Saturday, October 30, 2010

Less drama, more duh

Scott has a number of philosophies he lives by, taken from various places and sources in the world including Jesus, Buddha,  Steven Stills and the Muppets.  His latest maxim, which he created himself, is "Less Drama, More Duh".

This idea struck him after he went to the doctor for some issues he was very concerned about, he was near panic about what the diagnosis might be.  Turned out he needed to make a small change in his diet, and that took care of it, all better.

He came home and said from now on, he was going to be going with the 'Less Drama, More Duh' approach.

For example:

If the car is making a weird vibration, first see if it's the texture of the road before assuming the power steering fluid has all drained out and you'll be crashing in about 30 seconds because you're going to lose control of the car.

What's that smell?  Oh no!  Toxic leak!  Get out of the house!  Grab the kids!  Run! Run! Run!  Oh, no, the dog farted.

Less Drama, More Duh.

Assume the simplest solution first, instead of preparing for the worst, you know, just in case.  What's the saying?  Hope for the best, prepare for the worst?    Has your left arm gone numb?  Before calling 911, shift the way you're sitting to see if you've cut off circulation to that limb.  By the way,  I've done this in the middle of the night, yah, I'm something of a dork.

This week, my family had a 'Less Drama, More Duh' situation.  My paternal grandfather is 94 and still kicking.  He drives, he walks a mile and a half a day, does a bunch of volunteer work and is active in the assisted living community where he lives.  He is one of the residents who will show a new tenant around,  introducing them to people, sitting with them in the dining room and generally helping them get settled in to the new digs.  He's so busy that if you want to visit him and have lunch, you need to give him about 10 days notice so he can cancel things.  He's a busy guy.

He's also quite popular with everyone he meets, everyone loves Art.  One day not long ago, he fell down at the gas station trying to put air in his tires.  He got tangled up in the hose and it tripped him, which has happened to me as well.   The next day, my father was talking with the property manager who handles my grandfather's rental property, the old tenant was moving out and a new tenant was moving in so there was going to be a walk-through of the house with all parties attending.

The property manager asked my dad if grandpa was going to be able to attend, was he okay?  My dad replied that of course he was, why wouldn't he be?

She told my dad that Art fell down at the gas station and his former neighbor, Molly, had gotten him to the doctor.

Apparently, my father paused for a while and then asked "How do you know all this?"

You know, maybe I should draw a chart, but I'll try to explain.  Molly called the center where my grandfather was supposed to be volunteering that day to let them know Art had fallen down and wouldn't be there.  The woman who coordinates the volunteers knows the tenant who's moving out of my grandpa's house to tell her that Art fell down and might not be able to do the walk-through.  SHE called the property manager to inform HER that Art fell down at the gas station and might not be on the walk-through.  The property manager called the new tenant to say Art fell down at the gas station so they might have to reschedule.

Then the property manager called my dad, who knew nothing about the spill his dad had taken.  The point is that Art is a happenin' guy in his community.

One of the people who works at the assisted living center where he resides called the other day to tell my dad Art was disoriented, having trouble getting around and babbling about unrelated subjects.  Many people, including me, jumped to the conclusion that Art had had a stroke.  I wonder if there were any candlelight vigils for Arthur in downtown Orange to pray for a speedy recovery, not that anyone would call the family to tell them about it.  Or if there were arrangements being made for hospital visits to be taken in shifts so he would never be alone.  Who knows what kind of hysterics were going on the way the phone tree works where my grandpa is concerned.

My dad took his father to the doctor who examined my Grandad carefully.

He was dehydrated.  He's on antibiotics for an upper respiratory infection and doesn't drink water, so he got all dried out making his brain a little loopy.  Now he's pissed that he has to drink water because it makes him pee.

Less Drama, More Duh.

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  If you are going to be wearing clown white on Halloween, put a layer of cold cream on your face, spread it thin and then power it to death.  Now you can lightly scratch your face when it itches and will remove easily with the cold cream.  After the cold cream, wash your face again with your regular cleanser to get all the petroleum jelly out of your pores to prevent getting a bunch of pimples.

Friday, October 29, 2010

I share a yummy formula with you

Every year at Halloween I make a bunch of pumpkin bread to give away as treats for the families who come to our Day of the Dead Open House.

I've been experimenting with various recipes over the last couple of weeks, taking the results to playdates so I can get opinions from the other parents.  One of the moms down the street had told me she's a pumpkin bread expert, so I've been leaning on her for advice.

She gave this recipe the thumbs up, citing the moist texture, brightness of seasoning and forward pumpkin flavor. Well, not in those words.  What she said was 'Mmmm!  Good!  I like how moist it is.'

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease and flour 2 loaf pans.

Cream together:
1 cup oil
3 cups sugar

Beat in 4 eggs

Add a 15 ounce  can of pumpkin, stir until well combined

In a separate bowl combine:

3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Slowly add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture, alternating with:

2/3 cup milk

I like to turn the mixer up high for a few seconds once the batter is completed because I like the sound the beaters make, but not for any real culinary reason.  It may actually be detrimental but I still enjoy making the machine make a big noise and yelling "whoo hoo!".

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake 45-60 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.  I like to use an uncooked strand of spaghetti to test baked goods, it's long enough to reach the center of loaves and bundts and you don't need to buy a special tool.

Yum yum yum!

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  Don't pick at your face.  I'm horrible at following this advice, making my face an excellent example of why you shouldn't pick at your face.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Get out of my way, I gotta hurry!

Not that long ago I wrote about how I love Halloween and the open house we have on the 31st, which is fast approaching! 

This week, I'm running around getting ready to have a bunch of people come into my home to eat food and talk and laugh, I'm cleaning, inventorying decorations and baking.  In the last two days I've made 12 loaves of pumpkin bread.  I haven't made any more than that because I ran out of eggs, but that issue will be remedied today.  Today, I'll also be doing the last of the heavy cleaning and figuring out what else I need to get, like bowls and spoons for beef stew and more candy. 

I mean, we  have enough candy to give out to the trick-or-treaters, but only if I'm stingy with it and I really don't want to be known as the stingy house.  And Scott and I need our personal bags of our favorites,  he likes Paydays and Almond Joys, I like Twix and Snickers.  I have to get these treats when the kids aren't with me because their father and I are mean parents who will hide these bags of candy so we won't have to share. 

I'm also one of those awful moms who dumps her children's candy out on the kitchen table around 11 p.m. and sorts through it for the good stuff.  I have a fond memory of sitting at my friend Alisa's kitchen table in the wee hours of November 1st talking while we sifted through our respective daughter's goodies, gorging ourselves on 3 Musketeers and Pixy Stix. 

So, to-do list:  #1:  Buy candy. 

While I'm out buying candy, I'm going to check out what exactly is going on sale, because today's the day the markdowns on spooky stuff will begin to appear.  Stores want to get the stuff out of their inventories and I'm very happy to oblige them.  I'll purchase the ceramic witches to put on my kitchen windowsill so I have someone to talk to while I do dishes.  I'll take in those ghost shaped candle holders, who look so lonely on the shelf, feeling like no one wants them.   Sparkly pumpkins always have a place in my house, come on you gourds, you come home with me.

After I've completed my shopping, I'll need to get the house 'company clean', anyone else remember 'company clean'?  There was general, every day clean and then there was 'company clean' when I was growing up.  I was a child in the 1970's when it was a perfectly acceptable practice to boot children outside the house so they wouldn't make messes once the house had been slicked up for company.

As a child, I can remember walking up to other kids in the neighborhood and having them say "Oh, we're having company tonight." and understanding they weren't allowed back in the house until it was time for them to take an early bath and put on good clothes, 'company' clothes.  Many of the people I grew up with can remember being told not to use the guest bathroom or touch the clean towels and run for your life if you put anything on the coffee table.

I'm not quite that hard core about it, because the majority of our friends have children and understand that a house with kids only stays neat as a pin for so long before that illusion of organization falls apart, but I do make my kids help me in my endeavors.  They help unload the dishwasher, take their possessions upstairs, clear the dining room table and pick up the living room before they're sent next door to get them the hell out of my way.

I've also become resigned to just cleaning whatever rooms my guests will be seeing, meaning the lower level of my two-story home.  Upstairs, there are my children's bedrooms, their bathroom and Scott's music room.  Anyone who has been to my house knows I don't clean up there unless I really have no more choice due to odors or potentially hazardous walking conditions.  It's usually easier to walk down a hallway to a bathroom when you can actually see the floor, so when the carpet disappears under the rubble I pick up and vacuum so the next layer of rubble has a neat place to rest.   When parents venture upstairs to see what's up with kids, I always disclose that it's not clean up there and be careful where you step.

