Monday, September 28, 2009

You'll Know It's for Real When I Get Invited to the Next Barn Raising

Many years ago, I had two fascinations: the Mafia and the Amish. Since then, I have matured tremendously.  I am now only fascinated with the Amish.  In fact, I love them.  I have loved them longer than there've been fishes in the ocean.  Higher than any bird ever flew.  Longer than that Dan Folgelberg song will be stuck in your head now.

And as luck and job offers would have it, I live ridiculously close to the Amish now.  Which means that God has finally answered my daydreams.  Which also means that I have spent quite a bit of time over the past year stalking befriending them.

Things didn't really start progressing in our friendship until we stopped at an Amish roadside stand in June on our way to Hershey Park.  I purchased a powdered, filled donut for 50 cents, took a bite and had a religious experience.  I'm not kidding.

Over the summer, we headed out to visit them and partake of their divine baked goods and fresh produce every available Saturday morning.  We'd get a couple of twenties out of the ATM and drive out to their luscious landscape and return home with a trunkful of treasures: cakes, pies, breads, jams, oats, watermelon, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, pretzels, smoked chicken, onions, cookies, donuts, squash, zucchini, and handmade soaps.  We'd drive along the roads and marvel at the horse-drawn buggies and the little Amish kids riding old-fashioned scooters.

"I want one of those scooters!" I exclaim almost every time we see one.  There's a store that has them for sale out front.

"What would you do with one?" Ryan asks.

"I don't know, but I really want one." I say.

We stop at the same places every time, individual farms with simple wooden stands stocked with their extremely inexpensive offerings.  The stands are only open on Saturdays and are manned by the family's children.  The children are bashful, polite, and sweet as they answer my questions about this or that.  Many times I bite my tongue before I blurt out, "And how much for one of you little Amish kids?  Just for a week?"  Somehow I feel it's inappropriate, even though I know that we would have a great time together eating bean burritos and watching YouTube videos and turning light switches on and off.

Saturday afternoon we headed out again with my sister-in-law and niece who are visiting.  We took them to our regular stops and filled our arms with freshly baked cookies, pies, and soft white bread that is made out of butter, flour, and God's pure love.  As I handed over my few dollars, I realized for the first time that the girl recognized me.  Did you get that?  The Amish KNOW ME!  She didn't say anything, but she looked at me with familiar eyes; eyes that said, "I know this lady and I like her, even though I think she secretly wants to rent me for a week."

My heart went pitter-pat.

At the next stop, we purchased homemade root beer, potato chips, and a dozen fresh brown eggs.  Oh, and one more thing--hot sauce.  I bought Amish hot sauce.  Wrap your mind around those three words together: Amish hot sauce.  Is that even allowed?!  I mean, it seems a little scandalous.


Next, we pulled into the drive of one of our favorite farms and got out to select from their crops.  The older brother was there and a little sister too.  We looked at the crook-neck pumpkins together and I tried to decide if I could actually attempt cooking one.  An older girl came skipping out of the house, barefoot.  She's helped us a few times before (once she offered me an extra bag for my corn on the cob) and she seemed excited to join us.  We exchanged hellos.  The older boy asked me where we're from and I told him, but I know he's never heard of it before.  I wondered to myself how far his imagination can take him outside of this world.  And if he's ever had a bean burrito.  I got in the car after purchasing two little watermelons and squealed with delight, "They know me!  They remember me!  WE'RE FRIENDS!"

Ryan is used to this.  "I know," he said.

We headed toward home, driving away from the simple life, eating homemade cookies, potato chips and cold, bottled Amish root beer.  My sister-in-law and niece were caught up in the sugary/buttery/homemade Amish high too.  But I was a little more high than they were, because I was high on Amish friendship.

"I'm friends with the Amish," I told them seventeen times.

"I know," they said.

"And I know where I would ride my Amish scooter," I said after a while.

"Where?" asked Ryan.

"Right here in Amish country with all my Amish friends.  We're friends, you know."

"I know," he said.

We are.  We're tight.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Wouldn't You Like To Be a Trooper Too?

Based on my childhood experiences, one of the best things a person can attain to be in this life is a trooper.  My family really loves troopers.  And you should feel highly honored if anyone in my family calls you a trooper; you are being held in the highest esteem.

