Archive for November, 2006

Can’t Do It Anymore

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

There comes a time when we need to face facts and make some hard decisions. I know it is the holiday season and all, but I’ve decided I need to cut back on some of my employees. Their salary requirements are simply too steep for my budget. I’ve been reducing my dependence on their services over the course of time. I’ve reached the point where I’m ready to sever the relationship completely and move on.

So, who am I cutting loose? All of those expensive actors, actresses, musicians and athletes who are now earning millions of dollars per endeavor. Don’t get me wrong. I love the entertainment they provide. And I’m fortunate I don’t have to pay their entire salary. Their expensive life styles and gigantic paychecks are starting to effect my bottom line though. The piece of their salary I contribute to through movie tickets, CD purchases, sports passes and such is simply getting to be too high. It’s not that I don’t value their effort or their talent. I’m just not sure it’s worth millions of dollars for a short piece of their time. Frankly, you’d be hard pressed to convince me anyone is truly worth earning in months what one couldn’t even begin to spend in 50 lifetimes.

So, that’s that. I’m putting my footdown and saying no more. When they are willing to work for me again at a more reasonable price, I’ll consider changing my mind. Until then, I’m going to seek out less expensive providers who are able to entertain me without bleeding me dry.

What’s Up With Santa?

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

Okay, I think Santa needs an intervention. He isn’t looking so hot these days. His suit is worn, his glasses are dirty and the twinkle has vanished from his eyes. I’ve passed him a few times in the mall. Each time, I couldn’t help but notice the old man in the regal chair wasn’t his usual merry self. The new mommy in me would love to have a picture of my daughter sitting on Jolly Ole Saint Nick’s knee. I just can’t bring myself to capture Santa on film this way. I know how I feel when someone takes a picture of me when I’m having ‘one of those days.’ Surely Santa feels the same. Besides, I have a hard time handing my daughter over for a cuddle when Santa’s appearance reminds me of someone I saw on America’s Most Wanted.

So what’s up with the old guy? Are our demands of him too high? Our lists too long? Are things not so good between him and the missus? Labor troubles with the elves? Is the mall pushing him over the edge? I can’t say it’s my favorite place to be. What does it take to wear a man like that down? He always used to have so much spunk and stamina. Where is that deep belly laugh we love so much?

What astonishes me is no one seems to be trying to figure out why he’s not his usual self. Shoppers breeze by while chatting on cell phones, yelling at kids and shuffling packages.  Sure we pass the forlorn looking stranger on the street without so much of a glance. We don’t know that person. We have no investment in their well being. Santa is a different story though. I mean, he’s been there for us for years. We’ve stressed over shopping for 20, while Santa has provided for millions and effortlessly delivered treasures and necessities. Now that he appears to be the one who is down and in need, we ignore and walk past.

Just as I think it’s important to get to the bottom of what’s going on with our favorite man in red, it’s also important to discover why it has become so easy to fail to see when another person may be struggling.  Perhaps our habit of shutting out the problems of strangers has now evolved into using blinders with those who are close to us.

Red Toe Nails

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

I’m guilty. As a new mom, I’ve let myself go a bit. It’s been 3 months since I’ve had a decent haircut, my wardrobe is getting a bit worn and I rarely bother with make-up. That said, there is one part of my pretty routine I haven’t given up…my red toe nails. There is something about having painted toe nails that makes me feel good. Few people actually see my toes. It’s not something I do to appeal to others. It’s all about me.

The funny thing is, before I started painting my nails, I really hated my toes. Not that my toes are more disgusting than the average Joe’s. They are an awkward part of our anatomy to look at and find beauty. The splash of red made all of the difference. What I once viewed as ugly is now my favorite attribute.

Perhaps it’s silly, but my ten red friends often bring a smile to my face. I love watching them rise from my bath water only to be draped in white suds. When I was healing from my c-section, it cheered me up to see them peeking out of the bottom of the sheet line. I laugh when my 7 month old daughter squeals and grabs for mommy’s pretty piggies. How silly something so simple can make me feel good. It’s great to discover little things you can do or surround yourself with to bring a quick smile when you need one. It’s refreshing to know the things in our life that seem ugly may be a slight alteration away from beautiful.