If I can get the downstairs cleaned up today, then it will just need to be maintained in the coming days.  I may or may not be able to contain my demon housewife who will want to shout to the other three people who live here "Pick up your shit!  Don't touch that!  Flush the toilet!".

And what will happen after I do all this manual labor to make my house sparkle and smell lemon-fresh?  It will make and wonderful impression on the first guests to arrive and then dissolve into the usual cluttered kid haven my children's friends love.

But, at least if it's not a stinky, cluttered kid haven I can consider my job well-done.  And this all needs to be done by day after tomorrow, so I gotta go. Where's the Windex?

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  If you have bangs and use hair products,  pin your bangs off your face when you're at home to minimize breakouts on your forehead.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Oh, parenting.....

As a mom, I had an interesting day yesterday dealing with  physical altercations involving both of my children.  It wasn't my kids hitting each other, that's not even worth mentioning since I bust up those kinds of fights daily.

No, yesterday both ends of the striking spectrum gave me a whack in my mama heart.  The first blow riled up my mama bear and the second one made me scared of the mama bear next door.

Let me explain, Zoe came home from school and told me she got pushed by one boy and then pushed down by another boy at recess making her cry.  My mama bear was ready to call around to find out addresses so I  could drive over to and slap these boys in their faces while screaming "You little shit!".

And I was ready to take their mothers ON! Your boy shoved my girl down and made her cry!  Let's go! Bring it on!  BRING IT!

But, I asked her what happened, using all my willpower to not run around screaming I was going to get those guys, and if she'd talked to her teacher.  Zoe said she did but she didn't know what her teacher had said to the boys or if they'd been punished.

Scott and I both react, let's say strongly, to any signs of bullying towards our children.  We were both bullied in school,  Scott quite badly and me somewhat less so.  There were a couple of guys who would kick Scott in his ears when they sat behind him in a class where the seating was arranged on risers, so their feet were right at the level of his head.  I'd get bonked in the back of the head on the bus and had the stall door kicked in when I was in the bathroom.  I just learned to hold it, for years I don't think I peed at school more than four or five times between 7th to 12th grade.

So, when Zoe came home I had to take a very deep breath and decide what to do.  I communicated with Scott right away and we decided I'd email her teacher to ask for a little clarification.   I simply wrote to her what Zoe had told me and wondered if there was anything I needed to be concerned about.  I wasn't accusatory or demanding to know how the boys were going to be dealt with, I just asked if she knew about it and was very proud of myself for being calm.

I'm sure her teacher was expecting us to want to talk with her, since we told her at the first parent/teacher conference Scott and I had a hot spot with bullying.  Zoe's school has a clear position that bullying and teasing are not to be tolerated, making it a very different atmosphere than schools were in the 60's and 70's, where you just had to suck it up and deal with it.  So, I was fairly sure the answer would be satisfactory to our paranoid selves.

And I was right, the groups involved, boys and girls, were told to not play together anymore, all students were told to report any incident like this one right away and not to try and handle it alone.   The other 4th grade teachers know what happened and all the teachers at her grade level will be watching carefully in the coming days.

I feel better now.  I'm really glad the kids at her school can talk to their teachers and not be scared to say they were pushed down or yelled at or pinched.  And bullying awareness starts pretty early these days, early on in first grade for my child.

When she brought home the coloring sheets that said 'No bullies!' it gave me and opportunity to talk to her about bullies.  I told her that, a lot of the time, bullies have something happening in their lives that makes them mad and sad.  They don't know what to do when they feel that way so they take it out on the kids around them, making other kids feel sad and scared makes them feel better.   It's not okay for them to do that to other kids, so Zoe needs to tell her teacher right away and she can always tell her teacher she wants to talk privately.

After this first trauma where I wanted to swoop down and have vengeance for my wronged child, my OTHER kid got sad and mad and struck one of the kids from next door.  When we moved into this house, we lucked out to have two kids next door really close in age to my children.  Built in friends!

We've put a gate in the fence between our yards allowing them to come and go between the houses without having to go in the front yard and they spend at least two days a week playing together.  My neighbor home schools her children to great success, which makes a great situation for Zoe because it's not like she's been with these kids all day at school and now has to spend MORE time with them.  The four of them don't have to deal with any school politics when they spend time together.

Weeeelllll, Will didn't have a nap yesterday and when the little girl from next door did something benign that made him mad, he hit her in the face, took her glasses and threw them on the ground.  I spanked him right away (I know fighting violence with violence but I was lost as to what else to do at that moment) and he was sent to his room.  I made sure her glasses were okay, cleaned them and put them back on her face.  She also had a scratch near her eye, I gave her a cold pack to put on it since she said that would make her feel better while I sat around and felt awful.  I eventually let Will come out of his room to apologize and get a reminder that he doesn't like it when people hit him and it's not okay to hit ANYONE, if he gets mad he can go to his room and beat up what ever he wants.

In addition to these predicaments, I baked ten loaves of pumpkin bread, did four loads of laundry, loaded the dishwasher twice and walked on the treadmill.

Needless to say, I was tired at the end of the day, as a matter of fact, I'm still tired.  Time for Ellen and coffee.  See ya!

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  Believe it or not, walking in the mud in your bare feet will do a beautiful job of making them soft.  

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hold still and answer the question!

Election day is soon!  I get excited about election day because I find voting a neat-o, pretty terrif thing.

During the 2008 Presidential election, I felt amazingly empowered, like I was going to actually make a change in the world, history was going to be made that year and *I* got to be a part of that!  Me, the stay-at-home housewife in the 'burbs with no college degree was going to help make history!  Well, damn!

Anyway, election day is coming up next week and the television ads are coming at us hot and heavy, every single one of them carrying the message "Don't vote for my opponent!" along with all the reasons I should not vote for the enemy.  Oh, look, here's one now,  don't vote for this guy because he'll raise taxes and........uh, that's it.  I should NOT vote for that guy because I'll pay more taxes, so who do I vote for then?  There's not even a suggestion about who I SHOULD vote for,  just, don't vote for this jerk!

This is like talking to my kids.
"What did you do?"
"My sister poked me so I......"
"No, what did YOU do?"
"Well, she wouldn't share the chair and then then poked me......"
"Answer my question. What did YOU do?"
"She poked me in my face and it hurt...."
"I'm not asking that, I'm asking what you did."

I have yet to see one ad where a candidate states their position on an issue, there are only ads telling me who not to vote for.  I could head out to one of the events where the candidates are speaking, but a woman had her head stomped on at a Rand Paul rally and I don't really think I'd like being out among people who would stomp on another person's head. 

So, I'm doing my research on the internet, which is just as frustrating as television.  Why on earth would one of the candidate lead on his website with how much money he's raised for his campaign and to invite me to donate more?  *William Shatner style pause*  I'm confused.

Where's the information about their position on improving education and support of veterans?  No, I already know the other guy is a jerk, this one like Obama and this one hates Obama.  I don't care who feels what way about Obama, I want to know if you'll support the school my daughter attends. 

Oh, Jesus, it doesn't matter if the other person is a parent and what church you attend doesn't matter are you going to increase, decrease or sustain educational funding?  Answer the damn question!  Stop telling me you hate the other guys! 

If you were my kid I'd put you in a time out! 

Is there a Daily Show for Texas?  Get John Stewart on the phone I need help.

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  If you color your hair at home, be sure to fully cover your hairline all the way around and focus on your part, these are the places gaps will show. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

How dirty is too dirty?

We had a busy weekend starting on Friday with the annual Fall Carnival at my daughter's school and my cousin from Dallas arriving to spend a couple of days with us.   

The Fall Carnival was much bigger than it has been in past years.  Our experience so far was half a dozen games involving tossing bean bags or digging in the sand, a petting zoo and a bounce house with eats in the cafeteria.  

This year, there was an inflated hamster ball, a gyroscope, many more games to play, a game where you could pop a big balloon full of water on a staff member and a LOT more people.  Scott and Will spend a lot of time playing on the playground where Will got covered in dust from the gravel under the equipment,  both kids had sticky faces and hands from cotton candy, mostly because of a shortage of napkins and we all got sweaty.  