By the way, that's something important to know about troopers: you cannot self-proclaim trooperism.  It does not work to say, "Boy, I was really a trooper today!"  That is totally against the rules.  You must be nominated a trooper by someone else.  For example, "He's such a trooper!" and "What a trooper!" and "She's an amazing trooper!" are all ways of announcing a trooper to others.  So, it's important if you want to become a trooper that you troop a lot in front of people, particularly my relatives.

What does it mean to be a trooper, you ask?  Well, basically it means to endure without complaint.  To long-suffer without whining.  To keep on keepin' on (and on and on and on).  To be consistently selfless.  To accept what you're given.  And I can see why my parents praised troopering--it was likely a positive reinforcement survival tactic with eight kids.  Who could endure the whining of such a crowd?  I should probably give a lot of credit to my five older siblings.  If they hadn't been such troopers, my parents never would have had me in the first place.

And while we're on the subject of having kids, there's nothing that thrills my parents more than to hear that their grandchildren are also troopers.  You should hear it when I call my mom and dad to say, "We drug Max all over New York City all day long, and he never once complained about the walking.  He kept right up--two of his steps to every one of ours!"  I can hear them smiling through the phone, beaming sunshine, and I know what they're thinking: Our grandson is such a little trooper!  (And if you think it feels good to be nominated a trooper, just imagine how good it feels to realize that you've raised one.)

I am proud to come from such a long line of troopers.  There are tales of supreme trooperism from my ancestors.  It comforts me to know that my DNA is structured to endure all manner of hardship---electrical shock, wild animals, and natural childbirth, to name a few.  Even though I don't choose to practice troopering regularly, I'm glad to know it's in me.  You know, I can if I have to.

I should clarify something--troopers are not only found in my family tree.  Here is a list of famous troopers:

Helen Keller
George Washington
Mother Teresa
Thomas Edison
The guy in Field of Dreams
The guy in Shawshank Redemption
The guy in The Patriot
The guy in Cinderella Man
The Energizer Bunny
Abraham Lincoln
Barbara Streisand
Albert Einstein
Keri Strug
Princess Diana
Zac Efron
Jackie Robinson
Abigail Adams
Luke Skywalker

See?  Almost everywhere you look, a trooper is there to inspire you.  I know they've inspired me.

Now, I'd love to know: Is the grand tradition of troopers something that is celebrated only in my family? Or have you spent your life striving to be nominated in your own circle? What are your thoughts on the subject?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Breaking Bread

We celebrated Rosh Hashanah last weekend with our Jewish friends Steve and Nancy and their two daughters.  Earlier in the week Nancy realized that her family wouldn't be able to make it to their regular service at synagogue.  They were going to have their own ceremony, she explained, and wouldn't we--the Mormons--like to join them?

"Of course," I said.  It made perfect sense.

When the day arrived, we drove to meet their family down by the neighborhood lake.  In the privacy of our own car, I tried to explain the ceremony to my family and begged them (particularly Max and Ryan) to refrain from silliness, to try and be thoughtful and respectful.  After all, I explained, it isn't every day we celebrate the Jewish new year.

We went down to the lake and stood on a small bridge; it was important to find a spot where the water was moving.  Nancy explained the tradition to us: the new year is about seeking forgiveness from those we have hurt or offended, giving up our sins, and promising God a new and improved version of ourselves in the coming year.  We then break pieces of bread and toss them into the water, giving each one the name of a sin we pledge to forsake this year.  The water then carries them away.  Kind of a beautiful thought, huh?

Before we got started, Nancy turned to me and said, "The most important part of this tradition is the part where we ask forgiveness from others.  So, I'm sorry if I've been a pain in the ass to you at any point over the last year."

I laughed.  "Likewise," I said.

We turned and faced the water.  Nancy tore a piece of bread and threw it as she exclaimed, "Impatience!"

I was still holding my piece of bread, trying to decide how to organize my sins--alphabetically?  Or in order of most grievous?

"Impatience!  Impatience!  Impatience!  Impatience!" she rattled off, a small tear of bread for each one.

I already felt behind.  I tore a piece and tossed it.  "Financial stupidity," I said.

