’re going to eat…at the priest’s house? Like talk to him one-on-one? Like he’s a person or something?” spaz, I agreed to go.

So we got in our finest “Priest’s House Casual BBQ” clothes (thank goodness I’ve become accustomed to being overdressed since I moved back here) and went to dinner. I’m not sure how much “matching” went into this particular gathering. Let’s just say there were repeated comments like “ohhh, I have a granddaughter your age.” I did bond with one woman who recently started working at home, and we did share our guilt over doing laundry between calls, but the conversation grew awkward when she said she had a daughter “not much older than me” who turned out to have a 18-year-old graduating from high school. Um, okay? Time for Stephanie to invest in Botox, apparently.

Anyway, I look over and see that Scott has found the only other couple there who are under 40. Jackpot! We’ll ignore the fact that the dude was wearing a cowboy hat…desperate times and all that. So I go over and schmooze the wife and find out they have an 8-year-old boy and are in their late 30s. They also didn’t know a ton of people outside of their family, having moved to the area only a few years ago. A few glasses of chardonnay, and I’m thinking we have found our soulmates, cowboy hat and all.

Scott tells me later in the evening, about 5 minutes into the conversation, Cowboy Hat had already insulted him. Scott was discussing how he has every tool known to man and Cowboy Hat says “maybe if you relied on manual labor instead of tools, you’d lose some weight.” Um, excuse me? I should note that Cowboy Hat was NOT A SMALL MAN.

But whatever, I didn’t know this and Scott is nicer than me and didn’t tell me until much later. So, we’re gathered in a circle after the worst meal I’ve ever had (if you can call sausage stew and Skinny Cow ice cream a meal) courtesy of what the priest had the gall to call “the catering committee.” Sorry, but my God doesn’t look kindly on people who pretend store-bought cupcakes and lowfat ice cream sandwiches is “dessert.”

So we’re gathered in the circle and we’re instructed to tell everyone what brought us to the church. Most people have simple stories. Live in the area, heard about it, liked the look of the church, the usual. One guy rambled on how he knew the priest from seminary school, but then married a fiery Argentinian who got shot at when she visited the Mall of America. Yeah, I don’t know, either.

Then it’s Cowboy Hat’s turn. And he begins to ramble about how he hated the other churches, naming priests by NAME who apparently take too long to say the “Our Father” for his tastes.

People uncomfortably giggle and the priest nods a little and sort of clasps his hands, waiting for this to be over. But Cowboy Hat is just gearing up! He continues to go on about how it is his personal mission to put signs on the cars of everyone who is late saying “don’t bother to come in” because people stumble in about 5 minutes into service. Granted, he’s not wrong here, people are late in ways that make me anxious as a girl who attended church only on special occasions and was told “10 minutes early is 5 minutes late” and was forced to wear Sunday best while everyone else wore jeans.

Anyway, this goes on for like 5 minutes and then I have to follow him! And I am momentarily speechless, partly because I’m actually not 100% sure he’s done. But he solemnly nods at me like “good luck following THAT, sweetheart” and I manage to squeak out we wanted a place with lots of kids and we liked the sermons and the evening continues at a more normal pace.

Until about an hour, and (apparently) a few beers, later for Cowboy Hat. He is telling a story by the firepit to the priest about going to Easter mass with his nieces and nephews. He’s explaining to the priest that back in the day, if he was talking during mass, he would get a swift backhand to the head and then he PROCEEDS TO DEMONSTRATE ON HIS WIFE!

You could hear the smack followed by just total silence until Scott gasps to the woman next to him “did that dude just hit his wife??!!” and the woman nods and Cowboy Hat abuser has now realized what he’s done and pats her head and said something like “that was harder than the demonstration required.”

Um, it required NO demonstration!

I was waiting for the priest to get out his appointment book then and there for a little marital counseling, but instead they made their excuses that they had to go pick up their kid and we followed shortly thereafter. We were silent for the walk down the street to our car and when we were belted in, Scott looked at me and said, “seriously, did that guy hit his wife??!!”