As the kids were having a bunch of fun, we let them stay up late to play and they skipped bathtime in favor of getting in bed.  

Saturday, we took my cousin to our favorite burger place and for ice cream afterwards. While we'd made the kids use napkins more than we usually did their   faces and hands got sticky again..  After my cousin headed back to Dallas in the afternoon, we went to a Halloween party at a friend's house where we knew there'd be lots of other kids for them to romp around with.  Our friends had recently installed a zip line in their backyard that, surprisingly, Zoe loved.  She zipped down at least twenty times, sprinting the pulley back for a friend to have a turn. Will ran around with the pack of boys, all dressed as super heros, with a plastic gun assisting in saving the world. It's great when Will has boys his own age to play with, surrounded by girls as he is most of the time and the females don't like to save the world they like to decorate it. At least the girls that come to play at our house like to decorate it. 

And, since they were having a lot of fun, we let them stay up late to play.  And we skipped their bathtime in favor of getting them in bed.

Sunday, we headed off for our annual trip to a pumpkin farm about an hour outside of town, a tradition we look forward to every year.  We take a hay ride, pick a bouquet of flowers, have a picnic, indulge in home made ice cream and paint small pumpkins before selecting the gourds we'll turn into jack o' lanterns.  This year, it was windy and a lot of dust was kicked up, enough that I had it between my toes when I took my shoes and socks off at home.  

By the time we got home form our outing, all four of us were coated with a layer of grime.  The kids' faces had black splotches from dust sticking to the spots where they hadn't gotten all the ice cream wiped away and when I scratched my neck as we were waiting to pay for our squash, my fingernails were black when I took my hand down.  

We did not skip bathtime last night.  Usually, we let the kids wash themselves, but last night we supervised making sure they scrubbed the places they usually skip.  Both of them had their hair washed vigorously and Zoe still has corn dust in her hair this morning.  I brushed out as much as I could but I am a little worried she'll get pulled into the nurse's office to be checked for lice.  

As I was doing this cleaning of my children, I wondered something about myself.  I don't always take a shower in the morning.  Between getting Zoe to school, making lunches and starting my chores for the day bathing doesn't move to the top of my list.  What I wondered, is how long I could go without bathing before someone said something to me and would wearing clothes make a difference?  Should I tell anyone I was conducting this experiment or keep it a secret?  What if it was winter and I didn't sweat all that much?  Could I reduce my dog smell by kicking the pups out of our bed?  Would I be able decrease the amount of time I could go without soaping up by walking on the treadmill every day or should I do a lot of sitting on the couch? 

Hmmmmmmmmm,  that's interesting.  It would certainly make life easier, not having to spend 20 minutes bathing daily.  I could watch an entire episode of Judge Judy in 20 minutes and do the maintenance needed for my Farmville crops at the same time.   I'd be able to mix up a batch of pumpkin bread and get it into the oven in that amount of time.  

Or, maybe, I was very tired and my brain was going places it shouldn't. 

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  A razor is only good for shaving a man's face five to eight times, making a woman's razor only good for shaving her legs, three to five times depending on how thick the hair is.  Replace your razor regularly.  

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Why I blog

I know a lot of people who blog.   For the most part, I like reading blogs.  I can keep up on what's happening with my friends, get a giggle or learn something about current events.  There are the exceptions where the author will describe in colorful detail the difficulties they are having with their intestines or solicit donations for the vacation they want to take with updates on how much they've collected, but there are a lot of smart and funny people on the web and I enjoy reading their blogs.

I maintain three, you're reading one currently and I participate in two photo-a-day blogs.  I've been blogging for a decade.  I started when I was pregnant with Zoe, I would blog about being pregnant and then about being a new mom.

I like writing and blogging gave me an outlet to vent and/or keep family and friends up-to-date on our diaper filled lives.

I've read blogs about why people blog.  Some say it's because they feel strongly about bringing important information and news to the people who read their writings, others say they want to offer a different perspective on issues.  I've also read blogging is the ultimate form of narcissism , the idea that everyone in the world wants to know all about me at any given moment in my life.

Well, maybe it's not that intense but it's certainly all about attention.  Everyone needs attention, it proves a person exists.  When a person blogs, they can get attention from people far away.  Nothing tickles me more than to see that someone from another country has viewed my blog.

Someone across the ocean read by brain discharge!

I have worth!

I have value!

I blog, therefore I AM!

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  If you have a red pimple on your face, dab on some eye drops designed to reduce redness to bring the color down.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A day in my life

I can remember being young and stupid, evidenced by my referral to women who stayed home with their children as 'staying home and eating bon-bons'.  I know, I know, put away the vegetables, it was an asshole thing to say.

Especially now that I stay home and eat bon-bons myself.  I have a smart ass thing I say when someone asks me if I work.

I say "Well, I work plenty but I'm not employed outside the home."

Every so often, I write down everything I do in a day, just to remind myself that I'm not sitting home eating bon-bons and playing Farmville.  Well, eating cereal and playing Farmville while watching Paranormal State on like Scott caught me doing Tuesday morning when he came back to get something he forgot.

Since my hands were red a couple days ago, I wrote down everything I did yesterday, check it out:

-Get up at 6 a.m. to wake up Zoe for school
-Get breakfast for Zoe
-Make coffee, take meds
-Supervise Zoe's wardrobe selection
-Will gets up, get his breakfast
-Check to make sure dishwasher ran last night
-Give Zoe her ADHD medicine
-Feed dogs
-Send kids in to wake up Scott
-Walk Zoe to school
-Watch news with Scott until he gets in the shower
-Check email
-Update blog
-Make lunches for Scott and Will
-Take the zip top bag containing Zoe's stinky sneakers & 2 pounds of baking soda out of the freezer, dump contents into washing machine and turn it on.
-Say goodbye to Scott and Will, tell Will I'll pick him up from pre-school.
-Play Farmville
-Take Zoe's sneakers out of washer, stuff dryer sheets inside them and set out to dry
-Take a bath & get dressed
-Check that I have the correct addresses for the volunteer drive I'm doing
-Drag big trash can to the curb
-Drop off cupcakes at Zoe's school for Friday's bake sale
-Go to Goodwill looking for Halloween decorations, find a Louis Vuitton bag for $5
-Pick up the client to take her to get her lab work done, wait for her at the lab, take her home
-Go to Halloween store for what I hope is the last of what I need, don't find it but find some other stuff
-Go to Target, find nothing I'm looking for, all strings of purple and orange lights are gone.
-Finally find bongo drums at Toys 'R Us
-Go home to have lunch, play Farmville and watch youtube for 30 minutes
-Chat with Scott about costume stuff and the Louis Vuitton bag I found at Goodwill
-Talk to my mom on the phone, scold her for talking on the phone while driving while it's raining
-Finish decorating cake for Zoe's bake sale
-Drop cake off at school
-Pick Will up from pre-school
-Go to yet another Halloween store, finally find the sunglasses I was hoping to locate.
-Pick Zoe up from school
-Go home for 90 minutes, let kids veg in front of the computer
-Find that Will has taken food coloring off the kitchen counter
-Discover that Will has taken colors outside and rubbed them all over himself
-Give Will a sink bath, manage to make his extremities light green instead of dark green
-Go back to school to facilitate Zoe's girl scout meeting
-Get McDonald's for dinner (don't judge me!)
-Get kids set up in front of the TV with their Happy Meals (these aren't your kids!)
-Take the trash out
-Drag big trash can back up the driveway
-Play Farmville
-Scott comes home
-Feed the dogs
-Start cleaning kitchen
-Load the dishwasher
-Hand wash dishes that won't fit in the dishwasher
-Put Zoe to bed, read her 10 poems from Where the Sidewalk Ends
-Clear kitchen counters & get the debris off the floor
-Talk to mom on the phone about family craziness and Christmas
-Talk with Scott while picking living room
-Clear dining room table of junk
-Say goodnight to Scott
-Chill out for 90 minutes before going to bed.

Other than that, I didn't do much of anything.

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  Preparation H will reduce swelling around your eyes.  You know, 'shrinks swelling'?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A little dirty laundry

Scott and I are trying to get out of credit card debt. When our prescription costs went way up, we leaned on our cards for living expenses. It's scary and it needs to stop.

Our first step was to close out our accounts with larger limits and only keep one with a very small limit for online purchases and the occasional stop gap.

On our largest balance, we decided to try and settle the debt. We feel crappy about it, but our situation is such that something had to give and this particular card was it. It sucks and I feel like an asshole.