"Good one," Nancy said.  "I'm going to use that one too.  Financial stupidity!" She threw another piece in.

And then it was as if the floodgates opened, the sins lined up in orderly rows for each of us, anxious to be announced and airborne.  We all stood there, tossing our sins over the edge, one after another after another, and watched them pool in the slow-moving water below.

"My temper," someone said.
"Expecting too much of others," said someone else.
"Breaking someone's toy," said a voice that sounded like Max.
"Jumping to conclusions."
"Not being present."
"Not listening."
"Making a big deal out of small things."
"Not doing things the first time I'm asked."
"Not taking enough time for my spirituality."
"Being too hard on myself."
"Being too hard on others."
"Fighting with my sister."
"Making fun of my brother."
"Hitting my sister with a piece of bread." (Those Jews are hilarious.)
"Not reaching for my potential."
"Hurting other's feelings."
"Being too sarcastic."
"Wanting what I don't have."
"Obsessing about things I want."
"Not enough exercise."
"Not listening to my kids." (I think this one got an "Amen.")
The lists went on.

Sometime around the point when my piece of bread was nearing vanish, Max came next to me, urgent to get another piece of bread.  He hadn't been standing by me, and I hadn't been paying close attention to him.  I was too caught up in casting away my many sins, I guess.  He took a stale roll and tore a piece.  He flung it out into the water and yelled, "Recycle!" and then tore another piece and shouted, "Be good at school and don't get in trouble for talking too loud."

I watched him out of the corner of my eye as he tossed piece after piece, shouting each statement with gusto.

"Love Jesus!" (This made the Jews laugh.)
"Be nice to America!"
"Don't yell at your mom!"
"When you meet a new kid, go up and say, 'Hi! What's your name?'"
"Don't lock your bedroom door ever again!" (His only real sin of the day.  I'd spent an hour dissecting his doorknob.)
"Don't break your brother's toys!"
"Be nice to Barack Obama!" (I guess he's been reading my mom's emails.)
"Eat good food for your body!"
"Love someone in the heart!" (That's the maximum amount of love, according to him.)

He went on and on, until the stale little roll was gone and a scatter of little crumbs sat at his feet.  I was wearing sunglasses; they hid my big, fat tears.  I hadn't expected him, a six-year-old, to be so.....introspective.  He seemed to be so careful and thoughtful about this, and his observations were so universal.  I should have thrown another piece of bread and said, "Not giving Max enough credit."

But all the bread was gone.

We stood around for a few minutes.  We thanked them for inviting us and walked back to our cars.  I felt a little lighter, a little sober, more committed to a better new year.  I looked at myself, my husband, my children, my friends, with new eyes.  I thanked God for an unexpected spiritual moment.

And as our bread crumbs slowly made their way down the stream to disintegrate and dissolve into the memories of last year, we continued our celebration of Rosh Hashanah by going out for Chinese food all together.  It made perfect sense.

Monday, September 21, 2009

He Can't Get No Respect

A few random scenes from the last few weeks.

Dentist: So, how many credit hours are you taking this semester?
Ryan: Um, I'm actually teaching a couple of graduate courses.
Dentist: Oh.  Sorry.
Ryan: It's okay.  Happens all the time.

Me: Do you know what dad's job is?
Max: What?
Me: He's a professor.
Max: HE IS?

Lady sitting next to us at the little league baseball field: So what brought you guys all the way out here?
Me: Ryan's job.  He's a professor at [undisclosed university].
Lady: Oh, neat!  I have a friend who works at [undisclosed university] too!
Me and Ryan: Really?
Lady: Yeah, but he's not a teacher.  He's like a really important researcher.  Like, really important.  He does a lot of grant work.

Christian: My new gym teacher is pretty cool.  And he does what you do, Dad.
Ryan: Really?  What do you mean?
Christian: He teaches at [another undisclosed university].
Me: As in, he's a professor?
Christian: Well, I don't think he teaches.  I think he just sort of helps out there.  He's a volunteer, I think.