Yes, yes he did. And with that slap went any hopes of parental bonding.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Guide to the Styleless

I recently got a friendly little note from our local charity requesting that I donate some clothing, as I have in years past. I thought this was a good time to do some of that spring cleaning people are always talking July.

So I took everything out of my closet and drawers and began a purging the likes of which I haven't experienced since I moved from junior high to high school and declared all my clothing "utterly juvenile."

As a side note, my mother hates watching us toss clothes. She still wears some of those junior high toss-outs. If you see a woman sporting a Snoopy Chicago Bulls sweatshirt, say hey to Mommy Suburbia.

I was ruthless. Anything I hadn't worn in two years (I gave myself some leeway considering last year I was still trying to shed the baby weight) went in to the garbage bag.

Two garbage bags later I was met with a sobering fact: I have no good clothes.

I'm in that awful weight loss place where I've lost enough weight to look odd in my regular clothes, but not quite enough to be a size smaller.

I kept the pieces I could tailor, but I was still left with a closet FULL of empty hangers.

Not having an unlimited budget and being slightly wary of maintaining this size, I began whining seeking help from those closest to me to figure out what it is I needed.

My roommate is a Tim Gunn aficionado and pointed me out to this list of his 10 Essential Items Every Woman Needs:
  1. Basic black dress
  2. Trench coat
  3. Classic dress pants
  4. Classic white shirt
  5. Skirt
  6. Blazer
  7. Day dress
  8. Cashmere sweater
  9. Jeans
  10.  A comfortable alternative to a sweatsuit

 Um, you guys? I have #2, #4 and a lot of #9 in varying stages of saggy butt.
So I consulted Twitter to see what real people considered their top wardrobe must-haves:

Nope: don't have either of these!

I totally have both, but the yoga pants are super stretched out. Not appropriate for outdoor wear.

I kind of hate my black pants.

I do have some jeans I love. They are Kut from the Kloth and they're great! I wear them everywhere.

Cous Cous ate my favorite black heels. My cardigan is too big now.

Sigh, jeans are seriously the only thing I have of this list!!!

Clearly, some shopping was in order. So 4th of July I went out to the malls with my roommate, and promptly came back sobbing hysterically.

Nothing looked right. Here I was with an actual shopping budget, and a desire to buy quality pieces versus my usual cheap pants that will last me 6 months and end up in the next donation bag.

I found nothing.
Fueled by terror at my empty closet, I took to the Internet. I've always done better with online shopping, anyway. I don't have to look at the size 0, I can immediately find my size with a click of a button, and most importantly I can try it on with a glass of wine in the comfort of my own bedroom, where only the dog has to witness my sobbing.
Next week I'll show you my purchases in a feature I am calling Dress Me For Date Night.
Meanwhile, what are your wardrobe staples? Have you ever been faced with the dreaded empty closet?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Cubicle Condundrums: An Etiquette Guide

I didn't post on Friday, though if I am being honest, you may not have noticed. And that's okay.

Honestly, after a week of barely escaping a major downsizing with my job, getting a new boss, being cordially invited to the office where all my new co-workers go and barely escaping with my telecommuting status intact...I just didn't have it in me. To be 100% honest, the posts I put up last week happened to be ones I already had in draft.

My energy was sapped.

I am grateful for my job, grateful for some new opportunities, but still in a bit of mourning for the co-workers who didn't get so lucky. Good people in bad circumstances.

I was able to get a little tension out by having some fun on Twitter. Because, really, if you can't have fun there, you can't have fun anywhere.

It took very little time for me to remember why I hated having to work in an office. As I began to complain about overhearing very personal things about someone's pregnancy and weekend plans, I must have hit a nerve because Twitter blew up with people sharing their cubicle nightmares.