I did a bunch of research on the net and learned we shouldn't hire anyone to do this for us, it's possible to negotiate on our own. The process involves calling to make an offer, getting their counter offer and going back and forth until you reach an agreement.

This process can't start until the account is behind by at least 90 days, preferably 120-150 days. I waited until 100 days had gone by and called the first time. I made our offer and was turned down flat. I'd expected that, so no surprises there.

I started to wonder what the consequences would be if settling didn't work out. If we were able to come to an agreement, it would state on our credit report that we'd settled for less than the amount owed, we'd have to declare the amount not paid as income. If we didn't settle, what could the credit card company do?

The state of Texas doesn't like credit card companies much. The property that can't be seized for auction includes a person's house, cars, furnishings, clothing, two handguns, foodstuffs, pets, and any property used for work. If the household property doesn't exceed $60,000 nothing can be taken by the bank, paychecks cannot be seized and bank accounts cannot be frozen. A lien can be placed on a home but after 10 years the judgment is no longer enforceable.

So, our credit would take the hit and we'd have a lien on our house. That's if the company decides to push through with a judgment.

With this information in mind, I called back to make my offer again. It was noted in our file that we'd attempted to settle the month before. I explained how our medical/prescription costs had increased and we had to make some difficult choices.  I told the very nice woman on the other end of the phone that I was really embarrassed and making these calls was difficult for me. She told me what the general guidelines were, but she was going to grab her supervisor anyway.

This time, I was told that when they looked at our credit they saw our other accounts were current and with our other accounts current, we can't be considered to settle the debt.

Doesn't that sound crazy? Our credit is too good to settle even though I'm willing to pay the full settlement amount immediately? But I can understand that, if there appears to be any chance that we will be able to resume payments they'll bet on that before agreeing to let us pay less than the full balance.

Since Texas is so consumer protective, if we default,  the credit card company gets nothing and we just have bad credit. We do own our home and our children are in school, we're not planning on selling our house for a long time meaning they wouldn't even collect on a lien.  

But, I could also tell that the women I talked with that day were just as frustrated as I was.  I could hear in their voices they wished they could put this all to an end.  I know the person I was speaking to sighed just like I did when I said good bye.

It would appear that we're going to need to wait at least six months before trying to settle with them again and even then, if we keep current with our other accounts we won't be able to come to an agreement.

After all this, I am really confused. I know we're the ones in the wrong. I know we made our bed and we need to lie in it. But we've fessed up and we're trying to do what we can. It's embarrassing knowing we messed it up. It's embarrassing calling to say we messed up and trying to make it better. It feels like telling your parents you broke the rules and taking your punishment.

And the settlement process feels like my parents are saying "Well, yeah, you got an F.  Let's wait and see if you get another F next term and then we'll discuss how long you'll be grounded."

 I can't figure it all out today so I'm going to bake cupcakes for the bake sale.

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  If you're out of perfume put a drop of vanilla extract behind each ear.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My family tree has cuckoos living it it

I have spoken regularly of coming from can-do people, specifically can-do women. What I speak of less often, is that I also come from crazy people. Specifically, crazy women.

The craziness varies. We have kooky, charming crazy in the form of my Auntie Melba. Melba was divorced from her husband Angleo, but I didn't know that until I was nine because he was always around. Even though he re-married, Melba and Angelo spoke regularly and he was a regular visitor when she was in the hospital at the end of her life. They did have a son together, but their relationship went farther than co-parents. I've been told Angelo said she was the love of his life but she was too crazy to live with.

Melba lived on her own with a rotating cast of wacky, yappy little dogs and had a number of men friends in her life. None of them moved in and she didn't re-marry. She could grow any plant she wanted, including pot for her friend across the street. She had her own personal strain of tomatoes she'd created through cross-pollination, which she did by hand, monk-style. I understand she stimulated the plant stamens with her vibrator.

When you dropped her off at home after family get-togethers, she go inside to get some random thing to give to you. I once got a really nice nightgown with the tags still on it, when I showed it to my mother, my mom informed me she'd given the nightgown to my aunt as a birthday present ten years before. When I saw the movie "Home for the Holidays" I insisted that Geraldine Chaplin's character was based on my Auntie Melba.

Then, we have scary crazy, this would be my first cousin, a diagnosed schizophrenic who plays fast and loose with her meds. Every so often she has an episode and end up in the hospital. While my cousin is married, she's divorced her husband and moved into the guest house on their property. Her twelve year old son makes sure she has groceries and tries to make sure she takes her meds. It's a sorry situation all around.

Further contributing to her craziness is the fact that she hooked up with a hypnotist a number of years ago who specializes in uncovering repressed memories. My cousin 'recovered' memories of being molested by our grandfather. This made the rest of the family say 'Whhaaaaaaa?" I don't want to come right out and tell her that didn't happen, but....... It didn't happen to my mother. It didn't happen to me. It didn't happen to the other girl cousins who regularly spent the night at my grandparent's house. It hasn't happened to any of the other granddaughters. The chances of just my cousin being abused are very slim.

I understand that if she thinks it happened the trauma to her soul is the same. But she doesn't go to a therapist to deal with it, she acts out and then says she did it because of what grandpa did to her. Her latest episode involved her purposeful overdose, a 911 call to report her own overdose and a three day hospital stay where she said she did it because of what grandpa did to her.

And we have everything in between. Women who would call on the phone, say nothing and hang up, liked alcohol or pills a little too much, have temper tantrums at family gatherings over who has photographs, we got it all! If there are any people who need to do a study on insanity in related females just come to family Thanksgiving.

I was in the kitchen the other day doing dishes and talking to my kids, it occurred to me that I felt very sane. Sane and okay. I wasn't depressed. I wasn't thinking about what a bad mom I am. I've hung signs around my house that say "Let life be good". An optimistic gesture that I'm not quite comfortable with yet, but I'm getting there. But that's a detail. I'm healthy.

I'm SANE. I'm sane in this sea of DNA that wants me to be crazy. I have my sense of humor. I laugh. I eat food. I can handle the little everyday things that pop up. That's more than some of the people in my family could do.

I'm making progress, I'm evolving. I'm going to be able to help my daughter be sane. I'm probably turning my son into a mama's boy, but that's something the world and my future daughter-in-law will just have to deal with.

Amanda's beauty tip of the day: If you want to try out a vibrant color but aren't fond of paying a stylist for just a streak or trying to navigate the beauty supply store is too confusing get a packet of Kool-aid. Take a packet of kool-aid drink mix without sugar in whatever color you desire, mix it with enough water to create a paste then smoosh onto a section of hair before wrapping the section in aluminum foil and letting it sit for 30-60 minutes. Shampoo and you'll have a color streak that will last about 10 days.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I'm a total skeptic when it comes to ghosties. I think the majority of paranormal happenings can be explained with plumbing issues, unsealed windows or a house's floors being uneven. Rodents are probably causing the footsteps in many of these homes. They need an exterminator, not a group of people with thermometers and a boom mike.

I tend to look at the physical attacks of spirits with the eye of a cynic. I find it really interesting that when a person says they've been scratched by a ghost, it's usually right above the waistband of their pants on their back. Right where one could put their hands upon their hips and claw themselves without being noticed.

I've been known to yell "You made that shit up!" at the TV when I'm watching my beloved ghost hunting programs.

And, for the record, my opinion is that cases of possession are just people who've done something they're very ashamed of combined with a chemical imbalance.

So, yeah, skeptic is a good word for me.

But I'm a sucker for ghost stories. I love documentaries about the most haunted places with the reenactments of the tragic events and all that. I've toured multiple sites that claim to be haunted and I've spent the night in haunted houses. And I've never seen anything happen at any of them.

I know people who have their own ghost stories. Some excellent friends of mine live in a gorgeous, restored victorian where a ghost has made beds and brought towels to the guest room. They wouldn't have any reason to lie and I know they're not delusional. The reason they're not on Paranormal State is because they don't want to be on TV. (Well, they do want to be on TV but don't want to deal with Ryan's catholic theatrics.)

I've heard a lot of personal ghost stories through the years because I love to hear them. I love every ghost story I've heard, from the woman who saw the butler in 1800's clothing with a tray of tea while she was housesitting and found the tray outside her door the next morning to the granny ghost in the old farmhouse who would heat up the area around a mixing bowl containing pie crust dough because she wanted a biscuit crust.