Ryan: I had a really great research idea this morning.
Me: Oh really?  What?
Ryan: Well, you know how there's a disconnect between researchers and clinicians?  How the critique of researchers is that clinicians don't use enough empirical science, they just rely on subjective judgement?
Me: Uh-huh.
Ryan: Well, I was just thinking that in the grant I'm working on, we could blah blah blah blah statistical regression blah blah blah blah blah blah coding individual dyads blah blah blah and then we could show that blah blah blah blah blah blah reliable statistical model blah blah blah then collect data blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah and show that blah blah blah blah.  And I think it would really work because blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.
Me: That is a great idea.
Ryan: You think?
Me: I do.
Ryan: Why are you smiling?
Me: I'm not.
Ryan: Yes, you are.  Why are you smiling?

Where I'm From

I am from a sky blue house with green hedges out front,
from a bedroom with black and white wallpaper and a thin red bedspread.
I am from Leon and Linda,
from five brothers and two sisters
I am from Utah,
from lake water,
a sparkling blue boat rocking against the shore
I am from faith and family prayer,
from Sundays in dresses handed down from my sisters
and creamed tuna on toast.
I am from the back seat of the red station wagon
where I rode facing backward,
watching where we've just been,
from the cream-colored couch with blue piping
where my father told me I was smart.
I am from Saturday morning and a long list of chores,
from daydreams of walking on the ceiling.
I am from middle school drama
and high school disappointments,
from english class
and a boy who changed my life.
I am from my sister's red Honda and mix tapes
and always wishing I were older,
from Billy Joel's music blasting from the living room stereo,
my mother's distinct fingers and her thin wedding band,
from my father's hands, calloused, scrubbed clean from grease.
I am from worry about money,
and a habit of asking for too many things.
I am from bran muffins with peaches,
graham crackers and milk,
and pumpkin pie.
I am from all-night phone calls,
and gentle kisses.
I am from the stage,
the pen,
the keys of a computer.
I am from curly hair and thick ankles,
from stubborn,
and wise.
I am from bedroom floors covered in clothes,
hidden birthday presents found with clues,
and fights with a little brother I never thought I'd love.
I am from lessons learned the hard way,
and a gift for looking on the bright side,
from all I was so sure of
and all the surprises that proved me wrong.

This was a writing exercise based on this poem by George Ella Lyon.  Try your own!

Friday, September 18, 2009

The only unfortunate thing about my shoes... that a sparkly zebra had to die for them.

(Shoes are from Target.  Found here .)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How I Get Dressed

I'm writing this post wearing these fake eyeglasses.  It makes me feel authoritative.  I'm going to wear them while I write this, because I want to feel authoritative.

Are you convinced of my aptitude?  (Even though I had to re-spell aptitude three times right then?)

My friend and former neighbor Kelly (Hi, Kelly!) suggested a while ago that I share something about how I dress.  I found this request very perplexing.  I had no idea what to say.  It's taken me a while to think about what I think about how I dress.  (This is called meta-dressing.)  (Little Psychology joke for you, there.)

I finally sat down and made a running list about how I do it.  For me.  Not sure if this is wrong or right, but it's how I roll.  Fasten your cufflinks.

I do my best to be realistic about my body's size and shape.  I will never be 5'10".  I will never look good in skinny jeans, but I can still wear things that look good on me.  I have learned this from watching hours upon hours of TLC's What Not To Wear.  Time well spent?  Perhaps.

When shopping, I ask for help from the sales people.  Most of those folks are clothes junkies and quite good at styling.  They've seen your body type a million times before and are happy to point out things that would work for you.  I especially do this with jeans.  I don't want to try on 50 pairs, so I ask them to recommend 5 or 6.  They're good at it.  Trust me.

I try on things I don't think I'll like.  I try to stay out of ruts with my clothes, so if I'm gathering stuff to try on in a store, I grab something I wouldn't normally pick.  Sometimes it turns out that it's the only thing I like.

I try not to buy things just because they are on sale.  VERY HARD LESSON TO LEARN.  MANY SMACKINGS OF MY FOREHEAD UNTIL I GOT THIS ONE.  I try to think of the cost of a clothing item like this: If I buy a great shirt for $40 and I wear it 138 times before I give it away, the cost of each wearing is 28 cents per wearing--cheap!  If I buy a sort-of good shirt on sale for for $8 and wear it twice before I realize that I was fooling myself about its goodness and give it away, the cost of each wearing is $4.  Not worth it.