Speaking of Protests

Monday, November 27th, 2006

The latest headline of a policeman’s bullet killing a supposedly innocent and unarmed man is crushing to read. According to reports, a young man was gunned down by police on the eve of his wedding. Protests have filled city streets and prominent minority leaders are on the scene voicing concern over police leadership and practices. The need to raise one’s voice and demand better of police is understandable. The taking of innocent life is alarming, especially at the hands of those in a position to protect and serve.

Though I support the effort to organize and demand answers in this situation, I am disappointed the taking of innocent life by those who aren’t in law enforcement barely generates a gasp anymore. Police officers are continually exposed to more aggressive criminals with younger faces and impressive weaponry. They put their lives on the line every day. It is no wonder to me tragedies happen as a result of jumpy trigger fingers. Perhaps if individuals were equally as loud over the crime that lays the foundation for these types of tragedies, they would become more rare. When the news captures groups protesting crime, the protests are usually directed at police and city officials. Participants demand to know why aren’t they doing more to stop the violence? Why must police always be in the wrong? Why not target the criminals who are at the heart of the problem? When are we going to stand up as a society and get loud about criminals? When are we going to fill the streets and shout out our refusal to tolerate the violent and illegal behavior that makes our police officers’ jobs so dangerous? When are we going to accept there is only so much a man or woman in a bullet proof vest can accomplish without the full support and assistance of the community?

The courage it takes to put on a badge and take to the streets is immense. Instead of simply reacting with scorn to the episodes where police officers have made an error in judgment or have acted aggressively in stressful situations, let us do our part to help rewrite the job description of those in blue. Let them be the keepers of peace instead of warriors on a deadly battlefield.


Monday, November 27th, 2006

I frequently hear myself telling people I’m flexible. Little do they know it’s a big fat lie. Sure, I’m flexible in terms of rolling with daily schedules and such. My flexibility ends with my mind though. My muscles are as tight and rigid as they come. Even with knees bent, I can’t touch my toes. I’m only 35. It’s ridiculous that I’ve let myself get this stiff. I wake up every morning feeling out of sorts and irritable. I can’t help but wonder what my body will feel like at 50 if I don’t start loosening up a bit. I really don’t want to age into a person who can’t move without wincing. This is something I need to address now and get my arms around. Just like it’s foolish to start saving for retirement at 40, it doesn’t make any sense to put off investing in my future health and well being. Physical fitness and flexibility doesn’t get easier with age. Starting now makes complete sense. My goal is to get in touch with my toes by the end of the year.

Don’t Touch the COACH!

Sunday, November 26th, 2006

My best friend has a lot of great qualities. She is driven, intelligent, generous, funny (though not as funny as me) and wise. Shauntay is one of those who became an adult at a very young age. Money was tight as a kid and as a young adult she often found herself needing to help her mother financially. No complaints. Every part of life has been a learning and character building experience for her.

Because Shauntay learned about being responsible so young, she is just about as far from frivolous as you can get. For years she wore the same clothes, drove the same car and lived in a tiny apartment in a less expensive area of town. Throwing money away wasn’t an option. Spending money still does not come easily for her. You can almost see beads of sweat forming above her brow when the time comes to open the wallet. Everything is a negotiation…from hair to car repairs. That said, Shauntay does have one weakness, her Coach purse.

It’s such a contrast to see this woman, who loves to shop at the Dollar Store, proudly toting around her pretty little Coach baby. And just as Shauntay expects respect from others, she demands respect of her purse too. I once made the terrible mistake of moving her Coach from the passenger seat of her car to the floor. With a raised eyebrow, she was quick to inform me ‘the Coach’ needed to be returned immediately to its rightful place on the seat. There was no way she was going to risk subjecting her precious indulgence to the kick of a foot. And the thought of her prized possession coming into contact with dirt was simply too much to bear.

Shauntay’s infatuation with her purse has earned her plenty of teasing from me. I do have a confession to make, however. In truth, the attention and care she gives that purse makes me admire her all the more. She’s not one who has showered herself with so many ‘treasures’ that they are no longer special to her. The pleasure she gets from that one purse is likely more than what Paris Hilton feels for her closets of purses, shoes and cell phones. She doesn’t need to have stacks of things and rooms of trinkets to bring a smile to her face. She has put taking care of herself and her family in front of the short lived satisfaction of possessions. She has preserved her ability to find joy and appreciation in one special ‘thing’.