Since it's the season of ghoulies and ghosties and long leggity beasties I'm about to admit that I have a ghost story myself. I don't know how to explain it away. So, here goes......

My grandmother died on September 11, 1999. We were all devastated and I spent weeks crying. When my grandmother wore perfume she wore White Shoulders. After the funeral I went into her closet to smell her good pink suit, still aromatic with White Shoulders and cry.

Right after my grandmother died, the shampoo and bottles of body wash would fall off the top of the shower enclosure while I was in the shower. It hadn't happened before and it didn't happen to Scott. We never found anything had fallen into the tub during the day while we were gone. It was only when I was in the shower.

I'd taken to saying "Stop it grandma." when I put the bottles back in their place.

In early October, I had the day off. It was really nice out and I had the windows in our two-story apartment open. Before I had children, I liked to nap in the early afternoon on my days off and I was in bed reading, getting ready to go to sleep on this particular day. I kept the blinds in our bedroom down, even when the windows were open because the windows of the townhouse behind us looked right into our bedroom. I didn't relish the crazy lady who lived there spying on me, so I kept the blinds down.

Suddenly, the blinds banged against the window. I thought "Oh, wind." Then the smell of White Shoulders drifted into my room so strongly it was like someone had sprayed it right in front of my face, a breeze went over me but the blinds didn't move.

What did I do? Did I say "Grandma?" and have a wonderful sense of love and extreme comfort because she'd come to visit me?

I hid under the covers and yelled "You're scaring me!" The blinds banged the window again and the White Shoulders went away.

The next day, the bathroom light started to turn on by itself. The switch wouldn't be in the 'on' position but the light would be on. If I flipped the switch up, then back down the light would turn off. It only happened when I was in the house by myself, once in the middle of the night when Scott was out of town and I ended up on the couch downstairs. Because, even though I'm a cynic, I'm a total coward when alone in the middle of the night and the lights are turning on by themselves. Yes, wiring, I know but I'm still leaving the room.

I made the decision to smudge the house. Smudging involves burning sage and waving the smoke around while saying what you invite to stay in your home and what you invite to leave. I got my supplies together and got started.

I lit my dried sage bundle in a ceramic bowl, then blew out the flame so it would smolder. The sage smoked out huge clouds, filling up my living room before setting off the smoke alarm. I tamped it out, opened windows and got the smoke detector turned off. I opened the front door to let more smoke out and saw smoke pouring out the bathroom window, smelling for all the world like I was burning a bushel of pot.

After the living room stopped looking foggy I started again and got the smoke under control. When I started upstairs towards the bathroom, the light turned on again, so did the fan. I went into the room and yelled "This is my house! You are scaring me and you need to leave!"

That's when the bowl broke apart in my hand because I'd forgotten to put dirt in the bowl before I lit the sage, the bowl got too hot and broke apart.

The light and the fan turned off right when the bowl broke. I cleaned up, made sure there were no embers burning on the carpet and went about my business of trying to make my house not smell like I'd be reenacting 'Reefer Madness' in my living room.

But, the light didn't turn on by itself again after that. There you go, take it or leave it. :)

Amanda's beauty tip of the day: You know those magazine articles that show "the newest, must-have cosmetics!" with pictures of products and descriptions? The photos and descriptions are supplied by the cosmetics company, who are usually advertisers in he magazine. Don't be fooled into thinking they're reviews.

Monday, October 18, 2010

yummy yummy yummy

I love fall, my favorite season. It's cool but not cold with Halloween and Thanksgiving to look forward to. Sweater sets, soup and my leopard print coat all start to make their annual appearances. We can have fires in the fireplace. It's the season of snuggling, break out the blankets it's time to cocoon! It's also the time of year I break down and go to Starbucks.

I don't usually go to Starbucks. If I'm going to buy a coffee I like to go to a great little place near my house that makes cupcakes. It's locally owned by two women. One of the owners has a daughter who will be one soon. She brings the babe into the bakery with her so I can kootchie-koo the baby's double chins. I like to Keep Austin Weird and I'm especially happy to support a woman owned business.

But, I am a sucker for the Pumpkin Spice latte. Hot, venti, whole milk with whip is how I like it. I can't afford to spend five dollars a day for coffee, but I treat myself on the way to work on Sundays.

I even have a ritual that goes along with this seasonal treat.

First, I smell my beverage through the lid. I close my eyes and inhale the lovely, nutmeg-y sweetness and think about how good it's going to taste when I drink it. I think about it because I don't drink it right away. I wait until I've gotten to the church where I work and I'll take my first sip once I get the nursery lights turned on.

I do that trick where I get air mixed into it like I understand one is supposed to do when tasting wine. Then I smell it some more.

During first service, there's usually a parent who comes in with his baby to chat. The baby won't hang out with me, but won't be quiet in the chapel so she and her dad come in to confab. I drink some more of my coffee, sipping it, making it last.

My baby friend usually runs off after 15 minutes and her dad runs after her. I rarely have any babies to play with during first service, so I'll sit in the rocker writing in my journal and finishing up the last of my coffee. I make sure to swish it around so the flavoring doesn't all sink to the bottom. Though I sometimes let that happen to get the really strong taste on my last swallow.

I look forward to this autumn ceremony starting roughly in July.

When we were living in Canada, we could get a maple latte. That was a kick in the head! One of my favorite coffee drinks ever! This is the beverage that made me appreciate smelling my drink before I drink it. My friend Cynthia pointed out that it smelled like breakfast, so I tried really inhaling the aroma. She was right, maple latte smelled just like every wonderful winter-time breakfast. Pancakes or french toast with maple syrup, the scent mixed with the milk heating on the stove for hot chocolate and my grandmother's coffee.

It was like being able to drink my childhood. Sadly, I cannot get a maple latte anymore. But, I can get Pumpkin Spice lattes and feel like I'm taking a sip of fall.

Amanda's beauty tip of the day: Wash your face before you go to sleep at night. Even if you just splash with water, wash your face.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Why I like my other job.

I have a very part-time job, three hours a week, providing child care in a church nursery and I really like working there.

It's a small space where I can work by myself. I've had some issues with a couple of women I've worked with in the past. Overreactions and lack of attention being my biggest peeves, our job is to play with the kids not sit in a chair resting our eyes. So working by myself is a big plus.

The kids who come in during services are really little giving me a baby fix. There are a couple of girls, sisters, who come visit me every week for half an hour before Sunday school starts. Then they stop by again to bring me whatever snack they had in class.

Lately, we've been playing documentary filmmaker. There's a play camera and laptop in the toy box. One sister will run the camera and I'll work the laptop. I'm told I'm editing. The other sister will line up stuffed animals and introduce them as her kids, or they'll talk about their grandma. When I'm the subject they ask me questions like what my favorite color is and how old my kids are. We have fun.

This church is a gay church. They welcome the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community. The pastor and her partner have been together for many years. Mostly couples attend, some straight couples attend with their grown child and their partner. Siblings and friends also attend with the gay person in their life. There are grown children who attend with their gay parents. There are also straight people who attend because they like coming to church there. They call it "A Church Without Walls".

I'm sure it's because these are possibly the friendliest people I've met in my life.

When I told this to the woman who oversees child care she said "Well, we are...." then she did jazzy hands with a big smile "GAY! You know, in the old sense of the word."

Parishioners come in to say hi and enquire about my kids. There are people who will hug me hello when I walk into the building. I chat with parents when they drop off their children, exchanging happenings and ways to de-stink kid's shoes.

Most of the kids who spend time with me are adopted or fostered. One couple are the foster parents to a brother and sister. When I first met the little boy he was four months old but looked like a newborn, he was so little. He's had significant respiratory issues due to the biological mom's heavy smoking during her pregnancy.

That was in April. Now, he's fat, happy, crawling, blowing raspberries and doing all the things that babies should be doing. One of their moms said the kids were in bad shape when they arrived to live with them. I said children should ever be in bad shape, they should all have good moms who take care of them. Seeing him change and thrive under their care is really amazing.

The reason I like to work there is because they make me feel like I'm part of the community. I've worked at several churches and at most of them, there's a distinctive boundary between the members of the congregation and me. I'm an employee.

Where I'm working now, that line isn't there. I know that sounds sappy but it's true.

I have to be careful not to be too self-congratulatory on how cool and accepting I am being straight, square and suburban working at a gay church. But I like seeing same sex couples holding hands and hearing anniversary announcements every Sunday. One couple has been together for 45 years. It gives me a lot of hope that the world is going to change it's attitude in my lifetime.