I buy cheap jewelry and sunglasses.  This comes from many, many years of not having much money.  I love my cheap, colorful, practically-disposable jewelry from Target, Forever 21, Charlotte Russe, Old Navy, Steve & Barry's.  (Although, I have to say that my dear sister-in-law DeDe has given me two darling necklaces from Darlybird that I wear all the time and forever get compliments on.)

I wear dark jeans.  It's just a good idea, in my opinion.  It looks more slim and more dressed-up.

I can't stop buying red shoes.  I wear red shoes all the time, and with almost everything in my closet.  I try them on with most things I'm wearing, and I'm often surprised at how much they go with.  I suspect this is true of many colors, I just happen to be a sucker for red.

I give away stuff I don't wear anymore.  Sometimes this is devastating because I SWEAR I'm going to lose those ten pounds and fit into that dress again, but the problem is that I've been swearing that for three years.  Here is one of the greatest of life's truths: If you love something (that doesn't fit), give it away.  You'll feel better if the stuff staring back at you in the closet is stuff that fits you.

I don't care about matching.  In fact, the older I get, the more I think that matching is boring.  We've been matching things since we learned to play Memory in preschool.  Snore.  I try to think about the color wheel and pick a contrasting color.  For example, I have an orange and white t-shirt that I always wore with some gold/brown jewelry.  Kind of boring.  Then I decided to wear my orange and white t-shirt with a turquoise necklace and earrings.  It was pretty cute.

I browse catalogs and see how clothes are styled.  I can't afford anything from J.Crew, but I sure do like the way they dress those skinny little models!  Seriously, though, I look through catalogs and magazines and take mental notes.

I like interesting coats and jackets.  I have a yellow car coat that I bought at Target a couple of years ago.  I love it.  There was a black one for sale, but a black coat can be so....forgettable.  And I want to be unforgettable.  Like Nat King Cole.

I use a full length mirror to check things out after I get dressed.  I figure that I should probably inspect the whole package, since it's what everybody else is going to see.  Many times, I change or adjust something after checking it out.  And every now and then, that's when I notice my zipper is down.

I experiment with my closet--colors, patterns, textures.  I have a brightly patterned yellow and green skirt that I'd worn a lot with a green top.  A few weeks ago, I paired it with a blue and white striped button-up shirt, and, hey, whaddya know?  It worked.  It was the darndest thing.

I shop anywhere and everywhere, but I would say that an awful lot of my wardrobe has come from the lower-end stores, including Target, Old Navy, and Forever 21.  I also love to shop at small businesses; they have so much personality.  My favorite spots in Utah were Hip & Humble and Whimsy--great stores with unique finds.

I dress up, even if I'm alone.  Other than the occasional day when I end up in my pajamas at 6:00 p.m., I get dressed every day.  And, people, I sit in my house alone all day working.  I think it makes me feel better about myself, and although they haven't said anything so far, I think the walls in my house really appreciate it.

I don't overdo jewelry.  I have this friend Linda who wears 33 pounds of jewelry every day--amazing necklaces (three or four together) and huge earrings, bracelets (again, three or four) and giant cocktail rings--and she looks fantastic.  I mean, just fantastic!  But I can't pull it off.  If I wear a bold necklace, I wear subtle earrings or no earrings at all and vice versa.  But, that's just me.

I have fun.  As I thought about how I dress myself, it's not unlike how I write or how I decorate my house or how I cook--I always try to go for something fun and interesting.  Sure, it's not the most important thing in the world, not even the 5789th important thing in the world, but I have to get dressed everyday--why not make it a fun experience?

OK, I've given my ideas. Please give me yours.  Please!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hey! Anybody want some free Mrs. Fields cookies?

I've been excited to let you know about a project I've been working on.  Mrs. Fields has joined the bloggerhood (at and is ready to share baking tips, gift ideas, and recipes with you!  Oh, and don't forget giveaways!  In fact, there's a giveaway going on right now.

For example, how would you like to win this?  Well, you can!

Check it out and enter to win now!  And don't forget to add Mrs. Fields Secrets to your favorite blog reader, because there is a lot more to come!