The ironic part of this whole story is that Shauntay is my Coach purse. It used to bother me that I had one ‘best friend’ in my life. So many others seemed to be dripping in friends. I consider myself a nice person who is easy to get along with. For some reason, I’ve never been much of a ‘friend’ magnet. Shauntay and I have known each other for 10 years now and we’ve gone through a lot together. Just like her purse, if anyone ever attempted to throw dirt on her or question her rightful place, I’d raise an eyebrow and quickly insert my opinion on the matter. She is unique and to be treasured. I haven’t amassed so many people in my life that replacing her would be trivial. The only downside is, unlike a purse, she occasionally talks back and throws fits. Hmmmm, maybe she’s on to something with this Coach thing?

I love and admire you Shauntay. Your my best friend and have finally received your rightful place on my blog. And it has nothing to do with you CONSTANTLY nagging me on why I hadn’t mentioned you yet. Nope. Nothing at all. For those who are interested, Shauntay’s picture is on my ‘Meet the Blogger’ page. Too bad I don’t have a picture of her Coach baby.

Holiday Shopping

Saturday, November 25th, 2006

Isn’t it crazy how crowded the malls and shopping plazas are once the holiday season arrives? The mad dash for the perfect gift is on. From the looks on people’s faces, I can tell this is yet another year of “what should I buy.” Really, most make the quest for presents much more difficult and expensive than it needs to be. Pressure to out do previous years is rampant. The current rage is to find something unique and flashy. Trouble is, unique and flashy often ends up broken, gathering dust on a shelf or tucked away in a drawer. Why spend hard earned money on something that isn’t really needed and only serves to junk up the other person’s home?

If you are at a loss for gifts that will be appreciated and used, I would turn to the store that specializes in providing us with essentials…the grocery store. I know, sounds boring. Think about it though. There are lots of things in the grocery store we use, but may not splurge on regularly, like dried spices. Did you know they should be tossed every 6 months? Hmmm, many of mine are over 5 years old. No wonder my cooking is bland. What about some of those quality olive oils that come in the cans that shield light? Lots of fruits, nuts and preserves are at the ready. Fancy jars and bottles of olives, marinades and vinegars are unique yet functional. A variety of marinaras and sauces paired with specialty pastas might be nice.

Food isn’t the only option. The grocery store has plenty of hairbrushes, round and flat. Most people’s hairbrushes and combs are practically antiques and beginning to resemble pets. I know I’ve had mine for at least 4 years. There are shoe insoles, bubble baths, hand lotions, vitamins and books. Many homes have Brita water pitchers. The filter replacements are handy. What about kids? Coloring books, stickers, patterned shoe laces and flavored jellos work. Older kids might enjoy magazines (with subscriptions) or Rit dye to alter their clothes. Age appropriate cosmetics, cleansers and gels also do the trick.

Grocery stores are packed full of things everyone can use. Even if the ideas I’ve listed above don’t work for you, perhaps your mind is thinking about gifts in a new way. If hitting the malls and wrapping up the latest and greatest is your thing, that’s completely fine. I’m sure retailers will appreciate your dollars and enthusiasm. There are other options though. And you don’t have to go broke being merry.

Monsters in the Night

Friday, November 24th, 2006

As I sat rocking my daughter in her nursery, I found myself taking in the shadows playing on the walls in the blue of her nightlight. Her crib rails were giant pillars leaping toward the ceiling. Caught in the fray was a tiny bear that had grown to the size of a beast capable of scaling the Empire State Building. Even a pretty basket, normally pink and frilly, was joining the game. It took the form of a large spaceship circling the pillars and chasing the beast in search of his prey. All of the shadows brought back memories of the fears I had of monsters as a child. Nighttime brought out so many worries of potential threats. I’d line my bed with all of my stuffed animals in the hopes they would be able to fend of any villains. Then I’d offer several “if I die before I wake” requests up to my greater being. Eventually, I would lose the energy to continue the battle against the dark and I’d drift to sleep.