We've already come so far. I remember commenting how fantastic it was that Joe Biden not only appeared on Ellen, he congratulated her on her recent marrige to Portia de-Rossi. Just that Ellen is out and proud, hosting a popular talk show and being a spokesperson for Cover Girl cosmetics show how far we've come in just fifteen years.

After the rash of suicides by gay teens who'd been bullied I thought how much I'd like to bring them to the church where I work so they could get a hug hello, hear how long the couples have been together and meet their children. But mostly to see how enthusiastically happy they all are. That is really does get better.

And they have donuts.

Amanda's beauty tip of the day: If you are going to use self-tanner, really exfoliate before applying and wear gloves to protect your hands or they'll turn orange.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Here's some lipstick, now kiss my ass.

I got really, really angry at a woman in the news this week.

A woman named Jennifer Petkov to be exact. Mrs. Petkov lives in Michigan and has been feuding with her across the street neighbor, Rebecca Rose, for two years. Yah? So? Neighbors feud all time?

Rebecca Rose's daughter, Laura Edwards, died of Huntington's disease last year at the age of twenty-four. And her seven year old granddaughter, Kathleen, is in the final stages of Huntington's as well.

The latest, is that Mrs. Petkov created a photograph incorporating Kathleen's face over a pair of crossed bones. She also put Laura's face into a picture being hugged by the grim reaper both of which she put up on a facebook page, apparently created just for that reason.

Somehow, this got brought to the attention of the local news who trotted out to ask Mrs. Petkov what the deal was.

They found Mrs. P standing on her porch with her arms crossed, one hip popped out and bobbing her head around while she shouted "Personal satisfaction." in response to the question why she'd done such a thing. "Because it rubs their ass raw. Burns their ass.....Because it burns Rebecca Rose's ass raw for me to make fun of her dead daughter on that page."

When the reporter said "That sounds sick."

She responded "Take it or leave it." and shrugged.

Mrs. Petkov and her husband have painted their truck with gravestones, put a homemade coffin in the back and parked it in front of their house. Which is across the street from the house where a child is actively dying. Mrs. Petkov has allegedly said to Kathleen "I can't wait until you die."

I am rarely speechless. I'm hardly every at a loss for words. I don't find myself struck dumb very often. But, Jennifer Petkov made a rage rise up in me that paralyzed my vocal cords. My fists clenched. My teeth clenched. My brain got a severe cramp trying to wrap itself around this situation.

I don't think the word 'hate' is strong enough to describe what I feel about this woman.

And there wasn't a damn thing I could do! All I could do was stomp around my house whispering "You fucking cunt. You low life motherfucking shit filled asshole." I had to whisper because my kids were home. I took to my facebook page to repeat this profanity. Then I stomped around some more.

There was an update on the story fairly quickly, a clip of of Mrs. Petkov wearing her glasses calmly apologizing for her behavior. The problem she's got is no one believes her. The shameless and seemingly proud display on her porch cemented the public's opinion. The opinion that she's so full of shit it's leaking out her eyes.

Mrs. Petkov is a grown-ass woman who's a bully. She's been bullying the family across the street. Kathleen's father, the widower of Laura, was asked why he hasn't gone across the street and kicked some ass.

His answer was that he has enough on his plate. Hospice is coming to their home to help with Kathleen, who is having seizures.

But once the story hit the news there were plenty of people willing to go across the street and kick some ass. The Petkov's had their home egged, got a bunch of pizzas they didn't order and received death threats. Mr. Petkov was suspended from his job with pay, but may be fired. The police came to visit them. And, get this, child protective services came to their house.

(That's right, this woman's a parent. And Rebecca Rose says the whole thing started when Mrs. Petkov's kids weren't invited to a birthday party.)

In other words, the bully got bullied back. And, like all cowardly bullies, she ran to hide in the house and said she was sorry. But, as I said, no one believes her.

I do, however, believe her husband. He's moved the truck with the tombstones painted on it into their backyard, behind a fence. He busted up the coffin and took down all the Halloween decorations. He got as close to his neighbor's home as he was able, not very close since there's an order of protection against him, and apologized directly to Kathleen's family. He apologized again to television cameras. He seems very contrite and sincere.

A candlelight ceremony was held outside Kathleen's home to show the family that the community supports them. While this was happening the Petkovs put a lit candle on their porch.

The story has gone international. Kathleen's family has received well wishes from Germany and Australia. Random people are coming to their house to give them money. A toy store has raised a bunch of funds so Kathleen can have a big shopping spree, she'll be sharing the toys with kids in a local hospital.

My pissed off feeling is fading the longer Mrs. Petkov stays in her house. I hope she stays there.

Amanda's beauty tip of the day: You can use Vaseline as eye cream and a lip treatment. Start with a very tiny amount around your eyes, patting it on with your ring fingers. Cheap and even a small container will last a long time.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The darkest day of the year is the brightest for me.

I used to list Christmas as my favorite holiday. I still love Christmas, don't misunderstand me. But since the trampling death at a Wal-Mart in Long Island the day after Thanksgiving in 2008, watching the movie "What Would Jesus Buy" and learning about The Advent Conspiracy the consumerism of Christmas has left a bad taste in my mouth.

I still love spending time with my family, cooking and exchanging gifts. I especially love to watch my children run for their stockings Christmas morning. If friends in the area don't have family visiting, we have them over for a brunch of french toast, bacon and mimosas.

But, with the pressure to spend money and how cranky everyone shopping gets it's not my favorite anymore.

Halloween has officially overtaken Christmas as my favorite holiday.
Halloween is fun for no reason at all. Think about it, it's not a celebration of any significant historic happening or high holy day. It's a day when people get dressed up in silly clothes and encourage children to run from house to house taking candy from strangers. We tell each other ghost stories to try and scare the crap out of each other. We hang skeletons from the trees in our front yards. It's a big, pagan free-for-all and everyone can participate.

Why do we do it? Because our parents did it. Now that I'm a parent I do it for my kids because it's a bunch of fun.

The entire process is just a gas. Figuring out what costume to wear is the first step. I wore a lot of home made costumes when I was a kid. My mom was a theatre major and has quite good make-up skills. One year I was a ghost, I stuck my head through a hole in a sheet and my mom painted my face all white with a big spider on my nose. My children gag at this idea, so I buy them costumes.

Taking my kids to the Halloween store means walking around watching them change their mind every thirty seconds. I tell them they need to sleep on it then we'll go back the next day. They put costumes are put on immediately because I'm a cool mom who lets them do that.

Some friends of mine dressed their children in themes until they got old enough to protest. Kathye dressed her eight year old as Leia, her five year old as Darth Vader and her one year old as Chewbacca. Or my friend Amanda who made her husband a Sweeney Todd outfit, a Mrs. Lovett get-up for herself and costumed her baby daughter as a meat pie. Seriously, what could be cuter?

And our neighborhood is great for trick-or-treating. As I tell people, the neighborhood is lousy with children. We're friendly with the neighbors and we'll switch off who walks around with the kids. I'll start with the children of Joe, Mike and my own kids. When we get to Mike's house, he'll take over while I go home. When he gets to Joe's house Joe will take over until the circuit is complete and he'll walk everyone home. It works out well.

We get so many trick-or-treaters I don't even close the front door. I like to drag a living room chair onto the porch to pass out candy. And I don't care if the person with the bag is seventeen, as long as they're dressed up I'm good with it. One year I almost poked a twelve year old girl in the eye because she had no costume on and took a bunch of crappy candy out of her bag, put it all in my bowl and took a bunch of my good candy.

We have a pre-trick-or-treating party every year. We invite friends to come over in the late afternoon while it's still light out. I put pumpkin and witch decorations up with lots of candles. I make beef stew, pumpkin bread, spiced cider and a cranberry-wine punch. Friends bring dishes to share before tromping off to get their sweets. Sometimes people hang out for a while, listening to music and chatting. At some point we drink a toast to those passed on. This year will be our fourth Day-of-the-Dead gathering and it's a party I really look forward to.

And I follow some old, spiritual traditions. I leave a plate of food outside for the spirits. It's said that on Halloween night the veil between this world and the afterlife is thin enough for our loved one who have passed away to come visit us. "To kiss us as we sleep" is the idea. The journey is difficult and they need the nourishment of the meal I leave out to make the journey back.