(Have I used enough exclamation points yet?  I know I'm getting close to my quota.  I mean, my quota!)

One more thing--if you happen to recognize anything "Tiffany" over there, it's just a coincidence.  I swear!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Random With a Side of Tea and Crumpets

  1. I have kidney stones.  
  2. I decided to start with that statement today because it's pouring rain outside and I thought the occasion called for a little drama.  
  3. It looks very British outside.
  4. Or at least what I imagine to be a British forecast.
  5. I'd give anything for a British accent.
  6. I'd walk around spouting words like "Burberry" and "genteel" and "dashing."
  7. And I would describe my kidney stones with stoic reservation.
  8. I really do have kidney stones; please don't forget that.
  9. I want you to read the rest of this post with a sympathetic pout and a genuine concern for my well-being.
  10. I am only in occasional, minor discomfort at this point because the stones are still hanging around my kidneys.
  11. If they decide to pack up and head south, I'm in big trouble.
  12. Bloody awful trouble, I surmise.  (Written with a British accent.)
  13. I went to the doctor last week and told her that I was having a pain in my mid-to-lower back on the right-hand side that reminded me of the kidney stones I had years ago.
  14. She surmised (in an American accent) that the pain was similar because it is coming from more kidney stones.
  15. What's a blog for, if not to describe your medical problems in detail to your readers?
  16. Speaking of my medical issues, I have another doctor appointment coming up--strange growths on my legs.
  17. "Nodules" as my doctor neighbor described them.
  18. I also have a patch of dark skin in the middle of my forehead.  
  19. My brother-in-law the doctor recommends a chemical peel.
  20. I think a chemical peel sounds downright dreadful!  (Again, written with a British accent.)
  21. I don't want my face peeled off; I like it where it is.
  22. I also have knee pain and yesterday I purchased my first pair of reading glasses.
  23. Tomorrow I am going to tour assisted-living centers and test-drive a Jazzy scooter.
  24. I may be able to get one with no out-of-pocket expense!
  25. But, just in case you're keeping notes, the toenail fungus is finally gone!
  26. That's right, folks, I'm cured.
  27. Although, now it seems that the toenail fungus could have been the very thing keeping me all together.
  28. Back to the kidney stones, though--I really want you to focus on the kidney stones.
  29. The doctor said that eating a lot of citrus can help them break down.
  30. So I've been squeezing lemons over everything, including my macaroni and cheese and potato chips.
  31. And my toothpaste.
  32. And my cell phone.
  33. And when I'm done with squeezing lemons, I eat a gallon of orange sherbet.
  34. And then a box of Lemonheads.
  35. And then all the yellow and orange Starbursts in the package, even though they are my least favorite flavors.
  36. It's a sacrifice for my health.
  37. Are you enjoying my medical history?
  38. Good, there's more.
  39. I have never broken a bone.
  40. Except for my big toe, which was stepped on by a large, freckled boy at a church dance.
  41. I am not allergic to any medicines.
  42. I have no history of mental illness.  (All my mental illness is current.)
  43. My preferred anesthesia is laughing gas, bubble-gum flavored.
  44. Do you think they can prescribe laughing gas for a kidney stone?
  45. Do they do that in England?
  46. I bet they do.
  47. I don't need the laughing gas right now, but I'd like to have it on hand. 
  48. You know, in case the stones pack up and head south for the winter.
  49. Or the early fall.
  50. Or ever.
  51. I think I'm just about done with my medical transcripts.
  52. Urine and stool samples are available upon request.
  53. I think "stool" is a hilarious word.
  54. Except when it refers to short, sturdy objects to stand on.
  55. Nothing funny about that.
  56. But anyway, I'm done for now.
  57. Cheerio!  I'm off to work now and I've really got to hustle and bustle.
  58. I bet you thought that was written with a British accent.
  59. You're wrong; it was Australian that time.
  60. Have a great weekend.
  61. And while you're out having fun, please remember me and my kidney stones and my British weather.
  62. And then send me five bucks.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Immortal Summer Soundtrack Winners!

I don't really know how or why it came to be, but my dearly beloved readers (you know you're dearly beloved, don't you? YOU ARE!), you keep wow-ing me with your excellent taste in music!  Why do I attract such savvy music-ites here on this blog that rarely, if ever, discusses music?