I submit a few to you:

E.T. No Phone Home

Courtesy of The Random Blogette, who experienced a co-worker who only used speaker phone for all their calls, I submit to you rule #1: thou shalt not use the phone above a reasonable volume. Also? Don't use said phone for personal things.

We almost all have cell phones now, take a five-minute walk to a private area, outside, or in your car to do your personal business.

When I was in the office, there was a chick we referred to as "Rectal Chick" because we heard such horrific details about various medical procedures she was undergoing. When she got pregnant, all bets were off. I think I may have known before her husband did. She proceeded to do nurseline calls discussing very unpleasant symptoms, interviewed daycares (when she was approximately 10 weeks pregnant) and tell every client how tired she was all the time.

While I worked at the office I planned a wedding and bought a house, and I can count on one hand the number of times I EVER spoke about those things on the phone in the office. Much less something as personal as my lady business.

No Hour is Happy Outside of a Bathroom

Courtesy of Terri at Creative Pathways, rule #2: thou shalt not hold cocktail hour in your cube.

When I was in the office, I had the grave misfortune of having a cubicle right by the bathroom hallway. Not wanting to be so tacky as to hold a conversation in the bathroom itself (vulgar, that), ladies would convene and lean AGAINST my cubicle walls and continue to host "personal" conversations. That word is in quotes for a reason.

What makes otherwise rational adults think 4-foot-carpeted grey walls insulate people from your very private thoughts? I do not wish to know your son has problems with coke and is marrying a common street whore, I actually have work to do!

I went so far as to put up a sign saying "Working Area: Quiet Please" and someone had the unmitigated gall to lean AGAINST the sign so long it fell off, while regaling coworkers with tales of her messy divorce.

Groom in the Proper Room

Also courtesy of the Random Blogette, who desperately needs a telecommuting situation, rule #3: bathroom behaviors are for that room and that room only. I've experienced the gamut of this behavior, including putting on perfume, deodorant, letting one loose, loudly blowing noses...but the worst ever was at one of my first jobs when someone would constantly cut their nails. I pray to everything holy it was their fingernails, but the CLIP sound haunts me to this day. Honestly? I'm a bathroom habit prude. I do not put makeup on in public, I do not allow Scott to cut his toenails in front of me, and I close the bathroom door whenever humanly possible (I do have a toddler now, so those boundaries get pushed). Although you are there for half your day and it may feel like it, your cubicle is not your house. And it certainly is not your bathroom.

I'm sure there are a million more, so while I try to get adjusted to a new life and count my blessings, please share with me what your office no-nos are.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Here in My Car, I'm Safest of All?

I learned to drive in Arizona, a few months before I was set to leave it for Minnesota. As part of the driver's ed course, you had to learn highway driving. This was a bit of a challenge where I lived. There were no real highways.

The one there was led directly to Mexico.

So, picture if you will, a 15-year-old Stephanie, slightly rageful at the injustice of having to move away my junior year, even more rageful about moving back to the town where I grew up. A town I did not have fond memories of. Rage Stephanie is yawning and rolling her eyes and waiting for her turn at driving.

The turn finally comes and I try not to get distracted by the demonstration of the instructor on how he can make me brake any ole time he felt like it. The car jerks as he shows me and I sigh heavily. Finally, he lets me go on my own.

I do okay, I'm gripping the wheel tight at 10 and 2 and following directions. And then all of a sudden I see THE SIGN.

Border Crossing Ahead.

I start trying to swerve wildly, only my instructor has caught on to my terror and is controlling the wheel.

As I am hyperventilating, he is repeating over and over "we are not going to cross the border, we are not going to cross the border" and he's giving me instructions on where the turn-off is to not cross the border, only all I am hearing is white noise as I imagine my little 15-year-old self trying to slow through the checkpoint.

I will hit a guard. I will be put in Mexican prison. I will surely die in Mexican prison, and the worst part is, since I know Spanish, I'll hear all about their death plot long before it's carried out.