But legends aside, Halloween is just an excuse to be goofy for the sake of being goofy. I love that people turn on their lights and open their door to give kids a treat. They don't know these kids, but they give them treats all the same. Because it's fun.

If I had to explain to someone who had never heard of Halloween why we did it, I would say "Because it's fun." No other reason, it's just fun. I think we should have at least one more day during the year to celebrate just to create fun. What about May 6th? It only comes one day a year!

I need idea for a costume. What do you think?

Amanda's beauty tip of the day: Black nail polish needs regular touching up. Make sure to check your manicure throughout the day.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sometimes, it all works out

When I first heard the news story about the miners trapped in Chile, my thought was that we'd all get to watch them die on international television.  I fully expected the story to go away if  they were really going to get out.  

When I heard how long it was going to take to reach them I thought we'd only hear about them again if they went crazy down there.  I was prepared to be completely disgusted with the way the story was being presented and/or ignored for not being enough of a train wreck.

But the story didn't go away.  None of them died. And they didn't go crazy.

I was telling people yesterday how amazing the news coverage has been. It's been hopeful, optimistic and assuming that the miners will all get out.  All I've heard is how well they're doing and about the prayer vigils the families are having.  It was just recently I learned about some of the infighting between the families.  But that's not surprising the crazy stress and fear they were all living with.

And I've been able to laugh about the man whose wife AND mistress are waiting for him.  I've made jokes with a couple people that maybe he's just going to stay down there.  

It's been repeated that this rescue is precedent setting, there haven't been people trapped that far down before.  The team working to bring the miners home has engineered the technology as well as considered the psychological well being of the men underground.  Now that this plan has been developed it can be put into action should it ever be needed again, which I really hope it's not.

And they're being brought up today!  

People really are good, I think that's true.  There has been so much hard work by people who don't even know the men underground.  They just know there are 33 human beings trapped underground and they can't just be left there.

Book and movie offers have been made to the miners, making it pretty clear that these guys won't have to go underground again.

I'm sitting in front of the television crying and clapping each time a miner is brought to the surface.  As they step out I applaud and say "YAY!" because I do get that happy when such a cool thing happens.

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  When you're looking for a new product, start with the least expensive.  More money doesn't need more quality.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The beginning of the end

I'm starting to lose my daughter.  She's nine and her hormones have started to kick in.  I was looking at her the other day and she's starting to get a waist.    I was telling her goodnight last week and noticed she's got some little pimples on her face.  

She's still very much a little girl with Barbies, Ponies and Littlest Pet Shop, but she has discovered Lady Gaga and Hannah Montana.  (You want to feel like a parent who knows they're fucking it up?  Load your daughter and two friends into the car to go to a Girl Scout event.  Agree to put on Lady Gaga and listen to the three eight year old girls sing "I wanna take a ride on your disco stick" at the top of their lungs.)

She's pickier about her clothes than she used to be.  She spends time in her room having "by myself time".  She turns items into microphones.  I've caught her sashaying around the house.  She flips her hair.  

I know this is the beginning of the dreaded adolescence.  But Scott and I are doing all we can to delay that as long as possible. We've been diligent in making sure the movies she watches and the games she plays are age appropriate.  (Well, except the Lady Gaga thing.)

One of Zoe's teachers told me she could tell we protected our daughter.  She then clarified that she called it good parenting.  I'm still trying to keep to this standard.

Last year, a friend of her's asked to watch "Nightmare on Elm Street".  When I said "Ah, no!" she told me the story line of all the Freddy movies.  She also listed "Night of the Living Dead" and "Carrie" among her favorite movies.  I was horrified.  

We don't have cable but we do have Netflix streaming, which allows me to see what she's been watching.  Currently, I can trust her to choose her own shows.  

We've already moved our computers into the living room.  There won't be any computers with online access in anyone's room.  I watch "To Catch a Predator", I know what goes on!!!  And once boys start sniffing around webcams will be a thing of the past. AND I'm hiding the video camera.  

I've gotten this whole new, Tipper Gore type angle on pop music now that I have children.  I was watching some early Elvis footage not long ago. He was so good looking, sang suggestive tunes and did that sexy dancing, I can see why parents were terrified.  

I took one look at the Pussycat Dolls and felt my mind snap shut in regards to girl groups.  'AHHHH!!! SLUTTSSSSSS!! My daughter will become a prostitute if she listens to this music!  Here, listen to Madonna!'  

She's starting to talk about her friends and what they do.  She tells me how late her friends get to stay up, where they go on vacations, where they buy their clothes.  When she goes to friend's homes for sleepovers she gives me a full report on the ways their home is better than ours.  

After this school year, we only have one more grade before middle school. I know that's when she's going to stop thinking for herself and let her opinions be led by her friends, magazines and television. 

And that's going to be it for me until she needs me to help plan the wedding. My opinion will be only slightly above that of the principal of her school. If I want her to wear the white dress, I need to say I like the black one.  If I think she should stop talking to her friend who is being mean, I need to say "Well, maybe you two need to talk it out."

Her friends are going to call the shots and I'll be Satan in a dress.  Only I'll be fatter and uglier.

I walk around our neighborhood, looking at the boys who live here thinking This is the dating pool.  These kids are going to  be coming to my house in five years to walk Zoe up  to Starbucks.

These are the boys she's going to giggle about, get dressed up for and cry over.  We're going to go to the neighborhood pool in not so very long and I'll get to watch my daughter and her friend walk really slowly past the guys pushing each other into the pool.  And she'll complain to her friend that I make her wear a one piece bathing suit.  I get twitchy thinking about it.

I can only hope she'll end up a choir/drama geek with a lot of gay guys for friends.  I would love that.  She'd have someone to go places with and I wouldn't have to worry about a thing.  

I will live through it I swear.  I wonder if I can book therapy appointments that far in advance?  

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  Don't use the chunky apricot facial scrubs on your face!  They're too harsh.  But they're great for the rest of your body.  

Monday, October 11, 2010

The insanity of four

My son is four.  And he's crazy.  All four year olds are crazy.

Several stand up comics have spoken about this, my favorite being Louis CK.

Four year olds scream, demand things, take their clothes off, talk to people who aren't there, purposefully hurt themselves and play with their genitals in public.  Since my son can pee standing up I can add urinating in the front yard to my list.  Usually done while playing with his genitals.  

He's NUTS. And funny as hell.  

Scott is going to be fifty next year.  We joke a lot about how old he's getting.  Scott says he's going to buy a cane to shake at the neighborhood kids while yelling "Get off my lawn!"

One day, Will said he was going to be old too.  He opened out back door and screamed "Get off my lawn!" before slamming the door.  

One night, Scott and I were talking at the dinner table after the kids had been excused.  Suddenly, Will ran up to the table butt-naked with his little acoustic guitar strapped around his neck.  

He yelled "FIND ME PANTS!!!!"  and ran off again.  

His favorite word is 'poop'.  He'll get an apple and say "I got a poop apple!"  He'll call his sister a 'poop head' until she screams in frustration.  He's always telling fart jokes.

Everything turns into a gun.  He's turned a stuffed animal into a gun.  I'm killed by him several times a day.  

He asked me for ninja stars this week.  I have no idea where he even learned about ninja stars.  I know I've never discussed the weaponry of stealth martial artists with him.  

And he doesn't like the Three Stooges all that much.  But, but, he's a guy!  I thought it was imbedded in their DNA to like the Stooges.  

I'm telling you there's something wrong with him!  But I love him anyway.  

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  If you've bought a hair conditioner that you don't like, use it as your shave cream in place of soap.  

Saturday, October 9, 2010

I wear my soul on my sleeve

I turned 39 this year.  I'm having trouble with forty coming up.  I had big issues with twenty-five as well.  I've started to get this panicky feeling that I've just started on the journey to who I really am, who I really want to be, but I'm so late!  How long will I have to enjoy this?  Holy shit!  I'm gonna die!  My kids are really going to grow up and leave.  Can't think about it. Can't think about it. Can't think about it.  

So, I took a deep breath and got a new tattoo.  I got a new tattoo on my left arm.  A tattoo on your back or thigh is one thing, it can be covered up, brought out to be shown to people that have been selected to see the artwork.  But an arm tattoo is something different.  Unless I wear elbow length sleeves for the rest of my life my ink is going to be shown to the world.  And it's too damn hot in Texas to wear anything, let alone long sleeves.  