I have listened to and pondered over your Immortal Summer Song Suggestions and finally comprised a mix tape, er CD, to give to the winners, who (by way of random drawing) are...

The Coolest Allen Family

Thanks to everyone who commented!  Winners, please contact me to supply me with your addresses.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Worky, Worky

This is another School Days assignment.  Better late than never, I hope.  If you're interested in participating, find details here .

I remember reading Heart of Darkness in high school and although I can't recall the characters or storyline, I remember that one of the major themes of the book was the value of work.  Specifically, how work keeps us from becoming savages.

I did not understand the theme at the time; no, not at all.  I guess that's why I remembered it--it puzzled me so.  Wasn't life about fun?  Wasn't life about getting out of work?  I didn't find a lot of joy in work then.  I dreaded Saturday mornings when my mom would assign chores.  Chores seemed so annoyingly chore-ish. My bedroom was a legendary mess.  In my opinion, there were so many more exciting and important things to do than work.  After all, nobody ever died of a messy bedroom.  On some level I believed that I was the one who really understood how it all worked and all these poor suckers with their brooms, sweaty brows, and timecards were the uninformed.  (I realize now that this train of thought is practically epidemic among creative types.)

I don't know when it changed for me exactly--when I realized that work (housework, homework, work-work) made me feel good--although I give a big ol' heap of credit to FlyLady.  But it happened.  Work made me feel valuable, accomplished, and in control of my life.  I began to realize that the work I did now was a gift to the future me, a constant paying-it-forward to myself.  I felt better about myself, and constantly grateful for the work I'd done.  I felt more free to do the things I wanted to do and less bogged down by what had to be done. Because everything that "had" to be done was not lamented and put off a billion times; it was simply done.  As it turns out, it takes a lot less time to actually work than to procrastinate, which is something all those people with the brooms, sweaty brows, and timecards probably could have told me.  (This doesn't mean that I don't procrastinate or wallow in disorganization anymore, but I'm 113% better than I used to be.  Just ask my parents who used to play State Health Department on me and lockdown my bedroom!)

And, of course, I never realized that working hard at something you really love hardly feels like work at all.  I looked over my shoulder for the first six months of my current copywriting job, certain that somebody was going to discover soon that I was getting a ridiculously good deal--all this paying-me-to-write nonsense!  Honestly, it felt criminal.

If I read Heart of Darkness today, I would probably understand it in a different way.  I can say now that I understand on a personal level what hard work does to me--it rescues me from my otherwise dreamy, lazy, savage self.  Although, I'm not planning to read Heart of Darkness anytime soon; I've got too much work to do.  And by "too much work to do" I mean "blogs to read."  My high school english teacher would be so impressed.

What about you?  Do you enjoy work?  Have you always?

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Lipstick Manifesto

"I'm 32-years-old and I'm going to start wearing lipstick."

I made this announcement to Ryan the other day after I returned home from the local pharmacy with sinus headache medicine and a tube of red lipstick. I put the lipstick on in the car before I walked into the house, anxious to give it a try. I thought it would be one of those subtle enhancements, like the loss of five pounds, but Ryan immediately noticed. "Wow. What's with the lips?"

A ten-minute trip to the pharmacy can really change a person.

I'll freely admit that I am prone to vanity. I've been obsessed with clothes since I was too little to care; and as soon as I had the go-ahead to start wearing makeup at age 12, I've never stopped. Well, except for one little detail--lipstick. I've never been able to do lipstick. I've tried in years past, but the result was always a little disastrous. Like, preschooler-with-a-Sharpie disastrous. So, I gave up. Quit cold turkey. I decided to go with the "Dramatic Eye and Nude Lip" theme I read about in a magazine one time while my hair was being highlighted. (Oh yes, I forgot to mention the hair vanity.)

But something clicked in the aisles of the Walgreens and I suddenly knew that the piercing sinus headache that led me there in the first place was a fate-sent means to an end. What I needed even more than medication was big-girl lipstick. The universe was trying to tell me something: I needed to make a bold new step. I needed to unlock the gate of the new me, and the gatekeeper was L'Oreal 16-hour Power Stay Lip Stain in cherry red. Or at least I thought it was. Sometimes the universe mumbles and I can't tell for sure.