I don't know how we got to the turnoff, but I insisted on getting out of the car and wouldn't drive the rest of the lesson.

This experience and parallel parking were all I could think of when I went to take my driver's test.

I had practiced this more, of course. I had been allowed to drive my mother's van approximately three times: each time she apparently thought she had the driver's ed car and frantically stomped her feet on the floor to make me brake. When she wasn't doing this, she was gripping the door handle as if planning a quick roll-out escape should I try to take her across the border.

I was wired, remembering everything I had to check off to satisfy the license people. I took the written test first. You had to pass the written before they even allowed you behind the wheel. I just about bit through my lip in anticipation.

And then the man handed me my test back, I had passed!! I tried not to jump up and down, fearing points off for excessive celebration.

And then it got better.

He handed me my license paperwork! I had been approved! For a license! Without taking the behind the wheel test!!! I must have looked a little surprised because he said the name of my driving school and I nodded and he said "happy birthday" and went on to his next person.

I kept it together until I got outside and then squealed like a schoolgirl. My mom smirked in confusion, and handed me a gift. It was my first set of keys, my very own. Complete with pepper spray (I suspect this was my dad's doing).

Awhile later I found out that the driver's ed school I took was certified about a week before my birthday to give the behind the wheel as part of the class. While the class I took was not qualified, they just saw the qualification stamp on the name of the school and asked no further questions.

To this day I have never had to take a behind the wheel exam. But I am a kick-ass parallel parker. I dare you to let me prove it!

What was your first driving experience? Did you pass your first time? What was on your first keychain?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Keeping the Home Fires Burning

On one very hot day in May when my husband was away, I looked at my roommate and declared "I am going to have to use the grill."

We've had the grill since we moved into our house three years ago now. I refused to touch it. Refused, in fact, to go near it until early spring when Scott insisted I learn how to turn it on.

Luckily for all of us, the instructions on turning this machine on are also on the grill itself. Yet, still, I held my breath.

When it was time to hit the ingite button, I scooted as far back as humanly possible so that only the EDGE of my finger was near enough to be singed off when the entire thing exploded. I mean, let's face it, I would NOT look cute sans eyebrows.

In a frightening WHOOSH, the thing was alive and I was cooking with gas.

I managed to burn neither myself nor my dinner.

I was pretty damn proud of myself. But also still totally petrified of the grill.

During another heat spell here in Minnesota, I bucked up. Because I telecommute, I am the one who is responsible for at least getting dinner started. And there was no way said dinner was going to be made in my house.

Having not experienced my first success at the grill, I was excited to show Scott what I knew. And to my delight, so was he. In fact, three grilled meals later, he declared me a Grill Mastress.

For Father's Day I suggested we grill and asked him what he wanted. He gave me the menu and then dropped this little bomb: he was turning the tongs over to me!

You read that right, the man told me I was a better griller than he, and that I should go with my strengths.

My strengths being, I think, an ability to not open the grill to check on meat 100 times in five minutes, therefore regulating the grill temperature to some degree of accuracy.

Anyway, I was only too glad to take the task on, feeling like kind of a badass. Kind of like the first time in my single life I used an electric drill and did a Tim Allen grunt before putting together my Target bookshelf.

You know who wasn't glad? Scott's dad. HORRIFIED, in fact. Throughout the entire dinner, he just kept shaking his head and said "can't believe you turned grilling over to your wife. It's the only thing we men can do other than sit and drink beer."

Well, no argument on the latter part, anyway.

My husband shrugged his shoulders, complimented me on an awesome kabob, and went about his beer drinking.

That, my friends, is why I married this man. Secure enough in his manhood to occasionally give me good shoe advice and gracious enough to let the best man win in the grilling war.

Who does the grilling in your house? Safe to say I'll be grilling our 4th food. What's on your menu this glorious LONG WEEKEND??