I really want to embrace the woman I want to be and squeeze her hard enough to make her a little out of breath. A mom who takes her job seriously but has tattoos, is unconventional and isn't all that interested in what everyone else thinks of her.  Some women call themselves 'tattooed moms'.  Other's don't label themselves as anything at all, but are comfortable doing their own thing.  

I'm very inspired by the generations of women who came before me.  Women who helped settle the country in one room cabins.  Women who figured out how to feed everyone during the depression.  Women who won their gender the vote, were brave enough to step out of the kitchen, who turned and said the ass pinching had to stop.  They made it so that I had a choice to stay home with my children or not.  The choice was the important thing.  

The symbolic woman for me, is Rosie the Riveter.  The young woman in her red bandana flexing her biceps.  And she's a real woman. Her name is Geraldine Doyle.  She was seventeen at the time the photograph was taken.  She was working in a Michigan factory, pressing metal, one of the early replacement workers for men.   Geraldine's image, re-imagined and painted by the artists at Westinghouse, was hung in factories all over, encouraging the women workers "We Can Do It!".  But, of course, they already knew that.   Interestingly, the posters created by the Westinghouse company only hung in the factories for two weeks before being replaced by the next in the series.  Geraldine forgot about it and didn't realize it was her photo that inspired that image until 1984.  She's still alive and living in Michigan.  

And that's what I wanted on my arm.  Rosie the Riveter, showing she could do it.  

I found a woman tattoo artist.  It was essential to me it be a woman. She and I communicated via email and I was thrilled when she said she'd love to do it.  And she did a brilliant job.  

I'm a can-do girl who comes from a long line of can-do girls.  My great-grandma B came to California from east Texas with her husband and two children during the depression.  She was all of seventeen years old.  She and Grandpa B (we called them Grandma and Grandpa B because their last name was Billingsley, too hard for a little kid to say) both found work braiding telephone cable by hand.  They bought land and built a house.  Grandma B could shoot a rattlesnake with a single shot, bolt-action pistol or beat one to death with a plastic sided broom. 

Great-grandma Nellie, came from Iowa, also during the depression,  after their farm had been taken back by the bank.  Everything including their mules and equipment were repossessed.  Her husband found work overseeing convict work crews.  Nellie was a seamstress for a movie studio.  She could create a pattern from a sketch.  I have no idea which movies she sewed costumes for, but I would bet my Fire & Ice by Revlon that I've seen her handiwork.  

Great-grandma Elsie was divorced in the 1920's and took her two children back to her mother's farm.  None of us know why Herman was handed his hat.  Elsie never remarried.  But she did watch wrestling and went to the roller derby.  She drove like a crazy person and liked to have a beer once in a while.  And I understand she had quite the right hook.  

It makes perfect sense for me to mark myself with yet another can-do girl.   She reminds me I can do it. 

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  Get enough sleep, it makes a difference.   

Friday, October 8, 2010

Well, razz my berries!

I do things just to be goofy.  I think nothing will come of these things, the people I know will accept my goofiness and move on.  Or, I do something like invite Henry Rollins to my house for dinner when he's in Austin and laugh when he answers me five minutes later declining.  I didn't expect him take me up on my offer, but five minutes?  Henry!?  Do you spend all day checking your email?

But, sometimes, it doesn't end that way.  When Scott and I decided to be remarried in Las Vegas for our 20th anniversary I sent evites out to everyone we knew.  I did this as a joke.  But then eleven people booked hotel rooms, packed suitcases, left their homes and traveled distances to met us in sin city to help us celebrate.  I couldn't believe it!  People got on planes! My friend Steve bought a suit!
I was really touched and as friends got in touch to say "Yeah!  We're in!" and the guest count went up, I was moved to tears.  I'm new to the whole self-esteem thing, so gestures of affection are difficult for me to accept.  But I'm trying.

My most recent goofy act was to leave a message for Penn Jillette on his tweet pointing to my blog entry about Teller liking my hair.  I then went on about my business of cleaning, cooking, child/husband caring and grooming myself.
I was updating my blog and decided to check my stats.  It's a feature where I can see how many times the page has been viewed in a day, a month, over the life of the page and where the viewers are in the world.  I appreciate people reading my essays and I like to see that my friends are checking in.   Gives me the warm fuzzies.

I click over to my stats and see I've gone from about 20 views a day to over 60 in a 24 hour period.  "That's weird" I think to myself, "What's that about?"

I checked to make sure that my views of my own page aren't being counted.  No, that setting is still in place.  

Well, my mom is recovering from that surgery, maybe she's reading one essay at a time, coming back several times.  She has a lot of friends, maybe she's forwarded my page on to some of them.

But, the views are on this one particular entry about this compliment.  Now I'm very confused.  The traffic on one's blog does not jump by 300% without something happening to cause that traffic increase.

*I* wasn't doing anything different, I hadn't posted it anywhere else.  Oh, wait.   I went to check where I'd shared the link with Penn Jillette in a goofy manner.

Penn had put the response "@ Pafuts:  He meant it."

I checked my stats again.  My number one traffic source was Twitter.  People were reading his response and clicking over to my Twitter profile to see what comment he was replying to.  And then clicking through to the blog. 

Ain't that a killer?  There's a bunch'a people I don't know makin' the scene over here.  

Come on in cats!  I got a tuna-noodle casserole in the oven.  

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  To dry nail polish in a hurry, put your hands in the freezer.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I got this, you might want to stand back.

I'm a handy honey if I do say so myself.  I can assemble furniture, install the pipes under the kitchen sink, I know the difference between flat and phillips,  replace the bathroom's ball-cock and flapper valve, unclog the garbage disposal, replace fence boards, put in a new water faucet, spackle a hole in the wall, tape and paint a room, troubleshoot the vacuum cleaner, operate power tools, check all the fluids in my car's engine and wear lipstick at the same time.

That last one came into play not long ago. (the car fluids, not the lipstick)  I picked Will up from preschool like always.  But when we got home I saw that my car's temperature indicator was indicating that my engine was waaaaayy too hot. As a matter of fact, my temperature gauge had no where else to go.  It was at maximum elevation.

This was shocking because The Bluebell never runs hot.  She's a Honda CR-V and she's cool as a cuke. Nothing goes wrong with her.  I change her oil and replace her tires.  But today something did go wrong.  Today, The Bluebell had a fever.   Yes, I refer to my car by name and gender.  Kaylee and I have this in common.  

I popped the hood and checked the reservoir next to the radiator.  Dry as a bone.  Ho-boy.  I took Will inside and let the engine cool for a while.  After 20 minutes I went back out and opened the radiator.  Nope, no green goo like there's supposed to be.  I fetched my jug of coolant, did the appropriate mixing in of water and got ready to fill the radiator to the correct level.  

As usual, I succeeded in pouring the stuff all over the place.  Because, while I am handy I make messes.  Drywall powder is all over the floor after I attach a thing to a wall. Drill bits are all out of order when I'm done with the drill. I lose my work gloves, don't put things back in the right place or clean up after myself when I do handy things.  I leave screws in my pockets that end up being run through the washing machine. I think the other people in my house should be pleased and grateful that I've just completed whatever handy thing I've just done.  

I did manage to get most of the coolant into the radiator and the reservior.  Some went on my pants, some on my shoes, some on the engine, some on the driveway, some on the front bumper, as I said, it got everywhere. 

This frustrated me because it meant I'd have to wait until the stuff all dried out before I could see if any of the hoses were leaking. 

By the way, if you do have a leak that requires the attention of a mechanic, put a white paper towel on top of the fluid that's leaked out.  Take the towel with you to show your car guy exactly what is leaking out.  Radiator fluid is green.  Transmission fluid is red.  Oil is black.  Make sure you check these levels before you drive to the garage as you can do severe damage to your car driving with the levels too low.  Read the car's manual to learn where all these check points are located.  

I started the engine, turned the heater up all the way and kept an eye on my temperature indicator.  After a few minutes I turned the heater off, a  couple minutes more and I turned on the A/C.  When I was satisfied nothing was going to blow up, I went to pick Zoe up from school.  The Bluebell isn't showing anymore signs of running hot.  

Say what you want about my lack of neatness.  I knew how to check what was wrong and adjust accordingly. I don't stand in the driveway with my hands on my hips waiting for someone to come help me.  I should go check my tire pressure and change the air filter in the FAU.  

But I'm going to have some coffee first. 

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  Make applying lip balm part of your daily routine, just once or twice a day.  Lipstick won't look good on cracked and peeling lips.