Now that I’m an adult, I’m no longer afraid of shadows in the night. I’m wise enough to know they are the result of harmless objects being seen in a different light. My new nighttime monsters aren’t on the walls. They are the traces of my daily fears and worries hiding in my brain. Just like the frilly basket and tiny bear, once the lights go off any problems I’m struggling with are also blown out of proportion. Trouble is, with these new monsters, lining my bed with stuffed animals does nothing to soothe my concern and help me sleep. The only way I’ve found to tame these beasts is to make sure I put them away as best as possible during the day. Leaving them out to be exposed in the different light of night affords me no peace. Sure, there are some challenges that can’t be resolved immediately. Identifying solutions and setting them in motion provides more significant armor against the monsters than ignoring the problems and hoping they will go away.

Get Em While They’re Young!

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

Milestones are a big deal when you are a baby. Babies may be droopy balls of giggles and drool, but they have a job to do with performance expectations. If they aren’t sitting up, crawling, popping teeth, experimenting with word sounds and sleeping through the night when others their age are, well, they have no basis for complaint when their quarterly and annual reviews come back lacking. We must teach them early on, though they may be unique with certain things, by no means can they be different and approach life at their own pace.

If we don’t do what we can to reinforce these messages early on, we’re just asking for trouble down the road. Some may eventually feel it’s okay to get married 10 years after their peers, or never marry at all. Others may linger in college chasing additional degrees when others their age have long since graduated and moved on to jobs. And what about the poor souls who spend years in a job they love and never aspire to be a manager. Don’t they realize someone younger may actually pass them and become their supervisor. That’s just wrong!

Hopefully you’ve detected a grain of sarcasm by now. Why am I being so strange today? A few cyber friends of mine have been struggling a bit with how their children are being compared to others. They are questioning their parenting skills and fighting embarrassment because their kids aren’t doing things at the same time or the same way as others. It’s so easy to fall into this trap. The interesting part is kids rarely are alike. Where does this expectation come from? As a society we seem to encourage people to be unique. Why does that not translate into us accepting when someone is different?

The grief we put ourselves and our children through when we feel the need to be the same (or better) than others is problematic in many ways. We’ve turned life into a giant race where we have this inner need to achieve bragging rights for ourselves and our children. The end result is a society where parents feel a need to make excuses for why their children aren’t doing things the same (Johnie has ‘blank’ and that’s why he is behind) while coming up with reasons to discredit the achievements of others (Mary only won because ‘blank’). Our kids don’t have to shine all of the time to be great kids. We can be excited when others accomplish things our children either haven’t reached yet or have no interest in achieving. We don’t have to make excuses for our children being unique and go searching for causes and explanations.

This subject is important to me because I grew up a twin. We never did anything at the same time. I walked and talked first. She reached puberty first. I was the one who was elected President of everything. She was the one whose art always hung in the hallways. She had a test taking phobia so I always smoked her on scores for the national placement exams (SAT, ACT). Our graduating GPA’s were within tenths of a percentage point of one another though. By the time we went to college, we were more than ready to go our separate ways. I won’t say we were enemies, but we certainly didn’t feel like friends. As the years passed, we continued to do things a different pace. She got her undergrad done before me and went on to get a Masters. I was out of school and working before her. She got married and had a child long before it was ever a consideration in my book. I was making more money. What did it all amount too? Who won the race between the two of us? Neither did. I think in our 30’s we both came to realize we could achieve different things at different times and no one was a disappointment or failure. What a happy discovery. And now I have a close friend I’m no longer competing against. How great it would have been to have started out that way.


Tuesday, November 21st, 2006

Don’t you hate it when you are eating a juicy burger and a drop of grease lands on your shirt? Once it hits the fabric, it is there for life. I’ve tried all sorts of things to get grease stains out. I’ve flushed the stain with water, scrubbed it in pre-soak and washed it in whatever detergent is bragging to be the best on stains. The stain often prevails. Pesky, aren’t they?

Considering I’ve lost the battle against grease stains for years, you’d think it would occur to me grease is pretty durable and hard to get rid of. If caustic chemicals can’t clean it out of cotton, how are enzymes and water supposed to clean it out of my body? I mean, I can throw the shirt out and buy a new one at Target. Last I checked, Target wasn’t stocking its shelves with livers, hearts and arteries.