When Max saw my ruby red lips he backed away slowly and said, "Uhhh, do NOT kiss me with those lips."

When Christian saw them he raised his eyebrows and said, "Did you do something to your lips? Like, on purpose?"

"I'm 32-years-old and I'm going to start wearing lipstick!" I announced again. It's important to announce these things. (With conviction!)

The next morning, I tried my new look again. I got ready early and applied the lipstick before it was time to walk Max out to the bus stop where all the parents congregate and visit in the morning. I probably shouldn't have sprung such drastic changes on the bus stop parents. Last year I was never even showered before the bus stop, let alone wearing bright red lipstick. My regular bus stop look is something I call "Homeless Punky Brewster." It's very cutting edge.

Two minutes before it was time to walk out to the bus stop, I began to have serious misgivings about the lipstick. I ran in the bathroom and tried to blot it off with some toilet paper, but I was only twenty minutes into my 16-hour Power Stay color shift. I scrubbed at them with the hand towel, but it was no use. I briefly considered the use of a nail file or Clorox. Instead, I grabbed my large sunglasses and put them on before walking outside with Max and Ryan. I was hoping the glasses would hide the embarrassment in my eyes.

We stood at the bus stop for a few seconds before Ryan said to my neighbor Anne, "So, what do you think of Tiffany's lipstick?" I punched him in the arm.

"Yeah, I noticed that," Anne said sweetly.

"I'm 32-years-old and I'm going to start wearing lipstick." I mumbled with my head down, trying to tuck my lips into my face.

The next day I tried again. Specifically, I tried applying it correctly (fail) and also tried convincing myself that I was going to get used to this look (again, fail). The day after that, I applied a little smear of it (more of a 16-minute version of the 16-hour original) that looked like Kool-Aid stain from a morning of binge drinking. The next day I didn't shower until three o'clock in the afternoon. And since it was so late in the afternoon, I decided that it would be wasteful to apply lipstick at all. (I'm trying to be more green.) This morning when I got ready, I applied my regular, barely-tinted-pink lipgloss. I left the red lipstick sitting in the dungeon of my makeup bag.

"I'm 32-years-old and I'm going to stop wearing lipstick," I said to my reflection in the mirror. And I kid you not, the reflection sighed with relief.

I read a quote the other day about having plenty of failures in life because having them means that you're taking plenty of chances. The truth is, I've not been one to take many chances. I've lived many moons taking small, safe steps that were guaranteed successful. But I feel an urgency to let that go and open myself up to becoming the best possible version of myself. And I'm beginning to understand that in order to become that person, I'm going to have to put a lot of "suck" into "successful."

You know what? Maybe that was the real message from the universe in Walgreens: Walk around looking like a complete idiot for a few days. It will be good for you. Be truly bad at something and find out how easy it can be to let it go. There is freedom in failure.

Or, then again, maybe it wasn't the universe telling me anything. Maybe it was just a sinus headache.

Friday, September 4, 2009


I'm busy finishing up a marathon of a week.  Until I return, please enjoy these pictures of my dog.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Good Morning, Muffin

Here's a happy little recipe for you.  It is ridiculously easy, low-fat, low-calorie, and one of my favorite things to serve house guests.  And my family.  And myself.

Orange Morning Muffins

1 Orange cake mix (Duncan Hines Orange Supreme is what I use)
1 14.5 oz. can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix, just plain pumpkin)
1 egg
1 c. water

Preheat oven according to directions on cake mix.  Mix all ingredients together and divide into prepared muffin tins.  Bake 18-23 minutes.  Remove to a cooling rack for a few minutes and then drizzle icing on the still-warm muffins.


3/4 c. Powdered sugar
2 T. Orange juice or milk
1/8 t. Vanilla

Mix together and add more sugar or liquid depending on the consistency you want.

If you're hesitant to use pumpkin, just trust me on this one.  I promise that you can't taste it at all.  You can beat me up if I'm wrong.

You can also modify the recipe and make it with any of the following cake mixes: chocolate, spice, carrot, lemon, banana, and even strawberry.  But orange is definitely my favorite.

Try it out and let me know what you think!
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